Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Historical Evidence for Jesus

By Dr. Gary R. Habermas

Seldom have recent scholars questioned or denied the historical existence of Jesus.  Of the very few who have done so, G. A. Wells is probably the best known.  In this article, I will outline and then respond to some of his major tenets.

Before turning to this topic, I will first note that the vast majority of scholars, both conservative and liberal alike, generally disdain radical theses that question the very existence of Jesus.  For example, theologian Rudolf Bultmann asserted, "By no means are we at the mercy of those who doubt or deny that Jesus ever lived." [i]

Historian Michael Grant termed the hypothesis that Jesus never lived an "extreme view."  He charges that it transgresses the basics of historiography: "if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned."  Grant summarizes, after referring to Wells as an example: "modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory."  These positions have been "annihilated" by the best scholars because the critics "have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary." [ii]

Digressing to a personal story, a potential publisher once asked me to contact a reviewer.  An influential New Testament scholar at a secular university, he had voted to publish my manuscript, but only if I deleted the section dealing with Well's hypotheses.  He said that Well's suppositions were virtually devoid of serious historical content.  He only relented after I convinced him that Wells still had some popular appeal.

The Book of JohnWells is aware of these attitudes towards his works.  He acknowledges that "nearly all commentators who mention the matter at all, [set] aside doubts about Jesus' historicity as ridiculous." [iii]  He adds, "the view that there was no historical Jesus, that his earthly existence is a fiction of earliest Christianity . . . is today almost universally rejected." [iv]  He concludes the matter: "serious students of the New Testament today regard the existence of Jesus as an unassailable fact" (HEJ 223).  Even Michael Martin, one of Wells' few scholarly supporters, draws the rather restrained conclusion that "Wells' thesis is controversial and not widely accepted . . . ." [v]

Of course Wells would be correct to note that scholarly opinions are not formulated by an academic head count.  So the essential question concerns why many scholars find Well's position to be so fatally flawed.  Why is he so frequently ignored?

This is the focus of this essay.  It is my contention that Well's theses are a seedbed of informal logical errors, especially begging the question and special pleading.  He must simply bend over backwards at many places in order to maintain his contentions.  Rather than critique his overall proposal, which I have done elsewhere, [vi] I will attempt a different approach here.  I will list and discuss several of these unsupportable claims throughout his works.  Most of these problems have the potential to seriously undermine or disprove his theses.  In fact, in several places, Wells even admits the serious consequences for his view if he is mistaken.

Wells' Thesis

Briefly, Wells postulates four layers in early Christianity (with some overlap), starting with Paul's eight authentic letters written in the 50s and 60s AD. [vii]  But Paul knew exceptionally little about the historical Jesus, ignoring both where and when Jesus lived.  The second level consists of post-Pauline epistles like Ephesians, Hebrews, I Peter, and Clement of Rome's letter, all dating perhaps 80-105 AD.  The third layer is composed of the pastoral epistles and Ignatius' letters, dated around 110 AD.  The fourth level contains the canonical gospels, dated from 90 or 100 AD to some later time in the second century, perhaps decades later.

HandwritingFor Wells, historical claims about Jesus generally did not begin to accumulate until the third layer.  Before 90 AD, Jesus remained an undated, mysterious figure about whom virtually nothing was known or reported (DJE, 47, 65; HEJ, 217-220).

Wells thinks that Jesus either never existed or, if he did, he had very little influence in his own time.  The stories about him developed much later, over time.  In sum, "Jesus is not linked with a recognizable historical situation in any document (Christian, Jewish or pagan) that can be proved to have originated before about AD 100" (DJE, 215).

A Critique of Wells' Hypotheses

Wells' ideas are wide open to criticism at a variety of junctures.  Rather than attempt the more systematic approach I have employed in earlier writings, I will list problems that indicate significant flaws.  At several places which he admits are integral, Wells resorts to almost any explanation, no matter how incredible, in order to disallow apparent textual meanings.  If these texts are taken at face value, he realizes his thesis is in deep trouble.  So Wells must disallow all time references to Jesus being a contemporary of New Testament persons.

(1) Wells' late-dating the earliest gospel (Mark) to 90-100 AD and the others to well into the second century certainly helps his thesis by divorcing Jesus from the early sources.  For example, it allows him to remove Pilate's connection with Jesus until at least 90 AD (DJE, 47, 65; HEJ, 10-11).  But these dates are opposed by virtually every other scholar writing on this subject, whether liberal or conservative.  Even critical scholars usually date these four books from 65-100 AD.  So Wells dates Mark about two or three decades earlier than almost everyone else, including those same scholars he cites so positively.

Though we definitely cannot respond in detail here, just a brief line of reasoning will be mentioned.  Most of the Book of Acts is devoted to the careers of Peter and Paul, with many chapters centering in Jerusalem.  The deaths of Stephen (7:54-60) and the apostle James (12:1-2) are recorded, and the book ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome (28:14-31).  Yet nothing is mentioned about the deaths of Paul and Peter (mid-60s AD), or James, the Lord's brother (about 62 AD).   Further, the Jewish War with the Romans beginning in 66 and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 are also absent.  These five events are not arbitrary; each is absolutely central to the book's key persons and geography, making them absolutely integral to the theme.

So how could the author of Acts not mention these last five events, which dwarf many of the other items in the book?  By far the best solution is that none of these things had yet occurred.  These absences argue very strongly for an early date, before the mid-60s.

Since Luke was written prior to Acts, [viii] but after Mark and Matthew, we may then date all five books before 65 AD.  Even if we are too early by ten or so years, this is still a serious challenge to Wells.  If the majority of contemporary scholars is right, then Wells would still be crucially wrong by about 25 years on each book.  This would indicate that facts regarding the historical Jesus circulated at a much earlier date than he asserts.  The more Wells is mistaken on these dates, the closer our historical information gets to Jesus.

(2) Wells realizes that if Paul's reference to "James the Lord's brother" (Gal. 1:19) means that he met with Jesus' sibling, then this alone is very troubling to his thesis (HEJ, 167-174; DJE, 21).  But here we perceive Wells' special pleading at its very best.  Rather than admit Paul's straightforward meaning, he suggests that there was a zealous group in the early church who were not relatives but were called "the brethren of the Lord"!

Very surprisingly, Wells even admits the severity of his plight:

If Paul means blood brother of a historical Jesus, then it would suffice to establish--against my view--that Jesus had really lived in the first half of the first century.  Furthermore, I must admit that this interpretation of Paul's words does seem the immediate and obvious one.  Here, then, is a case where what seems to be the plain sense of a text . . . would weigh very heavily indeed against my view of Christian origins. (HEJ, 167)

But there are several reasons that Paul was referring to Jesus' brother.  As Wells states, this is the normal way to understand this passage.  Second, in I Corinthians 9:5, the Lord's brothers refer to individuals who are authoritative enough to be compared to Peter and the apostles, not to some obscure group of believers.  Third, all four gospels refer to Jesus' physical brothers. [ix]  James is even specified as one of them (Mk. 6:3; Matt. 13:55-56).  Whatever date is assigned to these books, they plainly understood the tradition in a way that disagrees with Wells.  Fourth, we will discuss below Jewish historian Josephus, who also calls James the brother of Jesus. [x]  But Josephus would hardly be referring to a sectarian group of believers known within the church!  Fifth, there is no historical evidence to support Wells' specific contention concerning James.

So this leaves Wells to face his own critique stated above.  That he is clearly wrong about James weighs heavily against his entire thesis concerning the historical Jesus, just like he admits.

(3) Paul appears to refer to those who were physically present with Jesus, calling them the twelve (I Corinthians 15:4) and the apostles (15:7).  As with James, Wells fully realizes that if this is so, then his thesis suffers at another key point: "If these words were really written by Paul, then it looks as though he was aware that Jesus chose twelve disciples; and if Paul in this respect corroborates what the gospels say, then it would be reasonable to infer that he also knows the principle facts of Jesus' life . . . ." (DJE, 124).  But Wells contends that "apostle" does not mean a physical companion of Jesus (HEJ, 227, note 14).  Further, "the twelve" was interpolated into Paul's epistle (DJE, 124), even without textual evidence for this conclusion!  Again, Wells recognizes a crucial passage, and once again, the sense of special pleading is apparent.  He is willing to say virtually anything to avoid a clear text opposing his view, even if he has to ignore the contrary evidence and hold that it was added, relying on little more than his own assertion.

(4) Wells' treatment of the many nonbiblical references to Jesus is also quite problematic.  He downplays those presenting difficulties for his position (Thallus, Tacitus), and suggests late dates for others, again in contrast to the wide majority of scholars (Thallus [perhaps second century AD!], Polycarp [135 AD!], Papias [140 AD]).  Yet, he provides few reasons why these dates should be preferred (DJE, 10-15, 78, 139; HEJ, 15-18).

The most important problem for Wells' treatment is Josephus' testimony.  In order to dismiss this important Jewish documentation, Wells resorts to questioning both of Josephus' references to Jesus.  Not only does he disallow them as interpolated comments, but he asserts that this is also "widely admitted" by scholars (HEJ, 18; DJE, 10-11).  But he is so wide of the mark here that one is tempted to question his research altogether.

While virtually everyone thinks that portions of Josephus' longer statement in Antiquities 18:3 has been added, the majority also think that a fair amount still came from Josephus.  Princeton Seminary's James Charlesworth strongly concludes: "We can now be as certain as historical research will presently allow that Josephus did refer to Jesus." [xi]  John Drane adds that "most scholars have no doubts about the authenticity"of the passage's nucleus. [xii]  Written about 93-94 AD, Josephus' statement, among other claims, clearly links Jesus to his disciples and connects his crucifixion to Pilate.  It is independent of the gospels, according to Wells' dating.

Josephus' second statement refers to James as the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ (Antiquities 20:9).  This also hurts Well's thesis significantly, because it likewise links Jesus to a first century person who was known to Paul and other apostles. [xiii]  In spite of Wells' dismissal (without citing a single scholar who agrees--HEJ, 18), Yamauchi concludes, "Few scholars have questioned the genuineness of this passage." [xiv]

Thus it is no wonder that Wells would dearly like to squelch Josephus' two references to Jesus.  Both clearly place Jesus in a specific first century context connected with the apostles and Pilate, cannot be derived from the gospels on Wells' dating, and come from a non-Christian.  Wells even notes that such independent data would be of "great value" (DJE, 14).  So it is exceptionally instructive, not just that Wells dismisses both, but that he clearly wishes his readers to think that contemporary scholarship is firmly on his side when it very clearly is nowhere close.  Charlesworth specifically refers to Wells' treatment of Josephus, saying that, "Many solid arguments can be presented against such distortions and polemics." [xv]

BookOther problems abound with Wells' thesis that attempts to disconnect Jesus from a first century AD context.  For example, he tries to dismiss Paul's dating the resurrection appearances to the third day after Jesus' death in I Corinthians 15:4 (DJE, 31).  While Wells readily admits that many like Peter and Paul claimed to be witnesses of resurrection appearances, this fails to connect Jesus to the first century (DJE, 32; HEJ, 43-44)!  While earlier he compares Christianity to ancient mythology (DJE, 182-193), he later criticizes such efforts (HEJ, 218-219).  Further, he regularly stumbles when attempting to summarize recent scholarship.  But Wells recognizes his lack of specialization, as a self-proclaimed "amateur" (DJE, 2), having taught German.

The entire subject of the resurrection is also troublesome for Wells.  Responding to my debate with atheist Antony Flew, [xvi] noting that Flew did not do well, Wells wrote a response that repeats his tiered thesis. [xvii]  Still he struggles, trying to explain the resurrection by the same discredited methods discussed here.  Although he notes the repetition during the debate (4), this did not keep him from repeatedly misunderstanding my arguments (especially 23-36).


Why do scholars reject Wells' thesis?  Because it cuts out Christianity's heart and even critics refuse to face this (DJE, 205)?  I have argued that there is another reason.  One does not impress scholars by maintaining a thesis at all costs, consistently resorting to extraordinary means to overlook any bit of data that would disprove one's view.  Even ally Martin realizes that Wells' arguments may sometimes seem "ad hoc and arbitrary." [xviii]

But at several points, this is clearly what Wells does.  He often admits that a natural textual reading devastates his theories.  Then he dismisses every historical reference linking Jesus to the first century, making some bizarre moves in the process.  This most obviously occurs in his treatments of James, Jesus' disciples, and Josephus.  Along with dating the gospels decades later than almost everyone, these and other factors combine to produce the sense of ad hoc argumentation.  But it all seriously undermines his system, as well as eroding his credibility.

Wells appears to declare virtually anything rather than admitting Jesus' historicity.  Yet, one by one, his house of cards collapses.  This is precisely why the vast majority of scholars reject Well's claims: he fails to deal adequately with the historical data.


[i].  "The Story of the Synoptic Gospels," Form Criticism, trans. Frederick Grant (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962), 60.
[ii]Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels (New York: Macmillan, 1977), 199-200.
[iii]Did Jesus Exist?, Revised edition (London: Pemberton, 1978, 1986), 213 (abbreviated in text as DJE).
[iv]The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1988), 218 (abbreviated in text as HEJ).
[v]The Case Against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), 67.
[vi].  See Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (Joplin: College Press, 1996), Chapter 2, which also critiques Martin's treatment.
[vii].  Wells identifies these as Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, I Thessalonians, Philemon, and probably Colossians (HEJ, 19-22).
[viii].  Compare Luke 1:1-3 with Acts 1:1.
[ix].  Matthew 12:46-47; Mark 3:31-32; Luke 8:19-20; John 7:5.
[x]Antiquities 20:9.
[xi]Jesus Within Judaism (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 96.
[xii]Introducing the New Testament (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 138.
[xiii].  Galatians 1:19; I Corinthians 9:5; Acts 15:1-20.
[xiv].  "Josephus and the Scriptures," Fides et Historia, Vol. 13 (1980), 53.
[xv].  Charlesworth, 98.  For further details, see 90-98; Yamauchi, 42-63; Drane, 138; and Habermas, 43-44, 192-196.
[xvi]Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, ed. Terry Miethe (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987).
[xvii]A Resurrection Debate (London: Rationalist Press, 1988), 3-4, 44-46.
[xviii]. 55.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Logical Proof of Heaven & Hell

By Ryan Hemelaar

A lot of people ask: 'How do I know whether Heaven and Hell really exists?' Well, there are two methods to rationally prove the existence of Heaven and Hell, and how one enters Heaven. This in turn proves why Christianity in particular is the only religion that is true.

(1). This method relies on the Moral Argument for God's Existence. Please read that argument to know what it is, if you are unfamiliar with it.

Heaven and HellThe moral argument not only proves God, but also proves that God is good. So that when a good God looks down on this Earth and sees all these horrible atrocities occurring (like people murdering and raping), since He is good, He cannot turn a blind eye to the crimes being committed. And since it seems justice is not always carried out on this Earth, it must happen after we die. Therefore, there must be a place of punishment after we die (we call that Hell) and a place of no punishment (we call that Heaven). But a good judge won't just punish murderers and rapists, He'll have to punish all acts of injustice, even thieving and lying.

So it seems that we've all done at least something wrong in our life (either by lying, stealing, lusting, etc), so that means we are deserving of going to Hell. And the good deeds that we do don't merit us anything in front of a good judge, because a good judge would never accept a bribe. Just like if you murder somebody, you can't say to the judge, "I admit I murdered that person, but look at the good works I've done - helping the poor, working for charities. Can you let me go?" If the judge were to let the criminal go free, He would be a corrupt judge. A good judge cannot be corrupt.

So it seems we have no hope of getting to Heaven. This is where Christianity steps in as being in a league of its own. For Christianity says that 2000 years ago, Jesus came down and died on the cross. He died to pay the penalty for our sins that we deserve in Hell, He can take it on the cross for us. That way, God's justice is satisfied and we can go to Heaven when we die. But He doesn't automatically apply it to everyone, you must do two things. Firstly, you must trust that the only reason why you will get to Heaven is that Jesus died on the cross for you, that means that you don't trust in your good works or own morality to get you to Heaven, but only in Jesus' death. Secondly, out of gratitude for what Jesus' has done for you, you will strive to turn from your lifestyle of sinning. If you do those two things, you will go to Heaven when you die.

(2). The second method of proving the existence of Heaven and Hell relies on the Argument for the Resurrection.

This argument proves that Jesus rose from the dead and therefore, that is an authentication to the things that Jesus was teaching. Jesus taught that when you die you will be judged by God and be sent to either Heaven or Hell. Therefore, there is an afterlife. And Jesus taught that how one gets to Heaven is the same what is written above.

So the question is now, since rationally there must be a God, an afterlife, and Christianity is true, what will be your response? If you repent (turn from your lifestyle of sinning) and trust in Christ's death on the cross, you will go to Heaven when you die.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Argument for the Resurrection

The Argument for the Resurrection firstly proves that Jesus rose from the dead, and thus that is an authentication of Jesus' claim to who He was, the Son of God (second person of the trinity - fully God and fully man). It also authenticates Jesus' other teachings, including how one gets to Heaven.

This is an interactive flash presentation from the Apologetics Study Bible. To go onto the next slide, click the arrow on the bottom right hand side of the screen.

Click the play button to begin the presentation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cosmological Argument for God's Existence

Below is an interactive flash presentation from the Apologetics Study Bible on the Cosmological argument for God's Existence. To go onto the next slide, click the arrow on the bottom right hand side of the screen.

Click the play button to begin the presentation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Moral Argument for God's Existence

Below is an interactive flash presentation from the Apologetics Study Bible on the Moral argument for God's Existence. To go onto the next slide, click the arrow on the bottom right hand side of the screen.

It may take a few moments for the presentation to load (743KB file).

The moral argument not only proves God's existence, but it also proves that God is good.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Comparing Osiris, Horus, and Jesus

By James Patrick Holding

Of all the pagan copycat candidates, this is the last couple -- other than Buddha -- that look to be a major threat. Egypt after all is not far from Palestine, and Jews did live in Egypt; it is not theoretically improbable that they could steal an idea for a Jesus from this place. But did they? The field is rife with claims, but as usual a plate of fudge stands in the middle. There is a great deal of filching of Christian terms to describe Egyptian events (not all of it with bad intentions) and a great deal of non-citation of sources for fabulous claims. This being the case, we here announce again that this will be our last pagan copycat item for a while until someone in the Acharya S/Freke and Gandy camp steps forward and provides some better documentation that 18th-19th century rumormongers.

So let's get to some of these claims. I'm going to mix the ones for Horus and Osiris together for convenience. These are from Achy's Christ Conspiracy [114-116]; oddly enough Freke and Gandy add nothing new and in fact only supplement a few of these.


