August 7th, 2012

## The Arbitrariness Objection to Divine Command Theory

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                     ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                  ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)       ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)[2]

(PERMITTED 2)       [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

The arbitrariness objection claims that [for example] if God commanded moral agents to rape then the action of committing rape would be obligatory to all moral agents.[3]  The objector assumes an inference in the form of the argument stating that ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ) may also be applicable in the sense that ϕ could refer to rape (ρ).

July 9th, 2012

## Why Inductive Fine-Tuning Arguments are Weak

Inductive logic, generally speaking, takes elements of a set and applies this subset of elements to a broader set.  More specifically, the principle of mathematical induction states that if zero has a property, P, and if whenever a number has the property its successor also has the property, then all numbers have the property:[1]

Induction works by enumeration: as support for the conclusion that all p’s are q’s, one could list many examples of p’s that are q’s.  It also includes ampliative argument in which the premises, while not entailing the truth of the conclusion, nevertheless purports good reason for accepting it.[2]

Inductive probability in the sciences has been generally successful in the past.  It has been used by Galileo, Kepler, and has even resulted in the discovery of Neptune.  The English astronomer John Michell exemplified this discuss in a discussion of ‘probable parallax and magnitude of the fixed stars’ published by the Royal Society in 1767.[3]  Michell found that the incidence of apparently close pairings of stars was too great for them all to be effects of line of sight, and that next to a certainty such observed pairs of stars must actually be very close together, perhaps moving under mutual gravitation.  Michell’s conclusion was not corroborated for forty years until William Herschel’s confirmatory observations.[4]

June 6th, 2012

## VIDEO: VA Tech Debate on the Existence of God

This was a debate on March 21, 2012 at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, VA.  It was sponsored by the Freethinkers at Virginia Tech, Leopard Zeus Fan Club, Ask Big Questions at Virginia Tech, and the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University.

Defending Theism

• Max Andrews, Department of Philosophy Liberty University
• Josh Nixon, Virginia Tech

Defending Atheism

• Dan Linford, Virginia Tech

May 23rd, 2012

## Critiquing an Objection to the Cosmological Argument

Neill Shenton recently did a review/response to one of Doug Beaumont’s arguments for the existence of God.  Doug’s argument is the ususal Thomastic cosmological argument from contingency.  At this point I’ll assume that you’ve read the two posts so you’ve got a greater context for what follows.

Here’s Shenton:

This is an argument that keeps coming up & folk tweet responses but my thoughts don’t fit in a tweet so here’s my ramblings on the topic.

I see this as a rather futile attempt to “prove” there is a god by a logic that depends upon definitions of the terms.  The key words here are ‘being’ and, not surprisingly, ‘god’.  If we substitute these words the futility is exposed.

1. A widget exists
2. Widgets cannot spontaneously come into existence, they have to be “made” by something that came beforehand.
3. If our widget was made by or evolved from another, and so on, where did the first widget come from?
4. Some none-widget-like-process made the first widget
5. I’m calling that “f’narg”
6. What do we know about F’narg? Nothing except it isn’t a widget by definition.  Is it god?  You could call it that, I’ll stick to f’narg; it has NO connotations.  So, we now know exactly what we already did, all this widgety universe started with something and now it has a name, f’narg

What Shenton is doing here is that he’s completely ignoring the modal status of the terms ‘contingent’ and ‘necessary’ in the original Thomistic argument.  This isn’t that big of a deal but for him to completely dismiss it isn’t critiquing the argument on its own grounds.  He’s changing the argument (straw man).  P3 is obviously a misunderstanding of the argument.

April 1st, 2012

## VT Debate and Quote Mining

During the VT debate on the existence of God one of the atheists quoted a section of my blog concerning the issue of teleology and suicide.  The quote read:

If there is no God to provide meaning, value, and purpose, the only consistent option for humanity is suicide.[17]  Any becoming of life-affirming or life-denying acts are illusory.  Absolutely nothing can be a positive or negative act for the individual since there is nothing to determine a differentiation.  One is forced to face Nietzsche’s abyss and face the reality that no rope can scale the depth of nothingness.  One is only left with despair, guilt, and angst.  If one can determine that despair, guilt, and angst are not preferred then his only option is to eliminate such emotions and thoughts.  If there is no God, the only remedy for absurdism is to participate in Nietzsche’s abyss of nothingness:  suicide.

This was taken from a previous post of mine on how God provides meaning and purpose. In this quote I had a footnote reference to elaborate on one of these points.  This footnote (17) reads:

March 18th, 2012

## Upcoming VA Tech Debate on the Existence of God

I ask that you saturate me, my debate partner, the two atheists, and the audience is prayer.  For us, the theists, that will appropriately defend the truth and that our minds will be sharp, quick, and clear.  For the atheists, that they will seriously consider and reflect upon our arguments.  It’s not my expectation that this will have an immediate impact on them but that this could be a seed waiting to be sown.  For the audience, that they will be open and interested and for anyone truly seeking the truth of theism and Christianity that they will be drawn to it.

For anyone in the Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Lynchburg area please come to the event.  It will be held in the Colonial Hall auditorium at VA Tech March 21 from 7-9pm.  I’ll be posting my arguments after the debate here on the blog.

February 21st, 2012

## Existentialism and the Absurdity of Life (Audio)

Lecture Audio

Brief Abstract

The two divisions of absurdity, subjective and objective, by all evidence, binding.  If God does not exist then man lives in Bertrand Russell’s world of scaffolding despair.  Man is merely the product of pointless cause and effects with no prevision of the ends being achieved.  All the labors of the age, devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vase death of the solar system.  Man’s achievements are destined to be buried in the debris of the universe.  Only within the scaffolding of these [teleological] truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.[1]

If there is no God to provide meaning, value, and purpose, the only consistent option for humanity is suicide.[2]  Any becoming of life-affirming or life-denying acts are illusory.  Absolutely nothing can be a positive or negative act for the individual since there is nothing to determine a differentiation.  One is forced to face Nietzsche’s abyss and face the reality that no rope can scale the depth of nothingness.  One is only left with despair, guilt, and angst.  If guilt, and angst are not subjectively preferred then the only option is to eliminate such emotions and thoughts.  If there is no God, the only remedy for absurdity is to participate in Nietzsche’s abyss of nothingness:  suicide.

January 20th, 2012

## A Response to the Problem of an ‘Evil God’ as Raised by Stephen Law

The following is a guest blog post by Michael Rundle. Michael has a BA in Theology with Honors (PGCE).  His area of research is in the philosophy of René Descartes and twentieth century theology.

__________

Stephen Law has suggested that arguments such as the cosmological and teleological arguments could serve equally well to support an evil god hypothesis.

He says:

The challenge is to explain why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god.”1

This reminds me of the evil demon in Descartes’ Meditations. However, whereas Descartes was introducing the evil demon hypothesis for epistemological reasons Law is raising the evil god hypothesis as a challenge to theism. His challenge is for theological reasons.

December 21st, 2011

## Thomas Aquinas’ Doctrine of Simplicity

The doctrine that God is absolutely simple derives from the metaphysical considerations that God is a being whose existence is self-explanatory, absolutely perfect, and pure actuality.  Prior to Thomas, the doctrine has its most influential formulations in Augustine and Anselm.[1]  According to Thomas, God is his essence and his essence is to exist.[2]  If the existence of a thing differs from its essence, this existence must be caused either by some exterior agent or by its essential properties.[3]  The latter seems to be impossible for nothing, if caused to exist, can be the sufficient and efficient cause of its own existence.  Nothing can be self-caused and thus the latter option is insufficient. Therefore, if existence differs from essence then another being must cause existence.  This option is also an insufficient explanation for God’s essence and existence because another being cannot cause God because he is the first efficient cause—the uncaused cause.

There are three important claims Thomas commits to concerning the doctrine of divine simplicity.[4]

(1) It is impossible that God have any spatial or temporal parts that could be distinguished from one another as here rather than there or as now rather than then, and so God cannot be a physical entity.

(2) It is impossible that God have any accidental properties.

(3) All of God’s intrinsic properties must be essential to him, it must be acknowledged that whatever can be intrinsically attributed to God must in reality just be the unity that is his essence.

The first claim, (1), removes God from having any spacetime properties.[5]  God is completely timeless logically prior and posterior to the moment of creation.  From this timelessness it follows that God is absolutely immutable and eternal, which are all entailed from simplicity.[6]  The immutability that Thomas is advocating functions with respect to God’s intrinsic esse.  If God were to be able to change intrinsically that would suggest that God’s goodness and omnipotence could change.[7]  An extrinsic change may certainly be compatible with Thomas’ notion of immutability.  If God were to apply salvation to agent X then God has undergone an extrinsic change in the sense that agent X was once an enemy of God prior to salvation whereas post-salvation agent X is now a friend of God.  This is a relational change that has no effect on the intrinsic esse of God.  Thomas would argue that all creatures are really sustained,[8] known, and loved by God, but God would be the same whether creatures existed or not.  However, it is difficult to reconcile God’s genuine relationship with contingent beings if this modal distinction is permitted.  If it is the case that no modal distinction is possible and that modal collapse is a byproduct of simplicity then God really does stand in genuine relations to created beings and creation since it is not the case that what exists could not have not existed.[9]  Thus, God does not really undergo an extrinsic change in creating the world.  He just exists; creation and creatures come into existence with a real relation to God by being caused by God.[10]  This simply makes extrinsic change superfluous to God.

October 14th, 2011

## Resources on the Reasonable Faith UK Tour

William Lane Craig is starting off his UK Reasonable Faith Tour from October 17-26.  Below are some resources for information concerning the tour. (Thanks to drcraigvideos for the links and videos).

Websites on the UK Tour

Interviews on the Tour

Interview with Justin Brierley at Premiere Christian Radio in the UK

Interview with Kevin Harris with the Reasonable Faith Podcast

New Articles/Stories on the Tour

British Humanists Take to the Bunkers (Be Thinking)

Dawkins defends decision not to debate apologist William Lane Craig (Christianity Today)