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User:Philip J. Rayment/A failure to address arguments

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This is an essay by Philip J. Rayment.
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Citing opinion instead of addressing arguments

Philip J. Rayment

One disturbing aspect I often encounter in debating with bibliosceptics is a failure to actually address the arguments that I put to them.

An example is the argument that the days of creation are ordinary (Earth-rotation) days. I point out that there are numerous reasons for believing that the account in Genesis is talking about ordinary days (see creation week), but such arguments are frequently ignored in favour of the counter-argument, "but not everyone agrees, so you can't be dogmatic".

It seems to me that the reasons for believing that the days were ordinary days are each individually sufficient reason for understanding the days as being ordinary, and taken all together constitute undeniable, overwhelming proof that the account is talking about ordinary days. (If it's not clear already, I'm talking about what the writer of the account intended his readers to understand; whether or not the writer was correct is a separate matter.)

Yet all this argument, evidence, and cited expert opinion is waved away with a response such as "but so-and-so disagrees". Why they disagree, what arguments they make, whether their arguments address the arguments I've put or somehow override them, is all immaterial, it seems. Just the fact that someone disagrees is considered sufficient reason to sweep away all argument. I might have well have said nothing more than "I think this", for all the effect that my logic, evidence, and cited expert opinions have.

I was thinking of writing this essay the day before another example was provided, and that example prompted me to go ahead with it.

I had rewritten the article about faith, and provided an argument by example and references to put the case that one of the meanings of 'faith', including the use that the Bible makes of it, is trust based on evidence. So what objection do I get? The first objection amounted to nothing more than "that's not what a couple of other sources say"! Further, the first of those sources, a dictionary, said nothing contradicting what I had put in the article. The mere fact that the dictionary didn't explain it the way I had was sufficient reason to dismiss my whole case, it seemed.

That's probably not entirely fair. The objector did emphasise that one of the definitions the dictionary provided was "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". But then she had overlooked that I had claimed that faith was based on evidence; I hadn't claimed that it was based on proof, and in fact my examples specifically said that there was no proof.

She also emphasised a definition from the second source—not even a dictionary from what I could tell—which did indeed refer to faith being without evidence. But again, she also overlooked that I had made a distinction between the basic (current) meaning, and the way that the Bible uses the term (or was she claiming that modern definitions override all ancient meanings also?).

And she also seemed to assume that the word has one single meaning, rather than a range of meanings, and just because one definition—one way that people use the word—includes the concept of no evidence, it doesn't follow that the word can't also be used as I had described—as trust based on evidence.

Failure to address the arguments given results in a poor-quality response, and fails to provide a rebuttal of the arguments.

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