Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Atheist arguments that don't mix

A redated post.

Steve Hays, in the linked post, argues that the divine hiddenness argument and Hume-style objections to miracles don't mix. If God couldn't make himself obvious, then it can't be an objection to theism to point out that he ought to have made himself obvious. I make a similar point in an essay I wrote on Infidels on miracles:

Bertrand Russell was reportedly once asked what he would say to God if he were to find himself confronted by the Almighty about why he had not believed in God's existence. He said that he would tell God "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence!"[1] But perhaps, if God failed to give Russell enough evidence, it was not God's fault. We are inclined to suppose that God could satisfy Russell by performing a spectacular miracle for Russell's benefit. But if the reasoning in David Hume's epistemological argument against belief in miracles [2] is correct, then no matter how hard God tries, God cannot give Russell an evidentially justified belief in Himself by performing miracles. According to Hume, no matter what miracles God performs, it is always more reasonable to believe that the event in question has a natural cause and is not miraculous. Hence, if Russell needs a miracle to believe reasonably in God, then Russell is out of luck. Russell cannot complain about God's failure to provide evidence, since none would be sufficient. But God cannot complain about Russell's failure to believe.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

To say that it is always more reasonable to assume a natural cause than a miraculous cause is to:

1) suppose them to be exclusive.
2) ignore Hume's earlier point that we have know knowledge of any natural causes.

Hume's argument against miracles is no argument at all. To say that there are no miracles because natural laws are uniform is Critical Thinking 101 question-begging.

As per (2), Hume has already shown us that we have no reason to suppose that anything is the 'cause' of anything else, so what kind of sense does it make to say that 'natural causes' are more likely?

None.

Even "more likely" smuggles in the concept of probablity which Hume's epistemology specifically rejects.

Hume has no argument.

Can we move on?

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous typo. Sorry.

Please replace "know" with "no" towards the top in #2.

Anonymous said...

Victor-- Keith Parsons and Doug Krueger have both written replies to Hays.

steve said...

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/12/argumentum-ad-leprechaunum.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/12/missing-parsons-report.html

Hiero5ant said...

They mix well from where I'm sitting.

Hume or Russell or myself could be convinced that there was an intelligent creator-designer who cared about our political allegiances and masturbation habits and spied on our thoughts. She could just show up and explain to us how she did the designing, pass Randi's test, have her followers reliably instantiate powers like Clerics in dungeons & dragons, with more piety = more spells per day.

You know, the kinds of feats that we never, ever see in real life.

What couldn't be shown are these tacked-on philosopher-god properties of being eternally inscrutable. Supernaturalism, schmupernaturalism, just show me that the person even exists and we can table the arcane metaphysical disputes about her properties to a later date.

Doctor Logic said...

Well said, Hiero5ant.

One-time miracles can only convince irrational people. If God is going to appear to rational people, he needs to behave with regularity. I don't see why that is too much to ask. Hiero5ant hit the nail on the head with the D&D example.

Anonymous said...

So what you're saying, Doctor Logic and Hiero5ant, is that miracles can be verified, and be verified to have come from a specific supernatural source?

Anonymous said...

In that case you don't agree with Hume, and the force of Victor's post passes you by!

Joe said...

Hiero5ant
"Hume or Russell or myself could be convinced that there was an intelligent creator-designer who cared about our political allegiances and masturbation habits and spied on our thoughts. She could just show up and explain to us how she did the designing, pass Randi's test, have her followers reliably instantiate powers like Clerics in dungeons & dragons, with more piety = more spells per day."

I don't think this would convince Hume of the supernatural. But I am willing to stand corrected by a text from Hume. Krueger suggests “many Hume scholars” might disagree with me. I really can’t say for sure as I am no Hume scholar. I have always understood from philosophy professors (BTW I never had a Christian fundamentalist Philosophy professor) that Hume thought belief in miracles would always be irrational.

Anonymous.
Keith Parsons does not really rebut the argument. In the end he seems to concede it and say Hume was wrong there can be experiential evidence of a miracle. You have to get past irrelevant passages about what he likes or dislikes about WLC but you will read it in the end.

Doug Krueger at least addresses the argument. He suggests Hume does not rule out the possibility that miracles can happen and be rationally be believed as supernatural. He suggests that it is fundamentalist Christians who make that charge while "many" Hume scholars disagree. I'm not sure he is right on that.

But in the end I think Hays and VR make a valid point. You can't believe the very strong interpretation of Hume's argument against miracles and at the same time complain God doesn't reveal himself.

In the end both Parson’s and Krueger’s responses are really pushing back on the strength of Hume’s argument against miracles and I think to some extent making a concession

Clayton said...

There's a reading of Hume's arguments concerning miracles on which Hume is not offering an apriori argument against the very possibility of establishing that a miracle has occurred through testimony. This reading seems to do a good job of making sense of Hume's remarks concerning the 8 days of darkness in the second section of his discussion of miracles. See Fogelin for discussion.

On Fogelin's reading of Hume, it is possible for circumstances to arise in which testimony could establish that a miracle occurred. It just has to be that the strength of the testimony in favor is not just strong, but so strong as to override the case against by a sufficient margin such that the undefeated reasons could on its own constitute a positive demonstration. On the more charitable readings of Hume, it seems that it is far from obvious that a Hume-style argument cannot be "mixed" with the argument from divine hiddenness.

Any Hume scholars wish to weigh in on this one? I know not everyone is a fan of Fogelin's reading of Hume, but I don't know if in the literature there is any argument that Fogelin's Hume-style argument couldn't be combined with the argument from divine hiddenness since Fogelin's Hume-style argument is perfectly compatible with there being such strong testimonial support for a report of a miracle that in situations very much unlike any we've actually encountered testimony does give adequate justification for belief in a miracle.

Hiero5ant said...

"So what you're saying, Doctor Logic and Hiero5ant, is that miracles can be verified, and be verified to have come from a specific supernatural source?"

I went out of my way to say I couldn't give a bucket of expectorant about whether something is "supernatural". I'm 93% convinced the term doesn't actually mean anything at all.

Let me say it again. I don't know and don't care about whether anything is natural, or supernatural. It's as red as herrings get.

I just want to know whether zombie rabbis and faith healing and the intelligent design of malaria are true. So does Russell. There are plenty of obvious things which we would accept as evidence for these propositions. To imply that consistently applying the doctrine that "the magnitude of the evidence should scale with the magnitude of the claim" somehow makes people dogmatic hypocrites with "arguments that don't mix" is ridiculous.

Hiero5ant said...

"I don't think this would convince Hume of the supernatural. "

For the third time:

Supernatural, schmupernatural.

You have to ask yourself what's most important about the Gospel Message. Isn't it enough for you that there is an intelligent designer of life on earth who can raise the dead and bring you happiness and stop the sun so you can commit some extra genocide? Why does she *also* have to have this tacked-on philosopher-god property of being "permanently inscrutable to investigation" (or whatever 'supernatural' means)?

First establish that she exists. Then we'll have all of eternity in our celestial armchairs to debate her metaphysics. What Hume and Russell are trying to point out is that the evidence never seems to scale with the claim. Faith healing just doesn't work. Not "it works but there must be a naturalistic explanation because of my dogmatic darwinio-atheist metaphysics." No worky. Three-day corpses do not rise from graves. Not "rise from graves plus some weird metaphysics". They just don't.

Unless you really think that someone can't be saved -- even if they obey The Law and take Genesis literally and are born again and have a personal relationship with a zombie rabbi -- unless they *also* sign off on The Right Answer to some arcane metaphysical question?

Anonymous said...

You seem to be conceding the point then, if in a petulant and childish manner. You believe, contra Hume, that it's possible for miracles to prove the existence of a specific God. Not only possible, but a reasonably straight-forward matter.

For example, you would consider it more likely, if presented with an act Randi couldn't explain, to conclude that there was an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being than to consider that there was a chap out there more clever than Randi. Or if there were some D&D characters promoting a belief in Glandor the Superior who were actually able to heal people, you would think it more likely that Glandor the Superior exists than that the D&D characters were a hoax, or had scientific methods for curing disease that were more advanced. Is that the sum of it?

Ilíon said...

VR: "... Russell cannot complain about God's failure to provide evidence, since none would be sufficient."

The reason that no evidence would be sufficient for Russell is because Russell *would not* believe, he *would not* see what was before him.

Russell (as is common with 'atheists') demanded to be *forced* to believe, but that is a logical impossibility.

Russell's "disbelief" was dishonest (which is why I used quote-marks); it did not follow from lack of evidence. His charge against God of lack of evidence followed directly from his refusal to look and see the evidence that was already before him.


VR: "... But God cannot complain about Russell's failure to believe."

We have it on good authority that God will not be complaining, but rather judging.

Victor Reppert said...

Perhaps the difficulty with the "don't mix" claim is that Humeanism can be weakened to some version of "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." That is, they could concede that we could have extraordinary evidence, (i. e. something along with the Parsons galaxies spelling out words scenario), but we don't. That is, you could modify the Humeanism enough so that there could be enough evidence, the say there isn't.

Anonymous said...

In that case, they shouldn't act as if sufficient evidence is something God could easily provide but doesn't. An atheist who demands that God use the galaxy as their own personal Lite-Brite is asking quite a bit, and could be interpreted by God as a tad insulting, considering He already sacrificed His Son for them.

And I maintain that the smaller miracles Hiero5ant and Doctor Logic claim would convince them would not convince them. They would not believe in Glandor the Superior under any circumstances.

Hiero5ant said...

"You seem to be conceding the point then, if in a petulant and childish manner. You believe, contra Hume, that it's possible for miracles to prove the existence of a specific God. Not only possible, but a reasonably straight-forward matter."

We're very nearly there. Change "contra" to "with", and we can close the book on this one.

Hume did not say that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle. He said that "no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior."

It's no good pretending that everything after the 'unless' isn't there.

Anonymous said...

I say all that because, it seems to me they aren't asking for better evidenced miracles, they're just asking for bigger ones. The only miracle they could believe wasn't a hoax would be one too big for human beings to fake, and so they're asking for quite a bit. And since testimony of such an event likely won't suffice, they're essentially saying every atheist is entitled to a gigantic miracle at some point in their lifetimes.

That's quite a large undertaking, and I think it's reasonable believe that, assuming God is even interested in mere belief in Him, achieving it by such drastic measures might not be worth the consequences.

Joe said...

Clayton thanks for the reference. I'm not a Hume scholar either so I don't mean to say how he would come down on this. Here is a link to Stanford encyclopedia on miracles and it has a section on Hume that talks about this very issue.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/miracles/



I said:
"I don't think this would convince Hume of the supernatural. "

Hiero5ant said:
"For the third time:

Supernatural, schmupernatural.

You have to ask yourself what's most important about the Gospel Message. Isn't it enough for you that there is an intelligent designer of life on earth who can raise the dead and bring you happiness and stop the sun so you can commit some extra genocide? Why does she *also* have to have this tacked-on philosopher-god property of being "permanently inscrutable to investigation" (or whatever 'supernatural' means)?"

Hume brought up supernatural. He thought miracles would have to be supernatural events. So to the extent your earlier post claimed what would convince Hume of miracles I merely pointed out I didn't think it would.

VR
I think your right. But I would say that the mixing argument still makes a valid point. You can't make the strong version of Hume’s argument against miracles and at the same time claim God is unjustly hidden at the same time. So I think the argument does point out restrictions in the scope of argument that atheists can use.

