Another Atheist Has Demands for God

Over at his blog, atheist activist Jerry Coyne explains his atheism:

Seriously, if God wanted us to accept Him, why can’t he just come down to Earth and do a few irrefutable miracles that can be witnessed, photographed, and so on?

And then adds:

But all it would take is ONE BIG MIRACLE, of the type I describe in Faith Versus Fact (p. 119)—a miracle that was taped and documented worldwide—to make me believe in a divine being—provisionally, of course, as it might be due to space aliens or some trick.  Why can’t we at least have that?

Let’s think this through.  Dr. Coyne says he would “accept God” if only He would do some “irrefutable miracles.”  Or, it could be “ONE BIG MIRACLE.”  Yet we must ask one simple question – WHY?  Why would Dr. Coyne “accept Him” because of a miracle?  Why would he believe because of a miracle?  What’s the connection?  How does a miracle purchase God belief?

Note, in both cases it has to be a miracle.  In other words, if it was an event that could be explained by natural law or chance, it would not count. Because then it would not be a miracle.

Of course, there is another term for miracle that is common used by atheists.  It’s called a gap.

That is, a miracle presents itself as a gap in our knowledge.  If we can’t explain it with science, natural law, or chance, then this gap in knowledge is called a miracle.  That’s the very connection Coyne is assuming.  In other words, for any miracle to be evidence of God, it depends on us acknowledging that Gaps are evidence of God’s existence.  If Gaps are not evidence of God’s existence, why does Coyne demand miracles (and nothing less counts)?

Since Coyne’s position depends on Gaps being evidence for God, then Coyne’s very atheism is dependent on the God of the Gaps Argument.  Yet the tremendous irony is that Coyne, and countless other atheists, insist (in other contexts) that the God of the Gaps Argument is fundamentally flawed and Gaps are NOT evidence for God’s existence.

So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands Gaps.  Yet the other side of his mouth insists Gaps are useless.  Heads I win, tails you lose.

What is most remarkable is that Coyne, and so many other atheists out there, are completely oblivious to this fatal flaw.

There are also many other aspects of his God of the Gaps approach that strike me as noteworthy.  Let me briefly mention one before I get distracted by something else.

When demanding his Super Duper, Mind Blowing, Sensational Miracle, Coyne asks, “Why can’t we at least have that?”

Yet I was left wondering, “Why bother?”  Y’see, Coyne admits that even after the Super Duper, Mind Blowing, Sensational Miracle, he’ll believe in a “divine being” (Waldo) “provisionally, of course, as it might be due to space aliens or some trick.”  And, of course, “provisionally” could easily mean he’ll believe in the “divine being” for 30 seconds and then join Dawkins in arguing it’s more likely an alien did the Big Miracle.

So once again, why bother?

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145 Responses to Another Atheist Has Demands for God

  1. Ilíon says:

    Christ addresses this very issue in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.

  2. nsr says:

    Throughout the Old and New Testaments we see that miracle conversions very rarely work. There’s Moses in the wilderness, Elijah on Mt Carmel and Jesus feeding the 5000 for starters. All huge, publicly available, undeniable miracles that were noticeably not followed by a huge number of people turning to God in genuine faith.

    The generation who saw Moses’ miracles died in unbelief without ever entering the promised land. Elijah wanted to commit suicide after the trial by fire on Mt Carmel didn’t lead to the revival he was hoping for. Jesus at the end of John 6 is abandoned by almost everyone who was previously following him.

    People may be awed by the initial spectacle but unless something changes in their attitude towards God the miracle has no lasting impact at all. Knowing that God exists doesn’t guarantee that a person will actually listen to him or care what he wants from them.

  3. pennywit says:

    People may be awed by the initial spectacle but unless something changes in their attitude towards God the miracle has no lasting impact at all. Knowing that God exists doesn’t guarantee that a person will actually listen to him or care what he wants from them.

    In all seriousness, I saw this expressed (in of all places) the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty:

    Parting your soup is not a miracle, Bruce. It’s a magic trick. A single mom who’s working two jobs and still finds time to take her kid to soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager who says “no” to drugs and “yes” to an education, that’s a miracle. People want me to do everything for them. But what they don’t realize is *they* have the power. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.

  4. Ilíon says:

    Knowing that God exists doesn’t guarantee that a person will actually listen to him or care what he wants from them.

    “The demons believe [that God is], and tremble.”

  5. Bill Hankel says:

    I’ve often pondered what would happen if God appeared simultaneously throughout the world, making his existence undeniable. I suspect after a few initial moments of worldwide jubilation, many people would quickly turn and curse Him for any and all problems in their lives, no matter how trivial.

    (Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.)

  6. jim- says:

    “The demons believe [that God is], and tremble.” Lol.
    Mass movements don’t require a god, but they do require a devil—the common thread that binds Christianity. Magnificent late invention to keep y’all marching. Predictably Christianity has behaved like the Antichrist as much as any group in history.

  7. Kevin says:

    Magnificent late invention to keep y’all marching

    Who invented it? What are our marching orders? To what end are we marching, and to whose benefit?

  8. Dhay says:

    jim- > Mass movements don’t require a god, but they do require a devil—the common thread that binds Christianity. Magnificent late invention to keep y’all marching. Predictably Christianity has behaved like the Antichrist as much as any group in history.

    Ah, Eric Hoffer again. You quoted him in the latest “The Atheist’s Where’s Waldo Approach” thread; so, having never heard of him, I looked him up on Wiki and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

    Hoffer wrote his 1951 book, “The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements” nearly seventy years ago, since when his book and name and ideas – on my side of the Atlantic at any rate – have sunk into obscurity, likewise his message.

    The “true believer” of the title and your quote is the enthusiastic supporter of political, social and religious mass movements whose members seek radical social change away from a status quo they are disaffected with; they are “true believers” such as the “true believer” in Nazism and the “true believer” in Communism. They also include “true believers” in whatever religious mass movements seeking radical change it was that Hoffer referred to in his writings, though my sources don’t specify what religious mass movements Hoffer had in mind, so I am left puzzled.

    Commonsense tells me he won’t have referred to most Christians; Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism are nowadays highly conservative rather than seeking radical change, they are the establishment who disaffected people like you rage against. The founding movements of each happened many centuries ago; although there have been Revivals periodically, in my time and place there’s been nothing bigger than Billy Graham’s visit and that wasn’t big. Jonestown was after Hoffer’s book, it involved fewer than 1,000 so was not even a mass movement, and it can better be described as a Socialist movement:

    When members apparently cried, Jones counseled “Stop this hysterics. This is not the way for people who are Socialists or Communists to die. No way for us to die. We must die with some dignity.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_suicide#Religiously_motivated_suicides

    I think I can safely ignore your Hoffer quote meme as not applying to me or to other Christian responders here.

    Possibly the religious mass movement Hoffer had in mind were those Hindus and Muslims in India at the time of independence and partition, who demonised and murdered each other. But I’m guessing, and I don’t like mere guessing; you appear to have enough knowledge of Hoffer’s ideas to present them in your own words (ie not just quote ‘atheist memes’) so I seek clarification from you: which religious mass movements did Hoffer have in mind?

  9. Dhay says:

    jim- > Mass movements don’t require a god, but they do require a devil…

    Though I realise Eric Hoffer’s life and work long pre-dated the modern SJW and ‘Woke’ mass movements, they are frequest topics in Michael’s OPs, so I would value your opinion on whether you think Hoffer would consider they meet Hoffer’s criteria for mass movements with “true believer” devotees:

    Hoffer argues that fanatical and extremist cultural movements, whether religious, social, or national, arise when large numbers of frustrated people, believing their own individual lives to be worthless or spoiled, join a movement demanding radical change. But the real attraction for this population is an escape from the self, not a realization of individual hopes: “A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.”

    Hoffer consequently argues that the appeal of mass movements is interchangeable: in the Germany of the 1920s and the 1930s, for example, the Communists and National Socialists were ostensibly enemies, but sometimes enlisted each other’s members, since they competed for the same kind of marginalized, angry, frustrated people. For the “true believer,” Hoffer argues that particular beliefs are less important than escaping from the burden of the autonomous self.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Hoffer#The_True_Believer

    I’ll fall back on your own Hoffer quote for the demonisation of others part:

    The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/126219-the-impression-somehow-prevails-that-the-true-believer-particularly-the

    Since you know Hoffer’s work and ideas better than I do, would you agree or disagree that the modern SJW and ‘Woke’ movements meet Hoffer’s criteria for being mass movements with “true believers” who demonise outsiders?

  10. Isaac says:

    Once again they’re acting as if God WANTS to secure their belief, but just can’t convince them because He’s not real. As if Jerry Coyne’s belief in God is some sort of valuable prize, and God just can’t close the bargain.

    That’s not how any of that works.

  11. pennywit says:

    Predictably Christianity has behaved like the Antichrist as much as any group in history.

    Ever hear the old saw about how there are three kinds of lies? They’re “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” This falls into category number 2.

    I have plenty of disagreements with Christians individually, Christians as a group, and Christian institutions. However, Christians and Christian institutions, I have found, can be and have been forces for both good and evil. Yes, Juan Gines de Sepulveda (to choose one historical personage) was a Christian. But so was Martin Luther King, Jr. (to choose another historical personage).

    Your broad, categorical statement does not match reality.

  12. Mel Wild says:

    As you have pointed out many times here, ironically, the anti-theist’s arguments against God are always based in the very shopworn “God of the gaps” argument. Frankly, it’s astonishing that they don’t seem to get this.

    To quote John Lennox: “Genesis doesn’t begin by saying that God created the “bits” we don’t understand. He created the whole show, the bits we don’t understand as well as the ones we do understand.” (Veritas Forum at UW-Madison: “Is There Truth Beyond Science?“)

  13. jim- says:

    I could hardly classify atheism as a mass movement as its missing a couple of key components. Most atheists never say a word about it and carry on life as usual. I hear Christians quote Harris and Dawkins far more than I hear atheists.
    As I understand it, most atheists really have no common enemy (no devil) and even when debating Christians it is more at attempting reason than threats of hell and demons, as noted in this post. The threat is the Christian go-to when the argument is spiraling.
    One reason trump won the election is he was able to produce an enemy (the Mexican devils) and the religious right ate it up.
    Another difference is like this; Americans are poor haters. We typically love everybody but ourselves. They see themselves with an innate feeling of superiority over the rest of the world, therefor hated. If Americans ever start to hate foreigners (as Hoffer states) it would be an indication that they have lost faith in their own way of life. I think a lot of atheists feel this superiority as well, that is why they are typically tolerant of many things Christianity is not, but come across as arrogant. Real hate comes when one feels inferior. America is hated by many nations, but they’re pulling for us at the same time to get it right. It affects the whole world.
    I hate to disappoint your common sense though. Mass movements and the Christian model are synchronous in nearly every way, but it would apply to any mass movement. They have a devil that never goes away. (Hitler had his jews that other horrible leaders were envious of) and historically when you had the ability to enforce the religion, you did. Actually became what you despised every where it planted its flag. Christianity follows the mass movement model very closely.
    -New religion challenging the status quo.
    -Taken on by the romans.
    -Used as a tool to absorb countless cultures
    -Creating new zealots to stand behind the religion (state)
    -Go out in force and do the works of evil in the name of good.
    The conversion of Europe and Latin America is unimaginable without the sword. Millions slaughtered in the name of Jesus.
    Did you know Bartolo de las Casas? He recorded first hand accounts in 1505 of what the church was endorsing in the Caribbean.
    “We hung the men 13 at a time on a gibbet in honor of Christ and the 12 apostles and burned them alive” He estimated 10-12 million killed in the Caribbean that way. Mothers de-breasted alive while the caciques were rounded up and decimated. He stated “it appears they have no religion nor know violence. They do not defend themselves not fear death..they would make fine slaves. This is just one small sampling of the church itself becoming the Antichrist. Becoming what they despise. Most atheists would just like to live their lives without the constricting band of someone else’s beliefs.
    If anything (unfortunately) atheism probably bolsters faith, giving Christians something else to blame for the worlds problems, further unifying the movement. The world in which they have had a near monopoly in the west for over 1000 years. Ultimately they must someday take responsibility for the failures.
    Another example is here in the US. We fought the oppression of the crown and taxation without representation, now we are the greatest example of that in the western world. We became a larger version of England in many ways, something we despised, we became.
    I am grateful secular laws have protected us from religious enforcement. I don’t believe for a moment a good deity would produce such horrible results time after time. Not could your authority any longer be from God, if he was good. Really for me it is the repeated outcomes of faith that made me began to question if I was doing the right thing.

  14. jim- says:

    Of course Mel you can make this claim, but can you prove it by filling one of those gaps with some special knowledge that only god could reveal? That would be some kind of proof. And which gaps has revelation or the Bible supplanted over a scientific discovery? There are plenty of biblical stories supplanted by science, but has religion or the Bible ever supplanted a scientific fact?

  15. jim- says:

    Miracle conversions nsr, can never stick because faith is then fact. The gospel can only survive on faith. That’s the trick, and why the appeal to faith created this long lasting condition. There is no concrete evidence for Jesus, but there is lasting evidence of what faith without fact will do. Faith is evidence of things not seen. Integrity is admitting there’s no evidence of those things. So we are at an impasse and beliefs continue to have more virtue than facts, because of beliefs. It’s a big win for those in power to keep the world in discussion over something no one can prove.

  16. Kevin says:

    Faith is evidence of things not seen.

    Have you ever even opened a Bible? You don’t seem to know anything about it, based on your total lack of understanding of what faith is.

  17. Kevin says:

    A lot of atheists love to quote Hebrews 11:1, but they ignore the entire rest of the same chapter which disproves the twisted definition of faith they try to get by isolating the first verse.

    If you are going to contrast faith with integrity, you wind up sacrificing your integrity by falsely defining faith. Strawmen are not the hallmark of integrity.

  18. Mel Wild says:

    Jim, with your first question, all you’re doing is appealing to an argument for the god of the gaps (again). Your second question is a variation of the same. You think that science should supplant God, or visa versa. This is a false dichotomy.

  19. jim- says:

    To quote John Lennox: “Genesis doesn’t begin by saying that God created the “bits” we don’t understand. He created the whole show, the bits we don’t understand as well as the ones we do understand.”. If you are making this claim show me some evidence any such claim is true. All Lennox has done is make a claim that god made everything without any evidence that is true. What scientific discovery has ever been supplanted by a bible verse of paranormal revelation? We know many, many things that used to be attributed to god that are easily explainable and no longer gods domain—unless of course god was withholding things that are simply fields of study now.

  20. Mel Wild says:

    Again, Jim, you keep appealing to the god of the gaps in your questions. Asking about what God has supplanted is the wrong question. Why don’t you see this?

    You ask for evidence. You continue to exist. Why do you exist? And why can we have science in the first place?

  21. jim- says:

    Why don’t you see Lennox is making claims without a shred of proof? Simply a faith statement.

  22. Mel Wild says:

    Of course, he is. What’s your point, Jim?
    Science certainly cannot prove or disprove what you’re asking.

  23. Ilíon says:

    Science can’t prove or disprove much of anything.

  24. Mel Wild says:

    @ Ilion. Exactly. Of course, if you believe in the religion of scientism, you believe it does.

  25. Ilíon says:

    Ah, but then you’re not talking about ‘science’, you’re talking about ‘Science!

  26. TFBW says:

    jim is demanding evidence, but has decided in advance that the only evidence he will accept is a pre-existing universal belief in God. To the extent that such a belief does exist, he has rejected it as insufficient. I think the argument is over at this point.

    Sorry, jim, we can’t jump through your particular hoop. Defeat admitted. Go and enjoy your victory somewhere else.

  27. jim- says:

    Thanks Kevin. I have read the Bible about 30 times. I know the definition of faith and what it promises. I also know what it actually does to human cognition.
    Faith is to surrender what we actually see to pretend we don’t see it until we can agree with the host ideation (prison camp studies bear this out pretty well) To dismiss our vision and put effort to the hormones, to vividly imagine what another has imagined to be god—then begin to live as though it’s real. Then, practice makes perfect.

    It is pointless to argue with faith because through submission and repetition the neurons are effectively hardwired with new neuropathways. Now we argue logic and reason against your physiology. It’s no longer a battle of ideas, but the problem is now physical. Hence the inability of have to think an atheist can understand your arguments while you blatantly miss every point.
    I was reading an article one day and I didn’t get the title. I thought is was an exposé on religious conversion and indoctrinating children. Surprised at the end when I found it was brainwashing techniques used on Chinese and Vietnam POW’s. You guys really have it going. Might be worth your while to put down the Bible for a minute and get a real assessment of your belief. It’s very remarkable how the appeal to faith has stunted humanity and the ability to absorb various forms of knowledge. I know. I can’t believe some of the things I used to say and believe.

  28. jim- says:

    I’ve actually found evidence. It just isn’t going your way to Yahweh. Yahweh required swordplay to achieve dominance, not ideas, now the prisoners drive the ship.

  29. jim- says:

    For 1400 years the conversion of Latin America, Europe, and the Native American is unimaginable without the sword. Millions killed as an outcome of faith. Water it down all you want. Only faith can excuse that.

  30. TFBW says:

    Okay, so your mind is made up; you have seen the evidence and decided. As such, you’re not here to listen to arguments, so are you here to gloat, scoff, or proselytise?

  31. RobertM says:

    Jim says: “It is pointless to argue with faith because through submission and repetition the neurons are effectively hardwired with new neuropathways. Now we argue logic and reason against your physiology. It’s no longer a battle of ideas, but the problem is now physical.”

    So if this is the case, then why would you keep showing up “to argue with faith”?

    On the other hand, if there is no God, nothing supernatural, then everything is physical. All “logic and reason”, as well as “faith”, is just a byproduct of physiology… electrons whizzing around in our brains, minimizing gradients in electrical and chemical potential. Strictly chemistry. So again, what’s the point in arguing?

  32. Ilíon says:

    Isn’t it amazing how these materialistic fools always exempt *themselves* from their anti-rational “explanation” for why we argue that God is … and while never actually attempting to engage the arguments.

  33. Kevin says:

    I’m a big Star Wars fan…or was until the sequels came out. I found them to be hot garbage.

    However, I’m glad I watched them, because I can just let Luke Skywalker respond to Jim for me.

    “Amazing. Every word of what you just said…was wrong.”

  34. jim- says:

    I see all religions equally through unbelief. Through belief you can only see yours as authentic, but you can easily decide the Mormons, the Muslims, and the Hindus are off their rockers. That simply how others view your religion. Equal opportunity delusion. No one can submit to to a dogma and then objectively scrutinize it.
    ”To continuously evaluate whether a being (or god) is good requires moral judgment, which requires moral autonomy.
Therefore it is not possible to continuously evaluate if a being is good while also worshipping it (or submitting to it)
Therefore, worshipping necessarily requires abandoning one’s moral responsibility, which is immoral.
    Likewise you cannot objectively scrutinize anything in your own faith, it requires a third party peer review. You’re welcome. The only thing you are capable of now is judging others that believe outside of what you believe. You are in the faith trap.

  35. jim- says:

    I’m trying to get you through the eye of the needle RobertM. It takes a special miracle. Questions are the beginning of the severance.

  36. Kevin says:

    Likewise you cannot objectively scrutinize anything in your own faith, it requires a third party peer review. You’re welcome. The only thing you are capable of now is judging others that believe outside of what you believe. You are in the faith trap.

    You seem to think that your lack of belief in God / a god somehow makes you immune from the asserted need for third-party evaluation of your beliefs (which certainly isn’t flattering thus far). Can’t have it both ways. And since you still can’t accurately define faith, you most certainly can’t attempt to use it as the difference.

  37. TFBW says:

    Ah, so he’s here to proselytise. I suspected as much. It must be lonely holding such, shall we say, unorthodox views.

    Kevin, not everything jim says is wrong. Much of it is not even wrong.

  38. jim- says:

    Fabulous sense of humor. A curious lot this is, wanting to discuss atheism but not wanting or caring to discuss it with atheist, or even at all why atheism really exists. I’m not here to proselytize, I was under the impression you wanted more than the false talking points you all brew around.
    Atheism is simply proof that man can be tempted more than he can bear—with knowledge. The Bible is wrong again—weird

  39. RobertM says:

    Jim, it’s like you’re at the same drive-in as the rest of us, but you’re watching a totally different movie. Enjoy!

  40. Kevin says:

    Not only do you not know what faith is, but you also don’t know what atheism is.

    Clueless about Christianity and clueless about atheism. Have you ever actually paid any attention to what you say you believe?

  41. Ilíon says:

    Clueless about Christianity and clueless about atheism.

    As can be seen on an almost daily basis on this very blog, the typical God-denier is careful to maintain a studied ignorance concerning these two mutually exclusive views on the nature of reality. And those, such as Dawkins, Dennett, or the Churchlands, who do acknowledge at least some of the absurdities logically entailed by atheism, continue to deny the reality of God … even as they appeal to concepts (*) which are denied by atheism and cannot exist were atheism the truth about the nature of reality.

    Evangelical atheists are always so eager to declare Christianity to be both absurd and debunked — though, oddly enough, always by means of question-begging, including begging the question of whether atheism is even rational, much less true.

    The question of whether atheism or “mere theism” is the truth about the nature of reality is more fundamental than, epistemologically prior to (**), the question of whether Christ rose from the dead. But most God-deniers faithfully avoid that particular question … for to seriously engage the issue is to see that atheism necessarily generates inescapable absurdities; that is, it is to see that atheism itself is absurd, and thus false. Aside from the likes of a Dawkins, or a Dennett, or a Churchland, most people can’t maintain faith in their Faith when it is absurd.

    (*) reason and rationality, justice, and so on.

    (**) that’s why I call it “the First Question”

  42. TFBW says:

    jim said, “I’m trying to get you through the eye of the needle RobertM.” Not long after, jim said, “I’m not here to proselytize.” I have no further comment on that.

    jim said, “I was under the impression you wanted more than the false talking points you all brew around.” Yes, thanks for sharing your own talking points. Much appreciated. You can stop repeating them ad nauseam, however. There comes a point where such repetition can only be because you haven’t stroked your own ego to climax yet.

  43. nsr says:

    I feel sorry for atheists who proclaim themselves as being “free” after their deconversion from Christianity. Freedom to serve sin is the exact opposite of what they think it is.

  44. jim- says:

    I don’t sin, nsr. Nice try though

  45. jim- says:

    I guess you guys are pretending to know or pretending to want to know what an atheist thinks? Hence your atheist discussion? I’m Not proselytizing. I’ll go away if you say so. Christianity and Islam have effectively killed original thought by making copycats. Then claim they are more rational by believing something they claim no one can understand but by faith. Then self assigning faith as a virtuous pinnacle of the religious experience. The Bible’s true because the Bible says it’s true has bleed over into the Christian psyche

  46. nsr says:

    Out of curiosity, do you ever subject the ideas that come into your head to any sort of rational scrutiny or enquiry?

  47. jim- says:

    Certainly, I put all of my thoughts in an open forum to be criticized. I also consider ever comment carefully, even here. Even the personal jabs.
    Over the past three years I’ve had roughly 60,000 comments, and I have changed my views in many areas. I’ve considered the opinions of thousands of people. My goal in starting this blog was to remain expert free and try to find a contradictory free explanation of things without the expert opinions that have us where we are today. I have yet to read any atheist books, nor do I watch their videos. This had to be my journey from my own observations with the least amount of bias as possible. It’s been an interesting thought exercise, but I’ve made no conclusions.
    Initially I thought beliefs were the problem but it turns out that belief itself is the root of all of humanity’s issues. Convictions of thought that will drive people to condemn each other, or to even hit their own children. War division, all of it is based on beliefs.
    One of my favorite Bible stories is the Tower of Babel, but for different reasons than most. “ The people were of one voice, and this they began to do…And they were about to accomplish the thing that they had set out to do, and nothing could be refrained from them”
    Those in power do not want humanity united. The appeal to faith is now the tool no man can resist, especially when grace trumps personal accountability.
    I look at faith now as a type of guru challenge to his student. A barrier to human progress, and until we can surpass belief mode, we will be stuck in the monotheistic stall forever. In my own experience, the virtual moment I no longer believed I saw people in a different light and I was ashamed really, of what religion allowed me to think and do to another human in the name of beliefs. No one is as dumb as all of us. The power of the herd is remarkable.

  48. nsr says:

    For me anyone who puts their faith in human progress, other than in the realm of technology, is far more naive and deluded than anyone who puts their faith in a deity. One of the reasons I became a Christian is because I recognised from a very early age that human beings don’t have even a fraction of the wisdom, integrity and ability with which we regularly credit ourselves. It’s blind faith of the most obvious kind.

  49. TFBW says:

    I guess you guys are pretending to know or pretending to want to know what an atheist thinks?

    You’ve already told us what you think, and unless you have something else to say which isn’t merely a rephrasing of something you’ve already said, we’ve all given your thoughts as much consideration as a charitable hearing demands. As far as I can tell, you’ve been repeating the same narrow talking points about how faith blinds us all (which you spout in lieu of actually engaging any of the points other people raise) for some time now.

    Your position is exceedingly dull, when all is said and done. It doesn’t take long to discern that you are employing a form of epistemic solipsism, similar to but distinct from the one Stardusty Psyche employs. All your arguments involve dismissing other people’s arguments on the basis that they are held by faith, and faith is anti-rational, or words to that effect. This is a really tedious form of argument. Nobody here accepts your assertions about what “faith” is or what role it plays in our belief structures, and that’s the end of that. You take your pronouncements seriously because you have a hyper-inflated valuation of your own intellectual prowess. To me, it just looks like you’re another buffoon who thought he could reinvent philosophy from first principles, did it badly, and now thinks his own little conceptual goldfish bowl defines reality for all.

    Do you have any interest in hearing me tell you over and over again that you’re just plain wrong? That your entire philosophy is broken beyond hope? No? Well, the feeling is mutual, only you’re making a blanket statement about the entirety of religious thought (and then some), pretty much regardless of details, whereas my comments are targeted at you, not atheists in general.

  50. jim- says:

    That’s what I mean. You criticize everything but never offer any insight. —Apologetics 101
    Clinging to a failed past while the entire universe moves forward. That’s buffoonery, as you do kindly stated.

  51. TFBW says:

    Insert smugly superior assertion dismissing everyone else here.
    —jim 101

  52. Kevin says:

    Clinging to a failed past while the entire universe moves forward.

    Well you finally realized that God is not part of the universe. That’s progress!

  53. FZM says:

    To me, it just looks like you’re another buffoon who thought he could reinvent philosophy from first principles…

    I thought jim was just a pure troll posting to aggravate people but yes, it seems like he does have big ambitions. Trying to reinvent philosophy while ignoring the work of anyone who knows anything about it though… what are the chances that will go well? Somehow it seems to end up in the repetition of the crudest grade of New Atheist talking points.

  54. jim- says:

    So FZM, if your happy with the way the world is, just keep doing what we’re doing. It’s working so well, plus you verbally gang rape anyone that has a different way of seeing the world. It will be a beautiful monochromatic bliss if you achieve your objective of controlling every thought in in the name of Jesus. We’ll drive from the north and to the south, and even to the east and find everything Christian. How exciting—in a perverse kind of way.

  55. Ilíon says:

    nsr:… anyone who puts their faith in human progress … is far more naive and deluded than anyone who puts their faith in a deity.

    What does “progress” even mean? And, if “progress” isn’t a vacuous term, how does one differentiate “progress” from “regress”? And, if “progress” isn’t a vacuous term, and one differentiate “progress” from “regress”, that *must* mean that there is a goal or send-state toward which one/society is progressing.

  56. Ilíon says:

    … whereas my comments are targeted at you, not atheists in general.

    Not to worry, I can pick up the slack. And, after all, my comments concerning atheism in general (and, for that matter, atheists in general) are carefully and logically thought-out.

  57. Kevin says:

    you verbally gang rape anyone that has a different way of seeing the world.

    Ah yes, I recall the many times I was greeted with kindness and respect whenever I stepped foot in an atheist zone.

    Oh wait. Silly me, there was nothing but mockery and scorn. Almost like atheists are no better than their accused.

  58. Isaac says:

    The very first time I ever entered an atheist chat room, in 2017, someone very quickly described their fantasy of running me over like an animal with their car. And that was one of the nicer comments.

    Given the well-known controversy over extreme sexual harassment (even of minors) in major atheist hubs online, some self-awareness would be nice.

  59. Isaac says:

    I don’t know why I typed “2017” above. It was supposed to be 1997. I was in high school and on a dialup connection.

  60. nsr says:

    //plus you verbally gang rape anyone that has a different way of seeing the world. //

    I can understand why a person who reacts like this to people disagreeing with or correcting the random thoughts that flow unfiltered from his mind to his mouth would have had problems belonging to a church.

  61. FZM says:

    It’s working so well, plus you verbally gang rape anyone that has a different way of seeing the world.

    Strange, a couple of posts back you were the confident 1st world universal violator of the beliefs of a range of other people:

    Through belief you can only see yours as authentic, but you can easily decide the Mormons, the Muslims, and the Hindus are off their rockers. That simply how others view your religion. Equal opportunity delusion.

    And here worldwide uniformity in beliefs is very bad:

    It will be a beautiful monochromatic bliss if you achieve your objective of controlling every thought in in the name of Jesus. We’ll drive from the north and to the south, and even to the east and find everything Christian.

    But here, one of two posts before, the fact that everyone does not share a single world view and there isn’t a single universal government is bad:

    One of my favorite Bible stories is the Tower of Babel, but for different reasons than most. “ The people were of one voice, and this they began to do…And they were about to accomplish the thing that they had set out to do, and nothing could be refrained from them”Those in power do not want humanity united.

    jim cries out in pain while he strikes you.

    I remember this from before jim. Basically you seem to have very strong emotional issues with Christianity and it clouds out everything else. So you seem like a troll.

  62. Brian says:

    There is a long history of theologians criticizing God of the Gaps thinking. In 1893 evangelist Henry Drummond talked about ( https://books.google.com/books?id=efgTDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA45 )

    …reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps—gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in the Gaps?

    Similar criticisms of God of the Gaps have continued to be strongly supported by Christians, both theologians and non-theologians, up to the present day.

    Yet you’re saying that any Christian who rejects God of the Gaps thinking is logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public (per Coyne’s example).

  63. jim- says:

    Progress, for the Christian would be simply patting the rolls, adding more numbers to an obviously failed system that fails the few, and progressively fails even farther the more you add to it. Nice work. Real progress would be establishing peace and equality for everyone, Well, you can be smug in the failures of faith others are actually working towards progress that is so elusive, but constantly promised by faith but admittedly only achieved later. You know, when Jesus comes to save you all. Waiting for this nonsense has been a big part of the problem.

  64. jim- says:

    Oh silly you who claim to know better but your faith hasn’t made any of you kind. I would like to believe Christianity makes the world
    Better, but it has never shown it. It’s like the borg.
    Now your faith is choosing the hormonal response over the other five senses.

  65. Ilíon says:

    Isaac:Given the well-known controversy over extreme sexual harassment (even of minors) in major atheist hubs online, some self-awareness would be nice.

    Self-awareness would lead to introspection, and introspection might well lead to critical evaluation of their God-denial, and that might lead to admitting that atheism is absurd, and thus false. And that would be a fate worse than death.

    ================
    Concerning the current “You theists are being such meanies!” campaign —

    They trying to gaslight you. And they’re doing that because it has always worked in the past at other venues.

    But compare their behavior against your/ours — they are engaging in standard-issue God-denial “argumentation” (*), whereas you/we are attacking the things they say/claim.

    (*) the trusty old “You theists are so stupid/deluded/deranged” gambit

  66. Ilíon says:

    Brian:Yet you’re saying that any Christian who rejects God of the Gaps thinking is logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public (per Coyne’s example).

    Ultimately, Michael will speak for himself. Nevertheless, this is not what he is saying.

  67. Kevin says:

    Oh silly you who claim to know better but your faith hasn’t made any of you kind.

    If it did make us “kind” in the way you mean it, you would behave no differently toward us. The only difference would be you would be the only one slinging criticism, rather than also receiving it.

    Rebuke of foolishness is quite different than being mean. You obviously know nothing of even the basics of the Christian faith, since you can’t even accurately define “faith”, yet you criticize anyway. You vastly overstate the case for atheism as a superior position, yet use it to strut. Of course you’re going to get rebuked.

  68. FZM says:

    …others are actually working towards progress that is so elusive…

    By trolling first and foremost it seems. Troll based progress.

  69. Ilíon says:

    Again” what does “progress” even mean?

  70. I’m going to guess that for less sophisticated atheists, whether they can articulate it or not, “progress” means movement towards a childish world where every pleasure one can imagine is available with zero consequences.

  71. Brian says:

    There’s an interesting parallel between here and the Dawkins thread. Here and in that thread, there’s a remarkable inability to recognize that the problem being ascribed to atheists is actually a problem for theists, too. See my Drummond comment above.

  72. TFBW says:

    Brian, I think you’re equivocating on the idea of a “gap”. I don’t want to belabour the point, because I consider it tangential to the subject at hand, but I’ll address the issue as succinctly as I can.

    There are two ways of looking at “gaps”. In one of these, the person who advocates Science as superseding or supplanting Religion asserts that Scientific explanations always expand to occupy more territory, taking it away from Religious ones. The classic (if simple-minded) example for this is thunder and lightning: the Religious explanation is allegedly that “it is the gods fighting”, whereas the scientific one involves electrical potential differences and whatnot. In this model, the “gap” is simply the remaining set of phenomena which Science has yet to explain adequately. From a Christian perspective, this analysis is wrong-headed, because science is the process of discovering and documenting the laws that the Creator has woven into the fabric of the universe. Each new scientific discovery reduces a gap in our understanding, but does not impact the need for God in the slightest.

    The other sense in which “gap” is used is more synonymous with “miracle”, and is only related to the above concept of “gap” in that it represents a phenomenon for which we have no explanation. It is distinguished, however, by its contrast with what we do know about the normal operating rules of the universe. A resurrection won’t be considered a miracle if the culture in which the resurrection occurs considers resurrection a normal possibility for some reason. Likewise, a culture which doesn’t understand the precise relationship between sex and pregnancy might not consider an immaculate conception to be a miracle. In cultures which do have a sufficient grasp of the underlying mechanisms, however, these miracles stand out as startling divergences from expectations, suggesting that something other than the normal operating rules of the universe are in play—or that we are quite wrong about those rules in some way after all.

    Thus, to summarise, a gap of the first kind represents a gap in what we know, particularly with reference to that gap being filled at a later time by a scientific explanation. A gap of the second kind represents a miracle: a gap in the ability of our well-accepted explanations to account for a specific fact in the real world which seems to defy those expectations.

    There is a bunch of criticism which applies to arguments based on gaps of the first kind which does not apply to gaps of the second kind (and vice versa, no doubt). By my understanding of Drummond’s comments, he is talking about gaps of the first kind. You’re treating the two as interchangeable when you suppose those comments apply to miracles. That’s a mistake; your criticism is misplaced.

  73. Brian says:

    TFBW, thank you for your comment. I believe you’ve put your finger on exactly the issue.

    Outside of this blog, the idea of “God of the Gaps” refers to what Drummond is referring to: gaps in the current state of knowledge (gap of the first kind). Theologians, scientists, everyone uses it this way.

    And outside of this blog, I haven’t seen anyone use “gaps” refer to miracles (gaps of the second kind).

    The original blog post above simply runs with the equivocation you have identified. Outside of this blog, people use “gaps” to mean gaps in what we know (gaps of the first kind). Michael then introduces another sense of “gap”, one which refers to a miracle (gap of the second kind). He then equates one with the other to arrive at his conclusions.

    TFBW, I am not being being sarcastic when I say that it was a brilliant insight to identify that equivocation. It really brings clarity to what is happening here.

  74. Ilíon says:

    TFBW:… a culture which doesn’t understand the precise relationship between sex and pregnancy might not consider an immaculate conception to be a miracle.

    That’s not what “immaculate conception” means.

  75. TFBW says:

    Thanks, Brian, for accepting my analysis. I generally expect a knee-jerk reaction of “you’re wrong” simply because a theist offered the analysis, so it’s refreshing to have some actual engagement for a change. Since you have accepted my analysis in such good faith, I’ll go to round two and invest some more time into it.

    Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that your allegation is true: i.e. that this blog is unique (or near enough) in using miracles (gaps of the second kind) as points of consideration in “god of the gaps” arguments. Does this mean that the argument is based on the fallacy of equivocation?

    Note that both kinds of gap have a thing in common which is what earns them the name: a failure of science to explain a fact in nature, or what we might call an explanatory gap. For gaps of the first kind, this is because science is insufficiently broad in its scope (as it stands) and thus has no explanation at all; for gaps of the second kind, this is because science actually has something to say about the subject, and it’s wrong. However, so long as the key issue is the failure of science to make an account of the fact, the two types do not differ in a clear-cut way. Neither gap is absolute: a type-1 gap can be filled by the development of new scientific fields, and a type-2 gap can be filled by the refinement of an existing theory, or the development of a new one. From this I conclude that equivocation can be avoided if the two kinds of gaps are only used in a way that deals with their common elements. As such, we can’t assume equivocation is present just because both kinds of gap are present: it depends on the details.

    We should also bear in mind that not every type-1 gap or type-2 gap is of equal quality to its peers. Some “miracles” are frauds. That doesn’t mean all miracles are frauds, but it means you have to be careful about them. This distinction isn’t hugely important for present purposes, so I won’t discuss it further, but simply note that “weak” and “strong” are possible distinctions to be made independently of the type 1/2 distinction.

    When the typical atheist describes a “god of the gaps” argument and why it’s weak, we get something like this commentary from Hemant Mehta in 2013. (I’ll spare you AronRa’s 2018 “The God of the Gaps”, which even includes a “thunder and lightning” reference, lest anyone think I was inventing a straw man earlier. His presentation is packed solid with superfluous anti-religious rhetoric, as always, and I have no desire to sort the wheat from the chaff.) I could go into a lengthy analysis of Hemant’s short commentary, because it glosses over a lot of important distinctions, but for now let’s just use it as the testimony of a hostile witness. Although Hemant doesn’t describe it in terms as clear as this, my summation of his position is as follows: the key problem with a “god of the gaps” argument is that it supposes a need for God based on the lack of an alternative explanation. Thus, when an alternative explanation does eventually show up, the need for God is eliminated, and the support vanishes.

    One might also frame it as an argument from ignorance, having the caricatured form, “I don’t know how this works, therefore God did it” (usually abbreviated “goddidit” by detractors). That’s an uncharitable framing which I will disregard for now. Let’s work with the more explicit form in which the gap purportedly implies the need for God, but that need is undermined if the gap is filled by an alternative explanation.

    Another possible objection to the “god of the gaps” argument is to question the idea that it does, indeed, imply the need for God. Even if we have no evidence-backed alternative explanation for the phenomenon in general, why should we resort to God as the explanation? God can explain a great many phenomena, but surely there are other possible explanations, and perhaps those are less far-fetched than God (to those who consider God a far-fetched idea). This objection does not purport to fill the gap, but questions whether explanations other than God might suffice, so why not give equal credence to them? In other words, why is this gap evidence for God, specifically?

    So far, I see nothing in this which requires a “god of the gaps” argument to be a type-1 or type-2 gap. Both offer an explanatory gap which could be used as the basis for some need for God. The go-to examples used by people like Hemant Mehta tend to be type-1 gaps. In fact, they tend to be type-1 gaps that aren’t even gaps, because the scientific explanation already exists. Mehta’s own explanation refers to heredity of traits, and planetary motion, for example. Presumably this is for rhetorical reasons: he’s picking examples which are obviously bad to support his case that such arguments are bad arguments. This is one of the problems with his presentation: it relies more on prejudice induced through weak examples than analysis of why the form of argument is weak.

    One certainly could produce a “god of the gaps” argument based on a type-2 gap, but it would require the presence of an undisputed type-2 gap in order to stand. A Christian could, for example, cite the resurrection of Jesus as evidence for God, as a resurrection provides the necessary kind of explanatory gap. Of course, the response to this will not be that science will one day accommodate the fact of spontaneous resurrection (a type-1 gap response), but rather to question whether such a resurrection happened at all (deny the miracle). Many sceptics will, in fact, take the scientific knowledge we have of biology as proof that no such resurrection ever happened. In other words, the fact that it would be a type-2 gap (a miracle) if it happened is sufficient evidence for most sceptics to believe that it didn’t. This derails the argument into a metaphysical disagreement about whether miracles are possible, so arguments based on type-2 gaps are more or less doomed to fail from the start.

    On the other hand, if one could procure an undisputed type-2 gap, then the argument would be back on. That would get us over the “it never happened” objection, and back into the “is God the explanation for this gap” argument.

    And this, you should note, is exactly what Jerry Coyne wants. ONE BIG MIRACLE. An undisputed type-2 gap. That type-2 gap takes exactly the role that any other gap takes in a “god of the gaps” argument: it implies the need for God through lack of alternative explanation. And it suffers from the exact same objections as any other “god of the gaps” argument: it could be undermined by future scientific theories, and it could be explained by hypothetical phenomena other than God (like advanced trickster aliens) in any case.

    So, when Michael says, “Coyne’s very atheism is dependent on the God of the Gaps Argument,” my analysis shows that he is exactly right. It’s an argument based on a type-2 gap, which makes it unusual, but that is for practical rather than philosophically significant reasons. It’s still a case of an explanatory gap allegedly demanding the existence of God to fill it. The only other difference that needs to be taken into consideration is that Coyne offers this as a possible (but as yet unfulfilled) falsification of his atheism, not a support for it. Even with that considered, however, his position intrinsically assumes the validity of the “god of the gaps” form of argument. Michael is right about that.

    To be clear, I consider this conclusion to be non-obvious, and I don’t think any less of you for doubting the validity of Michael’s argument. I’ve never been fully persuaded that it was airtight myself: this is the first time I’ve taken the effort to do a detailed analysis. Of course, my analysis is contingent on accepting my terms, particularly what I consider to be the essential qualities of a “god of the gaps” argument, but I don’t think I’ve been tendentious about that. That’s why I went to an atheist for an explanation, after all.

  76. TFBW says:

    That’s not what “immaculate conception” means.

    Fair enough. I take it that my intended meaning was clear, despite the infelicitous choice of terms.

  77. Ilíon says:

    ^ Yes, we all know that you *meant* the (alleged) physical facts of Christ’s birth. However, you used a term that designates the (alleged) spiritual/moral facts of Mary’s birth.

    It’s bad enough when ‘atheists‘ use the term “immaculate conception” when they mean “virgin birth”.

  78. Brian says:

    Thanks, sincere engagement is nice. Four main points.

    —Semantic:

    It seems the double meaning of “gap” sows confusion even when we try to resist it. Because (apart from this blog) God of the Gaps refers to type-1 gaps, it could have been called God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns. Imagine what the OP would look like with that term instead:

    “Coyne, and countless other atheists, insist (in other contexts) that the God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns Argument is fundamentally flawed and Unmiraculous Unknowns are NOT evidence for God’s existence.”

    “So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands Miraculous Unknowns. Yet the other side of his mouth insists Unmiraculous Unknowns are useless.”

    See how glaring the flaw becomes? If God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns happened to be the term instead, the post wouldn’t have been written.

    —Differential treatment:

    Coyne rejects God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns, and so do many (probably most) Christian theologians and scientists. For instance, Kenneth Miller in Finding Darwin’s God said, “If a lack of scientific explanation is proof of God’s existence, the counter logic is unimpeachable: a successful scientific explanation is an argument against God. That’s why this reasoning, ultimately, is much more dangerous to religion than it is to science.”

    I have carefully read and reread your comments, and I’m still left wondering why Coyne is speaking out of both sides of his mouth by accepting a miracle as evidence for God while Kenneth Miller would not be.

    It is hard to imagine why an atheist and a Christian should be treated differently. Suppose someone told you that they reject God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns yet would accept a miracle as evidence for God, and you didn’t know whether they were a Christian or an atheist or something else. How would you judge whether or not they are talking out of both sides of their mouth?

    —On fuzziness:

    …so long as the key issue is the failure of science to make an account of the fact, the two types do not differ in a clear-cut way. Neither gap is absolute…

    There is a continuous range of colors between green and blue. For an intermediate color, it may be hard to say whether it’s better described as green or blue, and there may be significant disagreement over what a given intermediate color should be called. Yet there would still be consensus on the naming of other intermediate colors, such as those near the top and bottom of the picture. Despite all the borderline cases, the fairly broad categories of green and blue still have meaning.

    Now consider the following argument. Green and blue are both colors, and there is no hard line separating one from the other, so whatever applies to green must also apply to blue. Thus when someone says that chlorophyll is green, they are implying (albeit unintentionally) that chlorophyll is blue.

    One problem I see with the argument in the OP is the premise that when one refers to a category, one unintentionally evokes a second, separate category merely because the first and second categories belong to the same supercategory and because there is no hard line between them.

