Monday, December 27, 2010

Taking the negative view revisited

The Problem

In a previous blog I engaged in dialogue with a friend who had a view in opposition to the posted subject. The subject dealt with the point that atheism/naturalism has no cumulative case argument for its worldview. I also was trying to make the point that in atheism you find no analytic argument that flows putting the pieces of what we can know to form a comprehensive case for the worldview of atheism or naturalism.

One of the problems as expressed by my friend dealt with what a worldview is. My friend adamantly disagreed with atheism being a worldview by saying, “calling atheism a worldview is what is compounding the problem.” I would like to make two points here, first, if atheism is not a worldview, then why was my friend trying to defend atheism? Secondly, my friend seems to contradict himself, while agreeing with the definition given concerning a worldview (Worldview is defined as, an intellectual perspective on the world or universe) and denying that atheism is an intellectual perspective. I, for one, would hate to take the position that my view of the world is not an intellectual position! Clearly my friend sees his view of atheism/naturalism as being a worldview or else he would have no way to defend his belief in them.

Another point of contention revolved around my friend’s belief that naturalism is vastly different from atheism. When pressed he said, “Atheism is not a worldview. Naturalism is a worldview. Atheism is but one part of a worldview. For example, an atheist could be a Buddhist or he could be a naturalist. Atheism is but one feature of several worldviews. Thus, it is not a worldview in itself.” Let me define both atheism and naturalism. Atheism is defined as, “the doctrine or belief that there is no god.” Naturalism is, “ Everything is a collection of entities of the sort the sciences are about, and all truth is determined ultimately by the truths about these basic scientific entities.” [1] The definition given of naturalism by atheist Philosopher John Post, stresses the point of the universe by way of a physicalist view. In other words, there simply is no such thing as the supernatural. If supernaturalism cannot exist, then the view of naturalism falls right in the clutches of atheism. My friend did make a good point that not all atheists are naturalist (i.e. Buddhism), but both atheism and naturalism are playing on the same team. If one is a naturalist, he is by definition an atheist.

Another major problem dealt with my friend’s unwillingness to address the topic at hand. The topic dealt with the nature of naturalistic/atheistic argumentation. There is no collective way to argue for the atheistic worldview, because you are arguing for meaninglessness. In a way, atheism and naturalism is contradictory, because there is meaning in the universe (see the moral argument below). The only way that the atheist has to argue is to try and take the negative view.

In the original post, my friend suggests a mired of negative viewpoints and puts forth no concise argument for his view until the last post. When dealing with the cumulative case for God, one is not necessarily arguing for the Christian God (though that is the view I take). The cumulative argument is put forth to show that it is more likely to believe in God as opposed to atheism. Once it can be established that it is more likely to believe in God, one proceeds to the next question, “Which God?” My friend, however, in trying to argue against the cumulative case constantly brought up topics unrelated to the topic at hand (i.e. Trinitarian doctrine, council of Nicaea, aliens raising Jesus). Credit should be given for his willingness to offer counter explanations, but the point of my post was proven in that he offered no positive case either for the non-existence of God or contra the resurrection of Jesus.

The Arguments Against God’s Existence

My friend finally made four arguments against the existence of God in the form of syllogisms. A syllogism is a form of deductive reasoning where one uses logic to try and argue a point. I have no formal training in syllogism, but know that the conclusion needs to be supported by the premises. If one of the premises fails, the whole argument fails.

Before dissecting my friend’s four syllogisms, I would like to point something out. If my friend is making a philosophical argument from a naturalistic viewpoint, he is clearly betraying his worldview. One of the tenants of naturalism revolves around testing. If everything contained, is within the physical world, and all truth is garnered by way of science, as atheistic naturalist John Post stated earlier, then why would my friend put forth arguments that can in no way be tested? I believe it is disingenuous to claim naturalism and at the same time make a philosophical non-naturalistic form of argumentation.

How about the first argument,

“1.There is a natural world. (various evidence could be shown)

2. This is agreed upon by Christians and atheists alike. (sort of a lowest common denominator)

3. To show there is anything beyond the natural world (the supernatural) it is incumbent on the person making the claim to provide reasons or evidence for that claim.

4. The Christian claims there is the supernatural.

5. Therefore it is incumbent on the Christian to provide reasons or evidence for the supernatural (from 3)

6. If the Christian does not provide sufficient reason for belief in the supernatural (where sufficient is defined as more likely than its negative) he is unjustified in believing in the supernatural. (from 3, 4, 5)

You have not provided sufficient reason to believe in the supernatural. Therefore, as it stands, naturalism is the more rational worldview to hold.”

Concerning my friend’s first argument, I fail to see any argument here that addresses the non-existence of God. This cannot even be labeled as an argument, because nothing is being proved in the above statement. Premise 3 has nothing to do with an argument against the existence of God; it is a mere statement of belief. I fail to see how this in anyway could count as an argument against God. Point 5 lays the burden on the Christian to show evidence for the supernatural, but my friend takes a naturalist position, so it is irrelevant what kind of evidence a Christian could give. He will deny a priori any evidence that points to supernaturalism, because of the naturalistic worldview that he holds. In fact, he shows his cards in his response to my blog by saying, “Extraordinary events usually require extraordinary explanations and thus while the God hypothesis is reasonable as an extraordinary explanation so are many others (note I’m not using the canard that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, that I think is clearly false as it is incredibly improbable and miraculous that I would exist and yet there is a very simple non-extraordinary reason for my being here.)” This seems to me to be a very Humeian type of logic. When we are talking of supernatural explanations, we are describing supernatural events. My friend changed one word to try and wiggle out of a Humeinan based argumentation that he chooses to hold on to. Concerning his last statement, I would only ask, “What is this very simple non-extraordinary reason for my being here?”

