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Posted by on Apr 2, 2013 in Uncategorized | 10 comments

Proving the Negative: A List of Arguments for Atheism

Here is a collection of links that concern arguments for the nonexistence of God. Following the list I will lay out a few of my own arguments for atheism.

The Disproof Atheism Society – The website of a group of philosophers which has a large collection of arguments to the nonexistence of God.

20+ Questions for Theists. Jeffrey Jay Lowder’s list of questions for believers which reveal a number of arguments for atheism and expose a number of flaws in theistic arguments. It’s a brief but highly recommended blog.

Ebon Musings: The Necessity of Atheism. This is a very good page with excellent summaries of the evidential arguments for atheism. That is, the author shows how various things about the universe make more sense if God does not exist than if he does.

Closer to Truth: “God.” A series of interviews with philosophers and scientists who explain, in common-sense terms, what they think about the arguments for and against the existence of God.

Internet Infidels: Evidential Arguments for Atheism. Internet Infidels has essays written by a broad variety of critical thinkers arguing that atheism is better justified by various pieces of evidence, including Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Internet Infidels: Logical Arguments for Atheism.

Theodore Drange: “Ten Atheistic Arguments” and “A Survey of Incompatible Properties Arguments.” A veteran philosopher goes over some of the arguments for God’s nonexistence, the first simply being all kinds of arguments for God’s existence and the second being a review of arguments for incompatible properties (incompatible properties arguments try to show that the very definition of God is like a square circle; God is defined as having two different properties which could not possibly exist in the same entity).

Evil Bible: God is Impossible. It’s a tad simplistic and mainly focuses on the God of the Bible, and I would recommend checking the scripture references in context, but other than that it is good food for thought.

Richard Carrier Blogs: The God Impossible. Richard Carrier goes over his thoughts on why God is impossible. Very interesting and often unheard arguments are brought out.

Stephen Maitzen’s Argument from Divine Hiddenness

The Argument from the Verification Principle. Which I touch on here and which Michael Martin defends extensively in Atheism: A Philosophical Justification.

Some of My Arguments for Atheism.

Bodiless Minds Probably Cannot Exist.

What if someone told you about a chair that wasn’t made out of anything. That is, not simply a chair that was made of a different sort of matter and energy than you are familiar with, but a chair that wasn’t made out of anything at all. Do you think that such a hypothetical chair is even possible or at all sensible? I don’t, and I suspect most people agree. However, most people seem to think that it is sensible to talk about spirits, souls, and gods, all of which are minds that are not made out of anything at all. However, philosophers and neuroscientists have long been thinking of our human minds as being completely physical in nature. Human minds are like snowflakes: just as snowflakes are made of many water-molecules arranged in a certain pattern to create the snowflake, so too are human minds/brains just a collection of brain cells arranged in a certain way to function as the people we are. When we describe who someone is, we describe them in terms of what they do and how they react in certain situations, and these are all fundamentally just “higher-level” descriptions of how a collection of matter and energy behaves. At the microscopic scale you see the water molecules (that is a “low level” description) but if you zoom out to the macroscopic scale you see the snowflake (a “higher-level” description). This is how people are: at the microscopic level you have cells and how they behave, and at the higher-level scale you have people and how they behave. Seen this way, it makes no sense at all to speak of a person who isn’t made out of anything or about any mind without a body. Perhaps this is only a hunch and does not, in and of itself, prove with very much certainty that bodiless minds cannot exist. But it does lend support to the idea and provides a good ground for formulating the hypothesis that minds cannot exist without bodies. So let’s see how that hypothesis fits the evidence.

The fact is that we have no rock-solid evidence of any sort of mental activity or signs of conscious awareness that occur without the activity of a physical brain. We could have had such evidence. We could have had evidence of a poltergeist, a genuine demonic possession, psychics who can truly communicate with the dead rather than relying on cheap parlor tricks, Near-Death Experiences could have proven to be genuine experiences of the mind outside of the body (see Keith Augustine’s article as well as Victor Stenger’s excellent chapter on the subject in The End of Christianity), we could all have memories of experiences from before our physical body came into existence (past lives, or God briefing us on our mission before he sent our souls into earth-bound bodies). We have extensive evidence that the human mind is the brain, as I’ve discussed on page 97 of my book Atheism and Naturalism and as Steven Conifer has discussed here. Of course, the absence of evidence for bodiless minds combined with the abundant evidence that minds require bodies provides astonishing and rock-solid support for the philosophical hunch that I discussed above. I’d go so far as to say that it is very likely that bodiless minds cannot exist. If it is very likely that bodiless minds cannot exist, and God is defined as a bodiless mind, then it follows that it is very likely that God does not exist. This argument wipes the floor clean of all possible gods, even a deist god who doesn’t care about us and never does anything. Though such do-nothing gods cannot be disproven by evil or by a lack of evidence, because they are part of a category (bodiless minds) which probably do not and can not exist, so too do they not exist.

Evil

For those who doubt the argument from evil, let’s take on the most popular objection: free will. I read an article by local pastor on the problem of evil and here are some excerpts from it that I think are revealing:

“One night, a 16-year-old teen awakened to find a stranger in her bedroom. He held a knife to her throat. He told her to be quiet or he would kill her and her parents down the hall. Then he took her outside and raped her. All the while she was praying, telling him he did not have to do this and that God would forgive him. He didn’t stop. When he was done, he let her go back to her home. But she could never get back to her unspoiled life.”

“Why does God allow things like this to happen? …Theology talks about God’s perfect will, which is that all live in happiness and fulfillment. Theology also talks about God’s permissive will, which allows human beings the freedom to fail. To have a real victory, there has to be the possibility of failure. In order for us to follow God voluntarily, the possibility also has to exist to reject God’s will.”

If you had been there the night that this 16-year-old girl was raped, wouldn’t you have tried to stop it? Or would you debate with yourself over whether allowing the girl to be raped was better than allowing the rapist his free will? I would have fought for the girl without a second thought, and I’d even go as far as to say that anyone of any moral fortitude would do the same. So if you believe that the protection of the girl is more valuable than allowing the rapist a freedom of choice, then you cannot believe in God. Because God is supposed to be a being with enough power to stop these things from happening, and also completely good, which means that if he existed he would have done the right thing and prevented the rape, even at the cost of destroying the rapist’s free will. Events such as this leave us with no choice at all but to reject the sorry, soft, illogical pat answers of the preachers and theologians and look at reality for what it is: godless.

The Argument From Design for the Nonexistence of God.

Believers often point out that if the orbit of the Earth were ever so slightly closer to or further from the sun, life couldn’t exist. They pile up a number of very specific conditions which must coexist in order for life to exist, and ask why our planet is this way rather than any one of the millions of other ways that it could be which would not allow for life to exist. They’re wrong that this points to God, as there are so many trillions of planets that it is no miracle that at least one (if not millions of others) should have life.

Believers ought to ask why God is exactly the way he is rather than some other. If there is an uncaused immaterial mind that exists (and only one of them, not many, which would commit us to polytheism) what are the odds that that mind would be absolutely perfect instead of one gazillions of ways it could be imperfect? Think about it: If my mind were altered just a bit by slicing out a piece of it or altering its structure with drugs, injuries, etc. I would probably be insane and/or mentally retarded. It does no good to object that my brain is physical while God’s mind isn’t, after all, we could imagine (if such things are possible) an immaterial version of every insane/idiotic/demented mind that could possibly be. Why a perfect mind rather than one of those? There is no good reason to see one as more likely than the other, and so using the believer’s logic which they were only too happy to use about our life-friendly planet, it must be no more likely. Stop and think about how many possible minds there are: there are at least 7 billion human minds, billions more animal minds, plus the minds of imaginary characters, and so on and so forth. By a conservative estimate, the prior probability that an uncaused mind would be a perfect one is one out of a hundred billion, probably much more.

