Thursday, January 19, 2012

Flying spaghetti monster

If you've ever been in a long conversation with someone about the existence of God, there is a strong possibility the, "well, couldn't you replace the word 'god' with, oh I don't know, 'flying spaghetti monster'? I don't see how those arguments can explain God." You've answered the person's questions on existence, morality, science, and then as if you haven't answered anything, out of the clear blue sky, the person responds with this super-duper-awesome defeater known as...wait for it...oh here it comes...*cue empire music from star wars*...the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Behold! The noodly monster who destroys all reasonable arguments! Bow to its (or his) infinite coolness and hardness! None hangs harder than the great

Yeah, ok.....

Let's read how William Lane Craig answers the following question.

Dear Professor Craig,

The cumulative case for the existence for God proceeds from some data (physical constants, sentient souls, testimonies for miracles, etc.) to the existence of God as the best explanation of these data. There are some important objections. 1. Such inference does not show why theism is a better explanation than, say, the hypothesis of the existence of a very powerful Flying Spaghetti Monster. 2. Neither it says why some evil being - some powerful, malevolent being, say, something like Satan - is not a better explanation than God; especially when the existing evil is included in the data. How would you counter? Thank you very much.


Craig writes

Your question is really about what the various arguments for God’s existence, if sound, enable us to infer about the nature of the being proved by such arguments. Different arguments will enable us to infer different attributes, so that the case for God’s existence is, as you state, cumulative. 


it’s plausible that any ultimate explanation must involve a personal being which is incorporeal. For any being composed of material stuff will exhibit precisely that specified complexity that we are trying to explain. The old “Who designed the Designer?” objection thus presses hard against any construal of the Designer as a physical object (see my “Richard Dawkins’ Argument for Atheism in The God Delusion” in the Question of the Week Archive). That immediately rules out the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a final explanation.

What about the other theistic arguments? The contingency argument, if successful, proves the existence of a metaphysically necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universe (see “Argument from Contingency” in the Question of the Week Archive). That conclusion is also incompatible with the Sufficient Reason of all things being the Flying Spaghetti Monster, since as a physical object (even if invisible to our senses) he can be neither metaphysically necessary, timeless, spaceless, nor immaterial.

The kalam cosmological argument, if sound, gives us grounds for believing in the existence of a beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, changeless, immaterial, enormously powerful, Personal Creator of the universe. Again, a being with such attributes cannot be anything like the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The moral argument complements the cosmological and design arguments by telling us about the moral nature of the Creator of the universe. It gives us a personal, necessarily existent being who is perfectly good and whose nature is the standard of goodness and whose commands constitute our moral duties. This argument rules out any suggestion that the metaphysical ultimate is some evil being akin to Satan. As a privation of goodness, evil is parasitic upon the Good and so cannot exist as the highest being. 

Finally, the ontological argument gives us reason to think that God, as the greatest conceivable being, is metaphysically necessary and maximally excellent, that is to say, omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good. The poor Flying Spaghetti Monster is, alas, left trailing in the dust.

I think you can see that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is vastly overrated, both as a parody and as a being. As a parody, he fails to show that an inference to an intelligent designer of the universe is either illegitimate or unwarranted. What the parody shows is that we are not justified in attributing to our explanatory postulates arbitrary properties that are not justified by the evidence. Natural theologians have always known this. That’s why, for example, Thomas Aquinas, after his five brief paragraphs in his Summa theologiae proving the existence of a being “to which everyone gives the name ‘God’,” goes on to discuss in the next nine questions God’s simplicity, perfection, goodness, limitlessness, omnipresence, immutability, eternity, and unity. 

As a being, the Flying Spaghetti Monster comes up drastically deficient as an explanation of those phenomena, some of which you list, which lie at the basis of the arguments for God’s existence. Those arguments, if all sound, as I think they are, require cumulatively a being which is the metaphysically necessary, self-existent, beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal, omnipotent, omniscient Creator and Designer of the universe, who is perfectly good, whose nature is the standard of goodness, and whose commands constitute our moral duties.

The real lesson to be learned from the case of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is that it shows how completely out of touch our popular culture is with the great tradition of natural theology. One might as well be speaking a foreign language. That people could think that belief in God is anything like the groundless belief in a fantasy monster shows how utterly ignorant they are of the works of Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz, Paley, Sorley, and a host of others, past and present. No doubt part of the fault lies with equally ignorant Christians who have no answer when called upon to give a reason for the hope within and who therefore give the impression of arbitrary and groundless belief. But it must also be attributed to poor education, intellectual laziness, and a lack of curiosity. Given the revival of natural theology in our day over the last half century, we have no excuse for such lame caricatures of theistic belief as belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster." 

When one resorts to spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, 1/4 pounder with cheese, etc., it's nothing more than rhetoric. I don't think any serious thinker actually has confidence in counters like the appeal to the FSM. Spaghetti and meatballs are within the human domain, created by intelligent beings and dependent upon the existence of the universe.

Read Craig's full response here 

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