Why do atheists do theology?

I’m still baffled why atheists like Josh Rosenau and Michael Ruse want to help believers improve their notions of a being who doesn’t exist.  Rosenau continues to engage in atheistic theodicy, explaining his mission thusly:

There’s been some ignorant speculation about why a nontheist might try to explore these ideas, so I figured I’d spell it out: You can’t engage an idea without engaging its best presentation, and you can’t engage an idea seriously without accepting arguendo the basic premises.

Yep, that’s me—the ignorant speculator (though I do love the euphemism “nontheist”). But rather than debate the issue at boring length, let me just highlight a LOLzy comment on Rosenau’s post by Larry Moran:

Joshua says,

“You can’t engage an idea without engaging its best presentation, and you can’t engage an idea seriously without accepting arguendo the basic premises.”

Let me introduce you to the problem of “naughty and nice.”

One of the arguments against Santa Claus is that he can’t possibly figure out which children are naughty and which ones are nice because there are about one billion children in the world. Some of them are in remote areas without Facebook or cell phones.

I don’t know why you and your philosopher friends aren’t trying to solve this huge problem. All you have to do is assume that Santa exists and you’re off and running.

And have you heard about the problem of how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin? You start with fairies ….

Someone named Alvin responds:

Larry,

nobody argued of whether Mr. Claus and the fairies were really historically [sic] personages. Perhaps caricatures of the real deal? Dunno? But it would be assinine [sic] to lump coca cola’s fat santa and the faeries with Jesus, whos [sic] historical existence has been pretty much agreed upon by scholars including the godless bunch (e.g. James Randi)

Oh Gawd, no more sound bites like these please

And Larry delivers the roundhouse:

Alvin says,

“nobody argued of whether Mr. Claus and the fairies were really historically personages. Perhaps caricatures of the real deal? Dunno? But it would be assinine to lump coca cola’s fat santa and the faeries with Jesus, whos historical existence has been pretty much agreed upon by scholars including the godless bunch (e.g. James Randi)”

We’re not talking about an historical Jesus. We’re talking about the problem of evil. The only possible reason for debating the problem of evil is if you accept the initial premises; namely that an omnipotent God exists and He is good.

If atheists are prepared to do that in order to have a fun debate then why not debate some other, equally ridiculous, issues like those involving Santa Claus and tooth fairies?

We all know the answer. It’s because belief in the Christian God merits some sort of special accommodation even if you don’t believe in such a god.

Why? Why do atheist philosophers spend any time at all on arguments with premises they reject?

Why indeed? What’s the point?  It’s like evolutionists telling the creationists where they might search in South America and Africa for all those still-existing dinosaurs.

It’s one thing to show believers that their arguments for god are ludicrous.  It’s another to actually help them make those arguments.

227 Comments

  1. Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I thought calling someone ignorant was a big no-no in anti-gnu-land?

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      When we do it, of course it’s a no-no. When they do it, of course it’s brave and independent-minded.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      You’re allowed to call someone ignorant when you’re Right.

      As Rusenooney can see both sides of the farm from their high-horse, which is balanced precariously on the fence, we simply must assume that they are Right all the time, purely by virtue of their vantage point.

  2. Scott near Berkeley
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    An even better consideration: a place North of the North Pole. We can agree about direction (North) and a place (the North Pole), and these are acceptable entities. But even accepted entities can be laid out in nonsensical, unsolvable language. And thus…

    WHY BOTHER???!!!

  3. Darrell E
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Why? Why do atheist philosophers spend any time at all on arguments with premises they reject?

    Why does a used car salesman pretend to be your friend even though he/she has no respect for you?

    • locutus7
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      You mean they have been pretending? I guess I should have suspected when they told me it was normal to pay MORE than the sticker price…

  4. Brian
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    “It’s like evolutionists telling the creationists where they might search in South America and Africa for all those still-existing dinosaurs.”

    Don’t be so ignorant. The dinosaurs aren’t on any of the explored continents, they’re on the island of Dinotopia.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      “I know where!” – George Edward Challenger

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      There are dinosaurs outside my window right now. I should really get a feeder.

      • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Funny you should mention that.

        I ate a dinosaur for dinner the other day. Tasted like chicken.

        Cheers,

        b&

      • Microraptor
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        Careful- that might attract therapsids.

        • Marella
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

          It’s more likely to attract Columbiformes.

          • MadScientist
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:42 am | Permalink

            Perhaps corvids? I am not aware of any carnivorous Columbiformes.

      • jiten
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:20 am | Permalink

        I can hear them chirp in my garden right now!

  5. Darrell E
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    We’re not talking about an historical Jesus.

    How about Alvin’s Own Personal Jesus?

    • Brian
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      The giant “A” on his sweatshirt doesn’t stand for “Alvin”, you know.

      • Darrell E
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        I guess you don’t listen to much British pop music from the 80’s. Your loss.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

            No…

            • Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

              I guessed that Brian was making a play on the name “Alvin” as if he didn’t know which Alvin Darrell E was referring to in order to make a small joke about the “A” on Alvin the Chipmunk’s shirt standing for “Atheist”.

              After all, Alvin and the Chipmunks did a cover of Personal Jesus (watch v=n65Inf_kk60 on YouTube)

              • Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:45 am | Permalink

                I wish I didn’t now know that…

              • Darrell E
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink

                I’ve been punked!

                If that is what Brian meant, it went right over my head.

                Normally I find Chipmunk singing extremely irritating, but that is kind of awesome.

  6. R J Langley
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    It always seemed to me that theology is to the Bible what the appendices to Lord of the Rings are to the rest of the book.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      More like what Christopher’s books are…

  7. Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    why atheists like Josh Rosenau and Michael Ruse

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    They’ve been sounding an awful lot alike lately, have you noticed?

    I agree with Polly-O!

    :- D

    • Kevin
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Hey…I agree with Polly-O!

      • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        I agree with Ophelia Benson!

        Oops

        • AdamK
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          You’re supposed to put a sock on your hand first.

          • locutus7
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

            We could call them Rusenau, in the mode of Banjolina.

          • SAWells
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            … as the bishop said to the actress.

    • Polly-O
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      I agree with… oh, wait.

      Shit.

  8. dmso
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I don’t see this as much different than what Dawkins does when he says god wouldn’t create a blind spot or PZ says that god wouldn’t make this wicked world, or when Coyne points to suboptimal designs. they’re all atheists ascribing characteristics to god and making theological arguments.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      The cases are superficially similar, but there’s a huge difference.

      Dawkins and PZ are taking theist claims at face value and demonstrating the obvious and inescapable contradictions those claims lead to when compared with observed evidence.

      Rosenau and Ruse are taking theist arguments at face value and proposing that theist excuses and special pleadings for why it’s not important that those claims contradict observed evidence have merit.

      Dawkins would observe that the toys Santa delivers have “MADE IN CHINA” stickers on them; PZ would observe that plenty of nice children aren’t visited by Santa and lots of really naughty children are.

      Rosenau and Ruse would argue that, in the context of the story, Santa’s gifts are metaphorical, and the state of naughtiness and nicetude is somehow transcendental and related to the numbers of angels dancing under the hats of microcephalics; therefore, we shouldn’t consider those valid arguments against intercontinental reindeer-powered sled-based toy delivery systems (though they’ve never seen any such UFOs, themselves).

      Cheers,

      b&

      • dmso
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        Ben,
        but that’s not what the post is about- it’s about atheists doing theology, which is exactly what PZ, Dawkins and Coyne do when they decide what god would and would not do.

        • Tyro
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

          They’re talking about what a designer would and would not do to illustrate that we are not designed. Since the superficial illusion of intelligent design is a key argument for gods, I fail to see why this is a problem.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          No, they’re not deciding what one or more gods would do. They’re taking theist claims of the properties and behaviors of various gods and showing how the evidence indicates that those claims cannot possibly be true.

          It’s Rosenau and Ruse who’re making up shit about how this god hates all people, not just fags, while this other god’s spectacular grand entrance went perfectly unnoticed for generations for entirely understandable reasons.

          What Dawkins and PZ are doing is elementary science. An hypothesis was proposed; they made relevant observations, found the observations to contradict the hypothesis, and therefore rejected the hypothesis.

          What Rosenau and Ruse are doing isn’t even properly considered theology. It’s straight-up apologetics.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • dmso
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

            Bn,
            As I mention below, perhaps Dawkins et al. think they are arguing against “theist claims of the properties and behaviors of various god” but they are not. I know of no theist argument that god’s creation (post-Fall) is absolutely perfect and therefore we should expect no imperfections like blind spot. Perhaps you do?

            • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

              As I already observed, apologists are nearly universal in proclaiming the perfections of the creations of their gods. Pick any random article from Answers in Genesis about the eye, and you’ll see your refutation right there.

              b&

            • truthspeaker
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

              Ken Ham. Kent Hovind.

            • Tyro
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

              If you look at the blind spot, you’ll see it is not the result of some deterioration which could have arisen after The Fall. Rather it is an integral part of the eye’s design.

              Dawkins’ favourite example of the giraffe’s recurrent laryngeal nerve is an even better example – it makes the ridiculously large loop down and back up the neck not because of deterioration but because that’s how the nerve runs in all mammals (a relic of evolution).

              A designer would not need to be bound by these relics, just as we see cars (human designed) borrow ideas and elements from other makes & models. When we see deterioration on design, we see things like rust – cruft which comes on after an otherwise coherent design. What we see in living organisms are evolutionary remnants which are tightly integrated into the body plans. There is cruft in the DNA but even this appears in ways which validate the nested hierarchy of life, showing it developed over time and through evolution.

            • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

              Rather, you know of no intelligent designer who would run the power cable up over the front of the camera obscuring the image. But if that is the level of incompetence of your god, then this argument isn’t for your god.

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

                if someone could design an eye from scratch (even with the blind spot), i would consider them to be extremely intelligent. but maybe you are a harsher critic than I.

              • Blondin
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

                Then you completely miss the point. The flaws in eyes and laryngeal nerves are evidence that these things were not designed but evolved.

              • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

                if someone could design an eye from scratch (even with the blind spot), i would consider them to be extremely intelligent.

                But of course! 😉 However, this isn’t just any person we are talking about, and so in this case I do think I am a much harsher critic than you.

              • Tacroy
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

                if someone could design an eye from scratch (even with the blind spot), i would consider them to be extremely intelligent.

                Oh hay guess what? We did. We have (currently in development) prosthetic eyes that can communicate over the optic nerve, giving people with some forms of blindness sight. These, obviously, do not have blind spots because we are not idiots (though the resolution is currently very very low, because we’re also not magic – yet)

                And we didn’t get this by praying really really hard, let me tell you.

                Also FYI: there are animals with eyes which do not have blind spots; octopus eyes are pretty similar to ours, except they don’t have a blind spot. Clearly, God likes octopi more than He likes humans, for He gave them Eye 2.0. You’d think that God could have just reached into His toolbox and slapped octopus eyes on everything, but for some reason He didn’t do that.

              • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

                You know what? I think dmso has just identified the beam found in everyone’s eye! Beam was a metaphor for the blindspot all along. Praise Jebus!

              • Marela
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

                I believe it is well established that Octopi are going to take over the world, what with their superior prehensile tentacles for manipulation, high resolution displays for skin capable of mimicing texture as well as colour, surprisingly advanced intelligence AND superior eye design? Clearly Octopi were meant to inherit the earth and Humans mucked up the Divine Plan by getting in there first.

              • Michael Kingsford Gray
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:06 am | Permalink

                [pedantic mode on]
                Octopodes, not Octopi.

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

            “It’s Rosenau and Ruse who’re making up shit about how this god hates all people, not just fags”

            How disappointing. We fags no longer get special treatment. It was quite exciting being extra-specially evil for a while.

            • Badger3k
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

              I think if you’re an atheist fag – especially a gnu-atheist fag – then that is still an extra-special hatred of god. So you might still be extra-special evil.

        • Kevin
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

          Um….no.

          Atheists are only reporting back to theists on the theistic view of a deity. They aren’t making up any of those alleged attributes themselves. You seem to be contending that Dawkins et al are creating some kind of straw theology. No such thing is happening. They take them at their word — problem is, theology comes in several different flavors, so there’s a lot of definitional work and goalpost setting.

          There are two major kinds of interactions in this context.
          1. To report to theists what the theistic view is and to then tear that view down point-by-point. Seems to me this is what’s being done by the majority of the Gnus.
          2. To tell the theist that they are arguing about whether Santa is a small elf or a large elf. In other words, to reject their premises as being hopeless and meaningless in and of themselves. I’ll put myself in this category, though I reserve the right to shoot down Pascal’s wager based on its own lack of merits.

          • Badger3k
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

            Sometimes it is fun as an intellectual exercise to look at their arguments and make shit up like they do, but it has as much bearing to reality as my arguments on dragon life breeding cycles in D&D. To take such arguments seriously does indeed sound like apologetics, and I can’t help wonder who (besides a few philosophers) give any of their (Ruse et al) apologetics any serious consideration.

            Anyway, the fact that Josh thinks that there is some formulation of the problem of evil that works (or will be successful) is a pretty sad thing to see. I am not even sure what “extends free will to all matter” even means – is it supposed to make some kind of sense or be related to reality in any sense of the word?

            • Rieux
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

              Anyway, the fact that Josh thinks that there is some formulation of the problem of evil that works (or will be successful) is a pretty sad thing to see.

              I think you mean “some formulation of an answer to the problem of evil.” The Problem itself “working” reasonably well since at least Epicurus, no?

              • Rieux
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

                I good at verbs.

        • MadScientist
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:45 am | Permalink

          But why shoudl theology only be the realm of the religious zealots? Is it some form of magic granted by god only to the select few? And if so, why do these theologians disagree on so many fundamental points? Theologians only agree on superficial lip-wagging such as “god is good”.

    • H.H.
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      No, they are making counterarguments to centuries’ old religious claims, like the still-popular Design Argument. They are not ascribing any characteristics to god, they are arguing against the god the theists have already ascribed characteristics to. In other words, the gnus aren’t saying Santa separates children into the naughty and the nice, only pointing out the problems with this assertion.

      • dmso
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        HH,
        THe problem is that the characteristics Dawkins et al use are not the characteristics that theists ascribe to god. for example, who on the creationist side ever argued that everything god made was absolutely flawless and perfect (post-Fall)? Paley never made this argument. Dawkins is arguing against either his own vision of god or a strawman. which is another reason why atheists should not do theology.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

          for example, who on the creationist side ever argued that everything god made was absolutely flawless and perfect (post-Fall)?

          Oh, I don’t know. Just about every Google hit on Answers in Genesis’s site for “human eye,” for starters. There’s Ray “Banana Man” Comfort, too, and…

          …I mean, seriously? Are you even reading what you’re writing?

          b&

        • Microraptor
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          You haven’t listened in to a fundamentalist sermon talking about “before the Fall,” have you?

          • dmso
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

            Ben, Microraptor,
            (according to AIG, etc.) are we living in a pre- or post-Fall world? is everything supposed to be perfect after the Fall?

            Ben,
            please show me the link where even one theist says that all of creation is perfect and optimal.

            • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

              I’m sorely tempted to suggest you do your own homework, but here you go:

              http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v18/i4/eye.asp

              [Creation magazine] How do you react to the notion that the human eye is the product of evolution?

              [Dr. George Marshall] The more I study the human eye, the harder it is to believe that it evolved. Most people see the miracle of sight. I see a miracle of complexity on viewing things at 100,000 times magnification. It is the perfection of this complexity that causes me to baulk at evolutionary theory. [emphasis added]

              Cheers,

              b&

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

                is the eye “all of creation”? try again. it should be easy, since the perfection claim Dawkins is arguing against is so commonplace.

              • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

                Pwned! But even if no theist had mentioned such a thing so explicitly, it still would be the mark of an exceedingly high level of incompetency for any intelligent being capable of designing life from the bottom up (not evolved)to do it the way it is without relying on evolution itself to the work for the so-called designer, and that is the point Dawkins is making about the way human eyes are configured (from what I can tell).

              • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

                dmso, you’re doing a superlative job of demonstrating the futility and idiocy of the approach that Rosenau and Ruse take.

                Whether or not the eye is “all of creation,” and whether or not a significant number of theists believe that “all of creation” is perfect, it is so bleedin’ obvious that the eye is the archetypal example of “perfect divine creation” used by creationists for centuries that only a troll or a clueless gobshite would take the tack you’re taking.

                You sure Rosenau or Ruse don’t need to do laundry? Because somebody’s feet’s starting to smell….

                Cheers,

                b&

            • Tulse
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

              dmso, try Googling “Leibniz”.

              • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

                …or listening to Bernstein….

                b&

        • Sajanas
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          And, to be clear, there was never a “Fall”.
          That’s the whole point of evolution, and, well, nature. It was always pretty nasty.

          • dmso
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            well, of course. but see how deeply we are into theology now after just a few posts? do you see why it’s a bad idea for atheists like Dawkins et al. to make theological arguments?

            • J.J.E.
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

              No

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

                so then you agree with Rosenau?

              • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

                No, Josh. We don’t agree with you.

                b&

              • J.J.E.
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

                What a perfect non-sequitur. One can reject the claims of atrology without “doing astrology” by pointing out that there is no mechanism behind how the constellation effect someone. One can also do controlled tests of people born under different signs. You can also point out that, due to precession, that the whole concept of the western Zodiac is crap, because the sun doesn’t rise through the same signs at the same time of year. None of this is “doing astrology”.

                By the same token, pointing out that tri-omni gods are incoherent and self-contradictory isn’t engaging in theology. Of course, dissecting the details of the Bible and using Biblical arguments to show compatibility IS theology. See, sometimes, not all things ARE equal. In this instance, you don’t have a case.

            • MadScientist
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:50 am | Permalink

              Do you see why it is a bad idea for religious people to make theological arguments? At least Dawkins’ arguments make sense – all theological arguments are bullshit. For example, J.P. Paulos wrote a very short book on his own thoughts about various claims of proof of the existence of god. The arguments he refutes are all long-held favorites of theologians over the ages, and none of them stand up to even the most superficial scrutiny. Theology is bullshit and it’s perfectly fine and natural for godless people to engage in theology to help expose it for the crud that it is.

        • Kevin
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          From “Answers in Genesis”…took me about 15 seconds to find it.

          Let’s examine what the Bible tells us. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, the world went from a perfect state to an imperfect state.

          You can continue to argue against the facts, or you can admit you’re wrong.

          Those are the only two options available to you at this juncture.

          • dmso
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

            who are you replying to? i said perfection (post-Fall) in my first reply. your quotation just proves my point, so thank you.

            • Kevin
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

              If you are saying that there are atheists who are saying that the theistic view of the universe was it was “perfect” post-Fall, I’m afraid you’re going to have to provide a citation.

              It’s no wonder you’re misunderstood. You’re talking nonsense. Building a strawman out of non-straw.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

              But, according to creationists, giraffes and other animals were created before the Fall.

            • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

              Where does it say that humans were “redesigned” after A&E sinned?

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

                it doesn’t. it just says they moved from perfection to imperfection. so while people here claim that Dawkins is just making a counter-argument to creationists, no creationist ever made the argument (of absolute perfection) to begin with.

              • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

                It seems there is a rather glaring problem with what you are saying–that God created A&E perfectly (with the expertise of the best possible designer) and then cast them out of paradise and rearranged the bundle of fibers in their eyes to cause a blindspot–which isn’t accounted for in any Abrahamic texts or religions or by any known Christians, Jews, or Muslims. (I think the more literally inclined among them might like your idea, though.)

                As I believe Dawkins has been pointing out, God works in mysteriously (seemingly) incompetent ways for someone unconstrained by mere nature or our eyes are products of evolution.

              • Marella
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

                So before the fall the recurrent laryngeal nerve went straight to its target, but after the fall god said ‘I’ll fix those bastards’ and looped it down around the aorta? Have I got that right?

                REALLY?

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          Textbook “No True Scotsman.”
          I swear, you can bring up points from their own damn holy scripture, point out the millions who believe it’s the innerant word of god, and some twit will still pop up with “no theist really believes that.”

          • dmso
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            so do it. show me who says that all of god’s creation is perfect post-Fall. did Paley say that and I missed it?

            • Kevin
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

              Yes, please show us WHO is making this claim, besides you?

              No kidding, EVERYONE, theist and nontheist alike, can be in agreement that the theistic viewpoint is that AFTER the “Fall” things were not perfect.

              Who says otherwise?

              You’re arguing a fiction.

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

                who says otherwise? Dawkins. or else why would he be arguing that imperfections are evidence against design by god?

              • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

                @dmso

                The whole point of the eye example is really that the intelligent designer (AKA God) isn’t really all that intelligent as they claim he is now, is he?

              • Tyro
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

                dmso,

                Are you saying that you think (or Christians think) that our eyes were designed perfectly but after the fall, our eyes flipped and all of the supporting cells and nerves flipped with them? And all of this happened not only to humans but to all chordates in parallel, not just at a cellular level but at a genetic level?

                I’m trying to figure out why you act like your hand-waving response that things moved away from perfection should be remotely satisfying. Because it isn’t.

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

                Tyro,
                all I’m saying is that an omniscient being like god can do whatever she wants whenever she wants. this, of course, makes the design hypothesis worthless. but it also means that whenever Dawkins or whomever says “god wouldn’t make a blind spot” they are assigning characteristics to “god’s creation” (like absolute perfection) that are not even posited by people who believe in god. they are being amateur theologians, whether they know it or not.

              • daveau
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

                “they are being amateur theologians”

                And they are just not as good at making shit up as the professionals.

              • Tyro
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

                dmso,

                That’s about the stupidest response to the design argument I’ve heard. What an intellectual coward!

                Some christians make the argument that organisms look designed and therefore there is a designer, God. Dawkins et al demonstrate that this argument is critically flawed and organisms show many traits which show they were not designed.

                And instead of acknowledging this, instead of showing even a twinkling of an understanding of what the adults or talking about, you fire back with “god can do whatever she wants whenever she wants”? What a stupid, cowardly, ignorant response.

                You didn’t understand either the Christian argument nor the counterargument! Wow, there aren’t WHOOSH graphics big enough for you.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

                “that are not even posited by people who believe in god.”

                Except that they are.

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

                tyro,
                “Some christians make the argument that organisms look designed and therefore there is a designer, God. Dawkins et al demonstrate that this argument is critically flawed and organisms show many traits which show they were not designed.”

                no, he argues that they show traits which argue against perfection in their design. but such perfection is not posited even by Paley. think about it: is an imperfection like a blind spot really an argument against design? i can’t read my cellphone in the sun, but does that mean it wasn’t designed? no, it means it wasn’t designed perfectly. so what? an omniscient being can by definition do anything she wants, including making imperfect things.

              • H.H.
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

                dmso, Dawkins is not arguing against “perfection” when he points out the blind spot. Again, he’s arguing making a [i]counter[/i]argument against the design hypothesis by pointing out sub-optimal traits that no intelligent designer would purposefully include. Yes, biblical literalists will handwave away such objections with vague references to the corrupting influence of sin in the world, but as you rightly point out this merely undercuts their own argument that design can be valid inference. So this is not an example of Dawkins engaging in bad theology, but of theists making inconsistent assertions. You are wrong to take a specific counterargument out of context and dishonestly use that as evidence of broader theological ignorance on Dawkins’ part.

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

                HH,
                “Again, he’s arguing making a [i]counter[/i]argument against the design hypothesis by pointing out sub-optimal traits that no intelligent designer would purposefully include”

                sounds like you and Dawkins can eff the ineffable mind of the Designer. how else would you know that no intelligent designer would put a blind spot in the eye?

