Apparently Theists Can’t Argue

In a piece short on logic but long on bias, Simple Light attempts to present the killer arguments that support intelligent design.  The stage is set by presenting Christopher Hitchens as disoganized and cynical, and Jay Richards as rational and full of hope.  The painful illusion being cast over the debate becomes painfully clear early on, when the arguments show up to the party:

Jay Richards had the floor for the next 14 minutes and presented the most rational, well-thought out argument for theism that I’ve ever heard. He had 6 main points (and a seventh which he added later)

  1. Moral truth – we all know what it is, the question is where did it come from and atheism has no answer to that
  2. A finely tuned universe – basically a brief overview of the anthropic cosmological argument (every physical constant finely tuned for mankind and unlikely to have occurred by chance)
  3. A beginning to the universe in a finite past – therefore something caused the universe which must be God. He used the phrase “resting point” for the basis of a theistic belief and asked what the basis for atheism was
  4. Irreducible complexity – he didn’t get into details but cited the bacterial flagellum, asked why it’s obvious that Mt. Rushmore was ‘designed’
  5. Materialism – the atheist, materialist philosophers all conclude that consciousness is an illusion but most people are uncomfortable with that
  6. Free will – it’s incompatible with a mechanistic worldview
  7. The origin of biological information (added towards end of debate)

Let’s address this point by point.  For point #1, SimpleLight rushes to contradict his earlier statement:

His main argument was that if the world was designed by a creator, it was not a benevolent creator. He frequently resorts to this argument despite it clearly not belonging in a debate on Atheism vs Theism. (Just because one doesn’t like God, doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist).

If God could potentially be incredibly unethical, as SL posits, then how would moral truth come from God?

A larger issue is why SL is ignoring a central point of atheism.  It is not a religion, not a system of beliefs.  It is simply the idea that God does not exist.  So the source of ethics would naturally fall outside of its purview.  Fortunately there are plenty of efforts in philosophy to discuss the nature of ethics, and even our motivations for being ethical.  Arguably atheistic religions such as Buddhism have a spiritual basis for ethics in our intrinsic connection to each other as sentient beings.  So no, one does not need God for ethics.  Nor, in my opinion as a theist, should we.  A parent’s desire is not for a lifelong fear of punishment, but rather the development of an intrinsic sense of right and wrong.  We shouldn’t be do good deeds because some deity says so, but rather, because it is the right way to live.

2.  The whole “by chance argument” is really a “this is so complicated it couldn’t possibly have happened!” piece of nonsense.  It devolves rapidly into circular logic.  How does one know that complex things are necessarily created things?  That is a question that never receives a satisfactory answer from creationists.

3.  How do we know the universe is finite?  Why must we infer that a finite universe is a created universe?  Again, no answer.  This is to be expected when people try and play dress up with faith.  The lab coat alone does not a scientist make.

The idea that atheism needs a foundation is ridiculous.  You don’t need a foundation for not believing in sentient pink unicorns.  You just start with, oh, a lack of evidence, and go from there.  But Simple Light is not a person who understands what atheism is:

Am I the only one who has lost patience with the atheists? Apart from the fact that the abolition of theism would leave them without a worldview, most of them spend their time carping from the sidelines but refuse to put together a credo for examination.

Atheism simply describes not believing in God, due to a lack of evidence.  I’m pretty sure without theists, that might survive.  Furthermore, there is no credo.  There is no obsessive need to explain nature with nature gods and dryads.  Simply a “ok, where’s the proof?  Don’t have any?  That’s nice, maybe come back when you do”.

4.  Irreducible complexity is a great sound for a hollow phrase.  Where is the substance?  Where is the ability to test?  What makes me a little bit sad is that, in metaphysics we can successfully reduce almost everything in life down to the most basic elements.  The only exception is consciousness (which really has a lot of people rightly baffled).

5.  How is “most people are uncomfortable with that” even an argument?  People aren’t comfortable with death or taxes.  You going to deny either exist next?  Also, atheism is not the same thing as materialism, even if the two often coincide in the same person.  And not all atheists or materialists believe consciousness is an illusion.

Each of these statements (especially the laughable remainder), simply show that the creationist argument is more about making declarative statements than presenting an argument.

The commentators on the blog (Lev and Inmate1972) agree that the last paragraph betrays the motivations behind the article:

Basically there were two messages: one of hope, redemption and eternal life; and one of despair (he mentioned sex and schadenfreude as his two purposes for living), futility and constant railing against God. I guess people can bow their knee now or later.

That same bias is present beneath the surface of every attempt to force creationism into the mainstream, and choke science with its anti-intellectual flotsam.  The goal?  To get people to “bow their knee”.

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5 Responses

  1. Just to further your point about a Buddha I’d like to add this discussion from a Buddha to priests. It seems like common sense to me. It seems like your point as well. I hope this contributes to your message.

    “I said to them: ‘Is it true that you hold that… “Whatever a person experiences… is all caused by a supreme being’s act of creation?”‘
    Thus asked by me, they admitted, ‘Yes.’

    Then I said to them, ‘Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of a supreme being’s act of creation. A person is a thief… unchaste… a liar… a divisive speaker… a harsh speaker… an idle chatterer… greedy… malicious… a holder of wrong views because of a supreme being’s act of creation.’

    When one falls back on creation by a supreme being as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], ‘This should be done. This shouldn’t be done.’ When one can’t pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn’t be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. This was my second righteous refutation of those priests & contemplative who hold to such teachings, such views.”

  2. Your moral truth comment reminds me of Harrison”s response to Vox- “This man admits he would butch babies if god asked him to. How can such a source be moral?” (it’s paraphrased)

  3. The very fact that we do not have answers to any of these very good and well thought out questions only enforces my belief that there is a god. There would be absolutely no reason for us to even exist if there was not. What would the point of living through one day on this morally bankrupt planet even be for. Atheism is a copout for a group mindless people that have no IDEA at all PERIOD. Until the day someone can tell me were the first molecule that made a infinite space came from, there is no question, The answer is GOD.

  4. So basically God is a good paradigm in order to understand that which is beyond our grasp?

    But who came up with God in the first place?

    Did we invent God or did God invent us?

    Perhaps the problem with your train of thought is that the Universe does not have to conform to our selfish desires for understanding. It doe snot care if we are sad or happy, if we look up in wonder to the stars or muck about the dirt like frogs.

    Why should it?

    Maybe the arrogance lies with you Tyler Durdin, to think somehow that all that is must conform to your understanding of it and when it does not you labeled it God.

    We are that small and even insignificant in the whole Time/Space continuum thingy. And you know what, that very thought once scared me, but now it fills me with wonder.

    Not to say that I know whether God exist or not and for the most part I really don’t care (I doubt that he would care whether I care anyway either).

    If GOD is the answer, what kind of answer is it?

    (I could go on, and on, and on…..)

  5. […] Atheism a Religion? Dan over at Fitness for Occassion makes the following two points which I would like to comment […]

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