Last week a confident undergraduate with a history degree felt that he knew enough about my field – and my thesis argument – to systematically destroy it. He came out swinging and attacked a short blog article I wrote summarizing three years of research and a long master’s thesis. You can read the summary here (I encourage you to read the original blog before reading the rest of this conversation):
This debate went back and forth over the course of at least two days. Eventually, one of his fellow agnostics told him that he not only misunderstood my argument; he also needed some lessons in logic! This young objector eventually admitted my argument was good and then went on to delete the entire thread along with our conversation. I had a feeling he was going to delete it so I took the liberty of saving our conversation. Many were following along and did not get to see the ending. Never fear, here is our debate beginning with his initial attack:
Come on Tim, I’ve seen much better work from you. Your syllogism is formally valid, but the sheer amount of informal fallacies littering the syllogism cannot be taken out of your accounting.
- “If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.”
Naturalism and ‘free-thinking’ (do you mean skepticism?) are not synonymous terms. I would like to see your evidence for a ‘supernatural’ or ‘spiritual’ reality because it looks like you’re just assuming those realities exist, ad hoc.
- “If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.”
How could you possibly say that if the *soul* (something’s existence that, again, is untenable in argument) doesn’t exist, then libertarian free-will (a redundant idea) cannot exist? Have you any proof that libertarian free-will does or does not exist anyway? Has that philosophical argument been solved since I last read this post? Further, what in the world does a soul — something which no one has experienced, seen, heard, observed, felt, or acknowledged — qualify in your book as the linch pin of a successful and informally valid syllogism? This is just bananas?! You could insert anything you want into the *soul* category and you would literally be just as incorrect. You cannot base a premise on an assumption, especially an assumption as absurd as the existence of the soul.
- “If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.”
First of all, *citation needed*. Even if free-will did not exist, 1. Epistemologically, how could you even claim to know, and 2. Again, how in the world do you get from there to rationality and knowledge do not exist? We know exactly why rationality and knowledge exist. It’s called the prefrontal cortex of our brain which is responsible for all executive decision making which includes both rationality and knowledge. We are rational because we understand consequences of our actions. Some actions are rational and some are irrational. Our brain processes that information and then we are able to parse it and make decisions. Knowledge is the aggregate of all our experiences. Can something without free will not retain or understand their experiences? I don’t know and I’m sure that you don’t either; so why would you use this as another untenable premise?
- “Rationality and knowledge exist.”
What do you mean when you say ‘exist’? Do metaphysical things ‘exist’ in the context which you are speaking? Metaphysics is: “abstract theory or talk with no basis in reality.” How can you invoke the word ‘exists’ in the sense that they are in any way independent of our mind’s capacity to create them? They do technically ‘exist’, but only metaphysically. Therefore, you’re conflating two different types of existence: ‘Supernatural’: “A force or manifestation of a force which is beyond our understanding of the laws of nature” and ‘Metaphysical’: “abstract theory or talk with no basis in reality”. I assume that you’re contention is that the ‘soul’ (again, whatever vague religious idea that may be) is a supernatural force which can effect our physical reality. If that is the case, you cannot use it as a direct line to connect *metaphysical* ideas. Does this mean that the soul is necessary to know that I’m hungry? Animals can recognize those thoughts; does that mean animals have souls? Animals can also make rational decisions based on prior experience and knowledge; does that mean that souls are necessary for animals, too? The answer is no.
- “Therefore, libertarian free will exists.”
Again, you really should be working at the cutting edge of philosophy and psychology for knowing all of these things that the most rigorous modern philosophers and psychologists debate to this day. So I have to again say, *citation needed*. Assumptions are not acceptable for drawing the type of conclusions you are attempting to draw here. In other words, no contemporary philosopher looks at this syllogism and says “aha! If only I had realized that rationality and knowledge existed, then I would’ve realized that free will exists and thus a soul! Eureka!” If you think I’m wrong about that, then you should submit this syllogism to both secular and religious peer-review and see what kind of response you get. My money is on you heading back to the proverbial drawing board.
- “Therefore, the soul exists.”
Again, I’m taken aback at how effortlessly you’ve solved this problem. You mention that only at the adoption of empiricism did people begin to think the idea of a soul was bunk. This is absolutely, demonstrably untrue and deceptive. You should review your history, particularly the Greek Epicureans and other skeptical philosophical groups from the period. And that is only from one state, from one specific region, from one specific continent in the world. You cannot just make insanely over-general statements like that without reality coming in and simply breaking that part of your argument. You also mention that the only tool available to us for natural phenomena is the scientific method. Okay, so what in the world is the entire realm of the ‘Humanities’ dedicated to? When I earned my degree in History and Legal Studies, I didn’t just have my thumb up my butt. I was studying the ‘human condition’ and so were my peers in psychology, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, and many others. I don’t know why it is so difficult for people to understand why things like this are not *mysterious* or that it is necessary to invoke untenable religious ideas like the *soul* to understand the human condition and be a ‘free-thinker’. I’m not coming at this from science (though why wouldn’t I?), I’m coming at this from the academic disciplines of the humanities. Why is your field of study relevant at all?
- “Therefore, naturalism is false.”
I feel like a broken record here, but again, *assumption alert*. We’ve already determined that the idea behind a soul is just an archaic and untenable assumption about the human condition. Why should we let it determine the plausibility of this contention if it’s just an idea that pre-literate, pre-scientific, pre-historic (understanding that the discipline of ‘history’ was absolutely not the same as we understand it today) societies had before they even knew the functions of the human brain? This is just absurdity on all levels. By this logic you could literally argue any religion’s interpretation of the supernatural and it would be just as legitimate as yours. Occam’s Razor treats this question in some detail and I’m surprised that you either haven’t read him or have decided that, philosophically, this is the belief with the least assumptions; I hope that I am wrong on both accounts.
- “The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.”
Again, how so? There could be thousands of better ways to explain the existence of consciousness beyond corporeal death (I assume that’s what you mean by soul). Why in the world would god occupy the seat of ‘best explanation’? You can just make up anything that sounds plausible and is logically consistent (which the Christian god is not) and it would fill that seat just as logically. You haven’t proven anything. Think about it Tim. If I say, “Well, evidence and empirical data do not apply to *MY* ideas about the supernatural/metaphysical” then it follows that the same standards apply to everyone’s interpretation of the supernatural/metaphysical. By your logical standards, a Buddhist’s ideas about the supernatural/metaphysical, lacking the slightest shred of evidence to support his or her claims, is just as valid as yours are. You cannot just invoke some contrived standard of what it means to be valid in reality because you’ve decided that supernatural/metaphysical things do not require evidence.
Further, you have failed to provide a foundation for your belief in the ‘soul’ outside the context of myth, superstition, and religion. The academic community has understood for a long time that you do not take these sort of ideas and run with them as if they have any bearing on our reality. They are just that: ideas; and more often than not they are terrible, implausible, and inconsistent ideas. I don’t just read some ancient text as a historian and decide “hmmm, this seems legitimate” and then go about arguing it’s formal logical validity outside of the context of the history, archaeology, anthropology, and culture of the time. But that is exactly what you have done. Outside of your religion, the idea of a soul has no bearing on reality, therefore it is unwise to make claims about it as if it were not contrived inside the brains of early mankind who didn’t know a thing about the world or how it operates. The religious community seems to have an exclusive hold on this absurd behavior, and you are no doubt a part of that demographic.
I am a skeptic, free-thinker, and an atheist; all at the same time. My belief that the ‘soul’ probably does not exist does not keep me from being a free-thinker. It just means that I’m honest enough to admit that I might be wrong. The same thing applies to atheism; just because I think that a god probably doesn’t exist because I do not find the reasons for his existence compelling, does not at all mean that I am not a free-thinker. Further, even if you’re right about the soul, that means that by choosing not to believe in god that I *am* a fully functional free-thinker. It just means that we disagree. It’s not an oxymoron. Your treatment of determinism was just short of incomprehensible. All you have demonstrated is that you have a fringe-view of the intersect between modern philosophy; an intersect that most philosophers don’t just insert ‘soul’ into when they encounter a contradiction. This is the ‘soul of the gaps’ argument. It’s the same template as the ‘god of the gaps’, but instead you used soul to prove god instead of god to prove soul. Both are meaningless philosophically.
Just as a short aside:
If you believe that Dr. Dawkins, Dr. Hawking, and Dr. Harris are just blowing smoke and are logically inconsistent, then why are you not approaching more philosophically rigorous material? Anyone can, as you have, dump on the ‘everyman’s’ philosopher or scientist. The books that you mentioned were not written to be taken as academically rigorous material. They were written to be accessible to the average person, and I’m sorry to say that you have given a less than average exposition on the supposed problems that you have shown. Your excerpts and the passages you have ‘analyzed’ are misleading, misinterpreted, and it seems to me, misunderstood. You neglect the inarguably more logical, reasonable, and skeptical position held by all of those men and attack it with a syllogism that amounts to a pile of logically valid nonsense. I hope that this blog-style work isn’t a part of your serious academic work because it falls apart so easily when thought about for more than a few minutes. You should read and critique some authors with more philosophical depth; maybe Dr. Walter Kaufmann, Kierkegaard, Dr. Kai Nielson, Dr. Barbara Forrest, or other such figures. It doesn’t do any good to dunk on a midget to convince everyone you’re good at basketball, nor is it anymore convincing to attack non-rigorous, intentionally approachable material to show the strength of your syllogism.
Tim Stratton Hi Josh,
You said, “Naturalism and ‘free-thinking’ (do you mean skepticism?) are not synonymous terms.”
No, that’s not what I mean, Josh. I make the point that if nature is all that exists, then all things are causally determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang. Therefore, if *all* is causally determined, then all of one’s thoughts are also causally determined too. There is nothing “free” about one’s thinking if naturalism is true. Bottom line: If free will does not exist, free thinking does not exist.
You said, “I would like to see your evidence for a ‘supernatural’ or ‘spiritual’ reality because it looks like you’re just assuming those realities exist, ad hoc.”
Did you read my entire article, Josh? I made the point that the process of rationality leading to knowledge was impossible on naturalism. Therefore, since rationality and knowledge do exist, it logically follows that there is more to the human existence than simply nature [logical deduction counts as evidence].
You asked: “How could you possibly say that if the *soul* (something’s existence that, again, is untenable in argument) doesn’t exist, then libertarian free-will (a redundant idea) cannot exist?”
As I made clear in my article, premise (2) is virtually synonymous with “if all that exists is nature, then all is determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang.”
You asked: “Have you any proof that libertarian free-will does or does not exist anyway? Has that philosophical argument been solved since I last read this post?”
Read my entire article again, Josh. “Therefore, libertarian free will exists,” is a deductive conclusion! That counts as PROOF that LFW does, in fact, exist! Somebody had to solve the problem, why can’t it be me?
Josh, you asked, “Further, what in the world does a soul — something which no one has experienced, seen, heard, observed, felt, or acknowledged — qualify in your book as the linch pin of a successful and informally valid syllogism?”
Josh, by definition, if an immaterial aspect of the human condition exists, it could never be empirically verified as you are suggesting it should be [you are committing a categorical error]. This is probably leading to your confusion. If things exist that cannot be empirically verified, they would have to be logically discovered [science would be the wrong tool]. You can presuppose and assume that only empirically verifiable things exist, but if you do this you will be begging the question – a logical fallacy. Any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.
You said, “This is just bananas?! You could insert anything you want into the *soul* category and you would literally be just as incorrect.” Really, Josh? Since you think this is “bananas,” try inserting bananas into the “soul category” of my argument if just “anything” can work in its place. Your objection makes no sense. You can call this immaterial substance anything you’d like if you don’t like the word “soul,” but whatever it is, it has to be other than nature (supernatural).
Josh, you said, “Even if free-will did not exist, 1. Epistemologically, how could you even claim to know?”
That’s the point, Josh. If naturalism is true, and libertarian free will does not exist, then all of your thoughts and beliefs are causally determined by the big bang and forced upon you. Even your thoughts about your thoughts – and your beliefs about your thoughts – are causally determined and forced upon you if they are any good or not. All you can do is assume your thought that naturalism is true is better than my determined belief that naturalism is false. That is question-begging!
Therefore, you are left with only the assumption that your causally determined thoughts and beliefs are better than mine (let alone the assumption that they are true). If determinism is true, you would be determined to believe naturalism is true even if it isn’t. Therefore, all you are left with is question-begging assumptions. This is a logical fallacy, Josh, and any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.
Tim Stratton: Josh, you said, “2. Again, how in the world do you get from [if libertarian free will does not exist, then] rationality and knowledge do not exist?”
Josh, I explained this in the article, I think you need to read it a few more times. If naturalistic determinism is true, then you don’t possess libertarian free will. If this free will does not exist, then you cannot freely choose the inference to the BEST explanation after freely deliberating upon competing hypothesis. If your beliefs are forced upon you and causally determined by the big bang, then you would also be forced to believe that your beliefs are the inference to the best explanation, even if they aren’t. Now you are left reasoning in circles again, Josh.
Josh, you exclaimed: “We know exactly why rationality and knowledge exist. It’s called the prefrontal cortex of our brain which is responsible for all executive decision making which includes both rationality and knowledge.”
Josh, if all that exists is nature, then the big bang and the laws of nature determine your brain structure. You are not responsible for your thoughts — the big bang is! All you can do is assume the big bang forced you to think correct thoughts, even if it is actually forcing you to possess false beliefs. I made this clear in my article.
Premise (4) of my argument states: “Rationality and knowledge exist.” You asked, “What do you mean when you say ‘exist’?”
I mean that humans can engage in the process of rationality and possess JUSTIFIED true beliefs (knowledge).
You asked, “Do metaphysical things ‘exist’ in the context which you are speaking? Metaphysics is: “abstract theory or talk with no basis in reality.”
Ha! Nice cherry picking of definitions off of Google, Josh! Traditionally, and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “metaphysics” is defined in the following manner:
“A division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being and that includes ontology, cosmology, and epistemology.”
Metaphysics is based on logic, Josh.
You said, “… you’re conflating two different types of existence: ‘Supernatural’: “A force or manifestation of a force which is beyond our understanding of the laws of nature” and ‘Metaphysical’: “abstract theory or talk with no basis in reality”.”
Josh, “supernatural” simply means “other than nature.” Just because something is other than nature, it does not logically follow that we cannot KNOW anything about it. Sure, we cannot derive this knowledge empirically, but we can logically. My argument accomplishes this exact thing.
You said, “I assume that you’re contention is that the ‘soul’ (again, whatever vague religious idea that may be) is a supernatural force which can effect our physical reality.”
There are atheists that see that this conclusion is valid, Josh. It does not have to be a “religious idea.” One simply has to reject naturalism (which my argument logically disproves).
You said, “Animals can also make rational decisions based on prior experience and knowledge; does that mean that souls are necessary for animals, too?”
I do think there is an immaterial existence to animals too, Josh [however, I do not think animals have ever considered the laws of logic or the rules of reason].
My conclusion (5) states: “Therefore, libertarian free will exists,” you responded: “you really should be working at the cutting edge of philosophy and psychology for knowing all of these things that the most rigorous modern philosophers and psychologists debate to this day.”
I am, thank you very much, Josh! I will be pursuing PhD work in this field in a few months.
You said, “So I have to again say, *citation needed*. Assumptions are not acceptable for drawing the type of conclusions you are attempting to draw here.”
Josh, my conclusion is DEDUCTIVE! You admitted my argument is structurally valid, I’ve defended all of my premises, and I’ve had it weighed via Bayes Theorem by skeptical philosophers. It stands strong! A deductive conclusion is [objectively] true and needs no citation from any one else’s [subjective opinion].
Josh, the rest of your post is pretty emotional. I suggest going back and reading my article a few more times. Please make sure to really understand an argument before you object to it. At this point, you are attacking straw men and your objections have no teeth in their bite.
I really do not have time to debate with those who are blindly committed to their presuppositions and question-begging assumptions.
Joshua: Nothing that I said begs any questions or makes any assumptions. And it’s not emotionally driven in the least. I make it a point to not involve emotions in such arguments. You have not defended any of your premises in a compelling way. None of these points you have made about ‘justified true beliefs’ have any bearing on whether those beliefs exist at all. You cannot *prove* that something exists with logic when the thing that you are trying to *prove* has no foundation in reality.
Deductive reasoning is based on all available evidence and *facts*, not theoretical models of the duality of consciousness and body like the one you have proposed (the soul). Again, you have all of your work still ahead of you between ‘soul’ and ‘god’. All this shows me is that your *beliefs* are plausible. You still haven’t proven anything.
I would be interested to know where you get the idea for a soul or a god in the first place. Again, these are assumptions about the functions of a reality outside of our epistemological framework, so anything you say is necessarily an assumption.
You don’t have to assume anything to be an atheist. All you have to do is say “the idea and the defensive of a theistic god is not a compelling enough reason for me to believe that the proposition is true.” That’s it. Period. No assumptions necessary at all. There are many other ways one could posit to understand free-will in the context of a seemingly deterministic reality.
I do not believe, as you suppose, that humans are merely a fully determined, non-agent in a deterministic system. There is no proof in the so broadly termed ‘laws of nature’ — as complex, closed systems like we are (energy comes in and is expended out via our choices, bodily processes, needs, etc.) — that say we cannot exercise agency. Complex life which has a complex information processing center (the brain) which capable of making decisions directly violates the idea of determinism. But that doesn’t negate any laws of nature at all. It just means that, over time, the system in which we live happens to contain the means to for a complex, closed system to arise within it (life, specifically human life in this context), thus allowing us to manipulate it rather than merely following the laws which govern it. Why create a mystery where there is none? Free-will doesn’t violate the laws of nature. And if it did, then how would you know? Assumption after assumption; mystery after mystery; again, this is not proof of anything.
If you really think that *I* am the one who doesn’t understand the many, many assumptions in your argument, again, I would have you take this argument to any campus’s philosophy dept. and have them critique your work.
You seemed to have ignored the fact that you included blatant historical overgeneralization and misunderstanding (I actually do have a degree in History so I’m not sure that I’ve improperly pointed out your mistakes)
You also ignored all of the arguments I made for why the idea of a soul cannot be used in a deductive argument because there is just no reason/evidence/data to suggest that there is a duality of self (consciousness and physical body).
Bayes theorem would be great! You should always check the statistical plausibility and degrees of certainty for your beliefs. But there is no metric for degrees of belief in something that has a gross total of 0 evidence! According to Bayes theorem, you should be more likely not to believe in the *soul* or the *supernatural* because there is no evidence in support for those ideas at all! Please do show me your calculations and how you came to your conclusions!
I think it’s great you’re going to get your Ph.D.! So am I! But a Ph.D. doesn’t validate an informally invalid syllogism.
You’re tinkering in the frontier of modern philosophy, science, mathematics, social sciences, and our understanding of what it means to be human and you’re acting as though you’ve got it all figured out because of one syllogism! That’s far from proving anything or nailing down a fool proof model of some sort of non-corporeal consciousness.
I’m certainly not the one making any assumptions or begging any questions here, sir. A skeptic does not do so. I’m asking you to please explain where you got your information/ideas from, because it wasn’t from contemporary scholars in the field of philosophy. You’ve tacked on the ‘god’ concept to what we know and have injected both the idea of a ‘soul’ and of ‘god’ into what we do not know. That is not logic.
Joshua: Also, even if your syllogism has been ‘weighed with Bayes Theorem’, it’s only a *conditional* or *subjective* probability. That’s what Bayes theorem is used for! I’ve used it do determine the plausibility of historical events, but all you get is a probability. And yours is necessarily a conditional probability because it depends on the reliability of your evidence; which is unreliable!
Joshua: And moreover, how can you say on one hand that science cannot prove or disprove god and the go ahead and apply a statistical theorem (a functional scientific & mathematical theorem based on the physical laws of mathematics) to your syllogism and just pat your hands together like that is not a contradictory double standard? How can you prove god or a soul or other admittedly *supernatural* or *metaphysical* concepts with mathematics but I can’t disprove the same things with mathematics?
Joshua: One more thing and then I’m done: Since you’re familiar with Bayes Theorem and you seem to trust the statistical likelihood of your proposition in the context of Bayesian calculation, you should check out Dr. Richard Carrier. In ‘Proving History’, he uses the same mathematical methodology to determine the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. I’m fully prepared to hear all sorts of wild, ad hominem attacks from you against Dr. Carrier (when I’m sure that you’ve probably never read ‘Proving History’) but if your syllogism’s statistical possibility is to be considered relevant, then Dr. Carrier’s should be given the same treatment, correct? Unless of course you just outright deny it’s validity because of your worldview, which you’re more than welcome to do. But his analysis is based on real, tangible, historical evidence; not just a logical construct.
Joshua: Here’s the thing: if you think that these arguments are defensible, strong, and valid, then go get them published! If not, then keep posting them on your blog. Until such time as I have read a proper critique of your syllogism by a Philosopher of some stature and credibility, I can only point out the flaws that I see on its face. If you’re so confident in this formula, then why not try to get it published? Academia won’t give you a stiff arm for bringing it to the table, but they might after reading through your defense.
Joshua: My cousin Christopher wanted to comment:
“So there are a few things to say, but I’m going to talk about your premises before I go into why the proposition of having the argument at all is pointless….
*[Note from Tim: I will get back to this towards the end of the debate. I left the following comment:]
Tim Stratton: Christopher asked some very good questions and did it respectfully as well. I am happy to interact with him. I have responded to his questions below at the bottom of this thread.
Josh, as I said in my last response, I really do not have time to debate with those who are blindly committed to their presuppositions and question-begging assumptions. You do not understand my argument at all, and furthermore, you are completely oblivious to how you are reasoning in circles and begging the question. If you cannot comprehend these things, you will continue to deny you are being incoherent even when you are. You made this clear when you retorted:
“Nothing that I said begs any questions or makes any assumptions.”
Well, Josh, let’s look at the very sentence you ended this paragraph with:
“You cannot *prove* that something exists with logic when the thing that you are trying to *prove* has no foundation in reality.”
This is the epitome of question-begging, Josh! You are ASSUMING supernatural things like God and souls do not exist “in reality,” to argue that naturalism is true [this is a logical fallacy]. GAME OVER!
The question you need to ask yourself, Josh, is this: “Is there more to reality than only what can be empirically verified or scientifically discovered?” If there were [aspects to reality that are other than nature], logic would be the only way to discover non-scientifically discoverable things. Since it is not scientifically discoverable that only scientifically discoverable things exist, you can begin with the assumption that only scientifically discoverable things exist, but that is begging the question, Josh [Any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all]!
Josh, with all due respect, you need to understand these things before debating these things.
You said, “Deductive reasoning is based on all available evidence and *facts*, not theoretical models of the duality of consciousness and body like the one you have proposed (the soul).”
Josh, you continue to misunderstand! I used logical facts as evidence to prove there is more to reality than what you merely assume. Let’s look at my argument again:
Tim Stratton’s “Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism:”
1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
Josh, this is another way of saying, “if naturalism is true, then nature is all that exists.”
2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.
Josh, this is another way of saying, “If all that exists is nature, then all that exists is caused & determined by the laws of nature.”
Josh, this is uncontroversial to say the least. Most naturalistic atheists agree with this premise: - Sam Harris, Will Provine, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Jerry Coyne, Alex Rosenberg, and even Dan Dennett!
In fact, I am not aware of any naturalistic scientist who disagrees and the vast majority of philosophers reject the notion of libertarian freedom. My argument has proven that the vast majority is simply wrong. I know of some philosophers who do affirm libertarian free will (LFW); however, they are not hard naturalists or they simply assume LFW with out an explanation of how we have it. I have had atheists agree with all of my deductive conclusions and try to argue (8) which is abductive. That’s fine, because although my argument does not deductively prove theism, it does deductively falsify naturalism.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s look at the third premise:
3. If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.
Josh, this is another way of saying, “If all things are causally determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang, then that includes thoughts and beliefs (even one’s thoughts and beliefs about their thoughts and beliefs).”
Since we obviously disagree with each other, Josh, according to your worldview, the big bang is forcing at least one of us to hold false beliefs. How would we ever come to know who is wrong about naturalism if your beliefs that naturalism is true are all causally determined? Even if determinism happens to be true, you would have simply been the lucky one to think that determinism is true. However, you could never rationally affirm that determinism is true or that naturalism is true. All you are left with is assuming that your determined beliefs – that naturalistic determinism is true – is true. That, my friend, is begging the question.
William Lane Craig explained this nicely:
“There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation”
Even the well-known naturalist/atheistic philosopher and neuroscientist, Sam Harris, proves my point! He literally wrote the book on free will, called, “Free Will.” On page 5 he states the following: “Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have.”
To further clarify my point, Josh, it seems intuitively obvious that we possess free will and make real choices (at least occasionally). If you reject this, you will also reject rationality and the knowledge (justified true belief) gained via the process of rationality. There is no inference to the BEST explanation on your view, Josh, you are simply forced to believe what you believe and then you ASSUME that your forced beliefs happen to be the BEST beliefs. This is circular reasoning and if you cannot comprehend this, there is nothing I can do for you.
Therefore, a naturalist has no grounds to state naturalism is true. In fact, it is an utterly non-rational statement (if naturalism is true or not). If the atheist happens to be correct about naturalism, it is impossible for libertarian free will to exist, and it logically follows that rationality is lost as well. But, we are using logic and rationality to come to these conclusions. Let’s consider a supportive argument:
1- Rationality requires deliberation.
2- Deliberation requires libertarian free will.
3- Therefore, rationality requires libertarian free will.
This mini-argument hinges on the word “deliberation.” According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, deliberation means: “To weigh in the mind; to consider and examine the reasons for and against a measure to estimate the weight of force of arguments, or the probable consequences of a measure, in order to a choice or decision; to pause and consider.”
Given this definition, how would one truly deliberate without libertarian free will? If the non-rational laws of nature and past events determine one’s considerations, examinations, and estimations, then one cannot rationally affirm, justify, or provide any warrant that their beliefs are true (including a person’s belief that naturalism is true). Libertarian free will is required to be able to deliberate in the truest sense. If deliberation is impossible, then so is rationality. If one cannot rationally justify their beliefs, then they do not KNOW what they are talking about.
KNOWLEDGE is defined as “JUSTIFIED true belief.” Josh, if all of your thoughts and beliefs are forced upon you and you cannot believe other than you believe (that would require libertarian freedom), then you cannot justify your thoughts or your beliefs about your thoughts are true. All you can do is offer question-begging assumptions. Josh, if you take this route, you will be the epitome of a “PRESUPPER!”
If deliberation is the process of considering various reasons for and against certain actions, and if this process implies libertarian free will, then this means that we are free to choose what we ultimately believe. This is called “doxastic voluntarism.”
Now, Josh, there are two different views regarding doxastic voluntarism: direct and indirect. Direct doxastic voluntarism seems utterly absurd as no one could choose to believe any proposition (or not) at any given moment. For instance, even if I were offered a billion dollars to really choose to believe at this very moment that there is no such thing as the reality of the past or that God does not exist, it would be impossible for me to really believe these propositions are true. However, I believe that indirect doxastic voluntarism is true. If so, I am truly responsible for my beliefs in the sense that I can exercise freedom at various points in my life. For instance, I can choose what I will or will not consider, how I will view a particular subject, if I am open to a particular line of argumentation or not, etc.
Naturalistic determinists reject the idea of doxastic voluntarism because it implies libertarian free will to indirectly choose what they will or will not believe (this would undermine naturalistic determinism). However, by denying this view, they are admitting that they are doing so without good reason (or any reason at all). At the very least, they have not freely chosen to believe indirect doxastic voluntarism is false. Again, Josh, all you can do is reason in circles! This is the heavy burden of your naturalistic worldview.
Now, premise (4) of my argument is quite simple but obviously true. However, I have had a couple of atheists reject it to hold on to their atheism. One naturalist attempted this move just yesterday. It didn’t go well for him. Anyway, here’s the premise:
4- Rationality & Knowledge exist.
Josh, you asked what I meant by “exist.” This premise can also be stated in the following ways: “The process of rationality & knowledge are not illusory.” Or, “Humans possess the ability to engage in the process of rationality leading to *justified* true beliefs.”
The process of rationality is the property of being able to think of and about competing hypothesis, deliberate between them, and infer the BEST explanation via the laws of logic. Given this definition, a rational entity must also possess at least two other attributes: intentionality and libertarian free will (many naturalistic philosophers contend that both attributes are incompatible with naturalism).
Now, Josh, if you’d like to argue this premise, you will actually affirm it! Also, Josh, if you deny this premise, why should anyone listen to you? These four premises have stood strong in the face of your incoherent attacks, Josh. It logically follows that the next three deductive conclusions follow:
5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.
6- Therefore, the soul exists.
Plus other corroborating evidence that is not essential to my case, but simply supports it:
– The Logical Law of Identity: I am possibly disembrainable, but my brain is not possibly disembrainable! This proves I am not my brain, because there is something true of me, which is not true of my brain! Namely, I am the sort of thing that could survive death (even if I don’t), but the brain cannot survive its death. Therefore, I am not my brain.
- SCIENCE actually supports the idea of the immaterial aspect of humanity. Consider the Self-Directed Neuroplasticity studies out of UCLA: http://winteryknight.com/2015/08/29/studies-by-ucla-neuroscientist-jeffrey-schwartz-falsifies-materialist-determinism/
Tim Stratton: Josh, step (7) states: “Therefore, naturalism is false.”
There are also many other logic-based arguments that are supported by science today that demonstrate naturalism is false. Consider the Kalam Cosmological Argument for starters. Here are three articles I’ve written on the topic which have received worldwide attention:
I can give you at least a couple of dozen other arguments demonstrating the incoherence of naturalism. What arguments do you have that end with the deductive conclusion: “Therefore, atheistic naturalism is true”? Oh yeah… I forgot, all you can do is reason in circles and offer question-begging assumptions. You need to distance yourself from this incoherent worldview, Josh. If you affirm it, you are admitting you are nothing but a presupper.
Now, those are the deductive conclusions. I am happy to debate (8) “The best explanation of the immaterial soul is the Biblical view of God,” as it is not deductive. However, the logical fact that there is an immaterial aspect of the human existence sure seems to make sense of passages in the Bible like, “Let us make man in our image,” and “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
Tim Stratton: Josh, you said, “Again, you have all of your work still ahead of you between ‘soul’ and ‘god’. All this shows me is that your *beliefs* are plausible. You still haven’t proven anything.”
Josh, I have logically proven that there is more to reality than simply nature and therefore, naturalism is false. You need to understand that it is impossible to study nature (science) and rationally conclude that nature is all that exists. This is what logic is for and I have utilized logic to prove naturalism is false.
Now, I’m happy to see you are making some progress and admitting that my view is plausible based on the logical data I’ve offered. Even if you are not convinced by a logical proof, if something moves one to see something is probably true that is enough to justify putting one’s “faith” in the proposition in question. This is what inference to the BEST explanation is all about. An inference to the best explanation is a reasonable faith!
David Hume said, “Wise men *choose* (requires LFW) probabilities.” I couldn’t agree more!
Josh, you said, “I would be interested to know where you get the idea for a soul or a god in the first place.”
I got the “idea of God and souls” when I was younger, but then I wanted to see if these ideas were true [and corresponded to reality]. I’ve confirmed these things via logic AND scientific data which supports premises in philosophical arguments leading to logical conclusions with supernatural significance. It’s a pretty powerful place to be. I’d like to know what good arguments you have reaching deductive conclusions: “Therefore, atheism is true.” Oh yeah… you only have assumptions.
Josh, you made another error: “Again, these are assumptions about the functions of a reality outside of our epistemological framework, so anything you say is necessarily an assumption.”
False! Josh, you have no idea what you are talking about and you are out of your league. The laws of logic and the rules of reason allow us to have an epistemological framework to gain KNOWLEDGE about ultimate reality. THIS IS METAPHYSICS! This answers the question: “Is there more to reality than just nature.” Logic says “yes,” but you reason in circles and say, “no!” You assume only nature exists, but logic proves otherwise (and some scientific data supports what we can know via logic alone). Again, I am standing on a very powerful epistemic foundation. You are left with logical fallacies, presuppositions, and question begging!
Josh, you said, “You don’t have to assume anything to be an atheist. All you have to do is say “the idea and the defensive of a theistic god is not a compelling enough reason for me to believe that the proposition is true.” That’s it. Period.”
Oh… so the arguments for atheism are compelling enough for you to reject theism? It sounds as if you are starting with an extreme bias. I see many ill-informed atheists make this move and say that “naturalism is the default position.” I don’t think that’s true as the vast majority of the world rejects naturalism and over half of American scientists today reject naturalism: http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/
Be that as it may, Josh, why not start with pure neutrality to avoid bias? Ask the question: “Is there more to reality than simply what can be experienced via the five senses?” Don’t just assume naturalism; follow the logical evidence wherever it leads.
Now, perhaps you don’t feel compelled by the cumulative case of data against naturalism. What should get a rational person’s attention is that there is a cumulative case of data against naturalism and there are no sound arguments ending with the deductive conclusion: “Therefore, naturalism is true.” All you can do is presuppose and assume naturalism is true, Josh. That is the epitome of being a presupper.
Moreover, Josh, given ALL the logical evidence and the evidence that is supported by the scientific data that naturalism is false, you still hold on to your assumptions and exclaim: “It’s not enough evidence for me to be compelled!” Gosh, Josh, this is exactly what young earth creationists say in the face of all the data that the universe is billions of years old and that evolution is true. Even though they are not compelled by the evidence, don’t you think they *should* be? You are quite inconsistent in your “reasoning,” Josh.
Tim Stratton: Josh, you said, “There are many other ways one could posit to understand free-will in the context of a seemingly deterministic reality.”
Feel free to offer them, Josh, but notice I didn’t just say “free will.” The deductive conclusion that was reached was: Therefore, LIBERTARIAN FREE WILL exists. If you try to offer compatibilistic versions of “so called” free will, I will easily shoot them down like target practice. Feel *free* to make that move, Josh.
Josh, you said, “I do not believe, as you suppose, that humans are merely a fully determined, non-agent in a deterministic system. There is no proof in the so broadly termed ‘laws of nature’ — as complex, closed systems like we are (energy comes in and is expended out via our choices, bodily processes, needs, etc.) — that say we cannot exercise agency.”
Okay, Josh, do you have a hypothesis as to how this would occur? Do you think that the big bang and the laws of nature did not determine your brain structure, which in turn, determines your thoughts and beliefs? If not, what did? Are YOU in control of your brain? If so, what do you mean by “you?”
Josh, you exclaim, “energy comes in and is expended out via our choices…”
On your naturalistic worldview, the “choices” you refer to are just as real as the “choice” the falling domino makes! As I said before, the VAST majority of the PhD scientists and philosophers that are atheists agree with me. The minority that does not winds up rejecting hard naturalism or simply doesn’t offer an explanation. They just assume LFW exists although there is no good reason to think it does.
Tim Stratton: Josh, you said, “Complex life which has a complex information processing center (the brain) which capable of making decisions directly violates the idea of determinism.”
Not at all, Josh. Remember, the guys on your atheistic side of the aisle (all with Ph.D.s) agree with me. Sam Harris, Stephen Hawking, Sean Carroll, Richard Dawkins, Alex Rosenberg, Dan Dennett, Will Provine, and the list goes on and on. Even if they did not agree with me, the brain’s “decisions” as you call it, is simply falling dominoes in a cause and effect naturalistic universe.
Josh, you said, “But that doesn’t negate any laws of nature at all. It just means that, over time, the system in which we live happens to contain the means to for a complex, closed system to arise within it (life, specifically human life in this context), thus allowing us to manipulate it rather than merely following the laws which govern it.”
Josh, this is the view of epiphenomenalism that argues a mind/soul arises from complex matter. This is an extreme minority position as there are many problems with it; however, the only conclusion that would contradict is the abductive conclusion (8).
Moreover, some attempt to counter this argument by stating evolutionary theory can account for rationality. Can evolution refute premise (3)? No, because the only way evolution could account for rationality is if it could account for libertarian free will. But, the reason most naturalistic scientists reject the notion of libertarian free will is because if all that exists is nature, then everything is [ultimately] determined by the laws of nature.
The well-known atheist and compatibilist, Daniel Dennett, on the other hand, has tried to make a case that “freedom evolves,” as you seem to be doing, Josh. However, we must recognize that this “freedom” Dennett argues for is not the same kind of freedom we are discussing. It is not libertarian free will (the real kind); rather, he argues for compatibilism, which is simply determinism disguised “covered with frosting!” The famous atheist and evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne, has realized Dennett’s mistakes and has forcefully disagreed with him:
“Where does Dennett find freedom in a determined world? As his title implies, in evolution…. Even though evolution tells us why we make certain “choices,” they still are not choices in the classical free-will sense: situations in which we could have decided otherwise… In the end, I saw (Dennett’s) argument as a type of philosophical prestidigitation, in which our intuitive notion of free will had suddenly been replaced by something that, at first, sounded good, but ultimately didn’t comport with how we see “free” choice. I felt as though I’d been presented with a cake, only to find that it was hollow in the middle, like a hatbox covered with frosting…. I see free will as the way most of us conceive of it: a situation in which one could have made more than one choice. If that’s how you see it, and you’re a determinist—which I think you pretty much have to be if you accept science—then you’re doomed. You’re left with the task of defining free will in some other way that comports with determinism…. we aren’t really responsible for anything we do.”
Coyne is right: if naturalism is true, we are not responsible for *anything* we do and this includes our thinking. However, this also means that Coyne was not responsible for his beliefs that he was forced to state in response to Dennett. Similarly, Coyne should not be aggravated at Dennett’s argument, because he couldn’t help thinking it or writing it in a determined world. It simply wasn’t his fault.
On a separate (but related) note, Alvin Plantinga has made a case that if evolution is true, then, naturalism is probably false. He does not make a case against evolution; rather, he argues that naturalism and evolution are most likely incompatible. It is called the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). To be clear, my argument is not the same as Plantinga’s (nor does it hinge on it); however, his case strengthens my argument against naturalism.
The EAAN goes like this: evolution depends on natural selection for survival. It does not, however, select for truth. If it could be demonstrated that (at least sometimes) false beliefs can enhance survivability, then we have good reason to believe that naturalistic evolution cannot guarantee many of our conclusions are true (especially metaphysical conclusions such as naturalism is true).
Darwin himself seemed to have lost sleep over this idea:
“With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has always been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy… Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
Darwin seemed to have realized the problem of combining naturalism with evolutionary theory; that is to say, if evolution is a non-teleological and a non-rational process, it challenges our confidence that we can form true beliefs that lead to rational conclusions. Naturalistic evolution (as opposed to some form of theistic evolution) presupposes that our cognitive faculties developed as they did because it had some survival value or reproductive advantage. The theory of evolution affirms that natural selection does not select for beliefs unless these beliefs benefit the chances of survival and/or reproduction.
1- The probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, given naturalism and evolution is low.
2- If I believe both naturalism and evolution, I have a defeater for my intuitive assumption that my cognitive faculties are reliable.
3- If I have a defeater for that belief, however, then I have a defeater for any belief I take to be produced by my cognitive faculties.
4- Therefore, I have a defeater for my belief that naturalism and evolution are true.
5- Therefore, my belief that naturalism and evolution are true gives me a defeater for that very belief.
6- Therefore, that belief shoots itself in the foot and is self-referentially incoherent.
7- Therefore, I cannot rationally accept it.
8- If one cannot accept both naturalism and science, then there is a serious conflict between naturalism and current science.
Joe Carter sums up Plantinga’s argument nicely:
“Take Zed, a prehistoric caveman…. Zed needs to act in certain ways to survive. For example, he needs to avoid the saber tooth tiger taking a bite out of his big brain. We’ll call this “Tiger Avoidance Behavior.” …. The problem is that Tiger Avoidance Behavior could also be produced by false beliefs. Perhaps Zed likes the idea of being eaten and wants to run toward the tiger, but he always confuses running toward with running away from tigers. His false belief actually aids, rather than hinders, his survival. Therefore, a belief could have a survival advantage and yet be false…. In order to accept the naturalistic evolutionary explanation for the development of our noetic equipment we have to be agnostic about its reliability. All we would really know is that it works for evolutionary purposes, not for the purposes of discerning truth from falsehood. Evolutionary naturalism, it turns out, is a self-defeating argument. If we believe the theory, we have no reason to believe the theory is true.”
The eminent biologist, and atheist, Lewis Wolpert, confirmed Plantinga’s case, albeit inadvertently, in a debate with William Lane Craig. In his first speech, he affirmed that although he believes theism is false, he acknowledges there are evolutionary advantages and survival benefits to those holding theistic beliefs. It follows from this admission that evolution selects for survival, not for true beliefs. Consequently, why should Wolpert trust his belief that theism is false? He is reasoning in circles.
Mormonism is another good example of false beliefs contributing to survival and reproductive benefits. What’s more, a belief in atheism could actually hinder human survival. If one comes to believe that atheistic naturalism is true, then one ought to logically reach the conclusion that life is *objectively* meaningless. There would be no foundation for objective meaning, value, or purpose in life if God did not exist. Moreover, there would be no objective grounding for moral values and duties. If nothing really matters [i.e. objectively], then human flourishing and survival don’t really matter, either. Therefore, atheistic beliefs do not logically lead to survival benefits.
As I mentioned earlier, my argument stands on its own two feet, even if Plantinga’s argument fails. With that being said, if the EAAN passes (and I think it does), it adds tremendous strength and power to the “Freethinking Argument.” As Alvin Plantinga has noted, “(Evolution) doesn’t give a hoot about whether your beliefs are true or false!” If this is true, then we cannot know that any of our beliefs are correct. All we are left with is the question-begging assumption that our beliefs are valid.
Tim Stratton: Josh, you said, “Why create a mystery where there is none? Free-will doesn’t violate the laws of nature.”
Josh, LIBERTARIAN free will is incompatible with naturalism. Please don’t equivocate the two terms (that would be another logical fallacy). There is a BIG difference between the two concepts.
You said, “And if it did, then how would you know?”
That’s the point, Josh. If your assumption regarding naturalism is true, we are all forced and determined to our beliefs. Therefore, no one could KNOW (possess justified true beliefs) of anything! However, if humans possess the ability to engage in the process of rationality leading to justified true beliefs, then it follows that Libertarian Free Will is also an attribute possessed by humanity (at least occasionally). It logically follows, Josh, that if you possess knowledge, then you are wrong about naturalism.
Feel free to affirm that you do not possess justified true beliefs (knowledge) if you’d like to hold on to your precious presupposed assumptions.
Josh, you said, “If you really think that *I* am the one who doesn’t understand the many, many assumptions in your argument, again, I would have you take this argument to any campus’s philosophy dept. and have them critique your work.”
It’s made the rounds, Josh! My master’s degree focused on logic, philosophy, and metaphysics. This argument was the focus of my master’s thesis. Not only did I get an A+, it has been shared in secular philosophy departments from the University of Nebraska at Kearney to Georgetown. I’ve debated it against PhD scientists and philosophers and they either change their minds or cannot explain why they won’t (maybe they don’t have the freedom to?)!
I will be expanding on my research soon as I am pursuing a PhD myself.
Josh, you continue to miss the point (a logical fallacy) and said: “the idea of a soul cannot be used in a deductive argument because there is just no reason/evidence/data to suggest that there is a duality of self (consciousness and physical body).”
I am literally shaking my head right now, Josh. My *deductive argument* (which counts as reason/evidence/data) proves either substance dualism or idealism. Both concepts disprove naturalism!
You said, “Bayes theorem would be great! You should always check the statistical plausibility and degrees of certainty for your beliefs. But there is no metric for degrees of belief in something that has a gross total of 0 evidence! According to Bayes theorem, you should be more likely not to believe in the *soul* or the *supernatural* because there is no evidence in support for those ideas at all!”
Josh, you seem to be assuming empiricism (which is logically self-defeating), but there is LOGICAL evidence for the support of the soul and God for that matter. That is exactly what my argument has demonstrated. You can reject logic all you’d like, but then why should anyone listen to you?
You asked: “Please do show me your calculations and how you came to your conclusions!”
I had professor Timothy McGrew (an expert in Bayes theorem with articles published in philosophy journals on the issue) do the calculations for me. He has a history of being very hard on all arguments; even those that he would like to be true. This was Dr. McGrew’s final analysis: “ . . . each of your first 4 premises has a probability at or very close to 1, there’s not a lot of uncertainty that accrues to your interim conclusion at 7.”
That’s a great score, Josh! If you’d like to debate professor McGrew, he is a FB friend of mine. Go ahead and contact him. I’d love to follow that debate.
Josh, you said, “I think it’s great you’re going to get your Ph.D.! So am I! But a Ph.D. doesn’t validate an informally invalid syllogism.”
I’m getting a PhD in philosophy, logic, and metaphysics and you are getting a PhD in history. That’s cool. I am good friends with a fantastic historian named, Mike Licona. On a side note: You should watch the debate he had with Richard Carrier.
I’m not here to debate history, but since you are an aspiring historian, here’s another one where Carrier debated one of my professors:
Tim Stratton: Anyway, Josh, you have yet to demonstrate ONE error in any of my premises. Moreover, you already admitted that my argument was valid! Do you know the difference between valid and sound arguments? You should Google it really quick. With that said, my argument is valid, and you have not done anything to show my premises are false or even probably false to demonstrate that it might be unsound. Therefore, all of my deductive conclusions are true or probably true (since the structure of my argument is valid).
Josh, you said, “You’re tinkering in the frontier of modern philosophy, science, mathematics, social sciences, and our understanding of what it means to be human and you’re acting as though you’ve got it all figured out because of one syllogism! That’s far from proving anything or nailing down a fool proof model of some sort of non-corporeal consciousness.”
Josh, if the conclusion of a logically valid and deductive argument is sound, then the conclusion is true no matter if it is on the “frontiers of modern philosophy, science, mathematics, social sciences,” or not. That is simply irrelevant. With that said; however, I never said that this was the ONLY reason to come to this conclusion. In fact, there is a cumulative case of logic-based arguments (and some scientific data), which demonstrates the same conclusions I have reached through my argument. I am simply making MY case. You can assume it’s false without good reason, but that is only begging the question, Josh.
You said, “I’m certainly not the one making any assumptions or begging any questions here, sir. A skeptic does not do so.”
Oh really? A skeptic never commits logical fallacies?!? That’s an assumption if I’ve ever heard one, Josh! Do you see how inconsistent you are?
Moreover, Josh, why aren’t you skeptical of your own skepticism? Especially when there is much logical and scientific data demonstrating you are probably wrong and you have zero arguments showing otherwise. All you have is assumptions. As I pointed out above, according to your so-called “reasoning” there is nothing wrong with the young earth creationist being “skeptical” of big bang cosmology!
You said, “I’m asking you to please explain where you got your information/ideas from, because it wasn’t from contemporary scholars in the field of philosophy.”
I’ve already noted that I’ve received all of my support for the premises of my arguments from PhD philosophers and scientists leading the discussions in the field today. This includes experts on both sides of the theistic aisle to make sure I gave a fair account. In fact, my thesis had more quotes from naturalistic philosophers and scientists than it did those on my side of the fence. This will be published soon for your reading enjoyment. When my PhD dissertation is complete, it will delve even deeper.
Josh, you said, “You’ve tacked on the ‘god’ concept to what we know and have injected both the idea of a ‘soul’ and of ‘god’ into what we do not know. That is not logic.”
No, Josh, what you do not *know* is that I appealed to logic to deductively conclude that your naturalistic worldview is false. I’m sorry for destroying your worldview, but you are always invited to live in mine. It is nice to have a logically coherent worldview.
Tim Stratton: Josh, you said, “Also, even if your syllogism has been ‘weighed with Bayes Theorem’, it’s only a *conditional* or *subjective* probability. That’s what Bayes theorem is used for! I’ve used it do determine the plausibility of historical events, but all you get is a probability.”
Josh, Professor McGrew weighed not only the deductive conclusions, but also the premises (which is what you must do if you are going to weigh an argument correctly).
Even if all I was to get from my argument is “probability” (as you said), then don’t you think we should agree with Dave Hume: “Wise men [freely] choose probabilities.” Again, that is only possible if naturalism is false.
You’re wasting your time brother. You still haven’t proven anything at all. Nothing. 0. All that you have shown is that the idea of a ‘god’ is not implausible. That’s it. You still haven’t proven that a god exists. And you haven’t done anything to anyone’s worldview. It is astonishing that you think so highly of such backward thinking and untenable arguments.
Tim Stratton: Josh! No where in my argument does it deductively conclude: “Therefore, God exists.”
I am not arguing for God’s existence, Josh, I did something completely different that you seem to be unable to comprehend! I disproved naturalism [via logical deduction]!
Tim Stratton: Josh, you said, “Since you’re familiar with Bayes Theorem and you seem to trust the statistical likelihood of your proposition in the context of Bayesian calculation, you should check out Dr. Richard Carrier. In ‘Proving History’, he uses the same mathematical methodology to determine the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. I’m fully prepared to hear all sorts of wild, ad hominem attacks from you against Dr. Carrier (when I’m sure that you’ve probably never read ‘Proving History’)”
I have never read the book you refer to; however, I have listened to him lecture many time and watched several of his debates (I offered them above). Both Licona and Craig systematically refuted his argument. Moreover, I don’t need to bring any “attacks” against Carrier as his follow atheist historians do it for me. The [atheist leaning] historian Dr. Bart Ehrman (from UNC) excoriates guys holding Richard Carrier’s position and says he needs to get out of his “conclave.” He doesn’t even consider Carrier to be a scholar. Here is Dr. Ehrman in his own words:
Ehrman concludes: “Whether we like it or not, Jesus of Nazareth existed!”
Anyway, my argument has nothing to do with the historicity of Jesus. Even if Jesus never existed it would not logically follow that naturalism is true. My Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism would still count as evidence and logical proof that naturalism is false.
Josh, you complained: “Here’s the thing: if you think that these arguments are defensible, strong, and valid, then go get them published! If not, then keep posting them on your blog.”
It is in the process of being published, Josh. These things take time, but in the meantime, I thought I would get the information out to the masses on my blog. However, it doesn’t matter if logically sound arguments are ever published or not. If an argument is valid and sound, it is true no matter who argues it or if it’s published or not.
You said, “If you’re so confident in this formula, then why not try to get it published? Academia won’t give you a stiff arm for bringing it to the table, but they might after reading through your defense.”
Again, it is in the process, but to this point, as I mentioned before, many academic PhD philosophers and scientists have already given it their stamp of approval. That is why I am continuing to develop this argument via PhD dissertation.
Josh, you amazingly retorted the following: “… just because you have a Ph.D. doesn’t mean that you’re credible.”
Josh, it usually means that one who has earned a PhD has devoted years to their specific topic and has simultaneously earned the right to speak as an authority on the subject. You said that you want to pursue your PhD. Should we then write you off as “non-credible” as soon as you accept your degree?
You missed the point and responded: “Saying, ‘well some really smart people think this, therefore I think it.’ is a fallacy; and it doesn’t make any argument more valid.”
That was not the point, Josh. You were the one saying that academic PhDs would reject my argument; [you were merely informed] that my argument has already stood the test of their scrutiny.
*[Somehow I lost Josh’s comment stating that we cannot trust anything that comes from a “Christian Press.” I responded with the following]:
Tim Stratton: Ummm… Bart Ehrman does not publish in any “Christian press!” In the video I offered, he is accepting an award from those who detest Christianity!
Tim Stratton: And if you are going to dismiss logical argumentation simply because it is published via a “Christian press,” that is why we have academic debate!
Tim Stratton: Here’s an academic debate for you that discusses each of the topics we have discussed. Let’s see what worldview dominates at Purdue University:
*[Josh and I got into a quick back and forth exchange right here]:
Joshua: You’re creating a false dilemma, as if the only way a duality of consciousness and body could exist would be god. And you’re assuming that duality takes the form of a soul.
Tim Stratton: Josh, you continue to misunderstand the argument: I argue that the best explanation of the soul is God, but not that it has to be. Bottom Line: Naturalism is still false!
Tim Stratton: Seriously, bro… take some time to breath and dwell upon my argument before you attack it. You do not understand it and you are making yourself look foolish.
Joshua: Saying it over and over with exclamation doesn’t make it true. Just because LFW exists does not mean that naturalism is false! That is an argument from ignorance! You can’t prove either of those premises.
Tim Stratton: So you affirm that Libertarian Free Will exists?
Joshua: hahahaha I’m completely calm right now bud. I’m actually chatting with my cousin right now and we’re having a fine time reading your responses. I’m certainly not mad at all! Far from it loll
Tim Stratton: I never said you were mad.
Tim Stratton: I told you to take some time …
Tim Stratton: Do you affirm LFW?
Joshua: “Saying it over and over with exclamation doesn’t make it true. Just because LFW exists does not mean that naturalism is false! That is an argument from ignorance! You can’t prove either of those premises.” yes. From this i’m sure you can deduce that I affirm LFW.
Joshua: Just because LFW exists, doesn’t mean you can just invoke the ‘soul’ to fill in the gaps of your ignorance. That doesn’t fly logically.
Tim Stratton: Thank you! So, can you explain to me why you have come to the conclusion that Dennett, Hawking, Dawkins, Harris, Rosenberg, Coyne, Provine, Sean Carroll and virtually every other PhD naturalist has gotten it wrong?
Joshua: I don’t have to explain my affirmation of LFW with a soul though! There could be a multitude of other ways to explain it, even natural ways. But I am honest enough to admit where our knowledge stops and where assumptions begin.
Tim Stratton: What does follow, Josh, is that not all that exists is deterministic falling dominoes. There is some genuine freedom in the midst of these falling dominoes and positing another falling domino does not work. Thus, naturalism does not work. You don’t have to call the immaterial aspect of humanity a “soul.” Feel free to call it whatever you’d like.
Tim Stratton: So you are now admitting you are assuming!
Tim Stratton: Thank you, Josh!
Tim Stratton: Please provide all of these “natural explanations” you have for LFW.
Joshua: No, I’m not assuming anything! You are! You’re assuming the *soul*. I’m saying that I don’t know the structure or functionality of LFW.
Joshua: I’m being honest and you are being dishonest.
Tim Stratton: You are all over the place, Josh. [I am not assuming the soul; I CONCLUDED the soul via logical deduction]. The one using logical deduction has been accused of being dishonest. If that’s the case, this conversation is a waste of time and needs to come to an end.
Joshua: I’m admitting that there appears to be LFW in an apparently deterministic physical system. What the heck am I assuming?
Joshua: You’re all over the place bud. And you can’t just say I’m assuming things when I’ve explained over, and over, and over that I am not.
Tim Stratton: We’ll let our mutual friends decide who has “explained” things.
Joshua: Haha still not accounting for confirmation bias in your work. Gotta check that stuff at the door man.
Tim Stratton: I am pointing out that I have explained in detail how your worldview is fallacious and you are left with nothing but unexplained assumptions.
Tim Stratton: Check that at the door!
Tim Stratton: Please explain how this statement is not true: IF ALL THAT EXISTS IS NATURE, THEN ALL THAT EXISTS IS DETERMINED VIA THE LAWS OF NATURE AND THE INITIAL CONDITIONS OF THE BIG BANG.
Tim Stratton: Conversely, if there is more to reality than only nature, then not all things would be determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang.
Tim Stratton: Do you want me to provide several forms of scientific data that also suggest there is more to reality than only nature?
“Many of the theistic arguments that are made in PoR pertain to other sub-branches in philosophy, so that it cannot be assumed that PoR is the end-all-be-all authority on the question of god’s existence. Forexample, the apologetic cosmological argument pertains to the physical science, and yet 75.6% of philosophers of physical science are atheists and 63.3% are naturalists. Furthermore, apologists within PoR who critique naturalism, such as Alvin Plantinga, have not had their views supported within other sub-branches of philosophy that pertain to their arguments. For example, Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism is an argument that pertains to the philosophical branch of epistemology. And yet 47.9% of philosophers of epistemology are naturalists (29% are non-naturalists and 23.2% are “other”), which is about the same ratio as the 50.6% of professional philosophers as a whole who identify as naturalists. This shows that Plantinga’s epistemological critique of naturalism has not gained substantial support among professional philosophers of epistemology. To the contrary, such indifference suggests that many of the arguments made in PoR are often insular and are not accepted by other philosophical sub-branches that are relevant to the same issues. This disparity is probably due to the fact, noted above, that many people going into PoR are already theists, whereas this trend is not common among the professional philosophical community as a whole. Regardless, there is no statistical proof or survey evidence which suggests that studying PoR increases one’s belief in god or reconciles intellectual doubts about theism.”
Joshua: 55% of the philosophical academic community accepts or leans toward compatibilism. Again, you’re in the fringe of your own field. But good luck.
Tim Stratton: Appealing to authority now? You love logical fallacies! If logic demonstrates the majority [a whopping 55% by the way] is wrong, then the majority is wrong.
Tim Stratton: Nice academic response!
Joshua: I’m saying that I agree with the majority of contemporary philosophy! That’s not a fallacy geez. I’m saying if you want to disprove the majority of the field, then you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Joshua: I like the fact that you think you’ve got that many philosopher whipped, though. Confidence is key I suppose.
Tim Stratton: That’s [exactly] what my argument proved via logical deduction, Josh. The majority is wrong. I had my work cut out for me, and I completed it. I disproved the majority!
This happens all the time in science! [This is also why beliefs in a flat-earth and slavery come to an end].
Joshua: Then get that thing published because you’ve got two guys with bachelor’s degrees critiquing it right now. And do you really think that the secular academic community is going to agree either?
*[Johanan Raatz offered this video to demonstrate why some scientists think space is an illusion. If space does not really exist, then neither does matter. So much for naturalism!] :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNAZlhewURA
Brian Johnson: Wow…..Josh doesn’t get any of this at all. Yeesh. I hate to be rude but he just isn’t getting even the most simple of the most simple concepts you’ve laid out here Tim. I don’t know if you can help him.
Joshua: I don’t know Brian. I don’t think he can. The problem is that I understand the concepts, they’re just flawed in countless ways.
Brian Johnson: Ummmm….no. You’re really not. Sorry man. Just being straight with you. You THINK you get it but it’s pretty obvious your understanding of philosophy is just….wow.
Joshua: Now according to Tim’s syllogism, the whole scientific community should all be convinced by his undeniable logic that not only do all humans have this ‘soul’, but also apparently animals do, too…
Brian Johnson: The problem here Josh is that Tim tried and tried and tried to break it down for you in many different ways. You still didn’t seem to grasp the point. Actually, one of his points was more about science and less about philosophy and you didn’t seem to grasp that either.
Did you ever understand what he was saying concerning naturalism and free will? Do you think free will is compatible with naturalism?
Joshua: Yes I understood what he was saying. Of course I understood what he was saying. And I disagree. What’s hard to understand about that?
Brian Johnson: First off…..FW and naturalism are NOT compatible. I not only say so. Dawkins, Krauss, Hitchens, and Harris say so. Harris even wrote a book about it which I recommend you pick up…
Joshua: If you want to read some real, rigirous, academic philosophy, I would steer clear of the Four Horsemen. Their writing is very approachable for the lay person (sort of like Lewis’s ‘Mere Christianity’ but for New Atheists).
Joshua: But hey everybody. I appreciate the conversation and the amity. These are my favorite conversations and I meant what I said when I said I appreciate your academic rigor and passion Tim! Maybe we can get together next time I make it out to Nebraska!
Brian Johnson: That survey tells us nothing Josh. Nada. Zip. This is the problem! You just don’t get it!!!!!! At what point did you think simply posting a survey would answer this question?
Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will?
What was the question? You can’t gather anything from this at all. You HAVE to look at it rationally Josh are you are NOT doing that. I’ll try one last time and see if you can follow along with the basics. Compatibilism is possible with and ONLY with a theistic/deistic worldview. It doesn’t work with naturalism and here’s why. Please try to understand what I’m saying here.
In a naturalistic worldview life came from non life naturally. This first life then ‘evolved’ into everything we see around us. This includes us Josh. Our brains would then be nothing but evolved chemicals. Are you still with me here?
So if our brains are nothing but evolved chemicals you can’t get free will from that. There is no ‘free will’ gene that we all somehow ‘evolved’ over millions of years. What you’re left with is nothing more than a stimulus to whatever is being sent to your brain. Something stimulates your brain, it then goes through some kind of chemical reaction, and a response is spit back out in the form of whatever action you then take to that stimulus. Are you getting this Josh?
So everything a naturalist does, thinks, says, is nothing more than a chemical reaction that they have NO control over. It’s just a chemical reaction. Period. Does this make any sense?
Joshua: No. It doesn’t make any sense. Are computers just electrical reactions? In a sense, yes. But they are also functional and capable of *reasoning* (via coding languages) and they can parse input data just like our brains can. They cannot yet think freely or independently of the code structure integrated into their software (at least no computer scientist has created AI which passes the Turing Test, yet), but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible. If a computer is able to ‘think’ and exercise free-will one day, does that mean that we have created a ‘soul’. No! It means that the sum total of all of the physical processes gives the subject either true LFW, or at least what we can properly say resembles LFW. Again, no assumptions here.
*[Side note from Tim: Part of my thesis was demonstrating how computers are not really rational even if they appeared to be to an ignorant human. I will write more regarding this in the near future. In the meantime, please enjoy this one-minute video on the topic.]
Josh: We are not just ‘chemical reactions’ in a naturalistic worldview. We are humans, and everything functions and continues without the *assumption* that there is some supernatural force allowing us to manipulate the space around us. It’s not mysterious. Why is it so hard for Christians to accept that there is not a good answer for this philosophical question? Instead you all just jump immediately to a concept like the soul which you cannot prove at all. There is no other discipline that would consider a ‘soul’ a feasible, plausible explanation for the apparent contradiction in our physical system between LFW and physical determinism outside of religion. That’s because it’s an *ad hoc* religious concept tailor-made for this gap in knowledge. How can you not look back even 100 years in history and see that Christians and the worldview of the bible have been wrong time, after time, after time?
And yes that statistic does tell us something. It tells us that you’re not paying attention to contemporary philosophy or reading anyone that critiques your views. If you had read anyone but Harris, Dawkins, or Hitchens, you would realize that there are plenty of people who have views that don’t match the one’s you’ve put forward. And the majority, 51%, of contemporary philosophers are naturalists! And there is another 23.1% who claim an ‘other’ position, presumably holding back judgement until better evidence is available; this would be the camp I occupy. That means that approximately 26% of modern philosophers would consider themselves ‘non-naturalists’, but that has nothing to do with whether they believe in a soul or not! This is not an argument from authority. You quoted some prominent atheist writers and I countered that by showing you that the case has not been settled on the question of the relationship between LFW and naturalism.
*[Reminder from Tim: According to the Pew survey I shared above, 51% of American Scientists reject naturalism. However, the percentage of opinion is not what my argument appeals to; it appeals to logical deduction!]
Josh: I do not have the burden of proof when it comes to the soul or god. I am not claiming to know anything that I cannot show, explain, verify, falsify, or observe; therefore I am making no assumptions and begging no questions. I have simply stated that if you want to say something like a soul exists, then you have to give me good reasons to think it does. These reasons are not good enough for me. Tim has failed to establish any compelling link between LFW and Knowledge/Rationality. He has also failed to provide proof for the existence of a soul by failing to show any compelling link between the soul and LFW at all! There is just no reason to think that the ‘soul’ is the linchpin to LFW. None. The ‘soul’ that he’s talking about could be anything! But he lets his Christian worldview decide for him that the ‘soul’, as conceptualized by theistic religions all throughout history, is the best fit for this *gap*(very important) in our understanding.
Our brains our just chemicals? What happens when someone gets dementia, or brain damage, or has spectrum autism? Is there ‘soul’ damaged because they lose their capacity to reason and communicate? No! Their brain is damaged! If you begin to take pieces out of someone’s brain, little by little, they will begin to lose their capacity to reason and eventually will not show any sign of personality, emotion, agency, or anything else for that matter. We can literally test which sections of the brain are responsible for every feeling, action, response, or thought. There is no need for a soul in this conversation, and thinking that you can prove a soul because you can prove human agency is preposterous. It’s just non-sensical. A soul has never been observed, verified, falsified, or otherwise. So believe in it is *necessarily* an assumption. Me saying, “I don’t think that the proposition is correct” is not making any assumptions. At all. Because I don’t need to assume anything! The burden of proof is not on me, it is on the person that is making the claim with no evidence.
And you cannot say that I’m begging the question because “You can’t prove it’s not real, so you’re making an assumption, too!” No. This is argument from ignorance and it doesn’t fly. I don’t have to prove Santa Claus doesn’t exist and I am not making an assumption by saying “until such time as there is good enough evidence and reasons to believe in Santa Claus, I will go with my better judgement and say that Santa Claus probably isn’t real.” That. Is. Not. An. Assumption. I am not assuming anything except that the world will most likely continue without giving me any reason to believe in Santa. I am fully willing to change my mind, and that’s the difference between me and you. You work backwards from god, and I work forward from what I can observe, test, verify, and falsify. I am not making the assumption here, you are.
Brian Johnson: There it is! Never takes long for the indoctrination to rear it’s ugly head. Well….I tried. You just don’t get it Josh and it’s obvious you don’t want to.
Joshua: ^^ You haven’t responded to any of my points. Saying “you don’t get it” is not an argument for your position. I broke out of indoctrination when I left Christianity. I’m not pushing anyone’s arguments but my own. You haven’t come up with a single thing that I haven’t read from Tim, or obviously all of your favorite apologist, Dr. Craig. Why don’t you provide your own arguments rather than parroting Tim’s or WLC’s?
Again, I fully understand the argument because I was making it just a few short years ago when I was a Christian in Seminary. And it’s as bogus now as it was then. Full of assumptions and informal fallacies no matter how you shake it.
Tim Stratton: “I fully understand the argument because I was making it just a few short years ago when I was a Christian in Seminary.” – Josh
Josh, your above statement is a flat out lie! I invented and crafted this particular argument. That’s why it’s called, “Tim Stratton’s Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism.” You did not use it “a few short years ago” nor do you understand it now.
Joshua: I hate to say this Tim, but that argument isn’t new. My classmates at Southern, both the reformed and the Arminians, would use the same type of Syllogism. Not only that, but just because you put it on paper (or online) doesn’t mean that someone hasn’t thought of those things before. Anyone can say “here are 8 premises to disprove naturalism” and Free-Will, the soul, and Knowledge/Rationality always find their way in.
I’ve literally made the *exact* same argument for consciousness necessarily being separate from our physical system, and then proceeded to argue that both the ‘soul’ and ‘god’ best explain the contradiction. And that was on a hyper-reformed, calvinistic, and deterministic campus. I’m almost certain I could rip a few pages out of my journal or an Evernote file to prove it if you don’t believe me? Or a few email correspondences. Kearney, Nebraska isn’t the capital of Christian Apologetics Tim. And it’s pretty arrogant to not only say that with your syllogism, you have single handedly disproven naturalism (you haven’t), and simultaneously, actually, truly believe that you are the only person who could have though of your arguments.
*[Side note from Tim: Notice that Josh says he literally used the “exact same” argument to demonstrate consciousness, but my argument says nothing directly about consciousness. My argument deals with libertarian free will. He has no idea of what he is arguing against. Also, since it is becoming clear that he cannot defeat my argument, he begins appealing to a rather odd version of an ad hominem attack as he degrades the city I live in, rather than my argument. If it makes him feel any better, I developed this argument not only in Kearney, Nebraska, but also Atlanta, GA and Los Angeles, CA.]
Tim Stratton: Josh, I’ve made similar arguments against Calvinism, but they are different. My argument says nothing about consciousness. One could be conscious and causally determined as Calvinists believe.
You continue to demonstrate that you do not understand my argument. Nor did you ever use it! If you did, you would understand it!
Okay… now I’m done! I’ve got to go give a lecture at the Bruner Hall of Science at UNK tonight.
Joshua: I do understand it — holy cow — I will write out point by point an explanation of your own syllogism if you want and you can tell me where I go wrong! You cannot reduce all of my objections to “well, you just don’t understand it”. I truly don’t believe that you understand how wrong you are, but I would rather talk about it and examine the validity of your premises rather than just saying “you don’t get it. you don’t get it. you don’t get it.” repeatedly.
I do not subscribe to Calvinism btw.
Tim Stratton: [I’ve never heard of any atheist that subscribes to Calvinism!]
Joshua: Reformed theology is what first raised my eyebrows when I started into the nitty gritty (like, oh yeah. Free Will)
Now you’re telling me, that in your mind, consciousness and the ‘soul’ are different. So do you allow for the possibility for *consciousness surviving death? Or consciousness and the soul? Or just the soul? **please explain the mechanics, functionality, evidence for, structure of, and other relevant schematic information for the ‘soul’ in question**
Look, even if you could prove the ‘soul’ or ‘god’ — presumably you’re a Christian — and there are so many historical, archaeological, anthropological, literary, transliteration, linguistic, sociological, and psychological factors that demonstrate (with REAL, empirical, verifiable, and falsifiable evidence) the multitude of inconsistencies, contradictions, ahistorical, illogical, and untenable arguments that the bible presents. Not only that, but again, even if you prove god, I can come up with 1000 gods that are more likely to exist than the Christian god, *straight of the top of my head*. You haven’t proven that god necessarily exists. You have merely proven that a god is plausible, which I have openly admitted several times. Me being an atheist does not prevent me from changing my mind the moment that good evidence is provided; no assumptions; no question begging; none of the things you have accused me of.
Scott: Josh, I’m more than sympathetic to the non-theist cause, but I think you should consider a few things:
1) The vast majority of Tim’s article was not about the existence of god, or even the god of the Bible.
2) Saying we have no empirical evidence for the soul does not accomplish anything; Tim agrees! He said that he establishes the existence of the soul through logical deduction. By definition the soul is outside of the natural realm, which would mean that it is undetectable by empirical means.
3) You seem to like using people with academic authority to support your arguments when they agree with you and arbitrarily dismissing those with academic authority when they do not agree with you. Please be consistent. Yes the argument from authority is a logical fallacy, but a claim with a great deal of academic support should be considered much more carefully than one with little or none. It’s fine to cite credible academics who agree with you, but if you dismiss other academics you should provide good reasons why they are not credible.
Ultimately I believe something a lot closer to your worldview than Tim’s, but your logic and debate skills could be honed. I liked the style of argument that your cousin presented. I’m not trying to be rude or spiteful; I’m hoping these few things will be helpful in becoming a better logician. And if I misunderstood you feel free to correct me.
Ricardo Martinez: Many take consciousness as a faculty of the soul. Many people are not conscious but are still living soul’s. Capacities come in heiracrchies ultimate capacities constitute the soul’s nature or essence.
Joshua: Scott, Tim cannot *prove* the soul’s existence through his deduction. He can only say that it’s viable or plausible.
*[Side note from Tim: Everybody, please read that again: “He can only say that it’s viable or plausible.“]
Tim Stratton: Well then it’s a good argument, Josh! We have reason to put our trust (aka “faith”) in the fact that it’s plausible that naturalism is false. Naturalists only have question-begging assumptions.
Joshua: A good argument^^ yes. Proof, no.
Joshua: All I’m saying is be transparent. Don’t say you can prove something when you can’t. You’ve provided a viable and plausible model for something. That doesn’t *prove* it.
Tim Stratton: Funny how in the OP you said my argument was full of problems and now you are finally admitting that it is a good argument.
Tim Stratton: A logical deduction is a proof.
Tim Stratton: It never means with 100% certainty.
Joshua: Yes it is. A proof of a proposition’s viability and plausibility. Not it’s existence.
Joshua: I’m not admitting it’s a good argument at all. But you refuse to accept that. So now I at least have to get an honest answer out of you about what you can actually prove.
Tim Stratton: Josh, 3 minutes ago you said, and I quote: “A good argument^^ yes. Proof, no.”
Tim Stratton: If my premises are true, then I have proved naturalism is false with 100% certainty via logical deduction.
Joshua: Your argument is Formally Valid **round of applause. In that respect, it is a ‘good’ argument. I’ve spent hours trying to explain why I think that it’s bunk informally, but you refuse to accept that there could be flaws.
Joshua: I do not agree with your premises. That’s the problem. And you cannot demonstrate the validity of your premises by disagreeing with some Atheist authors and making lots of untenable assumptions.
Tim Stratton: If it’s full of these informal fallacies, Josh, then it makes no sense for you to say that my argument is even “viable or plausible.” Your exact words as of 9 minutes ago.
Joshua: Am I speaking another language or something?
Tim Stratton: Apparently.
*[It was at this juncture where Josh deleted the entire thread. This thread was full of sub-conversations. Here is some more debate below]
Tim Stratton: Hi Scott, I sure appreciate your refreshing tone and unbiased comments in this thread. In case anyone missed it above, this comment of yours gets the FB comment of the year award:
“Josh, I’m more than sympathetic to the non-theist cause, but I think you should consider a few things:
1) The vast majority of Tim’s article was not about the existence of god, or even the god of the Bible.
2) Saying we have no empirical evidence for the soul does not accomplish anything; Tim agrees! He said that he establishes the existence of the soul through logical deduction. By definition the soul is outside of the natural realm, which would mean that it is undetectable by empirical means.
3) You seem to like using people with academic authority to support your arguments when they agree with you and arbitrarily dismissing those with academic authority when they do not agree with you. Please be consistent. Yes the argument from authority is a logical fallacy, but a claim with a great deal of academic support should be considered much more carefully than one with little or none. It’s fine to cite credible academics who agree with you, but if you dismiss other academics you should provide good reasons why they are not credible.
Ultimately I believe something a lot closer to your worldview than Tim’s, but your logic and debate skills could be honed. I liked the style of argument that your cousin presented. I’m not trying to be rude or spiteful; I’m hoping these few things will be helpful in becoming a better logician. And if I misunderstood you feel free to correct me.”
In my opinion, if everyone acted and wrote in this manner, knowledge would increase and human flourishing would skyrocket!
As you said to Josh, he needs to learn from his cousin. I had missed his cousin’s questions yesterday, but I have responded to his great questions below.
Tim Stratton: Christopher [Josh’s cousin] politely messaged me privately and asked me to reply to his comments on this thread even though he understood if I did not want to continue wasting my time with Josh. I somehow missed Christopher’s words in all the minutia of comments. Here is my response to Christopher:
Hi Christopher, I appreciate your thoughtful questions and friendly pushback (a refreshing change). Let’s see if we cannot grapple with this together and wind up on the same page. If not, I’m sure we will at least come to have an intellectual respect for the other’s position. You grant the first premise of my argument. I have debated this with many philosophers and scientists, this is the one we always agree to right off the bat. Typically, they affirm (2) as well and reject (3). You took a different tactic. You said: “I think this premise is flawed, you need to establish the necessary connection between a soul and LFW.”
I think so many seem to get hung up on the religious connotations of the word “soul.” Here’s my point: if nature is all that exists, it is plausible to conclude that all that exists is then determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang. When my argument was tested via Bayes Theorem, this premise received a high mark as probably true as there is no reason to think otherwise. If all means all, then our thoughts and beliefs are also causally determined via natural law and the big bang. Therefore, if naturalism is true, then our thoughts and beliefs are determined and forced upon us if they are any good or not. Even If atheistic determinism is true, then Josh’s belief that atheism is true is a determined belief even if God exists. He is also determined to think that his belief is better than mine, even if he is wrong.
Now, here’s the “connection” you are asking for Christopher.
1- Naturalistic determinism negates free will.
2- If there is no free will there is no free thinking.
3- Therefore, if we are to freely think, there must be some aspect of the human thought process which does not fall prey to the falling dominoes of this cause and effect natural and determined universe.
What rational inferences can be drawn from this conclusion? To posit another natural/physical “falling domino” won’t work. We need something that is not determined or random, we need agency, and we need something that is not a “domino” – something that is not nature. This is what I call a “soul,” but people are free to call it whatever they’d like.
Tim Stratton: Christopher, you wrote, “As Josh said in one of his comments, animals are rational actors but I don’t think you would claim that they have souls.”
I actually do think animals have an immaterial aspect to their existence! You said, “As I understand it, LFW is simply the belief that decisions can not be determined beforehand, that possible actions taken by actors may not be equally likely but are equally possible.”
That’s close: LFW means that one is categorically free to choose other than they do with no “causal strings” attached. Some have argued that the ability to choose otherwise isn’t even essential for libertarian freedom, but simply that the agent is responsible for the choice and not the laws of nature or any past event (no falling dominoes). I argue for a *logical* ability to choose otherwise, but I hold option 2 as a fallback position. I don’t think I need to fallback on it.
Let me elaborate. I think everyone agrees that it at least seems like we have libertarian free will. Even if the objective truth of the matter is that free will is just an illusion, it certainly seems as if we freely choose Coke over Pepsi (or vice versa) at the grocery store. In fact, the impression is so great that I am a free agent and make my own choices, that this seems to be a properly basic belief. If this sort of free will does not exist, then our choices, decisions, and beliefs are all chosen for us (so to speak) by external causes. The so-called “choice” to affirm the atheistic, naturalistic, and deterministic worldview is of no more consequence than that of a receding hairline or an appendicitis attack. Thus, it seems that if life is to have any objective meaning, libertarian free will must be a vital part of it. WLC sums this conundrum up nicely and says, “After all, if I do not have free will and my life is (objectively) meaningless, who cares?” He goes on to write:
So what does it mean to have free will? …. Imagine a man whose brain has been secretly implanted with electrodes by a mad scientist. The scientist, being an Obama supporter, decides that he will activate the electrodes to make the man vote for Obama if the man goes into the polling booth to vote for Romney. On the other hand, if the man chooses to vote for Obama, then the scientist will not activate the electrodes. Suppose, then, the man goes into the polling booth and presses the button to vote for Obama. In such a case it seems that the man freely votes for Obama. Yet it was not within his power to do anything different!
Craig’s thought experiment suggests that for one’s will to really be free, their choices, actions, and even many of their beliefs must really be up to them (at least indirectly), and not due to external sources. This is known as “agent causation,” and this implies not just free will, but libertarian free will. In this sense, an agent is free to make his own decisions (at least some of the time) according to reason, and not the deterministic laws of nature or anything else. Therefore, if humans are free to make their own choices due to the reasons that we have weighed and then acted upon, we are also held responsible and accountable for these choices and actions. This is the essence of libertarian free will and J.P. Moreland has offered four essential ingredients of which we must be cognizant:
1. P is a substance that has the active power to bring about e. (P is an agent)
2. P exerted power as a first mover (an “originator”) to bring about e.
3. P had the categorical ability to refrain from exerting power to bring about e [nothing causally determines P to not do otherwise].
4. P acted for the sake of reasons [not chemical reactions], which serve as the final cause or teleological goal for which P acted.
Tim Stratton: Now, as I noted in my article, premise (2) of my argument does not need much defending because many atheistic naturalists have already made this case for me. Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Sam Harris, Will Provine, Alex Rosenberg, Sean Carroll, Jerry Coyne, and even Dan Dennett (to name a few) have all made this case loud and clear. They all reject the idea of libertarian free will because it seems obvious that if all that exists is nature, then all is determined by nature. They assume naturalism and their rejection of libertarian free will follows. I agree with them, that if naturalism is true, then LFW does not exist; I simply make the case that we have good reason to believe their first assumption is a false one.
I noticed that Josh complained that I quoted some of these guys I mentioned above from their popular level books. I found that rather odd. Does he think they actually affirm libertarian free will in their academic published work? If he thinks that, he is mistaken. This is the hard and fast position of the vast majority of academic naturalists in the world today.
Christopher, you said, “That definition applies to any evolved agent, not only humans. In your defense of this point it seems like you are conflating the fact that some men who do not believe in souls also do not believe in free will with a necessary connection between those two things, but you don’t actually prove it.”
Well, if all that exists is nature, it sure seems plausible that all things are causally determined via nature and the big bang. Let me reiterate that I don’t know of any atheistic philosopher or scientist that disagrees with me. Even those who affirm compatibilism still agree with me that LFW cannot exist (or they can’t see how it can) exist on naturalism. Lest I be accused of appealing to the majority, my point is that I am affirming the common academic atheist/naturalist position. This might not count as “proof” but I can’t see any reason to think these guys are wrong and that this premise would not be true.
The few that disagree with it have always done so without explanation. Scientists and philosophers are in the business of best explanations. Therefore, rejecting a good explanation to hold on to an inexplicable question-begging assumption doesn’t make any sense. Few have disagreed with it (as Josh did), none of them can explain why (neither did Josh).
Tim Stratton: Let’s move to premise (3): “If LFW does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.”
You said, “Neither rationality nor knowledge are in any way dependent on LFW, so the premise does not follow.”
Sure it does, Christopher. Let me briefly explain: Premise (3) is equivalent with “If all things are causally determined, then all thoughts and beliefs are causally determined.” If our thoughts and beliefs are forced upon us, and we could not have chosen better beliefs, then we are simply left assuming that our determined beliefs happen to be good (let alone true). Therefore, we could never rationally affirm that our beliefs are the inference to the best explanation – we can only assume they are. This is circular reasoning.
Here is the big problem for the atheistic naturalist: It logically follows that if naturalism is true then atheists cannot possess knowledge (no one could)! Knowledge is defined as “JUSTIFIED true belief.” One can happen to have true beliefs; however, if they do not possess warrant or justification for a specific belief, their belief does not qualify as a knowledge claim. If one cannot freely infer the best explanation, then one has no justification that their belief is the best explanation. Without justification, knowledge goes down the drain. All we are left with is question-begging assumptions (a logical fallacy).
Obviously humans possess rationality and knowledge. To argue this would affirm it. Moreover, if one rejects knowledge, why should anyone listen to them? Therefore, libertarian free will exists, the soul (or some immaterial aspect of humanity) exists, and naturalism is false.
You said, “Rationality is simply the understanding of the law of cause and effect, and knowledge is the ability to perceive a possible effect based on a particular cause.”
Christopher, if determinism is true, then the law of cause and effect determines all of your thoughts and beliefs (including your thoughts and beliefs about rationality and the laws of cause and effect) if they are any good or not. Knowledge is not defined as the “ability to perceive a possible effect based on a particular cause,” it is defined as JUSTIFIED true belief. Without justification, one can only assume, and without justification, one does not possess knowledge.
Again, I think animals have an immaterial aspect to their reality, so this is a non-starter. However, you said, “Any base creature knows that it must eat, and knows that eating will cure its hunger. Is this not knowledge and rationality?”
Hmm… does a mouse have justified true beliefs about food and hunger or does it simply react to stimuli? Although my position is that animals have souls, I think your statement is far from obvious. I’m not convinced that animals have thoughts about their beliefs and beliefs about their thoughts. I don’t think my dog has ever contemplated the laws of logic to verify if his beliefs are any good. I ask him all the time and he never answers me!
A squirrel’s reaction to hunger leads to eating, but it does not follow that the squirrel has engaged in the process of rationality at the level I have described. I’m more than willing to change my mind as I think animals have souls of some sort, and thus, it’s possible they could engage in the process of rationality. However, reacting to stimuli does not count as libertarian free will.
Tim Stratton: Christopher, you said, “I’ve got to expand on this point a little more since you quote WLC here and frankly I think everything he says is tripe.”
Everything? Surely that’s an exaggeration! I encourage you to not write off everything WLC says. As I’ve noted, I try to learn as much as I can from atheists. I love reading Sam Harris, Alex Rosenberg, and Jerry Coyne. They make some big mistakes leading to their final conclusions, but they also happen to get a lot of things right. In fact, my entire “Freethinking Argument” was developed from studying atheists (not Christian apologists). I think Dawkins can be rather mean, but that doesn’t mean I simply reject everything he says. I would encourage you to listen to and study William Lane Craig a little more. After all, Sam Harris said that he was “the only Christian that strikes the fear of God into the hearts of all atheists,” and the late Christopher Hitchens had mad respect for Dr. Craig. I think you will too if you spend more time considering his work.
You said, “WLCs comment indicates to me that he doesn’t understand the inconsistency inherent in the belief in the Christian God but not in determinism.”
Have you read all of his work in this field, Christopher? I think you are making a hasty generalization. It’s important to realize that this is not pertinent to the deductive conclusions of my argument; however, it is related to the final abductive conclusion. WLC and I both reject the reformed interpretation of the Bible, so it is unfair to paint with this broad brushstroke of “the Christian God” in your comment. He and I both reject Calvinism for the same reason I reject naturalism (I actually argue with Christians way more than atheists)!
You bring up “Laplace’s demon,” and say it “is the omniscient actor in a deterministic universe, by knowing every possible detail about a particular frame of the universe and by having infinite computing power Laplace’s demon can determine every event at every moment in time.”
Here’s the problem with that, Christopher, knowledge does not stand in causal relation. Just as an infallible weather barometer would not stand in causal relation with the rain in France, an omniscient “demon” or God would not stand in causal relation with an agent’s libertarian free choices.
You said, “But the theist not only asserts that the demon is possible, but that it in fact exists and that they know it as God. The existence of God renders all of existence, both natural and supernatural, to be deterministic, just as the existence of Laplace’s demon would prove the determinism of our universe.”
Again, this is confusing perfect knowledge of what will happen with causal determinism. This is a conflation of two very different things.
You said, “Omniscience and inevitability go hand in hand, they are inseperable. If anyone knows (in a strict sense) what action you will take before you take it then you did not choose it, period.”
This is false, Christopher. There is a big difference between “inevitability” and causal determinism. Knowledge does not stand in causal relation as I pointed out above with the infallible weather barometer. This is also why the FBI can catch criminals in sting operations. Just because the FBI has extremely high degrees of certainty that the drug dealer WILL sell the drugs to the undercover officer, the drug dealer never had his LFW infringed upon. He was influenced, yes, but never causally determined. He always had the free will to not sell the drugs and that is why his conviction is not overturned in court.
Now, if the FBI can have this knowledge with say 99% certainty and it does not infringe upon LFW, why can’t God have this knowledge with 100% certainty and it not causally force agents to act? You see, God knows how people will *freely* choose. If people really choose freely, then even if God had perfect knowledge of how they will freely choose, we could remove God & His knowledge from the picture and nothing changes. Why? Because knowledge does not stand in causal relation.
On a related note: Many people today erroneously reject all of Christianity because it’s mistakenly equated with Calvinism. There are other options to choose from. My view is Molinism and I’ve written on it extensively if you’d like to read more about it. I believe it explains how God can have perfect knowledge and how humans are really free and responsible agents. However, even if you are still not convinced, you could just adopt “open theism.” This is still a Christian position that simply affirms that it is not logically possible for God to know the future with 100% certainty (just high degrees of certainty). Although I am no “open theist,” my point is that there is no need to paint with this broad brushstroke.
Here’s one of my articles against Calvinism: http://freakengministries.com/the-petals-drop-why…/
Thank you for your friendly push back, great questions, and civil tone, Christopher. I hope my response helps.