Do you believe in a god?

EagletonSeems a simple enough question. Easy to answer yes or no. But apparently not.

Terry Eagleton, author of Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, claims it’s a meaningless question. He goes so far as to claim that no respectable theologian he knows would answer yes to that question!! Strange! I thought that’s what theologians spent their time doing – trying to justify the answer yes!

I recently listened to a CBC, Canada, interview of Eagleton. Partly on the recommendation of PZ Myers at Pharyngula (see No, not Eagleton again!). Also because Eagleton authored a famous review of Richard Dawkins The God Delusion soon after it was first published. In my own extended family some members based their judgement of Dawkins’ book purely on this highly recommended (and highly negative) review (see Putting Dawkins in his place).

Strange how many people judge a book by the opinion of of a selected reviewer rather than reading it themselves.

Dawkins no theologian

The main message in this review was that Dawkins was ignorant, he was criticising a version of religion that didn’t exist, and that while he was qualified to speak about biology he was not qualified to discuss the existence, or otherwise, of a god because he was not a theologian!

I suspect there could be a few theologians now, after the CBC interview, who would like to point out that Eagleton is not a theologian either and he is not qualified to speak on what theologians believe or do in their day jobs.

Of course, Eagleton was speaking rubbish in his interview (and I suspect he was in his book, which I have yet to read). However, I found his approach interesting because I keep coming across similar obfuscations and bafflegab from others who argue for I’m not sure what, but certainly argue against those who don’t believe in a god.

Eagleton is very clear about his attitude towards the “new atheists” – he hates them! In the interviews he raves on about the childishness, etc., etc., of Richard Dawkins and Christoper Hitchens. In his book he even invents a new personality, Ditchkens, to mercilessly attack. But ask him about his own beliefs, and he rambles on about the question being meaningless. The interviewer asked Eagleton if he prayed and just got a long diatribe of bafflegab and avoidance. No answer at all.

Have a listen to the interview (mp3 here) and see if you can make any sense of it.

But, my bitch is not just with Eagleton – it’s with the obfuscation and bafflegab that many religious apologists indulge in. It appears to be second nature to many theists and I wonder if its part of the training that such people get in their theology courses. You know, debating and arguing skills, pedantic logic, winning arguments, etc. The approach where the technique becomes everything and that any argument can be, and should be, used to defend a pre-conceived theist position. Where clear positions are avoided at all costs, the meanings of words are played with, opponents arguments are distorted, strawmannery and quote-mining is common.

Where you just end up with vague (although sometimes “clever”) and circular arguments amounting to nothing more that bafflegab. You end up feeling that you are fighting with jelly.

Sometimes I yearn for the simple, dogmatic, Christian fundamentalist who will state clearly where she stands. Although I guess she is more dangerous.

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See also:
Theology of the Emperor’s New Clothes
Terry Eagleton is interviewed on Canadian radio

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140 responses to “Do you believe in a god?

  1. Greetings there Ken,

    Before we are able to answer the question “Is there a God?” we first need to establish “What is God?”. There-in lies the problem, and why this eternal question, never gets off first base. No-one knows what God is in the first-place!

    Imagine if a body of people said to you a mythical ancient creature still roamed the backblocks of Fiordland – but none of those adherents gave the same description of the same beast – just how credible would their position be?

    Just a couple of days ago I posed the question on my blog “What the f*ck is God?” and I’m still waiting a reply.

    As you say, to a believer in God, surely this must be as simple as describing a domestic cat to someone who has never encountered one?

    But no theist I have meet has been able to give me a coherent answer to a simple question.

    Meet two believers and you’ll get two descriptions, often clichéd & opposing.

    Meet two million believers and you’ll get two million descriptions of the same entity, many of which are contradictory & fanciful.

    Great post.

    Paul.

    Like

  2. I agree Paul.

    Recently I heard someone commenting on discussion at a US conference about religion. One person made the comment that at least in the US there was only one god that people believed in. The reply – No, there are millions of gods and their all called Jesus!

    Just what you expect if gods were man made – and serve the interests (or otherwise) of men (very rarely women) in all of humanity’s variation.

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  3. Simple and to-the-point comment:

    Descriptions or discourse about God (like descriptions/discourse about anything) must use words. I think both logical-technical-philosophical wording and metaphorical-poetic language are both valid ways of doing it.

    But this is often dismissed as vague or over-complicated (i.e. what appears to be Ken’s new favourite word: “bafflegab”). I’m often left wondering what kind of descriptive language would ever be listened to?

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  4. Well, Dale, you have a listen to the interview and see if he makes sense to you. Tell me if you think he believes in a god, or if he prays.

    I have a great respect for people who can present ideas simply, clearly and succinctly. Very often a simple yes or no is all that is required. Or a yes or no, followed by qualifications and elaborations. (One of the reasons Dawkins is such a popular author is that he writes clearly).

    I also very often find that when people use bafflegab instead of clear explanation it is because they either don’t understand what they are talking about, unwilling to reveal what they think, or sometimes actually embarrassed about how their true beliefs would be received.

    And lets face it – there’s no point in using bafflegab. It doesn’t communicate anything but confusion.

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  5. It’s really about the tension between simplicity and complexity I think. Language itself is metaphorical, in that a word/phrase represents a larger concept that can be extrapolated and un-packed.

    I’m not interested in giving short and simple answers to complex questions – especially when the question assumes something or is a leading question. For example, the question about belief in a God who answers prayer can be answered in one word, but can leave the questioner thinking he/she has an understanding about what the answer-er believes about what is meant by ‘God’, by ‘prayer’ and by ‘answers to prayer’ (not to mention the assumed relationship of God to the world/reality), when it is highly likely that such understanding has not been conveyed at all.

    So, whilst I agree that explanations/answers should be as simple as possible when appropriate, I think it’s often necessary to clarify the question or get to the assumptions behind the question before (or instead of) giving a simplistic (and possibly misleading) answer.

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  6. Poetic or metaphorical language doesn’t convey facts well; proper logical, etc., presentation can. The difference matters. Philosophy seems subject to abuse in the wrong hands (but then I suppose everything is).

    If you’re not interested in truth or correctness, then maybe the difference between the different ways of presenting things doesn’t matter and I suppose it wouldn’t in that case.

    So, perhaps there is a kernel of truth “hidden” in not distinguishing these, that people who don’t care about how things are presented also don’t care for the truth or correctness, but rather care for want they want to be true?

    An (the?) issue Ken’s article raises is the lack of straight-forward clarity of most apologists, etc. Look at any of Stuart’s recent posts for example: they wander around trying to evade issues and “find a way” out, rather than simply saying “I believe in ‘X’ and I know there is no way to substantiate it”. Looked at that way, his communications certainly are vague and overly complicated. It makes reader suspect that deep down the communicator knows their justification but isn’t facing it, hence the confusion in their posts that Ken referred to.

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  7. Heraclides,
    If there were a God, what kind of ‘facts’ should we be communiating about it, and what language should we use?

    Like

  8. Dale,

    It seems to me that you are wanting people to make an exception to making sense and being clear when it comes to discussing god and religion.

    This is one of the points that Dawkins makes clearly. Why should we treat religion as a special case when if comes to respect, knowledge or in this case clarity of discussion? I see absolutely no case for that.

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  9. Nick,
    No, I’m just saying that when a question burdened with (complex) assumptions is asked, giving a simple answer actually prevents the real discussion from being had.

    Just listened to the mp3. I can see why Ken reacted the way he did, but I think Eagleton is right that those “simple” questions aren’t simple.

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  10. Dale,

    Another cop-out. Sadly what I have come to expect from theists, simply from the sheer persistency with which they do it.

    The “facts” are clearly yours to present (you’re the one who believes in “G-d”, not me; how on earth am anyone supposed to know which particular set of “facts” (fictions) about G-d you believe in?)

    As for what language to use, read what I wrote. Go on, read it, it pretty much tells you the answer.

    Like

  11. Excuse the sloppy editing, started moving my post from ‘me’ to ‘us’ but didn’t complete it—sorry about that.

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  12. I think it’s often necessary to clarify the question or get to the assumptions behind the question before (or instead of) giving a simplistic (and possibly misleading) answer.

    Sadly however, certain people fall in love with “clarifying” the question.
    They delve deep into digging up assumptions about the questions.
    Endless clarifying.
    Endless detailed analysis of the assumptions.

    Then the thread goes off onto a tangent, the “clarifyer” gets disturbed by the length of the posts and vanishes into thin air.

    An actual straightforward answer to the original question never materializes.
    Mysterious?
    Or a predictable stalling tactic?

    I’m just saying that when a question burdened with (complex) assumptions is asked, giving a simple answer actually prevents the real discussion from being had.

    Desiring to engage in “the real discussion” is all too often a code phrase for deflection, evasion, and avoidence of the actual question.

    Stuart’s a good example of this.
    (Actually, he’s a PERFECT example.)

    I’m with Heraclides when he says..

    Look at any of Stuart’s recent posts for example: they wander around trying to evade issues and “find a way” out, rather than simply saying “I believe in ‘X’ and I know there is no way to substantiate it”.

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  13. Heraclides,
    I won’t use the term ‘fact’, but the first adn most basic notion/conviction/conclusion/logical-deduction about God would be that the existence of all things (whatever the natural process is by which they came to be in their present state) is dependent on God.

    Thus, it is not proper to say that God merely ‘exists’ or is merely ‘real’, rather that God more-than-exists and is more-than-real – or that god is the source of and foundation for all existence and reality.

    In other words, that God is the Creator of all things.

    That’s basic monotheism.

    Oh, by the way, monotheism is not cosmology, biology, or any other area of the natural sciences. Monotheism is suggesting something entirely prior (not in terms of time, but causality) to ‘all things’ – let alone the study of ‘all things’.

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  14. the existence of all things […] is dependent on G-d

    You’ve stated that as an assertion that’s “just right”. Let’s see you prove that 🙂

    (If you can’t, then this statement cannot be presented as a “fact” or assertion, but should be re-worded to reflect that you can’t prove it, e.g. “I believe that the existence …” An honest re-wording would also add words to the effect that you know of no way to prove it.)

    Monotheism is suggesting something entirely prior (not in terms of time, but causality) to ‘all things’ – let alone the study of ‘all things’.

    You’ve stated that something can exist prior to ‘all things’. Let’s see you prove that’s possible, too 🙂

    Btw,

    Thus, it is not proper to say that G-d merely ‘exists’ or is merely ‘real’ is typical “creating an exception to suit yourself” and reads as telling people that G-d doesn’t exist and isn’t real, but you just want to side-step it.

    Now compare you post with my remark about Stuarts that Cedric quoted (Look at any of Stuart’s recent posts…). It may not be as long as Stuart (thank goodness), but it has many of the same characteristics otherwise.

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  15. Heraclides,
    I genuinely want to try to , so can I clarify a couple things?

    First on “facts”:
    I never claimed I could produce “facts”, so I’m not bothered about not not being able to do so.

    Second on “proving”:
    I never claimed I could “prove” it to you. I merely maintain that monotheism (as stated) is reasonable belief.

    Third on “proving” that “something can exist prior to ‘all things’”:
    When I said “Monotheism is suggesting something entirely prior (not in terms of time, but causality) to ‘all things’ – let alone the study of ‘all things’.” I didn’t mean ‘something’ as in some-thing ‘existing’ before any ‘things’ existed, but rather as in God being (causally) prior-to ‘all things’ – God not being a mere ‘thing’.

    And the ‘more-than-real’ and ‘more-than-existing’ thing is not merely a self-suiting exception, nor is it in any grammatically possible way saying that God is not real and does not exist. Rather, it follows immediately from the notion of a Creator of all things. It’s distinguishing types of existence (independent existence and contingent existence) and types of real-ness (independent real-ness and contingent real-ness).

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  16. Come-on Dale, have a go at telling-us “What is God?” using those messy things called words.

    Evidently you have no trouble interpreting ‘words’, even when vague, when written in The Bible. And apparently this book, hardly a literary great let’s be honest – was purportedly written by Gods very hand.

    So imagine you are talking to a 5 year-old who has never seen a domestic cat and you are describing one to them.

    Tell us all “What is God?” in those basic terms, minus the hyperbole.

    I have never got a theist to answer this question!

    Which is a surprise, since I thought believers would rejoice in telling non-believers all about their God, what he gets up-to, and what he can do.

    They just never want to tell me “What he is?”.

    This will be a first.

    Cheers there Dale.

    Paul.

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  17. Dale to five-year old:

    “God is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it!”

    p.s., the “What he is?” question assumes a gender, no? 😉

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  18. oh yes, and also asks ‘what’ he is (as opposed to ‘who’)…

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  19. and yes, that perhaps is only deism at the moment, but the God I believe in, whilst being more than deistic, is not less than deistic. 🙂

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  20. I never claimed I could produce “facts”, so I’m not bothered about not not being able to do so.

    But you keep stating things as facts, not opinions. In that case, you need to re-write your words like I suggested.

    I merely maintain that monotheism (as stated) is reasonable belief.

    No, you presented it as a fact or assertion, not an opinion of belief, just like I pointed out. In which case, you need to re-word it.

