bookmark_borderHow the Suffering and Death of Billions and Billions of Kids Completely Disproves the Existence of a Good and Loving God – Including Wrecking Free Will Theodicy in the Process

This essay is in association with the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival you can check out at https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/test-post-for-june-2022-biblical-studies-carnival

Just the Stat’s Ma’am

I first got a hint of the facts that — as screamingly obvious as they are have gone shockingly ignored — refute the premise presented in the Bible and other scriptures that there is a benign and moral creator deity when I many a decade ago was reading the opening sentences of the preface of my SciFi/futurist hero’s Arthur C. Clarke’s novel version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Clarke casually noted that around 100 billion people have been born. That caught my attention because it seemed a high number. Where he got the value from I do not know, but it is correct. All serious calculations agree on the basic figure, plus or minus about 20%. ~10 billion were born in the 1900s alone, and with humans being around for a few hundred thousand years, 10,000 of them since agriculture allowed large populations, it adds up.

The big a/theist debate is usually over whether any gods exist or not. But that is not really the point. What most theists imagine is not only that at least one deity is in charge of the big show, but that it is also a very fine and good creator God. One that according to Christian opinion is for reasons not at all clear all powerful, all knowing, all wise and all good. The goodness is as important as the existence – if the proposed god were not very good or evil that few would be interested in its existence much less adhering to its dictates. 

The simple question of the existence of a deity cannot be scientifically entirely refuted. What can be tested and proven is whether or not a creator power is moral or not. It’s a matter of demographic statistics run through the mill of logic and basic decency.

To wit, eventually it began to occur to me that the birth of a hundred or so of billion people has a dark side to it. One that directly torpedoes and sinks the common conceit believed by billions that God not only exists – itself a big, antiscientific stretch for reasons we shall not go into here – but also happens to be so righteous and wise that is worthy of and requires worship in exchange for the boons that it offers. That is a double super stretch.

The critical issue is clear enough. It’s those demographics. Until the advent of the modern medical science that humans devised after 99+% of our existence of living short and brutal lives, and without the aid of supernatural forces that apparently do not care, the juvenile mortality rate was ~50%. That means that in the area of 50 billion children have died from natural causes. If you have not heard that figure before it is because we live in a society that has covered up the biggest disaster in human history, the Holocaust of the Children.

For reasons that have me scratching my head no one bothered to take the number of those born and divided it by the childhood death rate and published the terrible toll of the children, leaving the global population shockingly ignorant. It has been a demographic and ethical scandal that has been allowing the churches et al. to get away with promoting being religious as moral. So I did the easy math and published it for the first time in 2009 in the academic journal Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf), with more recent up dated follow ups in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism (in two parts https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf — these studies contain the majority of the references this little essay is based upon).

Christians and other theists like to go on about how humans cause evil, not God. But only a small percentage of children who have died have been dispatched by adults with bad intent. The greatest kid killer by far is the vast host of diseases that infest the planet and ruthlessly  torture children to death. Microbes and other afflictions that humans had nothing to do with creating and until of late had little ability to defeat. Even today some 15,000 children are lost to natural causes.

That is after birth. Before it is even worse in terms of numbers. The human reproductive complex is very inefficient so there is a lot of wastage, which is a reason why it is rather hard for women to get pregnant and stay that way. Three quarters or more of conceptions naturally fail to come to term, apparently because our genetics are so complicated that they are delicate and prone to malfunction (simpler mice do not have high rates of spontaneous miscarriage). Far from the womb being a safe refuge for the preborn, it is such a death trap that most do not make it out alive. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction). Doing the again why-had-they-not-been-done-it-before-they-being-easy-to-do calculations, I was the first to publish in the P&T piece that about a third of a trillion pregnancies have failed due to causes beyond human control: note that even modern medicine can do little to bring down the natural abortion rate. There is something of a saving grace to this in that most pregnancies fail before implantation, or shortly after, when the zygote has not the slightest awareness of its existence and no ability to suffer.

Ergo, if there is an all-powerful supernatural creator, then far from being the prolife, children loving beacon of sage morality that all must and should owe loyalty and fealty, it does not give a damn about the comfort, safety and lives of the innocent immature humans from conception on, and has not lifted a cosmic finger to save the lives of the hundreds of billions of youngsters, the great majority of conceptions having died, often under barbarically cruel circumstances, before their preteens due to Mother Nature.

The Great Theodist Evasion 1.0

The alleged font of divine wisdom, the Holy Bible, says nothing about this. Nada. Not once is the massive slaughter by nonhuman means of the young, preborn or born, directly addressed and explained. The Good Book does not even bother to detail what happens to the supposed souls of the little ones after they have died before growing up. Do they go the Hell because they have not accepted the glorious gift of the Grace of Christ? That would be as unfair as it is brazenly cruel. Do they get a free ticket to His Perfect Heaven where only those souls who during their earthly test of worthiness and willingness are allowed to ascend because the Perfect Lord of Paradise refuses to force any to worship Him for eternity without their enthusiastic concurrence? The reason what is purported to be the word of the flawless God avoids the death of children like the plagues that have wacked so many of them off is because it is not in any way possible to explain these massive irresolvable contradictions.

And as I detail in the P&T and EPH papers, the theological community — including the theodists whose insoluble business it is to try to explain how a brutally imperfect world is compatible with a perfect creator — has been dodging the problem of the death of billions of youth for millennia. Not once have the directly addressed much less successfully dealt with the incredible number who have died in the womb or their youth. And the reason is all too obvious, they too have no ability to devise a clever answer because none exists. So they simply sweep it under the rug.

Free Will Theodicy is a Great Big Lie

The primary go-to thesis that Christians intellectual and lay have long been employing is Free-Will and Best of All Possible Worlds theodicy. The not so smart idea is that because the Perfect God only wants willing worshippers in His Perfect Paradise, that the fair and wise creator plops us on this sometimes beautiful and other times horrid planet in order that we can make a free will choice regarding our eternal fate. The gaping problem that notion that has gone unaddressed is that in order to have free will – assuming for the sake of argument such exists at all – one has to survive long enough, say a decade or two, to have the necessary level of mental choice. Plus, adequate information about the all-important choice. Obviously, the proposed creator has allowed the planet to be so kid toxic that it is killing off most of them before they can make the bid decision. That many adults have not heard the word of Christ – half those born lived before 30 CE, and vast swathes of the continents did not hear up it until of late – and a good number are gravely mentally dysfunctional, means that when one runs the calculations that out of the few hundred billion conceived and 100 billion born only about 10 billion have heard the Word of Christ, and only maybe half that become Christians. Not a very successful Divine Utopia Project. Built as it is on the bodies of billions of youngsters denied their free will in order to satisfy the incoherent desires of an all too imperfect entity who craves attention.

To explain the mass natural abortion of the lives and free will of most conceptions requires one of the following. There is no supernatural creator. There is, but it is an amoral incompetent idiot. There is but it is evil to some serious degree. One way or another any creator is guilty of mass negligent or deliberate homicide and crimes against humanity. It is not possible for a powerful deity to be worthy of our loving adoration and obedience.

This is a brief summary of the situation. For the all too grim details and in-depth atheodistic analysis check out the P&T and EPH papers. The latter in particular include why the mode of divine creation, whether it be inept Biblical creationism, premeditated intelligent design theory, or callous Darwinian evolution, does not come close to solving the moral paradox.

The Great Evasion 2.0

After the P&T paper came out in 2009 I sent a PDF to all the major theodists alive at the time who had spent their careers avoiding dealing with death of the children problem – Haught, Hicks, Polkingorn, Plantinga, Swinburne and the like – for their consideration. Not a peep out of them, either one-on-one or in public. Not surprising since what are they going to say? Those who are still alive cynically continue to promote Free Will Theodicy even as they ignore its all too fatal flaws. That was not surprising. Also not paying attention was the news media that has long chronically under covered atheism (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/theocancel-culture-discrimination-by-neglect-the-chronic-news-and-opinion-media-bigotry-against-atheists). That was somewhat surprising because the first study to document the enormous numbers of deceased children was patently news worthy, as was how that overturns classic free will theodicy. And my work on how more atheism tends to correlate with superior national societal conditions had garnered a good deal of international coverage. The news media paid the P&T piece not the slightest mind. Funny thing though. They atheist community too has continued to be perturbingly slack on the issue that should be of great import to nontheism.

It’s the Animals Too

To try to address the continuing attention gap is one of the reasons I produced the EPH follow ups. Which go yet further on the problem of the suffering of the blameless. Immature H. sapiens are not the only innocents that have suffered vastly under the dominion of the perfectly idiotic creator. So have animals for the few hundred millions of years that they have had sufficient brain capacity to feel serious affliction. Notably, some of the same theodists who have avoided trying to excuse the mass slaughter of youthful humans have gone to lengths to try to deal with the enormous problem of animal suffering. In doing so they have expressed profound ignorance of biology via knowledge gaps that interestingly atheist evolutionists often succumb to as well, such as the “Balance of Nature” in which the harsh side of premature mortality is a necessary part of the system. Which it is not, there not being such a thing as the balance of nature that having been discredited way back in the last century. The arguments presented by the loving theodists have an air of self-indulgent casual cruelty that would justify beating your dog.

The Great Moral Challenge

The chronically under-appreciated Megadisasters of the Innocents are not just about disproving the reality of a beneficent creator of good intentions. It is about the problem of those who worship such an evil entity. The subject is covered in Part 2 of the EPH studies. Theists Christians especially love to go on and on with self-indulgent self-praise about how they are doing the selfless thing of worshipping a moral God. In the process they are prone to bash those who do not do so, either by not adoring the correct God i. e. the one they happen to follow, or by not following any deity. That is cynical projection of a high order. Many if not most atheists in turn merely claim that those who choose not to believe in matters supernatural can be as moral as those that do, and demand the respect that theists likewise mandate for themselves. That is not correct in that while atheism is morally neutral and atheists are free to be highly ethical, deity worship in search of boons is inherently morally corrupt. When theists are moral as they often are, it’s despite their religion, not because of it.

Even today 15,000 children die every 24 hours. By historical standards that is a remarkable, science and technology based achievement in mortality percentage terms that shows humanity cares vastly more than any creator who has shown stunning indifference to the fate of the preborn and children. On the other hand in absolute numbers it is a fairly typical per annum toll that has been seen for millennia. In principle humans can drive that number even lower by running a better world, but that will be very difficult to do, and it is not the fault of the children that so many still die like flies.

If there is God as a powerful as billions claim there is without any actual evidence to that effect, then it can put a stop to the death of the children in an instant. But Christians don’t care about that all that much. Seriously, they don’t. What is the priority of a devout Christian? Or Muslim? Is it to save the lives of children? No, that is the side show – would be very nice, but they have dreams much more important in their narcissistic eyes. Their true goal is to get to their god’s paradise. Which requires total obedience, and no criticism of their God lest they lose their ticket to heaven and perhaps get one to hell. So whatever God does is OK. Overseas a planet that causes immense suffering to trillions of animals for millions of years, and aborts billions of preborn and tortures to death billions more tykes? Not a problem, the ways of God being mysterious and all. Because Christians and the like are seeking gifts from God in exchange for looking the other way, they are hypocritical moral relativists and self-aggrandizer of a high order.

Atheists are not that. Not in that regard.

The EPH articles got about as much attention from the news media has had the P&T paper. None. And much the same response from the theologians. After a bluntly stated press release on part one was rejected by Religion News Service, and more cleverly written PR for the second half did the trick (https://religionnews.com/2021/11/22/new-academic-study-on-free-will-theology), not that it resulted in any coverage.

The lack of media coverage of the children’s holocaust in a world swamped with God is good chat is an outrage. As is how for thousands of years theism has flipped the truth by managing to make it out that the creator of a child killing planet is perfect in its morality when such is impossible, while making it seem that the humans who have saved billions of young lives with modern medicine are sinful entities. It is a pernicious scam being pulled off by the religion industry that has enjoyed tremendous success – but is faltering in a world increasingly skeptical of organized theism.

