Does God Exist?–Armstrong’s Weak Sauce Theism

"Prove all things, bitches." I Thessalonians 5:21.

“Prove all things, bitches.” I Thessalonians 5:21.

The brand of theism preached by the churches of Armstrongism is different from mainstream theism in an important way. While most people who believe in God will readily admit they do so on the basis of faith, Armstrongists insist they can prove that God exists. But how special is this Armstrong-style theism really? Was it invented by Armstrong, or did he merely co-opt an obsolete ideology and put his stamp on it, as with so many of his other supposed innovations?

First let us establish beyond doubt that Armstrong’s god is indeed envisioned as a god whose existence is in doubt to such a degree that one must work to prove it, by an appeal to actual physical evidence. And let us keep in mind that a god whose existence can be proven, given appropriate evidence, is also a god whose existence, given a lack of evidence, may in fact fail to be proven.

Science Calls the Tune

Notice what PCG’s Mark Jenkins had to say in a relatively recent (2003) explanation of Armstrong’s brand of theism, taken from a Trumpet article titled after Armstrong’s booklet, Does God Exist?.

For most religious people, the fact that God exists is something to take on faith alone. To believe otherwise would be blasphemous. Most require no proof…

If you believe in God—or “Providence” or some “higher power”—and you base your belief on faith alone, I ask you to QUESTION it. After all, if you expect anyone to take seriously your claim that God exists, shouldn’t you be able to offer concrete evidence and proof?

By the same token, if you do not believe in a Creator God, I ask you to consider His existence, not based on the notion of faith, not based on invalid claims, but based on evidence—on rock-solid proof!

He goes on to elaborate just exactly what Armstrong taught on the subject…

Of course, as many of our readers will already know, this proof has been given before. Herbert Armstrong, author of the eye-opening booklet Does God Exist?, proved the existence of God many years ago… Mr. Armstrong summed up the proof that God exists this way: “CREATION IS THE PROOF OF GOD!” That does not mean that we simply look at the birds and the trees and look starry-eyed into the heavens, realizing from the mere existence of the world that there just has to be a God. The creation around you does provide scientific proof of its Creator, as we will show.

And there you have it. But this idea was not new when Armstrong was promulgating it. Not by a long shot. This form of argument is called in philosophy a teleological argument and it goes back all the way to Socrates (different god, of course, but the same form of argument). It is also known by a different name: argument from design. Arguments from design have been out of fashion for a long time now–they lost all academic and intellectual credibility long before Armstrong molded his sophomoric and self-defeating version of one.

But why did these fore-runners of the idiocy that is Creationism lose their luster and fall from the philosophical graces so fully? We’ll get to demolishing Armstrong’s specific supporting arguments (if one can call them that) shortly, but there is another reason besides logical flaws why arguments from design are not much in favor these days–even among (thoughtful) theists themselves. That reason has to do with the problem we touched on before: a god that can be “proved” can also fail to be proved. Some Christian theologians call this god “the God of the Gaps”, since it so often occurs that a particular teleological argument hinges on a gap in scientific knowledge: “phenomenon x cannot be explained–yet–therefore, god did it.” But then a scientific explanation is subsequently discovered, the gap closes, and the argument from design falls flat on its face. Theologians apparently got tired of dancing–and clumsily faltering–to science’s tune, so they abandoned the gaps and redoubled their faith. Armstrong, however, never got the memo.

A Matter of Faith

Continuing along, Jenkins tells us that Armstrong believed he could use science to prove that his god exists.

By studying radioactive elements, Mr. Armstrong learned that there had to have been a time when matter did not exist; that there has been no past eternity of matter. Every 1,590 years, for instance, half of the existing radioactive element radium disintegrates into lead. Eventually, there will be no more radium! If these elements had always existed, there would be NO radium left today. Yet, radium and other radioactive elements clearly still exist. Since these elements only exist for a set period of time, we know that there was a time when there was no matter. That means there was a time when matter came into existence.

Isn’t it amazing? Not really. What is amazing to me is that Armstrongists never bother to learn what their ideological foes actually believe. But what we shouldn’t sanction is this pretense that they don’t know about something called the Big Bang! Of course there was a time when matter came into existence! No one who knows anything about science will dispute that. How does this prove the existence of God, again? Well, of course, it does no such thing. (And Jenkins is smart enough to know it, too.)

And even if this argument from radiometric decay demonstrated something other than the brute fact that something like a Big Bang occurred, it would say nothing about the cause of it. Even if it did somehow point to an intelligent agent, though (and it doesn’t–how could it?), it would say nothing of the identity of that agent. But Armstrong and Jenkins pretend all of this isn’t so, and they hope we aren’t paying attention enough to notice.

If, then, we know that radioactive elements do not come from nothing, that they in fact disintegrate over time, then we know that there must have been a “first cause,” a “higher power,” or super powerful Being of some kind that brought these elements into being.

Incredible! Here we go from evidence of a Big Bang to the existence of a higher power, without the slightest bit of supportive reasoning between the premise and the conclusion. We will let slide the wholly unwarranted equivocation between “first cause” and “higher power”. But we won’t fail to make much of the fact that the “super powerful Being” Jenkins intends here is none other than Yahweh, warrior deity of an ancient tribe of Canaanites, and his quasi-Christian Messiah son-god Jesus. How does he justify such specificity? Oh, well, he doesn’t. Of course. Surely we are not expected to accept it on faith! Armstrong’s god forbid! We must follow the scientific evidence where it leads!

Merely a Theory

This brings us to Jenkins’ next elucidation of Armstrongian theism. It hinges on an attempted repudiation of evolutionary theory. As a matter of fact, apart from the aforementioned argument from radiometric decay, Armstrong’s teleological theism appears to be nothing more than an attempted argument against evolution, as though the only logical alternative to evolutionary theory was his excessively parochial Yahwism. We hope the reader can appreciate that Armstrong’s grim warrior god of the ancient Hebrews isn’t the only proposed supernatural Creator or Creators of life (and the universe). As a matter of fact, as any good “Intelligent Design” proponent will tell you, even if one could demonstrate agency in nature, that alone would say nothing of the identity of the responsible agent or agents.

We will start with the ever-present confusion on the part of all Creationists over what evolution actually is. 

Most scientists have accepted the idea that the universe formed by spontaneous generation. Unlike some creationists, they do seek concrete evidence of their claims, yet such proof cannot be found. After all, if the evolutionary theory were proven, it would no longer be called a mere theory. Since evolution is unproven, scientists too must believe their theory with unseen evidence—what the Bible calls “faith” (Hebrews 11:1).

Oh, where to begin! First of all, the term “spontaneous generation” is not one that scientists use to describe the origins of the universe. This, like so much of Armstrongist propaganda, refers to “an obsolete body of thought”, and it had to do with the spontaneous generation of lifeforms, not of the universe. (We will return to this idea when we discuss the question of abiogenesis.) It is typical of Creationists to conflate theories about the origin of the universe and life with evolutionary theory. But they are not the same thing. Jenkins does this here when he goes from his statement about scientific ideas on the origin of the universe directly into a condemnation of evolution as “a mere theory” that must be taken on faith–“the evidence of things not seen”. But is this, in fact, the case? Do scientists accept evolution on the same airy basis as Jenkins did when he believed that some olive oil drizzled in his hair and a “laying on of hands” allowed a supernatural force to invade his brain by some undescribed mechanism? Is evolution, in fact, “just a theory”, or is there something more here?

First of all, nothing about a scientific theory lends to its being accepted on the basis of unquestioning trust of the kind meant by religious “faith”. What is the definition of a “mere theory”? Here is the definition given in the Wikipedia entry.

scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.

I don’t remember seeing anything like that in Hebrews 11. Do you?

Next we need to address this nonsense about evolution only being a theory, since it is “unproven”. Evolution, being the gradual change in the genetic makeup of organisms across generations, is not a theory. It is a fact. It happens. It can be and is observed. Evolutionary theory refers to the various ideas proposed as mechanisms by which evolution occurs. The most important of these, natural selection, is one of the most well-supported theories in the history of science. Only an ignoramus would call it “a mere theory”. It is converged upon by a multitude of independent lines of evidence from many disparate fields and has resisted the scientific gauntlet of attempted disproof for well over 150 years! Can you even think of another “mere” theory that has lasted so long and been so abundantly verified and vindicated? Try it! Let me know what you come up with. And if you doubt any of this, good for you (faith is for suckers like Jenkins). I invite you to research the scientific case for common descent. Incidentally, the fact gravity is also described by a theory makes the mutual attraction of massive objects no less an observable fact. In the same way, the fact descent with modification from a common ancestor is described by theory makes it no less an observable fact.

A Theory of Yahweh?

Now, in the spirit of his article, I challenge Jenkins to put forth the Armstrongist theory of God. He should remember to make it “well-substantiated…acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation”. I know, I know. This is a tall order. But let’s just see what else he’s got…

Something or someone brought matter into being. And yet, even if we do know that something brought about matter by special creation, where did LIFE on Earth come from? Many theories presented by scientists give possible scientific explanations that offer absolutely no proof, and, even worse, faulty evidence.

More god of the gaps reasoning: “if science can’t explain it yet, then god did it. Not your god, of course, but my god.” Please note, however, that dismissing one hypothesis out of hand (in this case, abiogenesis) does not by itself validate a different hypothesis (i.e., Creationism). For that, Jenkins would have to go beyond mere assertions “that offer absolutely no proof, and, even worse, faulty evidence.”

He continues.

Now, however, we remind the reader of an irrefutable scientific law: the law of biogenesis—that life can only come from life! A rock can’t come alive. Not immediately; not in a billion years—it cannot happen. This law also states that living things can only produce more living things like themselves. In other words, horses don’t give birth to elephants. This is quite a sticky point for evolutionists. But there are no exceptions to this rule.

Mr. Armstrong pointed out that “No fact of science stands more conclusively proved today. Life CANNOT come from dead matter” (Does God Exist?). Much as the law of gravity guarantees that everything is held down, the law of biogenesis tells us that life comes from life, and not from anything else…

This scientific law requires a living Creator!

Notice. Still no evidence for Yahweh here.

Just What Do You Mean, “Biogenesis”?

But what of this claim about biogenesis? Is it in fact an inviolable law etched into the fabric of the cosmos by the Living Almighty Gawd, Creator of all life? Anyway, just what is meant by the term “biogenesis”?

Unfortunately for Jenkins, the word does not mean quite what he thinks it means. Practically the opposite. It refers to a disproof of a form of creationism called spontaneous generation (remember that term?), whereby it was believed that animals could appear fully formed from some non-living substrate. Common examples included mice from grain and maggots from meat, and the original creator of these spontaneously generated organisms was thought to be the goddess Gaia of the ancient Greeks. Louis Pasteur demonstrated that, as a matter of fact, fully formed organisms and organelles were not spontaneously generated by gods or goddesses from some non-living substrate, but that rather they were spawned, through reproduction, by pre-existing organisms.

If Jenkins wishes to adhere to the ironclad Law of Biogenesis, then he’d be hard-pressed to explain away his belief in Adam and Eve, who were (“theoretically”) spontaneously generated by a god from, respectively, the dust of the earth and an excised rib–nonliving material both. At least the Egyptian creation myth involves copious amounts of divine masturbation (Atum, it is said, was so virile a Creator that he ejaculated into his own mouth!)–that’s close to biogenesis, I guess.

So, as can be easily seen, the law of biogenesis was never intended to be marshaled against abiogenesis, the idea that some form of primitive life arose through gradual steps involving increasingly complex molecules. But how about those “many theories presented by scientists” on this question? Well, the best we can do so far are hypotheses, actually (but I wouldn’t expect an unschooled Creationist like Jenkins or Armstrong to know that–or to appreciate the difference). See this to learn more. And you should too, because it’s fascinating. The truth is always more interesting than propagandists’ pablum. And speaking of propaganda, Jenkins goes on to say that

evolution, on the other hand, does not even meet the qualifications for a theory…

Oh, really! So, it is “merely a theory” and not even a theory. Which is it, Jenkins? Someone certainly is confused. Remember the qualifications for a theory? Remember the 29+ evidences of macroevolution? Now, think for yourself and don’t let Jenkins beat you over the head with his dead guru’s farcical ignorance.

Like Clockwork?

What’s left? Nothing right, that’s for sure.

Alternatively, consider that the presence of the human mind is proof of a mind superior to our own—proof of a supremely intelligent God!

How? He doesn’t say. Hard to argue with an unreasoned assertion. In any event, even if it could be argued logically that the human mind is somehow evidence of a mind superior to our own, that itself wouldn’t demonstrate anything like the existence of any particular being called “God”. So…we’re still far from any proof of God here, much less Armstrong’s Yahweh. Remember the kind of “proof” Jenkins is going for here: scientific. There is nothing scientific in making baseless metaphysical assertions and jumping to conclusions rather than arguing to them.

Mr. Armstrong asked, “Is it rational, then, to believe that any power or force lacking even human intelligence could have planned, designed, created, formed, fashioned, shaped, put together and set in motion the awesome universe we behold? The First Great Cause who created matter, then, stands revealed as the SUPREME INTELLIGENCE and ARCHITECT OF THE UNIVERSE!

Ah, such grandiose nothingness. All this is is an argument from ignorance (and a circular one at that!): “I can’t imagine how this all could have been unplanned, how it could have come about if not planned by some intelligent agent, therefore it must have been planned by an intelligent agent! And, of course that intelligent agent just happens to be Yahweh of the ancient Hebrews. Who did you think I meant? A Creation demands a Creator!” Not exactly a piece of scientific evidence, floridly expressed though it may be.

Next we are treated to a section with the heading “The Watchmaker”. It is presented as though Armstrong thought up the analogy on his own (and how very clever he is!), but it is a classic and hoary canard most famously attributed to William Paley, who published his formulation of it in 1802. It went like this.

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. … There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. … Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.

Armstrong was rather more longwinded in his treatment, and, of course, arrogant and materialistic as he was, he had to talk at length about himself and his possessions.

“I needed an accurate watch with a very plain dial for timing broadcasts. The only kind that filled the need was a railroad watch. I have one—the very finest railroad watch made, a 23-jewel watch.

“But it does not keep perfect time. Once or twice a week I have to adjust it a second or two, if I want to be sure it is accurate to the second. I set it by the master clock of my city .… But even this clock does not keep perfect time. Once or twice a week it must be adjusted a second or two by the master clock of the nation, by telegraph, from the Naval Observatory, Washington, D.C. There at the Naval Observatory is the master clock of the U.S. But this great master clock of the United States is not perfect, either. It, too, must be adjusted and corrected occasionally.

“Yes, it is corrected by the MASTER CLOCK OF THE UNIVERSE—up in the skies—by astronomers! Up there in the heavens is the great master clock that NEVER makes a mistake—is alwaysON TIME—never off a fraction of a second—the heavenly bodies coursing through the skies!

“Now you, sir—my doubting friend! If I show you my fine precision 23-jewel railroad watch and tell you that it was not made in these factories after all—in fact, it was not designed, planned, put together, by any watchmaker at all—that it just sort of HAPPENED—that the iron ores just brought themselves up out of the ground, refined themselves, formed and shaped themselves into the delicate little cogs and wheels and other pieces; the silicon just came of its own accord out of the earth and turned itself into the glass crystal; the gold case just refined itself, shaped itself; the cogs and wheels and scores of little parts just assembled themselves together in that case, wound themselves up, and started themselves to running and keeping almost perfect time—well, if I should try to tell you anything like that, you’d tell me I’m crazy or a fool, would you not?

“Certainly! You know that the presence of that watch is RATIONAL AND POSITIVE PROOF of the existence of a watchmaker, or watchmakers, who thought it all out, planned it, formed it, shaped it, put it together and started it running.

“But then you, Mr. Skeptic—you look up into the great vast sky at the MASTER CLOCK of the universe, which never misses a second—the perfect watch by which we must constantly set all our imperfect man-made watches—and you tell me, ‘That all justHAPPENED! There was no Great Watchmaker! No Master MIND thought out and planned that vast universe, brought it into being, set each star and planet in its own exact place, and started the myriad heavenly bodies coursing through space, each in its prescribed orbit, in its orderly precision. No, it just fashioned itself, put itself together, wound itself up, and started itself running. There was no Intelligence—no planning—NO CREATION—NOGOD!’

“Do you say that to me?

“If you can, I answer that I do not respect your intelligence. And the God I acknowledge replies to you, ‘None but the FOOL hath said in his heart, There is no God!’ (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).

“If you can look about you, and observe how intelligently PLANNED and executed is everything in nature and in plant and animal life—everything we see except the bungling, botching, polluting of God’s beautiful handiwork by the clumsy hand of God-ignoring-and-rejecting MAN—and then say you doubt the existence of an All-wise, All-knowing, All-powerful Creator GOD, then I do not have much faith either in your rational processes or your sincerity as a seeker of the TRUTH!”

Oh, that Herbert. He does go on. As a matter of fact, though, his “master clock”–or, rather, “MASTER CLOCK OF THE UNIVERSE”–is not the apogee of perfection that he thought it was. That honor goes to atomic clocks, which are the most accurate timepieces known and are used, among other things, to show that the rotation of the earth, for example, is slowing. This is due to tidal forces, which are at work in any situation where one body revolves around another. The moon, for its part, is tidally locked with the earth, meaning that one side of the satellite faces its host planet at all times. This, of course, was not always the case. The time taken for a body to become tidally locked is described by the following equation.

<br /><br /><br /><br /> t_{\textrm{lock}} \approx \frac{w a^6 I Q}{3 G m_p^2 k_2 R^5}<br /><br /><br /><br />

Now that’s science. Can Armstrong do that in defense of his apparently defenseless god? At any rate, what this demonstrates is that Armstrong’s cosmological timepiece, like his bling 23-jewel railroad watch, could benefit from some occasional winding.

Oh, and still no proof of the existence of God or gods here. The watchmaker analogy was refuted by the philosopher David Hume on several grounds even before it was elaborated so famously by Paley. His criticisms included the following from the Wikipedia entry:

His first objection is that we have no experience of world making…with a watch we know it has to be created by a watch-maker because we can observe it being made and compare it to the making of other similar watches or objects to deduce they have alike causes in their creation. However, he argues that we have no experience of the universe’s creation, or any other universe’s creations to compare out own universe to, and never will therefore it would be illogical to infer that our universe has been created by an intelligent designer in the same way in which a watch has.

The second criticism Hume offers is about the form of the argument as an analogy in itself. An analogical argument claims that, because object X (a watch) is like object Y (the universe) in one respect, they are therefore probably alike in another, hidden, respect (their cause i.e. having to be created by an intelligent designer). He points out that for an argument from analogy to be successful, the two things that are being compared have to have an adequate number of similarities that are relevant to the respect you are analogizing them with. For example, a kitten and a lion may be very similar in many respects, however just because a lion makes a “roar” it would not be correct to infer a kitten also made a “roar”, because the similarities between the two objects are not similar enough and the degree of relevance to what sound they make is not relevant enough. Hume then argues that the universe and a watch also do not have enough relevant or close similarities to infer that they were both created the same way. For example, the universe is made of organic natural material however the watch is made of artificial mechanic materials. He claims that in the same respect, the universe could be argued to be more analogous to something more organic such as a vegetable (in which we can observe for ourselves does not need a ‘designer’ or a ‘watchmaker’ to be created). Although he does admit the analogy of a universe to a vegetable seems ridiculous, he says that it is just as ridiculous to analogize the universe with a watch.

Further criticism from the same entry:

In The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins argues that the watch analogy conflates the difference between the complexity that arises from living organisms that are able to reproduce themselves (and as such may change to become more complex over time) and the complexity of inanimate objects, unable to pass on any reproductive changes (such as the multitude of parts manufactured in a watch). The comparison breaks down because of this important distinction…

Anthropologists Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd argue that one human could not make a watch on their own and therefore a watch does not have a designer.

It stands to reason that a watch is just as much a product of evolution as its creators, since it, like them, was not “designed” and manufactured ex nihilo, out of nothing, all at once and fully formed, but was the end result of a long series of innovations, each one building on those that came before and incorporating or discarding various forms and functions on the basis of trial and error, with the best in terms of “environmental fitness” succeeding at leaving the most commercially viable “offspring”. Today’s watches are not those of Paley’s time, and who can say how many failed prototypes are buried and forgotten under the stones and shrubs of his apocryphal heath.

Rabbits in the Precambrian

Now, we have given Jenkins’ attempt at scientifically proving the existence of his god far more than the level of attention it deserves. We have left nothing he has presented unanswered (the link to the article is right there for our readers to click on and check–here it is again). Nothing like scientific proof or evidence is there, nor does Jenkins offer so much as a logical argument in favor of any god’s existence. The best he has done in parroting Armstrong’s ideas is to cast aspersions on scientific theories and hypotheses he doesn’t understand and hasn’t bothered to investigate (Armstrong’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding–his demonstrated ignorance speaks much more loudly than his vociferous rhetoric, regardless of how much he utilizes all-caps). In doing this, he has evidenced nothing but contempt for facts, logic, and honest inquiry–truth, in other words. To conclude, he reiterates his absurdly hypocritical and self-defeating claim that those who have the integrity to follow the evidence where it leads are doing so on “faith”.

Despite the proofs presented here, many will still hold to their “faith.” It surely takes a tremendous amount of faith to believe that the entire physical universe sprang from nothing, that life came from non-life, that intelligence came from non-intelligence, and that the intricacy we see around us is not intricate at all—but random.

The concepts he slurs here by declaring them faith-based are in fact not “believed” in the way he himself believes, without question and unprovisionally, say, British-Israelism, or, for that matter, his own version of theism! We have seen what kind of nonsense passes as “proof” for Jenkins: that is to say, no proof whatsoever! No evidence, not even a good argument! And he has the nerve to use the word “faith” as a pejorative! The lack of self-awareness on display here is mind-boggling.

No, scientists and those who are thoughtful about scientific concepts do not “believe” those things the way Jenkins believes in his totally unsupported god hypothesis. Instead they accept, on the basis of good evidence of the kind that withstands years and years of scientific scrutiny, well-supported theories provisionally, that is–until disconfirming evidence comes along! This is how science proceeds: by constantly working to disprove those ideas that are put forth in its name. Scientifically-minded people look at the evidence and work to fit their beliefs to what they see there. By contrast, theists like Jenkins take their pre-conceived beliefs for granted and cast about trying to find “evidence” to confirm them. Is it any wonder the quality of the Armstrongian “proof” is so laughably poor?

Central to this dichotomy between the pre-conceived belief of theists (and thus their idea of what constitutes “proof”) and the provisional acceptance of scientists is the philosophical concept of falsifiability. The question was once put to biologist, J. B. S. Haldane, what it would take to convince him that evolution did not happen. His answer became famous as a perfect encapsulation of the concept we’re discussing here: “Fossil rabbits in the precambrian.” This is to say that the discovery of anything as evolutionarily “advanced” as a mammal in a strata of rock that evolution predicts should not contain it would have to be counted as evidence against evolution. Of course, no such disconfirming evidence has ever been found. And, as we have shown, the evidence for evolution is various and overwhelming.

The Science of Armstrongism

As for Armstrong’s god, all the content of this website stands as evidence against its existence. Yet, what would you, wise reader, suppose Jenkins would answer if questioned similarly to the biologist Haldane? What would it take to falsify, in the minds of believers, their claims of existence for such an entity as Armstrong’s Yahweh?

Well, to answer that, presumably, we would just have to show that their “proofs” are in fact false. And we have done so! Let us finally get to the point and treat Armstrong’s hypothesis (since it clearly doesn’t qualify as a theory) the way he and Jenkins are asking us to–that is, as a scientific one. How does it hold up?

Behold, the Armstrongian Hypothesis for the Existence of Yahweh:

  • The Argument from Radiometric Decay: If matter decays, then matter must not have always existed. If matter did not always exist, it must have been Created. If matter was Created, then, since a Creation demands a Creator, Yahweh. Matter decays, therefore Yahweh. Unfortunately, there are several unsupported assumptions embedded in this argument. First, it does not follow that the beginning of matter implies a special creation. Secondly, a special creation might demand a creator, but it certainly doesn’t demand any particular identity for that creator. The final argument in this syllogism then is revealed as circular, while the second one is a false dichotomy between a steady state universe or a special creation, excluding a third possibility: a big bang. The big bang theory enjoys an overwhelming abundance of observational support and handily explains the cosmology of the early universe. Theistic “first causes” are not needed, much less dusty warrior gods like Yahweh. Armstrong offers no other observational data besides the brute fact of radiometric decay and provides not even one equation in his “proof”, which is constituted entirely of fallacious argumentation.
  • The Argument from Biogenesis: If life must come from life, then it could not have come from non-life. If life could not have come from non-life, there must have been a living Creator from which it came. Life must come from life, following the Law of Biogenesis, therefore Yahweh. First of all, there is no concensus among biologists or even philosophers as to how to define “life”. In any case, to qualify for such a distinction, the entity under consideration must, at least, actually exist! We don’t consider leprechauns or unicorns to be living things, do we, unless we already believe in their existence? This argument relies on an equivocation on the word “life”, then, that allows for the inclusion of propositional concepts like Yahweh. But what do we actually know about Yahweh that could possibly justify such an inclusion? Nothing. We know nothing about Yahweh, since we are here debating his very existence, the thing this argument is marshaled to demonstrate in the first place! How can Armstrong then presume Yahweh is alive in the premise of an argument for his existence? Of course, you can’t argue that something exists by claiming it is alive! Thus we see that this, too, is another circular argument, of the form “Yahweh is alive, therefore Yahweh exists.” After all, many more supposed “creators” have been created to fill the role Armstrong is claiming exclusively for Yahweh, so Armstrong should just get in that long line. Secondly, the argument is utterly dependent on a misapprehension of the concept of biogenesis, which in fact demonstrated observational evidence against the existence of entitites like Yahweh, who supposedly brought forth living things from non-living substrates. This argument too, then, is entirely fallacious besides providing no data beyond the brute observational fact that living things reproduce rather than being created, fully formed, from the dust of the ground like Adam and Eve were purported to be. Far from supporting the existence of Yahweh or demonstrating the impossibility of abiogenesis, biogenesis actually stands as evidence against the existence of Yahweh. Epic fail, Armstrong.
  • The Argument from Astrometric Presumption: If the heavens are a perfect time-keeping machine, then, since we make watches, there must have been a watchmaker who engineered and manufactured the clockwork of the heavens. The heavens are a perfect time-keeping machine, therefore Yahweh. No, they aren’t. The periodocity of the movements of celestial bodies is variable and based on well-understood physical forces described in eminently supported theories of gravition and kinematics whose observational data do not call for the inclusion of hypothetical designers for their explanation. The overal entropy of the universe, in fact, proves that Armstrong’s proposed “MASTER CLOCK OF THE UNIVERSE” is winding down. This is an argument by analogy, which are rightly considered weak in general, and this analogy is particularly weak. It is not, in any sense, a scientific argument.

Case closed. Jenkins has demonstrated for us only that Armstrong’s arguments backfire. In attempting to make a scientific case for Yahweh, Armstrong refutes his own hypothesis. Besides there being no scientific evidence for Armstrong’s god, the very science he brings to bear on the subject puts the improbability of such an entity on display for any discerning person to see and scoff at.

So, all Jenkins and his fellow believers are left with is the faith he unwisely ridicules. How pathetic.

Surely scientists must find the religious argument absurd: Accept God’s existence because of faith in God—a circular argument if ever there was one.

No doubt about it.

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23 thoughts on “Does God Exist?–Armstrong’s Weak Sauce Theism

  1. I would agree that the existence of God cannot be proven in a strictly scientific sense. The old saying that you cannot put God in a test tube has some merit. However, the circumstantial evidence is another matter. We live in a universe which is finely tuned for life and on a planet which is finely tuned for life. If some attributes were changed even very slightly for either one then human life could not exist. At our current level of knowledge there are two ways to explain those circumstances. One is to play the numbers game and decide that we are incredibly lucky. Perhaps the multiverse theory is true and our universe out of a billion that can support life. Perhaps our planet is one out of a trillion in that one out of a billion universes that can support life. The other way to look at the fine tuning of our environment is to see intelligent design at work. Either one requires faith, because at this point science knows nothing about what came before the big bang or whether multiple universes exist. Perhaps some day that gap will be filled in. Perhaps not. For now I choose to believe in a creator. That is a choice, but to me it seems to be the most reasonable one.

    • Actually, the fine tuning argument is as bad as any other, Herbert. One of the many well-known problems with it is the fact that it relies on a strategy of considering each constant one at a time, when in fact a change in one might very well cancel out the supposed fine-tuning aspect of another. These variables are not hermetically sealed off from each other, but are instead likely to be interrelated on a fundamental level. Change one and you change another, thereby making the fine-tuning argument moot. There are many additional problems with it as well, particularly when it is utilized in the defense of a particular metaphysical stance like theism. For one thing, even if fine-tuning exists and is extensive enough to be significant, that alone would say nothing of the source of the tuning. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even necessarily follow from the fine tuning argument that an intelligent agent was involved. Some have challenged the “fine-tuned” numbers themselves, suggesting that there may not be anything there to begin with. Fine-tuning arguments are also an example of carbon chauvinism, since carbon-based life is not the only kind possible (silicon would work too). When you say “fine-tuned for life”, you really just mean fine-tuned for life as we know it. And that, even if it’s true, is self-defeating, since life as we know it is just the way things turned out, a contingency and nothing more. In other words, we are fine-tuned for the universe we find ourselves in and not vice versa.

    • Furthermore, what’s so special about “life” (particularly life as we know it)? Life is just another thing–if that! It’s more in the realm of a fuzzy philosophical concept. As a matter of fact, we don’t even know what life is. We can’t define it. It makes no sense to argue that the physical constants are “fine-tuned” for some property we can’t even define.

    • “I would agree that the existence of God cannot be proven in a strictly scientific sense.”

      The truth is the existence of any god or demon or angel or spirit cannot even be argued for without resorting to wish thinking, faith, special pleading, and other fallacies. Besides being unscientific, there is nothing of any philosophical merit to supernatural claims; they are hogwash, plain and simple.

      “Either one requires faith, because at this point science knows nothing about what came before the big bang or whether multiple universes exist. Perhaps some day that gap will be filled in. Perhaps not. For now I choose to believe in a creator. That is a choice, but to me it seems to be the most reasonable one.”

      Nonsense. Saying “I don’t know,” requires no faith whatsoever. At least not the kind you mean. You shift the burden of proof when you assign the “faith” label to non-belief in supernatural agents. The ultimate black box of origins (both of life as we know it and of the universe itself) has not yet yielded to the investigative proddings of Science, but that does not instantiate an obligation to capitulate the pursuit of real answers in favor of slack-jawed belief in imaginary beings. It just doesn’t follow. Maybe the enigma will never be fully resolved, but either way, saying science doesn’t know the answer is not the same thing as knowing the answer yourself, and you’re running out of gaps for your god to hide in. Given all this, believing in such an entity is hardly reasonable.

  2. “Actually, the fine tuning argument is as bad as any other, Herbert. One of the many well-known problems with it is the fact that it relies on a strategy of considering each constant one at a time, when in fact a change in one might very well cancel out the supposed fine-tuning aspect of another. These variables are not hermetically sealed off from each other, but are instead likely to be interrelated on a fundamental level. Change one and you change another, thereby making the fine-tuning argument moot.”

    Nonsense. The fact that the constants are interrelated makes them even more remarkable, not less so.

    “There are many additional problems with it as well, particularly when it is utilized in the defense of a particular metaphysical stance like theism. For one thing, even if fine-tuning exists and is extensive enough to be significant, that alone would say nothing of the source of the tuning. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even necessarily follow from the fine tuning argument that an intelligent agent was involved.”

    No, it doesn’t, but it is certainly one possibility.

    “Some have challenged the “fine-tuned” numbers themselves, suggesting that there may not be anything there to begin with. Fine-tuning arguments are also an example of carbon chauvinism, since carbon-based life is not the only kind possible (silicon would work too). When you say “fine-tuned for life”, you really just mean fine-tuned for life as we know it.”

    I said nothing about what kind of life might be produced in a fine-tuned universe. Yes, we are biased towards carbon-based life because so far that is the only kind we have seen, and, yes, silicon is another possible basis for life. There may be some other substance which could serve as a basis for life about which we know nothing at this point.

    “And that, even if it’s true, is self-defeating, since life as we know it is just the way things turned out, a contingency and nothing more. In other words, we are fine-tuned for the universe we find ourselves in and not vice versa.”

    It is not really accurate to say we are fine-tuned for the universe, because most of the universe is deadly to life as we know it. More specifically, we are fine-tuned for life on an oasis called Earth, and it is fine-tuned for us to exist on it. And in a larger sense Earth is fine-tuned to exist in the universe at large.

    “Furthermore, what’s so special about “life” (particularly life as we know it)? Life is just another thing–if that! It’s more in the realm of a fuzzy philosophical concept. As a matter of fact, we don’t even know what life is. We can’t define it. It makes no sense to argue that the physical constants are “fine-tuned” for some property we can’t even define.”

    One of the problems with an atheistic world view is that identifies life as just another “thing”. An unborn child is just another “thing”, so it is easy to abort it if it is inconvenient. For Hitler the Jew was just another “thing” to be eradicated. The first step in destroying human life is to dehumanize it.

    “As a matter of fact, we don’t even know what life is. We can’t define it. It makes no sense to argue that the physical constants are “fine-tuned” for some property we can’t even define.”

    There is no great mystery about what life is. It is homeostatic, organized, metabolic, growing, adaptive, responsive to stimuli, and reproductive. You can debate whether something such as fire is alive, but as a general concept we can recognize life.

    “The truth is the existence of any god or demon or angel or spirit cannot even be argued for without resorting to wish thinking, faith, special pleading, and other fallacies. Besides being unscientific, there is nothing of any philosophical merit to supernatural claims; they are hogwash, plain and simple.”

    Atheism is intellectually dishonest because there is no proof that God does not exist. Agnosticism is a more defensible position. You can tell me you don’t know whether God exists and we can agree to disagree, but you cannot honestly say that you know for sure that God does not exist. And please spare me the tooth fairy argument. The concept of God is far more profound than the concept of the tooth fairy. Besides, for all we know the tooth fairy may be out there someplace. You don’t know and I don’t know. There is much we don’t know. But circumstantial evidence for the existence of God is far more robust than it is for the tooth fairy.

    “Saying “I don’t know,” requires no faith whatsoever.”

    No, it doesn’t, which is why I think you should be honest enough to say you don’t know whether God exists instead of dogmatically insisting that God does not exist.

    “You shift the burden of proof when you assign the “faith” label to non-belief in supernatural agents.”

    Actually, denying the existence of God requires faith because you have no proof that God does not exist.

    “The ultimate black box of origins (both of life as we know it and of the universe itself) has not yet yielded to the investigative proddings of Science, but that does not instantiate an obligation to capitulate the pursuit of real answers in favor of slack-jawed belief in imaginary beings.”

    I am not suggesting that we halt the pursuit of answers through science.

    “Maybe the enigma will never be fully resolved, but either way, saying science doesn’t know the answer is not the same thing as knowing the answer yourself, and you’re running out of gaps for your god to hide in. Given all this, believing in such an entity is hardly reasonable.”

    Being dogmatically sure that such an entity does not exist is not reasonable at all. And while your constant referral to the “god of the gaps” sets up a straw man — or a straw god — to conveniently knock over, there will never come a time when we can say with 100% certainty that God does not exist.

  3. “The fact that the constants are interrelated makes them even more remarkable, not less so.”

