bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 1: Defeating an OLD Apologetic Argument

At the NW Miracles Conference, I discussed the question “Is it ever reasonable to believe miracle claims?” with Christian thinker Hans Vodder, who has graduate degrees in both philosophy and theology. We were, however, just the warm-up act for the big closing event of the conference: a debate between Michael Shermer and Luuk van de Weghe about the miracles of Jesus.
Luuk used the very old (ancient?) apologetic argument for the resurrection of Jesus: the apostles were neither deceived nor deceivers. Shermer made a number of good skeptical points in the debate, but he never touched on the main objection that I would have raised against Luuk’s argument: the historical assumptions about the twelve disciples/apostles have no solid basis in historical facts. We know very little about the twelve disciples during the ministry of Jesus, and we know almost nothing about them after the crucifixion of Jesus. Luuk’s apologetic argument rests upon very shaky historical claims.
So, although I would not argue that we KNOW the twelve disciples of Jesus to be deceivers, I think that Luuk and Christian apologists in general, have no solid grounds for a “refutation” of the Conspiracy Theory.  Luuk and other apologists argue that the twelve disciples would not have boldly proclaimed that they had personally witnessed the resurrected Jesus if this were not true, because they suffered martyrdom for preaching this claim.
In order to raise my favored objection against Luuk’s apologetic argument, I plan in future posts to defend the Conspiracy Theory against various objections, namely objections that have been put forward by Peter Kreeft in his Handbook of Christian ApologeticsKreeft’s objections to the Conspiracy Theory can be found at the Strange Notions website.
Kreeft believes there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and the Conspiracy Theory is one of those theories:

bookmark_borderOpening Statement from My Debate with Frank Turek

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


Introduction

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

Definitions

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

First Contention

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

Second Contention

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

Third Contention

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

Physical Matter

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

Success of Science

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

Biological Evolution

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

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

Let’s look very briefly at each of these.

Biogeography

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

Vestigial Organs

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

Natural Selection

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

Embryology

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

Stratified Fossil Record

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

Pain and Pleasure

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

Mind-Brain Dependence

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

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

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

Empathy and Apathy

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

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

and

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

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

Nonresistant Nonbelief

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

Conclusion

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

Notes

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

bookmark_borderHinman’s Replies to My Objections to ABEAN and REMEC

I. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTIONS TO ABEAN
 
A. POSTS IN THIS DEBATE THAT DISCUSS ABEAN:
Joe Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
My Criticism of Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/04/hinmans-abean-argument-part-2-objections-11-1/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/06/hinmans-abean-argument-part-3-objections/
Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His ABEAN Argument
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-defense-of-god-argument-1.html
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god.html
 
B. MY MAIN OBJECTION: ABEAN IS VERY UNCLEAR
My contention is not merely that ABEAN is a bad or defective argument; rather, it is so unclear that it is unworthy of serious consideration.   It cannot be rationally evaluated in its current form, because it is VERY UNCLEAR.
An excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response to my objections to ABEAN [bold font added]:
=========================

The ABEAN Argument is VERY UNCLEAR

The main problem with the ABEAN argument is that it is UNCLEAR.  This is the same problem that I encountered repeatedly in my analysis and evaluation of Norman Geisler’s case for God in his book When Skeptics Ask.  The problem is not so much that ABEAN uses false premises or invalid inferences.  The problem is that nearly every claim in the argument is unclear, making it nearly impossible to rationally evaluate the argument.

what is he calling unclear?: he does not say!!!!

============================
What am I calling unclear?  According to Hinman I don’t say what I’m calling unclear.
This complaint by Hinman is FALSE, as one can see by simply reading the very passage that Hinman just quoted:
…nearly every claim in the argument is unclear…
That is what I am calling unclear.
Since I don’t say that EVERY claim in the argument is unclear, Hinman might think that the expression “nearly every claim” is vague.  But Hinman knows that I have specified exactly which premises were problematic.  Here is another excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response [bold font added]:
============================

I judged premises (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) to be VERY UNCLEAR because they each contain at least two different unclear words or phrases, which Hinman failed to adequately define or explain.

He’s going to repeat the numbers,  He has nothing to say,he has made no argument
============================
Clearly, I have specified exactly which premises are VERY UNCLEAR.    Hinman says that I have “nothing to say” and that I “made no argument”.
Once again, if Hinman had simply read the sentence that he just quoted, he would have known that his reply was FALSE.  Here is my argument, spelled out so that even a child can understand it:

1. IF a claim in ABEAN contains at least two different unclear words or phrases, THEN that claim is VERY UNCLEAR.

2. (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) are claims in the ABEAN argument which contain at least two different unclear words or phrases.

THEREFORE

3. (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) are claims in the ABEAN argument which are VERY UNCLEAR.

This is what we here on planet earth refer to as an “argument”.  The sentence that he just quoted refutes his own complaint.
OK.  I specified exactly which claims in ABEAN were VERY UNCLEAR, and I specified WHY I believe them to be VERY UNCLEAR, but Hinman still might continue to complain: But what exactly about each of those specific claims makes them unclear?
Hinman, however, knows exactly what about those specific claims makes them unclear, because I listed out the specific words and phrases in those claims that are the main cause of the unclarity of ABEAN.   Another excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response shows he was aware of this list [bold font added]:
============================

(2) list of terms he finds unclear
 .
 The unclarity that I based this chart on is the unclarity of the meaning of several problematic words and phrases:
 .
[of course I have defined each of these terms…
============================

Hinman then walks step-by-step through my list of unclear words and phrases from ABEAN.  So, Hinman was perfectly well aware of the exact words and phrases that I believe are unclear and that are the basis for my conclusion that his ABEAN argument is VERY UNCLEAR.  His definitions are, in general,  less clear than the words he attempts to define, and thus they FAIL as definitions.
 
C. TWO EXAMPLES OF HINMAN’S INTELLECTUAL BLINDNESS
I think it is obvious to most readers of my posts and Hinman’s posts about ABEAN, that this argument is unclear and that many words and phrases in this argument are unclear.  But Hinman has some sort of intellectual blindness that prevents him from seeing what is obvious to most of the rest of us, and this blindness comes across loud and clear with his initial comments about two of his unclear terms:
============================

  • naturalistic phenomena
This is obvious,self evident, it;s a common term…
 
[…]
  • temporal
another self evident term that everyone understands…
============================

