Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The incomprehensible, everything good, god

By Mathew Goldstein

When I wrote, in my previous post, that theists argue for irreducible complexity in biology as evidence for god, I was not (of course) referring to all theists. So what about a god that is not to be found in biology, chemistry, or physics? Victor Udoewa, in his recent Huffington article titled "Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?", wrote "it is clear that science may make belief in a certain concept of God obsolete. But it is a hard task to make belief in every concept of God obsolete.". Seeking funding from the Templeton Foundation to promote his timeless and undefeatable version of theism, he asks: "What if there were concepts of God that had something to offer or add to the fulfilled? What if we had concepts of God based on creativity? On a positive definition of incomprehensible peace? On imaginative joy? On creative, problem-solving love?"

The god that is creativity, peace, joy, imagination, love, and other such general and positive capabilities, outcomes, feelings, and sentiments is a favorite gambit of liberal theists. Its strength is its weakness, in equal measure. There can be no evidence against this god nor can there be any evidence for this god. This god is claimed to be real but is defined as a fantasy. And that is why no one has any proper justification to believe in this god. Evidence is the proper foundation to justify beliefs about what is true or false regarding the reality of entities that are to be worshipped or otherwise asserted to really exist. Conservatives want evidence, but they don't respect evidence that contradicts their theism, so they tend to manufacture their own, alternative world "evidence". Liberals want to follow the real evidence, but they don't want the evidence to contradict their theism, so they tend to place their cherished theism out of harms way by defining their god to be beyond the reach of any possible evidence. Either way, it's the same failure, they are both failing to put the evidence first and follow it.


Don Wharton said...

Far too true!! These conceptions of God with no comprehensible meaning are a big part of current Christianity. Perhaps we should be happy about this because no one is nutty enough to kill others for such a God. It is also a God that is very inefective in retaining commitment from the "believers." If they don't believe in much of anything it is easy to make the transition to either no belief or no further attending church in worship of the relative nothingness that is "believed in."

Explicit Atheist said...

Insofar as any definition of god functions as transitional stepping stones to some other belief, it's not clear to me that there is a particular transition direction that is favored here. Nor is it clear to me that more traditional definitions of god are more stable than less traditional definitions. To me those are questions with answers that are likely to be variable, depending on lots of factors, which themselves may be difficult to pinpoint or control for, and that can be answered with any confidence only based on population studies of the sort that would need to funded. My own guess is that other factors will correlate more significantly with the "final" belief in those cases where the belief changes, or with the stability of belief generally, than will the nature of the "starting" or current belief. One of those other factors that could be significant is amount, type, and quality of exposure to competing beliefs.

Explicit Atheist said...

Dom Wharton wrote: "Far too true!! These conceptions of God with no comprehensible meaning are a big part of current Christianity"

I think that what is happening here is that many people adopt a hybrid approach, they hold to some traditional beliefs that they consider to be central to their religion and they abandon some beliefs they consider to be clearly mistaken and non-central. A Sept 2005 Gallop poll found that 53% say that "god created man exactly how bible Describes it", 31% say "man developed, with god guiding", and 12% say "evolved, God had no part". Because a creator god for humans is counter-evidenced, it is just that 12% that takes an evidence first approach. So evidence firsters are a small minority and have been a small minority for as long as they polls have been taken, with little overall movement one way or the other as the percentage has varied between 9-13 since 1982.