RD Extra: Debate – Jeffery Jay Lowder vs. Kevin Vandergriff “Metaphysical Naturalism or Christian Theism? Where does the evidence point?”

Blog Image

Download RD Extra

Or subscribe and listen in iTunes or any podcast client:



  1. cddb says

    from Kevin Vandergriff’s opening statements:
    “therefor it follows that the transcendent cause of the universe must be an unembodied mind
    a what now?
    I’m 85 minutes in and it doesn’t sound like he’s going to even make an attempt at explaining what an “unembodied mind” is, or give any reasons why anyone should believe such a thing does or even could possibly exist… unless I missed something?
    I suppose that’s not *exactly* the point being debated here, but still, he did make that (absurd) assertion in his opening statements…
    That point aside, Lowder presented quite a thorough case, IMO.

  2. Kevin Vandergriff says

    An unembodied mind is a soul without a body. The argument given for this was deductive:
    1. Since the universe has a transcendent cause, the only known candidates that can be a transcendent cause of the universe are abstract objects, or an unembodied mind.
    2. Abstract objects can’t cause anything.
    3. Therefore, the cause of the universe is an unembodied mind.

  3. cddb says

    Hi Kevin, thanks for the response.

    “The only known candidates that can be a transcendent cause of the universe are abstract objects, or an unembodied mind.”

    You’re claiming here that an “unembodied mind” is a “known” *thing*. Where have humans observed such a thing? You’re saying that humans do know of minds existing apart from material stuff: some kind of mental process without a brain. Where have we seen this? How could such a thing even work?

  4. Kevin Vandergriff says


    Thank you for your questions:) I wonder if part of the problem here is that when I assert that the cause of the universe is either a mind or an abstract object, non-philosophers think that I am asserting the actual existence of such things. No, I’m only asserting that these are the known candidates for something that could fit the description. That I’m not assuming that such things actually exist is evident from the fact that I am strongly inclined to think that abstract objects do not, in fact, exist. But I include them as a candidate because they would largely fit the description. I also gave another reason in my argument for why there is something rather than nothing to think the cause of the universe is personal. If you think not being able to understand how such a mind would work shows the existence of an unembodied mind is incoherent or improbable then you have to say that 95% of the universe doesn’t exist, and defeat my two reasons to think it is probable that such a mind exists, and give positive reasons to think not knowing how such a mind works makes its existence impossible or improbable which will fail because:

    1: There is no successful argument to show such a minds existence is logically impossible

    2: If the materialist insists that we are able to act on our beliefs, desires and perceptions only because they are material and not spiritual, the dualist can turn the tables on his naturalistic opponents and ask how matter, regardless of its organization, can produce conscious thoughts, feelings and perceptions. How, the dualist might ask, by adding complexity to the structure of the brain, do we manage to leap beyond the quantitative into the realm of experience? The relationship between consciousness and brain processes leaves the materialist with a causal mystery perhaps as puzzling as that confronting the dualist.

    3: The question is malformed since the interaction problem rests on a failure to distinguish between remote and proximate causes. While it makes sense to ask how depressing the accelerator causes the automobile to speed up, it makes no sense to ask how pressing the accelerator pedal causes the pedal to move. We can sensibly ask how to spell a word in sign language, but not how to move a finger. Proximate causes are “basic” and analysis of them is impossible. There is no “how” to basic actions, which are brute facts. Perhaps the mind’s influence on the pineal gland is basic and brute.

  5. khms says

    @2 Kevin Vandergriff:

    An unembodied mind is a soul without a body. The argument given for this was deductive:
    1. Since the universe has a transcendent cause, the only known candidates that can be a transcendent cause of the universe are abstract objects, or an unembodied mind.
    2. Abstract objects can’t cause anything.
    3. Therefore, the cause of the universe is an unembodied mind.

    (0) Given that we are fairly certain souls (at least as usually imagined as a separate part from the brain) do not exist, then a soul without a body[*] …
    (1a) How exactly do we know that the universe has a transcendent cause? For that matter, what is a transcendent cause? Is there any known non-hypothetical example of one?
    (1b) How is that unembodied mind different from an abstract object?
    (2) If there existed such a thing as an unembodied mind, how would it be able to cause anything?

    [*] Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve been known to exclaim “I want a computer that’s completely software, that uses no hardware” after yet another hardware-related irritation. Somehow, I’ve failed to find one available for download or to buy.

  6. khms says

    @4 Kevin Vandergriff:

    my two reasons to think it is probable that such a mind exists

    This must refer to some new meaning of “probable” that I am unaware of.

    1: There is no successful argument to show such a minds existence is logically impossible

    Neither is there one to show that the concept makes sense, or has any useful attributes, let alone exists.

    2: If the materialist insists that we are able to act on our beliefs, desires and perceptions only because they are material and not spiritual, the dualist can turn the tables on his naturalistic opponents and ask how matter, regardless of its organization, can produce conscious thoughts, feelings and perceptions. How, the dualist might ask, by adding complexity to the structure of the brain, do we manage to leap beyond the quantitative into the realm of experience? The relationship between consciousness and brain processes leaves the materialist with a causal mystery perhaps as puzzling as that confronting the dualist.

    How can matter, regardless of its organization, produce sensible text on a computer screen?

    Why would the human mind need to be a different kind of phenomenon?

    It occurs to me that the dualistic answer amounts to “not being able to understand how that would work”. Which you just told us isn’t a reasonable answer.

    3: The question is malformed since the interaction problem rests on a failure to distinguish between remote and proximate causes. While it makes sense to ask how depressing the accelerator causes the automobile to speed up, it makes no sense to ask how pressing the accelerator pedal causes the pedal to move. We can sensibly ask how to spell a word in sign language, but not how to move a finger. Proximate causes are “basic” and analysis of them is impossible. There is no “how” to basic actions, which are brute facts. Perhaps the mind’s influence on the pineal gland is basic and brute.

    Strange, and here I thought not only do those questions make perfect sense, they actually have fairly simple answers. As for the pineal gland, let me just quote Wikipedia:

    Baruch de Spinoza criticized Descartes’ viewpoint for neither following from self-evident premises nor being “clearly and distinctly perceived” (Descartes having previously asserted that he could not draw conclusions of this sort), and questioned what Descartes meant by talking of “the union of the mind and the body.”

  7. khms says

    (This reminds me of a paper I recently read … well, looked at and picked what seemed to be the more interesting paragraphs … about, I think they called it, integrated information theory (IIT), which, among other stuff, asserted that brains can be conscious, but exactly(!) simulated brains cannot be, because … mumble irreducibility mumble …
    It didn’t help that they referred to what sounded like some obscure religious theory every other sentence.)

