Sunday, May 4, 2008

An "A" for effort!

I found a rather unique web page that presented some of the most oft cited arguments for Creation (via a deity?). I love the way the author, Wayne Jackson, purposefully attempted to avoid the usual pitfalls of conversations between theists and their opposite, atheists. He does it in a rather respectful way, even going so far as to acknowledge the works of a well known atheist/agnostic Bertrand Russell. It was refreshing to see a Christian publication be forthright when it comes to logical fallacies. So often, they are slung about, making it virtually impossible to have a productive dialogue.

I believe Jackson did a great job in the first half of the article. Leaving logical fallacies behind, one can then proceed to a case based on evidence or some sort of logical reasoning. He then presents 5 arguments which demonstrate that his god indeed exists.

Argument 1) Matter cannot be created or destroyed, thus god created matter.

How can anything create matter if matter cannot be created? Can a third option exist in which matter has always existed, but merely changed form through the Big Bang? It is difficult to tell since computations beyond the Plank wall yield results we are not familiar with in our everyday lives (i.e. the thermodynamic laws).

Argument 2) Entropy suggests an immaterial beginning.

Jackson contradicts his first argument when he suggested that matter cannot be destroyed. If it cannot be destroyed, it must be eternal. The way he worded his argument with loose language such as "eternal" confuses the subject. Matter indeed changes from matter to energy (and vis-versa) regularly (E=mc/\2). At any rate, how does this point to a deity? One needs to understand physics to be able to test this hypothesis. I think that is a little too much to ask of the average person.

Argument 3) Life cannot come from inorganic matter.

Its interesting to note how Jackson uses the word "incapable" in his argument. He states that inorganic matter is "incapable" of generating living organisms. How does he know this? He has not tried every possible experiment. He uses Russell's teapot to make an argument he could not possibly defend.

Argument 4) Morality comes from an immaterial source.

Jackson states, "All evidence indicates that no strictly material object has moral sensitivity, i.e., a conviction of right versus wrong." It is believed that what we consider "right" and "wrong" are products of the interaction among creatures under environmental constraints. What is good for the individual and the group becomes what is "right," because whatever was "wrong" hindered the survival strategy of that creature. Morality, loosely defined, is a product of evolutionary processes. There is no need for a immaterial explanation for what is culturally defined as "right" and "wrong."

Last but not least, Jackson hits us with the Pièce de résistance;

Argument 4) Everything looks like it was designed, hence, there is a designer.

Objects that appear "designed" do not necessarily warrant a designer. (Ah, William Paley, will he ever really die?) I wonder why Jackson chose to include this argument since it has already been established that there are serious problems with the logic. I'm glad he chose one which doesn't involve quantum physics, but nevertheless, he is incorrect. It is an assumption on the part of Jackson that things which appear to be designed need a designer, when that is what he was trying to prove in the first place (QED? I don't think so). With all the platitudes given to logical fallacies in the commencement of his article, it is surprising to find one in the latter half. In fact, his argument amounts to little more than begging the question.

Jackson, Wayne. Dec 5, 2006. "Bertrand Russell’s 'Teapot' Argument." Christian Courier. (Website)

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