    When someone rejects God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns, they aren’t logically compelled to reject God of Miraculous Unknowns. This is true despite them both being about unknowns, and despite there being no hard line between the two unknowns. It’s like being forced to accept that chlorophyll is blue if you claim it’s green.

    —Meaning is use:

    equivocation can be avoided if the two kinds of gaps are only used in a way that deals with their common elements.

    This looks like a recipe for creating an equivocation, not avoiding one.

    A wife asks her husband to buy her a pink Mustang convertible for her birthday. The husband reluctantly says yes. When the birthday finally comes, he presents her with a toy model of a pink Mustang convertible. The wife objects. “Is it pink?” he asks. “Yes,” she responds. “Is it a Mustang?” “Yes.” “Is it a convertible?” “Yes.” “So why are you yelling?”

    By reducing the birthday request to a set of common elements—“pink”, “Mustang”, “convertible”—the husband was able to make a model car also satisfy the request. He successfully conflated a model car with a real car by carefully making sure both were “only used in a way that deals with their common elements”.

    The wife didn’t mean a model car, of course. The husband leveraged the fact that she wasn’t specific enough and used this to his advantage to reinterpret her request based on a narrowed understanding of it.

    I see a similar situation with the new type-2 meaning of “gap”. It’s a reinterpretation and not what was meant. Wittgenstein said that meaning is use. The meaning of God of the Gaps is derived from how it is actually used. And wherever it is used, it is about unmiraculous unknowns (I challenge anyone to find a counterinstance). The meaning of a term is not a selection of criteria upon which a different meaning from the use-instance may be imparted.

    We can’t whittle down the meaning until it shares common denominator with miracles, then equate unmiraculous unknowns with miraculous unknowns, and then reinterpret what someone meant when they said God of the Gaps.

    It may be a fault that the term is not specific enough, just as the wife may be at fault for not specifically saying she wanted a real car. But what what we cannot do is go back and say that the wife, because she was not specific enough, wanted either a model car or a real car. And we cannot say that Coyne, because he didn’t use a more specific term like God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns, is referring to both miraculous unknowns and unmiraculous unknowns whenever he mentions God of the Gaps. And the same for Kenneth Miller and others.

  79. TFBW says:

    @Brian

    “So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands Miraculous Unknowns. Yet the other side of his mouth insists Unmiraculous Unknowns are useless.”

    I expect that you are right about this: Coyne is treating these things as entirely independent, and believes it is fair to do so. What my analysis shows is that the rationale behind both these issues has significant common ground. If a Big Miracle provides evidence for God because Science cannot account for it, then doesn’t it follow that all failure to account for phenomena counts as some sort of evidence for God? If not, then perhaps we need to be rather more careful about exactly what is counting as evidence here and why.

    Coyne is nowhere near explicit enough in explaining why a Big Miracle would count as evidence for God: he simply takes it as obvious that it would. I don’t think that Coyne is being intellectually dishonest in doing so, but rather merely incompetent. He’s a scientist, not a philosopher, and he’s never demonstrated any real grasp of philosophical analysis (which is a problem, because he deals primarily with philosophy, not science). Saying that he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth is an uncharitable way of putting it; it would be more fair to say that he accepts one thing, and rejects the other, but has failed to show that there exists a clear rational basis for doing so. It all looks reasonable if you emphasise the differences, but my analysis shows that the “explanatory gap” aspect common to both is the active component.

    I do understand why Coyne would consider this to be a reasonable distinction from an intuitive basis, but good philosophy does not end with intuition. More importantly, he purports to operate from a foundation of Reason, not intuition. I merely want to hold him to that.

    I’m still left wondering why Coyne is speaking out of both sides of his mouth by accepting a miracle as evidence for God while Kenneth Miller would not be.

    Kenneth Miller is not the subject of discussion. The analysis is of the various claims Coyne has made, and whether they are coherent. But let us briefly consider the stand-alone quotation of Miller that you offer: “If a lack of scientific explanation is proof of God’s existence, the counter logic is unimpeachable: a successful scientific explanation is an argument against God.” This seems to be quite unreasonable: it is not generally true that implications of the form “if A, then B” hold in their converse form. He also says “proof of”, which is hyperbole at best, simply false at worst. If absolutely everything were to be accounted for by science, it would not prove the non-existence of God; it would merely justify the claim, “I have no need of that hypothesis” (in relation to God’s existence). The existence of God seems necessary to the extent that something—anything—can be explained no other way.

    In short, this quotation shows evidence of sloppy thinking. Perhaps it is merely the summary of an argument which preceded it, and is not suitable for analysis on its own. It’s hard to say without further context. Even so, I don’t see anything in it which suffers from the same specific error that has been identified in Coyne’s case, so I’m unclear as to why you raise it as an issue. I’d rather not discuss it further, as it seems tangential at best.

    When someone rejects God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns, they aren’t logically compelled to reject God of Miraculous Unknowns. This is true despite them both being about unknowns, and despite there being no hard line between the two unknowns.

    If the rationale behind rejection of the one also applies to the other, they they are logically compelled to reject the other, even if the two can be distinguished on the basis of other criteria. The whole point of my analysis was to uncover whether the relevant criteria were common to both or not. If the “explanatory gap” is the active ingredient which makes a Big Miracle evidence for God, then other “explanatory gaps” also count as evidence, or we need better, more detailed criteria to explain why that isn’t the case.

    If Coyne wants to accept one and reject the other, but claim rational consistency while doing so, then let him explain the exact criteria and how they permit the distinction to be made. By my analysis, the (implied) criteria which make a Big Miracle acceptable as evidence also apply to plain old God of the Gaps arguments. Coyne never performs analyses of that kind, as far as I can tell, which is why I say his case is grounded in intuition, not reason.

    We can’t whittle down the meaning until it shares common denominator with miracles, then equate unmiraculous unknowns with miraculous unknowns, and then reinterpret what someone meant when they said God of the Gaps.

    No, but we can point out that the criteria he uses for accepting or rejecting one should make him do the same for the other, as my analysis of “why the evidence is evidence” suggests. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, my analysis has no competition at this point: it’s the only one on offer. Coyne could address this problem by providing his own detailed analysis which explains, perhaps, why “miracle” (rather than “explanatory gap”) is the active ingredient in his evidence, and exactly what a “miracle” is, scientifically speaking.

    I’m sure that would open up some interesting new avenues of discussion if he tried.

    By the way, consider the terms “mysterious” and “miraculous” as alternatives to “unmiraculous unknowns” and “miraculous unknowns”, respectively. The former implies a general lack of understanding, whereas the latter implies an exception to justified expectations.

  80. Ilíon says:

    TFBW:… it would be more fair to say that he accepts one thing, and rejects the other, but has failed to show that there exists a clear rational basis for doing so

    That’s called “an unprincipled exception“, for there is no *principle* in which to ground or justify the exception being made/assumed/demanded.

    And, while it may not initially be made with intellectually dishonest intent, if the person persists in it after it has been pointed out, reason, and one’s one honesty, demands changing one’s assessment from “likely misguided” to “clearly malicious”.

  81. Brian says:

    We agree that analyzing Miller is tangential. The only reason I mentioned him is to give a second example of a Christian—this time a scientist—who rejects God of the Gaps, the first example being a theologian, Drummond. The point is that such rejection is present across disparate fields, is still present, and has been around for well over a century at least.

    “So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands Miraculous Unknowns. Yet the other side of his mouth insists Unmiraculous Unknowns are useless.”

    I expect that you are right about this: Coyne is treating these things as entirely independent, and believes it is fair to do so.

    So you agree that Coyne means gaps of the first kind when he is talking about God of the Gaps. Now look at what you said earlier:

    By my understanding of Drummond’s comments, he is talking about gaps of the first kind. You’re treating the two as interchangeable when you suppose those comments apply to miracles. That’s a mistake; your criticism is misplaced.

    You said it perfectly: it is a mistake to treat type-1 and type-2 gaps as interchangeable. I’m not interested in playing a game of one-upmanship, but I do think it’s important to pause and assess what happened here. Out of courtesy I’m not going to spell it out because I think you’ll see the problem, though I would just point to the “Differential treatment” section above.

    In abrogation of what came before, you now argue in favor of treating type-1 and type-2 gaps as interchangeable, citing a lack of “exact criteria”. This was addressed in the “On fuzziness” section about green and blue.

    Some concrete examples will help here. Having taken note of your ire for Mehta’s examples, I’ll choose a still unresolved mystery. Let’s take sonoluminescence: the emission of short bursts of light from imploding bubbles in a liquid when excited by sound.

    As long as we agree that sonoluminescence and amputees becoming non-amputees in proximity to a Jesus figure belong to different categories, we’re all good. Sonoluminescence and ex-amputees are two ends of the mystery-miracle spectrum (using the terms you suggested).

    A lack of exact criteria separating two categories does not mean there is no distinction between them. That was the point of “On fuzziness”. How many grains of wheat are needed before it is called a heap? There is no exact number, and it is subjective in any case. Yet despite the lack of exact criteria, “heap” and “grain” refer to distinct concepts.

    For more context, please google “continuum fallacy”.

  82. jim- says:

    My apologies for not addressing this sooner. It’s hard not to trivialize the trivial. I could do a dissertation and rehash what you want faith to be, but in a nutshell it is consent without evidence to that which is opposed by reason.

  83. TFBW says:

    @Brian

    So you agree that Coyne means gaps of the first kind when he is talking about God of the Gaps.

    I do. This is indeed what most people mean when they talk about it. The only exception we have to consider at the moment is the current context, since it is Michael’s claim that Coyne’s request for a gap of the second kind is tantamount to the same thing.

    In abrogation of what came before, you now argue in favor of treating type-1 and type-2 gaps as interchangeable, citing a lack of “exact criteria”.

    The two are not interchangeable in all cases. The two types have similarities and differences: that is why they are two distinct types of the same general thing. Their key similarity is that they represent explanatory gaps; their key difference is whether the gap arises out of ignorance or knowledge. Drummond’s comments related specifically to gaps in our knowledge, so it would be a mistake to think his comments also apply to miracles. If we are talking about explanatory gaps in general, however, then both types should be taken into consideration, and comments should apply across the board, or they’re not really general truisms about explanatory gaps.

    You don’t have to patronise me regarding “continuum fallacy”, but you may have to make your case for it a little clearer. I haven’t claimed that type-1 and type-2 are on a continuum, so presumably you are claiming that they are—i.e. that some things are not clearly members of one category or the other—and that my error derives from failing to take this into account. I am open to the suggestion that there might be ambiguities—it’s rare that we manage to produce categorisations which are unambiguous across an entire domain—but if the thing really is a continuum, as you suggest, then it is a bad idea to use categories at all. Instead, we should be breaking the analysis down as measurements across various dimensions. The blue-green continuum is a wavelength measurement, for example.

    This is where my comprehension of your response starts to break down, because you haven’t proposed any dimensions or metrics; you’ve just said “continuum fallacy” without describing the continuum. That’s a far from rigorous rebuttal. But even if I take it as given that these things lie on a continuum rather than in discrete categories, that strikes me as being less supportive of your general case. To elaborate on that, I suppose I should start by describing what I think your general case is, exactly. You can correct this as needs be, but I see it as consisting of the following two key points.

    1. “God of the Gaps” arguments do not work; they are not evidence for God.
    2. A “Big Miracle”, of the sort that Coyne demands, would count as evidence for God.

    These correspond to type-1 and type-2 gaps, respectively, so the onus was on me to demonstrate that this distinction does not make a sufficient difference to warrant the inclusion of one and exclusion of the other as evidence. That was the point of my second response, which went into great depth showing that the conditions which justify the first claim undermine the second claim, rendering “Big Miracle” evidence no better than a “God of the Gaps” argument. Accept them both as evidence, or reject them both: that was the dilemma. Dawkins, for all his faults, seems to have taken the bull by the horns and rejected them both of late. Coyne still thinks he can have it both ways.

    If these are not distinct categories, however, but fuzzy classifications on a continuum, then the evidence must also be a matter of degree. Rather than “evidence” and “not evidence”, they must be weak and strong examples of the same thing, with a continuum of varying strength in between. Also, if we are going to say that one thing is weaker than another, we not only need clarity about what we’re measuring, but we also need actual measurements, or at least subjective grades, none of which is in play here. Whatever the case, the fuzziness inherent in a continuum means that you can’t have a binary classification like the one encapsulated in my assessment of your key points. Does this mean I’ve misunderstood your case, or does it represent an incongruity?

    Sonoluminescence and ex-amputees are two ends of the mystery-miracle spectrum (using the terms you suggested).

    Sonoluminescence (which I will abbreviate SL) might illustrate an inadequacy in our terminology, and that in turn might give us additional factors to consider, but I don’t think it serves in the manner you use it.

    SL may be a mystery, but it is not a mystery in the sense of a type-1 gap. In fact, it’s not clear that it really counts as a gap at all, and this is its major failing as an example in the current context. If it were a type-1 gap, we would be saying that we have no theories relating to the production of the light in question. Human consciousness is a type-1 gap, because nothing in physics even hints that matter could have consciousness. The production of light by matter interacting with energy, on the other hand, is well-covered by physics. The mystery of SL is not that light is produced, but that we aren’t clear on which of several known theoretical mechanisms is doing the work. In that sense, it’s not really a type-2 gap either: solving the mystery of SL probably won’t involve the invention or discovery of new theories. What’s needed is a set of experiments capable of distinguishing between the various known possibilities.

    In short, we can explain SL using existing science, so it’s not an explanatory gap. The problem is that we have more than one candidate explanation, and that indicates a knowledge deficit of a different kind—one that has no bearing on the need for God.

    Suppose, for argument’s sake, however, that we managed to devise the necessary experiments to solve the SL mystery, and our conclusion was that none of the known mechanisms is producing the light. This would be a very interesting finding, because it suddenly becomes a type-2 gap: a case where something is happening outside our well-established expectations. Neither of us would be inclined to consider this evidence for God, though, would we? I’m sure we’d both be inclined to think that there’s a natural explanation for what’s going on, and that this represents an opportunity to discover something new in physics, not an opportunity to demonstrate God’s action in nature.

    It’s a scientific mystery, not a divine miracle, the type-2 classification notwithstanding.

    If you agree with that much, then you’ll agree that there’s something else about Coyne’s Big Miracle which needs to be clarified. As a first approximation, I think he wants something which qualifies as a type-2 gap, and which we can’t reproduce (new criterion identified). The type-2 classification then serves the purpose of precluding the event from the category of known natural phenomena, and the “we can’t reproduce” criterion precludes it from the category of known artificial phenomena. I’m not entirely satisfied with this description, but it will do for a first approximation. It does make me wonder, however, if the type-2 criterion serves a useful purpose. I suppose it might act as a guard against things we can’t reproduce, but we know how in principle how it might be done.

    I’ll leave it there for now. I feel like I’m doing an awful lot of philosophical analysis on Coyne’s behalf here. He’s never spelled this out himself, has he?

  84. Brian says:

    In my first comment I observed that the implication of the OP was that “any Christian who rejects God of the Gaps thinking is logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public”.

