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The flying horse defends himself against Dawkins

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Al-Buraf Hafifa, the “flying horse” /Commons

We received this memo, and if we knew how, we probably wouldn’t tell you. We suspect we know who it is from. We will just copy it here:

Look, I don’t want to interfere, as you people all seem to be enjoying the fight. But just a couple of things for the record:

Richard Dawkins walked out on a journalist who professes to believe I exist.

I hear Dr. Dawkins even tried coining a new word for the Urban Dictionary, modelled on the name of someone who criticized him for doing so.

The skinny: I am a supernatural being, and thus beyond the purview of this-worldly science. Whether I exist can’t be deduced simply from common sense either, because the laws of logic do not require me to exist in principle.

Most people would politely check out of a discussion with a person of another religion, for whom my existence is meaningful. Their position does not require them to have an opinion, and I don’t care much what they think.

I also wouldn’t take it personally if they said that Richard Dawkins didn’t exist. Naturally, I would wonder why they thought that, but …

But now, it strikes me—applying horse sense to the matter—Dawkins is in a position that is peculiar to new atheists: He is obliged to believe I don’t exist, with the same certainty that you and I believe that 2+2 = 4, not 5. He can’t just forego having an opinion.

According to the late Will Provine, 78% of evolutionary biologists, are pure naturalist atheists, which means that they too are required to believe I don’t exist as a matter of principle. And maybe to believe other things that lead to senseless fights as well.

It’s a faith position, and I do understand that. However, I am a bit embarrassed to be the occasion of their walking out on people.

Maybe you guys can help calm things down …

And the transmission ended there.

See also: Arrogance can deceive

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8 Replies to “The flying horse defends himself against Dawkins

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    But now, it strikes me—applying horse sense to the matter—Dawkins is in a position that is peculiar to new atheists: He is obliged to believe I don’t exist, with the same certainty that you and I believe that 2+2 = 4, not 5. He can’t just forego having an opinion.

    Has Dawkins stated this somewhere?

    I consider myself a naturalist atheist, and am much more confident that 2 + 2 = 4 than I am in the proposition that no flying horses exist(ed).

    It would take just one high-quality observation of a “supernatural” event to cause me to give up naturalism. I can’t think of anything which would cause me to disbelieve that 2 + 2 = 4.

  2. 2
    AnimatedDust says:

    Unfortunately DS, that high quality (HD?) observation will come at the moment the choices of your preferential worldview will have become eternally actualized.

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    AD,

    Is there no chance of my witnessing a supernatural event before that happens? Some of my friends tell me they observe these things routinely.

  4. 4
    AnimatedDust says:

    Well of course there is. But I’d say there’s probably a lot of selective hyper-skepticism that will prevent your seeing it as such. Feynman once said that the first principle is that you don’t fool yourself, and that you’re the easiest one to fool. Now many would consider that to be the perfect way to describe the religious.

    I see it as a perfect way of describing everyone, especially the hyperselectively hyperskeptical.

    William J. Murray posts here. He’s a former atheist, and has these unexplainable things happen to him. Brilliant guy.

    I suggest you seek out his posts.

  5. 5
    daveS says:

    AD,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I have read a few posts on this subject by William J. Murray, and I have heard anecdotes from people I consider trustworthy (although just as capable of fooling themselves as me). I also have a bit of a soft spot for the supernatural, and certainly don’t claim to know 100% that these things don’t happen. But if they do happen, the lack of hard evidence is puzzling.

    In fact, I think it’s reasonable to provisionally conclude that they don’t happen, and the best explanation is that people do make mistakes and fool themselves.

  6. 6
    Phinehas says:

    My son challenged me last night on God’s existence. “How do you know God exists?” Well, of course, there’s a large epistemology discussion to be had there, but leaving that aside, these were my thoughts.

    Personally, I don’t find the logical arguments for God’s existence to be a slam-dunk. I have a nagging worry that victory in these arguments might be the result of rhetoric more than reality. Even so, I don’t find them completely devoid of persuasive power. On balance, they push me toward the belief in God’s existence more than away from such a belief.

    More convincing, for me, is the question of origins. That anything at all should come from nothing is the most vexing of these questions, but I also weigh the origin of natural laws, fine-tuned universal constants, matter, information, life, consciousness, and morality. (While I find the origin of the species to also be an interesting question, to be honest, it tags along a ways back on my list.) Of all the theories proffered as an explanation for the origin of these things (excluding the origin of the species), I find God as the most intellectually satisfying answer by a good margin.

    I understand that this opens me up to a “god-of-the-gaps” accusation, but I don’t personally find such an accusation persuasive. When doing geometry proofs back in high school, I often found the “theorem-of-the-gaps” approach quite useful. When I’ve got an explanation that fills in a gap, why shouldn’t I use it, at least provisionally, and see where it leads? I know some folks claim that something that explains everything explains nothing. Maybe this is true. Maybe it isn’t. But I’m quite certain that something that explains everything explains everything. I’m just not convinced that God’s usefulness in explaining things that cannot otherwise be reasonably explained is necessarily greater evidence against His existence than for it. I find the opposite more sensible, but maybe I just don’t understand the argument. On balance, the question of origins pushes me more toward a belief in God’s existence than away from such a belief.

    Next, I consider special revelation and its evidence. Though there is always room for skepticism, I don’t find fulfilled prophecy completely unpersuasive as a point of evidence. I also don’t find historical, eye-witness accounts about Jesus’ existence, miracles, death, and resurrection devoid of persuasive value, especially considering the source of such accounts. I find those eye-witnesses who refused to recant on pain of death and torture particularly convincing. I also find strikingly insightful (and often counter-cultural) perspectives on the human condition of some evidential value. When I read something and recognize profound truths about myself in what I read, especially truths that I might otherwise struggle to perceive, let alone admit, it tends to lend weight to the notion that something transcendent may have been involved in the writing of it.

    Finally, I look at my own personal experience. I think on the times I have experienced God’s presence. I consider how He has been my Higher Power, enabling me to struggle well against addiction. I see the real change He has wrought in my life, change that I could only yearn for, but never accomplish on my own. I see the answered prayers and experience the connection I have with Him. Sure, this is all very experiential, but when you get down to it, so is my relationship to every other conscious being (or Turing machine, just to keep my bases covered) participating here. On balance, special and personal revelation push me more toward a belief in God’s existence than away from such a belief.

    To be sure, there are some challenges to belief in God as well, but I personally find it much easier to answer those challenges than to explain all of the above in God’s absence. Some may claim that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but I don’t personally find the claim that God exists any more extraordinary than the claim that He doesn’t. It seems to me that the “extraordinary” argument is simply a way to smuggle in hyper-skepticism.

    I didn’t really get into the above very deeply with my son. He’s only eight. Even at his age, though, he had a sense of the problem of evil. Though he couldn’t really formulate his thoughts well or express them coherently, I could still see the wheels turning. The funny thing about the conversation, though, was that I never had to ask myself, “Where is this coming from?” It was rather blatantly obvious. We were talking about consequences for his misbehavior and the moral reasons why it was not acceptable for him to disobey and respond rebelliously to his teacher. We were talking about authority and where it comes from. And suddenly, he’s questioning God’s existence. Go figure.

  7. 7
    AnimatedDust says:

    Dave, is it possible that the “empricists” who claim to have the market cornered on “reason” have in fact concocted a belief system based on “reason” that includes a priori commitment (invisible to them) to materialism that prevents a design inference even when it’s beating them over the head in its obviousness?

    Can you be sure that your sight is crystal clear and only the religious are practicing blind faith?

    Or is there a rather large plank obscuring that?

    Even the definition of “faith” has been amended to mean belief despite evidence. When nothing could be less true.

    60,000 MILES of perfectly formed and placed blood vessels in a human infant. Or is that fact tossed as invalid on the concocted “scientific” framework of “argument from incredulity?”

    Is is ever possible that the incredulity is completely justified?

  8. 8
    daveS says:

    AD,

    Dave, is it possible that the “empricists” who claim to have the market cornered on “reason” have in fact concocted a belief system based on “reason” that includes a priori commitment (invisible to them) to materialism that prevents a design inference even when it’s beating them over the head in its obviousness?

    Sure.

    Can you be sure that your sight is crystal clear and only the religious are practicing blind faith?

    No, in fact that’s not what I believe. But the phenomena I have in mind, which have been discussed here, are things such as levitations and flying horses. These would be blatantly obvious to anyone, even if their vision is a little distorted.

    60,000 MILES of perfectly formed and placed blood vessels in a human infant. Or is that fact tossed as invalid on the concocted “scientific” framework of “argument from incredulity?”

    Not knowing much about biology, I don’t have an accounting for that. If this is a candidate for a supernatural happening, then perhaps so, but it’s not so clear to me, speaking as a layperson.

    Is is ever possible that the incredulity is completely justified?

    I don’t know. As I said, I can’t be sure these things don’t occur, but it looks that way to me at this point in my life.

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