Sarcasm: How to be an Atheist Apologist

Disclaimer: the following post is sarcastic. It is not intended to be representative of the tactics used by all or most atheist “apologists.”

1. Any reason for doubt, no matter how far-fetched or speculative, is sufficient for avoiding the conclusion that God exists. For example, even if we don’t have the first clue about physics or cosmology, posit the mere possibility of the existence of multiple universes in order to avoid the theistic conclusion of the probabilistic fine-tuning argument for God’s existence. This isn’t like an American criminal trial where we expect the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We expect theists to prove God exists beyond any doubt.

2. Arrogantly assume that all atheists are freethinkers (by virtue of their atheism) and that all theists are not freethinkers (by virtue of their theism), despite the fact that there is no necessary connection between a person’s beliefs and how they arrived at their beliefs. Along the same lines, claim that all theists are either stupid or uneducated about the evidence relevant to the existence of God.

3. Don’t take seriously recent, pro-theistic work in the philosophy of religion. After all, if we admit that Hume and Kant did not refute all theistic arguments –including ones that were just formulated in the last 40 years–then we might be forced to consider the possibility that not all theists are stupid.

4. Along the same lines, misrepresent theistic arguments whenever it is convenient to do so. For example, if a theist presents an argument for God’s existence based upon moral ontology (God is required for objective moral values to exist), respond with an objection from moral epistemology (atheists can know objective moral values) and then act as if you’ve said something profound and relevant.

5. Require extrabiblical evidence for relatively modest empirical claims in the NT such as the historicity of Jesus, as if there were anything extraordinary about the New Testament Jesus being based upon a real historical individual.

6. If an atheist or an agnostic accepts the historicity of Jesus, accuse them of being a closet theist. (When we say we are freethinkers, there’s a limit to how much we are willing to “think freely.”) Besides, we like a certain degree of symmetry between our beliefs about cosmology (the universe began to exist uncaused) and history of religions (Christianity began to exist without a historical Jesus).

7. Scientism. (‘Nuf said.)

8. Define “atheism” as the lack of belief in God, not the belief that God does not exist, so that even newborns and individuals who are in a permanent vegetative state count as “atheists,” despite the fact the vast majority of speakers of the English language do not use the word “atheist” in that way.

9. Deny that religious claims are testable and then present evidence for their falsity. You can have your apologetic cake and eat it too!

10. Compare belief in God to belief in Santa Claus, leprechauns, invisible pink unicorns, the flying spaghetti monster, and so forth, as if all supernatural explanatory hypotheses are equally plausible, despite the fact that considerations from inductive logic like scope, simplicity, etc. show that these hypotheses do not have equal intrinsic probability.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08026334505132729732 Steven Carr

    ’5. Require extrabiblical evidence for relatively modest empirical claims in the NT such as the historicity of Jesus, as if there were anything extraordinary about the New Testament Jesus being based upon a real historical individual.’

    We can demand that people in the New Testament always write down everything that they knew, so that any lapse can be treated as definitive proof that any missing stories were only invented later.

    In fact, we can demand that there are named witnesses testifying to the existence of any figure appearing in the NT.

    And if there is a named witness, we can demand that there are named witnesses testifying to the existence of the first named witnesses.

    This process can be repeated if necessary.

    After all, where is the evidence that there was this guy called Paul writing these letters?

    OK, ’2 Peter’ claims Paul wrote letters, but where is the evidence that Peter existed?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    This is very similar to the list I posted earlier on the last thread. Was I an inspiration here? I think mine is a tad more sarcastic though. :-)

    Bilbo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I had written most of this post a couple of months ago and was waiting to finish it. Several of the items are based upon my own writings, but there are a few items I received from a philosopher who is not an atheist.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12648338473296940751 Hallq

    Though the analogy with the Greek gods is a little tidier, I’m not sure what’s wrong with comparing belief in God to belief in leprechauns. Both are mythical ideas that have nevertheless been believed in by adults. And the Invisible Pink Unicorn, along with Sagan’s Dragon, makes a nice introduction to falsifiablism.

    Speaking of falsifiablism, it’s worth recognizing that hypothesis often come in falsifiable and non-falsifiable variants (something I’ve written on previously.)

