bookmark_borderOff Topic: Donald Trump is an IDIOT – Part 2: More of Trump’s Foreign Policy Stupidity

I have added another section to my OUTLINE and to my blog post
Donald Trump is an IDIOT – Part 2: Trump’s Foreign Policy Stupidity:

5. There are Many Other Examples of Trump Foreign Policy Falsehoods.

a. Factcheck.org named Trump “King of Whoppers” at the end of 2015, because so much of what Trump asserts is false or misleading, including many of Trump’s foreign policy claims.
b. Trump makes false assertions about the US giving 150 Billion dollars to Iran.
c. Trump made the false claim that the five Taliban leaders who were exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are back on the battlefield.
d. Trump asserted an old conspiracy theory about Obama supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq.
e. Trump asserted the false claim that Iran is taking over the oil in Iraq.
f. Trump asserted the unfounded and probably false claim that ISIS is making millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil.
g. Trump has repeatedly asserted the false claim that our trade deficit with China is $505 billion.
h. Trump has repeatedly asserted the false claim that Clinton signed the NAFTA agreement, and that NAFTA was “his baby”.
i. Trump has asserted the false and ridiculous claim that the US government was sending Syrian refugees to states with Republican governors.
j. Trump has asserted the false claim that most Syrian refugees were “strong, powerful men”.
k. Trump has asserted the false claim that a Pew Research Center survey found that “27 percent, could be 35 percent” of the world’s Muslims “would go to war” against the U.S.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 4: Phase Two of Geisler’s Case for God

It is tempting to jump right into a critique of Geisler’s five initial arguments.  However, my first priority is to sketch out the logic of Geisler’s case for the existence of God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), and, as I have previously argued (in Part 1Part 2, and Part 3), the five arguments are merely the first phase of Geisler’s case. So, let’s dive into the next phase of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.

 Recall that Geisler stated that all five arguments must be sound for his case to work:
 
If we want to show that God exists, and that He is the God of the Bible, then we need to show that all of the things in the arguments mentioned are true.  (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
 
On pages 26 through 29, Geisler attempts to make use of his five initial arguments and their conclusions:
 
But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence?  That is what we will do in the following pages. (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
 
Here is a key premise in the first argument Geisler gives in Phase 2 of his case for God:
 
Only a God with incredible power could create and sustain the whole universe. (WSA, p.26)
 
The conclusion of this argument is indicated in the paragraph after the one with the above premise:
 
…whatever caused the universe…had great power… (WSA, p.26)
 
Geisler does not state the full argument, but I’m a helpful guy who is willing to clarify the arguments of a professional philosopher of religion so that people can have a clear understanding of those arguments.
 
Here is the first argument of Phase 2, sticking closely to Geisler’s wording:
 
10. Only a God with great power could create and sustain the whole universe.
 
11. There is a being that created and that sustains the whole universe.
 
THEREFORE:
 
12. There is a being that created the whole universe, and that being is a God with great power.
 
This argument has some significant problems in terms of unclarity and ambiguity, so I’m going to help Geisler a bit more, so that his argument is clear and unambiguous.
 
[By the way,  this kind of unclarity and ambiguity in the thinking and arguments of Christian apologists is one of the reasons I left the Christian faith and became an atheist and a secular humanist back in the 1980s.  Christian apologists are often intellectually lazy and sloppy, and not very good at critical thinking.  After years of being embarrassed by unclear shit like we find in Geisler’s case for God, I switched over to the team with sharper thinkers.]
 
I realize that Geisler is presenting his case in a popular book aimed at a general audience, not in an article in a professional journal of philosophy.  So, we should cut him some slack in terms of his non-scholarly presentation of arguments.  However, the clarifications that I’m going to make here are NOT based on technical philosophical distinctions, but are a matter of common sense and ordinary points of clarification.  So, writing for a general audience does not excuse Geisler’s lack of clarity in this instance.
 
Here is my version of Geisler’s first argument in Phase 2 of his case for God:
 
10a. Only a being with great power could create the whole universe by itself, and only a being with great power could sustain the existence of the whole universe by itself  (for even just one moment).
 
11a. There is a being that both (a) created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that (b) sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
 
THEREFORE:
 
12a. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that being both (a) had great power (in the distant past) and (b) has great power (right now).
 
I replaced Geisler’s phrase “a God” with the phrase “a being” because (a) the phrase “a God” is ungrammatical; “God” is a proper noun, the name of a person, so it is ungrammatical to speak of “a God” just as it is ungrammatical to speak of “a Jehovah” or “a Norman Geisler” (unless there are multiple people that have the same name), (b) Geisler has failed to clarify or define the word “God” and he clearly means something other than “the God of the Bible” here, otherwise he blatantly begs the question.  So, it is simply unclear and confusing for Geisler to use the word “God” in premise (10).  The point is obviously to show that the creator of the universe has “great power” and Geisler can make this point without using the unclear and undefined term “God” in his premises.
 
Probably the most important clarification that I have made is by adding the phrase “by itself” to Geisler’s premises and conclusion.  This is NOT a sophisticated philosophical distinction.  Two high-school dropouts drinking beer at a local rural tavern in Oklahoma can understand the concept of “by himself” (or “by herself”, or “by itself”):
 
JETHRO:  “Jim Bob is a real strong dude.  I once saw him lift the front end of a one-ton pickup truck two-feet off the ground!”
 