Moreover when I have heard variations of the argument it has been along the lines that we should think we hallucinated if we thought we saw the galaxies shift like Parsons suggests. I have had conversations were the people (allegedly arguing Hume’s side) say even if you were Thomas with your fingers in the wounds you shouldn’t believe something supernatural happened. At some point this ends though. Lets say not only you yourself see the galaxies shift but everyone else does it has been filmed by news crews all possible northern lights effects have been eliminated etc.

One thing to keep in mind though: That hundreds of people see something that one person sees is not extraordinary. It’s just more of the same. So to the extent you would be more inclined to believe it if 2000 people told you they saw some event occur than if only one person told you it’s not really extraordinary. It’s just more of the same evidence. Indeed the evidence from my senses directly is not particularly extraordinary.

It’s hard to understand what is meant by “extraordinary evidence.” Would the evidence have to be at least as extraordinary as the extraordinary event? Would we need two miracles to believe one? Is this a regress? It makes sense to me that we would not need extraordinary evidence (whatever that means) to believe any type of event occurred. Regular ordinary evidence can do the trick.

Anonymous said...

A correction. In my 1:23 post, I should have said that "since testimony of such an event likely won't suffice, they're essentially saying every atheist is entitled to a gigantic miracle *performed in their presence* at some point in their lifetime.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

An atheist who demands that God use the galaxy as their own personal Lite-Brite is asking quite a bit, and could be interpreted by God as a tad insulting, considering He already sacrificed His Son for them.

The universe IS God's own personal Lite-Brite!!!

And this whole backstory is just an excuse for why God has not made himself obvious.

Take the classic medical diagnosis example. Suppose a person takes a test for a rare disease that affects only one person in a million. The medical test has a false positive rate of 1%. What is the probability that the person actually has the disease?

If you answered 1 in 10,000, you would be correct. In other words, the test counts as evidence for the person having the disease (instead of us thinking it 1 in a million they have it, it is now 1 in 10000), but the test is not conclusive.

The low probability events *can* be verified by repetition and by finding alternate tests and better controls. This is mundane stuff.

The same reasoning dooms one-time miracles that are so rare that they exceed the false positive rate of the test/experience.

What rational people want is not a single, even-more-rare event. That would just make the problem worse. What we want is an effect that can be repeatedly tested, scrutinized and generally verified.

Ilíon said...

VR: "Perhaps the difficulty with the "don't mix" claim is that Humeanism can be weakened to some version of "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." That is, they could concede that we could have extraordinary evidence, (i. e. something along with the Parsons galaxies spelling out words scenario), but we don't. ..."

This reflects more of the multi-level illogic that is the heart-and-soul of atheism ... and it reflects the *refusal* of most "theists" to even address that particular issue head-on.

Let us grant that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" (and I see no reason to dispute it; in fact, I implicitly assume it in my version of the Argument from Reason). But so what? What does that have to do with the claim that there is a God?

WHEN did any 'atheist' ever establish that "The world did not 'happen,' it was created" is an extraordinary claim? NEVER. Rather, these intellectually dishonest pretend-atheists (they don't even really believe that atheism is the truth about the nature of reality) merely assert that the claim is extraordinary, and you foolishly "polite" "theists" let them get away with it.

The fact is, it is the claims which inescapably follow from atheism which are extraordinary: consciousness is an "illusion;" 'mind' is an epiphenomenon of electro-chemical brain functions; all mental entities are epiphenomena of electro-chemical brain functions; you do not even exist; and so forth.

It is not "theism" which is in epistemological difficulty; rather, it is atheism which is (and must always be) in epistemological distress.


VR: "... That is, you could modify the Humeanism enough so that there could be enough evidence, the say there isn't."

Someone who claims to know that there is no evidence for some claim is claiming to know what would count as such evidence, were there any.


