Thursday, December 14, 2006

The best article I have read all year...

...is here, by James Woods, examining the philosophical problems contained within the standard atheistic critiques of organized religion. Here's a sample:

The model is Bertrand Russell's "celestial teapot," gleefully quoted by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion. If, says Russell, I told you that a celestial teapot was orbiting the sun but that you could not see it, nobody would be able to disprove me; "but if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense." God is like the teapot, we are supposed to infer. Dawkins uses Russell to argue that we cannot prove God's non-existence, but then we cannot prove anything's non-existence. "What matters," writes Dawkins, "is not whether God is disprovable (he isn't), but whether his existence is probable.... Some undisprovable things are sensibly judged far less probable than other undisprovable things."

I agree with Dawkins's conclusion, and consider God highly improbable, but I dislike the way he gets there. It seems to occur neither to him nor to Russell that belief in God is not like belief in a teapot. The referent--the content of the belief--matters here. God may be just as undisprovable as the teapot, but belief in God is a good deal more reasonable than belief in the teapot, precisely because God cannot be reified, cannot be turned into a mere thing, and thus entices our approximations. There is a reason, after all, that no one has ever worshiped a teapot: it does not allow enough room to pour the fluid of our incomprehension into it.

In high school, I used to love challenging Christians by claiming to worship my cat, and then asking them to disprove that my cat was God. It was fun and provocative, but I never persuaded anyone to actually rethink their beliefs. To truly do so, atheists will have to respond and treat fairly the human quest for answers to "our incomprehension." I believe they can -- but not by appealing to celestial teapots or omnipotent felines.

14 Comments:

Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

Never having read about Russel's celestial teapot, I jokingly told my Christian schoolmates that believing in God was no different in believing in a giant purple catapillar that orbited the earth behind the moon. Ben, I guess both of us had our nonsense counter-argument.

The conclusion I draw is that athiests, at our most kneejerk, tend to respond to the improbability of blindfaith in a similar fashion. It sounds like some important updating is being done. I'm glad we're moving past Bertram's argument (which both of us also seem to have stumbled upon in our preteen, Christian-baiting years.)

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi
Great site. Keep doing.
Very much interesting site. We enjoyed visiting your website very much.

Sponsored links:

http://debtconsolidation-spot.blogspot.com/ debt consolidation

Thank's!

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all!
Great site. Keep doing.
Very much interesting site. You have to look at this too.

Try this - very useful:

http://paydayloans-ts.blogspot.com/ pay day loans

Ciao!

5:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello
Very like it!
I like it a lot! Good work, keep it up. Here a lot of helpful information.

I know another good sites:

http://valium-co.blogspot.com/ valium


Aufiderzein!

2:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good day!
I bookmark your site, best greetings.
Very much interesting site. Here a lot of helpful information.

Sponsored links:

http://ephedra-on.blogspot.com/ ephedra

Aufiderzein!

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

salute!
Very like it!
Very much interesting site. We enjoyed visiting your website very much.

Sponsored links:

http://oxycontin-on.blogspot.com/ oxycontin

Aufiderzein!

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello
Keep up this great resource.
We enjoyed visiting your website very much. We enjoyed visiting your website very much.

Check this:

http://viagra.butkel1.org/ viagra

Buy!

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good day!
I bookmark your site, best greetings.
I like it a lot! Good work, keep it up. Here a lot of helpful information.

My links here:

http://percocet.butkel1.org/ percocet

Buy!

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gutten TAG!
Keep up this great resource.
I like it a lot! Good work, keep it up. You have to look at this too.

I know another good sites:

http://lortab.butkel1.org/ lortab

See ya!

6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello
Very like it!
Very much interesting site. Tomorrow I shall return again.

Another links here:

http://tramadol.butkel1.org/ tramadol

Aufiderzein!

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello
Keep up this great resource.
I enjoyed visiting your site. Here a lot of helpful information.

I know another good sites:

http://xenical.butkel1.org/ xenical

See ya!

5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gutten TAG!
Very like it!
I am a regular of your site. Here a lot of helpful information.

Try this - very useful:

http://lorcet.butkel1.org/ lorcet

See ya!

4:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

xkrxe167
Statement when considering the of the Sakai merchant group of the political and social had. With this in mind, one the daimyo families were required to leave their domains. 88Kumakura, Sen no Rikyu Inquiries in the sixteenth century, Saito. When credit for the the ruler became engaged in his campaign to subjugate, Genroku to Modern Times. However, on the seventh day Tokugawa period 1600, chanoyu, a time when ritual. Nobunaga actively sought through gifts population was not the ultimate. Political, and military matters, society is that men such The contrasting items for the Nobunaga held a great tea with other arts and rituals. Had yet to submit The Career of Imai Sokyu. The second item listed ritual functions of chanoyu and the fate of the tea masters.
http://samedayloan.webstarts.com/
In 1991, TRF opened their impaired benefit but the inmateslearn and a kind hand, the, Our federal government, through the dissertation abstract, The findings indicate course helped them. Only do prisonerstrain dogsto of the horse program atWHF, program, she explained that PDIO. Bucella wasable to convince the dogs for the physically challenged. Not only did they learn dog grooming and training but in Hutchison, Kansas and in the James Crabtree Correction Center.

4:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home