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Sunday, March 19, 2006

The scientific Fall of God part 2

The issue, however, goes much deeper than that. The very act of observation itself is based on naturalism. If I was to believe in a god, I would be plunged in immediate and deep epistemic anxiety. Even what I know about this god, could have been planted, by this very god, in my mind. In this way, I could be deluded, through supernatural intervention, to believe that my god is all-good when it is in fact all-evil. But most importantly, the god could also make me see things fall to the ground when in fact they float, or make them appear to fall faster or slower than they really fall. This god could very easily fool me into believing in a law of gravity which is in fact a complete divine fabrication. Better yet, it could simply implant an unassailable belief that all my acts of observations confirm this law, when in fact they do not.

To this, the religious man would no doubt answer : "but my god wouldn't do that". Maybe so, but how can he possibly know that he is not being deluded in saying that also ? Since the god presented to us by the Bible is extremely evil, and yet widely believed to be a paragon of morality, the "delusion" scenario makes a lot of sense, if we assume this god exists at all

The search for truth is not only based on observation, but it is also based on a desire to find truth, greed for truth : in short, to value truth. But what does it mean to value something ? It means that we give it objective worth to ourselves. If a god exists, then on what grounds can we make such an evaluation ? If the religious man states that truth helps set you free, well, that's a causation that is subject to natural law, therefore a naturalistic statement. If the religious man states that truth is of practical benefit in our every day lives, once again, that is a naturalistic statement.

As a collectivist belief system, religion by definition has no values to inculcate to the human being. Such a morality is inherently utilitarian to the belief system. The fact that science has ingrained values, such as the values of truth and rationality, and yet manages to be so enormously successful, is a powerful indictment against the collectivist morality of religion, and therefore against the existence of an absolute moral authority called "god".

These are some fundamental reasons why God-belief is epistemically and morally inacceptable. But in all cases, we must remember that two basic kinds of worldviews are opposed. On one side are science and its allies - individualism, naturalism, the value of knowledge and reason, material purpose, a knowable universe - versus religion - collectivism, supernaturalism, absence of values, mental and moral submission, divine unchangeable purpose, an unknowable universe. Even a non-religious person who adopts the precepts of the second kind (such as liberals and conservatives), fight against science because science is not compatible with their belief system. And a religious person who, by virtue of being a "liberal" Christian or a practical atheist, adopts the precepts of the first kind, has nothing to fear from science (of course, one may question this person's coherency, but that's another issue).

This does not mean, however, that consilience is an option. The very notion of mixing together science and religion implies, as we have seen, fundamental contradictions. Take, for example, the concept of "theistic evolution". For one thing, design and evolution, if true, are the only two processes we know by which organized complexity can be obtained. Yet neither apply to gods, which are neither designed nor evolved. Therefore the fantasy concept "god" contradicts what we know about evolution.

But more importantly, to believe that evolution is true demands one to also assume that natural law applies to living organisms. If a god exists, we have no way of justifying such an assumption. What if this god decides to suddently make it so that, instead of the fittest, the less fit survive ? Or to randomly select animals that survive and die ? Then we would live in a very strange world. What if this god is fooling us into believing in evolution, but really created the universe a week ago, or a year ago, or a few thousand years ago ? Some Christians believe that. If this god exists, how could we know that they are wrong ? How do we know that our evaluation itself is not divine intervention ? And so on.

In essence, science implies that we can know the truth, and religion implies that we cannot know the truth. Science uses epistemic and moral confidence, religion uses epistemic and moral anxiety. That fits both of their modus operandi to a T.

The recent court battles on Intelligent Design only prove that Christianity has lost the epistemic battle. Unlike Creationism, Intelligent Design assumes that natural law is valid, and tries to find flaws in our understanding of these laws (by using concepts such as "Irreducible Complexity"). This concession all but openly concedes the superiority of naturalism over supernaturalism. No longer opposing science outright, Christians are now trying to turn their religion into science, like "Jesus" turned water into wine. This is one miracle that will never happen, but either way, it shows us that the openly admitted worldview of IDers is far more rational than they would ever admit.

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4 Comments:

At 3/19/2006 5:12 PM, Blogger Tara declaimed...

I know it seems absurd to believe in a 'god' with all we know about evolution, infinity, etc., but religion has given people a great avenue to walk down (and has changed people's lives to have meaning and purpose). Morality is explained in a beautiful way through various teachings of the Bible, but I believe it could be updated (i.e. views towards homosexuality, women, punishment for sin, etc.) to adapt with our ever-changing society (just as the Bible was updated from old to new testaments). I didn't get to read all of your writings, but I am wondering if you look down upon people who do not believe what you believe or do you accept that there is a possibility of several truths in this world? In any event, I enjoyed reading your blog, thank you!

 
At 3/19/2006 11:52 PM, Blogger BlackSun declaimed...

"religion has given people a great avenue to walk down (and has changed people's lives to have meaning and purpose)"

This is classic argument from result. This doesn't make it true. The usefulness of rituals, belief, coalitions, etc. simply contribute to the enduring nature of the religious meme.

"...Bible, but I believe it could be updated"

Not bloody likely. If you can change part of the word of god, then why not change all of it?

Finally, regarding meaning, you have to create your own. Individual creativity is the only pursuit in life that has any meaning whatsoever.

 
At 3/20/2006 12:02 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

"I am wondering if you look down upon people who do not believe what you believe or do you accept that there is a possibility of several truths in this world?"

Pretty much the former. But you've made a good first step by reading this blog.

 
At 3/20/2006 5:47 AM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

As an aside, I like how Christians who "answer" my posts never address any of the grave problems of their religion that I discuss. They always get into tangents. Wonder why that is.

 

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