Saturday, June 2, 2012

Proof That God Exists

So that's why theists lose their shit every time their beliefs are challenged

I took note of a claim made on a website that I wanted to address, but either I took down the wrong URL or they changed the site. What I found there instead I think is worthy of addressing.

http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/ (Sorry, you'll have to copy/paste - I'm not giving them any of my link juice)

They may change it again, so I'll address each point here. It's actually kind of handy, because they broke down the argument into manageable steps.

Spoilers - Basically it's a transcendental argument for a god - a presupposeitialist argument.

Let's go through this step by step, shall we? This is going to be a haul, definitely, but you'll also be awesome for getting through it all!

What do you believe?

The welcoming page gives you four options. The entire website is kind of like 20 questions, often with inadequate choices.
  1. Absolute Truth Exists
  2. Absolute Truth Does Not Exist
  3. I don't know if Absolute Truth Exists
  4. I don't care if Absolute Truth Exists

Absolute Truth Does Not Exist

Here they do a bit of axiomatic wordplay to get you to admit that absolute truth exists.

I don't know if Absolute Truth Exists

Same as above - they loop you back to the beginning with "(Think about it)".

I don't care if Absolute Truth Exists

They politely show you the door and tell you to go away.

Welcome!

I chose "1. Absolute Truth Exists" - well, because, I agree. I'm not sure I'd call it "absolute truth" though, because that seems redundant. I think there's a truth that's absolute. Same difference, I suppose.

This page has some discussion saying essentially "yep we can prove God exists BUT it's so obvious no one is without excuse, but let's prove it anyway"

The specifically page states, "No one needs proof that God exists, I simply offer these 8 steps to the logical proof of God's existence...", and I chuckled a bit. Yes, you don't need proof, but here it is anyway.

Lower on the page, it says "If you are honest with what you truly believe, this website will lead you to the proof that God exists." I, uh, truly believe that no one's made the case for a God yet. Assuming there's no failures of logic and the premises are valid, etc, then sure!

Two options are provided:
  1. Go to step 1
  2. Exit
I suppose I'll do #1

Step 1: Laws of Logic

The page starts talking about setting up a logical proof for God. 

So wait, step 1 and we're already failed and finished? I've explained at length why proofs by logic are bogus.  In short, there had better be some empirical confirmation at some point here, else they can't demonstrate God.

Two options are provided:
  1. Laws of Logic Exist
  2. Laws of Logic Do Not Exist
This is a tough one. What does it mean to exist? 

Does the concept of a cylinder exist? Well, yes, in our minds, but that concept is an abstraction of what we could call a cylinder. That chunk of metal before me isn't actually a cylinder. It's just a chunk of metal, but it happens to meet our qualifications for that concept.

In that regard, with the laws of logic being a conceptual abstraction of how the universe works, sure.

Laws of Logic Do Not Exist

If you take this choice, it tries to make the point to you that the laws of logic do in fact exist, through some axiomatic choices like before.

Laws of Logic Exist

Alright, I'll go with this one. It's not exactly what I'd choose either, but since I'm only given two options, I gotta pick the closest match.

Step 2: Laws of Mathematics

The page asks you what you think of the laws of mathematics. Math is fairly similar to logic in that it's a conceptual abstraction used to help describe how reality works.

Two options are provided:
  1. Laws of Mathematics Exist
  2. Laws of Mathematics Do Not Exist

Laws of Mathematics Do Not Exist

They give you one last chance to repent, and choose the other option, or you can go away.

I guess I'll go with #1 again, although, again, not exactly true, but close enough. They don't really give a lot of leeway for nuance.

Step 3: Laws of Science

This is getting sort of monotonous. Basically, it's Step 2: Math with same options, except for science, etc. Let's head on to step 4.

Step 4: Absolute Moral Laws

Ah, now it's getting more interesting.

The page states, "...absolute moral laws 'prescribe' how humans ought to, or ought not to behave. Rape, and child molestation, are two examples of absolute moral wrongs.".

Two options are provided:
  1. Absolute Moral Laws Exist
  2. Absolute Moral Laws Do Not Exist
It's really not as simple as that. No, I don't believe absolute moral laws exist, though that depends on how we're defining things. I don't want to babble about secular morality too much, so I'll give a brief rundown of what I mean.

Take child rape as the example. My first question is, why is it wrong? Is it wrong because someone declared it? Is there something more to it?

I think child rape is wrong because:
  1. It's harm
  2. It's taking advantage of someone's weakness
These two particular premises apply to a wide variety of actions. That's why it's wrong, not because of some arbitrary declaration somewhere.

They appear to be equating "laws" of morality with "laws" of logic.  It's kind of an equivocation fallacy - where "laws" of morality are more like legislation (prescriptive) and "laws" of logic are descriptive. These two usages of "laws" are not equivalent.

Furthermore, we harm beings all the time, whether it's swatting mosquitoes, turning cows into mooburgers, or sometimes each other in self defense. Clearly, we have a convoluted set of values which have determined these cases to be excluded from "absolutely wrong".

Instead, we evolved as a social species, and have to get along. We're slowly figuring out what works and what doesn't for a cooperative society. That surfaces as applauded acts and taboos. 

Please note that if what I'm saying is true, our morality as a civilization would be improving over time, as we're figuring out this morality thing. That's what happened. Even through the span of the Old Testament, the New Testament and through to modern times, our understanding of morality has been awkardly, yet steadily, improving.

One of the "tenets" of a cooperative society is that harm is bad. That's because cooperative societies fall apart if we allow it - that's simply a mechanism of social behavior. Why would I want to live in a society that lets murders go unchallenged?

That's why we recognize child rape as bad - because of the set of principles and values we've learned over the course of our history. Harm is objectively discernible, and can be quantitative and qualitative. Shoot someone in the head and they stop functioning - harm.

Well, that was kind of brief. Take note, some of these points I made I'll likely revisit here soon.

Absolute Moral Laws Do Not Exist

If this false dichotomy wasn't bad enough, this choice tries to corner you with two options:
  1. Molesting children for fun is absolutely morally wrong
  2. Molesting children for fun is not absolutely morally wrong
Why couldn't there have been a third choice:
  • We've figured out that molesting children for fun is harmful to them and that's why we're opposed to it.
Why not? Well their whole argument would fall apart, that's why. To be fair, these aren't false dichotomies. They'r something more insidious. They're loaded questions.

"Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"
  1. Yes
  2. No
There's no way to win at that question. If you answer "yes", that means you were beating your wife. If you answer "no", that means you currently are. There's no "I am not and have not beat my wife".

Likewise, if you have a problem with the "absolute" adjective, or the premise, you can't win. The makers of this website are being incredibly manipulative.

Anyway, let's go with their #1 on Step 5.

=============== Intermission  ===============

Go get a refreshment, take a nap, I dunno. We've got plenty to go. Enjoy this animation:


Feeling up for more? Let's continue.

==========================================

Step 5: The Nature of Laws

Now that we've agreed that the last brazillion laws are absolute, the page asks what we think about these laws:
  1. Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are immaterial
  2. Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are material 
Basically, they're asking you if the laws of logic, for example, are made out of hamburgers. Immaterial things would be like concepts

Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are material 

If you select this option, it brings you a "Are you serious?" (paraphrased) page, and gives you the option to select the other option or please go away. "Can you find the number 3?" it asks, as an example.

I happen to agree, yes indeedy, they are immaterial.

Well, kind of. The concepts in your mind are still based on a physical brain, like the program that you're using to browse the web right now is based off physical technology. It's not exactly very well distinguished.

You can't find the number 3, but you can find three of an object. Three is a concept for describing what we find in reality.

Let's trudge on to the next step, since, well, yeah, I agree, it's immaterial.

Step 6: The Nature of Laws (b)

Now that we agree that the laws are immaterial, we're given two options:
  1. Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are universal
  2. Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are individual
Basically, they're asking whether we think the laws of logic are dictated by individual people, or are they global to everyone.

This may seem somewhat straight forward, but it's actually a little problematic. I'll break it down by type:

  • Logic - People can come up with incorrect laws, for instance. 
  • Mathematics - You know what? "5 + 5 = 12" can actually be true - in base 8. We're assuming that everyone's descriptions are the same.
  • Science - Unless they hadn't noticed, the scientific laws are continually undergoing revision and upgrading. Newtwon's laws of motion, for instance, don't actually work on the relativistic or quantum levels. This one probably is the least "universal". 
  • Morality - Like I said before, morality keeps changing. Take slavery, for instance, the Bible condones it, but (most) modern Christians think it's immoral now. Clearly not universal.
Keep in mind that for the above things - again, these are concepts. They represent our best current understanding of reality. 

Now, for the sake of humoring the site, let's say that there's a set of laws that is ultimately the true accurate set of laws that hypothetically we'd eventually come to.  The universe works in a particular way, and the ultimate set of laws would reflect that accurately.

Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are individual

If you select this option, then the page basically tells you "Well then anyone could make up anything and it'd be true/right".  It prompts you to "repent" or go away.

Sigh - alright, we'll go with "they're universal".

Step 7: The Nature of Laws (c)

The page asks whether I think the laws of nature are changing.

We're given two options:
  1. Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are unchanging
  2. Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are changing
For science and math, yes, they're changing. I'm going to assume they mean the ultimate math and science, not what we have now.  Morals are constantly changing.

Actually, with science, there are indications that some of the basic physical constants, for instance, do change over time, but let's ignore that for now.

Laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality are changing

Select this option, and you get sort of a strawman about what you might mean. The law of gravitation might change slightly over millions of years, but this takes your choice to mean that you think tomorrow gravity won't apply anymore, for instance.

It lets you "repent" or go away.  

But whatever, let's go ahead and say they're unchanging.

Preproof

Woo! We're done with the steps. The page recaps everything up to this point, so far.

They start discussing what the Bible says.
The Bible teaches us that there are 2 types of people in this world, those who profess the truth of God's existence and those who suppress the truth of God's existence.
Yes, I know the Bible gets a lot of things wrong, you don't have to point out another. How about a third - God doesn't exist and there's people who believe it anyway? It continues:
The options of 'seeking' God, or not believing in God are unavailable.
Uh what? I don't believe in God. Yet another thing the Bible is wrong about. I should point out that the reason why the authors of the website (presuppositionalists) all of a sudden went skitzo is because it's part of their dogma.

They think atheists are literally lying to themselves.

They presuppose God exists and is obvious, so clearly anyone who doesn't agree is lying. All I can say is that this point of view is insane, and move on. I have bigger fish to fry. These people are not telepaths. They don't know what's going on in my mind, especially if the only thing they're going on is what an ancient book says.

They quote Romans 1:18-21, as though this mattered, as their justification.

The page finishes with this gem:
The God of Christianity is the necessary starting point to make sense of universal, abstract, invariant laws by the impossibility of the contrary. These laws are necessary to prove ANYTHING. Therefore...
Basically, the standard point presuppositionalism tries to make here is that because naturalism cannot account for the laws and rationality and stuff, only their assertion can account for it, therefore God.

Argument from Ignorance

It's one colossal Argument from Ignorance. Secondly, it's a negative proof. I described in detail how these types of arguments, which purport to be able to prove something by disproving something else, are incredibly faulty and ultimately useless.

They haven't demonstrated their claim

They don't actually show that the contrary is impossible by the way. They merely declare it.

It seems fairly straight forward to me - a functional universe exists, we have pattern recognizing brains, and we recognize that there are consistent behaviors of the universe, and we label those behaviors  as "laws". What's the problem?

We don't even have to go there, though. They need to actually demonstrate that their claim is true. Their argument is as inane as saying "See, my refrigerator is full because yours is empty", all without examining the contents of either.

Let's go ahead and say, yes, naturalism hasn't accounted for the basis of logic and rationality. And? We may never know what happened "before" the Big Bang, either. It may be the case that the spawning of the universe is a completely naturalistic mechanism and we'll never be able to figure that out. It may be the same way with a naturalistic understanding of rationality.

Just because we don't know what the answer is doesn't mean you can go ahead assume that we'll never know, or that it's the answer you happen to want to plunk into the equation. That's called a God of the Gaps argument.

Nope, you have to prove that your explanation is actually true, because otherwise, you're simply making assumptions, and have set up a false dichotomy,

The fact the basis for logic/rationality is unknown to us means that it's unknown. Nothing more. Nothing less. Unknown.

As I said, this is simply a classic Argument from Ignorance.

Well, enough on that. I've made my point - they have to positively demonstrate their claim (not to mention they have to actually demonstrate that it's impossible for naturalism to account for it).

At the bottom of the page, they have one option for us:

  1. The Proof That God Exists...
Let's clicky!

The Proof that God exists is that without Him you couldn't prove anything.


Well, that's quite a bold assertion. Did I miss the part where they established that logic was based upon God? Did they provide any evidence while not employing any assumptions or logical fallacies? Hold on a sec. Nope.

I, uh... well, that was kind of anticlimactic.

We operate in a universe that behaves in predictable ways. That's directly observable. They are asserting that something above and beyond, particularly a foreskin obsessed intelligent entity, is involved.

They have assumed the burden of proof to positively demonstrate this claim. This is a standard-issue Occam's razor application.

Just to give you another example of their severe lack of critical thining, when you click "Continue", it has a followup:
The argument is that you must borrow from the Christian worldview, and a God who makes universal, immaterial, unchanging laws possible in order to prove anything.
Wait, at what point was Christianity established? Any other world view can step in and account for it. Hell, they didn't even establish that a "God" was even needed for the explanation at all.
Any contrary view to the God of Christianity being the necessary starting point for rationality is reduced to absurdity. You have to assume God in order to argue against Him.
 I love these kinds of claims. They're great at demonstrating just how disconnected they are from reality.

This page gives you two options:

  1. I believe that God exists
  2. I don't believe that God exists
If you click on #1, it takes you to their main site. This may be actually where the content I was originally after is stored.

I clicked on #2. Wow. It's no wonder why we can't talk to these guys. "Insanity" doesn't cover it. Maybe I'll cover the million-and-one strawmen later.

Conclusion

Protip for apologists: Outside of the fact that logical proofs don't work in practical reality without empirical confirmation, you cannot successfully build a syllogism when you are utilizing assumptions and logical fallacies. I shouldn't have to explain this to you, but apparently it needs to be said.

Seriously, you guys can't even seem to successfully use the logic you claim must come from a God. I'll probably write up some Laws of Apologetics, and I guarantee #1 will be:
No apologetic argument exists, in the entirety of human history, that does not employ at least one logical fallacy.
One way of approaching presoppositionalist arguments is to show that they are actually the impossible ones. Reasonable Doubts has an excellent episode where they tear into it. I'm not terribly familiar off the top of my head yet, so for that approach, I'll refer you to them.



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