Sunday, December 26, 2010

RF & AA: The Ontological Argument

The Ontological argument is one of the most interesting arguments for God’s existence. In Reasonable Faith William Lane Craig supports Plantinga’s formulation of the argument. The Ontological argument tries to show that God exists necessarily by definition, so not only does he exist but one would contradict themselves by saying God does not exist.
It is rather important to understand the logic of possible worlds as Plantinga’s employs them. Possible worlds as I understand them are logical possibilities—not only that they contain every logical proposition or their negation.  Craig somewhat helpfully explains them somewhat like this: A possible world is a conjunction which compromises every proposition or their negation. So we have propositions p,q,r,s…. These propositions are simply statements that refer to logical possibilities so you could fill them with any logical possibility you can imagine. Now the set of possible worlds would contain every proposition or their negation so in the case of our set they would look something like this:
Possible World1:p,q,r,s…
Possible World2:p,-q,r,s…
Possible World3:p,q,-r,s…
Possible World4:p,q,r,-s…
Hopefully I have explained possible worlds in a somewhat understandable fashion. Now according to S5 logic if it is possible that God exists in some possible worlds he must exist in all of them, including the actual world (the one we inhabit). Because if God exists only in some possible worlds then he is contingent, that is he could or could not exist in a possible world. But since God is necessary he in not contingent and therefore he must exist in every possible world. Perhaps you can already see one of the glaring problems with this argument, it appears to be begging the question. Anyway leaving that aside. Plantinga describes God as a maximally great being, one which has all the great making properties (omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection). Here is the formal version of it:
1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists
            6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

Now Le Poideving in Arguing for Atheism builds a similar argument but with a different conclusion:
1. It is possible that a maximally great being does not exist.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being does not exist, then a maximally great being does not exist in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being does not exist in some possible world, then it does not exist in the actual world.
4. If a maximally great being does not exist in the actual world, then a maximally great being does not exist in the actual world.
5. Therefore, a maximally great being does not exist.
Or at least he says something vaguely along these lines. Because of this simple turn of events it would appear that the Ontological argument is not the greatest argument for God’s existence. There is still much to say on this argument but I will leave you on this happy note.
Craig, William L. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL:      Crossway Books, 2088. N. pag. 1 vols. Print.
Le Poidevin, Robin. Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction   to the Philosophy of Religion. London: Routledge, 1996. N. pag. Print.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

RF vs AA: The Moral Argument

 William Lane Craig says that he finds the moral argument the most successful when it comes to convincing other people that God exists (194), which is one of his favorite hobbies. Le Poidevin however does not find it that convincing as one would suspect. The argument from the objectivity of morality for God’s existence goes as follows:

1. If God does not exist objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

As you can see it is an apparently simple argument, in order for it to succeed the theist must show that objective moral do exist, that they can exist with God, and that they cannot exist given atheism. I certainly could see as very psychologically convincing, if a person strongly thought that there was objective moral values and was convinced that those could not exist without God they would probably feel quite anguished. I am inclined to think that moral values exist and least that they probably exist—I do however need to think quite a bit more about morality and its implications. I do see a difficulty with many atheistic moral systems in that they are not very motivational or at least they don’t appear to have as much motivation as theism. This could actually be a good thing. Anyway Le Poidevin has 3 main critiques; if God is the basis of moral values: how do we become aware of moral values, why do moral facts supervene on natural facts, and how can the there exist a plurality of moral systems? He supports a rather subjectivist view of morality: “acts with certain natural properties tend to cause in us feelings of revulsion which, in turn, lead us to describe those acts as wrong” (Le Poidevin 86). I suppose this description of morality could be objective at least in a narrow sense since certain actions could always cause feelings of revulsion, but it would seem that most of this revulsion is the product of social conditioning. At any rate this description of morality fits with the 2nd criticism of this argument that moral facts supervene on natural facts. If this was this case this would mean that explaining the existence of moral facts with God would be superfluous. Le Poidevin uses this analogy; whenever we look at an object we see color, now this color supervenes upon the surface structure. For example when we look at two objects with similar surface structures (meaning the atoms are arranged in similar way) light reflects of both surfaces giving us similar colors. Likewise if two objects have very different structures they will be very different colors. In this way when a person does something wrong it is because it causes a feeling of pain or revulsion and this feeling leads us to describe that act as wrong. It is clear that God plays no role in this account of moral value. In response to this Craig questions the explanatory value of this account. It is not clear given atheism why moral facts would supervene on natural facts. This seems like a shift in the first premise to “if God does not exist objective moral values it is not clear why moral values exist.” Unfortunately Craig does not quite explain why theism has a much greater explanatory value then atheism. I do wish he did. I think that will conclude my blog post and I will come back to this topic at a later date. I still need to talk about the Euthyphro dilemma and atheistic accounts of moral value.
Craig, William L. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL:      Crossway Books, 2088. N. pag. 1 vols. Print.
Le Poidevin, Robin. Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction   to the Philosophy of Religion. London: Routledge, 1996. N. pag. Print.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

RF VS AA: the Fine-Tuning Argument

William Lane Craig sketches out another reason for God’s existence called the Fine Tuning Argument. It utilizes all those wonderful laws and constants of the universe and points out that if their values had been an inch or so different there would be no life; so therefore the universe would appear to be fine-tuned for life. It goes as follows:           
1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
            2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance.        
            3) Therefore, it is due to design. (Craig 161)
It is fairly obvious that the soundness of this argument relies on the 2nd premise. It is similar to Moreland’s design argument based on possibility probability, only a little bit more expansive and refined. Craig first casts out the two options of physical necessity and chance and then settles on design.

Physical Necessity (the values and constants must be the value that they are): Craig explains that this seems rather plausible and I rather agree with him. It does not seem like there are any reasons to except this, though the multiverse hypothesis may provide something like this. However I can’t really see any good reasons to believe that multiverses exist either, though if some good evidence or reasons could be given in order to show that they do it may solve the problem. Actually their existence may be more than or at least equally as plausible as a God’s—perhaps I will pursue that further later.

Chance: To show that chance is an implausible hypothesis Craig uses an illustration from John Barrow:
Take a sheet of paper and place upon it a red dot. That dot represents our universe. Now alter slightly one or more of the finely tuned constants and physical quantities… As a result we have description of another universe, which we may represent as a new dot in the proximity of the first. If that new set of constants and quantities describes a life-permitting universe, make it a red dot; if it describes a universe which is life-prohibiting, make it a blue dot. Now repeat the procedure arbitrarily many times until the sheet is filled with dots. What one winds up with is a sea of blue with only a few pin-points of red. (Craig 164)
One objection to this is similar to the objection to the possible design argument laid out by Moreland; and that is that there is no reason to assume that possible reasons are equally probable and that we do not know the values that any given constant can take. In response to this Craig asserts that “in the absence of any physical reason to think that the values are constrained, we are justified in assuming a principle of indifference.” (pg 164) But this gives us infinitely many universes; if each value is equipossible we are left with infinitely many possible values. This will be a very large sheet. It seems like this would be a nice stopping point for Le Poidevin’s criticisms. What Le Poidevin says is very simple: the notion of chance is being applied to a concept in which we cannot possible apply it. This is related to the criticism above. Because the beginning of the universe was such an oddity in time it would not really make sense to say that any constant had a probability of obtaining. For example if one flips a coin we have a ½ chance that the coin will land heads, but if one flips a universe how could we possible tell what the chances are of it being life-permitting. Just like Craig one could conclude something along these lines and arrive at the opposite conclusion: in the absence of any physical reason to think that the values could be otherwise, I am justified in assuming that the fine-tuning is due to physical necessity. In response the defender of this argument may point out amongst other things that is very conceivable that the antimatter could be proportioned differently to the primordial matter or that the big bang could have expanded at a faster rate then it did. But at the same time it is very plausible that the antimatter and primordial matter had a very very constrained value pool to choose from and that there is really no surprise that they achieved the proportion that they did. Again in response the defender could reply that there are many instances of Fine-Tuning and that still leaves the expansion rate of the big bang unexplained as well as the values of gravitation force ect, and could ask what are the chances of all of these things having a constrained value set to choose from? And in response the atheist appears to be justified in saying who knows! It would seem as though we don’t have the ability to explain the fine-tuning of the universe.

Craig, William L. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL:      Crossway Books, 2088. N. pag. 1 vols. Print.
Le Poidevin, Robin. Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction   to the Philosophy of Religion. London: Routledge, 1996. N. pag. Print.

SSC: some probability and the Design Argument

J. P. Moreland sketches out three probabilistic arguments from design. They are all based on three different conceptions of probability; possibility, frequency, and evidential.

Possibility (the classical way of viewing probability; if any event can occur in y amount of different possible ways the probability of x is x/y. For example if one were to flip a coin or throw it at your dog the probability of it landing on heads is 1/2): Moreland points to two examples for the theist to deploy this concept into an argument: the values of cosmic singularities or in the development of life. When talking about cosmic singularities and the like we mean that certain values seem to be necessary for life or for the big bang to occur the way it did. Now if these values (like the expansion rate of the big bang) could have been different there is a possibility probability (we could say for example that the chances of any value x obtaining are x/y). But can we set up a possibility probability for cosmological constants and singularities? No we can't. This is because we do not know the value any constant can take; in the x/y probability we do not know the y. Because of this when we say that the value of the expansion rate of the big bang could have been otherwise we are setting up a probability as follows: x/? and this is obviously not a very promising probability for anything. For all we know the possibility’s that the x could have obtained could be 1/1 or 1/infinite. However when we are talking about the chances of life developing this could be a much more promising argument, though unfortunately he does not write to much about this.

Frequency (a statistical view, to say that x is probable is to say that x occurred y amount of times and since y is a high number it would be reasonable to assume that x will occur again. For example if I flip a coin 65 times and it lands heads each time it would be reasonable to assume that it will land heads again on the 66th time): Moreland notes that this view is not very useful for the design argument however it may be able to strengthen the possibility view. For example he mentions experiments which display random results of the formations of protein. This would lead one to assume that the formation of protein occurred out of chance.

Evidential (this view asks to what extent does the evidence lead one to think that the chances of x occurring are reasonable or not so?): One could use this view to argue for God's existence based on the fact that y is more probable given God's existence then given atheism. This seems rather speculative but there certainly could be evidential arguments made for both atheism and theism. For example one could say life is more probable given theism or on the flipside evolution is more probable given atheism. Again it seems rather dubious how one could figure out how any event would be more probable given atheism or theism, but it would be interesting if one were to make a chart or something of all the things that may or may not be reasonable to expect given atheism or theism and how these things provide evidence for either position.
Moreland, J P. Scaling the Secular City. Grand Rapids,MO: Baker Books, 1987. N. pag. Print. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

SSC vs AA: the Design Argument from Analogy

Interestingly J. P. Moreland makes use of the Design Argument from Analogy in Scaling the Secular City. It seems as though this is an argument that very few people (including theists) think works, but it is still very common in non-academic circles. He states the argument somewhat as follows:
1. The world resembles human artifacts in that it: contains order and is a movement toward and end
            2. Human artifacts are designed by a mind
            3. Therefore the world is designed by a mind as well.
The reason that this argument is rarely taken seriously these days is because of Darwin and his theory of natural selection (Though Hume launched some scathing critiques as well, I will probably discuss these at some further point in this my cblog). Evolution is an adequate natural account of why things exhibit some form of order and what function limbs and whatnot play. Le Poidevin says “Although we can, at one level, talk of the purpose of the eye—to provide information about the immediate environment—the facts underlying this talk are not themselves purposive” (pg 46).
Moreland highlights three responses to Evolution and its effect on the argument:
M   Evolution only accounts for the existence of ordered biological systems, not for the existence of beauty or natural laws
·         But an argument from design involving beauty or natural laws would change the argument significantly, so it is curious as to why he would use this as a defense.
§         Some theists have “accepted and used evolution as examples of design” (pg 70).
·         However it seems as though this is solved by Occam’s Razor. If evolution allows any organism to adapt in order to survive on their own, one does not need to say that a mind allows organisms to adapt to survive on their own. The hypothesis of a mind would be superfluous in this case. It would also be difficult to reconcile the movement of evolution; species adapt to their environment in order to survive and reproduce; with a much friendly cosmic purpose view of theism without being circular,
§         Finally one could question the validity of Evolution of a theory.
·         But this would be rather dubious, to say the least.

In conclusion this argument is not very strong, and has even being adapted into theological arguments by Martin and Salmon. So in order to make a stronger argument from design one will have to focus on the existence of the laws of nature rather then the results of those laws.
Le Poidevin, Robin. Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of   
Religion. London: Routledge, 1996. N. pag. Print.
Moreland, J P. Scaling the Secular City. Grand Rapids,MO: Baker Books, 1987. N. pag. Print.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

RF vs AA on the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument is discussed in a rather quick manner by Craig in Reasonable Faith, and a version of it is criticized in Le Poidevin’s Arguing for Atheism. It is stated as follows in Reasonable Faith:

1) Anything 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 existence of the universe is God. (from 2,4)(Craig 106)

P1 is a “modest version” of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). Le Poidevin attacks this at several points in his book. He mentions that perhaps the atheist could maintain that the universe is a contingent fact which needs no cause because causality is a spatiotemporal concept. This seems quite plausible—and curiously Craig does not discuss this objection even while defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I see this as quite a damaging objection as it stands since it could be said that since the universe cannot be said to have a cause that it will not have an explanation of its existence. Two other objections to PSR are; necessary facts cannot explain contingent ones and that invoking God as a causal explanation is problematic. Necessary facts cannot explain contingent ones because causes change environments, because of a cause something occurs that would not otherwise occur. However if the cause is necessary then it must obtain, therefore it does not properly explain anything, since as the cause had to occur so did the effect. However Le Poidevin seems to make this inference that necessary facts cannot explain “the whole” to “necessary facts then cannot explain contingent ones”(pg 40). I am not sure if that is completely sound, however if one defines causal explanation as making sense of facts that could have not been the case. The other objection concerns God as an explanation; now the only way God could cause something to be would be by a held intention. But intentions are not necessary they are contingent (an intention could have not obtained, it does not have to be)! And if intentions are contingent then they have an explanation outside of themselves and this it appears would lead to an infinite regress. As the Le Poidevin mentions the atheist may ask “why did the creator have such intentions? If the theist insists that this is one contingent fact that we cannot explain further, then the original motivation for explaining the existence of the universe is underminded.” In response the theist could say that it is necessary for God to have intentions and it just so happened that God decided to create a universe. This seems tenable, though there would still be no explanation as to why the intention of creation obtained and therefore there would not be a good explanation as to why there is something instead of nothing. Then perhaps the theist could deny the contingency of intentions, intentions for God could be a necessary consequence of his nature. This seems however to be very counter-intuitive and would deny libertarian freedom for God. It would seem then that there are two good objections to PSR, that the universe is a contingent fact that cannot be explained further and then that a personal explanation does not do for this argument.

P2 is rather straight forward, and I think Le Poidevin would accept it. However atheists like Quentin Smith would disagree and argue that P2 is completely false. (I will probably post more on his arguments later)

P3 is quite nice!

Another line one could take against this argument is that the universe exists necessarily. This is a common objection—though Le Poidevin denies it. Because of this I will not ponder on that objections for too long, only comment on how William Lane Craig denies it. Craig appears to believe that since it is quite conceivable that not the entire universe is necessary it must be contingent. This appears to be rather odd (at this point the discussion could return to intentionality and its contingency) since it is conceivable that God has different properties then he does(Omnimalevolence, impotence, or amorality to name a few), it does not follow that his existence could not be necessary. In the same way because the universe could have had different properties it does not follow that it in itself could not exist necessarily.

In conclusion then it appears that it is at least equally tenable that the existence of the universe is a contingent fact, compared with the contention that God is the reason for its existence. There are also some problems with God’s intentionality which might be worth exploring. Perhaps since it can be said that causality is a spatiotemporal notion it may be more plausible to deny then to accept PSR.

Craig, William L. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL:      Crossway Books, 2088. N. pag. 1 vols. Print.
Le Poidevin, Robin. Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction   to the Philosophy of Religion. London: Routledge, 1996. N. pag. Print.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reasonable Faith and Scaling the Secular City v.s Arguing for Atheism Series Intro

I plan to do a rather short series of posts on the arguments made in Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland’s Scaling the Secular City and Arguing for Atheism by Robin Le Poidevin for God's existence. All of these are pretty high quality books, I would recommend them to anyone interested in the philosophy of religion. (I would probably rate Reasonable Faith a little bit higher then Scaling as far as apologetics go just because it is more recent, makes a better cumulative argument, and is less dry.) I will focus on the arguments for God's existence put forward in all these books and not the case made for the Resurrection of Jesus and the Historical Reliability of the Gospels because I have not yet read those sections in Reasonable Faith or Scaling and because Arguing for Atheism has nothing of the sort to compare. I will summarize the main arguments of the books and see which position, theism or atheism, is more tenable as they are argued.

Craig’s Reasonable Faith is basically a textbook on modern Christian apologetics and probably one of the best ones out there for that sort of thing. Although he does believe that he knows that “Christianity is true primarily by the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit” (pg 58) he does strive to strongly show that this is true. In order to do this he uses several traditional arguments for God’s existence:
-The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
-The Kalam Cosmologogical Argument (He spends the most time defending this one since he is the one who essentially single-handily revived it)
-The Fine-Tuning Argument
-The Moral Argument
            -The Ontological Argument (Plantiga’s version)
Although it is not entirely clear that all these arguments really show the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient personal creator we may be able to infer that they do. At I assume that these arguments, if they work would prove the existence of such a being and not argue that they do not. (This is one thing that Walter Sinnot Armstrong tries to show in his debate with Craig in their book God?)
Moreland’s book makes a similar case. He utilizes these following arguments for God’s existence:
-The Kalam Cosmological Argument (he is heavily indebted to Craig for this section)
                        -Nearly every Design Argument conceivable in a very short space
-An argument based on meaning; perhaps we could call it a Pascalesque -Wager on the meaning of life
-Argument from the Mind (a combination of the argument from reason and the argument from consciousness)
In contrast Le Poidevin’s book is different because although it argues for atheism it is really an introduction to the philosophy of religion (particularity focusing on metaphysics). Because of this he doesn’t go in to the trouble of really formulating a cumulative case for atheism. However if one were to try summarizing his case it may be the following: that because none of the arguments for God’s existence are successful, one should be an atheist. The arguments for God’s existence which he endeavors to refute are as follows:
Meaning, death, and purpose are discussed as well. It is notable that Le Poidevin defines an atheist as “one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe” (pg i). As you can see merely denying the above arguments would lead you to be an agnostic not an atheist, so perhaps we could expand his case to: not only are the arguments for God’s existence failures but also God is not a good explanation. (Additionally Le Poidevin incorporates the argument from evil, but since neither Craig nor Moreland flirt with any atheistic arguments it would not be fair to include that in my comparison).

  1. (a) The universe cannot have come into existence from nothing: it must have had an ultimate cause  namely God.
  1. (b) The existence of God explains what would otherwise be entirely mysterious,      
namely, why the laws of nature are such as to have permitted the emergence of intelligent life.
  1. (c)Only by supposing the existence of a God can we make sense of the existence of objective moral values… (pg xxi)
I have already made a post on the Kalam Cosmological Argument which included many of Le Poidevin’s critiques so I will probably not deal with it again. Here is some of the posts I have made in this series as well as some that I have yet to complete:
                        Leibnizian Cosmological Argument                      
                        Design Arguments: Analogy, Probability, and Fine-Tuning
                       The Moral Argument
                       The Ontological Argument
                       AA on God as an explanation