Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Village Atheist Pact with Fundamentalist, Part XXXIII

Stanley Fish is one of the subtler beasts of the field. Apparently, he has an argument for why God is necessarily not susceptible to proof. Unfortunately, the Pithlord is a cheap soul and said argument is behind the subscription wall, so I am unable to evaluate it.

P.Z. Myers on the other hand has all the subtlety of a [unsubtle thing]. He believes he has a killer response:

Not only won't Fish show us any evidence for a god, he can't — by his eminently convenient definition, any being who deigned to show so much as a bit of lace from the edges of his/her robe wouldn't be a god at all. It creates an interesting potentiality. Imagine that a great bearded man, 10 miles tall, suddenly manifests himself on Earth, and shouts out in a voice every human being on the planet can hear, "I AM JEHOVAH, LORD OF LORDS, CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, ULTIMATE JUDGE OF YOUR WORTHINESS," and he's accompanied by a flock of winged angels with trumpets, and all the birds and beasts congregate around him, bowing and acknowledging his majesty, everyone who uses his name in vain abruptly bursts into green flame and crumbles to ash (I won't even mention the horrors that descend on those who break the other commandments), laws of nature are suspended, televangelists are teleported to his outstretched right hand and stand there wearing crowns of gold, etc., etc. etc.

Every atheist will be saying "Right, well, I guess I was wrong then—there is an almighty awesome being." And we'll be rummaging in our closets for that tatty old bible we got from our devout spinster aunt years ago.

Stanley Fish, on the other hand, will be standing there squeaking, "I can see him, therefore he isn't a god."

Silly old Stanley Fish. Surely, such an event would prove that there is a God and it is the 10 mile high bearded dude.

Except, of course, it wouldn't. It would prove -- contrary to the expectation of Myers, Fish and myself -- that there is an extremely powerful supernatural demiurge with a propensity to take on the religious imagery of first-century apocalyptic Jewish sectarians. It wouldn't prove that this fellow was God, and Fish's argument would be as valid as ever. (It might be unwise to make it to the demiurge's face, but no one ever claimed speaking truth to power was always prudent.)

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