Advertisements

The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the First

Geoffrey Berg’s tome, The Six Ways of Atheism, is a small volume but it requires some unpacking to get at the core of what he’s trying to say.  I’m going to tackle one argument per post and we should get through the book by Saturday.

Let’s dive in to the first argument, 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.

This argument fails to disprove God as Christians defend him.  Berg states repeatedly that there is little chance a being in this universe possesses any of these qualities, let alone all of them.  Agreed.  But we never argue that God is part of the universe.  Which means all of Berg’s statistical analysis and posturing about how language glosses over reality is moot.  His rantings only apply to beings originating in and living in the known universe.  God transcends that universe, and therefore isn’t subject to laws that define the universe.

Berg anticipated seven potential responses; this was (oddly) not one of them.  All of the objections he considered were pathetic and require no rejoinder from me.

So Berg and I agree that God doesn’t exist in the known universe.  That is only equal to “God doesn’t exist at all” given metaphysical naturalism.

Advertisements

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 September 17, 2012, in Apologetics, Atheist Books, God and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I recommend you charitably interpret the word ‘universe’ in the argument, so as not to limit it to the standard model of Big Bang cosmology, but also include everything else.

    i.e. ‘Universe’ = ‘Everything’.

    In which case the argument still stands.

    • That seems to be the way Berg would like us to interpret it, as he he states explicitly on his other site, GodFallacies.com.

      However, I would like to point out that that is a strawman.

      For example, if I were to make an argument that Sheldon doesn’t know how to make a joke and always intends people to take him seriously, there are probably any number of episodes of Big Bang Theory I could cite to show this. I could also argue that “Bazinga!” is a nonsense word with no meaning and that when Sheldon says it he is not attempting jokes or humor of any kind since there is no such word. Sheldon, as a cold being of logic, would never invent a word. That is the domain of poets, not physicists.

      The defender of Dr. Cooper would point out, rightly, that when Sheldon uses the word “Bazinga!” he is, in fact, attempting humor. However inept it may be, and however seriously the other characters actually take him. Again, any episode where he refers to one of his “classic pranks” moments before saying, “Bazinga!” would show I’m wrong.

      The point is that if you’re going to make an argument against someone, then you have to use the terms the same way. I don’t know of any Christian theist who has argued that God is part of the universe, or that God’s domain would be considered with the universe (however that might look different than God being part of the universe). God is separate from creation, the way a composer is not a note of the same symphony he just wrote. To argue otherwise is to argue against a strawman.

      What if I DID grant that God was part of the universe? Does that mean Berg’s reasoning holds? No. Randal Rauser had a similar discussion involving a transsexual named Mario at his blog:

      The point is that probability calculations are relevant *before* a person holds a belief, not *after*. Once they hold it a challenge to it must proceed differently by demonstrating some defeater to it. In this case the defeater is clear: based on Charles’ past history of psychosis, the very unusual description of the neighbor, and the empty apartment, the most plausible explanation is that Charles has hallucinated “Mario”.

      And that’s why John W. Loftus’s argument is a misfire. If he wants to defeat Christianity he cannot do so by presenting some calculation about the improbability of Christian claims. Rather, he needs to show how those claims are likely to be false. As it stands, his argument is about as threatening as a water gun aimed at somebody already swimming in a pool.

      I say this applies equally to Berg’s argument as it does to Loftus’s contention that Christianity itself is improbable.

      • I must be misunderstanding you, because we are in agreement that, in this argument, ‘universe’ has a wide definition, but then you again object to the narrow definition.

        Are you able to argue against this argument using the wide definition?

      • Berg uses a wide definition of the word “universe” to help his argument. That is a strawman.

        If I allow the wide definition, then I would refute the argument the same way Dr. Rauser did in the link I just supplied.

        Neither use of the word universe helps this argument, but it only makes sense if we use the word the way Berg wants to (to include all of existence, not limited to materially existing entities).

  2. good argument, but still unconvinced

  3. 1) If we accept premise 1, then premise 2 is question-begging for atheism: if premise 1 is true, then if God exists these properties exist necessarily in him (by premise 1). But then the proposition “Every one of these qualities may not exist in any one entity” is true only if there is no God, which is to assume atheism.

    2) Premise 1 also makes question 3 question-begging! The only way to interpret premise 3 (as far as I can tell) is as follows:

    “For every entity E, the probability that E would possess even one of these properties is extremely low”

    But, if God exists, then this is patently false, by premise 1.

    3) Beyond that, it seems you can also parody this argument. We could use the same reasoning used in points 2-6 to argue that no-one has ever come up with the special theory of relativity first:

    1. The property of “having developed the special theory of relativity first” may not exist in any one entity and if any such quality does exist it exists in at most one entity.
    2. Therefore it is very unlikely that anyone would possess the property of “having developed the special theory of relativity first”.
    3. There is an infinitesimal chance that any one entity (given the almost infinite number of entities in the Universe) might possess the property “having developed the special theory of relativity first”.
    4. In statistical analysis a merely hypothetical infinitesimal chance can in effect be treated as the no chance to which it approximates so very closely.
    5. Therefore as there is statistically such an infinitesimal chance of any entity possessing the property “having developed the special theory of relativity first”, it can be said for all practical and statistical purposes that no-one has “developed the special theory of relativity first”.

    There we go. So Einstein never developed the theory of special relativity! In fact you could use any property (or combination thereof) that is unique to someone (eg. that they existed) and prove that no-one has ever had that property, since if we aggregate over all of time, there are an unimaginable amount of people who did not have that property.

    • I parodied it a while back, too.

      I used it to “prove” I don’t exist:

      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.

  4. I should probably clarify what I meant in those brackets in that last paragraph where I said “(eg. that they existed)”. I meant it as follows: take some random person P. Then only P, in all of history has the property of “being P”. Thus, “being P” is unique to P and can be used in the parody argument.

  1. Pingback: “Six Ways of Atheism” Answered | Christian Apologetics Alliance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: