On Antitheism, Science vs. God, and Whether Philosophy is Dead

Yesterday’s post answering all the ways the movie God’s Not Dead argued for God and represented philosophy was so long some people couldn’t read all of it. So, I added a table of contents. You can go back to that post now and click on links to the post’s subsections and they will send you to the exact parts of the post you’re most interested in.

I also added new material today to that post. In this post, I’m presenting just that new material (nothing already covered). You can either read all of this new material or, if you want to read only what I’ve added on specific major topics, just click on any of the following links and you’ll be sent to the new material on that topic:

1. Why Do Some Atheists Say They Do Know There’s No God? Are Atheists Hypocritically People of Faith Too? 
2. If Antitheists Are Bad People, Evangelicals Are Downright Awful 
3. If Professor Radisson’s A Bad Guy, The Christian God is the Worst Possible Bad Guy
4. God of the Gaps and the Origin of Life
5. How Science and Philosophy Vindicate Metaphysical Naturalism and the Existence of Religious Scientists Doesn’t Vindicate Theism
6. Why Explaining Evolution with God is Anti-Science
7. Is Philosophy Dead?

New Responses to God’s Not Dead

Why Do Some Atheists Say They Do Know There’s No God? Are Atheists Hypocritically People of Faith Too?

Also along these lines, let me note another hypocrisy. Christians regularly insist that anyone who doesn’t know with absolutely 100% certainty that there is no God is not really an atheist but an agnostic and should be honest and call themselves that instead. But why don’t you Christians who say you don’t know 100% certainly there is a God call yourselves agnostics? Why is someone only allowed to be called an atheist if they have an impossible standard of knowledge (100% certainty–something we actually have in hardly any of the cases of saying “I know”) but Christians can call themselves theists when they admit they only believe by faith?

And atheism is not just a faith position. Many atheists are very careful to say they only “lack belief” in gods, not even that they know there are no gods. They are agnostic atheists (agnostic in the sense that they claim not to know exactly, but atheists in that they think the most rational default is non-belief). Those of us (like me) who are more “gnostic” atheists say we know there is no God not because we make a leap of faith but because positions with no good reason to believe in them, which are riddled with rational contradictions, anti-scientific supernaturalisms, and historical fabrications, can be dismissed as 99.999% likely to be false. Christians don’t give a second thought to dismissing the existence of 99.99% of gods every proposed by humans. You don’t just “have faith” there is no Zeus or Ganesh or Apollo. You don’t just “have faith” there are no leprechauns or unicorns or abominable snowmen. You know there aren’t as well as you know there isn’t a dragon in the room with you right now. Sure, there’s an infinitesimal possibility you’re wrong. But not enough to refuse to say you know these things don’t exist. We atheists, hard as this may be to fathom to you, simply do not share your arbitrary, culturally and psychologically engrained double standard by which you give the God of the Bible a pass on the same logic. That’s it. We do not have “faith” your God does not exist. Some say, there’s no reason to think it so we just “don’t believe” or “lack belief”. Others of us say, “yeah, we know you’re wrong.”

If Antitheists Are Bad People, Evangelicals Are Downright Awful

This also does not mean that being an “antitheist” is being persecutory of Christians. Wheaton tries to argue that what’s really wrong with Professor Radisson is neither his philosophy or atheism but his antitheism. The desire for others not to be theists is cast as authoritarian. But why? If we really think it’s false and harmful to oppose it, why shouldn’t we make our rational arguments? Granted we shouldn’t be dogmatic bullies like Professor Radisson. Granted we shouldn’t let that interfere with our responsibilities to first and foremost be empowering educators to our students when we are professors. But that’s an uncharitable presentation of antitheists. It picks on the worst of us but not the best. Why should civil but adamant atheists have to be any less aggressive about promoting our views and values than you are about promoting yours? Why is it a-okay for Josh to explicitly seek to use his philosophy class to preach Jesus but it’s not okay for an atheist to challenge a student’s Christian faith? When at the end of the movie the Newsboys encourage the audience members to text everyone they know with the message that “God’s Not Dead”, in hopes of reaching a million people, is that not obnoxious? With your thin skins, you would feel persecuted to the nth degree if atheists texted everyone they knew that “God is Dead”.

Why is it persecution when we vigorously challenge you and try to change your minds but it is not persecution of us when you vigorously try to save our souls? And which group is more aggressive about this? Who has a two thousand year history of demanding conversions from everyone around them? Atheists? Or Christians? Who exactly has the log in their eye here if proselytizing is a terrible sin?

And if we can agree (as I do, as an evangelical atheist unashamed to want to convince others to atheism) that it’s okay to dispute with each other over our views and values, even ones related to faith, which group explicitly advocates persuading people by reason and which one will use any emotional reason whatsoever? Which group regularly can be found telling people they have to let go of their reason and just accept things by faith? That log is in your eyes, not ours.

If Professor Radisson’s A Bad Guy, The Christian God is the Worst Possible Bad Guy

The projection of the sins of Christianity onto atheists continues after Wheaton’s presentation on cosmological arguments for God. Radisson acts incredibly insecure and pettily. With the most vulnerable ego of anyone in power ever, he accuses Wheaton of trying to show him up and thinking he’s smarter than him. And then, amazingly, he tells Wheaton, “In that classroom there is a God and I am him.” Then, astoundingly, he says he’s a “jealous God”. And he threatens vindictively to go beyond just failing Wheaton in his class, for insolently disagreeing with him about God in front of the class, but to even go so far as to destroy his hopes of being a lawyer altogether.
Again, the projection is breathtaking. Radisson’s conception of God is the Christian one. The log is in your God’s eye, Christians! When you loathe the way Professor Radisson leverages his power to pick on someone smaller than him, you should be loathing your God for doing that to the humans He creates and demands obedience from. When you’re appalled at Radisson’s jealousy and vindictiveness, you should disown when your own God call himself a jealous God who punishes those who don’t worship Him singlemindedly. When Radisson threatens disproportionate punishments for expressing freedom of conscience (which is really doing nothing wrong at all) you should understand that your Bible, which demands people submit to the arbitrary will of some arbitrarily posited deity, threatens people with eternal hell simply for not believing in your God. What happened to people’s free intellectual conscience?
All the authoritarian vices of Radisson are inherent in the God of wrath who sends people to hell in Christianity.

“But,” you say, “God is righteous and only sends people to hell because they deserve it.”

I’m sure Professor Radisson thinks he is right to do what he does too. But that doesn’t make it true. We need objective ways to assess the claims to righteousness of people in authority. And the God of the Bible fails the most important moral tests we have. He condemns the whole human race for Adam and Eve’s sin–cursing us with original sin and with suffering. It’s immoral to punish people for others’ sins. In the Old Testament He commands genocides, commands slavery, commands stoning people for petty infractions, and drowns everyone on the planet (even the innocent babies). In the New Testament the idea of hell is introduced–infinite punishment for finite sins, which is the height of cruel injustice.

The only way to say God is righteous is to ignore everything we have come to realize about morality in the last 2,000 years and for no good reason, by faith, declare all the evils in the Bible good out of the dogmatic assertion God must be good so whatever God did must be right. That’s not proving your God is good, it’s ignoring all the clear counter-evidence and warping all your moral judgments accordingly, even if it means making excuses for the most heinous crimes imaginable. That is arbitrariness and authoritarianism, the total antithesis of objective morality. Saying that wickedness can be justice if only God says so is the height of subjectivism in morality. It’s “might makes right” as a theology. You say we need Christianity in order to know right from wrong? I say it’s Christianity’s fault YOU can’t tell right from wrong whenever your own God does evil. Why in the world would I trust you to tell me right from wrong?

An objective morality would be one objectively demonstrable from rational reasons open to anyone, not one that required stumbling upon the right arbitrary religion and believing it on faith, even though it’s God has wicked and upside down values all throughout its holy book.

God of the Gaps and the Origin of Life

When the arguments resume, Wheaton makes another tendentious, arbitrary attempt to link a metaphor from Genesis to a scientific truth. This time evolution is somehow indicated by Genesis because plants and animals as we know them are an extremely late development in evolutionary time, which makes it like they happened on a “late day” like the fifth and sixth in Genesis. This proves less than nothing. It doesn’t show that the Bible had anything like any special knowledge later vindicated by science.

Wheaton tries to argue that because scientists do not have an account yet of the origin of life that perhaps it was God that originated it. What is so tedious about this is that it is a “God of the Gaps” argument antithetical to the entire spirit of science. “God of the Gaps” is an expression used to point out that theists used to think of God (or gods) as explaining a great number of phenomena that are now explicable in scientific ways. As science has filled in more and more of our understanding of the world, God keeps being proposed by theists as supposedly necessary to explain whatever happens to be left unexplained. It seems implausible that scientific (and correlate philosophical) advances would keep happening and happening and replacing God-explanation after God-explanation and yet whatever we happen to have not figured out yet is what God alone can account for.

God has been overturned over and over again as best explanation we have science and philosophy. It repeatedly proves to be a bad explanation. So there is no reason to stop doing science and philosophy and just say “God did it.” Had scientists and philosophers stopped any of thousands of other times with “and here we stop thinking and just say that ‘God did it'”, enormous leaps of understanding would have never happened. If we start doing that now because we all become theists, how much progress will we lose?

Christians sometimes try to solve this by saying God is not just “a” being among other beings by “nature” itself or “being itself”, somehow the being in which and through which all others exist. But that road is the road to pantheism. That is compelling only if we just make Nature and God synonyms. Attributing to that God personality and interventions into history like read in the Bible is just nonsense. That’s just saying Nature itself is like a human being. That’s as arbitrary as saying Nature itself tastes like tomato sauce.

So, it is silly when Christians say that since we are missing an exact, verifiable scientific account of the dynamics by which the origins of life happened, that somehow this means it could have been God or that the scientific method is flawed or limited. Science is limited here not by a conceptual impossibility (i.e., not because it makes no sense for life to come into being through a naturalistic process, but rather because life’s origins happened very long ago and it happened with such tiny rudimentary organisms that they didn’t leave fossil traces. There are a range of ways abiogenesis (“the origin of life”) could have happened that scientists can dream up that are plausible. When scientists say they don’t know how life began it’s not because they can’t imagine things or that nothing would make sense, whereas Christians have a profound imagination or the only sensible possibility. Rather, it’s that unlike Christians, scientists are patiently waiting for evidence rather than just making something up. They’re being humble and waiting to actually know.

Christians are not smarter or more rational for just insisting they know and not waiting for evidence. Were all science to work like that, there’d be no science. Don’t blame scientists for embodying the patience and temporary comfortability with not knowing that routinely leads to actual scientific success. You can’t say science and Christianity are compatible and then show that in your own thinking you advocate rushing to conclusions and stopping inquiries and settling for “God did it” explanations and disparaging the patience of scientists. When you do those things, you embody and promote anti-scientific attitudes in practice. You hurt the cause of science. There is more to supporting science than just mouthing the words, “I support science.”

Why Explaining Evolution with God is Anti-Science

I also, more controversially, think it is similarly unscientific to say that both God and evolution go together because God makes evolution happen. The reason this is unscientific is that it spits in the face of the discovery of natural selection.

The idea that species evolve from ancestors to descendants was already understood in the idea of breeding. We knew we could artificially select for traits in animals and plants to make them have the traits we wanted to by controlling which ones mated with each other. What was so amazing and paradigm-shifting about Darwin’s discovery was that just the dynamics of nature alone could have the same effect as intelligent breeders. What was amazing was that an environment just being inhospitable to a trait and accidentally making it so the bearers of that trait just couldn’t live long enough to reproduce offspring with the same trait could weed out that trait as effectively as humans choosing to not let dogs with a given trait reproduce.

The amazing realization of evolution by natural selection is that the interaction of environments with traits can all by itself, over millions and millions of years make the changes happen with no intelligent agency at all necessary. And, in fact, many of the ways the “designs” that resulted from these dynamics came out, it is clear that they’re not always perfect or logical. They involve all sorts of inefficiencies and non-ideal designs and superfluous dimensions all because they were the traits and combinations of traits that happened to evolve and fit well enough to the environment that they worked. They don’t bespeak a perfect designer who foresaw what maximum efficiency would require and implemented it. They look exactly as they would if random mutations and random changes in environment were selected by whichever happened to fit the best, though not perfectly.

Saying “I accept evolution happens…because of God!” becomes as superfluous and unscientific as saying “I accept that lightning happens…because of Thor!” Or “I accept that if I fall out the window I will fall because of the natural law of gravity…and because God pushed me!” The electrostatic discharge is sufficient to explain the lightning all by itself, naturalistically. Positing Thor adds nothing but misunderstanding. Gravity explains why you fall. Positing God adds nothing but misunderstanding. atural selection explains why organisms evolve. Positing God adds nothing but misunderstanding.

How Science and Philosophy Vindicate Metaphysical Naturalism and the Existence of Religious Scientists Doesn’t Vindicate Theism

Science does not just assume God doesn’t exists. Scientists have just found that saying, “well, maybe it’s because of God” is useless in the laboratory and in theory making. Even religious scientists who make great discoveries or build great technologies understand that they have to essentially leave God and holy books completely out of their scientific work because the only accounts that can really be meaningful are those that are empirically and mathematically precise and God is not those things. This is part of why the mere existence of religious scientists does not prove that religion and science go together. Religious people are good scientists only when they leave their religious beliefs out of their science and engineering. As people, this means they are living with cognitive dissonance. In the laboratory they think as though there were no God, that is, they think as though they were atheists, and precisely because of that they are successful. But in church and personal piety they live as though there were none. They abandon all the categories of rigorous thinking that they employ in the lab when looking at their Scriptures. They can only be both religious and scientific by being categorically unscientific and accepting baseless religious authorities when being religious.

Some Christian apologists concede that we have to be “methodological naturalists” in the laboratory (that is, people who assume the natural world and natural explanations all there are but who only assume this when doing science) but that doesn’t mean we should be metaphysical naturalists (people who think really all there is is nature and natural explanations). They accuse metaphysical naturalism of being an unwarranted assumption. But I see it as a finding, an inference we have come to (rather than assumed) by seeing the enormous explanatory power that opens up when we assume that nature is all there is. If that holding that position is so unprecedentedly powerful for generating truths in the laboratory, why not think it’s because it’s also metaphysically true.

There is also a rational consideration that makes me a naturalist. I do not understand how supernaturalism can be coherently conceived. I do not know how anything could exist without a nature. Even if there is the Christian God, God seems like He cannot be supernaturally above logic. How could He be? To say He was beyond logic would be to say He could both exist and not exist at the same time. He could be both absolutely omniscient and simultaneously know nothing. In other words, if God is not bound by logic, He would both have the classical attributes ascribed to God and not have them at the same time. That’s nonsense. God would have to be bound by logic as much as anything else and be some kind of thing or other. God would, in other words, have a nature more deep than what it subsequently creates. So, the most fundamental reality even for Christians seems to be nature. And every “supernatural” event would be a suspension of one set of laws for another according to God’s will, but still the things that seemed “supernatural” to us, being accustomed to our world’s normal laws would operate by “natures” of some sort rather than chaotically.

Is Philosophy Dead?

In one of the rare moments of cleverness, Wheaton quickly rubs in Radisson’s face Hawking’s misguided dig that “philosophy is dead”. God’s not dead, philosophy is dead. Nice bumper sticker. This is one of many reasons it is ignorant, anti-intellectual, and counter-productive to the cause of critical thinking and atheism when scientists mouth off in anti-philosophy ways. In doing this scientists like Hawking and Krauss give undeserved ammunition to people who want to attack reason in general–since so much reasoning in general is more philosophical than quantifiably scientific in character.

Philosophy is unavoidable. Science does not answer every question, because some questions are not amenable to strictly scientific analyses. Or other questions that are capable of scientific analysis still require time and scientific progress and new discoveries before they can be scientific. This does not mean that theology is the answer. Theological answers are just ancient guesses with no magic plausibility just because better scientific ones don’t yet exist. There are philosophical ways to deal with a huge range of issues that people think about. Applying tests of logic, consistency, coherence, conceptual clarification, thought experiments, extrapolations from scientific findings to philosophical implications, and using common sense reasoning, we can rationally approach the huge panoply of questions that right now don’t have specifically scientific answers. The limits of science are not the door to intellectual anarchy and theology. We must grapple with other questions than scientific ones some times and when doing so we must do so as rigorously as possible, rather than as carelessly. Saying philosophy is dead is only an invitation to ignore crucial questions and, so, answer them thoughtlessly, with who knows what consequences for our lives. Our culture suffers from a failure to do good philosophy.

The major political and social and religious and ethical debates of our time are as bad as they are because of philosophical ignorance and incompetence among the public as much as anything. Science is doing swimmingly. It’s philosophical errors among the populace in epistemology, in political theory, in ethics, in metaphysics, that make people think that religious authorities can trump scientific ones, that make uninformed laypeople think they can pronounce upon scientific questions better than scientists can. Our problem in this culture is not a failure to do good science, it’s a failure of the populace to understand philosophy so that it knows what to make of what science is telling it. Our populace does not know how to contextualize science within a theory of knowledge and reality that is coherent. For all our scientific understanding, people still believe, in parallel, in superstitions of immaterial souls and faith-based epistemology, and outdated metaphysical dogmas that good philosophy refutes.

Our fights over gay and trans people’s rights or women’s rights or how to ethically structure our relationships between men and women beyond merely legal issues? These are all fundamentally philosophical problems.

Secular people’s questions of how or whether to replace religious institutions in people’s lives with sufficient secular alternatives. Our problems about the numerous social science issues have (so far) intractable philosophical issues involved. How to demarcate what is a mental illness? What is racism? How does morality work? These and numerous other huge problems in psychology and sociology have major philosophical dimensions to them that are not merely empirical.

The many theists and atheists trying to debate God’s existence are not merely publishing findings in science journals at that point. They’re extrapolating from the science to all sorts of further metaphysical and epistemological conclusions about the plausibility of naturalism, the limits of needs for causal explanations, the nature of knowledge about questions that are not strictly settleable with concepts that reduce to mathematical formulas.

If you’re going to respond to people’s desires for a coherent rationality based ethics for approaching the world (or to theists’ barbs accusing such a thing of being impossible), you’re going to be engaged in philosophy. If you’re going to puzzle out the nature and limits of free speech, separation of church and state, or other rights, you are going to be engaging with difficult philosophical problems. If you are going to puzzle out the nature of objective discourse itself, or who can provide insight into what questions and why, or whether some questions are too dangerous to ask or whether everything must be questioned, you’re going to be engaged in philosophy. If you’re going to have a thoughtful and careful grasp of when war is justified or why, you’re going to be engaged in philosophy. If you’re going to try to figure out how to crack the nut of whether or to what extent we paradoxically must tolerate the intolerant, you’re going to be doing philosophy. When you’re faced with excruciating end of life decisions related to active or passive euthanasia, you’re going to be doing philosophy. When you’re trying to build AI as a computer scientist, you’re going to have to solve an immense amount of philosophical problems or the AI will be everything science fiction nightmares are made of.

If you are going to have to figure out how to understand the role of your emotions in your life, the challenge to rank priorities in life, the ways to assess competing values of urgent existential import in your life—you are going to be doing philosophy.

There are plenty of constructive debates to be had about exactly how to do philosophy appropriately, how to improve our methods, how to situate its role within the larger project of knowledge development. But it’s a dangerous world where people are philosophically incompetent. And I’m disgusted and disappointed by my supposed fellow defenders of reason when they short-sightedly and ignorantly turn on philosophy and, to my mind, betray the very cause we were supposed to be allied together in.

For the rest of my critiques of God’s Not Dead, click on any of the following links and you’ll go straight there:

1. Introduction
2. The Hypocrisy of Christian Statements of Faith
3. Why Leaving Theology Out of Philosophy Isn’t Persecuting Students
4. Philosophy Is Not Authority Based The Way Theology Is
5. The Students in the Movie Already Believed in God 
6. How I Graded Religious Students Who Disagreed With Me
7. Demanding Philosophical Reasons For Religious Beliefs Is Not Religious Persecution 
8. Arguments Over Cosmology (God vs. Naturalistic Eternalism)
9. Creating A Strawman of Philosophers is a Lazy Copout 
10. Why Do Christians Say Atheists Disbelieve for Emotional Reasons?
11. Who Really Are the Humble Ones More Likely to Say “I Don’t Know”? The Christians or the atheists?
How God’s Not Dead Makes Christians Look Even Worse Than Atheists 
Why I Wrote A Bad Movie Review of God’s Not Dead
What Makes Evangelicals So Intolerable
19. Why The Film Didn’t Actually Care About Proving God’s Existence
20. The Problem of Evil
21. The Appeal to Need for Absolute Morality

Your Thoughts?

If you enjoy reading my philosophical blog posts, consider taking one of my online philosophy classes! I earned my PhD and taught 93 university classes before I went into business for myself. My online classes involve live, interactive class discussions with me and your fellow students held over videoconference (using Google Hangout, which downloads in just seconds). Classes involve personalized attention to your own ideas and questions. Course content winds up tailored to your interests as lively and rigorous class discussions determine where exactly we go. Classes are flexible enough to meet the needs of both beginners and students with existing philosophical background

My classes require no outside reading or homework or grades–only a once weekly 2.5 hour commitment that fits the schedules of busy people. My classes are university quality but I can offer no university credit whatsoever. New classes start up every month and you can join existing groups of students if you want. Click on the classes that interest you below and find the course descriptions, up-to-date schedules, and self-registration. 1-on-1 classes can be arranged by appointment if you write me at camelswithhammers@gmail.com.


"Snoke is not well developed because he does not need to be. We already know ..."

Religion and Philosophy in The Last ..."
"Great article! The one thing I disagree with strongly is your dismay that Leia won't ..."

Religion and Philosophy in The Last ..."
"Great stuff, as usual. Dan. You and I disagree on the prequels and Episode VII. ..."

Religion and Philosophy in The Last ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Concern_Troll

    You should just number each of your thoughts, Nietzsche-style.

    • Concern_Troll

      AND make sure they’re disjointed and more-or-less unrelated to one another (that’s right; I’m of the DANTO school of Nietzsche-numbering-interpretation. What are you going to do about it, huh?)

  • Craig S.

    While I wholeheartedly agree that philosophical reasoning is vitally important and actually inevitable in the course of human life, I am also somewhat sympathetic to the confusion that can result when a layperson takes a look at the current state of philosophical discourse and doesn’t find the kind of expert consensus that they may be used to from casual knowledge of scientific disciplines. I have to say I’m new enough to philosophy that I’m not sure I know what distinguishes good philosophy from bad once you get to some of the more complex subjects.

  • JohnH2

    I disagree about having to act like an atheist in order for me to do my job in the sciences; I don’t, in fact I think that would hurt my ability to do my job. I am seeking to understand the mind of God, who does act in an orderly and understandable fashion so the answers that I am looking for are there to be found.

    That God organized things the way they are according to the nature of those things and the rules God follows doesn’t tell us how, or why, and those are the interesting questions.

    • MNb

      “I think that would hurt my ability to do my job”
      Then I feel pity for you. Paul Dirac, Richard Feynman and Richard Dawkins, to name only a few, had all three excellent abilities to do their jobs, which weren’t hurt at all by them acting like atheists 24/7.

    • JohnH2

      They all had faith that the universe is an understandable place.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      That’s not faith, it’s based on evidence. By applying the scientific method, humans have had several centuries of success in increasing their understanding of the universe.

      But that’s taking you too seriously. Your objection should be filed under equivocation about the definition of faith.

    • JohnH2

      It is not my fault that you have redefined faith to be something other than what it is.

      Complaining about me rejecting your collective redefinition of faith is hypocritical given that you reject this movies redefinition of atheist and a large part of the response to this movie could be filed under equivocation about the definition of atheist.

    • MNb

      Like Gubba wrote underneath you don’t understand or perhaps don’t want to understand the difference between faith (which is divinely inspired) and a metaphysical assumption (that the Universe is understandable is not divinely inspired).
      Moreover it is irrelevant for my remark: the ability to do their job wasn’t hurt at all by them acting like atheists 24/7.
      You’re dishonest once again.

    • JohnH2

      I am under no obligation to accept your or anyones dishonest and inaccurate definition of faith. Mine matches the dictionary and the way it is used in the church I belong to, as has been covered repeatedly with you.

    • MNb

      That’s your problem, not mine.

      “the way it is used in the church I belong to”
      Too bad for your church.

  • MNb

    “Why should civil but adamant atheists have to be any less aggressive about promoting our views and values than you are about promoting yours?”
    Golden Rule. I think fundies aggressively promoting their views and values (fill in your most hated abusive terms, including the infamous 6 letter s-word you dislike so much) and don’t want to behave like them.

    “I accept that if I fall out the window I will fall because of the natural law of gravity…and because God pushed me!”
    I’m going to remember this one next time some believers defends theistic evolution.

    “Gravity explains why you fall.”
    Ha, now I’m going to nitpick. I prefer “gravity explains how you fall”. I tend to the postulation that why questions are misleading.

    “As people, this means they are living with cognitive dissonance.”
    But it’s unscientific to buy this without proper psychological research. Has it been done? Would be fun.

    “I do not understand how supernaturalism can be coherently conceived.”
    Neither do I and I certainly haven’t met any believer who could pull this off. Still I’m going to play devil’s advocate – the conclusion that it is impossible is premature.

  • johzek

    Our culture may certainly be described as scientifically advanced but far too many of the individuals in that culture are scientifically illiterate. Although more scientific knowledge would be advantageous, the recognition of the fundamental difference between consciously perceived external reality and the imagination should ideally precede such knowledge.
    Science deals with perceptual reality and relies on the recognition that the objects we observe exist and have the identities they do independent of the perceiving consciousness. Theism imagines something completely different in that it maintains that reality conforms to the wishes and desires of consciousness. At the personal this is exemplified by appeals to prayer and professions of faith. At the cosmic level an all controlling consciousness is imagined to have even created from literately nothing the matter and energy which we presently observe and is imagined to have the ability to change the identity of anything at its whim.
    These two viewpoints are completely at odds but the religious believer must of necessity subscribe to both views for any time he makes a truth claim he is asserting that something is the case no matter the likes or dislikes or wishes or dreams or desires of anyone else. If something is true it is true no matter what the cognitive state of the perceiving consciousness considering the claim. Consistency and coherency are not available to the theistic mind.

  • Will try to respond to some of the points. Regarding point #1. Here the issue isn’t how certain Atheists are or whether they are hypocrites; the issue is firmness of their conclusions. That atheists can be 100% confident that there is no god or God because they cannot see any or enough physical evidence for a deity but that is not the issue. The issue is whether they have made a compelling argument that there no god or God. And unless they can show that either they have exhausted all means measuring any deity or that their interpretation of nature is so comprehensive and without error that they can prove that there no sign of god or God in nature, then at best they have put forth an argument for agnosticism.

    But there is another issue here. That issue is whether atheists can put forth a satisfactory explanation for the world around us. Summarizing from one Christian presuppositional apologist we will note that Atheists rely on chance and randomness to explain the beginning of all things and regularity to explain why we can learn from science and rely on what we have learned. So the problem for the atheist becomes when they explain evolution in the context of a logical and ordered universe without destroying the cause of our rationality and the regularity of the world on which we live.

    • Pofarmer

      THe universe looks a whole lot more chaotic than logical and ordered. And when you speak of randomness and chances, keep in mind that we exist in a Universe with 100’s of billions of Galaxies each wit 100’s of billions of stars. Even very low probablility things are quite likely t happen.

    • Pofarmer,
      The issue isn’t what the universe looks like, it is whether the Atheist account of reality can explain it. The answer to that question implies nothing but should move us to further examine the Atheist position as well as the theistic positions.

      As for what the universe looks like, again, the issue is how it works. If the universe is chaotic and operates by chance, we would not be having this discussion. But if the universe is rational and depends on regularity, explaining the beginning of things and life becomes problematic for the atheist position

    • Pofarmer
    • PoFarmer,
      Thank you for the link. I have some stuff to do tonight but I will get to it tomorrow.

    • Pofarmer,
      I saw two problems with the video. First, he stated implications that weren’t there. And second, he doesn’t account for the fall.

      First, that Black holes would see the creation of life is a theory that hasn’t been shown. But more than that, the ratio of black holes to life-bearing planets implies nothing about a universe that God would make–especially when the character of God is assumed rather than defined. Another nonexisting implication is what the universe would be like if the Christian God existed–he stated that the universe would be what Paul believed it to be. God’s Word never claims that the writers of the Bible were infallible, it simply states that the product of certain writings were God-inspired. We might also ask, how does he know what the world would be like if God existed?

      We might also ask if Black holes would cause life by chance, doesn’t chance destroy the rationality and regularity that is needed to create life?

      In addition, his comments on the Biblical writers are on parr with other naturalized views of the writings of the Bible. It is speculation and restrictive in terms of the why the Bible is written the way it was and what the sources were. But his statements are speculative.

      Second, there is the fall so what we see here is a corrupted version of God’s design because with the fall comes death and corruption. So it seems that he is comparing the world with how it should, by his thinking, be designed to be rather than how it might exist after the fall and the fall is a part of Christianity.

      From the Christian perspective, one can’t totally abandon religion to pursue philosophy because one’s philosophy will be determined by the god or the being one depends on the most.

      Finally, as a person, who is this guy to tell me what I should believe and what my ethics should be? If this guy is right, he should be the world’s one leader. But I have the same reaction to his assertions about reality and ethics that the atheists have against Christians who quote the Bible. So here, atheists should empathize with a Christian’s rejection of what this guy stated just as we should understand the resistance we see to the Gospel.

    • Pofarmer

      There was no fall to account for, so there you go. If you have some sort of evidence of the perfect world before the fall, bring it on. The Fall being part of Christianity is part of what makes it nonsense. All the things “explained” by the fall can be explained in naturalistic ways more easily. Regularity is simply the existance of natural laws. The gravitational constant, for instance. However, there is very little regularity in the Universe. 99.99999 something percent of it would instantly kill us. 99% of all the life that has ever existed on Earth is extinct. Chance destroys nothing, chance is merely the probablilty of something happening. Sam Harris notes that humans are bad at probabilities. Think about this. Our star has 8 planets. There are more than 100 billion galaxies in our known universe, each with more than 100 billion stars. How many planets is that? Almost countless. Trillions. So even something with a billion to one odds would be common. We just happen to be one of the lottery winners. And, is it rational that a supreme being would create a universe 13.5 billion light years across just for us? Wouldn’t it be more rational to have the terrarium Earth envisioned by the ancients.

    • Pofarmer,
      If you are going to try to examine the world from a Christian perspective, then you have to include the fall because that is a part of Christianity.

      And actually, chance is the negation of regularity. Chance denies the connections that allow for regularity. But one has to understand that in this context, chance is not probability.

      And as why a supreme being would create a universe 13.5 billion light years across, you would have to ask that supreme being. It is rather presumptuous of us to speak for that being. In addition, your statement included an assumption.

    • Pofarmer

      We are looking at what is, not what Christians would like it to be. As Bart Ehrman said to William Lane Craig ” That might be theologically true, but it isn’t historically true.” And you are making the assumption of “regularity” whatever that is supposed to mean.

    • PoFarmer,
      My point about the fall is that if you are going to analyze what the world should iook like from a Christian perspective, you have to include the fall.

      As for quoting Ehrman, you are simply making an assumption.

      Finally, regularity allows us to study science and use its findings.

    • Pofarmer

      You have brought a bible to a science debate. There is no reason, scientifically, to grant that the theology of the fall has any scientific implications whatsoever.

    • Pofarmer,
      The video you provided has the speaker discussing what kind of universe the Christian God would have created. And he compares that with what we observe today. So since your video introduced that subject, it is appropriate for me to bring up the fall.

    • Pofarmer

      Then I would suggest bringing some evidence.

    • Pofarmer,
      First, you can suggest anything you want.

      Second, you’re acting as if I am bringing the fall out of the blue. Again, I brought in the fall as an appropriate response to what the guy in the video which you provided said. When the guy in the video describes what the world made by the Christian God should look like, again, part of that description has to account for the fall because the fall had, and still has, such a significant effect on the world. Since the fall would be categorized as a historical event, then we go to the documents that describe the fall.

      Third, the next step is speculative and thus is unlikely to produce firm conclusions. Like the guy in your video we ask, does this world fit the kind of world we would expect from something that was created by God but suffered from what the Bible described as the fall?

      See, when the guy in your video speculated what kind of world the Christian God would have created, he used that speculation to form firm conclusions. That was rather presumptuous.

      Fourth, if you note that the title of the blogpost we are responding to includes the subject of the Christian God. Therefore it is appropriate to discuss theology here–this refers to your previous note. So again, you can suggest anything you want.

    • Pofarmer

      No evidence, then.

    • So you didn’t read point #2.

    • Pofarmer

      “then we go to the documents that describe the fall.”

      This is no more than Star Trek giving evidence of Warp Drive. Scientific, repeatable, observable evidence. Thank you.

    • Pofarmer,
      And the attitude and antagonism you display might be part of the problem here. It’s not that you have to agree, but you go beyond disagreement. The manuscripts we have are not “Star Trek” evidence. Historical documents are observable. And since we gather the Scriptures from a number of different manuscripts, the agreement of the manuscripts testify to their reliability in terms of relating what was originally stated.

      BTW, go back to the video you sent the link to and see if that the fall helps explain what the guy in the video could not according to his view of what the world should look like if the Christian God created it.

    • Pofarmer

      Look, I’m not interested in what the world should look like, I’m interested in what it does look like. So you have manuscripts that agree. The manuscripts available for Harry Potter agree better. I don’t care that ancient manuscripts agree. What I care about is if there is evidence that what is stated in those documents can in any way be corroborated scientifically, and if they can explain what we observe better than biology, psychology, sociology, and archaeolovy already do. Now, for the last time, if you have some evidence that the doctrine of The Fall has a basis in anything that resembles scientific reality, then please, bring forth your evidence and let’s examine it.

    • Pofarmer

      btw, there is no Atheist account of reality.

    • JC Caroon

      Science is the only explanation necessary. There is no god, no higher deity.

    • Science is the only explanation necessary. There is no god, no higher deity.

      “Science” isn’t an explanation, it’s the methodology used to arrive at an explanation.

    • That issue is whether atheists can put forth a satisfactory explanation for the world around us.

      That depends on how “satisfactory” you expect it to be. Obviously there’s a lot of speculation concerning the origin of life on Earth or the beginning of the universe. It depends on what sort of explanations resonate with you: ones involving agency, ones involving undirected natural forces, or ones involving autocatalysis and self-organization.

      But why is it a problem to explain evolution in the context of an ordered universe?

    • Shem,
      How full the Atheist position is of speculation should caution us about distancing the Atheist position from the theistic one.

    • Pofarmer

      I think the pat artificial certainty of the theist position should caution us more.

    • PoFarmer,
      If one is taking the apologetic approach that is displayed in the movie, I certainly agree that the certainty can be artificial. But that is different from saying that the inability of the Atheist to find evidence for a god or God proves that the Theist cannot have certainty.

    • Craig S.

      Ditto what Pofarmer said. Regarding your first paragraph, Curt, it still seems like you’re missing the point of Dan’s comments. The point is that atheists apply the same standard of evidence for believing in the god or religion that they were brought up with that religious people apply to every other religion, superstition, and god in the world. By saying one must exhaust all possible conceptual means of defining and detecting a deity and disprove all of them before one can justifiably say they know gods don’t exist, you are setting an unreasonably high bar and moving the goalposts for what constitutes knowledge. In the same way that you as a Christian are justified in saying you know leprechauns don’t exist (because nobody has ever shown any solid evidence that they do), atheists are justified in saying they know gods don’t exist.

      Now, you may disagree that there is no solid evidence for God, but that becomes a question over what counts as evidence and what that evidence is. It’s not an issue of whether knowledge entails superhuman levels of discernment throughout the universe.

      Also, what you call agnosticism IS atheism, at least as many atheists are using it. All it takes to be an atheist is to not have a positive belief in a god. If someone asks you “do you believe in a god or gods?” and you say “Yes,” you are a theist. If you say anything else (no, or I don’t know), you are not a theist, therefore you are atheist by default. That’s why Dan mentioned agnostic atheists. Agnostic refers to the question of knowledge, atheist refers to belief.

  • There are plenty of constructive debates to be had about exactly how to
    do philosophy appropriately, how to improve our methods, how to situate
    its role within the larger project of knowledge development. But it’s a
    dangerous world where people are philosophically incompetent.
    And I’m
    disgusted and disappointed by my supposed fellow defenders of reason
    when they short-sightedly and ignorantly turn on philosophy and, to my
    mind, betray the very cause we were supposed to be allied together in.

    This is downright brilliant.

    In various venues in the atheist blogosphere, I’ve run into stubborn, immature scorn for philosophy that would embarrass a high-schooler. Otherwise intelligent, sophisticated people are proud to display an ignorance of philosophy, as if they’re unsullied by familiarity with eternal questions about knowledge and being. “What Good is Philosophy?” was the title of one blogger’s puerile analysis.

    What is it about our culture that makes anti-intellectual bigotry such a badge of honor, not only in rural churches but also among nonbelievers who supposedly value reason?