Friday, October 28, 2011

Biological Evolution as Evidence against Theism

Many conservative Christians and lay atheists alike claim that if biological evolution is true, then God does not exist. Ironically, while many conservative Christians have attacked evolution because it supposedly entails atheism, no contemporary atheist philosopher has used evolution as evidence for atheism. Indeed, the only philosopher who has formulated an argument for the claim that evolution is evidence against theism and for metaphysical naturalism is agnostic philosopher Paul Draper.

Draper defends an evidential argument from evolution for naturalism. In other words, Draper's argument does not claim that evolution is logically inconsistent with the existence of God. Rather, it claims that known facts about evolution that are consistent with theism nevertheless provide evidence against it.

This argument is focused on God in general, not necessarily the Christian God. Draper argues that, all other things held equal, known facts about the origin of complex life are prima facie evidence against theism.

Informal Statement of the Argument

This argument assumes the truth of biological evolution; for a defense of that assumption, see the Talk.Origins archive. To be sure, biological evolution is logically compatible with theism; God could have used evolution to create life. But if theism were true, God could have also used many other methods to create life, methods which are impossible if naturalism is true. In contrast, if naturalism is true, evolution pretty much has to be true. Furthermore, since theism implies a metaphysical dualism, it is antecedently likely on theism that minds are fundamentally nonphysical entities and therefore that conscious life is fundamentally different from nonconscious life. But this in turn makes it likely that conscious life was created independently of nonconscious life--that evolution is false. Thus, the scientific fact of biological evolution is more likely on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true.

Formal Statement of the Argument


geneaological thesis: complex life evolved from simple life
genetic thesis: all evolutionary change in populations of complex organisms either is or is the result of trans-generational genetic change.
evolution: the geneaological thesis conjoined with the genetic thesis
Darwinism: the much more specific claim that natural selection operating on random genetic mutation is the principal mechanism driving the evolutionary change that results in increased complexity
supernatural person: a person that is neither a part nor a product of the physical universe
perfect person: perfect in power (omnipotent), perfect in knowledge (omniscient), and perfect in moral goodness (morally perfect).
God: a perfect supernatural person
theism: the hypothesis that God is the creator of the physical universe.
metaphysical naturalism: the hypothesis that the universe is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it.

Note: Draper mentions Darwinism only to clarify that his argument is not an evidential argument for naturalism from Darwinism, which would be question-begging, but an evidential argument for naturalism from evolution (as defined above).

Draper's Evidential Argument from Evolution

Logical Form
(1) Evolution is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true.
(2) The statement that pain and pleasure systematically connected to reproductive success is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that evolutionary naturalism is true than on the assumption that evolutionary theism is true.
(3) Therefore, evolution conjoined with this statement about pain and pleasure is antecedently very much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true. [From 1 and 2]
(4) Naturalism is at least as plausible as theism.
(5) Therefore, other evidence held equal, naturalism is very much more probable than theism. [From 3 and 4]
(6) Naturalism entails that theism is false.
(7) Therefore, other evidence held equal, it is highly probable that theism is false. [From 5 and 6]


Pr(x): the epistemic probability of any proposition x
Pr(x/y): the epistemic probability of any proposition x conditional upon y
 ">!": "is much more probable than"
">!!": "is very much more probable than"
E: evolution
T: theism
N: metaphysical naturalism
P: pain and pleasure are systematically connected to reproductive success (cf. Draper's argument from the biological role of pain and pleasure)

Draper's Evidential Argument from Evolution Restated

(1) Pr(E/N) >! Pr(E/T).
(2) Pr(P/E&N) >! Pr(P/E&T).
(3) Pr(E&P/N) >!! Pr(E&P/T). (From 1 and 2)
(4) Other evidence held equal, Pr(N) >= Pr(T).
(5) Therefore, other evidence held equal, Pr(N/E&P) >!! Pr(T/E&P). (From 3 and 4)
(6) Naturalism entails that theism is false.
(7) Therefore, other evidence held equal, Pr(T/E&P) <!! 1/2. (From 5 and 6)

Draper's Defense of His Premises

First Premise

Here, again, is Draper's first premise:

(1) Pr(E/N) >! Pr(E/T).
Let S ≡ special creationism. E entails ~S. Therefore, E is logically equivalent to ~S & E.

Pr(E/N) >! Pr(E/T) iff Pr(~S&*E/N) >! Pr(~S&E/T)

Using axioms of the probability calculus, this becomes:

Pr(E/N) >! Pr(E/T) iff Pr(~S/N) x Pr(E/~S & N) >! Pr(~S/T) x Pr(E/~S&T)

Therefore, Draper's strategy for showing that Pr(E/N) >! Pr(E/T) is to show that

A. Pr(~S/N) >! Pr(~S/T), and
B. Pr(E/~S&N) >= Pr(E/~S&T)

Draper's Defense of A

N entails that S is false. So Pr(~S/N) = 1.

Given T, however, S might be true. So Pr(~S/T) <1. Therefore, Pr(~S/N) > Pr(~S/T). But, Draper observes, we can make a much more interesting claim than that, namely, that Pr(~S/T) <= 1/2. In other words, Pr(S/T) >= 1/2. The reasons for believing this are as follows:
  • "At first glance, it seems that the evidence for evolution is the only strong reason theists have for believing that God is not a special creator (which is to say that we don't have any strong antecedent reasons for believing this)."
  • "We know by past experience that God, if He exists, has at least latent deistic tendencies." Even independent of the evidence for evolution, the past success of naturalistic science does provide some reason for theists to believe that God is not a special creator.
  • Theists have a very strong antecedent reason for believing that God did create at least some complex life independently: the division between conscious and nonconscious life is enormously significant if theism is true.
  • "Before Darwin, many theists were special creationists."
Thus, Pr(~S/T) <= 1/2. But notice that this entails that "~S is at least twice as probable antecedently on naturalism as it is on theism, which implies that it at least doubles the ratio of the probability of naturalism to the probability of theism."

Draper's Defense of B

The probabilities in B are to be assessed relative to the background knowledge that various complex life forms exist.

N entails that S is false, so ~S&N is logically equivalent to just N. Given that complex life exists, what makes evolution so likely given N is the lack of plausible naturalistic alternatives to evolution.
Given T, however, alternatives to evolution are somewhat more likely, simply because there is less reason to assume the complex must arise from the simple.

Therefore, Pr(E/~S&N) >= Pr(E/~S & T).

Second Premise

Recall that P represents the statement, "pain and pleasure are systematically connected to reproductive success." Here, again, is Draper's second premise:

(2) Pr(P/E&N) >! Pr(P/E&T).

In order to see why, let's bring Darwinism (D) back into the conversation. Recall that D is the claim that natural selection operating on random genetic mutation is the principal mechanism driving the evolutionary change that results in increased complexity. D is much more probable given evolutionary naturalism than given theism.
Pr(D/E&N) !> Pr(D/E&T)

First, consider Pr(D/E&N).
  • D explains the increase in the complexity of life over time better than other potential naturalistic explanations;
  • D solves an explanatory problem for naturalism: the problem of explaining teleological order in organic systems;
  • Natural selection is just the sort of "blind" process one would expect to drive evolution if naturalism is true, since natural selection explains teleological order in organic systems without itself displaying such order
Second, consider Pr(D/E&T). Since evolutionary theism can explain teleological order in terms of God's conscious purposes, it would not be surprising at all if the principal mechanisms driving evolution were such that they themselves displayed teleological order.

For these reasons, then, Pr(D/E&N) !> Pr(D/E&T).

Let us now return to the second premise:

(2) Pr(P/E&N) !> Pr(E&T).
Here are the supporting arguments.
  • E&N&D provide an antecedent reason for believing that pain and pleasure, like anything else produced by natural selection, will be systematically connected to reproductive success, which is what P states.
  • Our background knowledge includes the fact many other parts of organic systems are systematically connected to reproductive success.
  • Given E&T, however, P would be true only if the biological goal of reproductive success and some unknown justifying moral goal happened to coincide in such a way that each could be simultaneously satisfied. That's a really big coincidence that E&N&D don't need.
  • In fact, evolutionary naturalism (E&N) entails nothing that would provide an antecedent reason for doubting that pain and pleasure will resemble other parts of organic systems by being systematically connected to reproductive success. On the assumption that E&N is true, it would be extremely surprising if pain and pleasure appeared to be anything but morally random, whereas on the assumption that theism is true, a discernible moral pattern would be less surprising.


See Paul Draper, "Evolution and the Problem of Evil" in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (3rd ed., ed. Louis Pojman, Wadsworth, 1997), pp. 219-230; cf. Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy of Religion (Mayfield, 2001), chapter 6.

Related Posts

"Summary and Assessment of the Craig-Draper Debate on the Existence of God" (1998) by Jeffery Jay Lowder
"The Problem of Evil: Part One"
"Religious Experience and the Evidential Argument from Evil" by David Silver
"Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil: An Evolutionary Model with Application to Ancient Debate" (2011) by Robert K. Fleck
"The Problem of Evil" by William Lane Craig (search for "Draper" to find the relevant section)
Summary of Draper's Argument from Evolution by Meghan Ramsey (search for "Draper" to find the relevant section)
"A Dozen Arguments for Atheism" by Richard Spencer
Cf. "Darwin's Doubts and the Problem of Animal Pain" by Eric Russert Kraemer


ZAROVE said...

This argument fails to impress me for three reasons.

1: As I said in another Blog post on your other Blog, God need not be seen as Supernatural and some Theologians say God is Natural, Or Nature itself.

This includes Christian Theologians like Paul Tillich.

Assuming that God must be defined as a Supernatural being outside of Nature may be tempting in a world were some Christians also say this, but its off the mark for Proper Theological Discourse to make that claim.

If God is himself a Natural being, then Naturalism is not a Prema Faca argument against Theism, and the rest of this collapses.

2: The second reason that I am unimpressed by this argument is that X doesn’t lead automatically to Y. Why can’t a Supernatural being affect the Natural World?

The argument says that Naturalism states that only Natural things may affect the Natural world, and that this is the nature of a Naturalist view. That’s all well and good but, that is not Evolutionary Theory, that is Naturalism.

While I will say that Naturalism precludes the existence of an external Supernatural Creator, Naturalism and Evolution are not the same thing and presuming one is not the same as presuming the other. One can believe Evolution occurred and still not be fundamentally a Naturalist. It still doesn’t show that Evolution itself means God is not real as Evolution is unrelated to Naturalism as a conceptual model for Reality.

Naturalism is itself just presumed here.

Not that it matters as Theism doesn’t rest on God being Supernatural.

This brings me to 3…

3: Part One of his Argument is false. He says this of Evolution, which if false discredits his whole line of reasoning.

“Evolution is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true”

Why? Why is Evolution More probable under Naturalism than under Theism? Because he said so?

Exactly what is his criterion for determining this?

I’m sorry but I don’t see why Evolution is less likely if God exists than if Atheistic Naturalism is True, and if I am not convinced of this part of his Argument then his Argument as a whole collapses as this is the Foundational assumption that his whole case is built on.

JJ Anderson said...

I think Zarove has made some good points, except for this:

If God is himself a Natural being, then Naturalism is not a Prema Faca argument against Theism, and the rest of this collapses.

Saying that God might be a "natural being" doesn't help much unless everyone agrees on what these terms mean. It would be proper for Naturalists to then redefine Naturalism as the part of the universe that is not affected by that "natural" God. Or they could welcome God into nature, and still request evidence of where he is, and how he is affecting our planet. Is there any evidence available?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Zarove --

1. Your thoughtful response demonstrates the pitfalls of brevity. I left out a key definition from my summary of the argument. I've now edited the post to fix this. If you look at the post again, you'll see I've inserted the definition of theism Draper used for the purposes of his original article.

Based on that definition, it is obvious that a non-Supernatural God, whatever that might mean, is not even the intended target of Draper's argument.

2. Draper's argument does not claim or logically entail that a supernatural being cannot affect the natural world. Furthermore, you are correct that naturalism and evolution are not the same thing, in the sense that one does not logically entail the other. Contrary to what you assert, this argument does not "presume" naturalism.

3. Your question is a good one. Again, I didn't post the supporting argument. I'll fix that now.

ZAROVE said...

Mr. Anderson, the problem with redefining Naturalism so that it excludes God is that it becomes obvious if you do that the sole purpose of doing so it to preclude God from Nature.

As to evidence, that is fair to ask, but again it depends on which Theology you look at. I used the example of Paul Tillich, and often do because he is the most prominent of the Modern Era Theologians who promoted the idea of God as Nature itself. But that brings up the problem with removing God form nature again. If God is Nature, how do you separate God from Nature?

