bookmark_borderA Good F-Inductive Argument for Theism based on Consciousness

I was waiting for someone to bring this up in the combox on my recent post on Swinburne’s cosmological argument, but no one did. The argument from consciousness (to theism) is a parallel argument to the cosmological argument against theism.
In the cosmological argument against theism, I pointed out that naturalism entails a physical universe whereas theism does not. Since a physical universe exists, it follows that the universe is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.
The parallel argument based on consciousness goes like this. Theism entails that consciousness exists whereas naturalism does not. Since consciousness does exist, it follows that consciousness is evidence favoring theism over naturalism.
We formalize this as follows. Let B be our background information; E be the existence of human consciousness; T be theism; and N be naturalism. Here is the explanatory argument.
1. E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.
2. N is not intrinsically much more probable than T, i.e., Pr(|N|) is not much greater than Pr(|T|).
3. Pr(E | T) =1 > Pr(E | N).
4. Other evidence held equal, N is probably false, i.e., Pr(N | B & E) < 1/2.
So far as I can tell, this is a good F-inductive argument. Just as everyone except eliminative idealists should admit that the universe is evidence favoring naturalism over theism, everyone except eliminative materialists should admit that consciousness is evidence favoring theism over naturalism.
Related Posts:
The Best Argument for God’s Existence: The Argument from Moral Agency
The Evidential Argument from Moral Agency Revisited

bookmark_borderSpeaking in Seattle on Saturday

imageI will be reprising my recent talk to the Central London Humanists, “Evidence About God: What Apologists Don’t Want You to Know,” but this time my audience will be the Creation Association of Puget Sound (CAPS).

When: Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:00PM

Where: Avondale Bible Church, 17010 Avondale Road Northeast, Woodinville, WA

Here is information from the organizer:

Refreshments and meetup discussions at 7:00, talk at 7:30, hosted by Avondale Bible Church. This meeting is organized for Christians to politely hear from the Skeptic community and respond at the end during the Q & A – but this is not a debate. The Creation Association of Puget Sound is returning the favor of Seattle Skeptics, who have provided forums for Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents to speak at their gatherings with Q & A by skeptics. Similarly Skeptics are encouraged to come observe, but not to participate in the Q & A. This meeting will open with scripture and Creation & I.D. announcements.

To RSVP, you may sign up on, where it has been cross-promoted by Seattle Atheists.

bookmark_borderRichard Swinburne’s newest book: Mind, Brain, and Free Will

This book will be published May 15, 2013. Here is the book’s description on Amazon:

Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the idea that humans consist of two parts–body and soul) and for libertarian free will (that humans have some freedom to choose between alternatives, independently of the causes which influence them). Richard Swinburne argues that answers to questions about mind, body, and free will depend crucially on the answers to more general philosophical questions. He begins by analyzing the criteria for one event being the same as another, one substance being the same as another, and a state of affairs being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyze the criteria for a belief about these issues being justified. Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. Swinburne claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that interaction does not take place; and illustrates this claim by showing that recent scientific work (such as Libet’s experiments) has no tendency whatever to show that our intentions do not cause brain events. He goes on to argue for agent causation, and claims that–to speak precisely–it is we, and not our intentions, that cause our brain events. It is metaphysically possible that each of us could acquire a new brain or continue to exist without a brain; and so we are essentially souls. Brain events and conscious events are so different from each other that it would not be possible to establish a scientific theory which would predict what each of us would do in situations of moral conflict. Hence given a crucial epistemological principle (the Principle of Credulity) we should believe that things are as they seem to be: that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us. According to Swinburne’s lucid and ambitious account, it follows that we are morally responsible for our actions.

LINK to Amazon

bookmark_borderCraig’s Argument from Intentionality

Here is my summary of Craig’s “argument from intentionality” in his recent debate with Alex Rosenberg.

5. God is the best explanation for the intentional states of consciousness in the world.
Philosophers are puzzled by states of intentionality, the state of being about something or being of something. It signifies the object-directendess of our thoughts, such as thinking about my summer vacation or about my wife. But no physical object has this capability. A chair, a stone, or a glob of tissue like the brain is not about or of something else. Only mental states or states of consciousness are about other things.

As a materialist, Rosenberg recognizes this fact and so concludes that, on atheism, there really are no intentional states. Dr. Rosenberg boldly claims we never really think about anything. But this seems incredible. Obviously, I am thinking about Dr. Rosenberg’s argument! This is a reductio ad absurdum argument against atheism. But on theism, it is not surprising that there should be finite minds. Thus, intentional states fit comfortably into a theistic worldview.

(1) If God did not exist, intentional states of consciousness would not exist.
(2) Intentional states of consciousness exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

Maybe I am being dense, but what would be wrong with the following response?

Regarding Dr. Craig’s argument from intentionality, he says, "But no physical object has the capability of intentionality." But that statement simply begs the question against materialism. The statement, "No physical object has the capability of intentionality," is true if and only if reductive materialism is false. If reductive materialism is true, then the mind just is the brain and the intentional states of consciousness just are brain states. So the proposition that "No physical object has the capability of intentionality" is both a premise and a conclusion in his argument, and thus his argument is massively question-begging. Indeed, a materialist would be no more guilty of begging the question if he were to declare, "But there is no such thing as a mental substance apart from a physical substance," and then argue from that to the falsity of theism. So I don’t think Dr. Craig has shown that God is the best explanation of the intentional states of consciousness.