Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Case Against God Revisit: Imagine There's No Evolution...

What if the entire scientific community is wrong? What if Darwinian evolution by natural selection, convincing though it has been since the time of Charles Darwin, has not occurred? Indeed, what if, far from modern notions of common descent, all species were specially created—all at once—by a supernatural Creator who personally designed every creature’s form? This Creator would be responsible for Homo sapiens sapiens, of course, but also for Drosophila melanogaster, Apatosaurus excelsus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus and Dendroaspis polylepis, along with every other species of living thing that has ever populated the Earth. Going down this particular rabbit hole is rather difficult; after all, Darwinian evolution by natural selection is scientific fact, a truth as well attested and irrefragable as the germ theory of disease or the heliocentric theory of the solar system. Nevertheless, if we take the enormous leap of faith required to reject Darwinian evolution, we can examine the world as we find it and, I shall argue, discern important qualities of the Creator. These qualities should offer no comfort to the religious.

And so, down the rabbit hole we go, looking at Earth not as an extremely ancient planet whose antiquity is confirmed by several converging lines of evidence but, rather, as a baby planet whose considerable biodiversity can be entirely explained within a several-thousand-year history. Yes, now we must look at Earth as the backyard garden of the Creator. But what kind of a Creator? Looking at the available evidence, I shall explain why we can conclude such a Creator is (1) a devious being, who wishes to trick humans into believing Earth is extremely ancient and the species have an evolutionary history, (2) remarkably odd, because the distribution of species on Earth, if consciously arranged, speaks to an extraordinarily queer mind, (3) peerlessly wasteful, given the presence of nonfunctional pseudogenes, and (4) idiotic, as evidenced by the utterly incompetent design that can be found throughout the creation, in humans as well as other species.

The majority of my material, as well as my initial inspiration, comes from The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins, and Why Evolution is True, by Jerry A. Coyne. When I use either author’s exact words, I shall quote him directly; if, however, I simply summarize a discussion in either text, I might not make a specific citation. Thus, let it be clear that Dawkins and Coyne’s fertile minds contributed invaluably to the whole of this piece.

First, then, surveying the evidence at our disposal, we can be certain that the Creator is devious, deliberately setting out to create a false impression of Earth’s antiquity and evolution’s occurrence. The first way in which this characteristic manifests itself is in the theory of plate tectonics, a geological theory that states the lithosphere of the Earth is divided into a small number of plates that float on and travel independently over the mantle. We now understand that the continents have not always existed as we currently know them. For example, Gondwana was an ancient supercontinent encompassing our present South America, Africa, Arabia, Madagascar, India, Australia and Antarctica. Gondwana broke up gradually, in stages.

Our principal interest is when Africa and South America began breaking apart, which, according to current scientific thinking, was about 140 million years ago. The two continents are now separated by some 3000 miles, with the speed of separation being a couple of inches per year. If, however, Earth is actually quite young—merely several thousand years old—and the product of a Creator, such a snail-like speed would not be nearly enough to separate the continents to their current distance. Indeed, if, as some have proposed, Gondwana broke up during the Noachian flood, the continents would positively have had to hurtle away from each other. Because the speed of separation can be measured, and it is remarkably slow, we can be confident that any Creator who separated the continents at a very quick speed sometime in the last few thousand years is trying to deceive us into believing Earth is ancient. The Creator is deceptive.

The Creator’s trickster tendencies are also apparent in our radioactive clocks. Radioactive isotopes in igneous rocks (rocks formed by magma cooling down and becoming solid) are used for dating purposes, because the isotopes decay at a constant rate. It is important to note that there are several radioactive isotopes scientists use, and they often co-exist within the same rocks. The decay rate used is typically the half-life, that being how long it takes for half of the unstable isotope present to decay to something stable (to go from 100 to 50, 50 to 25 and so forth). Carbon-14 decays to Nitrogen-14; its half-life is 5730 years. Uranium-238 decays to Lead-206; its half-life is 4.5 billion years. Uranium-235 decays to Lead-207; its half-life is 704 million years. Other unstable isotopes include Potassium-40, Thorium-232, Rubidium-87 and Samarium-147. Importantly, as Jerry Coyne writes, “Several radioisotopes usually occur together, so the dates can be cross-checked, and the ages invariably agree.”

This is important because, with our half-life figures calibrated, we can use radioactive clocks to converge on an approximation of Earth’s age. In fact, scientists have done just that. Richard Dawkins writes, “The currently agreed age of 4.6 billion years is the estimate upon which several different clocks converge.” This fact surely means the Creator—who created Earth merely several thousand years ago—is devious beyond compare. Not only did he change the half-life figures of every radioactive isotope that we use for historical dating, but he also changed them in such a way that each one converges on the same ancient age—4.6 billion years—for Earth! To be sure, for every clock to converge on, say, 6000 years, every half-life would have to be tweaked differently.

Dawkins makes this point: “Bear in mind the huge differences in timescales of the different clocks, and think of the amount of contrived and complicated fiddling with the laws of physics that would be needed in order to make all the clocks agree with each other, across the orders of magnitude, that the Earth is 6000 years old and not 4.6 billion!” To do such fiddling, thus making every radioactive isotope that we use all agree that Earth is 4.6 billion years old, attests to a Creator who deliberately attempts to trick humans undertaking scientific study. The Creator is devious.

This deviousness extends to evolution, which, clearly, the Creator wants scientists to accept; that is the only explanation for the fossil record. When we talk about “dating fossils,” what we nearly always mean is dating the rocks around which the fossils are found. This is where the geologic strata become important. The geologic strata (singular is “stratum”) are layers of rock, one on top of the other, with the oldest rocks the deepest down and the youngest rocks the highest up. The scientific community refers to this layering as the geologic column, and it is extremely well evidenced. The salient point for our purposes here is that, when dating fossils (actually, the rocks around which fossils are found), they appear in a strict evolutionary order. When questioned by a creationist as to what observation could possibly disprove Darwinian evolution, the late J. B. S. Haldane famously answered, “Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian!” On the evolutionary view, the Precambrian spans from Earth’s formation about 4.6 billion years ago to approximately 542 million years ago; rabbits are mammals, and the first mammals do not come onto the scene until about 250 million years ago. As Coyne writes, “Needless to say, no Precambrian rabbits, or any other anachronistic fossils, have ever been found.”

The complete absence of anachronistic fossils lends considerable credence to the evolutionary view. To reconcile it with a Creator, one absolutely must assume a devious trickster. Dawkins writes, “It is a fact that literally nothing that you could remotely call a mammal has ever been found in Devonian rock or in any older stratum. They are not just statistically rarer in Devonian than in later rocks. They literally never occur in rocks older than a certain date.” He continues, “There are literally no trilobites above Permian strata, literally no dinosaurs (except birds) above Cretaceous strata.” At the considerable risk of deceased equine flogging, Dawkins sums it up: “All the fossils that we have, and there are very very many indeed, occur, without a single authenticated exception, in the right temporal sequence.” How many dinosaur fossils have we found in the same rocks as Australopithecine fossils? Zero. How many zebra fossils have we found in the same rocks as trilobite fossils? Zero. How many anachronistic fossils have been authenticated? Zero. The only explanation is that the deceptive Creator is fudging the fossils to make Darwinian evolution an inescapable conclusion.

On creationism, the distribution of species on Earth makes very little sense, attesting to a Creator with an extremely odd mind, bordering on completely inscrutable. Nowhere is this sheer oddness more evident than in island biogeography. With respect to islands, there is an important distinction that is material to our discussion: the difference between continental islands and oceanic islands. Continental islands are those that once were connected to a continent but later became separated. An example would be Madagascar. Oceanic islands, by contrast, are those that never were part of a continent; islands of this variety arose from the seafloor. An example here would be St. Helena.

On a creationist theory positing a Creator who is not a weirdo, there is little reason to suppose there would be much difference vis-à-vis biogeography between continental and oceanic islands. However, the differences are dramatic, which has led many scientists to accept evolution and, in our case, for us to conclude the Creator is simply an odd duck. Coyne writes, “Oceanic islands are missing many types of native species that we see on both continents and continental islands. Take Hawaii, a tropical archipelago whose islands occupy about 6400 square miles, only slightly smaller than the state of Massachusetts. While the islands are well stocked with native birds, plants, and insects, they completely lack native freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles, and land mammals. Napoleon’s island of St. Helena and the archipelago of Juan Fernández lack these same groups, but still have plenty of endemic plants, birds, and insects. The Galápagos Islands do have a few native reptiles (land and marine iguanas, as well as the famous giant tortoises), but they too are missing native mammals, amphibians, and freshwater fish. Over and over again, on the oceanic islands that dot the Pacific, the South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean, one sees a pattern of missing groups—more to the point, the same missing groups.”

It takes only a moment of thought to recognize that plants, birds, and insects and other arthropods “can colonize an oceanic island through long-distance dispersal.” By contrast, land mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish would have extreme difficulty colonizing an oceanic island unless, for example, some reptiles made it onto a log that happened to “raft” onto one. The topic of island biogeography is rich, and a great deal more could be said, but it exceeds the scope of this paper. Suffice it to note that, on creationism, with anything but an extraordinarily queer Creator, we would not expect such differential biodiversity on continental versus oceanic islands.

The peculiarity with which the species are dispersed cannot be overstated, and Dawkins asks the questions as well as anyone does. He writes, “Why would all those marsupials—ranging from tiny pouched mice through koalas and bilbys to giant kangaroos and Diprotodonts—why would all those marsupials, but no placentals at all, have migrated en masse from Mount Ararat to Australia? Which route did they take? And why did not a single member of their straggling caravan pause on the way, and settle—in India, perhaps, or China, or some haven along the Great Silk Road? Why did the entire order Edentata (all twenty species of armadillo, including the extinct giant armadillo, all six species of sloth, including extinct giant sloths, and all four species of anteater) troop off unerringly for South America, leaving not a rack behind, leaving no hide nor hair nor armour plate of settlers somewhere along the way? Why were they joined by the entire infraorder of caviomorph rodents, including guinea pigs, agoutis, pacas, maras, capybaras, chinchillas and lots of others, a large group of characteristically South American rodents found nowhere else?” Dawkins notes that lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, and thus continues, “Did all thirty-seven and more species of lemur troop in a body down Noah’s gangplank and hightail it (literally in the case of the ringtail) for Madagascar, leaving not a single straggler by the wayside, anywhere throughout the length and breadth of Africa?” Once again, then, we have no choice but to conclude the Creator is profoundly odd.

The next two Creator characteristics can be discerned more briefly, and I shall do so to keep the information easily digestible. The third characteristic of a Creator is that he is peerlessly wasteful, and this fact is never more clear than in examining the pseudogene, which is defined as a sequence of DNA that is very similar to a normal gene but that has been altered slightly so that it is not expressed; by definition, they are incapable of producing a protein product. Coyne writes, “Virtually every species harbors dead genes, many of them still active in its relatives. This implies that those genes were also active in a common ancestor, and were killed off in some descendants but not in others. Out of about thirty thousand genes, for example, we humans carry more than two thousand pseudogenes. Our genome—and that of other species—are truly well populated graveyards of dead genes.” For what possible reason would the Creator litter the genome with pseudogenes—a gene that, by definition, does entirely nothing? Because, as I say, the Creator must be prodigal in the extreme. Perhaps shameless wastefulness is a virtue.

Finally, the evidence clearly shows that the Creator, far from being a designer of formidable intelligence, is rather idiotic. In so declaring, I am not referencing the mindless wastefulness of pseudogenes; rather, I refer to the shoddy engineering and craftsmanship of the species themselves. A classic example—indeed, it has been well mined by Darwinians—is the recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals. Coyne writes, “Running from the brain to the larynx, this nerve helps us speak and swallow. The curious thing is that it is much longer than it needs to be. Rather than taking a direct route from the brain to the larynx, a distance of about a foot in humans, the nerve runs down into our chest, loops around the aorta and a ligament derived from an artery, and then travels back up (‘recurs’) to connect to the larynx. It winds up being three feet long. In giraffes the nerve takes a similar path, but one that runs all the way down that long neck and back up again: a distance fifteen feet longer than the direct route!” Of course, on an evolutionary view, this presents some evidence of common mammalian descent; on our creationist view, it simply reveals a Creator whose stupidity is reliable.

The examples I could mine in the vein of the Creator’s idiocy would fill a book—perhaps several. The vas deferens takes a similar nonsensical detour in its route from testis to penis. In his inimitable way, Dawkins writes, “It takes a ridiculous detour around the ureter, the pipe that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. If this were designed, nobody could seriously deny that the designer had made a bad error.” Yet another example of idiocy comes in the form of goose bumps. In species with a full coat of hair, piloerection makes sense. If the creature is cold, it results in the erect hairs trapping air to create a layer of insulation. Additionally, if the creature is threatened, “puffing up” its body hair can create the impression that the animal is larger. In short, then, piloerection, though completely sensible for hair-covered animals, is utterly senseless in humans—the naked ape. It is as though the Creator, in a fit of idiocy, attached a steering wheel to a refrigerator. Thus, we can be assured that the Creator, responsible for humans and bats, dandelions and plesiosaurs, is formidably moronic.

Is this really what creationists seek? Do they really want a Creator who is devious, weird, wasteful and idiotic? We must go where the evidence takes us; we must look at the simple facts and draw our conclusions directly from them—we must never let the conclusion dictate the facts we choose to recognize. The facts that we find as we examine and analyze the natural order all lead directly to Darwinian evolution by natural selection. To make any creationism hypothesis work, we must (a) endow the Creator with numerous negative attributes that fundamentally contradict the holy books from which creationists lift their science and (b) flagrantly violate the principle of parsimony. Is the simplest, most parsimonious explanation for the recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals really that the Creator’s idiocy was in full force when designing, for example, humans and giraffes? What about the geologic strata and the complete absence of anachronistic fossils? What about the radioactive clocks? Did the Creator really tinker with all the half-life values, making them all converge on a fictitious ancient age for Earth?

Some creationist worries are legitimate. On evolution, humans indeed are just another species of animal. Knowing our place in the single tree of life robs us of our specialness, to some considerable extent. It also undermines objective morality. A polar bear might eat its own young. Do concepts of “moral” or “immoral” apply to that situation? If not, why would such concepts apply to humans, who are a twig on the tree of life just as much as polar bears are? Natural selection might have favored “moral instincts,” but such inclinations are hardly objective or prescriptive in any conventional sense. Evolution provides no morality-oriented “ought to” or “ought not to” as far as behavior.

More than anything else, evolution puts us in our place. We are just another species of animal. One day we shall go extinct. Our universe shall not miss us—at least, not any more than it misses trilobites or the giant armadillo. The significance we attach to…well, everything…is overdone when one looks from a grand, cosmic perspective.

There is no devious, weird, wasteful and idiotic Creator. There is no Creator of any variety. There is only nature, of which we are a sliver. We can be happy—and, really, this is enough—that evolution has granted us brains that are sufficiently large and complex to understand from where we came, along with constitutions strong enough to accept, in the last analysis, our species’—indeed, our world’s—final destination.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Brief Digression on Morality

Can objective, prescriptive morality survive in a world without god? Certainly, a great many atheists seem to think so, including freethinkers for whom I have a great deal of respect, such as Christopher Hitchens, for instance. Recent books tackling the issue from a scientific perspective include Michael Shermer’s The Science of Good and Evil, which, in part, discusses the origins of moral instincts in light of our evolutionary development. Whether atheists have the ability to reference “good” and “evil,” “right” and “wrong,” “moral” and “immoral” in anything other than a subjective sense is an important question, and it is a question to which I have a rather disconcerting answer: No. With a proper, scientifically literate understanding of biology, the cosmos and the world in which we find ourselves, we must accept that we seem to be bereft of actual moral facts (that is, facts about what is moral and what is immoral).
Given the near universality of some behavioral codes among members of our species, we can be extremely confident that Darwinian evolution by natural selection had some role in shaping our collective sense of right and wrong. There are numerous examples that could be cited, but, to select one, there are very few, if not no, cultures that revere cowardice and pusillanimity while reviling courage and bravery. Most cultures have some version of The Golden Rule, which urges you to do to others as you would have them do to you. And it is easy to understand why certain behavioral guidelines would be selected for as our burgeoning civilization came to be. A functional society—that is, a society that can grow, prosper, maintain itself and cooperate—will persist; a dysfunctional society—that is, a society that is self-destructive, antagonistic and consistently hobbling itself—will die off. Even before proper civilizations began to emerge, certain kinds of behavior in smaller bands also would be conducive to a band’s success, and thus be selected.
Evolution is powered by natural selection. At its base, natural selection is about gene propagation; selection favors those things that enable “selfish genes” that wish to multiply (yes, I am anthropomorphizing) to get as many copies into the next generation as possible. In a sense, then, human bodies are just complicated machines whose sole purpose is propagating the genes that built them. We have sex and rear offspring because our selfish genes want the maximal number of copies in the next generation’s gene pool. Physical traits and characteristics evolve because they increase biological fitness (that is, the ability to reproduce successfully). Selection works against those traits detrimental to biological fitness. Instincts and inclinations evolve alongside, if not in direct relation to, the physical structures of the body.
Why do human societies, almost without exception, embrace The Golden Rule? It seems inescapable that they do so because that inclination, along with others, increased biological fitness among our ancestors, whether they were part of roving bands, small tribes or more advanced civilizations. Proscribing murdering one’s neighbors or stealing from one’s fellows made good sense vis-à-vis a population’s survival and, thus, moral instincts were imbued in the individuals. In short, then, our moral sensibilities developed because they were useful. This is not unique to morality. Richard Dawkins writes, “When we look at a solid lump of iron or rock, we are ‘really’ looking at what is almost entirely empty space. It looks and feels solid and opaque because our sensory systems and brains find it convenient to treat it as solid and opaque. It is convenient for the brain to represent a rock as solid because we can’t walk through it.” A rock looks and feels solid and opaque because it is useful for it to seem so. Similarly, it was useful for intraspecies (or, at least, intratribal) killing, theft and savagery to be considered immoral.
But does what happened to be evolutionarily useful actually relate to a cosmic truth vis-à-vis giant questions of “right” and “wrong”? There is no reason to suppose so. Evolution has imbued other inclinations into our nature, in a way not dissimilar to moral ones. For instance, generally speaking, males are more promiscuous than females are; this is a fact of observation. What explains it? It has to do with differential investment in sexual mating. In the case of males, the supply of sperm is essentially unlimited and, what is more, following fertilization, the male conceivably could abandon the female and still have some confidence of his offspring surviving and, thus, his genes making it into the next generation’s gene pool. Therefore, evolutionarily, it is in a male’s interest, essentially, to fertilize as many females as possible; this explains promiscuous inclinations. For females, though, the situation is reversed. Compared with sperm, females’ supply of eggs is much more limited, and their physical investment in a pregnancy is hugely greater than for males. Evolutionarily, it is in a female’s interest to be choosy about by whom she is fertilized. Does this understanding of differential investment in sexual mating mean men ought to be promiscuous and women ought to be choosy? I see no grounds for such a conclusion.
Studies of evolution help to explain our innate inclinations, and we may follow those inclinations or go against them—there is no “ought” of which to speak. Just because natural selection imbued us with tendencies or instincts does not mean we are slaves to them, or they touch on cosmic truth. Richard Dawkins gives an illuminating explication of natural selection, saying, “It is all about the survival of self-replicating instructions for self-replication.” He continues, “Viruses and tigers are both built by coded instructions whose ultimate message is, like a computer virus, ‘Duplicate me.’ In the case of the cold virus, the instruction is executed rather directly. A tiger’s DNA is also a ‘duplicate me’ program, but it contains an almost fantastically large digression as an essential part of the efficient execution of its fundamental message. That digression is a tiger, complete with fangs, claws, running muscles, stalking and pouncing instincts. The tiger’s DNA says, ‘Duplicate me by the round-about route of building a tiger first.’”
Thus, humanity’s delusions of exaltation crumble in a heap. Humans, like everything else on the tree of life, are a mere digression to ensure the survival of self-replicating instructions for self-replication. This biological reality check is amplified by our knowledge of the cosmos. I can think of no analogy to illustrate how tiny a speck of the cosmos humanity represents. Indeed, even if we restrict our view to our own meager planet, human-like creatures have been around less than one-hundredth of one percent of Earth’s natural history. We are a single species, on a single planet, part of a single solar system, in a single galaxy, in an almost unimaginably vast universe that would have long since forgotten about us if only it had known of us in the first place. The moral questions with which we wrestle seem terribly important to us, as do our thoughts and our actions…even material things like our possessions and our homes.
Doubtless, moles are preoccupied with their underground burrow systems, too.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Faith vs. Evidence: Which Wins Out?

