Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Refutation of my own atheism

Refutation of my own atheism

  1. Humans will believe anything if that belief promises immortality and answers to the meaning of life. Witness Heaven's Gate, Scientology, Jonestown, Branch Davidians, Raelians, etc.

This fact does not even slightly affect the truth/falsity of a viewpoint. This is the genetic fallacy: concluding that a viewpoint is false, or more probably false than true, based on how the idea originates. If someone learns that the Earth is spherical from a fortune cookie, this does not decrease the probability that the Earth is spherical. That fact must be examined independently of how it came to be believed.

  1. Belief in paranormal phenomena is generally not given up easily, even in the face of contradictory evidence. This was coined "true believer syndrome" by psychic M Lamar Keene, who admitted his exploitation of this ubiquitous behavior to defraud people out of money.

Same as above. Noting that people cling to paranormal beliefs even in the face of contradictory evidence does absolutely nothing to show that such beliefs are false. It provides zero evidence one way or the other.

  1. The particular god a person believes in is generally an accident of geography. A person born in the American South will generally grow up to believe in the Christian God. A person born into an Indian neighborhood will generally believe in the Hindu gods. Each will be 100% certain they are right and the other is wrong.

More genetic fallacy. In fact, this goes for almost any belief, including non-religious ones. For example, for many people, the only reason they accept the evidence for evolution is because they were raised in a geographical location and with a family that placed a high value on scientific education, and their teachers in school told them it was true; had they been born in the Deep South and been surrounded by a different social group, they might very well now be a supporter of Intelligent Design.

In neither case does pointing out this fact affect the truth or falsity of the viewpoint. Each viewpoint must be examined independently of how it came to be believed.

  1. Christianity has split into tens of thousands of denominations, based upon different interpretations of the eternal, perfect, and absolute Word of God.

This might be a good criticism of Biblical inerrancy, but does nothing to decrease the probability of a creator.

  1. The Bible seems to be easy to use to support any bias. If it's the absolute Word of God, then why is it so easy to abuse?
Fine and dandy as a criticism of Biblical inerrancy, but outside that, it doesn’t carry much weight.

  1. Ask five different Christians a question on salvation, and you will get five different answers. Contrast this with science: ask five different astronomers what the speed of light is, and you will get the exact same answer down to the decimal point.
“Science” is a tool to examine the natural world. “Theism” is a metaphysical theory about what is going on “behind” nature, at a more fundamental level than science can go. If science is finished someday, and has a theory of everything, then there is still the question of who or what put that equation there and why the universe answers to it. Perhaps there is no answer.

“Theism” does not compete with science, but with other metaphysical theories, such as “naturalism” or “materialism.” Ask a materialist his theory on various things, such as the nature of the mind, and you will also get a variety of answers. More fundamental questions, like metaphysics, are by nature more difficult to pin down and thus will lead to less consistent answers than science, which studies more concrete phenomena.

  1. The Bible was written at a time of many such beliefs. Every culture had various mixtures of gods, afterlife, and creation stories.
Chronological snobbery, a form of guilt-by-association: belief X originated when people also believed Y, but belief Y is obviously untrue, therefore the probability of X being true is decreased. People who believed the Earth is spherical also believed in Zeus; should we therefore think that the probability that the Earth is spherical is less than it would be otherwise? As above, any viewpoint must be taken on its own merits.

  1. The Gospels were written by believers, not impartial bystanders. They may have had as a goal the conversion of non-believers.
Genetic fallacy can again come into play, although origins are in fact relevant to the trustworthiness of eyewitnesses. If this criticism works, then there is still the fact of their beliefs to consider: why did they believe so fervently in the resurrection? That’s a whole other story. In any case, this might be a good criticism, or at least a debatable one, on the trustworthiness of the Gospels, but carries no weight in determining if theism or metaphysical naturalism is true.

  1. Jesus is described in the Gospels as having great fame due to his preaching and miracles, yet not a single contemporary historian or writer mentions him, including some who were interested in such phenomena and lived in and around the same area at exactly the same time.
Again, could be good points against the accuracy of the Gospels, but carries no weight in determining whether theism or metaphysical naturalism are true.

  1. Contradictions in the Bible.
Again, possible evidence that the Bible is not inerrant. Irrelevant to the question of whether theism is true or not. This might come into play if theism turns out to be true, in determining which religion, if any, is the correct one.

  1. Science tells us that everything is natural. Every supernatural explanation has been replaced with natural ones. As Tim Minchin says: “Every mystery ever solved has turned out to be...not magic.”
This would still be the case even if the universe were created by an intelligent being, either deistic or theistic. In fact, even bare-bones Christianity would be consistent with this, as in that case there was only one miracle performed 2000 years ago. This argument does absolutely nothing to support metaphysical naturalism over theism. In fact, some argue that the very fact that the universe is rationally discoverable by science is evidence that there is a rational source behind it all. Or not. Either way, the methodological naturalism of science is not an argument for metaphysical naturalism over theism.

  1. There is no evidence for the existence of God. Lack of evidence is at least some validation of the non-existence of that thing.
There are several arguments for theism that are at least debatable and considerably better than the distorted versions that float around online. By contrast, there don’t seem to be many arguments at all for the main opposing case: metaphysical naturalism or materialism.

  1. Science has a huge track record of success. Faith has given us nothing comparable. Science clearly works. Faith does not.

“Science” is a tool to examine the physical world. “Faith” in the way it’s being used here generally means “belief without evidence.”

So: [A tool to examine the physical world] works better than [belief without evidence].

I would agree, but why are we comparing apples and oranges here? A better statement would be: [belief with evidence] is better than [belief without evidence]. The question then is: what is the evidence for theism vs metaphysical naturalism?

  1. Science is the best way to gain knowledge about reality, compared to metaphysics. What has metaphysics told us about reality? Nothing!

That statement is not a scientific statement, but a metaphysical one. To even get off the ground, science needs to dip into metaphysics: that the external world is real, that there is regularity in nature, that science and logic work, that our senses can give us information about the world, etc.

Metaphysics and philosophy are more foundational than science. A truly complete depth of knowledge would include:

1. A posteriori truths (science)
2. A priori truths (such as math and logic)
3. Metaphysical truths (such as that nature will continue to be the same tomorrow)

Combined with:

1. Logic (arguments in valid form, such as modus ponens)

No comments:

Post a Comment