Saturday, July 29, 2017

“A Critical Analysis of Bob Siedensticker’s Dozen Responses to the Transcendental Argument for God” (Part 2 of 2)



To pick back up on Bob Siedensticker’s responses to TAG, I turn to response number 7: TAG Undercuts Itself.  Bob says, Apologists jump into a TAG presentation using logic. At the end of their argument, they conclude that God exists. Once again, Bob confuses what some apologists might do with TAG and what TAG is actually intended to do. This way of putting it sets TAG up to be purely a deductive argument which is exactly wrong. I have already shown the unique form that TAs take in part 1. Click here to read my criticism of Bob’s understanding of TAs. What TAG does is it presupposes that God is the necessary condition for logic. TAG says that God must be presupposed if logic is to be made intelligible. God is technically not the conclusion of an argument. God is said to be the necessary condition making any argument, even arguments against his existence, possible. Bob has wrongly concluded that TAG is just one more argument form deduction. On that point, he is sorely mistaken. Once again, I have to point out that this kind of misstep indicates that Bob simply has minimal exposure to Christianity, to philosophy, and now to the transcendental argument for God.

Bob’s 8th response to TAG is as follows: Logic needs a mind, like a vessel. Bob says, “The problem here is that gravity and the law of gravity aren’t the same thing. Before Newton, Newton’s Law of Gravity didn’t exist. But gravity did. Similarly, you don’t need a mind for time to exist, but you do for “September” or “ten o’clock.” And you don’t need a mind for logic to exist, but you do for the laws of logic.” Notice however that Bob equivocates on the existence of the law of gravity. Properly understood, the law of gravity and gravity are identical. What is new is Newton’s observation of this law and his articulation and expression of how it works. Bob has conflated Newton’s observation with the law itself and that is a very serious and basic blunder on his part.

Bob seems to be just as confused about logic. So, Bob is inferring that gravity existed before Newton described it with words and it is the words that are in fact the “law” of gravity according to Bob. In this scenario, it seems that Bob can say that there was a time when the law of gravity did not exist even though gravity did. I must admit that I find Bob’s efforts to be beyond the bounds of reason. I am pretty sure Bob is backing into this conclusion because he is desperate to avoid being pinned down by the unavoidable fact of the intelligibility of the laws of logic. But laws of nature are not words that Newton or anyone else for that matter, compiled on a piece of paper. The words Newton penned are symbols or signs used to communicate the experience of gravity. Moreover, the laws of logic and logic are inseparable. Logic is something humans experience.  Without the principles that underlie logic, it simply doesn’t exist. Describing what is already there does nothing to “invent” it or anything associated with it. The non-existence of laws of logic or principles of reason necessarily entails no logic. Bob wants to understand the law of gravity as that formulation of what is observed. But with the laws of logic, there is nothing to observe. The Modus Tollens argument for God from logic is as follows:

Logic -> God (God is the necessary condition for logic)
~Logic (the denial of logic entails contradiction because the denial of logic requires logic)
/God (the conclusion, God, is the case regardless of whether or not the condition is affirmed or denied)

Modus Ponens

Logic -> God (God is the necessary condition for logic)
Logic (Logic is self-evidently true & intelligible)
/God (God exists)

While I do not believe that TAG is the silver bullet that some do, I do believe it provides an insurmountable challenge to skepticism as well as to atheism. If one analyzes these argument forms he quickly realizes that he must in find a condition for logic apart from God or he is in serious trouble. Well, the nature of logic would seem to me to be logically necessary. Moreover, logic requires a mind. Only a necessary mind can serve as the necessary condition for logic. This would mean that logic could only exist if there is an absolute mind that exists. I only say this to point out that the atheist is in serious trouble. If he wants to deny that logic necessarily exists, he will have to explain how logic’s non-existence in some possible world could work. If there is a possible world in which there is no mind, it seems impossible to know what such a world could be known to be possible in the first place. The atheist cannot make such a claim without presupposing logic. The atheist would have to come up with some conceptual scheme that would allow for the existence of rationality, a cognitive mind, apart from logic. But what would such a mind look like? It is impossible to imagine such a mind without logic. At a minimum, TAG places the atheist in a very dubious position. Bob’s idea that the human mind invented logic is simply implausible. Bob’s idea that logic is a property of the universe is patently absurd. The universe is a physical entity made up of physical properties. The cause-effect relationship Bob is looking for does not exist where logic is concerned while it seems clearly to do so where gravity and time are concerned. Bob has introduced significant confusion by comparing gravity and time with logic. The analogy simply does not work. Not only is Bob making a serious blunder where logic is inferred, he is also making a blunder where the laws of nature are concerned. The laws of nature are not physical properties of the universe. They are inferences of a causal relationship that seem to operate uniformly within the physical universe. Bob can infer a law of gravity from observing the causal relationship between objects but for him, there is no good reason to infer God from observing anything in the material universe. Seems like a double standard to me.

Bob’s 9th response to TAG: Transcendental Argument for the non-existence of God.
It supposes that God created everything, including logic. But then logic is dependent on God—it’s contingent. Said another way, logic isn’t logically necessary. The laws of logic are then arbitrary, and God could’ve made them something else. X and not-X could both be true, for example.

TANG is argument that supposedly shows that TAG is unsound. Dr. Martin (TANG’s author) attempts to use the nature of logic to argue that God cannot exist. His argument begins by stating that if something is dependent on God, it is not necessary-it is contingent on God. If something is contingent on God, then it is not logically necessary. This would mean that if logic is contingent on God, it is not logically necessary. But logic cannot be anything less than necessary by definition. Therefore, it cannot be the case that logic depends on God. And if that is true, God cannot exist. The problem with Martin’s argument is that it trades on the ambiguity of the word ‘contingent.’ [See Michael Butler’s article TANG vs TAG] It does not follow that something that is dependent on God (not existing apart from God) is not logically necessary. To say that something is logically necessary is to say that it exists in all possible worlds. Since the Christian believes that God exists in all possible worlds, he believes that God is logically necessary. Since God is perfectly rational, logic then exists in all possible worlds which makes logic, logically necessary. Bob’s argument fails again.

Bob’s 10th response to TAG: Some things don’t need an supernatural explanation
“When falling sand in an hourglass forms a cone, does that require a supernatural cone maker? When a river changes course as it meanders over a flat valley, does that demand a river designer? When there is an earthquake, must the timing and placement of that be supernaturally ordained? No, there natural explanations for all these things.”

But the cone of sand at the bottom can only exist because of the shape of the hourglass. There is a causal relationship between the cone and the shape of the glass. Bob’s argument that morality or logic do not require a supernatural explanation would work if not for the fact that absolute morality and logic are both necessary components of reality. They both compromise a universal human experience. There is no natural explanation for their existence and experience that does not fail. Absolute morality and logic both depend on an absolute perfectly good being with an absolute perfectly rational mind. This seems to be completely lost on Bob.

Bob’s 11th response to TAG: An answer with evidence is no answer
“But “God did it” is simply a repackaging of “I don’t know.” It tells us nothing new. I’m no smarter after hearing “God did it” than before. How did God do it? Why did God do it?”

Is Bob correct? Upon materialistic principles, Bob cannot account for the existence of morality, logic, the human person, love, good and evil, and so on and so forth. In fact, Bob cannot account for the existence of time or the laws of nature. So, God as an explanation for the intelligibility of logic, morality, life, the universe provides much more information than materialistic atheism. Does God, as an explanation, answer all our questions? No, but there is no reason to think that it should. Why does Bob think that the only worldview worth subscribing to is one that can answer all the hows and whys? Christian belief affirms that human knowledge will always be limited, always finite. Bob will need to demonstrate that a worldview that answers more questions about reality should be the preferred worldview. This seems an insurmountable task. My guess is that Bob will ignore it in preference for his delusion.

Bob’s 12th response to TAG: TAG asks a poor question
“The demand to explain the laws of reality is malformed—explain in terms of what? There’s no larger context in which to explain them. The buck stops with these fundamental properties.”

Bob’s final response is simply assuming what he has not proven. He claims that the question TAG asks is a poor question because it asks a question that presupposes a larger context. Why is this malformed? Well, Bob says because there is no larger context. But that is the point. Why do we think, most of us, that there is a larger context? Saying that the buck stops with the laws of nature is like saying, “because I said so, now shut up.” Bob wants us to not ask the TAG question because, well, he doesn’t want us to ask the TAG question. And what is the TAG question again? What has to be the case in order for (x) to be the case. What is the necessary condition for (x)? Bob doesn’t like philosophy and seemingly has an aversion to logic as well. He just wants things to be the way he wants them to be and he does not want anyone to challenge him. Sorry Bob, but God is standing in front of you, behind you, beneath and above you, and on both sides of you. And he will challenge you from now until forever. You will never be able to escape his presence.

The transcendental argument for God is a very powerful demonstration for Christian belief. It seeks to demonstrate that that Christianity is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. And the contrary is impossible because it involves contradiction. As John Frame puts it, every version of the non-Christian worldview reduces to irrationalism, sooner or later. Whether one agrees that TAG is quite as forceful it claims to be or not, I think they will find it a very effective tool by which to challenge unbelieving thought.






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