Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is God the Default Alternative?

The web page at gives a partial review of a book by Keith Ward titled "Why There Almost Certainly is a God". The reviewer is an atheist and he asks some interesting questions.

The book makes these claims - some that are similar to claims often presented by creationists.

"The God hypothesis says that there is a consciousness that does not come into being at the end of a long physical process. In fact it does not come into being at all. It did not just spontaneously appear out of nothing. It has always existed, and it always will. There is something that has thoughts, feelings and perceptions, but no physical body or brain. Such thoughts and perceptions will be very different from human thoughts.

" ...

"Could there be an unembodied mind, a pure Spirit, that has knowledge and awareness? I can see no reason why not. The God hypothesis has at least as much plausibility as the materialist hypothesis . Both are hard to imagine, but neither seems to be incoherent or self-contradictory. Either might be true."

The reviewer isn't convinced by this argument. Here's the counter-argument that he makes:

"I can think of some reasons why not. For starters, the idea of an unembodied consciousness is flatly contradicted by everything we know about consciousness. It looks like an oxymoron to me.

"Regardless of the philosophy of mind to which you adhere, it seems absolutely clear that for us physical creatures a lot of complexly organized matter is essential to consciousness. No complexly organized matter, no consciousness. Thoughts and ideas may themselves be non-material entities, but as far as we know they require a physical substrate in order to exist.

"Then there is the idea that God, while being himself immaterial, can interact with matter to the point of being able to bring whole universe into existence. This, again, is something utterly contrary to everything we know about intelligence. Here in the purely physical world something as simple as telekinesis is, as far as we know, impossible. There is a deck of cards on the desk in front of me, but I can not budge it with the power of my mind alone. How then does God interact causally with the material universe?

"It is natural forces and processes that are constantly surprising us with their fecundity and creative prowess. Intelligence, by contrast and to the extent that we have experience with it, is utterly indequate to the task of creating universes and fiddling with fundamental constants.

"Then there are all the trappings that come along with intellgence. The inevitable boredom that comes with insufficient stimulation, the search for meaning and purpose, the need for the company of beings like ourselves. Apparently God is not afflicted with any of these problems. How does God keep from getting bored? How does He find meaning to His own existence? How has the sheer monotony of eternal existence not driven Him mad? How does He withstand the awesome loneliness of being the only one of His kind?

"I do not know about you, but if I have to spend twenty-four straight hours in my house I start going stir-crazy. Even your average dog has enough brainpower to get bored. But not God.

"Anything is more plausible than the existence of such an entity. It is simply incredible to me that Ward can so casually describe the idea of an eternally-existing, omnipotent, disembodied super-intelligence as a satisfying final explanation for the universe."


Those are interesting arguments. I wonder if anycreationist can argue against them.

I doubt it.

Why not?

I would be much more impressed by creationism if I posed questions like this and 2-3 or more creationists had answers that they were ready to provide. I'd be even more impressed if some of those answers had subtle disagreements with each other. That would imply that those creationists had actually thought about them and found something that made sense to THEM.

The questions are philosophical so there won't beany empirical evidence to help; no one will interviewGod to find answers. There aren't really any WRONG answers. So why be afraid of asking them?

But what possible fun would it be to have a bunch of beliefs that you are never allowed to think about?

I guess that's just another one of the many reasons why creationism is a rotten belief system.

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