Twenty Arguments for God – Fourteen – The Moral Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 14:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#14

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

14. The Moral Argument

Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.
Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religious” one.
But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation.
Therefore the “religious” view of reality is correct.
We need to be clear about what the first premise is claiming. It does not mean merely that we can find people around who claim to have certain duties. Nor does it mean that there have been many people who thought they were obliged to do certain things (like clothing the naked) and to avoid doing others (like committing adultery). The first premise is claiming something more: namely, that we human beings really are obligated; that our duties arise from the way things really are, and not simply from our desires or subjective dispositions. It is claiming, in other words, that moral values or obligations themselves—and not merely the belief in moral values—are objective facts.
Now given the fact of moral obligation, a question naturally arises. Does the picture of the world presented by atheism accord with this fact? The answer is no. Atheists never tire of telling us that we are the chance products of the motion of matter—a motion which is purposeless and blind to every human striving. We should take them at their word and ask: Given this picture, in what exactly is the moral good rooted? Moral obligation can hardly be rooted in a material motion blind to purpose.
Suppose we say it is rooted in nothing deeper than human willing and desire. In that case, we have no moral standard against which human desires can be judged. For every desire will spring from the same ultimate source—purposeless, pitiless matter. And what becomes of obligation? According to this view, if I say there is an obligation to feed the hungry, I would be stating a fact about my wants and desires and nothing else. I would be saying that I want the hungry to be fed, and that I choose to act on that desire. But this amounts to an admission that neither I nor anyone else is really obliged to feed the hungry—that, in fact, no one has any real obligations at all. Therefore the atheistic view of reality is not compatible with there being genuine moral obligation.
What view is compatible? One that sees real moral obligation as grounded in its Creator, that sees moral obligation as rooted in the fact that we have been created with a purpose and for an end. We may call this view, with deliberate generality, “the religious view.” But however general the view, reflection on the fact of moral obligation does seem to confirm it.
Question 1: The argument has not shown that ethical subjectivism is false. What if there are no objective values?
Reply: True enough. The argument assumes that there are objective values; it aims to show that believing in them is incompatible with one picture of the world, and quite compatible with another. Those two pictures are the atheistic-materialistic one, and the (broadly speaking) religious one. Granted, if ethical subjectivism is true, then the argument does not work. However, almost no one is a consistent subjectivist. (Many think they are, and say they are—until they suffer violence or injustice. In that case they invariably stand with the rest of us in recognizing that certain things ought never to be done.) And for the many who are not—and never will be—subjectivists, the argument can be most helpful. It can show them that to believe as they do in objective values is inconsistent with what they may also believe about the origin and destiny of the universe. If they move to correct the inconsistency, it will be a move toward the religious view and away from the atheistic one.
Question 2: This proof does not conclude to God but to some vague “religious” view. Isn’t this “religious” view compatible with very much more than traditional theism?
Reply: Yes indeed. It is compatible, for example, with Platonic idealism, and many other beliefs that orthodox Christians find terribly deficient. But this general religious view is incompatible with materialism, and with any view that banishes value from the ultimate objective nature of things. That is the important point. It seems most reasonable that moral conscience is the voice of God within the soul, because moral value exists only on the level of persons, minds and wills. And it is hard, if not impossible, to conceive of objective moral principles somehow floating around on their own, apart from any persons.
But we grant that there are many steps to travel from objective moral values to the Creator of the universe or the triune God of love. There is a vast intellectual distance between them. But these things are compatible in a way that materialism and belief in objective values are not. To reach a personal Creator you need other arguments (cf. arguments 1-6), and to reach the God of love you need revelation. By itself, the argument leaves many options open, and eliminates only some. But we are surely well rid of those it does eliminate.

The first line of the quoted piece reads

Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.

Isn’t it immoral to lie?

In the first four lines, this argument opens with an unsupported assertion, makes a false dichotomy, makes another unsupported assertion and then posits an unsafe conclusion. It’s a terrible way to start an argument!

The claim that it is an objective fact that we are obligated to be moral is a religious claim that can only be true if there is a god that has created us subservient to this ‘fact’. That god hasn’t been demonstrated and so the claim is suspect. To try and then use this claim as proof that that god exists is circular reasoning.

Humans behave according to their biases and their desires; this is an entirely subjective behaviour pattern. That the religious doubt it is because of their bias towards a controlling god and their desire for everyone else to fall in line. That is an entirely subjectively moral behaviour based on their peculiar biases and desires. Need further proof against objectivity? Go to any church and checklist the behaviours of the membership, do they all act in the same way in the same situations? No they don’t. Then there can’t be an objective standards ruling their behaviour, therefore their behaviour is subjectively driven.

In the reply to question 1 we see a rare bit of honesty, the argument does indeed assume objectivism and the argument does indeed fail if is false.

Therein lies the fatal flaw in this argument, from beginning to end the objective morality is assumed and used to argue for ‘religion’, yet at no point is there any reference to anything supporting objectivity. There is a half-hearted attempt at dissing subjectivity which ironically supports it.

almost no one is a consistent subjectivist.

That is the whole point of subjectivity! Consistency is neither implied nor expected, we act and behave according to our motivation at the time. By definition that means there will be inconsistency. That inconsistency is the evidential support for subjectivity. In claiming that morals are objective, the author has actually demonstrated exactly why morals are subjective. Subjective morality does not support the god hypothesis and this one on it’s own should be enough to declare the Christian god does not live, long live humanity!

Advertisements

Twenty Arguments for God – Thirteen – The Ontological Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 13:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#13

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

13. The Ontological Argument

The ontological argument was devised by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), who wanted to produce a single, simple demonstration which would show that God is and what God is. Single it may be, but far from simple. It is, perhaps, the most controversial proof for the existence of God. Most people who first hear it are tempted to dismiss it immediately as an interesting riddle, but distinguished thinkers of every age, including our own, have risen to defend it. For this very reason it is the most intensely philosophical proof for God’s existence; its place of honor is not within popular piety, but rather textbooks and professional journals. We include it, with a minimum of discussion, not because we think it conclusive or irrefutable, but for the sake of completeness.
Anselm’s Version
It is greater for a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone.
“God” means “that than which a greater cannot be thought.”
Suppose that God exists in the mind but not in reality.
Then a greater than God could be thought (namely, a being that has all the qualities our thought of God has plus real existence).
But this is impossible, for God is “that than which a greater cannot be thought.”
Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.
Question 1: Suppose I deny that God exists in the mind?
Reply: In that case the argument could not conclude that God exists in the mind and in reality. But note: the denial commits you to the view that there is no concept of God. And very few would wish to go that far.
Question 2: Is it really greater for something to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone?
Reply: The first premise of this argument is often misunderstood. People sometimes say: “Isn’t an imaginary disease better than a real one?” Well it certainly is better—and so a greater thing—for you that the disease is not real. But that strengthens Anselm’s side of the argument. Real bacteria are greater than imaginary ones, just because they have something that imaginary ones lack: real being. They have an independence, and therefore an ability to harm, that nothing can have whose existence is wholly dependent on your thought. It is this greater level of independence that makes them greater as beings. And that line of thinking does not seem elusive or farfetched.
Question 3: But is real being just another “thought” or “concept”? Is “real being” just one more concept or characteristic (like “omniscience” or “omnipotence”) that could make a difference to the kind of being God is?
Reply: Real being does make a real difference. The question is: Does it make a conceptual difference? Critics of the argument say that it does not. They say that just because real being makes all the difference it cannot be one more quality among others. Rather it is the condition of there being something there to have any qualities at all. When the proof says that God is the greatest being that can be “thought,” it means that there are various perfections or qualities that God has to a degree no creature possibly could, qualities that are supremely admirable. But to say that such a being exists is to say that there really is something which is supremely admirable. And that is not one more admirable quality among others.
Is it greater to exist in reality as well as in the mind? Of course, incomparably greater. But the difference is not a conceptual one. And yet the argument seems to treat it as if it were—as if the believer and the nonbeliever could not share the same concept of God. Clearly they do. They disagree not about the content of this concept, but about whether the kind of being it describes really exists. And that seems beyond the power of merely conceptual analysis, as used in this argument, to answer. So question 3, we think, really does invalidate this form of the ontological argument.
Modal Version
Charles Hartshorne and Norman Malcolm developed this version of the ontological argument. Both find it implicitly contained in the third chapter of Anselm’s Proslogion.
The expression “that being than which a greater cannot be thought” (GCB, for short) expresses a consistent concept.
GCB cannot be thought of as: a. necessarily nonexistent; or as b. contingently existing but only as c. necessarily existing.
So GCB can only be thought of as the kind of being that cannot not exist, that must exist.
But what must be so is so.
Therefore, GCB (i.e., God) exists.
Question: Just because GCB must be thought of as existing, does that mean that GCB really exists?
Reply: If you must think of something as existing, you cannot think of it as not existing. But then you cannot deny that GCB exists; for then you are thinking what you say cannot be thought—namely, that GCB does not exist.
Possible Worlds Version
This variation on the modal version has been worked out in great detail by Alvin Plantinga. We have done our best to simplify it.
Definitions:
Maximal excellence: To have omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection in some world.
Maximal greatness: To have maximal excellence in every possible world.
There is a possible world (W) in which there is a being (X) with maximal greatness.
But X is maximally great only if X has maximal excellence in every possible world.
Therefore X is maximally great only if X has omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection in every possible world.
In W, the proposition “There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being” would be impossible—that is, necessarily false.
But what is impossible does not vary from world to world.
Therefore, the proposition, “There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being” is necessarily false in this actual world, too.
Therefore, there actually exists in this world, and must exist in every possible world, an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.

A more lengthy telling of the argument (if you want it) is here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/ and here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/

In summary, because it is possible to think that there is nothing that is greater than the Christian god, the Christian god is the greatest thing ever and is therefore real. Well colour me unimpressed because I am pretty sure that I can think of a god eating monster that eats gods for fun, especially gods which are greater than those which exist only in the mind. Therefore my god eating monster just ate all the gods so there’s none left. The end.

Jesting aside, this argument is all about the limits of the human mind. The argument posits that the no human can imagine anything greater than X and because something existing is greater than something imagined, the imagined Christian god must be real. The argument makes no allowance for someone else thinking of something greater than the Christian god, there really is nothing about this argument that makes any sense.

I take issue with the phrase ‘philosophical proof’ at the start because I dispute that philosophy can prove any such thing using arguments like this. Proof would be a demonstration of that god that is unambiguous and could not be attributed to anything else. Thinking it real and claiming that that means it is real is not a proof for anything and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

Getting into the grit of the argument itself, it stumbles massively when it says that god must exist both in thought and reality because it’s not possible to think of something greater. It’s a blunt assertion with no support. It is always possible to think of something greater and it is the utmost arrogance to think that because you have imagined in your mind what you think is the greatest possible god, that that god must therefore exist. Thinking something is real doesn’t make it real.

The argument also seems to be implying that when something that exists is thought about, that something exists both in reality and in the mind! No it doesn’t. What is in the mind is simply a mental representation. Like a photocopy isn’t the real thing and it’s copy and a reflection isn’t the real thing and it’s copy.

The argument really does back flip itself into a knot of nonsense.

The argument certainly is imaginative, I’ve got to give it that, but what it imagines isn’t real and the leap from the imagined greatest ever god to that god being real is missing a great many steps and it does not follow in the slightest.

Twenty Arguments for God – Twelve – The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 12:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#12

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God

This argument, made famous by Rene Descartes, has a kinship to the ontological argument (13). It starts from the idea of God. But it does not claim that real being is part of the content of that idea, as the ontological argument does. Rather it seeks to show that only God himself could have caused this idea to arise in our minds.
It would be impossible for us to reproduce the whole context Descartes gives for this proof (see his third Meditation), and fruitless to follow his scholastic vocabulary. We give below the briefest summary and discussion.
We have ideas of many things.
These ideas must arise either from ourselves or from things outside us.
One of the ideas we have is the idea of God—an infinite, all-perfect being.
This idea could not have been caused by ourselves, because we know ourselves to be limited and imperfect, and no effect can be greater than its cause.
Therefore, the idea must have been caused by something outside us which has nothing less than the qualities contained in the idea of God.
But only God himself has those qualities.
Therefore God himself must be the cause of the idea we have of him.
Therefore God exists.
Consider the following common objection. The idea of God can easily arise like this: we notice degrees of perfection among finite beings—some are more perfect (or less imperfect) than others. And to reach the idea of God, we just project the scale upward and outward to infinity. Thus there seems to be no need for an actually existing God to account for the existence of the idea. All we need is the experience of things varying in degrees of perfection, and a mind capable of thinking away perceived limitations.
But is that really enough? How can we think away limitation or imperfection unless we first recognize it as such? And how can we recognize it as such unless we already have some notion of infinite perfection? To recognize things as imperfect or finite involves the possession of a standard in thought that makes the recognition possible.
Does that seem farfetched? It does not mean that toddlers spend their time thinking about God. But it does mean that, however late in life you use the standard, however long before it comes explicitly into consciousness, still, the standard must be there in order for you to use it. But where did it come from? Not from your experience of yourself or of the world that exists outside you. For the idea of infinite perfection is already presupposed in our thinking about all these things and judging them imperfect. Therefore none of them can be the origin of the idea of God; only God himself can be that.

I believe the Descartes argument that is mentioned at the top is summarised here:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-ontological/

ideas [of things] must arise either from ourselves or from things outside us.

We all have ideas, this is part of being human, sometimes our ideas are nonsense and sometimes they are correct. They are all out own. How does an idea come from outside of us when the idea happens inside our brain? Is there a demonstration of how an idea comes to us from outside of us? How do we tell the difference between the two idea types?

This idea [of an all-perfect god] could not have been caused by ourselves

With the failure to address how there are ideas that we don’t come up with ourselves, how could anyone support this claim? The claim is interesting, but its premise is not shown so why should the claim be accepted?

the idea must have been caused by something outside us

How? What is the mechanism? The author is running with the idea as though it’s true. Who came up with the idea that there are ideas that come from outside us? If that idea came from within someone, how could we know it to be true?

Therefore God exists.

Whose idea of god exists? Does every Christian describe the same god? Do they all exist? if a Christian’s idea of god is flawed or incorrect does that means it’s their own idea of god and not an external idea? Does that cancel out this argument?

It one believes the author, it seems that only the Christian god could have planted the idea of the Christian god into our minds because we’re too weak and limited in our thinking to invent that god ourselves? Really!?

One only has to read the Bible to see that the Christian god has many human characteristics, disproportionate vengeance, annihilation of the disliked, inconsistency. It’s all there.

If it’s specifically the Christian idea of god that has been given to humans from god, how come there are so many other gods that humans think about? Is the Christian god really that much more special that it would be impossible for humans to come up with it on their own?

As a final thought, I am genuinely astonished that this argument is presented seriously. In fact this argument makes me wonder if the whole list of 20 arguments is someone having a massive laugh at the expense of those Christians who buy it and reference it on an all too regular basis.

A Personal Update

It’s been a while since I gave a personal update, so for those who are interested, here it comes.

I continue to engage in discussion with theists, mostly on facebook in a closed group that exists for that purpose. My experience so far is that reasonable Christians who are prepared to engage with atheists who will directly challenge their beliefs are vastly outnumbered by those who prefer to throw insults and avoid addressing direct challenges. I think this is a feature of the medium being used rather than a true slice of the Christian demographic.

The interface theism and atheism continues to interest me and so I have booked myself to go to the following Christian conference in a week.

https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Features/Unbelievable-The-Conference-2017/Seminars-Topics

Unbelievable? is a weekly UK Christian radio show that focuses on that interface and is pretty much the only religious themed show I listen to. I download the podcast version each weekend.

I am disappointed that the conference based on the show does not have any atheist or non Christian speakers. I am looking forward to hearing what the Christian speakers have to say about atheism and atheists. I am expecting to hear them confidently state what it is that atheists think and believe and I am expecting these projections to not match my own thoughts and ideas. I am stating this up front because it is a common experience I have when Christian leaders talk on the subject. Let’s see how right I am!

I am considering tweeting my thoughts during the event, we shall see. I’m not a big twitter user, so it would likely increase my number of tweets ten fold!

Specifically, I am interested in hearing the talk by Justin Brierley; he is the host of the Unbelievable? radio show and he’s written a book titled “Why after ten years of talking with atheists I am still a Christian”. I am expecting to that I’ll be buying a copy since it’ll be launched at the event. I am also interested in hearing what John Lennox has to say about the case for god, he was on the Unbelievable? a month or so ago and his argument consisted of a list of assertions without evidence, I wonder if the talk will be any different.

Do any of those seminars pique your interest? Which, if any would you go to and what questions would you ask?

I took a big step on my facebook page over Easter last month. I got bored of seeing the same comment item from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, I can’t find the item right now but it essentially gave a serious of arguments why we should believe the bible account of Jesus, his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. So many of my Christian friends shared it that I put up a post linking to a counter list of arguments poking at all the holes and showing why it is valid to question the bible accounts of Jesus. It’s the first time I have been that blatant. I’m not aware that it’s lost me any friends, and I didn’t get as many bites as I expected, but there was some comment and one person in particular has said he wants to have a conversation on the subject. It’s someone I respect so we’ll see what results.

Away from religion I continue to try to write, I have a handful of fiction projects I want to work on, progress is too slow because time is hard to find. I am also looking forward to visiting the great Canadian state of Ontario later in the year. It’s been about 15 years since I saw Niagara Falls and I am looking forward to seeing them again.

Twenty Arguments for God – Eleven – The Argument from Truth

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 11:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#11

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

11. The Argument from Truth

This argument is closely related to the argument from consciousness. It comes mainly from Augustine.
Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
Truth properly resides in a mind.
But the human mind is not eternal.
Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside.
This proof might appeal to someone who shares a Platonic view of knowledge—who, for example, believes that there are Eternal Intelligible Forms which are present to the mind in every act of knowledge. Given that view, it is a very short step to see these Eternal Forms as properly existing within an Eternal Mind. And there is a good deal to be said for this. But that is just the problem. There is too much about the theory of knowledge that needs to be said before this could work as a persuasive demonstration.

Ah, the wonderful philosophical argument about the nature of truth. How does that show god? Apparently because our feeble earthly minds don’t last forever, but truth does, therefore the mind of god is the only place where these truths can be maintained. How can the one who makes this claim know it to be true? Where is this mind which is the only true source of truth? Does the truth that I edit this response on a computer screen require a god for it to be true? Can I demonstrate it to be true without cause to refer to a god? If there is no god, could anything be true? Is this need for a god for something to be true also true for things that are not true? Is god required for it to be true that something can be false?

This item opens with some rather bizarre and unsurprisingly unsupported assertions.

Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
Truth properly resides in a mind.
But the human mind is not eternal.

What is truth? Can we discover eternal truths? Which such truths have we discovered already? How do they relate to ideas of god? What is an eternal truth and how does it differ from plain old regular truth? What truth is it that resides in a mind, eternal or regular? what does properly reside mean? If the human mind is not eternal, what is it that Christians believe ends up in heaven?

For the claim that truth requires an eternal mind to be true, that eternal mind needs to be shown and then the dependency link between the existence of that mind and truth also needs to be demonstrated. In the absence of the former, the latter can not be assumed.

By Plato’s Eternal Intelligible Forms, I assume the author is referring to this:

http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/platform.htm

The issue with Plato’s argument is that it is all thought and no substance. By that I mean that the ideas that are proposed and suggested are not tested. I have no problem with ideas like this being presented, however it should be understood that presenting the idea does not make it true. Demonstrating the proposed ideas is what makes them true and the ideas proposed by Plato have not been demonstrated and so can not be accepted as true. They could be true, or they could be utter tosh, if one is to build an argument on them, it makes good sense to determine their truthfulness.

To summarise; humans call something ‘truth’, therefore there is a god. This is the argument, yet ironically it makes no effort to test or confirm the truth of the claim. It is another brazen assertion without support. Like the ideas of Plato, it’s an intriguing idea but it has not been demonstrated. I can agree on certain things being true but that does not pop any god into existence. I can agree with a Christian on something being true and yet no god becomes evident. This argument barely got started before it fell flat, no wonder so few words are used to present it.

Twenty Arguments for God – Ten – The Argument from Consciousness

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 10:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#10
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

10. The Argument from Consciousness

When we experience the tremendous order and intelligibility in the universe, we are experiencing something intelligence can grasp. Intelligence is part of what we find in the world. But this universe is not itself intellectually aware. As great as the forces of nature are, they do not know themselves. Yet we know them and ourselves. These remarkable facts—the presence of intelligence amidst unconscious material processes, and the conformity of those processes to the structure of conscious intelligence—have given rise to a variation on the first argument for design.
We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.
Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
Not blind chance.
Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.
There are obvious similarities here to the design argument, and many of the things we said to defend that argument could be used to defend this one too. For now we want to focus our attention on step 3.
Readers familiar with C. S. Lewis’s Miracles will remember the powerful argument he made in chapter three against what he called “naturalism”: the view that everything—including our thinking and judging—belongs to one vast interlocking system of physical causes and effects. If naturalism is true, Lewis argued, then it seems to leave us with no reason for believing it to be true; for all judgments would equally and ultimately be the result of nonrational forces.
Now this line of reflection has an obvious bearing on step 3. What we mean by “blind chance” is the way physical nature must ultimately operate if “naturalism” is true—void of any rational plan or guiding purpose. So if Lewis’s argument is a good one, then step 3 stands: blind chance cannot be the source of our intelligence.
We were tempted, when preparing this section, to quote the entire third chapter of Miracles. This sort of argument is not original to Lewis, but we have never read a better statement of it than his, and we urge you to consult it. But we have found a compelling, and admirably succinct version (written almost twenty years before Miracles) in H. W. B. Joseph’s Some Problems in Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1931). Joseph was an Oxford don, senior to Lewis, with whose writings Lewis was certainly familiar. And undoubtedly this statement of the argument influenced Lewis’s later, more elaborate version.
If thought is laryngeal motion, how should any one think more truly than the wind blows? All movements of bodies are equally necessary, but they cannot be discriminated as true and false. It seems as nonsensical to call a movement true as a flavour purple or a sound avaricious. But what is obvious when thought is said to be a certain bodily movement seems equally to follow from its being the effect of one. Thought called knowledge and thought called error are both necessary results of states of brain. These states are necessary results of other bodily states. All the bodily states are equally real, and so are the different thoughts; but by what right can I hold that my thought is knowledge of what is real in bodies? For to hold so is but another thought, an effect of real bodily movements like the rest. . . These arguments, however, of mine, if the principles of scientific [naturalism]… are to stand unchallenged, are themselves no more than happenings in a mind, results of bodily movements; that you or I think them sound, or think them unsound, is but another such happening; that we think them no more than another such happening is itself but yet another such. And it may be said of any ground on which we may attempt to stand as true, Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum [“It flows and will flow swirling on forever” (Horace, Epistles, I, 2, 43)]. (Some Problems in Ethics, pp. 14—15)

The opening sentences of this argument are the sort of pseudo profound stuff one would expect from a New Age guru. It expends much to say nothing at all.

What does the author even mean by the order and intelligibility of the universe? These words have been used in previous arguments but never explained. I guess it could be defined as intelligible in the sense that our intelligent minds can make some sense of it. Is it ordered? Well that depends on how order is defined, how the universe behaves is down to the laws of physics but when you look at the universe you see scattered stars and galaxies that are grouped and clumped, I would say they are more haphazard than ordered. Our humans brains like to pick out patterns so anything that is random will have some elements that our minds will see as having apparent order. It is an illusion of order though.

This argument, like many of the arguments in this series, asserts that there must be a greater intelligent being because of some property of the universe. Yet, also like the other arguments, doesn’t offer references to support the assertion or suggest tests that could confirm the hypothesis.

Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
Not blind chance.

The argument sets up two options, something intelligent made it all, or it’s all blind chance. Note how blind chance is not defined. Are these really the only options available? Note how the argument does not ask that question, let alone make an effort to discuss other options. Blind chance is dismissed out of hand, without even a discussion, nor a definition. It’s almost as though the intelligent originator has been pre concluded and this is just a box tick to dismiss any other option in a vain attempt to appear that other options have been considered. It’s dishonesty at it’s most brazen.

Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.

If our minds were so well suited to grasping it, how come we have so much difficulty doing so? It’s taken many years to gain the understanding we have now and many arguments and false avenues along the way. Geocentricism anyone? Our present understanding isn’t even complete, there is still much to learn and understand.

That we have minds that can make some sense of the world around us is an essential element of evolutionary survival. Without those minds we’d not be able to make the technological progress we have thus far. Without those minds we’d not be able to progress in our understanding of the universe or even have the kind of thinking that can imagine a god. Should any of this mean there is an intelligent mind behind the universe? If it was as obvious as this argument claims, there would be something more than assertions to back it up. Yet assertions is all that there is.

Twenty Arguments for God – Nine – The Argument from Miracles

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 9:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#9

If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

9. The Argument from Miracles

A miracle is an event whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.
There are numerous well-attested miracles.
Therefore, there are numerous events whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.
Therefore God exists.
Obviously if you believe that some extraordinary event is a miracle, then you believe in divine agency, and you believe that such agency was at work in this event. But the question is: Was this event a miracle? If miracles exist, then God must exist. But do miracles exist?

Which events do we choose? In the first place, the event must be extraordinary. But there are many extraordinary happenings (e.g., numerous stones dropping from the sky in Texas) that do not qualify as miracles. Why not? First, because they could be caused by something in nature, and second, because the context in which they occur is not religious. They qualify as mere oddities, as “strange happenings”; the sort of thing you might expect to read in Believe It or Not, but never hear about from the pulpit. Therefore the meaning of the event must also be religious to qualify as a miracle.
Suppose that a holy man had stood in the center of Houston and said: “My dear brothers and sisters! You are leading sinful lives! Look at yourselves—drunken! dissolute! God wants you to repent! And as a sign of his displeasure he’s going to shower stones upon you!” Then, moments later—thunk! thunk! thunk!—the stones began to fall. The word “miracle” might very well spring to mind.
Not that we would have to believe in God after witnessing this event. But still, if that man in Texas seemed utterly genuine, and if his accusations hit home, made us think “He’s right,” then it would be very hard to consider what happened a deception or even an extraordinary coincidence.
This means that the setting of a supposed miracle is crucially important. Not just the physical setting, and not just the timing, but the personal setting is vital as well—the character and the message of the person to whom this event is specially tied. Take, for example, four or five miracles from the New Testament. Remove them completely from their context, from the teaching and character of Christ. Would it be wrong to see their religious significance as thereby greatly diminished? After all, to call some happening a miracle is to interpret it religiously. But to interpret it that way demands a context or setting which invites such interpretation. And part of this setting usually, though not always, involves a person whose moral authority is first recognized, and whose religious authority, which the miracle seems to confirm, is then acknowledged.
Abstract discussions of probability usually miss this factor. But setting does play a decisive role. Many years ago, at an otherwise dull convention, a distinguished philosopher explained why he had become a Christian. He said: “I picked up the New Testament with a view to judging it, to weighing its pros and cons. But as I began to read, I realized that I was the one being judged.” Certainly he came to believe in the miracle-stories. But it was the character and teaching of Christ that led him to accept the things recounted there as genuine acts of God.
So there is not really a proof from miracles. If you see some event as a miracle, then the activity of God is seen in this event. There is a movement of the mind from this event to its proper interpretation as miraculous. And what gives impetus to that movement is not just the event by itself, but the many factors surrounding it which invite—or seem to demand—such interpretation.
But miraculous events exist. Indeed, there is massive, reliable testimony to them across many times, places and cultures.
Therefore their cause exists.
And their only adequate cause is God.
Therefore God exists.

There is a big issue with miracle claims, they tend to be anecdotal, poorly evidenced, believed only by those who are motivated to believe them and, most importantly, have alternative non miraculous explanations. That latter part is where the first sentence falls over. I do agree with the first sentence in that if the only explanation is the direct intervention of a god, then it’s a miracle. I challenge the use of the word adequate though, adequate by whose or by what standard? Also, with an incomplete knowledge of nature, it is entirely possible that an event which was previously considered to be a miracle is now successfully described naturally.

After the half hearted definition of miracle in the opening sentence, we get the completely unsupported claim that.

There are numerous well-attested miracles.

Since a miracle requires god, it must surely follow that well-attested miracles mean god is real. Which god though? This is the other problem with miracle claims, not only do you have to get past the issue of proving it’s a miracle, you then have to decide which of the myriad claimed deities is responsible for it. Or if you’re a catholic, which departed soul.

But the question is: Was this event a miracle? If miracles exist, then God must exist. But do miracles exist?

Good questions, important questions. We should check them out.

The next three paragraphs don’t provide any answer so I’ll skip on.

If you see some event as a miracle, then the activity of God is seen in this event.

I agree, but that is a belief position and not the sort of thing anyone should accept as proof.

But miraculous events exist. Indeed, there is massive, reliable testimony to them across many times, places and cultures.

Is reliable testimony better than adequate explanation? I’m not sure, neither sound convincing. Especially without specific references, which are not provided, they never are of course.

I strongly dispute the bold claim that miraculous events exist. There may be unexplained events, but does that make them miracles? I say not. The existence of a god is a very significant and important claim. If this claim is relying on alleged miracles for proof, then the claims need to be robust. Testimony is not a robust method of determining the accuracy of an event. Counterfeit miracle claims exist and many a believer has been fooled into arguing for their veracity. The Christian god is also not the only one credited with doing the miraculous, which creates a very unfortunate problem for the author. Should those other deities be accepted on the claims of those other miracles? We don’t need him to come here and answer, we know he’ll not accept those as proof for those other claimed gods.

Which tells us something very important about how he values miracle claims.

And their only adequate cause is God.
Therefore God exists.

It’s a slam dunk folks, just believe it and it’s true. This argument must surely be the worst one yet! Assert something is true, assert it means your god exists, assert that therefore your god exists! The invisible pink unicorn will be proud, blessed be its shadow.

Twenty Arguments for God – Eight – The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 8:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#8
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

8. The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole

Norris Clarke, who taught metaphysics and philosophy of religion for many years at Fordham, has circulated privately an intriguing version of the design argument. We present it here, slightly abridged and revised; for your reflection.
Starting point. This world is given to us as a dynamic, ordered system of many active component elements. Their natures (natural properties) are ordered to interact with each other in stable, reciprocal relationships which we call physical laws. For example, every hydrogen atom in our universe is ordered to combine with every oxygen atom in the proportion of 2:1 (which implies that every oxygen atom is reciprocally ordered to combine with every hydrogen atom in the proportion of 1:2). So it is with the chemical valences of all the basic elements. So too all particles with mass are ordered to move toward every other according to the fixed proportions of the law of gravity.
In such an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system, the active nature of each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act. Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.
Argument. In any such system as the above (like our world) no component part or active element can be self-sufficient or self-explanatory. For any part presupposes all the other parts—the whole system already in place—to match its own relational properties. It can’t act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it. Any one part could be self-sufficient only if it were the cause of the whole rest of the system—which is impossible, since no part can act except in collaboration with the others.
Nor can the system as a whole explain its own existence, since it is made up of the component parts and is not a separate being, on its own, independent of them. So neither the parts nor the whole are self-sufficient; neither can explain the actual existence of this dynamically interactive system.
Three Conclusions
Since the parts make sense only within the whole, and neither the whole nor the parts can explain their own existence, then such a system as our world requires a unifying efficient cause to posit it in existence as a unified whole.
Any such cause must be an intelligent cause, one that brings the system into being according to a unifying idea. For the unity of the whole—and of each one of the overarching, cosmic-wide, physical laws uniting elements under themselves—is what determines and correlates the parts. Hence it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor. But the unity, the wholeness, of the whole transcends any one part, and therefore cannot be contained in any one part. To be actually present all at once as a whole this unity can only be the unity of an organizing unifying idea. For only an idea can hold together many different elements at once without destroying or fusing their distinctness. That is almost the definition of an idea. Since the actual parts are spread out over space and time, the only way they can be together at once as an intelligible unity is within an idea. Hence the system of the world as a whole must live first within the unity of an idea.
Now a real idea cannot actually exist and be effectively operative save in a real mind, which has the creative power to bring such a system into real existence. Hence the sufficient reason for our ordered world-system must ultimately be a creative ordering Mind. A cosmic-wide order requires a cosmic-wide Orderer, which can only be a Mind.
Such an ordering Mind must be independent of the system itself, that is, transcendent; not dependent on the system for its own existence and operation. For if it were dependent on—or part of—the system, it would have to presuppose the latter as already existing in order to operate, and would thus have to both precede and follow itself. But this is absurd. Hence it must exist and be able to operate prior to and independent of the system.
Thus our material universe necessarily requires, as the sufficient reason for its actual existence as an operating whole, a Transcendent Creative Mind.

This argument reads like it’s a subtle variation of others already addressed. I really am getting the feeling that these 20 arguments are varying shades of grey and that the whole block set does not actually represent 20 distinct and separate arguments. To make things worse, this one seems worded to obfuscate rather than to clarify. Which is itself unhelpful.

That said, the argument starts with the claim that the world (did he actually mean universe?) is dynamic and ordered. Chaos theory and the laws of thermodynamics might have something to say about that. Critically, what is meant by ordered is not defined.

The description of hydrogen and oxygen combining is misleading and over simplistic (intentionally so?). The structure of the hydrogen atom is such that it can only form one bond, irrespective of what it is bonding to. The structure of oxygen is such that it can form two bonds, irrespective of what it is bonding to. This means that where oxygen and hydrogen bond, you will always and only get the 2:1 ratio described. The reason is down to the nature of atoms, each atom is different and bonds accordingly. That we get a pair of atoms that bond 2:1 is to be expected, there is nothing special or miraculous about that relationship.

each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act

Presupposes!

Note how once again the assumption is made, with no support, we’re supposed to accept that without question.

Things interact in nature, that they do does not mean that they were made for each other. It just means that they interact. It is as absurd as saying that a hole presupposes that there will be a puddle to fit it.

Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.

Claims without reference again. This is also a pretty meaningless snippet, it’s the sort of faux wonder you’d expect from a New Age healing pamphlet. Yes, the particles interact, yes the whole often helps us to understand the parts, that’s due to the nature of the interactions. So why the odd wording and the blatant avoidance of references to what it is that science has revealed?

Talking of new Age, the author makes the amazingly bold claim that there is a cosmic-wide Mind (note the capitol M) which must have created and ordered everything. Well, a mind can’t exist without a physical brain so where is the Brain (capitol B required) in which the Mind must live? Erp, we’ve fallen foul of the X requires Y of the previous argument. If the Mind requires the Brain, then where is the stuff that the Brain depends on. It seems the author was a bit sloppy in putting this one together.

Lets jump to the conclusions.

Atoms join up, make something bigger, it’s all amazing which means that there is….

a unifying efficient cause

which

must be an intelligent cause

therefore

it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor.

Note how there is not a single justification, explanation or reference to why this must be so. It is because the author says so.

Twenty Arguments for God – Seven – The Argument from Contingency

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 7:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#7
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

7. The Argument from Contingency

The basic form of this argument is simple.
If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.
Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.
What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.
Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.
Suppose you deny the first premise. Then if X exists, there need not exist what it takes for X to exist. But “what it takes for X to exist” means the immediate condition(s) for X’s existence. You mean that X exists only if Y. Without Y, there can be no X. So the denial of premise 1 amounts to this: X exists; X can only exist if Y exists; and Y does not exist. This is absurd. So there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist. But what does it take?
We spoke of the universe as “the collection of beings in space and time.” Consider one such being: yourself. You exist, and you are, in part at least, material. This means that you are a finite, limited and changing being, you know that right now, as you read this book, you are dependent for your existence on beings outside you. Not your parents or grandparents. They may no longer be alive, but you exist now. And right now you depend on many things in order to exist—for example, on the air you breathe. To be dependent in this way is to be contingent. You exist if something else right now exists.
But not everything can be like this. For then everything would need to be given being, but there would be nothing capable of giving it. There would not exist what it takes for anything to exist. So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself. What it takes for this thing to exist could only be this thing itself. Unlike changing material reality, there would be no distance, so to speak, between what this thing is and that it is. Obviously the collection of beings changing in space and time cannot be such a thing. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist cannot be identical with the universe itself or with a part of the universe.
Question 1: But why should we call this cause “God”? Maybe there is something unknown that grounds the universe of change we live in.
Reply: True. And this “unknown” is God. What we humans know directly is this sensible changing world. We also know that there must exist whatever it takes for something to exist. Therefore, we know that neither this changing universe as a whole nor any part of it can be itself what it takes for the universe to exist. But we have now such direct knowledge of the cause of changing things. We know that there must exist a cause; we know that this cause cannot be finite or material—that it must transcend such limitations. But what this ultimate cause is in itself remains, so far, a mystery.
There is more to be said by reason; and there is very much more God has made known about himself through revelation. But the proofs have given us some real knowledge as well: knowledge that the universe is created; knowledge that right now it is kept in being by a cause unbounded by any material limit, that transcends the kind of being we humans directly know. And that is surely knowledge worth having. We might figure out that someone’s death was murder and no accident, without figuring out exactly who did it and why, and this might leave us frustrated and unsatisfied. But at least we would know what path of questioning to pursue; at least we would know that someone did it.
So it is with the proofs. They let us know that at every moment the being of the universe is the creative act of a Giver—A Giver transcending all material and spiritual limitations. Beyond that, they do not tell us much about what or who this Giver is—but they point in a very definite direction. We know that this Ultimate Reality—the Giver of being—cannot be material. And we know the gift which is given includes personal being: intelligence, will and spirit. The infinite transcendent cause of these things cannot be less than they are, but must be infinitely more. How and in what way we do not know. To some extent this Giver must always remain unknown to human reason. We should never expect otherwise. But reason can at least let us know that “someone did it.” And that is of great value.

Here is another of those arguments which boils down to ‘stuff, therefore god’. I wonder why the author went to so much effort to essentially repeat the same fallacious argument using slightly different words and titles.

The logic starts off okay.

If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.
Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.

I’m okay with this so far (I’m ignoring the oddly phrased ‘collection of beings’), it does really need some evidential backup to support the premise though. It shouldn’t be assumed to be true just because I agree that it seems reasonable. One should make adequate steps to confirm what one assumes is true before making further assumptions based on it. I’m not even halfway through this list and how many times has that been said?

What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

This is where it starts to wobble. It seems a reasonable statement on the face of it, but it needs experimental confirmation before it can be asserted as a truth. The bounded by space and time is the critical part. We already know that the time that we experience depends on the matter in the universe. However, the phrasing of that sentence suggests to me that the author thinks that is not the case and that time (and space) may exist outside of the universe, there is some clarity missing. Making more assumptions based on unclear explanations will only lead to greater errors and more confusion.

The argument also assumes that there is indeed something outside of the universe on which the universe depends. Well, more accurately it’s trying to argue that that is indeed the case. Physics hasn’t been able to identify anything that is not within the universe. Our knowledge of how the universe came about is incomplete. All we can be certain of is that the laws that govern matter within the universe do not apply to the inception of the universe and if there is indeed an ‘outside the universe’ those laws certainly will not apply. Yet this argument seems to ignore all of that and carry on with its own conclusions based on arguments that can be observed within the universe. This is a basic error.

So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself.

Please tell me you saw that bit coming. It should have been obvious. The author is a Christian, so of course the non conditional existing thing is the Christian god, nothing else would be accepted. This really is a case of framing the argument around the already assumed but unevidenced conclusion. Why can’t the non conditional existing thing be the universe or the bigger god that created the Christian god? Both of those suggestions fit the logic. The author would reject those two options because they don’t result in the Christian god. The Christian god is the X that needs no Y and no other option will be discussed or considered.

Twenty Arguments for God – Six – The Kalam Argument

This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 6:
http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#6
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:

6. The Kalam Argument

The Arabic word kalam literally means “speech,” but came to denote a certain type of philosophical theology—a type containing demonstrations that the world could not be infinitely old and must therefore have been created by God. This sort of demonstration has had a long and wide appeal among both Christians and Muslims. Its form is simple and straightforward.
Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.
Grant the first premise. (Most people—outside of asylums and graduate schools would consider it not only true, but certainly and obviously true.)
Is the second premise true? Did the universe—the collection of all things bounded by space and time—begin to exist? This premise has recently received powerful support from natural science—from so-called Big Bang Cosmology. But there are philosophical arguments in its favor as well. Can an infinite task ever be done or completed? If, in order to reach a certain end, infinitely many steps had to precede it, could the end ever be reached? Of course not—not even in an infinite time. For an infinite time would be unending, just as the steps would be. In other words, no end would ever be reached. The task would—could—never be completed.
But what about the step just before the end? Could that point ever be reached? Well, if the task is really infinite, then an infinity of steps must also have preceded it. And therefore the step just before the end could also never be reached. But then neither could the step just before that one. In fact, no step in the sequence could be reached, because an infinity of steps must always have preceded any step; must always have been gone through one by one before it. The problem comes from supposing that an infinite sequence could ever reach, by temporal succession, any point at all.
Now if the universe never began, then it always was. If it always was, then it is infinitely old. If it is infinitely old, then an infinite amount of time would have to have elapsed before (say) today. And so an infinite number of days must have been completed—one day succeeding another, one bit of time being added to what went before—in order for the present day to arrive. But this exactly parallels the problem of an infinite task. If the present day has been reached, then the actually infinite sequence of history has reached this present point: in fact, has been completed up to this point—for at any present point the whole past must already have happened. But an infinite sequence of steps could never have reached this present point—or any point before it.
So, either the present day has not been reached, or the process of reaching it was not infinite. But obviously the present day has been reached. So the process of reaching it was not infinite. In other words, the universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being, a Creator.
Question 1: Christians believe they are going to live forever with God. So they believe the future will be endless. How come the past cannot also be endless?
Reply: The question really answers itself. Christians believe that their life with God will never end. That means it will never form an actually completed infinite series. In more technical language: an endless future is potentially—but never actually—infinite. This means that although the future will never cease to expand and increase, still its actual extent will always be finite. But that can only be true if all of created reality had a beginning.
Question 2: How do we know that the cause of the universe still exists? Maybe it started the universe going and then ceased to be.
Reply: Remember that we are seeking for a cause of spatio-temporal being. This cause created the entire universe of space and time. And space and time themselves must be part of that creation. So the cause cannot be another spatio-temporal being. (If it were, all the problems about infinite duration would arise once again.) It must somehow stand outside the limitations and constraints of space and time.
It is hard to understand how such a being could “cease” to be. We know how a being within the universe ceases to be: it comes in time to be fatally affected by some agency external to it. But this picture is proper to us, and to all beings limited in some way by space and time. A being not limited in these ways cannot “come” to be or “cease” to be. If it exists at all, it must exist eternally.
Question 3: But is this cause God—a he and not a mere it?
Reply: Suppose the cause of the universe has existed eternally. Suppose further that this cause is not personal: that it has given rise to the universe, not through any choice, but simply through its being. In that case it is hard to see how the universe could be anything but infinitely old, since all the conditions needed for the being of the universe would exist from all eternity. But the kalam argument has shown that the universe cannot be infinitely old. So the hypothesis of an eternal impersonal cause seems to lead to an inconsistency.
Is there a way out? Yes, if the universe is the result of a free personal choice. Then at least we have some way of seeing how an eternal cause could give rise to a temporally limited effect. Of course, the kalam argument does not prove everything Christians believe about God, but what proof does? Less than everything, however, is far from nothing. And the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth. And in doing so, it disproves the picture of the universe most atheists wish to maintain: self-sustaining matter, endlessly changing in endless time.

I’ve noticed this one is favoured by those who elevate philosophical ideas above what can be evidentially demonstrated. They are a hard bunch to argue with, not because of the soundness of their arguments, but because of their imperviousness to facts. Also, his majesty WLC loves this one and anything he says must be true!

Because of it’s popularity, there are many pages on the internet that address this argument, one I found which was spoken well of is this one http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/wes2craig1.pdf. At time of writing I’ve only partially read it, I do intend to complete it but I’ll not be making any reference to it in this post.

Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.

This sounds fair on the face of it. However, definitions are required for ‘whatever’, ‘begins’, ‘exist’, ’cause’ and ‘being’. As it stands, the sentence is a vague bit of tautological faux-profundity that actually means nothing.

The universe began to exist.

That premise needs demonstrating. As I’ve mentioned in response to another item, time is dependent on matter because without matter there is no time to be experienced and the universe, being made up of matter, is the envelope in which we experience time. No universe, no time and no before. The universe beginning to exist is a claim missing many verification steps.

Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

Doesn’t follow because the preceding requirements are inadequately defined and not demonstrated. A conclusion based on undemonstrated premises is not safe.

To be perfectly honest, this argument does not impress me and I am so very glad that I never got into it as a Christian. I am constantly amazed by how much store is placed upon it.

A good example of why this sort of Christian apologetics leaves me cold and unamused is this:

the universe has a cause for its coming into being, a Creator.

Like everything else so far in this item, a claim is made with no definition of terms and zero supporting evidence and it’s expected to be accepted as truth. Also notice how ’cause’ has suddenly become ‘a Creator’, with a capital C. In other words, cause is the Christian god. I wonder if I should hit the bait and switch alarm again.

the kalam argument has shown that the universe cannot be infinitely old.

The author has too much confidence. The universe having a finite age is provided by the science of cosmology not philosophical flim flam.

if the universe is the result of a free personal choice. Then at least we have some way of seeing how an eternal cause could give rise to a temporally limited effect.

I’ll avoid asking what the hell the second sentence means because before that even becomes relevant the first needs to be demonstrated. Assuming it is true and running with it is dishonest, but then what else should we expect from Christian apologetics?

the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth. And in doing so, it disproves the picture of the universe most atheists wish to maintain: self-sustaining matter, endlessly changing in endless time.

Repeat after me, “Arguments are not proof!” For proof one needs supporting evidence for the arguments and additional evidence showing other options are false. The evidence needs to be demonstrable and the collection process repeatable otherwise the proof claim is highly suspect. This argument brings no evidence, instead it asserts that it is correct and arrogantly marches on.

As for that final sentence, do most atheists wish to maintain that? I’m not aware that’s the case, it’s certainly not true for me, so I’ll claim that as a flat out lie! Lying for the kingdom must be the apologists’ favourite pastime.