Does the Bible's claim that a donkey talked destroy its credibility on
the topic of God?
A debate between Dr Potter, Anonymous and Kirk Straughen
Belief in God —
product of contemporary culture?
Dr Bob Potter
(Investigator 155, 2014
I grew up on a
in Onkaparinga, on the edge of the Adelaide Hills.
I learned to ride a pony before mastering a bicycle, initially taught
by an uncle who insisted horses were 'very intelligent' … with straight
face he told me, in an emergency, horses might even talk.
remember his 'proving the
point' with an anecdote about his friend, who once was riding in the
region of Mt Lofty, when the horse stopped dead in its tracks, refusing
to take a single step forwards. Digging his heels into the horse or
slapping it, achieved nothing … in fact, as soon as he dismounted, the
horse lay down, refusing to budge. Threatening with a stick, even about
to beat the horse, amazingly, the animal opened his mouth and spoke,
asking what crime he'd committed deserving such treatment – warning
that progressing further along the path would have serious consequences
for them both. “If I had a gun I'd shoot you for your stubbornness!"
replied the frustrated rider, where-upon, there was a sudden rumbling
noise ahead and many tons of boulders rolled down onto the path; the
disobedient animal had saved the two of them from almost certain death.
memories and feelings is always difficult, so I'm unsure as to the
extent to which I actually believed this tale of a 'talking horse'; I'd
have been five or six years old at the time and probably did still
credit the existence of Father Christmas. Probably, I thought it just
might be true?! However, remembering this tale many years later, like
everyone reading this page, it's appreciated my uncle was just
'spinning a yarn', teaching me to be kind to horses! Every Investigator
reader could recount similar yarns they were told in their childhood …
and bear no grudge against the adult who 'lied to them' in this way …
however don't make the mistake of believing all people discard their
'childish ways' as Paul suggests (1 Cor. 13). Arguably, there is no
shortage of individuals scattered about who do believe in talking
animals; those fundamentalist Christian, Jewish and Muslim devotees,
confident their scriptures are literally 'true', will find a talking
donkey, behaving not too dissimilarly to that of my uncle's horse,
reported factually in the twenty second chapter of the book of Numbers!
grateful to both Kevin
Rogers and Anonymous for their replies to my query as to why so many
individuals persist in their 'God beliefs'. From different approaches
they attempt to address some of my points, but both share the same
fundamental 'misunderstanding' of what a person means when they
describe themselves as 'an atheist'; in similar fashion, in previous
Investigator articles, I've been accused of “believing in atheism".
Similar accusations are frequently aimed at Richard Dawkins, Dan
Dennett, Christopher Hitchens et al. At first, I assumed those who
oppose our stance were just carelessly formulating their allegation,
but I've since realized it's more likely those of us who are atheists,
that is, see no reason to hypothesize supernatural interventions ever
occurring, haven't managed to appropriately indicate that's exactly
what the term means, nothing more, nothing less.
next door neighbour
believes he has a fairy living in his woodshed, and that he went riding
every evening of the full moon on a talking horse, if he were to ask me
whether I believed in the existence of his fairy and horse, I'd say
“no", I do not so believe. If he pursued his questioning of me, asking
why I didn't believe, I would simply say that I could see no reason to
believe in either – and if he then listed a number of reasons as to why
he believed, namely that his lettuces had less slugs on them (thanks to
the fairy feeding them to the talking horse), I'd be happy to let my
neighbour continue with his beliefs – even after I'd been snubbed for
suggesting the explanation might simply be that he was a more competent
gardener than I was, spending more money on the fertilizers etc.
that my said neighbour might have met other 'sceptics' and had
therefore, together with other members of his 'friends of the fairies
club', decided to label me and others like me, 'boogers', even writing
press articles, informing readers 'Bob believes in boogerism', or that
as Bob grew up in a 'booger environment', he has 'an emotional
attachment to boogerism' -- and other similar
prattle. As I've tried once again to make 'crystal
clear', I don't 'believe in atheism' … rather, I just see no reason
that hypothesizing the existence of any supernatural 'force' or 'being'
might in any way prove helpful in my continuing attempts to understand
the universe we inhabit.
'answers' to my exploration as to why people still believe in God, both
Kevin and Anonymous make assumptions about my early life, all of which
are as distant from the truth as it's possible to be; Anonymous argues,
“if Potter had grown up 'totally isolated from atheism' he wouldn't be
so atheistic!", while Kevin suggests, Bob “lives in a modern western
secular society Theism is considered a plausible option within that
culture, but had Bob been born in another time or culture, it would be
highly unlikely that Bob would be an atheist". I know I'm a little
older than Kevin, and have no idea when Anonymous arrived on this
planet – but, I'm left amazed they could write as they do if they
experienced the same world as I did. For the benefit of readers who
have little knowledge of Adelaide life in the 1930s, forgive me for
inserting a little of my own personal biography … clearly relevant to
this current discussion.
born in a nursing
home in the Prospect Road in July 1932, a few streets from where my
mother lived before marriage. My Dad had a small farm, close to the
Adelaide Hills. He was a keen horseman and a member of Militia, the
'Gawler' cavalry unit, based at nearby O'Halloran Hill. Following the
outbreak of war, in 1939, he became a 'foundation member' of the 2/48th
battalion, AIF, part of the Ninth Division soon to become part of
history as one of Haw Haw's 'rats of Tobruk'. My father was a staunch
Anglican, a regular church attendee, in his latter years well known for
his 'involvements' associated with St Peter's Cathedral, near the
Adelaide Oval. Members of my family still living in Adelaide still
occasionally attend services there.
the war, the farm
was sold; my mother and her two kids (I was the older) returned to
Prospect. My mother (and her mother), were staunch Baptists, although,
for some reason, during her final years, my mother switched to a nearby
Methodist Church, never missing a Sunday service. Throughout my
childhood years, I was a regular Sunday School attendee – in a Baptist
Church, ten minutes walk from home. Sunday School was one of the
highlights of my week; I loved the Bible study sessions, always had
plenty to say (!) and still have scores of little 'picture cards',
inscribed with Biblical texts, handed to attendees each
Sunday. I have kept two books, given me as Sunday School
the ages of
twelve/thirteen years, I began exploring other beliefs – I honestly
cannot remember why I was so interested, although I've spent two days
wondering about this, after receiving Investigator 154. A highlight of
many school lunch hours were the occasional 'speakers', who would
appear on platforms near the entrance to the school (Nailsworth
Primary) on the Enfield Road; these speakers were very popular with the
children, always getting us to join them in singing hymns – they often
used an accordion as accompaniment. We often were given little
booklets, or copies of a single gospel. At one of these gatherings I
talked with a Christadelphian, leading to several visits to his (and
his wife's) home, lengthy evening discussions about the Bible, Bible
prophecy. I was introduced to their Bible 'reading plan', a routine I
followed for probably about six months. By now, I was
beginning to realize the importance of 'reading the Book' itself, not
rely upon what others claim it says (it was some years later I realized
just reading a modern translation, 'in isolation', wasn't sufficient
by the time I
reached fourteen years of age, I was widely reading other books,
tending more to general philosophy rather than centering on
theology. Religious instruction was part of the curriculum at
High School, and increasingly I would tackle the visiting priest during
these lessons – mostly 'teachers' were pleased about this. There was
just one visiting priest who strongly objected to being
questioned/challenged. (Incidentally, I loved school, both at
Nailsworth and later Adelaide High – and was delighted to be reminded,
when I visited Adelaide, briefly, in 1978, to see my name still on the
'roll of honour board', in the main AHS assembly hall, then at Grote
first Bertrand Russell
book I encountered was Marriage and Morals, probably spurred by
the usual sexual interests of a developing individual, but this led me
to acquire other books by Russell. His 'potboiler', History of
Western Philosophy, was certainly the largest 'serious' book I
read, cover to cover, and from then on, I progressed to many of the
actual texts, often finding the impressions I received from the books
themselves were not always what Russell had caused me to
expect. (Arthur Schopenhauer became my teenage 'hero' for a
was around the age of
fifteen that I began to see myself as an atheist, although after much
thought during the past few days, I can say, quite truthfully that I'm
sure that at this time I had never consciously met or spoken with
anyone who would describe themselves as an atheist. I remember
attempting to discuss the topic with parents and grandparents. One
granny (mother's side) just 'believed', she just 'knew' Christ's
teaching was the truth, it wasn't a matter for discussion. Paternal
Granny wished me to talk with her priest (she organized his visit!); he
reported to her, afterwards, I'd “grow out of it". My mother declined
discussion on the topic, apologizing and telling me she was 'too dim'
to discuss these matters; my father became very enraged, told me
aggressively that I was forbidden to use the word 'atheism' in his
house and warned me that if I attempted to 'influence' my (now two)
younger brothers, he'd have me 'placed in a home'. In the wider family,
relatives were warned to never discuss religion with Bob – he was just
“argumentative", the implication being I just liked debating for the
sake of 'winning arguments' and that I picked on religion 'just because
he enjoys upsetting people'. (Interesting – when I read Kevin's final
paragraph (page 21): “Bob has a strong emotional commitment to atheism.
