The Argument from Scale (AS) Revisited, Part 6

In Part 1 of this series, I critically reviewed Nicholas Everitt’s formulation of the argument from scale (AS). In Part 5, I critically reviewed John Loftus’s defense of AS on his blog. In this post, I want to review Loftus’s defense of Everitt’s formulation of AS in his (Loftus’s) book, Why I Became an Atheist: Personal Reflections and Additional Arguments (Bloomington: Trafford, 2008). It’s important to note that in his book Loftus also defends a version of AS against evangelical Christianity; I will not evaluate that argument here.

Everitt’s Argument from Scale (AS)

Here is Everitt’s formulation:

(1) If the God of classical theism existed, with the purposes traditionally ascribed to him, then he would create a universe on a human scale, i.e. one that is not unimaginably large, unimaginably old, and in which human beings form an unimaginably tiny part of it, temporally and spatially.
(2) The world does not display a human scale.
(3) Therefore, there is evidence against the hypothesis that the God of classical theism exists with the purposes traditionally ascribed to him.[1]

Let us now turn to Loftus’s comments.

Commenting on (1), Loftus writes:

He’s [Everitt’s] asking us what we would expect to find before we had any scientific knowledge about the universe, given the fact that mankind is the pinnacle of creation in that universe. It concerns what one would predict based upon what one believes (whereas not being able to do so, is disconfirming evidence).(96)

What does Loftus mean by “pinnacle of creation”? It appears that he is using "that phrase as a substitute for Everitt’s expression “jewel of creation,” which Everitt defines as the doctrine that human beings are the most valuable things in the physical universe.[2]

Now what about (3)? Let’s look again at the second sentence in the above quotation:

It concerns what one would predict based upon what one believes (whereas not being able to do so, is disconfirming evidence).(96)

Like Everitt, Loftus is not claiming that the scale of the universe is a proof of the falsity of theism or even that it makes theism probably false. Rather, like Everitt, Loftus claims that the scale of the universe is evidence against classical theism. So what I want to do is evaluate whether the scale of the universe is evidence against classical theism, for the reasons given by Loftus.

Does Theism “Predict” That Humans are the Pinnacle of Creation?

Since theism does not entail that humans are the jewel of creation, we may treat the hypothesis that humans are the jewel of creation as an auxiliary hypothesis. Let us first define the “Jewel of creation” hypothesis (J) as the doctrine that human beings are the most valuable things in the physical universe. Then, according to the theorem of total probability,

Pr(E | T & B) = Pr(J | T) x Pr(E | J & T & B) + Pr(~J | T) x Pr(E | ~J & T & B)

Now since the whole point of conjoining J with T is to try to increase the value of Pr(E | T & B), we may effectively ignore the second half of the right-hand side of that equation and focus on the first half: Pr(J | T) x Pr(E | J & T & B). What reason is there to think Pr(J | T) is greater than Pr(~J | T)? In Part 2 (revised) of this series, I criticized Everitt’s three reasons for thinking that Pr(J | T) > Pr(~J | T). What reasons does Loftus give? As I read him, he provides three reasons of his own: (i) it confirms his expectations; (ii) the scale of the universe is wasteful; and (iii) there is no understandable reason why God would have created a universe with the scale that ours has. Let’s consider these in detail.

First Reason: Confirms Expectations

First, Loftus says that the argument confirms his expectations.

There is just something about Everitt’s argument that resonates with me. It confirms my expectations, and as such confirms for me that God doesn’t exist. I think the argument is a good one even if theists and skeptics themselves might disagree with me. It’s no reason to cease making a particular argument merely because people disagree with you on both sides of the fence. . . .(98)

Loftus is correct that just because others disagree, that’s no reason not to make a particular argument one thinks is correct. But that’s not the question. The question is whether the argument is either a valid deductive argument or a correct inductive argument. As Loftus himself knows, subjective feelings of approval do not make an argument (deductively) valid or (inductively) correct.

Indeed, imagine if a Christian apologist defended William Lane Craig’s moral argument along the same lines as Loftus.

There is just something about Craig’s moral argument that resonates with me. It confirms my expectations, and as such confirms for me that God exists. I think the argument is a good one even if atheists and theists themselves might disagree with me. It’s no reason to cease making a particular argument merely because people disagree with you on both sides of the fence. . . .

Atheists (and probably many theists) would rightly blast such a weak defense of the moral argument. I see no relevant difference between such a hypothetical defense of Craig’s moral argument and Loftus’s defense of Everitt’s argument from scale.

Second Reason: The Scale of the Universe is Wasteful

Second, Loftus quotes Richard Carrier, who writes:

For the Christian theory does not predict what we observe, while the natural theory does predict what we observe. After all, what need does an intelligent engineer have of billions of years and trillions of galaxies filled with billions of stars each? That tremendous waste is only needed if life had to arise by natural accident. It would have no plausible purpose in the Christian God’s plan. You cannot predict from “the Christian God created the world” that “the world” would be trillions of galaxies large and billions of years old before it finally stumbled on one rare occasion of life. But we can predict exactly that from “no God created this world.” Therefore, the facts confirm atheism rather than theism.[3]

Now Loftus quotes Carrier while discussing Everitt’s argument against classical theism, not an argument against the “Christian theory.” But let’s put that worry to the side. Does Carrier’s argument work against classical theism? I suspect that Carrier is correct that CT does not predict E, but the fact that CT does not predict E is evidence against CT if and only if CT predicts not-E (~E). So does CT predict ~E? According to Carrier, CT predicts ~E because E would be wasteful. But Carrier overlooks the fact that the concept of waste only applies to situations where there are limited resources. God, if He exists, is an omnipotent being with unlimited time and unlimited creative resources, so it’s a category error to say that the concept of waste applies to God.

Third Reason: No Purpose for the Scale of the Universe

Even so, we may still wonder, if CT is true, what would be the purpose of creating a universe on such a massive scale? For all we know antecedently, when creating the universe, God could have had other goals in mind besides humans (such as artistic beauty, the creation of sentient life throughout the universe, and so forth). As Loftus himself writes:

This argument depends to some degree on whether or not God might have other purposes for creating such a universe even granting mankind as the jewel of his creation, and whether or not, given the existence of an infinitely creative mind, he would’ve made the universe on such a scale as we find it. (99)

Carrier provides no reason to think that if CT is true, God probably would not have had other purposes.

Fourth Reason: Theists Believed the Universe Was Small Until the Rise of Modern Science

On his blog, Loftus suggests a fourth reason for thinking that theism leads us to expect that humans would be the jewel of creation: theists throughout history thought the universe was on a human scale. In his words:

The best way to know what people would expect to find prior to the rise of modern science is to investigate what people thought of the universe before its rise. …

Western believers used to claim God (or Zeus) lived on Mt. Olympus. But then someone climbed up there and he wasn’t to be found. Then they claimed God lived just beyond the sky dome that supported the water, called the firmament. But we flew planes and space ships up into the air and found he wasn’t there either. Believers now claim God exists in a spiritual sense everywhere. What best explains this continual retreat? Doesn’t it sound more like the attempt to defend one’s faith as science progresses, rather than progressively understanding what God is like? Lowder’s argument falls to the ground unless he can show historically that there were a majority of Christians who concluded the universe could be as vast as it ended up being. Philosophy won’t solve this problem. Historical evidence will. Dante’s Divine Comedy says otherwise, most emphatically. Just look at how he described the heavens. Do some research on how popular his work was. Hint: it was so popular he is even called the "Father of the Italian language," more influential than Shakespeare was on the English language, and we know his influence was immense.

