Sunday, February 15, 2015

Vincent Torley and the evidence for god(s)

Vincent Joseph Torley (vjtorley) didn't like my recent post where I said there was no evidence for the existence of god(s) [Evidence for the existence of god(s)]. The reason this is important is because I define science as a way of knowing that, among other things, relies on evidence. If you believe in something without supporting evidence then that conflicts with science as a way of knowing. There may be other ways of knowing that do not rely on, or conflict with, evidence but you first have to convince me that the knowledge produced by this other method is actually true knowledge.

Here's what I said in that post ...
I am always on the lookout for evidence that some sort of god actually exists. The reason I'm an atheist is because I've never seen any evidence that's the least bit convincing. I keep asking for evidence but nobody ever supplies any.
Vincent Torley ctiiticizes me for not making a clear distinction between "evidence" and "convincing evidence" and he is correct [see No evidence for God’s existence, you say? A response to Larry Moran]. When I say there's no evidence for the existence of god(s) I mean that there is no "evidence" that stands up to close scrutiny. That's not quite the same thing as saying that there's no "evidence" that others might believe or no potential facts that are presented as possible evidence.

It's an important distinction to keep in mind but It think it quite clear that when I say there's no evidence for the existence of god(s) I mean that there's no valid evidence. That brings up the question of what defines "valid evidence." The short answer is "I don't know" but I know it when I see it.

Let's look at one of Vincent Torley's claims that there's evidence for god(s); namely, the evidence of miracles. Note that he accepts the process of science. In other words, he is willing to defend his belief that god(s) exist by pointing to "valid evidence" that his belief is correct. What that means is that we discuss his claim using the ground rules of science according to my view of what science is.1
Professor Moran will want to see good evidence of miracles, so I’ll confine myself to one case: the 17th century Italian saint, Joseph of Cupertino, who was seen levitating well above the ground and even flying for some distance through the air, on literally thousands of occasions, by believers and skeptics alike. The saint was the phenomenon of the 17th century. Those who are curious might like to have a look at his biography by D. Bernini (Vita Del Giuseppe da Copertino, 1752, Roma: Ludovico Tinassi and Girolamo Mainardi). The philosopher David Hume, who was notoriously skeptical of miracle claims, never even mentions St. Joseph of Cupertino in his writings. Funny, that.

The evidence for St. Joseph’s flights is handily summarized in an article, The flying saint (The Messenger of Saint Anthony, January 2003), by Renzo Allegri.
If I were to accept the claim advanced by Vincent Torley then this would, indeed, constitute evidence that something very weird happened back in 1630. But I reject the claim. I simply don't believe that people actually witnessed Joseph of Cupertino flying through the air. It's not a fact. It's not evidence.

This is a case where an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence. You can't just rely on what people say they saw because if that's all you need then there must be fairies at the bottom of the garden. And UFO abductions would be real.

Read Vincent Torley's other claims of "evidence" for the existence of god(s). Some of them are quite interesting but most of them are just wishful thinking. Take "fine tuning" for example. If the universe is really "fine tuned" for the existence of life—and that is disputed by many scientists—then why does that constitute evidence of gods? We could not possibly find ourselves in any universe that was not compatible with the existence of life. If this universe arose entirely by accident then we would still be here discussing the meaning of evidence.

Fine tuning is not evidence that gods exist. The best that could be said is that if you believe in gods then you can construct stories about supernatural beings who made the universe with the goal of producing life on one small insignificant planet near the edge of an otherwise unremarkable galaxy. If you don't believe in gods then it all looks pretty haphazard.


1. If you believe that science cannot address any claim that involves the supernatural then, presumably, you will have to dispute Vincent Torley's claim using some other way of knowing. I don't know what that is. Perhaps one of you can describe it for me?

46 comments :

  1. Vincent conflates the evidence for an Intelligent Designer with evidence for God. Paley also made that mistake. There is plenty of evidence for ID. We can't even test the non-telic position.

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    1. I think Paley (and Torley) did not want to answer this question:
      If the Intelligent Designer is not the Christian God, why then did he create the Christian God?

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    2. There may be evidence for stupid design, but not intelligent. Just look at the human body.

      Dave Bailey

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    3. joey the YEC-IDiot dishonestly drooled:

      "Vincent conflates the evidence for an Intelligent Designer with evidence for God. Paley also made that mistake."

      You make the same mistake, joey, except that it's FAR more accurate to say that you, Torley, and the other IDiot-creationists equate what you delusionally believe is irrefutable evidence for "an Intelligent Designer" with what you delusionally believe is the same irrefutable evidence for your chosen, so-called 'God'.

      Your lame, willfully dishonest attempts to make it look as though ID is separate from religious beliefs, and especially from your religious beliefs, are not fooling anyone with a clue.

      Tell you what, joey, I always like a good laugh at your expense so tell me; if you don't believe that your chosen, so-called 'God' is the "Intelligent Designer", then who or what is? And don't conveniently forget that the "Intelligent Designer" you push is the 'uncaused', 'supernatural' one that you claim designed and "Specially Created" the entire universe, or to put it another way, all of nature.

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    4. TWiT your mistake is that you are totally ignorant. If your position had something other than assholes like you for support then ID would be a non-starter.

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    5. Dave Baily couldn't design a living organism if his life depended on it. He must be really, really stupid.

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    6. Joe G said: "There is plenty of evidence for ID."

      Really? Perhaps you would like to present some.

      Dave Bailey

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    7. Yeah Joe, where's that testible ID hypothesis you claim to have?

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    8. quest said:

      "ID claim that bacterial flagellum could not have evolved by Darwinian processes or any other non-ID means... It had to have been designed...
      All one has to do to prove ID wrong is to..."

      Hey quest, listen carefully: NO ONE has to "prove" that ID is wrong, just as NO ONE has to "prove" that any or every other crackpot claim is wrong. If you IDiot-creationists want "ID" to be accepted by rational, knowledgeable, scientifically minded people as a credible, scientific inference and/or hypothesis and/or theory and or whatever, YOU IDiot-creationists have to show, with convincing scientific evidence and productive avenues of research, that "ID" is worthy of being accepted.

      Listen carefully to this too: You are not scoring any positive points for "ID" with the way that you behave here.

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  2. If I were to accept the claim advanced by Vincent Torley then this would, indeed, constitute evidence that something very weird happened back in 1630.

    I seem to recall David Hume having something to say about this sort of thing, about 150 years later....

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  3. That brought a smile to my morning. Let's humour him for a moment and entertain the idea (it's an entertaining one, after all) that St Joseph really did levitate. It's not the most likely explanation of the reports, but let's roll with it and see where it goes. It would be evidence of something we don't understand about the world, and we would add it our vast and ever-growing collection of phenomena we have discovered but have yet to figure out. But how is it evidence of gods? The argument seems to be:

    Premise: there's something about the world we don't understand.
    Conclusion: God.

    Perhaps Vincent Torley needs to get to grips with why this is not a valid argument. Perhaps the stupidity of this argument is something we should focus on communicating.

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  4. What Konrad said. Plus one might want to point out that 'evidence' of the exact same quality is available 'for' every major religion on the planet, and they can't really all be true.

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  5. There are a number of comments that need to be made to vjtorley about his OP.

    In his recent post, Professor Moran then proceeds to enumerate ten items of evidence listed by Barry Arrington in a post titled, Astonishingly Stupid Things Atheists Say, before throwing the floor open for discussion.

    You make no mention of the fact that Arrington has also thrown out a large number of commenters who would have been more than happy to respond to both his and your OP's Are you comfortable with that policy? Do you not see that the contrast between the multiple bannings at UD compared with the lack of same at pro-evolution sites does not reflect favorably on the former.

    There is also a problem of equivocation over the nature of evidence. Perhaps we are all aware of the nuances of meaning which allow unverifiable reports of seventeenth-century "miracles" to count as evidence for those events and the existence of God. But we also need to bear in mind that, in popular useage, 'evidence', possibly based on the belief that "there is no smoke without fire", suggests a degree of confidence that is more compelling than mere possibility. Accounts in the Book of Genesis are evidence for the existence of a geographical region called The Garden of Eden. For Christians that might be compelling evidence, for agnostics and atheists not so much. On that standard of evidence, the existence of Middle Earth or The United Federation of PLanets are arguably much more certain.

    According to Larry Moran, none of the items below counts as evidence – let alone good evidence – for the existence of God, or a supernatural reality:

    They are evidence - in the very broadest sense - but they are far from compelling, either individually or in toto

    The fine tuning of the universe.

