Australian PM proves God’s existence

29 08 2008

From National Nine News:

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the ordered nature of the cosmos convinces him of the existence of God.

Mr Rudd, a regularly practising Anglican, was on Friday asked on Fairfax Radio in Brisbane to give his single biggest argument in favour of the existence of God.

“As you know I’m a believer and I’ve never pretended not to be and I respect those who have no religious belief – it’s a free country,” Mr Rudd said.

“For me, it’s ultimately the order of the cosmos or what I describe as the creation.

You can’t simply have, in my own judgment, creation simply being a random event because it is so inherently ordered, and the fact that the natural environment is being ordered where it can properly coexist over time. [Emphasis added]

“If you were simply reducing that to mathematically probabilities I’ve got to say it probably wouldn’t have happened.

“So I think there is an intelligent mind at work.”

Mr Rudd said in his entire political life he had never been asked in a media interview to prove the existence of God.

“You … have a world first,” Mr Rudd said.

Rudd’s position towards non-believers is a refreshing reminder that Australia is still not as deep in the mire of religious lunacy as the US, and he deserves kudos for being vocal about it. He also deserves praise, I think, for at least attempting to justify his theism in a public forum, rather than the “Look at me I haz teh jeezus” rubbish we would usually expect from god-soaked politicians.

And to be fair, the wording I chose for the title of this post was more a blatant grab for your attention than anything else. His argument for theism—a reiteration of the cosmological argument from design—is his argument, the reason (or one reason) he personally is a theist. Still, it must be said—as you can see from the section in boldface—it is an argument which suffers from a circularity so obvious that you could float a Collins-class sub through it. How can “creation be a random event”? By using the term “creation” he’s assuming precisely that which he is seeking to establish: that the universe had a “creator.” (The physicist and skeptic Victor Stenger’s response to the appeal to improbability is worth noting also: “If we properly compute, based on our actual knowledge rather than speculation, the probability for the universe’s existing with human life, the result is unity! We have only one datum, our universe, and it has human life.”) I don’t know if it bodes well that someone of Rudd’s intelligence can make such a basic error of reasoning, but then he can’t be a clear thinker on every topic.

But this is a man whose faith is central to his political philosophy, or so he tells us. And what he’s given us here is a very mediocre and pat defence of his faith.

In the armchair with Gerry Rzeppa

19 08 2008

If you’ve been following the book-spammer thread, you’ll have noticed my conversation with one Gerry Rzeppa, whom I’ve blogged about previously. Given my policy on off-topic discussions, and given that my exchange with Rzeppa is beginning to stray from the topic of book-spammers and authoritarianism, and towards the topic of Rzeppa’s opinions on life, the universe and everything else, I thought I’d continue it here. And of course, you’re welcome to participate, too.

Here is Rzeppa’s most recent contribution, with my own responses:

You say, “…at least [I] haven’t sunk to lying.” Is lying a bad thing? How do you know? Exactly what do you mean by “bad?” Apparently you think lying is worse than other things. What do you mean by “worse”?

Gerry, why do you put words in my mouth? I don’t recall using the words “bad” or “worse.” I do find it ironic, however, that those who seek to promote a biblical worldview do so by means of violating what we are told is one of its central tenets (the 8th Commandment if you’re Roman Catholic, the 9th Commandment if you’re Protestant).

I don’t know if would go so far as claiming that lying is in all circumstances something to be avoided. What I am prepared to tentatively propose, and I am willing to stand corrected upon the production of evidence to the contrary, is that given that humans are social animals, a society in which lying is deemed acceptable in all circumstances, and whose members would therefore exist in a state of mutual distrust, would be untenable, and would not survive for long against competitor societies in which it is held that lying, as a rule of thumb, is something to be avoided. I don’t see why anyone would need a “commandment” to figure this out; all you need to do is conduct a simple thought experiment: what would it be like to live in a society whose members exist in a state of mutual distrust, how stable would that society be, and how long is a society like that likely to survive? I also find intriguing what cognitive psychologists such as Marc Hauser are discovering about this issue: the possibility that certain of our moral ideas are hardwired, that we evolved with the belief, for example, that lying is (as a general rule) wrong, and that being animals in possession of such a belief gave us a reproductive advantage. Of course, simply having the belief that lying is wrong is not proof that lying is wrong, and if the possession of such a belief is endemic to our species this would not explain why lying might be wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Kohn-descending: The Spirit of Things on secularism

16 12 2007

It strikes me that the most strident reaction to the recent work of atheism’s “Big Four” (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens) has come from so-called moderate or liberal theists. For example, Terry Eagleton produced a scathing critique of The God Delusion soon after its release, in the blog Stanley Fish writes for the New York Times he disparagingly refers to Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens as “The Three Atheists,” and earlier this year Archbishop Rowan Williams himself got stuck into Dawkins. Sean has already posted on Tom Frame’s attack on secularism in <i>The Australian</i>.

Closer to home, ABC Radio National’s Religion Report and Rachael Kohn of The Ark and The Spirit of Things have been quite hostile to atheism. Kohn demonstrates this admirably on a recent episode of The Spirit of Things, “Secular Alternative?,” which in spite of its title–yes, Rachael, “secular” and “atheist” have different meanings–turns out to be another vehicle for Kohn to bag (her strawman definition of) atheism, either directly or via those she interviews. Read the rest of this entry »