Atheism

The Rationality of Believing in God Without Evidence — Part 2

In Part 1 we examined the basic arguments for God’s existence, the concept of the fitrah – otherwise known as ‘intuition’ – and how it works.[1] In this part we will elucidate the justification behind the intuition’s existence, how evidence is not always necessary, and how belief in God is intuitively justifiable.

Does the Fitrah Actually Exist?

The philosophical support behind the intuition is based on the recognition that: (1) there are such things as ‘reality’ and ‘knowledge’, and (2) that human beings can grasp both at a normative level of cognition. In regards to the first, without acknowledging these concepts, then there would be no point to intellectual discourse at all. The author of this treatise would be wasting his time and his words would ultimately have no real meaning. Likewise, the reader would have no real reason to disagree or agree with the points herein and would suffer from a terrible conflict of apprehending something that he or she doesn’t even believe is possible to apprehend. As such, I suspect that no one would dare attempt to refute the first of these points, lest they wish to succumb to absurdities.

As to the second point, to have any real grasp of the external (and internal world of the human mind), there needs to be an immutable, consistent grounds of comprehension. In other words, there needs to be a foundational component which makes ‘reality’ and ‘knowledge’ have any real meaning at all. If our cognitive functions were always in flux, then it would be impossible to grasp anything, because the interpretation of ‘anything’ would never be fixable at any given point – time itself would become so relative that it literally would not be understood to exist. Therefore, to negate this construct in the affairs of human understanding leads to the consequence of negating reality and knowledge itself. And while it can be easily admitted that the human mind is limited and cannot grasp reality to its fullest extent, it is necessary that some foundational interpretative abilities exists so as to be able to even grasp it in-part.

However, even if one were to agree with the above arguments they may suggest that the intuition is “not fully reliable” and cannot possibly interpret reality with a high degree of accuracy due to the phenomenon of the errors of initial impressions. In other words, the experience of illusions counters the idea of any sort of normative interpretative abilities.

Although this contention may be considered ‘conventional wisdom’, and is the hallmark argument of avowed anti-intuitionists, it has two flaws which undermine its conclusions entirely. Firstly, it is incorrect to assert that ‘initial impressions’ and ‘intuition’ are the same thing. This has been a major misunderstanding throughout the history of philosophy and science. As discussed earlier, initial impressions only constitute one part in a cycle that makes up the intuition. Secondly, and more importantly, initial impressions are only wrong when there is not enough data to support the existence of an alternative impression. For example, if a person is walking through the desert and comes across what he thinks to be water, he is in all likelihood justified for believing what he sees as water. Why? Because he has no other reason to suspect otherwise. Now, if prior to this experience he had direct or indirect knowledge of mirages, then and only then would he have reason to be skeptical of seeing water. Therefore, it is a gross error to suggest that an incorrect initial impression amounts to the intuition being unreliable.

The anti-intuitionist may then retort, “Okay, I agree that data plays a role in how things are perceived, however, the mirage in question still looks like water, even if the person experiencing it knows that it is a mirage!”

But this is not as clever as it may appear. In response to the fact that a mirage still looks like water: there is a vast difference between how things seem and what they mimic. In other words, there is a vast difference between what we think something is and what we think something looks like. The fact that we know something is a mirage cancels out any possibility of it being water regardless of appearances. Likewise, the fact that we know something is a manikin cancels out the possibility of it being a human being. Likewise, the fact that we know something is a cloud cancels out the possibility of it being a rabbit, turtle, or any other hosts of animal forms, etc. In essence, the fact that we can differentiate between what a thing is and what it mimics is enough to counter the aforementioned retort; it is additional data alone which makes this differentiation possible. Initial impressions are just that – initial. To suggest that this makes up the totality of our intuition is simply a strawman.[2]

However, perhaps more damaging of anti-intuitionism is the fact that illusions even exist to begin with. In other words, the very idea of an ‘illusion’ is only possible if we are aware of the reality that is being obfuscated. To suggests that being tricked by an illusion demonstrates the unreliability of intuition is self-refuting – how can something so “unreliable” be able to correct itself? The very concept of ‘unreliability’ does not allow for the possibility of being reliable enough not to be unreliable!

Inferior-Mirage (1)

Figure 1.
How a mirage works.

Perhaps a fairer challenge to the concept of intuition is the fact that mutually exclusive beliefs are held across humanity. Why are there so many ideologies, religions, political views, economic views, cultural values, etc.? The first and primary reason, much akin to the response to the issue of illusions, is that people form their beliefs on the amount of data that they have at hand. Given the limitations of what people are able to experience within their lifetime and the environments in which they live it is not surprising that many diametrically opposing views exists.

This why the Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) made clear that the normative intuition may be used by a child’s parents – “who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian [or Zorastrian]”[3] – to foster incorrect beliefs, and that Allah had to send Prophets to remind humanity of the truth. Thus, according to Islam, the amount of available data is a necessary condition towards belief formation.

That said, there are two other reasons that explain differences in beliefs throughout the world. The second reason is known as cognitive dissonance, or the wilful suppression of what a person knows to be true due to some emotional or material gain. While it is commonly perceived that people choose their beliefs because they desire to find truth, in actuality, most choose beliefs based on convenience (e.g. economic gain, political gain, social status, etc.). This is highlighted in the concept of kufr, which literally means “to cover”. This is why the Qur’an often mentions certain people as kuffar (s. kafir): it is directing its condemnation specifically at those who are knowledgeable of the truth, but refuse to accept it for less-than justifiable reasons. In other words, Allah takes into account the difference between ignorance and the willful suppression of reality – the former is innocent, whereas the latter is guilty.

The third and final reason as to why people have different worldviews is that they may be mentally deficient in some way or another; meaning, they are not part of normative society. Although still very much human and endowed with rights and privileges from Allah, mentally disturbed individuals don’t possess the same capacity of contemplation as everyone else and thus may – more often than not – form false and delusional beliefs. Naturally, this is no fault of their own and we must have compassion for such people, although it explains why some find it difficult to assimilate into society and form certain beliefs. For instance, in the context of this article, there have been a few scientific studies which have found a strong link between autism and atheism, the most recent of which states:

Religious believers intuitively conceptualize deities as intentional agents with mental states who anticipate and respond to human beliefs, desires and concerns. It follows that mentalizing deficits, associated with the autistic spectrum and also commonly found in men more than in women, may undermine this intuitive support and reduce belief in a personal God.[4]

And while it is certain that the majority of atheists are not autistic, these sort of studies suggests mental deficiencies as one major cause behind lacking belief in God.

Is Evidence Always Necessary?

The inevitable trump card of many atheists reads like this: “I won’t believe anything you say unless a peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal supports your conclusions!”. Apparently, after having said these magic words, the discussion ceases to be and the victor graduates from Hogwarts. In other words, the mere mention of something not having scientific evidence waives away any possibility of it being a reasonable explanation at all. And while it is tempting to assume that a consensus among the scientific community – or research output from supposedly objective donors (i.e. Monsanto)[5] – is all that is needed to prove a point, such reasoning is invalid if not shallow at best.

However, the qualification that scientific evidence is a necessary condition for any belief rests on a more foundational premise: the assumption that everything requires evidence to begin with. As such, prior to discussing the limitations of science, it is pertinent to make clear when evidence is necessary by focusing on the very thing that triggers that need: doubt.

In the philosophical community there is a sharp distinction between what is typically considered the activity of ‘doubting’ and the ideology of Skepticism. The former is a common phenomenon which every normal human being experiences countless times throughout their life. The essence of being doubtful is not an extraordinary gift endowed to a select few (i.e. atheists, scientists, etc.) conjured up after every experience, like some super power endlessly tapped into for the mere pleasure of it. Rather, it is an automated response triggered by an unexpected or contradictory intake of data (anomalies). For instance, when I walk outside and see a tree I don’t have much reason to be doubtful of what I’m seeing. However, if for some reason the tree begins to ‘behave’ or appear in a way contrary to what would otherwise be considered ‘normal’, then and only then would I have sufficient reason to doubt. In other words, human beings do not begin their journey of discovery by willing themselves to doubt[6], rather this is the natural response to confusion. As philosopher Peter Klein rightly notes:

The point here is that…in all ordinary cases of incredulity, the grounds for the doubt can, in principle, be removed. As Wittgenstein would say, doubt occurs within the context of things undoubted. If something is doubted, something else must be held fast because doubt presupposes that there are means of removing the doubt…That is, we think our general picture of the world is right—or right enough—so that it does provide us with both the grounds for doubt and the means for potentially removing the doubt. Thus, ordinary incredulity about some feature of the world occurs against a background of sequestered beliefs about the world. We are not doubting that we have any knowledge of the world. Far from it, we are presupposing that we do know some things about the world. To quote Wittgenstein, “A doubt without an end is not even a doubt”.[7]

The “doubt without an end” mentioned by the famous philosopher of mind, Ludwig Wittgenstein, refers to that which is distinguished from normal doubt: the ideology of Skepticism. Unlike doubt, which assumes reality and then works through a trial and error process to reach a coherent understanding, Skepticism is an assumption of unreality which seeks to find truth by requiring validation for every experience and claim. The skeptic believes that they are doing a service to knowledge and their own integrity by implicitly asserting that everything is illusionary. However, by doing so, they unintentionally undermine any means towards comprehension by forgetting to include their own foundational assumption into the equation! In other words, by assuming that everything is illusionary, they must also logically conclude that their means towards finding truth (evidence) is also an illusion – thus rendering their own methodology self-refuting.

Perhaps the best example of Skepticism may be found in the movie The Matrix. The story behind this pop-culture classic revolves around the idea that ‘reality’ is in actuality a computer program which project false images into the collective mind of humanity to distract us, generated by a malevolent species of machines that harvest us for energy. The few humans that know the truth of this are only capable of doing so because the program isn’t perfect and can be hacked by others born in the “real world”, briefly allowing those imprisoned to see behind the façade. However, while the overall environment of the movie is representative of Skepticism, the actions of the people who have freed themselves from the matrix reflect the proper understanding of what it means ‘to doubt’ – they were only able to become free because of perceived anomalies.

DoubtSkepticFinal

Figure 2.

On the other hand, a good example of normal doubt are the court justice systems across the globe. The belief that people normatively desire good is manifested in the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty” (right before wrong/reality before unreality) and is itself a paradigm. Anomalies which disrupt this are acts of crime, which must be determined whether or not fit within the paradigm’s boundaries. For example, if a person is suspected of committing murder (causing doubt regarding their ethical behavior), the courts are triggered to find evidence as to whether the individual has violated ethical norms or has a valid excuse (i.e. self defense). In the event that it is proven that a murder has indeed been committed, the presumption of the individual’s innocence is overturned. Whereas, if we were to follow the skeptic’s understanding of doubt and evidence, the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty” would itself be suspect and ultimately invalidated.

So when is evidence necessary? Following the aforementioned discussion, it is clear that evidence is predicated on doubt, which in turn is predicated on the existence of anomalies. When evidence is called for, the supposed anomaly is either incorporated into the paradigm or forces it to change. In other words, evidence is ultimately a response to data that challenges what we think we know; it is not the way we know. There is no need for evidence in every instance of data intake, because the reason we construct our worldviews (paradigms) is entirely for the sake of making our collective experiences coherent. Our understanding of the world does not present itself like a story-book progressing from the first chapter to the last. On the contrary, we have to make up the story as we go along, and it is the intuition (fitrah) that allows us to do this.

The Limitations of Science

Most atheists who believe that everything requires evidence are blissfully unaware that their own criteria cannot be validated – there is no evidence for the claim that “everything requires evidence”, much less that scientific evidence is superior to all others. Neither is the retort that “science works” a fail-safe since it is not immune to the context of ‘everything’. To play on the words of Wittgenstein: “evidence without an end is not even evidence”. Likewise, the concept of ‘falsifiability’ suffers the same fate, which is why most philosophers of science abandoned it long ago, including its most loyal proponent, Sir Karl Popper.[8]

Commenting on the true nature of scientific theories, the philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn, had this to say:

Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly, i.e., with the recognition that nature has somehow violated the paradigm-induced expectations that govern normal science. It then continues with a more or less extended exploration of the area of anomaly. And it closes only when the paradigm theory has been adjusted so that the anomalous has become the expected. Assimilating a new sort of fact demands a more than additive adjustment of theory, and until that adjustment is completed-until the scientist has learned to see nature in a different way — the new fact is not quite a scientific fact at all.[9]

In other words, science operates on the basis of normal doubt, not Skepticism. Theories are produced so as to make coherent all the available data. When something is encountered that does not fit within a theory, the latter is restructured so as to accommodate for it. As anomalies become more problematic, the theory eventually begins to ‘swell’ and becomes unreasonably convoluted. At this point a ‘shift’ begins to occur and an alternative theory is constructed that better explains the data at hand.

Perhaps the best example of how this works may be found in the shift from Geocentricism to Heliocentricism. When the latter was eventually adopted over the former, it was not due to the fact that someone had directly experienced the sun being at the center of our galaxy; rather, the idea was formulated as a result of the Earth-centric model not being able to adequately accommodate anomalous information. That said, unlike most atheists’ perceptions of science – where theories are “discovered” after a progressive accumulation of data due to some arbitrary initiating of doubt – irregularities trigger a natural tendency to doubt which then lead us to construct more coherent narratives. As the philosopher of science, Willard Quine, explained:

Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries – not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer. Let me interject that for my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer’s gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise…The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience.[10]

Quine’s input sheds light on another matter as well: the scope of science. While many atheists are busying themselves asking for scientific evidence for every claim and experience known to man, they forget to entertain the possibility of their method’s limitations. Science can only deal with the realm of the physical. As such, discussions regarding metaphysical or supernatural entities are outside of its purview. Despite the obviousness of this however, many atheists have insisted otherwise, claiming that nothing can escape the assessment of scientific inquiry. The late Victor Stenger was one such atheist who went so far as to say that ‘God’ was a “scientific hypothesis” meant to “explain the natural world”.[11] Although perhaps an attempt to counter young Earth creationists, nevertheless Stenger’s reasoning is theologically and scientifically naïve.

Atheists may retort by suggesting that because God intervenes in creation – through miracles, revelation, etc. – He then becomes part of the natural realm and can be “discovered”; much like the footprints of an animal prove the existence of said animal. And although this may be a tempting argument to accept, it suffers from one glaring flaw: signs are no indication that something exists, rather their existence is predicated on the very thing they’re pointing to. In other words, footprints presuppose the existence of the feet that put them there to begin with. Street signs pointing towards a city presuppose the existence of that city, and so on. Thus, it is fallacious to claim that God is a “scientific hypothesis” that can be tested simply by virtue of supposed signs of intervention.[12]

Regardless of the above, it is difficult to believe that many atheists aren’t already aware of these limitations given their commitment to Naturalism, or the view that “an accurate, adequate conception of the world does not…include reference to supernatural entities or agencies.”[13] As a logical consequence of this, the only way we can truly understand reality is through contemporary scientific reasoning. Taking it even further, the only way that a conception of reality can have any meaning at all is by reference to the natural world. In fact, this is the very argument proposed by atheist philosopher George Smith:

Naturalism has the priority over supernaturalism, not because it is the more economical of two explanations, but because it is the only framework in which explanation is possible…the contest between naturalism and supernaturalism is not a battle between two rival modes of explanation…Naturalism is the only context in which the concept of explanation has meaning.[14]

These sort of conclusions are perhaps why many atheists commit the category error of comparing the concept of God with mythological creatures such as fairies, unicorns, and the like. For an atheist, it is difficult to understand that scientifically unverified phenomena are any different from each other. Thus, atheists struggle to differentiate between imagination and conception. The former is simply being able to meaningfully picture something in your mind, whereas the latter is understood in a purely abstract manner. It’s like the difference between viewing a painting and interpreting what it means – understanding its forms is not the same as understanding its significance. Take for example the myth of “fairies”. Fairies are not complicated things to imagine, because they’re just a composite of shrunken human forms with insect wings; all we need to do is combine two naturally experienced phenomena to construct these storybook creatures. And why are they mythological? Simply put: we expect things that can be imagined to be empirically verified. However, conceptions like ‘love’, ‘ethics’, ‘loyalty’, and ‘truth’ are not possible to imagine, much less experience in full – but we know that it’s rational to believe in their existence in that they ultimately define our humanity.[15] The things that we can’t imagine are just as real as those we can. However, atheists fail to understand the rationality of believing in God or anything else comparable because they’re too busy believing in things that can only be reduced to their perverse understanding of scientific inquiry. This might also explain why every atheist I’ve ever accompanied to an art gallery had such poor tastes – but I suppose that’s for another essay.

Figure 3. "Pardon of Brittany" by Gaston de la Touche

Figure 3.
“Pardon in Brittany” by Gaston de la Touche. My favorite work of art which has  significance beyond its form.

However, it is not only a limitation of Naturalism that it must reduce meaning to the cold barren world of the physical, but it is also the reason that it is incorrect. If Naturalism is true, then it should be impossible to conceive of anything meaningful beyond its context. In other words, the very fact that we can even think of things like ‘God’ and believe in them proves Naturalism to be false – whether advocated dogmatically or by methodology:

1) If Naturalism is true, then internal and external experiences can only have meaning within the context of Naturalism.

2) Given boundaries, no number of internal and external experiences should allow for the possibility of conceiving something beyond the context of Naturalism.

3) However, internal and external experiences do lead to the formation of meaningful concepts beyond the context of Naturalism (i.e. God).


C) Therefore, Naturalism is false.

The Rationality of Believing in God Without Evidence

The famous atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins once wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”.[16] He would confess the same later in a debate with the Christian mathematician, John Lennox:

We all of us share a kind of religious reverence for the beauties of the universe, for the complexity of life, for the sheer magnitude of the cosmos, the sheer magnitude of geological time. And it is tempting to translate that feeling of awe and worship into a desire to worship some particular thing; a person, an agent. You want to attribute it to a maker, to a creator. What science has now achieved is an emancipation from that impulse to attribute these things to a creator and it’s a major emancipation because humans have an almost overwhelming desire to think that they’ve explained something by attributing it to a maker.[17]

Likewise, Michael Shermer, the popular atheist and editor of the magazine Skeptic claims the following based on his own personal experience and contemporary scientific research:

We believe in the supernatural because we believe in the natural and we cannot discriminate between the two. We create gods because we are natural-born supernaturalists, driven by our tendency to find meaningful patterns and impart to them intentional agency. The gods will always be with us because they are hard-wired into our brains.[18]

Similarly, there are many atheists who have given accounts of not being able to rid themselves of the ever-present interpretation that God actually exist.[19] And while this inability to remove such a notion is not evidence for God’s existence, naturalistic explanations for why it is there to begin with are neither evidence for His non-existence. To make this conclusion either way is simply a genetic fallacy, or an invalid form of reasoning which seeks to support a conclusion on the basis of where it came from.[20]

However, what such a notion does prove is that theism is more rational than atheism. How is this the case? Given the overall aforementioned discussion, the intuition is the very means by which knowledge is acquired and interpreted. As such, there can be no such knowledge or interpretation that undermines it, because it would be undermining itself. Impressions of reality are ultimately derived from the mind’s in-built commentary of the external and internal world. In other words, the reason we understand reality the way we do is because the mind is projecting how it sees itself on to everything else; a mirror image. And because the mind is the only way by which we comprehend, it is impossible for us to seek any alternatives to this projection.

The concept of God is not some innate belief, but is inferred from the mind’s own inner workings, which are not bound by the constraints of natural laws – that is why we are able to ‘see’ beyond direct observations and conceive of abstract notions (theories) which make them coherent.  The very enterprise of science is predicated on the mind’s ability to project its own coherent structure on to the external world, otherwise known as ‘cognitive translation’.

When we perform introspection, we see certain attributes like ‘love’, ‘morality’, ‘intelligence’, ‘agency’ etc. We then project these same attributes on to our collective experience and then further infer a holistic understanding of reality, which then interprets these attributes as being superseded by something greater than our minds can possibly imagine. In other words, we naturally and meaningfully conceive of something greater than ourselves without limits (i.e. God) which makes coherent the very projection in question; it runs full circle and offers us validation that our minds are reliable interpreters of reality. On the other hand, the worldview of Naturalism creates an unnecessary dichotomy between the mental and the physical, reducing the former to the latter. The avowed atheist does this without even realizing that the inner realm of the mind is the source of how reality should be perceived and not the external world which is received by it!

Now atheists the world over may cheer in victory that their belief “God is man made” has been validated, thus proving theism “irrational”. However, this would be a naïve conclusion to reach. Not only is God not “man made”, but the very fact that God is a projection of the intuitive experience actually runs counter to accusations of irrationality. Firstly, no human being wills the projection of God – it is simply a natural exercise of the mind. Secondly, as noted earlier, the fact that such a conception is even possible – under the supposed constraints of a purely natural world – undermines the atheistic narrative. And thirdly, considering the rational nature of doubt, theism is more justified than atheism. This is made evident in the following two arguments:

1) Impressions are rational if and only if they cohere to the intuitive experience.

2) Evidence is only necessary to validate impressions if anomalies appear to disrupt their coherency.

3) Anomalies do not appear to disrupt the coherency of the impression ‘God’.


C) Therefore, the impression ‘God’ is rational and evidence is not necessary for its validation.


1) Impressions are rational if and only if they cohere to intuitive experience.

2) Evidence is only necessary to validate impressions if anomalies appear to disrupt their coherency.

3) The impression ‘God’ is an anomaly which appears to disrupt the coherency of the impression ‘No God’.

4) No evidence has been provided to validate the impression ‘No God’.


C) Therefore, the impression ‘No God’ is irrational.

And it is with this understanding that belief in God is rationally grounded and in no need of evidence to support it. And while there may be disagreements as to the true nature of the unseen realm, these are issues for which the atheist is excluded on the basis that they defy the rational grounds for such a discussion to begin with. Hence, it is unnecessary to go further than the points mentioned here.

Concluding Remarks

After having elucidated the proper understanding of the fitrah, how it works, the arguments in support of it, and the flaws of counter arguments, I now wish to conclude with two clarifications.

The first clarification is in regards to the source of my ideas and whether or not I have borrowed them from other individuals, such as Hamza Tzortzis and his article “Denying God, Denying Reality: Why we Don’t Need Evidence for God”.[21] Although I believe that all ideas are ultimately derived from a collective pool of musings (then reconfigured into ingenuity) and have tremendous respect for Br. Hamza, I must state that none of my views have been taken from him. That is to say that I did not ‘steal’ his ideas. This is evident in the fact that not only are my arguments much different, but also because I have been entertaining these ideas far longer than Br. Hamza. For instance, you can see atheists attempting to attack my arguments as early as 2010.[22] The arguments displayed here were also the subject of my Master’s thesis,[23] though heavily modified since then. Although a newcomer to the dawah circuit, it should be of no surprise that I am writing about this subject given my experience with it over the years.

The second clarification is in respect to my understanding of science . I am in no way attacking science in this essay, rather I am simply explaining how it works and its limitations. I have great respect for the scientific enterprise as well as many scientists. In fact, one of my favorite popularizers of science was the late evolutionary biologist, Stephen J. Gould. The reason for me being so vehemently opposed to many atheists’ understanding of science is because they clearly don’t know what it is and are simply using it to fulfill their own agenda. This is also why I will not accept from any atheist “scientific proofs” opposed to the arguments in this article because I don’t believe one can construct a proper philosophical explanation or refutation of something purely by means of empirical phenomena. Telling me “this scientifically peer reviewed paper says X” does nothing to refute my arguments because it betrays the context and theorizing from which those scientists are deriving their conclusions. And it is with great confidence that I say that most scientists don’t have the faintest idea regarding the implications of their own research. In other words, let us philosophers do our job and let the scientists do theirs.

With that, I wish to say that I am grateful to my readers for their curiosity and their sincere devotion towards understanding and finding Truth. May Allah guide you and bless you for your efforts. I only ask that you make dua for me that Allah forgive me of my sins and allows this work to bring good to the world. If I am wrong in anything it is because of my own limitations, and if I am correct, it is by the Grace of Allah.

Jazak’Allah Khaira.


ENDNOTES

[1] https://thedebateinitiative.com/2015/08/17/the-rationality-of-believing-in-god-without-evidence-part-1/

[2] A strawman fallacy is a term used to describe an invalid form of refutation which misrepresents an opponent’s arguments (whether intentionally or not). The reason it is called a “strawman” is in reference to how farmers create human figures out of straw to chase away birds or other pests away from their crops. In other words, it’s a “fake argument”.

[3] Sahih Muslim, Book 33, #6423

[4] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0036880

[5] Monsanto is a controversial pesticide and bioengineering firm which has caused harm to the environment and public health. It is well known that they provide a substantial amount of funding towards research grants – and the scientists behind them – to manufacture studies and conclusions that relieve them of any responsibility from the damages their products cause.

[6] It may be proposed that people do in fact will themselves to doubt when trying to overcome their biases. However, I argue that people are only able to supress doubt – through cognitive dissonance – and must cease doing so for their natural tendencies to take effect. In other words, when someone “wills doubt” they are simply allowing their mind (intuition) to perform as it typically would if uninhibited.

[7] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/#PhiSkeVsOrdInc

[8] Popper, K. (1972) Objective Knowledg: An Evolutionary Approach Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 40, n. 9.

[9] Kuhn, T. (1996) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 3rd Ed., Chicago University Press, Chicago, pp. 52-53.

[10] Quine, W. (1961). “The Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” From A Logical Point of View: Logico-Philosophical Essays, Harper & Row, New York, USA, p. 44.

[11] Refer to Stenger, V. (2007) God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, Prometheus Books, New York.

[12] As a controversial addition to this discussion, this is likewise a problem for theists who think they can prove the existence of God based on scientific reasoning, which is frankly why using the Teleological Argument (Design Argument) alone is a weak persuasive method for other than the already initiated. This is especially the case for Muslims given that the Islamic perspective substantiates that signs are merely guides, not proofs of existence (Al-Qur’an, 41:52-53). Further, Allah states that He is the Creator and Facilitator of all things (Al-Qur’an, 39:62), thus making it clear that it is impossible to differentiate between what can and cannot be evidence for design.

[13] http://www.iep.utm.edu/naturali/#H2

[14] Smith, G. (1979) Atheism: The Case Against God, Prometheus Books, New York, pp. 233-234.

[15] A contention may be raised that we can imagine things like ‘love’, etc. by referring to instances where such concepts manifest themselves in human action. However, this is fallacious because such actions are merely signs of these conceptions and are not fully understood. Further, there are other examples that can be given which support this point, such as the idea of a ‘thousand sided shape’. It is rational to believe in this idea, despite not being able to imagine or experience it in full.

[16] Dawkins, R. (1986) The Blind Watchmaker, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, p. 1.

[17] http://www.protorah.com/god-delusion-debate-dawkins-lennox-transcript/

[18] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304198004575172233981688208

[19] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-atheist-god-lingering-religion-20160205-story.html

[20] http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#Genetic

[21] http://www.iera.org/research/essays-articles/denying-god-denying-reality-dont-need-evidence-gods-existence

[22] http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/2010/10/theism-is-default-position.html

http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/2010/03/on-aetv-today.html

[23] Al-Andalusi, A. (2014). Islamic Intuitionism: The Case Against Atheistic Evidentialism [Master’s Thesis], Kuala Lumpur: IIUM.

20 replies »

  1. Hi Roy, Peace to you.

    Thank you for posing your question.

    Regarding your question, I believe the view of Theists and also philosophers in general is that everything is not caused….everything that has a beginning needs a cause.

    God does not have a beginning. Therefore, God does not need a cause.

    Asadullah, great essay…very profound masha’Allah and it is a nice commentary to 30:30 in the Qur’an regarding fitrat (intuition).

  2. I note that, according to wikipedia, “Skepticism” has a number of definitions, none of which involve “assuming unreality”.

    Indeed, this website https://skeptoid.com/skeptic.php describes “Skepticism” as “The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.”

    It therefore seems to me that the “proof” given here that skepticism is irrational looks a lot like a strawman fallacy(see note 2 above).

    Given that it looks like a strawman fallacy, and not encountering any anomalies, one must consider it rational to believe that it is a straw man fallacy.

    • L Greaves,

      I understand you’re trying to be clever, but if you’re going to refute a point, in the very least know how the author is supporting his interpretation (via this peer reviewed reference: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/#PhiSkeVsOrdInc) and don’t use wikipedia or some other layman opinion of the term.

      My rendition of skepticism was for the layperson (yourself) to understand — and since there are many definitions, as you like to claim– you shouldn’t mind someone like me, who is an academic philosopher (holds a Bachelors and Masters in the field), offering a summarized version.

      In other words, if you’re going to try a refutation, know what and who you’re actually responding to first and then be sincere with your response.

      Thank you.

      • I don’t mind a qualified person offering a summary of something. However, according to your reference, skepticism is essentially the assumption that it is not possible to know if something is real or not. This is not the same as assuming unreality. Therefore your original argument still looks like a strawman. This part of my post was sincere.

        Using your own reasoning to conclude that it was rational to believe it was what it looks like, was, of course, me having a bit of a joke, albeit one with a point. Well spotted.

        Not being an academic philosopher that holds a Bachelors and Masters in the field, I can’t really counter your argument from authority, so it will have to stand.

        • This is more like it.

          Yes, it is an assumption of “unreality” in the sense that everything needs to be validated prior to being considered “real”. In that sense, everything is assumed to be “unreal” until validated as “real”.

          I don’t see how I’m misconstruing the essence of Skepticism here.

          • Salam,
            I have recently noted the rise of YouTube atheists in response to ideologies feminism.
            Would you consider debating with these individuals.

              • If I understand the article you cited correctly, Skeptic philosophers assert not that you need to validate everything to determine its actuality, but that it is not possible to validate anything to determine its actuality.

                So we are back to a straw man.

                • That is only one form of skepticism.

                  Now, I’m going to interject once more. It doesn’t seem to me you are very serious about discussing this or learning about the issue at hand — in fact, prior to reading anything you were already attacking what you don’t understand.

                  That said, I don’t think anything fruitful will come from further discussion — because it seems you are only interested in me being wrong and you being right.

                  • Well, I have now learned that when you said “Skepticism is irrational” you meant ” One form of skepticism is irrational”. That would explain why it looked like a straw man.

  3. Salam,
    I have recently noticed the rise of YouTube atheists In response to ideologies like feminism ,
    Would you consider debating with these atheists.

  4. P: “If Naturalism is true, then it should be impossible to conceive of anything meaningful beyond its context. ”

    1: Different contexts exist within the context of Naturalism.

    2: Meaningful things exist in Naturalism that are not within a particular context

    3: Therefore the concept of something meaningful existing beyond a context exists within the context of Naturalism.

    4: Therefore if Naturalism is true, then it should be possible to conceive of something meaningful beyond its context.

    C: P is false.

  5. Can you explain in more detail why the impression ‘God’ is an anomaly which appears to disrupt the coherency of the impression ‘No God’ but the impression ‘no God’ is not an anomaly which appears to disrupt the coherency of the impression ‘God’?

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