Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why the New Atheists Failed?

LukeProg posted a series of videos which showed his speech "Why the New Atheists Failed and How to Defeat all Arguments for God in One Easy Step". The second half of the speech I mostly agreed with (it was mostly a reprise of Greg Dawes' arguments about why theistic explanations are poor, which I wrote about here). Luke overstated his case in saying that these could be used against "all" arguments for God (could any of Luke's points be used against the ontological argument, I wonder?). Nevertheless his points are valid ones which sink the vast majority of arguments for God.

The first part of the speech I strongly disagreed with. Luke claims that Richard Dawkins' Ultimate 747 argument for the nonexistence of God is attacking a God which "came into existence" and which is not the eternal God most Christians and Jews believe in. This is false. Something can be eternal and still improbable. For example, if someone brought up the fine-tuning of the universe, would postulating an eternal universe go anyways at all towards answering why the constants are "fine tuned"? Would an eternal universe, in any way, reduce the improbability of the universe's life-friendliness (assuming that the diagnosis of fine-tuning is right in the first place)? I'd like to hear what Luke thinks. My opinion is that something eternal can indeed be improbable, as long as we can concieve of the eternal thing being different from the way it is, or not existing, etc.

Second, the fact that most theists postulate a necessary God does not answer the problem of God's improbability. Unless they can prove that a being with God's other attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, etc.) also possesses the attribute of necessary existence, we can only consider it a hypothesis that a being with God's other attributes exists necessarily. That hypothesis has no support from observation or experience. Further, that hypothesis has an incredibly low a priori probability, as I've tried painstakingly to show here and here. To see why it has a low a priori probability, think about all the other possibilities: that no necessary beings exist, that some other hypothetical being(s) besides God is necessary (and there are gazillions of hypothetical beings we could dream up), and so on.

Luke might say that I'm missing the point and that I'm going off on another argument. But I view what I just said above as directly related to Dawkins' argument. If Luke agrees with me that eternal existence does not affect Dawkins' argument (as I believe he will), then the only point of contention that we have is whether Dawkins' argument assumes a contingent God or necessary God. Hopefully Luke will agree that Dawkins' has successfully shown that a contingent God is improbable, since such a being would be one of enormous 'specified complexity' in the way its mind worked. If he agrees with this, then he should be able to see that a contingent God's existence as a brute fact would be massively improbable, since the brute fact could have just been a mindless being, or a being with a disorganized mind, an insane mind, a mind short of the perfection that God's mind supposedly has. All of those minds would be just as probable, perhaps even more probable, than God's mind. But even if we abandon the notion of a contingent God and move towards the notion of a necessary God, the necessary God faces a strikingly similar problem: the hypothesis that God is necessary is one among many hypotheses, each of which is just as likely (or perhaps more likely) than it is. If there is a necessary being(s), it could be a mindless being, or a being with a disorganized mind, an insane mind, a mind short of the perfection that God's mind supposedly has.

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