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« Discussing Jesus' Death with Muslim Friends | Main | A Response to Edward Feser on Romans 1 »

October 20, 2015


I think the pre-Socratic atheist, Salonides, (or was it Salonetes, or Salo...can't recall) made a similar point:

[I]t insults our intelligence to be enjoined to believe, now that we have made bronze weapons, predicted an eclipse, and sailed across the Adriatic, in the veracity of a supernatural account of the origins of our cosmos.


A fine quote.

But could you explain how you'd apply it as a response to the current challenge.

Do you note a trend in this line of argument, or dismissing progress as an argument against God?

What is truly silly is finding more complexity and concluding less likelihood of design.

First, I would point out that Mr. Tayler is not a scientist or historian, so his objections should be evaluated with care. Mr. Tayler's article relies heavily on Joseph Atwill's book regarding the historical evidence for the mythology of Jesus. However, Mr. Atwill is not a historian, so again, one should examine carefully Mr. Atwill's findings. Several atheist historians have done just that and found his analysis wanting. (See historian Thomas Vereena and David Fitzgerald)

So his argument must stand solely on that fact that human beings have gained greater insight into the functioning of our material world. At Eternity Matters has pointed out, this really seems to put Mr. Tayler in an intellectual predicament rather than closing the book on the Bible.


I dismiss progress as an argument against God.

[I]t insults our intelligence to be enjoined to believe, now that we have split the atom, discovered the Higgs Boson, and sent a probe to Pluto, in the veracity of a supernatural account of the origins of our cosmos.

The conclusion trying to be reached is that there is an adequate naturalistic explanation of the origins of our cosmos. But none of the things listed (splitting the atom, sending a probe to pluto) provide an adequate naturalistic explanation of the origins of our cosmos. So the argument is just a non-sequitur.

Being more charitable, I think the point is that given the progress we are making in science it would be irrational to suppose that we will not arrive at an a naturalistic explanation of the origins of the cosmos. The evidence offered for that suggestion (splitting the atom, discovering the Higgs Boson, sending a probe to Pluto) is woefully underwhelming for the claim, even if we add some of his other observations (mapping the human genome). There is good reason to think that there could not even be a naturalistic account for the cosmos since the naturalistic factors would have to be a part of the naturalistic cosmos. In other words, the cosmos would have to be shown to exist necessarily or else the concept is incoherent (a non-being bringing itself into existence). But what scientific method has been or even could be developed to test for logical necessity?

I think WisdomLover's mock quote points to another interesting fact: we are very bad at anticipating just how much further explanation and exploration is required. Thales thought you reached bottom at water. Darwin thought the cell would be basic. And as Eternity Matters notes, each new discovery has pointed to more complexity than our forebearers could have possibly anticipated. At this rate, on naturalistic grounds, we have little grounds for confidence that our brains are even capable of comprehending the naturalistic origins of the cosmos if there even is one.

There is absolutely zero content in this "objection".

The response it deserves is:


Who split the atom? A very intelligent human being. Who made the atom? Someone absolutely brilliant. Stunningly brilliant.

Since all scientific evidence we've gathered and logic say that all space-time and matter had a beginning, what's more insulting to our intelligence?

To say the cause is a powerful, supernatural, personal (since impersonal forces can't choose to create) cause? Or to say nature somehow created itself prior to the point of its existence?

It’s even worse if you read the whole thing.

The above excerpt could also be characterized as:

Science is cool, therefore God doesn’t exist.

Remington is correct. None of the scientific discoveries noted in the challenge (or those awesome achievements of the human spirit noted in WL's parody quote of Salon-guy) are conclusive of any of the claims made by the challenge. Many of the achievements of modern science (including the genome project) were made by scientists who had room for a theistic viewpoint.

Which only proves that scientific discoveries can be misapplied. For example, the exploits of the probe Voyageur gave bang-up photos and info on the outer planets (except Pluto) and kept sending signals until its path carried it out beyond the solar system into deep space. This proved the vastness of space. But some may point out that medieval and classical science taught that a bowl-like canopy separated the planets and sol from the region of light, the stars being this light peering through the pinholes of this canopy.

So, what hath Voyageur wrought?

Clearly, the evidences presented in the challenge is not adequate to dismiss God.

It's really not an argument in itself. However, a key assumption is implied:

Achieving great things (assuming that the things listed are actually great achievements) entails sufficient intelligence to dismiss the veracity of the unknowable.

Even if the veracity of a Creator is unknowable, that assumption is patently absurd. If there is a Creator, and if that Creator has revealed himself in some way, then the Creator is not unknowable.

But I think that there is a yet another covert assumption behind this, namely that it is somehow possible to know whether there is a supernatural Creator by using natural means. The achievements listed are natural achievements. Could one presume upon the metaphysical by virtue of the physical? Indeed, we believe that God has revealed himself in his creation such that all creation bears evidence of its Creator. However, it is clear only by virtue of submission to the truth. This is not a physical act, but a spiritual act. It is precisely the spiritual here that the challenger begs his readers to deny. There is no proof that someone is submissive to the truth, except that they testify that they are by word and deed. That's an inductive proof at best. Nevertheless, it's a very real state of things that affect the natural world. To deny that is to demonstrate an unwillingness to submit to the truth that we are in some way spiritual beings. It is only a short logical step from there to assenting knowledge of our Creator, whether it is accompanied by faith or not.

But that said, there is a tacit acknowledgement of the spiritual in the challenge. Characterizing the arguments of theists as "silly" instead of "illogical" or "irrational" entails a difference of connotation that can only be understood as spiritual.

To say that the more we learn about our surroundings the less likely God exists, doesn't follow

I always thought that someone painted that picture......then I learn how to make paint. Made me realize that no one painted the picture.

The speaker doesn't want to be forced to believe in a supernatural explanation of the origins of life and the universe when there are specific, materialistic scientific discoveries for them to consider. Sometimes I believe people who take this position narrowly define intellegence to exclude any understanding that is more like belief or faith rather than "rational" or "logical conclusion. They want the comfort of the "I know" versus "I believe" and they must be mutually exclusive. Therefore, intelligence must not be based on belief or faith in the strict sense.

In response there is always the issue of the underlying assumptions--of which assumptions are closer to belief than rational. Assumptions can be deduced but only to a degree and not fully supported. Here the main assumption is that our scientific discoveries are giving us knowledge that would refute the existence of a supernatural being and dimension.

Another assumption made by the speaker is that there is a question as to the veracity of supernatural origins, as though the speakers sceptism serves to prove their point. This is like assuming that the existence of the sun may be untrue and then arguing that no one can make me believe that light and heat come from the sun.

Intelligence must be argued to include belief as much as knowledge. Belief frames and provide context to knowledge and knowledge tests and articulates belief. Together belief and knowledge provide the ability to objectively evaluate the other. This new ability is rationality or a rational intellegence.

Our modern world often confused and mislabels words like intellegence, faith, knowledge, truth in an attempt to justify their personal beliefs-- ironic at best and ignorant at worst.

It insults our intelligence to be enjoined to believe, now that we have split the atom, discovered the Higgs Boson, and sent a probe to Pluto, that all of these things happened through random happenings of time and chance, and with no intelligence behind them!

Note that the complaint isn't really about what's true or not, but what insults us. And in my pride, my feeling of control, my confidence in my worldview-- I take it as a slight that there's something beyond me, and that my opponents in the public sphere keep harping on about it!


Exactly right.

So, whenever my intelligence is insulted by some proposition, I dismiss the proposition as necessarily false and ridicule anyone so provincial as to hold to it? Yep, that sounds about right.

One's intelligence is only insulted to the degree to which one believes "god" is nothing more than a vague explanation that previous, more ignorant generations squeezed into the gaps in our knowledge in the same way ancient map makers left "Here be Dragons" on the blank margins of their maps.

This assertion commits a bundle of logical fallacies in one sentence. On the face of it, the whole challenge is merely an ad-hominim attack: calling anyone who still holds to the idea of a supernatural origin of the universe unintelligent. It's a straw-man argument: utterly misstating or dismissing the design argument. It's a complete non-sequitur: how does humanity (created in the image of the intelligent designer) having the intelligence to investigate increasing areas of creation from the heart of the particles that make up atoms to the farthest no-longer-considered-a-planet planet in our solar system negate the existence of the designer?

Like Allen said above, it's as insulting to our intelligence as, knowing what ingredients an artist used to mix his paint, one can look at a painting and declare the artist a figment of everyone else's imagination.

David Oderberg looks at the beginning of existence.

What is truly insulting is to continue to believe that nothing is responsible for everything, that non-life produces life, and that impersonal forces result in human beings who are personal.

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