From: email@example.com (Kenneth Almquist)
Subject: Re: no evidence of God.
In Charley Mangoe's first posting on this subject <16387@mimsy.UUCP>,
he responded to Dene:
> Really, now: you are making demands upon God about how to run the world
> properly. Given the posited relative positions of you and the Creator, it
> is laughable that your demands should signify anything. Indeed, in my
> opinion it is part of the Divine prerogative to remain hidden.
> If there is one thing that I am sure of, it is that God only very rarely
> submits to demands to appear. More often he refuses, perhaps to show his
> superior position.
You will be happy to know that God has not only exercised his prerogative
of remaining hidden from me, but he has done so successfully. Actually,
I don't expect that this news to bring you happiness, but what else am I
to say? I don't make demands on God (and neither does Dene, unless I
misread him), although I might make demands on Christians. I'd have to
be pretty silly to make demands on Someone that I didn't believe existed.
Let me try attacking the problem this way. My senses appear to tell me
that a world external to myself exists. But do they really? How do I
know that a Cartesian demon isn't generating all the sensory inputs that
I receive and manipulating them to make it *appear* that an external
world exists? Certainly I can't reject this possibility based upon the
evidence, because the "demon" hypothesis accounts for every bit of sensory
input that I have ever received. Rather, I reject it based upon epistem-
oligical principles (it assumes an intent to deceive, it explains too
much, it is not falsifiable). Of course, if there *is* a demon, then
my epistemology has led me to a false conclusion. So be it. No matter
how good my epistemology is, I can be led astray by the evidence that
happens to pass my way. This is a necessary risk if one is to believe
much of anything.
So I have little problem rejecting the existence of Cartesian demons or
gods who choose to remain hidden. Yes, there is a risk in rejecting
these, but the alternative to trusting epistemological principles is not
belief, but great skepticism about the existence of *anything*. Unless,
of course, you expect me to jump from skepticism to the first attractive
belief that comes along (which might very well be Christianity).
In <16407@mimsy.UUCP>, Charley responds to Dene's query:
>> if he is so concerned for us to follow him why be so coy about showing
> Well, part of the answer clearly is because he wants to make it possible
> that people *choose* to follow him. Why he wants this-- good question.
> Frankly, I am not impressed by the sham gods whose reasons are perfectly
> transparent; the Creator and Ground of Being I would expect to do things
> that don't make sense. I don't accept your standing to judge how to run the
> universe; there is no reason for me to believe that you are competent to do
> so. You want tangible evidence-- *I* want tangible evidence.
I don't see how this is part of the answer. Here's how I see it: If a
person believes that God exists, then he can choose whether or not to
follow God. If, on the other hand, a person believes that God does not
exist, then that person cannot choose whether or not to follow God in any
meaningful way, since it doesn't make sense to follow a being that doesn't
exist. So if more people believe that God exists, more people are in a
position to choose whether or not to follow God.
The rest of the quoted paragraph sounds like a "God moves in mysterious
ways" argument. A God who exercises his prerogative to remain invisible
is, like the Cartesian demon, consistent but not necessarily believable.
But your God, since he has the additional attribute of wanting followers,
is not necessarily consistent. Now you seem to be challenging Dene's
capacity to judge the consistency of your concept of God, and by impli-
cation your own, since you would "would expect [God] to do things that
don't make sense [to you]." Justified or not, this is another move in
the direction of skepticism, not belief.
Most of the rest of <16407@mimsy.UUCP> consists of an attempt to explain
Dene's atheism as the result of prejudice. I won't attempt to guess how
accurately this describes Dene (after all, I'm one of the folks who
assumed that he was a *she* until a couple of days ago :-)). But this
doesn't address the issue of whether an *unprejudiced* individual could
reach different conclusions than Dene does. Charley addresses this a
little bit in <16440@mimsy.UUCP>:
> Even as a believer I would not argue, as Joe seems to, that the evidence
> is incontrovertible. [...] But more sophisticated believers eventually
> came to the conclusion that the God that they saw had deliberately
> arranged things that belief required a fairly difficult choice.
Difficult emotionally? Yes, in many cases. Difficult intellectually?
Again, this is going to vary from individual, since an individual has to
consider her individual experiences as part of the evidence, and these
will of course vary from person to person. Personally, I have not
experienced God in my life, and since I'm aware that religion is
culturally dependent I don't give that much weight to other people's
experiences. So it's not an intellectually difficult question for *me*.
Charley asks Jim Munro:
> OK then, have it your way. What evidence would you like?
Well, Charley, there are a bunch of physical laws that have massive
amounts of evidence to support them. For example, between any two objects
there is always a gravitational attraction. In any reaction matter/energy
is always conserved. Now if you want to assert that, in reality, between
any two objects there is a gravitational attraction *unless* God decides
otherwise, that in any reaction matter/energy is conserved *unless* God
decides to perform a miracle, if, in short, you want amend every natural
law we know, you are arguing against an incredible weight of evidence.
In general, the only thing that can stand against this sort of evidence
is a *replicable* falsification of these laws. Now I am not saying that
God needs to be at the beck and call of every physicist who doubts that
apples will always fall down rather than up, although this would be ideal.
The replicability requirement could be met by a sufficient variety of
miracles of God's own choosing, as long as God performed them sufficiently
frequently so that skeptics could repeatedly observe them. Of course the
miracles (or a sufficient subset of them) would have to be announced by
God in advance to ensure skeptics access to them and to demonstrate that
they were caused by God rather than by someone else.
Charley has been at pains to point out that I can't dictate to God what
He should do, so I should make clear that this is only one possibility.
I'm not making demands on God--I don't think He exists, remember, and
even if I did think He existed I wouldn't necessarily demand that He do
particular things. God, if He exists, could use any method he pleased
to allow me to deduce that He exists. Since God, if He exists, has not
done so, I believe (quite rationally, based on Occam's razor) that God
does not exist. Sure, there is a risk that this belief is in fact false,
but as I tried to explain at the start of this article, it is a necessary
P.S. Sorry for the length of this article.