Some Notes on Theism

I’m prompted to write this post as a general account of my opinions about the existence of God in response to an exchange with Aaron on Sam’s blog: Comments. In particular I wanted to respond to this comment by Aaron: “At the very core, Christianity is nothing more than following Christ. The word itself means simply one who follows Christ’s teachings. All of the sacraments, all of the ritual, all of the dogma is man-made artifice that is at times either helpful or harmful to a given individual or even to the world at large.”

There’s nothing new in what follows; it’s just a summary of my views on the subject of theism in the above context.

I don’t find anything wrong with following the teaching of any particularly wise person, but is it really likely that all the professed teachings of Jesus were all his own work? Even if it could be shown that many of the teachings of Jesus were attributable to his followers and biographers that wouldn’t necessarily diminish the wisdom inherent in the teachings.

But anything in addition to this is where my problem with Christianity, and theism in general begins.

First, to make Jesus anything more than simply a mortal teacher requires the presupposition of God. This presupposition is at the heart of all the main monotheistic religions. Without an initial God everything else fails, theistically. Theists sometimes argue that atheists aren’t in a position to comment on some aspects of theology that they haven’t studied, but without the presupposition of God the theology is worthless.

I find no rational reason to presuppose God. I have not seen one single argument supporting theism that doesn’t presuppose this, for any of the God religions. And this brings me to the degree of my ‘agnosticism’ or ‘atheism’ as discussed with Aaron. The metaphysical idea that a God is one possible cause of everything is fine, but that’s all it is, an idea, a concept, with no more weight than any other metaphysical idea. I could equally presuppose two Gods, and infinite number of Gods, or no Gods, a single once-only universe from nothing, a cyclical single universe, multiple parallel universes, metaphysical ideas that have mathematical support and those that don’t, and even pure fantasy universes – metaphysically, anything goes. So, in response to Aaron, I am ‘agnostic’ to the extent that the God hypothesis is one of many, and I am ‘atheistic’ to the extent that I don’t find the God hypothesis a particularly convincing one. I’m so unconvinced I’m prepared to accept the label ‘atheist’.

Without presupposing God it becomes necessary to say why one would think there is a God.

All the so called proofs of the existence of God, the ontological, teleological, cosmological, and other ‘logical’ arguments are all based on some unsupportable premise, that is usually based on some human intuitive requirement that there should be some cause, that it should be intelligent, and that it should be loving. God is made in the image of the best of what we would like to be, not we in his image.

Terms such as ‘infinite’ and ‘perfect’ are often used in relation to God. These are mere concepts that are useful in describing something beyond what we can see, measure or reach. There is no reality to them, as far as we know. There’s no good reason that they are attributes of or have anything to do with God.

Discussions about the ‘probability’ of any of these possible ideas, and in this context that there might or might not be a God, are metaphysical speculations and have no mathematical basis to take them any further. In order to calculate probabilites about God’s existence we need information we just don’t have.

Some theists don’t require proof or evidence or probabilistic likelihood, since they find some ideas ‘obvious’, when considering these issues. For example, it’s ‘obvious’ there must be a ‘loving’, ‘intelligent’, ‘omnipotent’, …, creator. To such a theist I’d ask the following. How would you know that? How many universes have you witnessed being created to come to that ‘obvious’ conclusion, deductively or inductively? What experiences do you have, on the scale of universes, that make you think this or any universe requires a creator at all? And as for ‘His’ attributes, how would you know what they were? Revelation? Well, revelation presupposes there’s a God to do the revealing, as opposed to there having been a number of fallible humans through the ages that have misunderstood, willfully lied, or been deluded about revelatory events. There’s that presupposition again?

Another approach theists sometimes take is with respect to what might be called ‘ways of knowing’. When all the rational arguments have been put forward – basically saying there’s no evidence or proof that God exists and so we should act as if he doesn’t – theists have been known to question the appropriateness of these arguments, by questioning the ways in which we can know things. All I want to say for now on this is that the best and most useful ways of knowing consist of supporting our personal experiences with rational critical and sceptical thought and, when appropriate and possible, employing what is commonly know as the scientific method. I accept that when we follow this path the best we can hope for is the accumulation of common experiences that give us some grasp of how things work, and to a limited extent why they work; but I also accept that in no way does that lead us to any ultimate and absolute truth about anything; it only provides us with a degree of confidence. What about meditation and other ‘spiritual’ ways of knowing? As far as I can see, moving to what is essentially a different mind-state is no different than chewing on magic mushrooms – anything goes; and there’s no reason to suppose anything valuable or real is being revealed.

Yet another idea that theism embraces whole heartily, and which is also a necessity for some non-theists, is the requirement for purpose or meaning. I think this idea is often behind the ‘obvious’ discussed above. But there is no requirement that the universe, or any part of it (i.e. us), should have any purpose or meaning. This need that some people have for there to be purpose and meaning in the universe at all is a quirk of human nature, akin to the need to bite ones nails or pick ones nose or scratch an itch. Can I prove this? No, but the parallels are sufficient to explain it without conjuring up an agent such as God.

Now, I can accept a ‘concept’, call it God if you wish, as an aspiration, a goal to which we would like to aim; but it’s entirely a human construct – it certainly isn’t theistic in the usual sense, and not even deistic. In that respect it’s a form of Humanism. I think that this is what some versions of Christianity have come to be, though I can’t understand why there remains the insistence on the truth of, say, the resurrection, or even the continued association with Christ.

Much of this aspiration for the unreachable perfection is fine. But because we can’t actually reach it we have to settle for less. And that ‘less’ that each person settles for is subjective. I don’t have a problem with different individuals or groups of people deciding that they think they should live by certain rules, constructing their own morality – I’ve seen no evidence or good argument for objective morality. And I think it makes sense that as a society (and collections of societies) that we should agree that compromises have to be made – we can’t all have our own particular moral codes enforced just as we choose. The problem with religion in this respect is that it has aimed for the heady heights of the infinite and the perfect, and has decided there is a real God, and has then interpreted its own subjective moral codes as being determined by this fictitious character. All theistic religions, and sects within religions, and individuals within sects, all have their own take on what God is, to what extent he interacts with us, to what extent he commands us, or requires us to worship him, etc. Religion is probably the most variable and subjective of human enterprises, in terms of what is believed, and yet often its adherents claim to have access to absolute and invariant truth. This is pure nonsense.

Take any individual, whether it be Jesus, his apostles, Mohammed, the Pope, or anyone claiming to be divine or to have been in touch with some divine being, or to have received a message, a revelation; take any of them; any claim they have made can be accounted for by down to earth explanations. But, you might say, at least some of the claims could be true. Well, how would you know? How, in fact, do you distinguish between a truthful claim about the divine and any of the many consequences of simple human frailty: mistakes, dreams, delusions, lies, intuitions, group-think, etc. There is no known way of making such a distinction, and since ultimately all supposed sources of divine information result from such claims, one way or another, they must all be seriously suspect, at the very least. Add to the shear variety the fact that no matter which religion you follow, and no matter how dedicated you are and to what extent you submit yourself and obey the commands and pray, there’s not a damn bit of difference made in this world. From the most pious to the most ‘sinful’ – not a jot of difference that anyone has demonstrated.

All that pretty much takes care of my view about God. I think it’s a strong case. I’d be happy to expand on any individual points, or to consider any angles I haven’t already. I’d even believe in God if I thought there was sufficient reason.

39 thoughts on “Some Notes on Theism

  1. “I find no rational reason to presuppose God.”So what do you make of the Law of First Cause? It seems to me that that is a pretty reasonable place to start anyone of any belief system.The metaphysical idea that a God is one possible cause of everything is fine, But it isn’t metaphysical only when it is hard scientific evidence that shows us that nothing has a beginning without a cause. Nothing that exists does so in the absence of an explanation of that existence. Matter cannot preexist itself not come from an infinite regress of causes etc. etc. etc. These are religious presuppositions, these are scientific facts. Don’t we need to pay attention to that?“I could equally presuppose two Gods, and infinite number of Gods, or no Gods, a single once-only universe from nothing, a cyclical single universe, multiple parallel universes, metaphysical ideas that have mathematical support and those that don’t, and even pure fantasy universes – metaphysically”Actually you couldn’t propose any of those without having to accept that every single one of them has come and later been rejected precisely, again, because of scientific evidence that even atheist scientists recognise. That is why, because of the clear implications of a universe with a beginning, they continue to posit theory after theory after theory; all in an attempt to avoid the obvious conclusion – Our universe had a cause and it couldn’t have been matter that ultimately created itself.“based on some human intuitive requirement that there should be some cause”It’s based on hard scientific laws that allow no compromise or interpretation. As atheist astronomer Arthur Eddington says – “ The second law of thermodynamics holds, I think, th supreme position among the laws fo Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observations, well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But it your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it by collapse in deepest humiliation.” He is one of the people who is deeply troubled with a universe that has a beginning. He finds the idea disgusting and repulsive. That in itself is as good a proof as any of its transcendent implications.“What experiences do you have, on the scale of universes, that make you think this or any universe requires a creator at all?”Of course you would accept that the same question could be asked of anyone, including you, regardless of our current position.I’ve got to take my kid to hockey practise so I couldn’t read all of your excellent post. You haven’t taken this topic lightly. Nor should anyone. However, because you substitute metaphysical for scientific that allows you to arrive at the above conclusions, I’m wondering, how do you explain away Jesus seeming rising from the dead?

  2. Hi Makarios,”Law of First Cause” – It’s at best a hypothesis not a law. There is nothing we know that demonstrates there must be a first cause; nothing that shows infinite regress is not the case; there isn’t even proof that causality is real in any ultimate sense.”…it is hard scientific evidence that shows us that nothing has a beginning without a cause…” – No it isn’t. Can you direct me to that theory and, more significantly, its proof? Even if science could show causality within this universe, as far as we know that means nothing outside this universe, if indeed there is anything outside this universe, in whatever sense you might want to use the term ‘outside’.”it couldn’t have been matter that ultimately created itself” – First, how do you know that to be the case? Is it one of the ‘obvious’ ideas I covered in the main post? Second, in what sense do you mean ‘created’? It implies causality, and possibly agency. How do you know anything about these matters outside the limits of human experience?”That in itself is as good a proof as any of its transcendent implications.” – No it isn’t. This paragraph quoted the opinion of a particular scientist about a particular law and its relevance. That isn’t proof of anything. If you’re talking about the 2nd law itself, then that applies within our known universe and its known physical laws. To claim that this law holds and then to claim there is something outside this law – i.e. God, the infinite and omnipotent, and hence possible creator of perpetual motion, contravention of the 2nd law, etc. – seems like speculation to me.”Of course you would accept that the same question could be asked of anyone, including you, regardless of our current position.” – Yes, exactly. That’s why I think all our knowledge comes ultimately through accumulated experience (some of which may be accumulated and passed on through inheritance) and the use of the mind to construct order, to ‘invent’ or ‘discover’ laws of nature, and why our knowledge is limited and subjective. We cannot know of ultimate truth, partly because we cannot know if there is such a thing. Whatever we know, how would we know there is nothing more to know?”I’m wondering, how do you explain away Jesus seeming rising from the dead?” – I can’t. But then nor can you. You don’t really know that happened, in any real theistic sense. Do you really think these events have been transmitted and recorded faithfully? Watch the Life of Brian, I think it’s scene 2, where distant crowd members are straining to listen to Jesus:- “What was that?”- “I think it was ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers’.”- “Ahh, what’s so special about the cheesemakers?”- “Well, obviously, this is not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.”And therein lies the comedy of relying on oral traditions and ancient texts. Stories are misunderstood, exaggerated or plain invented. Which also brings me back to the presupposition of God. If you didn’t believe in God in the first place the resurrection story would be treated like any other fable. And, believing in God isn’t sufficient; the Muslims believe in God but don’t accept Jesus as divine. The angel Gabriel revealed God’s word to Mohammed – do you believe that story? And surely you’re not suggesting the resurrection story, which relies on the presupposition of God to be true, is the proof of Jesus as divine and in turn the proof of God – a circular argument?

  3. I’ve let this rattle around in the back of my brain for the last few days in an attempt to conjure something that bore at least a passing resemblance to a rational basis for faith. There is, of course, nothing which fits this criterion.How then do you address someone like me? Someone who admits up front the utter irrationality of his faith and yet holds to it in spite of that? The Kierkegaardian view that faith is inherently irrational offers few handholds for those who would grapple with it because it has come to peace with its own indefensibility to reason.To my mind, those who attempt to rationalize their faith, to “prove God”, if you will, are inevitably doomed to failure. The “proofs” offered by such people are easily dealt with and, in fact, I routinely knock them down myself. There is no special “way of knowing”, in fact there is no way to know at all. Neither is there any necessity for a purpose; if there were a purpose (which there may or may not be) it would be beyond our understanding anyway so to invoke a purpose as “proof” is ridiculous.All of this then brings us around to the original question: How does one deal with a theist who admits the complete and utter irrationality of faith, who admits that it is impossible to know that god exists, who admits that life does not necessarily require a purpose, and who will even go so far as to say that the Bible is decidedly not literal? Rationally, my suggestion is that you write me off as a madman. After all, I cannot even get it wrong in the right way. I stand opposed to my fellow Christians perhaps more often than I stand with them (this is a certainty in the case of American fundamentalists) and my sympathies lie more strongly with strong agnostics like yourself than with “Bible believing” Christians who put forth nonsense ideas like man coexisting with dinosaurs. I suppose the summary response is to note that the Christianity you describe is not the Christianity that I espouse or defend and that I largely agree with what you put forth.

  4. Hi Aaron,Apologies for the delay – haven't been on here for some time.How then do you address someone like me?…How does one deal with a theist who admits the complete and utter irrationality of faith…Live and let live. Your entitled to believe what you want, how you want, if you insist. I can only offer my point of view when it comes to our personal interaction.The problem arises when having to deal with the many theists who want to coerce others into accepting their beliefs based on the authorities that they adhere to. This may not apply to you – I don't know what your position might be on any particular issue; and I don't care if you particularly base your opinion on the authority of your faith; but I do care if you propose to coerce my behaviour based on authorities you believe in and I don't. I don't have a problem if a theist bases their stance on a democratic issue on their faith, though I'll argue for/against it based on my rational understanding of the issue. But no theist has the right to insist on their stance being upheld because of the dictates of their faith.

  5. Ron, reading a little more through your blog, you don't seem like all that bad of a guy.I left a mathematical proof for God near your comment on my blog.Here is another thing you should look at, the document story of Fatima:http://vivechristusrex2000.blogspot.com/2008/06/extra-extra-read-all-about-it.htmlI would have to say, if I read both of these posts,and I was atheist, there would be at least a little stirring inside me in the wee hours of the morning when I was left with my thoughts.

  6. I believe investigations into most often come down to our initial bias towards or against God or gods. We cannot technically prove a god like being, but we cannot technically prove there is no god like being. I do not believe either case can be scientifically proven. Like a house, we would not expect the human designer to be a part of the walls so I would not expect a god to be discoverable. We may be able to prove or disprove a human designer by comparing to something that is not human designed, like nature, unfortunately we lack that ability in our known reality. We could potentially show that aspects of the house could or could not be built on their own, much of which relies on the assumption or lack the of assumption of causality. That metaphor assumed a designer, but I do not think that should be assumed, but neither should it be dismissed. If we start with dismissing god, even if there is no plausible naturalistic explanation, we will assume there is some unknown one. This will obviously be incorrect if a god really does exist. If we start assuming that a god exists and that god would want to affect a situation, we will assume whatever in question is indeed an “act” of whatever god(s) was/were initially believed in. Either way is circular. Ideally, we would meet in the middle with a cautious but open minded scepticism.

  7. Hi AaronH,

    “I believe investigations into most often come down to our initial bias towards or against God or gods.”

    I don’t agree with this. I would suggests most atheists were at least in some part religious, at least when they were younger and were indoctrinated into their religion by parents, schools, religious leaders. I would also suggest that those that come to lose their belief, because reason and evidence that gives the best explanation for how the world is and that contradicts so much of what they are told about their religions, and indeed the many religions contradict each other, those people tend not to go back to religion.

    On your ‘house’ metaphor – I agree with the principle of this: that the house cannot know the designer. But we have to be clear that the house cannot know there is a designer, or that there is not one, whichever the case may be. We are made of a finite number of atoms. Even all of collective humanity, our books and computers, all exist as dynamic states of finite numbers of atoms. And it all exists on this tiny earth. That we know as much as we do about the cosmos is amazing. So, for now, I would agree that humans are not in any position to say anything much about the origins of our universe, the super-universe (for want of a better term) of which ours is a component, or the hyper-verse (of which many super-verses may be components) … – we can go on making stuff up like this all we want, imagining what lies outside our universe, what it’s origins were – see this post. This problem applies to every human that thought they had some access to God.

    “We cannot technically prove … or disprove ”

    I agree. It’s not about proof. Some theist think it is, so for them one has to make this point again, and then show the errors in their proofs.

    “If we start with dismissing god, even if there is no plausible naturalistic explanation, we will assume there is some unknown one.”

    I agree. But then the same can be true if we dismiss:

    – Two gods that battle over good and evil and win to varying degrees. A two god hypothesis could be used to explain why we have a mix of good and evil. And of course religions invoke this in ways that are inconsistent. If a single god really is the sole creator then seems to be a bit odd to invent Satan or other demons, as if they were some match for this omnipotent being. Well, I suppose inventing Satan is OK, but why not simply invent a dual-God case?

    – A committee of gods. Well, that could explain why the world looks like it’s designed by a committee. And that would answer many other puzzles about the faults we find with what are supposed to be perfect creations.

    – Fairies. Should we really dismiss fairies?

    – How about Panpsychism?

    – Ghosts? Why presume they exist or do not exist?

    – Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, … Why presume thet exist or do not exist?

    We ought not to dismiss any of these, by your argument, by the dichotomy you think is justified when you say, “That metaphor assumed a designer, but I do not think that should be assumed, but neither should it be dismissed.”

    The problem is that it is a false dichotomy, because if we make that move with God we must make it with all gods, all entities, all myths.

    And of course we don’t. All theists of one specific religion cannot make this move in all sincerity and deny it of anyone that believes anything. And the honest answer is to apply a far more sensible approach. We can admit that we cannot disprove gods, fairies, monsters, but accept that there is no reason tho think these imagined entities exist until such time that we can provide evidence for them.

    And if we cannot provide evidence for some of them (such as gods) because they are so far beyond human capacity, then that does not get them a free pass into reasoned consideration. Rather, it makes them even less worth consideration than more mundane beliefs. At least we can go looking for Nessie. But how can we look for God? And bear in mind that whatever positive answer you give here applies to how the house might know its designer too, which then negates your argument that a house cannot know its designer.

    When we come to those beliefs that are supposed to be beyond human comprehension and testability (a claim theists often make for their gods, but not necessarily a claim science need agree with), when we agree to the theistic terms of the inaccessibility of God, then that by definition means we cannot know anything about this entity, and the consequence of that is that its existence is indistinguishable from its non-existence.

    We could look to something like revaluation. But revelation is indistinguishable from delusion. Having weird visions, hearing voices in one’s head – there are known instances where brain damage or sickness or other natural influences can induce these, so that when anyone claims a theistic revelation we have no way of distinguishing it as such.

    “Either way is circular. Ideally, we would meet in the middle with a cautious but open minded scepticism.”

    Open minded scepticism isn’t in the middle you imagine it to be. Are you prepared to be equally permissive of the existence of fairies?

    The open minded sceptical position is to not assume anything exists unless both reason and evidence provide support for it, and then to continue to be sceptical to the extent of being prepared for revision if evidence changes. I have reason and evidence to believe pigs exist; but not flying pigs. I have reason and evidence to believe horses exist, but not unicorns.

    But here’s one that goes further. I have reason and evidence to believe that the only humans have the sort of reflective consciousness that humans have, because we know there are humans. Do I rule out similarly intelligent aliens on other planets in distant galaxies? Well, I rule them out as having been demonstrated to exist, but I don’t rule them out as possibly existing, because we can imagine the same sorts of evolutionary processes occurring elsewhere as they did on earth.

    But we cannot use than method of inference from similarity to us to infer gods exist, because gods, as they are usually presupposed to be, creators of universes, we have no evidence of such thing. On the other hand we have plenty of evidence of humans throughout history inventing gods. We have very clear examples of fake religions: the confidence trickster Joseph Smith, and the crazy Sci Fi author Ron L Hubbard: Mormonism and Scientology. we have the Norse gods, Egyptian gods, Greek and Roman gods, and many others. We have so much evidence of humans inventing gods in their image that there is good reason to think that myth-methodology is the source of all presupposed gods ever believed in by humans.

    1. Hi Ron,

      I would disagree that it is a false dichotomy. Allowing the possibility of something existing does not mean you automatically believe in it, you do, however, have to investigate the claims using good historical method (genre of ancient or modern report of the event or claim, trustworthiness of the report, possibility of deceit, other possible explanations that may fit all the historical bedrock better, etc, etc.) Regarding a religious claim, this would be investigating whether the designer did or did not enter or affect the “house” at some point in history. We may not be able to know for sure, but we can each determine what we believe is more likely. And so we can look at religious claims or myths critically without presumptuously dismissing them or forcing ourselves to accept all of them. If we were to investigate any of the mythical creatures on your list without prior dismissal, we would still likely not believe in them because the evidence for them is weak or nonexistent. I disagree that it is the slippery slope that you seem to be inferring. Each claim has to be investigated individually and not all claims are created equal in regards to their historical or not so historical authenticity. Although some may choose to, I don’t think anyone has to blindly believe what they believe.

      Although this may be reiterating myself, I think we must be clear that i don’t believe this is presupposing a god. It is just not presupposing no god.

      Regarding proving, although I had never thought of it in that way before, I think I agree with you. Would you say it is about what seems more likely to each individual in regards to their beliefs about our origins?

      Cheers,
      The one formerly known as AaronH

  8. Hi Aaron,

    “We may not be able to know for sure, but we can each determine what we believe is more likely.”

    True, but then that’s a statement about one’s personal epistemic confidence, and not about a greater collective opinion based on the best standards available.

    Using Christianity as an example …

    Christian apologists are very easily persuaded by hearsay that would be discarded under other circumstances. Josephus is often offered as if some independent verification of the Christian story, but when you look at the content of Josephus it is no more than a few references to what he thought early Christians thought.

    Christians point to how the Bible contains ‘historical facts’, as if they’re supposed to provide persuasive support for the really important stuff, the divinity of Jesus and miracles and so on. Of course if the Bible didn’t mention a few historical places and events it would be so obviously a myth that nobody would buy into it at all. It doesn’t matter how good the ‘historicity’ of Jesus was, it would tell us nothing about the divine claims without very specific evidence to support that.

    So …”And so we can look at religious claims or myths critically without presumptuously dismissing them or forcing ourselves to accept all of them.”

    Well, a critical assessment has a hard time of supporting the basic historicity of Jesus (we could address Mohammed and other religious icons in the same way), let alone the divine myths.

    And here we need to distinguish between the two types of myths, because Christians will use the term ‘myth’ as an inclusive one for both myths of history and myths of miracles, and then focus on providing historical evidence (with the caveats of the above problems with this) and make it look as if giving evidence that’s supposed to give credence to the historical myth also justifies believing the miracle or divine myths.

    The dismissals are not presumptions. They are dismissals based on reasoning about the total lack of evidence to support the divine claims.

    “And so we can look at religious claims or myths critically without presumptuously dismissing them or forcing ourselves to accept all of them.”

    I agree, except that for want of any supportive evidence we can dismiss all of them.

    “I disagree that it is the slippery slope that you seem to be inferring.”

