Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The argument from asymmetry

A redated piost

From the debate with Craig: Jesseph's atheistic argument from Asymmetry
This has been a tough one for me to make sense of. I think he has in mind something like this:
1) All believers in supernatural religions accept some supernatural claims and reject others. They, for example, explain the growth of Christianity in terms of the working of the Holy Spirit, but the belief that Joseph Smith translated the tablets with divine help as the result of some kind of delusion or dishonesty.
2) However, once you accept the supernatural, there is no principled way to prefer on supernatural explanation to another.
3) Therefore, theistic religionists of all stripes reject some claims and accept others for no principled reason.
4) But one should have principled reasons for accepting some beliefs and rejecting others.
5) Therefore, you should reject theism in favor of atheism.
Questions about Premise 2
The key premise is 2. It does seem that some supernatural claims seem antecedently more plausible than others. Actions attributed to God that serve a redemptive purpose seem more probable than those that don’t serve any. There is also better or worse testimonial evidence in favor of some claims as opposed to others. So I don’t see how premise 2 can be defended.


Mark said...

How about in the way that the Desert Fathers dealt with "erroneous" revelation and Athanasius dealt with Arius. It is via discernment in community.

The Eucharistic assembly ... the Church is Christ in the world. If the body rejects the revelation ... it is judged false.

JD Walters said...

Yeah, that's definitely not a good argument, but it makes for great rhetoric. OF COURSE there are principled ways of preferring certain supernatural explanations over others. They have to do with prior beliefs about the origin of the Universe, whether such explanations can be placed within a coherent framework of belief and practice that takes our best scientific and historical knowledge seriously, the quality of testimonial evidence, corroboration, etc. This doesn't mean it is easy to do this. The supernatural is very, very tempting and it is sooo easy to distort, confabulate and outright manipulate for personal advantage. But there seems no reason to believe it can't be done.

IlĂ­on said...

"4) But one should have principled reasons for accepting some beliefs and rejecting others."

And a God-denier justifies this, how?

oozzielionel said...

Definition: "principled" adj. 1) Reasons I agree with 2)no other definitions apply

Crude said...


It's probably a little distasteful for you, but since you like to keep tabs on the general Cult of Gnu leadership, you may want to at least relay some of what's going on among PZ Myers and Michael Shermer and the like.

Apparently, if some sources are to be believed, the New Atheist movement is headed up by a considerable number of Bob Filner types. Of course the alternative is that PZ "There can be no evidence for God" Myers is completely inept at evaluating evidence.