Steve Hays replied to my post at his blog.  I respond as follows:

You say God never promised to heal amputees and for this reason lack of documentation of amputee healings is not suspicious.  But suspicion remains because it is upon the credibility of those who make those claims. I don’t have to falsify something in the bible in order to justify suspicion toward those who claim monster-type miracles.

You say that although I admit that it’s unwise for atheists to pursue this particular argument, I persist in doing so anyway, as if that was some sort of inconsistency.  It is not.  First,  I was talking about discussing alleged miracles of regrown limbs with apologists.  As you yourself appear to admit, you don’t know of any verified cases of healed amputees, so there is no sense in Christians and atheists speculating whether God would or wouldn’t heal an amputee.   And I did not press that specific point except to ask for evidence of such which you refused to provide.  Second, it was general advice.  I’m guessing you don’t absolutely cease forever all communication with anybody you deem a heretic after you give them a second warning, but if you are one of those people who trifle over non-essentials, as you routinely do in nearly every comment you post, then your readers have a right to expect you to consistently obey Titus 3:9-11.  You don’t.  Hence, you likely understand what it meant when advice is “general”.

You say my evidence that miracle investigation is too cost-and-time prohibitive, to be a strawman since you never required me to reinterview witnesses.  Your claim of straw man is false:  If you are going to saddle me with the task of investigating miracle claims, then I will decide on my own how thorough of an investigation I will do.  To criticize me further is to say that my demand to do a thorough investigation is irrational.  What’s next?  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?

You say it is irrational for an atheist to “refuse[s] to believe testimonial evidence unless he personally conducts the interview”, and for that reason you call irrational everybody who chooses to reevaluate testimony.  My standards of truth-gathering being too high to permit me to investigate miracle claims properly does not land the problem in my lap, the problem is yours:  YOU are irrational to cite references to miracle claims and then expect atheists to go check them out, and further irrational if you expect them to just “believe testimonial evidence”.

ii) I’d add that his complaint is very quaint, as if he were living in the 18C, and had to interview witnesses face-to-face.  Has he never heard of email or telephones?
———-Please provide a hypothetical example of evidence that you could obtain through email or phone, that would have serious potential to cause you to change your worldview.  When is the last time you changed your world view due to evidence you unearthed through email and telephone interviews?  I suggest you give up the pathetic attempt to lower the burden of proof so as to defeat my cost-prohibition argument. You get so much more from a face-to-face interview: body language, previously undisclosed witnesses who accompany the interviewee, etc..  For one, you help further eliminate fraud by asking for an identification card and verifying that the person on it is the person to be interviewed.  You cannot do that over phone and email, and pictures of somebody’s id card can be photoshopped.  The face to face interview need not provide absolute proof of identity to achieve the goal of guarding a bit more against fraud than an email of phone interview would.  So your attempt to lower the burden of proof cannot be justified simply by nothing that attempts to guard against fraud can never be perfect so we may as well just settle for email and phone interview.  Email and phone interview do not absolutely protect against fraud either, so under your own logic, maybe you should lower the standard even more?  Or maybe you feel embarassed at being the one in this debate asking for a lower standard of proof, when it is clear that doing so would conveniently make things easier for you, when in fact you never argued that some specific evidentiary standard was proper to begin with?  You will excuse me for taking the reigns and applying my own standard of evidence, and thus doing exactly what YOU do with claims YOU investigate.

There’s no parity between these two positions. Atheism posits a universal negative with respect to miracles.
———-False, we deny miracles for the same reason protestants deny that Mary appeared in Fatima, the evidence does not support the conclusion.  Our ultimate view of the possibilities no more prevents us from objectively examining miracle-claims, than your ultimate denial of Roman Catholicism prevents you from assessing RC miracles objectively.

An atheist must reject every single reported miracle.
———given how cost-prohibitive it would be to properly investigate every miracle, consigning miracles to the same bin as “does the government breed space aliens underground?” seems appropriate.  How are we supposed to worry about it, if there are  blocks to thorough investigation of it?  If somebody told you their now-dead sister reported being abducted by space-aliens at a time when nobody else was around, well, there’s not too much point to engaging that subject given the limitations preventing any seriously thorough investigation, amen?

By contrast, it only takes one miracle to falsify atheism. Therefore, the atheist and the Christian apologist do not share the same burden of proof. Not even close.
———Straw man, it only takes one correct anti-supernaturalist argument to falsify Christianity, yet you do not spend your life savings trying to track down every anti-supernaturalist argument ever made.  Take the log out of your own eye first.

Would it be too much to ask apologists to do something more with their claim of miracle healing, than simply provide references?
You replied:  i) Actually, that would be asking too much. Just as we accept documentation for other historical events, we ought to accept documentation for miracles.
——–What do you mean by “accept”?  Do you believe “believe”?  or do you mean “agree that it provides a starting point for investigation”?  The only reason you think my argument is unpersuasive is because you argue for lowering the standard of proof, so that there’s no more overly burdensome cost in money or time.  But since it is absurd to expect paradigm shifting evidence to come by way of email and telephone interviews, my higher standard requiring interview of claimant and his/her physician and other witnesses bearing on their credibility is no more irraitonal than courts of law that require the same standard of evidence in civil cases.

ii) His complaint only makes sense if there’s a standing presumption against the occurrence of miracles, so that miracles must meet a higher standard of evidence. But as I’ve often argued, that begs the question.
———-Strawman, you never argued in favor of whatever standard of evidence you think should apply to modern-day miracle claims, so it was rational for me to apply the same standards that historians apply to any historical claim.  Who are the claimants, what are they claiming, where is the medical file, how to authenticate it, do we need a second opinion, does it make sense to interview the diagnosing physician, who can testify to the claimant’s credibility, etc, etc.

iii) I’d also note in passing that if God exists, then it would be extraordinary if miracles didn’t happen. If God exists, then miracles are to be expected.
——–Only under theism, not deism.  You insure wreckage if you expect an atheist to agree with you on your presuppositions about God.  best to leave God totally out of the picture and simply concentrate on normal procedures of investigation, and leave God for the time when and if you get to the point of noting a healing after throrough investigation that baffles properly qualified doctors.

iv) I’d add that belief in miracles doesn’t require prior belief in God. Evidence for miracles is, itself, evidence for God.
——-But you don’t think nearly anybody who claimed healing at a Benny Hinn crusade actually got healed do you?  And in that case, you are your own best evidence that it is perfectly rational to disbelieve personal testimony and demand a higher standard of proof be met, amen?  Otherwise, the fact that somebody seriously testifies over phone or email to miraculous healing settles the matter in your mind.

If you seriously believe you have evidence of a modern day healing that cannot be explained by current medical science, set forth your case.
You said:  Testimonial evidence is setting forth a case.
————–Then you appear to care nothing for the rules of historiography.  Half the books on the subject would not have been written if the production of testimonial evidence constituted fulfillment of the claimant’s burden.  If I testify seriously to you that I saw a real live bigfoot, would that production of testimony cause you to draw a conclusion about bigfoot, or would you demand that i do something more than simply tell you my story?  If you think testimonial evidence constitutes seting forth a ‘case’ (!? you certainly aren’t a lawyer!), then how do you justify denying most of the healings claimed by followers of Benny Hinn?  Apparently the mere existence of testimonial evidence means nothing, the testimony must pass certain criteria, right?

    …God having the sovereign right to avoid doing monster miracles, accomplishes nothing more than helping distract the less educated Christian readers from the simple fact that you have ZERO medically documented medically inexplicable healings.
You said: That’s just an empty denial in the face of explicit documentation to the contrary.
——–Ok, then please describe the one modern-day miracle healing account that you think is the most convincing and I’ll look into it.  Is that fair?  

Does Steve know of anybody who has attempted to obtain the medical documentation and/or witness statements that Keener has cited?
You say:  Do atheists make the same demand for cures in general?
——-What is the point of Keener’s compiling of miracle-reports, if atheists asking for medical documentation for same is analogous to paranoid cancer patients demanding every last little medical detail be authenticated?

If a patient recovers from stage-1 cancer, do they refuse to believe it unless they can read the medical records for themselves and interview the patient? Notice the unexamined bias.  
——–How else would the patient know they were cured of that unless they did indeed read the medical records for themselves and interview the doctor?

It would be helpful for apologists to provide the one case of body part regeneration they feel is the most compelling, and lets get the ball rolling on the subject of just how good the medical documentation, diagnosis and witness statements really are.
You said:  Demanding evidence of body-part regeneration is an artificial litmus test for miracles.
——–Pure distraction technique necessarily implying you don’t believe any of the few reported case of body-part regeneration, yet you refuse to bluntly admit this evidentiary failure.

I never took that demand seriously in the first place. I’m just calling their bluff.
——-Do you believe that God in the last 50 years has restored any amputee’s missing limb, yes or no?

Atheists who refuse to consider evidence for miracles in general, and instead resort to this decoy, betray their insincerity.
——-You have the distinction of being the first apologist in my more than 10 years of debating, to say that requesting evidence in support of your best case constitutes insincerety. Congratulations.  Now I have a better idea what prompted the reasoning processes in “Joyful Eastertide”.

Logically, the case for miracles is hardly confined to one artificial class of miracles.
——-Do you believe that God in the last 50 years has restored any amputee’s missing limb, yes or no?

I said:     Apologists think they score big on the objectivity scale by insisting that skeptics and atheists do their own research into the claims for miracles that appear in Christian books.  A large list of miracle-claim references may be found in Craig Keener’s two volume set “Miracles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011)”.  But if we are realistic about the time and money required to be expended in the effort to properly investigate a single modern-day miracle claim, it becomes immediately clear that the apologist advice that skeptics should check out those claims, is irrational for all except super-wealthy super-single super-unemployed super-bored skeptics.
You reply:  That’s ironic, considering the obvious fact that Keener isn’t “super-wealthy, super-single, or super-unemployed.”
———–Strawman, No irony whatsoever, Keener wasn’t investigating those miracles, and the cost-prohibition argument justifies only avoidance of investigation, not avoidance of collecting references.  But since the investigtations are so cost-prohibitive, there is little point to collecting cases, except maybe in the hopes that some miracle assertion will be found in one’s own city and thus the investigation could be done without breaking one’s finances or family.

Indeed, as Keener said in the introduction, “I have no research team, no research assistants, and no research funds; nor have I had sabbaticals to pursue this research” (1:12). What hinders an atheist from doing what Keener did?  
—————-Nothing at all, what is your point?  What would be the point of an atheist collecting various testimonies in favor of modern-day miracle healings, in light of the fact that it would be too time and cost prohibitive to properly and thoroughly investigate them?  Most of us aren’t so bored that we collect stories that we know we’ll never have time to do serious inquiry into, except for those of us who occupy our time with fiction novels, of which group I am no part.

Apologists, desperate to cut the skeptic’s costs as much as possible so as to leave them “without excuse”, will suggest ways to cut the costs as described above…
You say:  Another strawman. Atheists are already without excuse.
——First, you are taking Romans 1:20 out of context, and in the effort to keep the discussion on track, I offer to debate you on the proper meaning of that verse, sound fair?  Second, biblical authors saying unbeleivers are without excuse, no more proves they are without excuse, then Benny Hinn causing people to fall down on stage by hitting them with his coat proves movement of the Holy Ghost.  Yes, the analogy is proper, since Paul was a heretic just as much as Hinn.  I’ll debate you anytime you wish on the subject of Paul’s gospel contradicting the gospel of Jesus.  Do you accept this debate invitation, yes or no?

What bright ideas do you have for the married miracle skeptic whose wife homeschools their children, who has only one job?
You say:  Since when did atheists join the Christian homeschooling movement?
——Since when does homeschooling require assent to Christianity?  And you didn’t answer the question of how you can rationally impose obligation on such married and busy atheist to properly investigation miracle claims.  If you simply fall back on “email and phone interviews!” then your standard of evidence is more allowing for possible fraud than mine.  The convenience to your apologetics in lowering the standard of evidence is noted.

I said: If skeptics need to stay open to the possibility of miracles merely because they cannot rationally go around investigating each and every miracle claim, then must you, the Christian apologist, stay open to the possibility that miracles don’t happen, on the grounds that you don’t have the time or money to investigate every single naturalistic argument skeptics have ever come up with?
You reply:  Once again, these are asymmetrical positions. It only takes on miracle to exclude atheism, whereas atheism must exclude every miracle.
——–Well given that you failed to show that the standard of evidence that would increase the likelihood of exposing fraud more so than email or phone interview, was too high of a standard, we have justified the failure to seriously investigate miracle claims.  It is truly laughable that my argument forced you into a position where you had to lower the standard of evidence to phone and email interviews, just to get around the time and money problem.  Well I’m sorry, but since you failed to show that the standard of evidence applicable to a cost-prohibitive miracle investigation was “too high”, you lose.  Your miracle stories do not meet the justified standard of evidence common to any legal or historical investigation.  Historians do not just “accept” testimonial evidence, and neither do you.  Unless you are willing to “accept” the testimony in favor of a miracle-working Apollonius of Tyana?  Isn’t this the part where you say that it was further investigation that convinced you that this testimony was suspect and likely fabricated?

ii) Atheists are like paranoid cancer patients who refuse treatment until they can verify the treatment for themselves.
———False analogy, the great amount of miracle claims doesn’t suggest we are in trouble, the way a normal medical diagnosis of cancer would.  You are in deep trouble if you think you can argue from the sheer numbers of miracle claims, that atheists have an obligation to investigate, we don’t.

They make irrational, time-consuming demands on the oncologist to prove the efficacy of cancer therapy.
——-But it is not irrational to demand medically documented evidence and authenticated medical reports.  That is precisely what is lacking in your best cases for miracles.  I don’t care if you can show me a medical report containing admissions of a baffled physician, that means nothing unless I can authenticate it…unless you insist that I just believe whatever I find on the internet?  And if I am going to authenticate something, that requires me to interview the healed person and their doctor, and apparently you think that is an irrational demand.  No, I will not do as you say and “accept testimonial evidence”, until I can probe the medical documentation and interview claimant, witnesses and character witnesses.  Your desire that I leave that stuff alone and just “accept testimonial evidence” is itself rational justification to prioritize miracle-investigation very low.

But the oncologist is under no obligation to accede to their unreasonable demands. He’s not the one with the life-threatening disease. He has nothing to prove to the paranoid patient. It’s the patient whose life is on the line. It’s the patient who has everything to lose. If the patient is diagnosed with stage-1 cancer, but refuses treatment for 8 months while he conducts his own “independent” investigation–by interviewing other patients–then even if he succeeds in satisfying his personal curiosity, and is now amendable to therapy, by that time he will have stage-4 cancer–at which point therapy is futile.
——–the analogy was unfitting anyway, so no dice.

I said:    If the apologists here saw video footage of a dog flying around a room using biological wings sprouting out of its back, would they insist on making sure all other alternative explanations were definitively refuted before they would be open to considering that this was a real dog with real natural flying ability? Then skeptics, likewise, when confronted with evidence for a miracle healing, would insist on making sure all other alternative possible explanations were definitively refuted before they would start considering that the claimed miracle was genuinely supernatural in origin.
You say:  i) That’s an argument from analogy minus the argument. Where’s the supporting argument to show that miracles are analogous to flying dogs?
——–Oh, I’m sorry I forgot to remind you of equally silly stuff in the bible such as the talking serpent in Genesis 3 and Balaam’s talking donkey in Numbers 22.  I also forgot to tell you about alleged boy-spider taking to the trees as documented in “Like a Mighty Wind”, and I have recordings of Walter Martin commenting back when the book was first published that he was unable to render an opinion on whether any miracle reported in “like a mighty wind” was likely true or likely false.

ii) Instead of dealing with the actual evidence for actual miracles, atheists deflect attention away from the evidence by floating hypothetical examples. But that’s a diversionary tactic.
——–Its also a diversionary tactic to avoid directly answering the analogy and associated question.  The fact that you think flying dogs are far sillier than any biblical miracle claim is entirely irrelvant.  Had you answered the flying dog analogy directly, I might have uncovered evidence that you are just as skeptical of things you currently think impossible, as atheists are of things they think are impossible, but you do not dare directly answer when it might show you demand higher standards of atheists than you demand for yourself.  It is truly ironic that your “diversionary tactic” comment was itself a diversionary tactic.  If somebody showed you a video of a flying dog that appeared to be realistic, would you demand evidence and interviews with the video production team and inspection of the dog?  Or would you “accept testimonial evidence”, and agree with the video producers that those who go around demanding more than testimonial evidence are just setting the bar too high?

iii) Moreover, it’s self-defeating. If an atheist concocts the most ridiculous hypothetical he can think of, then, yes, the example strains credulity.
———-Welcome, fellow Hume disciple.  You could not know that a flying dog is ‘ridiculous’ unless you blindly presuppose ON THE BASIS OF YOUR PRIOR EXPERIENCE they don’t exist, and you cannot scour every inch of the universe to justify your universal negative belief that flying dogs don’t exist. So under your own disastrous logic which attempts to refute Hume, you leave yourself no rational basis to view flying dogs as “most ridiculous”.  Otherwise talking donkeys and talking snakes and mental telepathy are “most ridiculous”.  What happened, o ye of little faith?  Aren’t all things possible with God?  Must God be limited to doing miracles within a Christian context?  What prevents God from manifesting himself by getting creative in the hybrid animal department?  Do you subvert your witness for Christ when you communicate with other people without mentioning Jesus?  If not, then God too is not limited to doing miracles within religious contexts, he can do a miracle for reasons that you cannot explain.

But that’s because he went out of his way to concoct an artificially ridiculous example. That’s a circular exercise. Unbelievable because he made it unbelievable.
———Flying dogs are no more unbelievable than a talking donkey or people who float from the ground into the clouds, or mental telepathy, or other biblical nonsense, or spider-boys climbing trees in “like a mighty wind”.  Do the statues showing winged cheribum supposedly covering the ark with their wings, in Exodus, depict real creatures that are in heaven?  When Isaiah sees a vision of God and notes creatures with wings that are unknown or normally don’t have wings, is he seeing heaven as it really is, or are all these creatures nothing more than literary symbolism?  Please stop choking yourself to death with your ridiculous attempt to distinguish the ridiculousness of flying dogs and the ridiculousness of talking donkeys.  it is difficult to be serious with somebody who trifles like that.

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