Posts Tagged ‘reason’

Theism or Atheism – Which is More Logical?

In having several different discussions, something that just became evident to me is how much the debates between theists and atheists rely on logic. Truthfully, I hadn’t heard terms like special pleading, begging the question or non sequitur until I jumped into the fray. And yet they are constantly being tossed around in these arguments, knocking down arguments and providing objections and rebuttals.

That got me thinking a bit. If logic and philosophical arguments are such a big piece of the issue, then what logical arguments are being discussed. In all of my time here on WordPress, I’ve seen many positive arguments for theism, like the Kalam cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, the argument for soul, the argument from desire, the argument for the veracity of the resurrection of Christ. I’ve made many of these arguments myself on this blog.

But for atheism, the positive arguments are scarce to non-existent. Shouldn’t a worldview that predicates itself on being “critical thinkers” and using “logic and reason” to show people the light of the day have more positive arguments on its side? I mean, realistically the only positive argument I can think of for atheism is the problem of evil, and that’s not even really a positive argument for atheism so much as a negative argument against theism.

So maybe someone can help me out here, but are there really any good positive arguments for atheism? My feeling is that if a worldview is true, there will be reasons to believe it is true. Just like if I believe that atheism is false, that doesn’t mean that theism is true. I need reasons to believe in favor of theism.

If there are no good positive arguments for atheism, then can atheists really contend that they come from the more logical position? Perhaps this is why atheism argues so hard for methodological naturalism, because that is really all it has to stand on if it can’t use philosophy or logic in favor of its position.

It’s just one more thing to make me (and hopefully any fence-sitters out there) convinced that theism has a much firmer foundation as a worldview, and I have solid justification in my belief in God. 🙂

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Evidence for God’s Existence – The Argument for Intangible Soul

As we wrap up the series of arguments, we get to my own argument. I haven’t really heard this one posited anywhere else, and so I tentatively step out on my own here. I am honest enough with myself to admit that there may be holes in this argument that could come to light. If any of the four arguments bears attack, this one is probably it.

Now that I’ve tipped off any skeptics to lick their chops, let me explain the main point of the argument, give the hypothetical syllogism for the logic of the argument, then give the supporting evidence.

The main point of the argument is this: intangible concepts, such as ideas, words, emotions, moral characteristics, etc. cannot be reasonably shown to have material origins. The intangible soul, described plainly by theists and more specifically Christian theists, is the best explanation for the origin of intangible concepts.

The logical argument is this:

1) If intangible concepts exist, then the best explanation for the origin of these concepts is the soul.
2) Intangible concepts exist.
3) Therefore, the best explanation for the origin of these concepts is the soul.

Now the only objections to the second condition in the argument might come from the New Age movement, where some believe that our entire existence is illusory. I can’t really respond to that objection without going into all of the fundamental flaws with an illusory existence, so I’m going to put that possible objection aside and focus on the biggest potential problem with the argument: that the best explanation for the origin of intangible concepts is the soul.

For our purposes, I’m only going to take the argument far enough as to suppose the inference to the best explanation of soul. I think the logic would follow that the best explanation for the existence of soul is that it is created by God and instilled in us from birth, but that is not the goal of this post. If there is an objection at this level, perhaps we will address it in the comments. But I tend to believe that the greater number of possible objections will come in the initial step, rather than this second level. So let’s stick to the top level and reason it out first, then work our way down if necessary.

Now, the basis for the argument is rooted in taxonomy and genetics, with the simple scientific belief that something that originates from something else must contain the markers of its predecessors. A baby deer, for instance, will gather its genetic code from its parents. And deer are classified with other animals that have similar features into one family or genus, or phylum, etc., so the taxonomy tree is completed.

Now if we apply the same scientific method to intangible concepts, they must be similar to the thing from which they originate, right? So when we look for where intangible concepts come from, ought not that thing also be intangible? For where else in science or nature do we see something tangible produce something intangible? There is no evidence of this anywhere in science, so if we apply the same scientific method used to explain taxonomy and genetics, which point to the furthering of species, it makes sense that the origin of intangible concepts is itself intangible.

Now this raises a dilemma for the materialist. The materialist would say that such things as soul do not exist, and that things like emotions, words, ideas, come from the brain. But how do you explain the origin of such concepts in the brain using the scientific basis we’ve already discussed? The second issue with the brain being responsible for these is that the brain is not a creating entity, but rather a processing entity.

From the National Institute of Health: “The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. It is the major information-processing center of the body. The spinal cord conducts sensory information (information from the body) from the peripheral nervous system to the brain. After processing its many sensory inputs, the brain initiates motor outputs (coordinated mechanical responses) that are appropriate to the sensory input it receives. The spinal cord then carries this motor information from the brain through the PNS to various locations in the body (such as muscles and glands).” (emphasis mine) So the only initiation done by the brain is in response to a sensory input; it does not create anything by itself. Think about it this way–the eye processes light and sends information to the brain to tell you what you are looking at. But the eye did not create the light, it merely processed and necessitated a response. The brain is the same way.

Now the materialist would say, “Well words evolved just like other natural things. Similar grunts were processed by the brain and became associated with things, and over time they developed into words and that’s how we got language.” While that is entirely possible, this explanation does nothing for other intangible things like morality and emotions. The evidence for this is fairly rational–think of an emotion like love. Say your kid wanders into traffic. As a parent, you rescue them and can either hug them tightly or give them a swat on the rear for doing that. Both things are done out of love, but it is expressed different ways. The brain shouldn’t by nature process two opposite reactions to the same instance and arrive at the same conclusion, because the output must be appropriate to the input (i.e. my parent is inflicting pain, therefore she does not love me, versus my parent holds me tight and kisses me, therefore she loves me).

So for these intangible concepts, we need an entity that creates and generates them, rather than a responsive entity like the brain. Based on the taxonomy and genetics explanation above, it makes most sense that this entity also be intangible. So what is an intangible creative entity? Well, supernaturalism (and more specifically theism) has long posited the existence of such an entity called soul, by which things are created innately in us and our brain initiates motor outputs in response to express these things. Existence of soul would also mean that things like language, morality and emotions have been ingrained in us since the beginning of time, and while they have adapted due to different natural environments, they have always been present in one form or another.

Again, this poses a huge problem for the materialist, and more specifically for the evolutionist, because it would then make evolution the least plausible explanation for the existence of life. If language has existed from the outset, then humanity has existed from the outset, and did not evolve from some other life form.

So I feel like there’s a compelling case here that the existence of soul is the best explanation for intangible concepts. To make a reasonable objection, one must first tear down all of the arguments I’ve made here and provide positive evidence for the best alternative. I welcome your questions and objections.

Evidence for God’s Existence – The Moral Argument

Continuing with the series of evidence for God’s existence as the most plausible explanation for how things are, we get to the moral argument. This one is not born of scientific reasoning, but again using the inference to the best explanation. What I will do is give the logical argument for objective moral law, then look at some of the possible hypotheses for what moral law is actually like. Once we decide between subjective and objective moral law, then we will look at what is the most likely standard for objective moral law–in other words, is there an objective Moral Lawgiver?

The logical argument reads this way:

1) If objective moral law exists, then the best explanation for moral law is an objective Moral Lawgiver (i.e. God).
2) Objective moral law exists.
3) Therefore, the best explanation for moral law is an objective Moral Lawgiver.

The obvious issues are with both initial conditions in the hypothetical syllogism. First, it must be shown that objective moral law exists. So let’s talk about that first.

The simplest way to determine if objective moral law exists is to find a situation where there is no possible way you can look at it as either completely right or completely wrong. One common example used is rape. This has come up in another discussion I’ve been having recently, and there has still been no evidence to show that there is anything right about rape, no matter if it’s humans, animals, etc. It is decried as a completely wrong event, no matter how apathetic some people might be to it in certain instances.

Another hypothetical example: a mother murders (not kills–either by accident or a gun to the head, etc.–, but actually murders) her 3-day old baby for no reason. The baby has no ability to discern right from wrong, and so could not have committed a wrong against the mother for which it is self-defense or retaliation. There is no instance in which the murder of this baby could be considered right, so it is objectively wrong in every instance.

So in order to show that morality is not objective, one must break down such situations and show an instance where it is not only socially acceptable, but truly right to do so. Otherwise, this satisfies the burden of best explanation for morality being based on objective value judgments.

Once objective moral values have been determined, we continue with the same method (inference to best explanation) to determine the tertium quid, or measuring stick for moral values. So we look at the hypotheses available, and make the best judgment given the information we have. So let’s take a look at some of the potential measuring sticks:

1) Promotion of life=right. Not a bad measuring stick, but incomplete. This would mean such things as killing someone in self-defense would be considered immoral, or an act of altruism to save someone else would also be considered immoral. A police officer killing the criminal in a hostage situation to save hundreds of lives would be immoral. While the goal SHOULD be to promote life, it doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation to an objective standard of moral values.

2) Causes suffering=wrong. Again, not bad, but still insufficient, because any act that causes suffering would be deemed immoral. So again, killing someone in self-defense would be considered immoral. Breaking up with someone would be considered immoral. Hitting a home run would be immoral. And so on to the absurd.

3) Minimizing suffering=good. This one gets a bit closer, but what is the definition of minimal suffering? The best way to minimize suffering is to eliminate it, and how do we go about doing that on our own? While we can try our best to do good, ultimately doing what is perceived to be a good act might involve causing someone to suffer. For example, social programs are seen as largely good, because they are attempting to help people that can’t help themselves. Yet in order to fund these programs, the government must tax its constituents at-large. This almost definitely would cause suffering for some segment of the populace, if for no other reason than that it forces them to give up money they would not give up otherwise. So it seems like a naturalistic view of minimal suffering is insufficient.

4) An individual responsible for determining right and wrong. This is where it gets considerably better. Finally it gets down to one unique standard of determining right and wrong. If this person is responsible for guiding moral law, then all choices come down to whether it falls on the right side or wrong side depending on how that one person sees it.

So the question then becomes this: who is that individual? If it is a human, would it be possible for him/her to govern all cultures at the same time with the same moral law? Technically it’s possible, but only if that person’s own considerations couldn’t be called into question. What I mean is that the person who affects moral law would also be bound to it, so if that person says lying is wrong but has lied, then there is a serious problem with their position as objectively moral.

So the individual must be someone who is bound to moral law but has no possibility of doing wrong. And what is the best explanation for that individual? First, the individual must be omni-benevolent, so good is embodied in them. Second, the individual must be omniscient, so that they have a perfect knowledge of the good. Third, the individual must be omnisapient, so that they have a perfect understanding of the best means to achieve that good. Fourth, the individual must be transcendent, so as to not be susceptible to the natural instincts that unfortunately cause us to sometimes do wrong. Fifth, the individual must be immanent, so as to be able to enforce the moral law.

I think if you look at all of the necessary attributes, the theistic God is clearly the best explanation for an objective standard of moral law. To break down the argument, one must either show that a better objective moral standard exists, or show that God does not possess at least one of the above attributes. It’s a very difficult challenge, because the biggest hurdle to overcome is a complete understanding of what is good; of course, I believe it to be impossibly difficult because I feel it cannot be demonstrated, but I’m willing to entertain objections to objective morality and counter-arguments to the best objective moral standard.

EDIT: Due to the comment made on this post, I feel it also necessary to note that the objective moral standard must also be immutable, for if the standard for moral law changed it would not be objective. Since the theistic God also possesses this attribute, the argument is still in good shape.