Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Beware of logical traps!

mousetrap
I think I've walked right into a logical trap yesterday, reasoning about the status of knowledge concerning theistic and atheistic beliefs. I came to the following conclusion:
As a popperian thinker (...), I am fully convinced that theistic and atheistic beliefs have the same status of knowledge because both of them share the same two weaknesses. Firstly, they are not falsifiable. Secondly, they are positivistic in a sense that they aim at truth as the ultimate goal. In Critical Rationalism, truth is never absolute or positivistic but, in contrast, subject to change as new facts are added to the body of knowledge.

As soon as I have posted it, I had a strange feeling of something being wrong with this statement, yet I did not spot any inconsistency in my logical reasoning: If a statement "A" is not falsifiable, then the statement "not A" isn't falsifiable either, thus, in principle, the status of knowledge must be the same in both statements.

According to this logic, a theistic belief should have the same status of knowledge as an atheistic belief. Which I deny, of course. This leaves me with a paradox to solve. Let's dub it the Theism Atheism Paradox. Such paradoxes seem to arise whenever we apply a certain type of logic in situations where it is not appropriate. Zeno's arrow paradox is a good example, assuming that there is such a thing as a moment not in motion, disregarding Heraklit's insight that "all is in flow" (panta rhei).

A subtle difference

The Theism Atheism Paradox, TAP, in my view, is the result of a false comparison of things that are not comparable. Theism is the belief in a God. Atheism is not the belief in "No God" but rather the absence of a belief in a god or in gods. The TAP is thus the result of a faulty definition of atheism. It is a definition that is appropriate to theism but absolutely irrelevant when it comes to atheism. Atheism is not a religion with a mental vacuum called "No God" as the central object of belief. No definition of atheism could be more wrong than this one. Yet I have run into this trap. Oooops!

This example shows how important paradoxes are. They should not bother us. On the contrary, they should always be welcome because they will improve our thoughts.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/cathyg/83531610/

5 comments:

John Morales said...

Indeed.

Both views have a metaphysical basis, yet I opine that the atheistic view is falsifiable, whilst the theistic view is not.

That said, I'm not aware of any evidence falsifying the atheistic view, which I consider the default for anyone not inculcated in theism.

PS Late comment, because I found my way here from the Skeptics Circle.

Christian said...

@ John: Atheistic view falsifiable? Wouldn't this require a valid proof of God? I don't think that any of all those attempts that have been undertaken is valid. God cannot be proven, therefore atheism cannot be falsified.

John Morales said...

God cannot be proven, therefore atheism cannot be falsified.

I beg to differ.

By definition, an omnipotent God should be able to prove Itself to all atheists should it so choose.

"And God spake thus: Let all Atheists henceforth believe! And Lo! it was so".

Christian said...

By definition, an omnipotent God should be able to prove Itself to all atheists should it so choose.

Many theists will like what you say, stating that God has proven Himself to them, making them believe. And they will add that it is His freedom not to reveal Himself to all atheists.

John Morales said...

All atheists.

Anyway, with regard to the Christian mythos, when you say
[theists] will add that it is His freedom not to reveal Himself to all atheists, I would counter that, given an attribute of benevolence, the claim that every atheist to whom God does not reveal Himself is doomed to Hell is problematic.