// in praise of confusion (an answer to Stephen Hawking)

Somebody asked me yesterday if I was going to comment on Stephen Hawking’s comments about the origins of the universe in his latest book The Grand Design, about how the formation of the universe is simply a natural consequence of the laws of physics. I didn’t know what to say. It seemed sad to me that somebody so eloquent and influential as Professor Hawking had come to that conclusion, but not being skilled in physics and not having read his book, other than the newspaper extracts, I wasn’t sure where to start.

Today the papers are alive with debate, with the faith community standing up to address Hawking’s theory in similarly eloquent, if understandably defensive, rhetoric. And so how is it that average Christians are supposed to answer the people who will inevitably assert that Hawking has now conclusively destroyed the grounds for belief in God?

Where do we even start?

I don’t understand the complexities of the universe, and I don’t even presume to understand the mysteries of any given moment in this life. I am not so naïve to say that scientists are incapable of feeling wonder, as some have, or that their concern with the way things work naturally leads them away from a place of faith. And I don’t know, really, why I was born in such a way that requires me to look for meaning, that helps me to see these things and to taste the glory of God in this world, and why others aren’t. Maybe it is the case that I am flawed in some way, and so need a concept of meaning to make sense of my existence of the world. Certainly that has been suggested, too.

I am incapable of providing evidence of the truth of the Judeo-Christian accounts of the world except for to say that what I have experienced of God aligns with what I see of Him when people wrote of the ways they encountered Him in the Bible, and that what I have studied is wise, and beautiful, and seems true in a way that resonates deep in my bones. I know lots of people who do not feel the same, and I don’t know why that is.

Often we are not very good, we Christians, at putting into words what our experiences are. Perhaps it is that we are frightened of failure, because we feel that this will provide gaps that the sceptics will pounce upon, and perhaps it is because what we are trying to express is so very, very hard. But if the truth and proof of God is not in our intricate knowledge of the universe but in the experiences of the people who have encountered Him, then Hawking’s theory will not disprove them. It will just provide more evidence that the universe is astonishing, something that most of us knew all along. People may stutter and stammer and fail to give convincing proofs, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong – it just means that it is almost impossible to know where to begin in explaining these things.

I live in a world that glistens with wonder and resonates, at times, with jaw-dropping beauty, and I have a God who I can thank for that, which is good, because I am so grateful. I live in a world that is full of evil, too, with darkness and things that simply should not be, and I have an answer for those things, for why it is all so broken. I follow Jesus Christ, a figure who taught of how people are of greater value than just their social and economic importance, that there is more to the world than just surviving or doing ‘just enough’ in order to assuage your guilt. Who died and claimed that this set us free from our sinful past, free so we can be different, we can change. People said that he rose from the dead, too, and I believe them, just like I believe in a world beyond this one, although I don’t know what that will look like. I have peace. A certainty that whether I have a job, whether I am single or married, whether I am recognised or unrecognised, I am not alone, and nor am I worthless.

That stills the roaring in my head and the panic that would otherwise dwell in my chest.

The apostle Paul was someone who, at the very least, people would acknowledge thought that he knew God, even if he was deluded. He said that, as a result of that, he had learned the secret of being content whatever the circumstances.

I am coming to understand what he meant by that, and I am grateful for that fact. See, my life is not perfect, but it is so, so good. And so although I cannot conclusively prove that any of the things I believe are true, I can invite you to try it nonetheless, to join in and see if you discover the same. Maybe you will not, and then you can write me off as delusional if you like, but at least you will have tried.

I am trying to convince you, it is true. But I only do it because my life is different now. For a long time it wasn’t, and I couldn’t say these things with any degree of sincerity, but now I know, at least, that I am different, and it feels like life is the way that it should be.

If Hawking has indeed destroyed the grounds for faith, then you will see faith-filled people falling away from what they believe in the weeks and months to come. The real test will be what changes in them, in their attitude and outlook, and whether that is a change for the better.

But he hasn’t destroyed my faith, and I’m fairly sure that I am not alone in that. I will keep telling of what God has done, and what He is continuing to do even now.

When I, and the people of faith in this world, stop doing that – then you can say we have destroyed God.

    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 3rd, 2010

    What I read here is a position riddled with logical fallacies. Mostly, appeals to ignorance.

    You admit yourself that you are unaware of why your mind searches out “why” – but there exists evidence to show you exactly how this happens in the brain based on our wiring to survive.

    You admit you aren’t skilled in physics or scientific theories – so we can derive from that that you have little knowledge of the difference between theory and guesses.

    I don’t even see you using the term “faith” correctly here. Have you knowledge of the ancients and their understanding of the word?

    The problem is… you are simply rehashing beliefs that aren’t based on anything more than illogical appeals to ignorance. If you don’t know you just come up with a concept and plug it in, likely due to an indoctrination in your brain.

    If you *really* want answers and knowledge… get educated on your mind, your brain, this world and why you have concepts like this to begin with. Apply critical thinking – and don’t put a “god” in the gaps just because you always have.

    You asked for feedback, I gave it.


    • worshipmusicshouldsoundlikethis
    • September 3rd, 2010

    And I appreciate that feedback. But in truth, if my life is currently in a state where I am content in my current situation, what need is there to conclusively examine my thought processes? (i know this is an answer you will hate.)

    Surely evolutionary necessity relies on my continuing survival, and if this is the most convincing way to ensure I survive then it is meaningless to chase any other solution?

    What I’m going on for faith is in the letter to the Hebrews, where faith is described as the substance (Gr. hupotasis) of things hoped for and the conviction (Gr. eleghos) of things unseen. My knowledge of other ancient traditions is admittedly more limited, but that understanding works for me: I believe that there is enough evidence from the people I have met and spoken to who have a belief in a God make a convincing case for the involvement of another being, and from that and the gaps I make these statements from a place of reasonable doubt.

    If i spend my life conclusively trying to find answers then I will not end up living life, just getting lost inside a maze of philosophy. Isn’t a philosophy that steps out into life is preferable to one that spends 90 years trying to find out the answer?

    • Andy Carlisle
    • September 3rd, 2010

    Tom. Brllliant. I agree with all of it. Can’t prove God. But He is real!

    • Rob Hampson
    • September 3rd, 2010

    Professor Hawking’s deductions are based on the concept that multiverse theory is correct. He himself admits that there is currently no evidence for or against this theory and there is large debate about whether multiverse theory is scientific at all. Many people argue it is unfalsifiable. Falsifiability is a fundamental tenet required for scientific theory to work. This is also why the concept of a god is not considered to be scientific as it is commonly considered to be unfalsifiable.

    Further his conclusion states that no god would need to light the touchpaper on this universe to begin it. However, for multiverse theory to work there would need to be some kind of mechanism producing universes with different physical constants. Many argue that this is unnecessarily complex and therefore does not obey the scientific tenet of parsimony (Occam’s Razor). This is also a complaint against the concept of god.

    In conclusion, Prof. Hawking has taken the concept of god and replaced it with an equally complex and unprovable concept of naturalist atheism which is just as much a faith as Christianity.

    It is easy to critique a world view, but much harder to propose a positive, logically coherant philosophy by which to live.

    • Rob Hampson
    • September 3rd, 2010
    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 3rd, 2010

    I suppose a person could decide to stay in a state of underdevelopment and not move beyond the belief in Santa dropping presents under a tree as well. It is very simple to just imagine that mom and dad bring the presents and count the peers who believe in him as well as evidence he must exist – I know you won’t like that analogy, but it sums up your position nicely.

    The problem with this lack of development is that it inhibits not only you, but society in general. And this is the shame of theism. The god concept is so permeated in cultures that much like a flat earth/center of universe theory of old, a lot of folks just don’t want to realize that we reside on a globe orbiting the sun. I get this. I get why humans don’t want to change this. But… eventually, adapt of die. And more and more people are realizing that the mystic is just not necessary any longer. I’d hate to see you further indoctrinate against actual progress in our species. Join the educated and move beyond the ancient mindsets of illogical belief.

    Critical thinking skills are paramount in discovering what is reasonable and therefore acceptable to believe. Your position fails the very simple test of some basic rules of logic.

    Regarding faith and the usage by authors in the old and new testaments, the word in Hebrews is pistis. It was understood as conviction. A trust that compelled loyalty and action. Not very different than how one might understand conviction today in a courtroom. There is a process of evidence and then evaluation and then a verdict and then an action. But we know today that for example, in a court room, eye witness testimony – while the most compelling (due to it’s appeal to emotion) to a jury – is actually one of the, if not the, most unreliable forms of evidence we have. Convictions are overturned now – long standing convictions. Because better evidence exists that strips unreliable evidence down. We know that convictions can be overturned. Faith is no different. In fact, the entire Christian doctrine can be summed up as an appeal to the Hebrews to overturn their previous convictions and line up with new evidence. That’s what Hebrews is all about. to begin with. If you can appreciate this, then open your eyes to realize that just as these ancients adapted as they came upon new evidences and knowledge, so must a modern man – and we are more knowledgeable then the men that penned those texts we call the bible.

    We don’t need the “god concept” any longer. We can now have faith in things far more tangible and far more accurate and evidenced.

    You wouldn’t put your faith in a chair that was broken now would you? Of course not. And you wouldn’t trust your parents when they told you Santa was real after you watched them drink the milk and cookies now would you? We are constantly discovering that what we *thought* we knew, we didn’t.

    I ask you to move beyond the illogical belief system to one that is far more credible.

    Occam’s Razor cuts it down quick: It is MOST rationale to drop the god concept and acknowledge what we do know rather than filling a gap based on ignorance.


    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 3rd, 2010

    and forgive all those typos, i’m mutli tasking…


    • Tom
    • September 3rd, 2010

    Interesting – I like your argument about the courtroom, very compelling. And you’re absolutely right to say that Hebrews is about forcing the Jews to re-evaluate their beliefs in the light of new evidence.

    I just don’t necessarily believe that the current “new evidence” really changes much (although that said, i do need to read Prof Hawking’s book). It states that the universe exists because of a natural exercise of the laws of physics, right, which is fine, but it’s also worth asking where the laws of physics came from?

    Anyway, side point. Say we can disregard God now, then, what are we free to do that we weren’t before? We can disregard Biblical morality, fine; we can accept that we are in control of our own lives; we can keep exploring the limits of human activity and improvement.

    But there are some elements of Biblical morality that have social credibility – the nuclear family has been established as, generally, a good thing, and all societies apparently have a concept of murder – for example. So I get that some believers have odd views on some things, but it’s basically quite good wisdom, right? Accepting that we are in control of our own lives either leads us to a selfish individualism or it leads us to altruism, helping others and working to improve the world, and most people would choose the latter if possible. And there are plenty of Christians in fields outside of my own who are still pushing the limits of human activity and improvement – even in areas like genetics, physics and stem cell research.

    So if Christianity, at least, is a basically good thing (my thesis, not yours), then all we lose by getting rid of God are the annoying believers who come up to you in the street and tell you what to do, or that you’re going to hell. The rest of it is actually pretty solid.

    I agree that moving beyond credibility and reconsidering things in the light of new evidence is important. However, i still think the majority of the moral and social conclusions of the Judeo-Christian tradition are strikingly credible even today, and if that is the case, it can’t be wholly illogical, because bits of it are good. At the very least, it is not blanket “illogical”.

    So. Your move 😛

    • Rob Hampson
    • September 3rd, 2010

    The Santa argument doesn’t work.

    If we wake up and find presents under the tree we don’t assume they were created from nothing, neither do we assume that they evolved. We immediately know that someone somewhere designed and made them. We also know that someone wrapped them and wrote our name on them.

    You have assumed that “God” is like Santa i.e. imaginary. That assumption has led to a belief that God is stupid. However, if the assumption is wrong so is the conclusion. One could take the view that “God” is like the parents and not like Santa at all.

    The fact that we have to create this kind of fiction for children to explain the presence of the presents indicates that they know an intelligence has to have been involved. They wouldn’t believe adults if they said they popped into being over night because they know that that is impossible.

    Argument that morality is good does not support Tom’s position either. Morality is present in many religions not just Christianity. It is the centre point of Nietzsche’s philosophy as he believed that a race of “ubermensche” would arrive to convince the world that everyone should be good. Though everyone does seem to agree that there is a concept of “good”, though whether that was created or evolved is another argument.

    Just because an idea is old doesn’t make it wrong either. The idea of a chair is old and just because a chair has broken wouldn’t mean that we abandoned the idea of the chair. One can only progress if one is certain that one is heading in the right direction, to decide that chairs are outdated just because a chair you once used broke would be to massively inconvenience yourself. In a similar way Tom, just because some Christian’s are like broken records, doesn’t make the all Christians wrong. To decide whether Christianity is right one should always address orthodox belief, not the crackpots who think the world is ending tomorrow.

    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 3rd, 2010

    Morality is – and has always been – highly subjective. You can certainly opt to pick up some of the cultural norms and mores of ancient people if you like (will you advocate all the laws they had too?) – or not. You can also opt to pick up cultural norms and mores of those in the middle east or west or far east as well. You can pick up the cultural norms and mores of your neighbors or those thousands of miles away… it’s your call. But to pretend that one set of values trumps another is again, subjective.

    When I dropped the biblical influences, I saw much the same sort of transformation as when I adopted them. Not really much outside some of the long standing obvious differences in values/systems. But humans pretty much get their character and value base down before the age of six in our modern world – so really, I could say it was “biblical” or just good old fashioned grandpa influence. Morals are what they have always been – relative.

    The nuclear family, while for a time was a great base, it again, is subject to change. And I’m sure you realize, the biblical norms in NO WAY at all show nuclear families. I mean, the ancients had customs borrowed from all cultures at the time that included multiple wives, concubines, etc… it was far from the Beavers. Very far. It also included representations of extended families. Tribes and nations were the focus of the ancients more than any nuclear family. So, again, while for a season in our modern society, this seems to work… it isn’t always trump – and studies show that families evolve as well. As they always have.

    Murder is something most societies share as anti social due to it’s impact on the society itself. It doesn’t mean individuals will all agree, just that most humans have evolved to a place where killing without just cause is “wrong”. But again, all societies view “just” a little differently as well. Remember, in the biblical text, it isn’t “murder” to stone a man or woman for cheating on their spouse. Today, it is. That’s because laws evolved to include a different concept of what would be a “fair” killing. Wars are considered just as well. And so, this isn’t murder in all societies. It is defense or actually, if we just cut to the chase, fighting for land/resources. We’ve never really as a species called that “murder” because well, then we’re hypocrites aren’t we. 😉

    Accepting that we are in control has led to altruism for the sake of survival of ourselves, our kin, our tribes, our species. We are selfish. That’s just a given. The bottom line is that nothing really controls us except our brain’s wired guides. And that is all based on survive.

    The argument that Christians do some good things so therefore… is a very poor one. Hitler did some great things. Should we promote eugenics for it’s “goodness”? I totally counter your thesis that Christianity is basically a “good” thing. Christianity has so many negatives attached when it comes to chasms, divisions, arrogance, and a thousand other points that trump your example or any others of “good works”. Again, good is so relative. But even if we agreed on service works and motives like men such as William Booth for example – that doesn’t negate the fact that just because mom and dad provide food and shelter it makes it okay to keep believing in Santa and telling others to as well.

    We don’t lose by educating people. We win. We evolve.

    You don’t need theism to serve mankind. AT ALL.

    And illogical has nothing to do with whether you think it is good or bad. Logic deals with good reasoning. It isn’t about wholly illogical or not. It’s about the fact that the position for theism is an illogical one.

