On Fruits, Miracles, and SCIENCE!
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16-11-2013, 12:00 PM
On Fruits, Miracles, and SCIENCE!
(Looking for feedback on how useful this argument might be.)

I'm not one for basing my life on Biblical passages. But there's one passage in the Bible that I happen to think is good advice. Matthew 7:15-20.

Quote:Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

In other words, the proof of a preacher's preaching is in the results. Of course, this is not solely a Christian doctrine. It is also at the core of empiricism -- casting away the models of honest scientists whose theories did not bear fruit, as well as the medicines of less-honest snake-oil salesmen. And when you get down to it, there's a key element of human psychology underlying it, one that is part of our genetic makeup. Seeing is believing. I bring it up here not because it is a point of wisdom in Christianity (though, surprisingly, it is), but because it is a point of agreement with Christianity. Mutual presupposition is the key to resolving such fundamentally disparate world-views as Christianity versus reason.

There's more evidence for the Christian faith offered forth in the Bible: Miracles. (Never mind that the miracles come from the Christian book in the first place and can't really be displayed to modern-day people. Or most people alive at the time they supposedly occurred, for that matter.) Miracles are often used in the biblical narrative to endorse a prophet and prove his (always his) mandate from God. I'm remembering something from Exodus, where Moses worked various miracles in front of Pharaoh, and then Pharaoh's court magicians worked the same miracles, but not as well, thus proving the superiority of Moses. The presence and respective quality of miracles is what establishes that a prophet is actually a prophet, and superior to whomever he is haranguing against.

With this in mind, let us compare the quantity, and quality, of miracles done by science, versus those done by Christianity. Let us judge the trees by the fruits they bear, starting with the miracle of healing.

In the Bible narrative, Jesus is said to have healed many people. An exact count is impossible, but let us be generous and place the estimate at a thousand. Actually, let us be extremely generous and place it at ten thousand. Of course, verifying this is impossible in the modern day, so placing it at any positive number is being generous, but whatever. He was particularly stingy with his healing, reserving it only for those who declared him God, or the son of God... and I'm not really sure what the distinction is there, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms. There's also the ongoing movement of faith healing, which we CAN examine, and which has yet to produce results superior to a placebo, and which seems oddly reticent about attempting to heal amputees or burn victims or anyone else where a visible sign of their affliction can be examined by us Doubting Toms.

In contrast, modern science, based on such heretical notions as evolution, has also done healing. Again, an exact count is impossible. Let us be particularly stingy and place the number of people healed by medicine at a billion. It's more likely an order of magnitude higher. Its results are verifiable. It is sometimes given for a high price but often given freely. Nearly everyone in a developed country has experienced them, and a great many in developing countries. The interested scholar can pursue records of past healings through multiple, independent sources, or arrange to observe future healings. Amputees are also beyond modern medicine, but there is good basis to hope that will change in the future with prosthetics that tie into the nervous system, and (unlike faith healing) real medicine is not flinching from the challenge. Burn victims HAVE been healed, through such miracles as skin grafts. Finally, medicine has eliminated entire diseases. Smallpox, as a human disease, is utterly eradicated, even if a few virus samples endure as research specimens. Polio is on the verge of being eliminated once the religious stop getting in the way. Other diseases, which once ravaged the world, can now be treated with a shot or a pill and a few days of rest. Black death, which more than decimated Europe despite all that prayer could do to stop it, is quite treatable with modern medicine. Nor does it appear that the power of modern medicine will recede into history books, like the supposed healing power of faith. Rather, its power shows every sign of increasing with every passing year.

Comparing the two, it is clear that the healing miracles of science exceed those of Christianity, in quantity, witness, scope, ambition, endurance, and quality. Of course, we might say that the miracles of modern medicine are not actually miracles. But what does that say about the miracles of Christianity, which are even less miraculous?

In what other categories might we compare the miracles of Christianity to the miracles of science, and find one superior to another? Here's a few possibilities:
  • Capacity to kill the enemy in war and lay waste to their cities. (Joshua, eat your heart out.)
  • Wisdom and compassion in rulers. (A modern Solomon could have ordered DNA testing rather than gambling that the baby-stealer didn't actually want the baby to live.)
  • Treatment of psychological ailments.
  • Establishment of a just society and a good morality. (Oh, how many times Christianity has fallen short on this one.)
  • Ascent into the heavens. On chariots of fire, no less. (By the way, if the firmament described in the King James and earlier versions, and edited out of later versions of the Bible to make it conform to the discoveries of science, actually existed, the Apollo rockets would have crashed into the moon's crystal sphere before ever achieving lunar orbit. But that's not part of the Bible. Any more.)
  • Long-distance, real-time communication. ... actually, I don't think Christianity makes any claim to this. Unless you count visions.
  • Ability to do math. ... yeah, okay, not miraculous, but Christianity still blows it.
  • Ability to produce food. Jesus gives bad farming advice and feeds a crowd of several thousand. Manna from the heavens feeds a few hundred thousand, who get bored of its monotony. Science gives us the green revolution and feeds billions.
  • Ability to predict calamities such as hurricanes and comets. .... comets are calamities, right?

I could go on and on. But I will grant that there are two categories of miracles in which Christianity equals or exceeds science:

1) The useless. Sure, science can make people speak in tongues if it wanted to. Enough LSD would do the trick. But we're usually happy to let Christianity have this one.

2) The unverifiable. In terms of verified salvation from a supposed Hell, the score stands tied at zero to zero.

Any rational comparison of the fruits of Christianity versus the fruits of science will show the fruits of science to be superior, its miracles greater. Which brings us back to the question of, how can Christians reject science (referring, of course, to those Christians who DO reject science), when their own Bible tells them (in nice big red letters) to judge it by its fruits?

.... oh, right. Hypocrisy and denial. Those old standbys. What say I call that "faith", and add it to the category of miracles which Christianity has more of, but which are useless.
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17-11-2013, 05:58 AM
RE: On Fruits, Miracles, and SCIENCE!
Reltzik,
Playing the devil's advocate, there is another area in which the Christians have us beat hollow: that of raising the dead. The current score is Christians 7: Atheists 0.

Doc
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17-11-2013, 06:10 AM
RE: On Fruits, Miracles, and SCIENCE!
(17-11-2013 05:58 AM)docskeptic Wrote:  Reltzik,
Playing the devil's advocate, there is another area in which the Christians have us beat hollow: that of raising the dead. The current score is Christians 7: Atheists 0.

Doc
I think you're underestimating the number of people claimed to have been resurrected in the Bible. Remember Matthew 27:51-53?

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split
52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

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17-11-2013, 07:01 AM
RE: On Fruits, Miracles, and SCIENCE!
Vosur,
You are correct. In addition, there is the resurrection of Jesus himself and other resurrections alluded to in Matt. 11: 4-5 and Luke 7:22. I merely mentioned the more well-known instances.

Reltzik, using the argument that "anything your system can do, mine can do better" may give some semblance of validity to Christianity, whose adherents can claim that although their God may not be as wildly successful as science, he nevertheless did cure or heal some people and perform some other miracles, and therefore must exist.

Doc
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17-11-2013, 07:27 AM
RE: On Fruits, Miracles, and SCIENCE!
(17-11-2013 07:01 AM)docskeptic Wrote:  Vosur,
You are correct. In addition, there is the resurrection of Jesus himself and other resurrections alluded to in Matt. 11: 4-5 and Luke 7:22. I merely mentioned the more well-known instances.

Reltzik, using the argument that "anything your system can do, mine can do better" may give some semblance of validity to Christianity, whose adherents can claim that although their God may not be as wildly successful as science, he nevertheless did cure or heal some people and perform some other miracles, and therefore must exist.

Doc

We bring people back from the dead every day after heart attacks, drownings, etc.
I think science is ahead.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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17-11-2013, 11:12 AM
RE: On Fruits, Miracles, and SCIENCE!
(17-11-2013 07:27 AM)Chas Wrote:  
(17-11-2013 07:01 AM)docskeptic Wrote:  Vosur,
You are correct. In addition, there is the resurrection of Jesus himself and other resurrections alluded to in Matt. 11: 4-5 and Luke 7:22. I merely mentioned the more well-known instances.

Reltzik, using the argument that "anything your system can do, mine can do better" may give some semblance of validity to Christianity, whose adherents can claim that although their God may not be as wildly successful as science, he nevertheless did cure or heal some people and perform some other miracles, and therefore must exist.

Doc

We bring people back from the dead every day after heart attacks, drownings, etc.
I think science is ahead.

Chas beat me to it. Also, I'd stick those Biblical accounts of the dead coming back to life into the "unverifiable" column.

EDIT: Also, Doc? You're playing DEVIL'S advocate, here?
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17-11-2013, 11:40 AM (This post was last modified: 17-11-2013 12:24 PM by closet.atheist.)
RE: On Fruits, Miracles, and SCIENCE!
It is not surprising that people ignore the logical conclusions of things in the bible. Many of the conclusions would be pretty absurd. The Catholic Church countered this by inferring that such seeming-nonsense is not the result of flaws in the text, but lack of the proper understanding, insight, and supernatural intervention.

Luther, rather than deferring to a priest for interpretation, claimed that the problem with seeming-nonsense was again, not the text, but reason itself. When you have any doubt, you should lobotomize your reasoning self.

"Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God."

For me, this is one of the most negative "fruits" of christianity which inflicted itself on western civilization for centuries. Luther is only stating what the church had probably been teaching for centuries before him. Today, we might characterize this as an extreme competitive disadvantage for a culture.

Reason, and science establish ground rules for discerning reality from illusion and nonsense. To me, this is the single greatest "fruit" because it provides the foundation for us to evaluate reality. The tangible outputs of applied science are wonderful, but none would be possible without the method that defines the toolset used to investigate.

I stumbled across this sight when searching for a particular quotation.
I found it a shockingly clear statement of tactics and beliefs that exist today in many religious cult-ures.

http://www.jesuscult.com/Luther_Anti-Reason.htm

end of soapbox.
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