Although I, myself, have been accused of trafficking in faith, inasmuch as I have a First Principle—that being, evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth as we interrogate the world of experience—on which all my reasoning is grounded, I remain somewhat in awe of the faith possessed by Christian theists: a faith that seems impervious to evidence-based attack. And make no mistake, the Christian faithful make no apologies for the secondary or tertiary (if not quaternary or quinary) importance they assign to evidence.

Consider this, from William Lane Craig, in Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics:

“Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa.”

Additionally, consider this, from Answers in Genesis, the pseudoscientific creationist website:

“By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.
(Taken from The AiG Statement of Faith, accessible here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith)

In light of the overwhelming importance of “the witness of the holy spirit” and “the scriptural record” to Christians of a particularly devout nature, I cannot help but wonder what, exactly, could conceivably convince them that their beliefs are erroneous and that the bible, for all its poetry and rhetorical beauty, is a dusty collection of ancient mythology written by ignorant individuals for whom a wheelbarrow would be an exciting new technological development. In the spirit of probing this question more deeply, I present a brief thought experiment below.
Anybody who reads the bible objectively—without an agenda or an apologetics-related motivation—will admit that its authors believed the Earth was flat and still, with the heavens positioned above it, and with the Sun, moon and stars subservient to, and moving with respect to, it. Although I do not think anybody of intellectual goodwill could plausibly deny this, I nevertheless will provide a couple of passages to underscore the point.

He commands the sun, and it does not rise;
He seals off the stars;”

For the passage above, look at the celestial body to which the command is directed. The rising and setting of the Sun each day is based upon our movement with respect to it, and yet, in the bible, god commands not the Earth to stop spinning on its axis but, instead, the Sun not to rise.

Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?”

For the passage above, it is rather difficult to imagine taking hold of an oblate spheroid from its “ends” to remove, via shaking, the wicked therefrom.
Do not focus too much attention on the quoted passages above, though, because I have no doubt whatsoever that committed Christians have already discovered “fixes” to such problematic passages (of which there were nearly innumerably many I could have chosen). The thought experiment is hypothetical in nature.
Suppose that, instead of its actual wording, Job 38:12-13 were phrased differently:

Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
That it might take hold of the ends of this flat earth,
And the wicked be shaken off of its plane?”

For purposes of this experiment, presume that the rest of the bible is precisely as it actually is and, additionally, grant that the scientific evidence relating to astronomy, cosmology, geology, etc. is exactly as it actually is. When confronted with my revised version of Job 38:12-13, what would you conclude?

(a) That the passage, sometime over the years, became corrupted and, thus, lost its intended meaning? (For this experiment, presume that all extant witnesses have my revised wording, and none has the wording as it exists in the real world.)
(b) That the author of The Book of Job made a mistake, but that the author's mistake does not undercut the credibility of the rest of the bible?
(c) That the author of The Book of Job made a mistake, and that the author's mistake does undercut the credibility of the rest of the bible? (Please specify the extent to which the bible's credibility and, thus, your faith beliefs would be injured.)
(d) That the passage did not become corrupted and that the author of The Book of Job did not make a mistake because, in fact, astronomic, cosmological and geologic evidence notwithstanding, the Earth is indeed flat and similar to a plane?

I seek to get to the root of how deep—and, indeed, how unshakable—this abiding faith in “the witness of the holy spirit” and “the scriptural record” truly is.
And, as a quick add on, here is another thought experiment to which I would greatly appreciate an answer. Suppose that a foolproof time machine were invented, to which you and I gained access. Further, suppose that we took the time machine to 30 CE (replace the year if you disagree with the approximation) and set the location to be Jesus' tomb. Now, suppose that we bore witness to the crucifixion and subsequent entombment in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. Finally, suppose we watched for hours, stretching into days, and there was no resurrection. What would you conclude?

(a) That our presence affected the outcome and, thus, we prevented the resurrection?
(b) That, despite our 24/7 monitoring, which, for the thought experiment, we can presume was flawless, Jesus in fact was resurrected but we missed it?
(c) That, just maybe, Jesus was not resurrected after all, making Christianity false?