God Has No Explanatory Power

I recently noticed that in a lot of debates on religion the atheist would concede, whether consciously or not, that God has explanatory power. I do not think that this is correct, and at the very least I think it is worth pushing the theist to try and justify it. For this reason I put together this video making the case that God has no explanatory power. Any feedback, on the content or the format of the video, would be much appreciated. Does anybody disagree?

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Please post a rough written synopsis of your video, and I would be happy to critique it.

I certainly agree with the premise that god ideas have no explanatory power. And in fact it is the opposite to me. Soon as we try to justify the various god ideas we quickly fall into a morass of paradoxes, logical inconsistencies, reasoning flaws and so much more.

It is like watching a bad hollywood movie critically. "How did the guy fall 30 feet (10 meters) and be running around chasing the bad guy 30 seconds later like it never happened?

The focus of my video is that whilst God is an explanation, He fails to fulfill the necessary qualities to have explanatory power. The three I discuss are falsifiability, predictive power, and number of required assumptions. I then explain why this is important using intelligent design as an example.

As you say, just because something is conceivable (can happen in a movie), does not mean it is a viable explanation.

As you mentioned I think falsifiability is the key here. Most people are quite lazy and just invoke god. I’ve seen this when I’ve backed them into a corner and they toss out “well god can do anything”. I had a creationist tell me once that god is the god of the gaps.

I like Bill Maher’s definition of faith for this: "the purposeful suspension of critical thinking"

I would argue that god could not even be considered a scientific hypothesis it must be measurable and falsifiable which as you pointed out, god isn’t.

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In a lot of debates? Name three and provide a link to just one. I think you made that up.
I think you and alleged atheist debaters may not have quite grasped the meaning of the word ‘atheist’. It means a person who does not believe in god(s).Period.

By definition, an atheist is unable to make any claims about any god. I can perhaps accept that one alleged atheist has made such a wrong headed concession, but ‘lots’? I don’t believe you. . Proof please.

To the best of my knowledge, so far, every claim made about god is unfalsifiable.

Haven’t looked at your video, because the premise is flawed at the least.

I consciously noted it in both the famous debate between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig, here, and this debate on the truth of Christianity. It was on further reflection that I realised I could not recall a debate where the point had been made, excluding a couple of Matt Dillahunty’s. I found that some came close when referencing “God of the gaps” style arguments, but that it was a point that absolutely merited further exploration. I think it is fair to say that by not pressing their opponents on this point, and even granting the validity of God as an explanation, it is something that they have de facto conceded.

I disagree with your suggestion that an atheist is unable to make any claims about any God. I don’t believe in fairies but if somebody suggests that immortal fairies exist I would absolutely be able to dispute both the existence of fairies and the possibility of immortality. It is perfectly legitimate to criticise the internal consistency, validity, or in this case explanatory power of a proposition, even if you are not convinced of it.

For these reasons I reject the claim that the premise of my video is flawed.

Imo Chris Hitchens was a bigoted polemicist. William Lane Craig is a dogmatic fundamentalist. Neither is a philosopher.**

Dispute? Of course I would not . As previously stated, I am an atheist. All that means is I do not believe in god. I make no claims. That means I have no burden of proof; I need prove nothing. It is the responsibility the of person making the claim to provide proof. I have no obligation to disprove a claim.

To the person claiming there are immortal fairies, the correct response is ‘please prove it’***

" It is perfectly legitimate to criticise the internal consistency, validity, or in this case explanatory power of a proposition, even if you are not convinced of it."

A person makes a claim. All I need do is demand that he provides proof. It is not necessary deconstruct the sophistry used in an attempt to prove the claim.
Your premise is flawed. Accept it or not, I don’t care,I have no interest in changing your mind.I’m only trying to explain something to you.

However, at heart I remain a skeptic. That means I have an obligation to constantly question my own beliefs . I accept that I’m a weak philosopher and that my argument may be wrong. There are some very good minds here. Perhaps one of them will explain my mistakes if I’m wrong

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**.Condensed (18 minutes) famous 1948 debate between Bertrand Russell, arguably the greatest philosopher of his generation, and Frederick Copleston SJ. The topic is the existence of God.

There is an anthology for students of over an hour on Youtube

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"The burden of proof (Latin: onus probandi , shortened from Onus probandi incumbit ei qui dicit, non ei qui negat ) is the obligation on a party in a dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position.

Holder of the burden[edit]

When two parties are in a discussion and one makes a claim that the other disputes, the one who makes the claim typically has a burden of proof to justify or substantiate that claim especially when it challenges a perceived status quo .[1] This is also stated in Hitchens’s razor, which declares that “what may be asserted without evidence, may be dismissed without evidence.” Carl Sagan proposed a related criterion – “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” – which is known as the Sagan standard.[2]

While certain kinds of arguments, such as logical syllogisms, require mathematical or strictly logical proofs, the standard for evidence to meet the burden of proof is usually determined by context and community standards and conventions.[3][4]

Philosophical debate can devolve into arguing about who has the burden of proof about a particular claim. This has been described as “burden tennis” or the “onus game”.[5][6][7]

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How can god have explanatory power when there is no evidence for a god? Do you have any way at all to demonstrate this explanatory power you see the atheists accepting?

God is used as an explanation by theists. That does not mean the concept has explanatory power. It just means theists use it that way.

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God did it has no predictive power (you can’t use it to predict how far a ball will fall in 1 second, for example).

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Dispute? Of course I would not . As previously stated, I am an atheist. All that means is I do not believe in god. I make no claims. That means I have no burden of proof; I need prove nothing. It is the responsibility the of person making the claim to provide proof. I have no obligation to disprove a claim.

I think we might be talking past each other. Of course the burden of proof is on the person making the claim, that is indisputable. However, any attempted proof of God is predicated on the notion that God has explanatory power. There is nothing wrong with rebutting an argument for God if and when one is offered, but by making the case that God has no explanatory power it is possible to deal with every attempt to offer a proof of God in one fell swoop.

It might not be necessary to show that God has no explanatory power, but it is certainly interesting, and a useful approach in addressing any “proof of God”. You do not have to make any active claims as an atheist, but that does not mean that you cannot make any active claims.

A person makes a claim. All I need do is demand that he provides proof. It is not necessary deconstruct the sophistry used in an attempt to prove the claim.

And if he does provide a proof then in order to continue to justify your disbelief you must point out the flaw in the argument. As I mentioned, you can do this on a case by case basis, but by making the point that God has no explanatory power you can respond to pretty much every attempted proof.

God is used as an explanation by theists. That does not mean the concept has explanatory power. It just means theists use it that way.

This is more or less my point. Any attempt to prove the existence of God necessitates that God has explanatory power, and therefore requires justification for this. I am suggesting that it is possible to almost universally address arguments for God by noting the presupposed but unjustified explanatory power of God.

Cranky … I always enjoy reading your posts and insights and the way in which you communicate them…

I agree, how can a belief that is unsupported by any objective evidence or rational argument have any explanatory power? That would require the very thing they claim they cannot demonstrate, objective evidence, otherwise they are simply propping up one unevidenced belief with others, which of course is precisely what religious apologists do all the time.

I have never see a falsifiable claim made by a theists that has not been duly falsified.

Of course the resulting excuses usually employ incredulity first, which is hilariously ironic in itself, but then soon gives way as they run back to unfalsifiable claim again, god can’t be tested etc,. one wonders why they agreed to the test in the first place, but fairly obviously selection bias would then be employed to cite only successes, and ignore all failures.

As the late Christopher Hitchens once pointed out, and I am paraphrasing here:

How can you take seriously anyone who watches a baby fall from a first story window onto a grass verge, and roll through busy traffic to arrive unharmed on the other side as miracle, and then when a child falls a few inches and fatally fractures its skull on the corner of a table, calls it bad luck.

Who can seriously believe a deity intervened in the first, yet inexplicably sat idly by for the second?

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Fair enough. That is certainly the case with Abrahamic faiths. ( See the so-called five proofs proposed by Thomas Aquinas*****)

NO.I am unable to make any claims whatsoever about god** or any qualities he /she/it might have***, because there is no proof.

My position is called agnostic atheism**. IE I disbelieve and make no claims about the existence of any god or the possible nature of god. Nor do I claim to know, nor claim that anything may be inferred …

I try not not become involved in the sophistry of believers. I do not accept that god can be argued into or out of existence. Most of the apologists we get here have not grasped the difference between a claim and an argument. That means that most are incapable of reasoned discourse. Those who are capable,such as The Flying Pig,are so intellectually dishonest that it’s a waste of time and blood pressure trying to have a discussion.Plus, so far, without exception,not one apologist I’ve seen here is willing to entertain the possibility of error.

Because I don’t believe in the existence of god(s) I am unable to meet claim with counter claim. I am happy to at least try to demolish claim made on the basis of logical fallacies(see Aquinas again)

I demand empirical evidence before I am able to believe in gods, and will accept nothing less.

This is all I have to say to you on this topic.I am happy to agree to differ.

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**From the Greek atheos= without god. Gnosi=knowledge

*** I’m presuming you are referring to the Abrahamic god and not one of the 30000+ other gods worshipped around the world. Hinduism by itself has 15 MILLION gods.

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*****"The Quinque viæ (Latin " Five Ways ") (sometimes called “five proofs”) are five logical arguments regarding the existence of God summarized by the 13th-century Catholic philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas in his book Summa Theologica . They are:

  1. the argument from “first mover”;
  2. the argument from causation;
  3. the argument from contingency;
  4. the argument from degree;
  5. the argument from final cause or ends (“teleological argument”). "

The wiki article gives a good explanation of the five proofs, refuting them all.

I’m not sure that I am totally convinced of this. For example, if someone were to attempt to prove that a God exists who is omniscient, but who doesn’t know what I had for breakfast, then I could make the active claim that such a God would be self-contradictory and therefore impossible. Would you simply avoid making such a claim, or would you say that you are unable to make such a claim?

I think it is possible to make claims about an entity that you do not believe exists, once somebody attempts to assign certain properties to said entity.

I would agree that if they try to define god in a certain way, you can then make claims about that claim. @boomer47 I would say that this different than just making random claims about god.

If a theist claims that god must have created the universe because it is too complex, one could then claim in response that the odds of such a god existing would be lower than the universe it created since that god must be more complex and powerful. This isn’t making a claim about god in general, only in relation to the way a particular theist is defining god.

He does not mean “proof.” He means ‘reliable evidence.’

So the question becomes… what is keeping you from being convinced that the evidence for the existence of any God is woefully inadequate? Why not start a thread, post the reason that is holding you back and see what happens?

NO! There are no odds. NONE. Do you know what “odds” are? SIMPLY PUT: Odds are the number of events divided by the number of non-events.

We have no event of a god created universe. NONE. We have no events of a non-god created universe. NONE

WE DO NOT KNOW!!! There is no reason to assert a god. (God of the gaps fallacy.) NONE.

Another lie you are telling yourself. If physics are correct the sum total of energy in the universe is ZERO. Matter and Anti-matter cancel each other out. Your God, therefore would only need be greater than ZERO. A blind blue universe creating bunny wagging his tail would be sufficient to create a universe from nothing, if nothing were actually to exist. How difficult is it to be greater than NOTHING?

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I think that’s called a distinction without a difference.

I would argue that we don’t know this. The concept of god is unfalsifiable. You cannot 100% prove to us that something invisible doesn’t exist because you can’t falsify something that unfalsifiable. You cannot show me 100% proof that leprechauns don’t exist. Claiming that god doesn’t exist is just as wrong as saying he does. Somebody can say that it is unlikely.

I agree that it would be impossible to put specific odds on something invisible. However, you can put a range on it depending on how it is defined.

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