Can Explanations Lead to More Questions?
One of the benefits of being a Christian online are all the wonderful atheists who are drawn to us, like a Jehovah’s Witness to a doorbell convention. The latest atheist apologist to try their luck to deconvert me is Lucas. Although he claims to want to talk about epistemology, he prefers push the conversation to arguments made by all-round nice guy, Richard Dawkins: Lucas claims that God can never be an explanation, because that only leads to more questions.
Originally Lucas claimed belief in God leads to an infinite regress because “If everything needs a creator, what created your creator?”. Far from the faith-destroying zinger it’s meant to be, claiming everything needs a cause is demonstrably the opposite of the cosmological argument. The cosmological argument does not assume that everything needs a cause, but shows the exact opposite: that there must be at least one thing which does not (which most of us identify as God). Lucas now realizes this, “It’s not my argument, I agree not everything has to have a cause.”
Instead he now appears to say:
Explanations which lead to more questions are not good explanations.
Its this watered down Dawkinsidity I’d like to talk about here. This modified claim is just plain false.
Genuine questions are good
Imagine that you are with Captain Cook on his voyage to the South Pacific. Having sailed to exotic Pacific islands to observe the transit of Venus, you sail South West. Then, over the horizon, you spot Australia. No doubt you would have many questions about the new continent, like: ‘How big is it?’, ‘What sort of animals are there?’, ‘Is it suitable for founding new settlements?’, ‘How did a spider grow that big?’. I can guarantee that nobody aboard, doubted the they had just discovered a new landmass just because that would lead to more questions.
Any discovery, in any field, leads to more questions. That’s not just true in geography, but in any field such as the sciences, history, or medicine. In none of them do people suggest that just because an explanation leads to more questions that it is a bad explanation. In the same way, there’s no reason to reject God just because belief in him leads to more questions.
In fact, this isn’t just a bad argument (in the sense it is illogical). It’s a bad argument because it tries to get us to do exactly the wrong thing. When we discover a new fact in history, or geography, or any field we should be led to ask questions. Curiosity and genuine open questions are wonderful, wonderful things.
This morning LIGO directly detected gravitational waves for the very first time. Two black holes coalesced together producing a chirp signal, exactly as predicted. If your head isn’t running with questions: ‘What are gravitational waves?’, ‘Is it too good to be true - why didn’t we see any two and three sigma events?’, ‘Where were the black holes which produced it?’, ‘How big were they?’, ‘Can we detect other objects?’, ‘How can we get the current noise floor down’, then it should be.
The argument that good explanations can’t lead to more questions is obviously wrong. There’s no reason why explanations shouldn’t lead to more questions. The exact opposite is true. They should!
Thanks for reading my waffle. In the next one I’ll discuss one of Lucas' objections the cosmological argument. Feel free to comment below, or tweet to me @sillymuddle.