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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Swinburne

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

bookmark_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_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 13: Existence and Attributes of a Necessary Being

In Phase 1 of his case for the existence of God, Geisler reformulates the argument from being as follows:
Argument from Being #2 – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him [God] as a necessary Being.  

51. By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.  

THEREFORE

52. …if God exists, then He [God] must exist and cannot not exist.

(WSA, p.25)
 
PHASE 3 ARGUMENT
Both premise (50) and the conclusion (52) are conditional statements with the antecedent “If God exists…”.  So, in order to make use of this argument, Geisler must first prove that “God exists”, which he says he did with “the argument from Creation”:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
So, the conclusion of the argument from Creation is (allegedly) that “God exists” and this affirms the antecedent of premise (50) and the antecedent of the conclusion (52).  Because the claim that God is “a necessary being” is crucial for Geisler’s case, we should use premise (50) as the basis for the argument in Phase 3.
Phase 3 Argument – Initial Version

50. If God exists, [then] we conceive of Him [God] as a necessary Being.  

53.  God exists.

THEREFORE:

54. God exists and we conceive of God as a necessary being.

 
This argument needs a little bit of tweaking to make it support Geisler’s desired conclusion:
Phase 3 Argument – Revision 1

50a. IF God exists, THEN God exists and God is a necessary being.  

53.  God exists.

THEREFORE:

54a. God exists and God is a necessary being.

 
As I have previously explained, in order for the logic of this Phase 3 argument to be VALID, the word “God” in  premise (53) must have the same meaning as the word “God” in the other premise of the argument, namely in premise (50a) and in the conclusion (54a). Because the truth of premise (53) is based on the argument from Creation, we know what the word “God” means in premise (53).  So, we can replace the word “God” in premise (53) with a phrase that clearly and accurately represents the being that was (allegedly) proved to exist by the argument from Creation:

53a.  There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).

We must plug this same interpretation of the word “God” into the other premise and into the conclusion of the Phase 3 argument in order to maintain the logical validity of the argument:
Phase 3 Argument – Revision 2

50b. IF there exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago), THEN there exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.  

53a. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).

THEREFORE:

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.  

 
The above argument is UNSOUND because premise (50b) is FALSE, as I argued in the previous post.  Also, Geisler’s argument from Creation does NOT prove that there was exactly one being that caused the universe to begin, so premise (53a) is dubious and controversial.  Thus, the argument in Phase 3 of Geisler’s case for God FAILS, just like the arguments in Phase 1 and in Phase 2.  The first three phases of Geisler’s case constitute a big steaming pile of dog shit.  I have no expectation at this point that the next phases and arguments will be any better.
 
PHASE 4: ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S ATTRIBUTES
Geisler wrongly believes that he has proven the claim that “God is a necessary being” in Phase 3 of his case for God.  He then procedes to argue from this assumption to claims about various metaphysical attributes of God:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.
  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Geisler also argues for the following conditional claims based on the assumption that “God is a necessary being”:

  • If God has power, then God is omnipotent.
  • If God has knowledge, then God is omniscient.
  • If God has some moral goodness, then God is perfectly morally good.

Geisler’s argument for the claim that “God is unchanging” is brief (see WSA, page 27), as are all of his arguments in Phase 4:
Phase 4 Argument #1

54a. God exists and God is a necessary being.

THEREFORE

56.  God cannot “come to be” in any other way.

THEREFORE

57. God must be as He is necessarily.

THEREFORE

58.  God cannot become something new.

THEREFORE

59. God cannot change in any way.

THEREFORE

60.  God is unchanging.

Since the only argument that Geisler gives us in support of premise (54a) is UNSOUND, the truth of (54a) is questionable, so this whole line of reasoning rests upon a shaky foundation.
The inference from (54a) to (56) is also questionable.  Geisler provides no reason or justification for this inference, but the inference is NOT obviously correct or self-evident.  Furthermore, although Geisler does define the phrase “a necessary being”, his definition is not very helpful:  “must exist and cannot not exist”.  Because this definition is somewhat unclear, it is difficult to be confident that the alleged implications of being “a necessary being” are in fact logical implications.
This definition of “a necessary being” includes entities like the number three, because the number three “must exist and cannot not exist”.  It is a logically necessary truth that the number three exists.   Can the number three “come to be” in any other way (besides coming into existence)?  It certainly seems that the number three can “come to be” in a way that is other than coming into existence.  Yesterday my favorite number was the number seven, but today I’m tired of that number, and my new favorite number is the number three.  Thus, the number three has “come to be” my favorite number.  Thus, the inference from (54a) to (56) is not only questionable, it appears to be INVALID.
I understand that one can draw a distinction between ordinary properties on the one hand and relations on the other, and it is often thought that changes in relations are not REAL changes, or that they are a significantly different sort of change than the change of ordinary properties.  But Geisler has no discussion or justification of this inference, so there is no way to be clear about his conception of changes, and his understanding of the concept of “a necessary being” and how this concept works in terms of relations (like the number three becoming my favorite number).
The other inferences in this line of reasoning are also NOT obviously correct, nor are they self-evident.  But Geisler provides no clarification and no justification for any of these inferences.  So, this argument begins with a questionable premise, and procedes with several questionable inferences.  It is a dubious and unclear mess from start to finish.
But suppose that by some miracle Geisler was able to come up with a new and sound argument for premise (54a), and suppose that he was able to come up with clarifications and justifications that show each of these inferences to be correct.  In that case the conclusion that Geisler would have actually proven is this:

60a. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is unchanging.

This conclusion would actually show that God does NOT exist.  Here is an argument that uses (60a) to prove that God does NOT exist:
Argument Against the Existence of God – Based on Unchanging First Cause

60a. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is unchanging.

61.  IF a being X is unchanging, THEN being X is NOT a person.

THEREFORE

62. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is NOT a person.

THEREFORE

63. It is NOT the case that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a person.

64. IF God exists, then the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a person.

THEREFORE

65.  It is NOT the case that God exists.

Geisler would object to premise (61),  but the concept of “a person” implies a being that can make choices and perform actions, and the idea of “making a choice” makes no sense if the being in question does not change while making the choice, and the idea of “performing an action” makes no sense if the being in question does not change while performing the action.
So,  argument #1 of Phase 4 is highly questionable, but if it could be revised and made solid, it would provide the basis for a strong argument AGAINST the existence of God.
Phase 4 Argument #2

66. Time is just a way to measure change.

THEREFORE

67.  Without change, time is impossible.

60. God is unchanging.  (the conclusion from Argument #1 of Phase 4)

THEREFORE

68.  Time is impossible for God.

THEREFORE

69.  God is eternal.

 
Time is a very abstract concept and a difficult concept to understand, so premise (66) is neither obviously true nor is it self-evident.  But Geisler gives no reason whatsoever to justify this premise.  Similarly, the inference from (66) to (67) is neither obviously true nor is it self-evident, and Geisler gives no reason whatsoever to justify this inference.
Premise (60) is the conclusion of the very dubious argument #1 of Phase 4, so this premise remains questionable and has not been supported with a solid argument by Geisler.
The inference from (67) and (60) to (68) appears to be INVALID, because premise (67) talks about a circumstance in which there is NO CHANGE at all, but premise (60) does NOT assert that there is NO CHANGE at all, but rather that there is no change in God (or no change in the being that caused the universe to begin to exist).
Suppose there are no changes in the cause of the universe; that is compatible with there being changes in the universe (which clearly there have been).  Since there are changes in the universe, premise (67) is purely hypothetical and has no application to the way things actually are.  Changes occur, so time is possible.  In other words, premise (67) is too broad and general to warrant an inference in the specific case at hand, where one thing might be unchanging while everything else undergoes changes.
In order to repair this INVALID argument, we would need to have a more specific premise, such as this one:
70.  IF a being X never changes, THEN time does not pass for being X.
But this more specific claim is also more questionable than the premise that it replaces.  Even if the being that caused the universe to begin to exist never changes, since the universe itself constantly changes, it would seem to be the case that time would pass not only for the universe, but for the unchanging cause of the universe too.
For example, let’s call the first moment of the existence of the universe time T1.   Suppose that the first planets of the universe formed one billion years after T1.   Let’s call the moment that the first planet formed time T2.  The cause of the universe’s begining, did it’s great work at (or before) time T1, and clearly the first planet formed some time AFTER time T1.  Thus, the first planet formed some time AFTER the cause of the beginning of the universe did its great work.  The cause of the universe might not have changed one bit during the billion years between the beginning of the univese and the formation of the first planet, but it seems clear that the formation of the first planet occurred a long time after the cause of the universe brought the universe into existence, and this appears to imply that time did pass for the cause of the universe.
In fact, what makes the “unchangingness” of the cause of the universe impressive (in this scenario) is precisely the fact that it remained unchanged over a billion years of time.  If no time had passed at all, then there would be no reason to expect any changes in the cause of the universe, because changes take time.
Given the imaginary scenario where there is an unchanging cause of the universe, and a constantly changing universe, the more specific premise (70) appears to be false.  But Geisler needs a more specific premise like (70) in order to make argument #2 into a VALID argument.  So, it appears that the argument that Geisler actually gives us is INVALID, and that it may be rather difficult for Geisler to come up with a more specific version of premise (67) that would fix this problem.
The final inference from (68) to (69) is questionable.  The word “eternal” normally means “has always existed and will continue to exist forever”, but Geisler apparently interprets the word in an unusual way, to mean “outside of time”, which is a strange and difficult to understand idea.  Both (68) and (69) are unclear claims, so any inference from one to the other is suspect.  Unless and until Geisler can do a better job of explaining and clarifying these unclear and difficult to understand ideas, this inference will remain dubious.
Argument #2 of Phase 4 contains some dubious premises, at least two dubious inferences, and one INVALID inference.  Like all of his other arguments that we have considered so far, this one also FAILS, which is no surprise because every single argument that he has presented so far has had one or more serious flaws.

bookmark_borderThe Essentially Good-vs.-Morally Responsible Argument for Atheism

In the spirit of Ted Drange’s 1998 article, “Incompatible-Properties Arguments: A Survey,” I wish to sketch the following argument for consideration.
Suppose we define “God” as a being who has, among other things, the following attributes:
(m) essentially good; and
(n) morally responsible for His actions.
Using these definitions, we can construct the following argument.

  1. If God exists, then He is essentially good.
  2. If God exists, then He is morally responsible for His actions.
  3. An essentially good being lacks moral freedom, i.e., an essentially good being cannot choose between good and evil.
  4. A morally responsible being has moral freedom.
  5. Therefore, it is impossible for an essentially good being to be morally responsible for its actions. [from 3 and 4]
  6. Therefore, God does not exist. [from 1, 2, and 5]

In order to avoid any misunderstandings, I claim the argument is valid, but I do not know if the argument is sound.
Cf. Wes Morriston, “What Is So Good about Moral Freedom?” The Philosophical Quarterly, 50 (July 2000): 344-58.

bookmark_borderAn Incompatible-Properties Argument against Objective Values

In this post I want to sketch an argument against objective values (moral or otherwise).
I shall first analyze the noun “value” and then the expression “moral value.” Finally, I will use these definitions to explicitly formulate an argument that objective values, so defined, have logically incompatible properties. In other words, the concept of an “objective value” is self-contradictory in the same way that “a married bachelor” or “a four-sided triangle” is self-contradictory.
The Objective-vs.-Value Argument
1. To be valuable, an entity must be valued (by someone).
2. To be objectively valuable, an entity’s value must not depend on being valued (by someone).[1]
3. Therefore, it is impossible for anything to be objectively valuable.(from 1 and 2)
Premise 1 might be challenged on the grounds that it equivocates between two senses of “valuable.” Premise 1 expresses the first sense of “valuable”: an entity that is valued (by someone). This sense is captured by the slogan, “Values requires valuers.” But, a critic might argue, there is another, equally legitimate sense of “valuable.” An entity can somehow have objective value, even in the absence of valuers, simply by being desirable or worth having.[2]
Premise 2 might also be challenged, on theological grounds. Theists have traditionally believed that God is the sustaining cause of everything else that exists. But premise (2), taken at face value, combined with the belief in God as a sustaining cause, entails that nothing else exists objectively. Not only would “God-based” moral values not be objective, but even the existence of things like rocks and rivers not be objective. But this counter-intuitive implication should be rejected. “Objectivity” should not be defined in such an absolutist way; rather, we should simply say that objective value does not depend upon the subjective states of humans. If moral values depend upon the subjective states of God, that shouldn’t disqualify moral values from being “objective.”
Whether or not this argument or either objection succeeds is hard to say. I am inclined to agree with premise 2, but I am less confident in the truth of premise 1. In other words, I’m not claiming that this argument is sound. Also, for the record, I don’t claim the argument is original with me, but I have never seen it explicitly made by anyone else. (If anyone has any references for anyone else stating or defending an argument like this, references would be most appreciated.)
Notes
[1] Nicholas Rescher, Introduction to Value Theory (Prentice-Hall, 1969), p. 56.
[2] Joel J. Kupperman, Value… And What Follows (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 3; Louis P. Pojman, Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong (Third ed., Belmont, CA: Wadsowrth, 1999), p. 84, 91.

bookmark_borderWhitcomb’s Grounding Argument for Atheism and Reply by Rasmussen et al

I am quoting the abstract of these papers here, without comment pro or con, for interested readers who may wish to read the papers for themselves. Feel free to debate in the combox.
 
