The (old) Licquia Family Blog

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Mon, 19 May 2003

Inductive atheism, deductive doubt

Steven Den Beste does it again, posting a very thought-provoking essay on the nature of belief in response to The Raving Atheist (no link, as the name fits; you can get to him via Den Beste if you really want to). TRA is one of the people trying to prove that religious faith is non-rational, and Den Beste does us theists a huge favor by utterly destroying that idea.

I should point out that Den Beste is an atheist, and that I don't agree with him on lots of things. What I admire in his essays is his honesty; he isn't afraid to categorize his atheism as a belief, and consequently sees no problem in commending the rationality of strong theists (such as Don Sensing).

In particular, I don't see his scientific evidence as convincing. The question of evolution isn't terribly interesting to me; science has a theory that works for some set of problems, but only God knows the true answer. (If God created the mollusc eye, can't he claim credit for that as well as the human eye? And don't engineers often use lower-quality parts for some operations as long as they meet the spec?) His sickle-cell anemia example is merely a very scientific instance of the problem of evil; we don't need to ask microbiology for evidence of injustice and inequity in the world. And most thoughtful theists have something that resembles an answer to the problem of evil.

Indeed, as I pointed out earlier, it's not really possible to "prove" the existence of God without some kind of personal experience, and personal experience is by definition anecdotal and untrustworthy as evidence in a detached manner.

The sense I get is that of a great gulf separating atheists and theists, a sort of "atheists are from Mars, Christians are from Venus" thing. As Den Beste points out, the convinced are hard to un-convince. I do have a source of hope, in that atheism requires a lack which God is certainly capable of providing.

On the other hand, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31, NIV) We theists (or, at least, we Christian theists) claim to be a part of a conversation, which atheists and agnostics claim not to be able to hear. As a caution, I might counsel such people to consider whether they've been making any effort to hear, or, as in The Raving Atheist's case, whether they've been making an active effort not to.

May 19, 2003 | Comments are no longer available