A CRITIQUE BY HOLDING/TURKEL
Critical Comments Appear In Red
My Comments Appear In Black
Original Text Appears in Blue
It has recently come to my attention, indirectly, that the well-known biblical apologist Robert Turkel has written a critique of my book. You can find it here. You can also find the front page of his website here. I encourage everyone to take the time to read some of what Turkel has to say in defense of his religion because (as I have said many times before) if there is anything that can be more detrimental to the Bible than the Bible itself, it’s the apologists who show what lengths they will go through while attempting to prove the Bible’s validity.
Only in rare situations would I find it necessary to discuss the author before discussing his work. Turkel is one of those situations. (To avoid confusion, I should point out that Robert Turkel (real name) and JP Holding (pseudonym) are the same person.) While he is obviously well versed in biblical matters, his reputation as an impartial and honest biblical scholar has long been forsaken. He is most notorious for redacting and editing his debates, misrepresenting his opponents, editing his opponents’ responses, refusing to link to his opponents’ responses because “it gives small-minded people something to complain about,” invoking insults and other ad hominems, outright lying, appealing to authority, dodging questions he cannot answer, constructing absurd rationalizations to make biblical harmonies, and justifying cruelties if carried out in the name of God. You can validate all of this if you wish to take a few hours to wade through the documentation located here, here, and here (the best single example – and one of the articles that Turkel will not even provide his readers with the name of the author, much less provide a link to in his original essay or his rebuttal). As you can see, Turkel continues many of these practices while writing his critique to Biblical Nonsense. In short, Turkel isn’t considered in secular or religious circles to be the best example of a respectable and respectful apologist. As of the time this response is written, he starts his personal attacks in the HTML title bar by describing me as “another angry apostate [who] humiliates himself before the intelligent.” I do not make these points to slander or embarrass him, but I feel readers should be aware of the man behind the complaints.
In general, Turkel’s critique outside the first chapter of my book is mostly a series of links to some of his articles on his own website and some written by Glen Miller on Miller’s website here. Turkel ignores some chapters completely because they are beyond the scope of his website. Turkel has been engaged in apologetics for such a long period of time that he has the advantage of a vast library of self-written articles that would literally take months for a single person, such as me, to provide adequate responses for. Fortunately, the majority of Turkel’s arguments have been thoroughly researched and refuted by those who have far more expertise than I. You can find most of these by following the links already provided or by following the links within those. Many are general arguments with sufficient responses that can be found at a number of reputable scholarly sites. For instance, Turkel’s prophecy claims (and prophecy claims in general) have been sufficiently covered here. I will take the time to tackle about ten or so of his other complaints. If, by chance, you find one of Turkel’s arguments to be particularly compelling and cannot find a rebuttal online, email me so that I can help you locate one, draft one of my own, or issue a correction if Turkel is likely correct.
A good portion of Turkel’s complaints relate to his dissatisfaction with how little time I spend and what little references I give on certain subjects. As stated a number of times throughout the book, the purpose of Biblical Nonsense is to be my own “brief introduction to the facts we have and analyses we can make concerning pertinent biblical issues,” “occasionally accommodating some innovative philosophical questions that the findings should naturally provoke.” Furthermore, “by no means did I intend for this manuscript to be an exclusively novel, methodically referenced, meticulously comprehensive volume of perplexities plaguing the Bible.” My goal was to have the reader “investigate the points raised in this book by reviewing some of the recommended reading material and subsequently considering the arguments offered by both sides.” If Turkel wants to take issue with this approach, he is more than welcome. I am sorry that it does not meet his expectations. I can simply think of no way of writing an all-inclusive work that can be kept to a length that wouldn’t discourage target readers (i.e. common doubting Christians).
As previously stated, Turkel often prefers to critique Biblical Nonsense by characterizing my points as diatribes and canards, appealing to authority by providing links to Miller’s site, and leaving it at that. I know he’s capable of more, but given the fact that 1) he has much more raw knowledge than I and 2) well-known scholars are willing to take the time to deal with him, I can’t say that I blame him for the shortcomings in his critique. Nevertheless, I’ll provide a random example of why Turkel’s decision may not have been a good one because even the most novice of those in biblical studies can spot the errors when taking the time to do the research and analyzing the obvious evidence.
In the chapter on the flat earth, I point out a few problems with the sun-stopping miracle presented in Joshua:
The consequences of these two phenomena occurring would be catastrophic. The earth’s gravitationally induced inertia around the sun is the sole force preventing the two massive bodies from merging. Without this momentum, the earth would move gradually yet dangerously closer to the sun. After a short while, it’s quite possible that the earth would become too hot to remain inhabitable if it was able to survive the countless local effects of its halt. At the very least, the polar ice caps would melt and flood the coastlines. Once again, these modern understandings go far beyond the limitations of Ancient Hebrew knowledge. Even so, I suppose that if a power existed to stop the planet from moving, the same power could withhold such consequences from taking place.
much more detrimental perplexity with these sun-stopping events lies with the
presence of astronomers spread throughout different regions of the world. After
Joshua’s celestial miracle supposedly took place, the
two recording authors specifically say that no one in history had every
experienced a day like this. In other words, this extended day was a unique
event. As you might have guessed, there’s little
credibility to this claim because astronomers in
Turkel appeals to Miller by providing a link that leads here. Miller’s explanations are perfect examples of a biased researcher beginning with the premise that the Bible cannot be wrong, using this premise as a conclusion that cannot be invalidated by further evidence, and concluding that the most likely explanation not invalidating this premise is probably the correct one. Does Turkel honestly believe that Miller (or Turkel himself, for that matter) went into researching this problem thinking, “The Bible may have an error, let me see if it does” rather than “The Bible just looks like it has an error, let me see how to explain this?” Here is my own summation of what Miller has to say about the events of Joshua 10 (miracle two, on his page).
The passage could be hyperbolic and not intended to be taken as a real event.
The series of flashbacks in Joshua 10 allows for the possibility that the sun-stopping statements may refer back to the hailstorm.
The original Hebrew terms for “stopping” and “standing still” probably meant “being silent.”
A series of conjectures seem to favor the notion that the sun stopping refers to the hailstorm.
The sun was just not in a “hurry” to set rather than actually being in the sky for an extended period of time.
If none of these is true, God used light and optical effects to create the illusion that sun was in the sky.
The events would not have been recorded by astronomers because they were only a slight, localized disturbance.
Feel free to read his explanation in its entirety, but I feel that I have represented it fairly with the above comments. As I hope you will soon see, Miller is guilty of stretching biblical text in order to make it harmonize with modern scientific understanding. At a quick glance, I spot three key problems that exist with his proposal.
Miller contends that the last part of verse 13, which reads, “So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day,” should have been translated to read that it was hidden, inactive, and/or silent – and not in a hurry to go down. There are obviously alternative renditions of the Hebrew daman and ‘amad, but why would the author even mention the second tidbit (that the sun was not in a hurry to set) if the actual speed and circuit of the sun were never altered to begin with? If God simply hid the sun, silenced the sun, or inactivated the sun, why did the author mention anything about the speed of the sun? There is absolutely no congruity between the two translations that Miller proposes. There is congruity, however, in saying that the sun slowed or stopped and wasn’t in a hurry to go down.
Miller also does not deal with the fact that the author is aware of how incredible the story actually is. Directly after the most incredible statement in the story, the author rhetorically asks, “Is not this written in the book of Jasher?” as if the story might be too incredible to take at face value. Why would the author feel the need to corroborate his story if it wasn’t so unique? God assisted in Old Testament battles on a number of occasions, often by creating hailstorms to rain down on his opponents, but God had never made the sun stand still. The question is obviously asked because it had never been done before.
Miller also does not mention why Joshua would be crying for the moon to be silent. He conjectures that Joshua wants the sun to be silent (i.e. inactive, according to Miller) because of the extreme heat of the day, but why does he ask the moon to do the same? It should be clear to the reader that he wants both the sun and the moon to be still so that time of day does not progress. Until Miller sufficiently explains the reasoning behind the way the passage is worded, he must fall back on the miraculous optical effects claim because anything is more likely than the Bible being wrong. Perhaps Turkel should reevaluate his decision to appeal to Miller’s work because, in this instance, Miller could not possibly stray any further from what the text plainly indicates.
Since Turkel also uses a few of his own articles to respond to statements made in Biblical Nonsense, as was the case for Miller, I’ll randomly choose one in order to provide evidence that Turkel’s own previously published work is also not without fault. In the chapter on biblical contradictions, I point out two verses that offer contrasting perspectives on prayer in public.
Are we supposed to pray in public or private? Most churches observe public prayer in accordance with the author of Timothy, who says, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands” (1 Timothy 2:8). Okay, but Jesus specifically told his followers to refrain from this behavior. “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:5-6). Granted, the people who pray in church aren’t doing so just to let others see them, but they’re still violating a direct order given by Jesus to avoid prayer in public. Jesus was clear in his desire of not wanting his true believers to have commonalties with the hypocrites who pray in public for counterfeit reasons. Even so, Christians continue to pray in church. Do the words in Timothy now trump the lessons taught by Jesus Christ, or do Christians not fully read the Bible?
Turkel links to a page here, which answers by stating:
Jesus' words [Matthew 6:5-6] are an instruction against public prayer, done for the purpose of being noticed ("that they may be seen of men"). 1 Timothy 2:8 has nothing to do with modes or positions of prayer.
It is Turkel’s position that Jesus is speaking against public prayer for the purpose of being noticed, but this is obviously not the case. Turkel doesn’t even attempt to address the issue raised. Jesus was quite clear that he wanted people to pray in private. The whole notion of praying in public did not sit well with him because that’s how the people who wanted to be seen chose to pray. Jesus wanted his believers to be nothing like them, therefore he ordered them to go into a state of privacy when they wanted to pray. It does not matter whether or not your prayers are genuine when praying in public, it is the act of praying in public that Jesus forbids in this passage. It should be clear to readers that Turkel has misinterpreted this passage when he states that it is “an instruction against public prayer, done for the purpose of being noticed.”
It is also Turkel’s position that 1 Timothy 2:8 is not a direct instruction for prayer. While this much is true, the author nevertheless expresses his hope that men pray everywhere. That would include him wanting men to pray in public. These two passages are not a typical cut-and-dry example of a contradiction, but rather we have an example of one fallible author giving an order that would contradict Jesus’ teaching if followed. Thus, one cannot pray everywhere at will, as 1 Timothy expresses, without praying in public. In other words, a person reading only Timothy would believe it was okay to pray everywhere, but a person reading only Matthew would know that this was not correct. This is the biblical inconsistency. Ask yourself this: If the authors of the Bible were divinely inspired, why does one man record his desire for men to pray everywhere while another strictly forbids it?
The interesting part of this contradiction is that it isn’t even that big of a deal. It’s simply a matter of one fallible man making the mistake of saying something he should not have said. However, this is a big deal to the inerrancy apologist who cannot allow a single contradiction into the Bible. Thus, the text must be twisted in some fashion to fit with the premise of inerrancy.
I will now move on to a select few of the specific responses that Turkel offers against Biblical Nonsense, often beginning with the original text, followed by Turkel’s comments, and ending with my responses.
