In a recent blog post, Christian JW Wartick claims that atheists are "appealing to emotion" when they claim there is as much evidence for unicorns as there is for god. This is not an appeal to emotion. While some atheists may use this argument in the manner and fashion Wartick points out, I can show that it can be used as an argument by analogy, and not as an "appeal to emotion."
An appeal to emotion is a fallacy which presents a perspective intended to be superior to reason, and is intended to draw knee-jerk emotions from the acquirer of the information with the intent of convincing them that the fallacious argument is true without offering any substantial proof of the argument that is offered, and the argument's premises remain invalid. It is clear that some atheists, as well as some Christians use the "appeal to emotions" fallacy, and this fallacy has also been one of the most successful ploys Christians use in gaining converts, as Christianity can offer no proof for any of its major eschatological claims, which is why they resort to an appeal to the emotions.
Wartick and other theists such as WL Craig claim that atheists make the mistake of claiming that if there is no empirical evidence of something, then that something does not exist--which is a mistake of Positivism. The unicorn argument can be made without making the mistake of Positivism. It merely states the fact that there is as much evidence for god as there is for unicorns. So it can be made without making an appeal to emotions, or resorting to Positivism; but merely as a statement of fact. This statement of fact can then be used to draw a correlation between god and unicorns, and thus, is the basis of an argument by analogy. It provides a rational link that Wartick claims cannot be provided. Wartick made the statement:
"Think about it, when you hear these phrases,(comparing unicorns to god) what rational process goes on? There is no rational link between unicorns and theism. There is no reason to correlate the two. ...The atheist is attempting to psychologically discredit Christianity without ever engaging any kind of logical reasoning."
Again, Wartick is mistaken. The correlation between the two is the fact that there is no evidence for either. This is not to say however, that gods and unicorns do not exist. It is only to say that there is no evidence for either one--which is a correlation. One thing the unicorn argument illustrates to Christians who claim to "know" that their god exists, is to remind them that their claims amount to nothing more than the the claims made by others who believe in unicorns, or leprechauns or Santa Claus or any other entity that has no proof of existence. The unicorn argument is not to show that god does not exist, it is merely to remind Christians that their lofty claims of "knowing" god exists, has no foundation or support, as there is as much evidence for their god, as there is for unicorns.
Wartick further points out, if the logical Positivists were true, then:
"If the Christian’s account of God was found to be incoherent, then God would not exist. It would, in fact, be impossible for God to exist were his nature contradictory...By assuming that God can only be disproven by empirical evidence, they (atheists) uncritically advance a philosophical enterprise which has largely been abandoned within modern philosophy."
While some atheists may make this mistake, Wartick, as he often does, has overgeneralized--not all atheists make this mistake. The fact that there is not a coherent explanation of something does not mean that it does not exist. However, let me paraphrase a point that Quine makes in his essay, "On What There Is":
"In debating over what there is, there are still reasons for operating on a semantical plane. One reason is to escape from the predicament between the atheists and theists, of atheists not being able to admit that there are things which theists countenances and atheists do not. So long as atheists adhere to their ontology, as opposed to theists, atheists cannot allow their bound variable to refer to entities which belong to theist's ontology and not to their own. Atheists can, however, consistently describe their disagreement by characterizing the statements which theists affirm. Provided merely that atheists' ontology countenances linguistic forms or at least concrete inscriptions and utterances, atheists can talk about theistic sentences."*
For example, the atheists can argue that the Christian conception of god is contradictory, as this simple logic below illustrates. Christians claim their god is love, but logic tells us otherwise. The following verses are analyzed logically to illustrate their contradictory nature. They also prove that Yahweh is NOT love:
"But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:8
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud " 1 Corinthians 13:4
"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me," Exodus 20:5
In the logical form of Modus Tollens, the following is the conclusion drawn from the above passages:
If god is love, then god is not jealous.
God is jealous.
Therefore god is not love.
This conclusion is catastrophic for Christians, as it negates their entire philosophy of “God is Love.” God cannot be love, if God is jealous, but God IS jealous. Therefore, God cannot be love.
The fact that the atheist is carrying on this discussion with a Christian does not prove or disprove that a god exists, but it does prove that the Christian conception of god as being love is "false," based on their own claims and ontology. When I, as an Ignostic Atheist, make the claim that there is as much evidence for the Christian god as there is for unicorns, it is merely as a reminder to Christians that their claims amount to nothing more than the the claims made by others who believe in unicorns, or leprechauns or Santa Claus or any other entity that has no proof of existence. The unicorn argument is not to show that god does not exist, it is merely to remind Christians that their lofty claims of "knowing" god exists, has no foundation or support, as there is as much evidence for their god, as there is for unicorns. As far as I know, unicorns and leprechauns and even Santa Claus, might exist!
*Analytic philosophy: an anthology By Aloysius Martinich, David Sosa, "On What There Is" Quine, p. 141
Addendum: I let JW Wartick know about this post, and here is his reply, and my response:
JW Wartick: I appreciate your interest in my post. I think the whole case really boils down to this statement you make in your response:
“The correlation between the two [God and unicorns] is the fact that there is no evidence for either.”
This is a completely unsubstantiated claim. Have you examined every piece of evidence brought to the table to defend theism? Have you explored every corner of the galaxy? Have you read every philosophical work presenting logical evidence for the existence of God?
You’re making an assertion of a universal negative. You must support that claim somehow, yet in the whole post you don’t. And that’s the problem with statements like the ‘unicorn’ phrase: they are mere assumptions.
A is for Atheist: Exactly! That’s my whole point! Christians claim to “know” god exists, is not a claim of knowledge, it is a mere assumption. How does a Christian know that Brahman is not god, or Zeus is not god, or that unicorns do not exist? Have they been to every corner of the galaxy? Now do you see the correlation?
The theist is the one that is making the claim they know something exists. Where is the evidence? Just like the unicorn may actually exist, but where is the evidence? The fact that you cannot present evidence, does not mean that the unicorn does not exist. Likewise, with Brahman, Zeus, or any other god or goddess.