Didn't someone say, to paraphrase: "They did not believe Moses and the Prophets, they will not believe even if a man rises from the dead."

There is *nothing* God can do to compel belief/trust. These intellectually dishonest pretend-atheists are demanding that God *force* them to believe in him; but that is logically impossible for God to do.

Anonymous said...

"The universe IS God's own personal Lite-Brite!!!"

No, it's not. On the assumption of Christian Theism, the universe is a soul-making machine. It exists to bring as many people into a saving knowledge(not a mere belief) as possible. And disrupting the operation on such a large scale is likely to have as many bad consequences as good ones. You might feel that God arranging the stars into a threatening message is God merely giving you the minimum necessary to believe. Others (I think I would be in this group) would feel bullied and resentful towards God's intrusion. It does God no good to compel people to have mere belief in Him if this compulsion has the consequence of causing many to hate Him, and makes it harder for them to come to saving belief.

What dooms the hiddenness argument is that it fails to take into account that God does not care a whit for mere theism. Most mere theists aren't saved, and thus aren't any better off on the Christian view than non-theists. In fact, I side with Kierkergaard and others who believe that a practiced, comfortable, social mere theism is a much bigger impediment to a saving knowledge of Christ than atheism is. You are right when you say that God could compel mere theism, but he has no reason to, and many reasons not to.

The final word on Hiddenness in my opinion was written by Paul K. Moser in his article "Cognitive Idolatry". After that, for me, there was nothing more to be said by Christians on the matter.

"What we want is an effect that can be repeatedly tested, scrutinized and generally verified."

And how would you distinguish such an effect from a natural event?

Ilíon said...

The humorously misnamed Dr. Logic: "What we want is an effect that can be repeatedly tested, scrutinized and generally verified."

Anonymous: "And how would you distinguish such an effect from a natural event?"

I expect that that's the point in demanding it ... and that no one was supposed to be able to see through the farce.

But hey! there is always "superior technology" to "explain" any suspected miracle.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

And how would you distinguish such an effect from a natural event?

I have a better idea. How about you explain the difference between a natural event and a supernatural event.

But Hiero5ant is right. Who cares about metaphysical quibbles?

Others (I think I would be in this group) would feel bullied and resentful towards God's intrusion.

Aww.

You don't feel resentful about being thrown out of paradise? About all the evil around you? No. And the answer you give is that we humans deserve infinite torture. And now you say that you would feel resentful if God wrote something explicit in the stars?

How about "Hi Humans, This is God. Just wanted to let you know I'm up here and I love you." Too threatening? Would you resent that?

Moser's article is anti-intellectual trash. Moser claims that it's idolatry to think for one's self and demand rational explanations. Yet Moser is destroying his own argument by saying rational thinking should be thrown out the window.

Anonymous said...

"You don't feel resentful about being thrown out of paradise? About all the evil around you?"

I don't feel resentful about being thrown out of paradise because I was never there. I would feel resentful about an overbearing, bullying God, who threatened mankind every few years with a terrifying display of His power.

"How about "Hi Humans, This is God. Just wanted to let you know I'm up here and I love you." Too threatening? Would you resent that?"

Why would you pay such a message any more attention if it was written in the stars than you would if it was written in a book? Or your heart?

I don't think the content of the statement would enter into it for most people. If the skies fell dark and such a message was spelled out by moving the stars, it would strike every mortal dumb with sheer terror. I would find such an act threatening and I would resent it.

"Moser's article is anti-intellectual trash. Moser claims that it's idolatry to think for one's self and demand rational explanations. Yet Moser is destroying his own argument by saying rational thinking should be thrown out the window."

No, Moser claims it is idolatry to demand that God prove Himself on our terms. But Moser's most important point is that God is not interested in mere theism, and thus has neither incentive nor obligation to bring it about. Thus all the things you and Hiero5ant claim God could easily do to make everyone a mere theist is irrelevant. Yes God could easily make everyone a mere theist but the Judeo-Christian God is not interested in mere theism. And, as Moser argued, mere theism could quite possibly interfere with his actual goal of establishing a saving relationship with as many human beings as possible.

