Meeting the Contrarian’s First Challenge to Believers
I’ve talked about the Contrarian (part 1 | part 2), and his strawman representation of the Christian gospel. As it happens, this guy is a gold mine of article ideas for an apologetics blogger. Sort of a one-stop shopping center for a writer who needs ideas.
Therefore, I couldn’t resist his first challenge to believers. I have no idea why I’m answering it. This, along with second and third challenges, are just plain idiotic — proving he is only interested in grandstanding for an atheist audience.
Though he claims he is “actually here hoping that someone will prove me wrong and enhance my understanding of reality,” he goes on:
I give the faithful a snowball’s chance in hell that they will actually do so—if past success can help us predict future success—but I must remain true to my scientific convictions. At any moment, anyone could come forward with proof that would require me to abandon my current perceptions; this is why I dedicate this article to asking questions that I would like answers to.
Yeah, that’s the kind of statement we expect from someone who has already decided the outcome before running the experiment.
His specific challenge is about medical miracles:
Please, oh so very please, explain to me… how it is that ‘a god’ can cure terminal illness, bring back people from the dead, and help the paralyzed to walk again, yet lacks the ability to make a SINGLE FINGER grow back on the hand of an amputee? Is it really so hard to make a limb grow back when one considers that this ‘being’ can cure cancer and raise the dead.
Before we tackle this, let’s understand he has acknowledged that there is not a soul — theist or atheist — who works in the medical field that has not seen a flat-out miracle. But:
. . . we can’t just take people’s word on these matters, we need some evidence to support it. After all, you may have seen a medical miracle and you may have no reason to lie about that or exaggerate your claim, but sadly, we also have no reason to believe you UNLESS you have proof. Be prepared with your evidence to turn us into believers whether we want to believe or not, because this, after all, is how it works in science.
. . . it is very easy to misdiagnose—even for a trained medical expert—things like cancer, permanent paralysis, permanent brain damage, or even death. Doctors rely on X-rays, EKG machines, catscans, etc. to make diagnoses. Sometimes a disease or injury is at the borderline, it could be permanent/fatal, or it could be temporary/benign. See we have perfectly fine explanation that could account for at least 99% of cases worldwide where the prognosis was not vindicated by the progression. People make mistakes! Doctors make mistakes! Some doctors come to work with a hangover, or simply have too many patients to deal with and do so shoddy work in between.
True, but reality is independent of what someone believes about it. Trust the science, or trust the eyewitness. I’d trust the eyewitness. Of course:
If you want to be the sort of person that says, “Well, I don’t care if you believe me or not, I know what I saw!” Well then fine, but don’t you think if the roles were reversed that you would be the one demanding the proof? More so, if I wanted you to believe in say, ermmmm bigfoot, would it not be reasonable of you to ask me for some corroborating evidence?
That’s reasonable, but what constitutes “evidence” in this case? And who gets to decide?
There is something in the Pacific Northwest: a creature named Bigfoot, a group of teens with exceptionally large feet laughing at Bigfoot “reports,” or something we might not have thought possible. Something is making those footprints, travelers and natives are seeing something. It might not be Bigfoot, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Therefore, that there are so many medical miracles has to mean something. That’s the smoke. We agree it’s there. Now, the question becomes, “What’s the fire consist of?”
That misses the mark somewhat, but this misses wildly:
I mean, I can claim to see through walls but refuse to be tested because I feel it is unethical of people to simply assume I’m lying about such a thing; I can claim to know the lotto numbers for this weekend’s draw but explain that it would be against ‘universal laws’ if I were to demonstrate my claim (ala Sylvia Brown).
Yes, and your refusal would speak volumes. Who’s refusing to pony up evidence for medical miracles? The eyewitness testimony, in this case, should be sufficient to establish that something is happening. After all, every single case can’t be the doctor misdiagnosing it. Again, we see smoke so what remains is to find out more about the fire.
Show me one soldier in the USA who is a christian, from a christian family, in a christian community, who had his leg blown off whilst performing his duties as a field medic (see I chose my words carefully: not a soldier fighting for the liberation of the oppressed, no, because then god has every right to take off his leg… oh but wait, he’s still helping in the war…. nah scrap that idea), who appeared on national television with his leg miraculously grown back from the stump he had 6 months earlier. Show me this, please, because then I and every other atheist here will have to admit that they may be something supernatural at work here.
I agree, if that happened, every atheist would have to admit that something supernatural was going on.
I doubt it.
Supernatural claims are automatically discounted from “real science” at the outset. The atheists would look for some natural reason to explain it; perhaps a mutation in the soldier’s DNA that would represent the next step in human evolution. They have already decided “supernatural” doesn’t exist. (I think it’s a category error.)
Ah, but then the gold:
It still won’t prove it is YOUR god doing the deed (oh wait, christians prayed for him? Ok, jehova it is then!), but it will definitely shut us up about there not being any evidence for the supernatural.
Even if it did shut the naysayers up, remember that “It still won’t prove it is [the God of the Bible] doing the deed.” Meaning, once they admit it might be supernatural, they still won’t believe it is the work of any specific deity. At best, they will admit that it is a possibility — one among many. Piss-poor thinking, as I’ve already explained.
Just in case you’re curious about why regeneration is always the atheist question:
That is because it is pretty fucking hard to misdiagnose an amputated limb! You need to go to a blind doctor with severe nerve damage in his hands to get this diagnosis wrong.
So the diagnosis has to be a no-brainer, and the results have to be self-evident. That brings us to the challenge:
So to the faithful who profess a belief in miracle and who stake their reputation on the claim that they have seen medical miracles happen, in front of their eyes, I now give you the stage to show me a CREDIBLE case where a severed and destroyed limb grew back, fully functional. You can add details like what sort of religious people were praying for the victim, etc. We will analyse those after we have our first case study.
So, we can’t have any medical miracle. It has to be specific medical miracle. Not only are we playing on his turf, but he’s also stacked the deck in his favor. He’s given us a losing battle to fight because the burden of proof is too high.
At the end of the day, he’s asking for a big and unmistakeable sign. Same as the Pharisees did when Christ was still on earth, and each time, he rebuffed them:
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Mt 12:39-41)
When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. (Mt 16:2-4)
The sign Jesus alludes to, of course, is his own death and Resurrection. It still stands today as the ultimate proof of the Living God.
The problem, of course, is that I’ve never met an atheist who thinks that the Bible has any redeeming value, except perhaps as literature. The Bible is, of course, the best record of the Resurrection — itself the greatest proof of God’s existence and identity. As an atheist, the Contrarian won’t take anything from the Bible as true or authoritative, which brings us to the final thought:
How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (Jn 5:44-47, emphasis added)