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Monday, May 20, 2013

Outrage and Incredulity: The Atheist Charge of No Evidence

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What is all this stuff really about? It never ceases to amaze me how passionate atheists can be about nothing. I mean by that, atheism is supposed to be nothing more than an absence of belief, right? Yet so many times I see them full of fire and arrogance, blowing their little minds just because someone holds a view they don't like. Why? Consider this tirade by Arizona Atheist on Atheist Watch:


Arizona Atheist


Faith is bullshit. Your claiming it's "complex" does nothing to solve your problem. Theists have no evidence for their beliefs and that's that. All "arguments" are simply "god of the gaps" arguments and nothing more. Due to the tremendous lack of proof/evidence for all theistic claims it's all based on "blind faith." So, yes Loftus is correct. Faith is nonsense.
Clearly outraged by belief, but why? The major thinkers in Western culture have been religious, only a tiny handful of great thinkers throughout history have been true atheists, yet to look at such comments (which are a dime a dozen) one would think that belief was the most idiotic thing anyone ever thought of. One of the things that really strikes me as absurd is their insistence that "there's no evidence at all..." This is bound to strike me the wrong way when I have 42 arguments for the existence of God (of course we all know the importance of the number 42). No evidence, except these 42 arguments! Why the histrionics? here I will argue two things: (1) The reason it seems that there is no evidence is because atheists value only the methods that give them the answers they want, they do not accept evdience for God because it has to come from the wrong methods, and they reject the methods becasue they are mining their data. (2) They are angered by the concept that other methods may be valid because would imply that they are only looking at the surface of the issues. Why that should I alarm them so I'm not sure. I think it's a cultural thing, the hate group derives some sense of superiority from deriding the target (according to the standard FBI model).

As I have pointed out numerous times, belief in God is not merely adding a fact to the universe. The question of God is not a question about just the existence of one more thing. It's a question of orientation to being as a whole, especially to one's own individual being. If God exists then all of reality is something other than we think it is. If God is real then I am more than myself I am a creature of God. Atheists and theists live in two different worlds. Thus no amount of empirical data is valid as an answer. So the kinds of answers that would count cannot be sought though scientific evidence alone. The atheist approach is to see this as a limitation or an indication that there is no God. That approach obviously fist what they want to see in the first place. Now many of them wills ay "I was a Christian for 20 years." None of them ever follow that up by saying "I scored real high on the M scale, i had mystical consciousness and union with Christ and Baptism of the Holy Spirit and then I realize it was all false and delusion and made up.The only people who come to this conclusion are those are didn't have it in the first place.

I'm not arguing that they weren't "saved" or they weren't "real Christians." Being a "real Christian" and having Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or "mystical experience" are three different things, they are not three different names for the same thing. Nor am I saying that strong Christians can't give up their faith. Bu strong Christians tend to give up their faith because they fall into sin, they outgrow their milieu and don't go on to higher understanding, or they suffer grave disappointment (such as death of a spouse) and never work through it. No one that I know of ever gave up belief in God just because some intellectual argument was hard to answer, or some body of work intimated that it wasn't true, and here I am speaking of those who had the advanced personal experiences. Those sorts of experiences indicate that it is real. These are such deep confirmations in the heart of hearts that they cannot be easily denied or given up. Of course atheists don't even value this form of knowledge. Deeply fearing the subjective, they just ascribe it to "psychology" and for them that term is as good as saying "lie."

The difference in these two ways of thinking is striking. But the atheists can offer no evidence or arguments to invalidate the phenomenological approach. Faith is an existential response to an phenomenological apprehension. This means that faith is personal individual response, not one formed by education or trained through opponent conditioning; it is a response of the individual although course cultural and learning and even genetics come into it. It is a response to the apprehension of sense data apart from the organizing principles imposed upon sense data by genetics, culture, trainnig, psychological pre disposition. It's a response to the suggestions made by the phenomena themselves as we apprehend them. By "existential" it is fundamental to our existence and within the moment of perception. What exactly is being perceived? That we can't know, but it varies from person to person. Or I should say the vehicle of it varies from person to person. One person may find that a full blown mystical experience is what brings them around, another may be exposed to just one phrase or one image and find that merely a pang of the heart is all that is needed.