Oh, and psych factor 2: "the
initial ban of Christianity from practice and observance within
This passage pretty much speaks for itself. Turkel is apparently under the impression that not being able to have something makes a person want it less if the public consensus is against it. I’m sure that if I took the time, I could come up with dozens of scenarios and dozens of articles published in psychology journals that would invalidate his reasoning. We’ll start with this hypothetical scenario:
Freedom of religion has been banned in a certain ancient country. Over 75% of the country no longer wants freedom of religion. As the majority against them grows, are those in the minority less likely or more likely to want their freedom back? Turkel believes that the minority will not want freedom of religion because the public will punish them for their opinions. I believe that the minority will secretly hold to their desires and one day rise up to fight for their rights. Which scenario have we seen time and time again throughout history, regardless of the people in question? If what Turkel is saying is true, how did ancient societies avoid meshing into one system from the majority rule? If the majority swallows the minority, how have things changed so drastically over the course of history? The simple fact is that people in the minority have been willing and able to take action against the majority and win people over to their cause. I see no reason to believe the reverse is true, as Turkel asserts. I can’t imagine any reputable psychologist going along with it either.
This one is titled, "The Psychology Hidden Behind Christianity" and it really requires no comment, because it's just an expanded version of the old "you believe what your parents taught you" canard, which also ends up proving as much about communism being the best or worst political system as does the child born in Havana and being taught that Castro is the world's political savior. In other words, it's just a red herring argument that proves and says nothing about the validity or truth of the system, and in any event, has no application to someone like me who was raised in an environment essentially hostile or indifferent to Christianity, and who grew up thinking Christians were arrogant fools.
The first part of the paragraph is, I assume, Turkel’s way of sidestepping the issue that children almost always follow the religious beliefs of their parents. He calls this a red herring, but he misunderstands the purpose of the chapter. It was not written to serve as proof that the belief system is wrong, but rather to demonstrate that the belief system is being observed with virtually zero independent thought. In other words, a particular religion will be a strong presence in an area where children are continuously taught that it cannot possibly be wrong. I would never deny that exceptions exist, as Turkel claims to be one, but I will always stand by my statement that the overwhelming majority do not join a religion this way. Does it come as any surprise, however, that Turkel just happened to pick the one religion out of hundreds that was widely practiced and accepted in his society? Is there any reasonable doubt that if Turkel had been born in, say, Iraq under similar conditions, he would have chosen Islam and been just as confident about the Qur’an (through the use of equally effective self-convincing apologetics) as he is now about the Bible? Turkel’s oversimplification of my position that “you believe what your parents taught you” will apply almost every time to religious preference and serves as the primary reason that Christianity has flourished to enormous proportions in the West.
The importance of this point is that it’s not a matter of which of the three or four major religions is the correct one. Circumstances independent of the major religions’ veracities created the current distribution of observation. Any of the ancient religions may be correct. A belief system isn’t disqualified for consideration just because it’s observed by a very small number of people. It’s not logically sound to assume that a belief system wasn’t the right one just because it’s dead or dying. Conquering and converting several centuries afterward may get your numbers up, but this method won’t increase your likelihood of being the correct religion. Based solely on the numbers of followers, Christianity is just as likely to be true as, say, Jainism. Again, there are religious scholars of every belief system who contend that they can prove the veracity of each respective religion. There is simply no consensus among unbiased scholars as to which, if any, makes the best claim. It is simply not intellectually honest to say, “since we have the highest number of scholars who support my religion and its inerrancy, it must be true.” While Turkel doesn’t make this claim, he seems oblivious to how likely it was that he would walk into Christianity.
In short, the whole purpose of the chapter is to show that the number of Christians is extremely large because 1) they spread, conquered, and converted and 2) until very recently, people rarely chose to change belief systems. The number of people following Christianity aren’t doing so because God wants to ensure that the correct religion has a sizable lead over the others. Turkel wandered into Christianity not because this large society has studied its veracity, but because this large society (the product of movement, conquest, and conversion) presented it as the most, if not the only, viable option.
Even if we suppose the adults deserved to die slow and torturous deaths, what association could we conceivably make between their decisions and the adolescent victims of the flood? Couldn’t God have just placed the innocent children and animals aside for a while so that they wouldn’t drown?
