CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth


As I discuss the evidence for the existence of God with various people, I occasionally run across a skeptic who somehow believes that she is making a case against God’s existence by countering every Christian contention for God’s existence by arguing that the same argument makes an equally strong case for the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn (or its even more absurd relative, the Flying Spaghetti Monster). By this method, the skeptic concludes that she has shown that the Christian arguments for God’s existence to be nonsense because they can be used to support these chimeras.

Rather than split time between the absurd Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) and the even more absurd Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), I will focus my attention on the IPU. So, the first question becomes what is the IPU and where did it come from? According to the website invisiblepinkunicorn.com (which I take to be the definitive word on the IPU):  

The Invisible Pink Unicorn (blessed be her holy hooves) is a fictional female deity in the form of a unicorn. The goddess was invented at the usenet discussion group alt.atheism as an alternative to other parody deities like Church of the SubGenius "J.R. Bob Dobbs" or Eris of the Discordianism. Quoting from the alt.atheism FAQ:

Like most Goddesses, she's invisible and highly unlikely to exist. However, there is much argument as to her exact colour, her shape and size, and other properties of her nonexistence. She burns with anger against theists, and allegedly grinds them beneath her holy hooves.

The "believers" famous sayings about faith in the invisible pink unicorn is that, like other religions, it is founded in science and faith. Science - that states that she must be invisible, since we cannot see her. Faith - because we know in our heart that the invisible pink unicorn exists. This is of course a parody of the theological reasoning of other religions.

The use of the IPU in a discussion about God might go something like this: when a Christian states that God is immortal and invisible, the IPU-skeptic argues by reflecting back that the IPU is also immortal and invisible. The Christian then asks on what basis the skeptic believes that and the skeptic cites some allegedly holy book. The Christian then says something like, “But you don’t really believe that.” The skeptic assures the Christian that he does believe it and that if the Christian is free to believe in his god then the skeptic can believe in the IPU.  

So, how might a Christian respond when confronted by the IPU? The Christian could take the claim seriously and try to show what is intrinsically obvious: the entire idea of an invisible pink unicorn is ridiculous. For example, our own Richard Deem, author of the God and Science website, has written a nice article arguing from science that it is scientifically impossible for a thing to be both pink and invisible (which is obvious) and scientifically extremely unlikely for any living creature to be truly invisible (leading him to take a “strong aunicornist stance”). But despite their alleged allegiance to science, it is my experience that this type of argument makes little impact on the skeptic largely because the skeptics know that the entire argument is not about proving the existence of an IPU.  Rather, the whole argument about the IPU is a farce and an intentional one.  The skeptic is wedded to the idea that by substituting the IPU for God in any Christian argument, they have proven the Christian argument wrong.

When someone uses the low-level tactic of the IPU, they have stopped engaging in legitimate discussion – they are appealing to flippancy. C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters describes flippancy as the lowest form of humor and the type of humor that is farthest from the joy that God desires. According to the devil Screwtape in Letter XI, the flippant person makes fun of things like virtue (or God) by assuming that a joke has been made and having others laugh along with the supposed joke.

Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against [God] that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

The IPU is a flippant approach to discussions about Christianity. It attempts to make a joke out of God by comparing him falsely to an invisible pink unicorn, and all of the flippant-minded atheists laugh thinking that something really funny or clever is being said. But merely parroting what the Christian says is neither clever nor persuasive. It is not a logical refutation of the Christian argument because logic is not involved in the argument. It does nothing to advance but only hinders discussion. Thus, when a skeptic plays the IPU card, productive discussion has ended.

So, what is a Christian to do? It seems to me that the Christian should simply call the skeptic out by identifying his rhetoric for what it is. The way to do this is to point out the obvious: the skeptic does not and cannot really believe in the IPU (or the FSM or whatever other invented creature they will next fabricate) whereas Christians actually believe in God and have valid arguments to prove it. The skeptic, if he remains true to the tactic used by the skeptics with whom I have argued, will insist that he does believe in the IPU. (They do that to maintain their argument that there is no difference between arguing for God and arguing for the IPU.)

The Christian should then point to the Invisible Pink Unicorn website and the quote that I have set forth above which represents an atheist admission that the IPU is nothing more than a parody of Christian arguments. The Christian can then point out that the skeptic who is defending the IPU is doing so as a rhetorical tactic, nothing more.

At this point, the smart skeptic should abandon the argument. But history shows that many skeptics would not qualify as smart, so some may continue to attempt to counter this. They may say that the IPU website is a fraud. They may point to websites that are written by other skeptics that say that Christianity is a fraud (which are easily distinguishable or which, at least, move the argument onto a different ground). They may simply continue to contend against the evidence that the IPU exist. No matter what the course taken by the IPU skeptic (other than giving up on the argument), there is one avenue left for the Christian.

The Christian should respond to something like the following: “It is apparent to me that you are being terribly dishonest. I have shown you that the IPU is nothing more than a rhetorical device, but you are continuing to try to tell me that the IPU exists. I can only conclude from this that you are not interested in the truth. Thus, I am going to end this conversation. If you want to really discuss God’s existence honestly, let me know and I will happily engage you. But I have no desire to continue to discuss this with you if you are going to lie to me.”

It isn't pretty. It isn't a logical argument. It’s a straight shaming of the individual in a nice way. But the truth is that if a skeptic is insistent that the IPU is somehow equivalent to God or that it somehow represents a legitimate argument that God doesn't exist, the skeptic is either dishonest or incredibly ill-informed. 

15 comments:

What the IPU does effectively is place the Christian in the position the skeptic is normally forced to inhabit. There's no scientific evidence for a god and no means to prove its existence outside of faith, which by nature in inarguable. The skeptic can demonstrate thoroughly that there's no reason to believe in a god, at which point the Christian falls back to the faith argument. It's frustrating to demonstrate by all means available that a conclusion is unsubstantiated, only to be countered by "it does because I believe it in my heart". The IPU puts the Christian in this position.

The intended result is to show a Christian how nonsensical his argumentation is. Unfortunately, the argument tends to go over their heads or be swept under the rug with a condescending "if they had faith, they'd understand".

what such terms does is to legitimate the pretense that scientific expectations are the only form reality can take.

"There's no scientific evidence for a god and no means to prove its existence outside of faith, which by nature in inarguable."

why should there be? It's not in the domain of scinece. It's not a scientific question. You might also want to see my post on empirical superannuate and also the one on Lourdes because both offer the stunning fact that is some scientific evince, although not direct.

the 200 studies on religious experience is scientific evidence for God.

terms like IPU just reduce God ot the level of a thin in creation. That makes it seem like we are taking about one of several entities instead of a competency unique category of being. not a being but being itself.

God is not just another fact added to the universe but the basis of all that is. that means just changing signifiers from "God" to "IPU" does nothing.

the reason for doing it is cleary derisive.

Anonymous (I wish you'd identify yourself, btw), I obviously disagree wholeheartedly with your comment. Anyone who believes that there is no evidence for God's existence is simply closing their minds. You are effectively substituting "mathematical proof" as the definition for "evidence", but if you use the real definition of evidence ("data on which to base proof or to establish truth or falsehood") you would see that there is a ton of evidence for God's existence. And if you have read this blog with any regularity you would clearly see that no one here argues that God exists because "I believe it in my heart."

But I am more curious: exactly how does your pretending that there is a mythical being effectively "place the Christian in the position the skeptic is normally forced to inhabit"? You see, the IPU has no evidence to establish its existence (using the real definition of evidence), while God has a lot of data that supports his existence (if you would open your eyes and not give knee-jerk reactions). So tell me, how does the IPU advance your cause?

@BK, re Anonymous, I don't detect you disclosing your identity, either.

What Anonymous is explaining is that theists create a special pleading category for arguments for their deity-idea. Such theists don't accept as evidence such special pleading arguments in any other part of their existence or experience, but demand the privilege of using special pleading arguments in defense of their deity-idea.

You can't claim that God is outside the "domain of science", and simultaneously claim that there's "some" scientific evidence for God. Sorry, it doesn't fly.

So, Anonyjmous, here's the deal: I have not posted my name and address as part of my ID on this site and I don't expect anyone else to do so. However, it would be helpful to use some type of ID so I know if the person posting this time as "anonymous" is the same person who posted last time as "anonymous." To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, "Savvy?"

Second, I reject your claim of special pleading. I am sure that some Christians use special pleading in the same way that some atheists do. But most apologists don't use special pleading.

Finally, if you're the same Anonymous who posted the sixth comment, too, I would note that God is outside of the Domain of Science in the sense that you cannot test for Him. But you certainly can note that the evidence is there in the natural world because He does, at times, intercede and you can see how he intercedes with such things as miracles. That's what Metacrock was discussing. These are not mutually exclusive.

The entire argument that theists use to claim the existence of God must be true because they have faith is completely spurious. As kant said you can assign any number of properties to some fictional being, such as being omnipotent, outside space and time, perfect and unchanging but the fact it that existence is not one of the properties that you can claim in this way. ontological arguments for the existence of God always run in this way, I can make all these claims about my God and I can conceive of no greater being' however Kant showed that this argument simply does not run for the property of existence. So atheists who claim that the IPU exists are simply using the same spurious argument played back at theists.I can stand on the street corner and rant about the IPU, it doesn't make her exist any more than thiests faith makes god exist.

Theists who argue that they know go exists because they have faith are repeating irrational arguments based on nothing more than wish fulfillment.Attacking science for demanding extraordinary proof for extraordinary claims is ignoring what happens in the real world everyday. if you cannot prove something by no other means than saying 'I have faith' then you must expect people to ask for extraordinary proof, until a theist can prove without any possible logical refutation then theism remains exactly in the same position as belief in father christmas, the tooth fairy or the IPU

The entire argument the the IPU illustrates is that you can create any fictional character, assign any properties that you wish to it except existence.

The most influential criticism of the ontological argument is that of Immanuel Kant. Kant thought that because the ontological argument rests on the judgement that a God that exists is greater than a God that does not, it rests on a confusion.
According to Kant, existence is not a predicate, a property that a thing can either possess or lack. When people assert that God exists they are not saying that there is a God and he possesses the property of existence. If that were the case, then when people assert that God does not exist they would be saying that there is a God and he lacks the property of existence, i.e., they would be both affirming and denying God’s existence in the same breath. Rather, suggests Kant, to say that something exists is to say that the concept of that thing is exemplified in the world. Existence, then, is not a matter of a thing possessing a property, existence, but of a concept corresponding to something in the world.
To see this more clearly, suppose that we give a complete description of an object, of its size, its weight, its colour, etc. If we then add that the object exists, then in asserting that it exists we add nothing to the concept of the object. The object is the same whether it exists or not; it is the same size, the same weight, the same colour, etc. The fact that the object exists, that the concept is exemplified in the world, does not change anything about the concept. To assert that the object exists is to say something about the world, that it contains something that matches that concept; it is not to say anything about the object itself.

If Kant is correct in his view that existence is not a property of objects, then it is impossible to compare a God that exists to a God that does not. On Kant’s view a God that exists and a God that does not are qualitatively identical. A God that exists is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc. A God that does not exist is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc. Both are the same. If this is right, then Anselm’s claim that an existent God is greater than a non-existent God is false—neither is greater than the other—in which case the ontological argument fails.

and this @ But you certainly can note that the evidence is there in the natural world because He does, at times, intercede and you can see how he intercedes with such things as miracles. That's what Metacrock was discussing. These are not mutually exclusive.@ is deeply disturbing, irrational and utterly fanciful claims of some special knowledge only held by true believers

Most thiests have now abandoned ontological arguments for the existence for god in light of their logical inconsistency.

Dellisonal theists who believe simply because they have faith have no more of a leg to stand on than people who claim belief in the IPU , only difference being IPU followers freely admit to it being a joke.

If you want to spend you life mumbling into thin air to a logical inconsistency then its you who has the problem not athiests

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