This post is a sequel to my 2013 post, “Scientific Discoveries, Theism, and Atheism: Reply to Wintery Knight.” In that post, I showed:
- Wintery Knight misuses the word “compatible” when he he claims that “four basic pieces of scientific evidence” are “more compatible with theism than atheism.”
- The creation/design hypothesis is, at best, an incomplete explanation for his four putative lines of evidence. Or to put the point another way, in the words of Sean Carroll, the creation/design hypothesis “not well-defined.”
- Wintery Knight is uncharitable to atheists and atheism because he consistently interacts with weak objections to his arguments, while ignoring the stronger objections defended by atheist scholars, especially atheist philosophers of religion.
- Wintery Knight commits the fallacy of understated evidence.
Since Wintery Knight reposted his original 2013 post on experimental science and atheism–apparently with no edits whatsoever–I decided to post a follow-up reply. Here are six lines of experimental, scientific evidence which are better explained by naturalism than by theism.
- The universe began to exist with time, not in time.
- So much of the universe is hostile to life.
- Complex living things are the gradually modified descendants of simpler living things.
- All non-question-begging examples of minds are minds dependent upon a physical brain. (Similarly, excluding examples of so-called “complex specified information” allegedly related to intelligent design, all other examples of complex specified information involve a mind dependent on a physical brain.)
- Pain and pleasure appear to play a biological, not a moral, role in the lives of sentient organisms.
- Only a fraction of living things, including the majority of sentient beings, thrive. In other words, very few living things have an adequate supply of food and water, are able to reproduce, avoid predators, and remain healthy. An even smaller fraction of organisms thrive for most of their lives. Almost no organisms thrive for all of their lives.
Furthermore, in addition to these six lines of evidence, we have a seventh piece of evidence (really, meta-evidence): the history of science and the success of naturalistic explanations. Like the first six lines of evidence, this fact is also antecedently more probable on naturalism than on theism.
While I like Wintery Knight as a person, I’m sorry to say that his latest blog post–like many of his blog posts and like the writings of many apologists–is an example of what I have elsewhere called “obnoxious apologetics.” Let’s review.
Like many (but not all) of those other books in the apologetics genre, the basic approach [of obnoxious apologetics] seems to be the following.
- Present and defend the author’s preferred view as favorably as possible.
- Represent opposing views as unfavorably as possible.
- Reach the remarkable conclusion that–surprise, surprise–the author’s view is true.
- Suggest that anyone who disagrees is ignorant, irrational, or has ulterior (non-rational) motives.
The problem with obnoxious apologetics, which seems to afflict as many atheist apologists as theist apologists, is that it’s a fatally flawed way to search for truth. If our goal is the sincere pursuit of truth–and it should be–then the above approach is what not to do. Rather, if our goal is the sincere pursuit of truth, then our basic approach should be to represent opposing views fairly, in the best possible light, and interact with the best arguments both for and against the different viewpoints.