Posted by Cory Tucholski
To let people know that I’m here and still blogging, I have taken on the top three results from Yahoo! Answers on the search phrase “Does God exist?” The third question, from user Iason Ouabache, “How does the fact that I exist prove that there is a God?”
In another question someone said “the fact that you exist proves that there is a God”. And then he called me silly. How does my existence prove that God exists? And how does this prove that the specific Christian god exists? Doesn’t my existence just prove that I exist?
Right, Iason, the fact that you exist proves only that you exist. However, it raises the question of why you exist.
Think of reality as a box that contains us. We can’t see beyond the borders of the box. We can only see what’s inside the box. However, outside the box is a whole world of possibilities that we can’t see with our eyes, but can perceive with our mind by looking at what we see in the box.
We can know what is outside the box by looking at what is inside the box.
Put another way, we are imprisoned in Plato’s Cave. We are chained, looking at a cold, gray wall that has dancing shadows on it. We can figure out a lot about the shadows, and a little bit about what causes the shadows, by studying the shadows.
Now let’s say that someone breaks his chains and is able to walk outside Plato’s Cave. Suddenly, he sees for himself the majesty of reality. He sees what was causing the shadows on the wall, those imperfect copies of reality, as reality. His first instinct is to go back in the cave and free as many people as possible.
Alas, most people are content to stare at the wall.
I call those people “naturalists.” They don’t think anything is casting the shadows; they think that the shadows are all that exist.
Naturalists are only looking inside that box we talked about earlier. They do not consider that which we cannot prove — the elements outside the box that are hinted (copied or shadowed) by items we find in the box. They don’t even think that these “shadows” hint at anything.
Surmising what is outside the box by looking at what is inside the box is the branch of philosophy known as metaphysics. Our thoughts on metaphysics shape our thoughts on the natural world.
You, as a human being, and your inherent worth and intricate design flow from God. You are not evidence of God, but you are a hint that he is there — one hint among many in the created world.
What happens without God? Since our metaphysics shape our thoughts of the natural world, the thoughts of the theist differ wildly from the thoughts of the atheist. And, I might add, the thoughts of the atheist (though perfectly logical based on his metaphysics, or lack thereof) are outright disturbing.
- The notion of “inherent worth as a human being” is tossed out the window. We are one animal among many, we just so happen to be smart and self-aware. But, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t behave as animals. Sexuality, therefore, shouldn’t be a slave to morality. The animals have sex with whomever they want, whenever they want.
- Building on the first, morality itself is invalid. Morality is a universal idea, abstract in nature, and that would exist outside the box. Nothing exists outside the box. All we have are particulars — the ever-changing ethics of various societies. When the theist refers to rape or torture or abortion as issues of morality, that’s nonsense. There are no morals, for nothing exists outside the box. Therefore, any of those things (yes, even rape) could be considered ethically valid in the right circumstances. [Don’t believe me? Peter Singer justifies cold-blooded murder here.]
- The idea of design becomes ludicrous. If there were a designer, there would be no design flaws like an appendix or a tail bone or a hanging scrotum that incapacitates the person kicked in it. Offensive body odor? Gone. Hair and toenails? Not necessary. These “flaws” are not viewed as the best possible trade-offs, rather as evidence of evolution by natural selection.
So, what are we to do here? As Schaeffer pointed out, nothing finite is of value without an infinite reference point. We are finite, and therefore have no inherent worth or value unless we have something infinite to point at. That means starting with God is the only valid starting point. Starting with naturalism in the absence of God leads to chaos and immorality.
Posted by Cory Tucholski
Knowledge of all types takes time and effort to understand. More than that, it helps to take a moment to study epistemology to understand why we believe what we believe.
And if people had a basic understanding of epistemology, then stuff like this could be avoided:
Evolution,Physics,Astronomy,etc. describe reality as it is,but do take some effort to learn – theists just want quick answers: god. #atheism
— Monica McGee (@Monicks) June 8, 2011
I’ve discussed Monica’s ignorance before (on both tweets and longer posts 1 | 2| 3). We have some more ignorance right here, and more proof that it is not substance that brings you followers and friends. Having good traffic ratings, subscribers, fans, friends, and followers is a reflection of marketing skill.
Now, on with the real point of this post: Monica fails to make two important distinctions, and that is why her tweet fails. The first distinction is between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism. This is a mistake most atheists make. The second is a distinction between what science is best equipped to answer, and what metaphysics is best equipped to answer. Of course, making the first mistake means that she won’t even consider metaphysics as a way to answer anything, so the second mistake is inevitable.
Methodological naturalism means the scientist carries a presumption that an effect will have a cause within the system it appears. For example, if I win the lottery, I assume that I was just the lucky recipient of a fortunate combination of statistical laws and probability–someone had to win, right? I don’t assume that God granted me the money, though (to qualify) I would seek his will in what I did with the money. Others, however, don’t make the same assumptions.
Metaphysical naturalism is a bit contradictory. The metaphysical naturalist doesn’t believe in anything outside the system. In other words, the system is all that there is, so all causes by definition will be found in the system. Metaphysical naturalism is contradictory because it denies metaphysics, while remaining a valid metaphysical position.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can see why this is so ignorant. The subjects Monica mentions provide real knowledge on how something occurs. Evolution demonstrates how life changes over the years. Astronomy provides insight into the motion of stars and planets.
None of these, however, provide an answer to why these things occur. Evolutionists, the honest ones, admit that evolution only explains what happens to life when it’s already here. It never speculates on an origin.
Astronomy can chart a star’s motion through the sky and provide us with an understanding of the size of the universe and our general location in it, but it can’t tell us where any of it came from.
That brings us to the second, and related mistake. Science answers how, which is why the scientist must necessarily be a methodological naturalist. A metaphysical naturalist precludes even asking why something is, because there is no why by definition. The first scientists were Christians, and were not scientists despite being Christians as is so often claimed. They were scientists because they were Christians–they wanted to figure out how the world worked, figuring (correctly) that religion has already established why. Indeed, only theology is capable of establishing why.