Reason as the Leading Motive

Atheist Methodology

Posted by Jerry on March 28, 2007

As I was browsing through some WordPress blogs, I came across this one article that postulated a five-point theses for why God’s existence is more likely a fact than the randomness of scientific theories on nature. In the article, I found the same old and tired arguments against atheism. I also realized that the atheistic position that was being presented is indeed a more commonly held one–it is an atheism of the empiricist kind, of the kind that Richard Dawkins propounds–a non-rigorous, shallow position that does not believe in the certain truth of its position, but merely hopes that it is true because–by all appearances–it seems true. Contrast this with the Objectivist epistemology that provides a remarkably solid grounding for its atheistic position as a properly logical and factual position.

Anyway, I decided to leave a fairly long comment on that article, tackling every issue raised by the five points. If you’re interested in reading the entire five-point theses and my rebuttal, you can go to that site directly. Below, I have reproduced my comment, with minor revisions to make it appropriate for a stand-alone post, in order to point out that the way I define and defend my atheism is rather different from the kinds typically proposed:

There is an ancient bromide, at least from the time of Aquinas, that religion and science do not inherently collide. In fact, this false premise has so often been spouted with such an air of dignified righteousness that people have eventually come to accept it as a truth. Religionists derive psychological comfort from this premise because it allows them to decieve themselves into thinking that they are not really anti-science–that science and religion are not mutually incomptabile.

Further, contrary to your claim, science is not solely based on proof. Proof is what science seeks to arrive at in order to validate its theories. Often, even in the absence of conclusive proofs, there are theories that are held scientifically because of the method by which these theories were constructed. The fundamental difference between science and religion is not the end result (i.e., proofs or answers) but the epistemological *method* of arriving at those answers. Science is fundamentally different from religion in the *approach* it takes to finding answers (or proofs). Science uses reason. Religion demands faith. That is the essential and crucial difference, and which is also fundamentally why science and religion cannot be compatible.

Whatever conclusions that science and religion reach, they might be complementary or non-contradictory, but the conclusions are arrived at through radically contradictory approaches. Where reason is the guiding principle, faith has no room. And where faith is the epistemological method, no reason is required.

You said that science does not address the question of “why”? Indeed, that is a huge fallacy. The concept “why” is squarely based on the concept of reason because asking “why” implies a search for some explanation, some reason; therefore, the concept “why” most properly resides within the domain of science. In fact, in direct contradiction to what you said, “why” is incompatible with religion because religion says you should not ask “why,” merely accept matters on faith, as divine revelation, as dogma, as God’s spoken word.

With regard to your notion of first cause, existence cannot be “caused” into existence; indeed to think along these lines is to succumb to the common mode of human thinking without knowing it. Humans like to think of causes and effects and a series of events. Our brains like making connections and patterns; this has been amply demonstrated in experiments by Gestalt psychologists.

A proper epistemology reveals that “cause” is a concept that hierarchically depends on existence in the first place. Thus, you cannot extract “cause” from the domain of existence in order to enquire what “caused” existence in the first place. Existence is primary and axiomatic; “cause” and causality are concepts that are only relevant within existence. There is no such thing as a “cause” of existence, nor is there anything “outside” existence because any such existent would then become part of reality, i.e., existence. Further, non-existence does not exist by definition, and don’t imagine it as some black void because that is not what non-existence is. By definition, human consciousness is incapable of imagining non-existence.

To claim that since nature is random, our minds and consciousness must also be random and therefore nothing has any meaning or sense or purpose is to commit the logical fallacy of composition. This fallacy, as described by philosopher John Searle, is of attributing the properties of the parts of a system to the whole system. The apparent randomness of non-conscious phenomena and of nature in general does not imply that conscious phenomena is also random. Free will, determinism, and randomness are not logically exclusive or contradictory. Further, as Ayn Rand pointed out, what appears random to our minds is merely the application of the law of identity to actions. All existents have a certain identity and will act in accordance to its nature. Just as it is in the identity of non-conscious phenomena to act in a way determined by its nature, so is it in the nature of man’s consciousness to act volitionally–which is free will, metaphysically determined.

Your final two points are based on mystical premises of what you think God wants of humans and why you think God made humans the way He did. Frankly, if there indeed were a god, I would consider it rather presumptuous of you to claim some insight into His reasons for and wishes of His creation.

Finally, as a last point, just because you might find some phenomena currently inexplicable to the human mind, on that basis alone, there is no reason to postulate the existence of a supernatural Being. Ignorance is not a ticket for God’s existence.

Visit my category link for “Atheism” to read more articles on this topic.

3 Responses to “Atheist Methodology”

  1. Michael said

    Truly there is a God, although the fool has said in his heart, there is no God [Psalm 14]. And it assuredly exists so truly that it cannot be conceived not to exist. For it is possible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceived not to exist; & this is greater than one which can be conceived not to exist. Hence, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, can be conceived not to exist, it is not that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, but this is an irreconcilable contradiction. There is, then, so truly a being than which nothing greater can be conceived to exist, that it cannot even be conceived not to exist; & this being you are. O Lord our God. [St Anslem]

    Peace Be With You

  2. Michael said

    About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

    Peace Be With You

  3. Ergo said

    Michael, I’ll refer you to my refutation of Anselm’s ontological argument. Search for it on my blog. Oh, and Peace be with you also.

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