bookmark_borderHinman’s Two Ways – Part 1: Outline of Argument #1

Joe Hinman wants me to set aside Mr. Geisler’s pathetic case for God, and to give serious consideration to his case for God, which includes at least two arguments:
Argument 1: an Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary (ABEAN),
and
Argument 2: Religious Experience Meets Epistemic Criteria (REMEC).
In this first post, I will only get started with Hinman’s first argument, attempting to clarify the basic structure of that argument.
Here is an excerpt from Hinman’s initial post on this subject:
==============================
Rather than proving the existence of God I argue for the goal of providing a warrant for belief. A popular saying is often heard on the net: proof is for mathematics and whisky,
GOB = Ground of Being
SON – Sense of numinous [I corrected the spelling of this phrase]
[…]
Argument I: from Eternal Necessary aspect of being
1.All naturalistic phenomena is contingent and temporal
2. Some aspect of being must be eternal and necessary unless we are willing to accept existence ex nihilo
3. In contrast to Human infinitude the GOB evokes sense of the numinous
4. whatever evokes the SON is a valid object of worship, thus we are warranted in equating Gob with God
5, Belief is warranted from 2 and 4.
===========================
MY INITIAL RESTATEMENT OF THE FIRST ARGUMENT
Hinman follows Tillich in objecting to the statement that “God exists”  or that “God is a being”.  Nevertheless, Hinman insists that the claim “There is no God” is false or mistaken, and he affirms that “God is real”.  I’m skeptical about whether this position is logically coherent, but for now I will not put words into Hinman’s mouth; I will NOT re-state his argument as having the traditional conclusion that “God exists”.
I will, however, restate his argument, in an attempt to make it a bit more clear:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real.

5. IF there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real, THEN there is good reason to believe that God is real.

THEREFORE:

6. There is good reason to believe that God is real.

Note that the IF/THEN statements in premises (4) and (5) might not be intended as logical implications, since they represent the epistemic notion of warrant or “a good reason to believe” a claim.
It MIGHT be the case that Hinman views “an eternal and necessary aspect of being” as logically or conceptually equivalent to “the Ground of Being”, in which case we could drop the phrase “there is good reason to believe that…” and treat (4) as a straightforward logical implication.  It MIGHT be the case that Hinman views “the Ground of Being” as logically or conceptually equivalent to “God”, in which case we could take the IF/THEN statement in premise (5) to be a logical implication.  [JOE: Please comment on the nature of the logical or epistemic relationships between antecedents and consequents in these two premises.  I need you to clearly distinguish the claims that have a “warrant” relationship from the claims that have a straightforward logical implication relationship.]
I believe, however, that the IF/THEN statement in premise (2) is intended as a logical implication, as indicated by the word “must” in Hinman’s original wording of that premise.
I have simplified and generalized Hinman’s argument a bit, by making the connection between GOB and GOD more direct with premise (5). Hinman is free, of course, to use his idea about “the Sense of the Numinous” as a primary justification for premise (5), but this also gives him some wiggle room, in case that justification fails or is insufficient by itself.  He might be able to come up with other ways of justifying premise (5).
I dropped the qualification “unless we are willing to accept existence ex nihilo” from premise (2), because I assume that Hinman has some sort of reason or argument for rejecting that option, and that reason or argument could then be understood as part of the justification for the unqualified version of premise (2).
=========================
JOE:  Is my re-statement of your first argument OK, or would you like to make some changes to it?
=======================
UPDATED again on 6/1/17 (change is in blue font)
UPDATE on 5/30/17
Based on feedback from Joe Hinman, I’m revising my statement of his argument:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument – Rev.A

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4A. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN the Ground of Being is real.

5A. IF the Ground of Being is real, THEN God is real.

THEREFORE:

6A. God is real.

Hinman’s Sub-Argument for Premise (2):

7. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN either (a) some aspect of being is eternal and necessary or (b) there is an infinite regress of contingent and temporal causes or (c) natural phenomena came into existence ex nihilo (apart from divine causation or activity).

8. It is not the case that there is an infinite regress of contingent and temporal causes.

9. It is not the case that natural phenomena came into existence ex nihilo (apart from divine causation or activity).

THEREFORE:

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

JOE:  Is this good enough for me to get started with my analysis and evaluation? or do you want to make further changes?
I take it that this is a cosmological argument with some connection to arguments by Aristotle and Aquinas, but with some modifications inspired by Tillich’s theology or philosophy.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 18: The God of the Bible Exists?

After laying out his case for the existence of God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Dr. Norman Geisler attempts to link the God that he thinks he has proven to exist with “the God of the Bible”:
Is this the God of the Bible? At the burning bush, God told Moses his name and said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).  This signifies that the central characteristic of the God of the Bible is existence.  His very nature is existence.  …The Bible also calls God eternal (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:2), unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:18), infinite (1 Kings 8:27; Isa. 66:1), all-good (Ps. 86:5; Luke 18:19), and all-powerful (Heb. 1:3; Matt. 19:26). Since these beings are the same in all these respects, and there can’t be two infinite beings, then this God that the arguments point us to, is the God of the Bible. (WSA, p.29)
After presenting one of the most unbelievably crappy cases for the existence of God, you would think Geisler could not manage to go any lower into the depths of unclarity, confusion, and illogic, but this final argument truly takes the cake.  There is so much wrong in this one little paragraph, that I hardly know where to begin.
PROOF TEXTING & ANACHRONISM
First, Geisler is using the biblical passages as proof texts, and the assumed interpretation of those biblical passages is clearly anachronistic.  Geisler is showing no respect for the intended meaning of these biblical passages, and is simply grasping for any biblical passage to provide support for his preconceived conclusions.
Geisler is projecting medieval Thomist concepts back into ancient Hebrew writings (the Old Testament), writings that existed prior to Greek philosophers (certainly prior to Plato and Aristotle), and writings that existed about two thousand years before Thomas Aquinas came along, and he is projecting Thomist concepts back into ancient Greek writings (the New Testament), writings that existed after ancient Greek philosophy, but more than a thousand years prior to Aquinas.
When Geisler says that God is “eternal”, he means that God is outside of time.  There is no hint of this very strange medieval idea in either Colossians 1:17 or Hebrews 1:2.
There is also no hint of the strange Aristotelian and Thomist idea of an “unchanging being” (a being that absolutely cannot ever change in any way whatsoever) in Malachi 3:6 or Hebrews 6:18.  The passage in Hebrews specifically refers to “the unchageableness of His [God’s] purpose” (Heb. 6:17) concerning God’s intention to bless Abraham, so Geisler is grossly distorting the meaning of that passage by interpreting “unchangeableness” to mean a being that “absolutely cannot ever change in any way whatsoever”.
The claim that God is an “infinite being” is a very unclear claim, so unless and until this concept is defined, there is no way to determine whether any biblical passage asserts that “the God of the Bible” has this characteristic.
Thus, at least two of the biblical claims made by Geisler are FALSE, and  are based on very sloppy and irresponsible interpretations of the biblical passages that he cites (but does not quote), and one of his biblical claims is too UNCLEAR (as it stands) to be supported by any interpretation of any biblical passages.
Furthermore, if we accept the claim that “The god of the Bible is an unchanging being”, then we have an excellent reason for concluding that there is no such being as “the god of the Bible” because the idea of a being–who performs actions and tasks in order to accomplish specific purposes–having the attribute such that this being cannot ever change in any way whatsoever is an incoherent idea, an idea that contains a logical contradiction.
The same is true if we accept the claim that “The god of the Bible is an eternal being”, if we understand “eternal” being in the odd sense that Geisler has in mind: a being that exists outside of time, a being for whom there is no such thing as “before” or “after”.  So, if we accept those two assumptions that Geisler makes in this argument, then we are compelled by logic to conclude that there is no such being as “The god of the Bible”.
THE “CHARACTERISTIC” OF EXISTENCE
Second, Geisler’s assertion that “the central characteristic of the God of the Bible is existence.” is one of the most idiotic claims he makes on this subject.  Existence is also a characteristic of atoms and oranges, butterflies and cheeseburgers, rocks, clouds, elephants, etc., etc.  Existence is, literally, a characteristic of EVERYTHING that exists!  So there is nothing special or unique about the “characteristic” of existence.  This characteristic does not distinguish God or Jehovah (the god of the Bible) from anything else.
Geisler might object that he had in mind the fact that God’s “very nature is existence”.  That, indeed, might be something unique, but there are three problems with that point.  First, it is doubtful that this phrase expresses a coherent idea.  This appears to be a string of words that has no specific meaning.  Unless and until Geisler can provide a clear definition or analysis of this strange concept, it remains questionable whether this makes any sense at all.
Second, it is anachronistic to project this strange Thomist idea back onto an ancient Hebrew story (Exodus) that was written before Aristotle was born and perhaps two thousand years before Aquinas was born.  Geisler is again showing no respect for the intended meaning of the biblical passage, and is guilty of proof texting here.
Third (and this problem applies to every attribute mentioned by Geisler in the above quoted paragraph), even if the Bible did assert that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) was such that his “very nature is existence”, this would NOT in any way establish that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) IN FACT had such a nature, nor that Jehovah exists at all!  Yes, it is true that the Bible claims that “Jehovah exists”.  The Bible also claims that “angels exist” and that “demons exist” and that “heaven exists” and that “hell exists”, etc.  But it does NOT follow that these claims are true.
Geisler believes that these claims are all true, because Geisler believes that whatever the Bible teaches or asserts must be true.  He believes that the Bible is 100% reliable in what it teaches and asserts, because he believes that the Bible was inspired by Jehovah, and because he believes that Jehovah is God, and that God is all-good and all-knowing.  So God, and thus Jehovah, would never communicate false beliefs to humans.  But now we are reasoning in a circle.
Geisler believes  what the Bible teaches is true, because he believes that Jehovah is God, and that Jehovah inspired the Bible.  But why does Geisler believe that Jehovah is God?  He believes this because the Bible asserts that Jehovah has various attributes that are the same as attributes possessed by God:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God 
This is lunacy.  This is the sort of awful reasoning one expects from an overly enthusiastic teenage Christian believer who has never taken a course in philosophy or logic or critical thinking.  This is NOT the kind of reasoning one expects from a grown man, particularly from a grown man who has spent decades of his life studying, teaching, and writing about philosophy of religion.
ALL-POWERFUL & ALL-KNOWING & ALL-GOOD
I’m not going to object to Geisler’s biblical claims concerning the God of the Bible possessing the attributes of being “all-powerful”, and “all-good”.  Let’s grant his assumptions on those points, for the sake of argument.  The problem remains that the fact that the Bible teaches or asserts that Jehovah is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good does NOT show that Jehovah was IN FACT all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.  The fact that the Bible teaches these things does NOT show even that Jehovah exists at all.  The fact that the Bible makes these various claims is compatible with it being the case that Jehovah does not exist and never did exist.  Jehovah may be just as much a fantasy as Zeus, just as much a fiction as unicorns.
Once again, Geisler appears to be assuming that whatever the Bible teaches or asserts must be true.  But his belief in the reliability of the Bible is based on his belief that Jehovah is God, and that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.  But in this case Geisler is once again reasoning in a circle:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God 
So, in addition to laying out an unbelievably crappy case for the existence of God, Geisler then puts the icing on the cake by leading his readers to reason in this tight little circle of insanity.
Furthermore, the Bible teaches other things about Jehovah that imply that Jehovah is a cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty, egotistical sexist.  So, if we believe that whatever the Bible teaches about Jehovah is true, then we ought to believe that Jehovah is a cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty, and egotistical sexist.  But in that case Jehovah is NOT an all-good being.  So, the Bible contradicts itself concerning the claim that Jehovah is all-good.
Thus, we have very good reason to doubt the truth and reliability of what the Bible teaches about Jehovah.  First, the Bible teaches contradictory things about Jehovah.  Second, if the Bible was inspired by Jehovah but Jehovah is NOT all-good (or NOT all-knowing), then this would cast significant doubt on the truth and reliability of the teachings of the Bible.
THE “JEHOVAH IS GOD” ARGUMENT 
Geisler’s argument on this issue is indicated in the final sentence of the paragraph:
Since these beings are the same in all these respects, and there can’t be two infinite beings, then this God that the arguments point us to, is the God of the Bible. (WSA, p.29)
Here is a clearer outline of this argument:

110. The Bible teaches that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true. [an unstated assumption that Geisler is making]

THEREFORE:

112. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

113. God is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

THEREFORE:

114. Both Jehovah (the god of the Bible) and God are eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

115.  There cannot be more than one infinite being.

THEREFORE:

116. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) and God are the same being.

117. God exists.  [based on Geisler’s pathetic case for this claim]

THEREFORE:

118. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) exists. [the unstated conclusion that Geisler wants his readers to draw]

 
A key assumption was left unstated by Geisler:

 111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true.

Geisler’s argument for the conclusions that “Jehovah is God” and that “Jehovah exists” requires that he make this assumption, or something very similar to it.  If we reject (111), then Geisler’s argument fails.
Geisler believes (111) is true because he believes that the Bible was inspired by Jehovah, and because he believes that Jehovah is God.  So, Geisler believes that the Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being (i.e. by God).  Based on these assumptions about the source of the contents of the Bible, Geisler infers that premise (111) is true:

120.  The Bible was inspired by Jehovah (the god of the Bible) alone.

121.  Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is God.

122.  God is all-knowing and all-good.

THEREFORE:

123. The Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being alone.

124. IF the Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being alone, THEN whatever the Bible teaches is true.

THEREFORE:

 111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true.

So, if we take into account the reasoning that supports premise (111), then this final argument from Geisler about God and Jehovah is an awful bit of circular reasoning:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God
Because this argument involves the fallacy of circular reasoning, this argument, like every other argument in Geisler’s case for God FAILS, and it fails miserably and for a number of different reasons.  This argument provides a very pathetic (and yet very appropriate) finale to Geisler’s unbelievably crappy case for the existence of God, and for the existence of Jehovah (the god of the Bible).

bookmark_borderINDEX: Geisler’s Five Ways

Here is my multi-part critical examination of Dr. Norman Geisler’s case for the existence of God in his book When Skeptics Ask (coauthored with Ronald Brooks):
Geisler’s First Argument
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/16/geislers-first-argument/
Geisler’s Five Ways
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/16/geislers-five-ways/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 2: How Many Arguments for God?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/18/geislers-five-ways-part-2-how-many-arguments-for-god-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 3: Just ONE Argument
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/23/geislers-five-ways-part-3-just-one-argument/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 4: Phase Two of Geisler’s Case for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/28/geislers-five-ways-part-4-phase-two-of-geislers-case-for-god/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 5: The Gap Between Phase 1 and Phase 2
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/03/geislers-five-ways-part-5-the-gap-between-phase-1-and-phase-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 6: Arguments for the Intelligence of the Creator
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/05/geislers-five-ways-part-6-arguments-for-the-intelligence-of-the-creator/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 7: Argument #2 of Phase 2
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/13/geislers-five-ways-part-7-argument-2-of-phase-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 8: The Design of the Human Brain
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/19/geislers-five-ways-part-8-the-design-of-the-human-brain/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 9: The Supreme Moral Lawgiver
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/24/geislers-five-ways-part-9-the-supreme-moral-lawgiver/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 10: The Goodness of the Creator
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/12/10/geislers-five-ways-goodness-creator/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 11: The Structure of Geisler’s Case
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/12/16/geislers-five-ways-part-11-structure-geislers-case/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 12: Is the Creator a Necessary Being?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/01/01/geislers-five-ways-part-12-creator-necessary/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 13: Existence and Attributes of a Necessary Being
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/01/04/geislers-five-ways-part-13-existence-attributes-necessary/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 14: More On Phase 4
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/03/geislers-five-ways-part-14-finishing-off-phase-4/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 15: Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Perfectly Good?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/17/geislers-five-ways-part-15-omnipotent-omniscient-perfectly-good/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 16: Just One Unlimited Being?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/20/geislers-five-ways-part-16-just-one-unlimited-being/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 17: God Exists?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/24/geislers-five-ways-part-17-god-exists/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 18: The God of the Bible Exists?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/27/geislers-five-ways-part-18-god-bible-exists/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 19: The Whole Enchilada
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/09/07/geislers-five-ways-part-19-whole-enchilada/

bookmark_borderMike Pence on Gay Rights vs. Religious Freedom

From the site ProCon:
http://borngay.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001365
Mike Pence, JD, United States House Representative (R-IN), made the following comments during a Nov. 7, 2007 House floor speech opposing passage of “The Employment Non-Discrimination Act”:
“Let me be clear that I am not condoning discrimination against people for any reason whatsoever. I believe in civility and decency in society. The problem here is that by extending the reach of federal law to cover sexual orientation employment discrimination protections, in effect, can wage war on the free exercise of religion in the workplace. In effect… this sets up something of a Constitutional conflict between the right to religious freedom in the workplace and another person’s newly created right to sue you for practicing your faith or acknowledging your faith in the workplace.
Some examples under ENDA [The Employment Non-Discrimination Act] would mean employees around the country who possess religious beliefs that are opposed to homosexual behavior would be forced, in effect, to lay down their rights and convictions at the door. For example, if an employee keeps a Bible in his or her cubicle, if an employee displays a Bible verse on their desk, that employee could be claimed by a homosexual colleague to be creating a hostile work environment because the homosexual employee objects to passages in the Bible relating to homosexuality.
We must stand for the right of every American to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience whether it be in the public square or in the workplace. I oppose the Employment Non Discrimination Act and urge my colleagues to do likewise.”
Nov. 7, 2009 – Mike Pence, JD 
So, Congressman–now Vice President–Mike Pence argued that extending the protection of federal law [ENDA, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act] to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation will infringe upon the free practice of religion. For instance, if one employee keeps a Bible in her cubicle, a gay employee could claim that she was creating a hostile work environment.
Question: If I kept a copy of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason in my cubicle, could that religious employee claim that I was creating what for her was a hostile environment? If she could, would Pence also consider consider it a bad idea for federal law to protect against discrimination on the basis of religious belief? If federal non-discrimination law would permit a gay person to regard the presence of the Bible as creating a hostile environment, could not a religious person say the same thing about the presence of The Age of Reason? If the one claim is legitimate, then the other is; likewise, if one is absurd, so is the other. Or would Pence argue that she has a right to keep a Bible in her cubicle, but that I do not have a right to keep The Age of Reason in mine? On his view, does freedom of religion not extend to non-belief? If you are a non-believer who ardently wishes for the impeachment of Donald Trump, be careful what you wish for. You might go from the frying pan that is the boorish buffoon Trump to the fire that is the theocratic ideologue Pence.
 

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 17: God Exists?

Because Dr. Norman Geisler is unclear and confused in his use of the word “God”, he fails to properly conclude his case for the existence of God in his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).
But this failure is easily fixed.  I will reconstruct the final inference of his case for God in this post.  First, here is a comment that indicates part of what Geisler thinks he has proven:
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.28)
Geisler also thinks that his initial arguments, from Phase 1 of his case, have shown that the following claims are true:

  • There was exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago).
  • There is exactly one being that is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).
  • There was exactly one being that was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago).
  • There is a supreme moral lawgiver.

Geisler also believes that these four beings are one and the same being, although he does not provide any reason or argument for this crucial assumption:

  • There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago) and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver.

We can infer a concept of God from these various claims, and construct a concluding argument that summarizes Geisler’s case for the existence of God in just two premises:
GEISLER’S OVERALL ARGUMENT

1. There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver, and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being, and this being is also infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.

2. IF there is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver, and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being, and this being is also infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

3. God exists.

This summary argument is not as obviously bad as most of the subsidiary arguments that make up Geisler’s case for God in WSA.
Obviously, premise (1) would BEG THE QUESTION, if it were simply asserted and assumed to be true.  But Geisler’s case, which I have been carefully analyzing and evaluating in the previous sixteen posts, provides his reasons in support of (1), so he is not guilty of that fallacy.
Because his case has been filled with false premises, questionable premises, and invalid inferences, he has failed to provide any solid arguments in support of any of the elements that make up premise (1).  So, this final argument clearly rests on a highly dubious premise, namely premise (1).
In my view, however, this final argument is not just based on a dubious premise; rather, premise (1) is FALSE.  In my view, this premise is necessarily false.  This is because Geisler’s concept of “God” is incoherent; it contains some logical contradictions.
Geisler’s concept of God includes the attribute of being “infinite” and the attribute of being “unchanging”, and the attribute of being “eternal”.  The attribute of being “infinite” is unclear, thus making it impossible to determine whether or not any being meets this requirement.  The attributes of being “unchanging” and “eternal” make Geisler’s concept of God incoherent, thus premise (1) is false as a matter of logical necessity.
It is logically incoherent for a person to be “unchanging”, especially for a person who has great power and who sometimes exercises some of that power to accomplish some task (such as causing the universe to begin to exist).  A person cannot perform an action and exercise power to accomplish some task without undergoing some change.  But Geisler’s “God” is conceived of as a person who performs actions and exercises power to accomplish tasks while remaining unchanged.  This is an incoherent concept of God.  No such God exists, because it is logically impossible for such a being to exist.
It is logically incoherent for a person to be “eternal” in Geisler’s sense of the word “eternal”, especially for a person who has great power and who sometimes exercises some of that power to accomplish some task (such as causing the universe to begin to exist).  By “eternal” Geisler means a being that is outside of time (see WSA, p. 27), a being for whom there is no such thing as “before” or “after”.  A person cannot perform an actiona and exercise power to accomplish some task without the passage of time, without there being a “before” or “after” for that person.  But Geisler’s “God” is conceived of as a person who performs actions and exercises power to accomplish tasks while remaining outside of time.  This is an incoherent concept of God.  No such God exists, because it is logically impossible for such a being to exist.
One can coherently conceive of God as being “eternal” if we understand this in the ordinary sense of the word: having always existed, and continuing to always exist in the future.
Geisler also includes some unnecessary attributes that are redundant: “uncreated” (not needed if we conceive of God as having always existed and as continuing to always exist forever into the future).  The attribute “omnipresent” is also redundant, because any being who is both omnipotent and omniscient must also be omnipresent (i.e. such a being is aware of every object and event in every location and is able to influence or affect every object or event in every location).
We can simplify Geisler’s overall summary argument, and remove the most obvious logical self-contradictions by reducing the attributes and roles that make up the concept or definition of “God”:
GEISLER’S OVERALL ARGUMENT – Rev.A

1A. There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, and this being has always existed, and will always continue to exist.

2A. IF there is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, and this being has always existed, and will always continue to exist, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

3. God exists.

This is a much improved version of Geisler’s overall argument.  His actual overall argument was weighed down (and sunk) by  overkill.  Premise (2A) appears to be true to me.  The logic is fine (a standard modus ponens inference). So, the evaluation of this argument rests on our evaluation of the first premise.
Even though we have significantly pared down the elements of premise (1), this claim remains extremely dubious, because there is not one single element of this claim for which Geisler has actually provided a solid argument.  Every one of the seven elements of premise (1) is dubious and unproven.  Thus, we ought to reject this argument, and therefore reject Geisler’s unbelievably crappy case for God.

bookmark_borderPlantinga Calls This A Good Argument for God’s Existence?

The title of my post might come across as snarky, so I want to begin my making it clear that is not my intent. In fact, I want to go on record as saying I have great respect for Plantinga’s skill as a philosopher. Among other things, I think he succeeded in his attempt to refute Mackie’s version of the argument from evil.
Perhaps because I have to come hold Plantinga’s work to such a high standard, I continue to be surprised whenever I read Plantinga’s version of the so-called argument from beauty. In his famous lecture, “Two Dozen or So Theistic Arguments,” Alvin Plantinga sketches what he calls the “Mozart Argument.”

On a naturalistic anthropology, our alleged grasp and appreciation of (alleged) beauty is to be explained in terms of evolution: somehow arose in the course of evolution, and something about its early manifestations had survival value. But miserable and disgusting cacophony (heavy metal rock?) could as well have been what we took to be beautiful. On the theistic view, God recognizes beauty; indeed, it is deeply involved in his very nature. To grasp the beauty of a Mozart’s D Minor piano concerto is to grasp something that is objectively there; it is to appreciate what is objectively worthy of appreciation.

Plantinga doesn’t say how he rates the strength of the individual arguments; it’s possible that he views this argument as providing just a teeny-tiny bit of evidence that is just barely more probable on theism than on naturalism. Of course, it’s also possible that he views this argument as a “killer refutation” of a naturalism. Or, perhaps more likely, maybe he views it somewhere in between.
Let’s evaluate this argument the same way Plantinga evaluates arguments from evil against theism. How do we do that? By trying to clarify the claim the argument makes about the relationship between the evidence to be explained (in this case, objective beauty) and the rival explanatory hypotheses (e.g., theism and naturalism). Nothing in the passage above suggests that Plantinga claims that objective beauty is logically inconsistent with naturalism. Rather, Plantinga seems to be suggesting that objective beauty is less probable on naturalism than on theism.
I’m going to attempt to “steel man” Plantinga’s argument. The most charitable interpretation of Plantinga is that he’s offering the following argument:
(1) Objective beauty exists.
(2) Naturalism is not intrinsically much more probable than theism. [See Plantinga’s argument L]
(3) The existence of objective beauty is more probable on theism than on naturalism, i.e., Pr(beauty|theism) > Pr(beauty|naturalism).
(4) Therefore, everything else held equal, naturalism is probably false, i.e., Pr(naturalism) < 1/2.
I find this argument unconvincing; indeed, I find it so unconvincing I confess I find it hard to understand why Plantinga would endorse it.
First, I think the truth of (1) is far from certain. It’s far from obvious to me that such a thing as objective beauty exists; I don’t even have the intuition that it exists. And Plantinga offers no reason to think that it does. If it doesn’t exist, then there is nothing to explain and this argument cannot even get off the ground.
Second, I think (2) is false. Purdue University philosopher Paul Draper has convinced me that intrinsic probability is determined by modesty, coherence, and nothing else. Again, the only thing I could find in Plantinga’s lecture is a reference to Swinburne’s work on intrinsic probability. Swinburne argues that simplicity determines intrinsic probability. To be sure, there is a correlation between modesty, coherence, and simplicity. But correlation is as far as it goes. And if Draper is correct that intrinsic probability is determined by modesty and coherence, then naturalism is intrinsically much more probable than theism for the simple fact that naturalism (a/k/a “source physicalism”) is much more modest than theism, just as supernaturalism (a/k/a “source idealism”) is much more modest than theism.
Third, let’s assume, but only for the sake of argument, that (1) is true. There really is such a thing as “objective beauty.” What might be the metaphysical or ontological grounding for it? One option is Platonism, i.e., abstract objects. In other words, facts about objective beauty would be nothing more or less than necessary truths about beauty. And since Draperian naturalism (or “source physicalism”) says nothing about whether abstract objects exist, this metaphysical grounding is available not just to theists, but also to naturalists. And Plantinga offers no reason to reject this naturalistic explanation.
Instead, Plantinga considers an evolutionary explanation. Perhaps, he suggests,

