Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Absurdity Of The Presupposition

Most of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God are what I call diffuse arguments, that is they use an abstract use of the word God in the philosophical proof then once the proof is over claim that the diffuse God of the reasoning is the Judeo-Christian construct they happen to believe in. At the core of this reasoning lies presuppositional apologetics, that is the presupposed deity brought forth must be the god they happen to believe in. Some forego this argumentative sleight of hand and use the presupposition explicitly, that the Christian worldview is superior to the atheist worldview because the presupposition accounts for more.

From His noodly appendage...
Let's try a thought experiment. Let's presuppose that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created created reality. That any imperfection in the universe was caused by the FSM's drunkeness and that the scientific appearance of age is caused by the FSM changing results with his noodly appendage. In short, the FSM is the source of all reality including ourselves.

Currently there are many things in the universe that cannot be explained through naturalistic causes so the FSM presupposition beats the presupposition of the atheist. After all, an atheist cannot account for the breaking of supersymmetry or the forming of the protocell. It alleges that these have natural causes, but it doesn't have a mechanism to guide it. Likewise the presupposition of pastafarianism beats Christianity as intelligent design doesn't explain all the unintelligent design seen in the world. A presupposed Flying Spaghetti Monster is the only rational basis for belief.

Now surely this type of argument is self-evident in its flaws. Being able to account for more doesn't make it better, especially given that observing reality does give us a limited understanding of what we should expect in nature. We can account for many things through science that have evidential backing that show Christianity to be absurd. Our nature is evolved, original sin is a poor explanation for what evolution explains so well. The aspects of ourselves that need explanation have explanation.

Furthermore, it should follow that just because something explains better than others, it doesn't mean it automatically correct. Being the (subjectively) least wrong doesn't make it right, 200 years ago appealing to the watchmaker argument over Lamarkian evolution doesn't mean that the teleological argument is right. We know now that neo-Darwinian evolution is correct, not because there are any other challenges but because there is strong evidence supporting common ancestry and the mechanisms at play in nature have been deeply studied and the theory has been strongly vetted for 150 years now.

The necessitation of a meme
Science is a naturalistic process, it has derived where it is from observing and deriving theories from the universe itself. It is natural philosophy. Thus our understanding of evolution is not based on any presupposition of evolution's truth, rather a consequence from observing the universe. Evolution is the story that life tells us, that Darwin and Wallace both came up with Natural Selection independently shows that it's not just a meme.

My main criticism of any logical proof for God is that it relies on the notion of what god is. You can't prove logically that Jesus died on the cross or that the bible is an accurate account of history. So the presupposition forms the basis of all logical arguments. Take Aquinas' Prime Mover. What does it mean to say that the first cause is God? Does it follow that because there was an uncaused cause that the cause was the Judeo-Christian construct of God? Does it follow that God has any properties at all beyond being the logical consequence (i.e. the uncaused cause)?

Regardless of the validity of such arguments, the use of the word God in there has no merits. Now there may be a causeless cause, but all we can say about the causeless cause is that it is a causeless cause. We cannot say anything about the causeless cause, whether it has any consciousness, intelligence or interest in the actions of the human species. It definitely does not follow that Jesus rose on the third day and that eternal life comes from believing this notion.

Can one be a Christian without being exposed to Christianity? I would contend not. Hypothetically if all knowledge of Christianity was lost, would a future generation be able to derive the Christian God? That is, if one wasn't exposed to Christianity would these arguments lead them to Jesus? For how could they know of Jesus' sacrifice without the bible or the Church? Maybe God could reveal Jesus' sacrifice to others, but this does not stem from philosophy.

I would contend that no philosophical argument works to prove any God, it at best is a justification for positions already held. Ultimately the argument is an argument from dogma, that the bible says it is true so it is true. Because there is nothing to even suggest that any of the presupposition is valid, this takes a leap of faith. And that's fine, it's better to be honest about the reasons for belief than to engage in sophistry.

One more thought. The Teleological Argument is one that does make the case for an intelligent agent, though among the many multitude of things wrong with such an argument, it begs the question of who designed the designer?


Wowbagger said...

I also consider the vast number of different religions - not just sects - that exist in the world as good evidence of there not being a god at the root of any of them.

Were there to be a distinct common thread throughout all of them, e.g. if they all had stories of a Jesus-like messiah who made the same claims he made and taught the same lessons about life as he did, then perhaps it would indicate that there is one god who is somehow 'seeping' into human consciousness as an indicator of his existence.

But that isn't the case.

Why would a god who loved all people equally and who wanted everyone on the earth to benefit from believing in him (which is what most religions claim) only reveal himself to a tiny proportion of the humans on the planet, leaving the spread of his words up to a very slow process when he could create a Jesus in every far-flung tribe all over the world?

Like most religious 'answers', the logic behind presupposition actually answers nothing at all - not, at least, for the intellectually honest.

Anonymous said...

"Were there to be a distinct common thread throughout all [religions], e.g. if they all had stories of a Jesus-like messiah who made the same claims he made and taught the same lessons about life as he did, then perhaps it would indicate that there is one god..."

This is amusing, because there are atheists who assert that Jesus is indeed a copycat of earlier ancient religions, which, they further assert, is "proof" of the "falseness" of Christianity. One fav amongst atheist anti-Christians is Horus, whom some claim was born December 25th in a manger, had 12 disciples, died on a cross and was resurrected 3 days later. The internet film "Zietgiest" goes into this with detail, "explaining" that this "sun god" merely represents celestial mechanics -- the sun moves southward until Winter Solstice, where it stays for three days, and then starts moving northward again. Hence, the "death", "burial" and "resurrection" of the "sun god".

Now you come along and say, "if only there were copycats, maybe I'd be a believer..."

My view is that you atheists will say anything, believe anything, so long as anything resembling God is NOT involved...

Wowbagger said...

Anonymous wrote:

This is amusing, because there are atheists who assert that Jesus is indeed a copycat of earlier ancient religions...

Perhaps you should have spent less time being amused and more time reading for comprehension, because while you were giggling away you missed the part in my comment that specified a messiah ...who made the same claims and taught the same lessons about life as he did....

Tell me, did Horus teach the same lessons about life as Jesus? Did the sun?

What do Christians consider to be more important? The dates, the place of his birth, the number of disciples he had or what he told them about the way they should live their lives in order to get to heaven?

I'm saying that none of the actual important aspects of the Christian faith - rather than insigificant details - showed up in other religions, it might indicate a common 'truth'. But they don't, so there's room for doubt.

Oh, and you also missed the part about '...that exist in the world...' - not just in societies within a few thousand miles of each other. That the Jews and the Christians after them 'borrowed' from earlier mythologies is good evidence of its lack of a basis in truth because the common basis can be explained by geographic closeness and cross-cultural interaction.

But your god isn't supposed to be limited by such a trivial thing as distance, is he?

Locating an as-yet undiscovered tribe in the Amazon with absolutely no other indications of European Christian influence with a Jesus-like figure who taught the same lessons as the Christian Jesus, on the other hand, might indicate the commonality I'm referring to.

I'd believe in your god (and anyone else's for that matter) in a second - if there was a reason to.

Kel said...

The fact that there are messiah-like figures in other religions is not atheists grasping at anything, it's simply the way things are. What it means about Jesus, well that's up for discussion.

As for grasping at anything so long as God is not involved? First give me reason to suggest that God is involved before one can consider that hypothesis. I don't consider that Brahman or The Flying Spaghetti Monster were involved either, is that atheists grasping?

I give as much regard to the Judeo-Christian construct of a deity as I do to a Norse or a Hindu or a tribal construct of a deity. And that was the whole point of this post, that in the end philosophical arguments don't show the version of God that the arguments are incited to support.