Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weird Syllogisms

Gaping Chipmunk
There once was a Christian who thought he had this whole God question wrapped up, signed, sealed and delivered.
Everything started with the Big Bang, right? That includes both space and time. Physics shows that everything is static - every point in time is fixed - past, present and future. Yet we have free will. The only way to resolve free will with the facts of science is God. He's what allows both to be true at the same time.
"Wow!", the Christian said, "I just proved God."

This Christian thought he solved the riddle, smiled, and went on with his day having apparently answered the most biting question in human history.

Who was this intrepid apologist? That was me - a teenager at the time.

Looking back, uh.. nope. If I could meet my younger self, I'd eat myself for lunch, which would be about as tasty as it would be temporally wise.

It's very easy to conjure forth bizarre syllogisms, carefully assembled together from a variety of disparate facts into sort of a supernatural conspiracy theory. The worst part is that it's equally easy to convince one's self of the veracity of these arguments.

At the time I came up with that gem, I was already wrestling with the God question. For a time, this set my mind at ease, and I think that's often what it comes down to - trying to patch up gaping holes in a unraveling world view. That's how it was for me, anyway.

Apologetics seems to be backed into a corner these days. Gone are the days where they can point at mental illness, declare it a possession of demons, and others will find that explanation convincing. These days, we mostly have attempts at "logic-ing God into existence" - where apologists attempt to "prove" by reason alone.

I came across a bizarre example today on The Atheist Experience (right). Summarized, this is the "proof":

  1. Non-contingent things are either necessary or impossible
  2. God is non-contingent, and not impossible
  3. Therefore, God is necessary
Poof! God exists.

The problem with this syllogism, as well as with my personal contribution to apologetics, is that the premises are very problematic.  Do we have any examples of "non-contingent" things? Are we sure the only possibilities are "impossible" or "necessary"?

Part of the problem with this setup is that I can literally make up an infinite list of things that must exist, because I've  merely declared them as non-contingent and not impossible. By the time I've created "Flemflamflemfloom", and it's exactly on par with your "God" thing, this should be sort of a red flag.

On top of that, what God definition are we talking about? Many of them may in fact be impossible - but as the caller declares, those aren't really gods - of course!

The bottom line is, these people are being fairly arrogant believing they've answered one of the most persistent and agonizing questions humanity has ever asked, all by MacGyver-ing up a word game.

No comments:

Post a Comment