Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The binary debate

A thought I have been pondering lately is the attempt to answer a question that popped into my head the other day.  It is remarkably striking how similar atheist argument forms are similar to the current political argument forms.  At the heart of most of these is this notion of a false dichotomy.  Either the atheist position is correct or Christianity is correct.

Now atheists would jump out on this as a logical fallacy, and they would be correct.  However, I have found that in having this argument with atheists this dichotomy has a tendency to bleed into the discussion.

Take for example one of the arguments I frequently hear against the Second Way of Thomas Aquinas.  After much haranguing over the argument the most often criticism I hear is the following:
Even if we accept the Second Way as a valid argument, this does not prove that God is what the Christians say It is.  All you have established is that It is the First Cause. 
To which an A-T adherent responds with a hearty "Duh!"  Aquinas would be horrified if he knew people thought that was all he had to say on the matter.  In fact he spends hundreds of pages going from this understanding of God as the First Cause to deriving several properties of God (there can be only one, existence and essence are one and the same, etc).

What really strikes me about this retort is that the atheist has declared defeat with the concession.  If such a First Cause exists, the atheist position falls apart.  The Christian may or may not be right, but the atheist is certainly wrong.

I cannot help but feel the current political "thinking" plays a large role in this.  This notion that if my opponent has not proven his point completely I can still hold onto mine even if my position is collapsing beneath me.  Most political "arguments" do not defend one's position but attack one's opponents, thus implying a false dichotomy.

Is the current nature of political discussion poisoning the debate over God?  Or is the current mechanistic view of modern thought poisoning the political discussion?  Or do both stem from a different source entirely?

While many people disagree over the existence of God or what is a good tax policy no one seems to be immune from this binary thinking.  As if there are only two sides to any question.  And I suspect that my own thinking in the matter suffers from the same limitation (paradoxes more often than not are a sign that the theory needs to be refined).

What do you think?  As always comments are welcome provided you haven't  been already banned due to jerkitude.  Only one person has been banned to date so I think I'm pretty open to any conversation.

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