Atheists: What Does Your Worldview Explain Better Than Christianity?

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Atheists' Explanations
Series: Atheists' Explanations

I have a question for atheists. What does your worldview explain better than Christianity?

Notice that I asked, “what does your worldview explain better than Christianity?” I know you don’t think atheism is a belief system. I think you have a worldview regardless, and whatever else may be true of your worldview, if you’re an atheist, it’s probably something like an atheistic worldview.

By “Christianity,” I mean historic, creedal Christianity, as reflected in the most basic statements of belief: the early creeds, and (for Protestants especially) the Westminster Confession, the Augsburg Confession, and the like. They don’t all agree on every point, but I’m referring to the beliefs they have in common.

So the comments are open, subject as usual to the disclaimers above the combox. I’d like to hear from you.

Oh, and if you’re interested in hearing a response from any of us, I suggest you give us your best answers with your best reasons. If you post a long list, that’s not the kind of thing that lends itself to reasoned discussion.

Thanks.

Update March 22: A summary outline of answers given here.

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Comments 393
  1. John Moore

    Well, the theory of evolution explains all of biology. I don’t know if that’s what you mean. I figure if there’s an atheist worldview it might be the same as the scientific worldview, which means questioning things and looking for physical evidence, unlike the religious worldview which means trusting and submitting to authority.

  2. DR84

    John-

    I have not weighed in on this topic much so I will probably largely stay out of it. However, I just read your comment and it strikes me as disingenuous. Its hard for me to believe that you could seriously claim what you are about the religious worldview. It comes across as a claim that is meant to offend rather than spark actual discussion. I hope that I am wrong and that this is not your intention.

  3. John Moore

    Wouldn’t you agree that the religious worldview is characterized by faith? Surely it’s true that faith and trust are closely aligned. Why would a person of faith object when someone characterizes them as “trusting”? Obviously I mean trust in God, or at least in God’s messengers.

    Submission is also a key element to religion, so I don’t think any religious people should object to this idea. I understand the word Islam itself means “submission” in Arabic. But even Christians are called to submit to God’s majesty and give up their own individual efforts to redeem themselves. Christians must submit to Christ, admitting they are unworthy. Why would any Christian be offended by the idea that he trusts in God and submits to Christ?

  4. Bob Seidensticker

    Tom is correct that atheism alone is not a worldview. And, of course, one man’s Christianity isn’t the same as another’s. But with those caveats in place, let’s proceed.

    My atheist worldview explains the natural world better than Christianity. I accept science, and many Christians accept science only when it pleases them.

    In fact, I can’t think of anything better explained by Christianity since evidence often takes a back seat to person experience/witness.

    Some Christians imagine that the U.S. is a Christian nation, built on and governed by Christian principles. I’m not burdened by the concept of objective morality and so see the world more accurately. I’m rambling a bit now, but I’m thinking of areas where I can see things clearly but where the Christian is burden by political or religious baggage.

    Going back to my first paragraph, I realize that my concerns are aimed at only some Christians and that Christianity is a big tent.

  5. GrahamH

    Empathy. It is not required to do good as a result of any divine injunction, theology, or hope of heavenly reward, or desire to proselytise. You just need the empathy social creatures have naturally developed, and as manifested in the golden rule. You can then have compassion and love of all people at equal strength to those you are now in communion with. You see the natural injustice in the ideas of original sin and that good people go to hell simply for not believing in an antique legend. And you recognise the rude conceit in daring to claim to have a monopoly on knowledge and truth, and lament the conflict and suffering such a view inevitably causes.

  6. Andy

    The first thing that comes to mind here would be our ability to understand how the universe works and particularly our limitations in this respect. If you try to learn some of the science that deals with things that are extremely small, extremely big or extremely fast moving, then you are limited to thinking in mathematical abstractions – it is thus not possible to grasp these phenomena as thoroughly and as naturally as “everyday physics” (for lack of a better term). To give an example, even if you have forgotten (or never learned) how to mathematically describe elastic and inelastic collisions, you are still familiar with what these phenomena are and have a good intuitive understanding of how they work (already as a child – by playing with things like rubber balls). Now, contrast this to any well-known phenomenon that happens on the quantum level (e.g. the quantum mechanical exchange interaction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exchange_interaction ) – even if you are completely familiar with the mathematical description of the qm exchange interaction, you still don´t know *what* you are actually describing, you have a mathematical model that works extremely well but your understanding is completely limited to this mathematical abstraction – it is not fully intelligible because it is something that has no analog in the part of the world accessible to our senses. If our cognitive faculties were at least partly, granted to us by an all-knowing deity, then there is no intrinsic reason for this limitation of our understanding. If our cognitive faculties were only shaped by an evolutionary process however, it would be absolutely expected that we can only truly grasp things that happen on scales accessible to our senses, while we are limited to mathematical abstractions for everything that happens beyond those scales.
    The next thing that would come to mind would be the fact that our cognitive faculties are plagued by plenty of cognitive biases (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases ). These biases make sense in a worldview where the human mind was created by a process that optimized *efficiency* (for survival) instead of optimizing our ability to find truth. If our ability to reason would be a gift from a benevolent and all-knowing God, I´d expect it to be exactly the other way round – a mind that would rather sacrifice some efficiency instead of sacrificing truth.
    And the next thing that would come to mind would be – why there is death. But since the comment is already quite long, I´ll make a stop here.
    Btw, I´m not claiming here that the explanations within my worldview are perfect (they´re not) or that Christianity has no explanation for the points I mentioned at all (if I´m not mistaken, the Christian explanation for all points I mentioned would be “the fall”), but I absolutely do think that, for the points I mentioned, the explanations in my worldview are better than the Christian ones. I don´t think that the fall is a good explanation for several reasons, with the two main reasons being:
    1. Christians believe that there will still be free will in heaven. If Adam & Eve´s choice to be disobedient is the reason for the fall, nothing would guarantee that people in heaven wouldn´t be disobedient as well (thus presumably bringing back death and starting the whole cycle all over again), and if it is possible to actualize a world where there is both free will AND guaranteed obedience to God, then God´s creation was not perfect *before* the fall and he could have created something better (where the fall would never have happened) but chose not to.
    2. The fall only explains why there is death if one interprets it to mean that there literally was no death until an original couple of human beings chose to disobey God, and this scenario is scientifically as conclusively disproven as the earth being flat.

  7. MNb

    Atheism explains both the Problem of Evil and the Problem of the Hidden God better. The atheist explanation is simple and clear; it consists of only four words. Christianity needs all kind of complicated logic and groundless assumptions. None of the christian explanations I have met manage to be coherent and consistent.

  8. Billy Squibs

    Interesting thread. I would guess that there will be a direct or an implied association made between atheism and the natural sciences. Ray is currenty doing it on another thread (and being obstinate in the process) and ay lest one person has done it here.

    BTW, Graham, I’m pretty shocked that as a semi-regular poster to this blog you are so theologically illiterate (or uncharitable) as to post rubbish about getting sent to hell for not believing. Do you think that anyone here would be satisfied by your caricature of damnation? Please engage with what we actually believe and our best arguments for these beliefs.

  9. Tom Gilson

    Here’s a quick answer to John’s questions, however.

    Your comment #3 is pretty much correct. Your first comment here implies, however, that the contrast between Christianity and “the scientific worldview” is a contrast between mindless, unquestioning trust vs. questioning and looking for evidence. This is what we would disagree with, for its naive view of Christianity and also of science.

    And here’s a thought about the kinds of answers I see here so far. Andy’s and MNb’s answers are the most compelling at this early stage of the discussion, and the closest to being answers to what I asked. The others are more about the psychology of Christians vs. the psychology of atheists, i.e., which set of people think more accurately about reality. Bob’s, which is the most extreme instance of that here so far, can be summarized as, “Atheism explains why Christians are such *#^! idiots;” which has little to do with the question I asked here.

  10. Andy

    Billy Squibs,

    BTW, Graham, I’m pretty shocked that as a semi-regular poster to this blog you are so theologically illiterate (or uncharitable) as to post rubbish about getting sent to hell for not believing. Do you think that anyone here would be satisfied by your caricature of damnation?

    I very rarely post comments here but I´ve often claimed that Christianity (at least many versions of it) entails that good people go to hell for not believing. That might well be theologically illiterate but if it is, I´d like to know why exactly. Imagine that there are two guys (lets call them John and Jim) who are both about to die. John and Jim are both sinners and equally matched when it comes to trying to avoid sins and repenting for the sins they have committed (“repenting” in the secular sense “To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do”). However, John believes that Jesus died on the cross for him, Jim doesn´t believe that this happened. It seems to me that many Christians would agree that Jim will go to hell but John won’t. For those Christians, would it be uncharitable to say that they believe that John is “sent to hell for not believing”? If so, why? (given that Jim´s lack of belief is the only discernible difference between the two cases).

  11. Tom Larsen

    John,

    I figure if there’s an atheist worldview it might be the same as the scientific worldview, which means questioning things and looking for physical evidence, unlike the religious worldview which means trusting and submitting to authority.

    I must confess I find these characterisations rather bizarre.

    First, it’s pretty clear that Christian thinkers have emphasised the importance of practical and intellectual discernment – indeed, a certain writer enjoins his audience to “test everything” and to “hold fast what is good.” Yet, as Alexander Campbell put it in his debate with Robert Owen, “… [I]t is an easy method of refuting any argument, to say it is impertinent or inconclusive; to call any document a fable, a legend; and to represent the most credible story in the world as a story, a fiction. This is a wholesale way of rebutting all argument and proof, and I am much disappointed to find the boasted reason of the sceptical heroes, compelled to adopt this miserable subterfuge of the poorest drivellers, who have not sense to know when a point is proved, or when a conclusion is fairly drawn from just premises.”

    Second, it’s generally reasonable to trust the consensus of scientific experts on matters of science; I imagine you think members of the public, for instance, should submit to the authority of medical experts when they advocate vaccination of children.

    It seems your treatment of the worldviews in question is rather inaccurate. Have I grossly misunderstood your position?

  12. Tom Gilson

    If there is theological illiteracy here, I would blame that more on us Christians than on nonbelievers. We need to be explaining what we believe, if we expect others to know what we believe.

    I recognize there are some–one of them has posted here–who won’t listen even if we do teach, but still we have to bear the responsibility for explaining what we want people to understand.

    Other than that, I’m still listening for now.

  13. Tom Gilson

    John Moore, just one more response to your characterization of Christians as unquestioning: please re-read the original post, starting with the title. Thanks.

  14. Billy Squibs

    I’m on a mobile phone and travelling so my resources ate limited. This is also perhaps not the thread to do exegesis – for that is exactly what we would need to do to demonstrate that graham is raising a caricature. In a thread that’s is designed to explicitly give atheists a platform to discuss their beliefs this is revealing for all the wrong reasons. What Graham has done is taken the weakest argument and used that. It really doesn’t matter how many Christians buy into this notion – just like it doesn’t matter to the truth of atheism if there are a sizable proportion of atheists who claim to pray and even believe God. (You can google this if you like)

  15. Andy

    “Atheists: What Does Your Worldview Explain Better Than Christianity?”
    – The existence of atheism. I wonder why I didn´t think about this first… Christianity does have answers as to why there are atheists, but I´d say that the existence of sincere disbelief is better explained by an atheistic worldview and that the existence of people for whom descriptions of God are unintelligible (e.g. the Pirahã http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/04/16/the-interpreter-2 ) cannot be explained by Christianity at all.

  16. AdamHazzard

    I’m a little suspicious of the question as posed. My atheism isn’t an attempt to explain anything — it’s a verdict on the plausibility of a constellation of theistic claims about history, cosmology, ontology and metaphysics.

    But I will say that, under atheism, there is nothing surprising about the radical contingency of human life and biological history, the existence of what theologians call “natural evil,” the indifference of the universe to human thriving, the absence of demonstrable supernatural events, the conceptual ambiguities embedded in definitions of “God” and “the supernatural,” the diversity of human religions, the often dubious historical and contemporary behavior of religious institutions, and the presence in religious beliefs of unverifiable/unfalsifiable metaphysical speculations asserted as universal truths. I could go on.

  17. Tom Gilson

    Adam, your atheism may not be an attempt to explain anything, but a worldview by definition is (among other things) someone’s personal explanation of the reality they experience. If you are an atheist, then your worldview is atheistic. I didn’t ask what atheism explains, but what your worldview explains better than Christianity. So there’s no need for suspicion.

    Thank you for your answers, anyway.

    Quick question: what would you think about this? On Christian theism, there’s nothing surprising about surprise, whereas on atheism it’s surprising that surprise should extend beyond physical surprises.

    or,

    Why on atheism, should conceptual surprise exist?

    Conceptual surprise here doesn’t mean a sudden and unexpected event or even a sudden and unexpected realization. It merely means unexpected, or hard to explain. It implies rational expectations and the desire or need to explain.

  18. BillB

    Here are my top 3, which generally overlap with what others have written above:

    1) The existence of pain and suffering makes much better sense in a universe that is impersonal and indifferent. Theodicies boil down to God allowing suffering for some mysterious-but-sufficient reason, and sometimes they even offer such a reason. But never, IMO, one that explains the data so completely.

    2) The extremely broad range of religious beliefs (and unbelief) throughout the world is nicely explained by belief and assignment of agency as evolutionary adaptations. The Christian explanation — Satan’s deception after the Fall — is poor in comparison.

    3) The universal hiddenness or ineffability of God, and the scientifically non-discoverable nature of the supernatural in general, make perfect sense if there is no God and no supernatural.

    Of course, these are only my opinions. But I find the “atheist worldview” explanations more convincing in each of these cases.

  19. AdamHazzard

    Quick question: what would you think about this? On Christian theism, there’s nothing surprising about surprise, whereas on atheism it’s surprising that surprise should extend beyond physical surprises. or, Why on atheism, should conceptual surprise exist?

    I confess, I’m not sure what you mean by this.

  20. John Moore

    I did not mean to suggest that Christians never ask questions and seek explanations. Certainly they do, and they come up with lots of great arguments that we discuss on websites like these. But I think questioning is not the essence of religion. At some point, the religious person must stop pestering God with questions and realize how they fall short and can never earn redemption by their own intellectual power or virtuous actions. So at some point, the Christian must surrender to God and be overcome by his grace. I think this is the essence of religion. If you never stop questioning and checking and testing, then you’re not really a religious person.

    That’s the essence of science – always to continue checking, testing and questioning. It’s true of course that famous scientists sometimes claim to know things for certain, and they might say evolution for example is a fact. On the other hand, scientists are questioning and testing and checking evolution all the time. They never stop probing for weaknesses in their theories. Or if they do, and if they claim utter certainty beyond question, then they’re not being scientific, and they’re violating the well established and widely recognized principles of science.

    —-

    Tom Larsen wrote (#12): “I imagine you think members of the public, for instance, should submit to the authority of medical experts when they advocate vaccination of children.” I certainly do not think that. People should listen to scientific explanations of how vaccines work and decide for themselves whether it sounds reasonable.

    It’s true of course that people can’t know everything, so there is a lot of trust involved when people accept scientific explanations, but that’s different from submitting to authority. You trust a person only so far, and you check them. Whenever you feel suspicious, you’re free to go and learn more about the topic. And you understand that even medical experts don’t really know for sure.

    In fact, when you trust science experts, you’re not trusting their results so much as you are trusting their method. You are trusting that they themselves tested and checked and retested their results. And the reason you trust their scientific method is because you’ve seen them doing it. And you can do tests yourself, if you have the time and the interest.

    To sum up: An ordinary person might trust a scientist because the basic explanation seems reasonable and they don’t have the time or energy to learn more for themselves. But a religious person must trust God because that’s the whole essence of religion, and because God surpasses human understanding.

  21. Otto

    Atheism for me is a default position. I don’t believe the theistic claims. I didn’t come to atheism because it answered questions better. I realized I was an atheist after I rejected Christianity as being coherent and rational. It just didn’t make sense.

    “I don’t know” is a much better answer to questions we don’t know the answers to. And belief is best reserved for those things that can be demonstrated to be true.

    What does atheism explain better than Christianity…?

    Christianity.

  22. Pofarmer

    As others have said, my Atheism didn’t start out as a worldview. It started out as a conclusion about the inadequacy of Christian claims and the apparent failures of Christian philosophies to explain things we see in the world we inhabit. Having to constantly go back to “the Fall” for instance to explain human behavior, when we have perfectly good naturalistic explanations for that. So, I guess, when I abandoned a Christian Philosophical worldview, I then adopted a Methodoligical Naturalist world view, and am leaning toward a Metaphysical Naturalist worldview, and may, in fact, already be there. The simple fact is, when I dumped the Christian metapyhysical way of thinking, the world made sense, no twisting in nots to explain this or that. No appeals to the pull of Satan or The Fall to explain human behaviors. A naturalistic worldview also explains the sometimes convoluted and contradictory answers we get from different theological worldviews, even though they are fairly closely aligned. Lastly, Methodologica Naturalism has given us progress. Medicine instead of exorcism, chemistry instead of Alchemy, psychiatrry instead of theology, physics instead of metaphysics, discovery instead of revelation. If the Christian theological worldview had actually “worked” we never would have had the scientific revolution, it wouldn’t have neen necesary. And before you say “but I’m a Christian who embraces science” no you don’t not fully.

  23. JAD

    AdamHazzard,

    My atheism isn’t an attempt to explain anything — it’s a verdict on the plausibility of a constellation of theistic claims about history, cosmology, ontology and metaphysics.

    Who are you to judge anything?

  24. G. Rodrigues

    @Tom Gilson:

    Bob’s, which is the most extreme instance of that here so far, can be summarized as, “Atheism explains why Christians are such *#^! idiots;” which has little to do with the question I asked here.

    Maybe it does not answer *your* question, but maybe it answers the question of whether Bob is a “*#^! idiot”?

    Please bear with me, in this moment of true soul searching. Now I know that Bob can see “the world more accurately” than us, benighted Christians, and that he is blissfully free of the “concept of objective morality”, so he is under no objective obligation to present himself honestly — oh wait, that was not what I wanted to say. Ok, let me start again. Assuming the answer to the original question is a positive one, for which Bob’s reply does provide some kind of evidence, I think there may be a huge problem for Christianity. For not only Christianity does not provides a better explanation for the fact; exactly the contrary is true. On all the evidence we have available (I admit it is not much), there may be a purely natural explanation for Bob’s “*#^! idiocy” without the need to invoke supernatural agency. I am aware that we Christians are quick to jump to the supernatural wagon and take easy consolation in the “God did it!” “explanation”. It is a truth hard to admit but our primitive Fathers, in their ignorance, gawked at the Natural world and (maybe with a knock on the wood or two) recurrently blamed the Occult Powers for every little happening. But if we examine the facts objectively there is a myriad possible natural explanations. Maybe Bob was kicked in the head as a child; maybe he is a guinea pig for medical drug lab tests and the menstruation pills are taking its toll. In the multiverse there are an infinite number of versions of Bob and we just happened to be in that part where Bob is a “*#^! idiot”. At any rate, with the inexorable advance of Science, even the astonishingly high Kolmogorov complexity of the human brain (calculations given upon the receipt of a generous sum of money) will not defeat the Phrenologist’s efforts. Nature did it! As commenter John Moore so insightfully reminded us, we have to question things — sometimes anyway — and not just take them on Faith. And to pick up on Andy’s highly original response, why would God allow “*#^! idiots” like Bob to come into existence? What cruel prankster would play such a cruel joke on a human being? Because being a “*#^! idiot” is objectively bad, bad, bad, the worse there is, for a human being. Quite obviously, the fact that God does not exist explains this phenomena much better. And to add insult to injury, God will roast him in Hell, at least according to some (unknown) Christians, when Bob, being a “*#^! idiot”, cannot even believe in him! But Christians of course have a hard time understanding this, because as GrahamH so eloquently informed us, they have the rude conceit in daring to claim a monopoly on truth and knowledge, and thus lack the Empathy to see the truth for what it is: that Bob is a “*#^! idiot”.

    I feel my Faith wavering.

  25. SkepticismFirst

    Tom,
    “What does your worldview explain better than Christianity?”

    It depends on what you mean by “explain”. Do you mean something like “observation x is not surprising if A is true, but very surprising if B is true”? If so, then I’d throw my hat in with BillB’s comment #20 (Here I have in mind the work of Stephen Maitzen and Paul Draper).

    If you mean something more robust by “explain”, akin to how gravity explains why things fall down rather than up, with all the complicated theorizing that involves, then I’d take a different approach, and say that the very existence of the world is better explained by atheism than Christianity (Here I have in mind the work of Klaas J. Kraay).

    If you mean something else entirely, let me know and I’ll proceed from there.

  26. Billy Squibs

    @ Graham – I was perhaps too forthright in my initial comment. I’ll also accept tom’s criticism. We Christian’s have at times been poor at articulating our beliefs. It becomes doubly difficult when we engage with those who are more interested in scoring points than in gaining knowledge.

    As a very quick response (as I said I’m travelling and don’t really have access to resources) – do you suppose the Bible teaches that Satan believes in God? Is Satan fanmed? The answer to thses questions should give you a clue as to whether your assertion is sufficiently nuanced.

    As this is off topic I’ll leave it there

  27. JAD

    So far I am not at all impressed by the so-called “explanations” given here by our atheist interlocutors.

    Why would I (or anyone else) accept atheism if I have to accept it by faith?

    Unless atheism is based on self-evident or provable assumptions, it must be accepted by faith.

  28. Bob Seidensticker

    JAD:

    Why would I (or anyone else) accept atheism if I have to accept it by faith?

    Why indeed?

    No atheist does. Perhaps you’re imagining a faith requirement that doesn’t actually exist.

    To summarize my position: I don’t see anything better explained by the Christian worldview. What am I missing?

  29. Andy M.

    I admit I was a bit confused by the question actually (similar to Adam) – to my mind a worldview is part conclusion and part assumption. It sounds to me like you’re asking the question backwards.

    But enough nit-picking – I think I get the gist of what you mean. I agree with many of the other answers here (the other “Andy” made some very good points in particular).

    Personally, however, I suppose my reasoning can mostly be represented by Laplace’s apocryphal “I have no need of that hypothesis.” Combine this with Occam’s razor and gods (indeed the “supernatural” in general) are thus not part of my worldview. I think a lot of skeptical atheists share this point of view as well. That’s why they react so strongly to “atheism is a belief.” They see it as a “you (theist) have not made your case, so I’m not going to accept your hypothesis.” And also why they will claim that the onus is on you to support your claim with evidence rather than on them.

    Certainly there are things we cannot explain with a naturalistic reason. But none of those things are explained by supernatural reasons either. I realize one may take exception with this so I’ll provide an example of what I mean (borrowed from Sagan):

    Q: How did the universe begin (truly – what caused the ‘Big Bang’)?
    Atheist: We don’t know.

    Q: How did the universe begin (truly – what caused the ‘Big Bang’)?
    Theist: God did it.
    Q: How?
    Theist: We don’t know.

    All that has been done is to add a layer before “we don’t know.” That’s not explaining anything and adding more assumptions and unknowns than we had to begin with (now we have to answer “why” as well). And once again Occam’s razor cuts.

    Additionally no mystery ever solved has ever had a supernatural reason. Quite the opposite – as we learn more and more about the world the supernatural reasons for the world and how it works have been replaced by more and more natural reasons. This trend tells us two things in my opinion:

    1) That people are very willing to prematurely assume supernatural reasons for things that can be explained by naturalsitic causes.

    2) That it’s possible, and indeed I would say likely, that a naturalistic explanation exists for things we don’t know.

    I do not claim the supernatural explanation cannot be correct – only that it doesn’t have good support and so far remains entirely (and perhaps coveniently) untestable in any way.

    You might, rightfully, point out that there could be a point at which we hit our limits to discover a naturalistic reason for things. While this is true we also don’t know what where that limit is. So why place it arbitrarily? The assumption that we *can* discover naturalistic explanations has been much more fruitful – and thus to me should be the ‘default’ assumption.

    Note that I’ve not entirely answered your question directly since I’m arguing atheistm against any form of theism and not specifically Christianity. But if you can’t convince me of the existence of the supernatural to begin with there is no point in me considering a religion that requires it as an assumption. The arguments for Christianity sound even worse to me since not only does a perfect being have unknown reasons for creating the universe but he also cares deeply about my haircut, clothing, whom I have sex with, etc. Such things so closely resemble the sort of cares and prejudices that humans have that I’m unconvinced a perfect being is in anyway involved.

  30. Otto

    JAD said

    So far I am not at all impressed by the so-called “explanations” given here by our atheist interlocutors.

    I have never been impressed with Christian “explanations” which is why I am no longer a christian. And that is despite the fact that Christianity had the overwhelming edge from the beginning…Christian family, friends, education. But time and time again the Christian answers failed to make sense. Atheism didn’t “win” with me…Christianity “lost”. I think if you honestly talk with former Christians turned atheists they would mostly say the same thing.

    Atheism isn’t an explanation for anything. It is the answer to a question. The question is “do you believe in god(s)”. To an atheist the answer is “no, I don’t believe that”.

  31. SteveK

    Q: How did the universe begin (truly – what caused the ‘Big Bang’)?
    Theist: God did it.
    Q: How?
    Theist: We don’t know.

    I would’t say it this way. Before you get to the question of how, you’ve got the question ‘How do you know God did it?” and there are various answers to that question that address the ontological issue. So it’s incorrect to say that nothing can be explained by the ontology of theism.

  32. Tom Gilson

    Bob @#30,

    You’re missing a lot if you don’t see anything better explained by Christianity.

    You’re telling the world that there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to think there’s any value in Christian belief. Nothing of that sort, to be found anywhere.

    Therefore every believer today has no good reason; or, if every believer today were as smart as you, we would all know there’s no good reason whatever to think our faith has any merit of any kind.

    Further, what you’re saying in effect is that every believer throughout history would have rejected the faith had he or she been as smart and as well-informed as you.

    That’s more of a statement about yourself than it is about Christianity. It’s why I find it impossible to take you the least bit seriously. That’s not my general opinion of atheists by any means, but of you in particular, and for good reason.

    I won’t follow the famous line and say you’re “not even wrong.” Instead, it’s worse: your comments here are not even interesting. Not for their content, at any rate. What they reveal about you is fascinating, just as an abandoned strip mine can be: dreadful for its emptiness.

    I wish you would take that seriously, if nothing else I have to say to you.

  33. MNb

    @19: “Why on atheism, should conceptual surprise exist?

    Conceptual surprise here doesn’t mean a sudden and unexpected event or even a sudden and unexpected realization. It merely means unexpected, or hard to explain. It implies rational expectations and the desire or need to explain.”
    Science – specifically Evolution Theory and psychology – answers this. Just think of the opposite question:

    Why on atheism should conceptual surprise not exist?

    “whereas on atheism it’s surprising that surprise should extend beyond physical surprises.”
    This is a meaningless question if that atheism also consists of materialism. All surprise, including the conceptual one, is physical. I suppose that’s why AdamH is not sure what you mean.

    On another, but related note: I interpret “why” as “how come”. I don’t have any use for the Big Why Questions.

  34. MNb

    @29 JAD: “Unless atheism is based on self-evident or provable assumptions, it must be accepted by faith.”
    Do you agree that science has changed how the world looks like last 200+ years more than anything else?
    If yes, do you agree that at this very moment we don’t have any choice but accepting the scientific method, ie deduction and induction?
    If yes, do you agree that any philosophical, theological and/or religious statement that contradicts science should be immediately rejected?
    If yes it’s only a small step towards atheism. And no, I’m not saying that science disproves religion. For that step I refer to Herman Philipse’s book I linked to above.

  35. MNb

    @31 “they will claim that the onus is on you to support your claim with evidence rather than on them.”
    While that’s valid I also find it unsatisfying. I feel it only justifies 4-5 on the scale of Dawkins. Basically the believer asks “how can you be so sure?”, which is a legitimate question. The answer “I’m not sure at all, but you don’t have anything to show” is a pretty weak grounding.

    “You might, rightfully, point out that there could be a point at which we hit our limits to discover a naturalistic reason for things”
    But here the first quote backfires. It’s fair to set the same standards for naturalistic claims and supernaturalistic claims. So for such claims to work we first must have a method that separates correct ones from incorrect ones. Thousands of years of theology has failed to develop such a method.
    And that’s a strong grounding of atheism. The beauty is that it fits science. It’s falsifiable: only one believer has to come up with such a method and this pillar crumbles down.

  36. MNb

    @35: “That’s more of a statement about yourself than it is about Christianity.”
    This is silly. We generally have read your question charitable, so I think you should return the favour. You should read BobS’ remark as a challenge: give an example of something that christianity explains better than atheism and I’ll reconsider my position.”
    Moreover you’re partly pulling off a combination of an ad hominem and an ad populum. BobS never claimed that he invented this himself, Moreover it’s very imaginable that billions and billions of people made errors and were not optimally informed indeed. Those two traits are very human.
    If that’s the way you’re going to treat your commenters I’ll be out very quickly, because this is your site and you have all the right to treat your commenters as badly as you like.

  37. BillT

    Atheism for me is a default position.

    My atheism isn’t an attempt to explain anything — it’s a verdict on the plausibility of a constellation of theistic claims about history, cosmology, ontology and metaphysics.

    No atheist does. Perhaps you’re imagining a faith requirement that doesn’t actually exist.

    These statements reflect different aspects of basic misconceptions that I see coming from atheists. The truth is neither theism or atheism are default positions and both are positions of faith. Also, believing that you’re not attempting to explain anything is equally untrue.

    First, there is no default position because neither theism or atheism can be proven to be true. Further, none of us are born with a belief in either of these positions. We all find ourselves in the position of having to look at the world around us and, without complete knowledge, make a leap of faith to one position or the other. Atheism, like theism, is a faith position based on whatever you considered to adopt it.

    And taking the position that atheism isn’t an explanation isn’t a valid understanding. If you came to atheism because you rejected the theistic explanation (as was said) then you must believe atheism offers the better explanation. It’s quite obviously (in the above) self contradictory to claim otherwise. The only alternative, it seems. would be to say you believe in atheism for no reason at all.

  38. SteveK

    “If that’s the way you’re going to treat your commenters I’ll be out very quickly,”

    Almost thought you were talking to Bob.

  39. Tom Gilson

    MNb,

    @37: I have thought of the opposite question. Conceptual surprise seems hard to explain on atheism because human rationality itself is hard to explain on atheism. I’ll save the reasons for that for a future post, or you can search this blog for the argument from reason. You seem to have anticipated some of the reasoning in it yourself, though, when you said that all surprise is physical, on materialism. Is a concept a material thing?

    If you don’t have any use for Big Questions, though, you probably have little room to be concerned over the truth of materialism. That’s one of the Big Questions.

    @38: No, the acceptance of scientific answers to natural questions is no step at all toward the conclusion that there are only natural realities. I haven’t read Herman Philipse’s book, but I’ve read the Wikipedia article you linked to. It’s terribly incomplete. As far as I can tell from it, though, his decision tree point III seems to undertake a tendentious attempt to make “God exists” false unless it can be proven true. If Philipse really thinks that the “typically religious arguments” of point 4 are the evidences apologists typically use, he’s wrong.

    I suppose since this was published by Oxford University Press it must actually make more sense than the Wikipedia summary, but if so, then you might at least recognize that what you’ve provided us by way of support for your position is the expectation that we’ll order and read a $30 paperback in the middle of this thread. That’s not much help to our discussion.

    Anyway, science simply cannot disprove the existence of God, and as for, “science disproves religion,” I think it’s highly unlikely, nay, impossible.

    Theology has had more trouble than science in developing methods to separate false claims from true. That’s right. Quite arguably it’s because scientific questions are more tractable. They’re easier to nail down. One’s answers don’t depend on one’s attitude toward morality, for example, or towards the possibility that one is not the ultimate being in charge of one’s fate.

    Thank you for telling me in #40 that I was being silly, and then explaining that you’re being charitable, and then piling a “should” on me. That’s kind of funny in its way. I didn’t need to read Bob’s remarks as the kind of challenge you told me I should, because the very nature of his remarks implies what it said it implies. Besides which, he’s been here often, and he’s read many times where I have done what you told me I should have done. This blog has been running over ten years.

    Bob has a history here, as I’ve said, and there’s more to what I told him just now than you might see just by looking at this thread. He really does reveal more about himself than about any credible atheistic position. I don’t know why that should be disturbing to you.

  40. Bob Seidensticker

    Tom @#36:

    You’re telling the world that there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to think there’s any value in Christian belief.

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. Why—was that the question?

    You asked, “what does your worldview explain better than Christianity?” And it’s a great question, though I’m a little surprised that you asked it. Yes, Christian belief can have benefits, but that’s not the question. As for explanatory power, I can’t think of a single thing that Christianity explains better than a naturalistic worldview. And by “explains,” I mean explains with good evidence.

    Therefore every believer today has no good reason; or, if every believer today were as smart as you, we would all know there’s no good reason whatever to think our faith has any merit of any kind.

    Not what I’m saying, but it’d be a tangent to explain.

    That’s more of a statement about yourself than it is about Christianity. It’s why I find it impossible to take you the least bit seriously.

    Well, I’m an atheist. That says it all, right?

    That’s not my general opinion of atheists by any means, but of you in particular, and for good reason.

    I guess I’m hoist by my own petard. Or your petard. Or something.

    What they reveal about you is fascinating, just as an abandoned strip mine can be: dreadful for its emptiness.

    When you actually have consider anything I’ve said, get back to me and then maybe we can have something to talk about.

  41. Pofarmer

    “You’re telling the world that there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to think there’s any value in Christian belief. Nothing of that sort, to be found anywhere. ”

    You are making an argument from consequence here. Which I suppose you realize. Just because there’s value to a belief, doesn’t mean it’s factually correct.

    “Therefore every believer today has no good reason; or, if every believer today were as smart as you, we would all know there’s no good reason whatever to think our faith has any merit of any kind.”

    Then you go into an adhominem strawman argument, which makes you look petty.

    I know that you and Bob have a little bit of a history, but I was hoping better from you on this question.

  42. Tom Gilson

    Well, yes, Bob, if you don’t think there’s anything that Christianity explains better than atheism, then you do think that there’s no reason to believe in Christianity. I think you can make that logical connection.

    I suppose you’re telling us here that there still might be psychological benefits, and that those might be reasons to believe, even if they’re utterly disconnected from any rational explanations of reality. Is that your point?

  43. Bob Seidensticker

    BillT @41:

    Atheism, like theism, is a faith position based on whatever you considered to adopt it.

    Is not having a belief in unicorns also a faith statement?

  44. BillT

    Is not having a belief in unicorns also a faith statement?

    Wow, Bob. Unicorns. Such a surprise coming from you. So dissapointed it wasn’t a flying spaghetti monster.

  45. Tom Gilson

    Again, yes, I have history with Bob.

    I also have a certain level of impatience with people who make statements like his that entail that every believer throughout all time has believed for no good reason, except possibly for psychological benefit.

    That wasn’t an ad hominem, pofarmer, at least not in the proper sense of the term, because I didn’t say, “Bob is a bad/inadequate/etc. person, therefore he’s wrong.” I said that Bob has made a statement that entails that everyone he disagrees with is so wrong that they have no good reason whatsoever to have disagreed with him. I’m getting called out for an “ad hominem” because I highlighted and expressed the implied ad hominem in what Bob wrote.

    I hope you also caught the implication there, which is that this is really quite unlikely to be the case.

    Some people are very interesting to debate with. Bob, however, has shown (see my previous link) that he won’t listen when someone explains at length that he’s gotten their position wrong. And he is prone to absolute statements such as this one that entails that no Christian ever has had even one good, well-informed reason to think Christianity is true.

    That’s not an interesting person to debate with. I stand by that opinion.

  46. Tom Gilson

    Not having belief in unicorns is not a faith statement.

    We agree on something.

    Is it possible, though, Bob, that since this was so blindingly obvious BillT might have known it, too? Or is it your position that people who suggest there might be some faith involved in atheism can’t tell the difference (in this context) between atheism and unicorns?

    It’s another instance, Bob, of your perennially belittling manner. If you had some sense that you were dealing with real human beings here, you might have said to yourself, “I could pull the unicorn thing with this person, but obviously no one thinks that, so maybe they’re referring to something a little less silly than the unicorn thing implies.”

    But no, you took the course that implies that the person is just that silly.

    It’s a really poor conception of other human beings that you’re displaying there.

  47. BillT

    I figure if there’s an atheist worldview it might be the same as the scientific worldview,

    This one always surprises me and I seem to see it quite a bit. Is the atheistic community, in general, uninformed that the philosophical and intellectual underpinnings of the rise and success of science were theistic in general and Christian in particular.

  48. Andy

    A general point: it seems to me that at least some theists and atheists in this discussion believe that atheism necessarily entails naturalism. It doesn´t. The combination might be popular but it is not logically required in any way. Among professional philosophers, it doesn´t seem to be that unusual to be an atheist but not a naturalist, to quote some results of the philpapers survey:
    God: theism or atheism?
    Accept or lean toward: atheism 678 / 931 (72.8%)
    Accept or lean toward: theism 136 / 931 (14.6%)
    Other 117 / 931 (12.6%)
    ——————————————
    Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism?
    Accept or lean toward: naturalism 464 / 931 (49.8%)
    Accept or lean toward: non-naturalism 241 / 931 (25.9%)
    Other 226 / 931 (24.3%)
    ——————————————
    Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?
    Accept or lean toward: physicalism 526 / 931 (56.5%)
    Accept or lean toward: non-physicalism 252 / 931 (27.1%)
    Other 153 / 931 (16.4%)

    http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

  49. SteveK

    Bob #48
    You’ve treated me alright. I had in mind the times you treated some comments less than charitable and used ad hominems.

  50. Pofarmer

    “First, there is no default position because neither theism or atheism can be proven to be true. ”

    But we can look at the evidence and see what seems more likely.

    “We all find ourselves in the position of having to look at the world around us and, without complete knowledge, make a leap of faith to one position or the other. Atheism, like theism, is a faith position based on whatever you considered to adopt it.”

    This seems to me more than just a little disingenuous. How many people are not inculcated into a supernatural belief system from childhood? That’s why we say that atheism is a conclusion based on a search of theistic claims. After you conclude the supernatural claims are false, then it seems to me that the next logical step is to look into methodological naturalism, aka science, for answers. Many atheists also embrace secular humanism, or a variant of it. But to say atheism is itself a faith position, is a complete misunderstanding of what the position is. Faith implies belief without reasoning. Atheism properly applied, IMHO, is, as other and myself have said, a conclusion.

    “If you came to atheism because you rejected the theistic explanation (as was said) then you must believe atheism offers the better explanation. It’s quite obviously (in the above) self contradictory to claim otherwise. ”

    No, atheism is the rejection of your belief system. The evidence points us to Methodological Naturalism as a superior system as far as collecting and applying knowledge about our world and ourselves.

    “The only alternative, it seems. would be to say you believe in atheism for no reason at all.”

    Now really? Do you want to have a conversation and attempt to understand, or do you wish to grandstand with nonsense comments?

  51. BillT

    Faith implies belief without reasoning.

    This quite obviously and completely untrue statement makes the rest of your post superfluous.

  52. Pofarmer

    ” in general, uninformed that the philosophical and intellectual underpinnings of the rise and success of science were theistic in general and Christian in particular.”

    They actually go back to Plato.

    But as far as theistic underpinnings, what else was there? Belief in Gods was near universal, if not uniform. Science may have started out from a theistic world view. So what? I think it’s pretty unassailable that it has far surpassed theistic means of dealing with the world around us. Medicine, engineering, and even philosophy. Once philosophy has the grounding of inductive reasoning to prove it’s claims, then it has real power. This is the reason that most of the physical work of Aristotle and Aquinas is by the wayside, and really only their metaphysical work remains even partly relevant.

  53. Pofarmer

    Andy, I think you would need a lot more than snippets of information to judge all the nuance that professional philosophers would put on those answers and why.

  54. BillT

    And your understanding of the the philosophical and intellectual underpinnings of science and their importance isn’t much better than your understanding of the word faith. Nor was your recent post any more relevant to the points I made than your last one was.

  55. scbrownlhrm

    Bill T,

    @56 & 59

    Did you expect better?

    That was akin to GrahamH’s opening with theological nonsense mixed with his own existentialism grounded in we know not what – and to Andy’s opening with bad theology and even a claim that if God created our brain then our brain would not be finite. Come to think of it that is bad theology too…. in addition to bad logic.

    Tom seems to have hit a nerve with this topic. The developing pattern is typical. Starting off with the nihilist’s mud-slinging and bad theology …. typically …..and progressing to mudslides of nihilism…typically.

    Typical thus far at the start. I’m sure the ending won’t stray too far from said pattern.

  56. Bob Seidensticker

    Tom @51:

    Not having belief in unicorns is not a faith statement.
    We agree on something.

    Praise the Lord.

    Is it possible, though, Bob, that since this was so blindingly obvious BillT might have known it, too?

    Small world. That idea crossed my mind, too. One wonders why BillT didn’t want to advance the conversation any more than to drop a thoughtless non sequitur

    Or is it your position that people who suggest there might be some faith involved in atheism can’t tell the difference (in this context) between atheism and unicorns?

    So there is some opportunity for thought from my comment. That surprises me.

    No, I wanted to point out the parallels. If one can hold a position and have it not be a faith position, I’m wondering why that isn’t the case with atheism. Let’s ask an atheist—me, for example. I’m an atheist, and I don’t think it’s a faith position. I wonder where we go with that.

    It’s another instance, Bob, of your perennially belittling manner.

    I can get snarky, you’re right there. Life’s a mirror.

    But this isn’t one of those cases. BillT gives a statement that is laughably wrong from my position, and I’m trying to show him (remind him?) of my position so we can get behind this point. You say that this was an obvious response. Yes, indeed it was. Why then was the conversation not pushed beyond what my obvious response would be?

    If you had some sense that you were dealing with real human beings here, you might have said to yourself, “I could pull the unicorn thing with this person, but obviously no one thinks that, so maybe they’re referring to something a little less silly than the unicorn thing implies.”

    Bill’s statement was indeed quite silly. I fear, though, that I’m not up to your challenge. If there was anything useful or thoughtful behind the statement, I completely missed it.

  57. Andy

    Pofarmer,

    Andy, I think you would need a lot more than snippets of information to judge all the nuance that professional philosophers would put on those answers and why.

    My point was simply that atheism does not logically entail naturalism and that many philosophers actually are atheists but not naturalists. And the reason why I mentioned this is that I got the impression that several commenters here seem to believe that an atheist necessarily has to be a naturalist as well, which is quite simply not the case. The nuances behind those positions are irrelevant to the point I made – you can be an atheist but reject naturalism and accept, say, idealism, and there are people who actually do that, that´s all I meant.

  58. Otto

    “Wow, Bob. Unicorns. Such a surprise coming from you. So dissapointed it wasn’t a flying spaghetti monster.”

    Bill, pick anything you don’t believe in, it doesn’t matter what it is…do you require “faith” (as in a religious faith) to not believe that claim? Please give a non-religious example of something you don’t believe that requires that type of faith?

  59. Andy

    scbrownsomething,

    Andy’s opening with bad theology and even a claim that if God created our brain then our brain would not be finite. Of course that is bad theology too…. in addition to bad logic.

    I neither said, nor implied, that “if God created our brain then our brain would not be finite”, and I´d say that the problem is not my logic but rather your reading comprehension. I was also about to ask what particular bad theology you had in mind (not that I doubt that I would suck as a theologian) but given your attitude, I´m not really that interested in a clarification.

  60. Pofarmer

    “I got the impression that several commenters here seem to believe that an atheist necessarily has to be a naturalist as well, which is quite simply not the case. ”

    True enough.

  61. Bob Seidensticker

    Tom Gilson @50:

    I also have a certain level of impatience with people who make statements like his that entail that every believer throughout all time has believed for no good reason, except possibly for psychological benefit.

    Did every believer in Hinduism believe for a good reason?

    I could argue it both ways. No, they had no good reasons because we can see from our modern vantage point that Hinduism was just ancient mythology, not inherently different than other false supernatural beliefs. Yes, they believed Hinduism just like we believe lots of things we were taught as children: that hot stove will hurt you, those berries are poisonous, don’t cross a street without me. You can’t be skeptical about everything, and it makes sense to accept the basics of how to get through life from older people.

    I’m not sure where that leaves us except that your mindless pigeonholing doesn’t seem to have worked.

    And he is prone to absolute statements such as this one that entails that no Christian ever has had even one good, well-informed reason to think Christianity is true.

    You’ll have to show me where I said that. I suspect it’s not me who makes the absolute statements.

  62. Bob Seidensticker

    BillT @52:

    Is the atheistic community, in general, uninformed that the philosophical and intellectual underpinnings of the rise and success of science were theistic in general and Christian in particular.

    It’s hard to be an atheist and not be familiar with this idea.

    When I look at the 1000+ years in Europe when Christianity was in charge, I don’t see much celebration of science.

    When I look at other important civilizations—Egypt, China, Greece—I see much science and engineering but no Christianity.

    No, I don’t see that this popular idea holds up.

  63. Bob Seidensticker

    SteveK @54:

    I had in mind the times you treated some comments less than charitable and used ad hominems.

    I will respond as I’m treated. Less than charitable comments? Oh, yeah.

    But my question is: was it provoked? It usually was.

  64. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Do tell…

    “If our cognitive faculties were at least partly granted to us by an all-knowing deity, then there is no intrinsic reason for this limitation of our understanding.”

    Finite understanding…..

    Therefore……

    Not from God…..

    Massage away please.

  65. Pofarmer

    “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV).”

    whatever Bill. This is gonna get tiring real fast. You are welcome to define your terms. I didn’t come here to troll, or belittle, and I don’t think we’re going to have a combox discussion on the philosophical history of the scientific method. And you certainly aren’t going to be able to judge anyone’s competency to discuss it. I GET that we are going to disagree. This is a thread where atheists were invited to participate. You don’t think our reasons are good, we don’t think your reasons are valid, so we’re just stuck?

  66. Andy

    scbrownsomething,

    Do tell…

    “If our cognitive faculties were at least partly granted to us by an all-knowing deity, then there is no intrinsic reason for THIS limitation of our understanding.”

    Finite understanding…..

    As I suspected, the problem lies squarely with your reading comprehension. I highlighted the word “this” because I wasn´t talking about every limitation of our understanding (how you interpreted my words) but rather about one particular limitation of our understanding (the one I talked about in the sentences preceding what you quoted, which I referred to when I wrote “THIS limitation”).

  67. Tom Gilson

    Bob,

    You revel in mocking and scoffing. I don’t think you would disagree with that for a moment. Your entire attitude here is flavored in snark. “A belief in unicorns.” “Praise the Lord.” “Small world.” “Life’s a mirror.” “Laughably wrong.” “Quite silly.” “Mindless pigeonholing.” etc.

    I could add a ton more from what you’ve spoken toward me on your own site. “Sh*t Christians say.” “Determined to miss the point.” “Drop the fantasy.” “It worked for Joseph McCarthy.” “God’s nutty rule.” etc.

    So then let me add some further information to that: Ps. 74:10-22, Prov. 1:22, Prov. 9:12, Prov. 14:6, Prov. 21:24,

    And then also Prov. 9:7-8, Prov. 14:7, and Prov. 22:10 which I think are good reasons for me to show you the door and bid you goodbye from this location.

    I was hoping for some good, positive conversation here when I raised the question I asked in the original post. I’d like to see if we can get back on topic again.

  68. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Yes that’s right. Our physical senses provide finite information.

    Finite understanding.

    Therefore……

    Not from God…..

  69. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer, if you think faith implies belief without reasoning, and if you think that Hebrews 11:1 is a complete definition of faith, would you like to hear what the reality is instead?

  70. Andy

    scbrownsomething,
    this:

    Yes that’s right. Our physical senses provide finite information.

    Finite understanding.

    Therefore……

    Not from God…..

    – would need several promotions to rise to the level of a silly straw man of the argument I actually made. I´m honestly not sure if you are deliberately misrepresenting me or genuinely confused, the latter is rather hard to believe because what I wrote is really not that hard to understand… Also, since you simply completely ignore my explanation for how you have misread my comment and rather just repeat the same silly caricature of my argument, you being a troll seems to be the more likely explanation.

  71. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    You appealed directly to larger realities not immediately accessible to us by our physical senses. (QM….)

    You did.

    “– even if you are completely familiar with the mathematical description of the qm exchange interaction, you still don´t know *what* you are actually describing, you have a mathematical model that works extremely well but your understanding is completely limited to this mathematical abstraction – it is not fully intelligible because it is something that has no analog in the part of the world accessible to our senses. If our cognitive faculties were at least partly, granted to us by an all-knowing deity, then there is no intrinsic reason for this limitation of our understanding.”

    Such realities exist relative to our sight-line.

    Therefore……sight-line not from God….

  72. Andy

    scbrownlhrm,

    You appealed directly realities not immediately accessible to us by our physical senses.

    This is gibberish.

    Tom,

    Andy, what did you mean?

    With what? The argument that scbrownlhrm doesn´t understand?

  73. Tom Gilson

    Well of course, Andy, or at least the argument you’re saying he doesn’t understand. What did you mean with that?

    If you want to have some kind of conversation and the other person misunderstands you, there’s more you can do besides insult them for it. You can actually try to clarify your position.

    Aside from a missing word (easily discernible from the context), by the way, scbrowhlhrm’s first sentence you quoted here, is not gibberish. It may not represent what you were trying to say, but on its own the way you quoted it, it makes perfectly good sense.

    Please cool it with the insults, okay?

  74. Tom Gilson

    Sometime soon my plan is to take all the answers atheists have given here and summarize them into a nested list. “Everything” is one answer that’s already been given. Other, more thoughtful responses have been made. Rather than arguing which ones are better or worse, I would suggest that atheist readers review and see whether any are missing that should have been mentioned before now.

  75. GrahamH

    @Billy re #29 I can assure you I am not out to score any points, or goad, or insult. I am perfectly content that people believe in different things. As long as they are peaceful and tolerate a plural society, I am not out necessarily to radically change their minds. But this type of discourse, which Tom kindly offers here, does help improve understandings amongst those of different worldviews.

  76. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    I quoted you in #76.

    QM and *any* other realities far larger than Man (etc.) seem essential to any Theistic descriptive of Possible Worlds via God as such speaks on contingent beings.

    Theism may predict such sight-lines, that is.

    I think I read you correctly.

    I think you’re at least in part guilty of bad theology, bad If/Then logic, and unsophisticated treatments of rather wide swaths of ontological real estate.

  77. Andy

    Tom,

    Well of course, or at least the argument you’re saying he doesn’t understand. What did you mean with that?

    You can get a natural, intuitive understanding of phenomena like collisions (throwing a rubber ball against a wall, a car crashing into another car etc.), one that allows you to make good predictions (e.g. while playing billard) without using any mathematics. For phenomena like the quantum mechanical exchange interaction on the other hand, all you can do is try to understand a mathematical model of it, understanding why this model works, or getting any kind of intuitive understanding of what it even is that this model describes is not possible. Instead of the qm exchange interaction, I could have used a different example, like the Casimir effect or Hawking radition, basically everything that involves things that are extremely small, extremely big, or extremely fast moving. So, why is that? Why is our understanding of the world around us limited to mathematical abstractions for things that are extremely small, extremely big, or extremely fast moving? If our minds were a gift from God, nothing would speak against the behavior of electrons being just as intelligible to us as the behavior of billard balls. But if our minds are the product of an opportunistic evolutionary process, this particular limitation of our understanding makes perfect sense – the ability to get a natural and intuitve understanding for how things like electrons work would have been completely useless for our ancestors until a geological blink of an eye ago.

    Please cool it with the insults, okay?

    I didn´t insult him. I also wasn´t particularly nice admittedly but given the way he entered the discussion, that was not exactly uncalled for.

  78. Andy

    Tom,
    just out of curiosity, do you have any idea what this:

    QM and *any* other realities far larger than Man (etc.) seem essential to any Theistic descriptive of Possible Worlds via God as such speaks on contingent beings.

    Theism may predict such sight-lines, that is.

    is supposed to mean and could you rephrase this in your own words, or would you in this case agree that this is complete gibberish?

  79. GrahamH

    Probably the only other point I would make on the question “What does your worldview explain better than Christianity?”, is I would concede Christianity offers explanatory closure on some big questions such as is there a God, what is his character, what is ultimate morality, etc. However I don’t see these as “better” if the claims are poor in evidence, unconvincing and easily deniable. An atheist is essentially a denier of a claim. A claim that promises much and offers explanatory closure but has little evidence, common sense or plausibility should be denied. If that leaves us with a number of other incomplete claims still in play, and yet to be denied, that will give us with a better grasp of how we understand reality and where we should turn our attention to understand it better.

  80. Pofarmer

    “Anyway, science simply cannot disprove the existence of God, and as for, “science disproves religion,” I think it’s highly unlikely, nay, impossible.”

    Well, first you have to come up with a hypothesis for God, and then test it. Victor Stenger argues that God as a Hypothesis has failed. Science a lot of times work by weeding out the false conclusions as it comes towards the one that is most true. It is sometimes said that science can prove things false, but cannot ever prove something completely true. So, if you want to start, come up with a testable hypothesis and someone can roll with it.

    “Theology has had more trouble than science in developing methods to separate false claims from true. That’s right. Quite arguably it’s because scientific questions are more tractable. They’re easier to nail down. One’s answers don’t depend on one’s attitude toward morality, for example, or towards the possibility that one is not the ultimate being in charge of one’s fate. ”

    Or maybe it’s simply because it’s fundamentally divorced from reality?

  81. Pofarmer

    ” a complete definition of faith, would you like to hear what the reality is instead?”

    Sure, why not, but are you going to argue that it never fits that definition? Because, quite frankly, I’ve had that thrown at me more than once. “I just have Faith.” Implying that despite all the evidence in contradiction to whatever, they are gonna believe it anyway.

  82. Otto

    Tom

    Just because you frame atheism as a “worldview” doesn’t change the issue. Worldviews are conclusions about the nature of reality, conclusions do not necessarily have explanatory powers, especially when the conclusion is “I don’t believe X”. Non-belief doesn’t explain anything because it can’t.

    What you are doing is no different from a believer in UFO’s asking a non-believer for an explanation for some phenomenon and when the non-believer fails to provide one the believer claims his explanation is superior by default. Having an explanation isn’t good enough, you need to be able to demonstrate it is the correct one.

  83. Scott_In_OH

    I, too, want to stay away from equating atheism with naturalism or science or, certainly, intelligence or sophistication. Different atheists believe different things. What they share is a belief that no God or gods exist. (How they came to that belief is not relevant to this discussion, I don’t think.)

    So the questions that atheism can answer better than Christianity are the ones whose best answer is, “There is no God” (MNb’s 4 words). Those questions include

    — The Problem of Evil
    — The Problem of Hiddenness
    — Why are there so many religions/so many interpretations of God’s will?
    — Why are prayers not answered in any discernible pattern?
    — Any questions along the lines of, “Why would God do X?” (Why would God wait eons after humanity came on the scene to explain the path to salvation? Why would He require the blood of animals in order to offer forgiveness? Why would He favor one tribe over all others? Why would He base our eternal fate on choices we make in this brief lifetime in an environment where we can’t get a clear picture of what He wants? And so on.)

  84. Tom Gilson

    Otto, first, I think you misunderstand the nature of a worldview, and second, no, I didn’t frame atheism as a worldview. I said atheists have worldviews, and that atheists’ worldviews must necessarily be something like atheistic worldviews.

    No one lives life simply disbelieving. Atheism is a disbelief in God, and atheists have different positive beliefs, but that doesn’t mean atheists have no beliefs at all. I’m asking atheists what their worldviews–their sets of beliefs about the basic nature of reality–explain better than Christianity.

    You say,

    What you are doing is no different from a believer in UFO’s asking a non-believer for an explanation for some phenomenon and when the non-believer fails to provide one the believer claims his explanation is superior by default. Having an explanation isn’t good enough, you need to be able to demonstrate it is the correct one.

    What you are doing, my friend, is jumping to false and stereotyped conclusions, starting with “when the non-believer…” What I’m doing is nothing at all like that. You assume it is, but you assume it without evidence.

    Having an explanation is better, actually, than not having one. But this thread isn’t about my explanations, it’s about yours, or other atheists’.

  85. SkepticismFirst

    Tom,
    “Sometime soon my plan is to take all the answers atheists have given here and summarize them into a nested list. “Everything” is one answer that’s already been given. Other, more thoughtful responses have been made. Rather than arguing which ones are better or worse, I would suggest that atheist readers review and see whether any are missing that should have been mentioned before now.”

    I’d really like to discuss my comment #28 further. In what sense are you using the world “explain”?

  86. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    The sad part is that your thesis boils down to the absurdly overstated and even the grossly unsophisticated. God creates the (contingent) world within which the (contingent) being finds both that World and God housing features and contours which his (the contingent being’s) sight-line cannot or does not perceive (let’s leave out the necessary lines which Time, Mutability, Change, and Ends bring in).

    “Therefore God didn’t do it.”

    And yet Christianity’s metaphysics – and logic – demands exactly that landscape where knowledge is concerned.

    As for the abstractions we call mathematics and logic, those also are but a part and not a whole – on the Christian’s predictions – and of course logic etc. are *necessarily* going to end as more than useful fictions helpful to survival – which you yourself couldn’t help but allude to (survival vs. truth) in this arena of knowledge.

    All of this is a straightforward example of the predictive power of Theism.

  87. Otto

    I’m asking atheists what their worldviews–their sets of beliefs about the basic nature of reality–explain better than Christianity.

    Science explains the natural world better than Christianity.

    Humanism deals with morality better than Christianity.

    Skepticism is a better method for examining the claims people make about the nature of reality.

    These are a couple of examples.

    Having an explanation is better, actually, than not having one.

    This is demonstrably false. Having an explanation for something is only better if it can be demonstrated to be correct. Having an “explanation” that can’t be demonstrated to be right often leads to self delusion and error and can do real harm, not to mention it can stop us from ascertaining the truth of any given situation. Why ask more questions when you think you already have the answer? “I don’t know” is a great answer for things we don’t know.

  88. SkepticismFirst

    Tom:

    Ok. I’ll expand on some of the arguments I alluded to sometime this weekend.

  89. Tom Gilson

    You’ll need to show that science and Christianity are opposing explanations, Otto. Don’t make the mistake so many make, of equating science with naturalism.

    Your analysis of “having an explanation” is fine, as far as it goes. I agree with you as to its limited value. But science is about having an explanation vs. not having one that fits the full range of data. Newtonian physics didn’t have an explanation for subatomic particles’ behavior, black body radiation, etc. So Newtonian physics is rejected on those scales.

    Human relationships are a matter of having explanations vs. not having one. “Why were you with her instead of me? Do you have an explanation for that?”

    The same goes for economics. And for music theory. And for every area of human interest.

    Be careful not to overgeneralize, okay?

  90. Tom Gilson

    What does it mean, anyway, to demonstrate that an explanation is correct? Wasn’t Newton demonstrated to be right?

    What does it mean that if someone thinks an explanation is correct, they’ll quit asking questions? Do you observe me not asking questions? Do you think that because Newton was considered right, physics ground to a halt? Do you think that whatever kept physics going only happens in the sciences?

  91. Tom Gilson

    Finally, compare this:

    Science explains the natural world better than Christianity.

    Humanism deals with morality better than Christianity.

    Skepticism is a better method for examining the claims people make about the nature of reality.

    with

    Why ask more questions when you think you already have the answer? “I don’t know” is a great answer for things we don’t know.

    Don’t you think it’s possible that your confidence in the first three statements quoted here is premature? Could you say “I don’t know” about any of them?

  92. Pofarmer

    “Having an explanation is better, actually, than not having one. ”

    Why? Sometimes “I don’t know” is a valid answer.

    “But this thread isn’t about my explanations, it’s about yours, or other atheists’.”

    Isn’t that a wee bit vague? If there were things we felt the Christian worldview adequately explained, at least a majority of them, most of us wouldn’t be atheists.

  93. Pofarmer

    “Do you observe me not asking questions? ”

    I observe you asking what I perceive to he dishonest questions.
    What I observe is someone doing the typical theist thing. You are using philosphy to attempt to obscure, not to illuminate, to cast doubt instead of alleviate it. I believe I’m done with this sad little show, but I reserve the right of return if our host will allow it.

  94. Pofarmer

    “Don’t you think it’s possible that your confidence in the first three statements quoted here is premature? ”

    No, we have literally cemturies of evidence.

  95. d

    Most others have mentioned the big ones already:

    – Evil, pain, suffering, disease, etc.
    – Divine hiddenness.
    – Sincere, rational non-belief

    But to these I’d add:

    – Morality…

    … is better understood and explained without Christianity, or theism in general. Morality is best understood as a thing grounded in the rationality and desires of conscious beings in general – God only reduces clarity of moral theory. In the theist world, I think the natural law folks get in the most right – but its still more right without theism mixing things up.

    – The Bible…

    … because its quite a strange book, overall, to be considered the canonical message from God, to humankind. Atheists have the luxury of looking at some of the more tortured biblical exegeses and concluding that they just don’t make sense or that key doctrines within just really aren’t coherent. Even if you go back to the basics… well-tread areas that many Christians take for granted as coherently explained (like the Old Testament, or Hell, or the Resurrection) I think ironically make more sense when you can actually say… it actually really *doesn’t* make sense.

  96. Andy

    scbrown

    The sad part is that your thesis boils down to the absurdly overstated and even the grossly unsophisticated. God creates the (contingent) world within which the (contingent) being finds both that World and God housing features and contours which his (the contingent being’s) sight-line cannot or does not perceive (let’s leave out the necessary lines which Time, Mutability, Change, and Ends bring in).

    So you say that the quantum world and black holes are “God housing features and contours which his (the contingent being’s) sight-line cannot or does not perceive” while the world that we can perceive with our senses is NOT “God housing features and contours which his (the contingent being’s) sight-line cannot or does not perceive”. This is completely ad hoc (i.e. you made this stuff up out of thin air) and also self-refuting, because you are saying that something like elementary particles is a “God housing features and contours”, but something of medium size (e.g. a car) that is built out of this stuff is NOT “God housing features and contours” and something that is very large (e.g. a neutron star) but built out of the SAME STUFF again IS “God housing features and contours”.
    Btw, ignoring the self-refuting nature of your claim here, note that you are claiming that your God is physical (or at the very least that some parts of the physical world are “God housing features” (whatever the hell that exactly is supposed to mean)), congratulations.

    And yet Christianity’s metaphysics – and logic – demands exactly that landscape where knowledge is concerned.

    So you are saying that “Christianity’s metaphysics – and logic” demands that the physical cannot be fully intelligible. You have not presented any argument for that and I doubt that you can do so.

    All of this is a straightforward example of the predictive power of Theism.

    Aha, then please quote the Christian thinkers in history who predicted that we will find physical stuff that is unintelligible to the human mind except as an abstraction. If you cannot do so (hint: you cannot) then this is a another straightforward example of you making stuff up that is transparently false.

  97. Tom Gilson

    Andy, I believe you’ve misunderstood his claim. He wrote that we find “that World and God housing features which [our] … sight-line cannot or does not perceive.” You claim that means he believes that what we can perceive are not “God housing features which [our] … sight-line cannot or does not perceive.” That’s a non sequitur. If I say that I believe x about imperceptibles, it does not mean I mean non-x about perceptibles. For example, if I believe that imperceptibly small particles are in motion, it does not mean I think that perceptible things are not in motion.

    The idea of “the World and God housing features…” does lend itself to the idea that God might be physical. scbrownlhrm, you might want to clarify that, and also what you meant about the predictive power of theism, because I’m not sure what you were saying it could predict in this case.

  98. Andy

    Tom,
    aha, so what he meant was that God has physical “houses” and “contours” and that some of those physical houses and contours are fully intelligible (e.g. cars) while others can only be understood as mathematical abstractions (e.g. electrons). Also, theism logically requires this to be true and some theists predicted that we will find physical stuff that is unintelligible except as a mathematical abstraction before we in fact did find such things.
    Do you agree with his assessment?

  99. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    I see the problem. When I said this:

    “……. the (contingent) being finds both that World and God housing features and contours which his (the contingent being’s) sight-line cannot or does not perceive (let’s leave out the necessary lines which Time, Mutability, Change, and Ends bring in)….”

    You took that to mean the World/God as a singularity. You presume that a Christian would equate God with the physical world. Given your bad theology I am not surprised that you would read that into a Christian’s statement about a created world and the God Who created it. It’s right in line with the sort of skewed content inferred onto Theism’s metaphysics which we find your opening comment in this thread.

    * “So you say that the quantum world and black holes are “God housing features and contours which his (the contingent being’s) sight-line cannot or does not perceive””

    I’m not sure why you would think black holes are part of God or of His God’s features, or why you would think a Christian would think so.

    * “…..while the world that we can perceive with our senses is NOT “God housing features and contours which his (the contingent being’s) sight-line cannot or does not perceive”. This is completely ad hoc (i.e. you made this stuff up out of thin air) and also self-refuting…”

    I’m not sure why you think the world and God are the same thing. But on your read, yes it would be self-refuting if the Christian actually thought that about any Possible World (Created) and God (Creator).

    * “….because you are saying that something like elementary particles is a “God housing features and contours”…”

    I’m not sure why you would think elementary particles are part of God or of God’s features, or why you would think a Christian would think so.

    * “……but something of medium size (e.g. a car) that is built out of this stuff is NOT “God housing features and contours”….”

    I’m not sure why you would think cars are part of God or of His features, or why you would think a Christian would think so.

    * “…..and something that is very large (e.g. a neutron star) but built out of the SAME STUFF again IS “God housing features and contours….”

    I’m not sure why you would think a large physical object (neutron star) are part of God or of His God’s features, or why you would think a Christian would think so.

    * “Btw, ignoring the self-refuting nature of your claim here, note that you are claiming that your God is physical (or at the very least that some parts of the physical world are “God housing features” (whatever the hell that exactly is supposed to mean)), congratulations…”

    I’m not sure why you would think that the physical world(s) is/are a part of God or of His God’s features, or why you would think a Christian would think so.

    Knowledge, Logic, Reason, in Part and in Whole:

    * “So you are saying that “Christianity’s metaphysics – and logic” demands that the physical cannot be fully intelligible. You have not presented any argument for that and I doubt that you can do so.”

    Scripture finds Man in mutable innocence, not in immutable perfection. Even worse, there’s a difference between the two which your entire thesis overlooks. Even worse yet again, Man’s privation – his corruption – layered over all of that grants all sorts of problems to all things Human, for A to Z, and this reaches to the depths of every bit of stuff we can call Knowledge – the very substrate of that fateful Garden – from Abstraction to our own skins to our neighbor to God – to all of creation such will be touched by Man’s privation. And worse still – your thesis fails to account for why God created Man – for what sort of Knowledge God creates Man to – eventually – possess. Finite physicality may not be “the point’. If you want to talk about a Non-Christian Possible World, and about a Non-Christian Human Species, and a Non-Christian God, well there are probably Non-Christian think-tanks in which to do so.

    * “Aha, then please quote the Christian thinkers in history who predicted that we will find physical stuff that is unintelligible to the human mind except as an abstraction. If you cannot do so (hint: you cannot) then this is a another straightforward example of you making stuff up that is transparently false.”

    Scripture finds Man in mutable innocence, not in immutable perfection. Even worse, there’s a difference between the two which your entire thesis overlooks. Even worse yet again, Man’s privation – his corruption – layered over all of that grants all sorts of problems to all things Human, for A to Z, and this reaches to the depths of every bit of stuff we can call Knowledge – the very substrate of that fateful Garden – from Abstraction to our own skins to our neighbor to God – to all of creation such will be touched by Man’s privation. And worse still – your thesis fails to account for why God created Man – for what sort of Knowledge God creates Man to – eventually – possess. Finite physicality may not be “the point’. If you want to talk about a Non-Christian Possible World, and about a Non-Christian Human Species, and a Non-Christian God, well there are probably Non-Christian think-tanks in which to do so.

    As for logic and mathematical abstractions submitted to rigorous metaphysical dissection, I agree with your opening comment, “These biases make sense in a worldview where the human mind was created by a process that optimized *efficiency* (for survival) instead of optimizing our ability to find truth.”

    Atheism predicts that perception ends in eliminative materialism and thus reality is on essence unintelligible to us – hence ontological pluralism and nihilism forever the last ditch go-to for the skeptic. Theism however predicts that Reason and Logic are Good and Proper gifts of sight from God and are in the throws both of mutability and of corruption (they are not the same thing) such that should Man make a god out of mere perception he will end in the absurdity of Hume’s appeal to the regularity of nature – that chain of IOU’s which is forever insolvent – from top to bottom.

    It’s curious – this assertion of yours about a God creating a contingent being inside of a contingent world and your assertion that God must make every layer of that world immediately accessible to the contingent being’s five senses. What an odd assertion to make right out of the gate. Well there are all sorts of theological assumptions you’d have to show us in scripture to justify such a curious assertion. Your thesis demands many Non-Christian conclusions such as Knowledge cannot be corrupt, that Knowledge must be static and cannot be subject to change within time and physicality, or that God creates Man for the ends of Knowledge of physicality as “the goal” rather than Knowledge of God as “the goal”. Mutability vs. Innocence vs. Immutable Perfection go un-accounted for in your skewed thesis as well.

    But Scripture makes very different predictions. What does Scripture predict? Scripture finds Man in mutable innocence, not in immutable perfection. Even worse, there’s a difference between the two which your entire thesis overlooks. Even worse yet again, Man’s privation – his corruption – layered over all of that grants all sorts of problems to all things Human, for A to Z, and this reaches to the depths of every bit of stuff we can call Knowledge – the very substrate of that fateful Garden – from Abstraction to our own skins to our neighbor to God – to all of creation such will be touched by Man’s privation, his corruption. If you want to talk about a Non-Christian Possible World, and about a Non-Christian Human Species, and a Non-Christian God, well there are probably Non-Christian think-tanks in which to do so.

    How do we interpret reality? As J. West commented on Feser’s page, “I think materialism can lead to a strange regress: fictional objects, fictional counterfactuals, fictional mathematics, fictional free will, until everything is fictional and we’re back floating in a jar, hallucinating the world. Perhaps eliminative materialism is the final absurdity in the regress — eliminating even the mind.”

    The Christian, fortunately, finds a far more intellectually satisfying map of reality. From the lowest to the highest. Literally. David Bentley Hart touches on such a map, “…we….encounter the world….. through our conscious and intentional orientation toward the absolute, in pursuit of a final bliss that beckons to us from within those transcendental desires that constitute the very structure of rational thought, and that open all of reality to us precisely by bearing us on toward ends that lie beyond the totality of physical things. The whole of nature is something prepared for us, composed for us, given to us, delivered into our care by a supernatural dispensation…… [by] God – the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality…..”

  100. scbrownlhrm

    Tom,

    The physical World houses features and contours that are out of our immediate perception, and, also, God houses features and contours that are out of our immediate perception.

    I didn’t think I’d have to spell that out for Andy – his grasp of such things being (most often) very lucid.

  101. Otto

    Don’t you think it’s possible that your confidence in the first three statements quoted here is premature? Could you say “I don’t know” about any of them?

    So could it read … “I don’t know if Science explains the natural world better than Christianity”…nope, we have more than enough evidence that shows science is far better at understanding and explaining our natural world than Christianity. Christianity as a worldview has not produced a single bit of understanding for our natural world that we share. Plenty of Christians are great scientists but Christianity was not the tool they used to figure things out.

    ” I don’t know if Humanism deals with morality better than Christianity.” … Christianity has failed over and over at producing a positive moral foundation. Christianity has some great concepts it uses like ‘The Golden Rule’, but the golden rule was not produced by Christianity, it existed in many cultures and opposing world views that proceeded Christianity. I don’t know of one positive moral concept that is original to Christianity. And what does Christianity promote in some of its various forms… the idea of thought crimes, infinite punishments for finite crimes, the idea that right belief supersedes behavior, and these are just a few examples. Humanism is not perfect, but it is superior.

    “I don’t know if skepticism is a better method for examining the claims people make about the nature of reality”…Christianity is not a tool that can do this. There is a reason Christianity is diverging to thousands and thousands of competing denominations, theology and sects. It is not even able to produce consistent conclusions concerning its own worldview.

  102. SkepticismFirst

    Tom (and others):

    Here’s an argument I find convincing (or at least, a brief sketch of one). This isn’t technically something that atheism explains better than Christianity. Rather, what we can conclude from it is that at best, atheism and Christianity are on equal explanatory footing. If this argument is successful, it could still be that there is no good option available to atheists. But even if that turns out to be the case, the argument shows that there’s no good option available to Christians either.

    So first, let’s look at the Kalam cosmological argument; specifically, premise 1:

    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

    In The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, William Lane Craig offers three defenses of this premise. I’ll summarize as follows:

    A: Out of nothing, nothing comes. He writes, “Nobody sincerely believes that things, say, a horse or an Eskimo village, can just pop into being without a cause.”

    B: Why only universes? Here, Craig points out that if there’s at least one thing, the universe, that can come into existence without any sort of cause, then “it becomes inexplicable why just anything or everything does not come into existence uncaused from nothing”.

    C: Experiential confirmation. Craig says that the premise is “constantly
    confirmed in our experience”. The idea here is that we have both personal and scientific experiences of many, *many* things coming into existence, and not even once has a cause been absent.

    So in the spirit of that, here’s a slightly modified Kalam cosmological argument:

    1. Everything that begins to exist has a material cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a material cause.

    Premise 2 is identical to premise 2 of the Kalam cosmological argument,
    so the defense of it is also identical. Premise 1 is similar to the Kalam, but not identical. However, I think it’s just as justified on the same grounds. Consider the following:

    A1: Nobody sincerely believes that things, say, a horse or an Eskimo village, can just be willed into being without a material cause.

    B1: If there’s at least one thing, the universe, that can come into existence without a material cause, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything or everything does not come into existence without a material cause.

    C1: That things have material causes is constantly confirmed in our
    experience.

    Now, Craig does attempt an objection to this in the BCNT. He writes,

    “For if it is impossible for there to be an infinite regress of past events,
    it is impossible that the First Cause be a material object, since matter/energy is never quiescent.”

    This objection equivocates. The argument does not say that the universe has a physical cause, it says that the universe has a material cause. A material cause is just the “stuff” that something is made out of. It doesn’t necessarily need to exist within spacetime any more than an efficient cause does.

    So, the point of this argument isn’t to refute the Kalam; rather, it’s to supplement it. It grants the Kalam, then goes on to look at what sort of cause the universe must have.

    But as it turns out, creation ex materia is incompatible with Christian theology.

  103. Jenna Black

    Interesting conversation. Thanks to Tom and everyone for participating. I would like to join the conversation by proposing that we consider St. Anselm’s “definition” of God: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. I put the term definition in quotation marks because what to me St. Anselm if describing, not defining, is that which we theists “speak of as God.” I have recently been engaged in a discussion of the Big Bang theory and its theological implications, in part based on N.L. Geisler & F. Turek’s book (2004) “ I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.”

    So, I propose that what St. Anselm says is this: [That which we theists speak of as God] is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Conceived of by whom, we ask? Answer: conceived of (thought about, understood, conceptualized) by human beings. Scientists are human beings and, to date, the theory of the Big Bang is their best thinking about how the universe came into existence. There is no greater theory that scientists currently can conceive. They may in the future be able to come up with a better, more comprehensive theory, for the time being, this is the theory greater than which there is no theory of the formation of the universe. So, when I, or any theist, speaks of God as the greater being the cause of the Big Bang, we are speaking of God as the cause of the processes of creation greater than which no scientists can conceived. If scientists come up with (conceive) a theory of the origins of the natural universe greater than the Big Bang, then we theists will speak of whatever that process is as God. That’s how theism works. Therefore, it is both scientifically and theistically justified to at the current moment in time to speak of God as whatever caused the Big Bang unless and until a theory greater than the Big Bang can be conceived.

    So, when atheists claim to have a better worldview for explaining everything, how do atheists explain the existence of theism itself, the quest for knowledge of and a relationship with “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Keep in mind that atheism is the denial that anything greater than what we humans can conceive of exists, without, of course, being able to say what that is that they claim does not exist, because if they could, that would be what we theists speak of as God. Do you see the challenge facing the atheists’ worldview?

    JB

  104. SkepticismFirst

    scbrownlhrm,

    This is a bit of a digression from the main topic here, but I have to admit, I somewhat share Pigliucci’s apprehension toward metaphysics – but for different reasons.

    I do think that some metaphysics should be taken seriously, even from those with whom I disagree. But in a broad sense, a lot of stuff coming out of that field just seems like complete nonsense to me. This has absolutely nothing to do with theism and atheism; here’s some examples of what I mean from the metaphysics section of philpapers.org :

    —————————————-

    “In classical topology the only part of a doughnut that matters is the edible part. Here I review some good reasons for reversing the order and focusing on the hole instead.”

    “There is no doughnut without a hole, the saying goes. And that’s true. If you think you can come up with an exception, it simply wouldn’t be a doughnut. Holeless doughnuts are like extensionless color, or durationless sound—nonsense. Does it follow, then, that when we buy a doughnut we really purchase two sorts of thing—the edible stuff plus the little chunk of void in the middle?”

    “The dictionary tells you that a shadow is a dark area or volume caused by an opaque object blocking some light. The definition is correct, but we need to clarify a couple of its elements: darkness and blocking. The clarification leads to the view that to see a shadow is a degree of failing to see a surface.”

    “Imagine a child playing in the afternoon sun, suddenly jerking her arm one way then the other, trying to catch her shadow out. The game, the child soon learns, is one that she can never win. Her shadow moves the moment she does. Such childish games father common sense wisdom; when things move, so do their shadows. Or do they? A spinning sphere casts a shadow. But does its shadow also spin?”

    “This paper develops two ideas with respect to dispositional properties: (1) Adapting a suggestion of Sungho Choi, it appears the conceptual distinction between dispositional and categorical properties can be drawn in terms of susceptibility to finks and antidotes. Dispositional, but not categorical properties, are not susceptible to intrinsic finks, nor are they remediable by intrinsic antidotes. (2) If correct, this suggests the possibility that some dispositions—those which lack any causal basis—may be insusceptible to any fink or antidote. ”

    “Milk, sand, plastic, uranium, wood, carbon, and oil are kinds of stuff. The sand in Hawaii, the uranium in North Korea, and the oil in Iraq are portions of stuff. Not everyone believes in portions of stuff.”

    “We review the history of the philosophy of fondue since Aristotle so as to arrive at the formulation of the paradox of Swiss fondue. Either the wine and the cheese cease to exist (Buridan), but then the fondue is not really a mixture of wine and cheese. Or the wine and the cheese continue to exist.”

    —————————————

    I’m sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to take the philosophy of fondue seriously.

  105. Melissa

    SkepticismFirst,

    So, the point of this argument isn’t to refute the Kalam; rather, it’s to supplement it. It grants the Kalam, then goes on to look at what sort of cause the universe must have.

    You do realise that what sort of cause the universe must have is the basis of most cosmological arguments? I would like to see this argument developed, taking into account the thinking already dine on this question plus expanding on the concept of what you really mean by “material” cause and the stuff. Generally we would think these do not exist apart from things so clearly you are thinking of something else, I’m just not sure what.

  106. Pofarmer

    “how do atheists explain the existence of theism itself,”

    Uhm, that’s actually not hard at all. How many deep thinkers ya’ll got over there?

  107. SkepticismFirst

    Melissa,

    When I say I’m granting the kalam, what I mean is that I’m granting the two premises and the conclusion that follows, plus the reasoning that supports those premises. I’m aware that Craig and others go on to draw further conclusions, but that’s exactly what I’m doing too – “ok, there’s some sort of cause. What kind of cause must it be?” More on this in a second.

    As for what I mean by material cause, I intentionally leave it rather broad, just as Craig does when talking about his efficient cause. Notice that Craig’s extrapolation doesn’t technically end up at a specific God – it ends up with an efficient cause that has certain properties such as timelessness and spacelessness.

    Likewise with my argument – I could just as easily say, on the exact same grounds, that the material cause of the universe I conclude exists must have properties like timelessness and spacelessness.

    I’d also like to point out two things. First, my material cause argument only concludes a material cause – it doesn’t exclude an efficient cause. Based just on Craig’s Kalam and my material Kalam, it’s entirely possible that we should conclude that the universe has an efficient cause and a material cause. Second, Craig doesn’t rule out a material cause (although he attempts to – he only successfully rules out a physical material cause).

    So anyway, you say this: “Generally we would think these do not exist apart from things so clearly you are thinking of something else, I’m just not sure what.”

    It sounds like (correct me if I’m wrong!) that you want to rule out a material cause for the universe on the grounds that, apart from the cause in question, every material cause we’ve ever observed has been physical in nature, or at least existed within spacetime. But that works both ways – every efficient cause we’ve ever observed, apart from the cause in question, has been physical in nature as well, or at least existed within spacetime.

  108. Melissa

    SkepticismFirst,

    So you have a “material” cause that is stuff that doesn’t exist in space-time. Non-physical stuff – that is immaterial material stuff.

  109. SkepticismFirst

    Melissa,
    “So you have a “material” cause that is stuff that doesn’t exist in space-time. Non-physical stuff – that is immaterial material stuff.

    Here’s the problem with your objection – the material cause of something is merely whatever it is that that thing is composed of. It doesn’t necessarily mean “material” in the sense of “physical”. To see why, call it a “compositional cause” instead. Same thing, different name. But now it’s fairly obvious that a “compositional cause” need not be physical, since we’ve lost the linguistic baggage that comes with alternate meanings of the word “material”.

  110. Aaron Ginn

    As a Christian for over thirty years and now an atheist, the atheist worldview explains perfectly why the Christian God never revealed himself to me despite decades of me imploring him to do so. This in spite of the fact that Jesus said “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart”.

    The atheist worldview explains why he never answered: he doesn’t exist.

  111. scbrownlhrm

    S.F.

    @ 114

    “I’m sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to take the philosophy of fondue seriously.”

    Okay – thank you for letting us know.

  112. GrahamH

    @Jenna #113

    Scientists are human beings and, to date, the theory of the Big Bang is their best thinking about how the universe came into existence.

    Not really. There is no necessary assumption the universe came into existence. Essentially, the scientific calculations and level of knowledge breakdown just after the bang. So our simply knowledge hits a wall that far back. No one knows if it “banged” from nothing or not. It is still on the table that the universe (in terms of a more total universe) is infinite and always been around.

    Therefore, it is both scientifically and theistically justified to at the current moment in time to speak of God as whatever caused the Big Bang unless and until a theory greater than the Big Bang can be conceived

    This is argument from ignorance. You are basically asserting theism is true (with little evidence) until proven otherwise. I am saying you need to prove theism true. If you can’t, we have to agree we don’t know whether the universe is finite or infinite, and if it was created, was it created naturally or by some other means. We both then have a better grasp of reality and what exploration is required to know more. It does no good to accept an explanation with pretty much no evidence prematurely simply because it promises explanatory closure (and perhaps other benefits that allege to comfort us as well).

    That is not a model to understand reality.

  113. Tom Gilson

    Just out of curiosity GrahamH, can you explain to us the essential difference between an argument from ignorance and an inference to the best explanation, and tell us why this is so clearly one and not the other, in your view?

    Thanks.

  114. Jenna Black

    GrahamH, Re:#122

    What do you mean by “prove theism true.” What is your operational definition of theism? The ultimate concern of theism is theos, what we in the vernacular call “God.” According to St. Anselm’s definition, God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. So how does one go about proving that what we conceive of is the greatest and that there is nothing that we can think of or imagine that is greater? Am I “premature” or acting against evidence to accept the state-of-the-art scientific knowledge as a basis for belief in God, even while I know that this state of knowledge is not the greatest that can be conceived, which has not happened yet?

    This is not an argument from ignorance. It is an argument from the best of our knowledge and knowledge is not ignorance. You seem to be condemning the world, or at least yourself, to a perpetual state of agnosticism because we don’t have not yet arrived at a full and complete understanding of God, and IMHO, we never will. Isn’t it reasonable and responsible from a moral and an epistemological point of view to believe in God based on the knowledge we have at the moment? I most certainly think it is. And I believe that the atheist worldview contributes nothing of significance to our knowledge of/about God, the Ultimate Concern of theism.

  115. GrahamH

    OK let me in fairness give you better opportunity to make your original argument before we proceed further. Please demonstrate (and show the best of your knowledge) why “it is both scientifically and theistically justified to at the current moment in time to speak of God as whatever caused the Big Bang unless and until a theory greater than the Big Bang can be conceived”.

  116. Melissa

    SkepticismFirst,

    the material cause of something is merely whatever it is that that thing is composed of. It doesn’t necessarily mean “material” in the sense of “physical”. To see why, call it a “compositional cause” instead

    Your first sentence is correct, so I’m sure you can see why the material, or compositional if you prefer, cause of a physical thing must be physical. It’s what the thing is made of.

  117. Jenna Black

    GrahamH, RE: #126

    I don’t know what you are asking for here. I justified my assertion on the basis of St. Anselm’s definition of who/what God is. What are you asking me to “demonstrate”?

  118. GrahamH

    So what you say is true because someone said “God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived”. I wonder how they know this, and in any case, presupposes He already exists.

    Simply providing a definition of God does not support the claim that “it is both scientifically and theistically justified to at the current moment in time to speak of God as whatever caused the Big Bang unless and until a theory greater than the Big Bang can be conceived”.

    I am sorry but I can not see a scintilla of justification for this claim from what you have presented. You can’t define God into existence. I am interested in the things that make it true.

  119. bigbird

    I find Andy’s points from way back in #6 very interesting, because they take traditional viewpoints in favor of a deity and completely turn them around.

    Limited understanding.

    The first thing that comes to mind here would be our ability to understand how the universe works and particularly our limitations in this respect.

    It seems to me astounding the level of understanding of our universe that we achieved. How evolution has fashioned our brains so they are capable of developing quantum mechanics as a by product of selecting for survival seems miraculous.

    There seems no particular reason why God should have made our minds capable of understanding everything in the universe. And Andy implicitly assumes a limit on what we can understand based on what we understand now. Most scientists seem optimistic that today’s limits are not tomorrow’s limits.

    Evolution selecting for survival gives us the ability to form the Standard Model of particle physics vs God hasn’t given us the ability to understand everything? I think Christianity wins hands down here.

    Cognitive biases.

    The next thing that would come to mind would be the fact that our cognitive faculties are plagued by plenty of cognitive biases … These biases make sense in a worldview where the human mind was created by a process that optimized *efficiency* (for survival) instead of optimizing our ability to find truth.

    This is actually the main thrust of Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism. Granting naturalism, there is little reason to think that our cognitive faculties are reliable at all, completely undermining our rationality.

    Again, I think Christianity has a good explanation of rationality, whereas naturalism fails to provide a reason for rationality at all.

  120. Andy

    bigbird,

    Evolution selecting for survival gives us the ability to form the Standard Model of particle physics vs God hasn’t given us the ability to understand everything? I think Christianity wins hands down here.

    You missed my point. My point was that things like the standard model of particle physics are mathematical abstractions, and you are unable to understand the particles that this model deals with as anything other than such a mathematical abstraction. You can get a natural and intuitive understanding of things like billard balls (so good that you can make absolutely excellent predictions about how these objects behave without actually using any maths at all), you cannot do that with an electron, you cannot do that with anything that is extremely small, extremely large or extremely fast moving. Note that I am not talking about predictability or regularity here, our mathematical models of such things are in some cases excellent and there is every reason to believe that these models will get even better in the future, my point is that our understanding is in these cases limited to working with mathematical abstractions. How does Christianity explain that?

    This is actually the main thrust of Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism. Granting naturalism, there is little reason to think that our cognitive faculties are reliable at all, completely undermining our rationality.

    You don´t have to “grant naturalism” to know this, our cognitive faculties are demonstrably not reliable either way. That is the main reason for why skepticism and empiricism are so important – armchair philosophizing about the world didn´t get us very far, what worked was to doubt our ideas about how the world works, testing those ideas against reality and abandoning or refining them when they don´t work.
    Btw, our cognitive faculties being “unreliable” just means that you cannot trust them 100% (and again, this is demonstrably so whether naturalism is true or false), it doesn´t logically entail that humans cannot think rationally at all.
    Platinga´s argument deals with a ridiculous straw man – if someone would tell you that all life is related by common ancestry, and that he knows that because he spent some time sitting in his armchair and thinking about the world, then yes, there would be no reason to trust his conclusion and Platinga would have a point. But that has nothing to do with reality.
    And again, our cognitive faculties being unreliable (which they demonstrably are) can be readily explained by them being optimized for efficiency, not for finding truth (many of the known cognitive biases are heuristics / shortcuts – efficient but occasionally misleading). How does Christianity explain this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
    – again, given Christianity, I´d rather expect that our minds would sacrifice efficiency instead of truth, but it is demonstrably the other way around.

  121. Andy

    scbrownlhrm.
    I cannot make any sense of your recent comments. Your extreme verbosity and insistence on using idiosyncracies doesn´t exactly help so I suggest we quit it here.

  122. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    The Theist is, generally speaking, satisfied with the Skeptic’s appeal to unintelligibility there at the end of his (your) regress – as bigbird also notes looming over your horizon.

    We get that you don’t want to deal with the Christian descriptive of Man’s Knowledge, but would rather argue against the air, against some Non-Christian “model” of Knowledge. -Cause metaphysical models just don’t matter perhaps?

    Else, how could your “model” ever make gains?

    Well, of course, it just can’t.

  123. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    see, this:

    The Theist is, generally speaking, satisfied with the Skeptic’s appeal to unintelligibility there at the end of his (your) regress – as bigbird also notes looming over your horizon.

    is almost completely gibberish. No one talked about any “regress” in this discussion until you brought it up here. The “…looming over your horizon” makes no semantic sense in this context whatsoever. The first part “The Theist is, generally speaking, satisfied…” is at least intelligible speech, but just a mere assertion which doesn´t actually address my argument in any way.

    And, I get that you don’t want to deal with the Christian descriptive of Man’s Knowledge, but would rather deal with some Non-Christian “model” of Knowledge.

    It has little to do with “wanting” anything, even if your opinions are orthodox christian opinions – you are either unable or unwilling to articulate them in an intelligible way.

  124. scbrownlhrm

    Logic and Knowledge – wholeness of such, and, corruption of such. Mutability and temporariness of such – and – immutability and permanence of such (logic and knowledge).

    All have very different “looks”, as it were.

    Easy.

  125. Andy

    scbrownlhrm,

    Logic and Knowledge – wholeness of such, and, corruption of such. Mutability and temporariness of such – and – immutability and permanence of such (logic and knowledge).

    All have very different “looks”, as it were.

    Easy.

    Why don´t you ask any of your fellow Christians in this thread to explain, in their own words, just what the hell you are actually talking about and what exactly you tried to communicate in your recent comments.

  126. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    You’ve no concept what Fall/Corruption do to Knowledge, to Man’s sight period? Nor on how Eden’s Mutable Innocence is not the same thing as Immutable Perfection?

    No idea at all?

  127. Andy

    scbrownlhrm,

    You’ve no concept what Fall/Corruption do to Knowledge, to Man’s sight period?

    I explicitly mentioned that Christians do have the fall as an explanation for the phenomenon I am talking about and I also laid out some reasons for why I consider the fall to be a very poor explanation.

  128. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    The Fall alone is not the stopping point.

    All the affairs of what mutable innocence is – and isn’t – and all the affairs of what immutable perfection is and isn’t (in the contingent being’s case…. Man…) all weigh in.

    Corruption is a viable part on our sight, our understanding, but such is simply one part of a much wider “model”.

    Knowledge and Logic grounded in Naturalistic ends is fine. But to assert incoherence on the Christian’s model demands far more than you’ve given. Or can give.

    As for incoherent ends in your naturalistic model – well stopping points are not your friend. In fact, they may be the undoing of all your own truth predicates.

    You and bigbird can carry on that point moving forward.

  129. Andy

    scbrownlhrm,

    1. You also appear to conflate atheism and naturalism. Atheism doesn´t logically entail naturalism and my argument is completely independent of whether naturalism is true or false, assuming that naturalism is false – I would maintain the point I raised exactly as it is.
    2. Regarding “As for incoherent ends in your naturalistic model”, I didn´t present any “naturalistic model”, I didn´t even say that I subscribe to naturalism.
    3. Regarding “But to assert incoherence on the Christian’s model…”, I didn´t assert that the christian explanation is incoherent, I asserted that the things I talked about can be better explained within an atheistic worldview.
    4. Regarding “The Fall alone is not the stopping point…”, cool, you still didn´t address in any way, shape or form my points for why the fall is a poor explanation. So I maintain everything I have said.

  130. bigbird

    @Andy

    You can get a natural and intuitive understanding of things like billard balls (so good that you can make absolutely excellent predictions about how these objects behave without actually using any maths at all), you cannot do that with an electron, you cannot do that with anything that is extremely small, extremely large or extremely fast moving.

    This seems to be a weak argument. The world is complicated, and we can’t intuitively understand the nuances of its complications? God is supposed to have created us to be able to intuitively understand everything? That just doesn’t follow from the Christian concept of God, so it is a non-starter.

    my point is that our understanding is in these cases limited to working with mathematical abstractions. How does Christianity explain that?

    On naturalism, there is no reason for the world to be intelligible and predictable to us at all. On theism, there is.

    And again, our cognitive faculties being unreliable (which they demonstrably are) can be readily explained by them being optimized for efficiency, not for finding truth (many of the known cognitive biases are heuristics / shortcuts – efficient but occasionally misleading).

    Again, this does not count against a Christian worldview. God may well have created certain cognitive faculties with efficiency in mind rather than absolute truth. We certainly seem endowed with sufficient rationality to discover truth though, so I don’t see an issue.

    However given naturalism, the issue is to account for any ability to discover truth at all, given its tenuous link to survival. Plantinga’s point is that there are an infinite number of possible beliefs that are able to contribute to survival, and yet we assume that we’ve been selected for the beliefs that also are conducive to discovering truth.

    Leading on from this is the thorny problem of consciousness, and providing a naturalistic explanation of why evolution could result in such a complicated and energy-intensive mechanism.

  131. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Atheism and/or naturalistic accountings so far here are, either way, applying the same straw-man version of Theism’s (Christianity’s) model – thus “more likely not by God” is valid against some Non-Christian model, but not for the Christian’s metaphysical starting/stopping points. Which brings us to your other points: There is no need to address your complaint that the Fall does a worse explanatory job than your model, because the Fall is not the Christian explanation. It is but one slice of the actual ontological singularity that is the frame around and within the Christian explanation of logic, of perception, of intelligibility, of reason, and of knowledge – and those five then are still yet a part of that larger ontological singularity rather than the start/stop points themselves. Epistemology divorced from ontology makes for a rather vacuous circle. Hence your model does a good job against some Non-Christian model. As for the Christian accounting of such things (….that is such things as logic, perception, intelligibility, reason, knowledge, mutability, immutability, innocence, corruption, contingency (Man), Non-Contingency (God), and so on….) – since you are genuinely uninterested in tackling the Christian accounting as a whole, and prefer to tackle it as something that it is not, more than a few times now, well then, carry on arguing against the air. As for reasoning, perception of realities both near and far in this or any other Possible World, and intelligibility, and so on, you can move forward with bigbird (Etc.) regarding the merits of your own truth predicates, or the dis-merits thereof, upon applying full and final metaphysical start/stop points.

  132. Andy

    scbrownlhrm,
    you seem to think that pretentious name-dropping is an adequate substitute for an argument. It isn´t.
    Example: “ontological singularity”, sounds fancy – but what the hell is that even supposed to mean? Can you point me to any Christian scholar who actually uses that phrase? Have you yourself ever defined this in this thread or anywhere else?
    Other example: “Epistemology divorced from ontology makes for a rather vacuous circle. ” Whose epistemology are you talking about? And why is it divorced from ontology? (and what is that even supposed to mean? An epistemology that doesn´t make any ontological assumptions, if only implicitly, makes no sense whatsoever). It really is as if you are just name-dropping some fancy sounding words without any coherent thought behind them and with no relationship to the discussion in this thread.

  133. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Given that you thought the Fall was the Christian explanation for this topic, it is not surprising that you have no familiarity either with Christianity or with the term circularity.

    “”The Fall alone is not the stopping point…”, cool, you still didn´t address in any way, shape or form my points for why the fall is a poor explanation. So I maintain everything I have said.”

    You see.

    You want to argue about a Non-Christian model.

    Several times now.

    You’ve not once argued agasint Christianity.

    Time limits and word count limits make it unfeasible to type out such basic frameworks.

    Hence non will be forthcoming and you can keep arguing why the Fall is a poor explanation.

    We’ll sort of pretend that is the Christian explanation.

  134. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    Given that you thought the Fall was the Christian explanation for this topic, it is not surprising that you have no familiarity either with Christianity or with the term circularity.

    It´s “singularity”. And please enlighten me, point me to the Christian scholar who actually uses the term “ontological singularity” – since this is part of such a “basic framework” within Christianity, that should be very ease to do.

  135. scbrownlhrm

    Yes Andy – the Fall is the Christian’s explanatory power for said topic.

    Your model is better than the Christian’s.

  136. Pingback: Atheists: Our Worldviews Explain These Things Better - Thinking Christian

  137. Andy

    scbrownlhrm,
    ah, so “ontological singularity” is indeed just some BS phrase that no Christian scholar actually uses, that you yourself have never defined either here or anywhere else, and that is just part of your schtick of stringing together fancy sounding words without any coherent thought behind them.
    What a surprise.

  138. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    We’ve already granted to you that the Fall is the Christian’s explanatory power behind said topic.

    If you think Christianity is composed of multiple, different, separate ontological paradigms (plural), separate metaphysical paradigms (plural), well we can grant that to you too.

    Consider it granted.

  139. scbrownlhrm

    Cosmology:

    Explanatory power comes with positing an ontological paradigm which is congruent not only with the causal shape of reality but which also then reaches past that shape. The problem for the Atheist is that whether or not we mark off *any* beginning to the universe, the definition of the ultimate terminus of explanation still ends up fitting the Theist’s age old definition and description of “God” while fitting nothing inside of our own universe. This is akin (in an indirect way) to the ultimate terminus of logic in some, but by no means all, respects. Well known physicists are reaching outside of our own locus of reality, our own universe, into the imaginary and speculative exactly because of the deficiency of our own substrate to find an ultimate terminus of explanation which does not either beg the question or annihilate the causal shape of this universe or end in a requirement for a proof of illusion.

    Should “A through F” be better explained by Atheism (or Materialism or whatever) only at the expense of “G through Z” then the claim “We explain this problem better” still fails as there is a price at which a paradigm becomes unsustainable. Plausibility on all those many fronts is satisfied by the metaphysics of the Necessary Being, by Anselm’s stopping point.

    ““Why assume that the universe had a beginning?” is not a serious objection to the argument. The reason this is not a serious objection is that no version of the cosmological argument assumes this at all. Of course, the kalām cosmological argument does claim that the universe had a beginning, but it doesn’t merely assume it. Rather, the whole point of that version of the cosmological argument is to establish through detailed argument that the universe must have had a beginning. You can try to rebut those arguments, but to pretend that one can dismiss the argument merely by raising the possibility of an infinite series of universes (say) is to miss the whole point. The main reason this is a bad objection, though, is that most versions of the cosmological argument do not even claim that the universe had a beginning. Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, Thomistic, and Leibnizian cosmological arguments are all concerned to show that there must be an uncaused cause even if the universe has always existed….”

    “Furthermore, what “allows us to speak the language of causes and effects” has nothing essentially to do with tracing series of events backwards in time. Here again [the Naturalist] is just begging the question. On the Aristotelian-Scholastic analysis, questions about causation are raised wherever we have potentialities that need actualization, or a thing’s being metaphysically composite and thus in need of a principle that accounts for the composition of its parts, or there being a distinction in a thing between its essence or nature on the one and its existence on the other, or a thing’s being contingent. The universe, however physics and scientific cosmology end up describing it — even if it turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, even if it is a four-dimensional block universe, even if Hawking’s closed universe model turned out to be correct, even if we should really think in terms of a multiverse rather than a single universe — will, the Aristotelian argues, necessarily exhibit just these features (potentialities needing actualization, composition, contingency, etc.). And thus it will, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, require a cause outside it. And only that which is pure actuality devoid of potentiality, only what is utterly simple or non-composite, only something whose essence or nature just is existence itself, only what is therefore in no way contingent but utterly necessary — only that, the classical theist maintains, could in principle be the ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be.”

  140. JAD

    Scott_in_OH @ #89 asked,

    For example with so many religions in the world, how could anyone ever determine which one is true?

    Skeptics typically have argued that with so many religions none could possibly be true. But that doesn’t follow logically. Yes, it may be true that with so many none are true; nevertheless, there is nothing logically impossible that one religion could be true. So the argument is fallacious.

    In other words, if belief systems a, b, c, and d… (etc.) make mutually exclusive truth claims then…

    A. they cannot all be true. (That does follow logically.)

    B. It is logically possible that none could be true.

    However,

    C. it is also logically possible that one could be true.

    Furthermore, the same standard applies to atheism, materialism, naturalism, humanism and dozens, if not hundreds, of other non-theistic “isms.” Does it not?

    One of my favorite T.V. programs is the Discovery Channels reality show Gold Rush, which chronicles the real life exploits of several family owned gold mining firms searching for gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory. One of the myths that gets refuted early on is the myth that most gold mining is done underground seeking a rich vein of gold. While gold mines like that do exist, most modern gold mining is done above ground doing what is known as strip mining.

    In strip mining heavy equipment is used as a first step in finding the gold. Bulldozers, for example, are first used to push away a layer of vegetation and topsoil, what miners call overburden, to reach a mineral rich layer of soil, gravel and loose rock known as “pay dirt.” It is this layer that, in certain areas such as old stream beds, is rich in gold. However, the gold is usually not visible as large nuggets, rather it’s hidden as tiny flakes and kernels within the so called pay dirt. To recover the gold tons of pay dirt has to be loaded onto large rock trucks using excavators and then driven to wash plants built nearby. And then using thousands of gallons of water per day, pumped in from nearby streams and ponds, the wash plants specially designed sluice boxes filter out the gold from the worthless dirt and gravel.

    My point is that with the right set of methods, desire and know-how you can recover a few ounces of valuable gold from tons of worthless dirt. By analogy, I believe that using the right analytical tools and methods can sift through all the different opinions and beliefs that people have and discover the truth. However, you have to begin by really wanting to find the truth.

    What see here, on behalf of the atheists, is a lot of smug condescension along with a lot of pretension and posturing. Why? Who knows?

    However, I do know you will never discover the truth without being honest and having the right motives. Showing up on a Christian site just to obfuscate accomplishes nothing, except to waste every ones time and except to convince people like me that atheism is even more logically and morally bankrupt than I originally thought.

  141. scbrownlhrm

    Cosmology ~ a bit more:

    Sean Carroll, a leading cosmologist, makes his case against God in a debate. The weight does seem to land against him, and, either way, as Feser and other Christians note, even if our universe turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, the Non-Theist just does not actually gain a coherent acquittal. That is why Hawking and others are unhappy with (excuse the phraseology) “this universe’s physics” as a full and final stopping point – a point of closure – and reach outward for such means – as it becomes more and more difficult to find such inside our own locus of reality.

    The reason for failures of such foci to appear is hinted at in several appeals to Material Stuff-A birthing Material Stuff-B and attempting to (seemingly) claim that A and B are somehow of different final natures, or of essential and fundamental “stop-points” that are foreign to one another. Uncaused virtual-ity is fine to posit – but one will need to go further. And, as we’ve seen already, even if we get there, the problem is not solved. As for Stuff A and Stuff B and some sort of primordial substratum, this quote helps take it another step further: “I don’t understand your misgivings about my response to the claim that virtual particles are uncaused. They’re not. They are fluctuations of the energy in the vacuum. The quantum vacuum is not nothing. It is a roiling sea of energy. The German philosopher of science Bernulf Kanitscheider emphasizes that in so-called quantum creation events we’re dealing with “a causal process leading from a primordial substratum with a rich physical structure to a materialized substratum of the vacuum. Admittedly this process is not deterministic, it includes that weak kind of causal dependence peculiar to every quantum mechanical process” (Bernulf Kanitscheider, “Does Physical Cosmology Transcend the Limits of Naturalistic Reasoning?”).” (Craig) As already noted, “….even if it turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, even if it is a four-dimensional block universe, even if Hawking’s closed universe model turned out to be correct, even if we should really think in terms of a multiverse rather than a single universe…..”, the Non-Theistic explanation is not absolved.

  142. Andy

    JAD,

    Skeptics typically have argued that with so many religions none could possibly be true.

    Maybe some did, but when I see this argument being used, it usually doesn´t entail the claim that no religion could be true because there are so many of them, but rather that the religious diversity we see is totally unexpected if there is a God who wants to be known and wants us to follow a particular religion.

    My point is that with the right set of methods, desire and know-how you can recover a few ounces of valuable gold from tons of worthless dirt. By analogy, I believe that using the right analytical tools and methods can sift through all the different opinions and beliefs that people have and discover the truth. However, you have to begin by really wanting to find the truth.

    Well, this seems to work well for scientific claims but it doesn´t seem to work for religious claims. The former are largely independent of geography (a spanish biologist will most likely give you the same answer to a biology question as a japanese biologist would) but the latter are not.

  143. bigbird

    Andy, I did reply to you but it’s caught up in a moderation queue – no idea why.

    I reposted, but again that post is in limbo.

    Note from Tom: I don’t know why it went into moderation, but it’s out now.

  144. d

    @scbrownlhrm

    The problem for the Atheist is that whether or not we mark off *any* beginning to the universe, the definition of the ultimate terminus of explanation still ends up fitting the Theist’s age old definition and description of “God” while fitting nothing inside of our own universe.

    I don’t think thats really the case. If we subtract mindfulness from the description of the “ultimate terminus of explanation”, then you don’t really have theism anymore.

    Theists certainly have many well-formed concrete ideas about what they think that ultimate terminus must be like. Atheists don’t really have that as far as I know, but more-or-less have a few concrete ideas about what it probably isn’t like.

  145. JAD

    So far I think the responses from the atheists showing up here has been very disappointing. I say this for three reasons.

    First, Tom in his O.P. asked our atheist interlocutors to “give us your best answers with your best reasons. If you post a long list, that’s not the kind of thing that lends itself to reasoned discussion.”

    So far I have seen a lot of lists—some longer than others—but not many, if any, well-reasoned arguments. What’s the problem? Do atheists have poor reading comprehension skills? Or do they resent being asked to conform to any kind of standard?

    Second, the things they do include on the list are really very peripheral. As a Christian-theist I begin with some basic assumptions and core beliefs. What are the core beliefs and assumptions of atheists who have a specific world view?

    Third, whatever their world view is, it appears to be parasitic on Christian-theism as well as other forms of theism. I can make a positive case for my world view. I can make the case without referring to atheism at all. Why can’t atheists do the same?

    I suspect that most atheist realize that on some level their world view is very hollow. Why would I, or any Christian, want trade our world view for yours? Maybe you can think of a reason. I can’t.

  146. Scott_In_OH

    JAD @150,

    I did not write the words you have blockquoted. If you want to quote, you should quote; if you want to paraphrase, you shouldn’t pretend it’s a quotation.

    Also, if the blockquote was meant as a paraphrase of what I said @89, it is a poor one. I didn’t ask how anyone could know which interpretation of God and His will is correct–I asked how one could best explain the existence of so many contradictory interpretations of God and His will.

    The atheist’s answer is that there is no God out there trying to convey His will to humanity. Christian theologians have to go through many more contortions to explain why lots of people, including those seeking Him as desperately as Aaron Ginn (@120) and I have done, come to mutually contradictory understandings of Him and what He wants.

    Finally, I never even hinted at the argument you attribute to me after the blockquote. You are obviously right that the existence of several different answers doesn’t mean they are all wrong. I never said or suggested otherwise.

  147. Tom Gilson

    Corrections worth noting. I’ll look forward to addressing this corrected question on another blog post, if someone doesn’t get to it here before then.

  148. SkepticismFirst

    JAD #156:

    “So far I have seen a lot of lists—some longer than others—but not many, if any, well-reasoned arguments.”

    Two things. First, I’ve offered an argument in comment #111; would you like to discuss that? Second, and this is no one’s fault but my own, I’ve not had the time this weekend for many lengthy comments.

    I did, however, provide a list (I know, I know!) here: https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2015/03/atheists-our-worldviews-explain-these-things-better/#comment-112774

    I don’t think I could sufficiently explain *all* of these in a single thread, though. If Tom’s interested, perhaps he could start a new post with a narrower focus. If he does, I’ll jump in with gusto.

  149. JAD

    Is there another Scott_in_OH? I just cut and pasted the question highlighted below in bold from #89. Here it is in context:

    I, too, want to stay away from equating atheism with naturalism or science or, certainly, intelligence or sophistication. Different atheists believe different things. What they share is a belief that no God or gods exist. (How they came to that belief is not relevant to this discussion, I don’t think.)

    So the questions that atheism can answer better than Christianity are the ones whose best answer is, “There is no God” (MNb’s 4 words). Those questions include

    — The Problem of Evil
    — The Problem of Hiddenness
    — Why are there so many religions/so many interpretations of God’s will?
    — Why are prayers not answered in any discernible pattern?
    — Any questions along the lines of, “Why would God do X?”

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2015/03/atheists-what-does-your-worldview-explain-better-than-christianity/#comment-112681

    As far as attributing the quote to you personally, I actually didn’t.
    I said in my response @ #151, “Skeptics typically have argued that with so many religions none could possibly be true.”

    I was making a generic reference to skeptics in general. Other skeptics have asked that question. However, explain to me why you included it on your list if you weren’t also asking it or didn’t mean it the way I understood it?

  150. scbrownlhrm

    d,

    @155

    Totally agree.

    There is certainly more than a single “feature” in play or coming into focus in all of that. The ones we do see fit with those “contours” of, say, “pure actuality void of potentiality” (and so on….). Intention amid a necessary and sufficient cause of all effects frees one’s model of a few peculiar problems, but need not be attributed to anything in the immediate proximity of those other “features” more directly impacting the topics of those linked essays. You’re right that the Theist has to move slowly – not always something we are good at 😉

  151. BillT

    I can make a positive case for my world view. I can make the case without referring to atheism at all. Why can’t atheists do the same?

    Good question JAD. If we are to believe what was said above in reaction to the position that they hold a faith position just like theists do or that they posses a worldview it seems to go something like this. “We don’t beileve in anything we just don’t believe in God.” Or “We don’t have a worldview we just don’t believe in yours.” Or “Not believing in theism doesn’t mean we do believe in something else.” They seem to be certain what they don’t believe in but in complete denial about what the do believe in.

  152. JAD

    My apologies to Scott_in_OH. I did misquote you. Apparently I pulled that quote from somewhere else. Sorry again… I am truly mystified. I don’t know how I did that. I was sure (I thought) I was quoting you. Sorry for a third time.

    I did try to delete or edit my comment above @ #160 but I was blocked.

    It was either God or Tom, I suspect.

  153. Tom Gilson

    With all due respect, JAD, there really is a difference between what he wrote,

    So the questions that atheism can answer better than Christianity are the ones whose best answer is, “There is no God” (MNb’s 4 words). Those questions include

    — Why are there so many religions/so many interpretations of God’s will?

    and what you wrote

    For example with so many religions in the world, how could anyone ever determine which one is true?

    I think that’s what Scott was getting at.

  154. SkepticismFirst

    JAD:
    “I can make a positive case for my world view. I can make the case without referring to atheism at all. Why can’t atheists do the same?”

    I suppose my methodology is different than yours. I view the issue as an examination of competing hypotheses – theism and atheism, naturalism and supernaturalism, etc.

    BillT:
    “They seem to be certain what they don’t believe in but in complete denial about what the do believe in.”

    I believe that no gods exist.
    I believe that 2+2=4.
    I believe that I am currently typing on a keyboard.
    I believe that moral realism is true.
    I believe that a form of virtue ethics is correct.
    I believe that the deflationary theory of truth is correct.
    I believe that a pluralist account of formal logic is correct.

  155. BillT

    SF,

    Good. Let’s strart with the first one. Any proof for that? If not it’s, like I said, a faith position and a religious belief just like our understanding of God is. Any objections to that?

  156. SkepticismFirst

    BillT:

    Depends on what you mean by “proof”. There are, at least I think, strong arguments for it. See comment #159 for details.

  157. BillT

    SF,

    And while we’re at it. Is it fair that your belief in the absense of gods, has other implications that form a view of the world around you.

  158. Jenna Black

    I am addressing the question or argument “Why are there so many religions/so many interpretations of God’s will?” This is really not such a difficult or puzzling question to answer. The answer is human diversity–linguistic, cultural, ethnic, geographical, temporal. It’s akin to asking why there are so many different languages spoken in the world? Or why are there so many different ways of celebrating something akin to our Thanksgiving around the world? The atheists’ claim that religious diversity poses a threat to belief in God or the truth of Christianity is for me, akin to arguing that because there are so many different languages spoken in the world, there is no such thing as language.

    I am reading David Marshall’s book “How Jesus passes the Outsider Test: The inside story.” (2015) It makes the case very convincingly that Christianity’s success throughout the world and throughout its history among people who practice different cultural and religious traditions, speak different languages better than any other faith and has been a unifying force that overcomes and neutralizes the separation and divisions attributable to human diversity. Christianity’s truth is recognized and embraced by people from every language, cultural and ethnic background known to humankind. How does atheism explain this?

  159. BillT

    And we think the are strong arguments for the existance of God. Got anything we don’t.

  160. SkepticismFirst

    BillT:
    “And while we’re at it. Is it fair that your belief in the absense of gods, has other implications that form a view of the world around you.”

    Technically yes. Meta-ethics is one example. When trying to decide on a view there, atheism means that divine command theory is automatically off the table. That doesn’t seem very significant in practice though, because I wouldn’t think divine command theory is true even if I were a theist. I actually can’t think of anything highly consequential that would change in my beliefs if I were to become a theist.

    Now, if I were to convert to a specific religion, a whole lot would change. But that’s not related to my general belief “no gods exist”. Rather, it’s related to more specific beliefs I hold, such as “Yahweh does not exist” and “Allah does not exist”.

    And just to be specific: while it’s true that “Yahweh does not exist” logically follows from “no gods exist”, the latter is not the reason why I believe the former. I’d still believe the former even if I didn’t believe the latter.

    “And we think the are strong arguments for the existance of God. Got anything we don’t.”

    Again, see comment #159. If you’d like to discuss any of the arguments mentioned in the comments that 159 links to, I’m up for that. Or, if you’d like my rebuttal to an argument for theism, let me know which one (specifically) and we can talk about that.

  161. Scott_In_OH

    Many thanks to JAD @163 and Tom @164. I thought I was going crazy there for a second!

  162. JAD

    You’re welcome Scott. Now I’m the one who thinks he’s going crazy! I guess it’s catching 🙂

  163. SkepticismFirst

    JAD,

    The structure of your argument is actually pretty cool. I like it. I think you missed a possibility though:

    1a. x is what I refer to as Stuff. Stuff is an eternally existing, nonphysical, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, material.

    Would you agree that Stuff is logically possible? If not, why not?

    Moving on, one thing especially stands out to me. In comment #112 (on the thread you linked to, not here), you say “What is this a picture of? How did it come to exist? Think this through before you answer.” (with a link to a picture of Michelangelo’s David).

    I suspect that the answer you have in mind is something like “Michelangelo carved it”. But I’d like to propose a slightly different answer: Michelangelo painstakingly chipped away tiny pieces of marble from a solid block of marble using a metal chisel and hammer he held in his hands.

    I’d like you to notice something about my answer – it’s full of detail. There are many ways that my answer could be wrong – it could be that Michelangelo used a stone chisel, or a wooden chisel. Or that he used his feet. As it turns out, I’m not wrong (at least I hope; I’m not actually an expert on the history of statues :P). But there are many more ways my answer could have been wrong than yours. Yet, my answer survives. This makes it a much stronger answer than yours. In fact, “Michelangelo carved it” is really vague – it doesn’t really tell us very much at all. So, I wouldn’t consider that a very good explanation, even if it’s technically accurate.

    This is why I don’t find theism to be a very good explanation for the existence of the universe. We can posit God as the explanation, but there’s still so much left unanswered. Why did he do it? And how (in fact, especially this)? Why this one instead of a different one? Without answers to these questions, I just don’t find theism to be epistemically satisfying at all.

  164. SkepticismFirst

    JAD, brief addendum to my previous comment:

    A complete absence of any cause is really weird. But so is a material cause without an efficient cause, an efficient cause without a material cause, and an uncaused necessarily existing cause. No matter what the explanation for existence turns out to be, it’s going to be completely unlike anything else.

    So if you’re planning on offering a “queerness” objection to non-God explanations for the universe, make sure to explain why you think an efficient cause without a material cause is less weird than the others.

  165. Andy

    On naturalism, there is no reason for the world to be intelligible and predictable to us at all. On theism, there is.

    I would disagree with that but it is beside the point. My question was about why some things are unintelligible except as mathematical abstractions while others are intelligible without using any maths at all. And afaict, Christianity has no explanation for that, you certainly do not provide one here.

    Again, this does not count against a Christian worldview. God may well have created certain cognitive faculties with efficiency in mind rather than absolute truth. We certainly seem endowed with sufficient rationality to discover truth though, so I don’t see an issue.

    If Christianity has nothing to offer here beyond the ad hoc claim that God might “well have done that” for completely unknown reasons, then the atheistic worldview clearly wins on this point because it can provide actual explanations here instead of just saying something like “under atheism, this might have happened for some reason”.

    However given naturalism, the issue is to account for any ability to discover truth at all, given its tenuous link to survival. Plantinga’s point is that there are an infinite number of possible beliefs that are able to contribute to survival, and yet we assume that we’ve been selected for the beliefs that also are conducive to discovering truth.

    I know that Platinga is supposed to be smart but this is one of the stupidest things I´ve ever heard a philosopher argue for. What Platinga seems to talk about here would be a scenario like Darwin being born with a mutation in the “believe that all life is related by common ancestry” gene, which caused Darwin to have this belief, and this belief was then selected for in his descendants. That is not how it works. That is not even remotely similar to how it works (and incredibly obviously so…). What can be selected for are the cognitive faculties with which we think about the world, not actual beliefs. And those cognitive faculties are not completely reliable (again, incredibly obviously so – but still apparently not obvious enough for Platinga), which can be easily explained in an atheistic worldview, while Christianity has nothing to offer beyond “God might have wanted it that way for completely unknown reasons”.

  166. Andy

    Jenna Black,

    The atheists’ claim that religious diversity poses a threat to belief in God or the truth of Christianity is for me, akin to arguing that because there are so many different languages spoken in the world, there is no such thing as language.

    If you would concede that all religions are equally valid and God does not care which one (if any) you follow, then the atheist´s claim has indeed no force here at all.
    So, do you concede that?

    Christianity’s truth is recognized and embraced by people from every language, cultural and ethnic background known to humankind.

    Substitue “Christianity” by “Islam” here and the sentence would still be true.

  167. scbrownlhrm

    JAD and S.F.,

    If I may offer one clarification, and also offer my apology for this brief intrusion on your dialogue:

    “…..x is what I refer to as Stuff. Stuff is an eternally existing, nonphysical, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, material. Would you agree that Stuff is logically possible? If not, why not?….”

    Or, as Feser notes, “………even if we should really think in terms of a [……or…or…] a multiverse rather than a single universe — will, the Aristotelian argues, necessarily exhibit just these features (potentialities needing actualization, composition, contingency, etc.). And thus it will, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, require a cause outside it. And only that which is pure actuality devoid of potentiality, only what is utterly simple or non-composite, only something whose essence or nature just is existence itself, only what is therefore in no way contingent but utterly necessary — only that, the classical theist maintains, could in principle be the ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be.”

    There are a few hurdles here if one means to present an actual infinite. These are three, and, obviously, there are more.

    1) Nothing in our universe escapes potentiality and therefore an actual infinite must be presented by the naturalist, else, the naturalist must either beg the question, or, annihilate the causal shape of this universe, or, present a proof of illusion.

    2) Metaphysically speaking, the terms of non-physical and uncaused will have to be shown to be under the umbrella of the physical sciences, else, scientism’s absurdity, or, Theism’s geography immediately surpasses anything the Naturalist has to offer.

    3) “Non-Physical Material” may work in urban slang. It won’t do here. Commitments will have to be made.

    In short, S.F. and Feser may not be speaking of the same ends. On the definition of non-physical-material, the semantics are unclear and blurred and may involve an actual infinite where actual potentiality and/or physicality is concerned, in which case it cannot exist metaphysically speaking, and even begs the question, as noted in an earlier link. It may exist, but, commitments and clarifications would have to be made. Taking the word “God” and replacing it with “Material” fails without those clarifications.

    On the proof of illusion and/or the annihilation of the causal shape of our own universe, Tayler appeals to anti-realism to refute the beginning of our own universe:

    “Taylor attempts to refute what he calls a priori arguments (but which might more accurately be called philosophical or metaphysical arguments, since they do, pace Taylor, involve appeal to experience) for the beginning of the universe. With respect to the first of these, the argument based on the impossibility of the existence of an actual infinite, we immediately encounter a misconstrual of the argument: Taylor characterizes the argument as “claiming to show that the proposition that something could be actually infinite implies a contradiction” –this despite my oft-repeated statements that the argument does not rest on any such claim. Rather the argument purports to make it plausible that the existence of an actual infinite is metaphysically impossible. Compare in this connection such statements as “Some effect occurs before its cause,” “Something has a shape but not a size,” or “Something comes into being without a cause”–statements which imply no contradiction, but which are, plausibly, metaphysically impossible. Similarly, the statement that “an actual infinite exists” may imply no contradiction and yet be metaphysically impossible. Taylor offers both an undercutting and a rebutting defeater of the premise that an actual infinite cannot exist. First, in response to my argument that if an actually infinite number of things, say, books, could exist, then it would be impossible to add to the collection, which is obviously absurd, Taylor rejoins that one may simply re-number the collection so as to admit the addition of the new member. But the shortcoming of this refutation lies in the fact that I had already anticipated this objection in the original statement of the problem and explained that such a re-numbering violates the problem conditions laid down and merely substitutes new conditions. Unfortunately, Taylor takes no cognizance of my pre-emptive refutation of this objection. Worse, Taylor simply breaks off his discussion at this point, ignoring all the even more counter-intuitive absurdities entailed by the existence of an actual infinite, such as those illustrated by Hilbert’s Hotel, including the contradictions which result when the inverse operations of subtraction or division are performed with transfinite numbers, operations which may be conventionally banned within transfinite arithmetic but which cannot be precluded in the real world of space and time.”

  168. scbrownlhrm

    JAD and S.F.,

    A little further:

    Occasionally (not always) Non-Theists may hint at an appeal to Brute Fact on some level for the universe (as a thing) or perhaps to Brute Force in arguing that point (as an explanation), and so we must be careful to note that there is (on some such approaches, not all) a subtle layer of what ends up being a conflicting appeal to unintelligibility.

    Thank you for your patience on said intrusion 🙂

  169. scbrownlhrm

    @ bigbird,

    It seems to me that your line of approach with Andy is overall a good one. One may find that there is (on some of the skeptic’s approaches, not all) a subtle layer of what ends up being a conflicting appeal to unintelligibility.

    The ontological real estate being claimed by demanding such distances just never is sold for less than full asking price. Else, vacuity.

    In short, one need not even venture into the Christian’s metaphysical paradigm with its far more robust accounting of perception, logic, knowledge, and so on, for the ad hoc attempt of the materialist to piece together his uneven seams is – all by itself – enough for the Theist.

  170. scbrownlhrm

    S.F.

    “Now, if I were to convert to a specific religion, a whole lot would change…”

    The unintelligibility of such an essence as human equality is perfectly real upon the world stage in several normative examples scattered across Man’s painful history. You seem to claim immunity to such normative constructs within your own moral milieu, as if what may have been of late, say, this or that Christianized conscience cannot succumb to centuries of some other picture of reality. You’ll have to demonstrate how God / No-God are ipso facto different here if you mean to hint at said “difference”. The claim of No-God is not a claim upon one’s own Self, or on one’s own ability to know, or on Mankind’s ability to know, but rather is a claim upon the world outside of the Self, outside of Mankind, and is thus very much a worldview. While the Roman Blood Sports are a perfectly valid moral milieu given some set of presuppositions – “a whole lot would change” (your words) if final reality is claimed to be, say, love, which atheism outright denies on grounds of certainty – as there is no personhood at the start/stop of actuality. And so on. Your claim, then, that “That doesn’t seem very significant in practice though” is naive to eons of the human experience. On reciprocity amid you and I, amid Self and Other, the moral milieu of the metaphysical paradigm of ceaseless reciprocity within the contours of “Trinity” shapes the immutable love of the Necessary Being – as J.B. alludes to on Anselm’s full and final claim. Meta-ethics is not immune to any such claim upon reality, and that you seem to hint at such is revealing either of snobbery or of naivety. In short, this is not to argue God/No-God based on meta-ethics, or whether love ends up as a useful fiction or something more, but rather, this is to see if you are in fact claiming a *difference* amid worldviews in potentiality to actually shape normative contours over time. In other words, Atheism can (and has) on principle lead to “better” and to “worse” as such just is not mere *stasis*.

    Agree?

  171. GrahamH

    scbrownlhrm

    We learn our ideas of causation from the lawfulness of nature and from the directionality of the second law of thermodynamics. That’s as far as we can take causality. Taking it outside that context, to something external and completely unknown is, ironically, the “unwarranted extrapolation” Tom talked about in his scientism post.

    The terms of Aristotelian physics and metaphysics are like other outmoded terms in science. We once spoke of “factors;” we now talk of “genes.” It was once thought that we need to invoke the luminiferous ether to explain light. We don’t. As science progresses, terms that were once thought necessary become redundant.

    So to the fate of the terms of Aristotelian science and metaphysics. It’s long dead. Don’t dig up its rotting corpse to become the incoherent zombie of reality.

    Look at terms of Aristotelian metaphysics, like “form”, “essence or “prime matter”, etc. They add nothing to our understanding and have no explanatory role to play.

    For example – the seemingly sensible actuality/potentiality distinction becomes the basis for saying things like “God is pure actuality” or “God is the act of existence.” It makes sense to say that something actualizes its potential, but even if something actualizes all of its potentials, it does not thereby become “pure actuality”—whatever that is. We speak of tasks being completed but nothing is “pure completeness.” An empty vessel can be filled, but nothing is “pure fullness.” “Actuality,” like “completeness” or “fullness,” are just abstract nouns that has its uses but I cannot see how they constitute the identity of a substance.

    There is nothing necessary in the metaphysics you propose. As for why there is something rather than nothing, the complete, satisfying, and cogent answer is: Why not?

  172. scbrownlhrm

    GH,

    And you’ve explained, justified, nothing.

    If you think time and material – the totality of mutable and contingent physicality – finds closure – well then you’re out of date.

    The non-theists are leading that charge of late.

    Pure actuality is not that which actualizes all its potential BTW.

  173. GrahamH

    scbrownlhrm

    Ok. Let me see how well the theists can lead the charge…

    Give me one example of something you can demonstrate and show was caused separate to the laws of nature and the arrow of time.

  174. scbrownlhrm

    GH,

    Define laws of nature.

    Pure actuality is not that which actualizes all its potential BTW.

  175. Andy

    GrahamH,

    As for why there is something rather than nothing, the complete, satisfying, and cogent answer is: Why not?

    Yup. Also, the concept of “nothingness” seems to be somewhat incoherent. If there is absolutely nothing, including no “rules”, “laws” etc. – then what about “from nothing, nothing comes”? Without that rule, “nothingness” could not be a stable state, and with it, it wouldn´t be “nothing”.
    Also saying that there is absolutely nothing except for this one rule that from nothing, nothing comes, doesn´t seem to work – because if there is nothing, then there can also be no truthmaker for such a proposition.

  176. GrahamH

    Andy

    Indeed. Was there ever “nothing” as in the nothing assumed before creation ex nihilo? Does even that kind of nothing make sense? Can someone show us this kind of nothing so we can check it out? I wonder why the assumption of this nothing is more plausible just plain old something. I think natural theology (based on Aristotelian physics and metaphysics) just makes a problem where there isn’t one, in order to offer a solution.

    A mystery is posited where none really exists, and then God is indicated as the tailor-made solution to the non-problem.

  177. G. Rodrigues

    What a depressing thread. The common tenor of the responses here is how trite, vulgar and shallow they are, so much so, that my parody in #27 is still the best answer to Tom’s question. We even have the usual suspects trotting out their complete and completely idiotic ignorance, their intellectual irresponsibility and dishonesty in slogans such as “The terms of Aristotelian physics and metaphysics are like other outmoded terms in science”.

  178. Tom Gilson

    Andy, you’ve stated some important truths there.

    Christians resolve it by saying that there was never simply nothing. The physical universe, including all its physical relations (time, natural laws, etc.) was created “from nothing,” meaning that God did not fashion it out of pre-existing materials, but simply through his own creative act, he made something other than himself.

    The idea of a universe from nothing, as Krauss wrote about it, is contradictory, because his “nothing” wasn’t nothing: it included (for example) physical law and fields for those laws to act upon. The universe really couldn’t have created itself from a literal, correctly defined nothing.

    But there are problems with the idea that the universe has always existed. Essentially, if it’s always existed, then it is already infinitely old today, and yet it does not exhibit the dead characteristics of an infinitely old universe.

    This applies even if one takes it that our universe is the product of an infinite series of multiverse birthings. Infinitely old is still infinitely old. And as I understand it, Vilenkin has shown rather conclusively that an infinite series of multiverse birthings is also physically impossible.

    But the idea of pure actuality doesn’t necessarily relate to the age of the universe but to the idea that without some pure actuality, then motion, change, and the realization of potential (think for example conversion from potential to kinetic there as an illustration of what that’s about) are all philosophically inexplicable. That’s why Aristotle proposed the unmoved mover, the one who is pure actuality.

    (I realize I’ve told you the problem and the solution without explaining their connection, but it would be worth looking into it.)

    Aristotle did not propose this unmoved mover as an explanation for the beginning of the physical universe; indeed, he thought it had always existed. He proposed it as the necessary answer to all current change and motion and reduction of potential to action.

    I’m rambling…

    Anyway, your point about “nothing” being incoherent does lead in interesting directions.

  179. Tom Gilson

    GrahamH,

    Indeed. Was there ever “nothing” as in the nothing assumed before creation ex nihilo? Does even that kind of nothing make sense? Can someone show us this kind of nothing so we can check it out?

    Show you? Is that the test? Come on.

    Are you going to say that the reason we can’t accept the absence of scientifically testable circumstances before time is because we can’t observe such circumstances now?

    Are you aware that “before” creation ex nihilo is contradictory, and that this actually resolves the incoherence you’re claiming to find there?

    Do you think that the problem with “nothing” in that sense is that this “nothing” never could have existed? Do you realize that theists don’t think that this “nothing” existed? It’s not as if God found some nothing somewhere and made the universe out of it! No. It’s that there was God, and God created the physical universe out of no preexistent material, but by his will alone.

  180. Tom Gilson

    G. Rodrigues, I share your dismay. To be challenged over “nothing” by, “Can someone show us this kind of nothing so we can check it out?” is really deeply concerning.

  181. Tom Gilson

    GrahamH, if that kind of “nothing” obtained in reality, then you wouldn’t be here to observe it. You would be something, and where there is something–anything–there is not nothing.

    I wrote “obtained,” not “existed,” because this “nothing” never existed. It is the word we use for lack of existence.

    This “nothing” doesn’t allow for observers. Further, even for God, this “nothing” isn’t observable and never was. It wasn’t something to be observed, it was the lack of anything to be observed. The situation then was simply the complete fullness of God himself, who was all that was. He who was not physical created something other than himself, something that was physical, and he used no physical thing (including physical laws) to do so. That’s what “from nothing” is about.

  182. Andy

    Tom,

    The idea of a universe from nothing, as Krauss wrote about it, is contradictory, because his “nothing” wasn’t nothing: it included (for example) physical law and fields for those laws to act upon.

    Indeed. That book was very disappointing.

    The universe really couldn’t have created itself from a literal, correctly defined nothing.

    I think I agree – I would rather say that a literal / absolute nothing is not a possible state of existence. So, instead of saying this “couldn´t have” happened, as you do, I guess I would phrase it differently and say that the very notion of postulating that there once was “nothing” is incoherent.

    But there are problems with the idea that the universe has always existed. Essentially, if it’s always existed, then it is already infinitely old today, and yet it does not exhibit the dead characteristics of an infinitely old universe.

    Intuitvely, yes. However, there is no consensus about the ultimate fate of the universe . Also, “infintely old” can be very misleading here because time itself (or rather a progression of time / an arrow of time) is not something that necessarily exists, and something that would not exist in a singularity – if the origin of our universe involved a singularity, then all intuitve notions about causality and eternity would be useless because they are undefined without time.

    And as I understand it, Vilenkin has shown rather conclusively that an infinite series of multiverse birthings is also physically impossible.

    Yup, he did. Although he was very modest and wrote ““Did the universe have a beginning? At this point, it seems that the answer to this question is probably yes.” I don´t know how many cosmologists would agree with the “probably” in that sentence, but I do know that at least some don´t. But anyway, Vilenkin clarified in an interview that him being right would not favor theism over atheism (or the other way around), so wrt to the question of God, this doesn´t help very much.

    Aristotle did not propose this unmoved mover as an explanation for the beginning of the physical universe; indeed, he thought it had always existed. He proposed it as the necessary answer to all current change and motion and reduction of potential to action.

    Yeah, I also think that the argument from motion is an absolutely excellent one btw. I´m somewhat agnostic about the premises it relies on but if the premises are granted, I would totally agree that the conclusion follows. Well, at least to the point of pure actuality necessarily existing, the arguments that try to show that this pure actuality corresponds to the God of Christianity (or any theistic God for that matter) seem flawed to me.

  183. BillT

    Again, see comment #159. If you’d like to discuss any of the arguments mentioned in the comments that 159 links to, I’m up for that. Or, if you’d like my rebuttal to an argument for theism, let me know which one (specifically) and we can talk about that.

    SF,

    I like to discus all this with you at some point but I’m not sure this thread is the place to do it. I’d just like to say it’s refreshing to find an atheist who isn’t in complete denial that they hold affirmative beliefs and that those beliefs are part of a worldview that has some faith (defined correctly) orientation. If you look at the reaction to my #41 you’ll find you’re uniquely honest among the posters here.

  184. SkepticismFirst

    G. Rodrigues wrote:
    “What a depressing thread. The common tenor of the responses here is how trite, vulgar and shallow they are, so much so, that my parody in #27 is still the best answer to Tom’s question.”

    My responses (which only Melissa and JAD seem to have read) build on the work of actual published philosophers, such as Wes Morriston and William Lane Craig. Perhaps the problem is that you don’t think very highly of philosophy.

    Or maybe you just enjoy being rude.

  185. SkepticismFirst

    scbrownlhrm #180:

    Regarding “pure actuality”…while I’m not going to say “that doesn’t make sense”, I have to say that I don’t know what you/Feser mean by that term.

    Anyway, you write: “On the definition of non-physical-material, the semantics are unclear and blurred and may involve an actual infinite where actual potentiality and/or physicality is concerned”

    If this is the case, then it’s also the case for “nonphysical person”, unless you can explain why not.

    Tom #195:
    “…meaning that God did not fashion it out of pre-existing materials, but simply through his own creative act, he made something other than himself.”

    Emphasis mine – can you explain that in more detail?

    BillT:
    “I’d just like to say it’s refreshing to find an atheist who isn’t in complete denial that they hold affirmative beliefs…”

    It’s actually not unusual at all among atheists interested in philosophy -who are the ones you should be talking to 😛 Unfortunately, though, most atheists have far more in common with religious laity than they realize.

    “…and that those beliefs are part of a worldview that has some faith (defined correctly) orientation.”

    *shrug* the infamous “F-word” never really bothered me.

  186. Pofarmer

    “indeed, he thought it had always existed. He proposed it as the necessary answer to all current change and motion and reduction of potential to action.”

    Yes, but in what cases don’t we know the forces acting on the objects in question? Aristotle didn’t know about Gravity, or Nuclear forces, or centrifugal and centripetal effects. So, I guess, in the current understanding of science, where does the unmoved mover hypothesis fit in?

  187. scbrownlhrm

    S.F.

    @ 203

    If by material you mean the immaterial which has ceaselessly generated the physical then your definition has nothing in common with Theism, as Theism has no such necessity of the contingent. Thus your “Well then God does too” is just laziness.

  188. SkepticismFirst

    BillT:

    Also, here are some philosophers who have shaped my thinking on these subjects (meaning that I agree with at least some of their positions).

    Paul Draper
    Wes Morriston
    Gregory Dawes
    Stephen Maitzen
    Klaas J. Kraay
    John Schellenberg
    William Rowe
    Erik Wielenberg
    Graham Oppy
    Richard Swinburne
    Graham Priest

    If you want to get *really* in-depth with my positions regarding theistic and atheistic arguments, this is who you want to read. 🙂

  189. BillT

    SF,

    I’m not sure those guys aren’t above my pay grade but I appreciate the suggestions. Your list of reasons from #159 is good. I think we have solid answers for these but it’s a well thought out list. What one do you think most compelling.

  190. SkepticismFirst

    BillT:
    “What one do you put most trust in.”

    That’s kind of a tough question, as they all sort of interconnect in various ways. I’m gonna go with the various arguments from evil, as I’ve read more about those than any other topic.

  191. SteveK

    The POE for the atheist is factually different than it is for the theist so I’m not exactly sure what everyone means by “explains it better”. The atheist is explaining different facts differently.

  192. Pofarmer

    “G. Rodrigues, I share your dismay. To be challenged over “nothing” by, “Can someone show us this kind of nothing so we can check it out?” is really deeply concerning.”

    Why is it deeply concerning to be asked to give evidence for your assertions?

  193. Pofarmer

    “The atheist is explaining different facts differently.”

    Not always, sometimes we disagree on what the “facts” are.

  194. G. Rodrigues

    @SkepticismFirst:

    My responses (which only Melissa and JAD seem to have read) build on the work of actual published philosophers, such as Wes Morriston and William Lane Craig.

    Your response (the one in #111 which is what Melissa responded) was not a response to Tom’s question.

    Furthermore, just because you insert a quote of a well-known philosopher, or can produce a list of well-known philosophers that have “shaped your thinking” does not thereby mean that your arguments are any good. Your argument in #111 is not so much trite and shallow, but is not even a well-formulated argument, as it trades on an equivocation over what material cause is. Depending on how you take it exactly, it is question-begging, invalid or an utter triviality. It is not even clear what exactly it purports to prove. Is it a reductio against the Kalam, that its logic proves more than theists are willing to swallow? That seems to be the intent. But you go on to deny this, so not even that is clear.

    Or maybe you just enjoy being rude.

    I surmise I enjoy it no more than any self-righteous prig enjoys to point out how “rude” others are.

  195. SkepticismFirst

    BillT:
    “I’m not sure those guys aren’t above my pay grade but I appreciate the suggestions.”

    Here’s the list again, but reorganized from least to most difficult (generally).

    William Rowe
    Stephen Maitzen
    Wes Morriston

    John Schellenberg
    Erik Wielenberg
    Gregory Dawes

    Richard Swinburne
    Paul Draper
    Graham Oppy
    Klaas J. Kraay

    Graham Priest*

    *To be honest, you might want to skip Priest. While his work has some relevance to philosophy of religion, he’s a logician – this is stuff about formal logic and philosophy of logic. Not only is it extremely advanced, unless you’ve read other stuff in that field, you won’t have much context that will help you understand it like you will for the others. The rest of the authors on the list publish in fields like ethics and philosophy of religion, which you’re probably much more familiar with.

  196. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer:

    Yes, but in what cases don’t we know the forces acting on the objects in question? Aristotle didn’t know about Gravity, or Nuclear forces, or centrifugal and centripetal effects. So, I guess, in the current understanding of science, where does the unmoved mover hypothesis fit in?

    His argument subsumes all possible causes and all possible effects. Wherever there is a potentiality that is reduced to action, his argument applies.

  197. Tom Gilson

    Comment:

    “The atheist is explaining different facts differently.”

    Not always, sometimes we disagree on what the “facts” are.

    Isn’t that the same thing?

    The atheist POE goes like this: if the universe, including life, including human life, including your family’s human life, including your human life, are all fully determined based on natural law, other than what might be ascribed to mindless chance, then there is no evil, no good, no wrong, no right. There may be desirable and undesirable, but the leap from there to right and wrong, good and evil is too great to jump. Right and good are (as I argue in so far unpublished article) labeling behaviors produced by evolution to function as proxies for “Do this so our species will propagate more effectively.” Michael Ruse seems to agree, by the way.

  198. Pofarmer

    “His argument subsumes all possible causes and all possible effects. Wherever there is a potentiality that is reduced to action, his argument applies.”

    Then how is it useful, if it could be multiple things?

  199. SteveK

    Then how is it useful, if it could be multiple things?

    It’s useful to plug it into the other arguments when they need it. It’s just one piece of the puzzle. The total of the arguments provide you with the ontological picture that each piece of the puzzle gives you.

  200. Pofarmer

    “Isn’t that the same thing?”

    Not really, but it was meant more as a tongue in cheek comment.

    What I intended was more along the lines of all the things Christians attribute to “the Fall” as if it were a factual occurrence, when the facts of evolution and nature more than explain the characteristics that the “the Fall” is supposed to describe.

    In your comment above to me, you are commingling properties of the Universe, or Nature, with properties of Human kind. Ideas of Good, and Evil, don’t indeed, belong in descriptions of the Universe or Nature, they are particularly emergent Human ideas. How do we know this? Because the ideas of what is “Good” and “Evil” change and develop over time. Perhaps you should interact some with the work of Patricia Churchland.

  201. SteveK

    Because the ideas of what is “Good” and “Evil” change and develop over time.

    Exactly. The POE is factually a *subjective* cultural “problem” in the atheist worldview. Rape isn’t objectively evil – it’s subjectively evil. Your worldview is explaining subjective moral facts, whereas the theist is not.

  202. Andy

    SteveK,

    Rape isn’t objectively evil – it’s subjectively evil. Your worldview is explaining subjective moral facts, whereas the theist is not.

    Well, that depends on what exactly you mean by “objective” (an ethical subjectivist for example does believe that some moral propositions are objectively true, but he doesn´t believe that they correspond to mind-independent facts) and what moral framework the respective non-theist subscribes to.
    Under utilitarianism for example, there are true moral propositions that are also mind-independent facts (i.e. “objective” in every relevant sense).
    Also, there are actually many theists who subscribe to a subjectivist moral framework (divine command theory).

  203. SkepticismFirst

    SteveK:
    “The POE is factually a *subjective* cultural “problem” in the atheist worldview. Rape isn’t objectively evil – it’s subjectively evil. Your worldview is explaining subjective moral facts, whereas the theist is not.”

    This isn’t going to help. Pretty much any POE argument can be run as an internal critique of theism.

  204. SteveK

    Given that theists cannot separate moral facts from God, Andy, it follows that atheists are explaining a different evil.

  205. SteveK

    This isn’t going to help.

    It helps to clarify that atheists are explaining something completely different. You can’t internally critique theism from an atheist worldview. The POE from the atheist worldview is a subjective “problem”.

  206. Jenna Black

    Andy,

    I’m reposting this comment I erroneously (or prematurely) posted on the other discussion where Tom has asked us Christians to not reply yet.

    The claim that God does not exist is a null hypothesis. IMO, the atheist asserts with this claim that s/he rejects his or her own understanding of what is meant by God and what it means for whatever it is that s/he conceptualizes as God to “exist.” The name God is the deification of the forces and powers and causes that create/created everything that exists. In reality, it cannot be said that God as the deity of monotheism does not exist because to say such a thing is merely to misunderstand what the name/term God means. The “God doesn’t exist” claim is simply irrelevant rhetoric. The God that Christians worship, the one and only God, the Creator cannot NOT exist because if God did not exist, nothing else would or could exist, most especially you and me.

  207. SkepticismFirst

    SteveK:
    “You can’t internally critique theism from an atheist worldview.”

    What do you think an internal critique is?

    “The POE from the atheist worldview is a subjective “problem”.”

    My worldview includes moral realism. So, yeah.

  208. BillT

    I’m gonna go with the various arguments from evil, as I’ve read more about those than any other topic.

    SF,

    That’s reasonable. It’s a serious issue. Atheism, in general, runs into the problem of claiming evil to be a problem when at the same time holding a worldview that doesn’t support the existence of evil. Now, you claim to be a moral realist so you can avoid that in some sense. However, I’m not sure atheistic moral realism would measure up to what we think moral realism is under theism but that’s where we’d have to go to discuss this further. BTW, Tom’s #215 above outlines the problem.

  209. SteveK

    What do you think an internal critique is?

    I do know that it’s *not* the method of using an external worldview as the basis for critiquing the other worldview – which is what you’re doing when you tell us that the POE explains God’s non-existence. It doesn’t. It explains that evil is something different than the evil of theism when God doesn’t exist.

    My worldview includes moral realism. So, yeah.

    A different one – so, yeah.

  210. SkepticismFirst

    BillT:
    “However, I’m not sure atheistic moral realism would measure up to what we think moral realism is under theism but that’s where we’d have to go to discuss this further.”

    Bold mine. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that theism is necessarily “packaged” with one and only one meta-ethical theory. But that’s just not the case.

    Here’s the thing. My view is actually compatible with theism – it’s only atheistic in the sense that it doesn’t require theism to be true. (I’d like to note here that I don’t think moral realism itself is evidence for atheism).

  211. Jenna Black

    SkepticismFirst,

    I have a question: What paradigm for moral reasoning do you think stems from non-belief in God or the belief that God does not exist? To the best of my knowledge, atheism proposes none, although individual atheists may argue for such a paradigm. But they do not speak for atheism, or even all atheists. So, what moral system does atheism propose?

  212. Pofarmer

    “Given that theists cannot separate moral facts from God,.”

    Of course you do. There are all sorts of things considered moral in the bible that the vast majority of Christians no longer do. Take numbers 5 for example.

  213. Andy

    Jenna,

    I have a question: What paradigm for moral reasoning do you think stems from non-belief in God or the belief that God does not exist? To the best of my knowledge, atheism proposes none

    As an atheist, I would agree with that. My moral reasoning is completely detached from my atheism.

  214. Pofarmer

    Also, tell ya what. Tell me where Feser is published and relevant outside of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion and I might consider reading him.

  215. SteveK

    If worldviews are relevant to the discussion of worldviews, then Feser is relevant here. Is he correct in what he says? Well, that’s what we’re trying to answer.

  216. Pofarmer

    That’s not how Feser was brought up. Feser was brought up to defend Aristotlean metaphysics and physics, so I simply wanted to know if Feser had any papers or credentials which were actual useful to science.

  217. Pofarmer

    “when at the same time holding a worldview that doesn’t support the existence of evil”

    This is unbelievably dishonest and stupid.

  218. d

    @Stevek et al.

    Woosh!

    Several forms of the problem of evil, grant theistic and even Christian assumptions/claims regarding good and evil and pain and suffering, and morality.

    That’s the whole friggin point… to demonstrate that YOUR worldview is inconsistent with itself – not that its inconsistent with ours. OF COURSE your worldview its inconsistent with an atheist worldview. Not a huge surprise.

    You guys do a double-woosh, when you try to throw an atheist POE back in our face – you’re presupposing YOUR own beliefs about what our worldview should entail about good and evil, not our own

  219. Tom Gilson

    d, I’ve seen Christians make an error like the one you seem to be alluding to, but I don’t think what you’ve described is really what’s going on here.

    It would be erroneous for Christians to try to show that evil as Christians understand evil cannot exist on atheism, and therefore atheism is false. That would be wrong. But if an atheist is going to hold to any moral distinctions at all, then those distinctions are vulnerable to theistic arguments.

  220. d

    @Tom

    I’d only reiterate, that many of the forms of the POE (and sure, there are many of them), attempt to show that there’s are rather surprising quantities of stuff in this world like pain and suffering that seem unnecessary for some greater good (presupposing theist and/or Christian conceptions of those concepts), and those quantities of stuff are best explained by there being no God at all.

    It doesn’t matter whether the atheist thinks good and evil are coherent concepts in their own worldview – not one bit. Totally irrelevant. I’ll disagree that BillT and SteveK et al aren’t guilty of the error here, they *very* much are.

  221. GrahamH

    Jenna

    The God that Christians worship, the one and only God, the Creator cannot NOT exist because if God did not exist, nothing else would or could exist, most especially you and me.

    My issue with comments like this, and what I critiqued earlier in this thread, is I don’t see the metaphysical necessity, or evidence, or reason for the claim God must exist because there would be no you or me (or the universe presumably). To me, that is like stamping your feet and asserting “God’s just gotta exist!”. It seems like an argument of personal credulity.

  222. d

    I will say, that if its fair that atheists can try and argue from the theist point-of-view to neutralize theism itself via the POE, its only fair that theists can use the same tactic, and try and neutralize any kind of moral thinking on atheism. But showing that morality is incoherent on atheism does *nothing* to defeat the problem of evil. Thats a theist problem.

  223. JAD

    Here is a quote from a paper, by Erik J. Wielenberg, (an atheist) criticizing the theist view that God is the only sufficient grounding for objective moral values and duties.

    What is “the source of human moral rights and obligations…?” Wielenberg asks.

    I propose the following answer: Necessarily, any being that can reason, suffer, experience happiness, tell the difference between right and wrong, choose between right and wrong, and set goals for itself has certain rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and certain obligations, including the duty to refrain from rape (in typical circumstances). Evolutionary processes have produced human beings that can reason, suffer, experience happiness, tell the difference between right and wrong, choose between right and wrong, and set goals for themselves. In this way, evolutionary processes have endowed us with certain unalienable rights and duties. Evolution has given us these moral properties by giving us the non-moral properties upon which they supervene. And if, as I believe, there is no God, then it is in some sense an accident that we have the moral properties that we do. But that they are accidental in origin does not make these moral properties unreal or unimportant.

    http://philpapers.org/archive/WIEIDO.1.pdf

    I think it is well researched, well-reasoned and well written.

    Maybe this will provide our atheist interlocutors some ammunition so that they make a decent argument.

    But be careful, I see some flaws in Wielenberg’s proposed answer.

    Any thoughts?

  224. scbrownlhrm

    GH, J.B.

    (J.B., my apology if this is all wrong or all off your intended point….)

    J.B. is affirming what everyone, non-theist/theist, knows exists:

    The source, order, and end of all being. (to borrow from D. Hart)

    “Being” there being existence or reality or actuality or what have you.

    Whatever actuality is, whatever reality is, there are not 0.99999 of them, nor is there 1.000000099 of them. If “reality” is the multi-verse, then reality is [that].

    And so on.

    There is reality. Or [R].

    There is actuality. Or [A].

    Whatever it is.

    It is one.

    God is One.

    And so on.

    The anti-realist can annihilate logic and deny such single-ness, such singularity to [That], or to [It] ~ (whatever it is).

    We wish him luck if he should try.

    There is the Start/Stop of the source, order, and end of all being, there is Theos, there is the end of the line, the end of all appeal.

    You believe in [It] too.

    J.B.’s reminder to the Non-Theist is important for the very simple fact that, on definition, we do not disagree that such exists. What it is, yes, but that it is, no.

    The Non-Theist claims that mutable and contingent entities exist necessarily, while the Theist claims that the Necessary houses neither the mutable nor the contingent.

    And so on.

    But Anselm’s Necessary is claimed by both.

    In other words, the mere fact that there is an area of divergence does not and cannot negate the fact that there is a point of overlap.

  225. GrahamH

    Tom

    I have purchased today the book you recommended, but in the mean time correct you on something:

    Are you aware that “before” creation ex nihilo is contradictory, and that this actually resolves the incoherence you’re claiming to find there?

    Yes, but like I said, the only use of the word “cause” we know that works is with the laws of nature and the arrow of time.

    Do you think that the problem with “nothing” in that sense is that this “nothing” never could have existed? Do you realize that theists don’t think that this “nothing” existed? It’s not as if God found some nothing somewhere and made the universe out of it! No. It’s that there was God, and God created the physical universe out of no preexistent material, but by his will alone.

    Sure, but this kind nothing (absence of both the physical universe and the arrow of time) can not be inferred from the causality principle to establish a metaphysical necessity, because it is missing the conditions upon which the causality principle works.

    Our entire concept of causality is derived from observation of the physical universe. Causality as we know it, by definition, relates to the interactions of matter and energy in time and space. The concept of “non-physical causality” isn’t just speculative and question-begging – it’s nonsensical. Supernatural causality, or non-physical causality, has not been demonstrated to exist. That’s the point. The argument requires supernatural causality to exist, and its mere existence is nothing more than idle speculation.

  226. scbrownlhrm

    Timelessness is embraced by non-theistic physicists.

    It seems unavoidable at some seam somewhere.

    Based on the evidence.

  227. scbrownlhrm

    The past-eternal universe fades into a necessary timelessness at some seam somewhere based on the evidence, even as sensory perception’s Humean appeals fade into absurdity at some seam somewhere based on logic’s unrelenting demand for solvency amid that troubled chain of IOU’s.

    As Theos breaks through everywhere, Nature breaks through nowhere – not even once:

    “The most egregious of naturalism’s deficiencies, however, is the impossibility of isolating its supposed foundation – that strange abstraction, self-sufficient nature – as a genuinely independent reality, of which we have some cognizance or in which we have some good cause to believe. We may be tempted to imagine that a materialist approach to reality is the soundest default position we have, because supposedly it can be grounded in empirical experience: of the material order, after all, we assume we have an immediate knowledge, while of any more transcendental reality we can form only conjectures or fantasies; and what is nature except matter in motion? But this is wrong, both in fact and in principle. For one thing, we do not actually have an immediate knowledge of the material order in itself but know only its phenomenal aspects, by which our minds organize our sensory experiences. Even “matter” is only a general concept and must be imposed upon the data of the senses in order for us to interpret them as experiences of any particular kind of reality (that is, material rather than, say, mental). More to the point, any logical connection we might imagine to exist between empirical experiences of the material order and the ideology of scientific naturalism is entirely illusory. Between our sensory impressions and the abstract concept of a causally closed and autonomous order called “nature” there is no necessary correlation whatsoever. Such a concept may determine how we think about our sensory impressions, but those impressions cannot in turn provide any evidence in favor of that concept. Neither can anything else. We have no immediate experience of pure nature as such, nor any coherent notion of what such a thing might be. The object has never appeared. No such phenomenon has ever been observed or experienced or cogently imagined. Once again: we cannot encounter the world without encountering at the same time the being of the world, which is a mystery that can never be dispelled by any physical explanation of reality, inasmuch as it is a mystery logically prior to and in excess of the physical order. We cannot encounter the world, furthermore, except in the luminous medium of intentional and unified consciousness, which defies every reduction to purely physiological causes, but which also clearly corresponds to an essential intelligibility in being itself. We cannot encounter the world, finally, except through our conscious and intentional orientation toward the absolute, in pursuit of a final bliss that beckons to us from within those transcendental desires that constitute the very structure of rational thought, and that open all of reality to us precisely by bearing us on toward ends that lie beyond the totality of physical things. The whole of nature is something prepared for us, composed for us, given to us, delivered into our care by a “supernatural” dispensation. All this being so one might plausibly say that God – the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality – is evident everywhere, inescapably present to us, while autonomous “nature” is something that has never, even for a moment, come into view. Pure nature is an unnatural concept.” (David Bentley Hart)

  228. Melissa

    GrahamH,

    Causality as we know it, by definition, relates to the interactions of matter and energy in time and space. The concept of “non-physical causality” isn’t just speculative and question-begging – it’s nonsensical.

    The only question begging happening is from your end. Causality is not, by definition, only related to the interactions of matter and energy. You assume too much.

  229. Tom Gilson

    GrahamH, you should also know I agree with you about the inference you speak of here:

    Sure, but this kind nothing (absence of both the physical universe and the arrow of time) can not be inferred from the causality principle to establish a metaphysical necessity, because it is missing the conditions upon which the causality principle works.

    I don’t think creation ex nihilo is a metaphysical necessity in the same sense as the unmoved mover. It’s a revealed truth, not an inferred belief.

  230. Pofarmer

    “It’s revealed truth”

    Which any reasonable person should read as “made up Bullshit” until it is supported by evidence.

  231. Pofarmer

    “Causality is not, by definition, only related to the interactions of matter and energy. You assume too much.”

    But that’s where the evidence leads, is it not?

  232. Pofarmer

    “But if an atheist is going to hold to any moral distinctions at all, then those distinctions are vulnerable to theistic arguments.”

    And your theistic arguments will be vulnerable to naturalistic ones. Guess which way the flow of progress points.

  233. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer,

    Thank you for that affirmation in #253. I am a reasonable person, and I do not consider it made up (much less BS), because it’s supported by evidence.

    So we agree on that. I’m a little surprised you felt the need to supply such a strong epithet in your version of the statement, but at least we don’t disagree on the main point.

  234. Pofarmer

    “As Theos breaks through everywhere, Nature breaks through nowhere – not even once:”

    This statement is,just so self evidently, well, wrong. The list of things,that used to have supernatural causes that now have naturalistic causes is a very long list indeed. The list of naturalistic phenomena that now have supernatural explanations? The denial of reality on this site, trying to back itself up with obscure gibberish philosophy with no empirical basis, is,just mind boggling.

  235. Tom Gilson

    In #255, which progress are you referring to? It’s hard to make that guess when you’re not even telling us what you’re talking about.

    (Oh, I know what you want us to think when you say that, but let’s get it out on the table, make it explicit, and see whether this flow of progress does what you think it does for your position.)

  236. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer at 257, I think you misunderstand what is meant by Theos breaking through. (Our friend scbrownlhrm can sometimes be easy to misunderstand–even if if you aren’t looking for things to pull out of context and scoff at.)

  237. scbrownlhrm

    Pofarmer,

    The (long) David Hart quote touches on the problem with the claim upon that bizarre abstraction which the Naturalist calls self-sufficient nature. Where he refers to God, I instead refer to the Theos of the earlier comments from JB and myself.

    I don’t think your reasoning is bullshit, BTW. The existential pains and joys in this life mixed with the many intellectual pulls and dissections lead you and us and most folks along what are for the most part thoughtful and reflective reasonings.

  238. G. Rodrigues

    @d:

    It doesn’t matter whether the atheist thinks good and evil are coherent concepts in their own worldview – not one bit. Totally irrelevant.

    It is not “totally irrelevant”. Let us quote your first paragraph:

    I’d only reiterate, that many of the forms of the POE (and sure, there are many of them), attempt to show that there’s are rather surprising quantities of stuff in this world like pain and suffering that seem unnecessary for some greater good (presupposing theist and/or Christian conceptions of those concepts), and those quantities of stuff are best explained by there being no God at all.

    So your claim is that the structure of the PoE is that of a reductio against theism. So far so good. But then saying that “those quantities of stuff are best explained by there being no God at all” is just wrong, because it is not the case that atheism “explains better”, it is rather the case that atheism entails that such as Good and Evil do not exist at all as mind-independent objective facts — or so the argument goes — so that there is nothing to explain.

  239. G. Rodrigues

    @JAD:

    But be careful, I see some flaws in Wielenberg’s proposed answer.

    Any thoughts?

    First, Wielenberg is of no consolation to *naturalists*, since he very explicitly rejects it. For me, the clincher in the paper you linked to can be found in pg. 26:

    “Of the ethical states of affairs that obtain necessarily, at least some are brute facts. That pain is intrinsically bad is not explained in terms of other states of affairs that obtain. Moreover, at least some necessarily obtaining brute ethical facts are not trivial but substantive.16 Therefore, I have an ontological commitment shared by many theists: I am committed to the obtaining of substantive, metaphysically necessary, brute facts. Some ethical facts fall into this category; I call such facts basic ethical facts. Such facts are the foundation of (the rest of) objective morality and rest on no foundation themselves. To ask of such facts, “where do they come from?” or “on what foundation do they rest?” is misguided in much the way that, according to many theists, it is misguided to ask of God, “where does He come from?” or “on what foundation does He rest”? The answer is the same in both cases: They come from nowhere, and nothing external to themselves grounds their existence; rather, they are fundamental features of the universe that ground other truths.”

    Wielenberg calls a “brute fact” a state of affairs whose “obtaining is not explained by the obtaining of other states of affairs”. Then in a footnote he emphasizes that bruteness is an ontological, not an epistemological fact. The problem with this, is that this notion is too broad and conflates distinct things. While God’s existence is not due to anything else, His existence does not obtain, or is not dependent on anything else, this is because and contra Swinburne, God is not *a* being but rather Being Itself. He is not the sort of being that could depend on anything else, because He is not even a sort of being as God is not in a genus. Furthermore, there are *independent* argued-for reasons for holding such. So the analogy breaks because it fails to make some distinctions that are crucial to Classical Theists (of which Swinburne is not one). The obvious charge against Wielenberg is then ad-hocery. He does not give us an account of the Good that would illuminate why pain is intrinsically bad (which unqualified, as it appears in the quoted paragraph, is baffling if not wrong, since pain is a biological defense mechanism), he only has his “intuitions”.

    Again, contra Wielenberg,

    “Such facts are the foundation of (the rest of) objective morality and rest on no foundation themselves. To ask of such facts, “where do they come from?” or “on what foundation do they rest?” is misguided in much the way that, according to many theists, it is misguided to ask of God, “where does He come from?” or “on what foundation does He rest”? The answer is the same in both cases: They come from nowhere, and nothing external to themselves grounds their existence; rather, they are fundamental features of the universe that ground other truths.”

    It is not misguided because, once again, Classical Theists *have* given an account of the Good (say from Augustine onwards), whose proximal grounding is in human nature (something Wielenberg would probably agree with, at least in the broadest of outlines) and whose distal grounding is in God, and this grounding is *argued* for, not simply posited as ad-hoc brute facts.

    Wielenberg recognizes this, even though he does not engage Classical Theists:

    “On my approach, the supervenience relationships under discussion here are logically equivalent to certain basic ethical facts. For example, the claim that the property of intrinsic badness supervenes on the property of pain is logically equivalent to the claim that necessarily, pain is intrinsically bad. So my view does have the feature that worries Wainwright; on my view, at least some of the supervenience relationships between moral and non-moral properties are brute facts. Is this a problem for my view? More precisely, does this aspect of my view constitute a reason to prefer an alternative view according to which the supervenience relationships in question are grounded in a perfect, necessarily existing God?”

    So Wielenberg’s response is simply saying that he is no worse off than theists, which as I have tried to explain is false. But there is something just off kilter when someone sets out to defend his position claiming that it is “no worse” than his opponent. Maybe he does it in the hopes that he cannot be defeated; but what hope is there of convincing anyone other than himself?

  240. G. Rodrigues

    @Tom Gilson:

    I don’t think creation ex nihilo is a metaphysical necessity in the same sense as the unmoved mover.

    Why do you say this? Creation ex nihilo is a metaphysical necessity. I suspect we are using the expression in different senses.

  241. Pofarmer

    Wow, hate this comment system. I never thought I’d appreciate disqus.

    258. Human progress, advancement of knowledge, acheivment, etc, etc.

    256. Tom, what evidence do you have for your “metaphysical necessity”? Perhaps you should contact some Cosmologists stat.

  242. Pofarmer

    260

    Scbrownhlrm

    Show me where Hart is Published and Relevant outside of Apologetics and/or Philosophy of religion and maybe I will get interested, maybe.

  243. Tom Gilson

    My evidence for that necessity, pofarmer, is this:

    1. There is a clear necessity for an unmoved mover. Cosmologists have nothing new to add to that case. I am not unaware of what they are saying about these things.

    2. There is the revealed truth of creation ex nihilo, and libraries full of evidence for the trustworthiness of that revealed revelation.

    3. In view of G. Rodrigues’ reminder, I think there’s also a strong philosophical case for creation ex nihilo that I forgot earlier. Probably the most applicable argument I know of is Leibniz’s argument from contingency.

  244. Pofarmer

    Have any of you guys read Patricia Churchland or any relevant Nuerobiologists? Everything From the theists I read here is “grounded” in some obscure philosophy. None of it is grounded in empirical research or scientific studies. You can argue philosophy all you want, and obviously do but until you ground it with some inductive reasoning and actual evidence, all you are doing is very verbose handwaving.

  245. Tom Gilson

    The progress you are pointing to: I’m guessing which way you think it points. Can you guess which way we think it points? (Be careful: that question isn’t as easy as it looks.)

  246. Andy

    G. Rodrigues:

    it is not the case that atheism “explains better”, it is rather the case that atheism entails that such as Good and Evil do not exist at all as mind-independent objective facts — or so the argument goes — so that there is nothing to explain.

    That is incorrect on two levels:
    1. Theism doesn´t necessarily entail that good and evil are mind-independent facts, within the framework of divine command theory for example (not exactly an unpopular view) true moral propositions are mind dependent facts.
    2. Whether moral facts are universally true or not and whether they are mind-independent or not doesn´t affect whether they need an explanation or not – if they exist, they can and should be explained, their ontological status is irrelevant (for the question of whether they need to be explained or not).

  247. Pofarmer

    No Tom, you don’t show the necessity of an unmoved mover, you show the necesity for an unmoved mover in your particular philosophy. That idea started off the path with Galileo and Gravity and was essentially put by the wayside with Newton. You can make any philosophical case you’d like, but until you can show that your philosophical cases are somehow relevant in the debates going on by folks who are trying to understand our universe and the underpinnings of what we experience as reality, I will just have to asume that it is still-irrelevant. How does clinging to hundreds of years old philosophical concepts that bear no weight in current scientific thought somehow buttress your arguments?

  248. SkepticismFirst

    G. Rodrigues:
    “Being Itself”

    I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what this means. That’s not a criticism, I just don’t understand. Can you explain?

  249. Pofarmer

    268

    Human knowledge, advancement, acheivement. That is the progress I’m pointing to. Hell, even moral advancement, your great bogeyman, is arguably made by advancing past theological notions of recieved morality.

  250. Jenna Black

    Pofarmer,

    Your comments reflect a scorn and contempt for theology and religion. Why are you here posting on this blog?

  251. Pingback: Atheists’ Skepticism as Better Explanation? - Thinking Christian

  252. Pofarmer

    “Why are you here posting on this blog?”

    Atheists were invited to post on this thread.

    “Your comments reflect a scorn and contempt for theology and religion.”

    Nah, I have a scorn for unevidenced, longwinded rationalisations hidden as REASONS!

  253. Tom Gilson

    Your main problem here, pofarmer, is that you don’t understand the metaphysics you’re disputing. You don’t know why it’s true that contemporary cosmological findings have no impact on it, and therefore your objections here are irrelevant.

    So you’re complaining about what we don’t know in ways that demonstrate what you don’t know. This is not a subjective religious opinion, by the way. It is fact.

    You should be more skeptical of your skepticism. Which is really your main problem.

  254. Pofarmer

    What do you think I don’t understand about these metaphysics?

    “You should be more skeptical of your skepticism. Which is really your main problem. ”

    Ah, have Faith!

    “You don’t know why it’s true that contemporary cosmological findings have no impact on it, and therefore your objections here are irrelevant. ”

    The irony here is just, well………..

  255. Tom Gilson

    You answered your own question, Andy. What you don’t understand about the metaphysics is revealed again* by your expression of irony over “You don’t know why it’s true that contemporary cosmological findings have no impact on it, and therefore your objections here are irrelevant.”

    What you don’t understand is also hinted strongly in the fact that rather than rebutting me with knowledge, you asked me what it was you didn’t understand. If you had understood enough to know what you weren’t taking into account, you would have either agreed or disagreed. Instead you inadvertently communicated exactly what I have been trying to tell you: that you don’t know what you don’t know.

    There are a host of reasons why philosophers might agree with this Aristotelian view, and of course reasons why they might disagree. None of those reasons (or at least no good reason) has any connection to discoveries made by cosmology. You don’t seem to know that. Therefore it is a fact that in this case, you’re displaying what you don’t know. It’s not subjective opinion. It’s fact.

    Not knowing is fine; most people in the world don’t know why Aristotle posited an unmoved mover, and it’s no moral flaw on their part that they do not.

    It’s different, however, when you pretend you understand enough of the argument to mock another person for their misunderstandings. It’s different when you persist in acting as if you know what you’re talking about when you’ve been given ample opportunity to inquire into whether that’s actually true or not.

    You may disagree with me on this (I think it’s true, but different people have different standards), but I think that’s a matter of either unreflective ignorance or intellectual dishonesty. I don’t know which. I don’t think there’s another likely option, however.

    If a fool may be defined as someone who thinks he knows what he does not know, who parades his ignorance without realizing that’s what he’s doing, and who supposes the other person is ignorant because that person doesn’t share his unknowledgeable and false opinion, then you are walking in that foolish territory.

    (This is not the first time I have informed you of this. Remember when I said that his argument applies to any instance of change or motion whatsoever?)

  256. Pofarmer

    Tom. Here is the problem as I see it.

    ” Remember when I said that his argument applies to any instance of change or motion whatsoever?)”

    This makes the definition overly broad, non specific, and therefore useless. It can be appealed to at any time. There is a reason that this argument went out of vogue with Newtonian mechanics. It is irrelevant.

    “There are a host of reasons why philosophers might agree with this Aristotelian view, and of course reasons why they might disagree. None of those reasons (or at least no good reason) has any connection to discoveries made by cosmology. You don’t seem to know that.”

    Absolutely I DO know that. Which is why I believe the whole thing is irrelevant. It is just another shuck and jive to pretend you have knowledge or relevance when and where you do not.

    Interestingly enough though, philosophy DOES have a place at the cutting edge of science. You know where? Theoretical Physics, cosmology, etc, which is why it’s particularly ironic when you state that your metaphysics isn’t affected by modern Cosmology, because they are using philosophical tools to explore the edges of scientific knowledge. You know what the difference is? They are then grounding their philosophical findings in empirical data and weeding the bad findings from the good findings and further refining their models. You have no mechanism to do that, or, at least, are afraid to employ it, so you talk in philosophical metaphysical circles about things that are simply abstract and unprovable, or, alternatively, already dissproven or outmoded. So, personally, I think the one here doing an awful lot of pretending is you. Pretending that you possess knowledge which you, or anyone else for that matter, cannot. Pretending that authors only known for apologetics or Philosophy of Religion are somehow relevant in any way in a larger sense. They aren’t published in journals on morality, or ethics, or consciousness. You are already pushing an outmoded theory and science will just whiff you by the wayside-again. Pretending that philosophy without science can lead to knowledge. It might, but it is just as likely to lead you to a convenient incorrect conclusion as a correct one. Pretending that Atheists don’t understand your arguments or have never interacted with them. We have, we just don’t accept them as valid any longer. Pretending that by being vague and dissembling and using tons of verbiage that you somehow come off as knowledgeable and erudite. It just looks like piling shit higher and deeper from where I’m sitting. And it’s sad, because I’m sure you are a perfectly nice and intelligent fellow.
    You say I don’t understand metaphysics? Fine, so what. I don’t think you understand science, at all. And until you do, you will continue down this path to irrelevance.

  257. JAD

    G. Rodrigues @ #262,

    Good analysis! Well, on second thought great analysis!!! Now if one of our atheist interlocutors could match that (from their POV, of course) I would be truly impressed.

    However, I disagree somewhat with your first point: “Wielenberg is of no consolation to *naturalists*, since he very explicitly rejects it.”

    That’s true, or at least that is what he’s trying to claim, except as someone pointed out earlier (Andy, I think) atheism doesn’t necessarily entail naturalism. Buddhist atheists, for example, I believe are more idealists than naturalists. However, I could be wrong about that. I am not that familiar with Buddhism. Feel free to correct me on that if I am wrong.

    Secondly, Wielenberg, appears to smuggle naturalism back into his argument. For example, he writes in his conclusion, “Evolutionary processes have produced human beings that can reason, suffer, experience happiness, tell the difference between right and wrong, choose between right and wrong, and set goals for themselves. In this way, evolutionary processes have endowed us with certain unalienable rights and duties. Evolution has given us these moral properties by giving us the non-moral properties upon which they supervene.”

    So, how exactly does evolution do that? Where exactly doe the ability. to “tell the difference between right and wrong,” come from? Inquiring minds would like to know.

    Also, from what you quoted, Wielenberg argues, “Of the ethical states of affairs that obtain necessarily, at least some are brute facts. That pain is intrinsically bad is not explained in terms of other states of affairs that obtain.”

    Pain is obviously a natural part of the natural world. Animal experience pain, we experience pain. But is pain always bad? Consider what is being discussed in this article:

    “Pain is probably one of the most important sensations that we have, because without it we would damage ourselves irrevocably,” says Stephen Green, consultant paediatrician at St Luke’s Bradford… “It is essential for the survival of the species.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/i-wish-that-my-child-could-feel-pain-1274807.html

    If that’s true how can pain be intrinsically evil? We evaluate certain kinds of pain as good, bad or evil. What is the standard we use to make those evaluations? It appears to me that that standard exists over-and-above pain or pleasure– or any other type of feeling or emotion. Again, where does that knowledge and ability come from?

  258. Tom Gilson

    This makes the definition overly broad, non specific, and therefore useless.

    No it doesn’t.

    It can be appealed to at any time.

    Because it applies at any time.

    There is a reason that this argument went out of vogue with Newtonian mechanics. It is irrelevant.

    And just what, pray tell, is that reason? (“It is irrelevant,” is a result of an argument, not a reason within an argument.)

    Pretending that Atheists don’t understand your arguments or have never interacted with them. We have, we just don’t accept them as valid any longer.

    I’m not pretending, pofarmer. You’re demonstrating. This is not a matter of theistic bias. This is what you’re showing to be true.

    I’m tired of having to repeat that. If you won’t get it from what we’ve discussed already, you won’t get it.

    I would think you would be more curious about that which you are claiming to know and to dispute. I see that as an odd characteristic for one who sides with skeptics. You’re a true believer in the falsity of a position you don’t even know.

  259. G. Rodrigues

    @pofarmer:

    I don’t think you understand science, at all. And until you do, you will continue down this path to irrelevance.

    Look, I took my studies in undergraduate physics and my phd in mathematical physics, and if there is anyone here who does not understand Science, and mouths off on Metaphysics, or on Aristotle on the unmoved mover, or on causation, with the full understanding of a mental retard is you.

    And to show that you really are clueless, here is your first paragraph:

    This makes the definition overly broad, non specific, and therefore useless. It can be appealed to at any time. There is a reason that this argument went out of vogue with Newtonian mechanics. It is irrelevant.

    The reason why some people contend that Newtonian mechanics puts paid to arguments like the First Way is because, so they say, the principle of inertia supposedly shows that the principle of causality is false. This is just wrong; at any rate, the point is that you cannot even get the objection right, and instead ridiculously dress it as a case of “overly broad, non specific” verbiage, which is precisely the contrary of how the objection runs, viz. the principle of causality is specific enough to admit of counter-examples.

  260. SkepticismFirst

    G. Rodrigues wrote:
    “…with the full understanding of a mental retard is you”

    Tom, if this is the kind of thing that you’re ok with people saying on your site, I’m probably not going to comment here anymore.

    From your very own comment policy:
    “Comments must be civil and clean, “family friendly,” as they say. Your opinion is welcome, whether you agree or disagree, under what I call the “Starbucks Standard,” practicing the kind of courtesy you would give another person while sitting over coffee together. That means no personal insults or gratuitous character attacks on other persons.”

  261. Tom Gilson

    You’re right. It was an insult, a globalizing generalization on his mental capacity, which is probably not at all hindered in other areas the way it seems to be in this.

    I think it would have been a whole lot more accurate to stick with the terminology of “fool” that I was using earlier. The hindrance does not appear to be intellectual but volitional and moral, expressed in his unwillingness to question himself and to learn. This meets the working definition for “foolish” as understood in enough circles that the word is accurate enough to use here, even though it’s also pejorative.

  262. Tom Gilson

    I think it might be a good time now to ask Pofarmer what his scientific qualifications are, just for the sake of curiosity. We have a good sense already of his philosophical ones.

    As for me, it’s there for you to look at on the About page, although it doesn’t list the dozens of books I’ve studied on my own on physics, biology, and the philosophy of science.

    The point of this is not to discover whether Pofarmer knows what he’s talking about. The topic has been metaphysics, primarily, not science, and we already know he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on that subject. The point of this is to find out what density of smoke he’s been blowing.

    Pofarmer, if you’re a scientist, that would be interesting to know, and I wouldn’t question you on that in any way. If you’re not a scientist, then I would draw another set of conclusions. (I trust you’ll tell the truth.)

  263. G. Rodrigues

    @Tom Gilson:

    You are free to scold me and even strike out or delete what I have written — I admit not having a well trained sensibility for when the boundary to gratuitous insult is crossed, and I trust your opinion on these matters — but in this case, I will neither retract nor soften it. I always go first for the least offensive of the options: intellectual vice, colorfully described as “full understanding of a mental retard”. Ascribing it to moral vice is much more troubling.

  264. BillT

    How does clinging to hundreds of years old philosophical concepts that bear no weight in current scientific thought somehow buttress your arguments?

    Ah! The anti-intellectual, reductionist, scientism of the secular mind. Nothing has value if not “buttressed” by science. “Current scientific thought” is the only arbiter of truth and value. Ancient “philosophical concepts” are simply being clung to. Woe is us.

  265. Tom Gilson

    G. Rodrigues, I try to limit myself to what’s observable. Pofarmer was acting in this discussion with observable mental abilities but with observable unwillingness to employ them.

    There’s a fine line there. I take a strong track record like yours into account, as far as how I police things here. It’s between you and pofarmer and anyone else who wants to pursue it, as far as I’m concerned.

  266. scbrownlhrm

    Skeptic: “The Christian paradigm accounts for X with Y, therefore atheism explains X better.”

    Christian: “Y isn’t the explanation for X.”

    Skeptic: “That’s rubbish. Y is your explanation. The Christian paradigm accounts for X with Y, therefore atheism explains X better.”

    Sort of like skeptics claiming the paradigm of Scripture’s A through Z calls slavery good/moral based on H through L.

    Misconstrued metaphysical lines and even worse theology. That may explain the skeptic’s perceived sense of justified skepticism. We’ve seen a bit of both in this thread.

  267. SteveK

    I’m wondering how science shows metaphysics to be false. I’m back to the ID question. ..can science detect intentionality and therefore the absence of it?

  268. Andy

    SteveK,

    I’m back to the ID question. ..can science detect intentionality and therefore the absence of it?

    I think you rather mean purpose / intention here (intentionality and intention should not be confused with each other). If that is what you meant, science is often employed to do this – forensics would be the most obvious example I guess.

  269. SkepticismFirst

    Tom Gilson:
    “There’s a fine line there. ”

    There absolutely is not. “Retard” is a slur against mentally disabled people. It’s not much different than referring to someone as a “faggot”.

    But anyway, I’m done. You won’t see me here again.

    So much for Christian love.

  270. scbrownlhrm

    S.F.

    Tom’s patience with our faith being referred to as “bullshit” by Pofarmer cuts both ways in his attempt to give everyone a chance and yet more chances etc.

    That’s a good thing – and demonstrated in all directions.

    Including toward my own tangents on occasion.

    I’ve seen him kick folks off…. but only after patterns.

    GR hasn’t a pattern. I feel comfortable saying that.

    Patience with “Bullshit” (Pofarmer) either goes in all directions or else it’s hypocrisy.

  271. Tom Gilson

    I’m sorry you feel that way, SF. I was unaware of the intensity of the feelings that would evoke. “So much for” Christian ignorance, actually. I had no idea. (So much for skeptical inquiry into what a person really intended, too. Apparently your skepticism allows you to know things without asking?)

    I think it’s interesting, too, that you would find a disability-related word that obviously didn’t apply (except metaphorically) to pofarmer—or to anyone else reading here—to be more offensive than a moral-deficiency-related word that I very literally and intentionally applied to him. I mean, if you’re going to leave, why would that be the reason rather than the other?

    And yes, scbrownlhrm, you’re right, I am not inclined to police everything. I have limits, but they aren’t often reached in a single offense.

  272. Melissa

    Tom,

    I think it’s interesting, too, that you would find a disability-related word that obviously didn’t apply (except metaphorically) to pofarmer—or to anyone else reading here—to be more offensive than a moral-deficiency-related word that I very literally and intentionally applied to him.

    I think you misunderstand SF. The problem is not the insult to Pofarmer but rather to the mentally disabled. Because English is G. Rodriguez second language, my guess is that he is unaware that his comment may come across as a slur on anyone except Pofarmer.

  273. Melissa

    Or maybe this is a cultural thing. Where I’m from the use of the word retarded to insult people is not OK anymore, because of the very issue SF raises.

  274. G. Rodrigues

    @all:

    “Retard” is a slur against mentally disabled people. It’s not much different than referring to someone as a “faggot”.

    Is it? Well, it seems I am ignorant of and not up to speed on the hidden associations and connotations of the epithets used. And does “mentally disabled” include only those with cognitive disabilities or it also includes such a general mental disability as Cerebral Palsy? I really do not wish to gratuitously give offense to people with Cerebral Palsy, although in this day and age it is hardly possible to string a few words together without offending some delicate soul somewhere. Above all, suffering from the condition myself, I would not want to insult and slur myself — too vain and proud for such a humbling exercise.

  275. Scott_In_OH

    Tom @215,

    I assume you are writing separate posts on the various answers (or clusters of answers) you’ve received to your original question, so I don’t want to delve very far into any of them in this already long and fragmented thread. However, I want to note that the way you have characterized “the atheist POE” @215 is not how I see it.

    The term “Problem of Evil” is used in Christian theology, and I am willing to grant Christian theologians the right to define it. They ask “Why does [something] exist if God could have stopped it?” That [something] could be crime, war, disease, natural disasters, or any number of other horrible things, and those theologians have chosen to call those things “Evil.” You may be right that an atheist wouldn’t call them “Evil,” but the [something] exists, all the same.

    The Christian says the [something] exists because God is testing us, God is punishing us, God gave the perpetrators free will, or any number of other explanations that raise further questions.

    The atheist says the [something] exists because there isn’t a God to stop it.

    Getting into a discussion of whether atheists have any basis on which to label something “Evil” doesn’t eliminate the “Problem of Evil” itself.

    I’m looking forward to your forthcoming posts.

  276. Tom Gilson

    Regarding the offensive word under discussion, yes I was unaware. I wouldn’t use the word myself, because it’s needlessly derogatory toward those who have no control over it, and it diminishes their worth. I did not realize, however, that it was such an emotionally freighted term that it could cause that level of offense by being spoken metaphorically toward one and literally toward no one in earshot.

    SF, if you consider that a failure of love on my part, I want you to know it was something else instead, as I’ve just described.

  277. Stephen

    I agree with Melissa. The use of that word is to meant to incite anger and distract from a reasonable argument by sterotyping any type of opposite opinion as a type of mental birth defect. Not quite the type of comment we would expect from one touting themselves as knowledgable in scientific areas.

  278. BillT

    Getting into a discussion of whether atheists have any basis on which to label something “Evil” doesn’t eliminate the “Problem of Evil” itself.

    Scott,

    Doesn’t it? Doesn’t turn it from the “Problem of Evil” into (as you describe) the “Problem of [something]”. And if it’s only the “Problem of [something]” then is it a problem. It’s just a variation of “[something] happens, then you die.” But the problem with this is no one believes it. When confronted with those [somethings] people wail and gnash their teeth and cry out against the injustice and suffering and yes, the evil. So if it’s really just [something] why do people think its evil. How does the concept and knowledge of evil exist if its not real. If it’s really only [something].

  279. Tom Gilson

    Stephen, G. Rodrigues is Portuguese. What it is meant to do here is something he was unaware of there. The word once had a more innocent meaning, it has morphed into something else, and it’s not unscientific to be unaware of that.

    Note also that he didn’t apply it on the basis of an “opposite opinion,” but rather a manifestly and demonstrably false opinion, being held persistently by someone who insisted he was right while displaying that he didn’t know what he was talking about.

    It would be a sad mistake on your part to stereotype G. Rodrigues as being among those who would stereotype people in the manner you mentioned.

  280. Melissa

    Stephen,

    I would appreciate it in future if you would not state you agree with me and then go straight in to stating something that I did not even hint at. The more correct phrasing should be “I agree with Melissa and additionally think …” As it is, your comment is sure to leave some with the impression that I agree with the rest of your comment which I do not. Pofarmer was displaying extremely substandard reasoning skills and a continued wilful ignorance, not just a different opinion. That is what G. Rodrigues was rightly objecting to even if I disagree with the particular words he used.

  281. scbrownlhrm

    Bill T,

    You make an important point. And weighty. “Useful fiction” … or, say, “Fantasy”…. don’t capture the Atheist’s “belief” there inside of our brutally repeatable moral experiences. Melissa said somewhere (something like…) that disagreements on what is or is not evil are not problematic for Theism in the end because the point is as you point it – we know that there are such things as good and evil. (…not the best recall of her specific discussion…) GM (I think) commented (along the lines of) on the enormous amount of cognitive dissonance the Atheist must tolerate to actually claim human rights of any kind exist via evolutionary biology.

    S.F. didn’t ticked off at his own fantasy, his own autohypnosis, at a useful fiction. No way. He perceived what he thought was real evil. He may change his mind on the specifics of THAT one situation as new information comes in and adds nuance (as I feel is warranted) – but he will *not* change his mind that actual human rights exist – that evil exists.

  282. Pofarmer

    Tell ya what. All I’ve asked for, repeatedly, is evidence and clarification, which you have declined to provide. FWIW, I do have a background in Research, both in my undergraduate college Years and shortly at a professional level. Alas, the University bureaucracy didn’t suit, but I always loved the work. Today, as my handle suggests, I farm, which you might not intuit, is currently a highly information based occupation. We sift tons of information for useful bits and lots of truth claims to sort out fact from fiction. Anyways.

    Way back upthread you stated that the idea of “philosophical nothingness” didn’t need empirical evidence. You never clarified why that might be. So, why might that be?

  283. SteveK

    How is your POE different, and as such your version of evil different? I found the podcast below to be a good explanation of this. It’s explained in the first 25 minutes – in everyday language. There’s no attempt to argue which moral reality is correct (atheist / theist) but rather to clarify how they are different.

    Does Evolution Explain Morality?

    In summary: if the atheist worldview can explain evil, it does so by explaining something different than what the Christian worldview explains – and as such the atheist explanation doesn’t explain it better.

  284. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer, empirical evidence for philosophical nothing is impossible for reasons stated here.

    Now, given that there can be no empirical evidence for it, does that mean there’s no reason to believe in creation ex nihilo? No. Empirical evidence is not the only way we know things.

  285. Tom Gilson

    To restate and then expand on what SteveK said, the atheist POE and the Christian POE are two completely different POE because their E terms are completely different. They share nothing except the same name. The two conceptions do, however, overlap in human experience, where we face the question, which conception of evil, atheist or theist, makes more sense?

  286. SteveK

    “for an explanation to be a good one, it has to explain what needs explaining”

    – podcast referenced above (16:40)

  287. Pofarmer

    SteveK. The problem is, the atheist would say the theistic explanation doesn’t explain anything at all, it is a rationalization, not an explanation. This is why I say that we come up with different answers to the same facts. You guys work really hard to twist definitions and meanings to define away your problems.

  288. SteveK

    We’re not defining anything away. We’re saying morality is objective – independent of opinion.

  289. Pofarmer

    “We’re not defining anything away. We’re saying morality is objective – independent of opinion.”

    And you’re demonstrably wrong, so what? You have to use your subjective reasoning to come up with your “objective morality”. Guess what, your idea of objective morality will be different from a Muslim or Hindu’s idea of objective morality. 500 years ag you would have thought it were objectively moral to burn an inbeliever at the stake. 2000 years ago you very well might have thought it was objectively moral to stone a rape victim to death. So, good luck proving objective morality. More nonsense.

  290. Tom Gilson

    Begging the question is a fallacy in which the premises used in an argument assume the conclusion. It’s a mistake that can only be made when there is an argument being made.

    In #198, I was explaining to GrahamH what philosophical “nothing” means, if that nothing obtains. It wasn’t an argument, it was a definition with illustrations. (“If the kind of ‘nothing’ we’re talking about obtained, this is what it would [not] be like.”)

    Therefore there is no question-begging there.

    You could say, though, that I built an argument more recently, when I used #198 as my answer to your question in #305. You asked why empirical evidence was not needed for philosophical “nothing.”

    Here then is my argument:

    1. Empirical evidence by definition requires something observed and someone observing.
    2. Philosophical nothingness (hereafter “Nothing”), if it has ever obtained, by definition excludes both.
    3. Nothing has no causal effect on physical reality. (From the definition of Nothing.)
    4. Therefore the absence of any observable causal effect on physical reality is equally predicted by the past actuality of Nothing or by the past non-actuality of Nothing. (I am using “actuality” carelessly, but I think the point is made anyway.) (1, 2, 3)
    5. Therefore the lack of any current physical evidence for Nothing counts equally for the past actuality of Nothing and for the past non-actuality of Nothing. (“Past” is also loose usage, but again, I think the point is clear.) (4)
    6. Therefore the current lack of any empirical evidence for a past actuality of Nothing is, logically, completely irrelevant to any determination of whether Nothing has ever obtained. (5)
    7. For the concept of Nothing to require empirical evidence, there would have to be some logically possible way in which empirical evidence could be relevant to the question. (From the definition of “require.”)
    8. There is no logically possible way for empirical evidence to be relevant the question of Nothing. (6).
    9. Therefore Nothing requires no empirical evidence; your question in 305 is answered. (7 and 8)

    That’s all based on standard definitions of the conceptions under consideration here, and there’s no question-begging in it.

    Of course that leaves open the question whether there could be any way to know the truth about this Nothing if empirical evidence can’t help us. I’ll let you ask that, though, before I go on and answer it. This comment is already long enough.

  291. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer @314:

    Another argument.

    1. If there is at least one point of morality that is objective, then objective reality exists.
    2. It’s logically possible for one point of objective morality to exist while myriad points of subjective morality exist.
    3. Therefore the empirical fact of myriad points of subjective morality is consistent either with the existence or the non-existence of objective morality.

    So your counter-argument in 314 does not, in spite of what you said, demonstrate that objective morality is wrong.

    But your argument does raise a question for follow-up: What would you say if there was one body of moral opinion that was universal in all cultures and across all time? Would you count that as evidence against your empirical case there? And if it existed, would you count it as evidence that this moral opinion reflected real, objective morality?

  292. Pofarmer

    “1. If there is at least one point of morality that is objective, then objective reality exists.”

    But that’s not what’s generally meant by objective morality, is it?

  293. Tom Gilson

    Yes, it is, actually. The idea of objective morality is not that every moral standard is objectively valid, universal, or even right; but that there exists some objective morality. All that’s required for some objective morality to exist is for at least one point of morality to be objective.

  294. Pofarmer

    1. We can observe black holes, gluons, quarks. We can even now create microscopic black holes. Who’s to say we couldn’t create “nothing” and then observe it? If we can’t observe it, how can we determine what qualities it might have?

    3. In nothing has no causal effect on physical reality, how could physical reality be produced from it?

    6. If we lack emperical evidence for something, we shouldn’t make assumptuons about it, per 1 and 3.

    So, yeah, you’re just trying to, once again, define yoirself out if any burden of proof.

  295. SteveK

    Who’s to say we couldn’t create “nothing” and then observe it?

    LOL!

    Don’t forget square circles.

  296. Melissa

    Pofarmer,

    Nothing is not a kind of something. I suggest you take some time to think before posting again.

  297. Andy

    Tom,

    What would you say if there was one body of moral opinion that was universal in all cultures and across all time? Would you count that as evidence against your empirical case there? And if it existed, would you count it as evidence that this moral opinion reflected real, objective morality?

    Good question. “Objective” can refer to two things here: moral universalism or moral realism. I´d say that a “body of moral opinion that was universal in all cultures and across all time” would count as evidence in favor of moral universalism over its alternatives, but it doesn´t favor moral realism over subjectivism.
    Do you agree? And can you think of an observation that would favor moral realism over subjectivism (or vice versa)?

  298. scbrownlhrm

    Pofarmer,

    Tom ended with this (regarding “Nothing”) –

    “That’s all based on standard definitions of the conceptions under consideration here, and there’s no question-begging in it. Of course that leaves open the question whether there could be any way to know the truth about this Nothing if empirical evidence can’t help us. I’ll let you ask that, though.”

    This is not, as you say, defining away a problem. It is bringing the problem to its logical end, and, then, leaving it at the footsteps of the physical sciences. There, it then asks you, since the empirical cannot measure it in any fashion, can we know of any such reality (that which the physical sciences cannot measure).

    Clearly, if you can demonstrate that the empirical is all that counts as knowledge, then you can demonstrate that we can have no knowledge of said reality (Nothing, etc.).

    But you have not demonstrated it – that is to say – you have not presented an argument that your *positivism* is coherent through and through, perhaps even demonstrable.

    Until you do, Tom has no good reason to grant you our claim, to grant positivism to the skeptic as a proof of No-God (strong) or as a logical argument against God (weak).

    A few presuppositions about a priori knowledge and about a posteriori knowledge may (or may not) emerge.

  299. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    One wonders, is there any possible evidence for moral realism (objective morality) on the Skeptic’s view?

    On Skepticism, materialism, or what have you, all that is perception breaks down on the horizons of eliminative materialism such that the Skeptic ipso facto is just that: a Skeptic on all ontological claims – or – its never the terrain, its only the map.

    Terrain/Map seems always the claim.

    So the fact that Theism can demonstrate the Singular Frame of Love/Lovelessness within which all of Mankind’s brutally repeatable moral vectors motion is neither here nor there for the Skeptic as – again – it will be on his claim that such either *is not* or perhaps *cannot* be the terrain, but is only the map.

    One wonders, is there any possible evidence for moral realism (objective morality) on the Skeptic’s view?

    On and in Trinity we find all those motions amid Self/Other and as such is laid atop contingent and mutable beings we can and do extricate all that can be called moral motion amid love/lovelessness. What is ceaseless reciprocity within Trinity finds the milieu of the immutable love of the Necessary Being and finds Love/Lovelessness as the instantiation of all moral lines in any mutable and contingent (created) Self – especially should such a being be created to mirror that Image, God’s Image.

    None of that is an argument, nor an unpacking of that Singular Frame.

    Rather, it is just to introduce the “What If” question to the Skeptic about such a Frame being demonstrated, for that *still* is, on the Skeptic’s view, merely a universalism, for such is claimed to end at the mind of man, at the end of contingency as eliminative materialism breaks through and “It’s the map, not the terrain” echoes again.

    One wonders, is there any possible evidence for moral realism (objective morality) on the Skeptic’s view?

  300. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    One wonders, is there any possible evidence for moral realism (objective morality) on the Skeptic’s view?

    I didn´t ask for observations that would favor moral realism over subjectivism under “the Skeptic´s view” and I don´t give a damn which particular straw men, prejudices and overgeneralizations you use to construct this “Skeptic´s view”. If you can think of observations that favor moral realism over subjectivism, name them.

  301. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    A singular frame counts, as you say, as universalism, not objective morality. That is because – on Skepticism – hard ontological realism is ipso facto troubled.

    Note: This is only to clarify the affirmative rejection of said “Singular Frame” by the Skeptic, or by *you*, as evidence before moving further.

    That is to say: There exists a Singular Frame within Mankind’s brutal moral experience such that all moral motions are therein. Trinity alone “instantiates” (etc.) such within possible (contingent) worlds. Again, that is not unpacked or drawn out here. Rather, it is just presented as a “What If” at the Skeptic’s feet.

    At your feet.

    So, again, Andy, you claim such points not to perception of some X outside of Man (objective morality “out there” to which reason is *actually* committed to following), but rather to some X within Man (universalism) such that Man’s own moral reasonings yet still begin and end inside himself, perhaps conditioned over eons by the stuff of evolutionary morality.

    Fine.

    Terrain/Map.

    But one wonders about two questions:

    1) Is such evidence even possible on your view (objective morality outside of Man’s mind, etc.) given the problem of perception, of terrain, and of maps?

    2) On what grounds do you reject said Singular Frame as evidence? (We’re assuming you do reject it based on your employment of the “universalism” label earlier.)

  302. Pofarmer

    322-323

    It’s not an lol type question. We can create vaccuums, for instance, we can even theorize quantum vaccums. We can create small black holes, which are not nothing, but not easily observable, so, the idea that we could create a small amount of nothing and observe it isn’t so far fetched. And the point also remains, if we can’t observe something, we shouldn’t try to draw conclusions about it. The other point remains that folks like Laurence Kraus and Sean Carroll think the idea of the philosophers nothing is simply incoherent. Quantum actions would try to fill it immediately, so this “nothing” may well be impossible.

  303. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer, I think you’re still thinking of a different Nothing than the one we’ve been talking about since #111.

    The philosophical and theological conception of Nothing, as in “out of nothing, nothing comes” (#111), creation out of nothing (or ex nihilo #152, #190, etc.) is not what you think it is. That’s not to say that you can’t bring up a different conception of Nothing, but if you do, you’ll be talking about something else. You’d be changing the subject from one topic of conversation to another.

    The Nothing of philosophy and theology is a complete and utter lack of being. It’s not a place where there is nothing, because if such a place existed (an utter vacuum), it would still be, which means it would not be the same Nothing of which we speak in philosophy and theology.

    Did you listen to my short podcast, mentioned in #199? The idea that God created from nothing is not that there was some pocket of nothing somewhere that he used to create the universe. It’s that there was God, and God only, and nothing existent except for God. There was no time, no space, no place, no “where,” no “when,” no physical anything of any sort, but simply the Trinitarian God. Then God by an act of his power and will created something other than himself, the physical universe, and he did it without the use of any pre-existing material in all of reality in any way. That last clause “without the use of any pre-existing material in all of reality in any way” is pretty much synonymous with, “from nothing.”

    So could we make some nothing in that sense? No. We cannot make the absence of pre-existing material in all of reality in any way. We exist. We’re in reality. The conditions necessary for such a Nothing are no longer possible.

    That’s the term under discussion. Now, with that in mind I suggest you take another look at #315. Don’t overlook the end, where I acknowledged that I had more work to offer you in answer to the question that preceded that comment.

  304. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    A singular frame counts, as you say, as universalism, not objective morality.

    No, I did not say that. I would never say that. I don´t even know what the hell “singular frame” is even supposed to mean in this context (nor do I care since you never bother to define your idiosyncrasies anyway, even if one repeatedly asks you to).
    Don´t put your nonsensical semantic constructs in my mouth, its incredibly rude.

    That is because – on Skepticism – hard ontological realism is ipso facto troubled.

    I know that you love to use the word “ontological”, even in a context where it doesn´t make sense, but what we are talking about here is actually moral realism. Ontological realism is the position that there is an “outside world” – that there are things that are ontologically independent of your thoughts.

    That is to say: There exists a Singular Frame within Mankind’s brutal moral experience such that all moral motions are therein. Trinity alone “instantiates” (etc.) such within possible (contingent) worlds. Again, that is not unpacked or drawn out here. Rather, it is just presented as a “What If” at the Skeptic’s feet.

    At your feet.

    Aha. So mankind has “brutal moral experiences” (I love the word “brutal” here), and within those experiences there is a “Singular Frame” (a picture frame? Also, love the random capitalization) and because of that there are “moral motions” (I like those much more than those nasty amoral motions) “therein”. Wow, its recursive – a “moral motion” is within a “Singular Frame” which is in our “brutal moral experience” – that my good sir is some excellent word salad, you should submit it to a journal about postmodern philosophy.

    So, again, Andy, you claim such points not to perception of some X outside of Man

    I have no idea whatsoever what the “such” is referring to here. But what I do know is that I didn´t claim any such thing wrt “perception of some X outside of Man”, didn´t imply it and didn´t even hint at it.

    (objective morality “out there” to which reason is *actually* committed to following), but rather to some X within Man (universalism)

    You have evidently no idea what moral universalism even means, if you were thinking about moral facts being “within” in the sense of “being mind-dependent”, then the correct word here would be “subjectivism”, moral “universalism” means something completely different.

    1) Is such evidence even possible on your view (objective morality outside of Man’s mind, etc.) given the problem of perception, of terrain, and of maps?

    You have no idea what my “views” here are, and they are completely irrelevant to the question I posed, either you can think of observations that would favor moral realism over subjectivism (or vice versa) or you cannot – and maybe, just maybe, you should try to understand what those words mean before trying to answer the question.
    You seem to have the “understanding” so far that:
    “Theistic morality” = “moral realism” = Awesome!
    “Atheistic morality” = “subjectivism” = Booo!
    If you do, then think about the moral views of William Lane Craig and Peter Singer. You probably agree very much with Craig while you consider Singer´s views to be abominably wrong. But divine command theory (Craig´s position) is a subjectivist position while utilitarianism (Singer´s position) is a realist position. An atheist can be a moral realist or a subjectivist (or they could deny both and subscribe to a non-cognitivist position) and a theist could be a moral realist or a subjectivist.

    2) On what grounds do you reject said Singular Frame as evidence? (We’re assuming you do reject it based on your employment of the “universalism” label earlier.)

    I love how you label your own thoughts as “We´re assuming”. Also, your question is unintelligible (and you yourself probably don´t even know what you mean by that since you evidently didn´t even know what “universalism” meant in this context, see above).

  305. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    You claim a universally shared “moral belief” counts as universalism – not realism.

    We’re simply taking that one step further to a universal ontological framework drawn out by the Christian within which *either* disharmony *or* harmony amid such moral opinions are *both* still shown to be not only contained within that frame but also expressing the very features we would expect *if* that ontological frame actually were the start/stop point of all moral experience.

    If an ontological model were presented to you which met those criteria would you count it as evidence for moral facts existing outside of *Man’s* mind?

  306. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    You claim a universally shared “moral belief” counts as universalism – not realism.

    1. No, I did not say that. I said it counts as “evidence for moral universalism”.
    2. Moral universalism is compatible with both moral realism and subjectivism. And what I pointed out is the observations that Tom talked about count as evidence for universalism, but they do not favor moral realism over subjectivism (or vice versa).

    We’re simply taking….

    No. YOU´RE simply taking… Your unshakeable confidence in being able to speak for others is unbelievably presumptious.

    ….that one step further to a universal ontological framework drawn out by the Christian within which *either* disharmony *or* harmony amid such moral opinions are *both* still shown to be not only contained within that frame but also expressing the very features we would expect *if* that ontological frame actually were the start/stop point of all moral experience.

    If an ontological model were presented to you which met those criteria would you count it as evidence for moral facts existing outside of *Man’s* mind?

    Potentially yes. That would depend on how ad hoc this framework would be – if you had such a moral realist framework that could explain and predict facts about moral behaviour better than competing subjectivist frameworks, I would count that as evidence in favor of realism. If however you are simply looking at the observations and fit your framework to it by making up ad hoc assumptions, I wouldn´t be impressed (overfitting is easy and every framework can explain everything if you can make up as many ad hoc hypotheses as you need).

  307. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Good.

    I’m still clarifying.

    On moral facts existing outside of *Man’s* mind, I take it that we both mean that we would each have in our models *necessary* ties between the moral facts (outside of Man) with Reason (inside of Man) – correct?

    Singer has yet to show his categorical imperative to which reason *actually* is obligated per se and ends eventually in taste buds – as does Hume, but as I read you on realism you mean something more? (The Theist does mean more by “moral facts outside of Man’s mind”.)

  308. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    On moral facts existing outside of *Man’s* mind, I take it that we both mean that we would each have in our models *necessary* ties to the moral facts outside of Man with Reason inside of Man, correct?

    Could be. If moral facts have a mind independent existence, then it would need to be explained as what exactly they are existing (i.e. what is their nature (are they something like platonic forms for example)) and how they can be known by moral agents (since they exist outside and independently of the agent, the agents mind must somehow be able to access them). Whether moral agents are necessarily “tied” to these facts – its your model, you tell me (and clarify what “tied” is supposed to mean).

    Singer has yet to show his categorical imperative to which reason *actually* is obligated per se…

    Categorical imperative is something completely different again (that´s Kant, not Singer) and I have no idea what “reason being obligated” to anything is supposed to mean.

