Philippines president Duterte issues a challenge that Edward Feser can meet


Some readers may recall my post making fun of the press release of a new book by a theologian Edward Feser where he claims to provide five proofs for the existence of his god. My point was that people had been trying for eons to logically prove the existence of any god without success, and there was no reason to think that Feser would be any more successful. Trying to prove the existence of an entity without the use of any evidence is futile.

Feser, not surprisingly, did not like my post and said so in a post of his own. In response, I then put up another post on the topic where, among other things, I said that if anyone really proved the existence of god, that would be huge news and so I would wait for the news media to all report on such a groundbreaking development before reading yet another book making such a claim.

It turns out that Feser has a LOT of fans, rivaling those of Sam Harris in their intensity and devotion to defending their hero, and I had a record number of comments, 296 in all, many of whom angrily took me to task for mocking the whole idea of proving the existence of gods without reading his book. Ah, good times! Anyway, Feser’s book did not produce the big media splash that would have ensued had he actually proved the existence of his god so, alas, I never did read it.

But now there comes a new development that provides just the opportunity for Feser’s book to make a splash. It turns out that the president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, a ruthless and murderous authoritarian and thus exactly the kind of political leader Donald Trump admires, has been disparaging god and calling him stupid.

The politician slammed the story of Adam and Eve being tempted by the “forbidden fruit” in a fiery and blasphemous televised speech last Friday, the BBC reported.

“Who is this stupid God? He’s really stupid. You created something perfect, and then you think of an event that would tempt and destroy the quality of your work,” Duterte said.

He also went after the Christian concept of original sin — according to which all humans are tainted by the sin of Adam and Eve.

“You weren’t born yet, but now you have original sin,” he said. “What kind of religion is that? I can’t accept it.”

Another report adds more detail about his contempt for god, taking particular aim at the idea of original sin, not mincing his words.

Duterte lamented in that speech that Adam and Eve’s sin in Christian theology resulted in all the faithful falling from divine grace.

“Who is this stupid God? This son of a bitch is then really stupid,” he said last week. “You were not involved but now you’re stained with an original sin … What kind of a religion is that? That’s what I can’t accept, very stupid proposition.”

Duterte shows that even an awful person can makes some good points.

But here’s the good part. According to the second report, Duterte has issued a challenge, saying that he will resign “if anyone can prove that God exists”, and that “if there’s “one single witness” who can prove, perhaps with a picture or a selfie that a human was “able to talk and to see God,” he will immediately resign.”

So Edward Feser, here’s your chance to be a hero. Confront Duterte with your proofs and convince this ruthless autocrat to resign. Not only would the world be rid of one of the worst leaders, your proofs would become famous.

I for one would then definitely read your book.

Comments

  1. Holms says

    Dammit Duterte, don’t say things that I would say! It feels wrong to agree with you 🙁

  2. jrkrideau says

    I would suggest doing this by Skype. Duterte does not strike me as a good loser.

  3. Matt G says

    So many arguments for the existence of God! If any of these arguments were actually a proof, you’d only need one.

  4. Quirky says

    When someone speaks of proving anything, many times they inadvertently equate evidence with proof.
    .
    But evidence isn’t proof. Evidence is what causes someone to form in their own mind the conclusion we refer to as proof. Proof is abstract and subjective and occurs in the mind. Evidence is factual and real by its very nature. What one concludes from the evidence occurs in the mind and we then often say, “That proves it to me.”, whereas the proof then exists in our mind. Given another set of facts or additional facts we might change our mind as to reject the conclusion that we had accepted as proof.
    .
    No amount of evidence will prove anything to the mind that is willfully obstinate. The Flat Earthers are perfect examples.
    .
    Those who trust and believe in the legitimacy of Trump, Clinton, Bush, Obama, or authority in general, when there is evidence either to the contrary or just no evidence in support of such legitimacy at all, are just a few others one could mention..
    .
    When however the evidence is overwhelming, the rational person will usually lay aside his stubbornness and accept the evidence as proof in their mind. To do otherwise is to engage in intellectual dishonesty.

  5. Jean says

    Actually Quirky, you’ve just proven you don’t know what you’re talking about. Not that your previous statements left much doubt.

  6. Holms says

    No amount of evidence will prove anything to the mind that is willfully obstinate. The Flat Earthers are perfect examples.

    This reminds me of those who claim oppression will end if governments end.

  7. says

    Matt G@#3:
    So many arguments for the existence of God! If any of these arguments were actually a proof, you’d only need one.

    … and you wouldn’t need 3,000 years of fail-arguments. The matter would have been decided conclusively when some believer convinced ancient skeptics who then spent thousands of years failing to defeat the proof. Instead the thousands of years of fail are on the side of faith. Bummer, believers!

