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More Facile Anti-Theism

September 24th, 2007 by Matt

Not PC has a blog on “How Faith destroys Knowledge”. The basic line of argument appears to be as follows: three famous thinkers appear to hold that faith and reason are at odds and that faith is the preferable stance. I am tempted to say so what? Does the fact that three people appear to believe this mean it’s true? The only reason PC provides for thinking it is, is that Christopher Hitchens and Ayn Rand say so.

PC also makes some fairly dubious clams. He cites Tertullian as a Fidest and states that the Gospels were written around in the third century AD. Both claims are highly questionable.

What intrigues me most however is his discussion of in the comments section.

But there is no evidence for fairies at the bottom of my garden, spiders on the far side of Mars, or an unlimited bar tab at my local with my name on it.

Until or unless evidence exists for any of these (or for gods, dragons, unicorns or centaurs), then as far as reason and good sense are concerned, they’re part of the realm of myth, legend and wishful thinking respectively.

“What caused the start of the universe?”

This is a question that is doubly meaningless. Existence exists. There is no start to existence, though there may be changes to the form in which existence is constituted (through hypotheses such as the big bang for example). But here you’re proposing god simply to plug gaps in your knowledge, sort of like a dog-ate-my-homework line.

And even if you reject that obvious point — that existence has always existed — and you insist on hypothesising that a god kicked existence into existence, then your hypothesis poses a further who question: who kicked your god into existence, and who kicked her god into existence, etc., etc., etc.

“God done it” is not an explanation, but an admission one doesn’t yet have one.

PC here addresses to two issues. First, he provides some counter examples to anti-evidentialism ; the position that belief in God is rational in the absence of evidence for its truth. Second, he offers some criticisms of the Kalam Cosmological Argument: the argument for God’s existence based on the fact it has a finite past. I think on both issues he is mistaken, and demonstrates unwittingly some popular confusions on these issues.

Turning first to Anti-Evidentialism. Anti-Evidentialists have argued that you can rationally believe certain things, in certain situations, without evidence. It does not follow from this that one can believe any old thing without evidence. Nor does it follow that the mars and spider examples meet these conditions. These latter claims would require argument. Unfortunately PC gives none.

Similar misunderstandings occur with PC’s critique of the Cosmological argument similar misunderstandings emerge he states

This is a question that is doubly meaningless. Existence exists. There is no start to existence, though there may be changes to the form in which existence is constituted (through hypotheses such as the big bang for example).*

The problem here is that those who propose this version of the cosmological argument do not claim that *existence* started to exist, nor do they argue that something outside of existence ( ie. Something non existent) created existence, that would be absurd. What they claim is that the spatio temporal universe began to exist and that whatever begins to exist has a cause. Not PC’s interpretation of the argument follows only if one assumes that the spatio temporal universe is the totality of existence which of course begs the question.

Not PC then cites the famous “who made God objection”

then your hypothesis poses a further who question: who kicked your god into existence, and who kicked her god into existence,

I have never understood the force of this argument. Those who defend the cosmological argument state that the universe has certain features ( for example a contingent modal status or finite past) which mean its existence requires some form of explanation and they conclude that from these premises that there must be a being that *does not* have these as an explanation. Consequently, it’s false that the question arises at second remove. Of course simply actually reading a defender of the argument would have cleared this up.

I suspect however that PC has not read Christian thinkers he has read Ayn Rand and various libertarian caricatures of Christian thinkers. On the basis of these caricatures he denigrates Christians as irrational and politically dangerous. That is unfortunate.

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