Is Intelligent Design A Circular Argument? A Response to Matt Dillahunty

On Sunday night, I called into the Atheist Experience, an atheist TV show based out of Austin, Texas.  It is a weekly call in program, airing every Sunday at 4:30 till 5:30pm Central and can be viewed on ustream. The recording of my discussion with Matt Dillahunty from Sunday night (I am the first and longest caller) can still be found online (mp3; video).

It is unfortunate that the vast majority of callers into the program are not well informed about their own faith, let alone how to defend it rationally. Informed and intelligent Christians rarely call into the program. I am not quite sure why this is, but I would speculate that most educated Christians feel that the Atheist Experience does not offer a fair contest. As I learned on Sunday, it is not easy to have a fair debate when your opponent has control of the mikes, when there is no impartial moderator, and when your opponent is repeatedly interrupting you mid flow, bringing up multiple objections and then perhaps giving you about 3 to 5 seconds at a time to make your case. I understand that they cannot have someone rambling on and on endlessly, but the limitation ought to be reasonable. At the end of our conversation, Matt accused me of employing circular reasoning. When I started to explain why I was not guilty of circular reasoning, he cut me off saying “We’re done.” For sure, I understand that they cannot have one caller take up the whole program. But this was a key point in the conversation. To make a point like that and not allow me to respond suggests to me that Dillahunty is more interested in making himself look good in the eyes of his fans rather than in the objective pursuit of truth. [Read more...]

Is The Ontological Argument Valid? – Conclusion

http://www.123rf.com/photo_17319720_abstract-word-cloud-for-ontological-argument-with-related-tags-and-terms.html

[I continue (Part 1 and Part 2) my assessment of the ontological argument by looking at modal versions of it and finally a conclusion.]

These modes of being (necessity and contingency) have led to a resurgence of the ontological argument by modern philosophers. Norman Malcolm (1911- ) has attempted to make the persuasive force for the ontological argument more transparent by recasting the argument in contemporary modal logic. Malcolm summarizes his proof as follows:

If God, a being greater than which cannot be conceived, does not exist then He cannot come into existence. For if He did He would either have been caused to come into existence or have happened to come into existence, and in either case He would be a limited being, which by our conception of Him He is not. Since He cannot come into existence, if He does not exist His existence is impossible. If He does exist He cannot have come into existence (for the reasons given), nor can He cease to exist, for nothing could cause Him to cease to exist nor could it just happen that He ceased to exist. So if God exists His existence is necessary. Thus God’s existence is either impossible or necessary. It can be the former only if the concept of such a being is self-contradictory or in some way logically absurd. Assuming that this is not so, it follows that He necessarily exists.[1] [Read more...]

Five Ontological Arguments

rembrandt-456I find it difficult to critique something if you have not read the argument (assuming, for example, it is in a textual or narrative form) in its designated context. We moderns may struggle with a plethora of classical problems that contained phenomena, terms and language that don’t quite mean the same as they used to. For instance, those who have read the Republic will find it strange that only a third of the book deals with political theory (or “statescraft”) as such (Havelock 1963: 3). Even more strangely, it is Plato’s attack on poetry that consumes almost the entire first half of the book.

Anselm’s ontological argument contains somewhat of the same struggle. If we follow the initial premise of the argument (God is “something than which nothing greater can be thought” is understood) to its conclusion, that this God exists in reality, we tend to see a rather big leap made by Anselm. However, what one has to understand is that Anselm was a Christian as well as a neo-Platonist. Like Plato, he saw that ideas (mental things) had a different kind of reality than nonmental things. Hence, it is vastly different to say that “the best possible” thought of a thing must exist in reality, than to say that ideas correspond to a certain kind of reality than “real” things do (Davies 1998: xii-xiii).

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Investigating God’s Existence from Innate Desires

FoetusI am so good at being so wrong. For a long period of time, I was not persuaded by the argument from innate desire for the existence of the transcend beings. Even though I deserted atheistic worldview 6 years ago, I am incapable of completely breaking free from the philosophical ghosts of my past. The shekels of empiricism and positivism are still strongly intervened in my Christian worldview.

David Hume, whose philosophy I strongly followed, captured how I went about evaluating whether a particular argument was persuasive when he wrote,

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?” No. “Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (Hume 2000: 123)

I committed the arguments from desire to the flames. In Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis presented one of the versions of this argument that I rejected. Lewis contended that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. Creatures possess some of innate desires that finds none of their satisfaction in this world. Therefore, it is probable that there is another world beyond this world. He argued, [Read more...]

The Legitimate Use of Pascal in Apologetics

I have written two prior treatments of Christian philosophers’ usefulness in apologetics* and here I wish to add another to the list: French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1632-1662). Pascal is widely known for his work in mathematics and science, although his recognition and focus on religion and philosophy wouldn’t come until later in his life. In 1654, where not too long before, physics and mathematics were regarded as secondary in his mind, Pascal experienced a life-changing religious conversion, which led him to a life of devotion and theology as his primary concerns.

Pascal became a close associate of a group of ascetics known as “Jansenists,” named after the Dutch Bishop Jansenius (1585-1638) who wrote a famous treatise on St. Augustine entitled the Augustinus (1640). The influence the group had on Pascal would (in part) lead to his emphasis on the corruption of human sin and the need for divine, irresistible grace. When Pascal died in 1662 of an undiagnosed illness, there was a paper found stitched into his jacket: “The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars.” This demonstrates, in a brief statement (among others), the skepticism Pascal applied to the power of philosophy.  [Read more...]