Assuming What One Should be Proving

circularreasoningIf materialism is true, theism is false.

If that strikes you as rather obvious, I should add that many don’t seem to understand the implications of this. I’m speaking, as some of you may have guessed, of those who insist on assuming materialism when evaluating whether or not theism is true. If that’s one’s modus operandi, atheism is a foregone conclusion, and only thing left to be done is to drop the facade that we’re actually investigating theism.

At first blush, this may seem a rather obvious mistake to make–that very few would fall into this trap. I’d probably agree, were it not for the fact that I’ve encountered this approach more often than any other challenge to theism.

Every time someone declares that “science hasn’t found evidence for God” (apparently ignorant of the fact that science only looks for the material) is assuming that the material is the only thing out there to be studied.

When someone claims “belief in God is no different from believing in an invisible unicorn”, the same mistake is being made. Anyone who can’t see that inquiring into the truth of claims about physical things doesn’t automatically settle non-physical questions is assuming that the physical is all there is to study.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the statement “there’s no evidence for God” by anyone who didn’t end up insisting that evidence needs to be physical. If we’re simply throwing out the non-physical from the start, we’re assuming materialism.

There are many more examples, but the point is that all of these arguments rest on the assumption of materialism. This makes every last one of them a circulus in probando fallacy. If one needs to assume that materialism is true in order to make an argument against belief in God, then one’s case against God is only as strong as the case for materialism.

And, as I’ve argued many times in the past, there is no good reason to believe in materialism, and every reason to dismiss it as self-contradictory, lacking evidence, and counter to what we know.

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17 responses to “Assuming What One Should be Proving

  • paarsurrey

    “Every time someone declares that “science hasn’t found evidence for God” (apparently ignorant of the fact that science only looks for the material) is assuming that the material is the only thing out there to be studied.”
    How correct you are? I agree with you.

  • paarsurrey

    “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the statement “there’s no evidence for God” by anyone who didn’t end up insisting that evidence needs to be physical. ”
    This is also correct.

  • paarsurrey

    “nd, as I’ve argued many times in the past, there is no good reason to believe in materialism, and every reason to dismiss it as self-contradictory, lacking evidence, and counter to what we know.”
    Absolutely correct.

  • paarsurrey

    Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says?
    I agree with you.

  • Assuming What One Should be Proving | paarsurrey

    […] August 1st, 2013 at 11:03 am “Every time someone declares that “science hasn’t found evidence for God” (apparently […]

  • Anonymous

    “Every time someone declares that “science hasn’t found evidence for God” (apparently ignorant of the fact that science only looks for the material) is assuming that the material is the only thing out there to be studied.”

    Here is the flaw in this logic: the assertion that you are making is that there is some sort of supernatural entity that impacts our reality in some way. If this is, indeed, what you claim, then we are more than capable of detecting this influence through science.

    You keep talking about science like it is some sort of entity or organization with a central authority that dictates “dogma.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Science is simply a methodology of determining reality independent of our personal biases.

    If, instead, your claims about the supernatural is that they never have and never will have any influence in or on our reality, then you can’t detect it’s existence any more than science can, so your assertions are nothing but suppositions and speculation.

    • Debilis

      This response assumes that “impacts our reality” means “impacts our physical reality”. If it impacts our spiritual-moral standing with regard to the afterlife, it is hard to see how science can detect that.

      I’ve given several reasons why the reality we perceive cannot be reduced to the physical alone. This is, again, assuming this to be false rather that showing it to be.

      But I agree that science does not have a central organization. Nor am I claiming that it is dogmatic. I am claiming that scientism and materialism are dogmatic, however. Many people tend to confuse these ideas with science, but, as you put it, nothing could be further from the truth. They are philosophies which, if one follows the logic, contradict science.

      As to the final paragraph, there are two assumptions here that I would challenge. Both are false dichotomies.

      The first is the idea that either science is the primary or best way of looking for something, or that there is absolutely no influence on “our reality”. Not only is “our reality” more than the physical, but this doesn’t even allow for the possibility that there is a small amount of physical influence, but other means of looking are far more conclusive.

      Second is the assumption that other means of looking don’t exist. To say that something can either be detected by science or is “nothing but suppositions and speculation” ignores metaphysics, logic, and experience as ways of knowing things.

      So, this response seems to be exactly the kind of thing I was speaking about in the post. It simply ignores the possibility of knowing things outside of physical tests, rather than doing anything to show this to be impossible.

      The short response, then, would be that we should never confuse scientism with science. They are completely different things.

  • Anonymous

    “…as I’ve argued many times in the past, there is no good reason to believe in materialism…”

    Except for the fact that everything IS “material.” We can observe the material, examine the material, experience the material. The supernatural that you speak of can’t be observed, examined, or experienced. It can only be imagined and that does not make it real.

    It’s not that nature needs to be proven, it’s that YOU need to prove that there is something MORE than simply nature. As our species matures, more and more of the mysterious that used to be contributed to the supernatural is explained by the natural. We see clear evidence and have clear understanding about phenomena that we used to think that we could never explain.

    So, basically all you keep doing to trying to promote the God of the Gaps. And that god keeps shrinking more and more the more we understand.

    • Debilis

      I don’t see a good reason here to think that there is nothing other than the physical. Most people on Earth seem to have experienced the supernatural. You can say that they are all wrong, of course, but we need a reason to actually believe that.

      Moreover, I’ve put up arguments that the non-physical is required for minds or consciousness to exist. Simply saying that this isn’t an experience of the non-physical is simply to assume a physicalist approach to the mind. Not only is that unsupported, but it has been refuted in previous posts.

      As such, I feel that I’ve done exactly what you’ve insisted that I do.

      I completely agree, however, that God of the gaps type reasoning is silly. I think we should reject it. But I don’t see how I was promoting that here. I was claiming that it is unreasonable to accept materialism as a kind of default position from which one judges all other philosophies.

      This is neither God of the gaps, nor even a claim that God exists. It is simply the pointing out of a fallacy often committed in discussions about God’s existence.

  • Arkenaten

    ”Every time someone declares that “science hasn’t found evidence for God”

    This implicit rider of your statement is there is evidence for god. What evidence are you referring to?

    • Debilis

      The implicit rider of my statement there is that science isn’t the proper tool for that job.

      As for evidence for God, I’ve been putting it all over this blog. I’ve referred to the existence of contingent objects, the nature of the universe, the origin of the universe, the nature of mind, the intentionality of thoughts, the nature of morality, and the self-contradictions inherent in materialism.

      But, while we’re on the subject, what evidence is there that the materialism you’ve been defending is true?

      • Arkenaten

        I am not defending anything. Haven’t raised the issue of materialism. Other may have , not me and I do not intend to.
        I think your arguments are fallacious and all you do is make yourself look silly as demonstrated by everyone who challenges your silly worldview.
        Oh, and you have not presented a single piece of evidence for your god. Not one.

    • Debilis

      Everything you’ve said has been in support of materialism.

      I’ve not raised the issue of Christianity. You brought that up, claiming that it is the basis of my thinking. This is no more true than the idea that materialism is the basis of your thinking.

      So, either it makes sense for me to expect a defense of materialism, or it doesn’t make sense for you to demand that I defend Christianity when I never brought that up.

      I’ve presented a long list of reasons why materialism is false. This is a reason that more than the physical exists. If you aren’t defending materialism, then you haven’t countered my arguments.

      So, claiming that you aren’t defending materialism is, as a matter of fact, admitting that you haven’t answered my reasons that theism is the most reasonable view. Definitely, it is more reasonable than materialism.

    • Debilis

      This is an argument, thank you.

      It is, however, something far less than the decisive argument on the point. Quite the contrary, I’d say that it is a very superficial reading.

      I’ll agree that fundamentalists often deeply distort the facts of the situation, but this is no reason for atheists to do the same. Let me run through the points:

      Eyewitnesses:
      Its controversial whether or not John’s gospel is an eyewitness account. But, in all of the gospels, the eyewitnesses are named within the text (this is why minor figures are so frequently named–it serves a function similar to footnotes).

      Contemporary Accounts:
      The accounts are more contemporary than this post claims. The year of 70 ad for Mark is a liberal estimate. It is controversial, not something to simply assume before one decides whether or not the texts are new.

      More significantly, this completely ignores the letters, which are much earlier. Some of them date to 45ad, and reference liturgies are older than that.

      Neutral Sources:
      There are two problems with this section. First is the fact that only Christians can reasonably be expected to be interested enough in the events to have saved sources in enough numbers to have survived into the modern era.

      Simply assuming that others would have done this is an unwarranted leap in logic.

      Second, there is evidence of enemy testimony in the texts themselves. There are arguments made that only make sense if the Christians’ enemies had accepted the basic facts supporting the resurrection position.

      So, as much as I agree that fundamentalists are not the place to go for a realistic look at the situation, I don’t this this is, either.

      • Christian

        Hey Debilis, a Catholic fella dropping by. You shouldn’t be surprised to know that I dig the blog, haha.

        I have a question about your second-to-last paragraph, which under “Neutral Sources.” What would you say if someone contested the historicity of the “enemy testimony in the texts themselves”?

        I agree that the “enemy testimony” indicates that the Christians’ early adversaries accepted the basic premises of the Resurrection. What reason has the skeptic, though, to believe that the “enemy testimony” is historically valid? Couldn’t it have been artificially constructed by a Christian prior to or during the first writing of the pertinent texts?

        Of course, I recognize that such could be said about *any* of the Gospel texts and that some points are more obviously historical than others. I think, though, that the clear apologetic value of telling such a story could have provided some incentive to construct it after the actual time of the purported event. A curious could-be-convert might say “I dig this Resurrection idea, but it seems off that nobody else clearly accepts any of the Resurrection factors except early Christian sources.” It’s easy to imagine the Gospel writer or an earlier Christian thinking of that possible situation and saying “no problem- we’ll just add in a story where the Jews agree that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb!”

        Here’s the question to which I’d love to hear your response: what’s the best argument or set of arguments for the historicity of the “Jews admit the empty tomb” texts?

        Thanks for your splendid work on this blog, and I hope to hear your thoughts soon!

        • Debilis

          Sorry I missed this!

          As to your thoughts, I think it’s a good question. This first thing I’d say in response to it, however, is that historians (even atheist and Jewish historians) accept the empty tomb.

          That is because the passage is of apologetic value now, but it wasn’t in the first century. Textual criticism didn’t exist then, and it would be terribly anachronistic (really, a kind of conspiracy theory) to suggest that this is a ploy by the gospel writers. Of course, there are some who’d be willing to grab any excuse to reject the historicity of the gospels, but an open-minded person would see that it is the more reasonable option.

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