bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 5: Something Exists

Before I start an analysis and evaluation of Thomas Aquinas’s Unmoved Mover argument, I want to finish evaluating Norman Geisler’s Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA) in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  In Part 4 of this series,  I showed that the very brief argument Geisler gives in support of the first premise of TCA is a stinking philosophical TURD.
But Geisler gives a more detailed and in-depth defense of the first premise of TCA in his older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  So, before we can write off premise (1) of TCA, we should consider what he has to say in support of that premise in Chapter 9 of PoR.

Here is Geisler’s argument in PoR (p.191) for the claim that “something exists”, which is part of what premise (1) asserts: 

Here are the key claims in this argument in Geisler’s own words:

11. It is actually undeniable that something exists.

12. I exist.

13. Any attempt to deny one’s own existence is self-defeating.

14. One always (implicitly) affirms his own existence in the very attempt to deny it.

15. One must exist in order to make the denial.

16. If he exists, the denial is not true.

17. All attempts to deny the existence of everything self-destruct.

18. It is necessary to affirm that something exists.

The above claims could use some clarification:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

12a. Norman Geisler exists.

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

15a. A person must exist in order for that person to deny his/her own existence.

16a. IF a person exists, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

18a.  Something exists.

Geisler is not at all clear about the logical structure of this argument, but I will attempt to re-construct his reasoning.  I think the basic structure of the argument goes like this:

15a. A person must exist in order for that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

H. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN that person exists.

16a. IF a person exists, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

THEREFORE:

I. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

J.  IF the denial by a person of his/her own existence is not true, THEN the affirmation of  that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

K. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the affirmation of that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

L. When a person denies the existence of everything, that person is denying his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

THEREFORE:

18a.  Something exists.

NOTE: I don’t see what logical role premise (12a) has in this argument.  It might just be pointing to a specific example that one could use to walk through the logic of the argument, which involves universal generalizations (e.g. “any attempt”, “one always”, “all attempts”).  Geisler exists.  But what if he denies his own existence?  In that case, he must exist in order to be able to deny his existence, according to premise (15a), and so on.  I believe that we can toss premise (12a) aside without damaging this argument.
Here is an argument diagram showing the logical structure of Geisler’s argument for the conclusion that “Something exists”:
 
This seems like a very complicated argument for the very simple claim that “Something exists”.  I wonder if the basic premises of this argument are any more obvious or certain than the claim that “Something exists”.  If not, then this argument has no value or significance.  The premises of an argument need to be more obvious and more certain than the conclusion, at least in the case of deductive arguments (with inductive arguments you can arrive at a conclusion that has a high degree of probability even if some of the premises have only a modest degree of probability).
EVALUATION OF GEISLER’S ARGUMENT FOR “SOMETHING EXISTS”
Geisler’s argument starts with this initial inference:

15a. A person must exist in order that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

H. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN that person exists.

Premise (15a) is clearly and obviously TRUE, and the inference seems to be VALID. I’m not sure that (15a) is any more obvious or certain than (H), but since both seem obvious and certain, I won’t quibble about this infrence.  I do have one caveat here, though.  One can deny one’s own existence at time t1, and if so, then one must exist at time t1, but then one could cease to exist and thus no longer exist at time t2.  So, there is an implicit reference to time in both (15a) and (H).
Here is the next inference in Geisler’s argument:

H. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN that person exists.

16a. IF a person exists, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

THEREFORE:

I. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

This inference from (H) and (16a) is a hypothetical syllogism and is clearly deductively VALID.  Premise (H) is obviously and certainly TRUE.  So, the main question is whether premise (16a) is also TRUE.  This premise is also obviously and certainly TRUE, so this deductive argument is SOUND.  Premise (I) also appears to be obviously and certainly true, even apart from the argument, so I’m not sure if this argument does any real work.  But since both premises appear to be obviously and certainly TRUE, I won’t quibble about this deductive argument.  (I don’t know if this matters, but all three claims here have an implicit reference to time, because a person can exist and one point in time, but then cease to exist, and thus not exist at a later point in time.)
Here is the next inference in Geisler’s argument for “Something exists”:

I. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

J.  IF the denial by a person of his/her own existence is not true, THEN the affirmation of  that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

K. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the affirmation of that person’s existence is true.

Premise (I) is clearly and certainly TRUE, and this is another hypothetical syllogism, so the inference from (I) and (J) to (K) is a deductively VALID inference.  The main question here is thus whether premise (J) is TRUE.  Premise (J) seems to be true, but I have a concern about the shift from “the denial…is not true” to “the affirmation…is true”.  In arguments about the existence of God, such a conditional claim would NOT be acceptable:

X. IF the denial of the existence of God is not true, THEN the affirmation of the existence of God is true.

In the case of the existence of God, there is a third possibility:

Y. The sentence “God exists” is neither true nor false.

One of the biggest objections to theism in the twentieth century was that the sentence “God exists” does NOT assert a factual claim, a claim that could be true or false.  If we understand the denial of the existence of God to mean agreement with the sentence “It is not the case that God exists”, then that denial could also be said to be neither true nor false.
So, a person who was skeptical about theism on the basis of this sort of objection would say that “the denial of the existence of God is not true” and would also say that “the affirmation of the existence of God is not true“.  Such a skeptic would reject the conditional statement (X) above.  Furthermore, so long as statement (Y) is a logical possibility, then we must all reject the conditional statement (X) above, because that statement assumes that there are only two possibilities: either “God exists” is TRUE or “God exists” is FALSE.
It is not immediately obvious whether this objection concerning the statement “God exists” applies to this particular case, however.  Maybe now we can make use of Geisler’s claim “I exist”, or stated more clearly:

2a. Norman Geisler exists.

Are there only two possibilities with this existence claim?  Let’s consider the parallel with the above conditional statement:

X1. IF the denial of the existence of Norman Geisler is not true, THEN the affirmation of the existence of Norman Geisler is true.

Could a skeptic assert an objection to (X1) that is analogous to the above objection (Y)?

Y1. The sentence “Norman Geisler exists” is neither true nor false.

Of course, anyone could utter the sentence (Y1), but the question is whether this is a meaningful thing to say.  Is it possible that the sentence “Norman Geisler exists” could fail to assert a factual claim, i.e. a claim that was either true or false? It is hard to imagine how this existence claim could fail to assert a factual claim.
I suppose that it is possible that this sentence could be partially true and partially false.  For example, if we think of Norman Geisler as being the co-author of When Skeptics Ask and being the author of Philosophy of Religion, it could turn out that he was the author of Philosophy of Religion but contributed nothing to the book When Skeptics Ask (perhaps he bribed the “co-author” to do all the work but to give him part of the credit).  In that way, the Norman Geisler who we thought existed only partially exists.
On this scenario, there is a a man who was the author of Philosophy of Religion, but there is no man who is both the author of Philosophy of Religion and the co-author of When Skeptics Ask.  But in this sort of case, we would normally conclude that “Norman Geisler exists” but that we had a partially mistaken understanding of what Norman Geisler has done, and thus a partially mistaken understanding of who Norman Geisler is.  There would still presumably be a birth certificate somewhere that recorded the birth of Norman Geisler (or if he changed his name, the birth of the person who later changed his name to: Norman Geisler).
But perhaps I am thinking too narrowly here, too much in keeping with our ordinary common-sense view of the world.  What if I am a brain in a vat and my sensory experiences are being generated by a powerful computer?  In that case, it seems very likely that there is no such person as “Norman Geisler”.  Norman Geisler is merely one of millions of imaginary, unreal persons, animals, plants, and objects that a computer creates in my mind.  I might firmly believe that “Norman Geisler exists” but that belief is based on a deception or delusion, and it is a FALSE belief.  I might fail to figure out that the statement “Norman Geisler exists” is FALSE, but it would, nevertheless, in fact be false, and thus would be a factual claim, a claim that could be true or false.
In the movie The Matrix millions of people were brains in vats (so to speak), and a super-powerful computer allowed these millions of people to interact in a virtual world created by the computer.  So, in a reality like that of The Matrix, the statement “Norman Geisler exists” could be true, even though all of my interactions with Geisler were in a virtual world created by a computer.  Nevertheless, there would be an actual human person, on this scenario, whose mind I would be interacting with, even though the actual body of Norman Geisler might look completely different than the Norman Geisler with whom I have interacted.  In any case, I would still be inclined to say that “Norman Geisler exists” even if all of my interactions with him turned out to be in an imaginary virtual world.
Here is another idea.  Norman Geisler is a dualist.  He believes that every human beings is composed of a body combined with an immaterial soul.  Thus, he believes that he himself is composed of a body combined with an immaterial soul.  So, when he asserts “I exist” (and when I re-state that claim as “Norman Geisler exists”), perhaps what he MEANS is this:

2b. There exists a person named Norman Geisler who is composed of a body and an immaterial soul. 

If that is what Geisler MEANS, then one could argue that the claim “Norman Geisler exists” has a problem that is very similar to the claim “God exists”, namely it makes the sort of metaphysical assertion that fails to make a factual claim, and that is neither true nor false.
The sentence “This body contains the immaterial soul of Norman Geisler” might not make a factual claim.  This sentence might be neither true nor false.  Nevertheless, I think that if someone could persuade Geisler that the sentence “This body contains the immaterial soul of Norman Geisler” (uttered while pointing at Norman Geisler) does NOT make a factual claim, and is neither true nor false, Geisler would still maintain his own existence.  He would probably say “I still believe that I exist, it is just that I had a mistaken notion about the nature of myself.”  So, I don’t think that (2b) is a correct interpretation of (2a), even though Geisler is a dualist, even though he currently believes that he is composed of a body plus an immaterial soul.
I’m having a difficult time coming up with a way of making sense of how it could possibly be the case that the sentence “Norman Geisler exists” could fail to assert a factual claim that is either true or false.  Perhaps this is a failure of my imagination, but I’m going to admit defeat here, and conclude that the sentence “Norman Geisler exists” (unlike the sentence “God exists”) clearly makes a factual claim and must be either true or false.  So, although I was previously hesitant to simply accept premise (J) of Geisler’s argument,  I’m now willing to believe that premise (J) is TRUE, and thus that the deductive argument from premises (I) and (J) to (K) is a SOUND argument.
However, because it required a fair amount of thinking to arrive at agreement with (J), and because I am not entirely certain that (J) is TRUE, I am inclined to raise the objection here that the truth of (J) is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  So, although Geisler has, so far, provided SOUND deductive arguments in a chain of reasoning leading towards the conclusion that “Something exists”,  I don’t think this argument is successful, because it makes use of at least one premise that is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument.
The next inference in Geisler’s argument goes like this:

K. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the affirmation of that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

I’m willing to accept premise (K) as TRUE, because it was validly deduced from two premises that I believe to be TRUE, although I don’t think (K) is as obvious or as certain as the ultimate conclusion of this argument (“Something exists.”).
Does premise (K) logically imply (14a)?  It seems to provide support for (14a), but this is NOT a formally valid deductive inference.  For one thing, there is a new term introduced by (14a): “implicitly affirms”.  There is also a shift from talking about a person who “denies his/her own existence” to talking about “any attempt” by a person “to deny his/her own existence”.
Because of the new terms and concepts introduced in (14a) it is NOT obvious or self-evident that (K) logically implies (14a).  Perhaps if we think carefully about this inference we will arrive at the conclusion that (K) does in fact logically imply (14a), but this again raises the concern that a part of Geisler’s argument is LESS obvious or LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument.  If we have to engage in a significant bit of thinking to determine whether (K) logically implies (14a), then this inference might well be a second weakness in the argument, making the truth of (14a) LESS obvious or LESS certain than the truth of (K), which already is LESS obvious or LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument.
In short, every time we encounter a premise or inference that is less than clearly obvious or clearly certain, we depart further from the requirement (for deductive arguments) that the components of the argument be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion of the argument.  So, if the inference from (K) to (14a) is something less than clearly obvious and clearly certain, then the failure of this argument will be doubly confirmed.
I’m going to set aside my reservations about the introduction of the phrase “any attempt” in premise (14a).  That is to say,  I will grant the assumption that if a person’s denial of his/her own existence necessarily involves that person implicitly affirming his/her own existence, then it would ALSO be the case that “any attempt” by a person to deny his/her own existence necessarily involves that person implicitly affirming his/her own existence.  I will assume here that “any attempt” at such a denial would be equivalent to in fact making such a denial.
That leaves just one potential problem with the inference to premise (14a), the introduction of the previously unused phrase “implicitly affirms”.  It is not immediately clear or obvious what it means to “implicitly affirm” a claim or statement.  So, as it stands, the inference from (K) to (14a) is formally INVALID.  We need a premise that defines or specifies sufficient conditions for when a denial of a claim involves implicitly affirming that claim:

M. IF a person’s denial of claim R logically implies that the affirmation of claim R is true, THEN that person implicitly affirms claim R in any attempt by that person to deny claim R.

K. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the affirmation of that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

If it takes you a minute to try to wrap your mind around the complex claim (M), that should be an indication of the less-than-perfectly obvious and certain nature of this part of Geisler’s argument.  I’m still unclear and unsure about what the phrase “implicitly affirms” MEANS.
I can accept premise (M) as being a part of some yet-to-be fully explicated stipulative definition of the meaning of “implicitly affirms”.  But so long as the imagined stipulative definition remains incomplete and unstated, we can understand this phrase ONLY in terms of the sufficient condition stated in (M).  We must be vigilant against any inferences based on any implications of the phrase “implicitly affirms” that go beyond the partial definition that (M) provides.
I conclude that this revised sub-argument is SOUND, but given the complexity of (M), I think this part of Geisler’s argument further reduces the degree of obviousness and certainty of the conclusion.  So we now have identified two different parts of Geisler’s argument that are LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument. Premise (J) is somewhat problematic, which makes the truth of premise (K) LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”, and the inference from (M) and (K) to (14a) is also somewhat problematic. Thus, the truth of premise (14a) is clearly LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion “Something exists”.
Let’s continue and see if there are any other problems with Geisler’s argument for “Something exists”:

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

Here we have yet another inference that is clearly NOT formally VALID.  Premise (13a) introduces a term that has not been used previously in the argument:  “self-defeating”.  Furthermore, just as Geisler failed to clarify or define the phrase “implicitly affirms”, he also failed to clarify or define the phrase “self-defeating”.  Given this context, I can probably construct a stipulative definition of “self-defeating” that will allow us to repair this part of Geisler’s argument, and turn it into a formally VALID inference:

 N. IF a person implicitly affirms claim S in any attempt by that person to deny claim S, THEN any attempt by that person to deny claim S is self-defeating.

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

I’m willing to accept premise (N) as a stipulative definition of part of the meaning of “self-defeating”, as applied to denials of claims.  And given that premise, this argument appears to be VALID and SOUND.
Hang in there! We are getting close to the end of Geisler’s very complex argument for the very simple claim that “Something exists”.
TO BE CONTINUED… 
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* NOTE ABOUT PREMISE (15a)
Shortly after publishing this post, I realized that there was in fact a problem with premise (15a).  I think the problem is related to the fact that there are lots of implicit (unstated) references to time in this argument.  If so, the problem with (15a) is probably not a serious one, but I want to point it out anyway, just in case something later in the argument hinges on a reference to time.
Does Aristotle deny that an actual infinity can exist?  Many would say: “Yes, Aristotle denies that an actual infinity can exist.”  But now consider premise (15a):

15a. A person must exist in order for that person to deny his/her own existence.

This initial premise of Geisler’s argument in support of the claim “Something exists” appears to be based on a more general assumption:

O. A person must exist in order for that person to deny ANY CLAIM whatsoever.

But given (O) and our previous claim about Aristotle, we can formulate a VALID deductive argument with a FALSE conclusion:

1. Aristotle denies that an actual infinity can exist.

O. A person must exist in order for that person to deny ANY CLAIM whatsoever.

THEREFORE:

2. Aristotle exists.

It’s true, to the best of my knowledge, that Aristotle existed at one time in the past, more than 2,000 years ago.  But Aristotle no longer exists.  He is no more.  He died a long long time ago.  So, the conclusion of this apparently VALID deductive argument is FALSE.  Thus, to the extent that one agrees with premise (1), and many people would agree with that premise, that casts doubt on the truth of premise (O).
The way to fix this argument, it seems to me, is to introduce clear references to time.  The verb “denies” is present tense, but what we MEAN by premise (1) is that Aristotle made this denial a long time ago, and wrote it down in a book that gives us access to his beliefs and views today.  When premise (O) asserts that a person must exist in order to deny a claim, it means that the person must exist WHILE that person denies the claim, but then after denying the claim could have a massive heart attack, die, and cease to exist, or after denying the claim the person could be annihilated by God (if there is a God) and thus cease to exist.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 4: Finite Changing Things Exist?

In his book When Skeptics Ask (1990), Norman Geisler presents a Thomist Cosmological Argument for the existence of God (although he FAILED to conclude the argument with the claim that “God exists”!).  I am now going to start evaluating the first premise of this argument:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (When Skeptics Ask, p. 18; hereafter: WSA.)

Here is the argument Geisler gives in support of this premise:

For example, me. I would have to exist to deny that I exist; so either way, I must really exist.  (WSA, p. 18)

That is the entire extent of Geisler’s defense of premise (1), at least in WSA.  Geisler also has a much older book called Philosophy of Religion (1974; hereafter: PoR), and in that older book he provides three and a half full pages of argumentation in support of premise (1).  So, after I examine his very brief argument for premise (1) from WSA,  I will turn to the arguments that he presents in Chapter 9 of PoR, in support of premise (1) of his Thomist Cosmological Argument.
Pronouns are the devil’s workshop.  They should be avoided whenever possible in carefully-stated philosophical arguments, to avoid UNCLARITY and AMBIGUITY and EQUIVOCATION.  So, let’s revise Geisler’s brief argument in support of premise (1) to make it more clear:

I would have to exist in order to deny that I exist… (WSA, p.18)

==> Norman Geisler would have to exist in order to deny that Norman Geisler exists.

==>Norman Geisler would have to exist in order to deny the claim that Norman Geisler exists.

==>IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

10. IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

That is a key premise in this argument in support of premise (1).  I take it that (10) is TRUE; it is obviously true.  So, that is a good start, at least. What is the immediate conclusion of this argument?  Here is how Geisler states the conclusion:

…I must really exist.   (WSA, p.18)

Words like “must” and “necessarily” are sometimes used as inference indicators, like the words “thus” and “therefore”.  Such words should be stripped out of carefully-stated philosophical arguments (they are about the logic of the argument, the inferences in the argument, not about the content of the claims in the argument).  Also the word “really” is superfluous here.  Premise (1) makes no distinction between “really existing” and just plain “existing”, so there is no need for such a distinction within an argument supporting premise (1):

…I must really exist. (WSA, p.18)

==> I really exist.

==>I exist.

==>Norman Geisler exists.

11. Norman Geisler exists.

We now have a clear statement of Geisler’s brief argument in support of premise (1):

10. IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

THEREFORE:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

THEREFORE:

1. Finite, changing things exist.

Just in case you did not notice,  this argument is a piece of SHIT.  It is a stinking philosophical TURD.  Both of the inferences in this argument are clearly and obviously INVALID.  This is NOT rocket science.  So, the fact that the initial premise (10) is TRUE is not enough to make this piece of SHIT argument worth anything.
If I were teaching a Philosophy 101 course, and a freshman turned in a paper that presented this argument,  I would not hesitate for a moment to give that paper an F.    I would expect more out of a freshman taking an introductory philosophy course than what Geisler (a professor of philosophy who has published dozens of books on Christian apologetics, philosophy of religion, and theology) has provided us here.
It seems easy to fix the first part of this argument.  We need to add another premise, one that Geisler neglected to mention:

10. IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

A. Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”

THEREFORE:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

By adding premise (A), we turn Geisler’s INVALID first inference into a VALID inference (called modus ponens). But premise (A) is clearly and obviously FALSE.  So, if this is the argument Geisler had intended, then he has provided an argument that is clearly UNSOUND, and that FAILS to support premise (1).
There is a short phrase in Geisler’s statement of this argument that gives us a clue about how we might be able to fix this first INVALID inference:  “…so either way, I must really exist.”  What is he talking about when he says “either way”?
The phrase “either way” comes out of nowhere and has no clear reference.  However, I suspect that he is talking about the possibility of EITHER accepting the claim “Norman Geisler exists.” or denying the claim “Norman Geisler exists.” Let’s assume that these are the alternatives he had in mind in writing the phrase “either way”.  In that case, we could revise his initial inference this way:

B. EITHER Norman Geisler accepts the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.” OR Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”

C. IF Norman Geisler accepts the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

10. IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

THEREFORE:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

This argument is not obviously INVALID, like the original argument.  In fact, this revised argument is logically VALID, and premise (C) is clearly and obviously TRUE, as well as premise (10).  So, in order to determine whether this revised argument is SOUND, we need to determine whether premise (B) is true.
Upon reflection premise (B) is FALSE, or at least its truth it problematic.  There is a third possibility not mentioned in (B), and also a fourth possibility as well:

  • Norman Geisler neither accepts nor denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”  
  • Norman Geisler does NOT exist.

