Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Oxham's Razor and Atheism

From my last post "Why Atheism is Attractive," which the Grand Haven Tribune was kind enough to publish in their on-line opinion column, I received this comment on my blog:

"Friend, you're trying to make it complicated, but it's not. Atheists don't believe for a simple reason. There is no reason to assume the existence of a god to explain the existence of the universe as we understand it. Occam's Razor."

The comment was from "Anonymous."  I lament the fact that so many people think they can leave such comments on a blog without showing the necessary courage it takes to attach one's name, and hence, once's identity to the public domain.  Sadly, such is the case with our neurotic society when people don't have the intestinal fortitude to actually do so.  Worse, Internet atheists are an all-too-common adherent of this type of umbrage against Christianity.  My first suggestion to internet atheists is this: use your actual name.  Otherwise, please do not engage with the arguments.  Show some courage!  And show some thoughtfulness, rather than ranting on about such things as weighty as the existence of God and the moral underpinnings that motivate atheism. (I've since removed the "Anonymous" feature from the comments section.)

Ok, so now to brass tacks.  The question of God's existence is really not as simple as punting to Ockham's razor, as if that settles the question.  Hardly.  The good William of Ockham (c. 1285-1349) was a monk anyway, wasn't he?  I find it strange that an idea which was set forth by a man who was influenced by his Christian worldview is used against him.  At least one reason Ockham set forth the Razor is because he was stemming his beliefs from a Christian worldview, a worldview that believes God is a God of order and of simplicity.  

Ockham's Razor, also known as the principle of parsimony, is that when considering a question or given situation which requires an investigation into a matter in order to draw a conclusion about what has occurred, we do our best to remember that the simplest explanation is usually the best one.

So, let's apply the Razor to Anonymous' comment.  Atheism requires Naturalism to be true (Naturalism is the idea that Nature is all there is).  So, if Naturalism is true, then Naturalism should be able to explain

  • the origin of the universe 
  • the origin of life
  • a standard for good and evil
  • a rubric for ultimate meaning in life 
  • a purpose or plan for history 
Naturalism cannot do any of these things.  Either the Universe is eternal, or it is created.  Big Bang cosmology teaches that the Universe came into existence some finite time ago, wherein matter, space and time sprang into being.  Naturalism cannot explain how matter, space and time came into being. Minus 1 for Naturalism.

Naturalism cannot explain the origin of life, nor can it explain the origin of human life.  How did organic life come from inorganic material?  When there were gasses forming the early universe, how did these form together to make a living organism?  Ask the biological evolutionists, and they'll admit, they don't know.  Take a look at the Cambrian explosion, for example, and we see the *explosion* of novel body plans that arise from the Pre-Cambrian layer, the latter of which has mere, simple-celled organisms.  All of a sudden (!), in the Cambrian layer, we have the arrival of incredibly diverse animals and body plans that defy the gradualism of Darwinian evolution.  Minus 2.

Naturalism cannot offer a standard for good and evil. If Naturalism is true, then morals are relative, and each, individual person decides what is right in their own eyes.  If you want to know that that looks like, read the newspaper, or the Book of Judges.  If Nature is all there is, and there is no transcendent moral law, given by a Person, then ethics becomes a matter of personal interest and taste.  We have no grounds whatsoever in judging a moral act as filthy on the one hand, or noble on the other, given Naturalism.  If Nature is all there is, then all we are is a bunch of animals.  And what do animals do in the animal kingdom?  They devour their mates, destroy their own young, destroy the lame and the weak, and compete for success to the destruction of any other animal that gets in the way.  Now, some animals do noble things: they hunt together, or they mourn for their human masters (German Shepherds do this).  Other animals, like ducks and geese, help the injured.  But if our ethics are to mimic Nature, then who is to decide which animal to follow?  And this is just what we have in our society today: we have noble people, and we have total scum to rape, molest, rob, steal, kill and destroy.  Without God's law, we are doomed to our own personal tastes, and only brute force can keep people from doing what the majority doesn't want them to do.  North Korea. Minus 3.

Naturalism gives no meaning in life.  If Nature is all there is, then we're all going to die some day, and that's that.  There may be a finite meaning for you, but the Universe will collapse and no matter how noble someone is, or what achievements they accomplish, it'll all be forgotten.  There is therefore no ultimate meaning to anything, given Naturalism.  You can "make your own meaning," but so what?  You're gonna die, and your works will die with you.  Nothing really matters.  Freddie Mercury was right, if Naturalism is true ("Nothing really matters to me...").  No meaning is found, because there is no infinite being to ground our meaning in the transcendent.  Meaning comes from eternal life and from a source, and Naturalism supplies none of it. Minus 4.

Naturalism has no telos (goal).  The only goal for human history, given Naturalism is to survive and "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."  The Universe will end, and there's a cold, death awaiting us all.  There is no grand purpose, meaning, or goal of history.  There is no life after life, or life after death. Minus 5.

So, Naturalism has a tall order in providing a simple reason for our existence, our purpose, human ethics, history's goal, and personal fulfillment and meaning in life.  If you want to punt to Ockham's Razor, good luck, because it's all you've got.  

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