I would argue that Paul Tillich’s God is easy to prove, and must exist, simply because Tillich defined God as the “Ground of Being”, and to Tillich, God did not exist, instead God was what we called Existence itself. God was that sense of Universal unity and Overarching Connectedness that we all feel, and that sense of being Alive. To Tillich, God was simply the context of our existence taken as a Whole. God is simply another word for “Nature” or “Existence” or “The Universe” ( Not using that word in a way that allows Plurality of Universes, because by definition a Universe is singular.)

Of course defining God in that way lead Critics of Tillich to say he was rally an Atheist who used God as a mere Metaphor. I think this is an oversimplification as Tillich was trying to explain how God was believed in and what it was the Ancients were experiencing and trying to communicate, and to Tillich God was very Real, but not a personal being that lived externally to his Creation.

Any Pantheistic view of God that identifies God as the Universe itself will effectively insist that God and Nature are inseparable. Tillich is only one example of a Theologian, and specifically a Christian Theologian, who takes that View.

As to Tillich Existence itself is God, and we exist, God must likewise Exist. The Evidence is irrefutable. Though one may still say that they do not like this interpretation of what God is, or even insist that such belief is not belief in God, that is one argument that can be made.

If you do not equate God with Nature of course you can simply look at other Theologians. But you asked specifically about the evidence for a Natural God, and as such God would not be something in Nature, but would be Nature.

ZAROVE said...

Mr. Lowder, I thank you for your Kindness and the correction. But I still find the argument unconvincing. I have written a response, if you’d like to read it, but don’t want to repeat myself too much and also don’t’ want the tone mistaken, which is easy on text.

I’ll post it if asked, it expands on my criticism of draper, but basically builds off the earlier post.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Hi Zarove -- In response to JJ Anderson you wrote:

"the problem with redefining Naturalism so that it excludes God is that it becomes obvious if you do that the sole purpose of doing so it to preclude God from Nature."

I don't think this is obvious. In fact, I think you are barking up the wrong tree. You seem to be confusing a hypothesis with a person's motivation or justification for holding that hypothesis. A naturalist might a priori reject the possibility of God; a naturalist might also believe naturalism for empirical, falsifiable reasons, allowing for the possibility of God. Similarly, a theist might a priori reject the possibility of naturalism; a theist might also believe theism for empirical, falisifiable reasons, allowing for the possibility there is no God.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Zarove -- It's up to you if you want to post your response; I'm happy to read it if you do.

ZAROVE said...

As to Anderson’s post, my meaning was, if you redefine Naturalism so that it excludes any possibility that God exists, even a God that is Natural himself, then it seems to be more an Ideological Atheism than simple Naturalism. A Chosen Atheism as it were.

As to Draper, its simply an elaboration, and for those who may read in the Future, I am merely citing problems with the Specific Logic in this argument, NOT Trying to prove God does in fact exist. I also don’t think other arguments for God not existing matter for the discussion. (That’s not for you Mr. Lowder, but I’ve been on the net for too long and you never know who will show up to bring up an off topic point. I could tell you stories…)

As for Brevity, it does curse us all from Time to Time. I fully understand why not all points are properly made.

Anyway, my main problem with Draper’s Argument is that it seems based on Faulty assumptions that don’t seem to be themselves stable.

My earlier question still remains, why is Evolution more likely under Atheism than Theism? I say Atheism as opposed to Naturalism as I don’t see Theism as being opposed to Naturalism, as Stated above.

It may also come as no surprise but I have problems with the definitions Draper has established. For starters, the word "God" is not a Title at all. Used generically for a god, it is a Species, and used to identify a specific person it is a name, but it is not a Title. Titles are conferred upon people and yet are distinct. EG, the title "Doctor" is given to someone who finishes Medical School or a PhD Programm, but it only signifies recognition of their knowledge and skill in a given topic, it does not define them in terms of what they are. But the term "human" does. Well, unless the recipient is not Human, but I digress…

But what does the term god mean? Zeus was not a man who was given the Title of godhood, because he held that office, and it was not an honorific in recognition of ownership or education. Zeus was not a god because he held the position of one, he was a god because it defined the essence of his being in the same way being human defines a humans existence while they live.

Thus in the case of Zeus, or any of the Pantheon of Olympus like Apollo or Athena, they were gods because its what they were. It was their Species, not a Title.

Also, the Greek gods were not perfect or Supernatural, they rather embodies Natural forces, but were still the product of the Natural World and not its Creators. They also committed various Adulteries, wages wars with one another, and manipulated each other for power or spite. They also were not all knowing or all powerful. I’d hardly cal them perfect, yet they were called gods.

Of course this is really about God in Theological Systems such as Christianity, but even then it seems to be an odd argument to make. I’m not trying to be faicious, and realize God here means the Creator but I do think it sloppy. After all, we don’t just have Theism represented by a Supernatural Perfect Person who created everything and is independent of all VS Atheism and Naturalism with Agnostism in the Middle, do we? Even God as in “Creator of all we see” may have been an Emergent being who is the product of Nature, and thus not Creator of all, just re-arranger of matter and energy. This is what the Mormons believe for instance, and some Process Theologians.

To Be Continued.

ZAROVE said...

Continued Form Above, sorry for the length.

I also don’t see how Evolution can be seen as a good argument that God does not exist.

If God is a Perfect as defined above this only means he was not produced by the Natural world and is not a part of it. It does not suggest he cannot intervene, and there is no reason to presuppose God could not manipulate discretely or overly the world he created to develop life Via Evolution.

EG, suppose God just set things up to happen Naturally at the Start of the Universe and stepped Aside. This is Deism I know but for the sake of simplicity lets suppose.

Or even if he took a more hands on approach he could still control the situation even with minimal effort. As he has absolute knowledge of all things, he’d know the consequences of all his own Actions. He would be able to predict how the Bitterly Effect would pan out if the Butterfly kept his wings shut or opened them. He’d know that by moving one Tiny imperceptible Atom in the Cretaceous that Man would Evolve in Africa 72 Million or so years later. In that case God would not have to intervene in an observable manner to get the desired result. Just go back far enough and move the correct subatomic particles and let the results cascade down like a Domino effect to your desired results.

Mind you none of the above proves God exists as given in Drapers example but the point is to look at the Fidelity of his Argument against Logical Constraint, not to prove his Conclusion wrong.

T is precisely by Virtue of Gods foreknowledge and perfect ability to understand what his actions would cause done the Road for all the rest of Time that enables him to guide Evolutionary trends with nearly no effort at all, and even invisibly if he so chose to.

That is why I don’t find drapers argument convincing.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

I have a big problem with the first premise:

(1) Evolution is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true.

This sounds patently false to me. After all we know that on the assumption that theism is true evolution (which is now guided by God’s will) can produce organisms as complex as we are. But we *don’t* know that unguided evolution (i.e. evolution as interpreted by naturalism) can produce organisms as complex as we are. Therefore it can’t be the case that the latter is “much more probable” than the former. Quite on the contrary, the epistemic probability of the latter is clearly less then the epistemic probability of the former. It is clearly not the case that by adding intelligent guidance to a machine one will get a less successful one.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Zarove and Dianelos -- re: why evolution is antecedently much more probable on naturalism than on theism: I've attempted to replace my brevity with a more complete summary of Draper's defense of his argument's premise (1); please review the revised version of this post. I don't expect these reasons will change your mind, but at least the reasons are now included in the summary.

Re: the meaning of the word "God": the inclusion of the word "title" in the definition is not essential to the argument, so I've deleted it and you can ignore it.

You are absolutely correct that there are many versions of supernaturalism. So how do they fit into the argument? Two answers.

First, the conclusion of the argument is that, everything else held equal, theism is false. The conclusion of the argument does not say that naturalism is true.

Second, there is a Bayesian argument from the falsity of theism to the truth of naturalism, but it is not defended in Draper's article on evolution and the problem of evil. Draper does, however, but which he does defend elsewhere. In a nutshell, Draper's argument is that both naturalism and theism have much higher prior probabilities than rival hypotheses, such as deism, Greek polytheism, pastafarianism (aka "The Flying Spaghetti Monster"), the Easter Bunny, etc. Even if you reject his argument regarding the prior probability of rivals to theism and naturalism, however, note that still doesn't deny the conclusion of the argument.

ZAROVE said...

I still have to agree with Dianelos Georgoudis. In fact, even if I accepted the idea that God is not a Special Creator due to Evolution that still doesn’t preclude him from being a Creator at all. EG, Deism may be brought you where God created the Universe then left. Or a Limited interaction may have Taken Place instead, where God did not specifically guide Evolution but occasionally directed it. Plus, Given that God is suppose to be Omniscient, his gentle guidance, or act of Divine Providence and Foresight, may still lead to an Evolutionary Route that is Planned from the Beginning.

The essence of this Argument is that Atheistic Naturalism is more likely than Theism if Evolution is True, but I simply don’t see how this can be a case that is made.

Indeed, one can reasonably argue the opposite, that Theism makes Evolution, and especially Evolution into a Creature capable of Understanding Himself and His World, that much more probable. Atheistic Naturalism assumes everything Emerged from Blind Chance in which the Statistical Probability of our Universe itself being aligned at its beginning in such a way as to allow the Conditions of Life to emerge is Astronomically Low. When you consider that, and that the Universe not only could sustain life but does, and said Life evolved a specific way to make a Species that can kill Time playing with an Ipod rather than hunting for food for survival one has to wonder, what are the odds?

Meanwhile, if God exists and guided the process it becomes that much more Likely.

It becomes mroe likely precicely because it is Planned.

ZAROVE said...

A few words to let you know my background and thus where I am coming from. I’ve studied both Theology and Psychology at a University Level. I have also studied Philosophy, which is mandatory for Theology and Psychology. I have even studied some Sciences, like Physics, but they were elective and I did not get any sort of degree in them.

I am also well read.

That said, I still don’t find the new definitions satisfactory and think the whole argument is beginning to hinge on these definitions. If we do not accept Drapers definitions of the terms and specific usage then his Argument becomes less convincing. I’m not saying that Draper is simply defining God out of existence, but I just think he misuses words.

Take for instance Deism. It is presented as an Alternative to either “Naturalism” or Theism. But is Deism really an alternative to Theism? Deism says there is a god, and Theism is the belief that there is at least one god. I really don’t understand why some people think Deism is distinct from Theism. Deism may be a specific description of God, but it’s still a description of God and Theism is from the root Theos which simply means “god” . A Theist (Not to be confused with an Atheist) is simply someone who believes in a god, whether or not that god is actually active in his Creation. I would thus say that Deism is simply a subset of Theism. While they are not identical, they are still not conflictory, as if saying “I am a Deist” means you are not a Theist.

I also don’t think using the word “Naturalist’ as a Synonym for Atheism is justifiable Not only can one be an Atheist and not a Naturalist, as I have discussed already one can be a Theist and believe in Naturalism. Naturalism is simply the Philosophical position that the Natural World is all that Exists. Greek Paganism was Naturalistic, with the gods the products of the Natural World and bound to its Laws. Even in Christianity some Theological positions are inherently Naturalistic. That and some avowed Atheists have held specific non-Naturalistic beliefs. While uncommon today, if you read Ancient Literature some Atheists believed in even things like an Afterlife or Ghosts whilst still denying any god existed. The only Reason this is not true today of most Atheists is because of the Culturally Inherited corollary beliefs in which Atheism emerged in its Modern Form at the end of the 18th Century. However, even today you will find Atheists who believe in Healing Crystals and Psychic Powers and Reincarnation and all the like, or even a Supernatural Reality, just one bereft of gods. They may be on the periphery, but they do exist.

A debate between Supernaturalism and Naturalism is thus not really a debate between Theism and Atheism. One can be a Theist and a naturalist, or an Atheist and a Supernaturalist. It’s really a false assumption to pit Naturalism against Theism.

I ALSO HAVE TO WONDER ABOUT ANYONE WHO USES Bayesian Logic to refute Theism. I have often wondered why no one stops to think that Bayes was a Presbyterian Minister, and if his Logic is so destructive to Theism why did he remain so, and a Devout one at that?

Of course some people are unaware of this fact, or really anything about Bayes.

Suffice to say, I can’t comment on an Argument I have not read, but if the Argument is similar to this one I don’t think it will be the Deathknell for Theism.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Hi Zarove -- Your comments are challenging and I am enjoying our conversation.

I wanted to clear up one possible misunderstanding. Neither Draper nor I treat "metaphysical naturalism" and "atheism" as synonyms. Everyone agrees that a person can be an atheist without being a metaphysical naturalist. Notice, however, that metaphysical naturalism entails atheism. So if, and I recognize this is a big if, some fact is evidence for naturalism, by definition that fact is evidence for atheism.

Regarding Bayes' Theorem, you are correct it is named after a minister. No one is claming that Bayes' Theorem itself refutes God. Rather, what many people claim -- including theists, agnostics, and atheists -- is that Bayes' Theorem can be used to measure the strength of evidence for or against an explanatory hypothesis. (See here.)

Regarding the idea of comparing theism to naturalism (rather than supernaturalism to naturalism), I've written on this topic before. (See here.) But, again, I'll simply point out that, if we are going to have even the possibility of real dialogue and not the illusion of communication, we need to understand and be aware how each person defines their terms. I understand that, given your definition of naturalism, one can believe in God and be a naturalist. That isn't how the word "naturalism" is defined in this post, however. I'm not asking you to change the way you use language, but I do request that you evaluate the article on its own terms.

Finally, in my last comment, I forgot to provide a link to Draper's argument regarding intrinsic probabilities. Here is is: LINK (audio).

ZAROVE said...

But that’s sort of my point about language. The whole argument rests on defining God as necessarily Supernatural when most of Christian History doesn't. The very concept of the Supernatural we use is a fairly new one.

To be a Naturalist all one has to do is accept that only things in Nature exist. Well, unless one is describing the discipline of Naturalism but that is another matter. (Like how Humanist can mean one who likes Literatureand the Study of Humanity and not necessarily the specific Humanist Philosophy.)

I'm not simply using a different definition of the word "Naturalist", I am asking why belief that only the Natural World exists and that there is no Supernatural World automatically Precludes a god existing? Why do we define God as necessarily Supernatural?

Do these terms even have relevant meaning anyway? At one Time only God was seen as Supernatural, with Angels, Demons, and Ghosts seen as Constricted by Natural Laws like everything else and as part of Creation simply a Part of the overall Nature of the world. It wasn't till the mid to late 19th Century that we began to see Angels and Demons as Supernatural beings in their own Right, or cook up an idea of a Supernatural Realm that exists apart from the Natural World filled with Supernatural beings.

It just seems to me to be a Rather unnecessary separation. If this Supernatural Realm existed and Angels, Demons, and other such begins exist in it, it would still ultimately be as Real as the Natural World and, if we ever chance upon it and it becomes a well established Fact, we will ultimately Treat it in the same way we Treat Natural Reality. If Angels Routinely Delivered your Mail and Visited Hospitals, they would be as much a part of our “Natural” world as Tree’s or Rocks. It is only when we try to Creator a distinction between worlds that this rift even begins to form, and it becomes hazy hen you consider the complex interactions between the two that at least supposedly exist.

If we accept that the Supernatural is distinct from the Natural, then we should also have to confess that the Natural World cannot exist at all under Theism. If we accept that God is himself Supernatural, for instance, yet God Created the World we live in, then the Truth is, the World is itself not Natural. It is a Synthetic product of a Supernatural Reality. But that wouldn’t preclude Evolution if the Pseudo-Natural World we live in functions the same way a Natural World would.

My argument is thus simple. Naturalism and Supernaturalism are in the end all about Naturalism proper. The Supernatural is nothing more than postulated or unexplained Nature, and the real debate is if God exists or if the World we live in was the Product of Blind Chance. Even that is a bit harder to ask when you really study it, but that is the main point I think.

I also think that using Specific Definitions of Terms to make a Specific Argument rather than using the Terms to Identify Reality is not profitable. That is what Draper seems to be doing, though it doesn’t seem to be Intentional. Still, its no more convincing than when someone Defines God into Existence.

Which brings us back to the main point. I still don’t see how Evolution itself can serve as Evidence against God’s Existence, or how Evolution is more likely if the Natural World is all that exists, just as I don’t see why God must be seen as distinct from Nature.\

Even Defining God as a Perfect Supernatural Person, you run into exactly the same Problem. Why is God, who obviously can interact with the Natural world, ultimately less likely to direct Evolutionary Processes than to, say, Create all things in Six Literal Days?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

I've just redated this post and added a lot more support for premises (1) and (2) of this argument.

ZAROVE said...

I'll have to look at it later. Last wek of a class so can't really focus on it.

Alex Dalton said...

JL: since theism implies a metaphysical dualism, it is antecedently likely on theism that minds are fundamentally nonphysical entities and therefore that conscious life is fundamentally different from nonconscious life.

Alex: I think this step is problematic. Theism implies a metaphysical dualism between God (as pure consciousness) and man (as physical and conscious) perhaps; it does not seem to imply such a dualism between the conscious aspect of man, and the physical aspect of man, in the sense that consciousness can't arise from a physical substrate. I think this step makes the mistake of arguing that Theism implies substance dualism.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Alex: This argument doesn't claim that theism implies substance dualism.

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