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Atheist Meme of the Day: The Unexplained /= Evidence for God

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

“We don’t understand everything about the universe” is a terrible argument for God. Of course there is much about the universe that’s unexplained. How does that imply that any one explanation — whether that’s space aliens, a flying spaghetti monster, or God — is the right one? Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Comments

  1. says

    What You Atheists don’t realize is that God is just another word for “we don’t know”. The sequence of explanations stops somewhere; I call that somewhere “God”.
    Seriously, I have seen this argument from many a theist. Along with “But what about your atheism-of-the-gaps, neener neener.”
    I think the best counterargument to the God of the gaps isn’t the FSM (pbuhng) but equivalently nebulous ideas like the Omphalos hypothesis and the simulation hypothesis.
    It just so happens that our brains our wired to accept teleology — “Why? Because a being said so” — as more satisfactory than “we don’t know”. But in a different world, we might find similarly convincing the argument that since X doesn’t make sense, we must be living in a simulation. Since we don’t know everything about Y, then the universe must have begun five minutes ago (and Y never existed).
    I’m reminded of the way conspiracy theories presume The Conspiracy as the way to explain the things they find inconsistent, puzzling or mysterious, even as there may be a thousand other possibilities. And of course, just by my saying that, I have already, in the minds of many people proven my bias against the conspiracy hypotheses, hence invalidating my argument.
    Similarly, it’s easy to forget this, but even if it could be confirmed that Jesus did every single thing the Bible records, this doesn’t necessarily mean that God exists and he’s his son; perhaps we were interacting with an alien, or an apparition of The Simulation. And in another Universe, most people would consider one of those the “Well, duh!” answer, and the proposition that we are talking about a son-of-the-universe’s-creator-who-is-also-that-being-himself as being a real stretch. (Whereas in our cultural environment, the “alternatives” I presented are likely to be seen as a stretch to avoid the obvious conclusion.)

  2. DSimon says

    Lenoxus, I was about to start in with a response to your first paragraph before I realized that you were just quoting a hypothetical theist. Remember: blockquote tags are your friends! Here comes one now:

    It just so happens that our brains our wired to accept teleology — “Why? Because a being said so” — as more satisfactory than “we don’t know”.

    I don’t know if I’d make the assumption that it’s hardware; it’s very plausible that software (culture) plays a big role in the prominence of that assumption too.

    Similarly, it’s easy to forget this, but even if it could be confirmed that Jesus did every single thing the Bible records, this doesn’t necessarily mean that God exists and he’s his son; perhaps we were interacting with an alien, or an apparition of The Simulation.

    I agree, but I also think it’s not an especially important distinction. Assuming that scenario, the most important part of the theistic hypothesis (that there exists entity/entities out there so incredibly powerful that they defy known laws of the universe, and that they directly interacting with us) would be well supported, and its null hypothesis would be falsified.
    Or in other words: sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Jesus. :-)

  3. Gene C. Sproul says

    The question which begins, “Science cannot explain….” should always be corrected to “Science cannot YET explain…” Followed up with the comment that, so far, EVERY phenomenon presumed to have supernatural causation (e.g., conception, weather etc.) when examined scientifically, has fallen to natural explanations; NEVER has it been the other way around.
    Gene

  4. says

    DSimon:

    Remember: blockquote tags are your friends!

    Ah, but tricking people was the point! ;)
    Good point re Jesus; the atheist null hypothesis (if not metaphysical naturalism) is quite falsifiable, and the theistic hypothesis (if not metaphysical supernaturalism) is likewise confirmable.
    I’ve often felt that there are possible worlds in which the supernatural (deities, ghosts, what-have-you) is an “obvious” reality, but people (if in a technologically advanced enough environment) nonetheless discuss whether or not phenomenon X is really supernatural, making the whole point moot. (Just as people in our universe discuss whether the mind or quantum phenomena are “really” supernatural.)
    If there is an afterlife, I imagine the people in it spend at least some of the time discussing whether they’ve really hit “brute” reality, or whether there’s still another world up ahead. There’s no reason Heaven wouldn’t have its prophets of the End Times too. Heck, people there would hope there’s another world, on exactly the same rather pathetic grounds they do in this one: “Can this be all there is?”
    Yep. Some trillion galaxies of wonder, that’s all. Sorry.

  5. DSimon says

    Yeah, Lenoxus, that does kind of run into the problem that “supernatural” things, by definition, can’t be shown to exist. If ghosts existed, they’d be as natural as baseball, apple pie, and hydrogen.
    Also, depending on how Heaven worked, we might not be wondering anything at all; we might just be trapped in an unending, mindless stupor of maximum happiness without thought or humanity. I honestly find that possibility way creepier than the idea of just ceasing to exist, but weirdly, some theists define their heaven that way and profess to look forward to it. *shudder*

  6. Eclectic says

    DSimon: Agreed. I think a lot of the problem is caused by letting the word “supernatural” slide by in conversation. This is a word almost as ambiguous as “god”.
    When someone talks about “supernatural causes”, I need to stop and ask what their personal definition of “supernatural” is. First of all, is it mutually exclusive with “natural”? And is it relative to human knowledge? Were radio waves ever supernatural? Lightning? The aurora borealis? The important cases boil down to two:
    If there is an objective, non-moving goalpost definition for “supernatural”, then I am allowed to choose my target within that goal and kick an example football into the net, showing that the category is not beyond study and disproof.
    If the boundary of “supernatural” is subjective, then I will argue that the correct width of the goal is zero; i.e. the category will eventually not exist. Or at least, that there is no point within it that cannot be eliminated by future developments.
    Science works the same whether studying quarks or angels; the minute I find some verifiable predictions about demons, I’ll start looking for a position as a professor of demonology.
    The very use of the word “supernatural” is most commonly a surreptitious importation of the entire “god of the gaps” argument into the current discussion.

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