It’s Easy to Disprove the Existence of God *

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It is so blame easy to disprove the existence of God *. Atheists do it all the time, and no one could deny their success with it. They can show—and they’re exactly right!—that if God* existed, then…

  • God* would parade down Broadway in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
  • God* would make the moon sprout legs and do a moonwalk.
  • God* would close his eyes and turn himself into a blind mechanical vendor of prayer answers in a double-blind “scientific” prayer study.
  • God* could be studied as a part of nature.
  • God* would make all evil disappear without bothering each of us in our own little sets of desires and (shall we say) our little foibles and quirks.
  • God* would allow earthquakes to form mountains and keep the earth fertile for food, but he would stop every tremor and every tsunami cold, right at each person’s doorstep.
  • God* wouldn’t allow religions to disagree.

If God* were real he would do all these things.

But he doesn’t, so God* doesn’t exist. QED.
[Update after posting: see comment 11, and don’t everybody be so humorless, okay?]

The evidence is unassailable, the logic impeccable.

I find it intriguing how much energy atheists spend on disproving the existence of God*, whom no one has ever believed in. Millions upon millions have believed in God, and have presented multiple reasons to believe in him. But atheists keep disproving the existence of God*, a mythical being in whom no one has ever entertained an ounce of interest.

Haven’t they discovered yet what a boring game that is?

Wouldn’t it be a lot more exciting for them to find out who God is really supposed to be, and—if they must disprove something, and if they can, of course—disprove something that someone in the world is actually interested in?

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206 Responses to “ It’s Easy to Disprove the Existence of God * ”

  1. I’m an atheist and I’ve never even thought about disproving god. There has to be proof put forth first before that can even be attempted. There simply is no evidence that there is any type of god. To believe in a god is based purely on faith, and you can’t “disprove” someone’s irrational faith.

  2. This article was written for those who use misdirected arguments to try to prove there’s no God.

    One of those misdirected arguments is that “it’s based purely on faith.”

    It’s also irrational—excuse me, but I can’t avoid telling the truth on this—to believe a proof has to be put forth before a disproof can be attempted. Have you ever seen anyone try to put forth a proof that a circle can be squared? Do you think that was essential information to have in hand before it could be disproved?

    And it’s irrational to believe that irrational belief can’t be disproved.

    Those didn’t fit in the list above, so I didn’t include them, but thanks anyway for bringing them to our attention.

    (Now, who were you calling irrational?)

  3. I’m an atheist and I’ve never even thought about disproving god. There has to be proof put forth first before that can even be attempted. There simply is no evidence that there is any type of god. To believe in a god is based purely on faith, and you can’t “disprove” someone’s irrational faith.

    Michael says there no proof there a God But, of course, Michael has no proof that there isn’t a God. The truth is Michael accepts the position that God doesn’t exist on a faith basis. He has no better evidence, if not quite a bit worse evidence, that God doesn’t exist than we do that he does. He is making the same leap of faith as we are. Of course, we can’t we can’t “disprove” his irrational faith anymore than he can ours.

    The real problem here is that Michael thinks that non-belief in God is the logical and justifiable starting place and that he’s justified in not believing if God isn’t “proven” to his satisfaction. But the truth is neither non-belief nor belief in God are logical or justifiable starting places. (Pascal put this to bed a few hundred years ago.) We all begin without “proof” of the validity of either position. We all have to make a decision. That decision is based on faith as, of course, proof is not available to any of us in discussion the existence or non-existence of God.

  4. These things are ways God could show he’s not just imaginary. Their absence does not disprove God. You still don’t seem to understand what atheism means. It is not saying there is no God. It is saying we don’t believe in God because there’s not enough evidence for a belief.

    Like you don’t (I presume) believe that President Obama is a lizard creature from Zorg. There’s no evidence to suggest it, so you don’t believe it. Simple as that.

  5. No, David, these are ways God* could show he’s not imaginary. These are not ways the God anyone believes in could show he’s not imaginary. If some God* did these things it would not be God but God*.

    You still don’t seem to understand what theism means.

    As for their absence disproving God or not, give me a little scope for sarcasm, okay? Sheesh.

    If I thought your mistakes regarding the meaning of theism were intended as sarcasm I’d offer you the same courtesy.

  6. I apologize. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s sarcastic and what’s not. I mean I knew the post was sarcastic as a whole, but I didn’t know the bit about atheists spending energy disproving God* was also sarcastic. The reason is I’ve frequently encountered this kind of thinking when talking to Christians. They think that atheism is an active endeavor. It’s not.

  7. These things are ways God could show he’s not just imaginary.

    God isn’t just any being – a being among beings – he’s a particular, unique being with a particular character and nature who is in a category all by himself. Literally, you cannot compare God to anything because there is nothing to compare him to.

    Now the question to ask is how do we know these things about God? Where did you get the impression that God would do (fill in the blank with Tom’s list) to convince skeptics?

    Did you read it in the Bible that you distrust and consider to be myth? No.

    Did you get it from your subjective view of unobjective love (your views, not mine)? If so, blame your subjectivity for being subjectively wrong about a subjective concept that you have no evidence for. My head hurts just typing that out.

    Did you get it from your fellow skeptic? Blame them for the misinformation about God. Don’t pin it on God because he never said he would do any of these things and his character and nature indicate that we shouldn’t expect him to.

  8. Once again, a believer warping the statements of atheists and shooting down an incorrect premise.

    “If God were real he would do all these things. But he doesn’t, so God doesn’t exist. QED.”

    Simply put, Atheists do not believe there is a God because there is no evidence that he exists.

    However, it would seem that a kindly God that wished to make a point and clear up a lot of confusion would do any one of those things on the list the author presented. But hey! He moves in mysterious ways, right?

    I’d like to point out that by asking everyone to believe in a God that does not show himself in any way…just on faith..because nobody can disprove his existence, then those that do are kind of on the hook to believe in all the other multitudes of Gods out there that also do not show themselves….just on faith. And that is patently stupid.

  9. Thank you, John, for calling me patently stupid… but wait! You weren’t talking about me. You were talking about people who believe in (or ask others to believe in) a God that does not show himself in any way.

    You were talking about people on the hook to believe in all the other Gods that do not show themselves. Silly. What does that have to do with believers in, say, Christianity?

    Why did you even bring these things up? Are there people like that out there somewhere, or did you invent them like some atheists have invented God*? Do I need to write a post on believers* to accompany this one on God*?

  10. Now, as for this thing about disproof, you are as humorless in the face of sarcasm as David P before you. I guess I’m going to have to edit in a sarcasm tag to clue you guys in.

  11. I’d like to point out that by asking everyone to believe in a God that does not show himself in any way…just on faith

    You just cannot make this stuff up. People actually believe this. It’s as if the Flat Earth Society is broadcasting live from the minds of many atheists.

    Once again, a believer warping the statements of atheists and shooting down an incorrect premise.

    I think I’ve had too much irony for today.

  12. John Reagan wrote:

    Simply put, Atheists do not believe there is a God because there is no evidence that he exists.

    Oh really? What evidence is there that you exist? Why should I believe you’re real?

  13. “Simply put, Atheists do not believe there is a God because there is no evidence that he exists.”

    See #3, above. (I mean there were only 5 posts in between what I wrote and what John posted but he repeated what Michael said without even a he slightest acknowledgement that his point had already been addressed,)

  14. @BillT:

    Michael says there no proof there a God But, of course, Michael has no proof that there isn’t a God.

    What Michael said was and I quote:

    I’m an atheist and I’ve never even thought about disproving god.

    In so many he words, he is admitting that he did not *even* think about a proof that there is no God. It is right there: Michael believes there is no God on exactly *no* grounds at *all*. Plain as day.

    Looking at these two-bit know-nothing “intellects” emerging from the infested swamps of Skeptic-O-Land is not only a source of endless mirth but an invitation to reflect soberly on mankind’s endless irrationality and folly.

    @SteveK:

    It’s as if the Flat Earth Society is broadcasting live from the minds of many atheists.

    I have already ordered my tin-foil hat. And reflector satellite dish for counter-measure. Mwahahahahaha.

  15. My point @14.

    If I were a solipsist (someone who believes “only my mind exists” or can be proven to exist) or a “virtual reality idealist,” I would have good reason for believing that John Reagan does not, or might not exist. (Of course, given that this is the internet, he may not even exist per a realist world view.) Evidence from the point of your worldview doesn’t count in either of those world views. IOW it’s easy to to make those wave-of-the-hand kind of arguments. The underlying question is, which world view is true and how could you prove it?

  16. Actually, Tom Gilson, I didn’t call you personally ‘patently stupid’..I said that if a person felt that others should believe in their particular brand of mysterious being ‘on faith and without proof’, then that person would by default have to follow suit and give credence to every other mythological being out there on the same basis…which would be patently stupid. Or to rephrase, blindly accepting anyone’s supreme being just because they say they believe, and you should honor that, is patently stupid. For example, if I ask you to trust me that Baal exists and you should believe in him/it/whatever, because an old manuscript says he exists and I say he exists, would you do so? If you did, I think we can agree that it would be patently stupid. Don’t we?

  17. G. Rodrigues .. I might point out that the flat earthers were in fact the Catholic Church…or did you miss that business with Galileo. Of course, the church has come a long way since then.. They even admitted that Galileo was correct……ummmm… in 1992. Oh dear! BTW, are you getting a good price on those tinfoil hats? I can;t find them on Amazon any longer and i look stupid in my colander.

  18. JAD ..I am aware of what solipsism is. As to “IOW it’s easy to to make those wave-of-the-hand kind of arguments. The underlying question is, which world view is true and how could you prove it?”

    As an atheist, I’m not particularly interested in proving what I believe to not exist as it doesn’t logically fit into my world view. In other words, the world works just fine without a mysterious presence, so unless you consider God just as useless as an appendix, what’s the point? So, how would you go about proving God exists?

  19. Will anyone bother to correct John Reagan’s latest gaff … is it worth it … or will it just inspire him to spew forth another round of silliness?

  20. You mean the myth that educated people during the middle ages believed the earth was flat?

    “…another round of silliness” Was that a pun?

  21. John, about those flat earth Christians….

    As for Galileo, that’s one example… questionable for its relation to science, if you know the other (mostly political) aspects — you do know the political aspects don’t you? — but hey, let’s grant it anyway as an example of an anti-science bias, just to give you the benefit of the doubt. What’s it an example of? Where’s the second instance, without which it could be an example of nothing but itself?

  22. John Reagan:

    As an atheist, I’m not particularly interested in proving what I believe to not exist as it doesn’t logically fit into my world view. In other words, the world works just fine without a mysterious presence, so unless you consider God just as useless as an appendix, what’s the point? So, how would you go about proving God exists?

    I am not claiming that I can prove that God exists. Again, my question was “which world view is true and how could you prove it?”

  23. @David P, #6:

    … I’ve frequently encountered this kind of thinking when talking to Christians. They think that atheism is an active endeavor. It’s not.

    To be fair, those Christians have probably been misled into thinking that atheism is an active endeavour by high-profile atheist activists like Dawkins, Hithchens, Dennett, Harris, Grayling, Stenger, Shermer, Krauss, Myers, and Coyne, plus the various atheist gatherings such as conferences and rallies, as well as organisations like the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and so on. With all those books, rallies, interviews, speaking engagements, and lobbying activities, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that being an atheist is just like not collecting stamps.

  24. “As for Galileo, that’s one example… questionable for its relation to science, if you know the other (mostly political) aspects — you do know the political aspects don’t you? — but hey, let’s grant it anyway as an example of an anti-science bias, just to give you the benefit of the doubt. What’s it an example of? Where’s the second instance, without which it could be an example of nothing but itself?”

    Well, there are the 150+ years of fundamentalist Christian opposition to (a) the old Earth and (b) common ancestry.

  25. “…it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that being an atheist is just like not collecting stamps.”

    More great stuff.

    And now three atheists and counting here all making the same point about needing proof or evidence of God and not one who has the wherewithal to address the evidence (or lack thereof) for the worldview they so faithfully hold.

  26. Tom,

    I am wondering on why you persist in answering people like John Reagan’s and David P’s questions. Everything they write is bait and switch, ignorance, and irrationality. I tried to think of a way to say it in a less pejorative way, but was at a loss. I love this blog though I am mostly a lurker. I even enjoy reading these kinds of posts. Victoria, Melissa, JAD, bigbird, G. Rodriguez and all the other thoughtful people who comment here just hang in there responding to these trolls with you. They are all great. It is very educational, too. I was just wondering if that was the greater purpose of responding to people like this or is it something else because it seems unlikely that it is much of a help to anyone who comments in the spirit of someone like David P. or John Reagan.

  27. @John Reagan:

    I might point out that the flat earthers were in fact the Catholic Church…or did you miss that business with Galileo.

    The “business with Galileo” has nothing to do with Flat Earth but a geocentric vs. heliocentric solar system.

    People have already chimed in that the case is more complex on political grounds (e.g. Tom Gilson in #23), but it is even questionable on purely evidential grounds for at the *time of Galileo* the evidence was *not*, on the whole, on his side. And the system that eventually won the day was *not* the one Galileo favored, the Copernican system, but Kepler’s. For starters, see for example:

    The Mystery of Galileo

    The Book Galileo Was Supposed to Write

    Now, do you have more gaffes to throw at us?

  28. Hi, Chapman55. Good question.

    I communicate with these people for several reasons. One is because I find the discussions interesting. Another is because, as you’ll see in the other current thread with David, I’m hoping to persuade them even though they sometimes they can be rather resilient against seeing themselves accurately.

    Above all, though, as you said yourself, I’m writing for the others who might be reading, and my hope is that they’ll see that there exists such a thing as strong, rational, and gracious Christianity; and that they’ll find in it an example for their conversations with their friends and family. If no atheist on this blog is ever persuaded but I was able to encourage some readers, that would still be worth it.

    What do you think? Does that make sense, or do you think I’m off track in thinking that way?

    Thanks for asking.

  29. @ Chapman55

    Yes, they are trolls playing bait and switch games. However, sometimes these people make useful foils… After all, there are lurkers out there, like you. Personally I am aware of that so I’ll use them to try to communicate to what I believe is a broader audience. However, it’s too bad we don’t have better representatives of non theistic world views. I guess it all comes down to playing the hand your dealt.

  30. JAD
    (1) What would be the characteristics of a “better” non-theist representative?
    (2) How many of those characteristics do theists here show?

  31. Tom and JAD,

    Thanks for the thoughtful answers. I think you all do a wonderful service to people less skilled than yourselves (me, for instance) at answering these kinds of questions. I can well imagine that there are some seekers in your lurkership (if that is a word), who are getting real help, too. I am very, very thankful you are here, for the tone with which you make your responses, and that you plan to keep going.

    As for getting better representatives of non-theistic world views, even the likes of William Lane Craig and Mike Licona suffer from profoundly ill equipped debate opponents about 90% of the time and they are up against the best available.

  32. To Tom Gilson,
    You Said: It’s also irrational to believe a proof has to be put forth before a disproof can be attempted.

    My Reply: You’re incorrect. It’s irrational to try to disprove something that no one has ever attempted to prove. It is, by definition, impossible. Your questions were irrelevant and non-sensical.

    To BillT:
    Hi BillT, feel free to address me directly. I’m a normal person like you.

    You say: Michael says there no proof there a God But, of course, Michael has no proof that there isn’t a God.

    My Reply: You are correct.

    You say: The truth is Michael accepts the position that God doesn’t exist on a faith basis.

    My Reply: You’re making an assumption and it’s false. I have no reason to believe in a god, so I don’t. “God” is an imaginary, extraneous layer added on top of reality. There is no “proof” required for me to NOT believe in one, just like you don’t have to prove you don’t believe in allah or thor. You just don’t because you think they’re BS and there is no evidence that they are anything more than man’s imagination.

    You say: He has no better evidence, if not quite a bit worse evidence, that God doesn’t exist than we do that he does.

    My Reply: You are correct. I don’t have evidence either way, which does not leave me at “believe in the christian god-story my mommy said was real”

    You say: He is making the same leap of faith as we are.

    My Reply: You are incorrect. I’m not making a leap of faith, because if I was presented with evidence of god, I would rationally consider it, and if it proved out, I would then believe in god. My decision is based on evidence and rationality, not leaps of faith.

    You say: Of course, we can’t we can’t “disprove” his irrational faith anymore than he can ours.

    My Reply: I’m not interested in disproving your faith (and like I said, it’s impossible), so have at it. 🙂 I just don’t like being misrepresented like in the article.

    You say: The real problem here is that Michael thinks that non-belief in God is the logical and justifiable starting place and that he’s justified in not believing if God isn’t “proven” to his satisfaction.

    My Reply: Why is this a problem? Can’t you just let me be?

    You say: In so many he words, he is admitting that he did not *even* think about a proof that there is no God. It is right there: Michael believes there is no God on exactly *no* grounds at *all*.

    My Reply: Why is this a problem for you…?

    You say: Looking at these two-bit know-nothing “intellects” emerging from the infested swamps of Skeptic-O-Land is not only a source of endless mirth but an invitation to reflect soberly on mankind’s endless irrationality and folly.

    My Reply: You certainly seem to despise non-intellectuals. I don’t harbor those kinds of feelings for anyone. I don’t understand you christians at all.

  33. Michael, you’re wrong about what’s rational to try to disprove, but I’ve got enough on my hands dealing with David’s identified irrationalities, and John’s too, and I’m not going to mix it up with another irrational atheist at the same time.

    If you’re going to comment here, though, I expect you to read and abide by the discussion policies above the combox. Thanks.

  34. Michael,

    You say: The real problem here is that Michael thinks that non-belief in God is the logical and justifiable starting place and that he’s justified in not believing if God isn’t “proven” to his satisfaction.

    My Reply: Why is this a problem? Can’t you just let me be?

    It’s a problem because it’s intellectually/philosophically inaccurate. For non-belief in God to be the logical and justifiable starting place for the discussion of the existence or non-existence of God you would have to show that belief is “properly basic”. Properly basic beliefs are beliefs that do not depend upon justification of other beliefs, but on something outside the realm of belief. The non-belief in God isn’t properly basic and thus you have no grounds to assume it’s validity and use it a a starting point for your position. That’s inacurate, illogical and given your response above something that you seem to be completely unaware of.

    BTW, the “two-bit know-nothing “intellects” was not something I posted.

  35. To Tom:
    I think I’ve made my point clear for anyone interested in an honest take on what it’s like to be an atheist. You don’t “have to know” everything. No one does. Always be willing to learn. Always be willing to admit you’re wrong if you find that you are. Swallowing your pride can be difficult, but it immediately frees you to consider and accept the knowledge this universe DOES have to offer. It’s glorious 🙂

    To BillT:
    You say: It’s a problem because it lets you off the hook in having to explain and justify you own worldview.

    My Reply: Why do I have to be on a hook? I’m on this planet eager to learn, not claiming to already know. That’s not who I am.

    Sorry, but I don’t agree with the things you said I have to do, and I’m not doing them currently, so I guess you’ll have to accept that. I see no reason to believe in one of the myriad gods.

    And, my apologies for getting the last part mixed up.

  36. For non-belief in God to be the logical and justifiable starting place for the discussion of the existence or non-existence of God you would have to show that belief is “properly basic”

    BillT,

    Non-belief is not a belief. (By definition!) So unfortunately this line of reasoning does not apply to atheism.

  37. “Sorry, but I don’t agree with the things you said I have to do, and I’m not doing them currently, so I guess you’ll have to accept that.’

    It has nothing to do with me Michael or what I do or don’t accept. Wasn’t it you that said “Always be willing to learn. Always be willing to admit you’re wrong if you find that you are.” Yet, given that opportunity you turn your back on it.

    David,

    You don’t have a non-belief. You have an affirmative belief concerning one of the possible states of existence of the universe. Believing the universe exists either with or without a God are both affirmative beliefs. I’m always amazed how atheists can’t wait to except their own beliefs from the most basic intellectual/philosophical underpinnings. But they are the “logical” ones.

  38. BillT, you seem to be suggesting that because I don’t believe in your religion I’m unwilling to learn. I was a Christian as a child and I learned all I could about it. Now I’m an atheist.

  39. G. Rodrigues and Tom Gilson :My comment was a tongue in cheek reply to @SteveK : It’s as if the Flat Earth Society is broadcasting live from the minds of many atheists.

  40. “BillT, you seem to be suggesting that because I don’t believe in your religion I’m unwilling to learn.”

    I neither said nor implied anything of the sort.

  41. JAD : “Again, my question was “which world view is true and how could you prove it?”

    Obviously I feel my world view is correct and yours isn’t. As to how you prove either, I don’t see that you can. Wouldn’t you agree that if there was proof of either position, there would be an end to this discussion by now?

  42. Zoe, I thought we were talking about the Middle Ages. There’s a lot of false information out there about a centuries-old “warfare” between religion and science, none of which had even a slight connection to truth until Darwin, a topic I’ve discussed at length elsewhere but don’t want to introduce here.

  43. @David P:

    Non-belief is not a belief. (By definition!) So unfortunately this line of reasoning does not apply to atheism.

    If atheism is not a belief, and you are an atheist, then you do not believe that God does not exist. Furthermore, if atheism is really the mere lack of belief in God, people incapable of forming beliefs such as persons with severe mental handicaps or lunatics locked in an asylum are also atheists. But why stick to persons? Dogs, pigs, trees and rocks are also incapable of forming beliefs therefore they are atheists. But one does not hold rational discourse with dogs, pigs, trees and rocks; dogs we kick, pigs we eat, trees we fell and rocks we throw. Similarly, one does not hold rational discourse about non-beliefs because there is nothing to discourse about a non-belief. So one does not hold rational discourse with atheists qua atheists. So what on earth should we do with you?

    Atheism (athe-ism noun \ˈā-thē-ˌi-zəm\): it starts in comedy, but ends up in farce.

  44. You don’t have a non-belief. You have an affirmative belief concerning one of the possible states of existence of the universe.

    What does this even mean?

    Bill, listen, I have no idea how the universe came into existence. I believe I exist (based along the lines “cogito ergo sum”), but in terms of the universe I just don’t know. I don’t have affirmative beliefs on the subject. There are a lot of explanations I don’t believe though. But not believing is not the same as believing.

  45. Michael,

    I pointed out to you that your position that there is no God is not an valid starting point for the discussion. Think about it this way Michael. The discussion we are having is whether or not there is s God. You can’t use your position that there is no God as the starting point for that discussion because you haven’t established that a a true statement. After all, that’s what we are discussing. In my opening post I stated that neither position is a valid starting point for the discussion. We both must provide reasons and reasoning to establish the validity of our positions.

  46. G. Rodriguez says: So what on earth should we do with you?

    You could leave us alone, not write articles about what you assume we think, and not be so mean to us. You know, just be normal adults.

  47. David,

    You have a worldview. Your worldview does not include God. My worldview does. Having either of these worldviews is an affirmative understanding of a possible state of the universe (whether you can explain it all or not).

    Think about it this way maybe. How does one hold a non-belief? As you said “What does this even mean?” How do you hold something, if I understand your claim, that’s a nothing. How would you have a belief in something that’s you claim is not a belief (a non-belief).

  48. If atheism is not a belief, and you are an atheist, then you do not believe that God does not exist.

    This is not logical; it’s like me saying if you don’t believe in unicorns it means you don’t believe that unicorns don’t exist. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise.

    Atheism is a lack of belief in a God or gods. That’s it.

    To be extra clear: I do not know that God does not exist. I don’t believe He does.

  49. @Michael:

    You could leave us alone, not write articles about what you assume we think, and not be so mean to us.

    I did not “assume” nothing, but simply laid out an *argument* showing that by your own words, you have no grounds to believe what you do, or the absurdity of holding that atheism is a lack of belief. Sorry if pointing out your irrationality, and of others like you, is being a meany (cry me a river). Here is a suggestion: if you do not want to get metaphorically punched in the face, first do not open the comment thread with a salvo like (my emphasis):

    To believe in a god is based purely on faith, and you can’t “disprove” someone’s *irrational* faith.

    And second be sure to have the arguments to back up your position instead of, to quote someone else’s apt saying ” being the witness for the prosecution, the absurdum in the reduction ad absurdum, and the suffix in the oxymoron”. And the quote (others could be produced) also dispatches the “leave us alone”: it is *you* that has come here, guns blazing and spouting ignorant irrationality, so how surprised are you?

  50. @David P:

    This is not logical; it’s like me saying if you don’t believe in unicorns it means you don’t believe that unicorns don’t exist. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise.

    This is precisely what you are saying. A non-belief is the absence of belief. If it is not an absence of belief then it is a belief and you are contradicting yourself. So if your claim is correct, a a-unicornist (??), would such a critter exist, is precisely someone that does not believe that unicorns do not exist.

    You surely do need some lessons in elementary logic. Maybe this can help?

  51. G. Rodriguez Says: I did not “assume” nothing, but simply laid out an *argument* showing that by your own words, you have no grounds to believe what you do, or the absurdity of holding that atheism is a lack of belief.

    My Reply: Having no ground results in my lack of faith both ways. Your first notion is correct. The second contradicts your first.

    You Say: Here is a suggestion: if you do not want to get metaphorically punched in the face

    My Reply: Feel free to continue to metaphorically punch me in the face, it’s just not the behavior I would expect from someone that follows Christ.

    You Say: do not open the comment thread with a salvo like (my emphasis):

    My Reply: My “salvo” was simply a sober, honest, observation. It was not meant to offend or attack. By definition, your faith is irrational. You should not try to argue that, and embrace your faith regardless if that’s what you want to do. You’re an adult and can make your own decisions.

    You Say: And second be sure to have the arguments to back up your position

    My Reply: I have no position to back up. I just came to reply to the article — I’m an atheist and I have no interest in disproving God.

    You Say: And the quote (others could be produced) also dispatches the “leave us alone”: it is *you* that has come here, guns blazing and spouting ignorant irrationality, so how surprised are you?

    My Reply: I’m not sure how this isn’t clear by now. I came here to respond to an article written about me. I don’t think it’s fair for a Christian to write imagined strawmen about atheism unchecked. I hope that someone with an open, curious mind will read this exchange. 🙂

  52. Michael,

    “I was a Christian as a child and I learned all I could about it. Now I’m an atheist.”

    You learned all you could about it as child? You know that there are individuals who spend 70-80 years of their lives deep in study of Christianity and all the adjacent subjects and only scratch the surface. Individuals who spend 10’s of thousands of hours reading, writing, lecturing and teaching. But you learned everything there is to know as a child.

    So, in your case, did you reason that atheism is true or was it a case of Christianity (and thus all religions because all religions are the same despite their significant differences) being false?

    If the former, how did you come to the conclusion that atheism is true (understanding that this is different than the conclusion that Christianity is false) as opposed to deism or even agnosticism?

  53. Michael,

    You could leave us alone, not write articles about what you assume we think, and not be so mean to us. You know, just be normal adults.

    Normal adults point out to other normal adults what they are doing wrong because they care for them as human beings. In doing that there’s no reason to treat each other badly, or inhuman. I think Tom does a pretty good job at treating people as human beings. We’re pointing out issues that ought to be looked at and perhaps fixed. You don’t have to listen though. You can just walk away.

    I don’t mind if you do the same thing to me, in fact I appreciate it very much. I’ve had some good conversations here with atheists, and have read some online debates as an outsider. They’ve challenged my thinking and my faith and they actually made me a better person.

    I’ve held some false beliefs about other people and groups and I’m glad to have those beliefs challenged and resolved. Will you do the same with Christians? That’s what Tom is trying to get David to do. That’s what Tom is trying to do in this blog post – and in many others. Will you listen, or will you continue to insist that you are correct?

  54. Hi toddes,

    You Say: You learned all you could about it as child?

    My Reply: Yes

    You Say: You know that there are individuals who spend 70-80 years of their lives deep in study of Christianity and all the adjacent subjects and only scratch the surface.

    My Reply: Yes, the same could be said for Islam, Taoism, Lord of the Rings, etc. It’s not a requirement to studying something for 70-80 years to be unconvinced that it’s real. Since religion is a big deal on this planet, I imagine if there was proof there was a God, I wouldn’t have to study for 70-80 years, but would probably already be aware it. You could have just typed it out and ended this discussion.

    You Say: Individuals who spend 10′s of thousands of hours reading, writing, lecturing and teaching. But you learned everything there is to know as a child.

    My Reply: Your flattering assumptions will get you nowhere 😉

    You Say: So, in your case, did you reason that atheism is true or was it a case of Christianity (and thus all religions because all religions are the same despite their significant differences) being false?

    My Reply: It was a result of remaining unconvinced by any religion.

    You Say: If the former, how did you come to the conclusion that atheism is true (understanding that this is different than the conclusion that Christianity is false) as opposed to deism or even agnosticism?

    My Reply: Atheism isn’t something that can be “true.” I, personally, lack a belief in a God or gods. I am an atheist.

  55. Hi SteveK, I appreciate the gracious welcome.

    If I have insisted that I’m correct, it’s of course based on my own opinion. Anything I say could be completely false. I am not one to claim that I have absolute knowledge of anything.

  56. Atheism isn’t something that can be “true.”

    There are no arguments for atheism such that they can possibly be true? That’s the first time I’ve heard this!! What are all those books about then – books that try to argue that theism is false?

  57. David P, it is certainly confusing for those that have a need to lump assumptions on to us. We explain our position clearly and are told repeatedly that it is not how we feel. What a special experience.

  58. David,
    The problem isn’t with the label. Change the label to anything else or just try to get rid if it altogether – like ‘Lord Voldemort’, the name that shall not be named – but you cannot escape the reality of what you are doing.

    Your arguments attempt to show that theism is false. Therefore, you are arguing FOR the truth of “the name that shall not be named.

  59. ” It was a result of remaining unconvinced by any religion.”

    So you have made a in-depth study of all religions?

    “Atheism isn’t something that can be “true.” I, personally, lack a belief in a God or gods. I am an atheist.”

    The above is a faith statement. Do you also lack a belief in unicorns and gnomes? Are you an a-unicornist and an agnomist? Do you usually self identify by what you DON’T believe or by what you affirm to be true?

