The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A theist and an atheist in a campus coffee shop

Yolanda: Did you see that they’re having a prayer meeting in front of Minton Hall this evening for the people who died in the shooting?

Winston: Yes. I’m sorry, but it sounds like a waste of time to me. If you want to go to make yourself feel better about a tragedy that’s fine, but I don’t see the point in bringing religion into everything that happens.

Yolanda: You really should be more open to God.

Winston: I’m not open to anything that there’s no reason to believe in.

Yolanda: There are plenty of reasons to believe in God.

Winston: Can you prove that God exists?

Yolanda: Are you asking if I have a logical proof?

Winston: Yes.

Yolanda: Then you agree that the laws of logic are real things.

Winston: Yes.

Yolanda: Do you think that the laws of logic change over time?

Winston: No. Of course not.

Yolanda: And would you say that logic is something humans came up with or that logic is universally true, even if humans don’t exist.

Winston: If you’re asking if “A equals A” is true even if there are no people, then yes, logic is universally true.

Yolanda: Then there’s your proof that God exists. Logic is a series of propositions, and propositions don’t exist unless there is a mind to hold them. You can’t find propositions floating around in space. You agree that logic is true even without people, so there must have been a mind to hold those propositions even when there were no people, and that mind is God.

Winston: You’re conflating two different things. There is the fact of logic — that illogical things can’t happen — and there are the rules of logic. The rules of logic are human-made descriptions of how the universe works. The universe would work that way even if nobody was around to describe it.

Yolanda: So if the rules of logic are human made, then some alien species might come up with its own rules of logic.

Winston: I suppose so, but they would have to be compatible with our rules since they would both be describing the same thing. Assuming we’re all describing things correctly.

Yolanda: That doesn’t get you out of the problem, though. If logic exists even without description, then it doesn’t fit with your atheist worldview. There is no way that unchanging, universal, immaterial laws can arise from a universe that is random and material. God must have created those laws.

Winston: But the universe isn’t random. In fact, it’s operating in accordance with strict rules that humans are still working hard to quantify. It’s only random in the sense that we can’t predict what will happen next, and the only reason we can’t predict what will happen next is that we don’t have enough information.

Yolanda: But why would those rules even work in a purely natural world? Atoms don’t know the rules, so why would they obey them? God must be enforcing those rules.

Winston: That’s like saying that a ball has to know it’s round in order for it to stay round. Nobody has to enforce the rules of nature.

Yolanda: Without God there wouldn’t be rules of nature. Everything would be chaos.

Winston: That’s not a proof; it’s just an assertion. The rules of logic aren’t something that was created. They are a feature of reality. Any imaginable reality conforms to the rules of Logic.

Yolanda: No, God created everything, including the rules the universe runs by. He could have created things differently if He had wanted to.

Winston: If God could have created a universe with different laws of logic than ours, then could he create a universe that had no creator? Could he create a universe where God and God are not the same thing? Could he have set things up so that all unmarried men have wives?

Yolanda: You’re not making any sense.

Winston: Right! Because I’m asking about things that are contrary to the rules of logic, and any reality — even one God makes from scratch — has to conform to those rules.

Yolanda: Isn’t it kind of arrogant to think that you know God’s limits?

Winston: I’m not imposing limits on anyone; logic is. And I’d say that God is also severely limited by not existing.

Yolanda: It would be pretty pointless to invite you to the prayer meeting then, wouldn’t it?

Winston: Yeah. Pretty much.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on February 7, 2014 at 5:10 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Conversations

One Response

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  1. Written by rwsgate
    on February 8, 2014 at 11:19 am
    Reply · Permalink

    There are two different kinds of laws. Proscriptive and descriptive. Proscriptive laws are those which define what we can and cannot do, and can be changed, such as putting a stop sign at an intersection.

    Descriptive laws, like logic, simply define in human terms what we see around us. The law of gravity is not changeable, but we can describe it. The same thing is true of the four laws of thermodynamics. The Universe would operate the same regardless of the names we give it’s laws.

    As Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name is yet a rose”. Calling gravity flopdoodle doesn’t change the nature of gravity.

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