  8. Johannes Rohr says

    Yet another William Lane Craig clone abusing the Borde Guth Velenkin theorem. Sigh! It is one thing to use bad arguments, but it is quite another thing to continue using them once they have been debunked. And debunked they have been indeed. Guth clearly says that we don’t know whether the universe is past eternal, but in all likelihood it is. However the theorem does not say that our universe cannot be past eternal but that the ability to describe it in classical terms breaks down at a certain point…

    And really, folks, if you ever again put up a debate, where someone is presenting WLC’s first cause argument, I really want you to put a warning on it, because being confronted with this 25 centuries out of date argument is something almost causing me physical pain. I simply cannot believe that anyone still defending this argument honestly believes it. It has been picked apart and debunked so thouroughly, that it it occurs as totally bizarre to me when someone presents it in a debate as if we had never heard of it before.

    And, yes, I have no idea what a non-physical mind is even supposed to be. The only minds we know of exist in physical brains. So, positing such a thing as the cause of everything else is completely ridiculous…

  9. Latverian Diplomat says

    Since this podcast was produced from concatenation of recorded prepared remarks in conjunction with slides, would a transcript be out of the the question? Even just in the form of speaker notes added as annotation to the slides in a ppt or a pdf format?

    If that’s not feasible this time, might I request that it be considered for future exchanges of this nature.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  10. Ian says

    What an excellent debate–both of the participants are at the top of their game. I would love to see more from Lowder and Vandergriff, but on a narrower topic, such as whether evolution supports naturalism or theism. A transcript would also be nice.

  11. says

    Wow. It’s incredible. Vandergriff first asserst that blind evolution is extremely unlikely to produce intelligent being but in the same audio then goes to argue that blind evolution was the best (and probably only) choice God had for creating his loved beings.
    Talking about contradictions.
    And what about Vandergriff statement (around the 1:10:00 mark) that God, by logical necessity, cannot create bodiless minds (since “this probably requires maximal power”…what?). Heaven or hell? It seems to me that theism is filled with bodiless minds that are not maximally powered. And also that statement is completely baseless and self serving.
    Much of Vandergiff’s arguments seemed to rely on a very limited view of God.

    This was a good debate, but it covered too many topics and arguments so each was treated too superficially, IMHO.

  12. Drew2014 says

    @Elio I was thinking that exactly! Thanks for wording it better than I could.
    I was also puzzled by some other assertions made:
    (around 69:34)- It’s highly unlikely that God has reasons to solve ethical disagreements beyond those we already know. Then God isn’t any smarter than we are, as far as ethics are concerned?

    (70:49) “If God exists, should we expect to have more evidence than the 10 lines presented? No” – Why not? If there’s a God who desires a relationship with his creations why isn’t it reasonable to expect more convincing evidence? I guess those of us unconvinced by his arguments are out of luck?

    (70:58) – A meaningful relationship doesn’t require both parties to be aware of each other? Really?

    Not one of the most educational debates from the show, probably due to what ELio said, too many topics just breezed over with no further exploration.

  13. Greg Esres says

    “only known candidates ”

    There is another candidate: a disembodied Acme Universe Factory-in-a-Box, Mark IV.

  14. Kevin Stanton says

    Vandergriff says at one point (his first rebuttal?) that god plus a universe of self-aware beings is a better state of affairs than god existing alone. This seems a common objection to Schieber’s Problem of Non-God Objects argument.

    If this is so, is there any reason to limit things to one universe and/or a finite and specific number of self-aware beings? If god alone is not good enough, can god plus any finite number of universes and/or self-aware beings ever be “good enough”? Would god’s goodness entail that he must create an infinite number of these? If not, why not?

  15. Kevin Stanton says

    And another thing: who decided on the custom of allowing less and less time for each subsequent rebuttal. Both speakers talk faster and faster as the debate goes on and don’t take the time needed to flesh out their points. Maybe debates should allow more time as things continue.

  16. Izzy says

    Did I hear correctly that Vandergriff asserted that most biologists agree that intelligence is overwhelmingly unlikely to evolve? If so, that is, to put it mildly, not well supported.

  17. Johannes Rohr says

    @Kevin Vandergriff

    Your first cause argument is broken beyond repair. Let’s try the following:

    1. Since the universe has a transcendent cause, the only known candidates that can be a transcendent cause of the universe are abstract objects, or an unembodied mind.
    2. Disembodied minds can’t cause anything, they are not even known to exist at all.
    3. Therefore, the cause of the universe is an abstract object.

    You see the problem?

    The method by which you, resp William Lane Craig, has reached this conclusion is absolutely untenable. You claim there are only two possibilities, but because a) is not really a possibility, it must be b). And you don’t even look into whether b) is really a possibility, you don’t look into whether b) even exists.

    This is not how it works. This is not a method you would use if your enterprise was really about seeking truth. This is a method you use only if you desparately want and need one specific outcome and nothing else is acceptable.

    We can just as easily flip this around:

  18. lancefinney says

    After a while, it seemed that Vandergriff was presenting an argument from Just So. “I describe something about the universe as though it were a prediction from theism and sacrebleu! It’s true! Therefore my post hoc prediction demonstrates what I intended it to demonstrate!” Way, way too much question begging for a respectable debate.

    I’m glad there weren’t more rounds of the debate, though. By the end, each side had already used the argument and were simply declaring victory at each other over and over.

  19. PhilosophicalInquiry says

    Are there any transcripts, notes, or slides? You mentioned posting slides, but I don’t see them.

  20. says

    Hi Kevin – your Contention 2 was that (paraphrased) if God were necessary, then p(N) = 0. You said you had 2 arguments showing that, but just teased something from Draper. What did I miss?

  21. Jason Goertzen says

    This was the worst debate you guys have posted, I’m sorry to say. :\ It was hard to listen to.

    Vandergriff spoke–correction, *read aloud* so quickly and had such terse explanations that I had to pause and go back repeatedly just to understand what his arguments were. It wasn’t worth the effort. It turns out that he basically just parroted William Lane Craig’s arguments, but without seeming to understand them as well as Craig does. As with Craig, in most cases, they invovled premises that were obviously false, premises for which there is no reason to believe, or premises involving concepts that weren’t even clearly coherent ideas (“metaphysical time,” for instance).

    I’m sure he’s honest in claiming to have come to the conclusion that Christianity is true rationally, but if his *terrible* arguments are any indication, I don’t see how it’s possible. Nobody who wasn’t *TRYING* to conclude that Christianity was true would accept all of his premises.

  22. Jason Goertzen says


    The MAJORITY of evolutionary biologists think that (unguided) evolution is insufficient to produce intelligent life?!

    Are you serious? This is an outrageous claim.

  23. Michael Darby says

    I think a few ground rules would have made this debate more interesting and informative.

    1) Mr. Vandergriff : If you claim that the work of particular scientists (e.g., Borde, Guth and Velenkin) requires your belief about God, please provide some evidence those scientists (and at least some of their peers) agree with you. If the named scientists do not agree with your conclusions about the implications of their work, do not provide it as evidence.

    2) If you make claims about the consensus of scientific opinion (e.g. what most evolutionary biologists think) please provide some evidence like survey results, or references to at least several examples. Otherwise, do not make the claim.

    3) Please distinguish between your arguments for what is most likely and what is possible. It seems reasonable to me that an all-loving God would seek to eliminate gratuitous suffering, and therefore the existence of gratuitous suffering is some sort of evidence against God. I understand Christians have developed reasons why God might allow suffering, but it nonetheless seems the proper conclusion is that suffering is indeed evidence against God, but not as much as some atheists might state. Vandergriff seems to be stating, however, that suffering is more likely under theism, that hiddenness is more likely under theism, etc. If he is not, then he should acknowledge that suffering and hiddenness is evidence for naturalism.

    4) If the definition of God includes omnipotence, then Vandergriff should require a higher standard for arguing that God cannot do something (unless it is logically impossible.) Vandergriff made arguments about why God could not bring about human life before 4.5 billion years, why he could not bring about human life without evolution, and many others. These seemed speculative at best, but were offered as conclusive and requiring theism as the only rational conclusion. Vandergriff should be honest when he is simply speculating, and as in 2) above if he is bringing in a scientific argument, provide some more evidence from actual scientists.

    When I talk about important issues “in real life” I am happy to grant that the other person is offering good points. Not all arguments are equally compelling. Vandergriff seems committed not to grant any validity to any argument that supports naturalism, or to qualify any of his own arguments. As far as I could tell, everything he observes in the universe, from its age, God’s hiddenness, suffering, the death of most species, etc. is all evidence for God. More nuance or even acknowledging a winning point from the other side would add to his credibility and appearance of objectiveness.

  24. Ed Babinski says

    HOW DO HUMAN BEING “FIT INTO” THE COSMOS? some interesting perspectives

    One provocative idea is Richard Tarnas’ in Passion of the Western Mind. He posits that the universe, via human beings is becoming conscious of itself. Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, and Robert Anton Wilson held a similar view:

    J.C. : We are children of this planet… we have come forth from it. We are its eyes and mind, its seeing and its thinking. And the earth, together with its sun… came forth from a nebula; and that nebula, in turn, from space. No wonder then, if its laws and ours are the same.

    A.W. : You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself… We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.’ Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe…

    It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that… as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. But billions of years ago, you were a big bang, and now you’re a complicated human being. We don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are… You’re not just something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are also still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as–Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so–I see every one as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it.

    R.A.W. : I suspect that this world shows signs of ‘intelligent design,’ and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignty, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology. I somewhat suspect that Theism and Atheism both fail to account for such decentralized intelligence, rich in circular-causal feedback.

  25. Ed Babinski says

    I was reading, Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (Blackwell, 2008), and couldn’t help but note that after nearly three thousand years few major philospophical questions seem to have been resolved. “Contemporary” metaphysicians continue to debate such perennial questions as,
    What are abstract objects?
    What are objects in general?
    What is causality, necessity, time, will, personhood?

    Furthermore, “The problem of truth is in a way easy to state: what truths are, and what (if anything) makes them true. But this simple statement masks a great deal of controversy,” according to the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy (accessed 10/23/2014)

    What is the solution to such problems/mysteries? What answers all such questions? “God.” But what is “God?” God is an uncaused cause; but God is also beyond time/timeless; beyond space/spaceless; and beyond the finite/without finitude/infinite; and God is unmoved by passion/impassible, cannot be swayed by either love or fear.

    But is such a string of negative definitions telling us much about”God?” Is such non-knowledge equal to knowledge, or is it just another way of admitting one does not know, yet at the same time allowing theistic philosophers to fool themselves into thinking that classical theism claims the high ground?

    Thomas Aquinas proved to his own great philosophical and theological satisfaction that heretics must be persecuted, and the happiness of the saved would be magnified by the sight of the damned’s eternal suffering.

  26. Ed Babinski says


    Can philosophers untangle their own verbal knots when it comes to trying to define “infinite Beings” either personal, impersonal, semi-personal, super-personal, whatever those terms mean?

    How can a Being with no beginning or end in time or space that underwent no development and no interactions with other such Beings, have what we call a “personality?” Can a Being that is perfect have need of anything? “Personal desires, needs, wants, goals?”

    Christian scholar, Wolterstorff has difficulty with the doctrine of the “impassibility/passionless perfection” of God, since such a doctrine implies that God as God cannot genuinely “suffer,” so in what sense can an infinitely perfect Being suffer for humanity’s sins? One can save the idea of a truly suffering God by denying impassibility, but “Once you pull on the thread of impassibility, a lot of other threads come along… One also has to give up immutability (changelessness) and eternity. If God responds, then God is not metaphysically immutable; and if not metaphysically immutable, then not eternal.” Either admit God as God cannot really suffer or deny the impassibility of God. Or try to come up with a sketchy ingenious combo-explanation?

    If you start off with a Being perfect, then it lacks nothing. And if it lies beyond time then all is accomplished, period.

    And if such a Being is devoid of all evil, how can it create anything in which evil arises naturally–and so soon after creation, per the Eden fable?

    How does that Being’s total lack of evil NOT translate into the absence of evil in whatever comes directly out of the mind and will of that Being? God made all things directly out of His mind, will, and power, and God who is perfectly GOOD remains IN all things. So where does evil come from? Whence its origin? A logical in-coherency. Like the idea of a perfect impassible Being that suffers and has needs and wants.

