Spot the logical fallacy!

It’s been a slow weekend for blogging; I’ve been caught in a daze of pollen and Benadryl and haven’t found much online that I can really bite into. Then just now, Andrew Sullivan gives me something to write about! Thank you, Sullivan!

We have a fresh conversation on the role of justice in Abrahamic monotheism, in which Norm Geras is not amused:

Well, be puzzled no more. It turns out (in the final paragraph) that there is something which distinguishes the believers from the non-believers after all. This is, well, the belief that God does indeed exist. For only God can underwrite the attachment to justice. I let this claim pass on the present occasion, though I don’t accept it. But what a rigmarole! To first define religion in a way that radically reduces its core, turns atheists into disguised people of faith and religion itself into a set of ethical and political commitments; and only later add belief in the existence of God as a necessary support for those commitments. Note also the logical fallacy of inferring an existence from a putative need. I might think that my future happiness depends on someone’s securing for me a chauffeur-driven stretch limo and a supplementary barouche; but even if I do think it, I wouldn’t let the hypothesis convince me that such a benefactor will eventually turn up.

Geras clears up Stephen Clark’s logical fallacy in this fiendishly sneaky little attempt to appropriate atheists into a support for religion. Sullivan, then, (wisely) steers clear of Clark’s fallacy of “ought, therefore is” and instead…shows us a different fallacy!

Our universe came from nothing and is still expanding. What conceivable force made this possible?

Here is the First Cause argument. The fallacy is a case of special pleading. The religious apologist says God must have created the universe by causing the Big Bang because everything must have a cause. We don’t know what caused the Big Bang, therefore, God.

Whereas the scientist says, we don’t yet know what caused the Big Bang, but we’re working on it.

Physicists and cosmologists do have some theories on what brought about the beginning on the universe as we know it, which do not depend on divine intervention. Such hypotheses may not be testable for the foreseeable future, but they do step up to the plate in offering possibilities for what we do not (yet) understand. If God must have caused the beginning of the universe, then what caused God? And if God needs no external cause, then why must the universe?