    I’m really not using a slippery slope argument. If evidence supported the claims I’d quite happily slip the slope of belief in any of them. I really do reject all common preconceptions and allow any possibility – it only needs sufficient evidence to be persuasive. This seems to be a misunderstanding we come across often: that we have thought about the evidence to support claims for all these, and seen none that’s convincing, we dismiss them. I think it may be due to a theistic perspective of having faith, and then looking for support for what is already believed, that itself invokes the notion that this is what atheists are doing too. It is not.

    Rather than a slippery slope argument I’m offering analogies that show that theists generally reject so many other beliefs despite the fact that all those beliefs require faith because they have no evidence. If faith is good enough for Christians believing the Christian myth why don’t they believe the Islam myth too, and fairies, and big foot.

    “Each claim has to be investigated individually and not all claims are created equal in regards to their historical or not so historical authenticity.”

    I agree. Christianity, for example, has been investigated far more thoroughly than the existence of fairies, as far as I can tell. And the trail stops pretty cold with the early Christians. Very little is actually supported by independent evidence. The only information about the important aspects of the Christian story, about the life of Jesus, come from the gospels – and there is evidence they themselves fed off each other. And that’s just with regard to the historicity, never mind the divine claims.

    1. Hi Ron,

      “I think it may be due to a theistic perspective of having faith, and then looking for support for what is already believed, that itself invokes the notion that this is what atheists are doing too. It is not.”

      I don’t think I would define faith in this way. We can not know our origins for sure, whatever “knowing” means, and so if we take a stand at a particular point in our life, we do so despite limited knowledge. And so faith would be believing something to be true despite limited knowledge, not despite contrary evidence, or the act of not throwing our hands in the air and saying we can know nothing. Under this definition, faith is not limited to the religious and faith is not set over ones lifetime. However, I am aware many would disagree with this opinion of faith in a worldview context. I also think claiming all theists use circular logic is an unfair and unwarranted blanket as well as claiming all atheists don’t is an unfair and unwarranted pedestal. I’m sure you would agree generalizations, whether positive or negative, are not in the best interests of a conversation.

      Regarding Christianity, according to the reading I have done, the basic historicity of Jesus is accepted by almost all scholars, whether atheistic or theistic. The question on divinity centres around the resurrection. If it can be shown to be a historical event, than other aspects of Christianity can be trusted as well. And of course there have been 2000 years of debate over it, and I am aware you don’t think it can be done. I am unsure whether it can be done, at least to the level of non-religiously charged events.

      Now I must admit that I am indeed a Christian. That said, I would like to note that I am not trolling your blog for an argument or a convert. I stumbled upon it this week and found it interesting, entertaining, and well thought out, however much I may agree or disagree with certain conclusions or methods. I also love reading other worldviews because I think it will make me a more rounded individual. I am not interested in finding proofs for my beliefs, but I do want to believe what, to the best of my knowledge, is the reality. And so I continue searching for arguments for multiple beliefs. Now I have presented to you my bias, in an attempt to eliminate it. All that being said, I think a great book on the resurrection is “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach” by Michael R. Licona. It has great reviews, even from those that disagree with it, especially for how thorough it is and how well Licona is able to separate himself from his bias. I am actually only about 1/3 of the way through myself because it is no beachfront read, nor is it another Stobel-like book. I also plan to read some of the negative arguments that Licona addresses, such as “The Resurrection Of Christ: A Historical Inquiry”
      by Gerd Lüdemann. From what I have read, reviews, and comments, and from what I have read of your blog, I believe you would at least find Licona fascinating and a much better look at the supposed event than most contemporary Christian apologists. For example, from reading reviews, I believe he recognizes the weaknesses of Josephus, and does not include it in his determining of the historical bedrock. But I must note I have not got there yet. Anyway, I am sure many Christians have suggested books to you, which probably gets annoying, so do with it as you please. If you do decide to read it, I would recommend reading all the footnotes as well because they greatly expand on many of the ideas presented and are equally thought provoking.

      Cheers,
      Aaron

  9. Aaron,

    “And so faith would be believing something to be true despite limited knowledge, not despite contrary evidence, …”

    Then why not choose to believe in Christianity AND Islam, AND fairies, AND Big Foot, …? The fact is that people choose to believe or not in some specific world view or entity for a number of reasons, and often for a number of reasons:

    Childhood indoctrination into one specific religion is probably a big factor for many people that are unable to examine those beliefs thoroughly or who choose not to.

    Being convinced of theism, finding fault with one’s birth religion, looking around for another religion that is still theistic but seems to be a better story or more in keeping with one’s other beliefs. Some Christian who found the details of the Christian story about Jesus suspect might be more inclined to look elsewhere. If they live in an environment where many Muslims are selling Islam they might find that convincing. I know of several converts from Christianity to Islam who found the Islamic rhetoric persuasive.

    You might get many Christians that also believe in Big Foot, since those beliefs aren’t particularly contradictory. In fact you might think Evolution is true and still believe in Big Foot – a Christian, accepting of Evolution, and thinking there is a Big Foot out there. As long as there are not too many contradictions it’s possible to believe in several poorly (i.e. zero) evidenced things. I don’t know of any Christian Muslims though. But what I do see are some people that allow that there may be some deity and give a lot of credence to several religions, as being human stories centred around specific cultural interpretations of a theistic idea.

    But it’s all based on zero evidence. The only evidence we have relates to empirically discoverable stuff, which so far encompasses physics, chemistry, biology and other sciences. Nothing in any of that shows up anything spooky – only areas of reality that we don’t yet understand very well. And all that is evidence of only this material reality.

    “… or the act of not throwing our hands in the air and saying we can know nothing.”

    False dichotomy again. It’s not a case of anything goes or nothing goes, or if we can’t figure out that there are gods we can’t know anything, or if we can’t allow that gods might exist we shouldn’t admit to knowing anything.

    We claim to know plenty; but we claim to know it contingently only in so far as current experience, empirical science, tells us. Everything outside that method of measuring support for our beliefs is indistinguishable from fantasy.

    “Under this definition, faith is not limited to the religious and faith is not set over ones lifetime.”

    Sure. You can be a faith-based atheist who can’t see anything in theism and yet doesn’t require any reason of evidence to support their atheism or dismiss theism.

    “I also think claiming all theists use circular logic is an unfair and unwarranted blanket”

    But many clearly do. It goes like this:

    P1) God exists (presupposition)
    P2) God revealed himself such that his word is in our holy book.
    P3) The holy book, being revealed by God, is reliable.
    P4) The holy book tells us P1, P2, P3
    C) Therefore God exists

    Some religions stick a bit more stuff in there to obfuscate the loop. They add ‘witnesses’, which when investigated were no such thing. They add more ‘revelations’, which turn out to indistinguishable from delusions. They add schools of theology that theorise about all this. It becomes so entangled that it becomes difficult to get to the bottom of it. But somewhere along the line there’s the presupposition that there’s a God so that the rest of the stuff can show that there’s a God.

    “as well as claiming all atheists don’t is an unfair and unwarranted pedestal.”

    Can you point out my circularity? Try any of these: https://ronmurp.net/thinking/. There’s a contingency that leaves much unanswered, but it doesn’t stop us using a working conclusion. All we need to get out of atheism is to have some evidence that supports theism. We don’t need evidence to get out of theism, since there’s no evidence to persuade us to enter into it. As there is none for fairies.

    “I’m sure you would agree generalizations, whether positive or negative, are not in the best interests of a conversation.”

    Generalisations are OK, if they are they generally well supported. Generally, there is no evidence to support the theologies of any of the religions I’ve come across though there is some evidence to support the existence of mortal natural people and places that are included in many religious texts. The evidence for the latter is not evidence for the former.

    The problem with generalisations is that they can hide much detail.

    “Regarding Christianity, according to the reading I have done, the basic historicity of Jesus is accepted by almost all scholars, whether atheistic or theistic.”

    This is a generalisation that hides much detail. There is zero strong evidence that Jesus actually existed – no independent records of any kind. The nature of the evidence is that there was a cult that grew around the time of and soon after what we call the life of Jesus.

    Bear the following in mind (I’m not claiming this did happen). It would be possible for a small group of people to actually believe that the man they followed (let’s call him Jesus) had some divine nature, but was in fact just one more mortal rebel preacher; and that that small group could spread and expand on the story to people that never met this Jesus. And from there the new distant followers had to explain their religious belief to other more sceptical people, so they in turn expanded the theology, added more stories about miracles, resurrections and so on.

    Is the above scenario impossible? Is it remotely possible? Well, a known scoundrel Ron L Hubbard, in the 20th century with all its technology and news reporting, managed to start a religion single handedly. And it spread within a few years to become the Scientology that convinces a few celebrities – and we all know how charismatically convincing celebrities can be, even when peddling really dumb ideas.

    So, the story we now have about just the mortal man Jesus is indistinguishable from a fiction built on top of a far lesser man. The historicity of Jesus is indistinguishable from fiction.

    None of the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels need be the actual words of Jesus. There are no records to support his birth story (even leaving out the virgin birth).

    While it is quite possible, and we can even allow probable, that there was a religious preacher who stirred up a bit of a fuss in and around the places he has since been reported to have visited, none of it amounts to anything other than hearsay. None of it. Zero.

    “The question on divinity centres around the resurrection. If it can be shown to be a historical event, than other aspects of Christianity can be trusted as well.”

    No. Definitely not. You can not infer from one event anything else about other events. Even if we allowed, say, that Jesus really was the son of God and there was a God for him to be the son of, it could still be the case that all of the other claimed miracles were invented in order to add support.

    Whether it can be done or not (provide evidence of the resurrection) doesn’t yet matter. What matters is that as yet it has not been done. It remains an unsupported claim – like Big Foot.

    “And of course there have been 2000 years of debate over it”

    But that debate is one that has consisted of Christians continuing to make claims they cannot support. even today we go around the same circles. even today I see Josephus being offered as an independent reporter of the existence of Jesus, when all he did was report on what Christians were saying about Jesus: hearsay not evidence.

    “Now I must admit that I am indeed a Christian. That said, I would like to note that I am not trolling your blog for an argument or a convert.”

    I accept that fully; and I appreciate you coming here to discuss it. I don’t particularly expect to convert you to atheism either. All I can do is offer the best explanations as to why I reject Christianity, and all other religions.

    “but I do want to believe what, to the best of my knowledge, is the reality.”

    Same here.

    On Licona’s book (I’ve not read it):

    I would guess that reviews of the research it contains would say it is good, but the reviews that address its conclusion would be in two camps: believers and non-believers. Example:
    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/assessing-minimal-facts-approach-of.html
    Which pretty much covers many of the points I’ve been making above.

    “It has great reviews, even from those that disagree with it, especially for how thorough it is and how well Licona is able to separate himself from his bias.”

    In terms of research, yes. But totally biased in terms of the conclusions drawn from zero supportive evidence.

    This approach is as one is saying, “Well, yes, there is zero evidence to support my hypothesis, therefore we should accept it.”

    “I also plan to read some of the negative arguments that Licona addresses”

    You could try more of John Loftus, Richard Carrier, Steven Carr, Robert M Price – not all atheists, and not all convinced that Jesus did not exist, though all try to show that there is no good evidence that he did actually exist, and that even if we allow that he did then there is no evidence to support most of the details claimed about him, natural or supernatural.

    “From what I have read, reviews, and comments, and from what I have read of your blog, I believe you would at least find Licona fascinating and a much better look at the supposed event than most contemporary Christian apologists.”

    It does sound a good book, even from the reviews that disagree with his conclusion. So I’ll add it to my list. Thanks.

    1. Hi Ron,

      “…and all that is evidence of only this material reality.”

      Empirical sciences are neutral on non-material reality or non-reality, they have no say whether material reality is the only reality. You may assert that because you have, to the best of your knowledge, only experienced material reality, you believe that only material reality exists. That is your right, but that is not evidence of only this material reality.

      Your comments on Hubbard and on other religions from previous responses seems that because there are false religions, all religions are false. I think that is logically on par with “there is religion, therefore a religion is true”. It may be taken as negative inductive evidence, but it is also what would be expected for the positive, and so we are at an impasse.

      I make the claim there are false religions because religions contradict each other, so either one, a group that are compatible, or none, are true. I then attempt to determine which option (and which religion(s), if any, is/are true) is more likely based on the information available to me. As I have said, I continue my “attempt to determine” now and will continue to do so until I die, but right now the most likely to me is Christianity.

      You would then claim that the only information available to me is empirical. Well, assessing history is not empirical, claiming the only information we have is empirical is not empirically supported. Any evidence for God would be supernatural and not repeatable, and so you see no reason to believe because it is not and can not be made to be empirical to you. Again, this would be expected either way, so I believe we’re at another impasse. Claiming the empirical sciences are our only source of information is fine, but that is a philosophical stance, which you also philosophically determine to be the most rational one from your thinking posts. Any account suggesting a supernatural event (such as the resurrection) is discarded as false, not because it was found to be false, but because you count it as non-empircal because it was not empirical to you. It is refusing evidence and then claiming there is no evidence. As John Lollard commented in your Human Fallibility page, “So yeah, refusing to admit evidence to the discussion does allow one to deny God, and denying God does allow one to refuse to admit the evidence for him.” Interestingly enough, you counter his accusation of circular logic with, “From your final paragraph it appears we agree there’s no evidence for God. I’m not sure why you believe.” Also as Lollard points out, people claim miraculous events all the time. But they are rejected as evidence for God because they can’t be empirically tested by you. And then it’s asked where are all the modern miracles? To which we claim that there are none as evidence for no god. We have to look at the claims and determine whether they are reliable, not deny reliability because they make the claim. Keep in mind saying that others have made such claims is once again akin to the false religions argument stated above.

      Regarding the DC page on the minimal facts approach, I would have to disagree with the article. Minimal facts is the only way to go because we can debate on facts and not on conjecture or extrapolation. Inerrancy is connected to the resurrection in that if the resurrection is false, inerrancy is false, at least in the NT, and if the resurrection is true, it could be either. Christianity is based on whether Jesus lived, died, and was raised, not on the inspiration of the recorders. If Jesus didn’t turn water to wine it doesn’t affect much if he was raised from the dead. Regarding inherency, we are not in a position to determine yes or no. Not having all the facts is not a falsification. So determining the best explanation for what is agreed upon, that Jesus being crucified, his apostles believing that he was raised, and that Paul was converted (the only three of the five Licona uses in the book I mentioned) is of utmost importance in determining whether Christianity is true or not.

      Further, Loftus says, “Habermas and Licona ignore the fact that a miraculous resurrection is always going to be more improbable than any improbable speculation about what may have happened instead.” This is only true if god(s) does not exist, that god(s) would never want to affect a situation, or that god(s) was unable to affect a situation. This statement also includes that if the probability of a naturalistic explanation approaches 0, a miraculous explanation will always be less (or equal if both are 0). The only way this statement can always be true, therefore, is if all three of the above scenarios have a probability of 0. He rejects the notion of the resurrection, not because a naturalistic theory can explain all the information adequately, but because his conclusion that god does not exist is based on the assumption that god does not exist.

      Loftus also says, “Our speculation only comes after arguing that reasonable people must doubt a straightforward reading of the tales in these texts”. Why? I would guess because of what I just mentioned in the previous paragraph. Maybe because we assume the only trustworthy information we have is empirical? I work under the assumption empirical knowledge is fairly trustworthy. But I embrace its neutrality.

      However, placing a probability on whether god(s) exists, if that god(s) would affect a situation, or if they are able to, is quite difficult. We just can’t set them to 0 or 1. 0 and 1 both make too many assumptions. That is why Licona, rather than placing a probability on those scenarios, looks at what is known, i.e., the minimal facts, and compares theories that should explain those facts. If a scenario cannot explain those facts, it is false. Now this assumes these facts are indeed true, and I am aware of Carrier’s Christ myth work and I am very aware that is where you stand, or some version of it. But he is still on the fringe of scholarly opinion, and so at this point I am tentative.

      I believe your philosophical position inevitably forces you to an atheistic conclusion because anything contrary is rejected. To get out of atheism, you would require the supernatural, which, by definition is not empirical, and is automatically rejected because empirical science is the only trustworthy information source. Your method leaves one option. And so I disagree that it is the most rational one. That is my philosophical opinion. That is not denying that the atheistic conclusion may be the truth, but limiting yourself to a single possible conclusion creates methodological doubts for me.

      Am I being partial to Christianity? Well I’m trying not to be. If we were to look at the historical evidence of some isolated tribes belief in whatever, and followed good historical method, determined their belief to be the explanation that fits the evidence the best, compared how far “ahead” it is compared to other theories of whatever, and found it the best, I would like to think I would accept it. Or if a naturalistic explanation fits all the available historical evidences the best, that I would accept it. I will let the books define what is “best”. This comment was not meant to be apologetic, or a stupid “you can’t prove me wrong” rant. What it did do is show that your method for determining what is evidence for atheism and theism is based on a philosophy that has predetermined conclusions.

      Regarding the authors you suggested, I have read a lot of Loftus through DC, including his review of Licona’s book, of which he called it a “grand delusion” based on the logic I have presented in this comment. And I was nearly able to meet Carrier last month because he was in my town, however I had an evening class that denied me the pleasure. I have heard the names of Price and Carr before, but have not read any of their papers or books. Is there a specific title or titles that are particularly convincing for you that you would recommend? Thanks!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

  10. Hi Aaron,

    Yours: “Empirical sciences [edit] have no say whether material reality is the only reality. ”

    So, mine: “…and all that is evidence of only this material reality.”

    These amount to the same thing, since empirical science can only have evidence of the material world.

    But, “Empirical sciences are neutral on non-material reality or non-reality” is incorrect. Empirical science has only evidence of material reality. It has zero evidence of non-material reality. This is not a neutral position.

    I refer you to Supernatural v Natural.

    “Your comments on Hubbard and on other religions from previous responses seems that because there are false religions, all religions are false.”

    Not quite. With regard to religions we’re not referring simply to metaphysical speculations about theism or atheism, but rather particular earthly religions, with all sorts of internal contradictions and contradictions between them. One of the most obvious examples is that in supposedly monotheistic Christianity Jesus is the son of God and is divine; but in Islam Jesus is a mortal prophet and is not divine, and what’s more they have a reasonable point when they then declare Christianity polytheistic. Even early Christians had trouble with the Trinity – so much so they even had to ask that secular emperor Constantine to arbitrate on this and other matters.

    So, I agree with your point that it isn’t that one is necessarily false, but that there is no way to tell which, if any, are true.

    So there’s not much point in believing any of them, at least until such time as there is good evidence to do so.

    “As I have said, I continue my “attempt to determine” now and will continue to do so until I die, but right now the most likely to me is Christianity.”

    I’ve yet to see anything that’s persuasive enough to make me understand why anyone would come to that conclusion and actually choose one of them.

    “Well, assessing history is not empirical, claiming the only information we have is empirical is not empirically supported.”

    I disagree. I think that’s all we have. The problem with history, all history, is that often the evidence is so sparse that we have only what amount to myths. This applies to many figures and events in history. In this context one can consider what it would mean for historians to have been mistaken about some figure, such that new evidence arises that changes the story.

    What would be the consequences if became clear that Guy Fawkes was wrongly accused of the gunpowder plot because some buried archived letter showed it was all an invention meant to discredit Catholics? The consequence would be a flurry of historical interest, a number of new papers in historical academia, a night or two of sensational TV until another story became more interesting, and the changing of any school books that refer to the plot. And the world would go on turning.

    Now, what would be the consequence of some Roman documents coming to light that showed that Jesus was in fact some second rate preacher, even by their standards, and that he was fitted up in order to discredit his band of merry men, but it all backfired and a false religion grew out of the myth? The whole of Christendom would come tumbling down.

    Well, not quite. Christianity has a good history of papering over cracks and re-inventing itself. It would soon come to pass that it was God’s plan all along that the Romans would think they were playing the lead in this drama. A potential devastating bit of news would be turned into yet another religious victory. That’s the way of religions and theology.

    “Any evidence for God would be supernatural and not repeatable”

    How do you know that? Seriously, how do you actually know that? It really seems like an unsupported assertion. How have you actually come to know that the Supernatural of any kind exists? How have you come to know that the specific Supernatural of one particular monotheism exists? How have you come to know that that specific Supernatural Monotheism pertains to Christianity and not Islam or Judaism?

    “and so you see no reason to believe because it is not and can not be made to be empirical to you.”

    How do you verify the non-empirical, or distinguish it from the empirical? For example, when a theist claims they hear the word of God such that they hear voices in their head, how do you know that isn’t the well understood malfunction of the auditory cortex? And in cases when this message from God amounts to no more than some feeling, even some wonderful awe inspiring feeling, how do you know that’s not yet more brain activity that’s some relation to epilepsy or substance abuse? How do you know that theists are not just working themselves up to believe things that are simply not so?

    “Claiming the empirical sciences are our only source of information is fine, but that is a philosophical stance”

    It’s its own evidential stance. Can you point to anything specifically that demonstrates the Supernatural? If you can’t, then how do you know there is such a thing? All we have is the natural.

    “Any account suggesting a supernatural event (such as the resurrection) is discarded as false”

    No, it’s far simpler than that. It’s discounted on two grounds. The first is that there is no evidence that it happened, only the hearsay of the gospel writers. The second is that because it is such a fantastic claim that goes against the grain of all we do know about reality that it would need some very strong evidence to be worth believing. Notice the gap: requires strong evidence, but has zero evidence. It carries no more weight that Mohammed rising to heaven on a winged horse.

    “It is refusing evidence”

    What evidence? can you be very specific in giving anything that doesn’t amount to hearsay that matches the hearsay of any number of other religions?

    On John’s point, take a look at the context:

    “More to the point, if I rule out God, I can rule out all of my material experiences of him (not surprisingly, that’s what you’re doing). If I rule out all of my material experiences of God, I can also pretty quickly rule out the existence of God. So yeah, refusing to admit evidence to the discussion does allow one to deny God, and denying God does allow one to refuse to admit the evidence for him. In total agreement there.”

    Here you see John is talking about ruling out the material experience of God by ruling out God. This itself doesn’t quite match the case you are making about the Supernatural.

    And the point isn’t to rule out God a priori.

    It’s to ask why one would posit him in the first place without the evidence to support him. It’s fair enough to raise the existence of God as a possibility, a hypothesis; but one should be reasonable about it and hypothesise about multiple gods and lots of other scenarios.

    And the further point is to show that hypothesising there’s a God that reveals the Bible, and then use the Bible to support the existence of God is to make the circular claim I pointed out above. See The Liar’s Bible. A holy book cannot be relied upon as evidence for the deity that is supposed to have inspired the book, because that makes the book indistinguishable from a myth. It applies to the Bible, the Quran, and I’m sure many other holy books that declare themselves to be the source of knowledge on the religion they are promoting.

    “But they are rejected as evidence for God because they can’t be empirically tested by you.”

    But many are tested and found to be natural causes. The Roman Catholic church does little to discourage the many examples of claims that appear around the world for which there are natural explanations. Intersessionary prayers and faith healing are often found to fail utterly and in some cases are nothing but frauds.

    How would you verify that a claimed miracle is actually the real thing?

    “We have to look at the claims and determine whether they are reliable, not deny reliability because they make the claim. ”

    Can you point out some you think are reliable, and explain why you think they are reliable.

    “Keep in mind saying that others have made such claims is once again akin to the false religions argument stated above.”

    And the same argument applies, with regard to figuring out which are the real ones. How do you do it?

    “Minimal facts is the only way to go because we can debate on facts and not on conjecture or extrapolation.”

    Minimal facts only leaves you with very vague suggestions that some historical natural events might have occurred. A minimal fact is that we have zero words of Jesus, and only words that some gospel writers claim to be the words of Jesus. That has as much weight historically as folk lores about all sorts of gods and demons.

    “Inerrancy is connected to the resurrection in that if the resurrection is false, inerrancy is false, at least in the NT, and if the resurrection is true, it could be either. ”

    I think you have it the wrong way round. See the Liar’s Bible again. If the claim to inerrancy is false then all of the Bible could be myth from cover to cover, set conveniently in lands of the authors or in the lands they knew a little about. If the Bible is only partly inerrant, which bits are true and which false? Well, we can vouch for some historical facts, such as some place names, since they still exist or there’s archaeological evidence. And that is still consistent with all the divine stuff being the perpetuation of ancient myths.

    “Christianity is based on whether Jesus lived, died, and was raised, not on the inspiration of the recorders.”

    If the recorders where inspired to make it up, don’t you think that would turn the tables, making Christianity based on lies?

    And again, the NT does not record history it records hearsay.

    “If Jesus didn’t turn water to wine it doesn’t affect much if he was raised from the dead.”

    Of course it’s possible that the water into wine bit is true, in as much as it could have been a conjuring trick. Other miracles, such as healing the sick could have been con ticks too. What if all those ‘miracles’ actually happened as tricks, but the resurrection never happened? How do you know which is the case.

    Your whole case seems to be that you’re betting on it being true because you want it to be true.

    “Not having all the facts is not a falsification.”

    But again that’s not a free pass to single out the claims of any one religion. At the very least, the really really very least, they should all be held as being so suspect that one is devoting a large part of one’s life to a myth. I’m sure you appreciate that 1.6B Muslims think that’s exactly what you are doing; and you think that of them.

    “So determining the best explanation for what is agreed upon, that Jesus being crucified [possibly], his apostles believing [perhaps they did believe, but that’s their error] that he was raised [zero evidence], and that Paul was converted [only Paul’s claim about that – could have been anything] (the only three of the five Licona uses in the book I mentioned) is of utmost importance in determining whether Christianity is true or not. [and that’s a very thin line to walk on]”

    “This is only true if god(s) does not exist, that god(s) would never want to affect a situation, or that god(s) was unable to affect a situation.”

    And to quell that improbability you have to give good reason for thinking any god exists, a specific God exists – and that has to be achieved prior to accepting the content of the Bible. And the only source of knowledge abut the Christian God is the Bible.

    “… based on the assumption that god does not exist.”

    No, it is not an assumption. Look, I’ll give it you now. I do not deny there is a God. I hypothesis that there is a God. Now, help me demonstrate that this is true, and then we can try to pick out the further truths about that God from the Bible, the Quran. and any other ancient claims.

    That there appears to be no God is a working conclusion born out of the endless failure of theists to actually demonstrate there is a God without going the circular route of using the Bible in that demonstration. The theistic evidence, Natural or Supernatural, must show there is a God in order to take ancient holy books seriously. You know quite well those times were filled with myths of all sorts, there being many nations that lived by all sorts of beliefs. You need to demonstrate a God, and then demonstrate that this God corresponds to the one in the Christian Bible. But instead all your particular claims have been about starting with the resurrection. But the resurrection depends on there being a God.

    “However, placing a probability …”

    Probabilities are nothing to do with it. We can only make estimates of probabilities about data we have. We have no data on gods or the resurrection. We have ancient myths massaged into a Biblical set of stories (not very convincingly overall), and we have the hearsay of the gospel writers. We can’t play probabilities with that. All we can say is: no evidence, or poor evidence if you prefer, but so poor it amounts to no supporting evidence.

    “I believe your philosophical position inevitably forces you to an atheistic conclusion because anything contrary is rejected.”

    I think that my posts on Thinking show that’s not the case. I’m quite happy to discuss Solipsism if you like, because I can’t rule it out. I find it to be an alternative to materialism that is impossible to refute. I take the somewhat arbitrary position that whether I think it’s true of not I’m still left with this materialist experience. I don’t know how to investigate Solipsism any further.

    And as I said above, I’m quite happy to hypothesise one God, multiple gods, whatever you want – but then the ball’s in your court if you want to demonstrate that there is a specific God that is related to Christianity. But the historicity of Jesus isn’t good, even for the mortal man; and it does not, cannot, be evidence of God because God needs to be demonstrated to give credence to the Biblical stories about Jesus, in order to distinguish the Christian religion from all the others you agree form a suspect whole.

    “To get out of atheism, you would require the supernatural …”

    Then demonstrate the Supernatural.

    “which, by definition is not empirical”

    Then how do you know anything about it? How do you assure yourself there is God to the extent that it would even make something like the resurrection possible in principle, evidence or not? Given there’s no direct evidence of the life of Jesus. let alone the resurrection, if you can’t show there’s this Supernatural realm in the first place surely all religious myths must be at best left pending, or even contingently dismissed.

    “and is automatically rejected because empirical science is the only trustworthy information source”

    Again, not the whole picture. Empirical science isn’t a priori trustworthy. Remember it came late to this debate about various realms. It was even expected by some early theologians that science would demonstrate God’s works. But science only ever demonstrated the Natural, and showed how reliable it can be at getting things done – just in medicine alone, where religion and all sorts of quackery failed for millennia, beyond some fruitful natural remedies.

    “Your method leaves one option.”

    No it doesn’t. because you seem to misunderstand it. I am not asserting there is no God up front; I am contingently asserting there is no God for want of evidence that several thousand years of all sorts of theologies have failed to produce. I know governments are prone to waste money, but imagine trying to sustain a science project for that long with the same results.

    “limiting yourself to a single possible conclusion creates methodological doubts for me.”

    The methodology is one of hypotheses waiting supportive evidence. All religions have failed to first demonstrate their gods, so they have nothing to hang their particular religious claims on. This is a most reasonable and rational approach. Can you tell me how your methodological approach, say minimal facts, would fail for Alien Abduction stories, Roswell, 9/11 Deniers, Holocaust Deniers, …

    “Am I being partial to Christianity?”

    But the historicity of Mohammed is better than that of Jesus. At least the Quran is supposed to have been written when he was alive, dictated by him at various stages based on messages he got directly from Gabriel. And the Quran is a very specific book (full of its own problems) that explains how Jews and Christians were mistaken. Christianity doesn’t come close to that; and Jesus, the basis of Christianity, was a Jew who believed thoroughly in the OT (if you really insist that the words in the NT are those of Jesus).

    “and followed good historical method”

    Any historian in any other area of history would happily tell the history of Christianity by explaining what Christians believed and claimed, but would not make the leap of believing that what they believed and claimed was actually true. No Roman historian I know of believes in the Roman gods. And no historian in any other area would rely on ‘minimal facts’ and hearsay as evidence, without explaining how what they are telling us may well not be true because the information is scarce. There are plenty of historians around who fill their books and lectures with caveats about how contingent there data is, or how other historians may see it differently. Only Christian ‘scholars’ – they are really theologians looking to support the truths they already have, not open minded historians keen to find what turns up, or doesn’t.

    “Or if a naturalistic explanation fits all the available historical evidences the best, that I would accept it.”

    The naturalistic evidence is that we have a book, the Bible, written by many authors, with the NT section written about a man that was thought by some to be the son of God (a God that was an ancient superstitious belief like all the others, as far as we can tell), and some authors, some time after his death, wrote books about him and the religion based on him, and some of those books where cobbled together by the Roman Catholic church at various stages. The result is an ancient myth blown up into a religion based on a compendium of ancient stories. That is as far as the naturalistic evidence goes. And it’s the only evidence we have. Unless you can start us off by demonstrating that there is God upon which we can hang Christianity, or Islam, or Judaism, or any other religion.

    “What it did do is show that your method for determining what is evidence for atheism and theism is based on a philosophy that has predetermined conclusions.”

    And I’ve shown that you are mistaken in that belief. Atheism, as accepted by most active atheists, is a working conclusion that puts all gods, goblins, fairies and other mythological entities in a pending folder awaiting evidence. The religions that rely on theism are further down the pending pile, awaiting a good case for God before their stories are even worth considering in principle: no God means all religions are false. Give us the God first, then start to show how that God actually did create the universe, inspire or reveal himself to prophets, produce his own son (or himself), … There’s still a lot of unfinished work to do to show these religions are worth considering.

    Atheists merely have to opt for a working conclusion in the mean time. Many atheists have lived and died fruitful lives without feeling any necessity to believe in God. I wonder how many theists feel they never did encounter him before they died.

    There’s nothing particular on Price or Carr, because they make the same points that most atheists do to a great extent. Here’s Price explaining himself.

  11. Ron,

    I apologize for not responding earlier. I thought about your claims, then life happened, and I was unable to give the time to respond. Now, onward…

    Perhaps I should define my terms. I am understanding “miracles”, “a supernatural event”, “the supernatural” to be synonymous and defined as a naturally impossible event. If something actually occurred that is naturally impossible, it could be given all three titles. Also, for simplification, I will refer to god, gods, creator(s), the supernatural (in the sense of something more than the natural) etc. as simply god. Further, by your given definition of atheism, I will refer to that as non theism and refer to atheism as the assertion there is no god.

    Now, I think these articles are fairly decent at giving a brief overview of the evidence for god…
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-new-atheism-and-five-arguments-for-god
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/popular-articles-does-god-exist
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-1
    And here is a pre-emptive rebuttal on the problem of evil against Christian theism…
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-problem-of-evil

    Now in your original page, you say these arguments presume god, and therefore are circular. To support this, I would like you to show how the premises presume the existence of god. Unless by presume you mean allowing the possibility. But that is required. If it is not allowed, its arguing in a circle in favour of atheism.

    On miracles,
    By my understanding of miracles, I think saying empirical sciences can test miracles is a logical contradiction. Further, we would ultimately not be testing nature, but rather we are doing psychoanalysis on god. Within psychoanalysis experiments, identically repeating the test does not necessarily lead to the same result. So, saying empirical sciences show no evidence of miracles is exactly what we would expect because they are unable to show evidence of miracles, whether they exist or not. Hence my claim that they are neutral.

    On your scientism,
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-scientism-self-refuting

    On hearsay,
    I’m not sure what you mean by hearsay. Unless you mean someone said it and you heard it, that claim of the gospels is simply false. That’s why I recommend Licona’s book. Further, rejecting the gospels as sources because some people deem it holy is non sequitur. Historical Jesus studies don’t assume anything holy about the ancient documents. They just treat them as ancient documents. Just because they were later collected into an anthology and titled the new testament, then collected into a greater anthology and titled the Bible does nothing pertaining to their historical reliability.

    On Loftus’ statement,
    You say, “And to quell that improbability you have to give good reason for thinking any god exists, a specific God exists – and that has to be achieved prior to accepting the content of the Bible. And the only source of knowledge about the Christian God is the Bible.” First off, it is the non theist who is making the knowledge claim that the probability of miracles is 0. Therefore, it is his burden of proof to show that atheism is true or god would not or could not perform a miracle. Because Loftus is a non-theist, I assume he does not assert the latter two theist options. What evidence does he show to support that? None. That is an unwarranted assumption. If it’s possible god exists, it follows that the probability of miracles is not 0. Thus his assumption is false. Interestingly, using naturalism within the support, if Loftus was to give a support, would be assuming atheism and thus be circular. So Loftus assumes atheism in order to reject theism. Circular. And so I invite you to give an argument for atheism without the use of naturalism. If you are content in the non theist position, you still cannot use Loftus’ assumption to reject the theist claim. That would still be circular unless you give some argument for atheism. I think the arguments on the webpages I presented are good arguments for god. Then, in light of what the natural theology reveals, I look at the claims of religions and belief systems that fit that criteria. From what we know about Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrection hypothesis is a superior explanation in all criteria for a determining best explanation of what we know. So I adopt Christianity. The only reason I should not do so is if atheism or some other belief system like Islam is included in my background information. To which I think the natural theology suggests atheism shouldn’t be, and I haven’t yet found a good argument for Islam. Plus, positive arguments for atheism are absent. If we get rid of all background information and be completely thoughtless in regards to miracles, god, naturalism, etc., and only look at the evidence, we should conclude Jesus was resurrected. With all this in mind, I therefore give my life to God. Again, your Christ myth hypothesis is only held by a small group of extremists with very little support besides their assumed atheism. Therefore, I don’t take it seriously until support of the hypothesis is shown to be good. It hasn’t.

    Here are some more pages that should be read,
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/richard-carriers-pre-debate-comments
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/establishing-the-gospels-reliability
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/design-from-fine-tuning
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/rediscovering-the-historical-jesus-presuppositions-and-pretensions
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/rediscovering-the-historical-jesus-the-evidence-for-jesus
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-problem-of-miracles-a-historical-and-philosophical-perspective

    Now, to clarify the purpose of one of Craig’s points, I would suggest this Q&A.
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/circularity-and-evidence-for-jesus-resurrection

    I hope you take the time to read all the articles I have presented, as I have of the articles you presented. If you don’t, I will find it difficult to continue this discussion.

    Have a good one,

    Aaron

  12. Aaron,

    No problem with the delay. You’re welcome to come back and pick up any time. I have a few posts where I owe responses myself.

    I said one can be a faith based atheist – one can simply assert atheism without evidence or reason. But that is not the atheism that most thinking atheists adhere to. Atheism worth your arguing with then is inferred atheism, not asserted. It is inferred for lack of evidence of gods.

    “By my understanding of miracles, I think saying empirical sciences can test miracles is a logical contradiction.”

    You haven’t made it clear what your understanding of miracles is. You make ‘supernatural’ etc., as naturally impossible events. Are you defining miracles as such?

    If miracles are naturally impossible, then they can’t happen – at least not in any sense that the natural sciences could detect. But miracles are events that are naturally detected by humans – that’s how humans come to make claims about them.

    Note what ‘test by empirical science’ actually means. It means humans using their senses, plus instruments and rigorous methods to enhance their natural senses. So if miracles are beyond testing by empirical sciences they are beyond ordinary people detecting them reliably. In that case those that claim there are miracles are making simple assertions based on no evidence whatsoever.

    Of course the ‘evidence’ that the religious do rely on are prior assertions about gods and holy books and the theology that is derived from and influences those.

    You seem to want to have your cake and eat it. Miracles are things that the religious can tell us a heck of a lot about, but science can’t.

    It’s odd that so many thesis find this WLC set of links the go-to for arguments for God, when they’ve been addressed so many times.

    On your first link, to WLC: “It’s perhaps something of a surprise that almost none of the so-called New Atheists has anything to say about arguments for God’s existence.”

    This is simply nonsense. WLC has had his arguments refuted countless times and he merely repeats them.

    WLC: “Instead, they to tend to focus on the social effects of religion and question whether religious belief is good for society.”

    I think you probably know this isn’t true. The general approach by atheists is as follows:

    1) We support freedom of belief.

    2) On good or bad of religion. In some cases believers may persuade themselves to do good works, so in that coincidental sense there is good to be had from religious belief. However, because religion relies on faith, faith can be used to excuse bad religious beliefs too – as we see all too obviously. The social point in this regard is not that religious belief is necessarily bad, but that it is all too easy to be based on harmful religious beliefs.

    3) There are other practical social issues with religion, which come from its priviledge in society: theists get a special place to the House of Lords in the UK, and there are other religious priviledges too; in the US we see states insisting on theism, Christian theism particularly; and in Islamic nation states the power of religion is even greater.

    4) Even allowing for (1), and even if all nations became secular (2) (not atheist, but merely not favouring or having any established state religion), and even all bad effects of religion vanished suddenly, we would still want to have the intellectual debate about belief in gods. This point (4) does not negate (1), so even without (2) and (3), if we couldn’t persuade theists to be atheists and we still think our view was the most rational we would not be opposing religious belief.

    WLC, “Darwinism, for example, has certainly had at least some negative social influences”

    Well, no it hasn’t. It’s misuse has. Some who have other agendas have abused it by misrepresenting it intentionally. I’ve no doubt this too happens with religion. But in addition to those abuses of religion, religions have sufficient toxic scripture to say that they can easily be turned to dreadful behaviour without any misrepresentation at all.

    WLC, “Perhaps the New Atheists think that the traditional arguments for God’s existence are now passé and so no longer need refutation.”

    They have been refuted, and continue to be refuted often. And each time WLC uses the same old arguments in debate they are refuted again.

    WLC gets himself in a mess with describing sound arguments. It is enough that an argument be sound. If it’s sound then you already know the premises are true. Consequently there are no sound arguments, since all arguments depend on premises which must be the conclusions of other sound arguments, or we must have some way of knowing a priori that they are true. We have no such faculty. There are many premises that we treat as a priori, for convenience, or for lack of any way of proving them true – axioms of maths, very well established observations. But pushing all premises back to earlier arguments we find we are stuck with some very basic philosophical conundrums: we cannot refute solipsism, for example, but can only ignore it because we can’t say anything useful about it that cannot also be said using empiricism and materialism.

    Instead of being honest about this WLC obfuscates by talking about ‘warrant’, but he’s already covered any useful meaning of the term in describing valid and sound arguments. His use of ‘warrant’ is essentially no more than him saying he feels as though its right so it must be true.

    What we have in the end is something that looks like WLC’s “Another way of putting this is that a good argument is a sound argument in which the premises are more plausible in light of the evidence than their opposites.”

    A better statement would be: a good argument is a valid argument in which the premises are more plausible in light of evidence than their alternatives.

    WLC: “You should compare the premise and its negation and believe whichever one is more plausibly true in light of the evidence.”

    That’s OK, but we know that WLC is going to go from there to assert his premises are true, when many of them are simple assertions.

    I seriously don’t find anything useful in WLC at all. If you really want to I can address each of his arguments, or point you to the many refutations of them. Note that the refutations amount to there being no reason to accept his premises and therefore his arguments and are not absolute counter proofs. So, …

    “Now, I think these articles are fairly decent at giving a brief overview of the evidence for god…”

    I sounds more like you are relying on WLC’s views on the counters to his arguments rather than the many actual counter arguments provided by people that disagree with WLC. We can cover his specific arguments if you like.

    “I would like you to show how the premises presume the existence of god.”

    As follows.

    Cosmological argument: promise one is not only asserted to be true without good reason, it is associated with God because WLC says so. No other reason. Premise two: asserts God (and his explanation of it is bogus)

    Kalam: note that as WLC presents it God does not follow from any of the premises. God is a hidden fourth premises:

    1, 2, 3 – as WLC presents them requiring an uncaused cause
    4 – There is a God as an uncaused cause
    Therefore God of premise 4 is the cause of the universe

    Moral argument: Another hidden premise. Premise one is itself of another argument that presupposes that morals are associated with God. I reject premise two, the existence of ‘objective moral values’ as WLC defines them, being associated with God. We have good evidence from which to infer that morals are modes of social interaction encoded into language based rules of behaviour, but which ultimately came out of our evolutionary interactive behaviour.But getting back to premise one, it could be the case that moral values exist with or without God, or they do not exist, with or without God. There is simply nothing to link moral values with God except a presupposition of a God that prescribes moral codes.

    Teleological: I reject premise two, because I reject the assertion that it’s fine tuned. But anyway, this isn’t about God specifically, so any use of this argument that results with God in the conclusion must have a hidden premise that presumes God. Remember, logical deductive arguments can introduce new terms only in the premises. If a term is not in the premises it can’t be concluded from the argument.

    The ontological argument is nonsense. Why is it possible a (one) maximal being exists, and not two, or a committee of equals? What does ‘maximal’ mean? And ‘possible’ worlds arguments are nonsense when used like this because the ‘possible worlds’ is about subjective epistemology not objective epistemology. That we can imagine logically consistent entities does not mean that there are such in actuality. And, the premises are loaded with God – though the slick move is to call God the maximal being while pretending it isn’t God, and then saying, oh well that’s what we call God. So, yes, this argument has God in every premise.

    I get the feeling we’re going to have to go through every argument from WLC, and not just deal with the few examples of counters he refers to but the whole take down of all of WLC’s twists and turns on these really poor arguments.

    Scientism – WLC doesn’t understand the idea that science is no more than doing what humans do, except more rigorously. His rejection of human empiricism (and its extension into science) is based on his own presuppositions about the supernatural world and God.

    “Scientism tells us that we should not believe any proposition that cannot be scientifically proven.”

    No it doesn’t. It says we should give more weight to propositions that have better evidence to support them. In this context we are dealing with WLC’s equivocation on ‘proven’, because he wants to equate it with logical sound proof, which no human has, though WLC thinks he has through his arguments for God. It’s therefore not self refuting because it’s not in itself a deductive argument, but is a working pragmatic useful inductive argument.

    Take the proposition, “All swans are white”, as an inductive one, from the particular to the general: “All the swans I’ve seen so far are white, so I infer that all swans that there are, have been, and will be, are white.” Then we see black swans from the southern hemisphere. What do we do? Reject the proposition outright? No, we change it to fit the new facts. “All swans native to the norther hemisphere are white.”, and so on, adapting inductive propositions to match the evidence that supports them. “Newton’s laws apply in all conditions in this universe.” But then comes Einstein, and we adapt to, “Newtons laws apply approximately to all conditions in the universe, but must account for Einstein at high speeds, large masses, …”

    “There are not gods because there is no evidence for them.” But then God exposes himself and science adapts: “There are gods” – except we’re still waiting for the new data on that.

    Hearsay: Unverified information heard or received from another; rumor. That applies to all the Gospels, and certainly to ‘other’ sources such as Josephus.

    “Historical Jesus studies don’t assume anything holy about the ancient documents.”

    Of course they do. They assume there are a true representation of the life and times of a man called Jesus, in both his natural and supernatural status. If you don’t presume that then they are indistinguishable from the many other ancient stories that I’me sure you deem to be myth.

    “They just treat them as ancient documents.”

    I treat them as ancient documents too. I as much as they are documents that had original sources from around 70CE+, as far as we can tell; that they are based on a religion that was being actively constructed; that they were manipulated and selected to help form a reasonably consistent story that supported the religion. Nothing in them can provide direct evidence of the truth of their claims.

    What makes a pathologists report valid in a murder case? First, it has to be verified that the report is from an actual pathologists, requiring them to swear under oath that they were the author and signatory of the document, and then to provide their expert opinion, either directly by reference to the report as an aid memoir, or indirectly as lawyers refer to the report. But the whole credibility of the report is based on a system of reliability founded upon the training of the pathologist and the whole system of checks and balances. Is it water tight? No. Sometimes we get stuck with poor pathologists, sometimes the report is not precise enough so the ‘evidence’ is challenged, and sometimes alternative opinions as to the cause of death and the association with the accused may come into play. And all this in modern forensic times under the full scrutiny of modern law, police, journalism. There is simply no way to rely on what we have of the Gospels as being anything other that hearsay, and even propaganda, of a religion.

    “Just because they were later collected into an anthology and titled the new testament, then collected into a greater anthology and titled the Bible does nothing pertaining to their historical reliability.”

    Yes it does, when we know of the political machinations of even just the First Council of Nicaea. Even current Christianities have umpteen theological differences that make any claims about the supernatural status of Jesus completely useless. Even if there was a grain of truth in the mortal Jesus story we wouldn’t know which bits.

    And this is where the God premise comes in. If in Roman times it had become popular to dismiss the ideas of Gods so that there was no christianity, but perhaps Islam arose in the middle east, then WLC would right now be using similar contrived arguments to ‘prove’ there is no God. That’s how easy rationalist deductive arguments are to concoct if you go accepting premises. That’s why ‘scientism’ only accepts evidence in support of propositions and uses deductive arguments only to link trains of thought about evidence.

    “First off, it is the non theist who is making the knowledge claim that the probability of miracles is 0.”

    I’m not making any probabilistic claims to knowledge. I’m saying we don’t have any data to make any probabilistic claims. I’m saying we know so little that all our evidence is consistent with both naturalism AND naturalism+God. In other worlds, adding God into the mix offers nothing else. We can act AS IF there is no God, because even if there is one we have nothing extra that is not already explained by naturalism – including an explanation of how brains can decide themselves into believing in unevidenced things, and even evidence that spiritual illusory experiences can be induced.

    On probability, I’ve already said: “Discussions about the ‘probability’ of any of these possible ideas, and in this context that there might or might not be a God, are metaphysical speculations and have no mathematical basis to take them any further.”

    To make probabilistic statements we need data. Ten balls in a bag, nine white and one black, what’s the probability of picking out the black ball? Easy: 1/10.

    Now, in terms of the origins and causes of the origins of the universe: we have a vast bag that we cannot see in, that extends maybe beyond our universe, but where not sure, and it might have 1 black ball, a gazillion, maybe none; and it might have any number of other balls of any size and colour, we just don’t know. Now tell me the probability of picking a black ball out. The answer isn’t zero. It isn’t even just small, because for all we know it might be guaranteed that we pluck out a black ball so the OBJECTIVE probability might be 1. The OBJECTIVE probability is unknown to us, so we can’t go plucking SUBJECTIVE probabilities out of our ass. The correct answer is “Don’t know.”

    So, is there a God? We don’t know. OK, what do we know? We know that science has provided a vast expansion of knowledge about the universe that works in a lot of cases, and has also explained a lot about brain conditions where humans can decide themselves that illusions are reality. So, the best inference is that there are no gods because we’ve had no evidence of them.

    But even so, even if there are actually gods but we just don’t get to experience them, then we can still act as if there are none because it makes no difference. What about Pascal’s Wager? Well, since we can’t know what gods there might be, if any, we can’t know that Pascal’s Wager is a trap set by a sneaky God to trap theists foolish enough to fall for it, and that God will only reward atheists because if he was a mortal here on earth with the zero data he’s provided then he too wouldn’t believe in himself.

    See, it’s easy to concoct explanations any way we choose. All we have that turns out to be reliable is evidence.

  13. Hi Ron,

    You say that it is probably not true that the New Atheists “tend to focus on the social effects of religion and question whether religious belief is good for society.” You then give a four step generalization of the atheistic approach in which all four steps are about the social aspects of religion. Determining whether atheism or theism is true or not was not one of the four steps. The social aspects don’t affect its truth, whether their assessment of the social aspects are accurate are not.

    On the Arguments,
    None of the arguments assert God.
    The Kalam,
    If successful, it shows there is an uncaused, personal creator of the universe, who sans the universe Is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.

    The Contingency,
    I fail to see how premise one is associated with God. It just says that things have explanations and that nothing has literally no explanation. He then writes 10 paragraphs defending that statement.
    On the second premise, I actually somewhat agree with you. I think his explanation makes sense, but he should use his other phrase, “If the universe has an explanation of its existence, then atheism is not true.” Then his conclusion should be that atheism is not true.

    The Moral,
    The issue with the first premise is that I don’t see how objective moral values and duties could truly be objective unless rooted is some deity. If they aren’t, it follows that they are rooted in nature. But, nature could have gone a number of different ways. So moral values and duties would be subjective.
    On the second premise, I think this is one we predetermine. Given theism, they are objective, given atheism, they are subjective. I would like to say that certain moral values and duties are at least perceived to be objective. So I hold that as a default until a sufficient defeater is presented, i.e. I need a reason to believe atheism is true before rejecting premise 2. If all we have prior is a ‘I don’t know”, then I default to objective moral values, to which it follows there is a deity that our moral values and duties are grounded in.

    The Fine tuning argument,
    Rejecting this argument because you don’t believe in fine tuning is remarkable. I must admit, you are the first I’ve ever found, read about, or heard of, atheist or no, that makes that claim which is so against everything that science says.

    On the ontological,
    I just get confused by this one myself.

    In other Craig writings he does say that God does not specifically come from these arguments. Perhaps calling them arguments for God is misleading. But I would say it would be a very weird atheism that believes there is an uncaused, personal creator/designer of the universe, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, and has moral values and duties rooted in it. Ockham’s Razor rejects multiple beings as they are not required. This does not deny the possibility, I would be happy to allow it if there is a truth claim by a polytheistic religion that suggests it is true. But there isn’t.

    In light of this being it makes miracles much more probable. We then look at Jesus as specific evidence for Christian theism. Your contention is that the sources of the gospel writers are later than 70 CE. But this is false. Just one example is the creed in 2 Cor. 15. It’s dated back no later than 35 CE. The crucifixion was either 30 or 33 CE, so this is remarkably close. Too close for legendary development. Once again I say, read Licona. On Josephus and Tacticus, it may be hearsay, but that depends on their sources. Josephus was in a position to speak to eyewitnesses. The author of Luke and Acts was in a position to talk to eyewitnesses. I don’t think we can get much better than that. If you still reject it, then I would suggest applying the same standard to other ancient documents of the same literary genre. I think you would quickly find there is a double standard here.

    “Yes it does, when we know of the political machinations of even just the First Council of Nicaea. Even current Christianities have umpteen theological differences that make any claims about the supernatural status of Jesus completely useless. Even if there was a grain of truth in the mortal Jesus story we wouldn’t know which bits.”

    We are 99% sure of what the original documents state. The other one percent are issues like “an” instead of “a”, with the exception of a few short passages that don’t effect any thought about Jesus. Umpteen theological differences don’t effect the supernatural status of Jesus unless they pertain to the supernatural status of Jesus. With the exception of Morminism and JW, there isn’t much difference within Christianity in the supernatural status of Jesus. There are plenty of bits that we know. The best explanation of those bits is by far the resurrection hypothesis.

    “Of course they do. They assume there are a true representation of the life and times of a man called Jesus, in both his natural and supernatural status. If you don’t presume that then they are indistinguishable from the many other ancient stories that I’me sure you deem to be myth.”

    They don’t assume that at all. They pass the criteria for historical reliability with flying colours. They also don’t assume anything natural or supernatural about him. They are considered historically reliable, and so they relay what the author honestly thought happened. So we compare theories of explaining the events. Natural explanations fail dramatically. The resurrection hypothesis passes.

    I gave miracle, the supernatural, and a supernatural event to be synonymous, all with the definition that it is something that is naturally impossible. By naturally impossible, I mean that naturally, it could not happen. So someone coming back from the dead can not naturally happen, it is therefore naturally impossible. A limb growing back does not naturally happen. We could see the limb and in that sense it would be natural, but the event itself could not happen naturally. Perhaps I should clarify by saying an event in which its coming about is naturally impossible. The sciences show what happens generally. Saying that in general people do not rise from the dead is one that I whole heartily agree with. But rejecting the hypothesis because people generally don’t rise from the dead is non sequitur. And because the resurrection hypothesis far outweighs other hypothesis – especially in light of the uncaused, personal creator/designer of the universe, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, and has moral values and duties rooted in it – it gives me good reason to believe that this is the exception. So, in a sense Craig’s arguments are for God, because they provide appropriate background information to look at Jesus of Nazareth. However, if we are in a complete backgroundless state, the resurrection hypothesis is still the best explanation. So in a complete agnosticism, we should adopt Christianity.

    On Pascal’s wager, I think it has been misused and mischaracterized – I would guess mainly by Christians. Pascal’s wager assumes there are two options, atheism and Christianity. It also assumes that they are 50/50. His conclusion is that given these conditions, the rational person should choose Christianity based on the risk/reward. I think many have tried to apply it outside of those initial conditions and that is where they have gone wrong. Outside of those conditions or ones very near to them (49/51?, 51/49?) I don’t see much use for it, except perhaps demonstrating the potential gravity of our decision. Or perhaps as thought experiment, given only atheism or Christianity, seeing how much weight we would place on the risk/reward by determining what we would pick when we vary their given chances.

    Once again to Loftus’ statement,
    Let’s avoid probabilities then. His statement still entails atheism to be true. So if the resurrection of Jesus is presented as an argument for theism, it would be circular to reject it on his statement. I haven’t seen an atheist dismiss it without that statement, though. And again, Licona.

    Now let’s get back to probabilities,
    You’re right, the objective probability is unknown. But your statement “the OBJECTIVE probability is unknown to us, so we can’t go plucking SUBJECTIVE probabilities out of our ass. The correct answer is “Don’t know.”, requires we say “don’t know” to almost everything. You say, “We know that science has provided a vast expansion of knowledge about the universe that works in a lot of cases, and has also explained a lot about brain conditions where humans can decide themselves that illusions are reality.” That’s great. I’m happy to affirm sciences successes. I will also turn the other cheek regarding the logically irrelevant backhand. But then somehow this statement is supposed to logically lead to, “So, the best inference is that there are no gods because we’ve had no evidence of them.” First, if we truly leave the question at “we don’t know” and not allow personal opinion, I don’t see how one can take the step to atheism. It should result in agnosticism. That’s why I don’t quite get the non theist group. It logically can’t get past agnosticism, but it then usually takes an extra step to atheism without positive evidence for it. Non-evidence of theism doesn’t constitute atheism because we also have non-evidence of atheism. Existence of the material world isn’t a positive argument for atheism because it is expected either way. There needs to be a positive argument for atheism to step past agnosticism. Second, evidence’s for theism will just require us to go back to the arguments earlier presented. I would in fact like a point by point dismissal of Craig’s arguments, but we need not do it here. Pointing to some articles would be quite sufficient. Especially since I seem to be gathering that neither one of us wants to give up the last word if points were made, and I would love to avoid chatting forever. And again I would be happy to look at counter arguments. I haven’t seen any defeaters though, especially not in WLC’s debates. I think he keeps using the arguments because they continue to not be refuted. But anyhow, I don’t see how discussing the arguments here will help much. Just like discussing Jesus has moved neither of us. I don’t think you should except anything I have said about Jesus. Read Licona. Read the rest of the articles that I gave you. Point me to the articles with counter arguments, I’ll be happy to look at them.

    All the best,

    Aaron

  14. Aaron,

    My point was rejecting WLC’s statement that this is essentially all we focus on. And (4) was explicitly ” we would still want to have the intellectual debate about belief in gods”, with all the wrap around explaining that no matter how things changed in relation to (2) and (3), (1) would not be negated by (4).

  15. OK, one at a time then,

    Kalam:
    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    That’s it. That’s the whole argument. No mention of ‘first cause’, let alone a ‘personal first cause’. The only conclusion this is about is whether the universe has a cause, any cause. And the premises are not at all certain.

    “Once we reach the conclusion that the universe has a cause, we can then analyze what properties such a cause must have and assess its theological significance.”

    Then that’s a whole new set of arguments that are relying on the success of this one. We’ll look at some of those shortly.

    “Now again the argument is logically ironclad. So the only question is whether the two premises are more plausibly true than their denials.”

    No, that is not the case. Where we have zero data on the matter of how universes are created we have zero information on the plausibility of any statements about it. You cannot balance arguments that about facts that we don’t have. Inventing a proposition “God exists” with no evidence, and supposedly refuting it with “God does not exist”, as a counter assertion with no evidence, does not allow these propositions to be compared on those grounds. You might as well compare “God exists” with “fairies exist”. They are equally bald assertions. Not an evidential fact in sight. The ONLY reason atheists can support “There is no God” is in the sense of lacking positive evidence, just the way we support “There are no fairies”. Either propositions can be true logically, because nothing in logic precludes gods, fairies, Loch Ness monster, Big Foot, or giraffes. Bit without evidence we can reject any of those entities for lack of evidence – except giraffes.

    “Premise 1 seems obviously true—at the least, more so than its negation.”

    Only in the context of human experience INSIDE this universe. It may not be true. Our ‘understanding’ of causation seems to be tied to our feelings about time, that a preceding event can cause another. take two billiard balls, A and B, where A is moving towards a stationary B, and hits B. We interpret this causally as ‘A caused B to move’. But if A and B are both moving and they hit each other they both ’cause’ an effect on each other: ‘A and B collide and each causes the other’s momentum to change’. Now this statement also applies to the case where B is (apparently) stationary – each causes the other’s momentum to change. And in our understanding of cosmology of this universe ‘stationary’ has n real meaning – it’s a relative term.

    And of course we have very little experience of ‘creative’ causation – causing things to come into existence. We used to think that’s how the world worked, but classical science has it that we are doing no more than rearranging parts of the cosmos. Particles are pretty resistant to change and mostly we are rearranging atomic elements and sharing electrons around. More fundamentally particles are changing momentum and composition through energy, but generally everything is conserved.

    The only ‘creative’ understanding we have at the moment is the very precisely (for us – ‘precise’ is another relative term) measured issue of matter and anti-matter coming and going apparently randomly, particles popping up here and vanishing there. It’s all rather messy and in detail not understood at all. So, if that’s our best model of ‘creative’ causation then we should infer that the universe popped into existence out of nothing, randomly, with other universes.

    Of course that would be an evidenced claim too. Using any aspect of what we experience in this universe as a model for what brought this universe into existence is bogus. We are simply speculating (hint – the argument from design is just as bad).

    We are totally ignorant with regard to the claims in both premises 1 and 2. So, not, it does not follow that ‘3. The universe had a cause.’ That’s just our speculative feeling.

    More on premise 1…

    “First, it’s rooted in the necessary truth that something cannot come into being uncaused from nothing. To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is literally worse than magic.”

    It’s not a necessary truth. That’s just our speculative feeling based on our human scale feelings about stuff. That is not how physicists understand reality. So, we have things that appear to pop into existence, even if we can’t fully explain that yet. So even in this universe Kalam is done.

    “Second, if things really could come into being uncaused out of nothing, then it’s inexplicable why just anything and everything do not come into existence uncaused from nothing.”

    That’s a good point. Except I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s inexplicable in any ultimate sense, but rather only in the sense that we do not yet have an explanation for that. There have been many things that were once inexplicable in that latter sense which are now explained to some reasonable degree. This ‘second’ point merely expresses our epistemological uncertainty – which unfortunately extends to God.

    “Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes”.

    Nonsense. Many things seem to the human eye as if they come out of nothing. A cloudless sky can see clouds appear as if from nowhere, uncaused apparently. But science reveals the nature of causation in our experience to be the change of arrangement of particles that are always in dynamic motion – absolute zero is unstained so far, and it’s difficult to imagine how one would attain it and what it would mean in a lab that’s on a moving planet in a moving solar system, …, in a dynamic universe. And as I said, as science digs deeper there does seem to be unexplained ‘random’ events that appear to have no prior cause. I’d go as far as to say we don’t understand the concept of ‘true’ randomness because that really does suggest uncaused causes – events happen with no apparent cause, then have subsequent causal effects in this universe. That this is all rather puzzling does not mean, ergo God.

    Premise 2 and WLCs cosmological singularity is itself a speculative proposition. There’s no evidence to support it and alternatives have been speculated about too.

    “but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing”

    Speculation. It is not known if any of the following is the case (just a few speculative examples):

    – Universes come and go, and each creates its own laws of physics as it appears.

    – Universes come and go, and each has the very same physical laws that are ‘universal’ across all such universes.

    – There are extra laws of physics that apply outside universes that explain how universes begin, but those laws are not detectable from inside a universe – we cannot infer them from what we experience inside the universe.

    … and so on. We could go on and on inventing, imagining, ‘creation’ stories. And we have, though historically we have anthropomorphically assumed some teleology. But we invented teleological explanations, gods, to explain thunder, volcano and other natural events. The monotheistic God is merely a fine tuned (ironically) notion that has evolved (ironically) to deal with ever more sophisticated counter arguments. Not all counter arguments have come from atheists. Many have come from the bowls of organisations like the Roman Catholic Church, monitories, and other centres of theological fantasy invention. There’s a great dialogue between two monks that gives a fine example of this and I wish I could remember where I heard it, it was hilarious. But WLC brings enough hilarity to the table as it is, so I’ll drop that dialogue in if I find it.

    “Of course, cosmologists have proposed alternative theories over the years to try to avoid this absolute beginning, but none of these theories has commended itself to the scientific community as more plausible than the Big Bang theory.”

    Here, WLC is touching on the point I made earlier, that with no data there is not a lot to commend many theories. They are all speculations, though some have a grounding in maths that derives from other data that is better understood, so they at least have that. I don’t recall any ‘theories’ being put forward about God, only asserted premises, and a few hidden ones.

    “The Second Law of Thermodynamics predicts that in a finite amount of time, the universe will grind down to a cold, dark, dilute, and lifeless state.”

    As far as it goes that is the current idea. But it is based on our understanding of the internal state of the universe and our interpretation of what little data we have. There are many aspects of this universe that seem to hold to various laws, and as such, and until such time they are refuted by evidence, they are good enough. But just as newton’s laws still apply within limits but were overruled as generally applicable laws by Einstein, so we might find that there is other evidence to persuade us that the 2nd law only applies in this universe and that other ‘laws’ apply to the beginning and end of the universe, if indeed there is a beginning and an end.

    “But if it has already existed for infinite time, the universe should now be in such a desolate condition.”

    Why? What do we know about how universes come and go that says that having an infinite past but finite future is not possible? The tricky concept here is ‘infinity’, which has its own problems. We don’t know that such a concept applies in reality. We never experience it. We only speculate about it in simplistic terms. No maths requires infinity. Ideas like limits in calculus for example only require the notion ‘tends towards infinity’, which can be replaced just as satisfactorily by ‘tends toward some large but finite extent’.

    “Scientists have therefore concluded that the universe must have begun to exist a finite time ago and is now in the process of winding down.”

    No they have not. Not in a sense that matters to WLC. They speculate that it might have had a beginning, because by inferring backwards that’s one of the possibilities.

    “The prominent New Atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett agrees that the universe has a cause, but he thinks that the cause of the universe is itself! Yes, he’s serious. In what he calls “the ultimate boot-strapping trick,” he claims that the universe created itself.”

    I emphasise WLC’s incredulity, because he dishonestly does not apply that incredulity to God. Nothing in Kalam remotely suggests a teleological cause, much less a monotheistic God. If you want to go down the route of teleological speculation then let’s speculate about multiple gods, a hierarchy of gods with hypernatural gods creating the ‘universes’ of supernatural gods, which in turn go around creating natural universes. And why stop there? Give me ANYTHING in theology, and I’ll give you a consistent alternative teleological and non-teleological alternative to God.

    “Dennett agrees that the universe had an absolute beginning but claims that the universe brought itself into being. But this is clearly impossible, for in order to create itself, the universe would have to already exist.”

    And of course WLC is quite happy to ditch this objection when it comes, conveniently, to his God.

    “So what properties must such a cause of the universe possess? As the cause of space and time, it must transcend space and time and therefore exist timelessly and non-spatially”

    Really? What theeory and evidence is WLC relying on to make this assertion? How does he know that there is anythig that ‘transcends’ space an time? What does this even mean?

    Look, we have the experience of being INSIDE this universe. That’s all the experience we have. ANYTHING we say about extra-universe or transcending the universe is pulled out of one’s ass. That scientists speculate about this based on what we do know is as far as humans can go – and it’s still speculation. Plucking gods out of one’s ass is an ancient pass-time from ignorant ancient times when teleological explanations were all we could come up with for lack of any understanding of science and evidence. So, even Dennett’s bootstrap ideas is just as good as WLC’s God. All God does is push back the speculation a notch. It’s still speculation.

    The significance of course is that scientists don’t go around condemning people to hell or predicting a heavenly afterlife for the goodly people of their disciplines. You don’t get to go to science heaven for believing Evolution is a good theory of how humans and other life forms came to be as they are now; and we don’t condemn Young earth creationists to hell for their disbelief.

    “Such a cause must be without a beginning and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any prior causal conditions, since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Ockham’s Razor (the principle that states that we should not multiply causes beyond necessity) will shave away any other causes since only one cause is required to explain the effect”.

    Well, that’s just what Dennett’s ‘bootstrap’ universe does. Why add God?

    “This entity must be unimaginably powerful, if not omnipotent, since it created the universe without any material cause.”

    Well, WLC seems to be unable to imagine the universe being that powerful, so there you have it, the universe is unimaginably powerfully its own cause. Fits the bill just fine.

    “Finally, and most remarkably, such a transcendent first cause is plausibly personal.”

    No it isn’t. It’s no more or less plausible than any other possible cause, or the lack of any cause if causation is only our experiential interpretation of some non-causal reality.

    “We’ve already seen in our discussion of the argument from contingency that the personhood of the first cause of the universe is implied by its timelessness and immateriality.”

    No we haven’t. All we’ve seem is WLC preferring his speculative assertions over others.

    “The only entities that can possess such properties are either minds or abstract objects like numbers.”

    Bald assertion. How does he know that?

    “But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations.”

    Assertion. How does he know that?

    “Therefore, the transcendent cause of the origin of the universe must be an unembodied mind.”

    This is utter drivel. Where did this ‘mind’ come from? This does not follow from the Kalam argument, unless, as I suggest, he has it in there as a hidden premise. In which case it is then an asserted premise and his argument is circular. He is using a hidden premises to conclude that premise.

    “Moreover, the personhood of the first cause is also implied since the origin of an effect with a beginning is a cause without a beginning….”

    From here on in he is just going around the circle a few more times: “We’ve seen that the beginning of the universe was the effect of a first cause.” No we haven’t.

    And so on.

    “There seems to be only one way out of this dilemma, and that’s to say that the cause of the universe’s beginning is a personal agent who freely chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation “agent causation,” and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions that were not previously present.”

    Well, that’s one assertion that would do the trick. But WLC hasn’t said why that is preferred, and certainly doesn’t offer any evidence that this is in fact the case.

    “So on the basis of an analysis of the argument’s conclusion, we may therefore infer that a personal Creator of the universe exists who is uncaused, without beginning, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful.”

    No. Not even close.

    WLC does not better in his response to Dawkins. WLC dismisses this point by Dawkins as a mere snide remark:

    “Even if we allow the dubious luxury of arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator to an infinite regress and giving it a name…”

    But this is crucial. Dawkins does not allow it in fact. His point here is only means of explaining that even if that was the case the rest is still nonsense. It does not mean Dawkins is actually conceding this point. The significance is that “arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator” is the problem – it’s an arbitrary move by WLC, and other arbitrary non-agents can be speculated about just as well.

    In the end the Kalam argument isn’t a sound one because it’s premises are not sure to be true. And adding stuff in about agents and anything else is invalid reasoning.

    1. Hi Ron,

      “Either propositions can be true logically, because nothing in logic precludes gods, fairies, Loch Ness monster, Big Foot, or giraffes. Bit without evidence we can reject any of those entities for lack of evidence – except giraffes.”

      Lack of evidence is only evidence if there should be evidence. Fairies, Lock Ness, Big Foot, etc. are rejected because we expect evidence. To say God has no physical evidence is not a valid rejection. It’s also false(Licona). What we would expect is logical evidence. And I think we have that. To say something can come from nothing is like me, when saying “I ate nothing for lunch” to mean, “I ate lunch, and what I ate was nothing.” Nothing means not anything, no material, no efficient, no anything, absolute negation. People use it otherwise as a pun. To use it otherwise is literally a joke.

      “Only in the context of human experience INSIDE this universe. It may not be true.”

