bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 12: The Argument for (3a)

THE EVALUATION OF ARGUMENT #1 SO FAR
In Part 11 we saw that Argument #1 is UNSOUND, because it is based on the premise (F), and because Kreeft provides no support for (F), and because we have good reason to believe (F) to be FALSE.
In this current post, I will examine the core argument in support of premise (8a), the other main premise of Argument #1.
 
THE CORE ARGUMENT SUPPORTING (8a)
Here is premise (8a):

8a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.

Here is what appears to be the core argument in the reasoning supporting (8a):

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

3a. There is something outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is outside matter, space and time.

In Part 11 I argued that this core argument is logically INVALID, and thus that this core argument is UNSOUND.
So at this point, the single most important premise of Argument #1, premise (F), is FALSE, and the next most important premise of Argument #1, premise (8a), is supported by an UNSOUND core argument, leaving us without any good reason to believe (8a) to be true.
Another question about this core argument, is whether the premises are true or false.  Kreeft provides arguments in support of both premise (D) and premise (3a).   I’m not going to examine the argument supporting (D), because I interpret (D) as a conceptual claim, as a partial analysis of the meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.  Furthermore,  I’m willing to accept (D) as an implication of a stipulated definition.  In Part 11, I presented what I take to be the intended meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.  Based on that definition,  (D) would be an analytic truth, because (D) expresses logical implications of that definition.  Thus, there is no need to examine the argument for (D).  I accept (D) as a true analytic claim.
However, the other premise of the core argument in support of (6a) and (8a), namely premise (3a), is controversial and questionable.  So, if Kreeft fails to provide a solid argument that shows (3a) to be true, then premise (3a) remains questionable at best, and we would have another reason to reject this core argument.  So, we need to examine Kreeft’s sub-argument for (3a).
 
THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (3a)

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

THEREFORE:

B. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN the material universe does not change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE:

C. It is NOT the case that there is nothing outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

3a. There is something outside the material universe.

The logic of this sub-argument for (3a) is VALID, so the evaluation of this argument depends on the evaluation of these two key premises: (B) and (2).  I take it that premise (2) is TRUE, given that any change to a human person or plant or animal or to a physical object constitutes a “change to the material universe” (that is how Kreeft appears to be using that phrase).   So, the evaluation of this argument for (3a) depends on the evaluation of premise (B).  Since the evaluation of premise (B) depends largely on our evaluation of  premises (1) and (A), which are given in support of (B), our evaluation of the argument for (3a) depends largely on what we think about premise (1) and premise (A).
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (1)
Here is premise (1) of Argument #1:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

What does the phrase “cause the universe to change” mean?  Kreeft doesn’t explain or clarify the meaning of this key phrase.  However, the evidence that he gives to show that the universe does in fact change shows that he includes ordinary changes to people and objects on this planet:
The material world we know is a world of change.  This young woman came to be 5’2″ tall, but she was not always that height.  The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. (HCA, p.50)
Since the evidence supporting the claim that the “material world we know is a world of change” is that ordinary changes to people and things inside the material world occur, the phrase “the material universe changed” MUST include circumstances where some person or thing inside the material universe changes.  In other words, whenever some person or thing inside the material universe changes, Kreeft would infer from this fact that “the material universe has changed”.  But in that case, premise (1) is FALSE, because ordinary changes to individual people and objects inside the material universe can obviously be caused by other individual people or objects that exist inside the material universe.
For example, if my hand hits a glass of milk, and the glass is knocked over,  and the milk spills, there is no need to posit the existence of something “outside the material universe” as the cause of that spilled milk.  The milk spilled as a result of my hand knocking the glass over.  My arm and my hand are things that are inside the material universe, and the motion of my arm and hand caused the glass to move and the milk to spill.  This spilling of the milk is, based on how Kreeft uses the phrase, an example of a “change to the material universe”, but it is a change that was caused by physical things and events that are inside the material universe.  Therefore, even if there were nothing outside the material universe, this particular change to the material universe (i.e. the spilling of milk) could still occur, because it could be caused by some physical event or object that is inside the material universe (i.e. my hand knocking a glass full of milk).  Thus, premise (1) is FALSE.  Since premise (1) is FALSE, this argument in support of (3a) is UNSOUND, and (3a) remains unsupported and dubious.
But what about the need for a “first cause”? Something must have caused my hand to move so that it hit the glass of milk.  And whatever caused my hand to move must have also had a cause, and so on.  This tracing of causes cannot go on for infinity (some would say), so there must be a first cause that started this chain of events and changes.  But Aquinas does NOT deny the possibility that the universe is eternal, that the universe (and changes in the universe) has always existed (and have always occurred).
Aquinas does believe that the universe had a beginning and is of finite age, but he believed this on the basis of divine revelation, not on the basis of philosophical reasoning.  He admitted that as far as reason and philosophy are concerned, it is possible that the universe has always existed.  But if the universe has always existed, then there could indeed be infinite chains of cause and effect, one physical event causing another physical event, causing another, and so on, without any “first event” at the beginning of a chain of events, because some chains of events may be infinite and have no beginning.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (A)
Here is premise (A) from Argument #1:

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

Premise (A) seems plausible initially.  However, it is based on a very general metaphysical principle:

MP1. Every change to the material universe must be caused to occur by some existing thing. 

One might reasonably doubt this very general principle.  For example, radioactive decay appears to be random.  There is apparently no prior physical event that triggers the radioactive decay event.  So there does not seem to be “a thing” that causes the decay to occur at the specific time that it occurs.  It appears to be the case that while most ordinary changes are caused or triggered by some existing thing (i.e. by a change to some existing thing), there are also some changes that don’t follow this pattern, and that occur apart from being caused by some other existing thing.
Because the plausibility of (A) depends on (MP1), and because (MP1) appears to be FALSE, premise (A) becomes implausible.  The falsehood of (MP1) does not prove that (A) is false, but it does cast serious doubt on premise (A).
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PREMISE (3a)
The argument for (3a) is logically VALID, and premise (2) seems clearly to be TRUE, so how we evaluate this argument depends on our evaluation of premise (1) and premise (A).  I have argued above that premise (1) is FALSE, and that premise (A) is dubious, so we have good reason to reject the argument for (3a) as UNSOUND.
I am tempted to say that (3a) remains dubious, because Kreeft has not provided any good reason to believe that (3a) is TRUE.  However, (3a) might well be true, despite the failure of Kreeft’s argument for (3a).
Numbers appear to be “outside the material universe”.  The number five is NOT made of matter or energy.  The number five does NOT have any spatial characteristics (no size, no shape, no position in space).  The number five does not have any temporal characteristics (it has no beginning, no end, no duration, and is unaffected by the passing of time).  The number five thus appears to be something that is outside matter, and outside space, and outside time; therefore, the number five is “outside the material universe”.  Thus, (3a) appears to be TRUE, even though Kreeft’s argument for (3a) FAILS.
One important point to note about this concession that (3a) appears to be TRUE:  if my reasoning is correct, then the same reasoning can be used to PROVE that (6a) is FALSE and that (8a) is FALSE.   There are, afterall, many numbers, not just one number.  Thus, there are MANY things that are “outside the material universe”, such as the number one, the number two, the number three, etc.  Therefore, premise (8a) is not just dubious, it is (according to this reasoning) FALSE, and we can PROVE it to be false.
If my reasoning about numbers is correct, then we can PROVE (6a) and (8a) to be FALSE.  If my reasoning about numbers is incorrect, then (3a) remains dubious and so does (8a),  since Kreeft has failed to provide us with a good reason to believe (3a) to be true.  So, (8a) is either false or it is at least dubious.
 
PROBLEMS WITH ARGUMENT #1

  • The single most important premise of Argument #1, namely (F), is left UNSTATED and UNSUPPORTED.
  • The single most important premise of Argument #1, namely (F), appears to be FALSE.
  • The second most important premise of Argument #1, namely (8a), is supported by an INVALID core argument.
  • Although both premises of the core argument supporting the second most important premise of Argument #1, namely (8a), appear to be TRUE, the very reason why one of those premises, namely (3a), appears to be TRUE shows that (6a) is FALSE and that (8a) is FALSE.

In short, the Argument from Change, one of the five first arguments for the existence of God in Kreeft’s case for God, an argument which is presumably one of the strongest and best arguments for God (in Kreeft’s view), is an UNSOUND argument that is based on two key premises that are both FALSE.

bookmark_borderTim Crane on Religious Violence

In his new book, The Meaning of Belief, philosopher Tim Crane argues that much of the anti-religious animus of atheists is largely motivated by the spectacle of religious violence in our day, typified by the events of 9/11/2001. Atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris passionately denounce the violence done in the name of religion and conclude that religious belief is dangerous. If, like John Lennon, we imagine a world with no religion, are we imagining a better world?
Crane does not deny that there is religious violence, but he thinks that atheists tend to overstate the case. He makes the point, a staple of religious apologetic literature, that secular ideologies such as Nazism, Marxism/Leninism, and Maoism killed far larger numbers than religious violence. Crane is aware of the reply—one that I have made myself—that such ideologies are tantamount to secular religions. Crane’s objection is semantic. Such a reply, he says, stipulates a re-definition of “religion” that dismisses the element of transcendence and so turns on a notion that is vague and incorrect (p. 127). He concludes: “The idea that these systems of thought are in some sense ‘religious’ is a superficial maneuver that adds little value to this debate (p. 127).”
Yet there is an issue here that is not superficial, does not turn on semantics, and, if properly understood, adds significant value to the debate. To use a term as neutral as possible, belief-systems, whether religious (in Crane’s sense) or secular, often evince a totalizing tendency, that is, a pathological propensity to develop into all-encompassing dogmas that impose absolute demands on adherents, insisting that they be fanatical True Believers. When this happens such totalizing ideologies foster a kind of tribalism, an intense identification of members with an in-group and the exclusion of “others” who are regarded with suspicion and animosity. This syndrome, which involves the shutting-off of empathy and the dehumanizing of the out-groups, is studied by psychologists and neuroscientists. A good summary of their findings is in David Eagleman’s The Brain: The Story of You, Chapter Five.
Atheists may therefore argue that those ideologies that are religious, in Crane’s sense that they posit a transcendent and foster strong group identity, are, in virtue of those very features, particularly inclined towards the kind of pathological development that turns them into totalizing belief-systems. If my religion is the one that acknowledges the One True God then all others must be mistaken about this matter, a matter of supreme importance. Further, if my group is the one that correctly identifies the will of God and strives to live by it, then we are the faithful and all those who pursue other practices are mistaken, again a supremely important matter. Surely, atheists might plausibly argue, groups that evince such beliefs will tend to form very strong in-group identities and exclude all others as infidels. The road from there to religious intolerance and from there to religious violence is a short one.
As for secular philosophies like Marxism/Leninism, Maoism, or Nazism, they became totalitarian by adopting typical features of religious systems. For instance, like religion, they elevated a comprehensive set of dogmas to the status of absolute, unquestionable truth, and demanded submission to those dogmas in thought, word, and deed. They created a bureaucracy with coercive powers (e.g. the Gestapo, the NKVD) charged, like the Holy Inquisition, with enforcing orthodoxy and tracking down and punishing dissidents and heretics. These ideologies also elevated leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to cultic status and hedged them with a semi-divinity. When historians speak, for instance, of Stalin’s “cult of personality,” they are not employing metaphor. Therefore, interpreting these ideologies as secular religions, is not, as Crane thinks, merely a semantic maneuver.
Crane recognizes that religious labels sometimes are merely tags for group identities and that what really drives a conflict is something other than religion. He cites the conflict between “Protestants” and “Catholics” in Northern Ireland as an instance where religious labels identify opposed groups, but do not identify the real source of the conflict. Therefore, many instances of so-called religious violence are not really motivated by religion.
There is no question that this is often the case. For instance, I think that many members of the “religious right” in this country adopt the “religious” label as a tribal identification, but what really motivates them is politics. This is shown by the alacrity with which they will drop their supposed religious values the moment they become politically inexpedient. A presidential candidate can boast about grabbing women by their genitals—surely behavior insupportable on any Christian principles—yet that candidate gets 80% of the evangelical vote. This suggests that so-called “values voters” are really just plain old power grabbers.
Religious violence, like all human behavior, is no doubt complexly caused, and much of what is labeled “religious” violence also has causes that are political, social, cultural, and economic. Nevertheless, religion often serves as the high-octane accelerant that turns a flame into a conflagration. “Religion makes everything worse,” Christopher Hitchens used to say. That is, when religious animus is added to an already bad situation, look out. Religion did not create hatred, but if you can be assured that God hates the same people you do, then you can hate with a clear conscience. Indeed, hatred becomes a religious duty. As Pascal noted, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
So, Crane is to be commended for pointing out the complexity of “religious violence,” a point that needs to be remembered when politicians and ideologues propose simplistic non-solutions like Muslim bans. Still, religion is often the “eye of newt” in the witches’ brew from which religious violence arises. It is historically ignorant and wrong, for instance, to single out Islam as a particularly violent religion, uniquely prone to extremism and fanaticism. On the other hand it is not Islam0phobic to note, what is obviously true, that extremist brands of Islamic theology do indeed motivate, excuse, and even command violence. If atheists like Hitchens or Harris overstate the problem, atheists like Crane understate it.

bookmark_borderProblems With TASO: Part 1

INTRO TO TASO
For several years, I have been working on an article about Richard Swinburne’s case for God. I’m currently revising the section of that article dealing with the third argument in Swinburne’s case: TASO (the Teleological Argument from Spatial Order).
In working on that section of the article, I noticed that my favorite objection to TASO was missing from that section. I have spelled out this objection a few times in posts and comments here at The Secular Outpost, but it never made it into my article, for some reason.
So, I began to work that objection into my article, and to do so, I needed to identify exactly which premise of Swinburne’s argument my objection was targeting. In identifying the specific premise that my objection was challenging, I discovered that the premise was fundamental to Swinburne’s entire case. Every one of Swinburne’s arguments for God in his book The Existence of God, 2nd edition (hereafter: EOG) relies on this same premise.  So, my favorite objection against TASO turns out to be an objection that applies to every argument that Swinburne presents in his case for God.
I will now lay out TASO, Swinburne’s critical argument about TASO, and my objections to Swinburne’s critical argument.  I will also explain why my favorite objection to TASO applies to every argument that Swinburne makes in support of the correctness of his various inductive arguments for the existence of God.  This will take two or three posts to accomplish.
TASO can be stated succinctly:
Teleological Argument from Spatial Order

(e3) There exists a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws, and in which the structure of the natural laws and of the initial conditions are such that they make the evolution of human bodies in that universe probable.

THEREFORE:

(g) God exists.

This is not a deductively valid argument for the existence of God.  But it is not supposed to be.  Swinburne argues that there are NO sound deductive arguments for the existence of God, and that the question of the existence of God must be determined on the basis of inductive arguments, on the basis of factual evidences that either tend to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis that “God exists”.  According to Swinburne, the above argument is a good inductive argument for the existence of God; it does not prove that God exists, but it does provide some confirmation of the existence of God.
More specifically, this argument adds to, or increases the probability of the hypothesis that “God exists” relative to the factual evidence presented in the first two inductive arguments in Swinburne’s case for God.  Swinburne’s method is to add one piece of factual evidence at a time, and slowly increase the probability of the hypothesis that “God exists” until he reaches the tipping point, until he can conclude that the existence of God is more probable than not,  until he shows that the claim “God exists” has a probability that is greater than .50.
Although Swinburne rejects the traditional approach of using deductive arguments to try to PROVE the existence of God, his reasoning ABOUT various inductive arguments for God consists almost exclusively of deductive reasoning.  That is, the arguments that Swinburne presents at length in EOG are critical arguments,  arguments that are about other arguments.  Swinburne’s critical arguments, which are about various inductive arguments for God, are themselves deductive arguments, and this is definitely the case with his critical argument concerning TASO.  Swinburne’s critical argument in support of the correctness of TASO is more complex than TASO, and it is a deductive argument:
Critical Argument for the Correctness of TASO

1. An argument X is a correct C-inductive argument IF AND ONLY IF: (a) the premises of X are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of X,  AND (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

2. The premises of the argument TASO are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of TASO.

3. The premises of the argument TASO make the conclusion of TASO more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

THEREFORE:

4. The argument TASO is a correct C-inductive argument.

Swinburne lays out his analysis of what constitutes a “correct C-inductive argument” in the very first chapter of The Existence of God, called “Inductive Arguments” (see EOG, p.6 & 7).  Although Swinburne does not generally spell out a critical argument like this for all of his inductive arguments for God, reasoning of this form is implied whenever Swinburne asserts that one of his inductive arguments for God is a correct inductive argument.
Each of the three premises of the above critical argument is questionable.  I have at least one objection against each premise.
 
OBJECTION TO PREMISE (2)
TASO is the third argument in Swinburne’s case for God.  The first argument in his case is an inductive cosmological argument that is based on this premise:
(e1) There is a complex physical universe.
Although the term “complex” is a bit vague, this premise seems undeniably true, so it makes sense to say of (e1) that it is “known to be true by those who dispute about” the existence of God.  This is a solid factual claim to use in an argument for God.
The second argument in Swinburne’s case is also based on a premise that seems to be clearly and obviously true:
(e2) There is a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws.
Again, the word “simple” is a bit vague, but this is a solid factual claim to use in an argument for God, so it makes sense to say that (e2) is “known to be true by those who dispute about” the existence of God.
But when we come to the third argument, TASO, the factual claim is not at all obviously true:
(e3) There exists a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws, and in which the structure of the natural laws and of the initial conditions are such that they make the evolution of human bodies in that universe probable.
First of all, it is not obviously true that human bodies evolved in our universe.  I firmly believe that human bodies evolved in this universe, and there is a great deal of evidence that supports the this hypothesis, leaving little room for doubt, but one needs to be exposed to a fair amount of scientific data and information and knowledge to be in a position to come to KNOW that human bodies evolved in this universe.  One needs to learn about sexual reproduction, and genetics, geology and fossils, and about different kinds of plant and animal life (bacteria, plants, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, primates, etc.).
People are not born with modern scientific knowledge about plants, animals, chemistry, genetics, geology, etc.  We have to be educated over a period of many years, and even then, many (most?) people in the USA don’t learn enough scientific information and concepts to be in a position to know that human bodies evolved.  Certainly, many educated Christians in the USA have doubts about the claim that human bodies evolved in this universe.
Second, assuming it to be a fact that human bodies evolved in this universe, this still does NOT imply that the structure of the universe (the initial conditions at the time of the Big Bang plus the specific laws of nature in this universe) made this outcome PROBABLE.  For all we know, the evolution of human bodies might have been an extremely improbable event.  Many events that have occurred are improbable events.  The fact that event X actually occurred does NOT show that the universe was so structured that it was probable that X would occur.
The inference from “X actually occurred” to the conclusion that “the universe was structured in such a way that made it probable that X would occur” would only make sense if one assumed the truth of determinism, only if one assumes that given the initial conditions of our universe and given the specific laws of nature in our universe, that every event in the history of the universe from the point of the Big Bang onward, was completely determined or fated to happen exactly the way it does happen.  On that view, every event (after the Big Bang) that occurs MUST have occurred, and that the initial conditions and laws of the universe made it CERTAIN that every event (after the Big Bang) would happen exactly the way they do in fact happen.  But this sort of rigid and extreme determinism is no longer in vogue.  Few scientists (if any) hold this sort of view these days.
The fact that human bodies have evolved in this universe is clearly NOT sufficient evidence to conclude that the structure of this universe made this event probable.  Furthermore, there does not appear to be any other easy and obvious way to arrive at this conclusion; there is no easy and obvious way to come to KNOW that (e3) is true.
Perhaps (e3) is true, but coming to know that (e3) is true would require not only learning most of the relevant scientific information and concepts that support the claim that human bodies evolved in this universe, but also a good deal of additional information and reasoning that would be needed to show that the initial conditions and laws of this universe were such as to make it probable that human bodies would evolve.
The Fine Tuning argument illustrates the complex sort of evidence and reasoning required here, but the argument from Fine Tuning aims only to show that the universe is structured in such a way as to make evolution of living creatures PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE.  It is a much taller order to argue that the structure of the universe is such that it made the evolution of human bodies PROBABLE.
Clearly, (e3) is NOT something that is “known by those who dispute about” the existence of God.  I doubt that anyone knows (e3) to be true, but even if there are a few such people, they are a tiny portion of the large population of those who “dispute about” the existence of God.   Therefore, premise (2) is FALSE.
 
OBJECTION TO PREMISE (3)
Swinburne’s primary emphasis is on presenting a line of reasoning in support of premise (3).  One key premise in his argument supporting (3) is the following premise (see EOG, p.189):
8. It is quite probable that (e3) is the case given that there is a God and a complex physical universe governed by simple natural laws.
If premise (8) is false or questionable, then Swinburne has failed to show (3) to be true, thus leaving the truth of (3) in doubt.
Premise (8) seems to me to be FALSE.  From my point of view, it is UNLIKELY that God would structure the universe in such a way that human bodies would probably evolve (naturally, apart from any divine intervention).
God is, on Swinburne’s own definition, an eternally omnipotent person, and an eternally omniscient person (with omniscience being limited in relation to knowledge of the future, because God’s free will and human free will make it logically impossible to know every detail of the future).  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, God would be able to create all existing plants, animals, and human beings in the blink of an eye, along the lines of the Genesis creation myth.  It is very implausible to suppose that God would use the long, random, and uncertain process of evolution to produce plants, animals, and human bodies when God could have instantly created billions of earth-like planets all filled to the brim with thousands of kinds of plants, and animals, and creatures with human-like bodies.
Furthermore, God is also supposed to be a perfectly morally good person, and all of the pain, disease, suffering, and death involved in a billion years of the evolutionary struggle for survival could have been avoided by God creating all of the desired plants, animals, and human-like creatures in an instant.  God, if God exists, had a very powerful moral reason to prefer instant creation of living creatures over the slow, random, uncertain, and suffering-filled natural process of evolution.
There seems to be no strong reason for God to prefer the natural process of evolution over instantaneous creation of all living creatures, including the creation of human bodies, and there is an obvious powerful moral reason for God to prefer instantaneous creation over the natural process of evolution.  So, it seems to me that premise (8) has it completely backwards.  It is highly IMPROBABLE that (e3) would be the case, if God existed.  Premise (8) is FALSE, and so Swinburne has failed to provide us with a good reason to believe (3) to be true.  Therefore, premise (3) remains doubtful.
 
OBJECTION TO PREMISE (1)
I have recently learned that my favorite objection to TASO is an objection to premise (1).  I will present my favorite objection to TASO in Part 2 of this series of posts on TASO.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 11: Evaluation of Argument #1

THE CONTEXT
Peter Kreeft and his co-author Ronald Tacelli open their Handbook of Christian Apologetics  (hereafter: HCA) with these words about their “reasons for writing this book”:

  1. We are certain that the Christian faith is true.
  2. We are only a little less certain that the very best thing we can possibly do for others is to persuade them of this truth, in which there is joy and peace and love incomparable in this world, and infinite and incomprehensible in the next. … (HCA, p.7)

Kreeft and Tacelli believe that heaven and hell are in the balance for every human being, when it comes to acceptance or rejection of “the Christian faith”.  So, it is very important that they try “to persuade” other people to accept the Christian faith in order for those people to gain a better life now, and a wonderful eternal life in heaven after death, and to avoid a life of eternal misery in hell.
Belief in the existence of God is one of the most basic beliefs in the Christian faith.  If God does NOT exist, then the Christian faith is just a fantasy.  Most of Christian theology rests upon the belief that God exists.  So, if Kreeft is to be successful in persuading others to accept the Christian faith, job number one is to provide good and solid arguments for the existence of God.  So, it is no surprise that after two introductory chapters (one on the idea of “apologetics” and another on the idea of “faith”) the very first Christian belief that Kreeft attempts to prove or show to be true is the belief that God exists.
As I have argued in previous posts, it appears that Kreeft has put his best foot forward by placing his best and strongest arguments for God up front in his case.  So, the first five arguments in Kreeft’s chapter containing twenty arguments for God, are presumably arguments that Kreeft takes to be the strongest and best arguments in his case for God.  If the first five arguments ALL FAIL, then we have good reason to suspect that his entire case will fail as well.
I have previously shown that the last ten arguments in his case all FAIL, so we have reason to suspect that his first five arguments will also fail.  But since these are arguments that he takes to be the best and strongest, we need to carefully examine and evaluate these first five arguments, in case one or more of them is in fact a good and solid argument for God.
 
THE CONCLUSION OF ARGUMENT #1
Here is the explicitly stated conclusion of Argument #1: “…this being outside the universe…is the unchanging Source of change.” (HCA, p.51).  I have re-stated this claim to clarify it a bit:
8a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.
One of the first things I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Argument #1 is presumably one of the very best and strongest arguments for God, in the view of Peter Kreeft.  But there is an OBVIOUS and SERIOUS problem with Argument #1: The conclusion does not mention God!
In fact, the word “God” does not appear in anywhere in this argument.  How can Argument #1 be a strong and clear argument for the existence of God, if it never once mentions God?  In order for an argument to be a clear and strong argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument should be that “God exists” or “There is a God”.   Argument #1 fails to satisfy this basic and obvious requirement.
We can fix this obviously defective argument by adding yet another  premise to fill in the logical gap:
(F) IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists. 
But this additional premise is highly questionable and, as is seen in Edward Feser’s version of the Argument from Change (in Chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God), a fairly long and complex argument needs to be presented in order to support this questionable premise.
In Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change, MOST of that argument (over 70% of it) is given in support of this one premise (or one very similar to it).  Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change is a fairly accurate representation of the reasoning of Aquinas; it is also the case that MOST of Aquinas’s case for God is focused on establishing this premise (or one very similar to it).
So, Kreeft left out what appears to be the single most important premise in the Argument from Change.  Kreeft is attempting to save us from an eternity of misery in hell and he is presenting what he thinks is one of his very best and strongest arguments for the most basic belief of the Christian faith, and yet somehow he cannot manage to clearly state the conclusion that “God exists” nor does he manage to explicitly state or provide support for what appears to be the single most important premise of this argument.
Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that (F) is FALSE.   God is a person, if God exists.  But a person cannot be an “unchanging” being, so the existence of an “unchanging” being does NOT imply the existence of God.  In fact, if the phrase “the unchanging Source of change” is supposed to be a reference to the CREATOR of the universe, then the antecedent of (F), i.e. “there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change”,  implies that the CREATOR of the universe is unchanging and thus not a person.  But if the CREATOR is not a person, then it follows that God does not exist.  So, to assert that “there is exactly ONE being that is the unchanging Source of change” appears to imply that God does not exist.
I realize that many theologians and philosophers of religion would argue either that (a) God is not a person, or that (b) it is possible for a person to be an unchanging being.  However, both of these positions seem very implausible, so I have serious doubts about premise (F).  In order to adequately argue for (F), one must not only provide strong arguments to support (F), but one must also explain either how God can be a non-person, or else explain how an unchanging being can be a person.
If I die and appear before God and am asked why I rejected Christianity,  I’m going to point to Chapter 3 of HCA, and say:
You sent this incompetent philosopher to persuade me that the Christian faith is true,  so what did you expect me to do?  Blindly accept arguments that are complete crap? Arguments that don’t even state the conclusion on the main question at issue?  Arguments that fail to state the single most important premise of the argument, and that fail to provide support for the single most important premise of the argument?  Screw that!  I’m not going to pretend to be a freaking IDIOT just so that you will let me into heaven.  No thank you.  
An argument that does not end with the conclusion that “God exists” and that never even mentions God does NOT constitute a strong argument for God, especially when such an argument fails to state or defend the single most important premise in that argument, namely a premise that links the explicitly stated conclusion (8a) to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists”.
Without any further analysis or critique, I can see that the Argument from Change, as presented by Kreeft is CRAP, because the success of the argument depends heavily on the DUBIOUS unstated premise (F), which in order for it to be rationally supported would require many further sub-arguments (at least a half-dozen further sub-arguments), and Kreeft has made no attempt to provide any of these additional sub-arguments to support premise (F).  Given that Kreeft makes no attempt to defend the dubious claim made by premise (F), and given that (F) is the most important, the most crucial, premise in the Argument from Change, this argument FAILS to provide any significant reason to believe that God exists.
These are just a couple of several problems with Argument #1, as we shall see.
Another serious problem with this argument is that (8a) is very unclear, even after my efforts to improve the clarity of this premise.  This premise contains at least two unclear phrases:  “outside the material universe” and “the…Source of change”.  The phrase “the…Source of change” pops up out of nowhere; this phrase does not occur anywhere else in the argument, and Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of what this phrase means.  The phrase “outside the material universe” arises from earlier premises, so I will deal with the unclarity of that phrase when I evaluate previous premises that also make use of that phrase.
Given the serious problems of unclarity with premise (8a) and given the absence of argumentation in support of the dubious unstated premise (F), we already have good reason to view Argument #1 as a complete failure.
 
THE CORE ARGUMENT
Although premise (F) is the most important premise in the whole argument in relation to the ultimate conclusion that “God exists”, there is another very important part of the argument in relation to the explicitly stated conclusion (8a).  In viewing the argument diagram, which displays the reasoning supporting (8a), it is clear that the heart or core of that support is the two-premise argument supporting premise (6a).   The logical structure of the reasoning supporting (8a) is shown in this argument diagram (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Diagram Argument 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here is what appears to be the core argument in the reasoning supporting (8a):

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is outside matter, space and time.

This appears to be the core argument in support of (8a) because both premises of this argument are supported by arguments, and because (6a) is a key premise in the argument supporting (7a) and (8a).  So, this argument is firmly planted in the middle of the flow of logic moving from the initial premises to the stated conclusion (8a).
This core argument is clearly defective, because it is logically INVALID.  Premise (6a) does not follow from (D) and (3a).  We cannot infer that there is “exactly one” being outside the material universe from (D) and (3a).  At best, we can only infer that “at least one” such being exists, leaving open the possibility that hundreds or millions or trillions of such beings exist.
Both premises of this core argument are questionable, but Kreeft provides arguments in support of both premises, so we need to consider those sub-arguments before passing judgment on these two premises.  However, both (D) and (3a) make use of the phrase “outside the material universe” and the meaning of this phrase is UNCLEAR. Furthermore, Kreeft does not provide a definition or clarification of the meaning of this phrase, making it difficult to evaluate the truth of these premises.
The logic of Kreeft’s argument suggests that he is assuming (D) as a premise, in order to infer (6a) from (3a).  Premise (D) appears to be a conceptual claim, a partial analysis of the meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.
Since (D) implies that being “outside the material universe” is a sufficient condition for being “outside matter, space and time”,  this means that being “outside matter” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe” and that being “outside space” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe”, and that being “outside time” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe”.
Although Kreeft does not say so explicitly, this also suggests that these three necessary conditions are jointly sufficient.  In other words, if something meets all three of these necessary conditions, then it must be “outside the material universe”.
Based on this plausible interpretation, we can infer a definition of the key phrase in the core argument:
Something X is outside the material universe IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) X is outside matter,
AND
(b) X is outside space,
AND
(c) X is outside time.

Presumably by “outside matter” Kreeft means:  is not made of matter or energy.  Presumably by “outside space” Kreeft means:  does not have any spatial characteristics (does not have a size, a shape, or a location in space). Presumably by “outside time” Kreeft means:  does not have any temporal characteristics (does not have a beginning, an end, or a duration, and is unaffected by the passing of time).
Notice that, in theory, there are eight different combinations of these three conditions, and thus eight different types of beings (click on image below for a clearer view of the chart):
Eight Types of Beings
 
 
 
Ordinary things, such as people, animals, plants, and physical objects, are Type 1 beings.  God, on Kreeft’s view, is a Type 8 being.  But there are potentially six other types of beings besides Type 1 and Type 8 beings.  On Swinburne’s view of God, God is a Type 7 being, because although God is not made of matter or energy, and God does not have any spatial characteristics, God does exist inside time; God is affected by the passing of time, and some of God’s thoughts and actions occur prior in time to other of God’s thoughts and actions.
Another interesting case to consider is that of angels.  Angels appear to be outside matter (i.e. they are not made of matter or energy), but inside time, and perhaps inside space as well.  Angels began to exist at some point in time, according to Christian theology, and although many angels (perhaps all) will continue to exist forever, it is possible for God to annihilate  an angel, so it is possible for an angel to come to an end at a specific point in time; an angel can, at least in theory, have both a beginning at one point in time, and and end at a later point in time.  Angels also appear to have spatial locations.  They appear to particular people at particular times and particular places.  So, although angels are “outside matter”, they appear to be “inside time” and “inside space”; angels appear to be Type 2 beings.
Based on the definition of the phrase “outside the material universe”, it appears that angels are NOT “outside the material universe” because they are inside time, and inside space.  But angels are not made of matter or energy, so one might have been tempted to conclude that angels are “outside the material universe”.  It is odd and very surprising that something as supernatural as an angel would count as something that is inside the material universe.
Furthermore, if Swinburne is right that God is a Type 7 being, a being that exists inside time, then God too would be inside the material universe NOT “outside the material universe”.  Since I agree with Swinburne that God is a Type 7 being, I also reject the view that God is “outside the material universe”, given the definition of this phrase that Kreeft appears to be assuming.  In that case, proving the existence of a being that is “outside the material universe” would be irrelevant to showing that God exists, and thus (3a) and (6a) would be irrelevant to showing that God exists.
In any case, the core argument is INVALID, so it is an UNSOUND argument.
In the next post or two I will consider the sub-arguments that Kreeft gives to support the two premises of this core argument: (3a) and (D).  This will help to determine whether either or both or neither of these premises are true.  If one or both of these premises are false or dubious, that will provide another reason for rejecting the core argument supporting premise (8a).

bookmark_borderHow Atheists get it Wrong, According to Tim Crane

Ever since Socrates said “follow the argument wherever it leads,” the practice of rational debate has been central to our intellectual culture. The ideal is that when qualified parties disagree you allow each side to adduce arguments and present its case in an open forum. The hope is that, once each position has been thoroughly aired and vetted, the side with the stronger arguments will eventually prevail, and that consensus, or at least compromise, will emerge.
Sometimes this practice works. In the natural sciences even the most rancorous disputes are eventually settled as new evidence or more rigorous analysis prove decisive. Sometimes one side prevails and other times the emerging consensus is a synthesis of previously opposing views. Philosophical debates tend to be more intractable because they lack the robust empirical constraints imposed on scientific discourse. Nevertheless, rational persuasion does occur among philosophers, at least to the extent that some doctrines, such as logical positivism, are subjected to criticisms that are regarded universally, or nearly universally, as decisive.
One glaring failure of the model of rational debate has been with respect to the perennially intractable disagreements between religious believers and atheists. These debates, frequently bitter, are not merely inconclusive, but, perversely, often seem to end with each side even more intransigently entrenched than before. Each side is nonplussed when arguments they regard as cogent, even unanswerable, make no impression at all on the other. In this situation it becomes tempting for each party to castigate the other as willfully obtuse and debate quickly decays into mutual recrimination. Those who follow such debates on Internet forums have seen this happen more often than they can count.
Why is this? Of course, our commitments to religious belief or nonbelief are deeply emotional and not merely intellectual. When we feel strongly, even about our tastes in trivial matters, there is a tendency to think that there is something wrong with those whose experience is different. A fortiori this applies to important issues. As with the disagreements between liberals and conservatives, far more divides believers and atheists than their attitudes towards certain propositions.
Philosopher Tim Crane’s important new book The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View (Harvard University Press, 2017, 207 pages) argues that the impasse between religious believers and atheists is due to atheists’ misunderstanding of the nature of religious belief. Crane, himself an atheist, primarily addresses the “new” atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. According to Crane, atheists regard religion, which in our cultural context means theistic religion, as a kind of defective cosmology, a spurious proto-scientific hypothesis about the origin of the universe via the supernatural acts of a divine agent. These atheist writers then see the persistence of religious people in advocating such a non- or anti-scientific thesis as evidence that believers are superstitious, primitive, and irrational.
If indeed religion were a sort of crackpot cosmology, then belief in God would be like belief in Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or ancient astronauts, and the condescending smirks of atheists would be justified. Crane argues that religious belief is not any kind of hypothesis or proto-scientific claim. He says that religious belief consists of two elements, what he calls the “religious impulse” and “identification.” The religious impulse is the drive to recognize the existence of a transcendent order that is both factual and normative: God is posited as real (factual), and his will specifies how things should be (normative). Believers find life’s meaning by living in harmony with that transcendent order, by obeying God’s will. “Identification” is the desire to belong to a community that historically defines itself through shared beliefs and practices and which understands the world in terms of those beliefs and practices. What unites these two elements is the sacred. Sacred things point beyond themselves to something transcendent, says Crane, and shared experience of the sacred promotes a strong sense of identity.
The consequence is that the critiques of atheists miss the point and are dismissed as irrelevant by believers. Atheist arguments may be decisive against theism construed as a semi-scientific hypothesis, but these critiques fail if belief is something entirely different. In short, atheists have been belaboring a straw man.
Is Crane right? Have atheists badly mistaken the nature of religious belief? I think so, but Crane fails to note that this mistake is hardly a gratuitous error on the part of atheists. Many of the leading defenders of theism, such as Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and the “intelligent design” theorists, present theism as precisely a scientific or quasi-scientific hypothesis. Swinburne, for instance, in The Existence of God establishes a framework of Bayesian confirmation theory and argues on that basis that the hypothesis of theism is better confirmed given the existence and nature of the universe than the hypothesis of naturalism. Craig’s Kalaam argument is specifically and explicitly a cosmological claim presented within the context of physical cosmology. The “specified complexity” and “irreducible complexity” of ID theorists are offered and defended as scientifically legitimate hypotheses.
If Crane is right, such would-be apologists miss the point just as badly as atheists. Further, such forms of apologetic always end up providing grist for the atheist’s mill. Atheists subject these claims to relentless and corrosive criticism, and when these hypotheses fail, which they inevitably do, this reinforces the atheists’ perception that theism is just a kind of pseudoscience. If Crane is right, apologists need to pick up their game just as much as atheists.
If religious belief is not a hypothesis, what kind of belief is it? What is its epistemological basis? Crane could be clearer on this point. He seems not to have read a work that I consider essential to all such discussions, John Hick’s An Interpretation of Religion. According to Hick, religious belief is not hypothetical but interpretive in nature. Reality, says Hick, is “ambiguous” in the sense that the facts compel neither a naturalistic nor a religious view. Hick, a believer, concedes that a naturalistic view is entirely reasonable and maintains that religious apologists can offer no evidence or argument to show otherwise. However, a religious interpretation is equally reasonable, says Hick. Those who experience their lives as lived in the presence of the divine have every epistemic right to posit the existence of a transcendent “Real.” Hick further advocates the thesis of pluralism whereby each of the world’s great post-Axial religions represents an attempt to grasp, in inevitably inadequate human terms, the nature of that Real.
If Hick is right, and I think he is, the efforts of zealous atheists to debunk religious belief, and the similarly fervent efforts of hard-core apologists to bludgeon atheists into submission, are equally pointless and wrongheaded. For one thing, atheists should desist with the simplistic and invidious characterization of faith as a sort of willful gullibility, a perverse determination to accept, in Hume’s terms, “what is most contrary to custom and experience.” Hick’s view is that faith just is the exercise of interpretive freedom, i.e. the decision, in the face of unavoidable ambiguity, to follow your best lights and commit to the worldview that makes the most coherent sense of your overall experience. Likewise, theists should drop the even more invidious claim—which I have actually heard expressed by parties who should know better—that atheists are primarily motivated by the desire to sin guilt-free. Whatever shape dialogue between religious believers and atheists should take, Crane and Hick would have us begin by not regarding each other as fools or rascals.
In general, I agree with Crane that religious and non-religious people should take a more respectful and nuanced view of each other, a view based upon a fairer and more accurate understanding of what motivates those on the other side. That said, it remains true that some of those making religious claims do not deserve respect. Fundamentalists, fanatics, creationists, theocrats, and bigots deserve the reprobation and astringent criticisms directed at them. Indeed, some of the most potent criticisms of religious extremists come not from atheists but from other believers, who often perceive most clearly the disconnection between those who preach a religion of love and peace while committing violence or ruthlessly pursuing political dominance.
My chief differences with Crane concern some of his details. Crane makes it an essential element of religion that it posits the existence of a transcendent reality. It follows that there can be no such thing as a pantheistic religiosity. I disagree. When the poet Novalis called Spinoza “The God-intoxicated man,” I think he was right, though Spinoza’s God, Deus sive Natura, is not transcendent but identical with the universe. Likewise, Einstein said that he believed in Spinoza’s God, and when Einstein referred to the universe as Der Herr Gott—The Lord God, this had a genuinely religious resonance. Also, when you read the final, splendid peroration that closes The Origin of Species, you have to think that Darwin felt something closely akin to religious awe in contemplating the history of life on earth.
But is not the universe meaningless for atheists? Crane thinks so. He calls himself a “pessimistic atheist,” that is, he holds that the universe might have had meaning had it been created by God, but, since there is no God, the universe has no meaning. How, then, can atheists claim, as I do, to find meaning, indeed religious meaning in the universe, especially when, on other occasions we will say that the universe is meaningless. Is this not simple confusion?
When I and, I think, many other atheists deny that the universe has meaning, what we intend to say is that, not viewing the universe as created, we do not see it as having been made with any sort of specific function, telos, plan, or purpose. The universe is not like a house or car, something made for a specific purpose to perform specific functions. Neither do we see the universe as in any sense pervaded by those qualities that give human life its particular meaning–qualities such as love, intelligence, morality, compassion, and consciousness. The universe does not give a damn about you. It cannot.
We think that physics is the best bet for describing the universe, and the terms that physics uses are descriptive, not normative. Quarks and leptons have no moral nature and no moral significance. If the ultimate constituents of the universe turn out not to be quarks and leptons, but, say, superstrings, this is merely a fact and has no moral significance.
However, to say that the universe has no meaning in the above sense is not to say that we cannot find the contemplation of the universe deeply meaningful and rewarding, nor that we cannot regard the universe with genuine—I would say genuinely religious—awe. Carl Sagan’s pantheistic paean to the universe at the beginning of the original Cosmos series from 1980 is for me a kind of Apostle’s Creed:

