Saturday, January 25, 2014

Loftus' account of a world in which he would believe: Gosh, I wish the gaps were bigger!

Here. 

Suppose we transport Loftus to this possible world, and he believes on the basis he provides here. Could he be charged with God of the Gaps reasoning? 

Let's look at this passage. 

 God could’ve made this universe and the creatures on earth absolutely unexplainable by science, especially since science is the major obstacle for many to believe. He could’ve created us in a universe that couldn’t be even remotely figured out by science. That is to say, there would be no evidence leading scientists to accept a big bang, nor would there be any evidence for the way galaxies, solar systems, or planets themselves form naturalistically. If God is truly omnipotent he could’ve created the universe instantaneously by fiat, and placed planets haphazardly around the sun, some revolving counter-clockwise and in haphazard orbits. The galaxies themselves, if he created any in the first place, would have no consistent pattern of formation at all. Then when it came to creatures on earth God could’ve created them without any connection whatsoever to each other. Each species would be so distinct from each other that no one could ever conclude natural selection was the process by which they have arisen. There would be no hierarchy of the species in gradual increments. There would be no rock formations that showed this evolutionary process because it wouldn’t exist in the first place. Human beings would be seen as absolutely special and distinct from the rest of the creatures on earth such that no scientist could ever conclude they evolved from the lower primates. There would be no evidence of unintelligent design, since the many signs of unintelligent design cancel out the design argument for the existence of God. God didn’t even have to create us with brains, if he created us with minds. The existence of this kind of universe and the creatures in it could never be explained by science apart from the existence of God.


Isn't he just saying here "Gosh, I wish the gaps were bigger?" 

129 comments:

Crude said...

Isn't he just saying here "Gosh, I wish the gaps were bigger?"

Pretty much. Funny how that works, isn't it?

I think he's saying more than that, most of which is inane, but I notice a good share of gnu atheists talk out of both sides of their mouth - on the one hand, God of the gaps reasoning is so terrible. But ask them what evidence they want for God, and they start naming gaps.

planks length said...

The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament his handiwork.
(Psalm 19:1)

I the Lord have not spoken from hiding, nor from a land of darkness. And I have not said to the descendents of Jacob, "Seek me in an empty waste or in chaos."
(Isaiah 45:19)

Those passages tell us that, even if such things as "gaps" existed, we are not to look there for God, but rather to what we do know about creation - i.e., existence itself, order, predictability, purpose. These are signs of the Creator, not any so-called gaps.

im-skeptical said...

Loftus is saying the gaps are getting smaller and fewer all the time. I think it's the theists who are saying "Gosh, I wish the gaps were bigger".

Crude said...

Loftus is very clearly laying out what he would regard as evidence for God's existence - and what he regards as evidence is 'gaps'.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

Do you have evidence to back up your assertion? Can you name even one theologian or apologist who is on the record wishing for more so-called gaps?

im-skeptical said...

Loftus is pointing out that everywhere we look the evidence says "No sign of God here." If God designed this world, why couldn't he have made something that clearly shows that it didn't come about by natural processes? Instead, all we see are things that have natural explanations.

Crude said...

Loftus is pointing out that his standard for evidence of God's existence is "gaps".

There are a variety of problems with this, but first and foremost is this: he's acknowledging that God of the gaps reasoning is valid. His only sticking point is over the particular gaps in question.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

Your last comment seems to indicate that you also are asking for "more gaps" ("why couldn't he have made something that clearly shows that it didn't come about by natural processes?") in order for God's existence to be evident. Am I misinterpreting your statement? Because it appears to contradict your previous one, saying that only theists were wishing for "bigger gaps".

Would you care to re-phrase either statement? Because you can't have it both ways.

im-skeptical said...

Loftus isn't talking about gaps at all in this passage. He's making a refutation to the argument from design. For everything that looks like it might have been intelligently designed, there are plenty of things that belie that intelligence. But all of it has a natural explanation.

Crude said...

Loftus isn't talking about gaps at all in this passage.

"God could’ve made this universe and the creatures on earth absolutely unexplainable by science, especially since science is the major obstacle for many to believe."

Gap.

"He could’ve created us in a universe that couldn’t be even remotely figured out by science."

Gap.

"That is to say, there would be no evidence leading scientists to accept a big bang, nor would there be any evidence for the way galaxies, solar systems, or planets themselves form naturalistically."

Gap.

"The galaxies themselves, if he created any in the first place, would have no consistent pattern of formation at all. Then when it came to creatures on earth God could’ve created them without any connection whatsoever to each other."

Gap, gap.

"There would be no hierarchy of the species in gradual increments. There would be no rock formations that showed this evolutionary process because it wouldn’t exist in the first place."

Gap, gap.

"The existence of this kind of universe and the creatures in it could never be explained by science apart from the existence of God."

Gap.

im-skeptical said...

OK. let me put this together for you. Let's call this Loftus' argument from natural order.

1. Natural law or science explains the things we see in our world.
2. Intelligent design fails because there are so many examples of natural structure without evidence of intelligence.
3. Godly creation without design also fails because everything we see exhibits structure in accordance with natural law.

crude imagines that he has been triumphant in showing all these "gaps", but they are only gaps in the godly explanations of creation - not gaps in scientific explanation.

Crude said...

crude imagines that he has been triumphant in showing all these "gaps",

No, Crude does not. Crude is pointing out that Loftus' standard for "evidence for God's existence" is gaps.

That they would be "scientific gaps" is the point.

im-skeptical said...


"That they would be "scientific gaps" is the point."

That they AREN'T scientific gaps is the real point.

Crude said...

That they AREN'T scientific gaps is the real point.

"Oh sure, he's using God of the gaps reasoning. Loftus gave what would qualify as evidence for God, and it's all gaps in our scientific knowledge. But I don't think these gaps exist, so it's okay!"

Let me try to explain this carefully for you: the claim I am making here is not 'These gaps exist!'. Separate argument, separate conversation. I am pointing out that Loftus - and this is beyond dispute, because we have the quote - listed what would count as evidence for God's existence, and they were gaps. They were 'science doesn't explain this!'

Yes, it was hypothetical. Noted and acknowledged - that is the point.

Loftus is endorsing God of the gaps reasoning. His only difference is he doesn't think these gaps exist.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

I am confused about what you are trying to get at with your Point Number 2. You say there is no evidence of intelligence behind "so many examples of natural structure." OK, I'll allow you that (for now). But as long as there is no corresponding evidence AGAINST such intelligence, then your point is a wash. It neither favors your argument, nor does it refute it.

Likewise with your third point. If God is the creator of natural law, then we would expect everything we see to exhibit structure in accordance with it. He certainly would not create natural law, and then have his creation routinely violate it. And when it DID violate it, it would clearly do so, and for discernible reasons. We would call such events "miracles".

im-skeptical said...

planks length,

On the second point:
Lack of intelligence might have been a better choice of words. There things like nonfunctional or disfunctional structures, inefficient mechanisms, susceptibility to breakdown or disease, and so on, that argue against the intelligence of any designer, but are well explained by natural evolution. In fact, there so many examples of these things, that it is impossible to make a reasonable case for intelligent design. This is not a wash at all.

On the third point:
If everything we observe is explainable by science, then that doesn't make a case for God. On the other hand if things aren't explainable by science, this is may be evidence that there is something other than natural causes at work. However, the fact remains that we have no such evidence. Yes, you can show me where the bible says miracles have occurred, but you can't show me an actual miracle, because those things simply don't happen. Yes, we could accept the evidence of miracles if there were any such evidence, but there isn't.

Crude said...

There things like nonfunctional or disfunctional structures, inefficient mechanisms, susceptibility to breakdown or disease, and so on, that argue against the intelligence of any designer,

A) Inefficient design is still design.
B) Most of the things you mention which 'speak against the intelligence of any designer' are things we cannot replicate currently from the ground up, because our technological capabilities are too limited.
C) 'Efficiency' is only measured against goals, which would require you to know what the design goals of any designer are.

On the other hand if things aren't explainable by science, this is may be evidence that there is something other than natural causes at work.

Behold: God of the gaps logic at its most succinct.

Yes, we could accept the evidence of miracles if there were any such evidence, but there isn't.

Evidence for miracles = 'A gap!'

planks length said...

"On the other hand if things aren't explainable by science, this is may be evidence that there is something other than natural causes at work. However, the fact remains that we have no such evidence."

I'm afraid I must agree with Crude here. With these words you are quite definitely affirming the validity of a "God of the Gaps" argument. You apparently wish to deny this, but with posting after posting you show that this is what you believe.

Now I myself do not care for such arguments. I prefer Saint Paul's line of reasoning, that "ever since the creation of the world [God] has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." Note the conspicuous absence of any appeal to "gaps". Quite the contrary, he declares that what we DO know about the universe is evidence for God's handiwork - not what we do not know.

Papalinton said...

planks length
"If God is the creator of natural law, then we would expect everything we see to exhibit structure in accordance with it."
How do you know this? What is your proof? From which source did you refer to corroborate your claim?

"He certainly would not create natural law, and then have his creation routinely violate it."'
How do you know this? How can you possibly know this? Where is your evidence? And please don't quote the Babble, or St Augustine, or Aquinas, because they have no more a handle on this assertion than you, apart from pathogenic belief.

"And when it DID violate it, it would clearly do so, and for discernible reasons. We would call such events "miracles"."
Who decides what is a miracle or not? What about all the miracle claims that Hindus make? Are they included in your definition of miracle? Or do only christians have the mandate to determine what constitutes a miracle or not. I understand Muslims also claim a plethora of miracles. I understand the central miracle of Islam is that that Muhammad flew to heaven on the back of a wing-horse. By your definition this is clearly a miracle [and Muslims are absolutely unequivocal about its authenticity], a violation of natural law to demonstrate the power of Allah to intervene in his creation. And iI understand both christians and Muslims pray to the exact same God. So by the logic of your argument it HAS to be a miracle that you cannot but subscribe to, a denial of which would deal a fatal blow to your argument for such occurrences.

But then you could be right. If god is the creator of all things natural and he wanted to show people what he actually looks like, using his natural law, then THIS cannot be anything but proof of god demonstrating his power to use nature when and if he wants.

What about THIS ONE? Millions and millions of your exact fellow christians absolutely swear on a stack of bibles, and a thousand Hail Marys, that this is a miracle, a violation of natural law by the christian god himself, sending a message to them. How can you be so certain that this is not a miracle? You have not personally witnessed or experienced it, so how do you determine it is not a miracle? And just as you have not personally witnessed or experienced a three-day old putrescent corpse revivify and levitate into the stratosphere, in full physical regalia no less including testicles, and yet you assert without a shadow of doubt that it actually occurred, how do you know that?

I say religious belief in miracles is a dog's breakfast of regurgitate swill. Belief in some miracles and not in others is a case of highly selective selective prejudices and biases of the likes that make your claims simply nothing more than a plea to existential ignorance.

Sheesh!

im-skeptical said...

"Behold: God of the gaps logic at its most succinct."

The theistic God of the gaps stems from the lack of a scientific explanation. God is inevitably posited as the explanation whenever there is no sufficient understanding of some phenomenon.

The "god of the gaps logic" of which you accuse atheists stems from lack of evidence. In the absence of evidence, there is not sufficient reason to believe a particular theory, but if good evidence is present, then there is reason to believe it.

These are two completely different lines of thinking, and not at all the same logic.

Crude said...

The "god of the gaps logic" of which you accuse atheists stems from lack of evidence. In the absence of evidence, there is not sufficient reason to believe a particular theory, but if good evidence is present, then there is reason to believe it.

...And what Loftus, and apparently you, claim is 'good evidence' is a gap.

Really Skep, there's no way out of this. Loftus endorsed 'God of the gaps' as his evidence standard. Unless he about-faces and retracts, that's undeniable - we have his words quoted in the OP. And it is God of the Gaps reasoning.

As I said, you put it succinctly: "On the other hand if things aren't explainable by science, this is may be evidence that there is something other than natural causes at work." Something inexplicable by science = evidence for the non-natural.

God of the gaps.

planks length said...

"God is inevitably posited as the explanation whenever there is no sufficient understanding of some phenomenon."

Inevitably? Again, who is doing this? I know of no serious Christian theologian or apologist who uses such an argument. And since you specifically used the word "inevitably", you now must demonstrate that ALL Christians argue in this fashion, and not just some out-there fringe group like Young Earth Creationists (no intelligent Christian takes them seriously). And if you attempt to tar all Christians with the YEC brush, then I reserve the right to equate all atheists with Stalinists (since they are equally a fringe group).

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
im-skeptical said...

planks length,

Yes, inevitably. All theists posit supernatural explanations for things they believe have no scientific explanation. Tell me, what gives you the ability to conduct rational thought? Physical function of the brain, or an immaterial soul?

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

All theists posit supernatural explanations for things they believe have no scientific explanation.

You're confusing metaphysical with empirical argument. But, more than that...

Both you and Loftus just gave your blessing to that kind of reasoning. Remember: evidence for God would be a gap. Does phenomena X lack a scientific explanation? Congratulations - according to Loftus and apparently yourself, you have evidence for the non-natural. Posit what you will.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

You wrote, "The theistic God of the gaps stems from the lack of a scientific explanation. God is inevitably posited as the explanation whenever there is no sufficient understanding of some phenomenon." Then you ask whether I believe rational thought arises from a physical function of the brain or from an immaterial soul.

I'll have to disappoint you by replying "both". Man is a hybrid creature, with a foot (so to speak) in both worlds - the natural and the supernatural. He is equally body and soul. As such, everything about us may be able to be "explained" scientifically, but that by no means exhausts everything there is to say about Man.

You can examine the writings of Milton, Dante, or Homer with an electron microscope and determine in exquisite detail their physical makeup - the composition of the ink on the page, the chemical structure of the paper they're printed on, the physics of the light beams that carry their content to the human eye. But that in no way even approaches the ESSENCE of their poetry. Such information would be utterly immaterial and any "scientific explanation" is, frankly, irrelevant.

In the same manner, yes, I do affirm the reality of the Human Soul, but my reason for doing so is not from any "lack of a scientific explanation" (in fact, I welcome all such research), but rather from the realization that such an explanation would ultimately be completely beside the point. It would provide about as much insight into the true significance of human consciousness as what I described above would concerning poetry.

On an unrelated note, there is no "theistic God of the Gaps", as in your terminology. To reiterate what I wrote above, the Christian (I cannot speak for adherents of other religions) does not seek God in any so-called "gaps", but rather in what we DO know about the universe, and about ourselves. I suggest you re-read my very first comment in this current exchange.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"Isn't he just saying here "Gosh, I wish the gaps were bigger?"

No. Not for one moment. You are reading his comments through the prism of the practiced interpretive and re-interpretive art of Christian Apologetical exegesis. This comment was written quite some years ago. But then religious belief is additive rather than eliminative and substitutive. Old ideas are given equal weighting with new ideas and both float in a pool of indiscriminate swirl. With science we get better, new ideas replace old ideas. With religion we just get more not better.

Your imagined gaps apparently gleaned from Loftus's comment demonstrates the extraordinary lengths to which a religious faitheist will go to defend an increasingly failing epistemological and explanatory paradigm that has reached the end of its cultural usefulness and value. Your questioning comment can be quite properly bundled along with others as little more than shifting deck chairs on the Titanic.

"Christianity ... has been over for a hundred years now ... When something even so small as a lightbulb goes out, the eyes for a moment still see it, and a sound after it is made will have, in the right places, an echo. So it is not strange that when something so huge as a world religion goes out, there remains for a century or more in certain places some notion that it is still there." Professor Mary Jean Irion, American theologist, poet, University of Connecticut.

Indeed in the manner of a supernova it may flare up brightly just before the end. I think there is good reason to infer this today.

We are well into the next level of skirmishes of the Culture Wars, the secular humanists of the Union, as it were, grappling the Christian behemoth of the Confederacy for the strategic middle ground. History tells us what the outcome of the earlier skirmish was. And we will have learned from the time-honoured lessons of history in humanity's continuing growth and road to maturation in its long struggle against supernatural superstition, shamanic ritual, and the dark forces of ignorant pathogenic beliefs. :) [A tad of hyperbole but wholly satisfying]

Crude and others can bleat all they want. Just as Loftus notes, the immaterialists can no longer scale the vertical face of reason and science as the crevices which were the 'natural' footholds for theism are, one by one, being concreted in. One could, on the basis of probability alone, deduce that any claim faitheists make today is largely ..... immaterial.

And that is a good thing.

Victor Reppert said...

John can argue here that the god of the gaps is a problem because science is in the habit of closing them. In the world he envisions, science would never get a track record for doing that, so god of the gaps arguments in that world would be justified.

Victor Reppert said...

Paps: Another litany of atheist secular triumphalism with no supporting argumentation. If those kinds of arguments worked, we wouldn't be here.

BenYachov said...

@Skept

More errors and somehow you think by making them you are going to convince the rest of us you don't hold Positivist beliefs?

>All theists posit supernatural explanations for things they believe have no scientific explanation.

Not Aquinas, Anselm, Boniventure or Maimonides and a host of others.

Here is something you can't quite grasp. They have posited mere natural phenomena for things they had no current scientific explanation.

Take a look at Spontaneous Generation. It was universally postulated to be a natural phenomena not a miracle.

You seem to think all Jewish, Christian and Muslim philosophers and natural philosophers of old believed in some sort of divine occasionalism.

Really would it kill you to learn at least some philosophy?

Loftus is a hopeless fundie and his Atheism will never get any better then that of Paps.

It doesn't have to be the same for you Skept if only you would apply yourself.

BenYachov said...

>John can argue here that the god of the gaps is a problem because science is in the habit of closing them. In the world he envisions, science would never get a track record for doing that, so god of the gaps arguments in that world would be justified.

Still I've seen some of the ID people claim every time you close a gap you open a couple of new ones.

Not that I really care. I am a strong Atheist when it comes to the existence of a "god" of the gaps.

Such a Theistic Personalist little turd "god" is unworthy to have the Worship of a descendent of Scots.

BenYachov said...

Classic Theism RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love my two minutes of hate toward Theistic Personalism!

LOVE IT!!!!!!!

Papalinton said...

Victor
"Paps: Another litany of atheist secular triumphalism with no supporting argumentation. If those kinds of arguments worked, we wouldn't be here."

You brand it as triumphalism. I didn't and I don't. How does a theist reconcile the evidence and the significant trend in the past half-century for the increasing swathes of people shifting their focus [and their allegiance] from religious explanations about us, our environment, the world, the universe, to a more sustained and testable epistemological framework? If we were perfectly honest with each other, Victor, what is precipitating this groundswell of change in the community? Survey after survey in recent decades demonstrates a rise in unbelief, not stasis or decline. It simply cannot all be posited, as some have suggested, on a feeling of disenfranchisement with organised religion. The trouble with 'organised religion' is not that it is organised but that it is religion. The under thirties, as they become more educated, learned, street and life savvy, are simply eschewing religious explanations about the world. It simply does not comport with the multitude of other explanatory mechanisms that clearly posit a very different and in many cases a fundamentally contradictory narrative to that preached from a primitive text. The under thirties are no longer buying into that rationale any more because the root premises are unproven and unverifiable. And they know it.
We are here, not because the arguments for secularism or humanism don't work. We are here precisely because greater access to information, to knowledge, to learning, the broadening range of research and forensic investigative methodologies [intellectual activities far sounder and more robust than Apologetics or exegetic interpretation] that has precipitated a latent realisation the religious account of the universe is incomplete, is not the whole story and is clearly unhelpful in explaining significant chunks of the human condition with regard to evil and indiscriminate suffering witnessed every second around the world. It is a latency that has been largely suppressed over centuries of hegemonic Christian thought. That nexus has now been broken and a different epistemological frame is replacing the earlier wanting religious one.

What is happening is that society is lifting and exposing the unwarranted translucent and flimsy film of christian theism that believers are enamoured of overlaying reality. This veil has for too long shrouded and compromised the difficult choices we must make, globally, as a species to improve our prospects for further human flourishing. This process cannot proceed while ever we continue to subscribe to any one of the myriad of low-brow, parochial, internecine and narrow-minded conceptions of imagined gods.

As Albert Einstein so eruditely noted: "[Religion is] an attempt to find an out where there is no door." And when asked, 'Does religion promote peace?', he responded, "It hasn't done so up to now."

It's not productive to look back, Victor. The past is the past. A new and different explanatory paradigm is in the making and the Christian mythos will be playing a lesser role than that of its halcyon days. Just like the horse and buggy, religion will in the future be an interesting and exciting curio.

Crude said...

Victor,

John can argue here that the god of the gaps is a problem because science is in the habit of closing them.

Science is also in the habit of opening them - see the big bang, fundamental forces, quantum physics, etc.

In the world he envisions, science would never get a track record for doing that, so god of the gaps arguments in that world would be justified.

First, the odd thing is, that isn't even obviously true - you can get a track record without deserving it. You can have a good track record, but also be wrong.

But second - it's still right on back to acknowledging that gaps reasoning is valid, and a gap is evidence after all. And if John wants to acknowledge that, he's welcome to - but that's opening up a wide range of arguments for the theist. Ones they don't need - I think gaps arguments are bad - but it sacrifices the usual atheist litany of 'God of the gaps!'

planks length said...

A number of points:

1. Mr. Loftus most certainly conceded the validity of "gaps" arguments in his posting.

2. He did not say that he was convinced by such arguments, mainly because he wasn't seeing the gaps that would have done so for him.

3. (Armchair mind-reading here) He probably posted this piece as a not-so-clever way of saying "Anything you say will never cause me to change my mind, so don't bother trying."

4. Mr. Loftus seems unaware that the only people who ever bring up "gaps" arguments are atheists. I certainly don't ever see mainstream Christian theologians or apologists using them.

4 and 1/2. My challenge to im-skeptical, made twice earlier in this exchange, to name anyone using such gaps arguments has gone unanswered. The only response so far is to merely double down on his unsupported assertion that "all theists posit supernatural explanations for things they believe have no scientific explanation."

That last statement is so easily refuted. Since im-skeptical has used the terms "inevitably" and "all", then all it takes is a single instance of a Christian (I can not and will not speak for other religions) not doing so, and his thesis is disproven.

im-skeptical said...

planks length,

My argument is that if you believe in God, then you are positing a supernatural explanation for things that you believe can't be explained by science.

What makes the sun rise? Well it used to be a god driving a chariot of fire across the sky, but now we understand that the rotation of the earth makes it appear as though the sun is rising.

How did the universe begin to exist? God did it.

This is "God of the gaps" reasoning.

oozzielionel said...

"God could’ve made this universe and the creatures on earth absolutely unexplainable by science..."

Maybe not. In Loftus' world, "science" would be quite different but it seems that there could still be "explanations" that would not include God. If we, in our world, were able to examine the explanations in that other world, I suspect we would find the explanations unsatisfactory and outlandish. To the people in that world, the explanations would likely sound quite reasonable. They would likely cite evidence in favor of their "science."

RD Miksa said...

Good Day to All,

Skep said:

"My argument is that if you believe in God, then you are positing a supernatural explanation for things that you believe can't be explained by science."

If you are claiming this is the only reason that people believe in God, then your claim is manifestly absurd. The ontological argument, as just one example, is a reason to believe in God that completely by-passes your point above.


Skep said:

"How did the universe begin to exist? God did it. This is "God of the gaps" reasoning."

No, it is not. It could, for example, be the conclusion of a valid deductive argument or the best explanation for an "Inference to the Best Explanation" Argument.


What I find interesting is how clearly unrealistic your reasoning is here. After all, if we applied your type of reasoning, then imagine the following scenarios:

1) Two Detectives come upon a scene with a dead body. The body has fifty stab wounds in it and the knife is laying beside the corpse. The first Detective says, "Well, it looks like we have a murder scene on our hands." But the second Detective shakes his head dismissively and replies, "Jeez, are you going to go on with this 'murder-of-the-gaps' thing again. I mean, science has a great track record of showing how most people die by accident or of natural causes; it is likely that the person dropped the knife by accident and it naturally bounced up off the floor repeatedly and just happened to stab the person each time when it did so. And even if that was not the reason, if we give science enough time, I am sure that we will be able to explain how this whole thing happened naturally. So would you just stop it with your ridiculous gaps reasoning." The first Detective stares back at the second Detective dumb-founded (just as we all would be), wondering just how the guy ever made it to Detective in the first place.

Con't

RD Miksa said...

Con't

2) Two explorers are trekking through a remote area that has alleged never been seen by humans before. Suddenly, they come upon a huge shape made out of rocks that looks just like this: "SOS". The first explorer says: "Well, I guess we were not the first humans here after all; maybe we should start looking for the other people to help them." But the second explorer just shakes his head and replies: "Would you stop it with your 'person-of-the-gaps' reasoning. Clearly, wind, erosion, and other natural forces are perfectly capable of making this "SOS" shape, so stop invoking your dumb 'person' gap arguments. Besides, even if we don't have scientific explanation now, if we just wait long enough, one is bound to come up." The first explorer just faces-palms himself, wondering why he ever bothered going on a trek with a guy (the second explorer) whose reasoning skills were so out of whack.

3) Two SETI researchers are at their computers. Suddenly, a radio signal arrives. It is the first one hundred prime numbers, in order, coming from an allegedly Earth-like planet orbiting a distant star. The first SETI researcher jumps out of his chair screaming: "We've done it! We have proof of intelligent alien life." But the second SETI researcher is as calm as he was before the signal arrived. He then says: "Please stop your silly 'aliens-of-the-gaps' reasoning. It is obvious that there is some natural explanation for the signal in question. We may not know it yet, but science will surely eventually explain why that particular planet naturally sends out radio signals in prime number sequences. There is no reason to get excited, and clearly no reason to invoke aliens. Sheesh, you and your 'aliens-of-the-gaps.' Just silly." The first SETI researcher stares at the second one in disbelief, all the while pondering why this guy was ever allowed on the SETI project in the first place.

Anyway, the point is, the inference to the best explanation reasoning that works to show that the murder / person / alien explanation are the best explanations in those three cases--rather than the 'natural / non-personal' explanation--is exactly the same type of reasoning that can be used to determine God to be the best explanation for certain evidences and events in nature at present.

Thus, the charge that all such reasoning is "god-of-the-gaps" reasoning is patently false.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Crude said...

I'm going to repeat this, because it bears repeating:

"God of the gaps reasoning" has been endorsed by Loftus explicitly, as well as Skep. Hence, "On the other hand if things aren't explainable by science, this is may be evidence that there is something other than natural causes at work."

You can't both say 'If God exists then there should be gaps!' and then say 'You're saying God exists because of this gap, that's bad!' Loftus' standards of evidence was a big, long list of God of the gaps reasoning. Apparently, he regards that as valid reasoning.

Also, to emphasize something ozzie said:

In Loftus' world, "science" would be quite different but it seems that there could still be "explanations" that would not include God. If we, in our world, were able to examine the explanations in that other world, I suspect we would find the explanations unsatisfactory and outlandish.

Loftus said this at one point in the OP: The existence of this kind of universe and the creatures in it could never be explained by science apart from the existence of God.

But this is obvious nonsense. You can posit all kinds of supernatural forces that are not God. You can posit all kinds of *natural* forces that are not God. Notice that Loftus' list was a list of gaps - but you can force *natural* and *non-God* answers into those very gaps as well. He basically outlined a world where chaos and irregularity reigned, but it's not as if 'God' is the only logically possible explanation for such things.

The man is a rotten thinker from top to bottom, but the key here to keep repeating is that Loftus wants gaps - and he, in the process, endorses God of the Gaps reasoning.

im-skeptical said...

oozzielionel,

I think Loftus' point was that if god did create the universe, he did a remarkable job if hiding that fact from us. He made everything look as though it does have a scientific explanation, and so we have no reason to conclude otherwise. Why would he do that? He could have shown clear evidence of design, but there is too much evidence to the contrary. He could have made it impossible to make a cogent scientific explanation for everything, but he didn't do that either. Instead, everything seems to be the product of natural processes, explainable by science. The only reasonable conclusion we can draw from all this is that it wasn't God at all.

Crude said...

He could have shown clear evidence of design

Aka, gaps.

Instead, everything seems to be the product of natural processes, explainable by science.

Except for any gap. And 'natural processes' are demonstrably things designers can use.

And if 'gaps!' constitute evidence for God, then evidence for God is in abundance - before even discussing non-gap evidence.

RD Miksa said...

The other funny thing about Loftus's whole scenario is how utterly subjective it is--and this is especially ironic in light of Loftus's constant mantra that he always seeks 'hard, objective evidence'. In addition, it is also humorous how utterly unpersuasive this line of reasoning would be to a naturalist who it not want to be convinced that naturalism is false.

After all, say that Loftus would be convinced of God's existence if he lived in the universe that he posited. But another naturalist could simply retort: "Well, we live in a multi-verse and we just happen to live in the one universe within the multi-verse where things just are this way, but there is no need to invoke God to account for it."

Or, an even more extreme naturalist could just say that Loftus's universe was just a computer simulation, set up by hyper-powerful aliens, that we were living in. But the aliens would be perfectly natural beings. Again, no need to invoke God to account for such a universe.

So, my whole point is this: the naturalist, if he wishes to do so, can always create some off-the-wall scenario that accounts for the evidence at hand but which simultaneously allows him to hold to his naturalism come-what-may. So while Loftus's "other universe" might be a place that would convince him that God exists if he lived there, there is no reason to believe that such a universe would move any other naturalist to believe in God.

And given that God is not in the business of creating whole universes to suit John Loftus's needs, maybe that is why we don't live in Loftus's personal universe.

Take care,

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear Crude:

You said:

"You can posit all kinds of *natural* forces that are not God. Notice that Loftus' list was a list of gaps - but you can force *natural* and *non-God* answers into those very gaps as well. He basically outlined a world where chaos and irregularity reigned, but it's not as if 'God' is the only logically possible explanation for such things."

Exactly, the naturalist can always create some outlandish scenario/explanation to save his naturalism. Think: brute facts, things coming into being out of nothing (but only certain things, like universes, for some strange reason), multi-verses, Many Worlds (where everything that can happen does happen), computer simulated universes by aliens, panspermia, etc, etc, etc.

The funny thing is, in many ways, a worldview like Christian theism is substantially more falsifiable than naturalism is, even though it is naturalism that wants to claim scientific principles as its own.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Crude said...

RD Miksa,

Agreed. In fact, let's go one better. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Bizarro Loftus.

