Belief in God? – Integrity Ministries

Posted by on December 18, 2011 in Quick Note, Thoughts | 11 comments

Patrick, who earlier today called me a strawman in my last post, comes from Integrity Ministries, and posts articles to their blog on a semi-regular basis. One post that caught my eye was the one from June this year titled “Belief in God” in which he says that the simple day-to-day consistencies of our universe prove there is a god. It’s like the Bill O’Reilly “Sun comes up, sun goes down” argument.

In Patrick’s blog he says:

“Scientists have no idea why nature continues to repeat itself.  Something as simple as the sun rising tomorrow, we only know this because for all of history, it has risen, therefore we know it will tomorrow.  This is what science is based on, the fact that a scientific “law” is something that happens every single time.  Tomorrow, water will boil at the same temperature as it did today, and will for the rest of time, because it has always boiled at that temperature.  This idea of regularity of nature is what science is built on, yet scientists don’t know why it continues to work.  What is more, is that science cannot prove the continued regularity of nature, it can only be taken on faith.  Each day, scientists make a leap of faith that what was true yesterday will still be true today.”

CHECKMATE ATHEISTS! Well I guess I’d better stop blogging now…

But seriously, his statement is not only naive, but it’s misleading and has some factual errors also. Firstly, the sun doesn’t rise, the earth spins on its axis, and this gives the appearance of it rising in the sky. Everybody knows that. Secondly, water will boil at different temperatures depending on the atmospheric pressure it is at, for instance, up on Mount Everest, water boils at closer to 75 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the 100 degrees we are used to. At sea level. On earth. And thirdly, and most importantly, the faith he talks about here, you know, the one that says that science will work the same way it does today, tomorrow? I can’t even begin to grasp how that is even an argument. Science does not have “faith”, it works with what is and if that changed, so would the science. God is not needed to explain why things stay the same. The argument is “everything is, and will be”, but that is neither a question nor a statement worth pondering too much. It’s this kind of navel gazing that I find infuriating, sure it’s poetic, but it adds nothing to the debate. It’s like blocking your ears and saying “I am right, I am right” over and over again. Deepak Chopra does this a lot also, hoping to confound the readers by making mundane statements about the mundane, appearing to be profound, and saying “Isn’t that just great? There must be more. And that makes you special.”

The argument that, if god did not exist, the whole universe would descend into chaos, is not only speculation, but based on what we know, it is bad speculation without any grounds to stand on, because it makes the assumption that god does exist, and that’s why things don’t descend into chaos. Swings and roundabouts.

Douglas Adams sums up my feelings on this subject quite well:

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

No offense Patrick, but you’re going to have to do better than that.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

11 Comments

  1. Like Tony Blair, Patrick could not win an intelligent debate (squared.)

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  2. Martin,
    Thanks for the traffic to my website.
    And I said you made a stawman argument, not that you were a strawman.
    I heard a professor of mine once say “An illustration is like a three legged dog, no matter how cute it is, its still going to limp.”
    So when you pick apart statements like “the sun comes up, the sun goes down,” OF COURSE I don’t literally think that the sun comes up and goes down, OF COURSE I understand these basic things about science, however it still makes the point; the consistency is what I was pointing out.
    Also, its not science that has faith, but the scientist that has faith. Each time an experiment is made or theory is written, it is an act of faith that what was true tomorrow will be true today.
    I love how you point out the theists declaration that God exists, there for the world doesn’t descend into chaos is a circular argument. How does the scientist come to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist? He says there are no scientific tests to prove God’s existence. JUST as circular.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  3. Martin,
    I also think its interesting that you didn’t address some of the other arguments for God I covered in the blog post. The “Goldilocks” argument is one that Christopher Hitchens himself had a difficult time coming to grips with (of which he admits at the end of the documentary “Collision,” the film about debates between himself and Douglas Wilson).

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  4. The scientist has faith that the logic of science will win out over the illusion of God.

    Gah, pointless discussion..

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  5. @Patrick, two errors worth pointing out in your first comment:

    [1] Scientists rationally infer the regularity of nature failing the presentation of reasons to the contrary. Faith in the sense you presume simply is not required and it does not at all apply to science. In science, data trumps personal faith every time.

    [2] A hypothetical scientist in his field, if not going beyond what the data says, would only conclude that a god’s existence is untestable and unproven, and not a scientific matter to begin with. Science directly addresses nature, not the god question.

    No circularity needed in either case, unless you mistakenly attempt to apply the need for deductive certainty to the reasoning used.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  6. There is an overwhelming difference between faith and a rational expectation that something will repeat again after it has been observed repeating numerous times under the same conditions.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  7. No one wanted to say anything about the Hitchens comment? Interesting.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    • Patrick:

      Happy to oblige.

      First, let me point out that you did not respond to the refutation by others of your other arguments, but picked one that hasn’t been mentioned yet.

      Now, as to the fine-tuning and/or anthropic argument in itself the best refutation I know is in David Mills book, “Atheist Universe” pages 219-223 in my paperback edition. There is no way I will do as good a job in the limits of this post, but basically, it is a simple logical error on the part of its proponents, who assert that the universe was created just right for life, specifically human life, which would show up later and find a environmental niche prepared for it. This is the same error as those who would say (and this is clearly nonsense) that rivers were placed where they were so that when cities were built they would all happen to be on a river good for water supply and transport (and what are the odds of that??) or that a hole that was somehow designed to be of exactly the right shape so that when it filled with water which then froze, the ice would just happen to be of the shape that would exactly match the hole. Now the nature of the error in the anthropic principle becomes clear. Just as the cities adapted themselves to the location of the rivers, and the ice adapted itself to the shape of the hole, so life (including human life) was adapted to the environment that happened to exist beforehand. With life, of course, the adapting principle is natural selection, just as with cities being near rivers it is human choice, and with ice freezing in irregularly shaped holes it is the laws of physics, but the principle is the same—in each case, what comes later adapts itself/is adapted to the pre-existing environmental conditions. No design is evident; none is needed.

      In other words, had the environmental conditions been different, the life that evolved (if indeed any evolved at all) would have been different, just like cities would have been in different places had the rivers themselves been situated differently. To me this constitutes a sufficient refutation of the anthropic principle.

      If one says that the fine-tuning of the anthropic principle consists merely in that there is *anywhere* in the universe capable of supporting life, that argument fails even more abjectly. I’d refer you to a 15-minute video which I found here: http://skepchick.org/2011/02/the-fine-tuning-argument-debunked/ and which points out the obvious, that 99.999 (you probably need about 30 or 40 nines here)% of the universe is *not* habitable by humans. Pointing out that the earth is, is (1) special pleading; and (2) subject to the argument given by Mills above, that all life on this planet is adapted to the conditions which existed on this planet.

      Victor Stenger has written longer arguments against the anthropic argument, in chapter 5 (titled “The Uncongenial Universe”) of his book “God: The Failed Hypothesis” and in his recent book “The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning” which, I must admit, I have not yet read.

      As to the question of why Christopher Hitchens found this argument at least plausible, I obviously don’t know, as I have no insight into his reasoning. But, who endorses or does not endorse a given scientific position does not really matter; what matters are the facts and the strength of the evidence for or against a particular explanation.

      Finally, even if Hitchens were wrong (is that even possible? ) qu’importe? Hitchens, while a wise man with much to say (see my post of quotes from “God is Not Great” in reply to Mr. Pribble’s previous post), he’s not god. We who refuse to attribute to god that which we do not yet understand don’t deify anyone; rather we study, reason, and try to find out the truth (Einstein: “Nature fights hard, but she fights fair”). The leading lights (Hitchens, Dawkins, Gould, Harris, et al; the usual batch of suspects) are leading lights simply because they are smarter and wiser than most of us, have reasoned the most clearly, and have the most to teach. That does not mean that we accept uncritically what they say, or that we are not allowed to disagree with them. This, needless to say, is diametrically opposed to the position we would be required to adopt in a religion, especially one with a holy book.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      • Note that in my comment above, after “is that even possible?” I intended to put “big wink”, but messed up the formatting. I think it’s important to add as indicative of mood.

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      • And dont forget if we wernt here we couldnt wonder how the universe can support life. I have seen the same fallacy by god botherers to tell you how special you are by calculating the odds of your existence.

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  8. (Was’ up Troy, nice to see ya here). Marty, do you ever do bad work. I do think at the end you coulda quoted that really great photoshoped picture of Hitch that says “Your argument has been thoroughly destroyed.” Great work, my man. See ya in the twitterverse.

    Kriss

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Have your say

%d bloggers like this: