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Dear God are you there? It’s me Steven

August 14, 2010

So within hours of posting my blog about proofs for the existence of God my new best friend Steven posted a blog where he attempts to refute me.  He was arrogant and condescending in his response and seemed kind of pissed at me despite the fact that I spent the entire first section of my blog defending religion from “militant atheism” and my entire thesis was that debating this kind of thing was a waste of time.  I responded to Steven’s blog in comments which made me feel bad since the entire thing was just a transparent ploy to get a fight going.  (fights equal more views and comments as any blogger knows.)  I was unsatisfied with my comment to him so I find it necessary again to do a follow up.

Steven’s blog:
http://snemes.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/an-argument-not-worth-having/

What is it about me that makes people want to fight with me?  My last three myspace blogs were all about conspiracy theories because I made the mistake of calling people who thought the government wanted to enslave white people paranoid.  This resulted in repeated flames on my blog where I was called a series of names and attacked relentlessly.  In this case Steven seems much more intelligent but he finds the idea that I don’t have any imaginary friends so threatening that he wants to pick a fight with me over it.  He did have a few good points but most of his arguments were really laughably bad.  Here are the main points.

1. Steven took offence with the idea that philosophers don’t really care about proofs for God anymore.  He took this to mean that all philosophers don’t.  That is obviously not true.  Theologians care a great deal about them and they have every right to.  Analytic philosophers however consider them irrelevant and even a great number of continental philosophers don’t really care anymore.  This is just true.   A recent poll showed that 85% of analytic philosophers consider themselves Atheists.   I was just stating a fact of the profession and apparently Steven finds this highly offensive.

2.  Steven claims that it is easy to prove that something doesn’t exist.  He uses the example that there are no square circles.  This is an example of a priori knowledge and God cannot be proven or disproven a priori.   If something contradicts itself it can’t be true either.  Everybody knows this.  Steven then goes on to make an empirical claim.  He uses the example of proving that there are no elephants in his bedroom by going to check.  This is a posterori knowledge.  I have never seen God nor seen any shred of evidence of him.  Nor Have I heard a compelling argument for God.  So why is it any less valid for me to believe that there is no God then for Steven to believe there are no elephants in his room?

3.   This one confused me.  Steven said that a claim that I cannot prove that something doesn’t exist is bogus.  Meanwhile he claims he can easily claim that there are no elephants in his room due to lack of evidence.  (He should check his refrigerator though.)  Lack of evidence is why I dismiss the idea of God.  I pointed out that in a court case it is the prosecution who the burden of proof lies on.  Steven tried to give a counter example by saying that a solipsistic person who doubted the existence of other minds could say that the burden of proof that I exist and that other people exists is on me.  Well, there is a mountain of empirical evidence that tells us that other people exist.  If we assume that everyone we encounter is automata it is possible but highly unlikely.  If somebody wants me to try and prove I exist or that I am a thinking being I could never prove this 100% but there is evidence.  For God there is no evidence.  Not even a little tiny bit of evidence.

4.   Steven takes exception that my arguments as presented are not as complex as those given by the actual philosophers they come from.  Well, they aren’t mine they were Joe’s arguments.     I just recognized them as having their roots in arguments made by different philosophers.  I did say in the blog that Joe really didn’t know what he was talking about.  I actually made them more intelligent and complex then Joe presented them because otherwise I would have nothing to talk about.

5.   Steven takes issue with the fact that I mention that the idea of an “uncaused cause” doesn’t prove a Christian God.  He says it still proves a God.  No, it doesn’t.  It proves that there is a question we cannot answer.  He also gets pissy when I mention scientists don’t agree about whether there is a finite or infinite universe.  For some reason Steven thinks I’m using this as proof of something.  No, because I stated before that both a finite or infinite universe make God’s existence make equal sense.  My point was just because we don’t know the answer we just can’t throw God at the problem and declare it fixed.  Why one God?  How about  multiple Gods?  Why not instead of God we declare that magic exists?  We could make up any number of fanciful explanations that would be equally as valid.

6.   Steven takes exception with how I interpreted Descartes’s argument.  What Descartes actually says is that God is a being that contains all perfections.  Existence is perfection so God must exist.  So you see that makes so much more sense than the version that I presented.  I am willing to admit that my version of Descartes was one that not everybody would agree with but my objections to his logic still stand.  Steven also doubts many other claims I make about Descartes views and keeps referencing Descartes’s Meditations.  He is right.  Many of the things mentioned weren’t in Descartes’s Meditations.  So since this is the only book Descartes ever wrote….wait, no it isn’t.  So Steven accuses me of not knowing what I’m talking about because he hasn’t read as much Descartes as I have.

7.  Steven gets mad at me for not addressing whether intelligence in human beings means that there must be a more intelligent creator.  I find this to an arrogant assumption by humans to make them feel more important in the universe.

8.   Being a dick, Steven starts mocking whether my counter examples actually come from David Hume.  (They do.  They are paraphrases of arguments Hume made.)    But even if they didn’t come from Hume and I made them up you would still have to judge them on their own merits.  Hume refutes intelligent design by simply saying that we cannot know design unless we have something random to compare it to.  He says that we know the difference between a stone fence and a pile of stones because we have compared the two.  Not only does Steven not get what Hume is saying but he tries to refute it by simply repeating the same thing over again.  He says that he knows what a fence is because he has seen fences before.  No shit!  That was what I just said.  He goes onto say that all somebody needs to know design is to be aware of design itself and doesn’t need to make comparisons.  This is of course why people see Jesus in their toast and one person sees a Jackson Pollack as great art while another thinks it is just random splashes.  It takes experience to know if something s intentional or random and Hume’s point is that we could only claim to know that our Universe was designed by an intelligent creator if we had a chaotic universe to compare it to.  I have no idea why Steven finds this so hard to understand.  Is anybody else having problems with it?

9.   Steven refers to Leibnitz’s “best of all possible worlds” as a strange argument.  I find this weird because it is hugely famous and as I mentioned was in Voltaire’s Candide.      I assumed that this guy knows theology so he should know Leibnitz better than me.  (I definitely don’t know Leibnitz as well as I should.)

10.   Then we have to talk about whether religion is a justification for morality.  I point out that Hume, Kant, Hobbes, Mill and others got along fine without using God in their moral theories.  I also pointed out that there are moral religious people and immoral religious people.  Whether someone is moral or not seems to have nothing to do with religion.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2010 2:31 pm

    Excellent post, I’ve now subscribed.

  2. lisa permalink
    August 14, 2010 2:44 pm

    I thought man was Created in God’s image, therefore, God is MAN so he exists in all………

    hmm, me personally, I am of the opinion that our personal beliefs of whether we believe in a God or not, should be just that … Personal. I do not hold with people who try to throw the bible in my face and say, God exists as did Jesus etc – I wasn’t around 2000 years ago and so without seeing with my own eyes – Jesus, I just have to take he existed at all due to other people’s writings about his life. Science continually changes due to ‘new found’ evidence so everything we believe to be true now, could have a detrimental effect later if found to be untrue.

    God’s existence is only to those who wish to believe he existed at all. Ask me personally, I say man created the God of today, to control the masses. If there was a God at all, I very much doubt he’d be playing chess with human lifes. Surely he’d have more to do with the rest of the Universe?

    • August 14, 2010 8:24 pm

      Like I said in the original blog trying to prove God is a futile exercise. I can’t disprove God nor was I trying. All I said is that the proofs are not very good. That is enough to start a fight apparently. The people who believe in God act like it is so obvious that you would have to be an idiot not to believe. So it is apparently completely obvious but we have been debating it for thousands of years. It is a dead topic as far as I am concerned.

  3. Steven permalink
    August 14, 2010 5:44 pm

    I’ve responded to some of these claims on my own blog so won’t repeat myself.

    1. Steven took offence with the idea that philosophers don’t really care about proofs for God anymore. He took this to mean that all philosophers don’t. That is obviously not true. Theologians care a great deal about them and they have every right to. Analytic philosophers however consider them irrelevant and even a great number of continental philosophers don’t really care anymore. This is just true. A recent poll showed that 85% of analytic philosophers consider themselves Atheists. I was just stating a fact of the profession and apparently Steven finds this highly offensive.

    You said by the 19th century the theistic proofs were widely considered to be bogus and refuted, and belief in God was a matter of faith. I responded by saying that the theistic proofs are still being discussed, and there are *new* proofs being written, so that this is a bogus claim. Now you claim that analytic philosophers consider them irreleavant.

    (i) Analytic philosophers didn’t live in the 18th and 19th centuries, so even if it is true that they don’t care about the theistic proofs, this isn’t evidence in favor of your claim.

    (ii) Some of the foremost analytic philosophers were philosophers very much interested in the theistic proofs and offered arguments of their own (e.g., William Alston, Alvin Plantinga, Robert Adams, etc.).

    (iii) Even if the majority of analytic philosophers are atheists, this isn’t to say that they all consider the arguments irrelevant and just don’t care. How do you know that the majority of analytic philosophers think they are irrelevant?

    (iv) Even if the majority of analytic philosophers think the theistic proofs are irrelevant, why is this an important claim? Why suppose that the majority of analytic philosophers would have a developed and mature opinion on the matter anyway? I know that philosophers who work in area A often have little or no knowledge in area B; they simply don’t know what they’re talking about. This probably is the case in a lot of analytic philosophers who think the theistic arguments are irrelevant.

    (V) I don’t find anything “highly offensive”, I just think your claims are exaggerated and literally false.

    3. This one confused me. Steven said that a claim that I cannot prove that something doesn’t exist is bogus. Meanwhile he claims he can easily claim that there are no elephants in his room due to lack of evidence. (He should check his refrigerator though.) Lack of evidence is why I dismiss the idea of God. I pointed out that in a court case it is the prosecution who the burden of proof lies on. Steven tried to give a counter example by saying that a solipsistic person who doubted the existence of other minds could say that the burden of proof that I exist and that other people exists is on me. Well, there is a mountain of empirical evidence that tells us that other people exist. If we assume that everyone we encounter is automata it is possible but highly unlikely. If somebody wants me to try and prove I exist or that I am a thinking being I could never prove this 100% but there is evidence. For God there is no evidence. Not even a little tiny bit of evidence.

    (i) Any alleged evidence for your existence is consistent with solipsism.

    (ii) Your confidence regarding the lack of evidence for the existence of God is confusing. How could you be so confident in the failure of every theistic proof ever offered, let alone evidence that there might be which hasn’t been formalized in a proof yet? You misinterpret Descartes’ ontological argument and you attribute to Aristotle/Aquinas an argument that they never even give–yet you’re pretty confident that the arguments they *did* give are all failures, and there’s not a shred of evidence.

    (iii) Even if all the theist proofs ever offered failed, it doesn’t follow that there is not *any* evidence for the existence of God.

    4. Steven takes exception that my arguments as presented are not as complex as those given by the actual philosophers they come from. Well, they aren’t mine they were Joe’s arguments. I just recognized them as having their roots in arguments made by different philosophers. I did say in the blog that Joe really didn’t know what he was talking about. I actually made them more intelligent and complex then Joe presented them because otherwise I would have nothing to talk about.

    I didn’t take exception that the arguments you refuted weren’t as complex as the ones offered by Leibniz, Aristotle, Aquinas, etc. I said they *weren’t* the arguments they offered, but you attributed them to “the greatest minds who have ever lived”.

    5. Steven takes issue with the fact that I mention that the idea of an “uncaused cause” doesn’t prove a Christian God. He says it still proves a God. No, it doesn’t. It proves that there is a question we cannot answer. He also gets pissy when I mention scientists don’t agree about whether there is a finite or infinite universe. For some reason Steven thinks I’m using this as proof of something. No, because I stated before that both a finite or infinite universe make God’s existence make equal sense. My point was just because we don’t know the answer we just can’t throw God at the problem and declare it fixed. Why one God? How about multiple Gods? Why not instead of God we declare that magic exists? We could make up any number of fanciful explanations that would be equally as valid.

    (i) I didn’t get “pissy” at any point.

    (ii) You said “Even if we accept that this argument proves “a god” exists I don’t see how it gives any more credence to a Christian version than any other version.” I pointed out that this was irrelevant to the purpose of the argument.

    6. Steven takes exception with how I interpreted Descartes argument. What Descartes actually says is that God is a being that contains all perfections. Existence is perfection so God must exist. So you see that makes so much more sense than the version that I presented. I am willing to admit that my version of Descartes was one that not everybody would agree with but my objections to his logic still stand. Steven also doubts many other claims I make about Descartes views and keeps referencing Descartes Meditations. He is right. Many of the things mentioned weren’t in Descartes Meditations. So since this is the only book Descartes ever wrote….wait, no it isn’t. So Steven accuses me of not knowing what I’m talking about because he hasn’t read as much Descartes as I have.

    Since you were dealing with issues he raises in the Meditation, I assumed you were speaking merely about what he says in the Meditations. That was my mistake.

    7. Steven gets mad at me for not addressing whether intelligence in human beings means that there must be a more intelligent creator. I find this to an arrogant assumption by humans to make them feel more important in the universe.

    I didn’t get angry at you for anything. Why the hell are you reading so much hostility into my post?

    8. Being a dick, Steven starts mocking whether my counter examples actually come from David Hume. (They do. They are paraphrases of arguments Hume made.) But even if they didn’t come from Hume and I made them up you would still have to judge them on their own merits. Hume refutes intelligent design by simply saying that we cannot know design unless we have something random to compare it to. He says that we know the difference between a stone fence and a pile of stones because we have compared the two. Not only does Steven not get what Hume is saying but he tries to refute it by simply repeating the same thing over again. He says that he knows what a fence is because he has seen fences before. No shit! That was what I just said. He goes onto say that all somebody needs to know design is to be aware of design itself and doesn’t need to make comparisons. This is of course why people see Jesus in their toast and one person sees a Jackson Pollack as great art while another thinks it is just random splashes. It takes experience to know if something s intentional or random and Hume’s point is that we could only claim to know that our Universe was designed by an intelligent creator if we had a chaotic universe to compare it to. I have no idea why Steven finds this so hard to understand. Is anybody else having problems with it?

    (i) I didn’t mock anything.

    (ii) This is *not* what I said. You should read my post again, because you seem to have the wrong impression about a lot of things, including the claims I made.

    9. Steven refers to Leibnitz’s “best of all possible worlds” as a strange argument. I find this weird because it is hugely famous and as I mentioned was in Voltaire’s Candide. I assumed that this guy knows theology so he should know Leibnitz better than me. (I definitely don’t know Leibnitz as well as I should.)

    Strange in so far as it is taken to be a theistic proof. I agreed with you here.

    In any case, I’m not particularly interested in discussing this in great detail, because you seem to think of me as some kind of internet thug looking for a fight. I wasn’t looking for any fights, and I didn’t get “pissy” or angry as you claim I did. My main interest was your ridiculously overconfident claim that the project of natural theology is a big failure, a claim you haven’t substantiated with any evidence.

    • August 14, 2010 8:16 pm

      I never said that by the 19th century these arguments have been refuted. Both Kant and Kierkegaard had concluded that there was no way to rationally prove the existence of God and they were theists. It was in the 19th century that philosophers stopped referencing God in their arguments on a regular basis. This is all I said. I will not continue to argue over what I said because all somebody has to do is go back and read my blog to see that I did not use those words that you are attributing to me. I am an analytic philosopher. Analytic philosophers don’t care about proofs for God anymore. I don’t see why you want to argue on this point. Even a large amount of philosophers that work in the religious area 20%, according to the same poll, describe themselves as atheists. This is not proof of anything. But I strongly believe you can’t prove the existence of God by reason. If you want to waste your time doing so then go ahead.

      I never presented these arguments as the philosophers actual arguments or their complete arguments. My last paragraph is the only time I say anything that could even be misinterpreted as that and you would have to take it out of context in order to get that. I say at least twice that Joe’s arguments are wrong but he is basing them on these philosophers. Do I think the philosophers actual arguments are weak. Yes, I do and these are some of my favorite philosophers too. Anybody who would take my word for it without considering it themselves isn’t much of a thinker and that seems to be what you are afraid of.

      There is no empirical evidence for the existence of God. None. The arguments are all made by rationalists. I don’t think you can prove much just by thinking about it. You of course can prove self evident things. All proofs of God boil down to try and prove that God is self evident. It isn’t. God is in no way necessary for this universe to exist. Is God possible? Yes, it is one possible explanation among many.

      There is a lot of hostility in your post. You don’t even attempt to refer to me by name but call me “the blogger” as if you have something stuck on the bottom of your shoe. Your blog is arrogant and hostile. All somebody has to do is read it to see that. You are talking down to me the whole time. This is after in my blog I spent a lot of time trying to show that I had no hostility toward religion or the religious. Apparently this was a waste of time.

      I wasn’t really interested in discussing this at all. What bothers me most is you do not see the difference between a priori and empirical knowledge and talk about them as if they are the same thing. They are not. I never wanted to have this discussion in the first place.

  4. Steven permalink
    August 14, 2010 10:23 pm

    I never said that by the 19th century these arguments have been refuted. Both Kant and Kierkegaard had concluded that there was no way to rationally prove the existence of God and they were theists. It was in the 19th century that philosophers stopped referencing God in their arguments on a regular basis. This is all I said. I will not continue to argue over what I said because all somebody has to do is go back and read my blog to see that I did not use those words that you are attributing to me.

    You said, “By the 19th century it was decided that the argument could never be solved and God was purely a matter of faith. Then somebody, possibly Al Gore, invented the internet and every stupid argument that had already been resolved was given new life.”

    I don’t know what else you could mean by every stupid argument’s being resolved except that they were refuted, given that you say in the 19th century, it was decided that the argument (about the existence of God, not the particular theistic arguments) could never be solved and that it was a matter of faith instead.

    I am an analytic philosopher. Analytic philosophers don’t care about proofs for God anymore. I don’t see why you want to argue on this point. Even a large amount of philosophers that work in the religious area 20%, according to the same poll, describe themselves as atheists. This is not proof of anything. But I strongly believe you can’t prove the existence of God by reason. If you want to waste your time doing so then go ahead.

    I already gave you example of some of the most foremost analytic philosophers who cared about the theistic proofs. And you aren’t responding to any of the counterarguments I gave.

    If your bringing up this statistic isn’t “proof of anything”, then what the hell is the point of your bringing it up in the second post? Why bother?

    And your bit about your not believing the existence of God could be proven by reason is irrelevant to the subject of the rest of the paragraph.

    I never presented these arguments as the philosophers actual arguments or their complete arguments. My last paragraph is the only time I say anything that could even be misinterpreted as that and you would have to take it out of context in order to get that. I say at least twice that Joe’s arguments are wrong but he is basing them on these philosophers.

    Your last paragraph read: “That’s right, these three arguments that it took me a few paragraphs to refute are the best arguments that the greatest minds who have ever lived have come up with to try and prove God existed. Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes and Leibnitz were all geniuses who made contributions to science, logic, mathematics, ethics, political philosophy and many other fields. Yet, this is the best they were able to come up with on the subject of God.”

    When you say “this is the best they were able to come up with”, you attribute the “arguments” you deal with in your post to Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, and Leibniz. That’s not misinterpretation; that’s just what you said.

    And what does it matter if you repeatedly said Joe messed up the arguments? You admitted to correcting them and getting them closer to the “actual arguments” made by the respective philosophers which he allegedly was basing his arguments on. How else could you be understood, then, except as claiming that the above listed philosophers offered the arguments you deal with in your post?

    Do I think the philosophers actual arguments are weak. Yes, I do and these are some of my favorite philosophers too. Anybody who would take my word for it without considering it themselves isn’t much of a thinker and that seems to be what you are afraid of.

    I don’t know what you think I’m afraid of. And I don’t know what your mentioning this has to do with anything.

    There is no empirical evidence for the existence of God. None. The arguments are all made by rationalists. I don’t think you can prove much just by thinking about it. You of course can prove self evident things. All proofs of God boil down to try and prove that God is self evident. It isn’t. God is in no way necessary for this universe to exist. Is God possible? Yes, it is one possible explanation among many

    I don’t understand what would count as “empirical evidence” for existence of God unless you define what you mean, but why couldn’t arguments from religious experience, miracles, and the a posteriori arguments of Thomas Aquinas (the first two ways, for instance) be considered empirical?

    And you don’t prove that something is self-evident. If it’s self-evident, it doesn’t need proving.

    And arguably God is necessary for the existence of the universe. I recently blogged my way through William Vallicella’s A Paradigm Theory of Existence where he deals with this exact question. You can find that on my blog if you are interested.

    There is a lot of hostility in your post. You don’t even attempt to refer to me by name but call me “the blogger” as if you have something stuck on the bottom of your shoe. Your blog is arrogant and hostile. All somebody has to do is read it to see that. You are talking down to me the whole time. This is after in my blog I spent a lot of time trying to show that I had no hostility toward religion or the religious. Apparently this was a waste of time.

    I don’t notice any hostility; that is how I normally write. If I were trying to be hostile, you’d be able to tell. And I don’t know your name, so how am I going to refer to you by it?

    I don’t pretend that you do have hostility toward religion or the religious.

    I wasn’t really interested in discussing this at all. What bothers me most is you do not see the difference between a priori and empirical knowledge and talk about them as if they are the same thing. They are not. I never wanted to have this discussion in the first place.

    I’m not sure why you think I don’t know the difference, and why that matters.

    • August 14, 2010 10:43 pm

      I would have responded to this in great detail but when we get to the end and you don’t think the difference between a priori and empirical knowledge is relevant to this conversation. I already told you I was done.

      Hume has a whole chapter on miracles and other such “proofs” in The Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. What I will add is that there is a difference between empirical and anecdotal evidence. If I tell you something happened to me that is anecdotal. If I can produce some kind of scientific proof that certain events occur under certain circumstances that is empirical. Huge difference. I already said I was done with this. I have not been back to your blog nor am I going there. Please go away.

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