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So Far, I Remain Unimpressed

There are two basic classifications of atheist. The negative atheist simply remains unconvinced that God exists. The atheist doesn’t affirm the existence of any deity, but never explicitly denies the possibility one may exist somewhere.

Most folks I argue with here fall into the category of negative (sometimes called “weak”) atheist. It is often asserted that this is the default position in life and one should remain at this point until evidence is presented to the contrary. Of course, every weak atheist I encounter is absolutely unimpressed by any evidence affirming the existence of God. Such evidence is either believed to be faulty or denied outright as having any significance to judging the existence of God.

More interesting is positive (or “strong”) atheism, which is the explicit proposition that God doesn’t exist. As weak atheists remind us constantly, the burden of proof is on the one making the positive claim. Therefore, when the theist encounters a strong atheist, the burden of proof shifts and it is up to the strong atheist to prove that God doesn’t exist.

Not surprisingly, there are few strong atheists. It’s an extremely difficult position to defend, since the strong atheist has given himself a nearly impossible burden of proof. However, I found Geoffrey Berg at my local library when browsing for another title; Berg attempts to defend strong atheism by formulating new and improved proofs that God is incompatible with logic. He published a book called The Six Ways of Atheism: New Logical Disproofs of the Existence of God. I thought it would be interesting, so I picked it up.

However, I have two problems with this book:

  1. The book doesn’t list a publisher, either on it, in it, or on its official website. Amazon.com lists Temple DPS, Ltd. as the publisher. I can’t find that publisher anywhere except in connection with this book (and a few other New Age theology books).
  2. The biography of the author is a single sentence telling me nothing beyond the author’s school of choice. Big whop. I give more credentials than that, some of which hurt my credibility! Which raises the question: What is Berg afraid of?

Forgetting about the lack of academic credentials and the obvious attempt to cover that up, are the arguments any good? After all, if he makes good arguments, then his degree is immaterial. He should be taken seriously and dealt with on the basis of the arguments.

No such luck, though: his arguments suck. His first way of atheism is the Aggregate of Qualities Argument:

  1. If God exists, God must necessarily possess all of several remarkable qualities (including supreme goodness, omnipotence, immortality, omniscience, ultimate creator, purpose giver).
  2. Every one of these qualities may not exist in any one entity and if any such quality does exist it exists in few entities or in some cases (e.g. omnipotence, ultimate creator) in at most one entity.
  3. Therefore it is highly unlikely any entity would possess even one of these qualities.
  4. There is an infinitesimal chance that any one entity (given the almost infinite number of entities in the Universe) might possess the combination of even some two of these qualities, let alone all of them.
  5. In statistical analysis a merely hypothetical infinitesimal chance can in effect be treated as the no chance to which it approximates so very closely.
  6. Therefore as there is statistically such an infinitesimal chance of any entity possessing, as God would have to do, all God’s essential qualities in combination it can be said for all practical and statistical purposes that God just does not exist.

There are two valid approaches to refuting this one. First, look at each point one-by-one and see if the logic holds up. Second, mock it for the asinine argument it is.

Taking the first approach, the logic does hold between (1) and (2). However, (2) to (3) is a leap that remains unexplained (though I haven’t read the book yet, so I’m hoping that when I do, he will explain why this is a warranted leap). As it stands, it isn’t logical to jump from the point that only a few entities could espouse the qualities listed in (1) to the fact that it is unlikely any possess these qualities. Point (2) is clear that a few entities could possess qualities from (1). Therefore, (3) doesn’t follow from (1) and (2).

Point (4) assumes God is as an entity within the universe. The Judeo-Christian conception of God has always been an entity existing outside the known universe. God created and sustains the universe; logically, he cannot also be a part of it. A computer programmer isn’t also a line of code within the software package he wrote, nor is a symphony composed by a measure of music within the symphony.

Point (5) is true, so far as I understand statistics. For example, DNA varies even among the cells of the same living organism, so “matching” a known DNA sample to an unknown sample is a statistical game. The tech is really trying to determine the possibility of another human being contributing the unknown sample. Since there are six billion people in the world, if the odds approach or exceed 1 in six billion that another human being could have contributed the sample, then it is permissible to say that no one else could have left the DNA.

Therefore, (6) is a logical conclusion to draw from (5). However, (3) isn’t a logical continuation of the argument given (1) and (2). Point (4) doesn’t correspond to any valid conception of God as First Cause or ultimate Creator (which is what the Judeo-Christian God is). Therefore, the argument is invalid.

The satirical argument below was actually the first response that came into my head (literally within two minutes of reading the argument) because this argument is really, really terrible. Watch how terrible:

  1. If Cory Tucholski exists, he must necessarily possess all of several remarkable qualities (including an April 9, 1977 birthday, born to an uninterested father and mother too young in her own assessment so she gave him up for adoption, loving and adoptive parents Gail and John Tucholski from a small town outside Toledo, a wife named Jody whom he meets randomly online despite having deep connections and several mutual friends in real life, a degree in business from Owens Community College, and interests in reading, theology, philosophy, and other esoteric studies).
  2. Every one of these qualities may not exist in any one entity and if any such quality does exist it exists in few entities or in some cases (e.g. a blend of interests to include reading, writing, philosophy, theology, web design, computer programming, love of You’re Cut Off! despite hatred of reality TV, and noticing legs, butt, and arms first when sizing up an attractive female) in at most one entity.
  3. Therefore it is highly unlikely any entity would possess even one of these qualities.
  4. There is an infinitesimal chance that any one entity (given the almost infinite number of entities in the Universe) might possess the combination of even some two of these qualities, let alone all of them.
  5. In statistical analysis a merely hypothetical infinitesimal chance can in effect be treated as the no chance to which it approximates so very closely.
  6. Therefore as there is statistically such an infinitesimal chance of any entity possessing, as Cory Tucholski would have to do, all Cory’s essential qualities in combination it can be said for all practical and statistical purposes that Cory just does not exist.

Yet, here you are reading my blog.

Yes, this argument can disprove the existence of anyone in the universe! After all, there is only an infinitesimal chance that anyone would be born on her exact birthday with her exact mix of interests, strengths, and weaknesses, and proceed to live life making the choices she makes to arrive at the present in her current condition. All six billion people on earth are statistically improbable entities.

Given it is so broad in its scope, this argument has little explanatory value. It literally proves nothing. Looking ahead to the next argument, the Man and God Comprehension Gulf Argument, things aren’t getting any better. This argument is actually worse, but I’ll show exactly why another time.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on February 9, 2011, in Book Review, God, Religion, Theology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m not impressed with the argument either.

    On the subject of “I claim that no X exists” versus “I reject your claim than an X exists”, why do you consider the situation to be different with X as “god” versus X as “unicorn” or “china teapot orbiting the planet Neptune”?

    Would you say it is difficult to find someone willing to agree with the claim “there is no unicorn” or “there is no china teapot orbiting the planet Neptune”?

    There is no credible evidence supporting the existence of those things, and the things they describe are not predicted by any inference from facts about the world. If you were to ask most people, I expect they might be surprised at the question, but would have no trouble making the positive claim “there is no X”. The vanishing possibility that such a thing *might* exist is omitted as understood.

    Yet the support for those things is no less than the support for a god with the attributes defined in this article. People might be more wary about making the positive claim than in the case of unicorns etc., but that’s not because the evidence is any stronger; it’s because of the social environment of people who claim that X exists.

    I hope we can agree that popular support for a claim of existence doesn’t have any affect on whether that claim is true.

  1. Pingback: Six Ways of Atheism: On Personal Qualifications « Josiah Concept Ministries

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