I have no objection to any of Loftus’s historical claims about what people thought of the universe before the rise of modern science. But Loftus is simply repeating one of Everitt’s supporting arguments, which I already addressed. I wrote that even if it’s historically accurate that theists throughout history believed the universe was on a human scale,

it is evidentially irrelevant. What matters is whether classical theists had any good antecedent reason on classical theism to believe J [that humans are the Jewel of creation]. Furthermore, it seems to me that classical theism provides an antecedent reason to deny J. In a discussion of the multiverse objection to an argument from evil, Paul Draper provides a fascinating argument for the conclusion that a multiverse is highly probable on theism. Here is Draper:

God, if she existed, would be very likely to create vast numbers of good worlds. Indeed, we can transcend our anthropomorphism just for a moment, the idea that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect being would create just our world and no others borders on the absurd. What a colossal waste of omnipotence and omniscience that would be! Surely a perfectly good God of limitless creative resources would create vastly many worlds, including magnificent worlds of great perfection as well as good but essentially flawed worlds that are more in need of special providence.[15]

To be sure, Draper himself acknowledges that this argument makes “some very controversial axiological assumptions,” which he defends.[16] While a discussion of those assumptions is beyond the scope of this paper, I think it is safe to say that Draper’s argument provides a prima facie reason, at least, to deny J. In short, on the assumption that theism is true, God probably did create creatures which are more impressive than humans, in other parts of our universe and in other universes.

Conclusion

I conclude, then, that neither Loftus nor Carrier have provided a good reason for thinking that humans would probably be the jewel of creation on the assumption that classical theism is true. Accordingly, I don’t think Loftus has successfully defended Everitt’s AS as an argument against classical theism.

Notes

[1] Everitt, The Non-Existence of God, p. 225.

[2] Cf. Everitt 2004, 221: “theism is committed to saying that humans are the most valuable things in creation.”

[3] Richard Carrier, “Why I Am Not a Christian,” The Secular Web (2006), http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/whynotchristian.html. Quoted in Loftus 2008, 99.

ETA: Added the text between  the paragraph which begins,“Now what about (3)?”, and the paragraph which begins, “Since theism does not entail that humans are the jewel of creation…”

ETA (8-Feb-12): Added the section on the fourth supporting argument.

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://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

    Jeff, don’t you have anything better to do? Really. In the chapter you’re criticizing, which almost no one has read nor will they, I used Everitt’s argument as a backdrop for my real argument against evangelicalism, which is, was, and always will be my target audience.

    While I do think Everitt’s argument is a good one, something I won’t defend here. It never made it into any of my published books, which goes to show you what I think of its force. I only wanted the best arguments in my published books.

    In the chapter you have criticized at the 2342 word mark I said this:

    I think Everitt’s argument is sound, and convincing, but as he admits, it does not show theism is “probably false.” That being said, I think a stronger version of his argument can be made against evangelical Christianity which believes the Bible is God’s Word, regardless of whether or not they are young earth creationists, although, given the age of the universe at 13.5 billion years, it probably applies more to evangelicals who believe the universe is that old. It’s to evangelical Christianity I will henceforth argue my case, and as such, the rest that follows should be considered my own argument, not Everitt’s, although I use his argument as a basis for mine. I will attempt to draw the conclusion that evangelical Christianity is probably false from what follows.

    Then for 5429 more words, or 2/3rds of that chapter, I defend an argument you don’t care to comment on, the main point of that chapter.

    Okay, I guess. This is funny to me if you actually think this is not personal with you. Stop being passive aggressive and tell everyone why you are an enabler. Tell everyone why you have chosen to pick on an argument I have not invested much time in. Tell everyone what you really think of my overall case against Christianity.

    Or, you can nitpick away.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      John,

      You need to re-read this post, your previous comments on my other posts about your arguments, and your posts about me, as if you were a neutral third party, not as John Loftus. You should not associate anything in this post as in any way a personal attack on you, but instead as a discussion of an argument. Then look back and see how your behavior looks in the comment above and the other posts and comments.

      This is how you have come across to other atheists in other cases totally unrelated to my criticism of your argument from scale. You seem to be overly defensive when a fellow atheist criticizes one of your arguments, not you as a person. You are behaving in a very black-and-white fashion, where someone is either a great ally or they are your worst enemy. And once someone has gotten on your bad side, you can’t even be civil with that person.

      If you don’t see that even after that reexamination, then you have lost touch with reality. And all I can recommend then is that you start talking to a therapist.

      • John w. loftus

        Jeff, idiot, why the ad hominems unrelated to the issue here? You are clueless. You share no backstory. You’re throwing shit. I did nothing wrong.

        • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

          Why are you continuously editing this post and your comments, Jeff? It’s like I’m required to hit a moving target or something. Stop it if you want me to take you seriously, sheesh. You are acting like the many Christians I have encountered. When losing an argument change what you’ve said and throw up dirt.

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            Jeff, while you’re at it deal with my open letter to you:

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/01/an-open-letter-to-jeffrey-jay-lowder.html

            Inquiring minds want to know.

          • Blue Devil Knight

            John’s your strangely overpersonal reaction reminds me of some old similar crap from a couple of years ago at Victor’s blog. Apt hprecedent 1. Then there was this ugly interaction. Both comments are as apt today as two years ago, and this makes me sad, not just for you but more for the young and ignorant that might buy into your delusions and be worse thinkers, and worse people, because of it.

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            BDK you are just too stupid to realize that if anyone follows your two links they will see my responses to you. This goes for the one link above you copied below as well. ;-) I want people to go there to read my responses to you, yes. Please, everyone follow those two links from BDK and read them and my responses directly below them, yes. What I said about you still stands.

            With ignorant defenders like you I would rather have no one defend me if I were Lowder. BDK is a scientist who counts things in petrie dishes. What’s your sampling with regard to me BDK? No, seriously, what is it?

          • Blue Devil Knight

            In case it gets deleted at Debunking Christianity, here is what I wrote there two years ago:

            “I don’t mind militant atheists at all. I think Dawkins is incredibly entertaining and witty, have enjoyed the work of Harris.

            What I mind is your willingness to substitute name-calling for real argument, your tendency to overstate the originality and strength of the arguments that you do present (e.g., the outsider test). You are just awful at the give-and-take of real argumentation…I mind that you hypocritically hammer people that you think don’t have credentials, but then act as if your lack of serious specialization (i.e., PhD) shows you are some kind of intellectual jack of all trades poised to be especially damaging to the Christian philosophy. The shameless plugging of your books doesn’t do anything for your credibility either, whether or not it helps sales.

            So, John, my problem isn’t militant atheists: it’s you. You are taking on the roll of a public face of atheism, and you make us look arrogant and incapable of logical argument. It is embarrassing to have you out there implicitly representing something I believe personally, and doing such a crappy job of it.

            With your actions on the blogosphere, you are giving the Christians as much ammunition as you think you are giving
            them doubt. You are to atheism what that crazy communist lady on the corner handing out 9-11 conspiracy pamphlets is to progressivism.”

            And I’m done. For the next two years, anyway.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          John, there is no ad hominem here, since my last comment was about your pattern of behavior, not your argument.

          You do not even seem to get the irony of what you just wrote above. When I point out that you cannot be civil with your critics, you respond with… incivility! The link to Carrier’s blog is to show you have a pattern of over-reacting to criticism (perceived or actual), which you still don’t seem to understand. Why is that? I really do want to know what’s going on with you. Your behavior is deeply strange, and I can’t explain it.

          If my objections to your arguments are weak, the reasonable response would have been to correct my factual or logical errors. There should be no need to resort to name calling, insults, questioning my motives, etc.

          So… why didn’t you just do that?

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            Jeff, I can only tolerate the tolerable. Who do you think I should be anyway, Mother Teresa or something? I’m not. Get over it. I come out as a mother bear when ignorant people like you waste my time, and you DID waste my time.

            See my response here:

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/02/pete-edwards-of-durham-university-on.html

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            John, if you tell yourself that this is a waste of your time, then it’s no wonder you think your choice to defend your argument is a waste of time. But why you have chosen to make this into some of personal issue is a complete mystery to me.

            Even your latest response is filled with insults, mind reading (falsely attributing views to me I don’t hold), and the like. This is why I am concerned about you. It seems like you’ve never learned the lesson about how not to take things personally. But now you seem to be spinning out of control. And that’s what has me sincerely worried about you.

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            Fuck you Lowder. Go take your pseudo-psychological condescending bullshit elsewhere. I am fine, idiot. I just do not suffer fools gladly. Never did, never will.

          • emeritus313

            Dear John,

            stating my honest opinion regarding you, your behavior and your writings on this blog means telling you that you are a liability to atheism as a force on the web.

            It has now become obvious that other atheists do not respect you and look down on your writings and especially mock your horrible debate performances. But they do not only look down on you, they share my opinion that you are an embrarassment to secularism and atheism and that you should stop degrading our good fight against superstition and irrationaility.

            Lets face facts: Jeffer Jay Lowder does not respect you and he easily debunks your ridiculous arguments and shows that you are unable to reason correctly. Christians and atheists are laughing at your ridiculous responses.
            See how embarassing it is for atheism that other bloggers who surely have better things to do have to use time to show the weakness of your arguments in order to save face for atheism and all you do is insult them without any basis for rational argument.

            In your public debates you were defeated times again by your debate opponents and John Wood humiliated you in front of everybody who has or will ever watch the debates you two had. He reduced you to a stuttering fool and you couldnt even save face.

            So i am here to tell you what you have to do:

            1. Dont ever think about degrading and humiliating the cause of atheism by taking part in a public debate EVER again.
            You are a disgrace to atheism ESPECIALLY if you speak in public.
            2. Stop this ridiculous and disgusting propaganda-blog and let other atheists such as Jeferry Jay Lowder argue against christianity.
            You are simply unable to reason correctly and you get slapped around by Victor Reppert constantly.
            3. STOP INSULTING OTHER ATHEIST-THINKERS who have to point out your fallacies.
            4. Disappear from the internet and continue to clean carpets!

            Im serious John. Youre a disgrace. Many many atheists have only one wish: That you either disappear from the web or change sides and disgrace christianity by becoming a christian again.
            None of the two sides need you but if you want to do something for atheism: change sides, become a christian and embarass them not us. Proof your loyality.

            We dont want to have you on our side.

            Thx John….

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            Jeff, this is why I am very upset with you. I emailed this idiot to come clean and say who he is and who he speaks for. Silence was the answer. He is a troll. You have brought them out from under the rocks against me. You really are on the wrong side if Christians are the only ones defending you, and they are. Or, Emeritus313 can deny Jesus is his Lord and Savior and reject the Holy Spirit with full knowledge that he will suffer God’s judgement forever. Even if he’s not a Christian how can anyone take him seriously if he doesn’t identify who he’s speaking on behalf of? Last time I checked only an unreasonable person would discount a person’s arguments because that person isn’t liked. So tell me, Jeff, are you a reasonable person or not?

          • John Mitchell

            John,

            i know you are very upset now but i clearly told you what you have to do in four points.
            Your only response being : “He’s propably a christian !! ”

            Im far from a troll and neither a christian , im just somebody concerned about truth and rationality.

            You have nothing to offer.

            Please do as i told you to.

            You cannot debate. You cannot reason. You cannot stand criticism.
            You are an abject failure.

            Thx John

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            People say otherwise, lots of them. What you need to show is your sampling size, that is, what you have read or heard from me. To say I’m an abject failure means you don’t know jack. History will be on my side. They said that about a great many passionate people in history who made a difference too. Better be sure not to be on the wrong side of it:

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/06/why-i-became-atheist.html

            Otherwise you and the person who up-voted what you wrote (Lowder again) are ignorant buffoons.

          • John Mitchell

            John,

            first of all, wether or not Mr. Lowder upvoted me or somebody else is besides the point.

            Your vendetta against Mr. Lowder is just a clear cut sign of your insecurity.

            Mr. Lowder criticized your argument as well as the part of it you took from Richard Carrier.

            Yet and still i dont see Richard Carrier here insulting Mr. Lowder, he would rather come here with a substantive reply or admit he was wrong instead of insulting people for no reason.

            Mr. Lowder is on another level, accept it or not.

            Instead of running a propaganda-blog that consists more of insult than argument, Mr. Lowder runs the finest atheist-blog with the most thought-provoking arguments that are carefully formalized in bayesian terms.

            And you, somebody who tells us we should we should think “only in terms of propabilities” but who has never put forth a valuable bayesian argument, are mad because the atheist community has stopped paying you much attention and those followers you have arent worth talking about.

            You are simply unable to take part in a civilized conversation.

            Thx John

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            You are indeed an ignorant buffoon. There is no reasoning with you or Lowder. Neither of you have it in you to do what I do on a daily basis. He just isn’t a threat to faith. He has not responded to my questions or objections. You’d both rather take pot shots, at someone who is actually doing something to change the religious landscape. Okay then.

          • John Mitchell

            John,

            we dont have any kind of a debate. Its just you throwing around insults.

            Its sad and unnecessary.

            Thx John

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            I am convinced that this guy is a Christian. Lowder would never consider this at all and probably up voted an obviously ridiculous mean-spirited and utterly ignorant comment. I emailed this guy. From my interactions with him I’m convinced of this. What upsets me is that Lowder opened the door for this filth. Lowder just does not realize the constant pressure I’m under and does not care.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            My worst fears about John are coming true; it appears he is truly spiraling out of control:

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-swan-song-for-my-atheist-friends.html

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            Jeff,take your fucking pseudo psychological condescending bullshit and shove it. I’m fine. You are just clueless.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            An atheist, who doesn’t want to become the next target of Loftus’s behavior, just emailed me this link to an open letter to Loftus from Chris Hallquist:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2012/02/open-letter-to-john-w-loftus/

            It appears I’m not the only one who has noticed the pattern.

            Although it may draw John’s ire when fellow atheists criticize his arguments, I am not intimidated by his behavior. I will keep this professional, as if I were not the target of his attacks and insults, and continue to criticize (or praise) his arguments when I think it’s warranted.

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            You’re arguing as a Christian does which is pathetic, by dredging up the past. What you need to do is show where my reasoning was wrong in that link. It wasn’t. You really think you are above me, don’t you? When you throw up shit like this you aren’t at all. You are worse, since what you haven’t shown is that my reasoning was bad about an event that was resolved. Dredging up a resolved event where my reasoning was not shown to be bad is pathetic and it shows the depths you’ll go when you cannot adequately deal with my arguments.

            You also continue editing your post with irrelevant arguments. It is important to show what believers thought about the scale of the universe or else you are doing little more than using empty rhetoric. I ONLY have respect for an informed philosophy. Making an argument that is historically uninformed is doing what Christians do when they do scientifically uniformed philosophy. Gain, you re clueless. You are clueless so many times and yet you think you know what you’re doing simply because you use Bayesian math? That’s like knowing a different language but simply because one can speak French doesn’t guarantee he can reason well, and I’m serious. Or, have you seen what Swinburne does with that math?

            I have asked you several questions. What are your answers? You are arguing like a community college student at every turn here. You don’t like me pointing this out, I know, but the it was YOU who presumed to instruct me. What are your credentials? What do you think of religious faith? Why do you grant Christians far too much that they don’t feel the force of your arguments? Why do you continue playing the devil’l advocate, and by now you know what I mean?

            Stop this madness. Come to the rational table.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Again, I stated my intentions as follows:

            I will keep this professional, as if I were not the target of his attacks and insults, and continue to criticize (or praise) his arguments when I think it’s warranted.

            In the above comment, the only defense Loftus provides of his argument from scale is this.

            It is definitely important to show what believers before science thought about the scale of the universe

            Everitt clearly states his argument is an argument against classical theism, not just evangelical Christianity. Contrary to Loftus, “what believers before science [sic] thought about the scale of the universe” is not of obvious relevance to Everitt’s argument. What theists (and not just Christians) thought about the scale of the universe is relevant if and only if theists had a good antecedent reason on theism to believe that. But that is precisely what Everitt and Loftus have not shown.

            Consider the following analogy, with an argument set forth by the fictitious Christian apologist John Schmoftus on his blog, Debunking Atheism:

            It is definitely important to show what atheists thought about the status of Pluto before astronomers determined that Pluto was a dwarf planet. Before astronomers determined that Pluto was a dwarf planet, all or virtually all atheists believed that Pluto was a planet. It was only after astronomers determined that Pluto was a dwarf planet did atheists come to accept that Pluto is a dwarf planet. The fact that Pluto is a dwarf planet does not disprove atheism. It doesn’t even show that atheism is probably false. But the status of Pluto as a dwarf planet is evidence against atheism.

