Answering Atheism

In the aftermath of the slew of books by the so-called new atheists there has been a wealth of material in book-form in reply. Of the several books I have read they have all provided good material in answering atheism.

The main weakness of the majority of the books I have read regarding atheism in apologetics is that I also found that these books were not ones that I would really suggest an atheist to read. While reading them I reflected that if I was still an atheist that I would have found the tone to be too condescending or confrontational. My only previous exception to this I found was New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy by Fr. Robert J. Spitzer S.J. Although this book was not a general apologetics work and almost entirely confined itself to where the philosophical and the scientific arguments intersected.

When I first heard that Trent Horn from Catholic Answers was putting out a book on atheism I had high hopes that maybe here would be a book that I could recommend to atheists who were interested in hearing arguments against atheism. I have greatly enjoyed Trent Horn’s answers on Catholic Answers especially when they spend a whole show dialoging with atheists. I am very happy to report that Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity is exactly the book I have been waiting for.

I liked almost just about everything about this book and the serious effort it makes to take atheist objections seriously. You can certainly see the St. Thomas Aquinas approach here where objections are put forth accurately before the “on the contrary” reply to the objection. There are always going to be tensions between writing an apologetics book for a popular audience while addressing technical philosophical and scientific questions. Trent Horn has navigated these tensions rather well and solved part of this problem by moving some more technical discussions to appendixes without leaving out meat in the main chapters. I also really enjoyed some of the arguments employed and some of the nuances that he used that I had not encountered before.

So as the subtitle of this book focused on using logic and charity I think the really hit this out of the park. This is a great book for anybody that wants to brush up on or explore the arguments/ways of knowing that God exists.

This is also a book that can be easily recommended to atheists and not have them just dismiss it in frustration. At one time I was naive enough to believe that a solid book of this type would of its own be a great conversion tool. I have since learned that grace, disposition, and timing is even a more necessary requirement before logic. Yet this book at least will help towards fertilizing that rocky soil.

About Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is a former atheist who after spending forty years in the wilderness finds himself with both astonishment and joy a member of the Catholic Church. A retired Navy Chief who now makes his living as an application developer.

  • Randy Wanat

    Empirical evidence of the existence of God? Neat! Oh, wait…there isn’t any? Just logical fallacies and defining things into existence? Bummer. I kind of wondered why there hadn’t been front-page news stories about it and a Nobel Prize lined up for the author.

    • Reason

      - – - I totally agree.
      The one thing that sinks religion is simple: Not once in the history of the world has anyone brought forth even a smidgen of evidence to support the claim that a god exists.
      They can write a million books about “faith,” but none mean anything under the blanket of No God.
      As Bertrand Russell said, “Even if a billion people believe in a bad idea, it’s still a bad idea.”

      • Steve Greene

        Theologians can be exceedingly skilled in the art of vacuous word games, because in terms of providing justification for the believing their particular religious mythologies, such vacuous words are really all they have. Otherwise, they’d be scientists and we’d be reading about the latest scientific research concerning discoveries about the spirit realm and beings who exist there, in, say, some professional science journal in some area of physics.

        Instead, we have a theologian giving us another theology book, which is like anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-climactic. It’s precisely not another theology book that is required, but something else, and something that religious believers will never produce.

        • Asemodeous

          That’s the ultimate irony of theologians, isn’t it? If there ever was discovered evidence of the divine, it would be a scientists to find it, not a theologian. The same thing applies to creationists and their hatred of evolution. Of any class of people to actually find a alternate theory of evolution, it would be biologists, not creationists, since they actually are the people capable of finding it in the first place.

          It just shows that these people are not actually interested in finding the truth. Since, if they were, they wouldn’t be theologians.

        • Gerald Moore

          I consider theology the study of nothing. It is like cryptozoology. Volumes can be written about the diet and social habits of Bigfoot without the slightest evidence of a Bigfoot even existing. Good post.

          As a humorous side note:

          climactic = it is climatic

          anti-climactic = it isn’t

          anti-anti-climactic = it is

          anti-anti-anti-climactic = it isn’t

          anti-anti-anti-anti-climactic = it is

          anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-climactic = it is climactic.

          It’s obvious to anyone what you meant and I agree the book is most probably very, very, very, very anti-climactic.

          • Steve Greene

            I’m actually pleased someone noticed that. ;-) Do note that I carefully counted and tripled-checked that I had an odd number. It is – correctly – 5 anti’s: *not* climactic.

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      I guess you failed to read Robert Spritzer’s book.

  • Mark Moore

    Google the terms ‘dopamine religion’ to see what the author is really talking about.

  • Gerald Moore

    If the proofs are unfalsifiable, I’m not interested. All unfalsifiable claims are intrinsically irrational. The claim “God exists” is unfalsifiable. Therefore, “God exists” is intrinsically irrational.

    If such tests and supporting data existed there would be no need for “religious faith.”

    • Thomas R

      Is any kind of trust or confidence rational then? And aren’t many unfalsifiable claims necessary to get along in life or understand things?

      “All human beings are equal” Is that rational? Falsifiable? How would you prove or disprove this statement?

      “A bouncing ball will never turn into a talking turnip” Is that falsifiable? All evidence indicates a bouncing ball couldn’t turn into a talking turnip, but “never” is a long time. Maybe over eons a ball could somehow be transformed into such a thing.

      “When we die we cease to exist” How would you prove or disprove that?

      • Gerald Moore

        You’re playing the equivocation fallacy game. Religious “faith” has a separate definition than “faith” used in the everyday sense.

        Here are my responses:

        Yes, trust and confidence in the non-religious sense is rational. Confidence is based upon real information. The amount of confidence (faith) required is proportional to the claim. Mundane claims require very little proof while extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

        No, I don’t think we need unfalsifiable knowledge to get along. I’m open to evidence that we do. We also don’t need to test or falsify everything we assume before proceeding, but our confidence to proceed is based upon testable experience based assumptions.

        “All human beings are equal.” I suspect you of using the equivocation fallacy again. Are referring to “equal” in the societal construct sense? It’s obvious we are not equal in all respects, but some societies choose to treat each other as sort of “equal” as moral and respectful behavior. Morality is a social construct. The claim is falsifiable though. Define any type of “equalness” and examine individuals or society and one can observe even to what degree that claim that is true.

        Turnips will turn into bouncing balls is a very good example of an unfalsifiable claim. You can claim it, but can’t even imagine a test to prove it or falsify it. Therefore, I don’t believe it. I think you are assuming knowledge or scientific fact has to be known to 100% certainty. This is untrue.

        “We cease to exist.” is a combination of unfalsifiable claim and an equivocation fallacy. You’re using a special meaning of “we” or “souls” as opposed to our functioning body/brain “we.” Souls are unfalsifiable like gods.

        You also employ a third fallacy. The shifting of burden of proof. You want me to prove a claim I never made, that “we” cease to exist. It’s the same shifting of burden of proof that asserts atheists make the claim “God doesn’t exist.” Most don’t claim that. You claim “God exists.” and that “we don’t cease to exist.” the burden of proof lies with you.

        Our bodies as they appear when living are observed to deteriorate, so it’s safe to assume “we” as living beings “cease to exist” at some time.

      • Steve Greene

        Perhaps you do not understand the concept of falsifiability. Certainly on a pragmatic basis we must employ levels of trust to live our lives. You are completely mistaken to represent this as an example of not being falsifiable. For example, I plan my daily schedule on work days based on trusting that when I get to my car it will start, and I will get to work on time. However, if I put the key in the ignition and the car does not start on some particular morning, my trust is obviously false at that point, and I need to employ other courses of action.

