Spiritual Burps

Does the Atheist have a burden of proof for their position?

Yes, quite simply. Regardless of the position, there is always a claim being made. Even the agnostic Atheist who says “you can’t know” makes a claim.

It’s fairly easy to get an Atheist to admit they are making a claim, however, they will then say it’s a claim over lack of evidence, thus no burden of proof. This is where they start to contradict themselves.

For the rest of this post, I will just be using a couple of bits from other blog posts I’ve not published. However, they do belong to lengthier pieces on the respective subjects, and probably do make more sense when spoken about at length. I’m just putting snippets down here to give reasons for the Atheist’s burden of proof.

Spiritual Indigestion

In order to have indigestion, one must first digest something that doesn’t agree with oneself. It’s not at all the case that God or the idea of God is wholly being presented to the Atheist by some Theist. When the Atheist says their position is just a reaction to Theism, they assume humans would evolve to be somehow greater beings, and the world would flourish if they could only eradicate theism. However, they inadvertently aspire to a humanity made of lesser beings, without any need for a response to the lofty speculation. None of that pesky hoo-ha to deal with – Free to live a life closer to animals. We would be conscious of sorts, but not as conscious that we would ponder the lofty speculation or even that which is numinous. The logic in short; No Theists = No thought beyond ourselves.
It is interesting how many ethically progressive arguments are made using “Well animals do it”… Perhaps they really do want more animal, less human.

The Language of God

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20 (He appeals to our mind)

since they show that the work of the Law is written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts either accusing or defending them. Romans 2:15 (He appeals to the conscience)

What are the wonders of the universe telling us?
For example, what is it about the sun going down on the horizon that can alter chemistry in our bodies? It’s more than simple cause and effect. The sun is not aware of the horizon. In fact, there is no horizon for the sun. It’s just a perspective from nature we receive, and when we analyse it, it’s as mind-boggling as it is beautiful, but we don’t even have to analyse it for it to speak to us of beauty. Often when I ask folk to analyse it the response is “it’s just physics and chemistry”. However, that’s simply untrue – There is more going on. The clue is in the chemistry. What we can observe in the brain and the body is ‘reaction’. Therefore, the standard ‘physics and chemistry’ response is not only short of answering but also displays the arrogance of the materialist’s mindset (the mindset where you can only find meaning from within).

A reaction first needs an action and those actions are external to ourselves.

The universe and natural world literally communicate in a language more sophisticated than any metaphor. And the communicate to us! How crazy. A beautiful sunset is more than a gift we receive. It, with all the other phenomena we observe tell us there’s more!
Art is a form of metaphorical language which exudes communication beyond words we can make. That is the beauty of art. The natural world and all the universe are an ever-changing work of art, to which there is an Artist. And it’s not relative in the way Subjectivists would like it to be; it doesn’t matter which angle of the natural world or universe we perceive – it’s still awesomely beautiful.

It doesn’t even have to take awe-sense… Commonsense tells us there is more to life than meets the eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and skin. Commonsense tells us there is more than empirical evidence… I mean, there is more evidence than that which is empirical.

Conclusion

Atheism is a response, but not to Theism. Atheism stems from Being Human, (piece removed until further edit – will finish soon)

General revelation appeals to a court of more than five senses. Sorry Empiricists.

Temporary blog post as an attempt to answer a question for a discussion. Bit messy, but it’ll do, hopefully.

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Correlation/Causation & keeping our Skeptometer’s in check

There is a common philosophical retort which in short translates “Correlation does not equal Causation”.  It’s philosophically true, but seldom applicable.  Correlation often points to causation.  I’m no Philosopher, but a more helpful statement might be “The amalgamation of Correlations would almost certainly point to Causation”.

A short time ago I put up a couple of provocative posts on Facebook to get some discussion going.  The first one was blaming feminism for the high suicide rate among young men, using this article from YouGov for my position.  The second was on climate change.  I used an article from Forbes Magazine to discuss why it is still a debate.  If you like, you can find them on my timeline – around the middle of November ’16.

In both of these posts, I quite likely got shot down.  The ensuing threads were interesting, anyway.  What was common to both posts was that I was going against popular opinion or widely held belief.  The difference between them was that the first one on feminism being the root cause of young male suicide, I used ‘correlation equals causation’ to make my argument.  The second on climate change and why it is still debated, I used ‘correlation does not equal causation’.

I did these two posts knowing both of them were hot button issues, but as someone in the UK, the climate change question is widely accepted as being the fault of humans.  It is still hotly debated in the United States.  It was George Bernard Shaw who said the UK and the US were a people separated by a common language… Well, I would say it’s a lot more than that, but I suppose it could ultimately be attributed to a linguistical problem…  Anyway, with the feminism blaming post, it is more the suicide rate of young men that is the hot topic – Not many blame feminism for this sad statistic, despite the glaringly obvious correlation.

It is interesting to observe how we can use conflicting methods to form our opinions.  Are we often guilty of making things fit with our belief?  Well, Sam Harris co-authored a fascinating study on liberals in America: Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence.  Going by this study it is clear we really like what we believe, and we don’t like our beliefs challenged.

In this video by David Wood, he explores how we can willfully turn up our skepticism to drown out the sound of rational thought, and in the same way turn down our skepticism when someone mentions something we like; like Aliens..

 

We all have Skeptometers, and we adjust them to suit our presuppositions.  In fact, David Wood didn’t invent the Skeptometer (Although that contraption in his hand could be the prototype).  Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, spoke of being skeptical on a scale.  He places himself as a 6 on a scale of 1 to 7.  I find this absolutely fascinating as there is also a correlation which can be tied in with this which I will get to in a bit.  Putting himself as a 6 on a 7 scale means he is 85% unsure of God’s existence and 15% sure.  It’s sad that most of whom he has influenced in their thinking don’t know this as they haven’t read The God Delusion, but he has managed to make them 100% sure God doesn’t exist – or at least that is what they will tell you.  Perhaps that’s not the case – maybe it’s that they don’t think and they believe Dawkins is some kind of soothsayer..  Anyhow, the fascinating correlation – Well, his placing on his scale means his belief versus his unbelief puts him directly in line with the percentage of National Academy of Science members regarding belief and non-belief.  15% of this elite group believe in Intelligent Design and given the increasing popularity of ID, that’s a number set to increase.  It’s impossible to tell which direction the correlation is going, though.  I think it’s probably just a funny coincidence.

I feel it is ironic when people define themselves as Skeptics.  I’m skeptical about a great many things, like aliens for example, but I don’t define myself as a skeptic.  It’s every bit as ironic as the term ‘Atheist’, as it still points to a held position on the lofty speculation, thus equating lofty speculation true.

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/05/13/low-young-masculinity-britain/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2013/02/13/peer-reviewed-survey-finds-majority-of-scientists-skeptical-of-global-warming-crisis/#6f4546fa171b

http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

 

A response to David Attenborough on Natural evil & a little on Moral evil

Recently there has been a video clip circulating online of David Attenborough being interviewed and asked about the God question. His response is interesting.  You can watch it here:

The problem with his argument is that he takes something from the natural world and makes a philosophical assertion based on an entirely emotive foundation.  Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic Magazine, recently made the point for not using emotion in a recent article in Scientific American.  My temptation is to just flip the argument. However, I consider myself a reductionist of sorts and so I want to spend some time deconstructing his simple quip first.

Attenborough is an incredibly gifted communicator and he uses that to his full advantage. In the clip, he combines his attention to the interviewer’s question by also looking to the audience and camera.  Responding in hushed tones and elongated vowels, he makes a very short and poor argument for why he doesn’t believe there is a Creator.  Sadly, what he is actually doing is manipulating the person who doesn’t think, into the preferred agreement ‘there is no God’ –  The current western zeitgeist, I believe to be on the wane.

I believe he knows only too well that his argument from emotion means nothing. When people ask him “how do you not believe in a God when you see the natural world in all its beauty?” they are of course responding to the fact that he has spent his entire life making his living from showing us the beauty and wonder in the natural world, and it’s on the same basis that he is making his argument that there is no God.  He completely discounts what he has made his living from in suggesting that by the same means there are natural evils like worms worming into the eye of a five-year-old child. Why doesn’t he just say “a person” as all people are equal and there are many things that only humans catch in terms of illness.  Why does he use this example of natural evil when it’s not even the worst thing that can happen to a human?  He knows he is being emotive and not actually dealing with the problem at all.  Generally, from the atheistic side of academia, on the problem of suffering, the silence is deafening!  Theodicy is something that has had much thought throughout the ages, and there are plenty written resources on the subject.  I shall leave titles for further reading at the end of this post.  It is clear that it can only be sufficiently explained through the Christian worldview.  Those who take an atheistic worldview never seem to properly address the problem other than to complain about it.  How they can’t see how contradictory that is, I don’t know – To whom are they complaining?  If you have no claim on a subject, then your counter-claim is null and void.

Moral Evil, and turning it on its head

Obviously, in order to discern this natural evil, we use empathy.  Presumably, Sir David can explain empathy to be more than an evolved social behaviour when he thinks that natural evil is some kind of explanation for his atheism. Personally, I believe he knows that the worst of all experiential evils come from humans themselves. Since the seventies, he has been an advocate for the overpopulation myth and he is on record for having said “humans are a plague on the planet Earth” – however, we also know this is untrue!  It is becoming increasingly evident that humans are a part of the eco-system just as much as we abuse the environment.  Actually, the evidence is heading in the direction of our custodianship over planet Earth.  Regarding population, we expect to reach steady state at around 9 billion, which is believed to be a sustainable level, especially if we can continue to reduce our carbon footprint.

So, to turn the argument around one could easily say “what if the problem is not evil? What if the problem is empathy?”… If you remove empathy then evil doesn’t exist. Surely that would be the easier thing to do as it has been clearly shown in history that it is easier to remove empathy than it is to remove evil. You just need to look into recent history at cases such as the Hutus and Tutsis to see that we are able to remove empathy from the equation. A little further back, Pol Pot, Stalin, the Nazis, Nanking and Unit 731Mao, Panzram… The list goes on.  Jordan B Peterson, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, once said “If you really want to understand Evil, you need to understand it’s an aesthetic.  It’s an art form.”.  Any study of humanity reveals malevolence is deeply rooted in our condition.  It also goes to show that objective morality is true. All that is true and absolute is perfect, and everything else is abstract. Clearly, empathy and evil are one and the same in the fact they are on the same scale – you could just say at different ends.

The difference between empathy and evil is a bit like the difference between habit and addiction; again both are relative but entirely different.  We have to work at habit forming with discipline, yet addiction seems to happen effortlessly.  This also serves as an analogy for the human condition which I shall touch on in conclusion.

I wonder if you have ever clicked on some media on the internet you know you shouldn’t?  Say, a media release from ISIS of an execution.  It didn’t auto-play.  You chose to click on it even though you knew what you were about to witness.  If you are someone who has done this, let’s examine what is going on… You chose to witness a barbaric execution which had already happened, and you likely knew some detail of how it was carried out.  You knew it would give you some kind of weird feeling inside yourself.  Likely, you end up turning that weird feeling into an anger you have to project somewhere.  Inevitably you will project your anger at ISIS.  The trouble is, that weird feeling you had was of perverse pleasure, and in choosing to click on that video and watch it, you actually played a part in the execution.  Empathy and evil are inseparable.  Even more so when we fail to acknowledge the guilt within ourselves.

Perhaps something else which shows this is the behaviour of inappropriate laughter.  We’ve all laughed at things we ought not to.  Inappropriate laughter or pleasurable feelings we may have under the surface at the expense of someone else also go to show the empathetic/evil problem.  Inappropriate laughter shows it spectacularly well, though – It’s like the tension between our empathy and the evil we’ve witnessed is released, and the collision brings a bout of uncontainable emotion manifest as laughter.

We can’t get rid of evil as hard as we try, but it is apparently easy to get rid of empathy.  If we get rid of empathy, we get rid of evil.  Simple, right?  As a side to this – It seems we want to become more animalistic in the west anyway, so surely it’s the logical progression.  We so often hear about core elements of our nature just being a “human construct”, and things which are recent fashions have somehow become facts without Science or consistent Philosophy behind them.  Maybe we hear this increasingly because ultimately for our survival and evolution we really want to arrive at a state of just beingness.  Perhaps ‘Human’ is a construct of Beings?  Maybe we just want to be unaccountable, shameless, amoral, touching, tasting, seeing, smelling and feeling Beings?  Some type of fluid being which always goes with the flow and always takes the easiest route?.. No, we don’t want to be that. I don’t fear any agenda or endeavour, but I can’t help thinking the more we count up constructs (or deconstruct humanity without keeping it together) and try and eradicate them the more we destruct what it is to be human.  The more we try to arrive at just ‘being’ through this destruction, the more we inadvertently construct a Humonstrosity..  Anyway, back to dear old David.

Conclusion

I love David Attenborough and very much enjoy his tv programs, but as you can see I don’t agree with him on this.  I don’t know what he knows of Christianity, but I would have thought he would know the basics.  Stuff like, we are fallen and we live in a fallen world where there are diseases and pestilence.  Conversely, to his complaint, the strides we are making in science to eradicate the worm only shore up the biblical mandate to subdue the earth.  I’d have also thought he must know basic Philosophy, and that in order to be able to evaluate all of that which is subjective, we need an objective standard of absolute Truth.  I very much doubt he’s a Subjectivist if he feels his knighthood means anything.  To add to that, He accepted his knighthood but at some point said: “humans are a plague on planet Earth”.. Did he say this before or after receiving this esteemed human honour?  Even if he’s not a Subjectivist, can he put any value in his knighthood as an Atheist?  Surely a title like that means nothing without the heritage.

Taking the subject back to Christianity, there is a tradition within the faith called Calvinism, and within Calvinism, there is a doctrine called Total Depravity which describes the human condition.  It is the idea that we are totally depraved, but for the grace of God.  So what makes us who we are is this mixture of depravity and grace.  We still don’t have a scientific explanation of what a human is, and even when we do we already know it will be devoid of value.  Really, we can only achieve, or hold onto value through a theological understanding of what we are.  RC Sproul once said he likes to ask Atheists “Where do you put your guilt?”.  Well, I think emotions are quite like energy and they can transform.  Just as tears can turn to laughing, guilt can turn to anger, and anger can be projected (put somewhere).  Anyway, I’ve cut swathes out of this post to keep it short.  If you’ve made it this far, thank you – especially if you don’t agree with me.  Feel free to let me know what you think, and I would be happy to discuss it with anyone.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-convince-someone-when-facts-fail/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37386490

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_genocide

http://www.history.com/topics/pol-pot

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism

http://www.history.com/topics/nanjing-massacre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_Zedong

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Panzram

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-world-is-closer-than-ever-to-eradicating-guinea-worm/2016/08/20/59d4a752-55bd-11e6-b7de-dfe509430c39_story.html?utm_term=.771dc8d418d3

  • Swinburne, Richard. 1977. The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Swinburne, Richard. 1978. “Natural Evil,” American Philosophical Quarterly 15: 295-301.
  • Swinburne, Richard. 1987. “Knowledge from Experience, and the Problem of Evil,” in William J. Abraham and Steven W. Holtzer (eds), The Rationality of Religious Belief: Essays in Honour of Basil Mitchell. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp.141-67.
  • Swinburne, Richard. 1991. The Existence of God, revised edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Swinburne, Richard. 1998. Providence and the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Clarendon Press.