Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's looking hopeless

You know, it's kinda disappointing. I was listening to Dennis Prager interviewing a religious leftist. Their conversation was very congenial; they disagreed often, but did not degrade to ad hominem attacks or yelling. Still, on topic after topic, it was as if they were talking about different things, even though they both were discussing the same subject.

Makes me wonder if we will be able to get past the extreme partisanship of the current era in any short time. Not that we have to get along, but there is so little discourse right now, and I had hoped that perhaps a revival of listening would raise us back to a modicum of discourse. But when two extremely intelligent men cannot even manage to talk to each other on a single subject and agree, not on content, but on the nature of the discussion, it does not bode well for the rest of us.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Am I going to answer him?

I was asked by a commenter if I intended to answer the last comment to my post The Premise of God (a follow up). The short answer, before the question was asked, would have been "no." There was nothing in the comment that required an answer, as there was nothing new that was not already in my original post. Further, I did not figure anyone else cared, and so I decided to let it go. Now, someone cares, so I will respond.

It is a mistake common to modern atheists to require that even God be subject to natural explanations. Hence, my questioner's insistence on God being "more complex" than His creation. This is a logical fallacy. It is inappropriate to make any statement concerning the "necessary" nature of God based upon natural law - if (as I assume) He exists, He, of necessity, must stand outside of natural laws. We can assume nothing about the nature of God, as He is totally outside of our experience. This, by the way, explains the need for revelation. If God exists and desires that we know something about Him, He will have to tell us, and choose the analogies He deems most appropriate.

I will not even comment on the assertion that my knowledge of evolution is in some way deficient, except to point out that in my role as defender of the faith, not only for myself but also for the hundreds who have heard me teach on the subject over the years, I am confident that I understand the subject as well as any layman, and perhaps as well as most graduate students in biology.

Considering the kalam argument for God's existence, I should have looked it up rather than relying on my (now aging) memory. My bad. The argument actually states "Everything that begins to exist has a cause." It is again, an argument based on natural regression. Since theists assert that God does not begin to exist, He stands outside the argument and is therefore sufficient as a first-cause.

My equating of the design hypothesis to the dark matter hypothesis is invalid only if we assume that all knowledge is achievable using just our 5 senses. This is not true. If God exists, and He designed the universe that we see, then He is absolutely a reasonable explanation. If He does not exist, then He clearly would not be. However, to exclude Him a priori and then assert that He cannot be used as an explanation is meaningless. If one chooses to not believe in God, that is a faith statement, not a statement based on any collection of facts. I choose to allow for the possibility that the universe is created, and on that assumption, I also find that the evidence supports that conclusion. That is all. The faith is only in allowing the assumption, it is not in landing on the conclusion.

Finally, we come to the silliness of the last paragraph. I would pay it some mind if we were comparing jelly-bean unicorns to the myths of the Greeks and Romans. But we are not. We are talking about the stories of the Bible, which for all the cultural shifts that have occurred since, have proven to have a greater impact on the actual life and behavior of men than any other set of teachings in all of human history. Yes, some of the stories seem out-of-date in our modern world, but they did not take place in our modern world. In spite of this, even today, the real lives of real men and women all over the world are transformed based on these ancient stories and teachings. I have read some of the detractors, I have read many of their commentators, and I am singularly unimpressed. There is more reason to believe today that the Bible is what it says it is than there ever was in the past. When someone devises a jelly-bean unicorn mythology that has that sort of transformative power, then I will give it credence. No one believes in these unicorns; I believe, with a massive quantity of reason and experience behind me in these very stories.

Clever apothegms are no substitute for sound logic. They are, unfortunately, the purview of the modern atheist, who finds himself disarmed in most battles of wits against believers who know what they believe. If you haven't seen the debates between Dinesh D'Souza and several atheists, you should take the time to watch. They can be found in YouTube and at michaelshermer.com. In both cases, just search for dinesh.