Failing to notice the first possibility is similar to making the assumption that everyone must either believe the claim “God exists.” or deny the claim “God exists.”  But some people have never heard about the idea of “God” and have no opinion either way (for example, infants are neither theists nor atheists).  Also, some people who have heard about the idea of “God” remain undecided on the question “Does God exist?”.  Agnostics often neither accept nor deny the claim that “God exists.”
A fourth possibility is that there is no such person or being as “Norman Geisler”.  In order to eliminate this fourth possibility, one would have to assume that “Norman Geisler exists”.  But that is the VERY CONCLUSION that is being argued for here.  Such an assumption would BEG THE QUESTION in the very first premise of this revised argument.
So, Geisler has FAILED to establish his first intermediate conclusion:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

But there are still more problems with this stinking philosophical TURD that Geisler has provided for us:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

THEREFORE:

1. Finite, changing things exist.

There are four words in premise (1), and Geisler has completely IGNORED three of those four words:  “Finite”, “changing”, and “things”.  He did make an attempt to show that “Norman Geisler exists“, but, as we just determined:

  • He has FAILED to show that Norman Geisler exists.

This second inference from (11) to (1) is not merely INVALID; it is TRIPLY INVALID!  It is illogical in three different respects:

  • He has FAILED to show that Norman Geisler is “finite”.
  • He has FAILED to show that Norman Geisler is “changing”.
  • He has FAILED to show that Norman Geisler is a “thing”.

So, there are four different claims that he needs to prove in order to support premise (1), and he FAILED to prove EACH of those four different things.  That is why Geisler’s argument in support of (1) in WSA is a stinking philosophical TURD.  It would be difficult to locate an argument by a professor of philosophy that was so awful and that so obviously FAILED.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 3: Norman vs. Bradley

I’m having fun with critical examination of Norman Geisler’s Thomist cosmological argument in When Skeptics Ask.  There is also a more detailed and in-depth presentation of this argument in Chapter 9 of Geisler’s much older book The Philosophy of Religion (1974).
I previously thought that the first premise of his Thomist cosmological argument was obviously true, but now I’m not so sure.  I now think there are problems of UNCLARITY in the key terms “finite thing” and “changing thing.”
Below is a short fictional dialogue that I quickly constructed to explore some of my thoughts about what it means to say something is a “finite thing”.
I will return to my usual, more pedantic style in future posts.
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Bradley: This pebble in my hand is INFINITE!
Norman: No it isn’t. It is a small object. I can plainly see that it is less than 1″ in diameter.
Bradley: True. It is not INFINITE in its size. However, it might still be an INFINITE thing. It might have INFINITE mass.
Norman: Nope. Plainly you are able to hold the pebble up with just one hand, so it must weigh less than 200 pounds. Since you are not straining at all to hold the pebble up with just one hand, it probably weighs less than 10 pounds. Assuming it is an ordinary pebble, given its size, it probably weighs less than 1 pound.
Bradley: OK. All right. The pebble has a finite size, and a finite mass. Perhaps it contains INFINITE energy.
Norman: If it contained INFINITE heat energy, you would not be able to hold it in your hand. It would instantly burn a hole through your hand.
Bradley: What if it had INFINITE electrical energy?
Norman: Then it would electrocute you and instantly fry your entire body like a billion lightning strikes hitting your hand all at once.
Bradley: You have a point there. Maybe it contains INFINITE kinetic energy.
Norman: I don’t think so. Kinetic energy depends in part on the mass of the object, and we have already established that the pebble has only a small amount of mass, and it clearly isn’t moving very fast, if at all.
Bradley: How about the past age of the pebble? Perhaps this pebble has existed for an INFINITE amount of time.
Norman: I doubt that. The earth is supposed to be about 4.5 billion years old, so the pebble is probably less than 4.5 billion years old (according to your godless evolution-infected geology).
Bradley: But you don’t know the history of this specific pebble. Maybe it came from another planet or from another galaxy. Can you prove that this pebble has only existed for a finite number of years?
Norman: Well, according to the Kalam Cosmological Argument, there cannot be an actually infinite number of days or years that have elapsed in the past.
Bradley: But if you need the Kalam Cosmological Argument in order to demonstrate the first premise of your Thomist Cosmological Argument, then you don’t have two independent arguments. Both arguments in that case would depend on the key claim in the Kalam argument that an actually infinite number of days or years cannot have elapsed in the past.
Norman: I’m confident of the truth of that premise of the Kalam argument, so I’m OK with making the success of both of my cosmological arguments depend on that premise.
Bradley: We have been discussing various common and easily observable physical attributes. Aren’t there lots of other possible physical attributes possessed by this pebble? In addition to being composed of molecules and atoms, it is also composed of sub-atomic particles, like: quarks, leptons, and bosons. Perhaps one of the properties of one of the sub-atomic particles in the pebble is INFINITE.
Do we know ALL of the kinds of sub-atomic particles that exist in this universe? I doubt it. Do we know ALL of the various properties of the sub-atomic particles that are currently known to exist? I don’t think so. Given that we still have a lot to learn about sub-atomic particles, I don’t see how (at this point in time) we can be sure that no sub-atomic particles in this pebble have any INFINITE properties.
Norman: I’ll admit that there is probably much that we have yet to learn about the kinds and characteristics of sub-atomic particles.  But based on all of the ordinary physical properties that we are familiar with, which the pebble possesses in only finite amounts and degrees, and based on the properties of sub-atomic particles that we know about now, we should expect that new properties that will be discovered about the sub-atomic particles in pebbles, will also be possessed by the pebble in only finite amounts and degrees and NOT in INFINTE amounts or degrees.
Bradley: Perhaps all future discoveries about the properties of sub-atomic particles will be limited to properties that exist in only finite amounts and degrees, but we cannot know this ahead of time.  Since there still appear to be some mysteries to unravel in the world of sub-atomic particles, what about the possibility that this pebble has an INFINITE number of physical properties? I don’t see how we can be certain that the number of physical properties possessed by this pebble is a finite number.  Perhaps there is no end to the discovery of natural physical properties of this pebble.
Furthermore, since you believe that there is also a SUPERNATURAL realm, could it be that this pebble has some SUPERNATURAL properties, in addition to the natural physical properties it has? If so, then one of its SUPERNATURAL properties could be INFINITE.  Can you prove that this pebble has no INFINITE SUPERNATURAL properties?  Can you prove that you know ALL of the SUPERNATURAL properties that this pebble possesses?  I don’t think so.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 2: Geisler’s Thomist Argument

I plan to analyze and evaluate Ed Feser’s Aristotelian proof of the existence of God (in Five Proofs of the Existence of God).  But first I want to analyze and evaluate Aquinas’s Unmoved Mover proof.  And before I do that,  I wanted to warm up by doing an analysis and evaluation of Peter Kreeft’s Unmoved-Mover proof, which I did in the first post of this series.
I could get started on Aquinas’ First Way (Unmoved Mover Proof) right now, but I think I will warm up a bit more by doing an analysis and evaluation of Norman Geisler’s version of a Thomist cosmological argument.   Geisler does not state his argument in terms of motion, nor does he say that he is re-stating Aquinas’s First Way or Unmoved Mover proof.  However, Geisler does indicate that the cosmological argument that I will be examining here is based on the cosmological arguments of Aquinas.
Geisler distinguishes between horizontal and vertical types of cosmological arguments. He categorizes the Kalam argument as a horizontal cosmological argument, and he categorizes four of Aquinas’s Five Ways as vertical cosmological arguments:

There are two basic forms of the cosmological argument: the horizontal or kalam cosmological argument and the vertical.  The horizontal cosmological argument reasons back to a Cause of the beginning of the universe.  The vertical cosmological argument reasons from the being of the universe as it now exists.  The former, explaining how the universe came to be, was championed by Bonaventure (1221-1274).  The latter, explaining how it continues to be, flows from Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274).  The first calls for an originating Cause, and the latter for a sustaining Cause.  (“Cosmological Argument” in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p.160)

In the same article, Geisler summarizes four of Aquinas’s Five Ways, and then presents a more general cosmological argument that he thinks reflects “a basic form behind all of these arguments [by Aquinas]”.  Geisler provides such a generalized Thomist cosmological argument in his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).
In WSA, Geisler distinguishes two different types of cosmological argument, and gives one argument of each type.  He does not use the terms “vertical” and “horizontal”, but the distinction he makes in WSA appears to be the same one he makes in the above article, just minus the terminology:

There are two different forms of this argument, so we will show them to you separately.  The first form says that the universe needed a cause at its beginning; the second form argues that it needs a cause right now to continue existing.  (WSA, p.16).

The first cosmological argument Geisler presents in WSA is the Kalam cosmological argument, which asserts that the universe needed a cause at its beginning (a horizontal cosmological argument).  The second cosmological argument that Geisler presents in WSA asserts that the universe needs a cause right now to continue existing (a vertical cosmological argument).   So, it is reasonable to infer that the second cosmological argument in WSA is Geisler’s generalized version of a Thomist cosmological argument:

1. Finite, changing things exist.

2. Every finite changing thing must be caused by something else.

3. There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes.

THEREFORE:

4. [There is]…a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists.

(WSA, p. 18 & 19. I left out the text defending each of the premises; we will get into that later.)
Geisler draws one further conclusion from (4):

This argument shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists. 

(WSA, p.19)

So, I take it that there is another key claim that is inferred from (4):

4. [There is]…a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists.

THEREFORE:

5. There is a present, conserving cause of the world.

Geisler’s cosmological argument FAILS right off the starting line, just like Kreeft’s Unmoved Mover argument FAILED right off the starting line.  There is NO MENTION OF GOD in the conclusion of Geisler’s argument!
There is no mention of God in any of the premises, and no mention of God in the conclusion.  If a freshman taking Philosophy 101 turned in a paper that was an attempt to prove the existence of God, but provided the above argument,  I would give that paper an F, and that student would fail the course, unless and until the paper was revised so that the conclusion of the argument was this:

(G) God exists.

Geisler is a professor of philosophy, and he has published dozens of books in Christian apologetics and theology.  You would think that he could manage to produce arguments for God that had “God exists” as the conclusion.   This is not rocket science! This is Philosophy 101, or Critical Thinking 101.  Twelve of Kreeft’s twenty arguments for the existence of God, also do NOT conclude that “God exists”.  So, both Kreeft and Geisler are unclear on the concept that an argument for the existence of God should conclude that “God exists”.
We could repair Geisler’s obviously defective cosmological argument by adding a missing premise to his argument:

5. There is a present, conserving cause of the world.

A. IF there is a present, conserving cause of the world, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

G.  God exists. 

Now we can see the basic structure of Geisler’s argument:
There are a couple of reasons why I’m not sure that adding premise (A) is the best way to represent Geisler’s Thomist cosmological argument.  First, premise (A) seems obviously to be FALSE, so this re-construction of Geisler’s argument might be thought to be a Straw Man.
Second,  Geisler understands that none of his arguments show that “God exists”, given the ordinary meaning of that statement (i.e. There exists a bodiless person who is the creator of the universe, and who is eternally omnipotent, eternally omniscient, and eternally perfectly morally good.).
So, in WSA after Geisler presents five basic arguments, he then attempts to cobble his various arguments together into an overall case for the conclusion that “God exists”.  He fails utterly and pathetically at this attempt, but that is the general structure of his reasoning.  In short, Geisler’s case for the existence of God requires that ALL FIVE of his arguments be SOUND, so that he can use different arguments to show different divine attributes (e.g. cosmological arguments to show divine power and the existence of an eternal creator, an argument from design to show divine intelligence, a moral law argument to show divine goodness).
We can, however, alter the content of premise (A), so that it asserts a conjunction of the conclusions of Geisler’s other arguments, in order to more accurately represent his case for God:

A1.  There exists a very powerful creator of the universe, and there exists a very intelligent designer of the universe, and there exists a perfectly good moral law giver.

Premise (A1) is clearly a very strong claim, and we would be perfectly reasonable to reject this premise unless all of Geisler’s other arguments were solid.  So, if any of Geisler’s other arguments FAIL or have significant problems, then Geisler’s argument/case for the existence of God FAILS.
Geisler’s argument/case for God works only if ALL of his lower-level arguments are SOUND, only if both of his cosmological arguments (Kalam and Thomist), and his argument from design, and also his moral law argument are all SOUND arguments.  Note: Geisler also has an Ontological Argument, but he doesn’t use it to show the existence of a necessary being.  He uses this argument to show a conditional claim, something like this: “If there is a creator of the universe, then that creator is a necessary being”. This conditional statement plays a role in his overall case for God.
In the next post of this series I will evaluate Geisler’s Thomist cosmological argument, at least the part of it that supports premise (5).  I’m not planning to evaluate premise (A1), because that would require evaluating all of the other lower-level arguments Geisler presents in WSA.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 1: Kreeft’s Version

FESER’S ARISTOTELIAN PROOF & AQUINAS’S UNMOVED-MOVER PROOF
I plan to analyze and evaluate Ed Feser’s Aristotelian “proof” of the existence of God, from his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  According to Feser, the proofs that he presents in that book are “the most powerful arguments for God’s existence on offer”.
But before I take on Feser’s Aristotelian proof,  I want to warm up a bit, by taking a look at the version of that argument presented by Thomas Aquinas.   Aquinas presented an “Unmoved Mover” argument as the first of his “Five Ways” of proving the existence of God.
There are two phases to Feser’s Aristotelian proof.  The first phase is supposed to establish the existence of an odd sort of metaphysical being:

14. So, there is a purely actual actualizer.

(Five Proofs of the Existence of God (p. 36). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.)

A “purely actual actualizer” is something that has no potential to change, but that can cause something else to change.  So, a purely actual actualizer is an UNCHANGING CHANGER.  Motion is one type of change, so an UNMOVED MOVER is something that is unchanging in motion, but that causes something else to change from not being in motion to being in motion.
The first of Aquinas’s Five Ways is also supposed to establish the existence of this odd sort of metaphysical being:

Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other;

(Summa Theologiae, Part I, Question 2, Article 3)

But before I tackle Aquinas’s first proof of the existence of God,  I want to warm up a bit by examining a presentation of this first proof by a well-known Christian Apologist:  Peter Kreeft.
I have already analyzed and evaluated his version of the unmoved-mover argument or the unchanged-changer argument (found in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics, hereafter HCA).  So, I will just refresh my memory (and yours) by re-posting (here) excerpts from my previous discussion of Kreef’s versions of this “proof” of the existence of God (for more details see these posts: Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 9Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 10Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 11Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 12).
Actually,  some of my critique below is fresh, not cut and pasted from previous posts.
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ANALYSIS OF THE KREEFT’S UNCHANGING-CHANGER PROOF
Kreeft presents Argument #1 (The Argument from Change) twice.  The second presentation appears to be a summary.  It is a bit shorter than the first statement of the argument, and he begins the first sentence of this second presentation with the word “Briefly…”.  In any case, the second statement of the argument seems more clear and straightforward to me, so I will focus on the second statement of Argument #1, and draw upon the first statement only as necessary to clarify or evaluate the argument presented in his second statement of the argument.
Here is Kreeft’s second statement of Argument #1 (The Unchanging-Changer Argument):

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)

Kreeft is not very good at being clear or at being logical, so it takes a good deal of effort to try to re-construct his reasoning into a logical argument.  In re-constructing his reasoning, I found that several UNSTATED ASSUMPTIONS or PREMISES were needed to make his argument logical.  In the argument diagram below, each of the numbers corresponds to an explicit premise, and each of the letters corresponds to an UNSTATED ASSUMPTION:
 
THE CONCLUSION OF ARGUMENT #1 (Kreeft’s Unchanging-Changer Proof)
Here is the explicitly stated conclusion of Argument #1: “…this being outside the universe…is the unchanging Source of change.” (HCA, p.51).  I have re-stated this claim to clarify it a bit:

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

One of the first things I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Argument #1 is presumably one of the very best and strongest arguments for God, in the view of Peter Kreeft.  But there is an OBVIOUS and SERIOUS problem with Argument #1: The conclusion does not mention God!
In fact, the word “God” does not appear in anywhere in this argument.  How can Argument #1 be a strong and clear argument for the existence of God, if it never once mentions God?  In order for an argument to be a clear and strong argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument should be that “God exists” or “There is a God”.   Argument #1 fails to satisfy this basic and obvious requirement.
We can fix this obviously defective argument by adding yet another  premise to fill in the logical gap:

(F) IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists. 

But this additional premise is highly questionable and, as is seen in Edward Feser’s version of the Argument from Change (in Chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God), a fairly long and complex argument needs to be presented in order to support this questionable premise.
In Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change, MOST of that argument (over 70% of it) is given in support of this one premise (or one very similar to it).  Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change is a fairly accurate representation of the reasoning of Aquinas; it is also the case that MOST of Aquinas’s case for God is focused on establishing this premise (or one very similar to it).
So, Kreeft left out what appears to be the single most important premise in the Argument from Change.  Kreeft is attempting to save us from an eternity of misery in hell and he is presenting what he thinks is one of his very best and strongest arguments for the most basic belief of the Christian faith, and yet somehow he cannot manage to clearly state the conclusion that “God exists” nor does he manage to explicitly state or provide support for what appears to be the single most important premise of this argument.
 
THE CORE ARGUMENT IN KREEFT’S UNCHANGING-CHANGER PROOF
Here is what appears to be the core argument in Kreeft’s Unchanging-Changer proof:

3a. There is something outside the material universe that causes the material universe to change.

D. Something is outside the material universe IF AND ONLY IF it is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

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

E. Any being that is outside time is NOT a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

7a.  There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe that causes the material universe to change, and that being is NOT a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

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

F. IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists. 

THEREFORE:

G. God exists.

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EVALUATION OF KREEFT’S UNCHANGING-CHANGER PROOF
OBJECTION 1: Premise (F) is highly dubious, and yet Kreeft provides no reason whatsoever to believe that (F) is true (unlike Aquinas and unlike Feser).
OBJECTION 2: There is good reason to believe that the antecedent in (F) is implies that God does NOT exist.  God is the person who created the universe, if God exists.  But a person cannot be an “unchanging” being, so the existence of an “unchanging” being does NOT imply the existence of God.  In fact, if the phrase “the unchanging Source of change” is taken to be a reference to the CREATOR of the universe, then the antecedent of (F), i.e. “there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change”,  implies that the CREATOR of the universe is unchanging and thus not a person.  But if the CREATOR is not a person, then it follows that God does not exist.  So, to assert that “there is exactly ONE being…that…is the unchanging Source of change” appears to imply that God does not exist, at least if we assume “the ONE being…that…is the unchanging Source of change” to be the CREATOR of the universe.
Someone who believes in God must either reject (8a) as FALSE, or else reject the view that “the ONE being…that…is the unchanging Source of change” is the CREATOR of the universe.  Either way, the argument from (8a) and (F) to (G) is UNSOUND.
OBJECTION 3: The inference from (7a) to (8a) is also dubious.  If we assume, for the sake of argument, that there is just ONE being outside the material universe that causes changes TO the universe, it is still not clear that this ONE being causes ALL changes IN the universe.  What is a change TO the universe?  If I wiggle my finger, that is a change IN the universe.  Is that also a change TO the universe?
If not, then I am the cause of a change IN the universe that is not a change TO the universe.  A believer could respond that “I” am a contingent and finite being, and that my existence is caused by something other than myself.  Let’s grant that point for the sake of argument; nevertheless, whatever caused me to exist, or whatever is causing me to exist right now is NOT causing me to wiggle my finger, at least not if I am doing so by my own FREE WILL.
According to most Christian philosophers, I can exercise FREE WILL only if my choices and actions are not all causally determined by other things or beings.  So, if I can exercise FREE WILL and choose to wiggle my finger without being caused to do so by something or someone else, then I can be the ultimate source of that change IN the universe (without being a source of change TO the universe?).  But in this case, there are changes IN the universe that are NOT caused by something that is outside of the universe.
On the other hand, if ANY change IN the universe (including the wiggling of my finger) is also a change TO the universe, then if there is a being outside the universe that causes some changes TO the universe, it does NOT cause ALL changes TO the universe, because I (who am inside the universe) cause some of the changes IN the universe, which are also changes TO the universe.
Either way, there is no possibility of there existing a being that is “the Source” of ALL changes.  Therefore, premise (8a) cannot be validly inferred from premise (7a).  That inference is INVALID.  Even if there is a being outside the universe that causes SOME changes TO the universe, it does NOT FOLLOW that this being is “the Source” of ALL changes IN the universe.
Therefore, premise (8a) is dubious, since it is supported only by an INVALID argument.
I am inclined to accept the argument of (6a) and (E) for (7a) as a VALID argument.  And I accept (E) a a true claim.  So, the only potential problem with this argument is with premise (6a). Is this premise true?
Kreeft gives the following argument in support of (6a):

3a. There is something outside the material universe that causes the material universe to change.

D. Something is outside the material universe IF AND ONLY IF it is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

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

OBJECTION 4: This argument for (6a) is INVALID, because premise (3a) refers to “something” being outside the material universe, which could be one being, two beings, sixty-seven beings, or five hundred thirty-two trillion beings.  Therefore, one cannot infer that there is “exactly ONE being” outside the material universe from premise (3a).
[NOTE: I think Feser argues that there can be only ONE being outside of matter, space, and time, so he could try to use (D) as part of an argument for there being only ONE being that fits the description in premise (3a).]
I accept premise (D), because I take it to be a stipulative definition of the unclear phrase “outside the material universe”.   Other definitions might be better, but Kreeft is free to define this key phrase however he wishes. Kreeft did not provide this definition, but I infer that this is what he means by the phrase “outside the material universe” based on the inferences that he draws from premise (3a).
This argument is INVALID and thus UNSOUND because (6a) does not follow from the premises, but there may be a second reason why this argument is UNSOUND: premise (3a) is dubious.  It might be FALSE.
Kreeft provides an argument in support of (3a):

2. But the material universe does change.

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

THEREFORE:

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

THEREFORE:

3a. There is something outside the material universe that causes the material universe to change.

Premise (3a) appears to be a logically VALID inference from premise (C), so the question at issue becomes: Is premise (C) true?  Kreeft provides an argument for (C), so we need to evaluate that argument.  Obviously, the universe does change, so premise (2) is true. (C) is a logically VALID inference from (2) combined with (B), so in order to evaluate the argument for (3a), the question at issue becomes: Is premise (B) true?  Kreeft provides an argument for (B), so we need to evaluate that argument:

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

The inference to premise (B) from (1) and (A) is a logically VALID inference, so the SOUNDNESS of this argument for (B) depends on whether premises (1) and (A) are both true.  If both (1) and (A) are true, then this is a SOUND argument, but if either one of those premises is FALSE, then this argument is UNSOUND.
OBJECTION 5: Premise (A) appears to be FALSE.  Premise (A) assumes that “The material universe changes ONLY IF some thing exists that causes the material universe to change”, which in turn assumes that “Some thing X changes ONLY IF some thing causes X to change”.  But there are things that change without there being something causing them to change.
For example, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by some other object. So, if a comet moves from point A to point B, that is a change, but NOTHING is required to explain that change, because if the comet was already in motion, then it will continue to stay in motion, unless something acts upon it.  So, we don’t infer the existence of some unseen entity pushing the comet along from point A to point B.  All we need to know is that it was already headed in that direction with that speed and with the mass it had.  If the comet changes course, or slows down and stops, then we would need an explanation for why it did NOT go from point A to point B (as we had expected it to).
Not only does the motion of a comet NOT require that we infer the existence of some invisible object that is pushing it along, and thus we have an example of a change that is NOT caused by some existing object causing the change, but this is also an example of a change to the universe.  The movement of a comet is a change to the structure of the universe.  One piece of the universe is now located at point B, when it has previously been located at point A.  So, this is also an example of a change to the universe that is NOT caused by something causing that change to occur.
But what caused the comet to start moving in the first place?  Well, the comet might have ALWAYS been moving.  We cannot simply assume that the comet was stationary for a period of time, and then it began to move.  Aquinas, unlike Aristotle, believed that logic and philosophical arguments could NOT rule out the possibility that the universe has ALWAYS existed.  If Aquinas is correct, then the statement “Nothing caused the comet to start moving” is logically compatible with the statement “The comet moved from point A to point B”.  In that case, premise (A) is FALSE.
OBJECTION 6: Premise (1) appears to be FALSE.  I can cause my finger to wiggle by exertion of my FREE WILL.  In order for the wiggling of my finger to be the result of my FREE WILL, it cannot be caused by some other thing or being.  If some other thing or being caused my finger to wiggle, then my choice would not be the cause of that event.  Now there are intermediate events between my choice and my finger wiggle.  Nerves have to fire and muscles have to respond to signals from nerves.  But the ultimate cause, the first cause, has to be me and my choice to wiggle my finger.
The wiggling of my finger is a change IN the universe.  Perhaps someone would argue that this is NOT a change TO the universe.  But suppose that the US government is working on a project to be able to fire nuclear missiles at an oncoming asteroid in order to deflect the path of an asteroid to prevent it from smashing into the Earth and killing all human beings.  Suppose that I gain access to the secret lab where the aiming and firing of these missiles takes place.  Suppose I learn how to operate the equipment to aim the nuclear missiles at an asteroid, and suppose that these missiles are fired off by pulling a specific trigger with my finger.
So, I see an asteroid headed towards the Earth, and I go to the secret lab. I set up the aiming of the missiles, and then I pull the trigger.  Suppose the missiles launch and hit their target, and deflect the asteroid.  Now we have an asteroid that was headed from point A to point B (the Earth), but because I wiggled my finger at the right time and place, the course of the asteroid was changed and it did NOT end up at point B (the Earth), but instead headed out of our solar system.  This is a change TO the universe.  The path of an asteroid was going to be from point A to point B, but now it is headed off in a different direction towards a different destination.
This is an example of a change IN the universe that a human being brought about by wiggling his finger at a particular time and place, to intentionally cause the deflection of an asteroid away from the Earth, which was a change TO the universe.  Since the ultimate or first cause of this change was the FREE WILL of a human being, this change TO the universe was NOT caused by something that is “outside of the material universe”.
OBJECTION 7:  Based on Objections 5 and 6, we can see that the argument for (3a) is UNSOUND.  So, premise (3a) remains unproven and questionable.
OBJECTION 8:  God is a person, and as the Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne argues, something can be a person only if it can undergo change.  So, because (3a) talks about something that is “outside the material universe” which MEANS something that is outside of time, space and matter, this something must be UNCHANGING.  Thus, whatever it is that premise (3a) is talking about is something that is NOT a person.  Since God is a person, and premise (3a) is talking about something that is NOT a person, it is clear that premise (3a) is irrelevant to the question of whether God exists.  Even if (3a) turns out to be true, it won’t help to answer the question “Does God exist?”.
======================
NOTE:  I made some revisions to the wording of some of the premises in Kreeft’s argument, relative to the wording used in my previous posts.  I added the phrase “that causes the material universe to change” to (3a), (6a), and (7a).  I realized that that phrase was needed in order to make the inference from (7a) to (8a) more reasonable.
I changed premise (D) into an IF AND ONLY IF statement, to make it more clearly a stipulative definition.

bookmark_borderResurrected Political Blog

Announcement: I’ve resurrected my political blog and re-branded it as “Data-Driven Politics.” It has a new URL:
https://dataoverdogma.wordpress.com/
Please give it a look! My most recent entry is a blog post analyzing the effectiveness of mask wearing at reducing the spread of COVID-19.

bookmark_borderINDEX: Was Joshua’s Slaughter of the Canaanites Morally Justified?

In this INDEX post you will find links to each of the 14 posts in my series of posts on this question:

Was Joshua’s Slaughter of the Canaanites Morally Justified?

I have also provided some quotes from the posts to give an idea of what each post is about.

The Taking of Jericho (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/04/20/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-thousands-of-men-women-children-and-babies-morally-justified-part-1/
In this series of posts I will argue for the view that the MERCILESS SLAUGHTER of elderly men and women, adult men and women, teenagers, children, and babies by the army of Israel under the leadership of Moses, and later under the leadership of Joshua, was NOT morally justified, and that this shows that Jesus was a morally flawed person, given that Jesus did not reject his given name, and given that Jesus was openly and publicly an admirer of Moses.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/04/28/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-2/
…I will begin [in future posts] to present the OTHER evidence of the morally flawed character of Jehovah, evidence that, even setting aside the slaughter of the Canaanites, shows that Jehovah was a cruel and violent tyrant.  The slaughter of the Canaanites is just one of the most glaring and shocking examples of Jehovah’s awful words and awful behavior.
Just as Trump’s comments cannot rationally be excused as frivolous “locker room” talk, so the guidance of Jehovah to slaughter the Canaanites cannot be excused as frivolous “locker room” talk either.  Such excuses and justifications could have a chance of being reasonable ONLY IF the previous words and behavior of the person in question were above reproach, and cannot possibly be reasonable given the strong evidence to the contrary.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/01/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-3/
If you study and understand the Ten Commandments, and learn how Jehovah wanted those rules to be enforced, you will find that Jehovah was a violent and bloodthirsty tyrant who cared very little about human life.  So, Jehovah’s words and actions BEFORE the “extermination” of the Canaanites already provided plenty of evidence that Jehovah is exactly the sort of person who would command Moses and Joshua (and the army of Israel) to exterminate tens of thousands of civilians, including elderly men, elderly women, adult men and women, teenagers, young boys and girls, and babies.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/04/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-4/
Human duties to God, if God exists, should be considered the LEAST IMPORTANT of human duties, because we can do NOTHING to benefit God, and NOTHING to harm God, so making these relatively unimportant duties into RELIGIOUS LAWS and then enforcing them by means of the PENALTY OF DEATH shows that Jehovah is a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/06/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-5/
So, Jehovah winks at a lot of killing, killing that any reasonable person would view as being homicide or murder.  So, the commandment against “murder” is not actually opposed to murder,  it only opposes those particular murders that Jehovah hasn’t already blessed.  Jehovah declares many forms of murder to be OK, and that is supposed to magically make it good.  But a rose by any other name, is still a rose.  So, the sixth commandment positively REEKS OF HYPOCRISY and DOUBLETHINK.
Jehovah is nothing but a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant; he could care less about the value of human lives or “the right to life” that so many Catholics and Evangelicals pretend to embrace.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/07/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-6-adultery/
Because of Jehovah’s extreme sexism, he would have no serious problem with ordering the slaughter of elderly women, wives and mothers, teenage girls, young girls, and baby girls, and because of his LOVE of BLOODSHED, he could be OK with ordering the slaughter of elderly men, husbands and fathers, teenage boys, young boys, and baby boys too.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/10/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-7-rant-off/
However, because my objection against Jesus and against many Christians and Jews (past and present) is based on their holding the view that the OT stories about these events are historically reliable, then it makes sense to focus on this question about the relevant biblical texts:

According to the biblical account of the Conquest of Canaan in the Book of Joshua, did Joshua consistently provide a warning to the cities and towns that he was preparing to attack, giving civilians at least a few days notice to leave that town or city or else face extermination at the hands of the army of Israel?

 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/13/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-8-warnings/
Jehovah doesn’t do “locker room” talk.  When Jehovah orders you to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER elderly men and women, mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, teenagers, children, and babies, then you had better do PRECISELY what Jehovah has commanded, or else Jehovah will be FURIOUS with you.  Jehovah is a Selfish Jerk.  Jehovah is the King of Sexism, and  Jehovah is a Bloodthirsty Tyrant.  Jehovah LOVES bloodshed and killing people.
Based on these four stories about Moses and the Israelites attacking various cities and towns near the promised land, it looks like Moses set a bad example for Joshua by: (a) failing to issue advanced warnings to cities or towns prior to attacking them, and (b) proceeding to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every person, including civilians, including elderly men and women, including mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, teenagers, young children, and babies (with the minor exception of the towns of the Midianites where Moses had the young virginal girls spared, but not mothers and not wives, not elderly men or elderly women, not teenage boys, not young boys, and not baby boys).
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/15/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-9-joshua/
Jehovah doesn’t demand that advanced warnings be given to any of these towns.  Joshua doesn’t order that advanced warnings be given to any of these towns, and there is no indication that I can see of any of these towns actually being given an advanced warning.   Yet, once again, we see an abundance of MERCILESS SLAUGHTERING in every case.
Perhaps, (just taking a wild shot in the dark here) this is because that is PRECISELY what Jehovah commanded Moses, Joshua, and the Israelites to do!  Because Jehovah is a Selfish Jerk, and because Jehovah is a Cruel and Bloodthirsty Tyrant, and the King of Sexism and of the King of Male Chauvinist Piggery, but mostly because Jehovah LOVES BLOODSHED and killing people.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/19/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-10-child-sacrifice/
Jones has provided four pieces of evidence to support his historical claim, and they are all, without exception, WORTHLESS and IRRELEVANT pieces of information.  Jones is a Professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University.  It is his JOB to find the strongest and best evidence to support his Evangelical Christian beliefs, like the belief that Jehovah is NOT a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant.  Yet the first four pieces of evidence he provides are basically IRRELEVANT to the question at issue.
This strongly suggests that there is no actual evidence available to support the key historical claim that:

…all of the various peoples who were actually living in the towns of the Promised Land between 1350 and 1250 BCE  regularly  and  frequently  practiced  child sacrifice…

 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/23/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-11-moral-warrant/
I have only discussed two major ethical points of view here, but since (MW) is clearly unacceptable from both of those major ethical points of view, I think that is sufficient to show that (MW) is highly DUBIOUS at best, and that showing (MW) to be true would be an extremely difficult task, if not impossible.
Therefore, the argument that could be used to support a moral justification of Jehovah commanding the MERCILESS SLAUGHTER of every elderly man and woman, every husband and wife, every mother and father, every teenager, every child, and every baby in every town in the Promised Land on the basis of the historical claim in premise (1) above, is very likely to be an UNSOUND argument, because not only is premise (1) highly DUBIOUS, but so is the unstated Moral Warrant (MW) in this argument.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/05/28/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-12-playing-for-all-the-marbles/
For me, the resurrection and divinity of Jesus depend on whether Jehovah was clearly a morally flawed person.  If Jehovah was clearly a morally flawed person, then Jesus was morally flawed, and the basic Christian beliefs about Jesus are FALSE, and thus Christianity should be rejected as a FALSE religion.
… if it could be shown that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all three FALSE religions, and that they do not actually have truth or wisdom communicated by God through prophets or inspired writings, then one must either reject theism altogether, or else settle for the watered-down concept of God proposed by DEISM: a creator god who doesn’t care about humans and who doesn’t intervene in human history.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/06/18/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-13-ot-on-child-sacrifice/

Does the OT clearly claim that all of the peoples who inhabited the numerous towns and villages in the Promised Land prior to the alleged Conquest of Canaan, regularly practiced child sacrifice?

The answer to this question is: NO!
The OT  does NOT state or imply that ALL of the nations who inhabited the Promised Land (prior to the alleged Conquest of Canaan) practiced child sacrifice, and the OT does NOT state or imply that ANY of the nations who inhabited the Promised Land (prior to the alleged Conquest of Canaan) REGULARLY practiced child sacrifice.
 
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/07/05/was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified-part-14-more-ot-on-child-sacrifice/
Although some of the above passages did have some relevance to the question at issue, most were irrelevant because they are about the Israelites engaging in the practice of child sacrifice.  The passages that did assert or imply that a pagan nation engaged in child sacrifice were either irrelevant (because the pagan nation specified was NOT one of the seven pagan nations that inhabited the Promised Land prior to the Conquest of Canaan) or they were insignificant  (because they only implied that ONE of the seven pagan nations SOMETIMES engaged in child sacrifice).
I have found NO SIGNIFICANT evidence in the OT supporting the claim that:

All of the peoples who inhabited the numerous towns and villages in the Promised Land prior to the alleged Conquest of Canaan, regularly practiced  child sacrifice.

 

bookmark_borderContempt: It’s Not All Bad

NOTE: This is a portion of a paper I read at the Central Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association last February. It is a revision of an earlier SO post “Contempt: A Qualified Defense.”
In January 2017, I was pleasantly surprised to see an op/ed by a professional philosopher in The Houston Chronicle. Karen Stohr’s timely and insightful essay “Our new age of contempt is on full display,” was first published in the New York Times. Professional philosophers, like other academics, tend to communicate eagerly with their peers, less eagerly with students, and less eagerly still with the general public. This is too bad since the role of the public intellectual is a vital one.
Stohr argues that in the 2016 presidential election, contempt for the opposing candidate and his or her supporters became mainstream, no longer expressed privately, but blared across television, social media, and the Internet. Messages of vicious contempt even festoon wearing apparel (e.g., a T-shirt worn by one attendee at a Trump campaign rally: “Reporter, rope, tree. Some assembly required.”). Stohr argues that such pervasive and strident expressions of disdain are dangerous:
…it [public expressions of contempt] threatens the foundations of our political community by denying the central moral idea on which that community is based—that everyone has a right to basic respect as a human being.
The cure is not to return contempt for contempt, but to repudiate it entirely:
The only real defense against contempt is the consistent strong and loud insistence that each one of us be regarded as a full participant in our shared political life, entitled to hold all others accountable for how we are treated.
What makes contempt so dangerous? Stohr distinguishes between contempt and anger. Anger is directed at some specific action, aspect, or attitude of a person; contempt rejects the whole person. Even the most devoted couples are sometimes angry with each other. However, marriage counselors say that when genuine contempt crops up between spouses, a marriage has little chance of lasting. When you disdain someone you dehumanize and objectify that person, Stohr argues. You no longer regard him or her as a moral agent to be rationally engaged, but as an object to be scorned or an obstacle to be overcome. In a political context, you no longer regard the ones you scorn as fellow citizens, united, despite disagreements, in pursuit of common good, and approachable in good faith through open dialogue and debate. On the contrary, you despise them, and only want to see them beaten.
But why can’t those who have been the objects of contempt simply reciprocate the attitude? Why, for instance, should not refugees, immigrants, or transgender persons simply return the disdain in full measure towards those who have disdained them? Stohr argues that the contempt of the powerful is powerful, while the contempt of the powerless is negligible. To return contempt for contempt is a battle that the marginalized cannot win, and so they only hurt themselves if, by engaging in expressions of contempt, they help to legitimize such discourse. As Stohr puts it:
In an environment where contempt is an acceptable language of communication, those who already lack social power stand to lose the most by being its targets.
So, reciprocation is not a winning strategy for those who have been marginalized by contempt. At a deeper level, as noted above, the expression of contempt in a public context is intrinsically objectionable. If we truly believe in democratic process in which all are to have a voice, then we will not use disdainful language to dismiss anyone from that process; rather, we will insist that all be included as participants. Therefore, Stohr says that we must work to banish all public expressions of contempt:
Contemptuous political discourse, with its pernicious effects on mutual respect, should never have become mainstream. For the good of our country, we must make every effort to push it back to the shadows where it belongs.
Disdainful language should be eliminated from public discourse and we should insist on respect for all.
All? Really? I am absolutely as appalled as Stohr that expressions of contempt have become the default mode of our political discourse. I and a coauthor have published a book that decries the decay of civility in our culture, a decay typified by a presidential campaign that vilified and scorned every perceived critic, even stooping to the mockery of a reporter’s disability.
Nevertheless, I think that Stohr’s recommendation of elimination goes too far. I hold this for three reasons. Before turning to these, let me state what I consider contempt to be. “Contempt,” which I hold to be synonymous with “disdain” or “scorn,” is an attitude of utter disregard, combining anger and disgust, directed towards someone or something judged to be in some sense egregiously bad. Typically, a human being is judged contemptible if he or she exhibits extreme and apparently irremediable defects of character or inveterate disrespect for the most basic norms of decency. Scorn for such persons is therefore a moral judgment of maximum astringency based upon a perception of extreme moral delinquency.
I object to Stohr’s position on the grounds that (1) It is impractical, (2) expressions of contempt, in the form of mockery, ridicule, or satire are in fact very effective weapons for good, and (3) the truly contemptible have dehumanized themselves; in their disdain for basic human decency and respect they have disqualified themselves from the context of civil and rational discourse.
(1) Stohr seems to hold that expressions of contempt should be like discussions of sex between proper Victorians. Such discourse was to be conducted sotto voce behind locked doors so as not to scandalize the servants. I am permitted to tell my wife, e.g., exactly what I think of some public figure, but not to express it in a public context.
It is indeed regrettable that the private/public distinction has so far decayed in our day, largely due to ubiquitous access to social media and the Internet. The impersonal nature of these media tends to undermine the inhibitions that have long surrounded face-to-face communication. For instance, people responding to each other in online comments regularly abuse and insult each other in the harshest terms, frequently using scurrilous language. Decorous inhibitions about revealing personal feelings in public have also atrophied. Add to this the palpable coarsening of our public culture over the years, and these factors combine to substantiate the perception of increased incivility.
Again, one may regret these developments, but such regret does not return the genie to the bottle. Stohr’s admonitions to play nice might have been effective when conversations were held in drawing rooms between ladies and gentlemen, but now it seems far too little and far too late. We live in an age where harsh, bitter, and derisive comment is the norm.
We can (and should) individually resolve to rise above this abysmal norm in our communications, but the idea that decency will break out all over in the foreseeable future seems far-fetched. I devoutly hope for a return to a modicum of civility in our public discourse, and maybe this is all that Stohr really wants, rather than the unrealistic idea that the language of contempt can somehow be “pushed back to the shadows.” A more feasible aim would be to establish islands of civility in the seas of hostility, and work over time to increase the number and size of these islands. There is no question that the volume of vicious contempt in current public discourse is dangerous. When we cannot talk to each other, soon we fight.  However, it is not clear that the total elimination of contemptuous discourse is desirable, even if possible.
(2) In 2008 a distinct danger threatened the American republic. For some reason, Republican presidential candidate John McCain, a person capable of rational thought and sound judgment, picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin, woefully vacuous and unqualified, would, if elected, have stood only a heartbeat away from the presidency. However, it was our very good fortune that talented comedian Tina Fey was a dead-ringer for Palin, and Fey’s wickedly effective impersonation of Palin was both very funny (“And now I will entertain you with some fancy pageant walking…”) and right on the money. No somber editorializing by The New York Times or hand-wringing on MSNBC would have been nearly as effective as Fey’s satire in revealing Palin’s inanity and incapacity. As H.L. Mencken observed, one horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms.
We do not know if Fey’s brilliant satire was instrumental in the defeat of the McCain/Palin ticket in ’08. (Alec Baldwin’s equally devastating portrayal of Trump, was, alas, clearly not sufficiently effective.) However, the self-important, the self-righteous, and the powerful always fear becoming the objects of derisive laughter. The one thing that anyone who covets respect cannot afford is be made to look ridiculous. Nothing punctures pomposity or pretension, or shines a brighter light on the squalid motives behind self-justifying rhetoric than trenchant satire. Satire does not tell us that someone is a hypocrite, fool, or rascal; it shows what they are and gives us that best of all laughs, the laugh that comes with the recognition of stark truth. Further, laughter gives you the courage and the hope needed to fight. No one trembles before a naked emperor.
And make no mistake, there is nothing nice about satire such as Fey’s and Baldwin’s. Such satire is ridicule. It holds its target up to derision. It is contemptuous. Can we have civility if we countenance such satire? I think so, if we follow some basic rules.
First, only satirize the powerful. Don’t make fun of the little guy. When it was learned that Donald Trump’s election was largely due to rural whites, it was tempting to lampoon his supporters as “rubes,” “yokels,” or “rednecks.” Don’t. Lampooning the high and mighty is a way of speaking truth to power; lampooning the little guy is only a cheap and degrading laugh. I loathed the scene in Bill Maher’s film Religulous, where he ridicules a truck-stop chapel and its attendees. When an articulate, educated, and wealthy entertainer mocks the honest piety of simple people, he only debases himself.
Second, condemn in no uncertain terms any ridicule or derision directed by the powerful or privileged against the marginalized. When the over-privileged members of a university fraternity put on blackface and hold “ghetto” parties to ridicule inner-city black people, they are behaving contemptibly. Let one of those pampered and overprivileged guys try to live in a mean-streets neighborhood, and suffer the thousand-and-one hassles inflicted on the poor.
Third, don’t ever make fun of something that somebody cannot help. If you laugh at ignorance, make sure it is the willful ignorance of the intelligent, not the ignorance of those who cannot help it.
Finally, recognize that strong or even passionate disagreement is not a reason to disdain someone. Reasons and arguments that look knock-down to you will always appear weaker to someone with a different starting point. Also, mirabile dictu, you might be wrong, or at least not obviously right. On most important issues rational disagreement is not only possible but to be expected.
3) Some people really are contemptible: The conman who cheats an elderly victim out of her life savings; a bishop who shields a pedophile priest, leaving him free to abuse again; a CEO who dismisses urgent safety concerns in favor of profits, resulting in the gruesome deaths of workers; powerful, wealthy, and famous men who exploit their position to engage in sexual assault or harassment; demagogues who acquire power by cynically manipulating the fears, ignorance, and prejudices of voters. Is it really desirable to be on civil terms with such persons? Some people do not deserve civility; they deserve contempt. We do not dehumanize such persons by regarding them with the contempt they deserve. They have already dehumanized themselves. By their monstrous callousness, utter selfishness, and disregard of the most basic principles of decency, they in effect remove themselves from the human moral community. For such persons, only the language of contempt serves to judge them fairly.
If, in our public discourse, we refrain from speaking of thoroughly contemptible persons in the language they deserve, what do we say about them? Do we speak of them as merely misguided or oblivious? Do we say that they are well-intended but mistaken in how to achieve their laudable aims? Do we rebuke those who speak of them derisively or satirize them? By our refusal of candor, how do we avoid appearing to extenuate contemptible behavior? True, there are times when excessive candor can be harmful. Yet, there have to be times and places for candor, for calling contemptible things and persons, by their correct names. Stohr would remove such candor from public discourse, and I see this as dangerous. My rule, then, is this: Let civility be your default mode, i.e., start by treating everyone civilly. Continue to do so until they themselves reject civility by committing monstrously uncivil acts, and then speak of them as they deserve.

bookmark_borderWas Joshua’s Slaughter of the Canaanites Morally Justified? Part 14: More OT on Child Sacrifice

WHERE WE ARE
The final question at issue that I discussed in the previous post is this:
Does the OT clearly claim that all of the peoples who inhabited the numerous towns and villages in the Promised Land prior to the alleged Conquest of Canaan, regularly practiced child sacrifice?
I examined the Old Testament passages that were potentially relevant to the above question:

  • Deuteronomy 12:29-31 
  • Deuteronomy 18:9-10 
  • 2 Kings 16:2-4 
  • 2 Kings 17:7-8 & 16-17 
  • 2 Kings 21:1-6 
  • 2 Chronicles 28:1-4 
  • 2 Chronicles 33:1-6 
  • Psalm 106:34-38 

Based on a review of these OT passages, I reached the following conclusions:

Only two OT passages appear to provide relevant evidence concerning the claim that the pagan nations that inhabited the Promised Land (prior to the Conquest of Canaan) engaged in child sacrifice:   Deuteronomy 12:29-31 and Psalm 106: 34-38.  

But these two passages only imply that at least one pagan nation residing in the Promised Land (prior to the Conquest of Canaan) occasionally engaged in child sacrifice. 

So, the answer to the final question at issue is: NO!
Therefore, the attempt to provide a moral justification for Jehovah’s command to the Israelites to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every man, woman, teenager, child, and infant in the towns of the Promised Land cannot be justified by the claim that the OT states that ALL of the nations and peoples who inhabited the towns in the Promised Land (prior to the Conquest of Canaan) REGULARLY practiced child sacrifice.
The weaker claim that only SOME of those nations and peoples SOMETIMES practiced child sacrifice would clearly be insufficient to justify issuing such a horrible command. Furthermore, as I have previously argued, even if ALL of the nations and peoples living in the Promised Land REGULARLY practiced child sacrifice, that still would NOT provide a sufficient moral justification for Jehovah to issue that horrible command.
 
EXAMINATION OF OTHER OT PASSAGES CONCERNING CHILD SACRIFICE
There are other passages in the OT that mention or appear to mention child sacrifice, but they are (mostly) NOT relevant to the question at issue:
==================
Genesis
22:1-18
Leviticus
18:21 & 20:1-2
Judges
11:4-11 & 30-40
2nd Kings
3:26-27, 17:29-31, 23:10
Jeremiah
7:30-31, 19:4-5, 32:35
Ezekiel
16:21, 20:31, 23:37-39
==================

Genesis 22:1-18

In this passage Jehovah demands that Abraham kill his son Isaac as a child sacrifice to Jehovah.  This passage says nothing about child sacrifice being a practice of any nation or people living in the Promised Land prior to the Conquest of Canaan.  It does show how Jehovah was a complete hypocrite, for ordering Abraham to sacrifice his own child, and then later tells Moses and the Israelites that the practice of sacrificing children to a god is “an abomination”.

Leviticus 18:21 (New Revised Standard Version)

21 You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
This is a command of Jehovah to the nation of Israel, so it does not assert that the pagan nations in the Promised Land practiced child sacrifice. However, a later verse in this chapter does make a reference to those pagan nations:
26 But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations, either the citizen or the alien who resides among you 
27 (for the inhabitants of the land, who were before you, committed all of these abominations, and the land became defiled);
Leviticus 18 prohibits a long list of sins and abominations, so it would be unreasonable to read this claim as implying that ALL of the pagan nations in the Promised Land REGULARLY practiced ALL of the many sins and abominations spelled out in Leviticus 18.
The claim is rather that ALL of these various sins and abominations were SOMETIMES practiced by AT LEAST SOME of the pagan nations in Promised Land.  So, the most we can infer from verse 27 is that AT LEAST ONE of the pagan nations in the Promised Land SOMETIMES practiced child sacrifice. (Because of vs. 27, I now see this passage was relevant to the question at issue, but, like the passages examined in the previous post, it is insignificant.)

Leviticus 20:1-2 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 
2 Say further to the people of Israel:
Any of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside in Israel, who give any of their offspring to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone them to death.
This is a command by Jehovah to the nation of Israel, and it does not assert anything about the activities and practices of the pagan nations who lived in the Promised Land prior to the Conquest of Canaan.
However, as with the above passage from Leviticus 18, there is a comment later in this chapter that mentions the practices of the pagan nations in the Promised Land:
23 You shall not follow the practices of the nation that I am driving out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.
I have the same comments about this verse as for Leviticus 18:27 (see above).
The New International Version translates this verse with the plural “nations” rather than the singular “nation”.  Here is a comment on this issue:

…Nation seems to be put for nations, for there were seven nations cast out for them; though the Canaanites may be intended, being a general name for the whole: some think the Amorites are meant, who were a principal nation, and notorious for their wickedness: hence we often meet with this phrase in Jewish writings, “the way of the Amorites”, as being exceeding bad, and so to be avoided…    (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

Because most OT passages reference “nations” (plural) residing in the Promised Land, it is best to understand the singular “nation” in Leviticus 20:23 as referring to several different peoples and cultures, and the fact that such a long list of sins and abominations are ascribed here to the pagan “nation” is another strong reason for interpreting this comment to be about a variety of pagan peoples or nations, not about just ONE specific pagan nation.
Furthermore, if someone insists on reading “nation” literally as referring to ONE specific pagan nation, then this comment would have no bearing on at least six of the seven pagan nations that inhabited the Promised Land prior to the Conquest of Canaan.

Jephthah’s Daughter by James Tissot c. 1896-1902.

Judges 11:4-11 & 30-40

This is the story of a leader of Israel named Jephthah, who promises to offer the first thing he sees arriving at home as a burnt offering to Jehovah if Jehovah will help him to be victorious in leading the army of Israel in war against the Ammonnites.  The Israelites defeat the Ammonites, but when Jephthah arrives home, his daughter (his only child) is the first thing he sees, so he keeps his promise and offers her as a burnt sacrifice to Jehovah.  This is the story of a leader of Israel engaging in child sacrifice, so this has no relevance to the question about whether the pagan nations in the Promised Land (prior to the Conquest of Canaan) engaged in child sacrifice.

2nd Kings 3:26-27 (New Revised Standard Version)

26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom; but they could not. 
27 Then he took his firstborn son who was to succeed him, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And great wrath came upon Israel, so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.
This is the story of the king of a pagan nation offering his son as a sacrifice to a god in a time of war and desperation.  There is no reason to believe that such child sacrifice was a common or regular practice of this pagan nation, at least not based on this one story.
Even if we exaggerate the significance of this one incident and conclude that the Moabites  regularly practiced child sacrifice, the Moabites were not one of the seven pagan nations (Joshua 3:10)  that Joshua and the Israelites fought against in the Conquest of Canaan (the term “Moabites” is not found anywhere in the book of Joshua).

2nd Kings 17:29-31

29 But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived; 
30 the people of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the people of Cuth made Nergal, the people of Hamath made Ashima; 
31 the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.
This passage is about some pagan peoples who were moved into Samaria by the King of Assyria AFTER the Conquest of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites (see 2 Kings 17:24-28).  The practice of child sacrifice is here ascribed to the Sepharvites.  The Sepharvites are not one of the seven pagan nations (Joshua 3:10) that inhabited the Promised Land when Joshua led the Israelites in the Conquest of Canaan, so this passage says NOTHING about the practices of the pagan nations that inhabited the Promised Land back in the time when Joshua was the leader of the Israelites.

2nd Kings 23:10 (New Revised Standard Version)

10 He defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of Ben-hinnom, so that no one would make a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering to Molech.
This is one of many actions taken by Josiah, a reformer King of Judah (one of the tribes of Israel that was given a southern area in the Promised Land that included Jerusalem), who destroyed altars and other sacred objects and places used by Israelites in the worship of various pagan gods (see the entire chapter  2 Kings 23). This reformation took place AFTER the Conquest of Canaan, and it concerned the adoption of pagan religious practices by Israelites.
This passage does NOT indicate which pagan nation or nations practiced making their children “pass through fire as an offering to Molech”, or even whether that pagan nation resided in the Promised Land back when Joshua led the Conquest of Canaan.
1 Kings 11:7 calls Molech “the abomination of the Ammonites”, so one might infer that the practice of making children “pass through fire as an offering to Molech” was a practice that the Israelites learned from the Ammonites.  However, the Ammonites were NOT one of the seven pagan nations (Joshua 3:10) that Joshua and the Israelites fought against in the Conquest of Canaan, so even if one concludes that the Ammonites practiced child sacrifice, this would NOT imply that ANY of the pagan nations that Joshua and the army of Israel attacked in the Promised Land practiced child sacrifice.

Jeremiah 7:30-31 (New Revised Standard Version)

30 For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. 
31 And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire—which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.
This passage is about “the people of Judah” (one of the tribes of Israel) engaging in child sacrifice.  The passage does NOT assert that any of the pagan nations that resided in the Promised Land when Joshua led the Conquest of Canaan practiced child sacrifice.

Jeremiah 19:4-5 (New Revised Standard Version)

Because the people have forsaken me, and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah have known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent, 
and gone on building the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it enter my mind;
This passage is about the “kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem” (verse 3) which during the time of Jeremiah were the people of Judah (one of the tribes of Israel).  So, this passage is about one of the tribes of Israel engaging in child sacrifice.  It does NOT assert anything about pagan nations that lived in the Promised Land during the time of the Conquest of Canaan by Joshua.
In Chapter 6 of Judges God complains that some of the Israelites are worshiping “the gods of the Amorites” (Judges 6:10), and immediately after that God orders Gideon to tear down an altar to Baal, used by Israelites to worship that god.  This suggests that Baal was a god worshiped by the Amorites.
One might infer from the above mentioned passage in Judges, that the Israelites learned about the worship of Baal from the Amorites.   So one might infer from the combination of Jeremiah 19:4-5 with Judges 6:10-26 that the Israelites learned about child sacrifice to Baal from the Amorites.
However, the Amorites are just ONE of the seven pagan nations that lived in the Promised Land prior to the Conquest of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites, so even if we drew the conclusion that the Israelites learned of the practice of child sacrifice from the Amorites, that does NOT mean that the Amorites REGULARLY engaged in child sacrifice, nor does it imply that ANY of the other pagan nations that lived in the Promised Land (during the time of Joshua) practiced child sacrifice.

Jeremiah 32:35 (New Revised Standard Version)

35 They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination, causing Judah to sin.
This passage is about “The people of Israel and Judah” (see verse 32) practicing child sacrifice to the god Molech.  This passage asserts NOTHING about the practices of the seven pagan nations that lived in the Promised Land back in the time when Joshua led the Conquest of Canaan.
As for the reference to the god “Molech”, see my previous comments on  2nd Kings 23:10.

Ezekiel 16:21  &   Ezekiel 23:37-39

Ezekiel 16:21 and 23:37-39 are about the CITY of Jerusalem as a mother of some children, so these passages are poetic and metaphorical; these passages should NOT be read as talking about literal killing of literal children, since a CITY is not literally a woman, and thus cannot literally have children.

Ezekiel 20:31 (New Revised Standard Version)

31 When you offer your gifts and make your children pass through the fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be consulted by you, O house of Israel? As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be consulted by you.
32 What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, “Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.”
This passage is about Israelites making their “children pass through fire”, which might or might not be a reference to child sacrifice.  In any case, this passage does NOT assert that any of the seven pagan nations that lived in the Promised Land (prior to the Conquest of Canaan by Joshua) practiced child sacrifice.
 
CONCLUSION
Although some of the above passages did have some relevance to the question at issue, most were irrelevant because they are about the Israelites engaging in the practice of child sacrifice.  The passages that did assert or imply that a pagan nation engaged in child sacrifice were either irrelevant (because the pagan nation specified was NOT one of the seven pagan nations that inhabited the Promised Land prior to the Conquest of Canaan) or they were insignificant (because they only implied that ONE of the seven pagan nations SOMETIMES engaged in child sacrifice).
I have found NO SIGNIFICANT evidence in the OT supporting the claim that:
All of the peoples who inhabited the numerous towns and villages in the Promised Land prior to the alleged Conquest of Canaan, regularly practiced child sacrifice.
This is true even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that the OT provides us with accurate and reliable historical information about the peoples and nations who lived in the Promised Land prior to the time of the (alleged) Conquest of Canaan, an assumption that I reject, and that most OT scholars reject.
Therefore, the attempt to use the above historical claim as a moral justification of Jehovah’s horrible command to MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every elderly man and every elderly woman, every husband and every wife, every father and every mother, every teenage boy and every teenage girl, every young boy and every young girl, and every baby boy and every baby girl in every one of the towns of the Promised Land when Joshua led Israel in the (alleged) Conquest of Canaan, is a COMPLETE FAILURE.
 

bookmark_borderThe Holy Bible, King Don Version

I was so inspired by the photo of Donald Trump holding the Bible that, further inspired by a Stephen Colbert skit, I have decided to post selections from the King Don version of the Bible. So, here is the word of God, er, Don, er….
The Creation Story:
          In the beginning it was fabulous. What God did was incredible. See, it was dark. Really dark. So dark you couldn’t believe it. And God said “Somebody turn on the lights!” And guess what? A good Republican angel turned on all the lights, and it was just incredibly bright. And God created the Garden of Eden. Eden was beautiful. Just beautiful. Like Mar-a-Lago. Great golf courses. Fabulous food. Then God created Adam and Eve, who were naked except for their MAGA hats. Eve, she was hot, I tell you! And then Satan, obviously a Democrat, came along and told Eve that she and Adam did not have to work and that the Welfare State would take care of them. So, God was pissed off and took Adam and Eve’s MAGA hats and kicked them out of Eden. They became Democrats and had to go west of Eden to live in California.
The Beatitudes:
Blessed are they that kiss my ass, for they shall not be fired.
Blessed are the dictators, like Putin, Erdogan, Modi, Kim Jong Un, and Li Jinping. They don’t put up with any shit. Love ‘em.
Blessed are the producers of fossil fuels. Global warming is a hoax.
Blessed are KFC and McDonald’s. Fried chicken and hamburders are the best!
Blessed are the cops who crack heads and use choke holds, for they shall be called the Children of Trump.
Blessed are the bigots, white supremacists, immigrant-haters, and gun-totin’, pickup-drivin’, Confederate flag-displayin’, MAGA-hat wearin’ bubbas, for they are my base.
 
The Twenty Third Psalm:
The Lord is me; I shall do what I want.
I lie down with porn stars,
And comfort them with greenbacks.
And lead my critics to courts of law.
I renew my Twitter rants daily, for my name’s sake,
And lie like there’s no tomorrow.
Even though I walk through the valley of Democrats,
I will fear no evil because Mitch McConnell is with me.
My lickspittles and lackeys they comfort me.
I spread a table of chicken and burgers
In the presence of fake news reporters.
My head is richly orange,
And I like women whose D-cups runneth over.
Bigots and bubbas will love me,
Even if I shoot someone on Fifth Avenue.
And I will dwell in the house of Me forever.