Sunday, December 29, 2013
Imagine that I were to argue that outside of your home has been repainted, currently without your knowledge. For whatever reason, we cannot leave the home to check for ourselves, but I've come up with several arguments for this being the case. I point out how the color of the grass is slightly off, indicating that a different color light is bouncing off the house, giving it a different hue. I point out that people feel a little different when near the windows, a clear sign that either the smell of the paint is moving through them. Some of you find these arguments unconvincing, some of you think that I'm using faulty science and numerous fallacies along with cheap rhetoric in order to get my point across, but others think I'm on to something, and therefore declare that I have indeed proven that a highly trained ninja repainted the house with a specific express purpose relating to the inhabitants of the house. This leap in logic is similar to what I see in many of the theistic arguments for the existence of God.
Even if we were to ignore what many find to be convincing rebuttals to these arguments, many of them don't actually do what they claim to do, meaning that even if the arguments are valid, they don't actually prove a god exists at all.
Take the Cosmological argument for example. This "prime mover" argument essentially states that something other than the universe must have been responsible for its creation. Some force must have caused the universe, and some go as far to say that this cause must be a mind. There's so many reasons to consider especially the last one false, but putting that aside for the moment, how exactly have we shown that this entity which created the universe is something we would consider a god?
Imagine if whenever we split an atom, an entire universe is born, lives out its cycle, and dies in a heat death. For what is for us a blink of an eye could be thousands, millions, or billions of years. Would we then be considered gods? We're not omnipotent, nor are we omniscient, we have no way of actually affecting this universe let alone know what's going on within it. For all we know, we do have a creator, but one that is entirely unaware of our existence, one who has yet to even know it created us. Or perhaps the opposite is true, perhaps we have a creator but our universe moves so slowly compare to its existence that it long since died out before the earth cooled enough for life to exist upon it. Nothing in the Cosmological argument gives us any reason to consider these less valid explanations than the theistic conclusion of some amorphous disembodied mind.
The same goes for the Teleological argument. Even if we conclude that the universe was designed with a purpose, that the creator had life in mind, that this wasn't the 20,000th universe it has created for some bland purpose, or that the creator is anything more special than you or me does not follow from anything within the argument, nor do I see any way of getting to these conclusions through mere argument.
I don't want to give the impression that every argument has this problem. The moral argument, as much as I disagree with it, doesn't have this problem. Neither does the Ontological argument. However, any argument that trys to show that there exists a mind outside of our universe only shows just that: a mind. Unless care is taken, and it rarely ever is, then the argument is unjustified in saying it has anything to do with proving God.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of year, where the largest chunk of the population is geared towards making themselves and those around them happy. For me, I like to buy people gifts, and I put a large amount of effort into finding the perfect thing for all of those in my life. Others give the gift of writing smug, half-assed, and pretentious articles for Fox News while mischaracterizing the alleged intended recipient of their "gift".
In his article, A Christmas gift for atheists -- five reasons why God exists, William Lane Craig gives very brief summaries of his usual five arguments: Cosmological, Teleological, Moral, Historical, and Experiential. These have been gone over more times than humans can count, and will continue to do so, but what caught me most perturbed was how he chose to chastise, categorize, and describe atheists:
"However, most atheists, in my experience, have no good reasons for their disbelief. Rather they’ve learned to simply repeat the slogan, “There’s no good evidence for God’s existence!”
"In the case of a Christian who has no good reasons for what he believes, this slogan serves as an effective conversation-stopper. But if we have good reasons for our beliefs, then this slogan serves rather as a conversation-starter.
"The atheist who merely repeats this slogan after having been presented with arguments for God’s existence makes an empty assertion."
There are others who have been around the atheist block more than I have, but I'm still pretty familiar with atheism, both mainstream and alternative. I know of no atheist who could fit this description. A few might constantly harp on the fact that no good evidence exists, but they are all very familiar with arguments for the existence of God, especially Craig's, and have found them unconvincing throughout multiple presentations of said arguments.
. . . the intended recipients of [Craig's] "gift" are certain groups of believers,
and the gift is one of feeling a smug sense superiority over atheists.
Notice that Craig starts out his criticism by alluding to the "no evidence" mantra as "an effective conversation stopper" for those have no reasons. To me, this seems to insinuate (without directly saying) that atheists are doing this on purpose, as though the last thing we want to do is have a conversation about the existence of God. It's slimy; a way to bring about negative illustrations of atheists in the mind of the reader while not directly dictating the illustration.
Then he moves on to saying "Fear not fellow Christians, for I have way around this dastardly deed! I shall merely present them with evidence!" He regurgitates his terrible, long-ago refuted arguments and then finishes with this:
"The good thing is that atheists tend to be very passionate people and want to believe in something. If they would only put aside the slogans for a moment and reexamine their worldview in light of the best philosophical, scientific, and historical evidence we have today, then they, too, would find Christmas worth celebrating!"
I've seen backhanded compliments before, but this is a category all to itself. It's another use of the "atheists as " trope we see in most corners of Christian apologetics, and done so in a way to makes it seem as though Craig is actually complimenting atheists, when in reality the compliment is that they aren't really atheists, they're just people who let their passions get in the way of what they truly are and will one day recognize as the truth. I'm reminded of the South Park movie when Cartman decides to be nice to Kyle by telling him "he's not really a Jew" and an offended Kyle has to continue insisting he is. It's further insulting as it asserts that atheists don't find Christmas worth celebrating. Some don't (same with some Christians), but most of us do. The things we find worthy of celebrating are the things most Christians find worthy of celebrating, that being all of the non-Christian things co-opted from other religions like exchanges of presents, kissing under the mistletoe, adorning trees with pretty ornaments, and most of all the special time you spend with your family and friends. Craig is at least consistent; he always is sure to describe the atheist-theist comparison as far removed from reality as one can take it.
I would call Craig's article insidious if it wasn't so obvious; Dr. Craig can't get past the title without using a falsehood. This piece was in no way written for atheists; the intended recipients of his "gift" are certain groups of believers, and the gift is one of feeling a smug sense superiority over atheists. It's so very blatant as well, not a single sentence is actually addressing atheists directly, it's always "atheists are this" or "atheists do that". He refers to us as "they", not "you". This is a hack job of the highest order.
I really would have liked to have written something more positive for my favorite holiday of the year, but instead I had to feel insulted by an apologist who misses the very spirit of the holiday. I never thought I'd say this, but I expected better from William Lane Craig.