Twenty Arguments for God – Twenty – Pascal’s Wager

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 20:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#20

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

20. Pascal’s Wager

Suppose you, the reader, still feel that all of these arguments are inconclusive. There is another, different kind of argument left. It has come to be known as Pascal’s Wager. We mention it here and adapt it for our purposes, not because it is a proof for the existence of God, but because it can help us in our search for God in the absence of such proof.
As originally proposed by Pascal, the Wager assumes that logical reasoning by itself cannot decide for or against the existence of God; there seem to be good reasons on both sides. Now since reason cannot decide for sure, and since the question is of such importance that we must decide somehow, then we must “wager” if we cannot prove. And so we are asked: Where are you going to place your bet?
If you place it with God, you lose nothing, even if it turns out that God does not exist. But if you place it against God, and you are wrong and God does exist, you lose everything: God, eternity, heaven, infinite gain. “Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything, if you lose, you lose nothing.”
Consider the following diagram:
The diagram is in the shape of a square with the opposite corners connected by lines. Going clockwise from the top left the labels are ‘God Exists’ then ‘God does not exist’ then I believe in Him’ then ‘I do not believe in Him’
The vertical lines represent correct beliefs, the diagonals represent incorrect beliefs. Let us compare the diagonals. Suppose God does not exist and I believe in him. In that case, what awaits me after death is not eternal life but, most likely, eternal nonexistence. But now take the other diagonal: God, my Creator and the source of all good, does exist; but I do not believe in him. He offers me his love and his life, and I reject it. There are answers to my greatest questions, there is fulfilment of my deepest desires; but I decide to spurn it all. In that case, I lose (or at least seriously risk losing) everything.
The Wager can seem offensively venal and purely selfish. But it can be reformulated to appeal to a higher moral motive: If there is a God of infinite goodness, and he justly deserves my allegiance and faith, I risk doing the greatest injustice by not acknowledging him.
The Wager cannot—or should not—coerce belief. But it can be an incentive for us to search for God, to study and restudy the arguments that seek to show that there is Something—or Someone—who is the ultimate explanation of the universe and of my life. It could at lease motivate “The Prayer of the Skeptic”: “God, I don’t know whether you exist or not, but if you do, please show me who you are.”
Pascal says that there are three kinds of people: those who have sought God and found him, those who are seeking and have not yet found, and those who neither seek nor find. The first are reasonable and happy, the second are reasonable and unhappy, the third are both unreasonable and unhappy. If the Wager stimulates us at least to seek, then it will at least stimulate us to be reasonable. And if the promise Jesus makes is true, all who seek will find (Mt 7:7-8), and thus will be happy.

I first heard Pascal’s Wager when I heard the singer Cliff Richard summarise it in an answer to a question about why he believed. He didn’t identify it as Pascal’s Wager at the time, he just summarised the argument and that he was convinced by it. At the time I was too. It was some years later before I heard the term and looked into it more deeply.

The way the argument is presented is that the options are; the Christian god or no god. No other god is allowed for. It’s a false dichotomy. Why doesn’t the argument include the other gods? If you line up all the possible gods and then place no god in opposition, the choice becomes much clearer. Pick any god and you fall foul of those that remain, you may as well go for the home run and offend them all! If there is only one god and all the others are man made then how do you identify that god from the human descriptions? They all sound like human invented deities, so how do you pick the real one? You may as well say that none of the gods that humans believe in is real. It really is the most reasoned option.

As an aside, I do find it amusingly ironic that a religion that today teaches the evils of gambling, would posit this wager as a reasonable bet.

An unbiased (in my view anyway) description of Pascal’s Wager can be found here: http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/pascals-wager/

Twenty Arguments for God – Nineteen – The Common Consent Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 19:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#19

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

19. The Common Consent Argument

This proof is in some ways like the argument from religious experience (18) and in other ways like the argument from desire (16). It argues that:
Belief in God—that Being to whom reverence and worship are properly due—is common to almost all people of every era.
Either the vast majority of people have been wrong about this most profound element of their lives or they have not.
It is most plausible to believe that they have not.
Therefore it is most plausible to believe that God exists.
Everyone admits that religious belief is widespread throughout human history. But the question arises: Does this undisputed fact amount to evidence in favor of the truth of religious claims? Even a skeptic will admit that the testimony we have is deeply impressive: the vast majority of humans have believed in an ultimate Being to whom the proper response could only be reverence and worship. No one disputes the reality of our feelings of reverence, attitudes of worship, acts of adoration. But if God does not exist, then these things have never once—never once—had a real object. Is it really plausible to believe that?
The capacity for reverence and worship certainly seems to belong to us by nature. And it is hard to believe that this natural capacity can never, in the nature of things, be fulfilled, especially when so many testify that it has been. True enough, it is conceivable that this side of our nature is doomed to frustration; it is thinkable that those millions upon millions who claim to have found the Holy One who is worthy of reverence and worship were deluded. But is it likely?
It seems far more likely that those who refuse to believe are the ones suffering from deprivation and delusion—like the tone-deaf person who denies the existence of music, or the frightened tenant who tells herself she doesn’t hear cries of terror and distress coming from the street below and, when her children awaken to the sounds and ask her, “Why is that lady screaming, Mommy?” tells them, “Nobody’s screaming: it’s just the wind, that’s all. Go back to sleep.”
Question 1: But the majority is not infallible. Most people were wrong about the movements of the sun and earth. So why not about the existence of God?
Reply: If people were wrong about the theory of heliocentrism, they still experienced the sun and earth and motion. They were simply mistaken in thinking that the motion they perceived was the sun’s. But if God does not exist, what is it that believers have been experiencing? The level of illusion goes far beyond any other example of collective error. It really amounts to collective psychosis.
For believing in God is like having a relationship with a person. If God never existed, neither did this relationship. You were responding with reverence and love to no one; and no one was there to receive and answer your response. It’s as if you believe yourself happily married when in fact you live alone in a dingy apartment.
Now we grant that such mass delusion is conceivable, but what is the likely story? If there were no other bits of experience which, taken together with our perceptions of the sun and earth, make it most likely that the earth goes round the sun, it would be foolish to interpret our experience that way. How much more so here, where what we experience is a relationship involving reverence and worship and, sometimes, love. It is most reasonable to believe that God really is there, given such widespread belief in him—unless atheists can come up with a very persuasive explanation for religious belief, one that takes full account of the experience of believers and shows that their experience is best explained as delusion and not insight. But atheists have never done so.
Question 2: But isn’t there a very plausible psychological account of religious belief? Many nonbelievers hold that belief in God is the result of childhood fears; that God is in fact a projection of our human fathers: someone “up there” who can protect us from natural forces we consider hostile.
Reply A: This is not really a naturalistic explanation of religious belief. It is no more than a statement, dressed in psychological jargon, that religious belief is false. You begin from the assumption that God does not exist. Then you figure that since the closest earthly symbol for the Creator is a father, God must be a cosmic projection of our human fathers. But apart from the assumption of atheism, there is no compelling evidence at all that God is a mere projection.
In fact, the argument begs the question. We seek psychological explanation only for ideas we already know (or presume) to be false, not those we think to be true. We ask, “Why do you think black dogs are out to kill you? Were you frightened by one when you were small?” But we never ask, “Why do you think black dogs aren’t out to kill you? Did you have a nice black puppy once?”
Reply B: Though there must be something of God that is reflected in human fathers (otherwise our symbolism for him would be inexplicable), Christians realize that the symbolism is ultimately inadequate. And if the Ultimate Being is mysterious in a way that transcends all symbolism, how can he be a mere projection of what the symbol represents? The truth seems to be—and if God exists, the truth is—the other way around: our earthly fathers are pale projections of the Heavenly Father. It should be noted that several writers (e.g., Paul Vitz) have analyzed atheism as itself a psychic pathology: an alienation from the human father that results in rejection of God.