    You gave a brilliant rebuttal involving the introduction of type-1 and type-2 gaps, one that I endorsed: “[Drummond] is talking about gaps of the first kind. You’re treating the two as interchangeable when you suppose those comments apply to miracles. That’s a mistake; your criticism is misplaced.”

    However I added that Coyne and everyone else outside this blog are also talking about gaps of the first kind with regard to God of the Gaps. You agreed with that.

    Therefore anyone (outside this blog) who rejects God of the Gaps thinking is not logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public.

    So why the exception for Coyne and “countless other atheists” (Michael’s words)? I keep asking about this differential treatment but have not received an answer. For me this is key, so do you mind if I hit the pause button and wait for an answer?

    P.S. Sorry, I honestly wasn’t trying to be patronizing by mentioning the continuum fallacy.

  85. TFBW says:

    So why the exception for Coyne and “countless other atheists” (Michael’s words)? I keep asking about this differential treatment but have not received an answer. For me this is key, so do you mind if I hit the pause button and wait for an answer?

    I’ve answered that question repeatedly, and I’m not sure I can make it any clearer, but I’ll try. I’m not carving out exceptions on the basis of people; I’m analysing each claim on its own merits. Different claims are subject to different responses because of their differences. Coyne and Drummond are not making the same claims; not even close. Let me try to spell it out in detail.

    Look carefully at the tiny snippet of Drummond you quoted. Drummond isn’t claiming that “God of the Gaps” arguments are invalid: he’s criticising the idea that God can be found in the gaps, with the implication that God can also be found in the explanations. This is the essence of his rhetorical question, “as if God lived in the Gaps?” This is why, in my first response, I described the gap-based approach as “wrong-headed” rather than “invalid”. What Drummond is rejecting here is the Conflict Model of Science, in which Science is incompatible with God, and any gap filled by an explanation removes territory from God. While there may be a place for “God of the Gaps” arguments, they should not be the sole focus (“reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps”), as that has the ill effect of making it look as though one accepts the Conflict Model. It is precisely because of the prevalence of Conflict Model thinking that I’ve already had to clarify, “each new scientific discovery reduces a gap in our understanding, but does not impact the need for God in the slightest.” We later saw that Conflict Model become an explicit part of Kenneth Miller’s claim.

    So while Drummond is definitely arguing against a “God of the Gaps” approach to analysis, he’s not claiming that such arguments are invalid, or at least not categorically so. The error is to give these gaps special emphasis, as though support rested only in the gaps. This is pragmatic advice which has no logical implications for miracle-related arguments. Some of the same pragmatic advice may apply, but the general perception of miracles is different, so the pragmatic issues will differ likewise.

    Coyne, on the other hand, seems to embrace the Conflict Model. He’s not very clear about some of these things, so “seems to” will be a common qualifier, and we’ll have to negotiate our way around our shared understanding of what he’s saying. He also seems to reject “God of the Gaps” arguments, but accept his Big Miracle argument. I’ve had to perform my own analysis of why an atheist might reject God of the Gaps arguments. I did this by analysing the qualities of a type-1 gap in the context of Hemant Mehta’s objections to such arguments. It turns out that the specific objections raised there also apply to type-2 gaps. Note that Mehta’s objections are completely unlike Drummond’s, and thus they carry different logical implications. The point is that if you reject type-1 gaps as evidence for the sorts of reasons Mehta provides, then you ought to reject type-2 gaps as evidence for the same reasons.

    The differential treatment is the result of different arguments. Mostly, I think that you’ve misunderstood Drummond as being simply in support of the “God of the Gaps arguments are invalid” position. He’s against them, but for pragmatic rather than logical reasons.

    Of course, with my latest analysis, I may have discovered an escape for Coyne. Even if my claim that the reasons for rejecting type-1 gaps also apply to type-2 gaps, it seems that there’s more to Coyne’s Big Miracle than simply being a type-2 gap. Whether or not this escape is purchased at too high a price remains to be seen.

  86. grodrigues says:

    @Brian:

    “A lack of exact criteria separating two categories does not mean there is no distinction between them. That was the point of “On fuzziness”. How many grains of wheat are needed before it is called a heap? There is no exact number, and it is subjective in any case. Yet despite the lack of exact criteria, “heap” and “grain” refer to distinct concepts.”

    This is a bad argument for various reasons. I will add three.

    (1) You do not specify what are the criteria. One could add that for an odd event to be classified as a bona fide miracle it has to have some connection to the self-revelation of God. Clearly, that is not the case of the sonoluminescence example but is so for healing of amputee (presumably, because it is an answer to prayer), The problem is that this criterion still leaves many gaps: the origin or even the sheer existence of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of consciousness, etc. And of course, while we can ostensively name cases where the distinction is clear, there is no principled reason for such, since what I added as “has to have some connection to the self-revelation of God” already presupposes some definite conception of God and of how He works.

    (2) Invoking vagueness to try to blunt the objection is useless unless you show where exactly is the vagueness and how exactly is there a spectrum or a continuum (using the word informally) of cases. And even if there is a continuum of cases, it does *not* follow that there are no exact criteria distinguishing different cases (I have some examples in mind, but they all belong to mathematics). The vagueness may simply be an epistemological limitation or even something as trivial as there not being enough names in a language to name all the cases.

    (3) Historically speaking, arguments appealing to scientific facts (in whatever form) are a modern artifact. Christianity defended itself intellectually very well for about 1800 years. I would even add that the important core of the arguments for the existence of God was complete by the 17th century and the important core (hollow, vapid core) for the atheist arguments was complete by the 19th century.

  87. grodrigues says:

    @Brian:

    I remember now. When I said:

    “And even if there is a continuum of cases, it does *not* follow that there are no exact criteria distinguishing different cases (I have some examples in mind, but they all belong to mathematics).”

    Ok, your example with light does not work. We do have a continuum (in the technical sense) spectrum of colors, but there is a very simple criterion to distinguish any two colors: just look at the frequencies. The problem is that our language (or any language), being countably infinite, does not have enough names to name every color, but this is quite irrelevant.

  88. Brian says:

    TFBW, sorry to repeat what I just said, but again, in my first comment I observed that the implication of the OP was that “any Christian who rejects God of the Gaps thinking is logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public”. (Emphasis added.)

    You rebutted that first comment, saying my criticism is misplaced because it makes the mistake of equivocating on type-1 and type-2 gaps. I agree with all of that: I don’t think Christians are logically compelled for exactly that reason.

    However somewhere the “any Christian” got lost, and it appears you meant your rebuttal to apply to only Drummond specifically, I guess. So you weren’t rebutting my point after all, but rather a version of it that replaces “any Christian” with “Drummond”. I guess.

    In similar fashion, much of your analysis seems geared to be narrowly applicable to Coyne only, whereas the target of OP is not just Coyne but any atheist who rejects God of the Gaps yet would accept a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public (“and countless other atheists”, “and so many other atheists out there”).

    The challenge for you is: (a) to explain whether or not any Christian who rejects God of the Gaps would be logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public; and (b) to explain why the same does or does not apply to any atheist who rejects God of the Gaps.

  89. TFBW says:

    Anyone who rejects God of the Gaps arguments for the reasons that Hemant Mehta gives is logically compelled to reject Miracles as well because those reasons also apply to Miracles. Rejecting one does not logically compel rejection of the other unless the rationale behind the rejection applies to both.

    It’s not a question of who rejects one or the other; it’s a question of why you reject one or the other. The reasons for the rejection may or may not apply to both. I’m just assuming that most atheists (including Coyne) reject God of the Gaps arguments for the kinds of reasons that Mehta gives. I chose an atheist’s commentary on the subject for that exact reason. If a Christian happened to agree with those reasons, then they would be similarly obliged.

    Look, I hate to seem patronising with all this boldface, but you’ve asked me the same question repeatedly as though I’ve avoided answering it. I’ve deliberately cut it down to as succinct a phrasing as I can so that there’s as little to parse as possible. If you still think this isn’t an answer, or isn’t an acceptable answer, please specify which part of it is unsatisfactory. The whole experience is starting to resemble banging my head into a wall, however, and I tire of that eventually.

    Why is this so hard?

  90. Michael says:

    Brian:Therefore anyone (outside this blog) who rejects God of the Gaps thinking is not logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public.

    1. How would the atheist detect/recognize an event as a miraculous event? Because it would be something that could not be explained by natural law, chance, and science. And this is precisely what a Gap is – something that cannot be explained by our current understanding of natural law, chance, and science. That is why it is called a Gap – a Gap in our understanding/explanations.

    2. Why would a miraculous event be considered as evidence of God? Since our current understanding of natural law, chance, and science cannot explain the event, God must have did it. In other words, it is God of the Gaps reasoning that converts the Gap/miracle into evidence of God.

    We can tell it is the gap essence of the miracle that makes it evidence by simply asking if a Jesus figure healing amputees in public would still be evidence if someone came up with a plausible naturalistic explanation for the event. Of course not. If the regrowth of the limb could be explained by natural law, chance, and science, then it would cease to be evidence of God. It is thus clearly the gap essence of the miracle that makes it evidence for the atheist. And if it is the gap essence that turns the miracle into evidence, this can only be the case if the God the Gaps reasoning is being used and assumed to be valid.

    This takes us to your question:

    Yet you’re saying that any Christian who rejects God of the Gaps thinking is logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public (per Coyne’s example).

    And I can go along with TFBW’s distinction between type-1 and type-2 gaps. But I would make one slight modification. Since it is the gap nature of type-2 gaps that make it evidence in Coyne’s mind, he has conceded that gaps are evidence for the existence of God. But we can then draw upon the distinction in types by adding that type-2 gaps are strong evidence for God, while type-1 gaps are weak evidence for God. More on that in a second.

    Speaking to TFBW, you write:

    The challenge for you is: (a) to explain whether or not any Christian who rejects God of the Gaps would be logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God, such as a Jesus figure healing amputees in public; and (b) to explain why the same does or does not apply to any atheist who rejects God of the Gaps.

    In my opinion, anyone, Christian or atheist, who rejects the God of the Gaps logic (that converts something not explicable by natural or scientific laws into evidence of God) would be logically compelled to reject a miraculous event as evidence of God. The problem I have identified is that Coyne, and many atheists like him, have publicly rejected the God of the Gaps logic. Yet these same atheists demand Super Gaps as evidence of God. This internal contradiction completely undermines the atheist position on evidence. Even a Super Gap can’t be evidence without the logic of the God of the Gaps argument.

    As far as the Christians go, some reject the God of the Gaps logic, some do not. And some remain agnostic about it. So each type would respond differently.

    Yet the type-1 and type-2 evidential distinction could save everyone – just because I consider weak evidence to be unconvincing does not mean I am obligated to consider strong evidence to be unconvincing. Basically, Christian and atheist agree that gaps are evidence for God, but type-1 gaps are considered too weak by all atheists and some Christians. Type-2 gaps would be consider strong enough by some atheists and most Christians. That’s why Coyne wants type-2 gaps.

    But this solution is not available to most atheists for two reasons:

    1. They would have to concede the God the Gaps argument can be valid.

    2. The weak evidence for God (type-1 gaps) contradicts the famous “no evidence for god” posturing.

    Unless Coyne wants to take those two steps, my original critique remains intact and your attempt to rescue him has failed.

  91. Ilíon says:

    … but you’ve asked me the same question repeatedly as though I’ve avoided answering it. … Why is this so hard?

    Because *all* God-Deniers are intellectually dishonest with respect to lines of inquiry or lines of reasoning which they fear may lead to God.

  92. Ilíon says:

    But, perhaps the main reason “this is so hard” is because you (plural) keep letting these ‘atheists’ dodge the First Question — “If the proposition ‘There is [a/no] Creator‘ is the truth about the nature of reality, then what further propositions logically follow?

    Now, if one starts with the proposition ‘There is a Creator‘, the further propositions which logically follow tend to be more in the realm of possibilities.

    On the other hand, if one starts with the proposition ‘There is no Creator‘, the further propositions which logically follow tend to be more in the realm of impossibilities.

    And, fatal to the ‘There is no Creator‘ proposition is the fact that we actually observe so many of those logical impossibilities to not be impossible, after all.

    If an ‘atheist’ is forever allowed to dodge the First Question, how can it be a surprise that he seeks to dodge any subsequent questions?

  93. Isaac says:

    “Progress, for the Christian would be simply patting the rolls, adding more numbers to an obviously failed system that fails the few, and progressively fails even farther the more you add to it.”

    [Delusional false premise devoid of fact: established. Straw man: in place.]

    “Nice work. Real progress would be establishing peace and equality for everyone…”

    [Straw man: destroyed! I just totally owned that made-up idea of Christianity in this made up conversation I just had with myself!]

    Seriously, this is sad. Peace and equality for everyone? You mean like, I dunno, peace on earth, goodwill toward men? Something like that? Your ideal of progress is something you borrowed wholesale from the Christian worldview, and you can’t even acknowledge it. There is nothing about a materialist, atheist reality that makes anyone want “peace and equality for everyone.” It is neither required nor implied to be a good thing in those ideologies. There is nothing about believing in a meaningless, purposeless, accidental existence that either mandates or inspires a person to want “peace and equality for everyone.”

    Amusingly, this bit of plagiarism of religious aspirations in service of atheism probably counts as “cultural appropriation.”

  94. Brian says:

    TFBW, thanks for your patience.

    Because the double meaning of “gap” continues to invite equivocation (more on that later), if you don’t mind I’m going to switch from the type-1/type2 terminology back to the unmiraculous/miraculous terminology because I think the latter adds real clarity to the discussion.

    The major points have already been agreed upon:

    1. Apart from this blog, God of the Gaps means God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns.

    2. If one rejects God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns then it is not necessarily true that one is logically compelled to reject God of the Miraculous Unknowns.

    All that remains is to hammer out the details of 2. In your view, the reasons one has for rejecting God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns determine whether or not one is compelled to reject God of the Miraculous Unknowns. Due to their differing reasons (not their beliefs), it just happens that atheists are so compelled while Christians are not.

    What I still see going on in your argument, and what still seems inadequately answered, is captured by the illustration with the Mustang, which I’ll quote to avoid scrolling:

    A wife asks her husband to buy her a pink Mustang convertible for her birthday. The husband reluctantly says yes. When the birthday finally comes, he presents her with a toy model of a pink Mustang convertible. The wife objects. “Is it pink?” he asks. “Yes,” she responds. “Is it a Mustang?” “Yes.” “Is it a convertible?” “Yes.” “So why are you yelling?”

    By reducing the birthday request to a set of common elements—“pink”, “Mustang”, “convertible”—the husband was able to make a model car also satisfy the request. He successfully conflated a model car with a real car by carefully making sure both were “only used in a way that deals with their common elements”.

    Just as the husband was able to remove the distinction between a real car and a model car, you removed the distinction between unmiraculous unknowns and miraculous unknowns.

    Saying “if the rationale behind rejection of the one also applies to the other, they they are logically compelled to reject the other” is much like saying the wife should accept the model car because it satisfies the criteria she provided. The rationale you refer to is a reduced rationale that fails to capture the original meaning which you have acknowledged to be God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns, not simply God of the Unknowns.

    You have conditioned “logically compelled” upon individual rationales, but what if there is a rationale that atheists and Christians could agree upon?

    The term miraculous, when used to describe evidence, is generally understood (at least since Hume) to involve some kind of abrogation of natural law.

    For our purposes, it will suffice to define metaphysical naturalism as the view that the universe operates by natural laws without exception.

    I submit for your consideration the following criterion for separating miraculous unknowns from unmiraculous unknowns, one that I think best matches what Coyne and others actually mean: An apparent miracle is something that poses a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism.

    Metaphysical naturalism is not synonymous with atheism, but they are effectively indistinguishable when it comes to the subject at hand. With the theme of listing past mysteries that were later discovered to be governed by natural laws, Mehta and other atheists essentially make the case for metaphysical naturalism.

    Certainly there may be New Agey atheists and the like who aren’t on board with science, but they wouldn’t be making the argument being targeted here.

    Another way to confirm that this definition of miracle fits what people actually mean is to observe that metaphysical naturalists assert that miracles have never happened. They don’t say miracles happened sporadically in the history of science but were later resolved into non-miracles due to new laws being discovered. They mean that there hasn’t been anything to seriously challenge metaphysical naturalism, i.e., no miracles.

    I think this definition brings clarity to the example of sonoluminescence, for which you say that if “none of the known mechanisms is producing the light” then it is type-2. However under my definition, sonoluminescence would remain unmiraculous because it still doesn’t pose a challenge to metaphysical naturalism, much less a serious one.

    What would pose a challenge? Certainly the aforementioned scenario of amputees’ limbs being restored upon the kind touch of a Jesus figure. The apparent suspension of natural laws, not to mention the matching stories from the Bible, would strike right at the heart of metaphysical naturalism. While it might be an alien, until that is discovered it nonetheless poses a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism and thus it is fair to call it miraculous.

    Almost by definition, metaphysical naturalists reject God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns. Are they logically compelled to reject God of the Miraculous Unknowns? Not those who are willing to change their mind. An apparent miracle means that their worldview has been seriously challenged. Indeed at that point they are obliged to question metaphysical naturalism and thus are not obliged to reject God of the Miraculous Unknowns.

    Christians, though not being metaphysical naturalists, for the most part would accept this definition of miracle, I think. Christians may also reject God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns. Are they logically compelled to reject God of the Miraculous Unknowns? Nope, they left room for miracles from the beginning.

    So this definition works in both cases without the need for caveats based upon inferred rationales. Neither is logically compelled to reject God of the Miraculous Unknowns.

  95. Brian says:

    Michael, I don’t know to what degree you have followed the problem with the double meaning of “gap”, but rewriting your comment with the double meaning removed reveals in stark relief the problem with what you said, e.g.,

    1. Despite rejecting the God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns argument, they would have to concede the God the Miraculous Unknowns argument can be valid.

    2. The weak evidence for God (unmiraculous unknowns) contradicts the famous “no evidence for god” posturing.

  96. Michael says:

    1. Despite rejecting the God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns argument, they would have to concede the God the Miraculous Unknowns argument can be valid.

    So in one case we have the Unmiraculous Unknowns and in another case we have the Miraculous Unknowns. The unmiraculous vs. the miraculous. Yes, we know Coyne needs “ONE BIG MIRACLE.” We’ll skip over the squishy demands about the size of the miracle and simply acknowledge Coyne (and many atheists) need a miracle.

    The problem with your distinction is you assume Coyne has the epistemic ability to make it. Instead of merely assuming Coyne (and others) would somehow recognize “a miracle” (vs. an “unmiracle”) when they see it, why not tell us precisely HOW he would determine that some event truly was a miracle (again, we’ll be charitable and ignore the size requirement).

    Try it this way.

    Event X occurs. Coyne (and other atheists) acknowledge that event X is indeed a miracle because……….

  97. Kevin says:

    We have things that occur which violate our current understanding of how the universe works, but these are not considered evidence of God (planets and galaxies exhibiting features that our models do not account for, the discovery that the universe was expanding and accelerating, etc). Instead the philosophy is that scientists do not know the answer YET, but they will eventually discover it and the answer will not violate naturalism.

    Coyne and others ask for events which violate our current understanding of how things work, but these will be considered evidence for God because they violate naturalism.

    How do we determine when “science hasn’t figured it out YET” does not apply?

  98. TFBW says:

    Brian,

    There is some material to work with in your response, but I first want to raise a strong objection to your “mustang” story.

    Saying “if the rationale behind rejection of the one also applies to the other, they they are logically compelled to reject the other” is much like saying the wife should accept the model car because it satisfies the criteria she provided.

    No it doesn’t. A model of a mustang is not a mustang, it’s a model. Ditto for a painting of a mustang, or a photograph of a mustang, or a piece of paper with the word “mustang” written on it. A mustang is a car, and a car is a thing you can drive. To pretend that those other things are “mustangs” is just unmitigated smart-assery. I take strong exception to being equated with a smart-ass in this way, so I’ll thank you kindly to retract those comments.

    Thankfully, that’s as much as I need to say about that for now, because you do offer something with actual merit that I can work with: an alternative set of criteria for “miracle”. I’m also perfectly happy with your switch to “metaphysical naturalism” over “atheism”—I find no cause for disagreement there. I think you’ll find, however, that your criteria aren’t as clear or helpful as you think they are. We’ve already seen reasonable objections from Michael and Kevin; I have some more, and I’ll more-or-less reiterate their points in my own words.

    The term miraculous, when used to describe evidence, is generally understood (at least since Hume) to involve some kind of abrogation of natural law.

    Actually, there’s been a ton of criticism against that position, but if you want to run with it, that’s fine by me. First up, you can’t actually observe an abrogation of natural law. You can observe something which appears to violate some principle which you believed to be a natural law, but there are always going to be several possible explanations for the phenomenon.

    I’ll assume that the phenomenon is real, and not a magic trick or hoax. I gather that the “healed amputee” criterion is particularly crafted to avoid the possibility of such an illusion or hoax, and it’s a decent choice if that is the intention. Given that the healing is genuine, one available explanation is that there was an abrogation of natural law: someone with the ability to operate outside the normal parameters interfered with the matrix and altered reality. Another possibility is that what you saw did not violate any laws of nature, but simply used mechanisms and technologies with which you are unfamiliar. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (or a miracle), and this is why the “advanced aliens” theory is always open. A related possibility is that the act is in accordance with laws not familiar to you. Whatever the case, “abrogation of natural law” is a defeasible inference, given the kind of phenomenon observed.

    As such, the example you give—the healing of amputees—need not involve the abrogation of any natural law. It doesn’t happen naturally, but there’s a vast difference between “does not happen naturally”, and “involves an abrogation of natural law”. Presumably (as you don’t specify which natural law is breached) you’re thinking in terms of it violating the conservation of matter/energy, but given that we can imagine advanced technology performing this miracle without violating that principle, it’s hardly compelling evidence of such an abrogation. Nothing here “poses a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism” precisely because alternative natural explanations exist. At the very least, you’d have to explain why you prefer the “miracle” explanation over the “advanced technology” explanation which preserves metaphysical naturalism.

    What we have in the case of an event such as an amputee healing is not an abrogation of natural law, but a demonstration of extraordinary power. You seem to think it’s reasonable to infer a local divine override in the laws of physics in the face of such a demonstration. Call me cynical, but it seems that your willingness to draw that particular inference exists in direct proportion to your expectation that it will never happen, so you’ll never be called on it.

    I won’t cast aspersions on your motivations like that without further justification and a possible way to prove me wrong, though. The reason I’m so sceptical is because I never see the same willingness to abandon metaphysical naturalism in the face of other phenomena. Take human consciousness, for example, which is one of my preferred type-1 gap examples. It’s a type-1 gap because there is absolutely nothing in the laws of physics which even hints at the possibility of physical entities having consciousness—the “I” in “I think therefore I am”. The existence of consciousness is not “miraculous” in Hume’s sense; rather, it is a mundane phenomenon which physics nevertheless completely and utterly fails to accommodate. It is an “Unmiraculous Unknown” in your terms, but it poses a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism precisely because that paradigm fails to accommodate it.

    If you are willing to cling to metaphysical naturalism in the face of the ubiquitous evidence of consciousness, you might understand my cynicism in relation to your professed willingness to let it go in the face of some “miracle” which could (in principle) be explained away by advanced technology. The former seems like more decisive evidence; the latter seems like it’s been crafted with the goal of never being put to the test. As you may see, I have also raised the type 1/2 dilemma here again: if your criterion for evidence is “poses a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism”, then why would you accept the “miraculous” challenges and reject the “unmiraculous” ones? I see no consistent, principled stance behind these divergent behaviours: all I see is a rejection of what is available, and a professed willingness to accept what isn’t available which I suspect merely provides cover for the hope that it will continue to be unavailable. Nobody likes being called on a bluff.

    As an aside, if you think that “healing amputees” provides a close match for Jesus, then you haven’t done enough research. Although Jesus did heal many ailments miraculously (it’s not clear whether an amputee was ever among them), he also refused to perform miracles in some conditions, such as when they were demanded of him as a sign. Furthermore, he warned against false messiahs, some of which he said would perform miraculous feats. As such, he was clearly of the view that miracles qua miracles are no proof of divinity. His miracles often fulfilled specific prophecies in addition to being miracles. There are further prophecies which have yet to be fulfilled, but none of them mention healing amputees, specifically. If someone claimed to be Jesus, and healed an amputee to prove it, I’d be very wary of him.

  99. Michael says:

    Brian: I submit for your consideration the following criterion for separating miraculous unknowns from unmiraculous unknowns, one that I think best matches what Coyne and others actually mean: An apparent miracle is something that poses a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism.

    How does something pose “a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism?” What is it about the thing that makes it “a challenge” to metaphysical naturalism? The answer is obvious – the thing is a Gap – a gap in the Metaphysical Naturalistic Explanation. That is the essence of the challenge – something metaphysical naturalism cannot explain and account for. And that is a Gap. We can know I am right from your next words:

    Metaphysical naturalism is not synonymous with atheism, but they are effectively indistinguishable when it comes to the subject at hand. With the theme of listing past mysteries that were later discovered to be governed by natural laws, Mehta and other atheists essentially make the case for metaphysical naturalism.

    “Later discovered to be governed by natural laws” is equivalent to a naturalisitic explanation being found which is equivalent to the gap disappearing. For once you have the discovery/explanation, you erase the gap. The essence of your challenge is the Gap.

    I pointed this out in my previous reply:

    We can tell it is the gap essence of the miracle that makes it evidence by simply asking if a Jesus figure healing amputees in public would still be evidence if someone came up with a plausible naturalistic explanation for the event. Of course not. If the regrowth of the limb could be explained by natural law, chance, and science, then it would cease to be evidence of God. It is thus clearly the gap essence of the miracle that makes it evidence for the atheist. And if it is the gap essence that turns the miracle into evidence, this can only be the case if the God the Gaps reasoning is being used and assumed to be valid.

    Despite all you have posted, we are still left with two simple facts:

    1. For Coyne and other atheists, what makes an event a miracle is when it is a Gap. No gap, no miracle. Miracle, gap.

    2. For the miracle/gap to evidence of God’s existence, Coyne and other atheists are assuming the validity of the God of Gaps argument.

  100. Ilíon says:

    Michael:How does something pose “a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism?” What is it about the thing that makes it “a challenge” to metaphysical naturalism? The answer is obvious – the thing is a Gap – a gap in the Metaphysical Naturalistic Explanation. That is the essence of the challenge – something metaphysical naturalism cannot explain and account for.

    Well, certainly for Deep Thinkers, such as Coyne, Dawkind and that ilk [/sarc], that’s how that train-of-thought seems to run.

    But, it’s not necessarily “a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism”, or to any other system, if it cannot explain some ‘X’ in practice —
    * A system of explanation has a specific remit, a class of things it is meant to explain: that ‘X’ may be outside that remit;
    * A system of explanation may be still under development: perhaps with further development, the systen will explain that ‘X’;
    * We may not have yet understood how a specific system of explanation does explains that ‘X’;
    As one example, it’s not “a serious challenge” to double entry bookkeeping that it cannot explain engine maintenance … or that 1+1=2.

    Also, it’s assuredly not “a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism”, or to any other system, of some other system can *also* explain some (or all) the facts or observations it can explain. Most facts can be explained in multiple ways and by multiple systems of explanation.


    However, it is “a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism”, or to any other system, if for some ‘X’ within its remit, it not only cannot explain it in practice, but also cannot explain it in principle. At the same time, it’s also “a serious challenge” to an explanatory system if it, so to speak, “explains too much”.

    For example, and being very charitable toward the position, the “metaphysical naturalists” who make up the ‘Jesus Mythacists’ are trying to use this principle to falsify Christianity. Apparently, the historical case for the Resurrection is too strong to challenge directly; so, if they can establish that Jesus Christ never existed, then ipso facto he did not die and live again.

    Similarly, “metaphysical naturalists” try to use “the problem of evil/pain” to falsify Christianity (and “mere theism”, for that matter). But —
    1) though it has been pointed out to them for centuries, along with seeming not really to care to understand what God’s “omni-” characteristics intend to describe, they keep relying on unwarrented assumptions about what God ought himself to do or ought to allow other persons to do;
    2) they “explain too much”: even if their argument(s) were not already invalid due to 1), their argument(s) end up being self-defeating, for they explain away the very facts/observations are the primary premises of their argument(s) (i.e. there is moral evil).

    SO, given the above principle, here is something that poses “a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism”

    You, yourself; you who are reading this. For, not only can “metaphysical naturalism” not explain the reality of embodied rational beings in practice, but it also cannot explain them in principle.

  101. grodrigues says:

    It is not like this was not discussed before… for the Catholic viewpoint see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10338a.htm especially the final paragraphs.

    St. Thomas discusses the issue at some length in the Summa Contra Gentiles. Start with Bk. 3, Q. 101 (Here: https://isidore.co/aquinas/ContraGentiles3b.htm#101 ) and then the questions following it.

  102. Brian says:

    TFBW, I offered how the term “miracle” appears to be used in practice, particularly with regard to how metaphysical naturalists seem to use it. I was explicit about that (“one that I think best matches what Coyne and others actually mean”).

    I thought I appropriately accounted for limited knowledge, with conclusions couched tentatively. It is not by accident that I gave only what an apparent miracle is. Nor is it by accident that conclusions were hedged, e.g., “While it might be an alien, until that is discovered it nonetheless poses a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism”.

    You responded as if I claimed to have found a definition that resolves all epistemic ambiguity, one that has eluded all philosophers over the centuries until I came along. No, I was simply speaking practically about how the term is used.

    This led me to ask: How did you get that idea? Perhaps this is about Coyne, who promised such a thing but didn’t deliver? That prompted me to look up the reference to p119 in the OP, https://books.google.com/books?id=fz8CDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA119

    It’s a revelation seeing the original context of all this. First, it is remarkable the degree to which Coyne avoids making absolute statements, e.g., “then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” He doesn’t propose a scheme that removes ambiguity, as you imagine I (and perhaps he) did. He says, “my acceptance of God would be provisional, subject to revocation if a naturalistic explanation arose later.” He even references “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” in the same respect you did, one of ambiguity.

    Second, and much more importantly, the wider context here is that Coyne is giving an example of what would change his mind. He is contrasting himself with the faithful, who, according to Coyne, “most often” say that “no data could dispel” their belief in God.

    Coyne is effectively saying that he believes all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety, but if one of the miraculous variety occurred then that would challenge his belief.

    However the miraculous/unmiraculous distinction is not really the point here. He’s not proclaiming what technically is and is not a miracle. Rather, he’s offering what would change his mind. He doesn’t even mention miracle on p119. So we can cut out the middleman and look at the main thrust of the argument he is making, which is, “What would change your mind?”

    Coyne is saying: I believe A is true, but if B happened then I’d have to start thinking seriously about A being false.

    Michael’s criticism: So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands B. Yet the other side of his mouth insists A is true.

    But changing your mind based upon new evidence is not talking out of both sides of your mouth. The mistake in the OP is really that simple.

  103. TFBW says:

    Brian,

    You responded as if I claimed to have found a definition that resolves all epistemic ambiguity, one that has eluded all philosophers over the centuries until I came along.

    No, I pointed out the ambiguity because it was significant to my argument. You’re presenting this as a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism (MN), and in order to be that, it must have some factor which acts as a decider between MN and not-MN. This miracle is entirely compatible with certain explanations which preserve MN, so it’s far from compelling.

    Much more compelling is the type-1 gap represented by human consciousness, because it really distinguishes between MN and not-MN, but you chose to ignore that in your response. I even said, “your willingness to draw that particular inference exists in direct proportion to your expectation that it will never happen, so you’ll never be called on it,” and you let it slide! I expected a denial, at the very least. (Speaking of which, I still want you to retract the insulting “mustang” thing.)

    Nor is it by accident that conclusions were hedged, e.g., “While it might be an alien, until that is discovered it nonetheless poses a serious challenge to metaphysical naturalism”.

    That “hedging” is the problem. What, specifically, make you think that “alien technology” is a less plausible explanation than a supernatural one? Is it just an arbitrary gut feeling? Dawkins goes the other way on this subject, asserting that God-based explanations are, by definition, the least plausible ones. He has a principled reason for stating this, rather than it just being a gut feeling. It’s a stupid principle, frankly, but a principle nonetheless.

    First, it is remarkable the degree to which Coyne avoids making absolute statements, e.g., “then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” … He says, “my acceptance of God would be provisional, subject to revocation if a naturalistic explanation arose later.” He even references “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” in the same respect you did, one of ambiguity.

    It looks to me like Coyne is bullshitting and bluffing. He’s offering a criterion which would supposedly change his mind—and we have to take his word for that, because it’s not based on any scientific principle he holds in any general sense; it’s just a subjective, ad hoc, “feels about right to me in this case” thing. On top of that, lest the unthinkable happen and he is confronted with such a miracle, he already has his escape routes lined up. It’s functionally indistinguishable from being completely closed-minded, bullshitting about it, and making excuses later if you have to.

    A committed atheist is always going to have enough wriggle room in the data to maintain a position of atheism if that’s what he wants to do—so long as he’s careful to avoid making absolute statements, as Coyne is. I wouldn’t object to that were it not for all the posturing as though they are our intellectual and epistemic superiors.

    Second, and much more importantly, the wider context here is that Coyne is giving an example of what would change his mind. He is contrasting himself with the faithful, who, according to Coyne, “most often” say that “no data could dispel” their belief in God.

    Jerry Coyne represents himself as a scientist who is acting scientifically, and as though this is epistemically superior to other modes of thought. Heck, his book is titled “Faith vs Fact,” which is as epistemically arrogant as it can be. If, in fact, he’s merely acting on gut feeling, then he’s not acting scientifically; he’s posturing as though he’s an exemplary rational thinker when he’s really just some schlub with an opinion, and that makes him an intellectual fraud.

    What’s your thought on the matter? Is it “scientific” to change your mind on the basis of a gut feeling? What if I say it’s just my gut feeling that God exists, and I’ll change my mind if my gut changes its feeling? Is there any epistemic virtue in any of this?

    Moreover, is it inherently virtuous to claim that data can change one’s mind? If you’re wise, then no amount of data will dissuade you that the interior angles of a triangle sum to 180 degrees, because you shouldn’t hold to the truth of that on the basis of empirical evidence. If you happen to think that there are compelling rational reasons to believe in God, then why should empirical data even be a possible mind-changer?

  104. Michael says:

    Coyne is effectively saying that he believes all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety, but if one of the miraculous variety occurred then that would challenge his belief.

    Exactly. Coyne needs a miracle – nothing less would ever count as evidence for God. Of course, we need to ask WHY the miracle could challenge his belief. Brian seems to be satisfied with “Because he said so.” But I’m curious about the connections and the logic. Why does the “miraculous variety” “challenge his belief?”

    After years of asking this question in one form or another, we have only one viable answer. The reason the miracles challenge his belief is because his naturalism cannot explain them. In other words, they exist as a GAP in his naturalistic explanation. It is the GAP nature of the miracle that makes it evidence. If there is no GAP, there is nothing to challenge his belief.

    So Coyne, by demanding miracles, is demanding Gaps. Brian complains that no one use uses “gap” this way. But that is irrelevant, as I am raising a novel critique against Coyne. Oh, and then Coyne uses those Gaps as evidence for the existence of God. Certain gaps, that it. 😉

    However the miraculous/unmiraculous distinction is not really the point here.

    Wrong. If the event is not miraculous, it is not a challenge to his naturalism. If it is not miraculous, it is not evidence for God.

    He’s not proclaiming what technically is and is not a miracle.

    Exactly. And that’s one of the problems with his whole argument. Rather than explicitly propose a way to determine what is and is not a miracle, he implicitly assumes this ability by relying on the miracle = gap equivalency.

    He doesn’t even mention miracle on p119.

    True, he does not write the actual word, but the whole account is indeed that of one Big Miracle. In fact, he makes this clear when he describes the healings:

    instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees…..the healings were unexplainable

    Did you notice? UNEXPLAINABLE. That’s a core feature of his argument. His naturalism is challenged because the event is unexplainable by his naturalism. And what do we call an unexplainable event? A Gap.

    Rather, he’s offering what would change his mind.

    It’s good to see Coyne acknowledging the subjective dimension to evidence. But I don’t think too many are all that interested in the brain activity of the entity known as Coyne. What makes his points potentially interesting is whether they go beyond his own personal beliefs. The way to determine that is to probe his reasoning. It is, at most, mildly interesting to say that X would change Coyne’s mind. It becomes more interesting for him to explain why X would change his mind. This is because the “why?” question has the potential to take us beyond his personal opinions.

    Why would a miracle change Coyne’s mind? Because it’s a Gap in his naturalism, leading him to think his naturalism, because of its failure at this crucial point, might need to be abandoned.

    Coyne is saying: I believe A is true, but if B happened then I’d have to start thinking seriously about A being false.

    Why? Because B would be a Gap. The Gap essence of B would indicate A is a failure.

    Michael’s criticism: So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands B. Yet the other side of his mouth insists A is true.

    No, I actually said, “So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands Gaps. Yet the other side of his mouth insists Gaps are useless.”

    Your mistake is in thinking my point is restricted to page 119 of his book. That page is where he “demands Gaps.” Outside his book, in other contexts, he sneers at the use of Gaps as evidence for God. Thus, the accuracy of my point and the error of your translation.

  105. Michael says:

    It’s a revelation seeing the original context of all this. First, it is remarkable the degree to which Coyne avoids making absolute statements, e.g., “then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.”

    This is remarkable evidence of Coyne’s closed mind. He is admitting that he has never thought “seriously about the truth of Christianity” as he needs a Super Duper Mind Blowing Unexplainable Miracle to even “start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.”

    He doesn’t propose a scheme that removes ambiguity, as you imagine I (and perhaps he) did. He says, “my acceptance of God would be provisional, subject to revocation if a naturalistic explanation arose later.” He even references “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” in the same respect you did, one of ambiguity.

    What’s funny is that Coyne turns his inability to distinguish a miracle from a nonmiracle into a reason to be “provisional” (as if this solves the ambiguity) when a good scientist should see that inability as reason to remain agnostic/undecided. In science, it is okay to say “I don’t know.” If he wants to be “provisional,” then the scientist needs to propose ways to test the two explanations. What test would he run to support or weaken his provisional acceptance that God did those instant healings? If he can’t propose a test, he should retreat back into agnosticism.

  106. Brian says:

    Coyne is effectively saying that he believes all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety, but if one of the miraculous variety occurred then that would challenge his belief.

    Exactly.

    I am glad we agree on that much. Coyne “demands” a miracle in the sense that that is what would challenge his belief. When we disambiguate the double meaning of “gap” in what you said, we get

    So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands a miracle. Yet the other side of his mouth insists all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety.

    Let A = “all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety”.

    Let B = “a miracle”.

    Coyne believes A is true, but says B would challenge his belief in A.

    Your criticism: So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands B. Yet the other side of his mouth insists that A is true.

    Suppose I say that I believe that all swans are white, but if I were to encounter a non-white swan then that would challenge my belief.

    A = “all swans are white”

    B = “a non-white swan”

    Your criticism: So out of one side of Brian’s mouth, he demands a non-white swan. Yet the other side of his mouth insists that all swans are white.

    Is it really true that I am talking out of both sides of my mouth?

  107. Kevin says:

    Let A = “all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety”.

    Let B = “a miracle”.

    The problem is establishing criteria for separating an “unknown” from a “miracle” that do not invoke gut feelings. Coyne certainly fails to do so.

    And without those criteria, a miracle is on the spectrum of “unknowns”. And according to A, all unknowns are unmiraculous.

  108. Brian says:

    The point is the same regardless of “gut feelings”.

    Suppose I say that I believe all ice cream is delicious, but if I were to encounter non-delicious ice cream then that would challenge my belief.

    The criticism: So out of one side of Brian’s mouth, he demands non-delicious ice cream. Yet the other side of his mouth insists all ice cream is delicious.

    Is it really true that I am talking out of both sides of my mouth?

  109. TFBW says:

    Brian, none of this is in response to my last comment, is it?

  110. Kevin says:

    Are you boiling the entire conversation down to the definition of talking out of both sides of one’s mouth, rather than the problem with what Coyne is doing, even if it doesn’t meet the common definition? If so, that’s much less interesting.

  111. Brian says:

    Kevin, it is not about the definition of anything.

    Coyne believes all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety, but if one of the miraculous variety occurred then that would challenge his belief.

    The criticism: So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands a miracle. Yet the other side of his mouth insists all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety.

    Brian believes all ice cream is delicious, but if he were to encounter non-delicious ice cream then that would challenge his belief.

    The criticism: So out of one side of Brian’s mouth, he demands non-delicious ice cream. Yet the other side of his mouth insists all ice cream is delicious.

    Harry believes A is true, but B would challenge his belief in A.

    The criticism: So out of one side of Harry’s mouth, he demands B. Yet the other side of his mouth insists that A is true.

    Regardless of how the criticism is labeled, it appears to be a criticism of something. Perhaps you can elucidate what that is.

  112. Michael says:

    Another faulty analogy from Brian:

    The criticism: So out of one side of Brian’s mouth, he demands non-delicious ice cream. Yet the other side of his mouth insists all ice cream is delicious.

    No, it would be “Out of one side of Brian’s mouth, he demands non-delicious ice cream. Yet the other side of his mouth he dismisses/ridicules his own method for determining if ice cream is non-delicious.

  113. Michael says:

    Coyne believes all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety, but if one of the miraculous variety occurred then that would challenge his belief.

    Yet his only way of determining whether “the miraculous variety occurred” is through God of the Gaps reasoning. For his challenge to even possibly exist, he must grant the validity of the God of Gaps reasoning.

    The criticism: So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands a miracle. Yet the other side of his mouth insists all unknowns are of the unmiraculous variety.

    Wrong again. It would be more like: So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands a miracle. Yet the other side of he dismisses/ridicules his own method for determining if a miracle has occurred.

    With every one of his translations, Brian seems to be getting further and further from my point (and completely ignores the context leading up to my claim).

    So I can simply repost:

    That is, a miracle presents itself as a gap in our knowledge. If we can’t explain it with science, natural law, or chance, then this gap in knowledge is called a miracle. That’s the very connection Coyne is assuming. In other words, for any miracle to be evidence of God, it depends on us acknowledging that Gaps are evidence of God’s existence. If Gaps are not evidence of God’s existence, why does Coyne demand miracles (and nothing less counts)?

    Since Coyne’s position depends on Gaps being evidence for God, then Coyne’s very atheism is dependent on the God of the Gaps Argument. Yet the tremendous irony is that Coyne, and countless other atheists, insist (in other contexts) that the God of the Gaps Argument is fundamentally flawed and Gaps are NOT evidence for God’s existence.

    So out of one side of Coyne’s mouth, he demands Gaps. Yet the other side of his mouth insists Gaps are useless.

  114. Brian says:

    TFBW, you made a lateral move from discussing philosophical arguments—which is honestly refreshing—to creating personal drama. That you re-upped that stance caused me to lose interest.

    However since I made a meta-comment in the other thread, I’ll also do so here.

    I believe I have been respectful throughout our conversations.

    The mustang illustration has nothing whatsoever to do with whatever judgments you have about the husband’s personal character. That factors in no way whatsoever to the point being made.

    If you toss aside such judgments, what remains is a refutation of your “common elements” technique.

  115. Brian says:

    Michael, disambiguating the double meaning of “gap” again, your comment becomes

    For his challenge to even possibly exist, he must grant the validity of the God of Unmiraculous Unknowns reasoning.

    But he doesn’t grant the validity of God of the Unmiraculous Unknowns; he rejects it.

    I’m ready to file this under unconvincing/unclear. But before I do, could you answer the following question.

    You criticized Dawkins for arguing that evidence of God is too ill-defined to really say what is evidence of God. This shows a closed mind, you say.

    Here you criticize Coyne for describing what he would consider to be (tentative) evidence of God. He shows an open mind, but this is not good enough for you because he fails to a resolve centuries-old philosophical problem regarding the distinction between miracles and non-miracles.

    In your words, this looks like “Heads I win, tails you lose.”

    What, in your view, is the appropriate stance for an atheist to take regarding evidence of God? Or is theism the only appropriate stance?

  116. TFBW says:

    Brian, given that you appeal to blurriness any time we need to pin you down on anything, I figure I’m done arguing with you too.

  117. Ilíon says:

    Even aside from the inherent and inescapable intellectual dishonesty in his God-Denial, and being charitable, Brian’s objective is to “engage in dialogue” … which is a very different thing from “seeking truth”. Anyone who is “seeking truth” risks being continually frustrated when trying to argue with someone who is “engaging in dialogue”.

  118. Hey Michael, I’m Goal’d. I was a believer pretty much my whole life until going of 5yrs now. I know the life well and encountered so many kinds of believers. In my day, I was just as you are in that I could defend my Faith like no other and contend for it.

    But after coming to some realizations, apparently I found that this God doesn’t exist at all. I wonder if you’ll come to realize that as much as you spend time defending your brand of god and his existence, that you’ll never see Him speak in defense for Himself.

    Can you address why that is?

  119. TFBW says:

    … you’ll never see Him speak in defense for Himself.

    What would that even look like if it happened? I mean, Jesus himself is the obvious answer to this question, but it’s so obvious that you must have already rejected it, so I have no idea what you could possibly mean. If your request doesn’t involve God coming to us in human form, what is it you’re asking for, exactly?

  120. Kevin says:

    In my day, I was just as you are in that I could defend my Faith like no other and contend for it.

    So you had relative certainty that you were correct on this matter.

    But then you transitioned to:

    But after coming to some realizations, apparently I found that this God doesn’t exist at all.

    So you went from believing that you were right, to believing that you are right. Your track record shows that you are fallible when it comes to certainty of correct conclusions, so why are you so comfortably certain now? Why do you think some realizations aren’t on the horizon that will convince you God does exist?

    From your question, it seems to boil down to having never witnessed or heard God. If that is your standard, then I have trouble understanding how you could defend the faith. Seems more like the first atheist you encountered would have converted you on the spot.

  121. Ilíon says:

    Oh, Mr Goal’d is like one of those “lifelong Republicans” who call in to talk shows to denounce the latest “outrage” (i.e. breathing) by Republicans and/or conservatives. He’s attempting to be a “poe”, but he’s not very good at it.

  122. Ilíon says:

    Also, as is almost always the case with these ‘atheists’ one encounters here and there, po’ li’l Goal’d doesn’t *actually* believe that God is not, for if he did actually believe that then he’d also understand-and-believe that there is no “way things ought to be”. But in his silly demand of our host he implicitly assumes that there is a moral order to the world, and (quite falsely) pretends-and-blusters that he has issued a moral challenge to which Michael is morally obligated to submit.

  123. Ilíon says:

    Everything ‘atheists’ assert is incoherent, for they always implicitly assume the very thing they deny.

  124. Thank you for your commentary. You are truly entitled to your opinions. I refuse to pass judgment on people I dont know, I’m not a Christian.

  125. Ilíon says:

    But you are a passive-aggressive liar and hypocrite. So, there’s that.

  126. Again, I can appreciate your opinion and recognize your reply as only that. Would you like to add anything else?

  127. Michael says:

    Hey Michael, I’m Goal’d. I was a believer pretty much my whole life until going of 5yrs now. I know the life well and encountered so many kinds of believers. In my day, I was just as you are in that I could defend my Faith like no other and contend for it.

    I see. I analyze the logic of Jerry Coyne and find it to be profoundly wanting. Rather than defend Coyne, and contend for his atheism, you’d rather change the topic. I’m shocked.

    But after coming to some realizations, apparently I found that this God doesn’t exist at all. I wonder if you’ll come to realize that as much as you spend time defending your brand of god and his existence, that you’ll never see Him speak in defense for Himself.

    Huh? I write a blog post that is critical of the logic behind Jerry Coyne’s brand of atheism. Yet you see this as me defending my Faith, defending my “brand of god,” and defending “his existence.” Really? Take a moment, catch your breath, and reread my blog posting. Did it ever even occur to you that it could have been written by an atheist or agnostic? Of course, I am not an atheist (anymore). Yet, if you pay attention, it still could have been.

    Can you address why that is?

    So you are asking me to defend my “Faith,” defend my “brand of god,” and defend “his existence?”

  128. Ilíon says:

    Again, I can appreciate your opinion and recognize your reply as only that.

    Ho-hum. One more God-hater-with-an-ethernet-cable who
    1) appears not to understand what the term ‘opinion’ means;
    and, 2) appears to imagine that calling other people’s opinions ‘opinions’ invalidates them, while simultaneously pretending that his own opinions are not opinions.

    Would you like to add anything else?

    Truth doesn’t become “more true” upon repetition.

  129. TFBW says:

    Apparently he also only responds if you reply directly via the “reader” interface, as opposed to just posting a comment. That’s probably going to save a lot of time, given that his responses so far have more or less said, “I’m ignoring your response.” I’m going to cut to the chase and assume that he’ll ignore every possible response which isn’t, “gosh, you’re right!”

  130. Ilíon says:

    I’m going to cut to the chase and assume that he’ll ignore every possible response which isn’t, “gosh, you’re right!”

    I’ll give it a go …

    Gosh, Goal’d, you’re right! —there is no Creator-God! But, you know what? I don’t care: I’m going to keep saying that God is, and trying to help other people to understand that they can know, through reason alone (that is, without even cracking a Bible) and beyond any rational doubt of it that there is a Creator; who is a Who and not a What; who intentionally creates the world; who is in himself the “measure” by which right is known/distinguished from wrong; and that we human beings are likewise Whos and not Whats, who are free moral beings.

  131. Great! Any words in closing?

  132. Ilíon says:

    Oh, my! He’s not even a “troll” … he’s just “bot” set loose by a “troll”.

  133. It did not occur to me that it was written by an atheist or agnostic. It was quite clear that it was written by a believer because I used to be one.

    Were you not defending anything? To what purpose were you blogging a critique about the guy?

  134. Dhay says:

    Goal’d > Were you not defending anything? To what purpose were you blogging a critique about the guy?

    You seem not to understand that the purpose of a critique of Jerry Coyne’s ‘God of the gaps’ type of argument might be simply that: to critique Coyne’s ‘God of the gaps’ type of argument.

    Were you not defending Coyne? To what purpose were you responding to a critique about the guy?

  135. I have noticed as a general rule that any atheist who claims “I used to be a Christian like you” will have virtually no understanding of the Christian faith beyond the most basic Sunday school tales, and curiously won’t even consider the possibility that they might be wrong a second time.

  136. Brian says:

    TFBW, so what is an “exact criteria” that distinguishes miracles from non-miracles, one that leaves no ambiguity? I claim that such a thing does not exist.

    I sincerely invite you to prove me wrong by specifying an “exact criteria” that unambiguously distinguishes miracles from non-miracles.

    Given your rejection of fuzziness along with your other claims, it would seem that if there is no “exact criteria” then nothing can happen that could be called a miracle. Is that your position?

    And if an “exact criteria” does not exist, it’s a little odd for you to be demanding it, isn’t it?

    I would also ask you the same question I asked Michael: What, in your view, is the appropriate stance for an atheist to take regarding evidence of God? Or is theism the only appropriate stance?

  137. Ilíon says:

    I have noticed as a general rule that any atheist who claims “I used to be a Christian like you” will have virtually no understanding of the Christian faith beyond the most basic Sunday school tales …

    Shoot! If they get even to that level, it’s progress, of a sort.

  138. Ilíon says:

    … and curiously won’t even consider the possibility that they might be wrong a second time.

    While being totally unable, or at any rate, unwilling, to rationally explain in what way they were wrong the (alleged) first time, but are right this time.

  139. Kevin says:

    and curiously won’t even consider the possibility that they might be wrong a second time.

    Yes I brought that up to Goal’d and was soundly ignored.

  140. TFBW says:

    @Brian:

    TFBW, so what is an “exact criteria” that distinguishes miracles from non-miracles, one that leaves no ambiguity? I claim that such a thing does not exist.

    Eh? What argument have I made which rests on the need for an unambiguous set of criteria for miracles? None, as far as I can tell. I’m quite happy to accept that no such criteria exist for the sake of argument.

    Given your rejection of fuzziness along with your other claims, it would seem that if there is no “exact criteria” then nothing can happen that could be called a miracle. Is that your position?

    No, it’s just that in the absence of such objective criteria, “miracle” becomes a subjective measure of the beholder’s inclination to believe that any given phenomenon has a divine hand behind it. Things can happen which are miracles according to some, but not according to others.

    If my mother thinks that God provides parking spaces for her, then those convenient parking spaces are a (small) miracle as far as she’s concerned, but not as far as Coyne’s concerned. That’s not a problem up until Coyne insists that he’s right and my mother is wrong, which, of course, he would. If she’s wrong, you see, she must be violating some objective set of criteria, and no such criteria exist, as you say. Square me that circle.

    And if an “exact criteria” does not exist, it’s a little odd for you to be demanding it, isn’t it?

    If “exact criteria” don’t exist, it’s a little odd for Coyne to be presenting his “Big Miracle” argument as though it were somehow Rational or Scientific, as opposed to a subjective “I would feel obliged to make adjustments in my belief structures if this happened” thing. And it’s not the lack of exactness that’s the problem there: the lack of exactness is a side effect of the fact that the whole process is both subjective and imprecise, but the subjectivity is the key.

    Look, if Coyne makes it clear that his requirements are entirely subjective and opinion-based, I’ll withdraw my complaints. I only insist upon “exact criteria” because of my impression that Coyne is purporting to be scientific about it, coupled with my belief that science should be based on clear criteria; measured phenomena. I side with Kelvin’s view that you don’t really have a proper science until you have measurement and metrics: “when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.”

    Similarly, if you concede that the lack of exact criteria for miracles means that they aren’t a thing to which one could make a scientific appeal (as opposed to an intuitive appeal), then I have no beef with you on this subject either.

    I would also ask you the same question I asked Michael: What, in your view, is the appropriate stance for an atheist to take regarding evidence of God? Or is theism the only appropriate stance?

    Atheism says nothing (at least not directly) about one’s relationship with evidence, reason, or logic, so “appropriate” isn’t a thing you can even aim at. The question is bizarre in its framing. If one purports to be operating scientifically or rationally, however, then some things become appropriate or not.

    Personally, I don’t see how we can be rational beings at all unless we are the product of a root-first-cause rational mind of sufficient capability and intent, and that brings me directly to theism the moment I presume to reason about anything at all. I’m not going to demand that same reasoning from an atheist, though: I just perform consistency audits on their claims.

  141. Michael says:

    Brian: You criticized Dawkins for arguing that evidence of God is too ill-defined to really say what is evidence of God.

    No, Dawkins agreed that naturalistic explanations are always preferred over supernatural explanations, so there can be no evidence for God.

    This shows a closed mind, you say.

    If you have come up with a philosophy that declares nothing can ever possibly count as evidence for God, then yes, it seems more than reasonable to conclude that such a person is closed minded about the existence of God.

    Here you criticize Coyne for describing what he would consider to be (tentative) evidence of God. He shows an open mind,

    He does? You are confusing your impressions with reality. For me, Coyne comes across as a typical closed-minded atheists trying to posture as if he is open minded. It’s an illusion.

    He claims he would consider a Super Duper Miracle as “tentative evidence” for the existence of God, but that is nothing more than words typed on a paper which must be taken on faith. And Coyne says faith is a bad thing. So, I am not willing to accept his claim on faith. And since there is also no evidence to support his claim (no evidence that he would indeed embrace the God hypothesis because of a Super Duper miracle), there is no evidence of this open mind that you think you see.

    Furthermore, for his Super Duper miracle to even be “tentative evidence,” we must acknowledge the validity of the God of the Gaps approach. For it is this approach that converts the miracle into evidence (this is why Coyne insists on something that science cannot explain). Without it, the miracle is an anomaly, not evidence. Yet in other contexts, Coyne tells us the God of the Gaps approach is invalid and dismisses any attempt to use it. Open minded people don’t need to rely on such sleight of hand.

    And yet there is much more. Did you notice it takes a Huge, Mind-Blowing Miracle to get Coyne to reach a mere tentative position that God could be behind it? What this means is there is no room for clues in Coyne’s approach. It’s all or nothing. Miracles and nothing less. Open minded people can consider the clues and don’t need to take such a ham-handed, noisy approach. Look, if you ask me, Coyne needs a Huge, Mind-Blowing Miracle because he needs it to open his mind. He needs something to blow off all the bolts, locks, and nails.
    So no, he doesn’t “show an open mind.”

    What, in your view, is the appropriate stance for an atheist to take regarding evidence of God?

    I think the appropriate stance would be one that strives for intellectual honesty rather than the common “defeat theists at all costs” approach. So, admit the subjective dimension to evidence, and thus, atheism. Stop demanding miracles as evidence unless you are willing to carefully outline WHY the miracle becomes evidence. If you are going to insist that we all agree “there is no evidence for God(!),” be prepared to help us by telling us what could count as evidence for God. That would be a decent start.

  142. Ilíon says:

    N2C:… and curiously won’t even consider the possibility that they might be wrong a second time.

    Kevin:Yes I brought that up to Goal’d and was soundly ignored.

    Ah, but see, that not how those particular gams are played. When a God-Denier tries to induce a Christian to play “Selective Hype-Skepticism” or “Eternal Epistemic Doubt”, much less the two simultaneously, it is his intent that only the Christian ever be “it”. The winning hand in those games is to refuse to play —

    * You present your case for the truth of “theism” in general or Christianity in particular;

    * A God-Denier attempts to distract you with, “Have you considered that you may be wrong?“;

    * The *proper* response is: “If I am wrong, then you should have little difficulty in showing where/how I’ve made a mistake of reason.

  143. Dhay says:

    Michael > It’s all or nothing. Miracles and nothing less.

    It’s all or nothing. Irrefutable miracles, and nothing less — as quoted in the OP:

    Seriously, if God wanted us to accept Him, why can’t he just come down to Earth and do a few irrefutable miracles that can be witnessed, photographed, and so on?

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2019/04/07/intelligent-design-advocates-finally-sneak-god-back-into-their-science/

    Evidently Coyne considers there is or can be such a thing as an irrefutable miracle — if not, why is he “seriously” demanding “a few” of them as a condition for accepting God? What is Coyne’s “exact criteria” that distinguishes irrefutable miracles from non-irrefutable miracles, one that leaves no ambiguity? He doesn’t say. Brian claims that such a thing does not exist.

    Well, we seem to have all of us agreed — even Brian — that Coyne’s demand for irrefutable miracles as irrefutable evidence before accepting God… is unachievable.

  144. Ilíon says:

    TFBW:Personally, I don’t see how we can be rational beings at all unless we are the product of a root-first-cause rational mind of sufficient capability and intent, and that brings me directly to theism the moment I presume to reason about anything at all.”

    Indeed.

    Furthermore, and damningly for atheism, when one consistently applies the presuppositions of God-Denial to the world in which we find ourselves, one “learns” that there are no rational beings at all: that reason is impossible to conduct, that truth is impossible to determine, that knowledge is impossible to obtain.

  145. Ilíon says:

    Well, we seem to have all of us agreed — even Brian — that Coyne’s demand for irrefutable miracles as irrefutable evidence before accepting God… is unachievable.

    One may recall a recent drive-by posting by some God-Avoider or other by which he “refuted” any and all arguments presented on this blog (for ‘theism’)/(against atheism) as being merely logical proofs … and therefore, somehow, both suspect and inferior to some other, and unspecified, method of truth determination/knowledge acquisition.

    The reason that God-Deniers avoid engaging “merely” logical proofs that (‘theism’ is true)/(atheism is false) is precisely because they cannot logically/rationally refute them.

    As TFBW said (and as I’m constantly pointing out), “… that brings me directly to theism the moment I presume to reason about anything at all.” The very act of reasoning presupposes that God is. Were a God-Denier to attempt to present a (soundly) reasoned argument (for atheism)/(against ‘theism’), he would be, by that act, affirming the very thing he wishes to deny.

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