Friday, August 17, 2007

another boring blog on methodology

I see so many discussions on theism boil down to personal opinion.

“I think this is a contradiction.”
“I think it is not.”

“There are no absolute morals.”
“There are absolute morals.”

We go back and forth making affirmations with supreme confidence; yet the conversation never seems to progress. Because each person is personally convinced of their own statements, and believe that the other should be equally convinced.

Can we agree on a few things, first?

We are all convinced differently

I know—that seems obvious. But perhaps it is good for all of us (especially me) to remember that. For some of us, what our friends believe is persuasive to us, for others it might be the credentials of a person making an opinion. For others it might be hard facts and figures.

Think about buying a car. To some people, if their friend recommended a Ford—heck, that’s good enough for them! Ford it is. Others will do long research, both on-line and in trade magazines, comparing and contrasting engine size, fuel economy, trunk space, etc. They will take six months to come up with what car they desire to purchase. Even others will simply go out test-driving in the morning and have bought the car they liked by mid-day.

For the researcher, a friend’s recommendation will be politely listened to, taken into consideration, and most likely ignored. The impetuous car-buyer does not care about the researcher’s findings on the wheel-base of other brands of cars.

Sometimes we (cough, cough “I”) forget that what is persuasive to me, and what I hold in high regard, may not be compelling to other people.

Honestly, personal testimonies of “Jesus changed my life” are not very compelling to me as to the reality of Jesus, even though others (such as the person relating them) find them to be highly convincing that Jesus must be real. I have heard these testimonies for decades. I have watched people who claimed to be changed, get active in the church, be “on fire for Jesus” and then slowly assimilate into the same, mundane, go-on-Sunday, back-to-reality Monday, nominal believers.

But just because they are not forceful to me—does not mean I can just discount them. I am in no position to disregard their existence since it does not “qualify” as good evidence to me.

We are all wrong

That may be a bit of a shock to you, so I hope you are sitting down. Comfortable? O.K., I’ll try it again, now that you are prepared—you are wrong.

There is something that you believe right now; something you are firmly convinced of that does not conform to reality. Oh, it may be as simple as the firm conviction that you are going out for dinner tonight, but unbeknownst to you; your significant other has plans which will wreck your evening.

Or it may be that you have a belief about theism that you will some day discover (perhaps in the afterlife) that you didn’t have quite right. Turns out there isn’t a hell! (Or worse—God is a Female!)

This should not come as too big of a surprise. Each of us, looking back on our lives, can find numerous, numerous things that we thought were true, but later discovered through experience or knowledge—most certainly were not. Both within our theistic belief, and in other aspects of our lives.

It is not too crazy to think that perhaps…just maybe…in the future we will discover we are wrong about something we believe right now.

Our opinions can blind us

I was raised in a home where we were required to make our beds everyday. To me—a person should make their bed everyday. In our home, children did chores. To me—children should do age appropriate chores.

As we look at our upbringing, with our locale, culture, education, experiences and socializations, we develop certain ideas about what is right and wrong. Often, when we marry, we are stunned to discover that our spouses were raised in an environment that was totally foreign to our own, and we are secretly amazed they managed to survive in such conditions.

We then have children and discover what was patently obvious and essential to us, is NOT so obvious and mandatory to our spouse. I am sure my readers never actually fought over such petty differences like my wife and I did—due to the maturity level of those who peruse my blog. I am not quite so mature.

In theism, we all have certain pre-conceived ideas. At one time, I was firmly convinced there was a god. To think otherwise…well…the person would have to be an unreasonable fool. I supposed a God in all I did. Now, I have a pre-conceived idea there is not. I never look for a God—there isn’t one.

It is not necessarily bad to have pre-conceptions—we all do—it is part of being human. I hope we all agree, though, that sometimes these presuppositions can blind us to reality.

People disagree

Again, it seems such a simple notion. Yet sometimes I view debates (perhaps “fights” is a better word!) in which two combatants are simply astounded that the other side actually disagrees with them. This is by no means limited to theism.

I have watched litigants, including lawyers, repeat the same thing over and over again, unable to grasp the fact that it did not knock the other off their feet the first time.

“Yes, I understand your position. You have made it quite clear. Please understand that my client has a different view of the events that happen—“
“But that letter was sent on Tuesday!”

“Yes I know. You have said that five times now. I actually heard you the first time. My client never received that lett—“
“My client says it was mailed on Tuesday!”

“Right. Again, I heard that the first (and now the sixth) time. Again, if you had something to show that my client received it—“
“It was mailed on Tuesday!”

There have been many times I have had to say to other lawyers, “Look. You weren’t there when you client mailed it. I wasn’t there. All we have is what our respective clients say. That is what makes horse races. That is why we have litigation. Let’s battle it out and see what the judge says.”

I want to remind all of us that there are people with theistic convictions, that are just as solidly in place as our own, that are just as firmly held, and just as dear to them, yet are diametrically opposed to our own. We disagree.

Now with we agree to those simple statements…

Why a methodology?

Because without it, arguments become a chaotic cacophony of opinions. We may as well boil it down to:

“Is not!”
“Is too!”

While that may be fun and even enlightening, at times we hope to progress further than that. A methodology provides us with a means by which we can arrive at a solution. A way in which we can remove some of those subjective opinions, and pre-conceptions, and be as objective as we humanly can. (Which is not always that objective.)

Imagine you and I were to argue over the best way to travel to Chicago. I may insist a plane is best. You may insist a car. Another may insist a boat or train or bus. Until we establish a methodology, though, we will get nowhere.

What if the methodology was “The shortest amount of time.” Then arguing about using a boat from New York City would lose. But what if it was “Carrying 10,000 tons of coal.” Then the plane would lose to the boat.

Yes, we may take the argument one step deeper as to what methodology to use. A person may argue that a plane ticket that cost $10,000, but delivers us to Chicago in one hour is too step a price for the time gained, compared to a car ride of five hours, but only $50 worth of gas.

Admittedly, I have only extremely rarely (as in never in my recall) argued over methodology. Most don’t want to discuss methodology. Most want to jump right in about the genealogy of Luke being that of Mary, without ever bothering to determine what method we will use to figure out genealogies.

The limits of methodology

Yes, I know that theism is a faith-based belief. That at some point, one believes, with a lack of evidence, and arguing over methodology of lack of evidence seems a bit like arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.


Before we get to faith, there are some basic factual claims that provide a foundation for that faith. It is those factual claims—claims that “this is what actually happened” in which we can bring our methodology to bear.

For example, many Christians claim that the Ten Plagues, Exodus and Joshua’s Genocide actually happened. However, there is no archeological proof for these events happening as recorded in the Tanakh.

At which point I am often informed “Absence of Evidence is not evidence of Absence.” Fair enough—we have established a methodology. If a religion makes a claim, even though there is no archeological proof—it still could actually happen.

I then point out that the Mormons have claimed an advanced society existed in Mesoamerica, but equally there is no archeological proof for these events. Is the Christian willing to use the same methodology used to bolster their claim, to agree that the Mormon claim is equally possible?

See, before we get to faith—both Literalist Christians and Mormons make factual claims of what happened, and even provide a methodology by which we are to determine those events actually happened.

Or another example I recently encountered where I was informed that miracles happen, and we know this by testimonial evidence. Fair enough—our methodology is in place: “Testimonial evidence is enough to support a Miracle.” Will Protestants stay consistent with their own methodology and admit that Mary appeared in a Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Will Christians stay consistent and admit testimonies of Hindu Miracles mean these events must be miracles? Will Christians admit that God made Mohammed’s face appear in a tomato due to the testimony it happened?

All the time we see validation of certain events, and then a later change in methods when another, competing theistic belief says the same thing about their god.

Before we get worried about faith—let’s work on the basics. What happened. What conforms to reality. Let’s put in place a method to determine that.

Which methodology to use?

One thing to keep a keen eye out for is a methodology that is designed to achieve the results it desires.

What if we are to debate who is the most talented actress? And I propose a methodology that it is the actress who has received the most Oscars. Seems a reasonable enough method. However, it turns out that I always thought that Katherine Hepburn was the greatest actress. A quick review of the Oscars…and…bingo! Turns out it was Katherine Hepburn.

Why is the most Oscars won a “correct” methodology? Why not the most nominated? (Meryl Streep) Or in the most films? Or highest paid? Or longest career?

One of the things to be careful about is to not create a methodology that pops out the answer we desire, as well as question why a particular methodology is the one to use.

We have all seen the claims for the uniqueness of the Bible. You know “written over 1500 years, by 100 authors from different walks of life…” The one that always makes me chuckle is the inclusion of “…on 3 continents…” Why does “3 continents” make the Bible unique? The Book of Mormon can claim 4—is it MORE unique? The Tanakh only 2—it must not be inspired. That is a method designed for an outcome!

Why I am attached to my Methodology

Trick question. I am not. It happens to be a method I am most familiar with, but if you have a better one, by all means—propose it! I would be happy to abandon my own for a better method. The only problem is—I don’t see too many people proposing any method. Let alone one that would provide more accurate results.

(Part of the reason that I respect John W. Loftus is that he, at least, proposes a methodology with his “Outsider Test” that is designed to solve the same concerns my own does. I don’t use his, only because I am more familiar with my own. I think his is just as effective. In two sentences, “Treat your own claims as you would treat another. In other words, treat your claims as if you were an ‘Outsider’ and not prone to believing it.”)

If you propose a method, I would ask that you take into consideration the items I listed above. Does it remove any pre-conceived notions? Does it deal with competing claims? Does it convince a variety of people? But the key is this: does employing your method leave open the possibility that you are wrong?

Can you devise a method that you are willing, by its application, to say, “Nope. That is not what I believe. I am willing to accept that, by virtue of my own method, I am wrong”? You may find that not so easy.

I have had a number of people tell me my method is wrong. Inadequate. Even “full of fallacies.” O.K.—then give me an alternative. Give me a method that takes into account humanity’s ability to deceive itself. Give me a method that together we can employ, and can together say, “Yep. I was wrong. I am willing to abide by that method, even though it goes against what I believe.

My method says that one’s claims should be so strong, they could convince a person who has no stake in the outcome. A neutral party. I am unclear why so many Christians that I propose that method to, fail to believe they can meet such a challenge.


  1. First of all, if you can drive anywhere for 5 hours on only $50 worth of gas, I want to know what kind of car you're driving (or maybe gas prices are substantially different in Michigan that they are in Maryland)!

    Maybe I missed it, but I was unclear on what your methodology was exactly. You say it should be able to convince others, but it is not the outsider test (which, I believe, while it is an admirable goal, is a practical impossibility). So what is your methodology?

    I, for one, try to derive as much truth as possible with logic. But even that can only take you so far. After all, logic can only operate on pre-existing assumptions. So how do you arrive at those initial assumptions? If its just "because I said so", this obviously will not get us anywhere.

    As a lead in to my final point, I want to give a brief illustration from something you said. You were not impressed by people saying that the Bible originated over 3 continents, and pointed out that the Book of Mormon originated over more (I admit to not being overly knowledgable about this, but I believe the proper conclusion would be that the Book of Mormon claims to have originated on various continents; a claim that would have to be subjected to examination just like the Bible's claim to have originated over three continents; but maybe I misunderstood your point, and this really isn't my main point anyway). So you conclude that number of continents is not a good test for truth to be used by Christians. But my point would be that truth can sometimes be corroborated in a number of ways. If something is true, we would expect x, y and z to be true. There may be different approaches. We would not necessarily expect the truth to be #1 on every list, but the more categories in which it ranks pretty highly, the more likely it is to be true. So if Christianity is #1 on everything else you listed, and #2 on number of continents, that does not mean that number of continents is not a good test for truth. It may just mean that it is only one part of a multi-faceted equation.

    That all being said, how do I try to investigate truth claims? It is a multi-faceted approach. My personal approach to discerning any truth, theological or otherwise, is a combination of the coherence theory and the correspondence theory of truth. Any truth claim must both be internally consistent and also must cohere with reality. Obviously logic may play a large (albeit not exclusive) role in these tests.

    As a side note, you mentioned that there is no archaeological evidence for the ten plagues. This does not mean, though, that there is no evidence for the plagues, and potentially convincing evidence. Without going into excruciating detail, you have to remember that Jesus Christ testified to the fact that the books of the law were historically accurate. The argument, then, for the historicity of the plagues would be as follows:

    (1) God is all-knowing;
    (2) God does not lie;
    (3) Jesus Christ is God;
    (4) Jesus Christ said that the Old Testament was historically accurate;
    (5) The plagues are part of the Old Testament;
    (6) The plagues are historically accurate.

    Now I don't have time to get into a discussion of all the various premises in this argument, and I know you do not agree with them. My point here is simply that archaeological evidence is not the only way to verify a historical event. This argument is a logically valid one (meaning for those without a background in philosophy that if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true). You can attack the premises if you like, but that is a discussion for another day. I simply point out that the lack of arachaeological evidence, in and of itself (especially for such ancient events) does not, in and of itself, invalidate the truth claim. It may be one factor in the equation, but this does not mean that Christians believe in these events on blind faith alone. They may have arrived at the truth through an alternative, and yet equally valid, methodology. There's more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak.


  2. Hey, I really liked your post. I tend to think of things in a mathmatical way, so I found your post very pleasing. For me it is always, if a + b = c, then give me a and b, and I will give you c. For my husband it is not so. He thinks of things, oh, I don't even know how. It seems all feathery to me. I need order, math in my thinking, but I guess there are those who just think emotionally, or randomly? maybe.
    We completely disagree on results, but I can tell we think the same way. It's like, "OK, we can't figure out this problem, so let's figure out what the equation is and then we'll know what we need to figure out the problem."
    So, yeah, I really like your ideas about methodology. I'm no scholar, and you won't find me trying to prove anything to you, but it's a nice thread, and well thought-out.

  3. You've made a very good point here, DagoodS. I'm just not sure about one thing - are you speaking in relation to uncovering truth or in relation to making argument about truth?

    The reason I see this distinction as an important one to make is that if God is, as the Bible claims he is, The Truth, then he must be equally knowable by the genius and the mentally challenged alike. A person with no grasp of logic may know the God who is Truth, in whom all truths find their source. But a person who lacks a grasp of logic cannot participate in an argument, even about the Truth.

    Let me issue a disclaimer here: the idea of a God who would encourage us to ignore the intellect in our search for him is surely inconsistent with a God who both created the intellect and chose to reveal himself through a book. At the same time, I cannot accept a God who reveals himself more readily to those he himself gave a greater intelligence to, and less readily to those from whom he has withheld intellectual capacity.

    Romans chapter 2 tells us that we will ultimately be judged neither by our ability to understand truths or Truth nor by the strength of our believing, but by our own individual consciences, and by the standards we employ in judging others.

  4. Ten Minas Ministries,

    Short Version It is what would convince a person who has no stake in the outcome. A neutral. Someone that can make a decision as to what is reality, and then walk on, unaffected by that decision.

    Longer Version Having done a jury trial—I have an inner hope that you, of all people, can understand this.

    You know what it is like. To have all your proofs and facts and testimony and exhibits and arguments lined up, prepared and ready to present. And know that that the other side has their proofs, exhibits and testimony, all designed to counter your own. That you are not attempting to persuade someone that is already convinced of your position. That you are not trying to convince someone that is even half-inclined to believe your position.

    You know this is no cake-walk. You will not be allowed to present evidence unchallenged or unquestioned. That the other person is directly opposed to you and will be as vociferously responding to every implication or circumstantial claim you make. There is no “gimmie” in a jury trial.

    And the people you are trying to convince will not a single penny of the award, no matter how much they give the Plaintiff, nor will they pay a single dime out of their own pocket. That regardless of whether they were convinced that letter was sent on Tuesday or not, they will go home, eat hamburger and potatoes, and move on with their lives.

    You know what arguments convince jurors. You know that you will not be allowed to make some unfounded claim, without the other side jumping up and down and pointing it out repeatedly. If your client claims they loaned the other person $1 Million dollars, but there is no check, no contract, no bank deposits that match—you KNOW that no jury in the world would buy that. You know what arguments persuade—and what fail.

    THAT is my methodology. If I am making some claim as to what happened in First Century Judea—taking into account the New Testament books, the history, the claims, the contradictions, the length and breadth of the claim—can I convince someone that is neither committed to what happened or not?

    Is it a practical impossibility? Perhaps. Is it just an admirable goal? Again, perhaps. But at least it is a methodology that works in our lives. It is a methodology that takes into account prejudices, and even to recognize our own ability to be wrong.

    Some History It may be that giving the story of the development of how I started to apply my work-life methodology to matters of Christian claims will help clarify. It has to do with inerrancy, which happens to be a simple demonstration.

    As a Christian, (years and years ago, now) I was involved in a discussion on inerrancy on a rebel forum. It progressed as these discussions do—pages and pages of the skeptic(s) saying, “This is a contradiction” and the Christians saying, “Here is a possible logical resolution.”

    As we went back and forth, back and forth, it struck me that we were talking past each other. What one side thought was a “contradiction” the other did not. We were using the same word with two different definitions.

    At that moment, I began to think, “How DO we define contradiction? How DO we agree?” And for the first time, I thought of it in terms of a lawyer. If I was representing the Inerrantist, what arguments would I make? And if I was representing a skeptic—what arguments would I make?

    But most importantly (and this remains the key) would it be convincing to a person that is not committed to inerrancy one way or another? I have been informed (every time I bring this up) that no such person exists. Nonsense. I see no reason a Hindu would care whether the three accounts of David’s Census match. What do they care? They could have no contradictions, and the person would remain a Hindu. They could be completely contradictory, and they person would remain a Hindu.

    Or a Buddhist. Or an Aztec. Or a liberal Christian. Or a…the list goes on.

    One of the skeptics involved in the conversation mentioned that they had shown the passages we were discussing to his girlfriend and she said, “Sure—they contradict.” I know it seems stupid, but this was a blinding brilliant flash of light. THIS was what we do every day—present our case to regular people every day, who then render a decision either in our favor or against us.

    For the first time, I started looking at the contradictions, and resolutions in terms of how convincing it would be to a person uncommitted to the prospect of inerrancy. A person that could say, “Sure, that resolution makes sense. No contradiction here.” And go home to eat hamburgers and potatoes, already forgetting their decision due to its lack of impact on them. Or whether the person would shrug and say, “Sure, that is a contradiction. So what?” with equal lack of impact.

    And, at that point, it became more and more clear that Christians could never convince a neutral jury that there are no contradictions. The ONLY people buying the “logical possible resolutions” are those already committed to the prospect of inerrancy.

    Don’t you wish that your juries were already committed to what you say? Makes your job easy. But you and I know that is a pipe dream; the thing of Television and Movies.

    I guess I would call that an epiphany or a paradigm shift. For the first time, I started looking at what would be convincing to neutral parties.

    Further comments

    I appreciate your method of looking for internal consistency and coherence. But what do you have in place, other than your own determination of what is “internally consistent”? I am not trying to bring up past discussions, or “re-start” something, but I think you know I find your resolution to Euthyphro’s Dilemma and the Greater Purpose defense to the Problem of Suffering as inconsistent.

    Now, you think your resolution is internally consistent. I think it is not. How do we resolve this dilemma? The reason I like looking at it from a neutral aspect (albeit, I understand that this is an unachievable goal, at least it is an attempt.) If a person was completely uncommitted to your resolution or not—could you convince them? Could I convince them it is inconsistent?

    So what do you have in place by which you can say, “Hey. This does not conform to reality. I need to change”?

    (And you would be correct in pointing out that each of us, in our methodologies, has to eventually rely upon our own determinations. I am relying upon what I think a neutral jury would do. It is for that reason I remain in the discussion. I try (as best as possible) to staying open.)

    As to the archeological evidence—you are absolutely correct. I was using that as an illustration of how a person would not remain consistent in their own methodology.

    A person could certainly use a completely different methodology and come to the same conclusion. The base question remains, though—can you stay consistent?

    For example, your points (3) (Jesus is God) and (4) (Jesus said the Tanakh was accurate) are based on what? The presumption that the New Testament is historically accurate to some degree.

    The Mormon holds that the Book of Mormon is equally inspired, and equally provides that the events contained within are historically accurate. Do you see how this different methodology still leaves us in the same position? Rather than the use of archeology, we have the method that if a person thinks a book is inspired, then the events contained therein are historically accurate.

    We are left with use of the same methodology, but two completely different results. The much harder question (that I have never found a consistent methodology for) is this: “Given a string of words, how do we determine that those words are inspired by a God?”

    No matter what method a person comes up, it will either include MORE than their own holy writings, or it will exclude their own holy writing. The only method I have ever seen work is one that begs the question. Like saying, “it has to be in the Protestant Bible to be inspired.” Sure it works—but would it convince a jury?

    I agree there is more than one way to skin a cat. But if another person uses the same method as you do—how come they end up with a different cat skin?

  5. Jennypo,

    What I am looking for is the answer to the very basic question: “What happened?” I think we all agree that “something” happened in First Century Judea. We all agree that, at some point in time, people wrote about events in the setting of First Century Judea.

    The question is—how close are those writings to actuality? Are they 100% historically accurate, right down to the color of the robe put on Jesus during his trial? Are they some other percentage of historically accurate, but with some legend mixed in? Are they 100% legend, and there was no historical person of Jesus?

    I freely admit that there is no way to be certain. But the idea here is to see how close we can get. Is it possible that the Gospels were not written until the Fourth Century? Then how does a person explain the quotes from the Gospels before then? Is that convincing>

    Did John the Disciple write the Gospel of John? What are the arguments for it? What are the arguments against?

    As joeyanne accurately points out—we can have the same questions, and the same proofs, and come to different results.

    I am rapidly reaching the point that all I care about is that at least each of us can HAVE the arguments both for and against the various positions. (Although there are too many positions to ever truly reach this endeavor.)

    If you, or someone else takes the same proofs, evidences and arguments as I do, and say, “yeah, but I am convinced differently than you”—GREAT! That is what makes the human experience exciting. Sadly, though, that “agree to disagree” is far, FAR more often, “I don’t want to bother considering what you say, so I will disagree, ‘cause I want to.”

  6. The trouble is, DagoodS, we are individuals. We might arrive at the same conclusion via different proofs, or we might arrive at different conclusions via the same proofs. But when we are talking about capital-T-Truth, it ought to be knowable outside of personality, otherwise you separate truth from justice. This leaves us with a truth whose essence is so weakened that it is, if not a logical impossibility, then a concept hardly worth struggling toward.

    So an argument that would convince a neutral is what would convince you. I, on the other hand, remain unconvinced that such arguments are a reliable way of uncovering truth. I think you really believe that what convinces juries is strongly related to truth, but this seems to me to be highly idealistic. The reason I have no convincing argument to offer you is not that I don't see the need of a convincing argument, but that mine won't satisfy you and yours wouldn't satisfy me.

    I don't say this to criticize your view or your methodology. It is, as you say, absolutely necessary to agree on a methodology if we want to discuss Truth or truths. Communication requires us to find a common ground before we can lay out ideas that not held in common. If we fail to do this, then we end up with the scenarios you describe, with one person saying, "it's inconsistent" and another person saying, "it's not". Without the agreement on a methodology that you call for, we cannot move further than this.

    If I am honest, my own methodology has its pitfalls, since it depends on my ability to grasp concepts. I tend to be convinced on philosophical grounds. If I am presented with a story that is both coherent and consistent, which answers what are for me the main questions and reflects what I have experienced of reality, leaving no unresolvable questions, this is enough to shake my beliefs and assumptions.

    However, IF God is Truth and is knowable, then an error in methodology isn't going to keep either of us from knowing him. He must reveal himself not only to the intellect, but to the whole person as an individual.

  7. jennypo: If I am presented with a story that is both coherent and consistent, which answers what are for me the main questions and reflects what I have experienced of reality, leaving no unresolvable questions, this is enough to shake my beliefs and assumptions.

    I often notice that when I bring up methodology, people want the lowest possible method for their own belief, and the highest possible for those who believe differently. Very often, I start to hear (using the legal analysis) about how I must demonstrate something “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I don’t use that high of a burden of proof for theists, why do theists require the same for me?

    Simple—because people recognize that if they viewed their own belief through the same stringent requirement they have for others, their own belief would fail.

    Do you honestly have “no unresolvable questions,” jennypo? If you do have some unresolvable questions, why am I held to the requirement of presenting something to this high of a standard, in order for you to change your mind? You don’t hold yourself to the same standard you hold those who believe different.

    Doesn’t that show a problem of bias?

    Also notice the individualistic determination of “what is the main question.” If I present something that contradicts with what you believe, it can be dismissed as not being “the main question.”

    I am not trying to pick on you in any way, jennypo. I see this so much. It is not easy putting together a method that one can hold oneself to, AND one’s opposing beliefs.