"God could have made this universe and the creatures on earth absolutely open to investigation by rational minds. He could have created a universe that could have largely been figured out by scientific investigation. That is to say, there would be evidence showing the entirely reasonable, discernible progression of development for the universe, the big back, and planets to form. If God is truly omnipotent He could've created the universe over time according to rational laws, placed the planets in predictable orders of motion with great consistency. The galaxies themselves, if He truly created them, should show be similar in their organization rather than haphazard. And when it came to the creatures on earth they should have similar origins given their similarities. Species should be similar to each other, fulfilling environmental niches. There should be a hierarchy of species, orderly and clear. There should be evidence in the rock formations showing their development and progressive design. Human beings should only be seen as unique with regards to their actually unique facilities, rather than utterly disjointed in relation to the rest of the world. There should be ways we could see improvement for species according to our interests, rather than have them be too diverse and alien to our understanding. He should have created us with bodies and brains, obviously superior to a wholly immaterial existence. The existence of this kind of universe and the creatures in it could never be explained ultimately apart from the existence of God."

Dan Gillson said...

I wonder what would constitute "clear evidence of design". To bring Hume into this discussion, we recognize when something is designed because we've seen that species of cause and effect over and over again: when something is designed we know that it has a designer as its cause. When it comes to the universe, however, we don't have the benefit of multiple seeings of its cause and effects; the universe is sui generis. All that we can confirm through experience is that there is a world. The uniqueness of the universe rules out any a posteriori reasons either for or against a designer, which limits any evidence of a designer to a priori arguments. (Unless, of course, God was kind enough to sign his name somewhere in the universe, like an artist does on his paintings.) Personally, I take the lack of empirical evidence for the existence of God to betoken the skeptical conclusion that there is none (or, at least, that the nature of God isn't knowable through empirical means, and if not knowable through empirical means, then God is a meaningless concept), but that doesn't necessarily follow from the fact that there is a world, and that the world is explicable in terms of itself.

im-skeptical said...

RD,

Your examples are both specious and ridiculous.

You're treating science as if it were a religion - free to ignore the evidence. That's patently false.

Take the murder scene example. What would a real detective do? Look at the evidence, and then postulate the best explanation that is consistent with all the available evidence. That's not murder-of-the-gaps. That's scientific reasoning. It's actually the second detective that is using god-of-the-gaps style reasoning, by not postulating a valid scientific explanation for the scene, but simply defaulting to the standard explanation he uses for everything.

I swear, I think people here are willfully ignorant of what this "god of the gaps" terminology even means. Everyone seems to be trying to turn it on its head and represent it as the opposite.

God of the gaps: when you don't think something has a scientific explanation (ie. there is a gap in scientific understanding) you fill the gap with God as an explanation.

Crude said...

Loftus endorsed God of the gaps reasoning. The funny thing is, this isn't a hard point to grok. He's pretty clear in his 'this would be evidence for God' rant. What apparently is the real problem here is something closer to 'But Loftus argues for atheism, and if he made a mistake it would mean an atheist apologist made a mistake, and that's just not something I can accept'.

Really, he's not exactly a powerhouse even among atheist apologists. Bite the bullet on this one, it's a cheap cost.

Ilíon said...

"Isn't he just saying here "Gosh, I wish the gaps were bigger?""

He's also saying, "Well, gee, whiz: I'd stop denying the reality of God *if only* the world were irrational!"

Of course, many, if not most, God-deniers assert that the world *is* irrational, and indeed, anti-rational.

William said...

Skep:

What kind of universe would lead you to postulate God as an explanation? None at all?

BenYachov said...

We don't treat science as a religion but Positivists and their fellow travelers either conscientiously or un-conscientiously do.

That is as plain as a Armenian pin-up girl.

im-skeptical said...

William,

"What kind of universe would lead you to postulate God as an explanation? None at all?"

A universe that defies scientific explanation - not the one we live in. (And this is what Loftus was saying, too.)

Crude said...

(And this is what Loftus was saying, too.)

Loftus was saying that evidence for God would be 'gaps'. And your attempted defense of 'But our universe is explicable!' runs into a problem right away - because there are plenty of gaps in scientific knowledge. Accordingly, if someone merely sees those gaps, they have evidence for God. If they think science won't be able to close those gaps - any of them - apparently they should believe in God.

Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

You're inferring on the basis of that universe that God doesn't exist, not on the basis of this universe. In that universe, science leaves a gap between the explanans and the explanandum. God fills in that explanatory gap. Loftus is saying that he would believe in that universe based on God-of-the-gaps reasoning: he believes because God fills in the explanatory gaps. You are also saying the same thing.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

There a huge difference between a universe (such as ours) in which we have incomplete understanding of the details (gaps) in some areas but as a rule everything seems to fit into a natural order, and one in which there appears to be no natural order (ie. one that defies scientific explanation). The latter is not a case of gaps in our understanding, it is a total lack of understanding. Everyone wants to call this "God-of-the-gaps reasoning", but it's not the same.

Crude said...

The latter is not a case of gaps in our understanding, it is a total lack of understanding.

A lack of understanding IS a gap in our understanding. The only difference is the size of the gaps. Right back to Victor's OP: apparently the problem is Loftus thinks the gaps should be bigger.

But we're right back to the endorsement of God of the gaps reasoning. A gap would be evidence. Trying to say 'Yeah but it would have to be a BIG gap!!!' still leaves you with gaps reasoning - and all its flaws.

William said...

Skep:

Can you personally conceive of a universe that contains stars, planets, and laws of physics, but defies scientific explanation?

im-skeptical said...

William,

No, I can't. It is the laws of physics that allow scientific explanation. The absence of laws of physics would imply a defiance of scientific explanation.

Victor Reppert said...

What kind of thing might defy scientific explanation except a gap?

im-skeptical said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
im-skeptical said...

Victor,

A gap is a missing part (like the hole in a doughnut). If there's no doughnut, there's no hole. If there are no physical laws, we don't have a gap in our scientific understanding - we simply have no scientific understanding.

Crude said...

'It's not a gap, it's just a missing thing!'
"Right, that's a gap."
'No, no, no! This would be a HUUUUUGE missing thing!'
"Yep. A big gap."
'No, it's not a gap because...'
"Because if it was, then you're endorsing God of the gaps reasoning, so we have to go through this convoluted wordgame."
'Yes. NO.'

BenYachov said...

The irony is most of us reject gap arguments because philosophical arguments for the existence of God are better.

We can reject crapy arguments for Theism.

Why is Loftus' neo-fundie nonsense the hill you want to die on?

im-skeptical said...

"most of us reject gap arguments"

I've never heard a "God of the gaps" argument. No theist will ever tell you that he believes in any "God of the gaps". This is an objection to theism raised by atheists that theists' God has been reduced to existing in the remaining and ever-shrinking gaps in scientific knowledge.

The argument presented here by Loftus is something completely different. And honestly, I don't see how anyone could possibly say it is "God of the gaps" reasoning, since he hasn't claimed the presence of gaps, nor has he filled anything with God.

He is simply saying that if God did make the universe, he made it look precisely the way it would look if it was produced by purely natural processes, when he could have done something different that wouldn't lead us to conclude that the universe is in fact the result of natural processes.

And Ben, I'm not dying on any hill. I'm simply trying to explain what I believe Loftus' argument is saying, and also trying to figure out why it's so hard for folks here to understand. It makes sense to me.

im-skeptical said...

I'm not dying and I'm also not dieing.

Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

In essence, Loftus is saying that if science left gaps between explanandum and explanans, then positing a God-of-the-gaps is okay. He's also saying that God actually filling in the gaps is the basis upon which he would believe. Now, you aren't saying the same thing. You're going one better than Loftus by saying that you'd believe in God if you lived in a universe completely without science.

Loftus's argument is anyways bad. He's comparing this universe to the one in his head, and concluding on the basis of a false comparison that this universe doesn't look designed because it doesn't have the same features of the one in his head. You can't falsify God by extrapolating data from an imaginary universe.

im-skeptical said...

I'll give this one more shot before I give up.

The concept of the gap is that there is an overall framework (scientific understanding) but a few areas where the understanding remains as yet incomplete, and that's what theists exploit to posit as the bastion of their god. A world that has no natural laws at all is not a world that has an overall scientific framework of understanding. There are no gaps in our scientific understanding where you can posit an exception to to the laws that govern everything else. This is a world that has no scientific explanation at all. Whatever explanation you do come up with will not be based on science. This is not a "gap" theory in any sense of the word.

planks length said...

"and that's what theists exploit to posit as the bastion of their [G]od"

One last time (and then I too will "give up"). Please give us the name of just one mainstream Christian theologian or apologist who argues this way. I know of not one who does. From the very beginning, Christian reasoning has been precisely the opposite of your imaginary strawman. Look at Saint Paul: "For what can be known about God is plain ... 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." Or even further back (to the 8th Century B.C.): I the Lord have not spoken from hiding, nor from a land of darkness. And I have not said to the descendents of Jacob, "Seek me in an empty waste or in chaos". (Isaiah)

No argument from gaps there - rather quite the reverse, an "argument from what is known"!

Crude said...

This is not a "gap" theory in any sense of the word.

Yes, it is. You've simply increased the size of the gap, and as Dan said, you're going a step beyond what even Loftus argued. But you're still right on back to gaps. 'The lack of explanation X is evidence for God!' Broadening this to 'scientific explanations, period' doesn't somehow make what you're talking about anything but a lack of scientific explanation - and that's right on back to gaps.

And as planks said, you're not even representing theists correctly. But most of all, you're not managing to pull off a defense of either Loftus or your own views. You're dealing with and endorsing gaps arguments, no matter how much you insist that everyone call it anything other than gaps of knowledge.

im-skeptical said...

planks length,

"Please give us the name of just one mainstream Christian theologian or apologist who argues this way."

I refer you to January 28, 2014 5:31 AM.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

At January 28, 2014 5:31 AM, you explicitly stated "No theist will ever tell you that he believes in any "God of the gaps". This is an objection to theism raised by atheists."

So you appear to agree with me that no theist actually argues using a gaps reasoning, but that it is only atheists who do so! That is the plain meaning of the very quote you referred me to.

im-skeptical said...

"So you appear to agree with me that no theist actually argues using a gaps reasoning ..."

Duh!

"... but that it is only atheists who do so!"

As a way to show the futility of theism. God's hiding places are shrinking and disappearing as the gaps in our scientific understanding continue to be filled with [ - wait for it - ] scientific understanding!

Crude said...

This is great. A thread where atheists endorse God of the gaps reasoning, to the rejections of theists. And the gaps shows 'the futility of theism', insofar as the arguments they don't make and they consider to be rotten are projected - by faith - to no longer work in the future. Though I suppose atheists would have to regard any longstanding scientific gaps, or even fundamental apparent gaps, as being great evidence for God. But it's not only because they can imagine, they think, a world with MORE gaps.

