Friday, August 19, 2011

Alternatives to divine revelation in religious scriptures

I recently wrote a post about a Muslim commenter who used an argument we've all heard before, from representatives of various religions.  The argument is that his holy book describes in some level of detail the process of the development of a human fetus (among other things), which could not have been known to the writers at that time, unless there was divine guidance given to them.  This is an attempted argument for the existence of gods, in particular his god.

Judging from the number of times I've seen this argument used, and had it used on me, I'm thinking that many theists can't for the life of them understand why such arguments are not convincing to most atheists.  As an illustration of the problem, consider the following multi-person conversation:

A:  My holy book describes the process of fetal development before it was described by modern scientists, and therefore this is proof of the existence of my god.

B:  I disagree.  It's not proof of gods at all.  It's proof that aliens visited Earth and told the authors of your book about the process.  Aliens have visited us, and now we have proof!

C:  You're crazy!  It is clearly proof that Bigfoot told them.  Bigfoot has existed since before humans, and passed the knowledge on to people.  It's scientific evidence of Bigfoot.

D:  You're all wrong.  I think it's proof that the ultrasound machine was invented much earlier than previously thought.  The authors had access to an ultrasound machine, which allowed them to see the fetus, but the knowledge of the machine was lost.  This proves it.

E:  No way!  It's proof that humans from the future traveled back in time to give them the knowledge.  So we now have proof that humans eventually gain the ability to travel through time.


How would one go about sorting through the train wreck of arguments above?  Aren't all of them just as plausible as divine revelation?  I actually think that gods are the least likely of all of the above arguments.  But none of them have reached their burden of proof and they will not be able to do so with arguments like this.  Real evidence is needed for that.

But why are any of the above wacky explanations needed?  If we grant the Muslim commenter the assumption that the description in the scriptures is accurate and what he claims it is, so what?  Is it so inconceivable that the society the authors lived in had a program to study fetuses, either by dissecting pregnant (hopefully dead) women or by studying miscarriages?  Aren't these options much more likely than any of the arguments listed above?

1 comment:

Magnamune said...

No, you obviously don't understand. If actual thought was used, that'd destroy this and pretty much every other argument they use. Which would (hopefully) lead them to question the validity of their religion. It's too bad there's no way to force someone to think for themselves.

"If you could reason with religious people, there'd be no religious people."