Does Bob form his beliefs truthfully, based on reason and evidence?")
fifteenth year I
needed to decide what I wanted to do with my life – there was
tremendous pressure from parents that I apply to the then Royal
Military College (Duntroon), as an officer cadet. I was accepted. In
those days (maybe still?) one needed declare their religion and I'm
quite sure that had I written 'atheist' I would not have been
considered for selection. Normally, the occasional person who did not
already belong to a church would be classified 'C of E'. Most other
cadets were Roman Catholic.
only when I arrived
at the College I learned that not only was the Sunday religious parade
compulsory, but there was provision for the half dozen 'oddballs' who
did not subscribe to the two main cults. For the next two years I
officially became a Methodist. An advantageous 'spin off' of this
decision being that not only was transport provided to the main
Methodist church in Canberra, but I was invariably invited home for
Sunday lunch by one of the congregation members, at the conclusion of
non-attendance at the C of E fellowships in the College itself, I
remained Anglican so far as the Army was concerned and hence received a
regular visit to my room by the College padre. Needless to say, I was
delighted when he came; there were invariably lengthy and interesting
discussions, mostly about theology and its relation to science. It was
a break for me from the more routine study periods — throughout
my life, I've always felt I've 'got on well' with most priests I've
met, especially those in the Anglican, Catholic and Methodist
Sunday excursions to the
Wesley church literally proved a 'god send' for me; a community of
people who not only always made me feel welcome, but were willing (and
competent) to discuss theology with me – even inviting me to present my
own views regarding Christianity (and other faiths) to a couple
of very successful 'brotherhood' meetings. It was many years later that
I learned although I may have been reasonably popular with a section of
the Methodist community, the pastor (whom, I admit, always seemed
somewhat 'reserved') was less pleased. Following my prompt dismissal
from the Military College around the time my opposition to the
Australian involvement in America's attack upon Korea was becoming
apparent, the Australian Security Services interviewed numerous local
people to discover whom I had been associating with and what I'd been
saying/doing while at the College.
than 40 years later,
using the Freedom of Information Act, I received more than a hundred
copied documents held by ASIO regarding me – among them, comments made
by the Methodist pastor, which so many years later, I found a little
surprising and disappointing. Here's what the Rev Walter Whitbread,
Pastor of Wesley Church, Canberra reported to ASIO': “for his age,
Potter is a confirmed Atheist. I was annoyed when Potter delivered an
address to the Methodist Brotherhood as, notwithstanding the fact he
was addressing Church people, he Potter, criticized the Bible and
literally 'tore it to pieces'. I never heard Potter express any
political beliefs and have no reason to believe he is a Communist,
rather a case for a psychiatrist." My feeling was that his strong
hostility was not shared by many members of his congregation –
admittedly I may be kidding myself!? (My understanding is this Wesley
Church no longer exists.)
to say, my memories
from my adolescent years of the 1940s strongly differ from the 'atheism
as a plausible option within modern western secular society' Kevin
Rogers talks about. At the time, I saw myself very much as a very
'lonely individual', supported only by 'ancient' books penned by
Bertrand Russell, together with a mixture of Tom Paine, Robert
Ingersoll, Annie Besant, Charles Bradlaugh – texts mostly discovered by
myself, unaided, on shelves of the Adelaide Library on North Terrace.
