bookmark_borderSwinburne’s Cosmological & Teleological Arguments

I’m not going to try to fully explain and evaluate Swinburne’s Cosmological and Teleological arguments for God here. That would be way too much to tackle in one or two blog posts. There are just a couple of doubts or concerns about these arguments that I would like to express and explore.
Swinburne’s inductive cosmological argument for God has just one premise:
e. A complex physical universe exists (over a period of time).
Therefore:
g. God exists.

Swinburne argues that e is more likely to be the case if God exists, than if God does NOT exist. From this he concludes that the e represents legitimate inductive evidence for the existence of God; that is to say, the truth of e increases the probability that God exists relative to the a priori probability that God exists, relative to the probability that God exist given only tautological truths (truths of logic and math and analytic conceptual truths) as background knowledge.
If g represents the hypothesis that God exists, and k represents background knowledge consisting only of tautological truths, then Swinburne argues for the following claim:
1. P(e|g & k) > P(e|k)
(Read this as asserting: “The probability of e given g and k is GREATER THAN the probability of e given only k.”)
From premise (1), Swinburne infers the following:
2. P(g|e & k) > P(g|k)
(Read this as asserting: “The probability of g given e and k is GREATER THAN the probability of g given only k.”)
One objection that has been raised against this argument is that it is not clear that a probability can be reasonably or justifiably assigned to a factual hypothesis given background knowledge consisting in only tautological truths. If “The probability of e given only k” cannot be reasonably or justifiably determined (or estimated), then we are in no position assert that some other probability is greater than (or less than, or equivalent to) “The probability of e given only k”.
The same issue arises with claim (2) that Swinburne infers from claim (1). If “The probability of g given only k” cannot be reasonably or justifiably determined, then we are in no position to assert that some other probability is greater than (or less than, or equivalent to) “The probability of g given only k”.
But this issue with the idea of a probability given only background knowledge consisting of tautological truths is not the concern I wish to explore here. My concern is with the other conditional probabilities in these equations:
P(e| g & k)
P(g| e & k)
I’m not sure that these probabilities make sense either. My concern is this: Is it possible to know just one contingent fact? Is it possible to know that ‘God exists’ without knowing any other contingent facts? Is it possible to know that ‘A complex physical universe exists (for a period of time)’ without knowing any other contingent facts? If it is not possible to know just one contingent fact, or if it is not possible to know only the contingent fact that ‘God exists’ or to know only the contingent fact that ‘A complex physical universe exists (for a period of time)’, then it appears that we are being asked to conceive of a set of circumstances that is logically impossible.
If it is not possible for a human being to know just one contingent fact, these expressions might still be meaningful and useful as abstractions, as tools of hypothetical reasoning. Arguments typically have just a few premises, and we evaluate arguments by focusing in on these questions: Are each of the premises clear and unambiguous? Are each of the premises true? If all of the premises were true, would the conclusion follow logically? or would the conclusion be made probable assuming the premises were true? Does any of the premises beg the question at issue?
However, if knowing that g is true requires that one knows some other things as well, if knowing g presupposes knowing q, then objections to the knowability of q also work as objections to the knowability of g. So, the epistemological presuppositions of knowing g or of knowing e are relevant to evaluating Swinburne’s cosmological argument.
Suppose I know the fact that I am 5 feet 8 inches tall. Suppose I know that ‘Brad Bowen is 5 feet 8 inches tall’. Can I know just this contingent fact and no other contingent facts? Let’s think about this for a bit. I must understand that the name ‘Brad Bowen’ refers to a specific person, a specific human being, and that the measurement here relates to the size of the human body that belongs to a specific human being. I suppose that all of this could be taken as conceptual knowledge, as knowledge involved in simply understanding the meanings of the words and phrases in the sentence ‘Brad Bowen is 5 feet 8 inches tall’.
To have a clear and correct understanding of this sentence, I must also know that while many animals walk on four legs, human beings walk on two legs and use their arms for other purposes. Thus, the height of a human being is not measured when the person is on his or her hands and knees. Also, height at least for human beings, is measured when the person is standing, not when the person is horizontal, as when the person is sleeping. I should also know that rulers or yardsticks or measuring tapes are used for measuring the height of humans. This assumes that there are physical substances that are fairly stable in their length. Rulers and yardsticks don’t generally grow or shrink large amounts in short periods of time. A ruler that is 12 inches this morning is not likely to be 24 inches this evening. A yardstick that is 36 inches today is not likely to be 25 feet tomorrow. Furthermore, human height is significant and relevant in part because it is relatively stable, at least for periods of days and weeks. I was only about two feet tall when I was born, was about four feet tall when in elementary school, and was over five feet tall in high school. People usually get taller rapidly as young children and teenagers, and then their growth in height slows, and height is stable for many years.
As you can see, there is a fair amount of background knowledge involved in knowing the fact that ‘Brad Bowen is 5 feet 8 inches tall’. Some of that knowledge is conceptual/linguistic knowledge, but some of the knowledge mentioned above is contingent factual knowledge about the world and about human beings. If such an apparently simple and innocuous fact as this requires a good deal of background knowledge in order to clearly and fully understand and know the fact to be true, then I suspect that a deep philosophical claim like ‘God exists’ or ‘A complex physical universe exists’ also requires a significant amount of background knowledge to clearly and fully understand that claim.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderSlicing Up the Metaphysical Pie

