The Slick Transcendental Argument


On the February 15th episode of the Atheist Experience, we got a call from a “Matt Slick” from the Christian Apologetics Research Ministry. Unfortunately, Matt Dillahunty had been arranging this call [edit: No he hadn’t, please see comments. -Kazim] and Mr. Slick happened to call in when our Matt was not on the air. Matt has been anxious to debate Mr. Slick, so he was frustrated that he wasn’t on that week. Matt is hoping for Mr. Slick to call again next week.

After a little discussion, Mr. Slick chose to present us a version of the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God. Apparently, it’s the one for which most atheists are the least prepared to debate. Unfortunately, Russell and I took a different debate strategy with our guest and it didn’t come off as well as it might have. I took the strategy of questioning assumptions as they came across, which perhaps bogged down the discussion. Mr. Slick was frustrated he didn’t get to arrive at the latter part of his argument with his assumptions intact, which might have been the real source of his frustration. Eventually, we ran out of time and he gave the link to his version of the argument before we ended the episode.

At dinner, we had some debate about the nature of logic and I seem to have a position that is not the majority one. I’d like to explain my position and why it sabotages Mr. Slick’s argument early on.

Formal logic is a branch of discrete mathematics invented by humans. It concerns the truth or falsehood of logical propositions. The beauty of it is that it is sound, meaning that if the assumptions are correct and the operations are properly applied, the result will also be true. Another important thing to understand is that, like any tool, it’s not universally applicable. It doesn’t apply (without modification) to truth values that change over time, things that are not discrete (think clouds, water droplets, or wave-particle duality), or infinite things. As with any tool, if it’s miss-applied, you will get incorrect results. This is the point I was trying to make in the call.

Mr. Slick was trying to make the point that logic is absolute—that it is true in all times, places, and circumstances. I disagree with this statement. In his argument, for example, he refers to a “Law of identity”, “Law of non-contradiction”, and “Law of excluded middle.” Mr. Slick is trying to lay the groundwork for a Law Giver who will eventually be the author of such laws. What Mr. Slick calls the “Law of identity” is really just the definition of equality. Exactly how you define equality is effectively a human-based assumption built into the model. The “Law of non-contraction” concerns the desirability of soundness of the system, meaning that if you build on false statements, you can no longer trust the conclusion. Soundness is a human-desired property of a formal system and we would reject any system that didn’t have it (and yes, such systems exist). Finally, what he calls the “Law of excluded middle” is an axiom of formal logic. Axioms are assumptions (made by humans) that may not be applicable in all situations. The point here is that no God is involved. Mr. Slick’s argument is on shaky ground from the beginning.

Formal logic is the basis of mathematics, computer science, and other disciplines. It is astoundingly useful, when it is properly applied. Mr. Slick tries to make a rather muddy point that logic is universal and therefore transcendent. The above discussion is necessary to tease apart several possible meanings of this statement.

  • It is not the case that it applies universally and we need to look no further than his own “proof” statements to see some problems:
    • Both conception and death are processes that last over time. There are times where it is ambiguous as to whether or not a person is dead or whether an embryo has been conceived. They are not two-valued things, such as is assumed by formal logic. Likewise, there is no such thing as a “moment of conception” as Christian propagandists would have you believe.
    • Living things change constantly over time, so the notion of what it means to be “the same” from one hour, year, century, has to be carefully defined before any meaningful conclusions can be drawn.
    • Clouds are not discrete objects. Combining two clouds yields one cloud. Does that mean that 1+1 = 1, and one of the first two clouds no longer exists? (Answer: it depends exactly on what you mean by “exist.”)
    • Many quantum mechanical events, such as radioactive decay, are uncaused. (Too bad for the cosmological argument for the existence of a god.)
  • It is absolutely true that formal logic is sound. That is, whenever the assumptions and methods are properly used, they yield correct results. It doesn’t matter where, when, or by whom the model is applied. In this sense, it is absolute and universal.
  • It’s even possible that, given just how useful formal logic is, other races will have invented it independently. Nobody has any evidence for this conclusion, but I think it’s likely. We know of no other species that have independently invented/discovered it, so Mr. Slick has yet to prove it’s absolute in this sense. He is trying to hide an assumption that a god created logic inside a proof of the existence of such a god. This is a circularity that renders Mr. Slick’s argument unsound (false).

Mr. Slick then goes on to say that logic is the product of only minds. It is true that humans invented it, but machines can carry it out. There are computer programs called theorem provers that can perform proofs of novel propositions. A version of the famous four color problem was solved by a computer before it was solved by a human. In his proof, Mr. Slick goes asserts that somehow minds are necessary to apply logic. Mr. Slick’s god is apparently not much better than a calculator.

So even before we get to the “meat” of Mr. Slick’s argument, we find it riddled with falsehoods and muddled thinking. I’ll let Matt refute the rest of the argument on the show, should Mr. Slick call back, but essentially, the rest of the argument is a blatant attempt to steal credit from the hard work of mathematicians that Mr. Slick hasn’t taken the trouble to understand.

I find it pathetic that billions of people believe in an omniscient God, nearly all of them claim to be in direct communication with Him, yet together they can’t come up with any evidence for Him. Mr. Slick lived up to my impression of apologists—intellectually dishonest people who are happy to mislead others using logical fallacies and manipulation. The world would be a better place without these con artists.

Comments

  1. Admin says

    I’ll make my post again on this thread:You should not spend so much time debating the points of these people’s various ‘philosophical proofs’ of the existence of gods, and start pointing out that they aren’t actually proofs at all. Proof requires detection. Please see my link below, in which I expand the argument, and explain the difference between scientific proofs, and religious ‘proofs’.http://www.atheistpropaganda.com/2008/09/scientific-proof-vs-religious-proof.htmlAmazing that this is the best these people can do, considering all of the mighty actions this god was responsible for in their book.

  2. says

    I don’t remember if I have ever seen you write a post for this blog before Don, but after reading this one I really wish you would write them more often.

  3. says

    I disagree that all apologists are intelectually dishonest. I believe many of them to be genuinely convinced that their arguments are true and generally undisputable. I do think he was just being an ass, however, by repeatedly saying that he already knew what an atheist would say, and that he was just trying to help by moving past it (without giving “the atheists” a chance to speak). His ignorance is trancendental–using his definition, of course.

