I'm Not Saying It's Impossible, Only Let's Be Reasonable

I don't say God's existence is impossible, nor that miracles are impossible, nor that a good God must eliminate all pain, nor that methodological naturalism logically entails ontological (or metaphysical or philosophical) naturalism. Nor am I a hyper-skeptic simply because I'm a skeptic. Nope. Get the views of atheists right. It's just that we should be reasonable with the evidence, that's all. We're looking for what is most probable. Christian apologists participate in special pleading way too often. And they argue from a prior conclusion rather than to one. Point. Get. The.


Breckmin said...

"nor that methodological naturalism logically entails ontological (or metaphysical or philosophical) naturalism. Nope. Get the views of atheists right."

But in all fairness, many atheists DO claim that empiricism leads to materialism/naturalism.

"We're looking for what is most probable."

The problem with the English word "probable" (or likely) is that it is NOT quantifiable so it is actually somewhat meaningless as far as predictability is concerned.

"Christian apologists participate in special pleading way too often."

The special pleading is justified when discussing the difference between orthodox monotheism and an Infinite Creator verses finite beings a possible moving gods.

"And they argue from a prior conclusion rather than to one."

The Infinite Creator is easily concluded based on scientific observation (unless you have an improper view of processing truth which eliminates theistic implication from the start).

I would love to go through some of the specific scientific observations which lead us to agnostic theism and intelligent causation - and how this is a deduction based on uniform and repeated experience.

Eric J.S. said...

There are many different kinds of atheists and many different kinds of christians. The importance has to deal mainly with the philosophy of the different groups. Not all atheists are rational, and not all Christians believe in something that remotely looks like the the traditional God. Don Cupitt is a secular Christian who believe Jesus was a humanist. jean-Paul Sartre was a person who would admit to religious thinking. Whether a person is an atheist for existential, moral, rational, or happenstance, all are parts of the umbrella term of atheism. Of course John has covered this before and many other blogs, but I am terribly sensitive to when people use terms to mean what they do not.
I hope that John will continue to argue that atheism is a better stance than theism. He can argue about ethical problems too but, as far as philosophy goes, even atheists are capable of disagreeing on virtually everything, even epistemology. An atheist can be phenomonist, a skeptic of knowledge, physicalist, an idealist (not all that common), and a mereological nihilist. So if John wants to argue about how to make good knowledge claims, he is not just talking about atheism anymore.

Theistic arguments against John in the comments seem a little to high and mighty. When John makes a point which uses a term incorrectly or overgeneralizes, I give the theist credit for finding it. However, a mistake in overgeneralizing does not mean one should not try to understand the whole argument, so I think people really need to be more about absorbing the rhetoric, chew on it, and then provide a good balance argument against the main thesis, not just minor points.

Now if John wants to take liberty and define Christianity and atheism anyway he wants (i.e. Christians believe in virgin birth and atheists like science), I can understand that. It is his blog and he can represent atheism and Christianity in his own terms (a little difficult to debate every different theism in the world). Too often people will comment that they are Christian and do not believe what John says Christians believe, and John does not necessarily have to address strains of Christianity that gives up some irrational beliefs but keeps others.

NOw I can just watch as no one cares for my opinion.

shane said...

I think this is a good point!

I have written on here before about this and about the fact that even if we were to say (for arguments sake) that the universe was created, then it still does not give much in favor of christianity.

It still does not prove alot of things, like for instance there being one creator as opposed to a multitude.

It would not prove that the creator/creators are eternal, all powerful, all knowing, or benevolent!

It also does not prove the bibles god to be any more likely then other religions gods.

John said alot about this in his debate with Wood.

So arguing that something must have created all this and trying to identify it as the biblical God, does not work without direct evidence leading us to the pages of the bible.

Exploring the Unknowable said...



Can we hear some snapshot arguments from science that lead one to agnostic theism?


Exploring the Unknowable said...


Also, Breckmin, special pleading is never justified. That's why it is called special pleading. If you are representing truth, you don't need to plead. You can just lay out your claims and facts. If they are truthful, they will be inherently harmonious and will speak for themselves, without special pleading needed.

Also, I'm not sure if you've ever read it, but some of what you're saying echoes a book I'm reading right now by Edgar Andrews, called 'Who Made God?'. I'm not nearly halfway through it, but if you've read it, let me know what you think of it.


Gandolf said...

John said..."It's just that we should be reasonable with the evidence, that's all. We're looking for what is most probable. Christian apologists participate in special pleading way too often."

Yeah i agree,and i personally cant see how just guessing faith in gods and supreme beings, and/or relying on thoughts and ideas of the suggested prophets, like humans obviously often have,is so very good? or even so very honest?.

All to often history has proved the very grave! danger of this age old tradition,time and time again.Many have experienced the sadness and harm,some even dieing as sacrifices or being burned as witches at stakes,or some suiciding through sadness caused by faiths that evolved teaching and believing in a need for shunning, separation and even excommunication between families etc.Kids being refused blood transfusions,by parents following prophets beliefs about salvation in some supposed afterlife.

I dont suggest existence of god/s is impossible, either.No not at all.

But instead i wonder.If God/s even exist,why should we even have good reason to think it logic to even think? god/s would honestly likely wish and prefer us humans to try guessing about them? ...When our guessing has historically proven so very often! to cause so much sadness and harm to some people also.

Is it such a great thing that so many peoples faith in their own salvation,might have come at the cost! that some other folks somewhere else must suffer under harsh faiths that also evolved? ...Like its just some kind of unavoidable statistic.

I personally cant see how it can honestly be sanctioned as being so very ok.Its bullshit! these deaths and harsh beliefs that caused so much sadness and harm ,were not unavoidable....They only happened because faith revovled around faith, that lacked in enough evidence for proof.

And many folks faith in their own personal salvation,is built on the harm and suffering of so many others!

To me that seems kind of inhumane, ignorant and disgusting.And folks of all unproven faiths, should be ashamed

Eric J.S. said..."NOw I can just watch as no one cares for my opinion."

I for one enjoyed reading your opinion.I think its very important worldwide! that humans start to become very open and comfortable about discussing these matters of faith and religion.

CS said...


You wrote:

'The problem with the English word "probable" (or likely) is that it is NOT quantifiable'

Probability theory is a well-developed area of mathematics which exists precisely to quantify our thought.

Brad said...

"It's just that we should be reasonable with the evidence, that's all. We're looking for what is most probable. Christian apologists participate in special pleading way too often. And they argue from a prior conclusion rather than to one. Point. Get. The."

I don't understand how this makes Atheism any more credible, John...this from the paradigm that begs me to believe that a universe filled with a great deal of something somehow popped into being from an absoltue nothing.

Exploring the Unknowable said...


Who said that the universe popped into existence from ABSOLUTELY nothing? Who's to say it's even possible for nothing to "exist"? What does it mean for nothing to exist?

I'm an atheist, and I really don't know how the universe was formed (and I'm quite okay with that), but I certainly don't just accept that the universe came from ABSOLUTELY nothing. Now, I have seen an argument that the universe might have come from something very much like nothing (see Lawrence Kraus's video on youtube at the AAI 2009 conference), but again, until that theory is completely ratified, I remain undecided about the origin of the universe.

And I'm quite okay with that.

Greg said...

Brad -- There are several highly theoretical models about "what" may have existed (and I'm using "what") prior to the Big Bang.

All the conventional theory posits is that the Big Bang is a singularity beyond past the laws of physics break down, so modeling it would necessarily remain highly theoretical. There is no way to extract the information from the other side of the event.

There are theories that something other than a singularity was present at the time of the initial expansion. The ekpyrotic scenario suggests that the primordial event was caused by the interaction of structures much larger than our universe. And the multiverse theory says that that an infinity new universes are constantly blossoming from states of quantum probability.

Thing is, the universe is pretty good at covering its tracks, destroying evidence as it expands, so who knows?

But I think you'd find there's a lot more options than nothing in cosmology if you bothered looking.
But that's the thing, you'd have to look.

Brad said...

Hi Greg,

"There are theories that something other than a singularity was present at the time of the initial expansion."

Two inescapable problems:

1. These are metaphysical theories, mind you...

2. Infinte Regress.

Greg said...

1. Not experimental science, true, at least in the sense there is no directly observable data. But there is math and there are proven theories that have implications that predict certain outcomes. (One of which is that quantum states nothing always leads to something)

2. Why does it have to be infinite regress? And why would it be a bad thing?

Kel said...

That's a point that needs to be said time and time again. As someone who gets into arguments online, I get so frustrated that the same straw-man talking points come up over and over again. So instead of building a case, I'm left trying to clear up the misconceptions.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Hello John: I hope you are well. Sir, a nice lady who was a Christian missionary for many years started following my Twitter updates. She has deconverted and may have an interesting story that you might want to feature. Her Twitter link is http://twitter.com/WayPastDueToo and her blogspot is at http://waypastduetoo.blogspot.com/

I hope you don't mind that I mentioned to her that she would find you and your blog interesting and helpful.

Now regarding this post, I think god is impossible because it is not definable. No definitions of god can stand up to critical scrutiny. This is not what happens with something that is real and part of existence. That which is part of existence has an identity and is what it is, but god has no identity and hence is not part of reality. If something is part of reality, it is possible. If a fantasy of something is not part of reality, then its not possible because reality is what it is and only what it is. God is imagined as a consciousness without existence that caused existence; but in reality, consciousness is a casual process resulting in awareness of information that stems from material existence. Casualty and information are completely contingent to material existence. Hence consciousness, and god, too is contingent to material existence and would be impossible without material existence. There can then be no consciousness that caused or created existence.

One can posit String Theory's M Space and the Brane Hypothesis as a way around the objection, but S.T. makes no testable predictions so it isn't actually science. An like String Theory, the notion of the Metaphysical Primacy of Non-Existence makes no testable predictions because only existence exists. Non-existence does not exist. Only that which exists is part of reality and can be shown to be reality.

Best Wishes, Robert