bookmark_borderSwinburne’s Case for God – Part 10

1. Don’t Criticize what you don’t understand.

I have been following this principle in my approach to Richard Swinburne. For more than a year now I have studied his case for God in The Coherence of Theism and The Existence of God. As an atheist the objective of finding significant problems in his case for theism is of interest to me, so that I can refute his case as part of a defense of my own viewpoint. But I’m not anxious to achieve that goal. So far, I have made no serious attempt to refute Swinburne’s arguments or to even raise objections to them, other than what just naturally pops into my mind as apparent potential problems or errors in his thinking.

Swinburne’s books defending theism have been available for over two decades, and lots of smart and well-informed philosophers and critical thinkers have read and commented on Swinburne’s case for God. If there are major problems or errors in his thinking, it is very likely that most of those problems have already been discovered and written about. It is thus unlikely that I will discover some major error in Swinburne’s thinking about God that no other philosopher or critical thinker has previously noticed and pointed out.

I’m in no hurry to evaluate Swinburne’s case for God. I can take my time to figure it out first, to get clear in my own mind how his arguments work and the logic of his case. If there are major flaws or errors in his reasoning, then slow and careful analysis of his case will eventually reveal most of those problems. If one first achieves a clear understanding of Swinburne’s case for God, then one will be in a good position to properly evaluate the quality and strength of that case.

2. Thinking out loud

In this particular post (and the next), I don’t plan to lay out an argument for a specific conclusion. I’m just going to do some thinking out loud about Swinburne’s use of Bayes’ theorem in his case for God, in the hope that some clarity or insight might be gained. So, I’m not promising any definite conclusions or even that I have important insights, just an honest effort to get a bit clearer about this topic.

3. GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out

GIGO is probably the most natural objection to make about Swinburne’s use of Bayes’ theorem to make his case for God. But I think this natural response is somewhat misguided. Bayes’ theorem serves as a conclusion-generating mechanism, in a way similar to the use of valid deductive argument forms by philosophers.

Often analytic philosophers will summarize an argument in a deductively valid argument form (e.g. 1. If P, then Q. 2. P. Therefore: 3. Q. – this is known as a modus ponens inference). This is done for a number of reasons.

First, by putting an argument into a valid deductive form, one simplifies the thinking by eliminating the issue of faulty logic. Anyone with a basic understanding or familiarity with deductive logic can verify that the logic of the argument is valid. The focus of thinking can thus be shifted to the question of the truth or justification of the premises of the argument. Furthermore, a deductive argument form ensures that all of the bases have been covered, that if one evaluates the truth (or justification) of each of the premises, then one has covered all of the issues necessary in order to arrive at a comprehensive evaluation of the argument. Also, in the case of arguments that have more than just one premise, the argument breaks down the thinking into pieces, so that one can focus attention on each of the premises, thinking about their truth (or justification) one at a time, thus helping one to achieve greater clarity about the argument, and greater confidence in one’s evaluation of the strength and quality of the argument.

It seems to me that Bayes’ theorem plays a similar role in Swinburne’s case for God, or at least It has the potential to play this kind of role. It is a bit of logic that takes bits of information as input, and then generates a conclusion based on that information. The inputs in this case are three conditional probabilities:

The posterior probability of the evidence: P(e I h & k)

The prior probability of the hypothesis: P(h I k)

The prior probability of the evidence: P(e I k)

The output is also a conditional probability:

The posterior probability of the hypothesis: P(h I e & k)

Like a valid deductive argument form, Bayes’ theorem helps us to set aside the issue of faulty reasoning (at least for the logic of the overall argument). Like a valid deductive argument form, Bayes’ theorem helps to ensure that our thinking covers all the bases, that our reasoning is comprehensive. Like a valid deductive argument form, Bayes’ theorem helps to break down the intellectual work into smaller bite-sized pieces, so we can focus on each piece one at a time, and achieve greater clarity about the argument, and greater confidence in our evaluation of the quality and strength of the argument.

