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Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Note on Bill Maher's Religulous

"Research! Who needs it?"

Here's just something I noticed briefly. Bill Maher's Religulous contained an interview between Rev. Jeremiah Cummings and Bill Maher in which we see the following exchange.

Jeremiah Cummings: Okay, but now, but now, things like houses and cars and clothes and money, they come as a result of my seeking God first.
Bill Maher: I don't remember that in the New Testament specifically.
[a subtitle appears - "Because it's not there."] 
Jeremiah Cummings: But it's there.
[Subtitle - "No it's not."] 
Jeremiah Cummings: I remember it.
Bill Maher: A passage about...
Jeremiah Cummings: I remember it.
[Subtitle - "I'm sure you do."] 
Bill Maher: The houses, the cars and the clothes, they'll come.  

Bill Maher thinks the Rev. is misquoting or outright lying about a non-existent verse in the scriptures, but in the New Testament, we do actually read,

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Mark 10:29-30

These verses say exactly what Rev. Cummings was saying. If you seek God first, rather than worldly wealth, then the lord will provide you with what you need and often more. Bill Maher is wrong.

That being said, let me say that I do disagree with Rev. Cummings and agree with Bill Maher on the point that a paid ministry is unwise. It opens the door to all sorts of corruption and ulterior motives. There's something wrong with a preacher who rolls up in a Cadillac, covered in bling, while the congregation starves.

Nevertheless, even though I disagree with the Reverends interpretation and application of the verse, the verse is, in fact, there and Bill Maher is wrong.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Omniscience-Human Experience Incompatibility Argument

There seems to be a lot of these recycled arguments that claim that God cannot be omniscient because His divine nature precludes him from certain types of knowledge, such as knowledge of sin, or knowledge of what it is like to learn. Here is yet another of these arguments.
  1. Fear is a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger. (The American Heritage® Dictionary: 2000) 
  2. If God exists, God cannot feel agitated, anxious or feel endangered. 
  3. If God cannot know fear, he is not all-knowing. (Some would claim that it is against God's nature to be afraid. Exactly, then he cannot be omniscient. There are at least some things for which he is completely ignorant of. Stating that it's against his nature is a cop-out and a concession simultaneously.) 
It's basically the same argument those linked above, so it gets the same response.

“As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.” - Lorenzo Snow

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage and the Slippery Slope

It's an often used, and often mocked, argument against gay marriage that if gay marriage were legalized, it would pave the way for other types of "taboo" relationships, such as incest, polygamy, pedophilia, etc.

This argument is often dismissed on the grounds that it employs a logical fallacy known as the Slippery Slope.

HERE is an interesting post from Shameless Popery on the subject. Good for a quick read.

Let me hear what you think of the issue!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Your Logical Fallacy Is...

This sums up most of the comments on the internet.

HERE is a nice website that describes several dozen common logical fallacies used by theists, atheists and every other kind of -ist.

Just click the link above, or the one HERE, and scroll over the symbols to see a brief description of the fallacy.

I almost want to make this page required reading for anyone looking to comment here.

Or anywhere.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Disproof of God's Existence (1970) by Michael Martin

If God is omniscient,
then can He be absolutely moral?

This is another article from Infidels.org which supposedly disproves at least one conception of God by pointing out the irrationality of one of God's attributes.  The article is very short and you can read it here.

The article presents an argument that God's absolute morality precludes Him from knowing what certain experiences are like, such as feelings of lust or envy.

The argument claims:

  1. If God exists, God has not had feelings of lust or envy.
  2. If God exists, God exists as a being who knows at least everything man knows.
  3. If God exists as a being who knows at least everything man knows, God knows lust and envy.
  4. If God knows lust and envy, God has had the feelings of lust and envy.
  5. God exists. (By hypothesis.)
  6. God has had and has not had the feelings of lust and envy. (By (1) - (5).)
  7. God does not exist. (By (5) & (6)  Q. E. D.)
In other words, God's morality either makes Him a being who cannot be omniscient, or cannot be absolutely moral. If one imagines a God who is both omniscient and omni-benevolent, then there conception of God is impossible.

There article, perhaps in the interest of fairness, lists a few common objections and then addresses them. Many of the objections don't really hold water, but here is one objection which is not brought up, and I don't think Martin would be able to address it. He even admits that his argument is geared more towards the "common view" of God and acknowledges that no single argument can refute every conception of God. My objection involves a very uncommon view of God.

This disproof by Martin is very similar to the argument presented in Omniscience and Learning by Ryan Stringer. Therefore, the answer is very similar, too. 
"As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." - Lorenzo Snow
Therefore, premise (1) is false and Martin's argument is invalid.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Omniscience and Learning by Ryan Stringer

Ryan Stringer, at Infidels.org., wrote and article called Omniscience and Learning. The article's main argument was that if God is omniscient (all-knowing), then it seems that he would have to know what it is like to learn. However, in order to know what it is like to learn, one must have learned something, which involves moving from a state of not-knowing to a state of knowing.

This entails that at one time we were in a state of not-knowing a thing that was learned, then experienced what it is like to learn. But if God is essentially omniscient, he always is and has been omniscient, so was never in a state of not-knowing. Because being in a state of not-knowing is necessary to know what it is like to learn, we would seem to have to say that God does not know what it is like to learn.

But this contradicts the original claim that he does know this based on his omniscience. Thus, it seems that God's omniscience generates a contradiction. Consequently an omniscient God cannot exist.

In response, I offer the following:
"As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." - Lorenzo Snow
But Stringer predicted a defense much like this. He says,
"...a critic could reject committing to God's essential omniscience—the notion that, as an essential property, omniscience necessarily (and thus always) belongs to God. This imagined critic might think that at one time God was almost omniscient, and shortly thereafter acquired his last two pieces of knowledge—X, and what it is like to learn. However, this strange position has no obvious candidate for X, and in any case does not seem to be a real threat to the argument because P1[An essentially omniscient being, God, exists.] is a necessary truth by stipulation of the traditional conception of God as essentially omniscient."
In other words, it's possible to resolve this issue by admitting that there was a time when God "learned" something, but that would require the rejection of the traditional conception of God.

I'm OK with that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Six Ways of Atheism

A guy named Geoffrey Berg wrote a book called The Six Ways of Atheism (which is a pretentious reference to Aquinas' Five Ways).

This book was easily one of the most absurd books ever published, by anyone, on the philosophy of religion. A press release about the book stated, "For the first time in human history multiple, absolute, valid, logical, simple disproofs of God's existence have been published."

Because no one has ever written a book questioning the existence of God?

It also claimed that "this should be 'The End For The God Concept'."

Here is a list of links to each of the six ways and a look at some of the problems with each.

  1. The ‘Some Of God’s Defining Qualities Cannot Exist’ Argument
  2. The ‘God Has No Explanatory Value’ Argument
  3. The Aggregate of Qualities Argument
  4. The ‘This Is Not The Best Possible World’ Argument
  5. The Man And God Comprehension Gulf Argument
  6. The Universal Uncertainty Argument

Oh, wait. Maybe it's satire...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The ‘Some Of God’s Defining Qualities Cannot Exist’ Argument

The awkwardly named ‘Some Of God’s Defining Qualities Cannot Exist’ Argument claims that, well, some of God's defining qualities cannot exist, therefore God cannot exist. That's about it. It goes like this;
  1. God must have certain characteristic qualities (such as providing purpose to life), otherwise he would not be God.
  2. But it is impossible for any entity to possess some of these qualities (such as providing purpose to life since we can find no real purpose and therefore we in practice have no ultimate purpose to our lives) that are essential to God.
  3. Therefore since some of God’s essential qualities (such as being the purpose provider to life) cannot possibly exist in any entity, God cannot exist.

This argument is so weak, that it has to have an example built into it in order to seem valid. In order to emphasize this problem, here is the argument again by itself, without the flimsy, parenthetical support.
  1. God must have certain characteristic qualities, otherwise he would not be God.
  2. But it is impossible for any entity to possess some of these qualities that are essential to God.
  3. Therefore since some of God’s essential qualities cannot possibly exist in any entity, God cannot exist.
The reason the parenthetical example about the purpose of life is weak is because we do not need to understand the purpose of life in order for there to be a purpose. 

For example, if a child was taking a test in kindergarten, that child would not need to understand the principles of early childhood development, elementary school administration, or teacher accountability in order for that test to have a purpose. The test has a purpose regardless of whether or not the child is aware of it.

In addition, the claim that we "can find no real purpose" is unsupported. Theists claim that we can certainly find purpose through such sources as "religious experience", or sacred texts. The validity of these sources is still debated between theists and atheists, so the argument is just begging the question by assuming these sources are invalid. 

So this argument cannot even be considered valid until some consensus is made regarding the validity of spiritual sources. But that would end the debate of whether or not God exists.Therefore, this argument simply cannot ever be considered a valid argument. If we were ever in a position where it could, then the question will have already been answered.

But even without the poor example, this argument is still just a recycled version of other arguments, such as the Problem of Evil and the Aggregate of Qualities Argument. Not only does this argument bring absolutely nothing new to the debate over God's existence, but even if it did, it would be no stronger, but much less supported, than arguments that have already been around for a long time.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The ‘God Has No Explanatory Value’ Argument

The argument that God has no explanatory value is another appeal to Occam's Razor in order to show that God is nothing but an unnecessary complication. If it can be shown that God's existence would not contribute to our understanding of the world, then we may dismiss God as unnecessary. 

A more common version of this argument claims that if God were used as an explanation, then we would then need an explanation for God, and an explanation for the explanation, etc, and therefore, God has no real explanatory value. However, the same can be said of the universe.

Instead, this version claims that if God were used as an explanation, then it simply wouldn't explain anything.

The argument is:

  1. God if he exists must be the ultimate being and provide the answer to all our ultimate questions – otherwise he is not really God.
  2. Yet even supposing as a hypothesis that God exists the questions that God was supposed to finally answer still remain (though in some cases God is substituted in the question for the Universe).
  3. Therefore hypothesising God’s existence is only unnecessarily adding an extra stage to such problems and has no real explanatory value.
  4. Therefore according to Logic (Occam’s Razor Law – ‘that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’) we should not postulate God’s existence and there is no adequate reason to suppose that God exists.
  5. Therefore we should suppose that God does not exist.

The problem with this is that many of the premises are either unsupported or much too vague. For example, what are these "ultimate questions" which would go unanswered?

If we knew that God existed, we would also know how the universe was created, where we came from, the purpose and meaning of life, whether or not there is a soul and an afterlife, whether there is objective morality, why there is suffering and evil, etc.

Are there really any "ultimate questions" which would go unanswered?

In addition, if we were basing God's plausibility on the extent to which His existence would answer deep, philosophical question, then we should come to the opposite conclusion. Questions such as the meaning of life or the whether there is life after death are simply not questions that are answerable by science, or even philosophy.

If the reasoning in this argument is correct, then we should assume that God exists, because it actually explains more than science or philosophy could. It would answer questions that fall outside of the scope of scientific study.

If this argument is correct, then we should simply assume that God exists.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Aggregate of Qualities Argument

"...also, I can juggle!"

The Aggregate of Qualities Argument tries to claim that if there is a God, then He must have a certain combination of supernatural qualities, such as omnipotence, omniscience, omni-benevolence, etc. It is impossible for these qualities to exist in one  being, therefore God is impossible.

Here it is:
  1. If God exists, God must necessarily possess all of several remarkable qualities (including supreme goodness, omnipotence, immortality, omniscience, ultimate creator, purpose giver).
  2. Every one of these qualities may not exist in any one entity and if any such quality does exist it exists in few entities or in some cases (e.g. omnipotence, ultimate creator) in at most one entity.
  3. Therefore it is highly unlikely any entity would possess even one of these qualities.
  4. There is an infinitesimal chance that any one entity (given the almost infinite number of entities in the Universe) might possess the combination of even some two of these qualities, let alone all of them.
  5. In statistical analysis a merely hypothetical infinitesimal chance can in effect be treated as the no chance to which it approximates so very closely.
  6. Therefore as there is statistically such an infinitesimal chance of any entity possessing, as God would have to do, all God’s essential qualities in combination it can be said for all practical and statistical purposes that God just does not exist.
The argument hinges on the idea that these supernatural qualities cannot all exist in the same entity, but there is no evidence for this. Why can't the same being be both omnipotent and omniscient? Is there a single pair of godly attributes which directly contradict each other?

Some attributes seem to be self-contradictory, such as the Omnipotence Paradox or the Omniscience/Free Will Paradox, but these are easily resolved.

The only instance I know of more than one godly attribute in conflict is the Problem of Evil, but even that has many plausible refutations.

If all of there is no reason why these qualities cannot exist in the same being, then the argument falls apart.

The statistical portion is not only irrelevant to the rest of the argument, but also irrelevant to the question of God. Theists admit that in all of creation, there is only one. Of course the odds are infinitesimal.

But even if there was nothing in creation that possessed any of these qualities, it would still have no bearing on whether or not there was a God. A creator is not obligated to be like the creation.

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