Atheism Intelligent Design Philosophy theism

Disproofs of God’s existence are falling on hard times these days

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Angelsatmamre-trinity-rublev-1410.jpg
Rublev’s representation of God, Russia,
1411 or 1425-27

Atheism has come down in the world since the days of the Stoic philosophers (and that was millennia ago). For example, a philosopher argues:

Does God have every power? He has the power to create and destroy universes, but does he have the power to sneeze or digest food or pick his nose? Those powers require possession of a body with a certain anatomy, but God has no such body, being disembodied. Does he have the power to decay or split or emit radiation? How could he have these powers given his immaterial nature? Does he have the power to come down with a cold or be bed-ridden or have the runs? Surely not: God has the powers that are proper to his divine nature, not any old powers that things of other natures have—animals, plants, atoms. God essentially lacks certain powers as a condition of being who he is. He has the powers of a god not of a worm or cactus plant. Everything must lack something in order to be something, i.e., to have a determinate nature.Colin McGinn, “A Disproof of God’s Existence” at Skeptic

A commenter responds, “ I think this line of reasoning says more about the limitations of language (and by extension human thinking) than about the existence or otherwise of god. ”

Omnipotent means the power to do any possible thing. Christians, for example, say that God “became man and suffered for us under Pontius Pilate.” So the answer to McGinn’s questions (“does he have the power to sneeze or digest food or pick his nose”) is yes, though it requires incarnation in a human body.

“and on the third day he rose again.” He can do that too, if he is God. Anyway, read the book.

Then: “He has the powers of a god not of a worm or cactus plant.” Actually, the powers of God comprise those powers. As they used to say: The higher descends to the lower; the lower does not ascend to the higher. That is, God can trivially have the powers of a worm but a worm could never have the powers of God.

But if we turn back to omnipotence for a moment, God, who brought the worm into being knows everything about it, every cell and quark, at all times and in all places—and everything about every other entity, material or non-material—and can do things merely by deciding to do them. That is what omnipotence means.

It tells us something about our culture that arguments based on such simple misconceptions as “How could he have these powers given his immaterial nature?” are even taken seriously, let alone made by philosophers.

It’s almost as if we were back in the Stone Age, arguing about whether a man’s soul could be kept inside a nut or, no, only a woman’s soul could be kept inside a nut.

One problem is that naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism,” undermines our understanding that information is, by nature, immaterial.

It’s not atheism that makes people thick, it’s materialism. It distorts one’s sense of how things hold together, how they work.


The Long Ascent: Genesis 1â  11 in Science & Myth, Volume 1 by [Sheldon, Robert]

Note: Rob Sheldon author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and our physics color commentator, writes to say,

My own version of a defense against the atheist theodicy, is that we cannot know exactly the position and momentum of an electron. This is just as impossible as a “square circle”, but not as intuitive, because QM isn’t very intuitive. Therefore, philosophy doesn’t always know what is knowable; it is always discovering new limitations to its power and reach.

This whole thing about the 3 omni’s being inconsistent and therefore God can’t exist, makes as much sense as saying “an electron cannot possess a defined position and momentum simultaneously, therefore electrons do not exist.” After all, how do we know that omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence commute?

What it really shows is that philosophers are unhappy with their limitations and prefer to blame others for their deficiencies.


See also: Religious Nones: The bigger picture shows increasing polarization The rise of the Nones means something important: Those who care about the Big Questions are more VISIBLY polarized. In politics, the Religious Nones are the largest group in the Democratic Party (30%) and 70% of declared Republicans believe in the “God of the Bible.” The “religious left” seems to be largely an artifact of thinkmags today, although it was an important force decades ago.

and

 The Confused World of Modern Atheism (Mosaica Press, 2016)

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14 Replies to “Disproofs of God’s existence are falling on hard times these days

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    Disproofs of God’s Existence

    Those have always been pretty rare. 🙂

  2. 2
    hazel says:

    And always wrong, for a rigorous definition of “disprove”.

  3. 3
    jstanley01 says:

    The invisible God’s omniscient imaginings from eternity of what nose picking is like are not only more real than Colin McGinn’s own nose, but also more real than the whole succession of noses from which his particular apparatus descends, going back into the shadowy mists of deep time. In fact, the invisible God’s omniscient imaginings from eternity of what nose picking is like are actually more real than Colin McGinn himself.

    Putting the matter in all ways aptly for the level of maturity that Colin McGinn displays in this comment, like we used to say in 4th Grade: “He thinks he’s hot snot but he’s just cold buggers.”

  4. 4
    Brother Brian says:

    Jstanley

    “He thinks he’s hot snot but he’s just cold buggers.”

    You must have grown up in England. 🙂

  5. 5
    jstanley01 says:

    BB @ 4
    Close. Oklahoma. ;D

  6. 6
    Brother Brian says:

    Jstanley, thanks for the laugh. 🙂 Some people here need to stop taking themselves too seriously. It’s a fringe blog, on a fringe subject. Nobody takes any of us seriously. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  7. 7
    PaoloV says:

    One problem is that naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism,” undermines our understanding that information is, by nature, immaterial.

    Or maybe not understanding that information is inmaterial makes us fall into the naturalism pit?

    Or maybe willfully rejecting the inmaterial nature of information makes us embrace materialism?

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: as a serious candidate necessary being, either the God of ethical theism is impossible of being or else he is actual. KF

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    Speaking solely as an agnostic/atheist/naturalist/materialist (forwarding address: The Nethermost Reaches of Hell) I’m not aware of any absolute disproof of God. Or any absolute proof either. All I can say is that I am not aware of any compelling reason to believe in the existence of such a being and I reserve the right to criticize the alleged evidence and theories that believers offer as evidence for their beliefs.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, by now you are pretty aware that the logic of being requires a world-root that is a necessary being. The question is of what character. We live in a world, in which we find ourselves inescapably morally governed, starting with our known duties to truth, right reason, prudence, justice etc. The very fact of your attempt to persuade us by argument implies that you depend on our knowledge of such duties. That in turn points to either actuality or else to pervasive grand delusion undermining our rationality (including your own). Taking it as real, post Hume, that points to a key characteristic of the world root, inherently good in order to be an adequate ground of ought, bridging the IS-OUGHT gap at the only place it can be bridged. So, we have a bill for the world-root being that intersects with the recognised characteristics of God, who is a serious candidate necessary being (e.g. eternal and independent of external entities, creator or source of all worlds). Such will either be impossible of being or actual. Thus, the atheistical stance implies much more than not knowing a definitive proof/disproof to arbitrarily high standards of warrant, it implies a claim to know the impossibility of existence of God as a being. That, post Plantinga, does not even have a serious candidate argument. KF

  11. 11
    EvilSnack says:

    The only verifiable contribution made by atheists to the field of theology is to demonstrate that atheists are very poor at theology.

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    Kairosfocus @ 10

    Sev, by now you are pretty aware that the logic of being requires a world-root that is a necessary being.

    If something exists then something must have always existed since you cannot get something from nothing.

    The problem with that argument is that it implies an eternal existence, which is anathema to many.

    We live in a world, in which we find ourselves inescapably morally governed, starting with our known duties to truth, right reason, prudence, justice etc.

    The way that is phrased implies that moral governance is imposed from without rather than being a voluntary submission to rules that we have agreed are to our mutual advantage. If you allow that some other intelligent agency can draw up moral codes then what is to prevent us from doing the same?

    The very fact of your attempt to persuade us by argument implies that you depend on our knowledge of such duties

    It depends on our recognition of the mutual benefit to be obtained from our voluntary acknowledgement of such obligations.

    That in turn points to either actuality or else to pervasive grand delusion undermining our rationality (including your own)

    Is a moral code reached by inter-subjective agreement an actuality or a delusion? After all, there appears to be no natural law that mandates the survival of humanity. We on the other hand would much rather that we did. Is that a delusion?

    Thus, the atheistical stance implies much more than not knowing a definitive proof/disproof to arbitrarily high standards of warrant, it implies a claim to know the impossibility of existence of God as a being. That, post Plantinga, does not even have a serious candidate argument. KF

    Actually, they do and it proceeds from the same source as your claims about the nature of God, the Bible. The problem is that as the only documentary source we have concerning the nature of God as it emerges from the stories about His behavior, it is hugely contradictory. Either the Bible is unreliable or God is not necessarily what you think He is or what you’d like Him to be.

  13. 13
    Axel says:

    Seversky @ #9
    Your belief or otherwise is really tangential to the judgment of your soul by God. It is not what we believe that is pivotal, but what we wish to believe. As the Apostle, James, puts it : ‘The Devil believes and trembles’. The reason, of course, is that it is not our head, not our worldly intelligence that is the pivotal criterion for our salvation, for our accessibility to God’s saving grace, but, rather, the Will of our heart.

    Ultimate Truth is not, as our Meccano, reductionists would have it, cold, hard, mean and indifferent, not to be wished for, not to be hoped for undesirable, but on the contrary, warm, dynamic, embracing, and even in physics… personal. Hence the primacy of the faculties of the soul – memory, will and understanding – in the question of judgment. We spend so much time and effort on our apologias against the follies of atheism, but I suppose it has to be done, since we must all do our utmost to spread the good news to those bereft of it, and give them a chance to ‘see the light’, and profit from the journey towards it. Our lives, after all, are like the closing of jaws, some of us might seem to the more superficical observer, surely bound for heaven, but beneath the surface, be a real ‘piece of work’ ; while others might seem to us as rogues, but God, who knows the secrest of our hearts, will recognise their striving to avoid the ‘dark side’, aspects of which can be very enticing, as we all know, but who react compassonately towards those who suffer, the more so, of course, those who suffer innocently. (We all suffer for our sins to an extent, don’t we, even that proclivity we inherited from our first parents’ via their Fall from God’s pristine gift of grace).

    Incidentally, atheists lament that God hasn’t – until recently – given us what lawyers would call binding evidence (beyond compelling !) of his existence and sovereignty, but it is obviously crucial that He should have left ‘wriggle-room’ for those who do not WISH for theism, notably, Christianity, to be true. On that basis, both could essentially have been described as ‘wishful thinking’, couldn’t they ?

    Yet, why would not God have made the Truth correspond with what He has inspired and taught in the minds of his ‘children of light’. Both could see signs pointing in both directions, but, with his grace, his children have been attracted by the beauty of the vision their Christian faith laid out before them, affirmed the things that confirmed it, and rejected the apparent counter-indications. The question of the cruelty and suffering in the world, for example. Theodicy is it ?

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev,

    The relevant logic of being starts with what is possible vs impossible of being (e.g. a fire vs a square circle). Another factor is to understand genuine nothing, non-being. Third, of possible beings we see contingent vs necessary, the former depending on external, enabling causes [e.g. a fire]. The latter are world-framework entities present in any possible world, e.g. try to think of a possible world without distinction, thus two-ness (and with it numbers), cannot be: two-ness neither began nor can it end nor is it dependent on a cause external to it.

    Then, we may see that were there ever utter nothing, as such cannot have causal capability, it would forever obtain. If the world is, SOMETHING (in fact the set of framework entities) always was. So, eternality is itself part of that framework whether or not some are inclined to like it.

    In that context, we find ourselves inescapably under moral government, starting with our thought life. Of course, as is is not ought, we have choice (itself a significant issue) as to how we respond to such duties. Indeed, your comment above inevitably appeals to such duties. A world of general rejection of such would collapse in nihilistic chaos.

    That obligation is there antecedent to composing codes that describe it. In fact the process of composing mutually agreed codes depends critically on that antecedence. This is built-in law that we recognise; we cannot invent it or alter its weight; though we may misunderstand, distort, abuse, be inconsistent, struggle to do the known right etc. Which, of course, points to natural justice, wider law of our morally governed nature and the roots of law.

    In that context, the issues of world-roots comes up, and post-Hume, we can see that the IS-OUGHT gap is only bridged there. We have a bill to fill: necesssary being world root that is inherently good and of course capable of being the source of a cosmos such as we inhabit. A familiar wanted poster description. And there is a well-known prime suspect.

    KF

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