    This has been answered simply effectively by Doulas Adams's "puddle" analogy. This Universe would not exist and we would not exist to observe it or anything else if the values of certain fundamental constants were slightly different. Even if we allow that fine-tuning could be evidence of design, for the sake of argument, we could only reasonably infer that the Designer intended to create this Universe not necessarily us. In fact, the observation that the vast majority of the observable Universe is implacably hostile to human life and that we have only emerged following a series of fortuitous (for us) events, argues strongly otherwise.

    The moral sense.

    You are probably wise not to try and defend this position. I would hazard that all human societies have a "moral sense" of one sort of another and that Christianity has not been required for many of them. It is equally likely that it is something human beings develop as a means of regulating social behavior just as they develop forms of government and administration. We can work out for ourselves what is 'good' for us. We don't need a God or anyone else to tell us or enforce there own version on us., thank you evry much.

    The fact that a natural universe cannot logically have a natural cause.

    I can construct logcal arguments against an Uncaused First Cause just as you can in favor. That's all they are, however, arguments. The better answer is to say we simply don't know. There may be an Uncaused First Cause, there may be an infinite regess there may be something else we haven't thought of yet. For the moment, we'l just have to live with the mystery.

    [continued]

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  6. [continued]

    The fact that there is something instead of nothing.

    The fact that something exists is not evidence for anything other than it's own existence. In fact, it is arguably not evidence of anything unless you are proposing some sort of explanation to which it can be adduced in support. An observation on its own is just data not evidence.

    The overwhelming odds against the Darwinian story being true (estimated at 10^-1018 by atheist Eugene Koonin).

    The outcome of a probability calculation is, like any other computation, dependent on the values entered for the various variables. It can be garbage in, garbage out. The other caveat is that while the odds of my winning a lottey might be fifteen million to one against, all that means is that to be certain of winning one particular draw, I would have to buy all fifteen million tickets. But I could also buy the just first ticket issued and find I have won

    You, like everyone else here, are an astronomically improbable arrangement of sub-atomic particles and force-fields yet here we all are and I'm reasonable sure I wasn't designed, I'm the outcome of some well-known natural processes and I'm pretty sure you are, too.

    The irreducible complexity of biological systems.

    Proposed but not demonstrated so hardly evidence

    The vast amounts of complex computer-like code stored in DNA.

    Yes, "computer-like". They are analogous. Computer code can be used to model the genetic code. But it doesn't make them the same and it doesn't imply a programmer. Following John Wilkins, I regard as misleading that the notion that the notion that the genome or other natural structures are comprised in whole or in part of something called "infomration".

    The miracles that have been reported throughout history.

    I and others can provide examples of stage magicians or illusionists performing similar feats by means wholly consistent with known natural 'laws'. I can provide examples of people who have been mistaken or even lied about something they claimed to have observed. Uncorroborated human eyewitness testimony is unreliable at best. Reports of miracles are anecdotal evidence and certainly not compelling.

    My subjective self-awareness.

    Same as for there being something rather than nothing. I am aware of myself, that I exist. That's an observation. It's data not evidence. If you think it's evidence of a Creator then let me hear your arguments because i don't see a connection.

    The fact that we do not even have plausible speculations to account for the origin of life.

    An appeal to God of the Gaps. The fact we do not even have plausible speculations yet does not mean that we never will or that there is no naturalistic explanation. It just means we don't know. Which is true of so many questions in science. But "we don't know yet" does not mean the same as "we will never know" or "it must be God".

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  7. "The fact that a natural universe cannot logically have a natural cause."

    That proposition is logically indefensible. Try me.

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    1. I guess if he's defining the universe as "everything that is and has ever been," and if he assumes that the universe can only have been created by something outside of itself, then that leads to the conclusion that a natural universe could only have been created by something "supernatural".

      However, if that's the case, the same argument leads to the conclusion that anything that is not "natural" does not exist and never has. Like the Christian God, for example.

      It seems to me the only non-contradictory conclusion of that argument is that nothing exists.

      Of course, this being Barry Arrington, he could be thinking of some argument even stupider than that.

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    2. "..both are excellent defenders of ID and evidence for existence of God...."

      If by "excellent defender" you mean deleting opposing views and banning the commenters who make them, then I agree that Barry excels at this.

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  8. If we found ourselves in a universe that wasn't compatible with the existence of life, that would actually be much better evidence of god than any fine-tuning, because only god can make impossible things happen.

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    1. Yes. That seems an obvious point, but of which proponents of the argument never seem to be aware.

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  9. Doesn't Torley have a PhD in philosophy?

    I think anyone who believes people can levitate should be automatically disqualified from receiving a degree of any sort. You don't want your university to be graduating people with such a complete lack of critical thinking skills.

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    1. C'mon, Lutesuite. Levitation and walking on water still happen in the 21st century and are excellently documented. I presented the evidence here.

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    2. Yeah, lutesuite, and that disqualification should definitely apply to anyone who believes that some guy levitated and flew around thousands of times in the 17th century just because someone says or someone wrote that some alleged witnesses allegedly said that they saw a guy levitate and fly around thousands of times.

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    3. Piotr, I noticed gordo's response to you at UD:

      "Piotr, miracles are real enough, whatever trickeries some may play at. My being here is as a result of miraculous guidance to the doctor who saved my life. I have known people healed of various diseases. And much more, especially seeing dramatic life transformations that are testimonies of redeeming grace . . . but then, there are literally millions of cases in point. As to levitation, apart from noting that the 1,000+ case in front of many eyewitnesses was within living memory and fresh record of Hume’s day . . . rendering his dismissive arguments highly dubious, let’s just say, I have observed that (in a semi-public situation), eyeball mark I; but in a context where the bigger miracle was suppressing a spectacle by forces up to no good then driving them out. Powers to do extraordinary things are not proof of goodness of said powers. One needs to look at orchards and quality of fruit. KF" (my bold)

      Is that IDiot a loon or what?

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    4. Shhh... He may be possessed by forces-up-to-no-good.

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    5. By the way, Torley has only copied and pasted stuff from his earlier post on Joseph of Cupertino"

      Torley 2013

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    6. Piotr, I followed your link and read Torley's comment. I also read part of his sermon at the top of that thread (I just couldn't make it through the whole mess). I could write a lot about the way I felt as I read Torley's claims but I'll just repeat what I said about gordo: Is that IDiot a loon or what?

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    7. That's why I can't stay there too long at a time. On some days the place is too reminiscent of Bethlem Hospital three hundred years ago:

      Some were preaching, and others in full cry a hunting. Some were praying, others cursing and swearing. Some were dancing others groaning. Some singing, others crying, and all in perfect confusion. A sad representation of the greater chimerical world!

      [Thomas Brown]

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    8. That's a good example of what UD is like. :)

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    9. Just as I thought VJT couldn't write anything more embarrassing, he came up with this:

      Larry Moran, a Conspiracy Theorist

      [headdesk, headdesk, headdesk]

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  10. To be dubbed a 'saint', wouldn't "St. Joseph of Cupertino" have had to perform at least two 'miracles' after he was dead? Levitating and flying around while he was alive wouldn't cut it, would it?

    Hmm, I wonder if Sally Field will ever be recognized as a 'saint' by the catholic cult? :p

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  11. I think VJ is given more credit than he deserves. He's both an idiot and an IDiot. A story about levitation is his proof of God? Seriously? Excuse me for laughing to break a rib.

    What about the Maharishi Yogi? He levitated all the time. Surely he's a god.

    The only difference between VJ and huckster Benny Hinn is millions of dollars and private jets.

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    1. And Bill, being an idiot, knows idiots.

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    2. Hey joey of parking lot, you apparently agree with Torley. Do you believe that a guy called Joseph of Cupertino levitated and flew around thousands of times in the 17th century? Do you believe in miracles and that miracles are acts of 'God'? Can you levitate and fly?

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    3. Please! Joey doesn't believe ice is water and the null set is a set. And, yes, wavelength equals frequency because pink equals salty.

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  12. Joseph of Cupertino, who was seen levitating well above the ground and even flying for some distance through the air, on literally thousands of occasions, by believers and skeptics alike.

    Thousands of people, including trained observers such as police officers, have reported UFO (and also Sasquatch) sightings.

    Small problem - when someone reports they have seen a UFO, which is more likely:

    a) they have witnessed a human-made device they are unfamiliar with
    b) they have witnessed a natural phenomenon they are unfamiliar with
    c) they are mentally ill, or outright liars for attention and profit
    d) they have actually witnessed an extremely highly advanced alien species that has navigated interstellar distances.

    Given that liars, charlatans, and deluded or simply mistaken people are very common amongst us, I know where I would place my bet.

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    1. Several thousand Americans swear that they have been abducted by aliens.

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    2. Would VJT accept these eyewitness testimonies signed by real people with documented biographies?

      Three Witnesses
      Eight Witnesses

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    3. Larry, why on Earth do you write "Several thousand Americans swear they have been abducted by aliens"? People around the world tell such stories. We just have the best ones.

      Want me to google Canadian abduction stories? How about all your lake monsters? Half of Canada sees a log in a lake and thinks it's a $%&# sea monster.

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    4. I happen to know of studies on the number of Americans who think they have been abducted. I don't know how this compares to other countries. Do you?

      I choose alien abductions as an example because it's much more incredible than thinking you've seen a monster in a lake.

      I wonder if there's a significant difference in the percentage of kooks in different countries? One has the impression that the USA has a higher percentage than other Western industrialized nations but is this true?

      I think it's safe to say that other nations don't have as many popular politicians who are kooks.

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    5. Larry: "I wonder if there's a significant difference in the percentage of kooks in different countries?"

      Ooh he made me do 10 seconds of googling!!

      "For centuries people claimed to have boarded UFOs, encountered aliens and even sipped on Crop Circle Beer. Skeptics may dismiss believers as nerds and nutters but there's no doubting the increasing popularity of the paranormal in the mainstream. Canada has one of the highest rates of UFO sightings per capita and, for many Canadians, life beyond earth is a definite reality." [UFOs: Alien Abductions in Canda]

      Larry: "One has the impression that the USA has a higher percentage than other Western industrialized nations but is this true?"

      Only in the House of Representatives... committees on science and technology... where they're usually Chairman.

      Look Larry, in the lake-- it's a sea serpent!

      Oh, wait. It was a stick.

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    6. Diogenes,

      Canada has its fair share of kooks. That's not the point. I was asking a legitimate question and I don't know the answer. Do you?

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    7. I think it's safe to say that other nations don't have as many popular politicians who are kooks.

      It certainly seems that way, though I would emphasize the word "popular". In Canada, we may well have our share of Michelle Bachman's and Lou Gohmert's among our Parliamentarians. But it could be that, because of the more rigid control that party leaders maintain over their caucus, we don't hear from them all that often.

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  13. "Scientific research is limited—restricted to what humans can actually observe or study. Otherwise it is mere theory or guesswork. Since “God is a Spirit,” he simply cannot be subjected to direct scientific scrutiny. (John 4:24) It is arrogant, therefore, to dismiss faith in God as unscientific. Scientist Vincent Wigglesworth of Cambridge University observed that the scientific method itself is “a religious approach.” How so? “It rests upon an unquestioning faith that natural phenomena conform to ‘laws of nature.’” So when someone rejects belief in God, is he not simply exchanging one type of faith for another? In some cases, disbelief appears to be a deliberate refusal to face the truth -Psalm 10:4"

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  14. "Physicist and author Paul Davies points out that science does a wonderful job of explaining physical phenomena such as rain. But he says: “When it comes to . . . questions such as ‘Why are there laws of nature?’ the situation is less clear. These sorts of questions are not much affected by specific scientific discoveries: many of the really big questions have remained unchanged since the birth of civilization and still vex us today.”


    “The important point is not merely that there are regularities in nature,” wrote Flew in 2007, “but that these regularities are mathematically precise, universal, and ‘tied together.’ Einstein spoke of them as ‘reason incarnate.’ The question we should ask is how nature came packaged in this fashion. This is certainly the question that scientists from Newton to Einstein to Heisenberg have asked—and answered. Their answer was the Mind of God.”


    Indeed, many highly respected scientists do not consider it unscientific to believe in an intelligent First Cause. On the other hand, to say that the universe, its laws, and life just happened is intellectually unsatisfying. Everyday experience tells us that design—especially highly sophisticated design—calls for a designer."

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  15. Here is a link below:
    https://sekharpal.wordpress.com/.../is-fine-tuning.../
    Here I have shown that the fine tuning argument is not actually needed for proving the existence of God, because existence of God can also be proved even if there is no fine tuning..

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    1. What a bunch of nonsense. To save people the time, here is an excerpt from that pill of rubbish:

      So light originating within space and time goes beyond space and time, because space and time become non-existent for it. And we cannot claim that this is without any cause. As light is not a conscious entity, so neither can we claim here that light has the capability of deciding its own fate that it will go beyond space and time.

      ROTFLMAO!

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