  8. says

    Quirky@#4:
    When someone speaks of proving anything, many times they inadvertently equate evidence with proof.

    Seems likely, to me, that people just use the terms casually. People speak and they’re not all blog-debaters, and sometimes they may use words the way they want to.

  9. komarov says

    So Edward Feser, here’s your chance to be a hero. Confront Duterte with your proofs and convince this ruthless autocrat to resign.

    If nothing else we’d get to see just how fast Duterte can shift goal posts, something usually associated with religious apologists.

  10. Owlmirror says

    So Edward Feser, here’s your chance to be a hero. Confront Duterte with your proofs and convince this ruthless autocrat to resign.

    If nothing else we’d get to see just how fast Duterte can shift goal posts, something usually associated with religious apologists.

    ?

    Feser has been very up-front that he has nothing like the specific empirical evidence for the God of Christianity that Duterte is demanding (pictures, video, record of conversation), so Duterte would not need to shift any goalposts, and neither would Feser.

    Some Christians argue that atheists in general deny God because the atheists don’t want to obey God. I think that’s terribly stupid, but I have to wonder about the specific example of Duterte, who is exactly the kind of authoritarian bully that Christians like to use as an example of what all atheists are “really” like.

    I would be leery of using him or his arguments.

    Although, ironically, I suspect that Feser would agree with many of Duterte’s policies. Feser — a Roman Catholic — has written much in support of the death penalty, for example, in contradiction to the pronouncements of recent popes.

  11. Owlmirror says

    For whatever it’s worth, here’s the final page of Feser’s Five Proofs for the Existence of God. (page image)

    I downloaded the page image and OCRed it:

    For example, the Aristotelian proof begins with the premise that change occurs, together with premises to the effect that a potential can be actualized only by what is already actual (the principle of causality) and that a hierarchically ordered series of causes cannot regress to infinity. The first premise is in a sense empirical, which is why the argument is not a priori. We know that change occurs because we experience it. However, it is not a premise which can be overthrown by further empirical inquiry, because any possible future experience will itself be a further instance of change. (We can coherently hold, on empirical grounds, that this or that purported instance of change is unreal; but we cannot coherently maintain on empirical grounds that all change is unreal.) The other premises can be defended by various metaphysical arguments, such as arguments to the effect that the principle of causality follows from the principle of sufficient reason (PSR), and that PSR rightly understood can be established via reductio ad absurdum of any attempt to deny it. We have seen in this book how such a defense would go, and how there are at least four other demonstrations (the Neo-Platonic proof, the Augustinian proof, the Thomistic proof, and the rationalist proof) which can be defended in similar ways.

    Now, arguments of this sort are certainly ambitious, but there is nothing in the strategy they embody that entails that every reader ought immediately to see the force of the argument and assent to it, or that significant philosophical work won’t have to be done in order to defend the key premises. It does not entail that even fair-minded and well-informed readers will automatically see the force of such arguments and agree with them. Hence, the fact that an argument is controversial does not entail that it fails as a demonstration.

    What is needed is merely that when all is said and done, the argument can successfully be defended against all objections claiming to show that the conclusion does not really follow or that the premises are doubtful. Now, that has been accomplished in this book with respect to the proofs just mentioned, from all of which it follows that God exists. Quad erat demonstrandum.

    No photographs, no video, no recordings — just arguments from metaphysics. God exists because change exists, blah blah blah, and so on and so forth.

    Very sophistimacated.

  12. mnb0 says

    I like the last sentence – QED. It’s taken from math. Now if any research field has demonstrated that deduction (and that’s what Feser practices) on its own doesn’t prove anything it’s …. math. It’s easy to prove Pythagoras’ Theorem. I’ve done it convincingly many times in class. It’s just as easy to disprove it. You only need to reject one of Euclides’ axiomata.
    It’s the same with this fragment. Reject one or more of Feser’s premises and his proof fails. He can’t defend his premises by using his own method, because that would mean they are not premises anymore …. Of course he can replace them by other premises (and he does so – kudos for admitting it, points subtracted for not admitting that this poses a problem). Then we are back where we started. And he must stop somewhere. If he doesn’t the result is either a circular argument or infinite regress. The latter would make his argument self-defeating.

    Example: “PSR rightly understood can be established via reductio ad absurdum of any attempt to deny it.”
    How does Feser know that he has killed every single attempt to deny PSR via rad?

    His only escape is to back up his premises with empirical evidence. And then we’re back at Duterte and his challenge.

  13. says

    Owlmirror@#11:
    For example, the Aristotelian proof begins….

    Well, Aristotle’s certainly new! Never encountered that argument before, nope, nope, nope.

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