Monday, March 24, 2008

Arguments Against God









Continuing from the previous discussion, we'll move on to address some arguments against the concept of the Christian God.

For background reading, check out Ted Drange's list here... and then listen to Dan and Reggie Finley discuss the list here (Infidel Guy show, March 2006).

More arguments can be found at StrongAtheism.net.

8 Comments:

Blogger Derward said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/27/08, 10:14 PM  
Blogger Derward said...

I was so pleased to participate in the Apologia discussion. Our time together drove home a point, at least in my own mind. One person’s evidence for God is another person’s justification for unbelief—what the theist finds sufficient, the atheist finds entirely wanting, and vice versa. Is it then the case that the one is gullible, naïve, and uninformed and the other rational, reasonable, and discerning? This conclusion won’t stand empirically. People with great minds have entertained both positions with earnestness and zeal (G. K. Chesterton and Bertrand Russell are two examples).

We all, it seems, come to the evidence with either a predisposition (or inclination) to believe or not believe. If one is open to their being a God, the threshold of certitude related to the evidence is calibrated with greater latitude simply because one’s predisposition requires it. In other words, theists find the evidence for God reasonably satisfactory, though admittedly imperfect, and are yet persuaded because of the slight imbalance which tips toward belief--call it giving the evidence the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, if the scales of one’s predisposition are weighted against belief, no evidence could thus be presented that could possibly pass the ‘certitude’ test, because that’s precisely the standard that one’s predisposition requires. The evidence (by itself), regardless of how provocatively affirmative it is, cannot overtake what one a priori has willed not to accept as credible.

This answers the puzzling question as to why intelligent people on both sides of the “God” question come to such divergent conclusions about the same evidence. Obviously, the evidence and whatever message it wishes to speak are not “self-evident”; it doesn’t come decoded or neatly interpreted for us, does it? The fact is, the weight that each of us give to the evidence in question is largely determined by an already determined worldview-- predispositions that tend our conclusions in one direction or the other. Once committed, the evidence is weighed accordingly.

This may also explain converts who migrate from one side to the other. Conversions (or deconversions) are simply a matter of either granting latitude or withholding it, with regard to “evidence.” The atheist converts to theism, why? Because he stops demanding pristine, certifiably objective evidence (which is impossibly gained anyway). And the Christian converts to atheism, why? Because he chooses to withhold his trust and confidence in evidence that was once embraced, placing it elsewhere in ideas that contain no more certitude than what was just abandoned. Ask any philosopher, or read the history of thought. Empiricism, naturalism, and scientism, for example, each have their own detractors, just like Christianity.

To maintain that the proclivity to either believe or not believe is not in every instance intact prior to weighing the evidence is to somehow miss the rather elementary point that no kid goes Easter egg hunting absent the desire of a certain outcome. We give ourselves too much credit for being coolly objective in matters such as these. Entering into the contest not desirous of a certain outcome is like going to a Cowboy’s game (if you’re a fan) and waiting till the final score is announced before you choose sides. Who does that?

Matters of ultimate importance lie more in the realm of volition rather than reason and its fine-tuned counterpart, evidence. This is hardly fideism, however. The Christian position has never been one of “evidence” gathering, such that we can by the power of evidentiary weight alone overtake the unbeliever. This is why New Testament writers like Luke and Paul used both the weight of evidence (i.e. the Resurrection) combined with faith, which is nothing less than the desire to take the evidence in question as reliable. To suggest that evidence alone is required is to miss entirely the proposition that it is useless in the face of unbelief, regardless of which side of the God debate one falls.
(Luke 16:19-31) D. Richardson www.summitbc.org

3/28/08, 7:21 AM  
Blogger Zachary Moore said...

Derward-

I can appreciate the presuppositional impact that worldviews play in how we regard these arguments, but I think ultimately the existence of apostates (such as myself) contradicts presuppositionalism outright.

I presupposed Christianity as a child, adolescent, and young man- it was only when presented with new evidence that I found cause to explore different perspectives.

I'll present this analogy: Nicole Richie is the singer Lionel Richie's daughter, who has recently gained some celebrity herself. When I would see her on television, I 'presupposed' that she was African-American, just like her father. At some point, my wife informed me that she was actually adopted by Lionel Richie, and that her biological father was Hispanic. Now, when I see her, I can't help but categorize her as Hispanic rather than African-American. It was not the case that I 'decided' to 'switch my presuppositions' about her; I was presented with new evidence which I evaluated and then adjusted my worldview accordingly.

-Z

3/28/08, 8:28 AM  
Blogger Derward said...

Indeed, Dr. Moore; you've just made a case for the resurrection. Thomas, a disciple of Christ, did not believe he had been raised from the dead. Yet when confronted by Christ himself (new evidence), Thomas believed. What you have allowed to operate in your own experience, you have denied in someone else's, assuming your rejection of Thomas' testimony. The problem remains, however, that what is incontestable in Nicole Richie's case is not so straightforward when applied to God. It's the "contestable" nature of the evidence about God that remains so problematic and which therefore requires a commitment to one side or the other. Facts about Nicole Richie are not equal to facts about God; she can be seen, felt, and sensed empirically; God cannot, which in this case leaves the illustration in the realm of apples and oranges. That is, of course, unless you take as credible Thomas' testimony, which seems no different than your own about Ms. Richie.

3/28/08, 12:21 PM  
Blogger Zachary Moore said...

Derward-

As a matter of fact, I would happily accept Thomistic verification... if it was being offered to me. I've said many times that if Jesus was able to appear to Thomas, he can appear to me. I think that should be the minimal level of evidence that anyone should expect before considering the Christian god-concept.

The Thomas character is interesting to me, because on the one hand, he's no different from the other disciples- none of them accepted the resurrection unless they saw it for themselves either. On the other hand, his resistance against peer pressure and hearsay accounts is nobly skeptical, and makes him a daresay the Christian saint of skepticism. He had to see it for himself, and Jesus obliged... an example I'm willing to follow.

3/30/08, 7:04 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Hi:
I am not a "professional philosopher" in any sense but i do enjoy the discussions in the podcast and try to follow them as best as i can.

I have a couple of comments.

1)I believe Kevin stated that god reveals himself to the humble. That humility is needed to understand or to receive this understanding. My questions are these: DOes this mean he reveals to the humble only? How do i know if i'm humble enough? When one becomes a believer? Can an unbeliever be humble and still do not receive Jesus?

It sounds kind of smug to say humbleness is needed from others that do not have the understanding i've got from Jesus himself. Maybe i did not understand Kevin's point or argument but it seems to say that all non-believers are lacking in humbleness since they don't understand.

I think that is not a very humble thing to say.

2) About the "profesional philosopher" comentary i would like to point something out. Most of the characters in the bible stories lacked any real professional understanding of philosophy. In the stories god reveals himsef empirically and inequivocally. No need for complicated philosophical exercises or excuses.

In the mount the real god consumed the offering, melted the stones and licked the waters that surrounded it. No hiddenness philosophy there.

It seems to me that philosophical musings are a poor subsitute to the real unequivocal works of a real god that is interested in having a relationship with me. I'm all for having friendship with the most wonderful being in the universe but only if such a thing exists.

Once again i'm not a philosopher but listening to the podcast the theist positions sound more like excuses for a god that does not act or show himself anymore.

But once again, it could be my fault if i'm not humble enough to understand. Right? Or maybe i'm not philosophically trained...

I don't know. One would think that the onus would be on the all powerfull god and not on simple non-powerfull me.

Anyway, thanks for the podcast and the blog. It is great that people like you guys take the time to parse all this information for us the listeners.

4/2/08, 8:26 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Another great podcast, guys. I'm always impressed with your ability to think on your feet.

Is the existence of God compatible with the scientific world view?

premise a) The scientific world view states that under similar conditions, similar phenomena are observed. In other words, results must be reproducible.

premise b) The existence of anything can only be inferred through direct or indirect observation.

premise c) A supernatural event is a phenomenon that cannot be reproduced. In other words, it is not observed as a consequence of controlled conditions.

Therefore, the scientific world view does not allow for the observation of supernatural events. If God is supernatural, he cannot be directly or indirectly observed. So under the scientific world view, his existence cannot be inferred.

It remains to be determined whether God is a supernatural being. Most theists would say that he is, but I don't think that they necessarily have to. It seems, though, that a supernatural god is not compatible with the scientific world view.

4/3/08, 7:17 AM  
Blogger Zachary Moore said...

Alexis-

Whether or not God prefers humility, I have to agree that it sure would be nice to have the kind of in-your-face assurances of His presence that he regularly displayed in the Bible stories. Of course, if he was so completely obvious about it, then we wouldn't need faith (the Babel Fish Paradox).

Anthony-

Thanks for the kudos. There's a subtle distinction that needs to be made in regards to science and God. While the scientific process is methodologically naturalistic, it's only atheistic in the sense that God is irrelevant to scientific hypotheses. While this is no problem for worldviews like Deism, it does pose a problem for Christians who claim that events can be affected by supernatural intervention. The problem is that any observable phenomenon is necessarily manifested naturalistically, and the supposition of supernatural causation is pure assertion.

4/3/08, 9:10 AM  

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