The Argument from Big Bang Cosmology

Here’s what Quentin Smith wrote in his article Time Began with a Timeless Point:

“It is perfectly reasonable to expect a very good, wise, and powerful person to begin his creation in a very beautiful and magnificent way that exhibits an admirably high degree of naturally good order. ‘Complete chaos is just ugly,’ and a perfectly rational finite mind would predict that ugliness is not the very first thing that a good, all-powerful person would want to create. This expectation is so natural and obvious that the belief that the early universe contained the Garden of Eden persisted in Jewish and Christian thought for nearly two thousand years, requiring extensive scientific evidence to be falsified.

“This is why the current observational evidence [that the beginning of spacetime is a state of maximal chaos] falsifies theism. The theistic hypothesis is predictively unsuccessful and is explanatorily valueless, since ‘Because God created it’ is not an explanatorily informative answer to ‘Why is the first state of spacetime totally chaotic rather than ordered in a very beautiful and admirably good way?‘”

  • ehj1919

    A secular critic’s historical contradiction: The founders and grand theorist of quantum and relativity physics: Einstein, Schroedinger, Heisenberg, Bohr, Eddington, Pauli, de Brogue, Jeans, and Plank, all write extensively about their theist conviction, Comment?

    • ncovington89

      Einstein did not believe in a personal god, although he did claim to believe in a god of some kind. I don’t see what your point is here, or what the “secular critic’s historical contradiction” is.

  • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

    Hi Nicholas,
    I’m not sure where Quentin Smith got his information. I did a quick look into one of my books last night. Initial state of the universe was highly ordered according to Penrose (The Road To Reality- around pg.727).
    What is your opinion on that?

    • ncovington89

      Hmmm, I suspect Penrose is using the word “order” in the thermodynamic sense: the universe had a lot of usable energy. He probably does not mean that it was highly organized.

      • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

        Yes, he says early universe was thermodynamically ordered but
        events in early universe were also unfolding as an organized process.

        I maybe getting into situation too nuanced for my
        understanding of English words. When I say “organized” I think of a
        person and his activities or of an organized process.(My work desk is
        closer to “chaos”)

        • ncovington89

          I dunno. I’ve gone to google books and searched “early universe was highly chaotic” and “early universe was highly organized.” I’ve found quotes for both, so that means that either (a) scientists disagree on this for some reason, or (b) maybe it’s a little subjective whether one chooses to describe the early universe as chaotic or organized. In any case, I think Smith’s argument is worth posting because I think most people don’t know about it, and it’s good food for thought. But it also might be wrong.

          • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

            I checked two other books (David Schramm, James Lidsey) but they don’t say much about the early universe. I doubt anybody is sure so it may be the case, like you said of personal preference by each scientist. I’don’t feel like checking anymore books, the old fashioned search engine (flipping pages) is not as fast as electronic one.

            I’m just trying to present realistic view of the situation now re. planet search. It’s possible scientists will find planet similar to Earth because sample right now is too small, only about 2000 stars.

            Just for illustration how fascinating our planet is:

            http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html

            Otherwise, it’s great to post arguments you did, it stimulates thinking about our reality.

  • http://disnotblog.blogspot.com/ Eugen

    “there are so many trillions of planets that it is no miracle that at least one (if not millions of others) should have life.”

    Earth orbit is nearly circular with eccentricity of only 0.016. Most planets Kepler mission found around other stars are in elliptical i.e. high eccentricity orbits. This is unfavorable but not impossible situation for simple life. It would be nearly impossible situation for higher life forms and impossible for stable civilizations of human like creatures. Planets with Earth type features are extremely rare. So far score is 1 Earth vs. 2700 Kepler planet candidates.

    • ncovington89

      I once saw an estimate of the number of the stars in the universe, and I think it is somewhere between 10 to the 22nd power and 10 to the 24th power. If even a small portion of these stars have planets (one out of ten, one out of a hundred, something like that) then it follows that there will be billions and billions of planets.

  • ehj1919

    In case you missed it Vridar has framed the classic description of a Theist: Neil Godfrey when reading that some significant scientist, as theist, wrote extensively about their thoughts of mysticism: “Rubbish! That a minority of scientists still cling to some form of primitive religious notions is of no significance whatever, except to modern day relics of cave-man superstitions found among true believers today.” Can one say it better?