Whitcomb’s argument for atheism:

Abstract
I’m going to argue that omniscience is impossible and therefore that there is no God. The argument turns on the notion of grounding. After illustrating and clarifying that notion, I’ll start the argument in earnest. The first step will be to lay out five claims, one of which is the claim that there is an omniscient being, and the other four of which are claims about grounding. I’ll prove that these five claims are jointly inconsistent. Then I’ll argue for the truth of each of them except the claim that there is an omniscient being. From these arguments it follows that there are no omniscient beings and thus that there is no God.

 
LINK
 
Reply by Rasmussen, Cullison, and Howard-Snyder:

Abstract. Dennis Whitcomb argues that there is no God on the grounds that (i) God is supposed to be omniscient, yet (ii) nothing could be omniscient due to the nature of grounding. We give a formally identical argument that concludes that one of the present co-authors does not exist. Since he does exist, Whitcomb’s argument is unsound. But why is it unsound? That is a difficult question. We venture two answers. First, one of the grounding principles that the argument relies on is false. Second, the argument equivocates between two kinds of grounding: instance-grounding and quasi-mereological grounding. Happily, the equivocation can be avoided; unhappily, avoidance comes at the price of a false premise.

LINK

bookmark_borderBest of All Possible Persons – Part 2

What do you get if you cross ‘the best of all possible worlds’ (from Leibniz) with ‘the being than which none greater can be conceived’ (from Anselm)? You get: the best of all possible persons, which is another way to conceive of God.
Here are two proofs of the non-existence of God, based on this way of understanding the concpet of God:
DISPROOF OF GOD #1
1. Person P is the best of all possible persons only if P creates the best of all possible worlds.
2. No person ever has or ever will create the best of all possible worlds.
3. Person P is God only if P is the best of all possible persons.
Thus:
4. No person ever has been God, nor will any person ever be God.
Therefore:
5. God does not exist.
 
DISPROOF OF GOD #2
6. Person P is the best of all possible persons only if P has the best of all possible knowledge.
7. No person ever has or ever will have the best of all possible knowledge.
3. Person P is God only if P is the best of all possible persons.
Thus:
4. No person ever has been God, nor will any person ever be God.
Therefore:
5. God does not exist.
One could avoid the conclusion simply by rejecting the proposed definition of God, but this way of conceiving of God has some appeal, especially given the similarity to Anselm’s definition of God. For now, I will only try to defend the second premise of each argument: premise (2) and premise (7).
Here is the second premise of DISPROOF OF GOD #1:
2. No person ever has or ever will create the best of all possible worlds.
Swinburne gives an argument in support of (2) in The Existence of God (2nd edition, p.115):
…take any world W.  Presumably the goodness of such a world…will consist in part in it containing a finite or infinite number of conscious beings who will enjoy it.  But, if the enjoyment of the world by each is a valuable thing, surely a world with a few more conscious beings in it would be a yet more valuable world…
For any given world W, it is always possible to improve upon W by adding another happy conscious being to enjoy that world.  Thus,  there is no best of all possible worlds, just as there is no largest positive integer.  It is not merely a fact that there is no best of all possible worlds, just as it is not merely a fact that there is no largest positive integer: it is logically impossible for there to be a best of all possible worlds.  There is a logical contradiciton contained in the very concept of ‘the best of all possible worlds’, just as there is a logical contradiction contained in the very concept of ‘the largest positive integer’.
We can leverage this argument from Swinburne in support of the second premise of the DISPROOF OF GOD #2:
7. No person ever has or ever will have the best of all possible knowledge.
If person A has more knowledge than person B, then B does NOT have the best of all possible knowledge, other things being equal.  There may be other relevant criteria and considerations, but the amount of knowledge a person has is clearly relevant to determining whether he or she has the best of all possible knowledge.  Given this assumption of the goodness of having more knowledge as opposed to less knowledge, we can invoke a line of reasoning based on Swinburne’s argument against the possibility of there being ‘the best of all possible worlds’.
God, if God exists, has an infinite amount of knowledge about logical possibilities, and perhaps an infinite amount of knowledge about physical possibilities.  But God’s knowledge about what is actual depends on what is in fact actually the case.  If God was the only being in existence, then God would not have any beliefs or knowledge of propositions of the form ‘Such-and-such physical object exists’.   God would not know or believe, for example, that ‘Human beings exist’ because (on this scenario) there would be no human beings.  If the only physical object that existed was a single electron, then God’s knowledge of actually existing physical objects would be limited to his knowledge about that one electron.  God would not believe or know that humans, elephants, planets, or butterflies exist.  Thus, God’s knowledge concerning actual physical objects is limited by what physical objects actually exist.
Suppose a person P creates a world W, and W contains one planet with one ocean and one island with one person living on that island and that planet.  God would know about that planet, that ocean, that island, and that person.  But we can imagine another world W’ which contains two planets, each with one ocean, one island, and one person.  We can also imagine a world W* which contains two planets, each with two oceans, two islands, and two persons on each island.  There is no world that has the highest number of persons or conscious creatures, and there is no such thing as a world with the highest number of physical objects.
The actual world must contain some number of physical objects and persons.  Thus, if the creator of this world knows about every object that actually exists, we can always imagine a world that contains one more object or one more person, and thus we can always imagine a creator that knows about one more object or one more person than the creator of the actual world.  Thus, there is no such thing as a person who has the best of all possible knowledge, because no matter how much knowledge a person P has, we can always imagine another person who has more knowledge than P. Therefore, there is no person who has the best of all possible knowledge, and there never will be such a person.  The concept ‘This person has the best of all possible knowledge’ contains a logical contradiction.
========================
Keith Parsons has doubts about premise (1), so I will make an attempt to defend this premise:
1. Person P is the best of all possible persons only if P creates the best of all possible worlds.
Initially, I was going to present a formal proof, but the logic is a bit complicated. The logic involves both quatification and modality (claims about what is logically possible and logically impossible). So, I’m just going to present my reasoning in an informal way.
First of all, (1) is necessarily true, because it is a conditional statement with an antecedent that is necessarily false. Since the antecedent will be false in all possible circumstances, the conditional statement will always be true.
However, Parsons and others might have doubts about whether the predicate ‘is the best of all possible persons’ really does contain a logical contradiciton, so I would at least need to show that to be the case. Also, even though the conditional statement might technically be true, in relation to standard propositional logic, its truth is somewhat problematic if there is no meaningful conceptual relationship between the antecedent and the consequent. In other words, it is a problematic claim if the antecedent is irrelevant to the consequent.
In any case, it seems to me that (1) is true, and that a plausible argument can be made for (1), so I will try to do so now. I think the key part of my reasoning on this is an inference from what is logically possible for one person to do to a conclusion about it being logically possible that there is some other person who does that same thing.
Suppose that I bake a chocolate cake C. Suppose that C looks good and tastes good. However, the cake is a bit dry. It is physically possible for me to alter the recipe slightly in order to produce a chocolate cake that looks and tastes just as good but that is moist. Thus, it is logically possible that I baked a chocolate cake C’ that looks and tastes just as good as C, but that is moist rather than dry. Thus, it is logically possible that I baked a chocolate cake that is better than the one that I actually baked. Now for the key inference: Therefore, it is logically possible that there is a person Q who is exactly like me, except that Q baked a cake which is better than the cake I actually baked.
If the above reasoning is correct, then I think I can show that premise (1) is true, using similar reasoning. Actually, since I will make use of the assumption that theism is true, I will not be proving (1) to be true, but rather proving (1) to be an implication of theism, that (1) is something a theist must accept as true.
10. There is a person P who is omnipotent and omniscient and who actually created a world w, and w is the best world actually created by P.
(This is an implication of theism.)
11. It is NOT the case that P creates the best of all possible worlds.
(Supposition for conditional derivation).
12. It is logically possible that P created a world w’ which is a better world than w.
(This is based on premises (10) and (11) which imply that it is logically possible for a world to be a better world than w, the world actually created by P.)
13. It is logically possible that there is a person Q who is just like P except that Q created a world w’.
(An inference based on premise (12).)
14. It is logically possible that there is a person Q who is just like P except that Q created a world that is a better world than the best world actually created by P.
(An inference from (13) and (10).)
15. If it is logically possible that there is a person Q who is just like P except that Q created a world that is a better world than the best world actually created by P, then it is logically possible that there is a person Q who is a better person than P.
(This is because the two persons being compared are the same except that one produces a better world than the other, and this seems to clearly be a relevant reason for evaluating the one as being a better person than the other).
16. It is logically possible that there is a person Q who is a better person than P.
(An inference from (14) and (15).)
17. It is NOT the case that P is the best of all possible persons.
(An inference from (16).)
18. IF it is NOT the case that P creates the best of all possible worlds, THEN it is NOT the case that P is the best of all possible persons.
(Conditional derivation from (11) through (16). NOTE: Since the logic here is not strictly propositional logic, this inference is open to challenge.)
19. IF P is the best of all possible persons, THEN P creates the best of all possible worlds.
(An inference from (18). This is the same as premise (1) in my first disproof of the existence of God).

bookmark_borderBest of All Possible Persons

Now this supreme wisdom, united to a goodness that is no less infinite, cannot but have chosen the best… If there were not the best among all possible worlds, God would not have produced any. (Gottfried Leibniz, Theodicy, translated by E.M. Huggard, 1951, p.128)
According to Anselm, God is the being than which none greater can be conceived. In other words, God is the best of all possible persons. According to Leibniz, the best of all possible persons would have to create the best of all possible worlds (or else create nothing at all).
The problem with Leibniz’ view of God is that if God is a logically necessary being, and if God must necessarily create the best of all possible worlds, then the world is itself a logically necessary being, not a logically contingent being. This would mean that Leibniz’ cosmological argument for God is based on a false premise.
Richard Swinburne rejects both of these claims about logical necessity. God is not a logically necessary being, but is a logically contingent being, according to Swinburne. And the creation of this world is not a logically necessary inference from the existence of God, but is only probable to some degree or other, given the assumption that God exists.
Part of how Swinburne defends his view that the creation of the universe is not a necessary inference from the existence of God is by denying that there is such a thing as the best of all possible worlds. In other words, he thinks that the idea of the best of all possible worlds is incoherent, it contains a self-contradition, so there is no logical possibility that there is a best of all possible worlds.
Swinburne assumes, quite plausibly, that if God existed and if there were a best of all possible worlds w, it would contain at least one created person P (in addition to God who is not a created person). But then we can conceive of another possible world w‘ which was exactly like w, except that we substitute another person Q for P, who has all the characteristics of P but is a different person. Such a world would clearly be of no less value than w, so w would NOT be a better world than w‘. Therefore, w would NOT be the best of all possible worlds. (See The Existence of God, 2nd edition, p.114-115.)
Furthermore, Swinburne argues that for any possible world that contains one or more persons or sentient creatures, we can always imagine a world which is exactly like that world except that it contains one more person or sentient creature who has a happy and good life. The latter world would clearly be a better world than the former. But the same reasoning applies to the better world, so for any logically possible world, we can always conceive of a world which is slightly better. Therefore, there is no logical possibility that there is a best of all possible worlds, just as there is no logical possibility of there being a largest positive integer.(See EOG, p.114-115.)
It strikes, me, however, that if Swinburne is correct that there is no possibility of there being a best of all possible worlds, then doesn’t it follow that there is also no possibility of there being a best of all possible persons?
The logic to prove this in a rigorous way might be a bit involved, but I can lay out at least an outline of my reasoning for now:
1. If a person creates a world which is NOT the best of all possible worlds, then that person is NOT the best of all possible persons (because, as Leibniz argued, the best of all possible persons must create the best of all possible worlds if that person creates any world).
2. Any person who creates a world would create a world which is NOT the best of all possible worlds (because, as Swinburne argues, it is logically impossible for there to be a best of all possible worlds).
3. If God exists, then God created a world (given a definition of ‘God’ which implies that God is the creator of the universe).
Thus:
4. If God exists, then God created a world which is NOT the best of all possible worlds. (from 2 and 3).
Therefore:
5. If God exists, then God is NOT the best of all possible persons. (from 1 and 4)
To be continued…

bookmark_borderOne Man’s Modus Ponens…Part 6

In Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HOCA), Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli present twenty arguments for the existence of God. The very first argument is one of the Five Ways of Aquinas. This is not surprising, since Kreeft is a Catholic:
The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are. The whole universe is in the process of change. But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by “God”.
Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change. (HOCA, p.50-51)
There may be more than one argument in this passage, but one line of reasoning here goes something like this:
1. If there is nothing outside the material universe that can cause the material universe to change, then there is nothing outside the material universe that is causing the material universe to change.
2. If there is nothing outside the material universe that is causing the material universe to change, then the material universe is not changing.
Thus:
3. If there is nothing outside the material universe that can cause the material universe to change, then the material universe is not changing.
4. But the material universe IS changing.
Thus:
5. There is something outside the material universe that can cause the material universe to change.
6. The statement “There is something outside the material universe that can cause the material universe to change” means the same thing as “God exists”.
Therefore:
7. God exists.
The intermediate conclusion is premise (5), but (5) does not say anything about God, so another premise is required in order to get the desired conclusion (7) that God exists. Premise (6) provides a logical bridge between (5) and (7) by asserting that two different statements have the same meaning.
But premise (6) is clearly false. The two statements in question are NOT equivalent in meaning. For example, the claim that ‘There is something outside the material universe that can cause the material universe to change” does NOT entail that ‘There is a person who is perfectly morally good’. But ‘God exists’ does entail that ‘There is a person who is perfectly morally good’. (7) entails something that (5) does not entail, so (7) does not have the same meaning as (5).
Premise (6) appears to involve a confusion between sense and reference. It might be the case that the expression ‘something outside of the material universe that can cause the material universe to change’ refers to the same being as the expression ‘God’, but these two expressions don’t have the same meaning or sense. We can improve upon the above argument for the existence of God, by reformulating (6) to be a claim about the reference of the two expressions, rather than about the sense or meaning of the expressions:
(6A) The expression “something outside the material universe that can cause the material universe to change” and the word “God” both refer to the same being.
Kreeft would need to come up with an argument to support premise (6A), but at least it is not obviously false like the original premise (6), and it does the job of providing a logical link between premise (5) and the conclusion (7).
However, premise (6A) in combination with some other assertions made by Kreeft, plus a claim about the logical incompatibility of timelessness and perfect freedom (defended by Richard Swinburne), allows us to build an argument against the existence of God:
(6A) The expression “something outside the material universe that can cause the material universe to change” and the word “God” both refer to the same being.
Therefore:
(8) If God exists, then there is something that has all of the divine attributes and that is outside of the material universe.
(9) If something is outside the material universe, then it is outside of space and time.
Thus:
(10) If God exists, then there is something that has all of the divine attributes and that is outside of space and time.
(11) One of the divine attributes is being a perfectly free person.
Thus:
(12) If God exists, then there is something that is a perfectly free person that is outside of space and time.
(13) It is NOT the case that there is something that is a perfectly free person that is outside of space and time.
Therefore:
(14) It is NOT the case that God exists.
Based on what Kreeft says in spelling out the first argument for the existence of God in Chapter 3 of HOCA, I believe that Kreeft would accept every premise of this argument with the exception of premise (13). But premise (13) is well defended by Richard Swinburne.
According to Swinburne if God is outside of time, then God is totally immutable. But if God is totally immutable, then God is NOT a perfectly free person (The Coherence of Theism, revised ed., p.222) So, if something is outside of time, then it cannot be a perfectly free person. But one of God’s divine attributes is being a perfectly free person, so it is incoherent to assert that ‘God is totally immutable’, or to assert that ‘God is outside of time’.
Swinburne has another argument for the incoherence of the assertion that ‘God is outside of time’, which is based on the trasitivity of simultaneity: If A is simultaneous with B, and B is simultaneous with C, then A is also simultaneous with C. (See The Coherence of Theism, Revised edition, p.228). I won’t spell out this other argument for the incohernce of the assertion ‘God is outside of time’, but Swinburne does make a strong case that this assertion makes a self-contradictory statement, and thus is necessarily false.

bookmark_borderAnother Paper by Moti Mizrahi: “New Puzzles About Divine Attributes”

European Journal for Philosophy of Religion (forthcoming)
Abstract: According to traditional Western theism, God is maximally great (or perfect). More explicitly, God is said to have the following divine attributes: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. In this paper, I present three puzzles about this conception of a maximally great (or perfect) being. The first puzzle about omniscience shows that this divine attribute is incoherent. The second puzzle about omnibenevolence and omnipotence shows that these divine attributes are logically incompatible. The third puzzle about perfect rationality and omnipotence shows that these divine attributes are logically incompatible.