In the course of history, millions of people have believed in god and they can’t all be wrong can they? Well yes they can. Millions of people have believed in gods that are not the Christian god, does the author think they are all wrong? Of course he does.

The author would have us believe that because religious belief has been wholeheartedly accepted, promoted and foisted on others for as long as there is a history of humanity, then that must make it true. The author isn’t drawing a distinction between religions here, all religions are lumped into the same basket so as to weight the scales in favour of the Christian god. Should this methodology be taken seriously?

Even a skeptic will admit that the testimony we have is deeply impressive

This one doesn’t. Testimony means little to nothing when it’s that blatantly biased.

The question is asked if it’s really plausible to believe that if there is no god then all those acts of worship over the course of mankind’s religious history were never once directed to a real object. Well there are many idols that have been on the receiving end of that worship so it seems that the author has a rather skewed perception of what it was that all those religions have worshiped. The author, it appears, assumes that all those religions were really focused on the single god that he believes in.

The comparison with heliocentrism is puzzling. I assume the author means geocentrism, which isn’t a theory but an hypothesis. The origin for the belief was observation of the sun and moon, the correction of the false idea and the establishment of the fact of heliocentrism was further evidence that is measurable and repeatable today. God, in the meantime, is still only an idea, one which Christians will not allow to be tested, measured or otherwise detected.

Ditto the comparison with falsely believing yourself to be married. I can go home and experience conversations over a home cooked meal and then correctly load the dishwasher afterwards. In the meantime all prayers to god and other methods of communication are decidedly one-sided. The author is trying desperately to assert the existence of god using every day experiences while failing to address that his god can not be seen, touched, heard or tested for.

unless atheists can come up with a very persuasive explanation for religious belief, one that takes full account of the experience of believers and shows that their experience is best explained as delusion and not insight. But atheists have never done so.

Not accepting that religious belief can be explained naturally, is not the same as it not being possible, it just means that in the religious mind, religious belief overrides everything else.

Apparently,

Many nonbelievers hold that belief in God is the result of childhood fears

Can you hear the strawman claxon sounding? I have no recollection of ever having heard this argument, I am pretty sure this is the first time I have responded to any form of it. Kids form a belief in god because they are taught it. Either from parents or from other trusted adults. They don’t naturally gravitate to it because of fear. It’s not a coherent argument but it does make for a good set-up to plug the work of Paul Vitz who asserts

an alienation from the human father that results in rejection of God

More of that nonsense here (http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth12.html), if you can bare it.

Twenty Arguments for God – Seventeen – The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 17:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#17

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.
You either see this one or you don’t.

What do I do with this one? Question the sincerity of the author? Roll out an ad hominem by insulting the authors intelligence?

Do I call POE? Do I ask if the whole thing is an elaborate troll?

Do I counter by saying that there is also shit and vomit, therefore there is no god?

I’m stumped, not because the sentences are compelling, but because this is not an argument. To take it seriously or to give it serious thought is insulting.

Twenty Arguments for God – Sixteen – The Argument from Desire

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 16:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#16

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

16. The Argument from Desire

Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.
This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”
The first premise implies a distinction of desires into two kinds: innate and externally conditioned, or natural and artificial. We naturally desire things like food, drink, sex, sleep, knowledge, friendship and beauty; and we naturally shun things like starvation, loneliness, ignorance and ugliness. We also desire (but not innately or naturally) things like sports cars, political office, flying through the air like Superman, the land of Oz and a Red Sox world championship.
Now there are differences between these two kinds of desires. We do not, for example, for the most part, recognize corresponding states of deprivation for the second, the artificial, desires, as we do for the first. There is no word like “Ozlessness” parallel to “sleeplessness.” But more importantly, the natural desires come from within, from our nature, while the artificial ones come from without, from society, advertising or fiction. This second difference is the reason for a third difference: the natural desires are found in all of us, but the artificial ones vary from person to person.
The existence of the artificial desires does not necessarily mean that the desired objects exist. Some do; some don’t. Sports cars do; Oz does not. But the existence of natural desires does, in every discoverable case, mean that the objects desired exist. No one has ever found one case of an innate desire for a nonexistent object.
The second premise requires only honest introspection. If someone denies it and says, “I am perfectly happy playing with mud pies, or sports cars, or money, or sex, or power,” we can only ask, “Are you, really?” But we can only appeal, we cannot compel. And we can refer such a person to the nearly universal testimony of human history in all its great literature. Even the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre admitted that “there comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?'”
The conclusion of the argument is not that everything the Bible tells us about God and life with God is really so. What it proves is an unknown X, but an unknown whose direction, so to speak, is known. This X is more: more beauty, more desirability, more awesomeness, more joy. This X is to great beauty as, for example, great beauty is to small beauty or to a mixture of beauty and ugliness. And the same is true of other perfections.
But the “more” is infinitely more, for we are not satisfied with the finite and partial. Thus the analogy (X is to great beauty as great beauty is to small beauty) is not proportionate. Twenty is to ten as ten is to five, but infinite is not to twenty as twenty is to ten. The argument points down an infinite corridor in a definite direction. Its conclusion is not “God” as already conceived or defined, but a moving and mysterious X which pulls us to itself and pulls all our images and concepts out of themselves.
In other words, the only concept of God in this argument is the concept of that which transcends concepts, something “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived” (1 Cor. 2:9). In other words, this is the real God.
C. S. Lewis, who uses this argument in a number of places, summarizes it succinctly:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, “Hope”)
Question 1: How can you know the major premise—that every natural desire has a real object—is universally true, without first knowing that this natural desire also has a real object? But that is the conclusion. Thus you beg the question. You must know the conclusion to be true before you can know the major premise.
Reply: This is really not an objection to the argument from desire only, but to every deductive argument whatsoever, every syllogism. It is the old saw of John Stuart Mill and the nominalists against the syllogism. It presupposes empiricism—that is, that the only way we can ever know anything is by sensing individual things and then generalizing, by induction. It excludes deduction because it excludes the knowledge of any universal truths (like our major premise). For nominalists do not believe in the existence of any universals—except one (that all universals are only names).
This is very easy to refute. We can and do come to a knowledge of universal truths, like “all humans are mortal,” not by sense experience alone (for we can never sense all humans) but through abstracting the common universal essence or nature of humanity from the few specimens we do experience by our senses. We know that all humans are mortal because humanity, as such, involves mortality, it is the nature of a human being to be mortal; mortality follows necessarily from its having an animal body. We can understand that. We have the power of understanding, or intellectual intuition, or insight, in addition to the mental powers of sensation and calculation, which are the only two the nominalist and empiricist give us. (We share sensation with animals and calculation with computers; where is the distinctively human way of knowing for the empiricist and nominalist?)
When there is no real connection between the nature of a proposition’s subject and the nature of the predicate, the only way we can know the truth of that proposition is by sense experience and induction. For instance, we can know that all the books on this shelf are red only by looking at each one and counting them. But when there is a real connection between the nature of the subject and the nature of the predicate, we can know the truth of that proposition by understanding and insight—for instance, “Whatever has color must have size,” or, “A Perfect Being would not be ignorant.”
Question 2: Suppose I simply deny the minor premise and say that I just don’t observe any hidden desire for God, or infinite joy, or some mysterious X that is more than earth can offer?
Reply: This denial may take two forms. First, one may say, “Although I am not perfectly happy now, I believe I would be if only I had ten million dollars, a Lear jet, and a new mistress every day.” The reply to this is, of course, “Try it. You won’t like it.” It’s been tried and has never satisfied. In fact, billions of people have performed and are even now performing trillions of such experiments, desperately seeking the ever-elusive satisfaction they crave. For even if they won the whole world, it would not be enough to fill one human heart.
Yet they keep trying, believing that “If only… Next time …” This is the stupidest gamble in the world, for it is the only one that consistently has never paid off. It is like the game of predicting the end of the world: every batter who has ever approached that plate has struck out. There is hardly reason to hope the present ones will fare any better. After trillions of failures and a one hundred percent failure rate, this is one experiment no one should keep trying.
A second form of denial of our premise is: “I am perfectly happy now.” This, we suggest, verges on idiocy or, worse, dishonesty. It requires something more like exorcism than refutation. This is Meursault in Camus’s The Stranger. This is subhuman, vegetation, pop psychology. Even the hedonist utilitarian John Stuart Mill, one of the shallowest (though cleverest) minds in the history of philosophy, said that “it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”
Question 3: This argument is just another version of Anselm’s ontological argument (13), which is invalid. You argue to an objective God from a mere subjective idea or desire in you.
Reply: No, we do not argue from the idea alone, as Anselm does. Rather, our argument first derives a major premise from the real world of nature: that nature makes no desire in vain. Then it discovers something real in human nature-namely, human desire for something more than nature-which nature cannot explain, because nature cannot satisfy it. Thus, the argument is based on observed facts in nature, both outer and inner. It has data.

Like several of the other arguments before it, this one opens with statements that are assumed to be true and are framed in such a way that the read is guided towards the already predetermined god answer. There is no attempt made to establish the accuracy of the opening statements first.

The explanatory section that follows makes a distinction between natural desires like sleep and hunger, I’ll call them needs since without them the body will function less efficiently, and desires that I’ll call wants, which are things that align to our preferences but are not requisites for body survival. Needs are things that we find hard or impossible to control and would include addiction. You can’t control your body’s need for food or sleep but your want to drive the latest supercar is entirely optional.

The description of needs and wants seems reasonable enough and I have no specific issue there. However, for reasons which are unclear and unexplained, the concept of infinity and proportionality is introduced and then the subject (predictably) turns to god. It’s almost as though the argument, as pasted above, is an incomplete edit.

What’s going on here is pretty obvious, the author is making the case that there is an innate desire to worship a deity, that deity is of course the Christian god. There is an attempt to justify this by suggesting that this desire is observed in nature. “It has data” apparently, yet no link to the study which supplies it!

Reference is made to John Stuart Mill, read more about him here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/milljs/

The three posed questions are odd, they are not phrased how I would put, it’s as though they are worded peculiarly on purpose so as to create some easy to bat away. The second part of the response to question two is especially disingenuous, it foregoes all subtlety and basically says that if you deny that you have an innate desire for god you are a liar. The author isn’t alone in abandoning all integrity when arguing for god; I have seen variations of that claim multiple times since I started engaging Christians from the atheist perspective.

Skipping to question three and the answer given, I like that it gives a clue as to how to dismantle the argument for no 13. The answer draws on the observation that “nature makes no desire in vain”, that part I’ll accept, it goes wrong when it assumes god applies to that and that everyone desires god. That assumption is by no means established and is certainly a subjective interpretation, despite the objections.

Twenty Arguments for God – Ten – The Argument from Consciousness

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 10:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#10
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

10. The Argument from Consciousness

When we experience the tremendous order and intelligibility in the universe, we are experiencing something intelligence can grasp. Intelligence is part of what we find in the world. But this universe is not itself intellectually aware. As great as the forces of nature are, they do not know themselves. Yet we know them and ourselves. These remarkable facts—the presence of intelligence amidst unconscious material processes, and the conformity of those processes to the structure of conscious intelligence—have given rise to a variation on the first argument for design.
We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.
Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
Not blind chance.
Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.
There are obvious similarities here to the design argument, and many of the things we said to defend that argument could be used to defend this one too. For now we want to focus our attention on step 3.
Readers familiar with C. S. Lewis’s Miracles will remember the powerful argument he made in chapter three against what he called “naturalism”: the view that everything—including our thinking and judging—belongs to one vast interlocking system of physical causes and effects. If naturalism is true, Lewis argued, then it seems to leave us with no reason for believing it to be true; for all judgments would equally and ultimately be the result of nonrational forces.
Now this line of reflection has an obvious bearing on step 3. What we mean by “blind chance” is the way physical nature must ultimately operate if “naturalism” is true—void of any rational plan or guiding purpose. So if Lewis’s argument is a good one, then step 3 stands: blind chance cannot be the source of our intelligence.
We were tempted, when preparing this section, to quote the entire third chapter of Miracles. This sort of argument is not original to Lewis, but we have never read a better statement of it than his, and we urge you to consult it. But we have found a compelling, and admirably succinct version (written almost twenty years before Miracles) in H. W. B. Joseph’s Some Problems in Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1931). Joseph was an Oxford don, senior to Lewis, with whose writings Lewis was certainly familiar. And undoubtedly this statement of the argument influenced Lewis’s later, more elaborate version.
If thought is laryngeal motion, how should any one think more truly than the wind blows? All movements of bodies are equally necessary, but they cannot be discriminated as true and false. It seems as nonsensical to call a movement true as a flavour purple or a sound avaricious. But what is obvious when thought is said to be a certain bodily movement seems equally to follow from its being the effect of one. Thought called knowledge and thought called error are both necessary results of states of brain. These states are necessary results of other bodily states. All the bodily states are equally real, and so are the different thoughts; but by what right can I hold that my thought is knowledge of what is real in bodies? For to hold so is but another thought, an effect of real bodily movements like the rest. . . These arguments, however, of mine, if the principles of scientific [naturalism]… are to stand unchallenged, are themselves no more than happenings in a mind, results of bodily movements; that you or I think them sound, or think them unsound, is but another such happening; that we think them no more than another such happening is itself but yet another such. And it may be said of any ground on which we may attempt to stand as true, Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum [“It flows and will flow swirling on forever” (Horace, Epistles, I, 2, 43)]. (Some Problems in Ethics, pp. 14—15)

The opening sentences of this argument are the sort of pseudo profound stuff one would expect from a New Age guru. It expends much to say nothing at all.

What does the author even mean by the order and intelligibility of the universe? These words have been used in previous arguments but never explained. I guess it could be defined as intelligible in the sense that our intelligent minds can make some sense of it. Is it ordered? Well that depends on how order is defined, how the universe behaves is down to the laws of physics but when you look at the universe you see scattered stars and galaxies that are grouped and clumped, I would say they are more haphazard than ordered. Our humans brains like to pick out patterns so anything that is random will have some elements that our minds will see as having apparent order. It is an illusion of order though.

This argument, like many of the arguments in this series, asserts that there must be a greater intelligent being because of some property of the universe. Yet, also like the other arguments, doesn’t offer references to support the assertion or suggest tests that could confirm the hypothesis.

Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
Not blind chance.

The argument sets up two options, something intelligent made it all, or it’s all blind chance. Note how blind chance is not defined. Are these really the only options available? Note how the argument does not ask that question, let alone make an effort to discuss other options. Blind chance is dismissed out of hand, without even a discussion, nor a definition. It’s almost as though the intelligent originator has been pre concluded and this is just a box tick to dismiss any other option in a vain attempt to appear that other options have been considered. It’s dishonesty at it’s most brazen.

Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.

If our minds were so well suited to grasping it, how come we have so much difficulty doing so? It’s taken many years to gain the understanding we have now and many arguments and false avenues along the way. Geocentricism anyone? Our present understanding isn’t even complete, there is still much to learn and understand.

That we have minds that can make some sense of the world around us is an essential element of evolutionary survival. Without those minds we’d not be able to make the technological progress we have thus far. Without those minds we’d not be able to progress in our understanding of the universe or even have the kind of thinking that can imagine a god. Should any of this mean there is an intelligent mind behind the universe? If it was as obvious as this argument claims, there would be something more than assertions to back it up. Yet assertions is all that there is.

Twenty Arguments for God – Three – The Argument from Time and Contingency

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 3:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#3

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

3. The Argument from Time and Contingency

We notice around us things that come into being and go out of being. A tree, for example, grows from a tiny shoot, flowers brilliantly, then withers and dies.
Whatever comes into being or goes out of being does not have to be; nonbeing is a real possibility.
Suppose that nothing has to be; that is, that nonbeing is a real possibility for everything.
Then right now nothing would exist. For
If the universe began to exist, then all being must trace its origin to some past moment before which there existed—literally—nothing at all. But
From nothing nothing comes. So
The universe could not have begun.
But suppose the universe never began. Then, for the infinitely long duration of cosmic history, all being had the built-in possibility not to be. But
If in an infinite time that possibility was never realized, then it could not have been a real possibility at all. So
There must exist something which has to exist, which cannot not exist. This sort of being is called necessary.
Either this necessity belongs to the thing in itself or it is derived from another. If derived from another there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.
This absolutely necessary being is God.
Question1: Even though you may never in fact step outside your house all day, it was possible for you to do so. Why is it impossible that the universe still happens to exist, even though it was possible for it to go out of existence?
Reply: The two cases are not really parallel. To step outside your house on a given day is something that you may or may not choose to do. But if nonbeing is a real possibility for you, then you are the kind of being that cannot last forever. In other words, the possibility of nonbeing must be built-in, “programmed,” part of your very constitution, a necessary property. And if all being is like that, then how could anything still exist after the passage of an infinite time? For an infinite time is every bit as long as forever. So being must have what it takes to last forever, that is, to stay in existence for an infinite time. Therefore there must exist within the realm of being something that does not tend to go out of existence. And this sort of being, as Aquinas says, is called “necessary.”

Did you notice the bait and switch in this one?

Before I address that though, I am noticing a pattern in these first three items. They all focus on the fact that the universe exists and because we (as in our current state of human knowledge) can’t explain why, therefore there must be a god that put it in place. At its most basic it is an argument from ignorance in that a god is inserted where there is no currently accepted explanation. The language has evolved into something more sophisticated and of course I would expect adherents to deny this assertion. They have to.

The issue that this item tried to answer is that of infinite regress, a subject that will be revisited by later items I am sure. Whatever exists must have something that existed before it. A tree came from a seed which came from a previously existing tree and so on. The universe exists and so must come from something that existed before it. Therefore god. But wait, what about before god? Where is the super god that created the universe god? Why stop at the first god that is assumed from the existence of the universe? How can the author of this argument be sure of anything regarding the god that supposedly caused this universe? They can’t be sure, that’s the problem. They’ve presupposed a god then created an argument to support it, but as with all arguments for god, they can’t step beyond imagining, the imagined god can never be tested or confirmed. We are supposed to just accept it.

This brings me to the bait and switch. See this bit.

There must exist something which has to exist, which cannot not exist. This sort of being is called necessary.
Either this necessity belongs to the thing in itself or it is derived from another. If derived from another there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.
This absolutely necessary being is God.

To paraphrase: before the universe, there must be something that caused it (not entirely unreasonable, but is it true? We should really test that before building arguments based on it.), that something must exist (so no test, just assume it’s true and carry on), that thing must be a being (oh?), and that being is god (boof, there it is!)

The bait and switch fallacy is explained more here: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Bait-and-switch

There is another issue with the argument that is presented in this item, which is the whole issue of before the universe. See this bit.

If the universe began to exist, then all being must trace its origin to some past moment before which there existed—literally—nothing at all. But
From nothing nothing comes. So
The universe could not have begun.
But suppose the universe never began. Then, for the infinitely long duration of cosmic history, all being had the built-in possibility not to be. But
If in an infinite time that possibility was never realized,

The author has forgotten (or maybe ignored) the very important detail that time is a feature of matter. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this already but I’ll do it again. How we experience time is directly related to our proximity to matter. The same is also true of how we experience gravity. This time experience is a calculatable and measurable phenomenon. It has to be accounted for in GPS satellites and it is the reason why your head is not the same age as your feet (https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2010/09/nist-clock-experiment-demonstrates-your-head-older-your-feet).

The ultimate conclusion from this is that time, as we understand and experience it, started with the universe. Thus the universe has existed for all of time and the question of what was before needs to first answer the difficulty of how you can have a before time. The author of this item has skipped a very important step in his rush to justify the god that he’s predetermined must exist.

Twenty Arguments for God – One – The Argument from Change

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 1:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#1

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

1. The Argument from Change

The material world we know is a world of change. This young woman came to be 5’2″, but she was not always that height. The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. Now when something comes to be in a certain state, such as mature size, that state cannot bring itself into being. For until it comes to be, it does not exist, and if it does not yet exist, it cannot cause anything.
As for the thing that changes, although it can be what it will become, it is not yet what it will become. It actually exists right now in this state (an acorn); it will actually exist in that state (large oak tree). But it is not actually in that state now. It only has the potentiality for that state.
Now a question: To explain the change, can we consider the changing thing alone, or must other things also be involved? Obviously, other things must be involved. Nothing can give itself what it does not have, and the changing thing cannot have now, already, what it will come to have then. The result of change cannot actually exist before the change. The changing thing begins with only the potential to change, but it needs to be acted on by other things outside if that potential is to be made actual. Otherwise it cannot change.
Nothing changes itself. Apparently self-moving things, like animal bodies, are moved by desire or will—something other than mere molecules. And when the animal or human dies, the molecules remain, but the body no longer moves because the desire or will is no longer present to move it.
Now a further question: Are the other things outside the changing thing also changing? Are its movers also moving? If so, all of them stand in need right now of being acted on by other things, or else they cannot change. No matter how many things there are in the series, each one needs something outside itself to actualize its potentiality for change.
The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are. The whole universe is in the process of change. But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by “God.”
Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.

Apparently the author has never observed a cell under a microscope, or bothered to understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The universe that we are within is under constant change and there is no evidence of external activity interfering with it. As it currently stands, we are unable to detect anything that is outside of this universe. The premise of this argument, that everything needs something external to it in order for it to change, is extrapolated to such an extreme that it makes a fatal assumption. I imagine that the author assumes that we’ll never ‘see’ outside the universe and therefore can’t directly challenge the argument.

If an argument is framed in such a way that it can’t be challenged, does that make it automatically correct?

Physicists are working on the problem of what could be beyond the boundary of the universe, if indeed there is such a thing. There are hypothesis that are in the works and experiments are being devised. For a stack load, and I do mean a stack load, of further reading on the subject, this Wikipedia page has a bunch of references that can be followed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe). Yes, I know there are many who detest Wikipedia for various reasons, it is however a good way to find a list of references to science stuff. So if reading the Wikipedia article makes you want to retch, skip to the bottom and browse through the references. It’s a very good a place to start.

This argument also makes reference to an animal’s will as the external source of it’s desire to move. The will is what we call the decision to move, which is based on the chemical and biological interactions in the brain. The brain, being part of the animal in question, is entirely within the animal and contains nothing that is outside of the animal. The whole idea that our will to move is external to ourselves is an utter nonsense point and factually incorrect.

As will become clear as I chug my way through these arguments, I put a lot of store in what can be explained and demonstrated, which normally means something scientific. The argument quoted above explains nothing and demonstrates even less. It is founded on a crude and minimally descriptive premise and flops downhill from there. There are not even any references to support the points made.

The agent of change that the argument says must exist outside the universe is not explicitly identified in the argument, but we all know that a Christian wrote the item and the only external being that the author is going to accept is the Christian god. The fact that other religions can, and probably do, use a similar argument to this to lead to their own god or gods should be an indication of weakness of this one.

On The Alleged Atheist Assumptions

There are Christians who claim that atheism assumes there is no god (https://lyleduell.me/2017/02/02/the-assumptions-of-atheism/). This is typical of theists who are self-styled atheist experts. Apparently this assumption (which hasn’t actually been established, merely claimed and assumed to be true) is false because

No one can prove that there is no God

If it’s not possible to prove there is no god, then equally it’s also not possible to prove that there is a god, which leaves the theist in the uncomfortable position of assuming there is a god, with no proof, while pointing a finger that the atheist saying you can’t assume there is no god because you can’t prove there is no god.

I participate in regular conversations with theists and atheists and the claims of atheists vary a lot. There are those who confidently claim there is no god and there are those who take the softer road that belief in god is not reasonable if said god cannot be demonstrated. The majority take the latter. It’s not clear from the blog post I linked to if all atheists are lumped into the assumption claim or if it’s only the former. What’s also not clear is how the author thinks atheists come to these assumptions. If the assumption if merely because the lack of a god can’t be proven, that that is an entirely reasonable position to take. Given that you can prove neither the existence nor the non-existence of a thing, assuming it exists is the least reasonable position to take.

Next we get to

The second assumption, which I have found in most atheists, is the belief that they are smarter than those who believe in a God.

Yes, there are many atheists who will comment along the lines of “only a stupid idiot would believe in a god”, or other less salubrious phrases. These are equally matched by those theists who quote Psalm 14:1 or other bible verses which justify looking down their noses at non-believers. I am pretty sure I’ve been called all sorts of variations of stupid by theists far more times that I’ve seen atheists bat it back. The numbers aren’t actually important though because the insult isn’t useful regardless of the direction it flows. It is a tad dishonest to accuse the atheist of assuming higher intelligence while not acknowledging the reverse is an equal problem.

The blog post then makes a reference to poll that claims that 51% of scientists believe in god. The link associated with the claim didn’t work for me but it seems to be this:

http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/

Note that it’s 33% believe in god and 18 believe is some form of higher power that’s not god. 10 of those 33% are religions other than Christian. Those stats don’t looks so great compared to the 41% with no belief. But I’m not sure what that has to do with intelligence and belief. Intelligent people sometimes believe dumb things. That happens the world over. Trying to point score on an intelligence comparison achieves nothing other than making it look like you are trying to justify an assumption you have.

A Response to Answering The Skeptics

My last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/answering-the-sceptics/) received a very long reply, so rather than accept a single huge comment, I decided to replicate the whole thing here and respond. At close to 3000 words, the reply is considerably longer than the post it addresses, a tad unreasonable and I suspect the sort of essay I should expect from the poster. (Note to poster, try to keep your comments shorter and to a minimal number of topics in future, it makes maintaining a conversation a whole lot easier.

The reply I received is repeated verbatim below, with outdented commentary from yours truly.

“Presuppositions are fatal. One should never presuppose anything before an argument because that makes the whole point of the argument moot.”

Presuppositions are necessary. You are falsely identifying the fallacy of begging the question with an axiom or an apparent or necessary truth. You must presuppose several things to even make your claim intelligible. One thing you are presupposing is that the fallacy of begging the question is fallacious. And even before that you assume logic…and some sort of concept of truth. But worst of all you have also claimed in multiple places that you do presuppose atheism because you falsely believe that atheism requires no evidence and illogically you presuppose the epistemology of evidentialism & scientism, both of which are demonstrably false yet they are necessary for your worldview to function.

Missed the point that presupposing the conclusion before making the argument makes the whole point of the argument pointless. The writer thinks he can tell me what I believe too, experience tells me that christians who take that attitude tend to be insufferably rude and prone to not listening. Instead of asserting what I believe based on questionable theology, I recommend actually finding out.

“You’ve already decided the result so why bother at all. Unless by argument AiG means those things where spouses shout at each other and throw things. What has happened here is that the non believer has been framed to be just as bad as the believer because ‘they believe we’re wrong’. The correct way to this to have no presupposition and to weigh each option on the evidence available and then test the claims that are produced. AiG can’t do this though because as christians they have to assume and assert their god and in their attempt to balance the scales they project onto those who are sceptical of their claims the opposite presuppositions. That’s deceitful and dishonest.”

Much of this is simply arguing against yourself since you presuppose at least as much as AiG. I’m not a fan of AiG since their misuse of the doctrine of innerancy has led to much confusion amongst both evangelicals (creationists in general) and Darwinists (and anti creationists in general). But as you’ve shown AiG is essentially right unless you’re saying you don’t assume that the universe must have arose from purely naturalistic mechanisms? You can say that your “testable” models are successful and provide evidence for their truth but Darwinism is totally dependent on the presupposition of naturalism/materialism/physicalism.

Christians don’t have to “assume and assert” their God…I’m not sure what that even means. Loads of Christians aren’t YECs. And claiming that the scales are imbalanced is just more presumption on your part. Your sort of atheist is essentially the left wing equivalent of a YEC…which means that the scales are relatively balanced between you. People like Dick Dawkins are essentially left wing versions of Kent Hovind (except Dawkins & co will probably never go to jail…). Its pretty obvious that you’re actually being more deceitful and dishonest because they at least are willing to grant their presuppositions.

Doesn’t know what sort of atheist I am. In the desire to regurgitate AiGs’s ‘atheists presuppose’ trope what I was saying has been missed, again. Is this going to be a theme? I hope not.

“when a Christian is debating with a skeptic, the skeptic will want the Christian to give up their presuppositions and approach the debate “neutrally.” For example, the skeptic may ask the Christian to “prove” that there is a Creator without using the Bible.

That is a very fair thing to do, you want to assert that something exists, demonstrate it. Opening a book and saying ‘it says so here’ isn’t good enough. You need to show your workings and then demonstrate why the conclusion is valid. Don’t do it and you won’t be taken seriously.”

I’ll admit there are problematic things about this sort of approach. But Atheists constantly try to exclude the evidence of history. The apostolic witness contains excellent evidence of God’s activity in the world. But yes if God exists we should be able to provide arguments for his existence and that’s why there are many apologists & philosophers that do exactly that. But to be fair if you have come to the conclusion that the scriptures & apostolic witness are true then you are perfectly justified to use them as evidence for God’s existence. That’s not illogical, it actually follows perfectly. What is illogical is reading a statement in scripture that says scripture is authoritative and that claiming that is why scripture is true. There are Christians that do that…and AiG may be doing that here, I don’t know.

There are claims that apostolic accounts are accurate witness statements of a god. I am sure many believe it, however it can’t be known for certain and certainly can’t be demonstrated. Many historical records contain accounts of events which are rightly doubted. The gospels and other bible books are no better.

“But Christians cannot give up their presuppositions because this results in adopting the skeptic’s presuppositions

If you can’t give up your presuppositions, then you are not being honest with yourself. Claiming that the opposite view has their own does not get you out of that.”

You presuppose the scriptures & apostolic witness don’t give good evidence for the basic facts about Jesus’ life…you can’t argue for that…it’s clearly a presumption… based mostly on your presumption of the impossibility of miracles. In other words “claiming that the opposite view has their own (presuppositions) does not get you out of anything.”

I believe what can be demonstrated. What can’t be demonstrated doesn’t get believed until that changes. Presupposing it’s impossible is as bad as claiming it’s happened but being unable to show it. I take the middle ground, if it’s not been shown, there is no reason to accept it. It will be believed to be impossible when it’s impossibility is demonstrated. Until either happens, neither is presupposed. Want to promote one over the other? Show it.

“There is no such thing as achieving “neutrality” in an argument. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me”

I think by “neutrality”, AiG means something akin to the Null Hypothesis (http://psc.dss.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites//sommerb/sommerdemo/stat_inf/null.htm) in experiments. In an argument context this will mean to take no position and weigh each argument. If the Christian can’t, won’t, or is incapable of doing that, then they have already decided their answer and the argument is pointless. If the only correct conclusion to an argument is to conclude your starting position then you are not being honest with yourself or to your sceptic. This why a Christian should be challenged to prove their god claims using something other than the circular activity of opening the self referencing bible.”

No I don’t think they mean the null hypothesis. They mean that all questions have a right answer and a wrong answer, and since they believe God exists that “neutrality” over whether he exists is not virtuous or desirous. To be fair if God exists the “objective” position will always be Theism. Neutrality is only virtuous in a situation where a null hypothesis is helpful. But because of the implications of Theism & atheism neutrality on either isn’t going to benefit us.

Cool, so until god is shown to either exist or not exist, the correct position to take is the one I hold. No belief either way.

The correct conclusion is the correct conclusion to an argument. Everything you’ve argued for presumes loads of things and you keep arguing for the same position…so I guess you aren’t be honest.

Do at least try to accurately represent what I’m saying. I think this is deliberate.

And as I’ve already demonstrated referencing the Bible isn’t a viciously circular argument (it’s really not circular at all) unless you are making an argument that it is truthful because it is truthful.

“Don’t Accept Atheist Presuppositions

But christian presuppositions are all fine and dandy! Really? The correct sub heading should be don’t accept ANY presuppositions.”

Incorrect. You should assume a lot of things…and you clearly do assume loads of things.

More telling me what position I take, are we all bored yet?

