Another friggin’ post on the Transcendental Argument :)


I’m never prouder of the Atheist Community of Austin than when we all manage to pull together in a discussion about serious topics of philosophy and presentation strategy. Last night six of us got together in an Austin coffeehouse to discuss several issues for the show, and for the first hour we went over Matt Slick’s Transcendental Argument for God (TAG) with a fine-toothed comb. I see that Martin has already outlined several conclusions of that conversation admirably, so I won’t need to go over all of it. I’ll defer to his well-written response.

At this point people who are interested in arguments and not a glimpse at behind-the-scenes process might want to skip down to the bold header below, where I will take up one final argument against TAG.

We have received a veritable flood of comments about the Matt Slick call: by email, on the blog (both here and here), on the Iron Chariots forum, and on my favorite hangout, the Atheist Fools board (115 posts at the time of this writing). All told, there have been several hundred comments about that episode, which I think probably makes it one of the most talked-about episodes ever.

That didn’t necessarily make it a good episode, of course. The feedback has been mixed, and I’ve listened to all kinds of criticism that I take very seriously. Matt D called me almost as soon as the show was over to vent his frustrations about some aspects of the call. While most of the email and online comments have been positive, an uncomfortably high number of them have also said that Don and I handled the call “disgracefully,” that we were rude and impatient, and that Matt Slick was right to call us out for interrupting him a lot. A couple even said it put them off the show permanently.

I don’t dismiss these comments. We’re only human. In a 1997 article from the Internet Infidels library, Michael Martin says:

“Ignorance of TAG is hardly surprising since it plays no role in the position of the most famous contemporary religious apologists and is not covered in standard texts in the philosophy of religion. In fact, I myself was unaware of it when I published a book on atheism in which I spend hundreds of pages refuting theistic arguments (Martin, 1990).”

I wouldn’t say that I’ve never heard the TAG before, but because it’s never been a common argument from our callers, I’ve never given it a lot much consideration at all. I’ve been told that I was rushing so much to find a contradiction in Slick’s logic that I jumped ahead to parts of the argument that hadn’t been made yet, allowing Slick to make us look bad by saying that he wasn’t saying those things at all.

Of course, reading his argument online, it’s crystal clear that he damn well was going to say many of those things, but apparently wild indignation at not being allowed to talk is Mr. Slick’s style. Commenter KaylaKaze pointed us to a debate Slick had with the Rational Response Squad. He was allowed to speak uninterrupted for much longer periods of time, and yet he still complained about how he wasn’t allowed to keep talking.

It’s a fine line to walk. Matt D and others who gave feedback are absolutely right that I should have exhibited more patience and let him go through more of the argument without interrupting. I also regret being a little more jokey than usual, appearing to dismiss and ridicule Mr. Slick. However, give an apologist too much air time and he’s liable to pull a Gish Gallop, presenting a long stream of misconceptions that must be gone over in great detail. So as Martin says, Monday morning quarterbacking is easy, and I’ve done plenty of it myself; being in the position makes it trickier to see the long view.

I received some excellent advice from Motley Fool poster jgc123, who said:

“When you are hearing a new argument, admit that it is a new one or one that you have not worked through as thoroughly as the others. Or just tell the person that you are not sure you understand their version of the argument and keep asking questions until you are really ready to respond. If necessary, pull a Larry King and let them have the stage for the full hour, after which you invite them to come back. You can’t win anybody over by not listening to them.”

Words to live by. Thank you, everyone, for your feedback, both good and bad.

TAG Redux

Martin already did a great job recapping the highlights of our discussion from last night, but there’s just one more point I’d like to raise with regard to the specific form of TAG that Matt Slick used, and he doesn’t address this one on his website. Essentially it’s a reformulation of the well-known Euthyphro Dilemma, which we refer to a lot on the show.

In point 6A, the TAG argument states that “Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature,” and therefore their existence is necessarily contingent on the existence of a mind (such as God’s) to conceive them. For example, the law of identity, “A is A,” is true only because it is held in a perfect mind. You’ll notice that in point 4C, Slick says that “Logical Absolutes are not dependent on people,” and the reason he gives is that people’s minds are different and may contradict each other. Presumably this includes a mind contradicting itself by having different opinions at different points in time. So here’s my question:

Can God change his mind?

I suspect that Slick would say that God is eternally correct and unchanging, but let’s clarify that question. Suppose God said “A is not A.” Would the laws of logic then change? If he says that they do, then logical absolutes are no longer so absolute; they are subject to the whims of a capricious mind, and we’re back to the same problem that Slick highlighted in 4C.

However if, as I suspect, the answer is that God cannot change his mind — if he is logically bound to uphold the unalterable truth that A is A — then God isn’t the author of logical absolutes at all. His mind is an extraneous addition to the question. With or without God’s mind, things would still be equal to themselves.

Thus, as a proof for the logical necessity of God, the TAG fails.

In conclusion, please be sure to catch next week’s show with Matt and Tracie. Our hosts have the benefit of a week-long conversation under their belts, and they’ll be taking the topic up again. Matt has encouraged Matt Slick to call back again, and while he may not do so — I am also in possession of a rather testy email protesting his treatment — there will be discussion on the topic either way.

As I said in my lecture about atheist evangelism, you don’t learn to play games well without exposing yourself to toug
h opponents and acknowledging weaknesses in your own style. The TV show has always been a learning process for all of us, and I thank you all for giving me the opportunity to learn through error as your host.

Comments

  1. Rob says

    I really, really like the fact that you are able to say that you made a mistake, learn from it, and move on. It shows an open mind, which is something everyone should value very highly. I think what the Atheist Experience does is fantastic, and I have a lot of respect for all of you. Please keep up the good work!

  2. says

    While I think TAG argument is wrong, I think your rebutal is not good. Let me play the christian apologist here:Can god change his mind?Whether or not he can ‘change his mind’ is not so much relevant as whether or not he can change reality. Which he can in fact do. He can turn A into B. He can turn water into wine. He heals the suffering.Would the laws of logic then change?No. God gave us the world with its laws. Laws of logic, laws of nature. He can change those laws but we cannot – we must abide by them and they are valid for us for as long as god leaves those laws in place.

  3. says

    Kazim, don’t beat yourself up. I thought you could have been less dismissive of him, but I still think if you hear a statement that you’re not ready to buy into, you object, or at least ask for clarification, right then. Don’t let them move on.I’ve stated before, after hearing a presuppositionalist in a debate somewhere, that they want to have it both ways. The answers to the old questions about whether God can create a rock so heavy that he himself cannot lift it, or make a square circle, or make 2+2=5, usually end in saying that God can do anything that’s logically possible, but of course it’s not a limitation on Him that he’s still constrained to logic. But the presuppositionalists want to give God credit for the very laws of logic, which negates the other answers, and we’re free to ask why God can’t make 2+2=5.

  4. says

    One quick note before I go to work and to add my two cents on this post. The discussion wasn’t the best one ever, partly due to the phones and the end of the show and the nature of TAG. However for these people who say that the call was handled very poorly or especially “disgracefully” are from people who are more than likely in two groups (and they aren’t exclusive). 1) They don’t debate themselves, so its always easier to say that they could have done better. 2) They have dealt with TAG far more often, or have listened to the RRS talk, or looked at Slicks CARM article; they are more familiar and are perhaps frustrated that Russell and Don weren’t experts in it.TAG to me still is one of the hardest to wrap my head around. Its far more wordy and in my opinion complicated than a theist saying “We can’t see wind, so god exists even if we can’t see him” or “we have to have a designer/immovable mover/whatever that assumes a god” and so on. These are all one to two sentence ideas that are easily refuted. If you look at Slicks version of the TAG arguement its like two pages of stuff that leads up to the conclusion that God exists.

  5. says

    I like that very simple counterargument to the TAG. Although one can argue by simply refusing to accept the assertions made by the other side, I think it’s more effective to actively point out a contradiction in terms, and this counterargument does just that.

  6. says

    Blogger killed my last commentary. Ergo I have to recreate what I thought I said.I listened to the show and feel that you handled Mr. Slick quite well and courteously. His circuitous, tautological gushing of “logic” was tough for me to take. I wouldn’t have been nearly as patient with him.His condescending, smarmy attitude opened him up, in my opinion, to some degree of online ridicule, however I think you showed admirable restraint.Kant and Spinoza would have laughed their asses off at this theistard, who proves the old adage, “a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing…”Great show. I look forward to the next one.

  7. says

    Great post.Although I love the challenge of debating theists, I cannot begin to imagine the added pressure of doing it live on TV. I will, therefore, not judge your performance. I am glad to hear that you have embraced your criticism. This will no doubt mean an increase in the quality of the show.I think it has been an important lesson. Although we are used to refuting the same old tired excuses for the existence of god, every so often someone throw a curve-ball. Sometimes you quickly realise that it is simply an old argument in new clothes. Sometimes it draw parallels in other flawed arguments. These are time when it is easy to ad-lib, so to speak.Sometimes we hear something new, or something that appears radically different. I have learnt the hard way that is better to be gracious and admit a lack of knowledge of the argument, rather than arguing blindly. In the modern world it is easier than ever to delay your reply until you have performed the research. I admit, instant rebuttal is so much more “sexy” than a blog-post the next day.Anyway, I’d just like to say that I think what you guys do is great. And, if anything, I am looking forward to the next installment. I really hope Slick calls back because you guys will pwn him!

  8. says

    So as Martin says, Monday morning quarterbacking is easy, and I’ve done plenty of it myself; being in the position makes it trickier to see the long view.This is even easy to do sometimes in written debates where in general you have a lot more time to word your argument for best effect. When talking to theists through e- mail or on forums I have a habit of concentrating on one argument, or one aspect of it, that I forget about another. At times this is in detriment to a stronger argument I could make.

  9. says

    Good post, Kazim. Unfortunately, I am of the camp who was initially frustrated/disappointed by that epsisode, because of Matt Slick’s call. I guess I felt like he was constantly just on the point of saying something contradictory for you to tear apart, but that you weren’t quite letting him get there. I guess it was really just a problem of time constraints. If you’d been able to let him get a little farther, to the part where he says Logical Absolutes are concepts, the contradiction would have been obvious and you could have hit him with a special pleading accusation.It was indeed a very “slick” thing to do for him to slip in “people” at the beginning, instead of what he really meant, “minds”. Looking at it now, it’s almost offensive how blatantly he was contradicting himself.Basically, one moment he wants to talk about Logical Absolutes as “transcendent”, in that they transcend even being concepts, almost as if they are just properties of the Universe. But, as with most special pleading arguments, once he gets to the point where he whips out god, the rules change. NOW Logical Absolutes are not just a property of the Universe….now they are “concepts” which depend on minds (directly contradictory to what he’s said).Well done, guys.

  10. says

    Russell,While I think the show may have been a little bit of a trainwreck, I don’t think you and Don should beat yourselves up over it. I think you both did a fine job of addressing Slick given the amount of time you had left in the show.While I have lived most of my life as an atheist (over 40 years), it has only been in the last couple of years that I’ve really explored why I beleive as I do and started reading books and watching and listening to webcasts and your show. I had never heard of the TAG argument before. I appreciate what you folks at the ACA do, and I really have learned a lot from your presentations. Keep up the great work.

  11. says

    Honestly, Russ, I think you and Don both get points for not laughing out loud at Slick and his nonsense.I’ve long felt that some subjects require written, long-form treatment.Perhaps some manner of Official ACA TAG Statement – like a position paper – is in order? Incorporate and consolidate the best replies and challenges, post it, and invite Slick (or whomever) to respond.Following that, you could bang out the details or ask specific questions live on the phone.

  12. says

    I listened to the episode today and I have a few comments on the interactions and then I’ll throw something else in for consideration.I think the underlying issue that led to communication problem was the technical difficulties. Listening to the cell phone on the speaker phone causes a hesitation in response as the phone switches back and forth from speaker to microphone. Slicks responses over the air were half a second ahead of the cell phone leading to an out of sync conversation. This led to you both hearing a “inviting pause” when one was not intended. This mixed with Mr. Slick’s predisposition to highlight interruption led naturally to the type of result we heard on the air. If you had all been in the room or had the phones worked as normal, I think the conversation would have gone much more smoothly and you would have still been blamed for not letting him finish a thought.Now on to TAG.My first problem is the concept of absolute logic. The law of identity is true for all the experience we have had and can be applied for almost everything we use. Yet there is an example where the law of identity fails. Mr. Slick, I would like you to meet Mr Schondinger’s cat. The cat which is both dead and alive. Both statements are true. The cat is dead. The cat is alive. Feynman (I believe) once commented in regards to this experiment, referencing the decay of uranium, “Not even God knows when uranium will decay.”In this example alone, the law of identity is shown to not be absolute. I would also highlight this point – “People’s minds are different. What one person considers to be absolute may not be what another considers to be absolute. People often contradict each other. Therefore, Logical Absolutes cannot be the product of human, contradictory minds.”Would not our minds and the mind of God be contradictory. If we all contradict one another than no more than one person could be non contradictory to God’s mind. Therefore, Logical Absolutes could not be the product of the mind of any God as God’s mind would be contradicted by people’s mind.As such logical absolutes as defined by TAG could not be the product of any mind as all minds contradict some other mind.

  13. says

    BFA,The Schrodinger’s cat demonstrates that quantum uncertainties at the microscopic level actually affect reality at the macroscopic level. Prior to the discovery of quantum mechanics, it was generally believed that the universe could be deterministic and predictable. If you knew the absolute position and trajectory of every atom at any given time, you could in principle predict everything that was going to happen in the future.QM changed all that. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle showed that such a level of detailed knowledge was not only unknown, but unknowable even in principle. And although it may seem very abstract to say that a single electron can be truly randomized over a distribution of locations, the cat “experiment” shows that this also affects things on a scale we are familiar with. The cat’s state of being alive or dead is also genuinely random, just as much as the position of an electron.

  14. says

    Kazim:Schrodinger’s cat is not about the quantum uncertainty but about the quantum superposition.QM theory allows a particle to be in several states at once – states that according to classical physics should be mutually exclusive. For instance, an electron may be spinning up and down at the same time. More specifically according to QM (Copenhagen interpretation) an electron has both up and down spin until its spin is determined by a measurement. Schrodinger then formulated his cat paradox in this way – what if the spin of the electron determines whether or not a cat will be killed. Does it mean that the cat is both dead and alive until we check it (either the cat or the electron)?

  15. says

    Stenlis (playing apologist’s advocate):Whether or not he can ‘change his mind’ is not so much relevant as whether or not he can change reality. Which he can in fact do. He can turn A into B. He can turn water into wine. He heals the suffering.The God can change logical absolutes so that A != A. In other words, they are not absolute; they can change over time; and therefore his argument that “logical absolutes are not dependent on people” also applies to God. God gave us the world with its laws. Laws of logic, laws of nature. He can change those laws but we cannot – we must abide by them and they are valid for us for as long as god leaves those laws in place.If the absolutes are indeed absolute, then God’s power shouldn’t be able to change them. Wasn’t Matt’s whole point in 4C that Logical Absolutes can’t be products of a varying mind precisely because they can’t change for any reason?

  16. says

    I can say that I get annoyed when I see a debate show in which the host is yelling over his guest and not allowing the guest to make a point. This is an exaggeration, but it seems like the hosts is sometimes saying “Is it or is it not an abomination the way your political party does such crooked things? Yes or no, answer the question!”But this situation is different. There is a fine line between not letting the guest do a Gish Gallup, and not letting the guest talk. I think you handled it rather well. And it was perfectly reasonable to ask where Slick was going when he made some questionable assertions, such as the one that “if your view cannot account for everything, then mine must be right”.The question is, how would you handle that argument in a formal debate?

  17. says

    Kazim:The God can change logical absolutes so that A != A. In other words, they are not absolute; they can change over time; and therefore his argument that “logical absolutes are not dependent on people” also applies to God. If the absolutes are indeed absolute, then God’s power shouldn’t be able to change them. Wasn’t Matt’s whole point in 4C that Logical Absolutes can’t be products of a varying mind precisely because they can’t change for any reason?God is the source of the logical absolutes not a servant to them. You are a computer programmer. You can create a computer reality where the subjects move in two dimensions and can never move into the third. It is absolute for them and their little universe. It is the essence of their reality, it transcends it. Yet it does not mean that you, the source of it, have to live in two dimensional world.You can make glimpses of a third dimension a part of the program. From time to time some objects may experience some effects of a third dimension. That does not mean that you changed your mind but rather that you planned it all along. It also does not mean the two dimensions are invalid for the objects or that they can do anything about their two-dimensional nature themselves.In 4C Slick never says or implies that rules of logic transcend God, only that they are not dependent on time space or people (which is the part that I disagree with).

  18. says

    @stenlis:You are doing a great job of playing the Christian apologist. I think this is the kind of thing we need more. I realize we do get the occasional ACTUAL apologist like Rhology, but they don’t really have a vested interest in really trying to engage us.Anyway, I think the important thing about Martin and Russell’s refutations of Mr. Slick’s arguments is that they caught him in his sleight of hand. It happens somewhere between Mr. Slick starting out by claiming that Logical Absolutes do not depend on “people”. It’s very very important that he used the word “people” here. What he REALLY wants to get across in order to continue his argument is the idea that Logical Absolutes are things unto themselves. Whether or not you agree with this doesn’t matter, because the problem is that later on, he does a very crafty switcheroo on us and all of a sudden claims that Logical Absolutes are now concepts! Concepts that depend on a mind! Note the change from “people” to “mind”. And then of course these perfect absolutes had to come from a perfect mind and badabing, teh God. The point is that within his own argument, Logical Absolutes go from being NOT concepts….to being concepts, with no acknowledgement of the change.

  19. says

    God is the source of the logical absolutes not a servant to them. You are a computer programmer. You can create a computer reality where the subjects move in two dimensions and can never move into the third.Yeah, I can do that, but I can’t write an application where (x != x). Oh sure, I suppose we could CONSTRUCT a language where the meaning of the symbols are sufficiently wacky that you could write (x != x) have have it mean something, but such a language would either express the actual SYMBOLIC claim x == x in a different way, or it would be a fairly useless language. (Bertrand Russell once demonstrated that if you accept a logically false statement, you can use it to prove anything. An audience member challenged him to go from “2+2=5″ to “Bertrand Russell is the pope,” and he ad libbed one on the spot. Look it up.)It is absolute for them and their little universe. It is the essence of their reality, it transcends it.How many dimensions a universe has isn’t a logical necessity; it is a circumstance of the way the universe is set up.You could argue that point on philosophical grounds, but that’s NOT what Matt Slick says. He’s saying that logical absolutes are independent of time, space, or human minds. They’re immutable. I’m pretty sure that Matt Slick would not try to argue that they can change.

  20. says

    Kazim:Well I think I could argue some of your points but not without becoming too technical. I’m not willing to go deeply into defending a position that I don’t hold and anyway I would continue to make points which I doubt Slick would make.I think the problem is that I’m trying to argue with you in a meaningful, responsive manner. If I were a real apologists I should just repeat my initial statements and throw in a variety of ad hominem into that.

  21. says

    btw if you think Slick will not argue that god must obey laws of logic, ask him if a son can be his own father at the same time, if water can be wine and bread can be the holy body

  22. says

    It was pretty frustrating to listen to but I totally admire the way you’ve responded to it.I just hope that these studio speaker problems can get fixed once and for all.

  23. says

    Just a couple of comments, more to the show content than the blog posts.The sound problems are distracting. If ACA can get this fixed, it would make for a better show.Responding on the fly to an argument you haven’t heard before can be confusing. I thought at the beginning that Matt S. was going down the “there’s only 2 possibilities…blah, blah…therefore god did it” kind of thing, and I think Don did as well. The advice Russell quotes from a comment sounds like a good practice for this and many other situations.Having Don and Russell take completely different tacks on the nature of Logic was a bit frustrating. On that, I think Russell was more accurate…the giant hole in Matt S’s argument is somewhere else anyway.Slick’s argument could use some cleaning up as well. I took Logic in college, and I don’t remember a lot of talk about “Logical Imperatives”. Both logic and math deal with creating statement structures that are valid, don’t they? Why not just say “2+2=4″ is a true statement regardless of time, space etc? I think because Matt S. needs to run a little mumbo-jumbo around it all.I guess you can say these ideas are transcendent, but I’m not sure that saying it has a lot of meaning. I bet we could come up many concepts or ideas that could be called transcendent, but so what? In spite of some problems, this was an entertaining show. I applaud Russell’s efforts to raise the level of debate.Keep ‘em coming!

  24. says

    Zowie….. I am totally blown away by this. I had never even heard of this argument until I ran across it on the blog and then watched the show. I’ve been reading up on it for a couple days since.It’s simply stunning how little I know as time goes on, truly one of the great things about atheism.As for the perfomance of Don and Russel on the show, I think there’s very little to criticize really. I can’t see much anyway. I think they were in fact obligated to short-circuit the nonsense from Slick as soon as it was being presented. In my view, it only descended a bit into quibbling because Slick was unable to rebuild any of the refuted points with anything persuasive. Don’s laughter was appropriate, Slick’s commentary was, well, laughable.In fact, I did listen to an interview of Slick on the Rational Response Squad’s radio show from a while back and they literally ate the fool alive. Sure enough, as soon as he began to feel the chewing he started whining in the same manner as he did on the AEA’s show.As for TAG, one discussion that centers around the idea of logic coming from god is here (tho I wouldn’t be surprised if this is already-known content), this is a link off the Wikipedia entry on TAG:http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/martin-frame/index.htmlHe makes a similar argument to Martin’s and Russell’s points that the claim that logic implies god runs afoul of basic logical principles all by itself, tending to deep 6 God’s own Handiwork by its own internal structure.Good stuff, LS

  25. says

    I actually think you handled that debate fairly well, and although there may have been things that could have been better. When I watched the debate what I noticed was how long slick took to actually get to any points and that you and Don were able to refute his points before he made them. I’m not sure whether slick realizes this or not, but saying that some property of this universe like logic transcends space and time is a very strong statement, and would need to be backed up with evidence.

  26. says

    As I suggest on my blog (link above; I won’t plug it again!), one of the problems with the TAG (and presuppositionalism in general) is that it is a kind of Gish-gallop of abstruse polysyllabic vocabulary words, and dedicated practitioners have a script from which they do not deviate.Read the link I give to one of Slick’s earlier “debates” — it’s the exact same words he used with Russell and Don.In general, I would take the following approach:1. Deny that logic is a transcendental absolute, and point out that Slick’s argument (“Well, then you can’t win a debate”) shows only that it is a convention among debaters, not that it is universal. He’s prepared to dodge quantum mechanics, but I wonder what he’d say about the double-slit experiment. (Electrons are both there and not-there at the same time, violating the law of identity.)2. Point out that his argument is non-exclusive; you can construct any sort of arbitrary worldview and have it be internally consistent in the same way he claims Christianity is. (E.g., my worldview is that I answer every ‘why’ question with, “Because the magic pixies want it that way.”)3. Hit him hard on the actual internal contradictions in Christianity. I set some out in my post, but I’m sure you guys have a stable of your own.Ultimately, presuppositional apologetics is a sophisticated form of wordplay, but it’s growing in popularity (very probably, because that sort of stuff appeals to a certain class of argumentative people), and it can throw you off your game when you’re not ready for it. (See: Barker, Dan.)Best of luck to Matt D. and his co-host tomorrow!

  27. says

    Is it me, or isn’t this transcendental argument a bastardised version of Thomas Aquinas’s argument for God? I don’t agree with what Thomas d’Aquin on the existence of God, but at least he was trying to prove it through observation of reality (which he didn’t have to do as he was preaching for converts) and his definition of God was precise and clear enough to be debated upon.

  28. says

    Looks like it to me (a warmed-over rendition of the first cause argument). Even were it not for the illicit confusion of “transcendental” and (certainly) human-invented properties of logic that Martin brilliantly pointed out, it still becomes ensnared in the infinite regress problem. I.e. does logic stop at god or does it still keep going back? If it does, it’s arbitrary and therefore, er, not very logical. If it doesn’t, it’s status as logic is preserved (it’s necessary), but god also must obey it and then just becomes another link in the chain (the First Cause must be further back, etc)… In other words, it both brings up the problem and doesn’t provide any solution to it any more or less than Thomas Acquinas’ theses did.It’s just the SOS…… In fact, I havn’t yet encountered a creationist argument that _doesn’t_ bring and then run afoul of these problems in some form or other. To my knowledge, only the atheist perspective tells the truth about the First Cause argument: – there is no evidence for it- we don’t know if there is or is not a First Cause (such that there’s no good reason to believe in such a thing).

  29. says

    @Is-Don’t get me wrong, it takes major and numerous leaps of faith to agree with Thomas d’Aquin’s theses (his conception of the soul is much more difficult to sell), but at least he tried to get to God through reason and observations, he did not consider the existence of God to be something so obvious as not to question it and he did study the issue without the Bible as his source. To be fair, he was theologian more than philosopher and often his theologian side basically had the better of him. Maybe I am being overly indulgent because I am a medievalist, but I find him pretty open-minded, considering he was from a time when atheism was almost non-existent. The Church was at the time more concerned with heretics than unbelievers.

  30. says

    I finally listened to last week’s episode, and something stuck out to me (which echoes some of the points that were made in an earlier thread on the subject). Slick said that the logical absolutes were transcendent because (paraphrasing) you could travel across the universe for a million years, and they’d still be true, so they’re not dependent on space or time. This is tricky, but it’s one of the really big equivocation problems he has, and it’s on this that much of his argument are based. What he’s really saying there is that the “absolutes” are not dependent on any particular period of time or point in space. If you travel for a million years, you’ll still be in the same universe; these laws may transcend particular moments and places, but there’s no reason to claim that they transcend time and space entirely. They are still dependent on the existence of a particular sort of spacetime–i.e., the one that our universe operates with. And this undercuts most of the rest of his arguments about how minds are different. Sure, but they’re experiencing the same universe, and thus have the same reference points that Russell and Don talked about with their table example. It’s just as sensible to say that the laws of gravity or electromagnetism are transcendent, because they’ll be the same throughout spacetime. That doesn’t mean that they’re the product of some transcendental mind; they’re a property of how the universe operates. Well, the actual laws are, but our conceptual models of the laws might be different–and then, those do depend on space and time. Two hundred years ago, we had different formulations of those physical laws, despite the fact that the universe has largely stayed the same. But that’s really a side point. The main thing is the word game that Slick played with “transcending” space and time.

  31. says

    And the questions will stand.How do you account for the universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic, on what basis do you proceed with the assumption that they will not change, and how is it possible to know anything for certain according to YOUR worldview?

  32. says

    SHawk,Dan, are you asking yourself or us? Because what you just asked applies to you too. I am asking you and yes I understand it applies to me also. Go ahead and answer my question and then I can answer yours.

  33. says

    Dan,No, that’s not how it works. You brought up the question specifically because you think that it’s proof of your god. If our answer is “I have no explanation” and your answer is “I invented a magic man who explains everything” then you’ve got the burden to show why you don’t need to account for the existence of the magic man. Otherwise, the explanation is simply unknown, not proof of your god.

  34. says

    Kazmin,No, that’s not how it works.[snicker]You brought up the question specifically because you think that it’s proof of your god.No, I am very curious how do you account for your logic.I will also ask how it is possible for you to know anything, before I respond with my answer. You see, if you can’t know anything, then you have no basis for evaluating any answer I give, or whether or not I have even given one, and I would just be wasting my time. Also, what is the justification for the universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic you wish to use to evaluate my answers.

  35. says

    Kazmin, who is Kazmin?Anyway, here’s the real problem, Dan. You’re imagining a situation in which there are two answers to this question of “accounting” for logical absolutes: recognizing that they are there but not knowing “where” they came from, and saying that they were created by “God”. You assume that since our “world view” (misnomer) can’t account for them, that yours wins by default. But honestly, how does saying “God did it” really “account” for them any better than just saying “Dunno”? It doesn’t. It makes you feel comfortable since you’ve picked something–you’ve picked AN explanation, but it isn’t an explanation that is any better than “I don’t know”. It’s “I don’t know” with a “God” sticker slapped on it. Gonna go ahead and unsubscribe, Dan, because I know from reading your blog and other comments you’ve left that you aren’t interested in engaging anyone here on any kind of honest level. Have fun riling everyone else up and thumbing your nose at them. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

  36. says

    Sorry you absolutely correct it is Kazim please excuse my mistake.Now splarrowblawk,Dan, because I know from reading your blog and other comments you’ve left that you aren’t interested in engaging anyone here on any kind of honest level.Boo hoo. Are you certain of this? How can you be certain of anything with your worldview?If someone rejects Christianity they will end up, if they’re honest and consistent, at the bottom with radical skepticism. All bets are off and all up for grabs. Completely arbitrary moral system; it’s going to be pick and choose. People don’t live like that though, we go to school and turn in papers on time so you can get the grade. With the Atheistic worldview, school doesn’t matter; grades don’t matter; education doesn’t matter; nothing matters with that worldview. It could all be a mirage or an illusion even, it could all be a waste of time.Along with that, there is no answer for origins of life. If fact, they don’t know if they themselves even exist. It’s a sad worldview when you don’t even know if you yourself exists. You cannot say you are infallibly and inherently sure if 2+2=4 even. If atheism is true then Christianity is pretty ridiculous I will admit to that but again, if you’re honest, you have no way of knowing that for sure, you have no way of knowing anything is true. Christianity, on the other hand, is completely compatible with reality, relative to Radical Skepticism.

  37. says

    You cannot say you are infallibly and inherently sure if 2+2=4 even.Wrong. Not just wrong, but fractally and stupidly wrong.Watch me: 2+2=4. It definitely and absolutely is 4.I think what you’re complaining about is, if you ask WHY does 2+2=4, then you don’t necessarily get a satisfying answer. So what? We work with things that are evidently true without knowing the reason for them all the time.Why are you reading this book? I want to. Why do you want to? I don’t know, I just do.You do this too, you just pretend you don’t. When I ask “Why does God exist?” you dodge and weave around the question, because your actual answer is “I have no idea.” Yet that doesn’t prevent you from asserting your god exists, even though you have no reason to believe it does.So, you see? Nothing prevents me from pointing out something that is clearly true, whether I know WHY it’s true or not.

  38. says

    Kazim, It definitely and absolutely is 4.Great! So you do believe in absolute truths then. Now, I will ask how it is possible for you to know anything, before I give a response. You see, if you can’t know anything, then you have no basis for evaluating any response I give, or whether or not I have even given one, and I would just be wasting my time. Also, what is the justification for the universal, abstract, invariant laws of logic you wish to use to evaluate my response?

  39. Martin says

    Lovely. I take the blog off moderation, and quick as a wink, that congenital idiot Dan Marvin is back with his canned idiocy.If Dan is admitting he’s stupid enough that he couldn’t even know that 2+2=4 without his God helping him count on his fingers, that’s his lookout. I don’t see why we need to be bothered by it.

  40. says

    @ Three-crosses DanLet me get the argument straight: if logic exists, then god exists because god made logic.Why is logic special? What about gravity? If gravity exists, does that mean god exist? Is god making things intelligently fall? Are angels pulling you down to keep you on the earth? How about rocks? Does god say, “rock, I’m telling you to be a rock so you better stay a rock!”. Or how about morality? Does god say, “raping is only immoral because I say it is, otherwise it would be fine!” Are you willing to admit there things in the universe that aren’t dependent on god to have created them or maintain them? If there are things in the universe that are not depended on god, why is logic special? It seems your position must be arguing that by default, if anything exists, it means a god must have created it. I anticipate you might foolishly say, “yes, exactly! God has created everything in existence – logic, morality, atoms, gravity – everything!”Even evil? Even ebola? Even babies born with spina bifida? Even the rest of the universe that has no purpose because his creations cannot reach or see it? Even atheists? Even starvation?

  41. says

    EEA,I liked what one Atheist called me, “Dan with instruments of torture after his name,”Why is logic special?Like God, thoughts are immaterial, emotions are immaterial, the mind is immaterial, none of them can be seen or observed, the lover experiencing the feelings of love to his loved one, they cannot be proven by science, only the lover can know that feeling that they are experiencing.They are all immaterial just like the laws of logic, yet we do not question their existence just because we do not see them. Are angels pulling you down to keep you on the earth? Or is it push? :)Yes, exactly! God has created everything in existence – logic, morality, atoms, gravity – everything!Even evil? YESEven ebola? Even babies born with spina bifida? YESEven atheists? No, Satan created those :)

  42. says

    There are so, so many things wrong with your posts 3-Crosses that it’s like it was fired out of a shotgun of stupidity.God created evil so that we could see how good he is? A bit like saying a husband beats his wife so she can appreciate him when he takes her out to dinner.And bacteria’s DNA changed magically to attack humans after a fictional (some say parable) of two people messing up? Did the bacteria change or are we back to God the abusive you-will-do-what-I-say husband?But the biggest, most grievous bit is your claim that love cannot exist without a soul. (Or more accurately, I think the argument is I don’t understand how love works, so I’m going to guess soul). There are so, so many problems with dualism, I’ve lined them out. Good luck sorting through all those problems.

  43. says

    Can God change His mind?That is not the question.The question is: why would He?God’s basic desires are consistent. God does not do what He does not want to do. God wants to remain consitent, so He does.

  44. says

    For some reason, not doubt known only to Google, I was not allowed the option of subscribing to the comments on this post. This comment is just to start that subscription.

  45. says

    Russ, I thought you guys did well. I wouldn’t be surprised if you picked up a few viewers/listeners to replace the fair-weather few that took to their heels.I would, nonetheless, suggest that if your opponent is working from a script there is no real threat in letting them get it all out. That being said, I absolutely loved seeing this whiny, little windbag get his pretty pink skirt snagged in the brier patch of unrelenting scrutiny.Keep it up!Jack

  46. says

    JK Jones, you are just pushing back the problem. What if god had decided at the very beginning that “a” = “not a”. That a rock was a tree? That 2+2=5? Could it have been? It wasn’t a change of heart.Although, I do have to say a bit presumptuous on your part to say that you know for a fact god would never change his mind. How are you so certain you know the mind of god? He told you he’d never change his mind? What if he wants to, after he told you?

  47. says

    EEA,How are you so certain you know the mind of god? Do you admit that it is possible that an omniscient, omnipotent being could reveal some things to us, such that we can be certain of them?

  48. says

    Okay, a few questions that you might want to answer. 1. How do you know god’s telling the truth? “because god says it’d never lie” is not a very good reason. If you buy into that, I’ve got a few things I could sell you.2. How do you know that it was god telling you that? How do you know it wasn’t the devil tricking you?3. If it was god telling you that he never changes his mind, then I guess his powers are limited? After all, if he does change his mind he contradicted himself, so it has to limit itself forever in the future.Sure, it could be god revealing a few tidbits of how his mind works (but not new, unknown scientific advancements or future events, or anything remotely useful, that might be too revealing) that happen to coexist exactly with the idea of god that random, scattered individuals have. But is it likely? I’d say about as likely a leprechaun blowing me a kiss.

  49. says

    Dan, you’re a master of dodging questions. Whether or not it’s theoretically POSSIBLE to know something doesn’t answer the question of how YOU know it.So, how are you so certain you know the mind of god?

  50. says

    Kazim,Whether or not it’s theoretically POSSIBLE to know something doesn’t answer the question of how YOU know it.So you just assume logic? So you use it without knowing why it’s even there or where it comes from? You assume it has always been there? A tool that you cannot account for? Great we are through then, God exists.Christianity provides the preconditions of intelligibility for man’s experience and reasoning. If Christianity were not true, Atheists could not prove or understand anything.So, how are you so certain you know the mind of god? God revelations. God has revealed many things to us (Which, if you haven’t gathered, includes me – and you for that matter) i.e. That He exists, that murder is bad, that love is good, that we were created in His image, that Jesus Christ is His Son, that He controls the universe. etc. etc.So maybe you can answer then. Do you admit that it is possible that an omniscient, omnipotent being could reveal some things to us, such that we can be certain of them?

  51. says

    Truthseeker just said:”TAG asks the question how could you have laws of logic at all from an atheist worldview. Now I don’t deny that some have given answers, I just think that within the Christian worldview they are not only accounted for but make the most sense, or comport with the reality we claim exist.”Amen, well said.

  52. says

    So you just assume a god? So you use the idea of without knowing why it’s even there or where it comes from? You assume it has always been there? A being that we cannot account for?You DON’T actually understand anything. You pretend that this thing you made up has to exist, even though there’s no evidence that it is there (whereas obviously logic does “exist” in whatever capacity that means) and if it did exist, it would be infinitely more unexplainable than the questions you’re trying to solve.You know the mind of God through “personal revelations.” How convenient! It means it’s “true for you” in your own mind and it absolves you of the responsibility of proving that your revelations are correct.Same as everyone who ever flew a plane into a building because God wanted him to, or drowned her kids because the voices in her head said so. Glad you’re so sure of yourself.

  53. says

    The Everything Else Atheist said…“…you are just pushing back the problem. What if god had decided at the very beginning that “a” = “not a”. That a rock was a tree? That 2+2=5? Could it have been? It wasn’t a change of heart.”God would not have decided a different way.“… How are you so certain you know the mind of god?…”Because He said so in His Word, The Bible. “…How do you know god’s telling the truth? “because god says it’d never lie” is not a very good reason…”Because God is the only possible explaination for the moral absolute that we should not lie.“…How do you know that it was god telling you that? How do you know it wasn’t the devil tricking you?”Fair question. Please read “The Historical Reliability of the New Testament” by Blomberg. Here’s a great place to start: http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.786347/“If it was god telling you that he never changes his mind, then I guess his powers are limited? After all, if he does change his mind he contradicted himself, so it has to limit itself forever in the future.”His powers are limited. By His own choice. He will not choose to do anything that He does not want to do, and He cannot do anything that is logically impossible because His mind does not work in any other way. Omnipotence is that God can do anything power can do, not that God can do anything.“…Sure, it could be god revealing a few tidbits of how his mind works…”He has left us enough to leave you without excuse for not believing. Any reasonable person would.Dan +†+, Truthseeker,It’s really good to have some friends around here. Thanks!By the way, I don’t wear pink skirts, and I’m not the one artfully dodging questions. There is no epistemological foundation from which you can even ask your questions, so at this point, I decline to answer them.

  54. says

    Kazim, “So you just assume a god? So you use the idea of without knowing why it’s even there or where it comes from? You assume it has always been there?”I assume no such thing. Something must have always been there, or we would have nothing here now.“…it absolves you of the responsibility of proving that your revelations are correct.”The proof has been given. Over and over. Ad infinitum, ad nausium.You resort to the argument from evil, which has been answered repeatedly from many sides. That arguement assumes the existence of evil and that God wuld not have a reason for the evil we find. You can’t explain the first one, and you can’t claim to knwo the second.

  55. says

    You resort to the argument from evil, which has been answered repeatedly from many sides.Um, that’s not the argument from evil, dude. If you’re going to try to dismiss an argument by NAMING it, you might want to brush up on what the arguments you named mean.The argument from evil is an effort to prove that an omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent God can’t exist by pointing out that there wouldn’t be evil in a world where such a god lives.What I said is a lot more modest. When I asked Dan how he knows the mind of God, he said “personal revelation.” That’s a terrible substitute for evidence, since it’s the same authority by which suicide bombers know the mind of THEIR god. It’s useless. Without some other standard besides “because I said so” you might as well tell me that god orders you to dress up in a chicken suit and yodel songs from “South Park: The Movie.” Backwards.I assume no such thing. Something must have always been there, or we would have nothing here now.First, unsupported assertion; second, if it’s true, no grounds on which to assume that the “something” is in any way god-like, has any mind to follow, or indeed any mind at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>