Exbeliever's Swan Song


Because of other obligations (e.g. finishing my thesis, moving across the country, starting a new PhD program, etc.), I've decided to resign my membership in this wonderful blog.

During my time here, I repeatedly asked Christians to give some kind of reason for their faith. I asked them to supply some kind of argument that ends in "therefore, god exists." This challenge was repeatedly ignored. Instead, the Christians' strategy was to point out philosophical problems that have been studied by philosophers for centuries and say that somehow a term "God" was the answer to all of them. When an atheist had an understandably difficult time resolving a difficult problem, the Christian would declare himself the winner because of his "answer"--which really is a non-answer.

A couple of months ago, Richard Carrier and Tom Wanchick engaged in an on-line debate published on The Secular Web.

Below, I respond to Wanchick's opening statement. I decided that I would only read his opening statement in the debate and respond to it without reading Carrier's rebuttals or Wanchick's answers. It is possible, then, that Wanchick later clarified his statements and a further response would be necessary. I'm satisfied, however, with my responses.


Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

It seems reasonable to believe that every substance has an explanation for its existence: it was either caused by something else, or exists necessarily (it cannot not exist). This premise is evidently more plausible than its denial, for if confronted with a new substance, everyone would assume it has an explanation before they assumed it didn't. Absurdly, if the latter presumption were equally plausible, we could justifiably pronounce everything to be a brute given, making science, philosophy, etc. frivolous. Indeed, the general assumption that objects have explanations has been successfully confirmed so often that those wishing to reject it must provide good reason for doing so.

Additionally, if we have an adequate explanation for an object, it would clearly be unreasonable to conclude instead that that object was unexplained. Again, explanation is prima facie more reasonable than nonexplanation. Thus, Quentin Smith, the foremost atheist expert on cosmological arguments, admits that if naturalism cannot explain the universe like theism can, that is evidence for theism over naturalism.

Now, interestingly, the universe itself is a substance having properties: density, temperature, etc. Therefore, like all substances, it has an explanation. Indeed, scientists have long assumed this in cosmological studies, as they've developed myriad theories as to how the universe exists.

Thus, we construct this argument:

1. Every substance has an explanation of its existence either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature.
2. The universe is a substance.
3. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature.
4. The universe does not exist necessarily.
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is an external cause.


This conclusion follows from the premises. I've justified 1 and 2 above. Premise 4 requires little argument, since the universe appears obviously contingent. Scientists even tell us that it had a beginning and will end somewhere in the future. Being non-necessary, then, it finds its explanation in an outside cause.

This cause can exist timelessly and spacelessly, since it can cause the space-time universe. Moreover, it must be immaterial, since it is nonspatial. And it must also be a mind, since only minds and abstract objects can exist timelessly and immaterially, and only the former can cause anything. Furthermore, the only two types of explanation are natural/mechanistic and personal; and since there was no nature prior to the universe, its cause is personal.

Moreover, the ultimate cause cannot itself be a contingent reality. As Charles Taliaferro notes, "If contingent object A is explained by B which is explained by C and so on into infinity, we will never get a complete or fully satisfactory explanation of A." Thus, the explanation of the universe must be a metaphysically necessary, uncaused being.

My first argument therefore proves the reality of a transcendent, timeless, and spaceless mind that exists necessarily and has the ability and know-how to cause and sustain the universe.
Wanchick's first premise is "Every substance has an explanation of its existence either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature."

How does one know this to be true? Wanchick attempts to substantiate his claim when he writes, ". . . for if confronted with a new substance, everyone would assume it has an explanation before they assumed it didn't."

In other words, this claim is true because of induction. Everything that we have observed that exists has an explanation for its existence. I certainly agree with this claim, but I wonder how it can be extrapolated and used to describe the existence of the universe.

Let me explain. Every existing thing that we have observed has been observed in a physical universe acted upon by physical laws. These physical laws certainly affected the "substances" observed.

How is it, then, possible to confidently assert that, in the absence of our physical laws, the universe (even if we allow the dubious claim that the universe is a "substance" and not "the set of all substances") must have an explanation of its existence? In other words, Wanchick is applying an inductive argument that is true under one set of conditions to an entirely different set of conditions that he knows nothing about. Scientists agree that, in the earliest stages of the beginning of the universe, the laws of physics break down. There are no physical laws that we know of that can exist when the universe is at infinite mass and space time is bent infinitely.

Perhaps an analogy would help. Let's say that I make the claim, "In every case in which I weigh a person and then strap 20 lbs of Styrofoam to their waists, their weight increases by exactly 20 lbs." This is a very reasonable claim under what we consider "normal" conditions (e.g. they are in a doctor's office on a true scale). Now, imagine that I am weighing people in a pool of chest-high water. When I strap the 20 lbs of Styrofoam to their waists, their weight would actually decrease, because the Styrofoam is buoyant and would lift them off the scales. The exact opposite effect would occur.

In the same way, Wanchick is taking an inductive claim made under a specific set of conditions and applying them to a situation in which the conditions are completely unknown. In fact, we know that the conditions of the earlier universe in a singularity are very different from the conditions of our current universe. Why should we accept his claim, then, that we can apply the same inductive argument that we have observed under specific conditions to "a substance" that did not come about in those same conditions. How do we know that the universe does not exist in conditions that are exactly the opposite of all of the substances we observe within the universe? How can we say that this first premise holds in different conditions?

Wanchick's first premise cannot be substantiated and his argument fails before it begins.
Kalam Cosmological Argument

Like the universe's existence, its origin too needs explaining. Leading philosophers and scientists confirm that the universe came into existence from nothing. Currently, the big bang model leads the pack among cosmological theories and entails a definite beginning of space-time. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking admits, "almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang." Carrier concurs.

An eternal universe is disconfirmed philosophically, too, for it implies that there are infinite past events. But it would be impossible to reach the last event in this series--i.e., the present. We could literally never reach the end of infinity; no matter how many events we traversed, there'd always be infinite to go. But since we have reached the end, the set of past events must be finite.

Moreover, an infinite set of things entails metaphysically impossibility. If we have infinite things numbered 1 through infinity and subtract all even ones, we would have an infinite number remaining. But if we subtract only those marked over #5, we would be left with 5. Since it is metaphysically impossible to subtract equal quantities and get contradictory answers, it must be impossible for an infinite to exist. Thus, the number of past events in the universe is finite. The universe had a beginning.

This is significant, since, as we all know, objects cannot just pop into being from nothing, uncaused. Imagine finding a whale or a stadium simply appearing willy-nilly on your doorstep! David Hume even announced, "But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without a cause."

Inductively, of course, no one in all of history has witnessed an object leap into reality this way. If this is possible, it's strikingly curious that it's never occurred.

Indeed, the inductive evidence simply accords with sound metaphysics, for if nothing existed without the universe, then not even the potentiality for it existed. But how can something come into existence if there was no potential for it? Carrier's own view is that "things exist potentially wherever the elements necessary to form them exist." But since nothing existed without the universe given naturalism, neither did its potential, thereby ruling out its actuality on that view.

Thus:

6. Every substance that begins to exist has a cause.
7. The universe began to exist.
8. Therefore, the universe has a cause.


Premise 6 and 7 are more reasonable than their negations, as argued above. And since the argument is valid, the conclusion follows unavoidably.

As noted in the prior argument, the cause of the universe will be an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, and nonphysical mind. However, other significant qualities come through here: its incomprehensible power and knowledge. This creator has the awe-inspiring power and knowledge to create whole universes from nothing. It's hard to see, then, what power or knowledge he lacks.

This cosmological argument fails in exactly the same place that the previous one did. The first premise states, "Every substance that begins to exist has a cause." Even if we grant that the universe is a "substance" and not "the set of all substances," this is still an inductive claim made within conditions in which the universe itself does not exist.

Wanchick explicitly states that his is an inductive argument. He writes, "Inductively, of course, no one in all of history has witnessed an object leap into reality this way. If this is possible, it's strikingly curious that it's never occurred."

Again, however, everyone "in all of history" has only witnessed objects coming into existence within the physical universe. The universe itself does not exist within the physical universe, so it is impossible to extract an argument that relies on the conditions within the universe and apply it to the universe itself which does not exist within the universe.

The statement, "Every substance that begins to exist has a cause." Is a statement that is true because of the physical laws of the universe. All of the physicists that I am aware of admit that physical laws break down if there is no physical universe. We simply can't know if those laws apply outside of the universe.

