Monday, June 12, 2017

Atheist talking points that don't mix

There are two atheist talking points that don't mix. Here they are:
1) Look, guys, if God would just give us evidence of his existence, we'd believe in him. The only reason we don't believe is because he hasn't provided evidence of his existence.
2) God of the gaps arguments are always wrong. Any gap in our naturalistic understanding of the world should be dealt with by waiting for science to produce a naturalistic explanation, not by appealing to God.
But anything God might do to reveal his existence could be dismissed as a gap, thus leaving the atheist unaffected. The ban on god of the gaps arguments would allow the atheist to escape no matter what God did to convince us of his existence.
Look, when I raise this kind of question, I mean show us by providing evidence. Yes, God could sovereignly perform the act of causing Loftus to believe by going "Loftus, believe," and the next Sunday, Loftus will show up in church on his knees praying to God. But providing evidence is by definition not coercive. Of course God could shove belief in his existence down your throat if he wanted to. But could he give us a good reason to believe in his existence, such that no matter how disinclined we were to want to believe in a being greater than ourselves (so that we would have to admit we were not the supreme beings) whose commandments to us are our moral duties (however much we would like to avoid performing them). Woudn't there be an escape clause available, no matter what we did? The so-called refutation of God of the Gaps reasoning provides this, it seems to me. It says we should always prefer and unknown naturalistic explanation to saying godidit, NO MATTER WHAT. This not only could be applied to our present scientific situation, but it could be used in response to every scenario that atheists come of with concerning what it would take for them to believe. "Turn or burn, Parsons This Means You," N. R. Hanson's Michelangeloid face, answer the prayers of all Christians and give them all exactly what they want, have Bibles that give electric shocks to unbelievers and only unbelievers, etc. If God were to cause any or all of these things, the skeptic could still say that saying godidit for any and all of these things would be to commit the god of the gaps fallacy, and that we should always, always, always, prefer an unknown naturalistic explanation to a known supernatural one. Shoot, there's a guy in Dante's inferno who remains a materialist and doesn't believe he's been damned.

19 comments:

Stardusty Psyche said...

OP "Woudn't there be an escape clause available, no matter what we did?"
--Only by asserting the speculation of non-reality of our senses, as can be done to doubt your physical existence as you now sense it to be.

God could make itself abundantly obvious and as undeniable as air, water, and food.

One cannot scientifically deny the elements, our basic biology, the organisms around us, the basic structure of our solar system, and our daily interactions with the physical world around us because science provisionally postulates the basic reliability of the human senses.

God could come to live among us if it really wanted to share love with us and show us the way to love each other. God could be the global broadcast requiring no equipment, the wise mediator teaching the finest of ethics and impervious to all attacks even by nuclear weapons. God could be as undeniable as the superman many of us were lucky to have when we were children, or fathers or father figures. God could be as undeniable as your brilliant college professor, the rare sort who is both the most brilliant researcher and the most effective teacher. God could do so very much to make life on Earth more like heaven than hell.

But it does none of this, choosing instead to hide in the ever receding corner of scientific ignorance.

No, Victor, the god of the gaps is not an insatiable demand, rather, the baseless speculation that unknown=god. The call of the atheist for god to come out of hiding is sincere, sound, and ever unanswered.

Joe Hinman said...

GotGA is not necessarily a fallacy, The only real problem with the is the gaps close up, But any argument is to some extent a GotGA because there has to be a gap in knowledge for someone to hold to a position that might turn out to be disproved.

An argumet is not necessarily GotGA J Just because it involves a gap in knowledge. I think it's the only GotGA when the gap the only reason for the position.

Joe Hinman said...

OP "Woudn't there be an escape clause available, no matter what we did?"
--Only by asserting the speculation of non-reality of our senses, as can be done to doubt your physical existence as you now sense it to be.

really? I doubt you are going to agree that all naturalistic phenomena has a cause based upon the lack of counter examples.

God could make itself abundantly obvious and as undeniable as air, water, and food.

He has, but why should he? there is a good reasom why he should;t,
because he wants us to search so we internalize the values of the good.God is obvious but only once you start internalizing the spiritual.


One cannot scientifically deny the elements, our basic biology, the organisms around us, the basic structure of our solar system, and our daily interactions with the physical world around us because science provisionally postulates the basic reliability of the human senses.

you can't logically deny the need for creating mind if you know what to look for,

God could come to live among us if it really wanted to share love with us and show us the way to love each other.

He did.


Stardusty Psyche said...

Joe Hinman said...

SP God could make itself abundantly obvious and as undeniable as air, water, and food.

" He has, but why should he? "
--You just contradicted yourself in the same sentence.

"there is a good reasom why he should;t,
because he wants us to search so we internalize the values of the good.God is obvious but only once you start internalizing the spiritual."
--Here you elaborate on your self contradiction.


June 12, 2017 11:24 PM

Mortal said...

God could come to live among us if it really wanted to share love with us and show us the way to love each other.

He did.


Sheer perfection, Joe. There is just no way to improve on that comment. You win the internet today.

Joe Hinman said...

Mortal said...

thanks!LOL ;-)

Mortal said...

I am re-posting this from the "God of the gaps" conversation below, since the debate seems to have moved to this one:

I came across this quote today from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, which I believe sheds valuable light on this discussion:

"Eyes and ears are bad witnesses for people who have barbarian souls." (Dennis Sweet translation)

"Eyes and ears" can equate to empirical evidence. What Heraclitus is telling us here is that "evidence" is of no value unless one's heart is in the right place. So as far as this discussion is concerned, it is probably futile to expect an unbeliever to come round to the truth on the basis of any conceivable amount of evidence, because his soul is "barbarian". He must first address that far more serious issue before he can ever hope to interpret (and understand) the evidence objectively.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said...

SP God could come to live among us if it really wanted to share love with us and show us the way to love each other.

JH He did.

Yes, I heard about Pharaoh, Hercules, Athena, Ares, Diana, and those folks...

But I mean now, today, not in some ancient fairy tale.


June 13, 2017 6:35 A

Mortal said...

Ah, but there's where your "barbarian soul" prevents you from seeing what is in front of your eyes and ears. He is here today. Haven't you heard? Христос воскресе! He is risen! "I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore!" (Revelation 1:17, my emphasis)

"There are none so blind as those who will not see." (proverb, traditional)

And about all those others? They were none other than faint echos of the true Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Every dying and rising god throughout history, every marital infidelity of Zeus, every Hindu avatar of Vishnu, every magic cauldron of Celtic lore, all the Kachinas of the Hopi Indians... they all point to Christ Incarnate. Really. You can't expect God Himself to enter history in bodily form without his presence being felt to the furthest reaches of the Earth, to all times and places.

If you genuinely wish to know how to share love, and learn the way to love one another, then read the Gospels with an open mind. It's as simple as that.

Joe Hinman said...

There is a trend in evangelical thinking to a turn from the highly individualistic self of the enlightenment, where salvation is a matter of the individual finding herself in relationship with God alone, to communal sort of thinking where one is part of the tribe as in identity politics. "This culture [of the enlightenment individuality] has also deeply affected the Church of the West. All of our songs are wrapped in the language of me, rather than us. Our taking of the Eucharistic table of the Lord (communion) is highlighted by each one making sure they have no unaccounted for personal sins before taking..."[1] Of each one making sure he or she has no uncounted sins is in the New Testament. I see the potential in this movement for political control. Ironically at the same time secular scholarship is coming to see Christianity as the basis of enlightenment individualism,



Metacrock's blog

oozzielionel said...

But I mean now, today, not in some ancient fairy tale.

Your wish is both an insult and a reflection of a true hope implanted on the human heart. We yearn for Christ to enter into our now in a physical reality. We wish to have been one of the twelve who saw, heard and handled the word of truth. We yearn for the promised day of his return. Yet it is a serious snub to reject as Christ's incarnation, sacrifice, and ascension as insufficient.

Mortal said...

There is a basic illogic to the demand that Christ be present "here and now" (although He most certainly is, just not in the manner Stardusty appears to want). The demand presupposes that there is something special about A.D. 2017. After all, if Jesus did live his earthly life contemporaneously with us, then people in the year 4017 would be in the same boat that we are today - having to rely on a 2000 year old story in order to learn about Christ.

David Brightly said...

I'm interested in the logic of this. Is there an argument for the ban on gap thinking that doesn't beg the question against the theistic view? I'm open to suggestions. Of course, it's not that gap thinking is deductively valid, involving as it does a quantification over explanations---other proofs, if you like. But it may reflect a kind of heuristic in the way people do come to their beliefs: when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, as someone said. Besides, as Victor pointed out in the earlier piece, we can think of ways the world might have been in which a strict ban would get us into decidedly weird epistemic states.

We should note that not only atheists but also theologians have disparaged gap thinking. Their complaint seems to be that to limit God's activity to specific interventions is to get God's relation to the world in some way wrong. So we are drawn back to the question of how we are to conceive of God in relation to the world.

Mortal said...

when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth

That was said by Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet:

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? We know that he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney. We also know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no concealment possible. When, then, did he come?"

the question of how we are to conceive of God in relation to the world

Well, there are probably an infinite number of ways to conceive of His relationship with this world, but I would fist label it as one of authorship. It's the very first thing we say in the Apostle's Creed - "Creator of Heaven and Earth." After that, I would defer to Holy Scripture, to such imagery as Isaiah speaking of a mother hen and her chicks (repeated by Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke), to Christ's calling God "Our Father", or to the Psalmist referring to Him as a shepherd.

Here is a far from comprehensive list of descriptives for God in the Old and New Testaments: breath, light, night, word, silence, secret, tears, joy, spring, rock, stream, root, wind, path, fire, fortress, promise, strength, wisdom, deliverance, covenant, mystery, beauty, justice, holiness, peace, mercy, love, shepherd, king, healer, friend, savior, majesty, smallness, parent, bread, life, among us.

Might I suggest those as a start?

Mortal said...

(Sorry for all the deleted comments. My fingers simply aren't listening to me this morning!)

Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said...

" There is a basic illogic to the demand that Christ be present "here and now" (although He most certainly is, just not in the manner Stardusty appears to want). The demand presupposes that there is something special about A.D. 2017."
--No, I was referring to an obvious and undeniable permanent presence, instead of the hide and go seek sort of permanent presence Christians typically imagine is the case.


June 14, 2017 5:47 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

Mortal said...

" Here is a far from comprehensive list of descriptives for God in the Old and New Testaments: breath, light, night, word, silence, secret, tears, joy, spring, rock, stream, root, wind, path, fire, fortress, promise, strength, wisdom, deliverance, covenant, mystery, beauty, justice, holiness, peace, mercy, love, shepherd, king, healer, friend, savior, majesty, smallness, parent, bread, life, among us.

Might I suggest those as a start?"

Only if I wanted to engage in superstition of the most primitive sort.

Humans long ago invented separate gods for each of those things. Then somebody decided to roll them all into 1 god, thinking that was somehow a superior concept.

Except, they couldn't really let go of the multi-god idea so they invented an evil god, broke the good god into 3 parts that act separately, and invented a series of magical god angels that pop about from place to place doing all sorts of fanciful godstuff.

No thanks.


June 15, 2017 6:38 AM

Edward T. Babinski said...

VIC, YOU TOLD ME LONG AGO THAT THE QUESTION IS FOR THEISTS WHO ARE LEFT PONDERING: "WHY IS THE WORLD, SIN AND SATAN WINNING MORE SOULS THAN GOD?" SINCE
1) GOD KNOWS EACH PERSON BETTER THAN THEY KNOW THEMSELVES,
2) AND ALSO KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT COULD LEAD THAT PERSON TO BELIEVE IN GOD, JESUS, THE WHOLE SHEBANG,
3)AND GOD HAS NEARLY LIMITLESS RESOURCES COMPARED WITH A MERE FINITE CREATED CREATURE LIKE SATAN OR ALL HIS DEMONS.

(A related question is why does God leave Satan and demons on earth, letting them deliberately influence others away from the truth and be damned? Sounds like a horrendous plan by a deity who created this world mostly as a web in which to catch a majority of souls for eternal punishment.)

Mortal said...

In answer to Edward:

"Sin is behovely, but all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." (Julian of Norwich)

"Behovely" is a Middle English word commonly (and inadequately) translated as "necessary". But it really needs a whole phrase to get the real meaning. Behovely implies fittingness, non-contradiction, appropriateness. A good (and admittedly extremely loose) translation would read something like, "The existence of evil can not and does not thwart God's plan. In the End of Ends, we will see how all things fit together and no better outcome could be conceived."