CLYDE: “Really?  Did he lift it by himself?”
 
JETHRO: “Yeah, all by himself.”
 
When you lift something heavy all by yourself, that requires more strength than lifting the same object when some other people are helping you to lift it.  This is a simple and obvious fact of life.
 
This simple point of clarification is required in order for Geisler to be able to justify his conclusion about a being having “great power”.  If the being in question was merely one of billions or trillions of other beings who worked to bring the universe into existence, then we obviously cannot conclude that each such a being had “great power”, because, although the task of creating the universe would be a huge task for just one being, and would probably require a great deal of power in that one being, if there were billions of beings all working together on the project of creating the universe, then each individual being would only require a modest amount of power to perform its particular task or function.
 
I also added some clarifications in relation to time: “in the distant past” and “right now”.  This is also NOT a technical philosophical distinction.  Even an IDIOT (like Donald Trump) can understand the difference between an event that took place billions of years ago, and an event that is happening right now.  So, Geisler has no excuse for failing to note the different time frames for the creation of the unviverse (which is the focus of Geisler’s first argument in Phase 1) as compared with sustaining the existence of the universe in the present moment (which is the focus of Geisler’s second argument in Phase 1).
 
Now that I have clarified the first argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for God, we can see that there are some significant problems with Geisler’s case for God.  Geisler needs to prove the truth of premise (11a), but NONE of his five initial arguments prove premise (11a).
 
In order to show that (11a) is true, Geisler needs to show that the following three claims are true:
 
 13. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past).
 
14. There is a being that sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
 
15. If there is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past) and there is a being that sustains the whole universe by itself (right now), then the first being and the second being are the same being.
 
Geisler would presumably claim that his first argument from Phase 1 can be used to prove (13) and that his second argument from Phase 1 can be used to prove (14), but he has not given us any reason at all to believe that (15) is the case. 
 
Furthermore, in the next installment of this series, I will argue that Geisler’s initial five arguments cannot be used to prove any of these three claims. 
 
To be continued…
 
=============================
NOTE:  On Saturday morning (10/29/16)  I revised this post, because I realized that my clarification of premise (11), which is given in (11a), was overly complicated, and that I was trying to do too much in my clarification of premise (11).  So, I simplified (11a), and then, accordingly, also revised my brief critical comments about that premise.
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bookmark_borderBehe’s Continues to Ignore His Strongest Philosophical Critic

The blog Evolution News & Views just re-published a long essay written by Michael Behe in 2000 in which he responds to the philosophical objections of his critics. It’s unfortunate, however, that Behe has never acknowledged his strongest philosophical critic, Purdue University philosopher Paul Draper. In 2002, Draper wrote a critique of Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, in the journal Faith and Philosophy. (Click here for a link to the paper’s record at PhilPapers.org.) Draper’s paper did manage to convince Alvin Plantinga that Behe’s argument is at best incomplete (and definitely does not establish the falsity of Darwinian gradualism–which was Behe’s main target). Given Plantinga’s strong initial inclination to agree with Behe, this was no small accomplishment by Draper.
Although the actual copy of Draper’s paper is behind a paywall, Ex-Apologist wrote an excellent and detailed synopsis here.
Note: an earlier version of this blog post missed the fact that Behe’s essay was written in 2000 and treated the publication on Evolution News & Views as if it were a new essay. I regret the error. JJL

bookmark_borderOff Topic: Link to “Donald Trump is an IDIOT – Part 2”

http://democracy2usa.blogspot.com/2016/10/donald-trump-is-idiot-part-2-trumps.html
I have published my second post arguing that Trump is an IDIOT.
The post is not fully completed, but it is about 75% done, so you can read most of it right now.
I plan to complete the post tomorrow (Thursday, October 27th).

bookmark_borderThe Essentially Good-vs.-Morally Responsible Argument for Atheism

In the spirit of Ted Drange’s 1998 article, “Incompatible-Properties Arguments: A Survey,” I wish to sketch the following argument for consideration.
Suppose we define “God” as a being who has, among other things, the following attributes:
(m) essentially good; and
(n) morally responsible for His actions.
Using these definitions, we can construct the following argument.

  1. If God exists, then He is essentially good.
  2. If God exists, then He is morally responsible for His actions.
  3. An essentially good being lacks moral freedom, i.e., an essentially good being cannot choose between good and evil.
  4. A morally responsible being has moral freedom.
  5. Therefore, it is impossible for an essentially good being to be morally responsible for its actions. [from 3 and 4]
  6. Therefore, God does not exist. [from 1, 2, and 5]

In order to avoid any misunderstandings, I claim the argument is valid, but I do not know if the argument is sound.
Cf. Wes Morriston, “What Is So Good about Moral Freedom?” The Philosophical Quarterly, 50 (July 2000): 344-58.

bookmark_borderOff Topic: Donald Trump is an IDIOT – Part 2: Trump’s Foreign Policy Stupidity

This is the opening of a post that I’m still working on, but hope to complete soon.
I will post a link to it here at The Secular Outpost when it is published (on my blog site).
Trump Is an IDIOT – Part 2: Foreign Policy Stupidity
WARNING: This is a long blog post.
I have put an outline of my key points at the beginning, so that readers can see my main points quickly and then decide if they think it is worthwhile to take the time to read the entire post.

OUTLINE

1. The evidence in Part 1 was sufficient to show that Trump is an IDIOT.
2. Only a handful of examples are needed to show that Trump is an IDIOT when it comes to foreign policy.
3. Trump and Osama bin Laden: A Representative Example of Trump’s IDIOCY.

a. Trump claimed that in his book The America We Deserve, he had predicted that Osama bin Laden was a serious threat to US national security and advocated that the US should try to kill bin Laden.

b. There is no statement in The America We Deserve that indicates that Osama bin Laden was a serious threat to US national security.

c. There is no statement in The America We Deserve that advocates that the US try to kill Osama bin Laden.

4. Donald Trump has expressed some strong criticisms of Clinton’s foreign policy decisions and judgments.

a. Trump made some general criticisms of some major foreign policy decisions and judgments of Clinton and Obama, especially concerning Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria.

b. Trump strongly criticizes Clinton’s support for the attack on Libya and the killing of Gadhafi, and claims that he would have “stayed out of Libya”.

c. But in 2011 Trump strongly advocated that the US attack Libya and kill Gadhafi.

d. Trump strongly criticizes Clinton and Obama about making “such a sudden withdrawl” of US forces from Iraq, thus implying that during the war Trump was opposed to a “sudden withdrawl” of US forces from Iraq.

e. But during the war Trump strongly advocated the immediate withdrawl of US forces from Iraq.

f. Trump strongly criticizes the way that the US withdrew from Iraq because Obama “broadcast to the enemy” his plan that US forces were going “to leave Iraq on a certain date.”

g. But the withdrawl of US forces by the end of 2011 was NOT Obama’s plan. It was the Republican president George W. Bush’s plan, and it was no secret, because the US governent had negotiated an agreement with the new government of Iraq in which the US agreed to withdraw all US forces from Iraq by the last day in 2011, and the Republican president George W Bush signed that agreement. So, the date was a matter of public knowledge (for people who, unlike Trump, are aware of the basic facts about the Iraq war).

h. Trump strongly criticizes the way that the US withdrew from Iraq because Obama completely withdrew US forces by the end of 2011, instead of leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq to help maintain order there.

i. But Trump fails to mention some key facts: (1) leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq beyond 2011 would violate the agreement the US had made with the new government of Iraq, (2) leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq would mean that Obama was breaking his campaign promises to get us out of Iraq, and (3) based on Trump’s own assertion that Iraq would be a mess no matter how long US forces stayed there, the only real alternative to a complete withdrawl of all US forces would be to establish a permanent presence of US forces inside of Iraq, and a complete withdrawl was thus the lesser of two evils.

j. Trump strongly criticizes Clinton’s support for going to war against Iraq, and Trump claims that he strongly opposed and fought against the US going to war against Iraq.

k. But in reality Trump initially supported going to war against Iraq, and Trump did NOT publically oppose the war against Iraq until after the war was in progress.

l. As proof that he strongly opposed and fought against the US going to war against Iraq, Trump points to an interview that took place on Jan. 28, 2003. Trump appeared on Fox Business’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” on the same night as President Bush’s State of the Union address.

m. In the Jan. 28, 2003 interview by Neil Cavuto, Trump urged Bush to quickly decide what to do about Iraq. “Either you attack or you don’t attack,” he said. But Trump did NOT express opposition to going to war against Iraq in that interview.

n. As proof that he opposed the US attack on Iraq, Trump points to an interview he did which was published in Esquire magazine.

o. The interview of Trump in Esquire magazine was published in August of 2004, long after the Iraq War started.

p.  Trump claims that he opposed the US going to war in Iraq  and that “from the beginning” he had warned that this would “destabilize the Middle East.”

q.  But Trump did NOT publically oppose the US going to war in Iraq until AFTER the war was in progress (see point ‘k’ above), and when he finally did start raising objections to the war his concern was primarily about the costs of the war NOT that the war would destabilize the Middle East.

5. There are Many Other Examples of Trump Foreign Policy Falsehoods.

a. Factcheck.org named Trump “King of Whoppers” at the end of 2015, because so much of what Trump asserts is false or misleading, including many of Trump’s foreign policy claims.  

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bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 3: Just ONE Argument

Although, as I have previously argued, Geisler characterizes his case for God as consisting of multiple arguments for the existence of God,  this is a mischaracterization of his case for God.
 
Geisler’s case for God rests upon five claims, and he gives an argument for each  of those five claims, but each of those five claims plays a critical role in Geisler’s case.  If one of the five claims is false, then Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS.  Thus, Geisler’s case for God consists of just ONE argument, and the five claims function as premises in that ONE argument.
 
There are two main options for representing the logical relationship between the five claims (for which Geisler presents his five arguments) and the ultimate conclusion that “God exists”.  Based on Geisler’s characterization of his own case for God, one might well be tempted to think that his case consists of five arguments or five independent reasons for believing that God exists:

Five Arguments for God
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The last step of the argument is from premise (6) to the ultimate conlcusion (7):
 
(6) There currently exists a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and this being is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.26 and p.28)
 
THEREFORE:
 
(7) God exists.
 
It is very tempting for Christian believers and Christian apologists to view a case for God this way, because on this view the believer has five chances to win.
 
On this view, if just ONE of the five arguments is a sound argument, then the case for God works.  On this view, even if each one of the five arguments is somewhat questionable (containing a premise of uncertain truth or an inference of uncertain validity), so long as each argument has some significant probability of being a sound argument, then there would be a good chance that at least ONE argument is sound, and thus there would be a good chance that the overall case for God works, and that God actually exists.
 
Unfortunately for Geisler and his Christian readers, this is NOT how the logic of Geisler’s case actually functions.  In reality, his case for God consists of just ONE argument that requires each of his five arguments to be sound in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  It is actually the skeptic who has five chances to win, because if just ONE of the five arguments is an unsound argument, then Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS.
 
Here is a diagram showing the actual logical structure (at a high level) of Geisler’s case for God:

One Argument for God
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The logic of Geisler’s ONE argument for the existence of God is a bit more complicated than what appears in the above diagram.  So, I am going to start laying out the details of the logic of his argument, so that we can evaluate an argument that is a clear and accurate representation of Geisler’s reasoning about the existence of God.

The first order of business is to specify and clarify the conclusions of Geisler’s five arguments.  Here are the conclusions in Geisler’s own words:

  1. Therefore, the universe was caused by something else, and this cause was God. (WSA, p.16)
  2. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.19)
  3. Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p. 20)
  4. Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver.  (WSA, p.22)
  5. Therefore, if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist. (WSA, p.25)

These conclusions need to be cleaned up and clarified, so that we have an accurate understanding of what they mean:

1a. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the past) by at least one thing or being other than the universe (or some part or aspect of the universe) that existed prior to when the universe began to exist.
2a. There currently exists at least one uncaused cause for each finite, changing thing that currently exists.
3a. There existed (in the past) at least one Great Designer who designed some aspect of the universe
4a. There existed (in the past) at least one supreme Lawgiver of laws of morality.

Claim (5) is a bit tricky, because it appears to be ambiguous.  The ambiguous term in (5) is the word “God”, and I believe that Geisler commits the fallacy of equivocation in how he makes use of (5).  Here are the two different ways of interpreting (5):
5a. If there is or ever was a being that was God (i.e. “the most perfect Being possible”), then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.
5b. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.
If we interpret (5) as meaning the same as (5a), then this claim is irrelevant to Geisler’s case for God, because the antecedent of the conditional implies that “God exists now or God existed in the past” and none of Geisler’s other arguments show this to be the case.  So, (5a) cannot be used to infer any other claims, and it is thus useless in his case for the existence of God.
On the other hand, if we interpret (5) as meaning the same as (5b), then Geisler can use the conclusion (1a) from his first argument and combine it with (5b) to infer that the cause (or causes) of the beginning of the universe “must always exist and cannot not exist”, which might be helpful to his case for the existence of God.
The problem with (5b) is that it appears to be FALSE. We can conceive of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist but then, perhaps due to the exertion required for that great feat, ceased to exist. If this is a logical possibility, then (5b) is FALSE.  
In any case, Geisler has given us no good reason to believe that (5b) is true.  The argument for (5) goes like this (WSA, p.25):

If God exists, we conceive of Him as a necessary Being.

By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.
 
THEREFORE:
 
If God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist.
As it stands, this argument is of no use to Geisler’s case for the existence of God, because he must FIRST prove that “God exists” in order to make use of the conclusion of this argument.  But if Geisler can prove that “God exists” with some other argument, then there is no need for this argument.  So, this argument is only of use to Geisler if the word “God” here is interpreted in the weak sense of something that caused the universe to begin to exist.  
 
Geisler believes that his first argument shows that “the universe was caused by something else”.  We need to rephrase the above argument to make the intended meanings of the premises and conclusion clear:
 
8. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then we must conceive of that being as a necessary Being.
 
9.  By definition, a necessary Being must always exist and cannot not exist.
 
THEREFORE:
 
5b. If there is or ever was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.
 
The key premise (8) is FALSE.  We can conceive of something causing the universe to begin to exist which is NOT a necessary Being.  For example, we can conceive of a powerful angel causing the universe to begin to exist even though that angel was NOT a necessary Being.
 
So,  if the conclusion of the fifth argument is (5a), then the argument is irrelevant to Geisler’s case for God, but if the conclusion of the fifth argument is (5b), then it is relevant to his case for God, but the fifth argument would then be unsound, because it is based on a premise that is FALSE.  So, we have no good reason to believe that (5b) is true.
 
To be continued… 

bookmark_borderHow to Use the Argument From Evil

The problem of evil can be used in two different ways.  It can be used offensively; that is, in an attempt to criticize and undermine theistic belief, to show that theism is false and that belief in God is unfounded. But it can also be used defensively, i.e., to show that atheism is epistemically warranted, justified, or reasonable.  Of these two distinct uses, the first is by far the most common. But I think that the almost exclusive use of the problem of evil as part of an offensive attack has obscured the value of the defensive use. Used defensively, the problem of evil can serve as the basis for additional arguments against many versions of Christianity.
Let’s start with the following observation: when atheists see their arguments as attempts to show that theism is false, this is easily translated (often at the insistence of theists) into an effort to convince theists (given their own presuppositions and values) that theism is false. And this is a very difficult task. Instead, I am suggesting that atheists can be seen as merely attempting to show that atheism is reasonable, epistemically warranted, or respectable. Such efforts can succeed even when the proffered arguments fail to convince theists that God does not exist.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the problem of evil (even in its strongest form) does not undermine the belief in God of a person who already possesses such belief. Let’s call someone an informed theist if she has been confronted with the problem of evil, has read and dutifully considered all of the relevant versions of the argument from evil (or at least a relevant subsection of them), but has found in all of the arguments nothing that convinces her to abandon her theism. Let’s also assume that it is possible for a person to be an informed theist without having made some error in logic or reasoning, or deliberate ignoring relevant evidence. We can call this person a fully rational and informed theist. One question we can ask is what relevance the existence of fully informed and rational theists have to the question of whether God exists. I would suggest that the answer to this question is: not much. The existence of such individuals does not provide much by way of evidence that God exists nor does it provide evidence that God does not exist.
Let’s now consider the opposite: a fully rational and informed atheist. Such a person has dutifully considered all of the relevant arguments for the existence and non-existence of God and the relevant responses to atheistic arguments (or a relevant subsection of all of these arguments), has made no errors in logic or reasoning, and has not deliberately ignored any relevant evidence. Despite this, the atheist sees no reason to abandon her atheism. What is the relevance of the existence of fully rational and informed atheists to the question of whether God exists? It seems to me that the existence of such people is very relevant to this question. If God exists, then there is a perfect being who loves every individual and, given the enormous value of a relationship with the perfect being, must want to have a relationship with every individual that is capable of having such a relationship. Given that believing in God is necessary for having such a fulfilling relationship, God must not want any person to believe that he does not exist.
In other words, the existence of fully rational and informed atheists facilitates the development of a version of the Argument from Divine Hiddenness (most famously developed by J. L. Schellenberg). Importantly, this argument can be developed in ways that specifically target Christianity (or at least particular incarnations of a Christian worldview). For example, consider the belief that salvation from eternal torment or annihilation is available only to those who believe that God exists. The existence of fully rational and informed atheists, coupled with the aforementioned belief about salvation, entails that God is willing to permit the punishment and/or annihilation of persons who have made no error in reasoning, have not willfully ignored evidence, and who have dutifully considered the relevant arguments. This seems morally problematic, to put it mildly.
Consider next the response of a person who begins as a non-theist (a person who lacks belief that God exists but does not believe that God does not exist) but who, when he dutifully considers the problem of evil (and makes no errors in logic or reasoning and does not ignore relevant evidence) concludes that God does not exist. It is important to recognize that such a response to the arguments is most likely non-voluntary. That is, we need not (and probably should not) think that such a non-theist turned atheist has chosen to believe that there is no God. Rather, the person has merely responded to the evidence in a way that is completely natural and understandable; i.e., in a manner that is relevantly analogous to the way in which a person who looks out his bedroom window to see white flakes falling from the sky reacts to this evidence by coming to believe that it is snowing.
This is an important point that deserves some elaboration. The fact that not everyone reacts with atheistic belief to atheistic arguments is hardly evidence that this is not a natural and non-voluntary reaction. If a person already has unshakable belief that God exists, she will not share such a reaction. But, in the same way, a person who is convinced that it does not snow where he lives will not respond to the scenario described above with the belief that is snowing. Such a person will respond with incredulity and skepticism and look for an explanation for the observed evidence that does not entail that it is snowing (e.g., that someone is playing a trick). And he may be right. That a person non-voluntarily responds to a set of evidence with a specific belief does not entail that this belief is correct. Of course, he may also be wrong; the manner in which he reacts to the evidence does little to help us decides whether he is right or wrong. The upshot is that the fact that not everyone will respond to the same evidence in the same way does not show that the beliefs that we form on the basis of evidence are formed in a manner that is anything other than non-voluntary.
Now, if there are non-theists turned fully rational and fully informed atheists, then this presents a very serious problem for any view that claims that God punishes, allows to be punished, annihilates, allows to be annihilated, withholds a supreme good from, or allows a supreme good to be withheld from any person who does not believe that God exists. Given that the atheistic belief of such atheists is non-voluntary (and so cannot be deliberately changed), the view entails that God punishes, allows to be punished, annihilates, allows to be annihilated, withholds a supreme good from, or allows a supreme good to be withheld from people who, through no fault of their own, have (or lack) the relevant belief. God cannot do this because doing this is morally wrong and God is incapable of morally wrong behavior. Thus, the conjunction of beliefs that I have describe (that God exists; that God punishes, allows to be punished, etc. people who don’t believe in God; and that there are non-theists turned fully rational and informed atheists) is inconsistent.
Notice that this is true even if there is no version of the argument from evil that would undermine the theistic belief of a committed theist. And this is the main point that I want to make. It seems to me completely irrelevant whether theistic belief can survive the criticism represented by the problem of evil. Alvin Plantinga has spent much of his career showing that there are no arguments that undermine theistic belief. My question is: Why should this matter? It is not at all relevant to the question of whether God exists or whether Christianity or any other theistic religion is true. It gives us no reason to suspect that the argument from evil is not a sound argument. We can still know that God does not exist and we can still know that Christianity is false.
What does seem very relevant, for reasons that are implicit in what I have written here, is whether there are any non-theists turned fully rational and informed atheists. It strikes me that the various versions of the argument from evil show us that it is possible to be such an atheist.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 2: How Many Arguments for God?

In Chapter  2 of When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler appears to present five different arguments for the existence of God.  However, there are some significant problems with this characterization of Geisler’s case for God.
 
NONE of the five arguments end with the conclusion that “God exists”.  In fact, only his first argument even mentions the word “God”, and it is precisely the reference to “God” in the conclusion of his first argument that makes that argument logically invalid!  So, if we correct the logic of the first argument, and remove the reference to “God” in it’s conclusion, then there is no mention of “God” anywhere in any of Geisler’s five arguments.  There is no mention of “God” in the premises of any of the five arguments presented by Geisler, and there is no mention of “God” in the conclusions of his arguments, with the exception of the first argument.
 
How can Geisler present five arguments for the existence of God, and yet NONE of the arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists”?  This is bizzarre.  This is absurd. This is ridiculous.  What the hell is going on here?
 
Geisler is a professional philosopher who has specialized in the philosophy of religion and in Christian apologetics, and he has been writing books defending basic Christian beliefs for decades.  I remember reading his book Christian Apologetics in the early 1980’s, and that book was originally published in 1976.  He earned his PhD in Philosophy in 1970.  Here is a blurb on Geisler from his website:
 
Dr. Norman Geisler, PhD, is a prolific author, veteran professor, speaker, lecturer, traveler, philosopher, apologist, evangelist, and theologian. To those who ask, “Who is Norm Geisler?” some have suggested, “Imagine a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham and you’re not too far off.”
 
Norm has authored or co-authored over 100 books and hundreds of articles. He has taught theology, philosophy, and apologetics on the college or graduate level for over 50 years. He has served as a professor at some of the finest Seminaries in the United States, including Trinity Evangelical Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary. He now lends his talents to Veritas Evangelical Seminary and to Southern Evangelical Seminary.
 
Geisler is well-educated, well-informed, has a PhD in philosophy, and has been writing and lecturing on philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics since at least the 1970’s.  So, how can it be that he thinks he is presenting five arguments for the existence of God, and yet ZERO of the arguments that he gives end with the conclusion that “God exists”?
 
One might doubt the claim that Geisler thinks he is presenting five arguments for the existence of God, but there is good reason to believe this is in fact, how he views his own case for God:
  1. The first section of of Chapter 2 is labelled “Does God Exist?” (WSA, p.15). The five arguments are presented in this section, indicating that these arguments settle the question about the existence of God, in Geisler’s view.
  2. The first sub-section in that first section is labelled “Arguments for the Existence of God” (WSA, p.15)  Note that Geisler uses the plural “Arguments” not the singular term “Argument”.  The five arguments are presented in this sub-section, indicating that each one of the five arguments is believed to be an argument “for the existence of God”.
  3. The opening sentence of this sub-section states that there have “traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence.” (WSA, p.15).  Geisler then goes on to present his five arguments in terms of these four basic types of argument; he gives two “forms” of cosmological argument (or what he calls “the Argument from Creation”) and one argument for each of the remaining three types of argument.
  4. In describing the history of “the Argument from Creation” (his term for cosmological arguments), Geisler states that this argument is “the most widely noted argument for God’s existence” (WSA, p.16).  This is a clear indication that each one of the “Arguments from Creation”  presented by Geisler is thought to be an argument “for God’s existence”.
  5. In describing the history of “the Moral Argument” Geisler mentions that Kant “rejected all of the traditional arguments for God’s existence.” (WSA, p.22).  Note the use of the plural “traditional arguments” and that these were arguments “for God’s existence”.  This parallels nicely with the idea that Geisler is presenting a number of “arguments” which are arguments “for God’s existence”.  This is an echo of Geisler’s intial statement that there have “traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence.” (WSA, p.15).
  6. In describing the history of “the Moral Argument” Geisler mentions that this argument has been refined “to show that there is a rational basis for God’s existence to be found in morality.” (WSA, p.22).   This is an indication that Geisler believes that “the Moral Argument” can be used as a stand-alone argument to show that God exists.
Finally, Geisler is a Thomist.  He was clearly influenced by the philosophy of religion of Thomas Aquinas, and Aquinas is generally believed to have presented five different arguments for the existence of God.  Geisler does not stick with the five arguments used by Aquinas, but he does use at least a couple of Aquinas’s Five Ways, and he also sticks with presenting five brief arguments, just like in Aquinas’s (alleged) case for God.
 
Thus, there are several good reasons to conclude that Geisler believed he was presenting five different arguments for the existence of God, and yet we have the very odd fact that NONE of these arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists”.  How can this be?
 
One big clue comes when Geisler discusses the second argument, which is Geisler’s version of a cosmological argument by Aquinas:
 
This argument shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists.  How do we know that this is really the God of the Bible?  (WSA, p.19, emphasis added)
 
This is a fairly clear indication that Geisler is working with at least two different senses of the word “God”.  Geisler thinks that his second cosmological argument proves the existence of “God” (in one sense) but does NOT prove the existence of “the God of the Bible”.  He believes that the second cosmological argument proves the existence of some sort of “God” but not the existence of some other sort of “God”. 
 
But this is very confusing.  What kind of “God” does Geisler think his second argument proves?  and how is that kind of “God” different from the “God” of the Bible?  Furthermore, what sort of “God” does Geisler think his first argument proves to exist?  Does the first argument prove the existence of the “God” of the Bible or some other kind of “God”?  If it only proves the existence of some other kind of “God” is that other kind the same as the other kind of God proven by the second argument or is the other sort of “God” proven by the first argument different from both the “God” proven by the second argument and different from the “God” of the Bible as well? Is there a third sense of the word “God” that is in play in the claim that the first argument proves the existence of “God”?  Are we now dealing with three different senses of the word “God”?  
 
The same questions apply to each of the other arguments as well.  There is clearly an ambiguity in the way that Geisler uses the word “God”, but since he failed to provide any definition of the word “God”, we are at a loss to know what the hell he is talking about.
 
In spite of the great potential for confusion from using the word “God” in two or three different senses, Geisler never bothers to provide a definition of any sense of the word “God”. However, based on some additional reasoning and arguments that Geisler presents, it becomes fairly clear what he means when he speaks of the “God” of the Bible.  We will return to this point in a moment.
 
Geisler admits that there is a problem with considering his five arguments individually, as separate and independent arguments, and he suggests that we must somehow combine the five arguments together in order to arrive at the conclusion that “the God of the Bible” exists:
 
But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence?  That is what we will do in the following pages.
 
If we want to show that God exists and that He is the God of the Bible, then we need to show that all of the things in the arguments we mentioned are true.  Each one contributes something to our knowledge of God and, taken together, they form a picture that can only fit the one true God. (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
 
Why bother to “combine all of the arguments”?  If Geisler has previously proven the existence of God four or five times, isn’t that enough?  In mathematics and in logic, you only need to give ONE proof and you are done.  Geisler gives five arguments, and then he continues on with some new hybrid argument that attempts to combine the previous five arguments “into a cohesive whole”.  Why not just quit after proving the existence of God four or five times?
 
Clearly, Geisler believes that his five arguments are NOT enough to prove that the “God” of the Bible exists. That is because the five arguments prove the existence of “God” in some other sense (or senses) of the word, a sense (or senses) of the word that Geisler fails to explain or define.
 
But it is clear what Geisler does think that he ends up proving with his combination of the five arguments “into a cohesive whole”, and so this gives us a fairly clear indication of what it is that he means by the “God” of the Bible:
 
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.  (WSA, p.28)
 
We can construct a definition of the word “God” in accordance with the sort of “God” that Geisler thinks he has shown to exist:
 
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:
  1. X is all-powerful, and 
  2. X is all-knowing, and
  3. X is all-good, and 
  4. X is infinite, and 
  5. X is uncreated, and
  6. X is unchanging, and
  7. X is eternal, and 
  8. X is omnipresent.
Geisler admits that his first argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his second argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his third argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his fourth argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his fifth argument doe NOT prove the existence of such a “God”.  
 
Geisler admits that NONE of his five arguments is sufficient by itself to establish the existence of “God” in this sense of the word, which is (more or less) the ordinary sense of the word as used in the context of the Christian faith, Christian theology, and Christian-dominated cultures.
 
But then, what sort of “God” do his five arguments prove exists?  Geisler does not bother to spell this out, so we have to try to guess at what he means by the word “God” in this context.  In Geisler’s “combined” argument, he begins by using the cosmological arguments, his first two arguments, to prove that there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and to show that this being is very powerful (WSA, p.26).  
Geisler then uses his argument from design to show that:
 
…whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence. (WSA, p.26)
 
What connects these two arguments together is the idea of “whatever caused the universe” to begin to exist.  So, it would appear that the “God” that is proven to exist by the first argument is simply “whatever caused the universe” to begin to exist:
 
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:
X caused the universe to begin to exist.
 
But if this is what is meant by “God” in relation to what the five arguments can prove by themselves, individually, then it is still the case that most of the five arguments (with the possible exception of the first argument) FAIL to prove that “God” exists, even in this weak sense of the word.

The second cosmological argument allegedly shows the existence of a current sustaining cause of the universe, but this does not imply that the universe began to exist.  It is conceivable that the universe has always existed and that the sustaining cause has always caused the universe to continue to exist. (Avoiding the issue of whether the universe began to exist was precisely the reason that Aquinas favored this second cosmological argument and rejected the cosmological argument that Geisler gives as his first argument for “God”).  If the universe has always existed, then there is no X that caused the universe to begin to exist, so the truth of the conclusion of the second cosmological argument is compatible with there being no “God”, in the sense of something that “caused the universe to begin to exist”.
 
Geisler’s third argument allegedly proves the existence of a designer of the universe.  A designer of the universe is not necessarily the cause of the existence of the universe. The universe could have always existed, and at some point an intelligent being organized the matter of the universe into something like its present form.  In that case, there would be a designer, but no creator and no cause of the universe coming into existence.  
 
A moral lawgiver need not be the cause of the existence of the universe.  So, proving the existence of a supreme moral lawgiver FAILS to prove that “God” exists, in the sense of proving the existence of something that caused the universe to come into being.
 
Geisler admits that the fifth argument, an ontological argument, “fails to show that God actually exists.”  (p.25)  It is clear that by “God” here he means the weak sense of the word “God” (not the “God” of the Bible). So, argument number five is also a failure.
 
All of these failures of the five arguments to prove that “God exists” would have been evident from the start if Geisler had simply bothered to define the word “God” before presenting his five arguments, and if he had actually constructed clear arguments that ended with the conclusion that “God exists”.

bookmark_borderDream a Little Dream of Me

Barry Leventhal thinks that Jesus appears to people in dreams. (www.christianpost.com/news/jesus-still-appears-to-people-in-dreams-even-god-haters-christian-apologist-says-170855/)
 
His claim isn’t that people have dreams in which Jesus figures as part of the dream, but rather that Jesus, himself, appears in the dream. I suspect that Leventhal does not think that every dream involving Jesus counts as an appearance of him, though. If I were to dream that Jesus and Sherlock Holmes both showed up at my door asking to help carve Halloween pumpkins, it is likely that Leventhal would not think this was a miraculous appearance of Jesus, but merely a dream.
 
Leventhal claims that there have been cases where people have converted to Christianity as a result of dreaming of Jesus. This may be true (though one story he tells of such a conversion has the ring of legend, I think), but it is not clear why Leventhal thinks these are cases of genuine appearance. Presumably, he believes that such dream-inspired conversions would be less likely to have taken place if they did not involve genuine appearances. But why is that plausible? Many people have had dreams that have affected them very powerfully. There is no plausibility in the suggestion that such dreams always, or even usually involve appearances. People have read life-changing books, or seen life-changing movies where there is no question that these were works of fiction.
 
It is an interesting question why some dreams have this extremely compelling potentially life-changing character to them, just as it is an interesting question why other experiences can have this feature. But there is no good reason to make the inferential claim that if an experience has such a character, it must therefore be veridical. At the very least, evidence would be needed showing that as a matter of fact, a statistically significant majority of such experiences are demonstrably veridical.
 
There is also something very strange about the whole idea of someone appearing in a dream. The whole notion treats dreams as having a real space within which actual existing things and people come and go. “I saw Jesus in a dream” is treated like, “I saw Elton John in Las Vegas.” Someone with a stronger background in historical anthropology than I have could probably provide details about how the boundaries between dreams and reality have frequently been blurred in different times and places in human history, even to the point where people have been considered culpable for what “they” did in other people’s dreams.
 
The most charitable take on the idea of dream appearance is probably something along the lines of the person who appears causing the dreamer to dream particular things. So if Jesus were to appear to me in a dream and say “You shall carve exactly six pumpkins on Halloween!” what would make this a dream appearance would be that Jesus, himself, caused me to dream it and for the dream to contain the content that it did. One wonders how much of the content would be reasonable to attribute to the person appearing. Suppose that in the dream, Jesus appeared in my living room, but unlike my real living room, which has no coffee table, in the dream Jesus appeared to me standing (for dramatic effect, one supposes) upon a solid 2’ x 5’ block of clear lucite. Also, suppose that in the dream there was a window in the south wall of the room (whereas in reality there is no window there). Should I infer that these odd artifactual details, typical of dreams, were significant? Why would they be caused to be there if they didn’t mean anything? There is also the question of how I would know that the person appearing was, in fact, Jesus. It won’t do to say, “well, it obviously was Jesus – after all, it looked like him.” Am I to think that Jesus didn’t appear to me as he likely would have looked in life, but rather as he is depicted in popular iconography (with strongly Caucasian features – perhaps with blue eyes? (www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35120965)
 
Then there is the question of why, if someone wanted to communicate with me, they would choose to attempt doing so in a dream, especially if we have reason to think they could do so in other, much less ambiguous ways. It is too easy to chalk a dream up to imagination. By analogy, if I were to find a note taped to my door that read: “You shall carve exactly six pumpkins this Halloween. Sincerely, Jesus” I would surmise that it had been written by a prankster. If it was really important that I carve a certain number of pumpkins, a live in-person appearance would be better than a note, or a dream appearance. Of course, I would want supporting evidence, and this brings me to my final observation. It is true that if I opened my door to an unfamiliar person who said, “Hi, I’m Jesus” I would not take them at their word. I would require some sort of compelling evidence. Perhaps the individual could reveal both the nature and location of the object I buried in childhood (you should know the one I mean, if you’re reading this, Jesus!). Yet Leventhal appears to think that dream appearances are somehow even more compelling that such an in-person appearance would be. I am unconvinced.