Thursday, January 1, 2015

Chatting With The Atheist

Below is a current exchange with a friendly atheist. I thought you might enjoy how we interact with opponents of the faith a real-life situation. The red is my initial remark. The black is the atheist response. And bolded blue is my most recent response to the atheist's response.

"I reject the view that the scientific method is the only method by which knowledge is gained."

-- I am aware of that. But without such anchor, essentially anything can go. And more specifically, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and all its variations cannot all be true yet all think theirs is true. Who is right if even one faction is?? There are multiple other (older) faiths dead and alive involving other creative deities. What's so special about your faith? Why not Islam? What would you say if you were born and raised in Iraq? What if you were raised among Shinto, Buddhists etc?

Just because the Tanach / NT / Quran state it is the Word of God, doesn't automatically make it so. I have extensively researched bible scholarship and I found nothing to suggest it is.

ED’S RESPONSE: I could not agree more that knowledge requires an anchor someplace. Christian theism asserts that the self-contained ontological Trinity is that anchor. He is the self-attesting, self-vindicating anchor and standard for all human prediction. Every conceptual scheme and every religion, upon examination, collapses in on itself. For instance, Islam claims out of one side of it’s mouth that Allah is wholly different from humans, no one can know Him. But then it wants to talk about His will and how he can communicate with humanity. That is not a paradox, that is a blatant contradiction. The presuppositional approach employs a transcendental method to demonstrate that God is the necessary precondition for the intelligibility of any and all human predication and experience.

"I reject the notion that there are such things as brute facts, facts that are uninterpreted."

-- Facts are facts. They are bits of truth. Models based on facts are a matter of interpretation. The T of E is an interpretation that matches facts, and crucially it does not fail facts. Insta-creation of all kinds more or less simultaniously does fail facts.

ED’S RESPONSE: Facts are without meaning until a rational component gives them meaning. A rock is unintelligible without some intelligence to interpret it. If the universe had stopped short of rational existence, nothing would be intelligible. Facts are not just there, existing as they are without some rational being interpreting them. Christian theism asserts that God created the facts to be precisely what they are and enabled His Created humans to interpret them correctly, in accord with His prior and pre-creative interpretation of them. It is only when our interpretation of the facts agrees with the Creator’s that we have actually interpreted the fact correctly.

"I reject the idea that there is no philosophy involved in the scientific method. Such thinking is not only naive, it is pure poppycock."

-- What matters in science is if a philosophical concept is falsifiable by use of facts. Those pesky things that function as anchors to keep things realistic and prevent circular reasoning.

ED’S RESPONSE: Once again, anchors do not just exist. A standard is the product of human interpretation of reality. An anchor cannot be conjured up out of nothing. You must have some opinion of what things are like before you decide on what the anchor is and why. And that, my friend, is not science, it is philosophy. Science rests upon philosophy at the end of the day and there is NO WAY to avoid that fact. To try to do so is a vain and unproductive effort that is doomed to fail, start to finish.

"You rule out the historical account of a miracle on the basis that you have never seen one. That is preposterous."

-- You rule out macro-evolution because it has never been witnessed. That is more proposterous since we know evolution as a process is fact and we have facts that indicate this is what happened. Miracles are anything but fact.
-- That is not the only thing why I dismiss ancient supernatural claims. Many are based on ignorance about nature (volcanic eruptions, floods, bad harvests etc). Others like a god triggering an armed invasion I attribute to superstition. And there is the category legends and myths, storytelling, oral tradition.
-- Do you dismiss non-Judeo-Christian claims about supernature?  See, at least I am consistent. I dismiss all of it.

ED’S RESPONSE: There are scientists on both sides of the evolution debate. To claim that macro-evolution is to ignore a massive amount of difficulties, difficulties I might add that are often kept from public consumption. Evolution is still very much a philosophical hypothesis, like it has been from its inception.

Your rejection of miracles is based on an uncritical acceptance of what the universe must be like using a uncritical acceptance of standards, criteria, and anchors that anything but logically coherent. They fail to stand up under scrutiny.

There is nothing like the Christian Scriptures from a historical perspective. The Stories of Scripture differ remarkably from the myths and legends of ancient times. The people are real, the stories are very practical, attested by the history of a people still very much with us today. Your dismissal of the miraculous is not based on science, it is based on an unquestioned acceptance of certain philosophical beliefs that are anything but demonstrable given your own criteria for what anchors or should anchor belief. In short your argument that Christian belief is unwarranted is itself without warrant.

"You arbitrarily construct physical properties or laws of nature merely because you observe something happen repeatedly."

-- No, properties constantly matching repeatable, testable facts are not arbitrary. Downplaying that with "merely" is just silly. And comparing it to constantly getting up early even more so. You can turn off your alarm and not go to work. You cannot turn off gravity.

ED’S RESONSE: This is the vicious circle you keep coming back to. Observations are dependable because they are reflective of the properties of the universe which exist because we can observe them. The rock falls because of gravity. I know there is gravity because the rock falls. There is nothing about the rock falling or gravity that tells you it will fall again. Gravity could change and there is no mechanism in your system to keep it from doing so that is not reduced immediately to an arbitrary rescuing device.

"You posit that finite autonomous human reason can serve as the ultimate reference..;. etc"

-- I posit this is the best we have available to us, and that history / reality shows it. Even if a supernatural grand arbiter exists, we do not posess his ~supposedly~ objective morals ourselves, nor can you convince me any theist has an open line for ongoing morality checks. Reality is we tend to stick to what we were taught, primarily by our parents / caretakers. With or without use of religion. I consider religion a cultural element.

ED’S RESPONSE: This is patently false and easily refuted. There are millions of Christians who were raised in other religions or as atheists whose moral values were radically changed from one thing to another. The single greatest change for the Christian is the change from autonomous thinking and living to submissive thinking and living.

"than accidental blobs of molecules  / by chance"

-- Nature is NONRANDOM. CAUSALITY. Dammit, why do you insist on sticking to this ridiculous creationist notion. If you can't even adjust this, it's useless trying to get you to at least understand concepts not your own.

ED’S RESPONSE: A non-random universe requires a rational origin for the universe. It requires some intelligence behind it if it is not random. Random – lacking any definite plan or purpose; governed by or depending on chance. Non-Random – possessing a definite plan or purpose; governed by or depending on something other than itself. The universe cannot be self-governing because it is not a rational entity. If it cannot be self-governed, then it must be ungoverned. This makes it random, the product of pure chance. Or, if the universe is not random, not a product of chance, and it is not self-governed, then it must be governed by something other than itself. This is the assertion of Christian theism.

"It's just there."

-- Yes. Including what we call "morality". The fact that we humans do have morality, is not an argument for the existence of (your) god, certainly not since it's subjective.

Cutting right through all the creationist stuff, essentially it comes down to "Life exists. therefore (my) god exists". Gigantic non-sequitur.

ED’S RESPONSE: That is actually not the presuppositional argument. I will use James Anderson’s construction because I like it a lot:

(1) Human knowledge and communication are possible only if (i) the world exhibits a coherent, relational structure and (ii) human minds possess a common conceptual scheme which properly reflects that structure (and thus allows for correspondence between the way the world is and the way we think it is).

(2) If theism is not the case, then there are no grounds for believing (i) and (ii).

(3) Therefore, if theism is not the case, then there are no grounds for believing that human knowledge and communication are possible.

(4) There are grounds for believing that human knowledge and communication are possible.

(5) Therefore, theism is the case.

Simpler form:

(1) If the intelligibility of human experience, then God.
(2) ~ God
(3) / ~ Intelligibility
(4) But there is intelligibility

(5) / God

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