This image of two men shows why our movement transcends all the false offerings of religion; it shows the moral courage and intellectual honesty of humanistic atheism, as well our love for all our brothers and sisters in the only life we have.
Monthly Archives: January 2012
You might have heard about the new image of the Earth taken by the Suomi NPP satellite. It’s very hard to explain until you actually load up the 8000 by 8000 pixel image and actually see the details of every cloud and land formation. It’s a transcendent feeling looking at the boundary of atmospheric mist between Earth and outer space, knowing that very few people have actually traveled beyond this Blue Marble.
We are indeed a speck in a tiny corner of a solar system out of countless stars and billions and billions of galaxies separated by deep time and deep space.
The ignostics will tell you that neither atheism nor theism is a valid position because to even have an opinion about the existence of God, one has to first have a coherent definition of God. Ignostics hold that (most) existing definitions of God are nonsensical to begin with.
You may recall that I’ve written a long post about the Transcendental Argument for God, and why there are so many problems with it. You can read the official reply to the post here, and there are probably a lot of obvious objections that you can think of, but I focus on the most crucial one. It has to do with the definition of what God is (and whether things are logical because he says so or he says so because they are logical).
Of course, what I’m saying here is that God determines what is logically necessary (and possible) by His nature, which is itself logically necessary. So the natural question that follows is “which comes first, logical necessity or God’s nature?” My answer is neither; they are equally ultimate. This is how presuppositions work; your presupposition can’t be justified based on anything more fundamental.
And hence we enter the world of nonsensical propositions. Let us try to understand what it means for God’s nature and logical necessity to be “equally ultimate”.
For example, it is admitted that God cannot create a square circle. Why not? Because it is logically impossible. There are rules of logic, similar to a traffic light, that stops God (and us) from making contradictory things.
But maybe it is because of God’s nature, which is ultimate. There might be another traffic light that determines what God can or cannot do (because of his nature) .
What does it mean that logical necessity and God’s nature is equally ultimate? For one, it would have to imply that when one traffic light is red, the other would have to be red too. It would be clearly nonsensical for one light to be red and another to be green, as the idea of God being able to create a square circle and not being able to create a square circle is absurd.
Then the question must be asked. Why are the traffic lights both the same color, all the time?
If there is some relationship that connects the two, so let us look at the space of all possible functions.
A) Functions that take some input from logical necessity and output the result as God’s nature.
B) Functions that take some input from God’s nature and output the result as logical necessity.
C) Functions that either do not take arguments or take other arguments, and output the result as logical necessity AND God’s nature.
D) Functions that take as arguments from God’s nature AND logical necessity, is not independent of either argument, and accounts for both somehow
E) Other functions/solutions addressed below
It is clear that A) and B) are not permissible because they undermine the “ultimacy” of either God’s nature and logical necessity, and thus the Euthyphro dilemma is not solved.
C) undermines both God’s nature and logical necessity as ultimate things, and thus continues the fallacy apparent in the entire argument (i.e. referring the problems upward).
D) is the function implied by the quoted statement, but this is a nonsensical (and I say nonexistent) function (and thus the statement is nonsensical). Something that determines that two things are always in agreement cannot take those two things and have them be “equally ultimate”. If one traffic light says “red” and another says “red”, and if the two traffic lights are in fact two different things, then there can be no meaningful relation that determines both are in agreement by while allowing both to independently determine the other. Saying “You and I both agree, because you and I agree” is not only meaningless, but it also does not show the “equally ultimate” property of either because neither are independent, nor are they in fact determining each other. It is in fact, illogical to even attempt to define such a function. This is the realm where ignosticism rules.
Proposed solutions to this problem.
God’s nature and logical necessity are the same thing.
Then you have merely played a semantic game with me and defined God to be logic. You are essentially saying, “Logic is absolute because I assume so. I just call it God (with some extra attributes).”
The function is nondeterministic/random/probabilistic.
If the function varies, for example, if it switches between function A and function B, then we still have the same problem in a given time frame. If it is completely random, then it doesn’t account for why God’s nature and logical necessity have to agree (see below).
God’s nature and logical necessity are coincidentally the same.
If there is no true relation governing two traffic lights and they are coincidentally the same, then there is no rational reason why they should be the same in the future. And thus there is no reason to think that in the future they won’t contradict each other (one green and one red).
There is no function. It just is.
This is indistinguishable from the statement above.
This is a philosophical/mathematical analysis of the fact that if something is ultimate, it determines everything else, and nothing else determines it. If something else is ultimate, any other thing that is not that thing and falls in the same category cannot also be ultimate. The problem with the argument isn’t that there are presuppositions. The problem is that the presupposition is a nonsensical and invalid to begin with.
Our reason and our humanism is challenged every single day by news of incredible hate, superstition, and intolerance that comes from the faith-based mentality. Just recently, we’ve had to hear the horrible news of another gay teen suicide in a religious household; we’ve had to stand by and watch a 16-year old face death threats and go to school with a police escort because of her atheist activism. We’ve had to watch multiple instances of businesses refusing service to atheists, and face an internet community willing to defend to such bigotry. We’ve had to hear of kids being kicked out of their homes and shunned from their entire community for fighting school-sponsored prayer.
I don’t think I can say this any more lightly, but I do sincerely believe that many of the intolerant attitudes against atheists in America are blatantly contrary to what America is all about. The founders of this country were not perfect, and some of them were Christian. But many were in fact not Christian, and they all understood the importance of not only religious pluralism but also the dangers of religion. More importantly, they understood the role of reason in human affairs; it was to be a guardian against fanaticism and superstition, and an integral part of the search for truth. It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote the following:
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
In fact the greatest gathering of the secular movement in world history is going to happen very soon at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2012. It is called the Reason Rally, and if there is anything you should be part of, it is this.
It is sponsored by literally every freethought, secular, atheist, humanist, etc. organization that I’ve heard of.
It’s the one event we’ve all been waiting for.
And in a broken world that needs more reason and less religion, in a country with a proud tradition of secularism that needs to be defended, the Reason Rally is a symbol of our hope for the future. American secularists have marched far and wide for the last 200 years. We’ve made incredible leaps in the last couple of decades.
We’re going to continue to change the religious direction of this country. We’re going to show that we really are the fastest growing minority in America. We’re going to show that we too are citizens and that our opinions and votes matter. We’re going to march on Washington–proudly, openly, with a spirit that will never wane.
Most educated people are aware that we’re the outcome of nearly four billion years of Darwinian selection, but many tend to think that humans are somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. Six billion years from now, it will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae.
-Martin Rees, cosmologist and astrophysicist