Friday, March 11, 2016

Douglas Wilson on Atheism

"If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true, but rather because of a series of chemical reactions. Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else."

You can find more from Douglas Wilson here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

HT: The Poached Egg

11 comments:

Andrew Ryan said...

"This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true, but rather because of a series of chemical reactions."

That's a false dichotomy. You might as well say that computer can't give a correct answer because it is purely mechanistic.

"If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else"

The things man can experience and achieve remain the same whether or not there is a God. If our experiences and achievements, hopes, dreams, successes and failures mean nothing to you without a God, then why should they mean anything to you with a God?

Kevin said...

That's a false dichotomy. You might as well say that computer can't give a correct answer because it is purely mechanistic.

I think you have it wrong, a computor cant give any answer without any conscious being putting in the information. on its own, a computor is useless.

If our experiences and achievements, hopes, dreams, successes and failures mean nothing to you without a God, then why should they mean anything to you with a God?

I think the answer would be- The reason that our experiences, hopes dreams, successes and failures mean anything is precisely because God exists.Your worldveiw is restricting you from reason. You dont have to believe in God in order to experience meaning.The point is, If God doesnt exist, then no one would experience any meaning at all.

The fact that you are using logic points to the existence of God. Logic exists but where does it come from? Logic cant be invented because you would have to use logic to invent it in the first place, therefore logic exists apart from our material brain and logic can only come from intelligence. We discover it and utilise it along with evidence to discover truth.

Chris Orcutt said...

Computers run on instructions given to them by programmers, not blind chance. It's like a Gettier problem in logic, the result is true, but only by accident, and for the wrong reason. So his point about believing atheism true is like that, arrived at not by reason, but by accident.
As for meaning Andrew, that would be more fizz, it's a physical response without any corresponding reality attached to anything.

Greg West said...

I love this quote! Thanks for the hat tip, Chad. Keep up the great work- I appreciate you!

Andrew Ryan said...

Chris, the problem with your reply is that evolution isn't 'blind chance'. It's not random.

Kevin: "Logic cant be invented because you would have to use logic to invent it in the first place"

Quite. You can't explain via God either.

" If God doesnt exist, then no one would experience any meaning at all."

How do you know? That's simple assertion.

And how a computer or brain came about is irrelevant to my analogy. You shift the claim from being 'an object comprised of chemical reactions cannot reason' to simply 'I don't see how a brain could evolve' - which is simply an argument from ignorance/incredulity.

Roger Adlon said...

Hey Andrew,

So if evolution is true, then everything about us can be explained as a function of natural selection for survival. But, if evolution is only interested in preserving adaptive behavior it can only be trusted to give us faculties that help us survive, not ones that provide an accurate picture of reality or true belief. Reason only makes sense to help us survive and does not necessarily tell us the truth. Daniel Dennett says, “if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? The power of reason is owed to the independence of reason…” So if what our brains tell us about morality, love and beauty is not real, then so is what our brains tell us about the world. However, if God exists, then we have a basis for believing our cognitive faculties work because God could make us able to form true beliefs and knowledge. If God does not exist, you use your cognitive faculties, but have no reason to trust them; you use inductive reasoning, but have no basis to believe in the regularity of nature; you trust that love and beauty matter, but have no reason to trust your senses about them. Your reason to trust reason is itself a leap of blind faith. To argue against God, you must use induction, language and cognitive faculties, all of which make more sense in a world in which God has created them.

If there is no God, there is nothing after death, and in the distant future there will be no one around to remember anything, every experience, achievement, hope, dream, success and failure will mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Whether we are loving or cruel will make no difference at all. Yet we live as if it is better to seek peace instead of war, to tell the truth instead of a lie, to care and nurture instead of destroying. These choices are not pointless, it really does matter how we choose to live and the reason is because God does exist and what we do means ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

That you may know, Roger

P. S. If you are going to accuse respondents of making assertions, then you may want to consider refraining from making your own. “…evolution isn't 'blind chance'. It's not random.” “You can't explain [logic] via God either.”

You also state, “That's a false dichotomy. You might as well say that [a] computer can't give a correct answer because it is purely mechanistic.” What exactly is the dichotomy? Why is it false? In naturalism, how is anything that has evolved more than ”purely mechanistic”? Aren’t we just machines for propagating DNA, and we dance to its music?

AndrewRyan said...

"So if evolution is true, then everything about us can be explained as a function of natural selection for survival. "

What, including our susceptibility to catching the common cold? Are you sure?

"What exactly is the dichotomy?"
That a mechanistic system cannot give correct answers.

Evolution not being blind chance is less an assertion than a simple statement of fact. Saying that natural selection involves selection is genuine tautology. To claim it's random rather than selection is denying fact.

Your argument that we cannot trust reason without God comes down to saying we cannot disprove solipsism. If that's the case then you have to assume God exists before you can even start considering the evidence for his existence. That's a circular argument. We accept the evidence for evolution thanks to the support it enjoys in multiple scientific disciplines. You either either accept that or you reject the scientific method itself, and you need to explain how we get planes to take off or indeed how we're even having this conversation.

And sure, you can say that without God you would find life pointless and joyless, but that's your own view. Saying everyone ELSE must share it, and that ergo atheists have no joy in their lives is like me saying the whole world is currently upset because my football team lost today.

Andrew Ryan said...

" If you are going to accuse respondents of making assertions, then you may want to consider refraining from making your own. “You can't explain [logic] via God either.”

That simply flowed from Kevin's own point that logic can't be invented.

The idea that logic requires God to explain it suggests that without a God we'd have a situation where a different set of logical rules existed. Wouldn't you say, however, that the logical rules we have are the only ones that COULD exist? You can't even describe any other rules without contradicting yourself. With any other rules, the rules themselves could both exist and not exist.

" In naturalism, how is anything that has evolved more than ”purely mechanistic”?"

My point is that even IF you accept that the brain is purely mechanistic, it doesn't follow that 'purely mechanistic = can't make correct calculations', any more than it makes sense to say that a purely mechanistic computer cannot calculate. That a computer is designed by a person doesn't stop it being purely mechanistic.

"These choices are not pointless"

Why does life need to be eternal for those choices to have a point? That's like saying there's no point in eating a cake because you'll stop enjoying it once it's finished. You enjoy it while you're eating it – what more requirement is there? If you were offered the choice between 50 years of being tortured in a dark cave and then annihilation, or 50 years of a loving existence with your family and then annihilation, are you really saying you'd have no preference either way?

Are you genuinely saying that if your family faced the same two options, you'd not prefer them to experience the latter? It's really not that hard to come up with axioms such as life is generally preferable to death, pleasure generally preferably to pain etc, and then from those to live as: "... if it is better to seek peace instead of war, to tell the truth instead of a lie, to care and nurture instead of destroying.".

And to say one cannot do this without God sounds just bizarre to me. For sure, feel free to say that without a God YOU would feel like you might as well just murder your family, or torture puppies or whatever. But you can't say that this is a logical conclusion that everyone else must share with you.

Chad said...

For those who are interested, you can find a great article on the connection between ultimate meaning and God and immorality here.

Further, you can find a very useful debate on evolution and intelligent design here.

Godspeed

LoneSparrow said...

Andrew said, "the problem with your reply is that evolution isn't 'blind chance'. It's not random."

Then what is it, if not random? If it's not random, it is directed. If it's directed, then directed by whom? By "choices" made by individual creatures (as wrongly portrayed in the narratives of popular media) ? If so, where did the "direction" for these choices come from?

Andrew Ryan said...

LoneSparrow: "Then what is it, if not random?"

It's natural selection. It's not 'random' that some gazelles survive better than others – it tends to be the fastest ones. The selection process that means the ones that outrun lions get to pass on their genes is not random, but neither is it directed by a 'whom', so you offer a false dichotomy.

This is pretty much biology 101 – the most basic idea in evolution.