And you thought Rush Limbaugh was KRayZeee.
Here are some second tier far-right radio and internet media broadcasters laying in on Ann Coulter and Mitt Romney. This is what the Republican Party has become, and has to contend with, to its right flank:
Prometheus, do you realize that God made us and that we are accountable to Him? -Bob Enyart, KGOV.com
I’m happy to concede that we are living within an ontological mystery, but could you offer me some justification for your claim that “God made us.”
How do you know this?
Secondly, I’d like to ask you a personal question: When you doubt, what is it exactly that you doubt?
Hello Santi! I’ve had a great time debating atheists, and I’d be happy to post a concise list of evidence for God’s existence from 10 areas if you’d like.
BTW, here’s a list of atheists I’ve debated. You can find links to those debates and a fun “Trochlea Challenge to Atheists” at http://kgov.com/bel/20081212 :
– ABC’s Reginald Finley, called The Infidel Guy, from ABC’s Wife Swap program; 3-26-07;
– TheologyOnline’s psychologist Zakath in a 10-round moderated written online debate;
– TOL’s member who calls himself Fool; 3-28-06;
– Freedom from Religion Foundation’s Dan Barker who as a teen was involved with the ministry of Kathryn Kuhlman, one of a group of so-called faith healers. (See a BEL listener who initially compared Bob to Benny Hinn until…) 12-11-08
– John Henderson who wrote the book God.com 6-15-2006;
– Eugenie Scott, anti-creationist with the Nat’l Center for Science Education; DVD and recap 7-years later “exhumes”
– Michael Shermer, an editor with Scientific American and the Skeptic Society who in this famous 73-second excerpt on BEL denied that the Bible was correct when it stated that the sun should not be worshipped because it is not a god, but rather, that the sun is a light. Illustrating that it’s tough debating atheists when they’re hesitant to admit to even the most obvious common ground, Schermer famously replied, “The sun is not a light.” 8-28-03
So Santi, I could post that list of 10 areas of evidence, or I could post 7 atheist cliches each with a rebuttal that takes less than 8 seconds to make.
Sure. You can put them on this thread. I don’t mind. But I would like you to improvise a bit, and not just go into machine mode in talking to me.
What do you doubt when you doubt, and why do you doubt it, and what do you tell yourself to make the doubt go away for awhile?
I’m not asking you such a question, by the way, to set you up. I just want vulnerability expressed in the people I talk with.
I don’t mind going first. When I doubt my agnosticism it’s with regard to the ontological mystery—why is there something when there might have been nothing?
I think that the physical constants, their “just-so-ness”, is an enormous puzzle, and constitutes (to my mind) perhaps the strongest argument that prior to the material universe there was some sort of telos.
I suppose that I stay an agnostic and not some sort of theist when I think of this because I think that the multiverse hypothesis is equally probable with the telos explanation. On the other hand, the multiverse hypothesis runs to an infinite regress, and telos seems to be a simpler (if pseudo) explanation that at least stops the regress with “a necessary telos made the contingent object-world.”
I’d also ask you, philosophically, how you justify what I would call “clichetheism.” That is, you’ve offered to post twitter-like 8 second responses to cliche atheist arguments. But what is the value, in your view, of treating complex issues like television soundbites?
Santi, you’re request that I improvise and not go in machine mode is a great request. What do I doubt?
I doubt that as the mountain of evidence utterly refutting Darwinism continues to rise, that a majority of evolutionists will acknowledge our Creator God. I doubt that…
But wait, I’m sure that’s not the kinds of doubts you’re asking me about. You’re asking me to indicate, of the beliefs that I hold, which ones do I sometimes doubt. To help myself think this through, I’ll first list the things I never ever doubt.
I never doubt that I exist; and therefore I know that there is a reality.
I never doubt that truth exists, because for example, I exist.
I never doubt that the universe exists.
I never doubt that the universe must have had a beginning because it does not have a uniform temperature and stars are still burning available energy.
Since truth exists, I never doubt that logic and reason exist.
Since I exist and reason exists, I never doubt that existence itself must be rational and logical.
Since logic and reason exists, I never doubt that the effect cannot be greater than the cause.
And since the effect cannot be greater than the cause, I never doubt that logically there must be an uncaused Cause of the universe and of my own existence as a person.
And I never doubt that if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead as prophesied, that Christianity is false.
Nor have I ever doubted that if Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, then all other religions are false and as He claimed, He is the only way to eternal life.
And I never doubt that the Cause of the universe and of me must be eternal, and powerful and personal (because I am personal, i.e., I have a will, self-awareness, moral consciousness, etc. and the effect, ‘me,’ cannot be greater than the Cause, ‘Him.’)
Santi, these are some of the things I never doubt.
Now, what do I sometimes doubt? There are many particulars regarding the universe, the world, mankind, doctrines of Scripture, points of history, economics, science, etc. that I’m eager to learn more of and to be corrected where in error. On the home page of my site, KGOV.com, in the footer I have a link to our Errata page that lists the more significant errors I’ve made over the years. And when I make a lesser error in a radio program, etc., we correct that error on that show’s summary page.
Was this a sufficient answer, or would you like some particular detail?
Santi, you ask: What is the value, in your view, of treating complex issues like television soundbites?
If the self-contradiction and weaknesses in popular cliches can each be exposed in less than 8 seconds, then that is a powerful tool to demonstrate widespread intellectual weakness. No? On the other hand, if such a claim is shown to be false, then that demonstrates the bias of the one making the claim. No?
And regarding your asking for self-admitted vulnerability, again, I think that’s great!
Your list is interesting. There are some things in it that I, like you, rarely doubt (I won’t say never). But here, I think, is the problem. If you base your Christian faith on the interconnected scaffolding of of a dozen or so things that you don’t doubt much, or think are logically necessary, then statistically, even if your level of certainty is 99.5% for each assumption individually, the combining of them into an interlocking “set” means that the probability of them ALL being true starts to drop off dramatically. I don’t have a calculator, but the math is easy to do. When you build propositions on one another (as you did), it becomes increasingly likely that you’ve overlooked something with regard to one or more of them. Your level of certainty should thus be considerably compromised the more you claim to presume to “know.” And I would remind you that Descarte was much smarter than you or I, and he, using pure reason alone, could not get much (or at all) beyond your most basic beginning (I think therefore I am etc.).
This is why I think that faith, even though often provided with a list of reasons, really rests on something intuitive. For example, I think that most scientists would say that free will is an illusion, but even if I hear of very good arguments against free will, I have chosen free will as my way of being in the world (by faith). I’m hoping the majority of scientists are wrong on this, but I cannot intellectually or coherently justify—without a lot of rationalization and rhetorical trickery—my rejection of free will as an illusion.
In other words, I see people who are not agnostics (like me), and who express a belief in God or atheism, as not being able (empirically or rationally) to fully justify it. I see them as people who have intuited what seems right to them, and what seems to be (for them) a fundamental part of their identity that they trust, even against scientific opinion, to believe in because it just seems right to them. I believe that every human being, in their contingent human experience, will have different things that just seem right to them. For you, it’s Protestant evangelicalism (I presume). For me, it’s existentialist free will, for a Muslim it is the Quran.
Whenever I’m talking to somebody who sees the world in vastly different terms from me—and for reasons that I personally think are dubious—or at least not air-tight or empirically based—I remind myself that I cannot live without free will—and maybe religious beliefs are like that. A choice of being in the world that, against the evidence one might encounter to the contrary, seems right somehow.
I guess it is Kierkegaard who had it right.
Do you see your own faith position that way? Is that what keeps you going in the direction that you do (against contrary pieces of evidence that might suggest to you that you might be wrong sometimes)?
Also, when I asked you what you doubt, I didn’t mean at the periphery. I mean at the very core of your being. That thing that could genuinely trip you up in terms of your faith. That thing that haunts the margins or shadows of your psyche. That, if you give it attention, is almost a physical presence with you. The thing that you know is there, but you either ignore or rationalize.
I gave you an example that went to the core of my contemporary agnosticism (the physical constants).
Here’s one from my teen years (when I called myself an evangelical Christian). I used to get really screwed up about the three accounts of blind Bartemeus in the gospels. It would haunt me because it wasn’t clear how they could be reconciled (logically). Was it two blind people, or one, or was Jesus entering Jericho or leaving it? Those passages made me doubt the inerrancy of scripture, as well as the conservative scholars I would read who would offer reconciliations. The attempts to reconcile the passages were ridiculously strained, and it provoked a lot of doubt for me.
That’s the kind of doubt I mean. Something that goes to the core of your being. I realize it is a personal question. I realize it is a vulnerable question. I also would ask you: What is the purpose of talking if you don’t get to the heart of the matter? (As a teen I used to like the Christian singer, Bob Bennett, and he has a song by that title. Perhaps you know it?)
You also said: “If the self-contradiction and weaknesses in popular cliches can each be exposed in less than 8 seconds, then that is a powerful tool to demonstrate widespread intellectual weakness. No?”
