Another Failed Defense of “The Inevitable Consequences of an Atheist Worldview”

Steve Hays has commented on my previous post, “Fact Checking the Inevitable Consequences of an Atheist Worldview.” That post was a detailed summary and refutation of eight specific claims. Hays does not interact with any of the specific claims. Rather, he makes general points about my post as a whole. Here is Hays:

Over at the Secular outpost, Jeff Lowder took issue with what an ostensible atheist said about “The Inevitable Consequences of an Atheist Worldview”. Jeff’s attempted rebuttal is muddleheaded. He fails to distinguish between the logical implications of atheism and what individual atheists happen to believe.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Ironically, it is J. Warner Wallace and his apparent defender, Steve Hays, who fail “to distinguish between the logical implications of atheism and what individual atheists happen to believe,” in this case, what “John” happens to believe. Wallace imagines that by citing an atheist (“John”), who happens to support a popular Christian apologetics meme about atheism and nihilism, that somehow supports the meme itself. But that is false. Indeed, even William Lane Craig commented on how “John’s” piece was long on assertions but short on arguments to support them. In his words, “notice there really wasn’t much argument in this blog. It was mainly assertion.” What Craig failed to mentioned, however, is that John fails to support his assertions even if we assume that naturalism is true and even if know with certainty that naturalism is true.

He imagines that by citing examples of atheists who take different positions, that somehow disproves the claim. But that, as I say, is confused.

That would be confused, which is why I didn’t (and don’t) do that! Try again.

Let’s go through each of the eight claims from the original post.

Claim: Atheism entails the belief that the universe is “uncaused.”

I agreed with this claim with a technical caveat, so this claim isn’t applicable to the point Hays want to make.

Claim: Atheism entails the belief that the universe is a “random accident.”

Hays provides no evidence that I attempted to refute this claim merely by failing to make the implication-vs.-common belief distinction. In fact, I did just the opposite. I wrote, “Even if our universe is the result of some random universe-generating process in the multiverse, it still wouldn’t follow that all of physical reality is the result of a “random” process or event.”

Claim: Atheism entails that all life in the universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself.

Again, no evidence from Hays to support his objection.

Claim: Atheism entails the view that concepts like morality, politeness, and civility do not exist.

No evidence from Hays.

Claim: Atheism entails that morality is nothing but, in the words of E.O. Wilson, “an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate.”

No evidence from Hays.

Claim: Atheism entails that people have no reason to behave morally other than the fear of getting caught and punished if they behave immorally.

Hays provided no evidence in his original post. In a follow-up reply, Hays cites the following words of mine.

In fact, the author seems to beg the question against moral views, like the Aristotelian ethical naturalism defended by Larry Arnhart, which entail that human morality is rooted in objective facts about our biological nature.

Commenting on this, Hays writes:

For instance, Jeff tries to counter E. O. Wilson’s contention that morality “an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate” by citing Larry Arnhart’s Aristotelian ethical naturalism.

This expresses a half-truth. Yes, I cite Arnhart’s Aristotelian ethical naturalism. Arnhart’s view is logically compatible with atheism. The point of the citation is not “Here’s an atheist who adopts X; therefore, X is logically compatible with atheism.” Rather, the point of the citation was and is, “X is logically compatible with atheism; the author seems to beg the question against moral views like X by assuming that they are incompatible with atheism.” Hays is unable to demonstrate a contradiction between (a) “God does not exist” and (b) “Arnhart’s Aristotelian ethical naturalism is true” by substituting synonyms for synonyms in (a) and/or (b) to derive logically incompatible propositions. He cannot do this because there is no such contradiction, so his claims about the allegedly nihilistic logical implications of atheism are just that, claims.

Claim: Moral laws require a transcendent moral law giver.

No evidence from Hays.

Claim: Social or cultural evolution can’t be the foundation for morality because our selfish genes are not interested in the welfare of others when their personal survival is at stake.

No evidence from Hays.

Claim: Without a true transcendent source of purpose, there is no basis for affirming objective moral values or obligations.

No evidence from Hays.

Final score: Lowder 8, Hays 0.

Let’s move onto Hays’ post.

All that means is that some atheists are inconsistent. They balk at the radical consequences of atheism. They pull their punches.

That they are inconsistent is the very point at issue. Hays hasn’t shown that yet. Hays hasn’t yet responded to my logical critique of these claims of the “logical implications” or “radical consequences” of atheism.

Atheism is a proposition. A proposition has objective implications. It affirms something and it denies the contrary or contraries.

I agree.

The question at issue isn’t what any particular atheist believes, or how he behaves. He may retain some beliefs in spite of his atheism. He may refrain from certain behavior despite his atheism.

Again, Hays offers no defense of his claims about the “logical implications” or “radical consequences” of atheism. Instead, he just continues to beg the question by ignoring my point-by-point rebuttal to all of Wallace’s claims.

Jeff is a propagandist for atheism, so he always wants to put the best public face on atheism. That’s one reason he’s so hypersensitive to perceived slights.

Hays is right. That is why I have publicly defended two Bayesian arguments for theism, and repeatedly criticized atheists who I think have made stupid arguments. Wait. What?!?

I’m going to end this post by paraphrasing something William Lane Craig once wrote in response to one of his critics (Sean Carroll), keeping the essence of WLC’s point while applying it to Hays.

Finally, I’m disappointed that Hays cannot find it in himself to have a collegial discussion of these important questions but feels the need to resort to snide, personal attacks in his closing paragraph, as well as numerous blog posts. … His condescension is especially awkward in light of his own missteps in correctly characterizing the logical implications of atheism. Hays will pardon us, I hope, for our skepticism about his counting himself among the ranks of the open-minded.

I would add this. I used to consider Hays a friend, but I don’t find Hays’ recent behavior very Christ-like. I’ve interacted with many scholars who try (and, I think, largely succeed) in being polite when doing Christian apologetics: William Lane Craig, Michael Horner, Glenn Miller, Doug Geivett, Victor Reppert, Craig Blomberg, and Richard Swinburne, to name just a few. If you’ll pardon an atheist offering advice to apologists, I’m pretty sure the NT never says that rudeness is a necessary condition for giving a reason for the hope that lies within you. If I ever become a theist, it will be in spite of Hays’ recent behavior, not because of it.