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How do we know there's a God? What is he like?

Reaping the benefits of fiction & the free pass

Postby Christopher Columbus » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:06 pm

Christians, when discussing god, treat god as being interchangeably real and fictional and thus reap the benefits of fiction. Which is a reduced burden of proof that is completely undeserved.

Support:

Think of Darth Vader. What do we know about him? He was once human but now has many robotic parts. He can move objects with his mind using the Force. He owns and wields a light saber which is a device that... while we can conceptualize it... defies the laws of physics.
We can freely discuss Vader because we understand him to be a fictional character. The benefit of fiction is that we can suspend our disbelief. But what does that mean? What is it to suspend disbelief? Let's start with the last word. Disbelief. Why would we disbelieve something? Simple: because the thing that is being claimed contradicts things we've already established as true. Why would we suspend that? Because, by definition, with something fictional we understand that the subject isn't real.

Consider for a moment Darth Vader without suspension of disbelief. There's no robotics today that would sustain him. Humans can't move heavy objects with their minds and nothing else. And light sabers are just a special effect we see on a screen. If someone said to us, "Darth Vader is real and exists outside of the realm of the purely fictional" think about the question that would generate. How does the force work? Where did he get his robotics that keep him alive? How would his light saber function? There's no answers to any of these questions.
Now consider what would happen if someone said "Darth Vader is real and not fictional at all" and when confronted with the problems of robotics / force / light saber the claimant came back with, "Well, he's DARTH. VADER. He wouldn't be Vader if he didn't have those things." Think about how deeply unsatisfying that answer is. Why is it deeply unsatisfying?

Because the speaker is trying to claim Vader is real AND also trying to reap the benefits of fiction. You can't insist that something like Vader is real and then insist on suspending disbelief in a manner suggesting he's fictional. Because doing so is akin to claiming a thing both exists AND doesn't exist. And we can see that such behavior is just a way to get out of providing critical evidence.

This is exactly what Christians do with god. They both insist that god is real, but give god a "free pass" from logical scrutiny. The end result is a god that sounds like a fictional character, but one that Christians insist is not purely fictional. Thus Christians are trying to reap the benefits of fiction. How does god create universes? Energy cannot be created or destroyed. How is he intelligent? Intelligence comes from a gradual process (like evolution) or a creator (like a computer A.I.). The more specific attributes you give to god the more the burden of proof grows. Yet instead of providing evidence, Christians simply double-down in their fictional-character thinking.
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Re: Reaping the benefits of fiction & the free pass

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 13, 2019 3:07 pm

I couldn't possibly disagree more with your "This is exactly what Christians do with god." I use logical scrutiny at every turn. I'm an evidentialist, not a presuppositionalist (though we all have presuppositions that guide our thinking). Logic and evidence are where it all turns.

> How does god create universes?

According to current theory, via Big Bangs, electromagnetic radiation, gravity, velocity, mass, energy, and evolution.

> How is he intelligent?

As far as science tells us, information data only comes from other informational data. In other words, intelligence only comes from intelligence. It makes more sense to posit that intelligence came from an intelligent source (theism) than from a blind one (natural selection and genetic mutation).

> Yet instead of providing evidence, Christians simply double-down in their fictional-character thinking.

Not true. The logical and evidential arguments for the existence of God are more substantial than the arguments against.
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Re: Reaping the benefits of fiction & the free pass

Postby Christopher Columbus » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:18 pm

> Not true. The logical and evidential arguments for the existence of God are more substantial than the arguments against.

Sounds like you're simply abusing the definition of god or giving him credit for natural phenomenon. Regradless you've introduced no positive evidence for the existence of god. It would be like me saying "Zues doesn't exist". and then you coming back with "Well I disagree. Science shows us how lightning is created. Of course Zeus exists!" That's not a coherent argument.
Christopher Columbus
 

Re: Reaping the benefits of fiction & the free pass

Postby jimwalton » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:37 pm

Neither. Please don't make an assumption of unaware simplicity to create a straw man you can easily disregard. I answered VERY briefly, both in courtesy and in respect, not knowing how far you wanted to pursue to the conversation. Please don't count my brevity as ignorance. There are deep understandings and long rationales behind what I said. My reluctance to back up a dump truck and unload on the first question was courtesy, not shallowness.

> Regradless you've introduced no positive evidence for the existence of god. It would be like me saying "Zues doesn't exist".

That's correct. You started your argument with a radical and untrue generalization ("Christians, when discussing god, treat god as being interchangeably real and fictional and thus reap the benefits of fiction"). Then you traced through several paragraphs of fictional thinking. Those I ignored because they were part of your illustration, not really your case. You got to your case in the last paragraph, which is where I jumped in for real conversation.

My case, to counter your accusation of "interchanging real and fictional thinking," was...

1. Your generalization is untrue, at least in my case, and in the case of many other Christians I know. I use logical scrutiny at every turn, and evidence is what carries the day.
2. I answered your question from a Christian point of view, presuming that you wanted to debate a Christian. You asked, "How does God creates universes?", and I answered that question from a Christian viewpoint, which is also the current scientific viewpoint: "According to current theory, via Big Bangs, electromagnetic radiation, gravity, velocity, mass, energy, and evolution."
3. Then I answered your question about how God is intelligent, by using the logic of "it is more plausible to think that intelligence comes from an intelligent source than from an unintelligent one."
4. Then you make an outrageous non-sequitur accusation: "Yet instead of providing evidence, Christians simply double-down in their fictional-character thinking." You've given me nothing to hang onto except an extreme, uninformed position, so my retort was "I disagree." And I gave my reason for the disagreement: "The logical and evidential arguments for the existence of God are more substantial than the arguments against."

You didn't ask for a coherent argument; what you implied is that you wanted rebuttal for your false generalized accusation, which I gave.

> and then you coming back with "Well I disagree. Science shows us how lightning is created. Of course Zeus exists!"

I said or implied no such thing. A statement like this leads one to believe you have either a bias or a chip on your shoulder. If you want to have a reasoned conversation, we can have one.

> That's not a coherent argument.

What is it you would like a coherent argument for? You haven't been clear on that point.

    * That Christians do not interchange the fictional with the real?
    * Whether or not Christians suspend belief? (I've said we don't)
    * Whether Christian faith is an exercise of ignoring evidence? (I've said it's not)
    * Whether Christians purport that the same thing both exists and doesn't exist? (Christians don't ignore the logical position of self-contradiction)
    * Whether Christianity eschews logical scrutiny? (I've already said no).

You want evidence for something, but it's not clear what. Clarify your intents and thoughts, and let's talk.
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Re: Reaping the benefits of fiction & the free pass

Postby Christopher Columbus » Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:14 pm

> Your generalization is untrue, at least in my case, and in the case of many other Christians I know. I use logical scrutiny at every turn, and evidence is what carries the day.

This is not possible. I don't mean this as a pejorative and please don't read a tone into it. The problem is that you can't conclude god exists logically without bending or breaking the rules of logic. It's like saying, "I always follow the rules of proper math and in a base 10 system 1+1=3."

> I answered your question from a Christian point of view, presuming that you wanted to debate a Christian. You asked, "How does God creates universes?", and I answered that question from a Christian viewpoint, which is also the current scientific viewpoint: "According to current theory, via Big Bangs, electromagnetic radiation, gravity, velocity, mass, energy, and evolution."

Except this is simply attributing god credit for natural phenomenon. It's akin to saying "I insist Zeus is real and makes lightning" and then when pressed saying, "Well lightning is static electricity in the atmosphere!"

> Then I answered your question about how God is intelligent, by using the logic of "it is more plausible to think that intelligence comes from an intelligent source than from an unintelligent one."

But this necessarily implies that god has a creator. You're setting up an infinite regress and then reaping the benefits of fiction to insist that god (somehow) has the power to terminate the infinite regress without providing any evidence as to how.

> "The logical and evidential arguments for the existence of God are more substantial than the arguments against."

The only way you can adopt such a view is by giving god a free pass from logical scrutiny / creating special pleading for him / reaping the benefits of fiction. You did it just now. If intelligence comes from intelligence as you allege then god would need a creator (which is incompatible with a Christian worldview) or evidence as to how he can be intelligent without a creative intelligence. You're not providing that evidence and instead are reaping the benefits of fiction.

> What is it you would like a coherent argument for?

Ideally, I would like theists to provide an argument for the existence of god that has actual evidence, no logical flaws, and doesn't demand I re-define what constitutes evidence. No theist has ever done this. Instead they reap the benefits of fiction.
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Re: Reaping the benefits of fiction & the free pass

Postby jimwalton » Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:17 pm

> I don't mean this as a pejorative and please don't read a tone into it.

OK, I'll assume the best.

> The problem is that you can't conclude god exists logically without bending or breaking the rules of logic. It's like saying, "I always follow the rules of proper math and in a base 10 system 1+1=3."

There is nothing true about this.

* Logically speaking, everything that had a beginning had a source outside itself. The universe had a beginning. Logically speaking, naturalism is not the source.
* Logically speaking, it's more logical to think our intelligence came from an intelligent source, our personality came from a personal source, our morality came from a moral source, our aesthetic sense came from a beautiful source, and our sense of purpose came from a purposeful source—as opposed to a natural, impersonal, unintelligent, unpurposeful source.
* Since the universe exhibits many characteristics of design, balance, functionality, and fine tuning, it is logical to assume an intelligent, purposeful source rather than, "Gee, aren't we the lucky ones!"

How can you say "It's not possible?" I'm nowhere near 1+1=3. It's a grotesque misrepresentation of Christianity.

> Except this is simply attributing god credit for natural phenomenon. It's akin to saying "I insist Zeus is real and makes lightning" and then when pressed saying, "Well lightning is static electricity in the atmosphere!"

We all have to wrestle with the ultimate questions of "How did we get here? Where did this all come from?" Since nothing spontaneously generates, we have to consider all options for source and causality. You can't be claiming that natural must have a natural source, since that would be contrary to logic (something that has a beginning cannot possibly be the cause of its own beginning). And since science tell us that all first causes are personal causes, it's more logical to regard the first cause as personal rather than chemical or from energy.

> It's akin to saying "I insist Zeus is real and makes lightning" and then when pressed saying, "Well lightning is static electricity in the atmosphere!"

That's not at all what I have said. You can't manufacture some goofy kind of logic and then claim that was my point. I never said anything close to that kind of circular reasoning and contorted logic. It's not fair to put words in my mouth and then ridicule those words as illogical.

> But this necessarily implies that god has a creator.

No it doesn't. You aren't using logic. The logic of cosmology says that anything that HAD a beginning had to have a source outside of itself, since nothing can spontaneously generate. It says that first causes have to be personal causes. But you and well know that there has to be something that's eternal: whether it's energy, gravity, electro-magnetic radiation, or God—something was always there to function as the first cause. But since the first cause is outside of time (since time didn't exist, as far as we know, before the Big Bang), and since the first cause had to have been powerful (to incite what we now know as the universe), and since the first cause had to have been intelligent (as the source of informational data), and the since the first cause had to hav been purposeful (since we see so ouch purpose in the universe, we're left with logic telling us that the first cause was timeless, eternal, powerful, intelligent, and purposeful. If we are going to infer the most reasonable conclusion, theism is a more clear solution and carries more weight beyond a reasonable doubt than naturalism.

> The only way you can adopt such a view is by giving god a free pass from logical scrutiny / creating special pleading for him / reaping the benefits of fiction

Then you're not paying attention to anything I'm saying and closing your eyes to both evidence and logic, which would be a biased position.

> If intelligence comes from intelligence as you allege then god would need a creator (which is incompatible with a Christian worldview) or evidence as to how he can be intelligent without a creative intelligence.

This is illogical. There has to be a first cause. Logically and scientifically speaking, nothing spontaneously generates. We have determined by logic that the first cause had to have been timeless, eternal, powerful, intelligent, and purposeful. That's not a free pass, nor is it reaping the benefits of fiction.

> Ideally, I would like theists to provide an argument for the existence of god that has actual evidence, no logical flaws, and doesn't demand I re-define what constitutes evidence.

There are many logical arguments for the existence of God that I consider to be stronger than the refutations.

Cosmological argument: The universe had a beginning. The idea of an infinite universe is absurd. Something outside of the universe had to have caused it to bang.

Ontological argument: If God doesn't exist, his existence is logically impossible. If he does exist, his existence is necessary. Since we know God is not impossible, he must be necessary.

Teleological argument: We don't know of anything that shows evidence of being purposefully designed that was not indeed purposefully designed. Many parts of the universe exhibit purpose. Therefore it's logical to assume the universe could be the product of purposeful design.

Analogical argument: Everything we humans produce for a particular purpose is designed for that purpose by someone intelligent enough to have designed it. The universe has many characteristics that seem like it was produced for a particular purpose. It's reasonable to conclude that the universe was designed by an intelligent being.

The argument of other minds: I can't prove that other minds exist, but it's logical to believe that. I can't prove what other minds are thinking, and yet it's reasonable to assume they are. The bulk of my commonsense beliefs about others minds is more probably than not on my total evidence. Using that analogy, then, belief in God is rational, being more probable than not on the total evidence.

Argument from consciousness: Genuinely nonphysical mental states exist (feelings, thoughts, emotions). The explanation for such mental states is either personal or scientific. The explanation for nonphysical mental states is not a natural scientific one, for no naturalistic explanation postulated thus far has been capable of accounting for how the mental can arise from the physical. Therefore the best explanation for now of nonphysical mental states is a personal one. If the explanation is personal, then it is theistic.

Axiological argument: Since there is evil in the world, there must also be good (or we wouldn't know evil was evil). If those words mean anything, there must be a standard by which to measure them. And if there is a standard, there must be a source for that standard. That source must be moral, objective, and personal.

Linguistic argument: Language is effective only if endowed with meaning. Meaning is non-material; it is neither energy nor matter. The essence of meaning is entirely distinct from energy and matter. Language demands a non-material source, since meaning is non-material. Language therefore demonstrates that we as humans possess non-material attributes. The most plausible source for that is an entity with mental faculties qualitatively similar to our own but vastly superior.

God makes sense of the existence of abstract entities.
God makes sense of the origin of the universe.
God makes sense of the complex order in the universe.
God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.

The resurrection of Jesus. The established facts surrounding the resurrection, and the inferences that can be made from subsidiary arguments and evidences are more plausible than alternative explanations.

The credibility of the Bible: The historical evidences, its trueness to life, its value for life, and its spiritual power.

The testimonies of other people whom I respect. It's tough to deny when you can see people change right before your eyes from one kind of person to another, qualitatively different, kind of person.

My experiences of God. I am convinced God exists wholly apart from arguments. They are properly basic beliefs, just like my belief in and experience of the external world and the existence of minds besides my own, such as yours.

The arguments against the existence of God are usually (1) the problem of evil, and (2) science. But neither of those mount any kind of argument. It's very possible to have a good and all-powerful God who allows evil, and science squares better with theism than with atheism. Usually the arguments from atheists boil down to, "I don't find the evidence for God's existence convincing enough," and yet they can offer precious little evidence in rebuttal for what they believe.

On the basis of so many thoughts and angles, logic and evidences, I became convinced that God exists and that Christianity is true.

And now, in exchange, I would like you to provide an argument for what you believe, whatever it is, that has actual evidence and no logical flaws. I'll also admit that no atheist has ever done this for me. While I can give a dozen cogent, logical, and evidentiary arguments for theism, atheists are empty-handed.
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Re: Reaping the benefits of fiction & the free pass

Postby Christopher Columbus » Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:04 pm

> Logically speaking, everything that had a beginning had a source outside itself. The universe had a beginning. Logically speaking, naturalism is not the source.

Okay. Then this would necessarily apply to god unless you have evidence as to why it wouldn't. You're creating a special pleading for him. A fallacy. That's why you cannot lay claim to having use proper logic. Same thing with intelligence.

> Since the universe exhibits many characteristics of design

Let's pause our discussion here because you've made a claim I'm going to insist that you support in as much detail as you can. How do you detect design?

For example, suppose I have two objects on my desk. One is man made. One has never been manipulated by any human ever (other than to relocate it). Provide for me a step by step explanation of how you'd detect which is man made and which is not. Your methodology should be presented in general terms so that it can be applied to anything. I'm looking for something like "If it has criteria A then I would take action Z. If not A then action X" and so on. Explain that, please, then I'll get back to the rest of your post.
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Re: Reaping the benefits of fiction & the free pass

Postby jimwalton » Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:04 pm

> Then this would necessarily apply to god unless you have evidence as to why it wouldn't.

It would not apply to God since God didn't have a beginning. No matter what your beliefs about origins, you believe that something always existed. We all do; it's the only choice—there is something that always existed. It's neither special pleading nor a fallacy, because everyone but EVERYONE believes something is eternal.

> That's why you cannot lay claim to having use proper logic. Same thing with intelligence.

That's why I can claim to use proper logic. Everyone's position includes something eternal. Everyone.

> How do you detect design?

Design is the idea of characteristics of that betray not only purpose but also a particular purpose to an end. There are so many of them it's impossible to list them all.

* The cosmic microwave background radiation oil uniform to about 1 part in 100,000. it it were any different, no large scale structures such as planets, and life would be impossible.
* If the magnitudes of the fundamental constants such as the mass and charge of electrons were ever-so-slightly different, chemical bonding would not work and life would be impossible.
* If the strong nuclear force were different than it is, no life.
* If the strength of electromagnetic force were different, there would be no atoms.
* If the Earth's orbit around the sun were only 2% larger or smaller, not life.
* If the Earth's gravity were .1% stronger or weaker, no life.

There are so many of these. The universe shows many evidences of having been designed by an intelligent agent for a purpose.

We're left with two logical choices:

1. The universe has been designed by some powerful, purposeful, and intelligent being
2. The universe has come to be by way of some chance processes that do not involve an intelligent designer.

Logic tells us that option 1 is more likely than 2, and we can conclude that with respect to the evidence, 1 is to be preferred to 2. Granted, we couldn't exist if the universe were not fine-tuned, but how is that relevant?

> One has never been manipulated by any human eve

Now you yourself are trying to reap the benefits of fiction and the free pass. There's an object on your desk that has never been manipulated by any human ever? Explain that, please, then I'll get back to the rest of your post.
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