bookmark_borderThe Nature of Naturalism

Over the last year (or two?), I’ve had on-again and off-again exchanges on various blogs with reader “Crude” about the definition of metaphysical naturalism. I’d like to comment on his (?) recent objections in the combox on Victor Reppert’s blog start with the linked comment here and work your way down. Each time we’ve had an exchange, I’ve (virtually speaking) walked away scratching my head, not feeling the force of Crude’s objections. Since that could be due to a misunderstanding on my part, I’d like to formally state that I consider my views on these matters to be tentative and a work in progress. In other words, I’m publishing the post in the spirit of truth and learning, not in an attempt to try to score “debate points.” I hope this post (and his responses) will help to advance the discussion.*
* I’m referring to Crude as a “he” but I don’t know if that’s the correct pronoun. Crude can correct me on that also if I’m wrong.


First, let’s start with my definitions, which are almost entirely taken from the writings of Paul Draper.
physical entity: an entity which is either (1) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists today; or (2) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists in the future, which has some sort of nomological or historical connection to the kinds of entities studied by physicists or chemists today.
causally reducible: X is causally reducible to Y just in case X’s causal powers are entirely explainable in terms of the causal powers of Y.
ontologically reducible: X is ontologically reducible to Y just in case X is nothing but a collection of Ys organized in a certain way.
natural entity: an entity which is either a physical entity or an entity that is ontologically or causally reducible to a physical entity.
nature: the spatio-temporal universe of natural entities.
physical world: equivalent to “nature.” Notice that the physical world, if it exists, is a public, objective world, in contrast to the mental world (see below).
mental world: a private, subjective world of conscious experiences like thoughts, feelings, imaginings and sensations
supernatural person: a person that is not part of nature but can affect nature. Examples of supernatural persons include God, angels, Satan, demons, ghosts, etc.
metaphysical naturalism (hereafter, “MN”): the hypothesis that the universe is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it. MN has three implications.
(1) MN entails the non-existence of all supernatural persons, including God, and so entails atheism.
(2) MN entails that nature causally explains the existence (or, making room for eliminative physicalists, the apparent existence) of the mental world. In other words, MN entails that natural entities are ontologically fundamental.
(3) MN entails that nature does not have a teleological or purposive explanation.
scientific naturalism (hereafter, “SN”): a form of MN which holds that the explanation in question is a scientific one (and in particular a covering law explanation). Of course, scientific naturalists don’t know exactly what that explanation is. They don’t know what the laws are that explain why matter, when arranged in a certain way (e.g. in the form of a functioning nervous system), brings mind (or apparent mind) into existence. But scientific naturalists must hold that there are such laws.
eliminative physicalism: a form of SN which holds that the mental world doesn’t exist.
eliminative idealism: the view that the physical world doesn’t exist.
metaphysical supernaturalism (hereafter, “MS”): the hypothesis that the physical world (or, making room for eliminative idealists, its appearance) is a product of one or more non-physical mental entities. In other words, MS entails that mental entities are ontologically fundamental.
personal supernaturalism (hereafter, “PS”): a form of MS which holds that the mental entities in question are persons and that the explanation of the physical world is teleological or purposive. Of course, personal supernaturalists need not claim to know what purposes were being pursued when the physical world (or apparent physical world) was created; but they must hold that there are such purposes.
metaphysical deism (aka “deistic supernaturalism” or simply “deism”): a form of PS which identifies the mental reality responsible for the existence of physical reality with a supernatural person who created the natural world but does not act in it and is not worthy of worship. (To say that God acts “in the natural word” is to say that, in addition to creating and/or sustaining the world, God intentionally brings about particular natural effects involving God’s creatures or other parts of nature.)
metaphysical theism (aka “theistic supernaturalism” or simply “theism,” hereafter, “T”): a form of PS which identifies the mental reality responsible for the existence of physical reality with God—in other words, with a unique person who is omnipotent and omniscient and thus, lacking non-rational desires, omnibenevolent as well.
metaphysical atheism: the belief that T is false.
otherism (hereafter, “O”): a catch-all category for all hypotheses which are incompatible with both MN and MS
pansychism (hereafter, “P”): a form of otherism which holds that concrete reality consists of a single sort of “stuff” that essentially has both physical and mental aspects.


As I understand him (?), here are Crude’s objections.
(1) Regarding the definition of “physical entity,” this leaves the definition of MN open-ended. In Crude’s words, “Having some kind of historical/nomological connection to what we study today’ is absurdly open-ended and lets all of the usual problems obtain.”
(2) Regarding the definition of MN, MN is logically compatible with things we normally regard as logically incompatible with atheism. In Crude’s words, “When we see the list of theisms on offer (polytheism of the sort that involves Zeus, etc, would swing right against it – those gods were apparently physical beings).”
(3) Regarding the definition of “supernatural person,” I will quote Crude at length:

And we’re right on back to various problems. For one, whether these things are or aren’t part of nature depends on the attention and scope of physicists and chemists, which itself is a tremendously slippery standard to make use of since it inevitably is tied up in social considerations. Were angels and God ‘natural’ in Newton’s time?
And all of this ignores the historical views that were problematic here – everything from quantum effects to action at a distance to otherwise, at one point historically, could have easily been put into the ‘supernatural’ pile. Multiverses? Measurement problems? Supposed waveform ‘collapse’ in general? Action at a distance? Universes being created, period? Weird stuff that sure ran contrary to our views of what nature was defined as or supposed to be. So we just kept changing the definition of nature.
To that end, I think, the damage is done – this is a historical problem, a set of shifts of understanding that has already taken place, and will likely take place again.


Let’s consider each of Crude’s objections in turn.
First, what about (1)? It’s not exactly clear what Crude takes this objection to mean. Take the statement, “Physical entities exist.” What is the problem?
(a) Perhaps he (?) means that the statement is non-cognitive, i.e., that it does not express a proposition. This seems false, however, since it seems that the statement has a truth value, i.e., it’s either true or false.
(b) Perhaps Crude’s complaint is that the scope of the statement is dynamic, i.e., it can change over time in the light of new scientific discoveries. There is truth in that statement. Suppose that in the year 2015 physicists revise the Standard Model to include a new type of elementary particle called the darkoton which accounts for the presence of so-called “dark matter.” But such a discovery would pose no problem because it would be nomologically and historically connected to the kinds of entities which physicsts study today. Crude would probably say, ” I agree, but that’s not the kind of discovery I was talking about.”
Since I don’t want to attack a straw man, I’ll defer to Crude to provide an example of a hypothetical discovery which he claims makes MN open-ended in a problematic way. What I want to emphasize here is two-fold. First, MN is falsifiable: there’s a limit to the kinds of discoveries which are compatible with MN. If “nature” ultimately has a teleological or purposive explanation, then MN is false. And so any evidence of a cosmic telos or purpose is, accordingly, evidence against MN; the definition of MN cannot be revised or expanded to include it. Or so it seems to me; again, I’ll defer to Crude to explain why he (?) disagrees.
Second, the track record of naturalistic explanations gives us a strong reason to expect that future scientific discoveries will not appeal to supernatural agents like gods, ghosts, souls, vital forces, etc.
Let’s turn to (2). I used to study Greek mythology when I was younger and so I consider myself decently well-informed about it. Such beings as the Greek gods are logically incompatible with MN. As I understand Greek mythology, the Greek gods were conceived to be physical beings in the same way that the second person of the Trinity was/is conceived to be a physical being: by being incarnated. Their supernatural powers did not derive from their physical body or the laws of nature. So, while various polytheisms may have held that various gods did take physical form, it hardly follows that such gods were nothing but physical entities. All that follows is this: their physical forms were physical entities, but the gods themselves were much more than their physical forms. In short, (2) is a very weak objection.
Finally, consider (3). This can be easily dispensed with because this objection  just ignores the part of the definition of “natural entity” which refers to what physicists and chemists study today.
Related Resources
Defining the Supernatural” by Richard Carrier

bookmark_borderSimplicity, Theism, and Naturalism

In a recent post on his blog, Alexander Pruss presents an interesting argument regarding simplicity, theism, and naturalism. He writes:

I have argued elsewhere, as my colleague Trent Dougherty also has and earlier, that when we understand simplicity rightly, theism makes for a simpler theory than naturalism. However, suppose I am wrong, and naturalism is the simpler theory. Is that a reason to think naturalism true? I suspect not. For it is theism that explains how simplicity can be a guide to truth (say, because of God’s beauty and God’s desire to produce an elegant universe), while on naturalism we should not think of simplicity as a guide to truth, but at most as a pragmatic benefit of a theory. Thus to accept naturalism for the sake of simplicity is to cut the branch one is sitting on.

 I shared Pruss’s post with Paul Draper. Draper sent me the following reply, which he has graciously allowed me to publish here.