So far as I can recall, as I've said above, at the time of my return to
Adelaide in December 1950, I had still not knowingly met, face to face,
a single atheist!
no idea on what
basis Anonymous and Kevin base their 'biographical' assumptions – but
they are clearly quite wrong – although my 'situation' was soon to
Back in Adelaide, I contacted and joined the Rationalist Association
(an organization that no longer exists – I think it transformed into
the Atheist Association/Foundation?), where I soon did meet real, live
atheists! Within weeks, I became a regular speaker on their platform in
Adelaide's Botanic Park, every Sunday afternoon. Reports of my speeches
were passed to my father, now employed in some capacity by the
Australian Staff Corps at Keswick Barracks; I was forced to leave home
and live with the Chair of the Rationalist Association – and yes, he
was an atheist! The comfortable acceptance of atheist views of which
Kevin Rogers talks was never something I experienced – my own battle
for the right to think and speak as I chose was, so far as my own
personal history was concerned, a relentless and non-ending battle for
freedom of opinion and speech.
I was not typical?!
Just unfortunate. I can only describe my own life experiences, as I
BELIEF IN GOD —
Response to Dr Potter (#155)
(Investigator156, May 2014)
Potter (#155) challenges
my claim, "If Potter had grown up totally isolated from atheism he
wouldn't be so atheistic" since he never, as a youth, met any atheists
face to face.
Potter also writes
that at 14 he began to read "Bertrand Russell … Tom Paine, Robert
Ingersoll, Annie Besant, Charles Bradlaugh". Clearly, Potter was not
"totally isolated from atheism" since reading can sometimes lead to
deeper, longer-lasting influence than face to face interaction.
main target in his
latest attack is the story of Balaam's talking donkey in Numbers 22.
For the Bible to allege that a donkey talked surely exposes the Bible,
including its claims about God, as myth?
Dr Potter is taking
a stroll in the British countryside and passes a field where horses are
grazing. One horse looks up and from its mouth come the words, "Good
morning Dr Potter, I'm Dr Smith."
would not be fooled;
he would suspect a prank. He knows that wireless technology and
concealed microphone can transmit a man's voice and make it come from a
Potter later describes
this experience at the hotel, and does so literally without
interpreting how it happened, he would say, "Today a horse spoke to me;
the horse addressed me as Dr Potter and called himself Dr Smith."
played this prank on
someone without knowledge of technology, perhaps an Australian
Aborigine who has never left the wilderness where he grew up, the man
might believe that a kangaroo or camel actually spoke. He would believe
because he saw and heard.
22:22-35 is a
description of what Balaam experienced, giving Balaam's point of view,
with the narrator adding that an "angel of the Lord", unseen to Balaam,
was blocking the donkey's path. It is one of many Bible reports of an
entity from the supernatural realm talking to humans or otherwise
interfering in their lives.
22:28 — "Then the
Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said…" — is how Balaam
experienced the situation. The reader would understand that it is the
"angel of the Lord" talking, not the donkey.
We deduce this from 22:31 "Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and
he saw the angel of the LORD…" at which point the two speak directly to
each other and leave the donkey out of it.
New Testament says
"a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice" (II Peter 2 16) it is
giving Balaam's viewpoint prior to the point where "the LORD opened the
eyes of Balaam".
a realm we can
provisionally regard as the "supernatural"?
debate (#125) and the article "Gravity and the Supernatural" (#126) I
equated this realm with extra dimensions beyond the four that we are
aware of — up-down, left-right, forwards-reverse, and past-future. To
remind himself of the evidence Dr Potter may need to re-read it. If
intelligent entities in higher dimensions exist they would be
unimaginably superior to us.
extra dimensions are
postulated by "string theorists" to explain how the Universe works, or
to explain how or where a "Multiverse" can exist. Some suggest that
scientific confirmation of other dimensions will come this century with
technology such as the "Large Hadron Collider" situated under the
example of how seriously
science takes such possibilities is when neutrinos were measured
breaking the "fundamental speed limit" of the Universe. New
Scientist reported: "the result could be the first evidence for a
reality built out of extra dimensions." (1 October, 2011)
FOR THE BIBLE
it be simpler to
take Numbers 22 as fiction and the Bible as wrong, than to argue for
superior, supernatural beings such as "angels" in higher dimensions? No
one proposes that the talking animals in Aesop's Fables were
real and that behind them were supernatural spirits — so why do so with
reason is that so many
other Bible events formerly considered silly turned out true. As a
young person in the early 1970s I concluded from reading the Bible that
huge rocks from Space have on occasion impacted Earth and changed the
our planet, and that it will happen again and envelop the whole planet
in fire. In the 1970s such notions were scientific nonsense contrary to
geological "Uniformitarianism" and believed only by a few "maverick"
scientists. In 1980 the tide began to turn and today the whole world
believes. (#62—Asteroids and the Bible)
conflicts where the Bible was supposed to be wrong — conflicts in
archaeology, logic, ethics, psychology, biology, astronomy, geography,
history, etc — gives hundreds of confirmations of the Bible, many
reported in Investigator over the past 20 years.
result, along with the
evidence for a Creator-God which I provided in #143 and #151, makes it
reasonable to believe the Bible and conclude there is more to the
"talking donkey" than sceptics suppose.
are often accused
of believing in a "God of the gaps" i.e. relying on areas of ignorance
where scientific evidence is inconclusive.
Dr Potter, however, is an "atheist of the gaps". He ignores obvious
inferences based on the accumulating number of Bible claims confirmed,
and seeks out Bible points that current science still leaves
unresolved. Potter's "seek the gaps" method led to our many debates
such as History's Truth (#147/148) and Paul and Freud
(#149/151) and some gaps were filled.
reading Bertrand Russell
and other atheists at 14, and putting their arguments to people who
didn't know how science confirms the Bible, Potter got diverted onto a
Poor old Anonymous!
losing the plot!
(Investigator 157, 2014
Readers of Investigator
must be well and truly accustomed to the illogical repartees
contributed by 'our unknown friend', but his 'brief barbs' aimed at me
(Investigator 156) surely take the biscuit!
my reply to his
earlier criticisms, Anonymous now argues 'a contradiction' between my
saying that never, as a youth, did I encounter any atheists, although I
mention reading books by “Bertrand Russell … Tom Paine, Robert
Ingersoll, Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh". Clearly, my critic
falsely assumes each of these writers was an atheist — hence, equally
clearly, Anonymous has not, himself, actually looked at the writings of
with Tom Paine,
ever a great hero of mine; I must have given copies of Paine's Age
of Reason to at least twenty people during the course of my
lifetime – most recently to Kevin Rogers when visiting us, in Brighton,
a few years ago. Although arguably a few 'errors' appear in Paine's
book, it should be remembered he had written the first part before his
arrest, and the second part while in a French prison, awaiting the
guillotine (during the French Revolution), without access to a Bible.
This second part, sometimes challenged on detail, was published in 1795.
took the trouble to read The Age of Reason, he would appreciate
the book does indeed attack Christianity, but from the standpoint of
deism, not atheism – a truth requiring expansion if one is to
understand the book, for it was written primarily as a means of
opposing atheism. As the author, himself, put it:
France are running headlong into atheism, and I had the work translated
in their own language, to stop them in their career, and fix them to
the first article of every man's creed who has any creed at all – I
believe in God." (Paine's emphasis)
imprisonment, in part, to his attitude against 'atheism'. It is one of
the ironies of history that almost always the most damaging attacks
upon religion come from those seeking to defend religion!
the list is Robert
Ingersoll, a great admirer of Paine, friend of everybody who was
anybody in the United States, campaigner (against the Churches) for the
abolition of slavery, friend and associate of Mark Twain, author of
hundreds of pamphlets … (look on the web, Mr Anonymous). A brilliant
lawyer and renowned orator, one of his most famous speeches, printed
repeatedly, carries the title Why am I an Agnostic? The title probably
says all that needs be said, but here are a few words from the text:
majority of mankind has believed in what is known as God, and equally
large a majority has implicitly believed in what is known as the
Devil. These beings were inferred from phenomena, and were
produced for the most part by ignorance, by fear and by selfishness …
Is it possible for the human mind to conceive of an infinite
personality? Can it imagine a beginning-less being, infinitely
powerful and intelligent? If such a being existed, then there
must have been an eternity during which nothing did exist except this
being; because, if the universe was created, there must have been a
time when it was not, and back of that there must have been an eternity
during which nothing but an infinite personality existed. Is it
possible to imagine an infinite intelligence dwelling for an eternity
in infinite nothing?"
pamphlet continues for more than twenty pages – look at it for
yourself, Mr Anonymous, before you inappropriately label the writer of
hundreds of books and booklets (I have only about twenty of them); most
are now digitalized. She spent much of her life in India, actively
involved in struggles on a multitude of issues, especially the 'rights
of women'. Her earlier writings were (like the two
previously discussed authors/activists) indeed hostile to Christianity;
but her later life was engulfed in the theosophical society – which
would hardly be described as 'atheistic' by most objective assessors
(naturally, I cannot speak for Anonymous!).
Bertie Russell would
be an 'atheist' in the sense I've always used the word (not something
to be 'believed in' — why invent a term to fill the gaps in our
knowledge?); Charles Bradlaugh? Indeed yes, he (and only he!) certainly
fits the Anonymous categorization! The important aspect missing from
the logic of my critic is the obvious fact that during my teenage years
I was reading scores of books – and yes, one or two of them written by
absolutely no fault
to find with the Anonymous 'hypothetical explanation' for the myth of
Balaam's talking donkey. It all makes perfect sense to me! In the past,
I have often made reference to the important book, Abduction,
written by John E Mack, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical
detailed investigations of more than eighty cases of alleged 'alien
abductions' of American citizens, detailing thousands of hours of
interviews and subsequent treatment of those reporting their
experiences. Dr Mack is convinced (as are most intelligent, objective
readers) these 'abducted' men, women and children are not inventing
their stories, rather reporting authentic experiences. His patients
tell remarkably consistent tales of encounters with small grey beings,
with huge dark eyes, who transport their immobilized subjects to a
spacecraft where they are probed in a battery of tests relating to
sexual and reproductive matters. Details provided are persuasive as
reportage of 'very real' encounters when they describe contact with
several polls have investigated the prevalence of the 'UFO abduction
phenomenon', notably by the Roper organization, between July and
September 1991. Findings have been challenged and argued about at
considerable length; overall suggesting the number of US citizens
'involved' ranges from several hundred thousand to several million
(depending upon definitions of 'the abduction experience'). This writer
has no great commitment/or interest in this research, beyond the
general acceptance that patients, such as those examined and treated by
John E Mack, are genuinely reporting their own believed experiences.
light of my own
family/life experiences, I have no problem accepting many of us
'experience' events that an independent witness might argue has no
material, factual basis. Schizoid experiences are part of our everyday
life – hence my readiness to accept the Anonymous 'version' of the
talking donkey; what a pity John E Mack and members of his medical
school weren't on call when Paul had his Damascus Road experience!
ATHEISTS, BALAAM and Dr Potter
(Investigator 158, 2014,
Potter in Investigator
157 says I have "lost the plot" because I suggested (in #155) that some
authors he read as a teenager were atheists whereas he denies atheists
Bertrand Russell. Was Russell an atheist?
philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I
should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do
not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove [sic]
that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right
impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say
that I am an Atheist... None of us would seriously consider the
possibility that all the gods of Homer really exist, and yet if you
were to set to work to give a logical demonstration that Zeus, Hera,
Poseidon, and the rest of them did not exist you would find it an awful
job. You could not get such proof. Therefore, in regard to the Olympic
gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I would say that I
am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would
say in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the
Christian God, I should, I think, take exactly the same line.
"speaking popularly", an atheist.
citing: Am I
an Agnostic or an Atheist?, from Last Philosophical Testament 1943–1968
about Ingersoll? An
Internet site titled "The Collected Works of Robert Green Ingersoll"
includes "Why Am I Agnostic?" (1896).
writes in the
conclusion, "Is there a God? I don't know." This suggests agnosticism.
On previous pages, however, Ingersoll does know. His article is
a concentrated attack on the Bible as "the work of ignorant men".
Ingersoll calls himself an "implacable enemy of Christianity" and says:
"I became convinced … that all the ghosts and gods are
Bradlaugh, Potter himself says Bradlaugh was an atheist — no further
comment here needed.
is as impossible to conceive of such a being as to imagine a square
"There was, there is no creator."
leaves Tom Paine and
Annie Besant. Besant was a critic of Christianity and so appears
atheistic regarding the biblical God if not atheistic with respect to
all gods. Ditto Tom Paine.
actually named only
Bertrand Russell as an atheist and wrote: "By reading Bertrand Russell
and other atheists at 14, and putting their arguments to people who
didn't know how science confirms the Bible, Potter got diverted onto a
wrong path." (#156)
had (in #155)
brought up atheism in connection with Balaam's talking donkey —
suggesting that the biblical God is myth because the Bible also says
that a donkey spoke.
not prove the donkey
event to be checkable history. I merely showed that the biblical story
implies an "angel" from the supernatural realm spoke, not the donkey.
That the donkey spoke was Balaam's initial mistaken impression. (#156)
evidence for a
supernatural realm, basing it in extra dimensions, is supplied in the
"Angel Gabriel" debate and in a discussion on anomalies in gravity:
Mary and Gabriel Evidence Sufficient (#125)
The evidence is
but not conclusive; and perhaps other interpretations of the
supernatural may turn out better. Space — empty space without planets,
matter, atoms or anything physical, just plain nothingness — can bend,
twist, expand and ripple. But what does Space bend, expand, twist and
ripple with respect to? It is as if space is embedded in some other
medium that science cannot yet study. Could that other medium be the
and the Supernatural (#126)
that most of the Universe is missing — the motions of the galaxies
conflict with the law of gravity and imply that most of the Universe
consists of undetectable "dark matter". One interpretation, a minority
view, is that gravity is leaking into other dimensions.
puts the idea of the
supernatural on a level with reports of UFOs and meetings with aliens.
Such comparison of course forgets that the donkey story is NOT all that
there is to the Bible. In the past two centuries hundreds of Bible
statements have been confirmed, many of them previously regarded as
nonsense. I concluded from the Bible in 1970-1971, that one day the
ocean levels would rise. No one back then bothered about it. Only 43
years later and Australian prime ministers have lost office partly over
"climate change" policies, huge international conferences over "carbon
emissions" take place, coastal protection is politicized, and New
Scientist reports, "Ice sheets on course for collapse". (28 June,
whether Russell, Ingersoll and others were atheists is a distraction to
avoid facing the main point — which is that ever more of the Bible is
being confirmed and criticisms of it disconfirmed. Instead of facing
the facts Dr Potter is, dare I say, pottering.
BALAAM'S ASS —
A Case of Supernatural
(Investigator 157, 2014
I refer to
explanation for Balaam's ass (Inv. 156, pg. 17) and make the following
observation: It seems to me that Anonymous attempts to explain the
unproven (a talking ass) by reference to the unprovable (angels) and
then suggests the story is a historical fact.
story of a talking
ass made more believable by claiming an angel put words into the mouth
of the animal? What evidence do we have for the existence of angels? If
angels exist (yet to be proven, if possible) what evidence do we have
that one put words into the mouth of an ass?
appears to be suggesting we should believe the story true because (in
his opinion) other parts of the Bible are true. But to believe this is
so is to commit the fallacy of arguing from particulars to universals.
