Atheists v. Evidence

ImageIn recent posts on arguments for theism, I’ve been both fascinated and befuddled by responses from atheist critics.  The particular approach that I’ve taken is to show that rational and moral adults act as though God exists even while they may ironically deny his existence.  I have yet to receive any meaningful rejoinders.  But there is one response that I have received consistently, which is, in so many words, “You haven’t offered any evidence for God.”

Now what’s befuddling about this is that, in fact, I have.  The moral argument, for instance, is actually deductive evidence for the existence of God.  The argument goes:

If there is no God, objective moral values don’t exist.

Objective moral values do exist.

Therefore God exists.

What I’ve said is that everyone, including atheists, generally subscribe to the first premise, and all but the mentally ill subscribe to the second.  In fact, atheists usually complain about God on the grounds of moral principles that they believe hold objectively to all people at all times, including God.  So in fact, I hardly need to prove the existence of God to an atheist – everyone already lives as though God is there.

What’s befuddling is how many atheists over-confidently assert that I haven’t offered any evidence.  What they mean is “empirical evidence,” or evidence that can be tested by the senses.  What I’ve offered is rational or philosophical evidence.  But what I’ve offered actually does qualify as evidence.  Insisting on empirical evidence is in fact self-refuting, because there is no empirical evidence to prove that things can only be believed on the basis of empirical evidence.  This was the now well-documented failure of verificationism and logical positivism, which have lost their followership.

So I believe I’ve offered a solid if not irrefutable proof of the existence of God.  The onus is on the atheist to demonstrate how on earth he could come up with a moral critique of God on the basis of a material world that generates no objective moral values.

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30 thoughts on “Atheists v. Evidence

  1. I believe it is wrong to stab someone for the same reasons I wouldn’t want someone to stab me – it would hurt, be frightening, it could kill me (I don’t want to die), violate my will, mutilate me, ruin a perfectly good shirt and so on. Things like pain are intrinsically bad, or at the very least subjectively uncomfortable. And we all have the same subjective nature more or less when it comes to things like suffering. People generally agreeing about something like “stabbing people is wrong” requires a pervasive cause, but there is absolutely no reason to assume that pervasive cause must therefore be god. A simpler explanation is simply the commonality of human nature based on common DNA. I feel pain and you feel pain, we both have the same social instincts like compassion, empathy etc not because god is magically making us all feel them, but because we all are members of the same species and have the same DNA and physiology. In other words we both have a conscience for the same reason we both have lungs – we both inherited the DNA for both from a common ancestor who found having both of those traits extraordinarily useful to it’s survival.

    The same is true of many “intelligent design” arguments – why are all the planets round and why do all of the orbits follow the same plane? There must be a pervasive force at play and what else could it be but god? Turns out that we already know what the pervasive force is – gravity. Liquids form a ball in space because gravity and surface tension are equal in all directions, and every a planet passes closer to jupiter it (which is bigger than every other planet combined) tugs on it, altering it’s orbit. It turns out all the planets are just following the path of the largest gravity well. There does have to be a pervasive cause for pervasive phenomenon – but don’t just assume it’s a deity.

    I’m sure you will argue about the morality stuff, I can perform a reductio ad absurdum on your “morality comes from god” position and the notion of absolute morality if you like.

    1. You haven’t actually addressed the moral argument at all. You are saying that behavior trends could be common in a species, which no one would disagree with. But if you conclude from that that people are in any way obligated to honor those impulses, you haven’t proven it here. You sort of betray yourself when you use the term “intrinsically bad,” because impulses that spring from DNA certainly are not and cannot be. What you mean is that you actually do believe some things are intrinsically right and wrong. Otherwise we would simply say that there is nothing actually wrong with stabbing someone.

      1. “You haven’t actually addressed the moral argument at all.”

        Isn’t your argument roughly “we all have a moral sense, therefore god must’ve given it to us”? Evangelists like this argument because morality is a complex, nebulous concept that most people are not used to thinking about too deeply, and evangelists just love nebulous concepts because it’s so easy to say “you have no explanation so god must’ve done it”. When of course that’s the same fallacy as saying “you can’t account for lightning so zeus must’ve done it”.

        “You are saying that behavior trends could be common in a species, which no one would disagree with.”

        I’m saying they are common across many species, not just humans.

        “But if you conclude from that that people are in any way obligated to honor those impulses, you haven’t proven it here.”

        I am kind and compassionate to people because I understand the value in kindness and because my psychological nature makes me want to (because of everything from peer pressure to a lust for altruism), not because I am “obligated” a heavenly reward or punishment. I eat food because I don’t want to die, but also because my biological nature makes it taste good. Same principle. Morality (why people behave the way they do) is complicated and layered. You can just say “god did it” if you want but that’s arbitrary. Prove god did it and we’ll talk.

        “You sort of betray yourself when you use the term “intrinsically bad,” because impulses that spring from DNA certainly are not and cannot be.”

        I don’t think you understand what intrinsic means. It means in and of itself, not due to something external, self-contained etc. Even if my nature stems from my DNA which came from elsewhere my nature is still intrinsic to me.

        “What you mean is that you actually do believe some things are intrinsically right and wrong.”

        I would say intrinsically good or bad, and that that is what we base our moral philosophies on. The same way that if I decided not to kill someone because I didn’t want to go to hell it would be because of the intrinsic (albeit supposed) nature of hell.

        “Otherwise we would simply say that there is nothing actually wrong with stabbing someone.”

        If pain didn’t exist and stabbing didn’t cause any of the things I listed, there wouldn’t be. If bullets didn’t hurt people shooting people would be fine. Wouldn’t it? Imagine we could rearrange all the atoms in our bodies to change human nature and we did so in such a way that chopping off someone’s hand tickled, caused no pain, and the hand re-grew in seconds. Would chopping off someone’s hand be wrong? If it would be it certainly wouldn’t be as wrong, would it? Similarly imagine if shaking someone’s hand caused them agonizing pain. Would it be morally right? What if shaking someone’s hand caused them crippling, horrible “I want to die please make it stop” pain and jesus appeared before you and said to go shake peoples’ hands all day – would you do it? Would it be moral? if you did it would you feel conflicted?

        1. Your restatement of the moral argument is definitely not the moral argument. Evolutionary biologists can construct explanations for apparently moral impulses. That doesn’t refute the moral argument. Objective moral values are actually intrinsic values – meaning things are good in and of themselves. But in a sheerly material world, everything is just particles, and particles have no inherent meaning, purpose, or value. So I think we’re actually using “intrinsic” in the same way; I’m just not sure you understand the implications. Nothing is intrinsically good in the atheistic worldview.

          1. “Your restatement of the moral argument is definitely not the moral argument.”

            It’s the argument I’ve heard and appears to be the one you’re using.

            “Evolutionary biologists can construct explanations for apparently moral impulses. That doesn’t refute the moral argument. Objective moral values are actually intrinsic values – meaning things are good in and of themselves.”

            Well things like pain are subjective but appear objective (and sort of are) due to their universal nature. In other words it’s not that stabbing someone is objectively bad, it’s that the subjective reasons that make it bad are all objectively a part of everyone’s nature and thus everyone subjectively feels the same way about stabbing (barring the occasional nutjob).

            Makes sense to me. You are saying that stabbing is bad because god says so, but you ignore all the objections to this worldview I bring up and casually dismiss almost my entire comment.

            “But in a sheerly material world, everything is just particles, and particles have no inherent meaning, purpose, or value.”

            Purpose and value are byproducts of consciousness, they are concepts not subatomic particles.

            “So I think we’re actually using “intrinsic” in the same way; I’m just not sure you understand the implications. Nothing is intrinsically good in the atheistic worldview.”

            According to who, you? I just said x is intrinsically good and y is intrinsically bad and I’m an atheist. Again, putting words in my mouth. Yes, atheists have no values of any kind, says the guy who just got done claiming I think eating babies is a plus.

            1. Your last paragraph says it all. You’ve irrationally committed to the belief in intrinsic moral values, which cannot just magically spring from a material universe. You haven’t in any way substantiated that belief. And your last comment makes me wonder if you’re even in the same conversation I am?

  2. Objective morality and God do not mix. If morals are objective they exist independent of any mind. If objective morals depend on God’s will, then they are not objective.

    Your first premise cannot be demonstrated, and therefore your conclusion does not follow.

    1. This is actually a clever argument, though I think it’s flawed.

      By this reasoning, literally nothing is objective, because nothing that we perceive is demonstrably independent of our having perceived it, and thus everything is subjective. Your definition of objective as “independent of any mind” is I think unreasonable.

      The typical distinction between objectivity and subjectivity stems from whether or not the subject UNDER CONSIDERATION is producing it, or if it is stemming from an alternate source than the subject under consideration.

      If we say that something is objective if it is given by an external source, we might have a meaningful conversation about objectivity. Objective to the individual means it is given by a source beyond the individual, and objective to humanity would be given by a source outside of humanity. And thus God’s will is actually an objective source of morality, because no human being created it.

      Thanks for a reasonable objection, though.

      1. In this case, your objective morality is just slave morality: “Do it, because some external source tells you to.”. It has no other justification except that someone says so. Is this what you want to follow? It does not have to have anything to do with human happiness, for example, or the well-being, etc. What does make it special? Just that someone says so?

      2. My definition is pretty standard. With it there can be true objectivity. Things do exist independent of my perception of them under my definition. Nothing about “independent of any mind” stops this. At least you didn’t show this in your response.

        If what is good and just is willed by God, then our morals are arbitrary. If they are not arbitrary, then God appeals to something other than himself. God is reduced to a transmitter of morals and not the source. Because of this dilemma, the objective moral argument for God falls flat.

        The first premise cannot be demonstrated. After all, we either have our morals grounded in the arbitrary will of a deity, or we have objective morals independent of a deity (assuming for the argument that they are truly objective).

  3. Please, prove your 2nd point (“Objective moral values do exist.”). Personally, I’ll think you’ll fail, because I don’t believe that this is true. Calling me mentally ill doesn’t change that. And of course, please define “objective” before doing that, just to make sure we’re talking about the same topic here.

    (Oh, and please don’t forget: Jesus was totally ok with slavery.)

    1. I don’t need to prove the second premise, because you’ve already shown that you agree with the second premise in implying that you think slavery is objectively wrong. As to your parenthetical note, 1) you have no basis for that claim, 2) my argument is irrespective of Jesus, so don’t change the subject.

  4. “And as to your sense that objective morals are unnecessary”

    Also, what you claim to have isn’t objective morals. Even if your worldview is true (and I see no good reason to think it is), you’d have arbitrary orders from the strongest being…which isn’t morality at all, objective or otherwise.

    1. This is a common observation, usually defined as the Euthyphro dilemma. Generally it is stated: is something good because God willed it, or did God will it because it’s good?

      The answer to that is a simple one. Because God made us and wills things according to his intended design, his will for us resonates with our existence and confirms itself in our living it out. Try loving your neighbor, see how it feels, and then decide if God’s will is arbitrary.

      Thanks for the conversation.

      1. You’re not making the point you think you are. If God makes loving your neighbour good, then loving your neighbour will feel good to you. BUT, this does not make God’s will any less arbitrary. He could make killing puppies feel good too.

        Does God have any reasons for loving your neighbour to be good? He can’t. Unless you are willing to admit that he appeals to something other than himself, which severs the link between objective morals and their existence depending on God. On the other hand, if morals are jus this arbitrary will, then they are not objective. Which is it?

        1. You’re restating the Euthyphro dilemma, which I already addressed in the thread below.

          If God had willed us to “kill puppies” and had designed us for that purpose, you wouldn’t use it as a point of contention in the argument, because it wouldn’t tug at the universal sense that there are objective moral values which are being tested.

  5. “The moral argument, for instance, is actually deductive evidence for the existence of God. ”

    No. It’s an argument. An argument is not evidence.

    “of a material world that generates no objective moral values.”

    Funnily enough, being part of the material world, we humans generate moral values all the time.

    I just neither recognize the way you use the word ‘objective’ as valuable or meaningful.

    1. As to the claim “an argument is not evidence,” thanks for proving my point. And as to your sense that objective morals are unnecessary, consider the difference between, “Abusing children for fun is always wrong,” versus the most you can be committed to, which is “I feel like abusing children for fun is wrong for now.”

      1. “versus the most you can be committed to”

        That’s not the most I can be committed to.

        ‘Abusing children harms them, which I why I think it’s wrong. And if you try and abuse children and I hear about it, me and the society I’m in that shares my view, will lock you up.’

        1. That’s a perfect answer. You depend on gut feelings and group will. And human history reveals all kinds of things that seem diabolical when a large, unconstrained group was in power, including genocide, slavery, and the murder of over 100 million people by explicitly atheistic regimes in the 20th century.

          What you’ve implied here is that you hope you get to live in a society of people who act like morality is objective, which simply proves my second premise.

          So I guess I’ll see you in church on Sunday?

          1. ” You depend on gut feelings and group will.”

            One determines harm and benefit scientifically, not be gut feelings. The group will provides a level of pragmatism for those who think they might want to cause harm.

            “including genocide, slavery, and the murder of over 100 million people by explicitly atheistic regimes in the 20th century.”

            As opposed the supposed genocide, slavery and murder of everyone on the planet except for 8 people that your god supposedly committed?

            Hello relative morality.

            “What you’ve implied here is that you hope you get to live in a society of people who act like morality is objective”

            No. I hope to live in a society of people who recognize harm and benefit, and respect things like freedom.

            Christianity doesn’t present any of those things. And even if it did, I have no reason to believe the supernatural claims it makes, so no, I will not be attending your or anyone else’s church.

            1. I’m sort of surprised to hear you saying this in the wake of the 20th century. Group will has never meant squat in determining morality. If the Nazis had won by sheer force of power, your harm principle would be regulated very differently in society.

              As to your criticisms of God, you really don’t want to go there, for three reasons.
              1) My argument doesn’t come from or depend on the Bible. Your need to critique the Bible suggests that you don’t have anything to actually say to my argument.
              2) Critiquing any conception of God along the lines of objective moral values simply proves my argument once again. You clearly think that harm is objectively bad and freedom is objectively good, which isn’t true if the universe is merely matter.

              However, let’s mark the fact that you want to shift the conversation away from my argument and towards your criticisms of Christianity. I’m very interested to hear them, actually, because I think that might be more to the heart of your arguments.

              Thanks for the conversation.

              1. “Group will has never meant squat in determining morality.”

                Group will has always determined morality. It hasn’t always been the best at it, but it does.

                Funny you should mention the Nazis, as they marched around with “God with Us” on their belt buckles…

                “My argument doesn’t come from or depend on the Bible.”

                Yes it does. The fact that you’re pretending it doesn’t lets me know you think it’s just as weak as I do.

                “You clearly think that harm is objectively bad and freedom is objectively good”

                Nope. I think harm is usually bad (chemo-therapy being one example of it not being bad) and I think freedom is usually good (your freedom to swing your arm ends at my face, for example).

                1. You might want to take a deep breath. You’re kind of wandering all over the place now. My argument doesn’t come from the Bible. It doesn’t even mention the Bible. It’s an argument for theism, and you’re avoiding it. The fact that political powers have used God doesn’t have anything to do with God’s existence. Group will doesn’t create objective morality – you’re begging the question. Group will is just the will of the group. And the fact that freedom is usually good with obvious exceptions doesn’t change the fact that you think it is objectively good.

                  I kind of feel like you’re not thinking as quickly as you’re responding.

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