bookmark_borderProblems With TASO – Part 2: My Favorite Objection

TASO
The third inductive argument in Swinburne’s case for God is TASO (the Teleological Argument from Spatial Order):
Teleological Argument from Spatial Order

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

THEREFORE:

(g) God exists.

TASO is presented and defended by Swinburne in Chapter 8 (“Teleological Arguments”) of his book The Existence of God (hereafter: EOG), 2nd edition.
 
ARGUMENT FOR THE CORRECTNESS OF TASO
Here is Swinburne’s reasoning in support of the correctness of TASO as the third inductive argument in his case:
Critical Argument for the Correctness of TASO

1. An argument X is a correct C-inductive argument IF AND ONLY IF: (a) the premises of X are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of X,  AND (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

2. The premises of the argument TASO are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of TASO.

3. The premises of the argument TASO make the conclusion of TASO more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

THEREFORE:

4. The argument TASO is a correct C-inductive argument.

 
EVALUATION OF THE CRITICAL ARGUMENT SO FAR
The critical argument supporting TASO is deductively VALID.  It has the following valid deductive form:

1. P  IF AND ONLY IF: A AND B.

2. A

3. B

THEREFORE:

4. P

In Part 1 I raised an objection against premise (2) arguing that (2) is FALSE, and I raised an objection against premise (3), arguing that Swinburne’s argument for (3) was based on a false premise, thus leaving premise (3) in doubt.  So, the critical argument  for the correctness of TASO is UNSOUND and based on a dubious premise.
However, there is another objection, my favorite objection, which should also be considered, and which will put the nail in the coffin of the critical argument for TASO and which, I believe, will also throw a monkey wrench into Swinburne’s entire case for God.  My favorite objection, is an objection that challenges premise (1) of the critical argument for TASO.
 
OBJECTION TO PREMISE (1)
Premise (1) of Swinburne’s critical argument for TASO presents necessary and sufficient conditions for concluding that an argument is a “correct C-inductive argument”:
1. An argument X is a correct C-inductive argument IF AND ONLY IF: (a) the premises of X are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of X,  AND (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.
In my objection to premise (2), I pointed out that it is difficult to KNOW that human bodies are the product of evolution, and that it is even more difficult (if not impossible) to KNOW that this universe was structured in such a way that made the evolution of human bodies in this universe probable.  In order to KNOW that the factual premise of TASO, namely (e3), is true, one must be aware of a great deal of scientific facts and information.
My primary objection to premise (1) is that in order to KNOW the premise of TASO to be true, one must know a good deal of information about a variety of subjects, and that information includes most or all of what is considered to be the problem of evil.  More precisely, in order to KNOW that human bodies are the product of evolution, one must be aware of a good deal of scientific and historical information that includes most or all of the various problems of evil, including information about pain, injury, disease, suffering, death, predators, fear, fight-or-flight response, poisonous plants and animals, sexual reproduction, respiration, digestion, asphyxiation, mutation, natural disasters, famines, starvation, floods, drowning, earthquakes, forest fires, violent storms, snow and ice, freezing to death, the struggle for survival, survival of the fittest, nature “red in tooth and claw”, etc., etc.
So, in order to KNOW that (e3) is true, one must be aware of a great deal of information, and that information includes facts that support some of the most powerful objections to belief in God: the many and pervasive problems of evil.  But then when one evaluates the probability of the hypothesis that God exists in relation to (e3), one cannot rationally and reasonably set aside and ignore the many and pervasive problems of evil.  So, in order to rationally evaluate the probability of the claim “God exists” in relation to (e3), one must take into consideration not just the meaning and implications of (e3), but also the large collection of facts and data that allow one to KNOW that (e3) is in fact true.
If one takes into account most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil in evaluating the strength of TASO, then it is unclear and very doubtful that all of this additional information increases the probability that God exists.  Given most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil, that information might very well outweigh whatever positive support the hypothesis of theism gets from the fact that the universe is structured in a way that makes the evolution of human bodies probable.  Thus, in excluding from consideration all of the information that is used to determine (e3) to be true, one excludes a great deal of relevant evidence, which was already used in evaluation of the truth of (e3).  This is illogical and unreasonable, and therefore, the necessary condition (b) in premise (1) must be rejected:
… (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.
The problem is that in order to KNOW a claim to be true sometimes requires that one be aware of a great deal of information about various subjects, but this information that supports KNOWLEDGE of the truth of a claim is different from the meaning and implications of the claim in question.  Condition (b) limits us to considering ONLY the meaning and implications of the premise(s) of an argument in evaluating the strength of the inference in the argument.  There is no consideration of the knowledge and information required in order to KNOW the truth of the premises.  So, condition (b) excludes consideration of relevant information that needs to be considered to arrive at a reasonable and rational evaluation of the strength of an inductive argument’s conclusion.
In limiting the scope of information to be used in judging the inference of an argument strictly to the PREMISES of that argument, one may exclude a great deal of information that is relevant to determining the probability of the conclusion of the argument, information that is already possessed by the person who is evaluating the argument, and that has already been used  by that person in the evaluation of the truth (or falsehood) of the premises of that very argument.
It is irrational and illogical to allow the person who evaluates an argument to use a large collection of data to evaluate the truth of a premise, and then to insist that the person disregard all of that data (even if it is clearly relevant) in determining the strength of the inference of that argument.  It is clearly unreasonable to allow a large body of information to be used in one part of evaluation of an argument (evaluating the truth of a premise) and to disallow any of that information to be used in another part of evaluation of the same argument (evaluating the strength of the inference).
 
A MONKEY WRENCH IN THE GEARS OF SWINBURNE’S CASE
There are at least two different ways in which this objection to premise (1) of the critical argument for the correctness of TASO negatively impacts Swinburne’s entire case.
First, whenever Swinburne claims that one of his inductive arguments is a “correct C-inductive” argument, he is relying on the analysis of “correct C-inductive” arguments that is stated in premise (1).  Since my objection is that this analysis is FALSE or INCORRECT, that means that there is a FALSE or INCORRECT premise in every critical argument that Swinburne gives (or implies) about his favored inductive arguments for the existence of God.
Second, Swinburne’s general approach or strategy in building his case for God is based on slowly adding one piece of information at a time, and slowly increasing the probability of the existence of God, with each added bit of evidence.  But this strategy completely falls apart with TASO, the third argument in his case (Swinburne ends up using nine significant inductive arguments in his case), because in order to KNOW the premise of TASO to be true, one must know or be aware of a great deal of scientific and historical information, including information that provides powerful evidence AGAINST the existence of God (e.g. the various and pervasive problems of evil).  TASO opens the floodgates of information, and thus washes away the careful bit-by-bit addition of information that Swinburne intended as his basic epistemological strategy in building his case.
For example, Swinburne does not consider the problem of evil until after positively evaluating six inductive arguments for the existence of God.  But it is illogical for the problem of evil to be considered that late in the progression of adding six different pieces of evidence one at a time, because the problem of evil (or problems of evil) must be taken into account when evaluating TASO, the third argument in his case.  The information that constitutes the various problems of evil is information that one must be aware of and use in order to KNOW that the premise of TASO is true, so the problems of evil arise unavoidably when we try to evaluate the third argument in Swinburne’s case.

bookmark_borderProblems With TASO: Part 1

INTRO TO TASO
For several years, I have been working on an article about Richard Swinburne’s case for God. I’m currently revising the section of that article dealing with the third argument in Swinburne’s case: TASO (the Teleological Argument from Spatial Order).
In working on that section of the article, I noticed that my favorite objection to TASO was missing from that section. I have spelled out this objection a few times in posts and comments here at The Secular Outpost, but it never made it into my article, for some reason.
So, I began to work that objection into my article, and to do so, I needed to identify exactly which premise of Swinburne’s argument my objection was targeting. In identifying the specific premise that my objection was challenging, I discovered that the premise was fundamental to Swinburne’s entire case. Every one of Swinburne’s arguments for God in his book The Existence of God, 2nd edition (hereafter: EOG) relies on this same premise.  So, my favorite objection against TASO turns out to be an objection that applies to every argument that Swinburne presents in his case for God.
I will now lay out TASO, Swinburne’s critical argument about TASO, and my objections to Swinburne’s critical argument.  I will also explain why my favorite objection to TASO applies to every argument that Swinburne makes in support of the correctness of his various inductive arguments for the existence of God.  This will take two or three posts to accomplish.
TASO can be stated succinctly:
Teleological Argument from Spatial Order

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

THEREFORE:

(g) God exists.

This is not a deductively valid argument for the existence of God.  But it is not supposed to be.  Swinburne argues that there are NO sound deductive arguments for the existence of God, and that the question of the existence of God must be determined on the basis of inductive arguments, on the basis of factual evidences that either tend to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis that “God exists”.  According to Swinburne, the above argument is a good inductive argument for the existence of God; it does not prove that God exists, but it does provide some confirmation of the existence of God.
More specifically, this argument adds to, or increases the probability of the hypothesis that “God exists” relative to the factual evidence presented in the first two inductive arguments in Swinburne’s case for God.  Swinburne’s method is to add one piece of factual evidence at a time, and slowly increase the probability of the hypothesis that “God exists” until he reaches the tipping point, until he can conclude that the existence of God is more probable than not,  until he shows that the claim “God exists” has a probability that is greater than .50.
Although Swinburne rejects the traditional approach of using deductive arguments to try to PROVE the existence of God, his reasoning ABOUT various inductive arguments for God consists almost exclusively of deductive reasoning.  That is, the arguments that Swinburne presents at length in EOG are critical arguments,  arguments that are about other arguments.  Swinburne’s critical arguments, which are about various inductive arguments for God, are themselves deductive arguments, and this is definitely the case with his critical argument concerning TASO.  Swinburne’s critical argument in support of the correctness of TASO is more complex than TASO, and it is a deductive argument:
Critical Argument for the Correctness of TASO

1. An argument X is a correct C-inductive argument IF AND ONLY IF: (a) the premises of X are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of X,  AND (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

2. The premises of the argument TASO are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of TASO.

3. The premises of the argument TASO make the conclusion of TASO more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

THEREFORE:

4. The argument TASO is a correct C-inductive argument.

Swinburne lays out his analysis of what constitutes a “correct C-inductive argument” in the very first chapter of The Existence of God, called “Inductive Arguments” (see EOG, p.6 & 7).  Although Swinburne does not generally spell out a critical argument like this for all of his inductive arguments for God, reasoning of this form is implied whenever Swinburne asserts that one of his inductive arguments for God is a correct inductive argument.
Each of the three premises of the above critical argument is questionable.  I have at least one objection against each premise.
 
OBJECTION TO PREMISE (2)
TASO is the third argument in Swinburne’s case for God.  The first argument in his case is an inductive cosmological argument that is based on this premise:
(e1) There is a complex physical universe.
Although the term “complex” is a bit vague, this premise seems undeniably true, so it makes sense to say of (e1) that it is “known to be true by those who dispute about” the existence of God.  This is a solid factual claim to use in an argument for God.
The second argument in Swinburne’s case is also based on a premise that seems to be clearly and obviously true:
(e2) There is a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws.
Again, the word “simple” is a bit vague, but this is a solid factual claim to use in an argument for God, so it makes sense to say that (e2) is “known to be true by those who dispute about” the existence of God.
But when we come to the third argument, TASO, the factual claim is not at all obviously true:
(e3) There exists a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws, and in which the structure of the natural laws and of the initial conditions are such that they make the evolution of human bodies in that universe probable.
First of all, it is not obviously true that human bodies evolved in our universe.  I firmly believe that human bodies evolved in this universe, and there is a great deal of evidence that supports the this hypothesis, leaving little room for doubt, but one needs to be exposed to a fair amount of scientific data and information and knowledge to be in a position to come to KNOW that human bodies evolved in this universe.  One needs to learn about sexual reproduction, and genetics, geology and fossils, and about different kinds of plant and animal life (bacteria, plants, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, primates, etc.).
People are not born with modern scientific knowledge about plants, animals, chemistry, genetics, geology, etc.  We have to be educated over a period of many years, and even then, many (most?) people in the USA don’t learn enough scientific information and concepts to be in a position to know that human bodies evolved.  Certainly, many educated Christians in the USA have doubts about the claim that human bodies evolved in this universe.
Second, assuming it to be a fact that human bodies evolved in this universe, this still does NOT imply that the structure of the universe (the initial conditions at the time of the Big Bang plus the specific laws of nature in this universe) made this outcome PROBABLE.  For all we know, the evolution of human bodies might have been an extremely improbable event.  Many events that have occurred are improbable events.  The fact that event X actually occurred does NOT show that the universe was so structured that it was probable that X would occur.
The inference from “X actually occurred” to the conclusion that “the universe was structured in such a way that made it probable that X would occur” would only make sense if one assumed the truth of determinism, only if one assumes that given the initial conditions of our universe and given the specific laws of nature in our universe, that every event in the history of the universe from the point of the Big Bang onward, was completely determined or fated to happen exactly the way it does happen.  On that view, every event (after the Big Bang) that occurs MUST have occurred, and that the initial conditions and laws of the universe made it CERTAIN that every event (after the Big Bang) would happen exactly the way they do in fact happen.  But this sort of rigid and extreme determinism is no longer in vogue.  Few scientists (if any) hold this sort of view these days.
The fact that human bodies have evolved in this universe is clearly NOT sufficient evidence to conclude that the structure of this universe made this event probable.  Furthermore, there does not appear to be any other easy and obvious way to arrive at this conclusion; there is no easy and obvious way to come to KNOW that (e3) is true.
Perhaps (e3) is true, but coming to know that (e3) is true would require not only learning most of the relevant scientific information and concepts that support the claim that human bodies evolved in this universe, but also a good deal of additional information and reasoning that would be needed to show that the initial conditions and laws of this universe were such as to make it probable that human bodies would evolve.
The Fine Tuning argument illustrates the complex sort of evidence and reasoning required here, but the argument from Fine Tuning aims only to show that the universe is structured in such a way as to make evolution of living creatures PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE.  It is a much taller order to argue that the structure of the universe is such that it made the evolution of human bodies PROBABLE.
Clearly, (e3) is NOT something that is “known by those who dispute about” the existence of God.  I doubt that anyone knows (e3) to be true, but even if there are a few such people, they are a tiny portion of the large population of those who “dispute about” the existence of God.   Therefore, premise (2) is FALSE.
 
OBJECTION TO PREMISE (3)
Swinburne’s primary emphasis is on presenting a line of reasoning in support of premise (3).  One key premise in his argument supporting (3) is the following premise (see EOG, p.189):
8. It is quite probable that (e3) is the case given that there is a God and a complex physical universe governed by simple natural laws.
If premise (8) is false or questionable, then Swinburne has failed to show (3) to be true, thus leaving the truth of (3) in doubt.
Premise (8) seems to me to be FALSE.  From my point of view, it is UNLIKELY that God would structure the universe in such a way that human bodies would probably evolve (naturally, apart from any divine intervention).
God is, on Swinburne’s own definition, an eternally omnipotent person, and an eternally omniscient person (with omniscience being limited in relation to knowledge of the future, because God’s free will and human free will make it logically impossible to know every detail of the future).  Since God is omnipotent and omniscient, God would be able to create all existing plants, animals, and human beings in the blink of an eye, along the lines of the Genesis creation myth.  It is very implausible to suppose that God would use the long, random, and uncertain process of evolution to produce plants, animals, and human bodies when God could have instantly created billions of earth-like planets all filled to the brim with thousands of kinds of plants, and animals, and creatures with human-like bodies.
Furthermore, God is also supposed to be a perfectly morally good person, and all of the pain, disease, suffering, and death involved in a billion years of the evolutionary struggle for survival could have been avoided by God creating all of the desired plants, animals, and human-like creatures in an instant.  God, if God exists, had a very powerful moral reason to prefer instant creation of living creatures over the slow, random, uncertain, and suffering-filled natural process of evolution.
There seems to be no strong reason for God to prefer the natural process of evolution over instantaneous creation of all living creatures, including the creation of human bodies, and there is an obvious powerful moral reason for God to prefer instantaneous creation over the natural process of evolution.  So, it seems to me that premise (8) has it completely backwards.  It is highly IMPROBABLE that (e3) would be the case, if God existed.  Premise (8) is FALSE, and so Swinburne has failed to provide us with a good reason to believe (3) to be true.  Therefore, premise (3) remains doubtful.
 
OBJECTION TO PREMISE (1)
I have recently learned that my favorite objection to TASO is an objection to premise (1).  I will present my favorite objection to TASO in Part 2 of this series of posts on TASO.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 18: The God of the Bible Exists?

After laying out his case for the existence of God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Dr. Norman Geisler attempts to link the God that he thinks he has proven to exist with “the God of the Bible”:
Is this the God of the Bible? At the burning bush, God told Moses his name and said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).  This signifies that the central characteristic of the God of the Bible is existence.  His very nature is existence.  …The Bible also calls God eternal (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:2), unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:18), infinite (1 Kings 8:27; Isa. 66:1), all-good (Ps. 86:5; Luke 18:19), and all-powerful (Heb. 1:3; Matt. 19:26). Since these beings are the same in all these respects, and there can’t be two infinite beings, then this God that the arguments point us to, is the God of the Bible. (WSA, p.29)
After presenting one of the most unbelievably crappy cases for the existence of God, you would think Geisler could not manage to go any lower into the depths of unclarity, confusion, and illogic, but this final argument truly takes the cake.  There is so much wrong in this one little paragraph, that I hardly know where to begin.
PROOF TEXTING & ANACHRONISM
First, Geisler is using the biblical passages as proof texts, and the assumed interpretation of those biblical passages is clearly anachronistic.  Geisler is showing no respect for the intended meaning of these biblical passages, and is simply grasping for any biblical passage to provide support for his preconceived conclusions.
Geisler is projecting medieval Thomist concepts back into ancient Hebrew writings (the Old Testament), writings that existed prior to Greek philosophers (certainly prior to Plato and Aristotle), and writings that existed about two thousand years before Thomas Aquinas came along, and he is projecting Thomist concepts back into ancient Greek writings (the New Testament), writings that existed after ancient Greek philosophy, but more than a thousand years prior to Aquinas.
When Geisler says that God is “eternal”, he means that God is outside of time.  There is no hint of this very strange medieval idea in either Colossians 1:17 or Hebrews 1:2.
There is also no hint of the strange Aristotelian and Thomist idea of an “unchanging being” (a being that absolutely cannot ever change in any way whatsoever) in Malachi 3:6 or Hebrews 6:18.  The passage in Hebrews specifically refers to “the unchageableness of His [God’s] purpose” (Heb. 6:17) concerning God’s intention to bless Abraham, so Geisler is grossly distorting the meaning of that passage by interpreting “unchangeableness” to mean a being that “absolutely cannot ever change in any way whatsoever”.
The claim that God is an “infinite being” is a very unclear claim, so unless and until this concept is defined, there is no way to determine whether any biblical passage asserts that “the God of the Bible” has this characteristic.
Thus, at least two of the biblical claims made by Geisler are FALSE, and  are based on very sloppy and irresponsible interpretations of the biblical passages that he cites (but does not quote), and one of his biblical claims is too UNCLEAR (as it stands) to be supported by any interpretation of any biblical passages.
Furthermore, if we accept the claim that “The god of the Bible is an unchanging being”, then we have an excellent reason for concluding that there is no such being as “the god of the Bible” because the idea of a being–who performs actions and tasks in order to accomplish specific purposes–having the attribute such that this being cannot ever change in any way whatsoever is an incoherent idea, an idea that contains a logical contradiction.
The same is true if we accept the claim that “The god of the Bible is an eternal being”, if we understand “eternal” being in the odd sense that Geisler has in mind: a being that exists outside of time, a being for whom there is no such thing as “before” or “after”.  So, if we accept those two assumptions that Geisler makes in this argument, then we are compelled by logic to conclude that there is no such being as “The god of the Bible”.
THE “CHARACTERISTIC” OF EXISTENCE
Second, Geisler’s assertion that “the central characteristic of the God of the Bible is existence.” is one of the most idiotic claims he makes on this subject.  Existence is also a characteristic of atoms and oranges, butterflies and cheeseburgers, rocks, clouds, elephants, etc., etc.  Existence is, literally, a characteristic of EVERYTHING that exists!  So there is nothing special or unique about the “characteristic” of existence.  This characteristic does not distinguish God or Jehovah (the god of the Bible) from anything else.
Geisler might object that he had in mind the fact that God’s “very nature is existence”.  That, indeed, might be something unique, but there are three problems with that point.  First, it is doubtful that this phrase expresses a coherent idea.  This appears to be a string of words that has no specific meaning.  Unless and until Geisler can provide a clear definition or analysis of this strange concept, it remains questionable whether this makes any sense at all.
Second, it is anachronistic to project this strange Thomist idea back onto an ancient Hebrew story (Exodus) that was written before Aristotle was born and perhaps two thousand years before Aquinas was born.  Geisler is again showing no respect for the intended meaning of the biblical passage, and is guilty of proof texting here.
Third (and this problem applies to every attribute mentioned by Geisler in the above quoted paragraph), even if the Bible did assert that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) was such that his “very nature is existence”, this would NOT in any way establish that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) IN FACT had such a nature, nor that Jehovah exists at all!  Yes, it is true that the Bible claims that “Jehovah exists”.  The Bible also claims that “angels exist” and that “demons exist” and that “heaven exists” and that “hell exists”, etc.  But it does NOT follow that these claims are true.
Geisler believes that these claims are all true, because Geisler believes that whatever the Bible teaches or asserts must be true.  He believes that the Bible is 100% reliable in what it teaches and asserts, because he believes that the Bible was inspired by Jehovah, and because he believes that Jehovah is God, and that God is all-good and all-knowing.  So God, and thus Jehovah, would never communicate false beliefs to humans.  But now we are reasoning in a circle.
Geisler believes  what the Bible teaches is true, because he believes that Jehovah is God, and that Jehovah inspired the Bible.  But why does Geisler believe that Jehovah is God?  He believes this because the Bible asserts that Jehovah has various attributes that are the same as attributes possessed by God:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God 
This is lunacy.  This is the sort of awful reasoning one expects from an overly enthusiastic teenage Christian believer who has never taken a course in philosophy or logic or critical thinking.  This is NOT the kind of reasoning one expects from a grown man, particularly from a grown man who has spent decades of his life studying, teaching, and writing about philosophy of religion.
ALL-POWERFUL & ALL-KNOWING & ALL-GOOD
I’m not going to object to Geisler’s biblical claims concerning the God of the Bible possessing the attributes of being “all-powerful”, and “all-good”.  Let’s grant his assumptions on those points, for the sake of argument.  The problem remains that the fact that the Bible teaches or asserts that Jehovah is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good does NOT show that Jehovah was IN FACT all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.  The fact that the Bible teaches these things does NOT show even that Jehovah exists at all.  The fact that the Bible makes these various claims is compatible with it being the case that Jehovah does not exist and never did exist.  Jehovah may be just as much a fantasy as Zeus, just as much a fiction as unicorns.
Once again, Geisler appears to be assuming that whatever the Bible teaches or asserts must be true.  But his belief in the reliability of the Bible is based on his belief that Jehovah is God, and that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.  But in this case Geisler is once again reasoning in a circle:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God 
So, in addition to laying out an unbelievably crappy case for the existence of God, Geisler then puts the icing on the cake by leading his readers to reason in this tight little circle of insanity.
Furthermore, the Bible teaches other things about Jehovah that imply that Jehovah is a cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty, egotistical sexist.  So, if we believe that whatever the Bible teaches about Jehovah is true, then we ought to believe that Jehovah is a cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty, and egotistical sexist.  But in that case Jehovah is NOT an all-good being.  So, the Bible contradicts itself concerning the claim that Jehovah is all-good.
Thus, we have very good reason to doubt the truth and reliability of what the Bible teaches about Jehovah.  First, the Bible teaches contradictory things about Jehovah.  Second, if the Bible was inspired by Jehovah but Jehovah is NOT all-good (or NOT all-knowing), then this would cast significant doubt on the truth and reliability of the teachings of the Bible.
THE “JEHOVAH IS GOD” ARGUMENT 
Geisler’s argument on this issue is indicated in the final sentence of the paragraph:
Since these beings are the same in all these respects, and there can’t be two infinite beings, then this God that the arguments point us to, is the God of the Bible. (WSA, p.29)
Here is a clearer outline of this argument:

110. The Bible teaches that Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true. [an unstated assumption that Geisler is making]

THEREFORE:

112. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

113. God is eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

THEREFORE:

114. Both Jehovah (the god of the Bible) and God are eternal, unchanging, infinite, all-good, and all-powerful.

115.  There cannot be more than one infinite being.

THEREFORE:

116. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) and God are the same being.

117. God exists.  [based on Geisler’s pathetic case for this claim]

THEREFORE:

118. Jehovah (the god of the Bible) exists. [the unstated conclusion that Geisler wants his readers to draw]

 
A key assumption was left unstated by Geisler:

 111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true.

Geisler’s argument for the conclusions that “Jehovah is God” and that “Jehovah exists” requires that he make this assumption, or something very similar to it.  If we reject (111), then Geisler’s argument fails.
Geisler believes (111) is true because he believes that the Bible was inspired by Jehovah, and because he believes that Jehovah is God.  So, Geisler believes that the Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being (i.e. by God).  Based on these assumptions about the source of the contents of the Bible, Geisler infers that premise (111) is true:

120.  The Bible was inspired by Jehovah (the god of the Bible) alone.

121.  Jehovah (the god of the Bible) is God.

122.  God is all-knowing and all-good.

THEREFORE:

123. The Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being alone.

124. IF the Bible was inspired by an all-knowing and all-good being alone, THEN whatever the Bible teaches is true.

THEREFORE:

 111.  Whatever the Bible teaches is true.

So, if we take into account the reasoning that supports premise (111), then this final argument from Geisler about God and Jehovah is an awful bit of circular reasoning:
Jehovah is God–>Whatever the Bible Teaches is True–>Jehovah has the Same Attributes as God–>Jehovah is God
Because this argument involves the fallacy of circular reasoning, this argument, like every other argument in Geisler’s case for God FAILS, and it fails miserably and for a number of different reasons.  This argument provides a very pathetic (and yet very appropriate) finale to Geisler’s unbelievably crappy case for the existence of God, and for the existence of Jehovah (the god of the Bible).

bookmark_borderINDEX: Geisler’s Five Ways

Here is my multi-part critical examination of Dr. Norman Geisler’s case for the existence of God in his book When Skeptics Ask (coauthored with Ronald Brooks):
Geisler’s First Argument
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/16/geislers-first-argument/
Geisler’s Five Ways
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/16/geislers-five-ways/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 2: How Many Arguments for God?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/18/geislers-five-ways-part-2-how-many-arguments-for-god-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 3: Just ONE Argument
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/23/geislers-five-ways-part-3-just-one-argument/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 4: Phase Two of Geisler’s Case for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/10/28/geislers-five-ways-part-4-phase-two-of-geislers-case-for-god/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 5: The Gap Between Phase 1 and Phase 2
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/03/geislers-five-ways-part-5-the-gap-between-phase-1-and-phase-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 6: Arguments for the Intelligence of the Creator
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/05/geislers-five-ways-part-6-arguments-for-the-intelligence-of-the-creator/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 7: Argument #2 of Phase 2
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/13/geislers-five-ways-part-7-argument-2-of-phase-2/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 8: The Design of the Human Brain
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/19/geislers-five-ways-part-8-the-design-of-the-human-brain/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 9: The Supreme Moral Lawgiver
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/11/24/geislers-five-ways-part-9-the-supreme-moral-lawgiver/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 10: The Goodness of the Creator
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/12/10/geislers-five-ways-goodness-creator/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 11: The Structure of Geisler’s Case
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2016/12/16/geislers-five-ways-part-11-structure-geislers-case/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 12: Is the Creator a Necessary Being?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/01/01/geislers-five-ways-part-12-creator-necessary/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 13: Existence and Attributes of a Necessary Being
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/01/04/geislers-five-ways-part-13-existence-attributes-necessary/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 14: More On Phase 4
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/03/geislers-five-ways-part-14-finishing-off-phase-4/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 15: Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Perfectly Good?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/17/geislers-five-ways-part-15-omnipotent-omniscient-perfectly-good/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 16: Just One Unlimited Being?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/20/geislers-five-ways-part-16-just-one-unlimited-being/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 17: God Exists?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/24/geislers-five-ways-part-17-god-exists/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 18: The God of the Bible Exists?
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/27/geislers-five-ways-part-18-god-bible-exists/
Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 19: The Whole Enchilada
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/09/07/geislers-five-ways-part-19-whole-enchilada/

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 17: God Exists?

Because Dr. Norman Geisler is unclear and confused in his use of the word “God”, he fails to properly conclude his case for the existence of God in his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).
But this failure is easily fixed.  I will reconstruct the final inference of his case for God in this post.  First, here is a comment that indicates part of what Geisler thinks he has proven:
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.28)
Geisler also thinks that his initial arguments, from Phase 1 of his case, have shown that the following claims are true:

  • There was exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago).
  • There is exactly one being that is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).
  • There was exactly one being that was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago).
  • There is a supreme moral lawgiver.

Geisler also believes that these four beings are one and the same being, although he does not provide any reason or argument for this crucial assumption:

  • There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago) and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver.

We can infer a concept of God from these various claims, and construct a concluding argument that summarizes Geisler’s case for the existence of God in just two premises:
GEISLER’S OVERALL ARGUMENT

1. There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver, and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being, and this being is also infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.

2. IF there is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is currently causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is a supreme moral lawgiver, and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being, and this being is also infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

3. God exists.

This summary argument is not as obviously bad as most of the subsidiary arguments that make up Geisler’s case for God in WSA.
Obviously, premise (1) would BEG THE QUESTION, if it were simply asserted and assumed to be true.  But Geisler’s case, which I have been carefully analyzing and evaluating in the previous sixteen posts, provides his reasons in support of (1), so he is not guilty of that fallacy.
Because his case has been filled with false premises, questionable premises, and invalid inferences, he has failed to provide any solid arguments in support of any of the elements that make up premise (1).  So, this final argument clearly rests on a highly dubious premise, namely premise (1).
In my view, however, this final argument is not just based on a dubious premise; rather, premise (1) is FALSE.  In my view, this premise is necessarily false.  This is because Geisler’s concept of “God” is incoherent; it contains some logical contradictions.
Geisler’s concept of God includes the attribute of being “infinite” and the attribute of being “unchanging”, and the attribute of being “eternal”.  The attribute of being “infinite” is unclear, thus making it impossible to determine whether or not any being meets this requirement.  The attributes of being “unchanging” and “eternal” make Geisler’s concept of God incoherent, thus premise (1) is false as a matter of logical necessity.
It is logically incoherent for a person to be “unchanging”, especially for a person who has great power and who sometimes exercises some of that power to accomplish some task (such as causing the universe to begin to exist).  A person cannot perform an action and exercise power to accomplish some task without undergoing some change.  But Geisler’s “God” is conceived of as a person who performs actions and exercises power to accomplish tasks while remaining unchanged.  This is an incoherent concept of God.  No such God exists, because it is logically impossible for such a being to exist.
It is logically incoherent for a person to be “eternal” in Geisler’s sense of the word “eternal”, especially for a person who has great power and who sometimes exercises some of that power to accomplish some task (such as causing the universe to begin to exist).  By “eternal” Geisler means a being that is outside of time (see WSA, p. 27), a being for whom there is no such thing as “before” or “after”.  A person cannot perform an actiona and exercise power to accomplish some task without the passage of time, without there being a “before” or “after” for that person.  But Geisler’s “God” is conceived of as a person who performs actions and exercises power to accomplish tasks while remaining outside of time.  This is an incoherent concept of God.  No such God exists, because it is logically impossible for such a being to exist.
One can coherently conceive of God as being “eternal” if we understand this in the ordinary sense of the word: having always existed, and continuing to always exist in the future.
Geisler also includes some unnecessary attributes that are redundant: “uncreated” (not needed if we conceive of God as having always existed and as continuing to always exist forever into the future).  The attribute “omnipresent” is also redundant, because any being who is both omnipotent and omniscient must also be omnipresent (i.e. such a being is aware of every object and event in every location and is able to influence or affect every object or event in every location).
We can simplify Geisler’s overall summary argument, and remove the most obvious logical self-contradictions by reducing the attributes and roles that make up the concept or definition of “God”:
GEISLER’S OVERALL ARGUMENT – Rev.A

1A. There is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, and this being has always existed, and will always continue to exist.

2A. IF there is exactly one being that was the cause of the beginning of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being was the designer of the universe (billions of years ago), and this being is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, and this being has always existed, and will always continue to exist, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

3. God exists.

This is a much improved version of Geisler’s overall argument.  His actual overall argument was weighed down (and sunk) by  overkill.  Premise (2A) appears to be true to me.  The logic is fine (a standard modus ponens inference). So, the evaluation of this argument rests on our evaluation of the first premise.
Even though we have significantly pared down the elements of premise (1), this claim remains extremely dubious, because there is not one single element of this claim for which Geisler has actually provided a solid argument.  Every one of the seven elements of premise (1) is dubious and unproven.  Thus, we ought to reject this argument, and therefore reject Geisler’s unbelievably crappy case for God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 12: Is the Creator a Necessary Being?

PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
Geisler abuses the word “God” yet again in Phase 3 of his case for the existence of God.  The argument in Phase 3 is on page 27.  It makes use of the conclusion from “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1 (pages 24-26). Here is the conclusion of this part of his case:

  • God is a necessary being.

He is NOT using the word “God” in its ordinary sense here.  Perhaps, he actually means something like this:

  • Whatever caused the universe is a necessary being.

Because Geisler’s Phase 3 argument depends on “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1, we need to first take a closer look at that earlier argument.
 
THE ARGUMENTS FROM BEING 
While Geisler speaks of “The argument from being” (WSA, p.27),  he actually presents two different arguments with that title.  Here is the first argument:
Argument from Being #1 – Initial Version

45. Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible…must be attributed to it…

46. Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being.  

THEREFORE

47. … necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being.

(WSA, p.24-25.  NOTE: The numbering of the premises has been changed to fit my numbering scheme).
 
This argument, he tells us, “attempts to prove that God must exist by definition.” (WSA, p.24)   But this is NOT an argument for the existence of God, because the word “God” appears nowhere in this argument.  You cannot give an argument for the existence of God that never mentions “God”.
However, in introducing this argument, Geisler indicates that this argument is based on “the idea of God as a perfect Being” (WSA, p.24).   So, he appears to be suggesting a definition of the word “God” in relation to this argument from being.  The first premise of Argument from Being #1 uses the phrase “the most perfect Being possible”, so a definition of “God” corresponding to that precise phrase would be this:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible

We could add this definition to the above argument, in order to produce an argument that actually talks about the existence of God:
Argument from Being #1 – Revision 1

45. Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible…must be attributed to it…

46a. Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible.  

THEREFORE

47a. Necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being possible.

48. A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible.

THEREFORE

49. Necessary existence must be attributed to God.

 
Geisler rejects this argument, as an argument for the existence of God:
Now this argument succeeds in showing that our idea of God must include necessary existence; but it fails to show that God actually exists.  (WSA, p.25)
At this point Geisler offers a second version of “The argument from Being”:
Argument from Being #2 – Initial Version

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

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

THEREFORE

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

(WSA, p.25)
Unlike the previous version of “The argument from Being”, this argument uses the word “God”, both in a premise, and in the conclusion.  What does the word “God” mean in this argument?  Geisler does not bother to provide a definition or clarification of what the word “God” means in this argument, so once again, we have to guess at what the hell Geisler means by this word in this argument.
There are three different possible meanings of the word “God” in the context of this argument.  One obvious interpretation is to use the definition implied by Geisler when he introduced the first version of “The argument from Being”:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF  X is the most perfect being possible

Let’s use this definition to clarify the second verion of the argument from being:
Argument from Being #2 – Revision 1

50a. IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN we conceive of the most perfect being possible as a necessary Being.  

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

THEREFORE

52a. IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN the most perfect being possible must exist and cannot not exist.

 
This interpretation will not do.   The problem is that Geisler has provided no reason to believe that “the most perfect being possible exists”.  He has acknowledged that neither argument from being proves the existence of God, so if we understand “God” to mean “the most perfect being possible”, then Geisler has acknowledged that neither argument from being proves the existence of “the most perfect being possible”.  But if Geisler has provided no sound argument for the claim that “the most perfect being possible exists”, then the conclusion (52a) will be of no use:  “IF the most perfect being possible exists, THEN….”  Such a conditional claim is useless given that there is no good reason to believe that “the most perfect being possible” exists.  Therefore, we must set aside this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, and look for other possible interpretations of the word “God” in that argument.
In Phase 3 of his case for God, Geisler makes a statement about how the “argument from being” functions in his case:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that he does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
According to Geisler, the existence of “God” is shown by “the argument from Creation” (in Phase 1 of his case) and then later (in Phases 3 and 4 of his case) “the argument from being” is used to show that this “God” has various significant attributes.  If that is how “the argument from being” functions in Geisler’s case for God, then the meaning of the word “God” in “the argument from being” is determined or constrained by whatever it is that was (allegedly) proven to exist by “the argument from Creation”.
There is a relay race here where a baton is handed off from “the argument from Creation” to “the argument from being”.   In order for these two arguments to coordinate with each other, in order for the logic of Geisler’s case to work, the meaning of the word “God” in premise (50) of the argument from being cannot mean anything other than whatever it is that was (allegedly) proved to exist in the argument from Creation.
The argument from Creation does NOT prove the existence of “the most perfect being possible”, so there is at least a second plausible interpretation of the word “God” that should be considered in trying to understand the second version of the argument from being. Roughly speaking, the second plausible interpretation of the word “God” that should be considered is this: “whatever caused the universe”.
But there are actually two different arguments given by Geisler that he refers to misleadingly as “the argument from Creation”. There are thus two different meanings of the word “God” that relate to what was (allegedly) proved to exist by the two arguments from Creation:

  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF X caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).
  • A being X is God IF AND ONLY IF X is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now). 

Argument from Being #2 – Revision 2

50b. IF a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) exists, THEN we conceive of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) as a necessary Being.  

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

THEREFORE

52b. IF a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) exists, THEN a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) must exist and cannot not exist.

 
On this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, premise (50b) is false, and thus the argument is UNSOUND.  We can conceive of a being that is NOT a necessary being causing the universe to begin to exist.  For example, we can conceive of an angel causing the universe to begin to exist.   An angel is not, or need not be, a necessary being.  So, premise (50b) is clearly false, and this argument is UNSOUND, given that we interpret the word “God” here to mean “a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago).”
What about the other possible interpretation of the word “God” based on what it is that was (allegedly) proved to exist by the other argument from Creation?  Let’s revise the second version of the argument from being using this other sense of the word “God”:
Argument from Being #2 – Revision 3

50c. IF a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now)  exists, THEN we conceive of a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) as a necessary Being.  

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

THEREFORE

52c. IF a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) exists, THEN a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now) must exist and cannot not exist.

 
On this interpretation of the second version of the argument from being, premise (50c) is false, and the argument is UNSOUND.  We can conceive of a being that is NOT a necessary being causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).  For example, we can conceive of an angel causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now).  An angel is not, or need not be, a necessary being.  Therefore, if we understand the word “God” in the second version of the argument from being to mean “a being that is causing the continuing existence of the universe (right now)”, then premise (50c) is false, and this argument is UNSOUND.
CONCLUSION ABOUT THE ARGUMENT FROM BEING
Both Aquinas and Geisler rightly reject the ontological argument for the existence of God.  Geisler calls ontological arguments “The argument from being”.  Geisler reformulates “The argument from being” so that it uses the word “God”, but as with various other arguments presented by Geisler, the meaning of the word “God” in the argument from being is UNCLEAR. (It is very clear at this point that Geisler simply does not give a shit about being clear, since he is constantly UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOS in the use of the most important word in his case).
There are three different possible interpretations of the word “God” that could be used to clarify the meaning of Geisler’s reformulated argument from being.  On the first interpretation, the argument is somewhat plausible, but the argument is USELESS to Geisler’s case, because he has given us no reason whatsoever to believe that “the most perfect being possible” actually exists.
Two other interpretations of the word “God” are based on what it is that Geisler (allegedly) proved to exist in his two arguments “from Creation”.  But on either of those interpretations, the first premise of the reformulated argument from being is FALSE, making Geisler’s reformulated argument from being UNSOUND.
Based on the above considerations the reformulated argument from being is either (a) plausible but USELESS for Geisler’s case, or (b) useful for Geisler’s case but is UNSOUND.   The argument from being is critical to Geisler’s case for the existence of God, because it is supposed to provide support for a key claim in his case:

  • The creator (or whatever caused the universe to begin to exist) is a necessary being.

Since the one argument Geisler has for this claim is either USELESS for this purpose or is UNSOUND, Geisler’s case for the existence of God FAILS, once again, at this crucial juncture.

bookmark_borderCases for God

I’m thinking about which cases for the existence of God to focus in on, for my evaluation of Christianity.  Right now, I’m thinking about examining the cases of four well-known Christian apologists:

  • Norman Geisler
  • William Craig
  • Peter Kreeft
  • Richard Swinburne

I just realized that two of these philosophers are Thomists, and two are not Thomists.
Geisler is a conservative Evangelical Christian, but his favorite argument for God is a Thomist cosmological argument, and his concept of God is clearly shaped by the thinking of Aquinas (see his Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics entry “God, Nature of”, especially the sections on “Simplicity” and on “Immutability”).
Kreeft is a Catholic philosopher of religion, and his favorite arguments for God are the “Five Ways” of Aquinas (which reflects a complete misunderstaning of Aquinas, since the “Five Ways” are NOT arguments for the existence of God), and Kreeft has written a commentary on selected sections of Summa Theologica by Aquinas (called Summa of the Summa).  The commentary is an attempt to make the thinking of Aquinas about God and theology more accessible to the general public, because Kreeft admires Aquinas and believes most of what Aquinas has to say about God.  So, Geisler and Kreeft are both Thomists.
Craig, however, rejects the key Thomist notion of God’s “simplicity”:
According to the doctrine of divine simplicity God has no distinct attributes, he stands in no real relations, his essence is not distinct from his existence, he just is the pure act of being subsisting.  All such distinctions exist only in our minds, since we can form no conception of the absolutely simple divine being.  While we can say what God is not like, we cannot say what he is like, except in an analogical sense.  But these predications must in the end fail, since there is no univocal element we assign to God, leaving us in a state of genuine agnosticism about the nature of God.  Indeed on this view, God really has no nature; he is simply the inconceivable act of being.
[…]
The doctine [of divine simplicity] is open, moreover, to powerful objections.  For example, to say that God does not have distinct properties seems patently false: omnipotence is not the same property as goodness, for a being may have one and not the other. … (Philosophical Foundations For a Christian Worldview by J.P. Moreland and William Craig, p.524)
It’s wonderful to have Craig’s help to destroy the cases for God by Geisler and Kreeft, since Craig provides some powerful reasons for rejecting the Thomist concept of God as incoherent and as logically implying “agnosticism about the nature of God”.  I’m starting to like Craig a bit more now.
Swinburne clearly rejects the immutability and timelessness of God, which are key aspects of the Thomist concept of God, so Swinburne also provides some very good reasons for rejecting the Thomist concept of God, and thus one of the brightest and best modern Christian philosophers will also help me to destroy the cases for God by Geisler and Kreeft.
My work is already half done, and I have not even begun!
====================
UPDATE on 10/12/16
====================
William Craig made a podcast earlier this year in which he criticized the Thomist concept of God:
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-it-possible-god-is-not-personal
“Is it Possible God is Not Personal?”
Dr. Craig takes on two interesting questions on the personhood and nature of God.
[Transcript of a podcast with Kevin Harris and William Craig. Date: 04-09-2016]
Edward Feser replied to Craig’s criticisms (in the above podcast) of the Thomist concept of God :
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/04/craig-on-divine-simplicity-and-theistic.html
FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2016
“Craig on divine simplicity and theistic personalism”
[blog post by Edward Feser]
 

bookmark_borderI Don’t Care

Thomas Aquinas pulled a classic BAIT-AND-SWITCH move in Summa Theologica:
 “Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”
“Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.” 
“Therefore we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.” 
“Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every perfection; and this we call God.” 
“Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.” 
(Summa Theologica, Third Article: Whether God Exists?, emphasis added by me)
My first response to Aquinas’ Five Ways is: I DON’T CARE:

  • I don’t care whether there is a first unmoved mover.
  • I don’t care whether there is a first efficient cause.
  • I don’t care whether there is something that has of itself its own necessity.
  • I don’t care whether there is something that is the cause of the existence or the goodness of all beings.
  • I don’t care whether there is an intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to their end.

What I care about is whether GOD exists or not.  Aquinas spells out his “Five Ways” in a section titled:
Whether God Exists?
This title leads one to believe that Aquinas will address the issue of whether GOD exists, not whether there is a first unmoved mover, not whether there is a first efficient cause, etc.  So, this is a classic bait-and-switch deception by Aquinas.  Aquinas does NOT address the question at issue.  At any rate, he FAILS to answer the question at issue.
Of course, one can REPAIR the defective arguments presented by Aquinas by simply tacking on a conditional premise at the end:
1.  IF there is a first unmoved mover, THEN God exists.
2. IF there is a first efficient cause, THEN God exists.
3. IF there is something that has of itself its own necessity, THEN God exists.
4. IF there is something that is the cause of the existence or the goodness of all beings, THEN God exists.
5. IF there is an intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to their end, THEN God exists.
Tacking these additional premises onto the end of Aquinas’ Five Ways makes the arguments relevant to the question at issue, but that hardly gets us to any sort of conclusion on the issue.  NONE of these premises is self-evident, and as far as I can tell, NONE of these premises is true.
I understand that some people believe these premises, and some people argue for some of these premises.  But, I don’t think there is a single premise in this group that is easy to prove to be true or easy to show to be highly probable.  In any case, Aquinas makes no effort, in this passage at least, to provide any reasons or arguments in support of any of these DUBIOUS ASSUMPTIONS.
Aquinas is not alone among great philosophers who lay out obviously CRAPPY arguments.  Most, if not all, of the great historical philosophers that I have read have their bad days and their obviously bad arguments.  Nevertheless, you would think that this embarassing example of obviously CRAPPY arguments for the existence of God would have served as a warning to all future philosophers of religion and Christian apologists to avoid simply asserting such DUBIOUS ASSUMPTIONS without providing some well-thought-out reasons and arguments to support them.
But when I read presentations of the cosmological argument by William Craig and by J.P. Moreland, for example, they tend to provide only the skimpiest of arguments to support this kind of KEY PREMISE in their arguments for God.  Although they do give some sort of reasons, the reasons are often stated in just one, or maybe two sentences, and then they move quickly on to some other subject.
So, here we are 740 or so years after the publication of Summa Theologica, and Christian philosophers are still pulling the same BAIT-AND-SWITCH move:  pretending to present an argument for the existence of GOD, while actually presenting an argument for something else (e.g. the cause of the beginning of the universe).

bookmark_borderDoes God Exist? Part 2

Here is a third option for breaking down the question “Does God exist?” (click on the image below to get a clearer view of the chart):
Does God Exist - 3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This is a variation on Option 2 (see the previous post in this series).
In this analysis I stick with the process of simply adding on divine attributes to the creator in order to build up to the full traditional concept of God, or something close to the full traditional concept.*
This is roughly parallel to the step-by-step building up to the full traditional concept of God that Richard Swinburne does in his book The Coherence of Theism.  I have just left out a few of the divine attributes that Swinburne uses in his analysis of the concept of ‘God’, namely: perfect freedom, a source of moral obligation, immutable, and a necessary being.  While these are part of the full traditional concept of God, they don’t seem as central and important as the divine attributes used in the above chart, and I prefer to work with a simpler and more bare-bones concept of God.
Perfect freedom is probably implied by perfect goodness, since if God was like a robot that was programmed to always do what is best, then God’s goodness would be less than perfect.  If, on the other hand, being like a robot that was programmed to always do what is best does NOT make God’s goodness less than perfect, then there would be no big motivation for including this divine attribute in the analysis of the concept of God.  Swinburne argues that God’s being a source of moral obligation is implied by God being the creator of the universe, so Swinburne (at least) should not complain about dropping the attribute of being a source of moral obligation out of the analysis of the concept of God.
Immutability in the strong sense (the idea that God is absolutely unchanging and unchangable) is logically incompatible with God being a person, so I’m doing theists a favor by leaving that divine attribute out.  Immutability in the weaker sense of God’s moral character being unchanging would seem to be implied by the omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect goodness of God, since a perfectly good person would resist becoming an evil person (or even a slightly bad person), and being omnipotent and omniscient would guarantee the success of this effort.  So, there seems to be no need to include immutability in the weaker sense in the analysis of the concept of God.
The divine attribute of necessary being is something philosophers and philosophically-inclined theologians enjoy discussing, but I don’t think this is of much importance to the typical religious believer.  The clearest and most obvious interpretation of ‘necessary being’ is that God’s existence is logically necessary, but this is clearly false, according to Swinburne, and I’m inclined to agree with him on that point.  So, we ought to leave ‘necessary being’ in that sense out of the analysis of the concept of God.
Swinburne discusses various other possible meanings of ‘necessary being’ in The Coherence of Theism, and settles on one interpretation, but on that interpretation it becomes impossible to prove that the claim that “God exists” is logically coherent, at least in the ordinary way of showing logical coherence.  Swinburne’s interpretation of ‘necessary being’ is difficult to understand, and appears to be somewhat arbitrary and ad hoc.  Given Swinburne’s understanding of ‘necessary being’, I don’t think the average believer would care much about whether God has or doesn’t have this attribute, and most people simply would not understand Swinburne’s concept of ‘necessary being’ anyway.
If we simply drop the divine attribute of necessary being from the definition of “God”, we are still left with a being that is very similar to the full traditional concept of God, but without the philosophical/logical issues that come along with this perplexing divine attribute.  One less problematic divine attribute means that it will be easier to make a case for the existence of God, so no Christian apologist or defender of theism should complain about my suggestion to focus on this simpler, more bare-bones conception of God.
 
* I have a somewhat robust notion of the divine attribute of being eternal.  What I mean by this attribute is that the being in question has always had the other divine attributes and will continue to have all of those other attributes forever.  So, the third question in the chart can be stated more clearly this way:
Did an eternally perfectly morally good, and eternally omnipotent, and eternally omniscient, eternally bodiless person create the universe?
Since perfect moral goodness and omniscience are characteristics that only a person can have, a being who was eternally perfectly morally good and eternally omniscient would of necessity also eternally be a person.
 

bookmark_borderDoes God Exist? Part 1

The overarching question for my ten-year plan is:
Is Christianity true or false?
After I clarify this overarching question, the first major question to investigate is this:
Does God exist?
I will, of course, at some point need to address the traditional arguments for the existence of God (ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments).  But I want my investigation to be systematic, and to avoid the problem of BIAS in the selection of arguments and evidence to be considered, especially to avoid the problem of CONFIRMATION BIAS (which is a common problem with Christian apologetics, including Richard Swinburne’s otherwise very careful case for God).
Here are some thoughts on how to approach this investigation:
FIRST, I will need to analyze the meaning of the sentence “God exists”.  I will probably follow Swinburne and analyze this sentence in terms of criteria, but then advocate, as Swinburne did, using a necessary and sufficient conditions definition instead of the criterial definition.
SECOND, following Swinburne, I will determine whether the sentence “God exists” is used to make a coherent statement.
If I determine that the statement “God exists” is incoherent, then that settles the issue:
One should reject the assertion that “God exists” because this sentence does NOT make a coherent statement.
Coherence is connected to logical possibility, so one way of analyzing the question “Does God exist?” is in terms of logical possibility and logical necessity and certainty and probability (click on image below for a clearer view of the diagram) :
Does God Exist - 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I believe, however, that the sentence “God exists” can be used to assert a coherent statement, if one makes a few significant revisions to the concept of “God”, along the lines that Swinburne has suggested, with a couple of other revisions.  So, I expect that I will determine that some traditional conceptions of God make the sentence “God exists” incoherent, while with a few significant changes, a concept of God that is similar to the traditional conceptions will allow the investigation to continue beyond this initial question of coherence.
THIRD, there are various alleged ways of knowing or having a justified belief that “God exists”, which need to be considered:
1. Innate Knowledge
2. Religious Experience/Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit
3. Deductive Arguments for (and against) the existence of God
4. Non-Deductive Arguments for (and against) the existence of God
In terms of deductive arguments, I initially thought that it is possible that the issue could potentially be settled at that stage, if there were sound deductive arguments for the existence of God or against the existence of God.  But on reflection, I don’t think that is correct.
First of all, it is possible that there will SEEM to be sound arguments for the existence of God AND sound arguments against the existence of God.  If I identify any such arguments, then I would, obviously, focus some time and effort on trying to weed out one or more of these arguments as merely SEEMING to be sound, but not actually being sound.  But it is possible that I will end up with what SEEM to be sound arguments on both sides, in which case deductive arguments will NOT resolve the question at issue.
Furthermore, even if I find sound deductive arguments only for one position, say for the existence of God, and do not find sound arguments for the opposite position (say, for the non-existence of God), this still probably will NOT settle the issue.  The problem is that one or more premises in the sound argument(s) is likely to be less than absolutely certain.
Philosophical arguments for and against God usually involve some abstract principles, like the Principle of Sufficient Reason.  While some such premise might seem to be true, it is unlikley that a reasonable and objective thinker will arrive at the conclusion that such a premise is certain.  Because there is likely to be a degree of uncertainty about the truth of one or more premises in any deductive argument for or against the existence of God, the identification of one or more apparently sound deductive arguments will probably not settle the issue, even if all of the sound arguments support one side (theism or atheism).
So, it seems very unlikely that one can avoid examining evidence for and against the existence of God, evidence which only makes the existence of God probable to some degree or improbable to some degreee.  Furthermore, non-deductive arguments or cases can be quite strong.  If you have enough evidence of the right kinds, you can persuade a jury to send a person to his or her death for the crime of murder.  Sometimes, if the evidence is plentiful and the case is strong, a jury will return a verdict of “guilty” for first-degree murder in short order, without any significant wrangling or hesitation by the jurors.  Evidence can sometimes justify certainty or something very close to certainty.
If sound deductive arguments can fall short of making their conclusions certain, and if non-deductive reasoning from evidence can sometimes make a conclusion certain or nearly certain, then it would be foolish to fail to consider both sorts of arguments for and against the existence of God, even if we find some sound deductive arguments only for one side of this issue, and no sound deductive arguments for the other side.  Evidence and relevant non-deductive arguments/cases would still need to be considered.
Another possible way to analyze the question “Does God exist?” is in terms of the traditional roles that God plays:
Q1.  Is there a creator of the universe?
Q2.  Is there a ruler of the universe?
Q3. Assuming there is a creator of the universe and a ruler of the universe, are these the same person?
Q4. Has this person revealed himself/herself to humans through miracles, prophets, and inspired writings?
The first three questions are sufficient to determine whether “God exists” is true, so the fourth question is a bonus question that allows for a distinction between what I call “religious theism” and “philosophical theism”.
It seems to me that a very basic and important question to ask about God’s character is whether God has attempted to reveal himself/herself to humans.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all agree that God has attempted to reveal himself through miracles, prophets, and inspired writings, and this is a very basic and important belief in these western theistic religions.  So, this traditional view of God can be called “religious theism”.  But one could believe in the existence of God without buying into the idea that God has revealed himself through miracles, prophets, and inspired writings.  I call such a stripped-down version of theism”philosophical theism”.
Here is a diagram that spells out this way of approaching the question “Does God exist?” (click on the image to see a clearer version of the chart):
Does God Exist - 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have in mind, by the way,  time frames for each of the above questions:
Q1*.  Did a bodiless person create the universe about 14 billion years ago?
Q2*.  Has an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good person been in control of every event in the universe for the past 10 billion years (or more)?
Q3*.  Did a bodiless person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good, create the universe about 14 billion years ago, and then procede to control every event in the universe for the past 10 billion years (or more)?
Q4*.  Did a bodiless person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good, create the universe about 14 billion years ago, and then procede to control every event in the universe for the past 10 billion years (or more), and then in the past 10,000 years reveal himself/herself to humans through miracles, prophets, and inspired writings?
I believe that Jeff Lowder’s approach to the question “Does God exist?” involves general categories of evidence, which he then examines for both evidence that supports the existence of God and evidence that goes against the existence of God.  This is somewhat similar to Swinburne’s approach, which starts out looking at evidence concerning the physical universe, then looks at evidence concerning evolution of human bodies, then evidence concerning human minds and morality, then evidence concerning human history, then religious experience.  But Jeff is more systematic in covering broad categories of evidence and more objective in looking for evidence supporting either side of the issue.
If you have another systematic approach to answering the question “Does God exist?”  I would be interested to hear about it.