Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Worst Apologetic Argument Ever?

I happened to be reading this economist's blog, Steven Landsburg, where he posted an offhand proof against the existence of God. I have to say this is without a doubt so far the worst series of arguments I have ever seen. And I don't mean that lightly, I have never in my life seen such a terrible set of proofs against God.
I'll detach the relevant argument here, you can read it in it's entirety over at Landsburg's site.
Any system of beliefs needs a starting point (e.g. “I think therefore I am”)
Numbers are a starting point — knowledge of them is not deduced from anything
Numbers are a valid belief system
Does a bare collection of facts really make for a cohesive belief set? Oh no matter, let's keep going. First argument against God:
All Sane Christians believe in numbers
Not all sane people believe in God.
Therefore it is greater to believe in numbers rather than God.
You believe in my God, but I don't believe in yours, therefore, my God is superior.  In other words, the thing that people are most in agreement over is the thing best known as God.  Ah, but we all agree on the sun. Therefore the great ball of fire in the sky is God, greater than all! Or perhaps instead of attacking point three we go after point two and assert that those people really are insane, working against their own best interests?
Stay with it, it gets better. Second argument:
The concept of numbers is an indispensable foundation for understanding the universe. 
The concept of God may be dismissed without consequence.
Therefore God is useless, and being useless, proves his non-existence.
And you didn't think that last argument against God could be improved on.  I'm really at a loss to understand how to answer this. If you are able to consider the argument of origins and still assert point two here then you have successfully traveled beyond all logic and reason and have become impervious to this reality.
Argument three:
Numbers are complex and wonderful things, structures with structures.
The physical universe is less complex than numbers.
Once you have the existence of numbers the universe spontaneously falls into existence.
Therefore numbers explain the existence of everything else, making God irrelevant.

Simply delightful. Numbers automatically create everything! By what mechanism? Who cares! But the thoughtful theist is going to chime in at this point, "But where did the numbers come into existence from? And moreover, what is a number?" Landsburg has the answer ahead of time:
Numbers can’t help but exist, and need no explanation.
The Universe needs an explanation.
Because numbers exist, which sane people are forced to believe in, numbers provide a necessary and sufficient explanation for the universe existing.
I have no need of God.
Oh. My, my my. Well! What profound depth. Who knew God could be so easily marginalized by math? Numbers are the uncaused first cause. They existed before there was a universe, they always were, and always will be. They spoke the universe into existence, and set the stars on their courses. They feed the birds who cry out to them. They stretched the plumb line across the galaxies, set the oceans in their beds, told them "this far, and no further." They set the snow into banks and bring forth the seasons each in their turn. Thou almighty numbers.
This is what Paul meant in Romans when he said "claiming to be wise they became fools." What Landsburg wants is a God under his own control, a God who created everything and then turned over all His power, sovereignty, and rule to him. He has instinctively grasped the nature and power of God, so that he is without excuse, yet he refuses to honor God, and instead attributes all the evident things God has done to his god idol, numbers.
And I say to you let us put your Number gods to the test. "bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come."Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you."

1 comment:

THEOparadox said...

Some VERY deep deception at work in Mr. Landsburg's. For fallen man, logic always becomes a slave of the heart's passion. We will "prove" whatever we want to believe. This is how we become wise fools.

I'm no mathematician, but I thought numbers were merely descriptive. Just adjectives, really. Come to find out they have magical powers, too. Who would have guessed?

A Counter Argument:

Numbers are adjectives.
Adjectives have no valid or possible existence apart from the things the describe.
Therefore, numbers cannot exist unless things exist.
Numbers exist; therefore things exist; therefore God exists.

Furthermore, Mr. Landsburg is attempting to assign a numerical value of zero to God. However, if God (defined as the creator and source of all things) has a numerical value of zero, everything else must necessarily also be zero - including the very concept of numbers. Numbers are a derivation of God and serve as a proof of His existence.

Another thought: God can create things which result in numbers, but numbers cannot create things or God. Therefore God is greater than numbers, and even things are greater than numbers - regardless of the actual value of the things.

Numbers may describe God with more or less accuracy (e.g., "There is ONE God"), but they cannot be employed to deny Him. Quite the contrary, monsieur Landsburg!