Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Atheist Starter Kit #02

Here's number two in our Atheist Starter Kit.
2. When a Christian says that creation proves that there is a Creator, dismiss such common sense by saying "That's just the old watchmaker argument."

Technically, Ray described the teleological argument not the watchmaker analogy. They're both essentially the same with some subtle differences, so I may be picking nits here.

The obvious point to make here is anytime anyone uses creation and design as an argument it is automatically the teleological argument. That's just what the argument is called. It's not an insult. If you were to give me an argument and I recognized it and said, "Hey that's the X argument," I wouldn't nessecarily be calling it a fallacy. I just knew what to call it.

When a person uses something in nature (like clouds, trees, the sun) and says how beautiful (complicated, useful, "fine tuned") it is, that is the teleological argument. I have been given this argument many times. It is used by all of the religions I've had contact with. (Possible exception being Budhism.) Usually appended with a question like, "You don't think it all happened by chance, do you?" I usually answer it with, "Maybe it did." because they don't expect an answer like that. The problem I see with the teleological argument is that it assumes that complexity implies design or a sentient superbeing that was the designer.

A missionary for a local bible camp used to visit me every week. He was very fond of the watchmaker analogy. Usually, he'd take off his cap and observe that the cap obviously had a designer. Of course, how could I say no to that. Then he'd speculate that my cat (who loves everybody and likes to sit in his lap) also must have had a designer. The problem I have with that is that the cap was constructed. It came from a factory where millions of the things are made each week. The cap was built. It was stitched together. It's beginning was it's design. The cat on the other hand wasn't constructed. It was not bolted together by a factory worker. The cat was born from another cat. Like I was born from another human. Our designer and builder appears to be our own species.

So Ray, if you don't like me telling you what your argument is called, don't give me an argument I've heard before.

1 comment:

Bart said...

Another great post and another example of Ray's circular reasoning.

1) Creation requires a creator.

2) The universe and all of its contents are a Creation.

3) Therefore, the universe must have a creator.

Premise (2) assumes the conclusion. Just calling something a creation does not make it so.

Ray's argument, even if it were valid, does not even lead to the conclusion he is trying to establish - that the creator was the Christian god.

His usual response is that no scientist can say conclusively how the universe began. I will concede this point (although there is a lot of evidence supporting the Big Bang - we still do not know how that happened, what existed before that, etc.). However, what Ray fails to grasp is that just because scientists do not have all the answers, that doesn't lead to the conclusion that Ray wins and the Christian god exists.

There is nothing wrong with saying "we don't know, but we are trying to find out." This approach has led to so much human innovation and progress throughout history. And throughout history Christians have used that answer to create a "god of the gaps." Unfortunately for the, those gaps keep getting smaller and smaller.