But at least we've established one thing: at least some atheists think God of the gaps reasoning is entirely valid. Thus, any existing gaps are evidence for God - and there are many. Theists typically reject this, but the problem for those atheists remains if they're at all consistent. But that's not a concern, because they're not intellectually consistent.

Behold, the power of reason.

planks length said...

Crude,

I feel like I have fallen into Alice in Wonderland's tea party. Are all the conversations on this website like this? Here we have an atheist who freely admits that no theist (Hate that term! Just what the heck is a "theist"?) uses "God of the Gaps" reasoning, but that it is something dreamed up by atheists to beat believers over the head with.

Oka-a-a-ay, so let me get this straight (and all this is straight from the keyboard of im-skeptical):

1. No believer thinks in terms of "God of the Gaps".

2. Only atheists think in this matter, by their own admission.

3. Therefore, believers can be ridiculed, because an argument they do not use does not work!

?!?!?!?!?

Crude said...

Planks,

I feel like I have fallen into Alice in Wonderland's tea party. Are all the conversations on this website like this?

No, some are better. You're dealing with a special case here, to put it nicely and vaguely.

Crude said...

I'd add, I think it's a stage worse than you say, since you could also add,

4. Some atheists ridicule the reasoning of the argument that they, apparently, think is entirely valid.

What stood out to me here was that God of the gaps reasoning was flat out endorsed. 'Hypothetical evidence for God' was 'gaps gaps gaps'. Apparently the saving move is supposed to be 'but the gaps are getting smaller', but that would still leave us with gaps now - and sometimes, gaps get bigger.

It's a hell of a thing, and I think this conversation has passed the point of productive to 'well now it's all some fun comedy.'

Karl Grant said...

Planks,

I feel like I have fallen into Alice in Wonderland's tea party.

Oh you haven't seen nothing yet where I'm Skeptical's concerned. If you actually do manage to back him into a corner and force him to admit he is wrong (backing him into the corner is the easy part, forcing the admission is a great deal harder) he will actually try to take credit for you proving him wrong.

planks length said...

"I think this conversation has passed the point of productive"

I agree. It's probably time to take Saint Augustine's advice here, and just stop replying. Let him have the last word.

I will however keep up the conversation below this one re same sex weddings, because I believe that one is actually important, and real people are suffering because of their being targeted by the gay-totalitarian interest groups who simply cannot stand anyone thinking differently than themselves.

im-skeptical said...

"1. No believer thinks in terms of "God of the Gaps"."

Theists don't think of their God as being a God of the gaps, but nevertheless that's what it is. As I said, theists posit God as an explanation for things where they believe there is no scientific explanation, even if they refuse to admit that's what they do. But they will never admit that their God is a god of the gaps.

"2. Only atheists think in this matter, by their own admission."

Actually, the term was first used by theists as a criticism of the typical theistic view that God is the explanation for things that don't have a scientific explanation. These days, it is commonly used by atheists in a similar way to criticize the theistic perspective. Whatever you mean by "think in this way", it is a distortion of the point that I've been trying to make. This is the game that crude loves to play.

BenYachov said...

@Skept

>As a way to show the futility of theism. God's hiding places are shrinking and disappearing as the gaps in our scientific understanding continue to be filled with [ - wait for it - ] scientific understanding!

I told you before to lay off the drugs man or at least be a dude and tell the rest of us where to score some.

Because right now it looks like you are smoking some premo shit!

BenYachov said...

>Theists don't think of their God as being a God of the gaps, but nevertheless that's what it is.

Here the drugs are distorting Skept's intellectual processes to the point where he is equivocating between an ultimate "cause/explanation" of Reality and Nature as a whole with a mere gap that must exist among the phenomena within the natural world.

Like I said that must be some first class shit he is smoking.

What is it Columbian? I could make a fortune selling nickel bags of that stuff.

BenYachov said...

>As I said, theists posit God as an explanation for things where they believe there is no scientific explanation, even if they refuse to admit that's what they do. But they will never admit that their God is a god of the gaps.

How can there be a scientific explanation for things that are beyond science? Even if no god concept is true you still need philosophy to explore the question of things beyond science.
Such as why is there anything at all?

Unless you really do believe science can answer all questions which is just another word for Positivism which you claim you don't believe but at every turn reveal you do.

William said...

1. Knock down straw man.
2. Shout "But it's the real opponent!" when someone points out that it was a straw man.
3. Profit!!!!

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John W. Loftus said...

Vic, here is my response. Sorry I did not take time to read the comments.

Cheers.

planks length said...

What's with that tie, John? It appears to be Darth Vader riding a motorcycle over a bunch of ghosts?!? (The picture is too small to make out any real detail.)

planks length said...

So much for im-skeptical's vehement denials that Mr. Loftus was not endorsing the validity of "gaps" reasoning. Here is John himself, in his own words, just posted to his own website:

"Does this mean I embrace the [G]od of the gaps line of reasoning in principle? Yes." (my emphasis)

Papalinton said...

Ka-Boom!

No room for mischievous misconstrual and wriggling out of this one, Victor.

Crude said...

"Does this mean I embrace the [G]od of the gaps line of reasoning in principle? Yes." (my emphasis)

Ahahahahahahaha.

BenYachov said...

I think Paps is dipping into Skept's stash.

That is uncool dude.

im-skeptical said...

OK OK.

"god of the gaps line of reasoning" wins the day. With caveats as noted.

Crude said...

The real question, Skep, is why you felt it necessary to deny the plainly obvious for as long as you did. Because atheist wannabe-preachers have to be defended at all costs?

im-skeptical said...

crude,

My definition of what constitutes a 'gap' is consistent with the dictionary. So other people see it differently. Congratulations. You have just scored the biggest victory of your life.

Crude said...

My definition of what constitutes a 'gap' is consistent with the dictionary.

It's consistent with fantasy. The words were clear, everyone but you was able to interpret it properly. You simply didn't count on being directly sold out mid-'defense'.

And as I always say, this shit is not a big deal. Oh boy, comments section discussions on a low traffic blog. You're the one who decided to go to the wall to defend an atheist at all costs, using the most bizarre, obvious language-twisting. It's not the first time either.

Maybe you're making some intellectual mistakes, eh?

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, How did you reach your interpretation of Loftus' statement? It looks to me like his point was that the cosmos seems to work and fit together well on its own without any gaps so large that you would demand a "God" to fill them.

John is asking you to consider a cosmos connected with the living things in it that needs no other explanation but itself. Such a cosmos might include "God"-options that are non-hierarchical, non-classical, and what the full spectrum of possibilities might be. Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, and Robert Anton Wilson expressed the natural relationship between the human mind and the cosmos in this manner:

J.C. : We are children of this planet... we have come forth from it. We are its eyes and mind, its seeing and its thinking. And the earth, together with its sun... came forth from a nebula; and that nebula, in turn, from space. No wonder then, if its laws and ours are the same.

A.W. : You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself... We do not 'come into' this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean 'waves,' the universe 'peoples.' Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe...
It's like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it's dense, isn't it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that... as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. But billions of years ago, you were a big bang, and now you're a complicated human being. We don't feel that we're still the big bang. But you are... You're not just something that's a result of the big bang. You're not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are also still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as--Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so--I see every one as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I'm that, too. But we've learned to define ourselves as separate from it.

R.A.W. : I suspect that this world shows signs of 'intelligent design,' and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignty, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology. I somewhat suspect that Theism and Atheism both fail to account for such decentralized intelligence, rich in circular-causal feedback.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, To add to the above quotations, there's also the option not of an 'intelligent designer' but of a self-tinkering cosmos, or even a Divine Tinkerer.

Speaking of "intelligent design," it seems to me that "I.D." arguments often read like Christian apologetic arguments, since they both seem to be asking us to imagine a layer of "information" on top of the cosmos itself, on top of what the cosmos is and does all by itself in its interactions. They claim that the cosmos could not do what it does by itself without this added layer of "information" piled on top of it, directing it.

But philosophers are not limited to suggesting only that possibility. Other philosophers point out that we humans are the ones producing "models" based on studying regularities in the cosmos, and trying to "model" such regularities using mathematical equations. But no model equals the reality. Reality does things on its own without an added layer of "information theory" on top of it because "information," even the word and human idea known as "information," is just a model of what reality does inherently. And if we know anything for sure, it's that a model does not equal reality, just as a map does not equal the territory, nor does a word equal a thing. In fact our brain-minds are each filled with our personal "model" of all that we think we know about the world, both our personal world of human interactions and the size and shape of the cosmos in relation to the earth, etc. The world that we each know or claim to know is a model inside brain-minds, even an individual model of the cosmos. And even if it is accurate in so far as noting regularities, including future predicted regularities, in the cosmos, that does not equal an "explanation" for such regularities, least of all provide evidence of a later of "information" placed on top of the cosmos.

"The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomenon."
--Ludwig Wittgenstein


“The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever. The true life takes place when we're alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamingly self-aware, the submicroscopic moments. He said this more than once, Elster did, in more than one way. His life happened, he said, when he sat staring at a blank wall, thinking about dinner.”
—Don DeLillo, Point Omega

The Wittgenstein and Delillo quotations appear to bolster the “modeling” view, that only reality is reality, everything else, every word, map, even mathematical equation is only a “model” of reality.

The DeLillo quotation reminds me or Cioran’s that life is lived and understood in the inexpressible moment. All attempts to understand life by claiming “everything is God,” or, “everything is chemicals,” fail to be equal to life, which consists of the inexpressible moment and act/process of living. http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/08/emil-m-cioran-quotations-did-he-out.html

Another oh-so-quotable philosophical writer is Logan Pearsall Smith. http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/08/logan-pearsall-smith-quotations-related.html







Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, To add a further note about "reality," Kant pointed out that we can't know "reality" itself, which he called the noumenal realm, we can only "know" phenomena, the realm of phenomena as they present themselves to us, and even those phenomena that we are capable of observing are determined by the contours of our brain's limited perceptions and understandings.

Also, Coleridge, came up with a marvelous analogy that illustrates Kant's point of view, adding that we don't "know matter" in itself, only the sensations it produces in our brain-minds. Therefore whatever matter "really is, in essence" is hidden from us and lay behind the sensory phenomena we experience when we merely touch it, or see it--much like "a pincushion hidden by innumerable pins."

Another philosopher pointed out that although trees are living things we cannot know the inexpressible process of actually "living as a tree." We don't know such things from the "inside." The same goes for knowing the reality of being an animal or even another person, though words help us convey some knowledge to each other of what it is like to be another person, that is just a model and not actually "being another person."

