Failure To Communicate

| December 15, 2006 | 9 Replies

There are some (usually unacknowledged) semantic disconnects (“failures to communicate“) whenever theists and Atheists argue. Neither side responds as though they were aware of the unstated fundamental assumptions of the other side. Here are some of these for your consideration.

For Atheist and Ignostic consideration: Theist’s perceptions of atheism (as far as I’ve been able to discern)

  • Atheists say “There Is No God” as a matter of faith. They claim to know this as a fact, but one cannot scientifically absolutely disprove anything. Therefore they are wrong. Therefore God exists.
  • God, his acts and his will are terms we use to cover anything that we don’t understand. Atheists therefore are claiming that they know abso-(gerund)-lutely everything. They are therefore wrong.
  • God is omnipotent, so he can waive (violate) your man-made “Laws of Nature” any time it suits him. This is not a violation of causality, because causality itself is just a human invention. All ideas not found in {holy book title here} are merely human inventions (as opposed to the divine truths of that particular text).

For the theists, some common faiths among Atheists:

  • God is unnecessary. If God exists, who made him? If he/she/it/they have always existed, why not just assume that the physical universe has always existed? Why would either need a creator?
  • The universe is consistent and mathematically describable in its entirety. It may change over time, but only in a systematic and describable manner. We don’t yet have the full description, but the bounds of what we know are far beyond human scale, in all directions. We will never have answers to all possible questions, just to all reasonable ones.
  • Science, Technology and Math have directly explored many more dimensions, degrees, and scales of magnitude of every subject than were ever even alluded to in any holy book. Static holy books and the wisdom therein are therefore inferior to the living, dynamic, testable world of scientific exploration. When they don’t agree, bet on science.

Evolution (you knew this was coming) neither proves nor disproves the existence of God. It is a fact (repeated, consistent observation) that everything evolves, is evolving, has evolved. The “Theory of Evolution” is an attempt to explain the observation of evolution. If you must have a deity, it is simple enough to consider evolution as a divine progressive act of creation, too complex to try to explain to literate desert nomads three (or more) millenia ago.

Science is a process, not just a list of facts. As more and more minute details of the general theory of evolution are worked out, with the ever growing pile of evidence to study, there is a growing list of failed evolutionary theory details littering the history of the theory. These discarded, discredited, disproved sub-theories don’t prove that the main theory is wrong, just that the particular detail had since been corrected.

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Category: Evolution, Religion, Science

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. Jason Rayl says:

    This is an excellent start of a valid bit of comparative discourse. Yes, there is a disconnect between atheists and theists. I would add, however, that a lot of the impatience on the part of (some) atheists is generated by the theists themselves over a very fundamental problem of proof.

    Now, faith exists sans proof–indeed, it has become in some circles axiomatic that "proof" would contradict faith, since with proof faith would be less necessary. Therefore, the argument of science toward the supposed nonexistence of god cannot be made in any absolute sense. However, a demonstration that such proof may be telling is disclosed by the fact that many theists, when offered some kind of evidence (proof) that there IS a god, will cling to it to the point of distorting the science that critiques such evidence into unrecognizability. I'm thinking specifically of the Shroud of Turin, which is a case study in the back-and-forth between scientists and believers.

    It is not the scientists who lose their "faith" in a causal universe, but theists who compromise their stated belief in faith as the only viable tie with a deity. This can only lead the objective observor to conclude that the theist doesn't really believe, since he/she attempts to establish evidentiary–and material–justification at every opportunity. This calls into question the premise at the very least.

    When a scientist comes along and shows how this "proof" is anything but, the reaction is often (not always) to assert something divine or miraculous about the "proof" in order to remove it from the scientific purview, rather than abandon said "proof" in the name of the more consistent position of faith without proof.

    It leads one to conclude again that deities are, as Newton once described demons and witches, mere "desires of the mind."

    Of course, there's no real proof for that, either.

  2. Dan says:

    I think, in the matter of convening theism and atheism, the Deists of the Enlightenment got it as close to right as anyone. The idea of an unknowable, omnipotent god that puts things in motion but has enough faith in the scientific method to just let things run is appealing to me somehow. I don't claim to be atheistic; I suppose I am agnostic because I don't know what "God" is. I cannot hold any given religious text in absolute faith because I cannot bring myself to believe in absolutes. Omnia mutator. Fortunately for me, I have had a very thorough Lutheran education in Christian doctrine and taken limited study of other major world religions, so I can at least view an issue relating to faith from both sides.

  3. Scholar says:

    Well, looks like I have gotten myself worked up again. I could use some help over at netscape "the two faces of christianity" at this point the Christians are making the same arguments we have seen here, but I am unable to make rational headway and seem outnumbered. Any takers? Your soul will go straight to heaven if you come…

    http://religion.netscape.com/story/2006/12/15/the

  4. Intuition is not trained by "real proof". A communication gap is the time between when a person asks a question and when an answer is provided. If the answer is unsatisfactory, the question is repeated or reframed. When people have their questions answered before they ask them they do not hear, and may become irritated. People get used to answers following questions at a set rate. During the gap intuition takes over and tries to supply the expected answer. Intuative answers can be wrong, and if allowed to fester {or be overvalued} can be detrimental to the communication process. People with differing communication gaps will have difficulty communicating.

  5. JohnJB says:

    Thanks for the mention and link to Ignostic. It's a term I hadn't run into before.

  6. Dan Klarmann says:

    Berkeley Breathed recently underscores my point with visual eloquence here <a/>

  7. Russ Anderson says:

    Dan, Dan, Dan. You know the Bible like the back of my hand. You write, "Fortunately for me, I have had a very thorough Lutheran education in Christian doctrine and taken limited study of other major world religions, so I can at least view an issue relating to faith from both sides." You, as you have proven over and over again in our conversations, know nothing about Christianity and surprisingly little about Judaism. Folks, I like Dan, but take what he says in this area with a very small grain of salt. :-) By the way, since matter and energy 'absolutely' can not be created nor destoyed (they can only change form), do you not believe in either of those? :-)

  8. Dan Klarmann says:

    Russ: "Dan" is not me, as you apparently thought. You know that I openly admit to being raised as an Atheist, not a Lutheran. Why would I say otherwise?

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