bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 4: More Effort Required

“Communication is Hard”
My wife is a very intelligent woman.  I enjoy discussing religion, politics, and philosophy with her.  When I lay out an argument, either for my own viewpoint or (as the devil’s advocate) for some alternative viewpoint, she almost always raises one or two sharp objections to the argument.  She is also a person of good common sense and practical wisdom.   One of her bits of wisdom that comes up often is this:
“Communication is hard.” 
This little mantra has a couple of important implications.  First, even between people who know each other very well, miscommunications and misunderstandings are to be expected from time to time; they are inevitable.  Second, good communication requires work, effort, attention, and care.
So, when she is talking to me in the morning, in order to have a better chance of good communication,  I need to set the newspaper down for a moment, look her in the eyes, and actually focus my attention on the words coming out of her mouth.  Like most people, I’m not so good at multi-tasking.  Looking her in the eyes gives her some assurance that I’m listening, and setting the paper down helps me to focus my mind on what she is saying.  Good communication requires work, effort, attention, and care.
“What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate”
In Part 3 of this series, I harshly criticized Mr. Loftus for problems of UNCLARITY in his presentation of what I take to be the central argument of his book Unapologetic, namely Reason #9 in Chapter 5, an argument for the conclusion “Philosophy of religion must end.”  I stand by this criticism, at least the basic idea that Mr. Loftus’ presentation of this argument is seriously flawed because it is UNCLEAR.
However, in his responses to my criticisms,  Loftus has raised a point that stings a bit; he raises an objection to my critique which has some merit.  Although I don’t think he realized this, one of his comments basically turned my own critique around, and pointed it in my direction, with some justice:
“As to some working definitions of these words goes, with a little research you could find what I say of them.”
Mr. Loftus wants a big “mea culpa” apology from me, and he is not going to get that. However, I will admit to a degree of inaccuracy and unfairness in my criticism of Unapologetic in Part 3 of this series, and I will also admit to a bit of hypocrisy, but I will attempt to do better in this post.
In short, there is a failure of communication between Loftus and me concerning Reason #9 in support of his view that “Philosophy of Religion must end.”  That failure of communication is partly because Loftus FAILED to properly clarify the meanings of some key words and phrases in this central argument of his book.  However, the failure of communication is also partly because I FAILED to put in sufficient work, effort, attention, and care as a reader and interpreter of Unapologetic.
Work, Effort, Attention, Care, and Hypocrisy
Good communication requires work, effort, atention, and care.  Because Reason #9 consists of an argument involving the words “faith” and “reason” and “philosophy” and “religion”, as well as the phrases “philosophy of religion” and “faith in X”, and because these words and phrases are vague, ambiguous, and unclear,  Loftus ought to provide in this book: (a) clear definitions of each of these unclear words, and (b) some reasons and evidence in support of the proposed defintions.
Ideally, he ought to provide an entire chapter focused on defining and clarifying the meaning of the word “faith” and an entire chapter focused on defining and clarifying the meaning of the word “religion”, and an entire chapter focused on defining and clarifying the meaning of the phrase “philosophy of religion”.  He did not do this.
A less than ideal, but perhaps adequate, approach would be to provide one chapter clarifying all three of these terms, writing a subsection of about ten pages defining and clarifying each term.   Loftus did not do this.  So,  Loftus FAILED to provide adequate clarification of the key terms of his central argument,  terms that are OBVIOUSLY and NOTORIOUSLY unclear.   I justifiably pointed out in Part 3 of this series that there was a serious problem of UNCLARITY in Loftus’ presentation of Reason #9.
However,  my irritation with Loftus, as with Norman Geisler, and as with William Craig, is based on an expectation of a certain level of “work, effort, attention, and care” on the part of a philosopher or intellectual in presenting an argument or a case for a point of view.  I tend to use words like “lazy” and “sloppy” and “careless” and “not a serious effort”.  Clearly, I don’t like intellectual sloth in philosophers and intellectuals.
But in that case,  I need to apply this same value and standard to my own thinking and writing, and I’m afraid that my critique of Loftus in Part 3 falls a bit short on this important standard.   Good communication also requires “work, effort, attention, and care” on the part of readers and interpreters, not just on authors and writers, and I fell short on this requirement.  I threw in the towel too quickly, and I did not work hard enough to find clues that would clarify what Loftus was trying to say.
To be a good example of the intellectual values and standards that I use to criticize other thinkers, I need to make a greater effort to understand what Loftus is saying in Reason #9.   Loftus had a responsiblity to be provide more clarification of the key words and phrases in his central argument, but I also have a responsibility to make a greater effort to figure out what he means, especially to understand Reason #9, the key argument found on page 135 of Unapologetic.   I intend to get back into the ring, and make a more serious effort to arrive at a clear understanding of this argument.
Reason #9 is an interesting and significant argument about an important question.  So,  I should be willing to put in a significant degree of work, effort, attention, and care to try to understand that argument.
One critical comment that I made in Part 3 , I now regret:
His failure to provide any definition or analysis of the meaning of any of the key words and phrases in his central argument suggests that he does not have a clear idea of what those words mean.
This criticism is not accurate and is unfair to Loftus.   I had no intention of deceiving anyone, or of making a false statement about Unapologetic, but this criticism is exaggerated and inaccurate, and I would not have made this criticism if I had made a greater effort to figure out what Loftus’ means, and to find clues in Unapologetic that would help to clarify Reason #9.
Although I am clearly unhappy with the amount and degree of clarification that Loftus provides about the key terms in his central argument,  he does provide some statements in Unapologetic that appear to be definitions of “faith” and he does provide at least one statement that appears to be a defintion of “philosophy of religion”, and there are other clues in the book that should be considered in trying to understand what Loftus means when he talks about “faith” and “religion” and “philosophy of religion”.  I will now pay more attention to those statements and clues, to try to figure out the meaning of the argument constituting Reason #9.
“Philosophy of Religion” means…?
There is a discussion of “philosophy of religion” on page 114 of Unapologetic that sheds some light on what Loftus means by this phrase.  Here are are a couple of key statements from that discussion:
PoR is a discipline that has traditionally concerned itself with the claims and arguments of religion. 
…PoR seeks to understand the claims of religion (if possible) and examine the arguments put forth both pro and con by the canons of reason and evidence.  This is how PoR has historically been understood among Western philosophers.
I don’t think this is a great definition, nor do I think this is an appropriate level of clarification for the most important concept in the whole book, but it is something, and it might be enough to help me to figure out and understand Reason #9.
Loftus contrasts this understanding of “philosophy of religion” with how the discipline is actually carried out:
In practice, however, this is not the case.  Philosophers of religion are dealing with religion in religious, creedal, and confessional ways.  (Unapologetic, p.114)
This contrast between the ideal conception of “philosophy of religion” and how the discipline is actually carried out in practice makes a legitimate point of criticism about the discipline.  It also introduces ambiguity into the meaning of the phrase “philosophy of relgion”.
However, it seems fairly clear to me that in Reason #9, Loftus makes use of the ideal conception of “philosophy of religion”, at least in the premises of the argument:
2.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end. 
This explicit premise suggests another unstated premise:
A. Philosophy of religion uses reason to examine the claims of religion.
This is close to the statement about the ideal conception of “philosophy of religion”.  So, I think we can expand and clarify this unstated premise by substituting the apparent defintion of “philosophy of religion” from page 114 in place of this unstated premise.  Loftus appears to be invoking the ideal conception of “philosophy of religion” in Reason #9.
“Faith” means…?
Although I’m not happy with the degree of effort by Loftus to clarify the meaning of the word “faith”,  a more careful reading of Unapolgetic reveals some statements that appear to be brief definitions of this word, as well as a couple of other passages which shed some light on what Loftus means when he uses this word:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence.  (p. 55)
…faith is always about that which lacks sufficient evidence or even no evidence at all.  I consider faith to be an unrecognized-as-yet cognitive bias that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true, even if there is no objective evidence at all… (p. 92)
Just consider what’s wrong with Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses….  Faith.  The adherents of these religions do not believe based on sufficient evidence, because faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.  If they thought exclusively in terms of the probabilities by proportioning their belief to the evidence (per David Hume), they would not believe at all.  (p.125)
Faith should one day be labeled a cognitive bias.  It keeps one’s cognitive faculties from functioning properly.  Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (p.152)
In addition to these brief definition-like statements about the meaning of “faith” Loftus has a couple of other passages that shed some light on how he understands this idea (on pages 57 and 160).
Although these definitions seem inadequate and problematic to me, they do provide some good clues as to what Loftus means by the word “faith”, and with a bit of effort on my part, this might well be enough information for me to figure out and understand the meaning of the argument constituting Reason #9.  So, I’m going to go back to work on that task, and when I have a clearer understanding and interpretation of Reason #9,  I will share that here in Part 5 of this series of posts.
 

bookmark_borderConsciousness and souls

Substance dualists insist that no matter what goes on in the squishy 3 pound lump of brain inside the human skull, none of it constitutes what is really essential to human cognition. Something else, an immaterial soul, has to be added to the brain in order for it to … well, to do something – just what is not entirely clear. Free will, consciousness, and personal identity are some of the most common candidates.
There are a lot of problems with substance dualism, but for me one of the most compelling is also one that has received less attention than it deserves. It is an objection that confronted the poster-boy for substance dualism, the French philosopher Rene Descartes. It can be summed up in a question: If dualism is true, then how is unconsciousness possible?
Descartes insisted that the essence of the soul is thinking. He also believed that all thought was conscious thought. So then what happens when you sleep? Descartes’ weird answer is that all through the night, you retain consciousness, but because the soul withdraws from the senses during sleep, you don’t remember being conscious when you wake up. Here is a synopsis in argument form:

1. Thought is essential to the soul.

2. All thought is conscious thought.

3. So, consciousness is essential to the soul.

4. If x is essential to y, then y cannot exist without x.

5. So, the soul cannot exist without consciousness.

The alternative to the always-conscious view, Descartes thought, would be that the soul could be rendered temporarily nonexistent by napping, being bonked on the head, or drinking too much. Not only would such a view be bizarre, but it would suggest that the existence of the soul was dependent on what happened in the body, which would threaten his arguments that the soul was a metaphysically distinct substance from the body.
body-soul
Most people will probably pounce eagerly on premise 2 as the flaw in Descartes’ reasoning. Why shouldn’t the soul be capable of contentedly churning away in unconscious thought while you are asleep? ‘Unconscious thought’ no longer has the oxymoronic status it had for Descartes. But there is still something odd about about the soul carrying out unconscious processes, especially where these processes are p
resumably at least largely independent of what is going on in the brain. And it is still the supposed independence of the soul from the brain that creates problems for the dualist, since it looks very much like the properties that the soul is being invoked to explain are determined by the state of the brain.
Consider this example: You are given a general anesthetic. You decide to exercise your soul’s power of free will to preserve your soul’s property of being conscious. But no matter how much will power you attempt to summon, you find that you cannot remain conscious. Whether or not you remain conscious is simply not up to you. The state of your soul ends up being entirely determined by what is going on with your brain chemistry. But this means that the soul’s properties take a back seat to the brain’s properties. The best the dualist can offer in reply, it seems, is a vague “maybe”: maybe, for all anyone has been able to prove, some of the brain’s properties are determined by the soul’s properties, so the knife cuts both ways. On the dualist’s view, my soul chooses to imagine a wombat, and hey-presto – my neurons cooperate and a wombat-image becomes encoded in my brain. It can even be detected and decoded by a computer ( http://www.livescience.com/53535-computer-reads-thoughts-instantaneously.html ). But the point of origin in an immaterial soul is a blind posit here with no confirming evidence. It is a thin epistemic possibility that the dualist then tries to leverage into a stronger possibility.
Opponents of physicalist models of cognition sometimes gleefully invoke consciousness as part of this woeful non sequitur: No physicalist model has yet explained consciousness, therefore some non-physicalist model of cognition is true. Dualists seem convinced that dualism does successfully explain consciousness, but the problem of unconsciousness suggests this case is badly incomplete, at best. The dualist explanation, so far as I understand it, amounts to bare assertion: The soul explains consciousness because it is the kind of thing that by its very nature can be conscious. But then the dualist needs to do a lot more to explain why, if consciousness belongs to the soul as an inherent, or essential, or constitutive property, it is a property that the soul doesn’t always have, and whose manifestation appears to be dependent on the brain.

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 3: The Main Argument

I cannot recommend the book Unapologetic by John Loftus, because I have not carefully read the whole book yet.  But I have read Chapter 5, which I take to be the heart of the book, and I can recommend reading Chapter 5 of Unapologetic.  It is an interesting, informative, and thought-provoking chapter about the philosophy of religion.  I disagree with the main conclusion for which Loftus argues, but there are plenty of interesting ideas to ponder in Chapter 5, including the summary of ten reasons for his view that the discipline of philosophy of religion should be discontinued.
Chapter 5 is flawed and imperfect, but it is well worth reading, if one is interested in the philosophy of religion.  Loftus presents the views of various contemporary philosophers of religion about the present state of the philosophy of religion, and then Loftus comments on the points made by these philosophers.  This is a good approach to clarifying his own views, plus it provides the reader with ideas and alternative ways of looking at this subject, which is interesting and informative.
Loftus tries to cover points and ideas from too many different philosophers in just one chapter, so his comments are generally too skimpy and superficial.  He should have either written multiple chapters covering the material in Chapter 5, or else focused in on just two or three philosophers and put more effort into explaining and clarifying his own views in contrast to those two or three philosophers.
However, he does cover three philosophers in moderate depth: Graham Oppy (p.117-118), Paul Draper (p.121-125), and Kevin Schilbrak (p.126-129). There is also about a full page devoted to Timothy Knepper’s views of philosophy of religion (p.129-130). Gregory Dawes gets nearly about 2/3 of a page for a long quotation (p.120-121).   Linda Zagzebski gets about 1/2 of a page, as does Nick Trakakis (p.115-116).  There are a couple of quotations from our own Keith Parsons (p.117, 118-119), and one quote from Jeff Lowder, who is referred to as “One other Secular Outpost author”, and who gets identified by name only in the end note (quoted on p.117, end note on p.136).
[/RANT ON]  
I often criticize Christian philosophers and apologists for their UNCLARITY and lack of sufficient argumentation, which is usually due to the fact that they are too skimpy in their writing.  For example, William Craig tries to prove that Jesus really died on the cross in just three and one-half pages in The Son Rises (p.36-40).  Craig fails to offer even one bit of actual legitimate historical evidence, and so his case is complete crap.  I am currently critically examining Norman Geisler’s case for God in When Skeptics Ask.   His entire case for God is given in just 18 pages, and 2.5 pages of that are taken up with historical side notes and a diagram.  So, his actual writing is only about 15 pages.
I have covered most of the arguments in those 15 pages and concluded that they were a “hot steaming pile of dog shit.”  I’m not sure that Geisler could do any better if he used 150 pages to present his case for God, but if he presented a more lengthy case, he would certainly need to provide more details and would have more opportunity to clarify his key concepts and claims and inferences.  Geisler’s arguments are filled with vagueness and ambiguities.  He fails to define the word “God” and repeatedly misuses this word, even though the conclusion for which he is arguing is that “God exists.”
The main problem with Chapter 5 is primarily that it is UNCLEAR because it is TOO SKIMPY; it has the same problem that I see in the writing of most Christian apologists.  It is a problem that one expects in the writing of undergraduate students of philosophy, but which should not be nearly so common in the writing of philosophers and intellectuals.  It is to be expected that an undergraduate student of philosophy would try to make a case for the existence of God in a short five or ten page essay.  But no professional philosopher should be so stupid as to think that it is possible to make a clear and persuasive case for God in just five or ten pages.
Richard Swinburne’s case for God is presented in three books: (1) The Coherence of Theism (308 pages), (2) The Existence of God (342 pages), and (3) The Resurrection of God Incarnate (203 pages).  Swinburne’s case for the existence of God is thus 853 pages long.   There are lots of philosophical details and arguments in these books that are not essential to his case, so 853 pages is a bit of overkill.
But even Swinburne’s popular case for God for general audiences (Is There a God?) is 137 pages, and this does not include his capstone argument for God, which concerns the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  So, even a popular presentation of Swinburne’s case for God would run over 200 pages, if it included his argument based on the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  Geisler’s feeble attempt to make a case for God in just 15 pages is nothing more than a pathetic joke.
[/RANT OFF]
OK.  Back to Reason #9, which I take to be the central argument for the view that we ought to put an end to the discipline of philosophy of religion.  Chapter 5 opens with some clarifications of the conclusion for which Loftus is arguing, so before I get into any further analysis of his main argument, let’s review some points of clarification and qualification from the opening of Chapter 5:
…I’m not saying philosophy proper is stupid or dead or unnecessary… (p. 111)
…I’m not saying that atheist philosophers…should dismiss religions out of hand or ridicule them.  (p.111)
…I’m not even saying that atheist philosophers should cease writing books on philosophy of religion (PoR) or that they should cease all lectures or classes on such topics in secular universities.   (p.112)
He adds this point at the end of his comments about “what I’m not proposing”:
Keep in mind, however, that if they [“atheist philosophers and intellectuals”] do PoR correctly it will no longer be considered the philosophy of religion as defined today, but something else. (p.112)
In the section called “What I am Proposing” (on pages 112 through 115), Loftus provides clarification about what he IS proposing:
It [Loftus’ proposal] follows the same pattern as Hector Avalos’ call to end biblical studies as we know it… (p.112)
It’s also something Peter Boghossian proposed in his provocative book, A Manual for Creating Atheists (p.112)
[Boghossian’s advice to educators]: “…Do not take faith claims seriously.  Let the utterer know that faith is not an acceptable basis from which to draw a conclusion that can be relied upon.”  (p.112)
The fourth paragraph is probably the most important one in this section, so I will quote the entire paragraph here:
I am primarily calling for the end of PoR as a separate subdiscipline under philosophy in secular universities.  Further, whenever there is a PoR class, it should be taught correctly, if it’s to be done at all.  Like all other subjects in secular universities, PoR classes must be taught in a secular way by treating all faith-based claims equally and privileging none, if they are taught at all.  If PoR is successfully taught in this bold and honest manner, the instructors themselves will help end the PoR and religion along with it.  Philosophers of religion should go about the task of putting themselves out of a job by telling their students the truth–that faith is an unreliable way to gain objective knowledge about matters of fact such as the nature of nature, its workings, and its origins.  It is also an unreliable way to decide which religion is true, if there is one. (Unapologetic, p.112-113)
Loftus provides another two pages or so of comments explaining what he is proposing, but this paragraph is sufficient clarification of his conclusion for now.
I want to return now to Reason #9, and to a careful analysis of the reasoning present in the two paragraphs in which Loftus presents Reason #9 (on page 135).  I am going to re-number the main claims made in those two paragraphs as follows:
Key Claims from 1st Paragraph
1.  …faith-based reasoning must end.
2.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end.
3.  …faith has no justification, nor merit, nor warrant. 
4.  A reasonable faith does not exist, nor can faith be a guide for reasoning to any objective conclusion.
5.  The claims of religious faith via PoR cannot be reasonably defended.
 
Key Claims from 2nd Paragraph
6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.
7. Faith is indeed an unreliable way to gain objective knowledge about the world.
8. …faith-based reasoning cannot justify any claim concerning matters of fact…
9. …philosophy of religion is reasoning about that which is unreasonable.
10.  It [philosophy of religion] takes the utterly unwarranted conclusions of faith seriously.
11. …the very first principle of religion is faith.
 
The logic of the core argument is clearer than I previously thought.  Premise (2) indicates the basic logical structure of the argument:

IF X and Y, THEN Z.

X

 Y

THEREFORE:

Z

Premise (2) is the conditional statement, and premise (6) asserts one of the conjuncts in the antecedent of (2), so to complete the argument, we only need the other conjunct in the antecedent of (2), and the conclusion is the consequent of (2):
Core Argument in Reason #9

2.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end.

6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.

A.  PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion.

THEREFORE:

PoRME: Philosophy of Religion must end.

Given this basic logical structure, the other statements are presumably either support for one of the three premises, or clarification of one of the three premises, or clarification of the conclusion.
Before I make an attempt to reconstruct further details of Loftus’ argument constituting Reason #9, I must confess that I don’t think I will be able to “demolish” this argument, or to stab a sharp dagger into the heart of the beast (i.e. Reason #9).   But my failure to “demolish” this argument is NOT because the argument is a good and solid argument.  The reason I don’t think I will be able to “demolish” this argument is because it is very UNCLEAR, and there is little hope that Loftus will be willing and able to make it CLEAR.
Consider premise (6), for example.
6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.
The subject of this statement is “religion”.  This word is notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of “religion” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The word “faith” is also notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of “faith” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The phrase “X is based on faith in Y” is perhaps a bit less unclear than the word “faith” considered by itself.  But this phrase does inherit some unclarity from the problematic word “faith” and it has the additional issue of the unclarity of the phrase “X is based on…”  This phrase is vague and unclear.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of the phrase “X is based on faith in Y”, any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The word “supernatural” is notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” and “philosophy” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of the word “supernatural” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The key argument at the heart of Unapologetic is very UNCLEAR.  This key argument makes use of words and phrases that are notoriously unclear, so this argument should be rejected by any person who is a critical thinker unless and until Loftus provides clear definitions of the key terms and phrases in this argument.
Here are some of the key words and phrases that are in need of clarification or definition:
“religion”
“faith” 
“X is based on faith”
“faith in Y”
“X is based on faith in Y”
“using reason”
“philosophy” 
“philosophy of religion”
“supernatural”
“supernatural forces and entities”
Loftus fails to define ANY of these UNCLEAR and problematic words and phrases in Chapter 5.  I have also scanned through Chapters 1 through 4 looking for clear definitions of these words and phrases and have come up empty handed.  I have no idea whether this central argument of Loftus’ book Unapologetic is a GOOD argument or a BAD argument, and I suspect that I never will know, because I don’t believe that Loftus has a clear idea of what “religion” means, nor of what “faith” means, nor of what “reason” means.  If he had a clear idea of what these words mean, then he would have no problem defining what they mean or providing significant clarification about what these words mean, but he never does this.
Loftus does make a very brief attempt at defining “faith”, but the definition is unclear, and he makes no effort to explain or defend his definition, and he never uses or refers to the definition when presenting his central arguments in Chapter 5.  The definition is found in Chapter 4:
I consider faith to be an unrecognized-as-yet cognitive bias that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true, even if there is no objective evidence at all … (Unapologetic, p.92)
Because Loftus provides no additional explanation or defense of this definition, and does not refer to or make use of this definition in presenting his key arguments in Chapter 5, I am not going to waste my time analyzing and evaluating this definition.  It appears to be tossed off the top of his head with little thought behind it.
As it stands, the central argument of Unapologetic reminds me of Geisler’s arguments for God in When Skeptics Ask.  Geisler never bothers to define the key word “God”, and he clearly misuses the word “God”, and commits the fallacy of equivocation more than once because of his sloppy and ambiguous use of the word “God”.  In general, Geisler’s case for God is a steaming pile of dog shit, and it is so mainly because it is filled with UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS words and phrases that Geisler never bothers to clarify or define.  The central argument in Unapologetic is also a steaming pile of dog shit, just like Geisler’s case for God, because it uses several UNCLEAR words and phrases and because Loftus makes no serious intellectual effort to define or clarify the meanings of those words and phrases.
Because there is no serious effort to provide definitions of key words and phrases in the central argument of Unapologetic, I doubt that Loftus has a clear idea of what those key words and phrases mean.
Furthermore, there are indications in a couple of passages in the book, that Loftus has an intellectual or ideological resistance to defining key words and phrases.  In my view, that means that Loftus has an intellectual or ideological resistance to thinking critically, because the first and most fundamental principle of critical thinking is this:

  • Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.

Another very basic principle of critical thinking is this:

  • CLARITY is a gateway standard of thinking.

If a statement or argument is UNCLEAR, then we cannot rationally and objectively evaluate that statement or argument.
The first passage that indicates Loftus has a problem with definitions is in Chapter 1:
Which brings me to the value of philosophy.  Over the last decade I have found that one bastion for Christian apologists has been philosophy, especially the philosophy of religion.  The scholars have honed their definitional apologetics in such a fine-tuned manner that when engaging them in this discipline, it’s like trying to catch a greased pig.  Or, to switch metaphors, trying to chase them down the rabbit’s hole in an endless and ultimately fruitless quest for definitions.  What’s an extraordinary claim?  What constitutes evidence?  What’s the definition of supernatural?  What’s the scientific method?  What’s a miracle?  What’s a basic belief?  What’s a veridical religious experience?  What’s evil? …  (Unapologetic, p.28, emphasis added)
This strikes me as a fundamentally anti-intellectual statement by Loftus.  Definitions are an important tool of philosophy, critical thinking, of science, and of scholarship in general.  But Loftus appears to be taking an anti-definition stance here.  That, in my view, is a position against critical thinking and rationality.
But perhaps that was just a bit of overblown whining by Loftus about Christian apologists, and it does not represent a general antipathy towards definitions and conceptual analysis.  However, when we read the exchange between Peter Boghossian and Keith Parsons in Chapter 4, it becomes clear that Bogghosian, who is a leading light for Loftus’ view of religion and philosophy of religion, has a very negative view of definitions and conceptual analysis.
Parsons’ initial critique of Boghossian indicates a concern about the clarity of a key claim made by Boghossian:

  1. Evolution occurred.
  2. Faith is a malaise.

(1) is an established scientific fact.  (2) is Professor Boghossian’s  opinion.  It may be an informed opinion, but it is an opinion.  For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that (2) is true in whatever sense Prof. Boghossian intends.(Unapologetic, p.89)
Parsons’ is being a bit too subtle here, but he is hinting at the fact that the key statement (2) is UNCLEAR, and it’s meaning is in need of clarification by Boghossian.  Boghossian appears to have missed the subtle hint, because his response does not provide any clarification or definition of “faith” (at least in what Loftus quotes of his response).
In Keith Parsons’ reply to Boghossian’s response, he points out the problem of the need for clarity and definition more firmly and straightforwardly:
Of course, if one interprets “faith” to mean only “wishful thinking” then certainly it is an unreliable belief-forming process.  However, I think we need to be clear that in attacking “faith” we are attacking it only in this rather trivialized sense, and not in a more sophisticated and nuanced sense.  (Unapologetic, p.90)
The only reasonable response to this objection by Parsons would be for Boghossian to clarify and define what he means by the word “faith”.  If Boghossian has a clear understanding of the meaning of the word “faith” (or even just of his own use of the word “faith” in this context), then he ought to have no trouble providing a definition or analysis of the meaning of this word, but that is NOT what Boghossian does.  Instead, he seems to attack the idea of trying to define or clarify the meaning of this word:
Second, the histories of philosophy and theology are replete with people trying to define faith.  Anselm’s definition is floral mumbo-jumbo.
[…]
One can talk about “a more sophisticated or nuanced sense” of the word “faith”, but this does not change the fact that faith claims are knowledge claims.  It also does not change the fact that certain processes of reasoning are unreliable.  Faith is not a reliable process of reasoning. … (Unapologetic, p.91)
So, Boghossian appears to think that the efforts of philosophers and theologians to clarify the meaning of the word “faith” is a hopeless task, and he offers no definition or clarification of the word “faith” and then he just plows ahead and continues making UNCLEAR claims about faith: “Faith is not a reliable process of reasoning.”
He does this after Parsons has directly and plainly challenged him to clarify what he means by the word “faith”.  Given Boghossian’s FAILURE to provide a definition or clarification of the meaning of “faith”, and given his derogatory comments about the efforts of philosophers and theologians to CLARIFY the meaning of this word, it appears fairly certain that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to providing definitions or analyses of the meanings of key words or phrases.
Parsons makes one final effort to drive the point about CLARITY home to Boghossian:
(2) Faith is not a reliable belief-forming process.
[…]
…I would assert (2) to a class but would be very careful to say just what I meant by “faith.”  I would make it abundantly clear that what I was attacking was something like “faith” in the sense defined by Ambrose Bierce: “Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.”  “Faith” is a vague term, and to attack it without proper and careful qualification would be perceived  as an attack on religious belief per se…  (Unapologetic, p.92)
It is not clear whether Boghossian finally got the OBVIOUS point that Keith Parsons repeatedly attempted to communicate to him. Loftus does not provide us with further comments by Boghossian in response to this point by Parsons.
But I seriously doubt that Boghossian responded to Parsons with a definition or analysis of what he meant by the word “faith”.  First, there is good reason to believe that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological opposition to providing definitions of key concepts, which I take to be an intellectual or ideological opposition to some basic principles of critical thinking.  Second,  if Boghossian had provided a definition or analysis of the meaning of the word “faith” I would expect Loftus to pass that on to readers here, because Loftus looks up to Boghossian as a leading light on this subject.  Loftus’ failure to provide us with a definition of “faith” from Boghossian in this passage is evidence that no such definition was offered by Boghossian (in this exchange between Boghossian and Parsons).
So, for three reasons I doubt that Loftus will ever provide us with a clear argument against the philosophy of religion:

  1. His failure to provide any definition or analysis of the meaning of any of the key words and phrases in his central argument suggests that he does not have a clear idea of what those words mean.
  2. The passage on page 28 indicates that Loftus has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to defining or analyzing the meanings of key words and phrases (at least relating to philosophy, religion, and theology).
  3. The exchange between Boghossian and Parsons (on pages 88 to 92) indicates that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to defining or analyzing the meanings of key words and phrases (at least relating to philosophy, religion, and theology), and Loftus looks up to Boghossian as a leading light on this subject.

Thus, the central argument of Unapologetic is very UNCLEAR, and I have little hope that Loftus will ever provide definitions or analyses of the meanings of the key words and phrases in that argument, so I have little hope that I will ever be able to rationally and objectively evaluate that argument.
I could, of course, provide my own definitions of the key words and phrases, but then Loftus would very likely reply to any objections that I raise to the clarified argument, that I had misunderstood or misinterpreted his meaning, and was committing a Straw Man fallacy against the argument that constitutes Reason #9, the most central and important reason that he has given in support of the conclusion that “Philosophy of religion must end.”  This is the same sort of BS that Christian apologists like to pull.  They put forward CRAPPY and UNCLEAR arguments (such as those of Norman Geisler) and then complain about being misinterpreted when skeptics attempt to clarify their argument enough to make the arguments subject to rational and objective evaluation.
In 2014, Boghossian took a swipe at philosophy of religion that impressed Loftus:
“Being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.” (Unapologetic, p. 33)
Here is my own swipe back at Boghossian and Loftus:
Being published in a book or article that attacks “faith” or “religion” without providing a clear definition or analysis of the meaning of the word “faith” or “religion” should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.
Any person who does this sort of anti-intellectual and anti-critical-thinking bullshit does NOT deserve to be treated seriously as a philosopher or intellectual.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 9: The Supreme Moral Lawgiver

In Phase 1 of his case for the existence of God (in When Skeptics Ask, hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler argues for the existence of  a “supreme moral Lawgiver”.  The argument goes like this (see WSA, p. 22):
Geisler’s Moral Argument
32. There is an objective moral law.
33. Moral laws imply a moral lawgiver.
THEREFORE:
34. There is a being that is the supreme moral lawgiver.
Premise (32) is a controversial claim, and so a good reason or agument is needed to support this claim.  Geisler gives three reasons in support of (32) on pages 23 and 24 of WSA:

  • “all men hold the same things to be wrong (like murder, rape, theft, and lying).
  • “if there is no objective moral law, then there can be no right or wrong value judgements.” –including the judgment that “there is no objective moral law”.
  • “Everyone expects others to follow some moral codes, even those who try to deny them.”  

The first point is a weak and inadequate reason, because there are obvious practical advantages to the imposition of some moral contraints on human behavior.  If given a choice between a world or a society in which murder, rape, theft, and lying were allowed without any punishment or constraint and a world or society in which murder, rape, theft, and lying were punished and constrained, most human beings would prefer to live in a world or society of the latter sort.
Life in “a state of nature” where there are no constraints on human behavior would be nasty, brutish, and short.  There are obvious practical and self-interested reasons for prefering a world or society in which violent and harmful human actions were constrained.  We don’t need to posit mysterious metaphysical entities (i.e. “objective moral laws”) to explain the fact that there are widespread (in various cultures and socieities) constraints against violent and harmful human actions.
The second reason is clearly FALSE.  The non-existence of objective moral laws does NOT logically imply the non-existence of objective value judgements.  Moral judgements are a sub-set of value judgements, so it is logically possible for there to be ZERO objective moral judgments while, at the same time, there are MANY objective value judgments.
Furthermore, the claim that “there is no objective moral law” appears on its face to be a metaphysical claim, NOT a value judgment.  It is a claim about what sorts of things really exist, and such claims are descriptive or factual claims.  But a descriptive or factual claim is NOT a value judgment.  Therefore, the claim that “there is no objective moral law” appears on its face to NOT be a value judgement.   Geisler, thus needs to provide a serious philosophical argument against the very plausible view that the claim “there is no objective moral law” is a desccriptive or factual claim.  He has made no attempt here to do this, so his second reason remains very dubious.
The expectation that others will follow a set of moral rules or principles can be explained without appealing to the existence of  “objective moral law”.   A subjective, human-created set of moral rules or principles would presumably be based upon some practical and self-interested motivations (such as the benefits of cooperation between humans, and of avoiding “a state of nature” in which life was nasty, brutish, and short).  But to acheive the goals of the practical and self-interested motivations, a society must actually constrain human behavior to a significant degree.  A socieity, for example, would have to actually be successful in keeping murder and rape down to a low level; otherwise,  the moral rules or constraints would fail to provide significant practical advantages.
It is obvious that inculcating belief in the importance of such moral rules or constraints in the individuals of the society would help to ensure that the society was successful in actually reducing the incidence of murder and rape, for example.   Thus, we would expect that although most societies would use punishments of murder and rape to reduce the incidence of these behaviors, that most societies would ALSO inculcate beliefs and values in individual members of society so that individuals would view the moral rules and constraints of the society as important and worthy of being followed and maintained.
Therefore, even if moral rules and constraints are purely  human creations that are based on practical and self-interested motivations, we would expect that most societies would inculcate beliefs and values in individuals such that most people in the society would “expect others to follow some moral codes”.  Therefore, Geisler’s third reason fails to show that there is such a thing as “objective moral law”.
Premise (33) has the same sort of ambiguity as the second premise of Geisler’s argument from design.  Does “imply” mean “logically entail”?  If not, then what does it mean?
With designs and designers we have some actual experience upon which we can base an empirical generalization connecting designs to designers.  But with moral laws, we have no such actual experience.  It is not clear that there are such things as “objective moral laws” at all, but even assuming that such things exist, the origin of such laws are not subject to experience and observation in the way that designs and designers are subject to experience and observation.  So, it seems implausible to assert an empirical or contingent relationship between moral laws and moral lawgivers.
But, as with the argument from design, if we take (33) to assert a logically necessary connection between “moral laws” and “moral lawgivers”, then in order to KNOW that a moral law exists, one must first KNOW that a moral lawgiver exists who “gave” that law, but in that case premise (32) would beg the question at issue, because in order to KNOW that (32) was true, one would have to first KNOW that there was a moral lawgiver who “gave” a moral law, but this is what the argument is attempting to prove.  So, it seems clear that we cannot interpret premise (33) to mean that there is a logically necessary connection between the existence of  a “moral law” and the existence of a “moral lawgiver”.
Furthermore, not only is the truth of (33) problematic, but there is good reason to suspect it is false.  Some analogous claims are false or dubious:
A. Laws of physics imply a physical lawgiver.
B. Laws of mathematics imply a mathematical lawgiver.
C. Laws of logic imply a logical lawgiver.
Claim (A) is dubious, and claims (B) and (C) are clearly FALSE.  The laws of logic and mathematics are logically necessary truths.  But logically necessary truths do not require any explanation for their existence, so no god or “lawgiver” is required to explain the existence of laws of mathematics or laws of logic.
The laws of physics are not logically necessary truths; they are contingent truths learned by observation.  However, it seems plausible that the laws of physics are NOT the product of a god or a supernatural mind, but are simply the result of unthinking random forces or processes.  The laws of physics MIGHT be something that was produced by a god or supernatural mind, but it is far from obvious that this is the only reasonable explanation for the existence and nature of the laws of physics.
Because claims that appear to be analogous to (33) are false or dubious, this gives us a good reason to doubt that (33) is true.
The inference to the conclusion is also logically invalid.  There might well be MANY moral laws, so for all we know there might well be MANY moral lawgivers, even if we assume that the premises of Geisler’s argument are both true.  What we can validly and logically infer from these premises is only that there is AT LEAST ONE moral lawgiver; we cannot logically infer that there is EXACTLY ONE being who is “the supreme moral lawgiver”.  Claim (34) does NOT logically follow from premises (32) and (33).
NOTE: Geisler actually uses the phrase “a supreme moral lawgiver” rather than “the supreme moral lawgiver”, but the word “supreme” implies that he is talking about ONE SINGLE being, and in Phase 2, Geisler shifts to talking about “God” instead of “a supreme moral lawgiver” and this also implies that he thinks that he has previously established that there was EXACTLY ONE “supereme moral lawgiver”.  In any case, Geisler’s argument requires that he establish that there is EXACLTY ONE supreme moral lawgiver, otherwise he cannot identify “the” cause of the begninning of the universe with “the” moral lawgiver, and that means he cannot show that the cause of the begining of the universe has the characteristics (allegedly) possessed by moral lawgivers (e.g. moral goodness).
Both premises of Geisler’s moral argument are dubious and problematic, and the inference in  is logically invalid, so Geisler has FAILED to show that there is a being that is “the supreme moral lawgiver”.  So, he has nothing to build upon in Phase 2 of his case for the existence of God (in terms of the moral argument that he presented in Phase 1 of his case).
The Fourth Argument in Phase 2
In Phase 2, Geisler argues that “God is a moral being” and that “God…is good.”  (WSA. p.27).  Here once again, Geisler is misusing the word “God”.   Phase 2 is part of his case for the existence of God, so he cannot have premises that ASSUME the existence of God.  The use of the word “God” at this stage of the game is misleading and confusing.  Geisler knows that he has not yet proved the existence of God, that is to say, that he has not proved the existence of God in the ordinary sense of the word.
Geisler thinks that in Phase 1, he has proved the existence of the being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and that he has proved the existence of the supreme moral Lawgiver.  So, when Geisler uses the word “God” in Phase 2 when he is building upon his previous moral argument, he either means “the being who caused the universe to begin to exist” or else he means “the supreme moral Lawgiver”.
In the first three arguments of Phase 2, Geisler attempted to show that “whatever caused the universe to [begin to] exist…had great power, …[and] also great intelligence.”  (WSA, p.26).  So, it appears that Geisler is trying to show that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has all of the main characteristics that are part of the concept of God.  Therefore, it seems clear that when Geisler is arguing in Phase 2 that “God…is good”, what he means is that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist is good [morally good].
However, Geisler’s fourth argument in Phase 2 is clearly focused on “the supreme moral lawgiver” whose existence Geisler supposedly established in Phase 1.  So, once again, Geisler is ASSUMING that the cause of the beginning of the universe is the same being as some other being that he thinks he has shown to exist, namely “the supreme moral lawgiver”.  But Geisler has provided no reason whatsoever to believe that these two beings are the same being.   Once again, his Phase 2 argument about the supreme moral lawgiver FAILS, just like the other Phase 2 arguments FAILED, because he made similar assumptions for which he provided no reason whatsoever to believe.
Geisler gives one argument to show that “God is a moral being”, that is to say, to show that the cause of the beginning of the universe is a moral being (see WSA, p.27):
ARGUMENT 4 of PHASE 2
34.  There is a being that is the supreme moral lawgiver.
35. A moral law exists in the mind of every moral lawgiver.
THUS:
36. A moral law exists in the mind of the supreme moral lawgiver.
37. IF a moral law exists in the mind of the supreme moral lawgiver, THEN the supreme moral lawgiver is a moral being who knows the difference between right and wrong.
THUS:
38.  The supreme moral lawgiver is a moral being who knows the difference between right and wrong.
39.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is also the supreme moral lawgiver.
THEREFORE:
40. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a moral being who knows the difference between right and wrong.
Here is a diagram of this argument, with the conclusion at the top, and the supporting premises below it (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Argument 4 of Phase 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There are two obvious major problems with this argument, right off the bat.  First, because Geisler FAILED to establish the conclusion of his moral argument, there is no good reason to believe that premise (34) is true.
Second, in order for Geisler’s case to work, he needs to show that the being “that caused the universe to begin to exist” has the characteristics that are (allegedly) possessed by “the supreme moral lawgiver”.  To do so, he must use premise (39),  which asserts that these two beings are the same being.  Premise (39) is obviously a controversial claim, so it is a question begging premise, unless and until Geisler provides a good reason or argument to show it to be true.  But Geisler has provided no reason whatsoever to believe that premise (39) is true.  So, we ought to reject premise (39).
Furthermore, since Geisler has FAILED to show that there is such a being as “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist” and since he has also FAILED to show that there is such a being as “the supreme moral lawgiver,” premise (39) is highly questionable.
So, it is clear from the start that Argument 4 of Phase 2 is a FAILURE, and that Geisler has FAILED to show that claim (40) is true.
There are other problems with this argument, which I will explore in the next post in this series, and there is also another Phase 2 argument to consider: Geisler’s argument for the claim that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a morally good being.
 

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 2: The Heart of the Book

A couple of the comments on my previous post (see Unapologetic Review – Part 1) were critical about my provision of details about the general physical characteristics of John Loftus’ new book Unapologetic.  The commenters did not explain WHY this was objectionable, but I suspect it is a matter of childish impatience on the part of the commenters.  I think if they had been more honest and straightforward their objections would have gone something like this:
 What about the key ideas and the main arguments? Hurry up and get to the good stuff!  Don’t waste time on trivial and insignificant details about the layout of the book.
I don’t accept this objection to Part 1 of my review, but I understand the sentiment.  For others who also feel a bit impatient about getting to the good stuff, I promise that in this post I will not only get to some of the good stuff, but will quickly go from zero-to-sixty, and I will, in just a moment, go right to the heart of the matter.
First, I have just a little bit more to say about the layout of the book.  I previously stated that each of the nine chapters was preceeded by a blank page.  That is not accurate.  Chapters 4 and 6 are preceeded by pages with end notes from the previous chapter, and there is a bit of end notes from the previous chapter just prior to Chapters 2 and 8.  So, instead of nine blank pages, there are actually 6.5 blank pages in the main body of the text.
Here are the titles of the chapters in Unapologetic:

  1. My Intellectual Journey
  2. Anselm and Philosophy of Religion
  3. Case Studies in Theistic Philosophy of Religion
  4. Case Studies in Atheistic Philosophy of Religion
  5. Why Philosophy of Religion Must End
  6. How to Effectively Deal with Faith-Based Claims
  7. Answering Objections and Other Practical Concerns
  8. It’s Enough to Be Right!
  9. On Justifying Ridicule, Mockery, and Satire

Note the title of Chapter 5: “Why Philosophy of Religion Must End”.  This Chapter title is the same as the subtitle of the book:  Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End.   So, it is reasonable to infer that Chapter 5 is the heart of this book.
Furthermore, in flipping through Chapter 5, I see that Loftus has titled a sub-section of this chapter as “Why Philosophy of Religion Must End”, and in that sub-section of Chapter 5, he has provided a summary of his reasons for believing that philosophy of religion must end (on pages 131-135).   So, those five pages appear to be the heart of Chapter 5.
I plan to start my critique of the case presented by Loftus by analyzing and evaluating the reasons that Loftus presents in those five pages.  My evaluation will, of course, be somewhat tentative, because to be fair to Loftus I need to read the rest of Chapter 5, as well as the other eight Chapters of the book, before I can be confident that my initial responses and criticisms to the reasons given in those five pages are fair, and to be confident that Loftus has not anticipated some or all of my initial criticisms and objections, in other chapters of the book.
In the five pages where Loftus summarizes his reasons for believing that philosophy of religion must end, he numbers sub-sections 1 through 10, so he apparently has ten different reasons to give in support of his main conclusion.  In reading through these ten points, I see that there is a degree of redundance and overlap between the points.  There are clearly some themes here that come up repeatedly.
The two main themes are: (a) his opposition to “faith-based claims” and (b) his opposition to a “parochial” approach to religion.  I have some sympathy to both of these ideas or themes, but I am not convinced that any of the points relating to those two themes provides an adequate justification for the conclusion that philosophy of religion must come to an end.
I agree, to some extent, that philosophy of religion is often taught in a parochial manner and that this is a legitimate criticsm of how philosophy of religion is generally taught.  However, putting an end to philosophy of religion as a discipline amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  An obviously better approach would be to work at reforming philosophy of religion so that it was generally taught in a non-parochial (or less parochial) manner.  So, the “parochial” objections are based on fact and reality, and represent legitimate criticism of the field of philosophy of religion, but the prescription of ending the discipline is not adequately justified by those reasons.
The other main theme in Loftus’ list of reasons is his opposition to “faith-based claims”.  This theme appears in Reasons #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, #9, and #10.  So, if there is a problem with one of these objections that is based on opposition to “faith-based claims”, then that problem might well infect his whole case and undermine most of his 10 Reasons for ending philosophy of religion.
It appears to me that just as Chapter 5 is the heart of the book, and that the 10 Reasons are the heart of Chapter 5, so also I believe that Reason #9 (which concerns opposition to “faith-based claims”) for ending philosophy of religion is at the heart of the 10 Reasons.
If I can shove a sharp dagger into Reason #9, then I believe that will kill the beast, and stop the beating of the heart of Loftus’ case against the philosophy of religion.
Here is a diagram illustrating my high-level view of Unapologetic:
Unapologetic - Venn Diagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Conversely, if I cannot manage to demolish or seriously damage Reason #9, then that will be a good indication that Loftus has made a strong case for his conclusion, even if some of the other points (e.g. the theme about PoR being “parochial” in nature) are weak and inadequate reasons.
Christian apologists are fond of saying that “Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus”, and I think a similar kind of point applies here:
Loftus’ case against the philosophy of religion stands or falls with Reason #9.
Thus, a very good place to start an evaluation of this book, is on page 135, where Loftus spells out Reason #9.
I have a suspiscion that every one of the ten points in the list of reasons for ending PoR involves DOING philosophy of religion.  If so, then it seems to me that the whole case is SELF-REFUTING or SELF-UNDERMINING.  But, I do not plan to try to show that all ten points involve Loftus in DOING philosophy of religion.
However, there are three points in the list where it seems fairly obvious that Loftus is DOING philosophy of religion: Reason #1, Reason #8, and Reason #9.  Because Reason #9 appears to be the central and most important of the ten reasons, I will focus in on that reason first, objecting that it is a SELF-REFUTING or SELF-UNDERMINING reason.  Later, I will raise this sort of objection against Reason #1 and Reason #8.
It seems, at the very least, HYPOCRITICAL to DO philosophy of religion in order to argue for ending philosophy of religion.  But the problem might be more serious than that.  If DOING philosophy of religion is necessary to make the case against philosophy of religion, then the very act of building a case AGAINST the philosophy of religion demonstrates the VALUE of philosophy of religion.
The question of whether the philosophy of religion ought to be continued as a discipline or taught in courses at secular colleges and universities is clearly an important question, so if the philosophy of religion is needed to answer this question, then it follows that the philosophy of religion is needed in order to answer at least ONE important question.   This casts doubt on the conclusion that we ought to end the discipline of philosophy of religion.  Furthermore, if DOING the philosophy of religion is required in order to answer ONE important question, then how can we be sure it is not useful to answer OTHER important questions?
OK.  So, one potential problem with Reason #9, is that it is a SELF-REFUTING or SELF-UNDERMINING objection to the philosophy of religion.  Let’s take a closer look at Reason #9, to see if it does indeed involve Loftus in DOING philosophy of religion:
9. Because faith-based reasoning must end.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end.  For faith has no justification, nor merit, nor warrant.  A reasonable faith does not exist, nor can faith be a guide for reasoning to any objective conclusion.  The claims of religious faith via PoR cannot be reasonably defended. … (Unapologetic, p.135)
There are only two paragraphs in Reason #9.  The above quote represents about 2/3 of the first paragraph.  Loftus makes several assertions in the above passage, but the main premise appears to be the very first statement, so in it’s simplest form, his argument is this:
1.Faith-based reasoning must end.
THEREFORE:
2. Philosophy of religion must end.
But to understand Loftus’ reasoning we need to figure out how the other assertions are being used to support premise (1) or to form a logical connection between premise (1) and the conclusion (2).
It is not clear how to reconstruct the logic of this argument.  Here are the other key premises:
3. Philosophy of religion uses reason to examine the claims of religion.
4. Religion is based on faith.
5. Faith has no justification, nor merit, nor warrant.
6. Faith cannot be a guide for reasoning to any objective conclusion.
7. A reasonable faith does not exist.
8. The claims of religious faith cannot be reasonably defended.
Premise (5) appears to be the most basic reason for Loftus’ opposition to “faith-based claims”.  Premise (6) is also a reason for opposing “faith-based claims”, but seems less basic than (5), so I take premise (5) to be a reason supporting premise (6), and (6) appears to be a reason supporting premise (1) which is a prescriptive assertion that is based on a negative evaluation of faith.
(5)–>(6)–>(1)
Premise (4) asserts a logical or conceptual connection between “religion” and “faith”; this means that the negative evaluation of faith is transferred to religion, or at least this appears to be how Loftus justifies a negative evaluation of religion.  Premises (7) and (8) appear to be negative conclusions about religion that are based on a combination of (4) and (6),  based on both the connection between religion and faith in premise (4), and the negative evaluation of faith in premise (6).  Premises (7) and (8) are closely related in meaning, but (8) seems a bit clearer, so I think we can drop (7) and just use premise (8) in the analysis of Loftus’ argument:
(4) + (6)–>(8)
Given the above analysis, we can do an initial reconstruction the logic of this argument constituting Reason #9 (click on image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Reason #9 - Initial Analysis
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Consider some of the basic premises of this argument:
4. Religion is based on faith.
5. Faith has no justification, nor merit, nor warrant.
6. Faith cannot be a guide for reasoning to any objective conclusion.
In order to know that premise (4) is true, one must first know what “religion” means, and what “faith” means.
Loftus could simply stipulate definitions of these words, but then the question arises:  Are Loftus’ definitions unclear or idiosyncratic or do they reflect the ordinary meanings of these words?  If his definitions are unclear or idiosyncratic, then this argument might well be irrelevant to the real world, irrelevant to “religion” and “faith” as these words are understood by educated speakers of the English language.
The word “religion” is a problematic and unclear, but very important, word.  Trying to get clear about the meaning of the word “religion” is a basic task of the philosophy of religion, so in order for Loftus to properly justify premise (4), he must provide a clear and well-supported analysis of the word “religion”, and that means that he must DO philosophy of religion in order to rationally justify premise (4).
The same is true of the word “faith”.  The word “faith” is a problematic and unclear, but very important, word. Trying to get clear about the meaning of the word “faith” is a basic task of the philosophy of religion, so in order for Loftus to properly justify premise (4), premise (5), and premise (6), he must provide a clear and well-supported analysis of the meaning of the word “faith”, and that means that he must DO philosophy of religion in order to rationally justify premises (4), (5), and (6).
Premise (6) is a normative epistemological claim involving the concept of “faith”.  So, arguments for and against (6) fall within the scope of the philosophy of religion.  To provide a rational justification for (6), one must analyze and evaluate various philosophical arguments for and against (6),  so one must DO some philosophy of religion, namely epistemology of religious belief, in order to rationally justify or rationally evaluate claim (6).
The sub-argument that Loftus provides in support of premise (8) is clearly an argument in the philosophy of religion.  In order to rationally justify premise (8), Loftus provides us with a philosophical argument, an argument that falls in the scope of philosophy of religion.  Once again, Reason #9 requires that Loftus DO some philosophy of religion, and rational evaluation of Reason #9 requires that we DO some philosophy of religion.
If  this sub-argument by Loftus is successful, then that means that Loftus has established a very important philosophical claim by DOING some philosophy of religion.  But if he can establish ONE important philosophical claim by DOING philosophy of religion, then why should we believe that philosophy of religion has no chance of revealing OTHER important philosophical truths?
It seems clear to me that in order to rationally justify Reason #9, Loftus MUST DO some philosophy of religion.  He must provide clear and well-supported analyses of the meanings of the words “religion” and “faith” and of the phrase “philosophy of religion”.  He must also provide solid philosophical arguments that fall within the scope of philosophy of religion.
Furthermore, those of us who wish to rationally evaluate the analyses and arguments presented by Loftus in supporting Reason #9 MUST DO some philosophy of religion ourselves.  So, in presenting his case against philosophy of religion Loftus assumes the value of philosophy of religion, and in rationally evaluating his case, we must also assume the value of philosophy of religion.  
There is no purely scientific or mathematical way to defend these claims and arguments, nor to test and evaluate these claims and arguments.  This is philosophy, and rational justification of these philosophical claims and arguments about “faith” and “religion” constitutes a paradigm case of DOING philosophy of religion.  Thus, Reason #9 is a SELF-REFUTING or SELF-UNDERMINING argument.
The next thing that occurs to me in reading this paragraph, is that Loftus fails to recognize the distinction between the logic of discovery and the logic of proof.  The short version of this distinction is that there is no such thing as “the logic of discovery”, because how ideas and theories arise or originate is largely irrelevant to the testing and evaluation of ideas and theories.  Good ideas can come from “bad” or irrational  or unreliable sources.
That is a bit of an overstatement, because we do need to have some ways to filter out bad or stupid ideas prior to investing time and energy in testing and evaluating ideas and theories.  But there can be levels and degrees here.  We have some quick-and-dirty high-level ways to filter out obviously bad ideas, but those filters allow a lot of crap through,  so there are some quick and simple tests and evaluations that we can use on the crap that gets through the intial intellectual filters, in order to quickly assess the potential truth or falsehood of the flood of ideas and theories that make it through the initial filtering, and then, perhaps, we have narrowed the candidates down enough to make it reasonable to invest more time and energy on testing and evaluation of the ideas and theories that made it past the initial filters and the initial testing.
It does not matter how the ideas of “God” or “eternal life” or “the soul” or “divine judgment” or “faith” arose or originated.  What matters is how these ideas and theories do when we critically and objectively assess and evaluate them.  If all of the key ideas and theories produced by the religions of the world turn out to be FALSE or UNREASONABLE, then we will have good reason to doubt future ideas and theories that come from religions.  But surely Loftus would not make the extreme claim that ALL of the key ideas and theories produced by the religions of the world are FALSE or UNREASONBLE.  I doubt that Loftus has written about ALL of the key ideas and theories of Christianity, let alone of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Daoism, Judaism, and Confucianism.
If a religion can produce SOME ideas or theories that are TRUE or REASONABLE, then it makes sense to attempt to make an effort to objectively and critically evaluate key ideas and theories that originate from the religions of the world.
As an atheist and a skeptic I would be inclined to agree that MOST of the key ideas and theories of Christianity are FALSE or UNREASONABLE, so perhaps I would agree that the Christian religion is an unreliable source of ideas and theories.  But this conclusion is based, in large part, on my thinking in the area of philosophy of religion.  I have attempted to critically and objectively evaluate various ideas and theories that come from the Christian religion, and as a result of the time and energy that I put into such testing and evaluation, I have a rational basis for drawing the conclusion that much of Christianity is BS.
I suppose that if I were to teach a course in Philosophy of Religion, I could start the course with the following bit of skeptical advice:
I have spent several years attempting to objectively and critically evaluate the key ideas and theories of the Christian religion, and I have concluded that MOST of these ideas and theories are bullshit.  So, if you are looking for truth, then my advice would be to ignore the Christian religion and look elsewhere, because the Christian religion is an UNRELIABLE source of ideas and theories.
But, it seems to me, if I were to give such advice to college students, this advice would be BASED ON work I had done in the philosophy of religion, so I think it would be both hypocritical and illogical to go on to advise these students to drop the course on philosophy of religion, and to never take a course on philosophy or religion, and to never read a book on philosophy of religion.  That would be undermining the very basis for my negative assessment of the reliability of the Christian religion.
It is important to avoid FALSE beliefs, but as William James pointed out, it is also important to obtain TRUE beliefs.  The absence of false beliefs is not sufficient to lead a good life.  We also need to have some TRUE beliefs, or at least some well-founded, rationally-justified beliefs.  So, even if MOST of the ideas and theories of religions were false or unreasonable, it might still be worth looking for some of the TRUE or REASONABLE beliefs put forward by religions, the good ideas that are scattered among the bad ones.
Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that EVERY key idea and theory of EVERY religion is either FALSE or UNREASONABLE.  If that was so, wouldn’t that be an important generalization for people to learn about?  If all religions were large piles of false and unreasonable beliefs, then getting most people to recognize this important aspect of reality could be a great benefit for the human species.  But how could we bring about this awareness?  We could simply indoctrinate all students into the belief that religions were just large piles of false and unreasonable beliefs, but then brainwashing students into some atheistic or secular ideology seems just as irrational and opposed to critical thinking as indoctrinating students into some particular religion or religious ideology.
If it were the case that EVERY key idea and theory of EVERY religion was either FALSE or UNREASONABLE, then that would be an excellent reason for promoting the philosophy of religion, because that would, it seems to me, be the best way to help lots of people to begin to objectively and critically evaluate the key ideas and theories of various religions.  Then they could learn for themselves that religions were a highly unreliable source of ideas and theories.
This discussion of whether ALL or MOST religious beliefs are false or unreasonable reminds me that unclear quantification is a common problem with arguments in the philosophy of religion, and it seems to me that the argument presented in Reason #9 suffers from this problem, so in the next post of this series I will take a closer look at the argument constituting Reason #9, and I will pay close attention to any unclarity in it concerning quantification.
 

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 8: The Design of the Human Brain

The third argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for God is another development of his argument from design, and it has many of the same problems as the second argument in Phase 2.   
Here is the third argument, sticking closely to the words used by Geisler:
ARGUMENT #3 of PHASE 2  
26. God designed our brains. (WSA, p.26)  
27. IF God designed our brains, THEN God knows everything there is to know about the way we think.  (WSA, p.26)
THUS:  
28. God knows everything there is to know about the way we think.  
29. IF God knows everything there is to know about the way we think, THEN God had great intelligence.  
THEREFORE:  
30. God had great intelligence.  
Once again Geisler misuses the word “God”, making his argument unclear and confusing.  Geisler is trying to make a case for the existence of God, so to assert that “God designed our brains” as a premise in his argument for the existence of God blatantly begs the question at issue.  That is, if Geisler was using the word “God” in it’s normal sense, then premise (26) would clearly commit the fallacy of begging the question.  
But Geisler does NOT believe that he has proven the existence of God (in the nomal sense of the word) at this point in his argument. He does think that his initial argument from design proved the existence of “a Great Designer of the universe”.  So, when Geisler uses the word “God” here, he probably means “the designer of the universe”.  
To avoid confusion, the word “God” needs to be stripped out of this argument and replaced with the phrase “the designer of the universe”:
ARGUMENT #3 of PHASE 2  (Rev.A)  
26a. The designer of the universe designed human brains.   
27a. IF the designer of the universe designed human brains, THEN the designer of the universe knows everything there is to know about the way humans think. 
THUS:  
28a. The designer of the universe knows everything there is to know about the way humans think.  
29a. IF the designer of the universe knows everything there is to know about the way humans think, then the designer of the universe had great intelligence.  
THEREFORE:  
30a. The designer of the universe had great intelligence.  
But Geisler’s conclusion in this part of Phase 2 is that “whatever caused the universe…had…great intelligence.”  (WSA, p.26) So, once again, he needs premise (25), which he also needed in Argument #2 of Phase 2:  
25. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.  
From the combination of (30a) and (25), Geisler can infer his desired conclusion:  
31. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist had great intelligence.  
Because Argument #3 of Phase 2 requires premise (25), this argument FAILS, because premise (25) is questionable, and because Geisler FAILS to provide any reason whatsoever to believe that (25) is true.  Because this argument rests upon (25) it FAILS, just like Argument #2 of Phase 2, which also rested upon (25).
Here is a diagram of Argument #3 of Phase 2 (Rev.A), with the conclusion at the top, and the supporting premises below it: 
Argument 3 of Phase 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The other main premise of this argument is (30a), but this premise is obviously controversial and needs to be supported with a strong reason or argument.  Accordingly, Geisler provides us with an argument in support of (30a):
28a. The designer of the universe knows everything there is to know about the way humans think.  
29a. IF the designer of the universe knows everything there is to know about the way humans think, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence.  
THEREFORE:  
30a. The designer of the universe had great intelligence.  
The inference in this argument is logically valid (a standard modus ponens), so the only question we need to consider is whether both premises are true.  
Is premise (29a) true or false?  This premise is clearly FALSE, because there is a break in the logical connection between the antecedent and the consequent.  The antecedent uses the present tense verb “knows”, while the consequent uses the past tense expression “had great intelligence”.  So, the time-frames don’t match up.  
The fact that Joe knows calculus NOW, after passing the final of his third semester of calculus classes does NOT show that Joe “had a good grasp of calculus” when he was six years old, and just starting elementary school.  People can learn things and grow in knowledge and intelligence over time.  Similarly, even if the designer of the universe has a lot of knowledge NOW, this proves nothing about the knowledge or intelligence of the designer of the universe a thousand years ago, or a million years ago (the human brain has been around at least one million years).  
Geisler screwed up the reference to time frames in this argument, because he is a sloppy and unclear thinker.  The key time-frame that he FAILED to clearly point out and designate is this: when the human brain was being designed.  If there was a being who was “the designer” of the human brain, and if the design for the human brain was developed at some point in time (at least one million years ago), then “the designer” of the human brain must have had the required level of knowledge and intelligence to create such a design at the time when the design for the human brain was being produced.  For all we know, the designer of the human brain might have had less knowledge or intelligence prior to that time, and might have declined in knowledge or intelligence after the design of the human brain was completed.
For premise (29) to have any chance of being true, the time-frame in the antecedent must correspond to the time frame in the consequent:  
29b.  IF the designer of the universe knew (when the human brain was being designed) everything there was to know about the way humans think, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the human brain was being designed).  
And for premise (28) to affirm the antecedent of (29b), it must be modified to also refer to the same time frame:  
28b.  The designer of the universe knew (when the human brain was being designed) everything there was to know about the way humans think.  
The conclusion of this modus ponens inference must also be modified to refer to the same time-frame:  
30b. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the human brain was being designed).  
What about premise (29b)?  Is it true or false?  Since we have revised the premise so that the time-frame reference in the antecedent matches the time-frame reference in the consequent, I see no reason to doubt or reject (29b).  
So, the question of whether to believe that (30b) is true or false rests upon whether we believe that premise (28b) is true or false.  Premise (28b) is a controversial claim, and it is not obviously true, nor is it a necessary analytic truth.  In fact, as we will see later, there is a very good reason to doubt that (28b) is true.  But Geisler has provided us with an argument for (28b), so we need to examine that argument.  First we need to modify the time-frame reference in the consequent of premise (27), so that the inference to (28b) will be logically valid: 
26a. The designer of the universe designed human brains.   
27b. IF the designer of the universe designed human brains, THEN the designer of the universe knew (when the human brain was being designed) everything there was to know about the way humans think.
THUS:  
28b.  The designer of the universe knew (when the human brain was being designed) everything there was to know about the way humans think.  
Because we have fixed the confusion about time-frames in Geisler’s argument, the inference here is logically valid.  So, we just need to determine whether the premises are true or false.  Is (26a) true or false?  Geisler has FAILED to show that there is such a thing as “the designer of the universe”, so (26a) might literally be talking about nothing at all.  If there is no such being as “the designer of the universe” , then (26a) would be neither true nor false, since the expression “the designer of the universe” has no referent.  
Suppose that there were a being that was “the designer of the universe”, would it be reasonable in that case to believe that this being “designed human brains”?  There are some good reasons to doubt this.  
First, there is good reason to believe that the human brain is the product of random, unthinking forces and processes (i.e. evolution), and thus that even if there were a being that was “the designer of the universe” that being was NOT the designer of the human brain, because the human brain was not the product of ANY intelligent designer.  
Second, the universe has been in existence for billions of years, so the designer of the universe, if there ever were such a being, might well no longer exist, and might well have ceased to exist billions of years ago.  Since the human brain did not exist until about one million years ago, if there was a designer of the human brain, that being might well only be a few million years old, not old enough to be the designer of the universe.  So, even if there was a designer of the universe and a designer of the human brain, they might well have been two different beings who existed in different time-frames, separated by billions of years.  
Third, even if there was a designer of the universe, and even if that being still exists today, it might well still be the case that some OTHER intelligent designer produced the design of the human brain.  Geisler has provided no reason or argument in support of (26a), so given that there are good reasons to doubt (26a), and no good reason to believe (26a) is true, we ought to reject this premise as probably false.  
What about premise (27b)? Is that premise true?  There is a good reason to believe this premise to be false.  If there was a designer of the human brain, then this designer produced the design of the human brain at least one million years ago, because human brains have been around for at least that long.  The structures and functions of the human brain have a very large influence over “the way humans think”, but another significant influence over “the way humans think” is cultural in nature:  language, child-rearing, story-telling, education, religion, art, history, music, and philosophy.  These various social and cultural factors shape “the way humans think”.  
But human languages, cultures, stories, religions, art, history, music, philosophical ideas, are all complex historical phenomena that develop in random and unpredictable ways.  It seems impossible for any being, no matter how much knowledge it had of the biology and physiology of the brain, could predict all of the detailed ways in which human thinking would develop and evolve over the span of hundreds of thousands of years.  
Predicting the specific behaviour of fairly simple systems of physical objects accurately over hundreds of thousands of years is extremely difficult, so the much more complex and random developments of human cultures and societies (plus the interactions between various human cultures and societies) appears to be an impossible task, even for a being of superhuman intelligence.  Thus, there is good reason to doubt that even a being that had a good grasp of the structures and functions of the human brain would be able to anticipate the myriad of random details that would develop in human cultures and societies which would in turn have significant impacts on “the way humans think”.  Premise (27b) should be rejected because it is probably false.  
Because both of the premises in Geisler’s argument for (28b) are probably false, the argument for (28b) is very probably an UNSOUND argument, so we ought to reject that argument.  Furthermore, (28b) is subject to some of the same objections as the premises it is based upon.  Like (26a) it might well be talking about NOTHING, since it is questionable whether there is such a being as “the designer of the universe”, and Geisler has FAILED to show that there is such a being.  Like (27b), there is the problem of knowing about all of the various details of how human cultures and societies will evolve hundreds of thousands of years BEFORE those developments actually occur.  So, we have good reason to believe that (28b) is false, and Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to believe that (28b) is true, so we ought to conclude that (28b) is probably false.
Because (28b) is probably false, the argument provided by Geisler in support of premise (30b) is probably an unsound argument.  Furthermore, we have good reason to doubt that premise (30b) is true.  Premise (30b) is subject to some of the same objections raised against other premises in this argument.  
First, the assumption that there is such a being as “the designer of the universe” is highly questionable, and Geisler has provided no good reason to accept this assumption.  Second, even if there were such a being as “the designer of the universe” it is quite possible that this being ceased to exist billions of years ago,  billions of years before human brains were being designed, and thus it would not be true that “the designer of the universe” had great intelligence at the time the human brain was being designed.  Third, there probably is no such thing as the time “when the human brain was being designed” because the human brain is the product of random, unthinking forces and processes (i.e. evolution).  Fourth, even if there was such a thing as “the designer of the universe” and there was such a thing as “the designer of the human brain”, these beings might well have been different beings, and thus the intelligence of “the designer of the human brain” would have no relevance for determining the intelligence of “the designer of the universe.”  
Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to believe that premise (30b) is true, and there are some good reasons to doubt that (30b) is true, so we ought to reject (30b) as probably false.  So, Geisler has FAILED to provide a sound argument for this conclusion:
31b. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist had great intelligence (when the human brain was being designed).
CONCLUSION:
Here is the diagram of my final version (Rev.B) of  this argument:
Argument 3 of Phase 2 RevB
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have argued that every premise in Argument #3 of Phase 2 ought to be rejected, except for premise (29):

  • Premise (25) is questionable, and because Geisler FAILS to provide any reason whatsoever to believe that (25) is true.
  • There are good reasons to doubt (26a), and no good reason to believe (26a) is true, we ought to reject this premise as probably false.
  • Premise (27b) should be rejected because it is probably false.  
  •  We have good reason to believe that (28b) is false, and Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to believe that (28b) is true, so we ought to conclude that (28b) is probably false.
  • Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to believe that premise (30b) is true, and there are some good reasons to doubt that (30b) is true, so we ought to reject (30b) as probably false.

I did argue that premise (29a) was clearly and obviously FALSE, because Geisler screwed up the references to time-frames in that premise.  But after revising (29) to fix the problem with the mis-matched time-frames between the antecedent and the consequent of that premise, I accepted the revised premise (29b) as a true premise.  Other than this one premise, which is true only because I fixed an obvious problem with that premise, every other premise in the argument ought to be rejected.  
This argument is a hot steaming pile of dog shit.  It is completely unworthy of a professional philosopher who has spent decades teaching and writing about the philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics.  
How can Geisler write such crap?  I think part of the blame goes to Thomas Aquinas* and to Thomists who follow in the footsteps of Aquinas.  As Richard Swinburnes says somewhere, Aquinas’s Five Ways are probably the least successful parts of the philosophical reasoning by Aquinas.  But many view the Five Ways as good or plausible arguments for the existence of God, and this widespread delusion creates a very low bar for arguments for the existence of God.  The Five Ways should be viewed as examples of HOW NOT TO ARGUE for the existence of God.  Because they are often viewed as examples of good arguments for the existence of God, many people are led astray.
Another, perhaps more obvious, problem is that Geisler is preaching to the choir.  The audience or readers of Geisler’s books are generally Evangelical Chrstian believers who just want someone in a postion of authority to say “We have very good reasons and arguments to show that God exists, that Jesus is divine, and that the Bible is the Word of God.”  These Christian believers are uncritical thinkers, at least when it comes to theology and philosophy, so they will accept any pile of dog shit that Geisler serves them on a china platter.  Because Geisler writes for readers who are not skeptical and who are uncritical thinkers, he is intellectually lazy and sloppy, and has no real incentive to do any better.
 
*I should note that although I think the Five Ways of Aquinas are lousy arguments for the existence of God, I also think that Aquinas never intended the Five Ways to be taken as arguments for the existence of God.  Rather, they are merely the initial arguments of a long and complex case for the existence of God that extends far beyond the one page or so where he presents the Five Ways.  His case for God is presented in the “Treatise on God” in the First Part of Summa Theologica, specifically the first 26 Questions covered in Summa Theologica, consisting of about 150 pages of interconnected arguments.

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 1

John Loftus’ new book has just been released:
Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End
(Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing, 2016)
My copy arrived from Amazon by UPS yesterday.
The text starts on page 7 (the Forward); the introduction starts on page 11, and the main body of the text ends on page 235.  There is a blank page just before the start of each chapter, and there are nine chapters, so there are 9 blank pages in the main body of the text. So, the main body of text runs about 216 pages (235 – 10 pages prior to main body = 225 pages in main body – 9 blank pages  = 216 pages) .  There are end notes at the end of each chapter.
There is also an Appendix A (“My Interview with Keith Parsons”) on page 237, Appendix B (“Robert Price’s Rebuttal to William Lane Craig”) on page 250, and Appendix C (“The Demon, Matrix, Material World, and Dream Possibilities”) on page 257.  Appendix C ends on page 271, and there is one page “About the Author” at the very end of the book, on page 272.
I have not started to read the book yet.   However, I do have some key questions that I will be attempting to answer as I read, analyze, and evaluate this book:
GENERAL CRITICAL QUESTIONS:

GCQ1. Does Loftus provide clear and significant evaluative conclusions about the philosophy of religion?

GCQ2. Does Loftus provide clear and significant prescriptive conclusions concerning how things ought  to change if we accept his evaluation of the philosophy of religion?

GCQ3. Does Loftus present a clear and solid argument (or arguments) for his evaluative conclusions about the philosophy of religion?

GCQ4. Does Loftus present a clear and solid argument (or arguments) for his prescriptive conclusions about the philosophy of religion (based on his evaluative conclusions)?

SPECIFIC CRITICAL QUESTIONS:

SCQ1. Does Loftus provide a clear analysis of these concepts: philosophy, religion, and the philosophy of religion?

SCQ2. Does Loftus provide a well-supported analysis of the concept of philosophy and the concept of religion?

SCQ3. Is the analysis that Loftus provides of the concept of the philosophy of religion a fair and well-supported analysis, or is it a Straw Man characterization that makes it too easy to criticize, condemn, and reject the philosophy of religion?

SCQ4. Does the argument that Loftus makes against the philosophy of religion apply to philosophy in general? or to other respected sub-disciplines of philosophy? or to other clearly legitimate disciplines (science, psychology, sociology, history)?  Does his argument prove too much?

SCQ5. Does the argument that Loftus provides for either his evaluative conclusions or for his prescriptive conclusions depend on a dubious or unclear or ambiguous concept of faith?

bookmark_borderLiving in the Post-Truth Era

Donald Trump sailed into the White House on an ocean of lies. His erstwhile political opponent, and then wishy-washy supporter, Sen. Ted Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar.” I take it that a liar becomes pathological when his lies are no longer conscious fabrications, but merely statements made with no regard to truth or falsity. The pathological liar does not circumvent truth; he is oblivious to it. Truth is simply irrelevant to his narrative, which is aimed entirely at creating an emotional response, not at the transmission of information. Actually, in this case perhaps we should analyze the ostensible assertions in such a narrative in much the same way that the emotivists analyzed ethical assertions. “Murder is wrong” looks like an assertion of fact, but the emotivists said that the surface grammar of such ethical utterances is misleading, and that their real purpose is to express emotional responses. Saying “Murder is wrong” is really just a quieter way of saying “Murder! AAAAAHHH!”
Similarly, perhaps, apparent assertions in Trump campaign speeches, such as those claiming that Mexican immigrants are criminals or rapists, should not be taken as assertions at all, but merely as expressions of attitude designed to elicit the same attitude from listeners. In this case, a Trump campaign speech should not really be regarded as a farrago of lies, but as a post-truth narrative. Responding to such a narrative with fact-checking would have the same relevance as quoting the Marquess of Queensbury rules in a barroom brawl. It is to mistake the fundamental nature of the discourse and to assess it by criteria it was never meant to meet. Perhaps in some contexts these utterances take on an even more sinister aspect. Maybe saying “Mexican immigrants are rapists!” is actually a speech-act, a way of making a threat or intimidating.
Irrational people are often much cleverer than rational people. Rational people, bound by a principled devotion to truth, will generally respond to a post-truth narrative as if it were merely a set of falsehoods, which it is their job to correct. For instance, to the claim that immigrants are criminals, they will cite abundantly-documented, authoritative studies that show that first-generation immigrants, whether they entered legally or illegally, have lower rates of crime than the general population. True, but utterly irrelevant to the purposes of the rabble-rousing demagogue, who does not care at all if the claim is true or false, but only that it has the desired effect. While rational people struggle, entangled in the net of falsehoods like Laocoön in the coils of the serpents, the demagogue laughs at them in his rearview mirror as he speeds on to his next rhetorical triumph. “Suckers!” he gloats, sneering at the ineffectual writhing of his would-be debunkers.
So, what is a rational person to do when confronted with the purveyors of post-truth narratives? DO NOT try to engage them in rational debate. Hillary Clinton tried that—three times. When he went low, she went high. Then he went lower. For post-truthers, a debate is anything but a venue for logical argument and the presentation of evidence. Don’t think Oxford Debating Union. Think holy-roller tent revival. The point is to yank in the yokels and bring ‘em to Jesus.
How can you make post-truthers respect the truth? You can’t. Can you embarrass them with facts? No way. What you can do is to fight words with actions. I saw comedian John Oliver’s show yesterday, and he had it right. Don’t gripe, whine, or wallow in self-pity. Get busy. Contribute to groups that stand for what you stand for. For instance, don’t waste your breath on climate-change denialists, like that ignorant jackass Myron Ebell that Trump put in charge of the transition at the EPA. Instead, contribute to the environmental or conservation group of your choice. I just did. Or contribute to an organization that defends reproductive rights, or the rights of immigrants, or to an organization that supports science over claptrap. Get involved with groups in your community. Fight irrational words with rational actions.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 7: Argument #2 of Phase 2

Here is the second argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God:
ARGUMENT #2 of PHASE 2
21. “…the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.” (WSA, p.26)
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
THUS:
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
24. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
THEREFORE:
25. Whatever being “caused the universe” to begin to exist “had great intelligence” (when the universe was being designed).  (WSA, p.26)
Here is a diagram of this argument (with the conclusion at the top, and the premises below it):   

Argument 2 of Phase 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
This argument is also clearly a FAILURE.    Let’s begin with an examination of premise (24):
24. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
Geisler does not explicitly state this premise, but he clearly NEEDS this premise in order to get to the conclusion, which talks about a being that “caused the universe”.   The other premises of this argument appear to be focused on the “designer of the universe”, so those premises are irrelevant to the conclusion apart from the assumption that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist and the designer of the universe are the same being.
But not only does Geisler FAIL to make this assumption explicit,  he also FAILS to provide any reason whatsover to believe that this assumption is true.  It is certainly NOT a necessary truth, because it is conceivable and logically possible that one being designed the universe and another different being caused the universe to begin to exist.  
One way this could happen is if one being were to create the basic matter of the universe, and then a second being came along and organized that matter into planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies.  The first being would have caused the universe to begin to exist, but the second being would be the designer of the universe, at least of the major astronomical features of the universe.
Another way this could happen is if one being were to design both the structure of matter of the universe and also the basic astronomical features of the universe, and then a second being came along and brought a universe into existence based on the design that had been developed by the first being.  
Clearly (24) is NOT a logically necessary truth.  It is possible for a cause of the universe and a designer of the universe to be two different beings. Since it is possible that (24) is false, and since there is no obvious reason to believe that (24) is true, Geisler’s argument is unacceptable unless and until he provides a good reason or argument showing that premise (24) is true.  Since Geisler makes no attempt to provide a reason or argument in support of (24), this argument is clearly a FAILURE, as it stands, because it is based on a questionable premise that we have no good reason to believe to be true.
The other key premise in this argument is (23):
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
This is obviously a questionable and controversial claim.  It would be question-begging to simply assume this premise to be true. Accordingly, Geisler provides us with an argument in support of premise (23):

21. “…the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.” (WSA, p.26)
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
THUS:
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).

Is this a sound argument?  The logic is fine (a standard modus ponens inference), so we only need to be concerned about whether the premises are true.  If both premise (21) and (22) are true, then we ought to accept (23).  
Let’s begin by examining premise (21).  Is this premise true?
In order to evaluate whether (21) is true, we must first understand what (21) means. As with most of Geisler’s premises, this statement is UNCLEAR, so we cannot evaluate the truth of this premise as it stands.  The sentence asserted in (21) has a subject and a predicate.  The subject of (21) is unclear, and the predicate of (21) is unclear.  
Let’s start with the subject:
(S21) The design of the universe…  
As it stands, this premise begs an important question.  It ASSUMES that there is such a thing as “the design” of the universe.  But this is hardly an obvious or self-evident truth.  This is a controversial claim which Geisler needs to support with reasons or arguments.  
Furthermore, the use of the definite article “the” implies that there is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe.  Thus, even if we assume that the universe has a design (i.e. at least one design), the expression “the design of the universe” might not refer to anything at all, because there might be MANY designs of the universe.  
If there are MANY cars in the parking lot of the Safeway grocery store near my house, then the claim that
The car in the parking lot of the Safeway grocery store near my house is a Volkswagen
is NOT a true claim, because the subject “the car in the parking lot…” does not refer to any specific car.  
Because there are many cars in the parking lot, the expression “the car in the parking lot” has no clear referent.  Similarly, if there are MANY designs incorporated into various parts or aspects of the universe, then the expression “the design of the universe” has no clear referent, and thus premise (21) could not, under such circumstances, assert a true claim.  If there are MANY designs of the universe, then premise (21) is literally not talking about anything, because (21) would have no actual subject. Let’s rephrase the subject of (21) to make this point clear:
(S21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe…
One logical possiblity is that the universe incorporates several designs. For example, one being might have designed the electron, while another being designed the proton, and a third being designed neutrons.  Each sub-atomic particle might have been individually designed.  Each planet and each star could have been designed by a different being, or each solar system designed by a different being, or each galaxy designed by a different being.  The laws of gravity might have been designed by one being, while other laws of physics were designed by another being.  If different parts or aspects of the universe were designed by different beings, then although there would be MANY designs incorporated into the universe, it might well be the case that there is no such thing as “the design” of the universe, no single overarching plan that was devised for all of the major parts and aspects of the universe.
What this means is that in order to show that (21) is true, Geisler needs to prove not only that there is “a design” incorporated into some aspect of the universe, but that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe as a whole.  It appears to me that Geisler has made no attempt to show this to be the case.  If he has made no attempt to show that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe, then he has FAILED to show that premise (21) is true.
Before we move on to clarify the predicate of (21), it is important to note that there is a distinction between “a design IN the universe” and “a design OF the universe”.  Geisler, as usual, is sloppy in his writing and thinking, and he quickly slides over this distinction without any comment or clarification. Note that in his argument from design, Geisler uses the expression “design in the universe” in one of his premises:
All designs imply a designer.
There is a great design in the universe.
Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20, emphasis added)  
The second premise asserts that there is a great “design in the universe”.  Even if that were true, it does NOT imply that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe”. There may be parts or aspects of the universe that have “a design” even if the universe as a whole does not have a design.  For example, my car, my bicycle, and my cell phone are all objects in the universe.  Each of these things is a part of the universe, and each of these things has a design.  So, clearly there are parts or aspects of the universe that have a design, but the fact that my car was designed does NOT imply that the universe as a whole was designed.  It is a logical fallacy to infer from the fact that some parts or aspects of the universe have a design that the universe as a whole has a design.  
In the conclusion of his argument from design, Geisler talks about “a Great Designer of the universe”.  If the existence of such a being logically implies that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe”, then the inference in Geisler’s argument from design is logically invalid, because the premise only talks about there being “design in the universe”, and that could be the case if just one part or aspect of the universe had a design while the universe as a whole lacked a design.  The second premise of this argument from design appears to be too weak to prove the conclusion, because it leaves open the possibility that there is no such thing as “the design” of the universe.  
On the other hand, if the conclusion that there is “a Great Designer of the universe” only implies that there is AT LEAST ONE designer who designed AT LEAST ONE part or aspect of the universe, then this weaker conclusion might logically follow from the second premise, but this weaker conclusion is inadequate for Geisler to build upon in Phase 2.  If the possibility of there being MANY designers and MANY designs in the universe is left open, then Geisler cannot make inferences from the design of one specific part or aspect of the universe to the intelligence of “the designer” of the universe as a whole.  In order for Geisler’s Phase 2 to work, he needs to show that there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe, but he has not provided any reason whatsoever to believe this to be the case.  
So, it seems that the UNCLARITY in Geisler’s writing and thinking in relation to the difference between “design IN the universe” and “design OF the universe” hides a serious problem in his case for the existence of God.  By becoming clearer about the distinction between these two different ideas, we can then see yet another way in which Geisler’s case for God FAILS.  
Now let’s consider the predicate of premise (21):
(P21) …is far beyond anything that man could devise.
As it stands, the wording here is vague.  However, in context it is clear that what Geisler has in mind here is complexity of structure and function, especially in the design of a machine.  It is helpful to consider the full sentence that Geisler wrote:
Even Carl Sagan admits that the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.  (WSA, p.26)
Here Geisler refers back to his presentation of the argument from design and to a quotation that he gave from Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos:
The information content of the human brain expressed in bits is probably comparable to the total number of connections among neurons–about a hundred trillion….  If written out in English, say, that information would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world’s largest libraries.  The equivalent of twenty million books is inside the heads of every one of us.  The brain is a very big place in a very small space. … The neurochemistry of the brain is astonishingly busy, the circuitry of a machine more wonderful than any devised by humans.    (WSA, p.21. Geisler is quoting from Cosmos, p.278)
[Note that Sagan was talking about the human brain, not about the universe as a whole.  So, even if it were true that the human brain has a design that was produced by some being who existed prior to the human species, it does not follow that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe,” nor that there is such a thing as “the designer of the universe,” nor that “the designer of the universe” must be as intelligent as the designer of the human brain.  Sagan also does NOT claim that the complexity of the structure and function of the human brain is something that “is far beyond” what humans “could devise”, but rather that it is beyond the complexity of any machine that has been devised by humans (so far). That leaves open the possibility that humans might in the future create a machine that was as complex in structure and function as the human brain.]
The paragraph in which this quote of Sagan is given begins this way:
That’s where the next premise comes in [i.e. “There is a great design in the universe.”]. The design we see in the universe is complex. (WSA, p.21)
What is the relevance of the design in the universe being “complex”?  The relevance is indicated at the end of the paragraph prior to the one just quoted:
…the more complex that design is, the greater the intelligence required to produce it.  (WSA, p.21)
The more complex a design is, the more intelligent the being that produced that design must be.  Given the context of the quote from Sagan and the context of the relevance of the concept of “complexity” of a design, we can clarify the meaning of the predicate of (21):  
(P21a) …is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
We can now re-state premise (21) so that it’s meaning is significantly more clear:
(21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
A reasonably full-fledged “design of the universe” would presumably include the following: (a) a specification of the laws of physics,  (b) a specification of the sub-atomic structure of atoms, (c) a specification of the amounts of various kinds of matter and energy in the universe at the beginning of the universe, (d) other initial physical conditions of the universe, and (e) a specification of the astronomical structure of the universe (e.g. billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars and planets) that would result from the other design specifications.  
But a desgn of the universe might only be a partial design.  For example, suppose that the laws of physics and the sub-atomic structure of atoms has always existed and is undesigned.  Some intelligent being (or beings) could have taken this already existing material and created our universe according to a plan or design that was aimed at producing billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars and planets.  In this case, it would make sense to speak of “the design of the universe”, but that design would be focused on the astronomical structure of the universe and it would NOT include the sub-atomic structure of atoms, nor would it specify the laws of physics, because those other elements of the universe would already be in existence, and there would be no need to design or create those aspects of the universe.  
At the other extreme, “the design of the universe” could include every little fact about the universe, and every event that would ever occur in the universe, including what I would eat for breakfast this morning.  Geisler believes in a creator being who is omniscient and omnipotent, and such a being would have the knowledge and power to determine in advance every little fact and event in the history of the universe, including what I would eat for breakfast this morning.  
Given the wide diversity of possible contents of “the design of the universe”–ranging from a specification of only the astronomical structure of the universe, to a full-fledge design that includes laws of physics, sub-atomic structure, various initial conditions, and astronomical structure, to the extreme concept of a design that includes every fact and event in the entire history of the universe–the concept of “a design of the universe” is still a rather broad and vague concept in need of careful examination and treatment.
Finally, as mentioned previously, there could be some things in the universe that were designed, even if the universe as a whole was NOT designed.  Geisler in presenting his argument from design quoted Carl Sagan’s comments about the amazingly complex structure and function of the human brain.  This does not appear to help Geisler’s case though, because even if the human brain was designed, this does NOT imply that the universe as a whole was designed.  Furthermore, even if we granted the assumption that the human brain was designed and that the universe as a whole was designed, this does NOT imply that the designer of the universe is the same being as the designer of the human brain.  So, the intelligence of the being that designed the human brain might well be greatly superior to the intelligence of the being that designed the universe as a whole.  
To be clear about the concept of “a design of the universe”, we should keep in mind some various logical possibilities:
POSSIBILITY 1  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” but there is no particular being that is “the designer of the universe”, because there are MANY designers who produced the design of the universe, not just one.  
POSSIBILITY 2  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe”, but there are no beings who are designers of the universe, because the design of the universe is the product of random or unintelligent forces and is NOT the product of a person or an intelligent being.
POSSIBILITY 3   
There are specific things in the universe or specific aspects of the universe that were designed (e.g. DNA, or the human brain), and thus there is “design IN the universe”, but there is no such thing as “the design OF the universe” because there is no overarching plan or design of the universe as a whole.  
POSSIBILITY 4
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” and there is also a being who is “the designer of the universe”, but this being did not design some of the natural phenomena that have complex structures and functions because those natural phenomena are not the product of an intelligent designer (e.g. the human brain is the product of evolution and random variations and genetic changes and mutations, not the product of an intelligent designer).  
POSSIBILITY 5  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” and there is also a being who is “the designer of the universe”, but this being did not design some of the natural phenomena that have complex structures and functions (e.g. the human brain), but some OTHER intelligent being(s) produced the design of the other complex natural phenomena (thus the designer of the human brain might be very intelligent, while the designer of the universe might be much less intelligent, perhaps less intelligent than human beings).  
These scenarios all appear to be logical possibilities, so in order for Geisler’s case to be successful, he needs to show that either these are NOT logically possible, or that there is good reason to believe that these scenarios are highly improbable (or that some of these scenarios are logically impossible and that the others are highly improbable).  
POSSIBILITY 2 appears to be ruled out by the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design.  Here is his argument from design:
All designs imply a designer.
There is a great design in the universe.
Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20, emphasis added)  
If it is true that “All designs imply a designer”, then doesn’t that eliminate the possibility that there could be such a thing as “the design of the universe” without there also being at least one “designer of the universe”?  That depends on how we interpret the word “imply” in the first premise.  One straightforward interpretation is that “imply” means “logically entail”:  
All designs LOGICALLY ENTAIL the existence of at least one designer (who produced the design in question).  
However, if we interpret the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design this way, then his argument FAILS for two good reasons:  (1) the first premise would be FALSE, and (2) the second premise would beg the question at issue.
On this interpretation the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design would be FALSE, because it is logically possible for a design to happen by random chance.  Geisler admits this to be a logical possibility, because he argues that it is IMPROBABLE that something like the complex structures and functions found in a living cell would occur as the result of random, unintelligent forces and processes.  Claiming that this is IMPROBABLE, implies that it is logically possible, for if there was a logical contradiction in the idea of a design produced by random, unthinking forces and processes, then Geisler would simply point out that logical contradiction and that would be sufficient to eliminate the possibility of a design existing apart from a designer.   But Geisler does not do this; instead, he argues that the it would be IMPROBABLE that all of the various structures and functions of a cell would just happen to occur as the result of random, unthinking forces and processes.  But even if it is highly improbable that X will happen, that still leaves open that possibility that X will happen.  Even if it is highly improbable that I will win the state lottery tomorrow, that still leaves open the possibility that I will win the state lottery tomorrow.
On this interpretation, the second premise of Geisler’s argument from design would beg the question at issue.  If we assume that the first premise of his argument was true, if we assume that the very concept of “a design” logically entails the existence of “a designer”, then the second premise would presuppose what the argument is trying to establish:  
There is a great design in the universe.
This premise would, on this interpretation, presuppose the existence of a designer.  In order to KNOW that this premise was in fact true, one would have to first KNOW that there exists a designer of the universe.  But that is what the argument is trying to establish!  So, this is not merely the weak sort of question begging where a premise that is controversial is asserted without reasons or evidence; this is the strong form of question begging that we call circular reasoning.  On this interpretation of the first premise, the second premise presupposes the truth of the concusion of the argument, and thus the argument would commit the fallacy of circular reasoning.
In order for Geisler’s argument from design to have any chance of being successful, we must interpret the first premise to be making a weaker claim, a claim that does not assert a logical entailment between “design” and “designers, a claim such as this:
All designs PROVIDE EVIDENCE that increases the PROBABILITY of the existence of at least one designer (who produced the design in question).   
This revised version is probably too weak to provide adequate support for Geisler’s case for God, but however one modifies and clarifies the first premise of his argument from design, that premise wil have to leave open the logical possibility of a design existing without it having been produced by a designer.  
So, let’s return to the key question: Is premise (21a) true or false?
(21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
Is there exactly one design that is a design of the universe?  Is there an overarching design of the universe as a whole?  I don’t think so.  As far as I can see, Geisler has not even attempted to show this to be the case.  He talks mainly about the complexity of the structure and function of DNA, living cells, living organisms, and the human brain.  But these are just things IN the universe or aspects of the universe.  So, even if these things or aspects were designed, that does not imply that the universe as a whole was designed, nor that there is a design of the universe as a whole.  
Furthermore, if we think about the universe as a whole, the analogy with a machine (like a watch) is not a very good analogy.  A watch has a clear and obvious function (keeping track of the passing of time), and all of the structures and functions of parts and aspects of a watch can be related to the function of the watch as a whole.  But there is no similarly clear and obvious function of the universe as a whole.  
The main function that is often suggested is the production of living creatures or the production of intelligent creatures (like human beings).  But, why is there a need for billions of galaxies each filled with billions of stars and planets?  One little solar system with a few planets orbiting one sun would do the trick.  But the chance of a living simple organism forming out of non-living chemicals on a planet seems highly unlikely, especially in a period of only thousands or millions of years.  So, one might argue that in order to ensure that a simple living organism is produced by random natural processes, the universe had to be terrifically large, with a fantastic number of stars and planets and solar systems, and the universe had to be designed to last for billions of years to allow enough time for random natural processes to produce simple living creatures somewhere in the universe.
But then, if an intelligent being wanted to produce living creatures, why do so using random physical processes that would take billions of billions of solar systems billions of years to produce one living creature? and then another billion years or more for that creature’s offspring to (possibly) produce intelligent creatures (if the planet and solar system continued to exist for that long)?  Why not produce living creatures or even intelligent creatures DIRECTLY, as in the creation myth in the book of Genesis?  
Using slow and random physical processes to produce a living creature, and using the slow and random process of evolution to produce an intelligent creature from a simple single-celled organism, seems like a terrifically stupid and inefficient way of producing living creatures and intelligent creatures. If the purpose of the universe is to produce living creatures, it is a fairly lousy mechanism for accomplishing this purpose.  The universe does not appear to be a carefully designed mechanism for producing living creatures, or anything else.  
Suppose I am wrong, and there is exactly one design that is a design of the universe as a whole, and suppose that the purpose of the universe is to bring about living creatures or intelligent living creatures.  In this case, would the design of the universe be so complex in structure and function that it would be “far beyond” the limited intelligence of human beings to produce that design or the design of a machine in which the complexity of the structure and content of the machine was of a similar degree as the complexity and structure of the design of this universe?  I don’t think so.  Geisler has given us no good reason to believe this to be so.  His discussion of DNA, cells, and the human brain is irrelevant, because he has given us no reason to believe that the design of these things (DNA, cells, and the human brain) was produced by the being who produced the design of the universe as a whole.  
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there was exactly one design that was a design of the universe as a whole, this design need not have included the structure and function of DNA, cells, or the human brain.  In fact, it is highly implausible that a design formulated billions of years ago concering the initial conditions of our universe, would have any relevance to the specific structures and functions of human brains, which evolved as the result of the random, unthinking process of evolution.  The initial physical conditions of the universe only, at best, allowed for the coming into existence of solar systems where living organisms might form by random, unthinking physical processes, and thus allow for random, unthinking process of evolution to start up.  But creating the conditions to make it possible for the evolution of life and of intelligent creatures, is not the same thing as determining the specific path that the evolution of intelligent creatures would follow over the course of a billion years or more.  
So, if “the design” of the universe did not include DNA, cells, or the human brain, then what would it have included? Presumably, it would include the sub-atomic structure of matter, the laws of physics,  the initial conditions of the universe, and the general astronomical structure of the universe that was intended to result from those other aspects of the design.  Is such a design “far beyond” the complexity of any design that human beings will ever be able to produce?  I don’t think so.  We human beings seem to have a pretty good handle on the sub-atomic structure of matter, the laws of physics, the initial conditions of the universe, and the general astronomical structure of the universe.  So, the content of this alleged design of the universe appears to be something about which human beings, at least smart and well-educated human beings,  have a pretty good understanding.  So, it does not seem at all unlikely that human beings would one day be able to produce a design for a machine that has the same level of complexity of structure and function as the universe.  
There is good reason to doubt that there is exaclty one design that is a design of the universe and Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to think otherwise. There is also good reason to doubt the degree of complexity in the design of the universe is far beyond the intellectual capability of human beings, and Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to think otherwise.  So, we ought to reject premise (21a) as being probably false.  This is a second reason for rejecting Argument #2 of Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.
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UPATED on 11/14/16
I have added comments on premise (22).
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There is one more premise to examine in this argument:
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).  
First, before we try to determine whether this premise is true or false, it needs to be revised in keeping with the clarification of premise (21):  
22a. IF there is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise, THEN there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe, and that designer had greater intelligence than any human being (when the universe was being designed). 
Is premise (22a) true or false?  The points I have made previously in this discussion of Geisler’s argument from design point to some significant problems with this premise.
Strictly speaking, this premise is FALSE, because no matter how complex a design might be, it is always logically possible for that design to have been produced by random, unthinking forces and processes.  However, since we are supposed to assume here that the complexity of the design of the universe is so great that humans could not ever produce a design of that degree of complexity, one could argue that it is highly improbable that random, unthinking forces and processes would produce such a highly complex design.  So, although the conditional statement above is false, interpreting the IF/THEN as one of logical entailment or logical necessity, it could be argued that the connection between the antecedent and the consequent is quite a strong one.  The antecedent, it might be argued, provides a very powerful piece of evidence for the truth of the consequent, even though it falls short of being a necessary logical connection or implication.
Mr. Geisler’s own example of the complexity of the structure and function of the human brain, however, works as a counterexample here.  We have very good reason to believe that the complex structure and function of the human brain was produced by random, unthinking forces and processes.  Thus, if the human brain has a design (as Geisler insists), and if the human brain has a design that is so complex that it would not be possible for human beings to produce a design with that degree of complexity (as Geisler insists), then one of the most complex designs in the universe is a design that was produced by random, unthinking processes, and was NOT produced by an intelligent designer, nor by a group or team of intelligent designers.
Furthermore, as we have previously seen, even assuming that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe, that design might have been produced by MANY designers, so the existence of EXACTLY ONE design of the universe does NOT show that there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe who produced that design.
Finally, since for all we know it might be the case that the ONE design of the universe was produced by a group or team of designers, we cannot infer the degree of intelligence of individual designers on the basis of the degree of complexity of that design.  The degree of complexity of a design that was produced by a group or team of designers can exceed the level of knowledge and intelligence of any individual designer in the group or team of designers that produced the design.  
So, we cannot legitimately infer from the existence of a complex design that there are any intelligent beings who produced that design, nor that the design was produced by EXACTLY ONE designer, nor can we infer from a highly complex design the existence of a designer of great intelligence, since the design may have been produced by a group or team of designers. For these reasons, we ought to reject premise (22a) as being probably false.
CONCLUSION
We ought to reject Argument #2 of Phase 2, because it rests on a questionable and controversial premise, premise (24) and Geisler provides no reason whatsoever why we ought to believe that premise is true, and because there are good reasons to doubt the other basic premises of this argument, premises (22a) and (21a), and Geisler has FAILED to provide good reasons to believe those premises to be true.