Affirmations That Mitchell Did Indeed Make Affirmations That Mitchell Did Indeed Make Farr

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Affirmations That Mitchell Did Indeed Make Affirmations That Mitchell Did Indeed Make Farrell Till Throughout Lindell Mitchell's "rebuttal" articles on the issue of the Amalekite massacre, he refused to answer questions on the grounds that he was not the affirmant. In principle, I agree with Mitchell's position in this matter. It is indeed the affirmant's duty to affirm, and the negative's responsibility to respond to affirmative arguments. I myself object to debating opponents who attempt to put me on the defensive with long lists of questions when they are the ones who are supposed to be affirming. However, I have yet (with the exception of Mitchell) to engage a negative opponent who refused to answer questions that arose during the normal course of the debate. Knowing Church-of-Christ preachers as I do, I suspect that if Mitchell has ever engaged in formal debate, he himself has directed questions to his opponents while he was the affirmant. It is simply routine procedure, and I think that Mitchell knows that it is. Essentially, all that I asked of Mitchell during our first two exchanges was an answer to this question: If he had been born an Israelite in the days of King Saul, would he have willingly and gladly participated in the Amalekite massacre by killing women, children, babies, and pregnant women? This is a simple, direct question, and there is no good reason why Mitchell shouldn't answer it. He has described the Israelite soldiers who participated in the massacre as "God's army" that was engaged in a "holy war," so if he really believes this, why won't he just say, "Yes, I would have willingly and gladly participated in the Amalekite massacre. I would have considered it a great honor to be a part of God's army fighting in a holy war to kill women, children, and babies"? His inerrantist position would require such an answer as this, so I have to believe that he won't answer the question because he knows how bad such an answer would make him look. In Mitchell's letter published in the Spring 1994 issue (p. 15), he boasted that he had exposed my "profound ignorance," reduced my position to "ruin," and left me standing before the world "poor, blind, and naked." I can't help thinking that if he really believed he had accomplished all this, he would have welcomed the opportunity to answer any question from me so that he could have further exposed my profound ignorance. No, the "thoughtful readers" that he referred to in his last article will have no difficulty seeing why he met this question with screaming silence. He knew how ridiculous an answer consistent with his inerrantist position would have made him look. To the point of sounding almost like a broken record, Mitchell kept reminding us that he was "not affirming anything in this discussion" (p. 6) and used that as an excuse to dodge important issues that I had raised. In six consecutive paragraphs he began with references to "the affirmative [he] did not make," but the only thing he proved in this section of his article is that he does not understand basic principles of debating. It is true that the affirmant advances arguments in a debate, but it is also true that the opponent's responses to these arguments become negative affirmations that must be defended. For example, if Mitchell were affirming that Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical character, as his opponent I would expect him to argue that the Jewish historian Josephus mentioned Jesus and called him "the Christ" in _Antiquities_of_the_Jews_ (18.3.1). My response to this argument would be that this passage is a forgery that Josephus did not himself write. In saying this, I would be introducing a negative assertion or affirmation into the debate that I would be obligated to prove. I could imagine what Mitchell's reaction would be if I refused to defend it and simply said, "Well, I'm not the affirmant, so I don't have to prove anything." "Thoughtful readers," then, will have no difficulty seeing that all of Mitchell's I-am-not-the-affirmant talk was just a straw man that he set up to kick around to try to draw attention from the absurdity of his position in the matter of the Amalekite massacre. However, I don't intend to let him get away with the evasion. He has made several negative affirmations in this debate that he must defend before he can make any convincing claim to having exposed my "profound ignorance." One negative affirmation he made was that the "Omniscient God" was able to "look down the corridors of time and see that the babes of Amalek were destined to become vicious beasts like their ancestors" (Winter 1994, p. 4). This assertion was offered, of course, as a reason why the Amalekite massacre cannot be considered a moral atrocity; therefore, it is a negative affirmation that Mitchell should at least attempt to defend. In my response to this negative