07 September 2010

I Know There Is No God

The title of this piece is sure to draw some ire from nearly everyone. There are believers who flat out disagree with me and then there are agnostics and atheists who say that there is no way to know. Well, I know there is no god. And I hate to have it sound so condescending, but that’s what the following wall of text is for. I’m going to explain why it is OK to honestly say that you KNOW that there is no god. I’ve purposefully stirred up the hornet nest on Reddit and have received over 250 criticisms, conjectures and attacks regarding this and I have this to say in response: relax! I’m going to try to address every major concern here.

I know there is no god, just as you know there are no fairies and no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The only thing substantiating the god idea is the fact that more people believe it than the fairy story. If I were to say that I know there are no fairies, there would be no argument. Most would agree. Nobody would whip out their overinflated love for epistemology to strike the notion down. So what about the idea of god makes people so righteous about the semantics of knowledge? You’d think these atheists were just agnostics the way they defend god’s right to be considered despite claiming to not believe in it.

I see most atheists as timid creatures, bound by a code of honor that restrains them. Some call it the scientific method, some call it logic, but they apply it far more liberally than they should. I love the scientific method more than most but I have to agree with the quacks on this one; it can’t be used to explain everything. The most frequent response to my claim is that you cannot disprove something that doesn’t exist. So true. But if it doesn’t exist for me to disprove it, can I not say that I know it does not exist?

Of course not. This is where the philosophy jocks step in. Supposedly, if I claim that I know something that cannot be proven, I am no better than a fundamentalist. Ahh, this is where I apply a little misdirection. If I can prove, instead, that the idea of god is a man-made notion, would that not relieve me of the burden of disproving a negative? I sure think so. And before you tell me that a god may exist that has not yet been dreamed of by man, might I remind you about the fairies?

The key to knowing that god does not exist is to acknowledge that he was invented by man to explain the mystery of life and existence. He is no longer necessary, though, as we have learned enough to understand our place in the world with our own knowledge. (Our place, if you’re wondering, is without purpose or meaning. Yay, nihilism!) Though there is much that we do not know, the idea that what we do know is never enough to make a certain claim is such patent bullshit. I have no interest in jerking off to a philosophy text.

The knowledge that there is no god is a priori. Epistemological philosophy is such that if you apply it haphazardly like a jackass, you end up in a loop where you can never truly know anything. The moment that you appeal to this mindfuck of a philosophy, you’re lost. The very statement “you can’t prove it/anything decisively” sets off a shock wave of logical consequences. If the certainty with which I know gods non-existence to be true is useless, what good is anything else you or I consider to be knowledge? You cannot function in life if you honestly think this is a valid way to look at the world. Imagine opening your eyes after a night’s sleep and not being certain about anything. You wouldn’t be able to move if you required “absolute” knowledge to act. Thus, by epistemological definition, getting out of bed in the morning is an act of faith. What mental masturbation!

For every posturing pseudo-philosopher, there seems to be a large space between certainty and absolute knowledge that I simply don't respect. I think that certainty covers the gap quite well and classical philosophers tend to agree with me. Philosophy hacks have put guard rails along the edge though, creating conjectures that make it "theoretically" impossible to know things. They're mad.

Why is what I’m saying any different than a fundamentalist claiming that they “know” god exists? This is the question that the Knights of the Holy Scientific Method like to pose. As if by making a statement that supposedly cannot be falsified, we fall to corruption. Like the paragraphs above demonstrate, life is full of unfalsifiable knowledge, stuff that you just KNOW, and the fact that it cannot be proven either way doesn’t make it less true or useful. Again, we make super-special considerations when it comes to this damned “god” idea. We apply levels of logic that we otherwise wouldn’t have. It reminds me of the fact that South Park once depicted the prophet Mohammad in an episode without controversy, but now that the world is hypersensitive to it, they censored the most recent appearance of the prophet. Same situation, different rules.

Carl Sagan once said, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Indeed, this is a true statement and it has been used to refute my claim, but I am not using only god's lack of evidence as evidence to support my statement.

Next comes the most amusing argument: you cannot use knowledge of the physical world to disprove something that exists beyond it. Well, what would be the purpose of declaring the existence of a metaphysical god if it could not affect the laws of physics? A god who is 100% ineffective is just as good as a god who is 100% nonexistent. The only way to ever have evidence of god (a useful one at least) is to have physical effects that can be attributed to it. In the past, we’ve been fooled into believing what we see is the hand of god at work, but we’ve grown out of that.

We humans have a history of speaking before we have all the facts. Why, at a few points in the last 200 years it was declared that we had learned everything there is to know about the world, only to find how wrong we were. You might think this would prevent me from making further definite claims, but I’m not going there. Every scientific discovery of knowledge has further marginalized the necessity of god. That is the trend and it will continue. We can now trace nearly every question we had 2000 years ago to areas of science that we have even a small amount of knowledge in. Any new gods or metaphysical philosophies that we invent are merely there to ask the new questions that further developments will surely shed light on.

Douglas Adams once said:

I don’t accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me “Well, you haven’t been there, have you? You haven’t seen it for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian Beaver Cheese is equally valid” - then I can’t even be bothered to argue. There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we’d got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don’t think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.

This quote sums up a large portion of my argument. Why give the idea of god as fair a shake as the idea of fairies?