Wonderful idea! Why not also suggest that God create ex nihilo, after the Flood, a whole squadron of nannies to take care of all of those innocent children? Indeed, why not ask God to change the channel for us so we don't have to get up or even pick up a remote? The irony of this from Long is astounding, as we will see later he replies to certain of OT morals laws with the answer, "why doesn't God mind His own business," yet utterly contradictorily, asks God to step in again and again whenever he thinks it is convenient. The God Jason Long wanted came with a key on its back and did what it was told; and when he didn't get it, he threw a temper tantrum.
Turkel narrowly treats this situation like a false dichotomy. I am a limited being, but I could come up with a few dozen alternative methods by which God could have spared innocent children from drowning to death. One would assume that an omnipotent being, such as the god of the Bible, could come up with even more ideas than I. For instance, assuming the parents deserved what they got, God could have personally taken care of all of the young children until they developed enough to take care of themselves. This way, he could have taught them to live the moral lives he wished for their parents. Is this too much to ask from an omnipotent being? Turkel apparently believes so, but I do not. This is where we disagree.
In addition, why does Turkel not deal with the fact that God realizes the flood was in vain due to humanity’s evil ways? Situations like this often create too much cognitive dissonance for apologists to rectify appropriately. This is why many of the points in Biblical Nonsense are harder to deal with than others; this is why apologists will attack some points and rarely touch the more difficult remainder.
Turkel – very disturbingly – suggests that it would make just as much sense for us to expect that God should change the channels on our televisions as it would for him to not murder innocent people. He believes I contradict myself when I say that God should not have any business in what same sex couples do in their bedroom but that God should take an active role in explaining to us which religion is correct since we’ve already sent millions to their deaths over this very argument and will continue to do so. I hope the reader will take careful notice of how my position and Turkel’s position contrast.
I do not suggest that we should be able to control God with a key in his back, but I do suggest that we should not respect him if he is able to kill innocent children and hide when we are most in need of a simple explanation. Of course, Turkel worships this god in spite of the fact, so one would reasonably assume that he would stick up for him under any circumstance. I do not fault Turkel for making excuses for God because this is what he has learned to do. Turkel begins with the premise that the God character is good and justifies contrasting evidence as being for the overall good because it’s the will of God. This is completely backwards from rational decision-making. It makes much more sense to observe the qualities, outcomes, and effects of certain actions before making a determination on whether they are good or bad. This is a common mistake of switching the premise and conclusion. We see this a lot in battered wife syndrome, a state of mind in which the victims begin with the premise that their husbands love them and only hit them because of their love for them. The rational conclusion, on the other hand, can be made by observing the actions; observing the qualities, outcomes, and effects of the actions; and drawing the conclusion that husbands are not doing them because of their love for their wives. Just as the battered wives erroneously begin with the premise that they are beaten out of love, apologists erroneously begin with the premise that all of God’s actions must be good.
Long seems to have a peculiar definition of "genocide". He says that Sodom and Gomorrah was a "genocidal operation" but "genocide" means, "deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group," and since Sodom and Gomorrah were not any of these things, it is clear that Long doesn't know how to use the word, other than for rhetorical effect.
This is quintessential
apologetics. Instead of dealing with the issue of how treacherous God’s actions
were, Turkel chooses to play a semantics game with
the word genocide. Well, if this is
all he wishes to discuss, then we’ll discuss it. Turkel’s first mistake is to insinuate that his definition
is the one acceptable definition of the term. If I wanted, I could merely point
to Hutchinson’s Dictionary, which defines genocide as the extermination of a
race or people; or I could go to the
Cambridge Dictionary, which defines genocide as the murder of a whole
group of people, especially [not
specifically] a whole nation, race, or religious group. Both are reputable
dictionaries, just as Turkel’s source (presumably
Webster’s) is a reputable dictionary. Still, it doesn’t matter since Turkel’s
definition of choice still fits very nicely with what happened in
Let’s examine each term in the definition. If Turkel wants to argue that I can’t
prove that the murders of every inhabit in
The portion that I believe Turkel
wants to take issue with is at the end of the definition. If I understand his
argument correctly, he believes that the victims of the destruction were not
unique racially, politically, or culturally. How would Turkel
justify the notion that neither of two distinct cities has its own unique
culture? Culture, after all, is the set of patterns, traits, and products
considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.
