Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Simple Inductive Cosmological Argument

I'm going to put this argument in the form of a deductive syllogism, but the argument's premises are largely based on induction:

1. The universe is very complex. (Premise)

2. Whatever is very complex most likely has an external cause. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the universe most likely has an external cause. (From 1 and 2)

The beauty of this argument is its simplicity.  It very much resembles the kalam argument, with the exception that the universe does not have to be finite in the past.  Whether finite or infinite in the past, it's entirely conceivable that the universe didn't have to be so astronomically complex, or complex at all.  Couldn't the universe exist with a single quark?  I doubt anyone in their right mind will doubt premise (1), so the key premise is (2).  Since this is an inductive argument, examples will suffice.  A mountain, for example, is a very complex thing, and yet we know that it is externally caused by various geological processes.  Or how about the complexity of an animal?  The animal only exists because of the act of procreation.  I could continue, but I think enough has been said already.

Now, since the universe is the sum total of all physical space, time, matter and energy, it follows that the external cause (which most likely exists) must be timeless, changeless (for time is a measurement of change), immaterial, and very powerful in order to cause something as complex and vast as the universe.  I'll leave the personality of this external cause for another time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Pragmatic Argument for Theism

Note: I posted this as a comment on Victor Reppert's blog.  I just thought it would be worth reposting as a post on my own blog.

Even if I came to believe that all of the theoretical arguments for God's existence were unsound (highly unlikely), I would still remain a theist for at least one pragmatic reason. Studies continue to show that those who pray and meditate live longer, healthier, and happier lives. I would appeal to the follow pragmatic argument:

1. All things being equal, one should believe in what brings about the most health and happiness. (Premise)

2. Belief in God brings about the most health and happiness. (Premise)

3. Hence, all things being equal, one should believe in God. (From 1 and 2)

4. There are no sound arguments against God's existence. (Premise)

5. Hence, theism and atheism are at least rationally equal on theoretical terms. (From 2 - 4)

6. Therefore, one should believe in God. (From 1, 2, and 5)

Of course, I do accept philosophical arguments for God's existence as demonstrative, so this is all a moot point. Nevertheless, people don't have to rely on philosophical demonstrations in order to be a rationally justified theist. Isn't it more rational to embrace what leads to a longer, healthier, and happier life than not?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Reply to The Richard Carrier Project

A few years ago I wrote an article (http://dougbenscoter.blogspot.com/2010/05/resurrection-of-body.html) responding to Richard Carrier's claim that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead in a spiritual sense only, leaving a corpse behind in his tomb. It's funny to me that Carrier (a PhD, and a man I have no personal beef with) has some of the most zealous "fans" (yes, Carrier even refers to them as "fans," as opposed to students or followers).

The so-called "Richard Carrier Project" (http://richardcarrier.wikispaces.com/Catalogue+-+ABC) describes my response like this: "Benscoter quote-mines Carrier horribly to portray his argument as though he thinks Paul believed in an immaterial resurrection body. He does this despite the fact that the surrounding text goes out of its way to say the exact opposite. Carrier claims Paul believed Jesus rose in a body made of heavenly materials that are different (and improved) than earthly materials, but are still materials. Benscoter neither portrays Carrier's claims correctly nor engages the vast majority of the evidence Carrier has amassed to support his conclusion (even in an outdated article)." The "Project" also calls my response "lame." I'm not offended by this, though. In fact, I would find it funny if it weren't so sad.

First, note that the text being cited is 1 Cor. 15 (written by the Apostle Paul), and I wholeheartedly agree that it goes out of its way to deny the "immaterial resurrection body" hypothesis, which would have been a contradiction in terms to a first-century Palestinian Jew. If they agree with me on this point, then what is there left to debate? Secondly, these are the words Carrier uses to describe this early Christian belief: Jesus "was resurrected by being given a new body, one not made of flesh or physical matter as we know it, but of some kind of ethereal, spiritual material." (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/3.html).

Notice I never claimed that Carrier asserted that early Christians believed that Jesus was raised without any materials whatsoever. However, it's Carrier's thesis that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus's corpse was left to rot in his tomb, and interprets the change described in 1 Cor. 15 as an "exchange" (a secondary translation) as opposed to a "transformation" (the primary translation). In further support of the transformation translation, we also have Rom. 8:11 (also written by the Apostle Paul): "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." We also have Paul's writing in Phil. 3:20-21: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory . . ." Finally, there's the text of 1 Cor. 15:42: "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body . . ." What dies is what rises, albeit a transformed body.

So it's not Doug Benscoter who quote-mines Carrier, but the folks who run The Richard Carrier Project who misinterpret Carrier's own hypothesis that he spends hours debating Michael Licona with here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhmJnE4CzP4

Friday, April 4, 2014

An Inductive Moral Argument for Use in a Cumulative Case for Theism

I remain convinced that deductive moral arguments, such as Norman Geisler's, are sound.  Geisler summarizes his version of the proof as follows:

1. Every law has a lawgiver. (Premise)

2. There is an objective moral law. (Premise)

3. Therefore, there is an objective moral lawgiver. (From 1 and 2)

Geisler concludes that this objective moral lawgiver is part of what we mean by "God."

Robert Adams, on the other hand, argues like this:

1. Moral facts exist. (Premise)

2. Moral facts have the properties of being objective and non-natural. (Premise)

3. The best explanation of there being objective and non-natural moral facts is provided by theism. (Premise)

4. Therefore, the existence of moral facts provides good grounds for thinking theism is true. (From 1 - 3)

I doubt anyone will doubt premise (1) of Adams' argument. In fact, few of us even doubt the objectivity of moral facts. Are rape, murder, or torturing children for fun things we simply don't like, or are they really (objectively) moral atrocities? For those persuaded that these are objective moral atrocities, then this may provide a person-relative-proof of God's existence.

The reason objective laws, if they exist, are non-natural is because they are true immutably and cannot be reduced to any of the physical sciences, e.g. physics, chemistry, biology, etc. A scientist is able to show that torturing children for fun is painful, but its being painful doesn't make it morally wrong.

Thus, we are left with a supernatural explanation for objective moral facts. Theism fits this description; so at the very least, the reality of objective and non-natural moral facts makes theism more plausible than in their absence. Let P = the probability of some conjunction of facts, h = the hypothesis that God exists, k = our background knowledge, and e = the evidence (in this case the reality of objective and non-natural moral facts). With this in mind, the following is true: P(h/e&k) > P(h/k).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Odd Consequence of Stephen Law's Argument from Suffering

Stephen Law is perhaps the foremost defender of the argument from suffering.  While not an argument for atheism per se, if the argument is successful, then it does constitute a sound a defeater of classical theism, which holds that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.

One aspect that Law focuses on is the suffering of animals.  Animals, many believe, are innocent of any moral crimes, and so it would be unjust to allow them to suffer.  More precisely, it would be unjust to allow them to suffer to the extent that they do.  Since the God of classical theism would not allow such suffering (according to the argument), and this suffering is real, it follows that the God of classical theism does not exist.

Now, one classical theistic response to this is to say that while animals suffer pain, they are not aware of the fact that they are in pain.  If true, this minimizes the emotional impact of this aspect of the argument from suffering, and severely undercuts its rational import.  After all, suffering is either just or unjust only if there is some level of self-awareness, or at the very least a potential of self-awareness.

Law, like other defenders of the argument from suffering, responds that (at least some) animals do have the capacity for this kind of self-awareness.  Instead of contesting this response, I want to accept it for the sake of argument.  Why does this result in an odd consequence?

The problem is that with self-awareness comes a recognition of moral obligations, or (again) at least a potential for this recognition.  If animals have self-awareness, then it is reasonable to think they are cognizant that certain things are right and others wrong.  This in turn means that animals are morally culpable.  Yet, we find among animals many moral atrocities, such as rape and murder.  Ordinarily we would refer to an ape intentionally causing the death of another of its kind "killing," as opposed to "murder."  However, moral culpability changes all of that.

Unwittingly, then, Law and other proponents of the argument from suffering have actually given classical theists a further justification for animal suffering.  For "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23) and "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).  If animals have self-awareness and they are cognizant of moral obligations, then it follows that they are capable of sin, which (like for humans) is their metaphysical cause of death.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Modal Cosmological Argument Inspired by Bl. John Duns Scotus

1. Possibly, a First Cause in the order of sustaining causes exists. (Premise)

2. Necessarily, whatever exists is either contingent or necessary. (Definition)

3. Possibly, whatever is contingent has a sustaining cause. (Premise)

4. Hence, a First Cause cannot exist contingently. (From 1 - 3)

5. Therefore, a First Cause exists necessarily. (From 2 and 4)

The logic here is airtight.  So long as it's even possible for a First Cause to exist, and it's even possible that whatever is contingent has a sustaining cause of its existence, it follows logically and inescapably that a First Cause (in the order of sustaining causes) exists.

Of course, what remains to be seen is whether this First Cause possesses any or all of the divine attributes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Things to know with certainty

I'm compiling a list of things we can know with certainty.  The list will grow as I think of more examples.

1. "I think therefore I am."  Cliché?  Maybe, but it's undoubtedly true.  In order to doubt my own existence, I would first have to exist in order to doubt it.

2. The laws of logic, in the form of propositions, are necessary truths.  Any denial of the law of non-contradiction, the law of identity, or the law of excluded middle results in a literal absurdity.

3. No potentiality can actualize itself.  This is one of the few causal premises that is not just highly plausible, but can be known with certainty.  In order for a potentiality to actualize itself, it would have to be self-caused, and therefore exist and not-exist simultaneously, which is contradictory.

4. Order is more fundamental to reality than chaos.  Chaos is intelligible, and since intelligibility presupposes order, it follows that even what is perceived as chaotic must have a level of order behind it.  One could not even recognize "chaos" if it were utterly devoid of order.  Moreover, chaos does not violate any of the laws of logic.

5. If I experience pain or pleasure, then that experience must be genuine.  For even supposing that my brain is being manipulated by a mad scientist so that the sensations of pain or pleasure are illusory, it's still the case that I experience pain or pleasure.  Likewise, "I am being appeared to redly" must be true, even if the object in question is actually not red at all.  In both cases, it is the experience that is certain, which is independent of the reality (which may or may not correspond to one another).