Simplicity is, of necessity, a prima facie theoretical virtue.  If, however, theism is true, then simplicity is not an ultima facie theoretical virtue.  If theism is true, we should expect reality to be valuable (which often requires complexity), not simple.  So exactly the opposite of Pruss’s position seems correct.

In a follow-up email, Draper attributes this point to Robin Collins. I’m not sure if this is what Draper had in mind, but Collins seems to develop this point in the Secular Web’s Great Debate (see here, skip down to “Beauty and the Laws of Nature”).

bookmark_borderF-Inductive Arguments: A New Type of Inductive Argument

In his extensive writings, the prestigious philosopher Richard Swinburne makes a useful distinction between two types of inductive arguments. Let B be our background information or evidence; E be the evidence to be explained; and H be an explanatory hypothesis.
“C-inductive argument”: an argument in which the premisses confirm  or add to the probability of the conclusion, i.e., P(H | E & B) > P(H | B).
“P-inductive argument”: an argument in which the premisses make the conclusion probable, i.e., P(H | E & B) > 1/2.
It seems to me that there is a third type of inductive argument which should go between C-inductive and P-inductive arguments. I’m going to dub it the “F-inductive argument.”
“F-inductive argument”: an argument in which the evidence to be explained favors one explanatory hypothesis over one or more of its rivals, i.e., P(E | H1 & B) > P(E | H2 & B). Explanatory arguments are F-inductive arguments and have the following structure.
1. E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.
2. H1 is not intrinsically much more probable than H2, i.e., Pr(|H1|) is not much greater than Pr(|H2|).
3. Pr(E | H2 & B) > Pr(E | H1 & B).
4. Other evidence held equal, H1 is probably false, i.e., Pr(H1 | B & E) < 0.5.
Good F-inductive arguments show that E is prima facie evidence — that is why (4) begins with the phrase, “Other evidence held equal.” They leave open the possibility that there may be other evidence which favors H1 over H2; indeed, they are compatible with the situation where the total evidence favors H1 over H2.
F-inductive arguments are “stronger” than C-inductive arguments insofar as they show E not only adds to the probability of H2, but that E is more probable on the assumption that H2 is true than on the assumption that H1 is true. They are weaker than P-inductive arguments, however, because they don’t show that E is ultima facie evidence — they don’t show that E makes H2 probable.
One final point. Although I believe I am the first to give F-inductive argument a name and place within Swinburne’s taxonomy of inductive arguments, the structure for such arguments is not mine. Paul Draper deserves the credit for that.

bookmark_borderPotential Objections to Swinburne’s Cosmological Argument

After studying inductive logic for so long, I’ve decided it is finally time to reread Richard Swinburne’s The Existence of God (second ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) and reconsider his inductive case for God’s existence. In doing so, I think I may have discovered a new objection to his cosmological argument. This is very rough and any comments would be appreciated.

Swinburne’s Terminology

The first thing we need to do is to get clear on Swinburne’s terminology and abbreviations.


E: A complex physical universe exists (over a period of time).
k: mere tautological evidence
h: the hypothesis of theism
P(h | k): the prior probability of theism. (Note: in the case of his cosmological argument, where he is abstracting away all contingent facts, the prior probability of theism reduces to the intrinsic probability of theism. More on that below.)
P(e | h & k): the probability that there be a physical universe caused by God
P(e|~h & k) : the probability that there be a physical universe without anything else having brought it about.


“C-inductive argument”: an argument in which the premisses ‘confirm’  or add to the probability of the conclusion, i.e., P(e | h & k) > P(e | h).
“P-inductive argument”: an argument in which the premisses make the conclusion more probable than not, i.e., P(e | h & k) > 1/2.

The Central Claim of Swinburne’s Cosmological Argument

Swinburne claims that his cosmological argument is a good C-inductive argument. In other words, if we start with just the intrinsic probability of theism and then add the evidence of the existence of a complex physical universe–and only that evidence–the output is a probability higher than what we started with. Let’s call that Swinburne’s “central claim.”

Swinburne’s Primary Reason for His Central Claim

As I read him, Swinburne’s primary reason for the central claim of his cosmological argument can be summed up in one word: simplicity.
According to Swinburne, the prior probability of any hypothesis is determined by three factors: (1) the internal simplicity of h; (2) the narrowness of scope of h; and (3) how well h fits in with our general background knowledge of the world contained in k. In the case of his cosmological argument, I interpret Swinburne as arguing that (2) and (3) do not apply; instead, his cosmological argument invites us to compare P(e | h & k) to the intrinsic probability of theism, P(h | k). When we do, Swinburne tells us, we will see that considerations of simplicity support his central claim.
And what does Swinburne mean by “simplicity”? His answer:

The simplicity of a theory, in my view, is a matter of it postulating few (logically independent) entities, few properties of entities, few kinds of entities, few kinds of properties, properties more readily observable, few separate laws with few terms relating few variables, the simplest formulation of each law being mathematically simple. … A theory is simpler and so has greater prior probability to the extent to which these criteria are satisfied. But, of course, it is often the case that only a theory that is less than perfectly simple can satisfy the other criteria (for example, explanatory power) for probable truth. The best theory may be less than perfectly simple; but, other things being equal, the simpler, the more probably true. (p. 53)

Some Objections to Swinburne’s Cosmological Argument

1. Even if Swinburne’s central claim is correct, a critic might argue, it is evidentially insignificant. Not only is Swinburne’s concept of a good C-inductive argument compatible with h being probably false, it is also compatible with there being a good C-inductive argument for a rival hypothesis, such as metaphysical naturalism. (In fairness to Swinburne, it should be noted that he admits this.) But the problem is even worse. His concept of a good C-inductive argument is compatible with there being a good C-inductive argument for a rival hypothesis and the latter argument being a stronger, or even much stronger, than the former argument. As I shall argue next, Swinburne’s cosmological argument suffers from precisely this problem.
2. Let N represent “metaphysical naturalism,” the hypothesis that the universe is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it. Notice that, so defined, N entails that the universe exists, i.e., P(universe | N) = 1. In contrast, theism does not entail the existence of a universe; God could have decided not to create anything. Swinburne himself argues that God has both good reasons to create and not to create humanly free agents; Swinburne regards both possibilities as equally likely. Although Swinburne doesn’t explicitly state this, his comments seem to entail that the probability of the universe, on the assumption that theism is true, is somewhere between 1/2 and 1, i.e.,
1/2 < P(e | h & k) < 1.
Even if that is correct, however, it would still be the case that:
P(universe | h & k) < P(universe | N & k).
Careful readers will note that I have just switched from ‘e’ to ‘universe.’ Why? It seems to me that the existence of a universe simpliciter is a more “fundamental” item of evidence than the existence of universe that is complex, and so the more appropriate starting point for an inductive cosmological argument. (This, of course, leaves Swinburne with the option of making the following reply: given that a universe exists, the fact that it is complex favors theism over naturalism. This raises an important question: how do we measure “complexity”? I’m going to leave that question and this possible reply to the side, for possible consideration in a future post.)
So, to sum up, given a very common definition of metaphysical naturalism, the evidence of the universe favors naturalism over theism for the simple reason that naturalism entails a universe whereas theism does not. 
This conclusion invites another reply: “Okay, smarty pants. Sure, if you build the existence of the universe into the definition of naturalism, then of course you’re going to be able to argue that naturalism entails the universe. But why should we build the definition of the universe into the definition of naturalism? Isn’t that just ad hoc?” As I shall argue next, the answer to that question is, “No.” To see why, let’s turn to my third objection to Swinburne’s cosmological argument.
3. My third objection to Swinburne’s argument is that his approach to prior probability (and intrinsic probability) is wrong because simplicity doesn’t play the role he thinks it does. Simplicity qua simplicity does not help to determine prior probability (and intrinsic probability). Rather, simplicity is, at best, correlated with prior probability.
As Paul Draper has argued, there are two and only two things which determine the prior probability of a hypothesis: modesty and coherence. Here is Draper on modesty.

The degree of modesty of a hypothesis depends inversely on how much it asserts (that we do not know by rational intuition to be true). Other things being equal, hypotheses that are narrower in scope or less specific assert less and so are more modest than hypotheses that are broader in scope or more specific.[1]

 And here he is again, this time on coherence.

The degree of coherence of a hypothesis depends on how well its parts (i.e. its logical implications) fit together. To the extent that the various claims entailed by a hypothesis support each other (relative only to what we know by rational intuition), the hypothesis is more coherent. To the extent that they count against each other, the hypothesis is less coherent. Hypotheses that postulate objective uniformity are, other things being equal, more coherent than hypotheses that postulate variety, either at a time or over time.[2]

Although I won’t defend the claim here, it appears that all of Swinburne’s examples (to support his claim that simplicity partially determines prior probability) involve examples where modesty, coherence, or both come into play. He does not seem to provide any examples supporting his criterion of simplicity which do not also involve modesty, coherence, or both. So let’s suppose Draper is right about intrinsic probability generally. What, then, can we say about Swinburne’s cosmological argument?
One of Swinburne’s supporting reasons is the notion that the existence of the universe is less simple than the existence of God, and so less to be expected a priori than the existence of God, i.e., P(h | k) > P(e | k). In his words:

There might have been a physical universe governed by quite different laws, or there might have been no universe at all. But it is always simpler to postulate nothing rather than something; and so, in the absence of observable data made probable by the hypothesis that quite different non-fundamental laws were operating in the past, the hypothesis that the universe came into existence a finite time ago will remain the more probable hypothesis.” (p. 140, italics are mine)

If intrinsic probability is determined solely by modesty and coherence, however, then this argument is just flat out wrong. To be charitable, let’s take coherence off the table and assume that theism is perfectly coherent. That leaves us with modesty. It’s far from obvious that h is more modest than e.
Besides, if we compare theism and naturalism as rival explanatory hypotheses and limit ourselves to just the evidence of the universe, the comparison does not go well for theism. Both supernaturalism and naturalism are equally modest and equally coherent, so both theories have equal intrinsic probabilities. Notice, however, that theism is a variant of supernaturalism in the sense that theism entails supernaturalism but is not entailed by it. In other words, theism could be false even if supernaturalism is true. This is because theism says everything that supernaturalism says, but then adds on several additional claims. That is why theism is less modest than both supernaturalism and naturalism. That is also why theism has a lower prior probability than naturalism.

An Inductive Cosmological Argument against Theism

These insights enable us to formulate an inductive cosmological argument against theism. Let B be our background information; E be the existence of the universe; T be theism; and N be naturalism. Here is the explanatory argument.
1. E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.
2. T is not intrinsically much more probable than N, i.e., Pr(T | B) is not much more probable
than Pr(N | B).
3. Pr(E | N) =1 > Pr(E | T).
4. Other evidence held equal, T is probably false, i.e., Pr(T | B & E) < 1/2.

bookmark_borderChristianity Today asks, “Are Birth Defects Part of God’s Plan?”

If Christianity is true, then, of course, the answer has to be, “Yes.” But is it true?
The philosophically significant question, however, is this: “Does naturalism or theism, including Christian theism, provide the best explanation for birth defects?”
Here is an excellent by Paul Draper, taken from a lecture he recently gave at the University of Notre Dame.

[I]magine two alien beings who are much like us in intellectual ability and who are gradually learning everything we know (and nothing more) about our biosphere. To make them even more similar to us, let us also suppose that these two beings know almost nothing about themselves and don’t take into account what they do know when they engage in theoretical reasoning. One of these alien beings is named Natty; Natty is a naturalist. The other alien is Theo. Theo, of course, is a theist. Having already acquired a great deal of information about Earth and its inhabitants, Natty and Theo begin to acquire the data of good and evil. As these data slowly trickle in, Natty and Theo try to predict what they will soon learn about the conscious beings on Earth. I contend that Natty will, at various stages in this process, make more accurate predictions than Theo. One reason for this—the only reason I will emphasize today—is that Theo’s belief in theism undermines certain inferences that naturalism does not undermine.
For example, suppose Natty and Theo already know that many plants die before they ever have a chance to flourish, that many others languish for much or all of their lives, and that even plants that flourish for much of their lives eventually wither and die. Natty and Theo then begin to learn about the animal life on earth. Specifically, they learn that some animals, unlike plants, can be harmed or benefited from their own internal point of view. Before learning more, they consider the question of whether these animals (including of course human beings) suffer the same fate as plants. Do many die young? Do many barely survive, languishing for most or all of their lives? Do some flourish for a time but then decay and die in old age?
Being a naturalist and, like Theo, seeing a plausible connection between these ecological facts about plants and the operation of natural selection, Natty expects to learn that the answers to these questions are all “yes.” Of course, there is an interesting moral difference between plants and conscious animals since the latter, unlike the former, can be harmed from their own internal point of view; and when Natty reasons analogically from facts about plants to the likelihood of similar facts obtaining in the case of animals, she will ask herself whether her inference is undermined by this difference. In other words, she will ask whether this dissimilarity between conscious animals and plants is a relevant one. Because she is a naturalist, however, she will no doubt answer that question negatively. For given naturalism, evolution and nature in general is likely to be blind to moral considerations.
Theo, on the other hand, finds himself with no good reason to believe that these moral dissimilarities are irrelevant; for he believes that the ultimate cause of evolution and of all ecological, botanical, and zoological facts is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God. Such a God, being omniscient, is well aware that flourishing in the biological sense can benefit some animals, but no plants, from their own internal point of view and languishing can harm them. Being omnipotent, such a being would be as well positioned as possible to ensure that such animals do flourish for at least most if not all of their lives. And being omnibenevolent, such a being would, other moral considerations held equal, want such beings to flourish. So Theo is not entitled to assume that the moral differences between plants and conscious animals are just irrelevant dissimilarities. He would be foolish to predict that conscious animals, like plants, frequently die young or survive but languish for most or all of their lives.
Of course, Theo recognizes that both his knowledge of possible goods and evils and his knowledge of entailment relations between goods and evils are very limited. Thus, he realizes that there might be moral reasons unknown to him for the theistic God he believes in to bring about a biosphere in which many conscious beings fail to flourish and so fail to achieve the good that for which they appear to be designed. He also recognizes, however, that it is also possible and no less likely that his God would have reasons unknown to him not to create a world of that sort. And then there are, of course, the moral reasons for not creating a world of that sort that he actually knows about. So even if Theo is not sure what his God will do, he certainly cannot reasonably judge that the moral differences between plants and conscious animals are irrelevant and so he cannot make use of the analogical inference Natty uses to make her prediction. Therefore, Theo will, if he is wise, not make the same prediction Natty makes. Of course, Natty’s prediction, it turns out, is accurate. So when the data comes in, she will turn to Theo and say: “See. I told you so. Don’t you see now that naturalism is more accurate with respect to these data than theism is?” (emphasis mine)

My heart goes out to all parents of children born with birth defects. But it’s hard to see the flaw in the logic of Draper’s argument, explained above. Everything else held equal, the evidence from birth defects shows that the answer to Christianity Today’s question is, “No. Birth defects are not part of God’s plan because God does not exist.”

bookmark_borderSkeptical Atheism and the Fine-Tuning Argument?

The multiple universes objection is a common objection to fine-tuning arguments for God’s existence. Paul Draper once wrote an interesting essay comparing that objection to that argument to the same objection applied to arguments from evil. What I’ve often wondered is this: what if we tried to draw another parallel between fine-tuning arguments and arguments from evil, this time focusing on “skeptical theism”? In other words, I think it would be interesting to compare, on the one hand, skeptical theism as an objection to arguments from evil, to, on the other hand, skeptical atheism as an objection to fine-tuning arguments.
For example, here are three theses often associated with skeptical theism (ST):

S1 We have no good reason for thinking that the possible goods we know of are representative, relative to the property of figuring in a (potentially) God-justifying reason for permitting such things as hiddenness or horrors, of the possible goods there are.
S2 We have no good reason for thinking that the possible evils we know of are representative, relative to the property of figuring in a (potentially) God-justifying reason for permitting such things as hiddenness or horrors, of the possible evils there are.
S3 We have no good reason for thinking that the entailment relations we know of between possible goods and the permission of possible evils are representative, relative to the property of figuring in a (potentially) God-justifying reason for permitting such things as hiddenness or horrors, of the entailment relations there are between possible goods and the permission of possible evils.
Now consider the following parallel thesis of “skeptical atheism,” taken from a recent paper by J.L. Schellenberg:
S4 We have no good reason for thinking that the considerations opposing the epistemic force of religious experience we know of are representative, relative to the property of (potentially) figuring in an undefeatable defeater of religious experience as justification for theistic belief, of the considerations opposing the epistemic force of religious experience there are.
Schellenberg’s focus is on investigating “skeptical atheism’s” ability to undercut the epistemic force of religious experience. But we can try extending the scope of “skeptical atheism’s” reach by applying it to fine-tuning arguments:

S5 We have no good reason for thinking that our universe is the only universe.

S6 We have no good reason for thinking that the physical constants (free parameters) which make our universe life-permitting are anything but the chance outcome of unknown, physical processes operating at the level of the multiverse.
S7 We have no good reason for thinking that our present understanding of physical cosmology is mature or reliable enough to justify inferences regarding the (a)theological implications of physical cosmology.
Is the “skeptical atheism” objection to fine-arguments stronger than the “skeptical theism” objection to arguments from evil? Thoughts?