bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 23: Five Remaining Arguments

WHERE WE ARE AT
I have previously argued that the last ten arguments in  Peter Kreeft’s case in Chapter 3 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) fail to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.  I have argued that the first five arguments, which Kreeft appears to think are among his best and strongest arguments for God, also fail to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.
In Part 22,  I argued that Kreeft’s cumulative case for the existence of God is a complete failure because he has ONLY ONE argument in his entire case to support three of the basic divine attributes (i.e. omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect moral goodness), and that ONE argument (Argument #13: The Ontological Argument) is a BAD argument, as Kreeft himself admits (HCA, p.49).
 
FIVE REMAINING ARGUMENTS
Although I have already shown that Kreeft’s cumulative case for God is a complete failure, I would still like to make a few comments and objections concerning the remaining five arguments:

  • Argument #6: The Kalam Argument
  • Argument #7: The Argument from Contingency
  • Argument #8: The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
  • Argument #9: The Argument from Miracles
  • Argument #10: The Argument from Consciousness

 
THREE INSIGNIFICANT ARGUMENTS
In this post, I will focus on three of the five remaining arguments: Argument #8, Argument #9, and Argument #10.  Although I will put forward some objections to these arguments, I won’t put much time and effort into evaluation of these arguments, because they are insignificant arguments in terms of a cumulative case for God.
As the chart at the end of Part 22 shows, these three arguments do not support of ANY of the basic divine attributes, so even if these arguments were solid and strong arguments, they would still fail to play any significant role in a cumulative case for the existence of God (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Argument #8 and Argument #10 are both arguments from design, and they both suffer from the usual problems with arguments from design:

  • they don’t show that there is JUST ONE designer of the universe
  • they don’t show that the designer EXISTS NOW
  • they don’t show that the designer is a BODILESS person
  • they don’t show that the designer is an ETERNAL person
  • they don’t show that the designer is an OMNIPOTENT person
  • they don’t show that the designer is an OMNISCIENT person
  • they don’t show that the designer is a PERFECTLY MORALLY GOOD person
  • they don’t show that the designer is THE CREATOR of the universe

 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT # 8
One serious problem with Argument #8 is that it is UNCLEAR.  It is too unclear to be a good and solid argument.  Kreeft uses a variety of abstract terms and phrases, and he does not bother to define any of them (see HCA, page 63):

  • This world is “an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system”
  • “each component is defined by its relation with others”
  • “each component…presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act”
  • “relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts”
  • “parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole”
  • “no component part or active element can be self-sufficient or self-explanatory”
  • “any part presupposes all the other parts-the whole system already in place”
  • a  component part “can’t act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it”

So, Argument #8 is a crappy bit of incompetent philosophy.  If someone called this argument “Word Salad” and dismissed it as unworthy of serious consideration, I would be inclined to agree with that evaluation.
I blame Aquinas for this mess, or to be more accurate,  I blame Kreeft’s distorted understanding of Aquinas for this bit of crappy and incompetent philosophy.  Kreeft believes that Aquinas provided us with FIVE arguments for the existence of God in just TWO pages.  But in reality, the Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God.  Aquinas has just ONE argument for the existence of God that spans over 100 pages, and the Five Ways are just the opening moves of his long and complex case for God.
Kreeft thinks that since Aquinas provided FIVE arguments for God in just TWO pages, that he (Kreeft) should be able to provide one argument for God in just two pages (starting near the bottom of page 62 and ending about halfway down page 64 of HCA).  But Aquinas could not do this, nor did Aquinas attempt to do such a foolish thing.   Kreeft is clearly not capable of performing such an incredible intellectual feat.  Kreeft rushed in where angels (and the Angelic Doctor) feared to tread.
However, I think I can come up with a plausible interpretation of some key claims in Argument #8, and based on that interpretation I can show that this argument does not work.
Why couldn’t reality consist of just one lonely proton?  If so, wouldn’t that proton be intelligible and self-sufficient?  Does it really need to have other protons and electrons and photons and neutrons and various forms of energy?
Well, what is a “proton”?  A proton has a bit of mass and it has a positive charge.  What is “mass”? and what is a “positive charge”?  Part of what it means to have mass is that IF there was another proton, the two protons would exert some gravitational attraction to each other, which would weaken the further apart the protons became.  Part of what it means for the proton to have a positive charge is that IF there was another proton, the positive charge of one proton would tend to repel the positive charge of the other proton.
So, in order to UNDERSTAND what it means for a proton to exist, we need to invoke, at least hypothetically, other protons.  What it means to have “mass” and to have a “positive charge” is understood, in part, in terms of how two protons would interact, if there were two protons.  Therefore, to UNDERSTAND what it means for ONE proton to exist, we must have an understanding of how two protons would interact with each other, if two protons existed.
It is not logically necessary for there to BE more than one actual proton in existence, but to understand the idea of a “proton”, we need to understand how two protons would interact with each other IF there were two protons.
If the above reasoning reflects Kreeft’s thinking about the necessity of understanding physical objects in terms of “interactions” and “relationships”, then the problem with Argument #8 is that this same reasoning applies to God, thus reducing God to being just as “dependent” and just as lacking in “self-sufficiency” as physical objects.  Thus, this argument necessarily FAILS to establish the existence of a transcendent being who is self sufficient and self explanatory.
As with the proton, we can conceive of reality consisting of just God alone.  But what does it mean for a being to be “God”?  Among other things, this means there is a person who is omnipotent and omniscient.  But what does it mean for a person to be “omnipotent” or “omniscient”? “omnipotence” means that this person is able to control any and every object and event, and make it do whatever the person wants it to do.  “omniscience” means that this person knows every detail about every object that exists and event that occurs.
But if there are no other objects and no other events (besides the musings of God), then there would be nothing for God to control and nothing for God to know about (other than himself).  That is a possibility, but like the lone proton, the concepts of “omnipotence” and “omniscience” have IMPLICATIONS of a hypothetical nature:  IF there was a universe full of stars and planets, and IF there was a planet full of plants and animals, an omnipotent person could control every object and every event in that universe, and an omniscient person would know every detail about every single star and planet and every detail about every plant and every animal, including the number of hairs on my head.
In order to UNDERSTAND what it means for God to exist alone, we must understand what it means for a person to be “omnipotent” and what it means for a person to be “omniscient”, and in order to understand these two concepts, we must understand how an omnipotent and omniscient person would be related to a universe full of stars and planets and animals and plants IF such a universe were to exist.  We can conceive of God existing alone, without a universe, without a single star or planet, and without any animals or plants.  But in order to UNDERSTAND what it means for God to exist, we must have an understanding of how God would relate to a universe full of stars and planets and animals and plants IF such a universe existed.
The concept of God is just as logically dependent on interactions and relationships with other objects and events as is the concept of a proton. Therefore, if a proton fails to be “transcendent” or “self-sufficient” or “self-explanatory” because of the logical dependency of the concept of a proton on ideas about interactions and relationships with other objects and events, then God also fails to be “transcendent” and “self-sufficient” and “self-explanatory”, for the very same reason.
 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT #9
Argument #9 is the Argument from Miracles.  The second premise of this argument is FALSE:

2. There are numerous well-attested miracles. (HCA, p. 64)

I have two different reasons for asserting that premise (2) is FALSE, and they are both based on the definition that Kreeft provides of a “miracle” in premise (1):

1. A miracle is an event whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God. (HCA, p.64)

First of all, Kreeft’s concept of God is logically incoherent (the idea of an unchanging person is logically incoherent), so it follows that “the extraordinary and direct intervention of God” cannot provide an adequate explanation for ANY event whatsoever.  Because Kreeft’s concept of God contains a logical self-contradiction, his concept of a miracle is the concept of a logically impossible event.
Kreeft could, however, modify his concept of God to get rid of the logical contradiction it contains.  In that case, there is still a serious problem with premise (2).  For something to be a “well-attested miracle”, it must be a supernatural event that has religious significance.  For example, Jesus rising from the dead appears to be a supernatural event (people who have been dead for over 24 hours cannot come back to life by natural causes) and to have religious significance (Jesus claimed to have been sent by God, and his rising from the dead would confirm this religiously significant claim).
But if a supernatural event actually occurs, we have no way of knowing whether God was the cause of that event or some other person or being was the cause.  A supernatural event could be caused, for example, by an angel rather than by God.  Alternatively, a supernatural event could be caused by a human being who had supernatural powers.  We have no rational and objective way to determine whether a specific supernatural event was caused by (a) God, or (b) an angel, or (c) a human being with supernatural powers.
Thus, there cannot be an event “whose ONLY adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God”(emphasis added).  At least none of the many alleged “miracles” that Christians have put forward in the past satisfy this requirement.  So, even if Kreeft repaired his concept of God to make it logically coherent, premise (2) would still be FALSE.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come up with an actual historical example of an event “whose ONLY adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God”  because there are almost always alternative supernatural explanations that are as good as the “God did it” explanation.
 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT #10
Argument #10 is based on a premise that appears to be FALSE:

2. Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance. (HCA, p.66)

This seems to be a FALSE DILEMMA that is very similar to a premise found in crackpot creationist arguments:

Either human beings are the products of an intelligent creator, or human beings are the products of blind chance.

This dilemma ignores an obvious third alternative: EVOLUTION.
Human beings are neither the products of an intelligent designer NOR are human beings the products of blind chance.  Intelligence is something that has EVOLVED over a billion years or so.
One difference between plants and animals is that animals are mobile; they can move from one place to another place.  But mobility by itself is not much help for survival, because an animal can move from a safe place to a dangerous place or from a place with plenty of food  to a place where there is no food.  So in order for mobility to help an animal survive, an animal needs to be able to obtain information about its physical environment in order to determine whether it would be beneficial to move from where it is at to some other location.  Thus, animals developed sensory capabilities to obtain information about their physical environment.
It was useful for early microscopic forms of life to have some simple and minimal form of sensation, so they could detect the presence of light or food or warmth. Microscopic life forms that developed some minimal form of sensation were enabled to survive better than their competitors who lacked any kind of sensation of the external world.
As animal life EVOLVED, sensation developed into awareness of the physical environment.  Awareness of the physical world EVOLVED into cognition and intelligence, including the ability to make inferences and to solve problems.  Non-human mammals have a degree of intelligence, and that intelligence helps them to survive better than similar animals with less intelligence.  Humans EVOLVED from primates.  Primates are highly intelligent mammals, mammals that have a survival advantage because of their degree of intelligence.
In any case,  human brains did NOT form from random blobs of cells or biological chemicals that just happened to gather together in the same location.  Humans  EVOLVED from primates; human brains EVOLVED from primate brains.  Primates EVOLVED from less intelligent mammals; primate brains EVOLVED from less sophisticated mammalian brains. Mammals EVOLVED from reptiles.  Mammalian brains evolved from reptile brains, etc., etc.,  going all the way back to the first single-celled animals.
If we understand the “blind chance” explanation to mean that random blobs of cells or biological chemicals just happened to gather together in the same location to form a human being, then OF COURSE “blind chance” is not a serious candidate for explaining the origin of human beings.  The process of EVOLUTION is neither “intelligent design” nor is it “blind chance”; it is a third alternative.
Creationists love the FALSE DILEMMA between “intelligent design” and “blind chance”, but this ignores the obvious third alternative, which is that human beings EVOLVED from less intelligent forms of life.  Premise (2) of Argument #10 makes the same idiotic blunder as creationist arguments; it ignores the third alternative of EVOLUTION.  Premise (2) is FALSE, so Argument #10 is UNSOUND.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 22: Kreeft’s Reply

MY BAIT-AND-SWITCH OBJECTION
In Part 21 I reiterated a criticism of Kreeft’s case for the existence of God that has been a theme in my critique:  very few, if any, of Kreeft’s twenty arguments are actually arguments for the existence of God, thus Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) appears to be one big bait-and-switch ploy.
Although it would be unreasonable to insist that Christian apologists prove that there is ONE being that possesses ALL of the many characteristics that Christians believe God to have, there are some basic divine attributes that a case for the existence of God should show are possessed by ONE being.  In order to be “God”, a being must be:

  • an eternally bodiless person
  • an eternally omnipotent (all-powerful) person
  • an eternally omniscient (all-knowing) person
  • an eternally perfectly morally good person
  • a person who is the creator of the universe

Kreeft does repeatedly attempt to show that there is a being who is the designer of the universe, but none of his arguments show that such a being exists.  Even if  one of Kreeft’s arguments did actually succeed in showing that there was an intelligent designer of some part or aspect of the universe, this does not imply that there is a person who is the creator of the universe.  First, evidence of a designer does not imply that there is JUST ONE designer of the entire universe.  Second, even if we knew that there was just one designer, this does not imply that this designer also CREATED the universe.   Designing something is not the same as making that something.  Third, the existence of a designer or creator of the universe in the distant past does not imply that such a being still exists today.
Furthermore, a designer of the universe is not necessarily a bodiless person, and is not necessarily an eternal person, and is not necessarily an omnipotent person, nor an omniscient person.  And the many problems of evil indicate that if there is a designer of the universe, that designer was either not omniscient or not omnipotent or not a perfectly morally good person.  The argument from design actually casts doubt on the existence of God, when we take into account the problems of evil in the apparent “design” of the universe.
There are very few arguments presented by Kreeft that even attempt to show the existence of a being who is a bodiless person, or who is an omnipotent person, or an omniscient person, or who is a perfectly morally good person.  In the first dozen arguments presented by Kreeft, there is only ONE argument for the existence of a bodliess person, only ONE argument for the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe, ZERO arguments for an omnipotent person, ZERO arguments for an omniscient person, and ZERO arguments for a perfectly morally good person (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Finally, there is not a single argument that even attempts to show that there is a being who possesses three or more of the above basic divine attributes.  Thus, there is not a single argument in Kreeft’s twenty arguments that actually ATTEMPTS to prove the existence of God.  Therefore, it is highly misleading for Kreeft to call Chapter 3: “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God”.  It would be much more accurate to label Chapter 3: “Zero Arguments for the Existence of God.”
 
KREEFT’S DEFENSE OF THE LOGIC OF HIS CASE FOR GOD
Kreeft has some awareness of this objection to his case for God, for he makes a few comments that indicate an awareness of the sort of objection that I am calling my bait-and-switch criticism.  In this post I will examine some of Kreeft’s comments that are relevant to my bait-and-switch objection.
In a nutshell, Kreeft’s reply to the sort of objection that I have repeatedly raised is that his twenty arguments form a cumulative case for the existence of God.  It is the whole collection of arguments, taken together, that prove the existence of God, or that show the existence of God to be highly probable, not individual arguments:
Not all of the arguments are equally demonstrative.  One (Pascal’s Wager) is not an argument for God at all, but an argument for faith in God as a “wager”.  Another (the ontological argument) we regard as fundamentally flawed; … Others (the argument from miracles, the argument from religious experience and the common consent argument) claim only strong probability, not demonstrative certainty.  We have included them because they form a strong part of a cumulative case.  We believe that only some of these arguments, taken individually and separately, demonstrate the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have (no argument proves all of the divine attributes); but all twenty taken together, like a twined rope, make a very strong case.
(HCA, p. 49-50, emphasis added)
Kreeft clearly believes that SOME of his arguments “claim demonstrative certainty” in showing “the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have…”.  Such an argument could prove that God exists, but ONLY IF the properties or divine attributes in question were proven to be “properties only God can have”.  If only God can have the property of omnipotence, for example, then proving the existence of an omnipotent person would be sufficient to prove the existence of God.
But Kreeft never argues that being “eternal” is a property “only God can have”.  Kreeft never argues that being “bodiless” (or immaterial) is a property “only God can have”, and Kreeft never argues that being “the creator” is a property “only God can have”.  Furthermore, it seems fairly obvious that these are not properties “only God can have”, so proving the existence of a person who is eternal would not prove that God exists.  Proving the existence of a person who is bodiless would not prove that God exists, and proving the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe would not prove that God exists.
By combining all of his arguments together, Kreeft could, in theory, show that there exists a being or person who has MANY of the basic divine attributes.  However, there are at least three serious problems with the cumulative case that Kreeft has actually provided:

  1. Most of his arguments do not attempt to show the existence of a person with ANY of the basic divine attributes. The chart above shows that eight out of the first twelve arguments in his case don’t attempt to show the existence of a person with ANY of the basic divine attributes (see the rows for Arguments 1 & 2, 4 & 5, 8, 9, 10, and 12).
  2. A number of the basic divine attributes are not touched upon by Kreeft’s arguments, or are supported by only one argument.  The chart above shows that in the first twelve arguments ZERO of them attempt to show that there is a person who is omnipotent, or a person who is omniscient, or a person who is perfectly morally good, and the chart also shows that only ONE of the first twelve arguments attempts to show that there is a bodiless person, and only ONE of the first twelve arguments attempts to show that there is a person who is the creator.
  3. Additional argumentation is needed to show that there is JUST ONE being that possesses the various basic divine attributes.  But Kreeft does not argue for this assumption.  He simply ASSUMES that all of his arguments are about the same being or person.   Furthermore, it is fairly obvious that many of the attributes could be possessed by a person who was not God, because it is possible to have one divine attribute without having all of the other divine attributes.  One could, for example, be the creator of the universe but not be an omniscient person, and not be a perfectly morally good person.

In the first twelve arguments presented by Kreeft, only one argument attempts to show the existence of a person who has more than one of the basic divine attributesArgument #6 attempts to show that there is an eternal person who is the creator of the universe.  Yet Kreeft admits that this argument falls short of establishing many divine attributes:
Of course, the kalam argument does not prove everything Christians believe about God, but what proof does?  Less than everything, however, is far from nothing.  And the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth.
(HCA, p.60, emphasis added)
Proving that there is an eternal person who is the creator of the universe, however, does not show that there is a JUST ONE person who has ALL of the basic divine attributes.  Proving that there is a person who is eternal and who created the universe does NOT prove that God exists, because the creator of the universe (a) might not be omnipotent, (b) might not be omniscient, (c) might not be a perfectly morally good person. 
Furthermore, although Kreeft is right that it would be unreasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there exists a being who has ALL of the characteristics that Christians ascribe to God, it is not unreasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there exists a being who has ALL of the basic divine attributes, and it is certainly reasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there is a being who has MOST of the basic divine attributes.  The kalam argument, as presented by Kreeft, fails to do this, and Kreeft’s cumulative case for God also fails to do this.
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UPDATE 4/25/18
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I have added the rest of Kreeft’s arguments, specifically Argument #13 through Argument #20, to a chart showing which of the basic divine attributes, if any, each argument attempts to support.  The chart shows that one argument, Argument #13, attempts to prove the existence of a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.  The chart also shows that Argument #14 through Argument #20 do not attempt to show that there is a being with ANY of the basic divine attributes:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other than Argument #13, the rest of the arguments that I have added into this chart are of little worth in terms of making a cumulative case for the existence of a person who has ALL (or MOST) of the basic divine attributes.  However, Argument #13 looks like it could potentially rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, because it provides an argument for three basic divine attributes that no other argument in Kreeft’s collection supports.
Argument #13 is the Ontological Argument for God.  Specifically, Plantinga’s version of the Ontological argument concludes that “there actually exists…an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.” (HCA, p.72)  However, Argument #13 is of no help to Peter Kreeft, because he (and his co-author Ronald Tacelli) admit that this argument is no good:
Another (the Ontological Argument) we regard as fundamentally flawed… (HCA, p. 49)
The ONE argument that had the potential to rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, is an argument that Kreeft tells us is a “fundamentally flawed” argument.  I agree with Kreeft and Tacelli that the Ontological argument is fundamentally flawed, so I must conclude that Kreeft’s cumulative case for the existence of God is a complete failure.

bookmark_borderCan you know what it is like to be a bat? Why not?

What sorts of arguments can substance dualists offer? What sorts of arguments would indicate that mind can exist independently of a physical basis? There is overwhelming evidence of the extremely sensitive dependence of every aspect of the mental on a physical basis, the brain in particular. The books of the late, great Oliver Sacks recount many cases, some amusing, some inspiring, and some tragic, showing that the most intimate and defining aspects of personality as well as the most basic experiences of perception and sensation, are fundamentally altered when brain function is changed or impaired. The ingestion of microgram quantities of lysergic acid diethylamide causes major perceptual alterations. On the other hand, lack of certain trace elements in the diet can cause major mental aberrations. For instance, lack of magnesium can cause confusion, depression, and hallucinations.
More significantly, neuroscience has made considerable progress in understanding significant aspects of human behavior in terms of brain function, as engagingly recounted in David Eagleman’s neuroscience primer, The Brain: The Story of You. For instance we now have a neurological understanding of the basis of genocide. As Eagleman reports, the human capacity for empathy is a matter of literally feeling another’s pain. When we perceive pain in another, the pain matrix of our brains is activated:

If you watch someone else get stabbed, most of your pain matrix becomes activated. Not those areas that tell you you’ve been actually touched, but instead those parts involved in the emotional experience of pain. In other words, watching someone else in pain and being in pain use the same neural machinery. This is the basis of empathy. (Eagleman, p. 143).

Unfortunately, however, our brains are also susceptible to influences that cause our empathetic propensities to be, in effect, short circuited so that they no longer influence decision making. Researchers have identified an area of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) that is activated when we are thinking about persons, but is inactive when we are thinking about inanimate objects. Experiments showed that the mPFC regions became less active in volunteers who were shown pictures of homeless people or drug addicts. The consequence is dehumanization, thinking of people as objects rather than persons:

…by shutting down the systems that see the homeless person as another human being, one doesn’t have to experience the unpleasant pressures of feeling bad about not giving money. In other words, the homeless have been dehumanized: the brain is viewing them more like objects and less like people. (Eagleman, p. 155).

In this context Eagleman discusses the research of neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried who identifies what he calls “Syndrome E,” reduced emotional reactivity that is associated with acts of systematic violence. Genocides are preceded by dehumanization, the process of getting people to think of members of an outgroup as objects rather than as persons. We are now in a positon to understand, predict, and possibly control the process of dehumanization in terms of brain processes. We are coming to understand the physiological mechanisms of genocide. Highly successful research programs tend to justify the heuristic assumptions upon which they are conducted. The regulative assumption of all neuroscientific research is that brain function is sufficient for every aspect of the mental.
What, then, are the arguments that substance dualists can offer? What arguments or evidence could indicate that, despite manifold and multifarious appearances, the mental is separable from the physical and capable of operating without it? Their empirical arguments are exiguous in the extreme, consisting of little more than claims about near-death experiences (NDE’s). In 2012 I attended a conference on life after death at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. There I saw a debate between Dr. Gary Habermas, of Liberty University and well-known skeptical author Michael Shermer. Habermas claimed that there were clear instances of NDE’s that indicated the occurrence of conscious experience independently of brain processes. Habermas is a clever debater, but cleverness alone cannot transform the sow’s ear of weak evidence into the silk purse of persuasion. The odor of crackpots, cranks, and charlatans cannot be wholly cleansed from the topic of NDE’s, even when they are defended by distinguished academics. For tactical reasons then, if no other, substance dualists usually shy away from NDE’s.
Generally then, substance dualists appeal to philosophical arguments, in an effort to establish a priori the non-reducibility of the mental to the physical. A good succinct account of such an argument is posted on the site Thinking Matters by Ben Mines:
http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2018/04/the-argument-from-consciousness-qualia/
Mines argues that there are five properties of consciousness (qualia, intentionality, privileged access, nonphysicality, and free will) that in principle elude explanation in naturalistic terms, and so indicate that the mental cannot be subsumed within a naturalist ontology. The consequences of this are seen as significant:

…if the mind cannot possibly be reduced to the brain then mind and brain are not identical. Naturalism is falsified and some form of substance dualism is implicated. And given the existence of nonphysical mental substances established by the argument, theism is an inference to the best explanation for them.

This seems a bit hasty and abrupt to me. Even if we conceded that the accepted terms of neuroscience—electrical and chemical happenings in neurons—cannot explain consciousness, could we not adopt a property rather than a substance dualism as a more parsimonious option? That is, rather than take the rather extravagant step of positing supernatural entities, we could argue that some physical things or processes have mental properties as well as physical properties. Further, it seems all too quick to say that the irreducibility of the mental makes theism the best explanation. Surely, it would be evidence for theism, or enhance to prior probability of theism, but it would be only one of numerous considerations (including negative evidence such as the problem of evil) that must be considered in assessing theism. Perhaps a demonstration of the irreducibility of consciousness would be better construed as evidence for animism, the idea that the visible realm is interpenetrated by a spiritual realm containing the spirits of animals, people, and things. This was the “primitive” ontology of our preliterate ancestors, and perhaps it would be revived in modern form.
Mines here focuses on qualia and considers arguments for their irreducibility. He adduces the familiar argument from Thomas Nagel’s “What is it like to be a Bat?” Nagel noted that bats have a capacity for echolocation that humans lack. Supposedly, their natural sonar capabilities produce within them mental representations of a quality that humans have never experienced and cannot even imagine. This means that there is something about being a bat that is forever and in principle elusive to human knowers. Even an expert in bat biology, one who knows all that there is to be known about bat brains and their echolocation mechanisms, still cannot know what it is like to be a bat. The experience of bat-ness is closed off to us. The alleged consequence is that there are therefore identifiable items in the world, e.g. first-person bat consciousness—that, in principle, cannot be understood in the third-person, objective terms of natural science. Since natural science is the only explanatory tool of naturalistic ontologies, it follows that some things cannot be explained in naturalistic terms, nor, supposedly, encompassed in naturalistic ontologies. Mines concludes:

The answer is that it [what it is like to be a bat] cannot [be known] because the task is impossible by tautology: Bat qualia can no more be instantiated in nonbat consciousness than triangularity can be instantiated in a circle. Limited to the resources of the human mind, the extrapolation to bat experience is incompleteable [sic].

Now, some philosophers, such as Daniel Dennett, dismiss Nagel’s argument as an “intuition pump” masquerading as an a priori argument. An intuition pump is just a clever rhetorical device for stimulating our intuitive propensities (Leibniz’s imaginary walk through a brain the size of a factory was another). They have rhetorical bark, but no real logical bite, Dennett holds. Naturalist philosophers tend to regard intuitions with considerable skepticism, seeing them as epistemological sirens that have an irresistible song if we listen to them, but only lure us to wreck on the reefs of ignorance.
My tendency is to admit that there are some items of knowledge that can only be had by first person experience. Something really happens to Dorothy when she steps from the sepia of Kansas into the technicolor of Oz. Her experience is different in a way that she could not have explained, even if she were thoroughly versed in the physiology of color vision, to the Dorothy that sees only the gray shades of Kansas.
However, Mines’ conclusion does not follow. An experience, per se, tells us nothing conclusive about the causal provenance of that experience, a truth that philosophers have exploited many times to their advantage. I may be having the experience of seeing my computer screen, but maybe that experience is caused by a Cartesian Demon rather than my computer screen. Maybe the tree we see in Berkeley’s quad is there because God wills that we have tree-perceptions rather than the subsistence of an actual woody, leafy entity. So, perhaps my sensations in all of their qualitative richness are caused by God, or a demon, or a soul. Or a brain.
There is nothing in the qualitative content of my consciousness that informs me that such experience could not have been physically produced. Maybe I cannot intuitively see why brain processes would cause qualia (Chalmers’ “hard” problem), but it does not follow that a brain cannot do it. So, the relevant question is not whether there are some items of knowledge that can only be had via first-person consciousness. The important question is whether first person experience can be physically caused. Why not? Nor is there any reason to think that we could not know, in detail, how it was caused. That is what neuroscience does. If neuroscience can explain how my brain produces first-person experience, then such experience is subsumable under a naturalistic ontology.
Could I have a bat’s sonar qualia? I don’t see, in principle, why not. Bats have their particular batty experiences because their brains are wired differently. But brains have an incredible degree of plasticity and if my brain could be wired to do what a bat’s brain does, and I could be given the bat’s sensory input, why couldn’t I have bat-sensations? Maybe when neuroscience is far more advanced, we will be able to customize our brains to do things and have experiences that we cannot currently do. Maybe we could see infrared and ultraviolet. Maybe we could hear the high pitches that a dog can hear or the low pitches that an elephant can. What will those experiences be like? Well, we can’t say now, but there seems to be no reason to think that we can never know.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 21: Bait and Switch?

WHERE WE ARE AT
In Part 1 through Part 8, I argued that the last ten of Peter Kreefts twenty arguments for God in Chapter 3 of his book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) are all bad arguments and fail to provide us with any good reason to believe that God exists.
In Part 9 through Part 20,  I examined the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, arguments which he appears to think are the best and strongest arguments in his case. The first five arguments are Kreeft’s versions of Aquinas’s Five Ways.  These arguments also all fail, and they provide us with no good reason to believe that God exists.
One important theme in my criticism of Kreeft’s arguments for God is that nearly all of them are NOT actually arguments for the existence of God!  Thus, Chapter 3  of HCA appears to be one big BAIT-and-SWITCH maneuver.  The title of that chapter is “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God” but there is hardly a single argument for the existence of God in this chapter.  In this current post,  I will spell out this key objection once again.  In the next post after this one, I will consider how Kreeft or a defender of Kreeft would be likely to respond to this Bait-and-Switch criticism.
 
THE CONCLUSIONS OF KREEFT’S FIRST TEN ARGUMENTS
A philosophical argument for the existence of God, ought to end with one of the following conclusions:

  • God exists.
  • There is a God.

So, one BIG CLUE that Kreeft’s case for God is seriously defective is that in the first ten arguments, which he appears to think are his best and strongest arguments, he almost never explicitly states the conclusion of an argument to be “God exists” or “There is a God”.
There is only ONE argument in the first ten arguments that has the proper conclusion.  Argument #9, the Argument from Miracles, has a proper conclusion:

4. Therefore God exists.  (HCA, p.64)

The conclusions of the other nine arguments fall short of making this claim:
Argument #1:
Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. (HCA, p.50)
Argument #2:
So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent. (HCA, p.51)
Argument #3:
…there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.  (HCA, p.53)
Argument #4:
…there must exist…a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings.  (HCA, p.55)
Argument #5:
Therefore, the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.  (HCA, p.56)
Argument #6:
Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being. (HCA, p.58)
Argument #7:
Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time. (HCA, p.61)
Argument #8:
Thus… [there exists] a Transcendent Creative Mind. (HCA, p.64)
Argument #10:
Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.  (HCA, p.66)
So, 90% of Kreeft’s best and strongest arguments “for the existence of God” fail to end with the conclusion “God exists” or “There is a God”, and those nine out of ten arguments all FAIL to be arguments “for the existence of God”; rather, they argue for the existence of a being that has one or two characteristics that are characteristics that are also (supposedly) possessed by God.
In some cases, Kreeft attempts to bridge the logical gap between the conclusion that he actually argues for, and the desired conclusion:
Argument #1:
This is one of the things meant by ‘God’. (HCA, p.50)
Argument #2:
Therefore, there must exist a God: an Uncaused Being who does not have to receive existence like us… (HCA, p.51)
Argument #3:
This absolutely necessary being is God.  (HCA, p.53)
Argument #4:
This absolutely perfect being…is God.  (HCA, p.55)
These additional claims are Kreeft’s attempts to provide a logical connection between the stated conclusions of those arguments and the desired conclusion that “God exists.”
However, Kreeft does NOT argue for or defend any of these key premises, and thus he BEGS THE QUESTION by assuming the truth of the most important and most controversial premises of those arguments.  Thus, even in the cases where Kreeft provides a premise that links the stated conclusion of an argument to the conclusion that “God exists”, he still FAILS to show that “God exists”, because he does not provide any good reason for us to believe those crucial and controversial premises.
Since the title of Chapter 3 is “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God” we could simply INFER that the conclusion of every one of the twenty arguments is that “God exists.”   This would require adding missing premises to many of his arguments.  For example, Argument #5 has this stated conclusion:
Therefore, the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.  (HCA, p.56)
We could add a further premise to turn this argument into an argument for God:

A. IF the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer, THEN God exists.

However, this additional premise is clearly FALSE.  We can imagine an evil designer or a designer who had no sense of right and wrong, and if the universe is the product of either an evil designer or an amoral designer, then that would imply that God does NOT exist, because God, by definition, is a perfectly morally good person who designed the universe.  So, if an evil person designed the universe, then the universe was NOT designed by a perfectly morally good person, and thus God does NOT exist.  Therefore, premise (A) is FALSE.  It is possible for the antecedent of (A) to be true while the consequent is false.
Kreeft might, with some justification, complain that we have saddled his argument with an obviously false premise.  But it is not our responsibility to try to construct a solid argument for God out of a crappy argument presented by Kreeft.  Kreeft is a professional philosopher who has taken on the responsibility to present solid arguments for God, and when he provides half-ass arguments that are logically incomplete, arguments that do not explicitly conclude that “God exists”, it is fair to simply point out that his arguments, as presented, FAIL to show the conclusion that they are supposed to show.  It is fair to simply point out that his arguments either BEG THE QUESTION by assuming the truth of controversial premises, or else that they are NOT actually arguments for the existence of God.
 
THE FIVE WAYS ARE NOT ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
One reason why Kreeft presents so many half-ass arguments “for the existence of God” is that he misunderstands the Five Ways of Aquinas, which Kreeft takes to be the strongest and best arguments in his case for God.  The Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God, and so Kreeft starts out with a very fundamental false assumption, which leads him astray.
God, as conceived of in the Christian faith, has many divine attributes.  Although it would be unreasonable to expect a Christian to prove the existence of a being that has ALL of the divine attributes that Christians have traditionally believed God to possess, there are a few divine attributes that are essential to a traditional Christian concept of God:

  • God is an eternally bodiless person (a spirit).
  • God is an eternally omnipotent (all-powerful) person.
  • God is an eternally omniscient (all-knowing) person.
  • God is an eternally perfectly morally good person.
  • God is the creator of the universe.

It is difficult to prove the existence of a being that has just ONE of these divine attributes, but it is much more difficult to prove that there is a being that has ALL FIVE of these divine attributes.  To prove that “God exists”, one must prove that there is a being that has ALL FIVE of these divine attributes, and there is not one single argument in Kreeft’s collection of twenty arguments that makes a serious attempt to do that.
The Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God, because none of the five arguments presented by Aquinas even attempts to show that there is a being who possesses ALL FIVE of the above divine attributes.  However, after presenting the Five Ways in about two pages, Aquinas goes on for over one hundred more pages, in order to establish the existence of a being who has MANY of the divine attributes (or attributes that Aquinas believed to be important attributes of God).  Kreeft misunderstands the purpose of the Five Ways.  These arguments are NOT arguments for the existence of God, they are simply the opening moves of a lengthy and complex case for the existence of God, a case that includes dozens of arguments and that stretches over one hundred pages in Summa Theologica.
In fact MOST of Aquinas’s case for the existence of God is concerned with establishing that there is ONE being who possesses MANY different divine attributes beyond the attributes explicitly discussed in the Five Ways arguments.  One can compare, for example, Peter Kreeft’s version of the Argument from Change with Edward Feser’s presentation of that argument (which includes the rest of the logic from Aquinas found in the one hundred or so pages following the Five Ways passage) to see how badly Kreeft has distorted and misunderstood the reasoning of Aquinas.
In Part 10 I analyze Kreeft’s version of the Argument from Change.  There are eight explicit claims, and five unstated premises. The conclusion of this argument in my interpretation is as follows:

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

In Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change, something close to this conclusion is reached by premise 14:

14. So, there is a purely actual actualizer.  (Five Proofs of the Existence of God, location 494)

Feser is using more technical concepts than Kreeft, but a “purely actual actualizer” is basically the same thing as an “unchanging Source of change” in Kreeft’s simpler terminology.  Although Kreeft’s argument ends with statement (8a),  Feser’s Argument from Change has only just gotten started; it goes on until he arrives at statement number 50:

50. So, God exists.  (Five Proofs of the Existence of God, location 494)

In other words, less than 30%  of Feser’s Argument from Change is concerned with showing the existence of an unchanging source of change, and more than 70% of Feser’s Argument from Change is concerned with establishing that such a being possesses several other divine attributes.  But 100% of Kreeft’s Argument from Change is concerned with showing the existence of an unchanging source of change, and 0% of Kreeft’s Argument from Change is concerned with showing that such a being possesses several other divine attributes.
Feser’s version of this argument contains reasoning that is found in the one hundred or so pages of arguments that Aquinas presents AFTER the Five Ways passage.  Feser’s version of this argument is ACTUALLY an argument for the existence of God.  Kreeft’s version is NOT an argument for the existence of God, it is an argument for the existence of an unchanging source of change.  That is why there are only eight explicitly stated claims in Kreeft’s argument, but there are FIFTY explicitly stated claims in Feser’s version of this argument.  Kreeft simply leaves out most of Aquinas’s reasoning.  Kreeft ends the argument when Aquinas is just getting started.  Kreeft misunderstands and distorts the reasoning of Aquinas, mistakenly thinking that the Five Ways are five arguments for the existence of God, when they are merely the opening moves in a very long and complicated proof of the existence of God.
Robert Pasnau and Christopher Shields are two philosophers who co-authored a book called The Philosophy of Aquinas (hereafter: POA).  In Chapter 4 of POA, they provide a summary of the Argument from Change.  That summary strictly covers the reasoning from the Five Ways passage, and it includes just nine statements.  But the ninth statement does NOT assert that “God exists”:

9. Therefore, there exists an unmoved mover. (POA, p.86)

This is basically the same as the conclusion of Kreeft’s Argument from Change, and basically the same as statement (14) in Feser’s version of the Argument from Change.   However, later in the same chapter, Pasnau and Shields present “Phase Two” of the argument (POA, p.97-99), which begins with the previously arrived at conclusion that there exists “an unmoved mover”. They proceed to outline the reasoning of Aquinas in a series of FIFTY-ONE claims that attempt to show that the unmoved mover has several divine attributes.
So, in this summary of the reasoning of Aquinas, nine out of fifty-eight premises are concerned with showing the existence of an unmoved mover, while forty-nine premises are concerned with showing that an unmoved mover has several divine attributes.  In other words, only about 16% of this summary of Aquinas’s reasoning is concerned with showing that an unmoved mover exists, while about 84% of this reasoning is concerned with showing that an unmoved mover has several divine attributes.
The analysis of Aquinas’s reasoning about God by Pasnau and Shields confirms Feser’s analysis and understanding of Aquinas’s reasoning about God.  Namely,  the little bit of reasoning in the Five Ways passage about the existence of an unmoved mover is merely the opening moves of a long and complicated proof of the existence of God that spans over one hundred pages in Summa Theologica.  
Kreeft mistakenly believes that the very short Argument from Change found in the Five Ways passage represents an argument for the existence of God.  This is a gross misunderstanding of Aquinas.  Aquinas knew that he had a great deal more work to do in order to prove the existence of God.  Kreeft’s misunderstanding of Aquinas, his gross distortion and oversimplification of the reasoning of Aquinas, leads Kreeft to wrongly believe that he can present “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God” in just thirty-seven pages, devoting less than two pages (on average) to each argument.
If Kreeft had presented just ONE actual argument for the existence of God, such as Aquinas’s Argument from Change (including the reasoning supporting several divine attributes)he would have found that even a very compressed summary of such an argument, without any explanation or justification, would require several pages, and that explaining and defending ONE actual argument for the existence of God would require most, if not all, of the thirty-six pages he used to present his twenty pathetic arguments.

bookmark_borderWhy I Reject the Resurrection – Part 7: Dynamic Probability Objection

 
THE DYNAMIC PROBABILITY OBJECTION
The dynamic probability objection to my reasoning about the resurrection is based on the general logic of Richard Swinburne’s case for the resurrection.  In his book The Existence of God,  Swinburne argues that various inductive arguments for God form a cumulative case that makes the existence of God “more probable than not.” (Existence of God, 2nd ed., p.342).  In Swinburne’s book The Resurrection of God Incarnate, he begins with the assumption that the existence of God is as probable as not, and ends up concluding that the claim God raised Jesus from the dead is very probable, which means that he ends up concluding that the existence of God is very probable:
My conclusion is that, given that general background evidence makes it at least as likely as not that there is a God, when we add the detailed historical evidence, the total evidence makes it probable that there is indeed a God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ and rose from the dead on the first Easter morning.   (The Resurrection of God Incarnate, p. 5)
If the background evidence leaves it not too improbable that there is a God likely to act in the ways discussed, then the total evidence [including relevant historical evidence about the life and death of Jesus] makes it very probable that Jesus was God incarnate who rose from the dead.     (The Resurrection of God Incarnate, p.203)
It is important to note that the probability of the existence of God is dynamic in the logic of Swinburne’s thinking about the resurrection.
First, before considering various inductive arguments for and against God, the probability of God’s existence is very low, but not zero. Swinburne does not specify an estimated probability for the existence of God prior to consideration of any empirical evidence, but a reasonable guess is that he would put this probability at between .001 and .01.
Second, after considering various inductive arguments for and against God, the probability of God’s existence is bumped up, according to Swinburne, so that it becomes as probable as not (having a probability of about .5).  Since Swinburne considers a number of inductive arguments or empirical factual claims to each provide a part of the support for the existence of God, it appears that each argument or fact bumps up the probability an average of  a little less than  .1 (seven pro arguments plus one con argument, and the con argument is not considered to be a strong argument, so assuming that the con argument counterbalances one of the weaker pro arguments, that leaves about six pro arguments that when combined together make the probability of the existence of God at least .5, so each argument bumps up the probability .083 on average).
Third, reflection about God’s nature and character shows that God would have good reason to become incarnate as a human being and do the sorts of things that Jesus did, including an impressive miracle like rising from the dead, and since the historical evidence concerning Jesus indicates that Jesus did the sorts of things we would expect God incarnate to do, including rising from the dead, we can conclude that it is VERY probable that Jesus was God incarnate and that Jesus did rise from the dead as the result of divine intervention: God raised Jesus from the dead.  Since, we end up concluding that it is VERY probable that God raised Jesus from the dead, this implies that it is VERY probable that God exists.  Swinburne performs an example calculation that ends up with a probability of .97 for the existence of God.  By “very probable” Swinburne presumably means something like “at least .8”, and he appears to believe this probability to be at least .9.
The probability of the existence of God changes from very low (a probability of about .01) to “at least as likely as not” (a probability of at least .5) after consideration of various inductive arguments for and against God, and then the probability of the existence of God changes again from “as likely as not” to “very probable” (a probability of at least .8) after we consider the likelihood that God would become incarnate and do various things and compare those expectations with the historical evidence that indicates that Jesus did the very sorts of things that God incarnate would likely do.
THE OBJECTION: My logic concerning the resurrection does not allow for such a dynamic probability for the existence of God.  In my probability tree diagram, the existence of God is given a probability just once, at the start of the process, and that probability never changes.  But probability is always determined in relation to a particular collection of evidence and assumptions.
As we work our way through the probability tree, we are exposed to more evidence, and we make further assumptions.  But since the probability of God’s existence was determined and assigned in the very first step, there is no room for revising that probability in the light of new information or added assumptions.  The probability tree diagram, and the probability calculations based on it are thus subject to error because they fail to take into account a basic feature of probability: its relativity to a specific collection of information and/or assumptions.
 
FEEDBACK LOOP OR ITERATIVE PROBABILITY CALCULATION
Closely related to this objection is the fact that in Swinburne’s logic additional information concerning the alleged resurrection of Jesus that is considered AFTER previous estimation of the probability of the existence of God provides feedback that loops back to impact the probability of the existence of God:
Initial Probability that God Exists–>Probability of the Resurrection–>Revised Probability that God Exists
In the traditional or CLASSICAL approach to Christian Apologetics, there are three main phases of arguments that occur in a particular order:

  1.  Prove that God exists.
  2. Prove that God has performed specific miracles.
  3. Prove that Christianity is the true religion based on specific miracles (i.e. that Jesus is God incarnate and the savior of humankind and that the Bible is the inspired Word of God or that a particular Church is the true church).

Swinburne follows this order to a degree, but he has a feedback loop, so that the evidence considered in phases (2) and (3) provide additional support for the conclusion of phase (1).  This is NOT circular reasoning, because in phase (1) Swinburne provides evidence to support an initial probability of the existence of God  (.5), and then the additional evidence provided in phases (2) and (3) allegedly raise the probability that Jesus is God incarnate to at least .8, and this in turn impacts the probability of the existence of God, raising that probability to also be at least .8.
 
MY THOUGHTS ON THE LOGIC OF SWINBURNE’S CASE
I agree with Swinburne that attempts to PROVE the existence of God have all failed and are all doomed to fail.  It is much more reasonable for philosophers and Christian apologists to try to show that the existence of God is probable or very probable based on inductive reasoning from empirical evidence.
Furthermore, I agree with the basic idea of Swinburne’s logic, which is that the probability of an hypothesis, such as the existence of God, is relative to a particular collection of factual claims or assumptions.  Swinburne begins with a blank slate, with a state of having ZERO factual evidence for or against the existence of God, and then he begins to consider empirical facts or claims one at a time, revising the probability of the existence of God with each additional fact or claim.  This approach lines up with the common sense idea that we ought to be open minded.  It is wrong to say “My mind is made up, so don’t confuse me with the facts.”  If one keeps an open mind, then new information will often lead one to revise the probability or level of confidence that one places in a particular hypothesis or claim.  Probability calculations or evaluations should be dynamic, and probability calculations or evaluations are relative to a particular collection of facts or assumptions.
If one comes up with an initial probability for the existence of God, and the evidence for this probability does NOT include specific evidence related to the alleged resurrection of Jesus, then that initial probability for the existence of God needs to be re-evaluated AFTER one considers the specific evidence related to the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
If the evidence for the resurrection is strong, and makes the resurrection of Jesus probable, then that evidence and that conclusion about the resurrection could be relevant to the question of the existence of God, and thus the initial probability of the existence of God, that was used to evaluate the resurrection claim, might need to be revised in view of the additional specific information and conclusions about the resurrection.   In order to be open minded, one must be willing to allow evidence of a miracle to influence one’s previous estimate of the probability of the existence of God.

bookmark_borderWhy I Reject the Resurrection – Part 6: Non-Standard Resurrection

THE NON-STANDARD RESURRECTION OBJECTION
In this post I will state one objection to the logic of my thinking about the probability of the resurrection. I will also discuss and respond to this objection.  In the next post I will state a second objection to the logic of my thinking about the probability of the resurrection.  The second objection is based on the logic of Richard Swinburne’s thinking about the probability of the resurrection.
Some of the beliefs or claims that I have focused on represent a summary of the traditional Christian view of the death and resurrection of Jesus, specifically the following three claims:
(JWC) Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE.
(DOC) Jesus died on the cross on the same day he was crucified.
(JAW) Jesus was alive and walking around in Jerusalem less than 48 hours after he was crucified.
A careful reader might point out that some of the details of these claims are not absolutely necessary in order for it to be the case that God raised Jesus from the dead.   
Suppose, for example, that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem but this happened in the year 40 CE, not around 30 CE.  In that case (JWC) would be false, but it could still be the case that Jesus died on the cross, and was alive and walking around in Jerusalem less than forty-eight hours after he was crucified.  Furthermore, in this scenario Jesus died and rose again from the dead, and God, if God exists, could have caused the resurrection of Jesus in 40 CE just as well as he could have done so in 30 CE.  So, in this “non-standard” scenario, (JWC) would be false, but (GRJ) could, nevertheless, be true.
In my probability tree diagram for the resurrection, there is only one branch coming off of ~(JWC) and that branch goes to ~(GRJ).  So, the diagram implies that if it is NOT the case that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE, then it is NOT the case that God raised Jesus from the dead.  But, someone might object, we can imagine a scenario where (JWC) is false, but where (GRJ) is true.  So, the diagram is mistaken, and thus any calculation of the probability of (GRJ) based on the diagram would also be mistaken.
 
 
RESPONSE TO THE NON-STANDARD RESURRECTION OBJECTION
My general reply to the non-standard resurrection objection is that such non-standard scenarios usually undermine the reliability of the Gospel accounts and thus lower the probability of the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead in that respect, thus nullifying whatever modest increase in probability they provide by pointing to non-standard scenarios that support this claim.
Although this objection does not obviously apply to the claim that Jesus existed, it does have some relevance to that general issue:
JE.  Jesus existed.
On the one hand, if we understand the word “Jesus” too broadly, then it will fail to pick out just ONE specific person, which would mean that (JE) was neither true nor false.  On the other hand, if we understand the word “Jesus” too narrowly, then it will unreasonably exclude too many potential candidates, which would mean that the falsehood of this claim would be compatible with the existence of a person who most reasonable people would consider to be the Jesus talked about in the Gospels.
If we understand the word “Jesus” in this context to simply mean “the Jewish man named ‘Jesus’ who lived in Palestine in the first century”, then (JE) will be neither true nor false, because there were in fact MANY Jewish men named ‘Jesus’ who lived in Palestine in the first century.  The expression “the Jewish man named ‘Jesus’ who lived in Palestine in the first century” is about as meaningful as the expression “the white man named ‘David’ who lived in California in the 20th century”.  There are thousands of such men, so this expression fails to pick out just ONE man.  So, we must understand the meaning of the word “Jesus” in a way that is likely to narrow down to just ONE man.
If, on the other hand, we understand the word “Jesus” in this context to mean “the person who matches up perfectly to every claim and every detail in all four canonical Gospels about the character named ‘Jesus’,” then probably no one could possibly fit this description, because the Gospels appear to make conflicting and contradictory claims about Jesus and what Jesus said and did.
Furthermore, even if we set aside any conflicting events or details about Jesus in the Gospels, there seems to be no good reason to insist on such a narrow understanding of the word “Jesus”.  If there was one particular man who was Jewish and who lived in Palestine in the first century and whose life was a match for most of the events and details of the Gospels, then that man is clearly a good candidate for being the “Jesus” who was discussed in the Gospels, even if there are some events or details in the Gospels that did not occur in the life of that man.
In short, the claim (JE) could be subject to the non-standard resurrection objection, if the word “Jesus” was interpreted too narrowly, requiring that a good candidate for being “Jesus” matches every little detail in all four Gospels concerning the “Jesus” character.  In that case, even if (JE) were false, there could still be a Jewish man who lived in Palestine in the first century who was a close enough match with the “Jesus” character in the Gospels for a reasonable person to conclude that this man was indeed the man whom the Gospels describe with fair, but not complete, accuracy.
The first claim that is obviously subject to the non-standard resurrection objection is about the crucifixion:
JWC.  Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE.
There are other possibilities that could still support the ultimate conclusion that God raised Jesus from the dead.
One possibility, mentioned above, is that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, but this occurred in 40 CE, not “around 30CE”.  Jesus did not have to die in 30 CE in order for God, if God exists, to raise him from the dead.  However, if Jesus was crucified in 40 CE, then Pilate would not have presided over the trial of Jesus, nor would Pilate have ordered Jesus to be crucified, nor would Pilate have granted permission for anyone to remove the body of Jesus from the cross and bury his body in a tomb.   Pilate ceased to be the Roman governor of Judea in 36 CE, so he would not have presided over a trial of Jesus, if that trial occurred in 40 CE.  But if Pilate had no role in Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and burial, then large portions of the passion narratives in the Gospels are works of fiction, or are at best highly unreliable third and fourth hand accounts of those events.
But if the passion narratives in the Gospels are works of fiction or highly unreliable accounts of those events, then that undermines the credibility of the Gospels concerning the other historical claims:
DOC.  Jesus died on the cross on the same day he was crucified.
JAW.  Jesus was alive and walking around in Jerusalem less than 48 hours after he was crucified.
If the trial of Jesus before Pilate is fictional, then it is quite likely that other events and details in the Passion Narratives are also fictional.  We would have little reason to believe DOC or JAW with any significant degree of certainty, if the trial of Jesus before Pilate is fictional.  So, although it is indeed a possibility that Jesus existed and that Jesus was crucified in 40 CE rather than around 30 CE, such a non-standard scenario would fail to make it more probable that God raised Jesus from the dead, because this scenario implies that the Gospel accounts of the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus are historically unreliable and may be largely or completely fictional.
If we move the date of the crucifixion even further, it would totally destroy the credibility of the Gospels.  Suppose that Jesus was crucified in the year 120 CE.  Pilate would be dead by then, so we again would have a large chunk of fiction in the Passion Narratives.  But an even bigger problem than that is that the Gospels were written in the second half of the first century, so all four Gospels had already been written PRIOR to the crucifixion of Jesus, based on this non-standard scenario.  That would clearly destroy any credibility the Gospel accounts have.  A reasonable person will place no confidence in an historical account that was written decades PRIOR to the events that it supposedly describes.
What if the crucifixion took place in 30 CE, but not in Jerusalem?  In that case, (JWC) would be false, but it could still be the case that God raised Jesus from the dead, because God, if God exists, is omnipotent and omnipresent, so God could perform a resurrection anywhere that he wants to.   Suppose that Jesus was crucified in 30 CE in Tiberias, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  In that case (JWC) would be false, but it would still have been possible for Jesus to die on the cross and for God to raise Jesus from the dead.
Once again, this does show that it is possible for (JWC) to be false and yet for (GRJ) to be true.  However, if Jesus had been crucified in Tiberias in 30 CE, then Pilate would not have presided over Jesus’ trial, because Pilate was not the Roman governor of that area of Palestine.  So, this non-standard crucifixion scenario implies that a good chunk of the Passion Narratives are fictional, and thus implies that the Gospels, and the Passion Narratives in particular are historically unreliable.
Furthermore, it is not just the trial of Jesus that is clearly set in Jerusalem.  Jesus and his disciples have come to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem along with hundreds of thousands of other devout Jews.  The Last Supper was in Jerusalem.  The temple guard played a role in Jesus’ arrest.  The Jewish temple was in Jerusalem.  The high priest and the priesthood of the Jewish temple are involved in bringing about the crucifixion of Jesus, according to the Gospels.  So, if the crucifixion of Jesus took place in Tiberias rather than Jerusalem, then that implies that the Passion Narratives are either mostly or completely fictional, and thus that no reasonable person could place any confidence in the historical accuracy of the events and details presented in the Passion Narratives.
What if Jesus was executed in Jerusalem in 30 CE, but he was beheaded with a sword or an ax, and was not crucified?  Once again, God, if God exists, could still raise Jesus from the dead, no matter how Jesus had been killed.  However, if Jesus was beheaded rather than crucified, then the Gospel accounts of Jesus trial, crucifixion, and burial, are either mostly or completely fictional, because the cross and the crucifixion are ubiquitous throughout the Passion Narratives.
At Jesus trial, people cry out “Crucify him!” according to the Gospels.  Jesus carries his cross to the execution site, according to the Gospels.  Jesus was crucified according to the Gospels.  People speak to Jesus on the cross, and watch Jesus on the cross, and Jesus speaks to people from the cross.  After Jesus allegedly dies, Joseph of Arimathea removes Jesus from the cross.  If there was no crucifixion, then all of this is fiction.   So, if we assume this non-standard scenario, where Jesus is beheaded rather than crucified, then the credibility of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial, death and burial is completely destroyed.
I think walking through these examples of non-standard death and resurrection scenarios concerning (JWC) is sufficient to show the strength of my reply to the non-standard resurrection objection.  The further one departs from the traditional Christian story about the alleged death, burial,  and resurrection of Jesus, the more one undermines the credibility of the Gospel accounts, which is the primary evidence we have for the historical claims required to show that Jesus rose from the dead and that God raised Jesus from the dead.  
Therefore, although such non-standard resurrection scenarios do show that it is possible for one or more of the main historical claims to be false and yet for the ultimate conclusion (GRJ) to be true, this objection is weak because such non-standard scenarios usually also undermine the credibility of the Gospel evidence, and thus these scenarios fail to significantly increase the probability that God raised Jesus from the dead, relative to the results of probability calculations that make use of my probability tree diagram of the resurrection.

bookmark_borderWhy I Reject the Resurrection – Part 5: Multiplication of Probabilities

INTRODUCTION
In this post I will spell out the basic logic of my current thinking about the probability of the resurrection.
First, I give an example of a probability tree diagram and calculation where the events are independent of each other (coin tosses).  Next, I give an example of a probability tree diagram and calculation where the events are NOT independent (card draws).  Third, I present a probability tree diagram and calculation for the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead.
 
PROBABILITY TREE DIAGRAMS
1. Probability Tree Diagram of Coin Tosses (click on image for a clearer view of the diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Coin tosses are independent events.  Whether you get heads or tails on the first coin toss has no impact on the probability of getting heads on the second toss.  With a fair coin, the probability is always .5 that heads will be the outcome of a toss.
The above diagram represents a series of two coin tosses.
H1.  The outcome of toss 1 is HEADS.
H2. The outcome of toss 2 is HEADS.
The probability that heads will be the outcome of the first toss and also the outcome of the second toss can be calculated by multiplying the probability of getting heads on the first toss times the probability of getting heads on the second toss.
P[(H1) & (H2)] =  P(H1) x P(H2)
= .5  x  .5
= .25
So, the probability of getting heads on both tosses is .25.
2. Probability Tree Diagram of Card Draws (click on image for a clearer view of the diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Card draws (without replacing the card that was drawn back into the deck prior to drawing the next card) are NOT independent events.  Whether you get a RED card on the first draw impacts the probability of getting a RED card on the second draw.
For example, if you get a RED card on the first draw, then there is one less card in the deck and one less RED card remaining in the deck.  So, although the probability of getting a RED card on the first draw is 26/52 = .5, the probability of getting a RED card on the second draw (after getting a RED card on the first draw) is less than .5, namely  25/51 =  .4902  (rounded to four decimal places).
The above diagram represents a series of two card draws.  The probability that a RED card will be the outcome of the first draw and also the outcome of the second draw can be calculated by multiplying the probability of getting a RED card on the first draw (.5) times the probability of getting a RED card on the second draw given that the first card drawn was RED (.4902).  So, the probability of getting heads on both tosses is equal to .5 x .4902, which is equal to: .2451 (rounded to four decimal places).
Although the outcomes of the draws are NOT independent events, we can still use multiplication of probabilities in the calculation, but the probability of the second draw must be understood in terms of a CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY:
R1.  The first card drawn is a RED card.
R2.  The second card drawn is a RED card.
To calculate the probability of getting a RED card on the first draw and a RED card on the second draw, we need to multiply the probability of (R1) times the probability of (R2) given that (R1) is the case:
P[(R1) & (R2)] = P(R1) x P[(R2)|(R1)]
P[(R1) & (R2)] = 26/52  x   25/51
= .5  x  .4902
= .2451
 
3. Probability Tree Diagram of The Resurrection:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The first branch of the tree diagram concerns the probability of the existence of God:
GE.  God exists.
Either (GE) is true or it is not.  If it is not the case that God exists, then it is also not the case that God raised Jesus:
GRJ. God raised Jesus from the dead.
So, if ~(GE) is the case, then it is certain that ~(GRJ) is the case.
However, if God exists, then it is possible that God has performed miracles, but the existence of God does not imply that God has performed miracles.  It is possible that God exists but does not perform miracles (other than having created the universe).
GPM.  God has performed miracles.
Either (GPM) is the case or it is not.  If it is not the case that God has performed miracles, then it is also not the case that God raised Jesus from the dead.  So, if ~(GPM) is the case, then it is certain that ~(GRJ) is the case.
Either Jesus existed or it is not the case that Jesus existed.
JE.  Jesus existed.
If it is not the case that Jesus existed, then it is not the case that God raised Jesus from the dead.  So, if ~(JE) is the case, then it is certain that ~ (GRJ) is the case.
However, if Jesus did exist, then it is possible that he was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE, as the Gospels indicate:
JWC.  Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE.
If Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE, then he might have died on the cross the same day he was crucified, as the Gospels indicate:
DOC.  Jesus died on the cross the same day he was crucified.
If Jesus died on the cross, then he might have been alive again less than 48 hours later, as the Gospels indicate:
JAW.  Jesus was alive and walking around in Jerusalem less than 48 hours after he was crucified.
If God raised Jesus from the dead, then the following claims are true:
(GE), (GPM), (JE), (JWC), (DOC), and (JAW)
However, even if all of these claims are true, it does not follow that God raised Jesus from the dead, because it is also possible that Jesus rose from the dead but this event was NOT caused by God but by some other being or force.
It is important to note that the probability calculation for this probability tree is more like the card draw example than the coin toss example.  These claims and events are NOT independent of each other.
For example, if it is NOT the case that God exists, then that impacts the probability of the claim that  God has performed miracles; if there is no God, if (GE) is NOT the case, then the probability of (GPM) would be ZERO.   If it is NOT the case that Jesus existed, then it is also NOT the case that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem around 30 CE.  If (JE) is NOT the case, then the probability of (JWC) would be ZERO.
Because these claims and events are not independent, we need to use conditional probability when determining the probability of each branch of the tree diagram.  It would be incorrect to simply multiply the probability of the existence of God times the probability that God has performed miracles:
P[(GE) & (GPM)] =  P(GE)  x  P(GPM)  
Rather, we need to use the probability that God has performed miracles GIVEN that God exists.  This conditional probability is written like this:
P[(GPM)| (GE)]
The proper equation for the combination of these two claims is this:
P[(GE) & (GPM)] = P(GE)  x  P[(GPM)|(GE)] 
As we follow the branches of the probability tree diagram to get to the final branch between (GRJ) and ~(GRJ), we need to understand that more and more assumptions are being added to the condition of the conditional probability.  When we get to the final branch of the probability tree diagram, the probability of (GRJ) that we use as a factor in the calculation, is the probability of (GRJ) GIVEN that (GE) and (GPM) and (JE) and (JWC) and (DOC) and (JAW) are true:
P[(GRJ) | (GE) & (GPM) & (JE) & (JWC) & (DOC) & (JAW)]
This, of course, must be multiplied times the probability that all of those conditions or assumptions are true:
P[(GE) & (GPM) & (JE) & (JWC) & (DOC) & (JAW)]
Because these various conditions or assumptions are NOT independent of each other, we must also understand that the probability of the conjunction of these conditions or assumptions also requires the use of conditional probabilities.  But the overall equation for the probability of the resurrection can be written in this “short” form:
P(GRJ) =
P[(GRJ) | (GE) & (GPM) & (JE) & (JWC) & (DOC) & (JAW)]   x   P[(GE) & (GPM) & (JE) & (JWC) & (DOC) & (JAW)]
The probability of the resurrection of Jesus is equal to the probability of the resurrection of Jesus GIVEN the various assumptions outlined here TIMES the probability of the conjunction of the truth of all those various assumptions.
 
THE NEXT POST
In the next post after this one, I will consider two objections to this logic.
The first objection seems to me to be correct, but I believe it to be a relatively minor problem with my logic. The second objection is based on the logic of Richard Swinburne’s thinking about the resurrection, and that objection, it seems to me, is potentially a more serious objection that might point to a major problem with my logic.
I don’t know if the second objection is correct, so I’m not ready to abandon the basic logic of my current thinking about the resurrection, but I do need to either come up with a plausible reply to this second objection or else make some modifications to the logic of my current thinking about the probability of the resurrection.