Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why do I do these things?

I am in a bad mood today, so I jumped into an evolution blog debate.


mattghg said...

You brave man.

I wonder what the shelf-life is for these comedy entities which are supposed, but their very mention, to discredit theistic belief. We've had Bertrand Russell's microscopic teapot, invisible pink unicorns on the moon, flying spaghetti monsters...

Something else Alister McGrath (ooh, hasn't he got them angry?) has said comes to mind: "All of us need to question our beliefs, especially those of us who are naive enough to think we don't have any."

exapologist said...


You clearly had the better of that exchange -- with one hand behind your back. "Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason than that bad philosophy needs to be answered." I think someone you might have heard of gave that wise advice.


stunster said...

Something I wrote a while back....

One objection to theism which I've come across is based on a misunderstanding. It's the Flying Spaghetti Monster objection (also known as the Goldfish Bowl objection, and as the Invisible Pink Dragon objection).

I'll go with Goldfish version because I came across it in that form first.

There's a goldfish, living in a goldfish bowl. The goldfish infers that there must be a Big Goldfish beyond the bowl, who created both the goldfish and the bowl.

The analogy suggests that human believers in God think of God as an Invisible Big Man (with a long white beard, etc), though this point isn't really crucial.

The reason this is to misunderstand the theist's argument is because goldfish morphology, no more than human morphology, isn't really the thing to be explained by the theistic inference. The objection takes the goldfish (and the goldfish bowl) as being the key phenomena to be explained. But of course, it's the goldfish's putative rational mind that is the key thing to be explained. (The parody implicitly attributes to the goldfish a rational mind because the goldfish is capable, in the parody, of making inferences.)

In other words, it's the existence of Reason as such and its reflection in the rational structure of reality which needs explanation. Only, so the theist contends, can a metaphysically ultimate reality endowed with reason do this.

In other words, the metaphysical ultimate has to be rationally mind-like. And, the theist adds, all the phenomena associated with mind in addition to rationality also need such an ultimately mind-like explanation---e.g., value (both moral and aesthetic, or goodness and beauty for short), consciousness, meaning, purpose, and so forth.

If reason is reliable in relation to knowledge of reality, in other words, then something analogous to rational mind must be ontologically fundamental, metaphysically basic---and necessarily so.

The only reason the Big Goldfish (or an Invisible Pink Dragon or a Flying Spaghetti Monster) seem to work as parodies of theistic belief is because one is implicitly endowing these fictions with rational mindedness. But then it's the endowment of rational mindedness as such, not goldfish, or dragon or spaghetti monster physical morphology which is playing the real explanatory role in the mock analogies.

Ironically, the Big Goldfish/Invisible Pink Dragon/Flying Spaghetti Monsters parodies thus actually themselves support the intuition that Mind is ontologically fundamental, and hence display an implicit and amusingly subconscious philosophical preference for theistic rather than materialist explanations of the world.

Blue Devil Knight said...

That is one of my favorite blogs that you were in the fray of. The comments were mostly sophomoric. You must have been quite bored. :)

Victor Reppert said...

I think Richard Dawkins and those like him are not only shooting atheism in the foot, they're shooting evolution in the foot and giving cannon fodder to ID advocates.

A few years ago it was the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Now it's the flying spaghetti monster. There's a new model every year.

Dawkins' book just might be the best work of Christian apologetics of this decade, or perhaps second only to C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea :)