Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Atheists Fire Back

After our friend Rick made himself look a little silly on the previous post, "The Professor" replied to my arguments regarding evidence of a proposition and its correlation to the proposition's validity. I intended to reply on the comments section on his blog but it required a log in and I have enough accounts already - so I'll just respond here with a link.

First off, unlike Rick, the Professor directly addressed my points with well thought out arguments. I was thoroughly impressed! And what a great post he had. Step over and take a look at it.

Now to address these points briefly.

So thanks, Fiddler, for giving us a quick demo of the current state of Christian apologetics.
First, I'm no apologist and my humble ramblings on this blog hardly represent the "current state of Christian apologetics". There are scores of apologists far more capable than I to deal with questions that plague non believers. You on the other hand (I say this as a personal compliment to you and an insult to your faith) have posted some of the clearest and well thought out arguments I've ever heard from the side of atheism. The problem with believing in falsity though is that no matter how bright of person you are, you're fighting an uphill battle. So while you seem to be a better writer than me and probably more intelligent, I may be able to match wits with you seeing as I have the upper hand (truth).
On the other hand, it is far from true that a proposition’s validity is entirely unrelated to the presence or absence of supporting evidence.
I agree 100%. Luckily, that's not what I said at all. "First - in the search for truth, ability to produce sufficient evidence is completely unrelated to a proposition’s validity."

The question is do we believe a certain individual's claim on a certain proposition. I'll state it again, whether or not he has the ability to produce evidence is entirely unrelated to his proposition's validity. Or perhaps a better way to say it is this - one may make a proposition and have absolutely no ability to produce evidence for it - yet the statement still be true. The actual existence of evidence is directly and causally correlated with a proposition's validity (things produce evidence) but a said individual's ability (or inability) to reproduce (or for a skeptic to test/examine/comprehend) that evidence is not related to that proposition's validity. Which is what I was commenting on.

The atheist said he rejects extraordinary claims unless he has extraordinary evidence to go along with it. It's a fair statement on the surface and to be sure I use the same techniques all the time. If someone told me they won a $10 gift card yesterday I say congratulations. If someone told me they won the lottery yesterday I say "show me the ticket". But it's unreasonable to say that if something is true we would always have the ability to reproduce or even to examine/comprehend the evidence. It is true that many times we do and even most times. Also extraordinary events don't produce anymore evidence than ordinary ones. You can't produce any more evidence for winning the lottery than you can for winning a $10 gift card. Less may satisfy a friend's skepticism in the more ordinary cases, but the ability to produce more or less is unrelated to the truth of the matter. I think this point is self-evident.
And if certain evidence is needed in order for a proposition to be consistent with itself or with reality, then the absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence, because truth must always be consistent with itself.
Very true I agree.
Not surprisingly, the Fiddler carefully omits any reference to what would constitute “substantial evidence” that Santa Claus could not exist.
Good point. I have anticipated this response and haven't yet thought this through too much. Perhaps I should have used "does not exist" instead of "could not". God could snap His fingers and make a Santa Claus - yes all Christians would agree. You have a very good argument (I think anyone with their head on straight can look at it and instantly know it's wrong) but it's a good one logically.

Here's some substantial evidence against Santa Claus - 1. There aren't any legitimate reported sightings of him or experiences of him 2. Almost no one over the age 6 believes in him 3. It is incompatible with natural law therefore it would require a supernatural power 4.. Out of all the theologies on the earth allowing for the supernatural, none includes a 'Santa Claus' 5. Santa Claus skeptics don't spend time refuting believers' arguments.

In short - everyone knows there is no Santa Claus. However, the vast majority of people think they "know" there is a God. That is significant. Freudian Psychoanalysis falls far short of the mark explaining this phenomenon.

Now the very proposition of God's existence is not a 'scientific' one as you know - it cannot be disproven. But it cannot be disproven for a valid reason due to the very nature of God. The same could be said of Santa Claus - no one can disprove him but only in the same way that we can't prove that we're not living in "The Matrix" and we just think we are experiencing life but really our bodies are somewhere else.
Meanwhile, the evidence against God is pretty much the same as the evidence against Santa: neither one ever shows up in real life outside the stories, superstitions, and subjective feelings of men.
See the third proposition (I disagree that there isn't evidence.. Again for specifics go to more capable sources than I since even a 5000 foot discussion like this is already becoming quite lengthy). Plus to say God doesn't show up outside of stories and feelings is a bit ridiculous. I've had not one or two but many experiences myself of God's intervention in my life (sure I could be delusional about it) but any atheist would, upon seeing what they considered an actual intervention of God - burning bush, witness the risen Lord on the road, seeing a dead person raised etc, reject their own cosmology instantly and succumb to theism without assuming themselves delusional. In short - we trust our senses. My senses (like most other people's) have told me that He is real. Either yours' haven't or you're delusional yourself. The question is, who is more likely delusional the majority or the minority?
There’s one simple and obvious consequence which we would expect to be able to see if Jesus rose from the dead: he should still be here. There’s no reason for him to leave, nothing he can do in heaven that he couldn’t accomplish from Jerusalem. The whole point of his ministry is supposedly that he wanted to be with us. Why, then, would he immediately leave once he had done what was needed in order to make that possible? That’s the single most significant piece of evidence a genuine resurrection would have produced, and it is quite striking in its absence.
That sounds reasonable, but along those lines that is hardly the only objection to Christian cosmology one would have. Why stop there? Like CS Lewis asked, if the universe is designed, why aren't the planets in ascending order of size? Why does God have to die anyway? Why didn't He just stop Adam & Eve from eating the apple? Or wait, why didn't He just ... not create the apple in the first place? In short, why did/does God do all these unexpected things? I mean those kinds of questions can be asked until infinity.

This is when philosophy has to come in and trump our practical sensibilities a bit. (Much like science has to trump our immediate sense that tell us objects are smaller as they move farther from us when in reality they are the same size) . Philosophy can answer these questions with minimal effort.

If there were a God like the Christian God, would He do everything exactly as we had expected? A child says "if my parent loved me he/she would do this" but the child is mistaken. Try as he may, the child cannot grasp what reasoning the parent has. And yet again, if the Christian God is real, the gap between our intellect/reasoning and His is incomparably larger than that between a child and his mother or father. So we have no logical reason to assume that God would do things in precisely the way that we expected.
So the argument from testimony tells you only what people believe, and not what literal, physical events transpired in the Tomb.
Fair enough.
For example, if the Gospel were really telling the truth about a loving God who wants to save each of us, would it make any sense at all that only one person would have a true experience of Him? The Fiddler would like to argue that there are so many people who believe in God that surely one of them must be correct, just by the law of averages.

The problem is, first of all, that the law of averages applies to random phenomena. If God is real, His existence and interactions with mankind shouldn’t be the kind of mindless, random phenomenon that would lend itself to a discussion of probabilities.
My point was more of a reference to Dr. Unwin's proposition in his book "the Probability of God". Our question is not - [out of all people who claim to believe in God, is it likely by the law of averages that at least one of them is correct?] but rather [does a huge number of people claiming to believe in God speak in favor of or against the proposition that God exists?] In which type of world is this more likely to occur, one in which God exists or one in which He does not? This is a mere piece of the puzzle, a small piece of evidence - certainly not enough to make our decision on.
We look at believers, and we find some that agree pretty well with whatever seems right in our own eyes, but of course each individual has a somewhat different idea of what “that which seems right” is. Overall, however, no one group has any advantage over any other: each attracts only those who have a natural affinity for their views, due to personality, culture, education, etc, and maybe those who have some kind of social attachment to other members.
As stated, the original Catholic Church stands far above the branches of Christianity which have strayed in terms of doctrine. I find many atheists base their apologetics on Protestant Christianity which only imitates the fullness of Christian doctrine and unity. But it's impossible to start talking about without agreeing on whether God exists or not.
Is that consistent with the idea that one small group has direct access to the full power, wisdom, and spirit of the True and Living God, and that the rest are all fakes? Is God’s influence over a person’s life so mild and insubstantial as to leave him or her indistinguishable from the fakes and wannabees? If God really were leading, filling, and illuminating a select few believers, would we be left with nothing but the law of averages as our basis for guessing that they might exist somewhere?
That is a question for a Protestant to answer, not me. Catholics are no "small group" but are as large as all other Christian communities combined and is the oldest group of Christians. We still believe and teach the same thing we did 2000 years ago.

Again, thanks for the post. Very stimulating!

1 comment:

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Update - the Professor has responded to my rebuttal. But I was less impressed with this response. While I'm not too fond of "debate" of any kind, I particularly dislike debating with atheists (agnostics are ok).

But with atheists, the fundamental understanding of reality seems to be so different that you have to debate each sentence word by word.

(Something I just don't have time for). I'll let my case rest anyhow - most people should be able to see through his objections with minimal effort.