The temptation is to object that the conditional probabilities given as input for use with Bayes’ theorem are speculation, guesses, subjective opinion, unfounded, or dubious for some reason or other. Such objections have some force, no doubt, but I think they are a bit misguided. So far as I can see, Swinburne is very reluctant to make estimates of conditional probabilities, and this means that he does not provide enough information to actually perform the necessary calculations that would make use of Bayes’ theorem. The big problem, it seems to me, is that Swinburne ought to have provided more estimates of conditional probabilities, or at least more claims that clearly constrain the range of acceptable estimates for the conditional probabilities that are needed to make use of Bayes’ theorem.

I would prefer “Garbage In, Garbage Out” over “Insufficient Data”, because if Swinburne had made some additional estimates of the relevant conditional probabilities, I would have a clearer understanding of his thinking, and a clearer target to aim at. Since he has not done so, I’m reduced to trying to fill in the missing data on my own; hence the next post on “Playing with the numbers”.

(To be continued…)

bookmark_border“The Evolution of Religion”

I highly recommend a review article by Scott Atran and Joseph Heinrich, “The Evolution of Religion: How Cognitive By-Products, Adaptive Learning Heuristics, Ritual Displays, and Group Competition Generate Deep Commitments to Prosocial Religions.” It’s a great summary of current thinking about scientific explanations of religion. (Thanks to Konrad Talmont-Kaminski)

Sample quotation:

In sum, religion, as an interwoven complex of rituals, beliefs, and norms, plausibly arises from a combination of (1) the mnemonic power of counterintuitive representations, (2) our evolved willingness to put faith on culturally acquired beliefs rooted in the commitment-inducing power of devotions and rituals, and (3) the selective effect on particular cultural complexes created by competition among societies and institutions. None of these evolved for religion per se. The mnemonic power of minimally counterintuitive representations appears to be a by-product of our evolved expectations about how the world works and our fitness-enhancing requirement to pay attention to anomalies. The faith we sometimes place in culture over our own experience and intuitions is a cognitive adaptation, resulting from our long dependence on vast bodies of complex cultural knowledge. Reliance on costly displays evolved to provide partial immunity against manipulation. The power of rhythm and synchrony in ritual to build solidarity (Wiltermuth and Heath 2009) likely arises from our imitative and ToMabilities. Cultural evolution, driven by competition among groups, exploits each of these cognitive processes to fashion sets of counterintuitive beliefs, rituals, and norms that spread by intergroup transmission, conquest, or reproductive differentials. As a result, for large-scale societies, these complexes tend to include potent supernatural agents that monitor and incentivize actions that expand the sphere of cooperation, galvanize solidarity in response to external threats, deepen faith, and sustain internal harmony.

