Faith, Creationism, and Oogity Boogity

This one is guaranteed to give you a brain-ache. It’s at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG). That’s the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else.

The title is Are Atheists Right? Is Faith the Absence of Reason/Evidence?, and the author is Simon Turpin, described as “the executive director and speaker for Answers in Genesis–UK.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Atheists often accuse Christians of believing things or having “faith” without evidence and like to remind them of the old adage: “faith is believing what you know is not true.” In the eyes of many atheists, “faith” has become a buzzword for putting your intellect out of gear and for believing something without any reason or evidence for it (i.e., blind faith).

Throughout Simon’s article, he uses the word “atheist” to mean “anyone who isn’t a creationist.” But that’s not his only word-game. His article is mainly about mangling the word “faith.” That takes a lot of creationist gyrations, because the only meaning of “faith” in this context is beyond controversy. Any dictionary will tell you it’s belief not based on logic or evidence. There are secondary meanings, usually synonyms for “confidence,” as when someone says: “I have faith that the pilot will get this plane to its destination.” As you might expect, Simon plays all kinds of games by quoting various people using the word “faith” in various ways. He gives us lots of bible quotes too. We’ll skip all that — which is more than half of his article — until it gets interesting. Ah, here we go:

How should we respond to the demand from atheists that in order for them to believe something they need evidence or reason for it? [Why not produce some evidence?] The reality of the matter is that for many atheists no evidence will ever be enough to convince them of God’s existence or the truth of who Jesus is, as they will always explain it away because they have a prior commitment to the philosophy of naturalism.

[*Groan*] We discussed all this years ago in Bring Me An Angel Detector! No need to do it again. But Simon is just getting warmed up. He says:

However, what they don’t seem to realize or want to acknowledge is that naturalism itself is a self-defeating worldview [What?] as it undermines the very facilities it takes in order to affirm reasoning. If humans are just the result of random, chance evolutionary processes, and our brain is also the product of random chemical reactions, then there is no basis to trust our reasoning facilities (as the brain would be controlled by physics and chemistry).

We are the result of billions of years of evolutionary experience, during which every generation weeded out organisms that didn’t react properly to stimuli. By this time, it’s reasonable have confidence in our ability to deal with the external world. Those occasional individuals that can’t will drop out of the gene pool and be given the Darwin award. Oh wait — Simon deals with that:

From a naturalistic evolutionary perspective “our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth,” [footnote to something allegedly said by Steven Pinker in How the Mind Works] which means that a person’s beliefs do not have to be true: they just have to grant survival value. If atheistic naturalism were true, then there is no objective reasoning and freedom to our thoughts and therefore no reason to trust the thoughts that our brains produce because they were not designed to obtain truth.

That’s not worthy of a rebuttal, but Simon is so pleased with it that he carries it to an extreme:

In fact, if the brain is not designed [by You Know Who], then for the atheist all their thoughts and beliefs become rationally unjustified when it comes to asserting or evaluating truth claims. Therefore, if naturalism were true, how can atheists call on Christians (or anybody) to be reasonable or rational?

What else does Simon have for us? Here’s one more horribly mind-warping excerpt:

Atheists [Remember, that’s his word for “non-creationist.”] are emotionally committed to an underlying worldview that undermines the very reasoning processes that they need to account for intelligibility. Under atheist presuppositions, you cannot intelligibly account for reason. In other words, atheists may believe in reason, but they have no foundation to support that belief. Atheism is an arbitrary and irrational blind faith (i.e., without evidence) all the while dressed up as being reasonable.

And he finishes with this:

The Christian worldview is the only one that can give an account for faith and reason as all reasoning itself depends upon faith.

In your Curmudgeon’s humble opinion, that was an essay with absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. But hey — it’s great creationism!

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “Faith, Creationism, and Oogity Boogity

  1. If our ability to reason is designed by some supernatural agency, does that give us confidence in reason?
    We don’t know the ways of the Lord. What about Intelligent Designers, the sort of design that gives us the human birth process. Does that give us confidence in the design of thinking?
    Then there are the products of magic, why should we trust that? Not to mention tricksters and evil doers.

  2. “If humans are just the result of random, chance evolutionary processes, and our brain is also the product of random chemical reactions, then there is no basis to trust our reasoning facilities (as the brain would be controlled by physics and chemistry).”
    This of course is nothing but Plantinga’s EAAN.

    “Plantinga notes that if human beings are a result of the evolutionary process then one needs to maintain that the main purpose of our cognitive faculties are for survival and reproductive fitness.”
    Note the word purpose; evolution of course doesn’t imply any.
    Leave it to a YECer like Turpin to produce a version that’s even worse than the failure called EAAN.

    Our dear SC spots the main flaw: “it’s reasonable have confidence in our ability to deal with the external world.”
    Indeed the “good” versions of EAAN demand that human cognitive skills are perfect to be the mere product of evolution. YECer Turpin multiplies this error by turning it into “human cognitive skills can’t have anything to do with evolution, hence Darwinism is refuted”.

    “there is no objective reasoning and freedom to our thoughts”
    Hey! Totally confirmed by psychology. And yet another branch of science rejected by creacrappers.

    “how can atheists call on Christians (or anybody) to be reasonable or rational?”
    Simple – use two objective methods. They are called deduction and induction. If the conclusions match there is a fine chance that they are correct. Also let others check your work, to weed out errors. And surprise! This is for everyone and anyone, christians, atheists and all other believers.

    “Atheists are emotionally committed to an underlying worldview”
    Not exactly underlying, but otherwise spot on. Methodological naturalism has had some success last 200-250 years, you know. It wasn’t religious faith, let alone creacrap, that build up internet.

    “they have no foundation to support that belief”
    BWAHAHAHAHA! See my previous comment.

    “all reasoning itself depends upon faith.”
    Idem. Ah well, I guess that YECer Turpin would argue that the Manhattan team relied on christian faith, without realizing or admitting it, to build the first nuclear bomb.

  3. So, even if we could trust the supernatural …
    What justification is there for just making things up?

  4. @TomS tries the reasonable to creacrap once again: “We don’t know the ways of the Lord.”
    Ol’Hambo does. But only when it suits him. So he doesn’t know the way said lord poofed the entire shenanigan into existence, but he does know that evilution is not one of these ways. So he also knows that said lord has grounded reason, logic, math, science etc. plus that any conclusion using such ways to contradict his particular interpretation of the Bible is necessarily incorrect. I refer to the title of this blogpost: such are the wonders of Oogity Boogity Land!

  5. chris schilling

    Here’s some desultory thoughts that Simple Simon’s article inspired in me:

    1) If Simon is going to write like Jason Lisle, why not just get Lisle?
    2) If Simon doesn’t want to get his head shot off, why does he stick it up above the bunker?
    3) If he wants to play word games, can’t he just find someone interested in Scrabble, or Boggle, or some such? Why butcher commonsense and plain speaking by writing more useless creationist articles?
    4) If Simon — like all creationists — wants to edify faith, and insist on its supposed superiority, why not just leave it at that? Why drag in reason and evidence, and pretend they somehow support the unsupportable?

    (Okay, that last one is purely — redundantly — rhetorical: it’s because Simon deep down knows that faith alone can’t cut it, and needs some extra help).

  6. chris schilling

    AAGH! Double post. There’s no need for that! Sorry, SC, can you weave your magic?

    [*Voice from above*] I stretched forth my mighty hand — and behold! All is well.

  7. Dave Luckett

    I suppose, being at a loose end after returning from the World SF Convention in Dublin, I should do Simon Simplicissimus’s job for him. Thus:

    Proposition one: natural cause is always to be preferred as the explanation for any phenomenon, if only because we know that there are natural explanations for phenomena, but do not know that there is any non-natural or supernatural explanation for any phenomenon.

    Proposition two: Any observation of any phenomenon whatsoever is susceptible of natural explanation, allowing that the natural cause may be unknown or not understood.

    For example, any number of people could look up into the sky and see God surrounded by His Heavenly Court, angels and archangels by the legion, blinding light, celestial music, the whole nine yards – and this could be explained by delusion, hallucination, drugs (inadvertent and otherwise) a trick of the light, the human tendency to see patterns that aren’t there, and so on. Any phenomenon whatsoever is susceptible to these or similar explanations.

    THEREFORE, supernatural or divine action can NEVER be accepted as the cause of any phenomenon. (This produces the interesting corollary that naturalism is unfalsifiable.)

    THEREFORE, calls for undeniable evidence of the supernatural or divine action are futile, because such evidence can never be provided.

    THEREFORE, the only possible justification for belief in the supernatural, including belief in God or other divine agencies, is faith. it is therefore unsurprising that faith is required for most religions, and specifically by the Abrahamic ones.

  8. It is indeed just Plantinga’s EAAN. Ironically, religious faith, which pays no regard to truth but has clear Darwinian advantages through social cohesion and, as shown by Israel’s changing demographics, large families, is the clearest possible example of hardwired predisposition driven by evolutionary pressures without regard to truth.

    @TomS, or anyone else, is there philosophical precedent for EAAN? The nearest I can come up with is Darwin’s own, in his autobiography, and also expressed I believe in one of his letters, which Plantinga himself wrenched from its context of philosophical abstraction: “But then arises the doubt—can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? … The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.”

  9. @Paul Breterman
    You ask a question that I also ask: Is there any precedent for EAAN?
    Thank you for bringing it up.
    Wikipedia provides the only history that I know.
    ISTM obvious that a Repructive Argument Against Naturalism is at least as sound. But I can’t think of anyone who proposed that: the fact of our bodies being produced by, or operating according to natural law, does not provide needed confidence in our knowledge of the world.
    I expect someone to point out a famous example.

  10. @TomS, Wikipedia quote CS Lewis, who said it earlier and better.

    The obvious counterargument is not one that I saw on a quick scan of that article (but for a broad a topic, Wikipedia is bound to be a bit hit and miss); a mind that is not forming adequate representations of the world will not be capable of learning from experience. And indeed, Plantinga is showing an absolutist failure to understand the difference between good (in this case, trustworthy in looking for truth, which plainly either my mind or Plantinga’s mind is not), and good enough (in this case good enough to get through the day, and in Plantinga’s case to hold down a chair in philosophy at each university).

    Upshot; I have demoted EAAN from “not even wrong” to “not even interesting”.

  11. Simon You convinced me! I now believe in gawd, and may his noddley arms hold us and his meatball eyes gaze at us with love!! Now you dimwitted fool, show me the evidence that your gawd is the right one!!! And better than my gawd!

  12. @Paul Braterman
    Unfortunately, i have to agree with you in finding EAAN uninteresting.
    Yes, I am acquainted with CS Lewis’ argument. Wikipedia suggests an earlier argument by Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, but I haven’t pursued that.
    What makes EAAN uninteresting to me is 1. It is not presented as an argument against evolution, which makes it only, at best, yet another technical philosophical argument 2. It is just another negative argument, not presenting any reason to think that there is any non-naturalistic solution to the problem: why should some alternative to evolution, or some alternative to naturalism, or whatever, resolve the issues posed?

  13. @TomS, whart makes it uninteresting for me is that it is based on an easily rebutted false premise. We can see very easily how naturalistic evolution would lead to minds capable of navigating reality. The argument only becomes interesting when we are considering navigating domains remote from those that shaped our evolution. That is Darwin’s point. Plantinga actually refers to “Darwin’s doubt” in this context, but had clearly not penetrated to the depth of his argument. That of course was many years before Meyer’s infamous use of that expression to describe his own failure to understand the Ediacaran-Cambrian radiation..

  14. @TomS: “What makes EAAN uninteresting to me is 1. It is not presented as an argument against evolution, which makes it only, at best, yet another technical philosophical argument.”
    It’s a bit more complicated. Especially IDiots like Plantinga very much:

    And when reading something like this

    it’s easy to understand why, given the background knowledge of IDiocy provided by our dear SC.

  15. “It is just another negative argument.”
    That’s correct. However to the credit of Plantinga and especially Swinburne it should be noted that they recognize the danger of the god of the gaps argument. They try hard to circumvent it. I won’t discuss the merits of such efforts here; predictably I am not impressed.
    What interests me regarding arguments like EAAN is the ambiguity of those who defend it. As far as I know Plantinga nor WL Craig ever straightforwardly accepted common descent of Homo Sapiens and Pan Troglodytes.
    Craig, I repeat, is a fellow of the IDiots from Seattle. Plantinga has been accused of disliking evolution and with some justification. The first link is written just after the Kitzmiller trial. It quotes Plantinga:

    “those creationists reject evolution in favor of the idea that the major kinds of plants and animals were created in pretty much their present form. ID, as such, doesn’t involve either of these two things ”
    The other thing ID doesn’t is claiming that the Earth is 6000 years old.

