Book Plunge: The Death Of Expertise

What do I think of Tom Nichols’s book published by Oxford University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is not a book on apologetics. The only apologist you will find referenced is the general wisdom of C.S. Lewis. Still, this is a book that is going to be very helpful for apologists. This is a book that addresses many of the issues that we experience in the field.

Nichols is sounding an alarm that expertise is no longer being heeded. There are many factors that contribute to this. Some of us will be quick to say “The internet” and be partially right. The internet is not the sole contributor to this, though it definitely plays a part in all that we’re seeing.

The first chapter is on the relationship of citizens and experts. Citizens no longer seem to care about what experts say. They will say one thing that experts were wrong on and then take some medicine for a headache that is the result of expert analysis. Our society has become one that rightly decries elitism, but then sees any idea that someone knows more than someone else on a subject as elitism. We are a society where all truth claims are to be treated as equal. Even worse, to disagree with a truth claim is to attack the person.

When the people do not heed the words of experts, every man becomes an island unto himself. Each person is in it for their own good. This also works with the narcissism of our age. We have become so individualistic, that it is tempting to think that we’re the center of the story.

This gets us into how it is hard to converse today. The #1 response to a question today has become something along the lines of “Let me Google that for you.” If we used this properly, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with using Google to look up a basic fact that isn’t controversial, such as when did the Battle of Bunker Hill take place? Just recently I was at an event where a speaker said that Moses Maimonides was forced to do a debate by King James of Aragon I. Okay. Why not look that up? I quickly saw that Maimonides was dead before King James was even born. This is a proper use of Google if we do it right.

The improper use is thinking that the first website you come across is the one that you should listen to. There will be more on this later, but in this case, it becomes harder and harder to talk to people. Everyone thinks they’re an expert because they can look something up on Google. Having my chief area of expertise be in the New Testament, I can say at this two words come to mind immediately. Jesus Mythicism. I still remember someone on a news page discussing a story telling me that scholars aren’t even sure that Jesus existed. This was news to me seeing as I actually do read the scholars in the field and know that this is a minority position. When I was on the Atheist Analysis show, there was a lot of shock in the crowd when I said how few of scholars are mythicists. I was offered the number of 8% and said to go lower. 3 wasn’t enough either. I think I said somewhere around .0001%.

Of course, the solution to this is to get an education. Well, maybe not. Sadly, our educational institutions are often just participating in groupthink. Many students today just walk away thinking what their professors think. In my study of the Bible and New Testament, both major schools I have personally attended, I have fundamentally disagreed with on some issues of NT interpretation. When some people would tell me I’m just arguing what my professors taught me, I would reply that in many cases, I disagreed with some central claims. That’s okay.

Sadly, many colleges have become day care facilities with students being shown what is the most entertaining aspect of their stay. Too many students are going to go to college and just party and sleep around and think they’re getting the college life. At my own Bible College where I graduated from, I have often gone back and talked with the professors who always thoroughly enjoy the reunion. One told me about seeing a student on campus during the summer and asked, “What are you reading now?” Reply? “Nothing.” I find this stunning as the kids are seeing learning as the punishment and fun as the goal.

This is not to bash entertainment of course. We all must have some leisure times. You can often find my wife and I watching one of our recorded programs and when we do, it’s not uncommon for me to have a Nintendo 2DS out at the same time. Gaming has always been a part of my life, but it’s not the reason why I live either.

One example of what’s going wrong on our campuses is the concept of safe places. We have seen lately colleges wanting to ban someone of a more conservative leaning and having to have places where their views are not challenged. What are they thinking? College is about challenging your views. You come there to learn, not just stay entrenched in your own opinion.

The result is someone could leave college without being educated but instead being indoctrinated. They will get their degree and never do any more reading or serious work. For my part, I find this bizarre. Even with the degree I have, I have never stopped looking into the field I study so much so that when I have scholars on my own show, it’s quite easy to converse with them.

Well, what about the internet? Here we come to a real kicker. The problem with the internet is while it was meant to share our knowledge, more often, we are sharing our ignorance. Anyone can set up a website and be seen as an authority. We also now with self-publishing have it that anyone can get a book out there. Of course, there’s good material out there (I happen to think my own website and Ebooks are good material), but one has to learn to discern. The problem is anyone with a website can look like an expert.

This is especially prevalent with conspiracy theories. I have already mentioned Jesus Mythicism as a conspiracy theory for atheists. You can find rumors about the Illuminati and about Reptilians and everything else online. The problem is that many people don’t possess the basic tools to know how to analyze this information and see if it stands up or not.

With our narcissism, someone who can Google thinks they can disprove easily someone who reads the scholarly material. They end up thinking they’re brilliant arguers when anyone who reads the material is just shaking their head in disbelief. Those who are ignorant are able to find others who are just as ignorant and join together and build up one another. Getting a lot of likes on their posts doesn’t really help matters out.

Search engines will also tend to go where you have gone before as well. In other words, you get in an echo chamber. They use your past history of looking in order to determine sites that will be relevant to you. Rarely do people look and see if these are really authoritative sites. Think for instance of the people who often diagnose themselves entirely based on the internet and then argue with their doctor about it. Sure, the layman can be right sometimes, but all things being equal, go with the doctor.

Also, Nichols has a long section on Wikipedia. He points out that most Wikipedia editors are also male which limits our perspective. Wikipedia will have plenty of information on the Kardashians, but not information on political strife in some African countries for instance. It is a fine example of our compound ignorance coming together.

At least we have the press to set matters straight, or do we? The press is nowadays often just as gullible and part of the problem is we have so much information coming out at once that everyone is in a rush to be the first to get the news out. This means a lack of fact-checking. From my own perspective, I am a conservative in politics, but I have seen many conservative news sites royally butcher claims and many of them I consider just outright unreliable.

I have reached the point of letting my own family know when they send me something false, and in the past that often involved having to send out a group email. Many of our media outlets are doing the same kind of thing with sharing something just because it agrees with them. Fact-checking is not going on as much as it could be.

But alas, sometimes experts are wrong. What do we do then? A layman can indeed demonstrate an expert is wrong, but an expert being wrong once doesn’t mean all expert opinion is to be denied. Experts are humans like everyone else and they will make mistakes. Fortunately, other experts will often be there to help point out those mistakes.

It’s also necessary to point out that expertise in one area doesn’t equal expertise in all. Richard Dawkins is a fine source I’m sure to quote on evolution. He is not fine on New Testament or philosophy. Gary Habermas is just fine on history, but he is not fine on discussing evolution.

In the end, Nichols’s book is a call to return to learning. Hopefully it will be heeded as our society has more access to knowledge than ever before, but we are quite likely dumber than ever before. All the learning in the world doesn’t matter if it is not approached properly. An attitude of humility would go a long way towards helping people learn.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Technology Killing Christianity?

Because we live in a technical world, does that mean we can see religion is a scam? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife was browsing YouTube on our TV and we came across a video with someone making the claim that as technology has increased and we have the internet, that this means religion is going away. (Of course, we’ve heard claims about religion dying many times before.) The belief was that the internet is allowing people to become more educated. As they become more educated, they are starting to see that they believed something obviously foolish and abandoning it because they are finding out information they never found out before.

There is some truth to that.

People are finding out things they never found out before. People are also finding out things about secret Illuminati cover-ups or how NASA faked the moon landing or how 9-11 was an inside job or how Reptilians are secretly living among us. Yes. These claims are all out there and they are largely popular because of the internet. We could say the same about Jesus mythicism. If you stuck to reading scholarly books for instance no matter what worldview, you would not likely walk away being a mythicist. If you stuck to internet research, you could.

Technology can be a wonderful tool for spreading truth and education. Unfortunately, it can also be a wonderful tool for spreading falsehood and destroying education. Google can bring up results to a question you may have, but it will not be able to tell you how you should access the information that you see. How will you evaluate it and weigh it out?

Let’s suppose I wanted to argue something that I don’t argue, and that is that evolution is a myth. I make no claims on this one yes or no, but I know many Christians who do say that it is not true at all. So I go to Google like I just now did and type in “evolution is a myth.” What do I come up with first?

The first thing I see is Yahoo Answers. I see a long post that starts with this

No, it’s not a creation myth. Darwinian evolution is a theory, it has never been proven, and thanks to modern science it is now being disproven. It takes far more faith to believe in Darwinian evolution than it does to believe in creation and intelligent design. There is a lot more evidence for creation and intelligent design than there is for Darwinian evolution. A lot of people believe in the theory of Darwinian evolution because they were (and are still being) taught this theory in school. This theory should no longer be taught in school now that modern science is continueously finding more evidence against it. At the time Darwin came up with the theory science was not able to disprove it. Darwin’s theory of evolution has not been proven. Only 9% of the population now believes in Darwinian evolution.

Scientific evidence casts serious doubts on the theory of evolution, for example:

From there, the person goes on to link to several articles. Now if you’re not someone who does not know how to evaluate scientific information, this will all seem very impressive. The next thing I see is a site from a Matthew McGee arguing that evolution is a myth and the Earth is young. Again, that can look very impressive if you’ve never really thought about the claims before.

The next I see is a link to an Amazon book. Again, this looks impressive, but someone who doesn’t know better will not realize the book is self-published and I see no information about the author. Could his case be true? That’s not for me to decide. What I am saying is that we live in an age that it’s easier to self-publish. There is some good stuff out there, but just because someone has a book does not mean that they are an authority.

I could go on from here, but I hope you see the point. Right now, I don’t care what side you take on the evolution discussion. You can see that if someone just typed in what they wanted to know, they could easily find plenty to support it. Now I’ll do a search for something I do know something about. How about “Jesus is a myth.”

The first one I come to is here. Now again, if you don’t know how to evaluate historical claims and you’re not familiar with leading scholars, this is all very impressive. The person who has never encountered this information will likely be flummoxed. This is why movies like Zeitgeist get so much popularity.

Interestingly, you will find some dissent as there is a Gotquestions article that shows up in the search early on and there are more here. Now what is the danger here? You might walk away concluding Jesus existed, but you would also walk away likely thinking that this is a debate in the academy. It’s not. I prefer to go with what Jonathan Bernier has said.

As I wrote the paper I returned to Meyer’s scathing book review of John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus. Here I will quote a passage that comes near the end of the view.

Historical inquiry, with its connotations of a personal wrestling with evidence, is not to be found. There are no recalcitrant data, no agonizing reappraisals. All is aseptic, the data having been freeze-dried, prepackaged, and labelled with literary flair. Instead of an inquiry, what we have here is simply the proposal of a bright idea. But, as Bernard Lonergan used to say, bright ideas are a dime a dozen—establishing which of them are true is what separates the men from the boys.

As I reread this passage, which I quote in the paper discussed above, it occurs to me that this describes well what we see in mythicism. It’s always good form to critique the best version of a position, and for mythicism that is surely Richard Carrier’s work. It’s well-written, an exemplar of rhetoric and of making one’s historiography appear like a hard science. But that’s all smoke and mirrors. Carrier’s got a bright idea, but that’s all. That bright is that there is a 2 in 3 chance that Jesus did not exist. That doesn’t tell me that Jesus did not exist. In fact, “Did Jesus exist?” is not even Carrier’s question but rather “Is there a conceivable world in which Jesus did not exist?” And the answer to that is “Yes.” But that’s not enough. One must further ask “Is that world the one that best accounts for the totality of the relevant data?” Does it account for the most data whilst adopting the fewest suppositions? Does it resolve problems throughout the field of study, or does it in fact create new ones? And on those matters Carrier fails, as has been shown repeatedly by various NT scholars, professional and amateur, here on the interwebs (which, one should note, is just about the only place that this “debate” is taking place. It’s certainly not taking place in the academy. Kinda like what fundamentalist Christians euphemistically call the evolution “debate”; the debate, it turns out, exists primarily in their heads). (bold parts highlighted by myself.)

In this case then, Google is helping to spread misinformation because people do not know how to evaluate the data. Many of us can remember this commercial from State Farm years ago.

We often laugh, but what are we saying when we say the internet gives us more knowledge than ever before and then play this? We play it because we all know there’s a lot of bogus information on the net. Unfortunately, if you do not know how to evaluate claims, you will just believe whatever you find either most aligns with what you already believe or whatever you just don’t answer.

By the way, this is also why education of Christians in the church is so essential. It used to be our students would have to go off to university before they’d encounter a challenge to their faith. No more. Today, all you have to do is go to the internet. You can listen to a favorite Christian song on YouTube and see a link on the side of something like “Ten Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” That’s all it takes. Then they go to a pastor who says “Well you just have to have faith.”

Please church. Never hire a pastor who answers a question like that. Our youth are too valuable. A lot of people are ignorant and don’t know how to debate and take on opponents they can’t handle and then they become atheists who don’t know how to debate either and remain just as ignorant but think that because they’ve “seen through the lies” now that they’re somehow enlightened.

Keep in mind in all of this, I am not saying the internet is the root of all evil. There is a lot of good information on the internet. The problem is there is no way you have apart from your own study of being able to evaluate the claims you find on the internet. Unfortunately, most people, when it comes to an area they have never studied, have no way of doing that. (How many doctors have told you to never diagnose yourself using the internet?)

So can the internet spread knowledge? Yep. Sure can. Can it spread ignorance? Yep. Sure can. That’s why when I hear people say “We have the internet so now we know better”, I do not take it seriously. Google is a great tool, but it is a terrible teacher.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Internet and Organized Religion

Does the internet spell the death knell of religion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Like many of you, I quite depend on the internet. It is a great place that I have used to find my own voice and when I was dating my now wife, since we lived so far away, we often depended on emails and instant messages to communicate. It’s also been the place where I’ve been allowed to do the most ministry by far, including my podcast and this blog.

Of course, some people think that the internet means the death of religion. These include people like Valerie Tarico. Tarico is really a funny figure that I have dealt with before. Whenever I see an article and she is listed as the author, I know I’m in for some laughs. Especially since she has even gone on record in defending Jesus mythicism.

Tarico goes on with some nonsense about Christianity wanting to keep people from outside opinion. No doubt, this is true in fundamentalist circles, but not so historically. Christians often interacted with the best literature around them. Who was it that kept those pagan writings around and copied them for us today? Why it was those darn closed-off Christians who would never read anything that challenged them or disagreed with them.

Let’s skip to the main points though on how she thinks the internet is the death of religion.

The first piece is radically cool science articles and videos. Why should this be a problem? Now again, you will of course find people of a more fundamental persuasion who are anti-science. On the other hand, I find people of the fundamentalist persuasion on the atheist side who are anti-anything but science. Both treat science way too seriously. The Christian side ignores wonderful truths of science. The atheist side ignores wonderful truths everywhere else.

Unfortunately, the idea of a warfare between science and religion has largely been based on a myth. Many of these start with the words of Andrew Dickson-White and John Draper where many of the accounts cannot be found to have any historical basis whatsoever. It’s almost as if some of it was just made up. (And of course, our modern-day atheists are happy to just believe it entirely because, hey, it argues against Christianity so it must be true.)

But what about evolution? Yeah? What about it? As a Thomist, I can hold to evolution and have zero problem. This doesn’t mean that I do however. My opinion on is it I’m not an authority on science so frankly, I don’t know and I don’t care. I in fact have problems with people in the ID camp who want to say that now because of ID, theism has a strong argument. No. Theism has always had strong arguments. The Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments do not depend for a moment on the findings of modern science. It’s why I don’t even use the first two ways of William Lane Craig.

Ironically, if anyone had a real bias in this camp, it would be the atheist since for many of them, evolution is the only game in town so that just has to be true. For me, it can go either way and my arguments are just fine and my interpretation of Genesis is just fine. I’m thankful there are cool science videos and articles online. Maybe some people will learn something.

The next point is the collection of ridiculous beliefs. Now here we have a problem since Tarico has engaged in atheistic presuppositionalism. It works like this.

My view, which is the rational one, is that miracles do not happen.

Therefore, anything outside of my worldview is ridiculous if it includes miracles.

Since your belief includes miracles then, it is ridiculous.

This would work if the first premise could be established, but it isn’t, and incredulity is not an argument. You will not at all find Tarico interacting with a scholar like Craig Keener. It’s understandable though. Fundamentalists like Tarico tend to not interact with viewpoints that disagree with them. Not only that, but it’s bizarre for someone who holds to mythicism or at least defends it to talk about other people having ridiculous beliefs, but hey. Let’s have some fun and look at these beliefs she writes about. I’m going to stick to the ones that are said to be part of evangelical Christianity.

“A race of giants once roamed the earth, the result of women and demi-gods interbreeding. They lived at the same time as fire breathing dragons.”

I am an evangelical. I do not hold to this. I do not know evangelicals who hold to this. The only possibility would be Young-Earth creationists, and so again, Tarico takes a swipe at one brand of Christianity and thinks she has struck everyone in Christianity. Hardly.

“Evil spirits can take control of pigs.”

We eagerly await Tarico’s arguments with the evidence given by Keener of encounters involving demonic beings. In fact, for many anthropologists as he points out, to deny the strange events that often happen is akin to believing in a flat Earth. Sure, many anthropologists will think it’s not demonic, but there are quite bizarre happenings.

All Tarico has done is said “These obviously don’t exist and so obviously can’t affect pigs.” This is just atheistic presuppositionalism. It’s just fine if you assume that there are no demonic spirits and there is no God ultimately and that strange events cannot happen. Get rid of that belief and you might find you could actually be open to something. That doesn’t mean it’s true, but incredulity is not an argument and saying something is ridiculous does not make it so. A claim is not ridiculous just because it contradicts your worldview.

“A talking donkey scolded a prophet.”

Of course, the same applies here. Since I hold to theism, I find it possible indeed that God could enable a donkey to talk. Tarico needs to establish her atheism instead of just arguing from it and assuming that anything contrary to it is automatically nonsense.

“Believers can drink poison or get bit by snakes without being harmed.”

First off, I would like to point out that this is in Mark 16:9-20 which most scholars do not think is authentic to Mark. Okay. Let’s assume that it is the real deal. So what? Am I to think that if there is a God, which I have many reasons to believe there is, and that He raised Jesus from the dead, which I have many reasons to believe He did, that somehow blocking the effects of poison and snakes is beyond His reach?

“[A holy one] climbed a mountain and could see the whole earth from the mountain peak.”

Tarico is quite the literalist. I take this to a be a vision that was given to Jesus. Anyone in Judea would know that from a mountain in Judea you could not see all the world. Instead, going to the mountain was to put Jesus in a place of honor and then He is given a vision to show what great honor He could have.

But now, let’s go to a favorite one.

“[A supernatural being] cares tremendously what you do with your penis or vagina.”

We are very surprised to learn that Tarico doesn’t have a problem with rape, promiscuity, adultery, or pedophilia. I mean, those are all activities you do with your genitalia and it’s ridiculous to think God would care about those and if God doesn’t, why should anyone else? Tarico might be surprised it we have a whole field devoted to this. It’s called sexual ethics. A lot of non-Christians in fact think that you can’t just do anything you want sexually. A lot of people think sexual behavior might actually mean something.

Meanwhile on Tarico’s side, we have incredulity.

Incredulity is not an argument.

From there we move to the kinky and violent sides of religion. It’s amusing that after the humorous piece shared where God doesn’t care what you do with genitalia, we immediately have a complaint that the Bible is full of sex. Yes. It’s no big deal how you use your genitals but you should avoid the Bible because it has a lot of ways people use their genitals that they shouldn’t have! Naturally, Tarico goes to evilbible.com (A work of brilliant scholars of religion no doubt!) and not to more scholarly sources in the field. Tarico also thinks pointing to an event in 1676 somehow works against Jesus rising from the dead around 33 A.D. So do we have any mention of the violence of atheism under Stalin, Pol-Pot, and Mao? Nope. Not a bit. Funny thing that.

Tarico also points to supportive communities for people coming out of religion. Yes. And? Somehow people who disagree with religion and coming out talking to other people somehow counts as a way to show that religion is doomed? Curious if Tarico also would think she could find such people being free to publicly voice their opinion in openly Muslim countries….

The next fits in with this by looking at the lifestyles of those without God. Yes. What a shock. Religion is obviously doomed by thinking that people live just fine without a belief in God. Oh wait. Why should that be the case? That’s a common complaint in the Bible itself! Tarico seems to live in a world where she thinks that Christians and others believe that if you’re a Christian, life should be just awesome, and if you’re an unbeliever, you should be experiencing constant judgment and knowing it.

I don’t know Christians who think that way.

The last is interspiritual okayness which just boils down to people of different faiths interacting. Again, so what? We can interact and we can also disagree. This happens regularly. People with different political persuasions could both volunteer at a soup kitchen for instance. I can happily interact with people of different faiths.

Now if this isn’t the main issue, what is?

The main issue is that we live in an age of rampant narcissism where people think they know everything about a subject just by having an opinion and they don’t need to do any study whatsoever. Tell these people to read a scholarly book? Forget it. They’re more interested in just what they can find on Google and Wikipedia. Unfortunately, without the necessary background knowledge, one does not know how to verify claims. This happens on both sides.

Religion, like many other topics, is not a simple topic and requires great study. Too many atheists think it’s just automatically nonsense. To be fair, too many Christians see persecution where it isn’t and can just as easily spread rumors and untrue accounts on Facebook and other social media.

We live in a culture where students at a university will not want a speaker to come who disagrees with what they already believe. Look at what happened in Missouri recently with the complaining going on there. Our young people do not want to work for answers or anything else for that matter. They think everything should be delivered to their doorstep automatically. Of course, this isn’t across the board entirely, but too many fit into this viewpoint. They do not read. They just use the internet.

The problem is not the internet. The problem is the mindset of ignorance. Fundamentalists on both sides are increasing it, including people like Valerie Tarico.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Google Research Is A Problem

Does having more access to information mean we’re more informed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Two times this week, I have seen an interesting event happen. In both cases, I have been discussing with an atheist on Facebook. In both cases, I have seen them make a claim that’s completely false. In both cases, I saw them Google for a resource to use. In both cases, the link they provided that they said backed their case in fact did not back their case. In fact, in both cases, they used the same web site and seeing as it’s a web site where I know the guy who runs it, I know the quality is excellent and my opponents didn’t realize what they had done.

In the first case, I was told that it was at the Council of Nicea that the Bible had been edited. The excellent site that was used to demonstrate this claim was www.Tertullian.org and the specific page was this one. This site is run by Roger Pearse who is a Christian and an excellent researcher so I knew something was wrong immediately. With this, it didn’t take too long. All I had to do was read the first paragraph. I will bold in the important parts.

There seem to be a number of legends about the First Council of Nicaea (325AD) in circulation on the internet, presented as fact.  Some people seem to think that the council, which was the first council of all the Bishops of the Christian Church, either invented the New Testament, or edited it to remove references to reincarnation (or whatever) or burned large numbers of heretical works, or whatever.  These are in error.  This page documents the problem and provides links to all the ancient source material in order to allow everyone to check the truth for themselves.

In the next case, it was someone trying to tell me a pagan deity like Mithras was born on December 25th. Even if Jesus was not born on this day, it is a false claim to say all these pagan deities were born on that same day. The page I was linked to was this one. Yet had the person even bothered to read, he would have seen that again, it wasn’t friendly to his claims.

Cumont stated that the birthday of Mithras was 25 December, on the basis that a solar feast took place on that date and Mithras would, of course, be included. The idea was only speculation, but has been widely taken up. Clauss repeats the claim. But Beck states that this is not the case. In fact he calls this assertion ‘that hoariest of “facts”‘. He continues: “In truth, the only evidence for it is the celebration of the birthday of Invictus on that date in the Calendar of Philocalus. ‘Invictus’ is of course Sol Invictus, Aurelian’s sun god. It does not follow that a different, earlier, and unofficial sun god, Sol Invictus Mithras, was necessarily or even probably, born on that day too.”

But later Clauss states; “the Mithraic Mysteries had no public ceremonies of its own. The festival of natalis Invicti [Birth of the Unconquerable (Sun)], held on 25 December, was a general festival of the Sun, and by no means specific to the Mysteries of Mithras.”

Steven Hijmans has discussed in detail the question of whether the general “natalis Invicti” festival was related to Christmas but does not give Mithras as a possible source.

Please note this. For the sake of argument, it could be Pearse is wrong in his claims. I’m quite confident he isn’t, but let’s suppose he is just for the sake of argument. What matters is that in both cases, the person had likely just typed something in on Google and just copied the first few links without bothering to even read what they said confident that what they put up had to prove their point.

And this is the problem.

There are too many people today who think just being able to Google is all they need to make an argument and if they can find a link that says something, then that establishes it.

News flash to some of you. Not everything on the internet is true.

You see, one of the problems of the internet is anyone whatsoever can set up a blog, web site, YouTube channel, write an Ebook, etc., and be seen as an authority. Now of course I’m not going to deny there is some excellent work out there by non-scholars. I would hope some of you reading this blog think that this is the case here. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have pseudo-research but just look impressive.

If you know how to use Google, it can be an excellent tool. If you don’t know how, it can give you the appearance of knowledge without the substance thereof.

If you want the best knowledge, you will need to read the books by leading authorities in the field you want to learn. These authorities also do not produce their material for free. Every now and then, you can find some resources that are free, such as the podcast that I host regularly.Yet despite that, there is no replacement whatsoever for reading the books that you need to read.

Imagine going to a doctor and as you describe your symptoms you see him on his computer. Now this isn’t always an unusual scene. Sometimes he’s entering in data on your case. Yet what would happen if you asked him what he was doing and he said “Oh. I’m googling in your symptoms to see what you have and what the best treatment would be?” I hope all of you would be going to find a new doctor.

In Japan, one of the delicacies you can get is Puffer Fish. The problem with the meai is that the fish contains a deadly poison so if you want to serve it, you have to cook it in just the right way so that it is no longer a threat. In fact, you have to be specially licensed in order to prepare this meal. How many would be willing to have the meal at a Japanese restaurant if you knew the cook was instead just using Google to learn how to do it?

Google can too often just allow a person to be lazy and look like they know something when they don’t. Unfortunately, there is no substitute for work. There is no shortcut on the path of knowledge. If you want to learn something, you will have to work at it. You can use Google as a tool, but do not expect it to do all the work for you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Need To Analyze Information

Do we know how to analyze information? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The internet has increased the amount of information many of us have access to. Unfortunately, it has also increased the amount of misinformation many of us have access to. If we do not know how to properly analyze the information and compare it, then we will be prone to error easily and most often, just accepting information because it agrees with the point we have prior.

For instance, yesterday, I found myself arguing with an atheist who was just cutting and pasting everything from a web site. (And in fact a web site I think has hideously false information) Of course, there are times cut and paste is appropriate to show what some authority says, but that should also be done with proper citation and one should seek to have the best authorities.

When this was pointed out, the gears immediately switched to a different topic that was still being used to attack Christianity and yes, another cut and paste job. It has led me to the conclusion that there are too many atheists on the internet that simply look at a claim and decide whether it’s true or false depending on how it treats Christianity. If it puts Christianity in a negative light, it must be true. If it supports Christianity in any way, it must be false.

Before my atheist readers start complaining about a double-standard, I will address the complaint I see coming. Yes. Christians too often do the same thing.

I used to have it where my Dad would send out emails complaining about something Obama had done and with a statement of his. There was often a little problem with them. They were false. The events described did not happen. Now I’m no supporter of Obama, but I am a supporter of truth and if I want to take down an ideological opponent, I want to make sure that the claim is true. Too many times this kind of email was sent out to a large group of people so I’d hit the “reply all” button and start typing out what the true situation was.

On Facebook, this can easily happen with the “share” button. Consider how recently there was a story going around about a pagan eyewitness testimony being found to Jesus doing a miracle. Problem? The story was a complete fabrication, and yet Christians shared it like wildfire. When Christians do this, it gives the impression that Christians are gullible people who will believe anything as long as it supports their view.

Too often, that can be true.

When these claims are being passed around on the internet, it’s important to try to look and see if any valid sources are really backing this claim. If you want to know if a certain event happened, check local news to see if there is a record. My wife recently sent me a story about someone smashing a statue of the Ten Commandments saying the devil told him to do it. Sounds a bit crazy, but I checked. I saw local news stations sharing the story. That told me story was true. I said it was okay to share at that point.

What both sides need to learn is how to process information better and analyze it. There are arguments Christians use that I don’t think work. To give one example, I don’t think the ontological argument works. I know it has its supporters and many of them are very intelligent people. Still, it just doesn’t work in my eyes.

Meanwhile, there are many atheists that if you show them something that could indicate that there is some truth to something that was said in the Gospels, their heads will start turning and you would expect that they were in the Exorcist. This can be found on many popular internet atheist blogs. If anything gave any credibility to Christianity, it must be thrown out.

A great solution to this is what many people want to avoid. Read books. Many scholars will not put their work out there for free on the internet. If you read their books, you can have access to that information, and it could be a better usage of your time than watching that TV show that you want to watch. Read also the ones you disagree with. Let them show you the blind spots that could exist in your worldview. It’s why I often ask people “When was the last time you read a scholarly work that disagreed with you?”

The age of the internet can be a blessing if you know how to use it, but for too many on both sides, they will just uncritically accept whatever goes with their confirmation bias. Don’t be one of those. Research the claims. Especially if you’re a follower of Christ and claim to be a person of truth. Make sure your words are true.

In Christ,

Nick Peters