Night Owl Mk. II

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the last of a three-part reply.

If there are competing beliefs and the preponderance of evidence stacks up with one of them, the beliefs are no longer co-equal. While that still doesn't "prove" anything, it certainly does cast considerable doubt upon the belief which is devoid of support and boosts confidence in the supported belief. Personal preference is no substitute, nor is it an argument in favor of either side.
(R) There are many competing beliefs about God, including the belief there is no God, and none have any supporting evidence. None is inherently superior to the other. Personal preference is the only possible arbitrator.
(MB) Once again, you say that there is "no evidence" despite everything that I have been presenting. How can you protest any assertion that your beliefs are simply not subject to change? How can you continue to deny that positive claims bear a burden of proof? How can you continue to support belief in God when you can't even suggest why it is better than a religious belief in any other deity?

So, where is the evidence -- conclusive or otherwise -- in support of the God theory? If one still chooses to hold the belief without any such evidence, it may be called "personal preference" but it certainly can't be called logical or rational.
(R) There is no evidence, one way or another. Either position, of belief or non-belief, is equally logical and rational.
(MB) Wrong. Belief without evidence is neither logical or rational. Non-belief due to lack of evidence is both logical and rational. The only way you can begin to change that is to offer up so much as one piece of evidence in favor of your belief. If you do so, and if there is truly "no evidence" on the other side, then the scales will tip in your favor and your beliefs will become the most credible ones. If not, then you're just making much ado about nothing.

Since the Creationists are a very vocal lot, people who haven't studied the issue thoroughly can often be unwittingly taken in by certain bits and pieces of Creationist rhetoric and by their dubious debating tactics even if they don't agree with the whole of their position.
For example, any time an argument is made: [list deleted]

(R) Quite a list. I'm curious, is it your own, or is it drawn from another source? I'll give my opinions below, with letters matching numbers:
(MB) The wording in the list and the collation of items are mine. Some of the basic points are echoed in numerous sources.

1) which posits the Bible as inerrant, or...
(R) A.) The Bible is open to widely varying interpretation, and one person's interpretation is no better than another's. It is impossible to determine which interpretation might be correct, making the question of inerrancy completely irrelevant.
(MB) If the Bible is inerrant and is the inspired Word of God, there could be no problems in interpretation. Why would God tell us what he wanted us to know and obey in terms that would be open to misinterpretation? If the Bible is not inerrant, it can't be the Word of God. If it's not the Word of God, it can't be used to defend a belief in God. I'd say that the question of inerrancy is extremely relevant!

2) which demands that absolute proof is required before science is acceptable, or...
(R) B.) Nothing can be proven or disproven absolutely, and many scientific theory are valid despite the lack of an absolute proof of that validity. However, some thing's can't be proven or disproven at all.
(MB) The claim that "nothing can be proven" is incorrect and we have already covered several examples of that. Once again, one can easily prove that something exists by showing an example of it or by presenting irrefutable evidence for it. But, this isn't the point that was being made. When it comes to issues where religion and science conflict, Creationists refuse to accept scientific explanations without absolute proof. They even go so far as to say that "no evidence exists" if there is anything short of absolute proof.

3) which labels something in science as "only a theory", or...
(R) C.) Well, some thing's in science are only theories, aren't they?
(MB) Of course. Once again, that's not the point. It's the denigration of the word "theory" itself that is the problem. "Only a theory" is used in their arguments as the equivalent of "baseless conjecture" or "pure speculation". Certainly that's not the case, but the impression lingers through force of repetition.

(R) I'm always willing to give the best theory its due, though.
(MB) And, if that theory supplants a religious belief....?

4) which will not accept equally unsupported beliefs of competing religions as being co-equal to the God theory, or...
(R) D.) No unsupported belief in the existence or non-existence of God is inherently superior to any other.
(MB) So, what makes belief in God preferable to belief in any other deity? There must be something specific in order to hold up such a belief as the basis for one's morality, lifestyle and view of the universe.

5) which refuses to submit the God theory to the same standards of evidence as it requires for science, or...
(R) E.) I submit the God theory to exactly the same standards of evidence as the no-God theory.
(MB) No, you don't! You demand evidence to support non-belief, but refuse to provide any to support belief. Those are hardly the same standards.

(R) Science is neutral, and provides no answers either way.
(MB) By providing natural explanations for all phenomena in the universe, it removes the necessity to accept anything supernatural. Science would be able to support the existence of God -- if such existence was actually a fact.

6) which attempts to support the God theory by running down science rather than by directly supporting itself, or...
(R) F.) Have you ever known me to cast aspersions on science?
(MB) You do what Point #6 states when you support your belief in God by stating that it can't be proven that he doesn't exist. That shows disdain for logic, reason and the scientific method of inquiry.

7) which refuses even to acknowledge the existence of any and all evidence which might cast doubt on the God theory and/or support science, or...
(R) G.) I think its clear there is no evidence to either prove or disprove whether God exists.
(MB) You make the point better than Point #7 does...

(R) If there was, I'd be the first in line to acknowledge it.
(MB) You might be first in the "accept" line, but I doubt you'd be so quick to jump into the other line. You have yet to demonstrate the slightest inclination to be amenable towards changing your beliefs under any circumstances.

8) which supports the God theory with nothing more substantive than "Well, how else could it have been done?", or...
(R) H.) I never say this. I do say it is just as reasonable to believe God did it as it is to believe he did not.
(MB) You parrot Point #8 any time you say that anything can be explained in terms of "God did it" while offering not a shred of support for the claim while also casting doubts on the ability of science to explain "fundamental origins".

9) which claims that any scientific explanation merely shows "how God did it", or...
(R) I.) Guilty. I generally say, "how God could have done it," though.
(MB) Is there any real difference?

10) which basically begins, develops, and concludes with "God did it, I believe it, that settles it"
(R) J.) Anyone who makes this argument is in the position of saying an issue is settled because they believe something. Just leave "God did it" out of the quote. Anyone who holds a strong belief, on any subject, without evidence to support it, is guilty of this.
(MB) At the beginning of this list, I made the point that people are often unwittingly taken in or influenced by Creationist rhetoric and debating tactics even if they express little or no support for the whole of Creationism. You once said that you give Creationism no credence whatsoever. Yet, upon review of 10 of the basic points underlying Creationist argument, we find that you echo at least 7-8 of them. By itself, that doesn't mean that your basic beliefs are right or wrong. It just suggests that you might want to reexamine some of the arguments used to support them.
    Let's imagine that there is an individual (call him "Fred") who has decided that science isn't the answer and is looking to join a religion. He has no prior knowledge of the specifics of any of Man's religions. He calls for representatives of Man's major religions to come together in one place to debate the virtues of their beliefs and their respective deities. Fred is very wealthy and provides incentive to each representative in the form of a multi-million dollar pledge to whatever religion wins the debate and gains his membership. If you were the representative of your religion, how would you convince Fred to choose your beliefs over any and all of the others?

There is only one way to offer legitimate answers to questions about the nature of the universe. That way is to base those answers upon evidence. Anything else is a waste of time and effort and provides no real answers.
(R) This couldn't be more wrong. Physical evidence only provides answers to the physical side of the universe and sheds no light at all on questions of a non-physical nature. Yet, these non-physical matters might be of vital importance.
(MB) How? How can anything non-physical possibly affect anything in the physical universe? What non-physical questions are there? What evidence is there for the existence of anything non-physical? If there is none, why should we concern ourselves with such things? If it's not a waste of time, then there must be something definitive to suggest otherwise. What is it?

Since the emotional appeal of alternative and supernatural explanations has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they have any basis in reality, why even bring them up?
(R) I'm not sure which you're saying not to bring up, the emotional appeal, or the supernatural explanation itself. If its the former, I agree, emotion has no bearing on whether or not God exists, and I've tried not to use emotional appeals so far in this discussion, although I can think of a couple of instances where I've failed in this. I can't really understand why you're bringing it up right here, though.
(MB) I was referring to the alternative and supernatural explanations. Perhaps my question should have read: "If such explanations have nothing but emotional appeal, why even bring them up?"
    I bring it up because I'm trying to elicit some sort of explanation why a claim of "personal preference" -- a purely emotional response -- should be used to support the supernatural as being valid.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 04 Jun 98

Earthlink Network Home Page