[Updated to slightly simplify the part about the "significant evidence" against Santa.]
I was pleased to see that my post yesterday seems to have attracted the attention of The Fiddler and encouraged him to respond. Discussions are (or should be) so much more informative than monologues because the reader gets to see how the opposing views address each other, so this is a good thing. The Fiddler starts off with both praise for my post (thanks!) and a modest demurral.
First, I’m no apologist and my humble ramblings on this blog hardly represent the “current state of Christian apologetics”. There are scores of apologists far more capable than I to deal with questions that plague non believers.
Just a couple quibbles. First of all, the questions that the apologists deal with are not those that plague non-believers. Christian apologists write for believers, and address problems that believers have recognized as needing some attention. Secondly, while it may be true that “The God Fearin’ Forum” is not generally held to be a leading source of state-of-the-art Christian apologetics, it has been my experience that there are two kinds of apologetics, the theoretical kind you find in books on apologetics, and the practical kind that makes its way through the greater part of ordinary Christians. I think it’s important to address The Fiddler’s apologetics precisely because it is so typical of the latter rather than the former. The professional apologists may look good on paper, but it is of greater importance to deal with apologetics as it actually lives and breathes “in the wild,” as it were.
The Fiddler, having paid his compliments and offered his disclaimers, moves quickly to set the tone for the rest of his rebuttal.
The problem with believing in falsity though is that no matter how bright of person you are, you’re fighting an uphill battle. So while you seem to be a better writer than me and probably more intelligent, I may be able to match wits with you seeing as I have the upper hand (truth).
One of the nice things about making reality itself the object of my faith is that I can never lose an argument such as this. If the Fiddler does indeed possess the truth (as in real-world fact), then the most he can possibly do is to improve my acquaintance with the object of my faith. That’s ideal. I would be only too happy to embrace that outcome. And he is on the right track, at least, when he suggests that possession of the facts is more important than being clever or persuasive. It may not always work out that way in practice, especially in the case of people who really want to be fooled, but in principle at least that’s the way things ought to be.
The actual existence of evidence is directly and causally correlated with a proposition’s validity (things produce evidence) but a said individual’s ability (or inability) to reproduce (or for a skeptic to test/examine/comprehend) that evidence is not related to that proposition’s validity.
He seems to have missed both of the points I was making with regards to the connection between evidence for a proposition and the validity of that proposition, so I’ll quickly restate them. First, truth is consistent with itself, and therefore it is worth noting that a lack of evidence is consistent with a proposition being false. You may be able to rationalize the lack of evidence for your claims (and in fact you can do so whether or not you are correct), but other things being equal, a lack of evidence is more consistent with the proposition being false, since the untruth of the proposition would have the predictable consequences of producing a lack of supporting evidence whereas this is not a predictable consequence of the proposition being true.
That’s just a general consideration, of course, and other factors need to be taken into consideration. Meanwhile, the second point I was making is that inability to produce supporting evidence does have a direct bearing on the validity of a proposition IF the proposition concerns a matter which ought to have the reasonably-predictable consequence of producing an abundance of readily-available evidence. Of the two points I made, this is the more significant. The Gospel is about God loving each of us and wanting to have a direct, personal relationship with each of us, so much so that He allegedly was willing and able to become a human being, live among us, die for us, and rise from the dead, all in order to make this direct, personal relationship possible. This is a proposition which would have the reasonably predictable consequence that God, having wanted this relationship and having exerted His infallible and omnipotent power in order to make it possible, would show up in the real world to participate in it.
Such a consequence, if it were to occur, would provide each individual with the ability to point to abundant real-world evidence of God’s existence, since He would be consistently and commonly showing up. The universal absence of real-world evidence that this is happening is a lack that has a direct and significant bearing on the question of whether or not the proposition (i.e. the Gospel) is true. Hypotheticals about tribesmen seeing airplanes are all well and good as a rhetorical diversion, but they really aren’t relevant to a consideration of whether or not God is as actively involved in the real-world affairs of men as the Gospel says He should be.
1. There aren’t any legitimate reported sightings of him or experiences of him
2. Almost no one over the age 6 believes in him
3. It is incompatible with natural law therefore it would require a supernatural power
4.. Out of all the theologies on the earth allowing for the supernatural, none includes a ‘Santa Claus’
5. Santa Claus skeptics don’t spend time refuting believers’ arguments.
How would this stack up as evidence against God? Let’s look at the first one, no “legitimate” reported sightings. That’s kind of a weasel-worded specification, isn’t it? What constitutes a “legitimate” reported sighting? Can we say “verifiable sighting”? Are there any verifiable sightings of God? If He loves us as much as the Gospel claims, there ought to be lots.
Number 2-5: prior to the first Council of Nicea, nobody believed in a “Trinity,” which was incompatible with natural law and would require a supernatural power. No theology prior to that time included any Trinity, and no anti-trinitarian skeptics spent any time refuting arguments for the Trinity. Is this “substantial” evidence that no Trinity existed prior to the council of Nicea?
None of The Fiddler’s arguments constitute “substantial evidence” against the existence of Santa, they just describe people’s attitudes towards him. Every single one of them would be excused by his argument that a proposition isn’t necessarily false just because no one can produce any evidence that it is true. He says that “everyone knows there is no Santa Claus” (which of course is not true, hence the bit about “everyone over 6″ in argument 2), but he nevertheless insists that “the vast majority of people think they ‘know’ there is a God,” and that this is significant.
Granted, it is significant, but what does it signify, especially considering the vast disparities among the different things these people think they “know” about Him? And more significantly, why is it that when you want evidence of God’s existence, you turn to what’s going on inside people’s heads instead of pointing to real-world instances of God consistently showing up? It’s all very well to claim that “Freudian Psychoanalysis falls far short of the mark explaining this phenomenon,” but why is it even a question of psychology instead of a question of verifiable, tangible evidence? Psychology is where you turn when the subject of your study is all in people’s heads, but we are supposed to be looking at whether or not God exists outside of people’s imaginations.
This post is getting rather longish, so let’s continue in Part 2.