Sunday, January 29, 2012

Logical Gaps

There are some huge logical gaps in arguments for the existence of God.

My prior post about God perhaps being dumb as a rock was intended to be tongue-in-cheek ... but illustrates one of the fundamental flaws in the Ontological, Cosmological and Teleological arguments. That is, if we can't explain it, God did it.

God - as conceived in various arguments, is outside time and space and requires no cause. Special pleading at its finest. This almost always invokes the response that "if God requires no cause, why does our universe?".

Secondly, why does a "first cause" or "designer" have to be omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent or omni-anything-else? If the creator of this explanatory scheme (a human, by the way) was trying to establish that this God was to be feared and obeyed, then the omni-gomnia is to be expected. How else will you revere me as a link between you peons and the omnipotent creator of all things? Otherwise, it does not explain a thing.

Dumb as a rock

A couple of items from the interwebs prompted this thought: that God may very well be dumb as a rock. The items are:

A comment by pboyfloyd on Evangelical Realism to a post on Defending the Courtiers at Intellectual Conservative:
Consciousness(as I understand it) is a property of certain organic beings, and of course there is a ‘gradient’, and of course we could devise tests to grade the consciousness of everything from a rock to a god.
Hint:- gods don’t do well.(they don’t seem to live up to their omnipresence to answer, while rocks, although ‘there’, don’t display any observable consciousness of their environment.)
...and a transcript of the 1995 debate between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Corey Williamson on "Does God Exist" ... Dr. Williamson states:
"Every morning, I, a lot of you, get up and we go to our car, and we put the key in the ignition, turn it over, and the car starts up. You can think of the ignition of the gasoline as somewhat of a big bang. There's this explosion of gasoline igniting. What's the cause of the gasoline igniting? The sparkplug.[11] It's a spark off this sparkplug, which causes the gasoline to ignite, that causes the small big bang that gets you to school every day. What Professor Craig has given us is that there is some sort of cosmological sparkplug. Maybe there is. But if there is, we've no reason to believe it's omniscient, no reason to believe it's omnibenevolent, and no reason to believe that it's omnipotent. From the fact that the universe was created, all we have some reason to believe is that it is slightly more powerful than its effects. So maybe it's a little stronger or more powerful than the nature of the universe as it exists. But the universe is finite, as Dr. Craig has argued. So we don't have any reason to conclude this thing is infinite. It may be strong but finite. We don't have any reason to believe its omniscient or even sentient at all. It could be a spark plug of some kind, maybe a timeless sparkplug, but a sparkplug nevertheless."
So, this morning, my non-devotional thought is: God is not "necessary" in any sense. The argument that "because the universe began to exist, it had to have a cause, and that cause must be God" is wholly unsupported. It could have been a spark plug. Literally or metaphorically. It did not have to have intelligence or power. It could have been a catalyst for material or forces that already existed. Or it could have been something entirely unimaginable at this time in our history.

And it could have been dumb as a rock.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Apologia and Apologist tactics for amateurs

I'm still reading the Bible verse-by-verse with Bruce and the gang at Project: The King and I. We're finally in the New Testament, which is fun. I may have mentioned that this is my third reading of the NT ... The second verse-by-verse effort. I was once Born-Again many many years ago, and it was reading the OT immediately after immersing myself in the NT where things began to unravel.

Coincidentally, I've just watched my third debate video starring Dr. William Lane Craig , famous apologist and all-around fun guy. At the same time Deacon Duncan at Evangelical Realism is writing a chapter-by-chapter review of Dr. Craig's book "On Guard" - which I believe is intended as a handbook for amateur apologists. I look forward to Duncan's weekly installments like an adolescent waiting for the next issue of Spiderman to hit the comic book stands. (Duncan also blogs at Alethian Worldview at Freethought Blogs )

The three endeavors dovetail somewhat, which is the background for today's effort.

Encountering formal apologetics, such as presented by Dr. Craig, is fascinating. Duncan's critique of "On Guard" confirms and elaborates some of my informal observations - there's a lot of bait-and-switch, ad hominem attacks, bare assertion and avoidance in the tactics that a polished apologist such as Dr. Lane uses. Informal and amateur apologists, such as we encounter at P:TKAI should be less of a challenge due to their less practiced and polished approach. That's not really true.

We have a new commenter on P:TKAI who is a friend of Bruce, and who is a believer that's quite willing to engage in apologia. It's both head-shaking and irritating. He often makes claims out of thin air that seem as if they're from other conversations. The other day, he stated (quote) "By the way, nice touch on you approving our evidence that God and Jesus exist. Einstein found enough evidence. ...". He was replying to me after I chided him on a false equivalence that he used to bait commenters into demonstrating that scientific proof cannot be certain. It was a mess. This "evidence" rejoinder was completely out of the blue, and certainly didn't address anything that I had written. *

Here's where I'm going with this: I see a pattern with the vocal believers, in that they have (at least on the P:TKAI blog) exhibited a tendency toward non-sequitur. Three different apologists come to mind, each replying to specific posts with declarations that were either off the point (but still in the ballpark) or from completely beyond left field, like the one I cite above.

The pattern is that words go in one ear, and are replaced, partially or completely, with something off-topic. It's too small of a sample to make a general statement, but ***it looks like*** there's a comprehension problem at work. Or dishonesty. Time will tell.

* There's a fine line to be tread on the P:TKAI blog, since Bruce wants it to be civil ... add to that we're now dealing with a personal friend of his. With a little too much caffeine and some shorter-than-normal patience, and I can see accusations of stupidity, delusion and childishness becoming hard to resist. Counting to ten - or sleeping on it - is definitely warranted.