  • Anonymous

    Regarding no. 1, does anyone know any articles/books where a probablistic argument from fine tuning is presented. I have heard fine-tuning used as evidence for theism countless times but never have I heard anyone give an argument as to why theism is the more probable explanation. They tend to simply present it as self-evidently the most plausible hyothesis.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04005087360274992165 DT Strain

    The following is *not* sarcasm…

    1. Yes, *any* reason for doubt is sufficient for avoiding the conclusion God exists. Remember you are usually speaking to people who ‘believe with all their heart’ that God exists – it’s not merely one of their ‘pet hypotheses’. Therefore, even the mere possibility that there is ANY other explanation between equally unprovable scenarios is enough to show their position logically absurd and irrational. Also, the claim of an invisible intelligent entity who created universes is more extraordinary than the guilt or innocence of any human, and therefore the level of evidence necessary should be proportionately higher (extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence). Therefore the analogy is a false one.

    2. All atheists are not freethinkers, but the modern version of the term “Freethinker” (capital ‘F’, single word) is a nontheist. However, theists can certainly be ‘free thinkers’ (little ‘f’, two words).

    3. What is this “pro-theistic work in the philosophy of religion”? This phrasing seems to imply that ‘philosophic work’ can progress knowledge of objective external facts on its own. It cannot – only physical evidence can do that. So, in terms of invisible entities, our knowledge is the same today as it was in 10,000 BC – the knowledge of the lowliest peasant and the Pope the same when it comes to God. But perhaps this philosophic work might be a more refined *understanding* of the existing physical evidence, which is possible, in which case I’d be interested to hear what has been ‘realized’.

    4. There is nothing fallacious about the results of an epistemological argument spelling problems for the implications of an ontological argument – especially if the subject of both is the same (objective moral values).

    5. There are good reasons to suspect Jesus may not have even existed as a mere human being (although I happen to think he probably did). While it is a distraction from the more central argument of his divinity, and thus perhaps not good tactics, ALL claims should be open to questioning and expect to be backed up.

    6. As an atheist who accepts the historicity of Jesus (likely), I haven’t heard this accusation. But if anyone’s doing it, that is indeed unjustified on that basis alone.

    7. I haven’t really seen an example of this alleged ‘scientism’, but have often seen people accused of it. I’m sure someone somewhere must be practicing it.

    8. That *IS* the definition of atheism. The fact that so much of the world has distorted it (sometimes intentionally) is not the atheist’s fault, and it is a good thing for atheists to try to correct the misperception whenever possible. Intelligent people are capable of grasping the important difference – and since plenty of theists are intelligent too, it shouldn’t be too much to ask.

    9. I’ve never seen anyone present evidence of the falsity of *purely* religious claims. They might present evidence of the falsity of aspects of those claims which interface with the physical world (which ARE open to being proved or disproved), or they might present arguments that a religious concept has an inherently illogical internal contradiction. But anyone claiming ‘evidence’ of a purely immaterial claim is engaging in the same mistake as those making the claim, which is neither true nor false, but nonsensical.

    10. The comparison to all manner of outrageous claims is a logical and valid one. The issue is not in the degree of “intrinsic probability” of the claim. Probability is determined through mathematical statistics. Immaterial assertions about the one and only reality we have, HAVE no intrinsic probability. Rather, the issue of the comparison is that both God and these other claims are equally baseless, unproved, and unprovable, regardless of how internally reasonable they seem to us. The mere fact that a claim cannot, even in principle, be proven or disproved makes it meaningless – no matter how palatable or ‘reasonable’ it seems to us. Having said that, it is also incidentally the case that a person-like consciousness which has opinions, thinks, and creates intelligently without having developed as a response to any sort of physical environment (like our minds have), is inherently ludicrous and just as bizarre as a flying spaghetti monster. In fact, the FSM is actually MORE likely because at least we KNOW the stuff of which he is made exists, and the FSM allegedly exists in the material realm, requiring no assertions about ‘other realms of existence’ or their (super) nature. The point of the FSM is not to say, ‘if we believe in God we might believe in even MORE ridiculous things’ – no, the point of the FSM is to make us realize just how similarly bizarre and outlandish the concept of a personal God is.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04005087360274992165 DT Strain

    One small correction: I said “the FSM is actually MORE likely” and should have said “the FSM actually HAS a likelihood” which might seem like being more likely than something which inherently doesn’t even have a technical likelihood (high or low), but not actually.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    David: Richard Swinburne defends in his books a fine-tuning argument that is probabilistic in nature. See, for example, The Existence of God or Is There a God?.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with most of what you say, but have some comments.

