1. Edward Feser has addressed specific rebuttals to his arguments for the existence of God. But the quotation that I posted, as well as the piece that whycatholicism posted, clearly weren’t meant to address those rebuttals; rather, they were meant to address some of the common misunderstandings of arguments for God. And these misunderstandings are very real, and, it seems to me, fairly prevalent, so it’s perfectly fair for Edward Feser, or anyone else, to try to clear up those misunderstandings. But a writer can only address so many things in one piece, and since those pieces are meant simply to address misunderstandings, it’s no wonder that they don’t address the more sophisticated responses to their arguments.
If those misunderstandings are real, the blame falls on the communicators of these arguments. Craig, for example, presents the following KCA at every debate:
P1 Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
P2 The universe began to exist.
C Therefore, the universe had a cause.
These “misunderstandings” stem from the communicators and not the listeners. While it is true that some misunderstandings come from listeners (i.e. “evolution states that we evolved from monkeys”), it is not true in every case. This is one of those cases in where the communicators—namely, the apologists—are doing a poor job of communicating the arguments.
2. You say that, seeing as many philosophers have fairly considered and addressed these arguments, no further contributions can be made, and that at this point both sides are “talking passed one another.” But that seems to me to be an intellectually lazy and presumptuous view. I think you’d agree with me that it’s an important topic to discuss, and I don’t think either of us can say with any certainty at all that there are no further contributions to be made, so why should anyone dismiss anyone’s arguments simply because they’ve been repeated and/or refined and/or addressed many times?
I don’t care what it seems to you. Some of these arguments have been discussed for centuries. At this point, it is safe to conclude that some of these arguments have been refuted. In my experience, apologists tend to be stubborn because they can’t afford to be wrong; they can’t afford to dedicate their lives to a lie and thus, their conclusion is that their beliefs must be right. That imagined correctness is supplemented by so called experiences with god. The KCA, no matter how refined, doesn’t support the notion that god exists; the apologist simply wants it to be this way and therefore, makes assertions to bolster that desire.
3. a) You say that arguments like the Kalam Cosmological Argument are red herrings, and that they don’t address things like the historicity of Jesus, etc. But that’s like saying that John Rawls’ Original Position is a red herring because it doesn’t specifically address an issue like gay marriage or abortion. Arguments like the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the Ontological Argument don’t even intend to address things like the historicity of Jesus, so it’s clearly unfair to call them “red herrings” just because they don’t address things that they’re not even designed to address.
Allow me to clarify the accusation that such arguments are red herrings. Think of the arguments from history as the bullet in an atheist’s intellectual pistol; if a Christian is intellectually shot by this bullet, their worldview will fall apart. The KCA, the Ontological Arguments, etc. are smoke grenades thrown to the ground by the Christian; these grenades are thrown so that the atheist no longer has a clear shot. In order to get a clear shot, the smoke must clear, but by the time that happens, the Christian has intellectually survived. I apologize for the morbid imagery, but I think that illustrates my point. A knowledgeable atheist’s biggest objection shouldn’t be, “well, the KCA is refutable” or “the Ontological Argument is unconvincing”; his/her biggest objection should be, “Christ didn’t exist” or alternatively, “the Christ of the Gospels is a myth.” These are demonstrable statements; furthermore, the case can be made that Jesus might not have existed. His nonexistence will render Christianity dead no matter how many pseudo-sophisticated arguments are presented in its favor. My main objection to your religion is that the founder of it didn’t exist; that should alarm any Christian, but regardless of this they continue with centuries-old arguments that are only convincing to them who already believe.
b) You say further that, although people like Edward Feser admit that some of their arguments don’t seek to prove Christianity specifically, people have pretended otherwise. Who are you referring to? Who specifically has given arguments that don’t in themselves seek to prove Christianity, and then, without giving any further arguments for Christianity, pretended as though their unspecific arguments are enough to prove Christianity? I’ve never seen anyone do anything like that.
I’m referring to the Christians I’ve debated with. I’m referring to known apologists like Craig, Licona, Turek, etc. For example, whenever Craig debates god’s existence with a known atheist, the KCA and the Moral Argument are presented. Clearly, they’re not debating some fantasy of a general concept of god; they’re debating on the existence of the Judeo-Christian god. This is further evidenced by Craig’s argument for the truth of the resurrection—another argument that frequently shows up whenever he debates or lectures. So, if the arguments don’t support the existence of the Judeo-Christian god, what business do they have in such debates? Yet you’ll always hear them in such debates. Quite contradictory.
4. You say that since mostly it’s most Christian scholars who affirm the historicity of Jesus, their conclusions shouldn’t be taken seriously. You then say that if you’re committing something like the genetic fallacy in saying their conclusions aren’t valid due to their religious beliefs, that someone who affirms their conclusions based on the fact that the majority of historians affirm the historicity of Jesus would be committing the fallacy of argumentum ad populum. And obviously it’s true that just because a majority believes a certain thing doesn’t mean that that thing is correct. But there are still several issues with what you’ve said.
The notion that their conclusion shouldn’t be taken seriously may be a little harsh. I would say that one should be wary of their conclusion because it is likely circular. There is plenty of evidence against the notion that Jesus was who he said he was; this evidence is either avoided or misrepresented by the heavily Christian Jesus scholars. Again, I’ve more experience in this area than most Christians and atheists; it’s an observation that I’ve noted time and time again. It’s unfair; it’s an abuse of the majority.
a) Just because a Christian may commit the fallacy of argumentum ad populum does not then justify you in rejecting the conclusions of New Testament historians just because many of them are Christian. Just because the person you’re arguing against commits a logical fallacy that doesn’t justify you in committing a different logical fallacy. Rather, as always, one has to present good reasons to accept or reject a given conclusion.
Therein lies the problem and the source of my continued frustration. None of you care to listen to my reasons—let alone read publications with contrary views without your Christian bias turned up to the max. Take this guy for example. Clearly, he isn’t a dummy. However, he reviewed Richard Carrier’s Proving History and got a number of things wrong; Richard Carrier responded to these objections. Brown got a number of things wrong—some of which he wouldn’t have gotten wrong had he read thoroughly. That’s a problem. So it’s not that I’m simply accusing them of a fallacy and walking away or committing a fallacy in response to theirs; it’s that I’m simply pointing out the fact that they cite this majority as if it implies some fact. I am simply commenting on the nature of that majority, which doesn’t only imply but explicates the reason why the consensus is what it is. Philosophers argue that certain would-be fallacies aren’t always fallacies. If gay marriage suddenly became legal nationwide, aren’t we allowed to say, “well, that only happened because the majority of Congress consists of Democrats”? Of course we’re allowed to speak on the nature of the majority that reached this hypothetical consensus. So in essence, I am doing nothing wrong by saying that it’s no wonder a majority of NT scholars think Jesus existed and was who he said he was, they’re Christians. In other words, would this be the consensus if they weren’t Christian? Probably not.
b) We are though sometimes justified in accepting a conclusion (tentatively, at least until we research it further or come across conflicting information) if a majority of experts affirm that conclusion. For example, I’m justified in accepting the findings of modern science, not just because the majority of people accept them, but because the majority of experts accept them. Obviously that doesn’t mean that I should take these things as irrefutably true, but it would be irrational to reject their findings without doing some serious research of my own and finding some very powerful contrary evidence.
But this is unlike the consensus reached on matters of science. History is another beast altogether and it cannot be compared to science in most respects. The following is one of my favorite quotes to illustrate my point:
My point in the book is to disabuse readers of the notion that Jesus scholars are scientists wearing white lab coats. Like everyone else, they want certain things to be true about Jesus and equally want certain others not to be true of him. I’m included in this (I really hope that I am right in believing that Jesus is both Messiah and Lord.) Will this shape my scholarship? Absolutely. How can it not? We should be okay with that.
Nick Perrin (April 2009. Jesus is His Own Ideology: An Interview with Nick Perrin)
We shouldn’t be okay with that at all. See, this sort of attitude simply doesn’t occur in science because it can’t. Scientific methods do not allow bias to sneak through unnoticed. Even if bias somehow finds a loophole, science is self-correcting; history, on the other hand, isn’t. Only objective historians can correct the mistakes that have been made by other historians. That’s precisely what Carrier writes about in Proving History; he argues in favor of the use of Baye’s Theorem in the field of history. Baye’s Theorem is used in science; it will allow historians to discard the old methods of reaching conclusions. Furthermore, they’ll reach better, likelier, (far) less biased conclusions by applying the theorem. In this case, NT scholars are experts; however, as Perrin makes obvious, they’re Christian first. This is made even more obvious by scholars like Daniel Wallace; he launched a site called Ehrman Project, which responds to Bart Ehrman’s conclusions. Here’s the headline:
“Dr. Bart Ehrman is raising significant questions about the reliability of the Bible. In an engaging way, he is questioning the credibility of Christianity.”
Like I said Christian first, expert second. This doesn’t sound like an NT scholar who’s an expert in the field; this sounds like a Christian who doesn’t like the fact that Ehrman has non-Christian conclusions about the Bible, the historical reliability of the NT, etc. This attitude cannot be compared to science in the slightest. This attitude is unacceptable. Unfortunately, this is the attitude harbored by the majority of NT scholars. They want the Bible to be god’s word; they want Jesus to exist and be who he said he was. This attitude effects their scholarship and they’ve made this obvious; this should be more of a concern.
c) But, while it is sometimes reasonable to accept the conclusions of a majority of experts on a certain subject, it is almost always irrational to reject their conclusions just because of some perceived bias that they have. In other words, it’s just as irrational for someone to reject the conclusions of New Testament historians just because the majority of them are Christians as it would be for someone to reject the conclusions of some scientific discipline just because its proponents are largely atheists.
Yet most scientific conclusions aren’t screaming “God doesn’t exist!” Most scientific conclusions are simply naturalistic and have zero theological implications; as a matter of fact, science and religion intersect because religious people take issue with science. For instance, evolution wouldn’t be discussed in a Christian context if creationists and ID advocates didn’t express their disdain for evolutionary biology; cosmology wouldn’t be discussed in a Christian context if Christian’s didn’t take issue with the multiverse theory. In other words, science doesn’t step on religion’s toes; religions steps of science’s toes. In any case, you’re once again drawing this false analogy between history and science; I already explained the difference between the two and I already clarified the issue I take with the majority and the concern I have with their patently religiously-based and not scholarly-based conclusion.
5. You completely misrepresent William Lane Craig’s argument from the resurrection of Jesus. He doesn’t at all seek to prove that Jesus was resurrected simply because he himself sincerely believes that Jesus was resurrected. Rather, his argument looks something like this.
I didn’t even pretend to speak on his argument. I simply called into question his presupposition. One should be allowed to do that. If he wasn’t a believer, he wouldn’t present this argument. Thus, it is because of his belief in the resurrection that he formulated an argument to defend that very belief. That’s what I was getting at.
i. Jesus claimed to be the son of God.
ii. The best explanation of the facts of the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, the origin of the Christian faith, etc, is that Jesus was resurrected.
This is false. It isn’t the best explanation. It’s simply the explanation he thinks is best because he prefers it. There are other explanations: he didn’t die and was never put in a tomb; the body was stolen; the resurrection is a myth. Unless one is Christian, these explanations are to be preferred; furthermore, they’re much more evidential. Read this or this, for example.
iii. Therefore, Jesus was who he claimed to be, and therefore the Christian God exists.
One who never considered the works of non-Christians will say something like this. Historians are concerned with the historical Jesus and not with the Christ of the Gospels. Historical Jesus Theories makes that quite obvious. Never mind that there are historical ways to demonstrate that the Christian god doesn’t exist.
Now, I’d very much like to know what your arguments are that either reject the historicity of Jesus, or explain the empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, etc. But it’s pointless to so blatantly misrepresent Dr. Craig’s argument and act as though you’ve thereby refuted it.
I didn’t misrepresent his argument. I commented on his bias. Furthermore, I didn’t pretend to refute it. Before I present what I have, I want you two consider two things:
1) I am a former Christian and though it is hard to believe given the nature of this discussion, I wanted to believe more than anything; thus, the fact that I no longer believe says something.
2) I read non-Christian scholars in light of the Christian scholars; that is to say that I first strongly considered what Christians had to say before considering the skeptics’ rebuttals and arguments.
With that said, I present the evidence. That certainly isn’t everything I have read or wish to read, but it’s a lot as you can see. I listened to the debates objectively; I wasn’t rooting for someone to win. However, the skeptics are the clear-cut winners in the debates I posted; some may argue that it’s not a fair game. Craig, for instance, isn’t a historian; he’s a theologian and a philosopher. He’s not Daniel Wallace, Gary Habermas, Ben Witherington III, etc. Those debates could be out there, but they’re either bad video/audio quality or nonexistent or I have yet to include them.
6. You also incorrectly describe the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Moral Argument, and the Fine Tuning Argument.
a) The Kalam Cosmological Argument does not simply conclude that there must be a first cause to the universe (or multiverse); rather, it concludes that the cause of the universe (or multiverse) must be immaterial (since it caused the existence of matter), spaceless (since it caused the existence of space), timeless (since it caused the existence of time), and personal (since the only sort of immaterial, spaceless, and timeless entity which could stand in casual relation to anything is an un-embodied mind).
Wrong. The conclusion is “therefore, the universe had a cause.” What you’ve written here are Craig’s defenses of the argument—a sort of expansion of the argument if you will.
b) The Moral Argument does intend to show that morality must stem from God. Rather, one of the premises of the Moral Argument is that objective morality must stem from God, since, without God, there is nothing in which to ground morality and make it objectively true. And then the conclusion of the Moral Argument is that, since objective morals do exist, God must also exist.
This isn’t a misrepresentation; it’s more a semantic issue. I simply didn’t choose to distinguish between objective morality and morality. My choosing not to distinguish is based on reasons. More on that in a bit.
c) The first premise of the The Fine Tuning Argument is that the fine tuning of the universe must be due either to physical necessity, chance, or design. The second premise is that it isn’t due to physical necessity and is unimaginably unlikely that it’s due to chance. And then the conclusion is that it must therefore be due to design.
“Due to design.” What I said: the Fine Tuning Argument pretends to show that intelligence is behind the fine tuning of the universe. Is there any real difference? No. “Unimaginably unlikely that it’s due to chance.” Ignorance of cosmology leads one to speak that way. Multiverse theory implies that there will be an infinite number of universes—each expressing an infinite range of possibilities; that is to say that rather than it being cloudy as it is now in my area, in another universe, it is sunny and rather than me publishing this at 5:30 PM, in another universe, I published it at 9 PM.
7. What are some of the refutations of these arguments or arguments for atheism that you find compelling?
Here’s the evidence that I find compelling for one reason or another. Be informed that those arguments aren’t meant to address Christians in general; they’re designed for specific Christians. If you’re a creationist, there are arguments to refute that; if you’re an ID advocate, there are arguments to refute that. If you’re a philosophy enthusiast, there are arguments that will interest you; if you’re into history, there’s something there to suit your needs.
Like I said, I chose not to distinguish between objective morality and morality because the argument isn’t supported by evidence; as someone who has studied many angles on the moral discussion, I remain convinced that there is no overall objective morality. That is to say that there are objective rights and wrongs (humanly speaking), but that that doesn’t apply across the board; for example, rape is always wrong and till this day I find no compelling example of when its not objectively wrong. However, murder isn’t objectively wrong; that is to say that one should be permitted to murder under certain circumstances (i.e. self defense given that one is attacked with excessive force and that no alternative route presents itself; in defense of a child who is attacked with excessive force). Morality is constructivist in nature and bound by conventionalism; it was abstracted and developed by humans and this development hinges on social convention. In other discussions with Christians, social convention has been confused with majority consensus; they’re not the same. Social convention is simply what is beneficial to the individual and society; for example, marrying a young girl after menarche is no longer permitted in a majority of countries and this is clearly in the interest of the individual—namely the young girl who isn’t fit to marry, have children and help run a household. This wasn’t always the case. According to myth, the prophet Muhammad married a nine year old. Also, this isn’t always the case. Sharia Law comes to mind. If you look around, you can see morality in different stages; in some places, the people are more morally developed and their laws are indicative of that whilst in other places, people are less morally developed and their laws are indicative of that. So, in a sense, morality can be compared to a country’s economic status; there are first world countries like the US and Japan, and third world countries like Timor-Leste and Niger. In like manner, there are morally underdeveloped countries like Turkey and Pakistan, and morally developed countries like Western nations. There is no way to explain this in any theological way—be it through sin or separation from god or what have you; the only way to explain these discrepancies is by realizing that morality is a human construct and development. Morality is a fallible human endeavor and rather than be discouraged by this, one should be encouraged because we can always improve the moral system; morality—objective or not—doesn’t stem from the Judeo-Christian god or any god for that matter, but rather from an evolutionary need to ensure preservation of self and society and thus, survival.