Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A critique of Pastafarianism

Is God no more probable than the Flying Spaghetti Monster? I don't think so.

14 comments:

stunney said...

Ah well, the old ones are the best ones, aren't they?

Sorry, I meant they're the worst ones.

One objection to theism which I've often 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 detail 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 intrinsically, essentially endowed with reason do this.

In other words, the metaphysically ultimate reality 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 mindhood is justifiably deemed to be ontologically fundamental, or 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 Monster parodies thus actually themselves support the intuition that Mind is ontologically fundamental, and hence display an implicit and amusingly subconscious philosophical preference for a theistic rather than materialist explanation of the world.

Timothy David said...

I'm surprised that Invisible Pink Unicorn enthusiasts never seem to notice that theologians have never (correct me if I'm wrong) ascribed to God such qualities as pinkness. Proclaiming God to be invisible, immaterial, all powerful and all knowing, seems to me, even as an armchair philosopher/theologian, to be something quite different than proclaiming God is invisible and pink, or immaterial and having the fragrance of buttercups. Is there a specific philosophical term for this type of categorical mistake?

Edward T. Babinski said...

hey Hey HEY!

Do you people understand either philosophy or sarcasm?

Who cares what some allegedly "infinite being" looks like? Even the Bible apparently can't agree in different places on whether "God" dwells in darkness or light. Though the O.T. does include an account of Moses and company seeing Yahweh's "behind," whatever that means.

And speaking of human-likeness, Genesis speaks about Adam having a son "in his likeness and image," that some theologians interpret as meaning that the ancient Hebrews did indeed believe in a God who created Adam "in His likeness and image" in the same way as Adam and his son were related, i.e., in a physical sense. (Which brings to mind that God "walked in the garden" with "Adam." Or even that the "sons of god" -- whoever they were in Genesis -- saw how "attractive the daughters of men were," again a physical sense of beauty like their own.) While additional attributes of "God" also display a human like quality to them like "anger, vengeance, jealousy."

So, here's my point, If you want to believe in a "God" who walks in the garden (this is not "Jesus" walking in the garden, it's an old document that should be taken in the context of its day and age, when gods did "come down," and interact with humans. And note what I said above about God's other human attributes in Genesis); or a "God" who shows his "read end" to Moses and company; or a jealous vengeful angry deity. Then go right ahead. Makes Pastafarianism seem relatively sane.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Pastafarianism or Yahwism/Jesusism?

Quotations from Robert Anton Wilson

"God" and "The Flood"

I don’t know who the worst sinners are on this planet, but I am quite sure that if a High Intelligence wanted to exterminate them, It would find a very precise method of locating each one separately. Carelessly murdering millions of innocent children and harmless old ladies and dogs and cats in the process is absolutely and ineluctably to state that your idea of God is of a cosmic imbecile.

A “God” intelligent enough to design even a molecule, let alone a whole universe, would, if he-she-or-it went loony and decided to take up murder, still be intelligent enough to murder only the people he-she-or-it disliked. Accepting the dubious Warren Commission Report, even Lee Harvey Oswald only hit one innocent bystander (the governor). The early Old Testament “God” appears not only as crazy as Oswald but clumsier, stupider and generally less civilized. King Kong is as convincing a portrait of God as that given in the Old Testament.

An evangelical Christian once told me, “Only Jesus Christ can save man and restore him to his lost state of peace with God, himself and others.” Yeah, sure, and only new Pepsi can make you feel really happy, and only our brand is better than the competition, and only our country is the best country. It is truly amazing to me that people can utter such arrogant nonsense with no humor, no sense of how offensive they are to others, no doubt or trepidation, and no suspicion that they sound exactly like advertisers, con-men and other swindlers. It is really hard to understand such child-like prattling. If I were especially conceited about something (a state I try to avoid, but if I fell into it...), if for instance I decided I had the best garden or the handsomest face in Ireland, I would still retain enough common sense to suspect that I would sound like a conceited fool if I went around telling everybody those opinions. I would have enough tact left, I hope, to satisfy my conceit by dreaming that other people would notice on their own that my garden and/or my face were especially lovely. People who go around innocently and blithely announcing that they belong to the Master Race or the Best Country Club or have the One True Religion seem to have never gotten beyond the kindergarten level of ego-display. Do they have no modesty, no tact, no shame, no adult common sense at all? Do they have any suspicion how silly their conceit sounds to the majority of the nonwhite non-Christian men and women of the world? To me, they seem like little children wearing daddy’s clothes and going around shouting, “Look how grown-up I am! Look at me, me, me!”

There are more amusing things than ego-games, conceit and one-upmanship.Really, there are. I suspect that people stay on that childish level because they have never discovered how interesting and exciting the adult world is.

If one must play ego-games, I still think it would be more polite, and more adult, to play them in the privacy of one’s head. In fact, despite my efforts to be a kind of Buddhist, I do relapse into such ego-games on occasion; but I have enough respect for human intelligence to keep such thoughts to myself. I don’t go around announcing that I have painted the greatest painting of our time; I hope that people will notice that by themselves. Why do the people whose ego-games consist of day-dreaming about being part of the Master Race or the One True Religion not keep that precious secret to themselves, also, and wait for the rest of the human race to notice their blinding superiority?

The experts on Heaven disagree about which conglomeration of religious believers will qualify, but they always seem to think that they personally belong to that elite group.An eternity with people that conceited seems intolerable to me...

An idea, which has terrified millions, claims that some of us will go to a place called Hell, where we will suffer eternal torture. This does not scare me because, when I try to imagine a Mind behind this universe, I cannot conceive that Mind, usually called “God,” as totally mad. I mean, guys, compare that “God” with the worst monsters you can think of--Adolph Hitler, Joe Stalin, that sort of guy. None of them ever inflicted more than finite pain on their victims. Even de Sade, in his sado-masochistic fantasy novels, never devised an unlimited torture. The idea that the Mind of Creation (if such exists) wants to torture some of its critters for endless infinities of infinities seems too absurd to take seriously. Such a deranged Mind could not create a mud hut, much less the exquisitely mathematical universe around us.

If such a monster-God did exist, the sane attitude would consist of practicing the Buddhist virtue of compassion. Don’t give way to hatred: try to understand and forgive him. Maybe He will recover his wits some day.

[Above selections from Robert Anton Wilson]

Edward T. Babinski said...

Douglas Adams:

. . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."

Timothy David said...

Oh, Babinski...

Bjørn Are said...

Interesting to observe how railed up an atheist can become after some Pastafarianism critique.

Looks almost like a caricature.

Jim said...

That was an utterly unsatisfactory critique of Pastafarianism.

"In contrast with the serious issue of God’s existence, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is known to be made up."
And Christianity isn't? FSMism is known through revelation just as Christian thinkers like Aquinas believed it Trinity through blind acceptance of Christian premise through revelation.

"(1) Believed by no one. Even the so-called advocates of the FSM do not really believe that it exists."
I do. You don't have to speak for me.

"(2) There are no technical philosophical arguments for the FSM. Actually, there are no technical arguments of any kind for the FSM."
Yes, there is. Traditional arguments for God can be transferable to support the existence of FSM.

"(3) Even those who sarcastically espouse that the FSM exists don’t really believe that the FSM exists, nor do they think that the FSM is a coherent explanation for finite contingent being, logic, morality, beauty, etc."
I would disagree with this statement, but even if it were true, why should that show that the existence of FSM is unlikely? Why does this writer assume that existence of some sort of deity must also provide a coherent explanation for those?

"(4) No one really believes in the FSM, but even if they did, it would not be rationally satisfying."
FSMism is a very young religion. I am certain the number of FSMians is growing. O and trust me, FSMism is rationally satisfying.

stunney said...

Babinski offers, by way of critiquing my critique of pastafarianism, a reminder of Biblical anthropomorphisms.

But this would only be to the point if theists typically did not regard those references as being anthropomorphisms, and hence not to be interpreted literally.

I have met and spoken with a lot of theists of one sort or another, and none of them thinks that God's nature is bodily; indeed they seem to think that God is invisible, which is why we can't literally see God, and which is why they regard those Scriptural passages as anthropomorphic metaphors, just as God being a rock-like stronghold is a non-anthropomorphic metaphor.

The passage in Genesis referring to humanity as being made in the image and likeness of God surely refers to our spiritual nature, that is, to our capacity for knowing and loving.

Now, there is nothing to stop anyone who wishes to refer to the ultimate ontological ground of our spiritual nature as 'the Flying Spaghetti Monster'. But it seems that there is nothing in the terms 'flying', 'spaghetti', or 'monster' which would immediately connote such an intended meaning, whereas the word 'God' does.

It is therefore difficult to believe why anyone should think that pastafarianism is a good analogy with theism.

What is amusing, however, is that those who use the notion of pastafarianism to mock theists generally think that they are thereby being effective at demonstrating a supposed weakness of reasoning on the part of theists, when in fact it's their risibly weak reasoning which is displayed by the mock analogy, not that of theists.

One would be as well saying that the minds of other human beings do not exist, and that other people are animated not by minds but by flying spaghetti monsters, better known as immensely complex strands of DNA. Indeed, isn't that what Dawkins & Co. actually believe?

Now there's an irony---Richard Dawkins is the real pastafarian! Hahahahaha!

Coming on top of Babinski's remarkably humorless complaint that theistic critics of pastafarianism lack a good sense of humor, that fair makes for some hearty thigh-slapping.

Ilíon said...

There doesn't seem to a good place to post this, so I'll post it here.


Issues Related to "the Suffering Messiah" (Christian vs Jewish understandings of Isaiah 53), paganism, assertions of Christianity being merely paganistic-syncretism, etc --

NTY: Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection

Ben Witherington blogs on this: The Death and Resurrection of Messiah--- written in stone

Timmo said...

Victor,

I agree that Bobby Henderson's (let's call it) Argument from the Monster against theism is pretty terrible. I take the argument to be something like this:

(1) Theism is rationally no different from Pastafarianism. [premise]

(2) Pastafarianism is rationally unacceptable. [premise]

(3) Therefore, Theism is rationally unacceptable. [from 1,2]

It is clear that the Argument from the Monster is simply question-begging -- no theist would concede (1).

Perhaps the charitable thing to do is not suppose this is meant to be an argument at all, but rather some kind of persuasive rhetoic, a verbal move to embarrass theists out of the public sphere. If so, why should anyone take this any more seriously than a creationist who confidently asserts "my grandparents aren't monkeys"?

zinc alloy said...

I've read some old rhubarb in my time but some of this made me laugh out loud.

Just because some great minds believe does not for one moment constitute evidence of the existence of god. Many many great minds also don't believe.

You are also very ignorant to just make the claim that every Pastafarian does not actually believe in FSM.

It may seem daft to you but then some of us find all these gods very silly indeed.

As far as not only people like myself but it seems even most Christians, there is no evidence of your god. That is why all we seem to get from them is the word 'faith'. What a cop out.

Christianity started out by being mocked. It would be hilarious if in a few hundred years the popularity of Pastafarianism made it a popular religion. Who knows? I wouldn't put anything past the desperate need of people not to face the only real evidence they have. We live, we die. There's nothing else after death.

You do seem a tad worried.

Being narrow minded is not an attractive trait in a human being.

Looks like Bobby has got you all worked up. Fair play to him and his Flying Spaghetti Monster.

And may His Noodly Appendage touch you.;-)

Ilíon said...

Zinc Alloy: "[nothing, really]"

How cool is this? Yet another ignorant, or intellectually dishonest, pretend-atheist -- though, to be frank, I'm betting on both being applicable.


Zinc Alloy: "[typical 'atheist' non-sense masquerading as 'though'] As far as not only people like myself but it seems even most Christians, there is no evidence of your god. That is why all we seem to get from them is the word 'faith'. What a cop out. ..."

Now, as *actual* truth would have it, your assertion is not only silly, it's false: the issue here is not lack of evidence that God is, but rather your studied refusal to honestly evaluate the evidence.

But, tell you what, let's pretend that I don't already know the important thing about you -- to wit: that your intellectual integrity has to be picked up with forceps and a loupe? Which is to say, why don't we pretend that you've made an honest (even if factually incorrect) assertion?

So, you are asserting that "there is no evidence of your god" (by which, of course, you mean the Only God).

NOW, IF you are in a position to make that assertion, THEN by a simple application of very simple logic, we can see that you are *also* asserting that you know and can tell us what would comprise such evidence, were there in fact any to be found.

After all, it is hardly logical, or rational, to assert "there is no evidence of your god" simultaneously with "and I wouldn't recognize the evidence if it bit me in the ass."

So, *what* would count as evidence that God is? Or are you just ignorantly, stupidly, dishonestly, making noises we can just ignore?

travis f... said...

Ilíon said..."Now, as *actual* truth would have it, your assertion is not only silly, it's false: the issue here is not lack of evidence that God is, but rather your studied refusal to honestly evaluate the evidence."
so here are some of my questions to you;
you said there is evidence that God exists but then you never backed that statement up with said evidence?

do you think there is a God or do you think there is a Christian God that exists?

Edward T. Babinski said...Who cares what some allegedly "infinite being" looks like? Even the Bible apparently can't agree in different places on whether "God" dwells in darkness or light. Though the O.T. does include an account of Moses and company seeing Yahweh's "behind," whatever that means. ...Which brings to mind that God "walked in the garden" with "Adam." Or even that the "sons of god" -- whoever they were in Genesis -- saw how "attractive the daughters of men were," again a physical sense of beauty like their own.) While additional attributes of "God" also display a human like quality to them like "anger, vengeance, jealousy."

i can believe in something but i believe that something is not the Christian God. Man wrote the bible, not God. and Man wrote a great STORY. with a lot of loop holes and contradictions.

i would love to hear what evidence you have pertaining to the existence of a God. whenever i ask a Christian to explain the evidence their answer is always, "well, it's a faith thing..." i hope that isn't the same "proof" you speak of in your comment... haha...