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, You might wonder what my point is, but it's simple. Namely the irony of the fact that we have endless difficulties trying to answer questions involving nature, or even when it comes to solving human-made puzzles, but according to apologists the difficulties all diminish considerably when it comes to discussing the question of "God."

Do they really?

Ironically, even C. S. Lewis admitted,

A Christian doctrine never seems less real to me than when I have just (even if successfully) been defending it. It is particularly tormenting when those who were converted by my books begin to relapse and raise new difficulties."
--C. S. Lewis to Mary Van Deusen, June 18, 1956

"One of the things Christians are disagreed about is the importance of their disagreements. When two Christians of different denominations start arguing, it is usually not long before one asks whether such-and-such a point 'really matters' and the other replies: 'Matter? Why, it's absolutely essential.'"
--C. S. Lewis, Preface to Mere Christianity

"Even more disturbing as you say, is the ghastly record of Christian persecution. It had begun in Our Lord's time - 'Ye know not what spirit ye are of' (John of all people!) I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse...Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil."
--C. S. Lewis to Dom Bede Griffiths, Dec. 20, 1961 (two years before Lewis died)

"The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'so there's no God after all,' but, 'So this is what God is really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'"
--C. S. Lewis to John Beversluis, July 3, 1963 (the year of C. S. Lewis' death)

Papalinton said...

Here is a wonderfully reasoned perspective of how religion, and in our case Christianity, will, if ever, survive into the future. It is a short piece.

And it won't be in relation to the size of the gaps, but rather the underlying epistemological strength and sheer competitiveness against more compelling methods of explanation grounded in verifiability and surviving the ever-present Damocles sword of the test of falsifiability.

Ilíon said...

E.Babinski, who refuses to understand anything that might upset the applecart of his God-hatred: "Vic, You might wonder what my point is, but it's simple. Namely the irony of the fact that we have endless difficulties trying to answer questions involving nature, or even when it comes to solving human-made puzzles, but according to apologists the difficulties all diminish considerably when it comes to discussing the question of "God."

Do they really?
"

God is integral: there is contradiction within/about him. So, knowing a truth about God, it is impossible for the opposite to also be true of him.

On the other hand, human beings -- every single one of us -- are dis-integral: we are working at cross-purposes to ourselves, to our own interests, to our very natures. So, knowing some truth about a particular human being not only doesn't necessarily tell you the truth about another human, but it may not even be true of that same individual tomorrow.

But, Mr Babinski knows this; he just finds it convenient to maintain a pretence of ingorance.

Crude said...

Vic, How did you reach your interpretation of Loftus' statement?

Apparently by paying attention, since Loftus pretty well confirmed his suspicion.

And do you ever join a conversation with anything approaching conciseness? Because it's starting to look like the amount of textwalls you barf out unprovoked is in direct proportion to how spooked you are by a given point made.

planks length said...

Being well aware that Mr. Loftus might not think the words of the prophet Isaiah bear any weight, his now-admitted desire for an irrational universe that defies scientific explanation is in direct contradiction to the passage I have twice quoted now in this exchange, namely:

I the Lord have not spoken from hiding, nor from a land of darkness. And I have not said to the descendents of Jacob, "Seek me in an empty waste or in chaos".

I have brought this up so many times because it makes a crucial point to this discussion - that "gaps" reasoning is in clean contradiction to normative "theistic" (whatever that word means) reasoning. Im-skeptical is quite right in affirming that such reasoning is an atheistic invention, and not actually used by any believer.

Why he insists on tilting against what he openly admits is a strawman is beyond me. Why not take on the arguments that believers actually use, rather than those you wish they would (but don't)?

planks length said...

THIS LINK explains what I was trying to say in my last comment better than I could ever hope to.

John W. Loftus said...

One way to look at my argument is that if science were not possible, given my scenarios, then there would be no scientific objections to faith. There are other objections though (textual, historical, moral, etc). Whether those other objections would undermine faith when there are no scientific objections would have to be seen, but I suspect those other objections would be enough to undermine Vic's sect-specific Christianity good enough to reject it.

Crude said...

One way to look at my argument is that if science were not possible, given my scenarios, then there would be no scientific objections to faith.

The straightforward way to look at your argument is the way you yourself summarized it: you're endorsing God of the gaps arguments. You just don't think the gaps are big enough, according to some arbitrary measure.

What's more, you didn't say 'if there was no science there would be no scientific objections to faith'. You said "The existence of this kind of universe and the creatures in it could never be explained by science apart from the existence of God." And now you're suggesting, well, even if science couldn't explain the universe apart from God (which is, even in your scenario, a poorly thought out claim) that 'textual, historical and moral' considerations would trump empirical observation?

Aren't you always going on about the importance of probabilities, John? Give us the probabilities God would make a rational, orderly universe with predictable properties versus a universe with no discernible rhyme or reason to it. And after that, give us the probabilities either universe would be expected to exist or come into existence without God, by brute fact or the like.

Papalinton said...

"Aren't you always going on about the importance of probabilities, John? Give us the probabilities God would make a rational, orderly universe with predictable properties versus a universe with no discernible rhyme or reason to it."

This is the delusional reflexive blurting gush of the superstitious supernaturalist, the unsophisticated immaterialist, of "Sophisticated Theology™" , desperately attempting to cloak their argument with a sniff of respectability by disguising the nonsense as if it were a matter of probability, rationality, order, and predictability. Christian theism is none of that, never has been. Indeed probability, rationality, order and predictability are anathema to the religious enterprise. Faith is the operative paradigm. Substitute the word 'God' with the Australian Aborigine's 'Giant Water Serpent' and the question on whether an orderly universe or one with no rhythm and one quickly appreciates how the argument is simply a risible non sequitur that even christians would pooh-pooh. There is no causal tie back for either an arhythmic or an orderly universe to the presence or otherwise of an anthropomorphic or animistic spectral numen. None whatsoever, nada, nil, zilch. Whether it be a god or a giant water snake is a scurrilous irrelevancy and a neanderthalic response to explaining the properties of the universe.

You see, Loftus moved away from theistic irrelevancies when it became clear that to hold onto such primitive ideation was a compromise too great if one is to wade from the miasmic swamp of primeval religion.

Crude said...

As usual, the old man desperate for attention has to be reminded that I don't interact with plagiarists. Or, for that matter, hatemongers.

Then again, if there's one thing this thread has taught us, it's that the more desperate Cultists of Gnu have reading comprehension issues.

Victor Reppert said...

OK, so what you guys are saying is that what God really should have done is create a universe so chaotic that there can't even be science, and therefore we would all have to believe in God?

Really?????

RD Miksa said...

Dear Dr. V. Reppert:

You said:

"OK, so what you guys are saying is that what God really should have done is create a universe so chaotic that there can't even be science, and therefore we would all have to believe in God? Really?????"

And the best part about this whole line of "argumentation" is that we all know what the atheists in such a world would really say:

"Oh course God does not exist. After all, how could you stupid theists believe that a rational and loving God exists when this means that He would have created such a chaotic and dangerous universe where there is little order, regularity, or rationality to natural processes, where we, his creatures, cannot even create the most basic technology given the unstable nature of nature, and thus cannot alleviate our human condition or improve our lot. It is obvious that no rational and loving God would create such a universe."

Indeed, I would be willing to bet a paycheck that that is exactly what atheists in that universe would say.

Why?

Because with certain atheists, the modus operandi is always: tails I (atheist) win, heads you (theist) lose.

Take care,

RD Miksa

Papalinton said...

Victor
"OK, so what you guys are saying is that what God really should have done is create a universe so chaotic that there can't even be science, and therefore we would all have to believe in God?
Really?????"


No. What we are saying is that the God concept is simply an abstraction, an irrelevancy which has no useful purpose or epistemological value at all in discourse on the universe, chaotic or otherwise. What we are saying is, "Give it up". "Ditch it". The trouble is there are far too many competing, contradictory and incompatible religions, and there is only one public square.

Professor Peter Boghossian, a real philosopher makes it abundantly clear: "If a belief is based on insufficient evidence, then any further conclusions drawn from the belief [God created the universe] will at best be of questionable value. Believing on the basis of insufficient evidence cannot point one toward the truth. For example, the following are unassailable facts everyone, faithful or not, would agree upon:

1. There are different faith traditions.
2. Different faith traditions make different truth claims.
3. The truth claims of some faiths traditions contradict the truth claims of other faith traditions, For example, Muslims believe Muhammad (570-632) was the last prophet (Sura 33:40). Mormons believe Joseph Smith (1805-1844), who lived after Muhammad, was a prophet.
4. It cannot both be the case that Muhammad was the last prophet and someone who lived after Muhammad was also a prophet.
5. Therefore: At least one of these claims must be false (perhaps both)."


OR

3(a). The Christian tradition makes the truth claim that Jesus was the Son of God.
4(a). The Muslim tradition makes the truth claim that Jesus was not the Son of god but simply an earthly prophet.


"It is impossible to figure out which of these claims is incorrect if the tool one uses to do so is faith. As a tool, as an epistemology, as a method of reasoning, as a process for knowing the world, faith cannot adjudicate between competing claims. Faith cannot steer on away from falsehood and toward truth. This is because faith does not have a built-in corrective mechanism. That is, faith claims have no way to be corrected, altered, revised, or modified." Boghossian (p.31)

That is why the under thirties are leaving Christianity in droves. It simply isn't kosher [to use a wonderful Jewish term]. The best that Christianity can ever hope to salvage from this change in public sentiment is to accept the dominant paradigm in America today, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism [MTD].

While many of the religious papers and commenters attempt to put a positive spin on it, what it is signaling is the halfway house in which most young people are prepared to reside. They have moved on from Christianity on their way towards, as Dawkins would note, science and reason.

There is no winding back to the good old days of theo-philosophical placemarkers.

im-skeptical said...

"OK, so what you guys are saying is that what God really should have done is create a universe so chaotic that there can't even be science, and therefore we would all have to believe in God?

Really?????"

...

"Because with certain atheists, the modus operandi is always: tails I (atheist) win, heads you (theist) lose."

How many times has the question been asked: What would it take to make you believe? And how many answers have been given? And every single time, they deny that anything would ever convince us - you know, because we're not about evidence, or anything like that.

