Everyone Has a Burden of Proof

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Everyone Has a Burden of Proof

One of the reasons why this author calls ‘bullshit’ at the atheist’s attempt to avoid the burden of proof through his ‘lack-of-belief’ maneuver, is because, in the end, both believers and unbelievers alike have a burden of proof. In fact, no one who has genuinely contemplated the question of God’s existence can avoid the burden of proof. But how could this be given that it is normally understood that the person making the positive claim has the burden of proof for it, and since it is normally the theist who is understood as making the positive claim that God or gods (hereafter just God) exist, then the theist has the burden of proof (although some atheists also make the positive claim that God does not exist, and thus they accept the burden of proof for this claim). Well, the reason that every self-aware person has a burden of proof concerning the God-question is because when the right question is asked concerning God and His existence, then it can be seen that everyone—atheist, agnostic, and theist alike—has a burden of proof concerning this matter that they must meet. Now, before we get to what the ‘right question’ is, a few analogies are in order to set the stage for this discussion.

Imagine, for example, that you are working as a Detective (something that this author personally did) on, say, a sexual assault case. Furthermore, based on the initial complaint, you have a main suspect that you are looking at. Now, in such a situation, what most people think a Detective is trying to do is answer the question: “Did the suspect commit the sexual assault against the complainant?” But while this question is a good form of short-hand for the real question that the Detective is asking himself, it is not actually the real question itself. The real question is more along the following lines: “Given all the facts, evidences, reasons, and arguments gleaned and assessed after a thorough investigation, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold—where ‘reasonable person’ is used in the objective, legal sense—concerning the claim that the main suspect sexually assaulted the victim?” Now, when looked at in this manner, note that whatever position the Detective takes, that position is a positive claim which would thereby have a burden of proof. For example, if the Detective holds that the evidence points to the suspect being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then this position has a burden of proof. If the Detective holds that the evidence points to the suspect being guilty, but the evidence is weak and the Detective’s belief in the suspect’s guilt barely crosses the threshold of being a ‘reasonable belief’—in the legal sense—then this position also has a burden of proof. If the Detective holds that there is actually strong evidence to show that the suspect positively did not commit the sexual assault, then this position has a burden of proof. If the Detective holds that the evidence leans towards the suspect being innocent, but the evidence for this is weak and the Detective only holds this view very tentatively, then such a position still has a burden of proof. Additionally, if the Detective holds that the evidence is ambiguous, or is equally strong in both directions, and thus the Detective holds that the best position in this case is to neither believe (affirm) nor disbelieve (deny) that the main suspect committed the sexual assault, then he still has a burden of proof for this claim. So, in essence, if the Detective is a ‘believer’ (weak or strong) in the suspect’s guilt, or if he is “agnostic” about the suspect’s guilt—thereby neither affirming or denying it—or if he is a “disbeliever” (weak or strong) in the suspect’s guilt, all these positions have a burden of proof. And if the Detective claims to ‘lack a belief’ about which position is the most rational one to hold in this case, then not only is he being disingenuous—for he would naturally and unavoidably come to a hold one of the aforementioned positions after examining the evidence—but he would also be considered incompetent and would be removed from the case!

Note as well that if, say, two Detectives were investigating the aforementioned crime, and the first Detective came to hold the view that the main suspect was guilty, but the second one merely ‘lacked a belief’ in the main suspect’s guilt, the second Detective would still have a burden of proof for his lack of belief. Why? Because that ‘lack of belief’ specifically in the suspect’s guilt would stem from a positive belief concerning which position was the most rational one to hold in this case. So, for example, does the second Detective ‘lack a belief’ in the suspect’s guilt because he finds the evidence uncertain, and thus he cannot form a positive belief that the suspect is guilty? Or does the second Detective lack a belief in the suspect’s guilt because he positively believes that the suspect is actually innocent and has been framed? Either way, the second Detective, though technically lacking a belief in the suspect’s guilt, will nevertheless still possess a burden-bearing positive belief concerning the real question under consideration, which is, once again, the following: “Given all the facts, evidences, reasons, and arguments gleaned and assessed after a thorough investigation, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold—where ‘reasonable person’ is used in the objective, legal sense—concerning the claim that the main suspect sexually assaulted the victim.” And lest it is thought that the ‘lack of belief’ Detective does not have a burden of proof in this case, this author can state—from personal experience—that if both of the aforementioned Detectives approached their supervisor and told the supervisor of their views, the supervisor would demand that both Detectives justify their positions and meet their respect burdens of proof; what the supervisor would not do is claim that the ‘lack of belief’ Detective need not say anything simply because he allegedly lacks a belief in the suspect’s guilt. And again, the reason for this is because, in the real world, both Detectives are answering the real question—namely, the question above—in a positive burden-bearing way, regardless of the fact that one of the Detectives might ‘lack a belief’ specifically in the suspect’s guilt.

Now, with the above in mind, consider another quick analogy. Think about the existence of aliens. Again, commonly, when it comes to this issue, the question that most people think is being asked is: “Do aliens exist?” But that is not the real question. Rather, once again, the real question is the following: “Given all the facts, evidences, reasons, and arguments gleaned and assessed after a thorough investigation, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold—where ‘reasonable person’ is used in the objective, legal sense—concerning the existence of aliens?” And so again, note that if a person claims that the most rational position to hold about the existence of aliens is to believe that they exist, or to be agnostic about their existence, or to disbelieve in their existence, every one of these positions is a positive answer to the question under consideration, and thus every one of these positions has a burden of proof. And so again, ‘lacking a belief’ about the existence of aliens is all well and good, but that lack of belief does nothing to avoid the burden of proof for a self-aware person because the self-aware person will nevertheless still have a positive burden-bearing position concerning the real question under consideration. And this is why every self-aware individual would have a burden of proof in this case.

Finally, also realize that what is being described above is exactly the same thing that happens in a criminal trial. Most people think that a jury is meant to determine whether a person is guilty of the crime that he has been accused of committing, and, in common parlance, this is true. But, at a more fundamental level, the real question that a jury is answering is the same one articulated above: namely, given all the evidence and arguments, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold concerning the question of the suspect’s guilt. And if the jury determines that the most rational position to hold is that the suspect is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then that, in turn, overcomes the presumption of innocence by tacitly answering the more common but imprecise question of whether the suspect should be considered guilty or not.

And so, by now, the connection to the question of God’s existence should be obvious. Most people, when they debate God’s existence, ask the question: “Does God exist?” But again, that is the wrong question. The right question is: “Given all the facts, evidences, reasons, and arguments gleaned and assessed after a thorough investigation, what is the best and most rational position for a reasonable person to hold—where ‘reasonable person’ is used in the objective, legal sense—concerning the question of God’s existence?” And when asked in this way, it can once again be seen that essentially everyone—atheist, agnostic, and theist alike—has a burden of proof concerning this question. Also note that having a positive position concerning this question does not need to be done verbally or overtly; after all, the mere fact of being an atheist or a theist or an agnostic is a tacit answer to this question, and it is an answer which thus has a burden of proof. And again, lacking a belief concerning God’s existence does nothing to avoid the burden of proof that stems from the right question under consideration, for every self-aware person who has genuinely contemplated the question of God’s existence gives a positive answer to that question, and thus has a burden of proof to meet concerning it.

Finally, note that the reason that it is contended that questions like “Did the suspect commit the sexual assault?” or “Does God exist?” are ultimately the wrong questions to ask is due to two reasons.

First, such questions are clear ‘true or false’ questions, and yet given the power of skepticism, it is beyond human ability to answer such questions in a certain or complete sense. This is why, for example, the highest standard in a court of law is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, not ‘beyond any doubt’, for the latter standard is unachievable in nearly all cases given the human condition. And this is why the court, in a criminal trial, does not ask a juror to determine whether something is categorically true or not, but rather whether it is true beyond a reasonable doubt, which is another way of saying whether a reasonable person, based on the evidence and arguments, can believe something to be the case without having a reasonable doubt about that belief. Now such a belief would be a very strong and nearly certain belief, but it would not be an absolutely certain one. And so this is one of the reasons why, in these cases, the right question concerns what is the most rational position for a reasonable person to hold in light of the evidence and arguments, not whether something is absolutely true or not.

Now, the second reason why questions like “Does God exist?” are the wrong questions to ask—although they are perfectly fine ‘short-hand’ questions—stems from the fact that sometimes, the most rational position to hold is, in fact, a false position. For example, say that a person was murdered by an expert assassin who made the murder look like a suicide; furthermore, say that there was absolutely no evidence that showed that the person’s death was anything but a suicide—the person was already suicidal, had a history of suicide attempts, etc. Now, in such a case, the most rational position to hold concerning this matter would be that the person committed suicide, even though this position is false. Nevertheless, everyone would be rational to hold this false position for there would be no way to know that it is false (barring a confession by the assassin). Furthermore, given the human condition, and thus given the impossibility of knowing the absolutely true answer to this question (see the first point above), then, for all intents and purposes, the real question that we are interested in is what the most rational position for a reasonable person to hold is concerning this matter, not what is absolutely true concerning it; indeed, for while we know that the latter question is ultimately unanswerable, we also know that the former question is readily answerable, and so the focus, in real life, is on the former question not the latter one. Indeed, in real life, while truth is sought after, and while what is true and what is the most rational position to hold are often synonymous, sometimes they are not, and since we cannot, with certainty, state what is absolutely true, the fact is that in reality (like in a court of law), what we strive for are rational positions, not absolutely true ones. And so again, this is why, in the end, the right question to ask concerns what it is the most rational position to hold about a certain matter, not necessarily what is true or false about that matter. And because making any claim about what is the most rational position to hold about a certain matter—such as the matter of God’s existence—is to make a positive claim about it, then this is why, in the end, everyone has a burden of proof in such a case.

And so, the long and short of it is this: when the right question is asked concerning the issue of God’s existence, it soon becomes clear that no one can avoid the burden of proof concerning their answer to that question. And that is why, in reality, everyone—atheist, agnostic, and theist alike—has a burden of proof concerning the God-question.

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Anno Domini 2017 02 02

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

 

Atheism’s Truth Dilemma

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism’s Truth Dilemma

One of my favorite arguments for God’s existence is the Moral Argument, and a hopefully novel offshoot of that argument is one that I wish to present here, and which, quite honestly, I like slightly more than the Moral Argument. And I call this related argument the “Truth Argument” (TA).

Now one of the reasons that I prefer the TA over the Moral Argument is that many opponents of the Moral Argument can, as an intellectual defense against it, simply embrace moral nihilism and thus deny the objectivity or absoluteness of certain moral rules and duties. And while these people never really act as if moral nihilism is true, they nevertheless do embrace moral nihilism as an intellectual defense against the rational force of the Moral Argument. Think, for example, of such individuals as Alex Rosenberg or philosopher Joel Marks, both of whom simply contend that God does not exist and thus that moral nihilism is true (see Rosenberg’s “The Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality” and Mark’s “An Amoral Manifesto” for details). And again, while this intellectual denial of certain absolute moral norms and duties is never really practiced in reality, such individuals do vocalize this point of view, and thus they present the façade of having a quick and easy intellectual objection to the Moral Argument itself. And while I think that this intellectual objection is absurd given the fact that certain absolute moral rules and duties (such as that it is absolutely wrong to torture an infant for fun and that all human beings have an absolute duty to do our utmost to stop such as incident from occurring if we ever see it) are astronomically more certain than, for example, any claim that science tells us or the claim that matter exists, it is nevertheless the case that this intellectual act of affirming moral nihilism as a strategy against the Moral Argument does come into play almost immediately whenever the Moral Argument is presented. And this is where the Truth Argument can enter the picture, for the TA uses premises that opponents of theism often, and even righteously, affirm, and which would be very difficult for them to deny. Not only this, but if the unbeliever opposes the premises implicit in the TA, then he removes from his worldview any objective means to castigate others for believing worldviews which he claims are false. In this way, the TA puts the unbeliever in a serious dilemma. On the one hand, if the unbeliever affirms the premises of the argument, then he has good reasons to be theist, or at the very least, he has good reasons not to be an unbeliever. On the other hand, if the unbeliever denies the premises in the argument, then he has removed any objective reason that he might have had to rail against people holding beliefs which to him are false. Either way, the unbeliever, be he just an atheist or an atheistic-naturalist, faces a dilemma when it comes to the issue of truth and truth-seeking.

Now, in terms of its structure, the TA parallels the Moral Argument. As such, the Truth Argument is presented as follows:

Premise One: If God does not exist, then, for human beings, an objective (absolute) purpose and duty to seek out and believe truth over falsehood, as well as an objective (absolute) duty to follow the evidence wherever it leads, as well as an objective (absolute) duty to proportion our non-basic beliefs to our level of evidence, does not exist.

Premise Two: But, for human beings, an objective (absolute) purpose and duty to seek out and believe truth over falsehood, as well as an objective (absolute) duty to follow the evidence wherever it leads, as well as an objective (absolute) duty to proportion our non-basic beliefs to our level of evidence, does exist.

Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

Now, in reference to Premise One, I think that a strong case can be made that on atheism, this premise is true. And this fact is affirmed by numerous non-theists themselves, who routinely tell us that absolute / objective purposes and duties for human beings do not exist given atheism, or, more specifically, given atheistic-naturalism. And indeed, on atheistic-naturalism, it is hard to see how such duties could exist. After all, on atheistic-naturalism, reality is ultimately nothing but matter in motion, and matter in motion does not create objective / absolute duties or purposes, and so on atheistic-naturalism—the most popular and arguably most coherent form of atheism—a duty to believe the truth over falsehood simply does not exist. And indeed, you cannot derive an objective or absolute ‘should’—which is what a duty is—from an ‘is’, which is all atheistic-naturalism offers you, at least from an objective sense. And so, as stated, Premise One is readily defensible.

Thus, it is Premise Two that is the key premise of the argument. But note, if the unbeliever denies this second premise, then he can never—apart from his own personal subjective preferences—claim that we should all follow the evidence wherever it leads, or that we should believe truth over falsehood. Indeed, as an illustrative example of what would happen if this second premise is denied, consider a staunch “Blind-Watchmaker” Darwinist who nevertheless denies this premise. Such a Darwinist could thus never claim that an Intelligent Design proponent was doing anything objectively incorrect by denying the truth of Darwinism. In fact, if the Intelligent Design view became the dominant view, the Darwinist might express his subjective displeasure at this fact, but he still could not claim that people were somehow objectively incorrect or negligent in believing Intelligent Design over Darwinism. And yet the defenders of Darwin repeatedly tell us that we need to believe in Darwinism over Intelligent Design precisely because the former is true and the latter is not. So the very actions of such people show that they affirm the second premise of this argument. And this is the second key point in support of this particular premise: namely, that the vast majority of unbelievers do affirm this critical premise. After all, how often do we hear from the unbeliever that we must follow the evidence wherever it leads, no matter how harsh the outcome might be? And how often are we told by the unbeliever that we should believe extraordinary claims only if we have extraordinary evidence for the claim in question, thus implying that we have some type of objective duty to proportion our beliefs to the evidence for them. Thus, it is indeed the case that unbelievers often pronounce their adherence to something-like the second premise in their discussions with theists, which means that it would be rather hypocritical of them to deny this idea just because it is being used in an argument against their position.

Furthermore, think of what occurs with science or the process of justice if Premise Two is denied. Science and our courts depend on the idea that humans, and especially humans engaged in those endeavors, have an objective duty to pursue the truth, and to pursue it above other considerations, and so numerous aspects of our society implicitly accept such a premise, thus making its denial difficult.

Yet perhaps the most damning thing that occurs if the unbeliever denies the truth of the second premise is that the unbeliever loses any ability to claim that theists or religious believers are somehow irrational for holding to the views that they hold to. After all, rationality is purpose and duty dependent, and thus if there is no objective or absolute duty or purpose to seek out and believe the truth, and if the theist thus has some other purpose than the latter as his primary purpose, then the unbeliever truly does lose any ability to claim that the theist is irrational. Consider: maybe the theist’s primary purpose in life is to feel good, and maybe theism makes the theist feel better than atheism does, and thus, since the theist has no objective duty to believe truth over falsehood (if the second premise is denied), then the theist is eminently rational in holding to theism over non-theism regardless of where the evidence points or what the truth of the matter is.

We can thus see that denying the truth of the second premise does indeed come with serious consequences for the individual who decides to do so. And, in particular, for the unbeliever, who so often proclaims his belief that we should all follow the evidence wherever it leads and that we should believe truth over falsehood no matter how harsh the truth might be, one of the main dangers in denying the second premise is to expose his hypocrisy for all to see.

Now, note as well that the argument can also be modified slightly to make it even stronger. And the way that this would be done is by arguing that we, as humans, not only have an objective duty to believe truth over falsehood, and to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and to proportion our non-basic beliefs to the evidence that we have, but also that these are, in fact, our primary non-moral duties. So not only are these things duties that objectively exist and which we must fulfil, but they are our primary duties. And now, the reason that this modification makes the argument even stronger is because on atheistic-naturalism, the way that human beings came to be was through a process of blind evolution; but the focus of such a process is survival and reproduction, not truth. And so, on atheistic-naturalism, if we can be said to have any sort of objective duty to fulfil, it would be to survive and reproduce, even at the cost of believing certain truths. Thus, on atheistic-naturalism, if we could, for the sake of argument, have a primary non-moral duty, the most natural one given atheistic-naturalism would be to survive and reproduce, not to believe what is true. And lest a person try to argue that believing what is true is also what will help us survive and reproduce the best, it can be noted that religious belief, which atheists consider false but which is very evolutionarily advantageous—after all, you do not see many secular families with children in the double digits, but you do see that with very religious families—is one big objection to such a claim. And there are, in fact, many more examples which could be offered to show that believing what is truth is not always the best for survival and reproduction.

Thus, in the end, we have seen that both the original first premise and the modified first premise are very plausibly true. Next, the second premise is often affirmed by unbelievers, who are the key target of this argument. Furthermore, it is clear that if the unbeliever denies the truth of the second premise, then they put themselves in a position that either exposes them as intellectual hypocrites or seriously weakens their own position in general terms.

Finally, it should also be noted that a modified form of this argument can be offered. And while this modified argument is weaker in terms of its objective, which is to put the atheistic-naturalist in an overt dilemma rather than to argue for God’s existence, it is also an argument which is arguably easier to defend. And so this modified argument, rather than being a direct argument for the existence of God, is instead an argument which can be used to defeat atheistic-naturalism. And this modified argument can be presented as follows:

Premise One: To be a rational, coherent, and consistent atheistic-naturalist, an atheistic-naturalist—given all the points above and the various arguments from atheistic-naturalists themselves—should deny, or at best be agnostic about, the fact that human beings have an objective (absolute) purpose and duty to seek out and believe truth over falsehood, as well as an objective (absolute) duty to follow the evidence wherever it leads, as well as an objective (absolute) duty to proportion our non-basic beliefs to our level of evidence.

Premise Two: But it is absurd for a person to deny or be agnostic about the fact that human beings have an objective (absolute) purpose and duty to seek out and believe truth over falsehood, as well as an objective (absolute) duty to follow the evidence wherever it leads, as well as an objective (absolute) duty to proportion our non-basic beliefs to our level of evidence. After all, for all intents and purposes, our courts, the sciences, and numerous other human endeavors all depend on the existence of such a duty, and we all speak and act, in our daily lives, as if such a duty exists, so it is absurd to deny the existence of such a duty or be agnostic about it.

