Atheism- Reasonable Disbelief OR Unwarranted Irrationality?

See Both the Christian & Skeptic’s Blogs in the Attachment at the Bottom of Blog below: 

YouTube Video Link = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs13JMuoIh0

Anchor Audio Link = https://anchor.fm/real-seeker-ministries/episodes/Reasonable-Disbelief-or-Irrational-Atheism-ebrb55

CLAIMS, PRESUPPOSITIONS & STATEMENTS OF BELIEF:

Claims (entails a Burden of Proof); David makes a positive claim that disbelief in God/religion is reasonable/rationally justified.

Dale also makes a Counter-claim this week that on Atheism and/or Anti-Theism (assuming it is true), skeptics are totally irrational to disbelieve in God/religion (i.e. they should remain agnostic on the subject of God and religion).

Statements of Belief/Opinion; Nothing specific to highlight.

Presuppositions; Dale’s case presupposes that Dr. Alvin Plantinga’s tripartite definition of “knowledge” is correct (perhaps at some point in the new year I will do a show on arguing for that definition vs. other attempts to define what “knowledge” is).

I’m also presuming in this blog that, on Atheism, modern Neo-Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms are the sole explanation for how we came to have our cognitive faculties.

Blog:

Irrational Atheism (Christian/Seeker View)

This week, the Skeptic has attempted to make a case as to why he feels it is rationally justified or “reasonable” for an Atheist to disbelieve in the existence of God or the truth of other various religious beliefs/notions.  He asked me not to respond to the points in his blog directly, but more to develop my own case independently this week and so I intend to honour that request by providing my own case as to why I think Atheism, whether defined as an Anti-Theism (positive claim to know that God probably doesn’t exist) or as a mere disbelief (i.e. lack of belief) in God/religion is doomed to forever be unreasonable and irrational on the part of the skeptic.

In the first place, we have to concede that the Skeptic explicitly mentions he is not so much interested in the question of whether one actually has “knowledge” that Atheism is true or not, but merely establishing that regardless he/she is rationally justified in their disbelief (rational justification is less stringent than warrant and only entails that a person has rational reasons for their position).

Epistemologically speaking, “knowledge” is defined as a “Warranted True Belief” (as per Plantinga’s definition).  By “warrant”, we refer to a belief that “is produced in a person by cognitive faculties functioning properly (subject to no dysfunction) in a cognitive environment that is appropriate for that person’s kind of cognitive faculties, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at truth (i.e. producing true beliefs). We must add, furthermore, that when a belief meets these conditions and does enjoy warrant, the degree of warrant it enjoys depends on the strength of the belief, the firmness with which the person holds it”.

Now, on Theism where a conscious intelligence (i.e. God) is posited to have “designed” our cognitive faculties to function and operate effectively in our obtaining true beliefs about Him, then achieving the conditions for warrant about belief in God or various religious truths is fully plausible and hence it is rationally justified/reasonable for such people to believe in God/religious doctrines in the light of their thinking they have a warranted true belief (whether they are actually warranted or not).  On the other hand, the Atheist cannot allow for an intelligent designer God to have “designed” our faculties, but instead they typically rely on a purely blind naturalistic process known as the modern theory of evolution to explain the development and functioning of our cognitive faculties.  Hence, the question arises how can the Atheist ever claim to know that their disbelief in God/religion fulfills all the conditions for being considered a “warranted” true belief?  How does the Atheist pretend to claim that their faculties are “designed” to produce true beliefs as opposed to being aimed at producing false beliefs or beliefs that have survival value regardless of their truth/falsity! Note that my argument doesn’t even necessitate that all of beliefs produced via evolution-derived faculties are in fact false, merely that some of them could be and as such one would have no way of knowing whether their disbelief in God/religion derived from using their cognitive faculties is warranted or not.

The Skeptic himself has even acknowledged this previously on S&S in that he takes a “brute facts” approach to the “epistemic regress problem” (see the second and third episodes of Season 1), thus conceding that he can never arrive at actual “warrant” or “knowledge” for any of his beliefs or disbeliefs (let alone his disbelief in God or religious truths).  What’s more, given modern evolutionary theory whereby our cognitive faculties are developed through blind naturalistic evolutionary mechanisms, we can never, not even in principle, rationally conclude we are warranted in our disbelief in God or religious truths specifically.

The Evolutionary Argument against Reasonable Atheism/Religious Skepticism

Evolutionary mechanisms operate so that the fittest biological organisms tend to survive via natural selection, etc.  The “aim” is simply to create organisms best fit to survive and reproduce.  On Atheism, evolution’s “goal” so to speak, is most emphatically not to allow human beings to come to true knowledge about the existence or non-existence of God or the truth/falsity of a given religion, but simply to allow us to survive and pass our genes on to the next generation.  Alvin Plantinga has provided no less than 5 reasons that the Atheistic evolutionist must abandon any knowledge claims that derive solely from such naturalistic mechanisms (see the sources below for the full Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism/Atheism- it serves not so much as an argument that the conjunction of Atheism/Naturalism and evolution is false, but more as an undercutting defeater for the claim that the skeptic can ever be rationally justified in believing both are in fact the case).

Evolution operates at the level of survival-beneficial behaviours, not directly based on beliefs, for example, tiger-avoiding behaviour (fleeing and hiding) fosters our survival to live and reproduce.  Now, of course a person’s desire not to get eaten and their true belief that running and hiding will prevent one from being eaten may be said to cause the said beneficial behaviours- fair enough.  But it would also be the case that many other desire-belief sets (including ones that are false) could also likewise result in the same beneficial outcomes via the fleeing and hiding behaviour.  Perhaps the person wants to be eaten, but is so dumb he thinks running away and hiding would accomplish this (thus allowing him to survive solely through his false belief).  Either way, the right survival behaviour is enacted and that is all the evolutionary mechanisms care about, it doesn’t matter one wit about the truth or falsity of the motivating beliefs behind the behaviour.  Many Atheists in fact claim this is the case with people’s belief in God and religion, they say that because humans’ cognitive faculties are attuned for survival rather than truth that such notions are said to have arisen within human beings precisely because they were survival-beneficial false beliefs that helped humans to enact behaviours that allowed them to survive as a species.

The problem for the Atheist/Skeptic here is that they merely assert and assume that it is belief in God/religion which is a beneficial false belief produced by our cognitive faculties, but what if it is the Atheist’s disbelieving in God and religious truths that is the false belief produced by cognitive faculties adapted based on some sort of survival value and not their veracity?  How does the Atheist pretend to know it is the religious adherent who has gotten things wrong and not himself?  Certainly, one couldn’t use the very same false-belief producing cognitive faculties that evolution created within us solely based on survival value alone to adjudicate the matter- that would be viciously circular reasoning on the part of the Skeptic (you can’t prove your faculties are correct using those same faculties in question).  The truth of the matter is, that on Atheism, the Skeptics have simply got nothing to offer in this regard.  Hence, the Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism/Atheism serves as a devastating undercutting defeater for the Atheistic proponent who thinks that are cognitive faculties are solely the result of blind naturalistic evolutionary mechanisms; they are unwarranted in disbelieving in God/religious truths.

Conclusion

In closing, given that the Atheist holds to a naturalistic evolutionary theory for the development of our cognitive faculties, they can never arrive at warrant/knowledge for any belief.  In the light of this understanding, Atheists can likewise never claim to be rationally justified or reasonable in disbelieving in God/religion via the use of those faculties sine they know they are unwarranted (a necessary condition for one to have “knowledge” of the truth).  The two notions go hand in hand, if one is aware that they aren’t warranted, then one is simultaneously aware that they aren’t “reasonable” or rationally justified in their belief or disbelief.

Interestingly, the Skeptic would seem to support this link between lack of warrant and lack of rational justification/reasonableness, he mentions the example of children appealing to authority and how they can potentially be rationally justified in blindly trusting their parents telling them that Santa Claus exists (he claims these children are rational/reasonable even if they are unwarranted in this regard).  I can agree with his sentiment here, however I think the Skeptic would mock most component adults who claim to think Santa is real based on appealing to their parental authorities and rightly so, for it is a blatantly logically fallacious form of reasoning and thus does not constitute “warrant” for the said belief.  As the Skeptic himself puts it, at some point most children go “through a rough transition when they discover that their parents are also idiots who really don’t know what they are talking about or doing”.  If a person goes through that “rough transition” period and realizes the logical fallaciousness of appealing to authority and yet still maintains belief in Santa because their parental authorities said so, then such a person is clearly irrational and unreasonable.

