RE: Lakatos and the hard core

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Fri Sep 10 2004 - 18:19:32 EDT

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf Of George Murphy
> Sent: Friday, September 10, 2004 7:50 AM
> I wasn't trying to prove that one can have a relationship
> with Jesus & can't with Lenin. My point was that claiming
> that "Lenin lives in my heart" or something like that is
> inconsistent with what Lenin himself thought and the whole
> structure of Marxism-Leninism from its inception. That isn't
> the case with Jesus & Christianity. This type of claim about
> Lenin is internally inconsistent while the same claim about
> Jesus is internally consistent. But of course that doesn't
> prove that the latter is true.

I stand corrected about what you were trying to communicate.

> But this brings up a larger issue. We're dealing 1st of
> all with issues of science & religion & I've tried to focus
> on those concerns in the brief statement of my program. But
> we would really miss the boat if we didn't remember that an
> evaluation of the truth of Christianity has to give attention
> to other issues. It can't even be limited to "theology" in
> the sense of formal reflection on the faith. People believe
> in Christ, and have since the beginning, because they think
> they have reason to believe that he is the solution to
> problems of death and corruption, guilt, alienation and
> meaninglessness. People claim to "know" that their sins are
> forgiven and that they are justified in God's sight because
> Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. The theology
> of the cross as Luther stated it was a way of saying that the
> cross of Christ is an answer to the problem of sin. Most
> Christians would say that the success of Christianity in
> dealing with these existential issues is a strong argument in
> favor of its truth. But this is not the kind of truth that
> can be tested very well by scientific means, Lakatosian or otherwise.

Agreed. But the same thing can be said of Mormons. Yet their entire
tale is a fraud from start to finish, imo. Thus, to me, the testable
parts of religion are important.

> Then there's the question of historical truth. One
> argument that has sometimes been made for the resurrection of
> Christ as an objective event is the post-Easter behavior of
> Jesus' disciples & the rise of the Christian church. A form
> of that argument has been used recently by N.T. Wright in
> _The Resurrection of the Son of God_ & I think that there's a
> good deal of merit to it. But it's at best a strong
> plausibility argument, even when combined with other
> evidence, & not the sort of proof that a physicist (as
> physicist!) would accept.

No, but it is a test to see if the story is consistent with the
evidence. And if we can test that part of history, why is it verboten
to seek to test earth history against the story. Mormonism is false
based upon the history given us by archaeology. The techniques of
archaeology are not that different from the techniques of geology. It
seems to me that if one can test history in one part of the story, one
should do the same for other parts.

> 1st, I have never, _never_ said that "Creation isn't
> important." Creation is a very important theological claim
> that the world is ultimately dependent upon God alone and -
> existentially - that God is the creator and sustainer of my
> life. I also agree with the main current of the Christian
> tradition that this doctrine is best understood as including
> the claim that the universe had a beginning _of_ (not in)
> time, though that's not essential to the basic doctrine. But
> I have said that Gen. 1 & 2 are not to be read as historical
> narratives, and that it's not helpful to try to make them
> historically or scientifically concordant with modern
> accounts of the big bang, evolution &c. It isn't accurate to
> equate that view with thinking that creation itself isn't
> important. Creation is a theological, not a scientific, concept.

But creation can't remain merely a theological concept. That removes it
from history. To me, it is inconsistent to say it is ok to test the
behavior of the disciples against the resurrection (a psychological
testing of history) and then remove the only thing which can really be
tested scientifically, the creation. To me this looks like a case of
placing off limits to avoid the possible conclusion that the story is

> 2d, I am not "now" telling you my view as if it had been
> concealed before. & it isn't accurate to describe it as "the
> resurrection and who jesus is is." It's the cross - or more
> fully the cross-resurrection event - that's the hard core.

I thought I understood that. Maybe I didn't communicate it well.

> 3d, I think your approach, which seems to make Christ's
> divine sonship dependent upon a particular view of creation,
> is exactly backwards. Theological statements about creation
> should begin from the standpoint of the cross & resurrection
> of Christ & the claim that this event reveals the creator.
> That's how I proceed in arguing that God's activity should be
> hidden in creation - i.e., in everyday events _and_ in origins.

But, why wouldn't I apply that approach, say to the Bab of the Bahai?
The miracle at the prison, where he was translated out from in front of
a firing squad (it has been many years since I read this) could be used
as the 'hardcore' of another view that their god created the universe.
If the claim of a miracle leads to the claim of creation, why doesn't it
work for other religions? Especially if they too claim that creation is
a theology

> 4th, since one of my conclusions is that God _doesn't_
> "leave his fingerprints all over the evidence," success of
> the ID program would raise serious questions about my own
> approach. So that's a way in which my program is
> theoretically vulnerable.

I don't think you have much to worry about that. I think it is
absolutely impossible in principle to prove design. I have a very
positivist view of the reason for their failure.

> > I agree with you. But in my view the only really verifiable or
> > disprovable support is the flood or creation. There is
> absolutely no
> > way we can, from this day in age, demonstrate that Jesus
> was actually
> > crucified, must less resurrected. We have verified that there were
> > romans, there were jews, there was crucifiction. But we
> can't verify
> > that that particular man was a jew who was crucified by the Romans.
> > That is beyond the evidence
> Again I think you have this exactly backwards. There are
> specific historical events which historians will say with
> practical certainty happened. Of course we can't _prove_
> that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate in
> the same way that we prove things in math or physics, but we
> can produce evidence to convince historians that there's
> little doubt that it happened. & in fact that's the case:
> Very few serious scholars (other than Muslims who ignore
> historical & literary evidence) today would deny this.

I don't think many historians will say that the resurrection happened.
Without the resurrection, there isn't anything to Christianity. So we
will have to disagree on who has it backwards. :-)

> OTOH your creation & flood scenarios are, at the most
> generous estimate, claims that certain historical events
> _could have_ happened in some way that is loosely correlated
> with accounts in early Genesis. OK, there was a
> Mediterranean flood ~5 x 10^6 yrs ago. But the further claim
> that a hominid saved his family & a lot of animals on a boat
> & that his descendants then peopled part of the world, in a
> way that has any real correspondence with Gen.6-9, is sheer
> speculation. It's absurd to claim that we know this with
> anything like the degree of probability that we know that
> Jesus was crucified ~ A.D. 30.

And exactly where have I claimed that I know this with the same
probability? I have never said that. My goal was to provide a possible
scenario. That is something no YEC or, imo, any TE had ever done. But
you can't equate Jesus being crucified with Jesus being resurrected.
There is no connection from a logical point of view. Crucifiction
doesn't imply resurrection or there would be lots more resurrection
religions from the roman era.

The hard core has to be the resurrection not the crucifiction. Lots of
Spartacus' buddies were crucified. I have not heard any rumors of any
resurrections among those 6000 people.

> > I have read some of your stuff. The problem I have is that proving
> > that the world is understandable without a god doesn't seem very
> > protective of the hard core. In some sense your view is similar to
> > Bohm's hidden variables form of quantum.
> Maybe, but you could do worse than that.


> > I must confess, I am not very familiar with Bonhoeffer or his
> > statement. For all I know I may very well have repeated it. But it
> > just doesn't seem to me very useful to learn that God's works are
> > hidden from view and that is a reason therefore to believe the
> > hardcore of the cross.
> Well, it happens to be true & it's hardly obvious for
> Christians that it is true - witness PJ's notorious
> "fingerprints" quote.

But couldn't anyone claim I know a deity but all his works are hidden
from sight?

> > Money is in my wallet. In my research program I look around
> for what
> > is objectively verifiable (or at least objectively
> supportable) from
> > the claims of christianity. As I said, the resurrection is not
> > objectively verifiable from this late date. Subjective
> relationships
> > with deities are not objectively verifiable. We have verified that
> > the Romans, the Jews existed but that doesn't help us with the hard
> > core--of the cross. I agree with you here that the cross is
> central.
> > But it is also totally unverifiable.
> No. This is simply untrue. As a putative historical event
> it is verifiable in the same sense that other historical
> events are verifiable. & that event ~2000 years ago is
> certianly more verifiable than one that supposedly happened 5
> million years ago.

See way back up at the under the section 2d You said:

> 2d, I am not "now" telling you my view as if it had been
> concealed before. & it isn't accurate to describe it as "the
> resurrection and who jesus is is." It's the cross - or more
> fully the cross-resurrection event - that's the hard core.

I understood this to be the cross-ressurection event. It appears to me
that you have equivocated on your definition of the cross. I was using
the word cross in the cross-resurrection sense. So, I repeat, with more
clarity, there is no way to verify the cross-resurrection event. Do you

>> Knowing that the general history of the Jews is approximately
>> doesn't help with the cross either. A good historical novelist can
>> weave interesting false tales and make them look real. That means
>> that only some unique claim is verifiable. That then points one to
>> something in the physical world. We can't, as I said earlier, verify
>> that Jesus loves me or any other theological statement. They are
>> accepted or rejected by assumption.

> As I explained at the beginning, it's overly simple to say
> "they are accepted or rejected by assumption." People have
> deeper reasons for accepting or rejecting such claims than
> just the need for some axiom for a logical argument. We may
> not be able to verify that Jesus loves me with scientific
> evidence but if people didn't have some reason to believe it
> Christianity would never have gotten started, let alone
> survive. & please note that I'm NOT saying that this proves
> Christianity to be true.

I wasn't talking about why someone accepted an assumption. One might
accept an assumption for lots of reasons totally unrelated to logical
argumentation. But assumptions are accepted by faith, even if there is a
rational. I said that the only way that these things can be accepted is
via assumption.

> > But a global flood, or a claim of creation that
> > can be verified, or made to fit within modern views is such a
> > verification.
> A global flood & the fact that the universe seems to have had
> a temporal beginning can be verified. That those things
> happened in a way that agrees in any serious sense with early
> Genesis AND with the intent of the writers of early Genesis
> is quite another matter. All you have done, and I think all
> you can do in your attempts at historical & scientific
> concordism, is to present speculative could-have, might-have
> scenarios.

So? The alternative is to allow everyone to say the entire thing is
absolutely impossible! That is what is coming out of the YEC camp. So
what if I can't prove it. I have never claimed I could prove my views.

But I don't see any difference in the outcome of your program either.
All you can do is say that if the resurrection then there could have
been a creator. The resurrection doesn't in and of itself contain the
logical deduction of a creator. We have had lots of people resurrected
from the dead (even a few who wwere labeled brain dead) but we don't
claim that they were the creator. Such things could happen in even if
the universe didn't have a beginning. So at the end of the day, both of
us, in my opinion are left with a "could have ".

The thing I worry about your approach is that above you cite the
beginning of the universe as evidence of a creator but, that may not be
the case if there is a multiverse generated by the Higgs field. And I
think that it is a big odd that you cite the evidence of a beginning as
verification of the creator but aren't interested in trying in any way
to verify any more of the Scripture in the same way. You place it off
limits by claiming that creation is a theological statement, but then
cite the beginning as evidence of creation without noting that that can
only be done if creation is more than a theological position. That is,
creation is HISTORY.

> > The disciples had that contact in what they saw at the
> empty tomb. I
> > don't. I can either believe their claims or reject them, but either
> > way it is fideism. And just because 12 men can claim the same wild
> > tale doesn't support it either. There were 12 men, I
> believe you all
> > testified to Joseph Smith's veracity. Doesn't make it so,
> though. And
> > if we make God tell us fibs about eating pork and divorce,
> then we may
> > need 12 guys to testify for his veracity. But that won't make it so
> > either.
> This is a misuse of the term "fideism." That means believing
> something with no evidence at all, not just believing things
> for which there isn't analytic proof. If we were to misuse
> the term fideism in your sense virtually everything we do in
> the world, including my belief that this message I'm typing
> will get through the internet to you, would have to be called fideism.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia definition of fideism, that is
one form of it.

"Fideism has divers degrees and takes divers forms, according to the
field of truth to which it is extended, and the various elements which
are affirmed as constituting the authority. For some fideists, human
reason cannot of itself reach certitude in regard to any truth

It is a hard term to misuse, George. Go read all the diverse forms.

> Furthermore, Jn.20:29 is a strong criticism of your view. In
> your terms, Jesus is commending fidesim. I remember in an
> exchange several years ago you argued that Thomas was being
> _commended_ for his refusal to believe without seeing, but
> that is in glaring contradiction with what the text actually says.

I looked up the word Blessed, used in that verse where Jesus talks to
doubting Thomas. By saying Blessed are those who have not seen but
still believe, what do you think Jesus is saying? One of the
definitions is joyful, or happy. I will freely confess when I was a
YEC, and didn't have all these nagging doubts I was probably happier.
Ignorance is bliss as they say. But when I found out all the problems
geology presented to my view, then yes, I probably became less blessed.
But I don't view that as a condemnation as you do. Maybe you have a
different definition of blessed.

> >
> > And that is why my program.
> You still haven't told me what the hard core of your
> program is! You say above that " My protective belt IS the
> flood and creation." But what is the protective belt
> protecting. The protective belt is supposed to consist of
> theories that can be modified as needed to protect the hard
> core. It sounds to me more as if the flood and creation (in
> your sense) _are_ the hard core.

I thought I did. I would agree that the hard core is the resurrection
(not the crucifiction).
Received on Fri Sep 10 19:01:39 2004

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