Conclusion: Therefore, the atheistic-naturalist either positively affirms the existence of a truth-seeking duty, but is irrational for doing so so long as he holds to atheistic-naturalism, or else the atheistic-naturalist does not affirm the existence of an objective-truth seeking duty and thus embraces absurdity, which is itself irrational. Either way, the atheistic-naturalist is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to being rational.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  the issue of truth, and whether or not humans beings have an actual objective and overriding duty to seek the truth come what may, presents a serious problem for the unbeliever, for the unbeliever’s worldview—usually some form of atheistic-naturalism—does not have the resources to necessary to account for the existence of such a duty, or, at best, makes belief in the existence of such a duty uncertain; and yet, at the same time, it is absurd to deny the existence of such a duty. So, either way, the unbeliever is in a dilemma. Furthermore, if the unbeliever denies that human beings have an objective duty to believe truth, the atheist must thus refrain from criticizing—apart from criticizing it subjectively, much like someone criticizes someone else’s choice of ice cream—any religious believer’s maintenance of his religious belief or that religious believer’s attempt to push his belief into the public square.

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Anno Domini 2016 12 10

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Science is Not Self-Correcting

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Science is Not Self-Correcting

 Let’s be blunt: the idea that science is self-correcting is bullshit. Indeed, it is a claim pushed by science-fetishists and the proponents of scientism in a self-serving attempt to give science an allure and prestige that it simply does not deserve. Furthermore, even if we ignore the fallacious personification inherent in the idea that “science” itself is self-correcting—after all, science is not some ‘thing’ or some ‘entity’ capable of action—the fact is that science is not only not self-correcting, but it’s correction method is not in any fundamental way unique or special when compared to other disciplines. And we can demonstrate this fact with a simple example.

Imagine, for a moment, a particular situation that has no doubt previously occurred in reality at some point:  namely, a scientist performs an experiment, but his experiment is flawed in some way that skews his results and renders them false, but not obviously so; or even imagine that the scientist himself has purposely but subtly falsified his experiment in order to achieve the results that he desired. Now imagine that this experiment is reported to the scientific community and accepted. It is even referred to from time-to-time in other experiments or studies, but not that often. In essence, it is a relatively obscure experiment, but nevertheless one which has been accepted and acted upon. And as is often the case with such studies, it is not replicated. No one checks the results. The error in the experiment remains undetected. Now ask yourself: has “science” self-corrected this experiment? Obviously not, and it would be absurd to suggest otherwise. In fact, if the experiment sat untouched and unchecked from now until eternity, then at no point would science self-correct it. And if no experiment was conducted which contradicted the results of the first experiment, then there would be no evidence against it, and thus again, science would not correct the faulty results of the first experiment, neither directly through replication nor indirectly through counter-evidence.

Thus, the only way that the experiment would be corrected would be if an actual human scientist examined the experiment, replicated it, and hopefully caught the error—a fact which is itself not guaranteed. But note that “science” did nothing here, a human did. But even more importantly, note that the human scientist did nothing different or more “correcting” than any other profession or field would do. Indeed, the scientist simply used the appropriate tools and techniques of his particular discipline to check the work of a fellow scientist. But the point is that an accountant or mathematician or engineer could correct another accountant’s or mathematician’s or engineer’s work in much the same way that a scientist corrects a fellow scientist’s work: namely, by using the tools and techniques appropriate to their field to check their colleague’s work. In fact, a philosopher could check the work of another philosopher for faulty reasoning or an incorrect deduction in much the same way as the scientist corrects another scientist. And the similarity here is even closer than you think, for if we are dealing with forensic or historical sciences, such as archelogy or evolutionary biology, where the scientist’s “experiment” is often little more than trying to infer the best explanation of the evidence at hand, much like a Detective does with the evidence at a crime scene, then a future scientist’s correction of such an “experiment” is little more than a correction of the initial scientist’s reasoning or a challenge to his facts. But such a type of correction is little different from a philosopher correcting a first philosopher’s inference to a best explanation about some philosophical matter or a second Detective double-checking the inference made by a lead Detective concerning a particular case under investigation.

So what is the point of all this? The point is to realize that science is not self-correcting, or if it is, then many other disciplines known to Man are self-correcting as well, for they correct themselves in the same way that science does:  namely, by individuals using the tools appropriate to their specific discipline to check the work of other individuals for errors or faulty reasoning. And so, if so many disciplines are self-correcting, then there is nothing special about science. Thus, again, the point here is to show that not only is science not self-correcting in any literal sense, but also that there is nothing special about science’s correction process, for it is the same one that numerous other disciplines use to correct themselves as well.

And note that if the science-fetishist tries to argue that in science, very prominent and popular experiments are indeed often replicated, and so, in this practical way science is somehow “more correcting” than other disciplines, well, there are three responses that can be given to this point. First, the practical fact—admitted for the sake of argument—that scientific results are checked more often than other disciplines has nothing to do with science being self-correcting or with science having a unique way of correcting itself, and so this is a largely irrelevant point. Second, it is rather questionable if other disciplines are not subject to the same amount of correcting as science is; for example, popular philosophical arguments are often challenged, argued against, and corrected. So the claim that scientific results are more often checked than other disciplines is in no way certain, and clear data would be needed to show that this is the case. And finally third, we have some data which tentatively shows us that scientific experiments are rarely replicated, so the claim that they are is, again, questionable. For example—and this is just one example, so it needs to be taken with skepticism—note that a study by Matthew C. Makel, Jonathan A. Plucker, and Boyd Hegarty, titled “Replications in Psychology Research: How Often Do They Really Occur” and published in November 2012 in the Perspectives on Psychological Science Journal found that there was only a 1.07% replication rate of previous scientific experiments. So even if these researchers were incorrect by a factor of ten or twenty, and thus the replication rate was 10% or 20%, that rate would still be horrendously low for a discipline, namely psychological science, which supposedly prides itself on self-correction and replication. So the idea that science is a “more” self-correcting discipline than others is, once again, questionable at best.

Now, if someone tries to claim that science is unique in that its correction occurs through the use of experiments, and thus it is a more accurate and accountable process than other disciplines that correct themselves, the fact is that this objection also does not hold water. First, corrections in math, for example, are as accurate if not more so than an experiment, so some disciplines are arguably even more accurate than scientific correction. Second, scientists, being humans, are also susceptible to error, and so a replicated experiment, given its human factor, is prone to error as well; and this, of course, means that there is no guarantee that the replication is correct either. So the replication of a scientist is as potentially prone to error as that of a mathematician, engineer, or philosopher. And this is especially the case for the historical sciences were the science is largely done by inference to the best explanation, and thus is little different from other disciplines. And so while a scientist’s use of a replication experiment is a good way for that scientist to check a fellow scientist’s original experiment, and it is the appropriate way for him to do so given that experiments are the tool that a scientist is supposed to use to conduct his work, the use of such replication experiments is by no means the most accurate or fool-proof way of checking someone else’s work, and so even in this respect the sciences are not particularly unique or special in comparison to other disciplines.

But, one may ask, what if the objection is made that the corrective method of science must be, somehow, special, for it leads to results that are usually agreed upon by the wide consensus of scientists. Well, how a scientific consensus is reached, and whether that consensus is solely or even mainly based on the state of the evidence, rather than other factors like social pressure, career considerations, and so on, is a topic all its own, but in this case, all that will be mentioned is that science, again, is not unique in reaching a consensus, for disciplines like math, accounting, engineering do so as well. Furthermore, science often reaches consensus because, unlike philosophy, science, in the quest for knowledge, simply cheats in that it accepts a number of easily questionable assumptions and then operates as if those assumptions are not questionable. For example, present science embraces methodological naturalism, an idea which automatically restricts the types of theories that are deemed scientific and thus automatically creates a type of consensus by narrowing the range of options that a scientist can choose from. Additionally, scientists largely ignore the question of whether scientific realism or anti-realism is correct, but a person’s views on which one of these positions is correct will have a large effect on the evidentiary weight that a person gives to the scientific theory under consideration. And so if science had to drop its presently operative assumptions, and if certain social pressures and career worries were removed, one wonders just how consensus reaching the scientific community would be. And while this is speculation, the point is that the consensus in science is not necessarily based solely on an objective assessment of the evidence, but on a number of outside pressures and restrictive axioms which create the conditions where a consensus can be banged into place much more easily than if the conditions were not there.

And so, the long and short of it is this: science is not self-correcting, and the way that it corrects itself is in no significant way different from the other disciplines. Science, therefore, is not particularly special in its correction method, and so it is time to put the myth that science is self-correcting to bed.

Anno Domini 2016 11 22

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Atheism’s Euthyphro Dilemma & the Irrationality of Unbelief

The Reconquista Initiative

Presents…

Atheism’s Euthyphro Dilemma & the Irrationality of Unbelief

Atheists, when arguing against theists, like to bring up the Euthyphro Dilemma. This dilemma, which focuses on the connection between God and morality, seeks to undermine both a divine command theory of ethics as well as robust forms of theism by offering the divine command theorist and/or the robust theist with two undesirable choices. On the one hand, the dilemma asks whether God loves that which is moral because it is already moral, thereby undermining the sovereignty and supremacy of God by showing that something exists independently of God to which even God answers; and, on the other hand, the dilemma asks whether that which is moral is simply what God commands, meaning that if God, for example, commanded rape, then rape would be moral, which seems absurd. And so, as stated, the force of the dilemma comes from the fact that it seeks to force the theist into choosing one of these two undesirable options, which is something that the theist obviously does not wish to do. Now the Euthyphro Dilemma is easily answered, both on its own terms—meaning that a person could simply embrace one of the horns of the dilemma and still easily remain a theist of some type—and also because the theist can avoid the dilemma by simply noting that God’s commands necessarily flow from His nature, which is essentially loving, and so nothing that would be considered as morally egregious in an ultimate sense would ever be commanded by God. So, while the theistic Euthyphro Dilemma is easily answered without having to fall into its trap, in this essay I wish to argue that while theists have to deal with the Euthyphro Dilemma, atheists and atheistic-naturalists actually have to deal with a much more difficult moral dilemma which is similar to the Euthyphro Dilemma, and which is potentially fatal to the rationality of atheism.

So what then is this so-called ‘Atheistic Euthyphro Dilemma’ which is so dangerous to the rationality of atheistic belief? Well, it is, quite simply, this: on the one hand, an atheist, to be a rational and consistent atheist, should deny, or at best be agnostic about, the existence of absolute moral rules and duties; but, on the other hand, it is absurd to deny, or even be agnostic about the existence of absolute moral rules and duties, and thus no rational or sane person would deny or be agnostic about them. And so, if the atheist embraces the existence of absolute moral rules and duties, but remains an atheist, then he is not being a rational or consistent atheist; yet if the atheist denies the existence of absolute moral rules and duties in order to be a rational atheist, then he is not being a rational human being. So, whatever option the atheist chooses, he has a serious problem.

Now, although a comprehensive and detailed defense of the two horns of this dilemma are beyond the scope of this essay, let me simply make a few points in support of each one. Concerning the first option—which states that, at best, an atheist, to be rational and consistent, should be agnostic about the existence of absolute moral rules and duties—note that this option stems from the fact that it is extremely difficult to see how absolute moral rules, and especially absolute moral duties, can exist on something like the worldview that atheism entails. Indeed, in a world of mere matter in motion, the idea of immaterial and omnipresent absolute moral rules and duties existing is not easy to picture. And a number of prominent atheists agree with this point. For example, in the first chapter of his book The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions, atheistic-naturalist Alex Rosenberg immediately tells us that the reality of atheism means that there is no difference between right and wrong, and that, concerning the answers to moral questions, anything goes. That, Rosenberg contends, is the inevitable reality of atheism. And mirroring Rosenberg, atheist Joel Marks, writing in the 80th issue of the ‘Philosophy Now’ magazine, and authoring an article titled “An Amoral Manifesto: Part 1”, tells us the following:

–QUOTE–

For the last couple of years I have been reflecting on and experimenting with a new ethics, and as a result I have thrown over my previous commitment to Kantianism. In fact, I have given up morality altogether! This has certainly come as a shock to me…. I think the time has come, therefore, to reveal it to the world, and in particular to you, Dear Reader, who have patiently considered my defenses of a particular sort of moral theory for the last ten years. In a word, this philosopher has long been laboring under an unexamined assumption, namely, that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I now believe there isn’t.

…The long and the short of it is that I became convinced that atheism implies amorality; and since I am an atheist, I must therefore embrace amorality. I call the premise of this argument ‘hard atheism’ because it is analogous to a thesis in philosophy known as ‘hard determinism.’ The latter holds that if metaphysical determinism is true, then there is no such thing as free will. Thus, a ‘soft determinist’ believes that, even if your reading of this column right now has followed by causal necessity from the Big Bang fourteen billion years ago, you can still meaningfully be said to have freely chosen to read it. Analogously, a ‘soft atheist’ would hold that one could be an atheist and still believe in morality. And indeed, the whole crop of ‘New Atheists’ (see Issue 78) are softies of this kind. So was I, until I experienced my shocking epiphany that the religious fundamentalists are correct: without God, there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God. Hence, I believe, there is no morality.

Why do I now accept hard atheism? I was struck by salient parallels between religion and morality, especially that both avail themselves of imperatives or commands, which are intended to apply universally. In the case of religion, and most obviously theism, these commands emanate from a Commander; “and this all people call God,” as Aquinas might have put it. The problem with theism is of course the shaky grounds for believing in God. But the problem with morality, I now maintain, is that it is in even worse shape than religion in this regard; for if there were a God, His issuing commands would make some kind of sense. But if there is no God, as of course atheists assert, then what sense could be made of there being commands of this sort? In sum, while theists take the obvious existence of moral commands to be a kind of proof of the existence of a Commander, i.e., God, I now take the non-existence of a Commander as a kind of proof that there are no Commands, i.e., morality. (https://philosophynow.org/issues/80/An_Amoral_Manifesto_Part_I)

–UNQUOTE–

So both Rosenberg and Marks believe that atheism entails amorality; and these are just two of the examples that could be brought forth arguing for this idea.

Thus, in light of the points above, and given the great disagreement that exists within atheistic ranks concerning the possibility of absolute moral rules and duties existing on atheism, then, as stated, a very strong case can be made that, to be consistent and rational within his atheistic worldview, an atheist should be, at best, agnostic about the existence of absolute moral rules and duties. In fact, it might even be noted that a popular claim often made by atheists, namely that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, might play a factor here as well, for, given what atheism entails, the idea that absolute moral rules and duties exist on atheism is an extraordinary claim; after all, absolute moral rules and duties are immaterial and omnipresent things, not physical ones, and so their existence on atheism and a materialistic worldview would indeed be something out of the ordinary. And yet, there is no physical, visible, empirical, or scientifically-testable evidence for their existence, which is precisely the type of “extraordinary” evidence that atheists routinely demand before they will accept the truth of an extraordinary claim. And so again, in light of this fact, at best, the atheist should be agnostic about the existence of absolute moral rules and duties given both the lack of so-called extraordinary evidence needed to substantiate a rational belief in their existence as well as given the various arguments that aim to show that absolute moral rules and duties cannot exist on atheism.

But now, note that if the atheist wishes to deny the existence of absolute moral rules and duties, then he is readily encouraged to do so, for his embrace of such a position makes atheism look entirely unreasonable and unpalatable. And indeed, the denial of the existence of absolute moral rules and duties is ridiculous, which is why the second horn of the atheist’s dilemma states that it is manifestly absurd to be even agnostic about the existence of moral rules and duties. After all, I know, with a certainty as great as that with which I know that other minds exist or that the world was not created five minutes ago with the appearance of age, that it is, for example, absolutely wrong for a human person to torture an infant for fun as well as that I have a moral duty to do whatever I can to prevent such an event from occurring. Indeed, I know, just as well as I know numerous other critical beliefs, that the aforementioned moral rule and duty—to pick just one example from many—is true and that I am both rational to believe that this is the case and that I would be irrational to deny it.

So, can the atheist overcome this dilemma? Perhaps, but doing so would be difficult. First, the atheist—as many atheists in the past have done—could simply embrace the absurdity of denying that any absolute moral rules and duties exist. But the problem here is that the knowledge that it is, for example, absolutely wrong for a human person to torture an infant for pleasure is more certain and secure than, for example, the knowledge that atheism is true; indeed, as stated earlier, it is a belief which is as certain and as rational to hold as the belief that other minds exist. Furthermore, if an atheist truly did deny the existence of moral rules and duties, this fact would actually serve as evidence not so much that absolute moral rules and duties did not exist, but rather that the person denying them was, in some way, cognitively and morally deficient, just as the existence of a deaf person does not disprove the existence of sound, but rather shows that there is a physical and/or cognitive problem with the deaf person, not everyone else. In fact, a person who would deny the absolute immorality of torturing an infant for fun would be morally monstrous, thereby providing us with a sound reason to disregard both his reasoning and his general understanding given that someone in error about such a basic matter would arguably have questionable judgement in other matters as well, such as his atheism.

Now, concerning the other horn of the dilemma, the atheist might claim that atheism is perfectly consistent with the existence of moral rules and duties and that it is rational to believe that such things exist given atheism; but again, given what atheism, or atheistic-naturalism, entails, then the existence of immaterial rules and duties that exist everywhere, always, and apply to every contingent being, and which deal with moral facts, and which have an obligatory force on human action, seems very far-fetched on any form of atheism or atheist-naturalism—the latter of which is arguably the most coherent form of atheism that there is. Furthermore, all our experience shows us that rules of a social or ethical nature require a rule-maker of some sort, and our experience also shows us that we have duties to and from people, not to inanimate things. So again, believing in the existence of absolute moral rules and duties on atheism is of questionable rationality given atheism’s lack of a moral rule-giver and its lack of an absolute individual to have a duty too. And this is why many atheists, like Joel Marks, reject the existence of such absolute moral rules and duties. So the reasons for denying the existence of absolute moral rules and duties on atheism are potent, and this is why the dilemma states that, at best, the atheist, to be rational and consistent, should be nothing more than agnostic about the existence of such things.

Finally, note as well that the Atheist’s Euthyphro Dilemma could be formulated in a way that not only attacks atheism, but which actually supports theism directly. For example, while the second horn of the dilemma could remain as being the point that the denial of absolute moral rules and duties is absurd, the first horn could be changed to point out the fact that God is the best, or even only, rational explanation for the existence of absolute moral rules and duties. Thus, in this formulation, the atheist is either absurd for denying the existence of absolute moral rules and duties or, if he affirms the existence of absolute moral rules and duties, then he is irrational for denying the necessary component—namely God—that is an unavoidable part of the best explanation of the existence of absolute moral rules and duties. Either way, the atheist is in trouble.

And so, the long and short of it is this: the Euthyphro Dilemma is a challenge for theists, but it is one that is easily answered; by contrast, a similar moral dilemma can be made against atheism which is even more dangerous for the rationality of atheism than the Euthyphro Dilemma is dangerous to theism, for the Atheist’s Euthyphro Dilemma shows that atheism’s attitude towards the existence of absolute moral values and duties is of such a nature that it makes any position that atheism can hold about the matter irrational. And so, the Atheist’s Euthyphro Dilemma is a challenge that atheists must address, and it is a challenge that is not easily dealt with.

Anno Domini 2016 11 20

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Atheism Undermines Itself

The Reconquista Initiative

 Presents…

Atheism Undermines Itself

Most people hold that atheism—defined here as the positive belief that no God or gods exist—is a stable and rational point-of-view. Indeed, most people, even theists, believe that atheism, while perhaps wrong, is nevertheless a position which does not undermine itself. However, in reality, this belief is, at best, questionable, for the fact is that a good case can be made that atheism is actually a self-undermining position. Now what do I mean by the idea that atheism is self-undermining? I mean that the moment that a person believes atheism to be true, that same person, without considering any other evidences or arguments and only based on certain ideas inherent within atheism, immediately has good reasons to be sufficiently uncertain about the truth of atheism that the person, to remain rational and intellectually consistent, should then reject atheism and move back to a position of agnosticism concerning the existence or non-existence of a deity. That is how atheism is self-undermining. But with this stated, we must now ask: how could this be so? How could atheism internally undermine itself, especially since atheism seems to be nothing more than the belief that no deity exists.

Well, to understand this problem, consider the fact that the atheist, by denying the existence of a god, must unavoidably contend that the universe—meaning all of physical reality—came to be in only one of a number of possible ways that is consistent with atheism. First, the universe could be self-caused. Second, it could be eternal and uncaused. And third, the universe could have come uncaused from absolute nothingness. And indeed, if we consider the matter, these are the only logical options—with some sub-variations among them—that the atheist has to choose from to answer the question of how the universe came to be. But the problem for the atheist is that every one of these options undermines atheism itself, thereby making atheism self-undermining.

First, consider self-causation. Now self-causation is contradictory and absurd, given that a thing must exist before it could cause itself, and so if the atheist needs to embrace a contradictory and absurd principle as a means of maintaining his atheism, then this is already a sign that his atheism is in serious trouble. But the problem for atheism is actually worse than this, for the main self-undermining issue is that if the atheist holds to the idea that something could cause itself, and if the atheist literally believes that the universe was self-caused, then how and why could the atheist restrict self-causation to only the universe. Indeed, doing so would be rather ad hoc and inconsistent given that there seems to be nothing about self-causation that would restrict it to just the creation of universes. But then the question arises: if the universe can cause itself, then why can’t a god do so? Indeed, if the atheist believes that the universe was self-caused, thus embracing the idea of self-causation, then what are his grounds for denying the possible self-causation of a god. In fact, perhaps a god self-caused himself to exist right now. And if a universe was able to self-cause itself to exist in the past, then how many self-caused gods could have come to be over the course of the past million years, let alone thirteen billion years. In fact, intuitively, a case could be made that an omnipotent being had a much better claim to self-causation than mere physical matter would, and so the self-causation of a god is even more probable than that of a universe. But regardless, the point is that if the atheist holds to the idea that things could cause themselves, then unless he provides a convincing reason for why such self-causation would be restricted only to a physical universe, then the atheist would be hard pressed to deny that a god—even if the god was a material being—could not cause himself to exist either. Indeed, it would be ad hoc and inconsistent for the atheist to embrace self-causation in the one case but not the other. And since there is no clearly sound reason to embrace self-causation only for the universe, then the atheist has no grounds to deny it in the case of god either. So, on the atheist’s ‘self-causation’ embracing worldview, one, or ten, or millions of gods could have self-caused themselves to exist and the atheist has no way of denying this live possibility given his worldview; thus, the atheist’s embrace of self-causation as an explanation for the existence of the universe is the very thing that then turns around and undermines the very atheism that caused the atheist to embrace self-causation in the first place.

Second, consider the idea that the universe came uncaused from absolute nothingness. Well, again, even ignoring the fact that the idea that something could come uncaused from absolute nothing is absurd and unevidenced, and thus ignoring the fact that any atheist who embraces this idea embraces absurdity, it is nevertheless the case that if such a position is embraced, then the same problem that was spoken of earlier still arises: namely, if the universe can come uncaused from nothing, then there is nothing stopping a god from appearing uncaused out of nothingness. Indeed, given that absolute nothingness is non-discriminatory, there is not a single thing restricting what could come uncaused from absolute nothingness, and so if a universe could do so, then a god could do so as well. In fact, a billion gods could pop into existence uncaused, not just one. So again, the problem for the atheist is that by embracing the idea that things could come uncaused from nothingness—and some atheists do embrace this idea—the atheist removes any non-ad-hoc grounds that he has for claiming that gods could not arise from nothingness. In fact, maybe a god popped into existence uncaused from nothing right now. And so again, the atheist’s embrace of the idea of coming into being uncaused out of nothingness as an explanation for the existence of the universe is the very thing that then turns around and undermines the very atheism that caused the atheist to embrace that principle in the first place.

Finally, consider the third option, which is that the universe is eternal and uncaused, and which is, in light of the absurdity of the other two options, really the most intellectually viable option that the atheist has. Now it is true that a solid amount of evidence—both empirical and philosophical—shows that the universe is most likely not eternal, but again, let us leave this point aside. The more interesting point is that if the atheist believes that the universe is eternal, then, once again, he has good reasons to actually be agnostic about the existence of a god, not atheistic about it. Why? Well, in an eternal universe, meaning a universe that has always existed and will always exist, one could easily see a non-divine natural being gaining sufficient power and ability that the being could and should come to be considered a god. Indeed, in an eternal universe, it would not only be possible, but arguably likely, that some finite being gains in sufficient power and ability that that being is eventually able to create his own universes and his own creatures, thus fitting the description of a pagan-like god. In fact, with the recent advent of a number of non-theist scientists and other thinkers stating that our own universe may simply be a simulated creation of far more powerful beings, it is not hard to envisage the case that a natural being, in an eternal universe, in which an infinite amount of time already passed, could become a Zeus-like deity. And since a lower-case god could easily be a god who is material, and/or caused, and/or previously not a god, then, once again, these points support the idea that a being in an eternal universe could eventually become a god. And in an eternal universe, some being would very likely become such a god. In fact, if it is possible that a natural being could become a lower-case god, which it is, then in a universe where an infinite amount of time has already elapsed, then this possibility not only could happen, but also certainly already has happened, for it has had an infinite amount of time in which to happen. And so, once again, believing in an eternal universe as a means to make atheism reasonable is actually the very thing that makes atheistic belief unreasonable to hold. And thus, even in this case, atheism undermines itself.

Note as well that atheistic appeals to the multiverse, which has often been posited as a means of avoiding the design implications of the fine-tuning of the universe, also support the claim that atheism is self-undermining. After all, in the type of multiverse required to overcome the design implications of fine-tuning, meaning a multiverse with an untold or possibly infinite number of universes, then, once again, it would be easy to picture, as a very real possibility, that some kind of entity would eventually come into being who would have sufficient power and knowledge to be rightly considered a lower-case god. And so even the multiverse, often seen as the last bastion of atheism, is no bastion at all, for the multiverse idea also undermines atheism the moment that it is believed to be true.

Now please note that this argument is not necessarily an argument for the existence of a deity, although it could be made into one. Rather, at this point, this argument is simply meant to show that the moment a person comes to believe in atheism, then the additional beliefs about how the universe came to be which necessarily flow from that atheism, and from which the atheist cannot escape, create a situation where the atheist’s own ideas about the universe and its genesis give him no way to rationally deny the very real and live possibility that a god, or a million gods, could exist. So the atheist’s own ideas and principles, which necessarily stem from his atheism, give him a reason to deny his atheism, and what this means is that the atheist, being in such a situation, and if he wishes to remain rational and intellectually consistent, should drop his atheism and shift to a stance of agnosticism about the god question.

Additionally, note that while the atheist can avoid committing to either one of these choices about the genesis of the universe, his lack of committal does nothing to negate the fact that those three choices are ultimately the only ones that he has, and since all the choices undermine the atheist’s atheism, then the atheist’s lack of committal about which choice to accept does not remove the problem for atheism that this argument represents. Indeed, whatever way the atheist turns, he has a serious problem.

Now the atheist might indeed object to this argument. He might, for example, claim that the universe is eternal but exists in a cyclical pattern of expansion and collapse. But this would do little to negate the fact that a being could still become a god in such a situation, even possibly with sufficient power to stop the cyclical pattern of the universe, or with the power to create his own universe, or with the power to survive through the expansion and collapse of the universe. Or maybe the atheist could contend that the universe was eternal but caused; this option, however, would do nothing to help the atheist’s situation, for a caused universe would itself be a pointer to a god and so such an idea would also serve to undermine the atheist’s own atheism. But maybe the atheist could argue that no being who was not a god could become one or be worthy of the ‘god’ label; but again, such an objection appears weak, for a being who could create life, create a universe, have full power over what occurs in that universe, and so on, would surely be worthy of the label ‘god’ even if the being had previously been a non-deity or was material in nature. But maybe the atheist could argue that he has good arguments for why atheism is true, and no arguments for why theism might be true. Yet the problem is that all the arguments for atheism are actually arguments against certain types of theism, not specifically arguments for atheism; indeed, consider, as an example, that the most popular arguments for atheism, such as the so-called Problem of Evil, have no force against a deity who is not benevolent or omnipotent, but neither benevolence nor omnipotence are requirements for lower-case god-hood, and so arguments such as these are impotent against many forms of theism. And the same is true for all other atheistic arguments; they are arguments against certain types of theism, but not directly for atheism itself. But perhaps the atheist will claim that he sees no good reasons for the existence of any gods, and thus he has no reason to renege on his atheism. Yet it is the atheist’s own atheism which, when coupled with what the atheist must believe about the universe, actually serves as the very reason which should make the atheist doubt his own atheism. After all, if the atheist really believe that things can cause themselves or come from nothing, or that an eternal universe exists, then these ideas, in and of themselves, are a reason to doubt that no god exists, for a god could cause himself to exist or pop into existence just as much as a universe could, and a god could certainly come to be in an eternal universe, only to create his own universe and his own creatures in that universe. And so, if the atheist embraces these ideas, it is impossible for the atheist to claim that he knows or is rational to believe that a god does not exist, for the very ideas themselves, by the sheer fact that they make the existence of a god a very live possibility at any moment, remove the atheist’s ability to genuinely and consistently claim that he knows or is rational to believe that no god exists, for how could the atheist truly know or rationally believe that no god exists when, given the atheist’s own accepted ideas, one god or a dozen gods could have come into being right now, or ten seconds ago, or at any moment in the past or future. Indeed, in such a situation, it would simply be irrational for the atheist to claim that he knows that no god exists, for any justification or warrant that the atheist would have for such a knowledge claim would be undermined by the very ideas that the atheist must unavoidably embrace concerning the genesis of the universe. And so, as stated, atheism undermines itself.

Finally, if the atheist seeks to justify his lack of belief in God by appealing to the principle that ‘an absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence if certain evidence that would be expected is not present and a comprehensive search for that evidence has been done’, then please note that the atheist cannot, in fact, legitimately appeal to this principle. Why? Because, once again, if the atheist truly believes that something can come from nothing, or that something can cause itself, or that the universe is eternal, then it is impossible that the atheist could ever conduct an adequately comprehensive search to allow this principle to come into effect. After all, if the atheist tried to figuratively “search” an area for a god, the search could never be comprehensive or complete, for the moment that the atheist stopped searching one area, a god may have popped into existence in that area or caused himself to exist there the moment that the atheist stopping looking; furthermore, if the atheist holds that things can come into existence uncaused or can cause themselves to exist, then the moment the atheist stopped his search, thinking it complete, the atheist would have no way of denying that a god could come into existence uncaused from nothing or be self-caused right in the very moment that the atheist stopped his search. And so there are indeed numerous reasons why the atheist’s search could never be sufficiently comprehensive given the principles that he appeals to. But the atheist also has the problem that there would not necessarily be any evidence that the atheist would expect to find even if he conducted his search, for there is no indication that the gods that would come into existence would necessarily leave any evidence for the atheist to find. Indeed, for consider that, right now, a god may have popped into being uncaused from absolute nothingness, but there is nothing that says that such a god would be interested in giving us evidence of his existence, nor that there would be any such evidence to find. Thus, even if the atheist could conduct a figurative search for the evidence for a god, there is not necessarily any evidence that the atheist would expect to find. And so, for all these reasons, the atheist cannot appeal to the ‘absence of evidence is sometimes evidence of absence’ principle as a means to justify his atheism.

And so the long and short of it is this:  atheism is self-undermining, because the moment that a person accepts atheism, that person is simultaneously given internal and unavoidable reasons to be skeptical about it. Furthermore, the atheist has no means to avoid the self-undermining nature of his atheism. And while the self-undermining nature of atheism is itself not a positive argument for theism, it does mean that if the atheist wants to be rational and intellectually consistent, then, arguably, he should not be an atheist at all.

Anno Domini 2016 11 15

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam