Sunday, July 6, 2008

On Consideration of a Possible God

My Christian pen pal suggests that great scientists can be theists, and that famous contemporary activist atheists are too “fundamentalist” to leave room for the possibility of God. My reply:

Yes, Christians like F.S. Collins, the head of the gnome project, are a rarity. That he is able to compartmentalize his belief, so that it is kept distinct and separate from his scientific side, is an accommodation that is unusual and commendable.But, no doubt you are aware that upwards of 93-96% of the most respected scientists in the world, in the “hard disciplines”, the members of the UK's Royal Society of Science, and its American counterpart, the National Academy of Science ... claim no belief in God/s. Collins falls in the remaining 4 - 7%. It makes him an anomaly among his peers.

As for room for belief in God/s among atheists: I think you are wrong in dismissing Dawkins or Hitchens as having zero ability to accept the possibility of God, along with all the traditional supernatural accoutrements (i.e. heaven, hell, angels, demons, Satan, al). I am, and I’m very sure that they are, willing to reserve the exact same amount of credulity for such things as you are in accepting the existence of "Russell's Teapot".

Refreshing your memory, allow me to paraphrase and embellish the Teapot concept a tad: it proposes that a teapot, fine porcelain I believe, is in orbit around a distant star... Alpha Centauri lets say. It’s white, with a Wedgewood blue lid. It may be half full with steaming Earl Grey, I'm not sure on this point. That this teapot can't be seen, or detected in anyway; that there is no verifiable evidence of its existence; that the mechanism for its existence is unknown, does not dismiss it's possible existence. The fact that we can imagine its existence, write it down, and declare its possibility is good enough to attribute some degree of likelihood, however small or remote.

The percentage of likelihood that you are willing to attribute to Russell's Teapot actually existing, is very close to (albeit, probably higher than) the percentage of likelihood that Dawkins and Hitchens, and Harris, I and many other “strong atheists” are willing to attribute to the possibility of the existence of a supernatural being and Its/His/Her complimentary supernatural accoutrements. However, I'm quite sure that you'd require some very extraordinary, hard, objective, and compelling evidence to convince you to believe that tea pot actually exists. So would I. That’s because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Yet strangely, while I (and Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, et al.) need the exact same level of hard and compelling objective evidence to convince us of God/gods/supernaturalism, as we need for believing in Russell’s teapot, YOU accept supernaturalism with no more hard and objective evidence than you have for that teapot. That’s an inconsistency, a breakdown in reasoning that Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, millions of free thinkers, including me, do not suffer from. That inconsistency, prevalent among theists, defies logic, albeit we know that "faith" in God/s (like faith in cosmic teapots) defies logic.

Those alien advocates, conspiracy theorists, Young Earthers, Flat Earthers, witch believers, ESP advocates, etc, who need no hard evidence to justify their beliefs, pretty much places them in the same realm as Christians and theists in general, as far I am concerned. I'd guess that 93-96% of the best scientific minds on the planet would agree.


USpace said...

I like this Teapot example...

absurd thought -
God can not be quantified
so therefore must not exist

man can't measure beyond Space
so then it must not exist

Anonymous said...

You have a gift with rebuttals! ~Paige

Anonymous said...


Actually, anything that cannot be measured nor affects its surrounding can be observed (aka indirect measurement), it might as well not exist for all practical purposes. With modern scientific tools*, there have not been any observable, repeatable, verifiable affect of any entity(s) labeled "God(s)" by any of the world's religions (past and present). All so call affects (speaking in tongues, spiritual feelings, pictures of Jesus on toast bread) can all be attributed to naturalistic causes (fraud, mass hysteria, human pattern matching gone awry).

*What about non-scientific tools (aka Ouija Boards, astroglobes, divining rods...) you might ask. Well, as far as I know, this stuff is all magicians’ tools of misdirection that measure nothing of the physical world but tell the operator’s convincing tale for the gullible.

- FastThumbs

DromedaryHump said...

paige: Thanks :)


Unfortunaletly that argument is fractally wrong. We know space exists, we can observe it. We know it exists outside our immediate ability to observe it based on radio telescopes, deep space probes, et al. Further, we can measure the speed of expansion of the universe and can therefore deduce that it extends infinitly. Thus, we can make logical deductions that beyond what we can physically observe, and beyond what we can observe through indirect measurement, "by proxy" so to speak, that space / the universe exists beyond our ability to observe/measure it. Its a logical extention of the KNOWN, with no reason to suspect,assume, or proffer otherwise.

Unfortunately the God example doesn't come close to approaching the space example, because there exists no observable KNOWN from which to base a logical extention for a god/s. Without any observable KNOWN there is no justification for acceptence of an unobservable logical extention. It's that simple.

Your "thought" is much like the "you can't see the wind but it exists; therefore God exists" argument that Xtians like to use. Well, they used to like it until the obvious answer made them look stupid.

To put it another way: it would be tantamount to suggesting that since you can't see/ measure all the granules of sand on the planet, that only the granules you can see exist. I'm sure even you would be willing to accept the logical extention that silica exists even where you can't see it / havn't measured it, because you have observed its physical qualities in large quantities throughout your life.

Any "feeling", or subjective belief that God/s exist is not observation of physical quality, and thus does not lean itself to any "logical" extention of actual existence.

Joyce said...

You gotta admit, Hump, that Jon is one of the most fun of my friends to debate with so far though!

DromedaryHump said...

Well, he sure is a source of some good fodder.

Looking forward to his picking up where I left off.