By calling some atheists ignorant, I don’t mean to be rude. You are not a bad person just because you don’t know something. However, when you offer an opinion about something, it is usually best to be informed, and, unless you are a propagandist at heart, you should seek to react to the actual view of something rather than a false view. Or worse, a strawman.
To illustrate where this is going, consider Richard Dawkin’s epic, sustained, logical failure exhibited in his Delusion, where he writes, “I am not attacking the particular qualities of Yahweh, or Jesus, or Allah, or any other specific god such as Baal, Zeus or Watan.” and earlier, “[The God Hypothesis is that] there exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and anything in it, including us.”
I attacked the stupidity of this at length, here. It would seem that the very dim Richard Dawkins is so intellectually immature that he is thrown off by the mere fact that one word, ‘god’, has been used historically to cover any number of different concepts, many of which are incompatible or even contradictory.
It would be as if he opened the telephone book to the entry for “Smith, John” and, seeing the 500 mentions, assumed they all referred to the same person, just because the name was the same. Or, in a somewhat more sophisticated example (I don’t want to strain Dawkins’ brain too much), it would be as if one heard the word “set”, without any other context, and assumed that there was no qualitative difference between its use in the phrases, “television set” and “set of numbers” and “set the table.”
The problem here is not high philosophy, but basic literacy. I take that back; presumably, Dawkins wouldn’t have a problem grasping that every instance of “Smith, John” refers to a different person. That the word ‘god’ flummoxes him suggests something else going on… something not of the intellect.
Dawkins says that he is not going to take into account the “particular qualities” of Yahweh, versus, say, Zeus, but wishes to test “The God Hypothesis”, which includes (and this is his phraseology, remember) the clause, “who deliberately designed and created the universe and anything in it, including us.”
Now, according to his own phrasing, the entity in question “created the universe and anything in it”, and pardon the redundancy, “including us.” (italics mine). And this, at least, can be said to legitimately fit within the definition of God as Christians describe God. Yet, Dawkins will say elsewhere in his book, “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice.”
No, it is not a scientific hypothesis.
By definition, agreed to tacitly by Dawkins himself, God is an uncreated entity that transcends the universe and is non-contingent. The universe conversely is, by definition, contingent. The very hypothesis he means to test says that the universe is created. In its entirety. Including us. (Pardon the redundancy.)
Now, just how exactly do folks like us, who are, by the definition of the hypothesis being tested, part of the created order and thoroughly enmeshed in it, escape that framework in order to scientifically detect God?
Obviously, this whole idea is absolute nonsense, unless there is an awful lot of baggage in the definition of ‘scientifically’ that is not being spelled out.
We will talk about that baggage shortly. However, it is so important to really understand what the Christian is referring to when he argues for the existence of God, we need to spell it out a bit more. I’ll try to keep it simple.*
Let U (the universe) refer to the set of items, [A, B, C, P, Z].
Atheists assert that U exhausts the set of every item that is real, whereas Christians assert that U is a creation of G(od).
Now, Dawkins would like us to believe that Z(eus) is the same sort of thing as what Christians mean by G(od). If Dawkins were right in his characterization, U would = [A, B, C, G, P, Z]. How it is that this is consistent with his assertion that G = “who deliberately designed and created the universe and anything in it”? Does he really think that it is reasonable to suppose that something within the universe also created the universe, including HIMSELF? (“and anything in it”) God planned out his existence even before he existed? Seriously?
Honestly, if you think that is plausible, you’ll believe anything.
But the Christian is not at all arguing that G is the sort of thing that could belong to the set, [A, B, C, P, Z]. No. No. No. G is defined as an uncreated entity that is the cause and creator of U. This is the definition of the thing they are arguing exists. Since, by definition, G is outside of U, and P(eople) are thoroughly locked inside of U, unable to get outside of it themselves, it follows that P could never, in principle, directly detect G. They may be able to directly detect Z, because Z is an entity within U, just as all P’s are. But not G.
Note, I am not here arguing that we cannot determine that G really exists. I wouldn’t be penning this post if that were the case. But if you could directly detect G, then it would not, by definition, be G that you are detecting.
Now, you may have to read the above closely, but it is really pretty simple to understand. So, read it a few times if you need to.
I have gone after Dawkins here because he is a bully and the father of bullies, and like all bullies, needs to be put in his place, lest they hurt someone. However, the fundamental inability to comprehend and take into account what Christians mean by God leads to all sorts of completely fallacious viewpoints and beliefs and pervades atheistic ‘thought.’
I encountered this massive logical lapse in a recent conversation on Facebook, where the gentlemen asserted that there was no “logic at all to espousing creationism.”
To which I asked (paraphrasing), “Are you saying that it is fundamentally illogical about the idea of God–that is, anything illogical about the idea that there is a Creator?” To which he said, “Not at all. There could be a God.”
Now, not every atheist would concede this, but this one did. So, I was obviously perplexed. How could someone seriously say that there was no logic “at all” to talking about creationism but allow that it was logical to talk about a Creator? Surely if one accepts, even for the sake of argument, that there is a Creator, then at some level, some description of the universe as created must be rational.
I therefore asked, “If you agree that there could be a God–and that THAT at least is not illogical, then from that proposition it follows–logically speaking–the belief in some form of creationism. Would it not?”
The gentleman decided to give up this line, saying, “Ok. sure. I concede on the semantics.”
But this isn’t a matter of semantics. It was clear that there was a fundamental misunderstanding about what was actually being disputed, so I pressed the point further. Finally, he bowed out, saying, “IF God created something, we have yet to find out what that is. Teaching that God created something that he did not create is to simply lie. Lying about God does no one any good.” And, “Not saying a God could not be a Creator.”
Notice that we are allowing for the sake of argument that God exists–and God as the Christians understand him: an entity outside of the universe, who created it “and anything in it.” On this view, it is completely nonsensical to say “IF God created something” and struggle to find an example of something that is created by God, because everything in the universe, by definition is created by God.
Teaching that God created something that he did not create, on the Christian view of God, is to say something that is completely contradictory, like saying, “The Artist painted all of these paintings in this room. If the Artist painted them, we have yet to find out which ones. Teaching that the Artist painted them when he did not paint them is to simply to lie.”
Or, to put it in a somewhat more formal way:
Let it be accepted that, A., “The Artist (G) painted everything in the room (U).”
Now, given A., is there anything in the room the artist did not paint?
Given A., isn’t the only thing you could do is teach that the Artist painted everything in the room?
It is not a matter of inductively detecting creation. That it is created is deduced. It is part of the definition, just as in proposition A, the Artist is defined as the painter of everything in the room.
When testing the ‘God Hypothesis’ then, this aspect of the situation must be taken into account, or else you really aren’t proceeding fairly. But the problem is compounded if you, yourself, are one of the paintings. If you, yourself, are locked into the universe.
By definition, the Painter/God are qualitatively and substantially different in nature then the thing painted/created. Precisely because of this fact, if you define “scientifically” as that exploration of reality that is expressly limited to testing it through processes themselves constrained to detecting only that which is within the Universe, then, obviously, you can never scientifically detect God.
But, since Dawkins, and this gentlemen, and most atheists, somehow think that God can be empirically detected as if he was an empirically existing entity like the atheists themselves, it cannot be science that they are appealing to.
To try to get to the bottom of this gentleman’s confusion, I asked, “I am assuming that you believe science should proceed on the basis of ‘methodological naturalism.’ Am I right in this assumption?”
He never replied.
However, I think I am probably safe in believing that this is precisely what he thinks, as many atheists, and even many theists, think precisely this.
The term ‘methodological naturalism’ has some utility, but since it arises usually only in conversations like this one, most of the time it should be seen as nothing more than a fig leaf for ‘philosophical naturalism.’
In ‘methodological naturalism’, theoretically, inquiry proceeds without reference to or unwarranted invocation of an entity that exists outside of the universe. But here again, if this was a guiding feature of what constitutes ‘science’, then, by definition, there is nothing–for, or against–that could be said, scientifically, about the putative existence of an entity said to exist outside the universe.
Nonetheless, the phrase ‘unwarranted invocation’ is what separates this perspective from ‘philosophical naturalism’, because it would still allow for at least the possibility that things may arise in our investigation into reality that would warrant an ‘invocation.’ But it would be an inference from observations. It could not possibly be a direct observation, as if went out to check our traps in the woods and were amazed to have caught God, attempting to chew his leg off to get through the chains (because God transcends the universe, does not have legs, and created, controls, and sustains each and every atom in the chains).
So why then could this Facebook gentleman constantly appeal to science as ‘debunking’ creationism?
Because, in actuality, his actual outlook goes far beyond ‘methodological naturalism.’ The fig leaf is easily blown away, and we find that actually he does not have a reasoned argument against the existence of God. He has assumed it. His ‘method’ does not actually allow for even the possibility that the best explanation for the universe or some phenomena within it is an entity that is simultaneously transcendent and immanent to the universe.
The argument looks like this:
A. There is no God.
B. Whatever we observe, we always interpret as if there is no God, because, duh, see point A.
C. There is no evidence for the existence of God.
D. You believe in God, therefore you are an idiot.
Because who believes in things that there is no evidence for?
Don’t laugh. This is the actual form that most atheistic arguments from ‘science’ take.
In fact, I’ve seen the above even acknowledged and defended. Seriously. If you think that argument is reasonable, there really is no hope for you. For our own safety, we may hope that at least you do not operate heavy machinery.
2,000 words in, I don’t really want to overwhelm the PZ-bots too much more, but it is very relevant (especially in regards to the other statements the Facebook gentleman made) to note that the ‘big’ things offered as ‘proof positive’ that Creation is ‘scientifically’ repudiated (even though that is nonsensical, in principle, as argued), are things that quite explicitly set out to explain aspects of reality on the basis of A., There is no God.
Darwin, for example, had the explicit goal to interpret the biosphere on the assumption that there was no God. Likewise, Lyell, whose philosophical predilections demanded that he interpret the geological structures of the world without reference to even the possibility that something (ie, God) may have reached into the universe and done something extraordinary.
When co-discoverer of Darwinism, Alfred Russell Wallace, concluded, from the evidence, that the biosphere could not be cogently accounted for on naturalistic principles only, Darwin expressed concern, saying to him that he hopes “you have not murdered too completely your own & my child.”
So, is Darwinism actually true and supported by the evidence? Or is it only the ‘only game in town’ when one cannot bear even the possibility that there may be a God?
I’m pretty sure it is the latter, which is why stating that creationist theories are ‘debunked’ by theories like Darwin’s, which begin with the premise that there is no God, have absolutely no weight whatsoever for anyone who really cares about logic… or even science, itself.
* So even PZ Myers can understand. Between blog posts subsidized by tax payer dollars, he likes to Google himself. He and his PZ-Bots are sure to come quickly, now.