In a recent article an atheist from “God Be Gone” attempts to boil down the fallacies that theists always resort to while trying to show that God exists. While agreeing with him that many, if not most, theists will partake of these mistakes, I’m not entirely convinced that it must be so. I also don’t think that all of these are logical fallacies in the sense of being formal or informal mistakes in deductive/inferential strategies, but whatever. Let’s run through his list.

Argument from Ignorance

Does silence on the part of your opponent mean that you are right? Not necessarily, but I do think that it provides evidence for your position even if it does not prove it. Now, many of these cases (Intelligent Design stuff) erroneously inserts God as a kind of glue to keep their belief rational, but that is not what I am talking about (or most sophisticated theists do, for that matter). Consciousness is an example that I find myself personally drawn towards. Something about the first-person feel of the mind appears to give evidence that there was some kind of proto-intentionality outside the reach of current physics. This belief is bolstered by science’s inability to come up with some kind of explanatory framework. Does that mean I am committing the god of the gaps fallacy? I don’t think so. I think it is a matter of providing evidence without proving. Just like we agnostics like it.

Argument from Design

I am not really sure how this is a fallacy, or how it would differ from his first point. If the universe is indeed rare- say, only 1 chance of life-sustaining properties against 1 million hostile-to-life universes- then the theist has good reason to posit a reason for the existence of the life-conducive one. This is not necessarily an argument I would use, as the mysteries of physics are far from unraveled, but calling it a fallacious argument is quite another thing.

Straw Man

No qualms here. This is not monopolized by any group, though, as I’ve seen a great load of atheists set up wildly imaginative positions for them to take down for the kill. There is also a big difference between what a person verbalizes as his position and what someone believes some position leads to.

Anyway, it is good for both atheists and theists (and everyone in between) to lay out what they believe are poor strategies so we can move forward to the meat of the matter.