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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Naturalism of the Gaps - Round 2

If an atheist/naturalist sets up their epistemology such that in order for something to be believed it must be evidenced AND by “evidence” they mean something like “what can be demonstrated empirically/scientifically” then do you see how they have begged the question?

1. I’m open to something non-natural existing.
2. To reasonably believe in a non-natural entity though, I would need (sic. empirical) evidence.
3. (Enthymeme) Only natural things provide empirical evidence.
4. We have no (sic. empirical) evidence for anything non-natural.
5. Therefore it is not reasonable to believe in a non-natural entity.

Does that help you see the problem?

The other problem is that I am fairly suspicious about how open and honest atheists actually are who say that they would believe based on the evidence precisely because, as they often say, one could always fall back on “I don’t know” as the most virtuous and honest answer. That just seems like an appeal to ignorance and a support for a kind of naturalism of the gaps.

So imagine I asked an atheist what would convince them that God exists. No matter what “evidence” they gave we would have a major problem. Imagine they said, like many do, that they would believe on the evidence of the stars re-arranging to spell “God did this” in the night sky.

Well on naturalism, that is empirical evidence right? Actually no it is not. The problem is that “evidence” is really just interpreted data – bits of data that have gone through an interpretive grid and come out the other side being not-theory neutral. So the stars rearranging is just natural DATA. You could say “God did that” as one interpretation of the data but you could also say:

1. A super powerful race of alien pranksters did that.
2. Mass hallucinations led us to believe that we saw  that.
3. Mass delusion led us to believe that we saw  that.
4. Mass hypnosis led us to believe that we saw  that.
5. Our minds are pattern forming machines so we just think that’s what the stars say – but it’s really like seeing Orion in the stars or a dragon in the clouds.
6. I don’t know what caused it… but science has never  shown God as the cause and so we shouldn’t assume some invisible sky daddy but we should just wait and allow science to discover the cause.

In any of those cases the naturalist would say that the natural explanation is INTRINSICALLY more plausible and probable than “God diddit.” And if they don’t, then there are other problems they will run into. For example, Lee Smolin (If I remember correctly)  figured the odds of and entire galaxy spontaneous reorganizing itself in an instant to be something in the ballpark of 1x10^115. So why would the atheist think that in that case God was the best explanation? Is it because it is a hyper improbable event apart such that we shouldn’t expect a natural cause and can infer the intentionality of a mind? Well how is that different than saying God is the best explanation for the fine tuning of the universe when the odds of all of the initial conditions and forces and ratios to be what they are for life is astronomically infinitely more remote than the whole galaxy rearranging?

And what is it about the “God did this” in the stars TELLS us that it was God? It’s hard to make that case for the atheist who wants to pretend that this would be evidence for them WITHOUT appeal to some kind of concept analogous to the notion of the specified complexity of information. But once they allow that concept in, then they can no longer protest in principle to that concept being used to argue God as the best explanation for abiogenesis and the complexity of the genetic information which is also drastically more numerically improbable than the re-arranging of the galaxy.

So then what recourse do they have to be consistent at least? Well really all they can do is just bite the bullet and beg the question that ANY possible natural explanation is inherently more plausible than any supernatural or non-natural one. Yet in that case they are just accepting the employment of a Naturalism of the Gaps and fallacious question begging reasoning as the most “reasonable” which is obviously absurd..

This graphic is an easy parody of the same problem happening among naturalists as did among previous generations of anti-scientific theists who did make such arguments. The problem is when atheists seem to think that arguments for God as the best explanations (abductive arguments) are the same kind of arguments as God of the gaps arguments from ignorance. They simply are diametrically opposed.


  1. Unfortunately for the atheist, what does exist is so implausible because of all the "Initial Conditions and forces and ratios" that we must assume based upon their own logic that what exists is impossible, there for they themselves (and all of us)do not really exist. Sorry everybody.

  2. I think any reasonable person, yourself included, would agree that requiring evidence is one of the foundational principles of science, so I dismiss entirely your claim that the skeptical atheist position is anti-scientific. Really your complaint is that you can't think of any evidence that would convince a skeptical atheist of the existence of a god, because there always seems to be a more plausible answer. That's unfortunate for your attempts to convince skeptics, not an argument against skepticism or atheism themselves.

    Btw, what's to stop people who hold other positions unsupported by evidence from using your faulty reasoning to support things like the existence of Zeus or Santa Claus or fairies? How did you decide the special class of propositions that can be exempted from the need for evidence?

    1. Well let's find out if you are right. Answer the response for yourself. What evidence would convince you that naturalism were false and that God exists that would not be able to be given an ad hoc naturalistic explanation? And in that case why would you prefer a "God did it" explanation over the naturalistic options given above?

    2. Alex, it's been 8 months since your posting. Tyler answered you and left you with two questions to answer. Are you ever going to answer Tyler's rebuttal to your claim, or could it be that your silence is an admission of a poor argument? I find it quite interesting how many atheists abruptly just drop off of a thread or conversation in complete silence immediately after they are proven wrong.

  3. You have a couple big problems in your initial 5 step process. I'm not sure if you realize that you are merely pointing out the reasoning that skeptics go through, and don't point out any problems with it, other than your line "does that help you see the problem"? I'm sorry, what problem are you referring too? That we require evidence for such events? I'm, that's our argument, what are you trying to say here? That's not begging the question in the least man! Requiring evidence regardless of the nature of the claim is simply intellectual consistency, and the only fallacy I can see in your post, is a tu quoque fallacy. You've merely resorted back to the argument, well, uhhh, umm ... You don't know either!! How can you say admitting not knowing the answer to a question is an appeal to ignorance?! You're the one still making the wildly unsupported claim of an omnipotent, omnipresent eternal non corporeal yet infinitely complex being pulling the strings, yet I am making an appeal to ignorance? That would be funny it wasn't so pathetic. And the last thing I'd like to point out, your ridiculous example of atheists saying all the stars being rearranged to spell out something in the sky, is a claim I've only heard theists make regarding atheists. I've never heard any humanist say anything remotely close to that. I believe Matt Dillahunty has the best response,
    The "What would change your mind" question came up again in e-mail. I've provided an answer many times, but the following version might be worth thinking about:
    "I don't know what would change my mind, and I don't need to know. In fact, it would be arrogant for me to presume that I could even come up with an answer, because that presumes that I'm sufficiently knowledgeable that I can tell the difference between 'a vastly superior technology that is beyond my understanding' and 'the powers of a god'.
    But, if there is a god, that god should know exactly what it would take to change my mind...and that god should be capable of doing whatever it would take. The fact that this hasn't happened can only mean one of two things:
    1. No such god exists.
    2. Whatever god exists doesn't care to convince me, at this time.
    In either case, it's not my problem and there's nothing I can do about it. Meanwhile, all of those believers who think that there is a god who does want me to know that he exists - are clearly, obviously, undeniably... wrong."

    1. It appears that you have missed the entire point of the argument. I’ve pointed out the “reasoning” that “skeptics” go through (yes both in quotes because I think that it is an irrational process, not a reasonable one and it is used to defend a dogmatic and thus not skeptical position) and how why the position actually is self-serving in that it insulates them from 1) falsifying their beliefs, 2) critically evaluating their beliefs, and it allows them to sneak in question begging assumptions of naturalism and empiricism that are not warranted.

      So the problem is not the request for evidence but the epistemological standard of scientism and a question begging of empiricism where the only “evidence” that would be permitted is evidence that would confirm to the naturalistic presumption of scientism. So yes. That absolutely is begging the question. I recommend before you respond, trying to read for comprehension and not read with the motivated reason to find a way to distort to disprove. So the problem is not evidence, it is the assumption that evidence just is the same as empirical theory neutral data that could be equally explained under naturalism. That would be like me setting a standard that you could disprove my Christian theism if we start from the belief that theism is true, God exists, and the Bible is the inerrant and inspired word of God. It’s rigging the deck.

      I know also that you haven’t understood because no where here have I made a positive case for theism. I’m not making an argument for the existence of God. Your motivated reasoning and atheistic dogmatism have combined to make a dangerous epistemological cocktail where you seem to rather brutishly think that if a theist is speaking that they must prove God before they are taken seriously on anything else – even criticisms of naturalism. So no. I do not need to prove that God exists in order to show massive problems inherent in current naturalistic epistemologies. So when you say things like, “You're the one still making the wildly unsupported claim of an omnipotent, omnipresent eternal non corporeal yet infinitely complex being pulling the strings” when I have done absolutely no such thing.

      I wonder if you have the intellectual honesty and integrity to recognize that you’re being driven by motivated reasoning and have simply refused to even understand what was being stated in the article before knee jerk reacting. But if history and experience has taught me anything, I suppose only time (and I assume forthcoming belligerent responses) will tell.

      And I notice you didn’t even attempt to answer the challenge. The question is not the same as the "what would change your mind" question though it is related. It is structured in such a way to discover if an epistemology is set up to beg the question or if it is set up with even the possibility for falsification. So answer the response for yourself. What evidence would convince you that naturalism were false and that God exists that would not be able to be given an ad hoc naturalistic explanation? And in that case why would you prefer a "God did it" explanation over the naturalistic options given above?

    2. I find it quite interesting how many atheists abruptly just drop off of a thread or conversation in complete silence immediately after they are proven wrong. So, Doctor, are you going to respond to Tyler. He seems to have snuffed the life out of your objections and also demonstrated how you've embarrassed yourself in your lack of reading comprehension being that you claim to have a doctorate. Not a good thing for you.

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