God of the Gaps Atheism

The militant atheist movement is built on the belief that there is no evidence for God. Of course, such atheists are entitled to their opinions on this matter, but because of their militancy, and the way it serves their agenda, they will not acknowledge their opinion is an opinion. Instead, they posture as if they have discovered some objective truth – There is no evidence for the existence of God. We’re all supposed to agree.

Yet if we are supposed to agree with this claim, we’d like to know exactly what it is we are supposed to agree with. So we ask the New Atheists what would actually count as evidence for the existence of God. Typically, the New Atheists will tap dance around that question, insisting there is no evidence without telling us what such evidence would look like. This is their Hide-The-Goalposts tactic.

However, if pressed, some New Atheists will spell it out, especially when they are trying to make themselves look open-minded about the issue. One example is New atheist activist Jerry Coyne who, in a blog post entitled, “What evidence would convince you that a god exists?, writes:

There are so many phenomena that would raise the specter of God or other supernatural forces: faith healers could restore lost vision, the cancers of only good people could go into remission, the dead could return to life, we could find meaningful DNA sequences that could have been placed in our genome only by an intelligent agent, angels could appear in the sky. The fact that no such things have ever been scientifically documented gives us added confidence that we are right to stick with natural explanations for nature. And it explains why so many scientists, who have learned to disregard God as an explanation, have also discarded him as a possibility.

So we have a list. But what we don’t have is a reason for thinking anything on the list should count as scientific evidence for the existence of God. Coyne makes no effort to explain WHY such phenomena would constitute such evidence. He merely asserts it and then moves on. Do other atheists agree such things would amount to evidence for God? No. For example, PZ Myers would not consider any of those events to be evidence of God. So Coyne’s laundry list is simply a list of things that Coyne would personally count as evidence for God (or so he says). That’s not how science works, people.

So why would Coyne personally count these five things as evidence for the existence of God? In fact, what is it that all five things have in common? The answer is the same for both questions – these are gaps that could not be explained by science. Coyne’s is advocating God-of-the-Gaps atheism. He is saying “I am an atheist because there are no Gaps,” which is a position that embraces the validity of the God-of-the-Gaps approach.

In fact, this God-of-the-Gaps atheism is clearly championed in an essay by Victor Stenger (and the essay was endorsed by Coyne):

Many of the attributes associated with the Judaic-Christian-Islamic God have specific consequences that can be tested empirically. Such a God is supposed to play a central role in the operation of the universe and the lives of humans. As a result, evidence for him should be readily detectable by scientific means. If a properly controlled experiment were to come up with an observation that cannot be explained by natural means, then science would have to take seriously the possibility of a world beyond matter.

So if God exists, His existence would be detected by an observation that cannot be explained by natural means. A Gap. Like Coyne, Stenger needs a Gap. The Gap = evidence for God. All evidence for God must be a Gap.

What this means is that Jerry Coyne and Victor Stenger think much like creationist Ken Ham. All three embrace the validity of the God-of-the-gaps argument; they differ simply when it comes to agreeing on whether certain gaps actually exist.

Ham and other creationists think like this: There is a gap, therefore God exists.
Coyne and other New atheists think like this: If God exists, there should be a gap. But there is no gap, thus no god.

Actually, the New atheists are sneakier than this. The New atheists insist there are no Gaps and demand someone provide a Gap. When someone tries to provide a Gap, the New atheists scorn them for relying on Gaps and trying to provide gaps.

If there was real intellectual substance to New atheism, why do they have to build and maintain their position with so much sleight of hand? I think it is time for New atheists to start being honest and admit they embrace the logic of God-of-the-gaps reasoning.

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94 Responses to God of the Gaps Atheism

  1. RobertM says:

    I recently read this story about research into cat behavior. Part of the challenge is of course that cats aren’t very cooperative research subjects.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/05/cats-rival-dogs-many-tests-social-smarts-anyone-brave-enough-study-them

    This is relevant to the question of whether science could be used to empirically test predictions about God… I hypothesize if we do X, we will see Y result, as a result of God’s influence. Maybe God decides to sit out my experiment. Just like a cat would, 7 out of 10 times.

  2. Had that discussion on a message board once. By the end of it, my conclusion is that the atheists wanted evidence that was so convincing nobody could possibly deny it – and it should be marked and recorded by another atheist.

    At that point you figure a round square would also suffice.

  3. notabilia says:

    You just seem not to want to go away, but your posts are increasingly pathetic. Just let it go – there is nothing to what you try to claim, so why talk to the wind?

  4. nsr says:

    This attitude is because for most atheists, their reasons for disbelieving are entirely subjective and emotional. Typically one or more of the following will apply:
    – anger at some authority figure in life, e.g. an absent or abusive father, is projected on to God.
    – distress at the suffering in the world leads them to conclude there can’t be a loving all-powerful God, based on the assumption that human wellbeing and happiness is the central principle for the way things ought to be.
    – frustration at their own lack of sexual prowess, not something that can ever be admitted openly, transforms into rage at those they see as enforcing restrictions on sex as if that’s the reason for their lack of success.

  5. Kevin says:

    You just seem not to want to go away, but your posts are increasingly pathetic. Just let it go – there is nothing to what you try to claim, so why talk to the wind?

    This is actually the closest thing to a refutation of his point that I’ve seen. And it’s not even close to a refutation.

    No New Atheist can refute it, so why would Michael stop using it?

  6. Jonathan Blair says:

    Well, there is much we do not know from a scientific point of view. There are already many gaps in our knowledge; no need to conjure them from imagination. The distinction is not between gaps and no-gaps. The distinction is between gaps that warrant a god hypothesis and gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis. While both are technically “gaps”, they are not the same thing.

    I do not agree with Stenger’s implication that God would necessarily result in a gap, but putting that point aside for the moment, nonetheless he is clearly referring to a gap that warrants a god hypothesis, not just any old gap. Again, there is already an abundance of gaps, as Stenger would undoubtedly agree. He is not referring to any of those.

    Boiled down, your argument seems to be:

    1. Stenger et al say that placing God into a gap is not warranted.

    2. Stenger et al actually require placing God into a gap in order to make a particular argument against God.

    3. Therefore Stenger et al have contradicted themselves.

    But this rests upon an equivocation of “gap”, one that equates gaps that warrant a god hypothesis with gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis. The contradiction disappears when the equivocation is fixed, which I would write as:

    1. There are gaps in our knowledge.

    2. Presently, a god hypothesis is not warranted for any of those gaps.

    3. In principle, a gap could emerge which would warrant a god hypothesis.

    I think Stenger is wrong for implying that God’s existence necessitates a gap, but he’s not guilty of the self-contradiction which only arises from the aforementioned equivocation.

  7. pennywit says:

    I met an atheist once who raised an interesting thought. He said that he did not think there was sufficient objective evidence to prove the existence of God. He also said that if he had an experience that convinced him of God’s existence, he suspected it would be such an intensely personal and subjective experience that while such a thing might prove God’s existence to him, he would not be able to expect other people to take it seriously.

  8. “. But what we don’t have is a reason for thinking anything on the list should count as scientific evidence for the existence of God.” Well, to begin with, all of those things can’t be done by humans, so the supernatural may be the source that could be considered. That or aliens, but we’ll go with no aliens around.

    Now your god should know exactly what it would take for me to believe. Thus, if it truly is wanting to get those lost lambs in to the fold, it would show this to me. In my case, I’m not asking for universal fireworks. I’d be happy to see one person healed who was dying. Since the bible claims that any baptized believer in Jesus Christ as savior can heal people, this should be really easy to demonstrate. However, there are no Christians who can do this.

    Evidence for your god, or any god, would need to be an unexplainable occurrence that goes against what we know. Now, in that we know how DNA is built, finding a message in it would be against what we know to happen. If there were bible verses written in interstellar gas, that would be against how we know physics works. You have provided no instance of your god doing anything at all.

    At this point, there are no gaps for your god to fill. We also have that the promises in your bible go unfulfilled. Add to this that Christians themselves do not agree on what their god wants or what the bible “really” says, and there is no reason to believe Christians. I disbelieve in your god and other gods because none of you have any evidence for their existence. I suspect that’s the same reason you don’t believe in other gods.

  9. as for what NSR says well, it’s pretty funny. So many Christiasn want to claim that atheists are just “rebels”. Nope, there is no evidence for this god and we disbelieve your god as much as you disbelieve anyone else’s god. This also goes to the idea of evil in the world. Why would anyone want to worship some being that claimed it could do everything but does nothing at all? I’m sure that NSR wants to be well and happy, but has to argue that his god wants things to be miserable.

    And hilarious to try to accuse that atheism comes from sexual frustration. Oh that speaks volumnes about NSR, but not so much about atheists. 🙂

  10. Kevin says:

    Evidence for your god, or any god, would need to be an unexplainable occurrence that goes against what we know.

    Well I give you credit for handily proving the point of the OP. Well done.

  11. TFBW says:

    “Now your god should know exactly what it would take for me to believe.”

    Have you considered the possibility that God knows that you don’t want to believe in Him, and He is simply respecting your desires?

  12. pennywit says:

    @clubschadenfreude

    There’s an old story that goes something like this:

    When a flood hit his town, a devoutly Christian man took refuge on his roof. He prayed to God to save him as the waters rose up around his house. Two men came by in a rowboat and offered to take him away to safety. The man said, “No, thank you. God will save me.” The boatmen towed away. Later a helicopter approached. The pilot offered to drop a ladder. “No thank you,” The Christian man said. “God will save me.” The helicopter flew away. As the waters rose even further, then man grew worried, but his faith held firm. A large piece of driftwood floated by. He looked at it, then said, “No, I don’t need that. God will save me.” Soon after that, the waters rose up above the man’s roof and he was swept away by the current. As he saw his death approaching, the Christian man cried out. “God,” he said, “I have been devoted to you all my life. Why did you not save me?” And God replied, “Who do you think sent to you the boat, the helicopter, and the driftwood?”

    The moral being that God does not always work through overt miracles.

  13. pennywit says:

    @clubschadenfreude

    I do not believe evidence demonstrates conclusively that God or gods exist. I also do not believe evidence demonstrates conclusively that God or gods do not exist.

    Now, I, personally, lean toward the conclusion that God(s) do not exist. And I generally consider the evidence offered in support of a god’s existence insufficient, for multifarious reasons. But if I am intellectually honest, I must admit to myself (and others who might ask) that my belief reflects my own bias as much as it reflects the evidence presented. Moreover, I must admit to myself that another person may look at the same evidence I have examined, and, informed by his own pre-existing biases, reach a conclusion that differs from my opinion.

    Furthermore, experience has taught me that belief in the divine does not indicate a person is less intelligent than I am — it simply indicates this person has reached a different conclusion. It behooves me to respect that person, his right to reach that conclusion, and his beliefs — provided he reciprocates that respect. Intelligence, decency, and ethical behavior, I have found, are largely independent of whether someone believes in a deity.

    I am not perfect in doing so, but I endeavor to do so, for the sake of good manners and harmony, if nothing else.

    And I consider loathsome any person — atheist or theist — who shits on other people’s beliefs, or considers others less moral or less intelligent for their choice of worship habits.

  14. Featherfoot says:

    @clubschadenfreude

    I’d be happy to see one person healed who was dying.
    There are thousands of people who have sworn they have seen this exact thing. I assume you know this, and don’t consider it evidence. If so, why would it suddenly become evidence if it happened one more time?

    the bible claims that any baptized believer in Jesus Christ as savior can heal people
    I can think of verses that say God may heal someone based on a believer’s prayer, but not that God always will. And the believer themselves can’t really do anything. If I’m wrong, please point me to the verse.

    At this point, there are no gaps for your god to fill.
    I hadn’t realized we solved the hard problem of consciousness, the nature of free will, or the cause of the fine-tuning of the universe. What were those, by the way?

  15. FZM says:

    that goes against what we know. Now, in that we know how DNA is built, finding a message in it would be against what we know to happen. If there were bible verses written in interstellar gas, that would be against how we know physics works. You have provided no instance of your god doing anything at all.

    From a naturalistic point of view all messages and language is caused and explained, ultimately, by the laws of physics. The laws of physics are also the cause of DNA and the behaviour of interstellar gas. If the laws of physics caused language and whatever is in the Bible and other sacred texts, why couldn’t they cause messages in interstellar gas or DNA?

    If it was discovered it would just be a case of something that hadn’t previously been observed?

  16. Mr. Ron says:

    Looking beyond what is taught by popular media and a good many ill-informed educators who make assertions that real science does not support, one will find that scientists do disagree on some of the more difficult points. Should we then conclude, using clubschadenfreude’s reasoning, that there is no reason to believe scientists?

  17. stcordova says:

    There is an additional subtlety in the GNU view — controlled experiments, as in, God on demand at our whims. We believe in light switches exist because when we switch them on, the light turns on. Ok, by way of extrapolation GNUs could believe God if they could tell God what to do at THEY’RE whim, not God’s.

    There is a certain logic to that. So for them to believe in God, they would have to be in command of God, like we command light switches to obey our whims. But if God is the sort of Person who will not be subordinate to human whims, the Christian God is not the sort of God who will be subservient to human wishes.

    That said, Coyne talked about the healing of the blind. One blind girl was healed in the name of Jesus as described in Astronaut Charlie’s Duke autobiography. Duke lived his life differently after he became a Christian. But such miracles are not granted to scoffers like Stenger and Coyne on demand, they are granted by God’s grace.

    All the GNUs can really claim is that God isn’t doing much to persuade them. Fair enough. One could just as well say that God doesn’t really care to help people like Coyne find the truth.

  18. Isaac says:

    The atheists (including those who have chimed in here) are not only mistaken in their specific claims, but also wrong in a very broad sense. Their assumptions about what should and should not count as “evidence” for God are without logic.

    To begin with, knowing how something works does not rule out God. If I receive a radio for Christmas, and eventually figure out how it works, I have not proved that it wasn’t built by anyone. That would be stupid. And yet, this is exactly the logic used by Coyne and others.

    DNA is an excellent example of this atheist sleight of hand, which is probably why Coyne purposefully uses it as an example. He says proof of God would be “DNA sequences that could have been placed in our genome only by an intelligent agent,” a purposefully obtuse misdirection from the fact that the existence of DNA in the first place implies an intelligent agent. DNA is an information-bearing code. The structures determined by DNA are more complex, by orders of magnitude, than a radio. With all of our applied and shared knowledge we cannot duplicate the complexity and function of even the tiniest insects. And yet, we are supposed to start from the assumption that there is no intelligent agent behind the world we inhabit.

    The Big Bang Theory, to point out another example, is like a giant arrow pointing to an intelligent agent with qualities of the Biblical God. Atheists were generally dragged into accepting the Big Bang, which meant conceding a finite universe, created out of nothing at a specific point in the past. They don’t even pretend to know how that happened, but it doesn’t count as evidence for God because…they know it happened and have figured out some aspects of what it looked like.

    All they’re doing is drawing a big circle around everything they understand, claiming, “none of this counts as evidence for God because we know how they work.” Then they tell you that everything outside the circle (which is most things) can’t count as evidence for God either, because those are just gaps. As new discoveries point to the existence of God, they just put them in the circle and double down.

    The proof that they’re just moving the goalpost is their failure to predict these marvels. The existence and nature of something as fantastic as DNA was not anticipated because a code strongly suggests an intelligent agent. (Atheists actually go to bat for their team on this issue by claiming that “well, it’s not really like a language” when the differences between DNA and a language involve DNA being LESS arbitrary and malleable than language.) Atheists also did not anticipate the Big Bang Theory, and even actively resisted or disparaged it, until they couldn’t anymore.

    They assumed that cells were just simple building blocks, and that life was so easy to create that it could just spring out of dead meat.

  19. Isaac says:

    “One blind girl was healed in the name of Jesus as described in Astronaut Charlie’s Duke autobiography.”

    Oh, THOUSANDS of dying people have been healed miraculously in the name of Jesus. Probably millions. This is especially the case in regards to cancers, diseases, etc. that would require a good deal less faith to pray for, since they sometimes get better on their own. Atheists just regard 100% of all healings as “they just got better,” or when there is no sign of the problem, it’s “the initial problem must have been misdiagnosed.” This is why atheists usually require something like re-grown limbs.

    Atheists are either lying or just biblically ignorant when they claim that such things should be subject to experimentation or should be something that believers can “demonstrate.” There is no way to adjust for how long a healing may take, how much prayer would be required, what’s in the heart of the person praying, the reason why the sick person got sick in the first place, whether God is even open to healing that particular person and why or why not, etc. There’s just nothing about “asking God to do a certain thing for a certain individual” that’s testable or repeatable (although we do know on a macro level that Christians tend to live longer and be healthier and happier.)

  20. TFBW says:

    All they’re doing is drawing a big circle around everything they understand, claiming, “none of this counts as evidence for God because we know how they work.” Then they tell you that everything outside the circle (which is most things) can’t count as evidence for God either, because those are just gaps.

    Nicely put, Isaac.

  21. grogalot says:

    “The militant atheist movement is built on the belief that there is no evidence for God.” All religions are based on the belief that a supernatural realm exists. There is no evidence that the universe is anything but 100% natural. The supernatural realm was created by early human beings to explain their ignorance and humanity has been stuck with it ever since. GROG

  22. pennywit says:

    I don’t consider Big Bang Theory evidence for a god. Evidence for some infernal power, perhaps. But not evidence for a god.

  23. Dhay says:

    notabilia > You just seem not to want to go away, but your posts are increasingly pathetic. Just let it go – there is nothing to what you try to claim, so why talk to the wind?

    You are the wind? You just seem not to want to go away, but your replies are increasingly pathetic.

  24. JB says:

    Hello Michael,

    Considering that you’ve recently logged in (to make a new post) and that my comment has not appeared, it would seem that you have blocked me.

    I would wish to impart to you the idea that the measure of a good argument is how well it sustains criticism. Permitting criticism on your blog actually affords you an opportunity to improve your arguments.

    However it would seem that you are not interested in criticism. That’s fine — this is your “safe space”. Nonetheless, your argument here does have a glaring hole, namely the equivocation which I explained in my comment. Perhaps one day you’ll venture out of your safe space and address it.

    Until then, good luck with all your endeavors. You may contact me by email if you like.

  25. Michael says:

    But this rests upon an equivocation of “gap”, one that equates gaps that warrant a god hypothesis with gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis. The contradiction disappears when the equivocation is fixed, which I would write

    Like clubschadenfreude, Jonathan Blair confirms and illustrates the point of my blog posting. In the first paragraph, I point out that atheism is a personal opinion. Jonathan illustrates the subjective nature of atheism by insisting the god of the gaps argument is valid IF the gap “warrants” a god hypothesis. Well, just who gets to decide whether the hypothesis is “warranted?” It’s a matter of opinion. A matter of taste.

    But even more impressive is Jonathan’s embrace of the god of the gaps argument. For him, the issue is all about finding a gap that warrants a god hypothesis. This approach obviously assumes the validity of the god of the gaps logic.

    Look, according to the RationalWiki, “Invoking a God of the Gaps is a didit fallacy and an ad hoc fallacy, as well as an argument from incredulity or an argument from ignorance, and is thus an informal fallacy.”

    And most modern day atheists build their atheism on this very informal fallacy. clubschadenfreude and Jonathan Blair are just two handy illustrations of this observation.

  26. JB says:

    Michael, you haven’t addressed the equivocation problem. You referenced RationalWiki, one of the worst online resources available, but even from that it is clear that the so-called “god of the gaps” fallacy is about making unwarranted hypotheses. A warranted hypothesis (which is what I mentioned) is different.

    Let’s illustrate with an example. Suppose the stars in the sky move to form the word “God”. Around the world, thousands of astronomers and billions of independent observers affirm this. It is not a fallacy to hypothesize that this may be the work of God (He prefers English, apparently). Why is this not a fallacy? Because it is warranted: it says “God” right there. That is the warrant. Contrast this with any of the classic cases of god-of-the-gaps, which are instances of people introducing an entity without warrant.

    Circling back to the original point, heretofore unaddressed: the distinction is not between gaps and no-gaps. The distinction is between gaps that warrant a god hypothesis and gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis. While both are technically “gaps”, they are not the same thing. The god-of-the-gaps fallacy happens when a god hypothesis is put forth without warrant. A warranted hypothesis is not a fallacy.

    So far we have no instances of gaps that warrant a god hypothesis, which is really the root of the confusion here. Because we have none, it is easy to fall into the habit of equating any god hypothesis with the god-of-the-gaps fallacy. The important distinction between warranted hypothesis and unwarranted hypothesis only comes into play when we speak imaginatively of these theoretical scenarios like the stars aligning. Having no warranted hypotheses, we invent one, and that’s when the warranted-unwarranted distinction becomes salient.

  27. Kevin says:

    JB,

    Whether something “warrants a god hypothesis” is a matter of opinion. For example, an atheist might say that no god is required to explain the diversity of life due to the natural process of evolution. Fair enough. But I would ask, then, why the universe just so happens to have properties that allow evolution to occur in the first place. A god hypothesis is certainly warranted here.

    Once you change the question from “how” to “why”, the god hypothesis is suddenly quite warranted. You can disagree, of course, but you will have no reason to do so other than your own opinion.

    And this is why gap logic of atheists fails. You seem to think natural processes somehow disprove God, and that is not even remotely the case. So you instead wait for things that would seem to have no natural explanation even possible – one of Michael’s Super Duper Gaps. That’s not how it works.

  28. JB says:

    Perhaps it slipped your mind, but I’ve said (repeatedly) that I’m an agnostic, and I’ve said (repeatedly) that the resurrection is possible. This is not remotely characterized by “natural processes somehow disprove God”. And this is irrelevant to the point I made anyway. Switching to “why” questions may be an interesting diversion, but is also not relevant to what I said. That people may have different views on what is warranted also doesn’t affect the point I made (the equivocation remains in any case).

  29. Dhay says:

    JB > Perhaps it slipped your mind, but …

    Perhaps it slipped your mind, but you used the handles “Jonathan Blair” in previous threads and in this one, then recently swapped without warning to “JB”. Any confusion is your own fault.

    Could I ask you to stick to one and only one handle, and to stop using sockpuppet handles.

  30. JB says:

    Because Michael had blocked my “Jonathan Blair” account, I wrote a good-luck parting message to him under JB (“Hello Michael…” above), expecting that would be the end. Unexpectedly, he responded. I don’t know if “Jonathan Blair” is still blocked, so I used this account. Indeed I would prefer to use one account, but that’s not how it worked out.

  31. Kevin says:

    And this is irrelevant to the point I made anyway. Switching to “why” questions may be an interesting diversion, but is also not relevant to what I said.

    I think you’re moving the goalposts around, because my point addressed yours quite clearly. But in case I’m wrong, your answer to this question may clear it up.

    Under what circumstances is a god hypothesis warranted? And I’m not talking about a Super Duper Gap that is witnessed by all the world’s scientists, recorded, studied, and ultimately deemed a Great Mystery that has no plausible mechanism that science can fathom. If you say that’s the only time, then you prove Michael’s point.

  32. JB says:

    I’ve written two posts (May 17, 2019 at 8:26 am / May 31, 2019 at 1:42 pm) which pinpoint a central flaw in the original blog post. From a certain perspective, you could say I am here to improve the argument being made, because addressing the flaw will make it stronger. So please consider my point in good faith. And please consider that I am here in good faith.

    You suggested changing the question from “how” to “why”. In this context, “why” questions quite often refer to vague and/or unscientific questions, such as “Why is there something?” and so forth. In any case, I don’t see how changing the question from “how” to “why” — whatever that could mean — does anything to address the equivocation problem I brought attention to.

    Now you ask, “Under what circumstances is a god hypothesis warranted?” But again, that is not relevant to the problem I raised. If you really demand an answer, I would just go with your answer: whether something “warrants a god hypothesis” is a matter of opinion. Though I would add that opinion is informed by knowledge. Sorry but I feel I must emphasize again: this doesn’t address the equivocation problem.

    The argument in the blog post basically says that Stenger (or anyone arguing along similar lines as Stenger) is contradicting himself. Even accepting that what Stenger considers a warranted god hypothesis may be different from what others consider a warranted god hypothesis, that doesn’t change the OP argument against Stenger: that he guilty of self-contradiction. It doesn’t change my point that the self-contradiction depends upon an equivocation.

    As I mentioned earlier, Stenger has (in my view) made other mistakes, but not this particular mistake leading to self-contradiction.

  33. RobertM says:

    So the stars are supposed to move around in the sky to form the word “God”? All so people in 2019 Earth can have a miracle to believe in? And it has to happen in a way that astronomers all around the world can record incontrovertibly with their instruments, meaning it has to *really* happen so it can’t be dismissed by people who didn’t see it as a mass hallucination or optical illusion or a tall tale? (See: Fatima miracle of the sun).

    I guess it would kinda suck for all the poor alien civilizations affected by their stars suddenly being yanked from their otherwise stable patterns. Imagine the alien Columbus who sails north and hits an iceberg because the stars he was steering his ship by all went today turvy. The alien birds who went extinct because the stars they use to guide their migration all suddenly shifted. The aliens whose entire civilization was scorched or froze because their position relative to a binary partner shifted. All for the sake of a bunch of bipedal creatures on some little planet called earth can elbow each other for a day and say, “well goll-EE, Paw! Them durned faith-heads was right all along!!” and then go back to their lives pretty much unchanged.

    But no, it’s the believers who have delusions about their importance in the universe.

  34. Kevin says:

    Okay then. If your only point is that some gaps might warrant speculation on a god and others do not, and that whether or not a particular gap warrants it is a matter of opinion, then I don’t have anything else to say.

  35. Dhay says:

    JB > The argument in the blog post basically says that Stenger (or anyone arguing along similar lines as Stenger) is contradicting himself.

    It does? That’s quite a paraphrase, and surely a distortion, for I don’t see the word “contradict” or its variants anywhere in the OP. If you insist the OP does use that terminology, please quote the relevant part of the post.

    What I see instead is a reference to “so much sleight of hand”, which is something rather different.

    *

    If Michael’s ignored you (and this blog, too) for a while the obvious kindly and non-paranoid explanation is he’s probably been otherwise occupied. He owes no-one a duty to respond immediately or quickly, though as you see he responds when he can.

  36. JB says:

    Kevin:

    If your only point is that some gaps might warrant speculation on a god and others do not, and that whether or not a particular gap warrants it is a matter of opinion

    No, the point is that the argument in the original post has a critical flaw.

    Dhay:

    It does?

    Please see my comment on May 17, 2019 at 8:26 am. (Despite the old date, it didn’t appear until recently.)

    (I don’t know what the “If Michael’s ignored you” part is referring to. He already unblocked the May 17 comment and responded. It wasn’t a matter of Michael being away, but of Michael blocking me.)

  37. Kevin says:

    No, the point is that the argument in the original post has a critical flaw.

    Do you disagree with my paraphrase of what you say is the critical flaw?

  38. Dhay says:

    JB > Boiled down, your argument seems to be: … 3. Therefore Stenger et al have contradicted themselves.

    I saw it, “seems to be”: That’s quite a paraphrase, and surely a distortion, for I don’t see the word “contradict” or its variants anywhere in the OP. If you insist the OP does use that terminology, please quote the part of the OP where it occurs.

    What I see instead is a reference to “so much sleight of hand” (also, in the same vein, “sneakier”, “start being honest” and “admit”), which is something rather different.

  39. JB says:

    Kevin: Indeed, I disagree. Indeed, I said that it is not relevant (June 1, 2019 at 9:21 am).

    Dhay: I believe I have understood the argument put forth in the blog post. Michael is welcome to correct me if I have not. Let’s leave it at that, OK? (You have oddly focused on a particular word, as if something cannot be accurately summarized using different words.)

  40. Dhay says:

    JB > Dhay: I believe I have understood the argument put forth in the blog post. Michael is welcome to correct me if I have not. Let’s leave it at that, OK?

    Yes, it’s Michael’s OP.

    > (You have oddly focused on a particular word, as if something cannot be accurately summarized using different words.)

    I am used to the idea that to avoid eisegesis you have to focus on the text. And that you do not summarise something accurately by saying the text has some different meaning.

  41. Kevin says:

    Kevin: Indeed, I disagree. Indeed, I said that it is not relevant (June 1, 2019 at 9:21 am).

    Very well. If you think your own position is irrelevant, then we are in agreement.

  42. JB says:

    Kevin, your previous comment was

    If your only point is that some gaps might warrant speculation on a god and others do not, and that whether or not a particular gap warrants it is a matter of opinion

    I referred you to my own comment (June 1, 2019 at 9:21 am) which says that this is not relevant to the issue. The issue is the equivocation problem.

    I remain interested in actual arguments. There aren’t many new arguments in this area. The original post does appear to present a novel argument, but unfortunately it falls down once the equivocation has been recognized (see the two comments: May 17, 2019 at 8:26 am / May 31, 2019 at 1:42 pm).

  43. Kevin says:

    I fail to see how my comment is irrelevant. You speak of what you claim is equivocating between gaps that warrant a god hypothesis, and gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis.

    But this rests upon an equivocation of “gap”, one that equates gaps that warrant a god hypothesis with gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis.

    I asked how one would know if the god hypothesis was warranted, and you said:

    If you really demand an answer, I would just go with your answer: whether something “warrants a god hypothesis” is a matter of opinion

    So while in theory there is a difference between a gap that warrants a god hypothesis and one that does not, no one can actually tell the difference since it is not objective. It’s a matter of opinion.

    And if no one can actually tell the difference, then there are no knowable criteria dividing gaps into categories. There are simply gaps. So for Stenger to arbitrarily define Super Duper Gaps that meet the “warrants a god hypothesis” standard is nothing more than Stenger being guilty of the dreaded Boghossian sin: pretending to know what he doesn’t know. Particularly if he tries to criticize others for holding opinions on gaps he disagrees with.

    I see no equivocation. Michael is not beholden to Stenger’s follies.

  44. TFBW says:

    From the two JB quotations in Kevin’s comment, it follows that the equivocation is a matter of opinion also. If the difference is a matter of opinion, then a charge of equivocation can be nothing but an opinion.

  45. Michael says:

    Because Michael had blocked my “Jonathan Blair” account, I wrote a good-luck parting message to him under JB (“Hello Michael…” above), expecting that would be the end. Unexpectedly, he responded. I don’t know if “Jonathan Blair” is still blocked, so I used this account. Indeed I would prefer to use one account, but that’s not how it worked out.

    Let’s clear this up first. I’ve been too busy to check in on the blog regularly (which also explains the infrequent posting). When JB commented on 5/17, I did not see it. It must have gotten buried by other subsequent comments by the time I looked in. I did see the comment where JB mocks me for being afraid of his/her criticism. So I went back and searched, found it, and approved both.

    The issue is that JB’s comments were tossed into the moderation queue. I wasn’t sure why, as I did not mark his/her comments for moderation. So I did a quick look and it turns out that JB uses multiple ips and has posted before as Norman, Paul A, and Alison. It is possible I put the comments of one of those incarnations into the moderation queue, but I don’t remember who or why. Then JB/Norman/PaulA/Alison comes along, uses one of the marked ips and the rest is history.

  46. TFBW says:

    No wonder so many of these interlocutors come across as same-same. Many of them literally are.

  47. Dhay says:

    Michael > JB uses multiple [IP addresses] and has posted before as Norman, Paul A, and Alison.

    I’ll take a longer look, document the audit trail, and I’ll add my necessarily over-brief observations.

    ‘Alison’ was the first JB/Norman/Paul A/Alison/Jonathan Blair sockpuppet, who appeared in Michael’s 10 June 2016 “Expand My Focus?” thread. A Google “site:” search throws up only this one thread with any ‘Alison’ in, so there’s no confusion with anyone else of the same name or handle, it must be this ‘Alison’ who is the ‘Alison’ sockpuppet Michael refers to.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/expand-my-focus/

    There’s six ‘Alison’ responses there, which started by nit-picking the OP and by shooting off down the rabbit hole of [why don’t you criticise] Christians who go out proselytizing:

    Since you don’t like activist atheists, naturally you also don’t like activist theists such as Christians that proselytize, right?

    *

    The second JB/Norman/Paul A/Alison/Jonathan Blair sockpuppet was ‘Norman’, who appeared in Michael’s 11 November 2016 “Are Anti-Trump, New Atheist Parents Abusing their Children?” thread. Eight responses, shooting immediately off down a rabbit hole with this insinuation:

    Is this an alt-right blog? …

    … and thereafter persisted in taunting that Michael (Kevin likewise) must be a Trump supporter, admit it.

    The eighth response was interesting:

    Part of the alt-right involves what’s called a culture of trolling. It consists of saying outrageous things in order to provoke a reaction and then laughing when the reaction is elicited. I honestly can’t tell if you’re trolling or not. Maybe you’re just stupendously incompetent and can’t understand the implications of what you are saying. Maybe you’re so focused on this “New Atheism” stuff that you’re unable to process other information. Maybe you’re just trolling. In any case Eric was right when he identified you as a shallow thinker.

    Even at the time I wondered whether JB/Norman was himself trolling, saying outrageous things in order to provoke a reaction and then laughing when the reaction is elicited. Laughing, too, that he’s telling us in that response what he’s doing. I feel confident of that now we know ‘Norman’ was a sockpuppet. And of course there’s the naked insults.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/are-anti-trump-new-atheist-parents-abusing-their-children/

    *

    The third JB/Norman/Paul A/Alison/Jonathan Blair sockpuppet was ‘Paul A’, who appeared in Michael’s 05 December 2016 “Atheist Beliefs Without Evidence” thread. Five responses starting:

    I am wondering, what is the thesis of this blog? It seems to be something along the lines of: atheists are immoral, especially liberal-minded atheists; they are hypocrites; they wallow in darkness and need to make the journey from the shadow to the light. Feel free to correct me.

    ‘Alison’/’Paul A’ had read an explicit declaration of what the (changing) purpose of the blog was, just five months previously, in the “Expand My Focus?” OP. But pretended not to know. And then attempted to take the discussion down the rabbit hole of a video he kept insisting we should listen to and discuss. (Nobody did.)

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/atheist-beliefs-without-evidence/

    JB/Paul A continued with five responses to Michael’s 09 December 2016 “Is New Atheism Incompatible with Transgenderism?” Michael’s OP pointed out that Paul A’s position in the earlier thread was unscientific and amounted to fideism; Paul A doubled down; he also returned to trying to lure others down that video rabbit hole.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/is-new-atheism-incompatible-with-transgenderism/

    The fourth JB/Norman/Paul A/Alison/Jonathan Blair sockpuppet was ‘Jonathan Blair’, who appeared in Michael’s 19 April 2019 “Science and the Resurrection Belief are Not Incompatible” thread. Six responses, starting with fantasy:

    Last week I caused a truck to levitate with telekinesis (using only the power of my mind). There is video footage of it. There is eyewitness testimony. I have written volumes of theology about it. This was a one-time, non-repeatable miracle. …

    I think jonathan Blair was attempting to project the persona of a philosopher, or someone interested in and competent at philosophy.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2019/04/19/science-and-the-resurrection-belief-are-not-incompatible-2/

    Appeared again in Michael’s 24 April 2019 “Defeating Sam Harris’s Argument about Science and Religion” thread. Six responses: more telekinesis, and an attempt to assert the OP said what it didn’t, let’s argue about the distorted version. Doesn’t answer questions and relies on the natural tendency for everyone to assume that if a philosophical-looking argument looks incomprehensible it must be their own fault for not being good at philosophy rather than because it’s incomprehensible, though when challenged he failed to defend adequately or – “abrogates”, indeed – or at all.

    Appeared again in Michael’s 16 May 2019 “God of the Gaps Atheism” thread, insisting on a distinction without a difference – see Kevin’s last response, above.

    *

    ‘Jonathan Blair ‘ mutated (during school term break?) into the fifth JB/Norman/Paul A/Alison/Jonathan Blair sockpuppet, ‘JB’. Eight responses, starting with condescension and paranoia.

    *

    My own feeling is that JB/Norman/Paul A/Alison/Jonathan Blair is either one troll using multiple sockpuppets (as Michael suggests) or there’s a group of trolls sharing access to the same internet-comnnected devices. Either way, it would be a kindness to those here who have been attention-trolled to block the lot.

  48. Michael says:

    The argument in the blog post basically says that Stenger (or anyone arguing along similar lines as Stenger) is contradicting himself. Even accepting that what Stenger considers a warranted god hypothesis may be different from what others consider a warranted god hypothesis, that doesn’t change the OP argument against Stenger: that he guilty of self-contradiction. It doesn’t change my point that the self-contradiction depends upon an equivocation.

    The blog post is not about Stenger. The blog post is about God of the Gaps Atheism, which happens to be the very title of the posting.

    As far as Stenger goes, he is cited as a representative example of an atheist who builds his/her atheism on the logic of the god of the gaps argument. I introduce him as follows:

    In fact, this God-of-the-Gaps atheism is clearly championed in an essay by Victor Stenger (and the essay was endorsed by Coyne):

    Then I quote him:

    Many of the attributes associated with the Judaic-Christian-Islamic God have specific consequences that can be tested empirically. Such a God is supposed to play a central role in the operation of the universe and the lives of humans. As a result, evidence for him should be readily detectable by scientific means. If a properly controlled experiment were to come up with an observation that cannot be explained by natural means, then science would have to take seriously the possibility of a world beyond matter.

    Then I comment:

    So if God exists, His existence would be detected by an observation that cannot be explained by natural means. A Gap. Like Coyne, Stenger needs a Gap. The Gap = evidence for God. All evidence for God must be a Gap.

    What this means is that Jerry Coyne and Victor Stenger think much like creationist Ken Ham. All three embrace the validity of the God-of-the-gaps argument; they differ simply when it comes to agreeing on whether certain gaps actually exist.

    JB replies by concocting some “equivocation problem” to distract from this point, as if the blog post was all about trying to catch Stenger in a contradiction. But again, Stenger is just a representative example. Example of what? An atheist who builds his/her atheism on on the logic of the god of the gaps argument. A god of the gaps atheist.

    What JB brings to the table is a concession that I am right. In the context of my argument, he makes a distinction that does not distinguish. That Stenger or Coyne might personally believe belief in God to be warranted only if certain gaps existed does in any way detract from my point. It expands on it. For an atheist who believes theism would be warranted if certain gaps existed is a god of the gaps atheist. In fact, almost all modern day atheists try to argue that if only certain gaps did exist, they would seriously consider theism.

    What would be needed from JB and “agnostics” like him/her is a public admission that atheism is indeed constructed in such a way that it assumes the validity of the god of the gaps logic. We can then proceed from there.

  49. JB says:

    Michael, I’ve not used the accounts you allege. However I do post through a well-publicized open proxy (as you may check yourself) because I’m at a well-known institution from which my identity could be guessed. (Incidentally, if you disclose your identity then I’ll disclose mine!)

    Back to this gap stuff. Michael, are you saying that formulating a god hypothesis to explain a gap is bad in every conceivable circumstance? If so, why? What is actually bad about formulating such an hypothesis when it is actually warranted? Would you please answer those questions?

    The so-called god-of-the-gaps fallacy is simply the fallacy of creating an hypothesis without warrant (arbitrarily inserting one’s preferred deity), as even a piss-poor resource like RationalWiki makes clear. A warranted hypothesis, on the other hand, is not a fallacy.

    That warrant is informed by one’s knowledge. William Paley’s design argument is essentially god-of-the-gaps, yet I wouldn’t call it a fallacy when he wrote it. At the time, it was warranted. I believe Richard Dawkins once mentioned that if he had lived during Paley’s time then he would have bought Paley’s argument.

    I don’t blame Ken Ham for using god-of-the-gaps per se any more than I blame Paley or time-shifted-Dawkins. I blame Ham for his manifest and supernormal lack of knowledge which animates him.

    If e.g. Stenger and Ham both make use of the law of noncontradiction in their arguments, does that mean Stenger “thinks much like” Ham? Not in any substantive sense. The law of contradiction by itself is neutral. Likewise I see non-fallacious god-of-the-gaps as being neutral (again, the fallacy is when there is no warrant). But perhaps you are appealing to some inherent badness of it, hence my initial questions.

  50. Michael says:

    Michael, I’ve not used the accounts you allege. However I do post through a well-publicized open proxy (as you may check yourself) because I’m at a well-known institution from which my identity could be guessed. (Incidentally, if you disclose your identity then I’ll disclose mine!)

    Instead of using a proxy, do as I do – don’t post from work; post from home.

    Look, I am not interested in your identity. You are the one who began accusing me of needing my “safe space” from your mighty argument, forcing me to look into this:

    I would wish to impart to you the idea that the measure of a good argument is how well it sustains criticism. Permitting criticism on your blog actually affords you an opportunity to improve your arguments.

    However it would seem that you are not interested in criticism. That’s fine — this is your “safe space”. Nonetheless, your argument here does have a glaring hole, namely the equivocation which I explained in my comment. Perhaps one day you’ll venture out of your safe space and address it.
    Maybe next time, you should pause to consider that your comment didn’t see the light of day because you depend on a proxy and not because of the might of your criticism.

    In fact, I can’t help but notice that you didn’t even have the basic human decency to apologize for your knee-jerk, uncharitable interpretation.

    Back to this gap stuff. Michael, are you saying that formulating a god hypothesis to explain a gap is bad in every conceivable circumstance?

    Over the decades, every atheist I have encountered has insisted that the god of the gaps argument is a fallacy. That is how they universally respond to theists and their various gaps. You are the first to disagree.

    If so, why?

    They argue that a “god hypothesis” does not truly “explain” the gap. That is, the most a gap rationally justifies is a “I don’t know how it got there” response. There is nothing in the gap that justifies a “God must have did it” response. Many will also argue that a natural explanation is always preferred over a supernatural explanation, so it would be better to wait for a natural explanation than prematurely insisting on a supernatural explanation.

    What is actually bad about formulating such an hypothesis when it is actually warranted?

    You’re assuming what you need to show. What criteria to do you use to determine whether a God inference is warranted from a gap? How are we all supposed to tell when such an hypothesis is actually warranted?

    Would you please answer those questions?

    I did. My turn. Are you willing to admit that modern day atheism is indeed constructed in such a way that it assumes the validity of the god of the gaps logic?

  51. Michael says:

    Let’s illustrate with an example. Suppose the stars in the sky move to form the word “God”. Around the world, thousands of astronomers and billions of independent observers affirm this. It is not a fallacy to hypothesize that this may be the work of God (He prefers English, apparently).

    I see. So God is supposed to move the stars about (at potentially high cost as RobertM explained) and all we get is a mere possibility: “that this may be the work of God”?

    Well, isn’t is possible that God could be behind all or any gaps? Meaning that all God of the Gaps inferences are warranted?

  52. JB says:

    Michael, I asked if you thought formulating a god hypothesis to explain a gap is bad in every conceivable circumstance. Do you?

    Over the decades, every atheist I have encountered has insisted that the god of the gaps argument is a fallacy. That is how they universally respond to theists and their various gaps. You are the first to disagree.

    But I literally just told you that even Dawkins — the quintessential hardcore atheist — disagrees. Time-shifted-Dawkins would have bought Paley’s argument. See The Blind Watchmaker. Here’s a relevant quip: “I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin’s Origin of Species was published.”

    Stenger, whom you already quoted, also disagrees with your characterization, if we presume he’s not contradicting himself. Indeed I don’t see any contradiction.

    It very much looks like your issue with god-of-the-gaps is rooted in the equivocation I’ve already explained. Please see my earlier comments, especially May 31, 2019 at 1:42 pm.

    Are you willing to admit that modern day atheism is indeed constructed in such a way that it assumes the validity of the god of the gaps logic?

    If by “god of the gaps logic” you are referring to the caution against formulating a god hypothesis without warrant, then many, many people will agree with that, including atheists, agnostics, and even theists.

    If by “god of the gaps logic” you are referring to any formulation of a god hypothesis — even a warranted one — being universally bad, then, no, even hardcore atheists may not go along with this. Dawkins doesn’t and Stenger doesn’t, for example.

  53. Derek Ramsey says:

    “…the caution against formulating a god hypothesis without warrant”

    What an exhausting conversation. You can’t formulate a warranted god hypothesis without first explicitly acknowledging that what constitutes a warrant is arbitrary opinion. You cannot proceed any further until this is done.

    “I asked if you thought formulating a god hypothesis to explain a gap is bad in every conceivable circumstance. Do you?”

    You seem to be implying that a god hypothesis is only possible if you need to explain something that is not possible to explain (i.e. a gap). Lumping all god hypotheses together as gaps is an error in reasoning.

    Consider the argument from design. Here the scientific evidence suggests a first cause and an intelligence or design. The god hypothesis is not formulated to explain a gap, but to explain the evidence. What is known—not what is missing—drives the god hypothesis. Like all scientific claims—and unlike gaps—it can be tested, evaluated against the evidence and competing hypotheses, and potentially falsified.

    In summary, evidence and reason—not faith and the lack of evidence—drives the god hypothesis. There is no reason to believe in gaps*. Will you now acknowledge that many atheists accept the “logic” of gaps and faith?

    * But if someone wants to, they are entitled to their opinion. No reason to judge them negatively for it. It’s an opinion: they could be right or wrong. We need only acknowledge that it is an opinion and treat it accordingly.

  54. Michael says:

    Michael, I asked if you thought formulating a god hypothesis to explain a gap is bad in every conceivable circumstance. Do you?

    My opinion here is irrelevant. I don’t personally rely on god of the gaps reasoning, but I am not prepared to make any type of declaration about “every conceivable circumstance.” I would simply note that every atheist I have encountered classifies god of the gaps reasoning as a fallacy and I do agree that leaping from a gap to the intervention of God is unwarranted.

    But I literally just told you that even Dawkins — the quintessential hardcore atheist — disagrees. Time-shifted-Dawkins would have bought Paley’s argument. See The Blind Watchmaker. Here’s a relevant quip: “I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin’s Origin of Species was published.”

    Then Dawkins plays the “gaps that exist are unwarranted; gaps that don’t exist are warranted” game. But that’s old news. As I documented on this blog, a few years back Dawkins acknowledges he can’t get from a gap to God’s existence and thus concedes that nothing could ever really count as evidence for God.

    Stenger, whom you already quoted, also disagrees with your characterization, if we presume he’s not contradicting himself.

    Stenger was a God of the Gaps atheist. What he needed as evidence for God was a Gap. And that Gap could only count as evidence if the logic of God of the Gaps was valid.

    Are you trying to make the case that no atheists think God of the Gaps reasoning is fallacious?

    If by “god of the gaps logic” you are referring to the caution against formulating a god hypothesis without warrant, then many, many people will agree with that, including atheists, agnostics, and even theists.

    You keep pretending that there is this distinction between warranted and unwarranted gappy God inferences. You keep assuming what you need to show. What criteria to do you use to determine whether a God inference is warranted from a gap? How are we all supposed to tell when such an hypothesis is actually warranted?

  55. Dhay says:

    JB > Michael, I’ve not used the accounts you allege. However I do post through a well-publicized open proxy (as you may check yourself) because I’m at a well-known institution from which my identity could be guessed.

    That’s odd. When I put my own (British) IP address into an online IP address locator, it locates me thirty eight miles away. Online adverts for this store, that garage, the other whatever — adverts which obviously rely on approximating my location from my IP address — have always consistently estimated me in a town somewhere near that far-away location. US IPs are different?

    Can someone inform me whether or not US IP addresses can be located with the (compared to Britain) pinpoint accuracy needed to identify a particular building or even something as large as a sprawling campus. I smell a rat.

  56. Kevin says:

    I’m curious what the odds are that so many people in one location would happen to be atheists commenting on this particular blog.

    Probably about the same odds as getting an actual explanation as to how there can be equivocation between two undefined and subjective categories of an argument.

  57. Kevin says:

    Looking into it, open proxies apparently also disguise geographic location. Meaning access to it is also not geographically limited to a certain area, presumably.

    Still, the odds of so many atheists just happening to use that particular proxy for anonymity, in order to comment on this particular blog, and never at the same time as far as I know…there is a simpler explanation that is more believable, but it doesn’t really matter so long as our interlocutor ignores questions.

  58. JB says:

    Are you trying to make the case that no atheists think God of the Gaps reasoning is fallacious?

    I covered this in my comment at May 31, 2019 at 1:42 pm, especially the last paragraph. Please read it. Do you think the god-of-the-gaps fallacy means that it is automatically fallacious to insert God into a gap for any reason whatsoever, whether warranted or not?

    You keep pretending that there is this distinction between warranted and unwarranted gappy God inferences. You keep assuming what you need to show. What criteria to do you use to determine whether a God inference is warranted from a gap? How are we all supposed to tell when such an hypothesis is actually warranted?

    You don’t believe there is a distinction between warranted and unwarranted god hypotheses? Suppose while walking through a forest you come across a fallen tree which has no axe marks or saw marks or anything indicative of human intervention. Consider the hypothesis that God pushed the tree down. Is this a warranted hypothesis? Is your point that nobody can really say whether it is warranted or not?

    What I notice here and in a previous thread is a move toward anti-realism (related to aspects of postmodernism). Very roughly, it’s the idea that there is no shared reality, only minds and opinions.

    Is Ken Ham’s answer to the age of the Earth on par with the answer given by geologists? Why or why not? If you do not think so, then your answer will likely contain criteria for “how are we all supposed to tell”.

    I think most people — certainly most scientists in any case — are realists to some extent. Despite having different perspectives, we are nonetheless committed to sharing arguments and reaching tentative conclusions about whether an hypothesis is warranted and so forth. Though there may not be unanimous consensus on some topic, there remains an underlying assumption that a shared reality exists “out there”. At the very least, such an assumption is useful.

    The answer to “how are we all supposed to tell” is that each individual must study the argument provided in each particular case. That not everyone agrees is not cause to consider every answer as just an opinion that is on par with every other one. That is, unless we embrace some form of anti-realism.

  59. FZM says:

    You don’t believe there is a distinction between warranted and unwarranted god hypotheses? Suppose while walking through a forest you come across a fallen tree which has no axe marks or saw marks or anything indicative of human intervention. Consider the hypothesis that God pushed the tree down. Is this a warranted hypothesis? Is your point that nobody can really say whether it is warranted or not?

    Rough definition of God: a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all good. Or, God is being itself etc.

    Seeing a tree that has been pushed down, apparently without human intervention, is it warranted to make a hypothesis that God, as described above, was the cause of this event? I suppose so, it is possible such a God could have directly caused the event.

    But for any observed event, is it by the same standard warranted to make a hypothesis that God (as described above) was the cause of it? Yes. Divine occasionalism (the idea that nothing in the universe has any causal power to produce any effect on it’s own and direct divine intervention is the actual immediate cause of all change) is also possible .

    What people are looking for is the description of the kind of empirically observed phenomena (the gap) that would make the hypothesis that it was caused by an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent etc. being probable, not just something possible but with indeterminate probability.

    It seems like there isn’t such a thing. I think Dawkins himself came to realise as much in the end.

  60. TFBW says:

    JB is never going to answer Michael’s question, “what criteria to do you use to determine whether a God inference is warranted from a gap?” Instead, he’s always going to answer the question with a question, like, “you don’t believe there is a distinction between warranted and unwarranted god hypotheses?” Whether or not anyone else believes in such a distinction tells us nothing about JB’s personal criteria, so the question is merely a rhetorical device to distract from the lack of an answer. He’s quite willing to admit that the criteria are subjective—”that each individual must study the argument provided in each particular case,” and asserts that some judgements are better than others—that such judgements are not “just an opinion that is on par with every other one,” but while he’s willing so sneer at the inferiority of some such opinions, he refuses to elucidate his own criteria in a manner that might expose them to criticism.

    I’ll offer an answer on JB’s behalf, which he is then welcome to repudiate by stating his actual criteria. The criterion that JB uses to determine whether an inference is warranted from a gap is this: is the gap real, or fantastical? If the gap is a fantastical story, such as the stars spontaneously rearranging in such a way as to spell out “GOD”—a thing which would involve super-luminal relocation of many stellar bodies in the far distant past—then the gap warrants belief. If the gap is an actual, observable reality, such as the existence of life, or the fine-tuning of universal parameters to permit it, or the existence of consciousness, then the gap does not warrant belief, and ad hoc pseudo-scientific hand-waving will suffice to dismiss the gap.

    In short, the core truth that must be preserved by all JB’s decisions regarding “warrant” is that belief in God is unwarranted. Aside from the preservation of that core truth, and the inclusion of some token god-themed element, everything else is negotiable. As such, all candidates for warranted belief must be things he considers wildly impossible. This is hardly unique to JB: it’s the basic criterion on which all pseudo-scientific appeals to “lack of evidence for gods” are based.

  61. FZM says:

    If the gap is a fantastical story, such as the stars spontaneously rearranging in such a way as to spell out “GOD”—a thing which would involve super-luminal relocation of many stellar bodies in the far distant past—then the gap warrants belief. If the gap is an actual, observable reality, such as the existence of life, or the fine-tuning of universal parameters to permit it, or the existence of consciousness, then the gap does not warrant belief, and ad hoc pseudo-scientific hand-waving will suffice to dismiss the gap.

    I’ve noticed this before but if you accept naturalism, the laws of nature plus the existence of some basic chemical elements are sufficient on their own to produce human consciousness, the concept of God and every written expression of the concept. Given that, there seems no obvious reason why similar laws and chemical elements could not cause the pattern of the word God to appear among the stars, even if something like this hasn’t yet been observed.

    If one is considered miraculous, why wouldn’t the other be too?

  62. Dhay says:

    I note that although Michael’s OP gives more prominence to the name of Jerry Coyne (ten occurrences) than to Victor Stenger (three occurrences), JB focuses exclusively upon the latter, presumably because he would be weak at defending that particular New Atheist. But let’s introduce a third New Atheist, Sam Harris, who seems to be JB’s intellectual hero.

    JB > What I notice here and in a previous thread is a move toward anti-realism (related to aspects of postmodernism). Very roughly, it’s the idea that there is no shared reality, only minds and opinions.

    Sam Harris has several times repeated since his 11 October 2011 blog entitled “The Mystery of Consciousness”— and it’s the text of his December 2016 Meme #4, so he still fully ‘owns’ it — “Consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion”.

    From this extreme, objective reality is denied.

  63. TFBW says:

    @FZM: “If one is considered miraculous, why wouldn’t the other be too?”

    The logic is very simple. Rule #1: if a thing happens, it happens naturally. By this rule, life exists, therefore it is not a miracle and happened naturally. Things which have never happened and are generally prevented from happening by general laws of nature are allowed as possible miracles. Of course, if such a thing did actually happen, then it wouldn’t be a miracle: see rule #1.

  64. Dhay says:

    Let’s consider a miracle/God hypothesis that JB’s intellectual hero, Sam Harris, the trained philosopher and careful coucher of statements appropriately [ ** ], presents with apparent utter certainty that it is warranted:

    If Jesus ever returns to earth trailing clouds of glory, Christianity will stand revealed as a science, and every scientist in his right mind will bow down before the savior of the world in awe.

    https://samharris.org/selling-out-science/

    No ifs or buts there, absolute certainty.

    Jesus returning to Earth trailing clouds of glory warrants a God hypothesis, does it?

    And how about a God certainty?

    *

    This looks similar to Jerry Coyne’s Second Coming — OK, what Coyne describes is more of a quick pop-in before, presumably, the Third Coming, the Fourth Coming and so on, Coyne never did get his head around the Bible or theology — as described on pages 118-119 of his Faith versus Fact. For the full quote see:

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/evolution-god-of-the-gaps-and-fine-tuning/#comment-8894

    Jerry Coyne’s scenario warrants a God hypothesis, does it?

    And how about a God certainty?

    *

    ( ** In his earlier ‘Jonathan Blair’ sockpuppet identity JB asserted his claim tha :

    If you wish to quibble about what is or isn’t New Atheism then you’d have to go to root, which is, of course, Sam Harris. He does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2019/04/19/science-and-the-resurrection-belief-are-not-incompatible-2/#comment-31457

    )

  65. Dhay says:

    JB > Seeing a tree that has been pushed down, apparently without human intervention, is it warranted to make a hypothesis that God, as described above, was the cause of this event? I suppose so, it is possible such a God could have directly caused the event.

    FZM > But for any observed event, is it by the same standard warranted to make a hypothesis that God (as described above) was the cause of it? Yes. Divine occasionalism (the idea that nothing in the universe has any causal power to produce any effect on it’s own and direct divine intervention is the actual immediate cause of all change) is also possible.

    As FZM has pointed out, JB, it is indeed possible; according to Aristotelianism it’s logically necessary. If you want more details, the current outspoken exponent of Aristotelianism is the philosopher Edward Feser.

    I’m no philosopher myself, so I’ll just point you to his blog, where you can argue in the comments, and to his books: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/

  66. Isaac says:

    All trees that exist anywhere warrant a God hypothesis, because a single plant cell is more complex than any machine created by man, which means a single tree’s existence is orders of magnitude more unexplainable than a tree levitating and doing figure 8s in the air, never mind falling down.

    We have traced the ultimate origin of trees (and everything else we know of) back to something called the Big Bang, which, to be blunt, looks exactly as if all of time and space popped up in a moment from a supernatural source with all of the properties needed to organize itself into a universe that includes trees. THAT requires a God hypothesis, and if you don’t have a better hypothesis, why even quibble over what caused a tree to fall, or whether Ken Ham’s conceptualization of the age of the Earth is better than a geologists? That geologists’ explanation of how we got here is no less indicative of a supernatural. You’d have to disprove that too.

    Suppose a magician caused a rabbit to appear out of thin air inside a vacuum tube, under the careful scrutiny of a team of scientists. Every scientist on planet Earth concedes that the rabbit did indeed materialize out of nothing. By atheists’ standards, magic would therefore be confirmed as real. If you subscribe to Big Bang cosmology, THAT’S HOW THE UNIVERSE GOT HERE. However, in the absence of any magician, the implication is that God and the supernatural are real.

    And a multiverse theory makes the God hypothesis even more necessary. What sort of apparatus is required to spit out billions of universes, or even infinite universes? It would have to be something equal to, or greater than, whatever was capable of creating just one.

  67. Dhay says:

    Hmmm …

    If Jesus ever returns to earth trailing clouds of glory, Christianity will stand revealed as a science, and every scientist in his right mind will bow down before the savior of the world in awe.

    https://samharris.org/selling-out-science/

    Jerry Coyne declares very explicitly that science and religion are incompatible, he wrote a book about it. Sam Harris clearly disagrees that science and religion are incompatible: while I expect he wrote that in full belief and expectation that Jesus returning to earth is unlikely, his confident declaration that if it ever were to happen “Christianity will stand revealed as a science” and that “every scientist in his right mind will …” tells me, yes, Harris definitely does think science and religion are compatible.

    *

    Remember what JB said, that “Sam Harris … does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately.”

  68. Dhay says:

    JB >em>But this rests upon an equivocation of “gap”, one that equates gaps that warrant a god hypothesis with gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis. The contradiction disappears when the equivocation is fixed, which I would write as:
    1. There are gaps in our knowledge.
    2. Presently, a god hypothesis is not warranted for any of those gaps.
    3. In principle, a gap could emerge which would warrant a god hypothesis.
    May 17, 2019 at 8:26 am

    Irrespective of whether 1/2 — they can be rephrased as one sentence — is true or false, it’s just an assertion.

    Irrespective of whether there is an equivocation (by anyone) of gaps that warrant a god hypothesis with gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis, everything natural — natural, including when there is considered to be a gap and also when there is considered to be no gap — everything natural warrants a God hypothesis to someone’s standard of warrant (eg Edward Feser’s.)

    Irrespective of whether there is your alleged equivocation, you have failed — de facto proved yourself unable — to demonstrate that there is a justifiable distinction and difference between gaps that warrant a god hypothesis with gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis: you seem quite unable to tell the difference between them, or to explain to others how to tell the difference.

    Are you yourself equivocating “warrant a God hypothesis” with something like “justified certainty” — these are very different. If you are indeed equivocating — and I don’t see how you can not be — your 1/2/3 is surely nonsense.

    *

    As regards your 3. it’s probably pernickety of me to ask how a gap can “emerge” but you are unclear, perhaps you will be clearer. I note that what the prominent New Atheists tend to do — always do — is specify a particular gap: Jesus “return[ing] to earth trailing clouds of glory” (Sam Harris); a 900 foot tall Jesus (Jerry Coyne); …

    “The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear.

    If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology—then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” (Coyne more recently)

    … ; messages in DNA (clubschadenfreude); or “God” spelled out by stars (JB). These are not “emerged” gaps (whatever that might mean), they are tightly specified gaps.

    And I note that for Coyne even his very tightly specified gap would provide a warrant for no more than merely “thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity”, no certainty.

    *

    I’m sure you are having fun posturing as a Sam Harris look-alike, someone who “does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately” while writing …

    Suppose we have two explanations of the same event. One abrogates our scientific understanding of, say, gravity. The other does not. All other things being equal, which is more plausible? Why?

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/defeating-sam-harriss-argument-about-science-and-religion-2/#comment-31689

    … and other meaningless nonsense — “abrogates”, indeed!; sure you are having fun posturing as a careful philosopher looking down on the yokels.

    But bear in mind I am having fun with you.

  69. Dhay says:

    I’m also having fun with Sam Harris; the quotation I keep returning to is from his late-2005 “Selling Out Science”:

    If Jesus ever returns to earth trailing clouds of glory, Christianity will stand revealed as a science, and every scientist in his right mind will bow down before the savior of the world in awe.

    https://samharris.org/selling-out-science/

    It’s a Gish Gallop in thirty five words, in a single sentence. The first bit of absurdity is that “trailing clouds of glory”: if anyone knows where in the Bible there’s clouds of glory which trail do let me know, as I’ve looked through my ESVUK and failed to find a one; until then I’ll treat Harris as Biblically illiterate and as an ignoramus.

    Not finding it, I looked up “trailing clouds of glory” online and found the wording originated in a poem by William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”:

    Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:/ The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,/ Hath had elsewhere its setting, /And cometh from afar: /Not in entire forgetfulness, /And not in utter nakedness, /But trailing clouds of glory do we come /From God, who is our home: /Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45536/ode-intimations-of-immortality-from-recollections-of-early-childhood

    I find Wordsworth’s meaning rather obscure, and what meaning I do discern looks pseudo-Christian rather than Biblically or theologically justified, but I’ll focus on that “trailing clouds of glory” bit.

    It seems to be babies (or is it souls) that come to earth trailing clouds of glory, and we have that , er, information on the very questionable authority of just one solitary poet: but Harris evidently thinks a poet using poetic licence about babies (or is it souls) is a good authority for what he writes; and that the Second Coming will be a Second Nativity.

    It’s a small point, but illustrative: Harris is casual about the accuracy of his assertions; and he probably doesn’t care, the inaccurate serves his purposes so much better.

    Possibly, perhaps probably, he’s crafted that bit, and the including sentence and the article, and all of his polemical work, as a gullibility test. Ever wonder why this stuff makes us so angry? It’s probably supposed to! By pissing off us Christians so much – evangelicals and (what Harris calls) moderates alike – polemical anti-Theists polarize opinion and effectively socially isolate their followers from anyone who cares enough about the truth to dissent. It’s not meant to convert Christians to atheists and New Atheists – or in Harris’ case, to Buddhists – it’s instead preaching to the gallery, to the echo-chamber, to the bubble of fans; it appeals to those are suckers for Gish-Gallop’d ignorant assertion, to those it can appeal to, and it pushes the others away.

    *

    “… every scientist …” Hmmm, anyone who doesn’t live in a bubble will have come across the permanently outraged atheist who, if ever faced with a returned Jesus, would accuse Him and his Father of being nasty, vindictive, evil b******s and tell them in no uncertain terms where to go. I don’t suppose each and every scientist is immune to that particular anti-religious virus, so I’d say Harris is here either bullshitting with bollocks, or living in a bubble. “every scientist” is fantasy, as is “bow down” and “awe”.

    *

    Odd that, doesn’t Richard Dawkins tell us that for “every scientist in his right mind” Christianity will not stand revealed as a science but …

    … the probable explanation is that it is a hallucination or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield. He made the point that a supernatural explanation for anything is incoherent. It doesn’t add up to an explanation for anything. A non-supernatural Second Coming could be aliens from outer space.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/4-dawkins-admits-nothing-can-persuade-him-god-exists/

    Not Jesus, then; Dawkins contradicts Harris; in Harris’ scenario Dawkins-approved scientists would look anywhere and everywhere first for God-denying explanations, a Second Coming merely one hypothesis. (Fair enough, they should look at a wide variety of possible explanation, a wide variety of hypotheses, that’s how scientists and science work.) Bowing down and awe would have to wait upon further experimentation, probably indefinitely.

    *

    “Christianity” in the quote looks like it’s being used by Harris as a Rorschach blot; his readers, probably especially his fans, will take it Harris means some whole or part of their own imaging, or not know, or pass over that hand-wave with their own hand-wave; he’s their hero, he “does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately” (or something along those general lines) so of course he’s right, no need to think for themselves.

    *

    The worst crap is Harris’ claim about science, that Jesus returning to Earth trailing clouds of glory would reveal that Christianity – whatever that might be – is a science.

    If we take genuine science to be the science of Sean Carroll, Francis Collins, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, John Polkinghorne, [etc, etc, add names of genuine scientists here] …, the science of STEM, of careful experimental design, of gathering data, of number-crunching and statistical analysis, of conclusions, papers, and of peer review followed by all your peers criticising whatever they possibly can, such as the conclusions drawn or the inadequacies of the experimental design, and so on – if that’s genuine science (and I think it is), where in Christianity is the Sean Carroll (et al) type genuine science? If that’s genuine science, where in a Second Coming (with or without trailing clouds of glory, what a berk!) is the Sean Carroll (et al) type genuine science? If that’s genuine science, where in the Bible is the Sean Carroll (et al) type genuine science? Where in the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church is the science?

    Just where’s the science alleged to reside? Harris doesn’t tell us, of course, it’s another fantasy.

    No Christian (with the exception of followers of Mary Baker Eddy, and she and they have used the term in an idiosyncratic way), no Bishop, no scientist whether religious or not, would claim that Christianity is a science at all, let alone a science like Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, etc etc, nor even a STEM subject like Engineering or Mathematics.

    No, Jesus returning to Earth trailing clouds of glory would not reveal that Christianity is a science.

    Thirty five words, one sentence, a Gish Gallop of utter bullshit.

    *

    Remember what JB said, that “Sam Harris … does have philosophical training and is careful about couching statements appropriately.”

    And this is JB’s intellectual hero, a guy who allegedly takes care to get it right; for JB Harris is a evidently a guy to model himself on – it appears JB has indeed done so.

  70. Kevin says:

    To an adherent of scientism, anything true would have to therefore be a science by definition.

  71. Michael says:

    I covered this in my comment at May 31, 2019 at 1:42 pm, especially the last paragraph. Please read it.

    OK, you wrote:

    So far we have no instances of gaps that warrant a god hypothesis, which is really the root of the confusion here. Because we have none, it is easy to fall into the habit of equating any god hypothesis with the god-of-the-gaps fallacy.

    I can see you ignored my comment from May 31, 2019 at 8:32 am , where I wrote:

    Jonathan illustrates the subjective nature of atheism by insisting the god of the gaps argument is valid IF the gap “warrants” a god hypothesis. Well, just who gets to decide whether the hypothesis is “warranted?” It’s a matter of opinion. A matter of taste.

    Y’see, Jonathan, you have no basis for declaring we have no instances of gaps that warrant a god hypothesis. You don’t speak for “we”. There are plenty of theists who would disagree. You need to rephrase your point in an intellectually honest manner , one that reflects the fact that you are merely expressing a personal opinion that others are not obligated to share.

    Do you think the god-of-the-gaps fallacy means that it is automatically fallacious to insert God into a gap for any reason whatsoever, whether warranted or not?

    It would help if you told us what warrants the use of a fallacy. But you don’t seem capable of doing so. I wonder why that is.
    I asked you:

    What criteria to do you use to determine whether a God inference is warranted from a gap? How are we all supposed to tell when such an hypothesis is actually warranted?

    You couldn’t answer them. Instead, you try to change the topic:

    You don’t believe there is a distinction between warranted and unwarranted god hypotheses?

    I never claimed that there is no such thing as a warranted god hypothesis. I have always been focused on gaps and whether they count as evidence for God. If a Gap can indeed count as evidence for God, use of God of the Gaps logic is not in of itself fallacious.
    Now, you seem to be arguing that the God of the Gaps argument is not always a fallacy. That sometimes, it is valid to infer God from a Gap. Sometimes, a gap does count as evidence. But you won’t tell us when this can be done, how it is done, and why some gaps count while others don’t. In other words, what criteria to do you use to determine whether a God inference is warranted from a gap? How are we all supposed to tell when such an hypothesis is actually warranted?

    It is becoming clear to me that when you talk about gaps that warrant a god hypothesis, you personally don’t believe such a thing can exist. In other words, you are bullshitting, making things up as you go along, arguing like a troll. And that’s not good.

  72. nsr says:

    This conversation serves to illustrate one of the major problems I see in atheistic/naturalistic attempts to determine what’s true or right: if there is no God, everything ultimately has to be decided by a subjective judgement call. And the question is, if there is no God then who gets to make that call? From a Darwinian perspective it seems fairly obvious that it’s whoever is fittest in any given context, whether that means the strongest, the richest, the most popular, the most influential, the most politically correct, etc.

    As a Christian I don’t trust my own subjective judgement to know what’s true or right, beyond my ability to use logic and mathematics which can only answer a small subset of questions anyway. It seems that atheists do trust their own judgement, but why? Because it’s all they’ve got? Because they genuinely believe humankind has the innate capacity to reach truth and morality on its own? I’m sufficiently cynical that to me such a notion is far more of a fairytale than belief in the supernatural could ever be.

  73. JB says:

    Michael, I asked: Do you think the god-of-the-gaps fallacy means that it is automatically fallacious to insert God into a gap for any reason whatsoever, whether warranted or not?

    You avoided that crucial question, responding instead with this: It would help if you told us what warrants the use of a fallacy.

    The answer, of course, is: nothing. Nothing warrants the use of a fallacy.

    I gave an answer to “how are we all supposed to tell”, which you may find by searching for: The answer to “how are we all supposed to tell” is.

    Perhaps we can understand each other better by looking at a particular case, say Coyne. It still appears that you are making the following point. Coyne says that god of the gaps is a fallacy. But Coyne makes an argument in which he inserts God into a gap. Therefore Coyne makes a fallacious argument by his own standard.

    I provided an obvious way to resolve this. First, it is not a fallacy to formulate a god hypothesis that is actually warranted from the data collected (“faith healers could restore lost vision” etc). The so-called god-of-the-gaps fallacy is about unwarranted god hypotheses, where there is no good reason to reach for such an hypothesis (even if one can sympathize with an interested desire to do so).

    You have been preoccupied with finding some kind of exact criteria that separates warranted from unwarranted, yet I have already agreed multiple times that, yes, that criteria varies from person to person. In particular, I said it is influenced by one’s own knowledge (which of course varies from person to person).

    Even with the per-person warranted/unwarranted distinction taken as given, the resolution I provided remains intact. With that resolution, Coyne isn’t making a fallacious argument by his own standard. Why? Because Coyne doesn’t believe any of the present gaps in our knowledge warrant a god hypothesis, and therefore to him it would be fallacious to insert god into any of those gaps. Lacking any warranted god hypotheses, he invents some that would be warranted. Because they are warranted, there is no fallacy.

    Do you follow those steps showing why Coyne is not making a fallacious argument by his own standard?

    Let’s accept that Coyne is, using your phrase, a “god of the gaps atheist”, insofar as he presents an argument which inserts god into a hypothetical gap. Would you please articulate what is wrong with that? What is your criticism of e.g. Coyne here?

  74. Michael says:

    Michael, I asked: Do you think the god-of-the-gaps fallacy means that it is automatically fallacious to insert God into a gap for any reason whatsoever, whether warranted or not?

    You avoided that crucial question, responding instead with this: It would help if you told us what warrants the use of a fallacy.

    The answer, of course, is: nothing. Nothing warrants the use of a fallacy.

    And there you go. I got you to answer your own question. Your question declares the god of the gaps argument is a fallacy (“Do you think the god-of-the-gaps fallacy means…..”), so I asked when the use of a fallacy is warranted. According to the god-of-the-gaps fallacy, it is automatically fallacious to insert God into a gap for any reason whatsoever. More specifically, a gap is not evidence for the existence of God. It is merely evidence of our ignorance.

    I gave an answer to “how are we all supposed to tell”, which you may find by searching for: The answer to “how are we all supposed to tell” is.

    I see. So instead of making it clear, I’m supposed to go on a treasure hunt. Sorry, but I still don’t have the slightest clue about how we are supposed to tell whether or not a gap warrants a god hypothesis/counts as evidence for God.

    Perhaps we can understand each other better by looking at a particular case, say Coyne. It still appears that you are making the following point. Coyne says that god of the gaps is a fallacy. But Coyne makes an argument in which he inserts God into a gap. Therefore Coyne makes a fallacious argument by his own standard.

    Before jumping ahead, let’s pause to consider that Jerry Coyne builds his atheism on the logic of the god-of-the-gaps argument. Do you agree?

  75. JB says:

    Michael, I asked what you thought the god-of-the-gaps fallacy means. I didn’t declare what it means. It appears you’ve now answered with: According to the god-of-the-gaps fallacy, it is automatically fallacious to insert God into a gap for any reason whatsoever. Coyne evidently doesn’t think it means that. I don’t think it means that.

    So instead of making it clear, I’m supposed to go on a treasure hunt.

    You claimed that I didn’t answer the question. However I did answer it, and I pointed to where I did.

    Before jumping ahead, let’s pause to consider that Jerry Coyne builds his atheism on the logic of the god-of-the-gaps argument. Do you agree?

    If “the logic of the god-of-the-gaps argument” means that any god hypothesis concerning a gap is automatically a fallacy, then I don’t agree. This issue was resolved in my previous comment. Would you please read all of it. The questions at the end get to the heart of the matter, I think.

  76. Kevin says:

    So basically it would break down like this.

    Whether a gap warrants a god hypothesis is entirely the opinion of each person.

    If atheists believe a particular gap does not warrant a god hypothesis, and Christians believe that same gap does warrant a god hypothesis, both opinions are valid.

    So long as Christians believe a god hypothesis is warranted, they are not committing a God of the gaps fallacy, as they are only inserting a god hypothesis into a situation that warrants it.

    If the only people who commit God of the gaps fallacies are those who insert a god as an explanation when they themselves do not believe it warrants a god hypothesis, then no one commits God of the Gaps fallacies.

    Thus, God of the gaps fallacies do not exist.

    I’m sure atheists will cease using that nonexistent accusation any time now.

  77. Michael says:

    Michael, I asked what you thought the god-of-the-gaps fallacy means. I didn’t declare what it means. It appears you’ve now answered with: According to the god-of-the-gaps fallacy, it is automatically fallacious to insert God into a gap for any reason whatsoever.

    If the god-of-the-gaps argument is the “god-of-the-gaps fallacy,” then of course it is automatically fallacious to employ a fallacy. Is there something hard about this?

    Coyne evidently doesn’t think it means that. I don’t think it means that.

    So you two believe that god-of-the-gaps argument is not a fallacy? Or is it okay for atheists to employ fallacies?

    You claimed that I didn’t answer the question. However I did answer it, and I pointed to where I did.

    Sorry, but I still don’t have the slightest clue about how we are supposed to tell whether or not a gap warrants a god hypothesis/counts as evidence for God. For some reason, you want to make this hard to discover.

    If “the logic of the god-of-the-gaps argument” means that any god hypothesis concerning a gap is automatically a fallacy, then I don’t agree.

    The logic of the god-of-the-gaps argument means that a god hypothesis is warranted from a gap. That a gap counts as evidence for the existence of God. Coyne agrees, as it is built into his “this would count as evidence for God” posturing.

    This issue was resolved in my previous comment. Would you please read all of it. The questions at the end get to the heart of the matter, I think.

    The heart of the matter is whether or not atheists build their atheism on the god-of-the-gaps logic. You keep wanting to dance around the heart of the matter rather than concede I am right.

  78. Michael says:

    Let’s go back to the original complaint.

    The distinction is not between gaps and no-gaps. The distinction is between gaps that warrant a god hypothesis and gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis. While both are technically “gaps”, they are not the same thing.

    I do not agree with Stenger’s implication that God would necessarily result in a gap, but putting that point aside for the moment, nonetheless he is clearly referring to a gap that warrants a god hypothesis, not just any old gap.

    But this rests upon an equivocation of “gap”, one that equates gaps that warrant a god hypothesis with gaps that do not warrant a god hypothesis.

    This distinction/equivocation can only exist IF we acknowledge that the God-of-the-Gaps argument is NOT a fallacy. In other words, we would have to agree that sometimes a gap can warrant belief in God. Sometimes, a gap can be evidence for the existence of God. Thus, if a theist uses a gap to argue for the existence of God, this is not wrong/fallacious merely because a gap is being invoked. Meaning that many atheists would have to abandon a very popular response to theistic apologists.

    Once we first abandon the notion that use of a gap is a fallacy, then, and only then, can we turn to whether or not a particular gap warrants belief in God. It is then that we can explore these criteria (if they exist).

    So let’s be clear, JB. Are you acknowledging that the God-of-the-Gaps argument is not a fallacy?

  79. JB says:

    Are you acknowledging that the God-of-the-Gaps argument is not a fallacy?

    As I have said, it is only a fallacy when a god hypothesis is unwarranted. A warranted hypothesis is not a fallacy. Yes, warranted/unwarranted depends upon the person (particularly the person’s knowledge). That doesn’t mean e.g. Coyne makes a fallacious argument. It means Coyne doesn’t consider any of the existing gaps to warrant a god hypothesis. He imagines a few gaps that would.

    The heart of the matter is whether or not atheists build their atheism on the god-of-the-gaps logic. You keep wanting to dance around the heart of the matter rather than concede I am right.

    I already gave that to you. Here is what I said:

    Let’s accept that Coyne is, using your phrase, a “god of the gaps atheist”, insofar as he presents an argument which inserts god into a hypothetical gap. Would you please articulate what is wrong with that? What is your criticism of e.g. Coyne here?

    Would you please answer that?

    If one says the so-called god-of-the-gaps fallacy means that it is always a fallacy to formulate a god hypothesis in every conceivable circumstance, then one is obliged to address at least one of the counters that have been offered. Let’s stick with Coyne and his example of a faith healer who is able to cure blindness. Suppose there are, say, 1000 individuals who began with medically documented congenital blindness. A faith healer cures them all, and independent doctors have verified each case. Let’s assume that the possibility of fraud has been eliminated (i.e., we don’t have 1000 individuals who have been pretending to be blind since birth, as if newborns could execute such a con).

    Why is it a fallacy to even suggest the hypothesis that this is the work of God, as the faith healer claims? There may be other hypotheses (aliens, simulation hypothesis, etc), but that does not mean the god hypothesis is a fallacy.

    Either a god-of-the-gap hypothesis is a fallacy in every conceivable circumstance, or it is not. If one claims that it is, then the above question about the faith healer must be answered. Otherwise it is not a fallacy and therefore there is nothing wrong with what Coyne said.

  80. JB says:

    Just to be extra clear, change the last sentence to: Otherwise it is not a fallacy in every conceivable circumstance, and therefore there is nothing wrong with what Coyne said.

  81. Kevin says:

    Before you get yourself banned, JB, please address my last post to you, rather than dodging difficult questions. I’ll lay it out again. This is your logic.

    1. A fallacious God of the gaps argument is when the God hypothesis is unwarranted.

    2. There are no criteria for when the God hypothesis is warranted, but rather it is the opinion of each person whether or not it is warranted for a given gap.

    3. So long as the person invoking the God hypothesis believes it is warranted, it is not a fallacy.

    4. No one invokes the God hypothesis if they do not believe it is warranted.

    5. No one commits the God of the gaps fallacy.

    Please explain if you disagree with my understanding of your position. It will be disappointing if you dodge again.

  82. Kevin says:

    And just to make it easy, here’s a direct request that’s very simple.

    Give an example of someone making an unwarranted God of the gaps assertion, even though they believe it to be warranted. Give an example of the God of the gaps fallacy.

  83. TFBW says:

    I believe that Richard Dawkins would reject JB’s “faith healer” example as a possible case of evidence for God. Dawkins’ argument tends to base itself around the (consistent, if nothing else) premise that “God” is the most powerful, most complex, and thus most improbable possible entity in the universe. As such, any explanation which invokes “God” as the explanation is reaching for the least probable explanation—an approach which is never warranted. Why should we believe that this “faith healer” is invoking the power of God when it’s far more likely that he’s accidentally come into contact with some advanced piece of alien medical technology which grants him the ability to restore sight?

  84. Michael says:

    As I have said, it is only a fallacy when a god hypothesis is unwarranted. A warranted hypothesis is not a fallacy.

    And as I have pointed out, this would mean there is no such thing as a “god of the gaps fallacy.” That is, it is not inherently a fallacy to point to a gap as evidence for God. Neither is it a fallacy to infer God’s existence as an explanation for a gap. That a “gap” has been raised should not be noteworthy or controversial or significant. All that would matter is whether that particular gap warrants God belief. People will, of course, disagree on this, as the judgment of being warranted or not is a personal, subjective opinion. And just because you or Coyne don’t personally agree that a gap warrants God belief does not give you the epistemic right to label the perceived unwarranted inference a “fallacy.” That would be deeply dishonest and sneaky.

    That doesn’t mean e.g. Coyne makes a fallacious argument. It means Coyne doesn’t consider any of the existing gaps to warrant a god hypothesis. He imagines a few gaps that would.

    And as I have pointed out, this would mean there is no such thing as a “god of the gaps fallacy.” That is, it is not inherently a fallacy to point to a gap as evidence for God. Neither is it a fallacy to infer God’s existence as an explanation for a gap. If a “few gaps that would” applies, there is nothing wrong with the god-of-the-gaps logic. Gaps can indeed count as evidence for God.

    Would you please answer that?

    Here’s the problem. If a theist has ever used gaps as evidence for God, or inferred God’s existence from a gap, and Coyne has dismissed/ridiculed this theist for using “the god of the gaps” argument, dismissing the theist merely because they have invoked a gap, then Coyne will have contradicted himself. What Coyne would have needed to do is a) explain why those particular gaps do not warrant an inference to God’s exsistence while b) acknowledging he is merely expressing his own opinion. When I get the time, I’ll see if I can find examples showing how Coyne has reacted to other people inferring God’s existence from a Gap.

  85. TFBW says:

    JB demands an answer to this:

    Let’s accept that Coyne is, using your phrase, a “god of the gaps atheist”, insofar as he presents an argument which inserts god into a hypothetical gap. Would you please articulate what is wrong with that? What is your criticism of e.g. Coyne here?

    I have a short answer to that. The problem is that Coyne does not declare the criteria he uses to determine whether a “gap” event counts as evidence. He just arbitrarily takes an example which he is fairly certain will never happen (thus insulating himself from the possibility of being required to act in accordance with his claims), then says that would be sufficient. The actual goalposts remain carefully hidden.

    And you, JB, are guilty of the exact same ad hoc reasoning. You have not and will never (not even when I call you out on it) spell out the specific criteria that you use to determine whether a God Hypothesis achieves that magical status of “warranted”. That would be to reveal the location of the goalposts, and expose you to the risk that someone might point out an actual case where the requirements are met. Then you’d be obliged to move the goalposts, which is always a bit more conspicuous in terms of intellectual dishonesty than merely hiding them.

    In short, the problem is that the situation is presented as a fair game in which one’s opponent must merely kick a goal to score, but the goalposts don’t actually exist.

  86. Michael says:

    If one says the so-called god-of-the-gaps fallacy means that it is always a fallacy to formulate a god hypothesis in every conceivable circumstance, then one is obliged to address at least one of the counters that have been offered.

    Poor JB doesn’t seem to understand that a fallacy is a fallacy. According to JB, sometimes a fallacy is a fallacy, sometimes it is not. What’s next? Sometimes a false analogy is a fallacy, sometimes it is not?

    Let’s stick with Coyne and his example of a faith healer who is able to cure blindness. Suppose there are, say, 1000 individuals who began with medically documented congenital blindness. A faith healer cures them all, and independent doctors have verified each case. Let’s assume that the possibility of fraud has been eliminated (i.e., we don’t have 1000 individuals who have been pretending to be blind since birth, as if newborns could execute such a con).

    Why is it a fallacy to even suggest the hypothesis that this is the work of God, as the faith healer claims?

    So you are admitting that the God of the Gaps argument is not a fallacy? You are telling me “yes, gaps CAN INDEED count as evidence for God,” right?
    That’s the take home message of your example, but I need you to confirm.

  87. JB says:

    Here’s the problem. If a theist has ever used gaps as evidence for God, or inferred God’s existence from a gap, and Coyne has dismissed/ridiculed this theist for using “the god of the gaps” argument, dismissing the theist merely because they have invoked a gap, then Coyne will have contradicted himself.

    That is exactly how I read the original post: that Coyne et al are contradicting themselves. My first comment points out the equivocation causing the apparent contradiction and shows how it is resolved.

    The equivocation issue can be restated as follows. We’ll stick with RationalWiki (despite its very poor quality) since that is the chosen source. It says the god-of-the-gaps fallacy is a “didit” fallacy having the form

    1. Something happened, I’m not sure why.
    2. X did it!

    Note there is no warrant for “X did it!”. The X is introduced without justification. Contrast that with the following:

    1. The stars in the sky have aligned to form the word “God”.
    2. A tentative hypothesis is that this is the work of God.

    Here, God is not arbitrarily introduced in the second part. The word “God” is part of the observation, so there is warrant for the second part. Moreover, the second part does not have the form “X did it!”. Instead, a tentative hypothesis is given.

    These differences place the stars example apart from the god-of-the-gaps fallacy, which (again) is a “didit” fallacy. There is nothing “didit” or ad hoc about the stars example. It also doesn’t contain a conclusion of “X did it!”.

    The faith healer example, like the stars example, is also not a fallacy because it is a warranted hypothesis. The warrant comes from the faith healer telling us that God is responsible. The god hypothesis isn’t there for no reason — it comes directly from the facts of the case. And it is only an hypothesis, not a conclusion.

    When the stars example (from me) or the faith healer example (from Coyne) is labeled a “gap” and asserted to be a fallacy because it is a “gap”, that is the equivocation problem I’ve been bringing attention to since the very beginning. It conflates a gap that warrants a god hypothesis with a gap that does not warrant a god hypothesis. Indeed the contrast is even starker than that: it is between warranted hypothesis and unwarranted conclusion. The former is not a fallacy; the latter is a fallacy.

    Warranted/unwarranted being dependent upon the person does not affect the issue. The original claim was that e.g. Coyne is being self-contradictory by his own standard. Identifying and resolving the equivocation works fine using Coyne’s own standard.

    Michael, your comments continue to contain the very equivocation I have been pointing to since my first comment. For instance you ask if god-of-the-gaps is not a fallacy, but in response I can only point to the equivocation again: a warranted hypothesis is not a fallacy; an unwarranted conclusion is a fallacy.

    I remain interested in actual arguments on their own merits. I await a response to the argument I have given. I would be encouraged even by a simple question indicating an attempt to understand it. Until then, best of luck to all.

  88. Kevin says:

    Okay, so JB’s position is that no one ever commits this fallacy. Everyone who uses a god hypothesis believes it is warranted, so no one ever asserts an unwarranted god hypothesis.

    Glad we cleared that up.

  89. TFBW says:

    JB’s “didit” fallacy is just the mocking/uncharitable version of the “tentative hypothesis” formulation with which he follows it. So when JB says, “the warrant comes from the faith healer telling us that God is responsible,” he’s saying nothing more than, “the warrant comes from the faith healer telling us that God did it.”

    I would describe JB’s formulation as paper-thin veneer of intellectual respectability, but I think it’s too generous. He’s not kidding anyone but himself.

  90. Michael says:

    I wrote:

    Here’s the problem. If a theist has ever used gaps as evidence for God, or inferred God’s existence from a gap, and Coyne has dismissed/ridiculed this theist for using “the god of the gaps” argument, dismissing the theist merely because they have invoked a gap, then Coyne will have contradicted himself.

    JB replies:

    That is exactly how I read the original post: that Coyne et al are contradicting themselves. My first comment points out the equivocation causing the apparent contradiction and shows how it is resolved.

    Notice how quickly you side step the “if” part of this explanation. Let me expand upon it, as it will help clarify where you have gone wrong.
    Imagine a theist pointing to some phenomenon and noting that science does not have a good explanation for its origin/existence. As such, the theist argues that this unexplained phenomenon is thus evidence for the existence of God.

    From here, there are two ways an atheist/agnostic could reply and thus defend the notion that “there is no evidence for God.”

    Option A: Point out that the theist is using the God of the Gaps approach and note this is a fallacy. Argue that Gaps do not count as evidence for the existence of God, as Gaps are nothing more than evidence of our own current ignorance. With this approach, just dismissing the theist’s appeal to some unexplained phenomena by labeling it “the god-of-the-gaps” approach is sufficient.

    Option B: Instead of dismissing the theist’s argument as a god-of-the-gaps argument, respond by pointing out that while some gaps could merit the existence of God, this particular gap that has been chosen by the theist does not warrant belief in God. Then explain why this particular gap fails as evidence for God.

    What I pointed out to you, JB, is that IF Option A is being used by Coyne (or other atheists), THEN the atheist does indeed contradict himself. Your point about equivocation fails.

    Your point about equivocation only has life IF Option B is played by atheists. Yet as one who had read and interacted with atheists/agnostics for decades, I don’t recall any examples of Option B being played by anyone. Until you. Option A is universally used. Option B comes across as something you made up, something you pulled out of your ass.

    Look, if Option B was in play, then I could and would point to it as a clear, undeniable example of embracing the god-of-the-gaps argument.

    So in the end, your equivocation response fails. It depends entirely on you demonstrating Option B is in play. Demonstrate, not simply assert. You need to show that Coyne and others do indeed rely on Option B when responding to theists and their use of gaps. But I don’t think you can do it. Thus, meaning that your equivcation response has been defeated.

    Contrast that with the following:
    1. The stars in the sky have aligned to form the word “God”.
    2. A tentative hypothesis is that this is the work of God.
    Here, God is not arbitrarily introduced in the second part. The word “God” is part of the observation, so there is warrant for the second part.

    That would only hold true if you could independently demonstrate that only God could form the word “God.” But the major problem here is that, contrary to your assertion, the point is arbitrary and ad hoc. The way to see this is to explore your criteria for the words that would warrant the god hypothesis. Are you saying the stars must spell out “God” to form a god hypothesis? What if they stars spelled out, “Love each other?” Would that be evidence for God?

    Moreover, the second part does not have the form “X did it!”. Instead, a tentative hypothesis is given.

    And a hypothesis, by definition, is testable. So tell us, JB, How would you go about testing this god hypothesis? What would be the test results to confirm that God moved the stars? If you can’t answer that question, you have no hypothesis.

    In fact, you also leave yourself wide open to another objection. Why is the god hypothesis being proposed over a prankster alien hypothesis?
    These differences place the stars example apart from the god-of-the-gaps fallacy, which (again) is a “didit” fallacy. There is nothing “didit” or ad hoc about the stars example. It also doesn’t contain a conclusion of “X did it!”.

    Hate to interrupt your premature celebration, but I have just shown otherwise.

    The faith healer example, like the stars example, is also not a fallacy because it is a warranted hypothesis. The warrant comes from the faith healer telling us that God is responsible. The god hypothesis isn’t there for no reason — it comes directly from the facts of the case. And it is only an hypothesis, not a conclusion.

    You are not making much sense. If the faith healer claimed that SpongeBob Squarepants cured the people, then belief that SpongeBob Squarepants cured the people is warranted, right? Is that your position?

    When the stars example (from me) or the faith healer example (from Coyne) is labeled a “gap” and asserted to be a fallacy because it is a “gap”, that is the equivocation problem I’ve been bringing attention to since the very beginning. It conflates a gap that warrants a god hypothesis with a gap that does not warrant a god hypothesis. Indeed the contrast is even starker than that: it is between warranted hypothesis and unwarranted conclusion. The former is not a fallacy; the latter is a fallacy.

    Entailed in this reasoning is the belief that the god of the gaps argument is NOT a fallacy. Thus, Option A (above) is not allowed, right? I wish for once you would try to be clear about this. If Option A is not tenable, as is entailed by your position, then atheists/agnostics are in the wrong when dismissing a gap as evidence merely because it is a gap.

    Warranted/unwarranted being dependent upon the person does not affect the issue. The original claim was that e.g. Coyne is being self-contradictory by his own standard. Identifying and resolving the equivocation works fine using Coyne’s own standard.

    If Coyne adopts Option A, he is indeed being self-contradictory. Your response about equivocation depends entirely on you being able to show that Coyne relies on Option B (not A) when dealing with theists. You have not done this. Thus, your objection/response is not warranted. As for Coyne’s own standard, he would need to tell us the criteria he uses to seperate the good gaps from the bad gaps. Otherwise, his mushy standards are hidden from view.

    Michael, your comments continue to contain the very equivocation I have been pointing to since my first comment. For instance you ask if god-of-the-gaps is not a fallacy, but in response I can only point to the equivocation again: a warranted hypothesis is not a fallacy; an unwarranted conclusion is a fallacy.

    JB, I continue to point out your unwillingness to answer a simple question – if the god of the gaps argument a fallacy. According to your position, the answer must be no. But you don’t want to be nailed down on this position, now do you?

    I remain interested in actual arguments on their own merits. I await a response to the argument I have given. I would be encouraged even by a simple question indicating an attempt to understand it. Until then, best of luck to all.

    Oh, please. Your argument is not only understood, it has been responded to from various angles (from various people). And it has been defeated. To show otherwise, you need evidence that Option B, and not Option A, is in play when it comes to atheists/agnostics responding to theists and their use of gaps as evidence. You have none.

    What’s striking here is that the main point of this blog entry is that atheists build their atheism on the god of the gaps argument. You have not objected to this, but more importantly, you have worked hard to actually confirm it by outlining the subjective rationale an atheist might use to defend their reliance on god of the gaps thinking. Thank you for that.

    Look, you originally attacked me as being afraid of your comments and need a safe space. Why have you not apologized for this?

  91. Kevin says:

    JB has gone to ignoring everyone but you, Michael. Could you ask him how he thinks God of the gaps is ever a fallacy if every single person who has ever asserted a God hypothesis has believed it to be warranted?

  92. Dhay says:

    JB >

    1. Something happened, I’m not sure why.
    2. X did it!

    Note there is no warrant for “X did it!”. The X is introduced without justification. Contrast that with the following:

    1. The stars in the sky have aligned to form the word “God”.
    2. A tentative hypothesis is that this is the work of God.

    “Contrast”, indeed! These two are the same.

    > The faith healer example, like the stars example, is also not a fallacy because it is a warranted hypothesis. The warrant comes from the faith healer telling us that God is responsible. The god hypothesis isn’t there for no reason — it comes directly from the facts of the case. And it is only an hypothesis, not a conclusion.

    And if the faith healer is Derren Brown, or who it is is unspecified — what warrant is there then!

    > When the stars example (from me) or the faith healer example (from Coyne) is labeled a “gap” and asserted to be a fallacy because it is a “gap”…

    Actually, your stars example is unconvincing, and likely to be plain wrong as a Goddidit, for reasons which Derek has already outlined — alongside which God rearranging the stars at the whim of JB is about the last thing I would expect and would count as good evidence against claims of warrant for Goddidit.

  93. Dhay says:

    JB equivocation [and variants]

    And are you not yourself equivocating between warranted and unwarranted hypotheses — asserting some are warranted, some are not, but without providing any good rule to distinguish which is which. I note, for example, that had your stars spelled out “Magic” that would by your usage warrant Magicdidit.

    You also seem to be liberally equivocating “hypothesis” and “speculation”.

  94. Dhay says:

    JB > I would wish to impart to you the idea that the measure of a good argument is how well it sustains criticism. Permitting criticism on your blog actually affords you an opportunity to improve your arguments.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/god-of-the-gaps-atheism-4/#comment-31973

    Contrast with this, the latest of Kevin’s several similar complaints:

    Kevin > JB has gone to ignoring everyone but you, Michael.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/god-of-the-gaps-atheism-4/#comment-32251

    Yep, JB shuts out and fails to engage with arguments. The obvious conclusion is that if JB has no good response, JB has no good response; that is, his lack of engagement with critics tacitly acknowledges his arguments fail.

    I would wish to impart to JB the idea that the measure of a good criticism is how well it sustains criticism. Responding to critics of your criticism actually affords you an opportunity to improve your arguments.

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