Wanchick cannot maintain his first premise, therefore, the argument fails to prove anything.
Design of/in the Universe

In the past 30 years, science has revealed the razor thin conditions that make life in our universe possible. The universe is "fine-tuned" for life. Indeed, there are dozens of factors that must be set precisely in order for life to exist here. With their slightest alteration, life would be impossible. Thus, while there are millions of ways the universe could physically be, very few of them are life-permitting. Robin Collins sums up the scientific consensus:
Scientists have increasingly come to realize how the initial conditions of the universe and the basic constants of physics must be balanced on a razor's edge for intelligent life to evolve.... Calculations show that if the constants of physics--such as the physical constant governing the strength of gravity--were slightly different, the evolution of complex, embodied life forms of comparable intelligence to ourselves would be seriously inhibited, if not rendered impossible.

But the unimaginably precise fine-tuning appears more epistemically probable given theism than it does given naturalism. For because conscious life is good, it's not surprising that God would make a world containing it. But why would we ever expect the world to have life-permitting conditions if naturalism were true? Indeed, this appears wholly improbable, since the possible universes that disallow life incomprehensibly outnumber those that allow it. It's like picking the prize-winning white marble out of a barrel of black ones. Thus:

9. Fine-tuning is not improbable given theism.
10. Fine-tuning is improbable given naturalism.
11. Thus, fine-tuning is more probable on theism than naturalism.


In other words, fine-tuning provides evidence that theism is more probable than naturalism.

This seems, to me, a particularly bad design argument, but I'll address it as is.

Wanchick writes, "But the unimaginably precise fine-tuning appears more epistemically probable given theism than it does given naturalism. For because conscious life is good, it's not surprising that God would make a world containing it. But why would we ever expect the world to have life-permitting conditions if naturalism were true?"

The addition of God to this "problem" does nothing to solve it. If a god existed, he would have available to him an infinite number of options in creating the universe. There were as many possible universes without conscious life available to a god as there are available to chance. Why should we believe that a god would be compelled to create one with life? Could he not have just as easily created a universe that did not sustain life?

Wanchick tells us it is more probable that a god would have created a universe supporting life because "conscious life is good." Well, that's interesting. I don't think of conscious life as "good" or "bad," I simply believe it "is." What reasons are there for me to believe that conscious life is "good"? Would it be "bad" if life didn't exist? If a god did eternally exist, was it "bad" until life was created?

I do not see how existence can be labeled "good" or "bad." Existence is a precondition of moral judgments. It simply makes no sense to make a moral judgment about a precondition of moral judgments.

It does not matter, then, that ". . . the possible universes that disallow life incomprehensibly outnumber those that allow it." This is true whether if chance is responsible for the universe or if a god freely chose to create. Both chance and a god would have the same number of possible universes. That this universe exists the way it does is no less statistically "miraculous" whether by chance or by a god with infinite possibilities.
Knowability and Discoverability

Additionally, many things within the universe indicate a God-like designer. Scholars have documented that our universe is not only fine-tuned for sentient life, but also for scientific discovery and knowability. The universe is structured in just the right way to allow the study of natural laws and phenomena, greatly adding to our scientific knowledge. Such features make sense if God wants us to discover and enjoy creation; but why would these features exist on naturalism?


Same problem. If a god existed, he would be able to create any number of universes in which laws and phenomena are not knowable or discoverable. Chance is no different. There are the same number of options available to both chance or a god.
Beauty

Collins notes that "beauty is widely recognized by physicists as being an important characteristic of the laws of nature, one which has served as a highly selective guide to discovering the fundamental laws of nature in the twentieth century." Moreover, the laws of nature (and many things in nature) exhibit simplicity, harmony, and elegance. It wouldn't be surprising for a creator to make such a universe, but, again, why would this be so if naturalism is true?


This, of course, assumes that "beauty" is universal. Aesthetic judgments, however, are notoriously subjective. Beauty has no universal properties. The very property that makes one thing beautiful makes another thing ugly (e.g. the curve of a "beautiful" vase could be the reason that vase is beautiful, but the same curve in another vase with different properties could be the reason that vase is ugly).

Additionally, this argument falls prey to the same problems listed above. Both chance and any supposed "god" would have the same number of possible universes. Why would a god be any less likely to choose one over another? Maybe an uglier universe would have better fulfilled a purpose this god had.
Evil

Typically, if an object is undesigned or serves a purpose only accidentally (e.g., a hillside serving as a stage), we conclude that it cannot be used correctly or incorrectly. Design or intention appears to be a necessary condition for proper function. A bike can be used properly; a fallen meteor cannot.

It's interesting to apply this insight to sentient beings. Can they be misused? The obvious answer is 'yes.' Humans shouldn't be used as slaves, for instance; doing so is evil. Indeed, the misuse of beings seems to be a necessary and sufficient condition for evil. Evil events involve a patient out of its proper state.

So evil is a departure from the way things ought to exist. But this contradicts naturalism, wherein every living thing is like the hillside: accidental byproducts having no design plan, no proper state.

Objectors might hold that if we used the hillside as a stage long enough, this would become its conventional function, and to stop doing so would seem a misuse. Thus, objects can acquire proper function accidentally over time. But this seems false for at least sentient beings, for no matter how long humans are enslaved, they should never be used as such. Their function is inherent rather than conventional.

Evil obviously exists; think of child pornography or rape. And since evil entails that the universe and its inhabitants have a specific function or purpose, it follows that they were designed by an intelligent being having the knowledge, ability, and intention to build a world with purposeful and moral dimensions.

Wanchick asserts that "Evil obviously exists. . ." Actions certainly exist, and people certainly call some actions "evil" sometimes, but does something called "evil" obviously exist? I can't taste, hear, touch, see, or smell it. How is this obvious?

Also, how is it that objects can be improperly used? It is true that a bicycle has a design function, but what if I don't want a bicycle for the function for which it was designed? Is that an "improper" use of it?

Say that I am a set designer for a movie production. My company is making a horror film set in an old cabin in the woods. I have to decorate that cabin, and I want to hang a rusty, non-functional bicycle from the wall. For me, a brand new mountain bike is a "bad" bike. A rusty, old, non-functional bicycle, however, is a "good" bike for my purposes. That this bike does not do what it is designed and intended to do is exactly what makes it "good."

Wanchick states, "Humans shouldn't be used as slaves, for instance. . ." I agree, but others don't. Some people believe that others should be enslaved. They believe it is "good" that people are enslaved.

I would certainly fight to keep people free from slavery, but that doesn't mean that I believe it is universally "wrong." It is, however, wrong according to my moral framework, and my moral framework forces me to fight against slavery with all of my power (and within my ethical guidelines). Whether I believe it to be "universally" immoral is irrelevant.

The "power" of this argument is its emotional appeal. Most people agree that slavery is evil, but they feel that it lessens the immorality of it if it is not "universally" so. I will deal with this more in the next argument.

[As an aside, it is interesting to me that Wanchick argues for the immorality of slavery when the Christian god is quoted as saying, "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life. . ." (Leviticus 25:44-46) and "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." (Exodus 21:20-21). If slavery is "evil" and the Christian god calls it "good," then is the Christian god "evil" or is slavery "good"?]
Moral Argument

But what makes us obliged not to mistreat humans? After all, if naturalism is true, "a human being is a biological animal," as naturalist Julian Baggini admits. But unless humans have unique moral worth not had by beasts, it seems objective moral truth wouldn't exist. It wouldn't, for instance, be immoral to rape or kill, for animals do so to each other regularly with no moral significance.

Paul Draper pinpoints the problem such properties would cause for naturalism: "every human being has a special sort of inherent value that no animal has, and every human has an equal amount of this value. Such equality is possible despite the great differences among humans, because the value in question does not supervene on any natural properties. It is a nonnatural property that all (and only) humans possess." The great naturalist philosopher J.L. Mackie, and myriad others, agree.

Unfortunately, to defend naturalism, Draper and Mackie (like Carrier) have to absurdly deny that humans have such unique inherent worth. Carrier even says some animals are more morally valuable than certain humans in virtue of their superior intellect, rationality, etc. But such positions are obviously false. Humans have moral worth not found in animals, regardless of their comparative capabilities, and the failure to recognize this is simply a lack of moral insight.

But since these moral properties obviously do exist in human beings and aren't natural, they must have a supernatural source. And since moral properties exist only in persons, the source of moral properties must be a supernatural person.

The moral order, then, is evidence of a supernatural person who grounds moral truth. Additionally, at least some moral truths are necessary, and thus their foundation must be a necessary being grounding moral facts in all possible worlds.

I've dealt with the issue of morality at length before. I believe that moral judgments are relative to moral frameworks.

***
But are all relative judgments invalid?

Consider motion. Imagine sitting next to me in a bar when I suddenly begin screaming, "My Guinness is moving! Sweet Lola, save me, my Guinness is moving!" You look at my glass, however, and say, "Man, atheism is really rat poison to the intellect! Your Guinness isn't moving; it's perfectly still."

Is it both possible that my Guinness is moving and that my Guinness is not moving? Of course it is!

I could respond to your skepticism, "Isn't this continent drifting, the earth rotating and revolving, our solar system spinning in a pinwheel galaxy, and our galaxy speeding away from others in the universe? How can you say my Guinness isn't moving?!"

At the same time, you could have said, "Look EB, there is a spot on the bar next to your glass and we can tell by this ruler that your glass is neither moving towards that spot nor away from it. Your glass is stationary."

Both contradictory statements are correct, but are relative to specific spatio-temporal frameworks. From certain spatio-temporal frameworks, my Guinness is stationary; from others, it is moving. The "fact" of the motion of my Guinness is relative to the spatio-temporal framework that is adopted. There is no one, "true" spatio-temporal framework that truly determines whether something is "really" moving or not, there are only different frameworks from which to judge.

But though my Guinness' motion is relative, it is still "objective." You would certainly admit the validity of my statement that my Guinness is moving from any of the other spatio-temporal frameworks that I mentioned as justification. I would certainly admit the validity of your statement from the spatio-temporal framework that you mention. Both statements are correct, but are so relative to specific spatio-temporal frameworks.

Now, what if the same could be said of moral judgments? What if I could say objectively that it is morally wrong of P to D (I'm stealing all of this from Princeton's Gilbert Harman if you are wondering), but had to qualify my statement that it was morally wrong according to a specific moral framework? My judgment would be objective, but not universal.

If morality is not universal, though, must I accept everyone's moral judgments as equally valid? Of course not. For one thing, it is certainly possible that someone makes a moral judgment that does not fit the moral framework they use to justify it [Just like it would be possible for someone to say that something is stationary from a framework in which that judgment is inconsistent].

Secondly, acknowledging that a belief may be justified by reference to another moral framework does not mean that I have to abandon my own moral framework. For example, I believe that it is morally wrong to rape someone. If I were to happen upon a man trying to rape a woman, my moral framework demands that I do whatever action is permissible according to that framework to prevent that action from taking place. I may acknowledge that the action is permissible according to the rapist's moral framework, but that does not mean that I must ignore what is demanded by my own moral framework.

Moral relativism, then, does not necessarily lead to moral nihilism.

Anyone familiar with Foucault's work on power structures will know that, if he is correct, social ideas and morality are shaped by power. There is nothing called "madness" out in the world. One cannot catch "madness" in a bucket and paint it pink. It is an idea that must be defined. Originally, the church and the family were the primary power structures that made this definition. The church needed a way to distinguish between God's directions to his people through the Holy Spirit and the babblings of a madman. People that had certain heretical "visions" and "promptings" from God were considered "mad." Now, it is the physicians who define these kind of terms. Whatever the age, though, power is the driver behind these definitions.

In the case of morality, then, power will be the stabilizing (or destabilizing) force behind societal morality. Obviously, that does not mean that one must accept society's morality (both the Christians here and myself reject our current society's morality, but for drastically different reasons). For example, though most of current, American society opposes same-sex marriage, I adamantly support it. I do not have to accept the majority opinion even if I acknowledge that that opinion is justified by reference to a certain moral framework. I can exert my power (however limited it is) to try to change societal opinion. I can also point out that denying homosexual couples marriage is inconsistent with other, primary societal values like equal treatment under the law.

Just like one can make objective statements about motion even though the statements are relative to spatio-temporal frameworks, so I can make objective statements about morality that are relative to specific moral frameworks. So, contrary to Bahnsen's argument, I can be outraged by the Holocaust and not have a universal morality to do so. Does someone else have to agree with my outrage? Certainly not, but I will exert every power available to me via my moral framework (which excludes violence) to make others see things my way. Morality, like every idea (according to Foucault) is a power struggle.
***

Wanchick writes, "Unfortunately, to defend naturalism, Draper and Mackie (like Carrier) have to absurdly deny that humans have such unique inherent worth. . . But such positions are obviously false. Humans have moral worth not found in animals, regardless of their comparative capabilities, and the failure to recognize this is simply a lack of moral insight."

Well, this is certainly a passionate assertion! It is only that, though, an assertion. If it is "obviously false" that humans do not have a "unique inherent worth," why didn't Wanchick demonstrate its falsity? All he did was follow it up with rhetoric.

That humans are capable of feeling a stronger attachment to our fellow humans is not surprising given the nature of our brains and our evolutionary history, but other animals also experience loss and pain at the death or injury of another animal. That a human life is more significant to us, humans, is no surprise. That we feel a unique bond to other humans is no surprise. This is mirrored (to a lesser extent) in the animal kingdom as well (i.e. some animals "value" the lives of other of their kind more than they "value" the lives of other animals).
Ontological Argument

Philosophically, to say something can possibly exist is to say it could exist in at least one 'possible world' (PW). PWs (including our own) are simply possible total states of affairs. (These are not necessarily possible universes--e.g., God existing alone is a PW excluding any universe.)

By definition, a necessary being is one existing in all PWs. Obviously, if such a being were found in our (actual) world we would know that it exists in all PWs. The reverse also holds. Label our world X and another PW Y. Assume Y holds a necessary being. Inhabitants of Y would know that that being would exist in X too, since it would exist in all PWs. Thus, if any PW holds a necessary being (i.e., if that necessary being is possible), then that being must exist in the actual world, too.

Some theists have seen God as a necessary being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good. He is maximally great (MG). But then if God is possible, He is actual. Theists have developed this ontological argument:

12. It is possible that an MG being exists.
13. If it is possible that an MG being exists, then an MG being exists in some PW.
14. If an MG being exists in some PW, then it exists in all PWs.
15. If an MG being exists in all PWs, then it exists in the actual world.

The argument is valid. The question is, why think an MG metaphysically possible?

First, nothing about this being seems impossible: He appears compatible with our modal intuitions. Much of mankind has indeed thought He exists. In the absence of a defeater, there seems no reason to reject our intuitions.

Moreover, my prior arguments establish 12. The Leibnizian argument proves a necessary mind who caused the universe. This being is seemingly omnipotent and omniscient given the kalam and design arguments. And He is the necessary source of moral goodness and truth, as shown in the moral argument. So my case reveals the reality and thus the possibility of an MG being. Indeed, even if the arguments aren't sound, their conclusions appear at least metaphysically possible. One doesn't simply look at the conclusion and see its obvious falsity; quite the opposite. The beings entailed appears possible, and thus the argument must be evaluated. But if the beings in those arguments are possible, then why is it impossible for one being with all those properties to exist? Since this surely does seem possible, then that person must actually exist. The MG God is a reality.

Ontological arguments suck. Fight fire with fire, though, I guess. Here is my ontological argument:

P1: It is possible that a possible world in which a god does not exist exists.

P2: If it is possible that a possible world in which a god does not exist exists, then a possible world in which a god does not exist exists.

P3: If a possible world in which a god does not exist exists, then a god would not exist in every possible world.

P4: If a god does not exist in every possible world, then it is possible that a god does not exist in the actual world.

P5: A god does not exist in a possible world in which a god does not exist.

C: Therefore, it is possible that a god does not exist in the actual world.

Theists assert that a god does exist in the actual world. It is their responsibility, then, to demonstrate this.

I'll give my argument the same support that Wanchick gave his above:

The argument is valid. The question is, why think a possible world in which a god does not exist possible?

First, nothing about this possible world seems impossible: It appears compatible with our modal intuitions. Much of humanity has indeed thought it exists. In the absence of a defeater, there seems no reason to reject our intuitions.

Moreover, my refutation of Wanchick's prior arguments establish that it is possible that a god does not exist. My refutation of his Leibnizian argument disproves a necessary mind who caused the universe. Given my refutation of the kalam and design arguments, there is no reason to believe an omnipotent and omniscient being exists. As shown in my refutation of the moral argument, it is not true that a god is the necessary source of moral goodness and truth. . .
Resurrection of Jesus

Despite media rumors, there is wide agreement among New Testament specialists regarding the events surrounding Jesus' death. Even a minimal list of almost universally affirmed facts among liberal and conservative scholars provides sufficient evidence that Jesus really was resurrected.
(a) Jesus died by crucifixion around 30 AD. Even radically liberal Crossan confesses, "That [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be."

(b) The tomb where Jesus was buried was empty days after His death. There are almost two dozen arguments for this: (i) If the tomb weren't empty, Christianity would've been defeated in Jerusalem by Jewish authorities revealing so. (ii) Women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb. However, women's testimony in Jesus' culture was considered generally unreliable and far inferior to that of men. If the empty tomb story were fabricated, why insert women as the primary witnesses? (iii) The empty tomb is noted by Paul in the 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 creed originating within three years of Jesus' death, far too early to be legend. (iv) The Jewish denial of the empty tomb implies its reality. Why concoct stories accounting for a tomb that's full? (v) The story is benignly straightforward, unlike legendary stories of Jesus' era.

(c) Jesus appeared visually to various people days after His death, as independently attested in early creeds, Paul, the Gospels, and nonbiblical sources. Paul tells of his and the other disciples' appearances in 1 Corinthians 15, explaining his personal verification of their accounts. L├╝demann concludes, "It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ."

(d) James and Paul both believed Jesus was resurrected after seeing Him postcrucifixion. These appearances must have vividly occurred for such dedicated opponents of Christ to convert. Paul went from the main persecutor of Christianity to its main apostle! And James turned from confirmed skeptic to an early church pillar.

If the Resurrection occurred, this series of facts can be explained plausibly and coherently. But what coherent natural explanation can be offered?

Moreover, without the Resurrection, how does one account for Christianity's origin? A lone resurrection of an executed Messiah was utterly foreign to pre-Christian Jews and blatantly contradicted their Messianic expectations. It seems impossible that any would've conceived of, let alone invented, the resurrection account.

There were various other Messianic movements before and after Jesus, but they uniformly died with their founders. Only Jesus was claimed to have risen. Only His followers, who saw Him afterwards, turned from a failed group to a vibrant movement proclaiming resurrection unto death. Something remarkable must've occurred to motivate the transformation. Only the Resurrection seems sufficient.

Again, these facts are affirmed among virtually all scholars, Christian or liberal. As Craig notes, in denying any of them or that resurrection is their best explanation, Carrier will have to "believe that the majority of the world's historians who have studied the life of Jesus are mistaken about the historicity of his empty tomb, postmortem appearances, and the origin of the Christian Way, or else embrace some naturalistic explanation of these facts which has been overwhelmingly rejected by historical scholars."

But since men cannot rise from death naturally, the Resurrection must've had a supernatural cause. And since Jesus claimed allegiance with the Old Testament God, the most plausible cause of Jesus' rising is precisely He.

In answer to a - d above:

(a) I agree that a man named Jesus was crucified around 30 CE.

(b) I do not know whether or not Jesus' tomb was empty days after his burial. All I have to go on are works written by biased followers years after the event. (i) There is no indication that the Jewish authorities felt threatened enough by the Christian sect as to desire to disprove their claims. Plus, if the first record we have of an empty tomb was written 3 years after the burial of a body, there would be nothing left of that body to disprove the Christian claim. The Jewish authorities would be helpless to defeat Christianity because the body would have been unrecognizably decomposed (maybe completely so). (ii) Who knows why the biblical writers wrote what they wrote. As a team member recently pointed out, there are many inconsistencies with the gospel stories. Maybe the gospel writers were idiots. (iii) Legends can appear much faster than 3 years. (iv) By the time the Jews "denied the empty tomb" the body would have decomposed. They would have been denying that it was empty because of the resurrection. (v) How a story about a person miraculously raising from the dead can be considered "benignly straightforward" is beyond me. If this is straightforward, what is a "legend" to this man?

(c) Why should anyone believe the writers of the Bible and church creeds are attempting to give an honest historical account?

(d) This assumes that the conversion stories of James and Paul are not also made up. How do I know they are not?

Wanchick writes, "If the Resurrection occurred, this series of facts can be explained plausibly and coherently. But what coherent natural explanation can be offered?"

Jesus was buried in a tomb and his body decomposed before people started claiming he was resurrected. The gospel writers were people of faith who believed what they wanted to believe much like the Heaven's Gate cult. They were so convinced that they were willing to die, just like Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the Heaven's Gate cult. The conversion stories of Paul and James were embellished to make it sound better.

As to the argument for the Christian god. The arguments above do not prove that Jesus rose from the dead, so there is no need for a supernatural cause of an event that cannot be proven to have occurred.
Collectively, then, I've demonstrated the reality of a transcendent, immaterial, uncaused, metaphysically necessary, and morally perfect mind of unsurpassable power and knowledge who has revealed Himself in Jesus. My arguments, in effect, demonstrate the reality of not only God, but, alas, the God of Christianity.

Every one of Wanchick's arguments have been refuted above. The case for a god is unproven and must be rejected until some valid evidence is given.

I've collected all of my other posts on this blog here. I consider the following to be my best entries:

An Evidentialist Challenge, Restated--A post in which I answer the two most popular presuppositionalist's questions, "Without the Christian God, how can you account for universal laws of logic and morality?" I also issue a challenge for Christians to demonstrate the validity of their faith.

Step into My Vortex--Discussing the vastness of the universe and our insignificance in it. Has a cool link that shows how big (and small) the universe is.

Life After the Vortex (An Existentialist Reading)--My philosophy for living a full life in light of our insignificance in the universe. Discusses Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus.

Presuppositionalism: Arguments 4, Supports 0--Argues that all presuppositionalists arguments are unsupported, that presuppositionalism is trickery, not a valid argument.

*I will respond to comments on this particular post until they die down in a few days. After that, I will fade away into the sunset.

It has been a true pleasure.

8 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Perhaps I speak for most readers here, from Christian to atheist, when I say the pleasure was all ours. You are a formidable opponent, respectful to those who respect you, and very intelligent. I wish you all the very best in your career.

Daniel said...

We'll miss having you around. You certainly kept the collective IQ higher.

Perhaps we can save ourselves approximately 1 hour of every day by linking to this post every time a canard of theism is thrown at us?

Thanks.

DagoodS said...

ex-believer, I will miss your posting. You clearly had a very strong handle on the philosophical argument, and you were able to articulate it so that people could understand.

Good luck in any endeavor you choose, and if you should happen to find yourself on the ‘net, and happen to wander into this blog, your comments will always be appreciated.

Martin Wagner said...

Another problem with the "fine-tuning" argument for design is that, if God is omnipotent as Christians believe, why would the earth need to be fine-tuned a specific way to sustain conscious (or otherwise) life? This all-powerful God is the one that calls the shots, is He not? So it seems there would be no reason such a deity could not create conscious life capable of thriving in hard vacuum or the core of a star. The fine-tuning argument is deeply ironic, in that Christians are essentially pointing to a specific set of limits (if the earth were 1000 miles closer to the sun than it is, etc.) as evidence of their limitless God. Er, Creator. Designer. Whatever.

Ultimately, this whole claim teleologists trot out that the universe is "fine-tuned" for life is patently bizarre. The overwhelming majority of the universe is hard vacuum hovering somewhere around zero Kelvin, which is not exactly conducive to life in any form. Sure, conditions on earth are good for life. But I fail to see how a universe of inconceivable vastness within which only a tiny handful of miniscule planets in all likelihood exist that can sustain life could possibly be used as an argument against natural processes. It seems all the teleologists have is their usual "argument from really big numbers"; "Oh, the odds are so huge!" What they don't explain is why their all powerful God is so wasteful and inefficient. A whole ginormous universe for a tiny number of life-sustaining planets, and this is "fine-tuning"???

If the universe really is fine-tuned for life, why can't I just fly to Mars or Venus and walk around in shorts and a tank shirt?

Rich said...

Exbeliever,
While very new to this blog I must say, and agree with John as a christian here, It was a pleasure and you are very intelligent and from what I can tell a good person. I wish you the best and hope you life continues as fruitfull as it appears to be.

Anonymous said...

i too will be one of the christians who will miss your posts, Exbeliever.
i regularly send people to this blog; mostly christians who think that atheists have no ground to stand on, so they can see that faith is not a walk in the park.
i look forward to the waves you will make in the years to come.
blessings, (from whence-ever you believe they come=)
-Twitch

George Jetson said...

Sad to hear that; I had just found this blog and was looking forward to making a few comments on exbeliever's analysis of presuppositionalism. Good luck in your studies!

Jason said...

I'm sorry to hear that Ex won't be writing here anymore. Good luck to you, Ex, in your future endeavours.