Despite this, De Rose's reply is as follows:
Fair enough, but note how he's dodged the central issue. That is, how can Christians (or Muslims, or Jews or anyone for that matter) make a claim for deity without factual, evidentiary basis? But after further pressing by Gutting (a Notre Dame professor of philosophy), De Rose launches into the "God as distinct entity" argument:
"In any case, the situation is very different with God. The thought that God exists does strike many atheists as bizarre. But, in contrast to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, there are all of these theists and agnostics who do not find the thought of God’s existence bizarre, and I really think they ruin our atheist friends’ hopes for easy knowledge here. The basic point is that, when there are many other apparently sensible people who disagree with you, you need a good argument to claim that you know they’re wrong
But again, this is a dodge. First, because he is arguing without having delivered a formal definition of the God he's making reference to. Second, no agnostic I know withholds belief in the generic form of "creative" deity peculiar to Deism but rather in the more specific personal deity claimed by many Christians . Thus, for these agnostics, profound doubt prevents them from simply accepting a deity who knows every hair count for every person in the world (and all to come) and what each is thinking every moment. It's a stretch too far! Third, Christians themselves differ widely on the concept of God they align with. And here again, it is well to note it is God concepts we are all about here and not the actual God-GOD of reality - assuming such exists.
Again, unless one has specified the nature of the 'God' one believes in, the discussion is sterile and without point. Since the meaning of 'God' is vague then any claim can be made, and any expeditious rhetoric delivered with its applicability never called into question. This is what's so wrong with DeRose's claim of "many sensible people who disagree with you". Uh, not so - not when you press these "many people" to sit down and specify the nature of the 'God' they are claiming to accept. Is it a personal God that involves itself in every decision and breath a human takes? Is it an impersonal God like Brahman of the Hindus? Is it a detached God like that of the Deists? Unless we know what these "many people" are really claiming or believing in then it can't be said that they disagree with atheists in large numbers - since the lack of a coherent definition accepted by all trashes the "many people" argument - which, let's admit- assumes uniformity of belief in the SAME deity.
Prof. Gutting challenges De Rose once more:
Again, the point eludes him: at the core of religions' belief systems lie the definition of 'God' that they accept. Unless one parses the definition and explores its deficiencies one cannot be said to have discovered anything about the religions' validity. As for sounding the note of 'striking others differently' this merely returns us to the subjective nature of God concepts, which as I noted in my recent book ('Beyond Atheism, Beyond God') means all such concepts are relative and no one can be held up as exclusively true in respect of the others. But DeRose doesn't deal with any of this, preferring to talk in comforting generalities.
Again, whether a religion or its God strikes anyone as 'bizarre' is irrelevant to the point of the evidentiary basis. Indeed, as I pointed out in previous posts, atheists need not even disprove a religion's God basis only show that whatever the basis is, it has no bearing on how we conduct experiments in science, for example. Or how we engineer safety factors into airlines, or how we build rockets to reach Mars or Pluto. In other words, the particular God concept or belief in God is actually redundant to how business is conducted in the real world - especially for the hard sciences like physics, as well as engineering.
Again, the central issue isn't believers' adopting "discredited" or bizarre beliefs, but rather whether the beliefs and the 'God' behind them reflect a consistent reality that is in any way observable in the physical world. People in insane asylums also hold bizarre beliefs and many even claim to be 'God' - but rational people discount them because tests have disclosed neural defects or brain dysfunctions, such as schizophrenia. Hence the source of their information or beliefs cannot be trusted. All of which bodes caution in accepting claims, irrespective of whether we know "all about" who is making them. It is for this reason atheists constantly harp on independent, objective tests in the real world.
Prof. Gutting again tries to steer DeRose into a sensible response:
And what does DeRose say?
This is true, but as a long time atheist would aver: It doesn't matter! Whether God exists has no bearing whatsoever, none, on the quality of our scientific research, its testable hypotheses, or how the tests are conducted. Apart from which, one can't say "atheists don't know whether God exists" unless the definition of God is first given - which DeRose clearly avoids in each of his responses.
For example, if "God" is taken to be identifiable with the universe itself (pantheism), there is good reason not to accept it. After all, it was Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts who first alluded to the danger of pantheism when he asked the question (in his book, 'Does It Matter?'):
"If the universe is identified with God, and the universe is destroyed in a 'Big Crunch' or superheated explosion, does that mean God is destroyed too?"
By the same token, if "God" is taken to be defined as the ultra-Being of ancient theology: i.e. as omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, etc. there is also excellent basis to reject it since the "Omni" attributes end up making the Being contradictory as I pointed out in the penultimate chapter of my own book.
"I don’t think the arguments for either theism or atheism lead to knowledge of their conclusions. But there are arguments on both sides from premises that someone might reasonably judge to be plausible. If you find it quite probable that God does not exist, I think it’s perfectly possible that you are reasonable to think as you do. But this doesn’t mean that someone who thinks it is likely that God does exist can’t likewise be reasonable in holding that position."
True, in terms of the latter, but only again IF his God is defined. As we see already from these responses in Part 1, DeRose can get away with a lot because all the way through he adopts an elastic definition within which he can contain a baby asteroid, or more to the point - mold his responses any way he wants to fend off Gutting's probes while making it appear ALL theists are as rational as your basic, garden variety, scientifically informed atheist.
More to come in Part 2.