God new evidence

GOD: new evidence

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Doubting atheism: how do you know that anything you think is true?

If you’re an atheist, how confident can you be that anything you think is true?

J B S Haldane

The geneticist and evolutionary biologist J B S Haldane (1892-1964) once said:

'If materialism is true, it seems to me that we cannot know that it is true. If my opinions are simply the result of the chemical processes going on in my brain, they are determined by the laws of chemistry, not those of logic.'

Charles Darwin

Darwin's doubt

Charles Darwin made a similar point:

'The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?'

If our brains have been produced by random un-directed evolution, is there any reason to be confident that anything we think is actually true?

Un-directed evolution might have produced brains that have true thoughts when these thoughts have immediate survival value - for example the belief that there is a lion lurking in the nearby long grass. But there is no reason to think that it would have produced brains that have true thoughts in more abstract and remote ideas – about mathematics, or quantum physics, or cosmology, or philosophy, or … evolution itself.

This puts the atheist in a bind: what reason do you have to think that anything you think is true?

Atheism and false belief

In fact, the argument is even stronger than this:

If there really is no God, then in at least one important case, un-directed evolution has produced a false belief in the vast majority of human beings. Most people who have ever lived have believed in some kind of God. This is just a fact. Atheism is strictly a minority report.

So if there is no God, in this important case, un-directed evolution has produced brains that hold a false belief.

But if we can be so wrong about something so important, why should we think we are right about anything at all?

Atheism is like a snake eating its own tail: if the truth of what we believe is so doubtful, why should we think we are right about atheism being true in the first place? The position is circular.

If you are an atheist, if you think there is no God, what reason do you have to think that anything you think is true?

It seems that the only way you can trust any of what you think is a giant leap of faith. In fact, just the thing of which you so often accuse theists.

David Couchman FRAS, M.Sc, M.A, M.Min, April 2013

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