Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Essay: Atheism: A Falsified Hypothesis by Brian Colón

Atheism: A Falsified Hypothesis by Brian Colón
Several Atheists like to complain that Theism, unlike Atheism is unfalsifiable.  If this is true, then it means that Atheism can be proven false, Theism cannot.  Many Atheists consider this to be a strong point for Atheism and a weak point for Theism.  The problem is, since Atheism CAN be proven false, then IF it IS proven false, then Theism (its negation) would necessarily be proven true.  When there are only two possible answers for a proposition, and one of them is proven false, then the other is necessarily true.  Consider the question "Does God Exist?" There are only two possible answers, "yes" and "no".  If the answer "no" was proven false, then the only alternative answer remaining is "yes". (MP3 Audio | RSS | iTunes)

The way I choose to show Atheism false is by showing the self contradictions contained within the Atheistic worldview.  Logically speaking, if a proposition contains necessary consequences that are themselves self-contradictory, then the proposition cannot be true.  For example, there are no living corpses, there are no unemployed employees, and there is no dehydrated water.

According to a few famous Atheists, here are a few necessary consequences of Atheism.  There is no God; there is nothing but the physical world (Dan Barker – Protest sign at the Washington State Capital).  Humans are nothing but machines that generate DNA (Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion).  Morality is based on the consensus of human beings (Gordon Stein – “The Great Debate: Does God Exist?”).  If this is true then it would be impossible to account for things such as moral absolutes, laws of logic, or human dignity; three things that we all understand to be indisputable.

Moral Absolutes
Every Atheist I've ever met believes that murder and rape is evil.  But what is evil?  I thought all that exists is matter.  Is there anything evil about matter?  Does the knife care that someone used it to kill someone?  Of course not.  Perhaps evil is just something that we experience as decreasing our happiness.  Wouldn't that mean that since the rapist increases his happiness by raping people, then raping people would be considered good for him?  Who's to say that the rapist's moral judgments are flawed and ours are not?

Once an atheist woman told me that she heard that her co-worker was cheating on his wife with another woman from the office.  She told me that she was outraged at how immoral he was and how she lost all respect for him.  I asked her “What was so wrong with what he did?”  Why does the fact that he’s married make the act of sex with another woman immoral?  She simply said “Its just wrong!”  I agree, but I’d like to know why it’s ultimately wrong given the Atheistic worldview.

Laws of Logic
Consider the law of “excluded middle” which says that a proposition is either true or false, there is no third option.  What is the ontological foundation of this law?  Is this law just a result of the chemical functions in our brain?  If so then how is it universal?  Is the law material?  Of course not!  Laws of logic are immaterial abstract entities, the very things that cannot exist if the only thing that exists is matter.

Dan Barker, in a debate with Dr. James White, attempted to refute this argument by saying that “logic is not a thing.”  Well if by thing he means a physical object then I would agree with him.  The problem is that he already said that things are all that exist.  So according to Dan Barker there is no logic.   

Human Dignity
Why do people put on a lab coat and argue that people are simply evolved animals, and then say that we shouldn't treat people like animals?  If all that exists is matter, then that would mean that we are nothing but matter as well.  If that’s true then why do we believe that humans are worthy of respect?  In a debate with Paul Manata, Dan Barker asserts that human beings are no more important than broccoli.  I find it very interesting that the piece of broccoli known as Dan Barker thinks that other certain pieces of broccoli are worthy of love and respect, as if they were something more than just broccoli.  Every single day we all treat each other with respect and dignity, and we all know that those who disrespect people ought not to do that.  This is true for Theist and Atheist alike.  Humans really are worthy of respect.  This is inexplicable on the Atheistic Worldview.

Conclusion
The Atheist is able to recognize moral absolutes, laws of logic, and the dignity of human beings, three things that cannot exist given the worldview of the Atheist.  So the question is, why is the Atheist contradicting his/her own worldview?  The answer is obvious, because as we’ve seen, the proposition "God doesn't exist" entails impossible consequences.

There is however, another worldview that is capable of accounting for the very things that the Atheist cannot account for, namely Christian Theism.  On Christian Theism moral absolutes make sense because God is provided as the absolute moral standard.  Immaterial, timeless, transcendent entities such as the laws of logic make sense because they can be grounded in an immaterial, timeless, transcendent God.  Human dignity makes sense because humans are created in the image of the only being worthy of honor and praise, God.

Atheism is inadequate and incapable of explaining our experience of the world around us.  Atheism therefore cannot be true.  This is why I conclude that the best proof for the existence of God is the impossibility of the contrary.

13 comments :

Roberto G said...

"If this is true then it would be impossible to account for things such as moral absolutes, laws of logic, or human dignity; three things that we all understand to be indisputable."
I find it interesting that this seeming Van Tillian essay finds common ground between atheist and Christian on morality, logic, and dignity. Atheism would not necessarily commit them to the various positions mentioned by Barker, Dawkins, and Stein. Many atheists augment their atheism with theories of morality, logic, and human dignity that have no problem giving up moral absolutes or diminish logic and human dignity. So, it seems to me there are atheists out there willing to dispute about those three things.

Brian Colón said...

Roberto G,
That exactly illustrates my point. I even quoted some of the Atheists you are referring to in my essay. The point is, that these people can dispute these three things all they want, but in so doing they contradict their own arguments with the way they live their lives.

In the case of morality, to deny that moral absolutes exist lands you in Nihilism. But no one can live consistently as a Nihilist, not even Nieztche.

Ex N1hilo said...

Dehydrated water? Sounds like a product of Acme corporation as featured on the Roadrunner cartoon:

Acme Dehydrated Flood
Just add water!

Brian Colón said...

Ex N1hilo,

You're right! Actually I thought someone was going to refute me with this link:
http://www.buydehydratedwater.com/

Ex N1hilo said...

Brian,

Well, then I guess the Law of Non-Contradiction is in serious trouble. A website actually selling dehydrated water would seem to provide strong evidence that this law is not valid, at least not universally.

Perhaps we can finally dispense with pesky "laws" - of logic, of morality, of physics, of grammar. The list is endless. At last we can be truly free...

Brian Colón said...

Ex N1hilo,

I don't know if your kidding or not, but just in case you're not, close scrutiny of that website would show that its a joke.

Ex N1hilo said...

It was my atheistic personality coming to the fore. Maybe I should start taking my meds again.

Evan Garrett said...

haha :P i can appreciate that Ex n1hilo! now we can FINALLY get rid of that pesky law on non-contradiction!!!!

David B. Ellis said...


Logically speaking, if a proposition contains necessary consequences that are themselves self-contradictory, then the proposition cannot be true....according to a few famous Atheists, here are a few necessary consequences of Atheism. There is no God; there is nothing but the physical world (Dan Barker – Protest sign at the Washington State Capital). Humans are nothing but machines that generate DNA (Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion). Morality is based on the consensus of human beings (Gordon Stein – “The Great Debate: Does God Exist?”).


That those three people hold those opinions about the world (and I suspect their positions are more nuanced than you give then credit for) does not mean atheism necessarily entails those things. Obviously, there's a difference between "atheism necessarily entails X" and "some atheists believe X" so your argument jumps the track right at the first step. You need to provide actual arguments that atheism entails materialism, or that there are no true moral propositions can exist if no God exists.


Every Atheist I've ever met believes that murder and rape is evil. But what is evil? I thought all that exists is matter. Is there anything evil about matter?


Not all atheists are materialists. There is a wide assortment of metaphysical theories consistent with the nonexistence of God (and if so, then you can't disprove atheism by finding an internal contradiction in materialism). I suspect the most common position among contemporary atheists is a metaphysical agnosticism.


Laws of logic are immaterial abstract entities, the very things that cannot exist if the only thing that exists is matter.


The philosophical debate over the nature of logical truths is a bit more complicated than you characterize it here. Regardless, your critique suffers from the same defect as your critique of atheism in relation to morality: your mistakenly assuming atheism entails materialism. It does not(I, for one, am an atheist who finds several other metaphysical theories more plausible than materialism---and none of them require the existence of a God or gods).

Human dignity. Same error. You assume materialism here too.

If you want to prove the "impossibility of the contrary" of theism then your going to have to fix the error of assuming that atheism entails materialism and then try again (by the way, there are other alternatives to theism than atheistic naturalism---polytheism, animism, and quite a few other varieties of supernaturalism; even if you disproved atheism you'd still need to address the other supernaturalisms before you have shown theism true by the impossibility of the contrary).

Brian Colón said...

David,

I had considered titleing my essay "Materialism: A Falsified Hypothesis" but at the time it seemed unneccesary to draw a distinction between Atheism and Materialism. The Atheists I've studied all hold to Secular Humanism and Materialism.

I must confess I've never heard of a Metaphysical Atheistic Worldview, apart from the Multi-verse hypothesis which only attempts to refute the Teleological Argument. Could you provide an explaination of your Metaphysical Atheistic Worldview? What I dont understand, is that if you're already willing to make a leap to the metaphysical side of things, then what so hard about believing in God?

David B. Ellis said...


The Atheists I've studied all hold to Secular Humanism and Materialism.


I suspect it's more likely that you've attributed to them materialism when actually they are empiricists (which has to do more with how we know what we know than with the metaphysical question of what the fundamental "stuff" of reality is). Nor, for that matter, are all forms of materialism as rigid as you have described. There is, for example, the nonreductive materialism that simply holds that minds have their basis in the physical (in other words, there is no consciousness without some sort of physical brain). You've been talking of materialism as if the most extreme version of it was the whole of materialism---there is actually a wide range of varieties of materialism. Not that I'm interested in debating the validity of materialism (since I'm not one myself).

What atheists do you have in mind that you're calling materialists? Take 3 of the most famous contemporary atheist writers: Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris. Do you have any quotes in which they endorse materialist metaphysics? I've not read anything from any of them in which they do.

Regardless, even if it were true that materialism is the most popular position among atheists (again, I haven't seen that in my experience---most of them are rather suspicious of speculative metaphysics, myself included) it's still not the only position open to atheists. Even if you prove materialism contradictory atheists can still be neutral monists, panpsychics, dualists, and substance pluralists just to name a few of the options compatible with atheism. So your argument still needs major revision if you want to refute atheism.


Could you provide an explaination of your Metaphysical Atheistic Worldview? What I dont understand, is that if you're already willing to make a leap to the metaphysical side of things, then what so hard about believing in God?


Materialism is a position on only one of the questions metaphysics deals with: the question of what the fundamental "stuff" of reality is.

Above I described 4 other options (and that was far from an exhaustive list---there are quite a few others).

My position on the question is that we don't have any way of knowing, based on the information currently available to us, which theory about the fundamental "substance" of reality is correct. We don't even know enough to make much of an informed guess---we'd just be speculating. That's why I called myself agnostic on the question.

JEO said...

The construction of semantic gotchas is an old game. If God is all powerful, he can make a rock so big He can’t pick it up. No, wait--!

We know that Jesus is part of the Holy Trinity, so God in some way must know what suffering is like. What about lust? He knows what it is—sin, right?—but does he know what it’s like? He knows, maybe, a great deal about it from having designed the circuits in our heads, but is that really what it’s like? If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, why is it so easy to come up with things He can’t do and can’t know?

Russell, Frege, and Wittgenstein all expended a great deal of energy trying to make logic mathematical. Godel proved, maybe I should say “proved,” to the satisfaction of many in the mathematical community that “no formal logic system can be both consistent and complete.” And any system that allows for self-referential statements—like most languages—is bound to be either incomplete and/or self-contradictory.

My sister, very religious, is enamored of the “watch implies a watchmaker” argument for the existence of God. She says, you show anyone the Mona Lisa and they are going to know that a painter painted it. The universe around us . . . obviously God created it. But if the universe is like a painting, then what are we? Infinitesimal flecks of zinc oxide on the lady’s nose? Are we really in any position to make any pronouncements about the work of art we find ourselves trapped in? We do whatever it’s in our nature to do, and that may include guessing, surmising, concocting, arguing, extrapolating, and sometimes debunking, but only someone or something outside and beyond the universe can definitively say anything about it—I’m imagining a Roger Ebert for universes instead of movies.

My analogy here may or may not be a good one, but one of its collateral effects is to undermine any absolute or essential truth I might wish to lay claim to in making it. I’m comfortable with that. In order to get along in my life, I casually assume many things, logic, continuity of reality, causality, and that IHOPs are not a sign that the apocalypse is already with us. But part of me is laughing. I have this sense of how the many machinations of my brain are just layers of contingencies cantilevered atop each other.

One think I would like to know is how an all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful God could designate Jesus Christ as some kind of divine fulcrum, and then forget to let Asians know about Him (until just recently, anyway)? I’m using both a moral sense and a logical facility to phrase this question. Jonathan Edwards, I’m sure, would immediately dismiss me as completely impertinent. “Sinners in the Hands of Angry God,” baby! But he was from a different time. I’m thinking that in my era, questions such as this actually merit consideration. Is this progress? Provisionally, I’m going to say: Yes.

Mike Gage said...

As David pointed out above, this argument completely fails. I've provided an analysis of almost every single point here: http://foxholeatheism.com/bad-apologetics/

The gist is this - you haven't shown that an atheist cannot give an account of morality, logic, and human dignity. And even if these people act in contradictory ways, that still proves nothing, but it's not entirely clear that they do. Acting as if something is not the case doesn't make that something false. So, everyone in the world could act as if materialism is false, yet, materialism can still be true. Our intuitions are not known for their stellar ability to map to truth in the world.

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