Thursday, August 31, 2006

An article about the scary Christian Reconstructionists

I'm a firm believer in the separation of church and state, so this stuff scares me. You'll notice that, in spite of Ahmanson, the CRs think that ID has fallen into a compromise with secular humanism. I guess they think you give up six-day young earth creationism, then the devil Darwin takes control, and then pretty soon the resurrection of Jesus goes right out the window (not to mention double predestination).

Secularists aren't accustomed getting support from C. S. Lewis, but anyone who wants to defend the separation of church and state should read his "Meditation on the Third Commandment" from God in the Dock. It's the best case for church-state separation that I have ever seen.

HT: Richard Carrier (hey we agree on some things!)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

ID is Creatiionism? Not according to Answers in Genesis

This is Answers in Genesis's (YEC) critique of the ID movement.

Monday, August 28, 2006

When the Heart Gets What it Wants

Chuck Colson on Woody Allen.

On substance dualism, in answer to that question about beer, from Scott Brisbane

1. Problem of Interaction
The argument that we do not understand how a soul interacts with a physical body, appears to be based on an appeal to our ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam). For it assumes if we do not know “how” A causes B, especially if the two consist of different properties, that it is not reasonable to believe the two can interact. Yet, as Craig and Moreland point out, a tack can be moved by a magnetic field, and gravity acts on a planet millions of miles away.26 Gravitational forces and magnetic fields appear to have very different properties to the solid and spatially located entities they affect, and although we may not understand “how” such interaction takes place, it nonetheless does—just as we are alert to causation between the mind and body. As another example, even if one is not a theist, most do not view it as inconceivable to believe that God (given God’s existence) created the material universe and could act within despite each one being very different.
A second defense is that the question of “how” the mind interacts with the body may not even arise. As Craig and Moreland explain in depth:

One can ask how turning the key starts a car because there is an intermediate electrical system between the key and the car’s running engine that is the means by which turning the key causes the engine to start. The “how” question is a request to describe that intermediate mechanism. But the interaction between mind and body may, and most likely is, direct and immediate.27
If the interaction is direct and immediate, as Thomists would tend to believe, then there is no reason to assume there is an intermediate mechanism that facilitates the interaction.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Dualism Debate

Alan Cook over at Milinda's questions summarizes some of the debate on dualism both here and at Maverick Philosopher.

How not to be a compassionate conservative, or where is Apollo Creed when we need him?

This is from Nick Burbules' blog:


Awww . . . . a heartwarming story. Poor homeless man drives all the way from Louisiana to Washington DC in his FEMA trailer to plead the needs of Katrina victims before President Bush. Even better: he’s a white guy named Rockey (not one of those angry blacks down there). Except, hmm . . it wasn’t a FEMA trailer. And he’s a former chief executive of a company, not just your average Joe. And, uh, the Bush people INVITED him. And, well, yeah, he’s a former Republican candidate for office down there. And, waddya know, he seems mostly to have come to say “I wish we could have Bush for four more years.” Isn’t that a SWEET way to celebrate the anniversary of the disaster, and deflect criticism of Bush’s inaction and obliviousness at the time of the catastrophe?

VR: I'm sorry. People who care don't pull political publicity stunts like this. I grew up in Arizona and was a child when Barry Goldwater was running for President. Bush is supposed to be motivated by both Christian and conservative principles. I don't think that Christianity or conservatism is well-served by leaders whose policies seem to be "Do whatever benefits big business the most."

On the Narnia Movie

JD: By the way, Vic, I meant to ask you: what did you think of the new "Narnia" movie? Did you think it was true to the spirit of the books? And what about the much older cartoon version (which I find absolutely magical)?

VR; I didn't think they botched the story horribly, but somehow the movie didn't excite me as much as I had hoped that it would. I think Tolkien was better served by the movies than was Lewis. I was planning on blogging on the movie, but I never actually did. By the way, Prince Caspian has gotten the green light by the studio. And yes, I do remember, I think, the Episcopal Radio and TV cartoon movie, and even had a LWW movie night when I was program director of a local church way back when. There was also a PBS WonderWorks TV-movie series that, so far as I can remember, got as far as the Silver Chair. I especially remember the Silver Chair because Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor Who, was Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle.

I was dismayed to see Chronicles of Narnia McNuggets sold by McDonald's when the movie came out.

Most people don't know this, but John Beversluis reviewed the Chronicles of Narnia in the Reformed Journal when they came out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

C. S. Lewis and the Search for a Second Edition

Readers of this blog will be interested to know that John Beversluis will be producing a second edition of his controversial book C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion, wihch should appear next spring. But this time instead of the Christian Eerdmans press it will be published by Prometheus Books. In it he is going to take on some of the challenges posed by his critics and by more recent philosophical Lewis scholarship. He will, of course be defending the view that Lewis-style apologetics doesn't work.

Beversluis is generally thought of as the consummate Lewis-basher, and as such his original book, published in 1985, was called "despicable" and culpably wrong by one reviewer, while another credited him with picking Lewis's arguments apart like a cooked chicken. In some passages you get the impression that Beversluis thinks Lewis either dishonest or just not very bright, since some of his arguments, at least as Beversluis portrays them, could be refuted by a freshman student who had just passed Introduction to Logic. But in other passages you get a sense that he considers Lewis to be deeply honest and intellectually perceptive. You have to have a substantial share of intellectual and moral virtue to be the grieving hero of A Grief Observed protrayed in Beversluis's book. It is tempting to think that the positive portraits of Lewis found in the book are just so much patronizing, but I don't think so. Beversluis was also honest enough, in a subsequent review of A. N. Wilson, to object fiercely to Wilson's psychoanalyzing and to attack the view, favorably described in his book, that Lewis gave up on apologetics after his enounter with Anscombe. I am looking forward to seeing just how the positive and negative images of Lewis are balanced in the new edition.

Of course I'm going to have lot of disagreements with what he comes up with in the second edition. If you are somebody who thinks that Lewis just gets everything right and you can't see how anybody could resist Lewis's overwhelmingly powerful apologetics, then Beversluis is a good antidote, since he shows you how Lewis sounds to people on "the other side of the aisle." Critical exchange is how we progress in this discipline of ours. I think progress has been slow on getting dialogue going on the merits of Lewis's work in our discipline of philosophy, partly because of the enthusiasm of some of Lewis followers and the hostile-to-metaphsysics atmosphere in philosophy after the WWII. But this is beginning to turn around.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Why the old standard argument against substance dualism begs the question

Bill Vallicella issues a charge of begging the question against the argument that dualistic interactionism can't be true because we cannot see how the soul could interact with the body.

The argument against exclusivism

E= Exclusivism
C= Calvinism
U= Universalism

1. E (assumption for reductio).
2. E -> C (the argument of the Triabloggers).
3. C -> U (Johnny-Dee's argument).
4. E -> U (chain argument).
5. E -> ~U (true by definition)
6. E -> (U ^ ~U) 4, 5
7. ~ E

But of course for this argument to work premise 2 has to get around Craig's argument to the contrary, based on Molinism.

If exclusivism then Calvinism

The folks over at Triablogue have provided an argument that if Christian exclusivism is true, the Calvinism must also be true.
Makes sense; if the only people who are saved are born-again Christians, then some people certainly, as it were, have been "shut up into disobedience" through God's choice.

But before declaring victory for this argument, the Triabloggers need to take on a lion, none other than William Lane Craig, who argues for Christian exclusivism using a Molinist perspective.

Of course, my inclination is to say

If exclusivism then Calvinism.
Not Calvinism.
Therefore not exclusivism.

But then that's just me.

Where is the harsh review of Ann Coulter's Godless?

I was over at the Secular Web and didn't see what I expected to, a harsh, sarcastic review of Ann Coulter's best-seller Godless. What is the matter with you people?

I did find some stuff over at Panda's Thumb, though.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Steve Hays and Jason Engwer on Jesus Beyond the Grave

I am presenting a link to this review of Jesus Beyond the Grave, though its in-your-face tone is certainly not one that I would adopt.

Atheism of the gaps again

Steven Carr: I can't think of any downside to God helping doctors find a vaccine for HIV.

Does this mean God should help doctors find a vaccine for HIV?

VR: I can't see how the bacterial flagellum could have evolved. Does that mean that it didn't evolve?

An article by Timothy Simpson on racism

This reminds me of the days when our governor, Ev Mecham, referred to Black children as pickaninnies. HT: Jarrod Cochran

"Welcome to America, Macaca"
And you thought the days of racial politics were behind us.

At a campaign swing in southwest Virginia this week, VA Senator and Presidential wannabe George Allen made one of the most outlandish statements of the year when he mocked a young Virginian of Indian descent who had been sent by Allen's opponent, James Webb, to film Allen's event, just as Allen had sent two campaign workers to film Webb.

"This fellow over here with the yellow shirt - Macaca or whatever his name is - he's with my opponent," said Allen. "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

"Macaca" is the name of species of monkey and is a racial slur. Furthermore, the young man to whom Allen was referring, S.R. Sidarth, a 20 year-old student at the University of Virginia, is not only from America, he was born in Fairfax, VA, Allen's own state. In interviews following the incident, Sidarth said that he believed Allen was trying to draw attention to the fact that Sidarth was the only non-white person out of about a hundred at the gathering.

Allen has made the typical half-hearted apology, saying that he meant nothing by the slurs. His handlers are spinning the story that the slur was a reference to Sidarth's hair, which they described as a "Mohawk." But even if this were the case--and it is quite a stretch since, as Sidarth notes, he wears a "mullet" hairstyle, not a "Mohawk"--Allen has nothing reasonable to say about why he would make a very public assumption about where Sidarth was from based upon his skin color.

Same Old Politics of Division

Since Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, the GOP has increasingly played one part of America against another, using fear and prejudice as the primary weapons in their attempt to take control of the political process in America. Whether it was Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" anecdotes, George Bush the elder's Willie Horton ads or the Rovian "gay marriage" scare of 2004, the pattern is the same: find some group of people that can be used to frighten middle America and exploit that fear for maximal political gain.We should not forget, as Randall Balmer notes in his most recent book, that the formation of what has become the Religious Right began in the 1970s when the Carter Administration challenged the tax exempt status of the fundamentalist Bob Jones University because of its racist policies. These folks have turned divisiveness into an election-winning formula and this year is no different. 2006 has long been shaping up as the year of picking on immigrants for the GOP, so Allen's slurs can be seen as a timely reminder to the party faithful that he remains "on message." His remarks are also evidence that the racist views of his young adulthood have only been suppressed, not expunged.

Neither the American or the Christian Way

One would think that, in 21st century America, one could not get elected to dog catcher after having said such nasty things, much less US Senator. Sadly, Allen's remarks have only been met with yawns in most Republican circles to date. Two of the most important leaders of the Religious Right, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, whose empires are both in Allen's state of Virginia, haven't made a peep about what he said. Can you imagine how they would have reacted if Hillary Clinton had said something like this? The 700 Club would have been devoted to the subject for a month and Falwell would be using DVD copies of the event as a fundraising premium.

Both Robertson and Falwell have good reason to be angry no matter who said these things, both because it flies in the face of what it means to be an American, but more importantly, because it is the antithesis of what it means to be a Christian. We believe that Jesus came to break down the barriers that exist between groups who might otherwise be in conflict. The Apostle Paul made the definitive statement : "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." What Christians need to be doing at times when wedges are being driven between groups is to hold fast to the truth of this very good news and resist and reject those who would lead us down paths of hatred and division.

- Rev. Timothy Simpson, Christian Alliance for Progress and Change

This is not acceptable

John Loftus and Ed Babinksi have informed me that on The Discomfitter's website (which I take it is a parody site of Debunking Christianity) there was a comment put on in Loftus' name identifying himself as a homosexual pedophile. I looked at the site and found what they were talking about. And apparently it does link to Loftus' profile. Can anyone explain to me how this could have happened? I have no idea as to who's responsible for this, and it is particularly disturbing to me that this would have been done by a Christian. It does raise the specter of people using our names to put bogus messages on blogs.

Parody and humor have their place in religious dialogue, but this is about 50 yards over the line. I'm willing to listen to explanations, but if I don't get a good explanations soon I will have to do the only thing I can do (besides point this out), and that would be to ban the Discomfitter from Dangerous Idea.

In the real world, people want to know what your creed does to your character.

P.S. Because this post has been trolled, I am closing this entry to comments, and eliminating the ones that are there, only adding that probably Loftus should not accuse anyone in particular. I think it is someone having fun at everyone's expense. I am not going to ban anyone at this time, including the Discomfitter.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Amazon info for Wielenberg's "Value and Virtue"

Babinski on objective moral values

Ed Babinski: Please continue to define "subjective" and "objective," and let me know where your investigation takes you.
VR: What is unclear about my definition of "objective" and "subjective/"In any event, I have discussed this on other posts. Something is objective just in case it has a truth value that is not person-dependent or society dependent. "Murder is wrong" is objectively true if it is the case that even if a person thought it was OK to kill anyone who really ticked them off, or a society approved of such behavior (say, so long as the person were in a privileged class), it would nonetheless be really wrong.