If he is offering an argument against the non-existence of God, he fails because he is not offering an argument at all and he fails to even consider the possibility of supernaturalism. If I have failed to show sufficient reason for the supernatural as my friend concluded, it is only because on a naturalist worldview NO reasons exist for supernaturalism. If he wanted to make a positive case for the non-existence of God, which was the original challenge, then it is incumbent upon my friend to show an argument to that mean.

The second argument given is as follows,

1.If the God exists, then the attributes of God are consistent with one another.

2.Some attributes of God are not consistent with one another.

3.Therefore, God does not and cannot exist.

This second argument is vague in that he fails to show what attributes are inconsistent with one another. Until he can form a logical argument to show inconsistencies in God’s attributes, the argument fails. Again, we have a negative argument. My friend shows no evidence or argumentation for the non-existence of God.

The third argument given is,

1.If God exists, then he is perfect.

2.If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.

3.A perfect being can have no needs or wants.

4.If any being created the universe, then he must have had some need or want.

5.Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 & 4)

6.Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5).

My friend’s third argument fails because it makes assumptions. Looking at premise 4, my friend assumes that the creator of the universe has needs and wants based upon premise 2 and 3. However, my friend fails to realize that God could be a personal being who desires to share his love with others, while wanting and needing nothing. I agree with my friend that God is in need of nothing (Acts 17:25), but he desires a relationship with his creation because of his love nature (1 John 4:8). So, God does not want or need anything, and therefore, created the universe desiring to have a relationship with those created in his image because of who he is (2 Peter 3:9). The third argument fails to account for all possibilities.

My friend’s fourth argument is given as follows,

1.If God exists he is omniscient.

2.To be omniscient one must know all facts.

3.But there are an infinite amount of facts.

4.An actual infinite is impossible.

5.Therefore, God cannot be omniscient. (from 2, 4, and 4)

6.If God is not omniscient he cannot exist. (from 1 and 5)

The last argument also fails because it is incoherent and contradictory. Right off the bat my friend contradicts himself with premise 3 and 4. He argues in circles by saying “there are an infinite number of facts” and then turning around by saying, “an actual infinite is impossible.” Which way is it my friend; you can’t have it both ways? The argument also fails in that it is vague. What exactly does he mean by omniscient? Does God having all knowledge entail that an infinity of facts exists? Couldn’t omniscience simply mean that God has all knowledge? The fourth argument fails to show that God does not exist. It fails in its vagueness and can be shown to be contradictory.

In conclusion to my original challenge, my friend states, “Thus, contrary to your claim, an atheist could easily make a cumulative case against the Christian God. Provide a couple of arguments like the ones above, show that various Christian arguments do not work, critique the Bible, and viola, you have a concise cumulative case for atheism, at least in regards to Christianity.” I think my friend made no cumulative case, because he failed to realize what a cumulative means, and he continued to argue by taking the negative view. In actuality a cumulative case builds from one block of truth to another to form a comprehensive case for God or the person of Jesus.

A Cumulative Case

A cumulative case cannot be fully addressed here. Philosopher Doug Geivett has offered a cumulative case argument based on eight steps. The purpose of the cumulative case is to accumulate arguments that specifically answer questions such that collectively they point to one likely outcome; in this case the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus. I will only touch on some specific arguments that collectively point toward theism or resurrection. It must be understood that a Humeian view of reality will not allow for the consideration of supernaturalism. If one is to be truly open, then consideration of the evidence cannot disallow any of the possibilities. If it can be shown that the accumulative evidence points toward the supernatural, then it is dishonest for one to deny the supernatural simply because of personal preference alone.

Cumulative Evidence For God

Due to time constraints, I will not be able to thoroughly address each of the cumulative arguments in detail, but will include more detailed explanations (click on the arguments) for each argument presented.

The first argument to be considered is called the cosmological argument. It is clear to all in science that the universe is not eternal and that it had a beginning. One of the more popular cosmological arguments is the Kalam Cosmological argument. The argument concludes that God brought the universe into existence. In other words, it was caused to exist. Since the universe cannot logically cause itself, it must therefore need a cause. This causer must be by definition, all-powerful, eternal in nature, outside of space and time (immaterial), and have the will to create. The reason for a single God is due to a principle referred to as Ockham’s razor. Ockham’s razor says, “We should not multiply causes beyond what is necessary to explain the effect. [2] The main thrust of the argument is to show that it is more likely to believe the universe was caused to exist by God as opposed to starting by some blind unknown process. One of the arguments contra a chance beginning is that, from nothing, nothing comes.