The meanings of these words are “obvious” and “self-evident”  and “everyone understands” what they mean, according to Hinman.
These are problematic philosophical and theological concepts that REQUIRE clarification and definition.  The fact that Hinman cannot understand this obvious point shows that he is not intellectually ready to argue intelligently for the existence of God, or for any other philosophical claim.
First of all, “naturalistic phenomena” presumably has the same meaning as “natural phenomena”.   We understand the word “natural” in relation to the contrasting word “supernatural”.  These two words represent categories, categories that presumably constitute a dichotomy.  Everything is either natural or supernatural.
I suppose there could be composite things that have both natural components and supernatural components.  Most Christians, for example, believe that humans are composed of a physical (natural) body and a non-physical (supernatural) soul. But human bodies are completely natural things, and human souls are completely supernatural things, so at the level of the basic components that make up human beings, there are no quasi-natural things, and no quasi-supernatural things.
If one does NOT have a clear understanding of what the word “supernatural” means, then one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “natural” means.  But the word “supernatural” is highly problematic, and it should be obvious to anyone with some degree of intellectual sophistication that the meaning of “supernatural” is highly problematic.
We have argued about the meaning of the word “supernatural” on more than one occasion here at The Secular Outpost.  In fact, I and others have argued with Mr. Hinman about the meaning of the word “supernatural” here at The Secular Outpost!  He has no excuse for thinking that the meaning of the word “supernatural” is clear and unproblematic.  Thus, Hinman has no excuse for the idiotic belief that “naturalistic phenomena” is a clear and unproblematic term.
The word “temporal” contrasts, as Hinman himself points out, with the word “eternal”.  Once again, if one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “eternal” means, then one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “temporal” means.  But the word “eternal” is obviously problematic.  First, it is obviously ambiguous between at least two different senses:
DEFINITION 1:
X is eternal IF AND ONLY IF X has always existed in the past, and X exists now, and X will always continue to exist in the future. 
DEFINITION 2:
X is eternal IF AND ONLY IF X exists outside of time.
I suspect that Hinman takes “eternal” to mean something like what it means in DEFINITION 2.  But this understanding of “eternal” is inherently problematic.  DEFINITION 2 is itself unclear and problematic.  What does it mean for something to be “outside of time”?  How can we tell whether or not something is “outside of time”?  Is this idea logically coherent, or does it contain a logical contradiction?
Furthermore, how can something CHANGE if it exists “outside of time”?  If something that exists “outside of time” cannot change, then how can something “outside of time”  communicate with people who are “inside of time”?  How can something “outside of time” make decisions and take actions that affect people who are “inside of time”?  Unless there are clear answers available to such questions, we don’t clearly understand what the word “eternal” (as used by Hinman) means, and thus we don’t understand what the word “temporal” means either.
This is NOT the sort of thing I expect to have to explain to an intellectually sophisticated person.  These points should be obvious to anyone who has some degree of intellectual sophistication in matters of theology and philosophy of religion.  Hinman’s inability to see and understand these obvious points is astounding to me.
The meanings of these words and phrases are NOT “self-evident” nor are they “obvious” nor are they words that “everyone understands”.  Such comments reflect the thinking of a person who is lacking in intellectual sophistication, of a person who is not yet ready to present an intelligent argument for the existence of God.
I am not going to bother addressing all of the various points Hinman raises about my list of unclear words and phrases, nor about my objections to some of the specific claims in ABEAN.   My main objection to ABEAN stands firm, and Hinman’s responses to my main objection are pathetic: he doesn’t understand my objection because he is clueless about what it means for a word or phrase to be CLEAR.
ABEAN is a VERY UNCLEAR argument, and that made the argument Dead On Arrival, and unworthy of serious consideration.  Those who are intellectually capable of understanding my  objections will be persuaded by them and will not find anything of significance and substance in Hinman’s many and various responses to my objections.  The ABEAN argument was DOA when Hinman first presented it, and it remains cold and dead, despite Hinman’s long-winded posts attempting to resuscitate it.
 
II. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTIONS TO REMEC
 
A. POSTS IN THIS DEBATE THAT DISCUSS REMEC:
Joe Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
My Criticism of Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/21/hinmans-remec-argument/
Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His REMEC Argument
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/debate-existence-of-god-round-ii.html
 
B. MY THREE MAIN OBJECTIONS TO REMEC
OBJECTION #1:
Neither God nor existence are mentioned ANYWHERE in REMEC.
OBJECTION #2:
The central concept of REMEC (i.e. “religious experience”) is left UNDEFINED and VERY UNCLEAR.
OBJECTION #3:
The contents of the key epistemic criteria upon which REMEC is based are left UNSPECIFIED.
 
C. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTION #1
Hinman has nothing intelligent to say in reply to my Objection #1.
So, I will simply re-state the objection in a way that even a child could understand.
Hinman’s REMEC Argument:
(1) we trust perceptions that work for us in navigating the world
(2) we judge by criteria Regular, Consistent, Shared (inter-subjective)
(3) RE fits this criteria
(4 ) enables “navigation” (the point of the criteria)
(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative
The conclusion of this argument is claim (5):

  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (5).

Claims (1) through (4) are the premises of the REMEC argument:

  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (1).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (2).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (3).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (4).

Now I will draw an inference that even a child could understand and follow:
There is NO MENTION OF GOD ANYWHERE in the REMEC argument.
The REMEC argument is about “religious experience”; it is NOT an argument about God, and therefore it is NOT an argument about the existence of God.
NOTE:
If Hinman had provided an actual definition of “religious experience”, he could have defined it as an “experience that seems to the experiencer to be of the presence or activity of God.”  (I believe William Alston has a definition along those lines).  In that way, he could have linked the concept of “religious experience” directly to the concept of “God”. I would have objected to such a definition, but it would have at least created a logical connection between claim (5) and the issue of the existence of God. But Hinman failed to provide a legitimate definition of “religious experience”, so no such conceptual connection was established.
 
D. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTION #2
REPLY #1:
No, first of all I said religious experience (RE) is the umbrella term.
Saying that “religious experience” is an “umbrella term” fails to clarify the meaning of this phrase. Hinman considers “mystical experience” to be one kind of “religious experience” and that there are other kinds of “religious experience”. I am aware of that, and my objection showed that I was aware of that. But that does almost nothing to define the term “religious experience”.
REPLY #2:
Secondly, the charge that I’m being unclear is empirically disproved because there is a huge body of academic work from which I researched to write my book.
This is completely irrelevant. Even if we grant the assumption that “there is a huge body of academic work” that is considered in Hinman’s book, this has no relevance to the clarity or lack of clarity in his blog post where he presents the REMEC argument. Hinman’s book might be filled with dozens of crystal clear arguments and definitions, but that doesn’t show that his blog post is clear, and it certainly does not in any way show that he clearly defined the key concept in REMEC (which is “religious experience”) in his blog posts in this debate.
REPLY #3:
Bowen refers to the problem of other kinds of experiences being called RE, yes that is why I called RE an “umbrella term” but ME (mystical experience)is very specific and clear. It’s clear in it’s definition we know exactly what is produced and how to determine a valid mystical experience.
Hinman then quotes various definitions and explanations of the term “mystical experience”. This is, once again, irrelevant to my objection, which is that the phrase “religious experience” is the key concept in the REMEC argument, and that Hinman failed to clearly define what this phrase means. The conclusion of the REMEC argument is this:
(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative
There is no mention of “mystical experience” in the conclusion of REMEC. The conclusion is NOT about “mystical experience”; it is about “RE” which is an abbreviation for “religious experience”. Therefore, this argument is about “religious experience”, but Hinman failed to provide a clear definition of this key concept. Hinman literally does not know what he is talking about.
Hinman’s replies above to my objection are all irrelevant to the objection. Saying that “religious experience” is an “umbrella term” fails to provide any significant information about what this phrase means. The alleged massive academic content and merits of Hinman’s book are completely irrelevant to the question of whether his blog post on REMEC is clear, and is certainly irrelevant to whether or not his blog post provided a clear definition of the key phrase “religious experience”. Finally, even if we grant the claim that Hinman clearly defined “mystical experience” in his blog post, the REMEC argument is NOT about “mystical experience”; it is about “religious experience”, and providing a clear definition of “mystical experience” is obviously NOT the same as providing a clear definition of “religious experience”.
Hinman has completely failed to provide a relevant reply to my Objection #2.
 
E. HINMAN’S REPLY TO MY OBJECTION #3:
====================
The criteria is what we use to determine the reliability of our experiences and perceptions, Thomas Reid suggests that criteria, true he does not use the phrases “regular,” “constant.” and “shared,” but the process he describes is best summarize in that way,he gives three examples:
(1)A solider on the battlefield notices all those stuck with bayonets tend to die so he does not ask bunch of Cartesian questions about reality while waiting to be stabbed he get’s out of the way;
(2) A man making love to a woman does not stop in the middle to quiz her about the reality of her existence,
(3) Common people living their lives going about their tasks don’t refrain from putting bread on the table until they they sort out the epistemology,even Descartes waited for retirement.
=========================
Examples are often helpful in explaining or clarifying a general principle, but it is very sad that Hinman takes the giving of these three examples to be sufficient to specify the content of his three key epistemic principles. This illustrates the unclarity and confusion that buzzes around inside of Hinman’s head.
Providing one example of a principle doesn’t even come close to specifying the actual contents of the principle. The fact that Hinman confuses the giving of an example with the clear statement of an epistemic principle is, by itself, sufficient to firmly establish the correctness of my Objection #3.  Given that the above UNCLEAR CRAP is what we get when Hinman has a second opportunity to clearly state his key epistemic principles, I strongly suspect that Hinman is not intellectually sophisticated enough to provide a clear statement of any epistemic principle.
Hinman’s pathetic second attempt at specifying the content of his key epistemic criteria shows that the answer to the question “Where’s the beef?” is: There ain’t any beef here!  Underneath all the bullshit that Hinman spews in the REMEC argument is just more bullshit, more confusion, more unclarity.
All three of my main objections to REMEC stand firm, and each one is sufficient by itself to justify my view that REMEC was Dead On Arrival, and that REMEC is not merely a defective argument, but is an argument that is not worthy of serious consideration.
NOTE:
This is my last and final post on the ABEAN and REMEC arguments (Thank you Jesus!).

