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In Reply To “Everything happens For A Reason”

November 9, 2009

I know I said yesterday, I would blog more regularly and I would post again in a week, but today I read a post on another atheist blog” Justin Vacula : The Green Atheist ,  in which he criticizes a predominantly  theist predisposition towards anticipating or demanding a reason for things.

Sometimes things just “are” and there isn’t a why answer.
Often a “how” answer is just the way the world is.

It’s not that I would disagree with Jason, but I feel the disenfranchising of reason itself, is not necessary just because an answer is not forthcoming.about a particular event or phenomenon. Moreover the appeal to reason in this case, is predicated on a hopelessly irrational idea of what reason is, along with a predisposition to foist totally dogmatic, ad hoc, excuses  for a hopelessly absurd, unseasoned, and completely contrived fairytale. If, as we ought to be, we are motivated to find reason which accords with rational explanations, then having no answer, is better than a silly answer which proclaims the whole damn universe exists, because of a magic sky pixie. That is still no answer, because we do not understand how this happens. It does nothing to explain in terms of cause and effect. Reasons are explanations of why X is necessary, not excuses for assumptions that are only deigned to be necessary by fiat. I have heard theists try this on too. In trying to explaining why god is proclaimed to be necessary they sometimes contend that it’s the only thing that explains X. Where ‘X’ is any kind of mystery you might imagine.

GOD'O'GAPS

It is so often assumed by theists, that because something is, not yet understood by the human mind or more often, not understood by them personally, that IT, whatever ‘IT’ is, must be impossible by any natural means. So they proclaim yet another victory for their god of the gaps, since a miracle of god would have to be the only logical explanation. Not that they understand proper formal logic, nor even a modicum of natural understandings, but somehow they expect it to all make sense in such an ignorant vacuum, and if it doesn’t hay presto miracles are the instant solution. goddidit is their chosen miraculous  method, as that is how they were raised or otherwise indoctrinated. What strikes me about religion is that is an obvious attempt to provide explanation for things we had no means to explain at the time these systems of ahem.. ‘thought’ were inaugurated. They were never intended for people with modern sophisticated epistemological understandings of reason and logic.

When I hear this phrase “everything happens for a reason” I tend to agree, even though I am a super-devoted-uber-atheist. It reminds me of one of my most beloved sayings, by the professor on Gilligan’s Island (That dates me), who once said “There’s a logical explanation for everything Gilligan”. The reason goddidits are so inclined to invoke their sky pixie, is because they abhor the idea of not being able to say ‘I don’t know’. It seems to me that they have a insatiable appetite for superficially pleasing reasons that justify the prejudice and dogma that they have bought into. Their magical sky pixie, god of the gaps, provides them with what they wish to think of as reason. It is a reason for anything however implausible or inevitable, because their is no accounting for magic. To state that there are in general ‘reasons for things (perhaps everything)’ is not a point of contention IMHO. Implying that you know what those reasons are, when you have done nothing to deserve such providence, is the height of arrogance. That is the real issue, but I also understand what you are getting at. The question of importance, is ‘HOW’ (and I mean it: PRECISELY ‘HOW’) do you go from presenting speculation which demonstrates a total disregard of logical reasoning in the first place, to confident assertion of knowledge.

Theologians don’t work on the problem of indeterminism or randomness. Physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers may all yield some insight into the question of whether causality is universal and what causes or reasons are most plausible in any given situation. The phrase “Everything happens for a reason”, sounds ominously like an advocacy of reason. If the interlocutor was truly interested in this subject of reason for things, then it might have been stated more like a question i.e. ‘for all we know’ and ‘I am inclined to contend’. The brash insistence that all things are required to have a reason, is not reference to any hitherto unknown logical secret of nature. Pressing the claimant for clarification, would no doubt reveal a singular preference, as the proposed reason, provided by superstitious religious dogma.

But no ‘REASON’ per se, would be proffered for the alleged plausibility of their ‘reason’ in hindsight, nor for the context of justification, requiring a mesh of interconnected cause and effect relationships to be established. The interconnectedness of intimately studied phenomena, which ARE; (seriously I mean it, ARE TRULY), artifacts of a massive web of interconnected causality established by reasoning. So YES! Thank these people for establishing the primacy of reason, and point out that is why banal assumption and superstition is not acceptable in courts of rational discourse. If you are going to sit at the debating table as an advocate of reason, you had better be prepared to manifest your implied reasons as artifacts of what is understood to be reasoning where reasoning is expected to achieve results that can be checked and confirmed.

The process of rational human inquiry, has given us the ability to separate fantasy from reality, and the plausible from the absurd. This precious jewel has been cut from the rough, IN SPITE OF, not BECAUSE OF, ignorant tribal fairytales, whose adherents still tenaciously cling to the emotional comforting of a sky-daddy and the promise of eternal life. These people do not insist on ordaining the general fact that there must be ‘A REASON’, because they CARE about establishing rational connection between some potential undiscovered cause and the effect we observe. Oh No! The providence of causality itself, as a conceptual benefactor of the human mind; that’s not the motive. observations about anything must cultivated and interpreted with post hock confabulation and confirmation bias, to countenance an absurd cosmic fairytale, that entails a parochial worldview that the universe is made just to be the physical residence of humanity while a magical sky-daddy carries out some ‘plan’ (as if he wasn’t omnipotent and therefore had to work against the arbitrary constraints of contingency).

That monotheistic tale of multi-layered absurdity, comes in numerous mutually inconsistent versions. But I hazard a fair guess, that when your interlocutor is jousting for this lofty noble principle advocating that “Everything happens for a reason” I strongly suggest that they are not speaking,in same the vein as the Professor of Gilligans Island about a LOGICAL reason for everything, which we may yearn to discover. They are not humbly pretending that our curiosity for mysterious events might be answered in principal, even if never in practice no that’s not what they want. They want to imply that because YOU cant/or won’t jump to a conclusion, that you must concede there is no explanation. In other words: If you don’t explain what the reason is, then it means you advocate indeterminism. On the other hand, these pastey allusions of things requiring a cause, are bent to fit the implication that ‘anything your theory about life, the universe and everything, cant ‘explain’ but mine can, is an artifact of evidence in my favour’. What childishly stands for ‘explain’ is some post hock confabulation of superstitious rhetoric, which bolsters the claim that whatever this event/phenomenon in question may be,  it happens to be part of ‘gods magic plan’.

Quite apart from the obvious flaw, that Occam’s Razor does not prefer an assumption over a mystery, and even then, when the assumption boils down to an infinitely worse supernatural mystery, the gain to be found in finding a reason, is not just the happenstance that the subject in question should fit into the broader explanatory system (or ‘theory’ if you like), but that it should now be reconciled as a more probable or inevitable outcome. The Australian aboriginals ‘dreaming’ story, that a giant snake carved the mountains and valleys, in the same manner as ordinary snakes, leave tracks like little mountains and valleys in the sand, it’s very charming indeed and illustrates how we used to look for (or actually guess at) simple explanations in terms of causes and effects we could understand. The giant snake did not improve the understanding of the Australian Aboriginal. Nor is the myth of such a creature true. It was a ‘just so’ story, contrived to fit. Simply wondering, and not pretending to know, would have been better.

Reasons above all else, need to proffer explanations. Explanations need to be thought of as leading towards necessary conclusions. They may be provisional  and dependent on some other conclusions, but we need to be able to see the logic, that shows how the reasoning leads to better parsimony. It should by rights lead to further predictions and using the premise that it is true should lead to highly specific predictions of events or phenomena that might only be found If it were true. An excuse for privileging an assumption, because it can be in some way construed as consistent with a fairytale, is not the same as providing reasons, or REASONING. It’s EXCUSENING.

The cynicism and arrogance of these people, is just plain astounding These are the people who care so little for the real providence of the process we call reason, yet would dare to insist on requiring reasons for everything and use the need for reason, as a foot in the door for their fairy-tales of lamentable ignorance. The explanation they would proffer as a cause in any event, and the basis of justification for their claim, is not any kind of reason in the sense of natural causality, but in the only sense that could be comprehended in a mind devoid of logic or critical thinking skills. They are thinking along the lines of a meaning which satisfies petty human proclivities. Cause in the narrow religious sense, is akin to a circumstance which is enacted by conscious choice. It is not the ‘CAUSE’ predicating heat to the evaporation of water, and precipitation to rain etc… It is not an understand in of WHY something happens, because you can see how it MUST! They can sometimes see a connection between cause and effect sometimes, leave the ice cream out of the fridge it will melt. eat too much fruit and you will get the runs. That is trivial observation. It doesn’t become reason until you ask WHY? and HOW? They leave out necessity and demand that their sky pixie is required to be the all important cause of all things. To this end they ignore that necessity is built into nature. Perhaps everything does have a reason, indeed a cause or a multitude of them, but logically consistent with every other. That may ultimately mean everything which is not impossible is necessary.

Their proclivity to ignore details of the ordered universe and look for purposes that agree with this petty human need for self approbation, is what sanctions this delusional prejudice for explanations that are satisfied by the personal desires of a magical being. They are not advocating a chain of causality, using logical techniques, establishing at each point the ‘how and why’, but the only thing that even smells like reason to them, is something synonymous with the concept of ‘MOTIVE’. That is the willful deliberations of a conscious being, enacting or orchestrating the events to bring them about. In such a mindset, you don’t have to understand WHY that being was motivated to do so (only that there was a motive – or even could have been). Even then you have no need to ask HOW. The cause of the event/phenomenon is established by the assumed existence of an entity who might want to cause it. So again it boils down to the assumptions of supernaturalism. Any designer/creator being who could engineer an event or phenomenon by supernatural means, could not provide any hope for a contribution to ‘reason’ as it is intended in the rational quarters of natural inquiry. In providing a ‘reason’ we must show how it follows logically from other logically predicated premises, ultimately the soundest reasons are ultimately predicated on provisional axioms, so the conclusions may be seen as inevitable.

If we want to KNOW how the universe works, we CAN NOT, arrogantly expect to be given explanations which just happen to make us the most treasured and precious things which exist. Thinking that what stands as ‘explaination’ or ‘reason’ is the whims of a capricious pixie in the sky, with thought, emotions, ambitious plans and contracts to manage human behaviour, is just an atrocious joke and an insult to the quality of life we ALL enjoy because of the real providence of reason. We all require reasons for the things we don’t yet understand, the main differences between the superstitious theist mind and the rationalist, is that the theist will not acknowledge the honesty of proclaiming uncertainty, or just saying ‘I dont know’. The theist tenaciously refuses to throw out preconceived dogma and accept many ot the plausible reasons that there are, for much of our universe, not because they truly see more parsimony in thier prefferance, but on an intellectually dishonest basis. Indeed they may have no knowledge of reasoning skills whatsoever, they may abhor logic and so they may be incapable of seeing ‘REASON’ as anything other than, comfortable prejudice, retrofitting happenstance in hindsight, to their dogmaticly priveledged fairytailes with complete disregard to parsimony.

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