  1. Had well over 200 divine names, including Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods, Resurrection and the Life, Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness, the god who "made men and women to be born again."
  2. Coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris' star in the east, Sirius, significator of his birth
  3. Was a devoured Host. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat, the 'plant of Truth'.
  4. The 23rd Psalm copied an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to the 'green pastures' and 'still waters' of the nefer-nefer land, to restore the soul and body, and to give protection in the valley of the shadow of death...
  5. The Lord's Prayer was prefigured by an Egyptian hymn to Osiris-Amen beginning, 'O Amen, O Amen, who are in heaven. Amen was also invoked at the end of every prayer.
  6. The teachings of Osiris and Jesus are wonderfully alike. Many passages are identically the same, word for word.
  7. As the god of the vine, a great traveling teacher who civilized the world. Ruler and judge of the dead.
  8. In his passion, Osiris was plotted against and killed by Set and "the 72."
  9. Osiris' resurrection served to provide hope to all that they may do likewise and become eternal.


  1. Was born of the virgin Isis-Meri in December 25th in a cave/manger with his birth being announced by a star in the East and attended by three wise men.
  2. His earthly father was named "Seb" ("Joseph").
  3. He was of royal descent.
  4. At age 12 he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was baptized, having disappeared for 18 years.
  5. Was baptized in the river Eridanus or Iaurutana (Jordan) by "Anup the Baptizer" (John the Baptist) who was decapitated.
  6. He ad 12 disciples, two of whom were his "witnesses" and were named "Anup" and "AAn" (the two "Johns").
  7. He performed miracles, exorcized demons and raised El-Azarus ("El-Osiris") from the dead.
  8. Horus walked on water.
  9. His personal epithet was "Iusa" the "ever-becoming son" of "Ptah," the "Father." He was called the "Holy Child."
  10. He delivered a "Sermon on the Mount" and his followers recounted the "Sayings of Iusa."
  11. Horus was transfigured on the Mount.
  12. He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a tomb, was resurrected.
  13. Titles: Way, the Truth the Light; Messiah; God's Anointed Son; Son of Man; Good Shepherd; Lamb of God; Word made flesh; Word of Truth.
  14. Was "the Fisher" and was associated with the Fish ("Ichthys"), Lamb and Lion.
  15. He came to fulfill the Law.
  16. Was called "the KRST" or "Anointed One."
  17. Was supposed to reign one thousand years.

That's quite a list, but let's make it simple to start: A good number -- at least half -- are so far as I have seen bogus. There has not been a shred of evidence for many of these in any book of Egyptian religion I have thus far consulted. So as Clara Peller used to say, Where's the beef? Where's the original Egyptian lit that backs this up? Christ-Mythers: we do not want to hear from Gerald Massey or Godfrey Higgins; we want the original citation from Egyptian records. If I don't hear from any of you within a year (and I know that they check in on this site, because I hear from them), I'll assume no response is possible and go back to more copycat projects. In some cases below we will draw upon Glenn Miller's copycat article where he has done some previous work.

For convenience I begin by reproducing the "thumbnail sketch of Horus' life" given in Encyclopedia of Religions as offered by Miller, which also lays the groundwork for Osiris:

"In ancient Egypt there were originally several gods known by the name Horus, but the best known and most important from the beginning of the historic period was the son of Osiris and Isis who was identified with the king of Egypt. According to myth, Osiris, who assumed the rulership of the earth shortly after its creation, was slain by his jealous brother, Seth. The sister- wife of Osiris, Isis, who collected the pieces of her dismembered husband and revived him, also conceived his son and avenger, Horus. Horus fought with Seth, and, despite the loss of one eye in the contest, was successful in avenging the death of his father and in becoming his legitimate successor. Osiris then became king of the dead and Horus king of the living, this transfer being renewed at every change of earthly rule. The myth of divine kingship probably elevated the position of the god as much as it did that of the king. In the fourth dynasty, the king, the living god, may have been one of the greatest gods as well, but by the fifth dynasty the supremacy of the cult of Re, the sun god, was accepted even by the kings. The Horus-king was now also "son of Re." This was made possible mythologically by personifying the entire older genealogy of Horus (the Heliopolitan ennead) as the goddess Hathor, "house of Horus," who was also the spouse of Re and mother of Horus.

"Horus was usually represented as a falcon, and one view of him was as a great sky god whose outstretched wings filled the heavens; his sound eye was the sun and his injured eye the moon. Another portrayal of him particularly popular in the Late Period, was as a human child suckling at the breast of his mother, Isis. The two principal cult centers for the worship of Horus were at Bekhdet in the north, where very little survives, and at Idfu in the south, which has a very large and well- preserved temple dating from the Ptolemaic period. The earlier myths involving Horus, as well as the ritual per- formed there, are recorded at Idfu."


Had well over 200 divine names, including Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods, Resurrection and the Life, Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness, the god who "made men and women to be born again." The titles I have found ascribed to Osiris are [Fraz.AAO] Lord of All, the Good Being (the most common title), Lord of the Underworld, Lord/King of Eternity, Ruler of the Dead, [Griff.OO] Lord of the West, Great One, [Bud.ERR, 26] "he who takes seat," the Begetter, the Ram, [Bud.ERR, 79] "great Word" (as in, "the word of what cometh into being and what is not" -- a reflection of the ancient idea of the creative power of speech, found likewise in the Greek Logos), "Chief of the Spirits"; [Short.EG, 37] ruler of everlastingness, [Meek.DL, 31] "living god," "God above the gods." All of these are either general titles we would expect to be assigned to any head honcho deity, or else are related to O's command over the underworld. None of the ones cited closest and uniquely like unto Jesus were found.

Coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris' star in the east, Sirius, significator of his birth. Freke and Gandy repeat only the last part about the star. But while some scholars connect Osiris with Orion, they do not know anything about wise men or a star in the east.

Was a devoured Host. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat, the 'plant of Truth'. Not that anyone in the scholarly lit has reported.

The 23rd Psalm copied an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to the 'green pastures' and 'still waters' of the nefer-nefer land, to restore the soul and body, and to give protection in the valley of the shadow of death... If this is so, no commentator in Egyptian religion or the OT knows about it. Osiris would possibly be known as a shepherd as such imagery was common in the ANE, but I have not seen it yet applied to him by anyone but mythicists.

The Lord's Prayer was prefigured by an Egyptian hymn to Osiris-Amen beginning, 'O Amen, O Amen, who are in heaven.' Amen was also invoked at the end of every prayer. If so, we want to know where this prayer is recorded, and so would experts in Egyptian religion. The Hebrew "Amen" is never used as a salutation and means "let it be so" which means it is not "invoked" as a deity is. Beyond that, let's see an etymological connection based on the original languages, not on the correspondence of English characters.

The teachings of Osiris and Jesus are wonderfully alike. Many passages are identically the same, word for word. If so, someone other than Achy's source, James Churchward, needs to put them side by side and prove it. The Egyptian religious scholars don't seem aware of it. This is a bit non-specific. Frazer reported [Fraz.AAO, vii, 7] that Osiris taught winemaking and agriculture, gave the Egyptians laws, taught them proper worship, and traveled the word teaching these things. But this is the claim that was made of Dionysus as well, and we have answered that point within that essay. Not that it matters, since it seems only Frazer and later Freke and Gandy have an idea that the two are connected. Literature written by scholars of Egyptian religion do not treat them as the same, though some connect Osiris and Orion, and Budge notes the travels but does not connect Osiris and Dionysius [Bud.ERR, 9]. In any event Osiris is nowhere called a "god of the vine". He is ruler and judge of the dead, but this doesn't describe Jesus, who represents a God who is not God of the dead, "but of the living." At most it represents what might be expected of any supreme deity: to rule and to judge.

As the god of the vine, a great traveling teacher who civilized the world. Ruler and judge of the dead.

In his passion, Osiris was plotted against and killed by Set and "the 72." This is a combination of terminological fudging, half-truth, and irrelevancy. There was no "passion" -- in the incident alluded to, O. was indeed plotted against by Set. There was a big party, at which Set had a coffin brought in and encouraged everyone, including 72 participants in the scheme and one queen of Ethiopia, to lay down for a fit. Finally it came O's turn, and he was persuaded to lay down in the coffin. Once O was inside, Set nailed the coffin shut and threw it in the river; O suffocated. Note that the 72 here are enemies of O, not his disciples: only the number -- a multiple of 12, a number we still hold in regard today when we purchase eggs and donuts -- is a common touchpoint (and that only in some mss. of Luke 10; others put the number at 70, possibly representing the number of Gentile nations, according to the Jews). They do nothing at all that could be considered like what Jesus' disciples did. As the story goes further, O's wife Isis went looking for the coffin. She found it in Syria, where it had been incorporated into the pillar of a house. She lamented so loudly that some kids in the house died of fright. Later she took it out, opened it up, then went looking for Horus. Meanwhile Set found the coffin and tore the body in 14 pieces which he threw all over the place. In one result Isis went looking for the pieces and buried them as she found them. An alternate story has Isis, Anubis, and Ra piecing the body together, swathing it with bandages, and reviving him -- more on this below.

Osiris' resurrection served to provide hope to all that they may do likewise and become eternal. This is where we find some of the biggest misuse of terminology, including by some Egyptian scholars of religion (who do not go on to posit a "copycat" relationship!). Osiris resurrected? Not if "resurrection" is defined as coming back in a glorified body. On this point Miller has done some substantial work, reporting the words of J. Z. Smith, so I will let these speak to begin:

"Osiris was murdered and his body dismembered and scattered. The pieces of his body were recovered and rejoined, and the god was rejuvenated. However, he did not return to his former mode of existence but rather journeyed to the underworld, where he became the powerful lord of the dead. In no sense can Osiris be said to have 'risen' in the sense required by the dying and rising pattern (as described by Frazer; most certainly it was never considered as an annual event."

"In no sense can the dramatic myth of his death and reanimation be harmonized to the pattern of dying and rising gods (as described by Frazer"

"The repeated formula 'Rise up, you have not died,' whether applied to Osiris or a citizen of Egypt, signaled a new, permanent life in the realm of the dead."