The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

The universe for me, as for Sagan, is an object worthy of religious awe, the sense of mysterium tremendum et fascinosum that defined the sacred for Rudolf Otto. The experience of elemental awe and wonder, often expressed by the greatest scientists, is an expression of the encounter with the numinous.
For me, the wonder and beauty, indeed sacredness, of the universe is not that it somehow intended me, or is concerned about me, or shares my values, but, on the contrary, that, like God speaking to Job from the whirlwind, it demands to be taken on its own terms, not on ours. To truly appreciate the universe in all its sublimity and majesty, we must set aside our petty human egocentricity and determine to see things as they are rather than how we wish them to be. Religions want the ultimate reality to be like us, to see something like our own faces peering back when we look into the depths. Atheists see that desire as a refusal to appreciate the universe on its own splendid but utterly non-human terms.
Crane will have none of this. He says “…atheists who say they can preserve some idea of the sacred are either mistaken or using the word in a very different way (p. 116).” The reason is that on his definition, the sacred always intentionally “points” to a putative transcendent object. Atheists believe in no transcendent entities, and so for them it must be the case that literally nothing is sacred. Therefore, “There can be nothing like this in an atheist’s world picture (p. 117).”
The inadequacy of Crane’s definition is obvious from the fact that on that definition God is not sacred. God does not point beyond himself to any other transcendent; he supposedly IS the ultimate transcendent. Crane’s definition applies to objects that are sacred in a secondary or derived sense. Their sacredness inheres in their role of pointing beyond themselves to things that are sacred in a primary sense. In the primary sense an object is sacred when its intrinsic nature is worthy of our deepest feelings of awe and wonder, the sense, as Sagan put it, “…that we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.” For believers, God is the object worthy of such religious awe. I submit that the universe is.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 10: Analysis of Argument #1

ANALYSIS OF PHASE 1

In Part 9, I began to analyze and clarify the logic of Argument #1 (The Argument from Change) in Peter Kreeft’s case for God from Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).  My analysis focused on the first phase of the argument. Here is my understanding of the logical structure of the first phase of Argument #1:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

THEREFORE:

B. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN the material universe does not change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE:

C. It is NOT the case that there is nothing outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

 
INITIAL ANALYSIS OF PHASE 2
Now it is time to focus on the second phase of the argument.  Here is my initial analysis of the structure of the second phase of Argument #1:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

4.  But the material universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time.

5.  Matter, space and time depend on each other.

THEREFORE:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

7.  This being outside the material universe is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

8. This being outside the material universe is the unchanging Source of change.

 
THE FIRST INFERENCE OF PHASE 2
Premise (6) does not follow from premises (3a), (4), and (5).  However, premise (4) appears to imply a claim that is relevant to (6):

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

This unstated premise appears to be working with premise (3a) to support premise (6):

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

I’m not sure of the role of premise (5).  Perhaps it works with premise (4) to support or imply (D).  In any case, it is the unstated premise (D) that is being used along with (3a) to support (6).
 
THE SECOND INFERENCE OF PHASE 2
The next inference is not logically valid; at least it is not clearly and obviously a valid deductive inference:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

7.  This being outside the material universe is not a changing thing.

The expression “this being outside the universe” assumes or implies that there is just ONE such being, so this assumption should be made more clearly and explicitly.  In order to make the inference from (6) to (7) clearly and obviously valid, we need to add a missing premise to the inference:

6a. There is exactly one being outside the material universe and that being is outside matter, space and time.

E. Anything that is outside of time is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

7a.  There is exactly one being outside the material universe and that being is not a changing thing.

 
THE THIRD INFERENCE OF PHASE 2
The final inference in Argument #1 is clearly INVALID:

7a.  There is exactly one being outside the material universe and that being is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

8a. There is exactly one being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.

The most obvious and immediate problem is that the phrase “Source of change” appears nowhere previously in the argument, and it is unclear what this phrase means.  It might mean “the immediate cause of every change that occurs in the material universe” or it might mean “the ultimate cause of every change that occurs in the material universe” or it might mean “an ultimate cause of some change(s) in the material universe”  or it might mean “the immediate cause of every change TO the material universe” or it might mean “the ultimate cause of every change TO the material universe” or…
Because this phrase appears nowhere previously in the argument, the argument is clearly deductively invalid as it stands.  Further premises and/or inferences need to be added in order to turn this into a valid deductive argument.  I don’t see any easy way to fix this last inference.  I suspect that there is a significant gap of logic that needs filling here, but Kreeft has not left much in the way of clues to figure out what that logic would be.
I guess that since ANY change that occurs “inside” the material universe allegedly points to the existence of “something” that is “outside” the material universe, if there was just ONE being that was “outside” of the universe, then any and every change would ultimately trace back to that ONE being.  So, there is some sort of generalization or iteration of reasoning going on behind the scenes here, I suspect.    Given that ANY one single change “inside” the universe points (allegedly) to exactly ONE being “outside” the universe that is the ultimate cause of that change, it would follow that ALL changes could be traced back to that ONE being.
So, if all of the previous inferences were valid in Argument #1, then I suppose that one could validly infer (8a) as well, although NOT simply and directly from premise (7a).  The required reasoning would be more complicated than that.
 
THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT #1
Here is an argument diagram showing the logical structure of Argument #1 (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Diagram Argument 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
OK.  I have clarified and cleaned up the logical messiness of the first argument of Peter Kreeft’s case for God.  In the next post I will evaluate this argument.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 9: The Argument from Change

MY EVALUATION OF THE SECOND HALF OF KREEFT’S CASE
In Part 1 and Part 2 I argued that eight out of ten (80%) of the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s collection of twenty arguments (from Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Chapter 3; hereafter: HCA) are AWFUL arguments that are not worthy of serious consideration, that we should thus toss them aside, and ignore those eight arguments.
In Part 3 I analyzed the logical structure of Argument #12 (The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God), and in Part 4 I evaluated Argument #12 as being a BAD argument that provides ZERO support for the claim that God exists.
In Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8, I analyzed and evaluated Argument #19 (The Argument from Common Consent), the only remaining argument of the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s collection of twenty arguments.  Here is the conclusion I reached about Argument #19:
…the Argument from Common Consent is based on a FALSE premise, premise (1), and it is also based on a dubious premise,  premise (3), for which Kreeft has offered two VERY BAD arguments.  The Argument from Common Consent is a FAILURE because it rests on a premise that is clearly FALSE and on a dubious premise that Kreeft has failed to give us any good reason to believe.
Of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case,  I have shown that eight arguments (80%) were AWFUL arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration.  Only two of these ten arguments seemed worthy of serious consideration: Argument #12 and Argument #19.  After careful analysis and evaluation, I concluded that Argument #12 was a BAD argument that provided ZERO support for the claim that God exists, and I concluded that Argument #19 was based on a FALSE premise and also on a dubious premise.  Thus, all ten arguments in the second half of Kreeft’s case for God (i.e. 100%  of those arguments) are BAD arguments, and they fail to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.
 
STARTING WITH HIS BEST AND STRONGEST ARGUMENTS
Given that 100% of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL to provide any good reason to believe that God exists, it might seem unlikely that there will be any strong and solid arguments for God among the remaining ten arguments.  However, it seems to me that Kreeft was trying to put his best foot forward by presenting his strongest and best arguments up front, at the beginning of his case, and thus saved the weakest and worst arguments for the second half of his case.  If that impression is correct, then there is a significant chance that some of the earliest arguments in his case are strong and solid arguments.
Kreeft is a Thomist, so given my assumption that he is presenting what he takes to be the best and strongest arguments at the beginning of his case, it is no surprise that the first five arguments in his case are arguments based on Kreeft’s understanding of the “Five Ways” of Thomas Aquinas.  This provides some confirmation of my view that Kreeft has placed what he believes to be his best and strongest arguments up front in his case, and put his worst and weakest arguments in the second half of his case.
So,  I am going to reverse my strategy now, and I will begin analysis and evaluation of the very first arguments that Kreeft presents, on the assumption that those are the ones he considers to be the strongest and best arguments for the existence of God.  If the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL, just like all of the last ten arguments did, then that will be a strong indication that Kreeft’s entire case is a SPOC (Steaming Pile of Crap) that FAILS to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.
If I find that his first five arguments all FAIL, I will, nevertheless, go on to analyze and evaluate the remaining five arguments in the first half of Kreeft’s case, but at that point there will be very little hope of me finding a real gem among all the manure that Kreeft has shoveled out in Chapter 3 of HCA.
In my analysis and evaluation of the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case, I don’t care whether he has correctly interpreted Aquinas.  My only concern is whether the arguments that Kreeft presents are good and solid arguments.   I believe that Kreeft has grossly misunderstood the reasoning of Aquinas about the existence of God, but that is of no importance here.  The only thing that matters, for the purposes of this series of posts, is whether the arguments presented by Kreeft are good arguments or bad ones.  They can be good and solid arguments for God even if Kreeft has totally distorted the reasoning of Aquinas, and they can be bad and weak arguments even if Kreeft’s understanding of Aquinas is flawless.  What I care about is the quality of Kreeft’s arguments for God, not the quality of his interpretation of Aquinas.
 
ANALYSIS OF THE ARGUMENT FROM CHANGE
Kreeft presents Argument #1 (The Argument from Change) twice.  The second presentation appears to be a summary.  It is a bit shorter than the first statement of the argument, and he begins the first sentence of this second presentation with the word “Briefly…”.  In any case, the second statement of the argument seems more clear and straightforward to me, so I will focus on the second statement of Argument #1, and draw upon the first statement only as necessary to clarify or evaluate the argument presented in his second statement of the argument.
Here is Kreeft’s second statement of Argument #1:
Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change.  But it does change.  Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe.  But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time.  These three things depend on each other.  Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time.  It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.  (HCA, p. 50-51)
We need to take a closer look at this reasoning, in order to specify the actual logic of Argument #1. 
Let’s start with the first three sentences:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE: 

3. There must be something in addition to the material universe.

This inference is INVALID.  Premise (3) does not follow from (1) and (2).  There are some unstated assumptions and inferences operative here, which need to be made explicit to make this reasoning logically VALID:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

THEREFORE:

B. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN the material universe does not change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE:

C. It is NOT the case that there is nothing outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

 
Let’s continue to examine the rest of the argument:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

4.  But the material universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time.

5.  Matter, space and time depend on each other.

THEREFORE:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

7.  This being outside the material universe is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

8. This being outside the material universe is the unchanging Source of change.

There are three inferences in this part of Argument #1, and NONE of these three inferences is logically valid!  That is, none of them is a formally valid deductive inference.
One could argue that premise (6) entails premise (7), but that alleged entailment is not self-evident, so some reasoning or argumentation is required to SHOW that (6) actually does entail (7).  The two other inferences are just flat out wrong.  Some additional assumptions and inferences might repair this bit of reasoning, but it is a logical MESS in this current state.
You would think that in presenting his strongest and best arguments, Kreeft could at least make an effort to present arguments that had logically VALID inferences.  A professional philosopher presenting the most important arguments for the most basic belief in his philosophical point of view ought to know a little bit of deductive logic and be capable of presenting such arguments so that they conform to the simple and basic rules of deductive logic, but I guess this is just too much to ask of Christian apologists, like Peter Kreeft.
I’m beginning to get the feeling that Kreeft’s strongest and best arguments for God will turn out to be pathetic failures, just like the last ten arguments in his case.   Argument #1 is looking pretty sad at this point.  In the next post of this series, I will attempt to clean up this sloppy, pathetic mess of an argument a little bit more, and then I will evaluate it.

bookmark_borderTrump, Evangelicals, and the Single-Issue Voter

A couple of months ago I posted a piece here on SO titled “Just How Religious is the Religious Right?” I argued that despite their ostentatious affirmations of their own religiosity, supporters of the religious right drop their proclaimed religious values faster than Jericho’s walls tumbled when those values become politically inexpedient. Nothing demonstrates this somber fact more clearly than the overwhelming support evangelicals (or maybe I should say “white evangelicals”) gave to Donald Trump and Roy Moore. Their strong support for such grotesquely morally compromised individuals shows that they are not really “values voters” but plain old power grabbers. Their politics is religious only in the sense that the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is religious. That is, “religion” is a tag for tribal identity, and the goal of politics is hegemony for your tribe.
I did not notice until today that, about a month after my post, Christian writer David Marshall made a response in the comments section. Marshall has written an e-book arguing that no Christian should have voted for Trump, but he nonetheless offers an explanation for why evangelicals, even those offended by Trump, still voted for him. I quote a large block of his response below:

Trump is a slime. So are the Clintons, frankly. The difference is, one wanted to extend the right to kill unborn children, already at the moment of birth. This has gotten so sick that the Left is actually protesting to make sure there are no laws requiring a baby be given drugs before it is torn to pieces! To many of us, this smells of Mengele territory.
If the choice is between someone who will affirm the “right” to dismember fully-formed babies in the womb, and someone who will appoint judges to reign that sort of thing in, I can fully understand why a sincere Christian of the highest moral caliber would plug his nose with both hands and pull the lever with his toes. I couldn’t bring myself to that, mind you, but please let’s not leave the context out.
If Democrats continue to throw candidates like the Clintons in our face, and a coterie of stupid Republicans keep nominating famous sleazeballs whom the media pushes onto the public stage to overshadow more normal and decent candidates, those of us who are serious about public policy will be forced to vote clowns into office on occasion.

So, if the choice is between Krusty the Clown and Hitler, you vote for Krusty. Indeed, a Christian of “the highest moral caliber” would vote for the clown over the baby-murderer. Hilary Clinton supports chopping up babies just as they are being born, and Donald Trump for all his myriad failings, opposes this and will appoint judges to prevent the massacre of the innocents. When the issue is murdering babies versus not murdering them, then there is no problem with being a single-issue voter.
Marshall implies, then, that I am wrong to think that the evangelical supporters of Trump have ditched their values for political expediency. On the contrary, they elevate one value to a level of ultimate importance so that it trumps (sorry) every other consideration. Sure, Trump is a bullying, boasting, blustering, childish, egomaniacal, serial sexual abuser, pathological liar, ignoramus, crackpot, misogynist, racist, and xenophobe who might get us into nuclear war. Sure, not just liberals but such conservative stalwarts as George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and David Brooks have condemned Trump’s character in no uncertain terms.  Sure, the rest of the world (except the autocrats) are appalled at Trump. Yeah, but he doesn’t “kill babies,” (i.e. he opposes abortion rights), and this would make him preferable to a Washington, Lincoln, or Roosevelt who supports such rights.
Nobody, absolutely nobody, favors gratuitously chopping up babies. So-called late-term abortions, which constitute only a very small percentage of abortions (about 1.3% of the abortions in 2013, according to the CDC), are generally performed in tragic circumstances, as when delivery will endanger the mother’s life or when the fetus is dead or so badly defective that it cannot possibly survive after birth. Banning late-term procedures would deny women the right to make a most serious and wrenching decision in consultation with their doctors. Read the essay on why banning late-term abortions is cruel, written by a woman who had one:
https://www.denverpost.com/2017/10/06/banning-late-term-abortions-is-cruel-i-know-because-ive-had-one/
Of course, no such articles or arguments will make the slightest impression on those who are absolutely sure that abortion is just baby killing plain and simple and all those who defend abortion rights are just advocates for murder. If Marshall is right, then the problem with evangelicals is not that they have no real values but that they are fanatically attached to irrational ones, so absolutely attached that nothing else matters. A bloc of voters that can be depended upon to vote for you if you promise them only one thing is a demagogue’s dream.

bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 8: Actualization of a Potential

FESER’S ANALYSIS OF CHANGE
A key idea in Chunk #1 of Feser’s Aristotelian argument is his analysis or understanding of change:

A. The occurrence of any change C presupposes the actualization of a potential of some thing or substance S which changes.

There are three phrases that constitute the key components of Feser’s analysis of change:

the actualization of…
…a potential of…
…some thing or substance

To understand Feser’s analysis of change, we need to understand the meaning of each of these key phrases.
 
“SOME THING OR SUBSTANCE”
In Part 7 of this series I pointed out that there are at least four different possible meanings of “substance”.  It is unclear whether the word “thing” represents an additional category (that includes non-substances) or is simply a clarification of the word “substance”.
In the ordinary use of the word  “substance” , this word means a KIND of stuff (like water, gold, salt, alcohol, glass, wood, plastic, etc.), as in the phrase “substance abuse”.  But in philosophy, the word “substance” means, roughly, a particular entity or object.  The word “thing” thus might well be a hint pointing to the philosophical use of the word “substance”, as opposed to the ordinary use of the word “substance”.  In that case, “thing” would NOT refer to something in addition to “substance”, but would simply be a rough synonym of “substance” that is an attempt to disambiguate that term and that points towards the philosophical use of the term. The philosophical use of the term “substance”, however, is itself ambiguous between various different concepts, as I pointed out in Part 7.
 
