11 December 2005

Philosophical arguments against the idea of God.

Blimpish claimed that in refuting God, I hadn't refuted any of these four philosophical arguments. I think it is important to explain why these arguments for God are rubbish;

Ontological: This is the argument for God from imagining 'his perfection'. Kant claims that "ontological arguments are vitiated by their reliance upon the implicit assumption that existence is a predicate".

Basically, the very fact you can 'think' there is a God who is perfect, cannot be proof there is. What is 'perfect' anyway? It is indefinable.

Cosmological: This is the 'non-argument' that our very existence, 'means' there must be a God. It 'means' nothing of the sort, if only because it leads to the question 'who created God?'. This argument is obvious nonsense.

Teleological: This is the 'Intelligent design' argument that the complexity of the Universe 'must' mean a designer. If you believe in evolution then this argument becomes rubbish.

Intrinsic Probability: Ockham's razor (also spelt occam's) disproves this argument because it states that the simplest argument is usually correct.

There has been reams and reams written by philosophers on this issue, but there is no need to over-complicate these issues, they are basically very simple. I work on the need to make things as simple as possible. Feynman's diagram demonstrates the power of not over-complicating issues.

19 comments:

  1. Even the clergy don't really believe in God. Not deep down.

    Why do they put lightning conductors on churches if they are so sure?

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  2. Good point. As John Peel pointed out, it is not a bar to progress in the church of England to not believe in God.

    The reason I am making such a forensic point on this issue, is that there are millions of people that take religion at face value without really examining why it is there and whether it is legitimate.

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  3. Why is it that most atheists (myself not included) are left-wing politically?

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  4. Gav, a belief in democracy is not such an over-riding concern for most right-wingers.

    There is a tradition amongst conservatives of fighting against progressive change; opposing extending the voting franchise to all males, opposing votes for women, gay rights, the NHS, redistribution of wealth, overseas aid, etc, etc.

    So the idea of an unelected House of Lords, a FPTP electoral system, Divine rule and everlasting punishment in hell for sinners, fits conservative ideology more easily.

    Saying all that of course, the actual teachings of Jesus have to be glossed over by the Right, don't want any of this namby pamby communism.

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  5. Oh, the strawmen... I can't resist...

    (I note that you chose not to engage on the Moral argument. Which is funny, because Kant - your authority in refuting the ontological argument - wholly bought into it, although in a problematic way IMO.)

    Ontological: not a big fan myself, although it can't be disproven - but it might well be conceived as reading the human psyche back against itself. Your (looking suspiciously copied-and-pasted) answer isn't a refutation, though - simply an express of the limits of the point.

    Cosmological: again, looks a bit copied-and-pasted, but doesn't go even to GCSE R.E. level. Whether by the Kalam or contingent arguments, the criticism here doesn't hold up. I won't explain, but leave you to look them up.

    Teleological: your answer here is rubbish, Neil. The teleological argument doesn't for a moment hang on belief in ID - as we've discussed before, me and probably most Christians are happy to accept Darwinian evolutionary theory. All that it does require is a belief that life has meaning, and that at some point (which might be the Big Bang, or something before that) there is some intentionality to existence. Maybe you think life is utterly meaningless, in which case I'm sure you won't mind if I somebody shit on your doorstep - hey, what does it matter?

    Intrinsic probability: bearing in mind William of Ockham was a Franciscan friar...

    Take this in terms of cosmology, and the causes of the existence of a contingent universe. The leading non-theist theory is that of multiple universes, which opens up a whole world of complexity in terms of how they got there, how many there are, and why one takes the form it does. The theist theory (which has the same amount of physical evidence) is that the universe was created by God, an infinite being. In terms of Ockham's Razor, theism wins at present.

    "There is no need to over-complicate these issues."

    When Neil uses words like "complicate" (no mean feat, Neil stretching to that many syllables), it means he doesn't understand and wants to move off the subject.

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  6. Blimpish: "I note that you chose not to engage on the Moral argument."

    I've covered that before. Colin Mcginn rubbishes that argument.

    The sentence;

    Kant claims that "ontological arguments are vitiated by their reliance upon the implicit assumption that existence is a predicate".

    Should have quote marks, duly fixed. That is all you cheeky git.

    'Vitiated' means invalidated. That sounds like a refutation to me.

    The Kalam or contingent cosmological argument still doesn't answer 'who made God'. This obviously means the cosmological argument is nonsense. It doesn't answer anything.

    The teleological argument is the argument for intelligent design from the complexity of the universe. Evolution disproves Intelligent design.

    You don't need the existence of a God to derive meaning from the universe. The universe can still have meaning even if we accept it is utterly indifferent to our plight.

    Science tells us the truth about the world. And the truth is always far more interesting and beautiful than fiction.

    "the universe was created by God, an infinite being. In terms of Ockham's Razor, theism wins at present."

    The answer 'created by God' answers nothing, it is not a simplification because it stills leaves open 'what is god and how did he come into existence?'. Therefore it is a non-answer.

    Andrew cites Ockham's razor for why he is an atheist. The only answer is science.

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  7. Wikipedia is a wonderful thing, isn't it, Neil?

    Anyway, the trouble with Occam's Razor is that, like any tool, it can be used in different ways. One man's shaving implement is another man's throat-cutting weapon of choice. My simplistic justification of my own atheism was purely attempting to communicate at a level I felt you'd be comfortable with, Neil, rather than an in-depth exploration of the theological, spiritual and moral questions I have debated internally. If you genuinely want to discuss why I am an atheist, I don't think you'll get many hits, but what the hell...

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  8. Andrew, I know there is more to why you are an atheist, but Blimpish was trying to use occam's razor (I admit I had never heard of it, until you mentioned it) to say that God is the simple option, when it plainly isn't. I just pointed out that even his trusted atheist friends like you know that is rubbish.

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  9. Blimpish was trying to use occam's razor (I admit I had never heard of it, until you mentioned it) to say that God is the simple option, when it plainly isn't. I just pointed out that even his trusted atheist friends like you know that is rubbish.

    Well, actually, he has a point with this. Science is unable to answer the question about what came before t=0 (the Big Bang moment), or even what set it off. There are numerous conjectures, of course, but none of them are in any way verifiable or falsifiable, as these questions are not about the physical Universe by definition. Thus, the answer that what came before the Big Bang is God is just as good a use of Occam's razor as the answer that there was nothing, or the collision of two weird string/brane thingies, or the collapse of a previous Universe, or a big tower of Turtles, and so on, and so on.

    Indeed, to go a little further, the answer that God came before our Universe is probably definitionally simpler, because all of our convoluted 'scientific' hypotheses still leave the problem of what came before them, whereas the omnipotence of God leaves no such loose end dangling. The answer to 'what came before God?' is 'nothing', and this answer is totally self-consistent, because the concept of 'before' as applied to 'God' is meaningless due to His omnipotence. It is like asking 'what colour is an electron?', which is a stupid question because you cannot apply the concept of colour to something smaller than the wavelength of visible light.

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  10. The idea of a God is obviously more complicated than the idea there was nothing. Therefore God is not the simpler option.

    We are getting into the realms of using God as a label for the Universe. As I have said many times, 'the concept of a god' cannot be proved or disproved, but that is not what I am talking about.

    All religions give definitions of what their god is like. The only definitions that have a relevance to our behaviour are the ones that refer to a benign personal God. All of these definitions have been disproved by science.

    If God is indifferent or malign, there is no way of knowing what behaviour he would expect of us and no way of knowing that we could trust him anyway, so we might as well be atheist as logic suggests there is no god.

    Most religions claim that God will punish those who disobey and deny him, with eternal punishment. How benign is this?

    If God is benign, he has nothing to do with religion, therefore mainstream religion's definition of God are disproved.

    If religion's claims are wrong then atheists have just as much likelyhood of going to any supposed heaven as those who believe in God.

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  11. The idea of a God is obviously more complicated than the idea there was nothing. Therefore God is not the simpler option.

    Neil: Another tip for you, much like one I posted before here. Using the word 'obviously' is not a substitute for logical argument or actual knowledge. What it means in this context is that you believe the idea of God to be more complicated than the idea of nothing. You have no objective way of measuring the complexity of those two ideas, as you lack education in both theoretical physics and in theology.

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  12. Sometimes Andrew, things ARE obvious. Nobody argues for a flat Earth or pixies because it is obvious it is rubbish, you don't need a degree to know that.

    The idea of God is like racism, it survives by a critical mass of people not questioning their prejudices and looking at the evidence. It survives because our parents and friends tell us its true and just like racism, it feeds on our fear and is used by the establishment to manipulate us.

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  13. Sometimes Andrew, things ARE obvious. Nobody argues for a flat Earth or pixies because it is obvious it is rubbish, you don't need a degree to know that.

    So your initial conjecture that science disproves the notion of God has now been reduced to:

    It's just obvious that God doesn't exist *Neil stamps foot, walks off in huff*?

    Your subtle understanding of rationality and logic astounds me, good sir.

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  14. No, Andrew, it's been reduced to pointing out, at quite some length over several posts, why the idea of God is about as meaningful as pixies and a flat Earth. The main points being;

    Only a religious definition of God makes claims on our behavior, so this is the only definition of God that is relevant.

    Following religious teaching is only relevant if we believe God to be benign. There is no reason to trust a malign or indifferent God.

    Since religions preach everlasting punishment to those that disobey God, they are not talking about a benign or humane God; therefore why follow their teachings?

    The teachings of religion are impossible to follow anyway, because they are full of 'conflicting and confusing metaphors' (Blimpish's words not mine) that in their literal sense, have been continually disproved by scientific advance.

    So religion's definition of God is inhumane, irrational, confusing and utterly disproved by reasonable scientific understanding.

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  15. Hi Neil,

    care to state a couple of tenets of, say, Buddhism, which have been disproved by evidence?

    Also, are you really claiming that all religions claim that there's a risk of everlasting punishment?

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  16. Following religious teaching is only relevant if we believe God to be benign. There is no reason to trust a malign or indifferent God.

    Trust? No. Follow? Yes.

    Since religions preach everlasting punishment to those that disobey God, they are not talking about a benign or humane God; therefore why follow their teachings?

    Benign is not the same as humane, Neil. Nor do all religions preach everlasting punishment.

    The teachings of religion are impossible to follow anyway, because they are full of 'conflicting and confusing metaphors' (Blimpish's words not mine) that in their literal sense, have been continually disproved by scientific advance.

    Not at all. You're assuming that all religious teachings are conflicted and confusing. This is clearly not so, as even a cursory reading of scripture would tell you. My guess is that you've never done that. Most bigots don't bother to understand the object of their hatred - why would you be any different?

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  17. Martin; Buddhism isn't really a religion because it is not necessary to believe in God to be a buddhist.

    Those religions that don't diffuse the threat of everlasting punishment make other ridiculous threats, like being reincarnated as a lower life form as punishment.

    Andrew; it would be remarkable if the masses of scriptures and religious teaching didn't contain 'some' useful facts. But there is so much wrong with religion that even you have turned your back on it.

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  18. But there is so much wrong with religion that even you have turned your back on it.

    You're assuming those two facts are linked, when they are not. In truth, the first is not even factual. I don't think there is much 'wrong' with religion at all. I just don't find it personally compelling.

    And anything that winds Polly Toynbee up so much has to have some merit.

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  19. Why don't you find it 'personally compelling'?

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