Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bad Santa Analogy

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A number of bad analogies between Santa Claus and God could and have been used. Some of them are so bad they are enjoyed only by atheists bad at philosophy and by bad Santas.

One of those analogies is the following. Disproving God’s existence is something like disproving the existence of Santa. What kind of evidence could be produced? Yet we are still rational to disbelieve Santa just as we are to disbelieve God without having any burden of proof to disprove their existence.

One reason this is a bad analogy is that we can indeed provide evidence against Santa’s existence. Indeed, one of my pet peeves about Christmas movies where Santa Claus is real is that the parents don’t realize it. Consider the following conversation:
Dad: I’m sorry son, but Santa isn’t real.

Son: Then who got me that bike for Christmas?

Dad: We did, your mother and I.

Son: Which one of you actually put it under the three?

Dad: Your mother.

Mom: I didn’t put it under the tree, I thought you did.

Son: And who got me that toy train track for Christmas last year?

Dad: I didn’t.

Mom: Neither did I.

Dad and Mom: HOLY FECES!
The fact that this sort of thing doesn’t happen is pretty good evidence against Santa’s existence.

A better but less interesting analogy is that just as we have no evidence for Santa, we also have no evidence for God. At that point one can just put forth evidence for God, like morality (via the moral argument; see also Bayes’ theorem and the moral argument for a simple mathematical look at the evidence) and the existence of the universe (via the Leibnizian cosmological argument; see also my entry on Bayes’ theorem and the LCA). At any rate, analogies are no substitute for real evidence and substantive arguments for atheism.

2 comments:

  1. If Santa only visits the homes of true believers, skipping over any homes with even one nonbeliever, then it significantly changes the viability of the analogy because there are no adult believers and children without adults to care for them can hardly be said to have a home. Consider also that Santa might not give gifts to the children of non-believers since they are likely to already have gifts labeled "from Santa". At that point it becomes much closer to an analogy between faith healing or other miracles and the actual act of Santa going to people's homes. One might say that Santa delivering gifts on Christmas is the equivalent of a God given miracle. If the lack of miraculous experiences among non-believers is evidence against Santa Claus, then why is it not evidence against God?

    Consider this: Maybe Santa works in mysterious ways. Far be it from us to question the will of Santa.
    Santa is supposed to operate under strict rules. Each year at the same time he delivers gifts to good children everywhere.
    God also is supposed to operate under strict rules. He's supposed to be omnibenevolent, for example.
    Could it be that the rule is simply wrong, or that we've made a mistake in interpretation? Perhaps every single child is on Santa's "naughty list", and his "nice list" is empty. Or perhaps Santa does exist but doesn't deliver gifts. An invisible, fat, jovial elf could live at the north pole in a magically undetectable fortress. Likewise, God could exist but not be omnibenevolent, or perhaps we all genuinely deserve the misfortune that befalls us and we are to miserably ignorant to understand that we are not as innocent as we think.

    But of course, these ideas are unthinkable. Santa would not be Santa without delivering gifts, and God would not be God without omnibenevolence. Therefore believers go to great lengths to justify it-- Like my above example where Santa skips over any home with even one non-believer.

    Santa Claus is a particularly well defined character, and when children argue about the existence of such a character they use evidence. Have you heard sleigh bells above the roof tops? Santa rides a sleigh with bells. Have presents arrived under your tree? Santa delivers presents. Etc... Evidence for God follows the same form. Do we have objective morality? God brings objective morality. Does the cosmos exist? God made it. But just like with the evidence placed by parents to make us believe in Santa, the evidence for God could very likely come from other sources-- Or at least that is the argument behind the analogy. If you really think the analogy is bad, then it seems like you'd have to start by showing that God is not contingent, or that objective morality exists.

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  2. Its almost comical how unsophisticated these atheistic arguments are.

    We know the origin of presents under the tree. We put them there. We freely admit we made it all up. There is not a single competent adult on earth who who doesn't understand the difference between a childrens story and the origin of the universe.

    No one is feverishly searching for the origin of change under the toothless pillow either.

    We are, however, interested in explaining how this amazingly designed world came to be, and equating the two as if they are even approaching the same category does nothing but expose the embarrassing reasoning of atheists.

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