affirmation, I pointed out six flaws in it: (1) God is both omniscient and omnipotent but was unable to solve a problem except by massacring babies, (2) the Israelites could have taken "the babes of Amalek" back as captives and reared them as Yahweh-fearing Hebrews, (3) it assumes without proof that the Amalekites were indeed "vicious beasts," (4) it merely has one nation of "vicious beasts" exterminating another nation of vicious beasts, (5) it has Yahweh violating his own decree that says iniquity would be borne by the guilty ones and not by their descendants, and (6) it exempts Yahweh from the moral law that proscribes killing and thereby proves that the law is not "absolute." Mitchell's attempt to answer these arguments was a pathetically evasive exercise in question begging. This was his response to my claim that an omniscient, omnipotent deity should have been able to solve a problem without massacring babies: Mr. Till assumes God is unable to judge the situation fairly and punish the wicked. He assumes the giver of life has no right to terminate life. He assumes the Creator has no right to call innocent Amalekites into the protection of paradise. Mr. Till is obligated, given his epistemology, to produce objective sensory evidence that unequivocally proves this (Spring 1994, p. 6). Say what? The whole point of my arguments was to show that the God-did-it-so-it-must-have-been-okay position is riddled with problems. One of those problems is the obvious fact that an omniscient, omnipotent god would know everything and be able to do anything. Such a deity could have easily solved the Amalekite problem (if indeed such a problem even existed) without ordering the murder of innocent babies, but just where does Mitchell's comment quoted above even address this problem? Implicit in his statement are several "negative affirmations": (1) God was able to judge the situation fairly and punish the wicked, so (2) the Amalekites were wicked, (3) God is the giver of life, so (4) he has the right to terminate life, and (5) the creator had the right to call innocent Amalekites into the protection of paradise. None of these statements even remotely addressed the question of why an omniscient, omnipotent deity could not have found a solution to the "Amalekite problem" that didn't entail killing the innocent children. Indeed, all five assertions assume _without proof_, or even attempt at argumentation, that the Amalekite massacre was an event ordered by an omniscient deity. Mitchell had a lot to say about my duty to produce "quantitative objective evidence," but where is his evidence of _any_ kind that his god Yahweh was able to "judge the situation fairly"? Where is his evidence that "the giver of life has the right to terminate life"? Where is his evidence that the "Creaor" had the right "to call innocent Amalekites into the protection of paradise"? For that matter, where is his evidence that there was even a paradise for the innocent Amalekites to be called into? Mitchell can't hide behind the fact that he is not the affirmant and so, therefore, didn't have to prove anything, because if he is going to offer assertions like these as negative arguments (affirmations), then he has the responsibility to try to prove them. The record clearly shows that he supported none of the assertions with evidence, so his attempt to explain away the first flaw in his corridors-of-time affirmation constituted nothing but question begging. In trying to get around the second flaw in this affirmation, he resorted to both quibbling and question begging. First, he argued that [ref001]Deuteronomy 21: 10-14 addressed not the adoption of foreign children but the marriage of Jewish soldiers and captive women. Be that as it may, the fact that the women were captives who were marrying Jewish soldiers surely meant that they were being integrated into Hebrew society rather than being killed. Although there are despicable implications in the fact that the Hebrew soldiers were allowed to keep the virgin Midianite girls alive for themselves ([ref002]Num. 31:18 ), the lives of these captive girls were at least spared. [ref003]Exodus 12:48-49 made provisions for "strangers" or "sojourners" to be integrated into Jewish society through the rite of circumcision, so I have to wonder if Mitchell was serious when he said that I was wrong "as usual" in saying that there were provisions in the Mosaic law for integrating foreigners into Hebrew society. If so, he needs to study his inspired word of God a little more. After this quibble, the question begging resumed. Why, if the Israelites had brought the children back as captives rather than slaughtering them, "a divine law would have been broken," Mitchell said, because "(t)he order to execute the Amalekites did not allow for adoption" (Ibid., p. 6). But what evidence did Mitchell offer as proof that Yahweh actually did order the Amalekite massacre? He gave none at all, so he begged the question again. I know that [ref004]1 Samuel 15:2 clearly states that Yahweh commanded the massacre, but the only thing this proves is that [ref005]1 Samuel 15:2 says that the orders to destroy the Amalekites came from Yahweh. The fact that a holy book may say something doesn't prove that what it says is true, and Mitchell would agree with this in the case of every holy book except his precious inspired word of God. In my second article (Spring 1994, p. 4), I pointed this out as problem number five in Mitchell's "holy-war" scenario. This was how he "responded to it: He [Till] assumes Yahweh did not actually order the massacre of the Amalekites. He is obligated to produce objective measurable evidence unequivocally proving his assertion (p. 7). So Mitchell demands that I prove that Yahweh did not order the Amalekite massacre, and this is the same Lindell Mitchell who said in the letter published simultaneously with his last article that he had exposed my "profound ignorance" and reduced my position to "ruin" (Spring 1994, p. 15). He apparently has no sense of what constitutes burden of proof in argumentation. The one who asserts the extraordinary is the one who finds the burden of proof hanging on his back. To assert that a deity ordered a primitive, barbaric king to exterminate an entire tribe of people is an extraordinary claim. The likelihood that such an event actually happened is practically nil, so if I question that it did happen, I am merely demonstrating common sense and reasonable skepticism. The responsibility to prove that such an unlikely event did not happen is about equal to my responsibility to prove that the tooth fairy does not leave quarters under the pillows of children who lose their baby teeth. If Mitchell doesn't understand the burden-of-proof principle any better than his statement above indicates, he should stick to his country preaching and forget about debating. This is a good place to put to rest Mitchell's I'm-not-the-affirmant quibble. Although technically he isn't the affirmant, he certainly should be because of the burden-of-proof principle just stated. He claims that an omniscient, omnipotent deity ordered the massacre of an entire nation of people, and that is about as extraordinary as any claim could be. The burden of proving it rests squarely on his shoulders. So why isn't he the affirmant? Why isn't he affirming, as Clarence Lavender did in an earlier issue of _The_Skeptical_Review _, that the Hebrew massacres of the non-Jewish tribes in Canaan were "the highest manifestation of the goodness of God" ("Was It Morally Right for God to Order the Killing of the Canaanites?" Winter 1993, p. 6)? Well, he isn't because he refused to defend his position. In the negotiations to have a written debate in _TSR_ on the Amalekite massacre, he flatly refused to defend the moral propriety of the massacre but did agree to deny that it was a moral atrocity. Now we know why he took this track. He wanted to quibble about not having to answer questions or prove anything because he isn't the affirmant. The third flaw that I pointed out in his negative affirmation about the "Omniscient God looking down the "corridors of time" was that it merely assumes that the Amalekites were "vicious beasts" who deserved to be exterminated. I repeatedly urged Mitchell to produce a biblical text that even suggests that the Amalekites of Saul's time were any more corrupt than any other contemporary nation. He did not produce the text! His failure to produce the text, however, did not keep him from constantly repeating his assertion that the Amalekites were an evil people that deserved to die. Please notice these direct quotations from his last article: Not one Amalekite was killed solely because of nationality. The Amalekites were a persistently wicked people; consequently God ordered their execution (left column, p. 5). He [Till] will not allow God to punish a wicked nation but defends killing inconvenient infants. The Omniscient God cannot determine that the infants of Amalek were destined to pursue the wicked course their ancestors relentlessly followed for 450 years (center column, p. 5). Mr. Till assumes God is unable to judge the situation fairly and punish the wicked [Amalekites] (center column, p. 6). If the readers will check these statements in context, they will see that not one time did he quote any biblical or extrabiblical text to support his contention that the Amalekites of Saul's day were a "wicked" nation. He didn't, of course, because he can't. So this is just one more example of his question-begging debating tactics. His question begging reached its peak on this point in column two, page six, of his last article: Till says I assume without proof that the Amalekites were vicious. He says passages showing them to be bushwhackers, cutthroats, and murderers are insufficient. Their ambushing the Jews in an unprovoked attack is insufficient for Mr. Till. Here Mitchell attempted to build a case against the Amalekites of Saul's time by referring to events associated with the Amalekites who lived 450 years earlier, but this tactic won't work. Even the passages he had in mind ([ref006]Ex. 17:8-16 ; [ref007]Num. 13-14 ) can't prove that the Amalekites who had lived 450 years before Saul were "bushwhackers, cutthroats, and murderers," as Mitchell asserts; the most that these passages can prove is that the Amalekites of that time took military action against a horde of three million people entering their territory. Mitchell called this an "unprovoked attack," but according to his inerrant word of God, the Israelite army at that time numbered 600,000 ([ref008]Ex. 12:37 ; [ref009]Num. 1:45-46 ). How can he possibly consider the Amaekite military action against an encroaching army of 600,00 an "unprovoked attack"? If 600,000 armed soldiers should enter a foreign country today, what reasonable person would accuse that country of an "unprovoked attack" if it took military action against the intruders? Would any reasonable person characterize the defending country as a nation of "vicious beasts"? Let's just assume, however, that the Amalekite military action was an "unprovoked attack." What would that prove about the "wickedness" of the Amalekites who lived 450 years later in the time of Saul? I repeatedly pressed Mitchell to produce the book, chapter, and verse that would support his claim that they were "wicked," and this is how he attempted to prove it: He [Till] asks why God would punish the Amalekites for something their ancestors did 450 years earlier. In typical Till fashion, he abuses the context of Numbers 13-14, refusing to acknowledge the Amalekites had over four centuries to repent but instead had continued to be an unrelenting threat to God's people. He is obligated to unequivocally prove that the Amalekites were not vile savages worthy of death (Ibid.). Say what again! I am obligated to prove unequivocally that the Amalekites were _not_ vile savages worthy of death? By what logic does he arrive at this screwball conclusion? There is absolutely no biblical or extrabiblical passage _anywhere _ to support his claim that the "Amalekites had [had] over four centures to repent but instead had continued to be an unrelenting threat to God's people"; it is merely something that he asserts without proof. He begs the question again. And this man had the gall to claim that he had exposed my "profound ignorance," reduced my position to "ruin," and left me standing before the world "poor, blind, and naked"! Now what was it that he said about the legs of the lame being unequal? So I will leave this point with a final appeal for Mitchell to put up or shut up. Where is the textual evidence, either biblical or extrabiblical, that supports his claim that the Amalekites had "unrelentingly" pursued a "wicked course" for 450 years? He should either produce the evidence to prove the Amalekites were "vicious beasts" who deserved to die or else he should stop begging the question. The fourth flaw that I identified in Mitchell's negative affirmation about the "Omniscient God" ridding the world of a nation of "vicious beasts" is that this scenario has one nation of vicious beasts exterminating another nation of vicious beasts. I asked Mitchell to tell us what possible moral good Yahweh had hoped to achieve from such a swap off, but of course Mitchell wasn't in the mood to chase rabbits. All that he said about this was that "whining Jews" had "lodged this same objection when they were taken captive by Assyria and Babylon" (p. 6). He said that God's response was, "I'm not through yet; they shall be punished." Throughout the entire confusing maze of this answer, Mitchell cited no scripture references, so it was an answer that gave me nothing to respond to. He concluded this "rebuttal" argument by saying that if I were familiar with prophetic literature, I "would know God did punish Assyria and Babylon." What this has to do with why Yahweh would have one "wicked" nation exterminate another wicked nation (as would have been the case in the Israelite campaign against the Amalekites) completely alludes me. For one thing, Mitchell's analogy reverses the situation. In the one case, the "people of God" defeated a pagan nation; in the other case, pagan nations defeated the "people of God." As for Mitchell's contention that I should know that "God did punish Assyria and Babylon," I must take issue. I know that the Bible says that God punished Assyria and Babylon, but we are back to a point that I made earlier. The fact that a holy book _says_ something doesn't automatically make what it says true. Mitchell has an obligation to produce "unequivocal" evidence that God really did punish Assyria and Babylon. The fact that some ethnocentric mystics called "prophets," living in highly superstitious times, interpreted calamaties that befell Assyria and Babylon as punishment from God doesn't make it true. The fifth flaw that I pointed out in Mitchell's main negative affirmation is that the massacre of the Amalekites had violated yahweh's own edict against the innocent having to bear the iniquity of the guilty ([ref010]Ez. 18:20 ; [ref011]Dt. 24:16 ). This was Mitchell's "answer" to the argument: No Amalekite bore the iniquity of even one sin committed by an ancestor. They bore the result of their ancestors' rebellion but not the guilt. That happens every time car-jackers kill an innocent driver. The victims bear no guilt for the crimes committed against them, but they obviously bear the consequences (p. 6). One thing is obvious in this debate: Mitchell doesn't seem to know what the fallacy of false analogy is. Certainly, the victim of a carjacking bears the consequences of the carjacker's criminal action, but this isn't even remotely parallel to what presumably happened in the Amalekite massacre. "I remember that which Amalek did to Israel," Yahweh allegedly said, "_how he_laid_wait_for_him_in_the_way_when_he_came_up_from_Egypt_. Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, _infant and suckling_, camel and ass" ([ref012]1 Sam. 15:2-3 ). The reason that Yahweh gave for ordering the massacre--and the _only_ reason he gave--was the Amalekite attack on the Israelites 450 years earlier. The Amalekites of Saul's day had obviously not participated in the attack or in any way aided or abetted it. To massacre them for the attack amounts to having killed them for something that they did not personally do. In this sense, they bore the iniquity of their ancestors. Let's suppose that a person killed an entire family during a carjacking and was never caught and punished for the crime. Then let's suppose that after this person was dead, his identity was discovered and the execution of all of his surviving relatives was ordered by the government. Even Mitchell would be able to see the abysmal injustice of such an action. But let's suppose that the government waited for 450 years and then ordered the execution of all of the criminal's descendants. That would be even more morally absurd, but it would be much more parallel to what happened in the Amalekite massacre than was Mitchell's example of the victim of a carjacking bearing the consequences of criminal action. There is no evidence--_none whatsoever_--that the Amalekites of Saul's day were any more "wicked" than the other regional neighbors of Israel. If such evidence existed, Mitchell would have jumped on it "like ugly on a monkey." Therefore, one bitterly embarrassing fact remains unrefuted by Mitchell: the Bible teaches that God ordered the massacre of an entire nation--including women, children, and babies--for something their ancestors had done 450 years earlier. I would think that a debater who has exposed my "profound ignorance," reduced my position to "ruin," and left me standing before the world "poor, blind, and naked" could give a satisfactory solution to this major problem in his negative affirmation. At this point in Mitchell's last rebuttal, the intellectual bankruptcy of his position became painfully conspicuous. I had pointed out _six_ flaws in his negative attempt (affirmation) to justify the Amalekite massacre on the grounds that God did it, so that made it morally right. Readers may check my second article to verify that I began discussing these flaws in the middle column of page 3 and continued the discussion through the left column of page 4. Each point was highlighted in bold italicized print. In the middle column on page 6 in his rebuttal, Mitchell began his "response" to these six points. He introduced each response with a numerical designation, i.e., first, second, third, four, and fifth. A review of his article, however, will show that there was no "sixth." In other words, he stopped after discussing my fifth point and made no effort to rebut the sixth. That sixth point was this: "Mitchell's position exempts Yahweh from the _absolute_ moral law that presumably exists." _Absolute_, in the sense that it has in the term "absolute morality," means "not limited by restrictions, qualifications, or exceptions; unconditional." In other words, if a moral law is "absolute," then it is universal and unconditional; it can have no exceptions to it. If it is immoral for Joe to lie, then it is immoral for John to lie. If it is immoral to lie in Belgium, then it is immoral to lie in Peru. The moral law against lying, if it is an _absolute_ law, is univerally and unconditionally applicable to everyone. Inerrantists like Mitchell recognize the implications of _absolute _ as it applies to the moral law that proscribes lying. They will, in fact, argue that God _cannot_ lie ([ref013]Titus 1:2 ), that it is even _impossible_ for God to lie ([ref014]Heb. 6:18 ). They would argue that the reason why God cannot lie is because moral goodness emanates from God's nature. Whatever is objectively "good" must therefore be a part of God's nature, but whatever is objectively evil cannot be a part of God's nature. It would be impossible for anything objectively "bad" to be a part of God's nature; hence, God _cannot_ lie. This makes good sermon fodder, but it conflicts with the issue at hand. If killing is objectively "bad," then why wouldn't it be impossible for God to kill? The Bible clearly teaches, however, that it isn't impossible for God to kill. To the contrary, the Bible teaches that God often did kill and often ordered others to kill, as in the case of the Amalekite massacre. Mitchell apparently can't see the absurd inconsistency of this. Lying is objectively bad, so it is impossible for God to lie. Killing is objectively bad, but it is nevertheless possible for God to kill and very likely that he will kill. No wonder Mitchell skipped this point in his last rebuttal. He has said that he will not continue this discussion, but if he should change his mind, let's hope he will give chase to this rabbit. _If killing babies is a violation of absolute moral law, why wouldn't God have been guilty of violating this absolute law when he ordered the massacre of Amalekite babies? _ Whether he is the affirmant or not in this discussion doesn't matter. A basic negative affirmation of his has been that no moral atrocity occurred in the Amalekite massacre because God ordered it and God can do no wrong. So he must explain how a law can be both absolute and conditional. How can it be absolute and yet exempt some from its restrictions? I also pointed out problems in any negative affirmation that seeks to justify the Amalekite massacre on the grounds that God commanded it. Such a claim assumes (1) that an "Omniscient God" exists, (2) that this "Omniscient God" is morally good, (3) that Yahweh of the Hebrews is the "Omniscient God," and (4) that Yahweh actually did order the massacre of the Amalekites. Mitchell tried to brush these aside with more negative assertions that he made almost no attempt to prove. On the matter of God's existence, he tried to shift to me the responsibility of proving that God does not exist, but the burden-of-proof principle discussed earlier puts on him the responsibility to prove that God does exist. He who asserts an extraordinary claim has the duty to prove that claim, and the assertion that an omniscient god exists despite the fact that he cannot be seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted is certainly an extraordinary claim. The burden of proving this assertion weighs on Mitchell's shoulders, not on mine to disprove it. Mitchell said that none of the theistic arguments (teleological, ontological, cosmological, etc.) has ever been "successfully refuted" (p. 7). If he really believes this, I suggest that he read Michael Martin's _Atheism:_a_Philosophical_Justification _. I suspect that much of the material in this book will sail way over Mitchell's fundamentalist head, but if he will give it a try, he should at least understand some of the reasons why the Judeo-Christian concept of God is too self-contradictory for rational people to believe. Even if Mitchell is right in saying that none of the major theistic arguments has ever been successfully refuted--and I don't for one moment concede that he is right--that would not prove that Yahweh of the Hebrews is the omniscient God. Without that proof, he has only the word of ethnocentric Hebrew mystics, writing in abysmally superstitious times, that Yahweh was the one true God and that he ordered the massacre of the Amalekites. If Mitchell wants to accept that as "irrefutable" proof of his position, then why not just let him wallow in his blissful ignorance? Mitchell's greatest failure in this debate has been his inability to establish the existence of an absolute (objective) standard of morality. He cannot say that he has no responsibility to prove this, because a major negative argument of his has been that "it is impossible to have a moral atrocity in the absence of an objective moral sandard against which to measure thoughts, words, and deeds" (Winter 1994, p. 5; Spring 1994, p. 7). In arguing this, he has made a negative affirmation that he must prove in order to sustain his argument. Needless to say, he hasn't even come close to proving the existence of his beloved standard of absolute morality. In my response to Bill Lockwood's article ("The Skeptic's Sword"), which Mitchell had a copy of when he was writing his last rebuttal, I compared concepts of right and wrong to other intellectual abstractions. I asked if it is possible, in the absence of an objective standard of beauty against which to measure light, hue, and perspective, to determine if a sunset is beautiful. I asked if it would be possible, in the absence of an objective standard of loyalty, to determine if a spouse or friend or employee is loyal. Mitchell said nothing about this. Perhaps he will say that he didn't address this point because it was in my response to Lockwood rather than my article on the Amalekite massacre, but I sent him a copy of my response to Lockwood precisely so that he would have the opportunity to reply to this argument and anything else that I said to equate moral conceptualization with intellectual abstraction. If Mitchell chooses to write a response to this article, let's hope that he decides to chase this pesky little rabbit. In an effort to extricate himself from the problem posed by the apostle Paul's recognition that some Gentiles had lived moral lives without having received a divine revelation, Mitchell gave us a four-sentence exegesis of the first three chapters of Romans: chapter one shows that the Gentiles are guilty before God, chapter two shows that the Jews are guilty before God, and chapter three shows that everyone is guilty. "Any interpretation of the passage must be consistent with the context," Mitchell said. Well, okay, I won't argue with that, but I see nothing in any of it that negates the fact that Paul clearly said that some Gentiles had done by nature the things of the law and had thus become a law unto themselves. Let Mitchell tell us if the following statement is true or false: When Gentiles that had not the law did by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, were the law unto themselves. This statement is a verbatim quotation from the ASV except that I have changed the tense of the verbs from present to past. So maybe Mitchell will give this rabbit a run for its money. Another serious failure in Mitchell's article was his refusal to explain to us how we can determine what absolute morality is. If an omniscient deity has really given the world a standard of absolute morality, then surely he made it clear enough for all to understand. If not, then what's the use of having a standard of absolute morality? If we can't determine what it is, then we are no better off than we would be if we didn't even have it. Now Mitchell, of course, will argue that the Bible is that standard of absolute morality, so I renew again my challenge for him to resolve certain perplexing moral dilemmas that our modern technology has created. In my correspondence with Mitchell, as well as my response to Lockwood, I have repeatedly asked for a book-chapter-and-verse resolution of certain modern moral dilemmas: Is it morally right, for example, for a woman to allow herself to be artificially inseminated by the semen of a man she is not married to? Is it morally right to transplant organs? Is in vitro fertilization morally right? Embryo transplants? Gene-splicing? And more recently we have learned that human embryos can be cloned. Will it be morally right to clone humans? Was the right moral decision made last summer when Siamese twins were separated in an operation that surgeons knew would result in the death of one of the twins? What does Lockwood's guide to absolute morality tell us about this and the other issues mentioned above? Since these matters were put to Mitchell and Lockwood, network news programs have reported that scientists in England have succeeded in removing ova from female cadavers and then successfully fertilizing them _in_vitro_. When this process is perfected, it will be possible for dead women to become mothers through zygotic transplantation. Will this be morally right? We have to wonder why Mitchell and Lockwood refuse to answer questions like these. They are so cocksure of their absolute-morality position, yet they seem not to have the answer to much of anything. All they know is that they must defend the Bible no matter what the intellectual costs. So in the end, they wind up looking ridiculous by defending the killing of babies on the dubious grounds that a bunch of Hebrew mystics said that God ordered the babies to be killed. They cling tenaciously to a flimsy position like this rather than conceding the more likely possibility that the mystics of supersitious times just mistakenly thought that their god had ordered the killings. They should wake up and realize that the 21st century is almost here, which will be a time of remarkable scientific advancement when only the incredibly gullible will be able to believe in the tribalgod nonsense of biblical times. [ref001] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Deuteronomy+21:10-14 [ref002] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Numbers+31:18 [ref003] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Exodus+12:48-49 [ref004] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Samuel+15:2 [ref005] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Samuel+15:2 [ref006] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Exodus+17:8-16 [ref007] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Numbers+13-14 [ref008] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Exodus+12:37 [ref009] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Numbers+1:45-46 [ref010] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Ezekiel+18:20 [ref011] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Deuteronomy+24:16 [ref012] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Samuel+15:2-3 [ref013] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Titus+1:2 [ref014] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?Hebrews+6:18

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