        And this is the fundamental distinction between your use of the word “trust” as a pretended equivalent for religious faith in the context of belief in things made up in the human imagination that have nothing to do with reality in the first place. You presume that humans do not make up things that have no basis in reality and then engage in certain behaviors based on “trusting” that these fabrications are true, even though they are not. But we know for a fact that that presumption is entirely false. We have methods for determining the difference between good trust and bad trust, having to do with things like good evidence and levels of credibility among other things, and this is exactly what your argument ignores.

        • Asemodeous

          “For example, I plan my daily schedule on work days based on trusting
          that when I get to my car it will start, and I will get to work on time.”

          The actual theistic example of your car analogy is this.

          You have blind absolute faith that your car will start in the morning and no matter who tells you otherwise, you are dogmatic that this will always be the case, nevermind logic or evidence.

          When the car does eventually break down, you experience a cognitive dissonance. Your faith tells you on absolute terms that your car cannot break down, but yet it did, so therefore reality is at fault, not your religion. You declare to the universe that your car is in fact still working but you change the definition of “working” to a metaphor for life and bring it to a mechanic. At which point the mechanic, whom is a follower of your religion, sacrifices a goat to appease the car gods so they show mercy and baptize your car into working condition.

          When that doesn’t work you kill the mechanic for being a witch and bring it to another mechanic that happens to believe in materialistic presupposition. He knows from logic and experience what causes cars to break down, fixes it for you, at which point you kill him for being a heretic. All the while praying to the car gods for the miraculous recovery of your car as you drive off to work.

    • Julie Davis

      Yet, as far as I can tell, the hypothesis that God does not exist is not provable. How does one prove there is no God? That’s the other side of the coin. In fact, it was that very realization that made me interested in seeing if God indeed did exist … which I could only do by lobbing a bet out there to see if He answered.

      • Gerald Moore

        I totally agree with you that the hypothesis that “God does not exist” is not provable as is also “God exists.” Few atheists make that claim. They don’t believe the claim “God exists.” without evidence. The god claim is particularly unfalsifiable with non-specific gods who don’t interact with reality. If a specific god is claimed to exist that does interacts with the physical universe, then that god is testable and falsifiable.

      • Sven2547

        Well, let’s take a crack at this:
        Omnipotence is self-contradictory and self-refuting.
        Thermodynamics refutes immortality.
        The Problem of Evil refutes the notion of omnibenevolence.

        • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

          All of those are misrepresentations and just show your own ignorance.

      • Randy Wanat

        Rejecting a claim is not the same as asserting the contrapositive.

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      The claim “God doesn’t exist” is equally unfalsifiable.

      • Randy Wanat

        Rejecting a claim is not assertion of the contrapositive.

        • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

          It is when you want everybody to entirely reorder society based on your contrapostive claim.

          • Randy Wanat

            A jar is filled with jellybeans. The number of jellybeans in the jar is either even or odd. Bill says the number is even, but he offers no evidence to support the claim. Should you accept that claim? No. Does that mean you’re saying the number of jellybeans must be odd? No.
            A god either exists or doesn’t exist. Bill says a god does exist, but he offers no evidence to support the claim. Should you accept that claim? No. Does that mean you’re saying a god does not exist? No.
            Why don’t you do us all a favor and provide evidence for any of your claims, whether it’s regarding gods or your paranoid nonsense? Would that be unfair, to expect someone to support their claims with evidence?

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            We theists offer several thousand years worth of research into the existence of God. Atheists like you just refuse to look.

            But hey, that’s ok, because “contrapositive” assumptions are never subject to skepticism, right?

            Go read Fr. Spritzer’s book, and tell me again how there is no evidence for God.

            But I know you won’t- because you’re too scared to falsify your own supposedly “unfalsifiable” dogma.

  • Reason

    — 40 years in the “wilderness”? — Oops, your bigotry is showing!

  • Sven2547

    I’ll look into it. I hope it offers something other than the same stale easily-refuted apologetic arguments of the past (Cosmological Argument, Ontological Argument, Teleological Argument, Argument from Morality, Argument from Design, etc). I also hope it addresses the Problem of Evil and Stephen Law’s “Evil God Challenge”.

  • Steve Greene

    In my numerous discussions with those Christians who try to use logic to “prove” the existence of their Bible god, I have found that most of them fail to understand the difference between an argument that is logically valid, and an argument that is sound.

    For example,

    If pigs are pink, then they can fly.
    Petunia is a pink pig.
    Therefore, Petunia can fly.

    This argument is completely valid, logically.

    However, it is, in fact, a completely false argument. (It is an unsound argument.)

    There is less than zero doubt that Christian theologians can produce, literally, millions of logically valid arguments in regard to trying to justify their religious belief in their particular god. The problem – and the crux of the matter – is that logic and reality are distinct, and you must go beyond logic in order to back up claims about reality.

    Moreover, there is a huge difference between the mere idea that the universe was created by some kind of eternal, cosmic super-force (an idea that perhaps most atheists agree with) and the beliefs about the Bible god, which is a rather primitive and absurd notion of god in the first place, and you cannot successfully pretend to have “logically” justified the existence of the Bible god by ignoring the fundamental differences between the two ideas.

    Finally, perhaps Robert Spitzer should have simply taken on the rather simple task of just producing good scientific evidence showing that Transubstantiation is anything other than purely vacuous words – then we’d genuinely have something to marvel about.

    No? Didn’t think so.

    • Asemodeous

      Another fun one is this:

      All fish live in the sea.

      Sharks live in the sea;
      Therefore, all sharks are fish.

      Christians have a hard time understanding logic pathways. With that statement the conclusion is correct, so Christians then assume that the entire phrase is correct. This is highly dangerous thinking since it can lead to barbaric and cruel believes in come from Christians, just as long as those believes have a mentally satisfying conclusion.

      The rest of christian apologetcs plays a very simple and easy to refute slight of hand. At best their logic pathways, however flawed, can only “prove” a deism god of the universe. They then pretend that this desim god, which has no characteristics, personality, believes, names, etc etc, as their personal literal biblical god who has all of those characteristics.

    • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

      You mean the logic that controls the athiest’s syllogism:
      The physical world exists.
      Nothing in its essence that exists creates itself.
      Nothing created the physical world.
      Yeah, that makes perfect (hmm) sense.

      • Steve Greene

        Perhaps you are not aware of the fact that straw man arguments are otherwise known as fallacious. If you are not familiar with what the term “straw man argument” means, look it up.

        • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

          I know strawman arguments well. That’s most definitely is NOT a strawman argument.

          • Steve Greene

            It’s a standard straw man argument that Christians have been using for centuries to misrepresent atheism. Indeed, it’s a manifestation of the standard Christian fallacy popularly known as the god-of-the-gaps argument.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            So what’s strawman about it? If it’s a legit argument, it’s not a strawman. You characterize it as such because you don’t have an answer and it stings.

          • Steve Greene

            “If it’s a legit argument, it’s not a strawman.”

            And if it is not a legit argument, it is a straw man. This is the point. You apparently feel that you are not capable of dealing with the actual atheistic critiques of religious belief, so rather than attempt to deal with actual atheism, you try to disparage it with blatant misrepresentations. This has only been one of the standard tactics used by Christians for centuries.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Just because you say it’s a strawman doesn’t make it so. You may not believe it’s a ligit argument, but that’s because you can’t answer it. It’s a legit argument. Tactics for centuries? You’ve got a complex issue. You’re not one of those atheist fanatics who insist on prosyltizing, are you? The argument has been around for centuries because atheists don’t have an answer. When you come up with an answer then it’s resolved. Until then it’s a legit point and most definitely not a strawman.

          • Steve Greene

            Just because you assert it, doesn’t make it true. You may even think it is, but that’s because it is fully your intention to straw man atheism with bogus misrepresentations.

            In regard to this particular misrepresentation, it is indeed a standard misrepresentation of atheism that Christians have been using in anti-atheist rhetoric for, literally, over two hundred years. Your attempt to denigrate this statement of a historical fact with the vacuous remark “You’ve got a complex issue” is noted. Indeed, such silly, pointless, nonsubstantive remarks are exactly what the anti-atheist rhetoric by Christians and religious believers of other religious stripes is notorious for, and I thank you for demonstrating it.

            In regard to “don’t have an answer for it”, you clearly and obviously do not comprehend what a straw man argument even is. There is no reason for providing any answer in the first place precisely because it does not apply. It’s like a homicide detective asking an innocent suspect, “Where did you put the gun?” The innocent suspect replies, “I obviously don’t know anything about any gun, because I didn’t kill the guy.” The detective – like you – says, “I’m not going to release you unless you can explain to me where the gun is.” Which, of course, is obviously irrational in regard to someone who didn’t have anything to do with the crime. This point is so completely clear and obvious, that I want to thank you for demonstrating such a clear example of the utterly irrational nature of the anti-atheist nonsense that Christians like you love to use in their rhetoric.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            This is getting tiresome. I don’t give a rat’s a$$ what you guys define in your “preaching to the choir” blogs and books. But when you debate a real person of the opposition (not the STRAWMAN you CREATE) and he puts a claim that challenges your you have to refute it. You don’t get to define what’s a legit point or not. First of all pointing out you don’t have an answer for how the universe was created without God points to the pretzle you have to twist yourself into to brush aside that you have rested your argument on an impossibility. If an inventor presented an notion that he created a machine that was self perpetuating, that is it generates its own energy, anyone with half a brain would brush that aside as impossible, and the inventor would have to put up or shut up on how the physics work. No matter or energy is self creating. We know that through science – the very science you rest your supercillious attitude on. It’s NOT JUST you don’t have answer for it. We know that what you are resting your argument is impossible. So for the last time – and I won’t come back again if you don’t answer it – put up or shut up on how the universe was created.

          • Steve Greene

            I am a real person of the opposition. You make me laugh. You don’t get to define me with straw man misrepresentations. This is exactly the point.

            I notice also how you have completely failed to address the fact there is no reason for providing any answer in the first place precisely because it does not apply, just as the innocent man has no reason to provide any explanation for some gun that he himself knows nothing about precisely because he didn’t have anything to do with the crime in the first place. Your inability to address this point is thus noted.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            No reason to provide an answer? Because you don’t have an answer. I’ll repeat on the self perputating machine you are trying to pedal:

            No matter or energy is self creating. We know that through science – the very science you rest your supercillious attitude on. It’s NOT JUST you don’t have answer for it. We know that what you are resting your argument is impossible.

          • Steve Greene

            “No reason to provide an answer? Because you don’t have an answer.”

            Again do you demonstrate your complete failure to comprehend the fact that a man who is innocent of a crime has no reason to provide any explanation for the crime in the first place, precisely because he has nothing to do with it. Thank you for demonstrating your failure to grasp basic logic.

          • Randy Wanat

            Not knowing the explanation doesn’t make “God did it” the winner by default. Logical fallacy: argument from ignorance.

          • Randy Wanat

            A thousand years ago, if you said “explain how lightning happens,” and the answer given was “I don’t know,” would God be the correct answer? This is the classic argument from ignorance. If you can’t explain X, then my explanation wins by default. It’s a logical fallacy. Look up “argument from ignorance” on Wikipedia. Do you care if the arguments you use are valid, or do you just want to reassure yourself no matter how wrong the things you say may be?

          • Randy Wanat

            Look up “argument from ignorance” and “burden of proof” on Wikipedia, so you can learn why your arguments are crappy.

      • Gerald Moore

        Your reasoning does indeed, utilize the straw man fallacy. You attributed an easily refuted position to atheists, one that atheists, in general, wouldn’t endorse. If the misrepresentation is on purpose, then the straw man fallacy is caused by lying. An atheist is one who doesn’t believe god claims. We typically don’t claim god does not exist or that nothing created the universe. Just because we don’t know what or how something came to being doesn’t oblige us to assign a cause.

        Analysis
        Premise: The physical world exists. Agreed.
        Premise: Nothing in its essence that exists creates itself.

        Not agree: “Create” implies a creator, and is an equivocation fallacy in itself. Some physicists say that particles can appear “uncaused,” but they don’t say they “created” themselves. The vast majority of atheists would say “I don’t know, but I’m unconvinced about god claims.

        Premise: Nothing created the physical world.

        Comment: Few atheists make such claims. Most atheists say “I don’t know how the universe came about, but I’m unconvinced about god claims. Even physicists who study the Big Bang and cosmology don’t claim that nothing “created” the physical world. They work in that area of science because they actually want to understand.

        Here’s the “logic” that is the theist’s syllogism:

        Premise: Something exists.
        Conclusion: God did it.

        That seems to be pretty much sum up the conclusion of every syllogism where the premise is a statement about something that theists don’t understand. It’s called the “God of the gaps” fallacy.

        The theist syllogism is a Non Sequitur. The conclusion isn’t supported by the premise.

        To assume “god” did anything one must establish that god exists and how she did it. To answer “god” is not an explaination of anything.

        • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

          No. We know energy and matter does not come from no where. An inventor presenting an invention that is self perpetuating (ie, creates its own energy from no where) we know that is impossible. We know that he is claiming an impossibility. You are resting your argument on an impossible supposition. That is not a strawman. That is reality. Nothing comes from nowhere. I only presented the atheist syllogism; I’m not going to address theistic claims.

          • Gerald Moore

            Atheists aren’t the ones making “suppositions” or claims.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Atheists aren’t saying God doesn’t exist? Whatever. Pointing out atheists don’t have an answer to that question is clearly not a strawman argument. Now it may not be proof of anything one way or another, but it is most definitely not a strawman argument.

          • Gerald Moore

            The following definition taken from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#StrawMan

            Straw Man definition:

            Your reasoning contains the straw man fallacy whenever you attribute an easily refuted position to your opponent, one that the opponent wouldn’t endorse, and then proceed to attack the easily refuted position (the straw man) believing you have undermined the opponent’s actual position.

            I wrote previously, “You attributed an easily refuted position to atheists, one that atheists, in general, wouldn’t endorse.” and analyzed and explained how that fit the definition of a straw man.

            I’m sorry, where did YOU point out that atheists don’t have answers? I said that. We don’t know the answer and we don’t believe your answer. Your syllogism stated that atheists claim that nothing created the universe. Atheists don’t say that, they say, “I don’t know.” Theists say “God did it.” That’s why your syllogism is a straw man.

            I think you may be confused about the atheist position. Very few atheists make a claim that gods don’t exist. Very few would make such an unverifiable claim. We are just not convinced of your claim that they do exist. Typically, we don’t claim anything, you as a theist are making the claim.

            It sounds like your straw man was not a lie. You honestly were unaware of what it means to be to be an atheist. This is understandable. Many theists harbor this misconception.

            This may help if you’re interested in what an atheist is: http://atheism.about.com/od/definitionofatheism/a/whatisatheism.htm

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Oh pulease. Now you’re blurring the definitions of atheist and agnostic to whatever is advantageous in an argument. Do you claim that no God exists? If you do, then you have a hole in how the universe was created. That is not a strawman.

          • Gerald Moore

            You’ve not spoken to many atheists. That is understandable and forgivable. No, I’ve never claimed that no God exists. Neither have most atheists. When pressed most would say that they don’t believe, but they won’t assert that they know gods don’t exist. I honestly and sincerely am not blurring definitions for the sake of argumentation.

            You also can be forgiven for having a common misunderstanding of the term agnosticism. Belief is absolutely binary, one either believes or they don’t. One cannot hold a middle ground. Agnosticism is not about belief in or unbelief, but about knowledge.

            http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutagnosticism/p/overview.htm

            As to my having a “hole” in how the universe was created you have touched upon perhaps a much bigger aspect of your inadvertent straw man.

            One is not required provide to an explanation of the workings of the universe origin in order to reject belief in god. “I don’t know,” is an adequate response. When atheists are asked this question they may offer whatever current science has to offer. We do not know the answer and neither does science because science never claims absolute certainty. As conceding this matter science cannot currently address the state of the universe at or beyond a singularity.

            The mere fact that we cannot explain something is not a valid justification to rely upon something else, even more mysterious, as an explanation. This is known as the God of the Gaps argument and has been thoroughly discredited. It is a form of the fallacy Argumentum ad Ignorantium. There is a thorough discussion of it in theopedia: http://www.theopedia.com/God_of_the_Gaps

          • Dan13

            I don’t believe Manny is arguing for a “God of the Gaps.” I think he favors classical theism.

          • Gerald Moore

            Perhaps so, I have no way of knowing. However, when he attributes atheists with the requirement to know how the universe came about, and further that if we currently don’t know, therefore god, then that is the god of the gaps argument.

          • Dan13

            I interpreted “Nothing in its essence that exists creates itself.” as a reference to the “Unmoved mover” argument.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Yes. You are correct. Gerald is arguing over the definition of atheism.

          • Gerald Moore

            I looked up the “Unmoved mover” argument as I was unfamiliar with it. I’ve not heard an atheist make this argument. So, I still think his syllogism is a straw man.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Fine. Just about all atheists I’ve ever met or discussed the subject with claim no God. I think you might be the first, and really it’s a distinction that needs its own word. Atheism to almost everyone means there is a belief that no God exists.

          • Gerald Moore

            May I suggest that you go back and examine more closely the beliefs of some of the atheists you have met. You seem to be harboring THE most common misunderstanding about atheism.

            Disbelief in the truth of a proposition cannot be treated as equivalent to the belief that the proposition is false AND that the opposite is true.

            You need to question atheists much more specifically. The mistaken assumption of denial happens all the time and is understandable, even when people are not talking about gods. If a friend tells you something and you reply “I don’t believe you,” he may get upset because he has interpreted your response as calling him a liar or asserting the opposite as true, when in fact, all you are meant was, “I don’t know about that, you haven’t given me enough information to accept what you are saying.” You are not saying his claim is false, you are saying you don’t believe it yet. This is the atheist position, the absence of belief or the presence of skepticism.

            An atheist my sometimes present proof or deny the possible existence of specific gods who are logically inconsistent or falsifiable when they have justification, but few assert that they know all possible iterations of god are impossible.

            In other words some theists feel that since they are claiming the existence of their god, then anyone who does not agree with them must be claiming the exact opposite. This is a serious misunderstanding.

            From an antidotal perspective, I’ve had the opposite experience from you. I don’t know any atheists who assert that no god exists. This includes quite a few famous authors on atheism, bloggers, people who comment on atheism and personal friends.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Ok, here’s the common definition of atheism:

            a·the·ism
            /ˈeɪθiˌɪzəm/ Show Spelled [ey-thee-iz-uhm] Show IPA
            noun
            1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
            2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

            Now you want to splt hairs, fine, then my comment may not apply to the atheists that the definition does apply to. But frankly I think they are very few. You (and those that split the same hair) are formulating that definition ONLY because you cannot answer the who created the universe question. If there was a scientific proof as to what created it and God was ruled out, then you wouldn’t be splitting the hair. So it’s not a strawman argument. You are adjusting your argument because you cannot answer the question.

          • Gerald Moore

            My definition is not special pleading created because I cannot answer “who” “created” the universe.

            Once more, although I should’t need to repeat statements. One is not required to provide to an explanation of the workings of the universe origin in order to reject belief that a god “created” it. “I don’t know,” is an adequate response. I don’t even know if the universe is finite. Something could have always existed.

            You are using an argument from ignorance fallacy wherein a lack of evidence is treated as evidence. Allow me to present further examples not associated with god claims so that you might better grasp the concept.

            You can’t explain all Bigfoot sightings, therefore Bigfoot exists.

            You can’t prove elves don’t exist, therefore elves exist.

            You can’t prove a wristwatch isn’t orbiting pluto, therefore one is orbiting pluto.

            It can’t be logically argued that a lack of alternative explanations is by itself sufficient reason to consider propositions true.

            If it will help you, I will phrase it in god terms: An atheist claims that no one can actually prove that God exists; therefore God does not exists. That is also an argument from ignorance.

            I quite sympathize with someone finding the concept difficult. When I was younger, perhaps as young as 18, I realized that I just couldn’t believe most god claims. However, due to this same misunderstanding, I too, would make such statements as “God doesn’t exist.” The problem was that I didn’t fully realize what that statement entailed. I didn’t believe, but I also didn’t know.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            “One is not required to provide to an explanation of the workings of the universe origin in order to reject belief that a god “created” it. “I don’t know,” is an adequate response. I don’t even know if the universe is finite. Something could have always existed.”

            What you lay out there is the common definition of agnosticism.
            It’s not just lack of evidence. I said above you’ve created a self perpetuating machine. That is an impossibility.
            Ok, we’re going in circles.

          • Gerald Moore

            In order to maintain a straight path in a discussion and to arrive at a conclusion is to address and resolve points as they come up. You have yet to specifically address my response to agnosticism as a middle ground.

            My claim was (again): Belief is absolutely binary.

            One either accepts a proposition (gods exist) or they don’t. Agnosticism is about knowledge not belief. gnostic= of or relating to knowledge, esp. esoteric, mystical knowledge. agnostic=without that knowledge.

            One can be an agnostic atheist, don’t believe and don’t know (most common)
            One can be a agnostic theist, believe but don’t know.
            One can be a strong atheist, don’t believe and claim to know.

            One can be a strong theist, believe and claim to know.

            Would you agree that humans hold beliefs in multiple kinds of gods and some even believe there are multiple gods?

            What are your beliefs concerning these other gods?
            1.) Do you claim to believe in them? (unlikely)
            2.) Do you say, “I’m agnostic, I don’t know if any or all exist. or
            3.) Do you say, “I don’t believe in them.”

            Response 2 really would not address the questioner and would be an unfair response. It would be like a politician avoiding a question. The question concerned what you believe about those gods, not what you know.

            If you use response 3, would it be fair of the questioner to ask for proof of the non-existence of all the possible gods that you don’t believe in?

            I know this is a difficult concept, but you haven’t shown that the concept is faulty. I acknowledge that agnosticism is commonly misunderstood as a middle ground between belief and unbelief, but that doesn’t negate my point.

            Unless you believe in one or more of the many gods, you fit the definition of an atheist and you also shouldn’t be required to prove any of them false. The burden of proof always lies with the person making a claim. Now I you were to say one of the gods don’t exist, use for example Thor, then you would be obligated to provide proof of his non-existence.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Thank you for all that. You’ve been quite kind and patient in our discussion. I will absorb what you have written and in the future will be more open to the distinctions you have pointed out. Peace. :)

          • Randy Wanat

            Agnosticism regards knowledge. Atheism regards belief. Do you know the difference? There are agnostic atheists, gnostic atheists, gnostic theists, and agnostic theists. Your inability to understand that colloquial definitions aren’t the only definitions, and that other people may be more specific about their language and ideas than you are, are not our shortcomings.

          • Randy Wanat

            The two definitions are not the same. One is a statement of fact, while the other is the rejection of a claim. Do you understand the difference?

          • Randy Wanat

            All atheists agree in their rejection of god claims. Only a subset of atheists assert that no gods exist. Most, however, would say no gods exist in the same way you would say that no leprechauns exist. While it has not been proven that they don’t exist, there isn’t any evidence supporting their existence.

          • Randy Wanat

            We do NOT know where energy and matter come from, and we have zero examples of nothing to analyze, so we can’t make assertions about what nothing can or cannot do. You fail.

      • Randy Wanat

        How did the universe come to be? We don’t know. Not having the answer is not justification for making up magical wizards, any more than not knowing who committed a crime justifies saying leprechauns did it.

  • Anton

    According to our Ayn Rand acolytes Steve, Asmodeus, and Gerald, if theologians were interested in The Truth, they’d be scientists instead.

    It’s like they’re in the old joke, looking under a streetlight for the keys they lost over in the park. Just because there’s plenty of light on the empiricist sidewalk doesn’t mean that’s where all the answers lie.

    • Gerald Moore

      Pretty good joke. You claim keys exists even though I never had any keys or saw any keys to begin with and now you claim they are hidden in the dark somewhere I can never examined. How convienent. That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed just as easily.

      • Anton

        Again, Gerald, you’re fixated on the literal truth and perhaps the matter at hand isn’t literal.

        It’s like if I dismissed ideas or claims on the basis that mathematics is the arbiter of truth, and That which is asserted without equations can be dismissed just as easily.

        See my point?

        • Gerald Moore

          No. Explain why I can’t easily dismiss assertions without sufficient accompanying evidence? Should I believe in BigFoot, the Lockness Monster, leprechauns, fairies just because someone asserted they exist? Should I believe in Bigfoot because someone has a book about the dietary habits of Bigfoot?

          Now you assert that there is “something else” something that can’t be falsified that can substitute as the arbiter of truth. What is that thing and how does it work? I don’t believe you yet. Prove it.

          I assert my first premise is true, that “All unfalsifiable claims are intrinsically irrational.”

          If you asserted mathematics is the only arbiter of truth. I could easily devise a test to falsify that claim.

          I’ll help you a little here and admit that there are a few categories of unfalsifiable claims that are true, 1 + 1 = 2, for example or truth by definition such as “A bachelor is an unmarried man.” What I meant by “all” is all non-inherently true claims. God claims are not inherently true claims and therefore demand proof.

          Are you attempting to shift the burden of proof? I claimed that “God exists is an unfalsifiable claim and therefore irrational. You retort by claiming something else can be used that would make such claims rational and won’t say what it is. Now you claim “the matter at hand isn’t literal?” What? If by that you mean “gods” are just constructs of the mind, then maybe we agree. Are you now saying that gods are likely not “literally” real things so we should settle for less than the literal truth as a substitute for truth?

          • Anton

            Should I believe in BigFoot, the Lockness Monster, leprechauns, fairies just because someone asserted they exist?

            No, Gerald, I agree that skepticism is a good thing.

            Should I believe in Bigfoot because someone has a book about the dietary habits of Bigfoot?

            Of course not. But let’s be fair about this. The vast majority of the information we have about life on Earth is what we’ve read in books (or other media), and we simply consider the source. If World Net Daily says the Loch Ness Monster exists, we take it with a grain of salt. If National Geographic reports that a specimen of coelocanth, long thought extinct, was caught off the coast of Africa, we believe it because we consider the organization trustworthy. You and I aren’t privy to the actual evidence for most of what we say we know, and raw data requires interpretation to be meaningful anyway. But we base our beliefs on valid reasoning.

            According to Tillich, God is a symbol, part of a symbolic construct that was meant to make what can’t be objectified comprehensible to Homo Sap. The way we conceptualize physical reality is a metaphorical construct too, because we’d never be able to comprehend a universe of quanta or atoms or molecules without a symbolic framework for natural phenomena. The reason the scientific method works so well is that it limits its study to empirically verifiable phenomena. But to use the utility of empirical inquiry to conclude that everything that exists has to be empirically verifiable is a leap of faith.

            There are a lot of facets of human endeavor that aren’t scientific matters: things like morality, art, compassion, and meaning can’t be modeled empirically, so demanding evidence in discussions concerning the meaning of life is pretty inappropriate. Does meaning exist, even if it’s something that we ourselves produce?

          • Gerald Moore

            I am being fair. I contend you are being unfair by utilizing the fallacy called “special pleading” where you exempt your claims from what is required of everything else.

            I never claimed all facets of human endeavor are scientific matters (they might be), as a matter of fact I distinguished such things as morality as separate human constructs as opposed to physical things and physical principles. I never discussed the meaning of life. I’m not employing a “leap of faith.” I saying evidence can be used to establish “truth.” If you’ve got something better to prove something else exists now is the time to produce it. You made the claim that there is something else that works, but doggedly refuse to say what it is.

            I’m not sure those facets of human endeavor, or to use better terms, human abstractions or labels, you describe are things that can’t be quantified and tested. Abstractions are real and can be proven to exist as abstractions. If you want to argue god exists because love exists but is unprovable, then sure, I’m Ok with saying god is an abstraction.

            But just because the human brain is not well understood and things like art and compassion are abstractions difficult to quantify and describe, that does not make them untestable or imaginary. This argument is called the argument from ignorance. They are all real reactions or responses that occur in brains.

            Of course meaning exists (as an abstraction), we as sentient beings impart meaning to everything. Humans define concepts. Concepts can be established as real. All those things are real human constructs of the mind, they exist as such and can be defined, tested and evaluated. To argue otherwise would be an exercise in word definitions. There are entire sciences currently studying these and similar brain phenomena.

            Yes, meaning is an abstract concept or an assignment that sentient beings consider. It is a reality similar to the examples I gave but statements like “I love art.” or “I hate my wife.” “I would die for my daughter.” are real and exist in the mind. Tests can be devised to falsify these claims if I were to assert them. We don’t usually require proofs of such mundane claims except in very special circumstances.

            If you would like to claim that abstract meaning exists outside a mind. I would like to examine that proof. But first define “meaning” so we don’t go off on another false equivalency fallacy.

          • Anton

            I contend you are being unfair by utilizing the fallacy called “special pleading” where you exempt your claims from what is required of everything else.

            I don’t think you understand your own buzzwords. I’m saying that symbolic constructs aren’t subject to empirical testing. I’m skeptical of your claim that we can quantify and test things that aren’t empirical. Am I allowed to be skeptical of claims if they use sciencey-words?

            I’m relieved to hear you say you’re okay with the notion of God as an abstraction. But the more hyper-idealized abstraction I see is this fetish you have about the scientific method’s ability to define, quantify, and test non-empirical factors. Science is a method, but you raise it up to an ideology.

            On the other hand, human concerns like love and art merely constitute “mundane claims” to you, because they’re not manly and empirical enough to warrant your attention. This just demonstrates the extent of the anti-humanism in the way you dismiss anything that isn’t cold, hard science.

            For the record, I don’t think meaning exists outside human minds. We need to ascribe meaning to our lives, our work, and our mortality. This isn’t about “proofs.” It’s about facets of the human condition that are more than the factual knowledge we have about our evolutionary legacy and our neurochemistry. Reductionism and scientism don’t tell us about subjective human experience, and that’s the important question.

          • Gerald Moore

            You have yet to produce a way of reliably determining the truth of the unfalsifiable. Truth, by definition, is falsifiable otherwise you couldn’t claim it as true.

            If a statement cannot be falsified, then saying it’s true doesn’t amount to much. I’ve asked repeatedly for you to support some other sort of mechanism of establishing truth which you claim might exist.

            You misunderstood me. I never claimed love was mundane. I was talking about trying to say that claims about love are rarely put to the test. If I say I love you, mother. My mom wouldn’t put me to a test, because it’s not an extraordinary claim, it’s mundane for humans to make these kinds of claims.

            You keep changing topics. Now, it’s no longer about proofs. It’s not about unfalsifiable claims and establishing their truth? What? Now it’s something about the “subjective human experience.”

            I’ve reconsidered after further thought. Science can tell us about subjective human experience. I was a little wishy-washy before.

            To claim that “scientism” doesn’t tell us about subjective human experience is an argument from ignorance. Abstractions difficult to define like love aren’t unprovable. Mostly the problem is that it can’t be defined perfectly. But, more importantly,[ even if your claim that things like love are unprovable but yet we know they exist,] logic would be totally irrelevant to whether or not gods or the supernatural can be proven.

            Your logic can be expressed this way: There exists something whose existence can’t be proved; therefore God, whose existence can’t be proved, exists. This is a false syllogism. The conclusion doesn’t follow the premise.

            At best if science never fully explains the human experience even after an infinite amount of time and effort, it only established that science is not powerful enough or at most that unprovable things exist. It still doesn’t establish the truth of anything supernatural.

          • Anton

            I never claimed to have a better, more effective system for ascertaining truth. I just displayed skepticism toward your apparent belief —this is what I call “scientism”— that scientific inquiry and empirical testing are universally applicable as well as the ultimate arbiters of all questions about human endeavor. There are important matters to humanity that are not scientific, that empirical testing won’t do anything more than provide a physical and neurological basis for. What our knowledge and experience mean is the important part, and the non-scientific part.

            And I’m not talking about anything supernatural as in the realm of God and magic. As I said before, science is only going to tell us certain biological factoids about the human experience of phenomena or ideas. It won’t tell us what it means, or the meaning we ascribe to the experiences.

            I’m the skeptical one here. I doubt that a Big CEO God exists outside of time and space, as the religious dogma would have it. I also doubt that we’re nothing more than gene machines and that our joys and passions and quest for meaning are nothing more than neurochemistry, as the reductionist dogma proclaims. I’m not disputing that humans evolved, or that neurochemistry is the basis of human cognition. What I’m saying is that we can’t fully understand the human perspective, what it means to be human, with scientific factoids.

          • Gerald Moore

            Ok, you doubt god claims, that makes you an atheist like me. You are among the vast majority of atheists who make no claims about the existence of gods. In my initial post I said I wasn’t interested in the book if it contained only unfalsifiable claims because such claims are intrinsically irrational. I think it would be useful to you for me to point out that I also think that asserting unfalsifiable claims are NOT true is also irrational. Perhaps this is where your confusion arrises and what prompted your counter points. I do not assert that unfalsifiable claims are untrue. If somehow, I had asserted that in some way, then I would like to clarify that what I really meant is that it is irrational to assert unfalsifiable claims as either truth or false. I did not say, nor do I assert that unfalsifiable claims are false.

            A skeptic is a person who questions the truth of something purporting to be factual. I did not purport that unfalsifiable claims are false. I purported that it is irrational to accept something as actually true (or false) without evidence. That is the essence of a skeptic. For example I can’t assert gods don’t exist or that science will eventually describe the totality of the human experience. I do have an “apparent belief” that, as far as I know, the scientific method is the best and, dare I say, only known universally applicable arbiter the truth of empirical assertions. If you know of another mechanism I am willing to add to my knowledge.

            As for morality, feelings and purpose I agreed these are things we define for ourselves and are not empirical assertions applicable to falsification. They are what we define them to be.

            Is is not appropriate for me to be skeptical of your positive assertion that “we can’t fully understand the human perspective, what it means to be human, with scientific factoids?” I am willing to retract a positive statement that I made. I should have phrased it this way, “I am skeptical of your belief that science will never tell us about subjective human experience. (argument from ignorance),” rather than the positive claim I made that, “Science can tell us about subjective human experience,” I am correcting this because, whoops, that was an unfalsifiable claim.

          • Anton

            A skeptic is a person who questions the truth of something purporting to be factual. I did not purport that unfalsifiable claims are false. I purported that it is irrational to accept something as actually true (or false) without evidence. That is the essence of a skeptic.

            And like I said before, the vast majority of knowledge we claim is accepted without evidence. We simply trust some sources more than others. Are you privy to the primary research and complex physics that support the Big Bang hypothesis? Me neither. We can’t comprehend the vast amount of evidence that supports the evolution of species except in a very anecdotal sense. We could look up this evidence (not that it would make much sense to us laymen anyway), but that doesn’t change the fact that we formed our beliefs without seeing it in the first place.

            I am willing to retract a positive statement that I made. I should have phrased it this way, “I am skeptical of your belief that science will never tell us about subjective human experience. (argument from ignorance),”

            This is the same as my belief that algebra will never tell me about the color red. It’s not a flaw in the algebraic method, that’s just not what humans invented algebra to do.

            Likewise, it’s not like empirical evidential inquiry will one day reveal what it means to be human, because that’s not what it’s equipped to do. It’s supposed to study the natural causes of natural phenomena by forming testable empirical models. Your faith in science as more than an empirical tool is misplaced.

          • Gerald Moore

            If you’re saying we’ll never know some things, I already agreed to that. As to my claiming we don’t accept things as true by authority. I definitely didn’t say that. I accept those things as a matter of necessity. Some assumptions of truth require almost no evidence at all. I try to avoid accepting untestable assertions, that would be illogical. Science is NEVER 100% certain of anything and neither am I. But as I said extraordinary claims would necessitate extraordinary evidence.

            I don’t ever intend to be rude, but I still don’t get the algebra analogy, it seems seems silly and not at all applicable. As far as I know there are no alternatives to science for discerning truth. If one were to assume as fact that science cannot disclose some theoretically testable phenomenon, science would never progress. If the parameter is truly untestable, then I agree, because that’s outside the definition of science as was revealed in the Dover trial.

          • Anton

            I don’t ever intend to be rude, but I still don’t get the algebra analogy, it seems seems silly and not at all applicable. As far as I know there are no alternatives to science for discerning truth. If one were to assume as fact that science cannot disclose some theoretically testable phenomenon, science would never progress.

            That’s because you’re stuck deep in the well of scientism, where science is never 100% sure of anything except that science is the only way to know anything, ever.

            The algebra analogy was a way to demonstrate that methods have limits: algebra is good at solving for X but can’t tell us about the color red. The scientific method is good at describing our physical universe, but can’t tell us the meaning of anything, even the knowledge it produces. That’s not what it was invented to do, and that’s not what we use it for. If you insist that nothing is beyond the reach of science, you do so because it has become an ideology for you instead of a tool.

          • Gerald Moore

            “but can’t tell us the meaning of anything,”

            I never asserted that. I said we assign meaning.

            “If you insist that nothing is beyond the reach of science”

            I never asserted that. Quite the opposite and in several places.

            “I don’t think our conception of the meaning of life should fly in the face of what we have learned through scientific inquiry”

            I never asserted that.

            “There are a lot of facets of human endeavor that aren’t scientific matters: things like morality, art, compassion, and meaning can’t be modeled empirically,”

            I never asserted that. I made specific exceptions for those abstractions.

            “I see is this fetish you have about the scientific method’s ability to define, quantify, and test non-empirical factors.”

            I never asserted that. Quite the opposite.

            “what I call “scientism”— that scientific inquiry and empirical testing are universally applicable as well as the ultimate arbiters of all questions about human endeavor.”

            I never asserted that.

            “I’m not disputing that humans evolved, or that neurochemistry is the basis of human cognition.”

            I never claimed those things.

            “What I’m saying is that we can’t fully understand the human perspective, what it means to be human, with scientific factoids.”

            I never made the claim that we could. I corrected a mis-statement that could have been interpreted that way.

            If you wish to continue with your straw man argument. Please do, I’ve got too much time on my hands and need something to occupy my mind. I do appreciate your patience and the fact that you are helping me formulate and clarify my thoughts in this arena.

            P.S. How do you get those insert quote bars into the message?

          • Asemodeous

            “P.S. How do you get those insert quote bars into the message?”

            Witchcraft, obviously.

            He is pulling the same strawmen with my comment above. Pretending that science and and scientists are making claims that were never made ever. It’s cute in a desperate sort of way.

          • Gerald Moore

            I never pretended or implied that scientists make or made claims that were never made . Thus no straw man. I was serious and polite about the insert question. Your answer, “Witchcraft.” I was polite and and appreciative of the discussion. Your response was calling me “cute” and “desperate.” Since you have stopped talking to me and are now addressing the readers, shall we just allow them to decide who is “desperate.”

          • Asemodeous

            “Your response was calling me “cute” and “desperate.””

            Actually I was addressing Anton’s use of strawmen.

          • Gerald Moore

            Oops. I just recently set up my account to respond a couple weeks ago. I am a novice. I didn’t know to look carefully at who was responding. Lesson learned. Thanks. Appreciate your response.

          • Asemodeous

            No worries. I’ve dealt with enough brain dead christians that honest mistakes are easy to spot.

          • Anton

            Gerald, I wish you guys would stop with the disingenuous denials and admit that you think Big Shiny Science is the only source of human knowledge. If you weren’t so overly infatuated with the scientific method’s ability to test all human claims, you wouldn’t be mocking theologians for not being scientists. You wouldn’t be demanding empirical evidence for claims that have nothing to do with scientific matters. And you wouldn’t be declaring that “unfalsifiable” claims are irrational, as if there’s no reason to even engage with notions that can’t be subjected to the all-important scientific method.

          • Gerald Moore

            The book’s title indicates a Catholic author will attempt to make a case for God. (capital G = Christian god).

            The author’s god is likely one who interacts with the physical world. Gods who interact become subject to scientific inquiry. You constructed a straw man when you said, “I’m not talking about anything supernatural as in the realm of God and magic.” You might not have been, but I was and I was referring to the book, i.e. to {G}od claims and magic.

            Greek Philosophy has established a fundamental differentiation between logical “true” assumptions about the universe and irrational (neither true or false) statements or mere opinions based on emotion or sensorial experience. The word “irrational” is not pejorative in this sense, just descriptive.

            I use falsifiability in the context of the philosopher Karl Popper. The following link below is a well written and balanced summary containing the pros and cons of his philosophy. Some of your points are well represented by several opposing philosophers.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

            What Popper established and many (including you and US courts) agree, is that unfalsifiable statements are simply not scientific. Popper acknowledged, as did I, that there are things that are meaningful that are not scientific and not subject to falsification.

            I dismiss deistic gods on the basis of having no interaction with the world. They can perhaps be argued for by using logical constructs and abstract assumptions, which are not necessarily “irrational.” I previously addressed these kinds of abstractions, as you seemed to acknowledge, but subsequently ignored.

            My reasoning goes like this:

            Assume Poppers criterion is true. All scientific hypotheses must be falsifiable in the natural world. (You agreed when you said, “The reason the scientific method works so well is that it limits its study to empirically verifiable phenomena.”)

            Anything that interacts with the natural world then becomes subject to scientific inquiry.

            Personal gods interact with the natural world.

            Therefore, personal gods are subject to scientific inquiry.

            It is irrational to apply the non-applicable.

            Therefore it follows that unfalsifiable claims concerning personal gods are irrational.

            Thus, I was not “demanding empirical evidence for claims that have nothing to do with scientific matters.” You addressed a philosophical abstract straw man. If valid, my syllogism demonstrates a connection between the need for falsifiable evidence and claims about personal gods.

          • Steve Greene

            “I wish you guys would stop with the disingenuous denials and admit that you think Big Shiny Science is the only source of human knowledge.”

            Translation: I wish you guys would stop showing up my straw man argument for what it is.

            Yes, Anton, we know you would.

          • Randy Wanat

            Just show us the most recent increase in knowledge that came from theology. And, I don’t mean knowledge regarding religious history. I’m talking about understanding how the universe, or any aspect of it, works.

          • Randy Wanat

            Understanding the peer review process and the self-correcting systems in the scientific method, and the rejection of authorities in favor of a consensus of the evidence (personal experience isn’t necessary when the method is understood) isn’t the same as just accepting what someone says because they said it. How much scientific experience do you actually have? Which flavor of Baptist or charismatic evangelical did you grow up in?

          • Asemodeous

            ” so demanding evidence in discussions concerning the meaning of life is pretty inappropriate.”

            The answer to that is 42. That’s been known for decades, where have you been?

          • Steve Greene

            Seriously, it’s really 58. Adams was just writing metaphorically.

          • Asemodeous

            That is hearsay right there!

          • Randy Wanat

            So, you reject the peer review process of the scientific method.

    • Asemodeous

      “According to our Ayn Rand acolytes Steve, Asmodeus, and Gerald, if
      theologians were interested in The Truth, they’d be scientists instead.”

      That’s a first, being called a acolyte of Rand.

      “It’s like they’re in the old joke, looking under a streetlight for the
      keys they lost over in the park. Just because there’s plenty of light on
      the empiricist sidewalk doesn’t mean that’s where all the answers lie.”

      You do realize that the gods of the gaps argument is fallacious?

      • Anton

        You do realize that the gods of the gaps argument is fallacious?

        The God of the Gaps fallacy is when a perceived lack of a naturalistic explanation for a phenomenon (like the origin of life or the universe) is used as the basis for a claim of divine activity. That’s not what I’m saying. For what it’s worth, I consider the naturalistic explanations we have for phenomena, however speculative, more coherent and plausible than facile appeals to the active intervention of some divine mechanic.

        All I meant to point out was that empirical inquiry does what humans invented it to do: provide naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. It doesn’t answer every question concerning human endeavor, because our most important questions aren’t scientific ones. I don’t think our conception of the meaning of life should fly in the face of what we have learned through scientific inquiry, but the notion that every matter in human life demands an evidence-based epistemology is a hilariously misguided idea.

        • Asemodeous

          ” I consider the naturalistic explanations we have for phenomena, however
          speculative, more coherent and plausible than facile appeals to the
          active intervention of some divine mechanic.”

          Speculative? Strong choice of words for basically a nonsense statement.

          “It doesn’t answer every question concerning human endeavor”

          It never claimed to. So that’s a strawman.

          “because our most important questions aren’t scientific ones.”

          That one is a red herring as well. Our most important questions have already been answered, it is just that the answers are horrifying.

          “I don’t think our conception of the meaning of life”

          To which the answer is 42.

          ” but the notion that every matter in human life demands an evidence-based epistemology is a hilariously misguided idea.”

          And another strawman.

          You are on a roll today!

          • Anton

            You’re bravely resisting civility, so congratulations.

            I didn’t think I’d get so much pushback about my preference for naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena over appeals to divine activity. Mysteries about the origin of biotic life (or why cats purr, for that matter) will probably be answered through empirical evidential inquiry. I don’t support ID or any other pseudoscientific nonsense.

            But scientism is no straw man. I’ve never heard anyone here say that there are important human matters that science isn’t equipped to address, or that there is worthwhile knowledge to be gained except through scientific inquiry. Perhaps you’d be so kind as to indicate where anyone mentioned any limits to the application of empirical inquiry or didn’t simply dismiss non-scientific matters as woo and sentimental hogwash.

          • Asemodeous

            “You’re bravely resisting civility, so congratulations.”

            Says the man engaging in strawmen.

            “I don’t support ID or any other pseudoscientific nonsense.”

            You just repeat the same memes they use about science does and doesn’t do. Mighty suspicious, that is.

            ” I’ve never heard anyone here say that there are important human matters
            that science isn’t equipped to address, or that there is worthwhile
            knowledge to be gained except through scientific inquiry.”

            Because scientists don’t pidgenhole themselves like you are currently doing. Claiming that something is outside of science is anathema to human progress since you bring up a artificial wall that has no purpose. Christians did this with the study of the human body for centuries, which set back medical advancements and caused a lot of suffering.

            Science exists at the edge of human understanding. There isn’t any reason, purpose, or logic to assume that this edge is limited. That is dangerous thinking, as history has provided:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fl1nJC3lvFs

          • Anton

            Science exists at the edge of human understanding. There isn’t any reason, purpose, or logic to assume that this edge is limited.

            Science exists because humans needed a reliable method to create testable empirical models. It is a method that is constrained by its inability to deal with phenomena that aren’t empirical. Scientific inquiry isn’t some abstracted, objective search for Truth; its research takes place in a political and economic context from which its potential can’t be removed. It’s altogether logical to assume that empirically verifiable phenomena are a subset of phenomena that exist, because that’s why methodological naturalism limited scientific inquiry to factors that were empirically verifiable in the first place. Your faith that science can answer all human questions is just as hilarious as the faith that algebra can tell us about the color red.

            And you can stop with the assholery about comparing me to a creationist. I don’t believe in divine designers or magic, supernatural fairylands. All I’m saying is that the quest to ascribe meaning to our knowledge and our lives isn’t in itself a scientific matter.

          • Asemodeous

            “It is a method that is constrained by its inability to deal with phenomena that aren’t empirical.”

            Thanks for proving my point.

            “Your faith that science can answer all human questions is just as
            hilarious as the faith that algebra can tell us about the color red.”

            Again with the lying. You’d think you would have had learned better by now.

            “And you can stop with the assholery about comparing me to a creationist.”

            You repeat their memes and strawmen, what else is there to glean from your behavior?

            “All I’m saying is that the quest to ascribe meaning to our knowledge and our lives isn’t in itself a scientific matter.”

            I already told you the answer to that is 42.

          • Randy Wanat

            Show us a single phenomenon that isn’t empirical. Good luck.

          • http://batman-news.com Anton

            Randy, subjective human experience in its entirety isn’t empirical. Science has told us what causes a sunset, and can tell us a lot about the physical and neurological basis for our experience of it, but it can’t tell us what it’s like to experience a sunset. Science isn’t able to tell us how to interpret the knowledge it generates; that’s up to us. Science can tell us about our evolutionary heritage, but it can’t tell us what it means to be human, which is the important question we all face.

          • Randy Wanat

            Scientism is a word only used by people who think science is an invalid means of understanding the universe, and who think magic is real and personal revelation and hallucinations are valid means of learning about the way the universe works. If you think science is bullshit, just say so. Do you accept that we share a common ancestor with pine trees, fish, and monkeys?

          • http://batman-news.com Anton

            Scientism is a word only used by people who think science is an invalid means of understanding the universe, and who think magic is real and personal revelation and hallucinations are valid means of learning about the way the universe works.

            Since you’re so quick to identify other people’s logical fallacies, I suggest you look up false dilemma. You appear to be claiming that anyone with any qualms whatsoever about the way science is held up as the final arbiter of all human questions must be a hyper-religious Scripturebot who knows nothing about the history of empirical evidential inquiry.

            If you think science is bullshit, just say so.

            I don’t think that at all, and I never implied that. I’d put my knowledge of science up against anyone else’s here. I trust empirical inquiry to provide explanations for natural phenomena. I just don’t think that science is equipped to answer questions about the meaning of human experience, which is why humanity created art, literature, music, and religious symbolism.

            Do you accept that we share a common ancestor with pine trees, fish, and monkeys?

            I do indeed.

            Do you accept that there are important questions to humanity that science can’t answer?

    • Steve Greene

      “According to our Ayn Rand acolytes Steve, Asmodeus, and Gerald…”

      An ironically appalling lack of nuance by a guy who likes to pretend his critics are lacking in nuance. Gave me a good chuckle. Thanks.

      • Anton

        Steve, I’m reminded of the dogmatic, reactionary Rand when I hear you clowns peddle your stale positivism. But at least Rand, nutty as she was, had the courage of her convictions. You guys deny you’re peddling oversimplifications or laying claim to unmediated knowledge about reality that you actually only apprehend through a method fraught with philosophical bias and limited by the constraints of empiricism.

        It’s endlessly amusing to me how outraged you are that anyone would show skepticism toward your cherished dogma. You guys don’t have a monopoly on reason and logic, and you demonstrate that believers don’t have a monopoly on phony certainty.

        • Steve Greene

          “You guys deny you’re peddling oversimplifications or laying claim to unmediated knowledge about reality that you actually only apprehend through a method fraught with philosophical bias and limited by the constraints of empiricism.”

          Says the guy who is peddling oversimplification about alleged Randian acolytes, and red herring about alleged claims to unmediated knowledge about reality and stale positivism.

          Hypocrisy by any other name stinks the same.

  • http://knowthesilence.blogspot.com/ Joshua

    Thanks for the recommendation. I may need to check this one out. I read through the preview available on Amazon and I can see that, as you said, he is taking this seriously and is being respectful. I am grateful that he almost immediately differentiated atheism from nihilism, and I also appreciate that he calls out the “Hitler and Stalin were atheists” argument later on. I’ve run into those far too often.
    I also appreciate that he took the time early on to define terms. I find that far too often people will talk about God, theism, and atheism without defining their terms and will end up talking past each other. That being said, however, I don’t fully agree with his definitions. He puts people in different groups based on the question “does God exist,” and while that does tell you something useful (I agree that people who say “yes” are theists and people who say “no” are atheists), I think that it’s important to also consider belief as a factor when determining someone’s atheism/theism.
    Some may consider the questions “does God exist” and “do you believe God exists” as being the same. I don’t. In my case, I would say “I don’t know” to the first question (putting me in the agnostic camp according to Horn, which I don’t disagree with), but I would say “no” to the second question. I don’t believe that God exists, which is not the same as saying that I believe God does not exist (this has confused some people I’ve talked to, but I hope the nuance is understandable). I define the word “atheist” as including people who don’t believe in God, so this puts me in the atheist camp, albeit the “weak” atheist camp.
    Similarly, if someone answers the question “does God exist” by saying “I don’t know, but I believe He does,” that person is a theist. In Horn’s flow chart, they would fall into the agnostic camp for saying “I don’t know,” but I think that the matter of belief pushes them over into theism.
    Since I’m quibbling with his definitions, I’m afraid that the atheism that he is answering is not the same kind that I consider myself a part of, or a large number of other self-described atheists, including some very popular ones. Still, I think this would be an interesting read.

    • ME

      Perhaps you are so focused on putting yourself into a defined category of atheism, that you are having a difficult time figuring out what you really believe. It looks like you are open to searching, and that is the most important part. Good luck, and always search for the Truth!

      • http://knowthesilence.blogspot.com/ Joshua

        Not at all. I never set out to be an atheist or to call myself an atheist, but it was the label that seemed to apply best once I reached the point where I no longer believed in a God. The definition of atheism as being a “lack of belief” is the one that was getting used the most by people who called themselves atheists and by people who were arguing against atheism, so it’s the one that I tend to use and prefer.

        I’m not sure what gave you the impression that I’m having difficulty figuring out what I believe.

      • Gerald Moore

        I would prefer truth over “Truth” with a capital “T.” I’ve seen that word “Truth” on church signs. Apparently, someone has made up a special word “Truth” as a substitute for the word “lie.” At least they capitalize it like a proper name so you know its not the regular kind of truth.

      • Steve Greene

        “the-ist” = god-believer
        “a-the-ist” = not a god-believer


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