Rob G said...

"An atheist who demands that God use the galaxy as their own personal Lite-Brite is asking quite a bit"

Yes, it's rather like saying you'll give Tibetan Buddhism a go, but only if the Dalai Lama comes to your house and explains it to you personally.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

I don't feel resentful about being thrown out of paradise because I was never there. I would feel resentful about an overbearing, bullying God, who threatened mankind every few years with a terrifying display of His power.

I don't buy it.

Besides, God in your theology is bullying, overbearing and heartless. There's plenty to be resentful about. We're called upon by your theology to deal with it.

Your argument is some sort of rationalization in the face of overwhelming evidence for the non-existence of God. It's just a coping-mechanism.

Why would you pay such a message any more attention if it was written in the stars than you would if it was written in a book? Or your heart?

Because people write lies in books all the time. And the Bible was written by humans who accidentally included mythologies from religions preceding Christianity (e.g., the cult of Pythagoras). And there's no reason to believe that the nuts of yesteryear were any more reliable at sensing the supernatural than the nuts of today. The only difference is that people today are (slightly) less gullible.

What is written on my heart? What is written on my heart are my own personal biases. Not a guide to the truth (except about those biases). But this is typical of the religious attitude. You want people to AMPLIFY their biases. In contrast, science aims to suppress bias to the truth can peek through. (Which is why religion and science do not mix.)

But Moser's most important point is that God is not interested in mere theism, and thus has neither incentive nor obligation to bring it about.

More rationalization. God can be as explicit as he needs to be. If we believed the Christian God was a certain as the firmness of the Earth, why should that be a problem? Do we not love the firmness of the Earth? Do we not visit the Grand Canyon and enjoy the wonders of it? Do we resent gravity? Does anyone jump off a cliff because gravity offends them? No. They might jump off a cliff, but not because they are offended by gravity.

Anonymous said...

"If we believed the Christian God was a certain as the firmness of the Earth, why should that be a problem?"

And what valuable thing would the Christian God gain by putting on this weekly magic show for you?

It's not a problem if you believe that God's existence is certain. It's a problem if you believe it's certain because of constant, terrifying displays of God's awesome power, which is what you are asking for. That would not be an environment conducive to God's getting what He wants, which is willing, loving relationships with His children.

If a rich and powerful king desires not just the hand in marriage, but the heart of a poor woman, what does he do? Does he come to her in an awesome royal procession, accompanied by his riches and his arms? Or does he present himself to her as a poor man, one among many vying for her affections, and try to win her on the basis of his character, rather than his power?

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

If a rich and powerful king desires not just the hand in marriage, but the heart of a poor woman, what does he do? Does he come to her in an awesome royal procession, accompanied by his riches and his arms? Or does he present himself to her as a poor man, one among many vying for her affections, and try to win her on the basis of his character, rather than his power?

Do the analogy right. There is no poor man who comes to her on bended knee. There's no one real around for her to love. Her suitor is an imaginary friend who she read about in a fairy tale.

Of course, the maiden drives around and imagines that when she finds a parking space at the mall, it is because an unseen prince who admires her has towed away the previous occupant. She doesn't imagine it is a pauper who is towing away the occupant.

And when she gets sick, does she write imaginary love letters to a pauper she has never seen? No. That would be pointless. She imagines her ideal prince to be a person with extraordinary wealth and power. Someone who can cure her disease.

I don't buy the claim that it would be offensive if God showed his awesome powers. You already believe he has those powers and that he refuses to use them to help us.

And the story you tell about God's existence being a hindrance is simply an excuse for why God doesn't heal amputees or prevent all airline disasters or all tsunami.

Your imaginary God would rather watch his children suffer and die. Some parent he is.

