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How can a naturalist atheist believe in the existence of evidence?

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A philosopher warns Jerry Coyne against presumption in philosophy:

Last month, The Conversation published biologist Jerry Coyne’s article, lovingly served up for audiences at Christmastime, “Yes, There is a War Between Science and Religion.” Coyne fancies himself a participant in a perceived war between faith and reason, science and religion. His mission: To show people they can’t believe the account of Christ’s birth—as depicted, for example, in the Book of Luke, Chapter 2—while simultaneously believing there’s crackers in the pantry. You use your eyeballs for the latter, but not the former, and it’s simply irrational to go through life with a bifurcated mind!

However, notice that Coyne’s notion of right evidence is insufficient to serve as evidence for all the things we believe are true. First, the concept of evidence is quite a bit more complicated than Coyne supposes. Second, on Coyne’s conception of evidence, it’s hard to see how he can adjudicate the very debate about faith and reason he’s engaged in. What empirical evidence does he use to decide between his view on the one hand, and Richard Swinburne’s or Paul Helm’s on the other? Third, above I listed a few things which we don’t believe on empirical evidence, such as the uniformity of nature, the existence of a past, and the existence of other minds. We could add the truths of mathematics, moral truths, the nature of the laws of logic, and philosophical claims, like the nature of causation, to the list. Fourth, what empirical evidence does Coyne have for his claim that only empirical evidence matters? Paul Manata, “Is There A War Between Science And Religion?” at Arc

A naturalist atheist’s problems are not just with religion but also with philosophy. we can’t believe that our brain is shaped for fitness, not truth, and still expect to have a chance at discovering truth.

See also: Michael Keas: Stephen Hawking Among Worst Offenders For Science Vs. Religion Myths

Bill Nye’s “Christianity Vs. The Big Universe” Myth

Neil deGrasse Tyson and “the artistic license to lie”

and

Darwinian Jerry Coyne muses on hashtag hate and the media

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13 Replies to “How can a naturalist atheist believe in the existence of evidence?

  1. 1
    ScuzzaMan says:

    Scientism is just another neo-religion in a long line of such in the actual war that is as old as humanity itself:

    Religion versus Religion.

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    The old seeing is believing adage. Black holes don’t exist because you can’t see them quantum physics doesn’t exist because you can’t see them there are so many different forms of science that you cannot see and you can only get minor hints that they exist. In fact most of the subatomic world you can only kind of be seen I nadvertently through the evidence that is left behind.

    And if I’m not mistaken Jesus Christ left behind evidence that Jesus Christ existed, it’s inadvertent but it’s there. What coyne is doing is controlling the narrative and game rigging and I really dislike that

  3. 3
    Bob O'H says:

    we can’t believe that our brain is shaped for fitness, not truth, and still expect to have a chance at discovering truth.

    We can quite simply, if there is a correlation between having a brain shaped for truth, and fitness.

  4. 4
    vmahuna says:

    “a few things which we don’t believe on empirical evidence, such as … the existence of a past”
    We have TONS of empirical evidence for The Past. The entire fields of History and Archeology EXIST to document and analyze The Past. And even if he meant “our PERSONAL past”, well, that’s why God invented high school yearbooks. So I can’t take any of the rest of his arguments seriously.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Bob O’H quotes and states

    we can’t believe that our brain is shaped for fitness, not truth, and still expect to have a chance at discovering truth.

    “We can quite simply, if there is a correlation between having a brain shaped for truth, and fitness.”

    My question for Bob O’H, and other atheistic materialists, is this, since atheistic materialism cannot ground a ‘fixed self’,,,

    “Many scientists, like the late Stephen Hawking, and philosophers like Duke University professor of philosophy and neurobiology Owen Flanagan and SUNY University professor of philosophy Gregg Caruso in a recent issue of The Philosopher’s Magazine argue that we have no soul, no fixed self, and no inherent purpose.”
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/if-naturalism-wins-math-is-over/

    ,,, since atheistic materialism cannot ground a ‘fixed self’, how in blue blazes is it possible for a “non-fixed self” to discover and hold onto a eternal ‘fixed truth’? “Fixed truth”, like a “fixed self”, is an abstract immaterial concept that simply can never be grounded within atheistic materialism.

    Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God – Peter Kreeft
    11. The Argument from Truth
    This argument is closely related to the argument from consciousness. It comes mainly from Augustine.
    1. Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
    2. Truth properly resides in a mind.
    3. But the human mind is not eternal.
    4. Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside.
    http://www.peterkreeft.com/top.....nce.htm#11

    Nothing: God’s new Name – Antoine Suarez – video
    Paraphrased quote: (“it is impossible for us to be ‘persons’ experiencing ‘now’ if we are nothing but particles flowing in space time. Moreover, for us to refer to ourselves as ‘persons’, we cannot refer to space-time as the ultimate substratum upon which everything exists, but must refer to a Person who is not bound by space time. i.e. We must refer to God!”)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOr9QqyaLlA

    Of related note, we can provide empirical evidence for a ‘fixed self’ simply by showing that ‘the experience of the now’ is, via quantum mechanics, very much a part of experimental physics:

    Albert Einstein vs. Quantum Mechanics and His Own Mind – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxFFtZ301j4

    Verse:

    Psalm 46:10
    He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    His (Coyne’s ) mission: To show people they can’t believe the account of Christ’s birth—as depicted, for example, in the Book of Luke, Chapter 2—while simultaneously believing there’s crackers in the pantry.

    Too funny, if atheistic materialism were actually true, Coyne can’t even be sure he is actually seeing crackers in his pantry.

    Donald Hoffman has shown, through numerous computer simulations of Darwinian evolution, that if Darwinian evolution were true then ALL of our observations of reality would be illusory.

    Donald Hoffman: Do we see reality as it is? – Video – 9:59 minute mark
    Quote: “Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is, and it is fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution. So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds. Some of the organisms see all of the reality. Others see just part of the reality. And some see none of the reality. Only fitness. Who wins? Well I hate to break it to you but perception of reality goes extinct. In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality, but are just tuned to fitness, drive to extinction that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor veridical, or accurate perceptions. Those (accurate) perceptions of reality go extinct. Now this is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage?”
    https://youtu.be/oYp5XuGYqqY?t=601

    The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality – April 2016
    The cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman uses evolutionary game theory to show that our perceptions of an independent reality must be illusions.
    Excerpt: “The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions — mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.”
    https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160421-the-evolutionary-argument-against-reality/

    The Interface Theory of Perception – 2015
    Donald D. Hoffman & Manish Singh & Chetan Prakash
    http://people.psych.cornell.ed.....erface.pdf
    http://ruccs.rutgers.edu/image.....15_PBR.pdf (follow-up discussion)

    Thus, since Darwinian evolution denies ‘reliable observation’, which is a necessary cornerstone of the scientific method itself,

    Steps of the Scientific Method
    Observation/Research
    Hypothesis
    Prediction
    Experimentation
    Conclusion
    http://www.sciencemadesimple.c.....ethod.html

    ,,, then of course Darwinian evolution can never be based upon the scientific method and is therefore falsified once again in its claim to be a scientific theory.

    Moreover, completely contrary to what Hoffman found for Darwinian theory, it turns out that accurate perception, i.e. conscious observation, far from being unreliable and illusory, is experimentally found to be far more integral to reality, i.e. far more reliable of reality, than the mathematics of population genetics predicted. In the following experiment, it was found that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    Apparently empirical science itself could care less if atheists are forced to believe, because of the mathematics of population genetics, that their observations of reality are illusory!

  7. 7

    Bob O said:

    We can quite simply, if there is a correlation between having a brain shaped for truth, and fitness.

    Is that why most people who have lived (as far as history goes) and who reproduce the most believe in a god or gods of one kind or another? Brains shaped for truth and fitness?

  8. 8
    Bob O'H says:

    WJM – Certainly one could argue that belief in a deity could be correlated with fitness. The correlation with truth might be a bit harder to work on, in part because people have believed in a great many deities, so the problem of which one is true is more difficult to establish.