    Also, regarding your example:

    It is illogical to promote ignorance because you think ignorance is bliss.

    Appeal to Consequences of Belief. A logical fallacy in reasoning.

    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 3rd, 2010


    The Santa analogy worked in light of the context I used it. Evidences for belief in the being.

    I also never made the argument or introduced any such premise that Santa or a god is stupid. Nor did I state that belief in either was “stupid”. I stated that the beliefs were based on appeals to ignorance or unreliable evidences.

    I also never said that because an idea is old it is no good or should be tossed. And I didn’t equate the broken chair to “old”. Nor did I say that a broken chair means give up on all chairs.

    In other words:

    Strawmen are messy. Don’t build them if you want to play with me.

    • Tom
    • September 3rd, 2010


    The point of this post was to express a subjective viewpoint – to give an impression of what it is like to be inside the mind of somebody who believes, albeit with some measure of introspection about that belief. So I accept that I have picked a subjective viewpoint based on what I have perceived to be evidence, and had I been born elsewhere or to a different family, even, there would certainly have been different angles on how I see things.

    I fully agree with you about Christianity producing chasms, divisions, arrogance and a thousand other things. Both historically, and especially now. But I worry about the other side, too. Because the passionate atheists seem so preoccupied with proving they are right and proving that other people are wrong that sometimes, in their attempts to be different from those whose views they oppose, they become like them.

    So this was intended more as a rehabilitation than anything else. Christianity, as a brand and as a culture, can be damaging. It can drive people away and it hurts them, more often than not. Atheism runs the risk of doing the same thing too, lately – and in the end what people will remember is not its rightness, but how it treated people as a result. Show me an atheist who has compassion, because I know they’re out there, and I am tired of arguing with people. So many Christians love to argue too, with each other, and it is hurting all of us.

    Maybe your problem is with theists, who argue incessantly about the logic of their position as though they can argue you into faith. That’s fair, although their conclusions aren’t as illogical as you suggest – they just start from a what you see to be a false premise, but for the most part they are internally consistent at least. But in the end, all arguments are necessarily subjective by nature, and anyone who states that they know otherwise means that they alone are objective, which would make them (ironically) God.

    Me, i am just a confused individual trying to work out how to make sense of the world in the midst of a mass of voices trying to tell me what to do – a bit like the people who wrote the Old and New Testaments were. All I have are my experiences, and I don’t know what to do with them if you say they’re wrong, because in my mind they make sense. I know that’s not a compelling argument, but at the end of the day all of us are writing from inside our own heads and we can only say things the way that we see them.

    I could stop talking, stop writing, because I am apparently spreading an age-old and incorrect philosophy that drags us back to the dark ages, but I don’t see how stopping would help anything. I would still believe, and act on that belief, and belief is the problem, isn’t it?

    I think, sadly, I need more than being just told that atheism is a compelling logical system that is ultimately in humanity’s best interests, as there have been plenty of systems that were allegedly just that. I think I need to see it, and I haven’t yet.

    • Rob Hampson
    • September 3rd, 2010

    I may have been making straw men but you just did a strange reductio ad hitlerum. 😉

    Anyway, I’ll go and insert my oar elsewhere…

    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 3rd, 2010


    Please don’t confuse “Christianity” as the doctrine with individual people. The comparison you make isn’t one I did. I didn’t say that “Christians” are arrogant, etc.. I simply countered your statement that Christianity was “good” and because you mentioned good works, I gave an example of a person who takes that service doctrine to one end. Atheism isn’t a doctrine. It isn’t a sect. It isn’t a religion. The non theist or atheist or such whether you feel extreme or passive or whatnot is irrelevant to the actual “label” of non theist. In other words, you can’t commit a fallacy in reasoning by suggesting because one person or a group is one way… the whole is. BUT, you can specifically deal with the doctrines and such that said masses hold. So again, your comparison fails simply because whether or not a person who is not theist is one way doesn’t represent atheism per se. And vice versa. However, there are specific doctrines attached to “Christianity” which can be called out as chasm driving, divisive, arrogant fostering, etc.

