Friday, January 17, 2014

"Evidence" not "Proof"

Nihilism; when the demand for proof is insatiable.

Evangelical atheist Larry Moran (See Sandwalk, 15  January Michael Egnor offers his proof of god(s)) quotes  Discovery Institute IDist Michael Egnor accordingly:

The proof of God's existence is in Larry Moran's nose, and everywhere, in every atom.
The fact that any subatomic particle moves in a predictable fashion-- let alone in a fashion as mathematically elegant as quantum mechanics-- is straightforward evidence for God's existence. It is, in fact, God's handiwork, manifest everywhere and always.

After that quote Moran makes no further comment as he probably thinks Egnor has made enough of a faux pas for it to act as argument against Egnor’s version of "IDiocy".

This talk of “proof of God” should end. Evidence is seldom, if ever, inductive and therefore seldom, if ever, provides “proof”.  As I have put it in this blog post:

Theoretical Narrative => Evidence

Evidence !=> Theoretical Narrative

That is, almost always theoretical notions are far larger objects than their evidences and therefore theoretical explanation of evidence is an act of incorporation into an object that has far higher logical level than the evidence. In short, we move (in a conceptual sense) from our theoretical ideas to the evidences and not the other way round. The evidences then are seldom, if ever, proof. Moreover, it is not always possible to use our theories to anticipate evidences (i.e. predict them) and we may have to be satisfied with embedding the evidences post-facto.  This is an elementary epistemic point.

From Moran’s quote alone it is not clear whether or not Egnor grasps all this; but why else would he kick atheist butt by using words like “proof”? The evidences for God are by and large incorporated into one's theology after they are known (i.e. post-facto) and this incorporation involves a proactive imaginative leap. Nothing wrong with that as all science, to a lesser or greater degree, engages in this activity of imaginative incorporation. However, my sympathies are with atheists who feel they just can’t make this bold imaginative leap even though mere  “law and disorder” science is obliged to leave us with a logical hiatus; either that or a resort to a  Turtles-all-the-way-down regress. If atheists feel that this dead end is good enough for them and that the law and disorder logic of the physical sciences needs no metanarrative I don’t feel I can complain; after all many intelligent mammals seem entirely satisfied with an understanding of their surroundings that goes no further than understanding the patterns of behaviour in their environment. If this is the heart of atheism then it is no surprise that atheists are going to feel annoyed if hassled by Egnor with arguments that he calls “proof” of God when they are no such thing.

But if Egnor doesn't understand the nature of explanation it seems that neither does Larry Moran. Like many other evangelical atheists his vehemence prevents him from reviewing his meaning of the word “explanation” and he is therefore stuck in a dualistic verbal trap where for him its either a “natural explanation” (good) or a “supernatural explanation” (bad). Evangelical fervency has never been conducive to a dispassionate and studied detachment from one’s views. Polarization and argumentative battle lines prevent this.

Some relevant links:

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