A Easy Way To Filter Out Bad Faith Atheists

On the internet it’s very useful to quickly tell whether someone is asking questions about Christianity in good faith or just trying to waste your time. There are lots of ways, I’m going to show one easy one.

It’s this: Point out that the existence of gravity cannot be empirically verified, it can only be shown through its effects. Then see what they do.

Now, this is unarguably true. Something which can be empirically verified is something which can be directly observed by the senses (possibly with the aid of an instrument, such as a magnifying glass or stethoscope). Gravity:

  1. Has no color and cannot be seen*.
  2. Has no taste.
  3. Has no smell.
  4. Does not feel like anything. (if you push on it, there’s no resistance. Your arm might feel heavy, but the gravity itself doesn’t feel like anything.)
  5. Has no sound.

It is easy to discover that there is gravity, though the difficulty depends on exactly what you mean by gravity (gravity as described by general relativity is hard to discover), but it must be done by observing the effect of gravity upon things. After observing this effect one can then infer the existence of gravity, but the gravity itself cannot be observed.

Gravity is, in this regard, like observing wind purely by sight. You cannot see the wind, you can only see the effect of the wind.

This is not a controversial point, and it’s not a difficult point. If you can empirically observe something you can say what color it is, how loud it is, what it tastes like, what it smells like, or what it feels like. You can do none of these things with gravity. This is what makes it a useful test.

If an atheist acknowledges this point (and proceeds in a manner consistent with acknowledging this point), he’s probably sincere and not merely trying to waste your time. If he twists himself up into self-contradictory knots trying to fight this point, he’s just trying to waste your time.

The only reason anyone ever has for denying something which is obviously true is because their primary goal is not the truth.


*This is not quite 100% true as one can argue that gravitational lensing is actually directly observing gravity. The only problem with this is that no one has actually seen gravitational lensing. It has been observed in radio frequencies by radio telescopes, but humans do not see in radio frequencies. Once you have an instrument which translates what we cannot see (etc) to something that we can, you have to make arguments for why the translation is correct, and those arguments cannot be empirically verified. Thus anything which rests upon observations through translating equipment is not empirically verified by rests upon indirect observation and argument.

42 thoughts on “A Easy Way To Filter Out Bad Faith Atheists

  1. In your final paragraph you seem to make excuses to downplay the evidence at hand. While viewing through gravitational lensing and the distortions in space time (as predicted by general theory) is only part of the story. Other aspects of the theory have been put into practice for many years. This piece was a little harder to prove and we waited for technology to catch up. If all but one part is true in your faith, you accept the entire premise of a god. If all but one difficult piece to general theory is missing, you dismiss the entire theory. Einstein was right. A lot! And much smarter colleagues than your average goat herder. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the evidence. It took 10,000 years and a simple microscope to see a virus or bacteria. Christians god got smaller then as explanations for illness became known, without gods and devils cursing the world. So, you all move you ontological goalposts, make god so obscure and incomprehensible so as to be without words to refute. But, by and by the difficult topics will be answered, we just need to learn how to look. Pretty simple.

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  2. Your idea of ’empirical verification’ seems peculiar. Observation of the physical effects of something on the world is precisely what is meant by most people when we say ’empirical verification.’ I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone suggest that the only way to empirically verify a theory is by direct observation through the human senses until your post, here.

    That said, are you claiming that the evidence for the existence of God is anywhere near as verifiable as that for the existence of gravity?

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      1. No need to jump to ad hominem, friend. For a post about having discussions in good faith, you are jumping to personal insults fairly quickly.

        “Empirical evidence” does not entail direct sensory experience. Sensory experience of the effects of a particular phenomenon is, and always has been, included when discussing empirical evidence. So, it seems that you believe that there is empirical evidence for the existence of deity.

        I will, of course, object to referring to the universe as “his creation,” since that is an assumption of the very thing which you are attempting to demonstrate. However, I will ask why you believe that the universe’s existence necessarily implies the existence of deity.

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          1. My apologies. I had presumed that the insult was intended as support for an otherwise bald assertion. Since that was not your intent, I’ll agree it was not fallacious. It does, however, still seem rather odd that in a post about good-faith discussions, someone makes a comment in good faith and you respond with insults.

            But, honestly, I’m more interested in why you think that the existence of the universe implies the existence of deity.

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          2. Because if by “empirical verification” you mean “verified by means other than by the senses” you’ve obviously never thought it through. You should do that, and pointing out how gross an error you’re making (which is what an insult is) may stimulate you to actually think about the subject before talking to me about it.

            As for your other question, look up any of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s 5 ways to know God exists. They’re all reasoned inference from observation to cause.

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          3. I never said that “empirically verified” means “verified by means other than the senses.” Quite the contrary, I explicitly referred to the sensory experience of a phenomenon’s effects upon the world around it.

            As for Aquinas’ Five Ways, I am intimately familiar with them and find them wholly unconvincing. While the Aristotelian presumptions upon which Aquinas founded his arguments were well embraced in his day, they are as antiquated to modern natural philosophy as the similarly Aristotelian beliefs that the Earth is the center of the universe or that heavier objects fall more quickly to the ground than do lighter ones.

            Furthermore, your claim seemed to be that the existence of deity is as empirically verifiable as that of gravity; however, Aquinas’ arguments are not empirical in any way– they are appeals to pure reason, not accounts for the observable behavior of nature. I don’t see how they answer my question.

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          4. Come on. Look in front of you. Do you see something which is capable of change? There you go. You’ve empirically verified the existence of something changeable. You can then reason from that to the existence of something which actuates its potential to change. That’s every bit as much reasoned inference from empirical evidence as is reasoning to gravity from things falling, planets orbiting, etc.

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          5. Even if I were to grant that, Aquinas didn’t write Five Ways to Demonstrate Changeability. His Five Ways are meant to be demonstrations of the existence of deity.

            I’ll note, however, that the notion of actualizing potentialities as a means of describing change is precisely one of the outmoded Aristotelian foundational concepts which I mentioned earlier. Another is Aristotle’s (and therefore Averroes’, and therefore Aquinas’) aversion to the concept of actual infinites.

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          6. Changeability is the thing you can see in front of you. Anyway, since apparently you’re happy with our irrationality (which is what you get if potential can actualize itself), why are you bothering me? You reject reason? Fine. Stop talking, though.

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          7. I’m not sure why you’re trying to Straw Man me. I never said that potentiality actualizes itself, let alone that I reject reason. I said that the notion of describing change as the actualization of potentialities is outmoded. If you don’t understand what I mean by that, the good-faith thing to do would be to ask me rather than to presume I embrace irrationality.

            As to why I’m commenting on your blog post, it was in the hopes of having a conversation in good faith– ostensibly the whole reason for your post. If you’re not actually interested in having a good-faith conversation, just let me know and I will stop replying.

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          8. There are only a few options:
            1. Potential is actualized by actuality
            2. Potential is actualized by itself
            3. Potential is actualized for no reason whatever
            4. Potential isn’t actualized.

            4 however implies that nothing exists. So if you deny 1, you’re stuck with 2 or 3. However, 2 is equivalent to 3.

            I don’t really care what words you want to use to say 2/3 while hoping I don’t notice.

            Further, if you don’t hold potentiality is actualized by something actual, you’ve rejected causality and therefore rejected reason.

            Also if you think that there can be such thing as an actual infinity—which is a contradiction in terms—you’ve denied the principle of non-contradiction, which again denies reason.

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          9. Once again, if you don’t understand my claim– which you clearly don’t– the good-faith thing is to ask me what it is that I mean rather than to Straw Man me. The options which you offered are certainly not the only ones, and certainly do not describe my beliefs. In particular, you’ve omitted a very simple option which actually describes my belief: all events (past, present, and future) are co-actual, and potentiality is not a property of events. This is a Tenseless philosophy of time. If you’d like to discuss the particulars of such a philosophy, I am more than happy to do so. In particular, this philosophy certainly does not reject causality. Rather, causality is a description between the relationship of events, on such a view.

            But my more important question still remains: are you actually interested in having a good-faith discussion? If not, and if you simply remain intent on Straw-Manning my views, I’ll cease commenting.

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          10. OK, I am a bit curious: how do you get around the obvious falsity of your description of time? (I mean that we have a direct experience of time, and this direct experience contradicts what you’re saying. How do you work around that problem?)

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          11. I don’t see any reason to think that our experience contradicts what I’m saying, and Tenseless theories of time are nearly as old as written philosophy. However, it is only fairly recently in history– only about 100 years– that our understanding of physics has leant confirmatory evidence to the notion. Thanks to Einstein’s elucidation of Relativity, it seems that the idea that time is a single, monolithic progression observed identically by everyone and everything is false. Long story short, any given event as observed by observer A can be observed by another observer, B, as occurring earlier than A, simultaneously with A, or later than A depending upon their respective frames of reference.

            That is to say, there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity. Time behaves differently for different observers.

            So either potentialities are actualized for certain observers before they are actualized for others– which leads to the rather awkward assertion that something can be real for A when it is not real for B– or else there is no such thing as ‘potentiality’ and all events are co-actual.

            I’ve actually written a whole series on this over on my own blog, if you are interested.

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          12. I’m saying that the experience of time’s progression is illusory. In my opinion, that illusion is likely due to some entropic property of the manner in which the brain creates memory. However, the notion that time’s passage is illusory has been considered in philosophy for more than two millennia, now.

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          13. For the same reason that I tell people that the Atlantic Ocean is east of New Jersey despite the fact that you’ll also reach the Atlantic if you travel West or Southwest or Northwest or an infinite number of other directions, you’ll also reach the Atlantic. It is a convention which is well-understood and aids in common conversation.

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      2. Christopher Langan? Is that you?? You guys with the high IQs are just so hard to understand. We just don’t get it! You open a forum like this you better have your shit together. Nobody here buys bullshit, and your disingenuous rhetoric from the beginning. Nice work! In Christianity you can say anything as long as you back it up with faith. It’s a running joke you can’t really skate by on here.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Have you had your brain surgically replaced with a dead salmon? How is it possible for a man to be so dumb he doesn’t understand the difference between what you know by looking at something and what you can know by reasoned inference from what you can observe by looking?

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          1. Actually, willful idiots tend to ignore points made politely. Often they ignore more pointed remarks, as well, but sometimes they’re startled by someone not taking them seriously and actually think for a minute. It’s related to how most atheists have significant daddy issues.

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      1. I think you reading your own blog may have hurt you physically. Self abuse is trigger of depression faced when handwaving contradiction with faith. Should I call an ambulance? Are you a danger to yourself or others right now? Take a deep breath. Breath. I’ve seen this anger before. It’s right before the complete collapse of belief in god. No worries. The light comes on pretty quickly after that.

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          1. You can always tell a fake Christian, but you can’t tell them much. They usually stick to half truth and assumption. It’s a coping mechanism from hard wired, self indoctrination and repetition. Your ability to overlook contradiction is now physiological. Have a good day.

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