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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible
  • Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Thursday, January 12th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue

    Paul,

    I am assuming that I am included in your comments to,

    “You guys are a hoot, expecting people who are rooted in reason and scientific method to accept your “philosophy” as a legitimate discipline.”

    What is “a hoot” is your describing yourself as “rooted in reason and scientific” when your arguments have been filled with irrationalities and errors. I have repeatedly pointed these out, but for the most part you have simply ignored them.

    Your argument above is a case in point. You claim to be “rooted in reason” yet when presented with a rational argument that conflicts with what you want to believe in, you refuse to deal with it rationally. Instead of dealing with the actual reason and evidence presented against your position, you make grand claims about your position and question your opponent’s legitimacy as if that was an actual argument. This is sophistry not rational argument.

    “Put your claims to the test: Consider the wealth of scientific and technological advancements spawned by science. Now try to name one advance in science or technology spawned by academic philosophy without being checked and verified.”

    This is another case in point. What you apparently are blinded to is the fact that historically science is a branch of philosophy and the scientific method is grounded in philosophy. The problem is not between science and “philosophy,” as the two overlap too much. Remove what you label “philosophy” from the scientific method and you would gut the scientific method leaving it useless.

    The real problem is that you conflate the scientific method with your world view of naturalism to the point that, in your mind, the two are indistinguishable. As such any arguments that refute your world view are taken as an attack on science. This is why you can make such irrational challenges as you have, because you fail to see the distinction between the two.

    Thus, you see one side as “the wealth of scientific and technological advancements spawned by science” as if that somehow uniquely represents your views. In a previous note I pointed out that, “Naturalists in the past have argued that the advances of science justify their assumptions.” In your reply, you denied this, but here you are making an argument that assumes it.

    So one problem that I have with your argument is that I see, “the wealth of scientific and technological advancements spawned by science” as also supporting my view as well as yours. So the contrast your argument requires to be valid does not exist. There are additional problem and assumptions in your argument, but this is sufficient to show its irrationality.

    “There’s no need for a war between science and philosophy, the two should complement each other. But you guys seem to think that you can play internal logic games, completely overlooking the multiple assumptions you’re making, call it philosophy and imagine you’ve said something useful.”

    This is really amusing. I agree there is no war between science and philosophy. As I said above the two are closely related. The problem is not with science, but with naturalism. So you defend your views by conflating them with science, and then immediately follow this with a claim that we are “completely overlooking the multiple assumptions” we are making.

    More importantly, I and others here have repeatedly pointed out the problems with the assumptions made by naturalism, problems you have repeatedly just ‘overlooked.’

    Still, if you think we are making “multiple assumptions” fine. I certainly would not deny this as everyone, including you, makes assumptions. So that is not really at issue. The question is: are these assumptions reasonable and consistent. What I and others have pointed out is that the assumptions of naturalism are not. They are internally inconsistent, and therefore naturalism is self-refuting. And to be clear, to say that naturalism is self-refuting, says nothing at all about science. Science is common to both my world view and yours. What is in question here is not science, but our different world views.

    Now, if you think my assumptions are flawed, the please tell me what these assumptions are, and then demonstrate why they are problematic. In short, “put your claims to the test.”

    “In this discussion, you’re being driven not by reason but by the fact that you don’t agree with me.”

    I cannot speak for others, but I don’t see any difference between “reason” and “disagreeing with you.” I disagree with you because I believe your position to be at least on some points irrational, and my replies have detailed the reasons and evidence for my objections.

    “There’s nothing rational or objective about your arguments; they are merely self-justifying rationalizations for the result you want, and the proof of that pudding is that you keep trying to making wishful thinking respectable and to put it on a par with science.”

    Yet another case in point. You make the claim that my arguments were “self-justifying rationalizations” but claiming something and demonstrating it are two different things. You have made a lot of claims. I have challenged a number of them that I disagreed with by citing the reason and evidence for my disagreement. Much of this you have just ignored.

    More to the point, I have pointed out a number of irrationalities and errors in your arguments. While you have disagreed with my points you have not demonstrated any flaws in my actual reasoning, or errors in my evidence. Saying you disagree, is not quite the same thing as demonstrating an error. Instead, you have done, what you did here, repeat lines of argument that have already been addressed and refuted.

    “If you really weren’t challenged by the arguments against your point of view, you would have called me a fool and moved on.”

    Talk about, “self-justifying rationalizations,” how can you believe this, and yet claim to be on the side of reason?

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue

    Paul,

    In relation to your claim that my argument involves consciousness you said:

    “Yes it does. It has to, if you’re going to offer an apologetic for theism, as Plantinga does.”

    While, an argument for theism would involve a concept of consciousness, I was not making an argument for theism. Look at the conclusion of my argument it does not mention God. I put forth an argument that demonstrated a key, and I believe fatal, flaw in the claims of naturalism.  While this could be a first step towards building an argument for theism, it is not itself an argument for theism as many other steps would be necessary.  Thus it does not involve consciousness, and your claim that “it has to” is again simply in error.  But while not sufficient to demonstrate theism, it is more than sufficient to refute naturalism, which was the point I was making.

    I find this to be a common problem among non-theists; they always want to jump to the conclusion of god, and then claim there is no evidence.  Any attempt to demonstrate the problems with their thinking or any attempt to build towards theism that involves a multi-step argument is effectively rejected, seemingly regardless of the soundness of the individual steps.  Arguments are evaluated not on their merits, but on whether they could lend support to theistic claims.

    For many non-theists, arguments such as the one I put forth are really crucial, because much of their rejection of theism is based either formally or informally on the concept that the natural world is the only thing that exists, or at least is the only thing that we can know about.  During the latter part of the 20th century, such views became increasingly untenable, which is why theism is once again under serious discussion.

    So my argument still stands, and still refutes the claims of naturalism.

    In relation to my pointing to the historical role of the Judeo-Christian world view as a refutation of your claim that theistic thinking had retarded scientific progress you replied simply,

    “You seem to have met yourself coming ’round the barn.”

    Sorry, but it is not at all clear what your point is, or even the relationship of this statement to my refutation of your claim, and as such it hardly refutes what I said.  Perhaps you could clarify your argument.

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Monday, January 9th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Paul L. LaClair’s post is here.  His comments are in blue


    Paul,

    “That the universe as we know it had a beginning does not mean that we understand the origins of that universe in the only context we know, which is space-time, beyond saying that a Big Bang appears to have occurred; in other words, we still have no idea why it happened that way.”

    You are side stepping the argument I made, by trying to add additional conditions that were not part of the argument. I did not claim that we understood the origins. Again the argument I made is a simple deductive argument (technically a disjunctive syllogism). The only way to refute it is to show that the logic is invalid, or that one of the premises is false. If the premises are true, and I believe they are, and the logic is valid, which it is; then the conclusion must be sound.

    Still, you have pretty much supported my argument, if “in the only context we know” is the natural world. Then any other means would be the “non-natural explanation” of the argument.

    Granted there may be some other option that we have no evidence for or understanding of, but in that case, who is the one that is relying strictly on the evidence, and who is the one ignoring the evidence because it points to something that their worldview says cannot exist?

    “In no way does anything we know suggest that consciousness predated matter, which is theism’s seminal claim.”

    Again my argument said nothing about consciousness. This is the classic straw man fallacy. Change the argument to something you think you can more easily refute.

    “On the contrary, everything we know about consciousness says that it is the product of an organic (material) brain.”

    You already mentioned this, and I already addressed this point by pointing out how irrational such a line of reasoning is, but you have yet to reply to my objections. In case you missed it, here are my comments from an earlier post:

    As for your views on consciousness, this is a classic example of the problems with the bias of naturalism. You basically have claimed that only natural answers are permissible, and then claim as support for this view that the only explanations we currently have for consciousness are natural. Do you not see the glaring logical fallacy in this? Frankly we know very little about consciousness, and there are some very significant questions such as the nature of Free Will that remain unanswered.

    “The naturalist does not assume that ‘theirs is the only set of assumptions that allows for the advances of science.’”

    Ok. That just means that the naturalists I was referring to did not understand naturalism in the same way you do. I raised that point because this was the common objection made by naturalists in the past to the claim I made that “There is nothing that makes the naturalists assumptions inherently better or worse.”

    “[The naturalist] merely observes that scientific method is the only reliable means by which science had advanced,”

    Something I would agree with, though if taken rigorously it becomes circular.

    “and draws the logical conclusion from that: there is no reason to engage in wishful thinking about a god or gods, since this thinking has not led to any scientific advance but on the contrary has tended to retard scientific progress.”

    There are several problems with this statement. The first is the phrase “wishful thinking about a god or gods.” I see two ways to take this phase. If taken literally, I would agree that we should not engage in wishful thinking about god or gods. Thus this would result in a statement that I, and probably most theist, could actually agree with. However I suspect that this was not your intent and that instead, you were simply using the phrase, “wishful thinking” as a way to denigrate theistic thought. If so this is slanting and hardly makes for a rational argument.

    “since this thinking has not led to any scientific advance but on the contrary has tended to retard scientific progress.”

    Assuming “wishful thinking” was a reference to all theistic thought, (and if not I apologize in advance) then you are again repeating old arguments that I have already addressed, but which you have ignored. As I pointed out the last time you used this line of argument:

    [This] is simply wrong and either ignorant of the history of science, or at the very least highly selective in it view of history. It also assumes a unity in the concept of “theological framework” which simply does not exist. There are in fact a variety of theological frameworks. While some are “affirmatively harmful” not all are.

    But to expand on this a bit further, there is a reason that science developed in Western Europe when it did. Classical thought certainly played a role, but so did the Judeo-Christian world view of a world created by a rational God, a rational God that created a universe that could be figured out using reason. One can certainly argue that such a view is not required for science, but this does not change the history that it did play a key role in what actually happened. This can be seen in Kepler, who after discovering his laws of planetary motion wrote, “O God, I am thinking thy thoughts after thee.”

    The supposed conflicts between science and religion have been greatly exaggerated, and in some cases even invented. There is no inherent conflict between them unless science is taken as a description for all reality, and at the same time restricts itself only to the natural world, i.e., the naturalist world view. So I can fully understand why you think there is a conflict, but the conflict you see stems not from anything in science, but rather is just an expression of your worldview imposed on science.

    I would argue that naturalism is somewhat harmful to science because of its naturalistic bias. In fact I see no inherent difference between theists trying to ban certain lines of inquiry because it disagrees with their understanding of reality, and naturalist trying to ban certain lines of inquiry because it disagrees with their understanding of reality. Yet the naturalists I have talked to in the past have condemn the former while supporting the latter.

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Paul L. LaClair post is here.

    Paul,

    “I don’t think your argument stands in the face of Einstein’s revolutionary discoveries in physics.”

    Sorry, but my question is not grounded in Newtonian physics. In fact my view would be LESS tenable under a purely Newtonian view. In his book “The Fabric of the Cosmos” Brian Green outlined the two main theories of for the origin of the universe. The inflationary Big Bang probably fits my argument the best, but the competing theory grounded more in Quantum physics, still needs something to start the process in the first place. Neither view has an eternally existing universe. Both views require a beginning.

    Thus my premise, “the current evidence supports that the natural universe as we know it had a beginning and could not have existed forever” remains true, and the question valid. Claiming unstated “other possibilities” does not make it so. Simply postulating other possibilities is not going where the evidence leads. But this is the point of the question. The evidence currently points to something that cannot exist within naturalism, thus the naturalist seeks to avoid what normally would be the obvious conclusion. My world view does not have that self-limiting bias. So I am free to go wherever the evidence leads.

    “They altered our understanding of space, time and cause. Instead of upsetting the apple cart of science, those discoveries gave us a deeper understanding of and appreciation for it.”

    Very true. The problem for you is that discoveries over the last 100 years are also a major reason for the revival of the serious discussion of theism in the latter part of the twentieth century. For example, the discovery of quantum physics destroyed Kant’s objections to the arguments for the existence of God, which were the main reason they had been discarded. The reasons theism is now back under serious discussion, is because of the advances of science, not despite it.

    One of the major problems of your view is that it has trouble seeing support for theism as anything but an attack on science. It is not. I certainly do not attack science. My career includes working as an engineer at JPL where I played a small part in Voyager’s encounter with the Planet Neptune among other things. So I agree that there is nothing in my view that would upset “the apple cart of science.”

    “than a world view based on guesswork, superstition and wishful thinking. You are free to see that as a bias if you choose but that is like saying that I am biased in favor of ingesting apples and not arsenic.”

    Slanting does not an argument make. Simply labeling the views you disagree with as “guesswork, superstition, and wishful thinking” does not make it so. The problem that you seem not to recognize is that our fundamental disagreement is not over science, reason, or evidence. The fundamental disagreement is over the framework in which these operate, i.e., the fundamental assumptions everyone must make, assumptions that ultimately cannot be demonstrated to be true, but which must be accepted at least to some degree on faith. We both think the assumptions we have made are correct, that is why we accept them. But the key point is that our assumptions, while different in substance, are not different in character. There is nothing that makes the naturalists assumptions inherently better or worse.

    Naturalists in the past have argued that the advances of science justify their assumptions. But this is irrational for two reasons. First, it assumes that theirs is the only set of assumptions that allows for the advances of science. This is just factually incorrect. More fundamentally, it results in circular reasoning as it attempts to demonstrate the validity of assumptions by starting with the assumption that they are true.

    It is this second reason that makes these assumptions so fundamental and ultimately beyond demonstration. This is why I classified my view in an early post as the one with “the least problems.” All worldview have problems. Nobody has all the answers.

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    The following are my comments to another person, Nontheistdavid. His post can be found here.

    Nontheistdavid,

    “Hogwash. If unicorns or invisible “immaterial” beings exist then there should be verifiable and testable evidence of their existence. We should be able to measure and modify to some degree the behavior and/or effects they have on the universe.”

    There are a lot of assumptions in this statement, and it goes to the heart of the difference between theists and non-theists. What perplexes many theists is not so much that non-theist make different assumptions. Rather it is that non-theists do not even seem to realize that they are making their own assumptions, while the attempt to ridicule others; thus their frequent attempts to try and equate the belief in god with the belief in unicorns. While, given its frequent use, non-theists evidently think this is some sort of killer argument, it is so absurd on its face (see my last reply to LaClair) it only makes the non-theist look irrational. Yet they continue to use it.

    “Also why do you theist keep using the term “naturalism”?”

    I for one try to avoid sematic debates that rarely are productive, thus I used the term naturalism, because that is what LaClair used for his views. In this note I used non-theist, because that is what you used.

    “Science engages in Methodological naturalism and most certainty does not deny anything.”

    Depending on exactly how you defined “methodological naturalism” I might agree with you, but you would have to define this a bit more before I could really comment.

    If science is taken as the search for natural explanations, and therefore incapable of saying anything about non-natural explanations, that is fine as long as the bias is recognized. If science is seen as an unbiased investigation and scientists are therefore free to investigate potential non-natural explanations that would also be fine. The problem enters in when you have the view held by many non-theists, that science is seen as an unbiased investigation, but were any non-natural explanation are ruled out a priori as illegitimate.

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Paul L. LaClair’s  post is here.

    LaClair,
    “if anyone ever demonstrates that a non-naturalistic explanation adds anything to our fund of knowledge, then we scientific naturalists will change our minds.”

    While this may sound good, when one begins to examine this claim in detail within the framework of naturalism it ultimately falls apart. This is because the evaluation of evidence is very strongly tied to one’s world view. Given the presuppositions of naturalism, presuppositions that cannot be demonstrated but must be accepted on faith, it is impossible to demonstrate a non-naturalistic explanation, because naturalism a priori equates reality and naturalism. Any line of reasoning that supports a non-naturalistic explanation is not seen as evidence for a non-naturalistic explanation, but evidence that that line of reasoning is unreliable.

    For example, the current evidence supports that the natural universe as we know it had a beginning and could not have existed for ever. If our current evidence is correct, then either, the natural universe came from something, or came from nothing. If it came from something, then this something would be non-natural, and this is evidence of a non-natural explanation that naturalism denies.

    Perhaps you are different, but all naturalists I have talked to in the past have either denied the validity of the question, expanded the definition of naturalism to include what would otherwise be non-natural (thereby creating a tautology ) or preferred to accept the belief that something came from nothing without cause rather than face what would in any other circumstance be the obvious conclusion.

    “The fact that you think those two claims [invisible unicorns or gods] are of a different quality speaks only to the power of culture to shape belief.”

    One could just as easily argue that the fact that you think these two claims are the same speaks to the power of naturalism shape belief. The problem for you is that there is no correspondence between these two claims. While the philosophical underpinnings of naturalism have come under increasing criticism from serious philosophers, Dallas Willard for one, has pointed out that there has been a rebirth of serious consideration of theism from philosophers starting in the latter part of the 20th century. While serious and scholarly people have discussed the merits of theism down through the ages, I am not aware of anyone who has seriously put forth a claim that there are invisible unicorns. Thus while naturalists like to try and make an equation between these two claims; it is absurd on its face. Pretending that these two claims are the same hardly demonstrates the rationality of your position.

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Paul L. LaClair’s post  is here.

    LaClair,
    “Unfortunately in my view, however, many people define faith as the basis for belief,” while true, there are also many who do not.

    “’the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (The Bible, Hebrews 11:1).” While the KJV translates the passages this way, most modern translations translate hupostasis as assurance or being sure. More importantly, the examples that fill the majority of the chapter follow the pattern of they believed, so they acted. As part of faith 11:19 even says that “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead” (NIV) All of which is consistent with the view of faith I put forth.

    “A definition nearer to this one is necessary in theology because there isn’t any evidence for the existence of a god.” Sorry but this is just incorrect. It is not necessary, if for nothing else; I do not hold such a belief, nor am I the only one. In addition, there is clearly evidence for the existence of god. It is certainly possible to have legitimate disagreement over whether this evidence is sufficient to constitute “proof”, but that hardly translates into no evidence at all.

    “Because religion and theism are cultural phenomena and culture-shapers, what many or most people think matters? That is why I invoked popular belief.” While such statements are acceptable with those who share your beliefs about religion, in discussion such as this with varying points of view such statement amount to circular reasoning, as they presuppose beliefs that are under discussion.

    “Of the Big Bang, scientific naturalism says…” I had problems with this paragraph as it seems internally inconsistent. You state first that naturalism “declines to posit that any but a natural explanation will suffice, or be useful.” But then goes on to rule out anything but a natural explanation.

    As a factual matter, the claim that a theological framework “is affirmatively harmful because it establishes a framework that is opposed to scientific method and is likely to inject irrelevancies and confusion into any inquiry into objective reality” is simply wrong and either ignorant of history of science, or at the very least highly selective in it view of history. It also assumes a unity in the concept of “theological framework” which simply does not exist. There are in fact a variety of theological frameworks. While some are “affirmatively harmful” not all are.

    “You can call that a limitation if you want to, but then you may want to ask whether a limitation is useful.” It is of course a limitation by definition. You are excluding possible explanations a priori and as a result must reject any evidence to the contrary as irrelevant. One thing that is pretty clear from research on the brain is that what does not fit our view of reality, we tend not to see. In short you are biasing any conclusions reached and this, whether you like it or not renders your conclusions suspect, and ultimately irrational, as they fall victim to the fallacy of circular reasoning.

    Frankly the main difference I have between scientific naturalist and my view of science is that I think that science should not eliminate any possible answers. In the past, naturalists I have talked to have tried to distort this into claiming that non-natural answers should receive some sort of priority, but that is not my view. In fact, I do not even opposed to giving natural explanation some priority. I just would not exclude non-natural explanations a priori. I for example, find the hysteria over Intelligent Design illustrative. Will Intelligent Design theories ever lead anywhere? I do not know. But I would not ban them as the scientific equivalent of heresy, and I oppose the current inquisition like zeal to root out any who might dare to even consider such answers.

    As for you views on consciousness, this is a classic example of the problems with the bias of naturalism. You basically have claimed that only natural answers are permissible, and then claim as support for this view that the only explanations we currently have for consciousness are natural. Do you not see the glaring logical fallacy in this? Frankly we know very little about consciousness, and there are some very significant questions such as the nature of Free Will remain unanswered.

    “anyone who criticizes that narrative will face a reaction. It has nothing to do with rationality.” Like the reaction one gets from scientific naturalists when one questions their narrative?

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism

    Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    While traveling I saw a review for Alvin Plantinga new book “Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.”   Checking out the comments on Amazon.com, I noticed a discussion, and decided to jump in.   Here are my replies, with links back to the notes I am replying to. The passages in quotes are taken from the note to which I am responding.

    In reply to Paul L. LaClair post:

    LaClair,

    I was checking out this book and started following this discussion. I found your comment to calcidius that “Most people who say they believe in a god admit they have to rely on “faith,” since they can’t prove it” as particularly problematic for the following reasons,

    “Most people” — the fallacy of an appeal to the people. What “most people” say is irrelevant to the truth of a proposition, particularly in the discussion here as “most people” do not think deeply about the philosophical underpinning of their beliefs.

    Then there is the contrast of faith and proof. Proof is a very vague and ultimately subjective concept. What does and does not constitute proof varies from situation to situation, and from person to person. In its general sense, proof is simply the level of evidence needed to conclude that something is true.

    Faith, on the other hand, is not a basis for belief, but a reliance on a belief that causes someone to act. In the realm of religion, a person can intellectually believe that God exists, but if that believe has no impact on their life, they do not have faith. However faith is not limited just to religion. Everyone has faith in what they believe, and they structures their lives accordingly, even the scientific naturalist.

    While it is possible to have a blind faith in the absence of, or even counter to, the evidence, not all faith is blind. Faith can be supported by the evidence. An engineer could calculate that a bridge will support him, but it is faith in his calculations that allows him to cross the bride.

    This is where the contrast of faith with proof is so problematic. It is one of the reasons I rarely talk about proof, preferring rather just to speak of evidence. Is there proof for god? While this would depend on the standard of proof being used, for simplicity sake, I will say no. But the absence of proof should not be taken to mean the absence of evidence, and I do believe that there is evidence for God. In fact, I believe that a theistic worldview has the least problems of all the various ways of understanding reality, including scientific naturalism, and thus is the best explanation.

    You can see this difference in your statements such as,

    “Good scientists hold many of the questions open, and then make judgments about which avenues of inquiry are most likely to be productive. A reasonable scientist does not spend her time trying to figure out whether ‘God did it’”

    But what is “reasonable” and “most likely to be productive” will depend strongly on one’s world view. Thus for example, when considering questions such as the origin of the universe, or the beginning of life, should a scientist be seeking to discover what happened, or should they limit themselves only to natural explanation for these questions? Scientific naturalism argues the latter.

    A Double Blind Faith

    Friday, June 5th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

    There is an interesting paradox with many atheists, particularly the neo-atheists.  They frequently see themselves as valiant warriors defending reason against the darkness of faith, which for them is little more than superstition.  For them believing in the events of the first Easter is little better than believing in the Easter Bunny. 

    As I demonstrated with my reviews of the books of Hitchens, Harris  and Dawkins, nothing is further from the truth.  In fact, many of the atheist’s claims have little more than a façade of rationality.  They may seem rational at first glance, but any serious examination quickly reveals significant problems.  Take for example the common atheist claim that there is no evidence to support the existence of God; a bold claim, particularly given that it is entirely false. 

    For just one example, the scientific evidence today is clear that the entire universe, the natural world as we know it, had a beginning.  Either it came from something, or it came from nothing.  But the idea of something coming from nothing is akin to magic, and is not rational.  If you say it came from something then this is evidence for the existence of God (i.e., some entity beyond the natural world powerful enough to create all of reality, as we know it.)

    In this case the atheist is somewhat like the little boy caught with candy they are not suppose to have in their pockets.  Which is the more rational answer: A) the boy took it against his parent wishes, or B) it just appeared out of nothing in their pocket?   Likewise, which is the more rational answer: A) the universe was created by something; B) the universe just appeared out of nothing?  In this case, the theist only has to argue that they do not believe something came from nothing. 

    Now the atheist here has several possible counters, but since the claim we are looking at is that there is no evidence to support the existence of God, they have a real problem.  They must not only argue that something from nothing is the best answer, this claim depends on it being the only rational answer, something that is clearly absurd. 

    When confronted with this absurdity, most atheists I have talked to counter with some variation of the argument that since this does not prove God exists, it is not evidence that he exists.  This is an extremely anti-intellectual claim, which if the atheist applied universally would mean that we could know very little.   

    Most of what we know, or think we know is built up on a whole range of pieces of evidence, both pro and con, where we, at least in theory, make the best choice we can based on the evidence we have.  Yet the atheist’s claim is that any piece of evidence that does not constitute proof is to be ignored, for only in this way can their claim that there is no evidence to support the existence of God be maintained.  Since their approach to the evidence for God would be so devastating to knowledge in other areas it is only applied here, and thus results in special pleading, which is yet another irrationality.

    This brings us back to the initial question of why is it that the atheist’s defense of reason is so fundamentally irrational.  I believe the core of the problem is that there is an inherent contradiction in atheism and in agnosticism as well.   Both are grounded in an attempt to reject all forms of dogmatism, to reject anything that depends on faith, and to rely only on reason and evidence.  In many respects, this is a noble goal and when it emerged from the unscientific and superstitious past, it quickly brought great rewards. 

    Where atheists and agnostics go wrong is that they attempt to apply this universally, and therein lies the contradiction.  All worldviews are, by their very nature, and the nature of reality, to some extent based on faith, and thus all have some aspects of dogmatism.  In short, what atheists have done is accept a worldview that rejects all worldviews. 

    They frequently try to dance around this difficulty by claiming that theirs is the starting point, or in some way the default position.  This shows up in there constant insistence that they do not have to demonstrate anything.  The burden of proof is on everyone else; their views just are. 

    Atheists cannot just accept the reality that they also have a worldview without a major rethinking of atheism.  In addition, as with the example above, once the atheistic worldview is acknowledge and compared alongside with all other worldviews, atheists do not always do so well.  They can continue to deny it, but ultimately this becomes little more than a dogmatic insistence that they are not dogmatic.

    So the atheist paradox is grounded in the core irrationality that atheism is a worldview that attacks all worldviews.  Like everyone else, atheists have faith in the fundamental beliefs that make up their worldview.  Not only is it a blind faith, in many respect it is a double blind faith, as they cannot even see, and in fact strongly deny, what they are actually doing.   

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXXII

    Friday, February 20th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In my extended review of Christopher Hitchens book “God Is Not Great,” I have finally reached the last chapter, “In Conclusion: The Need for a New Enlightenment.”  Hitchens opens the chapter with a discussion of a quote by Lessing, where he says that given the opportunity to know all truth, he would reject the offer in favor of pursuing the truth, even knowing he would remain thereby in error.  Of course this raises the question of why pursue something if obtaining it is not the goal. 

    But for Hitchens this is not a question of a choice between “All truth” and the pursuit of truth.  Hitchens equates knowing “all truth” with faith, and for him the question becomes a choice between faith and reason, faith and modernity, faith and technology, and even a choice between faith and civilization itself. 

    Of course this is a false choice.  I am religious and I certainly do not claim to know all truth.  Far from it and I spend much of my time pursuing it.  But this error goes to the heart of the atheist’s argument, and so in an odd sort of way it is fitting that Hitchens end his book with this error. 

    In reality it is not that those who are religious claim to know the truth, are dogmatic, blindly accepting certain truths, lack skepticism, or do not have a passion for inquiry.  There are certainly some who are religious who would fit this description, just as there are some who don’t believe in god for whom this would also be an accurate description.  Frankly some of the most closed minded and dogmatic people I have run into have been militant atheists.  Not all to be sure, but the simple fact is that these traits can be found amongst all groups, atheist and theist alike. 

    Those who believe in God can seek the truth and can learn and grow just like atheists.  As many have pointed out, including a few atheists, science had its roots in the Judeo-Christian worldview and many of the earlier greats minds of science, like Kepler, Newton, and even Galileo were Christians.  The real problem is not that we don’t search for truth or look at the evidence, but rather that theists reach different conclusions and consider other possibilities, possibilities that are prohibited in the atheist’s materialistic worldview.

    And that is the real problem.  Christians make no bones about it, we have a worldview, a framework in which we evaluate the evidence and apply reason as we strive to learn the truth.  Atheists claim that this shapes how we look at things and the conclusions that we reach; which is quite true, for that is exactly what frameworks do. 

    Where the atheists go wrong is that they also have a framework, a framework in which the only thing that exists is the material universe governed by natural law.  The atheist worldview shapes how they look at things and the conclusions they reach, just as much as the Christian worldview does for Christians.  Frankly, it probably affects them more.  While most Christians realize that they have a worldview, most atheists not only don’t, they frequently deny it.  For them, they don’t have a worldview that shapes their thinking, they just have reality, and see everything else as wrong, all the while claiming confidently not to be dogmatic, but open minded. 

    For the atheist, the existence of God, the supernatural, that we have a soul, etc., does not fit into their worldview and so for them, these things not only do not exist, they cannot exist.  While they are adept at pointing out problems in the theist worldview, any problem, lack of evidence, or evidence to the contrary for the atheist worldview, is simply ignored with the claim that “we will figure it out someday.” When it is demonstrated that the odds against the things they believe must have happened are unimaginably large, they just cling tightly to the minuscule possibility at they happened, however small.  Their worldview permits nothing else.  In fact they sometimes reply, as some have with the origin of life, that however small the odds, it must have happened because we are here. 

    While they are quick to attack religions for their irrational beliefs, often going to the point of casting this as a battle between faith and reason, their attacks are often themselves irrational, which  I have repeated pointed out, is the case with Hitchens.  The real problem in seeing this as a battle between faith and reason,  is that atheists have a distorted definition of faith, which is in reality for them, simply a belief in something that is false.  But that is not faith.  Faith is trusting something to the point of acting on it.  In the Christian worldview, you have faith in God by following his teachings, the first step being accepting Jesus as your savior. 

    Atheists have faith in their worldview just as much as Christians do in theirs.  Which worldview is right? Well I have written two books, Christianity and Secularism and Evidence for the Bible laying out my view of the evidence.  On the other hand, as I have show many times here, Hitchens arguments are based on sloppy thinking, errors and irrationalities, and thus hardly provide a firm foundation for his claims.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.