Tuesday, 26 June 2007

God and Analogies

On Stephen Law's Blog he posted a response to his The Jesus Light, by Sebastian: http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2007/06/jesus-light-switched-back-on.html. Had to get this off my chest.

Analogy - Helpful in the explanation of point A in terms of point B, where B is a more commonly understood point. But the use of an analogy, however effective, does not consist of proof of correctness of the original point A; or even evidence for it. Analogies can often sound good but can be way off the mark. In this particular case the whole God idea is so vague a notion almost any analogy could be concocted to explain God.

My personal analogy is that God is an invisible pet. I love my cats, I talk to them, communicate with them and can have quite complex conversations. I work from home, alone most of the day. My family are removed daily, though unlike Sebastian's women they reappear each evening, fortunately. But, I have an inner drive to talk to someone. It's often myself, but also my cats. I get great inner satisfaction from that. Some find solice in the company of machines - the Tamagotchi 'pets' of a few years ago. We have an inner yearning for companionship and communication, as do many animals. Along the evolutionary trail humans have picked up imagination. We've used that to invent God as a perfect companion, who listens without complaint, anywhere any time - the perfect Tamagotchi. We can even delude ourselves that our own answers to our own problems have been provided by Him. Inventing human companionship in anything is easy. Anthropomorphism rules - ok?

I have no evidence for this. I've based it, rather loosely, on what little I've read in popular books on psycology, evolution, biology, etc. I might even have read it somewhere explicitly, and using the great power of imagination convinced myself it's my own idea.

I could also be convinced by steelman's God. I'm a Manchester City supporter - I'm currently in purgatory, waiting to be saved by Thaiksin Shinawatra. I'm certainly having my faith challenged. I know there are very convincing arguments why I should watch Manchester United instead, but like any good theist, I'll listen, digest, ignore, and plod on regardless.

Sebastian's rejection of the 'tooth-fairy' myth is rejected simply because it's not his myth. I may well have belived in fairies, Santa, God, The Lone Ranger, or any other myth, when I was a kid. But to suggest that anyone who discovers that they are myths would "fall into a state of lifelong depression" is a little presumptuous. I find it liberating to know that somewhere, sometime there could be an answer to anything, just waiting to be discovered. The fact that I don't and can't know everything isn't a problem. I'm happy to search for answers on the understanding that I won't necessarily find them. I have no need for God. Quite the opposite - I find God to be an unsatisfactory answer to anything, a cop-out.

Maybe in the past God and religion have provided apporpriate stop-gaps, until other ideas became more acceptable and the arguments clearer. Phlogiston provided a pretty good explanation for combustion, until oxidation supplanted it, but it's still a passable analogy if you don't know of or ignore evidence against it.

Despite all that's said about the scientific method, plenty of research begins with a hunch, or an unsubstantiated hypothesis. The scientific method comes into its own in evaluating evidence to support or reject the hypothesis. So far the God hypothesis has zero evidence in its favour. Plenty of imagination and analogy, but zero evidence. Cold fusion is an attractive idea that has had its proponents from time to time, but as yet no repeatable un-falsified evidence, so there aren't many supporters of it. Alien abduction is another unsubstantiated popular myth, that thankfully has been debunked pretty thoroughly - but that doesn't mean the evidence against it is conclusive, and so there are still people out there that believe in it. Similarly, the evidence against God is low - non-existent - we only have Ocham's Razor, but since we apply that to the tooth-fairy and other myths, why not to the God myth.

I would suggest, though it's only my own crack-pot hypothesis with no statistics to back it up, that most religious people believe in God because they haven't thought about it enough, don't understand the arguments (re Sebastians response to the barefoot bum), or are persuaded by charismatic intelligent con-men; and many of those con-men do a pretty good job of convincing themselves. Many don't even believe in order to fill this internal desire that Sebastian speaks of. Most believe because they were indoctrinated, out of tradition, out of fear (see Law, Dwakins, etc). That's my understanding, based on the deplorably inadequate sample that consists of the few personal friends and relatives I've discussed it with, and on reading the ideas presented in print, in documentaries and on the internet by supporters of theist arguments. Statistics, for or against, anyone?

Thursday, 14 June 2007

The Problem with Faith

Following on from my previous blog, I think the crutial point is faith.

I think Stephen is right in that any point of view can be a faith (http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/ - Faith topic), and that's certainly the case for most, if not all, religions. And I personally know at least one person for whom atheism is a faith. She has no interest in any arguments one way or the other, and certainly has no interest in science, but believes herself to be endowed with ultra reliable common sense, to the extent that she believes the whole God business is nonsense. It's as if this faith of hers has grown out of some dissatisfaction with religion and all its trappings, a discomfort in the presence of religious people and proceedings. And I detect a similar discomfort in the absence of religion, or in the company of atheists, in some religious people. The opposing point of view is dismissed out of hand, with little discussion. Whichever way you lean this is a pretty insecure faith.

The faith expressed by professional theologians and serious theists appears to be much stronger, both in intensity and in the degree of thought put into it. I think that this is the type of religious faith with which atheism is competing; but which atheism? Not the atheism promoted by the feeble faith atheists - the faith atheism that theists attack, but scientific atheism. And this scientific atheism isn't a faith, though it is a belief system.

With the strong theological faith, when all the trappings are stripped away, when all the arguments of reason against it have been put forward and dismissed, what is left is pure and absolute faith. An explanation is not required. That's it. No argument.

Science based atheism isn't that. And in not being that, it isn't a faith, or not a strong faith. Science based atheism relies entirely on empiricism at its base. And in that it is, and will always be, open to doubt and question. I don't mean the personal doubt that one might have in any belief system, but an underlying inherent doubt in the system itself. Every currently understood 'fact' upon which all science is based is ultimately in doubt. The limitations of its tools of deduction and induction are often pointed out by the faith followers, and rightly. Most arguments are circular and nothing is conclusive. There is no absolute - though for practical reasons it may often be convenient to act is if there is.

But not only all that; there's another element of the science that is at the heart of science based atheism: the requirement for Popper's falsificationism. Science, and scientific based atheism requires this. Not just now, to ensure that for some current theory to be valuable it must be falsifiable, but in perpetuity. No matter how far into the future we look, no matter to what extent we evolve, whatever answers we find, there will always be something we don't know, or cannot know at that time.

To put it simply, I have no absolute faith in my current belief in science based atheism, but I do believe it, because all the current evidence I have tells me it's the best choice for a belief system.

So, does God exist? Theist faith tells me he does, but gives me no reason to believe it, so why should I. Science merely tells me he probably doesn't, but gives me very good reason for believing he doesn't.

Neither point of view has any baring on the existence of God. He exists or he doesn't, irrespective of which belief system one follows.

And, his existence or not has little consequence for the two belief systems. If God doesn't exist then it won't matter to the religious. They can go on believing and they'll never know. As each draws his terminal breath that'll be the end of him. And for the scientific atheists there's not even the satisfaction that we haven't yet been proved wrong, because our position will remain the same - he still might exist. An if he does exist, there's no change for the faithful - they knew it all along. If they find he exists I hope there won't be too much gloating, as that would imply they weren't as sure as they've been saying they were before his existence became evident. And for the scientific? Maybe no longer strictly atheists, since being true to our principles we should be happy to accept the new evidence - just not absolutely.

The Problem of Evil

I've read Stephen Law's view on the Problem of Evil and other arguments for the atheism. In particular, this article:


"Why would a benevolent God do, or allow...?" Why wouldn't he? If God exists, there is no reason to suppose he has any regard for our interpretation of good and evil. As atheists we often argue that there is no good or evil, just things and events - the good or the evil being some human interpretation. So why should we then suppose there is a problem of evil at all? Shit happens, as they say.

Theists can conjure up any explanation they like to explain the problem of evil, and over the centuries they have manufactured many, so it's pretty useless labouring the point. Yes, it might cause them some minor embarrassment, but it doesn't take much effort for them to rationalise (sic) away any objections. They already have magic on their side, so the the problem of evil argument isn't going to win them over.

Stephen says:

"So it seems to me that there’s little evidence to suggest that God does exist. Indeed, the problem of evil provides powerful evidence in that He doesn’t."

I agree with the first sentence. I strongly disagree with the second. The problem of evil presupposes rationality in the theist position. There isn't any. I also agree with Ockham's razor, as descibed by Stephen - pick the simplest hypothesis. But Stephen then goes on to put this valuable tool to one side with:

"But the fact is that atheists don’t need to appeal to Ockham’s razor to justify their belief that there is no God. They already possess a very powerful justification for believing that there is no God the justification provided by the problem of evil."

It's not that powerful a justification - it's irrelevent. It's Ockham's razor that trumps the problem of evil, not the other way round.

There's no evidence for, and so no good reason to believe in God.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Facebook Applications

I recently joined facebook, which is currently facelessbook for me, until I can post a reasonable mug shot that won't offend the religious, or frighten young children, old ladies or those of a sensitive disposition.

I recently joined facebook, which is currently facelessbook for me, until I can post a reasonable mugshot that won't offend the religious, or frighten young children, old ladies or those of a sensitive disposition. My social network so far consists of my son and his friend. Am I a recluse, or simply unpopular. Time will tell.

I had a look through the applications there, and found so much junk it took some time to find anything of interest. They're mostly natty little games and social nutworking widgets that look novel when you see the first of that ilk, but are usually discarded five minutes after you start to use them.

The only ones I've found I can use are Causes, an advocacy toy, and one of the "places I've been" mapping apps. If you spot any app that you could really use over time and that isn't some five minute marvel, please let me know.

I hadn't looked at these apps until I read Marc Andreessen's new blog, June 12 2007, as referenced in Adam Herscher's blog, June 12 2007 - two blogs worth following.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

God Botherers...

...where would we be without them? This blog is hell on earth: http://made4worship.blogspot.com/ - Your not kidding! And get the rant about Columbus Day.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

This would amuse Dawkins

From the American Christian Fiction Writers' overview statement at http://www.acfw.com/missionstatement.shtml

"From airport newsstands to Newsweek, Christian fiction continues to grow in popularity, resonating with readers looking for both faith and fiction." ... my italics.

Following in the great tradition of the authors of the Bible then.


I've no idea why I find the 'Next Blog' link so interesting, but I do. Even non-English blogs. There are a few nut-cases out there though, which I suppose is enlightening in itself.

Man City Progress

Liverpool figured fowler is not what he was?

Can't believe we lost money on dystin when there were willing buyers last year. An what's with the portsmouth move? him and james have a thing?Lots of free moves - is it more than usual?

This deal is taking its time. Won't be much time left for a new manager to be appointed and for him to build a team over the summer. Could be dodgy up until christmas, unless more young players are blooded and do well.

And Barton is still playing up asking for loyalty money. If he's done for assault he could be playing with an electronic ankle protector come the start of the season, with alarms going off when he goes over the line to take throw-ins and corners.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

In the beginning...

... I had no idea why I'd started this. Just trying it out from google.