So what to do about it? That is discussed in Part 2 of the EPH work. That atheists have not gotten the news about the mass death of the premature out to the general population is a massive failure that goes way back, should have been done decades ago if not earlier. So time for us nontheists to get our rational and caring about the kids butts in gear and spread the bad news. Go on the moral offensive. Explain the that the vast scale of the Holocaust of the Children and the Brutalization of the Animals leaves no doubt that if there is a creator, it is a nasty piece of work. One unworthy of worship. And that doing so is gravely immoral. Seriously, why not do this? It is the truth, and it may be the moral straw that finally breaks the ethical back of religion that is already crashing in much of the world while a good chunk of what remains goes depraved reactionary.

As per, throw the mass death of the preborn in the laps of the forced birth movements, which is almost entirely an effort by the evangelical and Catholic right to reimpose a conservative Christian culture on Americans in violation of the 1st Amendment (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/the-forced-birth-movement-hates-real-religious-liberty-how-to-use-that-against-them-by-making-abortion-a-religious-and-medical-right). Who are they to claim that induced abortion is sinful murder when the creator whose behind they kiss in their search for a nice afterlife is fine with his nature killing off the unborn at a rate ten times higher than what mothers do by artificial means? If there is a creator then it is the Great Murderer of the Unborn, we humans are just running a little sideshow on that – specifically, during the period of Roe v Wade over 60 million induced abortions occurred, which is dwarfed by the nearly billion natural miscarriages over the same period in the US. If the theoconservatives really think that abortions should be stopped, then they should first demand that their God save the lives of all the over 1 million that miscarry each and every day, about 30,000 of them in these United States. Which would show that there is a God that actually gives a damn about it. But they won’t do that. Why? because they dare not challenge the deity they hope will assign them to His Heaven. So they are as corrupt as they are hypocritical in wanting to make induced abortion a crime. And because deep down a lot of them know it is all a fantasy.

On the larger scale, to the thesits issue the Great Moral Challenge. Tell them to stop selfishly worshipping their gods that they want stuff from until it puts a stop to the deaths of the children. Of course they won’t do it. But it will expose the falsity of their divine morality to a degree not yet seen.

Getting the Information Out to a Secularizing World

Spare me the negative and not all that useful chat about what is the point of the above seeing as how religion just keeps chugging along despite believers being called out on the absurdity and immorality of their beliefs since the classical Greeks. For one thing, religion is in a demographic crisis of a scale it has never seen before in the face of modernity (http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf, also see Ronald Inglehart 2021 Religion’s Sudden Decline: What’s Causing Ir, and What Come’s Next). And the religious community has never been faced square on with the scale of the loss of immature humans, and how that wrecks Free Will Theodicy and any possibility of basic decency in a God or in worshipping such a brutal being. Could be a game changer. Or not. The only way to gauge what popularization of the Megadisaster of the Innocents would accomplish is to put it out there big time and see what it does or does not do. Let’s go on moral the offense.

That includes putting the prominent theologians who keep pushing the Good God thesis while ignoring the 50 billion dead kids to at long last directly address the question on the spot to either come up with a compelling answer that actually makes sense. And if and when they can’t do so admit they are wrong. Again not bloody likely to happen but they will have been shown up for the vacuity of their arguments. Again, let’s go on the ethical offense.

It is, after all, what the deceased too soon children deserve. No?

And check out the P&T and EPH papers, and tell your friends. The more the better.

bookmark_borderProfessor Craig on Theistic Hypotheses

In 2018 I posted on SO a review of Tim Crane’s book The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/22/atheists-get-wrong-according-tim-crane/
Crane argues that atheists have largely misunderstood religion by regarding it as a sort of cosmological hypothesis, one that makes insupportable claims about the creation of the universe via the supernatural acts of a divine agent. By thus construing religion as a sort of spurious proto-scientific cosmology, atheists justify relegating it to the bin of irrelevance and irrationality. However, says Crane, religion should not be seen as any sort of hypothesis, but rather as consisting of the “religious impulse” and “identification.” The religious impulse is the drive to recognize a transcendent order that is both factual and normative. God is posited as real and his will is taken as defining right and wrong. “Identification” is the desire to belong to a community that defines itself in terms of a set of beliefs and practices and which understands the world in terms of those beliefs and practices. What unites these two elements is a shared experience of the sacred, which promotes a strong sense of identity. Atheists miss these points by dismissing religion as a crackpot cosmology and religious believers as superstitious.
In my comments on Crane’s claims, I note that if atheists are mistaken in regarding theism as a quasi-scientific hypothesis, this is not a gratuitous error, but is due to the fact that leading religious apologists defend theism as such a hypothesis. Defenders of “intelligent design” theory such as William Dembski and Michael Behe present their concepts of “specified complexity” and “irreducible complexity” as scientifically legitimate concepts. In The Existence of God, Richard Swinburne employs Bayesian confirmation theory in defense of his theistic hypothesis and appeals largely to the criterion of simplicity, which, of course, is a standard of theory choice in the natural sciences. William Lane Craig’s Kalaam cosmological argument is developed and defended in the context of physical cosmology. These considerations seem to justify the characterization of the theistic hypothesis as “proto” or “quasi” scientific.
However, such a designation is not really important. The important point is that theism is defended as a hypothesis. Whether that hypothesis is classified as “scientific,” “quasi-scientific,” or “metaphysical” is not of primary importance. In my review I make the point that, as John Hick argues in An Interpretation of Religion, the reasoning underlying religious  belief is primarily interpretive and not hypothetical. Hick says that the universe is religiously ambiguous in the sense that there are no facts that compel a religious or a naturalistic interpretation. The arguments for and against the existence of God are not compelling, and their conclusions may be reasonably rejected. Perfectly reasonable people may therefore disagree about the existence of God.
If Hick is right, what follows? Perhaps both atheists and religious apologists should cease their efforts to devise polemical weapons to bludgeon the other side into submission since we should know by now that this will not work. We should instead seek a more nuanced and informed view of belief and unbelief. We might actually learn something from each other!
In a 2018 podcast of “Reasonable Faith,” Kevin Harris interviews Professor Craig about Crane’s book and my review of it:
https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/how-atheists-get-it-wrong-part-one/
Jeff Lowder drew my attention to this just recently, and I would like to respond to it here.
Professor Craig argues that, while theistic hypotheses are explanatory, it is “tendentious and inaccurate” to characterize them in general as “semi-scientific” or “proto-scientific.” Craig does admit that the ID theorists regard their hypothesis as scientific. However, they claim that their arguments for intelligent design are religiously neutral, so I err in identifying this hypothesis as a specifically religious or theistic hypothesis.
ID theory is religiously neutral? How can that be when it was developed and promoted explicitly as part of an aggressive apologetic program? Well, to avoid church/state entanglements, ID theorists note that the designer could be something other than the God of Christian theism–something like Plato’s Demiurge, or the “Q” Continuum from Star Trek, maybe. This lawyerly ruse has no bearing on the philosophical issue, however. Could the designer be God? Of course. The most charitable reading of ID is therefore that it is an argument for a disjunction of mutually exclusive and exhaustive designer hypotheses, including the theistic hypothesis as one disjunct.
As for Swinburne’s and his own hypothesis, Craig says that they are not scientific or quasi-scientific because they posit a personal cause rather than a naturalistic one. Scientific explanations are in terms of natural laws and initial conditions, but theistic hypotheses posit a personal agent who creates by acts of volition. However, it certainly seems that, in principle, there could be scientific confirmation of a personal cause. Suppose, for instance, that the famous Hubble image of the Eagle Nebula—the “pillars of creation”—were accompanied by glowing gas in the form of Hebrew letters, light years wide, proclaiming “I, Yahweh, did this.” In this case, we would have outstanding scientific evidence of a personal cause. So, as a general demarcation criterion, the personal/impersonal distinction does not work.
Craig and Harris then have this exchange:
KEVIN HARRIS: Just to be more specific, when he [me] mentions you here, again, he says, “Craig’s Kalaam argument is specifically and explicitly a cosmological claim presented within the context of physical cosmology.”
CRAIG:Right. And it doesn’t appeal to a theistic cosmology or an alternative to contemporary cosmology. It appeals to the normal cosmological model that is affirmed by secular scientists. So it is not in any way positing God as a scientific or quasi-scientific hypothesis.
Craig’s statement here is a non sequitur. A scientific theory need not be an alternative to another theory, but could subsume it. Theory T2 subsumes theory T1 when T2 provides a deeper and more inclusive explanatory framework that accounts for T1’s empirical success within its domain while locating that domain within a larger one that T2 covers. Advances in science often occur when a new theory does not just replace an old one, but places the old theory in a broader and deeper explanatory context. Thus, Carnot’s theories were subsumed by the thermodynamics of Kelvin and Clausius. Craig’s theistic hypothesis appears intended to provide a deeper and more inclusive explanation than physical cosmology. Physical cosmology is not falsified by Craig’s theistic hypothesis, but rather is subsumed by it. Craig’s theistic cosmology aims to go beyond physical cosmology and tell us why there is a universe at all. So, the fact that Craig does not present his hypothesis as an alternative to physical cosmology, but intends to provide a deeper context for it, does not disqualify it as “quasi-scientific.”
However, since nothing much really turns on it, let’s concede the point for the sake of argument and say that Craig’s hypothesis is a “metaphysical” hypothesis rather than a “scientific” or “quasi-scientific” one. The real problem identified by Crane is that religious belief is identified as any kind of hypothesis. Crane implies and Hick argues that the reasoning underlying religious belief is interpretive rather than hypothetical. That is, the reasoning supporting a religious worldview is more like understanding a text than confirming a hypothesis. We do not understand a text by confirming piecemeal hypotheses about its meaning. Rather, we seek a reading that will give us the most coherent understanding of the text as a whole. Likewise, for religious people, their faith is what, for them, makes the most coherent and comprehensive sense of their total experience. Nothing compels such a judgment; it is inevitably personal and subjective, but not unreasonable. Similarly for atheists. Nothing compelled me to become an atheist. Rather, a naturalistic worldview is the honest and authentic articulation of my total experience and knowledge.
Craig objects that if Crane is right, then he, Swinburne, Steve Meyer, William Dembski and other defenders of religious hypotheses must misunderstand religion, which he regards as implausible.
Craig does not reply to Hick’s view directly, but chiefly expresses surprise that I have supposedly so softened my view of theism that I am now willing to endorse Hick’s view that religious belief can be as rational as naturalism. (n.b., Actually, I have always regarded some religious belief as rational and some definitely not.) What, then, do I have against the apologetic enterprise that he represents? Why do I harshly characterize it as an attempt to “bludgeon” opponents into submission? After all, he is only trying to show that his belief is rational and not to show that atheists are irrational. Why do I persist in seeing the apologetic enterprise as coercive, i.e. as an effort to show not just that their belief is justified, but that mine is not? That is not his aim at all.
I honestly do not know what to make of Craig’s claim here. Does he regard his Kalaam argument as a refutation of atheism? I cannot read his presentation and defense of that argument in any other way. In this case, the argument is not a modest claim about what he is justified in believing, but the much stronger and more aggressive claim that atheism is demonstrably false and groundless. In other words, he seems to be arguing that he is right and that atheists are dead wrong. Atheists, of course, have often argued that they are right and that Craig is wrong. The debate between apologists and atheists therefore does appear to have an oppositional and aggressive character; it is not about what one may believe but what others must believe. However, if I have been misreading Craig all these years, and his aim all along has only been to affirm the rationality of his view and not to debunk mine, then I would suggest that Hick’s position provides a much better basis for such a softer and gentler apologetic.
Finally, Craig invites listeners to look at my debate with him on the existence of God to see if I did indeed effectively criticize his theistic arguments. I also would like to extend that invitation. (I think that Craig is referring to our debate at Indiana University in February 2002, not the earlier one at Prestonwood Baptist Church.).

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 12: What is Potentiality?

WHERE WE ARE
In his book Philosophy of Religion  (hereafter: POR), Norman Geisler provides an argument in support of the second premise of his Thomist Cosmological Argument (see pages 194-197).  Here is my understanding of the argument that Geisler gives in support of that premise:

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

THEREFORE:

53a. There is some actuality outside of every composed thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

 51a. Every limited changing thing is composed of both an actuality (its existence) and a potentiality (its essence).

THEREFORE:

L1. There is some actuality outside of every limited changing thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

THEREFORE:

2b. The present existence of every limited, changing thing is caused by another thing.

Before we can evaluate this part of Geisler’s argument, we must first have a clear understanding of what these claims mean.
 
CLARIFICATIONS NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND GEISLER’S ARGUMENT FOR THE 2ND PREMISE
This part of the argument is clearly steeped in concepts from Thomistic metaphysics.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally mistaken or confused, then this part of the argument is likely to fail under close examination.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally correct and logical, then this part of the argument is likely to be successful.
In any case, this part of the argument is UNCLEAR apart from careful and clear definitions and explanations of some basic concepts of Thomistic metaphysics.  The main question at issue for now is this:
Q1. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts that he makes use of in this part of his argument?
Premise (52), for example, MAKES NO SENSE, at least as it stands, apart from an explanation of Thomist metaphysics.  So, our main question at issue can be focused further:
Q2. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts in premise (52), so that we can have a clear understanding of what this premise is asserting?
Premise (52) consists of two main concepts, and so Geisler needs to provide clear answers to at least two questions of clarification:
Q3. What is a “potentiality”?
Q4. What does “X actualized Y” mean?
Furthermore, it is NOT obvious that (52) is TRUE, so Geisler also needs to provide some justification for this claim:
Q5. Why is it not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself”?
 
WHAT IS A “POTENTIALITY”? (QUESTION 3)
Here is a passage where Geisler attempts to clarify the concept of a “potentiality” and attempts to answer Question 3:

Geisler states that a “potential” is “the mere capacity to have a certain kind of existence.”  That is a crappy definition. What the hell is “a certain kind of existence”?  How many kinds of existence are there?  Something either exists or it does not exist.  Do some things have SUPER existence? Do some things only have QUASI existence?  Do some things have MEGA-DOUBLE-SECRET existence? Talk about kinds of existence sounds like WOO-WOO pseudo-science bullshit.
However, Geisler does then go on to provide some specific examples, and that might help to clarify what the hell he means by the manifestly UNCLEAR phrase “a certain kind of existence”.   Geisler talks about “the potential for steel to be a skyscraper” and “the real potential” of an “empty bucket” to “be filled”.  So, steel has the potential to either be girders stacked into pile on the ground, or to be assembled together as the framework of a skyscraper.  A bucket has the potential to either be empty or to be filled with water.
We would NOT normally speak of these potential states as being “kinds of existence”, so the Thomistic terminology here is foreign to how we ordinarily talk about such things and states of things.  Steel has the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and buckets have the potential to contain water (and other liquids).  Air, at ordinary temperatures and pressures, does NOT have the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and (as Geisler points out) the flat surface of a desk top does NOT have the potential to contain water (or other liquids), at least not in any sizeable quantity (You could spray a mist of water onto the surface of a desk top, and the water would remain in place for an hour or more until it evaporated. But this would be a very inefficient way to transport water from one location to another!).

By some measures, what came to be known as a “skyscraper” first appeared in Chicago with the 1885 completion of the world’s first largely steel-frame structure, the Home Insurance Building. It was demolished in 1931.

But a particular steel girder either exists or it does not exist.  It’s “kind” of existence doesn’t change when it is moved from a pile of girders and assembled into the framework of a new building.  It existed in the pile, and it continues to exist in the framework of the new building; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence in this process.  The bucket exists when it is empty, and it continues to exist when it is filled with water; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence when filled with water.  So, when Geisler defines “A potential” in terms of the capacity “to have a certain kind of existence”, he is just muddying the water and failing miserably to clarify the meaning of this term.
It appears that there are not degrees of existence, and this casts doubt on the whole idea of “kinds of existence”.  However, the “potential” to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper does appear to be a matter of degree.  Air clearly does not have the “potential” to be used as the primary material for constructing the framework of a skyscraper, nor does liquid water have such a “potential”.  But if water is frozen into large columns and bars, it could be used to construct a temporary framework for a one-story building.
Ice would, however, melt in warm temperatures, so it would be a poor choice to use it in the structure of even a small building (except for igloos in areas that stay freezing cold year round).  Ice also is not as strong as wood 2x4s.  You can use wood to construct the framework of a two or three-story building, and it would be sturdy and stable, in both cold and warm weather.  But wood  2x4s are not as strong as steel girders, so wood 2x4s would not work for construction of the framework of a skyscraper.  We can see that there are different degrees of suitability of materials for construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

Air & Liquid Water:  useless for constructing a framework for any building.

Frozen Water:  can be used to construct a framework, but not strong enough to support multiple stories, and melts in warm weather (over 32°F).

Wood 2x4s: can be used to construct a framework that is strong enough to support a few stories, doesn’t melt in warm weather, burns up at high temperatures (over 570°F), but is not strong enough to support dozens of stories.

Steel Girders:  strong enough to be used to construct frameworks for buildings with dozens of stories, will not melt in warm weather (steel melts at 2,500°F), and does not burn up at temperatures where wood burns up (steel burns at 1,500°F in pure oxygen, and at 2,246°F in air).

The suitability of a material for use in constructing the framework of a building is a matter of degrees, because (a) there are different degrees of strength, and there are different degrees of susceptibility to melting, and  different degrees of susceptibility to burning.  Thus, there are different degrees of “potential” of different materials for use in construction of the framework of a building, and of a skyscraper.
The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose is typically a matter of degrees and typically is a matter of more than one criterion.  Some things or materials might be completely unsuitable, while some things/materials are somewhat suitable, and some things/materials are very suitable or ideal for the purpose at hand.  The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose depends on the properties or characteristics of that thing that are relevant to the particular purpose under consideration.
Steel girders have “great potential” for use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers because they are very strong (stronger than wood 2x4s), because they don’t melt in ordinary temperatures, and don’t burn, except at extremely high temperatures.  These various properties or characteristics of steel girders are what make steel girders very suitable for this particular purpose; they are what give steel girders this “great potential” related to the purpose of use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers.
Here is an summary (in more abstract terms) of how we understand the idea of the “potential” of a steel girder to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

The “potential” of thing T to perform function F depends on various properties of T that are relevant to how well it can perform function F

How do we determine whether thing T has the “potential” to perform function F well?

  • One obvious way of making this determination is to observe T performing function F, and evaluating how well it is performing that function.
  • Another way of making this determination is by making inductive inferences about T based on how well other things that are SIMILAR to T perform function F.   We might observe many wood 2x4s in the frameworks of many different buildings, and based on many such observations, we may reasonably infer that some particular 2×4 is well-suited for use in the construction of a framework for a two-story house or apartment building, and based on many such observations we may reasonably infer that some particular wood 2×4 is NOT suitable for use in the construction of the framework for a 40 story office building.
  • A third way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties, such as strength in the case of materials for use in constructing the framework of a building.  Strength tests could be made on a particular 2×4 to determine whether it was strong enough for the intended framework that is to be constructed.
  • A fourth way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties of things that are SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  Strength tests can impact the thing being tested (the test itself can break or weaken the thing), so we might run tests on things that are very SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  We might run tests on a random sample of 2x4s from a particular source of lumber, and if 100% of the samples pass the test, we might reasonably infer that other 2x4s from that source of lumber are also strong enough to pass the test, and thus suitable for use in construction of a framework for a specific building.

So, we can either (a) observe the particular thing performing the desired function, or (b) we can observe SIMILAR things performing the desired function, or (c) we can check or test the particular thing for the relevant properties that make it suitable for that function, or (d) we can check or test SIMILAR things for the relevant properties that would make them suitable for that function.  There may be other ways to determine the “potential” of a thing T to perform a function F well, but these are some of the important ways we have of making such determinations.
 
POTENTIAL VS. POSSIBLE VS. ACTUAL
There are three closely related concepts that I think we need to understand in order to have a clear understanding of what the term “potential” means in the context of Geisler’s Thomistic Cosmological Argument: potential, possible, and actual.  I think we need to understand how these concepts relate to each other.
In Aristotle’s theory of change, whenever any change occurs some potential has been actualized.  When a green banana turns into a yellow banana, we say that the green banana had the “potential” to become a yellow banana.  We KNOW that this particular green banana had this potential because we observed that it actually became a yellow banana.  In other words, when a property of a thing ACTUALLY changes, we infer that the thing had the POTENTIAL to have the new property.  The banana was ACTUALLY green, and had the POTENTIAL to become yellow, and then at some point it was ACTUALLY yellow, and no longer green.  The change in color of the banana was a POTENTIAL that became ACTUAL.
Because this banana is now ACTUALLY yellow, we know that is is POSSIBLE for this banana to be yellow, because what is ACTUAL is necessarily logically possible. But does having the POTENTIAL to be yellow the same thing as it being logically possible to be yellow?  I know that Ed Feser rejects equating these two concepts.  But I’m not sure whether Geisler distinguishes these two concepts.
One important difference, it seems to me, is that the POTENTIAL to be yellow ceases to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  But the logical possibility of being yellow does NOT cease to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  When the banana turns yellow, it no longer has the POTENTIAL to be yellow, and it is ACTUALLY yellow.  But we infer that it HAD the potential to be yellow previously, when it was still completely green.  In the case of logical possibility, when the banana turns yellow, it is still logically possible for that banana to be yellow, even while it is ACTUALLY yellow.  We infer not only that this was logically possible when the banana was completely green, but that it is still logically possible now that the banana is completely yellow.
Having the POTENTIAL to be yellow is a kind of physical possibility for the green banana.  We know from many experiences with green bananas that they often turn yellow over a period of days.  The chemical and biological nature of bananas makes it so that they tend to turn yellow as they age.  So, a banana turning from green to yellow is NOT merely a logical possibility, it is a tendency of (some varieties of) bananas to go from green to yellow over a matter of days after being picked.  This tendency is based on the chemical and biological nature or composition of bananas.   It is logically possible for a green lime to turn yellow a few days after being picked, but limes don’t tend to do this.  The mere logical possibility of some change in properties is NOT sufficient to bring about that change.  Limes don’t have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, but they do have the logical possibility of turning yellow days after being picked.  Bananas have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, because they have a nature or composition that gives them a tendency to do so.  This tendency to turn yellow in a matter of days is MORE THAN just a logical possibility for a banana, it is something more like a physical possibility for bananas to turn yellow.
Does an ACTUAL change in property logically imply that a thing had MORE THAN just a logical possibility of undergoing that change? Some changes are random and extremely rare.  According to quantum physics, it is possible for all of the air molecules in a room to quickly move to one small area in the corner of the room, causing any people or animals in the room to asphyxiate.  But this possibility is so extremely unlikely, so extraordinarily improbable, that we can safely assume this will never actually happen.  Since the laws of chemistry and physics are based upon such extreme improbabilities, it is logically possible for a law of chemistry or physics to be broken.  I take it that this means that an ACTUAL violation of a supposed law of physics is logically consistent with that law being a true law of physics.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
In the next post on this topic, I will try t clarify the meaning of Geisler’s term “X actualized Y” (Question 4), and look into why he thinks it is not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself” (Question 5).
P.S.  I hope that when I get around to examining Feser’s Thomist Cosmological Argument, that Feser will make more of an effort than Geisler to define and/or clarify the basic concepts in his argument.  The fact that Geisler makes so little effort to define or clarify his most basic terms leads me to suspect that he himself is UNCLEAR about the meaning of those basic terms, and that he literally does not know what he is talking about.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 10: Geisler’s Argument for Premise (2)

WHERE WE ARE
In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  I analyze this argument in Part 2 of this series.
The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple (and obviously true) claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument in PoR for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument in PoR for (21) FAILS.
In Part 8 of this series, I analyzed Geisler’s second argument for claim (21), and then I began to evaluate the argument.  But I repeatedly ran into problems with the argument, problems that could be fixed by making an unstated assumption explicit, or by clarifying the meaning of a premise, or by modifying a premise in order to make an inference in the argument logically valid.  I ended up adding a number of premises, and modifying the statement of each of the original premises.
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might have turned out to be a solid proof, so I evaluated this enhanced 2nd argument in Part 9 of this series.  Here is the conclusion of the enhanced 2nd argument:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

Although I made several significant improvements to his argument, it still has a number of unclear and dubious premises, and some invalid inferences in the sub-arguments for key premises.  Even the significantly enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist right now.” clearly FAILS.  Geisler’s second argument for (21a) FAILS.
Since all three of Geisler’s attempts to support premise (1) of his Thomist Cosmological Argument, he has FAILED in his attempt to prove the existence of God.
 
GEISLER’S THOMIST COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (TCA)
The second cosmological argument in When Skeptics Ask is Geisler’s generalized version of a Thomist cosmological argument (WSA, p. 18 & 19):

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.

THEREFORE:

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. 

Here is the logical structure of TCA:

Since Geisler has FAILED to show that premise (1) is true, it seems unlikely that he will be able to prove that premise (2) or (3) are true, since those premises are controversial and dubious, whereas premise (1) was obviously true.  But since premise (1) is obviously true, we should not reject TCA just because Geisler FAILED to prove that (1) is true.  Since premise (1) seems to be obviously true, we should accept it, and examine the rest of this argument to see if the other premises are true, and if the inferences in the argument are all logically valid.
 
GEISLER’S SUPPORT FOR PREMISE (2) OF TCA
Here is premise (2) of TCA:

2. Every finite changing thing must be caused by something else.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler attempts to support premise (2) in just two sentences:

If it is limited and it changes, then it cannot be something that exists independently.  If it existed independently, or necessarily, then it would have always existed without any kind of change. (WSA, p.18)

It seems foolish and pathetic to attempt to prove premise (2) in just two sentences, so it will be no surprise if this argument FAILS, like most of Geisler’s other apologetic arguments.
The second sentence provides a reason in support of the first sentence.  Also, I take it that the term “necessarily” is supposed to be equivalent to the term “independently” in this context, so we can simplify by dropping the redundant term “necessarily”:

41. If a thing existed independently, then it would have always existed without any kind of change.

THEREFORE:

42. If a thing is limited and it changes, then it cannot be a thing that exists independently.

This is a bit sloppy, as Geisler often is in presenting his arguments.  There is a shift from the past tense phrase “existed independently” in premise (41) to the present tense phrase “exists independently” in premise (42).  So, it is unclear that this is a logically valid inference.
We can fix this problem by consistently using the present tense phrase in both premises:

41a. If a thing exists independently, then it would have always existed without any kind of change.

THEREFORE:

42. If a thing is limited and it changes, then it cannot be a thing that exists independently.

This inference seems OK.  It might well be a logically valid inference. However, the logic is not completely clear.  These statements are in the form of conditional statements (IF P, THEN Q), but they are both actually universal generalizations (ALL Xs ARE Ys).  So, I will restate the premises as universal generalizations:

41b. ALL things that exist independently ARE things that have always existed without any kind of change.

THEREFORE:

42b. NO things that are limited and that change ARE things that exist independently.

There are three different categories that are referenced in the above argument:

I: things that exist independently

A: things that have always existed without any kind of change

L: things that are limited and that change

So, if we abbreviate by using the above categorical designations, we can see the logical structure of Geisler’s argument:

41c. ALL I’s ARE A’s.

Therefore:

42c. NO L’s ARE I’s.

Since one of the categories referenced in the conclusion is not referenced in the premise, this argument is NOT formally valid.  The problem here is that there are logical relationships that Geisler is ASSUMING between these various categories.  But we need to make those logical relationships EXPLICIT in order to determine what other ASSUMPTIONS are being made here, and to determine whether this argument can be restated in a way that is clearly a logically VALID argument.
One assumption that Geisler appears to be making is this:

NO things that are limited and that change ARE things that have always existed without any kind of change.

OR:

H. NO L’s ARE A’s.

This seems clearly to be true, to be a necessary truth. A thing that changes cannot have always existed without any kind of change.
 
So, if we add this necessary truth to the original argument, we might have an argument that is clearly logically valid:

41c. ALL I’s ARE A’s.

H. NO L’s ARE A’s.

Therefore:

42c. NO L’s ARE I’s.

This categorical syllogism is formally valid, as can be seen by the following Venn Diagram:

The reddish brown shading represents the claim “ALL I’s ARE A’s”.  The shaded area means there is NOTHING in that sub-category, there is nothing in the part of the circle for I outside of the part of that circle that overlaps with the circle for A. The only I’s that exist (if there are any) are things that are in the area where I and A overlap, things that fall into both of those categories.
The tan shading represents the claim “NO L’s ARE A’s”.  The shaded area means there is NOTHING in that sub-category, there is nothing in the part of the L circle that overlaps with the A circle.  The only L’s that exist (if there are any) are things that are in the area of L that is outside of the part of that circle that overlaps with the circle for A, things that fall into the category of L but not in the category of A.
Note that the area of the circle for L that overlaps with the circle for I is completely shaded in.  That means that there is NOTHING in that overlap area.  In other words, there is NOTHING that falls into the category of L that also falls into the category of I.  That means that “NO L’s ARE I’s”, which is the conclusion of the above categorical syllogism.  Simply by diagraming the two premises, we have automatically diagramed the conclusion. That demonstrates that the conclusion of the syllogism follows logically and necessarily from the premises of the syllogism.
However, there are some gaps of logic here, so we need to fill in those gaps in order to be sure that (41a) does in fact logically imply (42):

41a. If a thing exists independently, then it exists without any kind of change.

THEREFORE:

J. IF a thing is such that it is NOT the case that it exists without any kind of change, THEN it is NOT the case that it exists independently. (from 41a by transposition)

K. IF a thing is limited and it changes, THEN that thing  is such that it is NOT the case that it exists without any kind of change.  (a tautology)

THEREFORE:

42. If a thing is limited and it changes, then that thing cannot be a thing that exists independently.

 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 9: Enhanced 2nd Argument for Changing Things

WHERE WE ARE
In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple (and obviously true) claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument in PoR for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument in PoR for (21) FAILS.
In Part 8 of this series, I analyzed Geisler’s second argument for claim (21), and then I began to evaluate the argument.  But I repeatedly ran into problems with the argument, problems that could be fixed by making an unstated assumption explicit, or by clarifying the meaning of a premise, or by modifying a premise in order to make an inference in the argument logically valid.  I ended up adding a number of premises, and modifying the statement of each of the original premises.
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might turn out to be a solid proof, so I will go ahead and evaluate this enhanced 2nd argument in this post.
 
THE ENHANCED 2ND ARGUMENT FOR CHANGING THINGS
Here is the core of the enhanced 2nd argument in PoR:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

THEREFORE:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

Here is the argument in support of premise (A1):

C. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about myself is real, and myself still exists right now.

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E. Myself is a thing and the world is a thing.

F. It is NOT the case that the world and myself are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Premises (C) and (D) are supported by an explicit premise:

32b. Total illusion about myself is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

Based on the above analysis, we can show the structure of this argument:
PROBLEMS WITH PRONOUNS
Although I have made a sincere effort to clarify and enhance Geisler’s argument, to take his FAILED argument and try to turn it into a clear and logically valid argument, there are still some serious problems of unclarity,  because of the use of pronouns:  “I” and “myself”.  All by themselves, pronouns don’t have a specific meaning; they don’t specify a particular thing, a particular person, a particular group, or a particular collection of things.
Because pronouns, on their own, don’t have a specific meaning, each pronoun in an argument MUST be interpreted BEFORE one can evaluate the truth of a premise or claim that is stated using a pronoun.  So, no serious philosophical argument should contain any pronouns.  In order to formulate a clear and serious philosophical argument, one must eliminate all pronouns in the statement of the argument by substituting a proper name or a clear description of the thing, person, group, or collection to which the pronoun is referring.
Perhaps “I” refers to the author of the argument, Norman Geisler:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

D1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F1. It is NOT the case that the world and Norman Geisler’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

I just noticed that the argument supporting (C1) and (D1) is incomplete.  There are additional unstated premises that need to be made explicit:

G1. Norman Geisler seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Norman Geisler’s self.

H1. Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Norman Geisler’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

I believe that Geisler exists.  I believe that he has had various experiences over many years.  But I’m NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler is in fact Norman Geisler, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler has had various experiences over many years (because I cannot get inside of someone else’s mind).  So, although I am inclined to believe that (G1) is true, this claim is NOT self-evident, nor is it certain.  In any case,  premise (G1) is LESS CERTAIN than the ultimate conclusion of this argument:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

So, this argument FAILS.
There is a second problem that I see here with this sub-argument for (C1).  Suppose that one of Geisler’s early experiences of his “self” was accurate.  Perhaps he experienced in himself an antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.  Suppose this experience was accurate, and that he did in fact have a strong antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.   Suppose that at a later point in time, Geisler experiences what seems to be a change in himself, namely that he no longer has antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems, or at least has nowhere near the strong antipathy that he used to have.  Suppose further that this seeming experience of a change in his self is a delusion, and that he in fact has just as much antipathy towards solving word problems now as he ever had in the past.  In this case Geisler’s initial perception of himself was accurate and correct, but his later perception of a change in himself was false and incorrect.
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_problem_(mathematics_education)
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In this case we can say that his experience of himself is NOT a “total illusion” because his initial perception of himself was accurate and correct.  However, his seeming experience of a CHANGE in himself was false and incorrect.  No such CHANGE took place.  But now, suppose that EVERY CHANGE that Geisler has experienced concerning himself was similarly false and incorrect.  In that case, his experiences of himself would NOT be a “total illusion” because his initial perceptions of himself would be accurate and correct, but EVERY CHANGE that he has seemed to experience to himself is false and incorrect, and in fact no change that he seems to have experienced actually took place.
What this shows is that the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is LOGICALLY INVALID, in spite of my efforts to enhance the argument, to make Geisler’s argument logically valid.  Even if “total illusion” is ruled out, there is still the possibility that NO CHANGE experienced by Geisler about himself was an actual event.
So, there are at least two problems with this sub-argument.  First, premise (G1) is neither self-evident nor certain, and is less certain than the ultimate conclusion it is supposed to be supporting.  Second, the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is logically invalid.  The same objections apply to the parallel sub-argument for premise (D1).  So, we now have four different significant problems with this argument.
Furthermore, premise (E1) is problematic as well:

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

Although I believe that Norman Geisler exists, I am NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, and I am even less certain that Norman Geisler’s “self” exists.  Furthermore, since I’m not sure what it means for Geisler’s “self” to exist, I am very uncertain that it is appropriate to categorize his “self” as  “a thing”.
Finally, this is an argument based on the thinking of Aquinas, and Aquinas had a very specific idea of what constitutes “a thing”, so it might well be the case that the phrase “a thing” here has a very particular meaning, which Geisler has failed to specify.   For these reasons, I am reluctant to agree with the first half of premise (E1), and I most definitely don’t KNOW (E1) to be true.
The phrase “the world” is not as vague and unclear as “self”, but it is not entirely clear what this means.  I also have the same concerns about the meaning of the phrase “a thing” in the second half of (E1) as with the first half of (E1).
So, without Geisler providing a good deal more in the way of clarifications or definitions, premise (E1) seems rather dubious.  These concerns also apply to premise (F1).
What if the pronouns “I” and “myself” in this argument do NOT refer to Norman Geisler?  Perhaps, they refer to whoever the reader happens to be, like ME:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

D2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E2. Bradley Bowen’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F2. It is NOT the case that the world and Bradley Bowen’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

This interpretation does help with the degree of certainty I have about a premise in a sub-argument for (C2):

G2. Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self.

H2. Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Bradley Bowen’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

I am more confident and certain about (G2) than I was about the analogous premise about Norman Geisler.  I am more certain that I exist, and that I have had experiences about myself.  But there is a problem with making the argument about me as opposed to about Geisler.
Geisler, so far as I am aware, does not know that I exist.  Even if he does have some small awareness about my existence, he surely is NOT certain that I exist.  So, this argument cannot be what Geisler had in mind, since he either doesn’t know that I exist, or has only a modest and uncertain belief that I exist.  Geisler is in no position to confidently assert premise (G2) to be true and certain.  So, this is NOT a plausible interpretation of Geisler’s argument.
Furthermore, although premise (G2) has the advantage of being more certain to ME than premise (G1), the argument still has all of the other serious problems that I have pointed out above.  Changing the focus from Norman Geisler to Bradley Bowen doesn’t help with any of the other objections that I have raised.
 
CONCLUSION
Geisler’s second argument for (21a) FAILS.
I have made a serious attempt to repair Geisler’s unclear and logically invalid argument, but although I made several significant improvements to his argument, it still has a number of unclear and dubious premises, and some invalid inferences in the sub-arguments for key premises.  Even the significantly enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist right now.” clearly FAILS.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 5: More Reasons for Skepticism about God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

In Part 4 of this series I presented some of my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
In this current post, I will present more of my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God.
 
MORE REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD  
G. The serious problems with one of the best cases ever made for God (by Richard Swinburne) support skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from my posts on Swinburne’s case for God:]
But when we come to the third argument, TASO (Teleological Argument from Spatial Order), the factual claim is not at all obviously true:

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

People are not born with modern scientific knowledge about plants, animals, chemistry, genetics, geology, etc.  We have to be educated over a period of many years, and even then, many (most?) people in the USA don’t learn enough scientific information and concepts to be in a position to know that human bodies evolved.  Certainly, many educated Christians in the USA have doubts about the claim that human bodies evolved in this universe.
Second, assuming it to be a fact that human bodies evolved in this universe, this still does NOT imply that the structure of the universe (the initial conditions at the time of the Big Bang plus the specific laws of nature in this universe) made this outcome PROBABLE.  For all we know, the evolution of human bodies might have been an extremely improbable event.  Many events that have occurred are improbable events.  The fact that event X actually occurred does NOT show that the universe was so structured that it was probable that X would occur.
[…]
Clearly, (e3) is NOT something that is “known by those who dispute about” the existence of God.  I doubt that anyone knows (e3) to be true, but even if there are a few such people, they are a tiny portion of the large population of those who “dispute about” the existence of God.   Therefore, premise (2) is FALSE.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/27/problems-taso-part-1/

Richard Swinburne

So, in order to KNOW that (e3) is true, one must be aware of a great deal of information, and that information includes facts that support some of the most powerful objections to belief in God: the many and pervasive problems of evil.  But then when one evaluates the probability of the hypothesis that God exists in relation to (e3), one cannot rationally and reasonably set aside and ignore the many and pervasive problems of evil.  So, in order to rationally evaluate the probability of the claim “God exists” in relation to (e3), one must take into consideration not just the meaning and implications of (e3), but also the large collection of facts and data that allow one to KNOW that (e3) is in fact true.
If one takes into account most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil in evaluating the strength of TASO, then it is unclear and very doubtful that all of this additional information increases the probability that God exists.  Given most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil, that information might very well outweigh whatever positive support the hypothesis of theism gets from the fact that the universe is structured in a way that makes the evolution of human bodies probable.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/02/05/problems-taso-part-2-favorite-objection/
H. Evolution provides a good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.
Evolution has at least two connections to the problems of evil.  First, in order to know that animal species evolved and that humans evolved from primates, one needs to learn a good deal of information about geology, paleontology, biology, chemistry, and anthropology.  This body of concepts, facts, and theories contains information about evils that have occurred and that continue to occur.  Thus, knowledge of evolution includes knowledge about evils.  That creates a serious problem for Swinburne’s Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (as I have pointed out above).
Second, evolution itself constitutes a significant problem of evil.  There is more than one example of evil in this world, and different evils have different characteristics making it difficult for there to be a one-size-fits-all-solution or response to all of the various kinds of evils that occur.
For example, there is a traditional distinction made between moral evil and natural evil.  Moral evil is evil that is constituted by or caused by the choices of human beings.  The traditional “solution” to moral evil is to point to free will, and assert that God allows moral evil to exist in order to give human beings the great good of having free will.  But natural evil cannot be explained this way (not plausibly), because natural evil is NOT the result of the choices of human beings.
Natural evil, such as death and suffering from a flood or earthquake, could be explained as the result of the free will of demons or of the devil, but such explanations are no longer plausible, given the advance of science, which allows us to understand the physical causes of earthquakes and floods and other natural examples of natural evil, and which also gives us good reason to disbelieve in the existence of demons, ghosts, angels, and the devil.
There are different kinds of evil, so different examples of evil can constitute different problems of evil, problems that have their own unique characteristics, and which may not be explainable by a single idea about how and why God fails to prevent or eliminate evil.
It is VERY UNLIKELY that God would structure the universe in such a way that human bodies would probably evolve (naturally, apart from any divine intervention).
God is, on Swinburne’s own definition, an eternally omnipotent person, and an eternally omniscient person (with omniscience being limited in relation to knowledge of the future, because God’s free will and human free will make it logically impossible to know every detail of the future).  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, God would be able to create all existing plants, animals, and human beings in the blink of an eye, along the lines of the Genesis creation myth.
It is very implausible to suppose that God would use the long, random, and uncertain process of evolution to produce plants, animals, and human bodies when God could have instantly created billions of earth-like planets all filled to the brim with thousands of kinds of plants, and animals, and creatures with human-like bodies.
Furthermore, God is also supposed to be a perfectly morally good person, and all of the pain, disease, suffering, and death involved in a billion years of the evolutionary struggle for survival could have been avoided by God creating all of the desired plants, animals, and human-like creatures in an instant.  God, if God exists, had a very powerful moral reason to prefer instantaneous creation of living creatures over the slow, random, uncertain, and suffering-filled natural process of evolution.
There seems to be no strong reason for God to prefer the natural process of evolution over instantaneous creation of all living creatures, including the creation of human bodies, and there is an obvious powerful moral reason for God to prefer instantaneous creation over the natural process of evolution.
Since it is very unlikely that God would choose to create human beings by means of the process of evolution, and since human beings came into existence by means of the process of evolution,  this gives us a good reason to believe that there is no God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/01/27/problems-taso-part-1/
I. Skepticism about the two initial phases of Classical Apologetics (because of our ignorance of the plans and purposes of God) supports skepticism about the existence of God.
Some of my criticisms of Richard Swinburne’s case for God can be applied more broadly to any case for God (or to most cases for God).  In Classical Apologetics, there are three main phases:
(1) prove that God exists,
(2) use miracles to prove that Jesus or the Bible (or some religious authority like the Catholic Church) is inspired and authorized to provide messages from God,
(3) use the teachings of Jesus (or the Bible or the Catholic church) to support the truth of the rest of the Christian worldview.
In Part 3 of this series (see the section: “H. Skepticism about Miracles and Revelation casts doubt on Western theistic religions”) I argued that the second phase of Classical Apologetics is doomed to failure, because we don’t know any details about the plans and purposes of God.
However, most arguments for God involve assumptions about the plans and purposes of God.  That is explicitly the case with Swinburne’s case for God, but I have examined the arguments for God in Kreeft’s case for God, and discovered that they too are based on assumptions about the plans and purposes of God.
To the extent that we are ignorant about the plans and purposes of God, most arguments for the existence of God are doomed to failure.  This gives us a good reason to be skeptical about the existence of God.
Richard Swinburne recognized this important aspect of arguments for God, but he failed to show that we have sufficient knowledge of the plans and purposes of God to make his case work.  Other Christian apologists, like Peter Kreeft and Norman Geisler are oblivious to the fact that their arguments depend on such assumptions, so they have not even  attempted to argue for these assumptions required to make their cases for God work.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/01/the-logic-of-miracles/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/16/the-logic-of-miracles-part-2-showing-that-god-exists/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/19/the-logic-of-miracles-part-3-kreefts-first-ten-arguments/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/12/20/the-logic-of-miracles-part-4-kreefts-last-ten-arguments/
J. The problems of evil support skepticism about the existence of God.
I have previously mentioned some of the natural evils associated with evolution: injuries, diseases, mutations, famines, hunger, starvation, predation, pain, suffering, and death.  Just in learning enough scientific information to know that animals and human beings are the products of the process of evolution requires learning about the occurrence of such natural evils.
Furthermore, as I argue above, evolution is itself one example of a major natural evil, and all by itself constitutes a good reason to believe that there is no God.
Setting aside the fact that animals and humans came into existence as the result of evolution, there are natural evils that are powerful evidence against the existence of God whether evolution is true or not:  injuries, diseases, mutations, famines, hunger, starvation, predation, pain, suffering, and death.  These natural evils clearly exist and can be observed today.
The primary explanation that Christians have traditionally provided for such natural evils is that they are the results of the “Fall”, they were caused by human beings sinning, by human disobedience to God.  Everything was “Good” and wonderful, then Adam and Eve (the first human beings) sinned against God, and this corrupted all of nature.
This explanation, however, is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Predation existed long before human beings came into existence.  Injuries, diseases, famines and starvation existed long before human beings came into existence.  Pain, suffering, and death existed long before human beings came into existence.  Sentient animals existed on Earth long before human beings arrived on this planet.
Even if human beings were not the product of the process of evolution, even if human beings came about because a creator god instantly produced human beings out of nothing, or out of a lump of clay, it would still be a fact that humans have only existed on Earth for about a million years, and that sentient animals have existed on the Earth for hundreds of millions of years, and that sentient animals have been experiencing injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death for hundreds of millions of years.
In other words, injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death appear to be built into nature.  If the natural world of planet Earth was designed and brought into existence by a creator god, then that creator either designed the natural world to include injuries, diseases, famines, predation, hunger, pain, suffering, and death, or else these are unintended errors and flaws in the work of this creator god.  In either case, the creator god cannot be the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, such a creator god cannot be an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good person.
Thus, the existence of natural evils provide us with good reason to believe that God does not exist.  If there is a creator god, that god is a finite and imperfect person.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/02/05/problems-taso-part-2-favorite-objection/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/08/16/a-simple-and-obvious-explanation/
There are other problems of evil that should also be considered:

  • The suffering of innocent children.
  • Great suffering or evil that is not required in order to produce or make possible a greater good.
  • The large number of instances of evil and suffering that don’t appear to be required in order to produce or make possible a greater good (making it probable that some evil and suffering are NOT required to produce or make possible a greater good).
  • The evil of the eternal suffering of those people who are condemned to hell.
  • The evil of the sorrow of those in heaven about the eternal suffering of loved ones in hell (or the alternative evil of the rejoicing of those in heaven about the eternal suffering of loved ones in hell).

K. Contradictions between the divine attributes support skepticism about the existence of God.
God is immutable AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is immutable, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is immutable, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is outside of time AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is outside of time, then God is immutable.

If God is immutable, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is outside of time, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is impassible AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is impassible, then God does not love human beings.

If God does not love human beings, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is impassible, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is bodiless AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is bodiless, then God cannot be identified as a person.

If God cannot be identified as a person, then God is not a person.

If God is not a person, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is bodiless, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

God is omniscient AND God is a perfectly morally good person?

If God is omniscient, then God knows every choice that God will ever make.

If God knows every choice that God will ever make, then God does not have free will.

If God does not have free will, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

THEREFORE:

If God is omniscient, then God is NOT a perfectly morally good person.

I realize that ALL of the above arguments are controversial.  I don’t expect to PROVE that the concept of God is incoherent by just presenting these brief summary arguments.  I am merely indicating the sorts of arguments that I would be likely to use in an attempt to show that the concept of God is incoherent.
Actually, my preference is to toss out the “divine attributes” that seem to most clearly contradict the divine attribute of being a “perfectly morally good person”.  I would toss out “immutable”, “outside of time”, and “impassible” without a second thought.  Those seem to me to be inessential, less important, less central than other traditional divine attributes, like “omniscience” and “omnipotence” and being “bodiless”.  Obviously,  I think that the attribute of “perfectly morally good person” is central to the traditional concept of God.
One important objection to all of the above arguments is the Thomist view that “God is not a person.”  However, I find the Thomist concept of God to be absurd, so this objection doesn’t carry much weight for me.
I think the bottom line for me is that I could never bring myself to view being that was NOT a person as something that was worthy of worship and adoration.  Those are things that only make sense relative to a being who is a person.  Also, a being that is not a person could NOT be “perfectly morally good”, and again I could never bring myself to view a being that was NOT “perfectly morally good” as something that was worthy of worship and adoration.
It is possible that this is just my own peculiar personal bias, but if it is a bias, I strongly suspect it is one that I share with hundreds of millions of Christian believers.  I don’t think believers in the pews would have much interest in the “God” of the Thomists.  This point, by the way, is a perfect segue into my final reason for skepticism about God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/11/cases-for-god/

David Hume by Allan Ramsay, 1766 and Sigmund Freud by Max Halberstadt, c. 1921
David Hume and Sigmund Freud

L. Hume’s and Freud’s objections to theism provide good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.
Sigmund Freud had a few different ideas about the psychological basis of religion, especially Western theistic religion.  One idea is that humans commonly fear the awesome dangerous forces of nature, and that this fear is an important part of our thinking and our feelings.  Another idea is that when we are babies we look up to our parents as our source of food, life, comfort, and safety.  Our parents are like our gods when we are infants.
When we become children, we learn that our parents are imperfect and vulnerable, and that all humans are subject to the awesome dangerous forces of nature.  Thus, about the time we learn that our parents are not actually gods, we learn that we are in great need of protection, in need of a god-like parent in the sky who can protect us from the dangerous forces of nature.  Belief in a very powerful, very wise, and caring parent-in-the-sky becomes appealing to human beings at an early age.  So, belief in God, can be viewed as a result of WISHFUL THINKING.  We DESIRE to have a powerful, wise, and caring parent-in-the-sky, and so we make ourselves BELIEVE that there is such a being or person.
Freud’s view of the psychological basis for belief in God provides some reason for skepticism about the existence of God, because it suggests that this belief is based in WISHFUL THINKING.  However, Freud’s view also can be related to, and work together with, a skeptical view about belief in God promoted by David Hume.
David Hume was skeptical about the existence of God in part because he saw that there was a logical tension in the very idea of God.  On the one hand, Christians, and other religious believers in God, want God to be transcendent.  God must be more than a human being, and even more than just a “superman”.  God must be the absolute best and highest being that we can imagine.  Anselm talks about God as “the being than which none greater can be conceived”.  Theology that takes this idea of Anselm’s seriously, is called “Perfect Being” theology.
On the other hand, Christians, and other religious believers in God, want God to be immanent.  God cannot be so different from us that we cannot relate to God.  I think probably the most powerful motivation for viewing Jesus as being the “divine Son of God” and “God Incarnate” is that Jesus was a human being with a physical body, a human being who walked and talked and ate food, and drank, and swam in the sea of Galilee.  Christians, and other religious believers in God, want a God with whom they can talk, a God that they can view as being a friend or a parent.
But as Hume repeatedly points out, we cannot have our cake and eat it too.  If God is an absolutely infinite and absolutely perfect being, and God has infinite power and infinite knowledge, then God cannot also be just an ordinary human being who we can view as a friend or parent.  We cannot have a meaningful conversation with an absolutely infinite and absolutely perfect being.
So, the bottom line for me is this.  Freud and Hume together give us good reason to view the idea of God as the product of human desires, and this not only raises the suspicion that God is the product of WISHFUL THINKING, but also that because we desire logically contradictory things,  it is impossible for God to actually exist.
What we desire in God are a combination of attributes that it is not possible for one being to possess.  We cannot have our cake and eat it too, no matter how much we DESIRE this outcome.  We cannot have a God who is both transcendent and immanent, no matter how strongly we desire that such a being exist.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 4: Skepticism about God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

My doubts about the existence of God are related to skepticism in general, and to three specific areas of skepticism:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Claims
  • Skepticism about Religion
  • Skepticism about the Existence of God

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.
In this Part 3 of this series I explained my reasons for skepticism about religion.
In this post I will cover my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God, the first two being based directly on my skepticism about supernatural claims and skepticism about religion.
SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
A. Skepticism about supernatural powers and supernatural beings supports skepticism about the existence of God.
Over many centuries billions of people have mistakenly believed that there are ghosts and demons, invisible bodiless supernatural beings.  Over many centuries billions of people have mistakenly believed that there are people with amazing supernatural powers, what we now call psychics.   But there are no people who can actually move or bend physical objects with just their minds.  There are no people who can actually “see” future events.  There are no people who can actually “read” the thoughts of other people.  There are no people who can actually instantly heal physical injuries or organic diseases with just their minds.  There are no actual psychics.
Suppose someone claims that there is a person who has ALL of these supernatural psychic abilities.  Such a claim would be ridiculous on its face.  I remember as a young boy listening to Pastor Jim Jones of the “People’s Temple” on the radio in San Francisco, claiming that he had ALL of “the gifts of the spirit”, which include speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing,  miracles, and supernatural knowledge.  He, of course, turned out to be a mentally ill drug addict, who was followed by many naive, clueless, gullible, superstitious fools, many of whom followed him to Jonestown, a commune built in the jungle in Guyana, and then later ended their own lives by drinking poisoned cool-aid at the direction of Pastor Jim Jones.

Mass suicide at Jonestown (History.com article)

Now suppose that the “person” who allegedly has ALL of these amazing supernatural powers is not an ordinary person with a physical body, but is (allegedly) a ghost or spirit who is invisible and has no physical body.  Now we are getting into crazyville territory.  But belief in the existence of God is very similar to belief in the existence of a ghost who has many amazing psychic powers.
God, if God exists, is an invisible and immaterial supernatural being who has no physical body, like ghosts and demons.  God also has many supernatural powers.  God, if God exists, can “see” the future, just like a psychic.  God can make physical objects move (or bend) just by willing them to move (or bend), just like a psychic.  God can “read” minds, just like a psychic.  God can instantly heal people of injuries or diseases, just like a psychic.  So, belief in the existence of God is a lot like believing in the existence of a ghost who has many different psychic powers.
Although billions of people have for many centuries believed in supernatural beings (like ghosts or demons) and in supernatural powers (like those allegedly possessed by psychics), there is no good reason to believe that ghosts actually exist, or that psychics actually exist.  In fact, we have good reason to disbelieve in supernatural beings (like ghosts and demons) and to disbelieve in supernatural powers (like those allegedly possessed by psychics), because such alleged phenomena have been carefully and scientifically investigated for about 150 years, but no solid empirical evidence has ever been discovered that shows any such supernatural beliefs to be true.
So, we have good reason to be skeptical about God, and good reason to doubt that God exists, unless and until powerful empirical evidence confirming the existence of God becomes available.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for that evidence!
B. Skepticism about religions supports skepticism about the existence of God.
In Part 3 of this series  I presented a number of reasons for being skeptical about religions. Given those reasons for skepticism about religions, it might well be the case that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all FALSE.
That is, the worldviews promoted by these religions might well be FALSE, meaning that a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute each of these worldviews are FALSE.  Since a worldview contains several beliefs and assumptions, it is not necessary that EVERY belief and assumption in a worldview be FALSE in order for the worldview as a whole to be FALSE.  So long as a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions of a worldview are FALSE, that would provide sufficient grounds for evaluating the worldview as being FALSE.
But if all three major Western religions are FALSE, then that means that a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute the worldviews associated with these religions are FALSE.  One of the beliefs that is part of the worldviews of all three of these religions is the belief that God exists.  But if a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute these worldviews are FALSE, then it might well be the case that belief in the existence of God was one of those FALSE worldview beliefs.
In any case, if the worldviews of all three major Western religions were FALSE, then these three religions would have no significant credibility.  We could not, in that case, reasonably view any of these religions as a reliable source of knowledge or information about theology, metaphysics, or ethics.   Thus, doubt about the existence of God would be justified, unless there were good reasons independent of these religions to believe in the existence of God.
Reasons for skepticism about religion don’t prove that all religions are FALSE, but they do make it somewhat likely that all three major Western theistic religions are FALSE, and if all three major Western theistic religions were in fact FALSE, then we would have good reason to doubt that God exists.
C. The silence of God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
In Part 2 of this series, I presented this argument for disbelief in the existence of God:

21. IF God exists, THEN it is very likely that God communicated truth or wisdom to human beings through prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years.

22. There have been no prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided truth or wisdom from God.

THEREFORE:

23. It is probably NOT the case that God exists.

It is clear and certain that the “holy books” of the main three western theistic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) were NOT inspired by God; they do not constitute messages from God.
Jehovah, the god of the Old Testament is clearly a morally flawed person, so that means that Jehovah was NOT God.  But if Jehovah was NOT God, then Moses was a false prophet, and the Torah was NOT inspired by God.  If Jehovah was a false god and Moses was a false prophet, then the other holy books of Judaism (which constitute the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) were also NOT inspired by God, since they assume Jehovah to be God and Moses to be a true prophet.
Jesus believed and taught that Moses was a true prophet, and Jesus practiced and promoted worship and obedience to Jehovah.  Since Moses was in fact a false prophet, and since Jehovah is in fact a false god, it follows logically that Jesus was also NOT a true prophet and NOT the divine Son of God.  If Jesus was NOT a true prophet and NOT the divine Son of God, then the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament were also NOT inspired by God. Thus both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Christian Bible were NOT inspired by God.
According to the Quran, both Moses and Jesus were true prophets of God, so since Moses was in fact a false prophet, and Jesus also was in fact a false prophet, we can logically conclude that the Quran was NOT inspired by God, and that Muhammad himself was a false prophet, just like Moses and Jesus.  Therefore: NONE of the holy books of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam were inspired by God.
Furthermore, other supposedly “holy books” teach or assume that Jesus was a true prophet, or that Moses was a true prophet, or that Muhammad was a true prophet, so those “holy books” are also clearly NOT inspired by God, because Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were in fact false prophets.  For example, The Book of Mormon, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures both teach or assume that the Bible was inspired by God and that Jesus was a true prophet.  So, it is clear and certain that those two “holy books” are NOT inspired by God.
This means that either there have been NO prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided messages of truth and wisdom from God, or else that God attempted to communicate with mankind through a prophet and/or holy book in the past four thousand years, but God’s attempt was a failure, because that prophet and/or holy book are now unknown or known only to a small number of human beings.
But God, if God exists, is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good.  How could such a being fail so miserably at an attempt to communicate truth and wisdom to the human race?  The hypothesis that God made such an attempt but failed miserably is very improbable.  So, the most likely scenario is that it is NOT the case that there have been any prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that provide messages of truth and wisdom from God.
Premise (22) is very likely true, and premise (21) is believed by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and it seems very plausible to me too.  Therefore, the silence of God gives us a good reason to believe that there is no God.
D. The utter failure of Peter Kreeft’s case for God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from some of my posts on Kreeft’s case for God:]
Given that 100% of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL to provide any good reason to believe that God exists, it might seem unlikely that there will be any strong and solid arguments for God among the remaining ten arguments.  However, it seems to me that Kreeft was trying to put his best foot forward by presenting his strongest and best arguments up front, at the beginning of his case, and thus saved the weakest and worst arguments for the second half of his case.
Argument #3 and Argument #5 FAIL for the same reasons that Argument #1 and Argument #2 FAILED:  Kreeft does not bother to SUPPORT the most important premise in each of these arguments, namely the premise that links his stated conclusion to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists.”
The middle inference or sub-argument [in Argument #4] FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion, just like the initial inference or sub-argument FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion.  Thus, we may reasonably conclude that Argument #4 is a complete FAILURE.  This argument has multiple serious problems, and so it provides us no good reason to believe that God exists.
Argument #4 fails, and thus ALL FIVE of the arguments that Kreeft apparently believes to be the best and strongest arguments for the existence of God FAIL, just like ALL TEN of the last arguments of his case FAIL.  At this point, we have determined that at least 75% of the arguments (15 out of 20) in Kreeft’s case for God FAIL.  Given the perfect consistency of FAILURE in Kreeft’s case so far, it is unlikely that any of the remaining five arguments will turn out to be a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/04/26/peter-kreefts-case-for-god-2/
E. The utter failure of Norman Geisler’s case for God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from one of my posts on Geisler’s case for God:]
PHASE 1: GEISLER’s FIVE WAYS
PROBLEM 1:  Geisler FAILS to provide a clear definition of the word “God”, thus making his whole argument unclear and confusing.
PROBLEM 2:  Geisler has only ONE argument for the existence of God, but he mistakenly believes he has FIVE different and independent arguments for the existence of God.
PROBLEM 3: Geisler makes a confused and mistaken distinction between proving the existence of God and proving the existence of a being with various divine attributes.
PROBLEM 4: The conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments are UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, leading to multiple fallacies of EQUIVOCATION by Geisler.
PROBLEM 5:  Because Geisler consistently FAILS to show that there is EXACTLY ONE being of such-and-such kind, he cannot prove that  “the cause of the beginning of the universe” is the same being as “the cause of the current existence of the universe” or as “the designer of the universe” or as “the moral lawgiver”.  
PHASE 2: THE CREATOR’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
PROBLEM 6:  Geisler simply ASSUMES without providing any reason or argument that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that designed the universe, and that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that produced moral laws.
PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
PROBLEM 7:  Geisler illogically shifts from the claim that a perfect being must be a necessary being to the assumption that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist must be a necessary being.  This is an INVALID inference.
PHASE 4: THE IMPLICATIONS OF “A NECESSARY BEING”
PROBLEM 8: In his reasoning about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”, Geisler confuses different senses of the verb “to be” leading to INVALID inferences about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”.
PHASE 5: ONLY ONE INFINITE BEING
PROBLEM 9: Geisler’s assumption that two unlimited beings would be indistinguishable from each other is FALSE and it also contradicts a basic Christian dogma.
PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS
PROBLEM 10: Geisler has adopted a Thomistic concept of God, but this Thomistic concept of God is INCOHERENT, making it a necessary truth that “It is NOT the case that God exists.”
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/04/26/geislers-case-for-the-existence-of-god/
F. The fact that arguments for God often provide reasons against the existence of God supports skepticism about the existence of God. 
There is a theme in Jeff Lowder’s case for Naturalism:  the thinking of religious believers is often distorted by confirmation bias.  They look for evidence that supports their belief in God, but ignore, or forget, or fail to notice, evidence that goes against their belief in God.
When believers offer some reason or evidence for the existence of God, it is often the case that if you look a little closer at that evidence, or take a step back and look at the general sort of evidence or phenomena that an argument for God relies upon, you find powerful evidence AGAINST the existence of God, evidence that was missed or ignored by religious believers.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/03/03/arguments-for-god-that-are-arguments-against-god/
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 8: 2nd Argument for Changing Things

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument for (21) FAILS.
Now I will attempt to analyze and evaluate Geisler’s second argument for claim (21). Here is the paragraph where Geisler presents this second argument (PoR, page 192):   Key claims in Geisler’s second argument:

31. The argument that all change is illusory is indefensible.

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33. If only some change is real…, then it follows that there is at least some real change in real things.

I believe that claim (31) is just a summary of Geisler’s view, and does not play a role in this second argument.  So, the basic logical structure of this argument goes like this:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33. If only some change is real…, then it follows that there is at least some real change in real things.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

It seems to me that the consequent of claim (33), i.e. “there is at least some real change in real things” is just an alternative way of stating claim (21), so I will revise the wording of (33) accordingly:

33a. IF only some change is real, THEN changing things exist.

It is immediately apparent that (33a) is FALSE.  The antecedent only requires that ONE change is real, but the consequent asserts that MORE THAN ONE change exists (“things” is plural).  So, if Geisler’s second argument is going to have any chance of success, we need to beef up the antecedent of claim (33a) a bit:

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

Here is the revised 2nd argument:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

This argument is NOT formally VALID.  We need a claim that affirms the antecedent of (33b) in order to have a formally VALID inference (namely a modus ponens).  Presumably, the claim that affirms the antecedent of (33b) is inferred from claim (32), so that claim (32) has a role in this argument:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

A. Two or more changes are real.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

I can see how claim (32) could be used to infer claim (A), because (32) is talking about experiences of two different phenomenamyself and the world.  (Note: I don’t think Geisler intends for claim (32) to be about multiple selves, but just about ONE self, so I’m going to revise that premise to refer to “myself”.)   We can add an intermediate inference between claim (32) and claim (A):

32a. Total illusion about myself and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

B. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about myself is real, and at least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about the world is real.

THEREFORE:

A. Two or more changes are real.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

OK.  We have now analyzed and clarified Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist.”  Here is a diagram showing the logical structure of the argument: 
I am going to start with what is right with this argument, and then proceed to examine the more dubious aspects of the argument.  I set up the final inference from (33b) and (A) to (21) as a modus ponens, so that inference is clearly deductively VALID.  Furthermore, although the inference from (B) to (A) is not a formally VALID deductive inference,  I take it that (B) clearly logically implies (A), so I accept that as a VALID deductive inference.  The assumption I make here is that oneself is something distinguishable from and other than “the world”.  Given that assumption (B) logically implies (A).
There remain three potential problems with this second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist.”:

  • Is premise (32) TRUE?
  • Can premise (B) be VALIDLY deduced from premise (32)?
  • Is premise (33b) TRUE?

I’m going to start with the third question, because premise (33b) is clearly NOT TRUE, but is clearly FALSE:

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

 Two real changes can happen to the SAME THING.  A caterpillar can grow from being small and slender to being much larger and plump, and a caterpillar can then transform into a butterfly.  So, ONE thing can undergo TWO changes.  Therefore, the occurrence of two changes does NOT logically imply the existence of TWO different things that change.
Also, it is not clear and obvious that real changes only occur in “things”.  I can change my mind.  Does that mean that some “thing” has changed?  That depends on whether my mind counts as a “thing”.  Events can change.  My birthday party can change from being dull and boring to being fun and exciting.  But is a birthday party a “thing”?  Are events “things”?  Geisler provides no clarification or definition of the word “thing”, so it is difficult to answer these questions.
Furthermore, the word “thing” is a problematic word in the context of Thomist philosophy.  Aristotle and Aquinas had very specific ideas about what constitutes a “thing” or a “substance”, so whenever the word “thing” appears in relation to Thomist philosophy, one must determine whether this word is being used in some loose ordinary sense of the word, or whether it is being used in a more specific sense in keeping with the metaphysical theories of Thomas Aquinas.
Strictly speaking, premise (33b) is clearly FALSE, and it must be rejected as currently stated.  However, one might be able to revise the wording of (33b) to avoid the counterexample of ONE thing undergoing TWO changes:

33c. IF two or more things change, THEN changing things exist.

Premise (33c) avoids the counterexample of ONE thing undergoing TWO changes, and it avoids the error of inferring the change of a THING from just any sort of change.  However, premise (33c) also appears to be FALSE.
There is no clear reference to time in (33c), and one could reasonably interpret it as having the following meaning:

33d. IF two or more things change at some time or other, THEN changing things exist right now.

But with this clarification in terms of time, we can clearly see that premise (33d) is FALSE, and thus that premise (33c) is also FALSE, if (33d) is a correct interpretation of the meaning of (33c).  My father’s father changed professions at some time or other, and my mother’s mother also changed her profession at some time or other, but both of those people are dead now; neither of them exist at this time, to the best of my knowledge.  So, TWO people have changed at different times in the past, but neither of those two people exist right now.  That is a clear counterexample to premise (33d), so this premise is clearly FALSE.
We could try to repair premise (33d) by making the references to time match up between the antecedent and the consequent.  I happen to know that for the purposes of the Thomist Cosmological Argument it is important to establish that “Changing things exist right now.”  So, we cannot change the consequent of (33d); instead, we must change the antecedent to match the consequent:

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

This is the premise that Geisler actually needs to establish for his second argument to work.  Now we need to modify the other premise in the final sub-argument so that the argument will remain logically VALID:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

THEREFORE:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

OK.  Now premise (33e) appears to be TRUE, and with the modification of the other premise to premise (A1), this sub-argument is also deductively VALID.  So, the question now becomes, has Geisler provided a SOUND deductive argument for premise (A1)?  Here is the argument that Geisler had provided for this premise:

B. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about myself is real, and at least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about the world is real.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Because we have modified premise (A) into premise (A1), this inference is no longer a VALID deductive inference.  For example, (B) says nothing about whether the world still exists right now.  
So, premise (B) now also needs to be modified or supplemented in order for Geisler to have a deductively valid sub-argument for (A1).  I am going to split up the reference to the two key phenomena, and I am going to make explicit the assumption that myself and the world are different things:

C. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about myself is real, and myself still exists right now.

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E. Myself is a thing and the world is a thing.

F. It is NOT the case that the world and myself are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Premises (C) and (D) are each supported by premise (32a).  For example, (32a) is a premise supporting (D):

32a. Total illusion about myself and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

I just now noticed an ambiguity in (32a), so that needs to be fixed:

32b. Total illusion about myself is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

Now we can lay out the logical structure of my modified/enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the conclusion that “Changing things exist right now.”:  
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the above enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might turn out to be a solid proof, so I will continue to evaluate this enhanced argument in the next post.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 7: 1st Argument for Changing Things

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
Geisler also presents arguments for the claim that “changing things exist”, and I will begin to analyze and evaluate those arguments in this post.  Here is the first paragraph Geisler wrote in support of this claim  (PoR, p.192):  
Here are the key claims made by Geisler in the above paragraph:

21. Changing things exist.

22. I am a changing thing.

23. I experience other changing things in the world.

24. The whole world of my experience is a space-time continuum of change.

Statement (21) is the conclusion of his argument.  Statements (22), (23), and (24) are premises in his argument for (21).   Because the conclusion uses the plural “things”, premise (22) is not sufficient by itself to prove (21).  We need at least one other example of a changing thing, in order to prove that (21) is true, so (22) and (23) must work together to support (21). The basic logical structure of Geisler’s argument is this:  
Because Geisler uses pronouns in all three premises, we cannot evaluate those claims as either true or false, unless and until we determine the meaning of those pronouns.  Since Geisler wrote those statements, one obvious interpretation of the pronoun “I” is that this is a reference to himself:

22a. Norman Geisler is a changing thing.

23a. Norman Geisler experiences other changing things in the world.

24a. The whole world of Norman Geisler’s experience is a space-time continuum of change.

I believe that (22a) is true, and I also believe that (23a) is true.  However, I have never met Norman Geisler, and I have not done any historical research about his life.  So, I am not absolutely certain that Norman Geisler exists.
More importantly,  my belief that “Changing things exist” is MORE obvious and MORE certain than my belief that “Norman Geisler exists” or that “Norman Geisler is a changing thing”.  But in order to provide an acceptable deductive proof of the conclusion that “Changing things exist”, ALL of the premises in this deductive argument must be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion of the argument.  So, given the above interpretations of Geisler’s premises, this argument clearly FAILS.
But perhaps Geisler intends for the readers of his argument to insert their own names into the argument wherever the personal pronoun “I” appears (or “my”).  In that case, I would interpret the argument this way:

22b. Bradley Bowen is a changing thing.

23b. Bradley Bowen experiences other changing things in the world.

24b. The whole world of Bradley Bowen’s experience is a space-time continuum of change.

First of all, we need to toss out premise (24b).  Geisler’s reference to the modern scientific notion of “a space-time continuum” sounds very sophisticated, and it is somewhat sophisticated, but that is clearly a problem with this premise.  There is no way that such a modern scientific idea can be viewed as a self-evident truth, or as a truth that is MORE obvious and MORE certain than the claim “Changing things exist”. (Aristotle firmly believed that “Changing things exist”, but I doubt very much that Aristotle viewed his experience as “a space-time continuum of change”.) So, that premise is worthless for the purposes of this argument.
Premises (22b) and (23b) are more plausibly viewed as self-evident or at least as having a high degree of obviousness and certainty.  But there is a problem, however, with this argument given this interpretation of Geisler’s premises.  Geisler doesn’t know me, as far as I am aware.  He doesn’t know that I exist.  Although I myself might be fairly confident of the truth of (22b) and (23b),  Geisler has no idea whether those claims are true or false.  So, since he has no knowledge or information relevant to determining whether those premises are true or false, it is obvious that he was NOT asserting the truth of (22b) or (23b) when he presented his argument.  This interpretation is clearly mistaken.
Perhaps Geisler intended that the pronoun “I” be viewed in more general terms, as a sort of placeholder for ANY person.  In that case, we could interpret his premises this way:

22c. Every person is a changing thing.

23c. Every person experiences other changing things in the world.

Whoops!  This immediately gets into dangerous territory for Geisler, because the following argument would then be very tempting to make and accept:

22c. Every person is a changing thing.

25. God is a person (if God exists).

THEREFORE:

26. God is a changing thing (if God exists).

I myself, accept this as a SOUND deductive argument for claim (26).  But Geisler, as a fan of Thomas Aquinas, would firmly reject claim (26).  Thomists also tend to reject claim (25), but Geisler is not a dogmatic Thomist, so he might well accept (25), but then reject (22c) in order to avoid the conclusion that “God is a changing thing (if God exists).”
Because Thomists strongly affirm that God is unchanging and unchangable (in fact this idea is at the heart of the TCA), I think that Geisler would be very reluctant to agree with premise (22c).  But in that case, this third interpretation of the meaning of Geisler’s premises also seems to be a dubious and mistaken interpretation.
I’m now in a bit of a bind.  On the one hand, if we don’t cash out the meaning of the pronoun “I” in Geisler’s key premises, then we cannot determine whether those premises are true or false.  On the other hand, when I try to cash out the meaning of the pronoun “I” significant problems arise, so that either the argument FAILS or it appears to be a mistaken interpretation.  I am not able, so far, to come up with an interpretation that is both a plausible interpretation of what Geisler meant AND an acceptable deductive proof of the conclusion.
Although I cannot reach a definitive evaluation, it appears to me that Geisler’s 1st argument for the conclusion that “Changing things exist” FAILS.  I do not see any plausible interpretation of the premises of this argument on which the argument would constitute an acceptable deductive proof.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 6: More on Something Exists

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  Geisler provides further arguments in PoR for the claim that there are finite, changing things.  But I will get into those further arguments in later posts of this series.
There were eight explicit statements in Geisler’s longer argument, but in attempting to re-construct the logic of his argument it became apparent that the argument contained several logical gaps which needed to be filled by making explicit various unstated assumptions in the argument.  My previous diagram of the resulting re-construction of Geisler’s argument contains seven clarified versions of Geisler’s original statements plus five additional assumptions, required to make the argument logically valid.  Furthermore, when I evaluated a number of the initial sub-arguments in the overall argument, I discovered further logical gaps, and added three more assumptions to my re-construction of this argument.
Here is the logical structure of Geisler’s longer and more complex argument in support of the claim that “Something exists”, including the three additional assumptions (the numbered circles represent explicit statements, and the lettered circles represent unstated assumptions that I made explicit to clarify the argument): 
In my previous evaluation of this longer and more complex argument, I examined each inference and sub-argument, beginning with the inference from (15a) to (H), through the sub-argument with the inference from premises (N) and (14a) to premise (13a).  In this post I will finish evaluating the final premises and inferences of this argument.
My evaluation of the argument so far is that it is clearly UNSUCCESSFUL even though each premise (so far) appears to be TRUE, and each inference (so far) appears to be VALID.  The problem is that premise (J) is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”, which makes premise (K) Less obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion, and the inference from (K) and (M) to (14a) is also not entirely obvious and certain, so by the time we get to premise (14a), that premise is clearly LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  In the case of a deductive proof for a conclusion, the premises of the argument must all be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion in order for the argument to have any significance or value.  So, this longer more complex argument by Geisler FAILS.
I will continue, nevertheless, to evaluate the rest of this longer argument to determine if there are any more problems or weaknesses in the argument.   The next sub-argument to evaluate is this one:

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.

I accept premise (13a) as TRUE, because it appears to be a VALID deductive inference from (N) and (14a) which I accept as TRUE, although (14a) is clearly LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  I accept premise (L) as being obviously TRUE.  So, the remaining question is whether the inference is deductively VALID.  I believe the inference is VALID, but it is not formally VALID.  That is mainly because of the way I formulated the unstated assumption (L).  I could have formulated a supplementary premise in a way that would have made this inference formally VALID:

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

P. IF any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating, THEN all attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

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

The addition of premise (P) turns this sub-argument into a formally VALID deductive inference (called a modus ponens).  The problem is that (P) is not as clearly and obviously true as (L).  I suppose that we can take (L) to be a reason supporting (P), making the truth of (P) more clear and obvious than it would otherwise be, and then (P) makes the sub-argument formally deductively VALID.  I believe that (P) is TRUE, but there is a complexity to (P) that requires some thinking to evaluate it’s truth, and that makes it LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  So, this appears to be a THIRD step-down in the degree of obviousness and certainty that this argument provides relative to the obviousness and certainty of the conclusion (prior to the giving of the argument).
The next inference in the argument is from (17a) to (11a):

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

THEREFORE:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

There are some missing steps of logic here.  The denial of “the existence of everything”, implies the claim that “nothing exists”, so the FALSEHOOD of the denial of “the existence of everything” implies the FALSEHOOD of the claim that “nothing exists”, and if the claim that “nothing exists” is FALSE, then that implies that the claim “something exists” is TRUE.  So we can get from the FALSEHOOD of the denial of “the existence of everything” to the conclusion that “something exists” is TRUE.
However, this inference from (17a) to (11a) is not quite that simple.  It talks about “attempts” by a person “to deny the existence of everything”, not about the denial itself.  It talks about such “attempts” being “self-defeating” as opposed to being FALSE.  Furthermore, the conclusion is not that “something exists”, but that it is “undeniable” that something exists.
In any case, this inference is NOT a formally VALID inference.  There may be a chain of deductive inferences that could link (17a) to (11a), but it is not at all clear what the steps of reasoning would be here.  The main problem is going from the concept of a denial being “self-defeating” to the concept of a claim being “undeniable”.  Geisler has once again introduced a new term in (11a), a term that does NOT appear in the previous premises of the argument.  That messes up the logic of the argument.
Once again, we need a premise that clarifies or defines the new term that Geisler has thrown into the argument: “undeniable”.  I think Geisler was assuming that if the denial of a claim X is self-defeating, then claim X is “undeniable”:

Q. IF the denial of claim X is self-defeating, THEN claim X is undeniable.

THEREFORE:

R. IF the denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating, THEN the claim “Something exists” is undeniable

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

T. The claim “Something exists” is undeniable.

THEREFORE:

 11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

The final inference from (T) to (11a) is still not formally VALID, but it seems so clearly to be logically implied by (T), that I will accept this inference as being a VALID deductive inference.  So, this is how I would repair the inference from (17a) to (11a), except that we still need to show that (17a) logically implies the additional premise (S) above.
I take it that (Q) is a partial stipulative definition of “undeniable”, and is thus TRUE, and I take it that (Q) logically implies (R), so (R) is also clearly and obviously TRUE.  So, the only thing that remains questionable in this revised sub-argument is whether (17a) logically implies premise (S):

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

U. To deny the existence of everything is the same as to deny the claim “Something exists”.

THEREFORE:

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

Premise (U) is obviously and certainly TRUE, and the inference from (17a) and (U) to (S) is VALID, so this sub-argument is SOUND and acceptable.
The final inference in Geisler’s argument is this one:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

As it stands, this inference is NOT formally VALID.  In order to determine whether the inference from (11a) to (18a) is deductively VALID, we need to understand the logical implications of the term “undeniable” in premise (11a).  If a claim is “undeniable”, does that necessarily mean that the claim is TRUE?  We need a clarification or definition of “undeniable” that allows us to bridge the logical gap between premise (11a) and the conclusion (18a):

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

V. IF claim X is undeniable, THEN claim X is true.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

My first inclination is to say that we simply don’t know whether premise (V) is true or false, because we simply don’t know what it MEANS for a claim to be “undeniable”.  But in evaluating an earlier part of this argument, we had to supply a premise that partially defined this term, in order to make one of the inferences in this argument logically valid.  So, here is the premise that we added in order to repair a logical gap in Geisler’s reasoning:

Q. IF the denial of claim X is self-defeating, THEN claim X is undeniable.

But because this was only a partial definition, and because it only stated a sufficient condition for a claim being “undeniable”, this will be of no help for our evaluation of premise (V).
We need to know the logical implications of a claim being “undeniable”, which means we need to know the NECESSARY CONDITIONS for a claim being “undeniable”, not the sufficient conditions.  Specifically, we need to determine whether a claim must be TRUE in order for it to be “undeniable”.  But Geisler gave us no clarification or definition of the term “undeniable”, and the argument up to this point only assumes (Q) which provides us with just a sufficient condition.
Recall that we get to the conclusion that “Something exists” is “undeniable” on the basis of the previous claim that the denial of the claim “Something exists” is “self-defeating”:

R. IF the denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating, THEN the claim “Something exists” is undeniable

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

T. The claim “Something exists” is undeniable.

So, perhaps if we understand what it MEANS for the denial of a claim to be “self-defeating” we could determine whether all such claims must be TRUE.
It is now becoming clear to me that there is an important distinction that we need to keep in mind between “the negation of claim X” and “the denial of claim X by person P”.  On the one hand, the denial of the claim “Something exists” by a person P is “self-defeating” because person P is something that exists.  But this contrasts with the negation of the claim that “Something exists”, which is “It is NOT the case that something exists”, which means the same as “Nothing exists”.
The claim that “Nothing exists,” as Geisler himself points out, is a logical possibility.  It is logically possible for it to be the case that nothing exists.  So, there is no intrinsic logical self-contradiction involved in the statement “Nothing exists”.  The self-defeating aspect of the claim “Nothing exists” occurs only when a PERSON affirms this claim.
In other words, the “undeniable” character of the claim “Something exists” has to do with the existence of a PERSON who either affirms or denies that “Something exists”.  It has nothing to do with the intrinsic logic of the statement “Something exists”.
Therefore, even if we grant the assumption that the claim “Something exists” is “undeniable”, it remains logically possible for the statement “Something exists” to be FALSE.  Therefore, the additional premise required to make the final inference of Geisler’s argument logically VALID is a FALSE premise:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

V. IF claim X is undeniable, THEN claim X is true.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

It is logically possible for the antecedent of (V) to be TRUE, and yet for the consequent to be FALSE.  Premise (V) is thus FALSE, so the final sub-argument in Geisler’s long and complex argument for the conclusion that “Something exists” is an UNSOUND argument!  Therefore, Geisler’s argument for the conclusion “Something exists” clearly and definitely FAILS.
CONCLUSION
This argument is very much like a “Shaggy Dog” joke, where the punchline is really stupid, or where the person telling the joke forgets the punchline after they are already five minutes into telling the joke story-line.
Here is my final diagram of the logical structure of Geisler’s argument for the simple and obviously true conclusion that “Something exists”: 
This argument consists of twenty-two statements, seven of which were explicitly asserted by Geisler (the statements identified with numbers), and fifteen of which were unstated assumptions (the statements identified with letters), plus thirteen inferences (indicated by red arrows).  It should come as no surprise that, given the length and complexity of this argument, some of the premises and inferences in this argument are LESS obvious and/or LESS certain than the obviously true conclusion that “Something exists”.
The final sub-argument involves an unstated assumption that is clearly FALSE, so this final sub-argument is UNSOUND, which means the whole argument FAILS.  But there were also earlier problems with the argument that also make it so this argument FAILS, even if all of the premises of the argument were accepted as TRUE and all of the inferences were accepted as VALID.
Some of the premises and inferences were LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument “Something exists”, and with a deductive proof, ALL of the premises and inferences in the argument need to be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion of the argument (or at least AS obvious and AS certain as the conclusion).  So, even without the FALSE premise in the final sub-argument, this argument still would have FAILED to provide a legitimate proof of the conclusion that “Something exists.”
Specifically, the sub-argument that infers (14a) from premises (K) and (M) has two problems that make it so that premise (14a) is definitely LESS obvious and LESS certain than the claim that “Something exists”.
The truth of (K) is based in part on the previous premise (J) which is LESS obvious and LESS certain than “Something exists”, making (K) similarly LESS obvious and LESS certain than “Something exists”.  Furthermore the VALIDITY of the inference from (K) and (M) to (14a) is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the truth of the claim “Something exists”.  So, the sub-argument supporting (14a) clearly FAILS to make (14a) anything other than LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  Therefore, the problems with this sub-argument for (14a) are also enough all by themselves to make Geisler’s overall argument here FAIL.