Friday, April 19, 2013

Relativism, God, and Bill Clinton

If there is a God, and God has informed us that something is wrong, then we can be relativists only if we think that God's opinion is no better than anyone else's. Can you imagine Bill Clinton saying to God "You say adultery is wrong, but that's just your opinion. I think it's OK. Who's to say which of us is right, and which of us is wrong?"

97 comments:

im-skeptical said...

"Can you imagine Bill Clinton saying to God ..."

Can you imaging God saying anything to anybody? When has this ever happened? People like to pretend they know what God thinks or what God says. But they don't.

B. Prokop said...

Well... I can imagine God saying to im-skeptical, "Why weren't you more skeptical about those fools who chose not to listen to Me?"

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

Do you realize that there are many atheists who have made every effort to hear, in all sincerity? If you hear the voice of God, it's not because you have made a more earnest effort than they have.

unkleE said...

If someone thinks they haven't heard from God, it is possible he hasn't spoken to them or that they missed it (possibly expecting something different, possibly not wanting to hear).

But if someone hasn't heard from God, they can listen to someone who claims they have, and see if that claim is believable, and what they can learn from it.

There are lots of possibilities here. If we really want to know, we'll consider them all.

B. Prokop said...

im-skeptical,

Over the years I have (with extreme reluctance, mind you) come to the conclusion that, the case for atheism being so weak, contradictory, and to be honest completely incoherent, whilst the Voice of God is so overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who hasn't plugged up his ears (you'll recall that I once likened an atheist to a man standing on the seashore, being lashed by wind, sand, and salt spray, yet stubbornly denying the existence of the sea), that the only possible explanation for anyone espousing such a bankrupt worldview has to be a conscious act of will.

(How's that for a run-on sentence?)

So, no. Not only do I not "realize" how many atheists sincerely listen for the Voice of God, I doubt they exist. And if you think you're one of them, your comments on this website certainly don't indicate so. You've consistently demonstrated a determined refusal to use the faintest bit of logic in what you post, and so twist and misconstrue the plain meaning of what others write to such a degree that it has to be intentional.

Sorry to be so blunt, but it's no favor to you to hide from you what is blindingly apparent to everyone else (except for those who likewise have "lost the good of intellect" such as Papalinton).

im-skeptical said...

"it's no favor to you to hide from you what is blindingly apparent to everyone else"

I wasn't really speaking of myself. I have read accounts from people who were believers, people who stopped believing because despite their best efforts, that voice was silent. You think you hear the voice because you believe it is speaking to you, not because it's actually there. Why don't you tell me, what does it say to you? Has God told you what is good and bad? Has he told you what he wants? If so, how do you know it's not your mind playing trick on you? How do you know it's not just hearing what you want to hear?

B. Prokop said...

" How do you know it's not just hearing what you want to hear?"

Because if He were telling me only what I wanted to hear, He wouldn't be telling me to give away nearly one-third of my income each month (which I do). Nor would he be telling me to cook meals for the homeless in Baltimore (which I do). He wouldn't be telling me to put the needs of everyone else ahead of my own (which I attempt to do, but so often fail). He wouldn't be rousing me out of bed on Sunday mornings earlier than I'd like to get up, to dress up (which I really dislike) and head down to church for an hour or so. He wouldn't be urging me to share my time and talents with the local schools, or donate time to the local Parks and Recreation department, running educational programs for middle-schoolers (who are, frankly, a pain in the neck) for no pay.

No, I don't think I'm hearing just what I want to hear.

ingx24 said...

B. Prokop,

When you say:

"the Voice of God is so overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who hasn't plugged up his ears (you'll recall that I once likened an atheist to a man standing on the seashore, being lashed by wind, sand, and salt spray, yet stubbornly denying the existence of the sea)"

Are you referring specifically to the God of Christianity? Or do you mean just God in general?

Also: I've never had any experience whatsoever that I thought might have been the Voice of God. Maybe it's because I'm too young to have had such an experience (I'm only 18), but I don't think the Voice of God is as obvious as you think it is. That said, I am not an atheist - I am an agnostic regarding the existence of God, and I am certainly not a naturalist in any sense of the word. I just don't have any compelling evidence either way on the question of whether God exists, and don't have enough confidence to make a good judgment either way. I do think it's slightly more likely than not that some kind of God exists, but on the other hand there are a lot of religious claims that I find morally and/or intellectually objectionable (i.e. Hell, condemnation of homosexuality and birth control, the idea that humans are innately so horrible that we deserve eternal torture and that the only way to redeem ourselves is by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the idea that we are morally responsible for something two people did thousands of years ago, the idea of an institution telling you what to believe, etc.). In general, I'm extremely skeptical of organized religion, as it seems to inherently take away any freedom to think for yourself.

Hal said...

Bob,
"Over the years I have (with extreme reluctance, mind you) come to the conclusion that, the case for atheism being so weak, contradictory, and to be honest completely incoherent, whilst the Voice of God is so overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who hasn't plugged up his ears (you'll recall that I once likened an atheist to a man standing on the seashore, being lashed by wind, sand, and salt spray, yet stubbornly denying the existence of the sea), that the only possible explanation for anyone espousing such a bankrupt worldview has to be a conscious act of will."



Now you are acting as silly as Papalinton.

Atheists (and agnostics) can live as full and rewarding a life as a theist can.

Not trying to put down your religion or claiming you are irrational for believing in your God. But you are holding an irrational belief if you think the evidence for God is as overwhelming as you claim.

im-skeptical said...

"No, I don't think I'm hearing just what I want to hear."

Interesting. He seems to be more demanding of you than most people. Are you sure you aren't telling yourself all those things?

B. Prokop said...

"Or do you mean just God in general?"

I mean just God in general. I am a huge admirer of several non-Christian religions, and see much Truth in them. (I've mentioned this several times before.)

Hal,

You write, "Atheists (and agnostics) can live as full and rewarding a life as a theist can."

Of course they can. Simply by by espousing atheism, one does not thereby forgo having been created in the Image of God, "with all the rights, privileges, and duties thereof". Atheists have imprinted within their very being the same divine spirit, the same acknowledgement of the Good, the same thirst for Truth, the same need for Love, as any believer. They simply do not recognize the source of such things.

But no one should be surprised that an atheist can lead a moral life, or find happiness. Were it otherwise, that would be a Big Problem for the Faith.

Hal said...

Bob,
I notice you didn't address my main criticism: it is irrational for you to believe that the evidence for God is as overwhelming as you claim.
So overwhelming, in fact, that atheists have to will not to believe: " that the only possible explanation for anyone espousing such a bankrupt worldview has to be a conscious act of will".


Papalinton said...

Dr Reppert, the great equivocator: "If there is a God, ... "

I am reminded of two great Western writers:
"The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next"
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our experience of this contemporary transition could not be clearer.

"God, immorality, duty - how inconceivable the first, how unbelievable the second, how peremptory and absolute the third."
George Eliot [The writer of one of the best novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading, 'Middlemarch'.]
If ever there were a veritable trinitarian character to Christianity, it would have to be these three amigos And all three are the epitome of what is wrong with Christianity. The inane OP is itself the direct result of the free exercise of stupidity and unchecked superstition.

The OP is written as if talking to God is accepted wisdom. If you have God talking to you, your condition is psychosis.

B. Prokop said...

Hal,

I can't answer your criticism, because you haven't given me anything to answer. Something's not irrational simply because you say so. What am I supposed to answer? "Sez you"?

B. Prokop said...

By the way, Hal, kudos for including Late Spring on your list of favorite movies. I like every Ozu film I've seen, especially Autumn Afternoon.

Have you seen Still Walking by Hirokazu Koreeda?

Papalinton said...

Hal
To Bob, "Now you are acting as silly as Papalinton."

Fair go, Hal ;o)
Would it be unfair of me to ask that whatever criticism you have of me be directed to me in the first instance. Sniping from the bleachers does not give me the least bit a fair opportunity to respond to your criticism.

I may well have underplayed any humour you intended in your comment. But an equal opportunity to respond direct is all I ask.

Victor Reppert said...

I was arguing that someone who is a theist and, say a Christian, cannot coherently be a moral relativist.

im-skeptical said...

Victor, your assumption is "God has informed us that something is wrong". Isn't it reasonable to question that assumption? Christians don't all agree on what God is telling them. Bob says "the Voice of God is so overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who hasn't plugged up his ears". So does that imply that Christians have their ears plugged to the voice of God? Which ones have heard correctly, and how do you settle the differences between you? Or maybe - just maybe - nobody really hears the voice of God.

im-skeptical said...

Victor, your assumption is "God has informed us that something is wrong". Isn't it reasonable to question that assumption? Christians don't all agree on what God is telling them. Bob says "the Voice of God is so overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who hasn't plugged up his ears". So does that imply that Christians have their ears plugged to the voice of God? Which ones have heard correctly, and how do you settle the differences between you? Or maybe - just maybe - nobody really hears the voice of God.

Walter said...

I have no problem believing in the existence of a Creator via general revelation, but I certainly have not received any direct communication of the kind that Paul or Muhammad allegedly received. Until such time as I do, I plan on sleeping in on Sundays. ;)

B. Prokop said...

"but I certainly have not received any direct communication"

Nor have I, nor has anyone else alive today. In the meantime, I'll be ironing my shirt for tomorrow.

Walter said...

"but I certainly have not received any direct communication"

Nor have I, nor has anyone else alive today.


Try telling that to a Charismatic Christian.

In the meantime, I'll be ironing my shirt for tomorrow.

Have fun. I'll be enjoying a good book at home--at least until I have to go to work Sunday afternoon.

Hal said...

Bob,
"I can't answer your criticism, because you haven't given me anything to answer. Something's not irrational simply because you say so."

That's fair.

Here is your original statement:
"Over the years I have (with extreme reluctance, mind you) come to the conclusion that, the case for atheism being so weak, contradictory, and to be honest completely incoherent, whilst the Voice of God is so overwhelmingly obvious to anyone who hasn't plugged up his ears (you'll recall that I once likened an atheist to a man standing on the seashore, being lashed by wind, sand, and salt spray, yet stubbornly denying the existence of the sea), that the only possible explanation for anyone espousing such a bankrupt worldview has to be a conscious act of will."

So everyone who tells you that they don't think there is enough evidence for God's existence is lying to you?
Every atheist who doesn't admit that the only reason why they don't believe is that they have consciously chosen not to is lying to you? After all if their unbelief is a result of a conscious act of the will they must know that is the real reason for it.

I know that for myself I have not consciously chosen to not believe in God despite the overwhelming evidence for such a Being. I can't bring myself to believe because I find the evidence lacking.
But apparently you can't believe me when I say that. I have to be lying to you because the only possible explanation for not believing is a conscious act of the will.

I'm sorry, but I don't think that is a reasonable stance to take toward those who happen to disagree with you regarding the evidence for God's existence.

Mark Frank said...

Victor - your argument assumes that if someone is a relativist then they cannot accept that another being is more authoritative than they are. This does not follow. At least, not if you have reasonably sophisticated understanding of relativism/subjectivism. Most people would accept that in the end the decision as to whether one piece of art is better than another is subjective. Nevertheless an experienced art critic is more authorative than a child because he/she knows more about the situation and has developed different ways of looking at art which the child has not yet developed. Similarly a theist may accept that God has more factual knowledge and more ways of looking at ethical issues than the theist and therefore it is very likely that given time God would bring that theist round to his opinion. Nevertheless it is a matter of opinion and there is no final objective proof that God is right.

B. Prokop said...

"So everyone who tells you that they don't think there is enough evidence for God's existence is lying to you?"

No. they're lying to themselves.

"their unbelief is a result of a conscious act of the will"

Yes. There's no other "rational" explanation. (Well, it could also be a result of mental defect or insanity, but let us confine ourselves here to the mentally fit.)

"I find the evidence lacking"

Quite likely you're looking for the wrong type of evidence. On a previous thread (can't remember which one), I pointed out that since empirical evidence is by definition confined to the natural world (a.k.a., "creation"), you will never find empirical evidence for the supernatural (which would include, of course, God). To find such, one must look elsewhere: to reason, art, music, literature, history... and to Divine Revelation.

Now that last item must not be misconstrued as solely "God talking to me" or "the witness of the Spirit" (as some call it). It also includes a contemplation of Creation itself. As Saint Paul wrote, "What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."

Hal said...

Bob,
"Have you seen Still Walking by Hirokazu Koreeda?"

Yes and many of his other films. He is one of my favorite living movie directors.
My personal favorite of his is After Life. It is the one where the newly departed have to pick only one memory of their life on earth that they can take with them into the afterlife.

His Nobody Knows is also very good, but it is such a painful story that I've only been able to bring myself to view it one time.

Have you seen Twilight Samurai by Yôji Yamada? Or his Hidden Blade?



Hal said...

Bob,
""So everyone who tells you that they don't think there is enough evidence for God's existence is lying to you?"

No. they're lying to themselves."

Not if it is a conscious decision to reject belief in God. If they consciously decide not to belief then they know that to be the real reason. It follows that they also know they are misleading you if they tell you otherwise.

ingx24 said...

B. Prokop,

In my case, it's not *empirical* evidence I'm looking for. A logical argument would work just as well for me - the problem is that I haven't found an argument that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God exists (the Thomistic arguments come damn close, but are based on premises that I find dubious).

I simply cannot take controversial things like the existence of God on faith - even though I would actually like to believe that some kind of God exists, I need to be pretty much 100% sure of something before I can say I believe it. This is largely because of my OCD - I'm afraid of adamently believing something for years and later finding out that I had been living a complete lie. (The only position that I'm nearly 100% certain of is that materialism is false - you're gonna need INCREDIBLY strong arguments to convince me that my everyday conscious experience either does not exist or is really nothing more than electrochemical reactions inside my head.)

I imagine that, if I did not have OCD, I would be a theist. Maybe not of any particular religion, but a theist at minimum. But I just can't bring myself to believe anything that I'm not pretty much 100% certain of, and so I remain agnostic on the question of whether God exists (although I do think it is more likely than not that God does exist).

Hal said...

Bob,

I understand that people have different criteria for what can count as evidence. That is one reason why I don't think it irrational or foolish for you to believe in God.

For myself, I have to apply the same type of evidence for the question of God's existence as I do for any posited entity.

B. Prokop said...

"I simply cannot take controversial things like the existence of God on faith"

And you're not supposed to. Faith is not how one arrives at a belief, it is how he sticks to it in the face of appetite, sloth, wishful thinking, guilt, peer pressure, persecution, temptation, or fear. Faith did not lead me to love my wife, but it enabled me to stick by her when I wasn't feeling so loving.

ingx24 said...

B. Prokop,

What was it that convinced you of the existence of God?

Bilbo said...

What Clinton would really say to God:

"You say that adultery is wrong, but what do you mean by 'is'?"

Hal said...

ingx24,
"I simply cannot take controversial things like the existence of God on faith - even though I would actually like to believe that some kind of God exists, I need to be pretty much 100% sure of something before I can say I believe it. This is largely because of my OCD - I'm afraid of adamently believing something for years and later finding out that I had been living a complete lie. (The only position that I'm nearly 100% certain of is that materialism is false - you're gonna need INCREDIBLY strong arguments to convince me that my everyday conscious experience either does not exist or is really nothing more than electrochemical reactions inside my head.) "

Interesting. I don't require 100% certainty before I will believe something. But then I am comfortable with knowing that some (if not most) of my beliefs could be mistaken.

Seems to me that how certain one is of something is different from what one believes.

I'll also remind you that some materialists such as myself simply deny that there are supernatural entities (or substances). Believing matter is the only substance does not entail reductionism. A materialist can still believe concepts and other abstract objects exist because they are not substances of any kind.

B. Prokop said...

"What was it that convinced you of the existence of God?"

For starters (realize that you asked what convinced me, and not that I expect any of these should convince anyone else):

- The fact there is something rather than nothing.
- Order and regularity in the universe
- The existence of beauty
- The existence of good, meaning, and purpose
- The existence of evil (the Fall of Man)
- Listening to Symphony Number 2 by Gustav Mahler
- The apostolic Witness
- The Resurrection of Christ (I am convinced of the historical reliability of the Gospels.)
- The fact that there is a "now" (that time necessarily had a beginning)
- The Holy sacrifice of the Mass
- Being present (6 inches away) at my wife's death and realizing beyond all shadow of a doubt that she was not "gone"
- Mega-hours spent at the eyepiece of my telescope observing the universe. (I'm headed out tonight for a few more. I'll be tracking down some double stars in the constellation Canes Venatici.)
- The icon "Troitsa" by Andrei Rublev.
- My granddaughter
- the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Human Race has been theists (I am not so arrogant as to think I am smarter than 99%+ of Humanity.)
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
- Forgiveness
- The Letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch
- Four quartets by T.S. Eliot
- "Jim" the homeless guy on the corner of Route 40 and MLK Blvd, to whom I give 5 dollars every time we meet. I see in him the Image of Christ.
- The life of Dorothy Day (read The Long Loneliness
- My vegetable garden
- Reading The Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, the Daodejing, Leaves of Grass, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Theogony, etc.

There are more, but these will do for now. (And trust me, I am not being flippant about any of these.)



Ilíon said...

I find that I have no difficulty at all imagining Clinton saying that to God.

Bilbo said...

Hi ingx24,

If there is a God, then He is able to help people with OCD know that He exists. So my only suggestion is to ask Him to help you know that He exists. If you have already done this, then I expect that sooner or later He will answer your prayer.

Papalinton said...

Bob
My set of analogous indicators, that remarkably parallels your list, confirms the non-existence of [putative] live supernatural entities. There simply is no causal link between the list and and the ineffable unseen unknowable other than by psychologically-induced projection.

Additionally, science through its prodigious inherent explanatory power has precipitated unprecedented redefining of much of what was once attributed to God's expression of wrath or benevolence or indifference within conventional and traditional Christian explanation, from the 'possessed by the devil' causes of schizophrenia and epilepsy to the occurrences of natural disasters and catastrophic events, such as tsunamis and earthquakes. And yet there are millions upon millions of Christians in the US alone, not to mention Africa among other places, that subscribe to Pat Robertson's unswerving declaration the earthquake that destroyed Haiti was God's punishment for Haitians signing a pact with Satan.

The substantiating leverage of the testimony of your list for the existence of Gods is of the same order and level of authority as that of Robertson's divinely-inspired earthquake.

In other words, at bottom, it really is wishful thinking at best.

B. Prokop said...

"There simply is no causal link between the list and and the [stubborn denial of the supernatural] other than by psychologically-induced projection."

Papalinton conveniently ignored that I explicitly prefaced my list with the words "realize that you asked what convinced me, and not that I expect any of these should convince anyone else".

And I note that he still wearily drags out the tired old canard about some faux "God of the Gaps" (which is basically all his comment amounted to), despite such a notion having been shot down time after time after time. He either simply chooses not to learn, or else he has long ago run out of ammunition and has nothing new to say.

The bald truth is that in reality there is no “God of the Gaps”, but rather a “God of the Filled-in Spaces”. The more we learn about the universe, the more we see the astonishing detail and complexity of its structure, the more we discover its remarkable adherence to regularity and law, the more we appreciate its sheer scale… the more opportunity there is appreciate the Mind behind it all. The Heavens do indeed declare the Glory.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

Ingx24,

In my last posting to you, I only briefly touched upon what I consider to be among the strongest of all arguments in favor of there being a God, which is the existence of evil.

As we observe the world about us, all of us, believers and atheists alike, acknowledge that all is not well. Christians refer to this state of affairs as sin. Muslims point to a failure to submit (to the will of Allah). Hindus and Buddhists attribute our present circumstances to ignorance; Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintoism to disorder. Adherents of Yoruba point out our inattentiveness. The Jews name it exile. Atheists call it suffering. But whatever the terminology, all agree that something is out of whack.

C.C. Lewis pointed out that before we can call a line bent, we must first have some idea of the straight. The great philosopher Baruch Spinoza, with whom I vehemently disagree on most things, nevertheless said much that was absolutely soaked in wisdom. Among my favorite quotes of his is “Per realitatem et perfectionem idem intelligo”. (Rough translation: “Reality and perfection are the same thing.”) Words worth pondering. As I said above, we observe the physical world about us, and do not see perfection. We see deadly tsunamis and tornadoes, war, pestilence, famine, poverty, crime, addiction, and Boston Marathon bombers.

But we nevertheless insist that this is not how things are supposed to be. Even atheists acknowledge this in their favorite argument “If there were a God, He would not allow such suffering to exist.” So, agreeing in this case with Spinoza, reality (which must be synonymous with perfection) must of necessity be greater than the observable, material universe (which is demonstrably far from perfect). Creation cannot avoid being merely part of a Greater Reality which includes a Perfect Creator.

In and of itself, this is not an argument for Christianity, but it is a decisive argument against atheism.

(Now the reason for these observed imperfections is a different issue entirely, and eminently worthy of its own discussion.)

Hal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Bob
"Papalinton conveniently ignored that I explicitly prefaced my list with the words "realize that you asked what convinced me, and not that I expect any of these should convince anyone else".

On the contrary. I conveniently prefaced your list indicating that while my list mirrored yours the outcome was diametric to yours. My set of indicators provided proof positive that there was indeed no god whatsoever to be convinced about. Not even a sniff.

What you misconstrue as the faux god-of-the-gaps canard is the reality of the impact of science as an explanatory tool redefining and reshaping traditional and long-held Christian explanations.

B. Prokop said...

...Says the non-scientist. I at least am an amateur scientist (who by the way has been invited to address the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory next month on the topic of the stellar neighborhood - I think I have some "street cred").

As an obsessive science junkie, whose reading and spare time is overwhelmingly science-oriented and who keeps up with all the latest developments, I have consistently found every advance in scientific knowledge to confirm my faith, and in no case to refute it.

Yes, it is a faux concept, from start to finish.

Hal said...

Bob,
"In and of itself, this is not an argument for Christianity, but it is a decisive argument against atheism."

Hardly. Simply because we can imagine something to be so does not make it so.

And the claim that "reality and perfection are the same thing" does not appear true to me.

ingx24 said...

B. Prokop,

So, agreeing in this case with Spinoza, reality (which must be synonymous with perfection) must of necessity be greater than the observable, material universe (which is demonstrably far from perfect). Creation cannot avoid being merely part of a Greater Reality which includes a Perfect Creator.

Why does there need to be a Perfect Creator? Even if there is a greater reality, couldn't it just be a Platonic realm of Forms? Where does a Creator come into play? Is there something I'm missing here?

B. Prokop said...

ingx24,

Before you worry overmuch about Platonic Ideal Forms, just try to define what would make up an ideal chair. In other words, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

Hal,

Think some more about what Lewis wrote about crooked and straight lines. The very idea of a crooked line is nonsense without the objective existence of the straight. The fact that we see imperfections and evil in the world necessitates a perfection against which to measure/judge what we observe. Otherwise, suffering and evil are As They Should Be. The amusing thing is (and I'm waiting for one to say this), were an atheist to respond, "Yes, things are precisely as they should be," then they'd better also cease now and forever to use the "Problem of Evil" as their favorite argument against theism (or risk even further incoherence than they are already guilty of).

Hal said...

Bob,

"Think some more about what Lewis wrote about crooked and straight lines. The very idea of a crooked line is nonsense without the objective existence of the straight."

There are plenty of examples of crooked and straight things in this world we experience. There is no need to postulate some Greater Reality to explain their existence.

All one need do is point to a straight stick and then point to a stick that has been bent to see the difference.



B. Prokop said...

But when the entire physical universe is bent, then we need something equivalently large or larger which is straight by which to compare it.

Hal said...

Bob,

Once we understand the concepts of bent and straight then we can use them in all sorts of ways.

I can imagine a straight horn on a unicorn or a bent horn on a unicorn. That doesn't mean that unicorn horns exist.

B. Prokop said...

But the observable universe does, so I fail to see the point of your analogy.

Hal said...

Bob,

We can apply the concepts to things that exist and things that don't exist.

Simply because the universe can be conceived of as being bent does not entail that a straight universe actually exists.

ingx24 said...

B. Prokop,

Yeah, I'm not too big a fan of Forms in general (whether Platonic or Aristotelian) for precisely that reason - how do you define what the "ideal form" of something is? Where do you draw the line between what constitutes one form as opposed to another (for example, if evolution proceeds through gradual changes over time, how do you reconcile this with the idea that each species is clearly and non-arbitrarily defined by a specific form?) I was mainly playing devil's advocate with your argument - how do you know that this perfect Greater Reality is what created the universe, and why should we call it God?

Ilíon said...

"The bald truth is that in reality there is no “God of the Gaps”, but rather a “God of the Filled-in Spaces”."

Or, to look at it in another, and deeper, way, God is "The God of the Infinit Gaps" -- "It’s an interesting debate, but in the end I don’t think it really matters. It is altogether trumped by another sort of consideration: reality is chock full of gaps that cannot possibly be bridged by any finite entity, nor by any number of finite entities, no matter how large. Indeed, the causal order – the connective tissue, as it were, of reality – is almost entirely constituted of such infinite gaps. Thus, it’s not just that our God is the God of this little gap or that, which we shall soon understand how finite causal factors fill up quite satisfactorily. No. The problem goes much deeper. Ontologically, causal gaps per se are infinite, which means among other things that they cannot be comprehended by finite intellects; and there is such an infinite gap between each and every link of the causal chain. God is not – or at least, is not merely – the God of this or that tidy little gap. He is the God of the infinite gaps, that everywhere pervade reality, and form its woof and warp."

Ilíon said...

ingx24: "Why does there need to be a Perfect Creator?"

'Perfection' doesn't really mean simply "maximal goodness", despite that that's how people tend to use the word. What it means is "complete, whole, integral" and so forth -- complete goodness is perfect, of course, but perfection is far more than that.

Thus, given what 'perfection' really means, then strictly speaking, anything that really is perfect is unchanging, for if a thing could change, then it wouldn't, and couldn't, be complete, after all.

ingx24: "Even if there is a greater reality, couldn't it just be a Platonic realm of Forms?"

The Forms are concepts; they are thoughts. What you're asking is, "Why can't we posit Unthought Thoughts as the ultimate basis of reality (and thereby evade God-as-Creator ... and Judge)?" But, if there is no one thinking the Forms, how can/do they exist?

ingx24: "Even if there is a greater reality, couldn't it just be a Platonic realm of Forms? Where does a Creator come into play?"

Everywhere. Creation isn't something that happened in the past; it happens continuously. We, and everything, exist moment-to-moment because the Creator knows us to exist.

Ayn Rand imagined she had disposed of God by saying, "Existence exists" -- but all she was doing was speaking of God in de-personalized language.

ingx24: "Why does there need to be a Perfect Creator? ... Is there something I'm missing here?"

Yes, you're missing that *all* attempts to do away with God merely result in doing away with oneself. *All* attempts to explain reality by denying the Creator must devolve in one of two directions:
1) "western-style atheism", which admits that matter exists ... and denies that minds exist;
2) "eastern-style atheism", which denies that anything at all exists;

B. Prokop said...

Holy Cow! What's going on here? Ilion is actually making sense! (I just checked, and the clocks are not striking 13, nor is the sun headed toward the east!?!?)

Just got back from Mass, so my batteries are re-charged, and am pleasantly surprised to see how this conversation is going.

"how do you know that this perfect Greater Reality is what created the universe?"

Because if He isn't the Creator, then He is merely part of creation itself, and thus unable to transcend its imperfections, and you're still stuck with the original problem.

"Simply because the universe can be conceived of as being bent does not entail that a straight universe actually exists."

You are correct. But it does entail that "straightness" does exist. And you cannot arrive at that concept from within a bent universe which is also the ultimate reality. In such a case, the bent-ness that we perceive would be the itself objective standard by which we measure things, and we would never consider it to be bent in the first place.

ingx24 said...

"how do you know that this perfect Greater Reality is what created the universe?"

Because if He isn't the Creator, then He is merely part of creation itself, and thus unable to transcend its imperfections, and you're still stuck with the original problem.


But isn't it just this world that has imperfections? Couldn't there still be a perfect reality that isn't the creator of the imperfect reality, but has just always existed alongside it?

Again, I'm not actively trying to avoid the conclusion that God exists - I'm agnostic, not atheist - I'm just trying to cover all bases here. What I'm looking for is a logically airtight argument for the existence of God, and so far I haven't seen one that wasn't based on dubious premises (as the Thomistic arguments are). So far the Kalam argument seems the strongest to me, and I can't find any fatal problems with it, but it almost seems *too easy* - I feel like there must be some kind of logical flaw or obvious objection I'm missing. And apparently Kalam doesn't work under a B-theory of time - so if that ends up being true, the Kalam argument is toast.

ingx24 said...

And apparently Kalam doesn't work under a B-theory of time - so if that ends up being true, the Kalam argument is toast.

This should read: "And apparently Kalam doesn't work under a B-theory of time - so if B-theory ends up being true, the Kalam argument is toast" (I don't know whether I believe A-theory or B-theory is correct).

B. Prokop said...

"Couldn't there still be a perfect reality that isn't the creator of the imperfect reality, but has just always existed alongside it?"

Occam's razor. One must always avoid positing turtles all the way down.

Besides (kindly excuse any unintended insult) that's just mental laziness. Way too easy to just make stuff up that can be neither proven nor disproven, whilst advancing the argument not a whit.

And you're never going to find an "airtight" argument for the existence of God. For there to be one would mean that Jesus fell to the Devil's second temptation (2nd in Matthew, 3rd in Luke), where He is urged to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple. The tempter was trying to get God to override humanity's free will by making His presence irresistible. Not gonna happen.

Ilíon said...

Prokop: "... The fact that we see imperfections and evil in the world necessitates a perfection against which to measure/judge what we observe. Otherwise, suffering and evil are As They Should Be. The amusing thing is (and I'm waiting for one to say this), were an atheist to respond, "Yes, things are precisely as they should be," then they'd better also cease now and forever to use the "Problem of Evil" as their favorite argument against theism (or risk even further incoherence than they are already guilty of)."

Oh, they already do even better than claiming that "suffering and evil" are As They Should Be -- they assrt that there is no such thing as goodness and wickedness, and that even if there were, we could never know whether any particular thing is one or the other. This, even as they assert that "suffering" is the ultimate moral evil and that it exists proves there is no God. This, even as they whine like little sissies when I point out that they have just demonstrated themselves to be fools, which is to say, liars and hypocrites.

I'm incoherent: "If a truth can't in principal be discovered, I can't say that it exists. We're not talking about a physical entity that can be seen or measured. Morality is a conception. I understand that people feel strongly that there must be absolute truth in moral matters, but if my conception is not the same as yours, where is this truth to be found? What reason do you have to say that it exists?"

I'm incoherent: "... Those things are in principle discoverable. A moral absolute is different because it can never be discovered. At best it could be inferred, but given the differences between people, times, and cultures, even that is doubtful. Some undoubtedly think they know it, but you'll never get full agreement, or corroboration from an accepted standard. So the question once again is: how can you be sure such a thing exists."

Translation: "If I can deny the truth of something, then it isn't true."

Hal: "How would one discover a moral absolute?
Are you speaking metaphorically here?

You seem to be treating a moral absolute as if it is an object like an undiscovered planet.


Translation: "Only material/physical entities are real."

Ilíon said...

Prokop-the-apparent-Hindu,

Ilíon *always* makes sense. This is in large part because Ilíon keeps his mouth shut inless he knows what he's talking about.

Ilíon said...

ingx24: "Again, I'm not actively trying to avoid the conclusion that God exists ..."

Sure you are, but you're going about it in a morally and rationally responsible manner. This is in contrast to the way, say, Papalinton or im-skeptical, go about avoiding the conculsion that God is.

Ilíon said...

Prokop, speaking nonsense (like, what else is new>): "And you're never going to find an "airtight" argument for the existence of God."

Piffle! There are any number of airtight arguments for the existence of God. What there will never be is an argument that someone cannot freely choose to ignore.

B. Prokop said...

No, I'm no Hindu. But it is true that I've said that If Christianity were somehow (though I can't imagine how) proven false, my fallback position would be Hinduism (followed by Daoism, then whatever religion the builders of the Rollright Stones had, then a few others in no particular order, and finally with atheism, Mormonism, Scientology, and Islam fighting for last place).

Ilíon said...

Prokop: "Holy cow ..."

Ilíon: "Prokop-the-apparent-Hindu ..."

Prokop: "Whoosh! ..."

Ilíon said...

ingx24: "But isn't it just this world that has imperfections? Couldn't there still be a perfect reality that isn't the creator of the imperfect reality, but has just always existed alongside it?"

Any world in which anything can change (or has changed), in which anything can occur (or has occurred), is, definitionally, imperfect.

So, such a "perfect reality" would be one in which there are no biological entities, nor, for that matter, any "matter in motion". There would, in such a "perfect reality", be no potential, of any sort, for the realization of potential is change.

If such a "perfect reality" were physical/material, then everything in that "reality" would (timelessly) be at absolute zero, would never have been at other than absolute zero, could never be at other than absolute zero. Physically speaking, such a "perfect [physical] reality" would be utterly dead.

On the other hand, if such a "perfect reality" were non-physical/immaterial, then we're right back to God.

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

ingx24: "Again, I'm not actively trying to avoid the conclusion that God exists ..."

Sure you are, but you're going about it in a morally and rationally responsible manner. This is in contrast to the way, say, Papalinton or im-skeptical, go about avoiding the conculsion that God is.


No, I'm not. I'm hesitant to accept any argument that it is logically possible to reject, regardless of the conclusion.

And I don't buy your whole "atheism entails materialism" thing. It seems perfectly logically possible that there could be a world without a God where dualism is nevertheless true.

You seem to have an unwarranted sense of rational superiority. Reminds me a lot of Papalinton, honestly.

B. Prokop,

Maybe I should have been more clear. What I meant is, couldn't it be that the universe and the Greater Reality have both just always existed, without either one having or needing a creator?

Of course, if the past cannot be infinite, then we are led to the Kalam argument, which, as I have said, seems airtight but has what I think might be tiny holes in it.

im-skeptical said...

""If I can deny the truth of something, then it isn't true.""

Gee, I-Lyin'. Are you afraid to address my comments to me in the place where I made them? One thing that I can deny the truth of is the idea that you are willing to engage in an honest discussion. But hey, it's all for the goal of advancing your godly ideals, right?

B. Prokop said...

"then we are led to the Kalam argument, which, as I have said, seems airtight"

There are only three ways that I know of to get round the otherwise airtight Kalam argument, and none of them are acceptable to me.

1. You can become a Buddhist, and declare that time, consciousness and free will are all illusion - that all times are equally and eternally present. You don't have to worry about traversing an infinite series to get to "now" from an infinitely distant past, because no traversing is taking place.

2. You can decide that the multiverse concept is true, and that our universe is but one of an infinite series. I used the wording "you can decide" deliberately, because that's what you'd have to do. Even the most ardent multiverse proponents admit (heck, they declare) that the concept is inherently untestable and be neither proven nor disproven. How convenient.

3. You can eschew reason and logic altogether and embrace atheism. That way, nothing you say has to make any sense. You can confidently assert that whatever you want to be is so "just because", and airily dismiss all who disagree with you as deluded or remnants of the dying past.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

Hey, im-skeptical,

Don't you go all a jumpin' on Ilion - that's my job!

im-skeptical said...

"You can eschew reason and logic altogether are embrace atheism."

Yeah, because it's sooo reasonable to chalk everything up to a supernatural being that can't be seen or heard, that doesn't answer your prayers, that thinks the agonizing deaths of billions and billions of animals and people is proof of god: "The fact that we see imperfections and evil in the world necessitates a perfection against which to measure/judge what we observe." Sure, anything will do as proof of your god when you're sooo reasonable.

B. Prokop said...

... and right on cue, proving my point.

Ilíon said...

Oh, cool! A gnat and a mosquito are arguing over which one is going to take me down.

Ilíon said...

ingx24"No, I'm not. [Yes you are] I'm hesitant to accept any argument that it is logically possible to reject, regardless of the conclusion."

Or, as I said, "Sure you are, but you're going about it in a morally and rationally responsible manner." You haven't yet come to the conclusion that this particular conclusion isn't logically possibly false; so, you're testing it, as you should. None of us want you to admit that God is because we've overwhelmed you, we want you to have overwhelmed yourself, so to speak.

And, in any event, admitting that God is is such a minor thing. The important thing is to love God.

Shoot! You even quoted what I said. How is it that you didn't *read* it?

Ilíon said...

ingx24"You seem to have an unwarranted sense of rational superiority."

No I don't. But, even if I did, what of it? And *who* issues the warrant? Can you not grasp that *you* have just declared yourself to hold a rational superiority over me?

ingx24"Reminds me a lot of Papalinton, honestly."

Oh, I'm cushed!

Ilíon said...

I wonder, as 'im-skeptical' becomes more and more indistinguishable from Papalintion, will *anyone* ever acknowledge that I wasn't being a "meanie", but rather that I was/am treating him exactly as his behavior calls for treating him?

B. Prokop said...

Are you back on your meds today, Ilion? You seem almost... human!

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

I guess you could say that I'm methodologically trying to avoid the conclusion that God exists, just to see how good the case for it is. I'm guessing that's what you meant, and I just misunderstood you.

Hal said...

Bob,

"You are correct. But it does entail that "straightness" does exist. And you cannot arrive at that concept from within a bent universe which is also the ultimate reality. In such a case, the bent-ness that we perceive would be the itself objective standard by which we measure things, and we would never consider it to be bent in the first place."

Sure the concept or idea of straightness exists. And we have arrived at that concept by observing objects that appear to us to have different shapes. Some of those shapes we call "straight" some of them we call "curved" some of them we call "bent", etc.

I fail to see what the universe itself being bent (whatever the heck that really means) has to do with it.

Papalinton said...

Bob
Hal responds to you, "I fail to see what the universe itself being bent (whatever the heck that really means) has to do with it."

My thoughts as well.
Additionally, I am led to understand that the universe is indeed fundamentally a flat plane, which is counter-intuitive at the best of times.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

Hal,

The terms "bent" and "straight" are taken from C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and have nothing whatsoever to do with actual shapes. They are metaphors for perfection and falling-short-of-perfection.

Good Grief! I guess I was wrong in thinking that people who posted to a website dedicated to Lewis would have actually read the guy!

Ilíon said...

a mere human "Are you back on your meds today, Ilion? You seem almost... human!"

I trust that you'd never unintentionally insult me.

On a side note, I've never been on any "meds". Though, your familiarity with the terminology, and the concept, leade me to believe that you have been, and probably ought to be.

Ilíon said...

a mere human "The terms "bent" and "straight" are taken from C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and have nothing whatsoever to do with actual shapes. They are metaphors for perfection and falling-short-of-perfection."

As was clear in the initial post of that sub-thread.

Good grief! These guys are intellectually dishonest -- you know, as you are with respect to leftist politics -- how is it that you expected anything other than a "misunderstanding" leading down a pointless rabbit trail?

Hal said...

Bob,
"The terms "bent" and "straight" are taken from C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and have nothing whatsoever to do with actual shapes. They are metaphors for perfection and falling-short-of-perfection."

I fail to see how that makes your initial claim correct.

I'm sure we both agree that the concepts of perfection and imperfection exist. I see no need to posit the actual existence of some Greater Reality somewhere to account for those concepts. The simple physical objects that we encounter in the world will do just fine for the formation of those concepts.

And as I pointed out we can also apply those concepts to imaginary beings and situations.

Hal said...

Bob,
""The terms "bent" and "straight" are taken from C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and have nothing whatsoever to do with actual shapes."

Actually they do have quite a bit to do with actual shapes. That is how we were able to form the concepts in the first place. And once formed they can be expanded and changed and applied in a large variety of situations.

Lewis' metaphorical use perfectly illustrates the point I have been making.

B. Prokop said...

Hal,

I half-composed about 18 different replies to your last postings, but finally realized I was merely repeating myself. So, for an answer, go back and re-read my earlier postings. It's what I would have written (again).

And be sure and re-read the one from April 19th, 3:06 PM. I think your latest contributions are a classic example of what I was saying there.

To all: Unless someone has something genuinely new to post to this discussion, I am through here. I've said my piece, and more than once. I believe nothing I wrote is unclear.

Hal said...

Bob,
This is your original post that I have been responding to:

"In my last posting to you, I only briefly touched upon what I consider to be among the strongest of all arguments in favor of there being a God, which is the existence of evil.

As we observe the world about us, all of us, believers and atheists alike, acknowledge that all is not well. Christians refer to this state of affairs as sin. Muslims point to a failure to submit (to the will of Allah). Hindus and Buddhists attribute our present circumstances to ignorance; Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintoism to disorder. Adherents of Yoruba point out our inattentiveness. The Jews name it exile. Atheists call it suffering. But whatever the terminology, all agree that something is out of whack.

C.C. Lewis pointed out that before we can call a line bent, we must first have some idea of the straight. The great philosopher Baruch Spinoza, with whom I vehemently disagree on most things, nevertheless said much that was absolutely soaked in wisdom. Among my favorite quotes of his is “Per realitatem et perfectionem idem intelligo”. (Rough translation: “Reality and perfection are the same thing.”) Words worth pondering. As I said above, we observe the physical world about us, and do not see perfection. We see deadly tsunamis and tornadoes, war, pestilence, famine, poverty, crime, addiction, and Boston Marathon bombers.

But we nevertheless insist that this is not how things are supposed to be. Even atheists acknowledge this in their favorite argument “If there were a God, He would not allow such suffering to exist.” So, agreeing in this case with Spinoza, reality (which must be synonymous with perfection) must of necessity be greater than the observable, material universe (which is demonstrably far from perfect). Creation cannot avoid being merely part of a Greater Reality which includes a Perfect Creator."

As I understand it, you are claiming that atheists cannot know what evil is without there being good. Or cannot know what imperfection is without there being perfection. For some reason you seem to think that requires a Greater Reality.

It seems clear to me that it does not. What is required for the formation of those concepts are the objects and events that we interact with in this world. As Lewis himself illustrated, even simple concepts like "bent" and "straight" which are derived from the objects we encounter in this world can be used to represent imperfection or sin. It doesn't require the existence of a Greater Reality to account for those concepts.

I don't think this invalidates or calls into question your belief in God. It does however show that you don't really have such an airtight arguments against atheism as you believe.

You seem to be one of the more reasonable posters on this blog, so I am really surprised that you seem incapable of acknowledging that atheists can have legitimate and rational reasons for their disbelief.

B. Prokop said...

"atheists can have legitimate and rational reasons for their disbelief"

If so, I have yet to meet a single one, either in person or over the internet, who does. I can only go by the data I receive. Or is this one of those "imaginary concepts" you were touting a few postings back, that doesn't actually exist except for the case of argument? "I can imagine a straight horn on a unicorn or a bent horn on a unicorn. That doesn't mean that unicorn horns exist."

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

The notion that to understand imperfection there must exist a perfect standard by which to measure is simply not true. We all have concepts of the ideal or the perfect, even though those things don't exist in our world. In physics, all we need is a mathematical equation to express the concept of the ideal. We understand that nothing in reality exactly matches that ideal. But nobody expects to have some shining example of it to serve as their standard, either.

Hal said...

Bob,
"Or is this one of those "imaginary concepts" you were touting a few postings back, that doesn't actually exist except for the case of argument? "I can imagine a straight horn on a unicorn or a bent horn on a unicorn. That doesn't mean that unicorn horns exist.""

I never said our concepts were imaginary. I said they can even be applied to imaginary objects.

We agree the the concept "straight" exists. And I take it that we agree that unicorn horns are imaginary objects. Using the concept of "straight" to describe an imaginary object doesn't turn the concept itself into an imaginary object.

Hal said...

im-skeptical,

"We all have concepts of the ideal or the perfect, even though those things don't exist in our world. In physics, all we need is a mathematical equation to express the concept of the ideal. We understand that nothing in reality exactly matches that ideal. But nobody expects to have some shining example of it to serve as their standard, either."

Paired concepts like "perfect" and "imperfect" or "good" and "bad" or "strong" and "weak" largely take their meaning from the context in which they are used.
There are different criteria used to distinguish a good story from a bad story than are used to distinguish a good deed from a bad deed.
And what distinguishes a perfect illustration of a concept from an imperfect one is different from that which distinguishes a perfect vacation from an imperfect one.
Seems to me that all of these concepts can be applied to the objects and events that exist in our world.

In any case, these are all rather humdrum concepts drawn from our daily experiences in living in this world. There is, as you indicated no need to postulate some sort of Greater Reality to provide an explanation for their existence.

One need not believe in the supernatural in order to account for them.

jdhuey said...

What Clinton would really say to God:

"Wow. You sound just like Morgan Freeman!"

Ilíon said...

ingx24: And I don't buy your whole "atheism entails materialism" thing. It seems perfectly logically possible that there could be a world without a God where dualism is nevertheless true.

Ingx24, what does it *mean* to posit some sort of a dualism-sans-God? What does it *mean* to posit that 'mind' is fundamental to the nature of reality -- while denying there is an actual mind who is "the ground of all being"? How does the logic of such a dualism work out, in actual fact?

People speak of "life this" and "life that". In such usage, 'life' tends to mean "all biological organisms" and/or "the biological processes of organisms". But, if there were no biological organisms -- nor ever had been any anywhere in time and space -- then to speak of "life this" or "life that" would be to speak of nothing, literally nothing. 'Life' used in this sense is a concept, much like a Platonic Form.

In similar wise, to speak of "mind this" or "mind that" -- in the absence of any actually existing mind -- is to speak of literally nothing. Dualism-sans-God reduces to mere materialism.

So, in the end, any dualism-sans-God is simply an emotionally appealing incoherency that serves to obfuscate, rather than solve, the problem of explaining actually existing minds in a material world.

ingx24 said...

Ingx24, what does it *mean* to posit some sort of a dualism-sans-God? What does it *mean* to posit that 'mind' is fundamental to the nature of reality -- while denying there is an actual mind who is "the ground of all being"? How does the logic of such a dualism work out, in actual fact?

Simple: I say that there are actually existing human minds without necessarily believing that there's a larger "central" one that created the universe. How is this a logical contradiction?

In similar wise, to speak of "mind this" or "mind that" -- in the absence of any actually existing mind -- is to speak of literally nothing. Dualism-sans-God reduces to mere materialism.

I don't understand what you're trying to say here. It sounds like you're saying that God is the only actually existing mind, and that by denying the existence of God I'm denying the existence of minds by definition. But I don't want to unfairly misrepresent you, so I won't comment on this.

So, in the end, any dualism-sans-God is simply an emotionally appealing incoherency that serves to obfuscate, rather than solve, the problem of explaining actually existing minds in a material world.

I do think that God is a good explanation for how minds become associated with specific bodies in such an intimate way, given substance dualism. But I hesitate to bring God in as an explanation for anything - haven't we incorrectly used God as an explanation before for phenomena that in the end were found to be naturally explainable? There are other explanations I've found convincing regarding how minds and bodies get into contact under the assumption of substance dualism, such as the idea that the brain acts as a "receiver" for the mind (similar to how radios act as receivers for radio waves, although obviously this is just an analogy).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Dualism does not strictly entail theism. The two are logically independent and should, for the most part, be treated as such.

B. Prokop said...

ingx24,

I probably wouldn't have phrased it in the same way as Ilion, but I believe I get what he is telling you. I.e., where is this "mind" that you posit in the absence of any minds? Presumably there was some point in time in our universe prior to the emergence of a thinking being. Are you saying that materialism was indeed true at that time, but no longer? If not, just what made up this mind component of reality then? And if so, how do you explain the emergence of mind ex nihilo midway through the history of the world?

All you're doing with your insistence on the possibility of atheist dualism is creating a host of brand new unsolvable questions, whilst answering none.

ingx24 said...

B. Prokop,

I'm not saying that an atheist dualism is, when thought through to its logical conclusion, plausible - I'm just saying it's not strictly impossible. Here's how I look at it: Say someone (like 99% of the population) starts out life as a dualist. He later becomes convinced, say, by the argument from evil, that God does not exist. My point is that this person does not need to abandon dualism in order to stay consistent in his beliefs. An atheist who is not a materialist can still hold out for future non-materialistic explanation of how mind/consciousness got here (although admittedly it's hard to imagine what such an explanation would even look like).

To me, the atheistic dualist is in a similar position to an atheist who believes that the universe exists (to me, dualism and the fact that the universe exists are more or less equally obvious). We may not have an explanation of how the universe or mind/consciousness got here, nor does it seem like any non-theistic explanation is even possible at this point, but there is nothing preventing an atheist from holding out for one, or even just accepting that we don't know and may never know. If I were convinced that God most likely did not exist I would probably remain a dualist and just accept ignorance on where mind/consciousness came from, personally.