Timothy Keller: Dishonest Reasons for God (Chapter 8)

I began my critique of Keller’s The Reason for God with an exposé of everything up through Chapter 1, then Chapter 2, Chapters 3 through 5, Chapter 6, and Chapter 7. Here I will cover Chapter 8—and some material he adds in between Chapters 7 and 8. Next will be Chapter 9. I’ll continue to other chapters in future installments. Again, Keller returns to his usual pattern of lying; lying about what is actually the case; and lying by leaving out all the evidence against everything he says, thus crafting an illusion of being right. All, once again, to dupe his audience into not checking. This time he relies a lot on Swinburne and Plantinga, infamous fabricators of verbosely elegant pseudophilosophy, to argue God explains the universe better than alternatives. He doesn’t.

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Keller Lies about Christianities All Being the Same

In his “Intermission” chapter, Keller claims there really are no major differences among Christian sects, they are really all “far more alike than unlike one another” (p. 116), so you should just ignore the sectarian divisions in the Church and just believe in Jesus. And yet whether one really believes in the illogical absurdity of “The Trinity” (his only defining attribute of “real Christians”) is totally trivial and pointless—compared to, for example, whether Christians eagerly endorse all our wars (as in fact most have) or, like Anabaptists, are pacifists. No one can say those two Christians are more like than unlike. That’s just bullshit. Many sects differ on fundamental human values. They differ on whether women and gay people should have equal rights. Some still even differ on whether white and black people should have equal rights.

If all Christians were pacifists and never supported any war, that would be remarkable enough that they’d have moral standing to claim to be special. That they don’t, is reason enough to conclude there is nothing special about Christianity. It just always rationalizes what people would do anyway without it. Hate gays? Christians have your back. Fuck that “love” shit. Stand-your-ground laws? Christians have your back. Fuck that “turn the other cheek” shit. Want slaves? Even from day one, not just God and Jesus, but all Christians had your back. Until we fucking killed them. Now we don’t keep slaves anymore. Not because Christianity taught us slavery is wrong.Famous black and white photo of US Federal soldiers protecting a group of black girls to allow them to attend an integrated school. But because we kept killing Christians who kept slaves, until they cried uncle and agreed not to keep slaves anymore. And then they kept on murdering and oppressing and fucking over “the slave race” for a whole century…forcing us to send troops in fucking again to get them to stop. And we expect to take moral advice from these people now? Yes, there were also Christians who defied their fellow Christians on this, as did atheists and Jews and Buddhists and every other variety of non-Christian. Which just proves Christianity does not cause people to agree slavery is wrong. Something else does.

Of course, Keller’s heretical obsession with The Trinity leads him to rule out any Christian who rejects the “great ecumenical creeds,” declaring them, in effect, fake Christians. Which is a typical Evangelical move: erase the entire history of Christianity. And pretend all other Christians who don’t agree with them are “not real Christians.” But as I wrote when Weikart tried this same fallacy to exclude Hitler from being called a Christian:

[He uses] a fallacy of special pleading, by using a biased definition of Christianity as only trinitarian Christianity (a requirement of membership in the World Council of Churches). That not only excludes many famous Christian sects of the past and today (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Unitarians, Arians, CatharsBranch Davidians, People’s Temple of the Disciples of Christ, some Quakers), but it excludes even the original Christians over the first sixty plus years of the movement, including Saint Paul the Apostle, and every Christian Paul knew. No Christians originally believed in the trinitarian view that Jesus was God. In fact that was an alien notion to Christians across the first two lifetimes of its original growth (OHJ, pp. 148-52). It was actually a later perversion of the religion, first seen in the final canonical redaction of the Gospel of John, probably originating in the early-to-mid second century (OHJ, pp. 92, 94-96, 267-69; see also Bart Ehrman on How Jesus Became God).

Even those other sects, many of which still exist (and some, like Unitarianism, were professed by prominent Founding Fathers of the United States, like Thomas Jefferson), are certainly Christian sects, historically and theologically—they grew out of Christianity, and regard themselves as the true realizations of the original Christian faith. If they can’t be called Christians because they deviate at all from the original faith, then trinitarians can even less be called Christians, because they deviate just as much in that detail alone.

Trinitarianism is a heresy. A perversion of Christianity as it was in its first generations and among its original apostles. And yet now, modern heretics declare all the original Christians heretics. Along with everyone else who has tried returning to that original faith. Welcome to Christian apologetics.

But wait. Notice how irrelevant trinitarianism even is as a defining attribute of any religion. It has exactly zero moral meaning or content. It makes not one whit of difference to what sort of person you are or encourage others to be. It is literally the most useless thing to ever bother believing. And yet it’s the single most important thing ever to Keller. Just think about that for a minute.

Keller Lies about Christianity Making Sense of the World

Christians, Keller says, share this worldview in common (p. 117):

They believe that the triune God created the world, that humanity has fallen into sin and evil, that God has returned to rescue us in Jesus Christ, that in his death and resurrection Jesus accomplished our salvation for us so we can be received by grace, that he established the church, his people, as the vehicle through which he continues his mission of rescue, reconciliation, and salvation, and that at the end of time Jesus will return to renew the heavens and the earth, removing all evil, injustice, sin, and death from the world.

This is total fantasy. Every single thing in it is superstitious nonsense exactly the contrary of all scientific evidence and backed by no credible evidence whatever.

  • The world was not created by gods. It was created by a long, drawn-out process of mindless physics that took hundreds of thousands of years even to produce stars, and billions of years more to produce “the world” we live on, earth. The outcome was chaotic and random, governed by mindless laws, not organized and directed toward any specific end. That’s why the vast majority of the cosmos is lethal to life, billions and billions of lightyears of radiation-filled vacuum, and life-killing stars and black holes. The Christian account of the world’s coming-to-be is exactly contrary to all scientific fact.
  • Humans did not “fall into sin and evil.” We have always just been clever social animals. And as such we have actually consistently gone in the other direction, away from sin and evil and toward more conscientious, empathetic, truth-loving, prosocial behavior. We only just have further to go. Pinker. Shermer. They document this extensively. I already briefed the same evidence years earlier in Sense and Goodness without God (V.1.2.1-2, pp. 303-09). The Christian account of history is exactly contrary to all historical fact.
  • What has rescued us, what has made us better, what has given us better governments, what has made us better able to thwart death, disease, crime, and disaster, and extend human lifespans to twice what they ever were, was not celestial superheroes, sacrificial blood magic, or even “the church.” It was science, technology, literacy, democracy, civil rights, and education. Not one of which is even mentioned in the Bible. Not one of which is the center, or even a part, of the teachings of Jesus. It is through those things that the only empirically demonstrable “rescue, reconciliation, and salvation” has ever occurred.
  • No one is coming to remove “all evil, injustice, sin, and death from the world.” It’s been literally thousands of years. And no one has come. Get a clue. The Lord supposedly promised he’d be by any time now. So much for that. Meanwhile, look at what science, technology, literacy, democracy, civil rights, and education have done for us. Compare. And choose. Which is going to save us? Which is going to reduce the amount of “evil, injustice, sin, and death from the world”? Because which has actually done so? Ever.

This is why Christianity is dying, Dr. Keller. Your mumbo jumbo is just an antiquated superstition. That the world never needed. And certainly no longer needs now. Your variety in particular, is a worldview that only ignorant, superstitious people flock to. People, like you, who still believe in ghosts and blood magic. But I’ve already covered all the ways science has refuted the Christian worldview in my review of Keller’s Chapter 6.

Moving on…

Keller Lies about How Rationalism Works

“Despite all the books calling Christians to provide proofs for their beliefs,” Keller says, “you won’t see philosophers doing so, not even the most atheistic” (p. 118).

Total lie.

He claims “strong rationalism” can’t live up to its own standards. By “strong rationalism” he means adhering to the “verification principle” that “no one should believe a proposition unless it can be proved rationally by logic or empirically by sense experience” (p. 118). He says this “can’t live up to its own standards” because, gosh, “How could you empirically prove that no one should believe something without empirical proof? You can’t, and that reveals it to be, ultimately, a belief.” This isn’t even a logical objection. He just admitted rationalism means believing only what can be proved logically or by evidence. We therefore don’t need “empirical proof” to justify the need for empirical proof to warrant belief. We have logic.

It works like this:

  1. It is logically necessarily the case that for every true thing to believe, many false things can be believed in its stead.
  2. If for every true thing to believe, many false things can be believed in its stead, it is logically necessarily the case that most things that can be believed are false.
  3. Therefore anything you believe without proof that it’s likely to be true, is logically necessarily likely to be false.
  4. The only way we have found to prove a belief likely to be true, is by logic or evidence.
  5. Therefore, only what you have logical or empirical proof of, can you be warranted in believing.

But wait! Maybe there is some other way to tell the difference between true and false beliefs, that isn’t logic or evidence. Maybe? Sure. Examples please? (…crickets…).

So far we have only discovered two ways to ascertain the difference between a true and a false belief: logic and evidence. How do we know these are the only two ways that ever work? Because we’ve tried all the others. And they all fail, and fail so often, that we can be empirically certain they are unreliable. For example, how many times has a faith-based belief turned out to be false? Counting up all the times someone believed something “on faith” (gods cause lightning; demons cause disease; witches can curse your crops) and it turned out to be false, the success-rate for faith-based beliefs is near zero. And it’s only not zero because of random chance (even a broken clock is right twice a day). Or because it wasn’t really faith-based, but sneaked in some logical or empirical proof after all. But never, have faith-based methods ever found a correct explanation of anything, that led to a surprising ability to predict unexpected phenomena. That’s why science doesn’t use those methods.

So much for strong rationalism not being able to live up to its own standards.

Keller lies about this, because he needs to be able to argue the conclusion that it’s okay to believe illogical things without evidence. Otherwise, like all Christian apologists, he’s screwed. And indeed, that’s just what he tries to insist, e.g. “It is not fair,” he says, “to demand an argument that all rational people would have to bow to.” Wow. So, things no rational person would agree are likely to be true, we should get to believe in anyway. Otherwise it’s “not fair.” Try making sense of that.

He wants to call this, the accepting of arguments that are by definition not accepted by rational people, “critical rationality.” This Orwellian turn of phrase sounds admirable. Who isn’t a critical rationalist? But Keller doesn’t mean critical rationalism. He means the absence of critical rationalism. What he means by “critical rationality” is the assumption “that some systems of belief are more reasonable than others, but that all arguments are rationally avoidable in the end” (p. 120), because for any conclusion, “you can always find reason to escape it that is not sheer bias or stubbornness.” Which is false. He’s lying again. Because Keller is a liar.

There is no such thing as a “rationally avoidable” conclusion that we should believe to be true. There are only irrationally avoidable conclusions that we should believe to be true. Keller is playing games with the word “rational.” He started by using it to mean believing in what can be proved logically or empirically. But then says we can “rationally” avoid the conclusion of any argument…but, um, how? If logic tells us a conclusion is unwarranted, it’s unwarranted. Period. If the evidence is against a conclusion, or none for it, it’s unwarranted. Period. If you are avoiding what the evidence and logic entail, then you are not being rational. Period.

Keller simply cannot claim it’s “rational” to reject a conclusion that neither logic nor the state of the evidence warrants rejecting. That is the opposite of being rational.

Cosmology, an Actual Science, Rejects God Hypotheses for a Reason

Keller then forgets all he just argued and tries to make a “strong rationalist” argument for his God anyway, even though he just said it’s a bankrupt method. Here he cites Swinburne as proving scientifically that God exists (p. 121). Because, “The view that there is a God, he says, leads us to expect the things we observe—that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it, that it contains human beings with consciousness and with an indelible moral sense. The theory that there is no God, he argues, does not lead us to expect any of these things.” But these are all lies. As I’ve shown, Swinburne’s Bayesian model is bullshit, and only operates by leaving out all the evidence that counts against his theory, and ignoring all the alternative explanations that are actually better than his. That’s dishonest. And Keller does the same thing.

I’ve already shown how when you put all that evidence back in, a Swinburnian analysis produces exactly the opposite conclusion. I’ve done the same for Keller’s dishonesty as well, in all previous chapters of this review. He, too, leaves evidence out. Repeatedly. Or even lies about what the evidence is. Rationally, we don’t need a god to predict “that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it, that it contains human beings with consciousness and with an indelible moral sense.” Swinburne and Keller’s claim to the contrary is simply false.

Not only because, factually, there is no such thing as an indelible moral sense—humanity’s moral sense has continually shifted and changed over time. That’s why in the Bible, God and Jesus both endorse slavery and never endorse democracy or civil rights. That’s why women only got to vote for their leaders and laws thousands of years after God supposedly told Moses, and then even Jesus, how to run a just society. Humanity’s moral sense is demonstrably not indelible. It is learned. It is invented. It is a technology we have honed and improved through trial and error over thousands of years, and every generation install in children when we enculturate them through parenting, socialization, and education. This fact is actually not explicable on Keller’s Christian worldview. It’s totally explicable on mine. It’s exactly what we should expect to have happened…if there is no God.

So Keller and Swinburne are not even telling the truth about the facts of the world that need explaining.

But not only do they lie about the facts; they lie about what alternatives we have to explain them. We can get law-abiding universes with conscious persons in them, with far simpler explanations than gods. We can do it starting even with virtually nothing: the complete absence of any constraint on what will transpire, logically entails infinitely many things will transpire; which means all possible universes, which entails a virtually 100% probability that a universe will exist that has people in it, and be governed by physical laws.

And that’s just one of a dozen possibilities, all far simpler than a God by Keller’s definition, all far more in line with what we have already observed to be the case, and all far better at explaining the peculiarities of what we observe: why consciousness only exists as the physical product of a highly-complex but badly-engineered physical brain that took billions of years to evolve, for example; why the universe is so vastly old and large and randomly furnished and almost entirely lethal to life, for example; why it’s so completely indifferent to injustice, malevolence, and disaster, for example; and so on.

By contrast, no God hypothesis actually predicts anything. That’s why no god hypothesis has ever been published in a physics journal. The science of cosmology only accepts theories that can explain why the universe is constrained in the particular ways that it is observed to be. “God predicts there’d be stuff” is not science. You have to predict from “God did it” that “God would use an inflationary Big Bang model in accordance with the patterns observed in the microwave background.” Or “God would make a universe that had a Higgs boson, and it would have an expected mass of around 126 GeV.” Or “God would slowly make a universe over billions of years of time that consists almost entirely of a radiation-filled vacuum lethal to life.” Or something. Something specific that isn’t entailed by a million other theories. Something that is actually more than “there’d be stuff and us.”

