When I was a very young child, 8 years old, I remember going to services at our local Reform temple one evening. It was a very cold day, and I was running ahead of my family when my mother called out for me to be careful. I told her, secure and confident in the way that only a child can be, that I had nothing to fear since a temple is “God’s house” and of course I couldn’t get hurt there. She reiterated that I had to be careful, and that I could break a bone if I slipped and fell on the ice. That was the first time I truly began to realize that theism didn’t quite add up.
So, I’ve written here, at great length, about the importance of negation, of the null hypothesis, as a fundamental hypothesis that can only be overturned by carrying the burden of proof. And the null hypothesis’ relationship to belief in deities. (or God, or G-d, or יהוה, or what-have-you). But tonight I was discussing Spinoza and Einstein with someone, and it helped me to crystallize a way that I might share my mind with you… and thereby give you insight into where I’m coming from.
Professional Christian apologists like Frank Turek love to shift the burden of proof via a tactic so intellectually dishonest, that I’m sometimes surprised that they manage to keep a straight face. While it comes in various flavors and often uses various versions of the Murder One fallacy, generally dovetailed with a full on Gish Gallop, the argument boils down to the claim that unless someone knows the deepest mysteries of physics below the Planck scale, and the entire chain of chemical reactions and evolutionary events that took us from proto-replicators to today, that theistic claims must be the default hypothesis.
Imagine my eyes rolling so hard that they might violate conservation of angular momentum, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of my reaction to this moist nugget of fractal wrongness.
I’d like to address the claim that an omnipotent, omniscient being, a being that wanted its will to be communicated with perfect clarity and fidelity to all people for all of time, decided to do so by having people grind up pigments in order to stain dead trees and/or animal hides with words.
– Axiom 1: Determinism and the ontological possibility of choice, are mutually exclusive.
– Definition 1: let deterministic mean: “a system in which no randomness is involved in the development of future states of the system. A deterministic model will thus always produce the same output from a given starting condition or initial state.”
– Definition 2: let free will mean : “the capacity unique to persons that allows them to control their actions by making choices”
– Definition 3: let omniscience mean: “knowing everything : having unlimited understanding or knowledge”
-Given 1: there is an omniscient entity
-Given 2: humans have free will
– P1: There is an omniscient entity (G1)
– P2: If an entity is omniscient, it will know the starting and ending states of a system, as well as all states in between. (D3)
– P3: if an omniscient entity knows every state, including the ending state of a system before the system gets to that point in time, then events within the system cannot vary from what is destined to happen. (P2)
– P4: Events that are destined to happen can not occur any way other than what is destined to occur. (P3)
– P5: If events cannot occur any way other than what is destined, the cosmos will always produce the same output from a given starting condition or initial state. (D1)
– P6: If there is an omniscient entity, then the cosmos will always produce the same output from a given starting condition or initial state. (P4, D1)
– P7: Any system which will always produce the same output from a given starting condition or initial state, is deterministic. (D1)
– P8: If a system is deterministic, any and all future actions are already destined, and choice is not ontologically possible. (A1, D1, P3, P4)
– P9: Free will requires the ontologically possibility of choice. (D2)
– P10: Free will and determinism are mutually exclusive (A1, D2)
– P11: Reality is deterministic. (P1, P2, P6, P7)
– P12: Humans have free will (G2)
∴ (P1 ⊕ P12 )
I’ve never had any truck with the concept of some sort of universal, inborn morality. It’s always seemed so patently absurd to me, that it wasn’t until later in life when I was exposed to apologists’ moral arguments, that I realized that some people not only buy into the concept of universal morality, they use that as a cornerstone of their conception of reality itself. It’s a tremendously weak argument, one that I can refute in one single word. I’ll start with the TLDR refutation, and then move on to the more loquacious refutation.
Godwin’s Law is a well known internet maxim that, essentially, states that the longer an online debate goes on, the more likely it is that someone will compare someone/something to Hitler/the Nazis. And that, of course, once you reach that point, the debate is functionally over. Theists have numerous gambits that serve the same debate-ending function, without even the redeeming fact that Nazis actually existed and could validly be used for comparison if the comparison was apt. All of the arguments below reflect not just basic logical/factual errors, but a total and complete abrogation of any and all reasonable epistemic standards.
Attempting to have an honest, productive debate with someone who uses these gambits is a bit like trying to conduct financial transactions with someone who keeps trying to pay with Monopoly money.