How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

For some time now, I have been writing the story of how I went from being a devout Evangelical Christian to being an atheist.

I always mention, even the shortest descriptions of my deconversion that reading The Portable Nietzsche was instrumental in my deconversion. I read it May 17-27, 1999 and I wrestled with Nietzsche through October 30, 1999 when I finally deconverted. In an interview with Bret Alan from the blog Anything But Theist I detailed what Nietzsche’s influence on me was like:

DAN: I got into Nietzsche when a close friend of mine in college went through a severe crisis of faith based on reading Nietzsche. We were both devout evangelical Christians at a religiously and politically hard right wing college and at the end of freshman year Nietzsche got under his skin when we both took Ethics together. Nietzsche loomed over our discussions for the next couple years as my friend’s doubts became stronger and stronger and as he flirted with full out philosophical skepticism and an almost suicidal nihilism.

Eventually it was an existential urgency that I fully encounter Nietzsche for myself so I read the entire The Portable Nietzsche in 10 days and it knocked the spiritual wind out of me. After that I struggled for 5 months before abandoning the faith.

BRET: I’ve noticed there’s two sort of paths to atheism, one where the faith pushes you out, and another where atheism draws you in. For example, I became an atheist by reading the Bible, whereas you became an atheist from reading the thoughts of someone criticizing religion. Do you think there’s something to that?

DAN: Sure. There are a few more ways to break it up. But I loved being a Christian and never thought of things like hypocrisies or the strangeness and immorality of the Bible being a threat to my faith. For me it was just a long journey of trying to defend against external philosophical attacks, from when I was 14-21.

Where Nietzsche really got under my skin was where he shifted the ground to the ethical. Believing became a moral matter and Nietzsche’s power was not in making philosophical arguments against the faith. I could develop those on my own and already had through years of studying philosophy. But what he did was present this defiantly alternative perspective on the world. It was really like visiting a whole other universe reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra and it profoundly messed with my mind in ways that could not be articulated.

It was like I had spent all these years building these elaborate apologetic routines and then encountered this literary masterwork that just ignored all that and moved on completely from my clever little excuses and assailed the very ethos of my beliefs and painted this picture of a whole different world with a whole different, rival, coherent ethos.

It’s very hard to explain how it worked, but it was like basically like being beaten by someone so far out of your league you have no idea what hit you. And so I spent the next 10 years trying to figure out what exactly had happened.

BRET: What rival ethos does Nietzsche present?

DAN: Well, I’m thinking specifically of the Nietzsche one finds in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, so I’ll say it’s “Zarathustra’s” ethos. Not the historical Zarathustra, of course, but Nietzsche’s.

Zarathustra has this sort of high minded seer demeanor about him. He is this character who just has contempt for all pettiness, for all backwardness, for all weakness, for all hatred of the body and the world. And this desire to affirm nature and the body and to look at the future as a place of open-ended transformation of values. There is this overwhelming feeling like we can do so much better as human beings if only we took the dare to radically question our values and overcome everything weak in our humanity. Zarathustra is all about air that is both rarefied and fresh.

He’s incredibly inspiring. It’s by far Nietzsche’s most visionary and positive and inspiring work. But at first it was devastatingly challenging. It was a world that I didn’t fit into, and which had utter contempt for me, and which landed so many blows to my faith indirectly. Again, it’s really hard to describe the effect. It was emotional and “spiritual”.

BRET: Do you find that odd, that something spiritual led you to atheism?

DAN: In a way it makes perfect sense because a religion gives someone Gestalt that integrates one’s “spiritual” feelings with one’s metaphysics and values and identity and community. It’s a whole way of thinking, feeling, and practicing. When someone says it’s false, well it sure does not feel false. It seems to be ordering your life wonderfully–if you’re one of those people it works for.

And so it makes sense that it was a powerful alternative ordering of things that hooked my emotions and challenged my identity directly. It took superior intellectual content which also had a mesmerizing charismatic appeal that invited my religious mind into a full perspective that it could try on and feel overwhelmed by and eventually have a Gestalt shift within—and then have a wholesale change of feelings right along with it. So, I became a zealous Nietzschean. Until I could finally separate myself from him and move on. But that took a while.

BRET: So you aren’t one of the mechanical atheists who pretend they are logic machines with no emotions?

DAN: Not at all. I am flabbergasted when Christians who know me disingenuously try to pull that card on me. They know I wear my heart on my sleeve and they can see that I’m brimming with passion for philosophy and for atheism. They just take my words insisting that we be very rational and apportion our beliefs to evidence and say that must be a cold way of life. But they must see in front of them an atheist who is decidedly living hotly.

Yesterday an old friend I knew only in college (who is also now a philosophy professor) read both that post and another one in which I said that when I first became an atheist I committed to only believing things I could not refute. I had misspoken and he caught me exactly when he said:

Maybe what you meant was “I was comfortable not adopting any positive philosophical propositions until I simply couldn’t *resist* them”. That’s certainly a stronger standard. Maybe you found yourself psychologically incapable of resisting the belief that there is no God.

Yes, that’s right. I was committing to only holding positions that I could not resist, not that I could not refute. In a post from the summer about my deconversion I had put the point more accurately when I said that at that time I committed that I would “not believe anything until I could not but believe in it.” I was writing sloppily yesterday and so I am grateful to Jason for correcting that.

Then Jason wanted to know if the reason I felt compelled to believe there was no God was psychological, faith-based, and/or based on evidence and arguments. Alluding, I believe, to the post above in which I talked about the effect of Nietzsche’s ethos in overwhelming my faith away, he casts doubts that I really became an atheist out of my commitment to evidence and arguments:

If so, was it evidence and arguments that made this impossible? Trying to find the answer to this, I looked around at some of your other posts and it looks like the answer is ‘no’. What you say about Nietzsche is that he presented an alternative, coherent ethos that made you question that of Christianity. You report having found yourself attracted to it on a passional level, at least if I understand you correctly. If that’s right, then it looks like you went to atheism instead of agnosticism not because the evidence and arguments for the non-existence of God rationally demanded belief instead of suspension of belief, but rather because you were passionally attracted to an atheistic ethos. I don’t want to say that that’s irrational, but it certainly looks like you replaced one faith with another. Maybe you wouldn’t be bothered by that claim, although I seem to recall you lumping faith with irrationality. (I suppose you might be using ‘faith’ as a technical term, and I just haven’t come across the definition yet.)

Let me first say that the justification for my current reasons for disbelief do not depend on my initial reasons for disbelief having themselves been justifiable (or unimprovable).

That said, let me clarify why how my initial reasons for disbelief were based on arguments and evidence even as Nietzsche’s importantly emotional and ethical appeals were decisive to my deconversion and how deconverting in the way I did was not tantamount to adopting a faith.

I define faith in a technical sense. Faith is willfully committing (whether explicitly or implicitly) to relationships of trust and/or belief (a) beyond perceived rational warrant, (b) against perceived predominance of counter evidence of untrustworthiness, and/or (c) against all possible future counter-evidence that may undermine currently perceived evidence of trustworthiness.

I did not have faith in Nietzsche. Over the 3 years leading up to my reading the Portable Nietzsche I had become convinced more and more that unless one took recourse to faith one would have to have minimal metaphysical beliefs. I was profoundly influenced by Hume in this regard. I had also studied church history and had my naive assumptions about the rationally likely truth of the Scriptures cleared away–even though I was studying in as conservative and believing-friendly a context as I could have been.

Before ever seriously studying Nietzsche, I was opting to believe while explicitly knowing that it was less than entirely rational to do so. I was spending a year bashing reason. I was a misologist, a Christian relativist, and a fideist desperately trying to hold my faith together. The only way I could do it was with an explicit and knowing Kierkegaardian leap of faith that I took as a last ditch effort. I was already convinced that on rational grounds Christianity collapsed and looked untrue. The night where I confronted most strongly the doubts that had grown in me extraordinarily quickly upon starting to formally study philosophy was described in my post December 8, 1997.

Still wanting to feel justified, I tried to argue on presuppositionalist grounds that if only one adopted by faith the absurdity of Christianity’s basic contradictions everything else could be made to have more rational and coherent sense! And there would be a better ethics too! My thought was a muddle. I was keenly aware of how irrational the faith was but tried to justify that by exaggerating the problem of incommensurability to essentially be a relativist about knowledge, denigrating all “worldviews” equally, so that my Christianity would not be any worse by comparison but might at least be better for its streaks of absolutism from within the system. I was clinging, when one looks back, because of deep identity commitments that motivated my psychology and reasoning.

So what did Nietzsche do? Nietzsche followed out my skeptical tendencies in ways that were rational to me. Then he countered my presuppositionalist’s prejudice that my Christian take on the world was the clearly superior one for internal coherence by bringing me into a powerful and evocative and far reaching counter-picture of the world which struck me as both truer and more emotionally resonant.

No, Nietzsche does not offer a bunch of arguments against the existence of God. He didn’t need to. I already knew damn well the reasons not to believe. I knew how irrational my faith was. Yet I was clinging. Nietzsche revealed to me psychologically that it was a lie that Christianity was the only way to see or to feel the world that I was capable of. He made it so that psychologically I could start to transition emotionally out of that identity that overwhelmed everything else for me and kept me from being true to my reason.

He put together an alternative Gestalt that I could see the world with that made more sense of it than the Christian account. And his Gestalt did not involve having to cling desperately to a moral dispensation to believe as I desired (“faith”) in the teeth of evidence as I had been doing. In fact what Nietzsche impressed upon me was that as a primary ethical and intellectual commitment I should be true to my reason, even at the expense of my faith and my very identity–and even at the expense of my confidence in having robust rational truth. I felt pushed to say that even if all reason could tell me was that it itself could not be fully trusted, then I would simply have to be a radical skeptic. The solution to radical skepticism was not choosing by faith to believe in whatever unjustified beliefs we wished, as I had been doing. The only option for my intellectual conscience was to provisionally be a fearless nihilist with a patient project of investigating every proposition with rigorous skepticism before assenting to it.

I needed Nietzsche’s psychological pull because my reason was fettered with the traps of identity that had me constantly deliberately attacking it. Nietzsche gave the emotional force to stop feeling like the only good in the world could ever be Christian, and like the only way I could see the world could ever be as a Christian. Nietzsche deprogrammed me. He didn’t give me a new “faith”. He convinced me that it was okay to doubt, to not know, and to think beyond the Christian box–as I had been intellectually prepared to do for well over a year already but had not been emotionally able to seriously contemplate yet.

Then when I left the faith, I trusted Nietzsche more than anyone else for a time because psychologically I responded to him being the one who had liberated my mind. That was why I was so zealous about him. I trusted gratefully his willingness to ask any question, no matter how dangerous or uncomfortable. He embodied to me the most fearless commitment to intellectual conscience–not faith. I didn’t believe he was infallible. I would not believe things simply on his word. I would not believe him when he was contravened by evidence. I would not commit to believing in him “regardless of what new evidence came up”, etc. I did not commit to believing in Nietzsche volitionally as a faith-believer commits to believing in the propositions of their faith.

What I did do was try on his perspective as best I could. I adopted his principles of skeptical rigor since I thought them the only rational option. And I agreed with many of his skeptical conclusions about universals, the self, free will, etc. In each case I just found his reasons compelling–it was not a matter of willful faith. Soon as someone could disabuse me of some Nietzschean position or another I would let it go. And on many issues I never agreed with him. But I would try on many ideas I was not necessarily persuaded of in order that I might think within his system and understand it more intricately, and eventually assess its truth more accurately as a result. This enabled me for my dissertation to write as plausible an account of his philosophy’s internal coherence and constructive possibilities as I could–and then to feel completely comfortable walking away from every part of it that did not ultimately persuade me or which I had come to be dissuaded of by that time. Which was quite a bit!

Within two and a half years of my deconversion even, (May 2002) Thomas Aquinas convinced me of the soundness of teleological categories–even though I found the theistic framework he had them in wholly unjustified and unnecessary. I didn’t panic when my previous anti-teleological beliefs were shaken. I didn’t reject the arguments of Aquinas because they were antithetical to some “faith” commitment to Nietzsche and against teleology. When I finally understood the logic of the concept, I just became a teleologist. Teleology gave no reason at all to believe in a God, and it needs to be wholly updated for the 21st Century to be rationally plausible, but I think it can be so updated and that it can support a godless metaethics. I would even eventually come to think that some of Nietzsche’s implicit teleological thinking was more important to making coherent sense of his overall project than his outward hostility to teleology, and so that played heavily into how I argued he would be most fruitfully systematized.

Over the course of years of study and debate, my skepticism about epistemology and about ethics and about metaphysics each was overcome, one by one, only after I finally came across arguments that really compelled belief from me against the most vigorous skepticism I could muster. I did not embrace my positive views about epistemology, ethics, or metaphysics out of a willful commitment to them regardless of evidence. I hung in there for years making minimalistic and merely pragmatic metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological statements and arguments until I finally found arguments I could not but believe, which supported robuster concepts of each of them.

That was the antithesis of what religious faith–volitional commitment to believe in wholly improbable things out of commitment to one’s irrational religious identity and community–involves.

Your Thoughts?

My friend leveled more critiques of my deconversion narrative here and I answered them at greater length here.

I also discuss Nietzsche’s impact on my deconversion and its aftermath some more in this post about my first year or so thinking as a non-Christian and in this one about what potential constructive roles willful blasphemy and mockery of religion can play in rationally deconverting someone.

Read posts in my ongoing “deconversion series” in order to learn more about my experience as a Christian, how I deconverted, what it was like for me when I deconverted, and where my life and my thoughts went after I deconverted.

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • J Decker

    Hey Dan,

    Nice to chat with you too. I suppose the more socially conventional thing for me to have done would have been to send you a private email with my greetings and well-wishes. But professors of philosophy are expected to be socially dysfunctional, and I would like to live up to at least one expectation that the world imposes on me. And of course one of our greatest peculiarities is that we honor each other by putting the microscope to each other’s words. And, apparently, by posting thousands of words to the comment threads on each other’s blogs. (Really, you should feel free to ignore everything that follows. I’m sure it’s a mark of bad character to go on as much as I’m about to go on…)

    I found your clarifications helpful. I haven’t had the chance to read all the linked articles, but your intellectual journey makes a bit more sense to me now.

    A few thoughts about your responses to my questions: First, your technical definition of faith doesn’t fit with how many of the most reflective theists regard their faith, and what they mean when they use the term ‘faith’. Your definition looks to me to just *build in* irrationality, so it’s no surprise that you end up regarding faith as irrational. Here’s the definition you gave:

    “Faith is willfully committing (whether explicitly or implicitly) to relationships of trust and/or belief (a) beyond perceived rational warrant, (b) against perceived predominance of counter evidence of untrustworthiness, and/or (c) against all possible future counter-evidence that may undermine currently perceived evidence of trustworthiness.”

    I’m not sure how to take the ‘and/or’s, as they introduce structural ambiguities, but it really doesn’t matter, since most reflective theists would reject this characterization on any of its disambiguations. These theists don’t think that their theistic belief, for example, goes beyond rational warrant; they don’t perceive a predominance of counter-evidence; and they aren’t committed to holding the belief in the face of all possible future counter-evidence.

    Your definition is a refined version of the one that William James attributes to the schoolboy in his “Will to Believe”:

    Faith is believing what you know ain’t true.

    Of course that’s irrational. And of course the sort of belief that you describe as ‘faith’ is irrational. The believer herself, on your definition, thinks her belief is beyond rational warrant and flies in the face of the evidence, and she doesn’t plan to adjust it if she gets evidence that looks to be devastating to it.

    You describe yourself as having taken a turn toward misologism right before you de-converted from Christianity. But that doesn’t mean that this is where most reflective theists are at. Most reflective theists think that their theistic belief is rationally warranted and that it does not fly in the face of the preponderance of evidence. Furthermore, many would say that there are many possible future situations where they would get counterevidence that would lead them to reject their theistic belief. It would be quite uncharitable to attribute “faith” (in your technical sense) to them.

    Take the “presuppositionalists” to whom you refer. Alvin Plantinga, for instance, thinks that his belief that God exists is a properly basic belief, which means that it is immediately (non-inferentially) justified. You might think that that means that Plantinga thinks that no counterevidence could possibly undermine the belief. But he explicitly denies this. Properly basic beliefs can be undermined by future evidence. Their status as basic beliefs has nothing to do with them being incorrigible, infallible, or impervious to counterevidence; it has to do with them being justified in a way that’s non-inferential. Plantinga argues that some beliefs need to have this feature if *any* of our beliefs are going to be rationally justified. These basic beliefs, although they can be undermined by future evidence, aren’t held on the basis of arguments. We all have such beliefs, Plantinga argues, and it is no rational mark against them that they aren’t supported by compelling arguments (i.e., arguments aren’t the only way beliefs are justified). If you demand such arguments for every belief, you’ll never be able to believe in, say, the reliability of sense perception and the reliability of memory. Even the best arguments that philosophers have given to try to support these last two claims pretty clearly fail in virtue of circularity. One can’t, for instance, argue for them in a compelling, non-circular way by appealing to unavoidability or explanatory power. In any event, Plantinga thinks that theistic belief can be properly basic, just like these others.

    Whatever you think of this particular kind of theistic view, it’s clear that it doesn’t embrace faith as you define it. And likewise with many other theist-friendly epistemologies that differ sharply from Plantinga’s. They would reject the beliefs that you label ‘faith’ as irrational just as you do. It won’t do to define faith in a way that these theists explicitly reject and then interpret their claims about faith with the technical definition.

    But let’s think a little bit more about the position you were in back in college. Unlike the theists that I’ve been describing, you *were* (you tell us) a misologist; you did accept a set of beliefs while thinking that it was irrational for you to do so. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t follow that any of those beliefs were false. It can be irrational to believe true claims. But you had come to think that your belief set wasn’t just irrational, but was even *incoherent*. Now, when you have a set of beliefs that’s incoherent, at least one of the claims in the set is false. But it certainly doesn’t follow that all of them are false, and doesn’t even follow that most of them are false. So your younger self had a set of beliefs that included belief in the existence of God. Let’s grant that the set of beliefs was incoherent. It doesn’t follow that your younger self was justified in concluding that God doesn’t exist.

    So again I wonder: why did you come to believe that God doesn’t exist? You have said that the arguments didn’t come from Nietzsche; Nietzsche just opened your mind to new possibilities and inspired in you the bravery that was needed to give an honest weighing of the evidence and arguments. It was the evidence and arguments themselves that rationally forced belief in the non-existence of God (rather than mere suspension of belief in the proposition that there’s a God). But here’s the problem I’m having in understanding your de-conversion: I don’t yet have a sense for what you think the arguments are that favor the conclusion that *God doesn’t exist*. Nor do I yet have a sense for what you think the considerations are that show that arguments *for* God’s existence are flawed. And this last bit is important. If you’re going to argue that the arguments themselves force belief in the non-existence of God, we need to look not just at the arguments *against* theism, but also the arguments *for* theism. It needs to be shown not just that the former are more powerful than the latter, but that they are so much more powerful that any rational believer would be compelled, when familiar with all the arguments, to believe that God does not exist. Otherwise, it can’t be claimed that the arguments themselves compel belief that God doesn’t exist (as opposed to, say, suspension of belief).

    You talk about your former Christian beliefs as being full of contradictions. Supposing that this is so, it wouldn’t show that all brands of Christianity are incoherent; it would only show that your former brand of Christianity was incoherent. More to the point, it wouldn’t follow that theism is false (all that would follow is that at least one belief out of the set of your former Christian beliefs is false). Arguments for the incoherence of various sets of beliefs that Christians have accepted no more shows that theism is false than an argument for the incoherence of Sartre’s beliefs would show that theism is true.

    So, the relevant arguments should concern theism, not some brand of Christianity. And, again, it’s not enough to have what appears to you to be a knock-down argument for the proposition that God doesn’t exist. For if there are equally compelling arguments for his existence, rationality won’t demand belief that God doesn’t exist. On most matters, including theism, there are very strong arguments on both sides. Even the claim that there are no true contradictions has been denied by some, and some of its deniers have actually offered careful, interesting arguments against it. (I’m thinking of Graham Priest, for example. See his, “What’s so Bad About Contradictions?” for an introduction.) If one wants to argue that dialetheism must be rejected on the force of the arguments alone, it won’t do to give one apparently knock-down argument that self-contradictory statements are false. One actually needs to look at the dialetheist’s arguments for the existence of true contradictions. Maybe one will find that one can answer those arguments, but one can’t just ignore them because one has one good argument for one’s own view. (By the way, I’m not saying that one has to do any of this in order to be rational in believing that there aren’t true contradictions; I’m saying that one has to do it if one is going to claim that *the force of the arguments alone* compel disbelief in such things.)

    To be rational in believing a substantive claim purely on the basis of the force of arguments, it’s not enough that one has good arguments for one’s claim, and, on the other side, it’s not sufficient for irrationality that there be arguments against one’s claim. One must balance the arguments. So, for instance, it’s not enough for someone who is aware of the history of philosophy and theology to cite the problem of evil as being a knockdown argument against God’s existence. For one thing, there are myriad arguments that purport to be knockdown arguments *for* God’s existence. For another, there are myriad responses to the problem of evil. Some of these arguments are quite subtle and sophisticated. Just to give a few contemporary examples of arguments for God’s existence, we’ve got: Alexander Pruss’ Cosmological Argument, Alvin Plantinga’s modal ontological argument, Kurt Gödel’s modal ontological argument (yeah, *that* Kurt Gödel, the one who shook the world of mathematics and logic with his incompleteness proofs), and many, many more. Likewise for the subtle, contemporary responses to the problem of evil.

    The only argument for the proposition that God doesn’t exist that I detected in your response was this:

    “Now when it comes to interventionist gods I am willing to say I know none exist. Knowledge does not require absolute and total certainty—on those grounds nothing at all may be knowable so it is a useless and confusing way to use the word. When I say I know there are no interventionist gods I am saying nothing more epistemologically or metaphysically daring than saying that there is no Thor, no Zeus, no Aquaman. Countless people who claim to be unable to know whether there is a Yahweh or a Jesus have no compunction about saying that Thor, Zeus, and Aquaman are obvious human fictions. I am simply being consistent. By the same criteria that we dismiss Thor, Zeus, and Aquaman, we can dismiss Yahweh and Jesus.”

    I don’t how seriously you take this argument (which reminds me of Dawkins’ flying spaghetti monster argument), but I suspect that you don’t take it very seriously. I know that you are aware of some of the arguments for theism. These arguments have been constructed and refined over thousands of years; some of them going back at least to Aristotle. There are *no* similar arguments for the existence of Thor, Zeus, or Aquaman, nor could the theistic arguments be adapted to argue for these existence of these characters. You might think (and obviously *do* think) that the theistic arguments aren’t compelling, but it won’t do to pretend that they don’t exist, which is what you’re doing if you claim that, from the standpoint of arguments and reasons, there’s no more argument for believing in the real existence of the theist’s God than there is for believing in Aquaman or Zeus. To act like the arguments don’t exist at all implies that no rational person could take them seriously. But when you look at the list of people who have taken them seriously (including a whole host of giants in the history philosophy and science), it’s hard to take seriously the notion that no rational person could take them seriously.

    But let me at least end on a note of agreement: I agree with you entirely that it is no constraint on your knowing something that you must have evidence for it that renders it indubitable or that justifies psychological certainty in it. These Cartesian demands are *way* over the top. The claim that knowledge requires these features is self-undermining, since the claim itself is dubitable and no one has evidence for it that would justify psychological certainty in it. An atheist doesn’t need such evidence for her atheistic belief (and, of course, neither does the theist need such evidence for hers).

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      Take the “presuppositionalists” to whom you refer. Alvin Plantinga, for instance, thinks that his belief that God exists is a properly basic belief, which means that it is immediately (non-inferentially) justified.

      Then why does he attempt to prove the existence of God through modal arguments? If he truly thought that “God exists” was a proper basic belief, why attempt to prove it?

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      While we’re at it:

      Alexander Pruss’ Cosmological Argument, Alvin Plantinga’s modal ontological argument, Kurt Gödel’s modal ontological argument (yeah, *that* Kurt Gödel, the one who shook the world of mathematics and logic with his incompleteness proofs),

      [1] Even if you grant Pruss’ argument up to the point where he proves the existence of a necessary being who causes the Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact, he follows with a whole bunch of handwaving to show that this necessary being, in our universe, must be powerful, intelligent, and good. Namely, he assumes without argument (he says he could argue it teleologically, but I doubt it) that “The actual world’s universe displays a wondrous complexity due to its law-like unity and simplicity, fine tuning of natural constants, and natural purpose and beauty.” I might be willing to grant the first, but physicists have quite clearly shown the second to be bunk, and the third is a subjective claim that does not appear to be well-defined.

      [2] Plantinga’s modal argument makes the mistake of both assuming S5 *and* assuming that something is possibly necessary. One can prove absolutely anything under S5 if one allows oneself to simply assume that it is possibly necessary. This leads to a useless and absurd system — for example, any possible mathematical claim is possibly necessary (if it is true, it is a necessary truth), so Plantinga’s argument could “prove” any mathematical proposition that one assumes to be possibly true to be, in fact, necessarily true. But that’s silly.

      [3] As a mathematician, I have the utmost respect for Godel…..but he also assumes that necessary existence is positive, and I don’t think that can just be assumed.

  • J Decker

    Ah; Excellent! Good thoughts from aleph_squared. I’ll say a bit in response to them, while trying my hardest not to clog up the comment thread with another lengthy post.

    Why would Plantinga attempt to prove the existence of God through modal arguments given that he thinks that his belief in God is properly basic? The first thing to say is that Plantinga does *not* think that his modal ontological argument is going to persuade an atheist (nor does he think that it’s going to rationally compel belief from an agnostic). He *does* think that the argument is deductively valid, and that the premises are true; so he thinks that it’s a sound argument. Part of what set him on the course to constructing the argument was wondering whether there’s a way to turn Anselm’s ontological argument (which clearly isn’t sound) into a sound argument. He thinks the answer is ‘yes’. Neither this argument, however, nor the other theistic arguments are what grounds his theism.

    Consider an analogy: Someone who has come to realize that there’s no way that her belief that sense perception and memory are reliable is justified inferentially might still be interested in considering various arguments for and against the reliability of sense perception and memory to see if there are any non-trivial ones that have a shot at being sound. If she finds one, it’s not like she’s found the thing that justified her belief. Her belief was justified non-inferentially, not by this or that clever argument.

    So of course the atheist won’t be convinced by Plantinga’s argument, or any other theistic argument, and Plantinga knows this full well. I’m surprised to hear that you put *any* of the blame on S5 modal logic, however. It’s by no means a silly way of understanding the logic of necessity. It’s not silly at all to think that if a certain mathematical proposition is true in a logically possible world, then it’s actually true, since mathematical propositions are non-contingent. You seem to be familiar with modal logic, so you must know of the arguments in favor of taking S5 to be the best system for formalizing the logic of necessity (though not, of course, the best system for formalizing other domains where modal logic has been used, e.g., deontic logic). There’s nothing to be gained in my saying more in defense of it here, since the atheist needn’t reject S5 as silly in order to reject Plantinga’s argument. She can go with your other response and just reject Plantinga’s premise that there’s a possible world in which there is an entity which possesses maximal greatness (where the latter property entails necessary existence). With S5 in the background, the atheist will see that to accept this is to commit herself to there existing an entity which possess maximal greatness in the actual world. (That doesn’t, as some have suggested, mean that the argument begs the question—if it begs the question for that reason, then every simple deductively valid argument begs the question.)

    Similar remarks are going to apply to Pruss’s argument and Gödel’s argument. The atheist will find a premise to deny. She’ll say, as you have said, “That premise can’t just be assumed!” or “this other bit is just hand-gesturing!” But, of course, it can’t be demanded that the theist demonstrate all of the premises of the arguments used in her theistic arguments. Well, it *can* be demanded, but it’s an illegitimate demand. One can see clearly that this kind of dialectic is going to send us off on a regress. When the theist gives you her arguments for the premises, you’ll demand an argument for one or more of the premises of those arguments as well, and so on. As has often been noted, this can only end in circularity, basic beliefs, or defeat.

    But likewise for the atheist’s arguments. Just as you have no problem identifying premises to deny in the theistic arguments, the theist will have no problem identifying premises to deny in the atheistic arguments. The so-called paradox of omnipotence, for example, depends on a simple and obvious misunderstanding of the concept of omnipotence. Typical statements of the problem of evil rest on a mistaken axiology and a false claim about what goodness requires. And so on. Committed theists are no more stumped by these arguments than atheists are stumped by the ontological arguments. If an atheist is called upon to *prove* that, say, a good being will always try to eradicate the evil in the universe to the full extent of its power, the response is usually a blank stare. It’s just obvious, isn’t it? But just as the atheist can see the immediate consequence of the modal claim in Plantinga’s argument, the theist can see the immediate consequence of this claim for her theistic belief. And, anyway, it’s not obvious to *her* that a good being always eradicates evil as far as it is able! (It’s not obvious to a lot of parents as well.) And if ‘it’s obvious to me’ were a good enough justification for taking a substantive claim to be true, the theist would be off the hook for justifying the premises of her arguments too, wouldn’t she?

    Of course one or more of the arguments might turn out to be sound (on either side). The inability of their proponents to fully justify each premise inferentially in no way suggests that the arguments are unsound. The lesson is just that we’re not going to fully justify these beliefs with arguments, and we’re *certainly* not going to be able to produce arguments that will command assent to—or dissent from—these propositions by every rational agent. The situation is like the argument between realists (e.g., John Locke) and idealists (e.g., Berkeley). If either side thinks that the force of the arguments alone is going to compel every honest rational person to their side, they haven’t thought hard enough about the relevant arguments and the human epistemic situation.

    So I by no means think that rationality demands that young Dan should have been persuaded by the ontological or cosmological arguments (though, like Plantinga, I think some versions of these are sound). But I also don’t think that rationality demanded that young Dan should have been persuaded by the atheistic arguments. If you think the theistic arguments are rhetorically flimsy, I won’t object, but I’ll add that the atheistic arguments (those that purport to establish that God does not exist) are every bit as rhetorically flimsy. (If you disagree, I’d very much like to see one that compels belief that God doesn’t exist, or several that jointly compel such a belief.)

    If you suspend judgment on theism and atheism until the arguments alone rationally *force* belief in one or the other, you’ll suspend judgment forever.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      A quick response — I’ll try to respond to the rest of your comment later –

      I’m surprised to hear that you put *any* of the blame on S5 modal logic, however. It’s by no means a silly way of understanding the logic of necessity. It’s not silly at all to think that if a certain mathematical proposition is true in a logically possible world, then it’s actually true, since mathematical propositions are non-contingent. You seem to be familiar with modal logic, so you must know of the arguments in favor of taking S5 to be the best system for formalizing the logic of necessity (though not, of course, the best system for formalizing other domains where modal logic has been used, e.g., deontic logic)

      I should clarify — I don’t find S5 silly (that would itself be quite silly.) What I think is perhaps an abuse of the model is using S5 to prove the necessity of something while assuming as a premise that that thing is possibly necessary. Because in S5 that’s essentially begging the question, as in S5 possible necessity -> necessity.

      My example with mathematics, then, was not an exact analogy, but perhaps I can explain better: I think most philosophers agree that mathematical truths are necessary, that is, like the basic laws of logic, true in all possible worlds. Then if we accept the structure of Plantinga’s argument, I might just as easily argue that it is possible that the Riemann hypothesis is true. As it is possible, and mathematical truths are necessary, it is possibly necessary. Therefore it is necessary. Therefore the Riemann hypothesis is true! But I hardly think I’m going to get my million dollars for solving that conjecture in this manner, because, of course, I haven’t actually proven it.

    • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

      Of course, JD, part of the problem is the belief that “necessary” or “possible” means anything at all except when qualified by certain conditions: i.e., it is possible given the laws of physics that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. It is necessary, given the laws of chemistry, that hydrogen can be burned to give water.

      Is there a “possible world” in which one burns hydrogen and gets nitrogen? Not if one takes the laws of physics and chemistry as given. If not, well, fantasizing has very few limits, I suppose, not even the laws of logic, as any fan of bad fantasy novels can attest!

      I suppose Kripke dealt with all of this long ago, but I also suppose that has been forgotten by you youngsters.

      Dave

  • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

    Dan,

    Well, this certainly does explain a lot of the deficits in your thoughts:

    A) You started out as a fervent believer in an early Iron Age mythology, without any significant knowledge of the insight into reality provided by modern science.
    B) Then you were engulfed by a writer, who was obsessed with early Iron Age thought (Nietzsche was a classicist by profession, of course) and who was also quite lacking in any significant knowledge of modern science.
    C) And, finally, you decided that important insights into the nature of reality could be found in a middle Iron Age theologian, the Dumb Ox (as Aquinas was known to his contemporaries), who also, of course, was completely innocent of any modern scientific knowledge.

    You see the common thread here? The first system of thought and inquiry in human history that has produced non-obvious, well-validated, cross-culturally valid insights into the nature of reality is modern science. And, you have insisted on swinging from one thought system to another, all of which are utterly bereft of any scientific knowledge.

    I know you think you have undergone dramatic, wrenching changes in your world-view. In fact, all you have done is erase the nasty little god of the ancient Jews and Christians and leave the rest intact.

    As those of us who are scientifically literate keep telling you, modern science sees no hint of teleology. The whole point of modern evolutionary biology is to explain that the apparent teleology in biological organisms is not really there: all that is really there is electrons, protons, and neutrons pushing and pulling on each other in a mechanistic manner (and, of course, also being mechanistically pushed and pulled by photons, electrons, protons, and neutrons from outside). That’s it. The misleading appearance of “purpose” in plants is simply an understandable result of mechanistic chemical and physical reactions occurring over billions of years.

    You have admitted that you just never had time to learn calculus. And, without calculus, you just cannot understand modern science.

    Stop deceiving yourself. Take five or six years off, and work full time at learning calculus and then modern natural science. It will cure you of your mistaken belief in teleology and the wisdom of the Dumb Ox.

    Until you learn real science, Dan, you are still enmeshed in the spider’s web of Christianity, even thought you deny it.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Dave, you still don’t show any understanding of what I mean by teleology or any grasp of the incoherence and shallowness of your own grasp of ethical categories. Calculus is irrelevant to both of them.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      For the record though my views of the kind of de facto non-intelligently designed effective functionalism that exist and which I call teleological are, from what I understand, either the same as or similar to Daniel Dennett’s, whether or not he would endorse my ethical extrapolations from the concepts. Is Dennett also trapped in the Iron Age, unaware of calculus or modern biology?

    • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

      Dan wrote to me:
      >Dave, you still don’t show any understanding of what I mean by teleology or any grasp of the incoherence and shallowness of your own grasp of ethical categories. Calculus is irrelevant to both of them.

      Ah, Dan! I thought you philosophers at least prided yourselves on reading carefully.

      I stated very clearly that you needed to learn calculus *for the purpose* of understanding science, not as an end in itself.

      If your sense of “teleology” has absolutely nothing at all to do with anything that is the subject of science, including human nature and human biology, then I suppose that your admitted ignorance of science is no problem at all. But, if your “teleology” is that remote from any connection with reality, well… it is no coincidence that you seem unable to connect with anyone who is scientifically literate.

      I am, though, getting a kick of the spreading use of “shallowness” in the blogosphere recently: obviously, it means “I can’t refute what you say, so I will call it ‘shallow.””

      All the best,

      Dave

      P.S. You know, I actually think you are, albeit a bit ineptly, pointing at something real with your ideas on teleology. But, I think you would better separate the wheat from the chaff if you could learn enough science to see why “teleology” is not, in the light of the refutation of teleological views by modern science, an effective way to communicate your ideas.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      I am, though, getting a kick of the spreading use of “shallowness” in the blogosphere recently: obviously, it means “I can’t refute what you say, so I will call it ‘shallow.””

      What is there to refute? You didn’t make arguments. You just said “You don’t know calculus, therefore you’re wrong.”

      I have on numerous occasions linked to numerous blog posts with premises and inferences and overall accounts that I have yet to see substantively countered. You have yet to show any understanding of the relationship between philosophy and science, confusing philosophy for a lucrative racket by which I get paid to do bad science. I am not doing science. I am not claiming to do science. I am making coherent and consistent necessary concepts for our intelligible conversation about real but not strictly scientifically analyzable concepts, in a way that is compatible with the state of known science. In your P.S., I even get the notion that you may even sort of understand what I am saying but are hung up on the word “teleology” but since the majority of your comments to me have become just hand waving about how unqualified I am, rather than substantive arguments that at least one of your fellow enlightened scientific peers might be able to decipher, I am left with little to take seriously in what you write. I have made copious distinctions and arguments. I am always delighted to have a chance to improve them. Posts just condescendingly and contemptuously dismissing are worthless to me and offer nothing for me to refute even if I wanted to.

  • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

    Dan wrote to me:
    > For the record though my views of the kind of de facto non-intelligently designed effective functionalism that exist and which I call teleological are, from what I understand, either the same as or similar to Daniel Dennett’s, whether or not he would endorse my ethical extrapolations from the concepts. Is Dennett also trapped in the Iron Age, unaware of calculus or modern biology?

    Hmmmm….. I have heard from people who know Dennett personally that he is a decent fellow, and I will not try to contest that.

    But, intellectually? I view Dennett’s belief that he has explained consciousness to be comparable to my own belief as a toddler that I could dig a hole all the way to China — i.e., an idea that shows a stunning ignorance of science.

    I recently discussed this general issue (i.e., not Dennett personally, but the issue of how far we are from understanding the nature of consciousness) with Prof. Gerald Schneider, a neural scientist at MIT. Prof. Schneider confirmed my impression that neural scientists in general think that the idea that we understand, or are even close to understanding, the nature of consciousness is a truly bizarre fantasy.

    So, intellectually, I take Dennett slightly less seriously than, say, PeeWee Herman.

    But, there I go again, suggesting that a knowledge of real science is a pre-requisite to intelligently commenting on the nature of reality.

    Silly me.

    Dave

  • http://skepticgriggsy.wordpress.comhttp://skepticity.blogspot.com Lord Griggs[ IgnosticMorgan,InquiringLynn,Fr. or Rabbi Griggs, CarneadesofGa]

    Dan, the Coyne-Mayr-Lamberth teleonomic argument argues that as science finds no divine intent behind Nature, then God cannot be Himself as intent would have to occur publicly. Thus, theistic evolution is just an oxy-moronic obscurantism! It contradicts instead of complementing science.
    To aver nevertheless, He hides – the Hick’s epistemic distance argument that He makes matters ambiguous as to His existence- makes no headway as that makes for Lamberth’s the new Omphalos argument that He deceives us with causalism-mechanism-teleonomy;no, no intent shown for that argument from ignorance.
    Just more theistic rationalization, and John Hick was the ever-ready-rationalizer!
    Thus, what prattle ti’s to say that He uses evolution as His means to create. Where lies the evidence that He operates in the Cosmos [ Existence- the Metaverse]? Until theists can answer that, they just prattle!
    Lamberth’s argument from pareidolia notes that theists use the pareidolias of intent and design when only teleonomy and patterns exist just as people see Yeshua on a tortilla.His reduced animism argument notes that without divine intent, theism is then just reduced animism, and theists are thus superstitious.
    I’m a gnu atheist,because of the absurd arguments for Him and the abuses of religion.
    This superstition relies on the arguments from personal incredulity and from ignorance, which lie behind other arguments.
    Dan, what do you think about these arguments?

  • J Decker

    No need to fret, PhysicistDave, we youngsters aren’t so young that we weren’t raised on Kripke. And, if I have anything to say about it, the next generation won’t be so young either. When I teach modal logic, my students read Kripke’s “Semantical Considerations on Modal Logic”, and my Phil Language and Phil Mind students always read large chunks of Naming and Necessity. I think you must be thinking of someone other than Kripke, however, as he doesn’t (to my knowledge) say anything like what you were saying about modality. The restricted modalities (like physical necessity and possibility and technological necessity and possibility) are usually analyzed using an unrestricted modality. I’m not sure how you propose to analyze them without one. Anyway, Kripke never (to my knowledge) holds that all modality is restricted modality and his arguments in Naming and Necessity appear to invoke an unrestricted conception of metaphysical possibility; it’s restricted only by what’s metaphysically possible, which is no restriction at all. (But, now that I reread your comment, I’m thinking that maybe when you said “I suppose Kripke dealt with all of this long ago”, you meant that Kripke supplied a response to your claims, not a defense of them.)

    Incidentally, the Kripke of Naming and Necessity wouldn’t be a friend of your response to Dan either, where you claim that

    “the apparent teleology in biological organisms is not really there: all that is really there is electrons, protons, and neutrons pushing and pulling on each other in a mechanistic manner (and, of course, also being mechanistically pushed and pulled by photons, electrons, protons, and neutrons from outside).”

    You’ll recall, I’m sure, that Naming and Necessity contains a famous argument against identity theories (i.e., theories which hold that mental states [e.g., pain states] are identical to physical brain states). The argument was later taken up and expanded by David Chalmers and others. Neither Chalmers nor Kripke is anti-scientific in any way. The claim that nothing (i.e., no entities or properties) exists beyond the items listed in the ontology of our best current physics is certainly *not* a claim of physics (or chemistry or biology) itself; it’s a piece of metaphysics. It’s something that some physicists might say, but it’s certainly not entailed by our best underlying physical theories. If they say such things, they have stopped doing science and have started doing metaphysics.

    I think that maybe you’ll concede that. After all, in a more recent comment you rightly note that most neural scientists think that we are very far from understanding the nature of consciousness. This being the case, it can’t be claimed that our best science shows that, say, Chalmers’ property dualism or panprotopsychism is false. The nature of consciousness is still a great mystery. Perhaps it will someday be fully explained in a way that reduces it to the entities and properties of our current best physics. But maybe not, and there are some arguments out there (Chalmers’, for instance) that suggest that such a theory might not be possible. We can try to argue inductively that we have a good reason to think that science will crack this mysterious nut, just as it has cracked many others, but this inductive argument and its conclusion aren’t somehow forced on us by our best physics itself.

    It’s also worth noting that your comments to Dan suggest that you accept many *normative* claims. You talk about scientific “knowledge”. The latter, is of course, a normative notion, for knowledge entails epistemic justification or warrant. Just as our best physics (and to step up a level, our best biology) don’t talk about teleology, our best physics, and our best biology don’t invoke normative properties. Of course our best *scientists* do invoke normative properties (they talk about: what the evidence supports or suggests, the best explanation for the evidence, what conclusions are warranted from the experimental results, whether a theory is well-confirmed, etc.). But the theories themselves (e.g., quantum mechanics) do not invoke epistemic normativity, nor do they suggest any way of understanding normativity.

    So I think you’ve overstated your complaint against Dan. Maybe, however, you know just what Dan is trying to explain with his teleological arguments, and you’re aware of a scientific explanation of the same data that strikes you as *better* (this is, incidentally, a normative epistemic judgment). Well, if you’re right—if there’s a better explanation of Dan’s explanandum than the one he gives (one which uses only the materials supplied to us by a scientific theory that we ought to accept anyway)—then Dan shouldn’t accept his teleological explanation. I myself haven’t read what Dan has to say about this, so I’m not sure what he tries to explain with teleology or how he tries to explain it. What won’t do, however, is to argue that physics or biology itself somehow explicitly precludes there being any teleological properties in the universe. It does no such thing.

  • http://skepticgriggsy.wordpress.comhttp://skepticity.blogspot.com Lord Griggs[ IgnosticMorgan,InquiringLynn,Fr. or Rabbi Griggs, CarneadesofGa]

    Causalism-mechanism-teleonomy rules; teleology is out forevermore. Google to see what Ernst Mayr says about teleonomy. That’s how I got the name the teleonomical argument. Jerry Coyne in “Seeing and Believing” affirms no intent-no teleology. Now, it’s the Coyne-Mayr- Lamberth teleonomic argument.
    Science as Mayr in ” What Evolution Is,” George Gaylord Simpson in”Life of the Past” and and Paul B.Weisz in ” The Science of Biology” give evidence why no teleology exists. Weisz notes that teleology would be backwards causation, the future before the past and the event before the cause. Scientists would not do experiments because they would all turn out to be the same! No outside Nature director guides any natural process any more than gremlins and demons guide matters! Teleology refers to directed outcomes but science finds none as Coyne demonstrates.
    Thales of Miletus and Strato of Lampsacus are right whilst Aristotle the Stagrgite ever is wrong about teleology.

  • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

    No one who has not spent months– and preferably years –of quality time with Nietzsche will have clue what your talking about, but it resonates strongly here–your reference to telology also rings a bell… My period of adjustment was much longer than yours, however, and my reaction quite different. I chronical a portion of my experience here:
    “The Origin of The Four Precepts”
    http://www.thefourprecepts.com/propublish/art.php?artid=35
    At some point I discovered Aldous Huxley’s book on “The Perennial Philosophy” which deepened my interest in comparative philosophy/mysticism and interfaith spirituality. This prepared the ground for a real hearing of Eckhart Tolle (“The Power of Now” and “Stillness Speaks”) and, later, various flavors of “non-duality” — see, for example:
    http://urbangurumagazine.com/?page_id=292
    More recently, circumstances have brought me back to an evangelical church (in the company of my brother, who is diabled). After about 2 1/2 years of regular attendance, the following book and blog appeared:
    “Getting to Know Jesus in the 21st Century”
    http://www.Yeshua21.com/
    There’s no doubt that Nietzsche has turned the world upside down (even the typical evangelial still has no clue as to what has happened/is happening). If you haven’t read Eckhart Tolle, he’s worth a look:
    http://spiritlibrary.com/eckhart-tolle/the-inner-body
    http://www.happierabroad.com/StillnessSpeaks.pdf
    Thanks for sharing your experience with Fr. Friedrich! :)
    Wayne


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