One basic question in metaphysics is this:
How many gods exist?
Atheism can be defined as the view that there are 0 gods.
Monotheism is the view that there is just 1 god.
Polytheism is the view that there are 2 or more gods.
Thus all of the various answers to the metaphysical question above are included in these three categories.
The term polytheism, however, is a very broad category that includes many different and conflicting answers to the question above.
Manichaeism – the view held by Augustine before he converted to Christianity, is the view that there are two (major) gods, a good god and an evil god:
Mani’s teaching dealt with the origin of evil, by addressing a theoretical part of the problem of evil by denying the omnipotence of God and postulating two opposite powers. Manichaean theology taught a dualistic view of good and evil. A key belief in Manichaeism is that the powerful, though not omnipotent good power (God) was opposed by the semi-eternal evil power (Satan). Humanity, the world and the soul are seen as the byproduct of the battle between God’s proxy, Primal Man, and Satan.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manichaeism
A polytheist might also believe that there are three gods, or four gods, or a dozen gods, or one hundred thirty-six gods, or… I don’t know if there is an actual religion that proposes this, but it is theoretically possible that there is an infinite number of gods.
Therefore, atheism and monotheism are just two possible answers to the question ‘How many gods exist?’, and there is actually an infinite number of different and conflicting answers that could be given. The category of polytheism, unlike atheism and monotheism, lumps together an infinite number of different and conflicting views.
Although monotheism represents a single view as to the the number of gods that exist, there are, of course, many different types of god that might exist, and thus many varieties of monotheism. I won’t try to define the term ‘god’ here, but will specify one necessary condition for something to be a god: it must be a person. Humans are persons, and we don’t think of humans as being gods, so being a person is NOT a sufficient condition for being a god. But one must be a person in order to be a god.
Thus, I do not consider ‘pantheism’ to involve belief in the existence of one or more gods. Pantheists believe that the ultimate source of the world is an impersonal force. This belief is NOT belief in a god. A pantheist could be an atheist and believe that there are zero gods. Or a pantheist could be a monotheist and believe that there is just one god (so long as that one god has its source of existence in a great impersonal force). Or a pantheist could beleive in two, three, four, or a hundred thirty-six gods.
Back to monotheism. How many different kinds of gods are there? Richard Swinburne points to three basic characteristics of persons that are the basis of his analysis of the word ‘God’ and the claim ‘God exists’: freedom, power, knowledge. Persons can make choices and decisions with various degrees of freedom or free will. Persons have the power to change things and have various degrees of power of various kinds. Persons have beliefs about themeselves, others, and the world, and these beliefs can be true or false, and persons can have various degrees of ignorance and knowledge.
The God of western theism is supposed to have an infinite or unlimited degree of freedom, power, and knowledge. So, lesser sorts of gods are lesser because they possess only a finite degree of one or more of these basic characterstics. I would add one more critical characteristic to the basic three: longevity. A god that exists only for a few seconds is not likely to have much impact on the world. The longer a god exists, the more opportunities the god has to impact and influence the world (or to create a world). So, the element of time or longevity seems rather important.
Swinburne divides up degrees of the various characteristics into just two: infinite or finte. Since there are only two possible degrees of a characteristic on his schema, we can represent the various kinds of deities in terms of a truth table, where TRUE means that the characteristic in question is infinite, and FALSE means that the characteristic is finite:

Based on this very simple and straightforward classification of gods, there are 16 different types of gods. A god of type 1 is the sort of god that western theism believes exists. Such a god has infinite or unlimited freedom, infinite power, infinite knowledge, and exists for eternity (has existed infinitely in the past and will exist infinitely into the future). Thus, on this classification schema, there are 16 different varieties of monotheism.
How many different varities are there of the view that there are two gods? If both gods are of the same type, if someone believes in ‘twin’ gods, there are 16 different possible pairs of ‘twin’ gods. But there is no necessity in believing that both gods must be of the same type. So, we must also consider the various combinations of types of gods, where the two gods are of different types.
Any combination of two different objects can be placed in two different orders. Object A and object B can occur in two orders: A-B or B-A. Both are permutations of one combination, the combination of A and B. Thus, for pairs of objects, we can determine the total number of possible permutations, and then divide by 2 to arrive at the number of different combinations. We already know that there are 16 possible combinations of gods that are ‘twins’, so we need only figure out how many combinations there could be of pairs of different types of gods and then add 16 to that number.
For permutations of a pair of dissimilar gods, the first god can be from any one of the 16 types. The second god selected, however, must differ in type from the first, so there are only 15 possibilities for the second god. Thus, the number of permutations of two dissimilar gods (based on there being 16 different types of gods) would be 16 x 15 = 240. But we are interested not in the number of permutations (which include different orderings), but only in the number of combinations, so we divide by two: 240 / 2 = 120. There are 120 different combinations of pairs of gods that are dissimilar, plus 16 pairs of gods that are ‘twins’, so there are 136 different combinations of gods possible for the view that two gods exist.
So, there is only one version of atheism (there are simply 0 gods of any sort), and there are sixteen versions of monotheism, and there are 136 versions of belief in two gods. As the number of gods slowly increases, the number of different versions/combinations of gods increases exponentially.
I’m not entirely happy with the very simple categorization of gods that we have derived from Swinburne’s analysis of ‘God’. Having only two degrees for each characteristic seems excessively stingy. Think for example, about the idea of a god possessing a ‘finite degree of power’. Think of all of the various possibilities that this category encompasses.
Let’s just focus on one simple sort of power: the power to lift an object of a certain weight. An ant has a finite amount of this power. A large ant can, perhaps, lift an object that weighs one ounce. A human infant can only lift an object that weighs about one pound or perhaps a few pounds. One of the strongest human beings who ever lived could lift an object weighing about 1/2 of a ton. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWUNjTHHIxY) Perhaps someday a human being will be able to lift an object that weighs one ton (on earth under normal gravity).
But we can imagine a being that could lift an object that weighs two tons, or three tons, or one hundred tons, or one thousand tons, or one million tons, or one trillion tons. All of these possibilities from the power of an insect to lift an object weighing one ounce, to the power of an imaginary person to lift an object weighing trillions of trillions of tons are included in the broad category of having a ‘finite degree of power’.
So, I don’t think it would be at all excessive to add a few more categories of degrees of power, and the same goes for the other characteristics of persons. I suggest a system of four categories of degrees:
Sub-Human
Human
Superhuman
Infinite/Unlimited
An ant has sub-human power, at least in terms of lifting objects. A person who can lift an object that weighs 1/2 ton is still within the range of human power, in terms of lifting objects. A person who can lift an object that weighs one billion tons, but not an object weighing one trillion tons would have superhuman power, in terms of lifting objects. A person who can lift any weight whatsoever, would have infinite power, in terms of lifting objects.
We generally think of gods as being either superhuman or infinite in various respects, but this is not an absolute requirement. The gods of the greeks were superhuman in their power, but were often quite human in other ways. Greek gods could be tempted to do things that were foolish or stupid. So, gods can have a human degree of a given characteristic, perhaps a god can be even be sub-human in some respects. But let’s toss out the sub-human degree of the four characteristics of persons, since gods are generally conceived of as having at least a human level of these characteristics. That still gives us a little more specificity than the Infinite vs. Finite categories of Swinburne. We at least have divided the Finite category into two sub-categories: Human vs. Superhuman.
Given this small ammendment to the above categorization of types of gods, there are three possibile degrees for each of the four basic characteristics of persons. That means that the number of types of deities is increased to 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 =
9 x 9 = 81. So, I propose a categorization of types of gods that includes 81 different types, not just the 16 types from the above overly simple classification.
If atheism is defined as the view that there are 0 gods, then there is still just one version of atheism.
But since there are 81 different types of gods on my proposed system of classification, there would be 81 varieties of monotheism.
How many versions of belief in two gods would there be?
We know that there would be 81 different pairs of ‘twin’ gods, where each god was of the same type as the other god in the pair. But there could also be pairs of dissimilar types of gods. First we need calculate the number of possible permutations of such pairs (which includes different orderings), then we divide the number of permutations by two, to arrive at the number of different combinations of disssimilar gods.
For the first god of a pair, we have 81 different possibilities from which to choose. But since the second god of the pair cannot be of the same type as the first, there are only 80 possible choices for the second god. Thus, the total number of permutations of two dissimilar gods (when choosing from 81 different types of gods) is 81 x 80 = 6,480. Since we are only interested in the number of combinations, and don’t care about different orderings, we must divide this number by two: 6,480 / 2 = 3,240. So, there are 3,240 different combinations of two dissimilar gods. We already know that there are 81 different combinations of two similar gods (gods of the same type), so we add these two numbers together: 3,240 + 81 = 3,321 different combinations of two gods.
This shows how with the slightly ammended system of classification, where we allow for three degrees of possession of a basic characteristic of a person, the exponential increase of versions/varieties of views as the number of gods grows is even more radical than the exponential increase that we saw with the initial overly-simple system of classification.
Versions of atheism: 1.
Versions of monotheism: 81.
Versions of bi-theism (belief in two gods): 3,321.
How many versions are there of tri-theism (belief in three gods)?
Given that there are 81 different types of gods, there would be 81 different combinations of three gods where all three were of the same type.
But there are two other kinds of combinations of three gods. One other kind of combination is where all three gods were of different types (none being of the same type). Finally, the remaining kind of combination would have two gods of the same type plus one god of a different type.
To figure out the number of combinations of three gods where all three are of different types, we can first determine the number of permutations of three gods there are when there are none of the same type, and then divide that number by six, because for each combination of three gods where the gods are all different types, there are six different permutations.
These are the permutations of the combination of A and B and C:
1. ABC
2. ACB
3. BAC
4. BCA
5. CAB
6. CBA

