Certain issues keep arising (or being raised, or bubbling to the surface) in the blog, and no matter how many times I deal with them the answers somehow don’t seem to take root. But hope springs eternal, so here goes again…
S1lverbullet raises a criticism against my critique of Maitzen’s argument:
“you sound an awful lot to me like you did when it ultimately took you months and countless blog posts to answer a simple yes/no question and finally admit that your position is that there is nothing that distinguishes the Christian bible from a work that is solely the product of human minds.
“I mean, you’ve written that the patchy distribution of theistic belief is the result of the Christian god working through natural forces. Earlier in your blog, you wrote that the Christian bible is precisely the work that god knew would be written by the minds of men. Sure sounds to me like you’re arguing exactly the same way – the Christian god’s influence is not distinguishable from purely natural causes because the Christian god works precisely through those natural causes. So again, ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”
The idea here, though not clearly stated, seems to be that my interpretation of the data is somehow illegitimate because there is a simpler explanation that explains the data equally well. The argument seems to depend tacitly on an appeal to Ockham’s Razor: do not multiply entities beyond necessity. (I’m sure SB will correct me if I’m wrong.)
Of course everybody wants to be friends with Ockham’s Razor. Nobody goes around postulating entities willy nilly simply because they like to. Nonetheless, the problem is that “necessity” is in the eye of the beholder, and that beholder always makes judgments relative to a background set of beliefs. The person who begins as an atheist rather trivially interprets data like the distribution of theistic belief in the world without appeal to a superintending divine intelligence. Obviously necessity is defined differently for the theist.
As I noted (yet again) in my response to SB in the last thread, idealists interpret necessity differently. They explain the data available to our senses without recourse to material substance. Idealism explains all the data available to us without invoking a spatially extended world. (If that doesn’t make sense to you then read two George Berkeley books and call me in the morning.)
So if “necessity” were not relative to a set of beliefs then idealism would win the day. Obviously for most of us it doesn’t so necessity clearly is relative. And so it goes with interpretations of the distribution of religious belief.