A debate from Investigator Magazine about the angel Gabriel, the virgin Mary, and the supernatural:

119 When Mary Met Gabriel – Did It Happen? JHW
121 Mary & Gabriel – A Meeting that Shaped History A
122 Mary & Gabriel – Where Is the Evidence? KS
122 Delusory Memes "…Last Forever" JHW
123 Mary & Gabriel – Almost Indisputable A
123 Mary and Gabriel: Here Is The Evidence A
124 Mary & Gabriel: Still No Evidence KS
125 Shaky Foundations T Lee
125 Mary & Gabriel: Evidence Sufficient
125 When Evidence is not Evidence JHW
126 Immaculate Deception Carmilla



"It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true." (Bertrand Russell)

John H Williams

(Investigator 119, 2008 May)

Some days, in the bottom right corner of the Advertiser's two letters pages, there appears a biblical quotation. This traditional remnant of Victorian religiosity no doubt pleases and reassures Christian readers, while I take an academic interest, and it reminds me of my Welsh Anglican childhood, when "gospel truth" meant happenings so true and attested that it was scandalous to doubt or question them.

With Christmas (aka 'Christmyth' or 'Dollarmass') on a date universally acknowledged not to be the birth time of the "reason for the season", read again the description of the angel Gabriel's meeting with the woman Mary (aka Mariamne or Miriam Herod, also Stada or Stadea), who had "found favour with God":
The angel assured Mary, "Don't be afraid, God is pleased with you. You will have a son and name him Jesus. He will be great and called the Son of God." But Mary replied, "How can I have a son? I'm a virgin!"
Luke 1:30-32, 34 (Bible for Today) The Advertiser 5/12/07
If one happens to be a believer, the quote is reasonable and acceptable:  "For with God nothing shall be impossible" (KJV Luke 1:37), and miracles happen when required. If not, a few questions would occur to even the mildest skeptic, because this story is one of the least believable in the Bible.

Who was the person who observed and recorded the meeting and who, if not the same person, was the writer? If it was 'Luke', who is believed to have been the companion of Paul (Corinthians 4:14), then he was highly unlikely to have been born. Scholarly opinion believes that Luke was based in part on Mark and a now lost document called Q, and written between 85-90 CE.

Scholarly opinion is that Luke, the "loved physician", was a Christian writing in Greek to an intended gentile audience, fitting Paul's agenda of distancing his crusade from that of being merely a new Jewish sect. It's believed that the author of Luke also wrote The Acts of The Apostles.

Supernatural entities like 'Gabriel' are useful story-telling devices, and although some believe in angels, we can discount their existence, due to a comprehensive lack of evidence.

Very much the same can be said about the main delusion, the father/son duo upon which the 'cult which grew to be a religion' is based. Couldn't this be "legendary" too Dr Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury)? Dr Williams may privately agree, but couldn't possibly say so, as he'd soon be facing early 'retirement'.

As senior churchmen acknowledge, Mariamne, a well-born woman of the Herodian family, was not a virgin: the correct word for 'young unmarried woman' or equivalent was conveniently mistranslated, and she had 'known' a man, though it's highly unlikely to have been Joseph. She's thought to have been a teenager, while he was in middle age, and he protected her from an unpleasant fate by marrying her.

If the Holy Ghost had fathered Mariamne's child, Jesus' (aka Yeshu'a ben Stada or Yeshu'a ben Panthera) connection to King David would be invalid. As it was someone else anyway, we can dismiss this prophetic bit of OT/NT spin, as in Luke 1:32, "the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David." (KJV) Even if the actual father of the child was Jewish, and there's evidence that he wasn't, then there's a good chance of a genetic connection to David, though it would have been shared with thousands of others.

This Gabriel and Mariamne story never happened; it's been retrospectively spun to help persuade and convert. A supernaturally produced 'Messiah' was de rigueur, as was a dad in Heaven, the resurrection, the three magi/astrologers/kings, and the telling of miraculous but literally untrue tales of the kind required as 'evidence' for beatification/sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Put simply, a collection of supernaturally endowed pious lies was presented to a superstitious pre-scientific population, taken up by many who found its tenets appealing and superior to that which was then available, as it offered many positive values, and the appealing prospect of an eternal life.

Paul was a relentless propagandist, and would have approved of the 'fly on the wall' witness. "…so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught": gospel untruth, acceptable and justifiable porkies in his crusade to establish what is now the world's most popular religion.

What actually happened has, for obvious reasons, remained 'buried' in various publications, ever since Yeshu'a ben Panthera's Mum never had that chat with the angel someone named Gabriel. And his Dad is likely to have been a Phoenician soldier of the Roman Army (an archer) known as Tiberius Julius Abdes Panthera, nicknamed "the Panther".


Bushby T. 2001 The Bible Fraud, The Pacific Blue Group Inc, Hong Kong.

Magnasarian M.M. The Truth About Jesus pp 272-277, in You Are Being Lied To: Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths, The Disinformation Company, R Kick (ed) 2002.

The Bible (KJV and Bible For Today)




(Investigator 121, 2008 July)


Did the Virgin Mary encounter the angel Gabriel?

Yes. The Nativity stories (Luke 1-2; Matthew 1-2) include accurate history, confirmed astronomy, testable biology, fulfilled prophecy, and plausible supernatural components – and supposed "contradictions" are easily reconciled.


Authorities mentioned in the Nativity stories such as Emperor Augustus and Herod are historical. A problem, however, is Quirinius, governor of Syria during the census that brought Jesus' parents to Bethlehem. (Luke 2:1-2)

Jewish historian Josephus says that Quirinius and Coponius were sent by Caesar to rule the Jews and ordered a taxation in, "the thirty seventh year after Caesar's defeat of Antony at Actium." (Antiquities of the Jews Book XVIII, Chapters 1 & 2) Actium occurred in 31 BCE, which makes Quirinius governor of Syria by CE 6, seven or more years after Jesus' birth.

However, the Lapis Tiburtinus inscription, found in Rome in 1764, lists information believed to be about Quirinius, but without naming him, and says he become governor "the second time". It's probable, therefore, that Quirinius was governor twice, and Josephus mentioned only the second occasion, but Luke the first.

A similar problem occurred with Lysanias, ruler of Abilene when John the Baptist preached. (Luke 3:1) Josephus mentions only a Lysanias executed 60 years earlier (Antiquities IV, 1), and hasty critics accused Luke of error. Subsequently, a temple dedication was discovered from the reign of Tiberius that names "Lysanias the tetrarch".

Van Biema (2004) writes: "There is no other record of a census in Palestine at the time…" (p. 61) However, there was a combined census and oath of allegiance to Augustus in 3 to 2 BCE to mark Rome's 750th anniversary. (See Investigator 81)

Skeptics also ridicule the idea of people returning to their home-town for the census. However, this may have been standard practice. A Roman governmental order of CE 104 says:
Gaius Vibius Maximus, prefect of Egypt [says]: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those who…are residing out of their provinces to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments.
Van Biema (2004) writes: "In Matthew's Nativity, the angelic Annunciation is made to Joseph while Luke's is to Mary. Mathew's offers wise men and a star and puts the baby Jesus in a house; Luke's prefers shepherds and a manger." (p. 57)

However, these are not contradictions but different, non-conflicting details. The angel appeared to both Mary and Joseph at different times. The shepherd-incident occurred on the night of Jesus' birth, and the wise men incident six or more weeks later.

The Star of Bethlehem can plausibly be identified as two conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter in August 3 BCE in the east, and June 2 BCE in the west. (Investigator 81)


Hippocrates (460-375 BCE) wrote correctly that birth occurs in the "tenth month". (Chadwick et al 1983)

The Romans, however, were uncertain regarding the length of human pregnancy – some said 8 months, others 11 months. (Allason-Jones (1989) Pliny the Elder (CE 23-79) wrote:
The period of gestation is not fixed – it is sometimes six months or seven, or as long as ten months… Only those conceived the day before or the day after the full moon, or when there is no moon, are born in the seventh month. It is common in Egypt for babies to be born in the eighth month–and indeed similarly in Italy…

Luke reports the pregnancy of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and mentions Elizabeth's "sixth month". (1:26, 36)

At this stage Mary travelled from Nazareth to Elizabeth's home in Judea – a 150-kilometre trip probably taking one week. Mary stayed with Elizabeth "about three months and then returned to her home" (1:56). Again, assume a one-week trip. And, "Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth." (1:57)

If we assume "sixth month" meant half way through the sixth month, i.e. 5½ months, then Elizabeth's pregnancy was 270 - 275 days.

Anthony Barnett (1961) cites 537 pregnancies of White American women and percentages giving birth:

Before the 266th day 12.7%
266-272 days 12.3%
273-279 days 22.0%
On the 280th day 3.7%
281-287 days 24.2%
288-294 days 15.6%
After the 294th day 9.4%

Despite Roman ignorance of pregnancy-length, Luke puts Elizabeth close to average.

Elizabeth said to Mary, "As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy." (Luke 1:44)

The implication is that the fetus heard the sound too, but skeptics have ridiculed this. (Investigator 96)

New Scientist, however, says:
A century ago, one of the lesser known debates of modern science was quietly moving to a conclusion. The issue? Whether humans develop hearing in the womb or are born deaf and only develop it in the first few weeks of life. The "newborns are deaf" idea lost the day, and it is safe to say it will never be revived… Electric toothbrushes, door buzzers, the theme of TV soaps – all have been used to elicit a fetal wriggle, racing heart or other such sign that the sound is getting through. (October 19, 1996 p. 40)


Mary said: " Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me…" (Luke 1:48)

Mary is called "blessed" worldwide. Of 100 million women in the 1st-century, Luke picked one, and implies all generations will know her. And she became history's most famous woman! Try to duplicate that!

Mary is "blessed", says Luke, because she became mother to "the Messiah the Lord". (Luke 2:11) That a "Messiah-King" would come and impact all nations is clear from the Old Testament:
Look, your king is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey… Your king will make peace among the nations; he will rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9-10; See Investigator 120)
The New Testament identifies the Messiah-King as Jesus and foretold that he'll be preached "to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) First-century historians, however, barely mention Jesus, but nowadays it's clear that "this penniless preacher from Galilee is irresistibly the centre of history." Again, try to duplicate that!


The virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35) was discussed in Investigator 92-96, 88.

Ancient pagan idolaters had virgin-birth legends for Alexander the Great, Augustus and others. The Gospel writers, however, did not steal a pagan idea.

Genesis 3, set at the dawn of the human race, foretold a "seed" or descendant of Eve who would crush the "serpent", the original source of evil. No human could accomplish such a task. Therefore the descendant of Eve would require a combined natural/supernatural origin – and that entails a virgin birth. (See Investigator #88)

Ancient Jews knew that sex precedes pregnancy. (Numbers 5:13, 28; Leviticus 15:16-18) The Septuagint translation of "alma" in Isaiah 7:14 as "virgin" – "a virgin shall conceive a son" – therefore suggests the translators considered the "son" in Isaiah 7:14 to be the "seed" who destroys the "serpent". Thus 150 years before Jesus was born, Jewish scholars understood the Scriptures as predicting a virgin birth.

The Bible, therefore, did not copy the pagans – rather the pagans stole and misused a prophecy as old as humanity.

Celsus, a 2nd century Greek agnostic, claimed Mary was an adulteress, Jesus' father was a centurion named Panthera, and the idea of God saving sinners is nonsense.

Celsus made these claims in The True Word (CE c.178). No surviving copy is known, but Origen (a Christian apologist) quoted 75% of it in Contra Celsum (CE 248).

Celsus, for example, wrote:
"Like all quacks they [Christians] gather a crowd of slaves, children, women and idlers…
When we are invited to the Mysteries the masters use another tone. They say, Come to us you who are of clean hands and pure speech, you who are unstained by crime, who have a good conscience towards God, who have done justly and lived uprightly. The Christians say, Come to us you who are sinners, you who are fools or children, you who are miserable, and you shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven: the rogue, the thief, the burglar, the poisoner, the despoiler of temples and tombs, these are their proselytes. Jesus, they say, was sent to save sinners; was he not sent to help those who have kept themselves free from sin? They pretend that God will save the unjust man if he repents and humbles himself…

Why cannot Christians attach themselves to the great philosophic and political authorities of the world?"
The suggestion that Christians "attach themselves to…the world" when Jesus said "You are not of this world" (John 15:18-19; 17:14-19) demonstrates Celsus' prejudice.

Rome fell in CE 410. Its philosophy, politics and Pagan "Mysteries" faded away. But Christianity remained, and evidence supporting the Scriptures continues to increase.


What about the "supernatural", including the angel Gabriel?

The Supernatural was debated in Investigator 101-106. The points were made that the laws of physics appear fundamentally inconsistent, mathematics has numerous paradoxes, "causation" is mysterious so that the complete cause of anything cannot be established, and the Universe seems "designed" for life.

Parallel universes and "String Theory" with its multiple dimensions (New Scientist, 22 September 2007; 5 January 2008) are still hot topics. There's also speculation about an "entirely new type of matter unlike anything we have encountered before" labelled "unparticles". (New Scientist, 26 January 2008)

Such theories imply there are realities beyond our Universe and domains inaccessible to current science.

It's possible, therefore, that the supernatural corresponds to higher dimensions postulated by science.


We live life in three physical dimensions – length, breadth and height – extended through the fourth dimension, which is time.

Philosophers try to understand higher dimensions by considering how creatures restricted to two physical dimensions (2-D) would experience 3-dimensional creatures like us.

This technique was detailed in Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884) by Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926). Abbott was a clergyman, headmaster, and author of 40 books.

"Flatland" is a two-dimensional world, with length and width but no height, inhabited by 2-D creatures such as squares, circles and other shapes.

Flatlanders – cannot see or understand "up" or "down" but only flat things on the flat surface.

Flatlanders need not be biologically possible. We're doing a "thought experiment" to understand how humans might experience contact from higher dimensions if such exist.

Imagine a sphere (3-D) passing through Flatland. Flatlanders would see a dot which appears out of nowhere, expands into a circle, reaches a maximum size, shrinks back into a dot, and vanishes. Flatlanders would find it inexplicable.

Suppose we poke a hole through Flatland. Flatlanders will discover a boundary where their friends vanish from sight. From our 3-D viewpoint they fall through the hole and up or down. To Flatlanders it's miraculous because they know nothing of up or down.

Suppose a Flatlander is defective – an organ which others have on their left side is on his right side. A 3-D person picks him up, flips him over, and returns him to Flatland. The misplaced organ is now correctly positioned. To Flatlanders it's a miraculous healing!

To explain such anomalous phenomena some Flatland intellectuals would speculate about the "supernatural" populated by superior beings able to produce "miracles". Other Flatlanders might speculate about a third dimension. A further group suggests that "supernatural" and "third dimension" are two names for the same thing.

Skeptical Flatlanders dismiss such ideas as nonsense and interpret "miracles", like dots expanding into circles then shrinking to nothing, as natural but unexplainable.

From our 3-D viewpoint the natural/supernatural distinction that some Flatlanders entertain, vanishes and both universes, 2-D and 3-D, are natural.

3-D inhabitants or "Spacelanders", as Abbott calls them, could even influence Flatland in regular, predictable ways and fool Flatlanders into thinking they've discovered a law of nature! For example whenever a Spacelander sees six Flatlanders in a group he could give Flatland a shake. Flatlanders would associate "six" with "earthquakes" and try to control "earthquakes" by avoiding sixes. From the Flatland perspective this would be scientific, but from the fuller 3-D viewpoint delusional.

Abbott's book presents the adventures of a Square whom a Spacelander introduces into Spaceland. Mr Square also explores Lineland (1-D) and Pointland (0-D). After that Mr Square imagines 4-D. The  Spacelanders, in Abbott's story, consider the notion of a fourth dimension so outrageous they banish Mr Square from Spaceland!

Flatland was a satire to lampoon narrow-mindedness. But the story also suggests the possibility of a supernatural "higher order" in higher dimensions.

What if Abbott is correct and the three dimensions humans experience are embedded in 4-D space? Contact from the fourth dimension would seem supernatural to our 3-D viewpoint, but would be natural from the 4-D viewpoint.

Suppose a human touches Flatland with a fingertip. Flatlanders would see the fingertip as a circular shape appearing out of nowhere.

Thus everything a human being is, all his complexity, is reduced in Flatland to a flat circle.

Similarly, if 4-Dimensioners revealed themselves to humans we would see hopelessly inadequate representations of them. However, just as circles would be familiar to Flatlanders, 4-Dimensioners who reveal themselves to humans would resemble creatures familiar to us.

Flatlanders could never restrain or hurt a Spacelander who appears to them as a circle. Similarly humans would be powerless against a 4-Dimensioner.

If one Spacelander is malevolent and wreaks havoc in Flatland, Flatland's only protection would be if a friendly Spacelander restrains the nasty one. Similarly humanity's only protection against malevolent 4-Dimensioners would be friendly 4-Dimensioners. We'd need the "supernatural" for protection against the "supernatural".

Suppose Flatlanders have a brain, or its Flatland equivalent, and therefore a mind. A Spacelander could interfere with that brain and distort its function as easily as a human could damage a drawing on paper by scraping it. Flatlanders would interpret their afflicted fellow as "sick", others as "demon possessed". Similarly a 4-Dimensioner might distort human minds and human thinking.  

I suggest then, that higher dimensions inaccessible to humans exist and correspond to the "supernatural". Higher dimensions would explain the biblical teachings that:
•    Nothing we can imagine truly pictures God;
•    Angels appear occasionally and resemble men;
•    Demons can possess humans;
•    Demons deceive the entire world;
•    Miracles occur;
•    Humans are helpless against demonic power and require God's protection.
Higher dimensions remain central to cosmology (Kaku 1994), are routinely discussed in science journals (e.g. New Scientist 19 February 2005), and seem necessary to unify the laws of physics.

Some scientists think that String Theory's extra dimensions are too tiny to affect us but others write:
…two or more of string theory's extra dimensions might be far larger–just so long as these dimensions are barred to every force except gravity. They could even be infinitely large. (Boyle 2001)


As Flatlanders might infer a third dimension so humans can infer a 4th (or higher) dimension, corresponding to the supernatural. This possibility, together with surprisingly accurate scientific and prophetic data throughout the Bible, supports that a Jewish virgin encountered an angel and swayed the history of the world.


Abbott, E. A. 1992 Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, Dover.
Allason-Jones, L. 1989 Women in Roman Britain, British Museum Press.
Barnett, A. 1961 The Human Species, Pelican.
Boyle, A 2001 New Scientist 2001, September 29, pp 23-29.
Chadwick, J. et al (Translators), 1983, Hippocratic Writings, Penguin, pp 342, 343.
Healy, J. F. (Translator), 1991, Pliny The Elder Natural History, Penguin, p. 281.
Kaku, M. 1994 Hyperspace, Oxford University Press.
Nerlich, G. 1976, 1994 The Shape of Space, Cambridge University Press.
Van Biema, D. Time, December 13, 2004, pp 54-64.
Vermes, G. History Today, December, 2006, pp 23-29.


Mary & Gabriel: Where is the Evidence?

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 122, 2008 September)

In issue No. 121 of Investigator, Anonymous asks the following rhetorical question: "Did the Virgin Mary encounter the angel Gabriel?" And then claims that the answer is a resounding yes.

Now, Anonymous is certainly entitled to this claim, but he must make it as a statement of faith, rather than a proven fact as he seems to imply; for the central questions that need to be demonstrated as true are as follows:
•    That angels exist.
•    That it is possible for a woman to become pregnant by supernatural means.
In both cases Anonymous is strong on speculation, but weak on evidence. He attempts to make a plausible case by referring to scientific theories (such as the extra dimensions of String Theory) and then appears to claim supernatural beings (such as angels) may inhabit one of these extra dimensions, or one very much like them (if, in fact, they actually exist).

Of course, one could make the same claim for fairies. Indeed, as far as I can see there is no major difference – Anonymous' argument for the existence of one type of paranormal entity can be applied to all.

What is needed is verifiable empirical evidence that supports the existence of angels and virgin births. Anonymous has not supplied this proof. Indeed, his arguments amount to nothing more than speculative pseudo scientific constructions designed to lend a veneer of credibility to the supernatural stories of a prescientific age.

On page 42 Anonymous refers to Isaiah 7:14, and claims this predicts a virgin birth. This can't be used as evidence because the Gospel authors may have altered their accounts to match the alleged prophecy. This is why we need verifiable evidence for the event that is independent from the Bible.

Furthermore, not all experts agree on how this passage should be translated. The Revised Standard Version, for example, refers to a "young woman" rather than a virgin as conceiving, and of course not all young women are virgins, especially if they are pregnant.

Anonymous also claims that the pagans "stole and misused a prophecy as old as humanity" (page 42). This simply isn't true. If virgin births started appearing in pagan mythology after Jesus then this might be a plausible argument. Accounts of births, however, predate Christianity and the date of 150 BC Anonymous gives for Isaiah – for example, in the Phrygian pantheon, Attis, god of vegetation was thought to be born of a Nana, a virgin. This myth can be dated to circa 200 BC.

Given the lack of credible evidence for angles and virgin births, Anonymous affirmative conclusion as to the veracity of these events is unwarranted.


String Theory, Extra Dimensions & God
http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2008/01/string theory extra-dimensions-and-god.html

String Theory: Is it Science's Ultimate Dead End?

A Virgin-Birth Prophecy?

The Virgin Birth & Childhood Mysteries of Jesus

Gillooly, Robert All About Adam & Eve, Prometheus Books, New York, 1998

Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version)



"From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggety beasties, And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!"

John H Williams

(Investigator 122, 2008 September)

When I started writing for The Investigator I thought that the modern world, in which most have had some kind of education, had moved beyond the medieval (except, of course, during the weekly regression in places of religion), which, for example, may present the idea that there are angels and demons. But no, there's Anonymous, who speculates that such invented beings exist: I refer to his Mary and Gabriel in Investigator #121.

This debate has been running for several years, with sterling multiple contributions from Harry Edwards, Laurie Eddie and Kirk Straughen (see below): in my opinion they've made their point most effectively, only to be answered by speculation, hubris, biblical sophistries and misapplied science.

In Investigator # 104, in response to Straughen's's piece in #103, Mr A gave us More On Demons: on page 21 he wrote, "Evolution has gaps. We don't know the full process – all the steps – for the origin of most species. Yet we don't argue life doesn't exist. A species' origin is a different concept from our experience of it.
Similarly with "demons". Evidence for or against their existence is a separate question to how they may have originated."

It's not hard to spot the fallacy in that argument, but I'll spell it out: we're agreed that there are species, being one ourselves, so we can't argue that species don't exist. But we're far from agreed that there are demons (asking, where is the evidence?), so discussing their origin or evolution is futile!

There is no direct scientific evidence that demons exist, as far as I know, and I've had a thorough search on the net (36.2 million sites!) for any hint of such evidence. Imagined beings which don't actually exist can't have evolved, while we do have incontestable evidence that species exist, and fossil evidence, while necessarily partial and imperfect, shows that they've evolved over time.

