Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Occam's Razor Meet the Incredible Contortions of the Theistic Mind

Granville Sewell, a semi-regular contributor to the Discovery Institute's Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV) site has this little gem: "The Biggest Theological Objection to Design", it's a long read and follows a pretty winding road.  The bottom line is yet another rationalization as to the existence of evil in the world.

One of the many arguments against a deity, or maybe I should say one of the religious arguments against a deity, can be summed up in one line "Why do bad things happen to good people".  It's an argument that gets addresses pretty regularly because nothing strains a theistic belief like a catastrophe.  Be it a serious illness, a death of a loved on, or some other crisis that a theist believes should not befall them because, after all, they have been doing all the theistic-ally-correct things.  They believe, donate to their church, pray regularly, praise their version of a deity, try and bring in converts . . . you know, usual stuff theists do.  So why do bad things happen to those 'good' people?

A corollary is something we've discussed a number of times, why aren't all theists wealthy?  I mean with all the people who contribute to prosperity gospel evangelists and their billion dollar lifestyle, and get promises of wealth and financial security in return.  Why aren't all of those prayers answered?  See a trend here?

Here is where Granville's post starts getting crazy.  First off, the title, is this question really biggest theological challenge to Design?  There I have to disagree, I think it's the biggest question about religion, not just a design argument. . . since Granville claims ID is science:

"So while ID really is science, not theology,"
I do have to ask, if Intelligent Design (ID) is science, why does a theological challenge matter?  Look at history.  Theological challenges to real science are normally ignored, even the Creationism attacking Evolution was pretty much ignored until it started impacting actual science education.  Why does Granville need to address a theological challenge to something he claims is science? Unless when he says 'design', he's not talking about ID?

Granville uses the term 'design', not 'Intelligent Design', so I  wasn't sure if he's really making some sort of demarcation, but since his also says 
" . . . the absurdity of the Darwinist attempt to explain away the obvious design in Nature . . ."
I have to assume he is talking ID, particular since this line is the common fallback position of ID 'theorists'.  So that being settled, when Granville says 'design' he's talking about ID and all the baggage ID brings with it . . . especially it's religion -- so maybe Granville isn't being totally honest about ID being science?

I do find it hard to believe that this is the biggest theological challenge to ID because most theists do not subscribe to ID.  There are many reasons they haven't drank the DI's kool-aid, one of the ones I hear most often is the DI's own efforts to divorce their ID argument from their religious beliefs.  Many of the believers in ID frequently wink-and-nod when anyone claims ID is science, they know better.  After all, even with a couple of decades plus of effort, the DI has never been able to hide their religious beliefs -- books and articles are either self-published or religious imprints, meetings and conferences are at religious schools and churches, or hosted by campus ministries . . . We've talked many times about how hard it is for the DI to divorce itself from its religion, impossible as of yet.  To perform such an exorcism, they would have to produce some actual science, maybe that's what Granville is going to do?

But since he thinks this religious argument is so important, let's take a peek:
"A wonderful little article in UpReach (Nov.-Dec. 1984). by Batsell Barrett Baxter, entitled “Is God Really Good?” contains some insights into the “problem of pain,” as C.S. Lewis calls it, which I have found very useful. I will follow Baxter’s outline in presenting my own thoughts on this question, and I would like to begin with his conclusion: “As I have faced the tragedy of evil in our world and have tried to analyze its origin, I have come to the conclusion that it was an inevitable accompaniment of our greatest blessings and benefits.” "
So . . . bad things happen as an accompaniment to our greatest blessings and benefits?  So in other words we deserve the bad things that happen because without them we could never understand, or appreciate, the good?  That makes very little sense.  I love my wife, but to understand or appreciate, I have to hate others or have others hate me?  If that were true, then wouldn't the bad things be proportional to the good?  Wouldn't it also make sense that the bad things wouldn't happen to a child because a child has little appreciation for the good?  It doesn't add up, but adding up isn't Granville's desire, rationalization is.  Look at the wording:
"The laws of Nature which God has made work together to create a magnificent world of mountains and rivers, jungles and waterfalls, oceans and forests, animals and plants. The basic laws of physics are cleverly designed to create conditions on Earth suitable for human life and human development. "
He's making an argument that hinges of the laws of nature and the laws of physics being a product of the actions of a deity.  Without that, his whole premise falls apart.  Does he offer any support for that statement?  Nothing but the ordinary ID wishful thinking.  He presents it as if it is a foregone conclusion -- but it only is to someone who already shares his belief set.  It's not a valid conclusion because the theists accept it on faith, no support needed.  Everyone else look for the support and finds nothing.  It's like he's building a pyramidal house of cards, only upside down the everything rests on two cards. But there's nothing under those two cards, it's all belief, faith, acceptance without support.  How can he really believe that ID is science when the rest of his post deals with nothing but religion?

Of course, there is the usual argument of blaming the people themselves, the 'free will' argument.  It seems to be a common fallback.  Granville sums up that part of his post with this:
"Again we conclude that evil and unhappiness are the inevitable by-products of one of our most priceless blessings: our human free will."
Yes, 'free will' and like his natural world argument he starts from the premise that this is something granted by a deity.  But this doesn't explain many of the causes of unhappiness or the things we characterize as 'evil'.  Yes, much of our unhappiness can be traced to decisions made by other people -- the bully, the abusive parent, the drunk driver . . . but who decides a mother of two will get cancer; metal fatigue causes a car wreck; tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes cause so much devastation and loss of life; or winds bringing down a plane full of people?  How does human free will fit those catastrophic scenarios?  I know, people like little kennie ham (owner of three Kentucky ministries) say that all disease and bad things are due to human failings and sin, particularly where a certain apple is involved.  But, once again, we are down to Granville's religious belief, not science, not design, but belief.  Is it reasonable  to believe my transgression against some religious rule brought about cancer in a women half-a-world away?

You can read the whole post, after all you have free will , but you will more than likely find what I found.  Granville arguing in favor of his religious beliefs.  Without those beliefs, his arguments, even the ones he quoted from others, fall meaningless to the ground.  It feels more like he's looking an excuse to justify the bad things and use them to rationalize his religious beliefs.

When the only tool in your toolbox is Rationalization, then that's what you tend to do.  I think I mentioned this story once before in an older post, but it bears repeating:
A man was sitting in his easy chair watching a baseball game. It was the bottom of the ninth, two outs, based loaded, and his team was down. Visually he was pretty much an Archie Bunker type. In fact you could easily picture Archie Bunker doing exactly this.

The announcer names the next batter, an African-American player and the man is livid. He goes on to proclaim the game to be over and how the next batter is a choker and can't handle the pressure of playing baseball all because of his race. . . you can easily picture this little bout of verbal diarrhea.

On the first swing of the bat the baseball the player hits it out of the park and wins the game.
The man now proclaims that the man was super-strong from all those years in the jungle.
Think about the mental gyrations that man had to go through, all to protect his prejudice in his own mind.  Granville reminds me of that story as well.  When there's no rational support, make some up . . . it's certainly easier than having to consider maybe your religious beliefs aren't all you want them to be.

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