The Temple

Dawkins vs. Plantinga; Atheism vs. Theism

Al Mohler writes:

Alvin Plantinga, perhaps the most influential Christian philosopher in the world today, has issued a devastating review of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It is not to be missed. Plantinga, who serves as John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, published his review in the current issue of Books & Culture.

Beware this is not typical “blog reading.” Plantinga is a first rate thinker and philosopher. A careful reading of his critique demolishes the argument put forth by Dawkins. It makes me miss my college philosophy courses.

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March 1, 2007 - Posted by | Christianity, God's Existence, Philosophy, Theological


  1. Thanks for the link. A great read. Going to add your site to my blog roll. I looked at the book briefly, but it looked like a mad 13 year old had written it in some parts.

    Comment by Cade | March 1, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thanks for reading and linking Cade.

    My favorite line from his review is “…but that would be unfair to sophomores.”

    I know how you feel about the mad 13 year old. I have started reading “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris and “Breaking the Spell” by Daniel Dennett, but I get too agitated to continue so I admire Plantinga’s ability to “put irritation aside.”

    God Bless

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 1, 2007 | Reply

  3. I don’t know if I ever told you, but while I was in Stratford, we went and saw Dawkins speak. We thought it was going to be a lecture about evolutionary biology, but it turned out to be a shameless book promotion. He hardly talked about science at all, and from what I have heard neither does his book. Just a bunch of extreme case studies and straw men.

    Comment by Tim Bagdanov | March 1, 2007 | Reply

  4. Hey Tim,

    That is too bad, Plantinga says that Dawkins is a brilliant and “gifted science writer…his account of bats and their the Blind Watchmaker is a brilliant and fascinating tour de force.” It would have been good to hear him talk about science. But then he slams him with the “Dawkins is not a philosopher…his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores.” Nice.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 1, 2007 | Reply

  5. You can bash Harris, Dawkins and Dennett all day long. You still will not have provided one iota of evidence for God’s existence. It is not their job to disprove God. Believers make the claim. It is up to them to show proof. Do you believe Muslims have shown proof of Allah’s existence? Vishnu? Zeus? Why don’t you believe those gods exist? You are right not to because there is absolutely no credible evidence for them. And the same lack of evidence props up the God of Abraham.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 1, 2007 | Reply

  6. Hey Sven,

    If it is not their job to disprove God, why bother. Just let us ignorant theists continue on in ignorance.

    The fact of the matter is that at least an “iota” of evidence for God’s existence has been offered, and offered in a credible fashion. Just because you don’t accept the “proof” does not mean that an attempt to provide the proof does not exist. You certainly are familiar with the discipline of philosophy and the ontological, cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God. You may not accept them but the theologians as well have offered arguments for the existence of God, you certainly as an educated individual have read and responded to Aquinas’ Five Ways.

    As to who has the burden of proof, you may be right, but consider Pascal’s Wager: If I am wrong, I have simply wasted my life attempting to live with integrity, feed poor people, help marriages and families in crisis, encourage people and help them face fear and addiction and death. If you are wrong, there seems to be quite a bit to lose. That may not be the best reason, I really don’t think it is the best, but it is somewhat compelling.

    Science, naturalism or materialism cannot account for everything can it? There are some things that are not subject to science, the whole world of morality for instance.

    What would you accept as credible evidence? Again, you might not accept my offer of evidence, but please, don’t say that there has not been an offering, and a credible one at that.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 1, 2007 | Reply

  7. Steve,

    Thank you for being the first to comment on my blog. ( It’s my first blog!

    First, I want to understand your post. You claim I called names offered ad hominem attacks. I fail to see them in my post. I try to be very careful about such logical errors. If I did it I would like the opportunity to correct it.

    Now on to your blog…

    Fist, the onus to prove a claim is always on the person making the claim, not the other way around. Otherwise, I could sit here all day making spurious claims and waiting for you to disprove them.

    But, why bother? Well, we wouldn’t bother if dogmatic beliefs didn’t have real world, negative consequences. Let us put aside for the moment the catastrophic damage done by the current dogamatic beliefs of Islam and the past dogmatic beliefs of Christianity. Dogmatic Christian beliefs cause suffering and pain right here and now.

    Take the discrimination and outright attacks on gays and lesbians. This is a direct consequence of the dogmatic belief that God doesn’t like it. This world view causes suffering. Gays and lesbians aren’t hurting anybody. They are consenting adults being attacked verbally and physically every single day for no other reason than whom they choose to love.

    Take the roadblocks thrown up against embryonic stem cell research. Another direct consequence of the belief that God thinks it’s bad. There is no evidence whatsoever that a 100 cell blastocyst can feel or think anything at all and no reason for us to believe so. Yet people with incurable diseases, suffering real pain, are told “Sorry, but God doesn’t want us to hurt this blatocyst.”

    Take Christian relief organizations’ refusal to educate communities in Africa being ravaged by AIDS about condom use. It is an unforgivable atrocity. All those people dying and prevention could be right there in their hands but for the dogmatic belief that contraception is immoral.

    These are a few examplse of the suffering caused by dogmatic belief in the God of Abraham. This is why we don’t “Just let us ignorant theists continue on in ignorance.”

    Pascal’s Wager

    The wager is not compelling in the least and has a very basic flaw. It is that one cannot simply “decide” to believe something in response to his argument. I don’t believe it and the argument “If you’re wrong look at the consequences” can never move me to actually believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, performed miracles, died and was resurrected and is the son of God. I simply do not believe it. I can’t make myself believe something I don’t believe. Do you think I could fool God if I just started going through the motions and not actually believing any of it?

    I also disagree that your life, Steve, spent helping other people would be simply wasted if God din’t exist. It is a wonderful gift you give. How can you say that helping others is ever a waste. But, what does helping other people have to do with believing Jesus was born of a virgin? Why do we have to believe these incredible claims in order to be good to one another? Are you telling me the only reason you help others is because God wants you to? Personally, I help others out of a deep sense of compassion and empathy, not because I think God will be mad at me.

    As far as proofs for God’s existence that have been offered…

    I have yet to encounter one that could not be applied equally to Allah… or Zeus… or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. This is where the evidentiary standards I speak of go out the window. It really amazes me how Christians view “proofs” of God as applying only to their God. Or even only to ONE God. Why not two? Or fourteen? Why don’t you believe Allah created the heavens and the earth. Islam has a book claiming this, just as you do. And their reasons for believing it are identical to yours.

    You are correct in your assertion that science has limitations. I could not agree with you more. Still, it is the only method we have for gaining verifiable knowledge about reality. Just look at science’s track record. The real knowledge we have gained since the beginning of its widespread use is nothing short of amazing. Nothing else even comes close! It’s really the only way we have of knowing anything without completely changing the meaning of the word “know”.

    Religions tell us nothing about reality. Nothing. A brief scan of the “perfect word of God” will illuminate just how little God knew about the world He supposedly created. He thought Earth was the center of the solar sytem. He never even mentions the dinosaurs. The list goes on and on.

    And His moral view was a disgrace, to say the least. Selling daughters into sexual slavery… Stoning children to death for being disrepectful… Slavery, in general, He seemed to have no problem with, even going so far as to prescribe the proper way to BEAT your slaves. One cannot simply brush away these (and other) moral positions of the God of Abraham by claiming Jesus made it all better. Well, I guess one can. In fact, Christians do.


    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 2, 2007 | Reply

  8. Must be a Dawkins fan.

    I just want to hit on the “His moral view was a disgrace” bit. I’m no theologian or philosopher, but it seems people that use that argument don’t have any ground to stand on. How can you use the bible as evidence against itself if you don’t believe in it in the first place? What do you believe the bible is? Evidence or Myth? You can’t have both.

    Come on man. Who are you kidding? You wouldn’t believe the bible if it said everything about God is roses. Actually, neither would I. Look at the world we live in.

    I think it actually makes the bible even more credible.

    It’s just weird for someone to say they don’t believe in God and then go ranting and raving about God’s moral view. Makes me scratch my head, “So does he believe in God or not?”

    If you believe the stuff in the Old Testament, why don’t you believe the stuff in the New Testament? Like “God is Love” and how he sent his only son to die for our sins.

    Personally, I don’t like the thought of God having morals and I don’t think the bible really says anything about God’s morals. Morals sounds like a human trait. God has character. The stuff you cited reveals God’s character and his view of sin – intolerable.

    So you have used the bible to say that God is intolerable of sin. Congrats, your on the road to being a believer.

    Comment by Cade | March 2, 2007 | Reply

  9. You misunderstand my arguments completely. I do not believe in any God. My statements about the bible are in refutation of the Christian claim that we humans derive our morals from the God of Abraham in the form of the Holy Bible. I am merely pointing out that in order to do that one must utterly disregard many many passages in that bible that speak of blatently immoral things purpetrated by that God himself!

    The God of the bible is obviously NOT intolerable of sin (if by that you mean immorality… I don’t believe in “sin” either) as I have shown by His obvious acceptance of slavery, among other things.

    Maybe you don’t personally claim it, but many Christians make the claim that God offers the perfect discription of morality. I am making the assertion that we do not derive our morals from that bible. Otherwise, how would you come to know that slavery is immoral? I’m assuming you think slavery is immoral. You did not get this view from the bible. Quite the opposite.

    How can I use the bible as evidence against itself? The claims being made are totally contradicted by that very bible. Christians claim the bible is true because the bible says it’s true. That’s called using the bible as evidence FOR itself.

    I am merely pointing out that the book Christians claim to be the perfect word of God is neither perfect nor is there any reason to believe it was written by a supernatural deity. There is nothing in that book that could not have been written by someone with an iron age world view and it is jam packed with horribly immoral things.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 2, 2007 | Reply

  10. Most of the above is the equivalent of this assertion: I don’t like global warming, therefore it does not exist.

    People who believe in God behave or believe badly, therefore I don’t believe in God. That is not a “credible” argument against the existence of God.

    On my part, when I said “I have simply wasted my life” it was a sorry attempt at sarcasm. I will be more careful in the future. I certainly don’t think my life will have been a waste, even if God does not exist – that is the point. I also admitted that Pascal’s Wager is not the best argument, it is just a small consolation, if God does not in fact exist.

    I don’t do the things I do out of fear of punishment. The motivation is the love of God, and the presence in you of empathy and compassion are for me evidence of God. It doesn’t come naturally to us. As an atheist, you somehow have to blame “man” for the problem of evil, so that same problem of evil that you use to castigate God must now fall squarely on your lap. So in light of the great evil of man, must you not embrace your participation in the problem of evil – or is that still the fault of the non-existent God? or is it the fault of “belief” in the non-existent God.

    The argument for the existence of God is not an argument for any particular variation of God (Christian or otherwise), it is precedent – so again highlighting the shortcomings of any of the systems that proceed from the starting point of God does not disprove the starting point of God.

    All you have said is that you don’t like the idea of God, therefore he does not exist. you have left open the door that an unlikable God is still a possibility.

    I am not opposed to science. You make it sound like believing in the existence of God is a decision to disregard science. But you are mistaken when you say it is “the only way we have of knowing anything without completely changing the meaning of the word “know”” and “it is the only method we have for gaining verifiable knowledge about reality.” In fact what you are espousing is scientism. Timothy Ferris describes it this way: “the belief that science provides not a path to truth, but the only path”

    Science and learning will not banish religion. The questions before us are as much issues of world view, presuppositions that we bring to the table as they are about anything else. Your materialism or naturalism or whatever world view you have bought into colors your conclusions based on your science, just as my world view colors my conclusions. I reject your materialism. You reject my theism. Alfred North Whitehead was of the opinion that this difference and how we handle it may be the most important issue facing our generation. Not all theists are of the ilk that you describe. Your ad hominem is making the argument for the non-existence of God by trotting out our embarrassments, you are arguing against the worst examples of believers. Ad hominem, straw man – take your pick. You have said nothing of substance. I too am embarrassed by most of what you trotted out – so what, it is not a valid argument.

    Scientism has no foundation for morality. That is a knowledge that it cannot speak to. Whether you like it or not, your sense of justice and our American system of law, has its roots in the same Jewish law you berate. As a scientist, can’t you see the evolutionary process at work. No Jewish person, no Christian person (credible) advocates the selling of our children into slavery. You choose to ignore all the incredibly marvelous principles and laws found in the Old Testament, laws of Sabbath restoration, laws that have mercy built into them so that there is not mindless retribution. You castigate the Iron Age man and his inability to reason (again an ignorant statement don’t you think) and ignore that these laws were given to that same ignorant man – recognizing his cultural context, acknowledging his need for evolution. Again, not a great argument Really, just a good sound bite.

    And so, to switch to the heart of the matter for Christians. Jesus is the issue. You dismiss him as if he were irrelevant. But in fact, that is where I would start the argument for Christianity. It doesn’t start with boneheaded believers, the embarrassment of the crusades or the inquisition, or even the shame of our own current hypocritical moral failures. It is about the person of Christ. You can’t really brush away Christ with the brush of bad Jews/Christians. But again, the argument for Christianity is a different argument than the argument for the existence of God – but you make it one and the same; you dismiss Islam as part of your argument in dismissing God. You are mixing up the argument – I know there is a name for that logical fallacy – it escapes me now and I really have to get to work.

    One last thing…does it really matter who the “onus” is on here. Don’t you have an obligation to your own world view, to defend it and justify it. This isn’t just about the onus on me to prove God exists. We want to know what is truly real, in totality. I don’t want to be disillusioned, appeal to Pascal notwithstanding. I want to know what is true, and the possibility of truth beyond my capacity to observe is a valid arena of discussion.

    Great discussion and challenge Sven. Too bad you live on the wrong coast, we could get together and smoke a cigar, if I smoked cigars…I wish God would heal amputees as well.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 2, 2007 | Reply

  11. Sven your starting to sound like a Dawkins regurgitation machine. You think like him, write like him… Hey, this is Richard Dawkins isn’t it? Come on. You can’t fool me. Fess up Richard. I know it’s you. This Sven name is an alias right?

    Kidding aside, there is no misunderstandment here. It’s a difference of beliefs. You see God completely differently than I do. You see sin as something completely different. We are comparing apples to oranges. You say, “These apples are red.” and I say, “Those aren’t apples, they’re oranges.” or vice versa. We are looking at the same thing, but do not see the same thing. Get it?

    I’m not going to argue because there is no argument. Better thinkers than you or I have been tossing this stuff around for a long time and they don’t agree.

    I doubt we will come to an agreement either. I’m just going to have to “agree to disagree”.

    If you see this as victory, you can have it.

    Comment by Cade | March 2, 2007 | Reply

  12. Let me clarify my position. I am not saying, and have never said, I don’t like God therefore He does not exist. I am saying I have heard zero credible evidence in support of a God, therefore I do not believe He exists. The evidence you offer is insufficient. The possiblity of His existence is still out there, same as the possibility of two Gods is still out there. Or three. Or Seventy-two. And there is no credible evidence for them either.

    Evidentiary Standards:

    For you the presence of empathy and compassion are evidence of God. For me they are evidence that humans feel empathy and compassion. Nothing more. How the heck do you make the leap to God from the fact that we feel empathy? Your assertion that empathy and compassion do not come naturally to us is baseless. Even chimpanzees show forms of empathy and compassion. It certainly does come naturally to us. As does aggression and jealousy. As does love and hatred. They are all natural emotions.

    You may not be opposed to science, but you certainly pick and choose the parts of science you like and disregard it when it bumps up against any of your dogmatic beliefs. It doesn’t work that way. Science is about critical inquiry with no sacred cows. Everything is open to falsification.

    I don’t know who Ferris is but your appeal to his authority is a logical flaw. What difference does it make what Ferris’s description of scientism is? We are talking about your opinion and my opinion and the reasons we hold them. There are good reasons and there are bad reasons. I maintain, science is the only method we humans have of gaining verifiable, emperical knowledge about our physical reality. And our physical reality is all we have.

    More later…

    And yes, my name is Sven. Dawkins is good. Harris is better!


    You have also done this with the bible. Cherry picked it for the parts you like. This is fine. There are good parts. All moderate Christians do this, in fact MUST do this in order live peaceful, cooperative lives without killing heretics and stoning their children to death for talking back to them – as the bible expressly prescribes.

    This is my point about morality. It is easily provable that we did not get our moral underpinnings from any sacred text. Quite the reverse. We humans obviously wrote our morals into these texts. During the Iron Age it was perfectly acceptable to stone your kid to death if you thought God didn’t like it. We feel differently now, but certainly not because of the bible. That book hasn’t changed. We have changed.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 2, 2007 | Reply

  13. Sven,

    When you make the rules, and make no exceptions to your rules, even when you are wrong, you always win.

    Science is not, and has never been, the only way we gain truth. When you limit yourself to that methodology, it is called scientism, not simply science. I am not appealing to Ferris as an authority, I simply quoted him, just so you know I am not making up concepts that are not spoken about in scientific circles. You think that science is the only evidence that is acceptable. I think there is more than science in our quest for truth, because there are many things beyond scientific method.

    I cannot, as you know, provide scientific evidence for the existence of God. It does not exist. But it does not preclude other arguments, or other kinds of evidence that have compelling value and are legitimate.

    Philosophy is a legitimate path to truth. It is accepted as legitimate, and in fact gives meaning to scientific evidence. Science cannot give me answers to ultimate questions like how is morality determined? What is the purpose of life? How do we know things? What is the scientific method and why is it valid? What is a proof? What is the mind? Is it different from the brain? Is it different from matter? Is that a different question? Are numbers real? What makes something beautiful? Is that an objective value or it is simply visceral? What makes something good? Is one form of sexual expression better than another? These questions are not answered by the scientific method. They are issues of epistemology and metaphysics and values/ethics that are critical if we are going to connect the dots of fact garnered through science.

    I am not avoiding the issue, simply pointing out that you have two rules: It must be science or I won’t give it validity and if it is outside the scientific method I decide if I like it or not, and your methodology there is subject to arbitrariness (is that a word?).

    Since the scientific method does not help with the existence of God thing, I cannot please you. That does not mean that there is not much to say for the existence of God, the possibility of His existence. Faith, which is also not subject to the scientific method and therefore silliness to you, is a major component for religious people like myself. Compensation for lack of evidence, absolutely. Irrational, not necessarily.

    When I cite traditional arguments like the cosmological, teleological, ontological – I recognize they have limitations, but taken together form a beginning for a rational belief in God’s existence.

    Here is what you keep repeating: No scientific evidence, no Sven. Then you digress to pointing out my inconsistency and the plethora of easy pickings of inconsistent religious people. Those things are not relevant to this discussion. Really we need to step back and talk about ground rules and appropriate beginning points.

    Take a look at your own inconsistency: “It is easily provable that we did not get our moral underpinnings from any sacred text. Quite the reverse. We humans obviously wrote our morals into these texts.” By your own standard you must reject your own statement. It is beyond scientific methodology to prove that statement. It is your opinion. It is not necessarily obvious. You beg the question.

    If you are in love and got married based on that emotion, you violated your own system. You cannot prove that like you can prove a vaccination has worth or is reliable. You cannot prove the potential of a promise like you can prove the reliability of a vaccination. But you still proceed, even though it may be more detrimental to you than not having the vaccination. Love is not subject to the scientific method. I can observe loving behavior, but I cannot quantify my love, or my feelings of love.

    We have different authorities in our path to what is. You are a materialist (?) and a naturalist (?) (I don’t want to put words in your mouth). You claim to exclusively depend on the scientific method for any and all truth. I accept other means to discover truth and reality.

    As to empathy and compassion being for me evidence of God. Well, it is not that big a leap when you accept the teleological argument as at some level valid. I move from the eternal to the temporal. I am not eternal, the values I have are borrowed. You argue from the temporal to the eternal; we create, we determine, we ascribe value to the way we are. Evolutionary process has brought us to this place. Compassion and empathy are merely natural phenomenon evident in higher forms of life. Nothing more, nothing less. I understand your position, I don’t accept it as satisfactory. It does not take enough into account. It avoids any ethics considerations, value considerations. Why are empathy and compassion important? Why are they better than apathy and indifference? or malice? You cannot give me evidence that one is better than another. You can only tell me you prefer one to another.

    I hope you have also noticed that I am not arguing for Christianity here, that is a totally separate discussion. I have tried to stay within the basics of this discussion: the existence of God, and the way we know what we know. I am not sure why you are so anxious to demean my Christianity. You claim it is harmful to others. Again, in your system it seems that I could legitimately respond: “so what.” You have no scientific foundation for rejecting that behavior as morally wrong or reprehensible, Scientism observes and describes facts. It does not and cannot place a value upon that. Your own methodology fails you here, it gives you no foundation for anger at the injustice.

    That is why I brought up the problem of evil. As a materialist, is not murder the same as erosion, or lightning igniting a fire and destroying a forest? You can only describe the facts of murder, the response to murder on the part of other people, but you cannot ascribe value to the act. There is no foundation. If the stronger lion kills the weaker lion, that is simply nature. So what is different about the human animal? Science can only describe the evidentiary difference in behavior, demonstrating value is not possible in your system. I am not talking about the Bible here – you have no basis for ascribing value to the act other than personal opinion, feelings, distaste.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 2, 2007 | Reply

  14. Steve,

    As to my claim about getting our morals from sacred texts, I admit I was unclear. What I meant to say is that our morals were not the gift of a god. Instead, I think (as in… it is my opinion) that it is quite obvious we humans, given our inherent bent toward a moral structure, wrote our own sense of morals into the sacred texts and we created gods in our own image. Humans inherently create moral structures. Every society has done this.

    So … basics. Morality. What is it? I agree with Sam Harris that morality has to do only with issues surrounding human and animal suffering and happiness. There are no reasons to think of morality toward a toaster because it cannot experience suffering or happiness. If you are going to claim that we need to be beholden to the moral directives of a god then you had better show clear proof of that god’s existence. I have shown how behavior spawned of the moral directives of the God of Abraham causes real suffering right here and now, on this planet, in this life. So if we are to act in this way we had better have clear and good reasons for doing that.

    I do not want to put words in your mouth, either. So what exactly are you claiming, Steve? Where do we get our morals? And if they are from God, how do you know he exists?

    You admit to having no scientific evidence for His existence. And yet, on your own front page of this web site you attempt to use scientific logic to do just that! So let’s start these “basics” right there. Your front page. It claims:

    p1-Motion exists in the world
    This is observable fact and I agree…

    p2-Whatever moves must have a mover
    This is inductive reasoning in that everything we observe
    behaves in this way. It is a little less solid than the observable fact, but still is at least logical. So, I agree…

    p3-There can be no infinite regress of movers
    This is where your logic fails.
    You really need to show how you know this.

    C1- there must be an unmoved mover
    WHAT?! You just claimed, two sentences ago, that there can be no
    unmoved mover and now you claim there MUST be one! “p2-Whatever moves must have a mover” And this is logic? And talk about begging the question! Where did this unmoved mover come from?

    I do not mean to bash you for being a Christian. I mean to bash you for being illogical! lol… kidding, my friend.


    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 3, 2007 | Reply

  15. I just need to add a few things here about your front page arguments….

    I see you have written a caveat about how all those arguments have some flaws. Steve…. they have more than flaws. They are flat out untennable. They don’t even make sense in the least.


    p2-Whatever moves must have a mover
    C1- there must be an unmoved mover

    It doesn’t matter what steps you have in between these two statements. You cannot have opposing claims in the same proof. One of them MUST be false. It doesn’t even withstand the giggle test. It is the very definition of illogical.


    p2-An effect must have a cause
    C1-there must be an uncaused cause

    See Motion…


    p1-Some contingent beings exist
    p2-Contingent beings require a non-contingent ground of being in order to exist
    C1-a non-contingent ground of being exists

    I don’t even know what the heck this means. It sounds like gibberish to me. I apologize for my ignorance on the subject of contingent and non-contingent beings. Please enlighten me.

    The Ontological Argument (Anselm’s Version)

    p1-We have an idea of a greatest being (being than which none greater can be conceived, btwngcbc)
    p2-existence in reality is greater than existence in the mind alone
    p3-If the btwngcbc exists in the min alone, then it is not a btwngcbc.
    C1-Btwngcbc exists in reality

    Are you kidding me? If we imagine something then it logically exists in reality?? I have an idea of a flying pink elephant….

    Teleological Argument (Thomas)

    p1-World is designed

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 3, 2007 | Reply

  16. Teleological Argument (Thomas)

    p1-World is designed PROOVE IT!
    p2-Design requires a designer TRUE


    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 3, 2007 | Reply

  17. Hey Sven,

    Weekends are tough for me…too much religious activity.

    Two comments for now, I probably will not get another chance till tomorrow night, if I have the energy.

    Logic is not science. Logic is used by science and scientists, but it is also used by philosophers, theologians and plumbers. You are mistaken in trying to say that it science. Science deals with empirical evidence, observable phenomena. Logic is a discipline within the field of philosophy – philosophers are notorious for arrogance regarding their field and believe that philosophy precedes science. An argument for another day possibly, but for the record, when I say there is no scientific proof for the existence of God, it does not preclude the possibility of a logical argument. Lots of accepted disciplines are not science and teach truth. Mathematics for instance, is also not science, it is mathematics. Numbers have an abstract quality about them that is not scientific in nature: What does four look like? Science does not answer all the questions of life is my point.

    I posted the article on the classic proofs for God’s existence as a primer – not the best shot. Many of my readers/parishioners may have never been exposed to the history of the arguments and the traditional arguments in their elementary form is the best place to start. Nonetheless, we can still talk about the logical consistency or inconsistency of the arguments.

    P3 in the cosmological argument from motion (Aristotle’s argument) is not necessarily illogical. It is not an empirical observation and I think that is what you are objecting to. I am left with a priori argumentation at this point, I cannot “examine” the validity or non-validity of infinite regress. A priori reasoning is what we are left with, and it is legitimate, logical reasoning. So the two options at p3 are: there is infinite regress as the explanation for motion, or there is not infinite regress as the explanation or foundation for the conclusion of an unmoved mover. So it is not a ridiculous or baseless jump in reasoning, rather it is choosing between the two options. The argument is left having two possible forms here: There can be no infinite regress of movers or There is an infinite regress of movers. The conclusion changes with the premise. I think most early proponents of this argument talked about the world being unintelligible if their was infinite regress of motion. So we can muster up our reasons for our preference, and draw a conclusion. The strength of the argument is also debatable. But it also reveals the nature of these kinds of arguments, we are much more comfortable with a posteriori reasoning.

    Really, I don’t think this where this argument falls short, at least if my memory serves me well, both Kant and Hume ultimately attacked p2 in this argument, not p3…but I could be wrong.

    Thanks for all the work you are making me do…Good Sunday to you, hope it brings no labor and only leisure, rest and joy.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 3, 2007 | Reply

  18. An observation and a story for Sunday night, that is all I have energy for tonight…

    Sven, you are the master of overstatement. I just re-read the comments section for this post while watching a dirty Harry movie on TV (Magnum Force: great line by Clint for both of us: “A man’s got to know his limitations”) and you can throw out the superlatives; Gushing over science and over-dramatizing the horrors of religion. By overstating your case you aren’t making your case.

    The story is a cautionary tale about the reliability of the uniformity of nature assumption and the danger of induction in scientific inquiry. It is titled:

    Theobold the Turkey and the Uniformity of Father Greenjeans

    Theobold the turkey was born one spring day on a farm in Ohio. Now every morning, Farmer Greenjeans came with a bucket of golden grain. Theo found that by rushing ahead of the others, he got the best kernels and more to eat. After several months of this, however, he was concerned to see that the older turkeys always hung back and that the oldest stayed in the very back. They warned constantly that old Greenjeans was unpredictable and inconsistent. But Theo only scoffed: “That’s just religious superstition you old buzzards. Look how fat I am. Every time I run ahead I only get more food.” He even tried convincing other turkeys of his theory. “I’ve tested it scientifically,” he said. “i’ve tried it 99 times. When I run ahead I get more food. It’s only reasonable that it will work again.”

    When the next morning dawned, Farmer Greenjeans was right on time. Fat Theo dashed eagerly far ahead of the others. What Greenjeans carried was not, however, in a bucket, but glistened over his shoulder. It was the fourth Thursday of November.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 4, 2007 | Reply

  19. Helloooo Steve,

    You are correct in many of your statements about my last post, I am not as good at this today as I will be tomorrow. It seems I need much practice in making my points clear. And I leave too many loose ends. But I shall sally forth.

    You are correct – logic is not science. At the same time, just because a given line of reasoning is logical says absolutely nothing about whether it is true or not. I can site many historical lines of thought that were completely logical at the time and turned out to be just as completely false.

    You can come to almost any conclusion your heart desires, given the prerequisite a priori premise. So, yes, you are correct that nothing precludes a logical argument in favor of a god. It is also true, however, that arbitrary a priori premises can never lead to a real life “proof” of anything. And simply deeming P3 to be one way or another because of ones “preference” is arbitrary, no?

    Hume would have been correct to attack p2. I hedged at it and honestly I didn’t feel right doing it, but I had bigger fish to fry. Namely, the real problem with this argument – and the one I would like you address; the issue of opposing claims in the same proof. Please tell me how a proof of anything can possibly contain such an internal contradiction. Either p2 or C1 must be false. They can’t both be true.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 4, 2007 | Reply

  20. Key word is arbitrary. We are not in fact postulating flying pink elephants, and this argument is not getting extravagant in postulating even the developed definition of the Judeo-Christian God. It is simply the possibility of the existence of an “unmoved mover” in response to the unlikely alternative (at least it seems so) of an infinite regress of movers. A flying pink elephant would not help us here – it would, if it existed, fall into the category of a “moved – mover.” A flying pink elephant would certainly move me.

    It may not be a valid conclusion, but it is not contradictory, it is not proposing that a “moved mover” is also an “unmoved mover” but it is proposing an altogether different entity; an unmoved mover.

    I don’t know if it is arbitrary to say that it has to be one way or another; to make a statement one way or another and then argue the validity of the two options, or propose another. Or wait for more information, data, and then rethink, re-argue etc. It would be just as arbitrary to go the other way, simply because I don’t like the idea of the lack of infinite regress.

    A priori does not mean whatever I feel like, nor does it necessitate arbitrariness. You really cannot simply come to any conclusion your heart desires through a priori reasoning, unless you are speaking to lunatics, and I admit some of us appear that way…

    “Real life `proof'” is really as much of our disagreement as the existence of God. We have a radically different idea of epistemology and metaphysics. It is just as much a “leap” to say that because all we know is material, material must be the eternal stuff of the universe; that causation is eternal (infinite may be the better term here). It is not self-evident, it demands explaining, how material generates the immaterial, ie consciousness, morality, the abstract, aesthetic value etc. That is the alternative to the unmoved mover and that is inconsistent, or as I said above, demands an explanation. (albeit now I am moving down the road a bit from a simple “unmoved mover” to a conscious being that I would call God).

    Basic logic courses use extremely silly examples to illustrate the point that logical doesn’t necessarily mean true, rather that a logical argument must follow certain rules and has a certain form. That doesn’t make them less useful or powerful in our question of truth. But we are dealing with an area of knowledge where this kind of work is necessary for the reason you are stating as exclusionary: NO EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE! Therefore we are left with a different methodology. So part of me responds to you with: Exactly! and another part of me groans with frustration because you are being stubborn, not necessarily reasoned about your presupposition of science as the only path to truth and closed to any other possibility. Induction is also circular, especially in your assumption here: Motion can have infinite regress because we can prove motion here and now, and the universe has a predictable uniformity. But the “truth” of predictable uniformity is itself based upon induction. Isn’t there circularity in all appeals to ultimate authority? (Wow, that sounds like I am changing the subject…)

    Sven, none of us is that smart: not Dawkins, not Plantinga.

    We hold many things to be true without the “evidentiary standard” you are looking for here. We don’t have evidence of the sort you are demanding, even for the existence of Abraham Lincoln. Human observers are not infallible, empirical evidence is also subject to error. Pure objectivity is a myth, we would be better talking about “less subjective” instead of purely objective. It is more a continuum than polar opposites. These are epistemological considerations. How do we know what we know? Even what we perceive? (more digression, I am on a roll today…better stop here)

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 5, 2007 | Reply

  21. Now who’s overstating things?! Abraham Lincoln? Yes, all the letters and pictures and personal accounts could be faked. It is extremely unlikely. The odds are effectively zero. The same cannot be said of the evidence offered (by anyone) thusfar in support of an unmoved mover – much less a god.

    Steve, I would really like to know your answer to the question; How can any proof contain mutually exclusive claims?
    p2-Whatever moves must have a mover
    C1- there must be an unmoved mover

    This seems to me to be pretty darn unambiguous.

    As far as the “immaterial” things like morality and consciousness go, there is no evidence that those things are anything other than the electro-chemical reactions of our own brains at work. Those things do not “exist” the same way a planet or a typewriter exists. They are feelings we have. And, please, don’t go down the “planets and typewriters only exist in our brains, too” road. It’s an epistimological dead end leading to nihilism. The physical world exists outside of our bodies. Now THERE’S an a priori premise for ya! ‘Cause if it doesn’t exist out there then how can we ever know anything? Dreams might be just as real as waking moments…


    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 5, 2007 | Reply

  22. The only point I was making by the Abraham Lincoln reference was your dependence (and mine) on other than science for our plate of truth -beliefs about reality. Go further back in history and the strength of the evidence for a particular persons existence is smaller and smaller, becoming less and less compelling. So Aristotle instead of Abraham. There was no comparison to the existence of Abraham Lincoln and the existence of god.

    They are not necessarily mutually exclusive!!! I can’t say it any clearer. Maybe you didn’t read the last response:

    “It may not be a valid conclusion, but it is not contradictory, it is not proposing that a “moved mover” is also an “unmoved mover” but it is proposing an altogether different entity; an unmoved mover.”

    One is a statement of empirical observation. The other takes into account P2 + P3 and draws a conclusion that the argument either compels as necessary or is undermined as not necessary. We could go on forever here. I have already acknowledged the argument is not the best – we agree. Saying it in three more posts will not change anything. I have already conceded that I lack of photographs of God. That is why we are still having the discussion. I don’t have any photographs of God. If that is what you need I don’t have it. Let me say it again: I don’t have any pictures of God.

    Your continued misuse and apparent misunderstanding of the nature of a priori reasoning also does not make your case. “The physical world exists outside of our bodies” is not an a priori statement – I don’t know what kind of statement it is. It is neither a Priori or a posteriori, it is just wrong. Aren’t you a part of the physical world, or is it just on the outside of your body. Unless of course you are claiming divine transcendence for yourself (divine transcendence is a theological term meaning that God is distinct from creation). Now it sounds like you are a flying pink elephant. I don’t understand that statement, or why it is in your response. And where in the world did the planets and typewriter thing come from? I have never mentioned planets or typewriters existing only in our brain. Maybe you have been watching too much of the Matrix or have been reading Leibniz and thought it was me in a previous life.

    Wow, a materialist appealing to nihilism, apparently you think nihilism is a bad thing. The major difference between us is that your system is de facto nihilistic. You cannot ascribe purpose to the universe, it is simply “electro-chemicals” or some such other physical process. Why are we having this discussion? What possible purpose in life other than self-gratification can be proposed by a materialist? You are simply a movement of molecules that exists for a time and is gone, a puff of smoke occupying the smallest corner of the universe – who is a nihilist?

    As I have also stated the argument is put in it’s most basic form. Arguments like this have a progressive (evolutionary) history and are clarified by discussion and further arguments, probably a bit heftier than ours.

    So, what I have been trying to explain, I will offer as a modified premise:

    P2 Of the things we can observe, all things have been placed in motion, no thing has placed itself in motion.

    You asked in an earlier comment about contingency and non-contingency, here is a modified argument that may help. Again it may not be the best argument, I really am a novice on the history and development and all the different forms of the arguments, and it has been a while since I have handled them this intimately but here it is:

    P1 Every being that is finite and contingent has a cause.
    P2 Nothing finite and contingent can cause itself.
    P3 A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
    C! Therefore, there must be a first cause; or, there must be something which is not an effect

    A contingent being is simply a “dependent” being. Not self-generating, or self-sustaining.

    Again, P3 is probably a problem for you. But it is not an arbitrary statement. You may not accept Aristotle’s or Plato’s reasons for holding it to be true, but these men were not arbitrary.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 5, 2007 | Reply

  23. I get it now! The proof is proposing a mover that doesn’t move. Interesting… fantastic, but interesting.

    The a priori point I was making was basically “existence exists”. (A is A! Who is John Gault? btw, can we agree Ayn Rand was a complete lunatic?? but I digress…) I was not suggesting that my body was not a part of the physical world, don’t be silly. And, just as with any a priori statement, if it is not true then NOTHING makes any sense. That was my point. It was all an attempt to head off your potential counterargument at the pass. I was wrong to attempt this and I shall refrain from doing that in the future… maybe. :^)

    My point about the planets and typewriters was simply a way to show that our thoughts and feelings do not exist in the same way real objects exist. They exist only as a function of our brains. You said it was a “leap” to assume the material world is all there is because, for one thing, it doesn’t explain those thoughts and feelings. I disagree emphatically! Real science does offer a very real explanation for those thoughts and feelings. They are very real processes going on in our very real brains! We have never experienced anything BUT this real world. Therefore, to accept the possibility that the material world might be all there is is not a leap! At least we know it exists. The leap is conjuring up fantastic ideas about supernatural, eternal beings. Finding the notion of an eternal universe untenable and then proposing something eternal to account for it has never made any sense to me.

    Ok, I have taken a break and reread the entire conversation top to bottom. Whew! I would like to thank you very much for your willingness. Discussions like this can be tedious and I enjoy them very much anyway.

    You see a god and I do not. I see no evidence that anything supernatural exists and you apparently do. My outlook can seem nihilistic, I admit, but it is not necessarily so. Just because I can see no reason to believe a god/creator exists doesn’t mean I don’t think I have purpose in life. The purposes I see are not as exciting as serving a loving eternal god, but who says life’s purposes have to be? My purpose is to love my children, be a good person, experience as much joy and as little sadness as I can, play drums in a band with good musicians, the list goes on. But what is the ultimate reeeeeeal purpose? It can be fun to speculate about, but I have no idea what it could be.

    When I look at humanity I see an animal stumbling blindly in the dark until science came along. In the early days God was everywhere. He moved the sun as it traveled around the earth. He caused sickness and healing. He fixed the stars in the “firmament”. But, it seems to me (and Richard Dawkins lol) that God lives in the gaps of our knowledge and the more we truly learn (through science) the less room there is for Him. He now resides almost exclusively in the realm of things we not only don’t know but can probably never know. What is the purpose of life? Why is there something rather than nothing? It’s OK with me to just not know.

    So Steve… you admit the above proofs might not be adequate. OK. What made a believer out of you? What was adequate for you? What made your light go on? And what exactly do you believe? God? Jesus? Muhammed? All of them? None of them?

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 5, 2007 | Reply

  24. oops… John Galt… not Gault

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 6, 2007 | Reply

  25. You wrote: “I get it now! The proof is proposing a mover that doesn’t move. Interesting… fantastic, but interesting.”

    Sven, I think I am getting to know you…and that first line is beautifully kind and sarcastic at the same time. That makes me smile.

    In a nutshell, truly quickly. My bottom line reason for pursuing believing has to do with being unable to let go of the ultimate purpose question. Inquiring minds like ours rarely give up with “its OK with me to just not know.” I am both compelled by skepticism and totally dissatisfied with it. I can’t live with Bertrand Russell’s “It just is.”

    For me, Christianity has the answers to the most questions for the total package. It answers the most questions, and ultimately gives me the hope (strong confidence as opposed to wishful thinking, strong being the relative term here) that where we came from, why we are here, and what is ultimately important is answerable, and that is huge for me…more later.

    I am enjoying Thomas Kida’s book right now: “Don’t Believe Everything You Think”. I picked it up because it was recommended on the and his second point has been my mantra for the last 15 years: Ask hard questions about what you believe – because people generally seek to confirm and not challenge their ideas, so you have helped in that ongoing process.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 6, 2007 | Reply

  26. I am very interested to hear your “more later”.

    For a kick start… how does believing there’s a god get you out of the ultimate purpose question?

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 7, 2007 | Reply

  27. Later will probably be tonight, late…but I don’t think it will get me out of anything.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 7, 2007 | Reply

  28. Hey Sven,

    I posted my response to you as a new blog entry.

    I don’t know if I answered any of your questions, although I am not sure the motivation for your questions. They seem sincere in giving the impression that you care about what I think personally. So switching gears from trying to argue and prove my position to testimony about my personal preferences, what appeals to me and what I believe is quite the switch. Being competitive, I feel like I have opened myself to “lose” this debate, then feel stupid for thinking that it makes much of a difference, or that it is even competition.

    I don’t claim that my personal journey of faith has always been a linear progression, or as always logically defensible. Part of that is my belief that religious truth is valid, and revelation is our source for religious truth. I don’t think we can know anything about God unless he reveals himself to us. So I hold to general and special revelation (creation and Word). These are sources you don’t respect, and I haven’t given an argument for accepting them, but they are all over my post. You stick with empiricism, I try to see how empirical evidence, logical reasoning and revelation form a cohesive whole. They don’t necessarily have to battle one another, they can all contribute to ultimate knowledge, not just knowing the facts, but adding meaning to the facts.

    The bottom line for me as I re-read the post is the one thread that for me pulls together the many strands of evidence is the glory of God. I believe that is why we exist, I believe that is what gives us meaning and purpose, enables me to express humility, gives me hope, grants me fulfillment and immortality etc. What you marvel at when you see the progress of science and the marvel of the world exposed, I see as the handiwork of God and give him credit for it. The glory of man is fulfilled in the glory of God. It is here that the ultimate purpose question is answered. In fact, in the Bible’s creation story, I think the main point is exactly this, that we have been made to fill the earth to the glory of God. I don’t see it as a scientific treatise, I don’t waste my time trying to explain whether the “days” of creation are literal days or epochs. This is ultimately expressed in Christ and in what we call being “in Christ.” For me Christ is truly all in all.

    My wife put you on our church’s prayer chain…I thought you would get a kick out of that.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 8, 2007 | Reply

  29. Well, thank your wife for me.

    That is quite some list of reasons for believing. And yet, at every turn I think of reasons why belief in any god (let alone the God of Abraham) simply doesn’t make any sense. The Quran, for instance, provides another explanation for creation and salvation and the afterlife and… etc. Plenty of humans find it just as obvious that IT is the true word of God.

    Also, there are many stories older than the Jesus story that are almost identical! Complete with vigin births, crucifixions and resurrection. And they were written hundreds or thousands of years before Jesus lived. To me and others like me it is clear that humans have a deep seated desire to understand this life as NOT being all there is. I, too, hope that there is more. But all these stories are just that… stories. Human made. We have no clue what happens when we die. We have only stories.

    You are correct, I am not trying to trap you or to “win” this. It’s not a competition. I know I am not going to change your mind. I am just trying to understand it.

    To me eye, the god of the bible is grotesquely immoral, accepting fathers who kill their daughters to fulfill a bargain with Him… telling parents to kill their children… giving instructions on how to beat your slaves. How could this ever be considered moral? Even Jesus, himself, never spoke out against slavery (quite the contrary)- one of the most flagrant moral violations ever exercised by one human on another. And it was going on all around him.

    I have to go back to work now. I can finish this later or you can respond to this as it is.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 8, 2007 | Reply

  30. Yes, tons of stories of great men, creation stories etc. But for whatever reason we are still talking about Jesus, his mark seems at least more indelible…worthy of more inquiry.

    I have never responded to your statements about the “God of the Bible being grotesquely immoral…I will work on that in the form of a response.

    I am having Lasik surgery on Monday – so I have a pre-op appt. that is cutting into my time today/tonight, but I will respond to that. I am thankful to surgeons and doctors who make my blindness (-10 Diopters), I am also thankful to God who gave us the ability to figure it out.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 8, 2007 | Reply

  31. You and I are talking about Jesus because that is your bailiwick. Most of the population of Earth are not talking about him. They are talking about other gods… or no god at all.

    As you can guess, I think we humans figured out eye surgery with no help at all from the spirit world. All the same, I hope your surgery goes well.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 8, 2007 | Reply

  32. Every source of statistics puts Christians at about 33% of the world’s population. Christianity is presently growing fastest in Africa, Asia and South America. There are some sources that state that there are Christians in all 238 countries of the world. The house church movement in China today boasts 30 million adherents. I am not the only one talking about Christ.

    So technically you may be right, specifically most of the world is not Christian (67%), but many of the religions that are not Christian, even Islam, have high regard for him. Your statement that most of the world are not talking about him is not really accurate and lacks evidence to support it. Almost 4 billion people (Adherents of Islam and Christianity) are talking about him – more than half the world. Many of the other religions have syncretistic elements in their belief structure, and happily welcome Jesus as a contributor to their religion. So the numbers are really high.

    Since we are checking facts, here is another one for you. AS appalled as I am about people using Christ to oppress and kill and war (from the crusades to the inquisition to the witch hunts in Europe where well over 300,000 women were killed for being witches), and I will have to speak to that more, especially your point about slavery, how many people have been killed in the last century in the name of Atheism? In my parents birthplace, Soviet Russia, the estimates reach almost 70 million in this century. I am alive because of their courage and wisdom in running from Stalin before he got to their village, and had an uncle who didn’t make it out and spent 18 years in Siberia. If we add Communist China and Cambodia, the number just about doubles. 120-140 million in the last century. Religion is not responsible for atrocity in the world. And I would submit to you that the philosophy of Christianity is opposed to the actions of those who have claimed to be Christians but have not acted in accord with its principles. But the philosophy of Atheism has no philosophical foundation to defend or discard these expressions of the world without God.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 8, 2007 | Reply

  33. OK… this needs to be said many times, apparently. Atheism is not a philosophy. It is simply the rejection of the claim that God exists. Does rejecting astrology qualify as a philosophy? No. Is rejecting homeopathy a philosophy? No, of course not. And neither is rejecting the idea of a god. I reject many claims. Are you saying that each and every one of those rejections is a philosophy in and of itself? They are not.

    We can talk about my philosophical positions, but we cannot talk about them in terms of what I don’t believe. That list would be prohibitively long, not to mention pointless. We can only talk about my philosophies in terms of what I do believe and my requisite defenses of those positions. Millions of people reject the idea of a god. This doesn’t even remotely suggest that they and I are philosophical bedmates.

    Also Steve, it seems you are slipping into any tiny crack I leave open. I simply meant that most of the world does not see Jesus as the son of God and savior of humanity. I guess only about 2/3 do, by your statistics. Regardless of the stats, I was making a very minor point.

    You, however, have opened a much wider gap by citing all those deaths “in the name of atheism”. Atheism had nothing to do with it. Atheism rejects notions of unreason, specifically theological ones. Precious little in the Gulags or Communist China or Cambodia or Nazi Germany could be considered reasonable by even the furthest stretch of the imagination. The fact that they were not religious regimes is completely beside the point. Hitler also liked to paint. Would you suggest that we do away with painting? They didn’t commit those atrocities because they were not religious. They committed them because they were not reasonable.

    On the other hand the witch trials, inquisitions and crusades were absolutely done in the name of God, as you well know. And the fact that anything like that could have ever been construed as being required (or even condoned!) by Christianity is, at the very least, evidence of just how unclear the perfect word of God is. Those people were unreasonable by today’s standards, but, given their understanding of the bible at that time, their actions were completely rational! They were not unreasonable people by the standards of their time. They truly believed God wanted them to do all those awful things. Why? Because the bible CAN be read that way. The fact that you don’t read it that way is not evidence of God’s grace. Rather it is evidence of an increasingly secular understanding of the world that makes reading the bible in that way utterly unacceptable. I eagerly await the day when the Muslim world wakes up and rejects all the
    unacceptable passages in THEIR bible.

    Still looking forward to your response as to why a God who demands and/or accepts horribly immoral acts can be considered the perfect (or even “a”) giver of morals.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 8, 2007 | Reply

  34. If the above post sounds combative I apologize. It was definitely not my intention. Peace!

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 9, 2007 | Reply

  35. No worries…nature of the beast, sometimes part of the fun and always entertaining, as long as peace rules. Besides, I am a pastor, thick skin and all.

    I am working on a response, but the movie “300” calls so…

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 9, 2007 | Reply

  36. Of course Atheism is a philosophy. Rejecting the idea of God cannot be compared to rejecting the idea of homeopathy. You also cannot say it is not a philosophy in one sense, then argue it’s strengths as a philosophy in another (“Atheism rejects notions of unreason, specifically theological ones”). But I am not hung up on titles, stating your philosophy in the positive, Materialism or naturalism or Naturalistic Materialism or whatever is fine with me. Maybe Shermer defines your position: “a scientific worldview that encompasses natural explanations for all phenomena, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces empiricism and reason as the twin pillars of a philosophy of life appropriate for an Age of Science.”

    OK, let’s see if I can systematically and succinctly put a framework on our discussion:

    1. We disagree on Epistemological method. You claim that science is the only way we have of knowing anything (Is that what you are saying? or do you hold to Shermer’s statement?). I claim that this is unsupportable. Many things are beyond the scope of science, it has limitations. You yourself depend upon logic to arrive at truth when that truth is outside the boundaries of science. Your conclusions about history for instance, although based on evidence, the evidence is of a different sort than scientific evidence. We prove many things true in a court of law that are not scientific, motive for instance. It is truth of a different sort, I understand, but truth nonetheless. I have readily admitted that Science is not my source for belief in God, so I can not prove scientifically that God exists. If God existed, to attempt to prove Him scientifically would be a metaphysical contradiction. It posits that we can understand something transcendentally other than us and greater than we are. Colloquially, God doesn’t lend himself to a microscope.

    I also claim that you violate your own epistemological standard every day. You are a not a pure scientist. You have some rationalism in you, not purely empiricism. That goes into your truth package. You add some sensualism, moralism, aesthetic, mathematical value to your truth package. I am not rejecting an empirical approach, nor am I rejecting science. I think you should recognize this and ask the question of clarity in terms of your own epistemology. I don’t think your claim of pure science is accurate, and that is apart from the theism question.

    (I also try not to “pick and choose” what I believe in opposition to the claims of science and against my rock of dogma. I do resist initially, but work tremendously hard to maintain an open mind. Could I walk away from my faith? I admit it would be extremely difficult from a personally prejudiced standpoint. I have invested time, effort and a lifetime of sacrifice to not just faith but a vocation. I see the “challenge” it would be for me to walk away. That much admitting of error may be more of a man than I am…nonetheless, I am willing to live with the tension that I may be wrong, and I am willing to examine any and all challenges. It is also possible that my faith has blinded me or prejudiced me into rejecting some scientific claims, we are not beyond another Galileo moment. That is not an argument against God, it is an argument against believers being able to totally represent a perfect being and all knowledge. It also warns us of arrogance in our expression.)

    2. You argue the end against the beginning. You raise a whole slew of behavior in the world which we both agree is heinous. You claim that it is caused by Christian beliefs. I raise the slew of behavior that we both agree is heinous on the part of non-religious people. Heinous behavior is not necessarily driven by religion. Maybe there is another cause that exists in people who are both religious and not-religious. That is completely possible. Neither is a necessary component of their philosophy, but really flows from a different center. You don’t want me to make you “bedmates” of the millions of people who don’t believe in God. I choose not to be made the bedmate of those who distort and demolish the faith and church of Christ.

    Are there not bad scientists? Scientists who mishandle logic, mishandle evidence, forgot their contact lenses? These scientists have bias, and live by the false declarations and conclusions that they draw. They even write books. Someone gave me a book today, written by a medical doctor, pushing homeopathic cures for my wife’s rheumatoid arthritis. Does that make science unreliable? Of course not. So the argument of causation has not been proved by you. Religion may not have been the cause, it may have been a vehicle – used for a purpose never intended.

    For every instance of horrible abuse I could raise a noble instance driven by the same “religion.” Is it not reasonable for me to say, “That is not reflective of Christianity, that is not reflective of God”? I think it would be. So arguing in that way is only inflammatory. It doesn’t help you reject theism, or strengthen your argument against theism. All you have done is recognized the evil that resides in the heart of man, expressed in a myriad of ways by all types of people.

    I think you recognize this as well. Dennis Prager, a Jewish talk radio show host, gives this analogy. If you were walking down an alley in LA at night, and approaching you were 10 large men, it would immediately calm you if you knew that they were coming from Bible Study.

    For every instance of abuse, discrimination, atrocity, I can cite 10 instances of redemption, openness, acceptance, charity. It still does not speak for or against the truth or falsity of the original premise.

    Here is another observation. Religion is primarily the home of the less educated and poorer classes of people. Atheism is populated I would guess, by the more educated and higher classes of people (The first statement can be demonstrated, the second I am guessing about). Less educated, poor people are more apt to be manipulated, controlled and used by power hungry and ruthless people. So it makes sense that “religion” would be used to wield power, and sway the masses. Isn’t this what Marx recognized? Again, not an argument against first principles, maybe just an explanation for some of the stupidity done in the name of religion. Boy, I could get in trouble with that statement.

    3. As I respond, I, as you, try to think of your response. And in light of that, parts of #2 are a total detour for both of us.

    4. I slip into any tiny crack you leave open…so are you admitting not sticking to the topic, but diverting my attention with spurious and inflammatory statements? You are guilty of presuming things to be true or relevant without demonstrating their weight to our argument.

    5. The slavery issue is another detour. The slavery practiced in Rome was not necessarily of the same sort as some of the extreme forms of slavery practiced in different cultures and different eras. Again, it has no bearing in this discussion, it simply takes us away from arguing about a first principle. The discussion about the basic existence of God is not disproved by the discussion of world religions or a particular religion’s view of their holy book. Is there a way to compare competing religious views and determine if one is superior to another? Yes. Is that discussion cogent in the argument of theism vs. atheism? No. No matter what explanation I give as to the presence of “immoral” statements or prescriptions in the Bible, it will not be acceptable to you. I contend it is not relevant, at least not at this point.

    Is it necessary for me to prove inerrancy of the Bible to prove God? Would I then not be accused of circularity in my argument? “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Why are you asking me to prove that, when you already know that “moderate” Christians don’t follow those kinds of prescriptions, for whatever reason? Does that not in and of itself demonstrate that you already recognize that “good” Christians are not stoning their daughters? What evidence will you accept? You keep asking for evidence you will not accept in any form.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 10, 2007 | Reply

  37. …working…

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 13, 2007 | Reply

  38. I emailed you…

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 14, 2007 | Reply

  39. OK… back at it…. 🙂

    Your last email was insightful on a personal level, but it did not illuminate for me your reasoning as far as a deity goes. I’m not even sure I am clear what it is exactly you are claiming.

    So, in an attempt to avoid being bogged down in ancillary topics, let’s start with you telling me precisely what you believe about God. Exactly what are you claiming to be true about the creator of the universe? Be specific. List individual claims.

    Afterward, I will be asking you about your reasoning behind each one.

    If this too big a task (as in too many things you believe about God to list individually) then just list the top five or six.

    If you wish to, go ahead and describe your basic reasoning behind each on in the same response. I was only suggesting doing it the other way to keep the size of the response down.

    Before you do all this (if in fact you accept the task) I just want to add a few things. More of a recap of some of the things I have been saying along the way.

    1. I am truly interested in exactly what it is that leads people to the belief that a god exists. Especially since it is so glaringly obvious to me that gods are the creation of humans, and not the other way around. We have written stories about so many gods it simply boggles my mind that anyone today could seriously think that any particular story is really really true.

    2. I vehemently deny that there are no explanations that I will accept regarding the bible or god or anyting else, for that matter. It is true that I haven’t accepted any of yours so far, but that doesn’t mean I won’t accept any. In any case, you have offered very few explanations. We have talked about my philosophical and epistemological positions and yours, but actual explanations and descriptions of your specific beliefs have been conspicuously absent. Hence my request for said information.

    Heck let’s try to keep it nice and neat. Just list one thing. A basic thing. A basic thing you believe about the creator of the universe and why you believe it.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 17, 2007 | Reply

  40. Weekend challenges…working on it.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 18, 2007 | Reply

  41. God is

    God is consciousness/mind

    God is spirit

    God is truth (see Argument for Truth)

    God is love (see Argument from morality)

    God has personality

    To know who or what God is (apart from my appeal to the revelation of Jesus Christ) I appeal to the principle of analogical predication (I will reproduce Huston Smith’s version of it here), a movement from the things observable in the natural world to a picture of God:

    “when we use objects and and concepts from the natural world to symbolize God, the first step is to affirm what is positive in them, the second step is to deny God what is limiting in them; the third step is to elevate their positive features to super eminent degree (that is to say, to the highest point that our imaginings can carry us.”

    I decided to briefly throw out some things I believe about God without really giving any arguments attached, simply a time and energy thing at the moment.

    A few comments. I don’t think I have been illusive about either beliefs or arguments. I don’t think you missed on the blog that I am pretty blatantly a Christian, and a fairly conservative one at that, although my wife affirms my closet liberalism in many areas. I have thrown arguments out, or at least portions of arguments, but your cosmology rejects my approach. I have a cumulative approach, the collection of “stuff “ is impressive to me. Rational arguments already given (Cosmological, Ontological, Teleological)
    Belief in God is a basic belief, foundational and necessary to make sense of all that we see. It is a unifying principle addressing and giving answers for ultimate questions that seem to plague ALL of us. There are difficult questions that are made more difficult when you reject God’s existence.
    I believe that the knowledge of God is innate, self-evident and gladly beg the question here, it is innate because God has placed it within us. The moral argument and the argument for truth are also on the blog although not in the comments section (see Categories: God’s Existence). I certainly haven’t been as exhaustive or systematic as I should or could have, but that seems to be the nature of the venue.

    It seems a little premature to talk about the details of God when we haven’t established his existence. But I can tell you this, when we talk about the existence of God, it is not a fair or rational objection to talk about green spaghetti monsters in the same breath, or to say it is no different to talk about an ultimate being vs. a ridiculous being. That is why I included the analogical predication principle.

    It makes sense that there are many religions. People have an innate sense of God and there is an innate drive to discover this God, or information about this God. The existence of many theories does not preclude that one might be true. The question becomes, if there is a God, why hasn’t he made it more obvious? I think he has in Jesus Christ. I think all sincere searching for God leads to him eventually.

    I have spent effort to talk about epistemological issues because to provide an argument that we can talk about, we have to have common ground about how to discover truth. I think that is an important discussion. Related to this is the avoidance of any appeal to the Bible. Again, this is not avoidance out of embarrassment, simply sticking with a common ground, something that we can both agree has some relevance and credibility in this discussion.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 19, 2007 | Reply

  42. Well Steve, I sent you the proper Word doc. I enjoy both conversations, the one here and the one in email. The email allows us to interject and interweave replies throughout the response. I have found that very interesting. On the downside, it is the fast track to digression, wouldn’t you say?

    The discussion on this forum requires a careful paring down of ones response. A more targeted response, I think.

    I will digest this last post from you and return anon with the ultimate post which will make you and all your friends and family suddenly realize that I have been correct all along. You will abandon you life’s mission and join me in my quest….

    OK, maybe not. But I shall return! 🙂

    Later my friend!

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 20, 2007 | Reply

  43. Do you have room at your commune to accommodate all of us? Very funny, I needed that chuckle after a late night of pre-marital counseling…I am thanking God for our divine encounter.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 20, 2007 | Reply

  44. I’m a little confused. Are you really saying we can’t talk about your specific god claims until WE establish the existence of God? YOU have already established it for yourself, so why can’t we talk about the specific things you have established? It is not premature to talk about these things, far from it. The devil is in the details (I couldn’t resist that one). Because it is only when you start talking about specific truth claims, and expose them to the cold clear light of day, that the utter unsupportablity (to put it mildly) becomes glaringly apparent. In fact the ONLY way to really examine these truth claims is to do so by talking about specific examples.

    And just curious…. you think it’s good there are many religions, do ya? But, don’t you think all Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc. are going to burn in hell for not accepting Jesus as their savior?

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  45. I am confused about your confusion, I listed many particulars but those apparently are not the ones you were looking for.

    It seems silly to talk about the specifics of a god I believe in when you think it is the equivalent of a “green spaghetti monster”.

    It seems silly to talk about the specifics of a god I believe in, and give “evidence” for the nature of that God when you are seeking scientific method details for this examination.

    The details for me come from God. So, it doesn’t surprise me that they would be patently silly to you. He doesn’t exist. Authority is not a source of truth for you, in fact authority as a source of information may be abhorrent to your, I know it is to Dawkins and others. Authority is a source of truth for me. But that is an epistemological question. Until we agree on that, or at least a starting point for that, what is the point? You see that as avoidance of issue, I see it as you deciding beforehand “the utter unsupportability” of a theological position, calling me to say what I believe, then demanding scientific evidence. It seems a category error to me. So all we end up doing is making pithy comments about how stupid this particular doctrinal position is.

    I am questioning your ability to judge truth when I challenge your epistemology. Your mistake is believing that the only way to know things is empiricism.

    So, when I say Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and rules as king of the universe, your retort might be

    Prove it
    I say the Michelin Man rules right next door
    You have no evidence.
    That is inconsistent with the facts….
    It’s circular

    The problem is not that you are not going to demonstrate that to me, it is not glaringly apparent not because I am stubborn (I know I can be), but because I accept a broader epistemological approach, including an appeal to authority and supernatural revelation. I don’t start there, but certainly it is included.

    I am trying to have a discussion with you…you seem to want a discussion with “us”. So you assume I think that many religions are “bad”. Well, not necessarily. And here I will quote from the Bible: “God rewards those who seek Him.”

    Are they going to burn in hell? The idea that precedes this one is whether or not God is just, trustworthy and merciful. I would say yes to all of those things, so any doctrine of hell must be seen in light of those things. Do some people deserve hell? I think your sense of justice would say that some people deserve some sort of justice. Heaven and hell become for me the pictures used to paint the picture of ultimate justice.

    I think Stalin deserves hell. I think that is a just statement. If there is a God, he would be interested in justice, hence the idea of hell has a logical, real purpose – at least in the case of Stalin. Do I believe it is a literal lake of fire located at the center of the earth? no. I think metaphor is used often in the “mythology” to represent the values of justice, etc. However and to whomever that God metes out justice, he is the perfect judge. Whatever is not perfect justice is not of God. My ability to comprehend God’s perfect justice is imperfect.

    The theological concepts of justice and redemption presuppose a need for redemption and justice, that is the “sinfulness” of man (If I remember right a concept you reject which makes it hard to talk about -), so maybe the word shortcomings, crimes, failures, guilt producing behavior would help us talk about them…oh that’s right it won’t. All they are are impulses, learned behavior that needs to be discarded or replaced with other behavior. That leaves no foundation for justice. That does not correspond to our view of reality. If it is true, then I should just abandon my anger at OJ, or if I value justice maybe I should just take matters into my own hands. But we do neither. We expect justice.

    I HAVE given you specifics, a whole list of them. I have given you a process of defining an acceptable view of God, the principle of analogical predication.

    If there is a God, and by definition God would be a Supreme Being, a Perfect Being. How do we know perfection? We know perfection not because we experience it, we have an idea of perfect. That is where math may help us. If we postulate this Supreme Being, then I can attribute perfection to him. You can think of this being, that is why you have a hard time with the alleged inconsistency of his character. I only raise that for definitional purposes – if there is a God, we have a certain idea of what he should look like.

    So, whatever God is (Yahweh, Allah, etc), he is perfect. Whatever is imperfect in any particular religions expression of God is a problem with that religious expression, not with God.

    If there is a God and he is not perfect, if he is weak and capricious and selfish and petty, wag your finger all you want, he would still be God, and you would still be at his mercy.

    If there is a God and he doesn’t have personality, I am going to assume it is no better than materialism, what difference would it make; eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die…

    I have said quite a bit about my beliefs, but if you insist on moving past initial common ground kinds of statements and prefer to talk about my specific beliefs and want to talk about the core and not the periphery, Jesus comprises the highest revelation of God…but I have already expressed this the post “Why I Believe in God”

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  46. Steve,

    I can’t seem to find the post “Why I Believe In God”. I read it on this web site but now I can’t find it.

    However, in my search for that post, I found another post that I would like to dive into… “The Argument For Truth”


    It’s amazing. From my perspective this line of thought is just wacky. It is obvious that “logical” lines of thought like this only find their end because of a pre-existing belief. You already believe God is Truth and so find a way to conclude it.

    On the other hand, from your perspective this logic truly works. It really points to God. It all follows ogically and it makes sense to you. I will attempt to demonstrate why it does not really make any sense.

    TRUTH EXISTS – Wrong, reality exists. Things exist. Matter and energy exist. Concepts like truth do exist in the same way. Love, truth, evil, good, etc. exist only as human thoughts. I can conceive of a spaghetti monster, but that doesn’t mean it exists. The planet Jupiter exists. But if humans were not here to claim that fact to be true, Jupiter would still exist. There is now the urge to say “Yes, but it would still be TRUE that Jupiter exists”. I agree. But it’s not the truth of it that exists, it is Jupiter that exists.

    TRUTH IS IMMUTABLE – I agree…a priori

    TRUTH IS ETERNAL – I disagree and have already addressed this above.

    TRUTH IS MENTAL – I agree, but not the way you explain it. And Clarke is way out in left field with his statement. First, I would say “The existence of truth presupposes the existence of brains. Without a brain, truth could not exist.” There is no evidence the mind exists apart from the brain. So Clarke is talking gibberish. The mind doesn’t exist. The brain does. Truth doesn’t exist except as a concept in, and function of, that brain. So, of course if the brain didn’t exist then materialism and truth would not exist, either. There would be no brain to conceive of them! This kind of reasoning all stems from the belief that “mind” is a real thing that exists apart from the brain. I agree, it feels like this. But again, MANY things feel true and are not true. Our feelings about reality are terrible guides to truth and always have been. There is no evidence at all that “mind” is different rom “brain”. And until such evidence is discovered there is no valid reason to believe otherwise.

    TRUTH IS SUPERIOR TO HUMAN MINDS – I agree our attempts at figuring out what is true are imperfect. But, why does that mean truth has to reside in a higher (smarter) mind? Just because we don’t understand something that means there MUST be another entity out there that does? Sorry, but that’s just nutty.

    TRUTH IS GOD – Of all the arguments for God the ontological argument is the worst, hands down. It’s insane. Basically it says God knows perfect truth because you define him as knowing perfect truth. As Harris points out, ontologically ,the nugat at the center of the sun is definitionally at the center of the sun. That doesn’t mean it is really there.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 26, 2007 | Reply

  47. OOPS… proof read! In the paragraph about TRUTH EXISTS the sentence should read “Concepts like truth do NOT exist in the same way.” Sorry for any catastrophic confusion. 🙂

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 26, 2007 | Reply

  48. You listed particulars. Yes. But I don’t even know what “God is love” means. Love is love. If you want to call it something else that is up to you. But if you are going to do that I can’t see how you get around acknowledging that God is also hate and agony and painful death.

    But, aside from that, your particulars are not the ones I was looking for, you’re right. I suspect you are specifially avoiding them.

    I want to know if you believe Noah really loaded animals into a boat and weathered a global flood.

    I want to know if you believe life evolved on this planet over the last 3.8 billion years.

    I want to know if you believe the earth is young (6000 or 10,000 years old).

    I want to know if you believe Jesus’s mother really didn’t have sex to conceive him.

    I want to know how you can possibly accept a god who told his people to kill their children.

    …or prostitute their daughters.

    …or enslave another human being.

    …or accepted the sacrifice of a man’s daughter in return for letting him win a battle.

    I want to know if you believe Jesus really rose from the dead.

    I want to know if you believe he really performed supernatural “miracles”.

    These are the things I want to know about you, Steve.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | March 27, 2007 | Reply

  49. So, truth doesn’t exist… If truth does not exist, but exists as a human thought, what exists?

    Human thoughts in fact do exist, as does truth. I agree, it is different than material truth like the tree in my yard, that is, it is immaterial. But truth definitely exists. In fact which has more substance, the tree in my yard that will not be there in 1,000 years, or the eternal truth that 2+2=4? Aren’t you making my point if you say that truth doesn’t exist except as a human thought? If you say that truth only exists in human thought, how did it exist before human thought? The very scientific principles necessary for a 3.8 billion year process of evolution had to exist for it to occur. If truth only exists as thoughts, whose thoughts did it exist in?

    I have been clear that I am avoiding the particulars that you raised. I believe in God, therefore the supernatural is not wacky. You don’t believe in God, therefore all these issues are insane.

    But I will indulge you…

    It is not necessary to believe in the global flood to be a Christian. But I do believe that there was a dude named Noah and he built a boat. I believe his world was flooded, and he didn’t know how big the real world was, nor did those people who wrote about it. They didn’t know about America. When they used the word “world” it didn’t mean the same thing it does for us. They were limited. Having said that, there are some Christians who believe that the Noah story is myth, a morality tale if you will. This bothers many, I am not one of those who is bothered by it.

    My religious beliefs have not influenced my views on evolution or the age of the earth. I don’t personally believe in a young earth, nor do I believe it is necessary to my faith in Christ. I don’t know enough about evolution to say one way or another. Contrary to many of my fellow believers, I don’t feel ID or creation science is a necessary component of our faith. Fortunately for me, many of them cannot read and will certainly not read this post. The Bible does not teach science, the creation story is not intended to give us a science template. It teaches us the source and purpose of creation. So I am open to scientific viewpoints and don’t see them as necessarily contradictory to Christianity.

    I believe in the virgin birth.

    I believe in the resurrection.

    I believe that Jesus was able to and did in fact do miraculous things.

    Materialism is unsatisfactory as a synthesizing explanation for all that there is. The issues of truth, love, etc are not explained simply as functions of the brain, it falls short in explaining all that we know about truth and love. So you say truth doesn’t exist and it isn’t eternal. When did 2+2=4 come into being? At the big bang – you mean it wasn’t true before then? Whenever you cannot explain something scientifically you do the same thing you accuse me of – presupposing the truth of your system and fitting your understanding into that mold. You are satisfied with the how question, for me it simply explains mechanism, but it doesn’t explain the why, and is unable to do so, and as such is an inferior way of thinking, and an inferior system. You say that is all we can know, I disagree. There is more that we know, there is more that you know, and you didn’t learn it from science.

    My statement that God is love speaks to the source of morality. It is the explanation that is missing for materialism. You can try to claim it by talking about some evolutionary “purpose” for morality, but it is a difficult issue for your system, at least you can agree with that. I heard Dawkins admit that on one of the videos I watched. “Ought” is not easily explained by materialism.

    I disagree that the ontological argument is the worst, I find it compelling, as have many others. It is comical to reference things like nougats at the center of the sun as the equivalent to the ontological argument for God, but comedy is about it – it doesn’t diminish the argument, and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the argument. You may still dismiss it after you understand it, but at least understand it. A nougat at the center of the sun in no way resembles God. The argument is talking about a logically necessary being, as opposed to contingent beings or entities. To raise a nougat, or an island, or a spaghetti monster simply ignores the argument and instead ignorantly mocks it.

    I also find the argument from design compelling, especially when you take into account the fine tuning necessary to get to where we are now, and to keep it that way. I am not impressed or compelled to chalk it up to accidental means, or to the blind watchmaker. I find that insane.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | March 27, 2007 | Reply

  50. Forming a broader response, but for now… the ontological issue. You find it compelling to define God as perfect and then to say, because it is more perfect to exist than to not exist, He therefore must exist because He is perfect.

    I can conceive of a perfectly round, perfectly smooth 5ft sphere at the south pole of Mars. It is more perfect for the sphere to exist than to not exist. Therefore, the sphere exists on the south pole of Mars.

    How in the world is that complelling? It’s absurd!

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 2, 2007 | Reply

  51. sven,
    I think that you, if you want to be convincing, need to stop the non causa logic that you have been employing in this discussion. I claim that because your proofs have the reason of creating non-relative claims. You see, the study of logic isn’t about what you see as absurd or insane. Its about Validity, soundness of an argument.
    That being said here is an argument that fits.
    In Summa Theologiae, Aquinas offers five arguments for God’s existence, commonly known as the “Five Ways.”
    There are differing degrees of perfection in things. (premise)
    1.If things have differing degrees of perfection, then there is a supreme perfection to which other things approximate. (premise)
    2.The supreme perfection is the cause of all the degrees of perfection in other things. (premise)
    3.Thus, there is something that causes the being and goodness of every perfection in all things, and this is God. (1-3)
    This argument provides sound premises and a valid inferences. The previous argument is merely an example.

    To address those found of science and evolution here is a convincing and solid argument:
    1.In order for life to exist an exact value is needed for almost innumerable laws and constants (premise)
    2. Life exists (premise)
    3. Therefore the planet and universe we live in possess these constant and values in the perfect degree for life (1,2)
    4. It is extremely improbable that all of these laws and constants come together in way that allows life, very near impossible (premise)
    5. Therefore it is probable that there was a designer that brought these laws and constants into agreement allowing life (3,4)

    And to support the previous here is a version of the telogical argument which is quite sold.
    1. X is too (complex, orderly, adaptive, apparently purposeful, and/or beautiful) to have occurred randomly or accidentally.
    2.Therefore, X must have been created by a (sentient, intelligent, wise, and/or purposeful) being.
    3. God is that (sentient, intelligent, wise, and/or purposeful) being.
    4. Therefore, God exists.

    You see, if we attempt to refute argument one must provide logical rebuttals in order to have a logical conclusion— that is something that you have failed to provide.
    Thank you
    God dose exist, your claims cannot disprove that by way of logic, however it is quite possible (as demonstrated) that God can be…Interesting huh?

    Comment by john | April 7, 2007 | Reply

  52. Interesting? Yeah, it’s interesting that only people who already believe in supernatural deities find this kind of mental gymnastics compelling. If this “logic” is so darned solid then why do so so many very intelligent, educated, philosophical, logic oriented people find it utterly ridiculous?

    These arguments have all been noted and dismissed.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 8, 2007 | Reply

  53. Remember… the ones refuting your arguments are generally the same people whose logio brought you quantum theory, general and special relativity …you know… real things.

    And enough about evolution already. Life evolved on this planet. It is a fact. Countless different scientific pathways demonstrate this. They all agree. There is not one scientific specialty that refutes it. There is simply no doubt that it happened and continues to happen. If it did not and does not then none of the knowledge we have acquired through science can be deemed reliable. But over and over again science has been shown to be a highly valid method of discovery. Observing the world scientifically works. Mulitiple scientific disciplines confirm the fact that life evolved on this planet over the last 3.5 billion years. There are a couple different theories regarding specific aspects of it, but none require the employment of a god.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 8, 2007 | Reply

  54. I could reverse your statement in the following way:

    “it’s interesting that only people who already dis-believe in supernatural deities find this kind of argument ridiculous. If this “logic” is so darned silly then why do do so many very intelligent, educated, philosophical, logic oriented people find it compelling?”

    You’ve said nothing of substance. “We’re smarter than you” is not a good response. Einstein wasn’t an atheist (I am not claiming him as a Christian), he didn’t think atheism was compelling, nor did he find belief in God ridiculous.

    “These arguments have all been noted and dismissed.”

    Exactly, not refuted, simply dismissed based on your bias and presuppositional starting point.

    Theists are not opposed to science. You speak as if they are. Again, I refer you to Einstein from this week’s Time Magazine article on Einstein and Faith,9171,1607298-1,00.html:

    “But throughout his life, Einstein was consistent in rejecting the charge that he was an atheist. “There are people who say there is no God,” he told a friend. “But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.” And unlike Sigmund Freud or Bertrand Russell or George Bernard Shaw, Einstein never felt the urge to denigrate those who believed in God; instead, he tended to denigrate atheists. “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos,” he explained.

    “In fact, Einstein tended to be more critical of debunkers, who seemed to lack humility or a sense of awe, than of the faithful. “The fanatical atheists,” he wrote in a letter, “are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who–in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’– cannot hear the music of the spheres.”

    “Einstein later explained his view of the relationship between science and religion at a conference at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. The realm of science, he said, was to ascertain what was the case, but not evaluate human thoughts and actions about what should be the case. Religion had the reverse mandate. Yet the endeavors worked together at times. “Science can be created only by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding,” he said. “This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion.” The talk got front-page news coverage, and his pithy conclusion became famous. “The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | April 11, 2007 | Reply

  55. Steve, I know you accept much of what has been discovered through science. I was responding to John, who apparently does not. Those “logical” steps of his, or Aquinas or whomever, are just nonsense. “…differing degrees of perfection in things”?? Once again, this totally redefines the word “perfect”. I thought “perfect” was an absolute. Something is either perfect or it isn’t. Like “pregnant”. The old joke about being a little bit pregnant is funny because it is absurd. So is being a little bit perfect. Not to mention that perfection is a completely subjective judgement. It was Aquinas’ opinion perhaps, but there is nothing scientific or logical about it.

    Here is another example of someone who believes a certain thing to be true (God) and then twists the parts of science he likes into his own little mold and disregards the rest. That tired stuff about the fine tuning of the universe has been addressed over and over. It simply doesn’t fly, and for many reasons. The main one being, once again, believer’s cavalier willingness to accept the idea of a perfect thing being necessary to account for the universe because they view the universe as being “too perfect” and nothing can be perfect, except this god we dreamed up (excuse me – ALL these gods we have dreamed up). He alone can be perfect and we have no problem at all with stopping right there and totally reversing ourselves and our “logic” by claiming that something can indeed be perfect. That stopping point is completely arbitrary. How do you go on with your life and not think “Hey… what if my god was created by an even bigger god?”

    This brings me back to the ontological notion that your god must exist simply because you can imagine a concept of something being greater than everything else. This one drops my jaw. Do you really… honestly… cross your heart and hope to die believe that something must logically exist in reality just because you can imagine it in your head?

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 14, 2007 | Reply

  56. Sevn,
    “These arguments have all been noted and dismissed.” Can you please show me how the have been dismissed; perhaps, you can provide a logical proof that counters the assertions placed by the theological argument and the Aquinas’s fifth way. Sevn, by reading your arguments I have noticed an interesting patter, which is as follows:
    I don’t agree with X
    X cannot be refuted by any logic that I know of.
    X is against my beliefs
    So X should be dismissed
    Therefore, I will dismiss X.
    This is obviously a prime example of pooh-pooh fallacy and ignoring the counter evidence. I have not seen any logical argument presented by you proving that God doesn’t exist, all I have seen are illogical stipulations with no evidence.
    The beauty of our position is that it is almost ironclad; you see, science and facts are defining characteristics of the theological argument. Every time a pattern, a fact, a law or what ever is discovered it shows design and purpose! Thus, God exist.

    Comment by john | April 17, 2007 | Reply

  57. Well John, I am truly sorry you read all my writings on this page in that way. I certainly do not. I don’t believe Steve does, either.

    First of all… and mainly… you show a complete ignorance of the core discussion on here between Steve and me. You have not seen any logical arguments from me proving that God doesn’t exist because none can ever be made. For you to not understand that very basic starting point is illuminating. As I have stated repeatedly, the proof burden regarding God sits squarely upon the shoulders of the ones claiming He exists.

    You are claiming He exists therefore you need to provide proof of that, if you have any. I need only tell you if I agree with it or not, and if I don’t, tell you why not.

    As to your two “proofs” that you put forth in your first post I have already begun to address the first. “…differing degrees of perfection”?? That sentence is meaningless unless you redefine the word perfect to suit your needs.

    As to step two, “2.The supreme perfection is the cause of all the degrees of perfection in other things. (premise)” You are imagining a supreme perfection (whatever that means)… that does not mean one actually exists in reality. So if that is your premise it’s a very weak one. It’s just gibberish, actually. I’m sorry, but what you are saying there just doesn’t make any sense. For a proof to actually prove something the proof must, at the very least, make sense. So you can start off by explaining exactly what “differing degrees of perfection” means.

    As for the second proof… John, you need only do a quick Google search to find the many web pages with cogent responses to that very played argument of yours. The refutations to your arguments enjoy a very public existence. You don’t believe them. I understand that. I can only assume that by the way you keep pounding away at the same things you find to be proofs.

    This is a call and response. You call that God exists and you say why you believe it. If you keep shouting the same calls you will keep getting the same responses from people like me.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 18, 2007 | Reply

  58. Steve, I’d like to offer as my next installment a quote from a recent online debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan….

    “If God loves the world, he has a terribly noncommittal way of showing it. Why rig a silly game in which only the poorly educated and mentally unbalanced are perfectly tuned to glimpse the truth of your existence, while smart, well-adjusted, and well-educated people (like yourself) must wrestle with doubt, barricade themselves behind euphemism, and cling to spurious “mysteries” to keep from tumbling into unbelief? You beckon me to a world in which George Bush and James Dobson have an effortless bead on the deepest conceivable truth; meanwhile, 93 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences may well be doomed for eternity by their skepticism. It’s hard for me to imagine that this scenario seems even remotely plausible to you–but this is Christianity at a glance. I am not the first to notice that it is a strange sort of loving God who would make salvation depend upon a person’s ability to believe in him on bad evidence.” Sam Harris

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 18, 2007 | Reply

  59. Sven,
    Thank you for addressing my concerns. Obviously, you don’t understand Aquinas, and I am not about to spend five pages of comments to explain him. However, provides some interesting insight into this proof. Now, the theological argument currently has a lot of criticism, but no FORMAL logical refutation of its validity or soundness. Thus, that syllogism seems proof, but not enough to satisfy the pleading necessity for empirical evidence that you have expressed. You seem to be searching for, like I previously stated, some form empirical evidence. That seem difficult due to following reasons: 1. You believe since refutes God’s existence; thus that cannot be used as justification. 2. You don’t seem to accept metaphysical reasons for the existence of deity, so mysticism will not work. 3. You don’t pay attention to logic or any possible rationalistic claim for the existence of God; thus, any syllogism or like evidence will not work. It follows that any one that attempt to give you your “proof or evidence” for God is in a state of false dilemma.

    A syllogism can be employed to help in my attempts to illuminate the possible existence of God
    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    2.1 Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite:
    2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist.
    2.12 An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
    2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
    2.2 Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition:
    2.21 A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
    2.22 The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
    2.23 Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence
    4. That cause is God.

    Comment by john | April 18, 2007 | Reply

  60. So…. God is not actually infinite? (2.11)

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 19, 2007 | Reply

  61. This argument keeps popping up and I still don’t understand how you get around the fact that you have a blatant contradiction within it. You claim an infinite cannot exist and then you propose an infinite to account for it. How does this make sense to you?

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 23, 2007 | Reply

  62. The silence is deafening…

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 25, 2007 | Reply

  63. Patience is a virtue. Arrogance is not.

    Life is hectic right now and blogging is lower on the priority list…

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | April 25, 2007 | Reply

  64. LOL… Sorry, Steve. I was prodding. OK, get back to me whenever.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | April 26, 2007 | Reply

  65. Sven,
    Thanks for your patience. Life has truly been out of control busy…

    Your last quote from Sam Harris was interesting, but unconvincing. Why would it compel me to know that a lot of smart people disagree with me? Certainly we are not engaging in a majority rules approach.

    Harris also simply misunderstands the story. For someone so “smart” he demonstrates a complete lack of comprehension of the religious view and message. Maybe that is intentional, the mockery seems to be an indelible part of his presentation. This appeals to some, but not all doubters and thinkers about reality, religion, origins and endings. We all know sophisticated people who are utterly foolish, and we wouldn’t listen to them or emulate them. We also know simple people who are eminently wise and would give anything to be as contented and happy as they are. All Harris is saying is that there are a lot of stupid people out there to which I can heartily add an amen – it doesn’t add anything to the argument. Certainly all any of us can truly be convinced of is our ignorance (Socrates???).

    I think the biggest differences between us are our starting points (presuppositions) and our particular favoritism for science (you) and philosophy (me). I am interested in metaphysics and you find no use for metaphysics. I don’t know if that is a chasm we can bridge.

    For me, the scientific describes the mechanism. I think there is more than science that contributes to our truth and knowledge. Different sorts of truth, but yet truth nonetheless. I believe in a soul, an immaterial part of man. You say it is simply electrical impulses in the brain. I can appreciate the mechanism, but I am not satisfied that because you can explain how it works you have dismissed its existence.

    It has been a long time since I have responded, I feel I am jumping into stuff we have hashed through already, and I certainly don’t think I have answered your questions to your satisfaction – and I am not familiar with John’s argument and terminology so I will leave that alone.

    So, let me ask you some questions, not to change the subject (we both have demonstrated the ability to multi-discuss):

    Do you ever doubt your materialism? Do you ever think that there is something more to you than biological functioning?
    Do you ever despair that the end of your life is approaching? How are you planning on “manning up” as Sam Harris requires of atheists facing death?

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | May 5, 2007 | Reply

  66. Steve,

    I need to go to sleep, but I will give a couple quick answers then flesh them out in a day or two.

    Do I ever doubt my materialism or biological functioning? I don’t know if doubt is the right word. Maybe “question” is a better word. Or maybe even “examine”. Be we can never really examine that which we cannot perceive. It is of course always possible that we are not really material beings and that this world we see is all illusion. But, as I have said, if that is true then we can never “know” anything.

    Do I ever dispair about the end of my life? Um…. no.

    How am I planning on manning up and facing death? I haven’t really given it much thought – maybe only because I am not presently facing it. All I know is that I WILL die. It may only feel like falling asleep. It may feel very painful. I guess it all depends on how I go.

    More later….. sleep now.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | May 9, 2007 | Reply

  67. I want to clarify my response to the first question. I was a little vague, I think. What I mean is I can examine my exsistence, but only in so far as what I can perceive with my five senses. If my exsistence has some other nature that I cannot perceive then I cannot examine that aspect of it. I can imagine a host of things, but the only evidence I have about my exsistence is what I can hear and see, etc.

    Now, I will freely admit that I cannot grasp the idea that when I die everything just stops. I cannot imagine experiencing nothing – or rather… not experiencing, period. (Although I must say when I sleep I am not conscious of my experience. So I guess I am saying that I cannot imagine consciously experienceing nothing…. which makes absolutely no sense! LOL.)

    But, my inability to wrap my head around the idea of nothingness is in no way evidence one way or the other about what happens to me after I die. It is merely indicative of the limitations of my knowledge and imagination. So, it may be that consciousness continues after death and maybe forever. But no one on this earth knows if that is true or not. We can only imagine what happens to our consciousness after we die.

    So, no, I never doubt my materialism. I see things that are really there. I am really here. These walls are real. The moon is real. We can imagine many alternative realities, but look at the overwhelming, constant and congruent input we get from all of our senses that this material world really exists compared to our minds’ wanderings about the supernatural. There is simply no comparison. There is no reason to believe that anything other than this world we experience every minute of every day really exists.

    This is why I maintain that neither philosophy or religion or anything except imperical evidence gives ua any knowledge about the physical world. Let me emphasize… the physical world. Philosophy is great for illustrating ideas, but it does not further our knowledge about our physical reality one bit.

    All this is why I am completely baffled by the fact that you admit you have no empirical evidence of a supernatural creator and yet you believe it to be true. You doubt your materialism and yet you have no evidence to support that doubt except a selected book of stories and your imagination.

    I hope this answers your question. And BTW, if you don’t doubt your materialism then please disregard the last paragraph.

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | May 11, 2007 | Reply

  68. Also, Harris was not trying to compel you by saying a lot of smart people disagree with you. He was simply asking why God would require belief in the truth of His existence for eternal salvation and then make that truth overwhlemingly more obvious to the less intelligent and less educated among us, creating a hell full of scholars and geniuses… not to mention Muslims and Jews and Hindus and…

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | May 11, 2007 | Reply

  69. Hey Sven,

    I don’t doubt my materialism, I doubt my ability to correctly interpret the totality of my experience or my universe. I can get glimpses of it, but rightly interpreting the evidence is a dicey proposition. Our empirical limitations are huge, and so it seems to me that they must be viewed for what they are: all we can see, hear, smell and taste.

    All of us interpret our empirical data. Those interpretations are based on a lot of things, including philosophy. When I say that I cannot prove God empirically, that doesn’t mean that the empirical evidence cannot be explained by God, or credited to Him. But I didn’t see Him do it. That is all I am saying by that.

    We can know more than we can sense. We can’t taste, see, smell, hear or touch “four.” But we know and agree that there is such a thing as “four.” Even your cogitating about nothingness is beyond empiricism. But we can talk about “nothing.” It has meaning. Infinity is also one of those ideas beyond empiricism. Both of us are stuck with it. You say the universe always existed, I am not satisfied with non-intelligent material as being the substance of infinity, that is for me, Mind or what I call God.

    Harris’ comment is odd to me. If you are going to concede the existence of God for the sake of argument, He is what He is. It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not. He is what He is. If He is capricious, he is capricious. If he wants to appeal to the ignorant and ignore the intelligent, it is what it is. That would be the prerogative of God. This is why I avoid arguing at this level for the existence of the Christian God – that argument is premature here. If we both believed in God we could begin to discuss what kind of God he is. But your objections to this hypothetical God seem to me to be off the subject, that is, pointing out apparent inconsistencies in belief systems, or ideas you don’t like as arguments against the general idea of theism. You think that the multiplicity of religious expression mitigates against God’s existence. It doesn’t.

    Having said that I reject Harris’ assumption that only the “poorly educated and mentally unbalanced are perfectly tuned to glimpse the truth of (God’s) existence.” He has not proved that connection. Maybe his analysis of why the numbers in the National Academy of Sciences are skewed against God has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with arrogance. Maybe it has to do with their overwhelming and a priori allegiance to radical epistemological empiricism which forces them into this position. That is not a function of intelligence. Maybe it has to do with their narrow view of their intelligence and self-sufficiency that feebly clings to its own “godness.” There could be any number of explanations for this statistic. Even if it is connected to intelligence it says nothing about the existence of God.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | May 11, 2007 | Reply

  70. Steve,

    Glad to know you are confident in your materialism. Also glad to know you doubt your ability to interpret everything totally and correctly. Luckily science has developed a solid structure for navigating these shortcomings. Not a perfect structure.

    Empirical evidence can be attributed to God, true. It can also be attributed to two gods… or a hundred… we’ve been here.

    Yeah, we cannot taste “four”. But we would have no concept of 4 unless we could hear taste smell…etc. All of our concepts are outgrowths of our five senses. The big five are all we got!

    I do not now nor have I ever claimed that the universe always existed. You have put these words in my mouth before. I do not hold this position. What I have said is I don’t get why people who have trouble with an infinite universe have no problem at all with an infinite god. You obviously have no problem with infinity. You just can’t believe that what you can see hear taste…. can be infinite. I am not claiming it IS infinite. I am claiming there is no evidence it is NOT infinite. I know you understand the distinction in the latter and yet you still attribute the former to me.

    Harris was not basing his statement on the NAS alone. Large scale studies consistently show a direct, negative correlation between education and religiosity. It’s a fact. The more educated you are, the less likely you are to believe. We are, of course, free to interpret the data, but it seems strange (comical) to me that a god would create beings that increased their chances of going to hell for eternity with every class they took and every book they read (except for one). If He exists He obviously is what He is. So, what? The point is that claims about Him are wildly inconsistent and whenever questions like the one above are raised they are dismissed with flippant comments like “He is what He is”.

    Arrogance? Do you really believe all those scientists dismiss the notion of a god out of arrogance? They also dismiss the notion of three headed monkeys on Mars. Do you think they do that out of arrogance, too? I’ll tell you what arrogance is; arrogance is claiming to know things you have no way of knowing.

    “…overwhelming and a priori allegiance to radical epistemological empiricism which forces them into this position”

    Wow. Well I’ll tell ya, this “radical epistemological empiricism” has shown itself to be mighty handy. And is it still such a radical idea to require empirical evidence before believing something to be true about this physical world? Your statement is correct, though. When faced with the available evidence – the evidence from our five senses, we are forced to concede that gods do not exist.

    Why do we both have to believe He exists in order to discuss your claims about Him? Your claim that He exists is what started this whole thread. You think that’s not what we’re talking about? Of course it is.

    Hey, I got a wild idea for an experiement. Let’s each describe, in as fine a detail as possible, the position of the other regarding God, existence, epistemology, …etc. Just to see if we are really listening to each other. We can flip a coin to see who goes first. No fair rereading the thread!

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | May 12, 2007 | Reply

  71. Now you can see my picture, too!

    Comment by sven62 | May 12, 2007 | Reply

  72. Soon…

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | May 12, 2007 | Reply

  73. There it is!

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | May 12, 2007 | Reply

  74. I’m game.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | May 14, 2007 | Reply

  75. You were heads…. it was tails. So, I will go first. I’m at work now but I will get to it soon!

    Comment by Sven Bridstrup | May 16, 2007 | Reply

  76. I am coming into this a year late, I see.

    I agree with Sven that getting one’s head around nothingness is a tall order. Steve’s arguments, on the other hand, are problematic. You say, Steve, that one can talk about nothing and that it has meaning. How so? We cannot imagine not being conscious. We can see someone else not being conscious, but not actually BEING conscious.

    And that is precisely the problem that humans have: the unknowingness of what happens when we die. So religion is there to help us believe that when we die we don’t just end. It is serving its function, so it seems.

    Comment by Ron | April 17, 2008 | Reply

  77. Hey Ron,

    Wow, it has been some time that I have revisited this post and discussion. Thanks for visiting.

    I have perused the discussion and cannot find my comments about “nothing” having meaning. So I will take your word for it and look again later, but nothing does have meaning. We can talk about the idea of “nothing” can we not? We are doing so now, and we can even probably agree about its definition.

    Is it true that we cannot imagine being unconscious? I think we can imagine that, but I am not seeing the point you are making.

    Death really is a puzzle for us.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | April 19, 2008 | Reply

  78. Good to get a reply, Steve. I thought I was whistling into the void 🙂

    I don’t think that being able to talk about something necessarily means it exists. We can talk about unicorns, but that doesn’t mean that they exist. For “nothing” to exist, it would have to be something. If it is something, then it isn’t nothing. Talking about it immediately presents the problem of “it”, for “nothing” certainly isn’t “it”: “it,” after all, is of necessity something. And I doubt very much that we can come up with a definition of “nothing”, never mind agreeing on it.

    Yes, death is a puzzle for us. This is the point I was making. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, imagine being unconscious. We cannot imagine what it is to not exist. And that makes death so horrific: the thought of just ending. It is so much easier to imagine something happening after death – a paradise of some sort, or reincarnation, or whatever. Anything to avoid the nothingness of no being.

    Comment by Ron | April 22, 2008 | Reply

  79. “Nothing exists” would be a contradiction. I don’t think I said “nothing exists” rather that nothing has meaning. We can define and discuss it. That is, it has meaning. Just because we cannot agree on its meaning does not mean it is meaningless, just as the word meaningless can be defined.

    I don’t know what the point is though…Sven and I were talking about the existence of God. At least I was, Sven was talking about the silliness of the concept or the attempt. Mostly I was trying to talk about epistemological issues. So my point with Sven about “nothing” is that it is beyond empiricism to talk about nothing (or being unconscious) as it is beyond the scientific method. If you have read the long interchange this was the main point. There are some things not subject to science. I accused Sven of Scientism which I see as inadequate to explain all that we are and experience and conceive.

    Since we can talk about “nothing” and even conceive of “nothing” even though we cannot experience it opens up a door to the discussion of things outside empiricism.

    As to unicorns. Since I don’t know where you are coming from I will not ascribe this way of arguing to you, but postulating silly things like green spaghetti monsters or other kinds of things that are imaginary and silly are not good objections to the ontological argument.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | April 22, 2008 | Reply

  80. It is difficult to refute an argument that is based on the fact that it can’t be discussed because they it is “outside empiricism.” In a different way, Wittgenstein maintained that there are some matters that we don’t have the language to discuss. It is a good way to stop discussions and is, in my opinion, a different angle to Popper’s dictum about a theory being good only if there is the possibility of refuting it.

    I agree with you that “nothing exists” is a contradiction. I do not agree, though, that “nothing” has meaning. What is its meaning? Perhaps it is that nothing is the absence of everything. That, of course, has large theological repercussions, that basically render God meaningless. Meaningless as inm non-existence.

    You say we can define “nothing”. You also, presumably, say that we can define God. I maintain that we cannot actually define either. We can define God only in the terms that He defines Himself, which is somewhat circular.

    My point about unicorns was to query “existence”, but since we are not getting into ontology (at least I think we aren’t), we don’t have to go down the path of “imaginary” concepts.

    Comment by Ron | April 23, 2008 | Reply

  81. I read every post so far. Interesting. I am a Christian who has often wondered about proving the existence of God. So far I have concluded that when you do prove, via empirical Scientific observations, that God exsist. You probaly have observed, located, detected and discovered something that is not God.

    Comment by G-man | April 23, 2008 | Reply

  82. Ron no one is saying that we can’t discuss anything outside of empiricism except empiricists, then they proceed to talk about it, like the concept of nothing. I am not an empiricist (that doesn’t mean I don’t argue at times using Empirical argumentation) and I think we can have discussions about things outside empiricism. I think you are confused about this, that seems to be the crux of the issue. I think we can have a non-Empirical discussion and make conclusions about something like God, you don’t (I think, I don’t want to put words in your mouth).

    I suggest an article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entitled Rationalism vs. Empiricism

    Ron, what are we talking about? it has been a year since I have been embroiled in this thread and as you can see it was mostly a two way conversation between Sven and me. What do you want to talk about?

    The whole post began with the Plantinga and he has offered a version of the Ontological Argument for God’s existence and that became a major thread through these comments so I think ontology would be the a most appropriate topic of conversation.

    G-man…reading every post is impressive. Once we accept the existence of God, that he is real, we can talk about Empirical stuff showing us the character and nature of God (his invisible attributes namely his eternal power and divine nature clearly perceived in the things that have been made to quote Paul). But you are right, that would not in and of itself be God. But then we travel into the discussion of transcendence and imminence.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | April 23, 2008 | Reply

  83. I have an intersesting question for all Christians who are participating in this argument. Would you accept the same level of evidence, that we use to prove the existence of God, if you were the suspect in a capitol murder case? Would you allow the prosecution to play by the same rules and level of evidence that would be used against you, if you life were on the line? Interested in your responses.

    Comment by G-Man | April 23, 2008 | Reply

  84. Steve, I have no problem discussing God. The point is whether you wish to discuss God in the understanding that He exists or go back one step to a discussion of God’s existence. Like the concept of “nothing”, we have a problem as soon as we use “is”, since that implies existence. You agree that “nothing” does not exist, yet do not apply that logic to God.

    G-Man, you imply that once one sees God, it is not God that one sees.

    Comment by Ron | April 26, 2008 | Reply

  85. Logic does not equal non-sense.

    Discussing God and discussing “nothing” are not equivalents. It is ignorant to make them equivalents. Nothing by definition is non-existent. Applying that “logic” to God would not be logical, it is question begging. This whole post (comments) I have been trying to discuss the arguments for God’s existence without presupposing his existence. That is why I resisted Sven’s criticisms of Christianity as an argument against the existence of God. I conceded and added my personal “reasons” for faith which is a much different process than presenting an argument for God’s existence and I think that distinction is clearly made in the comments.

    Ron said:
    “You agree that “nothing” does not exist, yet do not apply that logic to God.”

    ????Surely I am not the only one baffled by that statement. What are you saying: “nothing” does not exist, god is nothing therefore God does not exist? Is this the logical progression you are asking me to apply? Is that the only “is” we can use about God: God is nothing? If so, you need to pick it up a level.

    The issue here is whether we can have a discussion about that which is outside empirical observation. That is an epistemological discussion that precedes any discussion we can have about God’s existence (or non-existence if that makes you feel better).

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | April 27, 2008 | Reply

  86. Steve, I did not say that God is nothing. What I did refer to is “is”, which as soon as you use it, means that the subject exists. Let me extend it: If I say “a unicorn is…” it means that I am referring to something that we agree exists. A unicorn exists on paper and in our imaginations. We know what a unicorn looks like, and so “exists” in that sense. With God, though, we need to go further in our description, the moment we say “God is…” We are then assuming that God exists, even though there are those who will disagree even on that fundamental.

    How does one draw a picture of God? For Jews it would be impossible, while for Christians perhaps a picture of Jesus would do it. But for non-Christians or non-believers, that picture would not represent God. We would still be left with the problem of “God is…” that carries within itself the actual belief.

    Comment by Ron | April 28, 2008 | Reply

  87. I just noticed that somebody said it long before me. It is the logical problem with ineffability that was noted by Augustine, “God should not be said to be ineffable, for when this is said something is said. And a contradiction in terms is created, since if that is ineffable which cannot be spoken, then that is not ineffable which is called ineffable”. To say that X is ineffable is to say something about X, which contravenes ineffability. This problem has been raised anew by Alvin Plantinga (which is where this discussion started) and Keith Yandell.

    Comment by Ron | April 28, 2008 | Reply

  88. At the very least I can say God is in the same way I can speak of a unicorn. Your point is inane.

    There is no problem with the statement God is…. regardless of his actual existence. I am not presupposing God’s existence in my attempts to “prove” his existence. There is an idea of God. The question is: does the idea have a reference point in reality? Isn’t that why we are having this discussion, or are you a figment of my imagination as well?

    Are we discussing God’s existence or our inability to describe issues beyond empiricism: God; death; unconsciousness etc. Does our inability to express necessitate meaninglessness?

    If Augustine is appropriate for our discussion how about Paul:

    Romans 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;

    1 Corinthians 2:11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

    But that would be assuming he exists and you want to carry the discussion back a step.

    Ron, you are presupposing his non-existence as much as I might be presupposing his existence. So is not your “God is not” the equivalent of my “God is”?

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | April 29, 2008 | Reply

  89. Steve, I am not presupposing anything. That is the point. It is you who is assuming that God exists, and so it is you who has to prove it. You need to prove existence; I do not need to prove non-existence.

    What surprises me is that God would hide Himself so well that humans need to go into philosophical and scientific discussions in order to find if He even exists. Surely if he wanted us to know Him, He would make it easier for us. After all, it’s not, surely, the point of life to discover his existence but to follow Him. It seems a strange way of ordering the world, especially as God is infallible and knows what we are going to do. And no, free will is not an option, since that would mean that God does not know something.

    Comment by Ron | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  90. “I am not presupposing anything”
    You’re kidding right? The only person on the planet with an intact tabula rasa? Of course you are presupposing many things, all of us are. The issue is our ability or inability to judge the value of our presuppositions, conclusions, belief systems and our ability to make sense of what we perceive.

    Your very next paragraph reflects your assumptions, let me summarize the assumption: “if there is a god he would be easier to find”. The assumption is that “god” by definition would be easy to find. These ideas that god is good…or that he is ordered or infallible or omniscient (which I believe) are irrelevant to the first discussion of existence. Rejection of Christianity, Islam or any other religious system is not the same as proving God does not exist.

    In order to have a discussion we have to have some sort of common ground on which to have the discussion. For you and I, that common ground has to be a beginning point and we still have not agreed upon a common epistemological starting point.

    Atheists make this statement regularly and I find it intellectually dishonest: “You need to prove existence; I do not need to prove non-existence.” If you do not need to prove it, why are we having this discussion? Why do you care if I am deluded and whether or not I can influence others to be deluded? I often say: “idiocy speaks for itself.” So let me be an idiot, it should say everything that needs to be said. My contention is that it is not “idiocy” and has therefore demanded the attention of people like Harris, et al. Atheism is a worldview that like any other worldview, should be defended. You say you don’t need to prove non-existence yet work at proving it. One reason you do so is that God’s non-existence is not self-evident. Another reason you do so is that Theism is the predominant world-view and you want it to be otherwise, you want to belong to an enlightened humanity.

    I am willing to speak for my position and defend it. That is what this post is all about. You may not accept my reasoning, but at least admit there is a legitimate attempt made, and many of them throughout history and philosophy. What surprises me is that in the same comment you can claim to “make no assumptions” and then assume that God does not exist. You cannot have it both ways.

    Free will? where did that come from? You have not had a discussion with me about free will (I don’t believe that humanity has such a thing), and I am not sure how it is relevant to a discussion (or are we having a non-discussion) of God’s potential existence.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | May 5, 2008 | Reply

  91. Not only do I not have to prove non-existence, I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to. Why should I have to disprove the existence of, say, little green men from Mars? And how could I? Just because you say you have seen them, would you then challenge me to prove that they don’t exist?

    Why am I assuming the God exists if I question the characteristics that He must have? On the contrary, I am questioning His existence by showing the unlikelihood of His hiding Himself.

    As to why we are having this discussion, well it is, surely, so that you can prove God’s existence. Of course it doesn’t matter to me whether you are deluded (or not). But don’t you want to prove to anyone and everyone that non-believers are deluded?

    Even if you are right that “Theism is the predominant world-view” (which is not necessarily correct and would, in any case, depend on whether you define “theism as monotheism), why does my not being a theist make me “want to belong to an enlightened humanity.”? Actually, I would much prefer to be part of a majority if its views made sense to me. As for an argument against my views, it was rather weak, don’t you think?

    I agree with you that humanity does not have free will. How does that square with the notion of sin and punishment? Why would God punish someone for a sin that the perpetrator had no choice but to perform? The onus is on you to prove the existence of a God who knows what we are going to do but punishes us nevertheless for doing it.

    Of course I accept that are genuine attemps made to prove the existence of God. I am, though, having difficulties in being convinced.

    Comment by Ron | May 6, 2008 | Reply

  92. I don’t know what your views are…

    Ron said:
    “Why should I have to disprove the existence of, say, little green men from Mars?”

    Making an appeal to the ridiculous (logical fallacy) does not disprove anything. I have never said that I see them. Neither have you said that you do. What is the point of this statement other than to say: The idea of God is ridiculous. The existence of little green men or spaghetti monsters is not the equivalent of saying that God exists.

    And the fact of the matter is that we can prove that little green men do not exist on Mars. The difference in the discussion regarding God is that we are talking about the existence of a “necessary”.

    Ron said:
    “Why am I assuming the God exists if I question the characteristics that He must have? On the contrary, I am questioning His existence by showing the unlikelihood of His hiding Himself.”

    Fascinating statement in light of your criticism. According to you He doesn’t exist, meaning he doesn’t have any characteristics. But you believe he doesn’t exist based on characteristics he must have if he existed. Why must God have these characteristics? So take your little green men. It really doesn’t matter if we change the color to red or blue or purple, or make them something other than “men”. They are mythical and up for debate, in fact we can make up many different kinds of men.

    But, when it comes to God it is objectionable to say that he might be unjust, or hidden, or capricious. So the concept of God is certainly more substantive than spaghetti monsters behind Saturn. That is why the idea of God won’t go away, no matter how much we evolve. There is something to this idea that is uniquely different than the idea of unicorns.

    Now having said that, multiple ideas about God (even conflicting ideas) do not negate the possibility of his existence. Just because many are wrong about the details does not mean there is no God. So whether or not God has hid himself is not an argument.

    My argument against your views is weak by default. I don’t know what they are.

    Ron said:
    “But don’t you want to prove to anyone and everyone that non-believers are deluded?”

    I want to know what is true. I think that there is much delusion (falling short of truth) in many camps. Believe me when I say it is more painful to listen to Christians talk than I want to admit. I find that a major problem today is that we treat one another according to “camp” rather than as humans, which a universal category. Now I admit that Christians can be the worst culprits in the us vs. them game but I try to connect with people at the common denominator of our humanness, and listen very carefully to try and discern truth. So I read Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Shermer, et al to continuously challenge my assumptions, beliefs and preconceived notions – and I am sure I have many of them that are deficient to truth. Don’t you feel the same way?

    I think that one thing that empiricism proves is that humanity has very little to be “proud” about. We are small in stature seemingly hidden away in a tiny corner of the universe that we can barely begin to comprehend. So as I mentioned somewhere in this post of comments, humility seems to be the most important attitude to accompany the philosophical journey. I see little of it on both sides of the argument. I even find it creeping through in my discussion with you…my apologies. I certainly don’t want that to be the tenor of our discussion. Cyberspace can be “the Temple” of hubris.

    Doesn’t your worldview deserve a defense?

    My comment about wanting to belong to an enlightened humanity was generic not personal. I think all of us would like to be part of the enlightened, whatever that means, and it discourages us to see diminished humanity whether in behavior or intellect. I was not implying that you wanted to belong to the club of theists so that you would be enlightened, rather that you wanted to belong (as all of us) to an enlightened whole and theism is embarrassing to you. That is why the discussion is important to you. I do think it matters to you whether or not I am deluded.

    Comment by Steve Bagdanov | May 6, 2008 | Reply

  93. I am wondering if the discussion is as important to me as it is to you. I cannot, of course, deny psychological motivations within us, so that any belief is rooted as much in ourselves as to “the truth”. As far as I am aware, it does not matter to me whether you are deluded; I think it matters more to me whether *I* am deluded.

    I think that it would be wonderful if God existed, since it would generally make life simpler. It would certainly make the thought of death more bearable. Is that what you mean about “the existence of a “necessary.”? But surely the fact that something is necessary, does not mean that it exists.

    Why is God more substantive than spaghetti monsters behind Saturn? Because millions of people believe in God and not in spaghetti monsters? Just because most of the world believed that the world was flat did not make it a fact. And just because humans need a way of reconciling themselves to the inevitability of their own demise, it surely doesn’t mean that the means they have of doing so exists.

    Steve, I hope that I am not offending you in any of my comments. You certainly strike me as honest in your arguments and refreshigly free of hubris, all too common in discussions about beliefs.

    The point about little green men from mars is not that one can prove that they don’t exist. If it makes it easier, I can talk about little green monsters on a planet outside the Milky Way. If I say they exist and they talk to me, it is up to me to prove it, not up to you to prove that they don’t.

    I am a little puzzled by your comments about the possibilty of God having non-godlike characteristics. Surely the argument is about an omniscient, all-knowing, all good entity. If it isn’t, then what is it that we are discussing? If I said that I belive in a wicked, not omniscient being, would that satisfy you?

    Comment by Ron | May 6, 2008 | Reply

  94. I find it interesting that the argument is always brought up that the burden of proof is on the theist. While it is the theist’s job to defend and to give credible reasons, that doesn’t leave the atheist on the opposite side, not needing to show evidence. The claim “There is no God” is just as much a claim concerning knowledge as “There is a God”. The atheist makes a claim that the universe is in fact certain way, while the theist does the same. The atheistic position is not a default position, as many claim it to be. That is simply philosophically false. Agnosticism should be dubbed the “default position”. Regardless of all that, both sides are convinced of the truth value concerning their arguments; that is why they believe the way they do. If, indeed, atheism is the default position, needing no defending, as many claim, then atheists should not worry about theists claims of the existence of a deity.

    Also, rejected evidence is not the absence of evidence. That is simply perspective. Also, there is a difference in unsound arguments and unconvincing arguments. Just because you don’t buy the conclusion of the argument does not mean that the conclusion isn’t true.

    Comment by Joshua Walker | August 13, 2008 | Reply

  95. No one here has mentioned the second law of thermodynamics, which, in my mind, puts all arguments either way on hold. We as humans have never observed any process in the universe which shows a reversal of entropy within a closed system…everything deteriorates and burns out. The creation of the universe cries out for an explanation something other than natural. How could a lower amount of entropy in the universe once existed without some supernatural causal process?

    Is it possible that the second law of thermodynamics, in some distant future time, will be found to be false? Hard to imagine….

    Comment by issac newton | October 20, 2008 | Reply

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