Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

AA Simply Doesn't Get Those Cosmological Arguments

While working on part four of the refutation of AA's supposed refutation, he has posted supposedly what is a refutation of my refutation of his refutation. I don't have the time or desire to deal with everything he presents, but I will deal with a few ridiculous things he said.

One point he makes (that I didn't bring up in my post at all) is that David Bohm's deterministic model of quantum physics isn't widely held by physicists. So what? Most of the models of quantum physics are deterministic, and just because perhaps most physicists use the indeterministic model at the moment, it does nothing to prove that it is the correct model, and neither the argument from contingency nor the Kalam argument are damaged by the indeterministic model anyway. Both of those arguments work just fine on an indeterministic model of quantum physics; namely because the quantum world needs to exist for this activity to occur, and it didn't at one point.

AA then says,

As I’ve said before just because our “common experience” tells us something is true doesn’t make it so. Where is the evidence that this event has a cause? Brennon has once again utterly failed to do this and is that not also a basic principle of the scientific method? Base your theories on evidence? Something that Brennon is not doing. He’s simply saying there must be cause, but he’s just speculating and has given me no evidence why this might be so. So it’s not I who is disregarding the scientific method, but him

If AA were to remain consistent with this view, there would be no way he could function in life. First off, unless there is a great defeater (ie some evidence) for what is common experience, it is unjustified, irresponsible, and frankly stupid to deny it. Common experience tells us it isn't a good idea to fall out of an airplane. Just because I lack first-hand empirical data of this, I'm not going to deny it. He accosts me for not providing evidence for my position (which is silly, since the big bang model enjoys the most evidence of any model), but the irony here is really mind boggling, as there is no evidence that things can happen uncaused! Even on indeterministic quantum physics, the cause of the random elementary particles appearing and disappearing is the highly structured quantum vacuum, which is a sea of energy and is bound by physical laws. The quantum vacuum and the energy therein is the cause of these particles. The whole reason cosmologists are trying so hard to develop eternal models of the universe is to retain the intuition that all events do have causes!

He then cites more of retired (since 2000) cosmologist Victor Stenger. Stenger has been out of the loop for 10 years, and as Craig showed in his debate with him recently, hasn't really been keeping abreast of current cosmology. He cites Stenger,

Craig has retorted that quantum events are still “caused”, just caused in a nonpredetermined manner - what he calls “probabilistic causality.” In effect, Craig is thereby admitting that the “cause” in his first premise could be an accidental one, something spontaneous - something not predetermined. By allowing probabilistic cause, he destroys his own case for a predetermined creation.

If there was some quantum existence prior to the big bang singularity, Stenger might have a point. But Craig's whole point that the universe has come into being uncaused out of nothing, and this is supported by modern cosmology. The big bang model isn't the postulation that there was this dot in outer space that exploded at some point. Rather, it is a model of the universe suddenly coming into being, all time and matter and space, at a single point and then expanding rapidly beyond that. As Richard J. Gott has put it, "The universe began from a state of infinite density."1 Just think about infinite density and what that would entail. Density is how tightly packed together a group of objects are. In this case, all of the universe would be infinitely dense. If something is infinitely dense, then its measurements are 0. "Infinite density" is synonymous with "nothing."

PCW Davies comments,

If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself.2

Cosmologists J. Richard Gott, James E. Gunn, David N. Schramm, and Beatrice M. Tinsley write of the beginning of the universe that, "Space and time were created in that event and so was all the matter in the universe."3 Craig also cites John Barrow and Frank Tipler (cosmologists) as saying, "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo."4

The rest of Stenger's quote just misses the whole point. Events happening in a purely probabilistic context at the quantum level still have causes. They are not deterministic causes, but are causes nonetheless. There is a similar analogy to this in the human mind. Those who hold to an agent-causation view of libertarian free will say that there are undetermined causes of human thoughts and actions, namely the mind behind them. Indeterministic causes are no problem for either cosmological arguments.

I know AA wants to find some source that will undo Craig's premise here, but Stenger has failed to do so. His arguments really aren't that impressive. And, since none of his counterexamples to Craig's premises are supported by anything but a very hazy and theoretical segment of science, all they are are possible counterexamples. So AA's contention that he has "disproved Craig’s scientific arguments" is just hubris-laced rhetoric. None of these things are proven at all, and aren't counterexamples anyway.

He then goes on to say how science has disproved other things that seemed to be the case, such as geocentricism. First off, I don't think geocentricism would have ever been a common experience view, since common experience rarely deals with things at that level. Common experience for most people at that time would have had nothing to do with how the earth moves in space. However, there were pre-Gallilean scientists who did think that the sun moved around the earth. This was their model, which was shown to be faulty. Science is constantly morphing their theories and improving (hopefully) their models.

AA says, "And as I noted in my paper refuting Craig, even if everything did happen to have a cause, the universe included, it's an illogical leap to automatically assume god did it." I've already explained this several times, and it has gone ignored.

Amazingly, AA then says, "And science does not always follow logic, just as I explained with the example of the earth being in the center of the universe." This really just makes one want to facepalm. AA is conflating the rules logic with "consensus view" here, one which may not follow the other. The rules of logic must be followed if the scientific method is to be accurate. If the rules of logic are broken, then something is wrong with the model science developed. Both the geocentric and the heliocentric models of our solar system MUST follow these rules if they are to be valid scientific models. And they do! It's just that one explains the empirical data better than the other. Seriously, if one can't understand that, then they have no business attempting to refute anyone's arguments.

On the cosmological arguments not proving the Christian specific God, AA again asks, "How does any theist know that it was even their god that was the cause?" I'm not sure if there's some sort of mental block that is keeping AA from getting this or not, so I'm going to write this in really big bold text: COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS AREN'T INTENDED TO SHOW A SPECIFIC GOD, BUT ARE PART OF A COMPREHENSIVE CASE FOR GOD'S EXISTENCE!!!

What the cosmological arguments do show is that if all space, time, and matter were brought into being by something, this being couldn't be bound by the universe. The thing that causes all of space, time, and matter to come into being cannot itself be in space, time, or made of matter. Therefore, it must be an immaterial, timeless, extremely powerful, personal causal agent. Ockham's razor would shave off unnecessary duplicates, and, therefore, we are left with a description of the God of monotheism, which could be the Muslim, Jewish, Deistic, or Christian God.

On my question on why we shouldn't think that things can come into being uncaused out of nothing, he says, "I rejected the first premise because, again, it was asserted without evidence as I noted in my paper." What!? Are you kidding? We have no evidence that nothing comes into being uncaused out of nothing? How about every single thing that happens in life? How about we know for a fact that these computers we are using had a cause for their coming into being? The very text on the screen has a cause for its coming into being. He is also referencing his "rebuttal" to the principle of sufficient reason, which is silly, since this is not that. This premise is "everything that begins to exist has a cause" which is not equivalent to the PSR (though it is somewhat similar) and cannot be lumped in with it. The fact is, the burden of proof is on the person that says things can come from nothing, and there is nothing in the universe that resembles that claim. If AA wants to reference indeterministic quantum events again, then he has missed the point.

AA again ignores the philosophical arguments against actual infinites existing, which means that he has not even begun to refute the argument. I'm still waiting...

AA then gives a weak response to my refutations of some alternate models of the beginning of the universe. He leaves the Hartle-Hawking refutation untouched (I cited my source) and then says, "During the discussion with the scientists [Vilenkin and one other, I believe] I was privy to, they said how Craig’s description of the theorem was simplistic and Vilenkin outright said that the theorem doesn’t disprove an eternal universe." Thing is, Craig never says the BGV theorem disproves a past eternal universe. He says, as does the theorem, it disproves the past eternal universe which is on average expanding. Another straw man.

AA then brings up Anthony Aguire's model, which does avoid the BGV theorem. But, as Craig and Sinclair point out, Aguire's model temporally and causally disconnects previous universes from our own. "The other side of the de Sitter space [outside of our universe] is not our past. For the moments of that time are not earlier than t or any of the moments later than t in our universe. There is no connection or temporal relation whatsoever of our universe to that other reality."5 In other words, other universes have absolutely nothing to do with ours, on this model, and so wouldn't "connect" to make an infinite past universe.

I've dealt with this quote ("The very idea that the big bang was the beginning of the universe is a distortion of what the big bang is.") above in citing many different cosmologists who obviously disagree with how Victor Stenger apparently portrays the Big Bang model. Fact is, the Big Bang model shows the coming into being of all space and time and matter from nothing, and does answer most of the questions brought up. Modifications can and are being made to this standard model, but the general scenario the Big Bang model presents us with is an absolute beginning of the universe. With the philosophical arguments that show that an actually infinite past is incoherent, this is what we should expect to see.

He brings up Hawking's model which relies on imaginary time, but fails to recognize that Hawking's model does include a closed universe, just one with a beginning curve instead of a beginning point. As John Barrow points out, "This type of quantum universe has not always existed; it comes into being just as the classical cosmologies could, but does not start at a Big Bang where physical quantities are infinite."6 Barrow still says this is a creation out of nothing, but without a "definite point." Quatnum models imply the beginning of the universe as do the standard models.7

He then cites Vilenkin (who for some reason doesn't know how to spell Craig's name) as admitting that his theory presupposes a B-theory of time, which is unsubstantiated. The Kalam argument presupposes an A-theory of time. If the B-theory is correct (which there is little to no reason to accept) then we would fall back on the Argument from Contingency, as the eternally existing timeline would be a contingent feature of the universe.

Concluding his quote from Vilenkin, AA says, "Since it’s obvious neither I nor Brennon are experts in this field it’s essentially come down to an argument from authority and each one of us can argue until we’re blue in the face that what each individual says is accurate, but I suppose Craig will just have to duke it out with Vilenkin if he wants." Well that is something we agree on, and I would love to see Vilenkin and Craig discuss their thoughts on the issue. But this doesn't undo the philosophical arguments Craig provides also, which have not been addressed.

I address his entire next paragraph above. He accuses Craig of cherry picking, but obviously has not read Craig's comprehensive works (from Reasonable Faith and the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology) where he addresses Hawking's theory. He doesn't use support without saying why other theories fail.

Vilenkin then addresses how Craig and Sinclair handle Aguire's model (as I have cited above) and apparently doesn't get the point.

The point is we don't have an actually infinite past! With that model, you have multiple finite pasts in different, unconnected universes. AA then mentions that Vilenkin has a forthcoming book where he addresses some of Craig and Sicnlair's points. Well, since neither of us can get the book yet, it's a bit presumptuous to say that what they wrote has been refuted. AA then says, "It’s very good and makes a few of the same points I do coincidentally, such as the argument that philosophical logic can’t really tell us anything about the world." 1) How could he say that a book that hasn't been released is very good? 2) He says that logic can't tell us anything about the world? Well, then we can't know anything about the world, because philosophical logic is the basis of Science. We use the methods of induction (which are always logically fallacious) and deduction that we get from philosophical logic. I seriously doubt that Vilenkin said anything so ridiculous.

So, as we have seen, the models that propose to show an infinite past either actually have a finite past or lack sufficient evidence for them. They also fail to deal with the philosophical arguments that show an actually infinite past is an incoherent idea, and thus can't exist in reality! Just as philosophical logic shows that a married bachelor cannot exist, so too does it show that a past infinite is incoherent. I don't know why AA wants to deny that things that come into being have causes and then at the same time defend that the universe could be eternal. If things can pop into existence uncaused out of nothing, he doesn't need an eternal universe, and vice versa! He's simply being inconsistent.

Despite all his practiced rhetoric, AA hasn't refuted anything.


I took it upon myself to email Dr. Vilenkin to see if he actually said what AA says he said. I asked what he does with the philosophical arguments against actual infinites, to which he replied, "Multiverse explanation of fine-tuning does not rely on the existence of actual infinities. For the explanation to work, the universe does not have to be infinite; it just has to be very large -- and in inflationary cosmology it becomes arbitrarily large with time." Apparently there's some confusion here, since I was not asking about the fine-tuning argument, but about a past-infinite universe.

I then asked if he actually did say that, as AA put it, "philosophical logic can’t really tell us anything about the world." Dr. Vilenkin said, "No." (Apparently I mistakenly attributed this to Vilenkin when AA meant it to be attributed to Stenger, though I'm not sure Stenger would ever agree with that statement either, as it's ridiculously naive and simply incorrect).

Dr. Vilenkin also informed me that he has not read Craig and Sinclair's piece in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and has had only limited correspondence with Dr. Craig.

1 Quoted in William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008) 127 (footnote 60)

2 Quoted in Craig, 126

3 Quoted in Craig, 127 (footnote 60)

4 Quoted in Craig, 127

5 William Lane Craig and James D. Sinclair, "The Kalam Cosmological Argument," in William Lane Craig and JP Moreland, eds., Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2009) 157 (emphasis theirs)

6 Quoted in Craig, 135

7 Ibid.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Infallibility Without Inerrancy?

Since Dr. Roger Olson recently posted his views on the doctrine of inerrancy, myself and a few other bloggers have been discussing it at Arminian Today.

One thing that really hasn't come up in that discussion is can you even consider something infallible if it contains errors? Now, when speaking of inerrancy, one isn't speaking of things like rounding numbers or possible spelling errors, one is speaking of what the text is teaching, asserting, and affirming. I could accept that the original documents of scripture could contain spelling errors and still be inerrant. What cannot be in error is what the scripture affirms as the truth. But when many give up the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible, they want to continue affirming that it is infallible; that it won't lead you astray.

Assuming that inerrancy is how I've defined it here, and not some strict wooden literalism, if you do give up that doctrine, how do you maintain the doctrine of infallibility? If the Bible contains errors in what it asserts to be the truth, does that not de facto lead one astray? Even if it's on something minor, like what King Saul said to David at some point, does that not lead you astray on what happened at that point? How could you maintain infallibility without inerrancy?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Refuting the Refutation: Part 3 - The Kalam Cosmological Argument

On to one of my favorite arguments in Natural Theology.

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

The Kalam cosmological argument is a deductive argument which has premises that are more plausible than their negations. AA begins this section by boldly asserting,
As I will prove below, his premises are not true. I also must point out how slyly he sets up the argument. After he argues for his conclusion (that the universe has a cause) he wants to convince the reader that the cause must have the attributes of his christian god. How convenient. As I'll show later, even if the universe did have a cause there are plausible naturalistic scenarios that explain how it may have happened.
 He's going to prove the KCA's premises aren't true? That's a pretty bold statement. He also calls into question reasoning to the conclusion of a Christian deity using the KCA. But, as Craig has said (quoted in Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator in this case; he's said it in multiple places), "the kalam argument can't prove everything about the Creator."1 This is why classical apologists construct a comprehensive case. The kalam argument shows the existence of a monotheistic God, which does narrow the argument down to three religions, but it does not argue completely for the Christian God, and nobody has ever claimed that it does. Finally, as it pertains to the naturalistic scenarios, we'll see that there actually aren't any plausible ones.

On Premise 1 - Everything that begins to exist has a cause

AA writes:
Craig attempts to justify his first premise:
Premise 1 seems obviously true—at the least, more so than its negation. 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. 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. Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes.
Craig argued, "Third, premise 1 is constantly confirmed in our experience as we see things that begin to exist being brought about by prior causes."
As I noted in Craig's first argument, despite what we think happens is not always accurate. As I said, ideas must be tested, and things can seem to happen without cause.
AA ignores the first two points about premise one, and chooses to assert something about the third. But go back to the first two points. (1)Why should we ever seek to reject the notion that nothing comes from nothing? When we experience anything in our lives, we never would conclude that it popped into being uncaused out of nothing! As I said in my last post, can you imagine what that kind of thinking would do to science? (2)Also, consider the second point. If we are to reject the intuition that everything that begins to exist has a cause, then it is inexplicable why just anything and everything doesn't simply pop into existence uncaused out of nothing. Craig often uses the example of a horse suddenly appearing in one's living room and defiling the carpet. The reason we leave our houses not worrying about these kinds of things is because we know things don't pop into existence out of nothing.

Premise 2 - The Universe Began to Exist

In response to Craig's argument from the scientific evidence of the big bang, AA writes, "Again, as I've said already, just because Craig can't imagine an infinite universe doesn't mean it's impossible. Simply arguing that it's impossible without any proof is no argument." This is an example of the flippant dismissive rhetoric that AA uses. After citing a long step-by-step presentation of some of the reasoning in support of the second premise, he says that Craig is simply saying that an infinite universe is unimaginable. That is ridiculous and dishonest. Craig gives both scientific and philosophical arguments to support the second premise. The former uses the vast scientific support for the big-bang theory while refuting those who try to craft infinite universe models, and the latter uses arguments that show an infinite number of events is a logically incoherent idea (The Impossibility of an Actually Infinite Number of Things and The Impossibility of Forming an Actually Infinite Collection of Things by Successive Addition).

AA continues, "Second, Craig quotes Alexander Vilenkin from his 2006 book Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes and argues that because the universe cannot allegedly be past-eternal it implies a god, however, Vilenkin himself denies this interpretation just a few paragraphs after the statement quoted by Craig." The fact that Vilenkin doesn't agree with Craig's conclusions about the implications of his own theorem does nothing to take away from the fact that those implications exist. Vilenkin, I believe, has attempted to construct other cosmological models, the quantum fluctuation model for instance, which itself fails to refute Craig's second premise and has been shown to be an implausible model (as explained by Craig and Sinclair here).2

The Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin theorem shows that if a universe is expanding, it cannot be infinite in the past, but requires a past space time boundary. This precludes many of the models developed in the 80's to explain away the seeming singularity of the big bang model from being past infinite, including many inflationary models.3 Victor Stenger, who AA quoted in his post, presented the Hartle-Hawking model in his most recent debate with William Lane Craig a few months ago. Among other problems, Hawking admits that this model can be interpreted to have come into being out of nothing.4

AA then mentions a correspondence he had with Vilenkin, who seemed to dance around the implications of his theorem, saying,
[I]f someone asks me whether or not the theorem I proved with Borde and Guth implies that the universe had a beginning, I would say that the short answer is "yes". If you are willing to get into subtleties, then the answer is "No, but..." So, there are ways to get around having a beginning, but then you are forced to have something nearly as special as a beginning.
As ambiguous as this statement is, Vilenkin seems to be saying that there are people who are continually working on models to try to "fix" the past boundary of space time that the discovery of the expanding universe has implied. Sounds a tad like cosmology of the gaps, but I digress. The fact remains that with each new model that is offered up till now, it has failed in some respect to show an infinite past to our universe. The big bang model on the other hand has withstood the test of time and still remains the standard model used by many contemporary cosmologists.

AA then moves on to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. He starts his "rebuttal" by saying Craig ignores the first law. This is simply a red herring. Even if Craig is being inconsistent, it still doesn't follow that the second law doesn't apply. But, I think Craig could easily reconcile the first law with creation ex nihilo by pointing out that these laws apply to the physical universe once brought into being by an omnipotent Creator. AA quotes some more of his conversation with Vilenkin, where Vilenkin promotes his view of how the so called "false vacuum" could provide a way out of this. This, I think, seems to be the "baby universe" hypothesis. Craig writes about this theory,
Is there some other plausible way of holding onto the eternality of the past in the face of the universe's disequilibrium state? Speculations have been floated in eschatological discussions about our universe begetting future "baby universes." It has been conjectured that black holes may be portals of wormholes through which bubbles of false vacuum energy can tunnel to spawn new expanding baby universes. . .The conjecture would require that information locked up in a black hole could be utterly lost forever by escaping into another universe. One of the last holdouts, [Stephen] Hawking finally came to agree that quantum theory requires that information is preserved in black hole formation and evaporation. The implications? [Hawking says,] "There is no baby universe branching off, as I once thought. The information remains firmly in our universe."5
Craig also addresses Vilenkin's false vacuum theory on his website, in case what I have quoted fails to completely lay out the case.

I would encourage Dr. Vilenkin to read through Craig and Sinclair's comprehensive study of the failures of alternate cosmological models to lead to a universe that has existed for an infinite amount of time. I would think he would find little to quibble with. AA's contention that Craig is wrong because the scientist he cites disagrees with his conclusion is first of all a non-sequitur (as it could be Vilenkin simply hasn't realized the implications of his own theorem) and second of all incorrect because Craig has cited other sources that show that Vilenkin's way out is a dead end. Craig and Sinclair present a chart that summarizes the general main models and why they rule out a beginningless universe here.

All of this, however, is based off of very speculative evidences and theories that are constantly in flux. Who knows if cosmologists will ever stop formulating newer models to explain the origin of the universe? But based on the philosophical arguments against the actual existence of infinites, I don't think there will ever be a successful model that will emerge that shows the universe is infinite in the past. If there is, it should be rejected since an infinite number of past events is simply logically impossible. Until all of these considerations in this section are completely overturned, premise 2 is far more plausible than its negation.

Conclusion - The Universe has a Cause

If these two premises are true (and it seems to me, based on this research, that they are far more plausible than their negations) then it follows that the universe has a cause. The cause must itself be uncaused, since positing a cause of this cause, by Ockham's Razor, is unnecessary. Since this cause must logically precede the universe, it cannot be material, because it brought all space and time and matter into existence. It would also have to be personal, since the only immaterial thing that is able to cause something would be a mind, as abstract objects, such as numbers, are causally effete. A personal agent, however, is not causally effete, but can be causally active. This personal being must be extremely powerful, because it brings all space and time into being. It must also be changeless and timeless. But all of these properties start to sound an awful lot like the God of monotheism, which would show that atheism is false.

1 Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004) 109. emphasis his

2 William Lane Craig and JP Moreland, eds., Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology(Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2009) 183

3 Ibid. 141-142

4 Ibid. 178

5 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008) 145-146 (see the links Craig footnotes here and here)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Refuting the Refutation: Part 2 - The Cosmological Argument from Contingency

The Arizona Atheist starts "refuting" Craig's formulations of several theistic arguments at the argument from contingency. AA uses the form that Craig has posted on his Question #26 on his website, reasonablefaith.org.
1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4).
On Premise 1: the Principle of Sufficient Reason

AA starts by going after premise 1, which is pretty much just the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). He says,
According to modern physics, however things can seemingly happen without cause. There are several things we observe that appear to have no cause. For example, "[w]hen an atom in an excited energy level drops to a lower level and emits a photon, a particle of light, we find no cause of that event. Similarly, no cause is evident in the decay of a radioactive nucleus."
Actually, according to modern physics, there may (emphasis on MAY, see my comment here) be some indeterministic events at the quantum level, but there is certainly an explanation for why those events can happen, namely because the necessary framework needed for the events already exists. In this example (taken from retired cosmologist, Victor Stenger) the atom exists to emit a particle of light. But let's examine the example further. Stenger says that when an atom that is in an excited state drops to a lower level, it emits a photon, and that is an example of a causeless event. Um, really? Seems to me that the cause of the atom emitting a photon is the drop to a lower energy level. We may not know exactly why it happens, but it seems to me in just examining the quote that we don't have an uncaused event.

But even if there are events that seemingly are inexplicable, should we then jettison the PSR? I don't think so. In fact, this seems to amount to nothing but an appeal to ignorance. We don't know the cause, therefore there isn't one. I think, based on our common experience and the strong intuition we have that all things have a sufficient reason for their existing, we should reject the conclusion that there are uncaused events. Can you imagine if scientists started settling for this answer, as the Arizona Atheist has, and saying, "well at first glance we can't figure out the cause, therefore there most likely isn't one"? That would destroy all avenues of science. Just think of the ramifications in criminal forensics!

Not to mention that the scientific data really doesn't support his claim. Another example that has been cited by some atheists is radioactive decay. But, as a friend pointed out, we see that the environment affects how these isotopes decay, suggesting that there is a correlation in nature, which would suggest a cause.

Also consider that if the PSR weren't the case, then it is inexplicable why just anything and everything doesn't simply exist for no reason, or why events don't simply happen uncaused. We always always always look for causes in association with events and existing things.

Premise 1 is also much more plausible than it's negation, which is another property of a strong premise. Consider Richard Taylor's story of finding a translucent ball in the forest. It is ridiculous to state that the translucent ball just exists there without a reason, and increasing the size of the ball up to the size of the universe wouldn't allay the need for an explanation of its existence.1

Attacking Logic

AA then goes after Craig's statement on the logical validity of this argument. It is true that this argument is logically airtight. It is a deductive argument by which the conclusion follows necessarily if the premises are true. AA says, "logic by itself [and by extension, philosophy] while extremely helpful and right much of the time, can sometimes get you into trouble." Well yeah, and that's why Craig explains what constitutes a good or bad argument. If AA wants to discredit Craig's arguments, he either needs to point out a logically fallacious step in the argument (which none of Craig's arguments have) or dispute one or more of the premises. Simply saying that SCIENCE® defeats logic is ridiculous. Logic is at the base of almost every, if not every, discipline, including science. Science relies on, and wouldn't exist without, the rules of inference and deduction that logic presents us with. Empirical data is useless unless there is some means of interpreting it, which means logic must exist for science to exist. That also means that science must agree with logic if the conclusions are true.

Some of AA's fellow atheists apparently attempted to tell him this, by which he responded, "The fact that something is philosophically valid or "logical" doesn't make it true." Well yeah, nobody would argue with that. Recall that Craig said that the premises in a sound argument must be true.

AA continues, "Craig goes on to discuss his other premises, but given the fact that either they require no comment or they hinge upon the first premise, I don't think I need to go through the others. I've taken the very legs of this argument out from under Craig." AA is correct that the PSR is a necessary premise for this argument (which is the definition of a deductive argument, making the statement a little redundant, but I digress). But if he's correct, then AA has just postulated that the universe doesn't need an explanation for its existence. But AA's beloved SCIENCE® goes against that assertion, as does common intuition, but we'll flush that out in the next post on the Kalaam Cosmological Argument.

1 Richard Taylor, The Cosmological Argument: A Defense, http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/readings/taylor.html

Monday, August 16, 2010

Refuting the Refutation: Part 1 - On What is a Good Argument

Part of the Arizona Atheist's challenge was to address his arguments against God. Well, in searching through his blog, I actually didn't see many. I did see attempted refutations, specifically of William Lane Craig. As I have noted to AA, refutations of an opponent's arguments are not positive arguments for your own position. An opponent's arguments could all fail, and your opponent's position could still be correct. To show that they are wrong, one needs to provide arguments for one's own position. As of now, I don't see any positive argument's for his position. I will, however, deal with his attempted refutation of Craig's arguments. I have personally studied Craig's arguments quite extensively and think I have a pretty good handle on them.

AA first addresses Craig's (and most other philosopher's) criteria for a good argument. He quotes Craig as saying,
[L]et’s get clear what makes for a 'good' argument. An argument is a series of statements (called premises) leading to a conclusion. A sound argument must meet two conditions: (1) it is logically valid (i.e., its conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic), and (2) its premises are true. If an argument is sound, then the truth of the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. But to be a good argument, it’s not enough that an argument be sound. We also need to have some reason to think that the premises are true. A logically valid argument that has, wholly unbeknownst to us, true premises isn’t a good argument for the conclusion. The premises have to have some degree of justification or warrant for us in order for a sound argument to be a good one. But how much warrant? The premises surely don’t need to be known to be true with certainty (we know almost nothing to be true with certainty!). Perhaps we should say that for an argument to be a good one the premises need to be probably true in light of the evidence.
AA's response to this is, "this is precisely part of Craig's problem. As I argued in my post Against the Gods, just because an argument is valid philosophically, and follows from it's premises, does not make it true. As even Craig says, the premise must have some solid evidence for it, and it naturally follows that if it doesn't, it should be discarded." How is there a problem for Craig when he acknowledges what AA says is a problem precisely in the quote that is being used to criticize the position?

From my familiarity with Craig's work, he is not so naive to think that a simply valid logical argument means that the position is true. He states the criteria in this very quote. An argument is sound if, "(1) it is logically valid (i.e., its conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic), and (2) its premises are true. If an argument is sound, then the truth of the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises." Craig also has a recent post dealing with what makes a good argument here.

Please note: William Lane Craig is a professional philosopher. What constitutes a good argument is entry level philosophy. I think it's a little funny that we have a blogger critiquing a professional philosopher's definition of a good argument. AA may disagree with Craig's arguments, but Craig thinks they are sound; the premises are more plausible than their negations and the conclusions do follow logically. To refute them, AA must either show that they are logically invalid (ie break the rules of logic making them fallacious) or that at least one of the premises are false.

We'll see that he attempts this, and will critique his attempts and see how successful they are.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Unfortunately, I am not a bird, nor am I early that often. I've been fairly busy as of late, so several posts I've been thinking of have taken to the back burner.I'll get to them when I can.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Couple of Arguments Against Immaterialism

A couple of deductive arguments I came up with to interact with immaterialism.

  1. Unless we have great defeaters for a common sense view, we should hold that view.
  2. We do not have any great defeaters for the belief in the material world, which is the common sense view.
  3. Therefore, we should hold the view that there is a material world.

  1. God is perfect and would not create us so that we are deceived at the most basic level about the nature of the world.
  2. If immaterialism is true, then we are deceived at our most basic level about the nature of the world.
  3. God created us.
  4. Therefore, we are not deceived about the nature of the world.
  5. Therefore, immaterialism is not true.

**Update with a third argument**

  1. If the Bible asserts something, then it is true.
  2. Paul, in the Bible, asserts a distinction between the material world and the immaterial world (Romans 15:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; and any time the body and the soul are distinguished).
  3. Therefore, there is a distinct material world and a distinct immaterial world. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Samuel Johnson Refutes Bishop Berkley's Idealism

"After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- 'I refute it thus.'"


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marriage For ALL!!! NOW!!!

Since the definition of marriage is now fluid, I think that it's high time people's "right" to get married is no longer squelched on any level. By golly, we ought to have schizophrenic marriage! If one person's multiple personalities loooove each other, then they should also be able to marry! The Japanese can marry their pillows! Pillow lovers should no longer be denied their rights. Why are those nasty religious fanatics so bent on keeping lonely men from marrying their video game characters?

I think other thing's rights should be expanded as well. I demand that married bachelorism be legal!!!!!!


William Lane Craig gives some great thoughts here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Topping Off the Conversation With Godlessons

Godlessons, in response to the modal argument for dualism, has strangely tried to refute it by claiming that it relies on modal axiom S5, which he claims always begs the question. I assume that this cropped up in his head due to his scant time spent "refuting" the ontological argument, some forms which do use axiom S5. But the modal argument for mind body dualism does not use that axiom. That axiom speaks of necessarily possible things. The modal argument for dualism does not, as seen here:

The modal argument for dualism is really strong.

1) Definition of identical: If x=y, then whatever is true of x is true of y and vice versa.
2) Possibly, my mind can exist without my body.
3) Therefore, my mind is not identical to my body.

The mind possesses the property of possibly existing without the body. Since the body lacks that property (since the body can't exist without the body) the mind can't be identical to the body, because it possesses the property that the body cannot posses. Therefore, the mind isn't identical to the body.
What the modal argument does rest on is the definition of what constitutes identity. I don't know anyone who would disagree with that definition of identity. Nor am I aware of anyone even remotely studied in logic who would say that axiom S5 isn't valid, but since it's not even in question here, it's irrelevant.

Not to mention the batch of questions and issues he has yet to respond to. Plus he hasn't presented any evidence to support his position, which I asked for. Plus he conveniently dropped his silly claim that, "All of this shows first that you don't understand modal logic and classical logic are not compatible," which is an odd claim, seeing as modal logic is simply an extension of classical logic.Then he, without saying how, accuses me of making a category mistake.

Yet I have addressed every single thing he mentioned. These are the signs of one who has clearly lost the argument, and in desperation is trying to save face by using emotive rhetoric.  Let the reader decide.