Does every city not have its own unique culture? Does Turkel
believe that there was nothing special about
Turkel raises many more objections to the points I raise about the darker side of God (amongst a multitude of mischaracterizations and misrepresentations), but I hope these two examples will be sufficient to the readers.
If a man decides he no longer wants to be married to his wife, he can attempt to have her killed by claiming that she lost her virginity prior to their marriage. Following this accusation, the woman must then provide sufficient physical evidence, such as a bloodstain, to demonstrate that his accusations are fraudulent. In the event that she fails to prove her innocence of this “crime,” she is to be stoned to death because of this utmost act of disgrace. Guilty until proven innocent is the law within God’s court. Any woman who accidentally tears her hymen due to an injury or other non-sexual act is simply out of luck because she could never prove her virginity. Thus, she would be at the mercy of her husband throughout her entire life. If evidence is produced to exonerate the woman in question, the accuser is fined a couple pounds of silver and forced to stay married until death (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). In this case, what does the man really have to lose?
Long is truly ignorant if he thinks that a "woman who accidentally tears her hymen due to an injury or other non-sexual act is simply out of luck"; like any case in the ancient world, the matter would be brought before judges and elders to be decided upon, not merely slavishly followed like a pedantic manual of instruction.
This is clearly another example of sidestepping the issue at hand. Even assuming they go before a panel of judges, what are the judges going to rule upon if there is no evidence? The passage (Deut -21) clearly indicates that if the woman cannot produce evidence of her innocence, she is to be stoned to death. Even if she were guilty of the “crime,” she does not deserve to be stoned to death for having premarital sex (at least that’s my position on it, Turkel may disagree). In other words, a woman who accidentally tore her hymen and cannot produce evidence of this fact is going to be stoned to death for not being able to prove innocence of what should not even be a crime. In other words, you receive a cruel punishment for not being able to prove your innocence in a court that considers a virtually harmless act to be a capital crime. The only thing more amazing than this judicial decision is the fact that there are people who justify it because they feel the necessity to do so.
In light of the record of human stupidity, it is galling that Long even raises as a problem the "Israelites’ total lack of faith in their god’s abilities." After being a bump on a log in church for 16 years, by his own present account living a deluded life, how can Long have the temerity to even raise such a question? (He could stand, however, to understand some of the Israelites' complaints as demands for action rather than a sign of lack of belief in the power of God!)
As Turkel’s hostilities toward me increase, it seems that his emotions begin to interfere with his attempts to make valid arguments. Regarding this objection, I made a reference to the Israelites being foolish because they don’t believe in God even though he makes consistent interventions in their lives through a series of regularly occurring patterns. As far as I can tell, in great contrast, no supernatural being has ever made an unquestionable and verifiable interjection into the life of a single individual in my lifetime. If one ever did, and I had the chance to observe it as the Israelites allegedly did, I would not deny the power and existence of this being, nor would I demand action when I knew it would be forthcoming. I’m not sure why Turkel doesn’t understand this. I guess I can only presume that Turkel seems to believe that my assumed inactivity in church lead to me not having a valid personal experience with the supernatural that couldn’t be explained by natural means. Perhaps Turkel has had such an experience – I simply don’t know.
“Can God make a burrito hot enough that he can’t eat it?” This might seem silly at first, but it demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the existence of an omnipotent being. If he can eat any burrito he makes, he can’t make one hot enough; thus, he’s not omnipotent. If he makes one too hot to eat, he can’t bear the product of his own creation; thus, he’s not omnipotent. As I hope you realize from this illustration, an omnipotent being cannot exist. There can be no power strong enough to make squared circles, duplicated unique items, or any other interesting paradoxes that you can imagine.
Long hoists a new version of "Can God make a rock so heavy" canard, but he prefers burritos; even so, he is just as ignorant as any who propose this canard, and don't understand that omnipotence doesn’t relate to logical impossibility. Indeed that he uses this childish canard simply shows how backwards Long is.
By definition, omnipotence is the quality of having infinite power. It follows then that infinite power could accomplish an infinite number of results. This would certainly include having the power to do the logically impossible and the self-contradictory. If the quality of omnipotence lies outside the ability of doing the logically impossible, then we can say it is impossible for an omnipotent being to enter into the domain of logical impossibility and do logically impossible things. Therefore, omnipotence cannot exist. If Turkel wants to state that God can do anything as long as it is not logically impossible or self-contradictory, that is fine. However, this excludes God from truly being omnipotent because God cannot suspend the rules of logic (that God himself created!) and do impossible things. If God cannot break the rules of logic and do impossible things, he cannot do anything, and he is therefore short of omnipotence. Just because Turkel says omnipotence is exempt from the impossible, he does not make it so.
Behold again, the spectre of those "incompetent and unaware of it," who retreat into the canard of "bias" (of which, they have their own, denials notwithstanding) and the spectre of diversity ("please don't make me work!") as an excuse for making themselves look foolish.
Jim: Your Mom's a prostitute.
Bob: No she isn't.
Jim: Yes she is, you just have an emotional investment so your conclusions are unreliable because you WANT your Mom not to be a prostitute. I, on the other hand, don't care about your Mom at all, therefore I am more reliable than you are on the subject of your mother's whoredom.
Bob: Isn't that fallacious reasoning?
Jim: You're just saying it's fallacious because you don't want your Mom to be a prostitute.
I’ve spent about as much time as I care on Turkel’s insult ridden critique. It’s been a good while since I took the time to read his material, but perhaps one day I’ll have the time and/or desire to go through point by point to every detail raised in the articles to which he appeals. Such an effort, however, would require an extraordinary amount of time and is unlikely to be forthcoming. So, for now, I’ll conclude with his conclusion. Since I think the issue of bias affecting conclusions is extremely important, I’ll spend extra time here.
Turkel is proposing that bias does not always affect a decision. I wholeheartedly agree. His example, however, does not have any bearing on how one weighs known evidence for making a conclusion – much less a conclusion on a matter of utmost importance. In his example, Jim is calling Bob’s mother a prostitute. Bob denies this. Jim then makes a bald assertion by stating that it is Bob’s emotional investment in his mother that prevents him from seeing it. That’s the end of the story.
As this situation does not afford Jim or Bob the opportunity to weigh evidence back and forth, it is irrelevant to the issue of how bias can interfere with weighing evidence. Of course, with no evidence to offer, Bob is going to have a much better insight into his mom’s activities because he knows his mom better than Jim knows her. Suppose, however, that Jim actually saw the evidence that Bob’s mother was a prostitute. Suppose that Jim found a photo of Bob’s mom clearly propositioning men to pay her money for sexual favors.
The problem with Bob being able to readily accept Jim’s story is that Bob was brought up believing that his mother was a hospital physician who would never engage in prostitution. His mother always told him that this was true; Bob loves his mother very much; and he could never imagine such a horrific scenario being true. The notion that she has been working as a prostitute does not sit well with him. Once Jim shows him the picture, cognitive dissonance creates an uneasily feeling within Bob and drives him to create possible scenarios that would explain the picture. To Bob, these scenarios are more likely to be factually correct than what the evidence plainly indicates because the evidence directly contradicts Bob’s core beliefs of his mother being a hospital physician. Thus, Bob’s bias prevents him from accepting the most rational conclusion.
Now, with this appropriate adjustment, Turkel’s hypothetical conversation would go something like this:
Jim: Your mom is a prostitute.
Bob: No, she isn’t.
Jim: Yes, she is. Here is a picture I found of her working as a prostitute. This is the evidence.
Bob: No, I know she is a physician. There is no doubt about it. There are several possibilities that would explain that picture. You could have doctored the photo. That woman could be someone who bears a very close resemblance. She could just be talking to that guy and getting a loan from him. She could be having a consensual affair with him. It could all be part of a joke.
Jim: I have the evidence. This is not a joke. You just have an emotional investment. Your conclusions are unreliable because you WANT your mom to not be a prostitute. I, on the other hand, do not care about your mom at all. Therefore, I am more reliable than you are on the subject of your mom’s whoredom because I am able to view the evidence without bias. The most likely conclusion is that she works as a prostitute.
Bob: Isn’t that fallacious reasoning?
Jim: No, Bob, it’s solid.
As this example relates to the Bible, Bob is the one who has always been told by his peers, his parents, and his society that the Bible is the true word of God. Jim would be the one who has no emotional investment in the Bible, and he has recently stumbled upon evidence that indicates its lack of reliability. Just as the apologist will invent unlikely scenarios to explain the evidence, Bob has invented unlikely reasons why the evidence is not what it seems. It will be extremely difficult for Bob to accept Jim’s story, just as it is extremely difficult for a Christian to accept evidence against the Bible’s reliability. If the picture was of anyone other than Bob’s mom (just as if the evidence was against any religion other than Christianity), he would have no problem concluding that the woman was engaged in prostitution (just as the Christian apologist would have no problem seeing how the evidence was detrimental to another religion).
Turkel believes that nonbelievers also have bias. That may very well be true in some cases, but he must agree that the emotional investment in wanting to show that a particular belief system is false simply dwarves in comparison to those who have spent their lives observing it and wanting it to be true. If I have any bias, it is the tendency to rely upon evidence rather than my own convictions. This is necessary when in search of the truth. Simple matters with the Bible, such as whether or not there is a contradiction about public prayer, are indifferent to me. If I were wrong and there were no contradiction, I would have no problem in saying so. There are many passages that I previously believed were contradictory, and I had no problem letting them go once I found a sufficient explanation. The two passages about public prayer do not have a rectification, as far as I know. In great contrast, an apologist of inerrancy cannot allow even the smallest of problems because each one destroys the whole foundation of inerrancy. Thus, as Bob invented unlikely scenarios to protect his deepest convictions, so will the apologist.
As I stated in the FAQ, “people who study a concept in which they have no emotional investment are going to offer more reliable conclusions than those who want the concept to turn out a certain way. If you wanted safety information on a used car, would it be wiser to trust the used car salesman or a consumer report? Similarly, if you wanted information on the historicity and veracity of Islam, would you ask an Islamic scholar who was born into Islam – or would you ask an agnostic scholar with no emotional investment in Islam? If you choose the unbiased scholar, why make an exception only for your religion?”
Turkel may have very well raised some good points in his rebuttal. I am human. Like I said, humans are fallible and can make mistakes when writing. His bombardment of links include dozens if not hundreds of hours worth of reading, and based on what I read from his direct responses, I can’t be assured that it would be worth my time to check all of it. As I briefly mentioned earlier, it has been years since I’ve read his articles and debate exchanges with Farrell Till, and the only thing I vividly remember is my decision that his writings wouldn’t be worth a fraction of anyone’s time if he hadn’t spent so much time collecting followers. If anyone reading this, particularly anyone who acts without bias, finds something that he/she believes to be of relevance, please notify me so that I may review it and make the proper corrections on my corrections page, if necessary. If Turkel’s right about something, he deserves credit.