Of Spaghetti Monsters and Pink Unicorns: A Refutation

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement has attempted to take empirical data and draw the conclusion that naturalism could not be possible. Naturalism is physicalism, saying that all that exists is physical matter and energy, that everything that exists is the result of blind natural forces and time. In contrast, the ID folks look at various parts of nature and draw the conclusion that a designer is necessary. ID proponent William Dembski has written about mathematical inferences, trying to show that naturalism  could not be possible. Michael Behe has written about complex biological systems which he claims could not logically be the result of evolutionary natural selection. Opponents start from an assumption of naturalism and have written refutations of these men and others in the ID movement.

The ID community, in general, has been careful to not specify who or what this designer might be. They take pains to not bring a religious view into the conversation, attempting to not impact the view of the data by discussing God. Even though they do not specify what type of designer might have caused the data they observe, opponents accuse the ID community of thinly veiled religious views, intentionally labeling the ID movement as “intelligent design creationism” and expecting this to end the discussion. The general public needs to learn the logical fallacies called genetic fallacy, poisoning the well, and ad hominem, for the opponents of ID seem to use these quite effectively in their persuasion.

However, at least some atheist naturalists in the debate seem to hold that one cannot logically disprove a designer, therefore ID theory should not be considered credible. Dembski has answered this, making the claim that ID can be disproved by showing evidence to the contrary. So the debate goes on.

Meanwhile, the atheist naturalists have resorted to using ridicule as an attempt to discredit the ID community. Some in the atheist community have formed religious spoof organizations, a type of disproof by reducing to absurdity.   The idea is instead of dealing with the scientific issues at face value, to discredit the ID movement by making absurd examples that supposedly show the weakness of the design argument. As the reasoning goes, if the ID folks posit an unnamed designer, which the atheists claim cannot be disproved, then this designer could just as easily be an absurd being. One group calls themselves the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (CoFSM). Another group uses a Pink Unicorn; years ago agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell used a giant teapot. If some school board somewhere begins to discuss ID, the CoFSM sends letters demanding that the school adopt their spaghetti deity in the curriculum. While the middle school humor is obvious, I’m still wondering why this is supposed to be relevant.

These naturalists’ attempts at ridicule also apply to Christians who try to prove the existence of God. If the arguments show the existence of a creator, and if the atheists believe they cannot logically disprove God, the atheists then attempt to defeat the Christians by positing a god who is a Spaghetti Monster, or a Pink Unicorn, and challenge the Christians to try to disprove it. It is an attempt to be clever, trying to put the Christian apologist in the same situation the atheist has been in for a long time. Several responses are in order:

First, the ID community specifically does not posit a god, and the CoFSM does. Thus on the face of it, the ridicule might be good fun for a few minutes, but misses the mark in application. Second, the attempt at ridicule is just that, ridicule, and by definition should not be taken seriously. It certainly should not take anyone away from their work, most especially Christian apologists. Third, it reinforces the position that popular-level atheists are not careful students of philosophy, since all the arguments for spaghetti monsters, pink unicorns, and teapots can be soundly refuted, and have been for quite some time. It merely takes some follow-up to the classic arguments for the existence of God.

Several logical, empirical arguments point to the existence of a theistic creator God: kalam, vertical cosmological, teleological, moral, and others. The CoFSM is one attempt to refute these arguments, but the refutation only works if you stop at the end of the formal argument. For example, the atheists are quite correct that the arguments for God’s existence do not, by themselves, define what type of God exists; they merely point to a first cause, an origin of existence, a designer. But they are incorrect in that there is no line of reasoning that defines God’s nature. To wit:

After the arguments point to a first cause, we can then follow up to learn some things about this first cause. Part of the premises to the theistic arguments are 1) that things that are composed require a composer, and 2) an infinite regression is impossible. (see here). The atheist tries to say something to the effect of “therefore something must have caused God, therefore the argument is invalid.” No, instead it merely shows that God is not composed. Since everything that has composition requires a composer, the first cause must not be composed. God is uncomposed, not compound or complex. God is therefore simple, in the sense of being unified, without parts, uncomposed, and not designed. Christian theology has held for many centuries to the doctrine of the simplicity of God, saying that God is without parts, without seams, not composed or compound. The first cause must also be immaterial, for all matter is composed. The first cause must therefore by a non-material, simple being. This we call God.

As we consider the first cause, we have thus eliminated Flying Spaghetti Monsters, Pink Unicorns, and teapots, whether visible or invisible, for all these are composed of parts and require a designer. If the atheist says that their FSM is simple, immaterial, and has no parts (or any of the other attributes we can derive from the same argument), then 1) this is not spaghetti, and 2) they have defined the same Being and called Him something else.

This explanation can be found in such works as Christian Apologetics by Norman Geisler. He got it from others, including Thomas Aquinas, who explained it thoroughly in the mid-1200’s in his Summa Theologica. This post is already too long, and space prevents more explanation here. But these two sources are sufficient to prove the case…..at least for anyone who is truly interested in an answer. These arguments might not be available to the ID community, but Christian apologists are quite at home showing the nature of God. Romans 1 tells us that even non-Christians can observe the world and know things about God’s nature.

Perhaps after we have finished our fun with spaghetti and unicorns, we can get back to serious discussion, for in spite of the faith of the skeptics who hold to these and their naturalistic assumptions, their arguments have been refuted.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Aquinas, Philosophy, Skepticism. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Of Spaghetti Monsters and Pink Unicorns: A Refutation

  1. Jeremy says:

    Interesting article…but it doesn’t really seem to do what the title says. It’s more of an overview about the current debate and that Christians should take the FSM and co. to be serious arguments.

    The only hint at an actual refutation in the entire article, was a single paragraph towards the end re: first causes.

    As someone who has been debating atheists for years…I can say with confidence that the brief, vague paragraph, is insufficient as a means to provide a cogent rebuttal to the atheist from the Christian.

    Good idea to source Geisler, Aquinas, etc… but it’s just a reference to more in depth arguments and study. As this article is concerned, there isn’t really a refutation (that I’m seeing at least).

    • humblesmith says:

      Immanuel Kant wrote very long and very dense in his Critiques, but in the end the main point was self-refuting, saying that we can know that we cannot know. So length of the statement says nothing of whether the statement is true. My friend Tom is fond of saying that philosophers have to be dense and obscure when they’re trying to refute what is obviously true.

      The refutation to the spaghetti monster is indeed quite straightforward. A first cause cannot be compound, for everything compound needs a cause. Therefore the first cause, God, cannot be made of parts and cannot be material. Orthodox Christianity has held to the simplicity of God for many centuries.

  2. Portal says:

    I personally wouldn’t call this “the simplicity of God”.

    I would say: A Person who is not limited by physical material

    The reality that: God is Spirit (John 4:24) of course doesn’t make Him simple.

    For the record I don’t think you are implying this, but to avoid confusion I just thought to clarify.

    • humblesmith says:

      I merely use “simple” because that is the term used in the old theology texts. It is simple in the same sense as in grammar, a simple sentence vs a compound sentence. God is simple in that He is not made of parts; He is a unified substance that is not composed.

      • Keith says:

        What does “a unified substance that is not composed” do to the doctrine of Trinity?

        • humblesmith says:

          Trinitarians have always held that God is one substance, undivided and uncomposed, as expressed in ecumenical creeds such as Nicea and Chalcedon. God is not divided, but one in essence, and three in person. The three persons of the trinity are equal to the essence. The persons of the Trinity are not divided parts of the essence of God, but are equal to God. The three persons of the Trinity are distinct and have relations to each other, but the Trinity has always denied that relations in the Trinity imply division of essence.

  3. Although long answers are “OK” and should not be always avoided, it’s a good idea to try to explain something simply and briefly. First because it shows understanding, and second, as others reading it will more readily understand as well. Especially in this case to prevent irony: you’re talking about a simply God, and the post is huge.

    The money paragraph here is this one —

    “As we consider the first cause, we have thus eliminated Flying Spaghetti Monsters, Pink Unicorns, and teapots, whether visible or invisible, for all these are composed of parts and require a designer. If the atheist says that their FSM is simple, immaterial, and has no parts (or any of the other attributes we can derive from the same argument), then 1) this is not spaghetti, and 2) they have defined the same Being and called Him something else.”

    — because this is basically what average people (i.e., me) are looking for: what is the response if someone says, “Well you believe in God and I believe in an FSM.” And the response is 1) Atheist, you’re correct if all we have is the formal argument but we don’t, and 2) As soon as we get into all the other arguments for God your FSM must disappear in a veritable gale of reason and logic, or it must become the God of the Galaxies appearing humorously incognito as scary pasta.

    As the kids say, “Bam.”

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