Monday, October 25, 2010

Atheists Hide In The Gaps

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I started this thread on CARM. (remember CARM therads are backwards so go to the last page to see the beginning). The atheist responses have been predictable if not furious and angry, but the  funny thing is not a one of them has actually addressed the issue. The concept is simple, there's always a gap in knowledge, there's always a need for a leap of faith. The only question is how wide is the gap, can we narrow it with conventional forms of knowledge (logic, science, reason, yada yada yada)? The punch line is the atheists assume as long as there is a gap there's a reason not to believe. Yet, there is always a gap, so they are hiding in the gap because they not only have o intention of bridging it, but they actually against the attempt.

I always use the concept of a diving board for the leap of faith. Its' an amusing metaphor based upon real life childhood experiences of going up the high dive ladder with good intentions and brave heart, and coming back down the high dive ladder having decided that more manly aspect of leaping is not leaping. This always came after a long period of deliberation about the nature of faith and the lack of necessity of leaping, conducted at the end of the high dive board, shivering and shaking from fear with a long line of agitated older kids behind me going "come on and jump!" That's when I became an existentialist, that moment. I decided it was much more important to understand and deal with the angst of being a kid stuck on a high dive than to jump! I use this metaphor to represent my arguments. No argument will eliminate the need to make the leap but perhaps come can get us out there further on so we narrow the gap.

There's always a gap where one must make a leap of faith. You can reduce the gap or it can grow wide, but there is always a gap. Even in what atheists take to be rock solid proved scientific facts there is a gap. If you look in the right place, usually do some epistemology, every source of knowledge and every rock solid fact has a gap where we don't know and we have we must bridge the gap with a leap of faith.

We solve most gaps with a make-piece system of accepting what works and moving on. That's part of Heidegger notion of "ready to hand" in the discussion of the nature of being. What that means is bridging the gap with what works and making the leap of faith are so much a part of what we take for granted about life we don't even know we do it.

Atheists use the gap as an excuse to shun belief in God. We see this being done now in the thread about certainty. The atheist wont to pretend his world view is based upon "fact" and faith is some stupid thing only fools resort to. When we use answers that work, which fit the common criteria by which we judge reality, the atheist balks and demands absolute proof a standard even scinece doesn't pretend to.

you are hiding in the gap. you are using the fact of a gap to pretend that faith is somehow sub standard and that doubt is some kind of answer to truth.

The early responses just asserted the all sufficiency of scientific outlook to tell us what's what, really this amounts to gap denial.  From "Big Thinker" (contrasting his name to that of my friend Tiny Thinker, Tiny is one of the most Brilliant people I know, and their names are the inverse of their abilities).

Typically, the atheist's position is based on fact, its based on what is known. This contrasts with the believer's position that is founded on faith. The believer's position is based on possibility and speculation. The believer's gap is HUGE, their conclusion are unfounded and (ironically) unwavering. The atheist who's position is based on known facts is not emotionally committed to any particular idea but rather to an honest and critical assessment of the existing facts.

This is the same guy who said my 200 studies can't be any good because no academic would ever make a study showing that religious experience was good for you because it clearly isn't. when I pointed out that these were published in academic journals and done by real academics, not theologians and not religious publications he asserted that none of them were double blind. When I put down a link to a textbook written by the major researcher, Ralph Hood Jr. Of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the definitive article on the "M" scale which is the control mechanism for knowing if religious experience is valid, this stalwart defender of scinece refused to read the article, he would not click on a link and asserted that it wasn't scientific. He has no knowledge of the body of work, he has not read one word about what the field says of Hood or his M scale (I've talked to enough shrinks of religion to know that they regard him highly). When push comes to shove this guy has no regard for scinece, and no faith in scinece at all, no understanding what is and what is not scinece. All he's doing is working on prejudices and stereotypes.

In fact what he's doing is a perfect example of hiding in the gap. Almost all atheist arguments are argument from incredulity "I refuse to ever believe no matter what the evidence, therefore, it can't be true because if it was true I would believe." It's a form of circular reasoning.  In asserting this sort of sceitnism he's actually illustrating hiding in the gaps.  He's really saying "if there's a gap it's an excuse not to make the leap becuase there's a gap and I'm opposed to leaps of faith of any kind." Of course, his alternative is a selective pretense that only regards that which backs his view as "real scinece."

Super Genyus says (see link above):


There's no such thing as a "rock solid proved scientific fact." All scientific knowledge is tentative and conditional. Why you would need faith to say, "There is strong and copious amounts of evidence to suggest X being an accurate representation of reality," is beyond me.

Of cousre there's not "rock solid proof" that's my whole point. There is always a gap and always a leap of faith no matter what the issue. Even scientific hypothesis requires some leap of faith, however small it may be. Why we need faith to say something is reality is precisely because of what he said, all hypothesis are tenuous. What he's doing is to say first there is no such thing as solid proof, secondly, we can take evidence as solid proof if it's strong enough. That's fine, but what's strong evidence. It's apparently evidence that supports their view and not mine. If it supports mine it's not scientific and suddenly bad evidence. Look at the hypocrisy of this answer in relation to the next two issues that come up. The issue is no rock solid proof in scinece but we can accept strong evidence in place of proof (which is exactly what I say in m rational warrant argument--God is not proved but belief in God is rationally warranted).

the very next statement he makes:

This is generally not the case. We, generally speaking in terms of your most common arguments, just don't see how an explanation "working" to improve one's well-being relates to "working" as an explanation of reality. They are two separate criteria.

He's talking about 200 empirical studies that all basically say religious experience is real good for you and will transform you life (change dramatically for the better).  Not only do they not have one study but they refused to look at the text book chapter explaining all about the studies. In two years of putting that link up time after after time (well over a hundred) one of them has actually claimed to look at at it and I'm certain he did not read the whole chapter because he still doesn't know what the M scale is. He asserts just being good for you isn't evidence but why wouldn't it be? The claim is that God wants to save you, to renovate your life and make your life better. We find that experiencing God's presence actually does that. That seems pretty much like validation for the number one claim religion makes to be true, so why would that not be a rational warrant for belief? Strong evidence is warrant when ti backs atheism. Not when it backs God belief?

Is 200 studies strong evdience? Air Bags were deemed proven by four studies. Naturally the quality of the studies matter but 200 is a heck of a lot of studies, and none of them have managed in two years to dig up a valid methodological problem. This is proof of what I say that the atheist admiration for science is totally selective and ideologically driven. Also note the contradiction, one says the atheist position is "fact" (even though they can't find a single "fact" that disproves the existence of God) the other one says there are no rock solid proofs in scinece, it's all tentative. Yet, despite this contradiction they both take the very same position with regard to counter evidence that challenges their world view. They are both hiding in the gap. When the gap is in terms of their view it's trivial and can be traversed easily or it's just not there at all, when it's in terms of belief in God then it's a huge chasm that can never be bridged.

The poster Crockoduck (that's his screen name) get's into it:

So miracles actually remove the need for faith. True? In the Bible, God went around demonstrating his power all the time even when it wasn't necessary. Like when God took pot shots at the defeated and fleeing Amorite army:
Joshua 10:10 The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. [emphasis his]
So why can't he do some miracles today?

I'm not sure what this is supposed to prove. It's begging the question on miracles, assuming there are none without consulting the evidence. It looks more like a gratuitous opportunity to throw rocks at the Bible. A lot of atheists have been conditioned by fundamentalism to think that if there's anything wrong with the Bible then God id disproved. I think most atheists see through that but not all. Still it introduced the issue of miracles into the thread which became a huge argument and joke. Joke because the poster "Paradoxical" (that's his screen name, I guess "Metacrock"Is not one to make fun of screen names) continued to assert the same untruths against the shrine at Lourdes as though extraneous issues disprove miracles. I talk about Lourdes, that it has strict rules and doctors on the committee. Paradoxical talks about people spend their life savings to go to Lourdes, how cruel of God to lure people to that one place, take their life savings, then not heal but a tiny handful. I document with sources such as the Marion Newsletter that this is simply not the case. No one has ever claimed that God will only heal at Lourdes, that is not the deal. If one can't make it to Lourdes the water can be brought to them.

Then of course he cuts lose on the committee. They are all lackeys who work for the Vatican. The RCC has taken lots of measures to assure the autonomy of the committee. They are not paid, that is not their job. It's true that many of them loyal Catholics but they also use skeptics on the committee. He continually asserts these things over and over again as though I said nothing, and I'm quoting sources. Of course he also asserts other prayer studies have proved inconclusive so in his mind that is a complete disproof of God or miracles. That is an incredibly illogical conclusion. All that can really prove is that the study itself was inconclusive or that the double blind type of study is bad for prayer because outside prayer can't be controlled for. For example no one was healed in the experimental group above natural cure rate (even with the control group). Does that mean there's no God, or that God didn't want to heal anyone that time? How do we know no one outside the study prayed and that's why they weren't healed. So that's still an issue of control group. We can't control for outside prayer. I used to argue for those studies there 14 of them which are good and show results, but this one was suppossed to be the best.

Yet the Lourdes evidence is quite different. That is empirical evidence. the Xray shows the lung grew back over night. That is not remission, nothing grows back over night, lungs never grow back. Lungs that far gone (in the case of Charles Ann was not really a  Lourde's case but a saint making miracle) do not remit. That statistically never happens. That it did happen make it automatically a candidate for miraclehood. That's totally different than the controlled double blind study which just relays upon statistical averages. Yet Pradoxical seems to think these externalizes issues about how the shrine is run and allegiance of the doctors are germane to the evidence, and he doesn't even consider the xrays. Such concern with scientific fact!

What's really going on is he's hiding in the gaps too in a way. They are all saying "there's some kind of  gap in knowledge of the God element and as long as there is belief is totally unreliable. Yet their view, which they contrast as "factual" also has gaps but those gaps they write off as trivial, based upon selective evidence that just excludes anything that disproves their views. That's what I call "hiding in the gap!"

There's also an interesting epistemological problem with miracle hunting but I'll consider that net time.

4 comments:

a-hermit said...

Gaps in knowledge are a reason to say "we don't know" not "God did it."

As for the Lourdes stuff; if, as Shermer and others have suggested, people who go to Lourdes are actually less likely than those who don't to experience an unexplained cure what are these alleged miracles supposed to teach us anyway?

This is what I don't get about the whole argument from miracles; if we accept that unexplained cures, miners surviving in Chile, people being found alive under the wreckage of an eartquake etc are acts of a merciful, loving God how do we explain the 1200 miners who died in accidents without being saved last year? Or the thousands who didn't survive the earthquake in Haiti, or will now die of cholera because of that disaster, or my mother in law slowly being eaten alive by cancer without relief...

If what you describe as miracles are really the product of something called God than that God is apparently so capricious in his actions as to be indistinguishable from random chance.

Brap Gronk said...

"The claim is that God wants to save you, to renovate your life and make your life better. We find that experiencing God's presence actually does that."

Is that what those studies show, or do they show that _believing_ in experiencing God's presence actually does that? I for one am totally on board with your 200+ studies showing observable, measurable, long-term benefits of mystical experiences. But I'm wondering what kind of case you can make for God being the cause of those benefits.

Hermit: Are you suggesting God should get credit for tragicles as well as miracles? Edward Current agrees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-vhyqx_Duc

Metacrock said...

"The claim is that God wants to save you, to renovate your life and make your life better. We find that experiencing God's presence actually does that."

Is that what those studies show, or do they show that _believing_ in experiencing God's presence actually does that?

None of them ascribe it to "belief." none of them present any kind of evidence that "it's only belief." I think I can find a lot of evidence that it's not. I have a brief on "not technique or a trick of the mind."


I for one am totally on board with your 200+ studies showing observable, measurable, long-term benefits of mystical experiences. But I'm wondering what kind of case you can make for God being the cause of those benefits.

I've already done that many times. I'll look for something to link you to and put it here in the comment section.

Hermit: Are you suggesting God should get credit for tragicles as well as miracles? Edward Current agrees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-vhyqx_Duc


that would be a problematic concept.

a-hermit said...

"Hermit: Are you suggesting God should get credit for tragicles as well as miracles?"

No, that's the "man in the sky" approach, isn't it? You're not being sophisticated enough in your thinking...;-)

I don't think God has anything to do with it. I'm suggesting that when looked at in context these "miracles" are indistinguishable from random chance.

I'm also wondering you think we are supposed to learn from them, if anything.