A Counter-Rebuttal Regarding Atheism
by Peter Murphy
Mr. Eric R. Von Hoene has taken exception to my essay, “Deism and Atheism,” and offered a long winded complaint rather than a rebuttal. Nevertheless, for the sake of dialogue, I have undertaken to address each and every one of his concerns to demonstrate that they not only fail to constitute a refutation, but even a rebuttal since the items I raised have not been addressed except in the tone of a complaint. For those unaware of the difference between a refutation and a rebuttal, the former is disproving a position; the latter is speaking or writing against said position systematically and logically. I will quote Mr. Von Hoene, quote from the article “Deism and Atheism,” and add my own commentary to clarify the points. I will demonstrate that Mr. Von Hoene is resorting to the straw-man fallacy as well as lacking the skills to read correctly. Since Mr. Von Hoene has not offered a rebuttal, much less a refutation, I will counter by adding commentary.
Mr. Von Hoene’s complaint: “As an investigator of alternatives to Christianity and a new student of Deism, I was excited to find Peter Murphy's article, "Deism and Atheism". I was hoping it would provide a good comparison between these two beliefs, but unfortunately I was sadly disappointed. Quite the contrary, it is a poor attempt to support Deism over Atheism. It uses bad analogies, bad logic, and rhetorical appeals to emotions. Even a novice investigator could spot the efficiencies, to the extent that I wonder how the publishers of the Deism web site could refer to it as "outstanding" in any positive sense.”
Peter’s commentary: Unfortunately, Mr. Von Hoene has failed to demonstrate any bad analogies, bad logic, or rhetorical appeals to emotions. Although he mentions that a “novice investigator” could spot the efficiencies, I suspect he means inefficiencies, otherwise Mr. Von Hoene is asserting I wrote an efficient article, I must confess I would have enjoyed such a visit by this “novice investigator,” than what was offered by Mr. Von Hoene.
Mr. Von Hoene: “Murphy's main analogy is that of nature as a painting, and science's exploration of nature similar to studying the paints and canvas. This is straightforward enough (for, indeed, paints and canvas are a part of nature as well, so studying them IS studying nature). But Murphy then claims that "it is not too far a leap" for us to conclude that, just as a painting has a "creator" in the form of a painter, so nature must have some creator. Unfortunately, whether this is true or not, Murphy's "leap" is totally unjustified. Just because you can identify certain characteristics of two things (like nature and a painting [sic]) that share common attributes doesn't at all imply that all of their attributes are therefore equivalent.”
Peter’s commentary: It would be nice if Mr. Von Hoene had not resorted to a straw-man fallacy. I never wrote that all their attributes were equivalent! My statement that “it is not too far a leap” implies that a “leap” is in progress. This is in essence a leap of faith, but it is far less a leap than the theist argument of a personal god, or the atheist argument that there is no god. Even the principle of Occam’s razor accepts a “leap” if that leap is justified. One can argue that the foundations of a scientific theory begin with a leap of faith. One first must create a theory based on observation and then support it with evidence and logic. Even E=MC2 did not simply appear out of thin air accepted by the scientific community as a divine revelation; instead Einstein had to mathematically prove it.
Mr. Von Hoene: “For instance, I can use grapes as an analogy for oranges, and compare how they both have multiple seeds and a skin, are juicy, etc. But that doesn't mean that since these are similar characteristics, and that grapes are grown on a vine, that therefore oranges are grown on a vine. Or, that if I like grapes, then I'll like oranges. And to say that it is "not too far a leap" is ridiculous in a logical argument. If there is any disconnect at all that must be lept [sic], it is too far.”
Peter’s commentary: If I had made such a ridiculous argument, then Mr. Von Hoene would be justified in this criticism, but if one reads my article one will not find any such position taken by me. I will quote my article Deism and Atheism to show what I actually wrote:
“To begin, let us look at nature as an ever changing and shifting painting. Science attempts to understand what the paint and canvass is composed of, the relationship of the individual paints, and the brushstrokes that are involved in the final product. But, what about the painter? If one admits that nature is similar to a painting, than it is not too far a leap to conclude that a painter exists, or at least existed at one time.”
Peter’s commentary continued: Now as can be seen, my position is logically valid if one accepts the premises leading to the conclusion.
1) Nature resembles a painting.
2) Paintings have creators.
Conclusion: Nature has a Creator.
I am not saying that the above is true; only that if this particular view is taken of the issue than the conclusion does follow the premises according to the principles of deductive logic. All Mr. Von Hoene offered to counter my logic was to invent a straw-man fallacy without realizing the qualifying wording I used for the above demonstration.
Mr. Von Hoene: “Murphy also accuses Atheists of appealing to "science as an authority which cannot be challenged" for evidence that there is no "God". There are two problems with this approach. First, Murphy is supposed to be comparing Deism to Atheism. It isn't fair to the reader for the author to find an Atheist who is especially bad at explaining or defending Atheism, and use attacks against his poor arguments as justifications against Atheism.”
Peter’s commentary: It is sad that Mr. Von Hoene so easily resorts to misrepresentation of the positions of others. Where he gets the idea that I spoke to a single uninformed atheist before writing my article is a total mystery. I invite him to quote my article “Deism and Atheism,” and show us where I wrote any such thing. My article does compare Atheism and Deism as to the views both sides have where God is concerned; the Deist position passes Occam’s razor with far greater ease than the Atheist position, because the latter is rooted in reading too much out of science. As for the number of Atheists I have debated over the years, they would number between fifty and one hundred, and in every single case – without any exceptions – all
resort to either the unfounded assertion that “science has proven there is no god,” or “science has not found any god.” In both cases Atheists are either deceived or deceive themselves, for science has never made any claim that there is no god, and science is not looking for god. Any scientist will tell you that science is only beginning on its developmental road.
Mr. Von Hoene: “Although it seems reasonable to expect that Murphy's understanding of Atheism might come largely from his contact with various Atheists, an intelligent author who expects any credibility in a reputable publication must be able to look deeper than that, especially if he wants to come across as an authority.”
Peter’s commentary: Mr. Von Hoene implies I got my views from a single uninformed Atheist, second, he says I got it from contact with various Atheists – it would be nice if he made up his mind and proofread his complaint before submitting it. In case Mr. Von Hoene is unaware of how debate works, it is not the responsibility of one party in a debate to improve and correct the position of the other party. If Atheists cannot offer an intelligent and logically valid position on why there is no god, then it is not my responsibility to compensate for them. And where in my article “Deism and Atheism” did I imply that I want to come across as an authority?
Mr. Von Hoene: “I might as well in this rebuttal say that since I think Murphy's arguments are so bad, Deism must be nonsense. (I expect that most readers would disagree with that logic for one reason or another!”)
Peter’s commentary: Mr. Von Hoene implies my arguments are “so bad,” but has failed to demonstrate it. It is no surprise he offered no refutation, he cannot; it is no surprise he offered no rebuttal, he cannot; all he can offer is a complaint about how “bad” my article is but consistently failed to demonstrate it.
Mr. Von Hoene: “Second, Murphy appears confused himself about whether or not science will be the final judge. In his introduction he states, "The final resolution of this problem [Deism vs. Atheism] will eventually be up to science to settle." Then he makes the accusation of Atheists noted in the previous paragraph (claiming that their belief in the authority of science is ‘plagued’ with problems), and next follows it up with the statement that science makes no claims at all about the existence of a ‘God’. After that, he says it is a ‘fallacy’ to conclude that science will have the final word.”
Peter’s commentary: I will quote my article “Deism and Atheism” to see if Mr. Von Hoene has a valid point.
The question that arises about nature is: is it a creation, eternal to nature, or an accident within nature. The Deist will maintain that it is a creation, but Deists will differ as to degree of involvement on the part of the Creator in the process. The atheist will counter that it is either eternal, or accidental. The final resolution of this problem will eventually be up to science to settle.
The atheist continually resorts to the logical fallacy known as argumentum ad verecundiam (appeal to modesty) when dealing with Deists or even theists. The appeal here is to science as an authority which cannot be challenged. Unfortunately, this appeal is plagued by its own problems.
First of all, science makes no claims about God one way or another, so it is not the scientists who are for the most part claiming God does not exist on the grounds that there is a lack of evidence, but the scientific layman asserting it.
Second, science for all its great accomplishments is still in the infant stage, there is much about nature it simply does not know, even on this planet. So to conclude that a discipline, which has limitations here and now, somehow can conclude that something beyond its immediate ability to study is the final word, is logically speaking, a fallacy.
Peter’s commentary continued: I do not see any confusion in what I wrote, but I must confess Mr. Von Hoene does seem very confused due to his poor reading skills. In the first quoted section above, I mention that science will eventually settle the issue of rather the universe is eternal, an accident, or a creation. Unlike Atheists, Deists will patiently wait for this answer. In the second quoted section above, I only stated the obvious. Atheists are constantly appealing to science to “disprove” the idea of god. Atheists continually resort to ad verecundiam and in a desperate attempt to dismiss belief in God on the grounds that science has proven no god exists, or that science has found no god. Ad verecundiam is a fallacy, and I have yet to meet any Atheist who does not appeal to this particular fallacy as the linchpin of his position. In the third quoted section above, I simply state the fact that it is not the objective scientist, but the subjective layman who is making scientific assertions not based in science. And finally, in the forth quoted section above, I am stating what scientists like Carl Sagan have pointed out: science is in the infant stage. As such to conclude that science in its present state proves the oldest question in existence (is there a god?) is answered is untrue. So Mr. Von Hoene has confused the situation with his bad reading skills: science when it matures will eventually answer the god question; the Atheist appeal, not science, is plagued with difficulties; it is laymen and not scientist who make the assertion god does not exist; and finally, science is not at a stage where it can be appealed to as proof that god exists or does not exist.
Mr. Von Hoene: Throughout the rest of the article, there are several references to the fact that scientists don't know all the answers now, but are continually learning more.
Peter’s commentary: Only Mr. Von Hoene would see a problem with that position.
Mr. Von Hoene: It seems as if Murphy is arguing in circles, taking all sides and the middle of the issue just so long as he can decry the claims of people who might provide poor arguments in defense of Atheism.
Peter’s commentary: It would not seem so to a careful reader. I am being cautious in my article and honest to the evidence. I will confess without exception that all arguments in the defense of Atheism are poor arguments; all resort to the ad Verecundian fallacy. Mr. Von Hoene has confused a progression of ideas for a circular argument.
Mr. Von Hoene: “Murphy's rhetoric and choice of words is also disappointing. Atheists ‘continually resort to logical fallacies’ (how ignorant!); Atheists ‘demand’ (how belligerent!); Atheists "like to shift the burden of proof" (how rude!); Atheists ‘fear waiting’ (how impatient!); Atheists make ‘sweeping generalizations’ (how tedious!). Whereas Deists ‘recognize the limitations of belief’ (how endearing!); Deists ‘possess the courage to believe’ (how courageous!); Deists ‘should feel free’ (how liberated!); Deists ‘believe there is something more’ (how hopeful!); Deists ‘are willing to wait’ (how patient!); Deists ‘are keeping an open mind’ (how noble!).”
Peter’s commentary: Rhetoric is a tool of a poor argument. Mr. Von Hoene has not demonstrated I am wrong that Atheists “continually resort to logical fallacies”; or that Atheists “demand” that the believer in god take on all the responsibility for proving it; or that Atheists “like to shift the burden of proof”; or that Atheists “fear waiting” and want everyone here and now to reject the idea of God on the false grounds that “science has proven there is no god,” or “science has found no evidence for god” (science has found no proof for extraterrestrial life – does that mean we should permanently conclude no extraterrestrial life exists?); or that Atheists make “sweeping generalizations” about science and the belief in a creator. Deism is more
liberated in its thinking than Atheism. The former has a healthy respect for the unknown, while the latter dogmatically declares certain subjects to be unworthy of discussion. One need only have a discussion with an Atheist to see that each of the above will arise in the discussion on the part of the Atheist.
Mr. Von Hoene: “In conclusion, Peter Murphy's article is far from outstanding. It makes unsupported assertions, uses bad logic, misapplies analogies, takes multiple contrary positions, and leaves open-minded readers feeling nothing but distate [sic] for the article. Murphy makes his own sweeping generalizations of Atheists and Deists alike, resorts to his own logical fallacies, and shifts the burden of making a rational comparison between Deism and Atheism to somebody else.”
Peter’s commentary: Since Mr. Von Hoene has not demonstrated that my article makes any unsupported assertions, uses bad logic, misapplies analogies, or takes multiple contrary positions; I must conclude that he is a close-minded reader lacking the reading skills to even understand the article.
My generalizations about Atheists can be supported by merely sitting down with an Atheist and having a discussion on whether God exists or not. Mr. Von Hoene accuses me of resorting to logical fallacies, but he never identified these by name or provided the source material from my article to prove his point; he attempted to accuse me of resorting to a circular argument, but upon careful examination of the source material (my article), it becomes obvious he has confused the natural progression of the article for a fallacy. And if case Mr. Von Hoene is totally unaware of how debate functions, one party of a debate is not responsible for compensating for the weakness of the other party. If Atheists want to be taken seriously, then they have the burden to provide something better than appealing to science as the end all of the issue when science itself is in its infancy stage. I suggest that Mr. Von Hoene try to find an Atheist who will try to refute, or at least rebut, my article without resorting to the fallacy of ad Verecundian. I defy any Atheist to offer a refutation to my article and try and pull it apart.
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