Wednesday, March 2, 2011

God, Invisible Pink Unicorns and Flying Spaghetti Monsters

I had a drive-by atheist come by the other day anonymously posting a comment on a post I wrote over a year ago.  There was nothing especially brilliant about what he said.  Essentially it boiled down to "Prove God exists," while making use of the Argument from Silence and the Shifting the Burden of Proof.

Such drive-by trolling indicates a certain type of thinking:

  1. It presumes anything which exists has a physical existence.
  2. If one can't prove a physical existence of a thing, it isn't true.

This is where we get the concepts of the "Invisible Pink Unicorn" and "The Flying Spaghetti Monster" invoked by some atheists as a mockery of the belief in God.  (It's essentially a rehashing of Bertrand Russell's Tea Cup).

There is a problem with such materialist beliefs.  Let's use the following exercise to demonstrate it:

  1. Think of your hair color.
  2. Are you aware of your hair color?
  3. Are you aware of being aware of your hair color?
  4. Prove that your thought in #3 exists.

This is the problem with materialistic atheism in a nutshell: In order to attack the belief in God, they have to make use of special pleading (exempting themselves from the standard they demand others follow).  Anything which is not material is denied to exist.  A counter example is used.  The response is to try to explain away the counter example as not mattering.

The end result of this is to recognize some important facts.  Science is entirely limited to the physical realm of things which are observable in some way.  That's good for what it can do.  However, it becomes useless in determining something beyond the scope of the physical realm.  If such a thing exists, the fact that science cannot detect it indicates a limitation of science, not a delusion in thinking it exists.

This doesn't mean "Science is useless."  Instead it means we use science for dealing with the material world and with material causes, and recognize that to try to use it in dealing with the supernatural is just as effective as using a microscope for astronomy.

Let's consider a historical example (For a more detailed view of this example, see my previous article here).  Prior to 1492 [Let's leave aside all the other claims of who "really" discovered America as a distraction], the belief of Columbus was one could sail West to get to China.  His critics claimed he underestimated the size of the Pacific Ocean and one couldn't carry enough food to reach China from Europe.

At this time, a European speculating that a land mass existed between Europe and Asia would not be able to prove it scientifically… but that doesn't change the fact that the Americas existed.  The hypothetical European who used materialistic views to demand proof that such a continent existed, could argue that there was no evidence and since there was no evidence, it was more reasonable to assume such a land mass did not exist.

The point is: Lack of physical knowledge of a thing does not mean there is no reason to believe it exists. 

I want to offer a caveat however.  I am not saying we are free to therefore believe anything.  Reason is still important, and we should not merely go and accept Tertullian's maxim of "I believe because it is absurd."  There are good reasons not to believe in the ancient Greek gods for example and those reasons do not deny the existence of one God.  Philosophical Knowledge, Logic and revelation from one who has knowledge are all valid forms of knowledge.

Philosophical knowledge and reasoning can tell us some things about a thing that does not have physical existence (such as Justice for example), and revelation can tell us of the existence of a thing we cannot verify: If Native Americans came to Europe in 1492, they would have been witnesses to the existence to something a member of Renaissance Europe could not verify on his own. 

So to conclude, it is unreasonable to demand physical proof as the only kind of proof until it can be proven that only things with a physical existence do exist.

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