    Atheism isn’t a brand. It is response to theism. Theism sprung up because man wanted to fill a gap of ignorance with a god concept. Atheism is (a) theism. (without) theism. It holds no position but that it is without theism.

    As to my problem… no Tom… I’ve stated that theism itself is not a reasonable position independent of who is the theist. It would be ad hom to suggest the person is the problem – and I didn’t do that. And don’t. I am stating that this blogger’s post is not reasonable because it is riddled with fallacies. And that theism is derived from illogical arguments/positions.

    As to consistent: no. Not many of the arguments for theism are consistent. Some are, but they are rare. I can argue a more consistent position for theism, and have, but it still errs when it comes to Occam’s and the appeal to ignorance, as all arguments for theism will.

    As to all arguments being subjective and anyone claiming to know would then be “God”. That is a fallacy as well. Circular. And regardless, this is why we have critical thinking. No Tom, not all arguments are subjective. Some are very very objective. It’s important to apply good skills in determining our beliefs and knowledge. Pretending there is no standard is intellectually dishonest.

    I have no problem with the fact that the ancients told stories. I understand why the Hebrews included the “god” concept as well. Just because they attributed the rainbow as a sign from a god however, doesn’t mean it was. It also doesn’t mean there are no such things as rainbows. The plagues can be answered through very scientific methods, and yet, I can appreciate that an ancient man might think mystic must have done it. They again, didn’t have the same knowledge we have. I don’t dismiss the stories of the ancients as irrelevant. I look at the texts applying proper hermeneutics and determine that much is metaphor, much is historical, much is poetic, much is tradition, etc… but all of it came from a man who had a predetermined inclination based on indoctrination to attribute something to mystic when they needed to fill an ignorance gap.

    We can say more than just what we perceive. We can LEARN. And grow. And KNOW things. We don’t have to keep believing Santa lives in the North pole and will bring us presents. We can go out and buy ourselves a gift. We don’t have to believe that the stars are the dome of covering over us, we can instead KNOW that this planet is what it is. We aren’t trapped with just “I think – I feel – I don’t know – oh well”. We CAN know things, discover things. But we don’t need to let our unanswered questions default to a god just because anymore. We are smarter than this.

    That you don’t want to stop believing EVEN IN LIGHT OF ALL THE EVIDENCE AGAINST YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM shows me that your brain has wired itself and rewired itself so much that changing that is more a threat than not. Like staring at the DNA evidence and allowing a man to stay in prison because it has been fifty years since that trial and you were one of the jury members and to alter what you were so certain of… is… hard to do. But that won’t make your position the one that is correct or even close to progress.

    I’m not pitching atheism to you as some sort of system. I’m pitching knowledge to you and hoping that you opt to learn more about what actually is known – learn more about the human brain/body – learn more about all of it. And look at ALL the evidence OBJECTIVELY. I don’t do that to try to sell a brand to you. I do that to sell education to you.

    Start with critical thinking though. And that means an end to all the confirmation bias and appeals to ignorance.

    Hope that makes sense.

  1. Hawking’s comments are irrelevant, because no actual Christians believe purely on the basis of the teleological argument (or the cosmological argument). Hawking is surely right that the best scientific theory going does not entail theism. But neither does it entail atheism


    Elizabeth Grattan,

    I’m not a Christian (or even a theist, I’m an agnostic), but when you say that theism is illogical it’s traditional to point out precisely why it is illogical (attempts to do that might include the logical Problem of Evil, the paradox of the stone etc). To my knowledge, all attempts to show that theism is illogical fail.

    Not that much interesting follows from that. After all, plenty of perfectly logical positions are in fact false. So that theism is not illogical does not entail that theism is true.

  2. Also, great post Tom!

    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 4th, 2010


    If you don’t know that an appeal to ignorance is a logical fallacy and can’t read a sentence that states very clearly that… I’m sorry. But that isn’t on me, that’s on you.

    So, no, nothing failed here.

    And again, it would be a strawman to suggest I argued that because it is illogical or logical alone, etc.

    I suggest you get better reading comprehension and read my posts again.



    • Tom
    • September 4th, 2010

    Elizabeth (and others)

    I wonder what your thoughts would be on Peter Rollins, who believes that all true belief is in itself a kind of atheism.

    He puts it as “a/theism” – a sense that all acknowledgement of a God also requires a necessary acknowledgement that God is so much bigger than our concept of Him, and so all theism is also an intrinsic undoing of itself by nature, a simultaneous affirmation and disaffirmation of what we have said about Him.

    Check out his thought-provoking video, where he puts it better than i do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M65JTRhObV4. You may also be interested in his parable “the agnostic who became an atheist” here: http://peterrollins.net/blog/?p=40. It doesn’t answer everything, nor does it try to, but it’ll certainly make you think.

  3. Elizabeth,

    You have said things that seem to imply that you are attacking theism wholesale, not just particular arguements. For example, you state that theism is “unreasonable” and so on. Fair enough if I have misunderstood you, and you don’t actually think that theism is illogical (and instead, you merely think that particular arguments offered for theism/Christianity are not logically valid). Is that a fair statement of your position?

    If it is, then this still can’t get you where you want to go. For Tom has not claimed that he is trying to offer a logically sound argument for theism/Christianity. Indeed, he has explicitly denied that – see his dismissive comments about those who will try to “argue you into faith”.

    Tom was not going:

    1. I do not know how the universe was created
    2. Therefore, God did it (that would be an appeal to ignorance)

    Instead, it’s pretty clear that Tom was appealing to something like religious experience. So he didn’t make an appeal to ignorance (and arguments from religious experience are typically non-deductive so cannot be fallacious anyway …).

    Maybe you need to get better reading comprehension and read Tom’s posts again, instead of just charging in like a sophomore who’s just finished Logic 101.

    Just a thought,


    PS. Stop with the snark. Yes, I know this is Internet Town and such things are to be expected, but fucking hell.

    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 5th, 2010


    Again, it is you who need some better reading comprehension, since you appear to take things from their original contexts. You also lack the basic understanding of what is an argument and what isn’t.

    My statement was that theism is illogical, as all arguments for it eventually break down to an appeal to ignorance.

    I also stated that the original blog itself was loaded with a few fallacies as well on specific arguments.

    What Tom did was an attempt to appeal to consequence of belief, and I addressed that specifically as well.

    As to your request, I don’t take commands from others. And your request won’t be granted. Before you consider charging another with snark, perhaps you ought to read your own posts first. Put it this way, if you swing a punch at someone, be prepared for a swing back. If that swing hits harder… so be it.

    • Rob Hampson
    • September 6th, 2010

    I feel that in these kind of discussions communications can often be misinterpreted. So, although it seems that Ms Grattan is being intentionally rude and inflammatory, I will assume that this is not in fact intended. As any level headed individual knows that just because one is rude or “snarky”, it does not make you right.

    I believe Tom has attempted to use an auto-epistemic argument for his faith. i.e. If God did not exist, I would have had no experience of him. I have had experience of him. Therefore, he exists.

    This is not validly undermined by saying that our brains are wired to have religious experiences as that would also be expected in a world created by God. This is what I assume “You admit yourself that you are unaware of why your mind searches out “why” – but there exists evidence to show you exactly how this happens in the brain based on our wiring to survive.” was intended for. Incidentally you have produced none of the evidence mentioned and so you are also hoping to appeal to ignorance.

    Appeal to ignorance is also a fallacy that can be levelled against any world view which when posed with the question “why is there something rather than nothing?” does not answer “I don’t know” because there are no facts or assumptions which are externally verifiable which allow a deduction for the meaning (or meaninglessness) of existence.

    “Je pense donc je suis” allows us to verify the veracity of existence. From here we must choose whether or not to trust our senses. Tom’s reason for trusting his senses are that he thinks God created them to be accurate. I assume you believe that they evolved to be accurate. Though neither of these assumptions are externally verifiable, there is no reason to assume the accuracy of either our sensory perception or the reliability of our reason.

    P.S. Your comment “The argument that Christians do some good things so therefore… is a very poor one. Hitler did some great things.” is highly contemptible.

    At the start of the same post you say “Morality is – and has always been – highly subjective. … But to pretend that one set of values trumps another is again, subjective.” Well, Hitler was voted in democratically, and his ideas largely were the cultural norms and mores of his society. According to your own line of reasoning, your morality is not better or worse than that of Hitler. Ironically, that conclusion doesn’t even make the argument logically incorrect because to assume that would be to commit an appeal to emotion (a specific type of the appeal to ignorance fallacy which has been discussed).

    This is the reason that Godwin’s law is generally invoked to end these discussions. Anyone who is willing to irrelevantly refer to Hitler in an argument will quite clearly not listen to anything which anyone else has to say. Though this obviously has no effect on the logical veracity of either parties other statements.

    • Rob Hampson
    • September 6th, 2010

    Also you seem to be in high praise of education “We don’t lose by educating people. We win. We evolve.”

    If you want to educate people, you’ll get nowhere by making them feel like they are one inch tall. The best teacher’s I have known did not generally present many facts, but questioned in a manner which exposed the inconsistencies in my thinking and opened the door to a more coherant thought process. Socrates was well known for it, as, interestingly, was Jesus.

    I do apologise if any of my comments appear to be personal, they are not intended to be so. I try to argue with the idea and not the person.

    • elizabeth grattan
    • September 21st, 2010

    Just got back from traveling…

    my my…


    There is no appeal to ignorance in my post. What Tom is doing is stating that because he “experiences” something, it must be a god. I am stating that is a fallacy in reasoning. I am then also stating that we have no need to put a god in the gap, specifically because we are aware that our brains are wired for experience. People used to think dreams were prophesies of times to come as well, now we know that circuits are firing. We also know how the brain is interpreting many things. I haven’t appeal to ignorance in telling Tom that Occam’s renders his “must be god” invalid. Let’s also not forget, that burden is not resting on me. Shifting it, is a fallacy.

    And I’d also appreciate you not creating a strawman argument against my comments. I simply addressed the appeals to ignorance in this post and in the comments and introduced a different line of thinking that makes the “god” part unnecessary.

    The argument that because Christians do good is a poor argument. Not based on the morality and whether one perceives something as good or bad, but because it is a fallacy in reasoning. Just because Scotty takes out the trash doesn’t prove Scotty is a red head. The “Christians do good” is fallacious for other reasons as well, besides the non sequitur ones. Circumstantial Ad Hom, True Scotsman, etc… but none of that matters since whether or not Christians do good or bad has no bearing at all on whether or not a god exists or whether or not another cares.

    And my citing Hitler was to go to that overall point that the logic is bad and the terms are relative. That one person might very well view the acts “good” and another “bad”. Christians often feel that their rituals are “good” and yet, some of those rituals are viewed by others as “nonsense” and damaging. It all depends. So it is a poor argument to attempt to appeal to morality or any sort of appeal to the masses.

    I invoke Hitler to show a balance when the subject of “good” or “bad” or “masses” come up. It’s an objective stance. One can even make a case that he was a great leader, if “great” is defined as “charismatic, persuasive” etc. One might call him a horrid leader if “horrid” is defined as “cowardly” “racist” etc. Suggesting that invoking Hitler to show the point is somehow a sign of “not listening” is just nonsense.

    As to how people feel – my responsibility is not to make you feel one way or another. That is your responsibility. You likely don’t even read your own contradictions and hypocrisy. You chastise me and think that makes you worthy of chastising me? Your final thoughts were unnecessary and personal. You chose them to be. Who are you to think you are in any position to correct or instruct or lecture or “teach” me? Get the point yet?

    Take some time. Let that last part sink in.



  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: