Sunday, October 31, 2010

L 5.24

Wes Morriston tries to show that there is no difference between a personal creator and an impersonal creator where causality is concerned. He concludes “So the Kalam argument fails” on p. 86.

Even if Morriston is correct in his rebuttal of Craig regarding a personal creator, only one part of the Kalam argument has failed, not the entire argument. Loftus didn’t specify this so it seems that he is referring to the argument as a whole.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

L 5.23

William Lane Craig claims that the cause of the universe must be personal since someone had to will the universe into existence at some point. Morriston responds that “if God is timelessly eternal there was never a moment in time when God did not will into existence this universe”. (p. 86)

The objection is built on the assumption that even though God might be timeless, He is incapable of experiencing events as discrete. If He can experience events as discrete entities to themselves, then He could have at some point willed the universe into being as Craig suggests thus, justifying a personal creator as opposed to an impersonal force or the universe just existing as brute fact.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

L 5.22

“Craig’s basic problem is that he conflates counting an infinite number of events with counting all of them”. (p. 86)

What’s the difference? God still has to count them all and the number is infinite

“An immortal being could finish her beginningless task and yet not count all events.”

God can’t finish unless all events are counted. The sentence is absurd.

“…a set of an infinite number of events is not to be regarded as the same thing in every respect as an infinite number of sets each containing an infinite number of events”.

Why introduce an infinite number of sets each containing an infinite number of events? Either way, there is an infinite. Each event has to be counted down in order to get to zero. His attempt to object to the explanation further illustrates the absurdity of actual infinites. How can an infinite number of events be contained in a set in any real sense? How can an infinite set be compared to an infinite number of like sets?

Monday, October 25, 2010

L 5.21

“If we cannot go back in the infinite timeless past to find her counting, then she was never counting at all”. (p. 85)

Unless God finished in the infinite past which illustrates the absurdity of actual infinites.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

L 5.20

Loftus expounds on the subject of actual infinites when he responds to a comment by William Lane Craig who says that actual infinites aren’t possible, although potential infinites are. If God were counting down from infinity to zero, God, being eternal, would have finished in the infinite past. Yet, if God is counting down from infinity, God would never reach zero. Loftus says that “He [Craig] cannot say that she has always been counting and that she has never been counting”. (p. 85) That’s not what Craig is saying. It’s not that God has never been counting. It’s that God finished in the infinite past since God is Himself infinite. If God is counting down to zero, God has to finish at some point but, if God is counting from an infinite number, He can’t ever finish. This shows the absurdity of actual infinites.

Also, Loftus stresses that Craig’s conception goes against the mainstream. What Loftus isn’t admitting is that it isn’t a crime to go against the mainstream. Surely, Craig isn’t the only person with this stance. Plus, the mainstream has been wrong before. To support his case, Loftus quotes David Ramsay Steele who says that “things begin to exist without any cause all the time.” It’s disappointing that Loftus doesn’t specifically state what can exist sans cause. Perhaps Loftus is referring to virtual particles but, even they don’t come from nothing. In fact, nothing comes from nothing. Everything in the universe has a cause and thus, it’s existence warrants explanation. Steele is either misleading or misled.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

L 5.19

“David Ramsay Steele reminds us that according to quantum mechanics ‘things begin to exist without any cause all the time’”. (p. 85)

Steele is asserting something that is highly debatable and most probably false. Virtual particles, vacuum fluctuation and the Casimir effect have been well documented and there is no evidence whatsoever that particles are coming into existence from nothing. To quote such an assertion as a fact is nothing more than an attempt to mislead people.

Monday, October 18, 2010

L 5.18

In response to William Lane Craig’s assertion that tigers don’t just pop into existence and neither should the universe, Wes Morriston notes that “We have no experience of the origin of worlds to tell us that worlds don’t come into existence like that…That is why the absurdity of tigers and the like popping into existence out of nowhere tells us nothing about the utterly unique case of the Beginning of the whole natural order”. (p. 84)

What Morriston doesn’t understand is that when Craig is referring to tigers, he’s also referring to anything. It is a universal maxim that ex nihilo, nihil fit, from nothing, nothing comes. It doesn’t matter if we’re using tigers or universes as examples. Matter just doesn’t happen from nothing, Casimir effect included.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

L 5.17

Loftus – “It seems a better intuition would be that the universe has always existed since time now exists, for there would be no “time” at which the universe began to exist independently of the time that originates with the universe”. (p. 84)

Why must the universe begin independently of the time that originates with it? Why can’t they both start simultaneously? It seems most likely that time as we know it is concomitant with this universe and they began together from the same creative forces. In fact, there is no reason to think that the phenomenon of time that we experience makes sense apart from this existence. Just as the universe was created by God, time was also created by God in conjunction with this existence/universe.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

L 5.16

John Hick asserts that “we are accordingly faced with the choice of accepting God or accepting the existence of the physical universe itself as a given unintelligible and mysterious brute fact”. (p. 83)

The statement summarizes the situation succinctly. Either the universe was created by God or it was not. Theists have discovered that the divine explanation is far less improbable than the natural explanation. We know that the universe didn't exist at some point in the past. What caused the beginning of the universe? We know it could not have come from nothing because ex nihilo, nihil fit (from nothing, nothing comes). A sophisticated but ultimately futile attempt to overcome this maxim is the phenomenon of virtual particles appearing out of the vacuum of space, otherwise known as fluctuations of vacuum energy which is supposed to be a contravention of nothing coming from nothing. However, the vacuum isn’t exactly nothing. If there is energy present, then vacuum is a term that is only a close approximation of actual nothingness. Thus, vacuum fluctuation isn’t really creation from nothing but, is creation from something. The question then becomes why does vacuum energy exist? Where did it come from?

Since it has been established that the universe could not have come from nothing, there was something before that caused the universe. What is the source of that prior cause? If a natural explanation is offered (such as cosmological inflation), then this chain of explanations invites infinte regress, which is an impossibility. We know that actual infinites are impossible, even if potential infinites are possible (such as in mathematics). Given that natural explanations are unsatisfactory, there had to be a supernatural, uncaused cause behind the creation of the universe. There has to be brute explanation, an explanation to which there is no more explanation, the ultimate explanation. Since this reasoning can only lead to God, it makes Hick's former explanation much less fanciful and ad hoc than attempts to manufacture the latter.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

L 5.15

Michael Martin says that “any appeal to obvious or self-evident evidence must be regarded with suspicion, for many things that have been claimed to be self-evidently true…have turned out not to be true at all”. (p. 83)

What Martin is saying here is that the so called truth of Christianity is based on something Christians claim to be true in a self-evident way and that people should be skeptical of this sort of thinking. The self-evident truth that Christianity is built on and that Martin refers to is the ultimate authority of God and His revelation. Conceptually, this idea is called foundationalism. What critics of Christianity like Martin don’t acknowledge is that all people adhere to foundationalism. That is, all people hold some beliefs as properly basic, justified true beliefs. This includes non-theists. Atheists will object to this of course, because they feel like they exemplify non-belief. Yet, even atheists maintain foundational beliefs such as naturalism being all there is or that science is the ultimate authority. So, the question is why people choose certain foundational beliefs over others. Obviously, the naturalist is going to say that science is palpable and can be comprehended by the senses whereas metaphysical beliefs, like God, cannot. This is not totally true. Metaphysical things like God can be experienced by the senses and by rationality. They just require a different set of noetic tools than naturalism. Aquinas calls this the lumen intellectus agentis in his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard (I Sententiarum - Question 1, Article 3). Furthermore, we know that the naturalist worldview cannot account for things that we know to be true such as moral sense or the mind/body problem. To turn to the non-theist worldview is to ignore the shortcomings of that worldview.

In the end, Martin’s critique isn’t valid. To criticize Christian foundationalism is to assume another set of foundational truths which are, at most, equal to Christian foundational beliefs and, at worst, less true than Christian beliefs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

L 5.14

On the subject of the existence of the universe, Loftus says “the concept of inertia…does away with the need to explain motion as requiring either a regress of causes, or an unmoved mover”. (p. 83)

The concept of inertia itself isn’t explained by this assertion from Loftus. Why does inertia exist? How did it come into being? All Loftus did is push the ultimate question back further, or up higher, as the case may be.

Similarly, much has been made of Stephen Hawking's recent assertion that God is not needed to explain the universe. Physics can do the job just fine according to Hawking. However, Hawking fails to explain where the physical laws he refers to came from. John Lennox has a pointed response.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

L 5.13

Loftus cites an objection to the ontological explanation of God’s existence in that the western conception of the MGBP would be significantly different than what easterners would conceive. Therefore, the ontological explanation can’t cross cultural boundaries and is ineffective. (p. 82)

This is a common misconception because many people have been misled by postmodernism. Postmodernism is far too complex for a thorough assessment in the context of Loftus’ point but, a few broad strokes can be made.

Postmodernism is a reaction to the conventions of modern era science, philosophy, art, social conventions and authority. In general, postmodernism is pervaded by skepticism especially in regards to traditional dichotomies; right/wrong, true/false, faith/reason, concept/object, etc. In this philosophical system, all human knowledge is conditioned, affected by the social/cultural situation it is derived from. There is no purely objective knowledge. Reality is created by social constructions, not concrete existence or brute fact. According to the postmodernist, there is no common human nature/rationality. There is no common logic. Traditional empiricism determines whereas postmodernism reflects. One of the most central tenets of postmodernism is that there is no purely neutral position from which truth can be observed or known. Postmodernism focuses less on objective states of affairs and more on the mechanisms by which knowledge is obtained. Reality is never directly known. All knowledge is the result of interpretation. Most relevant to Loftus’ point is that postmodernism asserts that there are no true metanarratives (such as the Christian beliefs about the world as derived from the Bible). Metanarratives are often mistakenly used to substantiate truth claims as opposed to those claims being legitimized on an empirical or logical basis. A metanarrative that attempts to cross socio-cultural boundaries constitutes intellectual imperialism, such as when Christians proselytize, which should not be allowed.

