Why God probably does(n’t) exist

I’m genuinely shocked that The Conversation allowed this article, titled ‘Arguments why God (very probably) does exist’ to be published. This isn’t science-based journalism. I’m still harbouring some hope that it was satire.

Before reading my comments, you should read it yourself, as I speak directly to the points made. In short, the author seeks to outline some arguments from logic for why God probably exists. The author presents an inexplicable misunderstanding of most. The article also seems to be a thinly veiled promotion of the authors’ book:

In my 2015 book, “God? Very Probably: Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God,” I look at physics, the philosophy of human consciousness, evolutionary biology, mathematics, the history of religion and theology to explore whether such a god exists.

Disclaimer – I am a Conversation published author. I feel compelled to write this because this article harms the credibility of the site, and thus all other authors.

On to my comments.

The author pointed out a few people that have doubts over evolution, but failed to acknowledge the reams of evidence in its support. They may as well be denying the existence of climate change.

The second to last point can be easily explained by confirmation bias (you don’t remark on the almost- or non-coincidences, only the ones that actually occur), and the last is not a reason to believe the existence of a god at all. It is possibly a reason to believe that humans have a hunger to be a part of something greater than themselves, whether it’s spiritual or otherwise.

That the universe seems strange and unlikely in many respects can be explained by the anthropic principle. If the universe didn’t quite have the right characteristics for life to exist, we wouldn’t be here to think about it, so it’s not that surprising that we observe the universe to look this way. It’s like saying, ‘wow, I exist, how unlikely’. If you didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be able to ponder that thought. It’s quite staggering that the author didn’t mention this.

Consciousness is weird and hard, but it is not therefore divine.

3 thoughts on “Why God probably does(n’t) exist”

  1. Michael,

    It is an intellectual tragedy, sadly an ironic one, that, in the same breath, a person attacks a contrary position over perceived ‘confirmation bias’ but doesn’t even bother to address the reasons why “people have doubts over evolution”. One would have thought that, given 2% of American scientists (only associated with a single science organisation, btw!) do not believe in evolution, there would be good reason to find out why. After all, don’t the major science revolutions arise by dissent and not through group think?

    Your own slice of confirmation bias is exposed because your “criticism” amounts to nothing more than a prejudice itself: “failed to acknowledge the reams of evidence in [evolution’s] support.” This is merely a restatement of your own position.

    To make matters worse, in place of a well-thought out counterargument an ad hominem was substituted in, viz., “They may as well be denying the existence of climate change.” Yep, and I bet you all their mothers wear army boots too!

    For someone who has set up a blog that attempts to tackle the big issue of morality, here’s a question for you to answer honestly: How many books and papers have you read that present the case against evolution and for ID?

    1. “One would have thought that, given 2% of American scientists… do not believe in evolution, there would be good reason to find out why.”

      1) Not necessarily. Over 2% of American scientists believe that GMOs are harmful. In any case, you should be looking at evolutionary scientists, not any scientist. You seem to be appealing to the Galileo gambit, but a new idea is not automatically warranting of scientific consideration. I’m a space scientist, and I assert that there is a teapot floating between Venus and Mercury. Shouldn’t you be considering this possibility? No? Because I have no evidence? Fair enough.

      2) 2% is not that much.

      3) Interesting that you picked USA, a strongly religious country where many people believe Earth is only around 6,000 years old. There are geologists in USA who perform science which relies on understanding that the Earth is over 4 billion years old and still believe the Earth is only ~6,000 years old. I wonder how the numbers would look for a more secular country.

      I’ve read several books and blogs that present the case against evolution and for ID. I read the Christian bible and part of the Greek and Norse mythologies, all of which I find rather uncompelling. What is your point?

  2. I notice it wasn’t posted. Better late than never, especially when someone’s in error.
    1. There seems to be a measure of counter-transference when you claim I am appealing to the Galileo gambit. I hardly feel threatened or vilified if someone thinks ID is false. You must think people, other than yourself, are quite thin-skinned.

    2. No, it’s not ANY “new idea [which should be] automatically warranting of scientific consideration” but ideas, simply put, with some evidential backbone and logical coherence. I note your counter-argument to mine is to sketch out a straw man so ridiculous it borders on intellectual dishonesty. To compare the proposition of “a teapot floating between Venus and Mercury” with the research project proposition that life has not come through stochastic chemistry and chance mutations filtered by natural selection informs more about your inability to come to grips with some fairly pedestrian philosophical points than anything else your “counter-argument” set out to achieve.

    It would certainly be argued, as you quietly and finally mentioned, that there is no observational evidence for this teapot. But somewhat of a case could be also made against its epistemic value by arguing that on an analytic and a priori basis the proposition of a teapot floating in space is dead in the water i.e. per definizioni, teapots are in cupboards, on table cloths in dining rooms or in people’s hands, not floating in space. This has to be contrasted with the case for an Intelligent Designer. An intelligent Designer instrumentally explains something; teapots in space fail to connect to anything (apart from materialists [poorly] attempting to mock a non-materialist case for an alternative explanation to chance chemistry, mutations and time.)

    First, there is nothing logically objectionable to claim that the source for life and the universe is from an Intelligent Designer. An Intelligent Designer is in no way comparable to the paralogical ‘Oh, look, there goes that bachelor Joe with his wife Sally.’ I know of no such initial barrier and a Nobel Prize awaits you if you can furnish the world with one.

    But, more importantly, science and the application of, say, abductive reasoning would give your worldview more than a run for your money. Despite Dawkins’ guru status among the Faithful, he had to admit in the forward to his seminal book The Selfish Gene that life bares the appearance of design. Daniel Dennett, in his Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, grants the “premise of the Argument from Design” (p. 68) because it’s useful to build his own case upon. Dennett just can’t escape the appearance of design in nature. Only a fool would slip up here. But what Dennett is forced to do, of course, is to provide an alternative explanation: “What Darwin saw was that in principle the same work could be done by a different sort of process that distributed that work over huge amounts of time, by thriftingly conserving the design work that had been accomplished at each stage, so that it didn’t have to be done over again.” (p. 68)

    Notice, Michael, the inescapability of the appearance of design to the extent that the materialists can’t even escape the necessity of using its opponents’ descriptors.

    The confused philosophy (and, might I add, one hugely punching above its weight division) materialists tacitly include in their arguments is that of metaphysical naturalism. Science only works under the limiting condition of methodological naturalism. When someone, like yourself, implicitly or otherwise, states that naturalism and naturalism alone must explain all of reality, they’ve crossed the well-defined exclusion zone separating normal experimental science from metaphysics. Straying outside these limits only brings intellectual hubris and creates fools.

    This surreptitious co-opting of an unwarranted metaphysic into the service of science can be seen, for example, when neuroscientists claim that fMRI scans are able to demonstrate the source of moral thinking. We see this, for example, in the plethora of papers that claim psychopathy is a neurological disorder and not a moral aberration.

    3. Your response that 2% is not a big number, this number capturing how many American scientists do not believe evolution, hardly amounts to a conversation stopping argument. In fact, it’s not even an argument but mere gainsaying. Truth and sound argument are not decided by a head count. I believe you’ve committed the Consensus Gentium Fallacy here.

    4. You wrote, “Interesting that you picked USA, a strongly religious country where many people believe Earth is only around 6,000 years old.”

    I didn’t pick the USA – the link in your article expressed this country.

    5. You wrote, “There are geologists in USA who perform science which relies on understanding that the Earth is over 4 billion years old and still believe the Earth is only ~6,000 years old.”

    Explain what “science” these geologists perform that proves(?) the Earth is 4byo and yet believe it’s only 6,000.

    6. “I’ve read several books…that present the case against evolution and for ID.”

    Want to name a few you’ve read from cover to cover?

    7. “I read the Christian bible and part of the Greek and Norse mythologies, all of which I find rather uncompelling.”

    As C.S. Lewis complained, “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. So if someone tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel.”

    This could equally apply to all historical narrative contained in the pages from Genesis onwards. I can see that your training in this field is extremely limited and, might I add, altogether biased. Comments like yours have led me to conclude that people are not at all open to persuasion to the contrary case.

    8. So here’s my BIG question to see if you really have a questioning and logical mind: What evidence would falsify your worldview that stochastic chemistry, chance mutations, natural selection and loads of time is scientifically sufficient to bring into existence everything we see today?

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