    Regarding 1: Though I lack expertise in physics and cosmology, I have repeatedly heard the claim that multiple universes is a logical implication of modern physics. So it is a possibility, yet there is also more than just an arbitrary possibility here, multiple universes is a technically derived theoretical result.

    Regarding 5: There could be justification for expecting extra biblical evidence. In this case, I have heard it argued that there are multiple detailed contemporary historical writings, that they mention other religious characters but they are oddly silent about Jesus. In addition the writings that do mention, or appear to mention, Jesus are likely to be much later inserted forgeries or are just after the fact observations of the existence of Jesus followers/believers.

    Regarding 7: I hear the term scientism, and Darwinism, and such ‘ism’ suffixes utilized to try to mischaracterize a reliance on empirical evidence as another faith-based worldview just like religion. I don’t buy that type of
    argument and I don’t think you do either. So ‘Nuf said is not sufficient here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11585281178196454062 samskeptic

    Thanks for posting this. . .I left behind my Christian faith a little more than a year ago. Though the “freethinking” in the atheist/agnostic community is a breath of fresh air, I still have a respect for some lines of Christian argumentation and cringe when good theistic arguments are dismissed out of hand by nontheists. I still see a lot of evasion by nontheists around questions like “what should we consider to be moral and immoral” and “where did the universe ultimately come from” and “how do we experience consciousness and free will”. Though the weight of the evidence points me away from Christianity, and indeed, away from theism in general, I must admit that there are still some hard questions to be faced and not all issues can be resolved by waving our hands and shouting “SCIENCE!”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12648338473296940751 Hallq

    Though not all issues can be resolved by waving our hands and shouting “GOD!” either.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11585281178196454062 samskeptic

    >Though not all issues can be >resolved by waving our hands and >shouting “GOD!” either.

    So true. Sometimes the best thing in the face of unanswered questions is humility. That’s one reason I ceased being a Christian – Christians often give glib answers to profound mysteries. But I don’t want to make the same mistake and give glib nontheist answers to profound mysteries, either. Some atheists or agnostics talk as if science has already answered all the questions we have about the universe, but many perplexing issues remain that may not give way to theism OR science.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09584034445340497926 bpabbott

    Nice job with the sarcasm! :-)

    Number 8 raises a good point.

    “8. Define “atheism” as the lack of belief in God, not the belief that God does not exist, so that even newborns and individuals who are in a permanent vegetative state count as “atheists,” despite the fact the vast majority of speakers of the English language do not use the word “atheist” in that way.”

    Theists believe.

    Atheists do not believe.

    Agnostics are aware of theistic and atheistic claims, but essentially don’t care one way or the other.

    What do we call those who have no knowledge of such claims and hence have no opportunity to form an opinion?

    Regards

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    bpabott: I wholeheartedly endorse the definitions set forth by Ted Drange in his essay, “Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism.” I am tempted to say that the individual who has “no knowledge of such claims and hence have no opportunity to form an opinion” would be yet another type of agnostic, in addition to the types listed by Drange.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12648338473296940751 Hallq

    I would personally prefer to define “atheist” as “one who views all gods the way the average American views the Greek gods” – intentionally avoiding thet weak atheism/strong atheism question.

  • Anonymous

    Dawkins, in his Feb. 13,2006, “Time Magazine” article, in the end admits that an intelligent designer type of God or God analog is possible. Which truly intrigues me: the leading cosmologists and philosophers all seem to reach this point and yet the “leading” atheist “wannabe dilletantes” all rabidly reject any and all of the logical theodicies which support a transcendental “default position”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09584034445340497926 bpabbott

    todd wrote: “Dawkins [...] in the end admits that an intelligent designer type of God or God analogy is possible. Which truly intrigues me: the leading cosmologists and philosophers all seem to reach this point.”

    Why does such intrique you?

    Do you confuse the individuals opinion with what their have explicit knowledge of. I’ve never met an atheist who *knows* God is non-existent. However, no Atheist *believes* that God’s existence is plausible.

    You might have noticed that many such individuals, you refer to, also acknowledge their ignorance in explicit knowledge with regards to Greek Gods also.

    To be honest, imo, anyone who claims to have explicit knowledge one way or the other is intellectually dishonest.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15799168778162687036 Bilbo Bloggins

    dt strain, I find your views to be fascinating. Would you consider writing up an essay (perhaps to be published to the Sec Web?), which expounds upon the utility of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the thought of atheistic freethinkers? Or have you already published on this?

    Bilbo

  • Anonymous

    Define “atheism” as the lack of belief in God, not the belief that God does not exist, so that even newborns and individuals who are in a permanent vegetative state count as “atheists,” despite the fact the vast majority of speakers of the English language do not use the word “atheist” in that way.

    The “lack of belief in god” definition for atheism strikes me as dishonest, because when you ask people on the street to provide examples of “atheists,” they spontaneously name critics of theism like Richard Dawkins, not babies, feral children and the profoundly brain damaged. I think we should properly define “atheism” as “the critical rejection of theistic claims about reality,” not as a mere absence of belief.

  • Anonymous

    Jeffrey Jay Lowder “I wholeheartedly endorse the definitions set forth by Ted Drange in his essay, “Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism.” I am tempted to say that the individual who has “no knowledge of such claims and hence have no opportunity to form an opinion” would be yet another type of agnostic, in addition to the types listed by Drange.”

    As much as I sympathize with the desire to kick them out of atheismdom, they insist they are atheists. So I call them implicit atheists. Technically speaking, when we argue for atheism we are really arguing that belief in god is unjustified which takes us to implicit atheism. Yet we are explicit atheists because for us it follows that if belief in god is unjustified then belief there is no god is justified. But I am not (yet) convinced that we can properly insist that everyone take that extra step to qualify as an atheist.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12648338473296940751 Hallq

    The “lack of belief in god” definition for atheism strikes me as dishonest, because when you ask people on the street to provide examples of “atheists,” they spontaneously name critics of theism like Richard Dawkins, not babies, feral children and the profoundly brain damaged. I think we should properly define “atheism” as “the critical rejection of theistic claims about reality,” not as a mere absence of belief.

    Careful, Mark, my such reasoning you could argue that the term “Christian” should be defined as “nutty televangelist.” I don’t think vocal criticism of theism should be a prerequisite for atheism. One way around the babies, etc. problem is to define atheism as “informed nonbelief.” This would exclude babies but inlude those who might sometimes be thought of as agnostics. But I still like the definition given in my third comment better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11543527694796447932 todd katz

    tactically good that atheists go on in their delusion that Jesus Christ has no more evidentiary foundation than Zeus,Ra,unicorns,etc, this keeps atheists beleiving their own press releases and believing that they are winning, while Christianity continues apace to finish evangelizing the world.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Hallq — “I would personally prefer to define “atheist” as “one who views all gods the way the average American views the Greek gods” – intentionally avoiding thet weak atheism/strong atheism question.”

    That may indeed avoid the so-called distinction between weak and strong atheism, but I fear that it does so only by virtue of its vagueness.

    I have to agree with Drange: “It is desirable that we abide by common usage and it is foolish (and probably futile) to try to reform people’s usage of terms.” Since common usage defines atheism as the positive belief that God does not exist, it would be prudent to adopt that definition.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14558495391350708810 James Still

    Jeff writes: “Since common usage defines atheism as the positive belief that God does not exist, it would be prudent to adopt that definition.”

    And why not? I don’t believe that God exists and I’m not shy about saying so. Why should I want to risk confusing someone with anything other than the truth?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06487727131445592048 Krystalline Apostate

    carr:
    We can demand that people in the New Testament always write down everything that they knew, so that any lapse can be treated as definitive proof that any missing stories were only invented later.
    What a sad effort at sophistry. There is a difference between lapses & outrageous contradictions, you know.
    In fact, we can demand that there are named witnesses testifying to the existence of any figure appearing in the NT.
    Just the upper 10% would actually be nice.
    And if there is a named witness, we can demand that there are named witnesses testifying to the existence of the first named witnesses.
    Hey, we can’t have infinite regression as per that ridiculous salvo, unless there’s something outside of ’500 unnamed witnesses’, now can we?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11419395842652110834 elwedriddsche

    It should be self-evident that there is no universally accepted definition of atheism. Bickering over a label doesn’t portend interesting conversations and occludes the most obvious definition of atheism:

    Whatever it is theists believe in, atheists don’t.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 bbowen737

    Jeff said:

    I have to agree with Drange: “It is desirable that we abide by common usage and it is foolish (and probably futile) to try to reform people’s usage of terms.” Since common usage defines atheism as the positive belief that God does not exist, it would be prudent to adopt that definition.