    The second link is an original text from 1991:

    Relevant quotes:

    “From this perspective, then, how shall we evaluate the evidence for evolution? Despite the claims of Ayala, Dawkins, Gould, Simpson and the other experts, I think the evidence here has to be rated as ambiguous and inconclusive.”

    “As for the similarity in biochemistry of all life, this is reasonably probably on the hypothesis of special creation, hence not much by way of evidence against it, hence not much by way of evidence for evolution.”

    Given the many other talking points Plantinga in this text shares with both AIG and the Discotute EAAN is interesting not for its content, but for its context. This is not just another case of creacrappers doing some quotemining. They have good reasons to feel supported by ao EAAN.

  16. As far as I can see, evoution is not an essential part of the EAAN. One can take any conundrum, not just “how can we think deep toughts, given evolution”. Let’s take a real problem, “how can quantum physics and general relativity work together”. Nobody has given a naturalistic answer. How about this answer: “they are compatible because of intelligent design”. Or, “With God even quantum and relativity are compatible.” Or, “With the supernatural, spooky things, like action at a distance, are to be expected.”
    As far as an appeal to the supernatural, everybody knows just how unreliable the supernatural is. Think of the three wishes granted by the genie. Think of Puck. Think of the Omphalos Hypothesis.
    Has anybody ever addressed the issue brought up by Paley: “Why should not the Deity have given to the animal the faculty of vision at once? … Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent? Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the refuge of imperfection. To have recourse to expedients, implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power.”
    I have heard the Plantinga has explicitly said that his argument is not against evolutionary biology.

  17. Michael Fugate

    Plantinga doesn’t understand science and makes no effort to do so.
    Biochemical similarity is a prediction of common ancestry – it is not a prediction of special creation.
    Plantinga has argued that God is a basic belief, but can’t help himself from offering rhetorical arguments for God in addition. The deductive arguments for God always just seem like rearranging definitions and end up circular.
    My favorite is Feser’s 50 step “proof” of God as the uncaused causer, the unmoved mover, the non-contingent being…

  18. Michael Fugate

    The other thing is biochemical similarity doesn’t follow from intelligent design. There is no basic material similarity of say vehicles produced by humans – some are wood, some are metal, some are plastic, or carbon fiber, etc.

  19. It isn’t just similarity, it’s a pattern of similarities and differences, a tree structure to taxonomy which suggests common decent with modification.
    This is seen not only in biology, but also in linguistics and in the study of manuscript traditions. For example, the relations among the Indo-European languages strongly suggest that the languages are related by descent with modification. And Biblical manuscripts are studied by their relationships to try to get a better idea of the original forms that the books we in. The very same computer algorithms have been used in the studies of languages and manuscripts.
    Whenever we see the tree-like structure, it is a hint that descent with modification is involved. And then there are other consequences that this hypothesis suggests.
    And what does design suggest? Just about any pattern is equally compatible with design. See, for example, the pattern of items in a grocery store, or the catalog of a library, or the seats in a stadium. But there are other difficulties in assigning design as an explanation. One thing is simply this: design is not enough to account for, not even mere existence. Take a look at the intelligent designs of Leonardo Da Vinci for things that he never made. And the supernatural? The supernatural is not constrained by natural laws. It is simply pointless for the supernatural to resort to design. “Supernatural design” is an oxymoron.

  20. @TomS: as I specifically wrote that EAAN is interesting because of its context and not of its content only your sidenote is interesting too:

    “I have heard that Plantinga has explicitly said that his argument is not against evolutionary biology.”
    That wouldn’t surprise me. However this doesn’t mean that Plantinga fully accepts it. There are good reasons to conclude he doesn’t. Hence EAAN becomes relevant for this blog.
    At the other hand I wouldn’t classify him (and not even IDiot fellow WL Craig) as a creationist. The two guys make clear that this line is blurred too.

    @MichaelF snarls: “Plantinga doesn’t understand science and makes no effort to do so.”
    Which makes creacrappers only happier.

  21. Karl Goldsmith

    “I have faith that the pilot will get this plane to its destination.” So someone shown to be real then. Shouldn’t you be sitting in a empty plane and having faith it will take off.

  22. I have faith that I am corresponding with other human beings.
    I have faith that this is English.