Deism by way of Michio Kaku

Question from “Alex the Deist”:
This last month, there has been some news about the existence of God proved by Michio Kaku, who asserts that the universe is perfectly ordered, “it could have been chaotic”, but it is not. He says that with this we could understand the mind of God. The ultimate argument for design.

Now, I know that Kaku is agnostic or pantheistic like Einstein, and that this is poetry, but nonetheless, it has theological implications. The first is that this would practically rule out the existence of personal gods, but this I think, makes deism stronger than atheism.

Consider the following case:

The universe is ordered / design.
The universe is ordered / blind chance.

We should expect that if there is a design behind the universe, this would be ordered. But we could not expect the same of blind chance. So, order gives a higher plausibility to design than to chance.

On the other hand for example, Dennett says that we as rational beings find useful to think of things as involving a purpose, this makes easier to understand natural phenomena. Which is true, I accept that. But I think, that if we accept that; we should accept it is possible that a mind responsible for the universe exists, and that our understanding expresses cognition about it.

If we accept that this order is objective and not an invention of our minds (as I think every rational person would accept) we should be able to tell that such order expresses also some kind of objective rationality, that it is true that: we as rational beings can comprehend such order because/and it expresses rationality.

This two things being said, I think deism has an extremely greater plausibility than atheism. How do you respond to this from an atheistic frame?

Answer by SmartLX:
It’s not really news that the universe appears to be entirely ordered in some sense. The laws of physics and the fundamental constants have so far seemed universal and unchanging, with nothing behaving contrary to them. It can be said, and I agree that no one would seriously argue, that there is at least some order in the universe, which leads into the rest of your argument. Thing is, people have been arguing that the existence of order demonstrates design and therefore a god for centuries, so it hasn’t been the most successful of arguments and Kaku is unlikely to change that.

You avoid affirming the consequent (a common fallacy) by restricting yourself to a probabilistic claim that design is more likely than chance, but nevertheless there is no way to establish the absolute or relative probability of either your hypothesis or the opposite. Minds are constantly observed to create local order, yes, but so are chance and undirected determinism. Rocks are worn smooth, sunflowers and pineapples follow Fibonacci patterns, a roughly shaken container will sort its contents according to size and density. A mind is not automatically more likely to have created universal order just because the majority of order we notice is the product of minds.

With the two sides now on murky but level ground, a major difference between your hypothesis and non-deistic alternatives is that you are required to posit the prior (or timeless) existence of another extremely ordered entity for which there is no available, substantial evidence, whereas natural explanations leave open the nature of the progenitor, if any. I wouldn’t dispute that a creator god is possible as we have no means to rule it out (an agnostic atheist leaves room for any possibility), but that’s as far as it’ll go. It’s perilous to argue that one possible explanation is more likely or “stronger” because of what we “should expect” when it comes to the whole universe, because our intuition is woefully inadequate for this purpose.

Atheism According To Spong

Question from Geoffrey:
Bishop John Shelby Spong defines an atheist as someone who disagrees with the theistic explanation of God. Do you agree? That seems to make all non-theists myself included an atheist.

Answer by SmartLX:
Based on former Bishop Spong’s definition, that’s the implication. Spong’s own position, however, is almost entirely unique and therefore not a very secure basis for generalisations.

Spong’s stated opinions on Christian doctrine reject theism by name, and place him well outside most people’s definitions of a Christian. It’s difficult to determine from his online writings what if anything he thinks God is, but it’s nothing like the supernatural being we all imagine in some form.

I might agree that an atheist is simply someone who is not a theist from the words alone, if not for the existence of deists. A deist believes in a god, but not the interventionist gods of theists. The fact that “theist” and “deist” come from the Greek and Latin words for “god” (theos and deus respectively) makes the modern definitions somewhat confusing, but there you have it.

I think everyone’s a theist, a deist or an atheist. Some agnostics may disagree with me there, or even be quite annoyed at this statement, but even an agnostic – who by definition does not know or even thinks it’s impossible to know whether there are gods – either believes in at least one god or does not believe in any (which is not the same as believing there are none). I’m an agnostic atheist myself.

Deism and Atheism

“This argument from lack of expected evidence is strongest against theistic and theistic-in-advance gods, though it does apply to deism to some extent. In the case of a straight deistic god which has no further influence on or interest in us humans, it is indeed moot whether we believe in it.”

Question (sort of) from Jay:
You stated: The atheist position is that there is no available, substantive evidence for the existence of any god. Therefore it’s likely that there isn’t one. (No, it is stil 50/50. Likely, is a biased term)

And the Deist position would be: As a Deist, I know that it cannot be proven nor disproven, that a God does or does not exist, therefore I have the right to choose to believe in one or not. Since at this time, we do not have an answer either way. I simply choose to believe, rather than disbelieve, because I feel that nature, life, the universe, and other sources, are enough to sway me to believe, rather than disbelieve.

Therefore, who cares if you believe or not, it is a moot point. The only thing irrational here, is theism.

There is actually a bit of reasoning between the lack of evidence and the statement that there isn’t likely to be a god.

A hypothetical theistic or deistic god created the whole universe, and a theistic god continues to influence it. (Some deists think God planned out world history and people’s lives in great detail, which is a kind of theism-in-advance.) The fingerprints of such a god would be everywhere, obvious and unambiguous. That’s not the case, most obviously because there are so many atheists.

An explanation for this, besides the simple absence of a god, is that the real god is hiding its work. This goes against something which is common to all theistic religions and some deistic ones: the idea that the god desires belief. There are several theological conjectures about why a god that desires belief would be hiding its work regardless (to test us?), but they have to stack up against the simple and ridiculous fact that this hypothetically all-powerful being isn’t getting what it wants.

This argument from lack of expected evidence is strongest against theistic and theistic-in-advance gods, though it does apply to deism to some extent. In the case of a straight deistic god which has no further influence on or interest in us humans, it is indeed moot whether we believe in it.

That said, I’ll reply to your position fairly subjectively. Firstly, I don’t think belief is a choice because we’re either swayed by what we see as evidence or we’re not. Secondly, while I respect your right to believe, nature, life etc. do not sway me that way and I remain an atheist.


Atheism an “argument from ignorance”?

“I don’t know for sure that there isn’t a god, and I never said I did. I simply don’t believe that there is one…”

Question from Jay:
How is an atheist’s argument that there is no God any different from a Deist’s argument that there is a God? Both are unfalsifiable stances. How is an atheist’s view any better? You maintain your stance because it is the best answer you can come up with. You cannot rationally explain your stance any better than I can. How do you rationally know there isn’t a God? I know, you’ll say I don’t know 100 percent, well nobody does. But you asked this same question to a Deist, can you answer it?

I don’t know for sure that there isn’t a god, and I never said I did. I simply don’t believe that there is one, and I don’t think it’s likely either for reasons I’ll go into when answering your subsequent question.

Deists have an easier time defending their position than theists because they don’t have to establish any interference by a god since what they see as the act of Creation. Of course they do have to argue for Creation the same as theists, and there’s your overlap. I’ve laid out my basic position on the cosmological argument here in response to both theists and deists.


Ask from the Past: What Am I?

“Going by the word alone, an atheist (a-theist) is someone without a theistic belief. That includes deists.”

(When the archived ATA site was restored, a short list of unanswered questions were found in the approval queue. I’ll be answering them here in Ask from the Past.)

Question from friendlyagnostic:
I go back and forth between deism and straight up agnosticism, so normally I call myself an agnostic deist (not theist). Most of the time I don’t know and I really don’t care (unless religion is in my face), but when I do think there might be a “higher power”, I think of it in deistic terms. theism makes no sense to me. I would never be arrogant enough to say “I know” or that “I can prove” b/c this is impossible. I consider myself a non-theist. however, according to the defintion on rrs’s website, I am considered an atheist too, just b/c I am not a theist. Is everyone who is not a theist an atheist? Am I, even with my deistic leanings? I honestly want to know……thanks

A deist is not a theist, that much is clear and easy.

If you think there’s a good chance of a deistic god, but you don’t know, then you’re an agnostic deist. That’s pretty clear too. So we just have to work out what else you could be called at the same time.

An atheist by the everyday definition is someone who doesn’t believe in gods of any sort, even deistic gods. That rules you out.

Going by the word alone, though, an atheist (a-theist) is someone without a theistic belief. That includes deists.

Regardless, I couldn’t comfortably call you an atheist without qualification, because the way people understand the word it includes the position of a-deism.

If you really wanted to nail it to the letter, you could say that you’re an atheist but not an a-deist. If I shared your position, though, I wouldn’t bother. I’d just self-identify as an agnostic deist and not worry about whether I was technically an atheist too.