All posts by Wintery Knight

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William Lane Craig answers: how can the four gospels be independent sources?

Investigation in progress
Investigation in progress

Previously, I blogged about the historical criteria that historians use to evaluate documents. One of the criteria is “multiple independent sources”. If a story is reported in multiple indendent sources, then historians are more likely to evaluate it as historically accurate. But how about the four gospels? Are they independent sources? The answer might not be what you expect.

Here’s how the question was put to Dr. Craig:

The latest video, “Did Jesus Rise From the Dead,” is especially compelling, but I had a question about it. In the part one video, you cite as evidence, the Gospels plus Acts and First Corinthians and you refer to them as “independent” and “unconnected” sources. But this isn’t exactly true, is it? After all, two of these books were written by the same author, Luke, and so Luke and Acts are connected by authorship. Furthermore, isn’t it true that much information relayed in Matthew and Luke were taken from Mark? This two facts would make it untrue to call the Gospels “independent” and “unconnected” would they not?

Here’s the video he’s talking about:

Dr. Craig answers the question in his latest question of the week. I think this answer is important for those who aren’t aware of how the gospels are organized.

He writes:

The objection is based on a simple misunderstanding. It assumes that the sources I’m referring to are the books of the New Testament.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.

New Testament critics have identified a number of sources behind the New Testament, sources on which the New Testament authors drew. For example, Matthew and Luke drew not only upon Mark as a source but also upon a source which scholars designate “Q,” which appears to have been a source containing Jesus’ sayings or teachings. Thus, if you could show that a saying in Matthew or Luke appears in both Mark and Q, that would count as multiple, independent attestation.

What does this mean? It means that although there is overlap between Matthew and Luke, called “Q”, there are actually three independent sources there: Matthew’s source, called M. Luke’s source, called L. And the material common to Matthew and Luke, which therefore PRE-DATES Matthew and Luke, called Q.

Dr. Craig lists out several independent sources in his full reply:

  1. the pre-Markan Passion story used by Mark
  2. the rest of the gospel of Mark has a source
  3. Matthew’s source (M)
  4. Luke’s source (L)
  5. John’s gospel which is very different from Mark, Luke and Matthew
  6. the sermons in Acts have a source
  7. the early creed found in Paul’s 1 Corinthians 15

So if you are trying to lay out something from the New Testament, and you can find it in two of these sources, and at least one of them is very early, you’re in pretty good shape.

Although the questioner and the other critics might question the “minimal facts” that pass the historical tests, many of these facts are not questioned by even atheistic scholars.

Here’s a useful tip for non-professionals who want to disagree with Dr. Craig. Dr. Craig publishes his arguments in academic presses like Oxford University Press, not to mention scholarly peer-reviewed journals. He’s also debated his ideas against famous atheist historians like Gerd Ludemann, Marcus Borg, James Crossley, Bart Ehrman, etc. So it’s probably a good idea for people who want to disagree with him to first read some academic literature, or at least ask a professional. Before you post your YouTube video. You could even just ask a professional atheist historian. They will tell you what’s wrong with an argument like your “the sources are not independent” argument. Just check yourself before you post something in public. A lot of people who are still puzzling out these questions will look at a mistake like this, and immediately dismiss atheism as a sloppy, anti-intellectual worldview.

You can watch more of Dr. Craig’s videos in his playlist, here. These are especially useful for people who want to get the overall scope of the battlefield before deciding where to focus in study. Everybody should know about all of these arguments regardless of where you choose to specialize.

Wind, solar or nuclear: which is best for costs, electricity prices and the environment?

I bought a new book by a famous environmentalist Dr. Michael Shellenberger. He used to be a huge advocate for renewable energy (wind and solar). The book is about why he changed his mind and now prefers nuclear power. He has a long pedigree of environmental activism. I agree with him, so I wanted to get the book to learn how to argue it. For you, I have a short video instead of the book.

Here’s a 17-minute TED talk that he did:

And an article from Quillette that has the full text of the talk.

Here’s the part I thought was the most interesting, where he explains the problems with solar and wind:

The first was around land use. Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land. That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new transmissions lines, and are opposed by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.

Another challenge was the intermittent nature of solar and wind energies. When the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing, you have to quickly be able to ramp up another source of energy.

I was having a discussion with one of the software architects at my company, who LOVES wind power. I raised these objections with him, especially about the birds and the subsidies for wind and solar, and the higher electricity prices. His response was that he was confident that investing in the renewables would produce technological solutions to those problems.

Look what Schellenberger says, though:

What kills big, threatened, and endangered birds—birds that could go extinct—like hawks, eagles, owls, and condors, are wind turbines.

In fact, wind turbines are the most serious new threat to important bird species to emerge in decades.

[…]Solar farms have similarly large ecological impacts. Building a solar farm is a lot like building any other kind of farm. You have to clear the whole area of wildlife.

In order to build one of the biggest solar farms in California the developers hired biologists to pull threatened desert tortoises from their burrows, put them on the back of pickup trucks, transport them, and cage them in pens where many ended up dying.

[…][S]cientists recently warned that wind turbines are on the verge of making one species, the Hoary bat, a migratory bat species, go extinct.

More environmental impact:

You can make solar panels cheaper and wind turbines bigger, but you can’t make the sun shine more regularly or the wind blow more reliably. I came to understand the environmental implications of the physics of energy. In order to produce significant amounts of electricity from weak energy flows, you just have to spread them over enormous areas. In other words, the trouble with renewables isn’t fundamentally technical—it’s natural.

Higher costs:

Dealing with energy sources that are inherently unreliable, and require large amounts of land, comes at a high economic cost.

There’s been a lot of publicity about how solar panels and wind turbines have come down in cost. But those one-time cost savings from making them in big Chinese factories have been outweighed by the high cost of dealing with their unreliability.

There was a news article from the radically leftist UK Guardian recently that found that 40% of UK solar panels were manufactured by firms linked to Chinese slave labor.

Consumer electricity prices rise, disproportionately affecting the poor:

Consider California. Between 2011–17 the cost of solar panels declined about 75 percent, and yet our electricity prices rose five times more than they did in the rest of the U.S. It’s the same story in Germany, the world leader in solar and wind energy. Its electricity prices increased 50 percent between 2006–17, as it scaled up renewables.

The same thing happened in Canada, when they switched to renewables. According to a recent study, the province of Ontario saw a “21% increase in the overall average cost of power in the province over the period 2007-2013”.

Schellenberger likes nuclear energy:

Germany’s carbon emissions have been flat since 2009, despite an investment of $580 billion by 2025 in a renewables-heavy electrical grid, a 50 percent rise in electricity cost.

Meanwhile, France produces one-tenth the carbon emissions per unit of electricity as Germany and pays little more than half for its electricity. How? Through nuclear power.

Then, under pressure from Germany, France spent $33 billion on renewables, over the last decade. What was the result? A rise in the carbon intensity of its electricity supply, and higher electricity prices, too.

What about all the headlines about expensive nuclear and cheap solar and wind? They are largely an illusion resulting from the fact that 70 to 80 percent of the costs of building nuclear plants are up-front, whereas the costs given for solar and wind don’t include the high cost of transmission lines, new dams, or other forms of battery.

He talks a lot about whether nuclear power is safe, and what to do with the waste. I found it compelling. My architect friend didn’t ask me about that, but he did mention the cost of nuclear.

Here’s what I should have said (but didn’t):

All of the waste fuel from 45 years of the Swiss nuclear program can fit, in canisters, on a basketball court-like warehouse, where like all spent nuclear fuel, it has never hurt a fly.

By contrast, solar panels require 17 times more materials in the form of cement, glass, concrete, and steel than do nuclear plants, and create over 200 times more waste.

We tend to think of solar panels as clean, but the truth is that there is no plan anywhere to deal with solar panels at the end of their 20 to 25 year lifespan.

I did send him the lecture and the article after, though.

If you think this is an interesting topic, why not share the TED talk and the article with your friends? Some people vote Democrat just for renewable energy. I don’t like Democrat policies, so I have to be equipped to know how to respond to anything that anyone might like about them. Christian conservatives like me who care about things like abortion, marriage, religious liberty, etc. have to become experts at education policy, health care policy, energy policy, foreign policy, etc. I have to be able to debate anyone about any policy.

Did Democrats really defund police, reduce prosecution, and release criminals?

If you listen to the mainstream media, the Democrat-led effort to defund the police has produced a paradise of peace and prosperity. But when you look at the crime rates in Democrat-run major cities that defunded the police, and went soft on criminals, you see a different story. Let’s take a look at the crime data, and see the real effects of these policies.

Daily Signal reports on the policies that were enacted in Democrat-run major cities.

Chicago

Defunding the police:

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, proposed an $80 million cut to Chicago Police Department funding in October, according to Injustice Watch.

Releasing criminals:

Illinois became the first state to completely abolish its cash bail system earlier this year, NBC News reported.

[…]“This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state, and our nation and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness, and true justice,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, said after signing the bill in February, according to NBC News.

Baltimore

Defunding the police:

Baltimore City Council agreed to cut $22 million from the city’s police budget in June 2020, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Reduced prosecution of crimes:

In March, Baltimore City State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the city’s top prosecutor, announced she would no longer prosecute prostitution, drug possession, or other minor offenses, NBC affiliate WBAL-TV reported.

Milwaukee

Defunding the police:

The Milwaukee Common Council approved a police budget cut in November that reduced the department by 120 officers, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Pittsburgh

Defunding the police:

The Pittsburgh City Council approved a police department hiring freeze in July 2020, according to WPXI-TV. The council also ordered the department to redirect 10% of the budget to social service programs every year.

Los Angeles

Defunding the police:

The Los Angeles City Council approved a $150 million cut to the city’s police department in July 2020, ABC affiliate KABC-TV reported. Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat, supported the massive budget cuts.

These are Democrat policies, enacted by Democrat mayors and Democrat City Councils. In addition to these actions, several Democrat-run cities such as Portland and New York City dropped most charges against rioters and looters, or released them outright. So, what happened after these actions were taken?

First, the Washington Examiner:

Homicides in cities increased by up to 40% over the previous year, the biggest single-year increase since 1960, a trend that has not abated so far in 2021. Sixty-three of the 66 largest police jurisdictions saw a rise in at least one category of violent crime, ranging from homicide and rape to robbery and assault, according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Homicides and shootings have gone up for three straight years in Washington, D.C., and at least a dozen mass shootings were reported nationwide over the weekend.

The Federalist has more to say.

Massive destruction to property:

We saw almost a year of Black Lives Matter and Antifa mob violence with 574 riots; $2 billion in destruction, arson, and looting; at least 25 dead; and more than 2,000 police officers injured.

Undermining police morale:

The war on cops has also escalated. Already this year, 241 officers have been shot, 44 killed by gunfire, and ambush attacks have increased 103 percent.

[…]Officer morale is at rock bottom and many of the most qualified veterans are bailing out. Last year across the country, retirements increased by 45 percent and resignations by 18 percent.

Everyone is talking a lot about the foreign policy blunders of the Biden administration, the $3.5 trillion spending bill, the rising inflation, the threats to religious liberty, the rolling back of protections for the unborn, the anti-parent bias of public schools, etc. But you can’t neglect the victims of violent crime and property crime – many of them black.

It turns out that the Democrat voters who put the Democrats into office were actually the most opposed to black people’s prosperity and security. Intentions don’t matter. Only results matter. The results of Democrat policies have been a disaster for black people living in these Democrat-run cities. We have to do better for blacks, and that means not voting for the policies of the secular left.