February 2007

In one of the notable conversations, you said something along the lines of “I have yet to meet a strong atheist.” Well you may or may not consider me as one of them.

I recently had this argument with Rich Deem, one of the main people over at godandscience.org. It began as an argument over the origin of the universe, basically naturalism (belief that the universe had a natural cause) versus supernaturalism (belief that the universe was created by God or some other deity).

I will admit that I don’t consider the existance of a supernatural being to be possible. The basis of my ‘faith’ in naturalism and atheism is simply that there is no workable explanation for a God to have begun existing.

The only arguments that I have seen so far are that God “always has existed, is existing and always will exist”, which explains nothing. Nothing, including a supernatural being, can exist without having a definite beginning.

One theistic counter to that is that God could exist outside the universe. Our universe is a universe of cause and effect, and it is possible that God exists in a universe where there is no cause and effect. But the problem with that possibility is that the logic that could theoretically prove or disprove God’s existance would be completely incomprehensible to us. That means that scientism, the belief that the question of God’s existance is not worth asking or non-applicable, is the correct response.

The point of this whole thing is that I don’t consider God’s existance to be possible. Is that what it takes to be considered a “strong” atheist?

Well, if you believe that there is no possibility of the existence of a deity, then you are indeed a strong atheist. But let’s take a look at this a little more closely.

I agree that there is no workable explanation for the beginning of the existence of the deity. Where we disagree is when you say that nothing can exist without having a definite beginning. There are quantum particles that come into existence uncaused, for example. Also, I’d say that the universe itself is either uncaused or is part of a string of universes stretching back into infinity — either of which would seemingly cause problems with your argument.

Now let’s look at your statement that, “the logic that could theoretically prove or disprove God’s existance would be completely incomprehensible to us. That means that scientism, the belief that the question of God’s existance is not worth asking or non-applicable, is the correct response.” Let’s assume for the moment that you are correct about the impossibility of logically proving or disproving the existence of God. I would say that your conclusion does not follow from this premise for three reasons:

1) Not being able to prove whether or not something exists is not proof that it does not exist. The impossibility of proving that there is a universe parallel to our own (even a non-supernatural one) is not proof that such universes do not exist.

2) Even if there is no logical way to prove that a deity exists, there may be a practical way. For example, if God is able to mess with our universe, he might be able to prove that he exists. The fact that (so far as I can tell) no god has ever intervened in this way is not evidence that such intervention is impossible.

3) I believe that scientism is the belief that scientific explanations should be considered primary and that supernatural explanations should be discarded. I generally agree with this in that a) scientific explanations are always more likely than supernatural explanation, and b) if something appears to have a supernatural explanation, then once that something is investigated its explanation isn’t supernatural any more (the two-slit experiment in quantum physics comes to mind).

So, getting back to your original statement, the reason I said that I have yet to meet a strong atheist is that at the point I made the statement I had not yet met anyone who said that they believed that the non-existence of a deity is provable. Since then, you and one other correspondent have stated that you do think this is provable, so even though I am not convinced by your argument (at least not yet — I’m interested to hear more), if you believe you can prove there is no God then I would say you are a strong atheist.

Posted on February 3, 2007 at 12:30 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Discussion, Strong atheism

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