bookmark_borderThe Logic of Miracles – Part 6: The Problem of Evil

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

The problem of evil is concerned with whether the existence of evil (or of particular kinds or amounts of evil) is logically incompatible with the existence of God or provides significant evidence against the existence of God.  The “logical” problem of evil focuses on whether evil (or particular kinds or amounts of evil) is logically incompatible with the existence of God.  The “evidential” problem of evil focuses on whether evil (or particular kinds or amounts of evil) provides significant evidence against the existence of God.
G. God exists.
E. Evil exists.
There are four logical possibilities concerning the above two claims:

 
 
 
 
 
 
Christianity asserts that both (G) and (E) are true.
The logical problem of evil arises because God, according to traditional Christian theology, traditional Jewish theology, and traditional Islamic theology, is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and perfectly morally good.
One way to avoid the logical problem of evil is to opt for a finite and imperfect god, a god who is less than omnipotent, and/or less than omniscient, and/or less than perfectly morally good.  If you believe in an imperfect god, then evil is not a problem, at least evil does not rule out the possibility of a finite and imperfect god.  But such a god seems unworthy of worship, devotion, and unquestioning obedience, so traditional Christian theology, traditional Jewish theology, and traditional Islamic theology hold the view that God is a perfect being who possesses the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect moral goodness.
Some philosophers and apologists put forward a DEFENSE of the goodness of God, which is an attempt to show that the existence of God is logically compatible with the existence of evil (or a particular kind or amount of evil).  A DEFENSE is thus an attempted reply to the logical problem of evil.
Other philosophers and apologists put forward a THEODICY, which is an attempt to show that the existence of evil (or a particular kind or amount of evil) fails to provide significant or powerful evidence against the existence of God, so that belief in the existence of God is still reasonable and justified even in view of the existence of evil (or of a particular kind or amount of evil).
In this and future posts, I will be considering various THEODICIES to see if any of them are plausible without making use of assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  I strongly suspect than any THEODICY must make use of such assumptions in order to have any hope of being a plausible THEODICY.

THE AUGUSTINIAN THEODICY

The main traditional Christian THEODICY comes from Augustine, and was used and developed further by Aquinas.
One element of this traditional THEODICY is that evil is a “privation”.  The idea is that everything that exists is basically good, and that there are no evil things, per se.  Evil exists, but not as a kind of thing.  Rather evil is a disorder, disfunction, imperfection, perversion, or brokenness of something that is basically good.
A bucket with a hole in it, is a disfunctional and imperfect bucket, because the hole causes water (and other liquids) to leak out of the bucket, making the bucket imperfect and less functional than it would be if it had no hole.  Buckets are good things, but buckets with holes in them are imperfect and less than fully functional.
The idea that evil is a privation allows for the possibility that God created everything, and that everything was good; there was no evil created by God.  But this idea of evil as a privation does NOT get God off the hook for the existence of evil.
Suppose that you buy a new car, and the new car works perfectly for one week.  But then your one-week old car starts sputtering, hesitating, backfiring, spewing smoke out the tailpipe, and refuses to go over ten miles an hour.  You make it two blocks and then there is a loud bang, the engine dies, and it refuses to start up again.  You have the car towed to the dealership.  Why?  Because it is a brand new car.  The fact that it worked perfectly for one week is of no great credit to the designer and manufacturer of the car.  The fact that it broke down after only one week reflects poorly on the designer and/or manufacturer of the car.
Similarly, even if the universe and everything in it worked perfectly for a few years or a few centuries, if the universe broke down and became disfunctional, disordered, and corrupted, then that would reflect poorly on the person who designed and/or made the universe (if the universe was designed and made).  So, if the creator made a universe which was subject to breaking, to becoming disordered, disfunctional, and imperfect, then the creator can be blamed for having made a faulty universe, even if the universe and everything in it worked perfectly for a few years or a few centuries.
If there was a perfect designer and creator of the universe, then we would expect the universe to not only work perfectly for a few years or a few centuries, rather, we would expect the universe to continue to work perfectly forever.  But according to the Bible and to Augustine, the universe became corrupted and disfunctional very soon after it was created.
Thus, the idea that evil is a privation does NOT let God or the CREATOR of the universe off the hook for the evil that exists in the universe.  A perfect CREATOR should be able to design and make a universe that runs perfectly for more than a few years or a few centuries.  A perfect CREATOR should be able to design and make a universe that runs perfectly forever, a universe that never breaks down, never becomes disfunctional or disordered, that never becomes flawed or imperfect.
But wait a minute.  What if a person buys a brand new car, but then horribly abuses and misuses that car?  What if someone takes a brand new car and drives it into a lake or into an ocean?  What if someone drives a brand new car off of a cliff?  or drives a new car at 100 miles per hour and then steers the car into a solid concrete wall?  What if someone takes a brand new car and fills the interior of the car with wet concrete? or fills the gas tank with sulfuric acid?
Such a car would probably become disfunctional, disordered, and imperfect in a matter of days or hours.  That would NOT be the fault of the people who designed the car, nor would it be the fault of the people who manufactured the car.  Taking the broken and disfunctional car back to the dealer would be unreasonable, because the blame for the disfunction and disorder of the car would be squarely on the person who severely abused and misused the car.
This scenario of abuse and misuse of a new car is similar to the appeal to Free Will by Augustine and Aquinas to explain evil and to justify the perfect goodness of the CREATOR of the universe.  The creator made the universe and everything in it perfectly good, without any disfunction, disorder, or imperfection.  But human beings through bad choices abused and misused things and each other, causing disfunction, disorder, and imperfection to come into existence.  There was no evil when God finished making the universe, but human beings corrupted a perfectly good universe and the things in it, causing disfunction, disorder, and imperfection.  God made the universe, but human beings broke the universe by making bad choices.  God did not create evil; humans created evil.
However, this explanation of evil still does NOT let the CREATOR of the universe off the hook.  There is an important disanalogy between the scenario of the owner of a new car abusing the car and the scenario of human beings making bad choices resulting in evil in the universe.  The designers and makers of the new car did not design and make the human being who purchased the new car, so they are not responsible for the bad choices of the owner of the new car.  But the creator of the universe is ALSO the creator of the human beings who make the bad choices that (allegedly) caused evil to come into existence.
The CREATOR designed and produced human beings, so the bad choices of human beings are, at least indirectly, the result of the actions of the CREATOR.  This is particularly the case if the CREATOR happens to be omniscient, because then the CREATOR must have KNOWN in advance that human beings would make bad choices, and thus cause the universe to become disfunctional, disordered, and broken. The CREATOR would have known that these creatures would bring about the existence of evil.  Thus, in deciding to make human beings, the CREATOR determined that evil would come into existence.
There is more, of course, to say in defense of Augustine’s THEODICY.  The value of Free Will, it is thought, outweighs the disvalue of the evils that the CREATOR knew human beings would bring into existence, so one could argue that the CREATOR was morally justified in making human beings with Free Will even knowing all of the various horrible evils that would result from this.
But there is a different and huge problem with Augustine’s THEODICY that makes it implausible.  Evil existed BEFORE human beings existed.  Pain, suffering, injury, disease, violence and death did NOT begin after human beings came into existence.  These evils existed for millions of years before any human being walked the face of planet Earth.  So, the bad choices of human beings cannot be the cause of those evils that existed for millions of years before human beings existed.  The universe was badly broken long before human beings came along.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that there was ever a golden age on the Earth when there was no pain, suffering, injury, disease and death.  Although there was a time when there was no injury, disease, and death, that was a time when there was NOTHING that was alive.  There was also a time when there was no pain and no suffering, but that was a time before there were sentient animals.  As soon as there were living things, there was injury, disease, and death.  As soon as there were sentient animals, there was pain and suffering.  There was no golden age when there were living things but no death.  There was no golden age when there were sentient animals but no pain or suffering.  The Augustinian THEODICY is based upon an empirically FALSE description of the natural history of the planet Earth.
In the next post, I will discuss the question of whether the Augustinian THEODICY involves some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God (or of the CREATOR of the universe).