    I didn’t mean ’something’ as in some-thing ‘existing’ before any ‘things’ existed, but rather as in G-d being (causally) prior-to ‘all things’ – G-d not being a mere ‘thing’.

    Same difference, and you haven’t even tried to answer the question. You’re avoiding something… 😉 Note you’ve presented it as a fact here again, just trying pointing that out, too: I’d like to see you “prove” that G-d is (casually) prior to ‘all things’. Go on, you claim it’s a fact, therefore you should be able to. If you mean it as a belief that you can’t prove, then at the very least you need to reword this to say its an opinion or belief. (and ideally add that you can’t “prove” it.)

    And the ‘more-than-real’ and ‘more-than-existing’ thing is not merely a self-suiting exception, nor is it in any grammatically possible way saying that G-d is not real and does not exist. Rather, it follows immediately from the notion of a Creator of all things. It’s distinguishing types of existence (independent existence and contingent existence) and types of real-ness (independent real-ness and contingent real-ness).

    I wrote nothing about ‘more-than-real/existing’, so I’ve no idea what you’re on about there.

    (PS: I meant “proof” and “prove” in the general language sense of word, not the formal mathematical/scientific sense. You also ready know I’m aware of the difference from previous conversations.)

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  21. Heraclides,
    Before continuing, I want to establish that in no way at all am I presenting these belief statements as “facts” (certainly not “facts” in the empirical sense).

    And please don’t point to my propositional language as being ‘fact’ language. Propositions (something proposed) can only take the ‘is’/’are’ form.
    A (theological/philosophical) proposition is not a declaration (i.e. of empirical “fact”).

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  22. Pardon my interjection, but I’d like to know what ‘more than real’ and ‘more than exists’ means. It sounds like meaningless hyperbole intended obfuscate instead of clarify. So far, Dale seems to be relying on the old uncaused cause definition of a god.

    Likewise, when you claim that this god made everything around us, can you please explain what you mean by the verb ‘made’? Are you suggesting that something like the Grand Canyon was made by something other than millions of years of erosion?

    Thanks

    Like

  23. Dale,

    Then don’t present them as facts, present them as what they are. That was my original point. But you continue to present them as facts, but then deny that they are.

    If you present them as facts, people will naturally consider that you think to be facts.
    If you want people to think otherwise, as claim to, then present them appropriate. Asking that people not consider them as facts is wrong-headed. For one, they’ll have no way of distinguishing what you do mean as facts, from what you don’t. That’s really for you to make clear, not for to have to “wriggle” out of you.

    So more: what are non-empirical facts?

    PS: You’ve still avoided all I’ve asked. Should be reminding you of a certain point about wriggling around making excuses, etc. 😉

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  24. Ray S.,
    Happy to answer you.
    The notions ‘more than real/exists’ necessarily follow from the (negative form) denial that “all things” are self-originating (or in it’s positive form, the view that “all things” are contingent. If they are not ‘self’-0riginated, but rather ‘other’-originated, then that “all-things-originator” must have a different type of real-ness or existence than the real, existing things that were originated.

    We just have to be patient with the words. The logic is clean even if the wording feels awkward.

    As for ‘made’, that word was used as spoken to a 5-year-old. (and the observations we make about erosion ‘creating’ the Grand Canyon are not at all in tension with the position that “all things” are contingent and not self-originating)

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  25. Heraclides,
    You’re going to have to quote me and show examples of where I present them as “facts”.

    And I think “non-empirical facts” would be called (obviously non-empirically validated!) truths or axioms or suchlike.

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  26. Dale-
    “Dale to five-year old:

    “God is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it!””

    And a smart kid might ask -“How do you know that?” (In fact we should encourage our kids to do just that).

    Perhaps it’s best when teaching kids to say “Some people think ..” when we refer to religious/mythical beliefs.

    Of course we can talk about current knowledge of how the Grand canyon was formed, the earth was formed, the universe was formed, etc. Even then we can say that this is to the best of our knowledge and our understanding might change as we learn more.

    I think that would show respect for the child.

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  27. “God is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it!”

    You could apply that to any other god or make-believe imagery and it would sound exactly the same.

    Baal is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it!

    Set is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it!

    The FSM is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it!

    A vapid, empty non-answer.

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  28. “God is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it!””

    Sorry I am none the wiser, mate?

    It doesn’t go close to telling me anything substantive about God.

    It’s like saying to the child who has never seen a domestic cat “it’s nothing like a fish” and expecting them to make something of it.

    Surely you can do better than this Dale?

    Tell me about this God who made everything by first establishing “What is God?”

    Why is this like ‘pulling-teeth?”.

    Cheers

    Paul

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  29. Ken,
    Agreed. Hopefully the kid is smart enough to ask questions.

    Cedric,
    So what? It’s still a basic way to talk about the monotheistic notion of God to a five year old. At that stage in the conversation, who really cares if someone could plug other words in?

    Paul,
    Nope. It proposes two hugely substantive notions; first it distinguishes creatOR from creatION (thus is not pantheism or panentheism), and it identifies the creators will/desire/volition/choice to create.

    And further, it’s certainly NOT at all like your ‘cat-is-not-like-a-fish’ statement. Here’s how. (and keep in mind the statement was specifically requested at at 5-year old level)

    Suggesting God is not like everything (‘everything’ being the most universal or general of categories for ‘stuff’; is about as different as you can get from observing that a cat is not like a fish (a ‘fish’ being a particular or specific example of merely one bit of ‘stuff’).

    In other words, saying that God is unlike ALL (universal scope) ‘stuff’ is utterly different to saying ‘this’ (particular) bit of stuff is different than ‘that’ (particular) bit of stuff.

    In yet other words:

    My example: Entity being described (God) is distinguished from every last friggin scrap of ‘stuff’ – ‘all things’ – ‘everything’

    Your (false) parallel: Entity being described (cat) is distinguished from one specific bit of ‘stuff’ (fish).

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  30. Dale –
    “Agreed. Hopefully the kid is smart enough to ask questions.”

    Yes, hopefully. And we should encourage this.

    But my concern is with the answers.

    Are you smart enough to give the right answers?

    “God did it” is, like always, a cop out.

    Kids deserve better.

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  31. Ken,
    No – “God did it” is an answer that not only stimulates more questions (it’s anything but a dead end – more a first step), but is also a theological answer, which is not at all a ‘stopper’ to any other kinds of questions.

    Like

  32. You’re going to have to quote me and show examples of where I present them as “facts”.

    Oh, come on Dale, you’re not an infant. I even quoted some of them in pointing out!

    And I think “non-empirical facts” would be called (obviously non-empirically validated!) truths or axioms or suchlike.

    Equally silly. You’re doing exactly what Cedric pointed again: avoiding answering the question by regressing into “definitions”, etc. Answer the question. Are you frightened of it?

    At that stage in the conversation, who really cares if someone could plug other words in?

    Still avoiding (or are blind to) what people are doing, showing up the terribly poor logic.

    Only partly tongue-in-cheek, doesn’t “G-d is not like everything” and “G-d is unlike ALL” mean the same as “G-d is nothing at all”? 🙂

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  33. William Drummond wrote:

    He, who will not reason, is a bigot; he, who cannot, is a fool; and he, who dares not, is a slave.

    Like

  34. It’s still a basic way to talk about the monotheistic notion of God to a five year old. At that stage in the conversation…

    All the “other stages” are equally vapid and meaningless.

    God is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it!

    As the child grows up, the answers will become more vague and wispy. A never-never land of hand-waving, going off on tangents and self-indulgent navel-gazing.

    All talk about a god is exactly the same as talk about any other god.

    Talking about made-up invisible people always sounds like talk about other made-up invisible people. Just switch the labels around.

    “God did it” is an answer that not only stimulates more questions…

    Fine.

    “Shiva did it” is an answer that not only stimulates more questions…

    “Con-Tici Viracocha did it” is an answer that not only stimulates more questions…

    “Atua I Kafika did it” is an answer that not only stimulates more questions…

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  35. Heraclides,
    Are you scared of doing the hard work of actually defining just what the heck is being asked/discussed?

    Btw, you’ll hate this, but I don’t think the short/abbreviated quote-plus-1-2 sentence reply method is best for fruitful interaction. Sustained argment is often helpful.

    I know, you’ll rant/rave about how you don’t have to bother with an idiot like me, but at least I’m trying for mutual understanding

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  36. Are you scared of doing the hard work of actually defining just what the heck is being asked/discussed?

    Still trying to attach as a form of defence?

    Silly question anyway, as it’s obvious that not what I’m after: you’re still avoiding…

    Btw, you’ll hate this, but I don’t think the short/abbreviated quote-plus-1-2 sentence reply method is best for fruitful interaction. Sustained argment is often helpful.

    I notice often to start to try tell others “how to do things”. Seems another form of defence: trying to dictate and control proceedings. It’s a bully’s approach.

    I also quote, so that people can see what I’m replying to. I try give only the relevant bit to avoid confusion.

    I prefer short replies that are too the point. Easy to guess from my pointing out Stuart’s waffling, etc. I think it’s more useful. I’m allowed to converse with my own style, so to hell your “advice”.

    In any event, I’m extremely busy, so my replies are going to be short. And I’m perfectly allowed to do that.

    but at least I’m trying for mutual understanding

    With all respect, I find this hard to believe, given that you avoid so much. I’m much more of the impression that you are trying say “my views are right” than anything else. You certainly never seem to even try question them. (See my earlier quote from Drummond.)

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  37. Excuse the odd grammar lapse, as I’m writing these in a rush!

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  38. Heraclides,
    Honestly, don’t take this personally, but (as I’ve only got so much time as well) I think at least for the moment, I’ll just interact with U.C. and Ken.

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  39. Dale,

    Y’know you could just do it. That you insist on writing that says that you’re really doing something else: taking a potshot.

    I’m allowed to draw my own opinion from what you write and it and it crosses my mind that you’ve basically running away because you can’t face my points and easy way out is to simple take potshots at me.

    Could I make a small, helpful, observation to you? The reason this goes off the rails, that you keep refusing to address the points I raise. If you tried to, I’d have nothing to complain about 😉

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  40. When I use the term God in everyday conversation I most often am referring to the deity described in the Bible. In philosophical discussions, including when I contribute comments to this blog, I usually mean by “God” something like what was agreed upon by Frederick Copleston vs. Bertrand Russell BBC Radio debate (1948) on the Existence of God.

    C: As we are going to discuss the existence of God, it might perhaps be as well to come to some provisional agreement as to what we understand by the term “God.” I presume that we mean a supreme personal being — distinct from the world and creator of the world. Would you agree — provisionally at least — to accept this statement as the meaning of the term “God”? 

R: Yes, I accept this definition.

    This is a minimal description and one that could be consistent with a variety of theistic beliefs. Other peoples definitions will vary slightly, or become more elaborate, or become even less descriptive, but essentially all those will be referring to the same being.

    While I think there are many good ways to describe God, I also think that the words we use are clumsy tools for communicating exactly what God is. Words grasp at concepts, but may never truly get there. Nevertheless, though we may not be able to describe this being fully, we can at least establish some bare attributes for our definition of this being.

    I personally like “God is the greatest possible being, personal creator, and wholly worthy of worship (adoration).”

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  41. “God is the greatest possible being, personal creator, and wholly worthy of worship (adoration).”

    Baal is the greatest possible being, personal creator, and wholly worthy of worship (adoration).

    The FSM is the greatest possible being, personal creator, and wholly worthy of worship (adoration).

    Ninhursag is the greatest possible being, personal creator, and wholly worthy of worship (adoration).

    🙂

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  42. Well thanks Dale, but you really didn’t address the question. You seem to be saying that ‘real’ things have a cause. But that would lead to infinite regress which is untenable (who created the creator?). Therefore you insert this god entity as an uncaused cause. You recognize that if this god can in any way be described as real, then you need a special pleading to excuse it from the ‘all real things must have a cause’ rule. You don’t want a special pleading, so now this god is in the not real category. Oops, we can’t have that so let’s invent a third category for the dichotomy: ‘more than real’.

    You want to claim this maps clearly to logic where something is A or is not A. Logic fails if you try to insert something as being both not A and not-not A and then describe it as ‘more than A’.

    So let’s just stick with ‘real’ and ‘not real’, where whatever we discuss must be either one or the other, but not both and not neither. Same for ‘exists’.

    If you want to assert that there is a god that can interact with the real universe of which we are both part, then it’s up to you to show evidence for such a god, one which presumably would be real in some ordinary sense of the word. I mean composed of fundamental particles, located in a specific place and detectable by some reliable and repeatable method.

    If you cannot do this, then perhaps we should agree that this god is actually imaginary.

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  43. [i]God is different to everything you see around you. He made all of it![/i]

    The reason that responding to a five year old in this way is wrong is because you are asserting it as fact when you don’t know any such thing. It is a belief or opinion at best. While it might stimulate more questions, there really aren’t any more details to the original answer which is nothing more than ‘god did it’. In my own opinion, it stimulates more questions only because the answer provided is unsatisfying.

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  44. I seem we are back to the “first mover” justification for belief in god. I still fail to see why this is any more satisfactory than an infinite regress. In fact, what is unsatisfactory about an infinite regress in any case.

    While the concept of infinity can take a bit to get your head around, in actual fact we deal with it on a daily basis in mathematical contexts, and even distinguish between different orders of infinity.

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  45. Cedric: Yup, aside from the flat assertion with no support, they can’t all be “greatest possible being”. Easiest and most likely solution: none of them are and all the statements are false.

    @ Ray S. // June 26, 2009 at 1:31 am: Well put.

    Nick: I agree.

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  46. You realise, Stuart, your god definition is only an assertion – a declaration of a preconceived “belief.” There’s nothing in it implying, or requiring, evidence or any connection with reality.

    Surely this just underlines that gods do exist – is ideas in the minds of humans (and invented by humans). The God Illusion could be the title of a great book. Whoops, someone’s already done it but called it the God Delusion – perhaps a better, certainly more successful, title.

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  47. Sorry Dale, I’m none the wiser on this God chap?

    I was hoping someone, (anyone please!) could explain to me “what is God?”.

    We are told if you grovel to him, you will go to “his side” when you die. So clearly he has sides. But is he a triangle or a hexagon?

    He can see everything that’s going on, so it’s reasonable to presume he is more than bifocal? I imagine him to have hundreds of powerful eyes all acting in the same fashion as those of a house-fly, to keep-up with everything he is observing.

    Then there is the size of his brain, to process the never-ending process of information that is streaming in. I picture ‘Deep Thought’ the massive computer from Douglas Adams ‘Hitch-Hikers Guide to The Universe’.

    All these are best guess’s given the flimsy info we have, my mere advanced chimpanzee brain (thanks for pointing that out) and more importantly – I don’t believe in God!

    It’s you Dale that believes in this God, so rather than a skeptic like me best-guessing him, why don’t you tell me?

    In terms I will understand, without beating around the bush and giving me a philosophy or English language-semantics lesson.

    This is not being unreasonable.

    Obviously I’m not holding my breath.

    Great chatting.

    Paul.

    Note: Shortly I’m going to offer $1,000 on my Blog to anyone who can explain to me “What is God?”.

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  48. Ken,

    In my pevious comment I gave 2 reasonable definitions of what I mean when I say “God”. Of course I realize that, at this stage it is a mere assertion. After pegging down key terms, we are able to then go on, if we wish, to discuss evidences, signs and arguments for God’s existence. 

    Cedric,

    I can’t say I’m not suprosed your retreated to that idiotic name-replacement game. All those names you give are in this discussion valid, if you mean by them something like a transcendant being. Again, just working on the terms at the moment, not entred as yet into argument. 

    Someone else,

    Re the infinite regress: 
    The problem with an infinite regress is that it is impossible to traverse. For every time you think you get there you can always go one more. And if there is an infinte regress of causes, then this raises a whole load of problems.

    Now God, if he is an uncreated creator (a necessary being) solves the problem of an infinite regress.

    Regarding the “who created God” question: even if this transcendant being had a cause, and there is an infinite regress, so what? As Walter Martin said “You’ve found you creator, worship him!” it seems to me that this question isn’t really an argumet against God per se, but an assertion that either an infinite regress is necessary or that positing the existence of God is ad hoc.

    Ps; this was typed and posted on my iPhone. 🙂

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  49. Stuart – I am not used to this approach. In science we derive our “definition” of a phenomenon from evidence. That is we start with evidence and then develop the idea. Of course we then refine it by testing against reality.

    But here you seem to start with a developed “definition” – and then stop. As you say – it is just an assertion. But one doesn’t “peg down key terms” before considering evidence.

    Otherwise you are only going to look for evidence to support the preconceived idea – ignoring anything that doesn’t.

    Regarding this prime mover idea. If we realise this was an idea of Aristotle to explain how things continued to move and that Galilean/Newtonian physics threw that away because it shows that things continue to move until an external force is applied. That is an external force – a mover – is not required to explain what is happening for movement in a straight line.

    Seems to me we now have the same sort of attitude towards the initiation and evolution of the universe. That is a mover/creator is not required – hence we don’t get landed with the problem of an infinite regression (what moves the mover).

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  50. I can’t say I’m not suprosed your retreated to that idiotic name-replacement game.

    Stuart, do you understand why I can take any assertion you make about your brand-name god and just switch the labels around?

    Do you understand the point of the exercise?

    There is no “retreat” on my part.

    The logic of taking “Blah, blah, blah god” and switching it with “Blah, blah, blah Flying Spaghetti Monster” remains solid.

    If it was idiotic, then it should be easy for you to demonstrate that it is so. Yet you can’t.

    All those names you give are in this discussion valid, if you mean by them something like a transcendant being.

    “Transcendent being”? Oh, you mean what “everybody else calls god”?

    Tell me true, who is this “everybody else”?

    You dodged that question on the previous thread.
    🙂

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  51. Home from evolution conference, last day tomorrow. Very enjoyable.

    I’m up against time-restraints and less-than-perfect health (a bad cold) here, so my low level of engagement is due to that.

    Cedric,
    Are you willing to listen to an argument that the name-swapping game is not argument, but mocking?
    The distinction is that one definition is taken seriously and believed by billions, and the other is a humorous caricature, and believed by nobody.
    My point is not that numbers = proof of existence, but rather that by swapping names, you’re not a) actually making an argument that God is just like a FSM, you’re b) assuming it.

    It is of no more argumental substance than merely shouting “I think God is silly – I think God is silly – I think God is silly!!!”

    Even IF God were a silly idea, you’ve not shown it by argument, but are just taunting.

    Paul,
    What part of “I believe God to be the creator of all things” do you not comprehend (note that this is not a request for agreement, just understanding the belief as stated)??? Even a definition not-as-yet supported by the evidence of logic/reason/etc. is still at least a definition!?

    Ray S.,
    Yes of course it’s “special pleading” – wouldn’t a creator of all things (thus being distinct to and of an entirely different nature) be “unique”/”special”/”foreign”/”other”??? (and therefore not epistemically known [note the grammatical reduncancy] or described in the same ways?

    Nick,
    As an example to Cedric of actually comparing two at least partially comparable concepts, and by way of response to your point about infinity, let me replace ‘infinity’ with ‘an infinite God’ (God being thought to be infinite by more than one person):

    While the concept of an infinite God can take a bit to get your head around, in actual fact we deal with it [the quality of infinite-ness] on a daily basis in mathematical contexts, and even distinguish between different orders of infinity.

    In fact, the very notion of infinity as a real possibily has been used to suggest that God is therefore a real possibility.

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  52. Ken,

    It’s not arguing from a preconcieved idea if it remains a provisional definition, i.e., if its held tentitively as a hypothesis. Think of Gravity as an example – Newton didn’t discover it, but he could have named the concept, even prior to discovering the mathematical formula. In the same way we can have some idea of a divine transcendant being and name that concept before we discover evidence or arguments to support that idea.

    Cedric,

    I take it you yourself do not believe in God. What precicely do you not believe in? I ask because it’s not only the theist who has to define what they mean when they engage in discussion. It’s also the one who claims there is no God – i.e. the traditional atheist, and also the “non-theist” – whatever that term denotes and the adherants who hold to that.

    Ken, I take it you don’t think aruging against theism – i.e. for atheism – is not arguing from a preconcieved position. Why the double standard?

    Also, this might not be the way you are used to doing things with your science background, but you should understand that whenever you discourse on God – for or against – you aren’t doing science, you’re doing philosophy and specifically theology. Terms need to be defined prior to any meaningful discussion.

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  53. Are you willing to listen to an argument that the name-swapping game is not argument, but mocking?

    You do everything but look at the (poor) logic that being highlighted!

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  54. @Dale, maybe you cold is affecting you :-), but I think you have provided a good example of Bafflegab. You have taken a what I think is a reasonable simple and understandable sentence from me, and piggybacked in an additional concept. The sentence now does not make sense.

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  55. Dale:
    Yes of course it’s “special pleading” – wouldn’t a creator of all things (thus being distinct to and of an entirely different nature) be “unique”/”special”/”foreign”/”other”??? (and therefore not epistemically known [note the grammatical reduncancy] or described in the same ways?
    You have assumed that there was a creation event, one that was caused by an apparently complex entity, and further assumed that only one of these entities exists. Then you invent phrases to describe this entity which apparently has no material existence yet is not imaginary.

    The only thing I can think of that we have only one of is the universe. Though I’m well aware of the conjecture of multiple universes, we have little evidence of one as of yet, so let’s just stick with the one we’re personally involved in. This universe is comprised of physical stuff; We can see it and detect it in a myriad of ways. The observations are repeatable and are not dependent upon one’s philosophy.

    You posit a complex entity that no one has found a reliable, repeatable method for detecting, then admit to special pleading for its existence on the basis that there is only one of it. But that is patently untrue and this is the heart of the ‘name swapping’. All of those names are of entities that share all or nearly all of the attributes you claim for your god. Some have fallen into disfavor. Baal was perhaps as well believed as Yahweh at one point in history. I believe you will find mentions of him in the Christian bible. Will you allow us to dismiss Yahweh as casually as you dismiss Baal? Numbers also do not help you because there are more than a few people running around India these days who are quite certain the Hindu gods are as real as yours.

    Of course I do dismiss Yahweh and Baal, Thor and all the rest, because I can see that they have all been invented to explain things that were otherwise unexplainable at the time. You are now doing exactly the same thing attempting to explain what started what we have come to call the big bang. We don’t yet know, but when we think we have an explanation, we will treat it as provisional until we accumulate corroborating evidence. You have nothing but a conjecture, but please do let us know when you get some actual evidence.

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  56. Mutual understanding of terms is at least as important in science as in any other type of discussion; you get nothing special in favor of philosophy or theology there.

    You can certainly conceive of a god concept prior to showing that there exists at least one example. Your analogy to Newton and gravity is apt in this case because once the concept was formulated, he went on to measure it and identify what it was related to (mass and distance). All of his methods and those of others later are repeatable. Note that Newton’s theories are technically not completely correct; Einstein showed that. Also note that we still don’t know how gravity actually works.

    So now that you have posited this god concept, where are your repeatable methods for detecting it?

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  57. What precicely do you not believe in?

    The Easter Bunny, Bigfoot, Ralien aliens, Evis sightings, homeopathy, Breathairianism, palmistry, talking to the dead, faith healing, exorcisms, demons, pixies, talking snakes, theraputic touch, telekenesis, Atlantis, leylines, voodoo dolls, acupuncture, cold fusion, perpetual motion machines, healing magnets, dowsing, etc, etc, etc.

    I ask because it’s not only the theist who has to define what they mean when they engage in discussion. .

    Holy crap, that’s dumb.
    Here’s how it works.
    You make the claim. You provide the evidence.

    Nobody else has anything to do with it.
    It’s your dog and pony show.
    Not mine.
    YOURS!!!!!!!!

    You get to define and get all precise about what you mean by “god” or whatever.
    You get to make a claim and then…back it up with evidence.
    All of the evidence you want.

    I don’t tell you what you mean by “god”.
    I can’t get inside your brain.

    You’ve got to do the legwork yourself.

    Same thing with, say, Tharg.

    Do I believe in Tharg?
    (…pause…)
    Huh? Wah….?
    (…blank stare…)
    Um, no?
    Who is this Tharg?
    What do you mean by Tharg?

    Until you present evidence for somebody called Tharg, I have no reason to believe that “Tharg” exists.

    I sure as hell don’t have to waste my time defining what Tharg is.

    (Seriously, think before you post.)
    😦

    It’s also the one who claims there is no God

    I’ve never met an atheist that claims this.
    The atheists that I’ve met and read about usually say something different.

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  58. The distinction is that one definition is taken seriously and believed by billions, and the other is a humorous caricature, and believed by nobody.

    It doesn’t matter. This has nothing to do with anything.
    Dale, why do you think this is somehow important?
    As I have said before, switch the label with some other magical, invisible thing that billions of people also believe.
    Same diff’.
    Vishnu? Baal? Take your pick.

    a) actually making an argument that God is just like a FSM, you’re b) assuming it.

    (facepalm)

    How can you still not get this?

    Name-swapping doesn’t assume anything about “god’s” nature.

    It’s about the piss-poor logic of your claims.

    I assume your brand name god does not exist for the same reason why you assume Amaterasu does not exist.

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  59. Dale, take gods out of the equation for the moment.

    Let’s try hard to avoid god-talk for a second, ok?

    Imagine you are a cryptozoologist.
    You are on the trail of…Bigfoot.

    For the last thirteen years, you have been spending your holiday time hunting for some kind of evidence that Bigfoot exists.
    It’s your passion.

    You spend more time in the woods with a week’s supply of MRE’s and a high-powered infrared camera than you do sitting around at home.

    You give me your spiel about how you just “know” that Bigfoot exists.

    I listen to you.
    I don’t ignore you. I listen to you.
    ( However, I have talked to Bigfoot hunters before.)

    Then I say that your arguments for the existence of Bigfoot sound an awful lot like the arguments for the Loch Ness Monster.

    I take your statements on why you believe in Bigfoot and re-label them as arguments for the Loch Ness Monster.

    They match up perfectly!

    You get offended and claim that I’m not taking the Bigfoot evidence seriously!
    :O
    Comparing Bigfoot to the Loch Ness Monster is just silly.
    NOBODY really believes in the Loch Ness monster, sheesh!
    By swapping names, you’re not a) actually making an argument that Bigfoot is just like the Loch Ness Monster, you’re b) assuming it.

    It is of no more argumental substance than merely shouting “I think Bigfoot is silly – I think Bigfoot is silly – I think Bigfoot is silly!!!”

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  60. (Sorry for the multiple posts. Final one)

    Ahah!
    A fortuitous video that will hopefully clear up a few things.
    How many red flags pop up when you do the baloney test?

    RDF TV – The Baloney Detection Kit – Michael Shermer

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  61. Stuart – my “arguing against theism” is not “from a preconceived position” because I am testing the “god hypothesis” against reality. I see nothing to confirm that hypothesis (to the extent there is one – because every theist has a different god, don’t they?).

    However, I am prepared to accept (“believe”) a god hypothesis, and develop that hypothesis into an idea, even a theory, if the evidence were there. I have absolutely no problem with adjusting my ideas on this subject as new evidence comes to hand. (In fact, I can think of at least one scenario which includes a realistic god – the sense of a creator. I should add that, at this stage, there is no evidence to support it.)

    One thing that scientific research teaches the practitioner is that ideas are ephemeral. One can’t do the job if you can’t give up on pet ideas, hypotheses, theories. I have had to change my ideas “beliefs”, theories about quite a few things during my life. (That is why I repeat Lawrence Krauss’s statement quite often – “most ideas in science are wrong”. We know that from evidence. And most scientific savvy people will eagerly agree with that statement).

    I think that is the difference. In contrast a dogmatist will stick by their ideas, through thick and thin, even when (especially when) there is not evidence.

    As for your “provisional definition, i.e., if its held tentitively as a hypothesis” concept of your god. It’s pretty weak, isn’t it? Nothing to write home about. Requiring a lot of work. Bound to change, or disappear as the evidence comes in.

    I can’t see, on that basis, why you makes so much fuss over the issue. And where you get the confidence to make declarations about the basis other people have for their morals and purposes in life. I, personally, would be investigating this tenuous idea a lot more fully before judging others.

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  62. Cedric,

    Stuart: What precicely do you not believe in? . . .

    Cedric: The Easter Bunny, Bigfoot, Ralien aliens, Evis sightings, homeopathy, Breathairianism, palmistry, talking to the dead, faith healing, exorcisms, demons, pixies, talking snakes, theraputic touch, telekenesis, Atlantis, leylines, voodoo dolls, acupuncture, cold fusion, perpetual motion machines, healing magnets, dowsing, etc, etc, etc.

    Stuart: . . . I ask because it’s not only the theist who has to define what they mean when they engage in discussion.

    I apologise for not making it absolutely clear what I wanted. I was enquiring as to precisely what you mean by “God” specifically, if you were to say “I don’t believe in God.” Can you describe this being that you don’t believe in? What attributes does this (supposedly) fictional being have? Its important that we know we are talking about the same thing, whatever name you choose to give it.

    I’ve been thinking about your name-replacement game recently. If it is logical, as you claim, you should be able to demonstrate the coherence of the point you’re making with a syllogism. Could you please construct one to help me see your point and its soundness. I think this will be of great benefit to me and other readers.

    Much appreciated.

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  63. I apologise for not making it absolutely clear what I wanted. I was enquiring as to precisely what you mean by “God” specifically, if you were to say “I believe in God.” Can you describe this being that you believe in? What attributes does this probably fictional being have? Its important that we know we are talking about the same thing, whatever name you choose to give it.

    You are making the claim, dummy.

    It’s your dog and pony show.

    You make the claim, you provide the evidence.

    I can’t get inside your brain and figure out what you mean by a god.

    People claim all kinds of gods for all kinds of reasons and attribute to them all kinds of things.
    All it takes is a fertile imagination.

    That’s nice but it’s not my department.

    I don’t attribute anything to Tharg or to Vishnu or to Thor or to Bigfoot or whatever.
    That’s the job of the believers.

    Are we clear now?

    (Stuart nods sheepishly)

    Much appreciated.

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  64. Ken,

    Stuart – my “arguing against theism” is not “from a preconceived position” because I am testing the “god hypothesis” against reality. I see nothing to confirm that hypothesis (to the extent there is one – because every theist has a different god, don’t they?).

    When I engage in philosophical discussions on the existence of God I also, as you do apparently, try my best to put aside my preconceptions and test the God hypothesis (that there exists such a being as God). I remain convinced through study there is good reason, through reason alone, to think that God exists.

    As to the idea that every theist has a different god, I would partially agree and disagree. For simplicity here I will restrict my following comments to monotheism.

    The first consideration is that the concept of God may differ from person to person, but there is a consensus of agreement to a minimum set of attributes that describe this God. Christians recognise for instance that personhood is a necessary attribute for the Christian concept of God, but have a diversity of opinion when it comes to; the attribute of simplicity; whether we should call God Him, Her or neither in this modern age; what omniscience entails; etc. This diversity of belief is recognised as non-essential to the Christian faith, and therefore acceptable to maintain. In another example, all Jews, Muslims and Christians agree there is only one God, but there is a diversity of opinion concerning; the trinity; the moral character of God; exactly what omnipotence entails, etc. So given the unity of shared belief about what the “God” term denotes I think we have good reason to conclude that every person does not have a different god, but rather an imperfect concept of the same God.

    The second consideration, as I’ve said before, in general conversation and in everyday life I mean by “God” the divine being described by the Bible, but in debate I mean by “God” a being with a minimal set of attributes. Just what those attributes are has been the focus of my discussion above as we look to define the term “God.” What we mean by “God” is something both the theist and non-theist have to decide on if any further dialogue is to be constructive and have substantive meaning. I submit that our concept of God includes at least these attributes; self-existence, personal, and transcendent. Can you accept this definition? When you argue against theism is this the being you mean to deny?

    As for your “provisional definition, i.e., if its held tentitively as a hypothesis” concept of your god. It’s pretty weak, isn’t it? Nothing to write home about. Requiring a lot of work. Bound to change, or disappear as the evidence comes in.

    I can’t see, on that basis, why you makes so much fuss over the issue.

    I can see how you would think it was weak, believing as you do that there simply is no evidence, and expect no evidence to come in. But unlike you, I actually think there is good evidence (albeit not scientific evidence). It has moved for me from a hypothesis to a conviction, in the same way you might describe the hypothesis that describes the principles of aerodynamics. These principles are confirmed and reconfirmed to justify the hypothesis being called a law. Do you have confidence when you step into a plane in that hypothesis? This an analogy from science (which I still think is an inappropriate discipline for discussion about God) shows I hope how the god hypothesis is worth making a fuss over.

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  65. Cedric,

    This idea that you make no claim is absurd. You’ve stated you don’t believe in Bigfoot. What is this “Bigfoot” that you don’t in? If you can’t describe at least the concept, how do you know the term “Bigfoot” isn’t something completely ordinary?

    That said, please refer to my comment above to Ken on my proposal as to how we should define “God.” Can you accept this definition, even if you you choose not to believe in such an entity?

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  66. *Sigh*

    This comes down to words games from an apologist:

    But unlike you, I actually think there is good evidence (albeit not scientific evidence).

    Ah, yes, re-defining words from their usual meaning to something that would suit your own want to have your beliefs make true.

    By the way, the usual meaning is in much broader use that just science, so there’s no need to make science a straw man to attack.

    If you want to make it all those who use ‘evidence’ in it’s usual meaning, you’ll need to rally against pretty much everyone outside of the tiny minority who are apologetics or those with other rather strong religious beliefs.

    I like this think of this in historic terms, too. (You might recall me some time ago saying that it’s good for people to learn the history of whatever is their thing, be it clothing manufacturing, architecture, science, religion, etc.)

    Years ago, pastors/priests/popes/etc. words where “the words of G-d” and hence where “just right”, unquestioned.

    Today, this would be much less often accepted.

    Perhaps in it’s place we have apologists who want to create their own private definitions of ‘evidence’ (and other words), so that their words, opinions, beliefs, might be unquestioned, at least to themselves (i.e. self-justification).

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  67. You’ve stated you don’t believe in Bigfoot. What is this “Bigfoot” that you don’t in?

    It’s done on a case-by-case basis.
    For every Bigfoot hunter out there, there’s another version of what Bigfoot is.

    Same deal with UFOs.

    And gods of all shapes and sizes.

    …how do you know the term “Bigfoot” isn’t something completely ordinary?

    ‘Cause I read what they write and listen to what they claim?
    ;(

    So far, every time I look at the rich variety of claims of the Bigfoot hunters-they come up flat.
    Their “evidence” is decidedly suspect.
    So…I don’t believe in a Bigfoot. “Ordinary” or otherwise.
    Really simple.
    Very logical.
    No sophistry or twisted thinking or flowery words on my part.

    my proposal as to how we should define “God.”

    There is no “we” here.
    It’s up to you to define your brand-name god.

    It’s up to you to present evidence for your god.

    I can’t do it for you.
    Nobody else can.

    Can you accept this definition, even if you you choose not to believe in such an entity?

    I don’t care what your definition is.
    That’s your job.

    Define it. Be as precise as you want.
    Get all the relevent details out.
    Review your definition of your god.
    Make sure you are really, really, REALLY happy with it.
    Then…stick to it!
    Present evidence for it.
    Put up or shut up.

    I actually think there is good evidence (albeit not scientific evidence).

    Not scientific evidence?
    NOT SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE!!!

    No! Really? Does the Discovery Institute know about this? Answers in Genesis? Golly Jeepers! Dembski is going to be so disappointed

    So all you’ve got is apologetics?
    😦

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  68. Cedric,

    Every time a piece of evidence is on the table, you start up that ridiculous name-replacement game. I’ve shown that its idiotic, and yet you persist. If you are confident in the validity and soundness of your argument, it should be able to be stated syllogistically. Would you please condescend to do so, because so far all I make out is a circular ranting and raving.

    For every Bigfoot hunter out there, there’s another version of what Bigfoot is.

    How would you even be able to distinguish between a Bigfoot hunter and Loch Ness Monster hunter if there wasn’t some distinguishable features to the category of Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster?

    The salient point is all your different names could actually be describing the same thing. Who would know otherwise unless there was a clear definition? And its not just me who needs to agree on what “God” is going to mean, its you also if you want to refute such a notion.

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  69. Every time a piece of evidence is on the table…

    Name one.
    You have yet to provide any evidence.
    All you have is empty waffle, bafflegab, and handwaving.
    Exactly like all the other people that have come before since time immemorial, trying to prove that their “god” is legit and all the others were just make-believe.

    …you start up that ridiculous name-replacement game. I’ve shown that its idiotic…

    When did this happen?
    Care to run it by me again, slowly?
    Everybody else seems to have missed it too.
    Spell it out for us.
    Nice and simple.
    Savour your victory again.
    🙂

    How would you even be able to distinguish between a Bigfoot hunter and Loch Ness Monster hunter if there wasn’t some distinguishable features to the category of Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster?

    ‘Cause I listen to the claims of the Bigfoot hunters and I listen to the claims of the Loch Ness Monster Hunters??
    ‘Cause when I listen, they….CLAIM DIFFERENT THINGS??
    For example, Bigfoot hunters seem to hang around in North America and have a special affinity for forests.

    Loch Ness Monster hunters seem to hang around in Scotland, specifically around a Loch, called…Loch Ness.

    Wierd, huh?

    Yet, and yet, the logic behind their claims is…exactly the same.
    Switching around the labels doesn’t seem to be a problem.

    In fact, you can do the same for Pixie Hunters and Yeti Hunters and UFO HUnters etc,etc, etc.

    Who would know otherwise unless there was a clear definition.

    Yeah, but…

    I.
    Don’t.
    Have.
    To.
    Provide.
    The.
    Definition.

    Me no makeee claimeee.
    Me no need to makeee definitioneee.
    You understandeeee?

    You makeeee claimeee.
    You tell me exactly what you claimeee.
    You get to define it exactly how you want to-eeee.

    Then…(drum roll)…..

    You (yep, you!)get to back it up with evidenceeee.

    Put up or shut-up.

    …its you also if you want to refute such a notion.

    Lots of “notions” out there. Tharg’s a notion.
    Do I need to refute him as well?
    Nope.
    (Heck, Tharg could be a “she” for all I know or care.)

    A vivid imagination will produce billions and billions and billions and billions of different notions.
    Yet life is short.

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  70. Stuart, you and I have a short history. I don’t think I’ve yet claimed that there is no god. I have claimed that I have not seen good, convincing evidence for a god. When discussing the existence of Thor or Zeus, you and I are apparently in agreement.

    If you want to refute my claim (that I have not seen good, convincing evidence for a god), you can show that I have at some point in history been shown such evidence, or you can show some of your own now.

    You are apparently aware of good, convincing evidence for some sort of god. Please share it.

    As for the name replacement game, once you show that your proposed god is in any way different from Thor, Zeus, the FSM or any of the others, then you’ll have reason to call it silly and irrelevant.

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  71. Most of us are convinced of God because of the comprehensive case, rather than one particular proof. But let me just present one consideration.

    Whether we realize it or not, God’s presence surrounds us like a wet-suit. Our inescapable moral judgments provide one form of evidence of this. Whenever we make a moral judgment, we are saying in effect that there is a higher truth than the dog-eat-dog, natural order of things. In this regard, Tim Keller asserts,

    “We inescapably believe it is wrong for stronger human individuals or groups to kill weaker ones. If violence is totally natural why would it be wrong for strong humans to trample weak ones? There is no basis for moral obligation unless we argue that nature is in some part unnatural. We can’t know that nature is broken in some way unless there is some supernatural standard of normalcy apart from the nature by which we can judge right and wrong. That means there would have to be heaven or God or some kind of divine order outside of nature in order to make that judgment” (The Reason for God, 155).

    If there is no higher truth than the one we see with our eyes (and there can’t be one without God), there is no basis for our heart to take issue against anything. Without a higher standard, there is no way to grade a wrong answer on an exam. Nevertheless, we all exercise our red pens, and it couldn’t be otherwise. We’re moral creatures who can no more live without moral absolutes and judgments than a car without oil.

    Nevertheless, many wield the red pen even though they know that, without an absolute set of answers, they lack the authority to do so. To those struggling with this inconsistency, Keller councils,

    “If you insist on a secular view of the world [which denies moral absolutes] and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, then I hope you will see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that your heart knows exists” (156).

    With our mouths, we may deny God’s existence, but we can’t with our lives. If we wish to live authentically and coherently, this disharmony must be reconciled. This is exactly what the Irish poet and atheist, W.H. Auden, had to do. His secular, humanistic morality failed him when, one day in November of 1939, he was watching a news reel about the German invasion of Poland in a Yorkville, NYC cinema. Many members of the pro-Nazi audience shouted, “Kill them, kill them!” Although Auden was horrified by this display of carnality, he understood that his atheistic values had no more basis than the patriotic sentiments of the audience. He realized that there was nothing he could say that would carry any authority. This led him to decisively reconsider his atheistic worldview.

    Please see the last post on my blog for a more comprehensive presentation of the moral argument: http://www.MannsWord.blogspot.com

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  72. Cedric,

    Question: When you speak to a Bigfoot hunter, how do recognise he is a Bigfoot hunter and not a Loch Ness Monster hunter?

    Answer: There to even be a category where there is at least one uniquely identifying characteristic.

    For instance, you could recognise the hunter was describing some sort of Loch Ness Monster, if the creature he described has the attribute of living in the depths of the Loch Ness. Another example; any Bigfoot hunter is recognisable as a Bigfoot hunter because he describes the creature he seeks as bipedal, furry and with big feet. These are identifying features that help distinguish the category of Bigfoot. So there might be a variety of descriptions of “Bigfoot”, but nonetheless the creature described is recognisable as a Bigfoot.

    So even if you chose to think such an entity is utter nonsense, are you able to point out a uniquely identifying characteristic that can place an entity in the god category?

    I’ve already spelled out my suggestions for this in my response to Ken; transcendent and personal.

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  73. Sorry,

    I’ll restate the Q and A, so it makes sense.

    Question: When you speak to a Bigfoot hunter, how do recognise he is a Bigfoot hunter and not a Loch Ness Monster hunter?

    Answer: For there to even be a category of Bigfoot and a category for Loch Ness Monster, there needs to be at least one uniquely identifying characteristic, or a collection of identifying characteristics.

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  74. Daniel, I have refuted these arguments in my series on Human Morality so recommend that you read them (see Human Morality I: Religious confusion, Human Morality II: Objective morality, Human Morality III: Moral intuition, Human Morality IV: Role of religion and Human Morality V: The secular conscience).

    I would, of course, welcome any comments you have on those articles.

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  75. Hello Ray S,

    I don’t recall ever interacting with you before. Greetings.

    You are apparently aware of good, convincing evidence for some sort of god. Please share it.

    Sharing the evidence for God’s existence has not been the burden of my discussion here on this thread, as you can probably tell. For the evidence I can point you to Thinking Matters where I summarise three cosmological arguments I’m fond of – The Cosmological Argument from Sufficient Reason, The Kalam Cosmological Argument, and The Cosmological argument from existential causality. There are other arguments I like, specifically the axiological argument and the historical evidences that point toward the resurrection of Jesus, but I should really point you to The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology which is set to be the standard work on natural theology in years to come.

    One reviewer writes;

    ‘The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology’ is a tour-de-force of analytic philosophy. If the world is just, it will shape the theistic side of the debate over the existence of God for at least a decade.

    Second point;

    As for the name replacement game, once you show that your proposed god is in any way different from Thor, Zeus, the FSM or any of the others, then you’ll have reason to call it silly and irrelevant.

    Well first I’d need descriptions of Thor and Zeus, etc. But if you take the concept of “Thor” to mean one member of a pantheon, a limited being, adversarial and capricious, then the traditional concept of the Christian monotheistic God is very different. To be fair, the two concepts are also similar; they are both transcendent, personal beings with tremendous power. This is why I think both concepts belong to the god category.

    If it is possible to demonstrate with argument the existence of a being with one uniquely identifying characteristic that places it in the god category, then this argument would constitute a defeater for traditional atheism, no matter what name you chose to ascribe to it.

    This is why its important to first nail down what it means to both sides of the debate when something is placed in the god category. Unless this happens we can have no assurance that what one means by “Thor” and another means by “Zeus” and another means by “God” aren’t just different words to describe the same concept. That is reason enough to call the name-replacement game silly and irrelevant.

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  76. If it is possible to demonstrate with argument the existence of a being…that places it in the god category

    The key word here is…’If”.

    Seriously, if you want to show that some kind of god being exists then…do it already.
    Please. Preferably before we all die of old age.

    When you speak to a Bigfoot hunter, how do recognise he is a Bigfoot hunter and not a Loch Ness Monster hunter?

    They…tell me so.
    They label themselves.
    I don’t catagorise them.
    They do it themselves.

    If I try and catagorise them, them perhaps I will assume something that’s not fair.
    So I must assume nothing about their claims except what they tell me.

    Sometimes, they’ll be both.
    A hunter who’ s into Nessy and also Bigfoot!

    However, I have never met or read anything by cryptozoologists where they claim that Bigfoot and Nessy are one and the same.
    They make the claim, I listen to the ground rules they set up.

    Unless this happens we can have no assurance that what one means by “Thor” and another means by “Zeus” and another means by “God” aren’t just different words to describe the same concept.

    If you want to claim this, then great.
    I don’t care.

    Make a combo-god with bits of gods from all other mythologies and mush them together.
    Fine.
    Really, it’s ok.
    Do it how you want.

    Just present your evidence already.

    A:Blah, blah, blah, god.

    B: Blah, blah, blah, Odin.

    A: Ahah, how do you know that Odin and God aren’t just different words to describe the same concept!

    A: How do you know that’s the case? If you want to claim that, then great. Demonstrate it. Nobody’s stopping you. However, you will have your work cut out for you. Remember Bigfoot and UFO’s and pixies, demons, Baal, etc.

    Made-up fantasy will often sound like other made-up fantasy.

    (shrugs)

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  77. Most of us are convinced of God because of the comprehensive case, rather than one particular proof.

    Most of us are convinced of The Flying Spaghetti Monster because of the comprehensive case, rather than one particular proof.

    Whether we realize it or not, God’s presence surrounds us like a wet-suit. Our inescapable moral judgments provide one form of evidence of this.

    Whether we realize it or not, The Flying Spaghetti Monster’s presence surrounds us like a wet-suit. Our inescapable moral judgments provide one form of evidence of this.

    That means there would have to be heaven or God or some kind of divine order outside of nature in order to make that judgment

    That means there would have to be a Super Italian Bistro complete with the Flying Spaghetti Monster or some kind of divine order outside of nature in order to make that judgment.

    If there is no higher truth than the one we see with our eyes (and there can’t be one without God)…

    If there is no higher truth than the one we see with our eyes (and there can’t be one without The Flying Spaghetti Monster)…

    I hope you will see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that your heart knows exists”

    I hope you will see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and The Flying Spaghetti Monster) that your heart knows exists”

    With our mouths, we may deny God’s existence, but we can’t with our lives.

    With our mouths, we may deny The Flying Spaghetti Monster’s existence, but we can’t with our lives.

    Ah, happy days.
    🙂

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  78. Stuart, this is the first thread on this site I’ve participated in, and I doubt we’ve been hanging around the same parts of the net previously.

    Thanks for providing the three arguments you find convincing as to the existence of a god. I’ve seen all three before and do not find them at all convincing myself. Refutations of each were published hundreds of years ago, so I’ll not go into those details here. I think there is enormous danger in according too much weight to such arguments, but let me save that for a bit later. I’ve still not seen convincing evidence for a god. Even granting the three arguments you reference, we still only have a shorter name for the uncaused cause – we have not established that such cause is not simplistic or mechanistic. In short, we cannot deduce the god of the Christian bible from either of these arguments.

    As to definitions, since you seem to have some concept of an existent god, for the purposes of our discussion, you can tell me what you think this god is and what its attributes are. You’ve already mentioned that it is both transcendent and personal.

    Regarding ‘transcendent’, one meaning is ‘surpassing usual limits, especially in excellence’. Another is ‘free of the constraints of the material world’. Do you mean one of these or do you have another definition? I’m particularly interested to know if you think your god has any material presence at all. Also, I’d like to know if your god has any limitations of any kind. many of the gods of ancient times were significantly more powerful than humans, but were clearly not perfect beings, were not omniscient, and some even seemed to suffer from emotional problems like greed, anger and jealousy. Do any of these describe your god?

    Regarding ‘personal’, I’m a bit confused as to what you mean here. I’ll assume you don’t mean it in the same way we refer to personal property; a sense in which this god belongs to you similar to the way a pet would. Do you mean that it can relate to you as an individual? Some more information and/or context would be helpful.

    While waiting for clarification on these points, can you then illustrate in what ways Thor or Zeus or any other of the thousands of gods that have been described through history are not imbued with these same attributes? This would help you immensely in warding off the name substitution problem.

    So back to the problem of argument from conceptual definitions. Imagine the greatest builder you can possibly imagine, capable of building the most amazing things ever seen. Surely this builder would have to be the greatest ever and for all time a god among builders. But wait says another who happens along. I can imagine a builder who is just as capable, just as talented, yet he suffers from a handicap, surely he must be the better builder. Well you’re right says the first one, surely the builder whose results are equal, yet suffers from a handicap must be the best builder, so then the greatest builder of all must be the one with the greatest handicap. But what is the greatest handicap? Is it to be deaf or blind or missing a limb? All three? No , says the second one, the greatest handicap is to not even exist. Well then says the first one, the greatest thing ever built is the universe and it is well known that the creator of the universe is God. Yes says the second one, and to be the greatest possible god ever, it had to do it while not exiting, so obviously God does not exist.

    Do not for a minute think that I am persuaded by such an argument. I only include it to show that arguments like these all contain flaws, even though some may be very subtle ones.

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  79. Daniel said;

    Whether we realize it or not, God’s presence surrounds us like a wet-suit. Our inescapable moral judgments provide one form of evidence of this.

    Daniel, I’d like to thank you for establishing that those who claim to be atheists are just as moral as those who are theists. The wet suit morality proves it through definition. It is inescapable. I’ve heard other theists claim that atheists as well as other theists of different dogma are immoral; I’m glad to hear that you disagree with them.

    Regarding moral behavior, some naturalists have noted that many animal species behave in social groups and in ways that we humans would consider moral and compassionate. Does this imply that they are also part of the wet suit morality?

    Another question I have is whether or not it is ever moral to lie. I would think that if there are moral absolutes, that would be among them. I’ve been told that Paul says in the New Testament that it is permissible to lie to someone in order to gain their salvation. That seems like it could be a problem. What do you think?

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  80. Most theistic philosophers would reject the argument that phrase God exists is meaningless. That position is usually based on the verificationist theory of meaning which was discredited in philosophy of language several decades ago.

    The claim that no respectable theologian he knows would answer yes to the question simply shows that he doesn’t read or get out much. Certainly if that is his belief he shouldn’t be commenting as he is clearly is out of the loop.

    Refer him to Plantinga, Swinburne, Craig, Helm, McGrath, Hasker, Flint, Van Inwagen, Wolterstorrf, Alston, Quinn for starters and tell him he is welcome to stop by MandM anytime.

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  81. Welcome Matt.
    Interesting you are so critical of Eagleton as he is often wheeled out for “your side” to attack the “new atheists.”

    But, as he is on “your side”, I suggest the responsibility for referring him to other writers is yours rather than mine. (Perhaps you should email him with the idea of dropping by M&M). I certainly have no interest in engaging with him.

    My point is that he just comes out with bafflegab and more theists (who have been happily quoting him as an authority – eg his “famous” review of Dawkins’ last book) should really listen to what he actually says and come to terms with the fact that it is rubbish.

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  82. Both ‘sides’ have their idiots. I could mention those on your ‘side’ if you want *cough* Dawkins *cough* *cough.*

    I assumed since you were so happy to champion him you were owning Eagleton.

    I look forward to your future blog posts dealing with the real players on ‘my side,’ starting with the list of names I quoted.

    Would you prefer Dawkins and Hitchens to be held out as the cream of the cream of atheism instead of Tooley and Sinnott-Armstrong? (The latter two are actually high calibre atheist philosophers and they actually engage the arguments of the other side instead of caricaturing or ignoring them).

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  83. Matt – you should have read my post more carefully. I was in no way “owning Eagleton” – quite the opposite.

    It’s interesting how peoples subjective feelings can get in the way of comprehending a straightforward post like this. It had nothing to do with Dawkins (at least his ideas) – except where he has been used as a subject of Eagleton’s attacks and the reference to Eagleton by theists who have evaluated Dawkins without reading him.

    Matt – I thought you would have recognised the “meat” of my post which included this:

    “But, my bitch is not just with Eagleton – it’s with the obfuscation and bafflegab that many religious apologists indulge in. It appears to be second nature to many theists and I wonder if its part of the training that such people get in their theology courses.”

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  84. shock horror!!! Tooley and Sinnott-Armstrong actually engage in the “bafflegab”-loaded conversations including such words as, philosophy, epistemology (gasp!), phenomenology (never!), etc. and I’m just going out on a limb that their arguments don’t involve fairies or flying pasta-gods!

    😀

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  85. Daley,

    Tooley at least really does use orbiting teapots and fairies in much the same way as Dawkins does – to argue that the default position should be to not believe in any god and short circuit infinite loops of”well you can’t prove the my god DOESN’T exist” or the even more annoying “oh, no, then you’re an agnostic” line

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  86. Matt, I think you mistook the readers here for people who are familiar with the academic literature.

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  87. Madeleine says:

    Matt, I think you mistook the readers here for people who are familiar with the academic literature.

    Yes, Matt clearly has a reading comprehension problem. He thought the OP was in favor of Eagleton’s mess of a review. But then you have your own reading comprehension problem as his list was of apologists, not academics.

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  88. Isn’t that a bit childish, Madeleine?

    Matt was obviously unaware of Eagleton – how could he think I “owned him”?? He made a mistake.

    To talk about “academic literature” and throw around names is neither engaging with the subject of my post or demonstrating anything but the desire to impress through empty actions. That sort of thing doesn’t impress me. I have seen it all before, as they say.

    Instead of throwing around names, why not raise the issue you wish to? We could then have a useful discussion.

    To refer to “*cough* Dawkins *cough* *cough*” is similarly childish. If Matt disagrees with something Dawkins has written – then present his arguments. (I find a lot of people who criticise Dawkins haven’t even read him – I was guilty of that myself once – see Putting Dawkins in his place).

    Dale – haven’t read Tooley so can’t comment on his style. But recently heard an interesting interview with Sinnott-Armstrong on morality (Walter_Sinnott-Armstrong_on_Moral_Psychology.mp3). He made some good points. I particularly liked his characterisation of the smugness of philosophers at times, and way people use philosophy to avoid confronting issues.

    I think, Dale, you are guilty of that, yourself in the way your resort to “philosophy and metaphysics.”

    But, no I wouldn’t accuse him of bafflegab.

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  89. Ken,
    The point is that he uses the same terms as Christians; he is aware of the philosophical nature of the topic; the epistemic issues involved.

    When these terms are used by Christians (whether academic or apologists!) you often lay the ‘bafflegab’ charge, but are these same terms/issues suddenly no longer ‘bafflegab’ when used by atheist philosophers???

    And I don’t hesitate to plead “guilty” to “resorting” to philosophy and metaphysics and epistemology, etc… – becuase those are the real points of difference which should be discussed.

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  90. Dale – you have a different meaning of bafflegab. I wrote something on the word a while back (see Bafflegab). It doesn’t mean to use words like “philosophy, epistemology, phenomenology.”

    Some dictionary meanings:

    Wiktionary as: “Language whose purpose is to obscure, confuse, or mislead;”

    Encyclopedia.com as: “An informal pejorative term for fluent language that sounds impressive but confuses and confounds, and is often associated with politicians;” and

    Worldwidewords as: “Incomprehensible or pretentious verbiage.”

    Or the example Milton Smith, the inventor of the word, use to define it:
    “multiloquence characterized by consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing Procrustean determinations by governmental bodies.”

    I think it is an appropriate description of the rubbish spouted by Eagleton in the interview above.

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  91. I’d seen your article, Ken, but thanks for the further clarification.

    The obvious point of difference here is that I think you are (at least at some times) too quick to accuse people of ‘bafflegab’ (and others here can be even more overly-quick). It’s infinitely frustrating to have my repeated attempts to focus conversation onto the key (philosophical) point of difference swept aside simply because of an assertion that I’m merely trying to cloud the issue in technical jargon.

    When talking about God’s existence, why should we not talk about ontology!!!???

    When talking about belief and ‘knowledge’, why should we not talk about epistemology!!!???

    But, alas, time and time and time again, these topics are (intentionally!?) dismissed out of hand as distractions.

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  92. Ha, I think we have age-related reading comprehension problem here. I presume when Matt said

    “I assumed since you were so happy to champion him [Dawkins?] you were owning Eagleton.”

    He meant ‘own’ as in defeat utterly not take his ideas on as your own 😉

    As to the idea that Dawkins is an ‘idtiot’ because he doesn’t engage in theological arguments, there is no better reply that PZ Myers’

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  93. Childish Ken? How am I supposed to raise a sensible discussion on the academic literature when I suspect many of your readers would need to Google the likes of Tooley, Sinnott-Armstrong, Plantinga, Craig, Swinburne to be able to give even one title of their work, much less be familiar with its content? (Yet, I assume, all would be familiar with the works of the light-weight popularists Dawkins and Hitchens.)

    Apples and oranges, pearls, etc..

    You should note Ken that I wasn’t referring to you; the term “readers” denoted those other than you and in fact referred to those commenting who clearly didn’t know who we were talking about. I would expect you to know that Tooley and Sinnott-Armstrong are heavyweight, respected, atheist scholars.

    I find it frustrating when so much energy is wasted at the lower level on the likes of Eagleton, Hitchen and Dawkins – who are not credible scholars on this subject and are not respected as such within academia by anyone credible on either side.

    As for arguments to that effect, try reading my blog.

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  94. Madeleine – I think it’s safest not to assume or presume. Raise the issues you want to. You might find your “suspicions” are wrong. Your might think we don’t know “who we were talking about” – but the fact is that I don’t know what your are talking about – because you haven’t contributed anything of substance!

    Actually – the argument you seem to be making is exactly that made by Eagleton in his (in)famous review. And I reject it – it’s silly.

    I am not impressed by appeals to academia or to claims about authors. I am impressed by the substance of arguments.

    In my experience, people who throw names around, and appeal to academia, are usually insecure in their knowledge, afraid of being “found out.”

    My approach to these sorts of questions is anti-elitist. I encourage you to present your arguments and participate in the discussion.

    You will be wasting your energy if your sole contribution is to cast aspersions on others.

    David W – thanks for the information. I was completely unaware of this slang use of the word. I had always understood own to mean approve.

    Mind you, Matt seemed to suggest that I had some sort of relationship with Eagleton as he asked me to communicate with him about specific people.

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  95. Bafflegab in many ways is a noun complementary to the verb obfuscation (there’s also a wikipedia entry for this). I suppose we could do ‘bafflegabbing’ 🙂 I like it, it’s much lighter-hearted.

    Dale wrote: It’s infinitely frustrating to have my repeated attempts to focus conversation onto the key (philosophical) point of difference swept aside simply because of an assertion that I’m merely trying to cloud the issue in technical jargon.

    It’s because it’s frequently true. I’ve asked you very simple questions, only to get in reply verbiage that appears mostly aimed at deliberately complications everything in such a way that you try shift things to what you want to assert is true, rather than simple address what you were asked.

    Madeleine, if authors are carrying an agenda, as those who hold religious views and then try to “examine” (read: promote) them via “academic” argument, they’ll rightly come under a lot of scepticism because they are pushing their own barrow, with the obvious conflicts that brings.

    The few theology presentations I’ve seen make it quite clear to me that many, if not most, of these people/departments should be “moved on” to outside universities (etc.) as they aren’t capable of critical examination of their material.

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  96. When talking about God’s existence, why should we not talk about ontology!!!???

    Talk about ontology.
    Go for it.

    Just as long as you eventually get around to giving a straight answer on the existence of your god.

    Either he’s real or he isn’t.
    Either he’s make-believe or he’s not.

    Either you have evidence or you don’t.

    But, alas, time and time and time again, these topics are (intentionally!?) dismissed out of hand as distractions.

    Finding info from you talking about belief or knowledge or definitions etc is easy. You do it all the time at the drop of a hat.

    Finding a straightforward answer about your god actually existing and backing it up with evidence is…not so easy.

    Somehow we never seem to arrive at the desired destination.

    Distractions seem to bog us down.
    It’s very frustrating.

    Making claims about something and then…not backing it up sounds a lot like other claims about something else and…not backing it up.
    🙂

    Blah, blah, blah, brand-name god.
    Blah, blah, blah, Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    Blah, blah, blah, Vishnu.
    Blah, blah, blah, Bigfoot.
    Blah, blah, blah, Sri.
    etc…..

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  97. Cedric,

    Make a combo-god with bits of gods from all other mythologies and mush them together.

    What I’m suggesting is not as crude as that. I’m not suggesting we pick and choose attributes from all the god concepts as if we were in Foodtown selecting items from a shopping list. I’m suggesting that we distil from the many concepts what it means to have god-ness (why something is placed in the god-category, and not in another category), and then argue for a being with the attributes of that consensus (or near consensus) that develops. I’ve already given suggestions as to what that might be.

    On the issue of you not needing to agree with this definition of “God” (the God with the above described minimal attributes) because you make no claim; you at least make the claim that the logic behind your favorite game is valid and sound (i.e., reasonable). What is this logic? and what precisely is the point you are trying to make? For instance;

    Daniel Mann: Most of us are convinced of God because of the comprehensive case, rather than one particular proof.

    Cedric: Most of us are convinced of The Flying Spaghetti Monster because of the comprehensive case, rather than one particular proof.

    While the first (Daniel Mann’s quote) could be true, the second (Cedric’s quote) is patently false. NO ONE believes in the FSM! So what is the point in this game? Can you PLEASE spell out the argument in a syllogism? If you do not, and continue to pursue on this course, I think all would be justified in labeling your reactionary remarks as mindless waffle.

    Second,

    Yet, and yet, the logic behind their claims [Bigfoot and Loch Ness hunters] is…exactly the same.

    You state the logic behind all the fantastic claims of Bigfoots and Loch Ness Monsters (and Trolls and Pixies and Gods, etc.,) is the same, and all are similar because they all suffer from lack of evidence. Is this an accurate description of your position? Feel free to amend it. But when you do remember you don’t make any claims!

    Third,

    Stuart: Who would know otherwise [if the Bigfoot and the Loch Ness are descriptions of the same entity] unless there was a clear definition?

    Cedric: Yeah, but . . . I. Don’t. Have. To. Provide. The. Definition. Me no makeee claimeee. Me no need to makeee definitioneee.

    If it is indeed the case that you do not provide definitions, you at least have to ascent to a definition given by someone else. Otherwise all the name-replacements you use in your illustrations could be just different names for the same entity.

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  98. Ray S,

    Thank you for your questions. Before I address them there are two things I feel obliged to say.

    First,

    But then you have your own reading comprehension problem as his list was of apologists, not academics

    The category of apologists and category of academics is not mutually exclusive. This is a false dichotomy.

    Second, even though it would be skipping ahead, your dismissal of the cosmological arguments was too easy. You’re right that there have been centuries since they were originally composed and have amassed many responses in an effort to both debunk and uphold them. That does not mean that the negative responses have not been adequately been answered. And it certainly does no justice to the renaissance in Christian philosophy over the last 50 years that have seen a reinvigoration of natural theology. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology is one piece of evidence of this renaissance. One commenter wrote;

    I used to think natural theology was a dead area and not worthy of mourning. The scholarship represented by this volume has convinced me I was wrong. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology aptly demonstrates why natural theology has become an exciting scholarly area again. . .

    To answer you questions;

    Both definitions of transcendent you give seem fine to me. Others might want to qualify and adjust slight details in those definitions, such as what the “usual limits” are, and what attributes go beyond those usual limits, but all I think would agree that transcendence is an identifying characteristic of the god category. On the Christian perspective on what those “usual limits” are, as a logical extension I would think that immateriality is a reasonable deduction from transcendence. Again on the Christian perspective I would say that God does have some limitations, these limitations can be summed up I think reasonably well by saying that God cannot act contrary to his own nature.

    By “personal” I mean a centre of self-consciousness, equipped with faculties sufficient for awareness, volition, emotion and thought. I am a person being. So is my cat. The grapefruit tree outside is not. The corollary of this attribute would be this being could relate to anyone as a person (an individual).

    Self-existent is a trickier term but almost self-explanatory. This is a uniquely identifying characteristic for the concept of God in the Islam-Judeo-Christian tradition, (i.e., monotheism). What I mean by it is that everything else in existence has a reason for it’s existence outside itself, but a self-existent being would find a reason for it’s existence solely within it’s own nature. (The voice that spoke to Moses, said “I AM that I AM.”) The lingo in philosophical discourse is equivalent to a necessary being as opposed to a contingent or limited-dependant being.

    I don’t know a lot about Thor, never having studied Norwegian mythology. From the little I know of Roman mythology, the concept of Zeus was definitely of a personal being, probably transcendent but to a lesser extent than the Christian concept of God, and most definitely not self-existent having been brought into existence (from the Titans if I recall correctly).

    Of course, without definitions of what Thor and Zeus are like there is (1) no chance of being able to I hope you (as well as Cedric) now see that if an argument could be made that demonstrated a proof of God’s existence by showing these identifying characteristics of god-ness, then that would be a sufficient falsifier for traditional atheism.

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  99. Sorry, messed up that last paragraph. I ammend it by the following.

    Of course, without definitions of what Thor and Zeus are like there is (1) no chance of being able to show how the concepts differ, and (2) no way to demonstrate how each concept is false. I hope you (as well as Cedric) now see that if an argument could be made that demonstrated a proof of God’s existence by showing these identifying characteristics of god-ness, then that would be a sufficient falsifier for traditional atheism and the name-replacement game both silly and irrelevant.

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  100. I’m suggesting that we distil from the many concepts what it means to have god-ness…,/i>

    Not “we”.
    You.
    Go ahead and distill all you want.
    You are limited only by your imagination.

    While the first (Daniel Mann’s quote) could be true, the second (Cedric’s quote) is patently false. NO ONE believes in the FSM!

    Ahah, but you neglect the awesome power of bafflegab!

    (channeling bafflegab)
    Most of us believes in the FSM, except for those who are…in denial!
    Yet even they secretly believe!!!
    They will see the deep disharmony between the world their intellect has devised and the real world (and The FSM) that their hearts know exist.
    With our mouths, we may deny The Flying Spaghetti Monster’s existence, but we can’t with our lives.
    (end channeling bafflegab)

    Simple, huh? A little imagination, some screwy logic, a little copy-catting and, hey presto, the FSM magically pops into existence.
    😉
    Doesn’t matter about the Sikhs or the Hindus, or the anamists, or the billions of other people (past and present) who have never heard of my brand-name god and would probably be REALLY pissed at me for lumping them all together in my little band-wagon, but hey, they’re not here…so…I WIN!!!

    I just co-opt them with a little hand-waving.
    😦

    …and then argue for a being with the attributes…

    Argue for any being you want.
    Go wild.
    Don’t skimp on the evidence.

    …you at least have to ascent to a definition given by someone else.

    Sure. That’s why you should judge somebody’s claims on a case-by-case basis and not inject your own preconceptions.

    Somebody makes a claim.
    They get to define it.
    They have a free hand.
    All the intricate detail they want.

    Once they’ve spelled it out then they provide the supporting evidence.

    …all the name-replacements you use in your illustrations could be just different names for the same entity.

    Could be, might be, possibly, potentially, conceivably….
    ……..
    …….
    Or not.
    (shrug)

    Are you claiming this?
    If so, then justify your claim.

    From the little I know of Roman mythology, the concept of Zeus…

    (Greek mythology. Probably just a typo.)

    Thor and Zeus are like there is (1) no chance of being able to show how the concepts differ, and (2) no way to demonstrate how each concept is false.

    Look, it’s really simple.

    I don’t care about how Thor and Zeus are “different”.
    To me, Thor and Zeus are just names for made-up fantasy beings.
    Make up concepts of them to your heart’s content.
    According to the historical claims, one’s got a hammer.
    The other god carries actual lightning bolts.
    One slept around a lot.
    The other did a lot of fighting.
    Fine. No problem.
    Mythology is fun. It’s rich and colourful. I quite like it.

    It’s impossible to prove that Thor and Zeus are false.
    Just like it’s impossible to prove that pixies are false.

    However….
    The trick is to provide evidence that these beings do exist.
    Not that they don’t exist.
    That they DO exist.

    Otherwise, it’s all just fantasy and there’s no good reason to believe in them.

    The same goes for any other “god”.
    ANY other “god”.
    No exceptions.

    Banana’s are Proof God Exists

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  101. N.B.
    The video is an actual Ray Comfort video.
    It has not be doctored in any way.

    He apparently really believes what he says.
    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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  102. The category of apologists and category of academics is not mutually exclusive. This is a false dichotomy.

    I wasn’t proposing a dichotomy, but merely pointing out the one thing the list had in common was apologetics. Though he was not on the list, I’ve seen others promote Strobel as an academic. From my perspective I can’t view that list as one that names only academics, though some may well be.

    Second, even though it would be skipping ahead, your dismissal of the cosmological arguments was too easy. You’re right that there have been centuries since they were originally composed and have amassed many responses in an effort to both debunk and uphold them. That does not mean that the negative responses have not been adequately been answered. And it certainly does no justice to the renaissance in Christian philosophy over the last 50 years that have seen a reinvigoration of natural theology. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology is one piece of evidence of this renaissance. One commenter wrote;

    I used to think natural theology was a dead area and not worthy of mourning. The scholarship represented by this volume has convinced me I was wrong. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology aptly demonstrates why natural theology has become an exciting scholarly area again. . .

    I’m not trying to change your mind, so I’m not interested in debate about the relative merits of past point and counterpoint. I simply meant to inform you that I found those arguments lacking; I don’t find them good evidence for a god, and even if I did, they only show a deist type god. One which may not be connected with any currently fashionable gods. Or one which may no longer exist.

    Further, when a theist tells me that the existence of a god is clear with evidence all around me, I don’t feel I should have to get a degree in philosophy to understand the argument. It really doesn’t seem to me that it should be so subtle. Yet this is what critics of the writings of Dawkins and Hitchens often say; that they are unaware of some nuance or under-educated in the finer points of theology. The existence of a god should not be hiding in a nuance, in my humble opinion.

    Relative to your definitions, which I won’t quote since they’re nearby, I think we’ve made some progress. Your god is a powerful entity, significantly more powerful and capable than any human or any other living entity we currently know. Your god apparently has the limitation of not acting contrary to its nature, but I’m not aware of any entity that can act contrary to its nature. Perhaps you can explain how this is a differentiating characteristic.

    Your god is also immaterial. I take that to mean that there is not even a single atom anywhere in the universe that comprises any part of your god. If so, how does your god interact with the universe that is made of atoms? I’m assuming that your god must be able to interact with the physical universe because if it cannot, I need not concern myself with it any longer. I’d also like to understand your reconciliation of the attributes ‘immaterial’, ‘exists’, and ‘real’. In my world I’m not aware of anything that can be dais to be all three of those things. I’m also not aware of anything that we might remotely say is (self) conscious but without some physical presence. Perhaps you could expound on that.

    As part of the consciousness you claim for your god, you claim ‘ faculties sufficient for awareness, volition, emotion and thought’. Through this I assume your god can be happy, sad, proud, jealous, angry, sullen or many other emotions. This would seem contradictory to those who postulate a god as the most perfect being imaginable. What do you think?

    Self-existent is a trickier term but almost self-explanatory. This is a uniquely identifying characteristic for the concept of God in the Islam-Judeo-Christian tradition, (i.e., monotheism). What I mean by it is that everything else in existence has a reason for it’s existence outside itself, but a self-existent being would find a reason for it’s existence solely within it’s own nature.

    While all the Abrahamic religions are monotheistic (with the slight aberration of the notion of the trinity), they are not synonymous with monotheism. Relative to self existence, it seems like the old chicken and egg conundrum. I suppose that’s one reason to call it a necessary being, in that it has to be there to answer for its own existence It seems like a post hoc rationalization though, to me.

    Regarding Thor, Zeus and the name replacement game, remember that we started on this because one concept of god was justified by claiming that said god had created everything. No further details were given. The plain point is that the existence of a number of gods has been justified in exactly the same way. But in modern times almost everyone regards those god stories as myths. It is up to you to show that your god exists where the others do not. It is up to you to show that stories about your god are not myths whereas the other god stories are myths. Once you do that, you have rendered the name substitution silly and meaningless, Until then it is simply a simple rhetorical device to remind you of the work you need to do.

    I’m not sure what you’re really getting at in your final paragraph. Speaking only for me, I’d be a theist by simple definition if someone provided a convincing proof of a god. I can only be called an atheist today in the simplest definition (one who lacks a belief in a god). I don’t claim I can prove there is no god, no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny no Unicorn, etc., but I have no evidence any of those actually exist. I think it’s appropriate to act as if they don’t exist until some convincing evidence arrives that suggests they do.

    You seem to feel that you cannot act as if Thor and Zeus are myths without some further detailed definition. Both would seem to satisfy the qualities you have heretofore established as required for a god (although Thor and Zeus were both said to have a material presence whereas yours does not). Does that mean you are agnostic with regard to those gods? Do you assume that any story of any god is true until proven false? I’m guessing that you do not and that you already have an opinion as to the veracity of the Thor and Zeus stories. I guess further that said opinion is substantially the same as mine. I doubt either of us, having heard from birth that the stories are myths, find it necessary to explore the details and nuances of the Norse and Roman mythologies to determine if these are sanguine concepts of super-powerful beings. When you grasp why that is true, you’ll understand why I have not ordered Blackwell.

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  103. Ken you said I shouldn’t assume that people commenting in this thread had not read the top thinkers in this field…

    If I can openly admit that Tooley is a billiant atheist then why can’t any of you are are atheists? Likewise, why can’t any of you admit that brilliant Christian thinkers exist too? Try reading Plantinga, Swinburne, Craig, et al before assuming know what they write. They are not considered the world’s best, by atheists and theist scholars alike, for no good reason.

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  104. What is your problem Madeleine? Are you upset because “atheists” don’t worship “Plantinga, Swinburne, Craig, et al”?

    Personally I can’t give a stuff about how you rate individuals – I am more interested in the validity of their arguments. So why don’t you present those?

    Or perhaps I can give you a start. I am not at all impressed with the little Platinga I have read – certainly don’t want to waste my time reading more. But what about Craig? This “atheist scholar” (sorry to be so pretentious) is not at all impressed with him.

    I have written here about the moral relativism of theism. I have taken issue with Craig’s cosmological argument, his design argument and his argument for his god based on “objective morals”. I have contributed to discussion on your blog on this last issue. My series on Human Morality (start here – Human Morality I: Religious confusion) was written specifically in response to a post and discussion on your blog.

    Yet – there was absolutely no response from you for any of this effort. Now you want me to genuflect before your idols!!

    Come off it! I am keen to discuss, for example, the problems theists have with morality and to counter the mistaken analysis presented on your blog about non-theist appreciation of morality.

    So – leap into it. Engage with an intelligent discussion. Respond to my articles. Respond to the argument I use. Just be aware I am not at all impressed by your references to academia, “scholars” or names. In my experience that sort of approach is used to hide ignorance.

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  105. Stuart wrote: What I’m suggesting is not as crude as that. I’m not suggesting we pick and choose attributes from all the god concepts as if we were in Foodtown selecting items from a shopping list.

    In some respect, the Bahai did this. Perhaps you need to change your religion 🙂

    The category of apologists and category of academics is not mutually exclusive. This is a false dichotomy.

    If even if this were true, it’d be “ignoring” his point. (See also my comment to Madeleine in my previous post.)

    Second, even though it would be skipping ahead, your dismissal of the cosmological arguments was too easy.

    You seem to dismiss that it may be very easy to dismiss them 😉 You should leave the possibility in and check it out.

    Excuse me if some of my remarks appear to no see later replies, as I’m catching up.

    but a self-existent being would find a reason for it’s existence solely within it’s own nature.

    I’ve seen apologists play word games to self-justify their beliefs, including re-defining common terms and inventing brand new ones, but this takes the biscuit. Remember this point I and others have raised about religions making enquiring about some aspects of the religion “off limits” to avoid being exposed as mythical or whatever? You’ve given a fine example of it.

    Of course, without definitions of what Thor and Zeus […] You’re still trying to avoid the point of the replacements. A bit weird as previously you stated it correctly, then later want to still be avoiding it.

    Madeleine, I agree with Ken, opinions about people’s “brilliance” don’t matter that much. That says more about their potential, that there actual output. There a plenty of “brilliant” people who are brilliantly wrong. What matters is the substance of what they say. As just one example, Pauling was certain brilliant, but the latter part of this life were devoted to bizarre ideas about vitamin C. I’m sure the guys who published the cold fusion work were brilliant, but they should have gotten a bit more objective before rushing into print.

    (Science has it’s brilliantly wrong people as I’ve given examples. Religions having less, if any at all, of an objective basis & peer review to counter bad ideas are likely to be an open field for brilliant wrongness. It’s one of the reason science is set up as it is, to counter this sort of thing.)