During 1959-1963 I collected many graptolite fossils from Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian rocks, which cover a time period of 150 million years, showing clear evidence of relatively 'rapid' evolutionary change, so much so that they're recognised as palaeontology's best marker or guide fossils, enabling specific stratigraphic dating and correlation. Virtually as good is a primitive arthropod group known as trilobites which lived during the same time period (the Palaeozoic) as graptolites.

What I write of is taught world-wide, is in texts and is on the net: every known graptolite and trilobite has been photographed, named and studied. I ask Mr A to provide actual equivalent evidence (photographs and other 'non-artistic' forms of verification) that demons and angels exist. Could he also provide details of journals eg New Scientist, in which they've been photographed and discussed?

I remind Mr A of his letter, Evidence For Demons Adequate (#106): "Since the Bible says the Devil is the deceiver of the whole world, we need find only one person who is not deceived in his beliefs and values." This 'test' is, as he knows, as puerile and invalid as can be, but I'll submit to it, and he can contact me at my email address.

In #121 Mr A's article ignored my article on Mariamne (Mary) and Gabriel, in which I posed the obvious issue of the non-existence of angels, as well as who was there to record that most unlikely conversation between the two. His bizarre credo is as follows (his words in italics):

Higher dimensions would explain the biblical teachings that:

Nothing we can imagine truly pictures God
True, it's extremely hard to imagine a being that is everywhere and nowhere, a male entity who created the universe and who exists somewhere in it. I tried it and came up with …nothing.

Angels appear occasionally and resemble men (sic)
So, no female or child angels? The ones I remember (I lived next to a cemetery) were mostly marbled cherubs, and many were female. Even though angels are spirits lacking a physical nature, artists have been able to depict them: how'd they manage that? Not only do we resemble one of the sky gods that's impossible to imagine, but its agents look like grown up male versions of us! As they're godly messengers, they were given wings, and while they were at it, haloes, and some have been known to carry harps and horns and could, presumably, play them. Could any of this mythology be any more anthropomorphised?

Demons can possess humans
The strong likelihood is that not one human has been 'owned' by a demon, since they don't exist: but humans do, some of whom believe there are such creatures, ergo demon 'possession'.

Demons deceive the whole world
Are all 6.7 billion of us demonstrably deceived without us actually knowing? As I've said before, Mr A should speak for himself, and express his own demonic deception, which is clearly in evidence in his article.

Miracles occur
I say that not one supernaturally influenced miracle has occurred, so all Mr A has to do is to provide the evidence which unequivocally proves that just one such event has occurred.

Humans are helpless against demonic power and require God's protection
Since demons aren't real, then no one can be under their power, thus making a celestial CEO redundant: George Pell would disagree, but most professional religionists would demur at this sweeping and ridiculous notion. Notice, yet again, the use of a being known as "God" with the inbuilt assumption that it exists, when it's very much in dispute. Also, a repeat dose of the infantilisation of Homo sapiens, lost and helpless sheep needing a shepherd. This tired and tiresome malarky is as hackneyed and threadbare as new age pyramid power, crystal healing and astral travelling.

Mr A's case supporting the supernatural appears to rest on higher dimensions which have not and may well never be established. His mantra is, as before, excessively speculative, and I feel a little ridiculous in even addressing what passes for argument. I am scornful of any writer who is unable to distinguish the fundamental difference between the real (species/life) and the non-real and surreal (demons), and who, despite existing in the 21st century, persists in presenting the same medieval persiflage.

Other Investigator writers have debunked Mr A's ideas far better than I, and I acknowledge them, and recommend that they be read or re-read. Mr A's responses are usually to be found in the same or following issue.
My email address is willmath@gotalk.net.au
The paraphrased quotation in my title is from Isaiah 40:8, and the sub-title is from a Cornish prayer by an unknown author.

Harry Edwards
The Devil - Unjustly Maligned #105, November 2005
Spirits #120, May 2008

Kirk Straughen
Genesis of the Gods Investigator #73, July 2000
Perspectives on Atheism and Religion #93 November 2003
Demonic Possession: Reality or Delusion #101, March 2005
Science Does Not Support the Existence of Demons #103 July 2005
Dialogue Between Religion and Reason  #104 September 05
The Problem of Evil #106, January 2006

Laurie Eddie
The Real Story of Christmas #87, November 2002


The MARY and GABRIEL Story
Investigated and almost Indisputable


(Investigator 123, 2008 November)


I argued that the story of Mary meeting the angel Gabriel included:
…accurate history, confirmed astronomy, testable biology, fulfilled prophecy, and plausible supernatural components – and the supposed contradictions are easily reconciled. (#121, p. 37)


In response John H Williams (#122, p. 38) began by quoting my words from a previous debate:
"Evolution has gaps. We don't know the full process – all the steps – for the origin of most species. Yet we don't argue life doesn't exist. A species' origin is a different concept from our experience of it. Similarly with "demons". Evidence for or against their existence is a separate question to how they may have originated."
After quoting this, Williams claimed, "it is not hard to spot the fallacy". However, there is no fallacy here to spot. We do not need to know the origin of something – whether cosmic rays, houses, species, angels, John H Williams, the Universe, neutrinos or anything else – to investigate or know whether it or they exist.

Origin and existence are separate concepts and to argue from ignorance of origin to non-existence is illogical – or to use Williams' term "delusory". If we insist on knowledge of origin before we accept the existence of something, scientific progress would halt. Scientists would have to reject every physical law and every scientific fact which they can't trace back to an "origin".

Similarly in the "existence of Demons" debate: Linking the question of the demons' existence with their origin would generate confusion of thought and ensure faulty conclusions.

(The same point applies when atheists respond to arguments that God got the Universe started with, "Who then created God?" The question of God's origin is distinct from his existence and, again, ignorance of origin would not imply non-existence.)


Williams next (in #122) summarized my "bizarre credo" but got it wrong. He quoted the following:

Higher dimensions would explain the biblical teachings that:
•    Nothing we can imagine truly pictures God
•    Angels appear occasionally and resemble men
•    Demons can possess humans
•    Demons deceive the whole world
•    Miracles occur
•    Humans are helpless against demonic power and require God's protection
I did not present the six bulleted statements as facts or as a "credo". Rather they are the logic for seeking the "supernatural" in higher dimensions beyond the three physical dimensions humans are familiar with.

On pages 44-45, previous to the bulleted statements, I relied on standard texts known to philosophers and physicists to discuss how two-dimensional inhabitants (Flatlanders) in a two-dimensional world (Flatland) would interpret interference from three-dimensional "Spacelanders".

From the 2-D Flatlander perspective a "Spacelander" such as a human can only appear as a flat shape. If a Spacelander touched Flatland with a fingertip, producing a circle, the Flatlanders would see this as a familiar shape resembling Flatlanders and things in Flatland. From observing the circle, Flatlanders could not even remotely imagine Spaceland or what powers Spacelanders have.

This Flatlander perspective coincides with the first two bulleted statements of what the Bible says about humans and the "supernatural".

The next four bulleted statements (pp 44-45) also correspond to how Flatlanders would experience three dimensions.

 In other words the Flatlander experience of 3-D Spaceland is remarkably similar to what the Bible says about the supernatural and its contact with humans. It's almost as if the Bible writers read Edwin Abbott's book Flatland (1884) and based biblical doctrine about the supernatural on that book.

My conclusion from the list of similarities was not the "credo" that the "supernatural" with demons, gods and angels exists. The conclusion was that if there is a supernatural world then it may lie in higher dimensions that humans cannot see or touch but which can interact with us.

The six-point correlation was the reason for seeking the biblical supernatural in higher dimensions and that's all. Whether the six bulleted points can be scientifically confirmed is irrelevant in the current context. In demanding confirmation Mr Williams, despite his outstanding intelligence, shows he completely missed the boat.


What, then, was my evidence – my "credo" – for the existence of the supernatural including Mary meeting the angel Gabriel?

After I established reasons for seeking the supernatural in higher dimensions I then referred to cosmologists who seek to unify the laws of physics by postulating dimensions additional to the three of space and one of time that we experience. Brian Greene, in the television production The Elegant Universe (2003) and his book The Elegant Universe (2000) emphasized that our understanding of the Universe is based on two separate sets of laws which don't agree. And to make them agree requires additional dimensions and parallel universes!

The Flatland analogy implies that the biblical supernatural may lie in higher dimensions. Cosmologists postulate the existence of additional dimensions to unify the laws of physics. This connects the doctrine of the supernatural to third-millennium physics.

I already saw this connection in the 1970s and sought more understanding by attending lectures of Graham Nerlich about "The Shape of Space" at Adelaide University.

In addition to the above reasons for seeking the supernatural in higher dimensions I argued in #121 that the Nativity accounts of Mary and Gabriel have high credibility because the stories have embedded in them:
"accurate history, confirmed astronomy, testable biology, fulfilled prophecy…."
The "fulfilled prophecy" for example was that Mary and the Messiah (Jesus) would be known in every generation and influence all nations. Could any atheist pick two obscure individuals in the world today, two individuals who won't get public recognition for another century, and correctly predict that they'll be the world's most mentioned individuals of the next 2,000 years?

The arguments in the present article (and in #121) are additional to earlier evidence for the supernatural in previous Investigator editions including:
1.    Everyone Correct and Right in a World Deceived–Why? (#63)
2.    The Investigator debate about demonic possession. (#101 to #106)


Our topic is complex and very different to Williams' specialty which is geology.

Although he's intelligent Williams' request for photographic confirmation (of angels) demonstrated poor comprehension. He needs to re-read the material, stop imagining fallacies, and misrepresent me less.

Numerous Bible teachings such as the wrongness of racism, the strangling of prey by lions, the threat to Earth of fire from the sky, and much more, initially seemed speculative and unscientific. Then modern science caught up and what was incomprehensible and false became public scientific fact.

The verification process may already have started for another biblical claim – the claim that supernatural powers both good and evil exist and humans are victimized by the evil ones.


Here Is The Evidence


(Investigator 123, 2008 November)

Mr Straughen read my evidence that Mary met the angel Gabriel but still asks, "Where is the evidence?" (#122)

The first evidence was the credibility of the source.

Embedded in the source (i.e. Luke and Matthew in the Bible) is: "accurate history, confirmed astronomy, testable biology, fulfilled prophecy, and plausible supernatural components…" The reader can read the details in #121, p. 37ff.

The inclusion in the Nativity story of facts confirmed 2,000 years later give it high credibility – a credibility that few humans have equalled.

Secondly the "plausible supernatural components" were as follows: I used the two-dimensional Flatland/Flatlander scenario, commonly used by philosophers and physicists, and described six influences that "Spacelanders" living in three dimensions might have on Flatland and how Flatlanders might interpret them.

I noted that the six influences correspond to what the Bible says about the influence of "demons" on humans. The parallels are so close it's as if the Bible writers read Edwin Abbott's book Flatland (1884)!

This suggests that the biblical supernatural may lie in higher dimensions which are as inaccessible to human sight and touch as our 3-D world would be to Flatlanders.

Having reasoned that far, my third evidence was that physicists require the hypothesis of higher dimensions to unify the laws of physics that describe how the Universe works! This linked the search for the supernatural to third-millennium science!

Straughen noted that the higher-dimension portion of my argument could also be used by believers in fairies. True. Just as a 3-D Spacelander could reveal himself to Flatlanders in any number of 2-D shapes, similarly a "4-Dimensioner" might, if he decides to reveal himself, resemble any 3-D creature of biology or of fiction. Believers in fairies, however, lack the credibility of the Bible – credibility established by the Bible regularly turning out correct when criticised by opposers.

A fourth argument for the supernatural is based on humanity's inability to choose correct beliefs, know right from wrong, or avoid self-destructive conduct.

Flatlanders would be powerless against a malevolent Spacelander who could, without being seen, inflict physical damage and even unhinge their minds. I compared it to a human damaging a drawing (effectively a 2-D object) by scraping it.

Similarly, the Bible teaches that all humanity is deceived by "the Devil and his angels". (II Corinthians 4:3-4; Revelation 12:9; Ephesians 6:11-12)

W M Dixon (1938) noted:
There appears to be a maggot in every human brain… The delusions from which men suffer are beyond computation, and the eye which ranges over the historical landscape blenches at the superstitions, cults and rituals which contain for our intelligences no grain of sanity, and seem an outrage upon all reason... (See fuller quote in #63, p. 52)
To refute this, skeptics need identify only one person, out of 60 billion or more, who had no false beliefs, knew right from wrong, and avoided emotional and physical self-harm. Skeptics cannot find even one! However, numberless distressed people in self-inflicted horror-situations have implied malevolent influences by stating, "I don't know why I did that!" or "How could I have been so stupid?"

My argument for the supernatural, including that Mary met the angel Gabriel is inductive and therefore not 100% conclusive.  However, many other Bible teachings that were speculative and inductive eventually became public scientific fact.


Investigator Magazine 63; 101-106; 119; 121; 122

W. Macneile Dixon (1938) The Human Situation (Angus & Robertson.

Mary & Gabriel: Still no Evidence

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 124, 2009 January)

I have read Anonymous Mary and Gabriel. Here is the Evidence (Inv. 123, p. 36), and am unable to agree that the information he has presented verifies the veracity of his beliefs.

In some instances the Bible may contain truthful statements about aspects of the natural world and history, just as a work of fiction can contain truthful statements about aspects of the natural world and history.

The Bible, however, was not written by dispassionate historians, but by individuals of conviction who were promulgating their religious views. They were not interested in history as we understand the term, but in the 'truth' as they saw it. Therefore, we cannot view Scripture as the unbiased product of disinterested minds, and hence require evidence completely independent of the Bible that Mary conversed with the angel Gabriel, and was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. Needless to say, Anonymous has not provided this evidence.

Furthermore, I do not think Anonymous' attempt to make the supernatural seem plausible by reference to hypothetical beings inhabiting other dimensions is at all convincing. His arguments are of a highly speculative nature, and are not in any way underpinned by substantial, verifiable empirical evidence.

The hypothetical higher dimensions scientists postulate in an attempt to understand the laws of physics can't be used in support of supernatural beings. These entities inhabit a transcendental, supernatural world. The dimensions physicists refer to are part of the natural world, are within the natural world.

Anonymous appears to be assuming that there is some kind of similarity between these dimensions and whatever reality supernatural beings (if such things exist) inhabit. This is an argument by analogy, and is fallacious reasoning:
It is never possible to argue by analogy. A and B may be similar in seventeen different ways and these similarities may be observed, commented on and form the basis of interesting metaphors, but we can never go on to argue that because A has some other property 'x', therefore B has it too. (page 165 in Emmet, E.R., The Use of Reason, Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., London, 1966)
Even if these other hypothetical dimensions can be been proven to exist, we can't then argue that supernatural beings (still unproven) exist - both are of an entirely different order. For further information see:

Anonymous' argument that the evidence for demons comes from the fact that people make bad decisions and may feel that they have been adversely influenced by malevolent forces is really no evidence at all. Firstly, humanity evolved from animality. This process is natural, not designed by an intelligent power - that is why human nature is imperfect. Secondly, even if the majority of people felt their bad decisions were due to demonic powers, this wouldn't prove that demons exist - the degree to which a belief is held is no guide to its veracity. Indeed, what we need is sound empirical evidence.

Finally, I have no problem with Anonymous believing (as an act of faith) that Mary conversed with the angel Gabriel, and was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. However, I must object when he claims that his beliefs are established facts, or at least plausible possibilities, for the simple reason that this is clearly not the case.


(Investigator 125, 2009 March)

When Mary revealed that she was up the duff,
It put poor Joseph in a bit of a huff.
'Now tell me truthfully how you got that way.'
'I'm sorry, Joe,' she answered, 'I really can't say.'

But in a dream sequence an angel came to Earth,
And told Joseph it would be a supernatural birth.
'Take Mary for your missus, she'll bring you forth a son,
Who'll take it upon himself, the sins of everyone.'
The Jews did not intend the Messiah to be divine,
Just the son of Joseph who is of the David line.
But strange to say, Joe makes no claim that he is Jesus' dad,
Perhaps it was that Roman Archer who fathered the lad.

So why did Luke and Mathew feel the need to persist
With their long and contradictory begatting list?
On the one hand they tell us, he must be Joseph's child,
But then say he is also God's which has us all beguiled!

In Herod's time, Luke tells us, young Mary did conceive,
Which was in four BC and that we might believe.
Then he says the birth took place in the census of six AD,
Making it the longest-ever pregnancy in history.

Now we've reached a crucial point, who really was his pa?
Looking at the foregoing, we didn't get that far.
Let's read on in the bible and put it to the test,
And all may be revealed to let the matter rest.

In one more concocted dream, an angel came to Joe,
He said, 'I have been sent by God, there's something you should know.'
King Herod's looking for the boy so leave for Egypt now.
He's heard the saviour has arrived and will track him down somehow.'

Now bear in mind, in ancient times, God opened up the sea,
To save thousands of his people, that they could be set free.
So in the case of Jesus, why rely on mortal man,
To save his only son from Herod's murderous plan?

And now we must conclude, if it wasn't God or Joe
Or that rumoured archer, we'll probably never know.
The problem now arises, if Jesus is not Joe's boy,
He can't claim the Messiaship to give the people joy!

Tony Lee

MARY and GABRIEL Evidence Sufficient


(Investigator 125, 2009 March)

[Two sentences have been modified to assist clarity]

My reasoning supporting that Mary met the angel Gabriel had five components:
1 Reasons for seeking the supernatural (including demons and angels) in higher dimensions;
2 Evidence for higher dimensions;
3 The credibility of the Bible;
4 Human inability to reject evil and false belief, which the Bible attributes to "demons";
5 The paranormal.
The five components are like a criminal conviction where video footage, motive, forensics, witness-testimony and confession considered separately fail to prove guilt. But taken together they establish guilt.

I'll present the argument again and explain what Straughen (#124) and Williams (#122) misunderstood.


I described how a hypothetical 2-dimensional (2-D) "Flatland" with 2-dimensional inhabitants or "Flatlanders" would understand "Spaceland" i.e. our 3-D world. (#121; #123   )

We cannot visualize higher dimensions and therefore physicists and philosophers understand them by comparisons with 2-D. This method was first detailed in the book Flatland (1884) by Edwin Abbott.

I noted six similarities between the Flatlanders' experience of Spaceland and the human experience (according to the Bible) of the "spirit" world (or supernatural):

Unable to see or imagine 3-D shapes. Nothing physical resembles God.
Spacelanders could stay away from Flatland or appear there as different 2-D shapes. Angels appear occasionally and resemble men.
Spacelanders can invisibly influence Flatland. Miracles sometimes occur.
Spacelanders could enter or change a Flatlander's body. Demons can possess humans.
Spacelanders could alter the minds of Flatlanders, and also simulate physical laws. Demons deceive the entire world.
Flatlanders are helpless if a Spacelander were malevolent. Humans without God are helpless against demons.

The six similarities suggest that the biblical world of "spirit" is equivalent to one or more higher dimensions.

Straughen calls this "argument by analogy" which he says is "fallacious reasoning" since further investigation may reveal not more similarities but differences.

However, the differences between Flatland and Spaceland and between Spaceland and 4-D are actually infinite in number. But it's the similarities that are significant.

To understand this, consider another situation where the differences are infinite but it's the few similarities that count – a crime scene. On Easter Sunday a victim is stabbed to death with a sharpened wooden cross. Without further clues the investigation fails. But a year later it happens again – victim stabbed with a cross on Easter Sunday. The whole Universe has changed in that one year and the second crime-location differs in numberless ways from the first. The detectives however will note the similarities – the death instrument and the date – and surmise that one person committed both crimes.

If they discover that both victims were prominent atheists who became Christians they'll have enough similarities in the two crimes to question other atheists. This would not be fallacious but a reasonable follow-up despite the infinite number of differences in the two murder-scenes.

The similarities between biblical teaching about the "spirit" world's effect on our world and Spaceland's effect on Flatland might for some people be enough evidence. They might think that the similarity of the supernatural to higher dimensions thought up 2,000 years later is significant.

Others, however, want more evidence. That's how we got onto cosmology – a science that takes higher dimensions seriously and spends $billions on research!


In his television production The Elegant Universe (2003) Brian Greene suggested the possibility of life in higher dimensions. He argued that the scientific understanding of the Universe is based on two sets of laws which don't agree but which can be reconciled in higher dimensions.

Harvard physicist Lisa Randall similarly says:
…there's stuff we don't understand if there are only three dimensions of space, and some of those questions seem to have answers if there are extra dimensions. Also, no fundamental physical theory singles out three dimensions of space. The theory of gravity allows any number… you could have an infinite extra dimension if space-time is warped… even more dramatic [is] that we could live in a pocket of three dimensions in a higher-dimensional universe. (Discover, July 2006    pp 8-9)
One objective for the Large Hadron Collider recently switched on in Europe is to search for extra dimensions! (Chalmers 2008) Straughen and Williams, however, declare the case closed claiming, "No evidence; not empirical."

Randall says:
In the history of physics, every time we've looked beyond the scales and energies we are familiar with, we've found things that we wouldn't have thought were there. It's hubris to think that the way we see things is all there is…there's stuff we don't understand if there are only three dimensions of space.
One recent theory postulates six dimensions including two of time: "the ordinary time we experience is just a shadow of a six-dimensional reality we cannot touch." (Chown 2007)

If higher dimensions exist, might they contain intelligent life?

Fox (2007) writes: "Who says aliens have to be based on carbon and water? The search for ET just got a whole lot weirder."

The three dimensions we're familiar with without anything more may harbour life-forms beyond imagining! If scientists speculate on alien intelligence existing in 3-D, then what's possible in 4-D?

It makes sense to anticipate more-complex life in more-complex environments! Bacteria cultured on a petri dish – not truly 2-dimensional but near enough to illustrate this point – cannot produce technology like humans in 3-D. Just as the 3-D Universe is infinitely bigger than a 2-D slice of it, so 4-D or 5-D could be infinitely bigger again. If so, then humans may be as inferior to whatever exists in 4-D as bacteria on a petri dish are to us.

What we have so far is evidence for higher dimensions and higher dimensional life. Straughen's "Still no evidence" (#124) is "hubris". But there was even more:


Straughen wants to accept as "evidence" only what's accessible to our senses. But evidence not extrapolated into the future or into other places is useless. Is it safe, for example, to step in front of a speeding train? Past instances of people doing that resulted in death. But unless we extrapolate this observation into the future we have no reason to avoid speeding trains and would step in front of one, fearing nothing.

Once we identify a trend, e.g that humans hit by speeding trains die, we have "substantiated" evidence for what to expect next time. We have "verifiable empirical evidence."

"Inductive reasoning" or "induction" is when we extrapolate or extend a trend and base belief or decisions on the extension. The person who denies evidence from past experience, who reasons "anti-inductively" – and claims, for example, that the next speeding train is harmless – is irrational and if consistent in his irrationality will quickly perish.

Scientific discovery is useless without induction. The observation that gravity attracts and makes objects fall is useful only if generalized to objects we don't presently see. When scientists send spacecraft to other planets they assume that the physical laws relied on in launching the spacecraft will continue to operate.

Consider also jobseekers and resumes. Employers take resumes as "substantiated" evidence of future performance even though resumes summarise the past and the future is unobserved.

Recognizing that induction is part of science is important to assessing the credibility of the story of Mary and the angel Gabriel. The empirical evidence that we extrapolate in this instance is the established accuracy of the Bible.

Hundreds of biblical claims have been confirmed in almost 20 scientific disciplines. Sometimes the entire world rejected the Bible and the Bible turned out correct. For example, I realized from the Bible in the 1970s that asteroids/comets are a threat to Earth – and the world of science now agrees.

Hundreds of Bible statements proved accurate is empirical evidence of the Bible being reliable. Extrapolating this finding to further, as yet unproved, biblical claims allows us to anticipate that they're correct also.

The Nativity story is only a portion of the Bible but also has some scientific accuracies plus an amazing prediction. (#121) I asked Straughen to duplicate the prediction. He needs to pick two obscure individuals alive now, and predict correctly that they'll be the most mentioned people of the next 2,000 years. Anyone or anything with insight like that deserves serious attention. Straughen refused the challenge and relies on his refrain, "Still no evidence".


My fourth argument for the supernatural is that no human being is completely correct in his beliefs but nonsense permeates every life. Somebody called it a "maggot in every human brain". The Bible too makes this observation and attributes it to demonic powers.

Our Flatland comparison, similarly, found that Flatlanders would be helpless against malicious Spacelanders with power to cause sickness, simulate physical law, and unhinge minds. The only protection would be if friendly Spacelanders restrained the nasty ones.

Straughen appeals to evolution for people's bad decisions – "humanity evolved from animality".

In response I note:

This argument [that humans are misled and "Incompetent"] by itself is indecisive but gains power by being balanced against the others.


Not mentioned in the present debate, but mentioned previously, as evidence for demonic activity, is the "paranormal" including exorcism. Over 95% of paranormal claims are explainable, but that still leaves the origin of some phenomena seemingly outside our 3-D Universe.


Straughen says the Bible was not written by "dispassionate historians". However, the inductive trend of more in the Bible being proved correct as time passes includes history. In #124 I discussed a major military empire that historians ignored for 2000 years but which the Bible mentioned! "Dispassion" failed, the Bible didn't!

Straughen says, "supernatural…entities inhabit a transcendental … world [but] the dimensions physicists refer to are part of the natural world…" Actually no: We distinguish natural from supernatural because the latter cannot be empirically identified. If that changes, then the distinction vanishes and the supernatural becomes natural.

Straughen also queried the virgin birth. "Isaiah's Virgin" was discussed in #92-94. Straughen should ponder the difficulty of predicting something considered impossible (such as a virgin birth) and getting people centuries later to proclaim a fake fulfilment – especially if the proclamation gets them killed!


Time fails me to discuss additional topics relevant to our debate such as:
•    On Being Sure Of What Is Impossible (The Heythrop Journal, July 1977.
•    How much can we ever know about the Universe? (New Scientist, 5 April, 2003)
•    Never say never – the outer limits of what is possible (New Scientist, 5 April, 2008)


My initial presentation in #121 was quite clear but Straughen and Williams muddied it with hubris and fulmination.

Often no individual piece of evidence suffices to convict an accused person. Video footage, motive, confession, forensics, and eye-witnesses may individually be inadequate. But together they establish guilt "beyond reasonable doubt". My case for the supernatural is likewise cumulative and each argument is a probability that future science may support or weaken.

Don't forget that scientific evidence against racism was incomplete 60 years ago, for Cush as an empire 40 years ago, for asteroid impacts 30 years ago, for snakes hearing the snake-charmer's music 25 years ago, for humans and Neanderthals as co-existing separate species 14 years ago – and the Bible is right in all of these.

Many people assert, "I'll believe the Bible when there's proof." But when they get proof they deny that evidence is evidence or that inductive reasoning is empirical. Why? One reason is emotional – the Bible says, "The heart is devious above all else."

Another reason is that just as Flatlanders are helpless against Spacelanders, so humans (according to the Bible) are powerless against supernatural entities who distort their thinking and who accept the distortion as worship. The Bible puts it, "What pagans sacrifice they sacrifice to demons."

Just as Flatlanders would need friendly Spacelanders to restrain nasty Spacelanders, so humans need friendly supernatural help to counteract malicious supernatural entities. Humans need to swap their hubris for humility and pray.


Chalmers, M. New Scientist, 30 August, 2008.
Chown, M. New Scientist, 10 October, 2007.
Dick, S.J. New Scientist, 31 May, 2008.
Fox, D. New Scientist, 9 June, 2007.
Kaku, M. 2005 Discover, August, 2005.
Randall, L. 2005 Warped Passages: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, Penguin.



John H Williams

(Investigator 125, 2009 March)

The Mary and Gabriel myth is an example of how history has been spun to meet the requirements of those who wish people to believe things which are literally untrue.

When skeptics quite reasonably ask for substantiated evidence, that which is produced by believers is often a denatured version of it. Those who do so often display a marked lack of disinterested objectivity, are over-invested in promulgating the myths as real (some may earn their living by doing so, and thus have good reason to maintain the status quo). They have been known to label people like me as "close-minded, hard core materialist atheists", when all we do is ask the kinds of questions a good defence counsel would ask in a court case.

It's not enough that a detective finds a likely crime suspect: he or she has to assemble sufficient evidence that will stand up in court, and often the defence does a good job, dismissing the circumstantial, giving the innocent and even the guilty a good chance of not being found guilty.

As the writer who initiated the Mary/Gabriel theme in #119, I'm curious about what actually happened, and suggested that she had been impregnated by someone, possibly a Roman centurion from what is now Lebanon (though it might have been someone else), and was taken care of by Joseph, who fathered all of Yesu'a's four half-brothers and two half-sisters. (To maintain the illusion of sinless purity, Mary has been presented as having come from an immaculate conception (her mum and dad eventually becoming Saints Anne and Joachim), remaining a virgin while having at least six children, then going to Heaven without dying).

Some, like Bishop Jack Spong, view Mary's parents as "fictionalized composites" (Jesus For The Non-Religious), and believes that the "virgin birth narrative, if literalised and treated as biology, becomes nonsensical. It would violate everything we know about biology, genetics and reproduction." (Born Of A Woman).

I'm not invested in the Yesu'a ben Panthera story, nor was I in presenting Barbara Thiering's pesher theory, and offered it for comment and debate. I find it a useful and 'therapeutic' alternative to the supernatural version, about which every Christian child is conditioned. Many senior churchmen have given up on the Virgin Birth, one of the two planks that Paul said were the very foundation of Christianity; but, well, 'we'd better hang on to the Resurrection (for which, apparently, there's better evidence (?): if we don't, it'll be much harder to sell eternal life in the sky, saints, sin, the god known as God and his alter ego'.

I'm not a prig, and will acknowledge if I've got it wrong: my aim is to stir the pot of literalism, present an alternative history, de-mythologise, send up supernatural clap-trap, and ask for evidence which is not circumstantial, dominantly anecdotal or the equivalent of hearsay.

Children grow up, and most start thinking for themselves, realising the porkies told to them by their parents and often their teachers, if they went to a non-government Christian school, and, having escaped the conditioning, determine never to con their children-to-be.