our alleged grasp and appreciation of (alleged) beauty is to be explained in terms of evolution: [it] somehow arose in the course of evolution.

But this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. Plantinga isn’t comparing a naturalistic explanation of objective beauty to a theistic explanation of objective beauty. On the naturalistic side of the equation, he’s not considering the explanatory power of naturalism to account for objective beauty; rather, he’s considering the explanatory power of naturalism conjoined with an auxiliary hypothesis (about evolution) to account for our grasp and appreciation of alleged beauty. Similarly, on the theistic side of the equation, he’s not considering the explanatory power of theism to account for objective beauty; rather, he’s considering the explanatory power of theism conjoined with an auxiliary hypothesis (about God’s nature) to account for … what, precisely? Our grasp and appreciation of real, not just merely alleged, beauty? God’s causation of objectively beautiful features of the natural world? Something else? Plantinga never says.
The problem isn’t that he invokes auxiliary hypotheses; the problem is that doing so raises a whole bunch of questions which Plantinga doesn’t even ask, much less answer. For example, what’s the antecedent probability of his proffered evolutionary explanation, conditional upon the truth of naturalism? Likewise, what’s the antecedent probability of his auxiliary hypothesis to theism, that facts about objective beauty are somehow related to God’s nature, conditional upon the truth of theism? (And how does that compare to an alternative auxiliary hypothesis about theism, namely, that facts about objectively beauty are grounded in an autonomous realm of abstract objects?) Since Plantinga doesn’t answer these questions, his defense of his Mozart argument is far from complete.
Fourth, let’s assume, but only for the sake of argument, that premise (3) is true. The fact, if it is (were?) a fact, that objective beauty exists hardly exhausts what we (would?) know about “beauty.” As Draper points out, while the universe is saturated with visual beauty, it is not saturated with auditory, tactile, or other sensory beauty. Given that beauty “exists” at all, facts about the kinds and distribution of beauty favor naturalism over theism. So, once the evidence about beauty is fully stated, it’s far from obvious that it favors theism over naturalism.
In fairness to Plantinga, I want to remind readers that Plantinga was merely sketching his Mozart argument in the context of a speech about two dozen or so arguments; he wasn’t trying to give a sustained or even a precise defense of the argument. Nevertheless, I think the above objections pose significant obstacles to such an argument. Even when the argument is steel manned, as I have tried to do here, I cannot see how the argument can overcome these objections.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 16: Just One Unlimited Being?

A standard objection to traditional arguments for God is that even if the arguments were successful, they fail to prove that there is just ONE god, leaving open the possibility that polytheism is true, and that monotheism is false.  In Phase 5 of his case for God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Dr. Norman Geisler presents an argument that is intended to deal with this standard objection:
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, inifinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.  But how many beings like that can there be?  He is a class of one by definition.  If there were two unlimited beings, how could you tell them apart?…There can only be one infinite Being and no other.  (WSA, p.28)
The question Geisler poses is clearly a rhetorical one.  It is just a way of asserting this claim:

If there were two unlimited beings, then we could not tell them apart.

There is also an unstated assumption that connects this idea to the conclusion that Geisler seeks to establish.  I have made that assumption explicit in my statement of this argument, as premise (104):
Argument of Phase 5

100.  There is at least one being that is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

101.  A being X is an unlimited being IF and ONLY IF being X is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

THEREFORE:

102. There is at least one unlimited being.

 

103.  If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell being A apart from being B.

104. If we cannot tell being A apart from being B, then being A is the very same being as being B.

THEREFORE:

105. If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then being A is the very same being as being B.

THEREFORE:

106.  There is at most just one unlimited being.

102. There is at least one unlimited being.

THEREFORE:

107.  There is exactly one unlimited being.

Premise (100) is dubious for many reasons, so this argument rests on a very shaky foundation.  Premise (100) is based on many of the preceding unsound arguments put forward by Geisler, and it has at least these problems: Geisler has failed to show that there is any eternal being, any omnipotent being, any omniscient being, and any perfectly morally good being, and Geisler has also failed to show that there is any eternal omnipotent being, any eternal omniscient being, and any eternal perfectly morally good being, and Geisler has failed to show that there is any being that is both omnipotent and omniscient, and any being that is both omnipotent and perfectly morally good, and any being that is both omniscient and perfectly morally good, etc.  Geisler has failed to establish each and every element of this claim.  His failure could not be any more complete or absolute.
The Phase 5 argument ought to be rejected simply because it rests on premise (100), but there are other problems as well.
The two other key premises of this argument are (103) and (104):

103.  If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell being A apart from being B.

104. If we cannot tell being A apart from being B, then being A is the very same being as being B.

If these two premises were true, the rest of the argument would be solid, because the logic is correct (assuming that the phrase “we cannot tell being A apart from being B” means the same thing in both of these premises,  so that this argument does not involve the fallacy of equivocation).
Premise (103) appears to be FALSE.  The fact that two being have the same degree of duration, power, knowledge, and moral goodness does NOT make it impossible to tell the two beings apart from each other.  For example, if one being was green all over, and the other being was red all over, then we could tell the beings apart by their color.  Duration, power, knowledge, and moral goodness are NOT the only attributes or characteristics that can be used to identify a being, or to distinguish one being from another.
It might be objected that physical attributes like color, shape, size, and weight do not apply to a being that is omnipotent and omniscient, since such a being would also be omnipresent, and thus would NOT have a specific location in space.
But other attributes or characteristics could be used to distinguish two unlimited beings.  For example, if being A was an unlimited being who created the universe and being B was an unlimited being who did NOT create the universe, then we could distinguish between being A and being B by the fact that one created the universe and the other did not.  Therefore, premise (103) is false, and we ought to reject the Phase 5 argument for this reason too, in addition to the highly dubious foundational premise (100).
Furthermore, premise (103) appears to be analogous to a claim which most Christians are bound to reject:

103A.  If person A is an unlimited being and person B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell person A apart from person B.

This assertion implies that we cannot tell Jesus (the Son of God) apart from God the Father.  The Christian doctrine of the Trinity includes the claim that Jesus and God the Father are two distinct persons, that they are persons that we can tell apart.  But the doctrine of the Trinity also teaches that Jesus the Son of God is an unlimited being, and that God the Father is an unlimited being.  The assertion (103A) contradicts the doctrine of the Trinity, and thus most Christians would have to reject (103A), in order to accept the doctrine of the Trinity and to avoid this logical contradiction in their beliefs.  Since most Christians are bound to reject (103A), and since (103A) appears to be analogous to premise (103), this casts significant doubt on (103), from a Christian point of view.
Premise (104) also appears to be FALSE.  If we understand the phrase “we cannot tell being A apart from being B” in a straightforward and literal way, then this premise makes the nature of reality dependent upon our limited and finite human cognitive abilities.  But this makes no sense.  An ant cannot understand algebra or calculus or  the laws of chemistry and physics, but that does not mean that there are no such things as the laws of chemistry and the laws of physics; it only means that there are aspects of reality that humans can understand and perceive that ants cannot understand or perceive.  So, if a human being can distinguish one substance A from another substance B by analyzing the chemical structure of both substances, and if an ant is unable to tell substance A apart from substance B, it does not follow that substance A is there very same substance as substance B.
Similarly, if limited finite human minds cannot tell unlimited being A apart from unlimited being B, that might simply be the result of our human inability to understand and perceive some real difference that exists between being A and being B.  So, the fact that humans are unable to tell apart being A and being B does NOT prove that there are no actual differences between these beings.  There could be real differences that human beings are unable to detect or discern.  The limitations of our human minds do not constrain the nature of reality; they only constrain what we humans are able to understand and perceive about reality.
Furthermore, this common-sense assumption is one that every Christian must accept, because Christian theology teaches that God is real but that the God’s nature transcends limited finite human minds: human beings cannot completely understand and perceive God’s nature.  Thus, Christian theology assumes the view that our human minds are limited and finite and that the limitations of our minds do NOT constrain the nature of reality; they only constrain what we humans are able to understand and pereceive about reality.
Premise (104) could be modified, in order to eliminate the subjectivist view that it presupposes:

104A. If there is no attribute of being A (including the lack of an attribute) that differs from the attributes of being B, then being A is the very same being as being B.

This is basically Leibniz’s principle of “the idenity of indiscernibles”:
The Identity of Indiscernibles is a principle of analytic ontology first explicitly formulated by Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz in his Discourse on Metaphysics, Section 9 (Loemker 1969: 308). It states that no two distinct things exactly resemble each other. This is often referred to as ‘Leibniz’s Law’ and is typically understood to mean that no two objects have exactly the same properties. (from the opening paragraph of “The Identity of Indiscernibles” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
On this interpretation, this second premise is much more plausible, but then premise (103) would need to be modified in a similar manner:

103B. If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then no attribute of being A (including the lack of an attribute) differs from the attributes of being B. 

Given this modification of premise (103) it is even more clear that this premise is FALSE, because “unlimited being” implies only attributes related to duration, power, knowledge, and moral goodness, and it is clearly the case that there are many other attributes that a being can have besides those (e.g.  a being could be the creator of the universe).  So, if we modify premise (104) to eliminate the subjectivist presupposition (which constrains the nature of reality based upon the limitations of human cognition), that does make (104) more plausibly true, but it also makes premise (103) more certainly false (because of the necessary analogous modification to that premise).
In conclusion, the Phase 5 argument FAILS.  Premise (100) is based on several dubious claims, none of which Geisler has shown to be true, premise (103) appears to be false, and premise (104) is dubious because it is based on a subjectivist presupposition. If we modify (104) to eliminate the subjectivist presupposition, then premise (103) must be similarly modified, making it even more certain that premise (103) is FALSE.  This argument is based on a highly dubious premise (100) and a false premise (103), so this argument FAILS, like every other argument in Geisler’s case for God.
===============
UPDATED 5/21/17
In the above post, I clarified and simplified Geisler’s somewhat unclear concept of an “unlimited being”.  There are, however, other possible interpretations of this concept that are suggested by specific comments that Geisler makes in WSA.  So, to be fair to Geisler we should briefly consider these alternative interpretations of this concept, to see whether that helps to strengthen his Phase 5 argument.
The “whatever He has” Definition
In Phase 4 when Geisler is arguing that “God” (i.e. the cause of the beginning of the universe) has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness, he hints at a specific meaning of the concept of an “unlimited being”:
Because of His necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning, without change, and without limitation.  (WSA, p.28)
Geisler is here assuming that there is a cause of the beginning of the universe, and that this cause is a “necessary being”, and from these assumptions he infers that this being (which he mistakenly and confusingly refers to as “God”, once again demonstrating the great unclarity of his thinking) “has whatever He has” in a way that is “without limitation”.  Here is a definition of “unlimited being” based on the above quote:

101A.  A being X is an unlimited being IF and ONLY IF all of the attributes that being X has are had by X in an unlimited way.

Would this interpretation of premise (101) help the argument of Phase 5?  The inference from (100) combined with (101) would no longer work, so this change damages the initial inference in his argument.  However, an alternative premise to (100) would fix that inference:

100A. There is at least one being that is such that all of the attributes that being has are had by that being in an unlimited way.

Geisler thinks that he has shown that there is a “necessary being” (though he has not shown this) and he thinks that a necessary being has all of its attributes in an unlimited way (though he has not shown this either), so Geisler would agree to (100A) and think that he has shown (100A) to be true.  Since Geisler has NOT shown the assumptions that (100A) is based on to be true, (100A) remains dubious, just like (100), so this does not improve his initial inference/argument that is part of the Phase 5 argument, but it also does not damage that initial inference/argument either, at least not in an obvious way.
There are some reasons, however, to doubt that a being that has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness can exist.  The problem is that these “attributes” can step on each other’s toes.  In other words, when some attribute is thought of as being unlimited, it tends to constrain and restrict other attributes of the being in question.
If we think of unlimited power, this implies the power to do evil.  But the God of Christianity is supposed to be perfectly morally good, so God cannot do evil.  In other words, the perfect or unlimited moral goodness of God creates a constraint or limitation on what God can do; it creates a limitation on God’s power.
If a being has unlimited knowledge, then the being knows infallibly every detail of every event that is going to happen in the future, but in that case the being in question does NOT have free will, because it knows infallibly in advance every detail about every choice and every action it will ever perform prior to making those choices and performing those actions.  This is possible only if those choices and actions are pre-determined, only if those choices and actions are NOT free.  But such a being cannot be a perfectly morally good being, cannot be a being of unlimited moral goodness, because a being that lacks free will cannot be a morally good being at all, let alone have unlimited moral goodness.  Thus, unlimited knowledge does not merely constrain a being’s moral goodness, it eliminates the very possiblity of moral goodness.
So, one serious problem with (100A) is that it can be used as the basis for showing that Geisler’s concept of “God” (i.e.  an “unlimited being” that has the attributes of power, knowledge, and moral goodness) is incoherent and contains logical contradictions, and thus does not and cannot exist.
This alternative definition leaves my previous objections to (103) untouched, and also creates the opening for at least one additional objection to (103).  On the definition of “unlimited being” in (101A), we can have the following two examples of an “unlimited being”:

  • Unlimited being A has unlimited size but no weight.
  • Unlimited being B has unlimited weight but no size.

These two beings have the attributes they have in an unlimited way, but they have different attributes, so we can tell them apart.  The really big being is A, and the really heavy being is B.  So, the definition in (101A) provides an additional reason to doubt premise (103).
Premise (104) does not mention the concept of an “unlimited being” so the alternative definition does not change the meaning of premise (104), and I don’t see any impact on my objections and comments about premise (104), so the definition given in (101A) does not help or damage Geisler’s argument in relation to (104).
I conclude that the alternative definition in (101A) does NOT help strenghen the argument of Phase 5, and it does appear to create the potential for some additional objections.
 
The “unlimited in His perfections” Definition
After Geisler presents his case for God, he considers various objections that might be raised.  One of the objections relates to the concept of an “unlimited being”, and Geisler’s response indicates another possible interpretation of the term:
When we say that God is unlimited, we mean that He is unlimited in His perfections.  Now evil is not a perfection; it is an imperfection.  The same is true of nonexistence, weakness, ignorance…and any other characteristic that implies limitation or imperfection.  (WSA, p.31)
If we take Geisler to be explaining what he means by an “unlimited being”, then this quote can be used as the basis for an alternative definition of that phrase:

101B.  A being X is an unlimited being IF and ONLY IF all of the perfections that being X has are had by X in an unlimited way.

Since power, knowledge, and moral goodness are considered to be “perfections”, an unlimited being that has those attributes would have them in an unlimited way, according to the definition in (101B).
Once again, this modification of premise (101) makes it so the inference from (100) and (101B) is logically invalid.  However, we can modify premise (100) to fix the inference:

100B. There is at least one being that is such that all of the perfections that being has are had by that being in an unlimited way.

This premise may be more difficult to establish than the original premise (100), because showing that there is a being that has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness would NOT be sufficent to establish that there is a being such that ALL of the perfections of that being were unlimited.  One would have to either show that the being in question had no other perfections besides power, knowledge, and moral goodness (which is NOT the case with God, according to Geisler and Christian theology) or one would need to somehow show that all of the other perfections possessed by the being in question were also possessed by that being in an unlimited way.
On the other hand, it may be easier to establish (100B) than the original premise (100), because one does not have to prove the existence of a being that has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness, in order to establish (100B).  One only needs to show that a being with one or two perfections of some sort or other had that perfection or those two perfections to an unlimited degree.  I cannot think of any examples of such a being off the top of my head, but with some effort someone might well be able to come up with an example of such a being.
In any case (100B) currently remains as dubious and as unproven as premise (100).
How would the alternative definition in (101B) impact premise (103)?  Premise (103) would clearly be FALSE given the definition of an “unlimited being” in (101B), because this definition only requires that a being’s perfections are all unlimited; it does not require that a being have many perfections or any particular perfections.  So, this creates the potential for the existence of a wide variety of unlimited beings, each having a different perfection or different set of perfections.  We could tell such beings apart on the basis of the specific perfection or set of perfections possessed by that being.  Thus, the definition in (101B) does not help strengthen Geisler’s argument in relation to premise (103).
Since premise (104) does not use the phrase “unlimited being”, changing the definition of that phrase does not change the meaning of premise (104). My objection to premise (104) is not affected by this change in the definition of “unlimited being”.
If we use the modified premise (104B), which avoids the subjectivist presupposition, then premise (103) would need to be modified in a similar way to logically connect with (104B):

103B. If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then no attribute of being A (including the lack of an attribute) differs from the attributes of being B. 

Given the alternative definition of “unlimited being” in (101B), it seems fairly clear that (103B) is FALSE.  The alternative definition does not require a being to have more than one perfection, or to have any particular perfection, so we can consider all kinds of possible examples of unlimited beings with just one or two perfections of various different perfections in various combinations, so it seems highly unlikely that we would be unable to come up with two examples of beings with different perfections, and where “all” of those perfections were possessed in an unlimited way.  If the two unlimited beings had either different perfections or a different combination of perfections, the at least one attribute of the first being would differ from the attributes of the second being, making (103B) false.
I conclude that modifying premise (101) to (101B) would not strengthen Geisler’s argument for Phase 5.
Neither of these two alternative definitions of an “unlimited being” helps to strengthen the argument for Phase 5, so my previous conclusion still stands: the Phase 5 argument FAILS, just like every other argument in Geisler’s case for God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 15: Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Perfectly Good?

Dr. Norman Geisler uses cosmological arguments to show that God is very powerful, and a teleological argument to show that God is very intelligent, and a moral argument to show that God is good (When Skeptics Ask [hereafter: WSA], p.26-27).  But in Phase 4 of his case, he has not yet attempted to show that God exists.  At best he has attempted to show that there is exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and that this being is very powerful, very intelligent, and is morally good.  Geisler has failed miserably at this attempt, but that is what he was actually trying to establish, so far.
A final step in Phase 4 is his attempt to show that the being that caused the universe is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good:
Because of his necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning,  without change, and without limitation.  So while the argument from Creation tells us that He has power, the argument from being shows us that it is perfect, unlimited power.  The argument from design tells us that He is intelligent, but His necessity informs us that His knowledge is uncreated, unchanging, and infinite.  The moral order suggests that He is good, but the perfection of His being means that He must be all good in a perfect and unlimited way.  (WSA, p.28)
In the previous post I criticized Argument 3 of Phase 4, which included an inference to the conclusion that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist had no limitations.  That argument failed (in part) because it was based on a fallacy of equivocation on the phrase “to not be” (among other problems).  In this post I will consider a second argument that Geisler makes for a similar conclusion:
Argument 4 of Phase 4

90. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a necessary being.

91. If a being B is a necessary being, then all of the attributes being B has are had by B in a necessary way.

92. If all of the attributes being B has are had by B in a necessary way, then all of the attributes being B has are had by B without any limitation.

THEREFORE:

93. All of the attributes that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has, are attributes that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has without any limitation.

94.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist has the attributes of power, knowledge, and moral goodness.

THEREFORE:

95. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness.

96.  If a being B has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness, then being B is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

THEREFORE:

97. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

One standard objection to traditional arguments for the existence of God is that, at best, they only show the existence of a being with finite power, finite knowledge, and limited moral goodness.  The above argument is Geisler’s attempt to get around that standard objection.  His attempt, like every other argument in this case, fails.
First of all, premise (90) is doubly dubious, because (a) Geisler failed to show that there was exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and (b) Geisler also failed to show that the being that caused the universe to exist (if there were such a being) was a necessary being.  The “Argument from Being” that Geisler presents is based on an analysis of the concept of “God”, but Geisler has not shown anything about God or the existence of God yet; he has only attempted to show the existence of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and he failed even at that lesser task.  Because Geisler is still working his way towards showing that God exists, he cannot make use of his “Argument from Being” to support the claim that the being who caused the universe to begin to exist is a necessary being.  Therefore, premise (90) is doubly dubious, and provides a very shaky foundation for Argument 4 of Phase 4.
Premise (91) is also very dubious, for more than one reason.  First of all, this premise is NOT self-evidently true, so Geisler needs to provide reasons or evidence in support of (91), but he provides no such support for this premise.  Second, the notion of having an attribute “in a necessary way” is vague and unclear, so Geisler needs to provide a definition or clarification of what this phrase means, but he provides no definition or clarification of this phrase.  One cannot evaluate the truth of (91) unless and until the phrase “in a necessary way” is defined or clarified.
Third, if we interpret the notion of having an attribute “in a necessary way” as meaning that it is a necessary truth that the being in question has that attribute, then this leads to an apparent contradicition with Christian theology.   God, according to Christian theology, did NOT have to create the universe; God freely chose to create the universe, and was not compelled or necessitated to do so.  But one of God’s attributes is being the creator of the universe.  If God is a necessary being, as Geisler asserts, and thus each of God’s attributes corresponds to a necessary truth, then it is a necessary truth that “God created the universe” (or “If God exists, then God created the universe”).  But if this is a necessary truth, then it is logically impossible for God to NOT have created the universe, and thus God did NOT freely choose to create the universe, but was compelled to do so out of logical necessity.  Therefore, premise (91) contradicts a basic claim of Christian theology.
There are good reasons to believe that premise (92) is false, if we assume that (91) is true.  First, the number three is a necessary being, since it cannot not exist.  But the quantity represented by the number three is clearly limited; that is what makes it the number three, as opposed to the number four, or the number five thousand.  The number three is less than the number four, and it is this very limitation that constitutes the nature of the number three.  Thus, a necessary being can have a limitation.
Second, God is the creator of the universe and a necessary being, according to Geisler and according to Christian theology, but the universe is finite both in duration and in size.  If God’s power and knowledge are unlimited, then God could have created an infinite universe, but God, if God exists, created a finite universe.  So, even if God had the potential to create an infinite universe, it appears that he did not actualize that potential.  God’s attribute of being a “creator of stars, planets, and galaxies” is a limited attribute, not an infinite and unlimited attribute.   But in that case, premise (92) would be false, assuming premise (91) was true, because at least one attribute of a necessary being is limited and finite.
The conclusion (93) follows validly from the premises (90), (91), and (92), assuming that there are no equivocations, such as with the unclear phrase “in a necessary way”.  However, each of the three premises is dubious, so this argument for (93) fails.
Premise (94) is a question begging assumption, because Geisler has only attempted to show that the cause of the universe is powerful, the designer of the universe has knowledge, and the lawmaker of moral laws is morally good.  He has made no attempt to show that these three beings (if they exist) are one and the same being.   Geisler also failed to show that there was just one cause of the universe, just one designer of the universe, and just one moral lawmaker.  So, this premise is doubly dubious.  Geisler failed to show that there was just one of each of these types of beings, and Geisler failed to show that these three beings (or types of being) are all one and the same being.  Therefore, Geisler hasn’t even come close to showing that the cause of the universe is powerful AND knowledgable AND morally good.
Since both premise (93) and (94) are dubious, the argument for (95) fails.
Premise (96) appears to be true, but since Geisler failed to provide a solid argument for premise (95), his argument for (97) also fails, just like every other argument in his unbelievably crappy case for God.

bookmark_border25 Questions for Theists

Almost five years ago, I published my “20+ Questions for Theists.” They say hindsight is 20/20. After reading the numerous comments in the combox, I can see that I was not as clear as I would have liked to have been. So I’d like to offer a clarification before reposting the list of questions, which has now grown to 25 (or so).
Many people incorrectly assumed that the list was supposed to function as a list of “gotcha!” questions. Even our own Keith Parsons commented, “Any Bible-believing Christian could easily answer these.” Sure enough, many did. It’s easy to invent “just-so,” ad hoc explanations for why, if God exists, God allowed some fact F to obtain. But that is of very little philosophical interest. (More on that in a moment.) But even more important, it misses the point.
These questions are not meant to be used as “gotcha!” questions; rather, they are intended to simply introduce my evidential case against theism (see, e.g., here, here), which is still very much a work in progress. Each question is a specific instance of a more generic ‘meta-question’: “Which explanatory hypothesis, naturalism or theism, is the best explanation?” For details, see “Basic Structure of My Evidential Arguments.” That page lays out the schema for all of my evidential arguments.
That page also explains the logically correct way for evaluating potential answers to my questions. Allow me to explain. Let’s assume an answer has the following generic form:

An. God exists; allows some fact F to obtain for reason n.

Such answers function as auxiliary hypotheses to the ‘core’ hypothesis of theism. Accordingly, they need to be evaluated using what Purdue University philosopher Paul Draper calls the “Weighted Average Principle” or WAP.  Using WAP forces us to ask two questions. First, assume that theism is true but, for a moment, ignore the evidence for F. On theism alone (i.e., ignoring the evidence for F), what reason is there to expect that An would be true? If theism alone doesn’t “predict” An, then An is an ad hoc auxiliary hypothesis and so An cannot be used to successfully defend theism. Second, assume that An is true. What reason is there to expect that F is true? This matters because if An doesn’t “predict” F, then appealing to An is literally irrelevant to the task of defending theism. (Again, for details, see “Basic Structure of My Evidential Arguments.”)
Here, then, is my list of questions:
Continue reading “25 Questions for Theists”