The Dawkins/Lewis debate

Looks like the fine folks at “Truthbomb Apologetics” have set up an impromptu “debate” of their own between Richard Dawkins and C. S. Lewis. It has this in its favor: it’s short.

Richard Dawkins: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

C.S. Lewis: “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

Notice the difference in the two approaches. Dawkins’ approach is based on reason and evidence: we consider the consequences that would result from having a universe created by a good God for the purpose of bringing souls to eternal bliss, and the consequences that would result from the absence of such a God, and then observe which set of consequences is closer to the data we actually observe. Lewis, on the other hand, uses an equivocation fallacy to make it sound like the evidence has to point to God no matter what form it takes.

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The moral duties of William Lane Craig

Over at Evangelical Realism, we’re discussing William Lane Craig’s “Argument from Moral Duty” for the existence of God. As usual for such Sunday posts, it’s about 2,000 words, so probably well past the “tl;dr” limit for a lot of people. If you’d like to jump to a shorter excerpt near the end, though, Dr. Craig offers an interesting response to the Euthyphro Dilemma, and I thought some of you might enjoy the abbreviated list of problems his answer creates. Craig’s answer is that there’s a third way out of the dilemma: that God is good by nature, and therefore His will is good. Take that Socrates.

The set of all facts

Jayman raises an interesting point regarding Leibniz’ cosmological argument (as summarized by Pruss).

Pruss’ second point is: “there is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.” Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the material universe is not contingent. Nonetheless you seem to admit that there are contingent facts. This entails that there is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts (the union of all contingent facts).

I’m not sure what point Jayman thought he was proving by that, but it does suggest an interesting line of philosophical inquiry.

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Leibniz’ proof of Alethian deity

Our friend from last Monday, the “brick through the window” guy, has taken me to task for getting Leibniz’ cosmological argument wrong (though he’s really blaming William Lane Craig, who made the argument I was critiquing).

You (Craig?) misrepresent the Leibnizian cosmological argument. It should be summarized as follows (taken from Alexander Pruss’ chapter in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology):

(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.
(2) There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
(3) Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
(4) This explanation must involve a necessary being.
(5) This necessary being is God.

The cool thing about being an Alethian is that Christian philosophers have a habit of setting out to prove the existence of God, and end up proving the existence of Alethea instead. Take Anselm’s ontological proof, by which he attempts to prove God’s existence by calling Him “something than which nothing greater can be imagined.”

And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater.

Did you catch that inadvertent reference to Alethea? Alethea is just another name for Reality, and in order for God to be real, He must exist “in Reality.” Reality is therefore greater than God, or at least the Christian God, because if God were real, then Alethea would comprise all that God is, PLUS all real things that are not God. The Christian God, therefore, is not “something than which nothing greater can be imagined,” but rather Alethea is.

Isn’t that awesome? Anselm, in trying to prove his God, ended up proving mine instead. And Leibniz does the same thing, without meaning to.

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God’s “simple” mind

The “brick through a window” guy from last Monday has got me thinking some more about William Lane Craig’s rendition of Leibniz’ cosmological argument. Here’s what Craig has to say about God.

 As a pure mind without a body, God is a remarkably simple entity. A mind (or soul) is not a physical object composed of parts… Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas…but the mind itself is remarkably simple.

The more I think about it, the more I think he’s right about God’s simple mind.

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Explanation vs Rationalization

One of the chief obstacles to understanding is the unavoidable human habit of rationalization. We tend to favor some beliefs, and to resist others, and have a natural tendency to explain away any evidence that leads to conclusions we don’t like. What’s even worse is that most of the time we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. Fortunately there’s a simple rule of thumb that can help us easily separate rationalizations from legitimate explanations.

In a genuine explanation, we describe something in sufficient detail that we can tell what specific, observable consequences would result from our claim being true, as distinct from the consequences that would result if our claim were not true. This makes our explanation testable: since we know what real-world consequences correspond to our explanation being true, we can simply observe the real world and see if those consequences are, in fact, present.

A genuine explanation, in other words, is a tool that helps us distinguish what’s true from what’s not true. Rationalization, on the other hand, has the opposite goal. The purpose of rationalization is to prevent us from telling the difference between a premise that’s true and one that isn’t. The rationalization takes a desired premise, and the observable evidence, and then throws in speculations and supposed extenuating circumstances designed for the sole purpose of making essentially any observed outcome seem consistent with the premise.

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