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.)

25 Responses

  1. That is because theism is completely incompatible with science. There are no arguments left for theism.

  2. […] Hanging Fruit Over on For the Sake of Science (Another mislabeled blog which rarely deals with science) Michael Hawkins purports to deal with […]

  3. That is quite a diversion from the topic, Nate. Way to go to deflect the issue when you have no legitimate response. WebMD, really? Couldn’t you find anything by Answers in Genesis? WebMD is so much of an authority on theism, right? They are run by CVS

  4. I can’t stand when the religious seem justified in believing in unsubstantiated bullshit because it: A.) Makes them feel good B.) Makes them (supposedly) live longer C.) Because the bible tells you too. Religion is a cancer with which this world is rotting.

  5. Web MD simply had the longest article, livescience also had a pretty good one.

    I’d bet quite a bit that generally religious people do live longer. Having a pet is supposed to do the same thing, generally. Why should a rich social atmosphere have a different effect?

    In the words of this own blog, life is about gaining the most pleasure you can, so if going to church gives that pleasure to you than Michael seems to approve.

  6. Once again, clueless, Nate.

    The title and subject of this article is “The failings of theistic arguments”.

    Should we instead talk about the crime rate in Costa Rica? It is as relevant as your webMD comment.

  7. It seems a pretty good argument for theists that some part of the lifestyle may help you live longer.

    I’ll leave you to slobber over the post like a dog with his favorite bone though. I’ve been pretty busy lately.

  8. Too bad your empty mind can not come up with anything relevant to this post, Nate, but we understand what it is like to be a theist with no answers.

  9. I’ll be happy to spend time responding at length to posts that at least have some semblance of reason in them. I find this one poorly written (by comparison to the usual posts, not trying to shit on you Michael.) Not to mention making no sense on the subject on causation.

  10. The statement “Everything has a cause” refers only to things that are within time. Think of cell theory. It says all cells come from existing cells. That’s fine and dandy and true, but it ceases to be applicable at a certain level. Eventually a cell came to exist from a chemical process that was not also a cellular process. Extend this to the Universe and we’ve said everything must have a cause, but at a certain level that loses meaning. The infinitesimal point from which the Universe began was without time. We can’t apply our knowledge of physics to that since our knowledge of physics is necessarily limited to what is within time.

  11. Thank you, that’s much closer to the quality I’ve become used to.

    To me this means that if you can, even if you just make it up, assign some meaning to our existence it can do you good. Which brings me back to what I linked to before.

    There seems to be an almost limitless supply of studies out there that point to the same thing, those people that interact with other people and have a positive outlook and a sense of meaning live longer happier lives. That’s the only reason I need to believe in a god of my choosing and a damn good argument for doing so.

    It also means that we need a new understanding of physics to explain the cause (and there must be one otherwise we would all still be in an infinitesimal point) whether it be god or another external cause or something internally.

    Its not outrageous to think there may be something outside the observable universe, that it may exist within some other space which we don’t have a name for. In which case an external cause is a clear certainty (even if its not god.)

    But than I deal in history and not quite so far back as billions of years ago…

  12. Wow, stamp your feet and whine about nonsense – I laugh as you continue to make shit up. Your last comment is arrogant and stupid, Nate.

  13. To me this means that if you can, even if you just make it up, assign some meaning to our existence it can do you good. Which brings me back to what I linked to before.

    This is the big problem with theist and right-wing thinking. They think it is OK to lie and make shit up – this is just disgusting. One can not trust a person who thinks this way.

    There seems to be an almost limitless supply of studies out there that point to the same thing, those people that interact with other people and have a positive outlook and a sense of meaning live longer happier lives. That’s the only reason I need to believe in a god of my choosing and a damn good argument for doing so.

    Here he goes again with “do anything to make me feel better”. Yet another disgusting attitude. This ranks up there with believing in ghosts, homeopathy, witchcraft, praying to crystals, sun worshiping and all the other woo-woo nonsense. You might as well use leeches.

    It also means that we need a new understanding of physics to explain the cause (and there must be one otherwise we would all still be in an infinitesimal point) whether it be god or another external cause or something internally.

    This is just arrogance run amok. Just because your little mind can not, or will not understand something does not mean the whole world needs to change its thinking to suit your delusions.

    Its not outrageous to think there may be something outside the observable universe, that it may exist within some other space which we don’t have a name for. In which case an external cause is a clear certainty (even if its not god.)

    Show some kind of evidence when making outrageous (yes, it IS outrageous) statements. Otherwise it is merely speculation even when made by someone like Smolen or Susskind or Stenger.

  14. https://forthesakeofscience.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/thought-of-the-day-133/

    Your the one that shows incredible arrogance in your…. what? superiority? You always seem to write from the stand point that every poster but yourself is a 2 year old and need things explained in that way.

    Grow up Bob.

  15. Again, nothing of substance to argue with from you, Nate, so you call names. I pointed out the flaws in your nonsense and you come back with zip. Theistic tactics, I guess.

  16. I’m not going to argue with you, your skull appears to be too thick. In the name calling department, I’m just taking a page from your book.

  17. Empty of any significance again, Nate, as expected.

  18. How do you like living in your dream world where just declaring something insignificant makes it so?

  19. Another attack, so theistic. So right wingish…LOL

    You are pathetic and juvenile, as usual, Nate.

  20. And thats different from your attacks referencing fairy tales how?

    Again just another page from your book.

  21. Nate, you are so full of shit, your eyeballs float. I will no longer even read your comments. You are just farts blowing in a hurricane.

  22. Yes, clearly I am the attack dog here, let the record show…

  23. In regards to my utilitarian post about extracting happiness, I don’t mean it at the expense of truth.

  24. No truth has been offered by science, as of yet, on the matter. No evidence may have been found but that is far from being a ‘truth’ for either side of the debate.

    As long as we lack a proven explanation than both sides should just go about their merry ways.

    Meaning is a good thing, it would be irrational to declare that every who believes in God and takes meaning from that belief is living a lie when no lie has actually been discovered only theorized.

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