Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Literature

There is a very nice, and not at all ad hoc, theistic explanation of why there exist beings who like telling stories. Creation reflects the creator. The creator is the author of the universe, and so there is good reason for there to be creatures who also engage in authorship. I have no doubt that a just-so evolutionary story can be given about the practice of story-telling. However, I suspect that, nonetheless, the fact that we tell stories is evidence for theism over and against naturalism.

13 comments:

Chong Choe said...

That depends, I think, on whether we’re “telling stories” or simply describing what we know in a way that has become increasingly sophisticated as we’ve had time and leisure to develop the skill. By “what we know,” I mean what we have actually experienced (e.g., a wild beast) and what we can infer from our experiences (e.g., a man, a beast, a centaur). Maybe primitive cultures “told stories” about their ancestors and their great adventures of killing wild beasts in the jungle. By the time of the ancient Greeks, our ability to tell stories may have evolved to allow for greater deviations from reality.

We could say that our stories now are limited only by as far as our imaginations will take us. But maybe that’s the point: the fact of we have the ability to imagine things is evidence for theism (creation presumably involved a great deal of imagination) over and against atheism.

radical_logic said...

I don't think this is a good argument at all. That God is thought of as the "author" of the universe--in the sense of causing it into existence--gives no good reason whatsoever to suppose that there are creatures who engage in story-telling.

radical_logic said...

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But maybe that’s the point: the fact of we have the ability to imagine things is evidence for theism (creation presumably involved a great deal of imagination) over and against atheism.
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Our ability to imagine things would only be evidence for theism if our ability implies creation (via an intelligent creator). But no such implication follows.

Alexander R Pruss said...

"Our ability to imagine things would only be evidence for theism if our ability implies creation (via an intelligent creator)." That is a far too restrictive account of evidence. That George rolled sixes ten times in a row is evidence for the claim that his die is loaded in favor of sixes. It does not imply that claim.

I think all I really need for evidence is that it is more likely given theism that there be storytelling than given non-theism.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I should note that when I say that E is evidence for F, that does not imply that E is strong evidence for F. It only means that E increases the probability of F. Thus, that I was in town at the time a certain robbery occurred in Waco is evidence that I committed the robbery--it increases the probability of it.

radical_logic said...

I don't see how the fact that there are story-tellers increase the probability of there being an entity--VERY different from us--who is not a known story-teller.

Eric Telfer said...

Story telling presupposes things like personal agency, intelligent agency, memory, etc.. These make a God hypothesis more likely. They are better explained on a God hypothesis, like other intelligent agent type activities, i.e., soap making, car building, book making, art, etc.

radical_logic said...

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Story telling presupposes things like personal agency, intelligent agency, memory, etc.. These make a God hypothesis more likely. They are better explained on a God hypothesis, like other intelligent agent type activities, i.e., soap making, car building, book making, art, etc.
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This is true only if personal agency is unlikely to be explained on any non-God hypothesis. Can you make this argument?

Eric Telfer said...

First, can you explain personal agency and intelligent activity on a non-God hypothesis? Can you explain the existence of contingent, composite beings who are personal agents on a non-God hypothesis? Can you explain the existence of such beings acting with purpose and toward ends, creating, producing, making, representing, solving, etc.? Can you explain their intelligent activities? Here I have in mind not just their coming into existence, but their continuing to exist.

Second, if personal agency is unlikely on a non-God hypothesis, it would be true. But, it would also be true if it were less likely on a non-God hypothesis.

I have to work soon and so will have to leave this for now.

radical_logic said...

First, we need to distinguish between having an explanation of x and having evidence for an explanation of x. Hence, suppose I agree that the God-explanation *can* explain personal agency--this in itself does not make the God-explanation more likely than non-God explanations.

In order to show that the God-explanation is more likely than non-God explanations, theists need to demonstrate either: (i) *all* non-God explanations are conceptually problematic, or (ii) if they are not conceptually problematic, that the evidence for non-God explanations is weaker than the evidence for the God-explanation for personal agency.

Can you do either?

Eric Telfer said...

One problem with trying to argue that one thing is *more likely* than another is the problem of how to weigh the evidence. That is a problem with all likelihood arguments.

As far as showing non-God explanations to be conceptually problematic, I am not sure what 'conceptually problematic' would mean here. That seems vague. There might be a sense in which any explanation, no matter what, can be considered conceptually problematic in some way, shape, or form, though not all will be relevant or non-trivial.

Can you do the converse?

larryniven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alexander R Pruss said...

I have removed a comment on account of unparliamentary language not conducive to respectful intellectual discussion. I would be happy if the commenter re-posted in better temper. This is the first time I have had to remove a non-spam comment.

The commenter basically expressed, in immoderate tone, the opinion that the view that God had to be invoked to explain the existence of people was not one that could be intelligently held. The commenter went on to say that the existence of the God of Christianity is impossible.