So another fun trick which theists get much mileage from is talking about things like wind or abstract thought. A favorite is love. They’ll ask, “prove to me love exists” or wind or abstract thought of some kind. It’s a devious little game to try to convince you or whoever is observing the exchange that there are clear flaws to reason and science. They’ll mock you by saying, “if you can’t even prove to me wind or love exist, how can you say you’re equipped to disprove the existence of god?” It’s clever, but like all of their “arguments” it’s just a trick. The trick is by asking you to prove something that’s not defined. In fact, it’s even more clever because they actively try to get you to prove the name or label of something instead of the thing itself.
Here’s how it plays out for them:
1. Ask for the label of a thing to be proved
2. Dismiss proofs for the thing as not proving the label
3. Continue to present label as the thing
4. At inevitable failure of your opponent, declare his or her reasoning limited
5. After trumpeting limits of reason, declare opponent incapable of commenting on god via reason
Very clever, no? You spin your wheels trying to prove an abstract and when you’re mired in the mud they do their superior dance. So what do you do? Well you can simply expose the trick or you can deny the theist his necessary tools by first asking for a definition of the thing they want proven. This immediately destroys the trick, because the trick is based on the confusion of label and thing. If you force a definition, you can easily prove the thing. If they define love as the expressions between two people you just present examples of two people loving one another. If they say wind is what you feel blowing then you talk about currents and the movement of air molecules. For thought, it’s simply functions of the brain. Now with this, depending on just how dishonest they are, they may insist that we don’t know how the brain creates specific thoughts and that would be correct but that’s hardly something to hang their hat on. I’d simply say that although it may be a long time coming before we fully map the functions of the brain, we learn more everyday so enjoy the spot while you can because eventually you’ll have to find a new place for your hat.
You can also apply this counter to when they speak of their god. Insist on them defining their god. Don’t allow them to wave their god label around without saying what it refers to. Once they do that, then you can systematically challenge it’s existence or any claim they make of it. This is something I recently did with our lovable little theist scamp Iggy. Pushed for a definition, he offered the following:
He is a God that is outside the system He created yet works also within the system. He is beyond physical yet created physics.
So now we have something to sink our teeth into.
He is a God that is outside the system He created
1. He created this “system”
2. There’s an “outside” to this system
yet works also within the system
Then there would be evidence of such work which we can examine for understanding and verifying him, so as soon as you provide that we can continue
He is beyond physical
Once again, naked assertion and building into the definition means by which you can’t say squat about him which is inherently disingenuous.
yet created physics
Once again, naked, unverified assertion.
If you can get them to define their god, inevitably it will be full of nonsense that they can’t defend unless they point to their holy books which is just circular reasoning at it’s best. What happens is they both resort to unsupportable claims and assign attributes deliberately impossible to disprove thinking this then is proof that the scientific method is inadequate. This is an embarrassing last resort, and one that you almost have to pity them for trying… almost. Carl Sagan created a wonderful example of this kind of nonsense with his The Dragon In My Garage. If you never read it, do so now and remember it the next time you hear theists definitions and assertions about their god and tell me what’s different? Nothing. Nothing is different.