No. I disagree with you here. I think that if we give a short answer, even to a poor argument, that we have arrested thought. Even a poor argument may have a bit of truth in it that should be attended to. But if we have a “pat” answer to something, we’ve given ourselves permission to set further questioning aside. I don’t think that cliches should stop thought. I think that if they function to make people feel comfy (via a quick retort), then we have undermined reason and inquiry, and put people in a bigoted, smug and self-satisfied relation to others, and given them an excuse not to think further about something.
I haven’t listened to your radio program yet (but I intend to). But have you ever thought of your radio job as a form of outsourced thought? In other words, do you think of yourself as selling people “frames” for thinking about issues—so they don’t have to frame things for themselves? Thinking is hard. And I just question what it is that, say, websites like Richard Dawkins’s or Rush Limbaugh’s achieves (except to give people who might not be inclined to think for themselves the intellectual frames for seeing the world). Maybe it’s unrealistic to ask advocacy media to encourage thought in their audience, or to engage in self-criticism and vulnerability on the air, but it would improve the level of dialogue considerably if people were self-critical as well as critical towards outsiders.
In some ways I wonder if uncertain people tune into people like Limbaugh as a bolster to confidence. It is a sign of weakness to back down or show vulnerability. People are buying confidence and thought, so they don’t have to make these things for themselves.
Santi, again, thanks for the discussion. No machine mode here. Just two vulnerable people. Talking earnestly.
Your mathematical observation is undeniable. And as you would admit without hesitation I’m sure, it applies not only to me, but also to you. As you are an agnostic, apparently you say we cannot know that there is a God. As a Christian, I say that we can know there is a God. So, of the two of us, you and me, one of us is the victim of the multiplying of their own layers of uncertainty to finally reach a false conclusion. I would hope that you would not assume that you have not fallen prey to this error, and that I have. Instead, I would hope you would look again at the list of particulars that I indicated that I do not doubt. And identify for me if you can which one is in error.
As to whether or not most scientists would say that free will is an illusion, I’d say that Cornell’s Provine would say that, as would others, but I don’t have the data to concur that “most” would say so; and I have three observations on your bringing up this point.
First: Majority – Truth is not established by majority opinion (for example, throughout the centuries when astronomy was hindered by the widespread stranglehold of Aristotelian cosmology, science was not freed from the errors of the Greek paradigm until the force of reason from Christians like Copernicus, Newton and Kepler broke free of the humanist and false geocentric paradigm).
Secondly: Ideas – Ideas, including the laws of grammar and the laws of logic, are not physical. They have no mass, no polarity, etc. In 1936 Einstein famously wrote (http://books.google.com/books?lr=&ei=NezAR8CuEZnmtQP_wpGtCA&as_brr=0&id=zeQSAAAAIAAJ&dq=%22most+incomprehensible+thing+about+the+world%22+date:1900-1940&q=Einstein+%22most+incomprehensible+thing+about+the+world%22+date:1900-1940&pgis=1), “the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible,” and in 1944, remarking about Russell (http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/einstein_russell.htm), he described (http://books.google.com/books?id=khCD_sH9pkYC&pg=PA215&lpg=PA215&dq=einstein+%22unbridgeable+gulf%22&source=web&ots=W_OPGoPAjz&sig=_eV65hOdA3UsBzisTxdbmT_MXpo) the ability to get from matter to ideas as a “gulf–logically unbridgeable,” which some scientists and linguists refer to as Einstein’s Gulf, and in 1950, Einstein wrote (http://books.google.com/books?id=Q1UxYzuI2oQC&pg=PA25&vq=not+what+should+be&source=gbs_search_s&sig=hdeo63uJTtBhtPTJ0BRJc5hTiwA) that “science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be,” necessarily excluding from its domain “value judgments of all kinds.” Christians take such observations about ideas (i.e., about the concepts of right and wrong, which the laws of science do not address, and about the laws of grammar, logic and reason, etc.) as consistent with our understanding that there is both a material and a non-material reality. Ideas are not physical, and therefore the will of a man is not bound by chemistry or physics, because the will is the ability to decide, and as we select (decide between) immaterial ideas, we are weighing immaterial concepts, but not by relationships of mass and gravity. Of course, these observations could be resisted out of an intellectual tantrum, or out of fear. Thus I attempt to dissuade people from the ultimate victim mentality, that they are not responsible for their thoughts, and therefore, not responsible for their actions, because their thoughts inexorably flow from chemical reactions. If thoughts flow unwaveringly from chemical reactions, then faith in that concept would be unreasonable (although unavoidable for the brains so wired).
Thirdly: Contradiction – Santi, you sorely tempt me to post my list of eight clichés of atheists that I can disprove within eight seconds each. (I know you’ve already invited me to post them, but I’d trying to limit the quantity of words in my replies, and the rich opportunity your posts present make that hard for me.) Perhaps you’ve not considered the internal contradiction of the materialist claim that there is no free will (and thus, it is mere chemistry that directs all our thoughts). The materialist who uses logic to try to prove that only matter exists is self-refuting, because the laws of grammar and logic that he attempts to employ accurately are themselves not material. Likewise, if the materialist who denies free will were correct, then neither has he arrived in any meaningful way nor freely at his own conclusion, but rather, he would be expressing a philosophical opinion that is the result of chemical reactions, as though the question of whether it were right or wrong to rape an infant were determined by the toss of a coin.
Santi, of course there is more you have written that I would love to address, but I’m too verbose. Thanks for talking!
Your post was good. I don’t disagree with most of it. I’m not committed to a reductionist model of mental properties to physical properties.
That’s one of the reasons I call myself an agnostic and not an atheist. I don’t know.
You said: “So, of the two of us, you and me, one of us is the victim of the multiplying of their own layers of uncertainty to finally reach a false conclusion.”
I agree. And unfortunately, I don’t see, once you’ve gone beyond empiricism, how to evaluate where our intellectual “foot paths” flounder into error.
As Woody Allen once said, “You ask me the purpose of the universe? I don’t know how my toaster works!”
I think that humility before the ontological mystery is important. I reject both triumphalist theism and triumphalist atheism. To put it in religious terms, doubt is the way of the cross.
I’ll tell you the mythology that, as an agnostic, I salivate to. I’ve chosen it. I know it has no rational basis because it moves beyond the empirical, but it is basically the stance that I’ve taken in life: It’s the myth of Sisyphus as worked out by Camus.
In other words, I think of all the people who have thought about the world, that I most resonate with Camus (as you resonate with Jesus). Camus’s myth goes this way: We are desiring beings in a universe that gives every appearance of being indifferent, and therefore absurd, to us. Our options in response to the apparent purposeless void are two: suicide or some form of giving up desire (ala Buddhism or Roman Stoicism), or rebellion in the full knowledge that it is futile (that is, the myth of Sisyphus). Put differently: I build my projects as an actor conducts a character, as a choice against what appears to be a bad situation, and in the full knowledge that the curtain will close and all I’ve done will disappear. I gain my morality from knowing that other conscious beings are in the same bad situation, and I make solidarity with them in outrage against the universe’s absurdity. I especially like Camus’s The Plague as my secular NT. And Camus suggests that we must imagine Sisyphus happy—or else we may as well off ourselves.
I know it is a bleak myth. But it’s the one I salivate to—the one I choose over the other options.
In fact, I have a theory that there are, ultimately, only four human options. Let me know if you like this: (1) the Buddha (or suicide or Marcus Aurelius); (2) Sisyphus; or (3) some form of transcendence(via Jesus, Allah, etc.).
Where’s the fourth one? I see the first three as self aware paths. In other words, you’ve looked at the world and said: Buddha, Sisyphus, or Jesus as a solution to a bad situation. The fourth path, however, is one that can be trod by theists and atheists, and I call it the Don Quixote path. It is the path of the unself-aware. It is the path in which the existential problem is simply not dwelt upon. It is the path where one can be an atheist and practice Christian morality without seeing the irony in that; it is the path where a Christian can drive an SUV. It is the path where you can be an atheist and not read Nietzsche, and absorb your atheism as cliche from Richard Dawkins’s website. It is the path where you can be a Christian and absorb your apologetics from Josh McDowell and live happily ever after, not thinking about “why you believe” ever again. It is the path of happy illusion. All the work and thought are done for you already by others.
As Witgenstein once said: “The happy and the unhappy live in different worlds.” In other words, you philosophize differently under the terms of pessimism v. optimism.
Santi, I’m so glad my previous reply to you was written before I read your later post, in which you quoted me, “If the self-contradiction and weaknesses in popular clichés can each be exposed in less than 8 seconds, then that is a powerful tool to demonstrate widespread intellectual weakness. No?” And then you answered:
No. I disagree with you here.
If I had read that before my last post, I would have gone on to other things. I believe you were in machine mode and didn’t actually consider that it was a virtual tautology that you were disagreeing with. But our posts since have convinced me to continue.
So now I’ll accept your invitation (though I’m remembering not to fall into machine mode, and to be responsive to your words), and I’ll post the following list. I’m the pastor of Denver Bible Church, and this list is based on my written, 10-round moderated debate at our church’s web forum, TheologyOnline.com, titled Does God Exist? Bob Enyart vs. Zakath.
Eight Seconds to Disprove Eight Atheist Clichés
Millions of students have been taught variations of eight typical atheist clichés. Zakath obscured some of these hidden within his three arguments for atheism. Each of these popular clichés can be disproved within eight seconds.
Atheist Cliché 1: There is no truth!
Theist Rebuttal: Is that true? [1 second]
Atheist Cliché 2: There are no absolutes!
Theist Rebuttal: Absolutely? [1 second]
Atheist Cliché 3: Only your five senses provide real knowledge!
Theist Rebuttal: Says which of the five? [2 seconds]
Atheist Cliché 4: Great suffering proves that a loving God cannot exist!
Theist Rebuttal: The unstated assumption is false, that suffering can have no value or purpose. [4.5 secs]
Atheist Cliché 5: Atheism is scientific, because science does not allow for a supernatural interpretation of an event!
Theist Rebuttal: Such circular reasoning forces science to assume that which atheists claim it supports.
Atheist Cliché 6: Widespread evil proves that a righteous God cannot exist!
Theist Rebuttal: The two unstated assumptions are false: that love can be forced; and that some love is not worth enduring much hate. [6.5 seconds]
Atheist Cliché 7: If theists claim that the universe could not have always been here, then God couldn’t have always been here either.
Theist Rebuttal: The natural universe is subject to the physical laws, so it would run out of useable energy; a supernatural, spiritual God is not subject to physics. [7.9 seconds]
Atheist Cliché 8: You cannot know truth?
Theist Rebuttal: How do you know that? [2 seconds]
If clichés someone adheres to are obviously inherently contradictory, it is best to re-evaluate what led to their acceptance, and to adopt a worldview that exposes, rather than promotes, self contradiction.
Santi, you wrote, “I reject both triumphalist theism and triumphalist atheism.” You live in a glass house; no? Remember that when you expose others for multiplying uncertainties, you have done so yourself to reach your agnosticism. No matter how much you wish you were different from those who draw conclusions, you are the same. The question remains for you: does the cosmos evidence a personal Creator God who made me?
-Pastor Bob Enyart
Denver Bible Church & KGOV.com
You still alive?
You still alive?
I’ve been waiting for two years for you to say whether I’ve failed to expose the fallacy in each of these atheist cliches. Also, since then, I’ve added two more, at http://KGOV.com/atheism
I can’t reply this morning, but I’ll have another look at this thread later today and respond. If you want me on your radio program, send me an email at email@example.com.
We can work out the details from there. It would be fun to debate you on your show.
—Santi : )
I haven’t looked at your two additional 8-second arguments yet, but I have looked at the ones you posted in this thread. I’m with you on the first three and the last two. But numbers 4, 5, and 6 are either (to my mind) ill formed logically, are straw men, or are not quite working for other reasons.
I could explain why I say this another time (if you ask).
Furthermore, none of the eight do anything more than keep theism in play as a hypothesis. Even if you answer the questions exactly as you, as a theist, wish them to be answered, they do not demonstrate that atheism is false or that theism is true.
Also, I had a chance to take a look at this thread again, and I must say that you are a completely reasonable theist. I don’t see much in your reasoning that I would argue with. In retrospect, I kind of like your Thomistic modes of thought.
I do think, however, that it’s easy to come under the spell of deductive syllogisms. As the king of Prussia (supposedly) said to Mozart, “A little humility might suit you better!”
And, if you’re going to be, as it were, a Protestant Thomist, just realize that inferring the nature of the First Cause from its effects has always been a dicey affair. As an example, see my post on God and UFOs below. I think it nicely illustrates (if I must say so myself) how both theists and UFO enthusiasts make similar (dubious) inferences from effects they claim to detect in the world:
As for your Einstein quotes, I like Einstein a great deal and (by coincidence) have been enjoying, this past week, reading “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” (Princeton 2011). It’s a wonderful 500 page reference book. If you want to know what Einstein said, for example, about Bohr or Germany, etc, you’ve got an accurate and authoritative reference.
Below is something Einstein wrote concerning epistemic hubris. It is part of a letter replying to a dentist who wrote him. The dentist had confidently claimed, in his letter to Einstein, to have refuted relativity. Einstein said this in retort (pg. 23 in the quote book):
“It is quite curious, even abnormal, that, with your superficial knowledge about the subject, you are so confident in your judgment.”
Are you alive or dead?