bookmark_borderLink: “Slavery, Southern Conservatism, and Darwinian Natural Right” by Larry Arnhart

“Some of the opponents of Darwinian moral naturalism insist that morality requires a transcendent source in religious belief. But in this debate over slavery, we see that such religious belief–at least as coming from Biblical revelation–does not provide us reliable moral guidance. Cobb was able to show that the Bible–both the Old Testament and the New Testament–sanctioned slavery. (Recent books by Mark Noll and Eugene Genovese have surveyed the history of Southern proslavery arguments based on the Bible.) If the Bible cannot resolve such a moral debate, then we have to appeal to our natural moral experience that does not depend on religious belief. Darwinian science indicates how such moral experience might be founded in our evolved human nature.”
LINK

bookmark_borderHinman’s Replies to My Objections to ABEAN and REMEC

I. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTIONS TO ABEAN
 
A. POSTS IN THIS DEBATE THAT DISCUSS ABEAN:
Joe Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
My Criticism of Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/04/hinmans-abean-argument-part-2-objections-11-1/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/06/hinmans-abean-argument-part-3-objections/
Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His ABEAN Argument
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-defense-of-god-argument-1.html
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god.html
 
B. MY MAIN OBJECTION: ABEAN IS VERY UNCLEAR
My contention is not merely that ABEAN is a bad or defective argument; rather, it is so unclear that it is unworthy of serious consideration.   It cannot be rationally evaluated in its current form, because it is VERY UNCLEAR.
An excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response to my objections to ABEAN [bold font added]:
=========================

The ABEAN Argument is VERY UNCLEAR

The main problem with the ABEAN argument is that it is UNCLEAR.  This is the same problem that I encountered repeatedly in my analysis and evaluation of Norman Geisler’s case for God in his book When Skeptics Ask.  The problem is not so much that ABEAN uses false premises or invalid inferences.  The problem is that nearly every claim in the argument is unclear, making it nearly impossible to rationally evaluate the argument.

what is he calling unclear?: he does not say!!!!

============================
What am I calling unclear?  According to Hinman I don’t say what I’m calling unclear.
This complaint by Hinman is FALSE, as one can see by simply reading the very passage that Hinman just quoted:
…nearly every claim in the argument is unclear…
That is what I am calling unclear.
Since I don’t say that EVERY claim in the argument is unclear, Hinman might think that the expression “nearly every claim” is vague.  But Hinman knows that I have specified exactly which premises were problematic.  Here is another excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response [bold font added]:
============================

I judged premises (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) to be VERY UNCLEAR because they each contain at least two different unclear words or phrases, which Hinman failed to adequately define or explain.

He’s going to repeat the numbers,  He has nothing to say,he has made no argument
============================
Clearly, I have specified exactly which premises are VERY UNCLEAR.    Hinman says that I have “nothing to say” and that I “made no argument”.
Once again, if Hinman had simply read the sentence that he just quoted, he would have known that his reply was FALSE.  Here is my argument, spelled out so that even a child can understand it:

1. IF a claim in ABEAN contains at least two different unclear words or phrases, THEN that claim is VERY UNCLEAR.

2. (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) are claims in the ABEAN argument which contain at least two different unclear words or phrases.

THEREFORE

3. (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) are claims in the ABEAN argument which are VERY UNCLEAR.

This is what we here on planet earth refer to as an “argument”.  The sentence that he just quoted refutes his own complaint.
OK.  I specified exactly which claims in ABEAN were VERY UNCLEAR, and I specified WHY I believe them to be VERY UNCLEAR, but Hinman still might continue to complain: But what exactly about each of those specific claims makes them unclear?
Hinman, however, knows exactly what about those specific claims makes them unclear, because I listed out the specific words and phrases in those claims that are the main cause of the unclarity of ABEAN.   Another excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response shows he was aware of this list [bold font added]:
============================

(2) list of terms he finds unclear
 .
 The unclarity that I based this chart on is the unclarity of the meaning of several problematic words and phrases:
 .
[of course I have defined each of these terms…
============================

Hinman then walks step-by-step through my list of unclear words and phrases from ABEAN.  So, Hinman was perfectly well aware of the exact words and phrases that I believe are unclear and that are the basis for my conclusion that his ABEAN argument is VERY UNCLEAR.  His definitions are, in general,  less clear than the words he attempts to define, and thus they FAIL as definitions.
 
C. TWO EXAMPLES OF HINMAN’S INTELLECTUAL BLINDNESS
I think it is obvious to most readers of my posts and Hinman’s posts about ABEAN, that this argument is unclear and that many words and phrases in this argument are unclear.  But Hinman has some sort of intellectual blindness that prevents him from seeing what is obvious to most of the rest of us, and this blindness comes across loud and clear with his initial comments about two of his unclear terms:
============================

  • naturalistic phenomena
This is obvious,self evident, it;s a common term…
 
[…]
  • temporal
another self evident term that everyone understands…
============================

The meanings of these words are “obvious” and “self-evident”  and “everyone understands” what they mean, according to Hinman.
These are problematic philosophical and theological concepts that REQUIRE clarification and definition.  The fact that Hinman cannot understand this obvious point shows that he is not intellectually ready to argue intelligently for the existence of God, or for any other philosophical claim.
First of all, “naturalistic phenomena” presumably has the same meaning as “natural phenomena”.   We understand the word “natural” in relation to the contrasting word “supernatural”.  These two words represent categories, categories that presumably constitute a dichotomy.  Everything is either natural or supernatural.
I suppose there could be composite things that have both natural components and supernatural components.  Most Christians, for example, believe that humans are composed of a physical (natural) body and a non-physical (supernatural) soul. But human bodies are completely natural things, and human souls are completely supernatural things, so at the level of the basic components that make up human beings, there are no quasi-natural things, and no quasi-supernatural things.
If one does NOT have a clear understanding of what the word “supernatural” means, then one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “natural” means.  But the word “supernatural” is highly problematic, and it should be obvious to anyone with some degree of intellectual sophistication that the meaning of “supernatural” is highly problematic.
We have argued about the meaning of the word “supernatural” on more than one occasion here at The Secular Outpost.  In fact, I and others have argued with Mr. Hinman about the meaning of the word “supernatural” here at The Secular Outpost!  He has no excuse for thinking that the meaning of the word “supernatural” is clear and unproblematic.  Thus, Hinman has no excuse for the idiotic belief that “naturalistic phenomena” is a clear and unproblematic term.
The word “temporal” contrasts, as Hinman himself points out, with the word “eternal”.  Once again, if one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “eternal” means, then one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “temporal” means.  But the word “eternal” is obviously problematic.  First, it is obviously ambiguous between at least two different senses:
DEFINITION 1:
X is eternal IF AND ONLY IF X has always existed in the past, and X exists now, and X will always continue to exist in the future. 
DEFINITION 2:
X is eternal IF AND ONLY IF X exists outside of time.
I suspect that Hinman takes “eternal” to mean something like what it means in DEFINITION 2.  But this understanding of “eternal” is inherently problematic.  DEFINITION 2 is itself unclear and problematic.  What does it mean for something to be “outside of time”?  How can we tell whether or not something is “outside of time”?  Is this idea logically coherent, or does it contain a logical contradiction?
Furthermore, how can something CHANGE if it exists “outside of time”?  If something that exists “outside of time” cannot change, then how can something “outside of time”  communicate with people who are “inside of time”?  How can something “outside of time” make decisions and take actions that affect people who are “inside of time”?  Unless there are clear answers available to such questions, we don’t clearly understand what the word “eternal” (as used by Hinman) means, and thus we don’t understand what the word “temporal” means either.
This is NOT the sort of thing I expect to have to explain to an intellectually sophisticated person.  These points should be obvious to anyone who has some degree of intellectual sophistication in matters of theology and philosophy of religion.  Hinman’s inability to see and understand these obvious points is astounding to me.
The meanings of these words and phrases are NOT “self-evident” nor are they “obvious” nor are they words that “everyone understands”.  Such comments reflect the thinking of a person who is lacking in intellectual sophistication, of a person who is not yet ready to present an intelligent argument for the existence of God.
I am not going to bother addressing all of the various points Hinman raises about my list of unclear words and phrases, nor about my objections to some of the specific claims in ABEAN.   My main objection to ABEAN stands firm, and Hinman’s responses to my main objection are pathetic: he doesn’t understand my objection because he is clueless about what it means for a word or phrase to be CLEAR.
ABEAN is a VERY UNCLEAR argument, and that made the argument Dead On Arrival, and unworthy of serious consideration.  Those who are intellectually capable of understanding my  objections will be persuaded by them and will not find anything of significance and substance in Hinman’s many and various responses to my objections.  The ABEAN argument was DOA when Hinman first presented it, and it remains cold and dead, despite Hinman’s long-winded posts attempting to resuscitate it.
 
II. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTIONS TO REMEC
 
A. POSTS IN THIS DEBATE THAT DISCUSS REMEC:
Joe Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
My Criticism of Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/21/hinmans-remec-argument/
Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His REMEC Argument
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/debate-existence-of-god-round-ii.html
 
B. MY THREE MAIN OBJECTIONS TO REMEC
OBJECTION #1:
Neither God nor existence are mentioned ANYWHERE in REMEC.
OBJECTION #2:
The central concept of REMEC (i.e. “religious experience”) is left UNDEFINED and VERY UNCLEAR.
OBJECTION #3:
The contents of the key epistemic criteria upon which REMEC is based are left UNSPECIFIED.
 
C. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTION #1
Hinman has nothing intelligent to say in reply to my Objection #1.
So, I will simply re-state the objection in a way that even a child could understand.
Hinman’s REMEC Argument:
(1) we trust perceptions that work for us in navigating the world
(2) we judge by criteria Regular, Consistent, Shared (inter-subjective)
(3) RE fits this criteria
(4 ) enables “navigation” (the point of the criteria)
(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative
The conclusion of this argument is claim (5):

  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (5).

Claims (1) through (4) are the premises of the REMEC argument:

  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (1).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (2).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (3).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (4).

Now I will draw an inference that even a child could understand and follow:
There is NO MENTION OF GOD ANYWHERE in the REMEC argument.
The REMEC argument is about “religious experience”; it is NOT an argument about God, and therefore it is NOT an argument about the existence of God.
NOTE:
If Hinman had provided an actual definition of “religious experience”, he could have defined it as an “experience that seems to the experiencer to be of the presence or activity of God.”  (I believe William Alston has a definition along those lines).  In that way, he could have linked the concept of “religious experience” directly to the concept of “God”. I would have objected to such a definition, but it would have at least created a logical connection between claim (5) and the issue of the existence of God. But Hinman failed to provide a legitimate definition of “religious experience”, so no such conceptual connection was established.
 
D. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTION #2
REPLY #1:
No, first of all I said religious experience (RE) is the umbrella term.
Saying that “religious experience” is an “umbrella term” fails to clarify the meaning of this phrase. Hinman considers “mystical experience” to be one kind of “religious experience” and that there are other kinds of “religious experience”. I am aware of that, and my objection showed that I was aware of that. But that does almost nothing to define the term “religious experience”.
REPLY #2:
Secondly, the charge that I’m being unclear is empirically disproved because there is a huge body of academic work from which I researched to write my book.
This is completely irrelevant. Even if we grant the assumption that “there is a huge body of academic work” that is considered in Hinman’s book, this has no relevance to the clarity or lack of clarity in his blog post where he presents the REMEC argument. Hinman’s book might be filled with dozens of crystal clear arguments and definitions, but that doesn’t show that his blog post is clear, and it certainly does not in any way show that he clearly defined the key concept in REMEC (which is “religious experience”) in his blog posts in this debate.
REPLY #3:
Bowen refers to the problem of other kinds of experiences being called RE, yes that is why I called RE an “umbrella term” but ME (mystical experience)is very specific and clear. It’s clear in it’s definition we know exactly what is produced and how to determine a valid mystical experience.
Hinman then quotes various definitions and explanations of the term “mystical experience”. This is, once again, irrelevant to my objection, which is that the phrase “religious experience” is the key concept in the REMEC argument, and that Hinman failed to clearly define what this phrase means. The conclusion of the REMEC argument is this:
(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative
There is no mention of “mystical experience” in the conclusion of REMEC. The conclusion is NOT about “mystical experience”; it is about “RE” which is an abbreviation for “religious experience”. Therefore, this argument is about “religious experience”, but Hinman failed to provide a clear definition of this key concept. Hinman literally does not know what he is talking about.
Hinman’s replies above to my objection are all irrelevant to the objection. Saying that “religious experience” is an “umbrella term” fails to provide any significant information about what this phrase means. The alleged massive academic content and merits of Hinman’s book are completely irrelevant to the question of whether his blog post on REMEC is clear, and is certainly irrelevant to whether or not his blog post provided a clear definition of the key phrase “religious experience”. Finally, even if we grant the claim that Hinman clearly defined “mystical experience” in his blog post, the REMEC argument is NOT about “mystical experience”; it is about “religious experience”, and providing a clear definition of “mystical experience” is obviously NOT the same as providing a clear definition of “religious experience”.
Hinman has completely failed to provide a relevant reply to my Objection #2.
 
E. HINMAN’S REPLY TO MY OBJECTION #3:
====================
The criteria is what we use to determine the reliability of our experiences and perceptions, Thomas Reid suggests that criteria, true he does not use the phrases “regular,” “constant.” and “shared,” but the process he describes is best summarize in that way,he gives three examples:
(1)A solider on the battlefield notices all those stuck with bayonets tend to die so he does not ask bunch of Cartesian questions about reality while waiting to be stabbed he get’s out of the way;
(2) A man making love to a woman does not stop in the middle to quiz her about the reality of her existence,
(3) Common people living their lives going about their tasks don’t refrain from putting bread on the table until they they sort out the epistemology,even Descartes waited for retirement.
=========================
Examples are often helpful in explaining or clarifying a general principle, but it is very sad that Hinman takes the giving of these three examples to be sufficient to specify the content of his three key epistemic principles. This illustrates the unclarity and confusion that buzzes around inside of Hinman’s head.
Providing one example of a principle doesn’t even come close to specifying the actual contents of the principle. The fact that Hinman confuses the giving of an example with the clear statement of an epistemic principle is, by itself, sufficient to firmly establish the correctness of my Objection #3.  Given that the above UNCLEAR CRAP is what we get when Hinman has a second opportunity to clearly state his key epistemic principles, I strongly suspect that Hinman is not intellectually sophisticated enough to provide a clear statement of any epistemic principle.
Hinman’s pathetic second attempt at specifying the content of his key epistemic criteria shows that the answer to the question “Where’s the beef?” is: There ain’t any beef here!  Underneath all the bullshit that Hinman spews in the REMEC argument is just more bullshit, more confusion, more unclarity.
All three of my main objections to REMEC stand firm, and each one is sufficient by itself to justify my view that REMEC was Dead On Arrival, and that REMEC is not merely a defective argument, but is an argument that is not worthy of serious consideration.
NOTE:
This is my last and final post on the ABEAN and REMEC arguments (Thank you Jesus!).

bookmark_borderDoes “Science” Make Theism Likelier than Atheism?

Victor Reppert recently linked to an article on the blog Saints and Sceptics (S&S), Why Science Makes Theism Likelier than Atheism.” In this blog post, I’m going to critically assess that article.
1. What is the Evidence to be Explained?
S&S begin their article as follows:

Should we view the order of the universe, and our ability to comprehend that order, as evidence of God?

This question suggests two related but independent items of evidence to be explained:

E1. The universe is orderly.
E2. The universe contains intelligent beings able to comprehend that order.

Regarding E1, S&S don’t clarify or explain what they mean by phrases like “the order of the universe” or, elsewhere, “the high degree of order” of the universe. In order to be charitable, I’m going to “steel man” their argument by assuming they are appealing to something similar to what Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne calls the “arguments from spatial and temporal order” in his book, The Existence of God.  The argument from temporal order appeals to the fact that “there are regular successions of events, codified in laws of nature.”[1] The phrase “regular succession of events” is key; this is why, I suppose, Swinburne calls it the argument from temporal order. In contrast, the argument from spatial order appeals to the fact that, given our universe conforms to simple, formulable, scientific natural laws, “our bodies are suitable vehicles to provide us with an enormous amount of knowledge of the world and to execute an enormous variety of purposes in it.”[2] This “steel man” interpretation seems highly charitable, since E1 seems to correspond with Swinburne’s argument from temporal order, whereas E2 is very similar to Swinburne’s argument from spatial order.[3]
Accordingly, we may clarify E1 as follows.

E1′. The universe conforms to simple, formulable, scientific laws.

With the evidence to be explained sufficiently clarified, let’s unpack their argument.
2. What, Precisely, Is the Argument?
Before I can turn to the logical structure of S&S’s argument, let’s first review some notations which will make it easier to summarize the argument in a concise form.

Pr(x): the epistemic probability of any proposition x
Pr(x | y): the epistemic probability of any proposition x conditional upon y
“>!”: “is much more probable than”
“>!!”: “is much, much more probable than”
T: theism
A: atheism. A is logically equivalent to ~T.

The first premise of the argument is a simple statement of E1′:

(1) E1′ is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E1′) is close to 1.

Let’s now return to S&S:

Let’s start with atheism. From an atheistic perspective, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for the order in the universe; it would just be a brute fact or a ‘happy accident’ as Polkinghorne puts it.
But that doesn’t seem good enough. In the absence of an explanation, we would have no reason to expect the high degree of order that we find. But does theism fare any better? To many it seems very likely that if the universe is the product of an intelligent mind, it would exhibit order.  …

So the second premise of the argument seems to be:

(2) An orderly universe is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that atheism is true, i.e., Pr(E1′ | T) > Pr(E1′ | A).

The third premise is a simple statement of the evidence E2.

(3) E2 is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E2) is close to 1.

Returning to S&S:

But does theism make an intelligible universe – especially one which is governed by comprehensible laws and which can described by mathematics – any more likely? …
If our minds are the result of design we could rely on them to discover the truth. Rational rulers used laws to govern – and God was the ruler of the universe. And it would not be surprising to discover that mathematics could describe the universe if the divine mind and human minds were analogous in at least some respects. Finally if the universe is created by a good God, he would not systematically deceive us. In light of these considerations, Kepler and his fellow scientists were surely right to think that there is much more reason to expect an intelligible universe if there is a God than if there is not.

So the next premise seems to be:

(4) An intelligible universe is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that theism is true and an orderly exists than on the assumption that atheism is true and an orderly universe exists, i.e., Pr(E2 | T & E1′) > Pr(E2 | A & E1′).

Finally, S&S concludes:

So it is obvious that any complex, valuable, beautiful and intelligible state of affairs – including our universe – is much, much more likely given theism than chance.

And so the conclusion of their argument is:

(5) Therefore, theism is a much, much more likely explanation for the order and intelligibility of the universe than chance, i.e., Pr(T | E1′ & E2)  >!! Pr(chance | E1′ & E2).

We are now in a position to concisely state the argument in its logical form.

(1) Pr(E1′) is close to 1.
(2) Pr(E1′ | T) > Pr(E1′ | A).
(3) Pr(E2) is close to 1.
(4) Pr(E2 | T & E1′) > Pr(E2 | A & E1′).
(C) Therefore, Pr(T | E1′ & E2)  >!! Pr(chance | E1′ & E2).

Let us now turn to evaluating the strength of this argument. While I have many objections to this argument, let me present just four.
3. First Objection: The Argument Ignores Intrinsic Probabilities
This argument is a deductive argument about inductive probabilities. As stated, however, the argument is incomplete. It does not contain any premises regarding the prior probabilities of theism and atheism. But Bayes’ Theorem shows that posterior or final probabilities are a function of two things: prior probability and explanatory power. S&S write much about the latter, whereas they are completely silent about the former. This invalidates their argument. It’s possible that (1) – (4) could all be true and yet the conclusion, (C), still might not follow if the prior probability is extremely low.
In order to repair the argument, S&S would need to add a premise to their argument which explicitly addresses the prior probabilities of theism and atheism. Now, applying the concept of a “prior probability” to a metaphysical hypothesis like theism is tricky. It isn’t clear from S&S’s article which propositions they would include in their background information for the purpose of assessing a prior probability, and I do not know of a non-controversial way to choose such propositions. Fortunately we don’t have to solve that problem; another option is to replace “prior probability” with “intrinsic probability.” As the name implies, an intrinsic probability is the probability of a hypothesis based solely on intrinsic factors relating to its content (i.e., what it says); it has nothing to do with extrinsic factors, such as the relationship between a hypothesis and the evidence to be explained.
In an attempt to “steel man” S&S’s argument, I propose that we adopt Paul Draper’s theory of intrinsic probability, which says that the intrinsic probability of a hypothesis is determined by its scope, its modesty, and nothing else. Draper explains modesty and scope as follows.

a. Modesty: The modesty of a hypothesis is inversely proportional to its “content”—to how much it says. Hypotheses that say less—for example, because they make fewer claims or less specific claims or claims that are narrower in scope—are, other things being equal, more likely to be true than hypotheses that say more.
b. Coherence: The coherence of a hypothesis depends on how well its components fit together.
c. If we abstract from all factors extrinsic to a hypothesis, then the only thing that could affect the epistemic probability of that hypothesis is how much it says and how well what it says fits together. No other factors affecting probability could be intrinsic to the hypothesis.

Using these criteria, we’re now in a position to compare the intrinsic probabilities of theism and atheism. Before we do that, however, we need to start with the intrinsic probabilities of naturalism and supernaturalism. Here’s Draper:

4. The intrinsic probabilities of naturalism and supernaturalism
a. Naturalism is the statement that the physical world existed prior to any mental world and caused any mental world to come into existence.
b. Supernaturalism is the statement that the mental world existed prior to any physical world and caused any physical world to come into existence.
c. Otherism is the statement that both naturalism and supernaturalism are false.
d. Naturalism and supernaturalism are equally probable intrinsically because they are equally modest and coherent. Since the intrinsic epistemic probability of otherism is greater than zero, naturalism and supernaturalism are each less probable intrinsically than their denials. (So both naturalists and supernaturalists bear a burden of proof and that burden is equal.)
5. The intrinsic probabilities of theism and atheism
a. Theism is a very specific version of supernaturalism and so is many times (i.e. at least 10 times) less probable intrinsically than supernaturalism.
b. Naturalism is a specific version of atheism and so is many times less probable than atheism.
c. Thus, since naturalism and supernaturalism are equally probable intrinsically, it follows that atheism is many times more probable intrinsically than theism, which entails that atheism has a high intrinsic probability (certainly higher than .9) while theism has a very low intrinsic probability (certainly lower than .1)….

Let me introduce a bit more notation:

Pr(|x|): the intrinsic probability of any proposition x

Using that notation, we are now in a position to add the missing premise to S&S’s argument:

(5) Atheism is many times more probable intrinsically than theism, i.e., Pr(|A|) > .9 >!! Pr(|T|) < .1.

Unfortunately for S&S, however, it is far from obvious that the evidence to be explained, E1′ and E2, outweigh the very low intrinsic probability of theism. Accordingly, it’s far from obvious that the conclusion, (C), follows from premises (1)-(5).
4. Second Objection: Pr(E1′ | A) May Be Inscrutable
My second objection to S&S’s argument is that Pr(E1′ | A) may be inscrutable. If it’s inscrutable, then they can’t compare Pr(E1′ | T) to Pr(E1′ | A). Accordingly, the truth of (2) would be unknown. While I’m open to the possibility that (2) is true, I cannot figure out a way to defend it.
Why think Pr(E1′ | A) is inscrutable? In the context of E1′, A is a catch-all hypothesis. A is logically equivalent to A conjoined with all possible explanations for temporal order in the universe apart from theism.[4] For example:

A1: A is true, and the explanation for temporal order in the universe is naturalistic explanation #1.
A2: A is true, and the explanation for temporal order in the universe is naturalistic explanation #2.

An: A is true, and the explanation for temporal order in the universe is naturalistic explanation #n.

That’s a lot of potential explanations. Accordingly, this constitutes a prima facie reason to be skeptical of the claim that Pr(E1′ | A) can be known well enough to support a comparative claim such as (2). The only way to reject this prima facie reason would be to identify some intrinsic feature of A which either ruled out a naturalistic explanation for E1′ or which made such an explanation antecedently less likely than it would be on T. Is there such a reason?
Let’s reconsider part of what S&S write in support of (2):

From an atheistic perspective, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for the order in the universe; it would just be a brute fact or a ‘happy accident’ as Polkinghorne puts it.

By “brute fact,” I assume that S&S mean “a fact which has no explanation.” By “happy accident,” I assume that Polkinghorne means due to chance. But “brute fact” and “happy accident” hardly constitute an exhaustive set of the possibilities. Let me add just one more to the list: factual necessity. Metaphysical naturalism (as defined in the Draper quote, above) is antecedently very probable on the assumption that atheism is true. If metaphysical naturalism is true, then it seems highly plausible that physical reality — whether that consists of just our universe or a multiverse — is factually necessary.  If physical reality is factually necessary, it seems highly plausible that temporal order could also be factually necessary. But if temporal order is factually necessary, then it is just factually necessary and there is nothing for atheism to explain.
Admittedly, the hypothesis, “our universe and its laws are factually necessary,” is highly speculative and not known to be true. But, to paraphrase a point once made by CalTech physicist Sean Carroll, theists like S&S are the ones proposing bizarre thought experiments involving the fundamental laws of nature. So we have to consider such speculative possibilities due to the very nature of the topic and the argument. In any case, this much is clear: S&S give no evidence of having even considered, much less addressed, such a possibility.
5. Third Objection: The Conclusion Confuses Atheism with Chance
My third objection is closely related to my point about factual necessity.

So it is obvious that any complex, valuable, beautiful and intelligible state of affairs – including our universe – is much, much more likely given theism than chance.

The conclusion of the argument does not follow from the premises because the conclusion compares theism to chance, not theism to atheism. But, as we’ve just seen, atheism functions as a catch-all hypothesis. Atheism is compatible with the proposition, “The universe and its temporal order are factually necessary.” N.B. That proposition denies that the order of the universe is due to chance. And S&S provide no reason to think that chance is antecedently much more probable on atheism than factual necessity.
6. Fourth Objection: The Argument Commits the Fallacy of Understated Evidence
As is the case with E1′, I’m open to the possibility that E2, either by itself or when conjoined with E1′, is evidence favoring theism over atheism.[5] In other words, I’m open to the idea that (4) is true. I don’t think S&S have successfully shown this, however. Rather than pursue that objection here, however, I’ll leave that as an exercise for interested readers. Instead, I want to pursue a different objection: even if (4) were true, it would commit the fallacy of understated evidence.
Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that the intelligibility of the universe really is evidence favoring theism over atheism. Given that the universe is intelligible, the fact that so much of it is intelligible without appealing to supernatural agency is much more probable on naturalism than on theism. (I’ve defended this argument at length elsewhere, so I will refer interested readers to that defense.) Since naturalism entails atheism, it follows that this evidence favoring atheism over theism.
The upshot is this: even if the intelligibility of the universe is evidence favoring theism, there is other, more specific evidence relating to its intelligibility which favors naturalism (and hence atheism) over theism. It’s far from obvious that the former outweighs the latter.
7. Conclusion
As we’ve seen, there are four good objections to S&S’s claim that science makes theism more likely than atheism. I conclude, then, that S&S’s argument is not successful.
Notes
[1] Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God (second ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 153.
[2] Swinburne 2004, p. 154.
[3] The main or only difference between Swinburne’s argument from spatial order and S&S’s E2 is that the former also appeals to our ability “to execute an enormous variety of purposes” in the world, whereas the latter does not.
[4] Herman Phillipse, God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious Reason (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 258.
[5] For what it’s worth, I think E2 is much more promising than E1′ as a potential source of theistic evidence.

bookmark_borderDoes Atheism Undercut the Case for Equal Human Rights?

Philosopher Victor Reppert thinks so.  I’m not certain, but I think his argument for this claim is supposed to be found in an earlier post of his. At the same time, Reppert, like the overwhelming majority of theists who write about such topics, completely glosses over what atheist intellectuals who specialize in the topic have written. (The writings of Erik Wielenberg would be a great place to start.)
I’d have more respect for Reppert’s argument if he at least gave the appearance of interacting with his dialectical opponents. But, at least in this case, he didn’t do that. What he’s done is no more respectable than, say, an atheist giving an argument from evil and completely ignoring all defenses and theodicies.

bookmark_borderLatest from Paul Draper: “Atheism and Agnosticism” for SEP

Here’s a topic which generates no disagreement at all: how to define the words “atheism” and “agnosticism.”
LINK
I am honored to have been listed in the acknowledgments.
ETA: Comments on this post will be heavily moderated. My goal in having a comments box on this post, as with all posts, is to have informative comments. I would hope that most of the comments are educational in the sense that I or other readers can learn from them, much as I would expect to learn from a letter to the editor of a publication like Scientific American or a journal.