Thursday, May 30, 2013

Some conversations with theists

I recently had an online conversation with a theist. The conversation was about the veracity of the Bible. My argument was that the Bible is the only source for most of the events described there, and there's no reason to believe why the writers couldn't have made things up. Fictional depictions of events (which in themselves may have never even happened) is completely normal, and there's little reason to believe that the Bible is anything else than fiction.

What was this person's counter-argument? He believed that the events were real because of all the eyewitnesses and their reactions to those events.

That's right. Eyewitnesses, whose very existence is claimed solely by the very book that this person is trying to prove as factual. (And this is not even going into the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.)

This is quite an amazing form of begging the question: This person tries to demonstrate that the stories are factual by assuming that the stories are factual. It's also circular argumentation.

Some months ago I had another online conversation with another theist, this time about, among other things, the cosmological argument. This person kept talking about "the creation of the Universe", and I pointed out that by using that term he's begging the question: By saying "creation" he is already assuming that the Universe was "created" and therefore there was something, or someone, that "created" it.

He responded with what effectively amounted to "what? You don't believe that the Universe was created?" And then said that if that's the case then its useless to discuss this any longer. I responded with "why should I believe that the Universe was created?" This person did not continue the discussion.

I was quite perplexed by this, as I thought that it was this very question (ie. whether the universe was created or not) that we were discussing the the first place. By his tone it seemed like he considered me delusional or something because I didn't believe that the Universe was created, even though we had written quite many messages on this very subject. I didn't quite understand why this sudden change. Maybe he just wanted out with an excuse?

Then I began to suspect that this was, perhaps, a case of false equivocation. Perhaps when he was saying that "the Universe was created", what he really meant was that "the Universe began to exist". As if "creation" and "beginning of existence" were the same same thing. All the while I was using "creation" to mean "something or something deliberately created the Universe", as a willful act. (I thought I had clearly explained to him why it bothered me that he kept talking about the "creation" of the Universe, for this very reason.)

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