1. Standard memberdj2becker
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    03 Oct '06 08:08
    As a starter for this discussion I will include an article by Paul Copan:
    http://www.rzim.org/resources/essay_arttext.php?id=3


    "The Presumptuousness of Atheism"

    Atheist Antony Flew has said that the "onus of proof must lie upon the theist."1 Unless compelling reasons for God’s existence can be given, there is the "presumption of atheism." Another atheist, Michael Scriven, considers the lack of evidence for God’s existence and the lack of evidence for Santa Claus on the same level.2 However, the presumption of atheism actually turns out to be presumptuousness. The Christian must remember that the atheist also shares the burden of proof, which I will attempt to demonstrate below.

    First, even if the theist could not muster good arguments for God’s existence, atheism still would not be shown to be true.3 The outspoken atheist Kai Nielsen recognizes this: "To show that an argument is invalid or unsound is not to show that the conclusion of the argument is false....All the proofs of God’s existence may fail, but it still may be the case that God exists."4

    Second, the "presumption of atheism" demonstrates a rigging of the rules of philosophical debate in order to play into the hands of the atheist, who himself makes a truth claim. Alvin Plantinga correctly argues that the atheist does not treat the statements "God exists" and "God does not exist" in the same manner.5 The atheist assumes that if one has no evidence for God’s existence, then one is obligated to believe that God does not exist — whether or not one has evidence against God’s existence. What the atheist fails to see is that atheism is just as much a claim to know something ("God does not exist"😉 as theism ("God exists"😉. Therefore, the atheist’s denial of God’s existence needs just as much substantiation as does the theist’s claim; the atheist must give plausible reasons for rejecting God’s existence.

    Third, in the absence of evidence for God’s existence, agnosticism, not atheism, is the logical presumption. Even if arguments for God’s existence do not persuade, atheism should not be presumed because atheism is not neutral; pure agnosticism is. Atheism is justified only if there is sufficient evidence against God’s existence.

    Fourth, to place belief in Santa Claus or mermaids and belief in God on the same level is mistaken. The issue is not that we have no good evidence for these mythical entities; rather, we have strong evidence that they do not exist. Absence of evidence is not at all the same as evidence of absence, which some atheists fail to see.

    Moreover, the theist can muster credible reasons for belief in God. For example, one can argue that the contingency of the universe — in light of Big Bang cosmology, the expanding universe, and the second law of thermodynamics (which implies that the universe has been "wound up" and will eventually die a heat death) — demonstrates that the cosmos has not always been here. It could not have popped into existence uncaused, out of absolutely nothing, because we know that whatever begins to exist has a cause. A powerful First Cause like the God of theism plausibly answers the question of the universe’s origin. Also, the fine-tunedness of the universe — with complexly balanced conditions that seem tailored for life — points to the existence of an intelligent Designer.

    The existence of objective morality provides further evidence for belief in God. If widow-burning or genocide is really wrong and not just cultural, then it is difficult to account for this universally binding morality, with its sense of "oughtness," on strictly naturalistic terms. (Most people can be convinced that the difference between Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa is not simply cultural.) These and other reasons demonstrate that the believer is being quite rational — not presumptuous — in embracing belief in God.


    Paul Copan is a Ph. D. candidate in philosophy at Marquette University and editor of the forthcoming Who Was Jesus? A Jewish-Christian Discussion (Word, 1997).

    NOTES

    1Antony Flew, The Presumption of Atheism (London: Pemberton, 1976), 14.
    2Michael Scriven, Primary Philosophy (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966), 103.
    3It is important to remember that we are trying to give arguments or good reasons for God’s existence — not "proofs," which imply a mathematical certainty. All too often the atheist’s criteria of acceptability are unreasonably high. One who is genuinely seeking plausible reasons to believe in God can certainly find them.
    4Kai Nielsen, Reason and Practice (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 143-44.
    5Alvin Plantinga, "Reason and Belief in God," in Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, eds., Faith and Rationality (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 27.
  2. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    03 Oct '06 09:41
    Originally posted by dj2becker
    As a starter for this discussion I will include an article by Paul Copan:
    http://www.rzim.org/resources/essay_arttext.php?id=3


    "The Presumptuousness of Atheism"

    Atheist Antony Flew has said that the "onus of proof must lie upon the theist."1 Unless compelling reasons for God’s existence can be given, there is the "presumption of atheism." Another ...[text shortened]... nd Rationality (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 27.
    Surely, the burden of justification is always on the person who makes any positive claim, whether that claim is about God or not. Some people are reluctant to bear that burden, however. They suggest that others are presumptuous for not naturally believing what they believe. Now, that *is* presumptuous!
  3. Standard memberdj2becker
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    03 Oct '06 09:46
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Surely, the burden of justification is always on the person who makes any positive claim, whether that claim is about God or not. Some people are reluctant to bear that burden, however. They suggest that others are presumptuous for not naturally believing what they believe. Now, that *is* presumptuous!
    Do you mean to say that the Atheist does not make a truth claim?
  4. Standard memberXanthosNZ
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    03 Oct '06 09:51
    Originally posted by dj2becker
    Do you mean to say that the Atheist does not make a truth claim?
    Say we agree that the burden of proof lies on the athiest. How does one prove the non-existance of God? In fact, how do we prove a negative at all?

    Prove that there are no live dinosaurs on Earth right now.
  5. Standard memberdj2becker
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    03 Oct '06 11:011 edit
    Originally posted by XanthosNZ
    Say we agree that the burden of proof lies on the athiest. How does one prove the non-existance of God? In fact, how do we prove a negative at all?

    Prove that there are no live dinosaurs on Earth right now.
    That just shows what a problem you have on your hands if you claim to be a strong atheist.
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    03 Oct '06 11:07
    Originally posted by dj2becker
    That just shows what a problem you have on your hands if you claim to be a strong atheist.
    Its only a problem if you want to convert a believer to Atheism. Otherwise, the onus is on the believer to prove the positive.
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    03 Oct '06 11:15
    Originally posted by dj2becker
    That just shows what a problem you have on your hands if you claim to be a strong atheist.
    This article makes no distinction between the weak and strong atheist positions. The nature of being unable to prove a hypothesis completely is why we should work from a position of null-hypothesis. Every time we disprove a null hypothesis we get closer to a position of undeniability on a state of truth. We cannot know that any position is completely true, but we must at some point make a decision about what is realistically likely. We each make a thousand such decisions each day (that the sun will rise tomorrow, that I will get sleepy as the day goes on, that if I drop a pencil it will fall to the ground and eventually cease to move etc.), none of them provable other than by hindsight and yet we base our day to day actions upon them. And not just in a casual way, but in an intrinsic way upon which our existence is carried out. It is more parsimonious for me to hold a position of weak atheism as it does not constrict me to a positive belief which I cannot prove. It is not a presumptious view, as this article would have us believe, but a view of doubt.
  8. Standard memberXanthosNZ
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    03 Oct '06 11:54
    Originally posted by Starrman
    This article makes no distinction between the weak and strong atheist positions. The nature of being unable to prove a hypothesis completely is why we should work from a position of null-hypothesis. Every time we disprove a null hypothesis we get closer to a position of undeniability on a state of truth. We cannot know that any position is completely tru ...[text shortened]... ove. It is not a presumptious view, as this article would have us believe, but a view of doubt.
    What he said.
  9. Cape Town
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    03 Oct '06 12:012 edits
    Paul Copan is a Ph. D. candidate in philosophy at Marquette University
    He should not be awarded his Ph.D. as he has made some major philosophical errors.

    First, even if the theist could not muster good arguments for God’s existence, atheism still would not be shown to be true.
    That word 'true' should be used with caution.

    Fourth, to place belief in Santa Claus or mermaids and belief in God on the same level is mistaken. The issue is not that we have no good evidence for these mythical entities; rather, we have strong evidence that they do not exist.
    Actually there is no evidence that they do not exist. Direct evidence of abscence can only be given if a more thorough definition is given for the entities in question.

    Moreover, the theist can muster credible reasons for belief in God.
    Nice word - 'muster'.

    Sadly all such reasons (including those listed in the article), are only credible to theists thus making 'credible' a rather poor word for the situation.

    in light of Big Bang cosmology, the expanding universe, and the second law of thermodynamics (which implies that the universe has been "wound up" and will eventually die a heat death) — demonstrates that the cosmos has not always been here.
    A false claim.

    It could not have popped into existence uncaused, out of absolutely nothing, because we know that whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    Another false claim and strawman.

    powerful First Cause like the God of theism plausibly answers the question of the universe’s origin.
    doesnt answer anything actually but rather translates to "we have invented a name for what we dont understand and thus claim to know what we dont understand".

    Also, the fine-tunedness of the universe — with complexly balanced conditions that seem tailored for life — points to the existence of an intelligent Designer.
    False claim. The universe is not particularly favourable to life as we know it, and the claim istelf is based on the assumption that life is the 'purpose' of the universe.

    The existence of objective morality provides further evidence for belief in God.
    Actually the observed behaviour of humans as regards morality fits much better with the Theory of Evolution than it does with some percieved 'absolute morality'.
  10. Standard memberdj2becker
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    03 Oct '06 12:07
    Originally posted by twiceaknight
    Its only a problem if you want to convert a believer to Atheism. Otherwise, the onus is on the believer to prove the positive.
    Not surprising then that Atheists don't go around making converts,
  11. Standard memberdj2becker
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    03 Oct '06 12:17
    Originally posted by Starrman
    This article makes no distinction between the weak and strong atheist positions. The nature of being unable to prove a hypothesis completely is why we should work from a position of null-hypothesis. Every time we disprove a null hypothesis we get closer to a position of undeniability on a state of truth. We cannot know that any position is completely tru ...[text shortened]... ove. It is not a presumptious view, as this article would have us believe, but a view of doubt.
    This article makes no distinction between the weak and strong atheist positions.

    What would you say is the difference between a 'weak atheist' and an 'agnostic'?

    We cannot know that any position is completely true, but we must at some point make a decision about what is realistically likely.

    So you are saying that absolute truth does not exist?

    It is not a presumptuous view, as this article would have us believe, but a view of doubt.

    And how does this view of doubt differ from universal skepticism?
  12. Standard memberXanthosNZ
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    03 Oct '06 12:21
    Originally posted by dj2becker

    What would you say is the difference between a 'weak atheist' and an 'agnostic'?
    One says that we don't know and the other says we cannot know.
  13. Standard memberdj2becker
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    03 Oct '06 12:281 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    He should not be awarded his Ph.D. as he has made some major philosophical errors.

    First, even if the theist could not muster good arguments for God’s existence, atheism still would not be shown to be true.
    That word 'true' should be used with caution.

    Fourth, to place belief in Santa Claus or mermaids and belief in God on the same level with the Theory of Evolution than it does with some percieved 'absolute morality'.
    He should not be awarded his Ph.D. as he has made some major philosophical errors.

    I presume you have your Ph.D in philosophy then?

    That word 'true' should be used with caution.

    You don't believe that 'truth' exists?

    Actually there is no evidence that they do not exist.

    I presume you possess absolute knowledge then?

    Sadly all such reasons (including those listed in the article), are only credible to theists thus making 'credible' a rather poor word for the situation.

    That would be presuming that absolute truth does not exist.

    A false claim.

    Just because you say so?

    Another false claim and strawman.

    You mean to say that the universe has always existed?

    doesnt answer anything actually but rather translates to "we have invented a name for what we dont understand and thus claim to know what we dont understand".

    There are some things which can only be explained by the existence of God.
  14. Standard memberdj2becker
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    03 Oct '06 12:30
    Originally posted by XanthosNZ
    One says that we don't know and the other says we cannot know.
    I presume it is the weak atheist that says we cannot know, right?

    Is that not a positive truth claim?
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    03 Oct '06 12:33
    Originally posted by dj2becker
    [b]This article makes no distinction between the weak and strong atheist positions.

    What would you say is the difference between a 'weak atheist' and an 'agnostic'?

    We cannot know that any position is completely true, but we must at some point make a decision about what is realistically likely.

    So you are saying that absolute truth doe ...[text shortened]... t a view of doubt. [/b]

    And how does this view of doubt differ from universal skepticism?[/b]
    Agnosticism says we cannot know god, through some lack of ability or sensory process perhaps. Weak atheism says we deny god's existence until we see reasonable proof. The Agnostic may never know god, the weak atheist may yet, should the evidence arise.

    Absolute truth would require absolute proof; no such thing exists. Life is relative to the perception of existence, that is enough for me. If I claimed absolute tryth, my position would be as untenable as that of a strong atheist or a theist.

    It differs from universal skepticism in that I opt for a common sense view of existence which removes the need for proof beyond the natural weight of evidence. It is of no importance to me whether the universe exists or not, since the very nature of my experience suggests it does. So to with the various aspects of life. I consider the skeptic as foolish as the theist.
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