Frankfort concurs:

"Osiris, in fact, was not a 'dying' god at all but a 'dead' god. He never returned among the living; he was not liberated from the world of the dead, as Tammuz was. On the contrary, Osiris altogether belonged to the world of the dead; it was from there that he bestowed his blessings upon Egypt. He was always depicted as a mummy, a dead king." [Kingship and the gods: a study of ancient Near Eastern religion as the integration of society & nature. UChicago:1978 edition, p.289]

Perhaps the only pagan god for whom there is a resurrection is the Egyptian Osiris. Close examination of this story shows that it is very different from Christ's resurrection. Osiris did not rise; he ruled in the abode of the dead. As biblical scholar, Roland de Vaux, wrote, "What is meant of Osiris being 'raised to life?' Simply that, thanks to the ministrations of Isis, he is able to lead a life beyond the tomb which is an almost perfect replica of earthly existence. But he will never again come among the living and will reign only over the dead.... This revived god is in reality a 'mummy' god."... No, the mummified Osiris was hardly an inspiration for the resurrected Christ...As Yamauchi observes, "Ordinary men aspired to identification with Osiris as one who had triumphed over death." But it is a mistake to equate the Egyptian view of the afterlife with the biblical doctrine of resurrection. To achieve immortality the Egyptian had to meet three conditions: First, his body had to be preserved by mummification. Second, nourishment was provided by the actual offering of daily bread and beer. Third, magical spells were interred with him. His body did not rise from the dead; rather elements of his personality-his Ba and Ka-continued to hover over his body. ["The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Myth, Hoax, or History?" David J. MacLeod, in The Emmaus Journal, V7 #2, Winter 98, p169

Frazer [Fraz.AAO, viii] wrote that every dead man was given Osiris' name on top of his own in order to identify with the god.

So O's "resurrection" is no resurrection at all -- and in fact was actually a sort of function of the way the Egyptian gods were, shall we say, being half Frankenstein, half Lego set. There are in fact many stories of the Egyptian gods flinging various body parts around, and to no overall harm, because "divine bodies were thought to be impervious to change" [Meek.DL, 57] and so O's dead body neither rotted nor decomposed as it waited to be put back together. This is how it was with all these Egyptian gods: Seth and Horus have a fight in which they throw dung at each other then steal each others' genitals [Bud.ERR, 64]. Horus' eye is stolen by Set, but Horus gets it back and gives it to Osiris, who eats it [ibid., 88]. Horus had a headache, and another deity offers to loan him his head until the headache went away [Meek.DL, 57]. Osiris did pay a price for his dismembering death, in that he was limited to the world of the dead [and manifestly ignorant as a result of what went on "above ground" -- Meek.DL, 88-9], but that is only because he had actually died once before when his father accidentally killed him [ibid., 80].


Now we get to the matters of Horus. Many of these have had some input from Miller, so we'll report those and add as needed.

Was born of the virgin Isis-Meri in December 25th in a cave/manger with his birth being announced by a star in the East and attended by three wise men. The lit has confirmed what Miller offers, and I have also seen the depiction he refers to below. I have found no reference to a cave/manger -- Frazer [Fraz.AAO, 8] has Horus born in the swamps, and knows nothing about a star or Wise Men, of any number.

...Horus was NOT born of a virgin at all. Indeed, one ancient Egyptian relief depicts this conception by showing his mother Isis in a falcon form, hovering over an erect phallus of a dead and prone Osiris in the Underworld (EOR, s.v. "Phallus"). And the Dec 25 issue is of no relevance to us--nowhere does the NT associate this date with Jesus' birth at all.

Indeed, the description of the conception of Horus will show exactly the sexual elements that characterize pagan 'miracle births', as noted by the scholars earlier:

"But after she [i.e., Isis] had brought it [i.e. Osiris' body] back to Egypt, Seth managed to get hold of Osiris's body again and cut it up into fourteen parts, which she scattered all over Egypt. Then Isis went out to search for Osiris a second time and buried each part where she found it (hence the many tombs of Osiris tht exist in Egypt). The only part that she did not find was the god's penis, for Seth had thrown it into the river, where it had been eaten by a fish; Isis therefore fashioned a substitute penis to put in its place. She had also had sexual intercourse with Osisis after his death, which resulted in the conception and birth of his posthumous son, Harpocrates, Horus-the-child. Osiris became king of the netherworld, and Horus proceeded to fight with Seth..." [CANE:2:1702; emphasis mine] [BTW, the Hebrew word 'satan' is not a 'cognate' of the name 'seth' by any means: "The root *STN is not evidenced in any of the cognate languages in texts that are prior to or contemporary with its occurrences in the Hebrew Bible" DDD, s.v. 1369f]

The one reference I have found to a birth of Horus has him born on the 31st day of the Egyptian month of Khoiak -- the mythers have a one in 365 chance that this matches Dec. 25th! Achy adds, with Massey as a likely source, the claim that on the walls of the Luxor Temple is a scene showing the "Annunciation, Immaculate Conception, Birth and Adoration of Horus, with Thoth announcing to the Virgin Isis that she will conceive Horus; with Kenph, the 'Holy Ghost,' impregnating the virgin," complete with three wise men. For some reason neither Achy nor Massey provide a name or number for this carving, or a location any more specific than the Luxor Temple, which is a rather huge place that is inaccessible to most of Achy's readers. When pressed by an inquirer at her site, Achy plays word games -- "Isis is the constellation of Virgo the Virgin, as well as the Moon, which becomes a 'virgin' during when it is new. The sun god - in this case, Horus - is born of this Virgin goddess." -- and alludes to a document from the 6th century AD! No substantiation is offered for the Isis-Virgo connection at all; it has no more authority than saying "Isis is Gomer the prostitute." If such a carving exists it is only what Achy thinks it is via the interpretation of Massey. (A writer recently sent this description from an Egyptian tour site: "Kingship was believed to be ordained by the gods at the beginning of time in accordance with ma'at., the well-ordered state, truth, justice, cosmic order. The reigning king was also the physical son of the Creator sun-god. This divine conception and birth was recorded on the walls of Luxor Temple, at Deir el-Bahri, and other royal cult temples throughout Egypt. The king was also an incarnation of the dynastic god Horus, and when deceased, the king was identified with the father of Horus, Osiris. This living king was thus a unique entity, the living incarnation of deity, divinely chosen intermediary, who could act as priest for the entire nation, reciting the prayers, dedicating the sacrifices...A peristyle forecourt of Amenhotep III is fused with the hypostyle hall, which is the first room in the inner, originally roofed, part of the temple. This leads to a series of for antechambers with subsidiary rooms. The Birth Room east of the second antechamber is decorated with reliefs showing the symbolic divine birth of Amenhotep III resulting from the union of his mother Mutemwiya and the god Amun. The bark sanctuary includes a free-standing building added by Alexander the Great within the larger chamber created by Amenhotep III. Well-preserved reliefs show Amun's portable bark shrine and other scenes of the king in the presence of the gods. The sanctuary of Amenhotep III is the last room on the central axis of the temple." This is significantly devoid of a virgin conception or birth, wise men, or a Holy Ghost. You might squeeze an adoration out of it, but who does not adore newborns anyway? But now see the trump card, provided by a Skeptic ashamed of Achy's thesis; see here.)

His earthly father was named "Seb" ("Joseph"). Actually Seb was the earth-god, not "earthly," but rather the earth itself (as Nut was the sky), and he was O's dad, not Horus', though one of my helpful researchers tells me there is one version in which Horus was the son of Seb. And don't fall for the etymological trick or treat: You can't get from "Seb" to "Joseph" just by putting the names next to each other.

He was of royal descent. Obviously true, and Horus was often identified with the living Pharaoh, but so commonplace as to be meaningless.

At age 12 he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was baptized, having disappeared for 18 years. Egyptian religion scholars know of none of this. On this last Miller notes: research in the academic literature does not surface this fact. I can find references to FOUR "disciples"--variously called the semi-divine HERU-SHEMSU ("Followers of Horus") [GOE:1.491]. I can find references to SIXTEEN human followers (GOE:1.196). And I can find reference to an UNNUMBERED group of followers called mesniu/mesnitu ("blacksmiths") who accompanied Horus in some of his battles [GOE:1.475f; although these might be identified with the HERU-SHEMSU in GOE:1.84]. But I cannot find TWELVE anywhere... Horus is NOT the sun-god (that's Re), so we cannot use the 'all solar gods have twelve disciples--in the Zodiac' routine here.]

Was baptized in the river Eridanus or Iaurutana (Jordan) by "Anup the Baptizer" (John the Baptist) who was decapitated.

He had 12 disciples, two of whom were his "witnesses" and were named "Anup" and "AAn" (the two "Johns").

He performed miracles, exorcized demons and raised El-Azarus ("El-Osiris") from the dead. Miller notes:

Miracle stories abound, even among religious groups that could not possibly have influenced one another, such as Latin American groups (e.g. Aztecs) and Roman MR's, so this 'similarity' carries no force. The reference to this specific resurrection I cannot find ANYWHERE in the scholarly literature. I have looked under all forms of the name to no avail. The fact that something so striking is not even mentioned in modern works of Egyptology indicates its questionable status. It simply cannot be adduced as data without SOME real substantiation. The closest thing to it I can find is in Horus' official funerary role, in which he "introduces" the newly dead to Osirus and his underworld kingdom. In the Book of the Dead, for example, Horus introduces the newly departed Ani to Osirus, and asks Osirus to accept and care for Ani (GOE:1.490).

Horus walked on water. Not that I have found, but he was thrown in the water (see below).

His personal epithet was "Iusa" the "ever-becoming son" of "Ptah," the "Father." He was called the "Holy Child." Miller says:

This fact has likewise escaped me and my research. I have looked at probably 50 epithets of the various Horus deities, and most major indices of the standard Egyptology reference works and come up virtually empty-handed. I can find a city named "Iusaas" [GOE:1.85], a pre-Islamic Arab deity by the name of "Iusaas", thought by some to be the same as the Egyptian god Tehuti/Thoth [GOE:2.289], and a female counterpart to Tem, named "Iusaaset" [GOE:1.354]. But no reference to Horus as being "Iusa"... ]

He delivered a "Sermon on the Mount" and his followers recounted the "Sayings of Iusa." None of these three can be found, either. On the last Miller writes:

I can find no references to Horus EVER dying, until he later becomes "merged" with Re the Sun god, after which he 'dies' and is 'reborn' every single day as the sun rises. And even in this 'death', there is no reference to a tomb anywhere...

I found in Budge one idea that Horus had died and been cast in pieces in the water, and his parts were fished out by Sebek the crocodile god at Isis' request. But that's a funny sort of baptism at best (see above). Another source notes a story where Horus is bitten by a snake and revived, which is still not much of a parallel.

Horus was transfigured on the Mount.

He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a tomb, was resurrected.

Titles: Way, the Truth the Light; Messiah; God's Anointed Son; Son of Man; Good Shepherd; Lamb of God; Word made flesh; Word of Truth. I found thesed titles: [Bud.ERR, 78] Great God, Chief of the Powers, Master of Heaven, Avenger of His Father (since he beat up Set, who "killed" Osiris). He may have been called rightly "Son of Man" as the son of royalty (see here) but I have found no evidence for this.

Was "the Fisher" and was associated with the Fish ("Ichthys"), Lamb and Lion. I have found no evidence for any of these last four.

He came to fulfill the Law.

Was called "the KRST" or "Anointed One."

Was supposed to reign one thousand years.

Conclusion: This one seems to be full of ringers so far, and it's high time the mythicists backed these up with more than third-hand sabre-rattling from the Barbara Walkers and the Gerald Masseys. So I challenge them now to come up with the gods -- er, goods. Any takers? (Some of these also appear from Tom Harpur -- see more on that here.)

For more: See Mark McFall take on "Skeptic X" (skepticism's own Acharya S) on the subject of O's "resurrection" here and here and here.


  • Bud.ERR -- Budge, E. Wallis. . 1961.
  • Fraz.AAO -- Frazer, J. G. Adonis, Attis, Osiris. 1961.
  • Griff.OO -- Griffith, J. Gwyn. The Origins of Osiris and His Cult. Brill: 1996.
  • Meek.DL -- Meeks, Dimitri. Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods. 1996.
  • Short.EG -- Shorter, Alan. Egyptian Gods: A Handbook. 1937.

  • Source of the article:

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Neo-Darwinism is Dying with a Chicken Bone in its Throat

    By David Gee[i]

    The modern bird is believed by the evolutionary scientists of our modern age to have evolved from reptilian ancestors, arising from the dinosaurs in a similar fashion to the mammals and modern reptiles. The believed driving force of this is natural selection pushing mutations in the direction of an arboreal and then flight based life-style.

    Among many other problematic steps in the proposed evolutionary tree (e.g. life from non-life and evolution of insects to name two) is the step from reptiles to birds. This evolutionary step would better be described as a cliff than a step so great are the differences between the groups.

    There has been much debate over the process involved in the evolution of birds even among evolutionists:

    Alan Feduccia, a world authority on birds at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote an encyclopaedic book on living and fossil birds[ii]. He pointed out much evidence against the dinosaur-to-bird theory, including the huge differences in lung and embryonic thumb structure. With regard to evolution of flight in dinosaurs he commented: 'It's biophysically impossible to evolve flight from such large bipeds with foreshortened forelimbs and heavy, balancing tails.'

    His colleague, University of Kansas palaeontologist Larry Martin, commented on the wishful thinking and bias of another 'feathered dinosaur' claim: 'You have to put this into perspective. To the people who wrote the paper, the chicken would be a feathered dinosaur.'[iii].

    While there is honest science being done by some, the popular media on the other hand have acted in an entirely biased fashion. This is shown in a National Geographic article run on dinosaur-bird evolution[iv].

    Dr Storrs Olson (Curator of Birds at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC), wrote in response to the NG article: 'The idea of feathered dinosaurs and the theropod origin of birds is being actively promulgated by a cadre of zealous scientists acting in concert with certain editors at Nature and National Geographic who themselves have become outspoken and highly biased proselytizers of the faith. Truth and careful scientific weighing of evidence have been among the first casualties in their program, which is now fast becoming one of the grander scientific hoaxes of our age-the palaeontological equivalent of cold fusion.'[v].

    Many people view the evolution of birds as a given and assume there is solid science in support of the fanciful drawings and theories. This is a blatant fabrication and in this article I will seek to point to some of the major problem points in the theory of evolution with regard to birds.

    Firstly a brief look at several supposed dinosaur/bird intermediaries that have been brought forward by the popular media and evolutionary scientists:

    ArchaeopteryxArchaeopteryx: For a long time thought to be a transitional form but in the words of Dr A Feduccia an evolutionist and ornithologist 'Palaeontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur. But it's not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of 'paleobabble' is going to change that.'[vi].

    Sinosauropteryx prima: Many creationist were sceptical of this "feathered dinosaur" find and they were vindicated when four leading palaeontologists, including Yale University's John Ostrom, later found that the 'feathers' were just a parallel array of fibres, probably collagen[vii]. This conclusion was supported by later research by Dr A Feduccia[viii].

    Mononykus: The cover of Time magazine even illustrated it with feathers, although not the slightest trace of feathers had been found[ix]. Later evidence indicated that 'Mononykus was clearly not a bird ... it clearly was a fleet-footed fossorial [digging] theropod.'[x].

    Protarchaeopteryx robusta and Caudipteryx zoui: are claimed to be 'the immediate ancestors of the first birds.'[xi] but these two fossils are 'dated'  120-36 myo, while Archaeopteryx, a true bird, is 'dated' 140-150 myo, making these 'bird ancestors' far younger than their descendants! Dr Feduccia was not convinced, and neither was his colleague, University of Kansas palaeontologist Larry Martin saying: 'You have to put this into perspective. To the people who wrote the paper, the chicken would be a feathered dinosaur.'[xii]

    Many of the design features in birds that mean they are impressively suited to a life in the skies. But there are two features in particular that are amazing in their complexity, efficiency and ingenuity: the avian lung and the flight feather.


    Feathers are amazing things, and if mankind could produce a material similarly suited to flight it would revolutionise the flight industry. Even the evolutionists point to their unique nature, Feduccia says 'Feathers are a near-perfect adaptation for flight'. They are lightweight, strong, aerodynamically shaped, and have an intricate structure of barbs and hooks. This structure makes them waterproof, and a quick preen with the bill will cause flattened feathers to snap into fully aerodynamic shape again. [xiii]

    See the contrast here between the detailed structures of a feather (left) and scales (right), both magnified 80 times.

    While there is no clear scientific rational for the gradual production feathers it is theorised: 'Feathers are modified reptilian scales,'[xiv] this is a widely held view among evolutionists. Scales are derived from embriologic folds in skin; feathers are complex structures with a barb, barbules, and hooks. They also originate in a totally different way, from follicles inside the skin in a manner akin to hair.

    To change from scale to feather the required increase in DNA information (complexity not quantity of DNA) would be huge to say the least. The structure would need be internalised in the skin and also produce the complex arrangement of the feather, all while providing an increase in fitness with each subsequent mutation. Again this is a point glossed over by evolutionists.

    It has also been suggested that flight feathers began as insulation and progressed to flight feathers as time passed. The flight feather is an extremely poor insulator, whereas the fluffy down feather is an excellent insulator. Even if it was given that as some have suggested dinosaurs began with downy feathers. The selection towards insulation would select away from the development of hooks and barbs, as the loss of insulation would outweigh benefit in the movement towards flight feathers.

    Also feather proteins (Φ-keratins) are biochemically different from skin and scale proteins (α-keratins). One researcher concluded:

    At the morphological level feathers are traditionally considered homologous with reptilian scales. However, in development, morphogenesis [shape/form generation], gene structure, protein shape and sequence, and filament formation and structure, feathers are different[xv].


    The bird lung and associated systems are dumbfounding in both their efficiency and intricacy. A one way system of air sacs and a small light weight lung that maximises oxygen uptake. As described in creation magazine:

    As a bird breathes, air moves into its rear air sacs (1). These then expel the air into the lung (2) and the air flows through the lung into the front air sacs (3). The air is expelled by the front air sacs as the bird breathes out. The lung does not expand and contract as does a reptile's or mammal's. The blood which picks up oxygen from the lung flows in the opposite direction to the air so that blood with the lowest oxygen (blue in the diagram always means lower oxygen, red means high oxygen) is exposed to air with the lowest oxygen. The blood with the highest oxygen is exposed to air with an even higher oxygen concentration. This ensures that, in every region of the circulation, the concentration of oxygen in the air is more than that of the blood with which it is in contact. This maximises the efficiency of oxygen transfer from the air to the blood. This is known as counter-current exchange.[xvi]

    The lungs of most other vertebrates are far less complicated and are variations on the theme of billows style lungs. The non-avian vertebrate lung is in essence a complex sack and the breathing is driven with either a diaphragm or similar muscular structure to propel air in and out. This system of  respiration is efficient enough for low altitude living and flying (in the case of bats) but it is not suited to high altitude activity (just talk to any mountain climber).

    The next obvious question is given these two systems are so disparate is it theoretically possible for the reptilian lung to evolve into an avian lung? Evolutionary theory demands that each subsequent change provide a greater advantage at every stage. In this scenario the lungs of hypothetical intermediate stages could not conceivably function properly, meaning the poor animal would be unable to breathe. So natural selection would work to preserve the existing arrangement, by eliminating any misfit intermediates.[xvii]

    To illustrate this point I will refer to my work in the veterinary field. To progress towards an avian lung there would need to be air sacs formed which participate in breathing, a close parallel to this would be a diaphragmatic hernia/tear. Injured animals with tears to the diaphragm present with depression, breathing difficulties, inappetance and in the long term weakness and weight loss. It defies rationality that someone could suggest that animals in this condition are more able to compete than others.[xviii]

    Evolutionists propose that birds evolved to better take advantage of the niche in the air, 'chasing the beetle' as such. Regardless of the other obstacles to this theory it is ridiculous to claim that birds would evolve such complex respiration to aid in flight. Bats with a standard mammalian lung are able to forage up to a height of 3km, thus only at very high altitude does the avian lung become an advantage. Natural selection does not drive evolution even in theory when there is no advantage in the changes.[xix]

    Recent fossil evidence has been found which some believe point to certain dinosaurs possibly having avian style lungs. Majungatholus atopusi[xx], a theropod dinosaur has been found to have evidence of pneumatic invasion of the cervical, thoracic and abdominal vertebrae strikingly similar to modern birds. There are several points that must be noted in reference to this, as discussed in the Journal of Creation[xxi]:

    1. The bony pneumatizations in this theropod dinosaur are remarkably similar to those in birds, but according to several lines of evidence it can be assumed theropod dinosaurs are more similar to birds than to reptiles.
    2. It cannot be known for certain that theropod dinosaurs had any air sacs at all as modern birds do, although it is not an unreasonable inference that they had at least some, including an abdominal air sac. If on the other hand they did not have air sacs, then the pneumatizations discovered in the vertebrae presumably only served the function of lightening the bones for running.
    3. If they did have air sacs as birds do, there is no way of knowing whether they also had a flow-through lung like birds.An abdominal (caudal) air sac is necessary for a flow-through lung, but it does not therefore follow that having such a sac means one has a flow-through lung. The Nature authors believe theropods likely did have a flow-through lung, and cite certain features of the skeleton in support.But there have been other detailed studies suggesting theropods had a crocodile-like liver-pumping mechanism for ventilation.[xxii]
    4. Those evolutionists in the faction that believes dinosaurs (specifically theropods) gave rise to birds would be understandably encouraged by this paper, but it has not even begun to address the huge difficulties (including embryonic development paradoxes) pointed out by the opposing evolutionary faction.
    5. If it turned out that theropods did indeed have the same type of flow-through lung as birds, that would be an even bigger encouragement for the dino-bird faction, but it also fits perfectly comfortably within a creation framework; it would be a very reasonable design feature applied by a common Designer for fast-running small dinosaurs. However: Evolutionists would still be stuck with exactly the same massive problem of explaining the seemingly impossible transition from bellows to flow-through ventilation.


    Someone I am sure will say at this point "So what? Evolution is still true". But these issues are unavoidable and their implications huge, for in the words of evolutionist Dr Michael Denton (in reference to evolution of the bird lung):

    'I think it doesn't require a great deal of profound knowledge of biology to see that for an organ which is so central to the physiology of any higher organism, its drastic modification in that way by a series of small events is almost inconceivable. This is something we can't throw under the carpet again because, basically, as Darwin said, if any organ can be shown to be incapable of being achieved gradually in little steps, his theory would be totally overthrown. [xxiii]

    Scientific theories claim to have power to explain some observed system, if an exception to a theory is found then the theory is modified. This is standard approach in the scientific community when practising honest science. Likewise the following should also happen: multiple contradictions are found and the theory fails to not only explain the systems/specimens found but the there is no way the systems/specimens could occur if the theory is truth. Logical conclusion - the theory is false and does not need to be revised but scrapped.

    In the respects I have covered above and in several others avian species remain a group that roundly refutes evolutionary theory. The shear irrationality of claiming that birds arose by a series of small changes is astounding. Even the evolutionist camp when honest are uncertain this group could evolve. This is clear from Dr s Feduccia, Olson, and Denton. There is much disagreement over, no rational for, and a paucity of evidence to support the evolution of birds. If evolutionist's were honest, they like Dr Denton would admit that the problems with the evolution of birds are a death blow to the theory they hold as a quasi-religious world view.

    Interestingly, some defenders of dinosaur-to-bird evolution discount the evidence against their theory by saying, 'The proponents of this argument offer no animal whose lungs could have given rise to those in birds, which are extremely complex and are unlike the lungs of any living animal.'[xxiv]  Of course, only evolutionary faith requires that bird lungs arose from lungs of another animal. As opposed to the biblical creation model which dictates the bird kind were made this way by a creator, thus needing no precursor from another animal.

    The bird is an amazing combination of design features that would be sufficient to make any engineer green with envy. The creation model is the only theory that will account for the features of extant and extinct birds but evolutionists will not accept it, why is made clear by Sir Arthur Keith:

    "Evolution is unproven and unprovable, but we believe it because the alternative is unthinkable."

    So evolutionists commit themselves to a theory which is unworkable in the face of all they know and all that logical scientific thought tells them. I among others hope that they will change their minds before they choke to death on the chicken bone in their scientific throat.

    [i]               I am deeply indebted to Creation Ministries for large portions of this article and give my grateful thanks to Dr Jonathan Sarfati and Dr Carl Wieland for their articles on this subject. Most of the scholarship is theirs, I would like that made clear from the beginning.

    [ii]               Feduccia, A., The Origin and Evolution of Birds, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2nd Ed.,1999

    [iii]              Cited on the CNN website <>, June 24, 1998

    [iv]          Sloan, C.P., Feathers for T. Rex?, National Geographic 196(5):98-107

    [v]               Olsen, S.L., Open letter to: Dr Peter Raven, Secretary, Committee for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society, emphases added

    [vi]              Cited in V. Morell, Archaeopteryx: Early Bird Catches a Can of Worms, Science 259(5096):764-65, 5 February 1993.

    [vii]             New Scientist 154(2077):13, 12 April 1997; Creation 19(3):6, June-August 1997

    [viii]             'Do Feathered Dinosaurs Exist?: Testing the Hypothesis on Neontological and Paleontological Evidence', by Alan Feduccia, Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, and J. Richard Hinchliffe, Journal of Morphology 266:125-166, 2005

    [ix]              Time (Australia), 26 April 1993

    [x]               D.P. Prothero and R.M. Schoch, editors, Major Features of Vertebrate Evolution, On the Origin of Birds and of Avian Flight, by J.H. Ostrom (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1994), p. 160-177

    [xi]              Ji Qiang, P.J. Currie, M.A. Norell, and Ji Shu-An, Two Feathered Dinosaurs from Northeastern China, Nature 393(6687):753-761, 25 June 1998. Perspective by K. Padian, same issue, p. 729-730

    [xii]            Cited 24 June 1998, CNN website <>

    [xiii]             A. Feduccia, The Origin and Evolution of Birds (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 130.

    [xiv]             R. Dawkins, Climbing Mount Improbable (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1996), p. 113.

    [xv]             A.H. Brush, On the Origin of Feathers, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 9:131142, 1996.

    [xvi]             Blown Away By Design, Creation 21(4):14-15 September 1999

    [xvii]            Refuting Evolution: A handbook for students, parents, and teachers countering the latest arguments for evolution by Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., F.M.; Creation 21(4):14-15; September 1999

    [xviii]           Michael Denton, Blown Away By Design, Creation 21(4):14-15

    [xix]             Ibid

    [xx]             O'Connor, P. and Claessens, L., Basic avian pulmonary design and flow-through ventilation in non-avian theropod dinosaurs, Nature 436:253-256, 14 July 2005

    [xxi]             Carl Wieland, Dinos breathed like birds?, Journal of Creation 19(3):11-12, December 2005

    [xxii]            Forster, C.A., Sampson, S.D., Chiappe, L.M. & Krause, D.W., The theropod ancestry of birds: new evidence from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar, Science 279, pp. 1915-1919, 1998. Also Sereno, P.C., The evolution of dinosaurs, Science 284, pp. 2137-2147, 1999.

    [xxiii]           The quotations in this article were extracted (with permission) from a video interview available on cassette (NTSC) from Access Research Network, PO Box 38069, Colorado Springs CO 80937-8069, USA. It was then re-checked with Dr Denton to ensure it fairly represented his current views. Emphasis added. Quoted in xvii

    [xxiv]           K. Padian and L.M. Chiappe, The Origin of Birds and Their Flight, Scientific American 278(2):38-47, February 1998, p. 43.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    The Dawkins Confusion

    By Dr. Alvin Plantinga

    Richard Dawkins is not pleased with God:

    The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction. Jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic-cleanser; a misogynistic homophobic racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal...

    Well, no need to finish the quotation; you get the idea. Dawkins seems to have chosen God as his sworn enemy. (Let's hope for Dawkins' sake God doesn't return the compliment.)

    The God Delusion is an extended diatribe against religion in general and belief in God in particular; Dawkins and Daniel Dennett (whose recent Breaking the Spell is his contribution to this genre) are the touchdown twins of current academic atheism.[1] Dawkins has written his book, he says, partly to encourage timorous atheists to come out of the closet. He and Dennett both appear to think it requires considerable courage to attack religion these days; says Dennett, "I risk a fist to the face or worse. Yet I persist." Apparently atheism has its own heroes of the faith—at any rate its own self-styled heroes. Here it's not easy to take them seriously; religion-bashing in the current Western academy is about as dangerous as endorsing the party's candidate at a Republican rally.

    Dawkins is perhaps the world's most popular science writer; he is also an extremely gifted science writer. (For example, his account of bats and their ways in his earlier book The Blind Watchmaker is a brilliant and fascinating tour de force.) The God Delusion, however, contains little science; it is mainly philosophy and theology (perhaps "atheology" would be a better term) and evolutionary psychology, along with a substantial dash of social commentary decrying religion and its allegedly baneful effects. As the above quotation suggests, one shouldn't look to this book for evenhanded and thoughtful commentary. In fact the proportion of insult, ridicule, mockery, spleen, and vitriol is astounding. (Could it be that his mother, while carrying him, was frightened by an Anglican clergyman on the rampage?) If Dawkins ever gets tired of his day job, a promising future awaits him as a writer of political attack ads.

    Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he's a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. This, combined with the arrogant, smarter-than-thou tone of the book, can be annoying. I shall put irritation aside, however and do my best to take Dawkins' main argument seriously.

    Chapter 3, "Why There Almost Certainly is No God," is the heart of the book. Well, why does Dawkins think there almost certainly isn't any such person as God? It's because, he says, the existence of God is monumentally improbable. How improbable? The astronomer Fred Hoyle famously claimed that the probability of life arising on earth (by purely natural means, without special divine aid) is less than the probability that a flight-worthy Boeing 747 should be assembled by a hurricane roaring through a junkyard. Dawkins appears to think the probability of the existence of God is in that same neighborhood—so small as to be negligible for all practical (and most impractical) purposes. Why does he think so?

    Here Dawkins doesn't appeal to the usual anti-theistic arguments—the argument from evil, for example, or the claim that it's impossible that there be a being with the attributes believers ascribe to God.[2] So why does he think theism is enormously improbable? The answer: if there were such a person as God, he would have to be enormously complex, and the more complex something is, the less probable it is: "However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747." The basic idea is that anything that knows and can do what God knows and can do would have to be incredibly complex. In particular, anything that can create or design something must be at least as complex as the thing it can design or create. Putting it another way, Dawkins says a designer must contain at least as much information as what it creates or designs, and information is inversely related to probability. Therefore, he thinks, God would have to be monumentally complex, hence astronomically improbable; thus it is almost certain that God does not exist.

    But why does Dawkins think God is complex? And why does he think that the more complex something is, the less probable it is? Before looking more closely into his reasoning, I'd like to digress for a moment; this claim of improbability can help us understand something otherwise very perplexing about Dawkins' argument in his earlier and influential book, The Blind Watchmaker. There he argues that the scientific theory of evolution shows that our world has not been designed—by God or anyone else. This thought is trumpeted by the subtitle of the book: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design.

    How so? Suppose the evidence of evolution suggests that all living creatures have evolved from some elementary form of life: how does that show that the universe is without design? Well, if the universe has not been designed, then the process of evolution is unguided, unorchestrated, by any intelligent being; it is, as Dawkins suggests, blind. So his claim is that the evidence of evolution reveals that evolution is unplanned, unguided, unorchestrated by any intelligent being.

    But how could the evidence of evolution reveal a thing like that? After all, couldn't it be that God has directed and overseen the process of evolution? What makes Dawkins think evolution is unguided? What he does in The Blind Watchmaker, fundamentally, is three things. First, he recounts in vivid and arresting detail some of the fascinating anatomical details of certain living creatures and their incredibly complex and ingenious ways of making a living; this is the sort of thing Dawkins does best. Second, he tries to refute arguments for the conclusion that blind, unguided evolution could not have produced certain of these wonders of the living world—the mammalian eye, for example, or the wing. Third, he makes suggestions as to how these and other organic systems could have developed by unguided evolution.

    Suppose he's successful with these three things: how would that show that the universe is without design? How does the main argument go from there? His detailed arguments are all for the conclusion that it is biologically possible that these various organs and systems should have come to be by unguided Darwinian mechanisms (and some of what he says here is of considerable interest). What is truly remarkable, however, is the form of what seems to be the main argument. The premise he argues for is something like this:

    1. We know of no irrefutable objections to its being biologically possible that all of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes;

    and Dawkins supports that premise by trying to refute objections to its being biologically possible that life has come to be that way. His conclusion, however, is:

    2. All of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes.

    It's worth meditating, if only for a moment, on the striking distance, here, between premise and conclusion. The premise tells us, substantially, that there are no irrefutable objections to its being possible that unguided evolution has produced all of the wonders of the living world; the conclusion is that it is true that unguided evolution has indeed produced all of those wonders. The argument form seems to be something like

    We know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that p;
    p is true.

    Philosophers sometimes propound invalid arguments (I've propounded a few myself); few of those arguments display the truly colossal distance between premise and conclusion sported by this one. I come into the departmental office and announce to the chairman that the dean has just authorized a $50,000 raise for me; naturally he wants to know why I think so. I tell him that we know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that the dean has done that. My guess is he'd gently suggest that it is high time for me to retire.

    Here is where that alleged massive improbability of theism is relevant. If theism is false, then (apart from certain weird suggestions we can safely ignore) evolution is unguided. But it is extremely likely, Dawkins thinks, that theism is false. Hence it is extremely likely that evolution is unguided—in which case to establish it as true, he seems to think, all that is needed is to refute those claims that it is impossible. So perhaps we can think about his Blind Watchmaker argument as follows: he is really employing as an additional if unexpressed premise his idea that the existence of God is enormously unlikely. If so, then the argument doesn't seem quite so magnificently invalid. (It is still invalid, however, even if not quite so magnificently—you can't establish something as a fact by showing that objections to its possibility fail, and adding that it is very probable.)

    Now suppose we return to Dawkins' argument for the claim that theism is monumentally improbable. As you recall, the reason Dawkins gives is that God would have to be enormously complex, and hence enormously improbable ("God, or any intelligent, decision-making calculating agent, is complex, which is another way of saying improbable"). What can be said for this argument?

    Not much. First, is God complex? According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense, so that in him there is no distinction of thing and property, actuality and potentiality, essence and existence, and the like. Some of the discussions of divine simplicity get pretty complicated, not to say arcane.[3] (It isn't only Catholic theology that declares God simple; according to the Belgic Confession, a splendid expression of Reformed Christianity, God is "a single and simple spiritual being.") So first, according to classical theology, God is simple, not complex.[4] More remarkable, perhaps, is that according to Dawkins' own definition of complexity, God is not complex. According to his definition (set out in The Blind Watchmaker), something is complex if it has parts that are "arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone." But of course God is a spirit, not a material object at all, and hence has no parts.[5] A fortiori (as philosophers like to say) God doesn't have parts arranged in ways unlikely to have arisen by chance. Therefore, given the definition of complexity Dawkins himself proposes, God is not complex.

    So first, it is far from obvious that God is complex. But second, suppose we concede, at least for purposes of argument, that God is complex. Perhaps we think the more a being knows, the more complex it is; God, being omniscient, would then be highly complex. Perhaps so; still, why does Dawkins think it follows that God would be improbable? Given materialism and the idea that the ultimate objects in our universe are the elementary particles of physics, perhaps a being that knew a great deal would be improbable—how could those particles get arranged in such a way as to constitute a being with all that knowledge? Of course we aren't given materialism. Dawkins is arguing that theism is improbable; it would be dialectically deficient in excelsis to argue this by appealing to materialism as a premise. Of course it is unlikely that there is such a person as God if materialism is true; in fact materialism logically entails that there is no such person as God; but it would be obviously question-begging to argue that theism is improbable because materialism is true.

    So why think God must be improbable? According to classical theism, God is a necessary being; it is not so much as possible that there should be no such person as God; he exists in all possible worlds. But if God is a necessary being, if he exists in all possible worlds, then the probability that he exists, of course, is 1, and the probability that he does not exist is 0. Far from its being improbable that he exists, his existence is maximally probable. So if Dawkins proposes that God's existence is improbable, he owes us an argument for the conclusion that there is no necessary being with the attributes of God—an argument that doesn't just start from the premise that materialism is true. Neither he nor anyone else has provided even a decent argument along these lines; Dawkins doesn't even seem to be aware that he needs an argument of that sort.

    A second example of Dawkinsian-style argument. Recently a number of thinkers have proposed a new version of the argument from design, the so-called "Fine-Tuning Argument." Starting in the late Sixties and early Seventies, astrophysicists and others noted that several of the basic physical constants must fall within very narrow limits if there is to be the development of intelligent life—at any rate in a way anything like the way in which we think it actually happened. For example, if the force of gravity were even slightly stronger, all stars would be blue giants; if even slightly weaker, all would be red dwarfs; in neither case could life have developed. The same goes for the weak and strong nuclear forces; if either had been even slightly different, life, at any rate life of the sort we have, could probably not have developed. Equally interesting in this connection is the so-called flatness problem: the existence of life also seems to depend very delicately upon the rate at which the universe is expanding. Thus Stephen Hawking:

    reduction of the rate of expansion by one part in 1012 at the time when the temperature of the Universe was 1010 K would have resulted in the Universe's starting to recollapse when its radius was only 1/3000 of the present value and the temperature was still 10,000 K.[6]

    That would be much too warm for comfort. Hawking concludes that life is possible only because the universe is expanding at just the rate required to avoid recollapse. At an earlier time, he observes, the fine-tuning had to be even more remarkable:

    we know that there has to have been a very close balance between the competing effect of explosive expansion and gravitational contraction which, at the very earliest epoch about which we can even pretend to speak (called the Planck time, 10-43 sec. after the big bang), would have corresponded to the incredible degree of accuracy represented by a deviation in their ratio from unity by only one part in 10 to the sixtieth.[7]

    One reaction to these apparent enormous coincidences is to see them as substantiating the theistic claim that the universe has been created by a personal God and as offering the material for a properly restrained theistic argument—hence the fine-tuning argument.[8] It's as if there are a large number of dials that have to be tuned to within extremely narrow limits for life to be possible in our universe. It is extremely unlikely that this should happen by chance, but much more likely that this should happen if there is such a person as God.

    Now in response to this kind of theistic argument, Dawkins, along with others, proposes that possibly there are very many (perhaps even infinitely many) universes, with very many different distributions of values over the physical constants. Given that there are so many, it is likely that some of them would display values that are life-friendly. So if there are an enormous number of universes displaying different sets of values of the fundamental constants, it's not at all improbable that some of them should be "fine-tuned." We might wonder how likely it is that there are all these other universes, and whether there is any real reason (apart from wanting to blunt the fine-tuning arguments) for supposing there are any such things.[9] But concede for the moment that indeed there are many universes and that it is likely that some are fine-tuned and life-friendly. That still leaves Dawkins with the following problem: even if it's likely that some universes should be fine-tuned, it is still improbable that this universe should be fine-tuned. Name our universe alpha: the odds that alpha should be fine-tuned are exceedingly, astronomically low, even if it's likely that some universe or other is fine-tuned.

    What is Dawkins' reply? He appeals to "the anthropic principle," the thought that the only sort of universe in which we could be discussing this question is one which is fine-tuned for life:

    the anthropic answer, in its most general form, is that we could only be discussing the question in the kind of universe that was capable of producing us. Our existence therefore determines that the fundamental constants of physics had to be in their respective Goldilocks [life-friendly] zones.

    Well, of course our universe would have to be fine-tuned, given that we live in it. But how does that so much as begin to explain why it is that alpha is fine-tuned? One can't explain this by pointing out that we are indeed here—anymore than I can "explain" the fact that God decided to create me (instead of passing me over in favor of someone else) by pointing out that if God had not thus decided, I wouldn't be here to raise that question. It still seems striking that these constants should have just the values they do have; it is still monumentally improbable, given chance, that they should have just those values; and it is still much less improbable that they should have those values, if there is a God who wanted a life-friendly universe.

    One more example of Dawkinsian thought. In The Blind Watchmaker, he considers the claim that since the self-replicating machinery of life is required for natural selection to work, God must have jumpstarted the whole evolutionary process by specially creating life in the first place—by specially creating the original replicating machinery of DNA and protein that makes natural selection possible. Dawkins retorts as follows:

    This is a transparently feeble argument, indeed it is obviously self-defeating. Organized complexity is the thing that we are having difficulty in explaining. Once we are allowed simply to postulate organized complexity, if only the organized complexity of the DNA/protein replicating machine, it is relatively easy to invoke it as a generator of yet more organized complexity… . But of course any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein machine must have been at least as complex and organized as that machine itself… . To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer.

    In Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett approvingly quotes this passage from Dawkins and declares it an "unrebuttable refutation, as devastating today as when Philo used it to trounce Cleanthes in Hume's Dialogues two centuries earlier." Now here in The God Delusion Dawkins approvingly quotes Dennett approvingly quoting Dawkins, and adds that Dennett (i.e., Dawkins) is entirely correct.

    Here there is much to say, but I'll say only a bit of it. First, suppose we land on an alien planet orbiting a distant star and discover machine-like objects that look and work just like tractors; our leader says "there must be intelligent beings on this planet who built those tractors." A first-year philosophy student on our expedition objects: "Hey, hold on a minute! You have explained nothing at all! Any intelligent life that designed those tractors would have to be at least as complex as they are." No doubt we'd tell him that a little learning is a dangerous thing and advise him to take the next rocket ship home and enroll in another philosophy course or two. For of course it is perfectly sensible, in that context, to explain the existence of those tractors in terms of intelligent life, even though (as we can concede for the moment) that intelligent life would have to be at least as complex as the tractors. The point is we aren't trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity, and we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general; we are only trying to explain one particular manifestation of it (those tractors). And (unless you are trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity) it is perfectly proper to explain one manifestation of organized complexity in terms of another. Similarly, in invoking God as the original creator of life, we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general, but only a particular kind of it, i.e., terrestrial life. So even if (contrary to fact, as I see it) God himself displays organized complexity, we would be perfectly sensible in explaining the existence of terrestrial life in terms of divine activity.

    A second point: Dawkins (and again Dennett echoes him) argues that "the main thing we want to explain" is "organized complexity." He goes on to say that "The one thing that makes evolution such a neat theory is that it explains how organized complexity can arise out of primeval simplicity," and he faults theism for being unable to explain organized complexity. Now mind would be an outstanding example of organized complexity, according to Dawkins, and of course (unlike with organized complexity) it is uncontroversial that God is a being who thinks and knows; so suppose we take Dawkins to be complaining that theism doesn't offer an explanation of mind. It is obvious that theists won't be able to give an ultimate explanation of mind, because, naturally enough, there isn't any explanation of the existence of God. Still, how is that a point against theism? Explanations come to an end; for theism they come to an end in God. Of course the same goes for any other view; on any view explanations come to an end. The materialist or physicalist, for example, doesn't have an explanation for the existence of elementary particles: they just are. So to claim that what we want or what we need is an ultimate explanation of mind is, once more, just to beg the question against theism; the theist neither wants nor needs an ultimate explanation of personhood, or thinking, or mind.

    Toward the end of the book, Dawkins endorses a certain limited skepticism. Since we have been cobbled together by (unguided) evolution, it is unlikely, he thinks, that our view of the world is overall accurate; natural selection is interested in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. But Dawkins fails to plumb the real depths of the skeptical implications of the view that we have come to be by way of unguided evolution. We can see this as follows. Like most naturalists, Dawkins is a materialist about human beings: human persons are material objects; they are not immaterial selves or souls or substances joined to a body, and they don't contain any immaterial substance as a part. From this point of view, our beliefs would be dependent on neurophysiology, and (no doubt) a belief would just be a neurological structure of some complex kind. Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?

    From a theistic point of view, we'd expect that our cognitive faculties would be (for the most part, and given certain qualifications and caveats) reliable. God has created us in his image, and an important part of our image bearing is our resembling him in being able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge. But from a naturalist point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a naïve hope. The naturalist can be reasonably sure that the neurophysiology underlying belief formation is adaptive, but nothing follows about the truth of the beliefs depending on that neurophysiology. In fact he'd have to hold that it is unlikely, given unguided evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable. It's as likely, given unguided evolution, that we live in a sort of dream world as that we actually know something about ourselves and our world.

    If this is so, the naturalist has a defeater for the natural assumption that his cognitive faculties are reliable—a reason for rejecting that belief, for no longer holding it. (Example of a defeater: suppose someone once told me that you were born in Michigan and I believed her; but now I ask you, and you tell me you were born in Brazil. That gives me a defeater for my belief that you were born in Michigan.) And if he has a defeater for that belief, he also has a defeater for any belief that is a product of his cognitive faculties. But of course that would be all of his beliefs—including naturalism itself. So the naturalist has a defeater for naturalism; natural- ism, therefore, is self-defeating and cannot be rationally believed.

    The real problem here, obviously, is Dawkins' naturalism, his belief that there is no such person as God or anyone like God. That is because naturalism implies that evolution is unguided. So a broader conclusion is that one can't rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science. People like Dawkins hold that there is a conflict between science and religion because they think there is a conflict between evolution and theism; the truth of the matter, however, is that the conflict is between science and naturalism, not between science and belief in God.

    The God Delusion is full of bluster and bombast, but it really doesn't give even the slightest reason for thinking belief in God mistaken, let alone a "delusion."

    The naturalism that Dawkins embraces, furthermore, in addition to its intrinsic unloveliness and its dispiriting conclusions about human beings and their place in the universe, is in deep self-referential trouble. There is no reason to believe it; and there is excellent reason to reject it.

    Alvin Plantinga is John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

    1. [1] A third book along these lines, The End of Faith, has recently been written by Sam Harris, and more recently still a sequel, Letter to a Christian Nation, so perhaps we should speak of the touchdown triplets—or, given that Harris is very much the junior partner in this enterprise (he's a grad student) maybe the "Three Bears of Atheism"?
    2. [2] Although Dawkins does bring up (p. 54), apparently approvingly, the argument that God can't be both omniscient and omnipotent: if he is omniscient, then he can't change his mind, in which case there is something he can't do, so that he isn't omnipotent(!).
    3. [3] See my Does God Have a Nature? Aquinas Lecture 44 (Marquette Univ. Press, 1980).
    4. [4] The distinguished Oxford philosopher (Dawkins calls him a theologian) Richard Swinburne has proposed some sophisticated arguments for the claim that God is simple. Dawkins mentions Swinburne's argument, but doesn't deign to come to grips with it; instead he resorts to ridicule (pp. 110-111).
    5. [5] What about the Trinity? Just how we are to think of the Trinity is of course not wholly clear; it is clear, however, that it is false that in addition to each of the three persons of the Trinity, there is also another being of which each of those persons is a part.
    6. [6] "The Anisotropy of the Universe at Large Times," in M. S. Longair, ed., Confrontation of Cosmological Theories with Observational Data (Springer, 2002), p. 285.
    7. [7] John Polkinghorne, Science and Creation: The Search for Understanding (Random House, 1989), p. 22.
    8. [8] One of the best versions of the fine-tuning argument is proposed by Robin Collins in "A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God: The Fine-Tuning Design Argument," in Michael J. Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within (Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 47-75.
    9. [9] See my review of Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea in Books & Culture, May/June 1996.