Keller weirdly says “if God exists, we would expect to find that he appeals to our rational faculties” (p. 126). Which means we would expect to find that he appeals to our need for evidence. In other words, he built us, according to Keller, to believe based on evidence, and not whim or peer pressure or random chance. So we should expect him to give us lots of evidence, for those things he knows we most need to believe for our own good. Therefore, the complete absence of any good evidence, is slam dunk proof that there is no God. Keller’s thesis is refuted by its most singular failed prediction: an evident and helpful God. Instead, all we have is endless and diverse human confusion as to even what the gods are or want. A state of affairs only the absence of Keller’s God can rationally explain.

That’s why for Keller to say God “can only be known through personal revelation” makes no sense. Why would a God restrict himself to such a limited and unreliable access to his wishes and will? Why would he hide, confuse people with contradictory and factually false revelations across the world for tens of thousands of years, and make a universe that looks in every imaginable respect exactly like a godless world? That makes no rational sense. A rational person would admit, that this world looks pretty much like any inhabited universe without a god in it would look. Keller can only evade that admission by hiding all that inexplicable evidence; and lying about the evidence that remains. And that means theism can only be defended with lying and concealing of evidence. Which alone is enough to conclude it’s false.

The truth never needs lies in its defense, never requires the hiding of evidence.

We Want Things…Because of Natural Selection, Not Magic

Likewise, Keller thinks “we have a sense that the world is not the way it ought to be. We have a sense that we are very flawed and yet very great. We have a longing for love and beauty that nothing in this world can fulfill. We have a deep need to know meaning and purpose.” And so he asks, “Which worldview best accounts for these things?” Of course he wants that to be God. Never mind any interest in what the sciences of psychology and anthropology tell us most likely accounts for those things. Fuck facts. Must be sky magic!

The rest of us care instead what empirical science would imply regarding these things. And it’s not sky magic.

The world is not the way it “ought” to be for one simple obvious reason: because it wasn’t designed for us. And as such, it endlessly frustrates us. No justice exists; so we had to invent it. Rivers don’t run where we need them; so we had to build new rivers. Germs kill us and fuck us up; so we had to invent ways to avoid or fight them. This is exactly what we expect of an undesigned world. It is not what we expect of a compassionately engineered one. There is no way the world “ought” to be. There is only the way we want the world to be. Naturally selected desires already fully explain why we would want to get rid of all the ways the world harms and hurts us, all the ways it gets in our way and limits us. We don’t need magic to explain that.

Likewise, we don’t just “have a sense” that we are flawed. We know for a fact we are flawed. Because we aren’t intelligently engineered by any lovable sky ghost. We were cobbled together by blind natural selection over billions of years. A magical wizard-maker is actually the least plausible explanation of why we are this flawed. And we aren’t sensing any cosmic truth when we feel we nevertheless have the potential for greatness. The evolved computers in our heads can simply calculate what we could accomplish, if only given enough time and the right cooperation and conditions. That’s not a miracle. It’s simply an observed fact. A fact that all sentient animals will observe of themselves, whether built intelligently or blindly.

And there isn’t really any “longing for love and beauty that nothing in this world can fulfill.” We have been naturally selected to react to certain phenomena in this world in greater degrees in accordance with a greater stimulus; rarely does this potential correlation max out the scale. But it is still not the case that it never does. Maybe you’ve never had a pinnacle experience that none other could excel. But I have. And so have many others. Whether and when we encounter a stimulus that pegs the meter on any of our built-in scales is simply a matter of historical happenstance. And what meters we have, is a product of natural selection, in conjunction with our random or human-planned interactions with the environment. Aesthetic experience requires nothing more to explain it. In fact, God is a really bad explanation for it. Science can actually predict many of the peculiarities of our aesthetic responses now; theology never could. (See my discussion of examples in music; I discuss visual pleasure response in Sense and Goodness, Part VI; and well beyond its bibliography, there is science now on almost every medium of beauty response.)

Finally, “we have a deep need to know meaning and purpose” because we are a social animal that evolved a drive to understand its world. Why? Because that impels us to learn how to navigate it better. And because we have a drive to matter, to someone, or some community. Why? Because that impels us to advance our prosociality, which is one of the adaptive advantages our species has acquired. Too much loneliness sucks, because we evolved to dislike it. And we evolved to dislike it for the same reason every other social mammal on earth did: disliking it increases the probability that we will seek, and thus benefit from, social cooperation. For the very same reason, a desire often enough to be alone, serves the same function: too much cooperation can become maladaptive, too—as it leads to inflexible hive-minding, and the suppression of innovation, and the loss of a capacity for independence. Cats, for example, are likewise both social and loners, because being social they can enjoy the advantages of a herd; while also being loners, they keep the advantage of being able to survive without a herd should they need to.

There is therefore no need for a magical explanation of why we are the way we are, why we want the things we want, why we like the things we like, and why we don’t want or like what we don’t like or want. If you are confused or unsure, then you can sponsor scientific research to find out or make sure. That’s the only way you are going to overthrow the already-obvious explanations nature provides. Theism cannot prevail from the armchair. It cannot rationally build on a foundation of ignorance.

And Then Keller Lies about Cosmological Science

Keller resurrects the old trope, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” (p. 128). Actually, the question should be, why should there be nothing rather than something? There is no more an a priori reason that there should ever have been nothing, or that nothing is in any way the natural state of anything, than that there should always have been something, that something is the natural state of everything. But no matter. To get to his “nothing,” Keller lies.

First Keller lies about Stephen Hawking. He says Hawking wrote, “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” As if that statement is true. In fact, Hawking wrote that twenty years ago. Not only had Hawking himself (as well as Roger Penrose) repudiated that conclusion, but it is now universally rejected in the cosmological sciences. Because it was based solely on the Hawking-Penrose Theorem. Which was refuted. By Stephen Hawking. No joke. This is how dishonest Christians are.

I’ve already thoroughly covered this ubiquitous lie Christian apologists keep telling. You can read up on it there. But in short… Everyone now agrees the Hawking-Penrose Theorem is invalid. Including Stephen Hawking. All physicists now agree there is no evidence that singularities can even exist (because they contradict quantum mechanics), and all physicists now agree that therefore there can be no knowledge anymore if or whether time ever had a beginning. And most cosmological models now are past eternal. Unlike twenty years ago.

Not only was this thoroughly covered in Scientific American, as in fact the very cover article in 2004 by Gabriele Veneziano declared, “The Myth of the Beginning of Time.” But it was also used to thoroughly embarrass William Lane Craig when he foolishly tried debating cosmology with an actual cosmologist, Sean Carroll. Carroll had to show the audience slides of photographs Carroll personally took of the very physicists Craig kept dishonestly saying had proved time must have a beginning, holding up a sign telling Craig he was dishonestly saying those physicists had proved time must have a beginning.

Snapshot of Sean Carroll's debate slide presentation showing a photo of Cosmologist Alan Guth holding up a sign saying 'it's probably eternal, but nobody knows'As Carroll there said (timestamp 1:05:15):

You might think, you know, that there is a ‘theorem’, by Alan Guth and Arvin Borde and Alexander Vilenkin, that says that the universe had a beginning. I’ve explained to you why that’s not true. But in case you don’t trust me, I happen to have Alan Guth, right here. [Points to the slide, shown here to the right] One of the authors of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem. Alan, what do you say? He says, “I don’t know whether the universe had a beginning; I suspect the universe didn’t have a beginning. It’s very likely [past] eternal, but nobody knows.” Now how in the world can the author of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem say the universe is probably [past] eternal? For the reasons I’ve already told you. The Theorem is only about classical descriptions of the universe; not about the universe itself.

By which Carroll means physicists no longer believe the universe can be described by classical physics. Because we now live in the age of quantum physics. Which is no longer governed by classical mechanics. We now know the universe is quantum mechanical. And quantum mechanics rules out the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem. So says Guth himself, and Carroll (and Hawking and Penrose and Barrow and Veneziano and on and on and on). Actual experts in the field. Craig? Keller? Liars. With no degrees in physics.

Keller continues his deception by quoting “scientist” Francis Collins saying the universe began from “an infinitesimally small point” yadayada. Scientist. Francis Collins. Hm. Why would Keller say “scientist”? Could it be that, maybe, Francis Collins is a geneticist? And that, maybe, Keller doesn’t want you to know he is trying to quote a geneticist as an expert on cosmological physics? This is how Christian apologists lie to you. In fact Collins is a total amateur in cosmology who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Plus he’s a fanatical Christian. He is totally biased, has no relevant expertise in the subject, and gets everything he says about it wrong. But that’s just the kind of expert Christians love to quote.

Keller then commits both sins of bearing false witness simultaneously, when he quotes the completely unqualified Collins, deliberately misquoting Hawking! Keller says (p. 130):

Stephen Hawking concludes: “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.” Elsewhere he says, “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe would have begun in just this way except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”

Oh did he really? This is Keller saying this. But who does he cite as his source for these things Hawking supposedly said? Collins. Gosh. I wonder why Keller couldn’t find anything written by Hawking to cite as having said these things. Hmm. In fact, the first line, Hawking never wrote. Rather, it was quoted from notes or memory by John Boslough (in Stephen Hawking’s Universe, p. 109, opening page of chapter 9) in 1985…now thirty years ago! Completely obsolete. What has Hawking more recently said on the subject? Oh right. Exactly the fucking opposite. The second line? From A Brief History of Time, where Hawking is arguing against the sentence Collins (and thus Keller) quote.

That’s right. Hawking never said he thought the universe was difficult to explain without God. He said it would be difficult, but for the theories he and his colleagues had by then outlined, which eliminate the need for any such god hypothesis. And many more such theories have been published since…Hawking wrote that, after all, and once again, in 1988. Thirty fucking years ago. So once again, Keller is relying on Collins’s dishonest quoting of Hawking, quoting him out of context, and dishonestly representing Hawking’s views by citing decades-old opinions long obsolete rather than anything Hawking more recently said on the subject. I’ve caught Keller lying about quotes and sources before, to try and manipulate his readers, by exploiting their “awe” at famous names like Stephen Hawking. This is more of the same.

So it’s just funny when Keller gets to, of course, the Fine Tuning Argument, where it is said all the physical parameters of this universe are just rightly aligned to make a universe capable of accidentally producing a tiny speck of life here and there. And surely “the probability of this perfect calibration happening by chance is so tiny as to be statistically negligible” (p. 130). Actually, we do not know that. No one knows all the possible parameters that there could be, or what happens when you vary all of them randomly at the same time. No paper ever published in the history of physics has ever accomplished such an analysis. But more importantly, the properties of this universe are actually as inhospitable to life as they could possibly be and still generate life. Which looks exactly like an accidentally life-generating universe would; whereas an intelligently designed universe would be uniformly perfect for life, not chaotically random and wasteful on astronomically vast scales. Likewise all the other evidence (that our minds only exist as the products of highly complex physical brains, and so on).

Hence, when you put the evidence back in, that theists leave out, a multiverse inevitably sprung from a condition of zero restraints on what may happen is a far better hypothesis for any apparent “fine tuning” one could ever draw attention to. Keller wants to insist “there’s not a shred of proof that there are many universes,” but actually, there’s more evidence to support them, than God.

Oh, hey. You know who agrees with me on exactly that point? Stephen Fucking Hawking.

Christianity: Pooping Shit Philosophy Since 30 A.D.

Of course Keller quotes the completely ignorant and inexpert Francis Collins saying this: “that the universe had a beginning implies that someone was able to begin it” (p. 129). That’s a total turd of philosophy. No such implication follows even if all existence “had a beginning”; and there is exactly zero evidence all existence had a beginning. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. I’ve already covered this before. So I won’t belabor the point. I also thoroughly cover the same nonsense about the universe requiring a cause other than itself in Sense and Goodness without God (III.3). That’s a self-contradictory statement, if “universe” is defined as everything that has ever existed; while any other definition of the universe is arbitrary and thus of no consequence to physics.

An infinite past is logically possible, and possible on presently known physics, and ruled out by no observation (see my discussion of the Kalam Cosmological Argument in my debate with Wanchick). And the ultimate cause (ontologically or temporally), if even there were one, need not be a “person,” one of the most implausible and complex and (for things like this) unprecedented causes imaginable. It can easily be chaos, randomness, the absence of all constraining laws and forces, a simple wave-form, force, principle, or particle. The possibilities are endless. And countless of them comport with existing physics and well-established experience, and require no magic or ghosts.

So the cosmological argument is simply junk philosophy.

Similarly Keller’s amateur and math-illiterate attempts to argue against multiverse theory on the basis of odds at poker. He doesn’t notice that he is arguing that all poker games must be rigged, because some people draw amazing hands. Which will be news to every professional poker player on the planet. Now, I’m willing to grant that Keller just doesn’t understand how math works. Because most people don’t. He could be lying. But I think more likely, he just didn’t pay attention in school.

Keller produces the execution analogy, commonly employed by apologists, which imagines that if “all” of fifty sharpshooters tasked with executing you miss, it must be by design. Because the odds against it happening by accident are just so terribly low. He doesn’t seem to realize that if all fifty sharpshooters will miss the target by accident once in a million times…if there are a billion executions, then it is actually guaranteed one of their targets will experience fifty misses. And since no one gets to report what they saw except the ones who were missed, it follows that you will only ever observe all fifty sharpshooters missing you. Because otherwise, you observe nothing. You’re dead. Therefore, you actually can’t conclude it was design. Unless you can rule out that there were a billion executions. Which is precisely what we can’t do in the case of our universe.

This is why we all believe (sans evidence) that state lotteries aren’t rigged. Even Keller, presumably, isn’t going around accusing state lotteries of being rigged, on the grounds that winning is “so very improbable.” That argument doesn’t work when we have reason to believe the quantity of trials is high. And whether the reason for winning a lottery is the high number of players or the game being rigged is precisely what we are trying to determine the odds of—and the mere observation that winning is improbable can’t be used to do that. And you can’t argue, either, that “positing multiple universes” is ad hoc because it adds “all those universes” to explain one universe. Because no multiverse theory in cosmology today simply posits “multiple universes” ad hoc. They all predict multiple universes as an inevitable (100% guaranteed) outcome from a single, far simpler initial state.

For example, if we start with a randomly selected state that is governed by no laws of physics—absolutely nothing constrains what will occur—then the number of universes that will spring from that state is unconstrained, which means every possible number of universes is as likely to occur as any other number of universes. Which entails the number of universes that will spring from that initial singular state, is as near to infinite as any logic allows. And the probability that our universe will exist, with all its fine tuning, if a virtually infinite number of universes arise—all of them randomly arranged—is as near to 100% as makes all odds. We do not have to “posit” multiple universes to get this outcome. All we have to posit is literally the simplest thing conceivable: a single dimensionless singularity possessed of no properties and thus governed by no laws, and thus wholly and totally unconstrained in outcome. From that single posit, a near infinite multiverse follows inevitably, with virtual 100% certainty.

So trying to argue “it’s improbable, therefore it’s designed” is also junk philosophy.

Tons of things are improbable and not designed. In fact, most improbable things are undesigned. And we don’t need gods or ad hoc multiverses to get the probability of our universe to be effectively 100% on random chance alone. And indeed all its properties look exactly like that’s what happened. The vast lethality and age and size and randomness of the universe; its needlessly excessive complexity in basic physics (e.g. the Standard Model is far more complicated than is needed to produce us—it looks more like a random collection of junk); its total dependency on billion-year evolution and trillion-cell physical machinery for personal consciousness; its total cosmic indifference to injustice, malevolence, or catastrophe; our cosmically pointless mortality; the complete absence of any evidence of any magic or gods of any kind; and so on. These are all evidence that it was, indeed, a chance godless accident, and not the work of Jesus Christ.

We won the lottery, for the same reason everyone does: inevitable luck. Keller presents not a single piece of evidence, nor a single logically valid reason, to conclude otherwise.

Keller fills this chapter with dumb junk philosophy like that.

For example:

  • “Science cannot prove the continued regularity of nature, it can only take it on faith” (p. 132). Bullshit. Regularity is not taken on faith. It’s observed. That’s called empirical evidence. And science explains that regularity quite well: the presently hypothesized ontology of physical particles and spacetime explains every regularity we observe; and successfully predicted even more. In fact, that’s the difference between science and theology. Science actually explains shit.
  • “There have been many scholars in the last decades who have argued that modern science arose in its most sustained form out of Christian civilization because of its belief in an all-powerful, personal God” (p. 132). Bullshit. Those weren’t scholars. They were completely amateur, inexpert, Christian fanatics who lied about the facts and didn’t know jack shit about ancient culture or science. (See my thorough demonstration in The Christian Delusion, Chapter 15.)
  • “[Only] our view of the universe gives us a basis for believing that cognitive faculties work,” per Plantinga, because we need a God to explain why we have reliable faculties at all (p. 140). Bullshit. In fact, our cognitive faculties are so defective, the actual fact of this is evidence against the involvement of any God. Nor do we need God to explain why we can still rely on them so far as we actually do. But this I already covered yesterday.
  • Atheistic epistemologies don’t work, Keller says, because they require assuming things will continue working the way they always have, “though we haven’t the slightest rational justification for assuming it will continue” that way (p. 140). Bullshit. We have many rational justifications for it. Not least being Laplace’s Rule of Succession, which logically proves that the world continuing as it has, is extremely probable on all current observation; until we observe reasons to doubt it—as often we do: for lots of things change. That’s how rationality works. (Though of course Keller doesn’t get rationality. That’s why he’s a Christian.)
  • “If there is no God, and everything in this world is the product of … ‘an accidental collocation of atoms’ then … what we call ‘beauty’ is nothing but a neurological hardwired response to particular data” (p. 133). Yeah. So? It’s shit philosophy to state the obvious. And then give no reason whatever as to why this should matter.
  • “If we are the result of blind natural forces, then what we call ‘love’ is simply a biochemical response, inherited from ancestors who survived because this trait helped them survive” (p. 134). Yeah. So? My body is “just” a collection of cells. My annual income is “just” a collection of pennies. All scientific knowledge is “just” a collection of words. Death is “just” a change in metabolic state. I was born “only” because the United States illegally invaded Mexico. Do you see the inane stupidity of his argument?

Those last two arguments of his are examples of the modo hoc fallacy (see Sense of Goodness, index). Neither argument he makes, is an argument for those conclusions being false. That I am “just” a collection of cells is no less true merely because Keller thinks that’s weird. Nor does my being a collection of cells mean I don’t have hands, legs, a brain, eyes, or that I can’t write novels or discover what water is made of. So, too, aesthetics and emotionality. Arguing “an orgasm” is just an evolved chemical response does not make it cease to be enjoyable. And “love” being a survival mechanism by which we cooperate and help each other cope and survive is actually what people want love to be anyway. That it also has additional side effects (a deeper cognitive happiness, a fascinating phenomenology, a restructuring of social networks), side effects that we find useful for other goals we’ve chosen for ourselves, also remains true regardless of its cause. We don’t like all that because of what caused it. We like all that because we get to enjoy it.

Keller makes the same mistake with “meaning” and “justice.” Meaning in our lives doesn’t come from gods. It literally couldn’t come from gods, even if the gods wanted it to. Because whatever meaning any god wanted your life to have, you’d still have to want it yourself, to be satisfied by it. It therefore can only ever come from you. And since it only ever comes from you, you shall never need a god for it. Similarly, Keller thinks “truth and justice, good and evil, are complete illusions” without God (p. 134). But calling them illusions confuses whether they exist, with where they come from. Truth exists even if God does not; it is therefore not an illusion. Likewise justice, good, evil, beauty, love, and everything else. Keller thus can’t even coherently use the word “illusion.” That we create something, or something came to us by accident, is completely irrelevant to what value it then has for us, what we can do with it, what we can enjoy about it. There is no illusion, either in the thing existing, or in its value and use to us. Both are always real. And nothing else matters. Gods never enter into it.

It’s likewise just false to say that “if when we die there’s nothing, all your sun and fields and whatnot are all, ah, horror? It’s just an ocean of horror” (p. 134). It’s truly a wonder how Christians keep trying to tell themselves this, even though they know perfectly well it isn’t true that temporary things are “just a horror.” That they would have to tell themselves that in order to keep believing their silly and useless religion, is just more evidence of how religion is a destroyer of human happiness. Christianity compels you to hate and despise everything good about life. And Keller thinks that’s a selling point. No. It’s why Christianity sucks.

Similarly his babbling nonsense about our never being satisfied and always wanting more life than we get, being proof that we must be immortal (p. 135). That’s not just junk philosophy. It’s a total tarry turd of philosophy. If you are dissatisfied, then all that means is either you are deprived and need to change something about your life, or the world is thwarting your desires—just as a world does that keeps someone perpetually in hunger. There is no logical step here to God or immortality as a conclusion. Only to a world that can satisfy our desires (such as for food) only for a time and only if circumstances are suitable (like the absence of starvation). Which is indicative of a world not governed by a god, not of a world designed by one.

These last things, like before, repeatedly show Keller is in thrall to all sorts of naive pseudo-psychology, uninformed by any scientific knowledge about human emotion, or any sound empirical method of exploring what we feel and why and how that came to be. I often find Christianity depends on naive pseudo-psychology.

Summary

Keller fails to understand or correctly describe rationality. His arguments against it are irrational and uninformed. And his own use of it is plagued by the same tactic he has always deployed throughout this book: simply lying about what is actually the case. And, occasionally, making weirdly illogical assertions—like that the common feature of believing in The Trinity (which in factual reality is not a common feature of every Christianity) is more important than basic human values, upon which Christian sects have always wildly differed rather than agreed; or that we could have evolved to believe in evolution, which contradicts the fact that for hundreds of thousands of years we didn’t believe in evolution, which kind of nixes any possibility of our having evolved to. He likewise fills this chapter with junk philosophy. Poorly thought-out, scientifically uninformed, and embarrasingly naive.

Real critical rationality means believing only in what can be demonstrated by logic or evidence. Because as a matter of logically necessary fact, everything else is far more likely to be false than true. And Keller has no logical reason to believe in Christianity or its God. And he has no evidence to report that makes it at all likely. He tries to invent such evidence, by outright lying about it (lying, even, about what experts like Stephen Hawking believe, and lying about what’s true, by quoting non-experts making false statements about science); or by conveniently leaving out the context of that evidence, which when reintroduced, completely reverses its significance. Fine tuning is actually evidence against intelligent design. The observed nature of this cosmos, from top to bottom and at every scale, is actually evidence against it having been started by a person. The Christian worldview actually contradicts the available evidence, and makes no sense of the world we actually observe ourselves in. Life doesn’t need to be intelligently designed to be pleasurable, beautiful, wonderful, enjoyable, and meaningful. And the best explanation for why it so often thwarts and frustrates our longings and desires, is that it wasn’t.

-:-

Next I’ll discuss Keller’s Chapter 9 (that link will go live next month), in which he tries arguing we need God to ground morality and thereby maintain a flourishing society.

2 comments

  1. Emanuel Goldstein August 10, 2017, 12:04 pm

    When you start out by labeling the reasons “dishonest” in your title, before you even present any argument, i know your bias will dominate.

    I pass.

    Reply
    1. You do know the title of an article gets written after the article, right?

      And that I read and annotated the entire book before I began writing this series?

      In light of those facts, you should rethink your reasoning. Don’t you think?

      Reply

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