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7 comments | Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The ‘Reluctant Atheist’ (RA) over at biblioblography has claimed to defeat the Watchmaker teleological argument. His approach; however, is somewhat dissimilar than the usual rebuttals offered by opponents. Also, he seems exceptionally confident that his argument points out a “huge” deficiency—which vanquishes the teleological argument.

In His confidence, he says:

I’m going to attempt to hamstring the damn thing (it’s only a concept, so I can be as brutal as I like), by pointing out a huge deficiency in the theory.
Okay, this should be interesting. RA has made a confident assertion here—Lets take a look at what RA has presented:

Creators are bound by the same laws as their creations.
This somewhat of a general statement; if were talking about a God (since “it’s only a concept”), we must make the distinction between natural creation, and supernatural creation. In natural creation we have man creating things such as houses, buildings etc (even animals such as birds can create nests). These creations start with preexistent materials and laws. Supernatural creation does not necessarily start with these confinements.


Bear with me here: I can keep this simple.

An architect needs design a building according to specifications. Read: laws of physics. More often than not, the building itself will go upwards. The shape of said building can vary widely, but it would be a foolish builder indeed, to hoist a skyscraper into the sky in the shape of a sail (especially in, say, Chicago, the windy city). It could be done, theoretically, but the cost would be enormous. There are of course other factors brought into consideration: cost, materials, foundation (location, location, location is apparently not restricted to retailers), earthquake safety regulations (in any area prone to such variables), etc.

But of course, the law of gravity comes first.

Everything about this example is certainly true; but RA, seems to fail to make the distinctions I made above and is equivocating natural and supernatural creation, the crux of the teleological argument

Now the core of RA’s argument:

The point here is simple enough: every watch made by a human is restricted by the same laws the creator of said device is prone to. Heat, leverage, gravity (have I mentioned gravity yet? Sorry), pressure, in short, long laundry lists of physical law. Oh, and of course, time.
There are a couple ways to approach this. First, we can point out the Christian attributes of God (can’t speak for other religions). We know that physical laws affect physical things. Given that God is not a physical ‘thing’ (so to speak)—there would not be a necessary affect on God. It can be formulated this way:

P1: The Laws of Physics affect Physical Things
P2: God is not a Physical Thing
C: Therefore, God is not affected by The Laws of Physics

Secondly, as I pointed out to RA, in his post, the laws of physics are contingent on the existence of the universe. For the sake of argument, if God created the universe, he is not contingent upon it—he would have existed prior to it (in order to create it); hence, before the laws of physics. Thus, if God existed prior to the beginning of the universe, He is not bound the laws of physics, which are contained only within the universe.

Continuing with RA’s argument:

If you throw the watchmaker and the watch off the Empire State building, not only will they fall at approximately the same rate, the end result will be remarkably similar on impact: the insides will go everywhere. One will be more liquid, but both will come apart at the seams.

Likewise, the creator will eventually wear out. As will the watch (though the latter may last somewhat longer, contingent on its design, how often it needs to be wound, when the battery wears out, etc).

I couldn’t help but express amusement at the above analogy. Really, go ahead and throw God off the Empire State building!. If you throw a bird off the roof it will fly away, how much more could God do? Anyway, my above refutations address this.

RA continues his argument against God with the “Where, then, is this mysterious stranger…” rant, but I’ll spare the digression since it’s an entirely different issue.

Of course, I pointed out the deficiency of RA’s argument, but he had some objections to what I had to say. Lets see:

Ah, I see: you thoroughly ignore the way things are, as opposed to your romantic notions. How...very typical. There had to be some structure, for this non-existent deity to build from: materials, a greater creator, a creator before that...infinite regression

…if we look at the example of the architect, the architect existed before the building, ergo, the builder isn't bound by the same laws as the building is? Sorry, sophistry doesn't get the kewpie doll.Who's next?
Who’s next? RA is over confident. Obviously RA does not understand what I was saying (I thought it was simple). To further explain, God can create 'ex nihilo', this is neither a philosophical or theological problem. Moreover, since God is “outside” the universe, ‘ergo’, He is eternal, hence there’s no problem of gods after god’s ad infinitum (categorical fallacy).

I also pointed out that the ‘universe had a beginning’ so, if God designed it, He’s not confined by it (He’s outside of it).

Following, RA tries to squirm out of his dilemma and makes a foolish mistake and says: “Most amusing. However, as far as anyone knows, matter has always existed.” In addition he adds his sardonic slogans to try to deflate my argument (never addressing it) throughout our exchange:

“Your argument is fairly non-existent, as far as I can tell. Subtract a deity, & you have nothing”

“Sorry, sophistry doesn't get the kewpie doll. Who's next”

“I'm reminded of all those Frankenstein movies & their clones: "You can't kill/harm your creator! I gave you life!" Dunno why it reminds me of that. It just does. & I apologize if you take issues w/my calling things the way I see them.”

“There's no real issue - there's no real god - we're just here. Get used to it”

“stop wasting people's time w/your claptrap”

“It’s here [the universe]. Stop trying to reverse the argument. Prove there's a god - conclusively , I might add. I'm not the 1 making ridiculous claims here.”

“Approach this argument by subtracting your deity, and the house of cards comes tumbling down. Please try to do better.”

“All my arguments are pared down to this: everything just is. You're the 1 doing the special pleading here.”

“You missed. God NEVER EXISTED”

“Hey, I'm not swimming in that ole river in Egypt. Need a towel?”

“I'm not answering your questions because very simply, I don't believe in a deity”

“Hey, I go by the Lockian dictum: reality is measured by the 5 senses. All else is guesswork.”

“I'm not sure I really care about your questions.”

“Hey, the post speaks for itself. Res ipsa loquitor” [Latin gives the full affect]

“I'm pretty much guessing now, but I'd put you in high school. Am I close?”
These are some great treasures for the “Atheist Tool Box” as my friend Jim Jordan documents. Of course, it’s difficult not to exchange smut for smut; so I may have slipped out a couple good ones.

Now, back to the universe (pun intended) RA says in response:

“Neither did I say the universe had no beginning - my EXACT words were matter. Until you can give me proof that matter DIDN'T exist prior (what did your sky daddy create it all out of, anyways), stop wasting people's time w/your claptrap.”
My response was that if matter is contained within the universe and the universe had a beginning then matter had a beginning; elementary logic. If your going to claim that matter was “always there” then your claiming the universe is “always there”.

RA doesn’t really want to fess up to his flawed argument; he retorts with:

"Unless you can give me CLEAR proof of an example where a creator stands OUTSIDE the laws of physics, w/o positing an unprovable deity. You've proven nothing."
So RA, wants me to prove God stands outside the universe (where I guess he completely ignored everything I have present thus far); however I cannot posit God. So RA wants me to do the following:

Prove A is outside of B
However, you cannot posit A

So I guess RA is asking for me do X and simultaneously refusing to let me do X.

At this point, RA makes the same mistakes over and over, he says: “If matter has always existed (until this can be proved otherwise, then perhaps the universe has always existed?” I have a niece in 8th grade that can tutor anyone who thinks the universe is stagnate.

The discussion ended fruitlessly; I suspected it would. RA, refused to support his claims and offered to surrender if, and only if A. I could provide empirical proof that there is indeed an entity that exists outside of the boundaries of natural (physical) law.B. Provide an example, real-world, where a creator exists independently from the same natural laws as the (designed) creation.

So, I guess I’m back to square 1—never mind!

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Blogger The Intolerant One said...

I truly admire the way you can pick apart the said argument.

I have been following your debates with him and I agree, when he is in a corner he completely avoids his own flawed arguements. As I stated in a previous comment, when he can't find his way around "logical" argument instead of conceding he becomes condescending. Which is too bad because he does strike me as an intelligent individual.

I continue to enjoy your postings and would like to link you to my site (I always like to request permission).

I could use some "solid" Christian links. Alot of links I have are evolutionists/atheists, buddhists, conservative etc. I have linked them not because I agree with them but the debate's have been mutually respectful.(Not all ahtheists are condescending)

They in turn have also linked me which provides a good outlet to other's being exposed to, well, my Christian perspectives.

Don't give up on RA. God can break anyone! I look forward to your next posting.

3/01/2006 11:29 PM

Anonymous onimitsu2004 said...

I find it amusing that both you and RA claim success over your debate (I quote from his most recent entry, "Now that I’ve left Paley’s Watchmaker Theory in smoky ruins (I can almost see the metaphorical smoldering from here)"). I followed the exchange from beginning to end, and I'm not entirely certain either one of you can properly claim victory. I think it's because you both didn't share a common basis for debate. You both had really good arguments. Neither one of you ceded ground on the existence or non-existence of a deity and its attributes; your argument presupposes the existence of a Christian god while RA's does not. Had you two come to an agreement on the basis of the deity and dialogued from there, I think it would have been a more fruitful discussion. I didn't like how the discussion began to degenerate to the point where it was uncivil, and that's bad on BOTH of you.

I must admit, however, that I'm biased towards your argument because I believe a god exists, and I find it highly unlikely that our universe just suddenly appeared out of nowhere, or that it's always been here.

3/02/2006 4:43 PM

Blogger Beowulf said...

Intolerant one,

Of course you can link, but I’m not sure how much posting I am going to be doing. Sporadic at best; I am excepting another child any day (expected the 9th but the wife keeps telling me “any time”), and this semesters workload for school is pretty heavy.


I’m not surprised at all that RA was not disconcerted in the slightest. I guess since we both think were correct and neither one of us is going to budge, we just have to let others make their own decision. I’m sorry you thought the argument went sour; it wasn’t my intention to browbeat, but sometimes we get caught up (its part of the learning process). And by the way, your only bias in that you have a point of view, just like everyone else.


3/02/2006 10:49 PM

Blogger The Intolerant One said...

Thank you and you are officially linked. I personally post 2-3 times a month myself and can definetly relate to the "kid" factor.

May you and your wife be blessed with God's gift of a child.

3/03/2006 10:26 PM

Blogger KA said...

Sorry about taking so long to get back on this.
Most interesting.
I don't understand the title of this post, as I wasn't positing any god at all.
'ex nihilo' translates to 'out of nothing'.
if were talking about a God (since “it’s only a concept”), we must make the distinction between natural creation, and supernatural creation.
Y'see, this is were the paths diverge.
I posit there is no supernatural.
seems to fail to make the distinctions I made above and is equivocating natural and supernatural creation
I don't recall doing any such thing. Following is the wikipedia definition -

Equivocation is a logical fallacy. It is committed when someone uses the same word in different meanings in an argument, implying that the word means the same each time round.

For example:

A feather is light.
What is light cannot be dark.
So a feather cannot be dark."

I'm sorry, I don't see where I did that.
So I guess RA is asking for me do X and simultaneously refusing to let me do X.
No, I was asking you to prove X before positing.
I have a niece in 8th grade that can tutor anyone who thinks the universe is stagnate.
Now, I never said the universe is stagnate. 2nd law of thermodynamics, ain't it? Closed systems degenerate, something like that? I have to admit, that comment about your middle school niece is quite insulting. You're using a back-handed ad hominem?
“I'm pretty much guessing now, but I'd put you in high school. Am I close?”
Now, that's a straw man, my friend. That was after
A. You continually declared victory "You are debunked" (2 different threads),
B. You kept repeating my remarks back to me, &
C. "Don't get all but hurt" & the spell check nazi crack.

I followed the exchange from beginning to end, and I'm not entirely certain either one of you can properly claim victory. I think it's because you both didn't share a common basis for debate.
That's perhaps the most honest comment in this entire thread.
I didn't like how the discussion began to degenerate to the point where it was uncivil, and that's bad on BOTH of you.
Very true.
What it was, is that onimisu2004 came by, introduced himself, was very polite, very humble. We had a reasonable discussion.

And no, ITO, I wasn't backed into a corner. I found myself being pulled into a sideways discussion that I felt had little bearing on the topic at hand.

I don't know if anyone's going to read this, as it's a month old. I know you're busy w/a new kid, BF, so I thought I'd wait on it a bit.

3/31/2006 11:28 PM

Blogger Beowulf said...

Hi RA,

It’s nice to see you come around. Let me address some of your comments:

1) I titled the post ‘Refuting the Straw God’ because I thought the way you set up your argument made it easy to refute. Thus, you thoroughly refuted a ‘straw god’; a God that is not the Christian God (and the Christian God seems to be your main focus—but I am sure you are an equal opportunity blasphemer ;-) )

2) When I said that you were equivocating natural and supernatural, I was not making the claim of ‘The logical fallacy of Equivocation.’ I was just showing the failure to make the distinction I noted prior to that. In the Christian World view, God can do both (natural/supernatural).

3) I can’t ‘prove’ there is a God. However I do think there are good reasons to believe God exists. So when you ask me to ‘conclusively’ prove the existence of God, I can’t, and I don’t think it’s a fair request.

4) Sorry about the niece thing. At the time of our discussion it seemed that you were claiming a stagnate universe. I don’t want to go back through the comments again.

5) In my post, I said “Of course, it’s difficult not to exchange smut for smut; so I may have slipped out a couple good ones.” So I admit to some uncharacteristic backhandedness. Sorry about that; you weren’t exactly the gentlemen yourself. I think at a certain point we both got out of line and any effective communication ceased (probably early on).

6) I do appreciate your response. I hope to interact with you more in the future (on a more respectful level).

Good day.

4/01/2006 10:54 AM

Blogger KA said...

That's fine. When Omni pointed it out, I realized I hadn't been a very good host at the time. Albeit it is my sandbox, as this is yours.
But I do reserve the right to poke a little fun: it's unfortunately a part of my mental make-up.
We did have a few decent exchanges after that.
I believe your visits came about after I left some posts at that 'Induction into the loser's club' post (I forget where that was).
I find there's a great deal of acrimony going back & forth, & a lot less understanding that inhibits communication.
It's difficult not to lash out, when you're a much-disliked minority, & a stereotyped 1 at that.
Be that as it may, apology accepted & returned.
Hope the new addition in your family isn't depriving you of TOO much sleep.

4/01/2006 1:47 PM


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