“The skeptic knows that God exists because God has made it plain to everyone through the general revelation of creation.

If that was true they wouldn’t be sceptical.”

That’s a very poor argument because self deception is extremely common and well understood. I think it’s quite clear that many atheists are willfully atheists because their arguments & reasons are of such low quality that it’s hard to believe they think these are good reasons…the same can probably be said for many Christians. The claim that everyone knows God exists but that some suppress that knowledge makes a lot of sense. Humans suppress beliefs all the time.

If that’s what is really thought I think then I don’t see much change of a rational or engaging conversation. Take some time to understand what it is that atheists are saying.

“If there was any doubting as to just how dishonestly AiG wants the christian to argue, there it is, decide you’re right and then tell them you’re right because they are already wrong because they have presupposed the wrong presupposition. Awesome!

Never Assume

Errr!

Most atheists assume several things to be true.

Okay ….

they assume the existence of morality, logic, and the consistency of the laws of nature

Odd choice of assumptions to list and it depends how existence is defined. I’m pretty sure this is wrong about morality and logic, while the laws are nature are demonstrated facts so assume is a redundant option.”

It’s not odd, thats basically the same argument I made earlier.

What definition of reality are you working with?

You really don’t assume logic or morality? That’s pretty hard to believe since almost everything you write presupposes both.

Point missed, again.

“Most skeptics believe in the existence of morality

Blatant assertion with no reference to source. Also still missing key definitions to determine context and meanings.”

Well…it’s true. I mean I guess we could find a poll about whether or not skeptics/atheists are all moral relativists. I haven’t met anyone who was willing to say that the holocaust wasn’t evil…Sam Harris claims to believe in morality even though he really doesn’t. If you really don’t believe there is such a thing as right and wrong then I think you’re right that this argument doesn’t work against you but that doesn’t give good evidence for your beliefs, it makes them seem prima facie absurd.

And again.

“they will often argue against the biblical God by claiming that God is an immoral monster for acts of judgment like the global Flood

True, they do, and for good reason.”

That’s a complete contradiction of what you just said. You can’t argue that something is immoral for “good reason” if you don’t believe in right or wrong.

And again.

“But what standard do they have to claim that God is immoral

Any standard that says it’s wrong to eliminate those whom you don’t like. People who take that view normally get their moral values from themselves, or they conform to the value as a socially accepted norm. I think that the bible also holds that not killing those you don’t like is a good value. How come god gets a pass on that? Isn’t it supposed to be his perfect rules of conduct or something?”

This moral reasoning is arbitrary.

Christians, always giving god a free pass.

The flood is a recreation event within the broader context of the Torah narrative. The people being eliminated have demonstrate their lack of repentance so it has nothing to do with God not liking them. This is childish straw manning and represents your consistent anti intellectual bias. God disciplines those he loves within the narrative of the scriptures. The writer of Genesis clearly views the timing of the flood as merciful because Methuselah lives longer than the other long lived patriarchs and his name means something like “my death brings judgement.” In other words God gives humanity loads of time to repent. Before you lose your mind remember I’m presenting the text as it should be understood in contrast to your straw man and inaccurate understanding. God isn’t being flippant with his judgement, the writer of the Torah always portrays God as being slow to judge. But additionally the univocal teaching of the scriptures and the New Testament is not that taking a human life is always wrong. Killing someone you “don’t like” could be moral. Capital punishment is moral from the perspective of this tradition and humans tend not to like the sort of people that usually suffer capital punishment. Of course not liking someone isn’t relevant to a just cause for taking life. In any case murder is wrongful joking and the Torah and Jesus are clear that wrongful killing is of course wrong. God’s righteous judgement upon wicked people would of course not be wrong.

“If life just evolved naturalistically from matter and energy, then where do immaterial laws of morality come from? And who establishes these laws? Government? Society? The individual?

One wonders if these are genuine and serious questions or if they are being used as rhetoric to shore up the aforementioned christian presuppositions. Giving AiG the benefit of the doubt, the answers are: natural selection, ourselves and societal norms, all three.”

I wonder if you’re being serious here because this makes your worldview evil. This means you deny human rights because you deny natural rights since rights are socially constructed by humans and governments. They just legal fiction. In other words you believe that nothing is wrong…or right. So the Nazis weren’t evil. Slavery wasn’t evil…nothing is evil. And nothing is right or good. If all their is is matter in motion then there simply is no meaning or value to life.

The meaning our lives have is the meaning that we assign to ourselves. It comes from what motivates us, which in turn is driven by what we like, which comes from the chemicals in our brains. It’s a very well understood process, there is no need for any god at any stage.

“If this is the case, and murdering and stealing are right for me, then why shouldn’t I murder and steal from you?

So not serious question then. Is the only thing keeping them from doing bad stuff the belief that god said you can’t? How come so many people who don’t accept the christian god do not do this? Could it possibly be that natural selection has already dealt a dealth blow to the DNA encoding that brings about those characteristics? I wager that a society that finds those actions acceptable is one that would not last very long.”

Right you don’t believe in good and evil. More murder, rape, etc occurred in the 20th century then the previous centuries combined. We clearly haven’t evolved past these things and societies that make peace with evils like infanticide are doing quite well. Doing evil does lead to disaster and the western obsession with infanticide has hurt us badly but natural selection doesn’t select based on any criteria so natural selection cannot be the basis of determining right and wrong. You may as well roll a die. But the bigger problem is that you don’t think evil things are evil you think they are impractical. That is quite evil.

The critical difference between absolute numbers and per capita numbers is not very well understood is it!

“They can’t tell me it’s wrong! It’s just wrong for you.

And wrong for pretty much everybody else, thanks to our evolutionary heritage.”

That makes no sense. You don’t think it’s actually wrong. Explain it’s wrongness. Because you don’t like it? How does evolutionary history connect to morality? It’s a purely physical process. Right and wrong don’t ever come into it. Is it wrong when gorillas rape other gorillas? Is it wrong when wolves eat humans? Give me an example of something that is wrong, universally wrong and why it is wrong base purely on scientism. Unless you think humans are more than matter in motion then we aren’t capable of free will and rightness/wrongness isn’t even relevant to our “actions” since we couldn’t be responsible anyway. This point of view is totally absurd. These are the metaphysics of evil.

I’m skipping some of the remarks you made. Mostly irrelevant.

I’m beginning to wonder if my esteemed responder understands much about evolution and natural selection and how they affect human behaiviour.

“And yet, despite morality being immaterial and not absolute, we manage.”

The claim is that since morality isn’t material it can’t be a part of a materialist worldview…so do you think morality is immaterial as you stated above? And it’s relative? That means there’s no morality.

If it’s relative then it doesn’t exist, what an odd argument.

Yes, we managed to kill a million infants a year for the last 30 years in America alone. Atheist regimes managed to cause the deaths of over a hundred million humans in the 20th century. Your argument isn’t coherent to begin with but empirically it’s completely false anyway.

“Because individual survival depends on the group and if the individual acts against the needs of the group, they don’t survive very well.”

That’s not a reason to not murder, steal etc. That’s just a “theory” of survival. Why survive? Just because? Your worldview is dark and meaningless. Nothing is actually wrong for you.

I was right, doesn’t understand evolution.

It’s also just false. Dictators survive fine. Loads of people have done horrible things and survived just fine. The social contract theory of ethics was exploded over 2,000 years ago by Plato’s myth: the ring of Gyges. And we see that same story inverted constantly through our contemporary myths about superheroes. We consider it morally virtuous to act against our best interests (sometimes to clearly emotionally unhealthy places) and even give up personal survival for the sake of others. You can’t make sense of altruism. Social contract theory is a description not an impetus of morality. It means there is no morality.

And didn’t get my point either, sadly, it was a theme.

“in a random, naturalistic universe, why should immaterial laws of logic exist?

Another faux question I fear.

In a naturalistic universe there is no explanation for laws of logic

As I suspected. The laws of logic are man made by the way (https://www.britannica.com/topic/laws-of-thought)”

This is idiotic. You think that human minds (something you claimed not to believe in elsewhere) came up with the laws that make rationality possibility? Like the law of identity? Or the law of non contradiction? You really don’t know enough about these issues to discuss them. Citing a britannica article as evidence for your faulty claim is an embarrassingly weak argument. Especially since that article doesn’t even agree with you. Laws of logic are necessary truths. Humans didn’t make them, we abide by them.

I’m still being patient with you because I hope you will see some of the numerous errors you’re making and hopefully change.

‘Patient with me’, how about presumptuous and patronising instead.

“you have to assume that the laws of nature won’t change tomorrow.

That’ll explain why I have trouble walking straight when I stay a bit late after work. Those damnable laws of nature always changing when I need them most.”

They don’t change that’s the point. Terrible argument. Why is nature uniform?

“They are immaterial and constant throughout the universe.

That’ll be because they are dependent on the properties of the matter that makes up the universe. Take away the matter and you lose the lawful nature.”

That makes no sense. The immaterial laws depend on matter? That’s absurd. Taking away the matter just takes away the matter. It does nothing to an immaterial law.

Physics class required.

Ignoring more irrelevance.

“I’ll write my own new version, ‘answer with folly and be treated like a fool’.”

That’s exactly why I tell you when you don’t know enough and you certainly do not know enough to intelligently discuss these things. It’s hard to take you seriously. But I’m still being patient.

And relax.

I’ll repeat my suggestion from the top of this missive, if you want to comment here and have a productive conversation, keep your comments concise and to a minimal number of points and do reign in the assumptions of stupidity.

Not Enough Evidence – A Response

The second of the Saints and Sceptics short series addressing what it calls popular atheist arguments is Not Enough Evidence (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/three-popular-atheist-arguments-part-2/)

My response to the first post is here: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-presumption-of-atheism-a-response/ . There is a third post in the series but I’m unlikely to make a response to that one.

This second post makes reference to Bertrand Russell and his apparent refrain of ‘Not enough evidence God! Not enough evidence!’ The source of this attribution would appear to be in this article, http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1974feb23-00025, where in response to the question of what he’d say if faced with God, Mr Russell replied “I probably would ask, ‘Sir, why did you not give me better evidence?’ ”

Personally, I prefer Stephen Fry’s response, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-suvkwNYSQo.

That’s not the point of this post though, the question at hand is on the evidence while we’re alive, not the hypothetical.

The Saints and Sceptics item opens by setting the scene that the atheist case is that in the absence of evidence the default position is non-acceptance, in other words, no evidence for god means atheism is the starting point and the case must be made for a god in order for that position to become considered. Okay so far. Saints and Sceptics calls this the presumption of atheism. Reference is made to the first item in the series with the conclusion that:

So, even if the insufficient evidence objection is accepted, it doesn’t provide a good reason to accept atheism

And if you read my response to the first item you’ll see that there is a mismatch in the understanding of atheism. Atheism is the non adherence of theism. That is no belief in god. Like in the first item, Saints and Sceptics has gone for the far end of atheism and used that to define all atheism. I won’t repeat my response to that.

Moving on, we get to:

For example, if the only kind of evidence that can be considered for the existence of an entity is direct detection with the five senses, then there would be no evidence for God.

Good, this is why I have no belief in any god.

However, this is completely inadequate as an account of evidence, even within science.

Uh oh!

If evidence is understood more plausibly in terms of facts that are better explained by one hypothesis than its rivals, then there could well be evidence for God.

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Hypotheses need testing before they get accepted.

A reference is made to a previous post called The Evidence For God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/the-evidence-for-god/), oddly, it contains no evidence, only assertions. Ho hum.

Even if it is granted that there might be some evidence for God, it might still be objected that it is insufficient, but how are we to decide? How much evidence is needed and how convincing does it need to be?

Two very good questions.

In answer we get an index link titled Evidence Of God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/articles/existence-of-god/) featuring links to a few arguments that are very familiar, Fine Tuning, Maths, Big Bang; you know, the usual fair. The links are all well known reasons, or arguments, that Christians will use to justify their belief. However, arguments are not evidence so the title is misleading. Arguments should have supporting evidence, which these ones are lacking. There’s a theme emerging here.

We wouldn’t claim that the evidence logically proves God’s existence

Thank goodness for that! Odd use of the word logically though. No one says that gravity is logically proven.

Interestingly, since Russell’s death in 1970, powerful new scientific evidence concerning the fine-tuning of a range of physical constants that are necessary for intelligent life has provided an interesting twist on the design argument. Is this evidence sufficient? If not, why not? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

Suddenly it’s the penultimate paragraph and no actuall evidence has been discussed, what is this post about then?

Is this evidence sufficient? The author asks. What evidence? I wonder.

If not, why not? The Author asks. Because there isn’t any is the best I can muster.

And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

A great question, and pertinent too. I’ll answer it.

Evidence that can be used to create a testable hypothesis. That way a set of repeatable and reliable tests for god can be performed and the case for god properly examined. That is the standard and if the theist wants their god idea to be taken seriously, that is what they must submit to.

Regrettably, for some atheists it has become little more than a slogan, a way of avoiding the need to consider the evidence seriously. And it would be an unfortunate irony if a statement which at face value emphasizes the importance of evidence is actually used as a strategy for avoiding it.

Great pithy ending, such a shame that in their decrying of the atheist’s frustratingly consistent demand for evidence, Saints and Sceptics has forgotten to include any. Now that’s irony!