bookmark_borderThe Logic of Miracles – Part 5: Two Objections

WHY CLASSICAL APOLOGETICS IS DOOMED TO FAILURE

I have previously argued in Part 2 that Richard Swinburne’s case for the existence of God depends on some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  I have also argued in Part 3 and in Part 4 that Peter Kreeft’s case for the existence of God depends on some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  More specifically, each one of Swinburne’s arguments for God depends on such assumptions, and each one of Kreeft’s arguments for God depends on such assumptions.
Therefore, if we human beings are ignorant about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, then Phase 1 of classical Christian apologetics appears doomed to FAIL.  In classical Christian apologetics, the first order of business is to SHOW that God exists, but this cannot be done apart from knowledge about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  That is to say, one must know what God’s PLANS or PURPOSES would be if God were to exist in order to SHOW that God exists.  Because we lack such knowledge, Phase 1 of classical Christian apologetics must FAIL.
In the case of ordinary people, people have physical bodies, and because of this we can observe their actions and behavior.  From such observations we can INFER the plans and purposes of ordinary people.  But God does not have a physical body (if God exists), so we cannot observe God’s actions or behavior in order to INFER his PLANS or PURPOSES.  If God exists, then he could, if he wanted to do so, communicate to human beings by means of prophets and sacred writings (like the Bible), so one might be tempted to determine God’s PLANS or PURPOSES by seeking the teachings of a prophet or of a sacred book.  God might communicate about his PLANS or PURPOSES through a prophet or a sacred book.
But many people have claimed to be prophets, and many writings have been put forward as divinely inspired writings, yet the various alleged prophets and sacred writings disagree with each other about almost every religious or theological question.  Clearly, many prophets (if not all) are false prophets, and many sacred books (if not all) were NOT inspired by God.  So, we need a way to identify which prophets are true prophets and which books are truly from God.
According to classical Christian apologetics, it is MIRACLES the point us to true prophets and to writings that were truly inspired by God.  I have, however, previously argued that we cannot identify an event as a MIRACLE unless we know about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  So, if the only way to obtain knowledge about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God is by determining that an event is a MIRACLE, then it is NOT possible for human beings to identify an event as a MIRACLE, nor to learn about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  Without knowledge of God’s PLANS or PURPOSES we cannot identify any MIRACLES, and without identifying some MIRACLES, we cannot arrive at knowledge of God’s PLANS or PURPOSES, assuming the point of view of classical Christian apologetics.
In Phase 2 of classical Christian apologetics, the apologist attempts to SHOW that a MIRACLE has occurred, but Phase 2 is doomed to FAILURE, because we are ignorant about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  Knowledge about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God is required in order to determine that a particular event is a MIRACLE, an event that was intentionally caused by God.
Therefore, our ignorance of the PLANS and PURPOSES of God dooms the project of classical Christian apologetics to FAILURE, because this ignorance prevents classical apologists from SHOWING that a MIRACLE has occurred (Phase 2), and it also prevents apologists from SHOWING that God exists (Phase 1). So, it is doubly impossible for a classical Christian apologist to SHOW that a MIRACLE has occurred, because (a) they cannot SHOW that God exists, and (b) they cannot show that a particular event was intentionally CAUSED by God.

OBJECTIONS TO MY ARGUMENT AGAINST CLASSICAL APOLOGETICS

There are at least two weaknesses in my previous argument against classical Christian apologetics, so before I claim victory, I need to respond to the following two objections:
OBJECTION 1:
Although you have shown that each of Kreeft’s arguments for God must be supplemented by a plausible THEODICY, you have not shown that every plausible THEODICY must make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.
If there is a plausible THEODICY which does not make assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then Kreeft’s arguments for God could be successful apart from making any such assumptions.
OBJECTION 2:
Although you have shown that Swinbrune’s arguments for God all involve some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, you have not shown that Swinburne’s justifications of those assumptions are dubious or illogical. 
If Swinburne’s justifications of those assumptions are strong and logical, then we are not entirely ignorant about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  Such knowledge about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God could be used not only in support of Swinburne’s arguments for God, but also in support of other arguments for God, perhaps to support some of Kreeft’s arguments for God.
In future posts I will consider and attempt to reply to these two objections, in order to further develop my critique of classical Christian apologetics.  I will begin by considering various THEODICIES to see if any of them can provide a plausible justification of the perfect goodness of the CREATOR of the universe in view of the suffering, pain, injury, disease, violence and death that the universe contains, apart from making some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of the creator of the universe.
 

bookmark_borderOpening Statement from My Debate with Frank Turek

Although I’ve recently been too busy to spend any time writing original content for this blog, I’ve decided to post my opening statement from my 2016 debate with Frank Turek. Enjoy!


Introduction

Good evening! I’d like to thank Craig Freerksen for organizing this debate. I’d also like to thank Dr. Turek for agreeing to participate. Finally, I’d like to thank all veterans, including my opponent, for defending the right to have a debate like this. Now, speaking of our country, I thought I’d borrow a slogan from the presidential campaign. I’m not selling any hats, but I’m here to “make atheism great again.”

Definitions

In this debate, we’ve been asked to assess what best explains reality: naturalism or theism? Before we can answer that question, we need to have some idea of what we’re talking about, so let me begin by defining some terms.
First, by “naturalism,” I mean the view that the physical exists and, if the mental exists, the physical explains why the mental exists.[1] If naturalism is true, then there are no purely mental beings which can exist apart from a physical body and so there is no God or any person or being much like God.
Second, by “supernaturalism,” I mean the view that the mental exists and, if the physical exists, the mental explains why anything physical exists.[2] If supernaturalism is true, then there is no purely physical matter which can exist without some sort of ultimate mental creator.
Third, “personal supernaturalism” is a type of supernaturalism; it adds on the claims that one or more personal mental entities exist and, if a physical world exists, it or they produced the physical world for a purpose.[3]
Fourth, “theism” is a type of personal supernaturalism; it adds on the claim that there is just one mental entity, God, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect.[4]
Finally, fifth, “otherism” is a catch-all category. It says that both naturalism and supernaturalism are false.[5]
Now the question before us in tonight’s debate is this. What best explains reality: theism or naturalism?
In support of a naturalistic answer to that question, I’m going to defend three basic contentions:
(1) The best explanation is the explanation with the overall greatest balance of intrinsic probability and accuracy;
(2) Naturalism is an intrinsically more probable explanation than theism; and
(3) Naturalism is a more accurate explanation than theism.

First Contention

Let’s look, then, at my first basic contention: the best explanation is the explanation with the overall greatest balance of intrinsic probability and accuracy.
By “intrinsic probability” of a hypothesis, I mean the probability independent of the evidence we have for or against it. The intrinsic probability of a hypothesis is determined entirely by its modesty and coherence.[6]
By “accuracy” of a hypothesis, I mean the degree to which a hypothesis’s predictions correspond to reality. We measure accuracy by looking at “evidence.”
By “evidence” I mean something which makes something else more probable than it would have been otherwise. Let me give you an example.[7] Imagine you have two jars of red and blue jellybeans. In the first jar, 90% of the jellybeans are blue and the rest are red. In the second jar, 90% of the jellybeans are red and the rest are blue.
Now imagine you are handed a jelly bean from one of the jars, but you don’t know which jar it came from. If it’s a blue bean, that’s evidence it came from the first jar, not the second. The blue bean doesn’t disprove that it came from the second jar because the second jar also has blue beans, but it’s more likely that it came from the first because there are more blue jellybeans in the first than in the second. Similarly, if it’s a red bean, that’s evidence it came from the second jar. The red bean doesn’t disprove that it came from from the first jar because the first jar also has red beans, but it’s more likely that it came from the second because it has many more red beans.
Mathematicians have a formula called Bayes’ Theorem, which can be used to specify the relationship between intrinsic probability, accuracy, and the overall or final probability of a hypothesis. It follows from Bayes’ Theorem that a hypothesis is probably true, just in case it has a greater overall balance of intrinsic probability and explanatory power than do its alternatives collectively.

Second Contention

Let’s look, then, at my second basic contention: naturalism is an intrinsically more probable explanation than theism.
Intrinsic probability is determined by modesty, coherence, and nothing else. By “modesty,” I mean a measure of how much the hypothesis asserts.[8] The more a hypothesis claims, the more ways there are for it to be false and so, before we start looking at evidence, the less likely it is to be true.
By “coherence,” I mean a measure of how well the parts of a hypothesis fit together.[9] If the different parts count against each other, the hypothesis is less coherent and less likely to be true.
Now consider naturalism and supernaturalism. They are symmetrical claims: naturalism claims that the physical explains the mental, while supernaturalism claims that the mental explains the physical. Both claims are equally modest and equally coherent. Before examining the evidence, both positions are equally likely to be true.[10]
With these definitions in mind, then, I can now defend my second contention. Theism is a type of supernaturalism but could be false even if supernaturalism is true. Furthermore, theism is less modest than either supernaturalism or naturalism. Therefore, before we look at evidence, it is less likely to be true than supernaturalism or naturalism.[11] But that entails that naturalism is intrinsically more probable than theism.

Third Contention

Finally, let’s move onto my third contention: naturalism is a more accurate explanation than theism for many facts.
I’d like to present seven lines of evidence that are red jellybeans, i.e., things more probable on naturalism than on theism.[12]

Physical Matter

(1) Naturalism is the best explanation for the fact that physical reality exists.[13]
If naturalism is true, then physical reality must exist. That’s just part of what naturalism means.
If theism is true, however, things look quite different. The existence of physical reality doesn’t disprove theism; if God exists, God could have created physical space, matter, and energy as part of a plan to create a universe for human beings. But God could have also chosen to create other minds without physical bodies, such as angels. Or God could have chosen to create nothing at all. In other words, God’s existence doesn’t require a physical reality.
So because the physical has to exist on naturalism but does not have to exist on theism, it follows that the existence of physical reality is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.

Success of Science

(2) Naturalism is the best explanation for the fact that science has been so successful without the supernatural.[14]
Imagine a library that contains textbooks for all of the sciences—such as physics, chemistry, and biology—and summarizes current scientific knowledge. The percentage of such knowledge which makes no appeal to the supernatural is extremely high.
Of course, one hears about specific scientific questions which (allegedly) do not have a plausible naturalistic explanation, such as cosmological fine-tuning, the origin of life, and consciousness. But, even if that is or were true, the history of science contains numerous examples of naturalistic explanations replacing supernatural ones and no examples of the reverse. Indeed, naturalistic explanations have been so successful that even most theists concede that supernatural explanations are, in general, unlikely to be true.
Such explanatory success is just what we would expect on naturalism–which entails that all supernatural explanations are false–than it is on theism.[15] And that’s my second line of evidence against theism.

Biological Evolution

(3) Naturalism is the best explanation for the fact that complex life  evolved from simple life.[16]
I’m going to list five scientific facts which support biological evolution. Since Dr. Turek likes acronyms, I’m going to give you the evidence in an acronym, BONES.

  • B is for biogeography;
  • O is for vestigial organs;
  • N is for natural selection;
  • E is for embryology; and
  • S is for stratified fossil record.

Let’s look very briefly at each of these.

Biogeography

First, the evidence indicates that the habitats of plants and animals are distributed in a puzzling way. For example, why are there no land-based mammals on any island more than 300 miles away from the mainland? As University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne puts it, “The biogeographic evidence for evolution is now so powerful that I have never seen a creationist book, article, or lecture that has tried to refute it.”[17]

Vestigial Organs

Secondly, a variety of animals have organs which display traits that would be unnecessary if the organs had been designed from scratch, but would have been useful to an ancestor.

Natural Selection

Thirdly, when the genetic differences between living things provides an advantage, things with that advantage tend to be more successful at survival and reproduction than things without that advantage. This is the essence of the process Darwin called natural selection.

Embryology

Fourthly, as Coyne points out, the evidence indicates that all vertebrate embryos begin development in the same way, looking like embryonic fish, but as they progress, they often go through strange contortions before reaching their final form.[18]

Stratified Fossil Record

Fifthly, the available fossil evidence indicates that as one goes from the oldest to the youngest layers of the fossil record, the layers show gradual change from simple to more complex life forms.
Taken together, the BONES evidence is much more probable on biological evolution (which says that complex life evolved from simple life through trans-generational genetic change)[19] than it is on special creationism (which says that God created all life virtually simultaneously).[20]
If either naturalism or supernaturalism is true, life could exist or not exist. If naturalism is true and life exists, evolution pretty much has to be true. But if theism is true, God didn’t have to use evolution. Furthermore, since theism says that at least one mind existed before any physical matter, it gives a reason to expect that any other minds are fundamentally nonphysical. But that, in turn, leads us to predict conscious life was created independently of nonconscious life, contrary to what evolution claims.[21] So theism predicts that evolution is false.
Thus, the scientific fact of evolution is more likely on naturalism than on theism, and so that’s my third line of evidence against theism.

Pain and Pleasure

(4) Naturalism is the best explanation for the biological role (and moral randomness) of pain and pleasure.[22]
I’m going to give three lines of evidence.
First, moral agents experiencing biologically useful pain and pleasure.
Suppose you are a teenager sleeping in a hotel that has caught on fire. The hotel is old and doesn’t have smoke alarms. The fire gets closer and closer to you until you are actually in pain from the smoke and the intense heat. Your pain wakes you up in time for you to escape; you survive and start a family in your twenties. Your pain in this case was biologically useful because it contributed to your survival. This is just what we would expect on naturalism (and human beings are the products of evolution by natural selection).
Second, moral patients experiencing biologically useful pain and pleasure.
Most human beings are moral agents, people who can be held responsible for their actions and their consequences. But some human beings, such as young children and humans with certain mental disabilities, as well as non-human sentient animals, such as primates and dolphins, are moral patients: sentient beings who can be harmed from their own point of view, but are not responsible for their actions.
On naturalism, we would expect that (biological) sentient beings, including moral patients, would experience pain and pleasure because moral patients are biologically similar to moral agents. On theism, however, we would predict that moral patients do not suffer the same kind of pain as moral agents because such pain plays no known moral role in the lives of the moral patients who experience it.
Third, sentient beings experiencing gratuitous pain and pleasure.
Consider, for example, an animal trapped in a forest fire, suffering horrific pain as it slowly burned to death. On the one hand, this kind of pain is biologically appropriate: it is biologically useful that animals in general feel pain when they come in contact with fire. But, on the other hand, this specific instance of pain was not biologically useful because it did not contribute to the biological goals of survival or reproduction.
On naturalism, this is just what we would expect.  If naturalism is true, all animals are the byproducts of unguided evolution by natural selection, which is both indifferent to suffering and incapable of preventing it.
But if theism is true, God could “fine tune” animals so that they only experience physical pain and pleasure when it was morally necessary. So theism leads us to expect that pain and pleasure are fundamentally moral phenomena, which just happens to be connected to the biological goals of survival and reproduction. That’s a huge coincidence that naturalism doesn’t need.
So this evidence is very much more probable on naturalism than on theism.

Mind-Brain Dependence

(5) Naturalism is the best explanation for the fact that human minds are dependent upon the physical brain.[23]
Philosopher Paul Draper of Purdue University puts it this way: “Consciousness and personality are highly dependent on the brain. Nothing mental happens without something physical happening.”[24] Now Michael Tooley, a philosopher at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has stated five lines of evidence in support of this claim.[25]

  • When an individual’s brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience.
  • Certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all.
  • Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged.
  • When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex.
  • Within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain.

Take together, this evidence is much more probable on physicalism, which says that the mind is made only of physical matter, than it is on dualism, which says says that the mind is made of two substances (the physical and the mental). if God exists, God is not in any sense dependent on physical arrangements of matter. So theism entails the existence of at least one unembodied mind. Furthermore, if God wanted to create other minds, he didn’t need them dependent on physical brains.
So the dependence of human minds on brains is evidence against the existence of any being who is supposed to have an unembodied mind, including God. Therefore, the physical nature of minds is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.

Empathy and Apathy

(6) Naturalism is the best explanation for the neurological basis of empathy and apathy, including some moral handicaps.[26]
In many cases, our ability to choose do morally good actions depends upon our having properly functioning emotional capacities, especially empathy, i.e., our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion.[27]
We now know, thanks to the relatively new discipline of neuroscience, that certain brain abnormalities cause people to experience less or even no empathy.[28] According to Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University, “There is a consensus in neuroscience that at least ten interconnected brain regions are involved in empathy.”[29] These regions are shown on the slide.
For example, violent psychopaths may know in some abstract sense that their behavior is morally wrong, but utterly lack empathy.[30]
While theism is compatible with a neurological basis for moral handicaps, the fact that at least some moral handicaps can be explained neurologically is much more probable on naturalism than on theism. If theism is true, then that means both 

(a) God creates some human beings with moral handicaps that are not the result of the freely chosen actions of any human being;

and

(b) These moral handicaps make it more likely that they will harm others.

What moral justification would God have for allowing both (a) and (b) to obtain? This seems utterly surprising and completely random from a theistic, moral point of view, but precisely what we would expect on naturalism (and blind nature is indifferent to the moral consequences of brain abnormalities).[31]

Nonresistant Nonbelief

(7) Naturalism is the best explanation for nonresistant nonbelief (in God).[32]
Imagine you’re growing up in an orphanage and I told you I had met a man who claims to be your father and who really wants a relationship with you. Days, weeks, even months go by but you never actually meet your father. You never get a card, letter, phone call. In fact, the only evidence that your father is alive is my claim that he exists. Why haven’t you heard from him? Perhaps your father is ashamed for abandoning you. Or maybe he’s a prisoner of war and his captors won’t even let him write you. Although you hope your father is alive and wants to meet you, you remain skeptical.
Just as you do not believe your father is alive and wants to meet you, there are people who do not believe that God exists.[33] But notice that, whatever reasons we might invent to explain your earthly father’s absence do not explain their heavenly father’s absence.
At least some of the people who deny God’s existence are “nonresistant” nonbelievers. As philosopher John Schellenberg explains, their nonbelief is “not in any way the result of their own emotional or behavioral opposition towards God or relationship with God or any of the apparent implications of such a relationship.”[34] Such nonbelievers are open to having a relationship with God—in fact, they may even want it—but are unable to have such a relationship. But why, if God exists, does that happen?
On naturalism, blind nature doesn’t care whether anyone believes in God and so the fact of nonresistant nonbelievers is hardly surprising. On theism, however, this fact is very surprising. On theism, we would expect a perfectly loving God to always make a meaningful relationship available to those He loves.

Conclusion

So, in sum, we’ve seen seven lines of evidence that naturalism is true. I also happen to think there is some evidence for theism, but that it is outweighed by the evidence for naturalism.[35] In my other speeches, I will explain why I think this as I respond to Dr. Turek’s arguments.[36]

Notes

[1] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[2] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[3] This definition is similar to, but not identical with, one offered by Paul Draper.
[4] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[5] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[6] I owe this to Paul Draper.
[7] I owe this jelly bean analogy to Paul Draper. Draper’s full analogy also includes an equal number of yellow jelly beans in both jars, where yellow signifies something that is equally likely to have come from either jar and hence is not evidence that it came from either jar. I have omitted the yellow jelly beans solely in the interest of time.
[8] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[9] I owe this definition to Paul Draper.
[10] Paul Draper, “God and the Burden of Proof,” Secular Outpost (July 21, 2014), https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2014/07/21/new-by-paul-draper-god-and-the-burden-of-proof/
[11] Paul Draper, “More Pain and Pleasure: A Reply to Otte” in Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil (ed. Peter van Inwagen, Eerdmans, 2004), 41-54 at 49.
[12] Let N stand for naturalism, T for theism, and F for any of these facts. Using the symbol “Pr(F | H)” to stand for the epistemic probability that F is true conditional upon H, then the claim that some fact is evidence favoring naturalism over theism should be understood as the claim that Pr(F | N) > Pr(F | T).
[13] Jeffery Jay Lowder, “Potential Objections to Swinburne’s Cosmological Argument,” The Secular Outpost (March 17, 2014), https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2014/03/17/potential-objections-to-swinburnes-cosmological-argument/. Note that here I am using the word “matter” as a way to provide a concrete example of something “physical.”
[14] See Keith M. Parsons, Science, Confirmation, and the Theistic Hypothesis (Ph.D. Dissertation, Kingston, Ontario, Canada: Queen’s University, 1986), 46; Paul Draper, “Evolution and the Problem of Evil” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (3rd ed., ed. Louis Pojman, Wadsworth, 1997), 223-24; and idem, “God, Science, and Naturalism” Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion (ed. William Wainwright, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 272-303; and Barbara Forrest, “Methodological Naturalism and Philosophical Naturalism: Clarifying the Connection” Philo 3 (2000): 7-29.
[15] Draper 2004.
[16] See Paul Draper, “Evolution and the Problem of Evil” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (3rd ed., ed. Louis Pojman, Wadsworth, 1997), 219-230; cf. Louis P. Pojman, Philosophy of Religion (Mayfield, 2001), chapter 6.
[17] Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True (New York: Penguin, 2009), 88.
[18] Coyne 2009, 56.
[19] Draper 1997, 221.
[20] I’m using “virtually simultaneously” as a shorthand way of accounting for the seven literal days described in Genesis 1, in order to contrast that chronology with the sort of geological timescales needed for evolution.
[21] Draper 1997, 224.
[22] Paul Draper, “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists.” Nous 23 (June, 1989), 331-350.
[23] Jeffery Jay Lowder, “The Evidential Argument from Physical Minds,” The Secular Outpost (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2012/06/13/the-evidential-argument-from-physical-minds-apm/), June 13, 2012.
[24] Paul Draper, “Opening Statement” in William Lane Craig and Paul Draper, Does God Exist? (videotape, West Point, NY, 1996).
[25] Michael Tooley, “Dr. Tooley’s Opening Arguments”  in William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley, The Craig-Tooley Debate: Does God Exist? (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-tooley2.html), 1994, spotted 25 Jan 99.
[26] Jeffery Jay Lowder, “The Evidential Argument from Physical Minds,” The Secular Outpost (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2012/06/13/the-evidential-argument-from-physical-minds-apm/), June 13, 2012.
[27] Simon Baron-Cohen, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty (New York: Basic Books, 2012), 16.
[28] Baron-Cohen 2012, 39.
[29] Baron-Cohen 2012, 28.
[30] As Baron-Cohen points out, the neurological basis for moral handicaps challenges traditional views about moral responsibility. “If zero degrees of empathy is really a form of neurological disability, to what extent can such an individual who commits a crime be held responsible for what they have done? This gets tangled up with the free will debate, for if zero degrees of empathy leaves an individual to some extent “blind” to the impact of their actions on others’ feelings, then surely they deserve our sympathy rather than punishment.” See Baron-Cohen 2012, 160.
[31] Some theists have pointed out that moral evil, such as fallen angels or demons choosing to do evil, might explain so-called “natural evils.” This argument makes the inverse point: certain natural evils explain at least some moral evil.
[32] J.L. Schellenberg, Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993); idem, 2007.
[33] This sentence, of course, assumes that at least some (if not most) professions of atheism are genuine. Those familiar with intra-Christian debates on apologetic methodologies will notice that I have just ruled out the claim of some (or all?) presuppositionalists, namely, that there are no atheists and instead there are only professed atheists. I agree with  John Schellenberg: “it would take something like willful blindness to fail to affirm that not all nonbelief is the product of willful blindness (even if some of it is).” See J.L. Schellenberg, “What Divine Hiddenness Reveals, or How Weak Theistic Evidence is Strong Atheistic Proof” God or Blind Nature? Philosophers Debate the Evidence (http://infidels.org/library/modern/john_schellenberg/hidden.html), 2008.
[34] Schellenberg 2008.
[35] It follows from a Bayesian approach to evidence sketched in my first contention that there can be “true evidence” for a false proposition. Consider, for example, people convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony for crimes they didn’t commit, only to be exonerated years or decades later by DNA evidence. The eyewitness testimony was some evidence for a false proposition (“The defendant is guilty”), but it was greatly outweighed by the DNA evidence against that false proposition. The fact that there can be true evidence for false propositions should serve as a “warning flag” to anyone who wants to claim that there is absolutely no evidence for naturalism (or theism). “There is no evidence for naturalism (or theism)” does not follow from “Naturalism (or theism) is false” or even “I believe naturalism (or theism) is false.”
[36] I am grateful to Paul Draper, John Danaher, Robert Greg Cavin, and Eddie Tabash for helpful comments on a previous version of this speech.

bookmark_borderThe Logic of Miracles – Part 4: Kreeft’s Last Ten Arguments

WHERE WE ARE AT

I am in the process of examining Peter Kreeft’s case for the existence of God, in order to test the following hypothesis:

Classical Apologetics FAILS at Phase 1 because we are ignorant about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, and this ignorance makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to SHOW that God exists.

Peter Kreeft’s case for God consists of 20 different arguments (these are from Kreeft’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics, hereafter: HCA).
For each one of the arguments in Kreeft’s case, I wish to answer the following question:

Does this argument require any assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be a successful argument for the existence of God?

In Part 3 of this series, I argued that ALL of the first ten arguments in Kreeft’s case require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be successful arguments for the existence of God.   So, it looks like my hypothesis will be confirmed.  However, I need to also examine the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case in order to have enough information to confidently evaluate the hypothesis.
 

THE LAST TEN ARGUMENTS OF KREEFT’S CASE FOR GOD

  • ARGUMENT #11: The Argument from Truth
    • “Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these [eternal] truths reside.”  (HCA, p.67)
    • Is the eternal mind (in which eternal truths reside) the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #12: The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God
    • This is an argument for the existence of a being that is “the cause of the idea we have of him [God].” (HCA, p.68)
    • Is the being that is the cause of the idea we have of God the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #13: The Ontological Argument
    • This is an argument for the existence of a being “that than which a greater cannot be thought.” (HCA, p.69)
    • Is the being that than which a greater cannot be thought the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #14: The Moral Argument
    • “Moral obligation can hardly be rooted in a material motion blind to purpose.” (HCA, p.72)
    • Is the being in which moral obligation is rooted the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #15: The Argument from Conscience
    • This is an argument that there exists “something superior to me” that is “The…source of absolute moral obligation”. (HCA, p.75)
    • Is the source of absolute moral obligation the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #16: The Argument from Desire
    • This is an argument that there exists “some real object that can satisfy” (HCA, p.78) the “human desire  for something more than nature” (HCA, p.81).
    • Is the real object that can satisfy the human desire for something more than nature the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #17: The Argument from Aesthetic Experience
    • “There is the music of…Bach.” (HCA, p.81)
    • Is the being that makes it possible for the music of Bach to exist the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #18: The Argument from Religious Experience
    • “Therefore, there exists a ‘divine’ reality which many people of different cultures have experienced.” (HCA, p.82)
    • Is the divine reality which many people of different cultures have experienced the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #19: The Common Consent Argument
    • “the vast majority of humans have believed in an ultimate Being to whom the proper response could only be reverence and worship.” (HCA, p.83)
    • Is the ultimate Being to whom the proper response could only be reverence and worship the CREATOR of the universe?
  • ARGUMENT #20: Pascal’s Wager
    • As Kreeft himself admits, Pascal’s Wager “is not an argument for God at all…” (HCA, p.49)
    • Because this argument only attempts to show that it is in one’s self interest to believe that God exists, and it makes no attempt to show that it is TRUE that God exists, there is no hope of this argument being a successful argument for the existence of God, even if we KNEW what the PLANS and PURPOSES of God would be, if there were a God.

 

CONCLUSIONS

My hypothesis holds true in EVERY EXAMPLE.  The very last argument, Argument #20 is not even an attempt to SHOW that God exists, so it is irrelevant to my question about Classical Apologetics.  ALL of the other 19 arguments require that one make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order for the arguments to be successful.
In each case, the argument infers the existence of a being of a certain sort (e.g. “an absolutely necessary being”, “a cause of the beginning of the universe”, “an intelligent designer of the universe”, etc.).  We can always ask a relevant question about this being:
Is this being the CREATOR of the universe? 
If the answer is “NO”, then we can immediately conclude that the argument in question FAILS to show that God exists.
However, if the answer is “YES”, then this raises the PROBLEM OF EVIL, because the universe includes events that appear to be EVIL or BAD (e.g. pain, suffering, disease, violence, death and destruction).
This casts doubt on the moral goodness of the being in question.  But God, by definition, is perfectly morally good.  So, if being X is the CREATOR of the universe, then we have good reason to doubt that being X is God.  In that case, the argument will NOT be a successful argument for the existence of God unless the arguer can provide a plausible THEODICY, a justification of the perfect moral goodness of the CREATOR/God in view of the existence of EVIL in the universe.
But a plausible THEODICY requires that we make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  Therefore, in order for ANY of Kreeft’s 19 arguments to be a successful argument for the existence of God, Kreeft must make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.
In view of my examination of the 20 arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, I conclude that my hypothesis about Classical Apologetics has been strongly confirmed by this evidence.  Thus, our ignorance of the PLANS and PURPOSES of God means not only that Classical Apologetics is doomed to FAIL at Phase 2 (where the apologist tries to show that a miracle has occurred), but that Classical Apologetics is also doomed to FAIL at Phase 1 (where the apologist tries to show that God exists).

bookmark_borderThe Logic of Miracles – Part 3: Kreeft’s First Ten Arguments

WHERE I AM HEADED

I am going to examine Peter Kreeft’s case for the existence of God, in order to test the following hypothesis:

Classical Apologetics FAILS at Phase 1 because we are ignorant about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, and this ignorance makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to SHOW that God exists.

Peter Kreeft’s case for God consists of 20 different arguments (these are from Kreeft’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics, hereafter: HCA).  Because one of those arguments is “The Argument from Miracles” (Argument #9 in Kreeft’s case), his case does not fit perfectly with Classical Christian Apologetics as I have previously defined this approach.  However, if we simply toss out that one argument, the other 19 arguments would constitute a case for God that could be put forward by a Classical Apologist.
So, for each of the 19 other arguments, I wish to answer the following question:

Does this argument require any assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be a successful argument for the existence of God?

Suggested Standards for Evaluation of My Hypothesis:

  • If  17 or 18 or 19 (89% or 95% or 100%) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will strongly confirm my hypothesis.
  • If 14 or 15 or 16 (74% or 79% or 84%) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will partially confirm my hypothesis.
  • If only 11 or 12 or 13 (58% or 63% or 68%) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will neither confirm nor disconfirm my hypothesis.
  • If only 8 or 9 or 10 (42% or 47% or  53%) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will partially disconfirm my hypothesis.
  • If only 7 or fewer (37% or less) of the 19 arguments require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God, then that will strongly disconfirm my hypothesis.

 

KREEFT’S ARGUMENT #1: THE ARGUMENT FROM CHANGE

Kreeft briefly summarizes the Argument from Change:
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)
There are various problems with this argument, that I have discussed elsewhere, so this is NOT a solid argument for the existence of God.  However, suppose that this argument was successful in proving the stated conclusion that there was a being that was “the unchanging Source of change.”  This does NOT by itself get us to the conclusion that “God exists”.
A key question would still need to be answered:
Is the unchanging Source of change the CREATOR of the universe?
Either this being is the CREATOR of the universe or it is not.  If this being is not the CREATOR of the universe, then this being clearly is NOT God, and then the Argument from Change would FAIL.
On the other hand, if this being is the CREATOR of the universe, then this raises the PROBLEM OF EVIL.  Some of the events in the universe involve pain, suffering, violence, death, and destruction.  If every event in the universe ultimately traces back to the CREATOR of the universe, then because some events appear to be EVIL or BAD, it becomes doubtful that this being is perfectly morally good, and thus it becomes doubtful that this being is God.
If the Argument from Change is to be a solid and successful argument for the existence of God, then this argument must be supplemented with a THEODICY, a justification of the moral goodness of the CREATOR of the universe.  But one cannot provide a plausible THEODICY apart from making some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of the CREATOR/God.  Therefore, in order for the Argument from Change to work, to be a successful argument for the existence of God, it must be supplemented with a THEODICY, and thus with some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.
Kreeft’s Argument #1, the Argument from Change, requires assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be a successful argument for the existence of God.
 

KREEFT’S ARGUMENT #2: THE ARGUMENT FROM EFFICIENT CAUSALITY

Kreeft’s second argument can be summarized in a couple of paragraphs:
… suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God. Then nothing could exist right now. For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist. So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing things to be, need a cause. They can give being only so long as they are given being. Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.
But caused by what? Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing. But that is absurd: all of reality dependent—but dependent on nothing! The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent. (HCA, p.51)
The implied conclusion is this:
A. There is an Uncaused Being on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.
There are various problems with Kreeft’s second argument, as I have previously argued, but let’s assume that the above conclusion is true.  In fact, let’s assume an even stronger claim, the claim that there is ONLY ONE such being:
B. There is EXACTLY ONE Uncaused Being (on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent).
This stronger assumption gets Kreeft closer to the claim that “God exists”, for there can be only ONE God.  If all that Kreeft’s argument shows is that there was at least one uncaused being, then it would FAIL to show that “God exists”.
There is an important question that needs to be answered in order to get from (B) to the claim that “God exists”:
Is the Uncaused Being the CREATOR of the universe?
Either the Uncaused Being is the CREATOR of the universe or it is not.  If the Uncaused Being is NOT the CREATOR of the universe, then the Uncaused Being is NOT God, and Argument #2 FAILS to show that God exists.  However, if the Uncaused Being IS the CREATOR of the universe, then this raises the PROBLEM OF EVIL.   The universe includes events that are EVIL or BAD (e.g. pain, suffering, injury, disease, violence, death and destruction), and thus it is doubtful that the CREATOR of the universe is perfectly morally good.  But then, if the Uncaused Being is the CREATOR of the universe, it is doubtful that the Uncaused Being is perfectly morally good, and thus it is doubtful that the Uncaused Being is God.
In order for Argument #2 to be successful, to be a solid argument for the existence of God, it must be supplemented with a plausible THEODICY, a justification of the moral goodness of the CREATOR in view of the PROBLEM OF EVIL.  But a plausible THEODICY requires that we make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of the CREATOR/God.  Thus, in order for Argument #2 to be successful, we must make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.
Kreeft’s Argument #2, the Argument from Change, requires assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be a successful argument for the existence of God.
 

A PATTERN EMERGES

Argument #1 and Argument #2 in Kreeft’s case for God both require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be successful arguments for the existence of God.
Both arguments attempt to prove the existence of a certain kind of metaphysical being (the Unchanging cause of Change, or the Uncaused cause of the existence of other beings), but then in order to infer the existence of God from the existence of that metaphysical being, we need more information about that being:  Is it the CREATOR of the universe?
If the metaphysical being is NOT the CREATOR of the universe, then the argument FAILS.  If the metaphysical being is the CREATOR of the universe, then this raises the PROBLEM OF EVIL.   But THE PROBLEM OF EVIL can be resolved only if the argument is supplemented with a plausible THEODICY, which in turn requires that we make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of the CREATOR/God.
Therefore, in order for these arguments to be successful arguments for the existence of God, we must make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.
 

A BRIEF EXAMINATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENTS #3 THROUGH #10

This represents a pattern of reasoning that can be applied to many of Kreeft’s arguments for God.  Let’s consider the next eight arguments in Kreeft’s case for God:

  • Argument #3: The Argument from Time and Contingency
    • This is an argument for the existence of an “absolutely necessary being” (HCA, p.53)
    • Is the absolutely necessary being the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #4: The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
    • This is an argument for the existence of an “absolutely perfect being”. (HCA, p.55)
    • Is the absolutely perfect being the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #5: The Design Argument
    • This is an argument for the existence of an “intelligent Designer” of the universe. (HCA, p.56)
    • Is the intelligent Designer of the universe the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #6: The Kalam Argument
    • This is an argument for the existence of a “cause for its [the universe’s] coming into being.” (HCA, p.58)
    • Is the cause of the coming into being of the universe the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #7: The Argument from Contingency
    • “Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist [now] must transcend both space and time.” (HCA, p.61)
    • Is the being that constitutes what it takes for the universe to exist now the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #8: The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
    • This is an argument for the existence of a “transcendent” “cosmic-wide” “ordering Mind” (HCA, p.64)
    • Is the transcendent cosmic-wide ordering Mind the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #9: The Argument from Miracles
    • This is an argument for the existence of a “cause” of “miraculous events” (HCA, p.66)
    • Is the being that is the cause of miraculous events the CREATOR of the universe?
  • Argument #10: The Argument from Consciousness
    • “Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.” (HCA, p.66)
    • Is the intelligent being from whom the intelligible universe is a product the CREATOR of the universe?

NOTE:  I had planned to skip Argument #9, because it is NOT an argument that a Classical Apologist would present as part of a case for the existence of God.  However, it is worth noting that Argument #9 is subject to the same objection that I have raised against all of the other arguments in the first half of of Kreeft’s case for God.
 

CONCLUSION SO FAR

So far I have considered the first ten arguments in Kreeft’s case for the existence of God, and ALL TEN of them require assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God in order to be successful arguments for the existence of God.  They all require such assumptions because they ALL must be supplemented by a plausible THEODICY in order to be successful, and a plausible THEODICY requires one to make some assumptions about the PLANS or PURPOSES of God.  It looks like my hypothesis will be at least partially confirmed, and possibly it will be strongly confirmed.  I will be in a better position to evaluate my hypothesis after examining the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case for God.
To Be Continued…
 

bookmark_borderThe Logic of Miracles – Part 2: Showing that God Exists

CLASSICAL APOLOGETICS FAILS IN PHASE 2

Classical Christian Apologetics organizes the case for Christianity into three phases:

 
In my previous post on The Logic of Miracles, I argued that Classical Apologetics FAILS at the second phase because SHOWING that a particular event is a miracle, i.e. an event caused by God, requires that one first SHOW that God has specific PLANS and PURPOSES that give God a MOTIVE for causing the event in question.  But the usual way of SHOWING that God has specific PLANS and PURPOSES involves an appeal to divine revelation (usually the Bible).
This, however, involves CIRCULAR REASONING.  Christians point to the Bible to SHOW that God has specific PLANS and PURPOSES, but if they are making use of Classical Apologetics, then they argue for the inspiration of the Bible on the basis of the occurrence of miracles.  Here is how the CIRCULAR REASONING goes:
1. God has Purposes A, B, and C. 
THEREFORE:
2. God caused Event X.
THEREFORE:
3. Event X is a miracle.
THEREFORE:
4. The Bible was inspired by God.
5. The Bible says that God has Purposes A, B, and C.
THEREFORE:
1. God has Purposes A, B, and C.
Because we DON’T KNOW the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, we cannot determine whether a particular event was caused by God or not, so we cannot determine whether a particular event is a MIRACLE or not, so we cannot determine whether a particular book or message was inspired by God or not.
Our ignorance of the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, however, affects more than just Phase 2 of Classical Apologetics.  This ignorance is also a big problem for Phase 1, for the attempt to SHOW that God exists.
 

SWINBURNE’S CASE FOR GOD

This problem is especially clear and obvious in what is probably the best case ever made for the existence of God, the case presented by Richard Swinburne in his book The Existence of God (2nd edition, hereafter: EOG).  Because Swinburne uses miracles as evidence for the existence of God, his defense of Christianity does not fit my definition of Classical Christian Apologetics.   However, like a classical apologist, Swinburne does begin by arguing for the existence of God, and a classical apologist could make use of most of Swinburne’s arguments, just setting aside the argument from miracles used by Swinburne.
Swinburne’s case for the existence of God rests on some basic assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, and this is reflected in each of the arguments that Swinburne uses in his case for God in EOG.
The first argument in Swinburne’s case for God is his inductive cosmological argument.  This argument is based on assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God:
Yet, if there is a God, clearly he can create a universe; and he will do so in so far as his perfect goodness makes it probable that he will.  I argued in Chapter 6 that God has good reason to create humanly free agents–that is, creatures with limited free choice between good and evil and limited powers to make deeply significant  differences to themselves, each other,  and the physical world by those choices, and also (because of the evil they may produce) reason not to create such creatures.  I argued that it would be an equal best act to create or not to create such creatures, and so we should suppose the logical probability that God would create such creatures to be 1/2.  I argued that these creatures would need to have bodies, and so there would need to be a physical world.  So for this reason alone the probability that a God will create a physical world will be no less than 1/2. (EOG, p.151)
Swinburne does not claim to KNOW the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, but he claims that it is somewhat probable that God, IF GOD EXISTS, would PLAN to create humanly free agents with bodies in a physical world, for the PURPOSE of bringing about creatures who would have “limited free choice between good and evil and limited powers to make deeply significant differences to themselves, each other, and the physical world by those choices…”.  Therefore, the existence of a physical world provides evidence in support of the existence of God, according to Swinburne’s cosmological argument.
Swinburne’s second and third arguments for God are both teleological arguments, and they too are based on such assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God:

  • The Teleological Argument from Temporal Order (e.g. natural regularities and laws of physics):

See EOG pages 164 and 165.

  • The Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (e.g. the evolution of animal and human bodies):

See EOG pages 188 and 189.
Swinburne’s fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth arguments for God are also based on assumptions about God’s PLANS and PURPOSES:

  • The Argument from Consciousness: 

See EOG pages 209 to 211.

  • The Argument from Moral Awareness:

See EOG pages 217 and 218.

  • The Argument from Providence:

See EOG pages 219 and 234 and 235.

  • The Argument from History:

See EOG page 275 and 276.

  • The Argument from Miracles:

See EOG pages 284 to 286.
The ninth and final argument (in EOG) is used to move from it being about as probable as not that God exists to the ultimate conclusion (in EOG) that it is more probable than not that God exists (EOG, p.342).

  • The Argument from Religious Experience:

This argument does not obviously require assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, but there are two respects in which this argument does depend on assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  First, this argument depends on the assumption that the previous arguments for God show that it is “not very improbable” that God exists (EOG, p.341 -342), and the previous arguments rely on assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  Thus, there is an indirect dependency upon such assumptions.
Second, Swinburne appeals to assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God in order to strengthen his argument from Religious Experience:
And also, as we saw at the beginning of this chapter, there is some reason to suppose that God would give to some people experiences apparently of himself. (EOG, p.327)
See also page 293, and pages 267-270.
So, Swinburne’s case for the existence of God depends on various assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.
 

SWINBURNE’S CASE MIGHT NOT BE REPRESENTATIVE OF OTHER CASES FOR GOD

One might object that Swinburne is a very logical and systematic thinker, and thus it is no big surprise that his case for God is built on a foundation of a few assumptions, and that each argument in his case draws on that same set of assumptions.  However (the objection might continue), other philosophers might not be as logical and systematic in their cases for God, and so many of the arguments used in other cases for God might not require assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.
Peter Kreeft, for example, presents 20 different arguments in his case for the existence of God, and there is no apparent logical structure or systematic thinking that ties these various arguments together into a coherent whole.  Perhaps many of Kreeft’s arguments for God do NOT require assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.
This is a reasonable objection, so I’m going to investigate my hypothesis further by reviewing many (maybe all) of Kreeft’s arguments for God, to see if any of them can hold up WITHOUT making any assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  If all or almost all of Kreeft’s 20 arguments for God depend on assumptions about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, then that will confirm my hypothesis that Classical Apologetics FAILS at Phase 1 because we are ignorant about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, and this ignorance makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to SHOW that God exists.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderThe Logic of Miracles

Most people who want to criticize or attack an argument, will attack a PREMISE of the argument as being FALSE or  questionable.  When it comes to criticizing the arguments of Christian apologists, skeptics and atheists also tend to attack premises of such arguments as being false or questionable.  This is especially true when it comes to apologetic arguments concerning MIRACLES.   Because the evidence for biblical miracles is so weak and dubious, this is a perfectly good and reasonable approach to criticism of Christian apologetic arguments concerning MIRACLES.
However, as one learns in studying philosophy,  there are often also problems of LOGIC or REASONING in arguments, especially in the arguments of Christian apologists.  So, although it is perfectly reasonable to challenge the truth of premises in apologetic arguments, one should also keep an eye out for problems in the LOGIC or REASONING of these arguments.
MIRACLES play a different role in different kinds of Christian apologetics.  In this post I will be pointing out some problems with the LOGIC involved in Classical Christian Apologetics.  A popular alternative to Classical apologetics is Evidentialist apologetics.  The main difference between these two approaches is that Evidentialists use MIRACLES as evidence for the existence of God, but Classical apologists do NOT do this.  Instead, Classical apologists begin by trying to prove the existence of God (without pointing to alleged miracles), and after they have made this attempt, they go on to use MIRACLES as evidence in support of other basic Christian beliefs, such as that Jesus was the Son of God, or that the Bible was inspired by God.
Here is a statement by Dr. Norman Geisler of the Classical Apologetics view of MIRACLES:
First, facts and events have ultimate meaning only within and by virtue of the context of the world view in which they are conceived.  Hence, it is a vicious circle to argue that a given fact (say, the resuscitation of Christ’s body) is evidence of a certain truth claim (say, Christ’s claim to be God), unless it can be established that the event comes in the context of a theistic universe.  For it makes no sense to claim to be the Son of God and to evidence it by an act of God (miracle) unless there is a God who can have a Son and who can act in a special way in the natural world.  But in this case the mere fact of the resurrection cannot be used to establish the truth that there is a God.  For the resurrection cannot even be a miracle unless there already is a God.  (Christian Apologetics, p.95)
For a classical apologist, one must FIRST show that God exists, and then and only then, can one make use of alleged MIRACLES as evidence for some (other) Christian belief.  Classical apologetics has three main phases:
 

 
These phases represent a logical order in the classical apologetic case for the truth of Christianity.  Arguments involving miracles cannot come first,  because the concept of a MIRACLE implies or presupposes the existence of God.  Miracles are understood to be events that are brought about directly by God, and are thus events that have a SUPERNATURAL cause and that do NOT have a NATURAL cause.  On this understanding of “miracle”,  if there is no God, then there cannot ever be any miracles.
Because there is no good case for the existence of God, classical apologists FAIL in the very first phase of their attempt to show the truth of Christianity.  However, it can be difficult to persuade a Christian believer that there is no good case for the existence of God, so it is reasonable to have at hand a back-up strategy for responding to this form of apologetics.  One can grant, for the sake of argument that “God exists”, and still raise some significant objections to the use of MIRACLES by classical Christian apologists.
I have already mentioned the most obvious objection: the biblical evidence is too weak and dubious to be used to establish that any miracle, including the alleged resurrection of Jesus, has actually occurred. Other objections, however, can be raised if one understands the LOGIC of MIRACLES in the thinking of classical apologetics, and if one keeps clearly in mind the analogy with detective work used to solve a murder and to identify the murderer:

  • Motive
  • Means
  • Opportunity

A murderer needs a MEANS of killing, like a gun or a knife.  If a murderer kills the victim with just his/her bare hands, those hands are still tools or means.  The imprint of fingers in bruises around the victim’s neck could provide evidence of the size of the murderer’s hands, and perhaps indicate whether the murderer was right or left handed.  But God needs no tools or means to do anything.  God is omnipotent, and God can simply will that something happen, and it will happen just as God wills.  If God raised Jesus from the dead, then God did not need any MEANS or tools to do so, so a detective investigating the alleged resurrection of Jesus could not expect to find any tools or means that were used by God to accomplish this goal.
A murderer needs to have the OPPORTUNITY to kill the victim.  That usually requires being in the same room or same general area as the victim at a particular time (with a high powered rifle, the killer can commit murder from a distance, but there are limits to the distance from which one can successfully shoot a specific person).  God is all-knowing and all-powerful (if God exists), so God ALWAYS has the OPPORTUNITY to do anything God wants to do to any person or animal or thing.  God does not have to be in a particular place at a particular time in order to cause a specific event.  So, a detective investigating the alleged resurrection of Jesus cannot make use of the idea of “opportunity” in order to identify God as the cause of the resurrection.  God has no need or requirement of “opportunity”;  God can do whatever God wants to do whenever God wants to do it, so OPPORTUNITY is irrelevant to determining whether God caused a particular event to occur.
The only way to connect God to a particular event is by MOTIVE.  If we know the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, then we can determine whether it is likely or unlikely that God would CHOOSE to cause a particular event to occur.  This is a very big problem for the LOGIC of MIRACLES in the classical apologetic framework.  The assumption that God exists does NOT provide any significant insight or knowledge about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.
Knowledge of the PLANS and PURPOSES of God comes only after showing that the Bible was inspired by God (or that the teachings of Jesus were inspired by God).  Apart from divine revelation, we have no significant knowledge about the PLANS and PURPOSES of God.  But apart from knowledge of the PLANS and PURPOSES of God, we have no way to determine whether it is likely or unlikely that God would choose to cause a particular event to occur.  If we cannot determine whether it is likely or unlikely that God would choose to cause a particular event, then we cannot determine whether an alleged MIRACLE is an actual MIRACLE, because we cannot determine whether any event was actually caused by God.
Suppose that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.  Suppose that we grant the inference that this event is SUPERNATURAL and that it had a SUPERNATURAL cause.  It does NOT follow that this was a miracle, because it does NOT follow that GOD was the cause of this unusual event.  There are two other kinds of SUPERNATURAL causes:

  1. Some other SUPERNATURAL being caused Jesus to rise from the dead (e.g. an angel or demon caused this event).
  2. Some NATURAL being used SUPERNATURAL powers or forces to cause Jesus to rise from the dead (e.g.  a witch or sorcerer caused this event).

 
RELEVANT QUESTIONS:

  • What are the PLANS and PURPOSES of God?
  • Given those PLANS and PURPOSES, would God have a MOTIVE to raise Jesus from the dead?
  • Are there other SUPERNATURAL beings besides God? 
  • If so, do any of these other SUPERNATURAL beings have the power to raise a person from the dead? 
  • What are the PLANS and PURPOSES of these other SUPERNATURAL beings? 
  • Given those PLANS and PURPOSES, would any of them have a MOTIVE for causing Jesus to come back from the dead? 
  • Are there any humans who have SUPERNATURAL powers, such as the power to raise a person from the dead? 
  • Are there any SUPERNATURAL forces in the universe that a human could use in order to raise a person from the dead?
  • Were there any humans alive at the time of Jesus who had such SUPERNATURAL powers or access to such SUPERNATURAL forces, and who had a MOTIVE to cause Jesus to rise from the dead?

We need to have these questions answered BEFORE we can determine whether GOD caused Jesus to rise from the dead, even if we assume that God exists, and even if we assume that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.  For Christian believers, these questions can only be answered by the Bible.  I’m not sure that even the Bible provides clear answers to all these questions, but suppose that it did.  The problem for classical apologetics is that establishing the occurrence of MIRACLES comes BEFORE one can establish the inspiration of the Bible.
The Bible teaches that there are other SUPERNATURAL beings besides God (e.g. angels and demons).  And the Bible teaches some things about the POWERS and PURPOSES of these other SUPERNATURAL beings.  So, one might be tempted to use the Bible to show either that these other SUPERNATURAL beings lack the power to raise a person from the dead, or that they all lack a MOTIVE for raising Jesus from the dead.  But even if the Bible clearly taught that angels and demons lack the relevant power and lack any relevant MOTIVE, we still could not rule out the various alternative explanations of the resurrection of Jesus, because, in classical apologetics, one must FIRST prove that a MIRACLE occurred (such as the resurrection), and THEN show that the Bible was inspired by God, on the basis of the MIRACLE.
So, if you use the Bible to answer the above relevant questions, you will be reasoning in a circle.  You will be ASSUMING the inspiration of the Bible in order to “prove” the inspiration of the Bible.  That is completely ILLOGICAL.
On the other hand, if you don’t use the Bible to answer the above relevant questions, then there is little hope of actually answering those questions, and if you cannot answer those questions, then classical apologetics FAILS at the second phase, because it FAILS to be able to show that a MIRACLE actually occurred.
Classical apologetics FAILS at the first stage, because there is no good case for the existence of God, but even if we very generously grant the assumptions, for the sake of argument, that God exists, and that Jesus rose from the dead, classical apologetics then FAILS at the second stage, because it cannot establish that God caused a particular event, apart from making a circular argument based on the assumption that the Bible (or the teachings of Jesus) was inspired by God.