‘No Good Arguments For God’, Says Jerry Coyne. Let’s See.

Jerry

Jerry Coyne, respected biologist, responding to a one Fr. Aidan, says:

“If you think there is a supernatural ‘being,’ first give me convincing evidence that it exists. And that evidence cannot be your personal revelation, or that of earlier theologians, but must be something that nearly all rational, objective, and skeptical observers would agree on. If you adduce Scripture as your evidence, then you’re also adducing the very kind of god you reject. Until you give me evidence as strong as that which I’d give you if you asked for evidence for evolution, I needn’t engage you or take your arguments for god seriously.”

 

O.K., Coyne. As you wish:

Firstly I’ll note with amusement that right-off the bat you misrepresent what our foremost theologians do. They do not, at least when arguing with your kind, cite personal revelation or scripture as evidence for theism. Remember, it’s you who prats on about there being no good arguments for theism, yet you show us that you are simply mostly unaware of them, or maybe pretend they either don’t exist or are unaware of them, as evidenced by what you imply most apologists do.

Convincing evidence that ‘a supernatural being’ (aka “God”) exists are the following: 1, The Cosmological Argument, 2, The Moral Argument, and 3, The Historicity of the man Jesus.

As far as I can gather, most of the rebuttals to these arguments are themselves unconvincing. For instance, one of the most popular objections to the cosmological argument is that it raises the question ‘who created God?’ That is of course not a serious objection as it is to wholly misunderstand the argument it attempts to rebut. Another objection to the cosmological argument is that the universe is simply a ‘brute fact.’ But that’s just to avoid the question and is no different from saying the universe just exists ‘magically’. In the case of the moral argument, one of the best objections that people from the new atheist cabal can give is that morality is an evolutionarily helpful illusion. Fine. It’s either an illusion or it is not. If it’s not an illusion, then some form of theism must be true (needs unpacking, but not here). So people can hardly be faulted for wanting to affirm morality to be objective, in fact Sam Harris, failingly, tries to do it all the time. On the historicity of Jesus, there have been many counter-hypotheses to the resurrection, some more unconvincing than others, like Jesus had a twin, or that the apostles — and hundreds of other people a lot of whom were previously skeptics — collectively hallucinated seeing Jesus. Of course, none of these are convincing. The only way they may seem more convincing is if, as Craig argues, one assumes naturalism from the onset. But if we don’t engage in the fallacious practice of begging the question, then the resurrection hypothesis clearly becomes the most explanatorily powerful given the background evidence (like Jesus’s prescient claims about himself, and so on).

Sure, some, mostly philosophers, do engage these arguments seriously. But you do not. And so do most others like you. So, unfortunately for you, Fr. Aidan Kimel is right: you don’t engage with the best arguments. I doubt it can even be said that you engage with any of the moderately intelligent ones, much less the best ones. In fact you, on one occasion, have made the very unintelligent (to put it mildly) remark that there are no arguments for God’s existence “that aren’t taken up and refuted in [the book] The God Delusion.” You actually seriously meant that Richar Dawkins’s book has ‘refuted’ all the arguments for the existence of God, which is, if you’ll excuse me, downright stupid (more about this and why below).

First of all, Dawkins never addresses the contingency part of the cosmological argument, except in an absolutely puerile manner. He mentions Aquinas’s 3rd way, yet demonstrates that he does not know what Aquinas even means as evidenced by the fact that he believes Aquinas was trying to show the universe had a beginning — Aquinas argues that it’s impossible to show the universe had a beginning! Dawkins even makes, perhaps even popularized, the ‘who created God’ objection, which is, as I soften say, not even a sightly serious objection to the cosmological argument, since the argument isn’t that ‘everything has a cause’, rather it’s that everything ‘contingent’ (or that had a beginning) has a cause. It simply beggars belief that someone who clearly does not have an atom of knowledge about the argument he is criticizing has been able to successfully refute it.

Dawkins, who you say wrote this book that had successfully refuted ‘all the arguments for the existence of God’ at one point even said: “No one has given any reason to think that the First Cause is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, etc”, which is, again, to show a complete bankruptcy of knowledge about the argument he attempts to refute. Aquinas, whom Dawkins is targeting, spends hundreds of pages exfoliating on this and getting those very characteristics of God from his first-cause argument. Other theologians like William Lane Craig, Samuel Clark, and Leibniz do the same thing. So to say that none of it had been done is simply wrong and shows that Dawkins — and, by extension, you — have zero idea, and have never actually read about the writers and theologians you both expend large amounts of energy criticizing. So addressing the best arguments for theism is something neither you nor Dawkins, or anyone like both of you for that matter, seem to do, or even want to do, or even will be doing in the future.

Contra the Moral argument, Dawkins,  about whom you rather remarkably said had successfully refuted all the arguments for theism in existence, refreshingly admits that on atheism “there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference..We are machines for propagating DNA.. It is every living object’s sole reason for being.”

Well, good luck with that. If that’s the case then religion isn’t the evil you claim it is, because,  remember, as per Dawkins, “there is no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference.. We are machines for propagating DNA“!

I can go on about this book. But that, above, should suffice to show that Dawkins has not, like you claim, ‘refuted all arguments for God’s existence’. It should suffice to show that he (and you) do not understand, much less have successfully refuted, all, or even any, of the arguments for God’s existence. What he — you — was able to refute, and what Fr. Aidan claims you (and he) — and the likes of you and he — attempt to refute, are the strawman versions for the arguments for God’s existence, and not the arguments themselves.

So Fr. Aidan, 1, you 0.

Look, Jerry, clearly you’re an accomplished scientist. Evidence matters to you, I get it. But what’s also clear is that the evidence on this occasion is that when it comes to ‘tackling’ the arguments for God’s existence, you do not know what the hell you’re talking about.

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Posted on June 25, 2014, in apologetics, philosophy, Religion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. “1, The Cosmological Argument, 2, The Moral Argument, and 3, The Historicity of the man Jesus.”

    So an argument, and another argument, and something that is questionable.

    Which one of those is supposed to be actual ‘evidence’?

    • Are you not aware of what the word ‘evidence’ means?

      Since I neither know you nor have I encountered anything you’ve written, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that unlike Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins, who clearly do not understand, or are even aware of these arguments, you actually fully understand them and have judged them to be unconvincing.

      So, tell me why they aren’t ‘good arguments’ to you.

      • Because they’re arguments, not evidence.

        If I tell you I have a magic pet dragon, I can give you all sorts of internally consistent arguments for her existence. But an internally consistent argument doesn’t mean the thing being argued about is real. It just means we can imagine a good argument for it.

        If you had good, empirical, repeatable evidence, that would be awesome. And you’d get lots and lots of more followers for your religion. But a pair of arguments and saying ‘this guy existed historically and we have a lot of supernatural claims about him, but as long as a guy who sort of resembles him existed then all the supernatural claims just have to be true’ isn’t good enough.

  2. @NotAScientist

    They are arguments that are based on the evidence, so it’s not clear to me why you feel the need to divorce the two as though having one cannot mean having the other.

    And I take it that you do NOT understand the arguments. Consistency has little to do with it. Yes, they’re logically consistent, but that’s scarcely the point, and so your ‘magic pet dragon’ analogy is false. Nobody is saying ‘oh look, they’re so consistent, so they must be true!’, least of all me!

    The cosmological argument, say, isn’t just ‘logically consistent’ making people like me think it to be convincing. Rather, it’s a deductive argument based on premises that all the evidence we have, as well as our basic intuitions, agree to. So the conclusion of the cosmological argument becomes inescapable; in other words, if the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily follows, so something like theism is true.

    The same for the moral argument. If one wants to affirm the objectivity of morality, then one must affirm something like theism to be true.

    Again, that these arguments are consistent isn’t what gives them force, like you falsely seem to believe.

    On the historicity of Jesus, I don’t know of any serious scholar who says “this guy existed historically and we have a lot of supernatural claims about him, but as long as a guy who sort of resembles him existed then all the supernatural claims just have to be true”. Who ever said that is a dumbass.

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