    Let’s say God can do no evil but He can “imagine” evil, but why would He want to do so if He is a perfectly good God? To answer that question let’s simply hypothesize that evil is necessary in order to achieve a kind of goodness that is greater than any other known forms of goodness. But if God is perfect, weren’t all form of goodness already in God as God? Or is creation merely a play God puts on to act out the greatest form of goodness that already exists inside Himself? In that case creation is not necessary, since God needs nothing and there is no higher goodness than God. Creation is a mere play, mere spectator sport for God. And this world is just a net in which God catches souls for hell, souls that “fell” as soon as they first arrived in creation, just to entertain a Being that is perfect and infinite in all good ways, and hence, needs nothing, suffers nothing, but apparently likes to PLAY ACT as if it is moved by something. At least those are one’s logical options.

    And concerning biblical depictions of God, an allegedly perfect Being, how does such a perfect Being that knows all, “repent?” Why would a perfect Being find “blood sacrifices” necessary? Blood? It’s a perfect Being, it doesn’t need anything, not praises or sacrifices. Why was the blood of so many animals demanded and offered to such a Being if the Christian religion superseded the Jewish religion and only the blood of Jesus cleanses from sin? That’s a lot of blood to spill (like the ancient world wasn’t already awash with the blood of people fighting each other), and priests to spill it ritually, to avoid Yahweh’s “curses and anger.” Angry at what? Can a perfect Being experience anger or just perpetual bliss? It’s perfect by definition. Does such a perfect Being have “free will?” If so, can it do “evil?” If not, then what keeps such a Being from doing evil? I might also ask, not just whether such a Being has free will, but is there free will for the inhabitants of heaven? Can those in heaven do evil? If not, why not? And if there is no evil (and free will) in heaven for eternity, why wasn’t it like that in the original creation that arose just as directly from the mind and will of God as did heaven? The questions are endless.

  27. Ed Babinski says

    “The most zealous defenders of the inspiration of the Bible admit that there are parts of it of less importance than others. This is a great admission, because another is involved in it, namely that we ourselves must be judges of the comparative importance of these different parts.”
    Thomas Erskine, Scottish Christian

    In similar fashion, I suspect that what one theologian or philosopher claims to be “logically incoherent,” another finds a way to reconcile at least partly via an ingenious logical counter proposal. And whatever cannot be ingeniously reconciled is claimed to be a holy mystery of God or an unsearchable mystery of nature.

    Do Christian philosophical apologists read philosophy with all its disputed questions and mysteries in order to understand the full range of questions, or just quote-mine such literature like creationists (and now I.Dists) do to scientific literature, or like inerrantists do to biblical scholarship?

    Many things/concepts, ideas, cannot be proven to be “logically impossible,” especially when it comes to some of the largest most puzzling questions in philosophy. Multiple philosophical and theological systems can also be coherent.

    According to modern day Christian apologists which of the following two propositions is it relatively more easy to demonstrate or provide evidence for:

    1) The existence of God?, or,

    2) The historicity of every word and miraculous deed attributed to Jesus in the Gospels?

    I think “God” or an “infinite Being” is a mysterious and problematic concept and that the evidence for the historicity of every word and miraculous deed attributed to Jesus in the Gospels lay along a spectrum of possibilities. New Testament scholars have lately been debating the validity of each criteria of authenticity, and arguing that the book of Enoch influenced NT ideas of the Son of Man as well as some of Jesus’ alleged teachings has also grown in recognition. Scholars have also pointed out that both the Septuagint translation of the OT, and the Dead Sea Scrolls added the word “resurrection” to places where it had not been before in the Bible, so we know that the pre-
    Christian trajectory of conservative Judaism was already tipping in favor of resurrection speech and expectations, not to mention the fact that the Gospels praise Jesus using the same exalted terms as were being used of the Roman Emperor, as Crossan points out, and that emperor was translated to heaven per one tale, so was Moses in another contemporary tale, so was one of the alleged founders of Rome, and other figures in Hellenism. So if you wanted to gain adherents you couldn’t think small. It’s not a matter of a resurrection conspiracy, but of the whole general milieu of thought and terms, and the necessity to compete in that milieu if you didn’t want your hero to be forgotten.

  28. Ed Babinski says


    There are a great many things we need to do and plan for in our lives in order to survive, flourish, and feel happy. The majority of those things appear to be of little to no moral consequence, things like learning how our bodies, minds, homes and cars function, how to take care of them, along with learning how to do one’s job, schedule future jobs, learning how various programs and pieces of equipment function, learning how to cook, what to eat and wear, etc. Our lives (including those of our distant ancestors) appear filled with a great many details and challenges that affect our survival, flourishing and happiness.

    I am not suggesting that morality plays an insignificant role, but that it appears to be more like all those other challenges we face and decisions we make rather than lying in a special category by itself. For instance no one wants their life, health or belongings taken from them at some other person’s whim, just as no one wants their life, health or belongings taken from them at the “whim” of some natural disaster, disease, or accident. Hence humans have come up with laws and regulations regarding health, traffic safety, disaster preparedness and prevention, weather forecasting, earthquake monitoring, criminology, etc., whereby we attempt to reduce threats to our life, health and belongings.

    So if morality was the central point round which the cosmos and eternity revolves, why does the cosmos compel us to focus on a great deal of “day to day” things in order simply to survive?
    And why so many strange and diverse sexual arrangements in nature, not just in the insect world, nor in the world of mammal moms who sometimes eat their young or whose young engage in deadly duels after exiting e womb as in hyenas, but also in the world of our nearest cousins, bonobo chimpanzees, who exchange sex as freely as 60s hippies compared with the sexual behavior of pan chimpanzees who rule harems and don’t share a without a fight. What is the Designer of NATURE saying, if anything about morality?

    Which reminds me of the joke about a clergyman telling a farmer, “Quite a lush field of crops God has blessed you with.” The farmer replied, “Ah, but you shoulda seen this land with its hard untilled soil, big rocks, trees, weeds and scrub brush I had to remove, back when God alone was the tenant.”

    Given headaches, backaches, toothaches, strains, scrapes, breaks, cuts, rashes, burns, bruises, PMS, fatigue, hunger, odors, molds, colds, yeast, parasites, viruses, cancers, genetic defects, blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental illness, ugliness, ignorance, miscommunications, embarrassments, unrequited love, dashed hopes, boredom, hard labor, repetitious labor, accidents, old age, senility, fires, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes, I can not see how anyone, after they are dead, deserves “eternal punishment” as well.

  29. Ed Babinski says

    There are an infinite number of equations and a great many branches of pure mathematics that have little to no known applicability when it comes to modeling processes of the cosmos.