It's a problem if you believe it's certain because of constant, terrifying displays of God's awesome power, which is what you are asking for.

What's terrifying about it? If we had grown up with these celestial displays, they wouldn't be terrifying. They would simply be a fact of life. Are you really saying that the Christian God could not figure out a way to let us know he existed without terrifying us? So much for omniscience and omnipotence.

Rob G said...

The hurdle that atheists like Doctor Logic must surmount before coming to belief in God isn't reason, it's hubris. The pride and self-satisfaction fairly shout from each paragraph. The good doctor fully expects the creator of the universe to play by his rules; if I were God I'd choose not to show up for the game either.

Anonymous said...

You still haven't answered the basic question, Doctor Logic: what is it that God desires that God would gain by performing huge miracles to convince you He exists?

Bert said...

There are many sorts of evidence, and it need not be fancifully miraculous evidence in the case of a supposed god.

Miracles are not, by themselves, sufficient evidence of the existence of a god. I'd prefer to discuss the matter at length, directly and personally, with him/her appearing in human form, and that would suffice. Any argument from a purely human source would be utterly inferior to that of God's infinite reasoning, as already having seen such befogged arguments in these comments to be utterly insufficient, not to mention extraneous -- by themselves.

For the rational person, evidence with reasoning enables belief through understanding. By definition, miracles are antithetical to understanding.

But aside from all that, an uncommunicative god is a god truly without evidence of its existence. Miracles are irrelevant as evidence, unless such a miracle leads to genuine, interactive communication.

Doctor Logic said...

Rob G,

The hurdle that atheists like Doctor Logic must surmount before coming to belief in God isn't reason, it's hubris. The pride and self-satisfaction fairly shout from each paragraph.

This is the big problem with Christianity. It's considered hubris to reason for one's self. It's considered hubris to avoid one's own cognitive biases.

Rob, if reason and fair analysis are dispensed-with, one can believe anything, even inconsistent claims.

Hiero5ant said...

"You seem to be conceding the point then, if in a petulant and childish manner."

"Russell's "disbelief" was dishonest"

"And I maintain that the smaller miracles Hiero5ant and Doctor Logic claim would convince them would not convince them."

"The humorously misnamed Dr. Logic..."

"The hurdle that atheists like Doctor Logic must surmount before coming to belief in God isn't reason, it's hubris."


Later, folks.

Anonymous said...

The question still hasn't been answered as to WHY God would want to make His existence perpetually obvious.

If God has no reason to make his existence obvious, and has several reasons not to, then the fact that His existence isn't obvious does not make His existence any less probable.

The sharp observer will notice the atheists in this discussion have failed to carry their share of the water, and in fact are avoiding all the relevant questions.

Rob G said...

"This is the big problem with Christianity. It's considered hubris to reason for one's self. It's considered hubris to avoid one's own cognitive biases."

No, it simply believes that human reason is limited and can err. Ratiocination can get us only so far.

"Rob, if reason and fair analysis are dispensed-with, one can believe anything, even inconsistent claims."

But you are making a false equation that thoughtful believers do not make, i.e., equating the non-rational or supra-rational with the irrational. Numerous believers, many of them philosophers and scientists, reject this equation.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

You still haven't answered the basic question, Doctor Logic: what is it that God desires that God would gain by performing huge miracles to convince you He exists?

This line of attack just doesn't work.

First of all, you are assuming that people would be resentful, when you don't know that. You are rationalizing a reason why God would refuse to communicate with us in the face of the fact that God does NOT communicate with us. In other words, you would believe in God even if he didn't exist, and then rationalize your belief.

Suppose God were performing miracles so that his existence were obvious. If someone argued this was making people resentful, then you would instead be arguing that God better achieves his goals by ensuring everyone at least knows he exists. In other words you would rationalize for God no matter what.