Having established some basics about postmodernism, some conclusions can be drawn about it such as the fact that there aren’t different types of logic as Loftus is implying and postmodernism alleges. Logic does not vary depending on context. Many people today have been misled into believing that western “either/or” thinking should be rejected in favor of eastern “both/and” thinking. In other words, westerners typically think that truth is represented by statements of fact where one fact is established to be true over other theories to avoid contradictions. Eastern thinking is said to embrace contradictions and, for the most part, avoid imperial absolutes. However, a thorough study of eastern belief systems shows that even eastern systems evidentially obey logical laws and don’t really embrace “both/and” thinking. Much more can be said about this.

One of the biggest mistakes made by Loftus’ position is that the problem with appealing to eastern thought is that there is no such thing. There are eastern thoughts, as in plural. There are and have been vigorous debates among eastern peoples about whether or not God is differentiated from everything else and whether or not God is personal or impersonal. Some forms of Hinduism resemble western religions where there is devotion to a deity. Other forms of Hinduism look incredibly foreign to westerners and do not have a personal God as the ultimate authority. In sum, Loftus needs to specify what he is referring to. Incidentally, eastern religions that assert that God is impersonal do not qualify as theistic. In other words, “god” is a force, not a personal being. Therefore, the ontological explanation doesn’t even apply because those religions aren’t even referring to a personal being. The relevance of this to Loftus’ statement is that only theistic systems need to be referred to when applying the ontological explanation of God’s existence.

Debating which is more desirable between an impersonal force or a personal God is a different discussion altogether. An impersonal force leaves open the question of why there is something rather than nothing. An impersonal force doesn’t create because the word create implies desire which implies a personal being. We have plenty of evidences that our existence was created. In addition, the issue of morality cannot be answered if everything is the product of an impersonal force. We know morality exists but, a system that appeals to an impersonal force has no source by which to make moral judgments. Many eastern thinkers assert that this life and it’s morality are just illusory. However, we know that the eastern idea that morality is illusory is evidentially absurd and that we must attempt to live by morality as much as possible. Even eastern religious systems that deny this know that a system without morality is unlivable. The cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) based on karma is an example of how they acknowledge that their system is ultimately unlivable because it is a system of morality. If there are no truly good or evil actions, what is the karmic system of punishment and reward based on?

The pantheistic/panentheistic notion of God not being differentiated from everything else invites problems as well. If we are part of the being of God then God suffers the consequences of our choices and this certainly can’t be the case if God is the MGBP. God could be affected by our suffering and vicissitudes. If we commit suicide, does that cause God to suffer? That would make Him less than the MGBP. The larger implication is that if we’re merely part of God, how can we be truly free? These considerations should be sufficient to establish that it is difficult to see how an undifferentiated God is more desirable than otherwise.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

L 5.12

Another objection to the ontological explanation of God’s nature is that, according to the explanation itself, God could also be maximally evil. Aside from the fact that it would make God contradictory (both maximally good and evil simultaneously), which is logically absurd, we know that good is greater and more desirable than evil. Therefore, since one of the two must win out and good is more desirable, God is good (thus ruling out a philosophy like the Taoist yin yang of two opposite but equal forces). Still, some might say that they would prefer an evil God to a good one. What would it mean for God to be maximally evil? Evil, by definition, is the opposite of good. God, being good, acts in a manner that not only benefits others but, also benefits Himself. Even an evil person does good in that they might do harm to others but, they are doing so to advance their own interests. To be maximally evil, God would have to not only do harm to others but, to Himself as well. Anything less than that would result in evil-God trying to do at least a minimal amount of good, if only for Himself. Since a maximally evil being would necessarily have to do evil to all, including himself, that being would be incongruent with it’s own existence and is therefore not logically tenable. Therefore, it remains that the MGBP must be the greatest good possible and cannot be maximally evil. This description matches the biblical definitions for God’s nature.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

L 5.11

If there is power, then God is the most powerful being possible. It’s not just that God is quantitatively omnipotent but, He is the very source of power. Apart from Him, there would be no power to conceive of. He is powerful to a degree that there is no more power that is available for Him to attain. He is so powerful that He is essentially synonymous with power. The same is true of God and any great property. There would be no way to comprehend morality, love, perfection, etc, if God did not exist.

One objection to the preceding point is that the words “great” or “perfect” need to be clarified. It is possible for the words to be perceived in varying ways. Thus, people will have different definitions of God’s greatness or perfection. This once again brings up the distinction between non-theism and theism. Further refining the words great and perfect only make sense after the issue of non-theism vs theism has been settled. Loftus, and atheists in general, are non-theists. There is no reason to even discuss the subject of “which god is more powerful” until non-theism has been eliminated from the pool of live options.

Monday, October 4, 2010

L 5.10

The universe and our existence are contingent. This we know. We know that the universe didn’t always exist and will eventually suffer a heat death. This means that the existence of the universe is contingent on other factors and is not a brute fact in and of itself. It is not possible that the universe pulled itself up by it’s own bootstraps. Even if the universe is the latest in a string of universes or is part of a multiverse (implying that the universe was caused by other, non-divine entities), all that has been done is to multiply the number of contingent entities. There still must be something logically necessary behind it all. This logical necessity is God; the maximally greatest being possible.