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

                HH,
                do you see the contradictions in these statements:

                “Dawkins is not arguing against “perfection” when he points out the blind spot.”

                and

                “he’s arguing making a [i]counter[/i]argument against the design hypothesis by pointing out sub-optimal traits that no intelligent designer would purposefully include”

                perhaps no PERFECTLY intelligent designer would include a blind spot, but anyone who could design an eye from scratch would have to be considered intelligent by any standard.

              • Microraptor
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

                dmso, seriously, just give it a rest. It’s painfully obvious at this point that you’re familiar with neither creationist arguments about the design of organisms nor the actual refutations made by Richard Dawkins.

                When you have to resort to “well maybe God isn’t perfect” as part of your argument for how the eye actually could be evidence for design, you’re just making shit up, because the idea that God Is Perfect And Infallible is one of the oldest religious tropes around, and anyone with even the slightest bit of familiarity with Abrahamic religious doctrine knows it.

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

                microraptor,
                “because the idea that God Is Perfect And Infallible is one of the oldest religious tropes around, and anyone with even the slightest bit of familiarity with Abrahamic religious doctrine knows it.”

                fascinating. i’m glad the theology is settled, finally ending the centuries of debate among theologians about, for example, the problem of evil. god is perfect and infallible and so is all his creation. as easy as that. thank you, Rev. Microraptor.

              • H.H.
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

                dmso wrote:

                HH, do you see the contradictions in these statements:

                No, I don’t, actually.

                perhaps no PERFECTLY intelligent designer would include a blind spot, but anyone who could design an eye from scratch would have to be considered intelligent by any standard.

                The argument still has nothing to do with “perfection.” Even a reasonably competent designer wouldn’t make eyes this way. The “design” of the eye doesn’t exhibit any forethought or planning. It looks evolved not because it is “imperfect,” but because it doesn’t exhibit any indication of rational construction.

                You can invent many excuses why this might not be the case, but Dawkin’s counterargument still effectively discredits the evidence offered in support for the Design hypothesis.

                Look, you seem to think Dawkins’ argument is: Bad design, therefore no intelligent designer. THIS IS YOUR MISUNDERSTANDING. His actual counterargument is this: Bad design, therefore not evidence for the assertion of intelligent design.

                You see the difference, yes?

              • Microraptor
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

                Keep it up, dmso. Every time you hit reply, you just show yourself to have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about.

              • Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:42 am | Permalink

                dmso:

                sounds like you and Dawkins can eff the ineffable mind of the Designer.

                I’m going to be strident…

                Just eff off!

              • dmso
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

                HH,
                “Look, you seem to think Dawkins’ argument is: Bad design, therefore no intelligent designer. THIS IS YOUR MISUNDERSTANDING. His actual counterargument is this: Bad design, therefore not evidence for the assertion of intelligent design. ”

                first, bad design does not mean no intelligent design, unless by intelligent you mean “perfect.” the eye, as Dawkins himself points out, is an amazing machine, and just because it has a few flaws doesn’t make its design grossly incompetent. it only seems incompetent based on what we’d expect from a hypothesized god whose creation is entirely perfect. there are two problems here. First, this is a theological argument, which everyone on this page apparently think should not be made by atheists. Second, that hypothesized vision of god is held by few, if any, people. although microraptor apparently thinks it is the default view of christians, he (nor anyone else) has been able to provide any evidence for that. anyway, if you don’t believe me, i recommend you read Elliot Sober’s “Evolution and Evidence”, which convinicgly shows why dysteleology arguments are fundamentally theological in nature and not logically sound.Moreover, he shows that the reason this is so is that an omniscient god can design any way she likes, and so anything could be evidence of design, making the design hypothesis scientifically worthless.

              • Microraptor
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

                dmso, type “god is perfect” into Google and you’ll get thousands of hits of people claiming that very thing. I didn’t need to provide evidence to back up my claim because it’s such a well known position. You’re the one making the claim that most people believe that god is not perfect, and you haven’t shown one single bit of evidence to back up any statement you’ve made on this blog. Nor have you actually addressed any of the evidence other people have shown refuting your claims.

              • dmso
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

                Rt. Rev. microraptor,
                “dmso, type “god is perfect” into Google and you’ll get thousands of hits of people claiming that very thing.”

                “God is perfect” is not the same thing as “God’s creations are perfect.”

                “I didn’t need to provide evidence to back up my claim because it’s such a well known position.”

                that’s an interesting statement for a scientist, or someone with scientific inclinations, to make. shouldn’t we always be examining our assumptions?

                again, read chapter 2 of Sober’s “evidence and evolution.” he explains the problem with dysteleology arguments very clearly.

              • dmso
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

                Rt. Rev. microraptor

                “You’re the one making the claim that most people believe that god is not perfect, and you haven’t shown one single bit of evidence to back up any statement you’ve made on this blog”

                what i’ve said is that no one (or very few people) believes that god’s creations are perfect. evidence?:

            • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

              Google “God’s perfect creation,” and click on the first few links.

              Are you really this clueless, or are you just trolling?

              Cheers,

              b&

              • dmso
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

                I did. none of them say anything about all of god’s creation being absolutely perfect.

              • Tacroy
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

                Hooray! So then, now that you have implicitly conceded that God’s creation is imperfect, do you agree that God either

                1. purposefully created imperfection (and thus is evil) or
                2. is Himself imperfect, and thus passed the imperfection on to His creations (and thus is no God)?

                Because, see, that’s why creationists (both old and new-Earth ones) are required to argue that our form is perfect; if we are not perfect, that falls right into Epicurus’s trilemma. Once something divine and perfect takes a hand in crafting humanity, we must either be perfect ourselves or the thing that made us imperfect (or evil). There is really no middle ground.

            • Tulse
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

              Most famously, Leibniz did. Or at least, he argued that this is the best of all possible worlds. I suppose it is arguable whether that is equivalent to “perfect”.

            • MadScientist
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:51 am | Permalink

              Where is the evidence of the ‘fall’ or of this ‘pre-fall perfection’? Your argument is a house of cards.

        • Dominic
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          What is all this ‘post fall’ garbage? There was no ‘fall’.

          Your ‘voice’ sounds familiar…

          • MadScientist
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:52 am | Permalink

            Yeah, all dem trolls look an’ sound alike, eh?

            • Dominic
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:06 am | Permalink

              Never trust a troll that is not from Norway…

    • Tyro
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      There are so many problems with religion – from the foundational assumption that gods exist through the disagreements with observations – that one can offer many concessions and still expose critical flaws.

      The difference with Rosenau & Ruse vs the Gnus is that RR aren’t conceding points for the sake of an argument but are actively engaging in apologetic trickery like dismissing evidence, creating double standards and uncritically accepting the hand-waving arguments from theists.

      Who benefits from this?

    • steve oberski
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      As long as the religious keep making stuff up, the Coynes, Dawkins and Myers of the world will keep refuting them.

      I’m sure there are many other ways they would prefer to spend their time.

      Richard Dawkins has never said that god wouldn’t create a blind spot, what he does say is that there is no evidence for design in the human eye, and if the eye were designed, the designer was very incompetent.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      How else are you to argue a god’s attributes but theologically?

      If someone brings up a god & ascribes to it a bunch of attributes, the only way you can enter the conversation is accept, for the sake of the argument, that the god exists. It doesn’t mean you believe it exists, but you’re accepting it as a hypothetical in order to engage the topic. It’s not rocket surgery.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:22 am | Permalink

        But it is a kind of brain science… 

      • Rob
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        No, you don’t.

        Person making the positive claim provides the evidence. Null hypothesis holds for physical claims.

  9. Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    But it would be assinine [sic] to lump coca cola’s fat santa and the faeries with Jesus, whos [sic] historical existence has been pretty much agreed upon by scholars including the godless bunch (e.g. James Randi)

    You know, I’d be curious to know on what specific basis these scholars have decided that there’s good reason to think that there’s an historical basis to the Jesus myth. I mean, it’s not like he’s completely missing from the historical record until a generation or two after he’s supposed to have died, and indistinguishable from a syncretic pagan god for the next several generations afterwards or anything.

    …oh, wait. He is….

    b&

    • Dominic
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      😉
      To the point as ever!

    • SAWells
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      On the basis that saying otherwise would upset people.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      Most scholars, theistic and not, actually admit to the total and complete lack of extant contemporary evidence.
      Most of them avoid the concept of there being MISSING but expected truck-loads of contemporary evidence, of course, extant or not. Even copies of copies would be worthwhile.
      But: nothing. Zero, zip, nada, nought, sfa.

      • MadScientist
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:57 am | Permalink

        One of the many baffling things is the absence of any letters from that era mentioning this self-proclaimed god. Then of course there are the numerous letters and official documents which did survive from the era and completely contradict historical claims in the bible – and this was well known to scholars for centuries. As an example, just take the fabricated story of King Herod – it in no way resembles the historical person – even the dates are wrong – nor is there anyone in the historical record from the era who resembles the biblical Herod, so folks can’t simply claim that someone got the name wrong.

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

          As I pointed out to Ben Goren, there are copious extant written records from the very geographical location, written by literate Essene scholars, the primary one** of their obsessions was to be on a vigilant lookout for a messiah.
          For emphasis: in the same location, at the same time, on the alert for a Jesus-like character. Not copies of copies, but the originals.

          Yet: absolutely nothing about Jesus let alone his disciples or ANYTHING WHATSOEVER!

          If that don’t ‘nail it’ for good, then nothing will.
          It is this signal lack of evidence that closes the case for an historical Jesus for good.
          Not just the biblical Jeebers who walked on wine, but descending to the pedestrian and prosaic level of a mediocre Jewish prophet.

          ______________
          ** The secondary one seems to have been toilet-habits.

          • Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

            If that don’t ‘nail it’ for good, then nothing will.

            You *are* trying to nail jello to the wall though.

  10. Sigmund
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    The comment that struck me was Josh’s point on the question of how many fairies can fit on a pinhead.
    “Answering questions like that got us the calculus, physics, and the Enlightenment.”
    Apparently I’ve been reading it all wrong! It was the fairies that done it!

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      That is History of Science According to Templeton.

      • Marela
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think you’ll find anyone with experience with computers who denies the existence of computer gremlins.

        IT personnel know that faries exist, and they’re mean little bastards that like screwing with electronics.

    • Badger3k
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      WTF? So the work of Greek mathematicians (as well as the Indian mathematicians, and the muslim ones after them, and the rest I really am clueless about) didn’t do anything, but it was talk about angels on pins that got it moving? I thought he argued that the angels-on-pinheads thing was all metaphorical and not meant to be taken literally – or am I mistaken?

      • SAWells
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:30 am | Permalink

        Everyone knows Archimedes was Catholic.

        • Circe
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          You forgot to mention that Euclid, Panini, Aryabhatta, Brahmagupta, Bhaskara, Al Khwarazmi, the unknown inventor of the decimal notation, and the nameless Mayan mathematicans, among others, were all Catholic theologians par excellence. How else could anyone explain their magnificent mathematical insights?

  11. NewEnglandBob
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    It’s one thing to show believers that their arguments for god are ludicrous. It’s another to actually help them make those arguments.

    On the other hand, maybe it is best that Josh Rosenau and Michael Ruse are arguing for the proponents of fairy dust. Their arguments are usually too childish and inane to be useful or to be of help. I would shudder to think what they would argue if they did it ‘on the side’ of Gnu Atheists

  12. Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    It’s like evolutionists telling the creationists where they might search in South America and Africa for all those still-existing dinosaurs.

    This doesn’t sound like such a bad idea… preferably some place very dangerous, perhaps?

    • Sajanas
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      I was just thinking that Antarctica might be the best spot. And that dinosaurs would only approach a human if they were naked.

      • Microraptor
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Just tell them that dinosaurs are scared of anti-malarial medications.

        • Badger3k
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

          But the dinosaurs could use homeopathic malarial remedies – oh, wait, maybe that’s why they died!

      • Dominic
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        Naked dinosaurs? Disgusting! At least birds have the decency to clothe themselves. Post fall.

        • Marela
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

          Birds are what you get when Dinosaurs wear clothes, silly.

          • Dominic
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:16 am | Permalink

            I know Marella… and we are all reptiles as mammals are a sub-group of synapsids! It was a just a jest…

  13. Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I also had to blink twice when reading this in Josh Rosenau’s blog post:

    In an evolutionary context, the suffering of animals in the evolutionary chain needs no explanation: there had to be predation and death and disease to weed out harmful alleles and to promote traits (genetic and cultural) that make the world today what it is, in all its wonder and all its sorrow.

    There had to be? Why is he attributing a purpose to predation, death and desease? That’s not an evolutionary view at all. Or a scientific view, for that matter.

    Besides, aren’t predation and infection better understood as evolved strategies for gene propagation than as requirements for evolution?

    (crossposted with minor edits from my comment on Rosenau’s blog)

    • Tyro
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      One explanation: there has to be disease so that organisms can become strong enough to resist disease. Predators exists so that prey can evolve to resist predation.

      Alternatively, we need natural selection because this is one of the key drivers of evolutionary adaptation which was necessary for our evolution. God needed to use this form of bloodsport to create us because God is incapable or unwilling to miraculously create species, that is reserved for minor miracles like the divine creation of billions of galaxies, and enforcing the physical laws of every particle throughout the universe. Compared to that, creating humans without suffering would be, like, way hard man! Besides, he needed to save his juju for some localized miracles to some credulous tribes.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Josh has become strikingly infantile in his blatherings.

    • latsot
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      It’s sometimes difficult to avoid teleological language when discussing evolution and my usual instinct is to give people who do it the benefit of the doubt. I wish they’d be more careful and it’s important to call people out when they do it, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate anything more sinister than sloppy language.

      • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        Normally I’d agree with you. For example, it’s entirely natural (if wrong) for people to explain the evolution of a certain feature in terms of its purpose. But in this context, I have to disagree with you. If you’re going to contrast the evolutionary view with the theological view of suffering, you really can’t talk about evolution as a purpose-driven process.

        And again, it’s wrong too. Suffering is not a requirement of evolution, it’s an outcome. Note that evolution works quite well in organisms that lack the capability to suffer, and even in situations where there is no predation or disease. Think of Lenski’s experiments, for instance.

  14. Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    As to the original topic, yes, there is value in taking your opponents’ strongest arguments and showing that, even if you accept their premises, it will still lead to contradictions. However, Taking your opponent’s strongest arguments to argue that they may have a point – or even a valuable point of debate – is something else completely.

    • Ray Thaw
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Good point…

  15. Kevin
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    you can’t engage an idea seriously without accepting arguendo the basic premises

    Really? I can’t engage in a debate over the presence of anal-probing UFOs without accepting for the sake of argument the basic premises?

    Unicorns? Fairies? Leprechauns? Bigfoot? Nessie? Champ? All have to be argued from the point of view of accepting the “basic premise”?

    Is this really what you want to say?

    How about the anti-vaccine crowd? The global warming deniers? The gun-nut conspiracy theory crowd? Republicans? Glenn Beck!?!

    Honestly, sometimes the purpose of engaging someone in debate is to tell them that their basic premises have more holes in them than Jarlsberg.

    Josh, if you can’t see this or accept it, then your arguendo is broken.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Champ? Who’s Champ?

      • AdamK
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        The monster in Lake Champlain?

        • Microraptor
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          That is the standard nickname for it.

        • Kevin
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

          Correct. Apparently, the same species as Nellie.

          • Kevin
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

            Um..Nessie…

            • daveau
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

              Close, though…

              • Kevin
                Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

                Heh. I have a friend whose name is Justin. TWICE in the past week or so, I’ve called him “Jason”.

                I don’t even KNOW any Jason.

                Go figure.

            • latsot
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:27 am | Permalink

              Actually, there is a Loch Nell.

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            Who’s Nellie?

            • Dominic
              Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

              Nellie Melba!

              Monsterous!

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

            Cool that they’re the same species. I guess what it is, is, there’s a tunnel way way way underneath, so once in awhile they meet up and breed.

            • Rieux
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

              Mrowr: plesiosaur sex. And given the depth of that there tunnel, it must be hot plesiosaur sex.

              Cue the cliché 70s boom-chicka-wow-wow music….

      • daveau
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        What? You don’t know your imaginary beasts?

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Kevin–PRECISELY!! Well said!

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Josh, if you can’t see this or accept it, then your arguendo is broken.

      Yes, for the sake of argument, Josh should accept the premise that often, you should not accept the premises of your opponents.

      Can he reject this premise without accepting it?

  16. Sastra
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I’m still baffled why atheists like Josh Rosenau and Michael Ruse want to help believers improve their notions of a being who doesn’t exist.

    You don’t always have to cut at the root, or cut the same way. One of the main strategies of atheist apologetic is to point out internal inconsistencies in their model. Rather like showing, in detail, that the idea that animals of every species could survive on an ark is ridiculous. So I read Josh’s article and didn’t see anything too objectionable — if you just come at it without the backstory on accomodationism.

    The critical difference though is the distinction between examining a ‘best case’ and pointing out that no, it still doesn’t work — and building up a better case for them in hopes that they’ll take it and then we’ll leave them alone.

    I did think Rosenau was correct to say that many arguments that pretend to show that God exists aren’t really even trying to do that. That would be what philosopher Keith Parsons calls “hard apologetic:” convincing a skeptic. Instead they’re “soft apologetic” — they “endeavor to reassure the faithful that their beliefs are, for them, reasonable.” They’re trying to help people who want to keep faith, keep it.

    You could argue that going after soft apologetic (as Josh is doing here) is meaner than simply dismantling arguments that try to prove the God hypothesis. We’re not even going to let them think that they’re reasonable by their own standards, even if we grant their premises! A lot of theists want atheists to stay away from arguments that soothe the faithful.

    If Josh is actually trying to knock down their best case for making theism reasonable to believe — reducing its credibility even more — then more power to him. It’s honest. But I’m not sure he’s doing this, and there’s some past history to suggest he isn’t.

    • MadScientist
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:19 am | Permalink

      I disagree; folks like Josh are too hung up on ‘respecting’ the ridiculous notions espoused. Nor have the past few hundred years of history shown that the accommodationist stance helps in the least. It is far more reasonable to believe that pandering to magic thinking will only result in people sticking to their magic thinking and twisting reality to their delusions rather than coming to understand reality.

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:25 am | Permalink

        Nor have the past few hundred years of history shown that the accommodationist stance helps in the least

        Nor, indeed, the last 65,000 years.

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      I fully agree that most apologetics is there to convince believers that beliefs they already have are reasonable. In fact, I’d even say that a lot of apologetics settles for merely showing that their beliefs are not unreasonable. I just don’t think we should stop criticizing “soft apologetics” because it implies their beliefs are unreasonable.

      I also want to note that a lot of the popular “soft apologetics” work by trying to throw science or epistemology under the bus. This is the main reason why it puzzles my why a scientist would want to promote it.

  17. Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Oh hahahahahahahahaha – you missed one of the funniest lines from that post –

    ” I don’t think I’ve blogged about theodicy in any depth since 2006, so I guess it’s time to take it up again.”

    Rosenau blogging about theodicy in depth! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha

    • Kevin
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      When you scratch the surface of Rosenau, you get more surface.

      • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        I’ve figured it out – he confuses “at length” with “in depth.” Boy does he ever.

        • Saikat Biswas
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          I really don’t know how much depth he wishes to plumb, but it does seem that inanity in his posts is fast acquiring a stupefying breadth.

  18. Jeff Chamberlain
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    When I was “doing philosophy” one reason I read theologians and philosophers of religion was to try to figure out why apparently smart people thought there was some “there there.” I got better.

    OB — Champ is the sea monster in Lake Champlain.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Ah! Thanks Jeff. I didn’t know there was one. (I mean – oh you know.)

    • Bryan
      Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      I learned that on Cash Cab just this week!

  19. truthspeaker
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    “you can’t engage an idea seriously without accepting arguendo the basic premises”

    Sure you can – if you can demonstrate that the basic premises are invalid.

    • daveau
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      That’s one of the main ways to invalidate them. “Let’s suppose for a minute that this is true…”

      • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        1. Let’s suppose for a minute that God is omnipotent and all-loving. Let’s suppose that he created the universe and has a special fondness for humans, and looks after them.

        2. There’s plenty of evil in the world.

        3. Oops! Premise must be wrong.

        Try again.

        1. Let’s suppose that God is evil and wants people to suffer.

        2. There’s plenty of evil in the world.

        3. Problem solved.

        How boring is that?

        Now let’s talk about Santa Claus.

        • Dominic
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

          FATHER CHRISTMAS!

          😉

          • Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            Santalogically, what would his relation be to Jack Frost?

            • Dominic
              Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:19 am | Permalink

              Hmmm – someone must have done a genonome for the whole Yuletide/Christmas family by now, Santa, Father Christmas, Jack Frost & their kin – Francis Collins perhaps? It is certainly a good cladistics project for a grad student!

              • Michael Kingsford Gray
                Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:35 am | Permalink

                “genonome”?
                Surely that is “geno-gnome”?

        • steve oberski
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          I think he likes beetles a lot more than he likes us.

          • Microraptor
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

            And mantis shrimp.

        • MadScientist
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:21 am | Permalink

          No, no, no. Let’s not talk about Santa, let’s talk about how we should worship this evil god so that it doesn’t smite us with natural disasters. Then again – let’s talk about Santa.

  20. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Jesus, whos [sic] historical existence has been pretty much agreed upon by scholars

    AFAIU history scholars are pretty unanimous that pretty much everything in the religious texts describing a Jesus figure is non-historical, and that especially that character is since it should be the easiest to verify. That concur with every other religious texts too – all more or less certain by now to be fiction, with all fictional characters.

    And then we haven’t even begun to consider the subsequent fondling of zombie intestines!

  21. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    You can’t engage an idea without engaging its best presentation, and you can’t engage an idea seriously without accepting arguendo the basic premises.

    The best representation of Rosenau I can find to engage with (the other being that he is engaging in apologetics):

    If you want to engage the idea that it is possible to throw a baseball into Earth orbit, you must engage the idea that it isn’t Joe Average that throws from sea level but Arnold Schwartzenegger that throws from Himalaya. Moreover you have to accept that men can throw baseballs at ~ 45 m/s, and that Earth LEO speed is ~ 8 000 m/s.

    Now we can accommodate that some consider 45 >= 8 000 in baseball throwing while at other times agree that 45 << 8 000, because it is nice to have such a serious discussion and not nice to refuse.

    (Um, no, still apologetics.)

  22. Veronica Abbass
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I stopped reading Alvin’s comment after the first three words:

    “nobody argued of . . .”

    Alvin is arguing “of” while other commenters are discussing or arguing “about.”

    • Hempenstein
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      That sounds like British English. The shifting sands of prepositions are of about the same magnitude as the shifting sands of religion.

      • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        Not British English, just bad English. And in the UK, the urban myth that the red Santa was a Coca-Cola invention (it wasn’t) isn’t common. So I’m guessing he’s one of yours 😉

        • Hempenstein
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          Hmm, OK. But on re-reading, interesting that he spelled fairies two different ways, too. Perhaps all red herrings?

  23. anonymus
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    dmso is right of course. If you bring up the problem of evil for example (God would not have created malaria) you are making a theological argument. Even worse you assume that theologians in the 2000 year history of Christianity would not have come up with some kind of rationalization.

    • tomh
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      anonymus wrote:

      If you bring up the problem of evil for example (God would not have created malaria) you are making a theological argument.

      So what? The beauty of theology is that anyone can do it. It takes no training, no special knowledge, one doesn’t even have to make sense. All it takes is some random person proclaiming, “I believe in thus and such.” For instance, I could say, “I believe your god is full of crap.” That’s a theological argument. See how easy it is?

    • David
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      when you use basic logic to say that something can’t be omnipotent, omniscient and omni-benevolent and still create evil, your not doing theology your just pointing out that their premise is stupid.

      • Marela
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        You are, however, trying to counter Faith with Logic, which is unfortun ately never going to work as the existence of Faith (being belief without proof) already requires a denial of logic.

  24. Ray Thaw
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    That was fun reading all the comments…thanks J…

  25. Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m helping Nicholas Malebranche with what I call the Malebranche Reductio:that when we act, ti’s God who does the actual acting as a reductio ad absurdum of any argument for His being the Primary Cause or Ultimate Explanation.
    How could a brainless mind act or think? Alvin Plantinga, as usua,cannot fathom why that that is a key naturalist argument against the existence of God.
    So, I am doing witht these two arguments the Dawkins’s way.
    Rosenau could have a point were he to strengthen a theistic argument but then eviscerate it!
    How could a mindless being have intent, and were it to have intent, science demonstrates that no such intent operates in the Cosmos as Lamberth’s teleonomic argument prevails.So, were there this mindless God with intent, He couldn’t be God as
    Isn’t theology just silly? I prefer atheology and-reality!
    Plantinga, Keith Ward, haughty John Haught, Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and John Hick rank with,despite their language skills,John Edward, van Praagh and Sylvia Brown[e]!

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      On that brainless mind matter, I do keep asking theists if they could show me a copy of Vista running without hardware. It would save an awful lot of money, and what with the contribution PCs make to global warming. Bet it would still be slow though.

      Surprisingly, not one has met my challenge.

      • Deepak Shetty
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Can you show me a copy of Vista running with hardware? I keep hearing that it exists :)!

  26. Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    He couldn’t be God as God’s intent would prevail, and science, as noted notes, no such intent operates behind natural causes and explanations!
    No divine intent, no referents then exist for His having any omni-attribute, and thus He cannot exist per the ignostic-, my friend, isn’t the only one who does what she says she does!

  27. Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Sorry again. Articulett my friend…
    Jerry, again please do a book eviscerating directed evolution, noting that certain argument, sir and friend!

  28. morgan
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    “you can’t engage an idea seriously without accepting arguendo the basic premises”

    So were are all the discussions with theists accepting the basic premise of atheism before entering the argument?

    • morgan
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      oops ‘where’ not ‘were’

  29. dsdquilts
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    dmso you stink

    Recently, DMSO disposed into sewers caused odor problems in cities: waste water bacteria transform DMSO under hypoxic (anoxic) conditions into dimethyl sulfide (DMS) that has a strong disagreeable odor, similar to rotten cabbage

    • Rob
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      I was one of the few in the lab that could smell DMSO. Especially when heating it *blech*

      Still, not as bad as the scintillation fluid. I could tell when they cracked the lid in the fume hood.

  30. MadScientist
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    “You can’t engage an idea without engaging its best presentation, and you can’t engage an idea seriously without accepting arguendo the basic premises”

    Therein lies the problem. We cannot engage religious people in religious debates because we can’t accept their nonsensical premises, nor can we accept their wild claims. Nor is it true that “You can’t engage an idea without engaging its best presentation” – that is absolute nonsense of the ontological type.

    Like many religious people, and especially the fundamentalists, Josh Rosenau starts out with ridiculous assumptions then goes on to prove their truth via virtue of their own assumed truth.

    Hmmm … I wonder if Jason’s got something on his blog about this …

    • Rieux
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Nope—not yet, anyway.

      Jason writes great stuff, but he’s about the lowest-volume blogger I’ve seen who is able to stay in conversations like these. (Though Oedipus, of “The Buddha is Not Serious,” has been even lower-volume lately, and one particular post of his became extremely relevant several months ago.)

      Moral of the story: The atheist blogosphere would be a cooler place if Jason Rosenhouse worried less about his teaching and the books he’s writing and more about us.

  31. Sigmund
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    Theology, as it applies to religious explanations of the natural world, is a form of pseudoscience. As with all pseudosciences there is no way to falsify the basic claim. ” ‘God’ works in mysterious ways” inevitably crops up in discussions of theodicy. That there is no answer to that point seems to satisfy the religious yet one could answer it just as logically by saying that fairies work in mysterious ways, leprechauns work in mysterious ways or a magic chicken named Gerald who made the whole universe last wednesday – works in mysterious ways.
    Why allow special pleading in the case of one religion when we would never allow that for Chicken Gerald?
    It’s like Pascals wager. The best way to argue against that is to point out the enormous multitude of contradictory religions greatly diminishes the odds in favor of a single religion rather than accept the premise of the argument that the choice is between one religion and no religion.
    Ruse and Rosenau in accepting the special pleading of the religious are accepting a premise (my religion is true, all other religions are myths) of which there is no basis in fact.

    • Ken M
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Theology is not pseudoscience, it is a form of fan fiction. It is possible to deduce consistent conclusions about Sherlock Holmes, and it is possible to make incorrect assertions about Sherlock Holmes that expert Holmesians can refute. If I assert that Mr Micawber and the Lone Ranger were contemporaries, pointing out that they didn’t exist is an ineffective way of proving me wrong.

  32. Aj
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    If there’s one up side to accommodationism it’s that it makes arguing about whether Superman can outrun the Flash seem ever so much more intellectually respectable.

  33. Teapot
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Last night BBC 2 showed part 2 of a series about the bible, presented by a lecturer from Exeter Uni.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00zw3fl/Bibles_Buried_Secrets_Did_God_Have_a_Wife/

    Short summary of the first two eps is that the Hebrews were Canaanite polytheists living in two Kingdoms (Judah, capital Jerusalem and Israel, capital Samaria). However when the bible was written by pro-monotheism priests in the 6th century BC in Jerusalem they decided to big up Judah in comparison to Israel and pretend that they’d all been monotheistic all along.

  34. stvs
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Why do atheists do theology? … “why not debate some other, equally ridiculous, issues like those involving Santa Claus and tooth fairies? We all know the answer. It’s because belief in the Christian God merits some sort of special accommodation even if you don’t believe in such a god.”

    Yes, but why does religion merit special consideration above leprechauns? This is a serious question with a long history, and involves some very influential atheists at least dipping their toes in the theological swamps. John Stuart Mill in The Usefulness of Religion makes his case, but not without serious caveats:

    An argument for the utility of religion is an appeal to unbelievers, to induce them to practise a well meant hypocrisy, or to semi-believers to make them avert their eyes from what might possibly shake their unstable belief, or finally to persons in general to abstain from expressing any doubts they may feel, since a fabric of immense importance to mankind is so insecure at its foundations, that men must hold their breath in its neighbourhood for fear of blowing it down! … If religious belief really is as necessary to mankind as we are continually told that it is, we should find it very sad that the intellectual grounds for it should have to be backed up by moral bribery or corruption of the understanding. … It isn’t enough to assert in general terms that truth can never be in conflict with usefulness—that if religion is false the consequences of rejecting it must all be good. … It’s perfectly conceivable that religion is morally useful without being intellectually defensible; and it would be a very prejudiced unbeliever who denied that this has sometimes been the case, and that it is even now the case with regard to some nations and some individuals. … History, so far as we know it, confirms the opinion that mankind can perfectly well do without the belief in a heaven.

    An atheist in the opposite corner was Leo Strauss, who was all about deceptively beneficent rule by philosopher kings:

    Strauss was a trenchant critic of modern rationalism and science, natural-rights individualism, and laissez-faire capitalism, all of which, he argued, turned man away from a supranatural reality to nature, from faith to reason, from community to the individual, from duty to rights, from inequality to equality, from order to freedom, and from self-sacrifice to self-interest. The result is that man and society have come unhinged from the natural order and from the religious faith necessary to sustain moral and political unity.

  35. Deepak Shetty
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    why do atheists do theology?

    Groundwork for a Templeton prize , perhaps?

  36. Don
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Can’t you do a little better than this?

    God is not comparable to Santa Claus. Santa Claus appeals to the concerns and hopes of children; God appeals to the concerns and hopes of adults.

    If the story of Santa Claus was modified to include the reason and design of the universe, and the meaning of death, and a moral system, Santa Claus would appeal to adults, and you would need to debate Santa Claus.

    I don’t believe in Santa and I don’t believe in God – but I understand why adults believe in God and not Santa. Pretending they are the same in any meaningful way is idiocy. This is the difference between you and those who irritate you by debating theists – they get it, you don’t.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      “God is not comparable to Santa Claus. Santa Claus appeals to the concerns and hopes of children; God appeals to the concerns and hopes of adults.”

      You said they aren’t comparable, but then you gave an example of how they are comparable.

      “If the story of Santa Claus was modified to include the reason and design of the universe, and the meaning of death, and a moral system, Santa Claus would appeal to adults, and you would need to debate Santa Claus. ”

      No, you wouldn’t because none of those things provide evidence for Santa Claus’s existence. Just because a story appeals to your hopes and dreams does not mean that story is more likely to describe entities that actually exist than stories that don’t appeal to your hopes and dreams.

      I can think of many fictional characters that appeal to my hopes and dreams, but if I made the case that any of them existed in reality nobody would take me seriously, and rightly so.

      • Don
        Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        You might try to follow and respect the language of my argument, rather than just skirting it. E.g., “to pretend they are comparable in any meaningful way” or even “they are not comparable” is different than “they cannont be compared.” Anything can be compared; the question is whether a comparison is illuminating.

        Saying, “if a unicorn didn’t have a horn, it would be a horse” isn’t “comparing” a unicorn to a horse. It is illustrating exactly why a unicorn is different than a horse: that is, it is contrasting them. One might highlight a contrast to show how things are more different than alike, or, to argue there is “no meaningful comparison.”

        Finally, you change the substance of my comment – refering specifically to meaning questions and moral questions – to “hopes and dreams.”

        Write something responsive to my comments and I’ll gladly respond. Thanks.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          But you gave an example of how they ARE the same – they both appeal to “concerns and hopes” (your words).

          That morality and meaning are among those concerns and hopes really isn’t relevant to your argument. The fact that those are important to some adults doesn’t change the evidentiary basis of belief in gods.

    • Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      I think you do have a point. Santa is about presents. God is about life and death, meaning and purpose, right and wrong.

      Comparison with Santa doesn’t take into account the deep need and fear that drives people to belief in God.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        But that deep need and fear have no bearing on whether something exists or not.

        • Don
          Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          I think William James argued it did in The Will to Believe, or at least he concluded it was rational to believe in certain things without evidence, and once believed, the evidence would be available.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

            …an argument that Bertrand Russell completely demolished.

            • Duncan
              Posted March 25, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

              I’m certainly not going to defend James’ views on religion (which are IMHO not very credible) but just as a by-the-by it does James’ a gross-disservice to imagine that his pragmatism was ‘demolished’ (completely or otherwise) by what Russell had to say about it either in A History of Western Philosophy or his review of the time. There is little indication that Russell read much of James’ work beyond the lectures on pragmatism – a set of popular lectures given to the Women’s Institute – and his anti-pragmatism arguments are directed more towards a pragmatist strawman who says ‘believe it because it makes to happy’ than James’ real position which (for those who know what I’m talking about) is much closer to the position of Hume and the Later Wittgenstein towards questions of realism and wouldn’t disgrace anyone who has affection for this-or-that variant of modern anti-realism. His metaphysics is a complicated one which would appeal to anyone of a naturalist, evolutionary minded point of view – indeed he made a point of using biological metaphors (rather than more traditional rationalist ones) to stress the continuity between the position he was defending (broadly speaking that human beings believe in an ontological scheme they are naturally compelled to believe in and which it is (evolutionary and otherwise) expedient to believe in – questions of realism and cartesian doubt are nonsensical from a practical point of view) and evolution.

              As well as the single volume collection ‘William James on Truth’ both the present Routledge Philosophers volume and the forthcoming ‘William James on Psychology and Metaphysics’ are good on putting the record straight.

    • Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Don says,

      I don’t believe in Santa and I don’t believe in God – but I understand why adults believe in God and not Santa. Pretending they are the same in any meaningful way is idiocy.

      I didn’t pretend they were the same.

      Santa gives out presents and he has lots of elves working for him. He’s also married. And he keeps reindeer as pets.

      I’d much rather believe in Santa than in some hermit dude who commits genocide and wants you to sacrifice goats (and children).

      I notice you didn’t mention the tooth fairy.

      • Don
        Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        No one is stopping you from believing in Santa Claus, if it makes you happy.

        The tooth fairy is another matter. Any nocturnal creature mining children’s teeth for a pittance is obviously an agent of Satan, not a benevolent “fairy.”

  37. Bryan
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t have the stamina to make it through all of the comments, so I’m not sure whether someone else has already pointed this out, or whether dmso is still following the comments, but I thought I would throw this out there:

    Jerry’s book, Why Evolution is True, includes a discussion of “the appearance of design” (that is, what organisms would look like if they were, in fact, the product of an intelligent designer). The point is that people like Dawkins are not MERELY pointing out imperfections in organisms – they are pointing out characteristics of organisms that can only be explained by 1) a lack of intelligent design or 2) an intelligent designer who intended to give the impression of unguided evolution. If dmso is interested in learning more about these issues, I highly recommend WEIT.

  38. Duncan
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I think it depends on what your reasons for scepticism are. So for example, I’m a sceptic about so-called ‘trickle down’ economics ideas about how a reduction in taxation can lead to an increase in tax revenue and greater growth than government intervention. I have, I think, good reasons for this scepticism. But my scepticism is tempered by the fact that I don’t know what mistake is being made by those I disagree with, and not knowing what it is, it is entirely possible there is no mistake – that either they are right and I am wrong or, more likely, we’re both ‘sort of right’ or right sometimes and not other times and so my overall understanding can be enriched by engagement with them.

    But for a lot of people, including myself, scepticism of religion comes with a fairly solid belief as to what mistake is being made. Religious believers by and large inculcate their beliefs as children for emotional reasons (wanting to conform to their parents’ creed, wanting to fit in with their social milieu, the pagentry and so on) and only later do they try to come up with reasons to justify their belief. As anyone with even a limited introduction to the philosophy of religion will tell you, the arguments which are the best product of 2000+ years of ratiocination are extremely underwhelming – indeed it seems the only people who /don’t/ feel that way are people who have the aforementioned prior emotional commitment to one conclusion over another. Various theistic philosophers of religion do not even agree amongst themselves as to which arguments are any good (one only needs to read Plantinga’s Routledge Encyclopedia article on the theistic arguments for a hilarious example; he thinks the other two ‘big’ arguments are bankrupt and that the only game in town is the modal variant of the ontological argument put forward by… er… Plantinga).

    Knowing this, and being fairly solid in my convictions about the anthropological underpinnings of it all (now /those/ are capable of questioning, certainly – atheists should certainly, time permitting, be interested in the psychology and anthropology of religion) it would be hard to imagine how it would be anything other than irrational to spend my time reading “Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope” when I have a well established prior belief that such things are the rational tail wagging on an emotional dog.

    I don’t mean to quote it accidentally, I think this article and its responses are actually quite illustrative of what you’re talking about: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/terry-eagleton/lunging-flailing-mispunching

    Eagleton’s main line of criticism seems to be ‘I’m not going to dignify Dawkins’ arguments with more than a sneer because he hasn’t read his theology’ to which Grayling et al respond, quite rightly, by saying ‘are you /kidding/ me?

  39. Posted March 25, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    How dare people compare Santa with that God who lets such as the Shoah happen! Santa is the spirit behind gift-giving at Christmas,more properly Santamas!
    It is as wrong for theists as for atheists to to dwell upon his existence as Ingersoll Tillich notes.
    It is idolatrous, as he notes, to compare the two!
    God cannot exist if He is defined as good, and where is the evidence that He is good, and we find Santa as behind the gift-giving from experience or how would an a-Santaist ever try to deny that?
    Read Ingersoll Tillich’s “Dynamics of Ultimate Gift -Giving!”


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