  8. Just a brief comment since I am in the midst of one of those pesky jury trials right now (with another starting on Monday). I guess the problem I have with your comments to me, Dagoods, is that I do see it as more of a goal than a methodology. I understand, I guess, how it could be viewed as a methodology, but as a practical matter your "control group", so to speak, will not itself be universally the same. You say you want to convince someone with no stake in the matter (by the way, I do not agree that the examples you gave would be disinterested, as all those classes, I believe, have an interest in saying the Bible is NOT inerrant, as that fact would challenge their belief systems). But even assuming we could find these so-called disinterested people, they would not all be convinced by the same evidence. Therefore, while you say you evaluate evidence based upon what would convince the disinterested person, how do you define what that "evidence" would be? Your goal is constantly moving as you move from one disinterested person to the next.

    As for how we resolve our differences about what is internally consistent and what isn't, we may not be able to. The fact is that we are fallible humans with a limited capacity to understand. However, as long as truth exists (and I am sure you are aware of the logical impossibility of claiming that it does not), then one of us is objectively right and the other is objectively wrong. You and I may never be able to sort out our intellectual differences, but that does not change the fact that one of us is right and the other is wrong. We do the best we can with what we have. So we use logic to determine if something is internally consistent (that is, after all, a logical question). This doesn't mean we will always get the right answer, but it does define what our methodology should be. After all, if this is what defines truth, then it is not the methodology that has the problem, but our imperfect ability to apply that methodology. The answer is not to change the methodology, but to try as best we can to improve our application (which is why we keep talking to each other :) ).

    Thanks. Now back to the jury...


  9. ***Simple—because people recognize that if they viewed their own belief through the same stringent requirement they have for others, their own belief would fail. (DagoodS)

    The distinction I am attempting to make between the uncovering of truth and the discussion of truth or our beliefs about truth is particularly relevant here, DagoodS. I imagine you have had this kind of conversation with a million theists,and it gets to be a kind of re-run, until you recognize a pattern and you know what's coming next - but I am not insisting that you meet any requirement in your search for truth. All I want to point out is that your requirements are not my requirements, which is why I, sadly, can offer you no meaningful challenge. It is not that I am satisfied with less proof, nor that I discount the proofs you require, but that I am satisfied with different proofs.

    ***Also notice the individualistic determination of “what is the main question.” If I present something that contradicts with what you believe, it can be dismissed as not being “the main question.” (DagoodS)

    I'll just point out that I did qualify this by saying "what are FOR ME the main questions"...
    This was exactly my point. This method is convincing to me when it answers MY questions. It is obviously not so convincing to you, nor are my questions always yours. What is the main question for me may very well be a rabbit trail for you. So be it. If we can delineate our methodologies, then we can at least discuss it.

    Ultimately, both of our methodologies fall short when we are dealing with Truth rather than truths.

    I want to be clear. The methodology I am comfortable with in dealing with truths is not what I rely on in my knowledge of God. I am skewed towards the intellect, and more specifically, philosophical analysis, in dealing with truths and in communicating with others. This is not because I am a brilliant philosopher with little chance of making a mistake, but because, compared to my other tools for obtaining and making sense of knowledge, this is the one I use the most efficiently and comfortably. There is a vast difference between preferring this approach generally, and asserting that it is the only reliable way to know Truth - which I am not doing.

    Our ability to communicate with each other is directly related to our ability to be logical and consistent and to agree on a methodology, as you well point out. Our knowledge of Truth is not. Rather it is related to our willingness to be honest, in our desire for truth as it is and not as we wish it to be.

    I'd love to be able to communicate with you in a way that is meaningful to you, but my ability to do so is limited - not because I don't recognize your methodology, nor because I undervalue reasoned argument, but because my approach, as well as the arguments I consider meaningful, is generally different from yours. It's not better, as I have already asserted, but it's more useful for me.

    For instance, you might offer me an outline of mathematical truths that is flawless. You may describe truths in great detail using algebraic equations. The truths you describe may be absolutely true. But they are not convincing to me, not because they are unreliable in themselves, but because I do not trust my own grasp of complex mathematical concepts.

    But my knowledge of Truth has little to do with this. My preferred methodology has not led me to Truth - instead, it has protected me from what is not truth. I believe your methodology will do the same for you. I am no longer searching for Truth. I don't believe God exists. I know it with all my power to know. What has been shaken by others through the methodology that is meaningful to me is not the existence of God, but my concept of God. I now know him to be far greater, far bigger, far deeper, and far more beautiful than I ever dreamed before. Having found myself wrong on this level, I am open to challenge. But as I am challenged, and as I come to know, not merely who God is, academically, but God himself, I am becoming less shake-able, by any method. Such surety doesn't mean a narrowed scope so much as a reference point from which to begin discovery. Such is the nature of knowing.

    I am not asking you to prove anything "beyond a reasonable doubt", DagoodS. You have not run away from your questions. Simply owning up to them doesn't leave you with the responsibility of proving that there are no answers. None of us has a hope of knowing God unless he reveals himself to us.

    You cannot, in honesty, pursue a God you don't know exists. But you may pursue truth, if you know it to exist. And then, if God is Truth, he may then be pursued and known by you, though you call yourself an atheist.

    Sorry for being so rambly and un-clear. Lack of sleep is further limiting my already limited powers of logic. I don't even meet the requirements of my own methodology in this explanation, let alone yours, I know. :^)

    And DagoodS, I don't feel that you are picking on me, ever. I realize that this is not a subject to be fooled with, and I recognize and respect your need and responsibility to challenge what doesn't match up to what you know. Don't mistake my inability to communicate for a lack of concern for the questions, even if they aren't my questions.

  10. But Ten Minas Ministries, in your enthusiasm to disagree with me, you seem to have forgotten what you do every day.

    Yes, we know that each jury is different. Yes, what convinces one may not convince another. But in our practice, we have learned over the years what tends to convince people as a group. It is that knowledge that allows us to do such a thing as prepare for a trial. To eliminate possible arguments as non-persuasive.

    A neophyte defense lawyer may believe that the accused’s mother makes a great alibi witness when she is the sole person to testify on the alibi. And then the jury is not convinced. The slightly-more-experienced lawyer may try it again. And Lose. Surely you are not saying that after trying this technique 12, 13 times, and losing, the lawyer would start to recognize a pattern that it is just not working. No trial lawyer would think, “Hey, that didn’t work the first 13 time, but jury number 14 will be made up of different people, so I will try it again.” Maybe it is time to try a new tactic.

    If we truly felt that each jury was a brand new experience, of completely new people, that are completely differently persuaded than every other jury we have ever had—then there would be no reason to spend much time preparing, would there? Isn’t part of your preparation eliminating questions, or narrowing focus, or reducing witnesses, because it is not persuasive to a jury? Because it is not helpful to your case?

