Friday, July 17, 2009

Benchmarking Arrogance

Here's a more or less representative instance of an old standard:

You cannot know with certainty that there is no god, in the sense of a creator of the universe, for example. It is impossible. You can assert that it is unnecessary, but that is not the same thing as impossible. Certainly you can say “there’s no reason to believe God created the universe in 7 days, 4,000 odd years ago”, but who cares? If Biblical literacy is your target, it’s just about shooting fish in a barrel, isn’t it?

The fact is that we don’t know. Arguably, we can’t know. We can say “God as described literally in the bible cannot exist”, but we cannot say “God does not exist”.
I don't say I know with certainty that no gods exist; I am not aware of any celebrity or semi-celebrity atheist who asserts certitude on this matter.

Worse than that Straw Man argument is Ian Welsh's confidence -- dare I say arrogance? On what basis can he so blithely state that 4,000-year-old Earths and Biblical/Koranic literalism are so risibly, obviously, unarguably false as to merit comparison with sport fish trapped in barrels?

In what enchanted world have these claims been banished from respectable opinion? While Ian Welsh chuckles over claims such as these, others watch schools burn to the ground, observe assaults on educational standards, and face execution for assorted thought-crimes as defined in ancient lore.

I like keeping things as definite as possible, so here's a benchmark: I'll share in Ian Welsh's confident chuckling when an openly gay, non-Muslim tourist can visit any site in Saudi Arabia with exactly the same reverence he would be expected to bring to a visit to Windsor Palace or the Cologne Cathedral.

Until then, these are live questions in need of fighting out, not assuming out of existence or converting to epistemological Straw Men.

No comments: