This is a rebuttal to Christian Apologist’s post on the metaphysical (@lead1225). Her original post is here:
The defense posited by Christian Apologist, while sincere and impassioned, has a number of serious flaws. The biggest and most central of these is a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is, and how it is applied. This kind of misunderstanding is common, as is a stubborn refusal by many theists to make a genuine attempt to understand how and why science works the way it does.
“They don’t want to hear that many of the two billion Christians in the world have strong personal testimonies.”
This is correct, and with very good reason. I myself work closely with Christians and their testimonials (many are here on the Codex), and find most of them fall into a category of error or are easily disproved. In working with Seventh-day Adventists I’ve found that roughly 1/4 of them have “witnessed” miraculous healing of incurable diseases.
While I cannot disprove any ONE of those claims, it is easy to demonstrate that Seventh-day Adventists have the same mortality rate as atheists. This is been studied repeatedly. If God were healing them at even 1/10 of the numbers reported, their mortality rate would be lower, and their life expectancy higher. Neither is true, so at the very least most of the testimonies must be false.
There are millions of witnesses to miracles by the Hindi guru Sathya Sai Baba. He has performed resurrections and healing, and even teleported 800 miles to douse a woman who had caught on fire. I suspect none of the millions of testimonials to these “miracles” would garner even a second glance from any Christian (nor should they. I’ve seen videos of these miracles… I am unimpressed).
Science prohibits such testimonials with good reason, and Christians happily ignore them as well if they come from other religions… It’s hypocritical to demand more credence given to their own.
The problem of these testimonials can be found here.
“the bigger question of why we and the world are here”
True, there are a few questions that science cannot answer.
However, there are also some questions which are faulty and poorly constructed. “Why we are here” is such a question, because it assumes that there is a why–the premise assumes the consequent. If there’s a why, there must be a higher power, so the question is loaded and invalid by starting with that assumption; it’s rigged. The question does not allow for the possibility that… As shocking as this may sound… There is no why.
I would very much like there to be a “why”. I would like there to be a higher power that cares about me, and I would like to have an immortal soul that continues on after my life. I’d like to see my children again after I die. However I have noticed that the universe stubbornly refuses to bend to what it is I want, but rather continues on its own course. It is possible that there is a “why”, but any question which assumes there is one is already in error until the question of a higher power is answered first.
It is entirely possible, as much as this is damaging to our egos, which incessantly put the human race at the center of everything we’ve ever discovered in the universe, that there is no why; that nobody built the universe with us in mind.
“there is little consensus on what is or isn’t science.”
This is patently, wholly, and 100% false.
Science works because there is overwhelming consensus of what it is and how it is done.
Science is the application of a set of rules known as “the scientific method”.
Anybody applying the scientific method is using science. Anyone who does not is not.
This is a-priori and well defined. Mr. Turek is irrefutably wrong.
Now, before you go off on “well, who gets to make these rules” or “well, what if there is something outside these rules we need to investigate” – all of which have answers, I will point out one thing….
The scientific method has very good reasons for all of these rules, and while they may frustrate you (as per your first paragraph), science is the single most successful human endeavor in history.
The scientific method was codified in its present form roughly 350 years ago. There have been more advancements in human understanding, and technology, engineering and medicine as a result of science in the last 350 years than in the 10,000 years that preceded it.
That is a success rate that is both impressive and irrefutable, and it demands respect for the method. That people can so easily dismiss science (which obviously is not always correct), or can argue against it without understanding it, or the process, is intellectually dishonest at best. If you use electricity, antibiotics, air conditioning, internal combustion engines, a computer, a clock, benefit from sterilization or pasteurization, have never gotten polio measles mumps or rubella, or done any number of things which are ubiquitous with everyday life, you have benefited from its unparalleled success – so much so that it has become background noise, and you have become blind to just how successful this very precise, and well defined process is (faults and all).
I will happily debate anyone who thinks science is flawed or inadequate, but I will debate those points only with someone who at least understands what science is, how it works, and why.
A short primer on just what science is can be found here.
“Some atheists are content with not knowing what powered the Big Bang.”
No. Nobody is content with not knowing what powered the Big Bang. If they were, scientists wouldn’t be researching it today. We are desperate to know.
But you seem to think that, since we don’t have an answer right now, and that we refuse to invent an answer to satisfy that gap, that is ‘content’.
And while according to Aristotle, God isn’t just for the gaps, his argument for that is indeed a god of the gaps argument. That he was not aware of this does not alter that fact.
Nobody who uses a god of the gaps argument thinks it’s a bad argument, or even thinks that that is what they are doing. Every person I’ve ever seen using it has been blind to the fact that that’s what they are doing.
“Given the fact we have no (zero, zilch, zip) evidence of a multiverse”
I am blown away by the ignorance of this statement. First of all, we don’t need evidence, all we are doing is creating hypotheses – trying to figure out what there was before the Big Bang. If it turns out to be nothing, great! But what if it turns out to be something? We will never know unless we investigate, and that starts with coming up with a hypothesis. Again the ignorance of how science works is staggering.
Second, the first evidence that there might (and I stress might) be a multiverse came out of Cornell in 2008. The discovery of particles associated with the Higgs-Boson strengthened the hypothesis, and a recent discovery of background gravity, which appears to be coming from outside the universe, has further strengthened it.
The notion that there was absolutely nothing before the Big Bang is not established fact. There are multiple theories, science is working on it, but it is the theist who is not content with our present ignorance, and has decided to use it to justify their deity du-jour. If science’s past success is any indication, we will come up with an answer… It’s what we do. And when the frontier of our ignorance recedes again, and we discover new things we don’t know, theists will say that there in lies proof of God, and they will continue incessantly with this gaps argument.
“This particular argument is one that some atheists consider compelling.”
You say that… It is not been my experience. Which atheists, and are there any prominent ones?
Yes, the chances of us existing are infinitesimally small.
Now take a jar of pennies and scatter them across the floor. Whatever pattern you have, the chances for that particular pattern were infinitesimally small, the chances against it unfathomably large, and yet there it is. Repeat the process, you’ll get a new, just as improbable pattern. In fact you’ll always get a pattern, and the odds of it having happened will always be next to nothing.
If we were not here, if these rules were different, other life most likely would be here. They would be asking the same question and using the exact same argument you are.
To suggest that the odds are so small that it must be the hand of God is to misunderstand what is meant by those odds. The universe is a chaotic system, and in such system the odds of any outcome are infinitesimally small, but an outcome will occur nonetheless.
A primer on Deterministic odds in a chaotic systems will be forthcoming.
“They don’t understand that God is the uncased cause”
No… They understand it. The problem is that is why God was invented. Our brains are finite, and not particularly good at understanding the infinite. The universe appears to be infinite in complexity, and therefore there are things we cannot understand. We put God in as a “thought terminating cliché”. He exists explicitly to end the argument, to comfort our thoughts of “what caused this” which due to the limitations of our intellect appear to lead to an infinite regress.
If it is permissible to allow God to be an uncaused cause, why not allow the universe this same luxury? Why add a god? Can we not say that the universe was uncaused, and leave it at that?
2000 years ago waves were considered proof of God. Why? Because it was thought that all matter requires a mover of some kind – a consciousness. This “consciousness bias” – these notions both that there is such a thing as consciousness, and that motion can not exist without it, are spurious at best.
Obviously with the waves, we later determined that – no – it is not God’s hand pushing them, but the result of another inanimate object. If (and that’s a big if) there had to be a prime mover, it is our own ego and arrogance that demands it have this thing called “consciousness”. It is a bias, projecting out from our belief that we can initiate action, and therefore consciousness is required to initiate it.
A primer on the problem with prime mover arguments can be found here.
“Atheists often conflate His knowledge with His control over us”
This is wrong, and it is not the argument.
Atheists argue that if he is all-knowing, and if he created us, then our actions are a direct result of his design. This may seem the same argument; it is most decidedly not. Theists try to compensate by inventing something called “free will” which somehow gets around this without violating the first two premises – he knows absolutely everything, is infallible, and he created and designed us, yet is not responsible for our actions.
You have not properly represented the argument here.
“The Problem of Evil”
Once again, you misunderstand the point. That I can tell this is an insurmountable problem.
Let me ask you this… Can God slice a piece of bread thinner than God himself could slice?
The answer to this, in my mind, must obviously be “yes”.
Why? Because if God is truly omnipotent, then he can do absolutely anything. He is not bound by any laws, and what I personally would consider to be a logical contradiction is absolutely nothing to him. It doesn’t matter that cutting a slice of bread thinner than he himself could cut appears to be a logical contradiction… an omnipotent being could do it.
And therein lies the problem of evil.
You ask how we could understand love if we didn’t experience the counterpart? I agree, I have no idea how we could. But this should pose no problem to an omnipotent God.
Theists argue that evil exists so that we may be taught lessons, so that we may experience free will. However this suggests a very serious limitation on an otherwise omnipotent God – that he cannot teach us these things without evil. If God is truly omnipotent, he would have no such limitation. Any lesson which NECESSARILY requires evil and free will in order to be taught, MUST also be able to be taught WITHOUT those requirements by an omnipotent being, or he’s not omnipotent.
Illogical? Yes, but God is not bound by logic or else he is not omnipotent.
This problem appears insurmountable.
The second you say that God needs evil and suffering to teach us love and free will, you are admitting that he is not all-powerful. The second you say he is all-powerful, then you have denied any possible reason for evil and suffering other than God’s pleasure. They can not both be true.
It’s a simple argument, but it took me myself years to understand the actual consequences of it… At any rate, you have certainly misunderstood it here.
You make other arguments, but I hope I have, here, giving you a few things to think about. At best, you would appear to me to have a woefully inaccurate view of what science is and how it works, as well as the actual arguments atheists in general are using.
Thank you for your time.