      So in order to hold atheism you have to blindly believe that logic doesn’t work outside of material reality. You have great faith my friend.
      Quauntum mechanics don’t show things coming from literally nothing. They probabilistically fluctuate out of the quantum vacuum, which is not nothing. To hold atheism, you have to say that all material reality came from absolutely nothing. No material cause, or efficient cause. On creative causation, there is efficient cause, but no material cause. On atheism, there is neither. Agent causation is preferred because if the cause is only mechanistic, than the effect should be eternal. In other writings, he uses the example of a rock on a pillow. If its been their from eternity past, the cause (rock and gravity) would cause the effect also from eternity past (the indent on the pillow). But since material reality had a beginning, as literally all scientific evidence and logic suggest, than the cause must have the ability to change itself. (standing beside the pillow, then sitting down on it). But a mechanistic cause cannot change itself, because the cause caused time. If its timeless the mechanism must be changeless. A changeless mechanism could not change to create. So the cause must have free will to change itself from timelessness to temporal. Mechanistic processes don’t have free will. I think WLC equates personal with free will because that is the only option in the set. Perhaps he should change to person-like.

      Dennett’s theory is a logical impossibility. Something cannot be its own cause because in order to cause itself, it must already exist to be a cause. That’s why it’s absurd. WLC doesn’t apply that to God because doing so is unwarranted. He doesn’t claim God created himself. The Cause caused time, so it has to be timeless sans creation. The cause must be materialless because it caused material. It must be beginning less because it is timeless. This follows that it is uncaused. It must be spaceless because it caused space. And it must be powerful because it caused the universe with only an efficient cause and no material cause. And atheism requires no efficient cause or material cause.

      ““The only entities that can possess such properties are either minds or abstract objects like numbers.”
      Bald assertion. How does he know that?”

      I would invite you to ask any philosopher if there are other options. There aren’t.

      ““But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations.”
      Assertion. How does he know that?”

      I would again invite you to ask any philosopher if abstract objects stand in causal relations. They don’t.

      So we have A or B, not B, therefore A.

      “In the end the Kalam argument isn’t a sound one because it’s premises are not sure to be true.”

      Well, by “sure to be true” you mean 100% certainty, no. But as the BGV Theorem said, all evidence points to affirming premise 2. So until evidence points otherwise, I affirm 2. This is not a case of ignorance. Evidence affirms 2, not just leaves it open. The negation of premise 1, as I have said earlier, is a joke. Rejecting it requires blind faith. I can’t think of reason to reject 2 unless we have a predetermined outcome in mind. So I affirm it as well. Pleading ignorance to try to force it into a God of the gaps argument is unwarranted. Evidence and logic affirm both premises. But if we apply the need for absolute certainty consistently we really can’t say anything is sound. But just as you reject Solipsism because, although not able to refute it, the world acts like it is not true, I reject atheism, because science points to a beginning, and logic points to the uncaused, personal creator of the universe, who sans the universe Is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.

      Also, this article may be relevant,
      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/must-the-beginning-of-the-universe-have-a-personal-cause-a-rejoinder

      Again, I’d rather not go over every argument because that would take more time than I really would like to commit to the blogosphere. I would like if you have certain pertinent articles on the arguments that you have learned from, though.

      Cheers,

      Aaron

  16. Aaron,

    “Lack of evidence is only evidence if there should be evidence.… are rejected because we expect evidence. To say God has no physical evidence is not a valid rejection.”

    If there’s no evidence, how else do you suppose early Christians came to believe in God, let alone Jesus – and without God all the Jesus stuff falls apart anyway.

    Why would you not expect evidence in support of God? The Bible is often presented as evidence. And ‘revelations’ are often presented as evidence. They fail as evidence, of course, but it seems many Christians do indeed claim there is evidence, and expect it to be taken seriously. Though I’ve seen theists make claims that there is proof of God, I’ve not seen any say evidence isn’t expected. Indeed, I feel that if any evidence came to light the expectation of evidence would be abundant.

    “What we would expect is logical evidence.”

    I think ‘logical evidence’ is a meaningless term. You can use logic, in arguments, to argue from evidence in premises to some conclusion. You can have a purely logical argument were the premises are mere assertions, but assertions are worthless.

    “To say something can come from nothing is like me, when saying “I ate nothing for lunch” to mean, “I ate lunch, and what I ate was nothing.” ”

    No it is not. In the context of cosmology and physics it’s to say that actual matter/energy came into being from nothing that was matter/energy. There is nothing that we know that tells us one way or another whether this is possible or not. But if is is, there is no reason to suppose, one way or another, that the cause is teleological or not.

    “So in order to hold atheism you have to blindly believe that logic doesn’t work outside of material reality.”

    I didn’t say it didn’t work outside material reality. My point is that since we only have evidence of what goes on in this universe we can’t say one way or the other what goes on outside it, whether or not there is an ‘outside’, whether rules of logic that we use (which, incidentally we do take on trust because we don’t know how to make and talk about propositions without it) apply outside as they do inside. I am saying that we are so totally ignorant of anything non-material that we haven’t got anything useful to say about it that would contribute to an argument for or against God, gods, or other entities, teleological or not.

    “You have great faith my friend.”

    I can’t figure out what you’re not understanding in this regard, since I’ve already explained the difference between on the one had, faith, and on the other, reason and evidence. I’ve explained that faith based atheists, like faith based theists, hold some beliefs based on a desire to hold such a belief without regard to evidence or reason.

    So, it’s not faith. It’s not that I have a positive belief that there is no God, or gods, or fairies, but rather that there is no evidence to support any of them so I have no need to believe in them.

    Try this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/12/01/do-atheists-have-faith-2/

    Or this: https://ronmurp.net/2013/09/30/can-faith-ever-be-rational/

    “Quantum mechanics don’t show things coming from literally nothing. They probabilistically fluctuate out of the quantum vacuum, which is not nothing.”

    Irrelevent. I gave it as an example of things that are difficult to explain in this universe. We have no information on whether things, including universe, can come from nothing or not.

    “To hold atheism, you have to say that all material reality came from absolutely nothing.”

    I could speculate that that is the case. Or I could speculate that material reality is eternal and that our universe is just one bubble in that eternal reality. Or I could speculate any number of things, including that a god or gods created the universe – but, despite the futile attempts of WLC, that really does leave the creator in the same epistemologically hopeless position as these other speculations. We don’t know. All we do know, as far as human knowledge goes, is that we are in a material universe; and we model it the best we can with was of science; and when we don’t have appropriate laws we muddle through with rules of thumb. None of this gives theists any useful ground to work from.

    “On creative causation, there is efficient cause, but no material cause.”

    Speculation.

    “Agent causation is preferred because if the cause is only mechanistic, than the effect should be eternal.”

    I don’t see why. You have given no reason to explain why a material reality can’t come from nothing. And nor is there any reason available as to why it can. We don’t know. I see no preference for agent causation, except to sustain ancient religious myths – that seems like a very specific motivation for theists.

    Using material analogies, like rocks and pillows, to support theistic agency claims is troublesome because we have no reason to think they are analogues, in any sense. When we lack knowledge it’s easy to make erroneous analogies. Looking through a telescope and imagining one sees ‘canals’ on Mars, even if there were visible marks that looked like canals visible to early astronomers, is based on a presumption that life like that on earth might exist on Mars, and that similar ‘creators’ of canals might exist there.

    “But since material reality had a beginning…”

    Did it? We only have limited inference about the early life of the universe, which is in fact only the early life in in fact the Big Bang was the actual beginning.

    “… as literally all scientific evidence and logic suggest, …”

    It might suggest it, as an apparent possibility. But it is not conclusive by any means. The real state of knowledge is that we don’t know enough about origins.

    “…than the cause must have the ability to change itself.”

    Maybe, but what about self-change requires agency? Why can’t non-agency material systems, or their precursors, change automatically, mechanistically? What is it precisely that you know about origins of universes that allows you to state that with confidence?

    “But a mechanistic cause cannot change itself, because the cause caused time.”

    How do you know that cause caused time? How do you know time, or something equivalent to our understanding of time, didn’t exist prior to the existence of the universe? If our understanding of time actually began with the beginning of the universe then it could be the case that no agency or mechanistic ‘beginning’ or ‘creation’ of the universe, because without time there is no meaning give to the notion of ‘creation’. Again, theistic speculation is invented without any foundation in evidence or reason.

    “If its timeless the mechanism must be changeless. A changeless mechanism could not change to create.”

    How do you know that this is the case? If it is the case how do you know that the ‘personal first cause’ in fact is unable to cause change and so is unable to create the universe. These are simply very confused concepts that theist propogate without showing any understanding of these concepts that gives any credence to the conclusion that there is a god of any kind, much less one that fits some particular religion.

    “So the cause must have free will to change itself from timelessness to temporal.”

    Note that this assertion is invented in order to make the theistic God fit the gap. There is nothing that suggests that this must be the case. Of course the same sort of ‘logic’ can be used to justify anything: we have no evidence to support the claim that there are fairies, therefore they must be magic. It’s just a string of invented assertions to fit ancient myth.

    “Mechanistic processes don’t have free will.”

    How do you know that mechanisms don’t have free will? How do you know there is such a thing as free will? What’s going on here is that multiple invented notions, gods, agency of gods, free will, souls, etc., are strung together in an effort to sustain the religious myths. Nothing that humans know, from reason and evidence, supports any of this stuff.

    “Dennett’s theory is a logical impossibility. Something cannot be its own cause because in order to cause itself, it must already exist to be a cause.”

    Dennett suggests this is possible, you suggest not. On what grounds do you support your claim? What experience or specific knowledge about universe do you have in your possession that assures you of this assertion?

    Why can’t the universe be the first cause? Why does it require agency, or free will? How do you know the early universe did not have eternal agency and free will only for those faculties to die as the material universe came into being? How do you know that the material universe is not in fact the death throws of the precursor to the universe. If you call such a precursor God then it is a dead God that is no longer able to contribute – which would make worship and prayer nonsense. So many possible ways to speculate; so much human imagination can invent. Including gods.

    “WLC doesn’t apply that to God because doing so is unwarranted. He doesn’t claim God created himself. The Cause caused time, so it has to be timeless sans creation.”

    How did it cause time, if there was not time in which the universe did not exist prior to it existing? If there was no time then the notion of a beginning is meaningless and no god is required to do any creating. Or, the Cause, could be the universe itself by the same argument – it didn’t need time to cause itself.

    “The cause must be materialless because it caused material.”

    How do you know that any agent creator of a universe, should there be such a creator, needs to be non-material? Why can’t this Cause be itself material? If the Creator caused time then it too could be a static material Cause – static in that without time it is not dynamic at all. For that matter, how does nay creator, timeless, static, do any causing at all?

    All this theism only ever raises more questions than it answers – which is understandable since it doesn’t actually answer any.

    “It must be beginning less because it is timeless. This follows that it is uncaused. It must be spaceless because it caused space.”

    So, a timeless, spaceless, sans any material nature caused something, this universe? That sounds like a universe from nothing to me. A timeless, spaceless, mattresses ‘thing’, is no-thing, nothing. No reason to attribute agency to it.

    “I would invite you to ask any philosopher if there are other options. There aren’t.”

    I’ve given you several. All as speculatively as useless as God, but that’s the point I’m making.

    “I would again invite you to ask any philosopher if abstract objects stand in causal relations. They don’t.”

    Many philosophers reject the idea that there is anything exist in any meaningful sense. We can find philosophers who will come up with any number of ideas, and just as many who will oppose them. Which only goes to show how arbitrarily speculative all this is. Except the arbitrariness of theism is motivated by belief in ancient myths.

    “Well, by “sure to be true” you mean 100% certainty, no.”

    Then not sound. A sound argument requires true premises. That’s 100% true. True/false is a binary state, 0% or 100%.

    The BGV Theorem is a particular model (http://www.wall.org/~aron/blog/did-the-universe-begin-iii-bgv-theorem/). Our models change over time. And it’s still a model that is concocted by brains that are components of this universe. No data is available from outside this universe and its physics to be able to rule out other theorems that might contradict it.

    I find it odd that you want to use in-universe models when it suits your arguments, but then deny that science can tell us anything about God when it gets too close. It doesn’t seem legitimate to use science to support theistic arguments and then reject them because they can’t tell us anything.

    It is, of course, by there own definitions that theists, or any philosophers that agree, assert that agency, free will, or any property of their invented gods or other agents are the properties they have. It is not based on data gathered about gods. Define fairies as tiny creatures that are magic, and build a ‘philosophy’ around that definition, then I can go on and assert that only fairies can be magic. The long and varied history of theology and its historical relation to philosophy, many philosophers being theists, it’s easy to understand why philosophers might indeed attribute some properties or faculties only to agents of some sort or another.

    We’re in the realm of speculation here.

    “Evidence affirms 2, not just leaves it open.”

    It does not. What evidence we do have suggests it, in a fashion, It does not affirm it at all. The evidence is actually quite sparse; and it’s the theory based on the evidence that suggests it. But as I said, there might be evidence that we don’t yet have access to that might change the story completely.

    “The negation of premise 1, as I have said earlier, is a joke. Rejecting it requires blind faith.”

    No it doesn’t. Rejecting it as an unsupported assertion merely requires that there be nothing to support the assertion. There is nothing. If I were to assert some unsupported alternative were true (which I don’t) then that would require faith. I don’t assert an alternative, I merely offer other alternatives as being possibilities. It is WLC, and now you, that is taking this assertion about the origins of things on faith.

    “I can’t think of reason to reject 2 unless we have a predetermined outcome in mind. So I affirm it as well. ”

    That’s an argument from incredulity, which you are using to sustain your faith in it. When, one is making claims about proofs of unevidenced entities, as WLC is doing, then it’s not good enough to have these ‘proofs’ or ‘sound’ arguments to be based on mere incredulity in one’s own mind. You have not provided any reason to support the assertion, and you have not provided any reason to reject the possibility of its eternal existence. It could be, as another speculative option, that the universe’s actual beginning, its very creation, is an eternal-into-the-past event, that at some point began to expand, to the point to which current science suggests.

    “Pleading ignorance to try to force it into a God of the gaps argument is unwarranted.”

    But that’s what is going on with these arguments.

    “Evidence and logic affirm both premises.”

    How can they? Premises affirm a conclusion, not its premises. What evidence and reason do you have to support those premises? Are you instead relying on the pure reason rejected by so many philosophers?

    “But if we apply the need for absolute certainty consistently we really can’t say anything is sound.”

    Exactly. That’s why the arguments are not sound. That’s why they do not prove God’s existence. And you’ve already rejected the use of science and evidence. What else do you have other than assertion and faith in your assertions?

    “I reject atheism, because science points to a beginning, and logic points to the uncaused, personal creator of the universe, who sans the universe Is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.”

    But they don’t. The Kalam argument, which we are debating, doesn’t even mention God. It is totally about two premises: Everything that begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist. They don’t contain anything about God or a first uncaused cause. The premises very specifically talk only about things with beginnings. The Kalam argument’s second premise is only about this universe. It says nothing about gods or first causes either.

    Note what premise 1 is not stating: That a cause (your Cause) can exist without a beginning. This forms no part of the argument. Nor does it state that if there can be multiple ‘first causes’ – multiple Gods. It simply does not address the matter.

    And still, there’s no reason to hold to the premises at all. No evidence, no argument. Just assertion.

    Note again, it is not necessary for me to show these premises are false, only that we cannot know that they are true. That makes the argument un-sound and not good enough for proving anything.

    All humans can do is observe reality as best we can, for inductive arguments about it’s various aspects, and build hypotheses around that, test those hypotheses, build theories. But it’s all contingent. That’s all humans have.

    “Again, I’d rather not go over every argument because that would take more time than I really would like to commit to the blogosphere.”

    This is sufficient:
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/William_Lane_Craig#Kalam_Cosmological_Argument

    If you want any more I’ll provide them.

    1. Hi Ron,

      Well I think on a fundamental level we are separated. I don’t hold the need for 100% certainty. I don’t think anyone lives with that idea consistently. I don’t think I’d leave my bedroom if I did.

      What I meant by physical evidence of God is we would not expect evidence for God like I have evidence for my computer. I can’t do a physical test on God. That would require God to be physical. Although the exception may have been Jesus. I would, however, expect evidence that the universe has a beginning, which is what our evidences currently suggest. I don’t know how you can say there is no evidence of the universe beginning. The evidence for 1 is that everything we know of follows the causal principal. Perhaps this is not 100% certain because we don’t know 100% of the information, despite 100% of the things we know of follow it. Because of this, I don’t see the need to adopt the negation, until the negation is supported by evidence. This is following your definition of scientism, “we should give more weight to propositions that have better evidence to support them”. So I give more weight to the causal principal because it has better evidence to support it. I give more weight to the universe beginning because it has better evidence to support it. Therefore I give more weight to it having a cause.

      “…It simply does not address the matter”

      That’s correct. The rest is from figuring what properties the cause must have. These are based on the idea that for X (or a property of X) to cause something, X (or a property of X) must exist. So X (…) cannot cause X (…) as X (…) must exist to cause X (…). That’s how the properties of the cause are figured.

      Perhaps proof should be changed to a softer word like support or something.

      This exchange was a pleasure by the way. I have learned a lot about non theism and atheism, as well as myself. This is actually the first time I’ve commented on a blog or even debated someone. So it was quite educational.

      All the best,

      Aaron

  17. Aaron,

    I hope you stay a bit longer, because I think we’re closer than you think.

    I agree we cannot know 100%. I’ve been saying that all along. That’s precisely why I’m objecting to WLC’s arguments. Here’s what he’s doing:

    1) Explains arguments, simply.

    2) Explains the requirement for arguments to be valid, if they are going to have the conclusions follow from the premises WITH CERTAINTY.

    3) Explains the requirement for soundness: valid plus TRUE premises. At this point that’s what is required for 100% certainty.

    4) He realises that we can’t have 100% certainty. At this point he should admit that his arguments then fail as proofs of God. Being valid they remain contingent proofs – contingent on the premises being true. But he cannot show they are true, and despite wanting to assert that they are true he really has nothing to show they are true. He’s in the realms of extra-universe guess work. He really doesn’t have a clue about the extra-universal physics that brings universes like ours into being. He doesn’t know if there’s one universe or many, and he does know if the cause has some sort of agency or not, and if there is agency he doesn’t know its form or number.

    5) Being in this fix he tries to convince us that he needs GOOD arguments(which is based on his long experience of rhetoric – he’s certainly a skill

    “I can’t do a physical test on God”

    Then how do you know miracles happen? Which miracles do you think happen, and how do you know they happen? Is it sufficient for the Roman Catholic Church to simply declare some miracle has occurred by getting together and having a little chat? Because that’s how the majority of miracles have been decided – by humans, and we know how crooked and fallible human members of the RCC have been over the centuries. There is no first hand evidence of the one miracle that Christianity relies on – the resurrection of Jesus. His death, purportedly for our sins, could be the death of any mortal man – and there have been plenty of mortal men claiming to be divine.

    “I would expect evidence that the universe has a beginning.”

    Why? You imagine a God and presume him to be eternal: finite universe plus eternal God. Yet you invoke Pascal’s wager when it suits, so why not invoke it here: eternal universe, even if it does have phases of expansion and collapse and rebirth? There are so many speculative cosmological possibilities, yet you settle on just one. Even deistic cosmology can account for multiple gods, which would explain good and evil, in theistic terms of opposing gods, though that then requires an explanation for multiple gods just as you still need an explanation for one God. Simply declaring there’s one God, and asserting his properties in order to avoid further explanation isn’t really very good.

    “The rest is from figuring what properties the cause must have. ”

    But you can’t do that because you have no data. These properties are imagined properties. I can give you any number of imagined properties that would do just as well. I can offer you two gods that are in opposition of good and bad that explains a lot of what’s going on on earth. I can offer you a very poor committee of gods that keeps screwing up. I can offer you a parliament of gods, where a two party system keeps exchanging power in the voting of billions of gods – the change of the fates of life on earth seem very much aligned with a two party parliamentary system.

    “That’s how the properties of the cause are figured.”

    They are not figured they are concocted.

    “Perhaps proof should be changed to a softer word like support or something.”

    Exactly. There is none. What do you imagine ‘support’ consists of? It’s mostly inductive argument from contingently accepted premises, based on observation, evidence. We build support for premises by collecting data, evidence, and reasoning about its implications. That’s empiricism.

    Another point I didn’t address, on “I don’t know” being appropriate answer. It’s not appropriate in all cases. It’s not appropriate on matters of science within this universe, where science show that things work. It would be foolish for any modern human when asked, while stood on the edge of a runway, whether mechanistic flight is possible, for them to declare, “I don’t know, we don’t have enough data.” And up to a few fractions of a second after the ‘inferred’ Big Bang we can make claims with some degree of confidence that doesn’t match that about plains flying, but is still pretty good when considered how difficult it is to determine that. But as for the supposed point of the Big Bang’s orginin, a singularity, or any other possible precursor to the point we have to say that we have some speculative ideas in science, and many speculative ideas in philosophy and theology, but for all of them the only appropriate answer is “I don’t know.” Why is that appropriate in that case? Because any conviction to knowledge, and any claim to certainty, in the absence of any data whatsoever, has a history of people inventing gods that instruct humans to do terrible things to each other. Case in point, even for the lovely Jesus: http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk/2014/12/11/dick-cheney-jesus-torture/.

    “if we truly leave the question at “we don’t know” and not allow personal opinion, I don’t see how one can take the step to atheism. It should result in agnosticism. That’s why I don’t quite get the non theist group. It logically can’t get past agnosticism, but it then usually takes an extra step to atheism without positive evidence for it.”

    It’s quite straight forward. Your comment suggests it’s a binary choice with equal probability that either is true. Both are wrong. There are more possibilities than we can imagine, and any number of them can be imagined to make it seems as thought they are consistent with our experience of reality. I can invoke a committee of gods that would fit all we observe – and that would still leave unanswerable questions about the origins of these gods. I could could invoke alien seeding of the earth, where Jesus was an alien manager that had come down to check on progress, and that the Christian story is a complete misunderstanding of his role; he was killed, and his resurrection was a simple reanimation, because that’s the technology they have. But that requires an explanation for the origins of those aliens. I can imagine quite easily that Islam is correct and that Jesus was a mere prophet – but still that monotheistic god needs an explanation and won’t get one any time soon. And magic fairies are logically plausible too. As is a cyclic eternal mechanistic non-agency universe; or an infinite number of universes that come and go; and that they all have the same physical laws or they all have unique physical laws.

    The point being that with so many speculative options your God is just one of many. I don’t see you being so ‘agnostic’ about all those possibilities, but being pretty certain (even if not 100%) about your God. That is the bias that is evidence here. My a-theisms about your god is no different about my a-theism about any other stories of gods and goddesses. It’s no different from my a-fairyism.

    While you may accept the possibility that a large meteorite might strike the earth and completely or almost destroy all life, you don’t go around expecting it any time. You don’t check the skies every time you go out the door, or keep a vigil on the news for reports of an incoming meteorite. In terms of imminent-meteorite-ism, you are an a-imminent-meteorite-ist. This applies to so many imagined possibilities that we are all a-X for most imaginable possibilities. It’s not a case of ruling out theism, it’s a case of theism having no supportive evidence that’s any better than fairies, and a heck of a lot less persuasive than the possibility of an immanent meteorite.

    I think you are still not grasping the nature of atheism based on empiricism. It is not that I reject the possibility of a God, it’s that I have no more evidence to support the possibility than I do for fairies. And the logical arguments from WLC are bogus, on the many grounds I’ve given.

    “Non-evidence of theism doesn’t constitute atheism because we also have non-evidence of atheism.”

    That’s not the case. You should believe in fairies then, because you have no evidence of a-fairy-sm. You have no evidence of a-Islamism, or a-god-committee-ism, or a-mechanistic-universe-ism, or, … (endless list). But you are not a believer in Christianity, Islam, Fairies, Mechanistic Universe Origins, … You have chosen only one of all those, based on what? The extremely poor reasoning of WLC?

    “Existence of the material world isn’t a positive argument for atheism because it is expected either way.”

    No. Why is a material world expected? Why should it be expected? This is the point of Solipsism. The ONLY reason we accept the material world is because it’s busy slapping us in the face every waking moment.

    “There needs to be a positive argument for atheism to step past agnosticism.”

    Then you too need to give a positive argument for not being a Muslim, a believer in fairies, or a solipsist. That’s not how it works though is it. The lack of belief in something when there is a total lack of evidence is a-X-ism. Agnosticism is quite different in that it gives much greater favour to some assertion without committing to it totally. At one end an agnostic might be a Christian agnostic may be an atheist with regard to Hinduism, for example – they are culturally Christian, they pray to God, they take the Gospels on trust, but can’t quite say for sure; while at the other end of the scale it’s someone who can’t quite be sure he doesn’t believe in Christ, but won’t go quite as far as lumping him with fairies on the a-X-ism scale.

    I repeat, I reject theism on pragmatic lack of evidence, not on logical disproof. And that applies to all theisms. By lacking evidence for the theism behind any religion that means I reject the divine elements of religious figures – either the direct divinity of Jesus, or the mortal but special access to the divine of Mohammed, and all other religions, whatever their particular claims might be.

    Again, the dismissal of WLC’s arguments are easy, and even provided on that wiki link. It’s not difficult because it’s about the simple matter of failing to provide sound arguments, and so they fail at that point. Anything that follows fails because those arguments fail, if what follows is based on those arguments. There’s no getting away from this point. Saying, well, we can’t be 100% certain is exactly the point. When we are not 100% certain (which is always the case) we can rely on evidence – and there is none, if, as you say, we cannot test the evidence or if none is offered. Or, we can use blind faith, which is what I see happening. This blind faith is hidden behind these bogus arguments, but that’s what it boils down to.

    1. Hi Ron,

      To clarify further, what I meant as evidence for God is direct physical evidence of Him. I can test a rabbit because I see and touch him. Evidence for actions of God are different. Another example is you can test my existence by seeing me and touching me, you can’t do that for God. I also have my actions like this comment. I think God has that kind of evidence. My fault for the confusion.

      My evidence for Christianity is Jesus. When you actually look at the information we have, the resurrection hypothesis (RH) is by far the most likely explanation. It blows everything else out of the water. It’s like Team Canada’s olympic hockey team playing against 10 year olds. Unless we have naturalism or some other religion in our background information(bi), the rational conclusion would be it is the best explanation. Therefore Christianity is the best explanation. Saying there is no evidence of God as a justification for allowing naturalism into our bi, then rejecting this evidence for God because naturalism is in our bi is circular. And I keep saying, don’t take my word for it. Read Licona, read Wright, or if you don’t want to take the time for an academic work, read Strobel or Wallace. Heck read atheistic scholars like Ehrman. He at least considers the evidence. He rejects the RH on basis of having naturalism in his bi. Even just read the rest of the articles I posted earlier. People like the Jesus Seminar and Carrier are repeatedly shown their awful scholarship, but they just ignore scholars and preach to the public to people who don’t know better or haven’t read the scholarship. I would go so far to say it is irrational to reject the RH on a historical basis. The only way you can is through (unjustified) bi, to be rather blunt.

      Now, what I don’t get is the inconsistency of needing 100% certainty for the Kalam, and not 100% certainty for anything else. You require 100% for Kalam, and not for anything else. I don’t see why, when every single day we live under a veil of uncertainty, we can demand certainty from the Kalam. Your examples just go to show that we don’t need 100% to be justified in believing something. There has not been a single argument in the history of mankind that has 100% certainty. Even if the uncertainty is only the possibility of Solipsism, its still not 100%. So dismissal of Craig’s arguments based on it not being 100% aren’t good dismissals. If your definition of “dismissal” or “bogus” is having a certainty <100%, then I concede that. But you'd have to say that claiming there won't be a meteorite is bogus. You'd have to claim every argument is bogus or unsound.

      Now, I think essentially what your actual argument against it is that you think it makes a category error. I just don't see evidence to support that. The Kalam's premises works for literally everything we know of that has a beginning. Until there is a reason to make material reality an exception to premise 1, I don't see a reason to make it one. It may possibly be an exception, but I don't think assuming it is one or saying its is more likely an exception than not can be justified. Saying it might be isn't a real dismissal. In fact, because everything we do know supports it, we should consider it true contingently until we have evidence of the contradictory. Hence Craig usually saying "more plausibly true than false". If something is more plausibly true than false, it is not illogical to accept it as true. It is, however, illogical to assert that it as false. And again for premise 2, everything we have points to a beginning for material reality. Even cyclic theories, even multiverse theories. So contingently I accept the Kalam based on your definition of scientism. So your claim that there is a pragmatic lack of evidence, I believe, is false. I do believe there is a pragmatic lack of evidence for the negations of premise 1 and premise 2 of the Kalam. And so coming at it from a different angle, I believe there is a cause based on the same reasoning you use for rejecting theism. And the properties of the cause are not concocted, they are logically deduced using the logic I presented earlier. So properties like "spaceless" are deduced because for space to be a property of or constituted in or about the cause, space would have to exist causally prior to it existing. I have no idea what spaceless, or not-space, means. But it is a logical requirement of the cause.

      They key word for evidence and lack of evidence arguments is "problematic", or no evidence when there should be evidence. If there is a problematic lack of evidence, that constitutes as evidence against something. Because I don't see my brother, that is not evidence he is dead. That lack of evidence is not problematic. There is a problematic lack of evidence for fairies. There is a problematic lack of evidence for another moon orbiting earth. There is not a problematic lack of evidence for Christianity. There is positive evidence against Islam, mainly it claims Jesus of Nazareth was not even crucified. Even the Jesus Seminar concedes that. Also, by the very nature of RH being the best hypothesis, that is positive evidence against Islam. There is positive evidence against Judiasm, namely many of the old testament messianic prophecies require the temple which was destroyed in 70CE. So the messiah had to come prior to then. The only candidate that has not been proven false that we know of is Jesus. So either Jesus was not the messiah, in which the messiah didn't come, or he was, as the evidence suggests. Both make Judiasm false (Judaism is in a tight spot) So to dismiss Christianity, there must be a problematic lack of evidence. The way this world is is consistent with Christianity. Two of the articles I posted earlier suggest this. And to beat a dead horse, there is the evidence for RH. So I don't think there is a problematic lack of evidence for Christianity. I do think there is a problematic lack of evidence for other religions. This lends support to Christianity as much as it does atheism.

      Now on the article you presented, it was theologically very false. The article just sets up a straw man. And the logical problem of hell has been put to bed. The emotional problem of hell is quite different. Unfortunately how we feel about it is irrelevant to its truth. And the thought of a god who does not punish wrongdoing, making him unjust, makes me poop my pants. Claiming that hell is unjust is a part of the logical problem of hell. It's logically impossible to show that, so its not a defeater. And under your definition it is bogus. But, if you switch to a more realistic view, perhaps in isolation you say that hell makes Christianity less likely than true. First, I think that's false. Also there is still the RH to deal with. Interestingly, claiming it is unjust requires there being such a thing as justice. Que segway to the moral argument. But earlier we both agreed, I think anyway, that we can't really go anywhere with that argument. Also, theologically we know a lot less about hell than pop culture conveys. That view is taken from selectively taking a few parables and apocryphal writings literally, and ignoring the other parables and apocryphal writings. That's where the study of hermeneutics comes in. But pop culture, and unstudied Christians, are a bit behind. We know hell is bad. That's about it. Furthermore, the author said that he wouldn't follow god even if we did have 100% certainty. I use a small g because it's the straw man god that he set up, not the God of Christianity. However, it just goes to show that he's not really looking at this rationally. He's looking at it emotionally. Hopefully you are not in the same boat.

      On definitions, people defining things is irrelevant to the discussion. We want to see whether those things, so defined, exist. The resurrection suggests that the God defined by Christianity exists. The properties of the cause from the Kalam are consistent with this hypothesis, so it lends support.

      If not having 100% certainty is the definition of blind faith, than I happily plead guilty, and you will be determined guilty whatever you plead. The RH and arguments like the Kalam make Christianity more likely true than not for me. So I believe Christianity. Positing that people are bad and there are false religions fits very nicely into Christianity, too, so it lends as much support to it as it does atheism. I've read the wiki article before. It takes quotes out of context and doesn't deal with most of the the supporting arguments Craig gives. It gives ad hominem arguments, too. It also claims the need for 100% certainty, but no one does that consistently, and forcing his arguments onto that pedestal is at best inconsistent and unjustified, and at worst dishonest.

      Basically everything I've said is that it is impossible to live with a need for 100% certainty consistently, the resurrection is much more likely true than not, and the Kalam's premises are supported, while there negations are unsupported. And the Kalam's conclusion is supportive of Christianity. This leads me to believe Christianity is more likely true than not. To which it follows that I should put my trust in Jesus. If you need 100% certainty to logically warrant belief, well everything anyone believes is not logically warranted. I definitely don't have certainty, but there is enough to logically warrant belief. In fact, I think one is going with the underdog in disbelief.

      This was a pleasure, God bless,

      Aaron

  18. Aaron,

    “I can test a rabbit because I see and touch him. Evidence for actions of God are different. Another example is you can test my existence by seeing me and touching me, you can’t do that for God. I also have my actions like this comment. I think God has that kind of evidence.”

    I appreciate that. I infer your existence, of some sort. But, as you well know something of the internet, I cannot infer your age or gender, even if you tell me what it is; even if I track down your internet account you might not be the person it is registered to. I certainly could not infer your divinity, even if you told me you were divine.

    So, yes, I do see the significance of the difference. You are inferring God exists, based on ancient texts, most of which were created some time after the supposed death of Jesus, and all with ample opportunity to be adapted along the way.

    I have far less reason to infer God’s existence than yours. At least so far I don’t have someone else claiming to be the one true Aaron. But we do have multiple religions claiming their knowledge of one true God.

    I think it is the religious that really don’t get the significance of the difference you point out. As though this lesser evidence (which turns out to be zero) is an excuse to believe. It really is the sort of claim a Muslim would make – yes, it is difficult to provide concrete physical evidence, and yes, there is no real logical proof, but that’s no reason not to believe. Astrology and fairy beliefs go by the same method. This is not some scholarly historical methodology at all, and Christian scholars that kid themselves it is are simply biased.

    You do not have comments from God. So, what evidence do you have? How do you know anything about him? How does WLC come to believe first, and then spend time concocting (poor) ‘proofs’ of the existence of an entity he has no evidence of? It comes from prior belief. And where do these prior beliefs come from? Through current religious organisations that have produce believers in a similar fashion throughout the history of the religion, all the way back to pre-scientific times, pre-rational thinking times, when anthropomorphic attribution of agency to anything that so much as moved was common. This is why over millennia, and even recently, there have been a great number of gods, demi-gods, magical creatures, all over the world.

    What we see today in the predominance of just a few monotheistic religions is a result of cultural exchange as populations grew and mixed and where well established ‘churches’ persuaded or enforced a specific religion on various populations. Ireland remains mostly Roman Catholic, but the UK had a very specific history that first had catholic and protestant forces fighting for control (given good impetus by no less that one lusty king desperate for a son). The monotheism of a less evident itself was merely a great novel idea that simplified the stories and put that god beyond reach of sceptics. But still, for centuries, Christian Europeans came across lands were many other theistic beliefs were held until Christianity could be forced upon them.

    To any modern sceptic this religious bias is so obvious it really is astonishing to us that any modern educated believers exist. Anyone who has taken logic 101 can rip WLC’s arguments apart. The trouble is, as evidenced by the extent of his writing, and some of his ridiculous apologetics (can you seriously take on faith that infant suffering has some greater good behind it?), he is so fixated on his belief that his stories get ever more tortuous.

    “My evidence for Christianity is Jesus.”

    But there is barely evidence of the man, let alone his divinity.

    “When you actually look at the information we have, the resurrection hypothesis (RH) is by far the most likely explanation.”

    See how you mix hypothesis and evidence. You don’t have evidence for the resurrection. You have stories written about it that are no more credible than countless other religious myths that you would reject. Why do you reject Islam when there is very clear evidence, direct from Mohammed himself, as written in the Quran while he was still alive, that he had a series of messages fro God?

    All you have is a set of religious stories, some very dubious in even their mortal aspects, because the growing Christianity went through phases where stories were selected and manipulated. How come WLC relies on Josephus, “The Jewish historian Josephus is especially interesting.” [http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-evidence-for-jesus], when if you look at the writings of Josephus they are clearly telling us about what Christians believed about Jesus and not directly about Jesus – hearsay, not evidence. Do we take as evidence for Big Foot a news report that some men are going off in search of Big Foot? Is the reporting of what others believe to be true evidence that their beliefs are true?

  19. Aaron,

    And so now we see the wider picture that I’m afraid we see all too often – the bait and switch, the circle of debate. It can start out at any point, and depends on what first claim some author or commenter is making. Let’s start with Jesus.

    1. “We have evidence for Jesus”. This claim is made in such a way as that it’s unclear whether that means evidence for a mortal preacher/teacher called Jesus, or for Jesus Christ, son of God, a version of God himself … The claims are objected to, various reasons, including some of those above. This go on for quite some time, with different details debate, and explicit reasons given for why this ‘evidence’ cannot be accepted as evidence. The reasons for not accepting the evidence may be treated with some disparagement, but they are never counter-refuted. So, for example, when Josephus is pointed out to be hearsay, the debate is shifted to someone else, such as Tacitus, or the non-Christian sources are quietly dropped as claims to evidence. When all this isn’t really providing any evidence of divinity that is convincing a different tack is made.

    2. “Well, we have evidence for the man Jesus.” The intention here seems to be that if it can be shown that there is a historical man called Jesus, then we ought to infer that his divinity is true also. This is nonsense of course. When two claims are made, the truth of one is not evidence for the truth of the other. And what is that evidence? It generally amounts to pointing out non-Jesus historical facts from the Bible. It often goes something like this, “Look, there are all these places named that we know exist; and there are all these people, like Herod, Pontius Pilot; there’s the historic fact of the Roman occupation of that period; there’s the historical fact that there were early Christians; …” Well, of course there are historical facts in the Bible. Who on earth would believe a story that was entirely about some magical fairy land with no basis in historical fact. That simply wouldn’t happen; would it? Ask the Scientologists. If Scientologists can believe stories about Thetans ad other nonsense, from a 20th century Science Fiction author, who explicitly said he was going to invent a religion, and so many people went on the fall for it, what does that tell you about the gullibility of humans? Of course adding some actual history to the story makes it seem more credible, and on that basis Christianity would fool many people even if it had been totally invented in the first century Roman empire. But to add to the credibility, though Christianity may have been re-invented in the first century Roman empire, by gospel authors, some of whom had their stories accepted and adapted by the church at various times, there is good reason to believe that Christianity was not invented in first century Roman empire, but did evolve out of some movement in Palestine area, which may well have focused on one specific man, Jesus; and Jesus may well have been crucified, though we only have those later stories to tell us how he was crucified, embellished conveniently by holes being made in his body that would just happen to be useful as evidence of the resurrection, …, and on it goes. In the end, the historic facts that are in the bible and that can actually be verified to various degrees, not only tell us zero about the divine Jesus, but precious little about the man Jesus. Time for another change of tack.

    2. “Well, of course we don’t rely on the Bible. We have other proofs of God’s existence.” The point to note here is that this has switched to generic theism, specifically monotheism, but not necessarily Christian monotheism. Nevertheless, if it’s Christian theist, these ‘proofs’ are hardly offered as support for Islam. What are these arguments? The same old same old, time after time: Kalam, Cosmological, Moral, Teleological, Ontological. Every one of those deductive arguments is not actually proof of God, because none of them have God in the premises. You cannot prove X, with an argument that does not contain X in the premises! Further more, what the arguments are purported to prove in their specific conclusions is not in fact proven if the premises are not in turn proven to be true. WLC is particularly slippery in this regard, and just to make it clear we have to break this down further:

    2.1) He provides valid arguments for something, in each case, but they are not valid arguments for God.
    2.2) He explains what a sound argument is, and is correct in his description on this point.
    2.3) He then infers or asserts that his premises are true and therefore these arguments are sound (remembering that they are not arguments about God at this stage).
    2.4) He uses rhetoric to convince us his premises are true, declaring them obviously true, or ridiculing the very idea of thinking them untrue. This is itself fallacious reasoning of course. He really does need to prove those premises if these are going to be sound arguments. He never does.
    2.5) He’s been challenged on the necessary truth of these premises that this wily old bird has learned a new trick. Wow, soundness is not enough! They need to be shown to be good arguments. This is nonsense. They are already shown to be good in that they are valid. Being sound is better than good, it’s the best sort of argument possible. Bot they are not sound, because the premises are not proven. They are speculations that can be countered by offering other speculations.
    2.5.1) It’s worth pointing out here that sometimes this objection is met with, “Well, you can’t prove these alternative speculations either, so you are not disproving WLC’s premises.” True, but irrelevant, because that’s not how logical reasoning works. It is sufficient to offer alternative speculative possibilities to the asserted speculative possibilities to show that the latter are not ‘obvious’, ‘necessary’, ‘certain’, ‘proven’, and as such are not sufficient to make these arguments sound!
    2.6) Although WLC hasn’t shown his arguments to be sound, and therefore not shown the conclusions to be true, and having no reference to God in them at all, WLC sneakily slips into additional amterial that are not in fact derived from the unproven ‘proofs’, but are merely a mish-mash of other ideas, including some references to biblical stuff – which, remember, this logical stuff is meant to support. In other words, WLC is using biblical stuff in support of his proofs that are supposed to prove God so that he can lend some weight to biblical reports about God and Jesus.

    This is a sham. WLC makes claims he as proofs of God, using arguments that are neither sound nor contain references to God, and instead slips in non-valid arguments, hidden premises, un-evidenced ‘evidence’, arguments from all sorts of fallacies, and in the end we are supposed to accept that what is offered is actually what is claimed to be offered in the first place. The Kalam arguments, as one example, is not an argument about God at all, and even though valid it is not a sound proof of its own conclusion; but this is that WLC claims is a proof, when in fact he could have just introduce its conclusion as a premise for all the invalid reasoning that follows in his detailed explanation.

    So, WLC not proven God, where does that lead the Christian?

    3. “My evidence for Christianity is Jesus.” Yes, where back to 1.

    How does this work? It works because the debate has to go on for a long time, over many long comment posts. The circularity is not noticed or conveniently forgotten. Another common occurrence is that sceptic offers a blog post in response to Christian X. Christian Y joins and offers some of 1, 2, 3 above, not realising that these have been dealt with already in some earlier post, or in some other debate with Christian X, or Z or any number of others. Sometimes excuses are made and the Christian drops out. Or, one of the above moves is made to change tack.

    So, with that, and your, “My evidence for Christianity is Jesus.”, where are we in this cycle? 1 or 2?

  20. Aaron,

    But, let’s get to some of this ‘Jesus’ evidence.

    “It blows everything else out of the water.”

    In what way does it do that? There is no evidence to support the divinity of Jesus that is required by Christianity. There are only writings of the first century that are dubious in their reporting; and often we only have later manipulations and not the originals, and the equally dubious ‘textual analysis’ and other stuff.

    “It’s like Team Canada’s olympic hockey team playing against 10 year olds.”

    Can you expand on that? Do you mean you are comparing this ‘evidence’ for Jesus to the ‘arguments’ for God of WLC – does it blow WLC out of the water, making his poor arguments ‘childish’ as 10 year olds?

    “Unless we have naturalism or some other religion in our background information(bi), the rational conclusion would be it is the best explanation. Therefore Christianity is the best explanation.”

    I’ve seen Muslims make the same sort of appeal. These are assertions that your ‘evidence’ is better than evidence for anything else, without actually providing the evidence. Asserting evidence without actually offering it and arguing for why it should be accepted doesn’t really work.

    “Saying there is no evidence of God as a justification for allowing naturalism into our bi, then rejecting this evidence for God because naturalism is in our bi is circular.”

    No, it’s a lot simpler than that. If we started out with not asserting anything we would have out basic senses slapping us in the face relentlessly that the material world is real. Even if we speculate about solipsism it really doesn’t add or detract from the incessant experience that we call material reality. Gods were always an addition to that, a speculative explanation for thunder, volcanoes and other otherwise unexplained causes of events. It was always necessary that anyone offering such explanations should give good evidence to support their claims. Going off in search of gods on mount Olympus, or looking for Valhalla, or trying to track down any signs of gods only ever resulted in unsupported claims, or personal brain events that seemed to come from nowhere. We have good explanations for these brain events.

    We know, for example, that the brain can self-stimulate the auditory cortex and that this can produce real ‘voices’ in the brain without any external sound waves reaching the ear. The brain has to deal with sparse input all the time, and has to ‘fill in’ a lot of detail from past experience and imagination. We have good evidence that any claim to a ‘divine’ revelation is actually a natural brain event.

    Gods are always additions to our full-time experiences. And therefore gods need evidence and argument to explanation them, if they are in turn to be used as explanations for other events, like miracles. Really, if gods do not intervene in physical ways that we can observe, how do you know anything about them at all. And you know full well yourself the varied and nonsensical history of all religions. You only allow that yours happens to be true, as do Muslims of theirs.

    “A New Historiographical Approach” by Michael R. Licona. It has great reviews, even from those that disagree with it, especially for how thorough it is and how well Licona is able to separate himself from his bias.”

    That he is thorough doesn’t mean he is right. Has he uncovered some new artefacts? new documents? What material is he actually studying in order to tease out what countless scholars have failed to tease out before? Do you really analyse, line by line, his claims, looking for where he might be taking unproven premises and taking them to be true?

    I’ve not read Licona, but …

    Take this exchange (not all from Licona): http://youtu.be/BM5CpD8USCQ

    There are comments like, “If you want to go outside the NT, there is hardly a critic anywhere that will not cite the NT … they all agree that Jesus lived.”

    Well, exactly. The NT is all there is for Jesus, and it’s all post Jesus stuff, much of it dubious in its own sources. And it may well be the case that some atheist scholars agree he probably lived, in something like the role of a teacher/preacher, there is still nothing that supports the claims to the divinity of Jesus any more than Islamic scholarships supports the the idea that Jesus was a mortal prophet and no more.

    Then, “We can find 17 or 18 sources outside he NT all within a 100 and 150 years afer jsus, and they tell us anything from half a sentence to a paragraph … and you put secular sources alone, not a Christian one among them, and you come up with a 40 50 comments on the life death of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus, early church, and never open the NT.”

    This is a totally moronic statement! Where did they get this information from? Other Christians, or from the NT. This is so dumb it’s unbelievable that anyone would imagine this is in any way separate evidence!

    Licona (I think), “You can look at the Quran and get something historical out of it. I wouldn’t say it’s salvageable historically….”

    Well, duh! That’s the point I made earlier that there’s always this sneaky inference that if the document contains an iota of historical fact then that in any way contributes to the historical value of the main subject. British TV story “Space 1999” is based on and mentions the moon, something we have evidence of, so that does lend ANY credibility to there being a moonbase there right now, with those ‘historical’ characters having lived in it? If you think it unlikely fiction might be interpreted as fact I refer you to Scientology again.

    “… I can look at it and say this is what Muslims believed in the 7th century.”

    And the NT tells us what Christians believed. Not what is true and actually happened in all details.

    “Any historian will tell you that there is absolute certainty.”

    Exactly. I can live with many historical ‘facts’ even if they turn out to be in error. I can live with Caesar being stabbed to death, by among others Brutus. Because apart from historical interest it has no real lasting consequences today. We do not pray to Caesar or claim he died for our sins, or base any moral judgement of others on some beliefs about him. If evidence turned up that showed in fact that Caesar committed suicide for some reason and had been covered up for some reason, then we would merely change the history books. happens every now and then, when we adjust our view of history. We do account for the fact that much of it amounts to hearsay, rumour, propaganda. It really isn’t a problem for history. It’s Christian scholars that want to go beyond this real historical perspective and make claims about the truth of the stories about Jesus – and more, about his divinity. Any historian will tell you the story of Romulus and Remus and the wolf, without claiming for one minute that we should take the ‘minimal facts’ interpretation and assert it true.

    Christian scholars make a lot of their ‘historical methods’, but they are not the same as other historical researchers. They take their results to be quite different from how any historical researcher in other areas would treat their subject.

    “This is one of these rare things for where there is universal consensus.”

    A flat out lie, because there on the very show is non-universal consensu. More equivication of course, because there will indeed be universal concensus that there were Christians around 1st century, and that they worshipped some man called Jesus, as if he was divine. But consensus on some historical facts is not consensus on any claims about divinity. There’s simply too much equivocation between the fact that Christians believed and what they believed.

    There are some many religious scholars that write books that ‘say’ they’re providing a new perspective, and guarantee that you will not be able to refute this great new work. Every one I’ve seen so far fails in both those respects. The new perspective is hardly new at all, and the books are so full of holes they can often be dismissed by the end because claims they make about the book are not present in the book.

    Note the similarity between this basic type of error, mixing beliefs for content of beliefs, either mixing that Christians believed and what they believed, and mixing that the author makes claims about the content of his book and what is in the book. It seems there is a real error of reasoning that creeps into all their work.

  21. Aaron,

    As another ‘perspective’, try this. Let’s imagine a slightly different Christian story. Suppose all the following are true.

    1) All the disciples claim they witnessed Jesus rise from the dead.

    2) They wrote about it and signed documents to their witness of the event, and these documents were whisked away by other followers.

    3) Roman officials captured them all and had the disciples tell their story, on pain of death if they stuck to it. They did stick to their story and were killed by the Romans because of it. And the Romans document this, sealed the documents.

    4) Christianity continued much as it did, with these little details added, with centuries passing.

    5) In the early 21st century, quite by chance, both documents in (2) and (3) are uncovered in separate parts of the old Roman empire by modern archaeologists. The documents date very well when tested by science. And they match pretty much what the gospels say.

    Does this prove the divinity of Jesus?

    No. What does it prove? Well, it could be any of the following.

    1) That the disciples were prepared to die for a cause that they believed in – and part of that belief was that they really thought they did see Jesus again. Group hysteria is known to occur.

    2) That the disciples were prepared to die for a cause that they believed in – and part of that belief was that they really thought they did see Jesus again. Jesus never actually died. There are examples of apparently dead people coming around.

    3) That the disciples were prepared to die for a cause that they believed in – and although they didn’t see Jesus, they were so committed to the cause they thought this little white lie was worth it.

    4) That the disciples were eager to tell this story to support a cause that they believed in – but they didn’t see Jesus. They wrote their documents, but when questioned, even tortured by the Romans, they admitted the truth, but the Romans saw some benefit to having them on record admitting the story, so they could legitimately kill these treasonous men.

    There are so many plausible alternatives that do not require a divine Jesus or God.

    What is required in order to support the case for a divine Jesus is proof or evidence of God. The ‘proofs’ that have appeared through the ages, as best presented by WLC, are clearly errors in the soundness of the specific arguments and in their failure to even be about God. The God bits are always tacked on as further convenient inferences and are never part of any proof. And if, as you insist, science cannot test for God, then all humans, including all Christians, cannot test for God and have no evidence of a god at all.

    So, even if we had the most concrete historical artefacts and documents regarding the Jewish man Jesus, his preaching, is death, and documents ‘claiming’ his resurrection, it really would not be evidence of the resurrection.

    If you insist this really would be good enough to infer the resurrection, then you really must infer the truth of Mohammed, all the Greek gods, and every other claim about gods ever.

    So, what evidence have you that makes Christianity true but Islam false?

  22. Aaron,

    Just to recap on a point you seem to misunderstand about my position.

    I do not require 100% proof of the divinity of Jesus or the existence of God. It is WLC that asserts his arguments are sound, which would make them 100% proof. I agree with you that we cannot have 100% proof, and its for that reason I reject WLC’s claims to soundness: he can not assure us of his premises, and the arguments that he mistakenly thinks are sound are not arguments for God where they do not include God in the premises.

    I am not asserting materialism, having faith in it, or even committing myself to it in any other way except to say that its persistent slap in my face with every waking moment makes me pay attention to it and infer that my experience of it has some correspondence with reality. But I admit completely that this could be a total illusion and I might be some lone solipsist mind floating in some eternity or other, imagining my body, this world, my exchanges with you, everything. But, unless there is some way of demonstrating that solipsism to be true, unless there is something ‘extra’ that makes me believe it, I simply act is if it isn’t true.

    Notice here that if ‘acting as if X is not true’ is no different from ‘acting as if X is not true’, then why add it to my world view as if it is true.

    Let’s be specific, concrete. Suppose I imagine that there is some man in China, let’s say, Wuhan province, some small village there, and I further imagine he kicked his pet dog at midnight local time last night. Is that possible? Yes. Is it true? I don’t know. What should I do, given that it is possibly true? Nothing. It is a quite possible fact about this world that this little event might have actually happened, but as far as I can tell it makes no difference to me if this X is true or not. It makes so little difference (zero that I can tell) that I might as well act as if it isn’t true.

    And the same goes for another imagined incident in Peru. And one in Greece, three such events in Mumbai, Dubai, Tel-Aviv, …

    Can you see that no matter how many such dog-kicking incidents I imagine, or cat kicking, or gold-fish tickling, or whatever, if there is no apparent effect then why act as if they occur.

    Now consider gods. Greek gods, Indian gods, Chinese gods, Peruvian gods, Islamic God, Jewish God, …

    All these different gods, with zero evidence or proof of their existence.

    Note an important difference. I cannot ‘act as if there are no Muslims’. Again, that Muslims believe in Islam is very significant in this world currently, and even what they believe is significant to their behaviour. But notice that there is zero requirement that what they believe be true.

  23. Aaron,

    Another point worth making:

    The popular misconception is that skeptics, or critical thinkers, are people who disbelieve things … The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.

    From http://skeptoid.com/skeptic.php. Worth a read, to better understand those that disagree with you.

  24. Ron,

    Here is a lecture given by Craig where he responds to internet critics. You’ll notice that the objections given in the video, a couple of which have been put forth in our conversation, are not given by the scholars, but only the internet critics. That should be a red flag.

    I think your definition of true is different than WLC. Under your definition of true, there is no such thing as a sound argument, because you need to know the objective truth of a premise, which is not possible to have. WLC says that something should be considered true if it is more likely true than not. That’s how we all practically consider something to be true. Under that definition, I believe the Kalam is sound. There is 0 evidence of the negations of 1 and 2. There is a ton of positive evidence for 1 and 2, both logically and scientifically. Give me a reason to reject the premises besides “they might not be true”. Seriously, premise 1 has the word “everything” in it. All you need to do is show 1 thing that begins to exist that has absolutely no cause. Just 1. That’s it. Generally, now someone brings up Quantum mechanics. I’ve discussed that already. Or they bring up the material reality, and thats circular reasoning. Premise 2 is supported by science and logic. Evidence says their true. No evidence suggests their false. So they should be considered true until there is a reason to think otherwise. Yes, this is somewhat subjective. But so is everything else in life. We cannot know objective truth. I don’t see how you can demand objective truth from Craig. You are just holding the outdated verificationalist philosophy. And as I said before, its absolutely right that God is not part of the argument. It just so happens that when we logically look at the cause, it happens to have properties that are only attributed to God. We don’t need to give it the title “God” if you don’t want. We could call the cause ASDF. So it is much more likely that ASDF exists than not. So I consider ASDF’s existence true until there is a reason to reject the premises. There are reasons to accept the premises. There is no reason to reject the premises. And the argument is logically valid.

    On Jesus, what scholars are trying to do is give explanations to what we know. There is virtually universal consensus on many things regarding Jesus. Habermas even says that universal consensus doesn’t exist. So what he said is not a flat out lie at all. You misquoted him. Carrier just happens to be one of the few that disagree. His position is akin to Holocaust deniers. What the scholars do is compare the potential explanations to the facts, such as the ones you suggested. What happens is that the other explanations fail miserably under critical examination. All the natural explanations fail to account for the facts that we know. The Islamic explanation directly opposes the evidence. The difference with Romans is they have naturalistic explanations that fit the facts. Jesus does not have naturalistic explanations that fit the facts. The other option is to believe Jesus rose from the dead. That easily explains everything. Therefore, unless you assume naturalism, Jesus rose from the dead is the best explanation of the facts. Which constitutes that we should believe he did actually do so. Unless you then appeal to Loftus’ statement, which is circular. Many of your other assertions about Jesus, Islam, etc. just show me your sources are blogs and popular writers. Ultimately we are both just commenting on a blog, so we are both just asserting. That’s why I say read the scholarship, it’s vastly different from what you suggest. Carrier is not scholarship. He is repeatedly shown his biased, unscholarly work. But he doesn’t care about the scholarship. He’s all about the popular audience.

    Now, I think there is a huge difference in life if God exists! I can just look back at my own life and see the huge difference He has made. He took me out of dark times. He turned my life around. Plus, there is obviously the afterlife of either eternal, unspeakable joy with the One that loves us unconditionally, is perfectly just, and is the only One worthy of worship, or rejecting His free offer and, against His will, breaking His heart, choosing separation. It’s the difference between allowing Jesus to pay our debt, or paying our debt ourself. Or whatever afterlife other religions suggest. That hardly constitutes no difference given either. The only way there actually would be no difference is if atheism is true. This is not my pleading for Pascal’s Wager, even though it would only be a caricature of the wager, as Ive said before. I’m just making the point there is a difference. Moreover, under atheism there is no objective meaning, purpose or hope. But no one can live that way. So under atheism we have to convince ourselves to live under an illusion of meaning and purpose and hope. We have to force ourselves to be deluded. But given Christianity it is no illusion. Perhaps you suggest that Christianity is such an illusion. But I will simply rehash that there is no plausible natural explanation to Jesus. And then in comes Loftus’ statement, as well as his circularity. And I will again refer you to the scholarship. It also happens that ASDF is consistent with the Christian God. Which is why the Christian God is the One whom I believe in.

    I think most of our issues, besides the main one, are subtle differences in definitions. I apologize for any confusion I may have caused.

    Cheers,

    Aaron

  25. Ron,

    It should be self evident, but, regarding the Kalam, the main jist of what I was saying is that WLC doesn’t merely assert that the premises are more likely true than false. He gives supportive evidence and reason for each premise. So asserting the opposites without defeating his evidence or giving counter evidence, and calling his supportive evidence just rhetoric(argument ad hominem), is fallacious. There is good reason to believe the premises are true. Give me reasons not to.

    All the best,

    Aaron

  26. Aaron,

    “I think your definition of true is different than WLC.”

    I don’t think it is. I think it’s exactly the same. But WLC is playing the game of claiming to have sound arguments, not me. I suspect he knows full well that his arguments are not sound at all, and that’s why he has to make out that he needs ‘good’ evidence to support his premises to make them ‘true’ so that his argument can be ‘sound’, and then take on the appearance of being solid arguments for God.

    Truth in logic is very simple. It’s binary. You have it or you don’t. But, …

    “WLC says that something should be considered true if it is more likely true than not.”

    I agree. And this is why WLC’s arguments are not sound. And in the specific case of his his support for his premises he is not at all convincing.

    WLC does not ‘give evidence’ to support his premises, he gives explanations from his interpretation of some physics, and physicists point out where he’s going wrong. But pf course the wider context is, as I’ve said, these are current and evolving physics ideas, and are not knowledge of how the universe began. They do not support the claims WLC wants them to support. Here’s Sean Carroll this year pointing some of this out.

    “Under that definition, I believe the Kalam is sound.”

    Then that’s equivocating with the term ‘sound’. It has multiple meanings. It has one which associated with firmness of ground, as in ‘solid ground’. It’s meaning in logical syllogisms is quite different and requires certainty. This latter meaning goes back to times when many philosophers really thought we could know things for certain and thought there were some unassailable truths we could rely on (the certainty of God being one theist would hold to, unjustifiably). WLC very specifically, in no uncertain terms, explains the syllogistic use of the term, but then slides into the less certain use of the term to support his premises in that syllogism. This is utter duplicitous nonsense. WLC is far too well versed in philosophy not to know this.

    “There is 0 evidence of the negations of 1 and 2. ”

    And there is zero evidence to support them. They are speculations on cosmomoly to which neither WLC or any physicist has any evidence at all. The ‘evidence’ he refers to consists of human models that are being investigated. Physicists and cosmologists regularly express these models in simple terms that appear to be something like, “Here’s my model of reality, and this is how I think it is.” Their conviction is not at all like a religious believer’s faith, because they would (and do) change their minds quite often, when new models look more promising. There are many models out there, so it’s no good WLC picking something from Stephen Hawking and using that as if it represents reality with any certainty – it’s a model, and it might be the most promising model we have, but when it comes to describing any actual origin of the universe it is only speculative.

    “There is a ton of positive evidence for 1 and 2, both logically and scientifically.”

    There really is not. There is nothing. These are human influenced ‘feelings’ about what might be true, based on our limited understanding of terms like ‘causality’.

    “Seriously, premise 1 has the word “everything” in it. All you need to do is show 1 thing that begins to exist that has absolutely no cause.”

    If I wanted to refute it, that’s true. But I’m not refuting it. I’m saying alternatives can be plucked out the air just as this one is. That is sufficient to show that this one is not supported enough to trust it. This is no different than declaring “All swans are white”, which looked like an empiricaally unassailable truth at one time.

    “There is good reason to believe the premises are true. Give me reasons not to.” – I have. But I will again.

    “1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.” is apparently true, for us, because we have experience of only the inside of this universe, with our understanding of causality. If we’re wrong about causality then this premise goes.

    WLC, “Premise 1 seems obviously true—at the least, more so than its negation.”

    See. he’s not providing ‘evidence’, he’s merely claiming it obvious to him. And so it does seem obvious to humans that have evolved to in a universe where their model of reality is a causal one.

    WLC, “Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes.”

    Only INSIDE this universe, so we have no idea at all about the physics of universe origins, if they have origins.

    “First, it’s rooted in the necessary truth that something cannot come into being uncaused from nothing.”

    That is not a necessary truth. It’s only an empirical truth from our experience in this universe. Look, if you’re prepared to posit eternal all powerful gods out of thin air, what is your difficulty with entertaining the possibility that we know so little about what makes universes that universes might come from nothing? I do not need to show that they do. “Ideas that are presented without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”

    “To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is literally worse than magic.”

    As is God, in that case. Suggesting things might pop into existence from nothing is no worse than the magic of declaring some eternal first cause. Where is the evidence for that? We can’t take ANY of these ideas as NECESSARY, and so none of them are grounds for believing anything in particular. And we don’t need to believe in anything in particular. We can ignore all speculations about the origins of the universe until such time as we have better evidence than inferences to some few fractions of a second before the Big Bang.

    Try this on cause and effect: http://edge.org/response-detail/25435

    “2 The universe began to exist.”

    Remember, the Big Bang was once though to be the beginning of the universe, but now is considered only part of the Big Expansion, the initial expansion, after SOMETHING ELSE, which might have been a beginning, but might have been some eternal precursor, which in turn might be a cyclical one of expansion and collapse. So we really do not know that this premise is the case, at all.

    WLC, “The philosophical arguments aim to show that there cannot have been an infinite regress of past events. In other words, the series of past events must be finite and have had a beginning.”

    Note he does NOT provide these arguments, but merely asserts their existence.

    “The scientific evidence for premise 2 is based on the expansion of the universe and the thermodynamic properties of the universe.”

    There is NO support for the singularity! ALL scientists I have read are quite clear that there might be one, or there might not, though some have their personal favourite models one way or the other.

    Even the laws of thermodynamics are under challenge. There are seriously credible cosmologists that even wonder if the laws of physics as we know them apply to all extents of this universe, never mind outside it. Because there is no actual evidence that they do; it’s only our working presumption that they do.

    And, even if there was an actual beginning of some sort such that the material in our universe cam from somewhere else, through a singularity, there is still NOTHING that implies this must have been the work of some agent. To declare that it IS some agent, or even just to suggest this is the BEST EXPLANATION, is utter speculation.

    “Or they bring up the material reality, and that’s circular reasoning.”

    It is not circular reasoning if it is not offered as a premise but a mere interpretation of observation. Give me good reason to reject material reality and I’ll go with that.

    “Premise 2 is supported by science and logic. Evidence says their true.”

    It is not.

    “No evidence suggests their false. ”

    It does not need to. It is only necessary to provide alternative speculative ideas to show that if they are all pure speculation then there is no reason to accept any of them.

    I am not claiming or asserting any specific explanation for the origins of the universe, or even that there is an origin rather than some sort of eternal process at work. The ONLY evidence we have for ANY agency is here on this one planet in a vast universe of which we have observed very little. It is the theist that is taking this one example of agency and PRESUMING it is required for the processes of cosmology.

    I reject that as a conclusion, not as a possibility. I have no need to consider an agent creator any more than I have to worry about multiple universes, an eternal cyclical universe, or any other cosmological explanation offered by cosmologists, because those issues tend not to have any significance other than the sociological one of supporting research in those fields. Some ideas in physics do actually have consequences, such as those of quantum physics.

    “So they should be considered true until there is a reason to think otherwise.”

    No! really. They should be considered speculations!

    “Yes, this is somewhat subjective.”

    Yes! It is. Theology is a subjective interpretation of reality that posits agents for which there is no evidence. Cosmology of matters external to this universe for which there is no direct evidence are subjective models based on limited data, and sometimes based on mathematical models from current data, but mathematical models that are subject to change and these models are developed theoretically, and as new data comes in. This is no grounds for claiming evidence to support some ancient spooky beliefs.

    “But so is everything else in life. We cannot know objective truth.”

    Correct. That’s why science has been so successful, because it constructs ever improving methods for dealing with ever more detailed understandings of reality – even if not perfect, they are shown to work. And this is why philosophy and theology are stagnant and have been for centuries. The only changes to theology come form variations on the speculation, and occasionally a new imaginative invention, or sometimes a total fraud (Scientology, Mormonism).

    “I don’t see how you can demand objective truth from Craig. ”

    I don’t demand it, I deny that he has it when he says he does. I’m not sure why you have not yet understood this point.

    “You are just holding the outdated verificationalist philosophy.”

    No I’m not. It’s WLC that is making claims from it. In pointing out what he is doing I am not saying that is what he needs to do, but rather sayig what he fails to do. When I say, “WLC needs to prove his premises.” I’m stating what he needs to do IF he is to continue to hold that he has PROOF; but I am then going on to explain why he cannot have proof, because he cannot prove his premises. What about this is not clear? I’m not sure how else to explain that I am not using those erroneous methods myself but exposing WLC’s attempt to use them.

    “It just so happens that when we logically look at the cause, it happens to have properties that are only attributed to God.”

    They are not. They are only asserted to have properties that are only attributable to God. Note here that this is an assertion itself. It is either a conclusion with no supporting arguments, or it is an unproven premise of some other argument.

    Even if the Kalam argument were sound it would still be wrong to call the Kalam argument a ‘proof’ of God, but rather a proof of some conclusions which are in turn used in yet another argument for God. The Kalam argument could be used, if it were a good one, as a premise for a non-teleological argument. Look at the Kalam conclusion: “Therefore, the universe has a cause” It says nothing, really, nothing about what that cause might be. The Kalam argument is not an argument for God. But WLC calls it one of the proofs of God because he can show it is a valid argument. He then erroneously asserts but does not prove its premises, and he even offers evidence which is itself not supported by science other than speculative cosmological possibilities.

    “We could call the cause ASDF”

    We could not. We can only call the cause “Unknown”, and then only if we accept the premises, which we need not.

    “So it is much more likely that ASDF exists than not.”

    It is not. I can make assertions too.

  27. Aaron,

    “Now, I think there is a huge difference in life if God exists! I can just look back at my own life and see the huge difference He has made. ”

    No. there’s a big difference because you BELIEVE he exists. Muslims make the same claim. You can’t both be right.

    It seems I forgot to add appeal to personal experience as another point on the cycle of defending religion.

    “He took me out of dark times. He turned my life around.”

    Same for many Muslims. Many Muslims on all sides of conflict in Syria appeal to God. As did Christians on all sides of WWII, and WWI. As do many people that believe. It seems it doesn’t matter if you believe or not, or which god you believe in if any. Clearly many suicide Japanese pilots in WWII got great strength and comfort from their beliefs. As do Buddhist monks, who occasionally immolate themselves in protest. How the mind deals with hard times is specific to the individual. What about the many religious believers that gave up their faith because in their opinion the hard times were evidence of a lack of a loving God. This is all so arbitrary.

    “Plus, there is obviously the afterlife of either eternal, unspeakable joy with the One that loves us unconditionally, is perfectly just, and is the only One worthy of worship, or rejecting His free offer and, against His will, breaking His heart, choosing separation.”

    It seems now that you have dropped all the weird logic of WLC and the non-evidence from the bible and are now appealing to ‘obvious’ metaphysics about life after death, for which there is no evidence. You are appealing here to ‘the One that loves us unconditionally’, as if this is something additional or alternative to proof and evidence, when it really should depend on them; or are you appealing to this personal subjective feeling as support for WLC’s proof and biblical scholarly ‘evidence’?

    Can you not see the nature of the circularity in all this? While all along I am offering only inference from immediate and relentless observation in support of materialism, contingently, while rejecting your theism not because I have counter proof and evidence but because you have nothing to support it, in the end, except this now very personal appeal to faith. There is a vast difference in these approaches – despite the fact that you keep asserting I am presupposing naturalism.

    “It’s the difference between allowing Jesus to pay our debt, or paying our debt ourself. Or whatever afterlife other religions suggest.”

    You see here how you have now allowed Islam in by the back door of general theism, but reject it for specific religion. This is quite typical too. Many religious people will defend theism from their specific religion, and allow theism for other religions

    1) Jesus implies God

    2) Other religions have God, so they have something right.

    3) But Islam is false.

    Well, if Islam is false then its God claims are completely wrong or mistaken. But then they can say the same about Christianity. There is no winner in these religions. And both require a God up front, not as an inference from other stuff.

    here’s the circularity

    1) God exists – hence OT is true.
    2) OT predicts Jesus
    3) Bible contains facts of times of Jesus – OK
    4) Bible contains stories of Jesus.
    5) Jesus declares (so it is claimed, though we don’t have that record) that he is the son of God
    6) Therefore this is evidence of God (and the resurrection and other stuff)

    But if (1) is wrong, then the rrest is myth.

    Alternatively start at another point of the circle:

    1) I let Jesus into my life (where did this story come from? Implicitly from the above circle, because no one knows of Jesus that hasn’t read or been informed about the Bible)
    2) I look to he Bible for the truth of Jesus
    3) Bible contains facts of times of Jesus – OK
    4) Bible contains stories of Jesus.
    5) Jesus declares (so it is claimed, though we don’t have that record) that he is the son of God
    6) Therefore this is evidence of God (and the resurrection and other stuff)

    and so the circle is complete.

    No actual evidence. No proof. Just a fully circular support system that evolved from earlier beliefs, as do all currrent religions.

    “That hardly constitutes no difference given either.”

    Of course it doesn’t constitute no difference. Just as my child’s belief in Santa constituted a real difference to her early life. Many ex-Christians realise this too, and accept that their false beliefs once made a big difference to their lives.

    I’m not disputing that your belief means something to you or that it has had an effect on your life. But I hope you realise are not offering me any evidence of anything at all here that supports the actual content of your belief. You are merely giving your opinion about what your false belief is doing for you, as far as I can tell. You might as well be quoting Bible verses at me. Or verses from the Quran.

    “The only way there actually would be no difference is if atheism is true. ”

    No, definitely not so. It is very clear from direct evidence from many religious believers of quite contradictory things that beliefs make a difference to how people see the world. That isn’t in doubt at all. Nowhere have I suggested that beliefs don’t make a difference,

    Perhaps you are mistaking a different point I make. I simply say that we don’t have to believe in things we have no evidence of, because the world is no different whether they are true or not.

    1) Whether there is a God or not, atheists will continue not to believe in one because there is no evidence for one. If there is a God then he has given us just as much evidence of his existence as there would be if he did not exist. That’s what I mean by no difference.

    2) Whether there is a God or not, believers will continue to believe without any need for evidence, and will continue to assert and make up evidence. That’s what I mean by no difference.

    This is not the same as the actual difference between how a believer behaves and how an atheist behaves. They are real and significant differences. But they do not depend on an actual God if there is no actual evidence of such a God.

    “Moreover, under atheism there is no objective meaning, purpose or hope.”

    Well, that depends on that slippery world ‘objective’ If by ‘objective’ you mean, as I suspect you do, some objective nature of God-given meaning, then you are right. there is none of that since there is no God that we can see. Further, there is no evidence of any non-theistic objective meaning, purpose or hope – something that some philosophers claim there is. All the meaning, purpose and hope available to humans is entirely of our own invention.

    Clearly you must think this is so, because surely you do not think that Muslims, other religious people and atheists live without those? We make them up ourselves. And it probably does have an objective source: the survival drives of all animals, enhanced in humans through cognitive and social development. Even Christians can suffer from depression and lose hope and meaning an purpose. This is not rocket science, but simple psychology that any human can easily understand – you don’t need neuroscience or theology to figure out that humans are a varied lot and some of us have a struggle with life, whatever our beliefs.

    But I’d go so far as to say religion is the homeopathy of belief – nothing there, but believers believe it anyway, and some get comfort from it.

    “But no one can live that way. So under atheism we have to convince ourselves to live under an illusion of meaning and purpose and hope.”

    It’s not an illusion. The brain actually has states where we seem to focus on meanings in our life. Some are quite basic: hunger, socialising, children, shelter. Others are developed out of these – so work, the meaning and purpose of a career, comes out of the need to earn a living to support the basic purposes. Since we are cognitively enhance animals we can make a greater abstract notion of meaning out of these and elevate them to some greater purpose. We have a curiosity that seems to be an evolutionary drive, that in turn is elevated, once the basics are sorted, into curiosity about origins and the wider universe. You tend not to see these more esoteric concerns worrying someone who is trying to find food for their children, though they may look to established beliefs of this kind for succour.

    I think you are imposing ancient meaning on to meaning, purpose and hope. They are quite well established biological and psychological conditions that can be manipulated (albeit not too precisely yet) with drugs and therapy.

    “We have to force ourselves to be deluded. But given Christianity it is no illusion.”

    We don’t have to in all cases. It’s difficult sometimes. One of the greatest delusions is Christianity. But now we’re swapping assertions again.

    “Perhaps you suggest that Christianity is such an illusion. But I will simply rehash that there is no plausible natural explanation to Jesus.”

    Yes there is. There are many. But you equivocate again, between the history of the time, the history of a man, and the actuality of the divine claims about him. There is ZERO reason to believe the divinity stuff. There is EVERY reason to believe that some early Christians believed the divne stuff but were deluded themselves. Delusions have to start somewhere. Myths have to start somewhere.

    “I think most of our issues, besides the main one, are subtle differences in definitions. I apologize for any confusion I may have caused.”

    I think there are some differences there, but ones that appeal to basic stuff can eradicate:
    1) How WLC is abusing logic and claiming proofs that he does not have.
    2) How without evidence of an actual God there is no reason to believe any of the religions that depend on some god.
    3) How hearsay is not evidence.
    4) How multiple sources all pointing back to an originally deluded group of people is not additional or independent multiple pieces of evidence (the ‘tons’ of evidence trope)
    5) How naturalism is not a presupposition but an unavoidable experience (that you share too), and that without good evidence there is simply no need to add gods of any kind, or fairies for that matter.
    6) How atheism is a working conclusion from the above, and not a presupposition, and assumption.
    7) How all that remains from above that has anything like persuasive capacity is atheistic naturalism – not as a water tight conclusion, but as a contingent working one.
    8) How really, when it comes down to it, your personal belief is a personal subjective commitment, as evidenced in the claims you make in this last comment, and that it biases you in your claims about proofs form WLC, your denial of alternatives to metaphysics that most scientists accept are unknowns, how you make inferences to one particular conclusion in the absence of evidence for it or any other possibility (I offer, say, 5 possibilities, one being your preferred one, each with zero evidence to support them, so you infer yours alone must be true). This is evidence of your commitment to your belief that goes beyond rational inference from evidence.

  28. Ron,

    Ok, one last time before my life is taken over by this. I might even have to bite the bullet and give up the last word. But life will go on.

    Let’s look at WLC definition of sound, “An argument is sound if the premises are true and it is logically valid.” You’ll notice that the word “true” is a part of the definition, so “sound”s definition is relative to the definition of “true”. Fortunately, WLC has provided want he meant by “true” for all practical purposes. So we can insert that into the definition of sound to get what he meant by sound. “An argument is sound if the premises are more likely true than false and it is logically valid”. He’s not arguing for some unattainable absolute soundness or something. You equivocated the word true and blamed him for doing so. You say he called his arguments “proof”. Well, check out the articles on the natural theology that I posted. Here they are again.
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-new-atheism-and-five-arguments-for-god
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/popular-articles-does-god-exist
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-1
    With the fantastic technology of Command F, you’ll notice he only uses “proof” when quoting or referencing other peoples work. So your claim is groundless.

    Of course WLC thinks his argument’s premises are more likely true than false and is logically valid. Why else would he present them? I think so as well. If we had absolute soundness, we wouldn’t be discussing anything anyway. I am going to continue to use the word “sound” in referring to WLC’s definition of truth from now on. So he thinks it is sound. I think it is sound. It seems you don’t think it is sound. So you either think one of the premises is more likely false than true or you think it is logically invalid. Well, the argument is valid and is of the form Modus Ponens. So you think that one or both of the premises is more likely false than true.

    I will also note that by Universe he means all material reality, all nature, all space-time, etc. I don’t particularly like him using it that way, but thats how he defined it. So it includes multiverses, etc. Basically, if the Universe is all there is, atheism is true.

    (1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

    1.1 Pro – Out of Nothing, Nothing comes. This is the fundamental principle of science and logic. In dismissing it, we cease to do logic or science. If nothing can cause something, than it has the property of being able to cause, thereby making it not nothing.
    1.1 Con – “is apparently true, for us, because we have experience of only the inside of this universe, with our understanding of causality. If we’re wrong about causality then this premise goes.”
    Why are we wrong about causality? There is no reason to arbitrarily dismiss it of the universe. That commits the taxicab fallacy. This is also where naturalistic circularity comes in. The only reason it is dismissed is the want to keep holding a naturalist position. You say, “It is not circular reasoning if it is not offered as a premise but a mere interpretation of observation.” Naturalism in your background information is your only reason for arbitrarily dismissing this concept.
    1.2 Pro – Why don’t things come into being from nothing all the time? If something can come from nothing, what about being inside the universe stops nothing from doing something? It’s not like nothing has properties that make it hard to produce things. It has no properties. it is not anything. If nothing can cause something, we should see things being caused all the time.
    1.2 Con – “That’s a good point. Except I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s inexplicable in any ultimate sense, but rather only in the sense that we do not yet have an explanation for that. There have been many things that were once inexplicable in that latter sense which are now explained to some reasonable degree.”
    Except nothing is nothing. there is nothing to explain. literally. There is nothing that could hold back nothing as nothing is not anything. And I’ll make the circular claim again. There is no reason to dismiss it except to hold naturalism. Yes you’re right, it is good point.
    1.3 Pro – Only ever affirmed, never disconfirmed – This is just to emphasize the earlier points I think.

    (2) The Universe began to exist.

    2.1 Pro – Hilbert’s hotel is an example of the absurdity of an actual infinite of things existing. An actual infinite cannot exist. An infinite regress of time is an actual infinite of things. Therefore, an infinite regress of time cannot exist.
    2.2 Pro – It is impossible to count from negative infinity up to any actual number, so it is impossible for time to start an infinite amount of time ago and arrive at an actual moment, as at any moment an infinite amount of time would already need to be traversed.
    2.3 Pro – The science is supportive of an actual beginning. BGV showed that models that don’t have an absolute beginning have failed to be tenable, even Carroll’s. The expansion of the universe says that in a finite time the universe will have a heat death. If it has existed forever (finite<infinite), than we should already be in heat death.
    In response, you just rabble on about some minority speculations that you found on a blog. You even mischaracterize the singularity as a thing, when it is only a boundary point. Some models don't have a singularity, but they have still been shown to be finite. In any event, until there is a model that tenably shows an infinite universe, I will rest in the mainstream of science.

    (3) Therefore, the Universe has a cause.

    Can the cause be natural? Remember the universe is all nature. So no. That would require nature existing before it existed in order to create itself. The cause cannot have material properties, else material would have to exist prior to it existing. In the same way, we logically discover the other properties previously mentioned like sans the universe, the cause is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful. So there can be no changes in the cause, in either its nature or operations, sans the beginning of the universe. But if the necessary and sufficient conditions for the production of the effect are timeless, the effect should be eternal. How can all the causal conditions sufficient for the production of the effect be changelessly existent and yet the effect not also be existent along with the cause. The only way out of this dilemma is if the cause was an agent who freely decided to create.

    So it goes without saying that I think the premises are more likely true than not. So I think it is sound.

    Miscellaneous

    You ask, why a deity over nothing? Well, nothing is nothing. If it could cause it would cease to be nothing. That's the whole issue.

    My whole purpose of explaining my life is to show that it does have a huge effect on ones life. I don't see how the fact that the world will keep on turning no matter what you believe is a reason to not make a decision.

    Anyway, on with my life. Twas a pleasure,

    Aaron

  29. Aaron,

    “You equivocated the word true and blamed him for doing so.”

    Equivocate: use ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth or avoid committing oneself.

    I wasn’t being ambiguous. I was being clear. True/False is a binary logical concept which when applied to logical syllogisms is intended in that sense. An argument is sound if and only if it’s valid and its premises are true. How do you establish true premises, in this binary logical sense? By proving them i turn.

    To talk about truth and soundness in the context of deductive syllogistic arguments, and yet really to use an inductive argument TO inference FROM premises that only MIGHT be true (even if one believes them to be true) is to equivocate on the use of the term truth in order to give the arguments more credibility than they warrant.

    “The renaissance of Christian philosophy has been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in natural theology – that branch of theology which seeks to prove God’s existence without appeal to the resources of authoritative divine revelation – for instance, through philosophical argument. All of the traditional philosophical arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments, not to mention creative, new arguments, find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene.”

    “From these three premises it follows that God exists. Now if God exists, the explanation of God’s existence lies in the necessity of his own nature, since, as even the atheist recognizes, it’s impossible for God to have a cause. So if this argument is successful, it proves the existence of a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universe. This is truly astonishing!”

    In what way is this not a claim that these philosophical arguments by Christian philosophers, as he considers himself to be, are proofs. In what way is WLC not trying to convince people he has proof of God’s existence.

    It seems we are supposed to infer all sorts of magical things from ancient texts of dubious reliability, and yet with all this that WLC puts into providing proofs we can take the fact that he does not use the word ‘proof’ so explicitly that he does not mean he is trying to prove it, or persuade others by his rhetoric that he is offering proofs.

    “Of course WLC thinks his argument’s premises are more likely true than false and is logically valid. Why else would he present them?”

    Of course. I’m not disputing he believes God exists. I think he believes it so much he cannot see the many faults with his arguments.

    “Out of Nothing, Nothing comes.” – Assertion. How do you know that in the context of the origins of universes?

    “This is the fundamental principle of science and logic.”

    Not it’s not. It’s a principle we have inductively induced from our experience of this universe. That experience has so far told us nothing about the business of the origins of universes, or whether they have origins or are eternal in some sense.

    “Why are we wrong about causality?”

    I don’t know that we are. I am saying we don’t know whether we are wrong or right, in the matter of the origins of universes.

    “There is no reason to arbitrarily dismiss it of the universe.”

    I’m neither dismissing it of this universe internally, or or any universe internally, or of any external aspect of universes. But there is no need to accept it arbitrarily when we simply do not know anything about extra-universe matters. WLC is quite prepared to think that our physical laws came into existence with this universe, so why can’t he entertain the possibility that with those laws come causality? Because it doesn’t suit him.

    “The only reason it is dismissed is the want to keep holding a naturalist position.”

    Not at all. I’m quite happy to accept evidence of really weird stuff that challenges our understanding of reality. Quantum stuff? Weird, but the evidence supports it, even if we don’t fully understand it. Evolution on other planets that might produce other intelligent entities? Fine in principle, even if we have no evidence of them yet. Intelligent agent entities that are so different from us, so utterly different we do not understand what ‘physics’ would mean in that context, that they might have the power to create universes like ours? Fascinating. But aliens I want evidence before I act as if they exist. For agent entities that create universes like ours, I want evidence. For such agent entities that play religion games with so many religions, and instantiate a version of themselves to ancient gullible peoples that will believe anything, I want evidence. I’d love to know more about their ‘physics’ and how they create universes, if they exist. If you want to pretend there is only one such entity, when we have no evidence of any, and you want to call him God, then that’s fine – freedom of belief. But without evidence that’s as far as it goes – unsubstantiated belief.

    But just remember, you are the one who positing a being that defies all the rules of physics of this universe when it suits your religious claims, but you won’t entertain other alternatives to these rules when they aren’t convenient for the support of your God. I’m quite happy to accept the possibility of all sorts of weirdness, while you are willing to allow only some specific ones. This is very much like the position with regard to religions generally – you are an ‘atheist’ with regard to all sorts of weird extra-universe ‘physics’ accept your own.

    “Naturalism in your background information is your only reason for arbitrarily dismissing this concept.”

    No it is not. I’m not dismissing any concepts. I’m objecting to WLC constructing arguments from limited premises that he cannot prove because he thinks those premises ‘obvious’ . He is dismissing alternatives.

    “Why don’t things come into being from nothing all the time?”

    Who says they don’t? Maybe universes are coming into being from nothing al the time. But who says they need to come into being ‘all the time’? Given the age of our universe once every now and again would be enough. Even just once would be enough.

    Of course this objection you offer is playing, again, on our experience in this universe. How do you know that it is not the case that universes can come out of (and go into) nothing while within universes conservation laws (that apply only in that universe) prevent it.

    “f something can come from nothing, what about being inside the universe stops nothing from doing something?”

    I don’t know. We’ll have to wait until we do know more about extra-universe ‘physics’. But you don’t know either. And you and I know even less why this might or might not be the case with regard to extra-universe ‘physics’.

    “It’s not like nothing has properties that make it hard to produce things. It has no properties.”

    Of course now your playing with our limited conception of nothingness. And that of course also presumes that outside our universe of our physics there is indeed nothingness of this sort. There might be many versions of nothingness. Or there might be no nothingness – there might be ‘something’ always and everywhere, consisting of some as yet not understood ‘physics’ – as indeed your ‘super’ natural God is supposed to be. But then it is you that is asserting that there is your very special ‘super’ natural entity out there. You are the one doing the special pleading, about this very specific extra-universe ‘super’ naturlaism.

    “If nothing can cause something, we should see things being caused all the time.”

    Maybe, if we could get outside this universe that’s what we would see. This is really an area of, “I don’t know, you don’t know, no human knows.” Except you claim you do know, or at very least you feel so convinced of the truth of the very specific knowledge about extra-universe, very specific ‘super’-natural ‘physics’, that you pray to this unevidenced metaphysics?

    “Except nothing is nothing. there is nothing to explain.”

    So you continue to assert. Which is unreasonable, given your limited (i.e. zero) access to extra-universe matters.

    “There is nothing that could hold back nothing as nothing is not anything.”

    Assertion.

    “There is no reason to dismiss it except to hold naturalism.”

    Again I insist this is not the case. I have no desire to hold to on to naturalism. Additional extra-universe physics – call it ‘super’-naturalism if you will, including agent entities or non-agent stuff – would be so mind bogglingly fascination what scientist do you suppose would not be leaping with joy at the prospect?

    Let me make one thing clear though. If we discovered that we were indeed the puppets of an entity that resembled the abrahamic god I would be motivated to oppose its control over us. But given the power of such an entity that might be a hopeless cause. But in terms of this universe alone humans are a mere spec in time. Homo Erectus occupied this planet about eight times longer than we have – our imaginary entity has been toying with species of various sorts for a long time, so if it is all his fault I’m not sure what value you see in him. Does a couple of thousand years of this wonderful Christian message make up for all the torture he allowed to endure in very intelligent earlier species?

    Hilbert’s hotel is just a play on terms. It is useful in demonstrating our lack of understanding of concepts like nothing, everything, eternity, the infinite, the infinitesimal, and so on. We seem to be finite beings that struggle with these concepts. That’s our limitation and not necessarily a limitation of reality. You don’t seem to have a problem with the Hilbert hotel that is your God. Oh, except for the get out clause of ‘first cause’. That is such a fudge that I don’t know how you find other strange concepts totally off limits. You allow your God these properties that we never experience inside this universe, but you won’t allow other concepts that we don’t experience in this universe. You are puzzled why things never come from nothing outside this universe – except for your God. You won’t allow that a cyclic universe could exist eternally, but you insist on it for your God. And you think I’m biased about naturalism?

    Hilbert’s hotel is a false paradox anyway. We can go into that if you like, but it’s just another of the many not very paradoxical paradoxes.

    “An actual infinite cannot exist.”

    Not your God then.

    “An infinite regress of time is an actual infinite of things. Therefore, an infinite regress of time cannot exist.”

    Why? Why is an infinite regress of time not an infinite existence of a finite set of things? Who says atoms have to join the universe each night like guests in Hilbert’s hotel? Who says an ‘infinite of things’ (whatever that means) is not possible. You are bandying about terms without any understanding of what they mean in the context of extra-universe matters – you’re in good company, since none of us do.

    “It is impossible to count from negative infinity…”

    I would tend to agree. But I have knowledge and experience limited to this universe too, so that doesn’t really tell us anything about the universe business does it.

    “The science is supportive of an actual beginning.”

    No it is not. It is indicative of something that might be a beginning, but which also might not be a beginning. Really, check what physicists and cosmologists say, not what WLC claims they say, or how he cherry pick physics that suits him.

    “BGV showed that models that don’t have an absolute beginning have failed to be tenable, even Carroll’s.”

    Nope. All this stuff goes back and forth depending on the current maths and evidence from physics and cosmology. Try this: https://debunkingwlc.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/borde-guth-vilenkin/

    “The expansion of the universe says that in a finite time the universe will have a heat death.”

    That’s one interpretation. there are others.

    “If it has existed forever (finite<infinite), than we should already be in heat death"

    Not so. It could be that the final throws of the heat death go on forever into the future. We would be at what is analogously the zero point on a number line. Of course it could be that the universe has a heat death and then another event that we don’t understand starts another universe. We really don’t understand this enough to be talking about any of it with the certainty with which you are asserting stuff.

    "In response, you just rabble on about some minority speculations that you found on a blog."

    Not so. Most of the alternatives I’ve given are considered by physicists who do not take WLC route. And as for blogs I can say the same for you: you keep offering stuff from WLC, a theologian, not a physicist. But you do blogs an injustice – I offer you a physicist but you belittle; I give you ideas expressed by physicists about the limitations of their knowledge, and you belittle this?

    Your offer assertions about what you know about things we can’t understand beyond our limited experience, such as nothingness, infinity, causation, and when I offer various reasons why we cannot be certain about those things you call it to my ‘rabbling’; but on the other hand you believe in gods.

    "Can the cause be natural? Remember the universe is all nature."

    If you insist that the ‘natural’ is only what we experience of this universe, then you have defined naturalism to have this limitation. You have played a linguistic trick. But, I’m quite happy to call the ‘super’ physics that causes universes to come and go to be ‘super’-natural. But that ‘super’-natural is then also a linguistic reference; a means or categorising what’s in the this universe to what’s outside it or what causes it. I seem to accept these possibilities far more willingly than you do. You only want to accept one specific possibility that happens to coincide with an ancient religious belief that was made up before we understood anything about the solar system, let alone the galaxy, let alone the universe.

    "In the same way, we logically discover the other properties previously mentioned like sans the universe, the cause is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful."

    This is possible logically. But not necessary. There could be something of a ‘space’, unlike ours but just as meaningfully spacial. It might itself have a beginning we can’t explain, or it might be eternal. It might be changeless, but then maybe not. And so on. Everything you can posit that is supposed to be consistent with your God can be posited in some other respect that can have a non-agent sense.

    “But if the necessary and sufficient conditions for the production of the effect are timeless, the effect should be eternal. How can all the causal conditions sufficient for the production of the effect be changelessly existent and yet the effect not also be existent along with the cause."

    Let recount the ways – except I already have, as have many physicists and philosophers. But, we’re all speculating. This ‘necessary and sufficient’ business is nonsense when speculating about extra-universe stuff none of us has a jot of data about.

    "The only way out of this dilemma is if the cause was an agent who freely decided to create."

    There is no dilemma. No need to posit an agent. And even if you posit agent that’s still not enough. I’ve explained why multiple gods might be possible – and if your lone god doesn’t need further explanation then nor does any notion of gods or non-agents. Your only reason for positing an agent is … wait for it …. YOUR PRESUMPTION OF NATURALISM! You presume that because in this naturalistic universe causes seem to need agents you take that NATURALISTIC PRESUMPTION and infer ‘super’-natural agency.

    And of course that error is thanks to Paley – the presumption that complex natural systems require agent causes.

    The trouble is that physics tells us quite well how very simple things can evolve into complex things. No agency is required.

    It is the fact that NATURAL human artefacts result from NATURAL human agency that it is presumed that the universe requires a ‘super’-natural agency. But this is clearly a presumption.

    "You ask, why a deity over nothing? Well, nothing is nothing. If it could cause it would cease to be nothing. That's the whole issue."

    Of course you have no such worries about positing an agent that doesn’t need to come from nothing, but won’t allow a astral system that doesn’t need to come from nothing.

    "My whole purpose of explaining my life is to show that it does have a huge effect on ones life. I don't see how the fact that the world will keep on turning no matter what you believe is a reason to not make a decision."

    I see no reason to make a decision when there is no need. For millennia early humans lived their lives, some happily, some miserably, without the faintest clue about so many things we know now. We do not know things that just a generation or two will know. There simply is no need to ‘decide’ what we know or not based on zero evidence. personally I find deciding in the favour of a fiction for lack of any knowledge is far worse.

    But, whatever makes your wold go around.

    Thanks for engaging Aaron. You are welcome any time.

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