  4. says

    By the way, it’s not really true that this was Matt D’s call to set up and take. Matt Slick sent the message to the TV list, and Matt and I were both interested in receiving his call. We just happened to have a turn first. I acknowledge that there are aspects of that call that we could have handled better, but it was an interesting experience and I’m not sorry that we took the opportunity.

  5. says

    And, I must say again, the mere fact that people such as Slick have to play these games is an admission of defeat. A chemist can show you chemistry. A physicist can show properties of physics (gravity, say, or magnetism). Geologists don’t ask you to accept the very existence of rocks on “faith.”Mathematicians can demonstrate… math! Yet all the theologians in the world, together, cannot produce one scrap of simple, clear, compelling evidence that the subject of their “-ology” actually exists.Even those who – unlike Slick – are well versed in philosophy cannot meet this simple test.(GeorgeNY)

  6. says

    Too many words for such a ridiculous argument.God created logic, therefore logic doesn’t apply to God.Ignoring the absurdity, this is just another way of saying, “Well, you can’t disprove God”Well fantastic. You’ve done nothing to support your assertion.

  7. says

    The show had the potential of being a good one then Matt called. Matt is an ubermoron. He pulled the same schtick with the Rational Response Squad. They would interrupt his monologue (which he’d spend 10 minutes complaining about) and point out the errors in his assumptions. He never does actually get around to a point.If he calls in next week he’ll spend half the show going over what he talked about on this show, and make the same errors. In his “presupposition”, as he likes to call it, Atheists can’t rebut his argument, so when you interrupt to point out an error you are being, in his mind, rude.The mere fact that he routinely gets debunked and is too stupid to figure it out, means he’ll declare that all Atheists are either too stupid to understand him, or too stubborn to agree that they’ve been defeated. Matt, in his mind, is never wrong.

  8. says

    Don:I’m not sure whether your view of logic is a minority opinion or not, but it’s very similar to what I’ve been saying to a handful of trolls here and elsewhere over the last couple of weeks.They don’t seem to be able to grasp that their arguments are not ontologically binding; they cannot make a syllogism and prove something new and novel about reality in an evidential vacuum. One guy insisted on the transcendence of the Law of Non-Contradiction and the Law of the Excluded Middle (in fact, he sounds very similar to your friend Slick), and essentially said that these human-generated laws had primacy over all science, therefore wave-particle duality was wrong. He couldn’t even grasp the difference between gravity the natural phenomenon and its description, the law of gravity.Until these people stop believing that there’s something magical about logic and that they can poof things into existence (or out of existence, as is the case with Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism) with mere words, I feel I’m always going to be speaking at cross-purposes to them.

  9. says

    Good post, Don, and one that makes several points I was going to make. My reaction to his argument on the web was slightly different: the different points he introduces aren’t obviously true, they’re merely sorta-kinda-maybe true.I think this may explain why you and Russell gave him as hard a time as you did: you wanted to make sure each step was properly established before he used it as a stepping stone to the next, while he relies on a certain amount of handwaving to reach his desired conclusion.

  10. Martin says

    A major problem with the “God as a necessary precondition for logic” argument from presuppositionalists is that, if they’re arguing that God created logic, they’re missing the pesky detail that creation is a causal process, and that causality is a logical process. So for God to “create” logic, he’d have to do it in a situation where logic already existed. The argument collapses under its own internal contradictions.Amusing footnote: The word verification that’s come up as I type this comment is “Chick.”

  11. says

    Akusai: One guy insisted on the transcendence of the Law of Non-Contradiction and the Law of the Excluded Middle (in fact, he sounds very similar to your friend Slick)I noticed this too; I’ve seen those same three “laws of logic” used by three separate apologists in the last couple of weeks, whereas I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered them in apologetic arguments before. I’ve often noticed that theists seem to be working from a handbook/checklist, asking questions or making claims, then ignoring rebuttals to move down to the next claim on the list–“Okay, did the ‘more faith to be an atheist’ bit, next is ‘so we came from nothing?’ and then it’s ‘but look at the trees!'” Did someone just add “law of excluded middle” to the bottom of the list somewhere? Is there some massive Christian 4chan spewing out apologetic memes? By the way, great post Don. I’m looking forward to listening to the episode.

  12. says

    That was a very embarrassing display by Don and Russell and this explanation is little better. Slick was a guest and neither of the hosts was able to follow a basic argument. The systematic skepticism applied reminds me of young earth Creationists with it’s stubborn myopia.Slick was constantly interrupted and laughed at while trying to present what he was asked to present. Apparently Don and Russell don’t have the attention span to have someone define their terms and go through a simple argument. The constant strawmen made by isolating his premises out of context is not the sign of people with basic critical thinking skills. I don’t mean to be harsh but it was atrocious.Trying to undermine the laws of logic is madness and I can’t see it happening unless someone is blinded by relativism. To steal a phrase from C.S. Lewis, it is to saw off the branch you are sitting on. Logic is not a human invention. The symbols that we use to describe it are but it doesn’t follow from that that logic itself is a human invention. It is the same with mathematics, 1+1=2 was absolutely true valid before humans existed and assigned symbols to it.All arguments for the existence of God are, at their very best, vaguely deistic and almost always make a huge leap at the end. They are nothing more than intellectual exercises and worthless mental masturbation. The TAG argument appears sound in its descriptions of logic but the problem is in forcing the false dichotomy of God or no God being the only options in accounting for logic.In summary, don’t cast your turds before swine.

  13. says

    You guys really need to get some kind of whiteboard that you can write the argument on and then point stuff out with. Then you can let him take 2 minutes on the air, write down his argument, and show which links or premises you have a problem with. Don’t be afraid to give him the time, as it just takes away his most powerful emotional move, the classic “you won’t let me finish!”

  14. says

    Martin,A major problem with the “God as a necessary precondition for logic” argument from presuppositionalists is that, if they’re arguing that God created logic, they’re missing the pesky detail that creation is a causal process, and that causality is a logical process. So for God to “create” logic, he’d have to do it in a situation where logic already existed.I agree, but I’m sure you’ve heard the “counter” ‘God is not bound by causality and is therefore superordinate to it, and can therefore do anything at any time or in the absence of time from anywhere or from nowhere at all’. Can they define such a God coherently? No, because his definition is that he can’t be defined. That he can be anything at all in absence of the very possibility of a definition doesn’t bother theists at all. It just strengthens faith. They presuppose the right to declare ‘I win!’ at any point, making any sort of discussion a waste of time. All you can hope for is meeting one of the theists who haven’t yet given up on their thinking and the dignity to honestly look for truth. When you realize he’s not one of those people, end of dialogue.Have a good beer and talk about sports.

  15. says

    A very good post Don.Suppressiofalsi has a point. The current format of the show doesn’t easily allow the exploration of the more complex arguments. Maybe a whiteboard or something similar would be useful.However, I see nothing wrong with the current format in that everybody needs to support the assumptions they are building on before moving to their next step in the argument. Otherwise you’ll just be letting people rant on, with no evidence, for a whole show. It is not useful for any viewers because, as we all know, one of the apologetic’s best tricks is simply blinding people with a large number of logical fallacies. I see no value in letting somebody present an entirely unsound argument and then having to revist each point.Challenge the evidence and essertions as they arise. If they can’t give any real evidence then they should go back to the drawing board and call back next week. They have their own TV shows and blogs if they want to rant on, uninterrupted, for 90 minutes.

  16. says

    Listening to this yesterday, I can’t help noticing how similar it is to WL Craig’s “Objective Morality” argument wherin he states that: we know morality is objective (otherwise anything would be moral), it therefore requires a standard outside of us and this standard is God. The callers argument is: we know Logic is objective (otherwise anything would be logical), it therefore requires a standard outside of us and this standard is God.Can we then argue that evil must also have an objective standard? What about stupidity and ugliness?

  17. says

    Many good arguments have been made by Don, and by previous posters. Rather then repeat or endorse them, I will try to add to the discussion by making some new points.First, atheists spend generally spend little time with the transcendental argument because it is a non-sequitur — little more than a warmed over “god of the gaps” argument from ignorance. In the same vein are similar questions that scientific-minded theists (e.g. Francis Collins) sometimes ask: why does science work? why is the universe rationally intelligible? why are the laws of physics mathematically describable? This amounts to little more than playing the child’s game of “why” until first principles are reached, then adding one more “why?” The beauty of this (from the theists’ point of view) is that even if that “why?” can be answered, you can always just add another.To see that this childish line of reasoning is self-defeating, consider that, in response to the objection “logical absolutes simply exist”, Slick says “This is begging the question and does not provide an explanation for their existence. Simply saying they exist is not an answer.” Slick is saying that even something transcendent needs an accounting; you cannot simply say that it exists without an explanation. Does anyone else notice a deep irony here?

  18. Sebastian says

    From the CARM website:The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of GodThis is an attempt to demonstrate the existence of God using logical absolutes. The oversimplified argument, which is expanded in outline form below, goes as follows. Logical absolutes exist. Logical absolutes are conceptual by nature, are not dependent on the space, time, physical properties, or human nature.They are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter) because if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true. Logical Absolutes are not the product of human minds because human minds are different, not absolute. But, since logical absolutes are always true everywhere and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind is authoring them. This mind is called God.Note that they themselves state that it is an attempt to demonstrate the existence of a god, not that it is a solid proof for it.As for the argument itself (judging from the summary quoted above, I have not read the whole thing), I find the argument really weak.Compare:First: Mathematics and formal logic are by definition very abstract concepts that are true regardless of space, time, physical properties and human nature. It can be said that 1 + 1 = 2 has always been true throughout the times, even before there was life on Earth and any creature was around to be able to do a cognitive reasoning on it.Second: Theists have a certain notion of what their god is like and what kind of properties it has. God is timeless, eternal, the truth, omnipresent, etc.In my view “The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God” argues that since formal logic and god share similar properties they must be the same thing. And here is why I think the argument fails.The fact that two separate notions and concepts share properties and are similar in how they appear to us, that does not equate them to be the same thing. Similarity does not imply equality. So the implication “Logic exists, therefore god must exist” does not hold.

  19. says

    In my opinion, the best part of the discussion on the show was when it was mentioned that Slick was trying to “define God into existence.” The truth is that apologists create arbitrary definitions at every step of their argument, in order to advance to the next step. At no point do they justify or provide any foundation for those creative definitions of terms and situation. Because they define the argument with no consideration of reality or evidence, they can misuse logic to prove ANYTHING. If I can make up my own definitions, I can prove that I am Jehovah, or Thor, or a ham sandwich. You guys were right to keep interrupting him, instead of allowing him to build an argument on nothing but false and/or unsupported premises.BTW: 1+1=2 isn’t an absolute truth, it is a human-created construct, a conceptual formulation that models reality in a simplistic and non-absolute, non-transcendent way.

  20. says

    To me the irony of this argument is that in order for it to (seemingly) work the theist has to admit that god stands outside of logic. Gee, no wonder god makes no sense to me!Kinda makes the whole apologetic movement meaningless.

  21. says

    Okay, first let me thank you all for letting me watch the show and listen to the disagreement at dinner. I enjoyed it and I will plan to do it all again some day.I agree with Don this one. I think there are a couple of ways to debunk this argument and I was falling along the lines with Don during the show. Matt made some great points too and I see that as another way to tackle it. I do hope Matt Slick calls back in next week and talks to Dillahunty.

  22. says

    Hammered, a friend of mine drew me into an e-mail argument with another friend. Looking back on the e-mails that were forwarded to me, his friend also worded all of his arguments in the most complex way. All of them had unnecessary big, smart sounding words in order to mask just how little content there actually was.If you take the argument and simplify it, most of the time there’s nothing there, but you have to take the time to filter the big words down into what they actually mean. I suppose this is why they do it. In the time it takes the other person to formulate a response, the topic has already shifted.I saw a review of The Matrix: Reloaded where the reviewer was doing just that, taking the big worded, smart sounding speeches and filtering them down into their simpler forms, and lo and behold, none of it meant anything.Much like most apologetics.

  23. says

    Derek:Slick was constantly interrupted and laughed at while trying to present what he was asked to present.This is because the suppositions he was making were faulty and there was no need for him to continue. If the premise had not been faulty there would have been no interruption and he would have been able to keep going. However his argument, as with most apologetist arguments, was based on false information. It is best to stop those arguments when they start rather then wait until the end when you can be accused of ‘not addressing the point’ or something along those lines.

  24. says

    I haven’t listened to the show yet (it’s in line right behind the Skeptic Zone that I’m in the middle of), but I’ve noticed that a lot of apologetics argues for the deist concept of a god, which is a very long way from the theist concept of big-G God.On a Venn diagram, I would put atheism, deism, and pantheism in a small cluster (with pantheism and atheism mostly overlapping), then I would put the various theisms way distant from that cluster (and from each other).If someone wants to spend a lot of time explaining his theism by trying to convince me of a deist god, then to my way of thinking, that’s not far from my position anyway. I don’t find the arguments for the deist god compelling, and I can spot fallacies in them, but even granting them true for the sake of argument, so what? I’m still a mile away from belief in their theist God.If the theist God is what they’re trying to support, then arguing for a deist god doesn’t cut it.

  25. says

    There were a number of problems with the discussion and I’m going to address some of them next week, whether Matt Slick (Slick from here on) calls in or not.On the ‘nature of logic’1. Don is correct…and he’s wrong.2. Slick is correct…and he is wrong.They were using the same word to reference two different but similar (and intricately connected) things.When Slick said and heard “logic”, he was referencing the actual rules/order/nature of reality. When Don said and heard “logic” he was referencing the conceptualization of these rules, the symbols and reasoning process that addresses the actual rules/order/nature of reality.They’re both correct, within the context of their reference and both wrong within the context of the other. Don was correct in pointing out that logic is descriptive and not proscriptive, within his context. Slick was understandably frustrated by this objection as he was referencing something universal that wasn’t contingent on a mind. (Which, incidentally, will probably lead to one of the biggest contradictions possible – and he’ll probably resolve it with definitional special pleading.)To make the most direct analogy: Slick was saying “2+2=4″ is absolute and transcendent – and referring to the essence of that statement, and Don was pointing out that this statement is dependent upon the symbols, concept and context (it’s not 4 in base 3)…and they were both using “math” as the label for what they were talking about.Because math and logic are intricately connected, the analogy is as direct as possible and hopefully more accessible.Imagine a reality that is identical to ours with one exception: there are no minds. Slick’s math/logic would still exist, Don’s math/logic would not.That’s where the first major disagreement arose – and they’re both correct because they were talking about two different things. Yes, I’m really harping on this point for a reason…because Slick’s argument is going to contain many fallacies and one of the major ones is an equivocation on this exact subject.As a quick aside, I understood what Slick was talking about…so I was ready to grant his premise about the nature of logic and was frustrated when Don didn’t. I’m now very glad that Don didn’t, because it gives us the opportunity to dig into this a bit deeper, as it’s clear that many people were thinking the same thing Don was thinking.That said, Slick defined his terms and within his definitions, he was correct about the nature of logic.Here’s what I think should have happened:- Slick explains what he means by “logic”.- The host/co-host identifies that he’s actually talking about the essential nature of reality and not the concept of logic or the language of logic, etc.- They agree about the distinction and agree to operate in the context of Slick’s usage.- Slick continues with his argumentObjecting to his premise is simply objecting to the word he’s using (and Don may very well be correct here about which usage is ‘better’ – but both usages are common in different contexts) while actually agreeing on the nature of what Slick is referencing.Don actually admits this, in his post:”It is absolutely true that formal logic is sound. That is, whenever the assumptions and methods are properly used, they yield correct results. It doesn’t matter where, when, or by whom the model is applied. In this sense, it is absolute and universal.”To be fair, (and this is why I was getting frustrated and why I drove down to dinner to talk to Don about where I thought he went wrong) in the quoted statement, Don has actually set himself up in a contradictory position…because when he says “absolutely true that formal logic is sound” (and this should read ‘valid’ instead of ‘sound’) he’s applying Slick’s usage of “logic” while using his own usage when countering it; an equivocation.One other point in Don’s post that I want to take issue with:“It [logic] doesn’t apply (without modification) to truth values that change over time, things that are not discrete (think clouds, water droplets, or wave-particle duality), or infinite things.”Yes, it does..more in a second.“There are times where it is ambiguous as to whether or not a person is dead or whether an embryo has been conceived.”That’s a failing of our ability to be specific. In a syllogism, this would simply be a premise that is ill-defined…the form would still be valid. This isn’t a failing of logic – it’s a testament to the true and universal application of it.For any given syllogism, there are two things to consider when deciding whether to accept or reject the argument: validity and soundness. Validity deals with the structure, soundness deals with the content. There’s an explanation at the Iron Chariots wiki, and at Wikipedia.This is important because, on some level, Slick was addressing validity…and Don was addressing soundness.To address Don’s specific example:Someone is either dead or they aren’t. Period. There are no other options. If they’re in the process of dying – they aren’t dead. Where we have difficulty is in defining death (including whether or not it’s permanent). Our inability to define something doesn’t make “logic” invalid (by Don’s usage or Slick’s) it just makes an argument unsound.Additionally, ‘time’ is ignored (or, more accurately, assumed instantaneous) for any premise where time is not a required part of the definition. This is part of the law of identity: Something is either X or !X, and cannot be both at the same time. The key – and Don pointed this out – is that X needs to be clearly defined.Anyway, more on this another time. Hopefully we’ll get this all sorted next week.

  26. says

    From the CARM webpage for Slicks Argument:”if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true. Logical Absolutes are not the product of human minds because human minds are different, not absolute. So, in other words: Chewbacca is a wookie. Wookies live on Endor. Because some people have never heard of endor, then we must assume that Endor transcends the universe.”But, since logical absolutes are always true everywhere and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind is authoring them.”But, since Chewbacca lives on Endor, and that statement is true, everywhere, and not dependant upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind is authoring them.Because we have established that Chewbacca is a transcendent truth, his mind must also be transcendent, so we can therefore conclude that Chewbacca is god.

  27. says

    I don’t think the hosts did a terrific job of refuting this one (nor did they, apparently), but I totally get why they approached it that way. You have to object to assumptions made for an argument if those assumptions seem invalid. No point in letting him get all the way to the end if there’s already a jumbled mess at the beginning.If nothing else, the caller offered up an argument I hadn’t personally heard before. The argument is just a bunch of obfuscation to get to the “GODDIDIT!” point, but you gotta admire the window dressing.I can prove God exists through simpler logic than all that.Love existsGod is loveLove is blindStevie Wonder is blindStevie Wonder is God

  28. says

    This was the call I keep hoping for from your show. Finally a Christian Apologist calls in. I don’t know how it sounded live but on podcast it was very difficult to hear what was going on. Too bad indeed. There was a horrible echo when Slick would speak and the two co hosts kept talking over each other. I was interested in all of it but the whole thing was very frustrating. I know s____ happens and technical difficulties are part of the process but I am afraid this caller is assuming that “the atheists” just sabotaged his call because they knew they had no answers to his argument. I know Slick would be wrong if he feels that way but I hope it does not discourage other theists from calling in the future. I also hope Slick calls back when Matt is on the air and that we will hear only one person speaking at a time.You guys rock. Keep up the good work.

  29. says

    @Thomas”So, in other words: Chewbacca is a wookie. Wookies live on Endor.”Sorry, your argument is fatally flawed! Wookies are from Kashyyyk. Ewoks live on Endor. :P

  30. says

    I’m a relatively new listener, but a long time atheist. That being said, I’ve heard Matt before and I’d like to point out a few things about the TAG.1. Matt and other presuppositionalists ARE NOT claiming that god created logic. That path leads to absurdity. What they ARE claiming is that god is a necessary precondition to logic. The trouble with this is that it’s vague and it’s often very difficult for presuppositionalists to define exactly what that means.2. You are falling into the TAG trap by NOT EXAMINING the very premises of the argument. What am I talking about?I’m talking about simply this: The presupper/tag says that you have to account for/explain/etc the laws of logic, morality, uniformity of nature.Philosophically speaking this is NONSENSE. This is a *precondition* of their worldview. All you have to say is, ‘well, in order to justify my worldview I just take these as brute facts’ (this is if you don’t want to explain them or what have you). They cannot complain because in their mind in order to show contradictions in a worldview one must to an internal critique (ie, assume the presuppositions and see if they lead to absurdity).Ergo, just because their worldview requires these preconditions DOES NOT mean yours does.Further, you can point out that their worldview is internally inconsistent. You can do this a number of ways, one being to point out that miracles violate the uniformity of nature. Another being that they claim to accept the preconditions for science (ie, the uniformity of nature) while rejecting the conclusions of science (ie, evolution). In any event, another thing they don’t bring up which shows how shallow their thinking is that let’s suppose that whatever worldview you espouse is found to be insufficient.Does this mean Christianity is true?No on two accounts. One, the presupper would have to show that all other worldviews (billions?) are incorrect (which means he has to argue that, not assume that becuase he’s pointed out a flaw in yours, he’s destroyed all other worldviews) and Two: he has to show that consistency equates to a true reality.Ie, just because something is consistent doesn’t mean it’s actually true.No presupper has done this and therefore Matt’s ‘argument’ is nothing more then rhetorical nonsense.Gene Witmer wrote up a great article on the TAG and presuppositionalism. I highly suggest it.

  31. says

    BTW – I should point out that if you go with “‘well, in order to justify my worldview I just take these as brute facts’ “You will most likely hear something to the effect of “well, I just take god as my brute fact”.That’s fine, but it certainly doesn’t give me any reason to believe in your worldview. Further, it refutes the TAG since the TAG argues for the impossibility of the contrary; ergo, if they argue that I can take X, Y, and Z as brute facts (and they can take ‘god’ as a brute fact) then the TAG is false – since there are now two consistent worldviews. This would show that Matt’s assertion that it’s either a christian or a non christian worldview as simply false.

  32. says

    @Meatros”Ergo, just because their worldview requires these preconditions DOES NOT mean yours does.”Many theists use the phrase worldview as an excuse to make assumptions and ignore evidence. For example, my worldview states that Jesus planted the truth of his existence in our hearts, and, the need for evidence is just part of your worldview.I think one of the largest problems this guy faces is that he describes logic using this pseudo-spiritual “transcends reality” talk, and from there he assumes that there must be a god to make up that logic. Why, and why should “that does not follow” be seen as an assumption or a worldview?

  33. says

    Okay, Matt Slick is an idiot. I just checked out the article linked on the blog post. In it, he writes this:”Logical Absolutes simply exist. This is begging the question and does not provide an explanation for their existence. Simply saying they exist is not an answer. “1. This isn’t begging the question. 2. Why must an explanation be had for something’s existence – certainly this assertion must be demonstrated.3. Ask Matt to define ‘presuppositional’ and then ask him how his presupposing god is different from presupposing logic, morality, uniformity of nature. He will special plead on this point or appeal to god, whom he has to presuppose exists.

  34. says

    “They don’t seem to be able to grasp that their arguments are not ontologically binding; they cannot make a syllogism and prove something new and novel about reality in an evidential vacuum. (Akusai)””No on two accounts. One, the presupper would have to show that all other worldviews (billions?) are incorrect (which means he has to argue that, not assume that becuase he’s pointed out a flaw in yours, he’s destroyed all other worldviews) and Two: he has to show that consistency equates to a true reality.Ie, just because something is consistent doesn’t mean it’s actually true.No presupper has done this and therefore Matt’s ‘argument’ is nothing more then rhetorical nonsense. (Meatros)”BINGO, gentleman.But, we must remember, advocacy in the absence of evidence is the sine qua non of apologetics; this is what these people DO.

  35. Martin says

    Felix: I agree, but I’m sure you’ve heard the “counter” ‘God is not bound by causality and is therefore superordinate to it, and can therefore do anything at any time or in the absence of time from anywhere or from nowhere at all’.To which I reply, “Special pleading. Next!”

  36. says

    I still haven’t been able to listen to the relevant parts of the episode, so I apologize if this ends up being naive. Anyway, Matt D. explained the apparent distinction between Matt and Don’s points:When Slick said and heard “logic”, he was referencing the actual rules/order/nature of reality.This distinction came up in one of those three uses of this argument that I’ve seen lately. The problem with theists talking about these laws of nature is that we don’t actually know what they are–we only have our approximate formulations of those laws, and we don’t really know how well those correspond to reality. Say we found a situation somewhere where gravity acted proportionately to the cube of the distance rather than the square–it would be absurd of us to say that this situation before us was impossible because it contradicts the law. When observations contradict the laws we’ve devised, it’s the laws that need to be changed. Then there are systems like math and formal logic, where the laws are prescriptive. 1 can never equal 2, by definition. However, these laws apply only within their systems, and those systems may or may not accurately describe reality. The laws of mathematics may be absolute and transcendent within mathematics, but they don’t necessarily correspond to reality, and they certainly aren’t binding on the universe. The law of non-contradiction may be based on casual observation of the universe, and it may be always and ever applicable within the context of mathematics, but there exist situations outside of that context where it doesn’t apply (and entire logic systems where it isn’t necessarily true). Certainly there is a difference between the rules that the universe follows, our descriptions of those rules, and also the rules that conceptual logical systems follow. But there’s no way to know if our #2 accurately represents #1 in any “transcendent” fashion, and there’s no reason to claim that #3 is applicable to reality (let alone prescriptive) without evidence to support those claims. One can argue that a God is necessary to create the rules that the universe operates, but once they move on to describing what those rules are, they have overstepped the bounds of their ability to argue. Either they must talk about laws they can’t know (the ones the universe operates on) or they must talk about laws that may be valid-but-not-sound (the laws of conceptual logic systems).I think, anyway.

  37. Ant says

    The show needs more people like Mr. Slick. I think it is a much more instructive discusion/debate with someone like Mr. Slick, then say with some ignorant who can’t even state what he believes in let alone make an argument for why he believes what he believes.I think Russell and Don did not handle Mr. Slick very well. He was making a well known argument which carries the well known weaknesses. He did not need to be interrupted. At the end it could easily be pointed out that logic proposed to be contingent on God could also mean that since logic is necessarily true, that a God cannot exist since it is absurd to even think that God can make A=~A. Or Russell and Don being computer programmers could have pushed forward the concept of fuzzy logic at least!Anyway, show is great, but needs more derious debaters like Mr. Slick. I sincerely believe that Matt, Russell, and Don all can go head to head with apologetics. It just wasn’t that good this time.

  38. says

    Felix:the “counter” ‘God is not bound by causality and is therefore superordinate to it, and can therefore do anything at any time or in the absence of time from anywhere or from nowhere at all’.Reminds me of a line from the Futurama movie, “Bender’s Game”: the Professor says, “As we learned from Deepak Chopra, quantum physics means that anything can happen at any time, for no reason.” Whereupon he proceeds to create a plot-driving effect so conveniently contrived, it would shame the writers of Star Trek: the Next Generation.

  39. says

    Don has actually set himself up in a contradictory position…because when he says “absolutely true that formal logic is sound” (and this should read ‘valid’ instead of ‘sound’) he’s applying Slick’s usage of “logic” while using his own usage when countering it; an equivocation.Is it not Slick who’s committing the equivocation here and Don simply continuing to walk the path that has been laid out?Both during the call and on his website, Slick starts with laying out his logical absolutes/laws and is, at least to me, not only clearly using formal logic but specifically addressing the “conceptual” part of it.His examples stress this point. E.g.: […] a cloud is a cloud, not a rock. If the point of listing the law and using this example isn’t to lay the groundwork for the conceptual part of a formal logic then what is it?To simply say “things that we define as clouds are clouds by definition and even if mankind didn’t exist, they’d still be clouds because we defined that particular phenomenon as such”? Well, awesome. An inflatable washing machine to you, sir!Did he just need a tautology as a premise to his argument because simply going straight to the conclusion and saying “voila” would’ve been too cheeky? Why use “law of identity”, a term commonly used in formal logic (where it’s actually important), but not, as far as I know, in philosophy (didn’t Aristotle already basically dismiss it as trivial?)?Does he just want to make the audience think that “math/logic” is on “his side”? I don’t know, might just be an honest mistake, or I’m completely wrong.I just do not see him talking about the essence of things for the first part of his argument and consequently, I saw Don sticking with Slick’s premise, and Slick committing the fallacy of equivocation.

  40. says

    “Reminds me of a line from the Futurama movie…”On Futurama, the latest film “Into the wild Green Yonder” has the most remarkably cheezy take on what evolution through natural selection would look like with only two species.

  41. Hammered Thor says

    Does Matt Slick *really* believe this argument actually proves there is a god? Seriously, if you thought you had actual proof a god existed wouldn’t you expect a Nobel prize? That would be the biggest news ever. I think he knows this argument fails but just tries to ‘win’ arguments to make himself feel smart. By ‘win’ I mean throw this stupid argument at some atheist who doesn’t even understand what the hell he’s saying then declare Jesus is lord. Why isn’t he submitting his argument to scientific journals, Oprah, Larry King, etc if he *really* thought it proved something?

  42. says

    Ant wrote:“I think Russell and Don did not handle Mr. Slick very well. He was making a well known argument which carries the well known weaknesses. He did not need to be interrupted.”I disagree, even though I haven’t heard the show yet. If Matt S. was trying to make a syllogism, and Don disagrees with one of his premises, then the time to make your objection is right then, at the time the premise is stated.

  43. says

    I wrote about this last night on my blog after listening to the podcast. I find theist tricks fascinating. Two gimmicks Slick uses to distract from the otherwise lame trick of insisting that we HAVE to know the origin of logic, and that in lieu of an explanation, goddidit, are:• Making the naked assertion that logical absolutes can exist without the universeWe arrive at logic by observing reality, so it certainly seems likely that logic is in fact dependent upon reality, that it’s actually an aspect of reality. At the very least, there’s no reason to assume that without this reality, logic could still exist as we know it.• Confusing a label for a thingSlick exhaustively shows how logic doesn’t have the properties of a thing, but instead of concluding that then it’s not a thing, he says it’s a special thing, it’s “transcendent”. Nope. It doesn’t have thing properties because it’s a label for all that we have observed and deemed true of reality and labeled “logic”. I agree with Matt D. that there’s two logics being argued, the label and what it’s labeling. Don might have slipped between the two, but so does Slick. In fact, Slick relies on confusing the two. That’s part of his trick, er, proof.

  44. says

    Martin,To which I reply, “Special pleading. Next!”theist: “But Martin, God is special. A use of special pleading cannot invalidate any argument for God. I win!” ;)

  45. says

    Slick writes: “Logical absolutes are not dependent on the space, time, physical properties….” and he concludes it is therefore transcendent.This is not necessarily true. Simply because the truth of logic is not bound to any single time or place does not mean logic is not dependent upon space-time itself (i.e. does not mean it is transcendent). A fly in a jar can exist equally well anywhere in the jar — just like the truth of logic in space time — but this does not mean the fly is “independent” of the jar and it doesn’t mean that our form of logic, would remain true if it actually could be used independent of space-time (an idea, in itself, that clouds this issue far more than it clarifies and thus, doesn’t really belong in an explanation).Slick writes: They [Logical absolutes] are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter) because if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true. This is not true. Logic only requires INTERNAL soundness, consistency, and completeness to be logical. It does not, however, need to be be a reasonable or rational system itself — that is to say, externally true. Anyone, given time, can construct an irrational but logical system — it simply wouldn’t have a purpose. It actually takes evidence — derived from an environment where a system of logic can be applied to something concrete and shown to function consistently externally as well — that allows one to say a logic system is “true”/rational over all. 1+1=2 is not true only because it’s logical, it is true because it is also consistent in our real world experience. Without space-time or reality for which a system of logic to be applied, any system of logic could be as externally true or false as any other consistent and sound system one could conceive. Slick equivocates truth, consistency, and reason here.slick writes: Logical Absolutes are not the product of human minds because human minds are different, not absolute.This is equivocation of design with function. Two very different things (like two very different minds, like the ‘mind’ of a computer and the mind of man) can still accomplish the same exact functions, come to the same exact conclusions, think the exact same way, and develop the exact same form of logic (if, in fact, that is where logic comes from).

  46. Martin says

    Actually, DagoRed, I think you’re making the same mistake in your criticism that Don made on the program, where he and Slick were talking at cross-purposes: Slick is referring to logical absolutes, whereas you critique him by talking about the process of logic, which are two different things.It is true that a logical absolute like the law of identity is independent of the mind. If no living, thinking beings existed in the universe, a rock would still be what it is. Two rocks plus two rocks would still make four rocks.Where Slick goes off the rails is halfway through his argument, where he too begins conflating logic (the process) with logical absolutes (facts about the nature of reality).You’re dead right in what you say about logic. But I can understand why people would miss Slick’s distinctions about logic and logical absolutes, as he’s not exactly consistent in his usage of the terms either.

  47. says

    Two quick tells of Slick’s call. The first was early, by prefacing his TAG with how it stumped some guy in a debate. Who does that? The second was challenging the idea of no absolutes by uttering a jibberish sentence. I think that revealed his confusion between labels and things, for language is nothing but labels yet he offered it as a thing. This is actually even more problematic since he said it was impossible for interaction if there wasn’t agreement on absolutes, but if absolutes are absolutes, what does agreement have to do with anything? Silly man.

  48. says

    Martin:I, personally, think its a mistake to even use the phrase “logical absolutes” in describing facts about reality, because there is nothing logical about them. A rock not being not a rock is simply the way the universe operates. That observable fact doesn’t become logical anything until it is described and codified in a system of logic. I think we agree fundamentally, but you’re phrasing it in a way I believe to be ill-advised and not entirely accurate as it plays into the equivocating hands of the creationists.It is true that a logical absolute like the law of identity is independent of the mind.I do not think this is true, at least not the way you phrased it. The law of identity does not exist independent of a mind. The law itself is exactly what it takes a mind to formulate. That a rock is a rock and not not a rock is, in the absence of people describing it, simply a plain fact about reality. The law of identity is contingent on this observable fact. It describes it. In the absence of anyone to come by and observe and describe it, all we have is a rock that is what it is; not a law, not a logical absolute, just a fact.

  49. says

    Akusai: Indeed labeling a fact about the universe requires a mind, but the fact doesn’t require a mind; therefore, a logical absolute doesn’t require a mind to exist, but to be labeled a “logical absolute” does.

  50. says

    @BrianfromArousA chemist can show you chemistry. A physicist can show properties of physics (gravity, Heck, Tracie demonstrated gravity in one show! And she’s not a physicist // But she is very smart..

  51. says

    Hi Martin, In rereading my comment, I clearly can see where you might get that impression. However your impression is entirely due to my own sloppiness, and it is not reflective of what I was attempting to express. Despite having read Dillahunty’s differentiation, I still stupidly used terms like “logic system” and “logic” rather than sticking to the specific language of “logical absolutes.” I also inadvertently inserted an agent into a comment where I did not mean to, which doesn’t help matters. So please forgive my slovenly expressions. Anyway, I think my ideas still work fine even in restricting them to logical absolutes (and I wish I could restate them again under this – but that would be quite tedious for everyone and this conversation is already pretty tough on its own). I think specifically what is sticking in your craw is that I am attempting to deny the existence of logical absolutes themselves, like Don did. However I am not. Instead, I am pointing out to this particular bifurcation of “reality” by Slick into two forms of reality opens the door for this assertion to be made. There is the one reality we all agree exists – that of the physical universe, which includes time, matter, energy, space, us, and all the natural laws – and in this reality, we all agree with Slicks initial assertion that “logical absolutes exist” is perfectly reasonable. However, Slick then goes on to introduce this transcendental side to reality that goes beyond our physical universe and he tries to say this earlier statement (the one to which we all agreed) means these same logical absolutes also exist there. When we talk about reality, as materialists, the physical universe is all we have. So to say logical absolutes exist automatically implies they exist everywhere. But Slick’s brief explanation of a part of reality existing beyond space, time, etc – a transcendental form of reality — actually bifurcates reality into something the materialist denies — one part which humans can comprehend and another which we cannot even remotely begin to detect, let alone understand. My point is, how can we postulate anything as being true in this kind of hypothetical reality if we cannot even comprehend it? Returning to Slicks language, then, he says “ if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true”, to which I would say the logical premises that act as logical absolutes in “our side” of reality could possibly transcend to the other, but we can never really know for sure that their absolute nature transcends because this part of reality, by his definition, can never make any reasonable sense to us in the first place (e.g. existence without time? Say what?). Incomprehensibility begets incomprehensibility, so if we start with an idea of part of reality being beyond our reach, it becomes reasonable to assume that the basic aspects of that piece of reality might also possibly be equally bizarre and incomprehensible. Thus we can reasonably suggest, at this point, that what we see as a logical absolute “here” may, in fact, not hold up “there.”Thus, we can only really assert the possibility, ultimately, that logical absolutes don’t have to exist on both sides of this hypothetical divide, or we assert that they do really exist everywhere because this divide doesn’t really exist. We cannot reasonably assert both at the same time, however, as Slick is doing without conflating many ideas left and right.

  52. says

    Phillychief:therefore, a logical absolute doesn’t require a mind to exist, but to be labeled a “logical absolute” does.I agree, I just think it is improper and inaccurate to refer to inherent facts about reality as “logical absolutes.” First of, as I said, they’re not logical in any sense of the word. They’re just bare physical facts. Secondly, it can only help apologist equivocation to put the word “logic” in your description of such facts. I think it makes the most sense to try to remove specific definitions from this type of discussion as often as possible.For example, instead of saying “1+1 will always be 2,” which hinges on the definitions of the terms as well as the mathematical system you’re using, and feeds the apologist need to conflate reality with a description of reality, it’s better to say “This much plus this much will always be that much,” which removes specific numerical definitions and kind of forces you to contemplate two actual, physical piles of things instead of worry about abstracts and definitions.I really just don’t want to feed their equivocation complex. They abuse logic enough without our help.

  53. says

    Akusai: Then perhaps we should just make hand gestures to convey our arguments, removing language altogether to completely thwart their ability to equivocate.

  54. says

    DagoRed: Thus we can reasonably suggest, at this point, that what we see as a logical absolute “here” may, in fact, not hold up “there.”This ties in, I think, with something that Akusai’s said in a couple of these threads about alternate systems of logic. Specifically, in a thread over at The Bronze Blog, he mentioned Paraconsistent logic, which is an internally consistent system that denies the law of non-contradiction. The salient point here, I think, is that “logical absolutes” are rooted in reality (and are contingent on there being a system of logic which assumes them axiomatically–otherwise, as Akusai said, they’d just be brute facts). This cuts out the legs from under the “transcendental” argument, I think. There are any number of internally consistent systems of logic, each with its own set of axioms and absolutes. Outside of a universe, all such systems are equally valid. No system can be preferred over any other without a reference for judging soundness–i.e., without being anchored to some universe. There is no transcendental system of logic, and so there are no transcendental logical absolutes, so far as I can tell. Or, alternately, absent a universe there are infinitely many equal systems of logic with infinitely many equally valid absolutes. Neither situation provides evidence for transcendence or God.

  55. says

    TomFoss -That was excellent summary of the precise philosophical point I have (attempted to) detail here — Thank you.It’s funny too because this mistake is foundational to a lot of apologetics. Anytime someone begins a discussion by mentioning any “absolute” characteristics of the material universe (like “logical absolutes exist”), the second they introduce this “supernatural” component of reality, they effectively contradict the initial claim of absolutes existing. You simply cannot reasonably claim a supernatural reality exists AND claim any trait of reality is also absolute. The former alway excludes the latter.

  56. says

    Phillychief:Then perhaps we should just make hand gestures to convey our argumentsActually, I was going to unironically suggest that, but hand gestures don’t work over the internet. Whenever I discuss this in real life, I do, in fact, use hand gestures for that very reason.I really don’t see why suggesting that we don’t call non-logical facts “logical absolutes” requires sarcastic comebacks.

  57. says

    Akusai, I just have to commend you on your superior “x-ray” vision that saw straight through The Stupid in a blink of the eye!In re-reading your comments here, I hadn’t realized the full weight of your brief statement from nearly a week ago until now — Apologists “cannot make a syllogism and prove something new and novel about reality in an evidential vacuum.” This is the point of failure I eventually noticed at the heart of this TAG proposition as well — it just took me many more days of ruminating (and typing like a monkey) to get there. I also agree with your observation regarding “logical absolutes” being merely a euphemism for “facts about reality.” The “you can put lipstick on a pig…” metaphor comes to mind frequently when reading virtually any apologetics and this is a perfect example of one such moment.

  58. says

    PhillyChief: I’ve always said you can’t argue something in or out of existence.I’ve been thinking about this point recently, and I’ve finally come up with an illustration. According to mathematics–which is a system of logic–anything can be divided up to infinity. Each piece can be divided in half, and then each half into quarters, and onward ad infinitum. That’s what logic alone will get you, and the math is perfectly valid. In the real universe, however, you run up against quanta, the smallest possible units of pretty much anything. You can’t divide quanta in half. Reality has a limit that you couldn’t discover through pure logic, and no amount of pure logic can change the fact that that limit exists. You know, just to drive home the point that argumentation is worthless without evidence.

  59. says

    I also had a problem with how Slick’s argument was handled on the show. I think that with more time, the two sides could come to an agreement on certain terms, however. Let me know if I got this right. Let’s say we define “logic” as the underlying laws of reality that make “if A = B and B = C then A = C” useful symbols. Then I don’t see anything really wrong about points 1 through 5 on the CARM site. Point 6 is totally incorrect. It states “Logic is a process of the mind.” But what is a mind? Here, the question already assumes the existence of an intelligent mind! (Or an unintelligent mind–maybe God is stupid?) A “mind” can’t be a brain because that would contradict Point 5 (logical absolutes are not dependent on the material world). Point 6 also states that logical absolutes must be either physical or conceptual and they can’t be physical. But I think there is a third category and into this category, I would put the speed of light or the gravitational constant. The speed of light is not physical, it’s a number. But it’s not conceptual either. It doesn’t depend on a “mind.”I also find this claim in point 5 preposterous: “But, if the universe did not exist, logical absolutes are still true.”How could one possibly conclude ANYTHING about a situation in which the universe doesn’t exist? What would the frame of reference be?If my points are valid, let me know. I think I’ll email Mike Slick about it and see what he responds.

  60. Fer says

    Slick was upset saying “if it is not physical nor conceptual, you MUST say what it is”.
    The funny thing is that, arguing about this in his site, Slick points :

    “For example, I know what water is. If someone says that a piece of wood is water by nature, I would say that it is not.”

    Exactly Slick. I know what physical is. I know what conceptual is. And if i put “conceptual” in the place you have put “water” and “absolute” substituting “piece of wood”, i know that the “absolute” you are showing, is not water.

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