    Still here you are, trying to convince others of the truth of your position (atheism) and the fallacy of theirs (theism). You are arguing and reasoning for the truth of one position (there is no God or gods) and against another (God is). By your very actions you defeat your claim.

  60. SteveK, obviously the problem is with the label if you still think we’re interested in disproving theism.

  61. I think there is active disbelief in God and the supernatural going on here, not just agnosticism. If I’m wrong, then you could at least clarify the situation by describing yourselves as agnostic.

    If I’m right, though, then whether you like it or not your position entails certain definite implications, including also this one; otherwise you might end up agreeing with Dawkins that your actions have no connection with what you think is true, which would be an odd stance to affirm. (I never accused Dawkins of not adopting odd stances.)

  62. To toddes

    You Said: So you have made a in-depth study of all religions?

    My Reply: No. I would ask you the same thing… but I feel what you believe is personal so I won’t intrude.

    You Said: The above is a faith statement.

    My Reply: No it’s not. Explain how.

    You Said: Do you also lack a belief in unicorns and gnomes?

    My Reply: Yes.

    You Said: Are you an a-unicornist and an agnomist?

    My Reply: If it came up in a discussion, then yes, I would be. As you would be, I assume.

    You Said: Do you usually self identify by what you DON’T believe or by what you affirm to be true?

    My Reply: It depends on my environment. If my environment is one of people thinking of me a certain way because of what I DON’T believe, then I have no choice but to identify with my non-belief. I didn’t write this article, I’m responding to it.

    You Said: Still here you are, trying to convince others of the truth of your position (atheism) and the fallacy of theirs (theism).

    My Reply: I’m not trying to convince anyone else of anything except that this article is inaccurate. You can believe what you want. For all I know you’re correct. I would just like to stop being misrepresented.

    You Said: You are arguing and reasoning for the truth of one position (there is no God or gods) and against another (God is).

    My Reply: No, I simply spoke of my own opinion. I lack faith. You have it. Fin.

    You Said: By your very actions you defeat your claim.

    My claim is: I’m an atheist and I’m not interested in disproving God, like this article alleges.

  63. “… it is certainly confusing for those that have a need to lump assumptions on to us.”

    Pot meet kettle.

    Christianity is unique among religions yet David P and you place it in one big pot as if they are all the same.

    Offer arguments specifically against Christianity and its understanding of God instead of some generic God* and perhaps you would get different results.

  64. @Michael:

    My “salvo” was simply a sober, honest, observation. It was not meant to offend or attack. By definition, your faith is irrational. You should not try to argue that, and embrace your faith regardless if that’s what you want to do. You’re an adult and can make your own decisions.

    I can play this game too.

    By definition you are a moron. This is not meant to offend or attack. It is simply a sober, honest, observation.

    Now, how does this sound?

  65. G. Rodrigues
    With regard to logic, I can only think that you are erroneously equating “does not believe in God” with the proposition “not God”.

    Michael
    I guess we’re “enemies”, on their territory, telling them they’ve got things wrong; it’s not really surprising there’s some animosity.

  66. Michael,

    Which of these describe your position:

    Are you stating that there is a God or are gods but that you reject or refuse to worship Him or them?

    Are you stating that there does not exist such a being as God or beings as gods?

    Are you stating that you do not know whether such being or beings exist?

    If none of the above, restate and clarify.

  67. toddes, If I have made any assumptions, I apologize, and take them back. Will you do the same for me?

  68. toddes, the answer is D.

    D. I’m here living on this planet and I see no evidence or reason to believe there is a God

  69. G. Rodriguez Says: Now, how does this sound?

    My Reply: It sounds like you have to insult me because you have a less-than-firm grasp of the English language. You took offense to me using the offense-less term “irrational” because you assume it means something it doesn’t.

  70. Er, it’s not the non-believer that defines God, it is the believer. For the sake of this conversation, I assumed we were all talking about the Christian one.

  71. Michael

    SteveK, obviously the problem is with the label if you still think we’re interested in disproving theism.

    The label is associated with your intellectual position regarding your worldview – your rational view of reality. The people that put forward arguments that a particular worldview is false (theism) currently associate themselves with the label ‘atheist’. These people are arguing for theism being false. If that’s a problem, don’t blame theists or anyone else but the people putting forward the arguments.

  72. SteveK, I think that settles the question on how important the label is.

    toddes, from my experience, each protestant Christian defines God in their own way. There is no standard definition. If you disagree, please provide me with the definition.

  73. @David P:

    With regard to logic, I can only think that you are erroneously equating “does not believe in God” with the proposition “not God”.

    You “think”? How about actually *showing* where the argument goes wrong? Because that is how dialectics proceeds; you show *exactly* where the argument of your interlocutor goes wrong: some logical fallacy, an equivocation, a false premise, etc. you do not simply throw out in the air the first hypothesis that pops in your head that might, just might, be right.

    Suggestion: read Against Terminological Mischief: ‘Negative Atheism’ and ‘Negative Nominalism’.

  74. Michael,

    If each Protestant Christian (why exclude Catholic and non-denominational?) has their own definition, how do you know that you have rightly understood Who you have rejected? What definition of God did you reject?

  75. toddes

    You Said: why exclude Catholic and non-denominational?

    My Reply: I dunno, pretend I didn’t.

    You Said: how to you know that you have understood Who you have rejected?

    My Reply: I haven’t rejected anything, it just hasn’t convinced me. I don’t know that I have fully understood. There is a lot of information on many, many religions, and none of them show any sign of being accurate when it comes to deities.

    I imagine that even without looking, if there were any sort of proof for God, I would have heard it by now, and would be a believer.

    You Said: What definition of God did you reject?

    My Reply: Rejection would assume I believe a God exists. I don’t. I just don’t believe the stories that you believe.

  76. Michael,

    You’re playing at semantics. How is disbelief different from rejection?

    We aren’t discussing the Bible at the moment. Understanding of God can be arrived at outside of special revelation. The Christian understanding, very simply and clumsily phrased, adds one “attribute” to that understanding and that is that God is Personal.

    When you were a Christian, how did you define or understand God?

  77. John Reagan @ #47:

    Obviously I feel my world view is correct and yours isn’t. As to how you prove either, I don’t see that you can. Wouldn’t you agree that if there was proof of either position, there would be an end to this discussion by now?
    (emphasis added)

    So you accept your world view on faith? And the only reason you can give is that you “feel” it is correct. What do you mean by feel? Intuition? Emotional appeal? Subjective preference?

    Yes I agree I cannot prove my world view. But faith is an option for me. Are you saying that faith is an option open to atheists?

  78. toddes Asks: How is disbelief different from rejection?

    My Reply: I dunno, to me “rejection” seems more active than a lack of belief. If you want to say I “rejected” it, that’s okay. It makes no difference in the discussion. Hanging up on it is playing at semantics.

    JAD Asks: So you accept your world view on faith?

    My Reply: (Sorry for jumping in here). You are correct. My world view is “I don’t know all the answers” and it’s based on the faith that I really don’t know all the answers.

  79. Sorry, missed this one: When you were a Christian, how did you define or understand God?

    I defined God as an omnipotent being that lived in a place called heaven, created everything, and judged us morally. Also, there was no way to prove he was there, it required faith.

    After growing up, decided that it’s more likely that Christianity is like all the other religions. I decided that the notion of God sure seemed like a human-construct. The notion of God seems like something people would make up to explain certain things they didn’t know the answer to. I dunno though. Maybe I’m wrong and will be punished eternally for being honest and curious.

  80. Okay,

    God created everything. What does this mean?

    I’ll start with this: (Again clumsily stated) All that exists does so because God is. Do you exist? If so, why is this not evidence for God since God is by definition the ‘source of existence’? Mind you, this is not a case of whether you except the argument but whether this would be evidence.

  81. Tom Gilson –

    God* would close his eyes and turn himself into a blind mechanical vendor of prayer answers in a double-blind “scientific” prayer study.

    Can only “blind mechanical” things be investigated with double-blind studies?

    BillT –

    The non-belief in God isn’t properly basic…

    I’ve heard of people arguing that belief in God (properly defined) can be “properly basic”, but I’ve never seen it laid out that not believing in God can’t be “properly basic”. Where is such a case made?

  82. toddes Asks: God created everything. What does this mean?

    My Reply: It means I thought God created all there is to see or know.

    You Ask: Do you exist?

    My Reply: I dunno, seems like it.

    You Ask: If so, why is this not evidence for God since God is by definition the ‘source of existence’?

    My Reply: God is “by definition” anything that suits the believer. When I was a child, one facet of my definition of God was “He that created everything”. Now that I’m an adult, my definition of God is an unproven idea that seems very much like it was borne completely from the mind of man.

    Mind you, this is not a case of whether you except the argument but whether this would be evidence.

  83. Ray at #94: No, that is not the case. It’s just that in studies of this sort, everything possible is done to eliminate all variables that are not blind and mechanical.

    You knew that if you’d bothered to think it through.

  84. Ray,

    As far as people arguing that belief in God can be properly basic I think that’s controversial and not a claim I made. As far anyone making the case that non-belief in God is properly basic I’m not aware anyone ever making such a case. (As far a your “not believing in God can’t be “properly basic”, I never said anything like that. I said “The non-belief in God isn’t properly basic”.)

  85. Michael,

    “For the sake of this conversation, I assumed we were all talking about the Christian one.”

    Wait, so you provide what you understand as the Christian definition of God, I respond to that definition and then you pull a switch and go to what you now believe?

    Sorry, I thought you were going to be forthright. Turns out it was just another word game.

  86. toddes, you have lost me.

    All I came here to say is that I am not interested in trying to disprove God. I’m sorry if you feel like I’m trying to pull one over on you or something. I simply got confused.

    I don’t know how to tell you, I’m trying to be as honestly honest with all of you. I have no desire to trick or deceive anyone.

  87. G. Rodrigues
    With regard to your #84, my guess was right. He is defining atheism as a proposition. And if, as I contend, atheism is “a lack of belief in Gods” calling it a proposition is nonsensical.

    It’s ironic how outraged you guys were about Boghossian’s definition of faith but you have no qualms in completely redefining atheism!

  88. David,

    I find it pretty questionable that you accuse G. Rodrigues of redefining atheism when you bailed on our conversation on the same subject and failed to respond to the points I made on this in #54.

  89. And Michael,

    Ditto what I said to David above as you bailed on our conversation on the same subject and failed to respond to the points I made on this in #52.

  90. Michael,

    Fine. You are not trying to disprove God. So stop saying things like this:

    “To believe in a god is based purely on faith, and you can’t “disprove” someone’s irrational faith.”

    without using our definition of faith and our definition of God.

    Look through your comments. See how many times you equivocate? Look at your definition of God (that you learned as a child). It is a child’s definition. It is one I would expect from the kids in Bible class. If an adult gave me this definition, I would be very concerned about the maturity of their faith, of their knowledge.

    I can’t find it, but Holo (sorry, for the overly familiar abbreviation but I didn’t want to misspell your name) gave David P. a list of individuals and sources to study to begin to understand the Nature of God (if anyone can find it please post it). It starts with an in-depth understanding of Plato, Aristotle, Scriptures, the Church Fathers, Constantine, and others before finally moving to Aquinas’ Summa. If you don’t know, then challenge yourself and find out.

    I wish you well on your journey. Grow in knowledge and wisdom.

  91. toddes, would you be willing to just accept me for who I am? Can we co-exist without you telling me what I need to do?

  92. SteveK, It made sense up until the second paragraph. From my perspective, a person cannot lack belief in God while simultaneously maintaining a belief in God.

  93. @David P:

    It’s ironic how outraged you guys were about Boghossian’s definition of faith but you have no qualms in completely redefining atheism!

    First, completely redefining atheism? You have got to be joking. Historically, atheism has always meant a-theism, the denial that there exists a God. This is what the Greek atomists, Lucrecius, French rationalists, French atheist existentialists like Sartre or Camus, Marx, Feuerbach, Schopenhauer, Nietzche, all the best modern atheist philosophers like the first Flew, Mackie, Martin, Kai Nielsen, etc. have defended.

    It is you who have absolutely no idea what are you talking about; it is you who is doing the redefinition. It is you that is committing terminological mischief to justify a lack of intellectual integrity and actually meet the burden of proof. More important of all, because the precise label we attach to a set of beliefs is not really paramount, it is you that does not even bother to actually respond to the *arguments* Valicella or I gave: if atheism is as you say an absence of belief and not a proposition to which we stand in a relation of assent or dissent, then it follows that you do not believe that God does not exist; furthermore, there is no argument or rational discourse to be had about an absence of a belief, so in God’s name why are you cluttering the combox? You are surely not arguing for atheism; actually you are not arguing, period, but let that pass. Why are you here?

    The thread was really gone rock bottom; blissfully ignorant of all history and philosophy, incapable of following the most elementary logic, unashamedly inconsistent and incoherent, what rational discourse is possible with these guys?

  94. So, G. Rodriguez, is this finally proof that the premise of the article is false?

    Proving or disproving God is your concern. I’m just living a kind life on this Earth. Believe whatever you like. 🙂

  95. Michael @108

    It made sense up until the second paragraph. From my perspective, a person cannot lack belief in God while simultaneously maintaining a belief in God.

    I didn’t say that. Here are my 2nd and 3rd paragraphs.

    So…one could be an atheist who *lacks belief* in a God or Gods, and also a Christian who *affirms* there is sufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that God exists.

    She lacks belief in a God (no position) but has reason to think a God exists (affirming position).

    Having reasons to think a God exists and being able to mount an argument, and hence concluding those reasons justify the conclusion that a God exists, is not believing.

  96. Michael,
    Then clarify how what I’m saying about atheism is actually different than what you are saying about atheism.

    Does atheism make any positive claims about the existence of God?

    If the answer is no, then holding onto each position at the same time cannot entail a logical contradiction.

    If it sounds nonsensical to you as it does me, then that might be a good indicator that there is more going on.

  97. @Michael:

    So, G. Rodriguez, is this finally proof that the premise of the article is false?

    No.

    @David P:

    Just be nice. It makes life better.

    Maybe you are using your own private definition of “nice”, but I am a nice guy. In fact, according to my definition, I am a very, nay *extremely*, nice guy.

    Later edit: and by the way, thanks for the curt, empty response, and instead of dealing with arguments going for the pouting. It saves me the labor of actually typing an argument.

  98. SteveK says: Does atheism make any positive claims about the existence of God?

    If the answer is no, then holding onto each position at the same time cannot entail a logical contradiction.

    I explained: From my perspective, a person cannot lack belief in God while simultaneously maintaining a belief in God.

    Which is to say, I don’t agree that your imagined scenario could ever exist. If I am a Christian, I am not an atheist.

  99. G. Rodrigues –

    Furthermore, if atheism is really the mere lack of belief in God, people incapable of forming beliefs such as persons with severe mental handicaps or lunatics locked in an asylum are also atheists.

    Sure, but not all people who lack a particular belief are ‘incapable of forming beliefs’. Rocks don’t reproduce, people who are infertile can’t reproduce… but that doesn’t mean everyone who hasn’t sired/borne a child can’t.

    How does this sound? “[I]f virginity is really the mere lack of a history of sexual intercourse, people incapable of [sexual activity] such as persons with severe [physical] handicaps or [humans raised by animals] are also virgins. [R]ocks [and oceans and moons and meteors] are also incapable of [sexual intercourse], therefore they are also [virgins].”

    Similarly, one does not hold rational discourse about non-beliefs because there is nothing to discourse about a non-belief.

    How does this sound? “One does not hold rational discourse about non-actions like virginity because there is nothing to discourse about a non-action.”

    Not all people are virgins because they lack opportunities to have sex, and not all people lack belief in god(s) because they are “incapable of forming beliefs”.

  100. Tom Gilson –

    It’s just that in studies of this sort, everything possible is done to eliminate all variables that are not blind and mechanical.

    It’s impossible to do a double-blind psychological study? (I wonder if you bothered to think this through… 🙂 )

  101. Tom, I’m going to need more explanation. Apparently I’m just that simple.

    And you have an MS in psychology, but apparently believe – contrary to pretty much the whole psychological field – that it’s impossible to study conscious agents in a double-blind manner? I find that more than a little weird.

  102. @Ray Ingles:

    Sure, but not all people who lack a particular belief are ‘incapable of forming beliefs’. Rocks don’t reproduce, people who are infertile can’t reproduce… but that doesn’t mean everyone who hasn’t sired/borne a child can’t.

    I never implied or so much as hinted that people “who lack a particular belief are ‘incapable of forming beliefs’”. Where did you got that idea? On baby little steps for the logically-challenged:

    (1) Atheism is a lack of belief that God exists.

    Premise. By (1):

    (2) Atheists are those that lack the belief that God exists.

    By definition of atheist.

    (3) People incapable of forming beliefs like madmen, mental retards, people in a coma, etc. lack the belief that God exists.

    Premise. From (2) and (3):

    (4) Madmen, mental retards, people in a coma, etc. are atheists.

    Atheism (athe-ism noun \ˈā-thē-ˌi-zəm\): it starts in tragedy, ends up in farce.

    How does this sound? “One does not hold rational discourse about non-actions like virginity because there is nothing to discourse about a non-action.”

    Your parallel does not hold for (at least) two reasons:

    (1) While Virginity is, strictly speaking, a non-action, it is also an action insofar as you *refrain* from doing something and insofar as restraining to do something is an action, it is an action as well.

    Maybe you will press the objection, and mention the examples of Evil which on the traditional Christian accounts are *privations*, or more humdrum privations like holes, and that we have perfectly meaningful discussions about them. But once again, this is simply a failure to make some quite elementary distinctions. Privations are an absence or a lack of *something* that some*thing* could or should have, that is, privations are to be analyzed not as no-things, precisely because there is nothing to be said about nothing, but in terms of the substances in which they “inhere”.

    By the way, this dovetails nicely into my train of thought, because it gives yet another argument that shows the utter absurdity of holding that atheism is a lack of belief (left for the reader as an exercise).

    (2) Actions do not stand in the same relation to rational discourse as beliefs do. A belief is a certain specific relation we have with some proposition; propositions can be true or false and as such they can be argued for or against. What discourse there is about actions, it is always about certain propositions and as such, even if indirectly, about beliefs.

    And because rational discourse about beliefs is possible, we can *change* them, e.g. we can come to see that a certain proposition is false upon being shown compelling new evidence. But if atheism is a mere lack of belief then one would stop being an atheist when one came to hold the belief that God does not exist which is preposterous.

    Our distinguished irrationalists are very adamant on holding that atheism is a lack of belief, and the reason is pretty clear. Because the moment it is conceded that atheism is a belief, even if it is not the belief that traditionally it is held to be (e.g. in the proposition “God does not exist”), then you have to provide arguments for it and if there is one thing our distinguished irrationalists cannot do is recognize a valid argument even if it bit their noses off much less mount one.

    But suppose I let this blatant contradiction pass by, and instead ask, if it is a belief in some proposition, then what proposition can it be? It cannot be the proposition that “God does not exist” because that is what the distinguished irrationalists deny. What other options are there? And here I direct you to the article by William Valicella I linked above to dispatch the other, quite silly, options.

  103. Ray, I do not believe it’s impossible to study conscious agents in a double-blind manner. I do believe it’s impossible to devise a valid study when one or more of the persons who is involved in the design of the experiment, the experimental conditions, the contingencies, and everything else, is the person who is being studied in the experiment.

  104. G. Rodrigues

    What are the key differences in your view between:

    (A) Believing that God does not exist.
    (B) Not believing that God exists.
    (C) Having no beliefs regarding God.

  105. I argued on another thread that there are philosophical positions that are atheistic in the sense they assume there is not God. So if some “atheists” want to claim that atheism is just a strong form of agnosticism, I will argue that the true unadulterated from of atheism is represented by the philosophical naturalists and materialists.
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2013/08/trying-to-get-a-handle-on-what-atheism-is/#comment-69045

    In his book, The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire writes that the problem with philosophical naturalism is that it “places us as humans in a box. But for us to have confidence that our knowledge in a box is true, we need to stand outside the box or have some other being outside the box to provide us information… But there is nothing or no one outside the box to give us revelation and we cannot ourselves transcend the box. Ergo: epistemological nihilism.”

    Another example comes from the from the movie The Matrix. Neo doesn’t know that he has been part of the Matrix until he is disconnected and ejected from the Matrix.

    I think there is evidence and then there is evidence. Within the box (our universe) we have empirical evidence than can give us reliable knowledge about things within our box– the physical universe.

    However, if we ask questions about the origin of the universe we discover a chain of cause and effect that appears to lead us “outside the box”. In other words, logically whatever caused our universe must transcend our universe.

  106. G. Rodrigues – First, let me say how refreshing it is that you’re actually responding to my requests for clarification! I confess I am pleasantly surprised. Thank you!

    On baby little steps for the logically-challenged:

    Oh, your case is perfectly valid – so far as it goes. For example, (4) should really be “(Some) Madmen, mental retards, people in a coma, etc. are atheists.” Not all madmen or mentally handicapped individuals are incapable of forming beliefs. A quibble, I suppose, but you’re the one who’s insisting on terminological rigor.

    In any case, I find it strange that you simply ignored the rest of your own statement, which I will quote to you: Dogs, pigs, trees and rocks are also incapable of forming beliefs therefore they are atheists. But one does not hold rational discourse with dogs, pigs, trees and rocks; dogs we kick, pigs we eat, trees we fell and rocks we throw. Similarly, one does not hold rational discourse about non-beliefs because there is nothing to discourse about a non-belief.

    Can you give me the “baby little steps” version for the logic there? (Especially the liaison ‘Similarly’.) I mean, no rock has ever had sex, so rocks are virgins, right? (Or is it part of the definition that a virgin is a human being that hasn’t engaged in congress? (Want to be careful about potential filter words.) If so, then claiming a rock is a virgin is irrelevant at the absolute best.)

    While Virginity is, strictly speaking, a non-action, it is also an action insofar as you *refrain* from doing something and insofar as restraining to do something is an action, it is an action as well.

    One can be a virgin from privation of opportunity as well as choice, though. It’s hard to speak of ‘refraining from’ doing something one has no chance to do. I haven’t ‘refrained from’ inheriting a billion dollars, for example. Virginity can certainly be an active choice, but doesn’t have to be.

    And withholding belief can be a choice as well – e.g. when one suspends judgment until one has determinative facts available. One can believe there is not sufficient evidence to warrant belief in something, without necessarily believing that it’s not the case.

    Actions do not stand in the same relation to rational discourse as beliefs do. A belief is a certain specific relation we have with some proposition; propositions can be true or false and as such they can be argued for or against.

    But the judging is, itself, an action. The belief is the consequence of an action – rather like how virginity can be retained or lost based on actions.

    But if atheism is a mere lack of belief then one would stop being an atheist when one came to hold the belief that God does not exist which is preposterous.

    To quote the wise G. Rodrigues, “A belief is a certain specific relation we have with some proposition; propositions can be true or false…” But those aren’t the only judgments one can make about a proposition. There are degrees of certainty, for starters. One can also judge a proposition ‘unproven’ – which is distinct from ‘true’ or ‘false’. It’s perfectly true to say something like ‘I believe that’s true but can’t prove it’, or ‘I can’t prove that’s false, but I believe it’s false’.

    Or like, say, life on Mars: ‘On the whole I think it unlikely, but I don’t have a great deal of certainty about it so I will withhold judgment. Still, though I think the odds are low, it’s an interesting enough question that I believe we should devote some resources to investigating the possibility.’

    I’m certainly not a believer in life on Mars. But I’m not an agnostic about life on Mars, either – I think the question is answerable. And I don’t think it can be said that I believe ‘there’s no life on Mars.’ – I think it’s possible. Can I fairly be described as an “a-life-on-Mars-ist”? My beliefs fall into the rather large set of not(believe(life on Mars)), which has more members than believe(not(life on Mars)).

  107. Ray, your reply was incredibly reasonable and very easy to read. I cannot wait to see what sort of insults will be included in G. Rodrigues’ reply.

  108. Consider the following world views:

    1. Theism

    2. Atheistic naturalism

    3. Pantheism

    4. Virtual reality idealism (The Matrix, a brain in a vat, Descartes demon etc.)

    5. Solipsism (someone who believes “only my mind exists” or can be proven to exist)

    (The above list is by no means exhaustive.)

    How would you determine which world view is the true one? Is this even possible?

  109. It might not be possible to know. If so, it’s strange that so many seem to already know the answer. I sure don’t.

    I’m not concerned with finding the “true” one. That doesn’t keep me up at night. I’m concerned with living a happy, loving life with my friends and family.

    I enjoy the time I have instead of fretting over what I don’t (and may be impossible to) know. I’m happy that you’re so confident in your guess, it must feel special. I’m just more curious… waiting for more evidence, before I can be so sure of the answer. If I’m punished forever for that, so be it. 🙂

  110. @Ray Ingles:

    Can you give me the “baby little steps” version for the logic there? (Especially the liaison ‘Similarly’.) I mean, no rock has ever had sex, so rocks are virgins, right?

    No, wrong, for the reasons I have already explained. Can our distinguished irrationalist ™ maintain the distinction? Maybe, though I doubt it (more below).

    But let us assume that I made an illegitimate leap from persons to non-persons. Does that invalidate any conclusion I have drawn? Or are you maintaining that you can have rational dialogue with madmen, mental retards, people in a coma, etc.?

    note: terminological rigor is needed when the distinctions are important, not for the sake of pedantry or nitpicking. So add whatever conditions you need to make madmen, mental retards, etc. the sort of people that are incapable of forming beliefs.

    You missed a sentence in your quote, specifically: “But why stick to persons?” So I have to justify that, if our distinguishable irrationalists ™ are right, there is reasonable justification to *not* stick to persons. If atheism is a lack of belief what does restricting to persons adds to the definition? It cannot be that persons are the sort of things that could form beliefs because there are persons that are incapable of forming beliefs. Nor once again, can the “could” be taken in a temporal sense, since there are persons who are incapable of forming beliefs and their condition is such that it cannot be reversed. So in what sense can the “could” be taken so as to apply to human beings only? The only sense I can make of it is to say that human beings are such that it flows from their *essence* that they have the *potency* to form beliefs. Tough luck, this is Aristotelian jargon; but the argument is a reductio, so it is unavailable to our distinguished irrationalists ™. So I am reasonably justified in maintaining, that by our distinguished irrationalist ™ standards, “Dogs, pigs, trees and rocks are also incapable of forming beliefs therefore they are atheists”.

    One can be a virgin from privation of opportunity as well as choice, though. It’s hard to speak of ‘refraining from’ doing something one has no chance to do. I haven’t ‘refrained from’ inheriting a billion dollars, for example. Virginity can certainly be an active choice, but doesn’t have to be.

    Granted, but I already responded to this.

    And withholding belief can be a choice as well – e.g. when one suspends judgment until one has determinative facts available. One can believe there is not sufficient evidence to warrant belief in something, without necessarily believing that it’s not the case.

    How many times do I have to repeat myself? Our distinguished atheists ™ are adamant in redefining atheism as a lack or absence of belief. I think I was explicit enough: “Our distinguished irrationalists are very adamant on holding that atheism is a lack of belief, and the reason is pretty clear. Because the moment it is conceded that atheism is a belief, even if it is not the belief that traditionally it is held to be (e.g. in the proposition “God does not exist”), then you have to provide arguments for it and if there is one thing our distinguished irrationalists cannot do is recognize a valid argument even if it bit their noses off much less mount one.” If they do believe that (fill in the blanks) then they must substantiate their belief, e.g. why the evidence is not sufficient. So why are you posing irrelevant questions in the form of what if atheism is construed as belief in (fill in the blanks)?

    But those aren’t the only judgments one can make about a proposition. There are degrees of certainty, for starters. One can also judge a proposition ‘unproven’ – which is distinct from ‘true’ or ‘false’. It’s perfectly true to say something like ‘I believe that’s true but can’t prove it’, or ‘I can’t prove that’s false, but I believe it’s false’.

    What in “a belief is a certain specific relation we have with some proposition” contradicts the fact there may be “degrees of certainty” in how we evaluate a given proposition? To repeat myself, where are you intending to go with these irrelevancies? And what do you mean by “I can’t prove that’s false, but I believe it’s false”? If you mean the absence of argument or evidence, then it is an irrational belief; i-rrational, literally without ratio or reason, which was my point. Maybe you mean you do have an argument but not a knockdown 100% airtight one? But where did I ask for that? This standard is a typically modern obsession (Descartes and Montaigne express it with particular force). The problem remains: get off your lazy ass and deal with the arguments. Well, not you specifically, unless you yourself also wants to maintain the asinine absurdity that Atheism is a lack of belief.

  111. It’s endlessly amusing, the lengths through which you’ll go to win some witty twist of words in your head. The effort to deny my simple claim. You just can’t sleep knowing that I’m an atheist, and all that means is that I lack belief in a God or Gods. 🙂

  112. @Michael:

    You just can’t sleep knowing that I’m an atheist, and all that means is that I lack belief in a God or Gods.

    Actually, I am about to go to bed and get some sleep as it is rather late here.

  113. Michael responded to my question (see #128 & his response @ #129) about determining “which world view is the true one?” with:

    It might not be possible to know. If so, it’s strange that so many seem to already know the answer. I sure don’t.

    I’m not concerned with finding the “true” one. That doesn’t keep me up at night. I’m concerned with living a happy, loving life with my friends and family.

    But then how can you claim to be an atheist of any kind?

  114. Oh God, Tom. Are you seriously trying to pull that? I wa just trying to introduce myself so you might treat me like a human. Of course I wasn’t laying the weird metrics for every atheist. Every atheist must’ve saved up to buy an iPad, Tom? Really? If you included the bullet point I provided, it would cover me. That was my point. Was it really lost on you? It was a fairly simple narrative tool. I can’t imagine anyone will actually take it the way you’re pretending to. I can’t imagine there’s a reader that doesn’t see through such a cheesy ploy. Really, Tom?

  115. Michael, I’m seriously confused.

    I’m seriously trying to treat you as a human. I have no clue what you mean about every atheist saving up to buy an iPad: who said that?

    If I include the bullet point you mention it would cover you. Fine. But the purpose of a definition is to define, so that people can know what a word means. I covered that for you on another thread earlier, where you mentioned iPads, but where nothing was said about other atheists buying iPads.

    I don’t know how I’m harming you by defining the word “atheist” without also describing you personally. I respect the fact that you are not the same as every atheist, and that not every atheist is the same, because we’re talking about human beings. But treating you as a unique human being is not the same thing as defining a term.

    So really, Michael: how am I harming you? I really don’t get it. I’d like to understand, but so far I can’t.

  116. If what you were doing was simply trying to introduce yourself so that I could get to know you, Michael, and if you weren’t trying to correct my bullet list, then that was totally lost on me. I mean, this bullet point comes across a whole lot more like an attempted correction than a personal introduction.

    So again, I really can’t figure out what’s going on here. I don’t mind finding out, if you can help me.

  117. Michael, I realized something this morning that might help; something where I might have gotten myself confused, and would explain what I’ve done wrong in responding to you. I have to go give someone a ride to work, and then I’ll be back and I’ll have more to say. I just wanted to put this here quick so you would know I’ve got that going on in my mind this morning.

  118. G. Rodrigues –

    But let us assume that I made an illegitimate leap from persons to non-persons. Does that invalidate any conclusion I have drawn? Or are you maintaining that you can have rational dialogue with madmen, mental retards, people in a coma, etc.?

    Is that all you were trying to prove? That you can’t “have rational dialogue with madmen, mental retards, people in a coma, etc.?” Technically you didn’t even prove that, it was inherent in your definition of “madmen, mental retards,” etc. (Step 3 here.)

    But I’m perfectly willing to grant that there’s no point in arguing with people who are incapable of forming beliefs. And I’ll even grant that such people are, in a technical but uninteresting sense, atheists. In the same way that a newborn infant is, in a technical but uninteresting sense, a virgin.

    But… so what? How is that even relevant?

    I mean, you could not possibly have been attempting some argument like ‘ If someone is a madman or mentally handicapped, they cannot form beliefs. Someone who can’t form beliefs is an atheist. Therefore, atheists are mad or mentally handicapped.’ That would be affirming the consequent, and you’re far to good at logic for something like that.

    Still, you have in no way addressed the case of someone who is capable of forming beliefs, but has not formed the belief “God exists”. Such a person would fit the proffered definition of ‘atheist’ without logical contradiction.

    If you did mean to establish that such a person would be automatically qualified as mad or mentally handicapped, your argument doesn’t establish that. All you’ve established so far, apparently, is that “[you can’t] have rational dialogue with madmen, mental retards, people in a coma, etc.”

    If atheism is a lack of belief what does restricting to persons adds to the definition?

    If virginity is a lack of a history of sexual activity, what does restricting to persons add to the definition?

    See, here’s the issue. We’re trying to be rigorous, right? Now, you concede that virginity can be a choice, but doesn’t have to be a choice. Similarly, not forming a belief in God can be a result of incapability, but doesn’t have to be.

    When dealing with virginity, there’s no possibility of any rock ever qualifying as a non-virgin. It only makes sense to talk about ‘virginity’ when there’s some sense in which it can make a distinction. You can’t make a distinction in practice between virgin and non-virgin rocks. You can make a distinction between virgin and non-virgin persons. (In some circumstances – ranching, for example – it might even make sense to distinguish between virgin and non-virgin animals.)

    Similarly, there’s no possibility of a rock ever forming a belief in God. You could call a rock a virgin atheist, but it makes no useful distinction. The term ‘atheist’ only makes sense as a distinction among things that are capable of forming beliefs. (This sort of thing doesn’t have to be expressed in Aristotelian terms; Platonic terms can work just as well.)

    Something you don’t seem to be addressing – could ‘atheist’ be a useful distinction when applied to beings capable of forming beliefs in God? That’s certainly the only real case of interest. But if all you really want to do is establish that you can’t argue rocks and dogs into theism, I guess you’ve done what you set out to do. I’d admit defeat except I was never contesting that.

    You claimed, originally, that your conclusion was “So one does not hold rational discourse with atheists qua atheists.” By the same logic, it seems we could say that ‘one does not deflower virgins qua virgins’ – one doesn’t deflower just anything in the universe that hasn’t engaged in congress. One only deflowers virgin humans.

    I diffidently suggest that you could try having rational discourse with atheist humans, instead of just anything in the universe that fits the technical definition of atheist simpliciter. That might make more sense. Up to you, I suppose.

    So, anyway, there’s this:

    Because the moment it is conceded that atheism is a belief… then you have to provide arguments for it

    Why must atheism be “a belief” – singular? If we establish that an atheist (human) is someone does not believe in god(s), that doesn’t automatically establish what beliefs they do have. Knowing that someone doesn’t believe in communism tells you very little about what political/social schemes they do favor.

    Now, in practice you can probably identify some common types of atheism. If you told me someone was a monotheist, I would guess they were either Jewish, Muslim, or Christian – with Zoroastrianism for an outside straight. I’d very rarely go wrong on that basis. But that determination involves a lot more information than the simple logical definition of monotheism.

    You might start by asking what they do believe. Again, just a suggestion.

  119. @Ray Ingles:

    You are seriously misunderstanding what I set out to establish, although at least in one case the fault is mine.

    Is that all you were trying to prove?

    Ah, I see where I have mislead you into error. I botched the copy-paste, apologies for that. The original sentence that should have been copy-pasted: “Similarly, one does not hold rational discourse about non-beliefs because there is nothing to discourse about a non-belief. So one does not hold rational discourse with atheists qua atheists.”

    The part about lunatics, mental retards, people in a coma, etc. is just the argument establishing, with the proffered definition, these people are also atheists, which is absurd.

    Still, you have in no way addressed the case of someone who is capable of forming beliefs, but has not formed the belief “God exists”. Such a person would fit the proffered definition of ‘atheist’ without logical contradiction.

    Correct, such a person fits the proffered definition. What is baffling is why you think I have to “address it”, because this is yet another example that makes my point.

    note: maybe you are taking my “absurd” as logical contradiction? I am not; I do not need that much.

    Similarly, there’s no possibility of a rock ever forming a belief in God. You could call a rock a virgin atheist, but it makes no useful distinction. The term ‘atheist’ only makes sense as a distinction among things that are capable of forming beliefs. (This sort of thing doesn’t have to be expressed in Aristotelian terms; Platonic terms can work just as well.)

    Platonic terms suffice as well. Our distinguished irrationalists ™ are not Platonists, so everything I said still goes through.

    Something you don’t seem to be addressing – could ‘atheist’ be a useful distinction when applied to beings capable of forming beliefs in God? That’s certainly the only real case of interest.

    Atheist *is* a useful distinction when applied to rational beings. What is inane is to construe Atheism as mere lack or absence of belief in the proposition “God exists”. *This* distinction is completely useless, confusing, deleterious to rational discourse and should be mocked and derided, if nothing else, for the sake of the “Greek atomists, Lucrecius, French rationalists, French atheist existentialists like Sartre or Camus, Marx, Feuerbach, Schopenhauer, Nietzche, all the best modern atheist philosophers like the first Flew, Mackie, Martin, Kai Nielsen, etc.”

    You might start by asking what they do believe. Again, just a suggestion.

    Your kind suggestion notwithstanding, what part of “Our distinguished irrationalists are very adamant on holding that atheism is a lack of belief” do you not understand? Maybe you think I am targeting everyone that coopts the appellation “Atheist” for himself? But that is your misunderstanding, as I have been very clear in what I am targeting. In fact, it is the *exact opposite* of what I am doing: I am establishing that the claim that atheism consists in a lack or absence of a belief in P = “God exists” is inane, and that for the sake of intellectual decency and clarity, the waters should be separated, and everyone that claims such a stupidity should be exposed and called out.

  120. @ #128 I presented the following list and asked:

    How would you determine which world view is the true one? Is this even possible?

    1. Theism

    2. Atheistic naturalism

    3. Pantheism

    4. Virtual reality idealism (The Matrix, a brain in a vat, Descartes demon etc.)

    5. Solipsism (someone who believes “only my mind exists” or can be proven to exist)

    (The above list is by no means exhaustive.)

    Both John Reagan and Michael seemed to concede that they based their world view on faith.

    Reagan, in response to an earlier discussion, (see #14, 17, 20. 24 & 47) wrote, “Obviously I feel my world view is correct and yours isn’t. As to how you prove either, I don’t see that you can. Wouldn’t you agree that if there was proof of either position, there would be an end to this discussion by now?”

    Michael said (see #89 & 90), “You are correct. My world view is ‘I don’t know all the answers’ and it’s based on the faith that I really don’t know all the answers.”

    (hmmm… Have either John or Michael seen the Boghossian lectures/interviews? As an atheist do they really want to say–or imply– that their world view is based on “faith”?)

    But if one accepts one’s world view without proof (or on faith), doesn’t that make all the world views that I have listed above equally likely?

    For example, what is logically impossible about solipsism? (Many philosophers would say nothing.) But, if it’s not logically impossible, why aren’t there more solipsists? I think most people like me don’t believe in solipsism because there are good reasons to disbelieve it. For example, I would argue that solipsism is unlikely to be true because I have a compelling, properly basic belief that other minds really do exist. It also doesn’t seems logical that if I was the only mind that existed that I would have so little control over the direction of my life… There seems to be something or someone who is holding me back.

    I could make similar arguments against virtual reality idealism and pantheism. Many atheists would agree with those arguments because most theists and atheists are realists.

    So then, aren’t there similar arguments I could use to determine whether theism or atheistic naturalism is more reasonable and therefore, more likely to be true. After exploring the foundational assumptions, or presuppositions, of theism and atheism, I think there are, which is why I am a theist, not an atheist.

    Why are atheists so hesitant to explore their own foundational assumptions? It seems to me that they are. Why is that?

  121. Luke Barnes “a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, University of Sydney, Australia,” recently wrote in a blog post that he believed “that science in principle cannot explain why anything exists.”

    Here is the argument that he gives:

    A: The state of physics at any time can be (roughly) summarised by three things.

    1. A statement about what the fundamental constituents of physical reality are and what their properties are.
    2. A set of mathematical equations describing how these entities change, move, interact and rearrange.
    3. A compilation of experimental and observational data.

    In short, the stuff, the laws and the data.

    B: None of these, and no combination of these, can answer the question “why does anything at all exist?”.

    C: Thus physics cannot answer the question “why does anything at all exist?”

    http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/why-science-cannot-explain-why-anything-exists/

    I don’t see any flaws in his argument (do you?), which is bad news for all those atheists who have pinned there hopes on scientism (that science is our only reliable source of knowledge) and “scientistic” reasoning.

  122. G. Rodrigues – Been on vacation for a few days. Thanks again for helping me to understand your case. To wit:

    “Similarly, one does not hold rational discourse about non-beliefs because there is nothing to discourse about a non-belief. So one does not hold rational discourse with atheists qua atheists.”

    On the contrary; characterizing something by what it is not is often extremely useful. Take nonlinear dynamics, asymmetric warfare, and so forth! Indeed, there’s a whole branch of theology which contends that God cannot be studied by humans in terms of what It is, but only what It is not.

    At least a large component of trust and mistrust, for example, involves beliefs or the lack thereof about the object of trust or mistrust. To say that you don’t think someone trustworthy doesn’t mean you have a positive belief they are deceitful. You may simply not have enough information to judge them trustworthy.

    note: maybe you are taking my “absurd” as logical contradiction? I am not; I do not need that much.

    I assume it’s not just your opinion, though, right? (Recall my favorite quote about opinions.)

    But then I’m not clear on what it is. I mean, it’s not a logical contradiction, and you’ve already conceded that “Atheist *is* a useful distinction when applied to rational beings.” So it’s both logically coherent, and useful. Can you point to people in practice using the term with respect to non-rational beings?

    What do “Greek atomists, Lucrecius, French rationalists, French atheist existentialists like Sartre or Camus, Marx, Feuerbach, Schopenhauer, Nietzche, all the best modern atheist philosophers like the first Flew, Mackie, Martin, Kai Nielsen, etc.” have in common, if it’s not ‘a lack of belief in God(s)’?

    In practice, one often has to resort to a category of “other”. Why is this not a valid thing to do when it comes to theology?

  123. JAD – Depends a whole heck of a lot on “what the fundamental constituents of physical reality are and what their properties are”.

    For example, Barnes claims, “A statement of the basic constituents of reality, in and of itself, obviously cannot explain why such things exist, any more than the statement “the sky is blue” can explain why the sky is blue. So 1 is out.”

    But a statement of what the sky consists of (what kind of atoms in what kind of state under what kind of illumination) can indeed explain why the sky is blue. Indeed, how it couldn’t not be blue, in that situation.

  124. Good point. I would have used a different example there, like: why does the moon exist? His argument, after all, is looking at the question,“why does anything at all exist?”

  125. @Ray Ingles:

    Whenever one makes a public argument one bears a responsibility to defend it. You seemed to challenge the cogency of my arguments but at this point, it seems to me quite clear that whatever objections you had they were answered. Nothing you raise in your post even so much as scratches them, and while there are still some serious misunderstandings in it, I will content myself with responding to one point.

    But then I’m not clear on what it is. I mean, it’s not a logical contradiction, and you’ve already conceded that “Atheist *is* a useful distinction when applied to rational beings.” So it’s both logically coherent, and useful.

    First, I stated precisely what “Atheist” *is* if it is to remain a *useful* word: it means what it has always meant, meaning, someone who believes that “God or Gods exist” is false, or equivalently, believes that “God or Gods do not exist” is true. As far as the matter of logical contradictions, if you think think that to refute one opinion to derive a formal logical contradiction is needed you are sorely mistaken. I derived three entailments from construing atheism as “lack of belief”:

    1. No rational discourse is possible about atheism, and therefore no rational dialogue is possible with atheists qua atheists.

    2. People incapable of forming beliefs (like lunatic asylums, mental retards, people in a coma, etc.) are atheists.

    3. If person x believes “God or Gods exist” is false then x is not an atheist.

    For the last one see here. None of the entailments 1 to 3 is contradiction in the formal, logical sense. But if you are willing to bite the bullet and accept them, well, what can I say? By 2. no rational dialogue is possible about atheism qua atheism, so the answer is: not much.

    To think that to refute an opinion we need to derive a logical contradiction is to set the bar impossibly high and to take an extremely dim, stunted and ignorant view of rational dialogue: it is logically possible (*) that God does not exist, but it is metaphysically impossible. It is logically possible that a material body be at two places in the same time but it is metaphysically impossible (and nomologically impossible), etc. and etc.

    (*) Arguably, this is the distinction that Anselm’s ontological argument fails to make; but this is controversial. And while I do not think it succeeds, I have the strong, nagging suspicion that it is telling us something of substance and deep. I just cannot put my finger on what that something is.

  126. @Ray Ingles:

    Depends a whole heck of a lot on “what the fundamental constituents of physical reality are and what their properties are”.

    No, it doesn’t. This at best, only moves the question up a level, but it does not answer it. In fact, it is quite easy to see that there can be *no* naturalist answer to the question. If you want to evade quite unsavory claims like modal collapse, you very rapidly arrive at the conclusion that the answer can *only* be the sort of being that everyone calls God (*).

    (*) There are other paths, even much better paths, but this one is quite fast and clear (or so I think).

  127. Ray Ingles: Depends a whole heck of a lot on “what the fundamental constituents of physical reality are and what their properties are”.

    G. Rodrigues: No, it doesn’t. This at best, only moves the question up a level, but it does not answer it. In fact, it is quite easy to see that there can be *no* naturalist answer to the question.

    At the the heart of the question, “why does anything at all exist?” is the problem of contingency. For example, science can answer the question why does the moon wax and wane through various phases (new moon> crescent moon> full moon etc.) or why is the sky blue. But even though science can answer those kind of “why?” questions, they are trivial compared to the big existential questions: Why does the moon exist? Why does the earth exist? Why does the universe exist? Why do I exist? The problem is that none of those things need to exist, yet their existence appears to be dependent on the existence of other prior existing contingent things. The best that naturalism can do is offer us some kind of regress of natural causes, but we run into serious problems when we try to extrapolate any kind of regress to infinity.

  128. G. Rodrigues –

    You seemed to challenge the cogency of my arguments but at this point, it seems to me quite clear that whatever objections you had they were answered.

    Your case established that you can’t argue with someone or thing that can’t form beliefs. What I’ve pointed out is that it did not establish that it’s fruitless to argue about non-belief with a person who can form beliefs.

    I’ve even presented a counterexample – trust, which is certainly a form of belief. We can fruitfully talk about mistrust – and more to the point, lack of trust. At least, with beings that are capable of trusting.

    In other words, I disagree that you’ve established (1). The only time you actually tried to expand out your logic, you tackled (2), which I agreed with – in the sense “that such people are, in a technical but uninteresting sense, atheists.”

    Please elaborate on (1) – why is trust not a counterexample?

    As to (3), that’s false. Atheism is not supposed to be a lack of any beliefs – it’s a lack of a specific belief. That specific belief is, of course, “God or Gods exist”.

    One who believes that “God or Gods do not exist” certainly lacks the converse belief, true. But one could also believe the question to be unanswered at present. “Not positive” includes zero as well as negative numbers. I refer back to this commentam I an “a-life-on-Mars-ist”?

    To think that to refute an opinion we need to derive a logical contradiction is to set the bar impossibly high

    Opinions about factual matters are subject to being refuted. Opinions about the best flavor of ice cream aren’t subject to logical refutation, of course.

    So far as I can see, unless you actually can establish (1), then your pronouncement that ‘atheism is a lack of belief that God(s) exist is absurd’ is much more of the ‘flavor of ice cream’ type of opinion than the ‘factual matters’ type. I agree that I can’t refute such an opinion, but I don’t see where that makes the opinion at all persuasive.

  129. @Ray Ingles:

    I suggest you take a course on elementary logic; either way, I am done with your irrationality.

  130. G. Rodrigues – Well, technically you should call it my ‘obtuseness’ or ‘stupidity’. It’s not that I reject your argument for (1), it’s that I don’t see it at all.

    But if it’s really “elementary logic”, someone should be able to put it into “baby little steps for the logically-challenged”. I was demonstrably able to follow the case for (2).

    Anyone else want to tackle that? Break it down into syllogism form for me?

  131. The following is an outline of an argument that I have developed for the existence of God. Of course it’s not totally original, rather it’s a synthesis of arguments based on the thinking of Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz and W.L. Craig etc.

    For an atheist to argue against theism (“disprove” God) he has to understand and refute arguments like this one– something, in my opinion. they have not been very successful in doing.

    1. Something exists. (At the very least I know that I exist.)

    2. If something exists, something must have always existed, because something cannot come into existence uncaused from nothing.

    3. However, everything that I know about empirically (by direct observation or by inference) appears to exist contingently– a particular thing’s existence at least appears to be explained,or caused, by some other prior existing thing.

    4. This leads logically to an infinite regress of causes.

    5. For a number of reasons, however, the concept of an infinite regress is problematic.

    6. On the other hand, it is logically possible that something exists necessaritly (In other words, it is self-existent or uncaused.)

    7. Any causal connection between a necessary/self existing being (a N/SEB) and things that exist contingently must be because the N/SEB can act intentionally. (If it’s unintentional then it’s contingent.)

    8. To act intentionally is to act volitionally, intelligently, consciously and freely. In other words, a N/SEB must have the attributes we associate with a Mind.

    9. A N/SEB is obviously also ontologically transcendent. In other words, it transcends a contingent universe composed of contingent things.

    10. If a N/SEB caused the universe, it possesses, within it’s own being, all the power it needs to cause the universe. If it is eternal and infinite we can infer that it is omnipotent.

    Conclusions:

    So what do we have? First, the above argument leads us logically to an eternally existing transcendent Mind with infinite power. Traditionally theologians and philosophers have called such a being God. Notice that we have arrived here by reason and logic alone. In other words, even though we cannot prove that God exists we can give a logically valid, rationally sound argument that he does exist.

    Second, an eternally existing transcendent Mind (God) is a better explanation for our existence than infinite regress of contingent causes.

    Neither position is provable, so either alternative must be accepted by faith. All things being equal, why wouldn’t you want to accept the better explanation?

    Of course, maybe some atheist, somewhere can refute my argument and provide a better explanation why anything at all exists.

  132. Jad:

    I really appreciate your interest and the effort you poured into the vision you articulated. However, there are serious issues that sooner or later will undermine what you’ve proposed.

    (1) You pose a univocal understanding of causality.

    (2) Mixing Craig and Aquinas is a non-starter: Craig reduces a properly cosmological argument that is based on per se causal chains to a temporal per accidens argument… that fails.

    (3) One cannot disprove or prove that a per accidens causal chain is eternal or not: this is the error behind thinking the Big Bang somehow support a “beginning” of time: it does not, and it certainly has nothing to do, say, with Aquinas’ First-Third Ways.

    (4) The connection you draw to a transcendent mind is illicit because, for among other reason, the previous two points: inadvertently and not intentionally you’ve reduced God to a cause among causes.

    (5) There’s a confusion over proximate vs. ultimate causes. One should reason through philosophy from knowledge of the world: one cannot reason directly through the MES to God or a transcendent mind.

    Thanks.

  133. Holopupenko @ 156:

    “One cannot disprove or prove that a per accidens causal chain is eternal or not:”

    I’m not so sure about that, actually. I mean, if say the per accidens causal chain leading up to us had been infinite, then it would have to have passed through an infinite number of stages to get to us. But it’s impossible to pass through an infinite number of something; hence even a per accidens causal chain must have had a beginning.

    (And, to anticipate an obvious counter-example, the infinite sequence of numbers isn’t really comparable, because each number exists independently of the others; the existence of the number four isn’t dependent on the numbers one to three coming into existence first, whereas the fourth event in a causal chain is dependent on the first three happening beforehand. To reach an infinite amount of numbers, then, one doesn’t have to pass through the previous numbers in the same way that one has to pass through the previous links in a causal chain.)

  134. Not true: time is an accident, not a substance. Also, my continued existence is not necessary for my children to continue into the future, whereas mt arm cannot be removed from the causal chain of hammering a bail into wood. in other words, it appears you neither inderstood that distncyion nor the “claim” to beingness of time. Also, God could have created an infinitely-temporally-existing universe. There’s no way we can tell without revealed knowledge. Aquinas’ point was to show an ultimate cause is necessary; Craig is playing univocal games… and because of that he is forced to get into his time theories: he is explicit about his acceptance of the notion of the univocity of being.

  135. Further, not only have you raised the ontological claim of the accident “time” to the level of substance, you’ve also done it for the first accident of real being, quantity. Ask yourself what kind of a “thing” is the number four? Can you point to a “four” for me? What properties, accessible to the human senses, does a “four” have? And, what exactly do you mean the number four “exists”? Does it exist like a tiger… or four tigers? If it exists on its own (as you seem to imply), then why and in what way are four tigers different from four marbles? You’re buying into the univocity of being: see Craig’s and Moreland’d textbook… on page 189 the existence of the number two is the same as the existence of a carbon atom. Forget about philosophical nuances for now, does that make common sense to you? Don’t reify time and don’t reify numbers!

  136. Holo @ 158:

    I don’t think my argument requires us to bring time into the equation, nor do I think the fact that your children can still exist after you die changes matters. The point is that you can’t reach event A by going through an infinite causal chain, because that would require you to complete an infinite amount of links prior (logically prior, not necessarily temporally) to event A happening, which is impossible pretty much by the definition of infinity. It makes no difference whether or not the links in the chain are conceived of as happening simultaneously or one after another; nor does it matter whether or not the cause of one event needs to exist for the next events to happen.

  137. @ 159:

    “If it exists on its own (as you seem to imply),”

    I meant to say that the numbers one to three aren’t logically or temporally prior to the number four, whereas the first three events in a causal chain are logically or temporally prior to the fourth. Hence the infinitude of numbers can’t be used to prove that an infinite causal chain can exist.

    As for how the number four exists, I couldn’t say for certain, altho’ it seems most plausible to me that it exists either in some kind of Platonic third realm, or that it exists as an idea in the mind of God (or, perhaps, that these two possibilities are actually one and the same).

  138. Holopupenko,

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your time. You wrote:

    (3) One cannot disprove or prove that a per accidens causal chain is eternal or not: this is the error behind thinking the Big Bang somehow support a “beginning” of time: it does not, and it certainly has nothing to do, say, with Aquinas’ First-Third Ways.

    I agree that we “cannot disprove or prove that a per accidens causal chain is eternal” which is why I wrote: “Neither position is provable so either alternative must be accepted by faith.” However, I would go on to argue that there are serious problems that undermine an infinite regress as a plausible explanation. Of course among the problems are the discoveries of modern cosmology. Personally, I don’t see the big bang so much as evidence for God, as a problem for a materialist world view which is based (at least they think) solely on the empirical sciences. However, this creates a dilemma for them metaphysically because they have no empirical basis at the present for claiming that an infinite regress is even possible. It’s something that they have to accept by blind faith or abandon completely as an explanation.

    I see no reason why God cannot act as a “proximate cause” and still be the ultimate cause. After all, what is a miracle? What does it mean to be omnipotent? If God can be a proximate cause then my inference to Mind is not an illicit one.

    My view of God is that he is ontologically self-contained. He is the ultimate reality and ultimate explanation. He needs nothing outside himself. I agree that God does not exist like we exist, but we could not exist if He did not exist, and as an eternally existing Being He cannot not exist.

    My view metaphysically of the world (cosmos) is that it is an open vs. a closed system. You can have a uniformity of natural causes operating in an open system like you have operating in a closed system. Since it is an open system I believe that God is free to interact with the cosmos how ever and whenever he chooses. However, he is not capricious but governs the world providentially according to a preordained plan and purpose.

    It seems to me that a lot of Thomists see God coexisting with a closed system which He somehow mysteriously sustains. I reject that view. I see God as both the creator and sustainer. I also reject the idea that the world is co-eternal with God. That certainly isn’t the Biblical view.

    per the discussion @ #159

    I thought Craig was a nominalist.

  139. Jad:

    I agree with most of what you say… except I’m not sure you’re correct to surmise that “a lot of Thomists see God coexisting with a closed system which He somehow mysteriously sustains.” I, personally, don’t know of a single Thomist who would hold that view… and you are correct to reject it, if nothing else on the grounds of St. Augustine’s “God is closer to us that we are to ourselves.” For example, I didn’t speak of miracles because it wasn’t raised… and, per rhetorical strategy, you can’t speak of miracles with those who don’t understand causality in the first place. Divine causality, after all, is very different from natural causality. If one can’t add, then one certainly can’t distinguish vectors or orthogonality as learned in calculus III from the broader understanding of vectors and orthogonality in linear algebra. That, with all due respect, is Mr. X’s problem.

    Regarding Craig, there are significant and quite serious errors to which he accedes. I’m not going to get into that, although I have in the past. I have mixed thoughts about Craig: on the one hand he’s an excellent debater and I’m glad he’s on “our side”. But note the kind of folks he debates: generally atheists. Well, philosophically that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. So, in a sense, Craig is pursuing easy debates (need for nuanced knowledge notwithstanding). Let me nuance that: given the general ignorance, attitudes, and disordered philosophical views of reality of atheists, there’s a lot of work to be done… and Craig is doing that, and that’s a good thing.

    On the other hand, I don’t know if you’re aware of the criticisms he’s subject to from serious philosophers of faith… including Feser, Vallicella, Tkach, Machuga, Cohen, and others. It is impossible, in the space of blog comments, to impress upon you just how deeply incorrect, for example, Craig is in his acceding to the error of the notion of the univocity of being… and he has been taken to task (gently, so far) for it. (Nominalism, by the way, is a science-destroying show-stopper.) This is my worry: Craig is good at basics, but questionable at best on more nuanced philosophical issues… which can be propagated to atheists.

    So, why doesn’t he debate Feser or Vallicella or others on these issues? Well, first, there’s the marketing issue: the audience must be very well versed in these matters to be receptive and judge, on the merits, of one or the other side’s argument. That’s not something that draws crowds… even thought the importance of these issues cannot be overemphasized. Craig knows that most people go for sound-bite understandings of reality–especially atheists. He knows he must sell his position and undermine his opponents in the very limited forum of a debate… or the slightly “wider” forum accorded to him by online position papers. Then, second, there’s the “merits of his argument” issue, which my personal sense is he will (and has) avoided with more serious philosophical opponents… because I sense he understands his positions on these issues are weak.

    By the way, you can start here to learn of some of Craig’s commitments: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/current-work-on-god-and-abstract-objects. What I find amazing about Craig (and I suspect because of a low-level disdain he has for traditional Scholastic philosophical inquiry) is he does not squarely address the distinction between essences (which DO exist “in” things out in the real world) and universal (or concepts) which exist only in the minds of knowers as beings of reason. Part of the problem stems precisely from his acceding to the univocity of being: he’s not able to distinguish these on an ontological level because of his commitments…

  140. “If one can’t add, then one certainly can’t distinguish vectors or orthogonality as learned in calculus III from the broader understanding of vectors and orthogonality in linear algebra. That, with all due respect, is Mr. X’s problem.”

    I’m still not sure what the problem with my argument is supposed to be. It’s fine if you don’t want to pursue the matter any further, but is there at least a website or book you can direct me to which should explain it?

  141. Mr. X:

    I do, really honestly, appreciate your interest in this: I attribute to you genuine concern and a desire to know. So, with apologies, when I said I didn’t want to pursue it, the reason was because I can’t high jack this blog to teach an online course on the philosophy of nature. So, the problem is you won’t get from a website or a book: it takes good websiteS, lots of bookS, and wrestling with the conceptS for a long time. My frustration–especially as a university professor–is not directly with you: it’s with the generally low level of philosophical reflection AND the (for all intents and purposes) lack of philosophical training that should begin in grade school. Look, this is a problem philosophers since the dawn of time have been crying over and worried about… and the general disdain philosophy you may have sensed from atheists commenting here finds a beautiful representation in Plato’s allegory of the cave.

    Try Vallicella’s and Feser’s blogs… and pursue links to other similar blogs there. Regarding books, holy cow… I’ve got an entire 100+ book bibliography, so when I recommend books I cringe at not recommending others. In any event, for starters try Ric Machuga’s In Defense of the Soul: What It Means to Be Human and Life, the Universe, and Everything: An Aristotelian Philosophy for a Scientific Age. Also try Edward Feser’s Aquinas and Philosophy of Mind. These will hopefully give rise to hunger for more… so you can pursue their bibliographies. God’s speed!

  142. Thanks, Holo, very much. I think you are right about the lack of philosophical education. I see it in myself. It’s generally what fuels the arguments over differing worldviews. Although I don’t have time to go back to school, I still want to do my part to get more educated. Most don’t want to be bothered with that. We see examples of that here time and time again.

  143. Just remember, SteveK, most of the denizens of the cave wanted to kill the philosophers… Just ask Socrates… and Thomas More… and Dietrich Bonhoeffer… and…

  144. @Holopupenko:

    You said to Mr. X that you did not want to pursue the issue, so I will be brief.

    (1) I favor an Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics and I still think the Kalam works. And I am not alone in this; D. Oderberg, well within the Thomist tradition, also defends it. I have a vague memory that E. Feser also said it can be made to work, although he does not attach much importance to it, and I concur, see (4) below for why.

    (2) I am well aware of the distinction between essentially and accidentally ordered causal series and that the Kalam applies only to the latter. I would have to consult my notes, but as far as I can remember, St. Thomas gives two arguments in the ST for why the impossibility of an accidentally ordered series stretching back through a past-eternal universe cannot be proven. I do not think those arguments are decisive and that they can be answered.

    (3) The Kalam is best viewed as a reductio: an accidentally ordered series stretching back through a past-eternal universe “exists” (between quotes for reasons that should be obvious). Then run either the reversed Tristram Shandy (this is Oderberg’s strategy) or the Grim Reaper (this is a relatively new argument first thought by A. Pruss; R. Koons has a paper about it).

    (4) There are a few weaknesses in the Kalam. The most glaring to me is that it proves too little: at best, we only get to God as Demiurge not Creator — which while sufficient to disprove atheism, it is not the same as proving that He exists.

  145. Holopupenko @ 166:

    I have actually read a couple of Feser’s books (Aquinas and TLS), and I do hang out at his and Vallicella’s blogs a fair bit. With all due respect, it looks to me like you saw me making an argument similar to one which Craig makes (or the same as, I’m not really that familiar with Craig’s work), and assumed I agree with him on other matters, which isn’t the case. I don’t, for example, buy into the univocity of being, nominalism, or theistic personalism. I simply suggested that a per accidens series can’t stretch back infinitely; I might have been wrong to do so, but I don’t think that holding this position is incompatible with an Aristotelian/Thomistic system of philosophy.

    That said, thank you for the book recommendations, I’ll definitely check them out when I have time. 😉

  146. G. Rodrigues:

    I get what you’re saying… but there’s a fundamental issue at stake: can one reduce a proper cosmological argument to a temporal one per your point 4? Well, yes, I might agree with those bounding conditions imposed… but even there I’m having serious hesitation.

    So, let’s say I grant you point 4 per the constraints, i.e., that it proves no more than a Demiurge artificer. I don’t see how that disproves atheism: a Demiurge, while powerful, is not really God. The Demiurge is really is in our ontological ball park: he is a cause among causes and a being among beings and certainly not a necessary being… which means we can properly ask “what caused him?… which means ultimately he is accessible to the MESs… which means atheism is back in play.

    That’s not what a cosmological argument (traditionally understood) is about, and that’s why I think there’s a little hanky-panky going on by Craig categorizing the Kalām as a cosmological argument. A cosmological argument is about ultimate explanation leading to a necessary God (per motion, cause, and contingency/necessity). And, it gets worse (for Craig) when you move to the Fourth Way (henological argument) and the Fifth Way (teleonomic argument): these two really do a great job of pointing beyond because as one progresses through the Ways, there is a decreasing understanding through the senses and an increasing manifestation of the Divine Nature. In other words, one should increasingly “see” the Kalām as being not only deficient but misguided.

    So what do we get with Craig’s version (or any version) of the Kalām? Not God, that’s for sure… and yet there are a lot of people thinking Craig’s done it. Nope… and as far as I’m concerned Craig deserves the criticisms coming at him… even if the criticisms come from atheists, precisely because Craig has domesticated God to an artificer accessible to the MESs. (So, yes, I part company with Oderberg and Spitzer… although I have to check out the “grim reaper” paper.) Now, using that perspective, do you see why ultimately I’m so strongly opposed to the, admittedly well-intentioned, position of Intelligent Design proponents? They’re doing roughly the same thing: domesticating God down to an atom-pushing artificer accessible directly through the MESs.

    What is it about the sentiment held by a large number of well-intentioned people who think their faith can be or needs to be validated by direct inference from the MESs to God? Both (a) people’s understanding of God as Transcendent and (b) philosophical reflection that does access to Him end of taking an unnecessary hit.

  147. G. Rodrigues:

    I just checked out Koons’ 2011 (?) “The Revenge of the Grim Reaper” (http://www.robkoons.net/media/83c9b25c56d629ffffff810fffffd524.pdf) Sorry, it fails… big time for me.

    Why?

    They’re reifying time (echoing somewhat Zeno): it starts on the first page in the sense that it’s understood as a substance in its own right: “…time itself had a beginning…” and it continues subsequently with the reification of space-time (for events, again echoing Zeno). This is, in my estimation, one of the huge problems resulting from an accession to the notion of the univocity of being: accidents are (for all intents and purposes) substances existing in their own right, having “beginnings,” etc.

    (Think about the difference–and confusion over–place vs. space, for example. Think about the confusion over the MES Humean-like conception of causality behind the reduction of every validity to predictability vs. the properly metaphysical conception of causality as ontological dependence.)

    It’s not that accidents have “beginnings,” it’s things (substances) that have beginnings. This is why, as I noted before, that Craig is forced into mental contortions with his theories of time exposition.

    One more thing: note that in his paper he cites Jennifer McKitrick’s paper “A case for extrinsic dispositions,” giving the example of “weight is a disposition that depends upon the strength of the ambient gravitational field.” Well, then what of natures? There are none in this externalist Newtonian, mechanistic vision of reality. Upon what exactly is an external gravitation field supposed to act if the thing–either as a whole or its constituent parts subsumed under the whole–have no nature? It’s “in” the nature of a rock to act wrt an external field. Similarly and extending, this approach makes a travesty of the distinction between transient motion (as imperfect act) and immanent motion (act of the perfect, e.g., thinking and willing). (Transient motion belongs to something which is in potency towards acquiring a certain form; immanent motion belongs to something precisely because of the form which that thing already possesses… so distinctions between substance, form, essence, and nature must be drawn.)

  148. What is it about the sentiment held by a large number of well-intentioned people who think their faith can be or needs to be validated by direct inference from the MESs to God?

    I don’t see it as that. I see people communicating on the level of Psalm 19, and using whatever tools/realities they can legitimately use to bring that into a greater light. If the heavens do declare the glory of the Lord, then it makes sense that a person can point to them in various ways and say “see what I mean?” while having a discussion about that.

    This truth is not something the MES’s and the Kalam can prove. The MESs and the Kalam are mere tools that we can use in everyday conversations to get otherwise rational people to see that truth more clearly. If the truth of the Gospel can be grasped more clearly using the tools of factual history (minimal facts) then certainly the MESs and the Kalam have a legitimate role to play – even if you don’t get the theology and/or the philosophy entirely correct,

    So Craig, for whatever he may be getting wrong philosophically and/or theologically, I think he’s right to point out certain realities (Kalam) as a tool to help us all see more clearly.

  149. Even if the Kalam Cosmological argument fails to prove that an infinite regress is impossible, in my opinion, it at least shows it to be problematic. However, the problems raised by the Kalam are not the only problems. Here is a partial list of other problems that I can think of, and I can think of at least couple more.

    Problems with an infinite regress:

    1. It’s a metaphysical not scientific claim. It’s neither self evidently true nor is it empirically verifiable or falsifiable.

    2. Philosophically there appear to be logically sound arguments both for and against an infinite regress, leading to what Kant referred to as a cosmological antinomy, which he viewed as unresolvable.

    3. Scientific evidence from modern astrophysics and cosmology argues against any kind of actual infinite regress. Natural science, at present, can only get us back to the beginning of the universe; it cannot get us back before (or “beyond”) the beginning of the universe. Science can’t even answer the question if there was a before.

    4. With an infinite regress you never reach an ultimate explanation.

    5. Contingent things by themselves and collectively do not appear to be sufficient to sustain an infinite regress, so how is it sustained?

    6. Because of #2, #3, #4 and #5, an infinite regress must be accepted by faith. Indeed, based upon what we presently know it requires an unwarranted leap of faith. Having to accept atheism on faith makes it self-refuting IMO.

    7. Using inference to the best explanation (abduction), I am led to choose an eternally existing transcendent Mind (God) as a first cause, because (a) it’s logically possible and (b) because as the ultimate explanation, IT IS the best explanation. As we have seen (re: #4) an infinite regress is not the best explanation– it simply can’t be; so making an apples-oranges comparison, there is no reason that it should be preferred. Admittedly this is not “a proof” but I do think it does provides a strong rational basis for a basic theistic faith.

    What do you think of my list? Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of anything else?

  150. Jad:

    I’m with you up until about half-way through 6.

    In 6, the atheist can just claim the universe is a brute fact without necessarily or directly dealing with infinite regress. (I know that’s dumb, but you’d be amazed what passes for thinking among atheists…) Anyway, a non-cosmological argument (like Kalām or Anselm’s ontological argument) are either flawed or can’t definitively put it to rest… whereas a cosmological argument (First Three Ways) can. The problem for atheists and naturalists is the deep animosity toward metaphysics, which renders metaphysical arguments inaccessible (I’m being charitable) to them.

    I’m not going as far as the “transcendent Mind” jump you make in the way you make it: the cosmological arguments lead one to a Necessary Being. (I realize that’s the Third Way, but there IS a progression through the Five Ways which makes the necessity/contingency point important.) From there and the few attributes one can argue to, by employing revealed knowledge one can then come to understand other things about God.

    Otherwise, great job!

  151. Jad:

    One more important point: the material objects [in the logical sense] of the MESs are material objects and physical phenomena. These objects change. CHANGE is the most important issue first chased by the Ancient Greeks. Contingent beings change because they are always in potency to something, God does not change because He is Actus Purus, i.e., there’s not a hint of potency in Him, which is another way of saying there’s nothing “missing,” i.e., utter completeness, fullness, perfection. In a sense, there’s nothing to which He can change. Anyway, the MESs presuppose change–a before and an after… or, casting it in scientific terms, there’s a state at time t = T1 and a state at time t = T2. If one or the other is missing, the MESs can’t “know” it. That’s why creation (properly understood) is beyond the reach of the MESs: there’s no T1 because there is no THING… an utter privation of being… nothing. (Don’t get me started about the inept “nothing” clowns like Krauss…)

    I teach a course on the history of the ideas foundational to the MESs, starting from the Ancient Greeks. What is galling about hearing the atheists on this blog spout their ideas is they think they’re on to something new. Literally thousands of years ago very smart people grappled with and tried to understand various takes on change, reality, etc. They, in a sense, learned their lesson. Too bad most atheists are so ignorant of history and of the arguments that put their silly positions to rest. To quote Scripture, “there’s nothing new under the sun…”

  152. Holopupenko,

    Thanks again, for your time and your input. Speaking of atheists, where have they all gone? All I hear at the moment is the chirping of crickets. Maybe that’s the sound they make when they are lurking in the background. Do you think that they are still lurking in the background?

    You wrote:

    I’m not going as far as the “transcendent Mind” jump you make in the way you make it: the cosmological arguments lead one to a Necessary Being. (I realize that’s the Third Way, but there IS a progression through the Five Ways which makes the necessity/contingency point important.) From there and the few attributes one can argue to, by employing revealed knowledge one can then come to understand other things about God.

    I have one question. How can a necessary Being not be a Mind?

  153. @Holopupenko:

    The Grim Reaper argument (GR for short) can be formulated in a way that avoids the reification of Time. In summary:

    (GR 1) Start with an infinite causal chain (from now on, causal chain means accidentally ordered causal series). Label the beings from present to past as c_0, c_{-1}, etc. By the nature of the chain, and unless one is willing to countenance infinite divisibility of time, such a chain must extend backwards in the past indefinitely. Now, place a Reaper in between c_{n – 1} and c_n whose job is to interrupt the causal chain, e.g. if c_{n – 1} is in existence destroy it. Clearly the causal series is interrupted, and at the same time it was not interrupted at any stage because there are an infinite number of Reapers preceding each stage that would have done the job just as well.

    (GR 2) One can object that even if the scenario is successful, it only proves that no causal chain extends indefinitely in the past. But this cannot be the whole story, for either you hit a time boundary beyond which no causal series can be extended, or you end up with a staggering amount of brute facts violating the principle of causality (an infinite number of such, if one wants to insist that time extends backwards in the past indefinitely): each causal chain with a *beginning in time* provides one such example.

    There are a couple of moves one could make to block the argument, but it seems to me that the opponent always pays a price much higher than just acceding to the conclusion. So what are we to make of it? Once again to be brief:

    (1) As I said previously, the argument only gets you at best to a Demiurge not to God the Creator — I wrote that it disproves atheism but what I was really thinking about was naturalism, which is the most common form of atheism nowadays. So while I really have no response to your assessment (meaning, I agree with it) that a Demiurge is, for all the bells and whistles, still a creaturely being, a composite of essence and existence, and as such, as much in need of a Creator and Sustainer as every other being in the created order, I really do not understand what you have in mind when you say that such a Demiurge would be accessible to the MES’s. For how could an immaterial being, not localized in space-time, be accessible to the MES’s?

    (2) I also have no beef (meaning, I heartily endorse) with either your insistence on the ultimate and ineffable transcendence of God, or the contrast between the weaknesses of Kalam with the strengths of the Five Ways or even what amounts to a pleading for a sound, realist philosophy of nature. Heck, I will probably even join you, club in hand, in bashing some philosophical heads. My interest in the Kalam stems from two different, though related, points of view: first, what are, for the most part, the transparently bad responses to it, and second, that a good argument is a good argument (by good, I mean good not as in conclusive, but as in generating some genuine and substantial questions) and as with all good arguments, it is telling us something of substance about the nature of reality.

  154. @JAD:

    How can a necessary Being not be a Mind?

    The question was addressed to Holopupenko, but allow me to chime in and say a couple of things.

    (1) First, what exactly do you mean by Mind? If what hovers in your mind (heh) is a picture like that bequeathed us by Descartes, then God is not a Mind, or more precisely He is not a Mind like we are (or possess, depends on how you frame it). There is also a problem about what one means by necessity; once again, what a theologian like Aquinas say, has in mind (double heh), has little to do with how necessity is usually conceived today, e.g. in terms of possible world semantics or some such.

    (2) Second, and related to the point about necessity, turn the question around and ask why does necessity implies Mind? In order to prove the implication you would have to rule out Platonic-like objects.

    (3) Nevertheless, you are onto something. Here is one way to think about it (not the best, just one). Suppose then, we have reached the point where we accept the existence of a necessary being, Creator and Sustainer of the world. If the act of creation is *not* the freely willed act of a Free Will, it is difficult to avoid modal collapse, that is, the conclusion that the universe and its history could not have failed to be any other than what it is. But this is surely false. Therefore the Creator must have something analogous to what in us is called Free Will. If you add Intellect (which can be reasoned to in a number of ways), you end up with something analogous to what in us we call Mind.

  155. G. Rodrigues,

    I think we can make a direct inference that the necessary Being must be a Mind, if we’re talking about the necessary Being as the Creator as we are in this context. Plato, of course, conceived as the ideas or “forms” as existing necessarily, but the forms, if I remember correctly, were not directly involved in the creation, the demiurge fulfilled that role in Plato’s cosmology. The reason I argue that a necessary Being must be a Mind is because for it to create it must do so intentionally.

    Contingent beings can act causally in two ways: either unintentionally or intentionally– as in the case of intelligent beings like humans.
    However, I don’t see how it is logical that a necessary being could act unintentionally, if it is acting in the role of a Creator. Things that act unintentionally act that way only if they are being caused to do so by something else. If that is the case with what we think is a necessary being then it’s not really necessary and we’re back to the problem of an infinite regress. The only things that I know of that can act intentionally are self conscious beings who posses volition and intelligence, or what we call minds.

  156. Been on vacation with my kids and my dad, camping. Last hurrah for the summer before school starts. So all I heard until today was the chirping of crickets, too, JAD. 🙂

    Anyway, only had a chance to skim the later discussion so far, but it seems that several objections to an infinite per accidens regress (placeholder caveat about terminology, there, to be redeemed later) can be dealt with if one conceives of time in a B-series sense.

    Certainly a B-series understanding seems the most natural way to interpret several of the phenomena of General Relativity, like the relativity of simultaneity.

  157. “Anyway, only had a chance to skim the later discussion so far, but it seems that several objections to an infinite per accidens regress (placeholder caveat about terminology, there, to be redeemed later) can be dealt with if one conceives of time in a B-series sense.”

    Maybe some of them, but the concept’s still problematic, since it’s impossible to complete an infinite amount of anything, whether or not you’re trying to complete them sequentially or simultaneously.

  158. Mr. X – The point of the B-series is that in that case time is not a ‘sequence’ to ‘completed’. It’s rather space-like. You wouldn’t say, “If a universe had an infinite length, nothing could be here because it would have to cover an infinite amount of distance to get here”.

    In a B-series of time, the fact that time might extend infinitely away in one or more directions from a particular instant is no more a problem for time than it is for space to extend infinitely away from a particular location. See, e.g. here.

  159. Ray, I don’t see anything in your Wikipedia articles that addresses the actual issue. Could you spell that out for us, please?

    The problem isn’t with the size of the dimension (length, duration, etc.) but with the number of objects/entities/events (or whatever you want to count) encompassed within it. If the universe were of infinite length in space, that wouldn’t address whether it could hold an actually infinite number of particles. That’s a separate matter requiring a separate analysis.

  160. I’m also wondering how you address the apparent finding that time began with the Big Bang. Even the oscillating universe theory, I’m told, requires an absolute beginning.

  161. “Mr. X – The point of the B-series is that in that case time is not a ‘sequence’ to ‘completed’.”

    On the other hand, though, a per accidens series — which is what we are, after all, talking about — is.

  162. Tom, Mr. X – I’m addressing Mr. X’s objection here, “But it’s impossible to pass through an infinite number of something; hence even a per accidens causal chain must have had a beginning.”

    If the B-series model is correct, then there’s no need to ‘pass through’ an infinite sequence, so that objection would be moot. Also, if the B-series model is correct, then Holopupenko’s claim that “time is an accident, not a substance” is also questionable, to the extent that space would be substance anyway. Since space appears to be able to display accidents like curvature, it would seem to be a substance, right?

  163. Tom Gilson –

    I’m also wondering how you address the apparent finding that time began with the Big Bang. Even the oscillating universe theory, I’m told, requires an absolute beginning.

    That’s a hypothesis held by some, not a theory or a fact.

    The fact is that our physical models break down a few femtoseconds after the ‘Big Bang’. We cannot validly extrapolate before that point. Until we get better models, claiming any kind of certainty, saying anything like ‘Science shows…’ one way or the other is, at best, premature.

    Sometimes the right answer is, “Nobody knows, yet.”

  164. Ray @ 188:

    “If the B-series model is correct, then there’s no need to ‘pass through’ an infinite sequence, so that objection would be moot.”

    The B-series model is a model of time, not causal chains, and so isn’t relevant to the question of whether a causal chain can go on for ever.

  165. @Tom, Ray #189, 193

    Actually, you are both partially right. The standard models of a cyclic universe have dS/dt > 0 (S = thermodynamic entropy) in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. These models imply a universe with a finite age.

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/78832?uid=3737720&uid=2134&uid=4579337347&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=4579337337&uid=60&sid=21102608798873 for one example.

    However, new models have been introduced that allow oscillating universes that don’t have a net increase in entropy between cycles.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclic_model (it’s as good a place as any to start – or just google “oscillating universe entropy” and stick with the academic journal results).

    http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0612243 for an example of the second type.

    The newer models are speculative, based on dark matter/energy, or some form of string theory.

    Multiverse models assume dS/dt = 0 for the multiverse (or more correctly, that the multiverse possesses no arrow of time)
    http://www.fqxi.org/community/articles/display/135 for a brief, non-technical intro. Of course they would assume that 🙂

  166. Mr. X –

    The B-series model is a model of time, not causal chains, and so isn’t relevant to the question of whether a causal chain can go on for ever.

    Can you give an example of a ‘per-accidens’ causal chain’ that does not involve time?

    Tom, as Victoria has pointed out, there are a lot of models consistent with what we currently know. When it comes to areas far outside human experience, I personally bet on the answer turning out to be something counterintuitive and unexpected, though.

  167. @Ray

    Tom, as Victoria has pointed out, there are a lot of models consistent with what we currently know

    I wouldn’t phrase it that way 🙂 It seems to be more a matter of being able to construct mathematical models of universes that are consistent with dS/dt = 0, and working out the consequences of those models. What we know is that for our observable universe, dS/dt > 0, implying a non-eternal universe. It seems to me that physicists are trying to avoid that implication (for metaphysical reasons?? – who said something like, w.r.t. fine-tuning arguments, “If you don’t want a Creator, you better have a multiverse!”?).

    At the risk of sounding facetious, Ray, for a metaphysical naturalist, the most counterintuitive and unexpected answer is Genesis 1:1-2 🙂

  168. Victoria – When I talk about ‘counterintuitive’, I mean ‘not derived from first principles and not reaching a conclusion that fits with general human expectations’.

    For example, I don’t know of anyone who reasoned from first principles to a round Earth[*], heliocentrism, continental drift, the germ theory of disease, evolution, relativity, or quantum mechanics. Every one of them relied on experience and experiment to even be proposed. Every one was a rather startling surprise. (Even Einstein, famous for his gedankenexperiments, started reasoning from the results of experiments he read about.)

    Simple extrapolation and elaboration upon first principles has never, to my knowledge, wound up being correct in areas we’ve eventually been able to test in.

    [*] Just a precaution, but: no I’m not claiming that the notion of a flat Earth persisted in the West into Columbus’ time or anything like that. Just that even the old Greek arguments about the shape of the earth cited observations like ships on the horizon, different stars visible at different latitudes, the shape of Earth’s shadow on the moon during an eclipse, etc.

  169. @Ray Ingles:

    When I talk about ‘counterintuitive’, I mean ‘not derived from first principles and not reaching a conclusion that fits with general human expectations’.

    Because paradoxical decompositions of the sphere, space-filling curves, nowhere-differentiable functions, totally disconnected compact Hausdorff “dust” spaces, etc. fits in perfectly with “general human expectations”.

    Yawn.

  170. Ray @ 195:

    “Can you give an example of a ‘per-accidens’ causal chain’ that does not involve time?”

    Well, they take place in time, if that’s what you’re getting at. But that doesn’t mean that you can take a fact about time — like, say, “time isn’t an infinite sequence you need to ‘pass through'” — and assume that it also applies to a causal series. The two are different, even if the one relies on the other.

  171. G. Rodrigues –

    Yawn.

    Yes, exactly. Humans can develop surprising and counterintuitive mathematical models. Yawn.

    Because that’s just about entirely unrelated to the point I was making – that humans have a really hard time figuring out what models apply to the real, causal world. Without being able to test the models against actual observations of the world, humans consistently get it wrong. (C.f. Aristotle and the majority of his pronouncements about the ‘natural world’.)

  172. @Ray Ingles:

    Because that’s just about entirely unrelated to the point I was making – that humans have a really hard time figuring out what models apply to the real, causal world.

    That may have been your intention, but it was not what you claimed. As far as to the intended claim, it is either false or vacuously true, but I have gone over this already and have no intentions of repeating myself.

  173. Mr. X. – To reiterate, “If the B-series model is correct, then there’s no need to ‘pass through’ an infinite sequence”. The causal chain does not, in point of fact, actually pass in the sense of an A-series.

    In other words, in a B-series, different instants in time have relationships with each other, but are not ‘dependent on the [previous instants] coming into existence first’. ‘First’ is, in fact, kind of a presumptuous term in a B-series. If the B-series of time is correct, then links in a causal chain could be the same way – having relationships between each other, but not depending on others ‘to have come into existence first’.

  174. G. Rodrigues –

    That may have been your intention, but it was not what you claimed.

    I know, I know. Context only matters when quoting the Bible, right?

    As far as to the intended claim, it is either false or vacuously true, but I have gone over this already and have no intentions of repeating myself.

    If you were to just assert that again, then yeah, you would be repeating yourself. If you wanted to break new ground, though, you could actually argue for that. That would be new.

  175. Ray @ 202:

    “To reiterate, “If the B-series model is correct, then there’s no need to ‘pass through’ an infinite sequence”. The causal chain does not, in point of fact, actually pass in the sense of an A-series.”

    In a causal sequence, each thing is caused by the one before it, so yes, it does have to “actually pass”. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t have a causal chain, just a series of separate events which happened to occur one after another. (You’re not a Humean, are you?)

    “If the B-series of time is correct, then links in a causal chain could be the same way – having relationships between each other, but not depending on others ‘to have come into existence first’.”

    What other relationship would they have, if not one of causal dependence? Or, if they *are* causally dependent, how can an event happen without its cause happening first?

    Also, you haven’t actually backed up your statement that “links in a causal chain could be the same way”, as far as I can see. A counter-intuitive notion like that ought at least to be argued for.

    Finally, maybe I’m misunderstanding the B-theory, but I don’t see how it precludes talk of a “first” time or (if for the sake of argument we accept your assertion that causality is the same) a first cause. The B-theory simply states that the separation of time into past, present and future is an illusion, that all times are in a sense equally present, but that they can be categorised as preceding or following other times. The first time would in this model simply be the time which precedes all other times and follows now. Ditto, mutatis mutandis, for the first cause.

  176. Mr. X – The “is caused by” relation is the one that’s causing the trouble. If the B-series model is correct, that relation – “causes/is caused by” – is not the kind of temporal relation that obtains in the A-series model.

    how can an event happen without its cause happening first?

    That’s the kind of ‘first’ I’m talking about, not a ‘first (precedes to all others) moment’.

    English is built with a tense model; that assumes past/present/future, so it’s kind of hard to talk about this sort of thing. (Science fiction authors complain about it all the time, for example – it’s almost impossible to talk about time travel in English.)

    In the B-series, some events ‘precede’ others, some ‘follow’ others, but they are all, in a sense, equally ‘present’. Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 is an actual location in Relativistic terms, a bit over 70 light years away in a direction orthogonal to our three spatial dimensions. Space-time is kind of a four-dimensional sculpture that we experience 3D ‘slices’ of. (And the angle of those ‘slices’ changes depending on our speed relative to other objects.)

    In the B-series concept, ’causes’ are – of necessity – tenseless, too. ‘x causes y’ is a relationship similar to ‘moment a precedes moment b’. You don’t have to ‘pass through’ the latter, nor the former. All the links in the chain ‘exist’ ‘simultaneously’. (Tenses creeping in, trying to explain it in English.)

  177. Here is a brand-new disproof of god. Take a look! Here, you can’t play the old “but god is different”-game:

    Definition 1: God is the creator of all existing matter.

    Definition 2: Matter is all that will kick back with the same amount of energy if kicked.

    According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, matter and energy is just the same (equivalent). That is, whenever I write “matter”, you can substitute that word with “energy” without losing any meaning in any sense.

    According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time and space is equivalent, too. In german this is called, in one word, “Raumzeit” (spacetime). Without matter, there would be no space. Without time, there would be no space. Without matter, there would be no time.

    You either have all four together (time, space, matter, energy), or you have nothing. If you do not have one of them, you don’t have the other. Time consists of matter moving through space. Space and time depends on the velocity of the object moving. This follows from general relativity (Einstein).

    The antique notion of absolute time, absolute space is plain wrong (Newton). If “God created matter from nothing”, this defines the meaning of nothing:

    Definition 3: Nothing means the absence of time, space, matter and energy.

    So, if god existed in a time eternally, matter must have existed eternally, too. In this case, god cannot be the creator of matter (or time, or space, or energy).

    By definition 1, god does not exist, because there is no creator of matter or anything else. If god exists timeless, without time, in a void according to definition 3, he does not have time to create time (Draygombs Paradoxon).

    An act of creation requires time, you must have a point in time where nothing existed, and a point in time where something existed. If time does not exist, this is logically impossible. You have to presuppose the existence of time (and matter, energy, space) to create time.

    If there was no matter, there was no time. If there is no time, nothing can be created.

    So a god according to definition 1 does not, and cannot exist.

    Conclusion: No matter what you assume, god cannot and does not exist.

    This only affects god that fulfill definition 1 – abrahamitic gods. Heathen gods are different, because none of them is the creator of matter.

    To refute the argument, you have to prove the falseness of the theory of relativity. Good luck on that – we will hear from you when you receive the nobel prize.

    The only attribute needed to prove that god can’t exist is, that he created the universe. You can’t say that he created “everything”, because he didn’t created himself. You can’t say he created all immaterial souls, because he didn’t created himself. You can’t say that he created all possibilities, because that would mean that he created the possibility to create possibilities, ad infinitum.

    You can say that he created everything except himself. But the definition I gave is much more intelligent: He didn’t create everything immaterial, because he is immaterial and he didn’t created himself. He may have created other things, so you can even say “He created, among other things, all existing matter”. It does not matter if he created more, but he didn’t create less.

    And now, this attribute is at the core and can’t be denied so easily. It is not based on speculation about existence, but based on proven theories about that what is relevant. The logic used is very basic, nothing fancy.

  178.