Hamza Tzortzis, a researcher for the iERA (Islamic Education & Research Academy) would have us believe this. He makes his case here.
Some might say that the very fact there’s a discussion around the topic (which is not generally accepted as true) is proof enough that this is a false contention. Some might also say that reaching into the hat to pull out this particular rabbit is a tacit admission that theists are losing the evidence argument. Tzortzis claims not.
Let’s review the assertions put forward as evidence for god (I’ll use small ‘g’ throughout for reasons that will become apparent) being a self-evident truth. I’ll then suggest my own test for this claim. The essay is structured like this:
- Shift burden of evidence from proving the existence of god to reasons to reject his existence
- Prove that self-evident truths exist and a belief in god is one of them
- Deal with three objections to god’s existence
- Talk about humans’ innate nature using evidence from science and the Qur’an
- Conclude none of the objections meet the standard to disprove god, and say it must be true because Muhammed said so 1,400 years ago
1. Shifting the burden of proof
In fact, I would argue that we don’t need any evidence for God’s existence. So the question itself needs debating. It shouldn’t actually be “does God exist?”, but rather “what reasons do we have to reject His existence?”
This is done in the second paragraph without a shred of rationale. This is special pleading. Very obviously. Tzortzis says it isn’t, but it is. Self-evidently.
One wouldn’t countenance this paragraph as being sound if the word ‘God’ was replaced with anything else. ‘Unicorns’, ‘Tomotoes’, ‘Strontium’? I don’t think so. THAT IS SPECIAL PLEADING.
At this juncture, I’ll point out that the very best Tzortzis can hope for, if all this is true, is to show ‘god’ is self-evidently true. Not ‘God’. Deism, not Theism. An impersonal god, not the ‘God’ of any books that exist here and now. This impersonal god is a god which exists in the gaps; in the currently unknown (or maybe unknowable) space. He would be a very, very long way from proving that Allah is the ‘God’ in question here. And that distance could be unbridgeable for him.
2. Proving Self-evident Truths Exist
Do these axiomatic (self-evident) truths exist? Let’s see what Tzortzis says qualifies:
• The existence of other minds
• The existence of objective moral values
• The existence of logical truths
• The validity of our reasoning
• The law of causality
The existence of other minds? No. This is empirical. If you’d never been exposed to another living being, why would you think this is true?
The existence of objective moral values? No. Again, if only 1 person existed, would there be objective moral values? It would be entirely subjective. This philosophical debate continues at a pace. Certainly fast enough to assert that it’s not self-evident.
The existence of logical truths (or absolutes)? Bingo! Yes. A rock is a rock and not not a rock, etc.
The validity of our reasoning? Not sure what he’s getting at here. That we are all subject to our logical universe? Yes. That we all have valid reasoning? Er, no.
The law of causality? At first glance, yes. But we now know better. We know that at the very base level our universe is subject to quantum mechanics and is probabilistic and particles are NOT subject to cause and effect at this sub-atomic level.
So, we’re left with pure mathematics (logic) and logical absolutes.
Of course Tzortzis is also including a belief in god in that list….. I’ll come to that.
3. Three objections to god’s existence
It should be clear now that I think this is all a big special pleading led false contention, but I’ll play ball and examine the objections listed:
- What about the Spaghetti monster?
- Wasn’t the belief in a flat Earth once self-evidently true?
- The belief in god is not universal
Tzortzis suggests three ways to make his ‘God’ different from a generic god which the Spaghetti Monster is supposed to represent.
1. A cross cultural belief – Apparently we all imagine god in our own image rather than one made out of pasta. Who’d have thought that?!? Tzortzis (presumably with a straight face) points out that not everyone know what pasta is. The issue here is just one of definition. The deistic god has no good definition.
2. An innate belief – Not really different to 1. Tzortzis talks about pasta again. He says self-evident truths require no knowledge transfers. One can deduce them (from pure logic, presumably). He doesn’t define what his ‘God’ looks like, so a comparison to the Spaghetti Monster can’t be made. If he thinks god looks like us though, information transfer is required for his ‘God’. Without a mirror or others to look at, how would one know? He says ‘atheist’ children stranded on a desert island would come to believe something created it – this is not even a good argument from ignorance. Something did create the desert island – tectonic plate movements.
3. Foundational beliefs – Tzortzis’s god explains the emergence of consciousness, apparently. It also helps to explain lots of other things we don’t (yet) understand. This is a weak ‘god of the gaps’ argument, and, ultimately, a dangerous position for the theist. Humans have a long history of explaining things using science. This sort of reasoning is just setting the theist up for ultimate redundancy.
I’ve read this objection several times, and it’s incoherent. I really can’t understand the point. People thought the Earth was flat, now we know it’s a sphere (roughly). This is progress. Apparently, Tzortzis thinks this progress is more of a black mark against science because ‘truths’ are changing, rather than a positive that science has guided us toward increased knowledge of the universe. God, being outside the universe (except when he’s in it, presumably) can’t be observed and science can never disprove god’s existence.
Well, this is true. That’s not how science works. It’s no surprise or mystery.
Belief in god is not universal
Why are there millions of atheist (and unaffiliated) in the world? Tzortzis has two answers to this:
1. Self-evident truths don’t have to be universal – Excuse me? Yes they do – by definition. That’s the point of an axiom. He goes on to give a specious example of a person who’s a mother to you and an aunt to someone else. This is just a category error of the same person (mind) being given different labels.
2. Belief in god is universal – What are a few atheists anyway? ‘Most people believe in god’ says Tzortzis. Given the shifting world demographic in religiosity, this is a risky position to take. I presume he’ll give this up when atheists hit the majority? This is, of course, ignoring that the theists he refers to, in the large part, vehemently disagree with each other over the nature of this being.
Tzortzis finishes the piece with talk of our innate nature mostly evidenced by quotes from the Qur’an. I can’t argue with quotes from a book only one of us considers to be the immutable and perfect word of the being we’re talking about. He also references some sociological data (which is cherry-picked) saying that young children are keen to find agency around them. Well, yes. Then, I presume, monsters in cupboards are self-evident truths too?
The whole piece is extended special pleading, confirmation bias, shifting burdens of evidence and various other fallacies such as arguments from ignorance.
For god to be a self-evident truth, here’s what you have to believe:
Imagine a baby. This baby is born in a cave. She never has contact with another human, but she has vast genius and is long lived. She also has access to all the materials she needs to build any piece of scientific equipment she needs.
- Deduce the logical absolutes and mathematics (hence self-evident truths)
- Discover all of science through inductive reasoning and interpreting data
- Discover that the universe had a singularity
Are we expected to believe, after all this knowledge deduction and acquisition, she’d sit back and deduce that a omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, timeless creator of the universe was behind it all, and there’s no further point investigating the universe?
She’d be in the same position as leading edge cosmologists are today. They are investigating, and god doesn’t form part of their models. To paraphrase Laplace ‘they have no need for that hypothesis’. Oh, and the vast majority of them are atheists……