Thursday, January 27, 2011

Answering Atheism (Pt. 2) Occam's Razor

Lately, every discussion I have with an atheist where we are discussing the existence of God, they will inevitably refer to a philosophical principle called Occam’s Razor in order to prove the God of the Bible cannot exist. They do this by quoting Occam’s Razor as, The simplest explanation is usually the best.” They then give an explanation of the two beliefs as shown below.


Before I get into talking about Occam’s Razor, I first want to take a minute to refute this image and what it proposes. There are not “major branches” within true Christianity. In fact, Ephesians 4:5 says, “One God, one faith, one baptism.” Anything that is outside the realms of what God set up in His one faith is not any part of the true Christian religion. Therefore, this image is flawed from the beginning. The Christianity line should look exactly like the atheist line; one solid line without any branches, therefore making these two equal again. Now we have two equal theories, just as Occam’s Razor requires. We must figure out which one makes the most assumptions.
The problem with the atheist’s rationale toward Occam’s Razor is it distorts a valid philosophical concept in order to serve a personal bias. Contrary to the popular summary, the simplest available theory is often a less accurate explanation. I will explain how this is true later. To begin, we must first properly define the theory of Occam’s Razor. Properly defined, Occam’s Razor is, “Plurality should not be posited (or suggested, MCS) without necessity.” The man attributed to this philosophy, William Ockham, went on to further explain this idea by saying, “No plurality should be assumed unless it can be proved (a) by reason, or (b) by experience, or (c) by some infallible authority.” Since we have properly defined what Occam’s Razor really stands for, I want to take this time to refute the atheist’s stance.
Now that we have clearly defined it, let us take a look at which religious view holds true against Occam’s Razor: Atheism or Christianity.
Let’s deal with Christianity first. Christianity, in its simplest form, can be made in 4 assumptions:
1.       There is an all-powerful, all merciful Creator of the universe and everything in it, including you and me.
2.       That Creator sent His Son, Jesus, to die in order to reconcile mankind back to Him.
3.       He gave His infallible, specific instructions to man, in the form of the Bible.
4.       As the Alpha and the Omega, this Creator is not subject to any laws of nature, as He is the Creator of them.
This is Christianity summed up in four simple assumptions. This means we have covered all the bases necessary to answer all questions that man can have regarding the origin of, and subsequent ponderings of this universe and all that resides in it.
Let us take a look at the atheist’s line of thought and count the number of assumptions they have to make:
1.       There is no God; therefore, science must explain everything.
2.       Since there is no God, nature created everything.
3.       Nature had to have created everything spontaneously.
4.       When creating everything spontaneously, everything was created from nothing.
5.       This had to have been done during an event similar to the Big Bang theory.
6.       Since the First Law of Thermodynamics states that neither energy nor matter can be created from nothing, then it had to have been temporarily suspended during this event, along with all other scientific laws.
7.       This “supernatural” occurrence was not caused by God, but rather by the same laws that were temporarily suspended, such as gravity.
8.       After this event took place, order began to form from chaos (in direct contradiction of another scientific law, The Chaos Theory.)
9.       The explosion of the Big Bang placed Earth in just the right spot cosmologically to the sun, as well as having the perfect tilt, rotation, and development of atmosphere.
10.   Eventually, because of this new found “order from chaos”, the Earth gained oceans, vegetation, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and many more other essential elements to life.
11.   Through millions of years, humans have been evolving, beginning first as a single-celled entity in the ocean, then mutating on the backs of crystals, until we eventually evolved into apes, and so forth.
12.   In light of all of this, God is no longer necessary to exist, let alone be worshipped. 
When in a debate about God, the atheist will inevitably turn to the fact that the existence of a God would violate laws of nature. The atheist says that you cannot say that there is something that does not obey natural law. However, in regards to the very beginning of The Big Bang, Dr. Stephen Hawking in his book A Brief History of Time is quoted as saying that all laws of nature were temporarily suspended at the onset of the big bang (pg. 136). This would mean that The Big Bang, in itself, was supernatural, or not subject to obeying natural law. This is hypocrisy. 
The atheist considers the belief in an all-powerful God, who is not subject to the very laws He created, ignorant, superstitious, and unnecessary. Yet, we are to accept belief in the supernatural act of nothing creating everything while suspending the very same laws is perfectly rational thinking. The problem is very little of it actually is.
Even when we use the distorted version of Occam’s Razor, God still comes out victorious. It makes the fewest number of multiplied assumptions and would therefore be the most likely answer.
However, I would be doing you, the reader, an injustice if we did not apply William Ockham’s complete explanation to this problem.  If you will recall, Mr. Ockham said, “No plurality should be assumed unless it can be proved (a) by reason, (b) by experience, or (c) by some infallible authority” (emphasis, MCS).
What could a Christian turn to that would be considered an infallible authority that directly addresses the creation of all things, the existence of God, and the order He put forth? The Bible, of course! Within the Bible, we have not just one witness, but rather a whole collection and multitude of eyewitnesses to the proof of the existence of God and the Bible!  Jesus himself answered this issue of witness in John 8:17, “It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.”(emphasis, MCS) When Jesus said this, he was speaking to another group of people who were openly hostile to him. He was speaking to the Jews. The point made by Jesus is just as valid today as it was then.  In the court systems of the United States, two witnesses are more than enough to validate a claim. We have over forty men who wrote their testimony. It was collected together forming the Bible which includes numerous others who witnessed the proof of God’s existence. Study after study has further proven that the alleged contradictions of the Bible when looked at in their context are not contradictions at all. There is not one alleged contradiction in the Bible that cannot be reasonably explained to someone who is open-minded. The problem with some atheists is their unwillingness to listen to this reasoning. Regardless, the Bible stands as the Christian’s infallible authority, which is necessary for Occam’s Razor.
On the surface level, when they distort the valid philosophy of Occam’s Razor, the atheist appears to have a convincing argument. However, it is only when properly applies Occam’s Razor correctly that one sees the argument fall apart. God is the Creator of all things, including science and logic. It cannot be used to disprove Him.

5 comments:

  1. Speaking as an agnostic here:

    Even if I feel that Occam's Razor favors the religious explanation (for most religion, as it is, essentialy, "A wizard did it" most of the time), I think you are being a bit unfair to atheism, breaking down their view in so many steps.

    For the rest, I will just say that a lot of people are raised by the princip that an eye-witness testimony is not a proof; And your bit about science and logic only work if you accept already that God exist.

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  2. i thought you might like to know that, as the creator of this image, it was entirely meant as a joke, not the subject of rational debate. i made it years ago without any clear understanding of Occam's Razor except that i knew that i, like most people, was oversimplifying the principle. after i thought about it more i realized that if it applies to this argument at all, it would actually fall on the side of theology rather than scientific analysis. the simplest explanation for the universe is that "God did it." and i agree with you that "Contrary to the popular summary, the simplest available theory is often a less accurate explanation."

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  4. I don't think your analysis is valid for several reasons.

    First, you expand what an atheist necessarily has to believe. An atheists only has to believe in 1 and 2. All your other premises fall under premise 1 because they represent the best explanation science has to offer right now. In fact, I would even argue that premise 2 is not necessarily held by all atheists. It assumes that "everything" was created.

    I disagree with the characterization that the Big Bang was necessarily supernatural. You have to understand that in order to deduce that there was a beginning of the universe, scientists had to assume general relativity. However, scientists realize that general relativity is only applicable up to about the plank-length. Any smaller, and quantum mechanics becomes applicable. Current scientific theories, therefore, do not provide any picture of the universe before a certain time. If you read the first paragraph of the wikipedia article on the Big Bang, you'll see that the Big Bang theory formally only says something about the early universe. The state of the universe was hot and expanding. This state happened 13.75 billions years ago. Now this time is TAKEN TO BE the age of the universe, but formally, we do not know this for sure because we don't understand the physics beyond this point in time. To say that the cause of the big bang is supernatural, therefore, is to have a very limited view of what is natural. Physicists don't think their theories encapsulates ALL natural phenomenon. They admit that there are limitations to their theories.

    Finally, I would contend that you have no reasons for thinking that the Bible is infallible. The reason why you think that the Bible is infallible, I suspect, is because you think it is the result of divine revelation. But you are attempting to justify the divine. You cannot, therefore, justify the claim that the Bible is infallible for that reason. But what reasons do you have? You've explained in this post that the Bible has not yet been shown to have any self-contradictions. But this does not necessitate its infallibility. The same could be said about Newton's Mathematica Principia. It has no self-contradictions. But it has been shown to be fallible under certain limits. There is no guarantee that the Bible won't be the same. Your other argument is that the Bible is confirmed by multiple testimony. First, I am not sure that two people is enough to validate a claim in the US court. Why? Because humans are fallible. If you base the infallibility on humans, regardless of how many humans, I believe you stand on very shaky grounds. Multitudes of humans would testify the existence of aliens, but they could still very well be wrong.

    I've written a little bit about Occam's razor and its implications. I'd be very glad to receive your feedback:

    http://physosopher.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/the-question-atheists-fear-introduction/

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  5. I think using this principle is purely subjective. Humans try to make sense of the world based upon what they read/learn/hear, but also upon what they perceive. For some, Occam's Razor makes the most sense by simply rejecting God completely, as it's easier for them to believe "there is a universe," and that universe exists in and of itself. For others, it's easier to believe "there is a universe that God created." I fall into the former category here, but I think it's all based upon what you believe. It's essentially the entire reason that Atheists/Christians exist as they are; people choose beliefs based on what's most rational to them individually.

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