In a post Eric calls “The Atheist is a Thief” (kindof a spooky title), Eric writes this lengthy introduction before delving deeper into the “atheist problems” due to the atheist “hypocritical denial of and reliance on absoluteness”:
What this means…
This basic atheistic position excludes all absolutes. Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true. Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws.
How is this a problem for the atheist? It seems that this position absolves them of any moral responsibility except for what any atheistic individual deems moral for him- or herself. This position also excludes God on the outset, which suits the atheist well.
Whether the atheist recognizes it or not, he uses absolutes every day. In fact, the inclusion of absolutes is REQUIRED for his position to be viable. We will tackle the full extent of this statement in a later post. For now, we will focus on just one absolute that the atheist uses.
The Uniformity of Nature
This is the idea that nature, given a set of conditions, will act the same way every where at all times. Meaning that stubbing your toe on leg of a coffee table won’t suddenly become the most pleasurable experience you’ve ever had. No, it’ll hurt quite the same as it did the last time you stubbed your toe. For you nerds out there who want to do further research, this is also the idea of induction.
Science depends on the fact that nature behaves in a coherent, law-like way. For science to be viable not only must nature act law-like now but it must do so in the future. Nature must also act law-like in every corner of the universe or we wouldn’t be able to depend upon it anywhere. In order for any empirical result to have meaning five minutes from now, nature must be uniform.”
This is one of my favourite parts in reading and analysing banana-shaped reasoning. For some bizarre reason, Eric makes illogical conclusions, and not only that, those conclusions are made out of invalid premises. Let’s take a closer look.
When Eric says:
“This basic atheistic position excludes all absolutes. Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true. Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws. “
I seem to be getting the feeling that Eric mistakenly equates “atheist” with “scientist”. And, case in point, that “atheist=someone who thinks according to (Eric’s idea of) the scientific method”.
So, in the first sentence, we can already see bogus reasoning. Why would an atheist need to exclude all absolutes? Why does such reasoning recur in apologetic “rebuttals” of atheism time and again? I don’t think it’s atheists giving themselves a bad reputation (or fellow atheists with different worldviews, Russell notwithstanding) – I think it has to do with some theistic paranoia of a world with no unifying, powerful, protecting authority.
In any event, let’s leave the “atheist=scientist” fallacy alone (whether or not this fallacy has been committed) for a minute and take a look at what Eric says about atheists, and later, how it contrasts with the “atheist appropriation of science”:
“Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true. Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws. “”
This is almost a fascinating exhibition of ignorance. I remember sitting through Thermodynamics class last semester and hearing the professor say, almost to the letter, something like this: “All these laws (and painfully enough, there are so darn MANY of them!) are not real laws. They’re only laws until some observed reality defies them”.
So the atheist/scientist/whatever Eric wants to call it – doesn’t hypocritically “rely on absolutes”. (and I’m really not basing my idea here on a professor’s authority, this was just as an example of how inane Eric’s argument about “the need for absolutes” is)
The mere phrase sounds ridiculous to anyone with a grain of scientific training: Scientific thought and the process of scientific discovery is all about trying to break the rules, finding out new evidence and, in the best cases: change everyone’s mind about the universe. Now, now. I’m not saying that all that scientists try to do is make everyone look silly (not an aspiration I’d like to have as a scientist, anyway). What I am saying is that science works by observing the real world, and trying to figure out more about how it works and why (by establishing causal connections between phenomena), regardless to what we already know. That said, Eric here got it backwards. A scientist (and a “science-inspired” atheist) always seeks to find out where the “laws” don’t work. This is not, of course, a matter of scientists trying to rebel against “laws” or “scientific dogmas”. This is merely a case of refining our knowledge of the universe. Using the classical example of Newtonian physics compared to Relativity, the “laws broken by Einstein” should better be defined as refinements of the “laws” defined by Newton in cases where Newtonian physics fail to give us precise answers.
There is no reliance on absoluteness for (any intelligent, anyway) atheist who thinks and reasons according to the scientific method. There is only the constant, and ever exciting process of refining our knowledge of the universe by learning about new natural “laws”. The word “law” in here is misleading, and Eric falls right for it. “Natural laws” aren’t like human laws. They’re not carved in stone (and in the case of some religious laws I was taught of, they don’t reek of blood). These laws are just human abstractions for phenomena that occur consistently in a particular frame of circumstances and conditions – which are easily broken as soon as these conditions are modified.