    Secondly, how could we ever settle any case, if we had no predictability as what a jury would do? Oh, sure, there is no crystal ball. No 100% certainty. But if the Defendant says my client ran the red light, the two independent witnesses say my client ran the red light, and the only person that says the light was yellow is my client (who needs the light to be yellow to win)—isn’t that going to reduce my settlement amount, due to the fact that we know the jury will likely not find in favor of my client?

    Isn’t that what we do day-to-day? Then why not the same thing on theistic claims? See what those disinterested persons are most likely to believe?

    When I was talking of inerrancy, I was thinking more of taking an individual topic. A Hindu’s belief is most certainly NOT dependant on Matthew agreeing with Acts agreeing with Papias as to how Judas died. They could all three agree, and the Hindu would still be a Hindu. They could all disagree, and no change in belief.

    Finally, as to logical consistency. The problem I see is that theistic beliefs are dependant on defining a thing (god) that it is unverifiable to determine whether the definition conforms to reality. This power to define provides a great opportunity to simply “define in” something within god, to make the claim logically consistent.

    Worse, because it is a god, something non-human, non-material, non-natural, the person making the definition is free to include in that definition something that is impossible in the universe, and explain it away as being supernatural.

    For example, I see the concept of a god having the inability to choose, creating a creature with an ability it does NOT have—i.e. the ability to make that choice as a logical inconsistency. In our understanding of the universe, the created has less ability (not more) than the creator.

    But if we define God as simply having the inability, yet having the ability to create something with that ability—voila: we have resolved any “logical inconsistency.” Define God as solely moral, and voila: we have resolved any logical inconsistency with a moral creature ordering an immoral act. Define God as being three-in-one and voila: we have resolved any logical inconsistency in God the Father as compared to Jesus the God. Define Jesus as 100% human and 100% God (without explaining the logical inconsistency of a being 200% of itself—heh, It’s a God—we can do that!) and voila—no more logical inconsistency in how Jesus wouldn’t know things, or Jesus could be tempted, or Jesus could be killed. It explains why the rock had to be moved to get Jesus out (human) yet he could transport through doors (god.)

    As a naturalist, I am stuck with what I have. I don’t get to define some unverifiable, unreachable entity, and give it whatever attributes I desire in order to maintain logical consistency. I guess that is why I find this methodology so unconvincing. What I see are theists who define the unverifiable in some many different ways (contradicting each other) using the tool of “definition” to maintain logical consistency.

    It works—it is “logically consistent.” It is not convincing.

    Again—where is the ability to determine that one’s own belief is wrong within this method? If I can freely define God to do what it wants, when it wants, how it wants, with no worry as to whether God is actually like my definition—I can maintain logical consistency. I can never be wrong. Even if, in reality, I am.

  11. Jennypo,

    Thanks for the ramble. I enjoy reading them, ya know.

    Part of my (perpetual) frustration is that I want people to be convinced just like I am. I want people to understand why my thinking is the “correct” one. Oh, I know people are different. I even know that my thinking is NOT the “correct” one—it is part of my bullish personality. *grin*

    My head knows it; my heart doesn’t listen to my head.

    That is why I appreciated your comment—a good reminder to me that we are NOT all alike (thank goodness!) and that what is compelling to me, would not even dent you. And perhaps vice versa.

    Your “ramble” in response to my blog is what makes these conversations worthwhile. In my opinion.

  12. ***Part of my (perpetual) frustration is that I want people to be convinced just like I am. (Dagoods)

    Haha! Just like the rest of us humans! The fact that you have the brains to see it and the guts to admit it is what makes you both a formidable opponent in any head-to-head argument and an interesting and disarming conversationalist in general.

    Thanks for giving us such a clear view from your perspective. It is mind-broadening for me, at least.

  13. OK. Two quick points. Your argument about the logical consistency of God is assuming an argument form that assumes its conclusion, then shows that this conclusion is consistent with reality. In other words, you are saying that the Christian starts with the assumption that God exists, then shows that such a God is logically consistent with reality. I would agree that as long as the assumed item is subject to definition by the person putting forth the argument, that definition could always be modified in order to make it logically consistent and corresponding to reality.

    But look at the arguments on the Ten Minas site. That is not the approach I take, nor is it the approach I believe most scholarly arguments for God take (although I do believe the presuppositionalist would be stuck with this argument form). Instead, I start out assuming nothing, and attempt to demonstrate that what we see in reality logically entails that just such a being exists. There is a subtle, yet imporant difference here. Your objections are well taken for argument style 1, but not for style 2.

    As for your initial points about jury trials, I still believe that you have defined a rule of thumb that at best can have a very general, vague application, not a specific methodology for determining truth. Of course it is always helpful to try to look at things from the perspective of a hypothetical disinterested person. The law does something similar with the hypothetical "reasonable person" standard. So yes, there may be some general assumptions we may make about juries. But how many times have you had a case in which to all outward appearances you should have won hands down, yet the jury comes back against you (or vice versa)? Any lawyer who has done enough jury trials could tell you tales of cases we should have won, but lost, or should have lost, but won. Cases often settle ahead of time precisely because juries can be unpredictable. I may think my case is worth $100,000, but in settlement negotiations an insurance adjuster or defense lawyer will ask me to discount my demand in order to account for the risk inherent in any litigation. This is a basic economic concept. Risk must be taken into account in valuation.

    Not only that, but I will use a different argument technique in Prince George's County or Baltimore City than I wil in Baltimore County or Harford County. Why? Because the composition of the juries is very different in those jurisdictions, and what convinces a jury in one locale will not convince a jury in the other.

    So in the end, when you use your "disinterested person" standard, you are left with an overwhelming problem. Who defines what will convince this "disinterested person"? Inevitably, it is the interested person asking the question. I know you will disagree with me on this, but when I see people supposedly applying a "disinterested person" standard, inevitably their own preconceptions creep in to what they believe would convince the disinterested person. This isn't limited to atheists vs. theists. It comes up in any kind of debate/discussion. People look for reasons to arrive at a particular conclusion. I have seen many ex-theists claim that they did not want to disbelieve, but couldn't escape the weight of the evidence. Unfortunately, (just like the theists' claims for personal experiences with God) this is a statement that is impossible to evaluate objectively because the theist cannot get inside the new atheist's mind to see what they were honestly thinking at deconversion. All I can say is I have constantly found, upon further investigation, examples in deconverts lives that, at a minimum, provided motive to find reasons for disbelief, whether they were consciously aware of it or not.

    Pleae understand that I do not exclude theists from this type of thinking either. That's why I believe the disninterested person is a laudable goal. However I believe it is a practical impossibility and therefore not a good test for truth.

    Besides, who is to say that the disinterested person will be right? Someone may be disinterested and still come to the wrong conclusion (I could list off a number of juries as examples). So again, even if your methodology was practical, it would not guarantee the correct result.

    Thanks again.


  14. Ten Minas Ministries: But look at the arguments on the Ten Minas site. That is not the approach I take, nor is it the approach I believe most scholarly arguments for God take (although I do believe the presuppositionalist would be stuck with this argument form).

    Then perhaps you can point me out to the article where I use your method of a “combination of the coherence theory and the correspondence theory of truth. Any truth claim must both be internally consistent and also must cohere with reality” in making the simple determination, “Given a set of words, how do we know that those words are inspired?” The only argument I saw was that some prophecies written by authors at unknown times were “fulfilled.” I failed to see the arguments for why the books MUST be written prior to the events (specifically the Gospels will be problematic), I did not see any address to the failed prophecies of Tyre (Isa. 23:15) Egypt,(Exe. 29:10-11) and Christ’s Second Coming occurring with the First Century (Matt. 16:28, Mark 9:1. Lk 9:27)

    If we are consistent, and fulfilled prophecies indicate an inspired book, then non-fulfilled prophecies mean the book is either not inspired OR yet to be determined to be inspired (assuming the prophecies occur later.) This puts Ezekiel and Isaiah in the “maybe” column with Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the “not inspired” column.

    I do not see “consistency” there.

    Again, how about we put it up to a neutral jury? What do you think they would say, upon becoming informed of the Synoptic Problem, (and its plethora of resolutions) the anonymity of the authors, the period in which the Gospels start to be quoted, the lack of knowledge of Paul in the genuine Pauline Epistles of any of the events of the Gospels, and all the arguments about when and who wrote these books? What do you think a neutral jury would determine? That they were written before or after 70 CE?

    Ten Minas Ministries; …but when I see people supposedly applying a "disinterested person" standard, inevitably their own preconceptions creep in to what they believe would convince the disinterested person.

    Yes, that is true. And, over time, we can begin to see what is convincing to us may not be convincing to others. THAT is what is so great about the jury system. Sure, if I was assured that there would be 7 or 12 people just like me, using my methods, and my thinking and what persuades me, it would be very simple. You and I know differently. That people in that jury make up a variety of individuals.

    That is why we argue to the lowest common denominator. If we are using math, we explain math in its simplest terms, and why it is compelling for our position. If we are using credibility, why the other person is lying. It is not so much my looking at what persuades me—it is looking at what has persuaded juries over the years.

    Let me give you a scenario. A client comes to you with the fact that Yellow Pages messed up their advertisement. Instead of putting the telephone number of “555-1234” the Yellow pages put in a number of “555-1243.” What would appear to be transposed numbers. Due to the wrong number, your client can verify damages in loss of income.

    So you sue the Yellow Pages. And they present the defense that it is logically possible that your client has two phone numbers: “555-1234” AND “555-1243.” Therefore Yellow Pages is not in the wrong.

    Now, Ten Minas Ministries, I’ll let you pick the county—Baltimore, Prince George or Harford. Is that argument going to win in ANY county? Of course not.

    But that is the exact same argument that inerrantists use!

    Better yet, what if Yellow Pages hired you for a defense? Would the first thing come out of your mouth be, “I know! We will claim it is logically possible they have two numbers, and therefore we were not wrong to publish the other number.”

    Of course not!

    Why is it that what you would never consider doing in your professional life, becomes the almost standard argument—“It is logically possible” in your theistic claims?

    I do not mean to be offensive, but I see the “there is no disinterested person” claim as to why this methodology does not work as an excuse. I think most people see it. They see that in their normal lives they never accept “it is logically possible” yet in their theistic life they want that as an excuse. So how to get around it? Easy, claim there are no truly disinterested persons, or there is no viable jury, or everyone has a stake in the claim, and therefore the person never has to consider what is being said.

    Ken, if you tell me that in your professional career, you regularly use “it is logically possible” as a defense—then I will accept that this methodology is not for you. BUT, if in your professional career, as a trial lawyer, you look to things such as credibility, ability to observe, bias, counter-claims, other arguments, other documents, ALL the proofs, and consider THAT as what is convincing to juries—well, I would say you use my method all the time. Just not when it comes to God.

    Why not?

  15. Apples and Oranges, my friend. :)

    In your yellow pages example, our purchaser is here, present and available, and ready and willing to tell us that he did not have two phone numbers. We have records from the phone company to confirm that he did not have multiple phone numbers. You are talking of evaluating a claim about the here and now. This, of course, is not typical of any evaluation of historical claims.

    How about those cases when you don't have independent verification of a claim; i.e., your classic he said/she said scenario? The prosecutor says that the driver of a car knew that there were drugs hidden under the back seat. The Defendant claims that he didn't know, and the drugs were put there by a friend he had just dropped off. Absent any other circumstances, will you now argue to the jury what is logically possible? Absolutely! Of course it would be wonderful if you had other independent evidence to corroborate that the drugs were actually put there by the friend, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is highly possible to convince a jury even without that corroboration. So under some circumstances, yes, "logically possible" is a proper argument to a jury. So I disagree with the underlying premise of your response. In the absence of outside corroboration (the lack of which is unfortunately often the status quo in evaluating historical claims)whether or not something is logically possible is often an appropriate argument.

    The point of this discussion is methodology to determine truth, so I won't get sidetracked into a detailed discussion about all the so-called "inconsistencies" you claim exist in the Bible (nor do I think we would ever agree on this anyway; but perhaps that would make an interesting conversation for another time). But in your discussion of logical possibilty, you neglect the other part of my truth formula - correspondence to reality.

    Logical consistency simply means that a truth claims cannot be internally inconsistent (such as the claim that there is no such thing as objective truth). But that is only one part of the equation. Yes, logical possibility alone may satisfy the prong of logical consistency. But truth is not evaluated on logical consistency alone. It also must correspond to what we know about reality. All of your other points would be resolved by this prong. Matters of credibility, ability to observe, bias, etc., would all enter into this prong of the evaluation.