    What? How? At any rate, you’re not following the logic. If one value is tied to another, then the argument for any single discrete value being necessary for life is invalidated, since the change in one value supposedly necessary to make life impossible might very well instantiate a change in another value that makes life possible again, given the new parameters reflected in the original change.

    “No, it doesn’t, but it is certainly one possibility.”

    Lots of things are possible. But sensible people don’t typically believe in things just because they are possible.

    “I said nothing about what kind of life might be produced in a fine-tuned universe.”

    So you concede that the fine-tuning argument is dead in the water, since it is based wholly on carbon-based life.

    “It is not really accurate to say we are fine-tuned for the universe, because most of the universe is deadly to life as we know it. More specifically, we are fine-tuned for life on an oasis called Earth, and it is fine-tuned for us to exist on it. And in a larger sense Earth is fine-tuned to exist in the universe at large.”

    All this fine-tuning talk is confusing you. I know that it isn’t really accurate to say that we are fine-tuned for the universe. Evolution doesn’t do fine tuning–at least not in a teleological way. But when you try to argue that the universe is “fine-tuned”, you should be prepared to be answered in your own language–imprecise as it is. As for your contention that we are fine-tuned for living on earth AND that earth is fine-tuned for us to exist on it, well, that just doesn’t make sense. You can’t have it both ways. Either the earth was designed with us in mind, or it wasn’t, and instead we evolved to fit in the habitat we arose in.

    “One of the problems with an atheistic world view is that identifies life as just another “thing”. An unborn child is just another “thing”, so it is easy to abort it if it is inconvenient. For Hitler the Jew was just another “thing” to be eradicated. The first step in destroying human life is to dehumanize it.”

    Aaaaand Godwinned. You people just can’t help it, can you? Look, an honest discussion of the nature of biological life should not lead any normal, sane person to cast accusations of Nazism. I may not know what biological life is, but that does not mean I don’t know what a human is–and it sure as fuck does not make me Hitler. I’m a Humanist who holds to very high ethical standards (and, yes, that includes my support for a woman’s right to reproductive autonomy). Most atheists are, which you would know if you weren’t such a prejudiced cunt. Can the unsubstantiated attacks if you wish to have a discussion.

    “There is no great mystery about what life is. It is homeostatic, organized, metabolic, growing, adaptive, responsive to stimuli, and reproductive. You can debate whether something such as fire is alive, but as a general concept we can recognize life.”

    You’re just uninformed. That’s one definition, but it isn’t sufficient–not even for biological life, to say nothing of deeper questions about what it means to be “alive” in the first place. Here is what the Wikipedia entry has to say: “It is a challenge for scientists and philosophers to define life in unequivocal terms.[30][31][32] This is difficult partly because life is a process, not a pure substance.[33][34] Any definition must be sufficiently broad to encompass all life with which we are familiar, and must be sufficiently general to include life that may be fundamentally different from life on Earth.[35][36][37] Some may even consider that life is not real at all, but a concept instead.[38]” I recommend you do some reading on this subject before you consider it settled. You can start with Weird Life by David Toomey. It’s a light read.

    “Atheism is intellectually dishonest because there is no proof that God does not exist.”

    Non-sequitur. Shifting the burden of proof. I don’t have to prove your hypothesis is false–you have to prove it is true. Until then, I’m under no obligation to accept it. In fact, my intellectual honesty compels me to reject it on that basis.

    “Agnosticism is a more defensible position. You can tell me you don’t know whether God exists and we can agree to disagree, but you cannot honestly say that you know for sure that God does not exist.”

    False choice fallacy. You are excluding several positions on the matrix of belief/epistemology. For example, agnostic theism: the belief in a god without claiming knowledge of its existence. Similarly, I, as an agnostic atheist, claim no knowledge of the non-existence of a generalized “god”, but nor do I feel any compulsion to believe in one. I suggest you read up on these positions a bit more before deciding you know which ones people hold.

    “And please spare me the tooth fairy argument. The concept of God is far more profound than the concept of the tooth fairy. Besides, for all we know the tooth fairy may be out there someplace.”

    And you obviously don’t believe in them, do you? Case closed. I don’t believe in your god the same way you don’t believe in fairies, and likely for similar reasons. You may, in your biased worldview, consider the Fey to be less profound than your theistic conceits based on Bronze Age weather mythology and warrior cults, but comparative profundity turns out to be a pretty subjective affair once you dig a little deeper into the deep historical origins of the beliefs in question.

    “You don’t know and I don’t know. There is much we don’t know. But circumstantial evidence for the existence of God is far more robust than it is for the tooth fairy.”

    Not really.

    “No, it doesn’t, which is why I think you should be honest enough to say you don’t know whether God exists instead of dogmatically insisting that God does not exist.”

    I don’t know, and I don’t believe. I have no reason to, despite your unsupported contention that there is more evidence for “God” than for the tooth fairy. Which “God”? What are its characteristics? Define the entity in question. Only then can we meaningfully talk about “circumstantial evidence”.

    “Actually, denying the existence of God requires faith because you have no proof that God does not exist.”

    This was addressed. Atheism is the non-belief in gods. Simple. It requires no support of a counter-argument such as “no gods exist”. To require one to believe unless he can disprove is shifting the philosophic burden of proof. I disbelieve because you and your ilk have offered no evidence in support of your hypothesis–whatever it is. I don’t accept it–I reject it–I deny it–however you like to parse it–and I am logically and intellectually secure in doing so without being obligated to pursue some further line of reasoning like “gods don’t exist”. I don’t claim to have knowledge on that question, but I’m not obligated therefore to believe in gods (again, which one or ones, and how do I decide in cases of mutual exclusion?), since there is no evidence for them–so I…say it with me…DON’T BELIEVE.

    “I am not suggesting that we halt the pursuit of answers through science.”

    No, I didn’t say you were. My point was that your “circumstantial evidence”, shoddy as it is, continues to shrink as it dances to the tune of scientific discovery. And every time you see a gap and shout, “goddidit!”, you are not only making a fool of yourself, but you ARE suggesting that you value your preconceived belief system over real answers.

    “Being dogmatically sure that such an entity does not exist is not reasonable at all. And while your constant referral to the “god of the gaps” sets up a straw man — or a straw god — to conveniently knock over, there will never come a time when we can say with 100% certainty that God does not exist.”

    Again, atheism implies no dogmatic certainty that gods don’t exist (however they may be defined–again, an open question, since you modern theists are always so reticent when it comes to nailing down exactly what this “god” thing is supposed to be–convenient that). What it implies, indeed its definition is, non-belief in gods. That’s it. And it is wholly warranted from an intellectual and philosophical perspective given the complete lack of evidence in support of the hypothesis in question, coupled with its highly implausible nature (on certain specific definitions of “god”, at least).

    As for “god of the gaps” being a straw man, I don’t know how you can say that since your whole argument was that you have chosen to believe in “god” (again, whatever that might be) BECAUSE science hasn’t yet explained the Big Bang. That is the DEFINITION of a god of the gaps argument.

    Now, I know you will agree with me that there will never come a time when we can say with 100% certainty that fairies do not exist. And you are under no philosophical burden to believe in them on that account. But if you had people constantly churning out books with titles like “Do Fairies Exist?”, setting up institutions to collect money on the basis of belief in fairies, and voting in accordance with their fairyist beliefs on important public policies that affect your daily life–if all of that were true, then I suspect you might have something to say about the lack of evidence for fairies and the poor arguments marshaled in their support.

  4. 1
    “The fact that the constants are interrelated makes them even more remarkable, not less so.”

    “What? How? At any rate, you’re not following the logic. If one value is tied to another, then the argument for any single discrete value being necessary for life is invalidated, since the change in one value supposedly necessary to make life impossible might very well instantiate a change in another value that makes life possible again, given the new parameters reflected in the original change.”

    It does not matter whether the constants are discrete or interrelated. The point is that the fine tuning is there.
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    2
    “No, it doesn’t, but it is certainly one possibility.”

    “Lots of things are possible. But sensible people don’t typically believe in things just because they are possible.”

    Nor do sensible people irrationally reject even the possibility that God exists.
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    3
    “I said nothing about what kind of life might be produced in a fine-tuned universe.”

    “So you concede that the fine-tuning argument is dead in the water, since it is based wholly on carbon-based life.”

    No, I concede nothing. We talk about carbon-based life because that is the only kind we have found so far. If the universe is also fine-tuned for other kinds of life then so be it.
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    4
    “It is not really accurate to say we are fine-tuned for the universe, because most of the universe is deadly to life as we know it. More specifically, we are fine-tuned for life on an oasis called Earth, and it is fine-tuned for us to exist on it. And in a larger sense Earth is fine-tuned to exist in the universe at large.”

    “All this fine-tuning talk is confusing you. I know that it isn’t really accurate to say that we are fine-tuned for the universe. Evolution doesn’t do fine tuning–at least not in a teleological way. But when you try to argue that the universe is “fine-tuned”, you should be prepared to be answered in your own language–imprecise as it is. As for your contention that we are fine-tuned for living on earth AND that earth is fine-tuned for us to exist on it, well, that just doesn’t make sense. You can’t have it both ways. Either the earth was designed with us in mind, or it wasn’t, and instead we evolved to fit in the habitat we arose in.”

    False choice fallacy. You ignore the possibility that God worked through evolution to design both the earth for us and us for the earth.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    5
    “One of the problems with an atheistic world view is that identifies life as just another “thing”. An unborn child is just another “thing”, so it is easy to abort it if it is inconvenient. For Hitler the Jew was just another “thing” to be eradicated. The first step in destroying human life is to dehumanize it.”

    “Aaaaand Godwinned. You people just can’t help it, can you?”

    What does “Aaaaand Godwinned” mean? And what “people” am I?
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    6
    “Look, an honest discussion of the nature of biological life should not lead any normal, sane person to cast accusations of Nazism. I may not know what biological life is, but that does not mean I don’t know what a human is–and it sure as fuck does not make me Hitler.”

    I did not cast accusations of Nazism. It is good you know what a human is. I did not accuse you of being Hitler.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    7
    “I’m a Humanist who holds to very high ethical standards…”

    That’s good.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    8
    “…(and, yes, that includes my support for a woman’s right to reproductive autonomy).”

    That’s a polite term for abortion, and that’s not so good, but a lot of people believe in “reproductive autonomy”, and it is not under discussion here.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    9
    “Most atheists are (have high ethical standards)…”

    You are correct. I agree that most atheists, agnostics, agnostic atheists, atheistic agnostics, agnostic theists, theistic agnostics, and whatever other category there might be in the atheist/agnostic community hold high ethical standards. Many atheists and agnostics are far more ethical than some so-called Christians.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    10
    “…which you would know if you weren’t such a prejudiced cunt. Can the unsubstantiated attacks if you wish to have a discussion.”

    Now, now, ad hominem attacks are unbecoming. Read my words again. I did not say nor imply that you would perpetrate nor condone atrocities resulting from an atheistic world view. I merely said that such atrocities can result from such a world view. They can result from religious fanaticism also, and the results are just as reprehensible.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    11
    “There is no great mystery about what life is. It is homeostatic, organized, metabolic, growing, adaptive, responsive to stimuli, and reproductive. You can debate whether something such as fire is alive, but as a general concept we can recognize life.”

    “You’re just uninformed. That’s one definition, but it isn’t sufficient–not even for biological life, to say nothing of deeper questions about what it means to be “alive” in the first place. Here is what the Wikipedia entry has to say: ‘It is a challenge for scientists and philosophers to define life in unequivocal terms.[30][31][32] This is difficult partly because life is a process, not a pure substance.[33][34] Any definition must be sufficiently broad to encompass all life with which we are familiar, and must be sufficiently general to include life that may be fundamentally different from life on Earth.[35][36][37] Some may even consider that life is not real at all, but a concept instead.[38]’”

    You can use fuzzy philosophical obfuscation all you want, but it does not change the fact that we have a general idea of what is alive and what is not. You yourself said you know what a human is. Humans are alive — at least the ones that aren’t dead are — and humans are primarily what we are talking about here.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    12
    “I recommend you do some reading on this subject before you consider it settled. You can start with Weird Life by David Toomey. It’s a light read.”

    I realize that most of your discourse on this blog is with those whom you consider to be your intellectual inferiors. That makes it a rather light read.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    13
    “Atheism is intellectually dishonest because there is no proof that God does not exist.”

    “Non-sequitur. Shifting the burden of proof. I don’t have to prove your hypothesis is false–you have to prove it is true. Until then, I’m under no obligation to accept it. In fact, my intellectual honesty compels me to reject it on that basis.”

    Your “burden of proof” is nothing more than a smoke screen to disguise an irrational rejection of even the possibility that God exists. The issue is not the “burden of proof”. The issue is the probability that a certain condition exists, which in this case is the existence of God. I may look at the world and the universe around me and decide there is a 98% possibility that God does exist. The other 2% admits that the humanist position may be true and there is no God at all. But you seem to look at the same world and universe and take the position that there is a 100% probability that God does not exist. I’m willing to admit the possibility that God does not exist, although I think the evidence is sufficient to say that God exists. But your position seems to allow for no possibility of God’s existence. There is no way you can know for sure that God does not exist.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    14
    “Agnosticism is a more defensible position. You can tell me you don’t know whether God exists and we can agree to disagree, but you cannot honestly say that you know for sure that God does not exist.”

    “False choice fallacy. You are excluding several positions on the matrix of belief/epistemology. For example, agnostic theism: the belief in a god without claiming knowledge of its existence. Similarly, I, as an agnostic atheist, claim no knowledge of the non-existence of a generalized “god”, but nor do I feel any compulsion to believe in one. I suggest you read up on these positions a bit more before deciding you know which ones people hold.”

    “Agnostic atheist” is an oxymoron. According to the official website of American Atheists, atheism is “a lack of belief in gods”. That definition is not tempered by any lack of dogmatic certainty that gods don’t exist. It is simply an absolute 100% dogmatic conviction that gods do not exist. And you yourself state in section 20, “Atheism is the non-belief in gods. Simple.” You say you are not an atheist, but rather an agnostic atheist. Agnosticism is about evidence and atheism is about belief. As an agnostic, you have no evidence for the non-existence of God. And as Carl Sagan so eloquently stated, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Therefore to be consistent you must admit to the possibility that God exists. But as an atheist, you cannot admit that, because atheism is a dogmatic assertion that God does not exist. That is why the term agnostic atheism is an oxymoron. Using the two words together is simply not logically consistent. I suggest you read up on these positions a bit more before deciding which one you hold.
    _______________________________________________________________________________
    15
    “And please spare me the tooth fairy argument. The concept of God is far more profound than the concept of the tooth fairy. Besides, for all we know the tooth fairy may be out there someplace.”

    “And you obviously don’t believe in them, do you? Case closed.”

    No, the case is not closed. I believe the possibility of the existence of the tooth fairy is vanishingly small, but I cannot rule it out completely. Perhaps the idea of the tooth fairy is based on some entity about which we know nothing.
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    16
    “I don’t believe in your god the same way you don’t believe in fairies, and likely for similar reasons.”

    If that is true, then you believe the probability of the existence of God is vanishingly small, but you don’t totally rule it out. I said the tooth fairy may exist. Are you willing to say that God may exist?
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    17
    “You may, in your biased worldview, consider the Fey to be less profound than your theistic conceits based on Bronze Age weather mythology and warrior cults, but comparative profundity turns out to be a pretty subjective affair once you dig a little deeper into the deep historical origins of the beliefs in question.”

    There you go again: Bronze Age weather mythology and warrior cults. None of that has anything to do with whether God exists. Such views only represent human concepts of God in antiquity. When it comes to profundity, the natural world provides much circumstantial evidence of a creator. And most people don’t base their belief in God on scientific and/or philosophical arguments. In many cases they have had deep spiritual experiences which they attribute to God. As a humanist, you would write that sort of thing off as superstition, emotionalism, mental illness, a biased world view, fanaticism, etc., etc., so I will not debate that with you. But there is a level of profundity there in the human experience that we cannot ascribe to the tooth fairy.
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    18
    “You don’t know and I don’t know. There is much we don’t know. But circumstantial evidence for the existence of God is far more robust than it is for the tooth fairy.”

    “Not really.”

    Yes, really.
    ____________________________________________________________________________________
    19
    “No, it doesn’t, which is why I think you should be honest enough to say you don’t know whether God exists instead of dogmatically insisting that God does not exist.”

    “I don’t know, and I don’t believe. I have no reason to, despite your unsupported contention that there is more evidence for “God” than for the tooth fairy. Which “God”? What are its characteristics? Define the entity in question. Only then can we meaningfully talk about “circumstantial evidence”.”
    Marshall Brain defines God in what he calls the Standard Model of God. It consists of ten points, but the first two will suffice for our purposes here:

    1) God is the almighty ruler of the universe. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, timeless, omnipresent and perfect.
    2) God is the creator of everything. He created the universe and the earth.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    20
    “Actually, denying the existence of God requires faith because you have no proof that God does not exist.”

    “This was addressed. Atheism is the non-belief in gods. Simple. It requires no support of a counter-argument such as “no gods exist”.”

    See section 14. You identify yourself as an agnostic atheist. You have no knowledge about the non-existence of God. Therefore, to be consistent you must allow for the possibility of the existence of God. Are you willing to do so?
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    21
    “To require one to believe unless he can disprove is shifting the philosophic burden of proof.”

    This was addressed in section 13. It has nothing to do with a burden of proof. It has to do with the probability of whether God exists.
    ________________________________________________________________________________

    22
    “I disbelieve because you and your ilk have offered no evidence in support of your hypothesis–whatever it is.”

    What exactly is my ilk? What ilk group do I belong to?
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    23
    “I don’t accept it–I reject it–I deny it–however you like to parse it–and I am logically and intellectually secure in doing so without being obligated to pursue some further line of reasoning like “gods don’t exist”. I don’t claim to have knowledge on that question, but I’m not obligated therefore to believe in gods (again, which one or ones, and how do I decide in cases of mutual exclusion?), since there is no evidence for them–so I…say it with me…DON’T BELIEVE.”

    You are also not obligated to be intellectually honest.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    24
    “I am not suggesting that we halt the pursuit of answers through science.”

    “No, I didn’t say you were. My point was that your “circumstantial evidence”, shoddy as it is, continues to shrink as it dances to the tune of scientific discovery. And every time you see a gap and shout, “goddidit!”, you are not only making a fool of yourself, but you ARE suggesting that you value your preconceived belief system over real answers.”

    You suggest that belief in God consists of a bunch of ignoramuses seeing a “gap” and shouting “God did it!” Believe it or not, many people who believe in God are just as intelligent as you are. Maybe in some cases even more so.
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    25
    “Being dogmatically sure that such an entity does not exist is not reasonable at all. And while your constant referral to the “god of the gaps” sets up a straw man — or a straw god — to conveniently knock over, there will never come a time when we can say with 100% certainty that God does not exist.”

    “Again, atheism implies no dogmatic certainty that gods don’t exist…”

    Not so. See section 14. According to the official website of American Atheists, atheism is “a lack of belief in gods”. That definition is not tempered by any lack of dogmatic certainty that gods don’t exist. It is simply an absolute 100% dogmatic conviction that gods do not exist.
    _______________________________________________________________________________
    26
    “(however they may be defined–again, an open question, since you modern theists are always so reticent when it comes to nailing down exactly what this “god” thing is supposed to be–convenient that).”

    A definition is provided in section 19.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    27
    “What it implies, indeed its definition is, non-belief in gods. That’s it. And it is wholly warranted from an intellectual and philosophical perspective given the complete lack of evidence in support of the hypothesis in question, coupled with its highly implausible nature (on certain specific definitions of “god”, at least).”

    See section 14. You are an agnostic atheist. As an agnostic you have no knowledge of any evidence pointing to the non-existence of God. Therefore, God may exist. Are you willing to admit that possibility?
    ________________________________________________________________________________
    28
    “As for “god of the gaps” being a straw man, I don’t know how you can say that since your whole argument was that you have chosen to believe in “god” (again, whatever that might be) BECAUSE science hasn’t yet explained the Big Bang. That is the DEFINITION of a god of the gaps argument.”

    The gaps are not the point. It’s what we do know — not what we don’t know — that points towards the existence of God. The deeper we look into the creation the more beauty and complexity we see.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    29
    “Now, I know you will agree with me that there will never come a time when we can say with 100% certainty that fairies do not exist.”

    Yes, I agree. There will also never come a time when we can say with 100% certainty that God does not exist.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    30
    “And you are under no philosophical burden to believe in them on that account.”

    Since the probability of their existence is not zero, I am under a philosophical burden to admit that tooth fairies may exist. I may feel the probability of their existence is so low that they have no impact on my life, i.e., I will not leave a tooth under my pillow in expectation of monetary remuneration. However, the probability of the existence of the fairies is still not zero. Likewise, you may feel that the probability of the existence of God is sufficiently low that it impacts not at all on your life. But since the probability is not zero you must admit that God may exist.
    _________________________________________________________________________________
    31
    “But if you had people constantly churning out books with titles like “Do Fairies Exist?”, setting up institutions to collect money on the basis of belief in fairies, and voting in accordance with their fairyist beliefs on important public policies that affect your daily life–if all of that were true, then I suspect you might have something to say about the lack of evidence for fairies and the poor arguments marshaled in their support.”

    Perhaps. But people act on belief in all sorts of odd things, and most of them concern me not at all. I would most likely ignore the fairyists.
    ________________________________________________________________________________

    • 1
      “It does not matter whether the constants are discrete or interrelated. The point is that the fine tuning is there.”

      You’re still missing the point. You can’t talk about the fine tuning of individual constants if they are interrelated, since this complicates the so-called fine tuning to the point that it is completely unintelligible. You either have to work out how all the relationships work and then determine whether those new numbers are fine-tuned, or you have to just shut up about fine-tuning.
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      2
      “Nor do sensible people irrationally reject even the possibility that God exists.”

      Agnostic atheists don’t do this, and you know that I’m not doing this. See below. Furthermore, it is possible for something to be possible and yet so implausible that believing in it is irrational (or do you irrationally reject this?). Almost anything is possible. Possibility is not the requisite for belief; plausibility is.
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      3
      “No, I concede nothing. We talk about carbon-based life because that is the only kind we have found so far. If the universe is also fine-tuned for other kinds of life then so be it.”

      So be it? You obviously don’t understand the problem with your reasoning here. The fine-tuning arguments are based on carbon, not silicon. The possibility of silicon-based life makes the carbon fine-tuning argument obsolete, since carbon would not be necessary for silicon-based life. So, we may have a universe “fine-tuned” for the existence of carbon, but not one “fine-tuned” for the existence of life.

      ________________________________________________________________________________
      4
      “False choice fallacy. You ignore the possibility that God worked through evolution to design both the earth for us and us for the earth.”

      I’m not ignoring it as a possibility, I’m ignoring it as a hypothesis that makes any kind of sense. Please describe the mechanism by which your “god” worked through evolution, and then show me some evidence of such work.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      5
      What does “Aaaaand Godwinned” mean? And what “people” am I?

      Google is your friend and you’re one of those people who try to “win” arguments by casting aspersions.
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      6
      “I did not cast accusations of Nazism. It is good you know what a human is. I did not accuse you of being Hitler.”

      You committed a slippery slope fallacy that implied it. Stop being disingenuous.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      7
      “I’m a Humanist who holds to very high ethical standards…”

      That’s good.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      8
      “That’s a polite term for abortion, and that’s not so good, but a lot of people believe in “reproductive autonomy”, and it is not under discussion here.”

      I don’t really care how you want to frame it, and you brought it up, dipshit.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      9
      “Most atheists are (have high ethical standards)…”

      You are correct. I agree that most atheists, agnostics, agnostic atheists, atheistic agnostics, agnostic theists, theistic agnostics, and whatever other category there might be in the atheist/agnostic community hold high ethical standards. Many atheists and agnostics are far more ethical than some so-called Christians.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      10
      “Now, now, ad hominem attacks are unbecoming. Read my words again. I did not say nor imply that you would perpetrate nor condone atrocities resulting from an atheistic world view. I merely said that such atrocities can result from such a world view. They can result from religious fanaticism also, and the results are just as reprehensible.”

      Then can the useless rhetoric about “the problem with atheism”, because you just contradicted yourself. And I wasn’t doing ad hominem; My insult was not an argument. Ad hominem is “to the man”–more like when you say, “Your position is wrong because you’re an atheist.”
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      11
      “You can use fuzzy philosophical obfuscation all you want, but it does not change the fact that we have a general idea of what is alive and what is not. You yourself said you know what a human is. Humans are alive — at least the ones that aren’t dead are — and humans are primarily what we are talking about here.”

      No they aren’t! You really aren’t following the discussion. Life is what we’re talking about here, however that is supposed to be defined. Claiming some special status for h. sapiens is outside the scope of this discussion. And I wasn’t obfuscating! You want to have a discussion with a fucking brick wall, go ahead. I was referring you to arguments in the scientific and philosophical literature. If you don’t like that your view is not supported by the relevant science or philosophy, that’s not an indication I’m obfuscating. It’s an indication of your ignorance.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      12
      “I realize that most of your discourse on this blog is with those whom you consider to be your intellectual inferiors. That makes it a rather light read.”

      Spare me.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      13
      “Your “burden of proof” is nothing more than a smoke screen to disguise an irrational rejection of even the possibility that God exists. The issue is not the “burden of proof”. The issue is the probability that a certain condition exists, which in this case is the existence of God. I may look at the world and the universe around me and decide there is a 98% possibility that God does exist. The other 2% admits that the humanist position may be true and there is no God at all. But you seem to look at the same world and universe and take the position that there is a 100% probability that God does not exist. I’m willing to admit the possibility that God does not exist, although I think the evidence is sufficient to say that God exists. But your position seems to allow for no possibility of God’s existence. There is no way you can know for sure that God does not exist.”

      At this point you are just completely ignoring everything I say. Respect is earned and you have lost mine. Further, if you think such basic and important concepts as burden of proof are a smokescreen then I ask you to prove that you aren’t a child molester. And don’t put up any smokescreen about innocent until proven guilty. I look at the way you act and I can tell with about 97.6% confidence that you like to stick your tiny cock into babies.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      14
      “Agnostic atheist” is an oxymoron.”

      That’s enough. You’re an idiot.
      _______________________________________________________________________________
      15
      “And please spare me the tooth fairy argument. The concept of God is far more profound than the concept of the tooth fairy. Besides, for all we know the tooth fairy may be out there someplace.”

      “And you obviously don’t believe in them, do you? Case closed.”

      No, the case is not closed. I believe the possibility of the existence of the tooth fairy is vanishingly small, but I cannot rule it out completely. Perhaps the idea of the tooth fairy is based on some entity about which we know nothing.
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      16
      “If that is true, then you believe the probability of the existence of God is vanishingly small, but you don’t totally rule it out. I said the tooth fairy may exist. Are you willing to say that God may exist?”

      Jesus fucking Christ. Will you learn how to read already?
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      17
      “When it comes to profundity, the natural world provides much circumstantial evidence of a creator.”

      Maybe to an idiot like you it does. But, no, it doesn’t.

      “And most people don’t base their belief in God on scientific and/or philosophical arguments.”

      No, only morons.

      “In many cases they have had deep spiritual experiences which they attribute to God. As a humanist, you would write that sort of thing off as superstition, emotionalism, mental illness, a biased world view, fanaticism, etc., etc., so I will not debate that with you. But there is a level of profundity there in the human experience that we cannot ascribe to the tooth fairy.”

      You are clearly biased against the Fey and favor your own superstitions.
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      18
      “Yes, really.”

      Is that the kind of profundity you are talking about? You keep asserting that belief in Yahweh is somehow more profound than other superstitious beliefs, but an assertion is not an argument.
      ____________________________________________________________________________________
      19
      “1) God is the almighty ruler of the universe. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, timeless, omnipresent and perfect.”

      Philosophically unsound. Problem of evil.

      “2) God is the creator of everything. He created the universe and the earth.”

      Philosophically and scientifically unsound. No evidence.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      20
      “See section 14. You identify yourself as an agnostic atheist. You have no knowledge about the non-existence of God. Therefore, to be consistent you must allow for the possibility of the existence of God. Are you willing to do so?”

      You need to read more and practice noticing what is being said. I answered this in no uncertain terms. It is the definition of agnostic atheist, which you, in your profound arrogance and ignorance, declare an “oxymoron”. Moron.
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      21
      “This was addressed in section 13. It has nothing to do with a burden of proof. It has to do with the probability of whether God exists.”

      And what, pray tell, is the probability? You just threw out a number off the top of your head. An assertion. That’s not how probability works. And in the absence of some quantifiable value like a probability, yes, it has everything to do with burden of proof. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. You have none and the burden is on you to demonstrate some.
      ________________________________________________________________________________

      22
      “What exactly is my ilk? What ilk group do I belong to?”

      Theists, dumbass. Why the fuck do I have to spell everything out to you?
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      23
      “You are also not obligated to be intellectually honest.”

      Why do you keep using a phrase you don’t understand?
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      24
      “You suggest that belief in God consists of a bunch of ignoramuses seeing a “gap” and shouting “God did it!” Believe it or not, many people who believe in God are just as intelligent as you are. Maybe in some cases even more so.”

      Where did I ask for an IQ contest? It has nothing to do with intelligence. Plenty of smart people believe dumb things. It has to do with evidence. There is none. End of story.
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      25
      “Not so. See section 14. According to the official website of American Atheists, atheism is “a lack of belief in gods”. That definition is not tempered by any lack of dogmatic certainty that gods don’t exist. It is simply an absolute 100% dogmatic conviction that gods do not exist.”

      And you continue to demonstrate your lack of reading comprehension. A LACK of belief is not a belief. You idiot. The definition isn’t “tempered” by a “lack of dogmatic certainty” because it isn’t crafted for dishonest hacks who are trying to insinuate something, but for normal everyday people who know how to read. In other words, not you.
      _______________________________________________________________________________
      26
      “A definition is provided in section 19.”

      An insufficient one.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      27
      “See section 14. You are an agnostic atheist. As an agnostic you have no knowledge of any evidence pointing to the non-existence of God. Therefore, God may exist. Are you willing to admit that possibility?”

      Go away. Just fucking go away.
      ________________________________________________________________________________
      28
      “The gaps are not the point. It’s what we do know — not what we don’t know — that points towards the existence of God. The deeper we look into the creation the more beauty and complexity we see.”

      Beauty and complexity are not evidence of anything. Again, there is no evidence. The only evidence you offered was, in fact, a god of the gaps argument: we can’t explain the origins of stuff, so, goddidit. You are one of the most dishonest people I’ve ever met.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      29
      “Yes, I agree. There will also never come a time when we can say with 100% certainty that God does not exist.”

      So what?
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      30
      “Since the probability of their existence is not zero, I am under a philosophical burden to admit that tooth fairies may exist. I may feel the probability of their existence is so low that they have no impact on my life, i.e., I will not leave a tooth under my pillow in expectation of monetary remuneration. However, the probability of the existence of the fairies is still not zero. Likewise, you may feel that the probability of the existence of God is sufficiently low that it impacts not at all on your life. But since the probability is not zero you must admit that God may exist.”

      Hey, you’re finally getting it. This is exactly why I’m an atheist. Same reasoning you use to support your a-fairy-ist dogma. Amen.
      _________________________________________________________________________________
      31
      “But if you had people constantly churning out books with titles like “Do Fairies Exist?”, setting up institutions to collect money on the basis of belief in fairies, and voting in accordance with their fairyist beliefs on important public policies that affect your daily life–if all of that were true, then I suspect you might have something to say about the lack of evidence for fairies and the poor arguments marshaled in their support.”

      “Perhaps. But people act on belief in all sorts of odd things, and most of them concern me not at all. I would most likely ignore the fairyists.”

      Then ignore the atheists, too. Please. Get the fuck out. You stink at this.

    • Furthermore, it occurred to me that this argument from profundity is a red herring. So what if Yahweh the warrior god is more profound than the tooth fairy? Profundity is not an indication of plausibility. The analogy between fairies and Creators has nothing to do with comparative profundity, but with the fact both beliefs fail to be supported by any evidence. You don’t get to say, “Well, I don’t have the burden of proof because my belief is profound!” Lots of unreal things are profound. Ever read science fiction? Belief in gods and belief in fairies are equivalent in their lack of supporting evidence, regardless of which is more profound.

  5. Wow, that was a fun discussion! lol…there could have been more explanation that “Gnosticism/Agnosticism” is a Knowledge claim while “theism/atheism” is a Belief claim. But I doubt that would have made a difference.

    Yes, and atheism leads to dehumanization which leads to the Holocaust and abortion. Why? Because according to atheists, people are just “things” and you can kill things. But religion? They hold every person to be sacred b/c we’re made in God’s very own image…well, unless that person doesn’t believe in our version of that God, then that person is a heretic/infidel and is thus fair game for whatever torture/execution/genocide methods we can dream up.

    Also, could have mentioned something about “the fact the universe appears fine-tuned for life is like a puddle waking up one day and saying ‘this pot-hole is perfectly designed for me'”. (thanks to Dawkins for that one). Of course, when we look around and see the utter lifelessness in the bits of the universe we can see clearly enough, well, it doesn’t look very fine-tuned for life. “The universe was fine-tuned for life by a Creator!” “Why is so much of it utterly hostile to life?” “Uhhh…SATAN!” (Satan wasn’t mentioned in the above discussion, but it is a part of Armstrongism) Ohhhh, so now there’s a Creator to explain why we’re here in a fine-tuned universe, AND another being to explain why there isn’t much else in that “fine-tuned” universe. Oy…

  6. Oh, and as for the article itself…biogenesis…they always argue “biogenesis” when claiming that “life can’t come from non-life”, but that doesn’t apply to God, apparently. He can exist forever–not having been designed, not coming from anywhere, just always has and always will exist. How do we know this? B/c here we are, we exist, and also the bible tells us so. So there.

  7. Technical point: heavy radioactive isotopes were not generated by the “big bang” (inflation). This process is known as “primordial nucleosynthesis” and only generated light elements up to lithium and beryllium. Heavy radioactive isotopes are, however, being generated all the time by stars in a process called “stellar nucleosynthesis.” Right now our sun is busy making helium out of hydrogen. Later, when it runs out of hydrogen, it will start making heavier elements up to and including iron. Elements heavier than iron can only be forged in a supernova. That the earth contains uranium and other heavy radioactive isotopes is a sign neither of a creator, nor the big bang, but instead that our solar system was born out of the ashes of a much larger star after it exploded spectacularly–no god required!

    All of HWA’s “scientific proofs” of an “unseen hand” are really pathetic these days. Our info about the formation of the universe is so much better now than it was back when he was writing his schtick, and it’s all so much more widely available now. A 10yo with Google can successfully refute HWA’s lousy apologetics.

  8. Casey, I find your arguments compelling. I once believed Armstrong, and yet, something happened to me before I ever heard what Armstrong had to say and that something happened in 1972.
    I was alone at home and used a OUIJA board borrowed from a friend who had been alarmed by his exposure to it. I wished to try it and was unaware then, of any phenomena that Armstrong or indeed, religion generally may describe as being responsible.
    In short, the moving part was off like wild fire spelling out an answer to a question I hadn’t asked. The answer was intelligent and related to a family member who was the furthest thing from my mind.
    How would you explain this? I was in communication whilst totally alone in the house, with what appeared to be an intelligence that was informed about my family?
    I know this happened. It just seems that there are things outside our ability to comprehend. I also quickly add, that this does not support the existence of God or otherwise but it is tantalising proof (to me) and a glimpse into something else I cannot comprehend. You see, if this phenomena is real, then does that not at least create a situation where spirits can exist, which is what God is supposed to be?
    William. 61 yrs, U.K.

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