  309. Pofarmer

    Tom, I know what the philosophical nothing entails. But here, you are saying that nothing, is nothing, except God. If you want to define God as nothing, then I’m right there with ya. The problem here, is that Physicists like Laurence Krause and Sean Carroll bring up very good arguments about whether the existence of the philosophers nothing is even coherent, since all we have are experiences of, well, something. Nothing may not even be possible! Also, you then Posit a force, outside of this nothing, acting upon this nothing to create-Stuff! Well, if this force could act upon this nothing, then why couldn’t we observe it? Obviously this nothing was abailable to an outside agent. And by what methods did this force act on this nothing to create-something? See, I don’t have a problem with you making up whatever scenarios that you like and playing with them. However, when you make up something like a philosophers Nothing, and then go on to give it charachteristics and make sweeping statements about what it must mean-GOD! Obviously, then, yes, we have every right to ask you to emperically verify those claims. Because it doesn’t stop there, does it? See, the very real problem you have here, and it’s why I say you don’t understand science, or outright deny it, is that we know that in a lot of cases pure philosophy led us down dead ends it couldn’t back out of without the help of induction. Achilles and the tortoise, for instance. We also know that our intuitions aren’t particularly good sources of knowledge or truth. We missperceive things and are wrong a lot. The scientific method gives us checks to verify that our results are reasonable and repeatable. You say that you don’t need any checks. Alas, can’t have any checks, and your propositions are so ironclad that they simple don’t or shouldn’t require them. Well, guess what, history is littered with the corpses of those kinds of ideas with that kind of certainty. That, is why we ask for verification and evidence, and, until you can provide it “that which is asserted without evidence may be dismissed without evidence” I, nor anyone else obviously, are under any compunction to take assertions seriously. Oh, and you can’t bring something to a “logical end” if your prepositions are wrong. Well, actually you can, bit you can’t know if you are correct or not. You are rooting down a blind hole. Yes, someone has more work to do.

  310. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Reason being obligated …..such that it *actually* is unreasonable to do otherwise. Evolutionary morality fails there without begging the question.

    If you’re not bothered by the possibility that reason can in *fact* find no obligation beyond its own goals – such that it would not in *fact* be *un*reasonable to claim one’s goals over external circumstances (facts) then we may be speaking of different real-isms.

    Which is fine. But terms matter.

  311. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    Reason being obligated …..such that it *actually* is unreasonable to do otherwise.

    “Unreasonable to do otherwise” just means that the alleged moral facts are indeed facts / are true. So when you said:
    “Singer has yet to show his categorical imperative [again, “categorical imperative” is Kant, not Singer] to which reason *actually* is obligated per se… ” you could also have said the much simpler: “Singer has yet to show that his moral philosophy is true”.

    Evolutionary morality fails there without begging the question.

    “Evolutionary morality” is not an established term in moral philosophy. “Fails there” seems to mean “has not been demonstrated to be true” (which is a rather trivial point because demonstrating that a particular framework in moral philosophy is true, is not exactly easy and you won´t find anything even remotely resembling a consensus – not even if you limit yourself to theist philosophers).

    If you’re not bothered by the possibility that reason can in *fact* find no obligation beyond its own goals – such that it would not in *fact* be *un*reasonable to claim one’s goals over external circumstances (facts) then we may be speaking of different real-isms.

    This is word salad.

    Which is fine. But terms matter.

    Your complete and utter lack of self-awareness is a sight to behold….

  312. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Given that the Theist finds reason obligated to those moral facts outside – which we agree exist (Yes?) – I’m curious if your realism posits such obligation – and on what grounds if so? I’ve not seen any non-theistic model of moral realism where such obligation exists without begging the question but perhaps you’ll surprise us.

  313. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    Given that the Theist finds reason obligated to those moral facts outside – which we agree exist (Yes?)

    If by “the Theist” you mean “scbrownlhrm” then yes.

    I’m curious if your realism

    Mine? What makes you think that I am a moral realist?

    posits such obligation – and on what grounds if so?

    Again, when you say “reason being obligated to these moral facts”, all you actually mean is “these moral facts are true”. If you use your “reason” to deliberate on moral issue X, and Y would be a true proposition about X while Z would be a false proposition about X, then your reasoning failed if you end up with concluding Z, and it worked if you ended up concluding Y. When you say “on what grounds” I can´t follow you – how can there, even just conceptionally, be any other ground here than “this moral proposition is indeed true”?

  314. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Nothing you just said demonstrates obligation.

    If your realism has none then fine.

    Got any?

  315. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    Nothing you just said demonstrates obligation.

    Cool. Then your clarification of “reason being obligated to” was either false or misleading and I still have no idea what you mean with that.
    So, try again to clarify what “reason being obligated to” is supposed to mean and ideally give a specific example.

  316. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Tell us why – on your realism – we ought chase flourishing, or *anything* else for that matter.

    Simple stuff here Andy……

  317. Tom Gilson

    Pofarmer, you wrote,

    Tom, I know what the philosophical nothing entails.

    Later, however, you contradict that by saying things like,

    But here, you are saying that nothing, is nothing, except God. If you want to define God as nothing, then I’m right there with ya…. Obviously this nothing was abailable to an outside agent….

    No one who understood the philosophical doctrine of Nothing would think I said any of that, or would say any of it himself.

    It’s not that you and I disagree over the implications of Nothing. It’s that no matter how hard I try, I cannot get you to understand the term we’re talking about in this context; in fact, I cannot get you to recognize that your understanding is nowhere near correct.

    I’ve explained the term often enough, and it’s not working no matter how hard I try, so I’m bowing out of this discussion. It’s going nowhere.

  318. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    Tell us why – on your realism –

    Are you being deliberately obtuse or just intellectually lazy? I didn´t once say that I am a moral realist in this thread and already pointed this out to you in the very comment you have been replying to here.

    ….we ought chase flourishing, or *anything* else for that matter.

    For any moral proposition along the line of “you should do x” I cannot see any possible ground for why a moral agent “ought” to do that other than the moral proposition being true. I already asked you, how could it, even just conceptually, be any other way?
    Let me give you a specific example, we assume that divine command theory sensu Craig is true for the sake of the argument and consider the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son. Why “ought” Abraham do this? The only reason I can think of would be that this divine commandment corresponds to a moral proposition that is true (which it is if we assume that divine command theory is true). You disagree. So on what possible grounds “ought” Abraham do this then?

    Simple stuff here Andy……

    Nothing is simple with you, wading through your idiosyncrasies is a herculean task.

  319. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Ah. I see. You had commented about realism higher up in the thread and the flow of it lead me to assume you were such.

    My mistake.

    If you’re not a moral realist, then, to clarify, I can take objective *oughts* (moral facts) existing independent of *Man’s* mind (and taste buds) off the table here?

  320. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    If you’re not a moral realist, then, to clarify, I can take objective *oughts* (moral facts) existing independent of *Man’s* mind off the table here?

    Taking it “off the table”… why exactly? Also, why do you keep answering questions with questions?

    Again:
    For any moral proposition along the line of “you should do x” I cannot see any possible ground for why a moral agent “ought” to do that other than the moral proposition being true. I already asked you, how could it, even just conceptually, be any other way?
    Let me give you a specific example, we assume that divine command theory sensu Craig is true for the sake of the argument and consider the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son. Why “ought” Abraham do this? The only reason I can think of would be that this divine commandment corresponds to a moral proposition that is true (which it is if we assume that divine command theory is true). You disagree. So on what possible grounds “ought” Abraham do this then?

  321. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    The Christian claims moral facts exist independent of *Man’s* taste buds, mind, reasoning, and goals.

    So that’s me.

    What do you believe?

    POE subjective/objective as SteveK hinted at….?

  322. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    Your habit of only posing questions while never answering questions directed at yourself is incredibly rude. If you are unable or unwilling to change that behaviour, then stop talking to me.

  323. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    I’ve told you twice now of my Theistic commitments, including the appeal to the nature of love housed in Trinity as an ontological path for me to (eventually) follow *and* of such as mind independent facts (…external to Man’s mind and tastes etc…) *and* that moral disagreements in Mankind is an accepted challenge for the Christian’s metaphysical paradigm.

    Those are *mine*.

    I’ve repeatedly sought to clarify *your* working paradigm.

    You want me to dive deeper into *my* regress (command theory vs. nature vs. essentialism vs. others etc.) all the while there is no “Andy’s paradigm” on the table for *you* to dive into and dissect.

    If you’re not interested in sharing in dialogue then your request for the same from others is unreasonable.

    You’ve not committed to nearly as much as I have.

  324. SteveK

    Nobody is answering the question:

    Is the atheist’s POE argument addressing objective morality, or not?

  325. Andy

    scbrownlhrm,

    I’ve told you twice now of my Theistic commitments…

    I don´t give a damn about your word salad. You fire questions in my direction, I answer, and when I ask a question to you, you simply ignore it, no matter how often I repeat it, and instead of answering you change the subject.
    I should have known from past experience that engaging you is an utter waste of time and I didn´t start this – you did. In the future, stop addressing comments to me.

  326. Andy

    SteveK,

    Nobody is answering the question:

    Is the atheist’s POE argument addressing objective morality, or not?

    Afaict, it presupposes moral cognitivism and is independent of which particular meta-ethical theory subsumed under cognitivism is true.

  327. Pofarmer

    “in fact, I cannot get you to recognize that your understanding is nowhere near correct.”

    In fact, I cannot get you to understand that you don’t have any understanding that your understanding is even REAL! That’s what Cosmologists are saying. And it IS relevant, because you go on to make claims that are relevant to cosmology and physics. If you can’t understand why this is important, and why leading scientists say this, it’s not original to me, then, indeed, there is no point.

  328. Pofarmer

    “Nobody is answering the question:

    Is the atheist’s POE argument addressing objective morality, or not?”

    Probably because it doesn’t matter. The theistic models normally don’t rely on objective morality either. That would seem to be a separate subject. But, if you keep squeezing the goalposts tighter and tighter, you might just make it impossible to get a goal.

  329. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    Show us an atheistic (real) objective Good independent of Man’s preferences.

    Perhaps immutable love…..?

    BTW – I don’t blame you for not putting your cards on the table.

  330. Andy

    Tom,
    I know you don´t consider scbrownlhrm to be a troll, but what he does here can hardly be called anything other than trolling. Could you please tell him to stop addressing comments to me?

  331. Tom Gilson

    Pofarmer, you’re trying to get me to understand that I’m drawing wrong conclusions about philosophical Nothing. You’ve skipped a step: you don’t know the meaning of the term (philosophical Nothing) that’s under discussion here. In fact, you have a very, very serious misunderstanding of the meaning of the term. It’s clearly evidenced in your language of an agent acting upon Nothing, and having Nothing available to it.

    You have not understood yet that Nothing is not something that exists in any sense of “exist.” It is a description of a state of affairs of non-existence.

    You have not understood that we mean that Nothing applies specifically the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, and it specifically means that God (who is not Nothing, in spite of your previous misinterpretation of what I clearly communicated–have you listened to that podcast yet?) used no physically existing material, force, law, space, or any other physical thing in his act of creating physical reality. He created physical reality out of no physical reality, out Nothing-with-respect-to-physical-reality.

    That is the meaning of the term that’s under discussion. Again, I recognize that you are frustrated with me for not seeing what you think I should see to be true about Nothing, but pofarmer, please back up a step and reconsider what’s going on here that’s frustrating you.

    It’s not that we’re talking about the same thing, and you’re drawing inferences about it that I’m missing. It’s that you’re talking about one thing, and I’m talking about something else. Let’s say you’re talking about Nothing, where nothing means A, and I’m talking about Nothing, where nothing means B. It happens to be the case that Nothing-B is the Nothing that philosophers and theologians discuss with respect to creation out of nothing. No philosopher or theologian would ever think to consider Nothing-A (your version of the term Nothing) as being relevant to that discussion.

    You think I’m missing something badly by not seeing what you see to be true about Nothing. I’m not missing that at all, however. Instead, I’m trying to stay on the topic, which was creation out of nothing. Nothing-A is not on that topic, so the inferences you draw with respect to Nothing-A have no relation to creation out of nothing.

    What’s worse, I’ve repeatedly described and explained what the term Nothing means, from this newly labeled Nothing-B perspective. But you’ve continued to insist on talking about a Nothing-A sort of Nothing, which is a Nothing of your own invention, one that no philosopher or theologian considers relevant to the discussion on creation out of nothing.

    If you want to talk about creation out of nothing, which was the topic when Nothing was first brought up, then you’re absolutely going to have to understand it and talk about it in terms of Nothing-B. Your Nothing-A is a term for a conversation on some other topic with some other person at some other time.

    If it helps any, though, I’ll be glad to agree with you that Nothing on your terms, Nothing-A that is, is completely incoherent, self-contradictory, and impossible.

    Now, let’s drop Nothing-A, since we both agree it makes no sense. Let’s either move on to Nothing-B or just let go of the discussion completely.

  332. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer @356, Christian theism relies on objective morality, defined as “a moral system in which there are duties, obligations, and values that hold true independently of any human opinion.”

    Definitions may be at issue again. If you’re understanding “objective” in some other way, what you said at #356 might be true according to that understanding.

  333. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    # 353 claims you’ve answered my questions etc. Such is false as after several attempts we’ve not been given a basic overall “rough” framework of your own personal beliefs as asked for, and as given by me.

    If you want to claim the Nature of God in Trinity is word salad and a Non-Christian stopping point then feel free. That would mirror your (silly) assertion that the Fall is the Christian explanation for logic and knowledge (etc.).

    You may want to learn more about Christian theology.

    And share personal beliefs with those who do so with you.

  334. Pofarmer

    I’ve never seen the Problem Of Evil stated where it required Objective morality to be valid. Never. Never even seen it mentioned.

  335. Tom Gilson

    There are two different problems of evil, pofarmer.

    The theistic POE absolutely does assume (and require) the objectivity of morality, because one of the terms in the problem statement is that there is a God who has a moral standard independent of human opinion (see comment 362).

    The atheists’ POE poses the question whether evil can coherently be stated as existing in any form at all.

  336. Pofarmer

    “. No philosopher or theologian would ever think to consider Nothing-A (your version of the term Nothing) as being relevant to that discussion.”

    Which is precisely why the whole thing is irrelevant to any discussion dealing with our physical reality. This, this is what Cosmologists are trying to say. This is NOT a feature. You are wanting to debate Angels on the head of a pin.

  337. Andy

    scbrownlhrm

    If you want to claim the Nature of God in Trinity is word salad…

    Ah, so you think that my accusations of “word salad” are baseless? Well, lets put it to the test. I will donate 100$ to a charity of your choice as soon as one of your fellow theists in this thread writes this:
    “When scbrownlhrm writes:
    “That is to say: There exists a Singular Frame within Mankind’s brutal moral experience such that all moral motions are therein. Trinity alone “instantiates” (etc.) such within possible (contingent) worlds.”
    I understand what he means by that and I can rephrase it in my own words – what he is saying here was [insert explanation of what scbrownlhrm means here].
    Honest to God, I am not lying and just making this up. ”

    # 353 claims you’ve answered my questions etc. Such is false

    Is it? Well lets go back, in #346, I answered on of your questions and asked you one in return. You simply ignored my question and instead asked me a new one in #347. I point out that this is an extremely rude habit of your to pose questions but never answer questions yourself in #348, repeat my last question, and ask you to answer it this time. You completely ignore my question again and instead ask me a new one of yours in #349. I tell you that I have enough of this BS and that you should stop talking to me if you demand answers for your questions while never answering questions yourself in #350. And you proceed to ignore my question, and my request to stop talking to me if you are unwilling to answer any questions.

    You sir, are a shameless liar.

  338. Pofarmer

    “because one of the terms in the problem statement is that there is a God who has a moral standard independent of human opinion (see comment 362)”

    You seem to have your own personal versions of arguments.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

    Perhaps you could highlight it for me.

  339. Scott_In_OH

    BillT @301, Tom @308, SteveK at a couple of different places:

    I don’t agree that, in practical terms, the atheist and the theist are trying to explain two different things when they try to solve the “Problem of Evil.” They are all asking why certain things exist in this world when an omnipotent, loving deity might be expected to prevent them.

    Here are three Christian thinkers and a reputable scholarly source giving examples of the “Problem of Evil” (all bolds are mine):

    The problem of evil is certainly the greatest obstacle to belief in the existence of God. When I ponder both the extent and depth of suffering in the world, whether due to man’s inhumanity to man or to natural disasters, then I must confess that I find it hard to believe that God exists.

    William Lane Craig at
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-problem-of-evil

    The argument from evil focuses upon the fact that the world appears to contain states of affairs that are bad, or undesirable, or that should have been prevented by any being that could have done so, and it asks how the existence of such states of affairs is to be squared with the existence of God.

    The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

    The problem can be stated very simply: If God is so good, why is his world so bad? If an all-good, all-wise, all-loving, all-just, and all-powerful God is running the show, why does he seem to be doing such a miserable job of it? Why do bad things happen to good people?

    Peter Kreeft at
    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/evil.htm

    But the absence of good, taken in a privative sense, is an evil; as, for instance, the privation of sight is called blindness.

    the want of sight is not an evil in a stone, but it is an evil in an animal; since it is against the nature of a stone to see.

    Aquinas at
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1048.htm

    Aquinas is speaking a little differently from the others, but he still sees something like blindness as an “evil” to be explained. As I stated above, The Problem of Evil is this: Why do certain things exist in this world when an omnipotent, loving deity might be expected to prevent them?

    If you do not agree with this formulation of the Problem of Evil, can you please state how you would formulate it?

    Also, I see that you have now labeled your post on “ironies” as your last in this series. That surprises me, since there were several other answers given to your question here. Do you not plan any separate posts on the Problem of Evil, the Problem of Hiddenness, the existence of so many incompatible interpretations of God’s will, and so on? It’s obviously your blog, and I know you are busy, but I was hoping for some sort of response to those points.

  340. Melissa

    Pofarmer,

    Which is precisely why the whole thing is irrelevant to any discussion dealing with our physical reality. This, this is what Cosmologists are trying to say. This is NOT a feature. You are wanting to debate Angels on the head of a pin

    Non-being is not a physical feature of reality. You are right there, which is exactly what Tom is trying to get you to see. Now things either exist or do not exist, you could say they either have being or do not have being. Please let us know what problem you have with this philosophical statement.

  341. scbrownlhrm

    Andy,

    And yet I still have *no* idea what your personal (basic, overall) working framework to morality is. As for Trinity and Possible worlds, based on the (high) skill level of your writing around here on a wide array of topics it seemed an easy enough touch-and-go. Our youth group folks even connect such basic dots…… Trinity…… possible worlds…. love….. moral frame…..

    As for your personal beliefs…. I’ve no idea. Though I gave and then asked. No lie. I looked again at 346 etc. to be sure.

    Dissecting *my* views on divine command etc. was not happening until you gave me what I gave you – *your* personal set of beliefs on this topic.

    That seemed like a fair and open path to dialog.

  342. Tom Gilson

    “. No philosopher or theologian would ever think to consider Nothing-A (your version of the term Nothing) as being relevant to that discussion.”

    Which is precisely why the whole thing is irrelevant to any discussion dealing with our physical reality. This, this is what Cosmologists are trying to say. This is NOT a feature. You are wanting to debate Angels on the head of a pin.

    Now you’ve moved from not listening–which is not good in itself–to a more serious fault.

    Let me simplify it: “Hey, there’s this discussion going on I don’t understand because they’re using a familiar word in a way I’m not familiar with. And because they say that the way I’m used to using the word is irrelevant to their conversation, then I say their whole conversation is irrelevant!”

    or…

    “If they won’t talk about it my way, then their whole discussion is irrelevant.”

    Next time you tell somebody their whole conversation is irrelevant, check first to see whether you know what they’re talking about, okay?

    Otherwise you’ll appear arrogant, condescending, and ignorant, all at the same time—just as you have done here.

    Do you like yourself being that way? Wouldn’t you rather be patient about learning what the conversation is about, before you condemn it as senseless? Doesn’t that seem like a more intellectually honest, high-integrity approach to take?

  343. Tom Gilson

    Ray, your reference to that problem is interesting, but if you’d been paying attention to the discussion with pofarmer you would know that it has no relevance to the current conversation.

  344. Tom Gilson

    Pofarmer @368,

    You’re really flailing badly. I don’t need to explain that the problem of evil makes reference in its premises to God’s objective morality (if God exists). I don’t need to, because honestly, everybody knows that it does, and if you think my view there is idiosyncratic, then you’re jumping on me for a fault I do not possess, and you’re revealing yourself as ignorant of the discussion.

    I’m not going to try any longer with you. I’m sorry. I am giving up.

  345. Pofarmer

    Tom, be a a condescending as you like. Your basic problem is that you want to have a conversation about Nothing, and then draw conclusions from that -God! It’s simply presuppositional apologetics. Look, before the quantum event that occured at the beginning of our Universe, there was no time, there was no space, there was no matter, there was no energy, for this Universe. All of those things are linked. However,mwe cannot currently see “before” that event, which may or may not be possible. It’s also possible that the conditions before the big bang are eternal. It’s possible that the formation of our Universe was triggered by the formation of a black hole in another Universe, for instance, as Neil Degrasse Tyson suggests as an interesting possibility. Therefore, your talk aboit Nothing, and a preexisting eternal God existing and forming oir Universe out of the Nothing, without intereacting with the Nothing, descends into irrelevance, a combination of presupposition, begging the question, and God of the Gaps. You yourself, even admitted that this “theory” whatever you call it, isn’t affected by modern Cosmology. Then it has no power, you, yourself, admitted it’s jrrelevance, not me, I simply pointed out your position. I am dealing in the world of what we know, you are dealing in Arostotles world of what we can imagine. “If we can imagine somethingit must be real, because we couldn’t imagine things that can’t be”. Well, we pretty much know that’s not true. So, imagine as much as you like, contradict or ignore science as much as you like, bluster and fuss as much as you like, it’s your blog,

  346. Tom Gilson

    pofarmer,

    You’ve done it again:

    Therefore, your talk aboit Nothing, and a preexisting eternal God existing and forming oir Universe out of the Nothing, without intereacting with the Nothing,

    That’s a complete distortion. You’ve misunderstood everything I’ve said about Nothing-B. I wrote very clearly that on the creation-from-nothing view, there was no “The Nothing” to form things out of or to interact with.

    Also, with a proper understanding of what I wrote, you would not think I was contradicting science.

    You’re judging me wrong without knowing what I’m talking about. You’re not reading what I write, or else you’re not understanding it. It’s not condescension for me to say that, it’s just fact. I’ve tried to explain it to you, I haven’t succeeded, and I’m done trying.

  347. Andy

    Pofarmer,

    Tom, be a a condescending as you like. Your basic problem is that you want to have a conversation about Nothing, and then draw conclusions from that -God! It’s simply presuppositional apologetics.

    It wasn´t presuppositional apologetics and Tom wasn´t condescending. You are ignorant about the subject at hand as could not be more obvious from quotes like:
    “We can create small black holes, which are not nothing, but not easily observable, so, the idea that we could create a small amount of nothing and observe it isn’t so far fetched.”
    – and you are unteachable (at least you have been in this thread).

    You yourself, even admitted that this “theory” whatever you call it, isn’t affected by modern Cosmology. Then it has no power, you, yourself, admitted it’s jrrelevance, not me…

    Actually, Tom said:
    “You don’t know why it’s true that contemporary cosmological findings have no impact on it, and therefore your objections here are irrelevant.”

    As a fellow atheist, I can´t help but feel a little embarrassed for how you are behaving here.

  348. SteveK

    Look, before the quantum event that occured at the beginning of our Universe, there was no time, there was no space, there was no matter, there was no energy, for this Universe.

    I’m wondering what the evidence is for this? That’s a rhetorical question. I know this is something everyone says is true, but it’s more of an inference to something we’ve never measured, seen or experienced. How do you arrive at an inference to something you’ve never measured, seen or experienced – imagination, philosophy, gut intuition, what?

    Isn’t this inference somewhat on par with your complaint about inferring God and nothing prior to the BB event?

  349. Andy

    SteveK,

    I’m wondering what the evidence is for this? That’s a rhetorical question. I know this is something everyone says is true…

    It´s not really as Pofarmer described it. Big Bang cosmological models can be somewhat meaningfully interpreted and backed up by empirical evidence up to a point of about 10^-36 seconds after t=0. Going back further requires a theory of quantum gravity, that we don´t really have. And the speculation re “no space, no matter” is rather about an initial singularity – all mass and spacetime of the universe condensed into a point with infinite density (and this is a hypothesis, it´s not part of an established scientific theory (Big Bang cosmological models make no explicit statements about the earliest moments after t=0)).

  350. Pofarmer

    SteveK.

    Andy is correct. We have Mathematical models estimating from different atarting conditions. These models are then tested as well as we can, the faulty ones thrown out, and further winnowing the survivors occurs to try to get a clear picture as early as we can. The correct answer to the question is “We don’t fully know” and we may never know, or we may have a major breakthrough tommorrow, like the one just announced in consciousness research.

    Andy, you may feel embarrassed for me all you like. The point is, and it’s a valid one unless you can demonstrate otherwise, is that
    Tom is attempting to set up an unfalsifiable argument here, actually has done so if you accept his premises, and actually has done so. It’s an interesting philosophical discussion, but irrelevant for a few hundred years now. Modern apologetics has brought it back out because they have been beaten back on so many other fronts. They used to make many claims in the physical world, those were pretty much universally refuted. Now they are pretty much down to making claims on the metaphyscial world, and most of those are either unfounded and unevidenced or refuted as well. If Tom wants to make his argument, he should take it over the Sean Carroll at preposterousuniverse and see how he makes out.

  351. scbrownlhrm

    SteveK & Tom,

    Cosmololgy, like all science, is fasinating. Your questions about Big Bang nuances (and so on) may (or may not) find interesting reading as Sean Carroll, a leading cosmologist, makes his case against God in a debate. The weight does seem to land against him, and, there are three follow up dissections of that debate at Part 1 and then Part 2 and then Part 3.

  352. Pofarmer

    When it takes Craig more words than in the transcript of the debate, to weasel around the debate, that should be a clue. BTW, what happened here in this thread is pretty much exactly what happened there. Carroll came to debate science, Craig came to debate theology.

  353. Tom Gilson

    Pofarmer, Andy was embarrassed because you demonstrated you don’t know what you’re talking about. Bear that in mind, okay?

  354. Pofarmer

    Now Tom. I’ve listened to or read Sean Carroll, Laurence Krauss. Neil Degrasse Tyson, Victor Stenger, Matt Dillahunty,mand Scott Clifton, and I imagine a couple more I’m forgetting, talk about the Kalam and Nothing. Are they all stupid too? You see, this is the difference here betweem theists and atheists, or at least what you don’t get. It’s been said that theology is made up stuff about made up stuff. The Kalam and the idea of theological or philosophical Nothing fits right in. Why do I want to debate that on your terms? Why don’t I want to debate the Problem if Evil, or the effects of the Fall, or the consequence of Noahs flood on the plant life of Vermont? It all falls into the category if the Emporers clothes. If it weren’t for Christianities position in society, we wouldn’t be discussing any of them, they have no place in modern academics. You are welcome to show me why your premesis are sound, or you can just grouse that I don’t fully understand your terms, I “got it wrong”. Where, how, why does it matter, how does it change anything? You seem to think if you get just the right obscure formulation of an obscure philosophical argument that, BAM your theology all of a sudden just falls into place. Guess what? You’ve lost. We used to beleive that Woman came from a mans rib. We used to believe that Eclipses were bad omens. We used to believe that comets fortold great misery or great success, we used to believe that meteors were flung by God from between the Moon and the Earth as signs or warnings from an angry God. We used to believe that frogs came from mud,mthat flies came from carrion, that demons and evil spirits caused disease. And the argument from Nothing is what you’re down to. Fitting.

  355. Tom Larsen

    Pofarmer,

    If you don’t mind me asking, why do you think you feel so strongly about this issue?

    I’ve listened to or read Sean Carroll, Laurence Krauss. Neil Degrasse Tyson, Victor Stenger, Matt Dillahunty,mand Scott Clifton, and I imagine a couple more I’m forgetting, talk about the Kalam and Nothing.

    Who else have you listened to or read on the subject?

    Guess what? You’ve lost. We used to beleive that Woman came from a mans rib. We used to believe that Eclipses were bad omens. We used to believe that comets fortold great misery or great success, we used to believe that meteors were flung by God from between the Moon and the Earth as signs or warnings from an angry God. We used to believe that frogs came from mud,mthat flies came from carrion, that demons and evil spirits caused disease.

    Who do you mean by “we”?

  356. Pofarmer

    “Who else have you listened to or read on the subject?”

    On the apologetics side? Willaim Lane Craig, and I’ve read some Feser. Not sure specifically on others.

    “Who do you mean by “we”?”

    The Royal “We” as in the best explanations that we had, generally understood, etc, etc. speaking more generally of Western Civilization at the time.

  357. Tom Larsen

    Pofarmer,

    So this is your argument?

    1. The best explanations that Western Civilization generally had, generally understood, etc, etc., were:

    a. Woman came from a mans rib

    b. Eclipses were bad omens

    c. comets fortold great misery or great success

    d. meteors were flung by God from between the Moon and the Earth as signs or warnings from an angry God

    e. frogs came from mud

    f. flies came from carrion

    g. demons and evil spirits caused disease.

    2. You’ve [Christian thinkers, presumably?] lost.

    Do you think “Sean Carroll, Laurence Krauss. Neil Degrasse Tyson, Victor Stenger, Matt Dillahunty,mand Scott Clifton” would be proud of an argument of that quality?

  358. Pofarmer

    Making a case that arguments like the Kalam, Cosmological arguement, Aquinas Five ways belong to other non scientific beliefs we’ve abandoned, or should abandon? I think they’d be O.K. With that.

  359. @joesw0rld

    Disappointed I’m late to this, it’s a great question.

    I’d say that atheism is better at explaining; evil, morality, religion, the human race, fine-tuning. Actually the question might be better phrased what doesn’t it explain.

    Now to go back and read all those comments..

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