Now, as General Theists, Christians or Muslims, etc. we can all potentially be rationally justified in our religious beliefs even if were not all necessarily “warranted” in our conclusions; this is because we have a plausible and reliable means to obtain or fulfill the conditions for “warrant” and we sincerely think that we have obtained it (even if we may in fact be mistaken in that respect).  On the other hand, I submit that Atheists and skeptics have now been put on notice that they cannot, even in principle, claim to obtain warrant through their cognitive faculties produced by unguided/blind naturalistic evolutionary mechanisms alone.  In effect, they ought to now be going through their “rough transition” phase where they realize they can’t obtain actual warrant for their disbelief in God/religion and because they are now aware of this fact, if they maintain their disbelief (rather than adopting a stance of hopeless agnosticism), then they are as unreasonable and irrational as the teen who continues to trust in his parents’ authority about Santa being real.  Once one realizes that their parents are “idiots”, there is no going back, one must abandon their position until one has warrant and it’s the same with the Atheists trusting in blind evolutionary processes to produce reliable truth-discerning cognitive faculties about the non-existence of God or falsity of a religion.  It’s time to be realistic about the logical implications of the Atheistic worldview, it’s time for the evolutionary Atheists/skeptics to grow up and stop borrowing from the rational foundation of Theism in order to attack it, they need to stand on their own two epistemic feet, but as we have seen in this blog, the problem is that once they do, there is simply no ground for them to stand on in the first place!

And that’s the view of the Christian/Seeker.

Dale

Recommended Sources (for further study);

a)

Alvin Plantinga’s schoarly 7 page article on his Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism/Materialism/Atheism here = https://www.reasonsforgod.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/An-Evolutionary-Argument-Against-Naturalism.pdfor in the attachment = ALVIN PLANTINGA- An-Evolutionary-Argument-Against-Naturalism

OR,

YouTube Videos on the Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pm62VcCVe0 (William Lane Craig and Tim McGrew give their breif take on the argument in this 4 min clip)

or Alvin Plantinga explains his own argument in a short 13 min Closer to Truth clip =  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs6zFymVKJM 

or finally Dr. Alvin Plantinga explains his argument in detail at the Veritas Forum (1 hour 20 mins video) = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwE_D9GUC0s

b) Alvin Plantinga’s explanation of Warrant in his free Book Warranted Christian belief see the paragrpah starting with “Put in a nutshell….” on p.133 = https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7e0f/9f383793fa1b42b330bd646776e69f038596.pdfor attached here = ALVIN PLANTINGA- WARRANTED CHRISTIAN BELIEF FREE BOOK

I also want to include Dr. Alvin Plantinga’s other two books in his ground breaking and revolutionary notions of warrant- he has two secular books (no religious dimension) on the subjet as part of his trilogy;

i) Warrant the Current Debate (Part 1), I couldn’t find it free online anymore as a pdf but can buy it here = https://www.amazon.ca/Warrant-Current-Debate-Alvin-Plantinga/dp/0195078624

ii) Part 2 “Warrant and Proper Function” = https://skepticsandseekers.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/alvin_plantinga_warrant_and_proper_functionbookzz.org_.pdf 

c) David’s Polls on Scientists = https://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/ ; also see a non-Atheistic interpretation of the same data = https://bitesizebio.com/2854/scientists-do-you-believe-in-god/ 

d) One of our Listeners Travis R. has commented linking to his own blog post countering Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN)-  here is what he said:

“I offered a few thoughts on Plantinga’s presentation of the EAAN at the end of my review of “Where the Conflict Really Lies” nearly six years ago. Feel free to comment there or here. I’ve also mostly worked out a positive case for the general reliability of our cognitive faculties building on the predictive processing paradigm (aka Bayesian brain), but I probably won’t get around to publishing that anytime soon. So the short version is that cognitive function is shaped by real-world stimuli and is constantly updating to match predictions to perceptions, which means that the process inherently trends toward accordance with reality. Of course this is not a flawless mechanism and I’m ignoring the role of innate elements, but I think that the mechanism offers a generalized, adaptive process which is sufficient to support the claim of general reliability.

Travis’ Blog (which I found to be very well written) also links to the skeptical philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci’s critique of the argument here = http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2013/07/plantingas-evolutionary-argument.html

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