bookmark_borderWords Which Apologists, Counter-Apologists, and Activists Would Do Better Off Without

The field of Information Technology is divided into many specialties. One is “software engineering” which includes what most people think of when they hear the words “computer programming.” Another is “quality assurance” which tests software for “bugs,” i.e., malfunctions. And yet another is “usability” which tests the ability of “real world” users to actually use the software to perform a task. Usability is different from QA because a software might not contain any bugs, but have “poor usability” which would be the case if the software is more difficult to use than it should be for its intended audience (users).
I think this model can be a helpful way to think about constructing, testing, and using philosophical arguments, including arguments in the philosophy of religion, apologetics, and counter-apologetics.
Let’s start with the writings of theists. In my experience, as a general rule, individual theists do a decent job of defining what they mean by “God.” They might contradict one another over various details, but it’s usually reasonably clear what an individual philosopher or apologist means. But there are other words words and expressions which seem to repeatedly cause confusion. I won’t defend my claims here, but in my opinion these words and expressions include:

  • any variation of “objective morality,” including “including objective moral values,” and related concepts such as “rights,” “dignity,” “value,” “purpose,” and “meaning” (especially as related to the “meaning of life”)
  • “image of God”
  • “faith”

Remember: this article is approaching these words from a usability, not a QA, perspective. So my purpose here is not to point out various ‘bugs’ (read: problems) in theistic arguments which use these words. Rather, my purpose here is to point out how problematic these words are for engaging in real communication. Just as software engineers are sometimes surprised by how difficult it is for other people to use their software correctly, I’d imagine that theists who construct theistic arguments using these words must be surprised by how difficult it is for other people to understand their arguments correctly. Just as software engineers might be tempted to deflect usability problems with computer software as “user error,” theists might be tempted to blame their audience (i.e., “nonbelievers are just being willfully ignorant”). But, for both types of usability problems, I suspect that what is usually the case is that most or all of the problem lies with the software engineer or philosopher or apologist.
Nontheists are hardly blameless in this regard. Problematic words include:

  • “science”
  • “morality”
  • “atheism” (only when explicitly defined as “the lack of belief in God”)

In my opinion, the words “faith” and “atheism” are parallel problems for theists and nontheists. In both cases, the problem is not that the speaker or writer fails to clearly define what they mean. Rather, the problem is that the speakers and writers seem to be fighting an uphill battle against a very common alternative definition of the word. For example, suppose I were a global warming activist debating someone who a global warming skeptic or denier. In my debate’s opening statement, I say this:

“By ‘global warming,’ I mean the fact, accepted by anybody with an IQ above 30, that global temperatures are, on average, rising. By ‘global warming skeptic,’ I mean right-wing whack jobs who are mentally disabled and wouldn’t recognize a scientific consensus if it smacked them over the head.”

This is an intentionally extreme and absurd example to make a point. If I want to make myself feel good by insulting my opponents, this might be cathartic. But if, on the other hand, my primary goal is to increase acceptance of global warming by debating the evidence for and against global warming, those definitions are, among other things, counterproductive.
Similarly, if you’re an atheist activist who wants to ‘rehabilitate’ the word “atheism” by ‘restoring’ its ‘correct‘ meaning as “without theism,” then it might make sense to insist upon that definition of “atheism.” But if your goal is to defend the rationality of not believing in God, then this is a waste of time. You’d be better off self-identifying as a “nontheist” and focusing on the lack of evidence, not semantics.
This entire post makes a pretty big assumption, however. It assumes that the reader actually wants to engage in real communication, not just the illusion of communication.  If that assumption doesn’t apply to you, then you almost surely won’t agree with this advice. If so, I’d encourage you not to waste your time (or ours) by posting a comment here or even reading this blog again. We’re trying to do something special and different and rare here.

bookmark_borderIn Memoriam: Derek Parfit (1942 – 2017)

Very sad news.
Derek Parfit was one of the most influential moral philosophers of the last 50 years. But saying that, I suspect, undervalues his contributions to the field of philosophy. It is certain that his work will continue to be read and to influence future philosophers for a very long time.
Parfit’s work had a very great effect on my own development as a philosopher. In my junior year of college, I read his Reasons and Persons and was overwhelmed by the lucidity and compelling nature of his arguments. Not only did my views about personal identity change significantly as a result of my encounter with Parfit, but I came away from the book knowing that philosophy was my passion. Ever since, Parfit has been a model for me of how to do philosophy; he is careful, deeply thoughtful, respectful of the views with which he disagrees, and places the highest value on clarity of expression.
I want to share a short quote from Volume 1 of On What Matters. This quote does not capture the essence of Parfit’s moral views or the most significant aspect of them, but I think that it well-captures the kinds of views he had, the challenging nature of those views, and also his style. It is a quote that I’ve had many occasions to come back to and ponder since I first read it.

We can deserve many things, such as gratitude, praise, and the kind of blame that is merely moral dispraise. But no one could ever deserve to suffer. For similar reasons, I believe, no one could deserve to be less happy. When people treat us or others wrongly, we can justifiably be indignant. And we can have reasons to want these people to understand the wrongness of their acts, even though that would make them feel very badly about what they have done. But these reasons are like our reasons to want people to grieve when those whom they love have died. We cannot justifiably have ill will towards these wrong-doers, wishing things to go badly for them. Nor can we justifiably cease to have good will towards them, by ceasing to wish things to go well for them. We could at most be justified in ceasing to like these people, and trying, in morally acceptable ways, to have nothing to do with them.

Here is a video in which Parfit discusses what he is probably most famous for: his views about personal identity.

 
 

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 13: Existence and Attributes of a Necessary Being

In Phase 1 of his case for the existence of God, Geisler reformulates the argument from being as follows:
Argument from Being #2 – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him [God] as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52. …if God exists, then He [God] must exist and cannot not exist.

(WSA, p.25)
 
PHASE 3 ARGUMENT
Both premise (50) and the conclusion (52) are conditional statements with the antecedent “If God exists…”.  So, in order to make use of this argument, Geisler must first prove that “God exists”, which he says he did with “the argument from Creation”:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
So, the conclusion of the argument from Creation is (allegedly) that “God exists” and this affirms the antecedent of premise (50) and the antecedent of the conclusion (52).  Because the claim that God is “a necessary being” is crucial for Geisler’s case, we should use premise (50) as the basis for the argument in Phase 3.
Phase 3 Argument – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him [God] as a necessary Being.  

53.  God exists.

THEREFORE:

54. God exists and we conceive of God as a necessary being.

 
This argument needs a little bit of tweaking to make it support Geisler’s desired conclusion:
Phase 3 Argument – Revision 1

50a. IF God exists, THEN God exists and God is a necessary being.  

53.  God exists.

THEREFORE:

54a. God exists and God is a necessary being.

 
As I have previously explained, in order for the logic of this Phase 3 argument to be VALID, the word “God” in  premise (53) must have the same meaning as the word “God” in the other premise of the argument, namely in premise (50a) and in the conclusion (54a). Because the truth of premise (53) is based on the argument from Creation, we know what the word “God” means in premise (53).  So, we can replace the word “God” in premise (53) with a phrase that clearly and accurately represents the being that was (allegedly) proved to exist by the argument from Creation:

53a.  There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).

We must plug this same interpretation of the word “God” into the other premise and into the conclusion of the Phase 3 argument in order to maintain the logical validity of the argument:
Phase 3 Argument – Revision 2

50b. IF there exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago), THEN there exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.  

53a. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).

THEREFORE:

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.  

 
The above argument is UNSOUND because premise (50b) is FALSE, as I argued in the previous post.  Also, Geisler’s argument from Creation does NOT prove that there was exactly one being that caused the universe to begin, so premise (53a) is dubious and controversial.  Thus, the argument in Phase 3 of Geisler’s case for God FAILS, just like the arguments in Phase 1 and in Phase 2.  The first three phases of Geisler’s case constitute a big steaming pile of dog shit.  I have no expectation at this point that the next phases and arguments will be any better.
 
PHASE 4: ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S ATTRIBUTES
Geisler wrongly believes that he has proven the claim that “God is a necessary being” in Phase 3 of his case for God.  He then procedes to argue from this assumption to claims about various metaphysical attributes of God:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.
  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Geisler also argues for the following conditional claims based on the assumption that “God is a necessary being”:

  • If God has power, then God is omnipotent.
  • If God has knowledge, then God is omniscient.
  • If God has some moral goodness, then God is perfectly morally good.

Geisler’s argument for the claim that “God is unchanging” is brief (see WSA, page 27), as are all of his arguments in Phase 4:
Phase 4 Argument #1

54a. God exists and God is a necessary being.

THEREFORE

56.  God cannot “come to be” in any other way.

THEREFORE

57. God must be as He is necessarily.

THEREFORE

58.  God cannot become something new.

THEREFORE

59. God cannot change in any way.

THEREFORE

60.  God is unchanging.

Since the only argument that Geisler gives us in support of premise (54a) is UNSOUND, the truth of (54a) is questionable, so this whole line of reasoning rests upon a shaky foundation.
The inference from (54a) to (56) is also questionable.  Geisler provides no reason or justification for this inference, but the inference is NOT obviously correct or self-evident.  Furthermore, although Geisler does define the phrase “a necessary being”, his definition is not very helpful:  “must exist and cannot not exist”.  Because this definition is somewhat unclear, it is difficult to be confident that the alleged implications of being “a necessary being” are in fact logical implications.
This definition of “a necessary being” includes entities like the number three, because the number three “must exist and cannot not exist”.  It is a logically necessary truth that the number three exists.   Can the number three “come to be” in any other way (besides coming into existence)?  It certainly seems that the number three can “come to be” in a way that is other than coming into existence.  Yesterday my favorite number was the number seven, but today I’m tired of that number, and my new favorite number is the number three.  Thus, the number three has “come to be” my favorite number.  Thus, the inference from (54a) to (56) is not only questionable, it appears to be INVALID.
I understand that one can draw a distinction between ordinary properties on the one hand and relations on the other, and it is often thought that changes in relations are not REAL changes, or that they are a significantly different sort of change than the change of ordinary properties.  But Geisler has no discussion or justification of this inference, so there is no way to be clear about his conception of changes, and his understanding of the concept of “a necessary being” and how this concept works in terms of relations (like the number three becoming my favorite number).
The other inferences in this line of reasoning are also NOT obviously correct, nor are they self-evident.  But Geisler provides no clarification and no justification for any of these inferences.  So, this argument begins with a questionable premise, and procedes with several questionable inferences.  It is a dubious and unclear mess from start to finish.
But suppose that by some miracle Geisler was able to come up with a new and sound argument for premise (54a), and suppose that he was able to come up with clarifications and justifications that show each of these inferences to be correct.  In that case the conclusion that Geisler would have actually proven is this:

60a. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is unchanging.

This conclusion would actually show that God does NOT exist.  Here is an argument that uses (60a) to prove that God does NOT exist:
Argument Against the Existence of God – Based on Unchanging First Cause

60a. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is unchanging.

61.  IF a being X is unchanging, THEN being X is NOT a person.

THEREFORE

62. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is NOT a person.

THEREFORE

63. It is NOT the case that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a person.

64. IF God exists, then the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a person.

THEREFORE

65.  It is NOT the case that God exists.

Geisler would object to premise (61),  but the concept of “a person” implies a being that can make choices and perform actions, and the idea of “making a choice” makes no sense if the being in question does not change while making the choice, and the idea of “performing an action” makes no sense if the being in question does not change while performing the action.
So,  argument #1 of Phase 4 is highly questionable, but if it could be revised and made solid, it would provide the basis for a strong argument AGAINST the existence of God.
Phase 4 Argument #2

66. Time is just a way to measure change.

THEREFORE

67.  Without change, time is impossible.

60. God is unchanging.  (the conclusion from Argument #1 of Phase 4)

THEREFORE

68.  Time is impossible for God.

THEREFORE

69.  God is eternal.

 
Time is a very abstract concept and a difficult concept to understand, so premise (66) is neither obviously true nor is it self-evident.  But Geisler gives no reason whatsoever to justify this premise.  Similarly, the inference from (66) to (67) is neither obviously true nor is it self-evident, and Geisler gives no reason whatsoever to justify this inference.
Premise (60) is the conclusion of the very dubious argument #1 of Phase 4, so this premise remains questionable and has not been supported with a solid argument by Geisler.
The inference from (67) and (60) to (68) appears to be INVALID, because premise (67) talks about a circumstance in which there is NO CHANGE at all, but premise (60) does NOT assert that there is NO CHANGE at all, but rather that there is no change in God (or no change in the being that caused the universe to begin to exist).
Suppose there are no changes in the cause of the universe; that is compatible with there being changes in the universe (which clearly there have been).  Since there are changes in the universe, premise (67) is purely hypothetical and has no application to the way things actually are.  Changes occur, so time is possible.  In other words, premise (67) is too broad and general to warrant an inference in the specific case at hand, where one thing might be unchanging while everything else undergoes changes.
In order to repair this INVALID argument, we would need to have a more specific premise, such as this one:
70.  IF a being X never changes, THEN time does not pass for being X.
But this more specific claim is also more questionable than the premise that it replaces.  Even if the being that caused the universe to begin to exist never changes, since the universe itself constantly changes, it would seem to be the case that time would pass not only for the universe, but for the unchanging cause of the universe too.
For example, let’s call the first moment of the existence of the universe time T1.   Suppose that the first planets of the universe formed one billion years after T1.   Let’s call the moment that the first planet formed time T2.  The cause of the universe’s begining, did it’s great work at (or before) time T1, and clearly the first planet formed some time AFTER time T1.  Thus, the first planet formed some time AFTER the cause of the beginning of the universe did its great work.  The cause of the universe might not have changed one bit during the billion years between the beginning of the univese and the formation of the first planet, but it seems clear that the formation of the first planet occurred a long time after the cause of the universe brought the universe into existence, and this appears to imply that time did pass for the cause of the universe.
In fact, what makes the “unchangingness” of the cause of the universe impressive (in this scenario) is precisely the fact that it remained unchanged over a billion years of time.  If no time had passed at all, then there would be no reason to expect any changes in the cause of the universe, because changes take time.
Given the imaginary scenario where there is an unchanging cause of the universe, and a constantly changing universe, the more specific premise (70) appears to be false.  But Geisler needs a more specific premise like (70) in order to make argument #2 into a VALID argument.  So, it appears that the argument that Geisler actually gives us is INVALID, and that it may be rather difficult for Geisler to come up with a more specific version of premise (67) that would fix this problem.
The final inference from (68) to (69) is questionable.  The word “eternal” normally means “has always existed and will continue to exist forever”, but Geisler apparently interprets the word in an unusual way, to mean “outside of time”, which is a strange and difficult to understand idea.  Both (68) and (69) are unclear claims, so any inference from one to the other is suspect.  Unless and until Geisler can do a better job of explaining and clarifying these unclear and difficult to understand ideas, this inference will remain dubious.
Argument #2 of Phase 4 contains some dubious premises, at least two dubious inferences, and one INVALID inference.  Like all of his other arguments that we have considered so far, this one also FAILS, which is no surprise because every single argument that he has presented so far has had one or more serious flaws.

bookmark_borderAdolf Grünbaum on Determinism and Reason

” The causal generation of a belief does not, of itself, detract in the least from its truth. My belief that I address a class at certain times derives from the fact that the presence of students in their seats is causally inducing certain images on the retinas of my eyes at those times, and that these images, in turn, then cause me to infer that corresponding people are actually present before me. The reason why I do not suppose that I am witnessing a performance of Aida at those times is that the images which Aida, Radames, and Amneris would produce are not then in my visual field. The causal generation of a belief in no way detracts from its veridicality. In fact, if a given belief were not produced in us by definite causes, we should have no reason to accept that belief as a correct description of the world, rather than some other belief arbitrarily selected. Far from making knowledge either adventitious or impossible, the deterministic theory about the origin of our beliefs alone provides the basis for thinking that our judgments of the world are or may be true. Knowing and judging are indeed causal processes in which the facts we judge are determining elements along with the cerebral mechanism employed in their interpretation. It follows that although the determinist’s assent to his own doctrine is caused or determined, the truth of determinism is not jeopardized by this fact ; if anything, it is made credible.”
Adolf Grünbaum, “Free Will and Laws of Human Behaviour”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 1971
 
HT: Justin Schieber

bookmark_borderHappy Birthday Mr. Newton

Here are the opening paragraphs about Isaac Newton in Wikipedia (his birthdate in Wikipedia is based on the Jullian calendar which was still in use in England when Newton was born; January 4th is his birthdate according to the Gregorian calendar) :
================================
Sir Isaac Newton PRS (/ˈnjuːtən/;[6] 25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27[1]) was an English mathematician, astronomer, and physicist (described in his own day as a “natural philosopher”) who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”), first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and he shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.
Newton’s Principia formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. By deriving Kepler’s laws of planetary motion from his mathematical description of gravity, and then using the same principles to account for the trajectories of comets, the tides, the precession of the equinoxes, and other phenomena, Newton removed the last doubts about the validity of the heliocentric model of the Solar System and demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies could be accounted for by the same principles. Newton’s theoretical prediction that the Earth is shaped as an oblate spheroid was later vindicated by the geodetic measurements of Maupertuis, La Condamine, and others, thus convincing most Continental European scientists of the superiority of Newtonian mechanics over the earlier system of Descartes.
Newton also built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a sophisticated theory of colour based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the colours of the visible spectrum. Newton’s work on light was collected in his highly influential book Opticks, first published in 1704. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling, made the first theoretical calculation of the speed of sound, and introduced the notion of a Newtonian fluid. In addition to his work on calculus, as a mathematician Newton contributed to the study of power series, generalised the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents, developed a method for approximating the roots of a function, and classified most of the cubic plane curves.
================================
For the full article:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton

bookmark_borderRandal Rauser’s Most Excellent Review of the Lowder-Turek Debate

I think this just might be the best review ever written of a debate between an atheist and a theist. It’s comprehensive, thoughtful, irenic, fair, and well-written. I agree with almost the entire review, with the exception of Randal’s point about the definition of naturalism. I don’t consider that to be a flaw of the review in any way, however. Rather, I consider that to be a reasonable disagreement.
Check it out!
LINK

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 12: Is the Creator a Necessary Being?

PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
Geisler abuses the word “God” yet again in Phase 3 of his case for the existence of God.  The argument in Phase 3 is on page 27.  It makes use of the conclusion from “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1 (pages 24-26). Here is the conclusion of this part of his case:

  • God is a necessary being.

He is NOT using the word “God” in its ordinary sense here.  Perhaps, he actually means something like this:

  • Whatever caused the universe is a necessary being.

Because Geisler’s Phase 3 argument depends on “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1, we need to first take a closer look at that earlier argument.
 
THE ARGUMENTS FROM BEING 
While Geisler speaks of “The argument from being” (WSA, p.27),  he actually presents two different arguments with that title.  Here is the first argument:
Argument from Being #1 – Initial Version

45. Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible…must be attributed to it…

46. Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being.  

THEREFORE

47. … necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being.

(WSA, p.24-25.  NOTE: The numbering of the premises has been changed to fit my numbering scheme).
 
This argument, he tells us, “attempts to prove that God must exist by definition.” (WSA, p.24)   But this is NOT an argument for the existence of God, because the word “God” appears nowhere in this argument.  You cannot give an argument for the existence of God that never mentions “God”.
However, in introducing this argument, Geisler indicates that this argument is based on “the idea of God as a perfect Being” (WSA, p.24).   So, he appears to be suggesting a definition of the word “God” in relation to this argument from being.  The first premise of Argument from Being #1 uses the phrase “the most perfect Being possible”, so a definition of “God” corresponding to that precise phrase would be this:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible

We could add this definition to the above argument, in order to produce an argument that actually talks about the existence of God:
Argument from Being #1 – Revision 1

45. Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible…must be attributed to it…

46a. Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible.  

THEREFORE

47a. Necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being possible.

48. A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible.

THEREFORE

49. Necessary existence must be attributed to God.

 
Geisler rejects this argument, as an argument for the existence of God:
Now this argument succeeds in showing that our idea of God must include necessary existence; but it fails to show that God actually exists.  (WSA, p.25)
At this point Geisler offers a second version of “The argument from Being”:
Argument from Being #2 – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52. …if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist.

(WSA, p.25)
Unlike the previous version of “The argument from Being”, this argument uses the word “God”, both in a premise, and in the conclusion.  What does the word “God” mean in this argument?  Geisler does not bother to provide a definition or clarification of what the word “God” means in this argument, so once again, we have to guess at what the hell Geisler means by this word in this argument.
There are three different possible meanings of the word “God” in the context of this argument.  One obvious interpretation is to use the definition implied by Geisler when he introduced the first version of “The argument from Being”:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible

Let’s use this definition to clarify the second verion of the argument from being:
Argument from Being #2 – Revision 1

50a. IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN we conceive of the most perfect being possible as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52a. IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN the most perfect being possible must exist and cannot not exist.

 
This interpretation will not do.   The problem is that Geisler has provided no reason to believe that “the most perfect being possible exists”.  He has acknowledged that neither argument from being proves the existence of God, so if we understand “God” to mean “the most perfect being possible”, then Geisler has acknowledged that neither argument from being proves the existence of “the most perfect being possible”.  But if Geisler has provided no sound argument for the claim that “the most perfect being possible exists”, then the conclusion (52a) will be of no use:  “IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN….”  Such a conditional claim is useless given that there is no good reason to believe that “the most perfect being possible” exists.  Therefore, we must set aside this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, and look for other possible interpretations of the word “God” in that argument.
In Phase 3 of his case for God, Geisler makes a statement about how the “argument from being” functions in his case:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that he does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
According to Geisler, the existence of “God” is shown by “the argument from Creation” (in Phase 1 of his case) and then later (in Phases 3 and 4 of his case) “the argument from being” is used to show that this “God” has various significant attributes.  If that is how “the argument from being” functions in Geisler’s case for God, then the meaning of the word “God” in “the argument from being” is determined or constrained by whatever it is that was (allegedly) proven to exist by “the argument from Creation”.
There is a relay race here where a baton is handed off from “the argument from Creation” to “the argument from being”.   In order for these two arguments to coordinate with each other, in order for the logic of Geisler’s case to work, the meaning of the word “God” in premise (50) of the argument from being cannot mean anything other than whatever it is that was (allegedly) proved to exist in the argument from Creation.
The argument from Creation does NOT prove the existence of “the most perfect being possible”, so there is at least a second plausible interpretation of the word “God” that should be considered in trying to understand the second version of the argument from being. Roughly speaking, the second plausible interpretation of the word “God” that should be considered is this: “whatever caused the universe”.
But there are actually two different arguments given by Geisler that he refers to misleadingly as “the argument from Creation”. There are thus two different meanings of the word “God” that relate to what was (allegedly) proved to exist by the two arguments from Creation:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF X caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).
  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF X is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now). 

Argument from Being #2 – Revision 2

50b. IF a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) exists, THEN we conceive of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52b. IF a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) exists, THEN a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) must exist and cannot not exist.

 
On this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, premise (50b) is false, and thus the argument is UNSOUND.  We can conceive of a being that is NOT a necessary being causing the universe to begin to exist.  For example, we can conceive of an angel causing the universe to begin to exist.   An angel is not, or need not be, a necessary being.  So, premise (50b) is clearly false, and this argument is UNSOUND, given that we interpret the word “God” here to mean “a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).”
What about the other possible interpretation of the word “God” based on what it is that was (allegedly) proved to exist by the other argument from Creation?  Let’s revise the second version of the argument from being using this other sense of the word “God”:
Argument from Being #2 – Revision 3

50c. IF a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now)  exists, THEN we conceive of a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52c. IF a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) exists, THEN a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) must exist and cannot not exist.

 
On this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, premise (50c) is false, and the argument is UNSOUND.  We can conceive of a being that is NOT a necessary being causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).  For example, we can conceive of an angel causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).  An angel is not, or need not be, a necessary being.  Therefore, if we understand the word “God” in the second version of the argument from being to mean “a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now)”, then premise (50c) is false, and this argument is UNSOUND.
CONCLUSION ABOUT THE ARGUMENT FROM BEING
Both Aquinas and Geisler rightly reject the ontological argument for the existence of God.  Geisler calls ontological arguments “The argument from being”.  Geisler reformulates “The argument from being” so that it uses the word “God”, but as with various other arguments presented by Geisler, the meaning of the word “God” in the argument from being is UNCLEAR. (It is very clear at this point that Geisler simply does not give a shit about being clear, since he is constantly UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOS in the use of the most important word in his case).
There are three different possible interpretations of the word “God” that could be used to clarify the meaning of Geisler’s reformulated argument from being.  On the first interpretation, the argument is somewhat plausible, but the argument is USELESS to Geisler’s case, because he has given us no reason whatsoever to believe that “the most perfect being possible” actually exists.
Two other interpretations of the word “God” are based on what it is that Geisler (allegedly) proved to exist in his two arguments “from Creation”.  But on either of those interpretations, the first premise of the reformulated argument from being is FALSE, making Geisler’s reformulated argument from being UNSOUND.
Based on the above considerations the reformulated argument from being is either (a) plausible but USELESS for Geisler’s case, or (b) useful for Geisler’s case but is UNSOUND.   The argument from being is critical to Geisler’s case for the existence of God, because it is supposed to provide support for a key claim in his case:

  • The creator (or whatever caused the universe to begin to exist) is a necessary being.

Since the one argument Geisler has for this claim is either USELESS for this purpose or is UNSOUND, Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS, once again, at this crucial juncture.

bookmark_borderVideo of Lowder’s Debate with Frank Turek on Naturalism vs. Theism

Topic: “What Better Explains Reality? Naturalism or Theism”
Link: https://youtu.be/ENZYEPpR2Jc


Links to Specific Elements of Debate:

This debate featured many arguments. Against theism, Lowder defended the following evidential arguments:

Against naturalism, Turek argued that atheists have to steal several intellectual concepts from God in order to argue against God. These concepts include Causality, Reason, Information and Intentionality, Morality, Evil, and Science, as summed up by the acrostic CRIMES. In response to the alleged ‘CRIMES’ of atheism, I argued that what we really needed to talk about are the VICTIMs of Christian apologetics: Value, Induction, Causality, Time, Information and Intentionality, and Morality).
See also my comments about the debate (written a day or two after the debate).
I haven’t watched the video yet, but I’d love to hear what you think of the arguments.