Monday, August 18, 2014

A Summer Idyll Transcribed From Paper

I shouldn't bother reading celebrity atheists talking about their never to come-yet immanently arriving Theory of Everything, anymore.  The most fun that will be, I predict, is that they'll produce a Theory of Everything, then they'll produce another one, and another one.  I'll bet they'll run out of TOEs and still have stuff they'll have to stuff them into.

One of those things you can say to an atheist that will make them first entirely confused and, in the rare atheist who seems to be able to grasp the necessary concepts to understand the point, reduce them to sputtering rage, is to press the issues of God's infinitude, God's omniscience, God's omnipotence and the fact that people are, obviously, none of those.  The ultimate meaning of that difference is that there is no atheist talking point, no atheist argument to "prove that God doesn't exist" made on the basis of an incapacity of the omnipotent God or their frequent attempts to ensnare God in a net of paradox is irrelevant to the God of the Hebrew scriptures and the Greek canon of the Second Testament.

In futzing around with those concepts, what gets caught is not God, but the fact that the inability of human beings to understand things is broad enough to include that we just might not be able to comprehend The Mind of God*.  Which is also a concept that is contained in those scriptures mentioned in the previous paragraph.  We can't understand how an all powerful God could create a rock that was too big for God to pick up and also to pick it up but in the question, the two categories of rocks are based on limited human experience in the physical universe.  We can't pick up every rock because we, we created creatures of limited physical abilities, can't pick up every rock.  Rocks-that-we-can't-pick-up is a category describing a human inability, it has nothing to do with infinite ability.  A better question would be, can an atheist make a rock?  Can science create matter or energy, or, let's hear an atheist explain what it is that energy is.  If an atheist can't explain that, why should religious folk be required to explain things outside of any possible human experience or comprehension?  Which is an argument I can't wait to test out in the field.

And that is the real heart of those questions that atheists love to ask when the last thing they want is an answer that answers them.  They are really questions about the inability of humans to completely and universally close human understanding by means of logic.  As was mentioned here last week, and many other times before that, the simple fact is that we are constantly dealing with aspects of our most pedestrian experience we can't explain but which no one would question the existence of and be considered sane, energy, gravity, just what matter is, not to mention those other toys for considering the boundaries of conscious experience scientifically, colors.

If atheists can't do that as they make the most ridiculous claims of the completeness of human understanding of the physical universe,  demanding people who begin with an admission of the impossibility of understanding TheMind of God, explain it, is kind of absurd.   No, that's wrong, it is completely absurd.

* Yeah, I use upper case here just like I use BCE and CE, because it annoys people who are annoyed for all the wrong reasons.


  1. I came across this rather long quote from Wittgenstein in a post I wrote 8 years ago (I've been doing this too long). I'm guessing your bog-standard atheist (i.e., a twit who thinks he's brave and bold to say "PROVE IT!" when God is mentioned) wouldn't even begin to understand it, but it ties in a bit with what you were saying:

    "If I even vaguely remember what I was taught about God, I might say: 'Whatever believing in God may be, it can't be believing in something we can test, or find means of testing.' You might say: 'This is nonsense, because people say they believe on evidence or say they believe on religious experiences.' I would say: 'The mere fact that someone says they believe on evidence doesn't tell me enough for me to be able to say now whether I can say of a sentence 'God exists' that your evidence is unsatisfactory or insufficient.'


    Suppose there is a feast on Mid-Summer Common. A lot of people stand in a ring. Suppose this is done every year and then everyone says he has seen one of his dead relatives on the other side of the ring. In this case, we could ask everyone in the ring. 'Who did you hold by the hand?' Nevertheless, we'd all say that on that day we see our dead relatives. You could in this case say: 'I had the experience I can express by saying: "I saw my dead cousin." ' Would we say you were saying this on insufficient evidence? Under certain circumstances I would say this, under other circumstances I wouldn't." Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Lectures on Religious Belief," Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief, ed. Cyril Barrett (University of California Press, pp. 59-60).

    1. The atheist response to this would be "word salad" which means "I don't want to have to do the work to understand what you mean and I'm afraid if I did that work that I wouldn't like what I'd probably have to conclude about it". But even realizing that was what they meant would be more work than they are willing to put into it.

      Atheism in probably 999 out of a thousand cases is the product of intellectual laziness. Religion can be the result of laziness too, especially in fundamentalism, but contemporary atheism rather seems to demand it. It's like that really annoying command to "lighten up" that seemed to be ubiquitous on certain blogs. To which an adequate answer is, You're not the boss of me. Any more complex answer wouldn't be processed even if it could be. Atheism is mostly a logic free zone. Which is how PZ Myers became one of its heroes. .

    2. As I like to say, following W's lead, if I say "I believe I'm in love," it's a perfectly sound English sentence, and no one demands I present evidence to prove it.

      But we build entire industries on the concept. If it isn't real, we certainly treat it as real. Yet does it mean the same thing as to say "I believe in God"? In some ways, no; in some ways yes, it must. But again, no one demands evidence to support my claim.

      Why not? Without evidence, isn't it an equally ludicrous claim, according to the atheists?

    3. That's why the extreme lengths to which atheists will go to in order to try to discredit religious belief interests me. They have to deny everything that supports their own thinking, of the possibility of thought being more significant than any other chemical reaction in the universe in order to do that. If, as the most obnoxious commercial of the past decade, says "love is a chemical reaction" then science is just another chemical reaction, even the "science" that might hold that love is a chemical reaction.

      The radical nihilism that materialism requires is so at variance with experience that it even negates the significance of "evidence" which would only be able to, somehow, cause a somewhat different chemical reaction than the one that would take place if that "evidence" were absent. Atheism can't deal with the fact that semiotic significance enters into their materialist universe in the form of consciousness that can change the physical world.

      But that's not as easy as reading Randi or PZ or even Dennett and pretending you've reached the mother load in some atheist Candy Land when you haven't. Perhaps atheism, due to its rigid materialist monism is better compared to a version of Shoots and Ladders, in which there is a slide on the second square and the die only has all ones on it.

      I think that's an original analogy that just came to me on my coffee break, by the way. I might decide to keep it. I'm on about my tenth cup this morning.

  2. I remember a Bradbury story about an extremely solipsistic individual who convinced themselves reality didn't exist. An example of radical Cartesian skepticism and radical empiricism, since all that can be known (per empiricism) is through the senses, and if those aren't trustworthy (and they aren't), then what is?

    He ended up, IIRC, walking out the airlock of a ship convinced even space and atmosphere had no reality. It's obvious what Bradbury was getting at, but it contains more than a grain of truth about such "radical" thinking. At some point it's self-contradictory and if the end isn't as dramatic as walking onto the freeway, it might as well be.

    And Hume tried to deny the reality of consciousness, insisting it was merely an illusion created by sensory inputs; but that doesn't really answer the question of why I have a sense of self (which is what "consciousness" is), especially if that self is nothing more than sensory inputs that aren't really being "perceived" but only "received" by sense organs connected to the brain.

    It also doesn't explain how those inputs make sense, or even memories, if there isn't some operation making sense of those inputs and building memories. If, as you say, it's all merely bio-chemistry, then the protagonist in Bradbury's story is right, and we might as well walk into traffic (or out the airlock of a spaceship), because even our perceptions are an illusion (and that, as you say, would include "science").