The failings of theistic arguments

Most theistic arguments are failures. The primary reason is that there is no evidence for a creator (or designer or whatever fundamentally dishonest weasel word a theist wishes to abuse). But even on a non-empirical, philosophical level, theistic arguments fail again and again. It doesn’t matter if it is an initial argument or a counter-argument being presented, it always falls flat on its face. Here are the top five worst theistic arguments (or counter-arguments).

5. The argument from personal experience: This argument is one where the believer argues that he has had some fantastic spiritual experience or that praying has worked or that he really feels the presence of God. It’s almost insulting to refute such tripe. First, personal experience is not evidence; it cannot serve as a basis for proving something to someone else. Second, praying, believing, having faith, and all that silly jazz has no evidence. The person is drawing anecdotes. Third – and this is to what it really comes down – what one feels is true is not a substitute for what is true. Personal experience might serve as an interest, but there is nothing which says one personal experience is more valid than the other without some outside evidence or method for discovering what is true.

4. The transcendental argument: This is extremely similar to the argument from consequence. It argues that a number of things (such as morality) are dependent upon God. It then reasons that since morality is true, God must exist. But this is clearly erroneous. The argument presumes morality based upon wide-spread agreement that it actually exists. But this agreement 1) is largely based upon the presumption that God exists because, well, that’s from where morals come, right? and 2) does not require that anyone accept that morality comes from God. It’s an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, most people are assuming morality exists because they assume God exists (making the argument circular). But on the other hand, if someone accepts the existence of morality without God, this argument completely falls apart. If morality is a purely human affair, then it does not prove any god. Really, the way this argument ought to be framed – and this is a common mistake of the theist – is that objective morality only exists with the existence of God. But then the only way morality can be objective is if God exists. And so the circle runs.

3. The argument from reason: This awful piece of argumentation says that reason must come from a rational source, rationality cannot initially come from material things, and since reason clearly exists, God must also exist. This is similar to the first cause argument. And it’s just as weak. Nothing says rationality cannot come from a purely material source. That’s a bogus premise that ignores the power of natural selection. Humans evolved, in accord with every shred of evidence we have, from non-rational populations either without the hand of God (which is the most parsimonious possibility) or with an utterly superfluous hand of God (which may as well be the hand of ShamShams the Crazy Creating Unicorn).

2. The argument from degree: This one says that we can always imagine something with greater and greater properties. Eventually, we must conclude with something that has the greatest of all properties. It’s crap. We can conceive of a lot of things. That doesn’t mean those things therefore exist. It’s a simple word game, really.

1. The first cause argument: This posits that everything in the Universe has a cause, therefore something outside the Universe must have caused the Universe itself to exist. First, why not say Nature is the first cause? Not Nature in the sense of all that is within the Universe, but in the sense of a mindless actor which exists independently of the Universe, a sort of God without the intention; God only acts as a middleman. Second, what caused God? If he is without cause, where is the evidence? Third, we don’t even know if everything must have a cause. Of course, we know that everything which exists within the Universe must have a cause, but that says nothing of whether or not the Universe itself must be caused. (Note the distinction I wish to make: we know that what is within the Universe has cause, but the Universe as a complete entity is a different story.)

Thought of the day

It’s ridiculous to demand anyone offer creationists any respect.

Another xkcd gem