RE: [asa] The theist challenge

From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
Date: Tue Dec 02 2008 - 11:05:28 EST

The notion of evil is essentially a supernatural concept, which gives meaning to the concepts of right and wrong. The latter terms are not explicitly used in our statutory laws but they certainly form the foundation of our legal system. For instance, the commandment, "You shall not steal." Ex. 20:15, is not a statute in our legal system; nonetheless, our legal system does sanction prison sentences, etc. for those who do steal.

 

Moorad

________________________________

From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu on behalf of Dehler, Bernie
Sent: Mon 12/1/2008 12:28 PM
To: ASA
Subject: RE: [asa] The theist challenge

Moorad said:
"the notion of evil is nonexistent for the atheist."

I've heard atheist Christopher Hitchins say he believes in evil. He says there's bad, then there's people who go overboard into evil. People like Hitler and suicide bombers. He says the solution is to kill these people.

...Bernie

-----Original Message-----
From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Alexanian, Moorad
Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2008 12:16 PM
To: Nucacids; ASA
Subject: RE: [asa] The theist challenge

Is not the basic question here, what presuppositions one supposes to make sense of the whole of reality? Therefore, the dialogue with the atheist would concern, first what are the different aspects of reality one supposes and how these different aspects are handled by supposing a Supreme Being or not. This is very much the same as developing scientific theories except that the data here would go beyond the purely physical. I do not think that the theistic position would be one of invoking the God-of-the-gaps since the question of existence is surely beyond scientific inquiries and must be addressed metaphysically or theologically. Of course, the origin and existence of evil is a problem for the theist and not the atheists since the notion of evil is nonexistent for the atheist.

Moorad

________________________________

From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu on behalf of Nucacids
Sent: Sat 11/29/2008 10:17 AM
To: ASA
Subject: Re: [asa] The theist challenge

"Many theists, by their own admission, structure their beliefs so that
no evidence could possibly disprove them. In short, they are
closed-minded, and have been taught to be closed-minded."

I do not structure my beliefs so that no evidence could possibly disprove
them as that entails beliefs are chosen with foresight and an intent to
manipulate. My beliefs simply come into existence as a function of what I
perceive and experience with my eyes and my mind's eye.

I am not closed-minded about the possible non-existence of God and have not
been taught to be closed-minded. In fact, I suspect I am like many theists,
who at various stages in their lives, have gone through periods of doubt and
even moments of agnosticism and/or atheism. For example, the existence of
evil and what can often *feel* like God's aloofness, along with the behavior
of other Christians, can take one down this road. After all, this is the
road that many atheists have been down, as many atheists are ex-Christians
(thus, disproving the "closed-minded" essence of those with faith).

What I lack is this belief that we can settle these ultimate issues, once
and for all, with the use of reason and evidence. Evidence is nothing more
than interpreted data, meaning that evidence is ultimately subjective.
Thus, when it comes to reason and evidence, experience has made me into a
cynic when it comes to their ability to uncover The Truth. Coming up with
"a list of things they would accept as proof that atheism is true" entails a
huge element of Faith in our own ability to prove atheism/theism with lists
of things. And my lack of faith in such an ability is not being
closed-minded. I think of it as intellectual honesty born of experience.

"What this means is that, for me to account your answer valid, it must
consist of something that we could, at least in principle, either
agree upon or discover to be true. This rules out logical
impossibilities, such as "I would become an atheist if I died and then
discovered that there was no consciousness after death." (I've heard
that one.) It also rules out counterfactual statements - saying that
you would cease to believe in God only if the world was different than
it is, for example, that you would become an atheist if there were no
such thing as love or goodness. (I've heard both of those as well.)

If all the items that would drive you to atheism are counterfactuals,
i.e., things that we already know not to be true, then what you're
essentially saying is that there are no possible discoveries that
would make you an atheist, and you have again failed to respond to the
point of the challenge. This would be like me saying, "The only
possible thing that would make me believe in God would be if the world
was a perfect paradise that contained no death, evil or suffering." I
think most theists would consider this unfair, and rightfully so. I'm
ruling out their answer from the start by making my belief contingent
on something that we already know is not true."

As Murray so nicely pointed out, we seem to have a game of "heads I win,
tails you lose" here. If the theist points out something that is not part
of our actual world, it does not count as a "counterfactual." So the theist
is supposed to point out a "counterfactual" that does exist in our actual
world, thus supporting atheism.

But there is more. At this point, it would seem this atheist should focus on
his fellow atheists, who *do indeed* argue that if God exists, evil should
not exist. It's only one of the most popular arguments for atheism. And
Richard Dawkins, as lead spokesperson for the New Atheist movement, does
argue that this type of world is scientifically inconsistent with the
existence of God. In his mind, if God exists, gaps should be everywhere and
science should not be possible.

"Now, if you're arguing that you would cease to believe in God if some
particular, widely held proposition were falsified, that is a
different matter. But in that case, I'd expect that you would
supplement this answer by explaining what evidence would falsify the
proposition in question."

When it comes to the existence of God, how can one truly know if some aspect
of this world does or does not truly falsify the existence of God? As I
said, I do not have faith in such proposed methods of Certainty.
Falsification can be a powerful tool if it is tightly connected to a very
focused and specific inquiry. But if you loosen things up to apply it to
metaphysics and ambiguous realities, it loses its power.

I'm afraid this person's arguments are premised on very simplistic
understandings of the human mind, metaphysics, and inquiry.

- Mike Gene

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Burgeson (ASA member)" <hossradbourne@gmail.com>
To: "ASA" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Friday, November 28, 2008 3:48 PM
Subject: [asa] The theist challenge

> The following is copied from the blog I mentioned earlier today.
>
> http://www.daylightatheism.org/2008/11/a-clarification-on-the-theists-guide.html
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
> In my Ebon Musings essay, "The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists",
> I wrote that I would link to any theist who was willing to post a list
> of things they would accept as proof that atheism is true. That offer
> has been open since I first posted the essay in 2001; it is still open
> now and will remain open as long as practical.
>
> However, for me to consider your essay a valid answer to that
> challenge, it must answer the question I actually posed: What argument
> or observation could convince you to not believe in God? If what your
> essay argues is, "You could never persuade me to not believe in God
> and here's why," then you are not answering the question that I asked.
> I will not link to responses that do not give a legitimate answer to
> this question.
>
> In fact, responses of this nature emphasize my point rather than
> contradict it: for most theists, belief in God is an unfalsifiable
> construct bearing no relation to the facts of the world. That is what
> I wrote at the beginning of the Theist's Guide:
>
> Many theists, by their own admission, structure their beliefs so that
> no evidence could possibly disprove them. In short, they are
> closed-minded, and have been taught to be closed-minded.
>
> What this means is that, for me to account your answer valid, it must
> consist of something that we could, at least in principle, either
> agree upon or discover to be true. This rules out logical
> impossibilities, such as "I would become an atheist if I died and then
> discovered that there was no consciousness after death." (I've heard
> that one.) It also rules out counterfactual statements - saying that
> you would cease to believe in God only if the world was different than
> it is, for example, that you would become an atheist if there were no
> such thing as love or goodness. (I've heard both of those as well.)
>
> If all the items that would drive you to atheism are counterfactuals,
> i.e., things that we already know not to be true, then what you're
> essentially saying is that there are no possible discoveries that
> would make you an atheist, and you have again failed to respond to the
> point of the challenge. This would be like me saying, "The only
> possible thing that would make me believe in God would be if the world
> was a perfect paradise that contained no death, evil or suffering." I
> think most theists would consider this unfair, and rightfully so. I'm
> ruling out their answer from the start by making my belief contingent
> on something that we already know is not true.
>
> Now, if you're arguing that you would cease to believe in God if some
> particular, widely held proposition were falsified, that is a
> different matter. But in that case, I'd expect that you would
> supplement this answer by explaining what evidence would falsify the
> proposition in question. On the other hand, when someone says they'd
> be an atheist only if there was no love in the world, that's clearly
> not their intent. They're not imagining a discovery that might be made
> in this world, but speculating that they'd be an atheist in a
> different world altogether. I trust that the difference between those
> two things is clear.
>
>
> --
> Burgy
>
> www.burgy.50megs.com
>
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>
>
>
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Received on Tue Dec 2 11:06:47 2008

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