    Also, once the scale of observation is widened it often becomes necessary to use new equations. On the scale of stellar observations such as light years, Einstein’s equation fits better than Newton’s, while on the sub-atomic scale we employ quantum physics equations. All equations appear limited in that they are models of the cosmos, not reality. Neither does it take much effort to realize that no model equals reality, just as no map equals the territory, and no word equals the thing. But all prove highly useful as we continue to observe and track what’s going on in the cosmos, and seek out things that look or act similar, or that act with regularity that we can be repeated, adding further variables to see what happens next.

    Is there a Platonic realm in the mind of a Designer where mathematical equations and relationships came to be? “In the beginning was the equation?” Math is axiomatic, starting with 1 = 1. It just takes longer to get to the second 1 in some forms of math than others. Math equations don’t seem to exist in some Platonic realm any more than a divine map of the earth or cosmos does, or a divine dictionary featuring the one and only true definition of exactly want each word means throughout eternity.

  30. Ed Babinski says

    Kevin Vandergriff writes, “Christianity has resources to triumphantly and gloriously defeat horrific tragedies.”

    Sounds like a job in writing spirited advertising copy would be a great career move for him.

    Contra what he wrote, Christianity appears to do what every other religion or philosophy seeking adherents does, it plays up whatever victories it can lay claim to, even temporary ones, and downplays or forgets about its failures, its shadow side. How many Christians are nominal at best, cradle Christians, and how many others have doubts but put on a brave face for one reason or another at church?

    If Christianity was supernaturally successful, and prayer and faith in Jesus were the answer, then why the admissions of failure by clergy, apologists and other Christian writers outlining their struggles (like everyone else) with doubts, the problem of pain, loss, horrific tragedies, depression, fear, addictions? Christian books with triumphant sounding titles read like positive thinking self-help books in general, but with triumphant titles about the hundreds of supernatural promises you can claim from the Bible, or how to find or be a “Christian” spouse, or raise a “Christian,” child, how to defeat the Bible’s critics, how defend your faith from all questions, defend eternal hell, and such.

    For over a thousand years major Christian theologians advocated that Christian rulers must punish blasphemers, heretics, and others if it be in their power, because God has placed the powers that be in charge and they do not bear the sword in vain–which means Christians have also had their hand in creating horrific tragedies and injustices throughout history.

  31. Ed Babinski says


    Some theists argue that humanity was created at the ideal moment in geological time, viz.: A God of infinite wisdom and power prepared the way for the ascendancy of mammals and eventually Homo sapiens by carefully planning and accomplishing the dinosaur’s demise via asteroid, or a combination of major volcanic activity and asteroid. The vast forests grew and decayed for over a hundred million years because of God’s plan to provide coal to humanity and so such products would not appear artificially inserted miraculously into Nature. The millions of sea creatures were born and perished to provide oil, natural gas, chalk, and diatomaceous earth for humanity. (For one of the earliest instances of such an argument see Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, [1955] Paternoster: Exeter, Devon UK, 1967, reprint, p.155.)


    Arguments and claims about what “God” or “a Designer” did, and “why” they did it, are all “after the fact.” It’s always possible to come up with rationalizations and justifications for “why” something happened after the fact, since you are free to invent whatever interpretations you like since the answers lay hidden from view, i.e., in God’s mind alone. (Interpreting Scripture is also like that. Two people can read Genesis, but interpret it quite differently, and neither of them can show the other what “God’s mind” was thinking when He inspired a particular verse in Scripture, thus contested interpretations abound.) One can at best, point out alternative, equally ad hoc, interpretations, i.e., substituting different “reasons” or “rationalizations” for what you think might have been in God’s mind. Going into greater detail, below are

    10 Counter-Points to the Fine-Tuning Argument

    1) What if God or “the Designer” was planning on evolving upright dinosaurs with two free hands and more complex brains, but the asteroid spoiled the original plan, so the Designer switched plans? (Any Designer with infinite wisdom and infinite power could have designed an intelligent upright reptilian species. According to paleontologists, some species of dinosaurs were already moving along on two legs long before mammals arose, while other evidence indicates that some dinosaurs were clever hunters and even showed motherly defense of their young, long before the mammals came along.)

    2) Why kill the dinosaurs via asteroid(s) and/or volancoes? Such blunt means wipe out entire ecosystems of plants and animals that could have produced far more biomass and more coal and oil if they had been left alive. That was supposed to be the original argument, wasn’t it, to produce coal and oil? Instead, whole ecosystems and their biomass was burnt up via a huge catastrophic conflagration followed by a cloudy sky and cooler temperatures that again inhibited lush biomass grow. (Any Designer of infinite wisdom and power could have exterminated only the dinosaur species, leaving the rest of the living world unharmed and building up more biomass. Looks to me like a lack of foresight and imagination on the part of the Designer, kind of like using a sledge hammer to remove thorns from a rose bush. Instead, a lot of biomass went to waste, not just the dinosaurs, but ecosystems, and so the biomass engine was stalled.

    3) That brings us to this question: Why are miracles O.K. for explaining the “progressive creation/evolution” of different species, but not O.K. for explaining the creation of the mineralogical environment that God was preparing for humanity for so very very long? I am talking about the idea that God could have simply inserted miraculously all the oil and coal in the earth that humanity would need, without having to create humanity so late in geologic time, and without having to wait for so many species to be created and then be destroyed and become extinct, and without having to stall the biomass engine a number of times, etc.

    A relevant quotation: Suppose that upon some island we should find a man a million years of age, and suppose we found him living in an elegant mansion, and he should inform us that he lived in that house for five hundred thousand years before he thought of putting on a roof, and that he but recently invented windows and doors; would we say that from the beginning he had been an infinitely accomplished and scientific architect? [Robert Ingersoll]

    4) How do you know that the Designer “wanted humanity to have” oil, coal, gas, chalk, diatomaceous earth, etc.? Saying such a thing is after the fact. You can always invent lots of explanations after the fact, like:

    God put the nose and ears where they are so we’d be able to wear glasses.

    God made cork trees so we’d have something to plug up the ends of our wine bottles.

    God invented lamb’s intestines so we’d be able to make lamb-skin condoms.

    God made radioactive elements so we’d be able to…

    You get the point.

    Quotations From Folks With Similar Questions:

    People who believe in “intelligent design” point us to the sunshine, to flowers, to the April rain, and to all there is of beauty and of use in the world. Did it ever occur to them that a cancer is as beautiful in its development as is the reddest rose? That what they are pleased to call the adaptation of means to ends, is as apparent in the cancer as in the April rain? By what ingenious methods the blood is poisoned so that the cancer shall have food! By what wonderful contrivances the entire system of man is made to pay tribute to this divine and charming cancer! What beautiful colors it presents! Seen through a microscope it is a miracle of order and beauty. All the ingenuity of man cannot stop its growth. Think of the amount of thought it must have required to invent a way by which the life of one man might be given to produce one cancer. Is it possible to look upon it and doubt that there is a design in the universe, and that the inventor of this wonderful cancer must be infinitely powerful, ingenious and good? [Robert Ingersoll]

    We are all naturally like that madman at Athens, who fancied that all the ships were his that came into the Port of Pyraeus. Nor is our folly less extravagant. We believe all things in nature have been designed for our use. Ask any theologian why there is such a prodigious number of stars when a far lesser number would perform the service they do us, and he answers coldly, “They were made to please our sight.” [Bernard de Fontenelle, A Plurality of Worlds, published in 1686]

    If Other Species Had Enough Intelligence to Ask the Question Wouldn’t They Consider the Cosmos To Have Been Made “For Them?”

    Until the 1800s almost everyone had fleas and lice. In the 1600s it was considered bad manners to take lice, fleas or other vermin from your body and crack them between your fingernails in company. [Tim Woods and Ian Dicks, What They Don’t Teach You About History] Obviously only a Designer would have had the infinite wisdom and compassion to create “the flea” – a tiny insect with a thin body for moving easily through hair, and with immensely powerful legs for leaping many times their body length onto passing prey; and with the added ability to not just harry and bite, but to spread infections, including plague germs which killed tens of millions of people in Europe and Asia in a few short years. My dear fleas, you are the cherished work of God; and this entire universe has been made for you. God created man only to serve as your food, the sun only to light your way, the stars only to please your sight, etc. [Voltaire, “Sermon Preached Before Fleas”]

    An Infinite Being Takes Billions of Years to Create Humanity?

    Are we really so splendid as to justify such a long prologue? The philosophers lay stress on values: they say that we think certain things good, and that since these things are good, we must be very good to think them so. But this is a circular argument. A being with other values might think ours so atrocious as to be proof that we were inspired by Satan. Is there not something a trifle absurd in the spectacle of human beings holding a mirror before themselves, and thinking what they behold so excellent as to prove that a Cosmic Purpose must have been aiming at it all along? Why, in any case, this glorification of Man? How about lions and tigers? They destroy fewer animal or human lives than we do, and they are much more beautiful than we are. How about ants? They manage the Corporate State much better than any Fascist. Would not a world of nightingales and larks and deer be better than our human world of cruelty and injustice and war? The believers in Cosmic Purpose make much of our supposed intelligence but their writings make one doubt it. If I were granted omnipotence, and millions of years to experiment in, I should not think Man much to boast of as the final result of all my efforts. [Bertrand Russell, “Cosmic Purpose” in Religion and Science]

    The Analogy of the Puddle That Perfectly Fits The Hole It Happens to Occupy

    Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in and an interesting hole I find myself in. Fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!” This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for. [Douglas Adams (author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)]

    5) Knowing the remarkable varieties of species the Designer was busy creating for hundreds of millions of years prior to humanity’s last minute arrival on the scene, it seems a shame to destroy the majority of them, sometimes slowly, sometimes in vast catastrophes. Like knocking over a game table. What kind of a “game plan” is that? While humanity only gets to puzzle over their bones?

    6) Neither do we know how long man’s “ascendancy” or those of the mammals will last. If we get along for 130 million years like the dinosaurs did we’ll be lucky, and if we survive for a similar period of 130 million years, what will human beings look like by then? Maybe we’ll have added genetic features via bioengineering? Or we’ll build silicon brains or hybrid silicone/bio brains that keep track of far more knowledge. Or, some robotic, or bio-engineered species will replace humanity? Or some meteors or cosmic rays or solar flares or passing star or black hole or nearby nova will extinguish life on earth and some other civilized race traveling through our solar system will merely cite “the story of life on earth” as an object lesson concerning the dangers inherent in the cosmos.

    7) What about life on other planets? If evidence of simple living organisms are found on Mars, or on one of Jupiter’s moons, or on some planet or moon outside our particular solar system, how would the creation hypothesis or the I.D. hypothesis interpret such discoveries? Would the creationist admit God was specially creating things not mentioned in the Bible, or the I.D.ist admit that God was miraculously designing simple organisms elsewhere in the cosmos that didn’t really need to be miraculously designed?

    8) Reminds me of the account in Genesis that states God created the two great “lights” (literal Hebrew is “lamps”) to rule the day and night on earth, but other planets in our solar system also have great lamps, even a multitude of lamps (moons) to rule their nights and “for signs and seasons” in their heavens. I might ask why this is so, and why those planets also have their own “days and nights” “evenings and mornings” of their own unique duration having nothing to do with the earth’s duration? Modern astronomical facts make the Genesis account appear a tad parochial, earth-centered, having everything created just to light the earth and fill it, during “six” evenings and morning on earth. And a little awkward having to explain why God created/designed all those other “lamps” to “rule the nights” of uninhabited worlds.

    9) Even if a Designer planned to give us coal and oil, note that the burning of coal has released much mercury into the environment all over the planet. Now the mercury leveals are so high that it is not advisable to eat large ocean going fish more than a few times per month or less, like tuna. The burning of coal and oil and using petroleum to manufacture plastics and to run factories has released pollutants galore, including PCPs, which also are polluting the entire planet. In fact the Killer Whales in the Pacific Northwest are dying out because of PCP poisoning according to a National Geographic special I saw recently, “The Dolphin Defenders.” The carcases of dead Killer Whales are so full of PCPs that they have to be treated like dangerous chemical waste. And of course, we also know that the world’s oil supply will not last forever, because demand, especially in China and India is growing exponentially. In a blink of geological time, mankind’s industrial revolution may have come and gone:

    “It has often been said that, if the human species fails to make a go of it here on Earth, some other species will take over the running. In the sense of developing high intelligence this is not correct. We have, or soon will have, exhausted the necessary physical prerequisites so far as this planet is concerned. With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology. This is a one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned. The same will be true of other planetary systems. On each of them there will be one chance, and one chance only.” (Hoyle, 1964)

    10) See, the second and the fourth articles at this site:

    Why We Believe In A Designer!

    They explain why the concept of “providence” seems to raise as many questions for some as it answers for others.

  32. Ed Babinski says


    Let’s ignore the fact that there’s also been many “not so great” times for upright hominids to be alive since our relatively recent cosmic appearance, and that times of peril and dread existed for most members of our species for most of its existence.

    Though one can’t argue that the age of mammals have been pretty good to mammals, and not so good for say, dinosaurs, unless you happened to have been the winged kind.

    And the beetles have had a terrific long run thus far (I’m not speaking of John, Paul, George and Ringo). Beetles now constitute almost 25% of all known types of animal life-forms. About 40% of all described insect species are beetles (about 400,000 species), and new species are discovered frequently whenever they smoke them out of trees in the rain forest. Some estimates put the total number of beetle species, described and undescribed, at as high as 100 million, but a figure of one million is more widely accepted.

    It’s also been a great time for mites. They have exploited an incredible array of habitats, and because of their small size (most are microscopic), go largely unnoticed. Many live freely in the soil or water, but there are also a large number of species that live as parasites on plants, animals, and some that feed on mold. Parasitic forms may live in the nasal passages, lungs, stomach, or deeper body tissues of animals. Some mites are carriers of human and animal diseases. Plant-feeding mites cause damage by feeding on leaf tissues or by transmitting viral diseases. It is estimated that 48,200 species of mites have been described. But there may be as many as a million species all toll.

    I guess the Designer can’t get enough of beetles and mites. While ants are also having a blast, equaling or perhaps outweighing all 7 billion members of our own species.

    Ah, but God made it so humans arrived on the scene exactly when He knew we could obtain the astronomical knowledge necessary to prove His existence. Let’s ignore the fact that such proofs are exactly the point of contention in the debate, and that no one knows what preceded the cosmos, or what lay beyond it’s furthest known boarders, or even exactly how it will end, either with a Great Rip, Heat Death, a new Big Bang occurring inside the cosmos while it expands, etc.

  33. dannicoy says

    This debate was quite frustrating to listen to. Partly because both speakers were more or less talking past each other. I would have preferred a opening case, speakers ask each other direct questions. closing statements type of debate.

    I found Kevin’s argument broken in the same way I find WLC’s argument logically broken. You can derive a logical or physical necessity by elimination if you don’t know all the possible options.

    IE you can’t say not a physical cause, not a purely logical cause, therefore a disembodied mind, when there is always option D – something we haven’t thought of or encountered yet.

    It’s pretty hard to take the rest of the argument seriously from that point.

  34. Ron Crossland says

    Not a particularly good debate. Abstractions based on some shaky grounds.

    I wonder if Jeffery Lowder would consider a different thesis to his “the universe is hostile to life” position. What would change if one argued that near vacuum space is hostile to life that we know about, but it’s becoming more apparent than rocky “planets” may be more life friendly and abundant that we dared to consider even five years ago? Meaning that biochemistry may exist abundantly. Which makes intelligent life more likely. All “Goldilocks” arguments for biochemistry only seem reasonable because we have only one planet of life to observe. The evidence grows daily that our “availability heuristics bias” may be overturned soon.

  35. Johannes Rohr says

    @Ron Crossland: If it turned out that most of the universe isn’t actually hostile to life, than, sure, the argument that most of the Universe is hostile to life would no longer hold. I haven’t seen such evidence yet, would you like to share your sources?

    Now, the interesting question is: If we had evidence for not only life but sentient and sapient lif elsewhere in the Universe, what would this mean for Christians and Christianity?

    Wouldn’t the one special moment in history that Christians associate with Jesus’ ministry and death on earth forfeit its special significance if it turns out that there are billions of worlds buzzing with intelligent life out there?

    Or would Christians assume that Christ died for all of them, too?

    Would we have to assume christ having been incarnated on each of the planets and having died to atone for their respective sins? Or would that other life not have a “sinful nature”?

    I think the whole narrative of Christianity turns into absurdity in this case…

  36. Ed Babinski says

    The Fine-Tuning Argument From the Perspective of the Christian Religion

    Look at all the deep time ahead of us, not just behind us. If Christianity is the final perfect revelation of God with its canon glued shut so no more written revelations or clarifications will ever be added, nor any new miracle-working prophets appear to deliver new authoritative messages, then what about the cosmic future? Is Christianity such a perfect religion that its message will outlast the stars, which by all accounts can continue to burn for billions of years? Or will it grow clearer to increasing numbers of humans in the billions of years ahead that the Christian religion was as tribalistic and as prone to division and schism as other mass movements, indeed, won’t much of the Bible grow increasingly less relevant to humans who have learned to connect up their intelligence with all the world’s practical moral wisdom in all its formats, not to mention after humans begin fiddling with their own genes, mixing and matching those of other species, and creating robots in our image. How about after a major disaster afflicts human civilization but humanity survives and limps forward for another hundred thousand years without any prophecy of such a disaster in the Bible to be found?

    Just look at the fact that the time from Jesus’ day to our own is already far longer than the time from Abraham to Jesus, and no new miracle working prophets nor any added clarifications in freshly inspired writings.

    On the other hand, the lone surviving species of upright hominids that now call themselves “humanity,” could be a flash in the cosmic pan– here today, gone tomorrow–in which case the “fine-tuner” argument would have to be restated as, “What are the odds that some living things evolve with intelligence only to be snuffed out soon after they arrive?” Such an ending would raise questions as to whether or not the cosmos was created so that that particular species might exist, since all species come and go, intelligent or not. Also, if civilization collapses and humans revert to barbarism we could either become extinct or evolve smaller brains, losing intelligence. We don’t know what the future of this cosmos holds for our species, we only know that stars have the potential to burn for billions more years and in some places stellar nurseries keep churning out new ones. Neither can we see where this cosmos came from, nor do we have any other cosmoses to compare this one to. Cosmologist don’t even agree how this cosmos might end, with heat death, continued acceleration till space-time tears apart at the seams, a slowing of acceleration till the cosmos collapses backwards into itself with another possible big bang resulting, or a big bang taking place somewhere inside our cosmos as it is accelerating, creating offshoot cosmoses to this one as both keep accelerating.

    Is there such a thing as absolute chaos? Can there be such a thing? What would keep it “absolutely” chaotic, or what would prevent at least some “regularity” from arising in some places, whenever some parts of that chaos moved parallel to one another? Perhaps absolute chaos is impossible, as impossible as absolute order?

    Can absolute nothingness even exist?

    “The answer to the ancient question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ would then be that ‘nothing’ is unstable.”— Nobel laureate physicist Frank Wilczek, “The Cosmic Asymmetry between Matter and Antimatter” – Scientific American vol. 243, no. 6 (1980)
    Who knows?

    Alternatively, Christianity could contain religious and philosophical truth and so could many other religions and philosophies, with the truth being bigger than any one of them. And maybe it’s just humanity’s tendency toward tribalistic exclusivistic ways of insisting that you’re either totally in “our” tribe or out of it, that continues to create the most difficulties between human beings? Maybe there’s intelligent life on other worlds that finds the adoption of particular religious or philosophical systems irrelevant, and concentrates on living the mystery, i.e., admitting that we know less concerning all the questions above.

  37. cddb says

    Ed, in the future please don’t post your entire novella in a comment thread. >;)
    Also, Kevin Vandergriff:
    “There is no successful argument to show such a minds existence is logically impossible”.
    In the same way that there is so successful argument to show that universe-creating pixies or flying spaghetti monsters are technically “logically impossible”, yes I agree. So what?
    There are problems with the rest of your comments, but you’re not reading this anymore, so…

  38. cddb says


    part of the problem here is that when I assert that the cause of the universe is either a mind or an abstract object, non-philosophers think that I am asserting the actual existence of such things.

    The overwhelming majority of (present day) “philosophers” have the same problem with “disembodied minds” as I do. (source)

  39. Ron Crossland says

    @Johannes Rohr

    My sources are likely the same as yours. My suggestion follows this chain of thoughts. Within my lifetime the age of the observable universe has been narrowed to a very small degree of difference from where it started when I was born (1951), true rocky planets around distance suns are now found almost easily compared to the insistence that they may not exist at all (from some of my earliest conversations with theists), and water is theorized to be more abundant due to observed evidence now, not just speculation, the observance of molecules outside planet earth that are part of molecular biology. Etc., etc.

    You and I agree on the intelligent life question, as far as I can tell from your remarks. Christianity’s claims would not be put at very serious claims, however. My conversations with theists on this topic include these rebuttals, “The Bible was only intended for this planet. Jesus didn’t speak about the others because there was no need.” Or variations on this “need to know” theme.

    Speaking with Mormons yields a different perspective altogether. There are many gods and Jesus and his heavenly cohorts are one among many who share the same theology. Unfortunately however, very few worlds are as wicked as this one, so Jesus’ sacrifice is still necessary, if merely rare as opposed to unique.

  40. Johannes Rohr says

    @Ron Crossland: I have no sources at all indicating, that “rocky “planets” may be more life friendly and abundant that we dared to consider even five years ago? Meaning that biochemistry may exist abundantly. Which makes intelligent life more likely”

    Sure, lots of exoplanets have been discovered, but we can’t say much about how life friendly they are. I don’t think that a single exoplanet has been discovered so far bearing a signature of carbon based life as we know it. (e.g. with an atmosphere with a high concentration of oxygen). I don’t know whether we already have the technology needed to determine the presence and composition of an atmosphere dozens or tens of thousands of lightyears away. I suppose that this is exceedingly difficult.

    As of today, it still looks like most of the universe is devoid of life. This may or may not chance, but I don’t think that we are already at a point where we can say with reasonable certainty that there is other life out there, let alone intelligence.

  41. says

    When thinking about subjects like the fine-tuning argument it becomes apparent that the theist loves to have their cake and eat it. They thrive off a “heads I win, tails you lose” scenario.
    What I mean by this can be exemplified as follows:
    In the fine-tuning argument when a skeptic argues:
    The universe is more fine-tuned for death than life. The size of the universe is so unbelievably and unnecessarily massive that it appears that it is not designed for human life.
    Etc etc
    the theist retorts:
    The fine balance of these constants means that it is just about right for life. Anything more or less will not permit life. Aah, but size does not matter. Just because life might just exist in one corner of the universe does not necessarily mean that the universe is not designed with us in mind. The value of the diamond is not particularly size dependent.
    And so on.
    While on the surface these retorts may seem logically coherent, the scenario that they build up is problematic. The end result is this:
    If the universe had been much smaller, just right for human life on a human scale, then the universe would have been obviously designed for humans, so would claim the same theist. The universe is the direct opposite of that, but still this somehow shows that God obviously designed it, such as the design being based on other purposes, using the analogy of the Sistine Chapel (one marvels at the size and beauty of it but it doesn’t need to be that big; that the awe and wonder derives from its magnitude) and so on.
    If the universe had constants that were comfortably in the middle of a range of values that supported life, and if the universe wasn’t so incredibly unfriendly to life and downright deadly, then the theist would argue that voilà, the universe is designed for life.
    So both ends of the spectrum- a deadly universe and a life-friendly one (and everywhere in the middle) – the theist claims (or would claim) that this is evidence for a designer-creator god!
    Likewise, with regards to abiogenesis (the creation of life in the universe), the theist presently claims, in the absence of totally conclusive evidence, that God must have supernaturally done his stuff to create life. However, if we now found conclusive empirical proof that abiogenesis was naturalistic in mechanism, then the theist would simply switch from supernatural mechanism to saying something akin to “God obviously had to create the natural laws and mechanisms to bring about life” which is exactly what theistic evolutionists maintain.
    This isn’t just the case for the fine-tuning arguments, but also in biblical criticism where the ad hoc nature of the contrived defences of biblical authority and historicity mean that, with incredible historical issues and incongruities within the same text and with extrabibilical texts, the issues and respective defences still show that the bible is authoritative and true. However, if these issues didn’t exist, the theist would claim, still (and possibly more), that the bible were true and accurate.
    Heads you win, tails I lose.


  42. jonap says

    I wonder if part of the problem here is that when I assert that the cause of the universe is either a mind or an abstract object, non-philosophers think that I am asserting the actual existence of such things. No, I’m only asserting that these are the known candidates for something that could fit the description.That I’m not assuming that such things actually exist is evident from the fact that I am strongly inclined to think that abstract objects do not, in fact, exist. But I include them as a candidate because they would largely fit the description.

    1: There is no successful argument to show such a minds existence is logically impossible


    Kevin, I think you have identified the problem in your own argument. The successful argument to show that such minds don’t exist is: the unembodied mind is an abstract object, and abstract objects do not exist, therefore such a mind does not exist. Why don’t people just admit when they’re wrong.

  43. blastcat says

    Maybe this was said before

    I think you two talked WAY too slow.. could you speed it up a bit.. Gish Gallop Anyone?

    I thought that Rauser was ridiculous.. BUT I could hardly HEAR him he was going so fast.. what’s the point of that?
    Is there a transcript of this? YEAH… I wonder why.. WHO want’s to transcribe such a thing.. WAY TOO FAST GUYS.. slow down next time.


Leave a Reply

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