Wednesday, 20 June 2007

A Search for Reasons for Belief part 2

In response to my post here;
Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

Sorry, Psi, I think I may have misdirected you and caused you to waste your time. The site I assumed you were looking at, whose credentials and opinions I respect, was the bethinking one, which we must have been looking at in the context of another quote. I was only really interested in the specific quote related to Ramsay from that site - I don't know enough about it, and as you say, those arguments aren't necessarily substantive.
Hi Paul,

This is a bit of a relief- that site really was silly. The reason I thought you meant that one was because it was the one linked to by you in the posting that I commented on. Never mind.

However, your responses are also not necessarily substantive. For example, you say: "We now get some more assertions, this time that atheism means something from nothing - strawman fibs. The only atheists I know are happy to admit that they don't know how things started." Acknowledging that you don't know how things started doesn't mean that you don't need something from nothing.
Carefully working through the negatives - that is true. Saying I don't know doesn't mean anything else either though. You can't make an argument from an expression of ignorance, that is after all the name of a logical fallacy. Let me put this another way.

My point is that I don't make the claim that something came from nothing in my atheist position at all. I simply say I don't know, and I remain open to examining further evidence. BTW In passing I would mention that there are some faint whispers of empirical evidence of something from nothing i.e. quantum fluctuations. Also in passing I am open to, but have yet to see, any evidence for anything supernatural at all. I remain open to this possibility. I currently view it as being very, very unlikely because I see no evidence in support of it so far.

Please remember that waving your hands about like this regarding my position does not remove your own claim from exactly the same problem - you claim something from nothing, or something eternal - either way you have yet to show me any convincing evidence for this - time will tell.

In the meantime, and in the absence of evidence, I don't draw any conclusions from the statement "I don't know.". Neither can you.

I think that on reflection you will see that you have also strayed straight into "god of the gaps" territory. You claim that my lack of an explanation for the beginning of the universe somehow makes a case for, or at least supports, your case for god. You are taking support for god from a gap in my/our knowledge. I can't think of a more god-of-the-gaps-like comment to make.
Also, you argue (with Dawkins) that a creator God must be more complex, and if so "who designed the designer?" This is a non-argument as well. Whilst everything we see in the universe is contingent, there is no reason to think that something we don't see which is not part of the universe need also be contingent - i.e. the answer to "Who designed the designer?" doesn't have to be given. It is possible to imagine something that isn't contingent.
You start off commenting upon the issue of complexity of god and then talk about causation. Firstly do you accept the complexity point? If not why not?

Secondly, with regard to the causation issue I would point out to you that the only bit of your paragraph in which you actually give a reason to support your contention is here; "it is possible to imagine something which is not contingent" i.e. it is possible to imagine something which fits your god hypothesis. I reply that it is also possible to imagine no god and to imagine that we don't know how things started (yet). Doesn't that make us evens?

Its seems to me that we have different positions in this discussion from the point of view of "level of certainty". My own view his held for the reasons outlined i.e. mainly no evidence combined with an acceptance that I don't know some answers to some pretty big questions.

I am pretty sure I am right but I am not positive, I am open to new evidence - look at all the questions I have asked you for an indication that I actively seek new evidence.

Your position is one of already knowing you are correct. Is this a fair comment?

I don't accept your assertion that you won't answer a question because you don't have to. What evidence have you got for this particular "special escape clause"? What evidence do you have that god is not contingent i.e. god has no cause? If this reason is the bible - then hopefully the new site you have given me will cover this.

If your evidence that god is eternal is simply that "you can imagine it" then this doesn't persuade me. After all I can imagine that I am god and I am testing you - what % chance do you give that? I can imagine an invisible pink unicorn - what %?

BTW the reason that I rate the probability of a god versus no god as much worse than 50/50 is because I see no evidence of anything supernatural in the world at all. I have asked you for evidence of this kind of thing lots of times and you did eventually reply with your "one man" and "the bible" comments and you then gave me the site my original post addressed to support this. You have now apologised and given me another site now - I will look into this soon and report back.
However, I really wouldn't recommend the arguments there. They are not "state of the art". Try this instead!
Also, you assert that evolution is capable of producing things that look designed. However, this is a circular argument. If you say that the existence of designed objects is not evidence of a designer, you certainly can't use it as evidence for the lack of a designer.
No a circular argument would rely on its own premise - "the bible is true because the bible says it is true" for example. I was simply pointing out an observation which undermines the comment on the site. Yes I agree with you that pointing out that evolution produces designs is not evidence against god or in favour of evolution. Although if you read what I actually wrote you will see that I wasn't claiming this. My comment was simply pointing out that using the claim that "living things look designed" as evidence for a god is vacuous when the alternative explanation produces design as well. You seem to agree with this.

If I were explaining why I think evolution the more likely explanation then I would point to huge swathes of empirical evidence in support of this;

Here is a list of 29 to start you off if you are interested.
... and that bethinking page addresses the issue of the many gods problem.
I will have a read and get back to you.

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