Just don’t think about it: A response

You have met Debilis, our resident apologist whose main occupation is either to attack the claims of materialism or New Atheists without supporting his claims. To engage with him on his posts is usually a slippery affair because one can hardly ever pin point what it is he is defending. Having said that, let us look at this post.

There seem to be two basic explanations for the origin of all physical reality (i.e. the universe):

1. God caused it
2. There is no explanation

He starts with a fallacy of false dilemma, one has to choose either of the two of answers. He is led to this problem by assuming that the sum of all reality must have a beginning. Once on the path he has taken, to get out of it, one has to resort either to superstition or consult reason on his path.

After leading himself on this erroneous path, he creates a strawman. He writes

 in that those making the accusation are generally of the position that “there is no explanation” or “we don’t know, and should therefore change the subject” is the correct answer to this issue.

I don’t know who he has his discussions with, but so far as I can tell, I haven’t met anyone who says there is no explanation or let us change the subject and I think it would only be fair that he provides such links if this discussions are online. But if it just making baseless claims, he can go ahead as this seems to be what he excels in, any way! While at it though, I don’t see anything wrong with saying we can’t know whether the universe had a beginning or if it has existed eternally. We can hypothesize based on the current knowledge as to what could have brought the universe and all that it encompasses into being.

Please tell me, how does positing god did it answer the question he posed? I have said before and I will say again that god is a vague a word without meaning. It’s origin is in the depths of man’s ignorance when he attributed to causes inimical to his state phantoms he called ghosts and those causes that were beneficial he attributed to gods. To therefore make a claim

“God caused it” is not a halt to inquiry at all.

And say it doesn’t halt inquiry is to be intellectually dishonest. It is to ascribe natural causes to phantoms and chimeras that man created out of ignorance and perpetuated through force and violence.

 To insist that all explanation is scientific is to embrace materialism, which presumes that God does not exist. To use this as an argument against God, then, is wholly circular.

Am waiting to be shown how the claims of materialism is circular. In fact, I would want to be told what the author understands by science and why it is wrong to embrace materialism. I would also like to be told what is meant by god and why this author thinks it is necessary that such beings exist.

To accuse others of a cop-out for demanding explanations or definition of terms is simply dishonest. Our author writes

I’ve even been told that God is a vague concept. I think this is mostly owing to our current poverty in theology (to which I cannot claim to be immune). The idea of God has been discussed, defined, argued over, and refined for millennia, to say that this is a vague answer or a “semantic cop-out” is simply to announce one’s own ignorance of the history of western academics.

Correct me where am wrong. Theology simply is the study of the attributes of god. I want to be told since Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, Avicenna, Tertullian, Clement, and other church doctors, what have we learnt of the nature of this supposed god whose existence we are told is necessary? To say that those of us who dismiss theology exhibit a poverty in the same borders on the ridiculous especially if the person making such a claim does not go ahead to define what they mean by the word god.

How did God cause the universe? 
What does that say about his traits?
Has he created other universes?

Dear reader, tell me how any of these questions can shed some light on the question of the existence of the universe? In the bible, which I believe is the source from which Debilis draws his ideas of god, we are told in Genesis 1

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.[KJV]

We are unable to learn anything about how this creation was achieved. No matter how long we spend meditating on this particular passage, we shall forever be in darkness with regard to the question. This passage also confounds matters because it doesn’t tell us why there needed to be a beginning in the first place.

I contend in conclusion, contrary to what the author is arguing, that positing a god as an explanation is to confound matters. It is to create roadblocks on the path of honest inquiry. It is to ascribe to causes natural, immaterial origins, it is to suppose phantoms are responsible for the laws of nature. It doesn’t contribute to knowledge. And one must first define god without contradictions and use of words that are devoid of meaning to even continue on such a path.

I end this post with a quote  of W. K Clifford where he admonishes those who hold onto beliefs taught to them in their childhood even in the face of evidence to the contrary. He writes

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it- the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.


How do we know anything: A response

Our friend Debilis in a recent post created a strawman of materialists arguments against whom he obviously would come victorious. He starts by writing

The idea is that, if we can’t measure it, there’s no reason to think it exists.

I don’t know if materialists, whoever they are, make such a claim. I am interested in knowing how he could know something exists unless given by experience or by his senses. I have to say here, that the human mind can conceive of concepts, or ideas that exist nowhere else except in his imagination but given by things in nature. I can conceive of an animal with the legs of a leopard, a camel’s face and a sheep’s tail, and finger nails of a human. This abstract animal doesn’t exist but one immediately sees that it is formed of those things that man draws from nature.

Our friend goes on to write

It is simply false, factually incorrect, to say that all evidence is physical–and demonstrably so.

but offers no evidence to support his claim that this is false. He assumes that by making the assertion he has proved its falsity. No you have barely scratched the surface. Please, show me, if you can, how materialism is false.

He continues in the same manner,

But this is so far off the mental maps of most non-theists that it is difficult even to explain to them the concept that not all evidence is physical. They often respond with “Show it to me so that I can test it scientifically.” or “But without evidence, how can you know things?”. The point is completely missed.

where one on reading for the first time thinks he has read something profound but is just a strawman. It is not every time that you will be asked for scientific test. For example, when I see a painting and like it, a scientific test is not needed to verify that I like it and  two all this purely physical.

Whereas it is true that

We each have a basic experience of reality: a sense of the truths of logic, a sense of one’s self as a thinking person, a sense of right and wrong, and, of course, a sense of the physical world around us. This experience is the basis for everything we know. It isn’t perfect, of course, but we accept it as valid until we have a reason to think otherwise.

I don’t see how this is an argument against materialism or better still how it supports anything out of our sense perception. In fact, this statement supports the claim of materialism that experience is the basis of everything we know. To claim it is not perfect, is to miss the point. Our senses do not make judgements, that is done by the understanding or mind if you want to call it that.

It is at this point I get lost

No one believes in the mind because of what they saw in a brain scan (there’s no evidence for the mind to be found there, anyway). We believe in the mind because we experience our own thoughts. Nor do we believe in the moral, or even the physical, for any other reason than that we experience these things. This is almost tediously obvious.

Does he sincerely believe in mind/brain dualism? That the mind is not a brain state. That our thoughts are brain states triggered by sensations reaching the brain or recall from memory?

When a person makes a claim such as this

That is, unless one has imbibed the materialist dogma that all evidence is physical. In that case, one doesn’t want to start with basic experience, but with that dogma. And this is entirely arbitrary. No one has ever been able to give a reason to believe it, and there is a rather long list of reasons why it is false.

but fails to give a single piece of evidence to support this claim, it is time to ask them to come back to reality.  It is contemplation of chimeras that led man to create phantoms, ghosts, gods, demons and genii. It is a failure to consult nature, to try to understand her that one makes a claim that starting with experience is a dogma that is fallacious. Man learns, but by experience and it is only by turning to nature does he truly learn about his surrounding and himself. To claim it is arbitrary and false is to base ones knowledge on what the priests tell him.

He then writes in conclusion

 I agree that we shouldn’t accept an idea without a reason to do so, but that would mean rejecting this arbitrary claim that all evidence is physical.

which then leaves me wondering what was his point in the very first place? Was it to show that we shouldn’t believe those things for which we have no evidence or is it to make a contrary claim that we should believe in chimeras because we can think them? But if we reject the claim that we should not believe things we don’t have evidence for, where will we stop? Do we start believing in winged horses, talking donkeys, fishes for public transport and people rising from the dead to name but a few?

In attacking materialism, Debilis wants us to accept chimeras as having the same probability of existence as those things we have experienced through our sense organs. He wants us to have for our teachers priests, monks and imams who when they had the reins of power, the world was in darkness. It is by consulting nature, only, that we can learn about it. If we stray from it and start believing in chimeras, we lose our grounding and end up believing in phantoms we have created in our minds.