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  106. Madeleine,

    Are you suggesting that unless some has read Plantinga (whose writing on science I’ve found to be horribly confused) their arguments hold no weight? Isn’t that intellectual snobbery gone crazy?

    If you think, say, Dawkins comparing belief in God is equivalent to belief in distinctly pink invisible unicorns (showing my age there) or transcendental pasta then explain why. If you tire of doing repeatedly write it up on your blog an link to it when it comes up. All people are asking you to do is engage the question at hand.

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  107. @david w. I had never heard of Pantinga and just had a look at the wikipedia page on him.

    If the “evolutionary argument against naturalism” is typical of his thinking, I can see exactly what you mean. Talk about mixing a flawed understanding of evolution with a flawed understanding of science.

    Of course human cognitive facilities are a production of our species evolution, but not necessarily directly as adaptions, crucially also the possibility exists that they are by-products. There are even hypothesises that our large pre frontal cortexes are the result of expansions of olfactory systems when the human brain expanded due to bipedalism.

    And when it comes to this undermining the products of our brains, this is expressly what science attempts to correct for by testing against reality. Instead of undermining naturalism, evolution or science, doesn’t this really undermine concepts of god or religions that come directly from peoples seemingly innate fixations on seeing causality and agency everywhere, or from skewed senses of probability. I.e A prime mover being a solution to an infinite regress or circular process of creation. I myself try to consider each of these to be as likely as the other without evidence on the matter.

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  108. Plantinga and Tooley are hard going and pretty technical – certainly not where I would start reading on the subject but if you are going to stick with the popular level atheists why not go with John Loftus over Hitchens and Dawkins, at least he tries to argue his case and has actually got some degrees in the field he is speaking in.

    He is commenting on our post on Slavery, John Locke and the Bible thread at the moment, you could pop over to MandM and meet him.

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  109. Plantinga?
    Only ever heard of him a couple of times.
    On wikipedia, I found this little gem.

    Plantinga was a research fellow of the now defunct International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID),[40][41] which promoted intelligent design.

    He hopped on the Intelligent Design bandwagon?
    Oops.
    Not a bright move.
    🙂

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  110. Pingback: Ramadan and DQ Frozen Cake | Tangled Up in Blue Guy

  111. Here are the choises…
    You believe in God and there is a God you are OK…
    You Beleive in God and there are no God you are still OK…
    You don’t beleive in God and there is a God you are not so OK…

    I choose option number one….

    I do not need to prove God exists because I beleive and only in faith can you find God.

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  112. Why should option 3 mean you are not so OK?

    And why did you not include:
    You don’t believe in a god and there is no god so you are OK??

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  113. Heh, that’s Pascal’s Wager repackaged.

    And the obligatory response to Pascal’s Wager is to enquire “Which particular God are you referring to?”. Would you be OK if you believed in the Christian God but it turned out that the Muslim God was actually the real one?

    What’s more is that the beginning to Pascal’s Wager is that we can know nothing of God which serves to level the playing field (and the odds) on which we are asked to place our eternal bets on. But if we can not ever even know whether God exists then how can we presume to know what this God has in store for us, if anything, for our inability to believe?

    Anyway, that’s probably too much effort on my part in response to what is effectively an inane argument.

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  114. (I’ve always though that if I were a God who’d configured the world in such a way that no one could ever really know that I existed — i.e. requiring faith — I’d have more respect for those who didn’t believe in me.)

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  115. Ah, Pascal’s Wager.
    🙂
    Trashed by philosophers centuries ago yet Christians still breathlessly reveal it on the Intertubes as if it’s new and wonderous.
    (giggle)

    There are a variety of basic problems with it.
    As Damian mentioned, there’s the problem of which god you are referring to.

    Then there’s the problem of worshiping a god that would let you enter heaven even though you are a sleazy two-faced pious fraud who treats his god no better that fire insurance.

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  116. Cedric,

    It reminds me of pointing out to ropata recently that unless he checks other points of view, he’s never going to know if he’s right.

    To me, it’s a striking trait of fundamentalist Christians that they simply won’t check first. You’d think that seeing you’re on the WWW and about to write about whatever, you have a little google or whatever first to see if you’ve got the right idea.

    It seems that this is essentially part of the churches’ teaching. I was reading recently in a thread about sci comm, when a couple of former fundamentalist Christians commented. One said this:

    I was a fundamental charismatic Christian until about two years ago. What we were taught was to avoid reading books offering different opinions from what we already believed, as these were Satan’s tools for weakening your faith.

    Seems the idea is to convince, or bully, people into not to checking out if they’re right.

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  117. Pfffth 🙂

    Oh, you’re just the all-knowing, ever-wise, never-wrong, all without ever checking. Yup. Pass me several dozen Tui, will ya? 😉

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  118. Didn’t close my blockquote in my earlier comment, sorry. The quoted bit ends at “your faith.”

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  119. I *am* right.

    As long as you have managed to convince yourself then…well…that’s the main thing.
    (shrug)
    Pat yourself on the back and run along now.
    🙂

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  120. Cedric/Heraclides
    You don’t know what points of view I have “checked out”, you obviously don’t know what the word “fundamentalist” means, because you’re very wrong about that, and you clearly have no idea about the justice of God.

    Unless you are just making sh*t up. But you wouldn’t do that would you?

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  121. Ropata,

    You’ve said yourself that you don’t know some things and won’t check them out! For those, I don’t have to know, you’ve told us. For others you make basic errors that show you either haven’t read the basics or have gotten them wrong (in which case you didn’t check it out very well).

    It’s cheap to cop out and accuse me of making things up.

    PS: anyone can work out what particular words, like ‘fundamentalist’ mean. That’s what dictionaries are for 😉 That particular word is hardly obscure.

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  122. …you clearly have no idea about the justice of God.

    …you clearly have no idea about the justice of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    (shrug)

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  123. It’s wonderful to encounter such subtle arguments! Ahh the rarefied air of academia.

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  124. It’s wonderful to encounter such subtle arguments!

    There’s nothing “subtle” about it.

    Your claim that there is a god is worthless unless you are prepared to back up your claim with evidence.
    Y’know, science?

    Pouting, stamping your feet and saying “But I am right, I just am, I am, I am.” impresses nobody except the stupid.

    Do you understand now?

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  125. I have provided links elsewhere, they do constitute “evidence”. I still cannot bow to your god.

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  126. I have provided links elsewhere, they do constitute “evidence”.

    At least you have the decency to use scare-quotes when you use the word “evidence”.
    Thank you.

    I still cannot bow to your god.

    Nobody is asking you to bow to anything.
    That’s a priest thing.

    In science, there is no unchallengable orthodoxy.
    There are no pronouncements from on high.
    Science does not operate the same way as a religion.
    White lab coats are not vestments.
    Labs are not churches.
    A workbench and a bunsen burner are not in any way similar to an altar.
    Science is not religion.
    It’s not an “ism”.

    If you claim that “something” exists then either you have evidence or…you don’t.
    No exceptions.

    Ask Stuart.
    Check out his hand-waving on this very thread.
    Read all his comments here.
    He had nothing except waffle.
    Neither do you.

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  127. Stuart wrote some eminently reasonable arguments and showed a lot of patience in the face of mockery and disrespect. I can’t believe it took 3 or 4 posts to even define the term “God” because of all the ill-mannered derision. I really liked his brief evidence. Stuart has been added to my RSS reader, thanks. His thoughtful comments were a real contrast to yours and Heraclides.

    I am still right 😉

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  128. Stuart…showed a lot of patience in the face of mockery and disrespect.

    Of course, he got mocked. His arguments were pigswill.
    His feelings were hurt?
    Big deal. I don’t care.
    Hurt feelings are no substitute for evidence.
    Put up or shutup.

    He was asked to provide evidence that his god was somehow more tangible than, say, Thor or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    He provided none.
    Not a sausage. Bugger all.

    Neither can you.

    When you understand why you don’t (presumably) accept the existence of Wotan or Quetzlcoatl or Zeus or any other of the thousands of unemployed gods humanity has invented, then you will understand why I don’t believe in yours.

    “We are all atheists about most of the gods humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” – Richard Dawkins

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  129. I thought with the christian god(s) you got three in one? The Trinity?

    Or was that a cut-price deal cooked up in the Council of Nicea to keep the punters happy?

    Did they go to war over that issue, or was it just a Schism?

    Seems to me these theologians have a lot of explaining to do. Especially when most of this stuff was analysed 100+ years ago. Shades of Dean Stanley.

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  130. ropata,

    If you look up to people like Stuart, as you seem to, consider that they delete posts that they can’t deal with in Thinking Matters (in flat contradiction to their claim that they welcome contributions from “all sides”). Deleting posts or banning posters is an extreme version of the thing I pointed out of not religions not wanting their member to consider other ways of looking at the issues.

    (I’ve even had a priest write to my face that he blocks posts that would be a “danger” to his flock.)

    His thoughtful comments were a real contrast to yours and Heraclides.

    As for your feeble slight at me, how more pathetic can you get? 😉

    If you read Stuart’s post and the replies to it you’ll see that he entirely did not get the point of the references to Thor, etc., but went off on an unrelated tack. On a careful reading, you’d notice he doesn’t present substance. His post reminds me of that cliché about lips moving but nothing being said. It’s empty material that looks good only to someone who is not looking at the content of what he’s saying, perhaps because they are using is words as “echo chamber”.

    I note you’re yet again avoiding interacting with what is actually being said… Perhaps you should ask yourself how you got into the position of not considering what other people say.

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  131. @ ropata: You don’t know what points of view I have “checked out”, you obviously don’t know what the word “fundamentalist” means, because you’re very wrong about that, and you clearly have no idea about the justice of God.
    I think that for many here, the term ‘fundamentalist’ is very widely understood to mean someone with a strong commitment to Biblical literalism & all that this entails (including the whole idea – in the face of a very large amount of evidence – of a young Earth). If that doesn’t match your own understanding of the term, then it would be great to get some clarification in aid of clearer communication 🙂

    For atheists/skeptics, ‘the justice of G-d’ is effectively an empty concept – it’s difficult to engage with when you don’t have that sort of personal faith, & – speaking personally here – it is extremely hard to reconcile with an awful lot of injustices.

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  132. The late 19th century was a time of great scientific advances, which do not need enumerating here.

    Interestingly, it was also a time of great theological controversy among protestant christians in England. Science generally, and Darwin’s work in particular, sparked much church debate. But some was wholly theological, as Dean Stanley illustrated.

    Scholars then were examining the early christian church – its origins, antecedent Jewish sects, and the new testament writings. This work raised more questions than it answered.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament

    The theological complexities now leave most of us baffled. But the questions raised then, unlike the scientific questions of the time, were never settled. Now ignored, at the time they were considered crucial to faith. What has happened meantime?

    Most scientists would be able to summarize the 19C work of people like Dalton and Maxwell. Later arrivals like Einstein and Rutherford could ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’, and acknowledge their predecessors’ massive contribution to knowledge.

    But theology just seems to be going round the same old circles with a few new twists. And in the meantime, what could be called ’20C applied religion’ has a lot to answer for.

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  133. RR,
    Jesus was an exact representation of the character of Yahweh. It doesn’t have to be complex.

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  134. But theology just seems to be going round the same old circles with a few new twists.

    Indeed.
    Theology is bad enough but do we have to suffer the twist of bad poetry too?
    (grimace)
    How about a good old-fashioned hymn of praise?
    Monty Python: Oh Lord! You Are So Big!

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  135. Yes he is rather.


    Can’t embed it 😦

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  136. Oh Ropata. That’s not Louie Gigilo (sp?) is it? Not the ‘laminin’ guy? Where he almost orgasms because a common molecule is in the shape of a cross? That’s just embarrassing.

    I love the universe, the complexity of nature, everything. I want to cry it’s so amazing.

    But it doesn’t point to a God to me I’m afraid. And those cheap inspirational speakers just make me even more wary.

    Sometimes I read the things you write and find myself thinking that you’ve got a healthy respect and understanding of science but then you go and pull this out.

    (or was this an elaborate and subtle piece of satire that I’ve overreacted to?)

    Like

  137. Ah, the lost 19th century. Those were the days. England and the Empire. No Rome on the Rates. Trollope, Gladstone and Palmerston.

    And the Established Church of England! Fox-hunting parsons. Cricket on the village green. Dreaming spires.

    That was real religion. Church power blended into the Old Boy network. A chap could go from Eton through the ecclesiastical hierarchy into the House of Lords. Sort of like the mediaeval papacy, but in a nice English way.

    Didn’t seem to work for the colonials though. And all this modern enthusiasm….too much. Mysteries best left unrevealed.

    So a 19C Anglican god might suit some of us. Trouble is,the world is spoilt for choice!

    Like

  138. Damian,
    Yes it’s Louie Giglio. I love his childlike wonder and enthusiasm. He’s a great communicator, his seminar is pitched at a broad audience. It doesn’t come across as a sophisticated cosmological argument, but it’s very cool nontheless. He finished this presentation with an image of the “pale blue dot” and Sagan’s quote.

    Like

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