Atheists draw such a hard and fast connection between science and the world. One could easily get the impression that the world comes with little labels on rocks and trees that say "naturalistic." If religion was true the labels would say "trees by God." But when I argue my Transcendental Signifier argument they will say that we are just imposing meaning. That's one tier standard response. Human brain sees pattern and imposes meaning upon pattern it's just ink blots. The world is a big ink blot. But they don't apply that to science. They seem to think scinece is just straight forward and literally true and unlimited in its ability to know all of reality that ever be. We derive the kind of certainty from scinece that we do because it's dealing mainly with things that can be observed. These are relatively easy questions. No one thinks a question like "where did the universe come form" is easy. Atheists seem to infer that it is easy and if challenges that sense of certainty they become irate. I often wonder why certainty is so important to them. But have totally obscured the truth of scinece, that it is culturally constructed and not absolute. Their ire is such that when I argued this on CARM once one of them said "you are scum!" Of course they pronounce the basis of knowledge (epistemology) to be 'bull shit" because it's philosophy, but they never try to undersatnd the philosophical basis to their empiricism. They take that as absolute proof beyond question.


Science is a relative cultural construct. It is not absolute knowledge, it is not progress based upon cumulative effects. It works by paradigm shifts, with each shift the whole ground changes. Every time it changes we start over. It is not linear or progressive.

Example: Top down causality in brain mind.

top down means something above the brain is directing causal states in brain function: the mind is not reduced to the brain because its directing the brain. Top down causlity is a scientific fact, it was proven log ago, but because it disproves the reductionist ideology it is ignored as though its not true:


Quote:
Rosenberg (from journal of conscientiousness studies)

"Take the matter of 'downward causation' to which Harman gives some attention. Why should this be an issue in brain dynamics? As Erich Harth points out in Chapter 44, connections between higher and lower centers of the brain are reciprocal. They go both ways, up and down. The evidence (the scientific evidence) for downward causation was established decades ago by the celebrated Spanish histologist Ramon y Cajal, yet the discussion goes on. Why? The answer seems clear: If brains work like machines, they are easier to understand. The facts be damned!"[Miller quoting Rosenberg, Journal of Consciousness Studies, op. cit.]


e.Consciousness as a basic property of nature.

JCS, 3 (1), 1996, pp.33-35

Naturalism loses its ground.


This is a probabilistic justification argument; It does not seek to directly prove that God exists, but that it is rational to believe in God and that there are good reasons to. In a nut shell the argument says that the concept of materialism has been changing over the years. It has now incorporated so many idea that were once lumped in with magic, supernatural, or generally "unscientific" categories that the old concept of materialism as an objection to God belief and a refutation of religion is now obsolete. Essentially there are 10 areas:


(1) Quantum Theory (no need for cause/effect)

(2) Big bang Cosmology (realm beyond the natural)

(3) Medicine (healing)

(4) Consciousness (invites concept of dualism)

(6) Maslow's Archetypes (universal ideas)

(7) Miracles (empirical evidence)

(8) Near Death Experiences (scientific evidence)

(9) Esp Research (the fact that they do it)

(10) Validity of religious experience (Shrinks no longer assume pathology)


The argument turns on the basic historical fact that atheists have lost the ground upon which they dismissed God from science in the first place. In their book Lindberg and Numbers demonstrate that the moment at which this happened was when La Place said "I have no need of that hypothesis," meaning the idea that God created the universe. What he meant was that God was not needed as an explanation because we now have naturalistic cause and effect, which explains everything. But the atheist has cashed in cause and effect to over come the Big Bang.

Naturalists are now willing to consider ideas like the self caused universe, Hawkings unbounded condition which removes cause completely as a consideration; or based upon quantum theory they are willing to accept the notion that causality is an illusion, that the universe could just pop up out of nothing. With that commitment they lose the ground upon which they first removed God from consideration. Now, perhaps they still do not need God as a causal explanation, but in the Religious a pirori argument, and in the innate religious instinct argument I say that belief was never predicated upon a need for explanation in the first place.

Nevertheless, the fact still remains, the reason for dismissing God was the sufficiency of natural causation as explainable, with that gone there is no longer any grounds for dismissing consideration of God from the universe.I will argue that more than that is going. There is a paradigm shift underway which demonstrates a total change in scientific thinking in many areas and over many disciplines. That change demonstrates that the materialist concept is wrong; there is more to reality than just the material world. There are other aspects to the material world wich are non-deterministic, non-mechanistic, and which call into question the whole presupposition of excluding the supernatural from consideration.

The groundwork for understanding this shift was laid by Thomas S. Kuhn in his theory of paradigm shifts. Kuhn's famous theory was that scientific thought works through paradigm acquisition, and that paradigms change when they can no longer absorb anomalies into the model and must account for them in some other way. This theory entails the idea that science is culturally constructed; our ideas about science are culturally rooted and our understanding of the world in a scientific fashion is rooted in culture. For this reason he thought that science is not linear cumulative progress. "scientific revolutions are here taken to be those non-cumulative developmental episodes replaced in whole or in part by a new one..." (Thomas kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," (92)

"In section X we shall discover how closely the view of science as cumulative is entangled with a dominate epistemology that takes knowledge to be a construction placed directly upon raw sense data by the mind. And in section XI we shall examine the strong support provided to the same historiographical scheme by the techniques of effective science pedagogy. Nevertheless, despite the immense plausibility of that ideal image, there is increasing reason to wonder whether it can possibly be an image of science. After the pre-paradigm period the assimilation of all new theories and of almost all new sorts of phenomena has demanded the destruction of a prior paradigm and a consequent conflict between competing schools of scientific thought. Cumulative anticipation of unanticipated novelties proves to be an almost nonexistent exception to the rule of scientific development.The man who takes historic fact seriously must suspect that science does not tend toward the ideal that our image of its cumulativeness has suggested. Perhaps it is another sort of enterprise."(Ibid,94)



What all of this means is that science is not written in stone. We do not pile one fact upon another until we get to the truth. We formulate a concept of the world and we hold to it and defend it against changed until there are too many problems with it then we move to another totally different world view. This is what has been going on in science since the French enlightenment. Materialism replaced super-naturalism and Materialists have been defending it against change all this time. Now there are too many problems, they have brought in so many ideas contrary to materialism it is not meaningful anymore; paradigm shift is immanent and has begun in many areas. This is not to say that Kuhn had anything to say about the supernatural, he was a materialist. But his theory shows us that change in the concept of materlaism is on the way.


Kuhn is not alone in these observations, major scientific thinkers have questioned scientific 'pretense of objectivity' throughout the century:


This 'bigger' aspect can also be seen in Rosenberg's 'liberal naturalism' [CS:JCS:3.1.77]:

"The question of scientific objectivity becomes more compelling when one considers that doubts about the reductive paradigm are by no means new. William James (1890), Charles Sherrington (1951), Erwin Schrodinger (1944, 1958), Karl Popper and John Eccles (1977)--among others--have insisted that the reductive view is inadequate to describe reality. This is not a fringe group. They are among the most thoughtful and highly honored philosophers and scientists of the past century. How is it that their deeply held and vividly expressed views have been so widely ignored? Is it not that we need to see the world as better organized than the evidence suggests?


"Appropriately, the most ambitious chapter of this section is the final one by Willis Harman. Is the conceptual framework of science sufficiently broad to encompass the phenomenon of consciousness, he asks, or must it be somehow enlarged to fit the facts of mental reality? Attempting an answer, he considers the degree to which science can claim to be objective and to what extent it is influenced by the culture in which it is immersed. Those who disagree might pause to consider the religious perspective from which modern science has emerged.


"There is reason to suppose that the roots of our bias toward determinism lie deeper in our cultural history than many are accustomed to suppose. Indeed, it is possible that this bias may even predate modern scientific methods. In his analysis of thirteenth-century European philosophy, Henry Adams (1904) archly observed: "Saint Thomas did not allow the Deity the right to contradict himself, which is one of Man's chief pleasures." One wonders to what extent reductive science has merely replaced Thomas's God with the theory of everything."

Science lacks the absolute guarantee that many atheists think it has. The more complex and removed from immediate observation the question is the less certainty it has. This means that it is not a fit vehicle to tell us about god.God is not a scientific question. Science is not prior to philosophy but the other way around. Science evolved out of philosophy, it used to be called 'natural philosophy.' While science does offer a sense of "working" its what it works for that matters. It does not work to give us any understanding of ultimate reality. Thus is it not a fair question to ask why there is no proof of God scientifically? Of cousre not, because God is not a scientific question. The reason God is not science is because God is not empirical. God is not given in sense data. Now atheist may ask why that is, they sometimes ask "why doesn't God make himself better know," that's because God is not a big guy in the sky. The same reason why he's not empirical. Because he's not a "he" the "he is just a metaphor. God si beyond our understanding, the basis of reality. God is prior to even epistemology. That would be like expecting evidence of the eloctro-magnetic spectrum to tell us about the basis of existence itself. Atheist continually treat God as though he is a big man in the sky, although for some this may be because they want to take on the fundies most of all. Such an atheist is John Loftus.

John Loftus

We’ve argued against the concept of faith many times before, but let me try again. I have argued that the Christian faith originated as and is purely human religion completely accountable by humans acting in history without needing anWy divine agency at all. But setting that important discussion aside, faith is a cop out, especially when it comes to the number of things Christians must take on faith in order to believe. Let’s recount some of them.

Here is a typical example of an atheist ragging on faith. That is to say, he is not analyzing the basis of faith at a deep level, but merely dismissing it as some sort of non answer. It will become clear in a moment that the specific reasons he gives are those that view God as an empirical object of knowledge and thus a big man in the sky. I know that Loftus will say this is because he's concerned with the fundies more than with liberals. But true though that may be it still gives a mis-impression to only deal with faith at such a superficial level and never acknowledge that it is a much more complex process than this. Consider his argument about questioning why God created:



No reasonable answer can be given for why a triune God, who was perfect in love neither needing nor wanting anything, created in the first place. Grace and Love are non-answers, especially when we see the actual world that resulted. For Christians to say God wanted human creatures who freely love him is nonsense, for why did he want this at all? If love must be expressed then God needed to express his love and that implies a lack.
He speaks of "he" and "want" and so forth as though God is just a big man. This is part of his incredulity over the Trinity because how could a big man in the sky be three big men in the sky and yet just one big man in the sky? He's basically arguing here that god can't be a big man and thus can't want anything. But assumes that he must know what form God could take if he isn't a big man. That means he has to regard God as an object of empirical knowledge, of course it would never apply to anything beyond our understanding. If we regard God as the ground of being these questions are all moot, thus we have to frame them differently. We could begin by not asking "why would a God who has no needs craete in the first place?" That question is unanswerable for the ground of being, since we don't even know if we can speak of "creation" in the same sense. By what can't be answered can't be answered negatively either. We can't rule out the love answer on the premise that God can't love becasue he's the ground of being. Indeed most of the major theologians who speak of God this way (Tillich, McQuarry and Von Balthsar) find a link between being and love in the first place. Of course we can't speak of God "needing" but we could speak of God producing. Or we can speak of being producing the beings. McQuarry speaks of "being lets be." We have to ask a different set of questions to begin with if we conceive of God as the basis of reality rather than an object of knowledge.

Loftus goes on to play the same game in relation to the three in one aspect:


It’s hard enough to conceive of one person who is an eternally uncased God, much less a Godhead composed of three eternally uncased persons. There are some Christians who maintain the Father eternally created the Logos and the Spirit, while others claim that three persons in one Godhead is simply an eternally brute inexplicable fact. Why is that brute fact more reasonable to accept than accepting the brute fact of the laws of the universe, which is all that’s needed to produce the universe? There are social Trinitarians and anti-social Trinitarians. Both sides accuse the other side of abandoning the Chalcedonian creed, either in the direction of tri-theism, or in the direction of Unitarianism.
First of all his knowledge of Orthodoxy is slipping here. Either that or he doesn't care to define Christianity by the ruels of the Christian community. No Christian believes that the Logos and the Spirit are created, as that is a violation of the creeds. His appeal to the laws of the universe is not applicable here because it is not a competitor for God's position as transcendental signifier. In fact laws of nature are totally inexplicable and we do not know what they. They no longer carry the same wight they did in the enlightenment. Thus they are a dandy reason to believe in God, because the supposition of a mind an notion of a set of disembodied laws is pretty had to grasp (see the previous article). But the argument he makes is absurd in light of the Ground of Being. we don't have to ask how can a big man in the sky be three big men in the sky and yet one big man in the sky. As ground of being God can easily contain within his divine economy three persona which share the same essence as all three are merely reflections of the one ground of being. McQuarry makes this point himself where defines the Trinity as having to do with the one and many and the notion of being as the ground of diversification of existence (see Principles of Christian Theology).

Atheists storm about the suppossed lack of evidence, yet they put all their marbles on issues such as string theory and mutliverses, matters for which there is no empirical data of any kind. Then they rail against God because there's no empirical data! Belief in God is a realization that comes from understanding about the nature of being, especially one's own being. It is not the result of empirical data, nor can it be. The concept is misguided and that expectation is a waste of time. There two trajectories that inform us of the nature of being such that we might associate it with the sense of the numinous. These are deductive understanding fo transcendental signifiers on the one hand, (matters such as the ontological argument), and then personal experience on the other. Mystical experience, the sense of numinous these are matters of realizing God. They offer a deep seated conviction that can't be refuted by mere circular reasoning or question begging of atheist assertion. On the other hand, deductive arguments demonstrate the logical necessity of thinking about being in religious terms.

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