bookmark_borderHinman’s REMEC Argument: DOA

Joe Hinman has (allegedly) posted a second argument for the “existence of God”:
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
Although Hinman believes that the claim “God exists” is NOT literally true (but is only “metaphorically true”, whatever that means), he has included the phrase “existence of God” in the title of this latest post, implying that his second argument is an argument in support of the existence of God:
Bowen-Hinman Debate (Existence of God) my argument 2
But his second argument is NOT an argument for the existence of God, nor for the “reality of God” (whatever that means), nor for the rationality of “belief in God” (whatever he means by that phrase).
Rather, Hinman’s second argument, which I call REMEC (Religious Experience Meets Epistemic Criteria), is an argument for an UNCLEAR claim about the UNCLEAR notion of “religious experience”, and so Hinman has attempted to pull a huge bait-and-switch move, and has failed to even attempt to argue for the existence (or reality) of God.
HINMAN’S REMEC ARGUMENT

(1) we trust perceptions that work for us in navigating the world

(2) we judge by criteria Regular, Consistent, Shared (inter-subjective)

(3) RE fits this criteria

(4 ) enables “navigation” (the point of the criteria) 

(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative

 

 REMEC IS DEAD ON ARRIVAL

You can tell that this is NOT an argument for the existence of God by the fact that the word “existence” (or “exists”) does not appear in the conclusion, and because the word “God” does not appear in the conclusion.  Furthermore, the word “existence”, and the word “exists”, and the word “God” do not appear in any of the premises of this argument!!  Because the words “God” and “existence” and “exists” appear nowhere in this argument, I judge this argument, which was supposed to be an argument for the “existence of God”, to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL, just like the first argument (the ABEAN argument) that was presented by Hinman.
There is nothing so sad and so pathetic as an argument for the “existence of God” that never once mentions God or existence.  An argument for the existence of God cannot possibly FAIL any faster or more completely than such an argument.  It is the all-too-common presentation of such sad and pathetic arguments for God that convinces me that theism is unworthy of belief.  Norman Geisler’s pathetic case for God by itself is sufficient to warrant serious doubt about the existence of God.  Hinman’s pathetic ABEAN and REMEC arguments provide more reason for skepticism about God.
I’m tempted to say that the REMEC argument is a SPODS (a Steaming Pile of Dog Shit), but some of the readers and contributors here at The Secular Outpost do not like me to make such harsh criticisms, so I will refrain from doing so now.  However, I will be making some strong criticisms of this so-called “argument”.
Like the ABEAN argument, REMEC is VERY UNCLEAR, too unclear to seriously and rationally evaluate.  Because this is NOT an argument for the existence of God, and because this argument is VERY UNCLEAR,  I’m not going to attempt to evaluate the truth of the premises or the logic of the argument.  I’m just going to point out problems of unclarity, and hope that someday Mr. Hinman will learn how to present a clear and intelligent argument for his views.
PREMISE (1) IS VERY UNCLEAR
“We trust perceptions that…”
What does the word “trust” mean in this premise?  There is no definition or explanation by Hinman of what this means, but it is crucial for the success of this argument that we know precisely what “trust” means in this premise.
What does the word “perceptions” mean in this premise?  Is it possible to “perceive” something that does not exist?  If it is not possible to perceive something that is non-existent, then the use of the word “perception” is question begging in this context.
that work for us in navigating the world”
What does this phrase mean?  This is a very vague idea.  Miracle diets and bogus natural remedies are sold to millions of naive consumers on the basis of testimonials about how some powder, elixir, or pills are ones  “that work for us”.  I wouldn’t spend one nickel on such bogus products without a good deal more clarity and specificity than that.  The phrase “navigating the world” is more poetry than science, and is hardly the sort of phrase that allows for confident judgments and conclusions, apart from provision of a definition or a clear explanation of this concept.
PREMISE (2) IS VERY UNCLEAR
“we judge by…”
This is a very sloppy start to this sentence.  What Himan means here is this:
We judge some unspecified aspect of religious experience by…
Some aspect of religious experience is apparently going to be evaluated, but the aspect is left unspecified, making this sentence UNCLEAR.
Furthermore the concept of “religious experience” is problematic, so this phrase is in need of definition or clarification.  Hinman makes an attempt to clarify the meaning of this problematic phrase:
RE: Religious Experience. umbrella term including mystical experience, born again experience and others.
Hinman gives us one general category of religious experience (i.e. “mystical experience”) and one specific type of religious experience (i.e. “born again experience”), and then adds the open-ended phrase “and others”.
This is NOT a definition of “religious experience”.  Hinman leaves us completely in the dark as to WHY “mystical experience” and “born again experience” should both be categorized as “religious experiences” and as to WHY we should treat these two kinds of experiences as being similar or related to each other.
Furthermore, the addition of the phrase “and others” leaves the door open to a wide variety of other kinds of experiences being categorized as “religious experiences” even though we have been given NO HINT as to how to determine whether some specific experience is or is not properly considered to be a “religious experience”.
So, Hinman leaves the central concept of this argument, namely “religious experience”, VERY UNCLEAR.  This gives us sufficient reason to declare REMEC to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL, even if we ignore the fact that REMEC is clearly NOT an argument for the existence of God in the first place.
According to Hinman, some unspecified aspect of “religious experience” (whatever that means) is to be evaluated in terms of
“...criteria Regular, Consistent, Shared…”
But Hinman makes no attempt to define or clarify what these “criteria” consist of, and that makes an already UNCLEAR premise VERY UNCLEAR, because he is now basing his argument on a set of UNSPECIFIED criteria.  There is a footnote attached to this premise, and so I expected to find some definition or clarification of these UNSPECIFIED criteria in the article that the footnote pointed to:
hume.ucdavis.edu/mattey/phi102kl/tkch4.htm
I took a look at this article and discovered the following important facts about it:

  • There is NO MENTION OR USE  of the word “regular” in this article.
  • There is NO MENTION OR USE of the word “consistent” in this article.
  • There is NO MENTION OR USE of the word “shared” in this article.

In other words, not only is Hinman too intellectually lazy to provide clarification of these key “criteria” in his presentation of REMEC,  but he sends us on a wild goose chase to read a long article on epistemology that does not mention or use any of the words Hinman uses to specify his key epistemological criteria!  If these criteria are false or faulty, then Hinman’s REMEC argument FAILS.  But we have no way to evaluate these epistemic criteria because Hinman doesn’t bother to spell out any of his epistemic criteria.
This failure to specify the epistemic criteria upon which REMEC is based is sufficient reason by itself to judge REMEC to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL, and to declare premise (2) to be VERY UNCLEAR.
THREE STRIKES, SO HINMAN’S REMEC ARGUMENT IS OUT
Given that Hinman’s REMEC argument never mentions God or existence, and given that Hinman fails to define the central concept of the REMEC argument (i.e. “religious experience”), and given that Hinman fails to specify the content of the three key epistemic criteria, upon which REMEC is based, we now have three good reasons to declare REMEC to be DEAD ON ARRIVAL:

  • Neither God nor existence are mentioned ANYWHERE in REMEC
  • The central concept of REMEC (i.e. “religious experience”) is left UNDEFINED and VERY UNCLEAR
  • The contents of the key epistemic criteria upon which REMEC is based are left UNSPECIFIED

There is no point in me continuing my critique of REMEC.  It is a sad and pathetic bit of reasoning that is VERY UNCLEAR and that fails to address the main question at issue. I will not waste another minute of my time examining and thinking about this argument.
As with Norman Geisler’s sad and pathetic and VERY UNCLEAR case for God, Hinman’s arguments provide us with a good reason for skepticism about the existence of God.  Theists have had thousands of years to perfect their case(s) for God, and yet it is all-too-common to find really bad arguments and cases for God, even by educated people who ought to know better than to present such crap to the public.

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN & REMEC Arguments: INDEX

1. Joe Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
2. My Criticism of Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/04/hinmans-abean-argument-part-2-objections-11-1/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/06/hinmans-abean-argument-part-3-objections/
3. Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His ABEAN Argument
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-defense-of-god-argument-1.html
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god.html
4. Joe Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
5. My Criticism of Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/21/hinmans-remec-argument/
6. Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His REMEC Argument
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/debate-existence-of-god-round-ii.html
7. My Rebuttal to Hinman’s Replies to My Objections about ABEAN and REMEC arguments
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/08/05/hinmans-replies-objections-abean-remec/

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 3: More Objections

ABEAN Contains Twelve Statements
Although I cannot provide a comprehensive critique of Hinman’s ABEAN argument in just two blog posts (of reasonable length),  I can at least briefly touch on each of the dozen statements in that argument.
[NOTE: ABEAN is an acronym that refers to the claim that “some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary”.]
The statements in ABEAN are numbered (1) through (11), but there is an additional statement that Hinman should have made, but that he did not make clearly and explicitly.  There is a little bit of text in brackets following premise (4):
[=GOB]
There is a similar notation following premise (6):
[=SON]
The notation following premise (6) merely indicates an acronym that will be used as shorthand for the phrase “a Sense Of the Numinous”, a term that was already being used in premise (6).  So, the notation following (6) does not assert anything or add anything to (6).
However, the notation following premise (4) asserts a substantive claim, which Hinman ought to have spelled out as a separate premise:
(A) The Ground of Being is identical with any aspect of being that is eternal and necessary.
The notation “[=GOB]” does NOT merely specify an acronym for a term already present in the argument; rather, it introduces a new and additional concept into the argument, a concept that is very unclear.  Since premise (A) includes at least three unclear terms (“The Ground of Being”, “any aspect of being that is…”, and  “eternal”), I judge this premise to be VERY unclear.
 
The ABEAN Argument is VERY UNCLEAR
The main problem with the ABEAN argument is that it is UNCLEAR.  This is the same problem that I encountered repeatedly in my analysis and evaluation of Norman Geisler’s case for God in his book When Skeptics Ask.  The problem is not so much that ABEAN uses false premises or invalid inferences.  The problem is that nearly every claim in the argument is unclear, making it nearly impossible to rationally evaluate the argument.
In my view, ten out of the twelve statements that make up ABEAN are VERY UNCLEAR.  Only one statement in ABEAN is clear, and there is one statement that is somewhat unclear (but less than very unclear).  So, in my view, more than 80% of the statements in ABEAN are VERY UNCLEAR, and less than 10% of the statements in ABEAN are clear (only 1 statement out of 12).  Given the prevalence of VERY UNCLEAR statements, it is reasonable to characterize the whole argument as being VERY UNCLEAR, and thus for all practical intents and purposes it is impossible to rationally evaluate ABEAN.  As it stands, ABEAN is little more than a heap of words without much intellectual or philosophical significance.
If Mr. Hinman were to provide clear definitions for the many problematic words and phrases in his ABEAN argument, then it would be possible to rationally evaluate this argument, but I suspect that if he could have provided such definitions then he would have done so already.  So, I’m doubtful that he will be providing clear definitions for all of the many problematic words and phrases in ABEAN.
Here is my view of the general unclarity of Hinman’s ABEAN argument (click on image below for a better view of the chart):
ABEAN CLARITY TABLE
 
 
 
 
 
The unclarity that I based this chart on is the unclarity of the meaning of several problematic words and phrases:

  • naturalistic phenomena
  • temporal
  • some aspect of being
  • eternal
  • the Ground of Being
  • being itself
  • a sense of the numinous
  • God (Hinman has an idiosyncratic understanding of this word)
  • the transcendental signified
  • universal truth at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy
  • believing in… (Hinman has an idiosyncratic understanding of this phrase)

The terms “necessary” and “contingent” are also problematic words, but Hinman provides fairly clear definitions of these two words, which in turn made it possible for me to evaluate the inference from premises (1) and (4) to premise (5) as being an INVALID inference (see Part 2 of this series).  The one time that Hinman provides clear definitions, makes it clear that ABEAN is a bad argument.  This is why, I suspect, that Geisler and Hinman are so unclear and fuzzy-headed when they argue for God.  When they think and reason clearly, their arguments for God fall apart.
I judged premises (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) to be VERY UNCLEAR because they each contain at least two different unclear words or phrases, which Hinman failed to adequately define or explain.
I judged premise (6) to be UNCLEAR, but not to be VERY UNCLEAR, because of the use of the phrase “a sense of the numinous” in that premise.  Given the subjective nature of that concept, it would be difficult for anyone to provide a clear definition of that phrase, and Hinman did make a brief attempt to provide some clarification of this term, but his attempt was inadequate in my judgment.  As it stands, this phrase is too vague to allow one to make a rational evaluation of the truth or falsehood of premises (7) or (8) with any degree of confidence.
 
How Many Possible Interpretations are there of ABEAN?
The easiest sort of unclarity to fix is ambiguity.  There are eight different unclear words or phrases used in ABEAN. (NOTE: some of the unclear words and phrases in the list above are not used in the ABEAN argument, but are used in definitions of terms.)  Most of these unclear words or phrases have MANY different possible meanings, not just two.  So, most of these unclear words or phrases have a more serious problem than that of being ambiguous between two alternative meanings.
But, for the sake of illustration, let’s assume that all eight unclear words or phrases each have only two alternative meanings.  Let’s also assume that these words or phrases are consistently used with the same meaning in all premises where they occur.  How many different possible interpretations of ABEAN would there be, based on those assumptions?  There would be 2 to the 8th power different interpretations of ABEAN:
2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 =  4 x 4 x 4 x 4 = 16 x 16 = 256 Different Possible Interpretations
There are well over two hundred different possible interpretations of ABEAN if the unclear words and phrases in the argument each have only two possible meanings.  But most of the unclear words and phrases have a more serious problem of unclarity than this, so it would not be unreasonable to estimate that there is an average of three different possible meanings for each of the unclear words and phrases.  How many possible interpretations of ABEAN would there be on that assumption?  There would be 3 to the 8th power different interpretations of ABEAN:
3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 =  9 x 9 x 9 x 9 =  81 x 81 = 6,561 Different Possible Interpretations
Given these two estimates of the number of different possible interpretations of ABEAN, it is reasonable to conclude that it is very likely that there are more than 200 but less than 7,000 different possible interpretations of ABEAN.   So, I would need at least 200 blog posts to adequately evaluate all of the various possible interpretations of ABEAN.  Not gonna happen.  Wouldn’t be prudent.  I have better things to do with my time.
 
One Premise in ABEAN is OK
I’m OK with premise (3):
3. Something did not come from nothing.
The wording and clarity could be slightly improved:
3a. It is NOT the case that something came from nothing.
I accept this premise as true, although I’m not entirely certain that it is true.  I think it is based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and I’m inclined to accept that principle (i.e. “Every event has an explanation.”)
 
A Couple of Other Problems with ABEAN
I have many objections and concerns about ABEAN in addition to the basic problem of unclear words and phrases.   But I will just mention two of those problems here.  One objection concerns the statement that Hinman failed to make clearly and explicitly:
(A) The Ground of Being is identical with any aspect of being that is eternal and necessary.
Premise (4) asserts that “Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.”  The word “some” is ambiguous here, just like the word “something” as used by Aquinas and by Geisler in their arguments for God.  What premise (4) actually means is this:
4a.  Some aspect or aspects of being are eternal and necessary.
There is no reason or justification given for limiting the relevant aspects to just ONE aspect.  So, we have, yet again, an ambiguity in quantification that leads to confusion and illogical inferences.  If there are many aspects of being, and if more than one aspect of being is eternal and necessary, then that casts doubt on premise (A).  If there are multiple aspects of being that are eternal and necessary, then it is doubtful that we ought to identify “the Ground of Being” with that collection of aspects.
This is particularly the case if an “aspect” of being is an individual thing or event.  The concept of an “aspect of being” is VERY UNCLEAR, so it is not at all obvious that we can rule out the possibility that individual things or events could count as aspects of being.  Clearly, Mr. Hinman would NOT accept the idea that “the Ground of Being” is composed of various individual things or events (that would lead us in the direction of Polytheism or Pantheism), so the identification of “the Ground of Being” with “some aspect or aspects of being” might well turn out to be an incoherent claim, a claim that contradicts the implications of Hinman’s concept of “the Ground of Being”.
This is one more example that illustrates the need for clear definitions of problematic words and phrases such as “an aspect of being” and “the Ground of Being”.  Without such definitions, we may well be stumbling over various logical errors and incoherent claims.
I also have a problem with premise (9):
9. GOB = God.
First of all, this premise needs to be spelled out in a clear sentence of English:
9a. The Ground of Being is identical with God.
Although Hinman fails to provide a clear definition of “the Ground of Being” or of the word “eternal”, I strongly suspect that by “eternal” he means “outside of time”, and it is clear that Hinman believes “the Ground of Being” to be “eternal”.  Given these assumptions, it follows that “the Ground of Being” cannot change.
But God is a person, or at least a being with personal characteristics like “can think”, “can communicate”, “can make choices”, and “can perform actions”.  But only a being that can change can have such personal characteristics.  Therefore, given the assumption that “the Ground of Being” is something that is “outside of time” it follows that “the Ground of Being” is NOT identical with God.  Premise (9) appears to be false.
So, premise (A) might well, for all we know, be an incoherent statement, and premise (9) appears to be false.

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 2: Objections to (11) and (1)

I. The Conclusion of the ABEAN Argument is UNCLEAR.
(ABEAN is an acronym for: “some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary”, which is premise (4) of Hinman’s argument.)
The first thing that I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Here is the conclusion of Hinman’s ABEAN argument:
11. Therefore, some people are warranted in believing in God.
This might not seem to be unclear at first glance, but the meaning of the phrase “believing in God” is indeed unclear.  One might think this means “believing that God exists”, but Hinman apparently does NOT believe that it is literally true that “God exists” (this is only metaphorically true in Hinman’s view), so this otherwise plausible interpretation of (11) is presumably incorrect.
The biggest problem here, though, is that Hinman defines the word “God” in a way that makes this concept completely unclear and obscure:
God: The transcendental signified, Universal truth at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy
If you want to make an already unclear concept even more unclear, then there is no better way to make things murky and incomprehensible than to go fishing around in the sewer consisting of the writings of the literary theorist Jacques Derrida.  If you aren’t familiar with Derrida’s notion of the “transcendental signified” don’t worry,  I found this brief and very helpful explanation that is sure to give you a firm grasp of this concept:
Upholding the notion of decentering, Derrida asserts that a “fixed” structure is a myth, and that all structures desire “immobility” beyond free play, which is impossible. The assumption of a centre expresses the desire for a “reassuring certitude” which stands beyond the subversive or threatening reach of any play which might disrupt the structure. The centre, that which gives stability, unity and closure to the structure, can be conceived as an “origin”, or a “purpose” — terms which invoke the notion of presence or logos that guarantee such stability and closure.
Now that we are all straight about what Derrida means by the “transcendental signified”, is anyone interested in buying a bottle of my Dr. B’s Amazing Elixir?  It cures baldness, AIDS,  acne, indigestion, and all forms of cancer, and I only charge $50.00 for an eight ounce bottle of it.  What a bargain, right?
I swear to GOB that I did not make up the above quoted paragraph.  You can read it for yourself on the LITERARY THEORY AND CRITICISM NOTES web page.  WARNING: The bullshit is so deep on that page, that you may want to put on a pair of hip waders before clicking on the link.
In short, I have no clue what Joe Hinman means by  the phrase “believe in God”.  I seriously doubt that Hinman has much of a clue either, and I would rather not immerse my mind into the raw sewage that spews out of the books and articles of many modern literary theorists, especially NOT those by Derrida.  So, the ABEAN argument as it stands is DOA.  It has no clear and intelligible conclusion.
The ABEAN argument is a FAILURE even before I examine any premises or any inferences in the argument. An argument cannot possibly FAIL any faster than this one has.
II.  Various Problems with Premise (1) of the ABEAN Argument
Since I have no clue what the conclusion of ABEAN asserts,  I’m just going to start from the start, and work my way through the argument, step-by-step, noting any problems I discover along the way.
The first premise of the argument, like the conclusion, is unclear, at least initially:
1. All naturalistic phenomena are contingent and temporal.
In a philosophical argument, when there is a premise of the form “ALL Xs  ARE Ys”, a premise that is a universal generalization, one needs to determine whether this is supposed to be an inductive generalization based on experience, or (alternatively) an a priori claim.  If it is supposed to be an a priori claim, then is it an analytic truth (like “All triangles have three sides”) or  some other sort of a priori claim (like a synthetic a priori claim)?  More on this point later.
All three concepts in this premise are unclear, at least initially: “naturalistic phenomena”, “contingent”, and “temporal”.
However, Hinman does provide a fairly clear definition of the characteristic of being “contingent”:
Contingency:  That which can cease or might have failed to exist.
The characteristic of being “contingent” contrasts with the characteristic of being “necessary”:
Necessity: That which cannot cease or fail to exist.
Here are standard-form definitions of “contingent” and “necessary”, based on what Hinman says about these concepts:

DEFINITION OF “CONTINGENT”:

X is contingent IF AND ONLY IF either (a) X can cease to exist, or (b) X can fail to exist.

DEFINITION OF “NECESSARY”:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF either (a) X cannot cease to exist, or (b) X cannot fail to exist.

These two concepts are supposed to create a dichotomy, a set of two categories which are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive of all possibilities.  But Hinman’s definitions do NOT create a dichotomy.  That is because something can “fail to exist” that cannot “cease to exist”. (There may be other problems as well.  This is just the problem that I noticed right away.)
For example,  a four-sided triangle CAN “fail to exist” (since it is impossible for such a thing to exist), but a four-sided triangle CANNOT “cease to exist” (because it can never exist–not even for a fraction of a second–it can never cease to exist).  Based on Hinman’s definition of “contingent”, a four-sided triangle is “contingent” because it CAN “fail to exist”.  Based on Hinman’s definition of “necessary”, a four-sided triangle is “necessary” because it CANNOT “cease to exist”.  Thus, based on Hinman’s definitions, a four-sided triangle is BOTH “contingent” AND “necessary”.  Therefore, the categories of “necessary” and “contingent” do NOT constitute a dichotomy.  These two categories overlap each other; they are NOT mutually exclusive concepts.
The fact that something is contingent, therefore, does NOT imply that it is not necessary.  The fact that something is necessary, does NOT imply that it is not contingent.  Thus, even if I granted, for the sake of argument, that ALL “naturalistic phenomena” were contingent, that does NOT imply that no “naturalistic phenomena” are necessary.  Given Hinman’s definitions, these categories are NOT mutually exclusive, so the fact that something falls into one category does NOT exclude the possibility that it ALSO falls into the other category.
Hinman’s inference from premise (1) and premise (4) to the sub-conclusion (5) is logically invalid, because this inference ASSUMES that the categories of “contingent” and “necessary” constitute a dichotomy, that they are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive, but this assumption is FALSE, so the the inference to (5) is INVALID.
What does Hinman mean by the term “temporal”?  The category of “temporal” contrasts with the category of “eternal”.  Once again, it appears that Hinman takes these two concepts to be a dichotomy, to be mutually exclusive categories, and to be jointly exhaustive categories.
But Hinman fails to provide a definition of either “temporal” or “eternal”, so we have no reasonable way to determine whether these concepts really do constitute a dichotomy, or if Hinman is just as confused in this case as he was in the case of the false dichotomy between “contingent” and “necessary”.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  We should presume that Hinman is just as confused and unclear about this set of categories as we have seen him to be about the previous set of categories.  Unless and until he puts forward clear definitions of “temporal” and “eternal”, we should remain doubtful about the assumption that these concepts constitute a dichotomy, and thus we should remain doubtful about any inferences that Hinman makes based on either of these UNCLEAR concepts.
What does Hinman mean by the phrase “naturalistic phenomena”?  This phrase is obviously problematic and in need of clarification.  Hinman does discuss this concept, but does NOT provide a clear definition of this term.  What he says is summed up in this one sentence:
Thus I equate naturalistic with nature and nature with S/TC and phyiscal [sic] law. 
(S/TC  means: Space/Time Continuum)
The term “nature” is hardly much clearer than “naturalistic” and reference to the space/time continuum and physical law might provide a clue about what he means, but this is an inadequate clarification of a key concept in the argument.  Without providing a clear definition of this key term, I don’t see how anyone can rationally evaluate premise (1) as being true or false.
One might assume that because this sounds like other cosmological arguments, that this argument is based on an empirical claim, and that premise (1) is at least one of the empirical claims in this argument.  However, Hinman makes a comment that casts doubt on that reasonable assumption:
The very concept of nature is that of a contingent temporal realm. 
This comment comes very close to asserting that premise (1) is an analytic truth, and thus NOT an empirical claim.  So, Hinman needs to be clearer on this crucial point.  Is premise (1) to be interpreted as an inductive generalization based on experience? or is it an a priori claim?  If it is an a priori claim, then is it supposed to be an analytic truth? or some other kind of a priori claim?  This is yet another problem that makes premise (1) an UNCLEAR statement.  We need to know what sort of claim it is, in order to properly evaluate this claim.  But it is less than clear whether this is supposed to be an empirical claim or an a priori claim.
Premise (1) is hopelessly unclear and confused.  The meaning of the word “contingent” is clear, but is confused, because Hinman mistakenly believes that the categories of “contingent” and “necessary” constitute a dichotomy.  Because of this confusion, the inference from (1) and (4) to (5) is INVALID.  The meaning of the word “temporal” is unclear, because this is a problematic word that is left undefined.  The meaning of the phrase “naturalistic phenomena” is unclear as well.  Hinman makes an effort at clarifying the meaning of this phrase, but his effort falls short; he needs to provide a clear definition of this problematic phrase.  There is also some ambiguity as to the type of claim that Hinman intends to be making.  Is this premise an empirical claim or is it an a priori claim?
III. A Counter Argument from a Skeptical Point of View
Hinman has taken on the burden of proof, which is as things should be.  I made no promise to put forward an argument against the existence of God.  However, in reflecting on the ABEAN argument, I do have some thoughts that constitute an alternative way of thinking about the alleged “contingency” of the universe or of natural phenomena, so I’m going to give Hinman (and the other readers of this post) something to consider (and to criticize) other than my objections to his ABEAN argument:

1. A true explanation of an event requires a true claim of the form “A change in X caused a change in Y”.

2. The Big Bang can be thought of as an event, as “a change in Y”.

3. There is a true explanation for every event, including the Big Bang.

THEREFORE:

4. The Big Bang was caused by a “change in X”, by a change in something. (from 1, 2, and 3)

 5. God, if God exists, is eternal (meaning “God is outside of time”).

 6. Something can undergo change ONLY IF it exists in time.

THEREFORE:  

7. God, if God exists, cannot undergo change. (from 5 and 6)

8. God caused the Big Bang ONLY IF God can undergo change. (from 4)

THEREFORE:

9. It is NOT the case that God caused the Big Bang. (from 7 and 8)

Another way of expressing basically the same point is that the mere existence of God is NOT sufficient to explain the coming into existence of the universe.  There must be an EVENT that caused the universe to come into existence.  If God caused the universe to come into existence, then God did this by creating the universe, by willing the universe to come into existence.  But “creating” and “willing” are activities that require God to undergo change.  So, God CANNOT be the cause of the coming into existence of the universe unless God can undergo change.
But Hinman’s concept of God, as with Norman Geisler and Thomas Aquinas, is that God is outside of time and completely unchanging.  Hinman’s God, and the God of Geisler and of Aquinas, does NOT exist, because their concept of God is incoherent, it contains a logical contradiction: “God caused the universe to begin to exist AND God cannot undergo change”.
NOTE:
There are many more premises and inferences to analyze and evaluate in Hinman’s ABEAN argument, and I’m fairly certain that I will not be able to get to all of the remaining premises and inferences in my next post on ABEAN.  I have agreed to limit myself to just two posts containing my initial objections to ABEAN, so I do not expect my critique to be comprehensive.  However, there are enough problems with just the conclusion and the first premise to sink this argument, so I expect that a second post will be more than enough to justify rejection of the ABEAN argument.

bookmark_borderHinman’s Opening Argument for God

Joe Hinman has published his opening argument for God on his blog site:
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
Here is his argument in summary form:

1. All naturalistic phenomena are contingent and temporal.
2. Either some aspect of being is eternal and necessary unless or something came from nothing (creation ex nihilo)
3. Something did not come from nothing.
4. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary [=GOB]. (from 2,and 3)
5. Some aspect of being does not consist of naturalistic phenomena. (from 1 and 4)
6. Some people experience a sense of the numinous [=SON].
7. The SON is not evoked by any naturalistic phenomena.
8. The SON experienced by some people is evoked by GOB.
9. GOB = God.
10. If 8 and 9, then some people are warranted in believing in God.
11. Therefore, some people are warranted in believing in God. (from 8, 9, and 10)

In future posts I will refer to this as Hinman’s ABEAN argument (some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary).

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 1: “Eternal and Necessary”

Joe Hinman wants me to seriously consider two arguments for the conclusion that “God is real”.  I’m going to focus on his ABEAN argument for a number of posts, before I examine his argument from religious experience.
I have attempted to summarize Hinman’s  first argument in a brief standard form argument:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real.

5. IF there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real, THEN there is good reason to believe that God is real.

THEREFORE:

6. There is good reason to believe that God is real.

I think of this argument in terms of three steps or phases:
THREE STEPS OF THE ABEAN ARGUMENT
   Step 1            Step 2          Step 3
—->ABEAN—->GOBIR—->GIR

ABEAN:  Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

GOBIR:  The Ground of Being is real.

GIR: God is real.

Each of these three key conclusions is unclear, at least they are unclear to me.  Perhaps Hinman has a clear idea of what these three assertions mean, but before I can have any hope of rationally evaluating his ABEAN argument, I need to have a better understanding of what these assertions mean, what they imply and what they don’t imply, what they rule out, and what they don’t rule out.
The Meaning of ABEAN
The first step or phase of Hinman’s argument is to show that ABEAN is true:

ABEAN: Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

But meaning is prior to truth.  We must first understand the meaning of ABEAN before we can assess whether it is true or false, coherent or incoherent.
Here are some other similar assertions with different subjects that should be understood in relation to the meaning of ABEAN:

ATEAN:  Some aspect of TIME is eternal and necessary.

ASEAN:  Some aspect of SPACE is eternal and necessary.

AMEAN:  Some aspect of MATTER is eternal and necessary.

AJEAN:  Some aspect of JELLO is eternal and necessary.

Here are some other similar assertions with different predicates that should be understood in relation to the meaning of ABEAN:

ABBAY: Some aspect of being is bright and yellow.

ABCAR: Some aspect of being is curved and round.

ABSAP: Some aspect of being is strong and powerful.

ABAAA: Some aspect of being is alive and aware.

If the meaning of ABEAN is clear to someone, then the meanings of the above similar statements should also be clear to that person.  If Hinman understands the meaning of ABEAN, then he ought to be able to explain the meaning of these similar statements, and comment on their coherence or incoherence, and their truth or falsehood.
Some of the above statements may be incoherent. but a person who understands the ABEAN assertion should be able to understand and explain why such an incoherent statement was incoherent.  For example, it might be incoherent to assert ABBAY, the assertion that some aspect of being is bright and yellow, because there is a category mistake in applying the properties of “bright and yellow” to being.  The same might be said about ABCAR, and the application of the properties “curved and round” to being.  But if we are to reject ABBAY and ABCAR as incoherent because they apply inappropriate properties to being, how can we be confident that ABSAP and ABAAA are not also incoherent statements?  And if ABSAP and ABAAA are incoherent statements, then how could we be confident that ABEAN was not similarly incoherent?  What sorts of properties can we coherently apply to “being”?
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NOTE:
We are much more familiar with describing physical objects, plants, animals, people, human activities, historical events, etc.  People don’t generally go around describing “being”.  So, the rules or logic and language concerning how to talk about “being” are unfamiliar at the very least, and are presumably unclear, at least to most of us.
However, we do sometimes talk intelligently and coherently about abstractions like “gravity” and “integers” and “science” and “logic” and “time” and “morality”,  so it is possible to make coherent statements about abstractions.  We cannot simply rule out the possibility that there are coherent and true statements that can be made about “being”.
I, for one, would be more comfortable talking about the properties of “being” if there was a collection of several statements ascribing properties to “being” where those statements have a fairly clear meaning and also were obviously true, or at least seemed to be true.  (Mr. Hinman or anyone else reading this post: Can you provide some examples of clear statements about being that are clearly true or that at least seem to be true?  I’m looking for statements about being that are less controversial than ABEAN.)
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Furthermore, if ABSAP and ABAAA are incoherent statements, then it is hard to see how it would be coherent to make similar assertions about the Ground of Being, namely that the Ground of Being was strong and powerful, and that the Ground of Being was alive and aware.  But if we cannot coherently make these assertions about the Ground of Being, then how can we coherently make these assertions about God?  But surely any God who is worthy of worship must be (at the least) strong and powerful and alive and aware.  So, if we cannot coherently make these sorts of assertions about the Ground of Being, then the ABEAN argument falls apart.
Let’s consider what Hinman has to say about the meaning of ABEAN, and whether his comments and attempts at clarification help to answer these questions and concerns:
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BB:
What does it mean to say that an “aspect of being is eternal”?
Joe:
There are only three alternatives for origin of all things given the assumption of cause and effect. They are             (1) reality began in a state of nothing and something emerged from nothing, (2) There is an Infinite Causal Regression (ICR) that just happens to always be as a brute fact. (3) Something exists eternally that gives rise to all that is. for various reasons I reject 1 and 2. From the premise that something cannot come from true absolute nothing, something must be eternal and thus able to give rise to all that is not eternal. So at this point we have a distinction between the eternal which I might call “primordial being;” the first form of being, or “ground of being,”  and temporal being or “the beings.” McQuarrie makes the distinction between primordial being and the beings.
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Joe provides three alternatives and attempts to eliminate two of the alternatives.  Joe rejects the option that something came from nothing (hereafter: SFN), and he rejects the option of an infinite causal regress (ICR).  That leaves the third alternative: “Something exists eternally that gives rise to all that is.”
But “all that is” would include the “something that exists eternally”, so this option can be ruled out, since it is logically impossible for something to give rise to itself.  However, I think Joe unintentionally incorrectly stated the third option.  Here is a revised version of the third option that avoids the logical contradiction of a self-caused being:

SEE: Something exists eternally that gives rise to everything else that has ever existed.

This is more like the language of traditional arguments for God, and I have no problem with the meaning or coherence of SEE (unless Hinman understands the meaning of this sentence in an odd and idiosyncratic way that is different than it would be understood in relation to traditional arguments for the existence of God).
I take it that the initial phrase “Something exists eternally” represents the meaning of the assertion that “an aspect of being is eternal” and that the remainder of the sentence (“that gives rise to everything else that has ever existed”) represents the meaning of “an aspect of being is necessary”.
The “something” here is clearly what Hinman will at some later point argue to be identical with “God”, but then it would follow logically that “God exists”, which is a statement that Hinman wishes to avoid asserting.  Perhaps he only avoids the expression “God exists” because of a concern that this statement, while being a true statement, would tend to be misunderstood in a way that the assertion “God is real” would not tend to be misunderstood (?).  But if Hinman actually rejects the claim “God exists”, then he cannot use SEE as part of his case, because in identifying “God” with the “something” that “exists eternally”, he will logically imply that “God exists” is a true statement.
The ordinary meaning of “exists eternally” is as follows:

X exists eternally IF AND ONLY IF  (a) X has always existed in the past,  and (b) X exists right now, and (c) X will always continue to exist in the future.

There is an indication in one of Hinman’s recent comments about his ABEAN argument, that he is using the phrase “exists eternally” in this ordinary sense of those words:
My point is some thing has to be eternal, the big bang is not eternal, it has a beginning…
The Big Bang is not eternal because “it has a beginning”.  In other words, the Big Bang did NOT always exist in the past, so the Big Bang is not something that exists eternally.
If Hinman is using the phrase “exists eternally” in the ordinary sense of that phrase, then I see a serious problem with his argument in support of ABEAN.  He has left out at least two other options:

Option 4: Something has always existed in the past prior to the beginning of the universe, caused the universe to begin to exist, then ceased to exist (at some later point in time in the past).

Option 5: Something has always existed in the past prior to the beginning of the universe, caused the universe to begin to exist, but will cease to exist either now or at some later point in time in the future.

Hinman’s argument is logically invalid, because it presents us with three alternatives, and eliminates two alternatives, leaving us with the conclusion that SEE is true, but there are more than just the three alternatives that Hinman’s argument presents, so we cannot logically conclude that the third alternative, SEE, is true.  Hinman’s argument for SEE is a false dilemma, or to be more precise, a false trilemma.
Hinman also appears to commit the same fallacy as Aquinas and Geisler in the sloppy use of the ambiguous word “something”.  SEE has at least two different meanings:

SEE1:  There is exactly one thing that exists eternally that gave rise to everything else that has ever existed.

SEE2:  There is at least one thing that exists eternally that gave rise to everything else that has ever existed.

Only SEE1 identifies a single thing, and thus only SEE1 can be used to point to a thing that could be identified with “the Ground of Being” or with “God”.  If there were many things that existed eternally, then we could not identify “the Ground of Being” or “God” with what exists eternally (unless we want to conceive of God as a collection or set of different things, but  I don’t think Hinman’s concept of God allows for God to be a collection or set of different things).
Once again, there appear to be more alternatives than just the five alternatives that we have mentioned so far.  Each alternative that begins with the word “something” must be clarified and turned into two separate alternatives.  Thus SEE must be clarified and turned into SEE1 and SEE2,  and Option 4 and Option 5 must also be clarified and turned into Options 4A, 4B, 5A, and 5B, so we are now up to a total of eight alternatives ( SFN, ICR, SEE1, SEE2, Option 4A, Option 4B, Option 5A, and Option 5C).  We are way beyond a trilemma at this point.
Let’s consider what Hinman has to say in an attempt to clarify what he means by saying that “an aspect of being is necessary”:
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BB:
What does it mean to say that an “aspect of being is necessary”?
Joe: 
In this case, that of ultimate origin. I see necessary more in terms of causality, whereas Necessary is usually taken to mean x is necessary iff x must exist in the same way in all possible worlds. Another way to say it, if it cannot cease or fail to exist. I think that is also true of God, God is necessary in that way. But in thinking about ultimate origins I think that there is another implication that being eternal God is uncased and thus not the product of any conditions prior to himself. Moreover, being the eternal aspect of  being God is in some sense the necessary condition upon which all contingencies depend. In this case being necessary is an implication of being eternal.
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Hinman says that “Another way to say it” is “if it cannot cease or fail to exist”.  This sounds like a definition:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF X cannot cease or fail to exist.

Previously, Hinman suggested that we understand the claim “An aspect of being is eternal” as meaning that “Something exists eternally”, so it seems reasonable to follow the same pattern and to understand the claim “An aspect of being is necessary” as meaning that “Something exists necessarily”.  Presumably, “X exists necessarily” means the same as “X is necessary”, so the above definition works for either phrase.  So, we have a series of expressions that have the same meaning:

Equivalence 1: “An aspect of being is necessary” means “Something exists necessarily”.

Equivalence 2: “Something exists necessarily” means “Something is necessary”.

Equivalence 3: “Something is necessary” means “Something cannot cease or fail to exist”.

From these three equivalences we may validly infer a fourth equivalence:

Equivalence 4: “An aspect of being is necessary” means “Something cannot cease or fail to exist”.

Hinman states that  “I think that there is another implication that being eternal God is uncased and thus not the product of any conditions prior to himself. … In this case being necessary is an implication of being eternal.”
But I don’t see how “being eternal” has any such implication.   Given the understanding that I have outlined of what it means to say that “X is eternal” and given the understanding that I have outlined of what it means to say that “X is necessary”, the claim that “X is necessary” does NOT follow logically from the claim “X is eternal”.
I take it that “X is eternal” means the same thing as “X exists eternally”, and my current understanding of the meaning of “X exists eternally ” is this:

X exists eternally IF AND ONLY IF  (a) X has always existed in the past,  and (b) X exists right now, and (c) X will always continue to exist in the future.

My current understanding of the meaning of “X is necessary” is this:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF X cannot cease or fail to exist.

Thus, if “X exists eternally” logically implied “X is necessary”, then the following inference would be logically valid:

(7) X has always existed in the past,  and X exists right now, and X will always continue to exist in the future.

THEREFORE:

(8) X cannot cease or fail to exist.

This inference, however, is logically INVALID.  The universe could, in theory, have always existed in the past, and exist right now, and always continue to exist in the future, even though the existence of the universe was contingent on God’s will that it exist.
Aquinas pointed out long ago that an eternal universe could be eternally dependent upon God, and thus even if the universe has always existed and continued to exist forever, the universe would remain contingent upon the will of God, and thus the universe CAN cease or fail to exist, namely IF God were to decide someday that it should cease to exist.  If God never in fact chooses to make the universe cease to exist, that would only make it a fact that the universe continues to exist forever, not a necessity that that universe continues to exist forever.
So, either Hinman is WRONG about his claim that “X is eternal” logically implies “X is necessary” or else he has some OTHER MEANING in mind for these expressions than what I have been able to discern so far.
In conclusion, I think I have a fairly good understanding of claims like “Something exists necessarily” and “Something exists eternally”.  So, if the somewhat perplexing expression “An aspect of being is necessary” simply means “Something exists necessarily” then I have no problem with understanding the former assertion.  Similarly, if the somewhat perplexing expression “An aspect of being is eternal” simply means “Something exists eternally”, then I have no problem understanding the former assertion.  But given the apparently invalid inference that Hinman makes, I’m not sure that he would accept these as equivalences, as statements having the same meaning.
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CORRECTION (6/27/17 at 8am):
Normally, when I find a mistake in my reasoning or a questionable factual claim in a post that I have recently published (say in the past 24 hours),  I just revise the post to fix the problem, and don’t bother to point out my error.   However, this post is a part of a debate with Joe Hinman, so I feel obliged to be more circumspect about making revisions to this post; hence this “correction” notice.
Above, I make this critical comment:
…so we are now up to a total of eight alternatives ( SFN, ICR, SEE1, SEE2, Option 4A, Option 4B, Option 5A, and Option 5C).  We are way beyond a trilemma at this point.
This comment is a conclusion based on a mistake in reasoning that I made.
I stand by the point that the word “something” is ambiguous and can mean either “at least one X”  or “exactly one X”.  However,  I was mistaken in treating these as two separate and independent possibilities.   The possibility that there is “at least one X” that is eternal includes the possibility that there is “exactly one X” that is eternal.  These two statements overlap in terms of possibilities.  Therefore, although the word “something” is ambiguous, if Hinman chooses to go with the broader sense of the word, i.e. “at least one X”,  then only five of the alternatives that I mention would be required to cover all of the possibilities, or at least all of the possibilities included in my list of eight alternatives (here are the five: SFN, ICR, SEE2, 4B, and 5B).

bookmark_borderHinman’s Two Ways – Part 1: Outline of Argument #1

Joe Hinman wants me to set aside Mr. Geisler’s pathetic case for God, and to give serious consideration to his case for God, which includes at least two arguments:
Argument 1: an Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary (ABEAN),
and
Argument 2: Religious Experience Meets Epistemic Criteria (REMEC).
In this first post, I will only get started with Hinman’s first argument, attempting to clarify the basic structure of that argument.
Here is an excerpt from Hinman’s initial post on this subject:
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Rather than proving the existence of God I argue for the goal of providing a warrant for belief. A popular saying is often heard on the net: proof is for mathematics and whisky,
GOB = Ground of Being
SON – Sense of numinous [I corrected the spelling of this phrase]
[…]
Argument I: from Eternal Necessary aspect of being
1.All naturalistic phenomena is contingent and temporal
2. Some aspect of being must be eternal and necessary unless we are willing to accept existence ex nihilo
3. In contrast to Human infinitude the GOB evokes sense of the numinous
4. whatever evokes the SON is a valid object of worship, thus we are warranted in equating Gob with God
5, Belief is warranted from 2 and 4.
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MY INITIAL RESTATEMENT OF THE FIRST ARGUMENT
Hinman follows Tillich in objecting to the statement that “God exists”  or that “God is a being”.  Nevertheless, Hinman insists that the claim “There is no God” is false or mistaken, and he affirms that “God is real”.  I’m skeptical about whether this position is logically coherent, but for now I will not put words into Hinman’s mouth; I will NOT re-state his argument as having the traditional conclusion that “God exists”.
I will, however, restate his argument, in an attempt to make it a bit more clear:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real.

5. IF there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real, THEN there is good reason to believe that God is real.

THEREFORE:

6. There is good reason to believe that God is real.

Note that the IF/THEN statements in premises (4) and (5) might not be intended as logical implications, since they represent the epistemic notion of warrant or “a good reason to believe” a claim.
It MIGHT be the case that Hinman views “an eternal and necessary aspect of being” as logically or conceptually equivalent to “the Ground of Being”, in which case we could drop the phrase “there is good reason to believe that…” and treat (4) as a straightforward logical implication.  It MIGHT be the case that Hinman views “the Ground of Being” as logically or conceptually equivalent to “God”, in which case we could take the IF/THEN statement in premise (5) to be a logical implication.  [JOE: Please comment on the nature of the logical or epistemic relationships between antecedents and consequents in these two premises.  I need you to clearly distinguish the claims that have a “warrant” relationship from the claims that have a straightforward logical implication relationship.]
I believe, however, that the IF/THEN statement in premise (2) is intended as a logical implication, as indicated by the word “must” in Hinman’s original wording of that premise.
I have simplified and generalized Hinman’s argument a bit, by making the connection between GOB and GOD more direct with premise (5). Hinman is free, of course, to use his idea about “the Sense of the Numinous” as a primary justification for premise (5), but this also gives him some wiggle room, in case that justification fails or is insufficient by itself.  He might be able to come up with other ways of justifying premise (5).
I dropped the qualification “unless we are willing to accept existence ex nihilo” from premise (2), because I assume that Hinman has some sort of reason or argument for rejecting that option, and that reason or argument could then be understood as part of the justification for the unqualified version of premise (2).
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JOE:  Is my re-statement of your first argument OK, or would you like to make some changes to it?
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UPDATED again on 6/1/17 (change is in blue font)
UPDATE on 5/30/17
Based on feedback from Joe Hinman, I’m revising my statement of his argument:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument – Rev.A

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4A. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN the Ground of Being is real.

5A. IF the Ground of Being is real, THEN God is real.

THEREFORE:

6A. God is real.

Hinman’s Sub-Argument for Premise (2):

7. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN either (a) some aspect of being is eternal and necessary or (b) there is an infinite regress of contingent and temporal causes or (c) natural phenomena came into existence ex nihilo (apart from divine causation or activity).

8. It is not the case that there is an infinite regress of contingent and temporal causes.

9. It is not the case that natural phenomena came into existence ex nihilo (apart from divine causation or activity).

THEREFORE:

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

JOE:  Is this good enough for me to get started with my analysis and evaluation? or do you want to make further changes?
I take it that this is a cosmological argument with some connection to arguments by Aristotle and Aquinas, but with some modifications inspired by Tillich’s theology or philosophy.