bookmark_borderC.S. Lewis Pontificates about Something or Other

Victor Reppert has recently posted this quote from C.S. Lewis on his Dangerous Idea blog:
“The process whereby man has come to know the universe is from one point of view extremely complicated; from another it is alarmingly simple. We can observe a single one-way progression. At the outset the universe appears packed with will, intelligence, life, and positive qualities; every tree is a nymph and every planet a god. Man himself is akin to the gods. The advance gradually empties this rich and genial universe, first of its gods, then of its colours, smells, sounds and tastes, finally of solidity itself as solidity was originally imagined. As these items are taken from the world, they are transferred to the subjective side of the account: classified as our sensations, thoughts, images or emotions. The Subject becomes gorged, inflated, at the expense of the Object. But the matter does not rest there. The same method which has emptied the world now proceeds to empty ourselves. The masters of the method soon announce that we were just mistaken (and mistaken in much the same way) when we attributed “souls” or ‘selves” or “minds’ to human organisms, as when we attributed Dryads to the trees. Animism, apparently, begins at home. We, who have personified all other things, turn out to be ourselves mere personifications. Man is indeed akin to the gods, that is, he is no less phantasmal than they. Just as the Dryad is a “ghost,” an abbreviated symbol for certain verifiable facts about his behaviour: a symbol mistaken for a thing. And just as we have been broken of our bad habit of personifying trees, so we must now be broken of our habit of personifying men; a reform already effected in the political field. There never was a Subjective account into which we could transfer the items which the Subject had lost. There is no “consciousness” to contain, as images or private experiences, all the lost gods, colours, and concepts. Consciousness is “not the sort of noun that can be used that way.’”
This is Lewis at his most pretentious, making sweeping, grandiose, grandiloquent pronouncements about the Whole Entire History of Everything. Such declamations are full of sound and fury. Maybe they do not signify nothing, but they don’t signify much. When you deflate the Olympian bombast, what really is he saying? He seems to be bewailing the progression of thought that has led in to the shocking conviction that trees are not conscious. Yes, the terrible truth is that we modern materialists regard strings, sealing wax, cabbages, and some kings as devoid of mind. Also, we no longer believe in ghosts. Why, we even think that we are not ghosts in machines; rather, we think that we think, feel, imagine, desire, etc. with our brains. We still believe that we have souls, only we think that our souls are constituted of billions of tiny organic robots (i.e., neurons).
Lewis, however, seems to think that the inevitable result of this whole way of thinking is that we end up denying that humans are conscious, but this is clearly not the case. Pick up any recent textbook on the philosophy of mind and you will find a plethora of individuals who would describe themselves as naturalists, materialists, or physicalists, but who take consciousness for granted. Is there some inconsistency here? Is matter insufficient for consciousness? Ah, but to argue this will require very detailed and very rigorous arguments, not the sort of breezy, orotund speechifying to which Lewis is prone.
Lewis bemoans the “empty universe” we now live in, one far removed from the “rich and genial” world of our pagan ancestors, a world filled with gods, demigods, nymphs, and dryads. Let’s recall though that the animated universe was not always genial. It was a world of jolly satyrs and seductive nymphs to be sure, but it was also a world of demons, goblins, trolls, ghosts, witches, and capricious, vindictive Homeric gods. Recall that comets used to engender stark terror. These horrible harbingers blazed a warning of famine, pestilence, and war across the heavens. Now it may be a lot less romantic to think of a comet as a dirty snowball than as a supernatural portent, but it is also a lot less terrifying. Unless a comet is aimed right at you (highly unlikely) you have nothing to fear. We can enjoy the spectacle of a comet now rather than cower under our beds. The emptied universe is emptied of many superstitious terrors.
Lewis’s comments also call to mind the biblical verse about removing the beam from your own eye before removing the mote from your neighbor’s (Matthew 7:5). After all, it was Christianity that displaced the paganism of Lewis’s ancestors. True, for pagans, the sacred was everywhere. The sky, the sun, the earth, indeed every river, stream, and grove of trees was the abode of gods. Pagans are natural pantheists. For them the gods were everywhere and in everything. It was Christianity that took the sacred and put it under lock and key. Christianity removed the sacred from the world and put it far, far away and made it accessible only through the rites and rituals of the Church. Once Christians took over, freelance spirituality, like dancing naked around an image of Pan, could get you burned at the stake. Of course, Christian prelates realized that they had gone too far in depriving people of their local, nearby deities, so they ripped off the gods of paganism and turned them into saints. Freya is gone, but St. Cloaca will listen to your prayers.
Who, besides the Christian Church, is responsible for “emptying” the universe? Well, obviously, natural science has been the biggest perpetrator: Lightning is a massive discharge of static electricity, not the terrible weapon of Zeus. The sun is a massive ball of mostly hydrogen, not Helios driving his flaming chariot. Epidemic disease is caused by viruses and bacteria, not Apollo discharging his arrows of pestilence. The seasons change because the earth’s axis tilts 23 ½ degrees with respect to its plane of revolution about the sun, not because Persephone ate some pomegranate seeds in Hades. Psychosis is caused by brain malfunction, not demon possession. The diversity of organic life is due to evolution over eons, not special creation during a six day period. Hawaii’s volcanoes are caused by hotspot mantle plumes, not Madame Pele’s anger. The villager’s sudden death was due to a myocardial infarction, not a witch’s hex.
So, has natural science emptied the universe? No, on the contrary, science has filled the universe with a superabundance of wonderful things. Nothing in mythology is as bizarre as a black hole. Deinonychus was far more terrifying than the monsters and ogres of myth. The planets of our solar system offer environments far stranger than Middle Ea
rth or Narnia. The battles of gods and giants were less fierce than the battles between pathogens and antibodies. How can we not be in awe at a universe where the number of stars exceeds the number of grains of sand in all the world’s deserts and beaches? Science does not impoverish our experience but vastly enriches it. If you would experience awe and wonder, close thy C.S. Lewis and open thy Carl Sagan.

bookmark_borderVoas paper

I just got back from Belgium, where I was on the PhD defense committee of Maarten Boudry, a philosopher interested in science and pseudoscience and science and religion issues. He’s already done some really good work and he put together an excellent thesis. I hope those of us interested in such matters will be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

Also on the committee was Konrad Talmont-Kaminski, an Australian-Polish philosopher with overlapping interests, and we had opportunities for long conversations. He brought a few papers to my attention, which I’ll try to comment on here.

First, a 2009 paper by sociologist David Voas. If you have any interest in the state of the secularization thesis concerning Europe, this is a must-read. He presents some good evidence of a secularization trend all across Europe. Each generation is more secular—countries start with a predominantly strongly religious population, people start moving into an intermediate “fuzzy” religiosity, and later generations end up being religiously disinterested. It seems pretty clear that this is not an age cohort effect; it is real secularization.

And curiously, as Talmont-Kaminski observed, the broad outlines of the process are very similar for most European countries, which can have significantly different histories and social circumstances. This suggests a relatively simple common process underlying secularization—not something contingent on many variables as in some models. But it also seems that no one really knows what is happening in any detail.

Going beyond what Voas says, the United States may also be undergoing a similar gradual, generations-long process of secularization. It is too late, however. We’re also determined to bring civilization to a collapse before we can enjoy any significant period of sanity.

bookmark_borderGuessoum interview

Stuart Elliot pointed me to an interesting interview with Nidhal Guessoum online, concerning Islam and science.

I met Guessoum last month at the AAAS meeting. Interestingly, I was responding to a question after my talk, and I gave Guessoum as an example. He turned out to be in the audience. (I had not met him in person before.)

Anyway, Guessoum adopts about as liberal an Islam as you can get while retaining some faith in God, the supernatural qualities of the Quran, and so forth. He just came out with a book that I should read. And from what I’ve heard about it, even he is reluctant to go the full distance in accepting naturalistic, Darwinian evolution. (He insists on some traces of divine guidance, perhaps in an “ID-lite” form.)

bookmark_borderThe “Inner Testimony” of the Holy Spirit

I forget whether I have posted this before. If so, pardon the redundancy.


Having had on two occasions the privilege of debating Prof. William Lane Craig, I found the experiences both exhilarating and frustrating. One point of frustration was that Prof. Craig often appeals to the “inner testimony” of the Holy Spirit as trumping any evidence or argument that could be adduced. Naturally, this made me wonder about the point of our whole exercise. Why argue if “inner testimony” trumps everything? Anyway, here are a few remarks about such an appeal:
I think that Craig needs to be asked something like this: What is the precise nature of the experience that you call the “inner testimony of the Holy Spirit?” Can you articulate in somewhat greater detail what this is like and why you find it so compelling? Is it an elevating feeling of “blessed assurance” when you contemplate particularly moving passages of scripture or hear a particularly uplifting sermon? Is it a “still, small voice” that comes in meditative moments? Is it a sense of forgiveness and acceptance that you get when your soul is troubled and you go the Lord in prayer? Is it a feeling, like the one related by John Wesley, that your heart is “strangely warmed” while participating in worship or prayer? If these are your experiences, or something like them, then it is understandable that you, or anyone, who has such experiences will find them particularly significant. It is even understandable that those who have had such experiences may become psychologically insulated, so that no atheological arguments or evidence can sway them. Still, skeptics have the right to question the epistemological value of such experiences. Should they trump all contrary evidence?
Consider an example from Alvin Plantinga: Six eyewitnesses pick me out of a lineup and say that I was the one who committed the crime. Yet I have a clear memory of being at home reading a particular book the night of the crime. Will I still maintain my own innocence? Yes, I will. But, still there might be so much evidence—fingerprints, a surveillance video, DNA evidence, etc. that I would have to say that, somehow, it was my memory that was wrong. So, strong enough evidence can and should make me doubt even my own apparently clear memories. So, to say that the “inner testimony” of the Holy Spirit trumps ALL evidence is not justifiable.
Perhaps Craig would say that the “inner testimony” is defeasible but that it gives him a great deal of assurance, and places a heavy burden of proof on skeptics to dissuade him. Fair enough, but wouldn’t he have to say the same thing for the personal experiences of, say, the Muslim or the atheist? Surely, Muslims often, upon hearing passages from the Qur’an, are transported by feelings of absolute assurance and conviction and a sublime and compelling sense of rightness—apparently self-authenticating experiences like those experienced by Craig or other Christians. Craig could only say (a) that Muslims do not have such elevated, apparently self-authenticating experiences, or (b) that in their case these experiences are delusional. Both answers seem to be simply arbitrary.
What about the experiences of atheists? Sometimes I am tempted to “backslide” from atheism and I recall the inspiration and comfort I used to get from religion. But then, when I really think about it, I have an overwhelming and undeniable sense of disgust and revulsion when I think about being a Christian again. Reading some C.S. Lewis helps; whatever I believe, I can’t believe that. Christian dogmas just seem to be fantasies, no matter how many apologies for them I hear. At rock bottom, it just does not ring even remotely true. Instead of having my heart strangely warmed, I have my stomach strangely turned. The arguments of theistic philosophers and Christian apologists, even when I do not know at first just how to refute them, sound glib and hollow. Leading Christian philosophers all too often sound to me as though they use all of their formidable intelligence and erudition—and the big guns of philosophy—to defend an idée fixe at all costs. This is how I feel about it undeniably and deep down. Why aren’t my feelings as legitimate as Craig’s? Would he be willing to concede that my feelings and the Muslim’s are as valid as his? I don’t think so.

bookmark_borderVictor Reppert on Christianity and Science

Victor Reppert posted the following remarks on his Dangerous Idea blog relating to the topic of Christianity and the development of science:
“A couple of things off the top of my head. First, the major advances of modern science, when it became clear that science could really make a difference not only in the way we view the world, but also the way in which we live our lives, happened in Christian Europe, not Hindu India, or Buddhist Japan, or Islamic Arabia. To say that it would have arisen in Ancient Greece if things had been different strikes me as sheer speculation.

Second, it seems to me that a polytheistic view would have made it impossible to formulate, say, a law of universal gravitation. If Zeus is in control of the sky, but Poseidon is in control of the sea, then to me it just wouldn’t make sense to say that the same law of gravity operates in both realms. I suppose if someone accepted modern naturalism, then you could just affirm that the laws of physics are just there and that’s all, but even here I wonder if should expect stable laws of nature on naturalistic assumptions. It’s always been my view that there is no reason to believe that the laws of nature will remain stable unless there’s a God.”

Now it might be a bit unfair to take Victor to task for remarks just off the top of his head, but these claims are so often seen in discussions of these issues that I think they need to be addressed.
The biggest revolution in science was not the “scientific revolution” that occurred circa 1600 C.E. but the one that happened over 2000 years previously, around 500 B.C.E. THE major revolution in human thought was the one achieved by the Greek philosopher/scientists of Asia Minor who broke with the ancient mythological traditions and offered accounts of the archē (origin, underlying principle) in terms of a material cause. Even the apeiron of Anaximander was a material principle. These first steps were naturally only partial, and retained many ideas that sound strange today, yet it was a decisive break as historians of ideas since Aristotle have recognized. What made it decisive was that these theories were offered not on the basis of authority or as stories hallowed by tradition but as the most reasonable accounts to be judged in the light of reason and evidence. The practice of proposing hypotheses of material causes and holding those hypotheses up to critical and rational scrutiny is the beginning of the tradition of natural science in the Western world.
Further, it is not necessary to speculate about what the Greeks might have accomplished. We may look at what they did. The Greeks used to be twitted for supposedly producing only speculative systems and no technology except for Hero’s toy steam engine. The Antikythera device (an analog computer for determining the positions of celestial bodies) from the first century should disabuse people of the silly notion that the Greeks were technologically incompetent. Or consider Greek astronomy. There would have been no Copernicus had there been no Claudius Ptolemy, and Ptolemy’s work (circa 150 C.E.) was a synthesis and synopsis of the work of his great predecessors, especially Hipparchus. The founders of modern astronomy, Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, all referred respectfully to the ancient astronomers and drew on their findings. Among the accomplishments of Greek astronomy were these: Heracleides and Aristarchus prefigured Copernicus by 1800 years by explaining how the apparent movements of the celestial bodies could be explained in terms of a heliocentric model. Hipparchus, developing methods employed by Aristarchus and employing his own method of determining lunar parallax, discovered the size and distance of the moon. He also discovered the precession of the equinoxes. Eratosthenes, an astronomer and geographer, using a few simple observations and geometry, accurately calculated the circumference of the earth. Ptolemy’s geocentric astronomy, though physically inaccurate, was an astonishingly sophisticated set of models that succeeded admirably in saving the appearances.
In short, natural science of considerable sophistication was done by pagan Greeks with no help needed from a Theistic god. Is it a mystery, as Victor indicates, how polytheists could have come to believe in universal law? Wouldn’t Poseidon come up with his own rules and laws just to irritate his brother Zeus? Victor seems to think that the Homeric picture of capricious, squabbling Olympians always scheming against one another was the religion of sophisticated and highly educated scientists 500 years after Homer’s time. Not so. Scholars and scientists of the third and fourth centuries B.C.E. regarded the Homeric tales much as today’s scientists look upon the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s ark.
Obviously, then, a theistic culture is not necessary for the development and practice of natural science since pagan Greece had thriving scientific communities. Equally obviously, a theistic culture is not sufficient for the development of science either. Byzantium was devoutly, even fanatically Christian, but over a thousand year period made no scientific progress (except maybe for the discovery of Greek fire, a kind of primitive napalm). Western Europe also had been Christian for a thousand years before Copernicus. If historical, cultural, political, and intellectual factors must be adduced to explain why Europe was Christian for thousand years before it produced the scientific revolution, then it will have to be shown why those other factors themselves, rather than belief in a theistic God, were not th
e important ones for the development of modern science.
But why should we expect stable laws of nature if there is no God? Like most theistic rhetorical “why” questions (e.g. “Why is there something instead of nothing?”) the appropriate answer is: “Why not?” Why assume that instability would be the normal, natural state of affairs whereas stability needs explanation? Why not do a “Newton shift” here? Aristotle assumed that motion needed to be explained. Newton, on the other hand, took uniform, rectilinear motion as the natural state and said that only changes in such motion needed to be explained. Why not take it for granted that there are stable laws of nature and regard changes in such laws, if any are ever discovered, to require explanation instead? The basic technique of theistic apologetics never changes: You try to create a mystery where there is none and call in God to fill the non-existent gap.
Finally, what is the basis for the theological assurance underlying Victor’s comments? Why assume that God will keep the laws of nature stable? How do we know that? Is it revealed in scripture? Theists think that God has good reasons for doing all sorts of strange and hard-to-understand things. For instance, he has good reason for permitting all sorts of bizarre and apparently pointless evils. He has good reasons for demanding that people believe in him while coyly declining to make his existence obvious. How, then, can we have any confidence that he will not have good reasons for (maybe subtly) shifting the laws of nature? If physicists do discover that some natural laws are unstable, will theists take this as refuting the existence of God? (Something makes me think that they will manage an accommodation.)

In short, I see no basis for anything that Victor has said in his above comments. Again, maybe it is unfair to hold casual remarks up to such scrutiny, but such remarks are common currency in much recent apologetic and they are groundless.

bookmark_borderSwinburne’s Case for God – Part 9

Let’s take a brief break from conditional probabilities and probability calculations involving Bayes’ theorem.

Much of Chapter 7 of The Existence of God (EOG) consists of general points, objections, and replies to objections, along the lines that one would expect in a more traditional philosophical discussion about cosmological arguments. I’m not clear on how some of these points connect with the conditional probabilities and probability equations for the cosmological argument. An important question, therefore, to keep in mind is, “How does this point relate back to the cosmological argument presented in terms of Bayes’ theorem?”

The Nature of Cosmological Arguments (p. 133-137)
1. Cosmological arguments are based on “…the existence of some finite object or, more specifically, a complex physical universe.” (EOG, p.135)
2. We can reach justifiable conclusions about the origin or development of the universe, despite the fact that we have information about only one universe. (EOG, p.134-135)
3. The “…two most persuasive and interesting versions of the cosmological argument are that given by Leibniz in his paper ‘On the Ultimate Origination of Things’, and that given by his contemporary Samuel Clarke in his Boyle Lectures for 1704 and published under the title A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes to God. The former seems to be the argument criticized by Kant in The Critique of Pure Reason and the latter the argument criticized by Hume in the Dialogues.” (EOG, p.136)
4. “…no argument from any such [clearly true] starting points to the existence of God is deductively valid. For, if an argument from, for example, the existence of a complex physical universe to the existence of God were deductively valid, then it would be incoherent to assert that a complex physical universe exists and God does not exist. There would be a hidden contradiction buried in such co-assertions.” (EOG, p.136)
A. Attempts to derive an obviously incoherent proposition from these two assertions have failed. (EOG, p.136)
B. One can spell out an obviously coherent scenario in which both assertions would be true (e.g. matter has always rearranged itself in various combinations, and the only persons have been embodied persons.) (EOG, p.136-137)
5. “Our primary concern is however to investigate whether it [the cosmological argument] is a good C-inductive or P-inductive argument, and just how much force it has.” (p.137)
At the end of Chapter 7, Swinburne concludes that his cosmological argument “is a good C-inductive argument.” (EOG, p.152) I agree with J.L. Mackie’s comment that this conclusion is insignificant, because it is so weak:
…all that is being said is that the existence of a complex physical universe raises the likelihood of a god, makes it more probable than it would have been otherwise, that is, if there had been no such universe. (The Miracle of Theism, p.98)
The following could be evaluated as a good C-inductive argument, by use of Swinburne’s criterion:
1. I purchased one state lottery ticket today.
Therefore:
2. I will win millions of dollars from the state lottery this week.
Obviously, my purchasing one state lottery ticket raises the probability that I will win millions of dollars from the state lottery. As the advertising slogan states, “You can’t win if you don’t play”. However, the increase in probability is extremely small in this case (e.g. about one in 100 million). Although this argument could qualify as a good C-inductive argument, it is clearly a bad argument. That is, it gives us only an extremely weak reason in support of the conclusion.
So, the real issue is the one mentioned last by Swinburne: We need to determine “just how much force it [the cosmological argument] has.” (EOG, p.137)

bookmark_borderThe Brutal Facts!!!!

I just got notice about this:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/01/brutal-facts-about-keith-parsons.html

The BRUTAL FACTS about Keith Parsons (Gasp! Shudder!).

Woo. I must have really gotten to this guy.

If he is gainfully employed his boss should really find some more work for him. Clearly, he has waaaaaay too much time on his hands.