“A POTENTIAL OF”
A hot cup of coffee has the potential to become a cold cup of coffee;  it does not have the potential to become chicken soup or gasoline.  An acorn has the potential to become an oak tree; it does not have the potential to become a pine tree or a tomato plant.   A green banana has the potential to become a yellow banana; it does not have the potential to become a peach.
Having a potential is NOT, in general, a sufficient condition for the realization of that potential.  One can have the potential to become a famous movie star and yet fail to realize this potential.  A green banana could ripen and become a yellow banana, but it could also be incinerated before becoming ripe and thus fail to become a yellow banana.
It also seems that “having the potential to become X” is NOT a necessary condition of becoming X.
One might not “have the potential to become a famous movie star” and yet, by a matter of sheer luck and coincidence, become a movie star.  When we say that someone “has the potential to become a famous movie star” we mean that they have natural talent and natural good looks that would help them to be a very good and very appealing actor.  But sometimes people who are lacking in natural talent and natural good looks still manage to become very good and very appealing actors.  And sometimes people who are NOT very good and NOT very appealing actors still manage to become movie stars.  If I am correct on these points, then someone who does NOT “have the potential to become a famous movie star” might nevertheless become a famous movie star.
Having the potential to become X, thus seems to mean having some sort of natural tendency towards becoming X.  Having a natural tendency to become X is NOT, however, a necessary condition for becoming X.  Something that lacks a natural tendency towards becoming X might, nevertheless, become X.  A boy does not have a natural tendency to become a woman; however, that is not a necessary condition for becoming a woman.  A boy can undergo sex change procedures and over time become a woman.  Such a boy did NOT have “the potential to become a woman”, and yet he actually did become a woman, by means of surgery, hormone therapy, and psychological counseling.
In many cases, the properties of a thing are the result of a combination of its natural tendencies and particular circumstances.   A hot cup of coffee has the potential to become cold, but only if the air or environment near the coffee becomes cold.  Similarly, a cold cup of coffee has the potential to become hot, but only if the air or environment near the coffee becomes hot.  The coffee has the potential to become boiling hot, or freezing cold, or various temperatures between those two extremes, but which of these potential temperatures is realized depends on the temperature of the air or environment near the coffee.
The potential of the coffee to become cold could be stated in terms of the natural tendency of the coffee to become cold in circumstances where the surrounding air or environment was cold.  It would be unnatural for a hot cup of coffee to remain hot if it was left outside on a cold winter’s day.  It would be natural for a hot cup of coffee that was left outside on a cold winter’s day to become a cold cup of coffee after being outside in the cold for half an hour or so.  It would be unnatural for an acorn to develop into a pine tree, or for a green banana to develop into a peach, and it would be natural for an acorn to develop into an oak tree, and for a green banana to ripen and become a yellow banana.
Here is an attempt to capture this understanding of the phrase “a potential of”:

It is a potential of X to become Y

IF AND ONLY IF

(a) X has a natural tendency to become Y under circumstances C 

AND 

(b) circumstances C are ordinary or common circumstances.

A boy has a natural tendency to become a woman, but only under very specific circumstances that are not ordinary or common.  To make this happen there must be deliberate human intervention:  sex change surgery,  hormone therapy, and psychological counseling.  Under ordinary or common circumstances a boy has a natural tendency to develop into a man, into an adult male.
Natural tendencies are typically associated with KINDS of things, as opposed to particular individual objects or entities.  Acorns, coffee, and boys are KINDS of things, and these KINDS of things have natural tendencies.  A particular acorn, cup of coffee, or boy may also have natural tendencies, but these tendencies are usually derived from (are inferred from) the KIND of thing(s) that the particular entity is/are, from the categories to which that object or entity belong.
The phrase “become Y” is intentionally ambiguous.  This phrase can be used of either a change in an accidental attribute or of a change in an essential attribute, i.e. a change from one thing into a different kind of thing.  A cup of coffee can change from being hot to being cold; it can “become cold”.  Alternatively, a cup of coffee can be changed into a cup of water by separating the water in the coffee from the liquids and particles that turned it into coffee; a cup of coffee can “become a cup of water” under the right circumstances.
 
“THE ACTUALIZATION OF”
The phrase “the actualization of…” must be understood in relation to the phrase “…a potential of”.  The basic idea is that of truth or reality.  Some possibility is described, and then we can talk about “the actualization of…” that possibility, meaning that the described possibility is true or real.  We can describe the possibility of a cup of coffee being cold: “This cup of coffee is cold”.  This description could be FALSE; it could be a possibility that is not yet true or real.   If a cup of coffee is hot, then this possibility is not (at that time) true or real.  If the hot coffee cools down and becomes cold, then the possibility “This cup of coffee is cold” becomes true or real.
But in Feser’s analysis of change, we are NOT dealing with all logical possibilities concerning X; rather, we are focused only on “a potential of X to become Y”.  Since “a potential of X” is something narrower and more specific than all of the logical possibilities concerning X, Feser’s analysis of change limits the scope of events to those in which there is some NATURAL TENDENCY for “X to become Y”.  Only in such cases can there be a change, according to Feser.
 
OBJECTION TO FESER’S ANALYSIS OF CHANGE
Having clarified the meaning of Feser’s analysis of “change”, it seems to me that my original objection to Feser’s analysis of change holds true.   There are changes that are NOT based in a “a potential of X to become Y”.
If a boy becomes a woman, then that is a change, but it is NOT a change based on a potential of that boy to become a woman.  If an ugly and untalented actor becomes a famous movie star, that is a change, but it is NOT a change based on a potential of that actor to become a famous movie star.  Not every change happens in accordance with “a potential for X to become Y”, so Feser’s analysis of change is wrong.
Feser’s analysis of change illogically excludes some logically possible changes by limiting the scope of this concept to events which are based on the realization of a NATURAL TENDENCY in the context of some ORDINARY or COMMON CIRCUMSTANCES.  But some logically possible events and some logically possible changes occur outside of this boundary.
Because Feser’s analysis of change is wrong, a basic premise of Chunk #1 is FALSE:
A. The occurrence of any change C presupposes the actualization of a potential of some thing or substance S which changes.
Thus Feser’s first argument for the existence of God is UNSOUND.
Feser could reply to this objection by rejecting my clarification of his analysis of “change”, but to do so with any degree of credibility, he would have to offer an alternative way of understanding his analysis of “change”, and given that he makes no real effort to clarify this fundamental aspect of his thinking in his presentation of his Aristotelian argument for God, I doubt that he is up to this task.  If Feser was clear in his own mind about this basic concept in his argument, then he would have already provided adequate clarification in presenting this first argument of his case for God.

bookmark_border2017 in the Rearview Mirror

I had hoped to answer the question “Does God exist?” in 2017, at least to my own satisfaction.  No such luck.  That was a bit too aggressive of a goal.   However, I did make some good progress.  I learned that Norman Geisler’s case for God (in When Skeptics Ask) is a steaming pile of dog crap, and I learned that at least half of Peter Kreeft’s case for God (in Handbook of Christian Apologetics) is of a similar quality.
I also began to examine a third case for God by a third Thomist philosopher of religion:  Edward Feser (in Five Proofs of the Existence of God).  Feser’s case is much more extensive than either Geisler’s case or Kreeft’s case.  However, much of Feser’s case depends on the success of the first of his five arguments for God, and I am learning that Feser’s first argument suffers from serious problems of unclarity,  which was my main objection to every one of Geisler’s arguments and to most of the arguments of Kreeft (in the half of his case I have evaluated).  You would think that after more than seven centuries of intellectual effort somebody would be able to state a Thomistic argument for the existence of God with significant clarity and force, but Feser appears to have failed at this task, just as Geisler and Kreeft failed, even though Feser makes a much better effort at this than they have.
In 2017, my project of analyzing and evaluating Swinburne’s case for God has also moved forward significantly.  I am about 2/3 of the way through a revision of my initial draft article about Swinburne’s case for God.  Currently,  I’m revising a section on his Teleological Argument from Spacial Order (TASO), which is Swinburne’s modern inductive version of the classical argument from design.  The dozen pages or so that I have written on this particular argument are some of the best stuff I’ve ever written on the question of the existence of God (although I am mostly presenting Swinburne’s views and only add a couple of critical points of my own).
I plan to continue to work on analysis and evaluation of Kreeft’s case for God this year, and on analysis and evaluation of Feser’s case for God, and I hope to finally complete my article on Swinburne’s case for God, and submit it for publication.   Ideally, I will also find time for analysis and evaluation of William Craig’s case for God, and one or two other cases for God.  If so, then there is a good chance that in December of this year,  I will be in a good position to answer the question “Does God exist?”