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

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

Just the Stat’s Ma’am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Theodist Evasion 1.0

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

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

Free Will Theodicy is a Great Big Lie

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

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

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

The Great Evasion 2.0

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

It’s the Animals Too

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

The Great Moral Challenge

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

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

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

Atheists are not that. Not in that regard.

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the Information Out to a Secularizing World

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

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

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

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

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 2: The Five Alternatives

In Part 1 of this series, I showed that the main argument for the divinity of Jesus given by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics goes like this:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In this post, we will analyze and clarify the first premise of this argument.

PREMISE (1A): THE FIVE ALTERNATIVES

The first premise of Kreeft’s argument for the divinity of Jesus asserts that there are only five logical possibilities:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

The five alternative views are as follows:

  • Jesus was God.
  • Jesus was a liar.
  • Jesus was a lunatic.
  • Jesus was a guru.
  • Jesus was a myth.

None of these claims is clear as it stands. Each claim needs to be clarified and made more specific.

JESUS WAS GOD

In Part 1, I have already clarified the meaning of the claim “Jesus is God”, and the claim that “Jesus was God” implies that “Jesus is God” because one cannot be God for a day, like being King for a day, or president for a day. Being God, for example, implies being eternal, and one cannot be eternal for just one day or one week.

Furthermore, God’s omnipotence and omniscience are supposed to be eternal attributes, attributes that God has always had in the past, and that God will always have in the future. If some being were omnipotent for just one day or just one week, that being would NOT be God, and that being would NOT even be God for one day. So, if it is the case that “Jesus was God” in the past, then it must also be the case the “Jesus is God” today. Furthermore, the reverse is true as well. If Jesus is God today, then it must also have been the case that “Jesus was God” two thousand years ago, and two million years ago. Thus, “Jesus was God” means the same thing as “Jesus is God”.

JESUS WAS A LIAR

What does the claim “Jesus was a liar” mean? Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of the term “liar”. One important and obvious point to note is that telling one lie does NOT make a person a “liar”. In fact, most people tell lies frequently (most young children and teenagers tell lies, and most young adults/college students tell lies, and most adults in general tell lies), but it is unclear that we should conclude that most people are liars. The point of the use of the word “liar” is to categorize a small subset of people as being particularly dishonest. We tolerate a fair amount of lying as just par for the course. For this reason, the Merriam-Webster definition of “liar” is clearly wrong:

a person who tells lies

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liar

On this definition, everyone, or almost everyone, would be a “liar”. More is required than telling an occasional lie to make a person a “liar”. But how often does one have to lie in order to be properly categorized as being a “liar”? That is NOT at all clear.

Furthermore, it would seem that telling small white lies on a regular basis might not be enough to make one a “liar”. It might require telling some big or serious lies on a regular basis to make one a “liar”. But how many big or serious lies does one have to tell in order to be a “liar”? That is also NOT clear. So, the term “liar” does NOT mean “a person who tells lies”; something more than that is required, but it is UNCLEAR what exactly is required to make a person a “liar”.

Therefore, the term “liar” is a problematically VAGUE and UNCLEAR term, apart from a careful analysis and a clear definition of this term. But Kreeft and Tacelli provide no such analysis or definition of the word “liar”. Apart from a clear definition of the word “liar” it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make a rational evaluation of whether Jesus (or anyone else) was, in fact, a “liar”.

JESUS WAS A LUNATIC

What does the claim “Jesus was a lunatic” mean? Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of the term “lunatic”. He does, however, sometimes use the word “insane” in place of the word “lunatic”, so presumably, he views these words as synonyms (see Kreeft’s use of “insane” and “insanity” when introducing this part of the argument on pages 155 and 156 of HCA).

The dictionary definition of “lunatic” indicates an AMBIGUITY in this term:

People who are NOT insane sometimes believe things that are WILDLY FOOLISH for them to believe. For example, I think that it is WILDLY FOOLISH for Kreeft to believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead, but I do NOT think that Kreeft is insane. So, the word “lunatic” has a stronger and weaker sense. In the stronger sense of the word, to say that “Jesus was a lunatic” means that “Jesus was insane”. In the weaker sense, it means that “Jesus held some wildly foolish beliefs”. Because Kreeft uses the word “insane” as a synonym for the word “lunatic”, it seems likely that he intended the stronger sense of the word “lunatic”:

affected with a severely disordered state of mind: INSANE

However, the term “insanity” is no longer an accepted medical diagnosis:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insanity

So, there is no generally accepted medical definition of the term “insane”. Thus, the meaning of this word is problematic and UNCLEAR.

JESUS WAS A GURU

What does the claim “Jesus was a guru” mean? Kreeft provides no definition of the term “guru”. However, he does describe the view that “Jesus was a guru”, and his description could be used to clarify the meaning of the term “guru” in this context.

When Kreeft initially introduces the idea of Jesus being a “guru”, he focuses on Jesus’s alleged claim to be God:

Perhaps even though the Gospels tell the truth that Jesus claimed divinity, and even though he could not be a liar or a lunatic, and therefore the claim is true, yet he didn’t mean it to be understood literally, but rather in a mystical way. According to this theory, we should interpret his claim to divinity…in an Eastern, Hindu or Buddhist, sense. Yes, Jesus was God, and knew it, and claimed it–but we are all God. We unenlightened nonmystics just don’t realize it. Jesus was an enlightened mystic, a guru, who realized his own inner divinity.

(HCA, p.165)

I take it that being a “guru” in this context is about Jesus claiming to be God, and Jesus intending this claim to be understood in a NONLITERAL way, such that his view was that every human being is God, just as much as Jesus is God. What this view asserts, then, is that Jesus was NOT claiming to be the creator of the universe, and Jesus was NOT claiming to be omnipotent and omniscient. Jesus was NOT claiming to possess the divine attributes that constitute the western/Christian concept of “God”. In claiming to be “God”, Jesus was merely indicating that he believed that he was “one with God” in the very same way that all human beings are “one with God”.

JESUS WAS A MYTH

What does the claim “Jesus was a myth” mean? Kreeft provides no definition of the term “myth”. However, Kreeft does clarify the view that he has in mind corresponding to the claim that “Jesus was a myth”. Like the view that “Jesus was a guru”, the view that “Jesus was a myth” is, in this context, focused on the idea of Jesus claiming to be God:

All three previous hypotheses –Lord, liar and lunatic–assumed that Jesus claimed divinity. Suppose he didn’t. Suppose this claim is a myth (in the sense of fiction). Suppose the liar is not Jesus but the New Testament texts.

(HCA, p.161)

The view that “Jesus was a myth” is NOT the view that there was no actual historical Jesus. Rather, this view assumes that there was in fact a historical Jesus, but that the historical Jesus NEVER claimed to be God. In other words, the Gospels, and other New Testament writings, assert that Jesus claimed to be God, and that Jesus believed himself to be God, but all such claims are FALSE and UNHISTORICAL. The idea that Jesus claimed to be God is FICTIONAL: it is a myth that Jesus claimed to be God, and it is a myth that Jesus believed himself to be God.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 1: The Basic Argument

Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus in Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press, 1994, hereafter: HCA). Because their case for the existence of God (in Chapter 3 of HCA) and their case for the resurrection of Jesus (in Chapter 8 of HCA) both FAIL miserably, it is reasonable to anticipate that their case for Jesus’s divinity will also FAIL.

Furthermore, in the process of evaluating one of their objections to the Myth Theory, I examined their “scriptural data” supporting the divinity of Jesus (in Chapter 7 of HCA) and found serious problems with the conclusions they derived from that data: Defending the Myth Theory – INDEX (see Parts 4 through 7). So, I already have good reason to believe that a key part of their case for Jesus’s divinity FAILS.

Kreeft provides a very brief summary of this case early in Chapter 7:

Jesus claimed to be God, and Jesus is believable, therefore Jesus is God.

(HCA, p.156)

From this summary argument, we see that the conclusion of the main argument in Chapter 7 is this:

Jesus is God.

We also see that a key premise of the argument is this:

Jesus claimed to be God.

A couple of pages later, Kreeft goes on to spell out a more complex version of this argument:

1. Jesus was either Lord, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2. He could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

3. Therefore “Jesus is Lord”…

(HCA, p.158).

Based on Kreeft’s initial summary argument, we know that the conclusion he is trying to establish is NOT the vague claim that “Jesus is Lord” but the strong and clear claim that Jesus is God.

So, in order for Kreeft’s argument to work to establish his intended conclusion, the wording of the conclusion of the more complex argument must be revised, and that means the wording of the first premise must also be revised so that it supports the revised conclusion:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

I take it that this is the main argument in Chapter 7, and that if this argument is a bad argument, then Kreeft and Tacelli will have FAILED to establish the divinity of Jesus.

Notice that the logic of this argument is very similar to the logic of the argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli for the resurrection of Jesus in Chapter 8. They attempted to prove that the apostles were telling the truth about the resurrection of Jesus by eliminating the alternative possibilities that the apostles were liars (the Conspiracy Theory), or that the apostles were lunatics (the Hallucination Theory), or that their story about Jesus rising from the dead was not intended to be taken literally (the Myth Theory), or that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross, so his being alive after the crucifixion was not a miracle (the Swoon Theory).

Before attempting any further clarification or evaluation of the premises of Kreeft’s argument in Chapter 7, we should clarify the conclusion a bit more:

3A. Jesus is God.

What does it mean to say that “X is God”? Primarily, this means that “X has the divine attributes”, the attributes that make God who God is. Kreeft and Tacelli spell out some key divine attributes in Chapter 4 of HCA:

…God is spiritual… God is not a material being.

(HCA, p.92)

God Is Eternal

(HCA, p.93)

God is the creator and sustainer of all things.

(HCA, p.95)

God Is Omniscient and Omnipotent

(HCA, p.96)

God Is Good…God cannot be evil in any way…

(HCA, p.96)

Thus, the claim that

3A. Jesus is God.

has a number of implications, such as the following:

  • Jesus is spiritual. Jesus is not a material being.
  • Jesus is eternal.
  • Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all things.
  • Jesus is omniscient (all-knowing).
  • Jesus is omnipotent (all-powerful).
  • Jesus is good. Jesus cannot be evil in any way.

If we find out that Jesus has all of these divine attributes, then that would show that Jesus is God. Similarly, if we find out that Jesus lacks some of these divine attributes, that would show that Jesus is NOT God.

bookmark_borderRalph Reed Tries to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes

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NOTE: This post was contributed by Gregory S. Paul, who is an occasional contributor to Free Inquiry, and who published an important article called “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies”.  Here is how Michael Shermer summarized that article:

Is religion a necessary component of social health? The data are conflicting. On the one hand, in a 2005 study published in the Journal of Religion & Society–“Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies”–independent scholar Gregory S. Paul found an inverse correlation between religiosity (measured by belief in God, biblical literalism, and frequency of prayer and service attendance) and societal health (measured by rates of homicide, childhood mortality, life expectancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen abortions and pregnancies) in 18 developed democracies. “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD [sexually transmitted disease] infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies,” Paul found. Indeed, the U.S. scores the highest in religiosity and the highest (by far) in homicides, STDs, abortions and teen pregnancies.

from “Bowling for God” by Michael Shermer
in Scientific American on December 1, 2006

================================

Ralph Reed Tries to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes About the Popularity of Prayer and Religion in America on Bill Maher’s Real Time

I was watching Bill Maher’s Real Time on 8/27 when I realized that prominent hard right-wing evangelical political operative Ralph (Christian Coalition) Reed, who Maher seems to like, was trying to profoundly mislead viewers about the level of religious practice in this country. I am not sure how prevalent his misuse of survey data is among theoconservatives – a web search did not find anything – but he managed to slip a bogus item of information out to the few million who see Real Time every week. So I am sending this out in an effort to try to nip this theocon anti-fact in the bud. Plus this scientist is annoyed by the slick pol’s brazen yet sly misuse of statistics.
 
Reed used the classic tactic of lying by telling the truth while leaving out the pile of contrary data that shows he is lying. First, he acknowledged that rates of nonreligion are indeed rapidly expanding in these United States as church membership and attendance decline with amazing speed – after a slow decline from the 1950s Gallup has recorded a membership decline of about 70% at the turn of the century to under 50% these days (https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx), in line with other surveys as well as reports of closing churches. The seemingly reasonable Reed then offered the logical explanation that the general societal detachment of people from social groups, driven in part by digital media, has something to do with that. Reed then began his verge off into misinformation land when he said all that did not matter all that much because rates of belief in and worship of God remain persistently high because people are becoming increasingly private about it.
 
Here is where being truthful can be a lie. Reed correctly claimed that in 1990 Gallup asked respondents if they pray often, sometimes, hardly ever, or only in times of crisis, or never.
 
Before proceeding, we need a digression about the statistical and other requirements of competent polling. Particularly regarding longitudinal surveys that track levels of and changes in opinions and practices over time. First, such polls must be sufficiently quantitative to give meaningful results that can be compared over the years. In the 1990 poll Gallup blew it – the only quantitatively reasonably useful possible answers were “hardly ever” or “never.” As for “often” and “sometimes” those values are pretty much useless. How often is often? How sometimes is sometimes? Each respondent would have a different notion on that, and will inevitably respond in inconsistent ways. Gallup should have known better and never posed such an ambiguous query. And to track changes the same questions need to be asked every one or a few years to generate an opinion level timeline. It’s basic stuff.
 
In 1990 half of respondents told Gallup they pray often. Which other than telling us what we already know that lots of Americans are religious has no scientific value. What they should have asked was something along the lines of do you pray multiple times a day, once a day, a few times a week, once a week, once a month or so — you get the statistical drift. I mean really, what were they thinking over at Gallup? Demographic dolts. Fortunately, Gallup then did not repeat the query, possibly and hopefully because they did a demographic dope slap and realized their error and good statistical riddance, since asking it again would risk giving misleading longitudinal results.
 
Alas, apparently inspired by the pandemic, in 2020 a Gallup that again should have known better did ask the same dam bogus query. And lo and behold now 55% say they pray often. Reed used this one pair of statistically valueless figures to try to sell Maher and his audience a demographic bill of goods that Amerotheism is not really in decline after all. Bill, and his other guest, understandably not being up on the minutia of recent Gallup results, were not able to perceive or counter Reed’s clever deception (I had to look it up and see what was really going down myself, even though this is an area of my research – for an extensive 2019 analysis of the subject discussed here and beyond see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf).
 
The degree to which Reed was being deliberately deceptive by selectively picking Gallup data, or did not realize or understand the critical caveats and contra stats, I do not know for certain but am very suspicious. In any case, he was grossly misinforming Real Timewatchers one way or another.
 
First, Gallup itself admits that their little trend line on prayer is not statistically meaningful (https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/309638/update-virtual-worship-during-covid.aspx), which Reed did not mention — saying that would have negated his claim right there on the air. Obviously.
 
And here is what Reed did not offer up because it directly disproves his propaganda line that American God belief and worship is not in decline. In a location where Gallup offers up the useless prayer result they also present a number of more properly posed and frequently repeated polls they have been executing and posting for decades. Ones that do a much better job telling us what is really happening in this country a/theism wise (https://news.gallup.com/poll/1690/religion.aspx). So how about let’s check those fascinating and very telling stats out —
 
Those who say that religion is very important in their life went from, well let’s see here, ~60 in the 1990s to under 50% these days in a nice, fairly steady downslope (as also is true of the rest of the results). Meanwhile, those who say theism is not very important rose greatly from 10-15% to a quarter (see below discussion on why levels of rationalism measured in polls are probably on the low side). Gosh, Ralph, you did not bring up that one on Real Time. Because you are too lazy and ill-informed to know it — which seems a stretch since it is right there on the web? Or because you knew it would blow your superficially clever lie out of the water?
 
How about this one. Back in the 1990s, almost two-thirds told the fine folks at Gallup that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems. Now it is heading toward and below half. The rationalists who think religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date? Rose like yeast dough from one-fifth to over a third of the respondents (check out season 1, episode 25 of I Love Lucy for a classic laugh on that bread baking item).
 
Here’s a good one that shows that the days in which the hardcore devout religious right that Reed is a leading fellow traveler of was doing pretty good, while it was the mealy mushy mainline faiths that were taking it on the demographic chin, are no longer operative. In the 2000s those saying they were born-again or evangelical were in the broad area of the lower 40s percentage-wise (which was a little above the values observed in the 1990s). Now is in the mid-30s, hello Ralph. Might you mention that next time you are on the telly?
 
Next up is an oldie but goodie. In the 70s one in four thought the Bible is literally true. Now it’s a quarter or so. So are those who are of the opinion that the Bible is supernaturalistic fantasy mixed with some history, which is impressive because those good people were a mere one in ten back when Jimmy and Ronnie were POTUS. And while support for the creation of humans by God has been slipping, support for evolutionary science is on the way up. Sorry Ken Ham, Philip Johnson, and Michael Behe.
Time for the BIGGIE. One Mr. Reed somehow again failed to chat about as he misled Bill on his own show. Convinced God exists? In 2005 80%. In 2017 64%. A decline of a sixth of the national population in a dozen years. How about God probably does not exist or convinced there is not one. Doubled from 7% in 2005 to 13% in 2017.  And if the fast-shifting trendlines have continued since then, probably still lower for the first and higher for the second here in 2021. But wait, there are more godly Gallup longitudinal deity queries. From 2001 to 2016 God belief sank from nine in ten to eight in ten, those who don’t opt for the supernatural rose to over one in ten. Gallup’s venerable simplistic yes or no on God belief question got virtually all to say yes in the 1950s and 60s, and after a yawning data gap has shown no results similar to the above surveys in the last decade. This is a good place to explain that it is well documented that persons are often reluctant to say they hold an unpopular opinion even when doing so privately by phone or online. A technical effort to use standard sociodemographic techniques to correct for this factor estimates that American atheists as broadly defined make up a quarter of the population (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170516143411.htm), matching or outnumbering a number of major religious sects. Likewise, other studies indicate actual church attendance is about half that claimed to Gallup (and other pollsters). It follows that all the Gallup (and other pollsters’) results for not praying, thinking religion is not societally important, attending church, are not Born-Again, thinking the Bible is not the word of God, understanding we are big-brained apes, are nonreligious, etc., are very probably markedly higher than Gallup, Pew, Harris, GSS, WVS, et al. results seem to indicate.
Gallup points out something interesting. One of their queries indicates that the number of Americans who think religion is having a major influence on America is currently on the high side. But they point out that is directly contrary to their own measures showing the opposite is true
(https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/310397/religion-paradox.aspx). So what gives? Although the query has its uses, it is not a direct measure of how much influence religion is actually having on America, which is not practical to measure, one would think, but what people think it is having. Which may well not be the same thing. That is why, unlike most longitudinal questions, over time the results for this query have fluctuated wildly. Apparently, the rise of the hard right under the aegis of secular hedonist Trump, which has had a strong evangelical component to it, has caused many to presume that religion has revived as a major influencer. Which it has not because even among Republicans theism is on the decline (https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace).
 
So. Only one very unreliable Gallup result that the organization itself does not take all that seriously seems to support political operator Ralph Reed’s patently absurd pretension that polls show that Americans are remaining privately as Godly as ever over time, despite fleeing institutionalized religion. That when all of the more scientifically constructed and frequently asked Gallup queries show that while organized Christianity is declining faster than personal theism, the latter is going down fast too. One can and probably should presume that a data cherry-picking Reed knew that. Such is common among theists – it’s called lying for the church (or mosque or whatever; a young Muslim initially pretending to be uncertain about his beliefs showed up at a local atheist meetup not long ago and proceeded to try to convince the women to convert by quoting inane Quran lines ad nauseam). And if per chance he did not he has not the slightest excuse for not knowing the real and easy to find facts. Ergo, Godly, Born-Again evangelical Reed profoundly lied either deliberately or out of gross negligence and ignorance to a national audience.
 
The dire demographic reality is a big factor behind the push by many theoconservatives to rule this republic via minority votes at the presidential and Senate and state levels, and by packing the Supreme Court. What they should do is use persuasion via free speech to try to get the American majority to go along with their conservative supernaturalistic ways. But that effort has been failing big time for decades with no realistic hope for success. So they are trying to capture the government by electoral hook and crook and use sheer political power to remake America into the kind of right-wing Christian land this nation was back when the government was a bastion of traditionalist values. Remember Comstock Laws? They bemoan the onset of the unprecedented cultural and sexual revolutions of the 1900s that are helping drive the withering of theism. And that’s why the right continues to embrace a chronically dishonest and irreligious Trump who in turn depends on the religious right for the political success he has enjoyed. That makes twisted electoral sense since Trump lost the electoral college by just 45,000 votes in three states – interestingly, I have not found evidence that Reed has either supported or rejected the claim that Trump did not lose in 2020, seems he is trying to avoid entirely ruining his credibility with either side.
 
So how about it Ralph? Will you publicly and prominently retract your claims and acknowledge that Americans have become markedly less Godly over recent decades? And apologize to the host of the show you with your boyish grin tried to snooker?
 
Got to say, I am not holding my breath on that.
 
But you should.
 
Now, being a data-following scientist who really does my best to be objective — which is why I am not a theist – I note that the PRRI has released new results that while confirming the broader trends of recent decades, suggest that the deChristianization of the US may be plateauing out (https://www.prri.org/research/2020-census-of-american-religion). That is possible, but looking at their rather internally contradictory data I am not convinced. All the more so because the PRRI results do not look to be in line with those of other organizations. So we shall have to see over the coming years what the assorted surveys turn up and go from there.
 
And Bill. When you have Reed, and others of his ilk, on your program in the future and they make one of those that sounds kinda dubious claims, do one of your classic yeah like I (don’t) believe that one looks, and warn your audience to take what they just heard with a large load of salt. Really large.
 
You have to watch out for those theocons. They can be sneaky.

bookmark_borderProfessor Craig on Theistic Hypotheses

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

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

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

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

THEREFORE:

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 3: The “No Expectancy” Objection

WHERE WE ARE
I generally argue in defense of the Apparent Death Theory, not in order to prove it to be TRUE, but in order to show that this skeptical theory about the alleged resurrection of Jesus is still viable and that the objections raised against  it by Christian apologists FAIL to refute it.  However, I am now in the process of arguing in defense of the Hallucination Theory and am arguing that the objections raised against this theory by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor (1981; herafter: TRF) are weak and defective, and that McDowell FAILS to refute this skeptical theory.
Here are McDowell’s seven objections in TRF against the Hallucination Theory:

  1. Only Certain [kinds of ] People [have Hallucinations, like schizophrenics]. (TRF, p.84)
  2. [Hallucinations are] Very Personal [making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time]. (TRF, p.84-85)
  3. [An hallucination is an erroneous perception or] A False Response [to sense stimulation]. (TRF, p.85)
  4. No Favorable Circumstances [of time and place (to which hallucinations are restricted) apply to the experiences of the risen Jesus that took place after his crucifixion]. (TRF, p.85)
  5. [There was] No Expectancy [among Jesus’ followers that he would rise from the dead, but hallucinations require anticipation or hopeful expectation]. (TRF, p.85-86)
  6. [There was] Not Time Enough [in the period when appearances of Jesus occurred to consider those experiences to be hallucinations, which usually occur over a long period of time].  (TRF, p.86)
  7. [The Hallucination Theory] Doesn’t Match the Facts [because hallucinations of a risen Jesus don’t explain the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and the subsequent actions of the high priests]. (TRF, p.86)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I argued that Objection 1 (Only Certain People) is clearly defective and FAILS.
In Part 2 of this series I argued that Objection 3 (A False Response) and Objection 6 (Not Time Enough) both FAIL miserably.
 
THE FOUR REMAINING OBJECTIONS
I have quickly eliminated three of McDowell’s seven objections to the Hallucination Theory.  That leaves us with four more objections to consider.  I have plucked the low hanging fruit first, eliminating the most obviously weak and defective objections.  My impression is that McDowell’s remaining four objections are also weak and defective, but they deserve a closer examination than Objection 1, Objection 3, and Objection 6, and I expect that it will require more work on my part to show that the remaining four objections also FAIL to refute the Hallucination Theory.
I think the most important objections, and perhaps the objections that will require the most effort by me to show they FAIL, are Objection 2 (Very Personal), and Objection 7 (Doesn’t Match the Facts).  So, I will deal with those objections last.  I expect Objection 4 (No Favorable Circumstances) and Objection 5 ( No Expectancy) to require a medium level of effort to show that they FAIL, and I suspect that Objection 5 will be the easiest of the remaining objections for me to deal with.
So, the order that I plan to address the remaining four objections is this (I am labelling them “TRF” because I plan to refer to objections from other books as well):

TRF5: No Expectancy

TRF4: No Favorable Circumstances

TRF7: Doesn’t Match the Facts

TRF2: Very Personal

These objections are also presented by Josh McDowell (and his son Sean) in the more recently published book Evidence for the Resurrection (2009, see pages 206-211; hereafter: EFR).  You can see how the objections in EFR line up with the objections in TRF in the following chart:

TRF5: THE “NO EXPECTANCY” OBJECTION
McDowell summarizes a number of his objections against the Hallucination Theory this way:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak? 
First, it contradicts various conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must  be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.84)

 If McDowell is going to make some strong objections to the Hallucination Theory on such grounds, then he will need to provide evidence firmly supporting various specific claims of this form:

Most psychological experts agree that condition X must be present in order for an hallucination to occur.

In order to provide evidence firmly supporting claims of this form, McDowell should consult hundreds, or at least dozens, of peer-reviewed books and journal articles by people who are recognized experts in psychology, preferably by psychologists who have specialized in the scientific study of hallucinations, or in the scientific study of mental diseases or conditions that are associated with hallucinations.  But we shall soon see that McDowell (and his fellow Christian apologists) clearly MADE NO EFFORT to investigate such articles and books on this subject.
Here is how McDowell presents the “No Expectancy” objection to the Hallucination Theory in TRF:

A fifth principle is that hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy which causes their wishes to become father of their thoughts and hallucinations.  As we look at the disciples, the last thing they expected was a resurrection.  They thought Christ had been crucified, buried. …That was the end of it.   (TRF, p.85-86, ellipses were in the original text)

This objection against the Hallucination Theory is also presented by McDowell in Evidence For the Resurrection (as objection #4  on page 209), as well as in Evidence that Demands a Verdict (objection #5 on page 252 of the Revised Edition), and in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (objection #5 on page 277).
This objection to the Hallucination Theory is used by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Handbook of Christian Apologetics (as objection #7 on page 187), by William Craig in The Son Rises (as objection #3 on pages 120 and 121), and by Gary Habermas in his article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories” (objection #1 on page 5).  Habermas also uses this objection in his interview by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ (see page 239).
This objection is also used by J.N.D. Anderson in A Lawyer Among the Theologians (see pages 92 and 93), by Murray Harris in Raised Immortal (see page 61), as well as by Winfried Corduan in No Doubt About It (on page 221), by Hank Hanegraaff in Resurrection (on page 46 he quotes Gary Habermas from the interview by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ), and by Paul Little in Know Why You Believe (objection #5 on page 56 of the 3rd edition).
McDowell’s reasoning here in TRF can be spelled out in a brief argument:

1. Hallucinations REQUIRE that a person who has an hallucination of circumstance C previously had a hopeful expectation or wish that circumstance C would occur, to which the hallucination provides an imaginary fulfilment (since circumstance C only seems to occur but does not actually occur).

2. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead.

3. After Jesus’ crucifixion and prior to Jesus’ disciples having experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead, his disciples did NOT have a hopeful expectation or wish that Jesus would rise from the dead and be alive again.

THEREFORE:

4. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the experiences of Jesus’ disciples of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead were NOT hallucinations. 

The logic of this argument is fine.  However, I would contend that each one of the premises of this argument is problematic, so TRF5 FAILS.  I will argue that premise (1) is clearly false, that an improved version of premise (1) is dubious, that premise (2) is dubious, and that premise (3) is  dubious.  Furthermore, I will argue that IF premise (3) were true, THEN this would give us a powerful reason to reject the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
 
PROBLEMS WITH  PREMISE (1)
PROBLEM #1: McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.
Josh McDowell FAILS to provide ANY significant evidence in support of the psychological generalization that he asserts in objection TRF5:

  • In The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In Evidence for the Resurrection, McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Revised edition), McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.

McDowell provides thirteen quotations in support of TRF5 in his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and also in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, but NONE of the quotations is from an expert in psychology.  They are all quotes from ministers, evangelists, theologians, biblical scholars, and Christian apologists.
It is crystal clear that McDowell made NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to read or study scientific articles or books about hallucinations written by psychological experts.  Therefore, his claim that “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” that “hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy” has ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS in fact, as far as the intellectually lazy Josh McDowell is aware.*
Sadly, the same unmitigated ignorance of the scientific literature about hallucinations appears to be the case with McDowell’s fellow Christian apologists.
PROBLEM #2: Other apologists who make this objection also provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.

  • Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics.
  • William Craig provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book The Son Rises.
  • J.N.D. Anderson provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book A Lawyer Among the Theologians.
  • Murray Harris provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Raised Immortal.
  • Winfried Corduan provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book No Doubt About It.
  • Hank Hanegraaff provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Resurrection.
  • Paul Little provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Know Why You Believe (3rd edition).
  • Gary Habermas provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories“.

It should be noted that Gary Habermas, alone among these Christian apologists, does quote from a bona fide psychologist, named Gary Collins, in his interview by Lee Strobel.  However, the quote is NOT from a peer-reviewed article or book, but from personal correspondence from Gary Collins. Furthermore, Gary Collins is a devout Evangelical Christian who was a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where the Christian apologist Dr. William Craig also taught, so Collins is clearly a biased source of information on this subject.
Furthermore, Gary Collins specializes in Christian Counseling, and he appears to have no particular expertise in the study of hallucinations, nor in the study of mental illnesses or conditions that are associated with hallucinations.  Finally, the quote is about the obvious point that hallucinations are subjective in nature (a point that requires no psychological expertise because this is a conceptual point that requires only a good understanding of the meaning of the word “hallucination” in the English language).  The quotation of Collins by Habermas provides ZERO EVIDENCE in support of the specific psychological generalization asserted as part of objection TRF5.
PROBLEM #3: The psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 is clearly and obviously FALSE.
There is actually no need to consult the scientific literature on hallucinations (which NONE of the above apologists made any effort to do), because this psychological generalization is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Because this psychological generalization is clearly and obviously FALSE, it is extremely unlikely that “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” with this psychological generalization.  In any case, even if “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” with this psychological generalization, that wouldn’t change the fact that the generalization is FALSE.
Frightening Hallucinations
I can only recall one time in my life when I experienced an hallucination.  I was a young child (a toddler?); I was sick and had a fever.  I remember looking around in my room, and being frightened because the whole room was filled with fish and sharks swimming around in it.  This was an hallucination presumably caused by my sickness and fever.  We all know that hallucinations can be frightening, like this hallucination that I experienced as a young child. So, apart from studying the scientific literature on hallucinations, we all know that some hallucinations are NOT produced as the result of “a hopeful expectation or wish” that the event or circumstance that appears in the hallucination would occur.  As a young child I had no hopeful expectation or wish to spend the night underwater in the presence of large hungry sharks!
We all know that there are such things as “bad trips” that can occur when someone uses a mind-altering drug.  Evangelical Christians have been obsessed with opposition to “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” for decades.  Many of them have come to embrace rock-n-roll, but still froth at the mouth when talking about drugs and sex.  So, if anyone is aware that drugs can sometimes cause “bad trips”, it is Evangelical Christians.  But a “bad trip” often includes unpleasant or frightening hallucinations.  For example, the man who discovered LSD relates a “bad trip” experience he had:

One of the earliest documented bad trips was reported by Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD. He had started experiencing a bad trip, and in an attempt to soothe himself, requested some milk from his next-door neighbor, who appeared to have become “a malevolent, insidious witch.”  (“What is a Bad Trip?” by Elizabeth Hartney)

We all know that hallucinations can be unpleasant or frightening, because we all know that mind-altering drugs can sometimes result in a “bad trip”.  So, apart from studying the scientific literature on hallucinations, we all know that some hallucinations are NOT produced as the result of “a hopeful expectation or wish” that the event or circumstance that appears in the hallucination would occur.
Evangelical Christians are very well aware of this fact about hallucinations.  So, if Josh McDowell, or any of the Christian apologists who follow him in his complete ignorance about the scientific literature on hallucinations had simply thought seriously about the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 for a few minutes, they probably would have come to the realization that it is CLEARLY and OBVIOUSLY FALSE.  But in addition to being completely ignorant about the scientific literature on hallucinations, McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists apparently were also uninterested in giving any serious thought to the question of whether the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 was true.  So, this objection is not only WITHOUT ANY FACTUAL BASIS, but it also reveals a complete lack of critical thought among Christian apologists, at least on this important issue.
 
CONCLUSION
I have more problems to discuss with objection TRF5, but the above problems are more than sufficient to show that objection TRF5 FAILS, and that this objection does NOT refute, or even significantly damage, the Hallucination Theory.
 
To Be Continued…
 
*McDowell does include ONE reference to ONE book by a psychologist (Outline of Psychiatric Case-Study by Paul William Peru), but he does NOT provide any quotations from that book, and the book was published in 1939, so it does not represent the state of the art in the scientific study of hallucinations.
Furthermore, I have read the three pages of Peru’s book that McDowell references (pages 97 to 99), and in those pages Peru does NOT assert the psychological generalization that PF5 is based on, nor does Peru provide evidence in support of that generalization, and in fact those three pages are filled primarily with QUESTIONS that Peru thinks a psychologist should ask a patient who seems to be experiencing, or seems to have experienced, an hallucination.  Peru does NOT make any relevant psychological generalizations about the causes of hallucinations in those pages.  So, McDowell just made this generalization up (or perhaps he accepted this empirical claim on the basis of the pseudo authority of an evangelist, minister, theologian, bible scholar, or Christian apologist who lacks expertise in the field of psychology).
=========================
Christian Apologetics books referenced in this post:
Norman Anderson, A Lawyer Among the Theologians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, copyright 1973, first American edition published February 1974)
Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997)
William Craig, The Son Rises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981)
Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection (Nashville, Tennessee: Word Publishing, 2000)
Murray Harris, Raised Immortal (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, copyright 1983, this American edition published in 1985)
Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994)
Paul Little, Know Why You Believe, expanded and updated by Marie Little (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 3rd edition 1988)
Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Revised Edition (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.,1979)
Josh McDowell, The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.,1981)
Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999)
Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009)
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998)

bookmark_borderFeser’s Perverted Faculty Argument – Part 1: The Core Argument

HSIAO’S PERVERTED FACULTY ARGUMENT
I have REJECTED Timothy Hsiao’s Perverted Faculty “Argument” against homosexual sex NOT because it was a bad argument, but because it was a FAUX argument, and not an actual argument.  The core “argument” by Hsiao consists of three declarative sentences that were so UNCLEAR that they cannot be rationally evaluated, and thus those sentences do NOT assert actual claims, and thus those sentences do NOT constitute an actual argument.
For my analysis and criticism of Hsiao’s “argument” see the following posts:

Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 1: A Thomist Argument
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 2: Argument Structure
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 3: Unclear Argument
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 4: The Logic of Applied Ethics
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 5: From Fake to Real
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 6: Sexual Activity
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 7: Definitions of “Sexual Activity”
Aquinas and Homosexual Sex – Part 8: Legal Definitions

 
FESER’S PERVERTED FACULTY ARGUMENT
Edward Feser has also put forward a version of the Perverted Faculty Argument (hereafter: PFA), so I will now examine that argument in the hopes that it is an actual argument consisting of actual claims.  Based on his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Feser understands the need to define and clarify the meanings of key words and phrases in philosophical arguments.  I am hoping that in his presentation of PFA,  Feser will define and/or clarify the meanings of key words and phrases in his version of PFA so that it constitutes an actual argument that is composed of actual claims.  If I find his effort to constitute an actual argument, then I will attempt to rationally evaluate that argument.
Here is how Feser summarizes PFA in his book Neo-Scholastic Essays (hereafter: NSE):

(NSE, p. 403-404)
The logical structure of this argument is simple and straightforward, consisting of a series of three inferences:

THE CORE ARGUMENT IN FESER’S PFA
Typically, the core of such a three-tiered argument occurs in the middle of the argument, and that seems to be the case here.  I have indicated what I take to be the core argument by the purple line drawn around the middle argument.
Here is what I take to be the core argument in Feser’s PFA:

(NSE, p. 404)
As with Hsiao’s PFA, this core argument is filled with UNCLEAR words and phrases.  However, for right now, I’m going to assume that Feser defines or clarifies the meanings of these UNCLEAR words and phrases (or most of them) somewhere in the chapter that he devotes to PFA, so that these sentences will turn out to be actual claims.
Before I try to nail down the meanings of the various UNCLEAR terms, I am going to work at eliminating UNCLEAR REFERENCES in these sentences, by applying a basic rule of argument analysis:

*** 86 THE MOTHERFUCKING PRONOUNS! ***

I don’t use the expression “motherfucking” here to indicate a criticism of Feser.  We ALL use pronouns, and even the best philosophers use pronouns when laying out philosophical arguments.  So, in using pronouns to summarize PFA, Feser is not doing anything contrary to normal practice, even among the best philosophers.
Nevertheless, it is good to develop some antipathy towards pronouns, if you want to properly analyze and evaluate philosophical arguments, or even if you just want to be a competent critical thinker.  Pronouns often create AMBIGUITY and UNCLARITY, and these things are anathema to philosophy and to critical thinking.
Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.  We need to understand the meaning of a claim first, before we can rationally evaluate that claim.  We need to understand an argument first, before we can rationally evaluate that argument.  So, CLARITY is a basic requirement for claims and arguments used in philosophical thinking and for thinking critically about any claim or argument.
 
EVIL PRONOUNS IN THE CORE ARGUMENT
I put the evil pronouns in bold red font.
Premise 3:
it is metaphysically impossible”
“for it to be good for us
“to use those faculties”
“in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and unitive ends”
Premise 4:
“homosexual acts” [ Note: I’m going to ignore the other “bad” sexual activities: “contraceptive acts”, “masturbatory acts”, and “acts of bestiality”.]
“involve the use of our sexual faculties”
“in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and/or unitive ends”
Premise 5:
it is metaphysically impossible”
“for it to be good for us
“to engage in homosexual acts” [ Note: I’m going to ignore the other “bad” sexual activities: “contraceptive acts”, “masturbatory acts”, and “acts of bestiality”.]
 
NOW WE 86 THE PRONOUNS
I replaced the pronouns in bold red font with words or phrases in bold blue font.
Premise 3:
it is metaphysically impossible”   ==>   “a situation is metaphysically impossible”
“for it to be good for us”   ==>   “for the activity to be good for a human being
“to use those faculties”   ==>   “to use the sexual faculties belonging to that human being
“in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and unitive ends”   ==>   “in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings
Revision of Premise 3:

3a. A situation where a human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings AND where that activity is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

Premise 4:
“homosexual acts” [there are important elements missing from this phrase]   ==>  “in any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts”
“involve the use of our sexual faculties”   ==>   “that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being
“in a manner that is contrary to their procreative and/or unitive ends”   ==>   “in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings
Revision of Premise 4:

4a. In any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts, that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings.

Premise 5:
it is metaphysically impossible” ==> “a situation is metaphysically impossible”
“for it to be good for us” ==> “for the activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) to be good for a human being
“to engage in homosexual acts” ==> “in any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts”
Revision of Premise 5:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

 
THE REVISED CORE ARGUMENT OF FESER’S PFA

3a. A situation where a human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings AND where that activity is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

4a. In any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts, that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings.

THEREFORE:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

This revised core argument is significantly more CLEAR than the statement of it by Feser.  However, all three sentences here still make use of UNCLEAR words and phrases, and so I’m not yet willing to admit that these three sentences make actual claims, nor that this is an actual argument.  It depends on whether Feser defines or clarifies the various UNCLEAR  words and phrases in these three sentences.
So, in the next post of this series I will begin to address this question:

Does Feser provide useful definitions or clarifications of the meanings of the key words and phrases in these sentences that are, apart from such efforts, too UNCLEAR to make it so the sentences may reasonably be treated as actual claims?

 
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 11: The Argument for Premise (2)

WHERE WE ARE
Norman Geisler has FAILED to show that premise (1) of his Thomist Cosmological Argument is true, but premise (1) is obviously true.  Since premise (1) is obviously true, we should not reject TCA just because Geisler FAILED to prove that (1) is true.  Since premise (1) seems to be obviously true, we should accept it, and examine the rest of this argument to see if the other premises are true, and if the inferences in the rest of the argument are all logically valid.
In Part 10 of this series, I began to analyze and clarify Geisler’s argument for premise (2):

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

 
APPARENT GAPS IN GEISLER’S LOGIC
There is an obvious problem with Geisler’s argument for premise (2).   Premise (2) DOES NOT APPEAR TO FOLLOW LOGICALLY from his argument in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  Geisler is a sloppy and careless thinker, so it would be no surprise to me if his argument for this key premise is a non sequitur:

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

THEREFORE:

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

There are two logical/conceptual JUMPS that occur between (42) and (2).  First, (42) talks about “limited” things, while (2) talks about “finite” things.  Second, (42) talks about things that exist “independently”, while (2) talks about things that are “caused by something else”.
Actually, the inference from (42) to (2) might be correct.  It might be the case that (2) follows logically from (42), but that depends on the meanings of the key terms in these claims: “a thing that is limited”, “a thing that exists independently”, a “finite…thing”, and a “thing…caused by something else.”  If these terms are defined in particular ways, then the inference from (42) to (2) would be logical.
Geisler, being a sloppy and unclear thinker, does not bother to define the key terms in his Thomist Cosmological Argument, so it is difficult to evaluate the correctness of his inference from (42) to (2).  Geisler’s argument in WSA for premise (2) consists of two measly sentences (WSA, p.18) , so it is no wonder that his argument is unclear and that it appears on its face to be a non sequitur.
 
GEISLER’S ARGUMENT IN POR FOR PREMISE (2) 
Geisler provides a longer and more detailed defense of premise (2) in his earlier book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: POR).  So, I am going to shift my focus (for now) to his argument for premise (2) as presented in POR (on pages 194-197).
In POR, premise (2) of the Thomist Cosmological Argument is stated in slightly different words than in WSA.  Geisler uses the term “limited” in POR instead of “finite” in WSA:

2a. The present existence of every limited, changing being is caused by another.

He also uses the word “being” in POR rather than “thing” in WSA.  And in POR, Geisler specifies that it is the “present existence” of finite things that is “caused” by another.
Based on how Geisler switches freely back and forth between the terms “limited” and “finite”, those words appear to be equivalent in meaning, at least as far as Geisler is concerned.  Since I am now focused on the argument for (2) in POR, I will defer to his preference of the term “limited”,  for now.  Talking about the “present existence” of things being caused is a nice bit of clarification in POR, so I will now use those additional words in a revised formulation of premise (2).
I don’t care for the term “being” because this smacks of a technical philosophical term, but Geisler has FAILED to define this word, so it is unclear and misleading to use that term as opposed to the more common n0n-technical word “thing”.  I don’t object to the use of technical philosophical terminology, but if one wishes to use such terms, then one has an obligation to DEFINE the meaning of such a term.  Geisler rarely defines his key terms, so he needs to stick to common words and their ordinary meanings.
I take it that the phrase “caused by another” means “caused by another being”, and since I find the use of the term “being” unclear and misleading, I will interpret that final phrase as meaning: “caused by another thing“.  Here then is my clarified version of premise (2) that uses elements from both the WSA and the POR versions of this key premise:

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

Geisler re-iterates the argument for (2) at least four times in just a few pages, with only slight variations.  Here is one instance of the argument:

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

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

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

There is also  an intermediate conclusion that Geisler, in his typical sloppy and careless manner, fails to spell out:

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

Premise (52) is a reason for premise (53).  Premise (51) works together with premise (53) to support the unstated intermediate conclusion (L).
 
THE STRUCTURE OF THE ARGUMENT IN POR FOR PREMISE (2b) 
Because I have replaced the term “being” with the term “thing” in premise (2), following Geisler’s wording in WSA, we need to revise the wording of other premises that use the term “being” so that they also use the term “thing”:

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

THEREFORE:

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

THEREFORE:

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


 
To be continued…