A second argument in the cumulative case is referred to as the design argument. There are two phases of the design argument related to the fields of biology and astronomy. On the astronomical phase the cosmos points to the fact of fine-tuning. If the universe is fine-tuned, there must exist a tuner or God. On the biological phase it appears that DNA information points to an informer, or God. One of the points of the design argument is that humans were created with purpose. In other words, there is purpose built in to the universe, and specifically for humanity upon planet earth.

A third argument deals with meaning and morals. If the universe indicates purposeful creation, then the creation must have meaning. If humans have meaning it is only because of objective moral values. Everyone recognizes the existence of moral values. If moral values do don’t exist, then it doesn’t matter what we do (rape, torture of children, killing for sport). But, all recognize there seems to be an objective moral law. If a moral law exists, that means a moral lawgiver or God exists. One could deny morals, such as Philosopher Michael Ruse, by saying, “Morality is just an aid to survival…and any deeper meaning is illusory.” [3] On a naturalistic/atheistic view morals are the result of blind evolutionary forces, but this seems very unrealistic. Philosopher William Lane Craig comments that, “It is fantastically improbable that…creatures would emerge from the blind evolutionary process who correspond to the abstractly existing realm of moral values. This seems to be an utterly incredible coincidence when you think about it. It is almost as though the moral realm knew that we were coming.” [4]

A fourth argument deals with an argument from miracles. If a miracle can be shown more fitting to a supernatural explanation, than to punting for some yet unknown naturalist explanation, then this represents another argument for God. This is even more powerful if the miracle matches a theistic explanation, or there exists purpose behind the miraculous event. If a miracle is outside the natural realm, the supernatural must exist.

A fifth evidence that makes up the cumulative case involves the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did rise from the dead, and prophecies exist about this event (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22), then it is more probable to believe that God exists. The New Testament documents portray Jesus as predicting his death and resurrection (Mark 14:58, Matthew 12:40). If Jesus truly said this, it is more evidence to not only miracles, but also the existence of the Christian God.

There are other arguments that exist for the existence of God (Argument from consciousness, argument from truth, the argument from desire). Each argument supports one aspect of reality and builds a cumulative case for God’s existence. When considering the evidence for or against the existence of God, all points must be considered without prejudice. I hold that naturalism not only handicaps the search for truth, but handcuffs the worldview in a non-comprehensive way.

Cumulative Evidence For The Resurrection

Did Jesus rise supernaturally from the grave? Almost no one would deny that Jesus existed. Almost all scholars would agree that Jesus died, was buried, and his know tomb was found empty three days later. The question that needs to be addressed is, “How is this best explained?”

There are many factors to consider that point to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. All these factors need to be explained away if they do not match with reality. Cumulatively these factors tell us that it is more likely to believe in the resurrection of Jesus as opposed to any other story (swoon, hallucination, wrong grave, myth).

One of the cumulative evidences for the resurrection includes: resurrection in Jerusalem. To start a new religion from Judaism claiming that Jesus was the Messiah and God would have invited death to anyone making that claim. We see the resurrection story as being very early. Practically all scholars recognize the fact that the 1st Corinthians 15 passage is an early creed concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The late Jack Kent, who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus even, stated the 1st Corinthians 15 passage “could be dated very close to the resurrection.” [5] If the early century Christians first promoted the resurrected Jesus in Jerusalem knowing full well that Jesus did not rise, they were by far the most ignorant people to have ever lived on the face of the earth.

A second evidence pointing to resurrection involves the women as discoverers of the empty tomb. First century women had no credible testimony in a court of law. If the gospel accounts took place some 30 to 60 years after the resurrection story, you would expect they would have had more than enough time to think of a better explanation for the empty tomb. Yet, all four-gospel writers say that women were not only the fist to see the empty tomb, but were in fact the first to see Jesus. Certainly this embarrassing account would have been left out if the gospel stories were nothing more than myth.

A third evidence pointing to resurrection is the empty tomb. Where did the body go? Many individuals proclaimed that the known tomb was empty and that Jesus had come back to life. Coupled together, this is just one more piece of cumulative evidence that points to the resurrection of Jesus.

A fourth and final evidence revolves around the changed lives of individuals. If the people who claimed to have encountered the resurrected Jesus were fabricating a story, then why were they willing to die in masses for a known lie? It is more reasonable to believe that the encounter was real than the opposite. For those who say otherwise, it is more likely that it is they who are more willing to believe a lie. I can’t fathom how scores of individuals would be so stupid as to forfeit their lives for a known lie. My friend responded, “Maybe Christianity spread not because it was true but rather because it had some powerful radical ideas, images, and life transforming power relative to the culture at the time.” My only complaint with this point is that wishing a death sentence upon yourself is not really life transforming.

Other evidence also points to the resurrection of Jesus, such as secular/Jewish stories, conversion of those who were not followers of Jesus, and fulfilled prophesies. If one is to counter the resurrection, a comprehensive argument must be given, but at this moment, none exists.

Conclusion

Taking the negative view is the easy way out; all one has to do is be skeptical. The atheist/naturalist have no comprehensive cumulative case for their view. The negative view relies on statements such as, “What about this and that or It could be that…” The negative view often offers wild arguments that have nothing to do with proving their point. For example, my friend stated this concerning the resurrection, “Maybe Jesus was brought back from death by aliens.” These arguments don’t even deal with reality and yet this seems to be one of the negative ways on which atheism argues.

Like any argument, 100 % proof is not needed. All that is needed is to tip the scales in your favor. I argue that the Christian worldview is robust and comprehensively answers the big questions of life. On the other hand atheism and naturalism fail to give any cumulative evidence either for the non-existence of God or against the resurrection of Jesus. The worldview of atheism provides no robust argument, but only offers a negative view of meaninglessness. Naturalism itself is not open to all the evidence based upon its locking the doors to supernatural explanation. I am interested in truth, and until better evidence can be provided to the contrary of Christianity, I am staying put with the comprehensive Christian worldview of reality.

[1] John Post as quoted in J.P. Moreland’s, Kingdom Triangle, p. 40

[2] J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, p. 487

[3] Michael Ruse as quoted in William Lane Craig’s, God Are You There?, p. 33

[4] Ibid, p. 35

  • An article dealing with the clash between science and miracles/supernaturalism
  • An article showing recent trends away from naturalism
  • Article dealing with a cumulative case
  • A second article dealing with a cummulative case

14 comments:

Tylor said...

Part 01

Thanks Shelby or taking the time to engage my points. I appreciate it. However, I think you may have misunderstood some of my points, and in one case probably missed the preceding sentence. I’ll go through your response and dialog where I think necessary.

Shelby
“One of the problems as expressed by my friend dealt with what a worldview is. My friend adamantly disagreed with atheism being a worldview by saying, “calling atheism a worldview is what is compounding the problem.” I would like to make two points here, first, if atheism is not a worldview, then why was my friend trying to defend atheism?”

Tylor
I think atheism is a position worth defending. It doesn’t need to be a worldview to be worth defending. I think hockey is better than football and will defend that position to my dying days. But that doesn’t mean the belief that hockey is the best game ever conceived is itself is a worldview.

Shelby
“Secondly, my friend seems to contradict himself, while agreeing with the definition given concerning a worldview (Worldview is defined as, an intellectual perspective on the world or universe) and denying that atheism is an intellectual perspective.”

Tylor
I’m not sure where I denied that atheism was an intellectual perspective. However, I did deny that atheism was an all encompassing intellectual perspective on the world or universe. Those are two very different things.

Shelby
“I, for one, would hate to take the position that my view of the world is not an intellectual position! Clearly my friend sees his view of atheism/naturalism as being a worldview or else he would have no way to defend his belief in them.”

Tylor
Naturalism is a worldview. That has never been a point of contention between us. However, atheism is not a worldview, it’s an “intellectual position” to use your words.

Shelby
“Another point of contention revolved around my friend’s belief that naturalism is vastly different from atheism. When pressed he said, “Atheism is not a worldview. Naturalism is a worldview. Atheism is but one part of a worldview. For example, an atheist could be a Buddhist or he could be a naturalist. Atheism is but one feature of several worldviews. Thus, it is not a worldview in itself.””

Tylor
Couldn’t have said it better myself ;)

Shelby
“Let me define both atheism and naturalism. Atheism is defined as, “the doctrine or belief that there is no god.” Naturalism is, “ Everything is a collection of entities of the sort the sciences are about, and all truth is determined ultimately by the truths about these basic scientific entities.””

I can agree with those definitions.

This comment is continued in the next comment.

Tylor said...

Part 02

Shelby
“[1] The definition given of naturalism by atheist Philosopher John Post, stresses the point of the universe by way of a physicalist view. In other words, there simply is no such thing as the supernatural. If supernaturalism cannot exist, then the view of naturalism falls right in the clutches of atheism. My friend did make a good point that not all atheists are naturalist (i.e. Buddhism), but both atheism and naturalism are playing on the same team. If one is a naturalist, he is by definition an atheist.”

Tylor
Yes, if one is a naturalist, one position he will take is atheism. But atheism in no way entails naturalism. One could be an atheist and be completely open to the supernatural. There is nothing inconsistent between supernaturalism and atheism.

Shelby
“Another major problem dealt with my friend’s unwillingness to address the topic at hand. The topic dealt with the nature of naturalistic/atheistic argumentation. There is no collective way to argue for the atheistic worldview, because you are arguing for meaninglessness.”

Tylor
Well, atheism isn’t a worldview. So it would be impossible to argue for it as a worldview. What I think you mean by atheism is naturalism. Now naturalism is a worldview, and it needs to be argued for. Also, naturalism doesn’t just argue for meaninglessness (at least in the objective sense). It’s an entire worldview and so it potentially could argue for many things. Just as Christianity argues for many things (there are angels, Jesus did miracles, God created the universe, etc).

Shelby
“In a way, atheism and naturalism is contradictory, because there is meaning in the universe (see the moral argument below).”

Tylor
Is there really? In the objective sense? I don’t think so. You can’t just assert that. Of course, if Christianity is true, than there must be an objective meaning to the universe. But you would have to establish Christianity first. Barring that I find it highly unlikely that you could show that there is actually any objective meaning in the univerise.

Shelby
“The only way that the atheist has to argue is to try and take the negative view.”

Tylor
Well, doesn’t that make sense? Atheism IS a negative view ;) Of course, positive reasons can be given for atheism, but only in the specific sense. It would be impossible to prove that no gods exist period. But it is an entirely different thing to say that the Christian God doesn’t exist. In that case good positive reasons could be given to not believe in the Christian God (though I think the negative reasons are almost good enough in themselves)

Shleby
“In the original post, my friend suggests a mired of negative viewpoints and puts forth no concise argument for his view until the last post.”

I find the rhetoric you used in this post interesting and I think this is a good place to address it. I think you are being a little unfair. You seem to insinuate that unless I put forward an entire doctoral thesis on why Christianity is false in my first comment on a blog I am in some way being intellectually weak. We were having a dialog and as it progressed I think it is fair to say that I built on each comment and slowly built up my case. Just because my case wasn’t complete in the first comment doesn’t mean I don’t have one or can’t give one.

Continued in the next comment.

Tylor said...

Part 02

Shelby
“[1] The definition given of naturalism by atheist Philosopher John Post, stresses the point of the universe by way of a physicalist view. In other words, there simply is no such thing as the supernatural. If supernaturalism cannot exist, then the view of naturalism falls right in the clutches of atheism. My friend did make a good point that not all atheists are naturalist (i.e. Buddhism), but both atheism and naturalism are playing on the same team. If one is a naturalist, he is by definition an atheist.”

Tylor
Yes, if one is a naturalist, one position he will take is atheism. But atheism in no way entails naturalism. One could be an atheist and be completely open to the supernatural. There is nothing inconsistent between supernaturalism and atheism.

Shelby
“Another major problem dealt with my friend’s unwillingness to address the topic at hand. The topic dealt with the nature of naturalistic/atheistic argumentation. There is no collective way to argue for the atheistic worldview, because you are arguing for meaninglessness.”

Tylor
Well, atheism isn’t a worldview. So it would be impossible to argue for it as a worldview. What I think you mean by atheism is naturalism. Now naturalism is a worldview, and it needs to be argued for. Also, naturalism doesn’t just argue for meaninglessness (at least in the objective sense). It’s an entire worldview and so it potentially could argue for many things. Just as Christianity argues for many things (there are angels, Jesus did miracles, God created the universe, etc).

Shelby
“In a way, atheism and naturalism is contradictory, because there is meaning in the universe (see the moral argument below).”

Tylor
Is there really? In the objective sense? I don’t think so. You can’t just assert that. Of course, if Christianity is true, than there must be an objective meaning to the universe. But you would have to establish Christianity first. Barring that I find it highly unlikely that you could show that there is actually any objective meaning in the univerise.

Shelby
“The only way that the atheist has to argue is to try and take the negative view.”

Tylor
Well, doesn’t that make sense? Atheism IS a negative view ;) Of course, positive reasons can be given for atheism, but only in the specific sense. It would be impossible to prove that no gods exist period. But it is an entirely different thing to say that the Christian God doesn’t exist. In that case good positive reasons could be given to not believe in the Christian God (though I think the negative reasons are almost good enough in themselves)

Continued in the next comment.

Tylor said...

Part 03

Shelby
“The only way that the atheist has to argue is to try and take the negative view.”

Tylor
Well, doesn’t that make sense? Atheism IS a negative view ;) Of course, positive reasons can be given for atheism, but only in the specific sense. It would be impossible to prove that no gods exist period. But it is an entirely different thing to say that the Christian God doesn’t exist. In that case good positive reasons could be given to not believe in the Christian God (though I think the negative reasons are almost good enough in themselves)

Shelby
“In the original post, my friend suggests a mired of negative viewpoints and puts forth no concise argument for his view until the last post.”

Tylor
I find the rhetoric you used in this post interesting and I think this is a good place to address it. I think you are being a little unfair. You seem to insinuate that unless I put forward an entire doctoral thesis on why Christianity is false in my first comment on a blog I am in some way being intellectually weak. We were having a dialog and as it progressed I think it is fair to say that I built on each comment and slowly built up my case. Just because my case wasn’t complete in the first comment doesn’t mean I don’t have one or can’t give one.

Shelby
“When dealing with the cumulative case for God, one is not necessarily arguing for the Christian God (though that is the view I take). The cumulative argument is put forth to show that it is more likely to believe in God as opposed to atheism. Once it can be established that it is more likely to believe in God, one proceeds to the next question, “Which God?” My friend, however, in trying to argue against the cumulative case constantly brought up topics unrelated to the topic at hand (i.e. Trinitarian doctrine, council of Nicaea, aliens raising Jesus).”

Tylor
Well, I think it is safe to say that no one really cares if you believe in some generic nebulous deistic god. It’s once you say that this generic nebulous deistic god is the Christian God that one’s eyebrows raise. And thus, I am only really interested in arguing against the Christian god. I don’t think the cumulative case succeeds in arguing for a generic nebulous deistic god but I am willing to grant it if it just gets us closer to what we are all really interested in anyway and that’s the Christian God.

Continued in the next comment

Tylor said...

Part 04

Shelby
“Credit should be given for his willingness to offer counter explanations, but the point of my post was proven in that he offered no positive case either for the non-existence of God or contra the resurrection of Jesus.”

Tylor
The only real way to provide a positive case for the non-existence of god is to show how that god could not exist. As for the resurrection, what I largely did was show how even if I were to grant you your entire case for the resurrection of Jesus, it still does not prove what you want it to prove (namely, the RESURRECTION of Jesus or the Christian religion).

Shelby
“My friend finally made four arguments against the existence of God in the form of syllogisms.”

Tylor
I actually only made two arguments against God’s existence. This is where I think you missed a sentence. I provided two templates for how to argue against God’s existence and then I provided two arguments based on those templates.

Shelby
“A syllogism is a form of deductive reasoning where one uses logic to try and argue a point. I have no formal training in syllogism, but know that the conclusion needs to be supported by the premises. If one of the premises fails, the whole argument fails.”

Tylor
I agree.

Shelby
“Before dissecting my friend’s four syllogisms, I would like to point something out. If my friend is making a philosophical argument from a naturalistic viewpoint, he is clearly betraying his worldview. One of the tenants of naturalism revolves around testing. If everything contained, is within the physical world, and all truth is garnered by way of science, as atheistic naturalist John Post stated earlier, then why would my friend put forth arguments that can in no way be tested? I believe it is disingenuous to claim naturalism and at the same time make a philosophical non-naturalistic form of argumentation.”

Tylor
Not if I am making an internal critique of Christianity. I’m not arguing from the naturalistic worldview, though I admit that will probably affect how I argue. Rather, I am trying to show how Christianity does not make its case by its own standards.

Also, I don’t see why I can’t use logical argumentation. I am using the science of language and argumentation to make my case.

Continued in the next comment.

Tylor said...

Part 05

Shelby quoting Tylor
"How about the first argument,
1.There is a natural world. (various evidence could be shown)


2. This is agreed upon by Christians and atheists alike. (sort of a lowest common denominator)


3. To show there is anything beyond the natural world (the supernatural) it is incumbent on the person making the claim to provide reasons or evidence for that claim.


4. The Christian claims there is the supernatural.


5. Therefore it is incumbent on the Christian to provide reasons or evidence for the supernatural (from 3)


6. If the Christian does not provide sufficient reason for belief in the supernatural (where sufficient is defined as more likely than its negative) he is unjustified in believing in the supernatural. (from 3, 4, 5)



You have not provided sufficient reason to believe in the supernatural. Therefore, as it stands, naturalism is the more rational worldview to hold.””

Shelby
“Concerning my friend’s first argument, I fail to see any argument here that addresses the non-existence of God.”

Tylor
Well, that’s probably because it wasn’t an argument for the non-existence of God ;) It was an argument to as to why it is more reasonable to believe in naturalism.

Shelby
“This cannot even be labeled as an argument, because nothing is being proved in the above statement. Premise 3 has nothing to do with an argument against the existence of God; it is a mere statement of belief.”

Tylor
Again, it’s not an argument against God. It’s an argument for why it is more reasonable to believe in naturalism.

Shelby
“I fail to see how this in anyway could count as an argument against God.”

Tylor
Only insofar as naturalism entails there is no god. But it is not arguing against god in particular.

Shelby
“Point 5 lays the burden on the Christian to show evidence for the supernatural, but my friend takes a naturalist position, so it is irrelevant what kind of evidence a Christian could give. He will deny a priori any evidence that points to supernaturalism, because of the naturalistic worldview that he holds.”

Tylor
I’ll admit that I have a certain bias. But of course, we all have biases – including you. The way the argument is framed I don’t deny a priori any evidence for supernaturalism. Rather, I argue that evidence must be mustered for one to reasonably hold to supernaturalism. I just haven’t seen the case made. Now could this be because of a naturalistic bias? I’m sure that has an effect to a certain extent. But I am open to the possibility of the supernatural, and just because it may be harder to convince me of it than, say, a voodoo priest, doesn’t mean I reject it outright.

Continued in the next comment.

Tylor said...

Part 05

Shelby quoting Tylor
"How about the first argument,
1.There is a natural world. (various evidence could be shown)


2. This is agreed upon by Christians and atheists alike. (sort of a lowest common denominator)


3. To show there is anything beyond the natural world (the supernatural) it is incumbent on the person making the claim to provide reasons or evidence for that claim.


4. The Christian claims there is the supernatural.


5. Therefore it is incumbent on the Christian to provide reasons or evidence for the supernatural (from 3)


6. If the Christian does not provide sufficient reason for belief in the supernatural (where sufficient is defined as more likely than its negative) he is unjustified in believing in the supernatural. (from 3, 4, 5)



You have not provided sufficient reason to believe in the supernatural. Therefore, as it stands, naturalism is the more rational worldview to hold.””

Shelby
“Concerning my friend’s first argument, I fail to see any argument here that addresses the non-existence of God.”

Tylor
Well, that’s probably because it wasn’t an argument for the non-existence of God ;) It was an argument to as to why it is more reasonable to believe in naturalism.

Shelby
“This cannot even be labeled as an argument, because nothing is being proved in the above statement. Premise 3 has nothing to do with an argument against the existence of God; it is a mere statement of belief.”

Tylor
Again, it’s not an argument against God. It’s an argument for why it is more reasonable to believe in naturalism.

Shelby
“I fail to see how this in anyway could count as an argument against God.”

Tylor
Only insofar as naturalism entails there is no god. But it is not arguing against god in particular.

Continued in the next comment.

Tylor said...

Part 06

Shelby
“Point 5 lays the burden on the Christian to show evidence for the supernatural, but my friend takes a naturalist position, so it is irrelevant what kind of evidence a Christian could give. He will deny a priori any evidence that points to supernaturalism, because of the naturalistic worldview that he holds.”

Tylor
I’ll admit that I have a certain bias. But of course, we all have biases – including you. The way the argument is framed I don’t deny a priori any evidence for supernaturalism. Rather, I argue that evidence must be mustered for one to reasonably hold to supernaturalism. I just haven’t seen the case made. Now could this be because of a naturalistic bias? I’m sure that has an effect to a certain extent. But I am open to the possibility of the supernatural, and just because it may be harder to convince me of it than, say, a voodoo priest, doesn’t mean I reject it outright.

Shelby
“In fact, he shows his cards in his response to my blog by saying, “Extraordinary events usually require extraordinary explanations and thus while the God hypothesis is reasonable as an extraordinary explanation so are many others (note I’m not using the canard that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, that I think is clearly false as it is incredibly improbable and miraculous that I would exist and yet there is a very simple non-extraordinary reason for my being here.)”
“This seems to me to be a very Humeian type of logic. When we are talking of supernatural explanations, we are describing supernatural events. My friend changed one word to try and wiggle out of a Humeinan based argumentation that he chooses to hold on to. Concerning his last statement, I would only ask, “What is this very simple non-extraordinary reason for my being here?””

Tylor
You will need to flesh this out a bit because I’m not entirely sure what you are trying to get at. I have some ideas, but it would be pointless to respond until I better understood.

Shelby
“If he is offering an argument against the non-existence of God, he fails because he is not offering an argument at all and he fails to even consider the possibility of supernaturalism.”

Tylor
I’m not offering an argument against God here. And I think you are just naively assuming that I don’t even consider the possibility of the supernatural. I have considered it. I’m just not convinced.

Shelby
“If I have failed to show sufficient reason for the supernatural as my friend concluded, it is only because on a naturalist worldview NO reasons exist for supernaturalism.”

Tylor
I hold to naturalism because the natural world is all I think there is reasonable evidence for. I don’t deny supernaturalism because there are no reasons for it to exist in my worldview. Rather, I hold my worldview because I see no reasonable reasons to believe in supernaturalism.

Continued in the next comment

Tylor said...

Part 06

Shelby
“Point 5 lays the burden on the Christian to show evidence for the supernatural, but my friend takes a naturalist position, so it is irrelevant what kind of evidence a Christian could give. He will deny a priori any evidence that points to supernaturalism, because of the naturalistic worldview that he holds.”

Tylor
I’ll admit that I have a certain bias. But of course, we all have biases – including you. The way the argument is framed I don’t deny a priori any evidence for supernaturalism. Rather, I argue that evidence must be mustered for one to reasonably hold to supernaturalism. I just haven’t seen the case made. Now could this be because of a naturalistic bias? I’m sure that has an effect to a certain extent. But I am open to the possibility of the supernatural, and just because it may be harder to convince me of it than, say, a voodoo priest, doesn’t mean I reject it outright.

Shelby
“In fact, he shows his cards in his response to my blog by saying, “Extraordinary events usually require extraordinary explanations and thus while the God hypothesis is reasonable as an extraordinary explanation so are many others (note I’m not using the canard that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, that I think is clearly false as it is incredibly improbable and miraculous that I would exist and yet there is a very simple non-extraordinary reason for my being here.)”
“This seems to me to be a very Humeian type of logic. When we are talking of supernatural explanations, we are describing supernatural events. My friend changed one word to try and wiggle out of a Humeinan based argumentation that he chooses to hold on to. Concerning his last statement, I would only ask, “What is this very simple non-extraordinary reason for my being here?””

Tylor
You will need to flesh this out a bit because I’m not entirely sure what you are trying to get at. I have some ideas, but it would be pointless to respond until I better understood.

Shelby
“If he is offering an argument against the non-existence of God, he fails because he is not offering an argument at all and he fails to even consider the possibility of supernaturalism.”

Tylor
I’m not offering an argument against God here. And I think you are just naively assuming that I don’t even consider the possibility of the supernatural. I have considered it. I’m just not convinced.

Continued in the next comment

Tylor said...

Part 07

Shelby
“If he wanted to make a positive case for the non-existence of God, which was the original challenge, then it is incumbent upon my friend to show an argument to that mean.”

Sure, and I did that later in the comments.

Shelby quoting Tylor
“1.If the God exists, then the attributes of God are consistent with one another.


2.Some attributes of God are not consistent with one another.


3.Therefore, God does not and cannot exist.”

Shelby
“This second argument is vague in that he fails to show what attributes are inconsistent with one another.”

Tylor
This wasn’t an argument. It was a template for an argument. I was providing a general outline of how an atheist could argue for atheism, at least in relation to a particular god.

Shelby
“Until he can form a logical argument to show inconsistencies in God’s attributes, the argument fails. Again, we have a negative argument. My friend shows no evidence or argumentation for the non-existence of God.”

Tylor
It was a template. You will see I specifically say that in the comments.

Shelby quoting Tylor
The third argument given is,
“1.If God exists, then he is perfect.


2.If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.

3.A perfect being can have no needs or wants.


4.If any being created the universe, then he must have had some need or want.


5.Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 & 4)


6.Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5).”

Shelby
“My friend’s third argument fails because it makes assumptions. Looking at premise 4, my friend assumes that the creator of the universe has needs and wants based upon premise 2 and 3. However, my friend fails to realize that God could be a personal being who desires to share his love with others, while wanting and needing nothing.”

In my reckoning of things a desire is the same as a want.

Continued in the next comment.

Tylor said...

part 08 (I just want to say that Blogger is garbage for making commenting substantially on posts next to impossible, especially when comment moderation is on.)

Shelby
“I agree with my friend that God is in need of nothing (Acts 17:25), but he desires a relationship with his creation because of his love nature (1 John 4:8). So, God does not want or need anything, and therefore, created the universe desiring to have a relationship with those created in his image because of who he is (2 Peter 3:9). The third argument fails to account for all possibilities.”

Tylor
You will have to explain how a desire and want aren’t the same. And even if you do explain how they are different, I could just as easily add “desire” to my argument.

1. A perfect being would have no desires that weren’t already fulfilled.

2. God needed to create the universe so as to fulfill the desire of having a relationship with his creation.

3. But for God to have created the universe there must have been a time when the universe didn’t exist.

4. If there was a time when the universe didn’t exist then there was a time when God’s desire of having a relationship with his creation wasn’t fulfilled.

5. Thus, God is not a perfect being. (from 1 & 4)

6. Therefore, God does not exist.

Shelby
“My friend’s fourth argument is given as follows,”

Tylor
Second argument.

Shelby quoting Tylor
“1.If God exists he is omniscient.


2.To be omniscient one must know all facts.


3.But there are an infinite amount of facts.


4.An actual infinite is impossible.


5.Therefore, God cannot be omniscient. (from 2, 4, and 4)


6.If God is not omniscient he cannot exist. (from 1 and 5)”

Shelby
“The last argument also fails because it is incoherent and contradictory.”

Not when one understands it as it is meant to be understood.

Continued in the next comment

Tylor said...

Part 09

Shelby
“Right off the bat my friend contradicts himself with premise 3 and 4. He argues in circles by saying “there are an infinite number of facts” and then turning around by saying, “an actual infinite is impossible.” Which way is it my friend; you can’t have it both ways?”

Tylor
Let me elaborate. There are an infinite amount of facts. But the set of facts is not contained anywhere. It is an open set. But once you try to close the set into the mind of God you encounter an impossibility. How can the mind of God contain an actual infinite?

Shelby
“The argument also fails in that it is vague. What exactly does he mean by omniscient? Does God having all knowledge entail that an infinity of facts exists? Couldn’t omniscience simply mean that God has all knowledge?”

Tylor
Yes, but all knowledge would contain all facts.

Shelby
“The fourth argument fails to show that God does not exist. It fails in its vagueness and can be shown to be contradictory.”

Tylor
I think it shows God cannot be omniscient. Thus, God as traditionally defined by Christianity does not exist.

Continued in the next comment.

Tylor said...

Part 10

Shelby
“In conclusion to my original challenge, my friend states, “Thus, contrary to your claim, an atheist could easily make a cumulative case against the Christian God. Provide a couple of arguments like the ones above, show that various Christian arguments do not work, critique the Bible, and viola, you have a concise cumulative case for atheism, at least in regards to Christianity.” I think my friend made no cumulative case, because he failed to realize what a cumulative means, and he continued to argue by taking the negative view. In actuality a cumulative case builds from one block of truth to another to form a comprehensive case for God or the person of Jesus.”

Tylor
I did build on one block of truth to another. Just because a cumulative case for atheism looks different than a cumulative case for Christianity doesn’t mean I didn’t make one.

Also, I do not think you adequately answered any of my arguments. Thus they all currently stand. Therefore, I contend that traditional Christianity can not reasonably believed to be true and thus can be reasonably believed to be false.

Your blog post then goes in a different direction with regards to the cumulative case for Christianity. I might interact with those later, but I am done for the night. Thanks for the dialogue Shelby and I hope your Christmas went well!

Shelby Cade said...

Hi Tylor,

Thanks again for your comments. I think I am pretty much done with the constant back and forth between the two of us. Not because I don't want to argue, but because I don't have time to be consumed with this right now.

I really appreciate your dialogue and hope that others who have read your responces would feel free to chip in. In fact, if you would like to post on my site, you have my blessings (scade@rocketmail.com). I appreciate your spirit of dialogue and hope that all who are interested in arguing would do so with the same spirit that you have shown. If you choose to post, I would like something along the lines of answering three questions, 1.) What is the best explanation to the beginning of the universe?, 2.) Where do moral vales come from?, and 3.) What is the best explanation of the empty tomb?

I hope you had a great Christmas as well. Blessings, Shelby