Let me offer another scenario that I would find convincing: There's a guy who does real miracles, observable by all. He can walk on top of ordinary water in his bare feet without breaking the surface. He can transform water into wine with no tricks or gimmicks. He can make a person's amputated arm grow back by touching him. And when he dies, and has lain in the tropical heat for three days with no heartbeat and no breathing, and his body is reeking as it decomposes, he gets up and walks and speaks.

The caveat here is that it has to be real. It has to be open to scrutiny by anyone. If these things happen, and this man says it was God who gives him these abilities, then I'd be convinced.

And by the way, its "heads I win - tails you lose".

RD Miksa said...

Skep. said:

How many times has the question been asked: What would it take to make you believe? And how many answers have been given? And every single time, they deny that anything would ever convince us - you know, because we're not about evidence, or anything like that.

Skep, this time, you are absolutely correct: many of you Gnus are indeed not about evidence, or anything like that.

For example, there is Michael Shermer, who has basically said that even if an event like you describe, and which would convince you, actually occurred to him, then he would believe that it was caused by super-advanced natural aliens rather than God. This is based on Shermer’s so-called “Last Law.” So no such super miraculous event could convince Shermer, because any event could always be the work of a Super-ET.

Thomas Nagel, in The Last Word admits: “In speaking of the fear of religion … I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.”

Next, both PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins admit that they would remain skeptical of God’s existence even if a 15-foot tall Jesus appeared to them and boomed “I exist” (http://www.newstatesman.com/2011/06/dawkins-myers-religion-faith). Richard Dawkins, recently, even further confirms that, essentially, no evidence would convince him of God’s existence (http://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/dawkins-finally-admits-he-is-closed-minded-about-the-existence-of-god/). Watch the video, it is seriously worth it.

Atheist Steve Zara, writing on RichardDawkins.net, claims that “There CAN BE NO evidence for God” (http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/642394-there-can-be-no-evidence-for-god-revisited).

And, as a final example, atheist JJ Smart, in the book Atheism and Theism, admits the following: “Suppose that I woke up in the night and saw the stars arranged in shapes that spelt out the Apostle's Creed. I would know that astronomically it is impossible that stars should have so changed their position. I don't know what I would think. Perhaps I would think that I was dreaming or that I had gone mad. What if everyone else seemed to me to be telling me that the same had happened? Then I might not only think that I had gone mad-- I would probably go mad" (pg. 46, 2nd Edition).


So yes, Skep., you are entirely correct: for many prominent atheists, it has nothing to do with the evidence at all.

And furthermore, it is clear from the examples above that many of your fellow Gnus would be entirely unconvinced by the very events which you—as you describe below—would find convincing, which just goes to show how utterly subjective and fickle many atheists are in terms of what type of “evidence” would convince them (and this thread about Loftus’s ‘World-Without-Science’ is another case in point).

More to follow.

RD Miksa said...

Skep. said:

”Let me offer another scenario that I would find convincing: There's a guy who does real miracles, observable by all. He can walk on top of ordinary water in his bare feet without breaking the surface. He can transform water into wine with no tricks or gimmicks. He can make a person's amputated arm grow back by touching him. And when he dies, and has lain in the tropical heat for three days with no heartbeat and no breathing, and his body is reeking as it decomposes, he gets up and walks and speaks. The caveat here is that it has to be real. It has to be open to scrutiny by anyone. If these things happen, and this man says it was God who gives him these abilities, then I'd be convinced.


OK, Skep., here are a couple of questions concerning your scenario (and given that this is the scenario you claim would convince you that God exists, then I hope you have thought about it deeply enough so that you can answer these questions comprehensively):

1) First, a general question: do you have children? If so (and if not, then think of this as a thought-experiment), then when one of your children approaches you and makes some asinine demand like “Daddy, if you really love me and want to show me that you love me, then you will go out and buy me the whole set of Star Wars Lego right now”, do you actually give in to this demand? If yes, why? If no, why? And would you be more or less likely to give in to such demands if all your children were similarly insistent that you had to do all sorts of different subjective tasks and scenarios in order to “prove” that you loved them?

2) Next, since your scenario is completely subjective—after all, you claim that you would find it convincing, but not necessarily that other people would—then, if (for the sake of argument) it is assumed that God exists, would you expect God to perform this miracle for you even if it convinced you and you alone? If yes, why? If no, why? At the same time, if every atheist had his own subjective “scenario” that would be convincing to him but not to others, then would you expect God to perform each subjective scenario for every individual atheist? If yes, why? If no, why? Finally, if God did make all these scenarios happen in order to individually convince each subjective atheist, then do you concede that doing so would minimize the evidentiary value of each individual experience, turning the experience into more of a parlor trick than a miracle, and thereby negating the essential value of the experience in the first place?

3) In your scenario, you state that this miracle would have to be observable by “all.” What does “all” mean? Every human being on the planet? One billion humans? One million? One thousand? One hundred? Ten? And whatever number you pick, why that number and not some other number (either greater or smaller)? What objective criteria did you use to establish that number? What answer would you provide to the atheist who argued that the number you picked was too small (or too large)?

Con't...

RD Miksa said...

Con't...

4) In your scenario, would you necessarily have to observe this miracle yourself in order to believe it? Or would it be sufficient for “all” to observe it and then advise you of it via their testimony? And if you did need to see the miracle yourself, why?

5) In your scenario, you stated that a number of miracles (4) would have to occur. Would all these miracles have to happen for you to believe? What if one less happened? Is there an objective criteria that you used to determine how many miracles would need to happen before you believed? What is this criterion?

6) What would you say to the naturalist who remained unconvinced even if he witnessed all these miracles as you describe them?

7) What would you say to the naturalist who claimed that these miracles were just caused by super-advanced aliens playing a trick on us?

8) What would you say to the naturalist who claimed that many weird and wonderful things happen when you live in a multi-verse / Many Worlds Universe, and that we just happened to live in the one universe where these apparent “miracles” just happened to happen naturally?

9) Your caveat is that these miracles would have to be “real.” What the hell does that mean? “Real” as in: beyond a reasonable doubt? “Real” as in: beyond a shadow of a doubt? Who determines what the “real” is? What objective criteria do you have to determine these miracles as “real.”

10) Miracles might be possible in a supernatural but non-theistic world. Therefore, how would you respond to the supernaturalist atheist would scoffed at you for believing that the miracles were from God just on the say-so of the miracle worker in question?


I await your responses.

Take care,

RD Miksa

im-skeptical said...

RD,

You see? It's exactly as I said. We give an answer to the question, and you deny our sincerity.

Here's why: We remain steadfast in our insistence on having sufficient evidence. That's precisely why we don't believe, and why we think nothing will ever appear to us that will be convincing - there simply is no good evidence. That's not the same as saying that we wouldn't believe if the evidence actually existed. But it doesn't. The bible is not good evidence. It's just hearsay from ancient times, revised over the years to fit the narrative. Show us the evidence.

To answer your questions:

1. How dare I demand proof? If he did it before, he can do it now. I need evidence to believe.

2. Nothing subjective about my scenario. I specifically said it should be observable by all. It should be something that would convince every reasonable person.

3. It should be something that in principle, anyone could observe and examine. It should be something that is actually seen by many thousands or millions of people.

4. I wouldn't necessarily have to see it myself, but I would need to know that many people have - people that I could trust to be truthful.

5. I don't specify how many miracles or exactly what miracles, but they would need to be genuine miracles as agreed by large numbers of skeptics.

6, 7, 8. I have no doubt that some skeptics would remain unconvinced, but there has never been universal agreement on anything. Some may advance various theories. I would be satisfied if there was general consensus in the scientific community.

9. Real means that it stands up to all scrutiny. No tricks, no illusions.

10. Supernatural but non-theistic? What is that? I don't claim to know what form this deity would take. I don't claim it has to be anything at all like the one you believe in. In fact I expect it wouldn't, because there are too many logical problems with the Christian god anyway.

planks length said...

Concerning im-skeptical's demand for "convincing evidence": Might I recommend this article? You really need to read it through to the very end, because what you are asking for is precisely what the demons have right now - intellectual assent minus any change of heart that would make such assent at all worthwhile.

Ilíon said...

VR: "OK, so what you guys are saying is that what God really should have done is create a universe so chaotic that there can't even be science, and therefore we would all have to believe in God?

Really?????
"

Yes, that's exactly what the God-haters are saying (that fact being the point of one of my prior posts).

Another way to look at that is that they are saying that "what God really should have done is create a [world] that [*isn't* a world], and therefore we would all have to believe in God".

At the same time, these vain-and-vapid God-haters, in their 'Science!' fetishist mode, *really do assert* that the world really is "so chaotic that there can't even be science", as witness Carl Sagan in 'The Demon-Haunted World': "Consider this claim: as I walk along, time -as measured by my wristwatch or my ageing process -slows down. Also, I shrink in the direction of motion. Also, I get more massive. Who has ever witnessed such a thing? It's easy to dismiss it out of hand. Here's another: matter and antimatter are all the time, throughout the universe, being created from nothing. Here's a third: once in a very great while, your car will spontaneously ooze through the brick wall of your garage and be found the next morning on the street. They're all absurd! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the other two are consequences of quantum mechanics (vacuum fluctuations and barrier tunnelling,* they're called). Like it or not, that's the way the world is. If you insist it's ridiculous, you'll be forever closed to some of the major findings on the rules that govern the Universe.

*The average waiting time per stochastic ooze is much longer than the age of the Universe since the Big Bang. But, however improbable, in principle it might happen tomorrow.
"

RD Miksa said...

OK Skep, here we go:

(And please note: I apologize in advance for the length of my posts)


1. How dare I demand proof? If he did it before, he can do it now. I need evidence to believe.

An evasion of the question. Answer the question that I asked. Stop avoiding the issue! Once a proper answer is given, then we can discuss. So, I ask again: Do you have children? If so (and if not, then think of this as a thought-experiment), then when one of your children approaches you and makes some asinine demand like “Daddy, if you really love me and want to show me that you love me, then you will go out and buy me the whole set of Star Wars Lego right now”, do you actually give in to this demand? If yes, why? If no, why? And would you be more or less likely to give in to such demands if all your children were similarly insistent that you had to do all sorts of different subjective tasks and scenarios in order to “prove” that you loved them?