            That would be a laughable argument. Everyone would say that what atheists have historically believed about Pluto is irrelevant to the truth of atheism, since atheism makes no predictions about Pluto being a planet. Similarly, what theists historically believed about the scale of the universe is irrelevant to the truth of theism.

            At this point, Loftus will probably say that Schmoftus’s argument doesn’t work because, unlike atheism and Pluto, theism does make predictions about the scale of the universe. But such a response simply concedes the point (that what theists have historically believed about the scale of the universe adds nothing to the argument). And if Loftus does make this response, it isn’t enough to simply claim that theism predicts that the universe would be on a human scale. Loftus needs to defend that claim.

            Loftus may also appeal to autobiography (“But the argument is convincing to me!”) or rhetorical effectiveness (“But the argument is great at planting seeds of doubt in believers!”). But such matters are completely irrelevant to whether’s Everitt’s argument succeeds, i.e., actually shows that theism predicts the universe would be on a human scale and so the actual scale of the universe is evidence against theism.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      As far as your argument is concerned, you defended two (2) arguments in that chapter of your book: (1) Everitt’s argument, and (2) a version of the argument from scale against Evangelical Christianity. I acknowledged this at the very beginning of my post:

      It’s important to note that in his book Loftus also defends a version of AS against evangelical Christianity; I will not evaluate that argument
      here.

      You also defended Everitt’s argument.Yes, you stated that it does not show that it makes theism probably false. I agree; I never claimed that you think the argument shows that theism is probably false. What I claimed is this: you claimed that the scale of the universe is evidence against classical theism. And that claim is what I criticized in your post.

  • Blue Devil Knight

    It would be incredibly refreshing if Loftus simply focused on the arguments. For instance: “Yes, I agree the argument is not very strong against theism in general, and I said this explicitly in my book (see p x). However, I do think these considerations can be incorporated into an argument against Evangelical Christianity. Again, this is something I explicitly articulated in my book. In other words, your case against my argument amounts to a straw man.”

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      It would indeed be nice if would simply focus on the arguments.

      For what it’s worth, I just slightly expanded the post to address the sort of response you suggest above. I added the text between the paragraph which begins,“Now what about (3)?”, and the paragraph which begins, “Since theism does not entail that humans are the jewel of creation…”

      For clarity, I’ll reproduce that text here.

      Now what about (3)? Let’s look again at the second sentence in the above
      quotation:

      It concerns what one would predict based upon what one believes (whereas not being able to do so, is disconfirming evidence).(96)

      Like Everitt, Loftus is not claiming that the scale of the universe is a proof of the falsity of theism or even that it makes theism probably false. Rather, like Everitt, Loftus claims that the scale of the universe is evidence against classical theism. So what I want to do is evaluate whether the scale of the universe is evidence against classical theism, for the reasons given by Loftus.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      BDK, Lowder has recently been criticizing a few blog posts and one small part of an obscure chapter of mine without ever stating for the record what he thinks of my over-all case. The person who has never read anything I have written would get the impression that as an atheist author I’m not worth reading, even though a lot of atheists have said my over-all case is pretty damn good. I have a right to expect more from Lowder than that, especially since he has been shown wrong in his criticisms.

      And it is utter foolishness for you to say I don’t respond to arguments. I do all of the time, all of the time. I do directly below here. You said that you have never read my books and you do not read my blog. Then how the hell are you able to claim that I don’t respond to arguments? You have no right. You are dead wrong. If this is the best anyone can do in defending Lowder then it’s as if no one is defending him at all. Well, an ignoramus is anyway, And I’m serious. You do not know of me outside Victor Reppert’s blog. Is that your sampling?

      Victor Reppert runs an evangelical blog. And guess what? He vehemently disagrees with me and writes inflammatory stuff about me almost every week. He has been doing this on a continuing basis for over six years. I have indeed grown tired of him and his cadre of ignorant sycophants. So I go there and blast them from time to time with ridicule, since that’s what they deserve. That’s what YOU deserve.

      I wish I could flush you and Lowder out as the enablers that you are. But no, you both refuse to tell everyone what you think.

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  • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I just edited this post by adding a new section on a fourth supporting argument from Loftus.


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