  9. 9
    AaronS1978 says:

    I believe that’s one of the biggest problems with Evo psychology is almost everything can be argued for fitness. The “so that” story.

    Another issue is if God doesn’t exist, the development of a belief in God that helps for survival is completely contradictory and saying that it’s a mutation that accidentally happened but somehow manage to be successful also would not make sense in terms of a deterministic universe

    For it to be successful, it would’ve had to of had some form of direct impact, especially on our survival

    That is an argument that you can make for truth

    But then you get into the argument that both God and truth head survival advantages

    They also had direct impact on our survival which implies that they exist both of them.

    The thing is our brain if it is designed for fitness would not be able to pick out the details of truth because truth doesn’t have to have a direct impact.

    So science would often be corrupted by our inefficient brain because it would always give you the answer for fitness before we give you the answer for truth

    And only some of the answers would happen to Parallel with truth. There would be no way to get around this not even science can filter it out because science is only as good as the people doing it

    Believe that’s the point

  10. 10
    hazel says:

    Yes to Bob at 8: Human beings must have narrative structures to survive, especially socially, because we have had instinctual behavior replaced, in part, by symbolic understandings passed on, again in part, by culture. Religion is just one of the many things for which we build narrative structures which are a blend of fact and affirmed fictions.

    (This won’t mean much to anyone, perhaps, and you shouldn’t take it too seriously – it’s just humorous fiction, but I just finished re-reading Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather”, which speaks eloquently, in its own way, to this point.)

    “All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

    REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

    “Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

    YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

    “So we can believe the big ones?”

    YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

    “They’re not the same at all!”

    YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

    “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

    MY POINT EXACTLY.”
    – Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    Bob (and weave) O’Hara states,,,

    Certainly one could argue that belief in a deity could be correlated with fitness. The correlation with truth might be a bit harder to work on, in part because people have believed in a great many deities, so the problem of which one is true is more difficult to establish.

    Hmmm interesting claim.

    First, “Truth” itself cannot be ‘correlated with fitness’,

    “Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life.”
    Richard Dawkins – quoted from “The God Delusion”

    Why Evolutionary Theory Cannot Survive Itself – Nancy Pearcey – March 8, 2015
    An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.
    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.
    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?
    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.,,,
    Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.
    https://evolutionnews.org/2015/03/why_evolutionar/

    In fact, as mentioned previously, fitness cannot even be correlated to reliable observation (nor correlated with reliable reasoning for that matter)

    Donald Hoffman: Do we see reality as it is? – Video – 9:59 minute mark
    Quote: “fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes.,,, Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is, and it is fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution. So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds. Some of the organisms see all of the reality. Others see just part of the reality. And some see none of the reality. Only fitness. Who wins? Well I hate to break it to you but perception of reality goes extinct. In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality, but are just tuned to fitness, drive to extinction that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor veridical, or accurate perceptions. Those (accurate) perceptions of reality go extinct. Now this is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage?”
    https://youtu.be/oYp5XuGYqqY?t=601

    The Case Against Reality – May 13, 2016
    Excerpt: Hoffman seems to come to a conclusion similar to the one Alvin Plantinga argues in ch. 10 of Where the Conflict Really Lies: we should not expect — in the absence of further argument — that creatures formed by a naturalistic evolutionary process would have veridical perceptions.,,,
    First, even if Hoffman’s argument were restricted to visual perception, and not to our cognitive faculties more generally (e.g., memory, introspection, a priori rational insight, testimonial belief, inferential reasoning, etc.), the conclusion that our visual perceptions would be wholly unreliable given natural selection would be sufficient for Plantinga’s conclusion of self-defeat. After all, reliance upon the veridicality of our visual perceptions was and always will be crucial for any scientific argument for the truth of evolution. So if these perceptions cannot be trusted, we have little reason to think evolutionary theory is true.
    Second, it’s not clear that Hoffman’s application of evolutionary game theory is only specially applicable to visual perception, rather than being relevant for our cognitive faculties generally. If “we find that veridical perceptions can be driven to extinction by non-veridical strategies that are tuned to utility rather than objective reality” (2010, p. 504, my emphasis), then why wouldn’t veridical cognitive faculties (more generally) be driven to extinction by non-veridical strategies that are tuned to utility rather than objective reality? After all, evolutionary theory purports to be the true account of the formation of all of our cognitive faculties, not just our faculty of visual perception. If evolutionary game theory proves that “true perception generally goes extinct” when “animals that perceive the truth compete with others that sacrifice truth for speed and energy-efficiency” (2008), why wouldn’t there be a similar sacrifice with respect to other cognitive faculties? In fact, Hoffman regards the following theorem as now proven: “According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness” (Atlantic interview). But then wouldn’t it also be the case that an organism that cognizes reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that cognizes none of reality but is just tuned to fitness? On the evolutionary story, every cognitive faculty we have was produced by a process that was tuned to fitness (rather than tuned to some other value, such as truth).
    http://www.gregwelty.com/2016/.....t-reality/

    And yet, despite this catastrophic epistemological failure inherent within his atheistic worldview, Bob (and weave) O’Hara, instead of conceding his worldview is irredeemably false, holds that none-the-less “a deity could be correlated with fitness”. No kidding! Too funny, just so stories can be woven around any supposed fitness advantage that a person could possibly imagine, but that certainly will never make them true.

    In fact, “fixed truth” is completely antithetical to the infinite chaos/randomness that undergirds atheistic materialism. Moreover, ‘fixed truth’, per Kreeft as was mentioned previously in post 5, can only be grounded within the immaterial mind and/or personhood of God.

    But Bob (and weave) further holds, (oblivious to the fact that his worldview cannot possibly ground any truth whatsoever), that the truth as to which Deity to believe in is harder to be known since ‘people have believed in a great many deities’.

    Well since we can now see that truth can only be grounded within the immaterial mind and/or personhood of God, might I suggest that the only deity to ever make the claim that ‘the truth’ was grounded within His own personhood, rather than within his teaching, is the correct deity?

    John 14:6
    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    Quotes, and links

    “If you were to take Mohammed out of Islam, and Buddha out of Buddhism, and Confucius out of Confucianism you would still have a faith system that was relatively in tact. However, taking Christ out of Christianity sinks the whole faith completely. This is because Jesus centred the faith on himself. He said, “This is what it means to have eternal life: to know God the Father and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent” (John 17:3). “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Buddha, before dying, said in effect, “I am still seeking for the truth.” Mohammed said in effect, “I point you to the truth.” Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Jesus claimed to not only give the truth, but to be the very personal embodiment of it.”
    http://commonground.co.za/?res.....way-to-god

    as Francis Schaeffer said, “Christianity is not merely religious truth, it is total truth- truth about the whole of reality.”
    – Nancy R. Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity

    Short take: Copernican Principle, Agent Causality, and Jesus Christ as the “Theory of Everything” – January 2019
    Copernican Principle
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/bill-nye-should-check-wikipedia/#comment-671672
    Agent Causality
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/bill-nye-should-check-wikipedia/#comment-671692

  12. 12
    ET says:

    Hazel:

    Human beings must have narrative structures to survive, especially socially, because we have had instinctual behavior replaced, in part, by symbolic understandings passed on, again in part, by culture. Religion is just one of the many things for which we build narrative structures which are a blend of fact and affirmed fictions.

    The alleged theory of evolution “is just one of the many things for which we build narrative structures which are a blend of fact and [many] affirmed fictions”.

    And “instinctual behavior” is just another way of saying “I really don’t know why it exists”.

  13. 13
    Danny says:

    Vmahuna #4,

    If you had read the article you’d have noticed Manata is talking about science being unable to prove that the past was not created 5 minutes ago with the appearance of age.

    ‘And even if he meant…’

    That’s why it would’ve been wise to read the actual piece rather than rely on a couple of snippets that do not do full justice to Manata’s words.

    ‘So I can’t take any of the rest of his arguments seriously.’

    But it is evident you hadn’t even bothered to acquaint yourself with his arguments in the first place.

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