In this post we're going to focus on a comment from Silver Bullet in which SB attempts to redeem Ed Babinski's argument. So without further adieu, here's Silver Bullet:
If I produced a series of paintings and was able to trace them with certainty to Paris from the 1880's, and I wanted to sell them to you as original Van Goghs though they were all lacking his signature "Vincent", what would you conclude? Perhaps you would conclude that we cannot know whether the paintings are Van Goghs or not. Now let's say that the work in question had all of the features of the work of Toulouse-Lautrec so that experts in the field suggested that they all looked just as one might expect if Toulouse -Lautrec had painted them. What would you conclude then?
Should I say, "what's the problem with Van Gogh painting through the style of Toulouse-Lautrec?"
I think you'd laugh at me if I said that. I think you'd ask me why Van Gogh would bother to paint a series of paintings in the style of Lautrec with no sign of his own style at all, as if he wanted to deceive people.
Wouldn't you say, "In light of the preponderance of evidence presented here, it's clear the paintings are not the product of Van Gogh"?
And isn't that just what Babinsky is saying when he writes: "In light of the preponderance of evidence presented here, it's clear the Bible is a product of the prescientific period in which it originated"?
Either way, I'm sure you wouldn't buy the paintings...
Quibble: Silver Bullet describes people of the ancient near east as "credulous". That's a rather anachronistic charge! In three thousand years people will balk at our current science and technology. That doesn't make us credulous relative to our place in history. (Put another way, Ptolemy is not more credulous than the average guest on Jerry Springer simply because the latter may know more about the structure of the universe.)
Gut Reaction: I like this analogy because is so cultured. My analogies tend to be rather low-brow, trading off of baser pop culture touchstones like Van Halen and Beanie Babies. To have somebody referring to the Post-Impressionists, and actually making hay with it, is impressive indeed.
The Point: Clearly in the analogy we ought to conclude that Van Gogh did not paint the works. Toulouse -Lautrec did. Silver Bullet clearly wants us to conclude that likewise we shouldn't believe that God wrote the Bible because it can be explained solely as a human effort.
A Flaw: The analogy is flawed because it presumes that either Van Gogh produced the works or Toulouse-Lautrec did. But the claim of the Christian is NOT that either God produced the Bible or human beings did. It is rather that both God and human beings did. In that respect, for Silver Bullet to have his analogy really hit home, he needs to come up with an analogy that invokes a concept of double agency.
Revision: Still, I don't think this point of disanalogy is fatal. The analogy just needs to be massaged. How about this: our choice is between believing that Toulouse-Lautrec painted these works on his own or believing that he painted them under the meticulous direction of Van Gogh. That is much closer to what Christians believe about the Bible. While it is the work of human hands it was somehow composed with the divine imprimatur.
Note that the change doesn't empty the analogy of its power. We are still left to wonder why we would think than any particular painting was undertaken under Van Gogh's direction. Without more evidence I'm sure you wouldn't pay more for a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec without knowing that he was directed by Van Gogh.
Preamble: This post is already getting longish so I only have time here for the beginning of a response. In responding here I'll focus on a preliminary epistemological point. Then if there is enough interest, I'll roll out a sequel just like Dreamworks churning out another Shrek movie.
The grounds for believing any specific claim are almost invariably person-specific. As I noted awhile ago in this blog, I heard an interview with skeptic Michael Shermer and a Christian on the topic of miracles. The Christian offered to provide Shermer with medical documentation of an individual who was healed of MS immediately following a prayer meeting. Shermer declined, saying it was no doubt just chance. He then asked why there aren't ever any reports of limbs spontaneously generating. Later in the program Shermer was asked whether a documented cases of a lost limb regenerating (in a human, not a starfish) would be sufficient to convince him of a miracle. Shermer demurred that even in that case he would conclude that the regeneration must have a natural explanation, e.g. some unknown property of the human body to regenerate limbs. So even if person prayed in Jesus name for a limb to grow and the limb grew, Shermer still would think it must be natural.
The Christian and Shermer look at the same evidence and draw very different conclusions: one sees a healing that the other does not. One would apparently never see a healing while the other would. Why the difference? Is it just because one happens to be more rational? Well, no it's a bit more complicated than that. Every one of us interprets events and holds beliefs relative to a background set of beliefs. That is a big reason why we draw different conclusions.
Punchline: Here I'm just going to draw attention to the relatively high level of skepticism of the atheist that any putative text could be believed to be inspired and contrast that with the lower level of skepticism that characterizes the theist.
If you believe Van Gogh never existed then you will obviously be very skeptical of a claim that he superintended Toulouse-Lautrec as he painted some of his works. But another person who believes in Van Gogh's existence will at least be open to considering the claims that he superintended some of Toulouse-Lautrec's works.
And by the same token, if you believe it very unlikely that there is a God then you will be VERY skeptical of claims that God superintended the authorship of any human works. But if you believe there likely is a God your prima facie skepticism will be that much lower. It doesn't mean you'll accept every claimant for inspiration. Of course you won't. But at least it's a live option.
That's a pretty significant difference in starting points.