The 1872 Mary Celeste 'phantom-ship' mystery has long intrigued the world. In the court case that followed, the prosecuting lawyer was determined to prove that the sailors who found the ship had killed all eleven people on board so they could claim a percentage of the valuable cargo as a prize! Only one person was invested in that story, primarily because there was no substantial evidence to support it! (ABC-TV documentary, 13/11/08).

Using all the available evidence, then performing experiments, investigators have shown that the ship's cargo of ethanol stored below had created a flash ignition/explosion which had blown out deck hatches with a distinctive blue-tinged 'flame', frightening the crew, who assumed a disastrous fire. The captain, who had with him his wife and child, immediately evacuated all to the long boat, which was attached to and towed by the M. Celeste by rope, with the intention of re-boarding when safe to do so. Big mistake: the rope snapped, the M Celeste, fire-less, was still in full sail, and then a storm occurred leaving those eleven at the mercy of the Atlantic.

A more recent case is of an empty yacht found off the N Queensland coast, baffling police for a while. Apparently, there were three crew, including brothers, one of whom was fishing and who fell overboard. The other brother jumped in to help, and the third person went to the side and was leaning over to help when there was a wind change and the boom flipped around, knocking him into the briney. All would have been fine if they'd had the yacht's ladder in the water, but they hadn't and couldn't get onboard, so they drowned and/or were eaten by sharks.

Supernatural 'explanations' may half-fill the information gap, but unless there's a credulous pre-scientific audience, they take one nowhere. I refer to Mr A's  'A Meeting That Shaped History' (#121), a response to an article of mine in #119, and 'Here is The Evidence' (#123), a response to Kirk Straughan's critique in #122.

Evidence 1 (in #123)
Mr A repeated an assertion given in his first article, re "accurate, history, confirmed astronomy…", quoting himself, believing that he'd established those claims (meaning that he's had articles on them published in the Investigator) to his own satisfaction. Some 'evidence'!

Evidence 2
"It's as if the Bible writers read Ed Abbott's book, Flatland (1884)!" He doesn't say which Bible writers (let's assume he means all of them, whoever they were, as more than a few books were written pseudonymously), but they would have apparently loved Abbott's Flatlanders and Spacelanders, it being a sound basis for ancient beliefs about the influence of demons on humans. And this is to be regarded as evidence?

Evidence 3
Yes, some scientists are searching for the Theory of Everything (TOE), and Mr A told us that some of them "require the hypothesis of higher dimensions to…describe how the Universe works", thus giving the impression that modern astro-physics has something in common with those seeking to explain demons and angels. This is drawing the longest of long bows (a Welsh, rather than an English invention), but, no matter, it's ticked off as 'evidence'. My descendants may perhaps be around when that extra dimension is revealed, but I very much doubt it.

Evidence 4
Mr A re-hashes his much-used and unsubstantiated mantra about humanity's many failings, which is beyond ridicule. In a previous article of mine, I referred to 'China', the Song (Sung) Dynasty, as having 101 million people in the year 1000 AD, out of a world population of 310 million. At that time they followed a sort of Confucianism combined with Buddhism, which one can reasonably associate with the advanced state of their culture vis-à-vis Christian Europe. But Mr A implies that there wasn't much hope for them and their ancestors, a bit unfair, as they had their own non-theistic beliefs, and had no inkling that a human who was also a god had (temporarily) died for their sins. One wonders how that person's 'dad' might have felt about the abject ignorance of the vast majority of humanity 'he' had 'created'.

I struggle to comprehend Mr A's analogy of someone damaging a drawing as akin to a "malevolent Spacelander who, unseen (and like all gods, not there), could inflict physical damage and even unhinge … minds." Oh, please!

I may have misunderstood Mr A's beliefs, and if I have it's not all my fault, as his speculative sophistry is so well developed that it's really hard to know what he does believe. Does he really believe that "all humanity is deceived by the Devil and his angels?" He writes "the Bible teaches" (a phrase I've repeatedly objected to) before that quote, and it's my understanding that Mr A believes the Bible to be inerrant, leading one to believe that he also believes in a Devil, angels and demons. He claims (#123) that I've misrepresented him, in asking for evidence of demons, so perhaps he doesn't? I'm confused, so all Mr A need do is tell us, leaving out whatever "the Bible teaches", in language anyone can grasp, whether he does or does not believe that demons exist or have existed.

He plucks (from where?) a figure of "60 billion or more" (more like 112 billion, including current Earthlings if he's referring to all those who've existed) and repeats his mantra of skeptics needing to offer only one person who knew "right from wrong" etc, and not being able to "find one!" From his writings I'd nominate Mr A, but, assuming he'd decline, I nominated me (#122), offering my email address, but, as I haven't received the much-anticipated email, one can assume this line of 'argument' is yet another delusional cul-de-sac.

A sincere thank-you, Mr A, for offering W M Dixon's 1938 quote: "The delusions from which men (sic) suffer are beyond computation and the eye … blenches (to shy away, quail, from OE blencan to deceive) at the superstitions, cults and rituals which contain for our intelligences no grain of sanity, and seem an outrage upon all reason." I couldn't agree more!

Generously, Mr A admits that his version of Mary/Gabriel was "inductive, therefore not 100% conclusive": I'll be a little less generous and assess it at 0%. Kirk Straughan in #123 p 24-28 ('Science and Antithesis') expressed it succinctly, using 13 dot points: his last one refers to "Occam's Razor – the least speculative theory that best fits the known facts is the one most likely to be true." (my use of bold). Many of Straughan's 12 other points are equally and terminally damaging to Mr A's 'argument', but this one is very much the nub of my critique.

I conclude with some brief remarks about Mr A's 'Investigated and Almost Indisputable' in #123:

I maintain the opinion that there's a fundamental difference between the existence of species and the existence of demons. I have evidence for the former, and simply asked for substantiated evidence of the latter. It seems as if that won't be forthcoming.

I repeat, if an imagined being doesn't actually exist, then its evolution is irrelevant, while it's clear that its 'origin' derives from humanoids who thought it up. Here's a small sample: a talking snake, perhaps requiring a talking mongoose, the Nullarbor Nymph, Noah and Her-In-Ark (the 'mother' of all humans has no name!), fairies, saints, and every god and goddess.

Mr A included my name in a list, and. I ask him not to do so again, as I dislike  it being used in a 'list of things' as part of a specious 'argument': I request that he find more appropriate words for his pointless lists in future.

Mr A twice referred to my intelligence. My IQ, whatever it be, has NO relevance to my argument.

Mr A refers to my "speciality, geology", which also has no direct relevance to our debate. I last studied it 45 years ago, and have other areas of more current expertise. Mr A may believe that geologising is a "simple" business, but it's a little more than cracking open rocks, collecting fossils and hunting for minerals. Yes, they may hypothesise (acceptable 'speculation' in context with their research), but any hypothesis (see my writing on continental drift and plate tectonics, Alfred Wegener and Arthur Holmes) done by scientists rests ultimately on the validity of the available evidence, which may or may not confirm a new idea or theory.

 What I understand as scientific evidence is utterly different to the speculation and assertions offered as 'evidence' by Mr A, which are, as Straughen so aptly described (#122), "pseudo-scientific constructions designed to lend a veneer of credibility to the supernatural stories of a pre-scientific age".


(Investigator 126, 2009 May

I read Investigator's articles on Mary and Joseph published over the past year. Unfortunately they became incomprehensible with philosophical concepts like "Flatlanders" and "Spacelanders". As a person with very basic knowledge of philosophy this is beyond me and seems extraneous to the argument. There is no nexus between philosophy and a dodgy theological concept.

Perhaps the Talmud is right in its version of the birth of Jesus (involving a prostitute and a Roman soldier) but most discerning Christians are now more interested in the Christ of Faith as compared to the Christ of history. In effect, to a thinking Christian the Virgin Birth is irrelevant as to a thinking Jew the existence of Moses is irrelevant. Faith should transcend petty religious dogma.


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