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.

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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 – Four – The Argument from Degrees of Perfection

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 4:

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#4

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

4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection

We notice around us things that vary in certain ways. A shade of color, for example, can be lighter or darker than another, a freshly baked apple pie is hotter than one taken out of the oven hours before; the life of a person who gives and receives love is better than the life of one who does not.
So we arrange some things in terms of more and less. And when we do, we naturally think of them on a scale approaching most and least. For example, we think of the lighter as approaching the brightness of pure white, and the darker as approaching the opacity of pitch black. This means that we think of them at various “distances” from the extremes, and as possessing, in degrees of “more” or “less,” what the extremes possess in full measure.
Sometimes it is the literal distance from an extreme that makes all the difference between “more” and “less.” For example, things are more or less hot when they are more or less distant from a source of heat. The source communicates to those things the quality of heat they possess in greater or lesser measure. This means that the degree of heat they possess is caused by a source outside of them.
Now when we think of the goodness of things, part of what we mean relates to what they are simply as beings. We believe, for example, that a relatively stable and permanent way of being is better than one that is fleeting and precarious. Why? Because we apprehend at a deep (but not always conscious) level that being is the source and condition of all value; finally and ultimately, being is better than nonbeing. And so we recognize the inherent superiority of all those ways of being that expand possibilities, free us from the constricting confines of matter, and allow us to share in, enrich and be enriched by, the being of other things. In other words, we all recognize that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being; that a being able to give and receive love is better than one that cannot; that our way of being is better, richer and fuller than that of a stone, a flower, an earthworm, an ant, or even a baby seal.
But if these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, then there must exist a “best,” a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings.
This absolutely perfect being—the “Being of all beings,” “the Perfection of all perfections”—is God.
Question 1: The argument assumes a real “better.” But aren’t all our judgments of comparative value merely subjective?
Reply: The very asking of this question answers it. For the questioner would not have asked it unless he or she thought it really better to do so than not, and really better to find the true answer than not. You can speak subjectivism but you cannot live it

Anyone else think that this is one long meander to a signpost that reads ‘The question has been begged.’?

The whole of this argument can be rephased as follows…

We subjectively rate things in the world as better or worse, therefore there exists an objective ‘best’.

The assertion doesn’t follow. There are several steps that have been skipped and the author has exhibited extreme laziness is not bothering to address them, probably hoping that no one will notice.

Weather it’s food, movies or what benefits our fellow human beings, what we as individuals call good is based on our individual preferences, this is evidenced by the differing tastes each person has and by the actions that come from them. If there was an objective goodness that magically motivated our souls, would there not be evidence in the form of some indivuals having exactly the same outlook? Yet, that evidence simply isn’t there.

With that in mind I’m going to rephrase the final sentence from the argument for your amusement.

You can believe objectivism, but you cannot demonstrate it.

Not Enough Evidence – A Response

The second of the Saints and Sceptics short series addressing what it calls popular atheist arguments is Not Enough Evidence (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/three-popular-atheist-arguments-part-2/)

My response to the first post is here: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-presumption-of-atheism-a-response/ . There is a third post in the series but I’m unlikely to make a response to that one.

This second post makes reference to Bertrand Russell and his apparent refrain of ‘Not enough evidence God! Not enough evidence!’ The source of this attribution would appear to be in this article, http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1974feb23-00025, where in response to the question of what he’d say if faced with God, Mr Russell replied “I probably would ask, ‘Sir, why did you not give me better evidence?’ ”

Personally, I prefer Stephen Fry’s response, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-suvkwNYSQo.

That’s not the point of this post though, the question at hand is on the evidence while we’re alive, not the hypothetical.

The Saints and Sceptics item opens by setting the scene that the atheist case is that in the absence of evidence the default position is non-acceptance, in other words, no evidence for god means atheism is the starting point and the case must be made for a god in order for that position to become considered. Okay so far. Saints and Sceptics calls this the presumption of atheism. Reference is made to the first item in the series with the conclusion that:

So, even if the insufficient evidence objection is accepted, it doesn’t provide a good reason to accept atheism

And if you read my response to the first item you’ll see that there is a mismatch in the understanding of atheism. Atheism is the non adherence of theism. That is no belief in god. Like in the first item, Saints and Sceptics has gone for the far end of atheism and used that to define all atheism. I won’t repeat my response to that.

Moving on, we get to:

For example, if the only kind of evidence that can be considered for the existence of an entity is direct detection with the five senses, then there would be no evidence for God.

Good, this is why I have no belief in any god.

However, this is completely inadequate as an account of evidence, even within science.

Uh oh!

If evidence is understood more plausibly in terms of facts that are better explained by one hypothesis than its rivals, then there could well be evidence for God.

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Hypotheses need testing before they get accepted.

A reference is made to a previous post called The Evidence For God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/the-evidence-for-god/), oddly, it contains no evidence, only assertions. Ho hum.

Even if it is granted that there might be some evidence for God, it might still be objected that it is insufficient, but how are we to decide? How much evidence is needed and how convincing does it need to be?

Two very good questions.

In answer we get an index link titled Evidence Of God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/articles/existence-of-god/) featuring links to a few arguments that are very familiar, Fine Tuning, Maths, Big Bang; you know, the usual fair. The links are all well known reasons, or arguments, that Christians will use to justify their belief. However, arguments are not evidence so the title is misleading. Arguments should have supporting evidence, which these ones are lacking. There’s a theme emerging here.

We wouldn’t claim that the evidence logically proves God’s existence

Thank goodness for that! Odd use of the word logically though. No one says that gravity is logically proven.

Interestingly, since Russell’s death in 1970, powerful new scientific evidence concerning the fine-tuning of a range of physical constants that are necessary for intelligent life has provided an interesting twist on the design argument. Is this evidence sufficient? If not, why not? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

Suddenly it’s the penultimate paragraph and no actuall evidence has been discussed, what is this post about then?

Is this evidence sufficient? The author asks. What evidence? I wonder.

If not, why not? The Author asks. Because there isn’t any is the best I can muster.

And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

A great question, and pertinent too. I’ll answer it.

Evidence that can be used to create a testable hypothesis. That way a set of repeatable and reliable tests for god can be performed and the case for god properly examined. That is the standard and if the theist wants their god idea to be taken seriously, that is what they must submit to.

Regrettably, for some atheists it has become little more than a slogan, a way of avoiding the need to consider the evidence seriously. And it would be an unfortunate irony if a statement which at face value emphasizes the importance of evidence is actually used as a strategy for avoiding it.

Great pithy ending, such a shame that in their decrying of the atheist’s frustratingly consistent demand for evidence, Saints and Sceptics has forgotten to include any. Now that’s irony!

To be, or not to be, a Dick

I thought I’d take a break from my autobiographical posts and put down some thoughts on the current big topic in the Atheistic and Sceptical arena. That is, how to behave towards those who believe in the unbelievable. That’s not just religion, though the topic does appear to centre mainly around those with religious beliefs, but any superstition and what sceptics love to call ‘woo’.

Reading some blog posts and opinion on the subject you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are only two choices; lambast anyone who dares to hold an unprovable belief with as much ridicule as possible or embrace anyone and everyone so long as you can find some common ground with them, no matter how tenuous.

Save us from the Accomodationists!

What I find most frustrating when reading various comments are the highly vocal people in the anti-accomodationist camp. These are the easiest to identify on the imaginary grey line I mentioned above, they would be clustered very close to the lambasting extreme.

To the anti-accomodationist there is nothing more pure than the utter sanctity of science proven conclusion. If you can’t back it up with the science method, then it does not belong and don’t you dare go mixing with those folks who believe without proof, or you’ll taint the purity of reason. Usually these are the same people using the label ‘Gnu Atheists’ as though they are some gnarly badge wearing, skateboard riding, baggy jeaned cool new kid. They probably have their own special handshake as well.

Accomodationist and Proud.

Yes I would be classed as an accomodationist. Yes I am proud of that. When I first saw the extremeophiles calling others accomodationists, it was as though they spat the word out, like it left a bad taste to even think the word, let along utter it. It was most definitely not meant as a compliment to the recipient.

The term ‘accomodationst’, seems to be drawn out and thrown at anyone who dares suggest anything other than utter contempt should be shown towards those who choose to believe in anything unscientific.

This is a sad thing to see and it seems that more effort is being channelled into creating a rift in the sceptical community than is being put into more productive use educating and evangelising the good news.

Ridicule never Changed Anyone’s Mind

Of course there are some people who will never abandon their belief. Even worse, there are some people who know they are wrong, but continue to promote it because it provides them with a considerable income. Of course I hope the latter are a minority.

With these people, reasoned debate will probably never be possible, but is publicly mocking really going to achieve anything other than self satisfied smugness?

But what about the casual observer?

I have seen it suggested on more than one occasion that the act of ridicule will help show a casual observer how much of a fool your target is.

This has to be the most pathetic cop out of an argument I have ever heard. Unless the casual observer is already of the same mind as you, the most likely reaction of the casual observer is to think that you are a dick and then respond accordingly.

If you want the world to share your conclusion that belief is silly and only science can lead someone to reason; then you had better prove it by acting like a reasonable person.

Be Passionate about Science

Instead of being a crabby insulting human, how about being a passionate scient advocate instead, enthuse people by being passionate about truth. Truth is tangible, truth can be handled and touched, truth is proven time and time again to be reliable. Truth is beautiful. When you talk about science speak with passion about how can you not be riveted and encouraged by the wonder of what is true and by knowing so utterly that it is true because it can be demonstrated to audiences.

This is what makes great ambassadors for scientific reasoning, don’t ruin it all by yelling at and insulting those who deny reality.

Look at how the Christians do it.

One final thought, Christians have known for many years that the most effective way of converting people to Christianity is to go to them and meet them on their terms. Find out what a person needs most and attend to that need. Christians convert other people by making the effort to get to know other people and letting them see that Christian are not some do-gooder perfect human, but they do care and they do want to try as hard as possible to make life better.

If sceptics really want to show that science leads to reason and truth and that truth has something genuine to offer, then they should show it by doing things other than ridiculing the ridiculous.

 


 

* My thoughts on this matter are still evolving, so its possible (probable even) that I will revisit this subject in the future. It will be interesting to see if my stance changes between now and then.