The following meme is making the Facebook/Twitter rounds that shows how to have rational discourse:
As usual, I think that this is incredibly simplistic. When you unpack some of these, red flags start to go up. The person who created this, I think, has an agenda and is so focused on that agenda that he is no longer concerned with truth.
Can you envision anything that will change your mind on the topic? The key word here is “envision.” I can’t envision anything that would change my mind on the existence God. That, however, doesn’t mean I will be irrational in a discussion. Perhaps during the conversation we can find something I had not thought of that would change my mind on God.
Just because I can’t envision it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I have an open enough mind to accept that I may be wrong about the existence of God, while being confident that I’m not. Aristotle observed, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I can entertain thoughts I don’t accept — my goal is truth, not comfort.
As a further point, I think that it is easy to use this as a crutch to end an inconvenient discussion by equivocating irrationality and passion. I passionately believe in God, which is why I can’t envision anything changing my mind on that. But that is not the same as irrationality.
Are you prepared to abide by the basic principles of reason in discussing this topic? Two rules are given as an example:
- The position that is more reasonable and has more supporting evidence should be accepted as true.
- The person who asserts a position bears the onus of demonstrating its truth.
With regard to (1), “evidence” is (as it always is with atheists) left undefined. Empirical or peer-reviewed scientific evidence aren’t the only forms of evidence. Only accepting empirical or peer-reviewed scientific evidence is a form of logical positivism called either empircism or scientism (depending on which form you accept). Neither position is consistent with itself, since there is no empirical or scientific evidence that would support a belief in those position.
Both positions, in fact, rule out the knowledge we gain from history, mathematics, and philosophy. They also exclude eyewitness testimony from discussion.
Meaning that we accept things as true without “evidence” all the time — if that’s what is meant by “evidence.” Remember that when we get to the farcical rules of discussion below.
I agree wholeheartedly with (2) provided you understand atheists share a burden of proof.
Once entered, four additional rules are given to govern the discussion:
Do not introduce a new argument while another argument has yet to be resolved. I don’t, but every atheist I’ve had a discussion with has done this to me. So, I won’t start doing this but please, atheists, don’t do this to me, either.
Do not move on to another argument if it is shown that a fact you have relied upon is inaccurate. I’ll just admit my mistake, but this doesn’t happen to me often.
Provide evidence for your position or arguments. Again, atheists should be doing this, too. Atheists seldom back their own unbelief in God up with evidence or arguments. This is both lazy and a direct violation of one of the basic principles of rational discussion (that the true position is more reasonable and has more supporting evidence). Argue it’s reasonable. Give me the evidence.
Do not argue that you do not need evidence. Again, the obsessive requirement for evidence is logically inconsistent, because there is no evidence for accepting it as a true premise — and atheists say they only believe that which we have evidence for.
While I accept the spirit of this meme, I still find it the product of a simple mind concerned with winning online debates rather than seeking truth.
- God if he exists must be the ultimate being and provide the answers to all of our ultimate questions — otherwise he is not God.
- Yet even supposing as a hypothesis that God exists the questions that God was supposed to finally answer still remain (though in some cases God is substituted in the question for the Universe).
- Therefore hypothesizing is only unnecessarily adding an extra stage to such problems and has no real explanatory value.
- Therefore according to Logic (Occam’s Razor Law — ‘that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’) we should not postulate God’s existence and there is no adequate reason to suppose that God exists.
- Therefore we should suppose that God does not exist.
Starting with (1), I agree that God should provide the answers to all of the ultimate questions. When explaining the argument, however, Berg lists attributes of God (eternal, absolute good, purpose-giver) rather than explaining what big questions he means. He only ends up asking one: How did the universe arise?
… [T]he answer for theists is, of course, God created it. How did God arise? Well, God has always existed. But, why then, has the Universe not always existed? Thus God can be cut out as an unnecessary extra. Poor God, always being cut out as an unnecessary extra that contributes nothing to understanding except complication. God is no more than a valueless extra intermediary stage in explanation. (p. 64)
This didn’t work for Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and it isn’t going to work for Berg now. “Who made God?” is not a valid retort. Read the rest of this entry
How many of us have said, “I’ve been meaning to do [something], but [this] got in the way.” I’ve been guilty of that many times, especially around the house. I keep “meaning to,” but something else happens.
Wives are pretty forgiving here–or at least mine is. Provided that [this] is reasonable, and not, “I just had to beat my high score at Yahtzee, and after 10 hours of rolling those dice, I finally did it!”
Supervisors at work are much less forgiving, even if [this] is extremely reasonable. “I meant to get that paperwork faxed over, but four people called off for lunch rush and of the people that showed up, no one knew how to run the drive-thru register except for me!” Those who have worked in fast food know that what I just said is a very legitimate reason for missing office work, but they also know that no district manager would actually accept that excuse.
In the world of blogging, “I’ve been meaning to write a post on [something], but [this] got in the way” has far less severe consequences than it does in the corporate world. Usually, another blogger ends up writing the post, generally making the exact points that you would have raised. Then comes the inevitable internal groan, “Why didn’t I just write the post sooner?”
Today, as I read over the usual blogs, I discover that the post I’ve been meaning to write on the so-stupid-it-burns talking point that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” has already been written by Dr. Randal Rauser. Although I’ve disagreed with Dr. Rauser in the past, in this particular post he is 110% spot on. This paragraph sums up my own points to people about this claim:
The problem starts with this: who decides what is “extraordinary”? Without an absolute, objective standard this principle collapses into “Anything that appears really implausible to me requires extraordinary evidence” and that in turn collapses into “No evidence will be good enough to convince me of something I find really implausible”. In other words, this is a recipe for an irrational dismissal of any evidence counter to what one already accepts.
Literally, all the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” talking point ever does is allow the atheist to dismiss with a simple hand wave anything that he doesn’t want to believe–the existence of God, the Resurrection, any miracle in the Bible, or whatever else they don’t want in their worldview. All they need to do is class whatever their opponent says as “extraordinary,” and whatever evidence or argument offered in support as “not extraordinary.” BAM! Case dismissed faster than a pothead’s lawsuit on Judge Judy.
All that is required to believe any claim, extraordinary or not, is sufficient evidence. Period.