    I disagree, Ayer, Flew, and Nielsen are viewed as atheists and called atheists. But they DON’T have a “positive belief that God does not exist.” So common usage of the word “atheist” departs from your description.

    You and Drange would have us call these philosophers “non-cognitivists” concerning God-talk. But now who is foolishly trying “to reform people’s useage of terms”? What is the common usage of “non-cognitivist”? There ain’t none, because this is a technical philosophical category. The problem is that common usage does not make the fine distinctions that we who are interested in this topic need to make. So, because Ayer, Flew, and Nielsen reject the “belief” that God exists, they get lumped together with others who reject this belief as being false.

    I have no problem with Drange’s well-defined set of distinctions. But I think the argument that they preserve “common useage” is dubious, and the argument that they avoid pressing for reformation of how people use terms is false.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    bbowen737 — “I disagree, Ayer, Flew, and Nielsen are viewed as atheists and called atheists. But they DON’T have a “positive belief that God does not exist.” So common usage of the word “atheist” departs from your description.”

    Common usage is determined by what the average speaker of the English language means. Flew, Ayer, and Nielsen are irrelevant to determining common usage in the sense that they would almost certainly not be mentioned by respondents, in a poll of English lanuage speakers who are undoubtedly unfamiliar with any of them, where the question that was asked was, “What is an atheist?” For the very few people who are familiar with Flew, Ayer, and Nielsen, my hunch is that many people probably have incompatible beliefs, meaning that they probably took Flew’s, Ayer’s, and Nielsen’s self-descriptions at face value, but if someone confronted them about their generic definition of atheism (and offered nontheist or noncognitivist as an alternative), they would probably cease to call (the old) Flew, Ayer, and Nielsen an atheist.

    bbowen737 — “What is the common usage of “non-cognitivist”? There ain’t none, because this is a technical philosophical category. The problem is that common usage does not make the fine distinctions that we who are interested in this topic need to make. So, because Ayer, Flew, and Nielsen reject the “belief” that God exists, they get lumped together with others who reject this belief as being false.”

    You have a point. There is no common usage of the word “noncognitivist.” The point, however, is that common usage of the word “atheist” supports the definition offered by Drange. It may be the case that there just is no word in common usage for noncognitivists like Ayer and Nielsen. Or nontheist might the word that fills the void in common usage.

    (BTW, I could be wrong, but it is my understanding that Flew was never a noncogntivist. And in any case, he definitely is not considered an atheist now!)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09112540483035421050 interlocutor

    I disagree with a few of your points:

    Your #1–It seems to me that theists are positing a very fantastic “solution” to the problem of the existence of the universe. The solution involves a brainless, yet intelligent, being that is omnipresent, immaterial, and all-powerful (all of which are well-outside human experience). They use this fantastic being as the basis of an argument attempting to “explain” the origin of the universe. In fact, many contend that it is the ONLY way to explain the existence of the universe.

    Positing the possibility of multiple universes is a perfectly valid move in countering an argument like this. Even when one posits a probabilistic fine-tuning argument, they tend to overlook the improbability of an immaterial being itself.

    I think your criticism here is misdirected.

    Your #8–

    You wrote, “Define ‘atheism’ as the lack of belief in God, not the belief that God does not exist . . . despite the fact the vast majority of speakers of the English language do not use the word ‘atheist’ in that way.”

    and

    “Common usage is determined by what the average speaker of the English language means.”

    First, I think this grossly oversimplifies how words are defined. It completely ignores the role of power relationships in defining terms (think, e.g., Foucault on “madness”). So, a predominantly theistic majority determines the meaning of a term in a way that the group given this label mostly rejects?

    Second, common usage often misrepresents words in their technical senses. The vast majority of people would define gravity in terms of a force pulling them down, not as acceleration (as Einstein theorized). Experts have a bigger role in defining than does common usage (think Putnam’s “natural kind terms”).

