Logic in Arguments About Atheism II

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”

—Werner Heisenberg

As a follow up to the last reflection, I wished to delve a little bit deeper in the question of evidence. How do we recognise evidence when we see it? It might be answered that it is simply “obvious” or “self-evident.” But a moment’s consideration will reveal this answer to be inadequate. After all, it was “obvious” to people for thousands of years that demons caused illness, and “self-evident” that the Sun moved across the sky every day while the Earth remained stationary—a fixed point of inertia at the center of the spinning spheres. What the pre-Copernican astronomers would have seen with their eyes need not have differed in any substantial way from what we see through them today for what they/we see through them today to have undergone a revolutionary transformation. It may be useful to recall one of Goethe’s observations to this effect: “the senses do not err; judgement does.” In summary, it is necessary to strictly differentiate (a) data or fact from (b) theory, which is to say, mere (a) observation from (b) judgement

The next question to consider is how we can attain any kind of certainty that our judgements are correct. This question will prove to be the unexpected fly in the ointment of someone who wishes to maintain a naturalistic or atheistic world-conception. The reason for this is that such any world-conception must needs account for the very reasoning capacities by which the same is formulated, postulated, and maintained. Natural selection, in [principle, will always select for fitness over objective reason. By “fitness” is meant propagation of genetic material and by “objective reason” is meant the ability to grasp abstract truth. This is especially pronounced in supra-sensual objects like “liberty,” “government,” and “circularity,” or  the meaning of a word like “of” or “although.” And “God,” of course. Thus, in order to have any degree of confidence in the judgements of one’s intellect, it is necessary to ground the latter in something beyond what natural selection can provide. To affirm, therefore, the truth of the proposition “God does not exist” is somewhat of a performative contradiction. The judgment may be correct, but it cannot establish its veracity out of its own axioms. As a result, it could just as well be incorrect. To say the words, therefore, that “there is no God” is more sound and fury than reasoned conclusion, while to believe those words is superstition.

Can we say for sure that the smell of autumn could exist if God did not? To answer “yes” betrays that the above argument has not been received.

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