2. Nothing subjective about my scenario.

Of course your scenario is subjective in terms of its power to convince and convert. The event may be objectively visible to all, but that does not mean that it is not subjective in terms of its evidentiary power. You claim that your scenario would convince you. Well, maybe it would, but that does not mean it would convince the atheist beside you. He might need to see a different type of miracle. And another atheist may yet need to see another type of miracle. And so on and so forth. So, yet again, properly answer the question: If (for the sake of argument) it is assumed that God exists, would you expect God to perform this miracle for you even if it convinced you and you alone? If yes, why? If no, why? At the same time, if every atheist had his own subjective “scenario” that would be convincing to him but not to others, then would you expect God to perform each subjective scenario for every individual atheist? If yes, why? If no, why? Finally, if God did make all these scenarios happen in order to individually convince each subjective atheist, then do you concede that doing so would minimize the evidentiary value of each individual experience, turning the experience into more of a parlor trick than a miracle, and thereby negating the essential value of the experience in the first place?


I specifically said it should be observable by all. It should be something that would convince every reasonable person.

Ahhh, but what definition of reasonable are you using? The legal definition? Your own definition? What? And do you thus concede that Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer are unreasonable given that they have clearly stated that even such a scenario as the one you describe would not convince them of God’s existence—in fact, they admit that no scenario would. I am truly looking forward to your answer for the latter question.


More to follow…

planks length said...

"It should be something that would convince every reasonable person."

I have to second R.D. here. I consider myself a "reasonable person", and am convinced by the evidence that we already have (existence itself, order, predictability, love, objective morality, the witness of the Gospels, etc.). Mr. Reppert seems totally reasonable to me, and he appears to be convinced as well. Saint Thomas Aquinas is the very definition of a "reasonable person" and he was convinced. Your fantasy invention of "every reasonable person", when you get down to it, translates to "every person who thinks like I do".

RD Miksa said...

Con’t…

3. It should be something that in principle, anyone could observe and examine.

How can people who were not witnesses to the miracle actually observe and examine it, given that it is a historical event? At best, they would have to rely on testimonial evidence of the miracle or aspects of the miracle. Given this fact, would examining testimonial evidence count as “observing and examining” a miracle claim?


It should be something that is actually seen by many thousands or millions of people.

Hold on there…there is a major difference between thousands and millions. Which is it? Thousands or millions? And why? What is your objective reason for the number you chose? Can you give an objective reason, or is your number wholly arbitrary? And what would you say to the atheist who says your number is too low? Or are you leaving the exact number specifically vague so that if a miracle was presented to you with a thousand witnesses, then you could claim that you needed many thousands of witnesses before you believed, and if many thousands were presented, then you could move the goal-posts again and claim that you needed a million witnesses, and so on and so forth. Is that what you are trying to do? If not, then give us a damn objective number for the amount of witnesses that you would need.


4. I wouldn't necessarily have to see it myself, but I would need to know that many people have - people that I could trust to be truthful.

Oh no, we have some weasel words here. After all, what is the statement “people that I could trust to be truthful” except a means to arbitrarily move the goal-posts when desired and label someone (or some group) as “untrustworthy” when it suits your needs. Let me ask: would you consider theists trustworthy? Buddhists? Muslims? Or are the only people you find trustworthy fellow atheistic naturalists, which would be strangely convenient.

Furthermore, you just claimed that the miracle would have to be confirmed by thousands or millions of people. Would you confirm the trustworthiness of each person before you accepted their testimony? How would you do that?


5. I don't specify how many miracles or exactly what miracles…

Actually, in your scenario, you did. But nevertheless, this point raises a concern. If you won’t specify how many miracles or exactly what miracles, then are you just, once again, purposefully leaving the scenario vague so that you can always have a way out. After all, given your lack of specificity, if God did perform one miracle, you (and other atheists) could then say: Well, it was just one fluke event and besides, it was not the type of miracle that would convince me anyway! And if he performed two miracles, then you could say: Wow, what a really strange fluke, but they were not the type of events that would convince me anyway. And this could go on endlessly.

So, I ask again: given us the type and number of miracles it would take to convince you. Stop being so bloody vague.


More to follow….

RD Miksa said...

…but they would need to be genuine miracles as agreed by large numbers of skeptics.

And suddenly, what I thought was going to happen did happen. The many “people” who needed to witness the miracle suddenly became the many “skeptics” that need to see it. How convenient. But this raises further questions, such as, what is a “skeptic?” After all, if by skeptic, you just mean a naturalist, then your whole argument turns into a joke, given that we have already seen that many naturalists (Richard Dawkins & Michale Shermer) admit that no miracle would ever convince them. Or do you mean skeptics in general? Would Intelligent Design proponents count, given that they are skeptical of Darwinian evolution? What about the skeptics who argue against human-caused global warming? Do they count?


6, 7, 8. I have no doubt that some skeptics would remain unconvinced, but there has never been universal agreement on anything. Some may advance various theories.

But that was not the question. The question was: How would you answer the naturalists who invoked the multi-verse, or the Super-ETs, or the “We-live-in-a-computer-simulation” scenarios as a means to avoid accepting the miracle in question? How would you show them that they are mistaken. Clearly you must have thought about this, so answer please?


I would be satisfied if there was general consensus in the scientific community.

Now I am just confused. All in the same comment, we went from many “people” needing to see the miracle, to many “skeptics” needing to see it, to a “scientific consensus” being required before it is accepted. Wow, the goal-posts keep on a-moving!

But this “scientific consensus” thing raises another issue. Did you purposely pick a scientific consensus because you know that given the current scientific principle of methodological naturalism, there would never be a scientific consensus that a miracle occurred? Instead, you would be accused of “gaps” reasoning by the scientific community and then offered a note of promissory naturalism. So is this why you seek a scientific consensus for a miracle, precisely because you know that in today’s scientific climate, that would never happen.

And what makes scientists so bloody special, especially concerning a historical event such a miracle? When it comes to witnesses for a miracle, I would, for example, put substantially more trust in the testimony of ten jaded cops than ten geeks in lab-coats.


9. Real means that it stands up to all scrutiny. No tricks, no illusions.

Except again, that was not the question. The question was: What standard of “real” would it have to meet and why? Beyond a reasonable doubt? Preponderance of the evidence?

And if the miracle has to stand-up to “all” scrutiny and it cannot be a “trick” or “illusion”, then again, how would you answer someone like Michael Shermer who would just claim that the miracle was a trick caused by aliens. And he would claim this no matter what type of miracle occurred. Surely such a scenario is at least possible, so how would you answer him.


10. Supernatural but non-theistic? What is that?

Ummm, like certain sects of Buddhism that believe that Buddhas can perform “miracles” but that God does not exist.

More to follow…

RD Miksa said...

Finally…

You see? It's exactly as I said. We give an answer to the question, and you deny our sincerity.

That would be because I was not born yesterday, and in my now seven years of experience reading and debating on the internet, I have found internet atheists to be slippery little bastards. Therefore, via inductive reasoning, I have concluded that the best initial approach when dealing with them is to be skeptical of their sincerity and candor. They have to earn my trust and good-faith, they don’t just get it.


Here's why: We remain steadfast in our insistence on having sufficient evidence.

Skep, I will not insult your intelligence by claiming that you are foolish enough to believe what you just wrote given that, only a few comments ago, I provided numerous examples of high-level atheists clearing stating that no amount of evidence would convince them that God exists.


RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

Dear planks length:

Your fantasy invention of "every reasonable person", when you get down to it, translates to "every person who thinks like I do".

Bingo!

RD Miksa said...

Oh Skep, one more quick question:

Given your claim that such a miraculous event would convince you that God exists, and given that this topic is important to you, and further given that you admit that you would not have to see the miracle itself but would trust the testimony of certain people, then I have to ask: What attempts have you taken to properly and thoroughly investigate miracle claims?

Have you, for example, read Craig Keener's book on Miracles and then gone out to try to meet with the people that experienced the miracle in order to test their reliability and veracity?

Have you gone to different Churches in order to speak to people that experienced miracles?

Have you sought out exorcists in order to discuss the topic with them and maybe try to observe an exorcism to see if something supernatural occurs?

Have you spoken to Wiccans and other occult users to investigate their claims?

Have you spoken to the Doctors that verified the alleged miracles at Lourdes?

Etc.

Please let us know the steps that you have taken--over and above discussing the issue on internet blogs--to determine the truth of miracle claims.

Or are you just lazily waiting for a grand, earth-shaking miracle to just fall into your lap while you are sitting at your computer....

RD Miksa

im-skeptical said...

RD,

1. Don't compare me to an unruly child trying to extort his daddy. What I ask for is quite reasonable.

2. The evidence I require is objective. How you interpret it is up to you, as long as you can overcome your childhood indoctrination. That's why I don't believe and you do.

3, 4. The evidence has to be objective and is everybody doesn't see it directly, they must have well-documented proof. This, of course, goes far beyond the flimsy tatters of ancient manuscript that you rely on. Give me eye-witnesses, and lots of them. Written descriptions from numerous sources (not just members of a particular sect, but people from all kinds of backgrounds, and especially skeptics), video, etc. Let me see wide-spread agreement that these things did in fact happen. And what do I mean be skeptics? I mean people who are both open to and critical of the available evidence.

5. I don't specify how much evidence is needed for me to be a naturalist. I am satisfied that the evidence is sufficient (in fact it is overwhelming). Likewise, I would say that a single miraculous incident leaves too much room for doubt, and wouldn't be convincing enough for me. I'd need more than that.

6, 7, 8. Why would I like to see a consensus in the scientific community? Because I understand how science works enough to realize that there will be no consensus until the evidence has been thoroughly tested and genuine efforts to debunk it have failed.

9. If Michael Shermer sees evidence of aliens, let that evidence be examined too.

10. By my definition, a supernatural being that can perform miraculous acts is some kind of deity. I don't care what you call it.

Finally: "What attempts have you taken to properly and thoroughly investigate miracle claims?"

Don't give me your hypocritical double-speak. If you were interested in evidence, you you would look at the evidence the world we live in. Sure there are people who talk and write books about miracles. Show me one. All I ask is to see the evidence. That's not unreasonable. You can't claim that I'm not really interested in evidence because I reject your mumbo-jumbo.

BenYachov said...

Positivism boy strikes again.

im-skeptical said...

"Positivism boy strikes again."

Right. Because I think evidence is important to ground your beliefs. Unlike the Thomist who thinks a philosophical argument trumps the evidence.

BenYachov said...

>Right. Because I think evidence is important to ground your beliefs. Unlike the Thomist who thinks a philosophical argument trumps the evidence.

Category mistake from the Positivist fundamentalist.

Like saying the Second Law of Thermodynamics trumps natural selection.

Even in a godless universe empiricism alone is not the sole means of knowledge.

Get the frak over it or go have a good cry about it.