Ranger Genius wrote:Okay, here's the crux of the problem.
Hugh thinks that if there is no evidence either for or against something, it is not rationally possible to make a decision as to whether or not it exists. He doesn't understand how we can say "I believe there's no god" when the only support we have is that there is no evidence FOR god. He's not understood our points about the prima facie burden, partially because we've not taken it to its logical conclusion and explained it in Hemingwayian simplicity. I'll attempt to rectify that now.
I'm going to assume here, Hugh, that you've understood why one can say "I don't believe in god," and just explain why one can say "I believe there is no god."
Point one: reasonability.
Let's make some simple subistutions and an analogy to try to explain it.
You get in your car and turn the key, and nothing happens. Not a sound from the engine. Your friend in the passenger seat presents a suggestion that your engine has been tampered with by invisible, undetectable gnomes from the nth dimension, and there is nothing you can do until they choose to stop suppressing the flow of electricity within your engine with their invisible, noodly appendages. Your friend in the back seat suggests that maybe you left your headlights on, or that your battery cable has become disconnected.
Which of these beliefs do you accept? If you take the first, you learn nothing. You cannot test it, you cannot verify it, and your car stays broken until your engine is released from the grips of their noodly appendages. You're probably going to be late for work.
If, however, you take the second belief, you're able to test it (by simply checking the headlight switch, or the battery cable), and learn something about your situation, and thus have taken the first step toward fixing it.
According to your philosophy of noncommital, it's irrelevant which belief is true, and one should simply carry on. But it's pretty obvious that anyone who believes in the n-dimensional gnomes is irrational. So do you jumpstart the car anyway and remain gnomagnostic? No. You notice that the headlight switch is on, figure that you probably left them on yesterday, and say "there are no fucking gnomes." Why can't you make the same step with God? Is it because he's capitalized? What if I capitalize Gnome? Do you have to consider it plausible now?
If I had no way of finding out what the cause of my car not starting was, then any of the three causes you mentioned are equally valid, no?
Furthermore, there is what we call the prima facie burden. Or the burden of proof. Remember how you were taught in school that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law (unless they're black or hispanic, but they don't tell you that part)? It's the same with god. He's considered nonexistent until proven existent. You're falling for the same of ad ignorantium fallacy that John Ashcroft used when trying to justify the lack of any evidence of WMD's in Iraq: "The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence." Remember that?
Now let's move on to the evidence against god's case for existence. Oh yes, we've got it. First: human suffering. Wouldn't a just god step in every once in a while? Would he allow the sorts of things that happen on a daily basis in the third world to continue? Second: refer again to my post way back when about reasonability. Belief in an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient god runs contrary to almost everything we know about how the universe works. We have plenty of well-established theories, which are testable (even if we don't have the tech to test them yet--they will eventually be tested), verifiable, yield predictions as to things other than the things they were presented to explain, are in line with observable phenomena and what we know about how the universe works, and which are contradictory with god-belief. Take our theories as to the creation of the universe, and the earth. And the origin of life on earth. Creationism and theism run contrary to most of these much more reasonable theories, and to hold two contradictory beliefs is madness (just ask the Queen of Hearts).
Your problem here is that you're basing your reasoning on a handful of views about God (particularly, it seems, a somewhat literalist view of God). You're trying to take a narrow definition of God's nature and use it to disprove the existence of God for everyone. For example, not everyone who believes in God believes that he takes a direct hand in their lives. I personally believe that if there is a God that there wouldn't be a hell because how could God love us yet send us to hell for eternity if we're bad? Using your logic, I could disprove God's existence simply by pointing out the logical fallacy of love vs. eternal damnation. Regarding religion vs. science, again, you are basing your argument on a very literalist view of God and creation. I personally believe that religion and science are never contradictory (unless, like I said, you are a biblical literalist). Just because the watch operates according to certain scientific principles does not mean there could not have been a watchmaker, right?
Is it clear yet how a person can say he doesn't believe in god? If not, how can you say you don't believe in nth-dimensional gnomes, or the FSM, or any other thing I can throw at you. Wouldn't you consider someone mad if he considered plausible anything that was suggested to him? If you knew someone who consistently refused to disbelieve anything that he could not personally disprove, wouldn't you consider him insane?
Like I said earlier, if you can neither prove nor disprove something, nor ever prove which from a set of explanations explains something, then how can any of them ever be more or less valid than any of the others?
It's what you make it.