    Many atheists believe that it is philosophically naive to hold the proposition “There is no god or gods,” but do not consider agnosticism to rightly represent their beliefs.

    Your #10–Perhaps this is a matter of personal incredulity. A leprechaun is a physical being with bizarre powers. A god is an immaterial being with bizarre powers. I find immateriality very far outside of my experience, so I feel justified in thinking a “god” is incredible. Instead of thinking in terms of names like “God” or “unicorn,” maybe it is better to think in terms of lists of attributes. List the attributes of a God and the attributes of a unicorn and determine which is more credible.

    I do agree, however, with the point of your post. Atheists need to be more careful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I just discovered an off-site discussion about #10 on this list at the Rational Skepticism site:

    http://www.rationalskepticism.org/nontheism/how-tp-be-an-atheist-apologist-t27748.html

    purplerat writes:

    All supernatural hypotheses are equally plausible, with that plausibility being null. Plausibility is an inherently naturalistic quality. Therefore if something is said to be supernatural it's plausibility is null. This is not apologetics but rather simple logic.

    The intrinsic or prior probability of a hypothesis is "its probability independent of what anyone knows or believes or perceives or remembers" (see here). Prior probability is a function of scope and simplicity.

    Here is what Draper writes about scope:

    "Let's start with scope. Roughly speaking, scope is a measure of how much a hypothesis purports to tell us about the contingent features of the world.[7] Relative to certain practical goals, the larger the scope of a hypothesis, the better; but relative to the goal of truth, large scope is a vice rather than a virtue. For the more that a hypothesis says that might be false, the more likely it is to say something that is false, and hence the less likely it is to be true. For example, the statement that there is an animal behind the door says much less than the statement that there is a dog behind the door which in turn says much less than the statement that there is a collie wearing a red scarf behind the door. Thus, the first of these statements is intrinsically much more probable (though perhaps less useful) than the second and the second is intrinsically much more probable than the third. Similarly, the statement that there is no collie wearing a red scarf behind the door says much less than the statement that there is no dog (of any kind) behind the door which in turn says much less than the statement that there is no animal behind the door, not even an ant or a spider. Thus, of these three statements, the statement that there is no collie wearing a red scarf behind the door is the most probable intrinsically, while the statement that there is no animal of any kind behind the door is the least probable intrinsically."

    More below.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    And here is what he writes about simplicity:

    "A hypothesis can be simple in more than one way, and simplicity can make a hypothesis better just by making it easier to use and understand. When, however, the simplicity of a hypothesis is understood to be a measure of the degree of (objective) uniformity that the hypothesis attributes to the world, then it is more than a merely pragmatic theoretical virtue. It is a sign of truth. Two examples will, I hope, help to make this point clear. First, compare the hypothesis that emeralds will remain green in the future to the hypothesis that they will sooner or later change from green to blue or from green to some other color. The former hypothesis is more probable than the latter, not because (or not just because) we have evidence that color changes of this sort never occur. Rather, it is intrinsically more probable because it attributes objective uniformity over time to the world while the latter hypothesis attributes objective change.[8] A second example concerns Aristotle's theory that physical objects are of two fundamentally different sorts: terrestrial and celestial. Unlike terrestrial objects, celestial objects are not composed of earth, water, air, or fire; and the laws that govern their behavior are not the same as the laws that govern the behavior of terrestrial objects. Even in the ancient world, it was recognized that attributing such ontological variety to nature was a weakness in Aristotle's physics. Alternative theories that postulated greater uniformity were intrinsically more probable than Aristotle's theory. Of course, Aristotelian physics was widely accepted for centuries, but only because it appeared to have much greater predictive power than its simpler competitors. In the end, of course, it proved to be false."

    Based on those two factors, I think it's pretty clear different supernatural explanatory hypotheses are not equal in terms of simplicity or scope and hence do not have equal intrinsic probability. Furthermore, I don't think those two factors justify the claim that theism has zero intrinsic probability.

    Paul G wrote:

    Yeah I hate this shit. Somehow God is more deserving of consideration because the idea deals with a more important subject? Has been around longer? Millions take it seriously? What?

    Nowhere have I argued any of those things.

    No physical evidence is no physical evidence, however much importance you attach to it.

    This simply confuses the distinction between intrinsic probability and what Draper calls "predictive power." No physical evidence is relevant to predictive power, NOT intrinsic probability.

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