An epistemological review by – Heather Spoonheim

In the case against the existence of gods I would like to submit the Gettier Problem. Essentially the Gettier Problem postulates that even if claimed knowledge turns out to be true, it may not actually constitute knowledge. As an example, consider a variation of Case 1 of the Gettier Problem:

Tamara works in an office where her friend, Bob Romanchuck, has applied for a job. While walking past the Human Resources office, she hears two administrators talking about how they intend to hire Bob Romanchuck for the new position. Now Tamara leaves, believing that Bob Romanchuck is going to get the job, and tells her friend that he is about to be hired. As it turns out, however, there were two Bob Romanchucks who applied for the job and it was the other Bob Romanchuck who got hired.

This example varies a great deal from Gettier's 10 coins but only in that rather than possessing an equal number of coins the applicants possess equal names. In this case, although (a) Tamara believed that a man named Bob Romanchuck would get the job, (b) a man named Bob Romanchuck did in fact get the job, and (c) Tamara had good reason for her belief – she did not in fact have knowledge and, in point of fact, she actually had false knowledge.

Consider then that a god exists: for instance, Anu. Anu is a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons, and dwells in the highest heavenly regions. He also has the power to judge those who have committed crimes. Should irrefutable proof be uncovered of Anu’s existence, Christians and Muslims might instantly claim that this is their beloved Yahweh or Allah but they would in fact be irrefutably wrong. Although Anu possesses similar traits to Yahweh or Allah, he is neither Yahweh nor Allah and sent neither Jesus nor Mohammed to earth to guide mankind to salvation.

In this instance, both Christianity and Islam would be wrong, even though they believed in a god and a god did in fact turn out to exist. Most importantly, however, their epistemology was flawed because the stories of Yahweh and Allah are known to be fabricated in the minds of men and there is no good reason to believe in their existence.

It is not enough, therefore, to simply abstract the concept of a god and say that perhaps there is some conscious prime mover and that conscious prime mover constitutes a god. Without the third criterion of knowledge being met – (c) the believer must have good reason for their belief – the purported knowledge is not knowledge at all, such as illustrated in Case 2 of the Gettier Problem. Without falsifiable evidence for a conscious prime mover, there is no good reason for such a belief and it is therefore not knowledge.

Furthermore, even though a conscious prime mover may in fact exist, there is no way of tying that conscious prime mover to the belief of such held by any deist. Without a specific claim of justified knowledge there is no justification in asserting that the sheer coincidence of the true case of unjustified knowledge constitutes any specific thing, least of all a ‘god’ – whatever that word even means at this point in time. Like the Tamara of the aforementioned example, the deist has nothing more than knowledge of a label/name that, even in the most charitable of circumstances, may be shared with a circumstance that turns out to be true.

To this end, one cannot rule out the possibility that a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away there was a young humanoid named Luke Skywalker who looked exactly like Mark Hamill. The existence of such a being, however, does not affirm that the fiction of George Lucas was, in fact, non-fiction. The creation of the mind of George Lucas remains a fiction regardless of the literal existence of a being that fits the description of one of his fabricated characters – the actual Luke Skywalker, regardless of how similar his life might have been to George Lucas’ Luke Skywalker, was not and is not George Lucas’ Luke Skywalker.

Considering all of these things and given that there is no evidence for the existence of gods, any and all claims of the existence of gods do not constitute knowledge and no such gods exist. Even if some evidence is one day discovered to prove the existence of a mighty being, creator of all things, that being must then and there be evaluated to determine whether or not it is in fact a god. Until such a time, no gods can possibly be said to exist or even postulated to exist in the form of anything one can rationally define as knowledge. There are no gods.

Views: 377

Comment by Luke Scientiae on August 18, 2011 at 4:11pm

The Catholic church recognizes evolution, so that's why creationism isn't taught in Catholic schools. In the UK creationism is getting a bigger and bigger problem. It's being taught in Muslim schools and in "free schools" too.

Comment by Luke Scientiae on August 18, 2011 at 4:29pm
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on August 18, 2011 at 5:14pm

I think people here will be very surprised to find that creationism is getting any time in U.K. schools.  We often run into UK theists who deny pushing a creationist agenda and who claim it is a U.S. problem that is cultural, not theological.  A really good exposé of facts of U.K. creationism would be helpful.  I clicked your page but it was not available - did they tell you to post it as a blog instead?

Comment by Luke Scientiae on August 18, 2011 at 5:55pm

You're right. I was under the impression I succeeded (hence the link). This time I tried to post it on my blog here at Think Atheist:

Comment by Luke Scientiae on August 18, 2011 at 5:59pm

I posted a discussion about it too:

Hopefully that should work now.

Comment by Derek on August 23, 2011 at 1:13pm

After millennia of zero evidence - Gods don't exist until evidence is presented. Period.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on August 23, 2011 at 5:43pm

Yes, Derek - the point is that even if some super being presented itself today, we would first have to examine it to determine whether or not we considered it to be a 'god', and even if we determined that it met the criteria it still wouldn't be any of the gods mankind has claimed to exist.

Comment by Derek on August 24, 2011 at 2:52pm

Oh yea Heather - you might like this discussion regarding evidence for god and that sort of thing.

Comment by Claudia Mercedes Mazzucco on August 25, 2011 at 3:05pm

The dictum of E. M. Forster: “I do not believe in belief,” Salman Rushdie echoes when he declares: “I believe in no god,” and “where there is no belief there is no blasphemy.” Only “our lives teach us who we are” is an ambiguous saying. For it implies there is a “lesson somewhere and that experience is capable of teaching it. So there is faith in The Satanic Verses, bemused no doubt, self-taunting, world-interrogating, clichés rejecting and devising, but faith nonetheless.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on August 25, 2011 at 3:10pm

Having not read The Satanic Verses, I have no reply.  I should get around to it one day.


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