    You only referenced one article of many on the site, all of which comrephensively form what I titled the "Argument for Christianity". The first few foundational articles in this series take the approach of arguing from things we "know" about reality and showing that if these things are true, it is also most likely that God exists. This is classic correspondence theory, not simply logical possibility. In fact, I agree that we get into matters of credibility, etc., as I repeatedly mentioned in those articles that the argument I presented does not show God's existence to 100% certainty, but rather is an argument of probabilities.

    I feel like you keep bouncing things back at me and challenging my methodology without really defending your own. It really is a relatively simple matter.

    (1) Do you believe in objective truth? The answer to this question, as I have argued before, must be "yes". Any other answer is self-contradictory.

    (2) If truth is objective, then there must be an objective standard by which to discover that truth. A standard that is relative will not always produce the same results under the same circumstances. Therefore, it cannot ever lead you to objective truth.

    (3) You seem to have conceded that different evidence will convince different "disinterested persons." If so, then there is no such thing as the OBJECTIVE disinterested person. Your disinterested person is a relative, non-objective standard, and therefore cannot be a test for objective truth.

    Logic is objective. Reality is objective. In our quest to apply an objective test we may err, that is true. But coherence / correspondence theories of truth at least have the virtue of having an objective basis as their source. The hypothetical disinterested person does not. How can a relative standard ever point you to objective truth?


  16. Thank you, Ten Minas Ministries. You made my point. Twice.

    First with the Yellow Pages. As you very accurately point out—the LAST thing you do is stop with “logical possibility.” No, you do what (I hoped) any good trial lawyer would do—you look at other evidence in addition to the claim. Like phone records, contracts, previous Yellow Pages, ad copy, testimony, etc.

    That is EXACTLY what I have been saying all along—EXACTLY what you are saying you would do—look at all the evidence, whether pro or con to your position.

    With historical claims of the Bible, we can equally look at scientific evidence, archeological evidence, other writings, other histories of the area, development of writing, other historians, plausibility of the claims, bias of the witnesses, development of doctrine, development of the texts, etc. We absolutely (just like you did with the Yellow Pages case) do NOT rely upon mere “logical possibility.” We look to all the evidence.

    What you wrote in response to my case of the Yellow Pages is what I wish Christians would do with their own claims.

    Secondly with the Prosecutor Drug case and “he said, she said.” Oh, I would give my eyeteeth to have some inerrantist admit that the difference between Matthew and Acts and Papias’ version of Judas’ death was a “he said, she said”…uh…”he said” situation. Because in “he said, she said” we recognize that the two parties disagree with what the other is saying!! Is that what inerrantists are saying? That Matthew is disagreeing with the author of Acts? And Papias is disagreeing with both?

    And the five Resurrection accounts are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul all disagreeing with each other under “he said, she said?”

    You example was the Defendant disagreeing with the Prosecutor and presenting an alternative logical possibility. This emphasizes what I mean. Yes, this is what we do in trials. It is NOT what we see in theism. No—in theism it is agreeing with what the Prosecutor says, but claiming this logically conforms to…something.

    It is agreeing there is suffering, but this logically conforms to an all-moral creator. It is agreeing there is immorality, but this logically conforms to an all-moral creator. It is agreeing there is Time, but God is outside of Time.

    I do not mean to be “bouncing back to your methodology” but I wish you could see how the method you use (and propose in the Yellow Pages) is the one you cease to use when it comes to your own theistic belief. That what you do with the Prosecutor is not what you do in defense of your God.

    The best support for my methodology is what you just did—showed how you would use it in real life.

    I am sorry for only referencing one of your articles, but you did say I was to look at the arguments on the Ten Minas Site. I did not realize some articles were not consistent within your methodology. *wink*

    Seriously, though, isn’t one of the most essential claims you make the inspiration of the Bible? If that is not your standard of determination, since it comes from a God—what do you use? You bolster the Bible by three points:

    1) Textual accuracy,
    2) Eyewitness testimony,
    3) Prophecy fulfillment.

    Now, while I debate (and have debated) you on the first two points—aren’t quite a few books both textually accurate and written by eyewitnesses? Josephus comes to mind. Does that make it inspired? Of course not! The key is point three. THAT is where we find inspiration.

    Curious that it is there you lose your methodology.

    1) Do I believe in “objective truth?”

    Probably I would prefer the term “accurate depiction of reality.” Right now, as I type this sentence, there are a certain number of atoms in the Sun. Whatever that number is—is the “accurate depiction of reality.” Or a certain number of people in the planet.

    Or, if there is a god, it has certain attributes, and does not have others.

    I understand what you mean by “objective truth” so I do not mean to be nit-picky in terms, here. Let’s just say “yes” (although I dislike the term for certain unimportant reasons.)

    2) (2) If truth is objective, then there must be an objective standard by which to discover that truth.

    Why? You and I both agree (I hope—we don’t seem to agree on much. *grin*) that at a certain point in time there is an exact number of atoms in the sun. Or people on the planet. Or some other harmless fact with certainty. Yet simple because such a thing exists, does not mean there is any standard to determine those numbers.

    We may agree that a certain number of seconds have ticked since the Big Bang. Yet that number is indeterminate. Heidelberg’s Uncertainty Principle comes readily to mind.

    Don’t get me wrong, Ten Minas Ministries, it would be great if some standard existed. Some way in which we could use our measuring standard and come out with “Truth” stamped in Gold letters, certified by the Office of Tables, Measurements and Scales.

    Unfortunately, our world is made up of humans. (And quantum’s.) This makes things such as “absolute truth” very difficult to determine. How do we measure accurately one’s motivation? Or one’s depth of belief in a topic? Or how do we measure accurately the level of truthfulness in a statement?

    We can’t. And while theists may claim that God is some standard we could use—the problem is that God is then immediately relegated to being unverifiable. I am left with humans (remember—those messy creatures) all telling me what the truth of their particular God “is” or “is not.”

    The filter by which we are constantly measuring truth is humanity. Even claims of theism. Since I know of no objective or absolute measure to determine truth when it comes to humans, I am left with the best that I have—that which would convince someone with no stake in the matter.

    3) You seem to have conceded that different evidence will convince different "disinterested persons." If so, then there is no such thing as the OBJECTIVE disinterested person. Your disinterested person is a relative, non-objective standard, and therefore cannot be a test for objective truth.

    Sure enough. But until a better method comes along—it is what I am stuck with, as near as I can see.

    Gasoline engines are not the best method for operating vehicles when it comes to the environment, as well as the use of resources. But until a better method comes along, it is what I am stuck with as well.