Steak requires small bites and you, my friend, nudge me to be the carnivore of mental cuisine. I started with my conclusion in answering your initial concerns about Romans. As you know, I picked Romans because its attribution is agreed upon by skeptics and its worth to the Christian community is considered great. My conclusion was that I was in love. I might not be thinking straight, but I could and should still engage my intellect to answer your honest and challenging questions.
Although we both tend to write in spurts, we’ve agreed to a dialogue – – not a serial monologue. So I’ll do my best to answer, even in this asynchronous manner. It isn’t just that we are friends. I think you provide better reasons for atheism than most others that I’ve read. Better reasons deserve answers. To others who are more strident, I’ve learned to hold my tongue. I’m growing out of my passion for argument and I’d rather just listen, and hopefully understand.
The first problem I have is this: the problem. I agree with you that critical thinking, even amongst the intelligentsia (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as an example) is in decline. You’re quote concerning Paul (I encourage readers to review it in context) was this:
I think it’s fair to say that Paul was a victim of The Problem in the same way that we all are, but that in itself doesn’t nullify or invalidate his claims any more than it does ours. He was probably more subject to it than modern scientists because a) many of us are aware of it and there’s no indication he was, and b) he was raised in a culture of certainty and faith. Let’s look at some of his claims.
Small bites Pascal, small bites. Why do I think that Paul understood the problem better than we acknowledge? I’ve been looking for a description of the phenomenon that assumes we think better than our ancestors because of science. Modern arrogance is all that I can come up with, but that isn’t quite right. You are the furthest from arrogant. But – – I do think that you are providing too much credence to the scientific method – – not well articulated until the 16th century CE by Francis Bacon and not enough acknowledgment that rhetoric and logic existed far before that.
Was Paul a Roman citizen fluent in classical Greek? Yes. Could he discuss the philosophy of the Epicureans (so much more than eat, drink for tomorrow we may die…) with them? According to his travelling companion and putative author of Luke/Acts – – yes. What is there to be said for training at the feet of the greatest rabbi of his day, Gamaliel the Elder? For me, interested in Jewish law, but not even a neophyte I can only say that study was and is part of the culture. Why do you say Paul was unaware of confirmation bias? Didn’t his conversion drastically alter rather than confirm his path? I’ll go on to look at the claims you enumerate next.
One more word about the problem. Lack of critical thinking does not seem big enough to me to explain poverty, injustice, rape, murder, neglect, envy and all of the horrors of men. Where were the critical thinking skills of Stalin’s acolytes as he purged tens of millions of his countrymen. Is lack of critical thinking, innumeracy, and confirmation bias an adequate explanation for real life problems? I say no.