I am going to have endless fun with this guy. Eric Kemp wrote a new post, this one with serious readership to it, called “Atheists Believe in Chance”. Funny, here again with the unwarranted accusations. “We atheists” (whatever the hell that means, what makes Eric lump us into one group, I don’t know.) again are being accused of “believing in chance”. Which means, to Eric’s opinion, that atheists have unsubstantiated faith in something he defines as “chance” (and uses quotes from various reputable sources to confirm this definition, kudos) and this belief somehow makes our worldview inconsistent.
That was a lengthy post that made more than just one point, and it has, to date, 20 comments, all very long. What I wish to focus on is something that I find very fascinating in creationist psychology, particularly in intelligent creationists like Eric:
Eric is intelligent, skilled and probably erudite in many fields. He also appears to be consistently fair as a debater… Except whenever he reaches the point where he either has to explain why his God is a better explanation than whatever straw-man version of “the athiestic version” he proudly admonishes, or what his God actually is. Whenever Eric stumbles upon the “Unlike all that godless rubbish, my God, here…” point, something in Eric’s mind happens that I find fascinating.
Allow me follow the post a bit, mention a comment written about the post, and Eric’s reply to it just to show you what I mean. Eric wrote:
(In relation to the “first cause” argument)
“The atheist will then object and say, “Well, then what caused your God?” There are two problems with this counter-argument. First, to make this argument the atheist must be admitting to their faith in this infinite regress and attempting to ignore the irrationality of that faith. Secondly, God is outside of natural existence and therefore doesn’t need a causer. In fact, His ability to not need a cause is one thing that makes Him God. This counter-argument is also invalid because it’s completely consistent within the Christian worldview to claim God does not need a cause while it’s not consistent with the atheistic worldview to claim an infinite regress of causes.”
The First Cause argument, as I know it, is easily refuted simply because if Eric (or any other creationist) claims that God does not need a cause to exist, then by the same token, neither does the universe, which, according to Eric’s reasoning alone (and not, I admit, his version of the “atheist’s reasoning”!) – means that he doesn’t actually NEED God to explain the origin of the universe.
So okay. Old hat. Eric’s God, apparently, is outside of nature. It fits perfectly as an explanation. Actually, because it fits perfectly as an explanation to everything, it explains, unfortunately, nothing. By the same token, the by-now infmaous and sacred flying spaghetti monster could be “just as outside of nature” and just as good as an alternative for Eric’s solution to the “Nature-created-by-something-out-of-nature” problem. This, of course, is completely regardless to this whole “the universe must had a cause” tripe, and moreover – this can also be said assuming that it’s true.
But I’m not writing all of this to refute this ancient argument, I’m writing this because while following the comments a bit and seeing Eric respond to them, I see, to my opinion, two version of Eric. One is consistent, objective, fair and insightful. The other one, for some reason, seems to be completely impervious to the vast disingeniuty of his reply to soon-to-be-quoted comment(s).
Let’s be slightly lazy (these posts tend to be over-lengthy as it is) and just skip to the second version (it’s also the more interesting version, in my opinion.)
Commenter “cubiksrube” wrote:
“I also don’t know what, if anything, “caused” the universe. An infinite regress of any sort doesn’t seem to make sense (which seems to be your point as well), but, again, this doesn’t mean the first God-themed idea which satisifies this one criterion should be lauded for it. “Outside of natural existence” is a meaningless collection of words intended as a get-out clause applicable to your god and your god alone, to account for the fact that the creation of the universe, or a time before time, is an inconceivable notion to our squishy human brains any way you look at it.”
This is an excerpt of a detailed comment. It originally contained a detailed rebuttal of other arguments in Eric’s post. The reason I quoted this paragraph is because rubikscube here refers directly to what Eric wrote of the nature of God, and what makes that God, to him, a plausible explanation for the beginning of the universe. To be precise, rubikscube specifically addresses Eric’s definition of his God and points out that “Outside of natural existence” is a meaningless collection of words intended as a get-out clause applicable to your god and your god alone”.
Ouch, I thought. Okay, now there’s a head, a hammer, and a nail shoved firmly into to said head. Anyone not familiar with creationists might wonder how Eric could miss something as trivial as this, but it gets pretty common for creationists, while making blunt and obvious remarks about their “God hypothesis”, to simply mutter some half-assed reply that doesn’t seem to be the product of much effort to revise the original argument, to wit, Eric replies with this familiar gem
“It’s actually quite simple. If God created matter than He must be not made of matter, He must be spiritual in nature. If He’s spiritual in nature then He isn’t subject to causes.”
Amazing. While confronted with the utter uselessness of Eric’s particular version of the God hypothesis, Eric’s most prominent “rebuttal” is to exchange one useless explanation with another. This is NOT a simple explanation, Eric. If God is outside of nature, then there’s nothing you nor I can know about Him, and there’s no plausible explanation as to why you deduce his particular identity or why you assume (using metaphysics alone) that he should be “outside of nature”. Matter makes matter all the time. Why can’t God, or even the Christian God, be some kind of majestic alien bio-engineer? This is somewhat less far-fetched than some wraith poofing things into existence like magic tricks, and it also allows God to be at least remotely fathomable.
If God truly is out of nature, Eric, then there’s nothing simple about using him as an explanation. Saying that God is out of nature is exactly the same as saying that he is spiritual in nature/not made of matter. It explains nothing. There’s no excuse why this God and not any other is this proposed spiritual entity, no way of deciphering what “being a spiritual entity” means in any sensible way, no reason for us to find this “spiritual God” to be any more than a “get-out-of-jail-free-of-explaining-who-this-God-person-really-is” card.
If there is anything at all to learn from dabbling in such ancient poorly-designed retorts, a la Eric’s, it’s from what’s going through his mind whenever he is pinned down to the “God hypothesis” question. This guy, showing eruditeness, eloquence and, uncharaceteristically to a creationist, some fairness and objectivity, seems to squirm while confronted with this type of question and simply hand-wave it with some half-assed euphamism for the exact same poor explanation.
It’s as though something hurts Eric at this point, something strikes a nerve, something twists Eric’s emotional condition to completely forgo his use of his (well-exhibited) intellect and just, well, spew out this non-explanation. It sort of reminds me of how people behave or talk when you fight with them, or how I talk and reason when I’m in serious distress: there’s some sort of weaker version of our intellect that’s still on when we’re pinned against the wall while the rest of it is turned off during such duress, and perhaps it is such duress, originating out of some mysterious reason, that acts upon him to resort to irrational responses whenever someone touches the topic of God’s nature directly.