If we say, for example, that we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that we have those rights even though the powers that be are de facto denying them, then we are committed to an objective standard of moral values. If, on the other hand, we hold that we possess these rights only in virtue of residing in a society that secures those for us, then we have a subjectivist view of moral values.

EB: I mean, how "objective" (or for that matter "subjective") do you have to be to acknowledge that you, as a healthy happy life-loving human being don't really appreciate being murdered in your sleep, or having objects you have worked to obtain simply taken from you; or that you don't really appreciate being called names or spat upon?

VR: Of course, I as an individual, do not like to be murdered in my sleep (though actually, if you are going to do me in, that would be the time to do it), or be called names, or spat upon. The problem is whether I should care whether or not other people are murdered, stolen from, or spat upon. They are, after all, other people. Now maybe it is in by best interests to be concerned about others. But it may not. An ancient Greek Sophist philosopher named Antiphon once suggested that self-preservation is the law of nature, and that we should follow social laws when people are watching, but when we are alone (and can get away with it), the law of nature. If I just murdered someone, the lawss of most societies require that I submit myself to the authorities for incarceration or execution. But while this what my society might expect, it cuts completely against my self-interest.

EB: I also suspect that interactions between large brained primates who were members of social species demonstrated such basic likes and dislikes millions of years ago.

VR: And, as long ago as that, humans learned to ask the question, "What's in it for me?"

Oh, and congrats on the brevity of your response.

William Lane Craig's Moral Argument for God

Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe

This is a summary of the arguments in Erik Wielenberg's Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe. Wielenberg is working on a new book on C. S. Lewis, Bertrand Russell and David Hume.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An idealist philosopher

This is the page for Daniel Hutto, a philosopher who proposes to deal with the problems in the philosophy of mind by accepting Absolute Idealism, a position Lewis accepted on his way between atheism and Christainity.

This one's not so dangerous

John DePoe wrote:

C. S. Lewis’s Lesser Known and Less Developed Dangerous Idea

Many people are familiar with the second argument that C. S. Lewis presents in chapter 3 of Miracles against naturalism. This line of reasoning has been extended and developed by Victor Reppert, and now it is referred to as “the argument from reason.” When I was re-reading Miracles, I noticed that Lewis brings up another argument against naturalism, which he ultimately leaves undeveloped.

The first, lesser known, argument that Lewis mentions against naturalism follows from quantum physics. Here’s the relevant paragraph from Miracles:

CSL: One threat against strict Naturalism has recently been launched on which I myself will base no argument, but which it will be well to notice. The older scientists believed that the smallest particles of matter moved according to strict laws: in other words, that the movements of each particle were “interlocked” with the total system of Nature. Some modern scientists seem to think — if I understand them — that this is not so. They seem to think that the individual unit of matter (it would be rash to call it any longer a “particle”) moves in an indeterminate or random fashion; moves, in fact, “on its own” or “of its own accord.” The regularity which we observe in the movements of the smallest visible bodies is explained by the fact that each of these contains millions of units and that the law of averages therefore levels out the idiosyncracies of the individual unit’s behaviour. The movement of one unit is incalculable, just as, if you tossed a coin a billion times, you could predict a nearly equal number of heads and tails. Now it will be noticed that if this theory is true we have really admitted something other than Nature. If the movements of the individual units are events “on their own,” events which do not interlock with all other events, then these movements are not part of Nature. It would be, indeed, too great a shock to our habits to describe them as super-natural. I think we should have to call them sub-natural. But all our confidence that Nature has no doors, and no reality outside herself for doors to open on, would have disappeared. There is apparently something outside her, the Subnatural; it is indeed from this Subnatural that all events and all “bodies” are, as it were, fed into her. And clearly if she thus has a back door opening on the Subnatural, it is quite on the cards that she may also have a front door opening on the Supernatural — and events might be fed into her at that door too.
JD: Lewis goes on to present his doubts about quantum theory (it sounds like he would have sided with Einstein and Schrödinger). Since he thinks this interpretation of quantum physics is highly suspect, he decides not to base an argument on it and moves on to the well-known argument from reason. I wonder what C. S. Lewis would say today about this argument in light of the staying power of quantum physics?
VR: I have seen several people, such as Nicholas Tattersall, Austin Cline, and Ed Babinski, take Lewis to task for his lack of understanding of quantum theory. But, to be honest, in light of the Hasker-Reppert 3-fold definition of naturalism (mechanism, causal closure, and supervenience) I don’t think naturalism has a problem with quantum mechanics per se. Of course naturalism has been historically understood deterministically, but there is no good reason to define naturalism in deterministic terms. So Lewis was right to base no argument on quantum mechanics.

Brains, Minds and Unicorns

Here's a critical treatment of my book, by a fellow Christian.

Reply to Hell's Handmaiden on Lewis's moral argument

I'm wondering if you have the structure of Lewis's argument right. In Lewis's writings he seems to be very concerned about defending the objectivity of moral values, in, for example, The Abolition of Man and The Poison of Subjectivism. Offering an anti-naturalist or theistic explanation for this fact is something that appears only in Mere Christianity. So, for example, C. Stephen Evans provides a formalization of Lewis's argument that goes like this.

1) Probably, unless there is a God, there cannot be objectively binding moral obligations.
2) There are objectively binding moral obligations.
3) Therefore, (Probably) God exists.

In this post I delineate three arguments for moral objectivity in Lewis: the argument from implied practice, the argument from underlying moral consensus, and the argument from reformers.

In other words, Lewis's arguments attempt to establish the existence of moral facts or truths, establishing premise 2 of the above argument. He then argues that the existence of moral facts or truths is best explained by theism and not be naturalism. As I read him, Lewis's overall idea is this: if there are objective moral truths, what sorts of facts could these truths follow from? If the physical is all there is, then it seems that moral truths will not follow from truths of this type. However if there is a God, then these moral facts can be explained. Therefore, the existence of objective moral values gives us a reason to believe that God does exist.

Your argument from social necessity is an interesting one. While some deviant codes would destroy society, I would be inclined to argue that the moral consensus Lewis is referring to is too rich and complex to be absolutely necessary for cultural survival, and that a society with a simple pecking order would survive equally well. A sense of justice for weak and underprivileged members of society, for example, would seem on the face of things to be, if anything, a Darwinian liability.

If this is the explanation for our moral consciousness, I would also have to ask whether there is an overriding reason for me to always act morally. Morality exists for the survival of a society, but perhaps in order for me to survive individually I might do something that keeps me flourishing but undermines my society as a whole. If this is why these moral rules exist, why should I as an indivual care (unless I happen to have the emotional disposition to care).

Lewis's Three Arguments for Moral Objectivity

I am reprinting a post I did back in November about moral objectivity.

Lewis's Three Arguments for Moral Objectivity
C. S. Lewis’s arguments for moral objectivity in Mere Christianity

First, an account of subjective vs. objective.

Something is objective just in case there can be real disagreements in which one party or the other must be mistaken. Both sides can’t be right. If I say O. J. killed Nicole and Ron, and you say he didn’t, one of us is mistaken. Even if, as the defense argued at the trial, there wasn’t evidence to settle the question beyond a reasonable doubt, the fact is that either O. J. did it, or he did not. So the question of O. J.’s guilt is an objective, not a subjective matter.

Something is subjective just in case there are no real disagreements and no one is really right or wrong. If I think McDonald’s burgers are better than Burger King’s, and you like Burger King’s better, we both can be right for ourselves. It’s a matter of what tastes good to us, and there is no grounds for dispute. As the Romans used to say “De gustibus non est disptandum” (in matters of taste there is no disputing).

Bertrand Russell said:

“The theory which I have been advocating is a form of the doctrine which is called the “subjectivity” of values. This doctrine consists in maintaining that, if two men differ about values, there is not a disagreement as to any kind of truth, but a difference of taste. If one man says “oysters are good” and another says “I think they are bad,” we recognize that there is nothing to argue about. The theory in question says that all differences as to values are of this sort, although we do not naturally think them so when we are dealing with matters that seem to us more exalted than oysters.”

This is the position that Lewis is criticizing both in Mere Christianity and in the Abolition of Man.

Lewis's first argument is the argument from implied practice. People are, at best, inconsistent moral subjectivists. He writes:

"But the most remarkable thing is this. whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking on to him he will be complaining 'It's not fair' before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying taht the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there iis no such ting as Right and Wrong--in other words, if there is no Law of Nature--what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?"

1. If ethics is subjective, then we should expect people to recognize that actions which they are inclined to think of as "wrong" are only wrong from their point of view.
2. But invariably, people view wrongs against themselves as actions that are really wrong.
3. Therefore moral values are objective and not subjective.

Some examples may help:

1) A student once wrote a paper for a professor defending moral subjectivism. He made extensive use of anthopological and sociological evidence and the paper was well-written. He put the paper in a blue folder and gave it to the professor. The professor returned it with an "F" and said "I do not like blue folders." The student, of course protested, pointing out all the effort that went into the paper. the teacher replied "Your paper argues that moral values are subjective, that they are a matter of preference?" Yes, replied the student. Well, the grade is an "F" I do not like blue folders. Of course the student could say "But that's not fair," but to do so would, of course, compromise his subjectivist principles.

2) A fellow philosophy teacher, who was an opponent of abortion and relativism, was having trouble with her 14-year old daughter. The daughter said "I think abortion is OK. That's my opinion. And if you don't think so, that's your opinion." I suggested to her (this is better philosophy than parenting)that she tell her daughter, "So long as you are under my roof, you do not have a right to your own opinion on abortion. So, until you change your mind, you're grounded." Of course, the daughter can reply "But that's not fair...I have a right to my opinion" but to do so would, once again,undermine her subjectivist principles.

3) In a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, Calvin was proclaiming that he didn't believe in ethics, that it's a dog eat dog world, that if someone is in your way you have to push them out of the way to get ahead, and that the end justifies the means. All of a sudden, Hobbes shoves Calvin to the ground. Calvin yells WHY DID YOU DO THAT? Hobbes replies, " You were in my way. Now you're not. The end justifies the means."

By the way one way of defending objective moral values, which we have discussed earlier on this blog, is from the standpoint of rights. If we have rights, that means there is an objectively binding moral obligation on the part of others to allow you to exercise those rights. Otherwise, the idea of rights makes no sense. If I have a right to life, that only makes sense if you have a moral obligation not to kill me.

Lewis’s second argument is the Argument from Underlying Moral Consensus:

1. If morality were a subjective matter, we would expect to find sizable differences of fundamental principles amongst moral codes.
2. But there is, in general, agreement concerning fundamental principles amongst moral codes.
3. Therefore, morality is objective rather than subjective.

Yes, there are differences in moral codes. However, some differences in moral codes can be explained in terms of differences about the facts. People don’t burn witches today (Lewis’s example) not because using Satan’s supernatural powers wouldn’t a serious offense against humanity to warrant severe punishment, but because we no longer believe people actually have and use such powers.

Consider also the differences concerning human sacrifice. (Ollie’s example) The ancient Aztecs thought it was right to sacrifice humans, we do not. However, the Aztecs and ourselves both believe that we have a prima facie obligation not to kill people. The Aztecs, however, believed that there were gods who had the right to demand human sacrifices, and when they are demanded, the duty not to kill is overridden by the moral requirement to do what the gods command. The Abrahamic tradition, going back to, well, Abraham, maintains that the true God does not make those sorts of demands.

Other differences can be explained in terms of how widely we expand the concept of “neighbor.” Moral codes require that we treat our neighbor with respect, but we may limit the concept of “neighbor” to one’s fellow tribe member, or countryman, or a member of one’s own race, etc. It is Jesus’s contribution (in the parable of the Good Samaritan) to our moral understanding that we ought to assess the question “Who is my neighbor” from the bottom of a ditch.

“I only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of doublecrossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might as well imagine a country in where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.” (p. 19 in my edition).

The third argument for moral objectivity is the Argument from Reformers. There have been reformers in the history of the human race whom we believe to have improved our understanding of what is right and wrong. An example (mine) would be Rosa Parks. Parks challenged the principle that African-American people should acquiesce in being treated as inferiors and challenged the Birmingham bus system’s policy of requiring African-American riders to give up their seats. Because of her stand, and that of Martin Luther King and other leaders of the civil rights movements, laws were changed in such a way as to require equal treatment under the law.

But if you think that the laws of the state of Alabama are more just today than they were when Rosa refused to give up her seat, then you are applying an objective standard of justice. If on the other hand, you maintain that morals are just social conventions, then Rosa’s actions would have to be considered wrong, because they contravened the social convention of the time.

So the argument is:

1. If moral values are subjective, then moral codes cannot improve, since there is no objective standard by which to judge one code better than another.
2. But the work of people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks shows that moral codes can be made more just.
3. Therefore, moral values are objective rather than subjective.
posted by Victor Reppert @ 8:40 PM

Monday, August 14, 2006

Exbeliever on Evil #3

EXB wrote:
P1a: If the creator of this world were omniscient, omnipotent, and free, then "he" could choose any goal for this world that he wanted.
P2a: If the creator of this world were omnibenevolent, then "he" would choose only those goals for this world that did not involve pain and suffering.
P3a: This world involves pain and suffering.
C1a: Therefore, the creator of this world did not choose only those goals for this world that did not involve pain and suffering.
C2a: Therefore, the creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, free, and omnibenevolent.

P1b: If the creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, free, and omnibenevolent, then the Christian God is not the creator of this world.
P2b: The creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, free, and omnibenevolent.
Cb: Therefore, the Christian God is not the creator of this world.

God can choose any goals for the world that he wants, but some goals cannot be achieved simply by fiat, even for an omnipotent being. On the assumption that free will is incompatible with determinism, God cannot unilaterally achieve the goal of a world in which everyone freely does what is right. In order to prove his case, the atheist must prove that that a robotic world in which everyone does what is right is better than a world of free creatures which includes suffering, or argue that freedom and determinism are compatible. Neither of these cases is proven to my knowledge, therefore the atheist's case has not been made.

In response to Steve Hays EXB wrote.

1) Steve assumes the position that I predicted and described in my support of this argument. He says that there are second-order goods that cannot be achieved without some evil. He forgets, though, that his god sets these rules. His god pulls the strings. His god could have chosen any goal for the earth. He could have chosen goals that did not involve evil in any way. One goal is not "better than" another if "better than" is measured only by the accomplishment of god's goal.

But is the absence of suffering the only good? If so, then perhaps a world without sentient creatures would be a good idea. I maintain that having a world in which god can be freely loved an obeyed is worth having even if it includes pain and suffering. Am I as a Christian committed to values that would rule this out? if so, I would like to see the argument.

Later EXB writes:

1) Steve still doesn't seem to understand that his god was not limited in the goals he could have chosen for his creation. He could have chosen a world in which he only dealt in first-order goods (e.g. Heaven).

Aha. The Heaven-only universe. But on free will theology, while God can give heaven to people after they choose to become a heavenly kind of person, God cannot give heaven to free creatures unless that choice is made.

It may be argued that this world would not be "as good as" our own. A Christian, however, defines "goodness" (as it pertains to the state of the world) by how it achieves god's goals.

In other words, this world is "good" (according to Christians) because it accomplishes god's goal for it. To say that another world in which pain and suffering were not a part would not have been "as good" makes no sense if a world's goodness is defined by god's goals.

Yes I agree that this line of thought leads to a kind of theological voluntarism where what is good is just what God wills, and if God sovereignly wills lots of eternal pain and suffering for almost everyone, that is good it is God who wills it. I'm not a theological voluntarist.

Let me try this another way. Did god choose the goal he did for this world because it was good per se or is this world good because it accomplishes god's goals? If the former, on what basis is this possible world "good"? What makes a possible world good, bad, or indifferent? Christians normally only say something is good if it works according to god's plan. If this is the case, then any other world would be just as good as this one because it fulfilled god's plan. There would be no reason for god to pick a possible world that had pain and suffering in it because it would be just as good as a world that did not have pain and suffering in it.


2) I agree that different scenarios would entail different "trade-offs," but there is no reason that god would have chosen a scenario in which pain and suffering was involved. To him, goodness means accomplishing his goals. He could have chosen any goal.

Unless good to be achieve necessarily involves the possibility of suffering.

If this god is omnibenevolent, then it follows that he would not inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on creatures. The pain and suffering is necessarily "unnecessary" because god could have chosen a different end for his creation.

The good goal of free love and obedience requires the possibility of suffering.

And yes, I disagree with my beloved Calvinist brethren on these matters. See here.

Keith Parsons against Varghese's case for a creator

My former housemate strikes again.

On comments

I have made it a policy not to ban people from this blog. Some fellow bloggers have taken exception to this policy, and I respect their opinions. That doesn't mean I never will. But if one person is banned, then where do you draw the line? I don't want to be accused of screening my commenters in a such a way that only those who agree with me can comment. I should remind everyone that poor behavior reflects badly on the beliefs you are trying to defend. People want to know if a belief is true, but it is natural also to wonder what kind of person your favorite belief is making you. I sometimes rely on other commenters to say some of the harsh things I would like to say, but prefer not to. I think there is as place for sharply worded criticism.

At the same time, some things do tick me off. Comments that are long and off-topic are annoying. If your post is long and is on-topic, it had better be interesting. In my philosophy classes I tell my students that if they exceed the page limit on the paper, I won't penalize them so long as they don't bore me. If they do, I have the right to stop reading and put a grade on the paper without reading it to the end. I'm not grading your comments, but you get my drift.

Second, I really dislike ridicule, from either side of the fence. Let's take Christianity as an example. You may think it's false, you may think there is good reason to believe that it is false. But it is accepted by thinking, reflective individuals who do ask serious questions. We may be wrong, but we're not stupid. For example, I read the writings of Bertrand Russell when I was 18 years old. When I was in college I was a pain in the rear end to all my Christian friends because, as one of them put it, I had an unusual talent for raising objections to Christianity. I felt the force of the wishful thinking objection and wanted to be sure that I didn't believe just because I wanted to believe. I majored in philosophy because I knew I would be bothered by the intellectual problems Christianity faces, and I wanted to consider them now rather than later. To hear some atheists talk, people like Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, William Hasker, Robert and Marilyn Adams, William Alston, C. S. Lewis, and your humble blogger are simply stupid or beguiled by their wishes. Now this is not an appeal to authority; I am not saying that Christianity must be true because all these people believe it. But I think that there are enough serious and reflective Christians at the highest levels of education to rule out ridicule. Oh and I forgot about Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project.

I realize that some people, on Biblical grounds, suppose that atheists are in a state of bad faith; that they believe what they do because of the noetic effects of sin. I've gotten into that issue before; whatever may be true on that issue, my evaluation of the evidence for and against theism is such that I do not think a claim of this sort can be defended by philosophical argument. Even if you subscribe to the Bad Faith Theory of Atheism, I consider the ridicule heaped on atheists that I see on some blogs to be a bad witness. In any event, it is hard for me to believe that atheists like William Rowe, or my undergraduate teacher Ted Guleserian, are in bad faith any more than the next person.

Again, I do think there is a place for sharply worded criticisms. And it's hard to see the line between sharply worded criticisms and ridicule. Nevertheless, there is such a line.

If you really think, for exmaple, that all Christians are mindless wishful thinkers, think twice. Then three times and four times.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Outstanding resource page for the trilemma

This resource page has the Davis original article that I recommended, the reply by Howard-Snyder, and the reply by Davis. So, contrary to what I had thought earlier, you can do your homework on this argument online.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Here is the Fundy Atheist site again

Let me point out that I am posting this just to make a point and that I do not, do not, do not, endorse all the contents of this parody. Nevertheless I really do think that many of the intellectual faults attributed to "fundamentalists", in particular dogmatism, are possessed in large measure by atheists as well as Christians.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Vallicella on the argument from indexicals

Vallicella argues, as I was arguing earlier, that indexicality presents a serious problem for materialism. Geoffrey Madell's book is, in my estimation, a densely written but outstanding critique of materialism.

I have been wondering lately if I should be presenting the Argument from reason as one symptom among several of a general problem with materialism.

Former Klansman finds Christ and becomes a Lewis admirer

Now these are the stories I like to hear. HT: Doug Beyer.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Exbeliever's argument from evil #2, with my responses

Argument #2 (general):

P1a: If the creator of this world were omniscient and omnipotent, then "he" could create a world in which all of his goals could be accomplished without pain and suffering.
P2a: If the creator of this world were omnibenevolent, then "he" would create a world in which all of his goals were accomplished without pain and suffering.
P3a: This world is not without pain and suffering.
Ca: Therefore the creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.

P1b: If the creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then the Christian God is not the creator of this world.
P2b: The creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.
Cb: Therefore, the Christian God is not the creator of this world.

I believe P1a is true by definition. A being that is both omniscient and omnipotent would have both the wisdom and strength to accomplish his goals without inflicting (or allowing) pain and suffering.

VR: What if his goals were to make it possible for human creatures to love him freely, without being causally determined to love him. If this were God’s purpose, then God would have to open the possibility that human creatures would refuse to love him and would oppose his will. Far from being true by definition, this premise is highly doubtful.

It seems to me that P2a is also true by definition. Given a choice between accomplishing a goal with pain and suffering and accomplishing the same goal without it, a being that is all good would not inflict this pain and suffering because it would be unnecessary.

VR: Unless that pain and suffering were necessary to a greater good.

Perhaps it could be argued that "pain and suffering" are not "evil" and are, therefore, irrelevant to the discussion of a benevolent being. I feel this stance, however, is unusual. It seems that most humans agree that pain and suffering is evil. It seems to me that one arguing an unusual position should bear the burden of that claim. I realize that I am the one equating pain and suffering with evil, but I feel that since this is such a commonly held belief it is not my burden to defend this in detail. If asked, I will attempt to do so, however.

VR: I don’t know whether a life of eternal blessedness which began with an earthly career which included a good deal of pain and suffering would be better than an earthly career with a lot of suffering followed by an eternity of everlasting blessedness. In a way, I would think that I would appreciate the blessedness in heaven more if I were denied it on earth.

Denial of P3a seems antithetical to Christian doctrine and irreconcilable with human experience. If anyone disagrees, I will accept my burden to elaborate on this point.

Conclusion Ca follows from the premises.

Justification of P1b is taken, again, from Christian doctrine (or, perhaps, it is more appropriate to say that it is taken from Evangelical doctrine--e.g. Process theologians would not agree with this premise). Since my audience is mostly Evangelical, however, I do not feel the need to justify a premise derived from their own theology.

P2b is justified on the basis of P1a, P2a, and P3a above as it is simply the conclusion derived from those premises.

Conclusion Cb follows from the premises.

It seems to me that a possible defeator of this argument would be the claim that the Christian God could have had pain and suffering as a goal for humanity. In other words, while it might be true that an omnipotent and omniscient being could create a world in which many goals could be accomplished with or without pain and suffering, it might be the case that the particular goal of the Christian God in creating the world involved pain and suffering as its overall objective. Even an omniscient and omnipotent being could not accomplish a goal that included inflicting pain and suffering without pain and suffering.

This position, however, seems to create another problem. It seems to insist that the Christian God could not have chosen another goal for the world that did not involve pain and suffering. It seems to imply that the Christian God was not free to choose his own goals for the world; that he had to choose one that involved pain and suffering. This, however, seems to refute Christian doctrine of the Christian God's freedom, which leads into Argument #3.

VR: Some pain and suffering is involved in being a separate creature from God; if there is more than one person in the picture then the interests of one person can always conflict with those of others. This, however, makes possible the virtuous act of self-sacrifice; however, if we are free in the libertarian sense, the act of self-sacrifice might not be performed.

Let's do our homework, shall we?

The famous "Liar, Lunatic or Lord" argument is a favorite target for ridicule, and here we go again in "Debunking Christianity." I tried to look at the argument from all sides on this blog a few months ago. You can find those articles in the the December 2005 archive. Second, it might behoove some people who want to discuss this argument to go a little bit beyond the narrow confines of the famous Lewis paragraph and actually read Stephen Davis's sophisticated redevelopment of the argument from the book he co-edited on the Incarnation. Of course people like to mention Howard-Snyder's rebuttal of the argument which responds to Davis, but they ignore the fact that Davis responded in the same issue of Faith and Philosophy, and in my mind, he responded effectively. Also in Kenneth Samples book "Without a Doubt" he has a chapter entitled "Is Jesus a Man, Myth, Madman, Menace, Mystic, Martian or the Messiah," in which he replies to the charge that the arguments commits the false dilemma fallacy. (Baker Books, 2004, 104-119). He writes:

The false alternatives fallacy can be avoided by giving cardul consideration to a wider range of options--as long as they constitute plausible explanations. All possible reasonable explanations should be included, Howdver, only a limited number of reasonable explanations exist concerning who Jesus is.

It would be also be fallacious to stubbornly reserve judgment concerning a reasonable explanatory hypothesis just because a person hasn't exhausted all possible or conceivable alternatives. Sometimes skeptics commit the ad futurus (appeal to the future) fallacy byu assuming that the future will undoubtedly reveal a purely natural (or secular) explanation for the life of Jesus.

Also, if it turns out that this argument is not successful, it would still be the ad hominem fallacy to argue that this discredits Lewis's arguments as a whole. His arguments must, in any case, be analyzed individually, on their own merits. I have not myself defended this argument of Lewis's in the way that I have defended some others. The issues are too complex for us to either glibly affirm the argument or to ridicule it.

Suppose you were taking my History of World Religion class I walked in and said "Boy are you guys in luck. This class is about religion, which is largely all about God. And guess what. I, Dr. Reppert, your teacher, am God. You heard that right." If you then went on to ascertain that I really meant what I said and that I didn't mean it in some Hindu sense, wouldn't you call the mental health authorities? Or at least drop the course?

Monday, August 07, 2006

From William Lane Craig: Leaving the fold because Christianity is irrelevant?

During July I spoke a couple of times locally to high school and college kids home for the summer. Charity had told me about a wonderful Christian couple she had met at work who have three children in their early twenties—Charity’s age—all of whom have now fallen away from the faith. When Charity asked one of the daughters why she was no longer involved, her reply was, “It’s just not relevant to my life.” This reply absolutely baffled me. I said to Charity, “She must be presupposing that Christianity isn’t true.” (If Christianity isn’t true, then, of course, it’s not relevant to one’s life.) But it just floored me that any intelligent person could think that Christianity could be true and yet irrelevant. This got me so worked up that I decided to speak to the students on the topic “Is Christianity Irrelevant?” I argued that if Christianity is true, then it is hugely relevant because (1) there is meaning to your life, (2) there are objective values in life, (3) there is a purpose to your life, (4) there is hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of life, (5) there is forgiveness for your guilt, and (6) you can know God personally for eternity. Clearly, if Christianity is true, then it’s enormously relevant! So the question is, is it true? Well, that was the topic the students wanted me to discuss the following week, and so we did. I laid out a basic case for the truth of the Christian faith and then we talked about it. There were a couple of thoughtful atheists in the group that night, and I especially enjoyed discussing their questions with them.

It is amazing to me as well that Christians should somehow think of Christainity as irrelevant without coming to believe that it is false. But you know what is even more amazing? Church leaders who "dumb down" the content of Christianity for the sake of making it relevant. Some people want to make the church more seeker-friendly, and I find that fully acceptable. But my idea of seeker-friendly is sponsoring open-dialogue sessions in which it is considered OK to consider perspectives other than a Christian perspective. So if someone has doubts about the faith, we don't chase them away with churchy talk, we create as much open dialogue as possible. At the same time we must not de-emphasize, but rather must emphasize, the fact that Christianity is a claim that is either true or false, if it's true it's the deepest truth about God's relation to humanity and it is on that account as relevant as it could be, and if it's not true it's about as relevant as Ptolemaic astronomy.

I have a warm place in my heart for atheists, because these people realize that Christianity must be either true or false, and that matter a heck of a lot whether or not it is true or false. The idea that one can decide the question of whether or not to be a Christian, not on whether it is true, or whether it is relevant, means that people do not understand what Christianity is about.

The following essay on C. S. Lewis by Dallas Willard speaks to this matter.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Exbeliever on Problems of Evil Part I

Friday, July 28, 2006
Problems of Evil
I don't think it is an atheist's duty to make an argument against the existence of a god or gods anymore than it is an aleprechaunist's duty to make an argument against the existence of leprechauns. As I argued here, it is up to the person who is claiming to know of the existence of a being outside of another person's experience to give that other person reason to believe the existence of this being is possible. In other words (and as I have also argued elsewhere), it is reasonable for a person to be skeptical of existence claims outside of that person's experience. It is reasonable for that person to ask for reasons to believe in a being outside of her experience if another is making an existence claim that is, in fact, outside of her experience.

Does an aexternalworldist have to provide an argument against the existence of the external world? Or does the believer in the external world have to prove that the external world exists.

Let's take another issue, causal relationships. According to David Hume, when we make a causal inference, what we immediately experience is
1) a spatial contiguity
2) a temporal succession
3) a constant conjunction between event types

This, however, does not entail that one event necessitates another. The idea that causal necessity exists does not, according to Hume, come from our experience. It is something that comes naturally to us; we can't stop thinking in terms of on event causing another, but there's nothing given in our experience that proves that causal necessity exists. The existence of causal necessity is outside our experience, and can't be proven by a priori reasoning. By exbeliever's argument, the acausalist is completely victorious. But I'll bet exbeliever continues to cling irrationally to his blind faith in causal relationships, and when he goes to six-story building, he always leaves by the door and not the window.
I do not believe in a god or gods because I have seen no reason to believe such an entity or entities exist. The reasons that I have seen or heard for the existence of a god have all been unsound.

I do not disbelieve because the case for a god or gods has been disproven, but rather because the case is still unproven. I invite Christians and other theists to present their reasons for believing something like a god can exist.

Do we need to prove that the God can exist, or that he does exist? If that's all there is to the burden of proof, I'll shoulder it gladly. As I indicated earlier, there is no contradiction in the idea that "God exists," therefore, it God can exist. QED.

EXB: That said, however, I think there are problems of evil [not a singular "problem of evil"] that make the Christian belief that a good god exists improbable. While I am not so bold as to claim that these problems disprove the existence of any god or gods, I do contend that they place Christians in an awkward, defensive position in which they must adopt several ad hoc, and unconventional, beliefs in order to maintain their god's goodness.

EXB: That said, I will now present a few arguments that I believe are problematic for Christians. While none of them may be unanswerable, I believe that they force the Christian to accept answers that stretch the credibility of their openness to the "falsifibility" [forgive the word invention, I can't think of a better one] of their beliefs. In other words, I believe the "answers" that Christians invent for these problems demonstrate that their faith is not subject to falsifibility, and that their faith is, therefore, not subject to reason.

Argument #1:

P1: An omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent being would not commit an evil act.
P2: Ordering an army to kill non-combatant women, children, and infants is an evil act.
P3: The Christian God ordered an army to kill non-combatant women, children, and infants.
C: Therefore, the Christian God is not omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent.

I have seen an exchange between EXB and Steve Hays of Triablogue on this. See here and EXB's reply here

Interestingly enough, John Beversluis presented these kinds of issues in letter to C. S. Lewis, and Lewis responded by saying:

Yes. On my view one must apply something of the same sort of explanationto, say, the atrocities (and treacheries) of Joshua. I see the grave danger in doing so; but the dangers of believing in a God whom we cannot but regard as evil, adn then, in mere terrified flattery call Him "good," and worshipping him, is a still greater danger. The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scxripture is to prevail when they conflict. I think the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible...

But, ... having said all this, we must apply it with fear and trembling. Some things which seem to us bad may be good. But we must not consult our consciences trying to feel a thing good when it seems to us totally evil. WE can only pray to God if there is an invisible goodness hidden in such things, GOd, in his own good time will enable us to see it. If we need to For perhaps sometimes God's answer might be "What is that to thee?" The passage may not be "addressed to our (your or my) condition" at all.

In other words, EXB's argument presupposes that a Christian theist is committed in some absolute sense to inerrancy. Now an inerrantist may want to defend the biblical ban on the Amalekites, and we might want to see as far as possible what reasons could be given for God's actions here. But this would not be a requirement for the Christian theist per se, unless you want to argue that C. S. Lewis was not a Christian theist.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Exbeliever on the Argument from Reason

A lot of people seem to want me to take a swing at Exbeliever's response to my argument from reason. I should begin by saying that I didn't invent the argument. It was most famously defended by a Christian apologist that Exbeliever can be perhaps be excused for never having heard of, C. S. Lewis. A version of the argument can be found in the book Scaling the Secular City by another obscure apologist by the name of J. P. Moreland. And there's a really obscure philosopher from the University of Notre Dame who has developed what is known as the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, which bears a family resemblance to the arguments from reason that I defend. His name is Alvin Plantinga.

In general, the argument makes a distinction between naturalistic world-view, in which the fundamental entities of the universe lack mental characteristics (atoms, or maybe something else, but not something that at all resembles a mind), and world-views such as theism, but also pantheism and absolute idealism, according to which the fundamental causes of the universes are mental, or as Lewis would say, more like a mind than anything else. The argument from reason, if successful, gives us a good reason to suppose that one of the mentalistic world-views must be true and that naturalism is false. It is designed to enhance the likelihood that theism is true by eliminating some alternatives, alternatives that are in fact the most popular non-theistic world-views.

It's a good idea to look at what happened in Lewis's own case to see how the argument contributed to his coming to belief in God. Lewis had been what was then called a "realist", accepting the world of sense experiece and science as rock-bottom reality. Largely through conversations with Owen Barfield, he became convinced that this world-view was inconsistent with the claims we make on behalf of our own reasoning processes. In response to this, however, Lewis became not a theist but an absolute idealist. It was only later that Lewis rejected absolute idealism in favor of theism, and only after that that he became a Christian. He describes his discussions with Barfield as follows:

(He) convinced me that the positions we had hitherto held left no room for any satisfactory theory of knowledge. We had been, in the technical sense of the term, “realists”; that is, we accepted as rock-bottom reality the universe revealed to the senses. But at the same time, we continued to make for certain phenomena claims that went with a theistic or idealistic view. We maintained that abstract thought (if obedient to logical rules) gave indisputable truth, that our moral judgment was “valid” and our aesthetic experience was not just pleasing but “valuable.” The view was, I think, common at the time; it runs though Bridges’ Testament of Beauty and Lord Russell’s “Worship of a Free Man.” Barfield convinced me that it was inconsistent. If thought were merely a subjective event, these claims for it would have to be abandoned. If we kept (as rock-bottom reality) the universe of the sense, aided by instruments co-ordinated to form “science” then one would have to go further and accept a Behaviorist view of logic, ethics and aesthetics. But such a view was, and is, unbelievable to me.

C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (San Diego, Harcourt Brace, 1955), 208.

So did the argument he accepted make theism more likely? It certainly did. In his mind it gave him a reason to reject his previously-held naturalism. Now you might think of Absolute Idealism an atheistic world view; I don't think you would want to call pantheism atheistic, but the argument runs a reductio absurdum against non-mentalistic world-views.

Consider the following argument:

1. Either the fundamental causes of the universes are more like a mind than anything else, or they are not.
2. If they are not, then we cannot make sense of the existence of reason.
3. All things being equal, world-views that cannot make sense of the existence of reason are to be rejected in favor of world-views that can make sense of the existence of reason.
4. Therefore, we have a good reason to reject all worldviews reject the claim that the fundamental causes of the universe are more like a mind than anything else.

Now if you want to hold out the idea that a idealist world-view is nevertheless atheistic, then my argument merely servces to eliminate one of the atheistic options. But suppose someone originally thinks that the likelihoods are as follows.

Naturalism 50% likely to be true.
Idealism 25% likely to be true.
Theism 25% likely to be true.

And suppose that someone accepts a version of the argument from reason, and as a result naturalism drops 30 percentage points. Then those points have to be divided amongst theism and idealism. So the status of theism is enhanced by the argument from reason.

Exbeliever writes:

Notice that the skeptic is simply to assume that something like a god can exist and after assuming this, it can be posited as an explanation of a phenomenon like reason. Much like presuppositionalism and its TAG argument, Reppert demands that the skeptic presuppose the most controversial aspect of his worldview (i.e. the existence of a non-corporal being who reasons without a physical brain) and then accept this presupposition as a valid "solution" to a "problem" of epistemology.

Now we have to tease out what he means by can. If "can" means logically possible, then all I need to show that is that there is no contradiction in the assertion "God exists." And I think that's pretty clear. If on the other hand, he means "it is plausible that God exists," well, the plausibility of a belief differs from person to person. There is no person-independent way of assessing antecedent probabilities, at least as I see it. So yes, if someone thinks that the existence of God is hopelessly implausible, he might conclude either that there must be some naturalistic understanding of the phenomenon of reason that has not yet been discovered, or he can conclude that some non-theistic mentalistic world-view must be true. But that does not alter the fact that the argument provides a substantial reason for believing in God. I have never said that the argument is absolutely decisive, in fact I have disappointed some supports of the argument with the modesty with which I present my arguments.

In EXB's discussion of the explanations for computer malfunctions, it seems we have a reason for preferring computer sprites to infallible designers. If these really are the only options, then evilcomputerspiritism must be accepted. It's just that we all know perfectly well that there are more alternatives, and the most plausible explanations are not on the table. So the argument is a false dilemma. In the case of my argument, where are the "third alternatives" other than what I have identified, namely, pantheism and idealism?

EXB writes: What Reppert has done in his argument is hidden the fact that the idea of a god, itself, must be plausible if it is to be called on as a "solution" to an epistemological "problem." To solve an extraordinary problem, he has posited an even more extraordinary solution. Simply having any old "solution" does not make a worldview superior to one that can offer no solution. The solution, itself, must be plausible; otherwise, it is simply magnifying the problem of the existence of a phenomenon by requiring justification of the existence of an even greater phenomenon.

Now here, instead of saying that the existence of God needs to be possible, he is now saying that it needs to be plausible. But of course I am trying to render it plausible by attempting to show that it makes sense of reason. In doing so I am at least attempting to enhance the plausibility of theism. So to say that I must first show that the existence of God is plausible before I can present an argument that the existence of God is plausible is to involve me in an infinite regress. EXB is just begging the question here.

As for what is "oustide my experience" the existence of an external physical world is, strictly speaking, outside my experience, in that it is consistent with all my experiences that there is no external world and that I am a brain in a vat being given experiences of objects that have no external reference. In other words, it is perfectly possible for me to have the relevant experiences in a world in which the objects do not exist, just as it is possible for me, after using a liberal amount of Jack Daniels to be, as philosophers would say, "appeared to red-goatly" even if there is no red goat in my presence. So EXB's burden of proof argument is a road to radical skepticism about a lot more than just religion.

I will leave EXB"s criticisms my critique of materialism for another occasion, pointing out only that I have dealt in some detail with criticisms of the various arguments from reason on this blog, including those of Richard Carrier. In fact, I redated three of those responses to the past month.