Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Yep -- Vinnie Still Doesn't Have the Power

So I was checking to see if any of the old Skeptical stooges I used to beat up on were still making noise. One of these was Vinnie over at the “You Call This Scholarship?” blog, who from the looks of things is spending more time on politics and less on religion these days. I can understand why. This was a twit who thought reading a handful of books by chumps like Bart Ehrman turned him into Atheist He-Man.

He made a post lately about the Resurrection, and it’s not easy to see what the point of it is. Vinnie notes a lot of the counter-intuitive and counter-factual aspects of the case for the Resurrection (eg, mass hallucinations do not occur) but after not giving us any answers to any of that, goes for the easy way out with something that appears to have been composed while smoking books of green stamps:

The problem with this line of reasoning is that if we allow for the possibility of supernatural interference with the laws of nature that we observe, then we no longer have any basis to say any ancient story is any harder to make sense of then any other ancient story. If we don't think that the patterns we observe act consistently at all times and places, then there is nothing that doesn't make sense in a story that undercuts a storyteller's agenda, in shared hallucinations, or in people willing to die for a lie. We can say that every story makes sense, or perhaps, that the notion of making sense becomes moot.

Um...yeah? So what?

Nothing here but a classic mistake on Vinnie’s part – the sort he retains because he hasn’t yet washed his brain clean of fundamentalism. I’ll use my favorite example to show why.

I reject the historicity of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. Why? Not because it is “supernatural” (and by the way, let’s remember that the natural/supernatural dichotomy is a contrived one). Not because it doesn’t “make sense.” Rather, I reject it for such reasons as: Joseph Smith is obviously a poor interpreter of the Bible. There’s no archaeological evidence for Book of Mormon locations, and not even questions for discussion, as with even the most questionable Biblical archaeological sites. And so on.

Actually, “it makes sense” doesn’t wash as a criteria in these settings, because ultimately, this is Hume’s abject failure again: “Makes sense” is subjective. When appeal is made to counter-intuitive and counter-factual claims, the point is not so much that nothing “makes sense” without the Resurrection to explain them, but that the Resurrection offers the best explanation for the facts.

Proof positive: These guys never learn. More examples tomorrow.


  1. Where can I find some of your previous interactions with Vinny?

  2. @JRP It's on my toon website at http://www.tektoonics.com/test/parody/vinnychicken.html -- that I put it there tells you how seriously I take him. :)