Stan Stephens’s Categorical Misunderstandings of Atheism

Stan Stephens has finally decided to respond to my list of sixteen (16) lines of empirical evidence which favor naturalism over theism. Here is the first sentence of his reply.

Jeffery Jay Lowder provided a list of empirical proofs. (emphasis added)

I’ve emphasized Stan’s use of the word “proofs” because it exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of the arguments. The word “proof” has the connotation of certainty. But I’ve never claimed that my list of arguments are “proofs.” Rather, my list of evidence is a list of inductive arguments for naturalism. By definition, inductive arguments do not establish their conclusions with certainty. In short, Stan manages to completely miss the point of my arguments–and, indeed, all inductive arguments–in the very first sentence of his reply! 

It gets worse. After quoting my list of evidence, Stan then writes this.

In order to assess these as empirical arguments which disprove categorically the nonexistence of deity, it is only necessary to ask for the experimental data for each item on the list, and to see if that data proves incorrigibly that a deity cannot exist. One quick way to do that is to take the title of each line item and add this statement to it: “therefore there cannot exist a deity”.

Yes, it’s that bad. In fact, the purpose of inductive arguments couldn’t be more different than what Stan claims. At the risk of repeating myself, the purpose of inductive arguments for atheism is not, as Stan falsely claims, to prove that God cannot exist. Rather, the purpose of inductive arguments is to show that God probably does not exist.

Let E represent any item of evidence in my list. For each item of evidence, we assume that E could be true and that God exists. The question to ask is this, “What’s the best explanation for E?” For example, take the hostility of the universe to life. It’s possible that the universe is hostile to life and that God exists. But what’s the best explanation?

But in order to answer that question, Stan will need to drop his obsession with “categorical disproofs”– which I’ve already addressed here (skip down to the “Deductive Argument Objection”) and here–and instead engage with my actual arguments, not his straw man versions of them.

McDowell's Trilemma - Part 2
Debate: External Evidence for Jesus - Parts 5B and 5C
McDowell's Trilemma - Part 1
Debate: External Evidence for Jesus - Part 5A: Various Points
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.