Goalpost shifting

Whenever you present an argument against theism, and a believer responds by telling you that your argument has failed to disprove anything or that you didn't prove 'materialism' or 'atheism', call them out on their goalpost shifting. It's the non-believer's job simply to show that a theistic argument doesn't prove what the theist claims it proves. That's it. That's all it takes to show that the theist's beliefs are ill-founded.

For example, I've heard from more than one Christian that they would doubt their faith if the resurrection could somehow be disproved. But all the skeptic has to do is point out that there's no particular reason to believe that the resurrection happened in the first place. Or consider that counter-arguments to First-Cause arguments are often met with an incredulous, "You haven't proved the universe came into existence materially!" It's goalpost shifting, and it's dishonest. The skeptic's job is simply to argue that First Cause arguments don't prove what theists claim they prove.

I see that kind of stuff all the time in theist arguments. In an old Reasonablefaith.org Q&A which I used for some material here, William Lane Craig was presented with the argument that just because causality applies within the universe, it doesn't mean causality applies to the universe. His response? Monstrous goalpost shifting:
[Atheists] might say that even simultaneous causation presupposes time. Yes, the cause and effect occur at the same time. But then why couldn't such a causal dependency exist timelessly? In simultaneous causation the cause and effect exist co-incidently. But in a timeless state two things can exist co-incidently in a dependence relation. So if simultaneous causation is possible, I see no reason to think timeless causation is impossible. [link]
Instead of providing evidential support for his assertions, he challenges the skeptic to disprove their mere possibility. Which is, of course, both absurd and irrelevant – virtually anything we can imagine is merely possible ("Prove that superintelligent unicorns do not exist in an alternate reality in which our universe is merely an experiment!"). This kind of goalpost shifting happens all the time when someone lacks the humility to acknowledge that their argument has been undermined.


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