December 27, 2012 § 3 Comments
This is an ongoing debate at AskAnAtheist.com.
I’m an atheist myself and I’m not presenting any doubts about my atheism with this question but I seem to have trouble with trying to get evidence from theists who want to try to convince me that God exists.
I was talking with a very fine gentleman, who is my neighbor and a strong believer in Christ and God. He asked me why I don’t believe and as is the standard reply there is not enough evidence to prove the existence of God. I told him I am a person of science and logic, and I need proof in the form of hard, observable evidence.
…I’m having a hard time figuring out what exactly good evidence, that’s not miraculous or magical but could prove god if we found it, might look like.
ZJ, great question.
I think the best evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible comes from a presuppositional approach. This takes a look at whatever truth we presuppose and weighs it against reality we experience. Here it is…
The first thing is for the Christian to admit that his argument is ultimately circular reasoning, because he is appealing to the Bible as his best evidence for the existence of God. In other words, Christian theism appeals to Christian theism.
On to the atheist’s position: You state you are a man of science and logic. Science is done by applying the laws of logic, so let’s say that human logic is your ultimate commitment and authority. Logic dictates the major decisions you make in life and drives your conclusions about God and the universe. Is that a fair assessment?
Now what is the basis for you claiming logic as your ultimate commitment? It’s logic. You defend the use of logic by virtue of logic, therefore your argument for your ultimate authority is ultimately circular.
So atheism and Christian theism, and for that matter any other worldview, are on equal ground when it comes to circularity of its logic. They appeal to their own ultimate authority to justify their own ultimate authority. ALL arguments are, at their most foundational level, circular. Does this make sense?
So which worldview is true? It would have to be the one, if any, that makes sense out of our sensory experience. That’s really the best we can do, since any facts we find or evidence we observe is experienced by our senses.
Here is where I think atheism does NOT make sense of the world and Christianity DOES.
Atheism and accompanying Naturalism does not explain our basic dependence of logic and reason. What is there about a universe that began with basically matter and motion that could have given rise to the laws of logic and reason?
The Bible describes a God who uses logic as a part of His nature, who created man in His image (Gen. 1:27) and invites us to reason (Is. 1:18). On Christianity, logic and reason make sense.
Atheism and naturalism do not explain the origin of absolute, objective moral law that everyone is aware of. We may disagree on the interpretation, but everyone lives as if laws of right and wrong exist. They couldn’t logically have evolved within humans because it’s impossible to imagine the first moral act that doesn’t appeal to some other moral standard for good or kindness or truth. And if they evolved within humans, humans would have no basis for applying them to other humans or to the idea of God, as many atheists do when they morally condemn God actions in the Old Testament. Atheists may clam no universal moral code exists, but when they do they appeal to some universal moral code that says they are right in their claim, which is self-contradictory.
The Bible describes a moral God who is transcendent, exercises moral judgment, and has written moral law on our hearts, to which our consciences bear witness (Rom. 2:15).
Atheism and naturalism do not explain the laws of nature and scientific dependence on uniformity, that experiments done the same way will yield the same results, that things will happen in the future the way they happened in the past. In a universe of undirected chain reactions, this type of apparent direction doesn’t make sense.
The Bible describes a God who set the universe in motion at creation (Gen. 1:1) and established the regularity of the earth’s rotation (Gen. 1:14-19; Jer. 33:20), seasons (Gen. 8:22, Psalm 74:17) planting/harvest cycle (Jer. 5:24, Mark 5:26-29) and is responsible for the whole natural order (Col. 1:16-17, Eph. 1:11, Heb. 1:3). We take all this and more for granted, but there is no logical reason for our base assumptions on Atheism.
Only the God of the Bible when compared to other gods in various world religions can be shown to be internally consistent and His Word consistent to the reality we experience.
Since every worldview is ultimately circular in its defense, EVERY belief begins with faith, even a system that purports to be based on “fact” and “evidence”. Christianity is set apart because it actually makes sense of the world.
Godandneighbor you are basing most of your argument on the premise that both a logic-framed and a Christian-framed type of reasoning are circular. No that is completely incorrect and faulty and that fault unravels the rest of your entire argument. Logic itself is the absence of circular reasoning. Your argument even mis-defines the term circular reasoning because you explain circular reasoning occurs when you make an argument with someone who agrees with you. Completely wrong, how valid a form of reasoning is has nothing to do with how much you appeal to your listener. You’re either right, wrong or just completely making no sense at all.
Let me give you an example; pretty simple: All Greeks are human and all humans are mortal; therefore, all Greeks are mortal. It’s a valid argument, it makes logical sense. A lot of Christianity fails this because there’s so much expectation that for people to conform with it, no questioning must occur and if people simply use logic to challenge biblical directives it’s so easy to find fallacies, nonsense and inconsistencies. But I think many Christians are fine with that, the human brain naturally seeks authority that is not always logical, just one who’s only objective is security, watchfulness and confidence. And that’s what matters – for them. As for me, I am not satisfied, I want knowledge that is as close to reality as possible, and I think the only way to achieve that is through logic and reason. Every instance I’ve seen from the point of Christianity, theism and references in the Bible fail miserably and ridiculously, to be honest.
“Logic itself is the absence of circular reasoning.”
Not exactly. An argument is circular when the reasoner begins with what he or she is trying to end up with. If you decide to justify logic because it is logical to do so, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
“Your argument even mis-defines the term circular reasoning because you explain circular reasoning occurs when you make an argument with someone who agrees with you.”
Where do you think that I said that? Because I actually didn’t make that argument.
“A lot of Christianity fails this because there’s so much expectation that for people to conform with it, no questioning must occur and if people simply use logic to challenge biblical directives it’s so easy to find fallacies, nonsense and inconsistencies.”
“I want knowledge that is as close to reality as possible, and I think the only way to achieve that is through logic and reason.”
Right, many people think that the only way to understand reality is through logic and reason. But, as I explained, there is no way to justify your love for logic and reason without using logic and reason (you’re doing it right now). 🙂 You can accept any proposition on faith to acquire a belief, but not all beliefs make sense of reality. Christianity does.
1st part: no and no. When did I say there was any purpose to justifying logic? You utilize logic to reach a conclusion about what you are trying to discover or answer. You’re twisting definitions again using a convoluted (nonsensical) logic of your own. Just slow down and think dude.
2nd part: You did say that because you claimed someone, whether atheist or Christian might want to *admit* their argument is circular, and it’s ok because it “appeals” to the corresponding philosophy. You can debate whether you said this or not, I’m mostly debating that it just doesn’t make sense from the perspective of the logic and reasoning process. If it’s supposed to make sense, explain it again because so far very little of what you said makes sense.
3rd part: you want an examples? Noah, Adam & Eve, resurrections, Hell, God himself. Like I said I wanted evidence from Christians and all I get are citations of more miracles, and very little evidence they’re also all not hogwash also.
4th part: love of logic? Are you serious? And again I don’t need to justify logic, it’s the method to get from point A to B in understanding. As an analogy I might choose to drive a car instead of swim to get from A to B. Driving is simply practical and available. A Christian like you who thinks others must love logic, but you yourself don’t might prefer swimming because he or she is told that is the best way, even though there is no water between point A and B.
“you claimed someone, whether atheist or Christian might want to *admit* their argument is circular, and it’s ok because it “appeals” to the corresponding philosophy.”
Yes, I think people should understand that any argument for an ultimate conviction is circular, but that is not a requirement for circular logic. Most circular arguments are fallacious because of the relative size of the circle—they appeal to something that could actually be supported by something greater and more foundational. But at the most foundational level, circular reasoning is unavoidable because we’ve run out of things that we can prove and are left to presuppose an ultimate conviction. That ultimate conviction (for me, God; for you, autonomous human reasoning) is accepted by faith.
“When did I say there was any purpose to justifying logic? You utilize logic to reach a conclusion… it’s the method to get from point A to B…”
You DIDN’T say that there is any purpose to justifying the use of logic, but I don’t think you could come up with one if you were asked to. You don’t see the need because for you, it’s just there. You presuppose it, because it’s “simply practical and available.” You’re a “man of science” so you don’t ask why, but I’m asking, Why do science? Why are there LAWS of logic?
We presuppose (assume, take for granted) something basic and foundational that we can’t prove or support with anything MORE basic or foundational. It makes sense that an atheist, who thinks there is no God and no creator or first cause, would look at something like the laws of logic and say we should just assume them, rather than actually utilizing that same logic to explore how they got there in the first place. You could think about it, but it’s most likely your atheistic worldview that prevents you from doing so.
I have no problem with using logic; it’s what God gave us to reason, learn and discover Him. Obviously it only gets you so far, because holding it in the highest regard leaves you without any purpose or even desire to look into why it’s there, even to the point of abandoning logic.
“…you want an examples? Noah, Adam & Eve, resurrections, Hell, God himself.”
On Christianity, these are not fallacious, nonsensical or inconsistent. They only are on atheism, a worldview that can’t make sense out of the world we observe.
Why do science, why place logic in such high regard? Sure I can answer that. Think of the universe as basically a giant computer. When we use a computer we perceive the output in the form of images and sounds that are made to process in a way that makes sense to the user. But at the most foundational, basic level all that information is just a series of 1′s and 0′s which would be incomprehensible to humans if we viewed it in that format.
The universe is the same, there is a subatomic, basic building block of energy, matter thus reality itself all of which can be decoded by pure mathematical reasoning. Some things are still unexplained like the behavior and relationship of certain particles that make up dark or empty matter, but were getting closer. However this giant computer called the universe came about, even if God made it, it’s still bound by the laws of logic EXCLUSEVELY as the language that explains reality.
I am not depending on logic because I “like it better, and relying on it isn’t a matter of presupposing it as the best available option, it is the ONLY option. I don’t even count the explanation from God’s perspective as an alternative because the origins of that language, that mindset, were developed before the concept of logic was evident to us. They (the authors of the bible) did have a kind of logic but the tools and methods of observation were inadequate to them. There’s no doubt that all the political strife during that period of history was extremely counterproductive to logic and reasoning as well.
You say I as an atheist my ultimate conviction is autonomous human resoning as opposed to your source of reasoing are both accepted by faith. Why? You need to explain why that is true. I don’t think faith applies in my case at all, so the two approaches are simply incomparable. Logic is the default, it doesn’t need validation. God, or just saying it is so because God says it’s so, does need validation because it VIOLATES logic.
You have repeatedly stated assertions to the contrary but no evidence backing it. You can keep stating those, and I’m sure you believe them yourself because either you keep saying it to yourself, or others keep telling you this unsubstatiated information, so that even reasoning becomes useless. It’s no concern of mine if this is comforting for you, and it’s better actually if that’s what gives you comfort and reassurance. But for me it’s inadequate, my way is to question, doubt and reason until I’m closer to making sense of the world. Religion and God can’t do that because it’s impossible, I’ve tested it and tested it and results have come up with a failing grade almost every time. It’s not by choice or belief, it’s just what the evidence has SHOWN.
“You say I as an atheist my ultimate conviction is autonomous human resoning as opposed to your source of reasoing are both accepted by faith. Why? You need to explain why that is true. I don’t think faith applies in my case at all, so the two approaches are simply incomparable. Logic is the default, it doesn’t need validation.”
ZJ, you already demonstrated that you accept the supremacy of logic by faith: You say’s it’s your default and it doesn’t need validation. That is a presupposition, something you just assume because you can’t support it with any kind of evidence. Think about it: You rely on the laws of logic because to you they require no validation. They can’t be proven by logic. When you believe something without proof, that’s faith.
Not only that, but you admit an understanding that logic is a law. Law requires a law-giver. You also call logic a language, and language doesn’t happen on its own; it’s written. And no one looks at a “giant computer” and says, “We don’t know how it came about, but it sure wasn’t any intelligent being.”
Now how does the idea of God “violate logic” when you can’t postulate a better reason why we use logic?
I imagine that civilizations 2,000 years in the future might look back at the world of 2012 and say something like “political strife during that period of history was extremely counterproductive to logic and reasoning.” That’s true today! 🙂 There is no marked difference between our use of logic and the ancient world’s—technology, yes, but not basic human reasoning.
The fallacious emotional appeal aside in your last paragraph, you say that your way “is to question, doubt and reason” but you won’t question your use of reason. How can that be? And what sort of tests have you run on God that you conclude that He is impossible?
The language of logic is autonomous to human intervention because, as I’ve demonstrated reality at its most basic building blocks is like a basic series of 1′s and 0′s that make up all data that a computer expresses as images and sounds. I just happened to have determined this method of interpreting reality works best. The fact that interpreting reality requires logic is not faith, and the fact that I trust it is not faith either because I’ve gained adequate evidence that logic is reliable in the same way you know seatbelts will help save your life in a crash. Faith does not compel you to use seat belts, logic dictates that you will not fly through the window of your car in a collision if you wear your seatbelt. Faith is being compelled to believe something that contradicts obvious and available evidence that what you believe is false. Your assertion that my dedication to logic is anyway remotely a type of faith is patently ridiculous. I suggest you seriously take a look at what you’ve determined the definition of faith to be.
To answer your question about testing God, just observe the workings of religion. People are told to pray, sometimes prayers are answered from believers perspective but a casually observing relative or friend can easily deduce a coincidence occurred that the praying believer got overemotional about when their sickness went away for example. Churches ask for your money and ask you spread the word of God: it’s a business with an objective only to benefit itself. It doesn’t care about congregants it feeds off off the ignorance of the many that are taught to ignore or manipulate evidence and distrust the very logic that makes humans perfectly capable of answering life’s mysteries for themselves. And you my friend are a poster child of this very same form of manipulation and deceit. You just don’t see it and won’t accept it.
Furthermore, I have said repeatedly in my arguments “what if God was real?” What would that look like from an evidential understanding of his existence? I keep referring to the “What if?” scenario which in case you didn’t realize it is a form of LOGIC argument that given a particular form of evidence gained would actually support a shift in my position about a godless universe to a godly universe. There’s another test you asked me to provide an example of. However the results still point to and confirm a godless universe. Your ramblings give no indication whatsoever that you could conceive of the possibility of a godless universe. You are so unREASONABLY convinced that is not possible it clouds any hope of you ever even accepting LOGIC as an answer. But there’s a name for that, and I guess it’s fine for you: it’s called FAITH.
“The language of logic is autonomous to human intervention”
If by this you mean that it is independent of humans, you’re right on that. We discovered the laws of logic; we didn’t invent them.
“I just happened to have determined this method of interpreting reality works best.”
Well you’ve done nothing more to hypothesize the origin or purpose of the laws of logic. You’ve only observed how they work. Observing a computer in action does not explain where it came from and how you came to use it. You refer to the basic structure of the universe as a language of 1s and 0s and intelligible data and relating it to a computer, which destroys any argument that such a basic structure is a natural and random process. That alone should compel you to look a little deeper; obviously such a structure requires the input of intelligence and design, and of course, logic.
“The fact that interpreting reality requires logic is not faith, and the fact that I trust it is not faith either because I’ve gained adequate evidence that logic is reliable in the same way you know seatbelts will help save your life in a crash.”
That’s assuming that the future will be like the past, which is something we all rely on. It’s called the Principal of Uniformity, the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate now always have across time and space, and from that we assume they will continue to operate the same way into the future. Uniformitarianism seems very reliable, BUT it’s still an “assumption” (look it up and see). You are depending on the laws of logic to be upheld by the laws of uniformity, WHICH you still can’t logically account for on Naturalism. It’s just another presupposition to accept by faith. Christianity accounts for the principal of uniformity (see my first comment).
By the way, 53% of drivers and passengers killed in car crashes in 2009 were not wearing restraints, and that means 47% of them were wearing seatbelts. So much for faith in uniformity. (DOT source)
“Faith is being compelled to believe something that contradicts obvious and available evidence that what you believe is false.”
I think that most if not all available online definitions of “faith” would disagree with yours. Faith is belief WITHOUT proof or evidence, not in contradiction to it, or against evidence to the contrary. That’s quite an equivocation. 🙂 So it stands that if you cannot support your use of logic or your assumption that the future will be like the past, you are clinging to those beliefs by faith.
“To answer your question about testing God, just observe the workings of religion.”
Your attempting to test people here, not God, but frankly you’re not very scientific or logical about it. You make some sweeping generalizations and wild assumptions about the intent of churches that may be true of a few of them but plainly false on the whole. That’s no test, it’s just crazy spouting.
“I have said repeatedly in my arguments “what if God was real?” What would that look like from an evidential understanding of his existence?”
Um… I couldn’t find “What if” anywhere in your previous comments, so where did you repeatedly ask this? Anyway, I don’t see how you can say “the results still point to and confirm a godless universe” when you can’t account for your position, other than by saying that logic is just “available and convenient” and that it seems to work. That is a non-answer, and requires much more faith than I’m capable of.
I don’t really get what you mean by whether the future must be like the past in how it relates to the validity of logic. The difference between the future and the past is that we’ve gained more in a continuum of logical conclusions that build up upon themselves as far as human understanding. To you that may seem like a system that feeds off of mistakes or inadequacies, because there are many, but it is always open to revision. If it was proven to be faulty, how could we reliably know more now, almost everything really about the universe than we did in the past? That understanding doesn’t change reality itself, only how much less we leave things up to imagination and superstition to explain things.
Eventually logic may replace faith altogether because, as I still feel correct in justifying, it’s flawed. My previous definition didn’t exclude that “faith is belief without proof or evidence,” but as we both agree it is that also. But even that definition alone supports the claim of its gross inadequacy in applying it to unlock the mysteries of universe. It’s important and useful for the faithful because some people don’t care about the nitty gritty details of “Why?” When a Christian sees the sun come up every morning they can thank God based on faith that it is his power that grants us a new day every morning. If that’s fine for you too, I’m glad.
Logic naturally tells me it’s more than that because I know there’s plenty that goes on behind the scenes that really there’s little pratical value in knowing. The sun rises every morning the same way today and into the forseeable future as it did thousands of years ago. So looking at that example are you suggesting that if I was alive 500 years ago I couldn’t have used logic to figure out God had nothing to do with the sun rising? I don’t see how the use of logic itself would differ, but the big difference is that I would much more likely lack the tools and prerequisite information to deduce how the sun is rising. I’d imagine even then some individuals let doubt creep in about the prevailing, and inaccurate, assumption. That doubt is logic at work and wasn’t it Galileo the one such individual who took that doubt further and turned it into evidence?
“I don’t really get what you mean by whether the future must be like the past in how it relates to the validity of logic. The difference between the future and the past is that we’ve gained more in a continuum of logical conclusions that build up upon themselves as far as human understanding.”
Logic depends on the fact that future seems like it will be like the past, based on past experience that every time we do something a certain way, it achieves the same result, with very few exceptions. From that experience, we ASSUME that in the future this will continue to be the pattern. Christians have faith in a Creator who set up the universe to behave in a very ordered and consistent manner. Humans observe these patterns of consistency and give them names: The Law of Uniformity, the Law of Cause and Effect, the Laws of Logic, etc. Christians and athiests both have faith that the future reflects the past, but Christians do because we trust that a consistent Creator caused the universe and makes sense of it. Atheists have faith that the future reflects the past simply because as far as we can recall or observe it always has. It’s just there. That’s a logical reason to continue to have faith in the laws of nature and logic, but it’s not based on anything but experience. The Christian’s faith in the Creator who set the universe on its course and makes sense out the laws of nature and logic. The atheist has faith in laws, the existence of which he can’t explain on his own worldview. This requires more faith than a theist’s faith in God, because here the atheist is, using logic for which he has no basis, because he has no evidence whatsoever that Naturalism can produce logic, uniformity, morality, mathematics, music, or any of the things we empirically observe.
Meanwhile, atheists continue to describe these patterns of logic and nature as laws (which require a law-giver in any logical sense) and language (which requires a writer in any logical sense) and complex computers (which require a designer and builder in any logical sense), borrowing from theism in the use of these things, but denying the obvious. You’ve actually made a very good case for Christian theism. 🙂
You seem to think that faith equals religion and you’re far removed from it. Faith is held in any belief system, including atheism. Christianity can justify it, whereas atheism only can by borrowing from Christianity.
“how could we reliably know more now, almost everything really about the universe than we did in the past? “
We certainly do not know “almost everything” about the universe. We know really very little. And you concede that there are “mysteries of the universe” yet to be unlocked, presumably by logic and science. Why do you put so much faith in the idea, with so little that we know about the universe, that God does not exist? It’s this confidence that makes me surprised at your great faith in atheism. I think when you say “I know there’s plenty that goes on behind the scenes that really there’s little pratical value in knowing”, you’re including God in this, and that may be why you refuse to look any further.