To determine the number of permutations of a series of three gods, where all three are different, and there are 81 different types of gods, we have 81 choices for the first god, 80 choices for the second god, and 79 choices for the third god. Thus the number of permutations for a series of three disimilar gods is 81 x 80 x 79 = 511,920. Since there are six permutations for every combination of three different gods, we must divide the number of permutations by six to get the number of combinations: 511,920 / 6 = 85,320 combinations of three gods, where all three are of different types of gods.
Now we need to determine the number of combinations of three gods there are when two of the gods are of the same type. We already know that there are 81 different pairs of gods that are ‘twins’, that are both of the same type. Each of these pairs can be modified to form various combinations of three gods by adding one more god of a different type than found in the pair. Since one of the types of gods has been used in forming the pair of twin gods, that leaves only the remaining 80 types to choose from in order to form the various combinations of three. Therefore, each of the 81 pairs of twins can be modified in 80 ways to form a combination of three gods, where two are of the same type and the other god is of a different type: 81 x 80 = 6,480 combinations of gods where two are of the same type and the other god is a different type.
Now we just add the number of each of the three different kinds of combinations together: 81 combinations (where all three gods are of same type) + 85,320 combinations (where all three gods are of different types) + 6,480 combinations (where two of the gods are the same type and one is different) = 91,881 combinations of three gods.
There are 91,881 different versions of tri-theism (the belief that three gods exist).

bookmark_borderBest of All Possible Persons

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

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 4

Previously, I argued that it is not possible to become eternal. Recall that a person P is eternal if and only if P has always existed and P will always continue to exist. Here is a step-by-step proof showing that it is impossible for a person to become eternal:
<————|———–|————–>
…………….t1………..t2
1. At time t1 person P is NOT eternal AND at a later moment t2 P is eternal. (supposition for indirect proof/reduction to absurdity)
2. At time t1 P is NOT eternal. (from 1)
3. At time t2 P is eternal. (from 1)
4. At t2 P exists. (from 3)
5. At every moment prior to t2 P exists. (from 3)
6. At every moment after t2 P exists. (from 3)
7. At t2 P exists AND at every moment prior to t2 P exists AND at every moment after t2 P exists. (from 4, 5, and 6)
8. If at t2 P exists AND at every moment prior to t2 P exists AND at every moment after t2 P exists, THEN at every moment P exists. (analytic truth)
9. At every moment P exists. (from 7 and 8)
10. EITHER at t1 P does not exist OR at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist OR at some moment after t1 P does not exist. (from 2)
11. If at t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist. (analytic truth)
12. If at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist. (analytic truth)
13. If at some moment after t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist.(analytic truth)
14. There is a moment when P does not exist. (from 10, 11, 12, 13)
15. Any moment when P does not exist is a moment when it is NOT the case that P exists. (analytic truth)
16. There is a moment when it is NOT the case that P exists. (from 14 and 15)
17. It is NOT the case that at every momement P exists. (from 16)
18. At every moment P exists AND it is NOT the case that at every moment P exists. (from 9 and 17)

19. The following statement is FALSE: At time t1 person P is NOT eternal AND at a later moment t2 P is eternal. (1 through 18, indirect proof/ reduction to absurdity, because 18 is a self-contradiction that was deduced from 1).
Thus, it is logically impossible for a person to become eternal.
I have been thinking about omnipotence and the idea of omnipotence as an essential property of some person.
Some of my thoughts remind me of the conversations that boys in Jr. high used to have: “What if Superman was to get into a fight with Batman? I think Superman could take one swing at Batman and knock him so hard that he would land a block away.” Such conversations seem silly and trivial, but in the case of philosophy, it can be helpful to have a childlike enjoyment of such imaginary scenarios. Imagination helps one to map out the logical boundaries of a concept, plus it makes thinking about God fun, even for an atheist.
We have previously seen that ‘existence’ appears to be an essential property for anything that in fact exists, so if ‘necessary existence’ means ‘having existence as an essential property’ then necessary existence is nothing special. We have also seen that ‘being eternal’ is an attribute that cannot be lost; once something is eternal, it will always be eternal (and will always have been eternal). So, again having the property of ‘being eternal’ as an essential property is nothing special, there is no other way of ‘being eternal’. One cannot have the property of ‘being eternal’ as an accidental property.
I eventually want to figure out what it means for a person to have the property of ‘being eternally omnipotent’ as an essential property. But before I tackle that challenge, it may be helpful to first consider the simpler property of just being omnipotent. After that I will consider the more complex idea of having the property of omnipotence as an essential property.
Being omnipotent does not mean that one can literally do anything. An omnipotent being cannot create a four-sided triangle. This is no limitation of power or ability. The idea of a four-sided triangle is incoherent, so the statement “John made a four-sided triangle” is an incoherent statement, a statement that contains a self-contradiciton.
Can an omnipotent being create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it? I agree with Swinburne’s analysis of this traditional problem. The answer is: YES.
But in order to do so, the omnipotent being must make itself less than omnipotent. Time is the key missing ingredient in this puzzle. At one point in time an omnipotent being creates a massive rock, say a rock that has ten times the mass of our universe. Then the omnipotent being causes itself to have a certain degree of weakness- the inability to lift rocks that are ten times the mass of our universe. Now the being is unable to lift the massive rock. The being, however, has sacrificed its omnipotence in order to achieve this feat, but it is a feat that an omnipotent being can achieve.
The being started out as an omnipotent being, formed the objective of creating a rock that it could not lift, and then using its unlimited power acheived that objective. However, in order to achieve the objective the being must sacrifice its omnipotence.
There are various other limitations on what God can do. God cannot change the past. This is because changing the past would involve backwards causation, and backwards causation is logically impossible. So, again God’s inablility to change the past is not a weakness or lack of power. The problem is, rather, that sentences like “John changed the past” are incoherent; they involve a logical self-contradiction.
Omnipotence can come into conflict with other divine attributes. God is perfectly good, and so according to Aquinas and Swinburne God cannot do evil. God’s goodness thus creates a limitation on what God can do. Human beings can be unjust and cruel but God is not able to be unjust or cruel, on this view. So human beings can do some things that God is unable to do. But this is considered to be a ‘legitimate’ exception or limitation of God’s power. So, when Christians assert that ‘God is omnipotent’ they usually will allow that God’s perfect goodness creates constraints on what God can do.
One might say that God can do anything that it is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE for a perfectly free and omniscient and perfectly good person to do.
I think there are some additional constraints on God’s power or ability to do things, but this clarification of ‘omnipotence’ covers the constraints that arise from God’s other divine attributes.
Can a person become omnipotent? or is omnipotence like the attribute of being eternal? One cannot become an eternal person, so perhaps it is also impossible for one to become an omnipotent person.
On the face of it, I don’t see an obvious problem with the idea of becoming omnipotent. Human beings have various powers and abilities. We can imagine becoming more and more powerful. One can imagine discovering one day that one can make objects ex nihilo (from nothing) just by willing the objects to appear. One can imagine stumbling on the power to move mountains or even planets by sheer willpower. Of course one could never have enough experiences to prove with certainty that one had become omnipotent, but we can imagine experiences that would strongly support this hypothesis. Thus, it seems perfectly conceivable that an ordinary human being could become an omnipotent person.
But once a person becomes omnipotent, one might think that they could never lose their omnipotence. We think of gaining great power as being like obtaining great wealth: someone else could take away what we have gained. But in the case of omnipotence, who could take that away? If I’m the biggest and strongest kid at school, then I don’t need to worry about a bully taking my lunch money, right? If I become omnipotent, then I don’t have to worry about any being taking away any of my power.
But what if there was another omnipotent person? Such a person, it would seem could take away my omnipotence, because our power would be equal, so I would not be like the biggest and strongest kid on the block, if there were other omnipotent persons who might want to take away some of my power.
However, there is an old puzzle about omnipotence that comes to mind: Can there be two omnipotent persons? It seems as if there can be no more than just one omnipotent person. Suppose that there are two omnipotent persons: John and Sara. John and Sara both simultaneously look at the same little gray rock resting on a desk. John wills the rock to immediately rise up into the sky, but Sara wills the rock to immediately plummet downward, through the desk and through the floor and the foundation, etc. These two objectives are not logically compatible with each other. The rock cannot both rise and fall at the same time. So, either the rock will rise and Sara’s will will be defeated by John’s will, or the rock will NOT rise and John’s will will be defeated by Sara’s will. At least one of them must fail to cause their desired outcome.
Let’s suppose that there can only be one omnipotent person in existence at any given point in time. Does that mean that becoming omnipotent, and thus being the one and only omnipotent person, would mean complete safety? Does this mean that I have no reason to fear losing some of my newly gained power? Sadly, it does not. Even if there can be at most only one omnipotent person, there is nothing to prevent some other person from being or becoming omniscient (all knowing).
If I have become omnipotent, I would still be in danger of losing my omnipotence if some other person was omniscient. This would set up the classic struggle between brains and brawn. The omniscient person would know everything about me, including my deepest secrets and my every thought. The omniscient person would know all of my weaknesses. The omniscient person would know every detail of my personal history. The omniscient person would know everything there was to know about human psychology and about how to persuade and manipulate other people. So, it is quite possible that an omniscient person could fool me into destroying myself or causing myself to become less than omnipotent, perhaps even getting me to make that other person into the one and only omnipotent person, and then that person would be both omniscient and omnipotent.
However, an omnipotent person does have a way to fight back. An omnipotent person could make himself or herself become omniscient. There is no obvious logical contradiction between there being two or more omniscient persons. Two people can know the same fact without there being any conflict or contradiction, for example. So, if an omnipotent person was concerned about the possibility of being fooled or manipulated by an omniscient person, then he or she could simply will it to be the case that he or she immediately became omniscient, and presumably a being that was both omnipotent and omniscient would not have to worry about a being that was merely omniscient being able to fool or manipulate him or her.
Nevertheless, although there is this nice strategy for how a person could easily secure his or her newly discovered omnipotence, there is no logical necessity that this would be the case. If you wake up tomorrow morning and have become an omnipotent being while you were asleep, it will probably take several hours or days before you have enough experiences to confidently conclude that you have become omnipotent. The experiences you have that convince you of this fact would be quite unusual and extraordinary experiences (such as moving the moon across the sky with just a thought), and those experiences would keep you very distracted for a while. You probably would not immediately start thinking about the question “How can I secure my omnipotence, so that if there is a omniscient being somewhere I can avoid being fooled or manipulated by that being into giving up or losing my omnipotence?”. For as long as you do not think about this question, you would be vulnerable to being deceived by an omniscient person.
Furthermore, even if you immediately began to worry about this possibility of being decieved by an omniscient person, you might not immediately come up with the solution of making yourself become omniscient. Having been an ordinary weak human being for many years, your attitudes and beliefs about yourself may take time to change, and you might not immediately realize that you have gained the ability to radically transform yourself.
Even if you immediately started to worry about the possibility of being deceived by an omniscient person, and even if you immediately realized that you had the power to make yourself omniscient, you might well hesitate to do so. You have lived your entire life up to that moment as a limited and finite human being, and willing yourself to become omniscient would mean basically willing yourself to become God. But being omniscient or having a God-like experience of reality would be radically different from experiencing reality as a limited and finite human being. Would you really want to give up ordinary human thoughts and feelings and experiences, to become a god-like being? The idea seems terrifying to me. I would certainly hesitate, and give some thought to the matter before turning myself into an omniscient person.
So, although it may be possible for an omnipotent person to turn himself or herself into a person who was also omniscient, it is quite possible that it would take a significant amount of time for a person who had recently become omnipotent to become worried about the possibility of being deceived by an omniscient person, to come up with the solution of making oneself omniscient, and to actually make the very serious decision to carry out this plan and make oneself omniscient, and some might well decide to live with the risk rather than to so radically transform their own consciousness of reality. Thus, it is likely that there would be a significant period of time in which a person who had become omnipotent would remain less than omniscient and thus would be subject to being deceived or manipulated by an omniscient person, so that the omnipotent person would destroy himself or herself or would cause the loss of his or her own omnipotence.
Therfore, it seems to me that not only is it possible for a person of finite and limited power to become an omnipotent person, but it is also possible for an omnipotent person to lose his or her omnipotence.

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 3

Richard Swinburne analyzes the concept of ‘necessary being’ into two implications (COT, p.241-242):
1. It is not a matter of fortunate accident that there is a God; he exists necessarily.
2. God is necessarily the kind of being which he is; God does not just happen to have the properties which he does.

In his simpler and more popular book on God (Is There a God?), Swinburne clarifies these implications further in terms of the concept of ‘essential properties’:
But theism does not claim merely that the person who is God has these properties of being everlastingly omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. It claims that God has these properties necessarily–these are essential properties of God.
(ITAG, p.18)
Swinburne also defines this concept for us (see ITAG, p.18). Here is my formulation of Swinburne’s definition:
Definition 3:
Property P is an ESSENTIAL PROPERTY of a thing or a person X if and only if X could not cease to have property P and yet continue to exist.
In a comment on Part 2 of this series, Eric Sotnak points out a serious problem with this definition in relation to ‘necessary existence’. If we treat existence as a property and draw the implication that ‘necessary existence’ equates with having existence as an ‘essential property’, then every thing that exists would have necessary existence, and thus there would be nothing special about God possessing ‘necessary existence’.
I’m not sure how Swinburne would respond to this objection. However, for now, given that there are two parts to Swinburne’s analysis of ‘necessary being’, I’m goin to suggest that existence is not a property, and therefore Swinburne’s discussion about ‘essential properties’ does not apply to the concept of ‘necessary existence’.
That still leaves us with the question of whether part 2 of Swinburne’s analysis makes sense, given his definition of ‘essential properties’.
Before I begin working through a specific example, let me share a key passage from Swinburne that I’m struggling with:
By contrast, theism maintains that the personal being who is God cannot lose any of his powers or knowledge or become subject to influence by desire. If God lost any of his powers, he would cease to exist, just as my desk would cease to exist if it ceased to occupy space. And eternity (that is, everlastingness) also being an essential property of God, no individual who had begun to exist or could cease to exist would be God.
(ITAG, p.19)
Note how Swinburne relates the concepts of ‘eternity’ and ‘everlastingness’ to the concept of existence. By itself that makes perfect sense. If God is ‘eternal’ that implies that God has always existed and that God will always continue to exist. But then being ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’ implies existence, and Swinburne’s definition of essential properties does not work with the concept of existence.
Let’s suppose that ‘eternity’ is a property, and that some person P has this property. Can P be eternal on Monday, cease being eternal on Tuesday, and yet continue to exist for the remainder of Tuesday and the next day (Wednesday) as well?
This doesn’t seem to make sense to me. If P is eternal on Monday, that means that P will continue to exist forever. If P will continue to exist forever, then P will exist every day following that Monday. If P ceases to exist the next day, on Tuesday, then P will NOT have continued to exist forever, and the statement “P will continue to exist forever” (made on Monday) will have been dispoved, shown to be false. But that means that it was also false to say “P is eternal” (on Monday). In sum, if there is ever a day where P ceases to exist, then the claim “P is eternal” will be a false claim for any day prior to the day when P ceases to exist.
Now something like resurrection does seem logically possible, so it might be possible for a person to cease to exist for a period of time, and then come back into existence. If this is logically possible, then there is a sense in which ‘P is eternal’ might be correct, even if P later ceases to exist. If P ceases to exist for a period of time, and then P is brought back into existence and then continues to exist forever, without interruption, it is tempting to say that the claim “P is eternal” was correct even though there was a period of time (after that claim was made) in which P did not exist.
This particular complexity can be set aside by means of a definition. The meaning of ‘eternal’ in terms of this being a divine attribute implies that there will be no interruption of existence. In asserting that ‘God is eternal’ the theist means that God has always existed (without interruption) in the past, and that God will always continue to exist (without interruption) forever into the future.
Thus in supposing that a person P is eternal on Monday, in the sense intended when theists use this concept to describe God, it follows that P will also be eternal on Tuesday, and eternal on Wednesday, and so on forever and ever. Once you are eternal there is no going back to being non-eternal, at least not in terms of continuing to exist in the future.
What about the implication of having always existed in the past? Being eternal does not just mean existing forever into the future, it also means having always existed forever in the past.
Suppose again that a person P is eternal on Monday. We have previously determined that P cannot cease to exist on some day in the future, after that Monday, for that would mean that P was not really eternal on Monday. But what about P’s having always existed in the past? Could it be the case that on Monday P had always existed in the past, but that on Tuesday it was no longer the case that P had always existed in the past? Could this property of having always existed in the past go away?
The past cannot change. Let’s assume that this not a matter of physics, but is a matter of logic. Let’s assume that it is logically impossible for the past to change. So, if on Monday it was true that P had existed the previous Friday, then on the day after Monday (on Tuesday) it must still be the case that P had existed on the previous Friday. And if it was true on Monday that P had existed for every previous day back into eternity, then on the day after Monday (on Tuesday) it would still be the case that P had existed on each of those days prior to Monday.
Of course, P might cease to exist on Tuesday morning, and if so then on Wednesday it would be incorrect to say that ‘P has always existed’ since P would not have existed on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. But the possibility of P ceasing to exist on Tuesday morning is ruled out, because if it was in fact true on Monday that ‘P is eternal’ then P could not cease to exist on any day after Monday, including Tuesday.
So, it seems to me that if we treat ‘eternity’ or being ‘eternal’ as a property, this is an odd sort of property that one cannot eliminate or get rid of, in the way that one can eliminate or get rid of the property of being dirty or of being hungry. Once a person is eternal, that person will always be eternal; there is no going back.
OK. What about the idea of some person having the attribute of being eternal as an essential property? Does this make sense?
Suppose that there is a person Q who is essentially eternal, who possesses this property as an essential property. That means that Q is not only eternal but, according to the definition, if Q loses the property of being eternal, then Q will cease to exist. Do you see a problem here?
Q cannot lose the property of being eternal, because it is logically impossible for any person to lose the property of being eternal. So, we might as well say “If Q loses the property of being eternal, then Q will turn into a giant fire-breathing dragon”. The antecedent of the conditional statement will always be false, because it is logically impossible for any person to lose the property of being eternal. Because the antecedent is necessarily false, the conditional statement is necessarily true; it is a logically necessary truth.
Thus, it seems to me that ANY person who has the property of being eternal is also a person who has the property of being eternal as an essential property (given Swinburne’s definition above). Thus, there does not appear to be anything special or unique about having this property as an essential property. There cannot be any person who has the property of being eternal, but has this property as an accidental property rather than as an essential property.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 2

Although there is an extensive discussion of the meaning of the claim ‘God is a necessary being’ by Richard Swinburne in his bookThe Coherence of Theism (revised edition, hereafter: COT), the main passages that I’m interested in understanding are found in a shorter and more popular book: Is There a God? (hereafter: ITAG), also by Swinburne.
In COT, Swinburne specifies two implications of the claim that ‘God is a necessary being’:
However, most theists, and certainly most theologians, have put forward two further claims [in addition to the usual claims about God’s divine attributes: omniscience, omnipotence, perfect goodness, etc.] which they have made central to their theism…. The first such claim is that God does not just happen to exist. It is not a matter of fortunate accident that there is a God; he exists necessarily. The other is that God is necessarily the kind of being which he is; God does not just happen to have the properties which he does. It is not by chance that he is omnipotent or omniscient. Being omnipotent is part of God’s nature.
(COT, p.241-242)
This gives us a general understanding and a feel for the meaning of the claim that ‘God is a necessary being’.
In ITAG, Swinburne provides further discussion of what this means, a discussion that is simpler and easier to follow than what he says in COT. First, he briefly explains the idea that God’s divine attributes are possessed necessarily:
But theism does not claim merely that the person who is God has these properties of being everlastingly omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. It claims that God has these properties necessarily–these are essential properties of God.
(ITAG, p.18)
So, to say that, for example, ‘God has the property of being everlastingly omnipotent necessarily‘ means that ‘Being everlastingly omnipotent is an essential property of the person who is God’.
But this is only helpful if we understand what it means for a property to be an ‘essential property’ of a thing or a person. Here is his initial clarification:
Every object has some essential properties and some accidental (i.e. non-essential) properties. The essential properties of an object are those which it cannot lose without ceasing to exist.
(ITAG, p.18)
Swinburne gives two examples to illustrate this concept. The first example is about a physical object:
One of the essential properties of my desk, for example, is that it occupies space. It could not cease to occupy space (become disembodied) and yet continue to exist. Byt contrast, one of its accidental properties is being brown. It could still exist if I painted it red so that it was no longer brown.
(ITAG, p.18)
He gives a second example about a person (himself):
Persons are essentially objects with the potential to have (intentional) powers, purposes, and beliefs. I may be temporarily paralysed and unconscious and so have temporarily lost the power to think or move my limbs. But, if I lose the potential to have these powers (if I lose them beyond the power of medical or other help to restore them), then I cease to exist. On the other hand, my powers can grow or diminish, and my beliefs can change (I can forget things I once knew, and aquire new areas of knowledge), while the same I continues to exist through all the change.
(ITAG, p.18-19)
If Swinburne loses the potential to have the power of thinking, then Swinburne will cease to exist (even if his body continues to exist). So the property of ‘having the potential to have power of thinking’ is an essential property of Swinburne. But if Swinburne forgets the proof for Bayes Theorem, he can continue to exist. So, knowing the proof for Bayes Theorem is only an accidental property of Swinburne.
Definition 3:
Property P is an ESSENTIAL PROPERTY of a thing or a person X if and only if X could not cease to have property P and yet continue to exist.

To be continued…

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 1

In his book The Coherence of Theism (Revised edition, hereafter: COT), Swinburne defends the claim that the sentence ‘God exists’ makes a coherent statement.
In Part II of COT, Swinburne defends the coherence of the concept of “a contingent God”, which is basically the traditional concept of God minus the attribute of ‘necessary being’. In Part III, Swinburne analyzes, clarifies, and defines the attribute ‘necessary being’, but he concludes that when this attribute is added back into the concept of ‘God’, it is no longer possible to prove in a direct way that the concept of ‘God’ is coherent, or that the claim ‘God exists’ makes a coherent statement.
The basic problem is that God is a person, but the concept of person allows for the logical possibility of gaining or losing knowledge, and gaining or losing power, and gaining or losing freedom. When it is asserted that ‘God is a necessary being’ the implication is that it is NOT possible for God to gain or lose power, to gain or lose knowledge, or to gain or lose freedom. So, God is a very odd sort of person, a person whose very existence has a necessary connection with his continuing to be omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly free.
Swinburne’s analysis of the attribute ‘necessary being’ is complex and difficult. I’m not going to get into the gory details of his analyis. But even the general outlines of Swinburne’s understanding of this attribute are challenging to understand. I’m not entirely clear on what he means myself. But I’m going to attempt to understand and clarify some of the points Swinburne makes about ‘necessry being’. I will do this partly to help others understand this concept, but also partly to improve and clarify my own understanding (one of the best ways to get clearer on an idea is to try to explain it to other people).
Let’s start with a stripped-down version of Swinburne’s analysis of ‘a divine being’:
Definition 1:
X is A DIVINE BEING if and only if X is a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free.

Let’s note some important aspects of this definition. First, on this definition, something can be ‘a divine being’ for a brief period of time. This concept of ‘a divine being’ would be useful to Mormons, for example, because they believe that humans can evolve to become gods, and that God was once a limited and finite person. Given Definition 1, a person can be a limited and finite human being for several decades, and then become ‘a divine being’.
Another important thing to note about Definition 1 is that it allows for a person to be ‘a divine being’ even if that person has only existed for a few years or a few days. So long as a person is omnipotent NOW, and omniscient NOW, and perfectly free NOW, that person is correctly categorized as ‘a divine being’.
But, as Swinburne asserts, traditional theism makes a stronger claim than this. When theists assert that ‘God exists’ they have something more in mind than just that there is a person who has recently become omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. They are asserting that there is a person who HAS ALWAYS had those divine attributes, and who ALWAYS WILL have those attributes.
We can formulate a revised definition that is more in keeping with traditional theism:
Definition 2:
X is A DIVINE BEING if and only if X is a person who has always been omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free, and who always will be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free.

On this narrower definition, the being worshipped by Mormons would not count as ‘a divine being’ because there was a point in time in the past when (according to Mormon doctrine) this person was NOT omnipotent or NOT omniscient or NOT perfectly free. Such a being would be impressive now, but given its less impressive level of power, knowledge, and/or freedom in the past, would be something less than ‘a divine being’ if we go with Definition 2.
Also worth noting is that in order to have ALWAYS been omnipotent, a person must have ALWAYS been in existence. And in order to ALWAYS continue to be omnipotent, a person must ALWAYS continue to exist. Thus, any being that satisfies the conditions set by Definition 2 must be an eternal being, a person who has always existed in the past, and who will always continue to exist in the future.
According to Swinburne, the word ‘God’ is a proper name that should be understood in terms of a definite description that allows us to pick out or identify one particular person. The definite description is basically the same as the characterization of ‘a divine person’. So, this characterization is supposed to apply to one, and only one, person:
ANALYSIS of ‘God exists’:
GOD EXISTS is true if and only if (a) something is a divine being, and (b) nothing else is a divine being.

For this analysis of ‘God exists’ to represent traditional theism, the phrase ‘a divine being’ needs to be understood in terms of Definition 2, rather than Definition 1.
Suppose that we determine that a particular person has always existed and that this person has always been omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. What about determining if this person will always continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free? This determination might be possible in a couple of ways.
First, the person in question might communicate to us that he/she would continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free for all eternity. If we were already convinced that this person was omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free, then we would have good reason to believe this person was telling us the truth. Being omniscient, the person would know whether it was true that he/she would continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free for all eternity, and being both omniscient and perfectly free, the person would (according to Swinburne’s argumentation) have to be perfectly good, and thus would not be a great deceiver, so we could trust this person to tell us the truth on this matter.
But even if we could not base this determination on ‘divine revelation’ (as described in the previous paragraph), we would have good inductive reason to believe that this person would continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. Since we have already concluded that the person has always been omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free (stretching back in to eternity in the past), it makes great sense to infer that it is highly probable that this person will continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free for a long time to come, perhaps for all eternity.
Thus, it seems possible that we could determine that some person satisfied the conditions required to be ‘a divine person’. If we also became convinced, perhaps by a philosophical argument, that there could be AT MOST just one such person, then we could identify a particular person as being ‘God’ and conclude that ‘God exists’.
But even if we somehow were able to come to this incredible conclusion, there would still be a philosophical/conceptual problem that would mean that traditional theism had not yet been fully verified. According to Swinburne, traditional theists also maintain that God is ‘a necessary being’. One of the key implications of this is that it is NOT sufficient for a person to have always been omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free, and to always continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free into eternity in order for that person to be ‘God’. As ‘a necessary being’ it is NOT a matter of chance that this being has always been and will always be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. This person is such that it is not possible for him/her to be anything less than ‘a divine being’.
Take the eternal existence of this person, for example. A being could conceivably be lucky and simply avoid by chance numerous bad events and circumstances which would have put an end to the existence of that being. Continuing to exist for all eternity on the basis of chance or good luck is not enough to qualify a person as having the sort of eternality that God is supposed to have. The eternal existence of God cannot rest on chance or luck, it must somehow be necessary and unavoidable that God continues to exist for all eternity.
In other words, given the above analysis of ‘God exists’ and given that we understand ‘a divine person’ in terms of Definition 2, this still leaves open the possibility that we locate and identify a person who has IN FACT always existed, and who will IN FACT always continue to exist, but this person is not really and fully ‘God’ because his/her continued existence is a matter of chance or luck, and is not absolutely secure.
So, the definition needs to be revised again, in order to add the attribute of ‘necessary being’ into the concept of ‘a divine being’ and thus into the analysis of the sentence ‘God exists’.

bookmark_borderRichard Swinburne’s newest book: Mind, Brain, and Free Will

This book will be published May 15, 2013. Here is the book’s description on Amazon:

Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the idea that humans consist of two parts–body and soul) and for libertarian free will (that humans have some freedom to choose between alternatives, independently of the causes which influence them). Richard Swinburne argues that answers to questions about mind, body, and free will depend crucially on the answers to more general philosophical questions. He begins by analyzing the criteria for one event being the same as another, one substance being the same as another, and a state of affairs being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyze the criteria for a belief about these issues being justified. Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. Swinburne claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that interaction does not take place; and illustrates this claim by showing that recent scientific work (such as Libet’s experiments) has no tendency whatever to show that our intentions do not cause brain events. He goes on to argue for agent causation, and claims that–to speak precisely–it is we, and not our intentions, that cause our brain events. It is metaphysically possible that each of us could acquire a new brain or continue to exist without a brain; and so we are essentially souls. Brain events and conscious events are so different from each other that it would not be possible to establish a scientific theory which would predict what each of us would do in situations of moral conflict. Hence given a crucial epistemological principle (the Principle of Credulity) we should believe that things are as they seem to be: that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us. According to Swinburne’s lucid and ambitious account, it follows that we are morally responsible for our actions.

LINK to Amazon

bookmark_borderMUST READ: Greg Cavin’s Case Against the Resurrection of Jesus

Greg Cavin has graciously allowed me to publish a PDF version of his slides from his debate with Michael Licona on the resurrection of Jesus. For anyone interested in arguments for or against the resurrection of Jesus, these slides are an absolute must read. In my opinion, they constitute a major contribution to the ongoing debate about the Resurrection and are the best case against the Resurrection yet presented. Cavin decisively refutes arguments for the resurrection made by all of its prominent defenders, such as the McGrews, Swinburne, Craig, Davis, Habermas, Licona, Geisler, McDowell, and Strobel.

In his slides, Cavin defends three main contentions.
1. The prior probability of a specifically supernatural Resurrection of Jesus by God is so astronomically low that the Resurrection Theory has virtually zero (0) plausibility.
2. The Resurrection Theory is a dismal failure as an explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus—being ad hoc and almost completely devoid of explanatory power and scope.
3. There is an alternative theory to the Resurrection that is a far superior explanation.
In defense of these three contentions, Cavin identifies and refutes sixteen (16) myths perpetuated by Christians who defend the Resurrection. (The numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in the PDF file.) Cavin’s refutation of these objections constitutes a tour-de-force against Resurrection apologetics.

  1. The Burden’s on the Skeptic Objection: The skeptic is required to explain the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus. (37-45)
  2. The Skeptic Assumes Atheism Objection: The skeptic falsely assumes that God does not exist, so his skepticism about the Resurrection is unjustified. (46-49)
  3. The Natural–Not-Supernatural–Resurrection-is-Impossible Objection: Resurrection cannot be caused by purely natural means. (50-56)
  4. The Divine Interference Objection: The skeptic wrongly ignores God’s supernatural intervention saying that the Resurrection has a low prior probability. (45-117)
  5. The Best Explanation Objection: The Resurrection theory is the best explanation of the Empty Tomb and Postmortem Appearances of Jesus. (118-226)
  6. The Frequencies Objection: It is a fallacy to appeal to frequencies as evidence for the low prior probability of the Resurrection since this ignores the action of external agents. (227-277)
  7. The Science Objection: Science cannot prove that the Resurrection is improbable. (278-324)
  8. The Total Evidence Objection: The prior probability of the Resurrection is inscrutable because the total relevant evidence isn’t available. (325-335)
  9. The Religio-Historical Context Objection: The skeptic ignores the religio-historical context of the Resurrection. (336-351)
  10. The Reference Class Objection: It is impossible to determine the correct reference class for the Resurrection. (352-354)
  11. The Naturalism Objection: The anti-resurrectionist assumes the truth of naturalism. (355-367)
  12. The Criteria of Adequacy Objection: The Resurrection Theory alone satisfies all the Criteria of Adequacy. (368-373)
  13. The Mathematics Objection: Mathematical probability cannot be applied to the Resurrection. (374-380)
  14. The Plausibility-Prior Probability Objection: Plausibility must be used as a criterion in place of prior probability. (381-387)
  15. The Anti-Bayes’ Theorem Objection: Bayes’ Theorem cannot be applied to the Resurrection. (388-425)
  16. The There-Are-No–Contradictions-in-the-Easter-Narratives Objection: The skeptic falsely holds that there are no contradictions in the Easter narratives. (426-430)
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