Anglican Samizdat

July 11, 2009

Atheist irrationality

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 4:25 pm
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The discussion of soul-shrivelling tedium here –  which is representative of just about any exchange with an atheist – started me thinking about the seeming incapacity of many atheists to go back to first principles and inspect their unstated assumptions.

Atheists proudly exhibit a benighted resistance to logic that would be a source of extravagant rejoicing to an enemy of religion were he to discover it in a Christian.

The following are among the numerous ideas that are beyond the mental capacity of most atheists:

If God does not exist anything is permitted. Atheists generally respond: but atheists can be good people – avoiding the main point that with no absolute standard “good” becomes relative and ends up having no meaning.

A rationally intelligible universe is an a priori of science and points to a rationally intelligent Designer. An atheist will respond: scientific methodology itself is rational – avoiding the point that scientists don’t try to make irrational hypotheses fit reality.

If the numinous does not exist, the human mind is mechanical and to rely on it to examine a superset of its own mechanism requires a leap of faith much larger than a belief in a Designer. This appears to be completely beyond the comprehension of any atheist I’ve encountered.

The existence of something as complex as human self awareness points to a self aware Creator, not an accidental combining of molecules. Atheists often try to point out that the “creator God solution” is really no solution since we then have to ask “who made God”. This is a category error since, by definition, we are created and God isn’t.

The universe had a beginning which implies a Creator. The atheist tends to respond with the previous objection – it has the same flaw.

I will probably regret posting this since it will undoubtedly provoke the usual deluge of inane nonsense: if you do want to respond, try to think first.

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4 Comments

  1. “If God does not exist anything is permitted.”

    By whom?

    Certainly anything is permitted, unless you are stopped by good reasons or the force of others.

    You killing me is ‘permitted’. But I’m not going to make it easy for you, and I will do whatever I can to prevent it, up to and including killing you in self defense. And if you don’t try to kill me, I may treat you kindly and help you when you’re in need. And you might do the same in return.

    If there is no god, then we are the ones who permit or don’t permit things. Deal with it.

    “The universe had a beginning”

    According to whom?

    This way the universe currently is had a beginning. But we have no idea what it was like, if it existed, before then. Hear that…we don’t know. Which means to say “nothing was there” is wrong.

    Comment by morsec0de — July 11, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

  2. OK, I’m game. Let’s go by the numbers. . .

    1. If God does not exist anything is permitted.

    Obviously true. Human beings have been committing the most unspeakable horrors upon one another throughout history. None of the world’s religions, as far as I can tell, have made much progress in putting a stop to this sad state of affairs. (Some of them even seem to spur it on.)

    2. A rationally intelligible universe is an a priori of science and points to a rationally intelligent Designer.

    I don’t follow your line of reasoning there. How does our universe being rationally intelligible (to some degree, because there’s a lot we still haven’t figured out) point to a rationally intelligent designer? Where’s the connection?

    3. If the numinous does not exist, the human mind is mechanical and to rely on it to examine a superset of its own mechanism requires a leap of faith much larger than a belief in a Designer.

    Um? I’m not sure I understand your argument here. . . but I’ll try taking a stab at it anyhow.

    Are you saying, then, that if the human mind functioned solely by the laws of science, that it then must therefore lack the capacity to discern the laws of science? Or put another way: That our ability to study the universe somehow proves that we transcend that universe? If that’s what you’re saying, then once again I don’t see the chain of reasoning — how you got from point A to point B. Why *can’t* a mechanism study the larger mechanical environment in which it exists?

    Comment by Zobeid — July 12, 2009 @ 11:08 am

  3. Zobeid,

    2. If the universe is not designed, it is accidental; out of the very large number of possible universes that would not be rationally intelligible, we find ourselves in one that is. The chance of this is sufficiently small to point to a Designer as a plausible cause. I mentioned elsewhere that Einstein said: “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible”.

    3. I am not saying so much that a purely material mind would lack the capacity to give the appearance of investigating the laws of the universe, more that, since it is subject to the laws it is investigating, there is no way to have confidence in the results; it is in a sense, a subjective investigation. A starting point for science is that the mind is sufficiently reliable that its analysis of collected observations can be trusted; that is not provable by science, it must be assumed and if mind is a component of what it is investigating, it may not be a good assumption.

    Comment by David — July 12, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

  4. “The chance of this is sufficiently small to point to a Designer as a plausible cause.”

    I don’t think you (or I) have any way of estimating how likely or unlikely that is. Nobody has any objective basis for evaluating something like that.

    And that’s before getting into the question of whether we really understand the universe or just naively imagine that we do. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Put another way. . . If you step back and take a look at the scale, size and complexity of our universe, it should become apparent that we can’t ever compile more than a thumbnail summary, a brief outline, of its contents and function. It might be helpful to think of the whole sum of human science and philosophy as a kind of cheat sheet — like a small scrap of paper that you sneak into class when taking a test. The universe as a whole must ultimately remain beyond our comprehension, but a cheat sheet can be mighty helpful to have.

    “since it is subject to the laws it is investigating, there is no way to have confidence in the results”

    I don’t see it. I don’t agree that being subject to the laws we’re investigating means we can’t have confidence in the results. Science has given a lot of answers that have proven useful and reliable, as witnessed by our modern technological industrial society. That’s proof by example that we can examine the laws that we are subject to, with *some* degree of confidence.

    I do think we’ve seen that scientists are human beings with all the foibles and failings thereof. The history of science will show that there have been lots of silly fads, ego trips, hoaxes, stumbling down blind alleys, etc. That’s why we depend so much on testing and re-testing hypothesis, reproducing experiments, etc. Tested and proven theory becomes the foundation for further investigations.

    However, I don’t see any basis for saying there’s a supernatural motive force behind scientific investigation (I suspect we’d be a lot better at it, if there was one), or that the whole pursuit of science is folly because it can’t ever produce dependable knowledge. To get to either of those conclusions you have to make a huge leap that I don’t see justified.

    Comment by Zobeid — July 13, 2009 @ 5:56 pm


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