It is like a man seeing numerous white swans (particular instances) and
then based on these observations concluding that all swans are white
swans, however, are
white — some are black. Similarly with the Bible — some parts may be
true but we cannot from these particular instances then arrive at the
sweeping conclusion that all parts are true.
Anonymous has not given sound reasons as to why we should believe the
account of Balaam's ass is an historical fact accurately portrayed by
(Investigator 158, 2014
article in #156 is an: "attempt to explain the unproven (a talking ass)
by reference to the unprovable (angels) and then suggest the story is a
"explained" is that
to test the Balaam story by investigating whether asses or donkeys
speak human languages misses the point. It misses the point because the
story implies the involvement of the supernatural — what the Bible
calls "angels" — and that this was the source of the words Balaam
of the supernatural is that the four dimensions we experience are
imbedded in something infinitely bigger, i.e. in extra dimensions that
harbor superior forms of life. This is therefore the topic to explore
and not whether donkeys talk.
exploration we have
already started in:
the evidence insufficient. As with other Bible
difficulties I can add to the evidence when more is discovered or as it
comes to my attention. Many other biblical issues took thousands of
years to get settled and had to wait until science discovered the
Angel Gabriel debate
and the Supernatural.
says that to
"believe the story [of Balaam] because other parts of the Bible are
true" commits "the fallacy of arguing from particulars to universals".
explained before that
everyone has to "reason inductively", in effect "argue from particulars
to universals" even if wrong conclusions can result. If we don't, we
die. We all know of people injured or killed after falling off roofs.
If such past occurrences convince us to avoid falling, we are reasoning
"inductively". We are generalizing or "arguing from particulars to
universals". We do this in every conscious second of our lives. If some
"universals" turn out false, as when "all swans are white" is refuted
by a black swan then we should change our inductive generalization i.e.
our "universal". We might then try "all swans are either white or
have not solved the problem of which current trends are "projectable".
Otherwise the future would be predictable, readable like an open book.
As things are, everyone just has to do their best. Those who get it
right more than others and on average make better decisions are
considered to have "wisdom".
someone predicts, based
on having seen only white swans, that "All swans are white", and gets
it wrong, nothing much is lost. Or, if he bucks the trend, ignores his
past sightings of only white swans, and says "I believe in black
swans", again nothing much is lost or gained whether he ever meets
black swans or doesn't.
what about trends
involving death, injury or danger? Everyone who puts his head on a
railway line in front of an oncoming train dies. Should we ignore that
particular trend and refuse to project past results to the next
occasion? That is, should we avoid the supposed fallacy of "arguing
from particulars to universals" and "put our heads on line"?
life, health or other
valuables are at stake, and "other things are equal", then I suggest go
with what is known from past experience. Don't do the opposite just to
avoid the "fallacy of arguing from particulars to universals".
sort of trend is it
when the Bible repeatedly turns out correct over thousands of years? Is
it safe to ignore and believe the opposite, like believing in black
swans after we've only seen white swans? Or is rejecting biblical
counsel more like ignoring an oncoming train and assume the train to be
sexual immorality – just these three rejections of the Bible — killed
over 400 million people in the 20th century. Prior to the "blessing of
Abraham to all the nations of the earth" (Genesis18:18; Acts 3:25-26)
taking effect, hundreds of millions died by infanticide, forced
fighting in amphitheatres, torture, widow burning, lack of medicine,
poverty, and numerous other evils. Today every major newspaper reports
crimes, deaths, injuries and other suffering easily avoided by heeding
the Bible. Consider also the Bible prediction that world-wide fire will
one day destroy everything although humans could potentially prevent
To ignore the
Bible is more like ignoring the danger of oncoming trains than
misjudging the colour of the next swan. Although many biblical points
still await full scientific confirmation, enough is confirmed to make
the remainder plausible. Ignore the Bible and declare it wrong to your
Bible and the existence of God
investigated on this website: