Monday, June 1, 2009

Three Important Arguments for Atheism: Everitt, Gale, and Martin

Nicholas Everitt—The Nonexistence of God

Considered by themselves, Everitt contends, the arguments for theism all suffer from serious deficiencies. But maybe if they are taken collectively, the non-ontological arguments for theism make it more probable than not. If a defendant has a motive, is implicated by eye-witness reports, left the country immediately after the crime, and so on, all of these factors might indicate his guilt, even if one of them by itself would not be sufficient.

But there are three problems. First, these arguments give only weak support for their conclusions. The teleological argument, at most, might weakly indicate some designing force, the cosmological argument might suggest a first cause, and so on. Second, there is no reason to think they refer to the same being or force. And third, there is no reason to think that the arguments collectively indicate the same singular, omni-being, that is, God.

Does Occam’s Razor suggest that we should prefer one God here? But this is a misuse of Occam’s Razor. If the phone rings on Monday, there is a letter in the mail on Tuesday, and a knock on the door on Wednesday, Occam’s razor doesn’t suggest that they must all be the same person.

What about the ontological argument? No current version of the ontological argument is sound, Everitt argues (as have many others.) And Frege’s analysis of existential statements shows that there is no prospect for any future version of it succeeding if we take “exists” to be a defining predicate of God. So theism is not currently rational on the basis of the ontological argument.

Furthermore, there are substantial logical objections to theism: We have no plausible account of omnipotence. Being eternal is incompatible with omniscience, personahood, and creatorship.
There are substantial empirical objections to theism: The scale of the universe is vastly larger than what we would expect to find from a God with anthropocentric goals. And science has established that nothing has infinite duration. The existence of so much suffering isn’t reconciled with God; incompatibilist freedom is mistaken, it is unclear why freedom is valuable enough to justify it, and a huge amount of animal suffering remains unaccounted for.

So Everitt concludes that atheism is justified because the empirical evidence tells against theism, and theism is a self-contradictory doctrine.

Richard Gale: On the Nature and Existence of God

Gales says that he cannot answer the general question of whether there are any good arguments for or against believing in God because he is not addressing inductive arguments such as those based on design, beauty, or evil.

Atheological arguments have probed “the internal consistency of the theist’s conception of God, often with the result that the theist msut go back to the drawing board and redesign the particular divine attribute(s) that is the focus of the argument.” (3) As a result the idea of God has undergone a dialectical unfolding over time. But the challenge has been to preserve some semblance of the ordinary, personal and religious concept with the highly metaphysical and technical account of God that has come out of the philosophical discussion between theists and atheists. The goal will be to sketchout how we can redesign out concept of God without changing reference. This will open the way for the development of new atheological arguments.

There are a few interesting developments along these lines:

“My two arguments against the possibility of 51 [“There exists a necessary being, N, who determines that the universe or the infinite succession of dependent beings exists.”] constitute ontological disproofs of the existence of the very sort of being whose existence is asserted in the conclusion of every version of the cosmological argument, thereby showing that these arguments are radically defective.” (284)

Gale is negative about the prospect for religious experience: “It will be argued that religious experiences, although possibly veridical, could not be cognitive. Even if it were possible that their apparent object exist and be the right sort of cause of the experience, we could never know on the basis of these experiences either that this object exists or that the experience is caused in the “right way” by it. I shall go on to argue that a religious experience also could not qualify as a veridical perception of an objective reality, even if its apparent object were to exist and be the cause of the experience.” (287)

He is inconclusive about moral and prudential arguments for believing.

Since he does not address inductive arguments, “only the hypothetical conclusion can be drawn that if the only available arguments were the epistemological and pragmatic arguments examined before, faith would lack any rational justification.”

Martin—Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. The Santa Principle

In general, you can’t be justified in thinking that some X doesn’t exist unless you have looked. If you haven’t considered the available evidence and reflected on the sources or areas where evidence for the thing’s existence would occur if it was real, then it would be premature to conclude that there isn’t one.

Of course, once you have looked in all the likely places, or explored the relevant concepts, principles, and ideas, if you find evidence in favor of X’s existence, then you should accept that it is real, all other things being equal. So in order to conclude that there is no X the available evidence has to be inadequate in support of it.

But what if the X that we are seeking isn’t the sort of thing that would be manifest by evidence? If it is not the sort of thing that shows itself, then searching in all the right places and then not finding anything wouldn’t be sufficient to justify concluding that it isn’t real.

Roughly, Martin’s principle is:

A person is justified in believing that X does not exist if
(1) all the available evidence used to support the view that X exists is shown to be inadequate; and
(2) X is the sort of entity that, if X exists, then there is a presumption that would be evidence adequate to support the view that X exists; and
(3) this presumption has not been defeated although serious efforts have been made to do so; and
(4) the area where evidence would appear, if there were any, has been comprehensively examined; and
(5) there are no acceptable beneficial reasons to believe that X exists.

There’s no question that the concept of God has been exhaustively investigated for centuries. So the fourth condition is met. Martin then engages in a broad, and careful analysis of the putative evidence, empirical, logical, and conceptual, that God exists. He finds those arguments, the ontological, cosmological, teleological, experiential, and prudential to failures in one form or another. So condition 1) is satisfied. Furthermore, arguments to the effect that we should not expect God to manifest himself in some comprehensible fashion are inadequate. We should expect to find evidence for God, so condition 2 and 3 are met. And Martin argues that the pragmatic arguments alleged to justify belief are unacceptable. Therefore, it is reasonable on the basis of the principle to conclude that God does not exist.


Reginald Selkirk said...

Multiple, absolute, valid, logical, simple disproofs of God's existence
from June Geoffrey Berg.

Steve Martin said...

You really have to have a great "faith" to believe that Bach evolved from a rock.

M. Tully said...

Oh Steve,

"You really have to have a great "faith" to believe that Bach evolved from a rock."

Can you produce any evidence of anyone on this blog (or anyone on the planet for that matter) making that argument?

I'll wait... waiting...waiting... nothing.

O.K. That is called a Straw Man. It is universally recognized as a logical fallacy and would only be used by someone who lacked critical thinking ability.

Is that you Steve? Not used to getting things right? Wrong a lot?

Its OK, if you put some effort in, you just might learn something.

Evolution is not even a difficult thing to comprehend. Quantum mechanics, now that is mind bending. But evolution? That reflects common experience.

Anonymous said...

Ok I'll accept martins view only if y'all atheist debunk all claims for god. This would include examining cases individually and not making blanket statements i.e. you disproved one instance of a claim about god so the rest dont pan out. The latter is a fallacy.

Steve Martin said...

M. Tulley,

If one believes that all this just came to be (not created), then why would my statement be false?

Evolution, right? From ? to Bach, to Einstein, to Shakespeare.

M. Tully said...

"Evolution, right? From ? to Bach, to Einstein, to Shakespeare."

See Steve, you're wrong again.

Shakespeare came before both Bach and Einstein.

Shakespeare, Bach and Einstein are all the offspring of their parents. A mix of genes from both of their parents, shaped by their own individual experiences.

But how about before that? Didn't their parents have parents? And didn't their parents' parents have parents. Well how far back do you want to take that?

I would go back to a common simpler ancestor. You would like to go back to "Adam and Eve" that suddenly appeared out of NOTHING!

Now tell me, who is saying, "something just came to be?"

Wrong again Steve.

逆円助 said...


精神年齢 said...


stuart said...

I'm sorry but I am SOO ANGRYY I had to unload somewhere

I am an atheist and I have grown very disheartened by our self-defeatist culture. I was corresponding with one of the biggest atheist bloggers – the guy who guys by the name of ‘Sabio Lantz’ (he acknowledges that this is not his real name) over at

I told him that he should read this new book called the Real Messiah by Stephan Huller which I had been turned on to by Robert Price. I wanted to reach out to every atheist blogger to tell them that we can finally disprove the entire rationale of Christianity at one fell swoop.

He send me back a nasty email and then proceeds to slam the book in a manner which is worse than anything ever said about the Real Messiah by religious nutbars:

His negative review of this book is a depressing demonstration of the selfishness and self-defeatism that often pervades individuals on our side of the debate:

“My site and many others were spammed for the sale of this book. That alone is enough to stop me purchasing it until I hear amazing reviews from those I trust.”

The point is that I actually sent him links to positive reviews for the book in Publishers Weekly:

And a list of New Testament scholars who support the book:

The aforementioned site was from a CHRISTIAN BLOG for God’s sake!!! Look at the objectivity even with these people when compared to us.

Now I am not against someone having their own opinion about a book. ‘Sabio’ or whatever his fake name is can say whatever he wants about the Real Messiah IF HE READ THE BOOK. Yet it seems entirely self-defeatist to me for we atheists to deliberately sabotage a work whose specific intention is to destroy the Christian paradigm.

Unlike our enemies in the Religious Right we are rarely united, politically naïve and basically content to sit around engaging in intellectual masturbation while our rights are systematically stripped away from us. My intention was not to spam anyone. I was simply trying to find a way for our side to go on the offense for once. We are always on the defensive while they (the religious folks) take shots at us.

I thought the Real Messiah was special because it is centered around a physical object which the author found in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice. It is universally understood to have been taken there by Italian sailors stole from the most ancient Church of St. Mark in Alexandria in the ninth century. Huller demonstrates that the throne goes back much further than that - i.e. all the way to the beginning of Christianity in Egypt.

In any event this throne is the real deal. It has an inscription written out in Hebrew letters and symbols which prove that Jesus was not the messiah of Christianity. Here are pictures of the throne:

We have to defeat the myth of Jesus Christ with another myth – a ‘rational myth’ to coin the language of Robert Price.

I am not asking you to ‘join my cause.’ I just want to defeat the oppressive ideas of Christianity with freedom and rational discourse.

家出 said...