Friday, July 28, 2006


DM [Daniel Morgan]: I would have to say that I don't think you've given Roberts credit for the real argument he is making here. He is not making the argument that if a number of answers are wrong, then the best answer is no answer at all -- the "no god" option is an answer. It's not "well since 2+2 =/ 5, it can't = 4," but "what method do we use to arrive at /=?" Do we apply that same method consistently to "="?

SH: There are two issues here: (i) What did he mean? and (ii) what do unbelievers mean by quoting him?

(i) And (ii) may not be the same thing. What makes his statement so quotable is that it’s so pithy.

But that’s also what makes the interpretation debatable. It’s quite possible to overinterpret his statement since he himself admits that he never expected it to become so popular. It's just something he said off the cuff that took on a life of its own.

My point is that his statement involves some very facile reasoning which deserves further scrutiny.

DM: In the same way, do you apply the same skeptical criteria to your own Bible that you apply to other books, esp those that are regarded as "sacred/holy/inspired"? It doesn't mean that your conclusion itself is necessarily the target of his argument, but the METHOD you use to make your conclusion. Note that he referred to the reasons that you reject other gods, as in, your methodology in determining the veracity of your own god, versus skepticism towards those other gods.

SH: That’s a very broad question.

i) I may be a Cartesian dualist, but I’m not a Cartesian sceptic. I don’t pretend to doubt things that I don’t doubt or cannot doubt.

ii) There’s an implicit voluntarism in your question, as if the cognitive subject is one thing, and his beliefs are another, such that he can bracket his beliefs at will and be in a mental state of suspended belief about anything and everything.

I don’t put my beliefs in a box every night and take them out every morning. That’s totally artificial.

iii) As far as the Bible is concerned, I find the Bible believable. I find myself in a state of belief regarding the Bible.

iv) I’ve read a great deal in support or opposition to the Bible. I find the objections specious and the supporting arguments convincing.

v) As to rival revelation claims, these are quite limited. Eastern religions lack the metaphysical machinery even to lay claim to divine revelation, for their concept of the divine is impersonal and immanental.

vi) What we’re left with are Christian heresies of one kink or another which regard the Bible or part of the Bible as either their rule of faith or one element thereof.

In that event, it comes down to an exegetical question of who has the better of the argument in the interpretation of Scripture.

DM: And if there really were no gods, then it would be just as arbitrary to believe in one as to believe in many, correct?”

SH: True, but Roberts’ argument moves from the many to the one to the none, not vice versa.

DM: Except it happens to be the one and only "creation story" that science accepts as a scientific one. (whether or not it is true) So it is the only one that is accepted for scientific reasons (whether they are wrong or right).”

SH: “Science” is just an abstraction for the collective working methods and beliefs of various scientists

There’s a lot of diversity within science, both on the secular side and the Christian side.

DM: But this is a logical fallacy. "Anti-Darwinianism" doesn't imply that one is myth-less, it is specific. On the contrary, atheism is general and sweeping and broad.

SH: It’s supposed to be a logical fallacy since it’s a parody of Roberts’ reasoning, which is also fallacious.

DM: Also, I reject all of the other creation stories because of the lack of evidence for them. Common descent from universal ancestors is as well-evidenced as it gets, like it or not.

SH: As viewed through your interpretive prism.

DM: Believing there is no driving force behind it, or that the universe wasn't tuned to allow it to happen, is attaching philosophical significance to an otherwise-scientific answer. That is the problem with the Discovery Institute's vacuous statement. They imply that one has to reject God to accept common descent, when some of their own fellows (eg Behe, and Dembski won't answer it either way) accept common descent.

SH: Yes, ID is consistent with anything from YEC thru OEC to theistic evolution. That’s why it’s a deliberate distortion for critics to treat ID as a stalking horse for creationism.

DM: It isn't global skepticism that Roberts advocates, it is skepticism towards the supernatural and unevidenced. It is bias towards our own beliefs and shielding them from the same level of critical inquiry and skeptical caution that we apply to other beliefs. Consistency is the key, and not in denying everything, but in denying faith in X when Y is just as believable (just as well-evidenced).

SH: I never imagined that Roberts was a global sceptic. But his reasoning is so loose and rubbery that a global sceptic could plug global scepticism into the same argumentative framework and run it into the ground.

My parallel is a parody; not an exposition, but an argumentum ad impossibile.

1 comment:

  1. DM: Also, I reject all of the other creation stories because of the lack of evidence for them.

    And just what type of evidence would it take to persuade you, Daniel? The problem is that your interpretive framework has by default ruled out all possibility of the supernatural. Because you are precommitted to naturalism, for whatever piece of evidence a Christian may present to you for God's existence, you will do one of two things: (a) You will attempt a naturalistic explanation/interpretation of the evidence offered, or (b) you will fall back on your religious faith in the scientific method that, although there may not be a naturalistic explanation today, one day science will figure it out.

    There are no brute facts, my friend. This debate is not about evidence but about presuppositions.