As I said, if God was always rearranging galaxies to communicate with us, it would start to get mundane. Not scary. Just a fact of life.

Second, Who cares if God is arrogant? Would arrogance be a worse offense to humanity than killing us with disease and natural disasters or torturing us forever? That's just nonsense.

Third, you're saying that if we know for a fact that God will torture us forever if we don't love him, we will not love him. YET, if we merely believe God will torture us forever if we don't love him, then we're more likely to love him. Is that really what you believe?

Anonymous said...

You are avoiding the question.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Oh, yes, you said...

The question still hasn't been answered as to WHY God would want to make His existence perpetually obvious.

Um, for the obvious reason that no one is going to get into an actual loving relationship with a character they believe to be fictional (or, rather, fraudulent). And the reason they will think God is fraudulent is that irrational cultures always make up the existence of supernatural entities even where none exists (as demonstrated by all the religions that are not Christian).

As the world gets smaller due to communication and reason, all the gods will be recognized for the fictions they really are.

But even within Christian theology, there are problems for God.

Why does God want to penalize the rational people? If people stand up with the courage and integrity to think for themselves and not allow themselves to succumb to bias and delusional ideas, God will punish them? Yeah, that sounds benevolent. By Bronze Age standards, anyway.

How about I take my next child at age 2, and drop him on a deserted island? After all, I wouldn't want the kid to resent me when I start talking to him and educating him and such.

Sorry, the emperor has no clothes. Christianity is absurd, incoherent, superstitious and anti-intellectual.

But, hey, thanks for not addressing any of my criticisms. Best not to upset the man upstairs by daring to think critically.

Anonymous said...

I'm not answering most of your responses because you're putting words into my mouth, and generally scorching the Earth with irrelevancies.

I don't believe in eternal torture. I would not be making excuses for God if He did the kinds of things you want Him to do.

I don't believe I would be a follower of God if He was the kind of being to beat His chest just to remind everybody that He's there.

One of the reasons I do love God is because He is hidden. I admire that God will not overcome His enemies with sheer displays of power, and prefers to woo them patiently and quietly, all the time respecting their freedom. God doesn't spell your name out in the stars, instead he sends Victor and the rest of us to talk to you. Because if your heart is willing, we'll be enough. And if your heart is not willing, moving the stars won't help.

I'm not rationalizing a belief, I'm telling you what would happen to my relationship with God if He did what you asked. I would care if God was arrogant. Leave aside for a second that the notion of an arrogant God is incoherent (as that would posit a morally flawed yet morally perfect being). An arrogant God would not merit the devotion that a humble God does. In the scenario you envision, God would probably lose my relationship with Him, and his reward for that would be assuring you, a person who won't follow Him anyway, that He exists. So he moves the heavens and the earth to call your bluff, and he's down a soul for His effort. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who would find God less worthy of worship if He were constantly doing miracles solely for the purpose of proving to unbelievers that He exists.

If an unbeliever would follow God if He knew God existed, God can give that person a quiet assurance of His existence that is more convincing than any miracle. Thus, what you want is both unnecessary and potentially counterproductive for God's purposes. So the question remains: why would He do it?

Rob G said...

The good doctor has a fairly, uh...eccentric understanding of what Christians believe. He follows in the footsteps of the Befuddled Four, who have sold a lot of books and made a lot of money criticizing something they don't know much about. The misconceptions here are in a neck-and-neck race with the irrelevancies.

Anonymous said...

"One of the reasons I do love God is because He is hidden. I admire that God will not overcome His enemies with sheer displays of power, and prefers to woo them patiently and quietly, all the time respecting their freedom. "

God doesn't respect our freedom or hide in order to woo us patiently. She doesn't give a damn what people do.
But a lot of religious people will use Her in order to browbeat those who disagree with them into doing what they want.

Ilíon said...

Anonymouse, you're a fool ... and an intellectuallt dishonest hypocrite (see your previous post). It's that simple.