Is the Freethinking Argument Valid?

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

August 8, 2016

Every once in a while I like to have conversations with those who disagree with what I think is true. I especially enjoy offering my arguments to those who are committed to their faith in naturalism. Here is an excerpt of a long conversation I had with some atheists. It begins with a debate over the moral argument for the existence of God and transitions into a debate with a physicist regarding my Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism.

Let’s pick up the action here:

Tim Stratton: Oh… you would prefer to live in a “Haunted House world!” Where although we could be free to want to cause harm, we simply couldn’t. Can you imagine what kind of a “haunted house world” we would live in if every single time someone freely chose to commit a morally evil act, then God would intervene to make sure no pain or suffering occurred? Every time a person tried to shoot another human, the bullet would be transformed into a “Nerf” bullet, or anytime a person tried to stab another person, the blade would turn into soft rubber? We would have a world full of evil intentions with no consequences! Not only would science be impossible in a world where God was constantly “tinkering” with nature, it seems we could never really learn from our bad choices either. If knowledge is a good thing, then this would be a good reason for God not to create a world like this.

After all, Paul explains why a world full of suffering is good as these “light momentary afflictions prepare us for eternity” (2 Cor 4:17). That is to say, “no pain, no gain!” Perhaps God might allow a world suffused with evil, pain, and suffering to secure eternal election of the saints without violating human libertarian free will so that true love with God (the greatest good a human can experience) can be attained for eternity. Think about this:

“The gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” That is a famous quote from C.S. Lewis, but if that it true, then could it also be said that, “the gates of Heaven are locked from the inside?” That is to say, is it logically possible for a person in Heaven to freely choose to sin, blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and freely leave to go to Hell?

Perhaps, yes, but why would they want to? That would be an important question to ask. Those in Heaven would have experienced the imperfection of this world with all of its evil, pain, and suffering (including what seems to be gratuitous suffering from our perspective). Moreover, they would be in an epistemic position to know that Hell was even worse in the absence of God and all that is good.

On top of that, those in Heaven would be experiencing a personal relationship with the Maximally Great Being who lavishes them with perfect love and meets every single need with perfection. Why would a saint in Heaven, knowingly, and freely choose to leave this ultimate paradise and perfect love for the imperfection and horror of Hell? They would have the “knowledge of good and evil” and personally experienced it through pain, evil, and suffering. Moreover, in Heaven, they would have experienced maximal greatness. It doesn’t seem like anyone who has experienced the imperfection of this world and the perfection of the next, would freely choose to exist in a world that was worse than the imperfection of the one they just left and already experienced. Perhaps this is how God can guarantee free creatures will persevere into the infinite future.

I said, “2- I have also proven via logical deduction that libertarian free will exists too (but that is besides the matter at the moment).”

Andrew: “No you haven’t.”

Tim Stratton: Again, feel free to reject logical deduction, Andrew. I have proven libertarian free will (LFW) exists via logical deduction if you like it or not. If I haven’t, how would you know that I haven’t if your thoughts were forced upon you and are not your own? Even if I did prove LFW exists, you would be determined to disagree and be objectively wrong, yet simultaneously be forced to believe that I am wrong. All you can do is beg questions on your worldview, Andrew. That’s a logical fallacy and any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

Here’s a recent article of mine to help you out:

https://oklahomaapologetics.com/…/a-freethinking…/

I said, “According to the law of Christ, even if one were aroused by a child, they OUGHT (which is impossible on your naturalistically determined view) to take their thoughts captive to obey Christ instead of acting on their animalistic instincts.”

Andrew: “That wasn’t the question and you know it.”

Tim Stratton: I explained that it SHOULD not be “a thing,” but that it can be because of LFW. I also explained that LFW allows love and knowledge.

I pointed out the following: Now, if you want to take away all ability to do anything other than the good, then LFW does not exist as there would be no genuine ability to do otherwise.”

Andrew: “I did not ask about that and you know it.”

Tim Stratton: Geesh… I was just making an additional point, bro!

Andrew: “So if your god told people to rape babies, would it be good?”

This question is just as nonsensical as asking if a triangle can have four corners. With that said, however, there would be an obligation to conform to any command from God. Just as the sniper is obligated to take the life of a pirate when Obama issues the command to do so, or as the SEAL team shoots UBL on Obama’s command, humans have an obligation to obey the commands of God. However, we do have access to the law of Christ and we have KNOWLEDGE that raping babies is objectively wrong even if some people really want to. The atheist (you) is left saying there is nothing really wrong with raping babies, but I can boldly and confidently state that raping babies is objectively wrong no matter how you feel to the contrary.

Moreover, why would a Perfectly Intelligent Being ever issue a command to rape a baby? We can think of good reasons as to why a command might be made to shoot UBL. That seems intelligent, but even if it wasn’t obvious to us, we could trust the commands of a Maximally Great and Intelligent Being. Moreover, as I noted, we have access to those objective commands and we ought to fight for the lives of babies (that’s why Christians are against abortion).

*Charles Einman (PhD physicist) enters the conversation at this point.

Charles: Well now your posting your “FAAN” argument in 2 places huh? Well I will copy my reply I gave to it above so people can be sure to see the amazing misstep in logic you made:

Here is your “FAAN” argument you linked to in the post above:

P1) If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.

P2) If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.

P3) If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.

P4) Rationality and knowledge exist.

C1) Therefore, libertarian free will exists.

C2) Therefore, the soul exists.

C3) Therefore, naturalism is false.

P5) The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.

Let us forget about whether or not these premises are defensible or not and just see if the structure of the argument is logically valid.

First: C1 is a non-sequitur. This is because P3 only requires that if Libertarian Free Will exists Rationality and Knowledge must exist. It does not require that if Rationality and Knowledge exist that Libertarian Free Will must exist. You could reword P3 to say: “Rationality and knowledge exists if and only if Libertarian Free Will exists” and that would fix this problem. [So far your very first Conclusion was a non-sequitur, not looking good so far.]

Second: C2 is also a non-sequitur. This is for the same reason that C1 was a non-sequitur. You could reword P2 to say: “Libertarian Free Will exists if and only if the human soul exists” and that would fix this problem. [So far your first two conclusions were non-sequiturs. This is getting pretty bad for even a freshman philosophy major.]

Third: An you succeeded at the trifecta! 3 out of 3 conclusions that do not follow logically from the premises. This was starting to be funny, but now it’s just kind of sad. Let’s see if I can demonstrate with an anaologous example to see if you can spot the non-sequitur:

P1) If it is nighttime I won’t see the sun

P2) I don’t see the sun

C1) It is night time

Did you see it? C1 is a non-sequitur, because I could have had a blindfold on, or been inside, or been underground and I wouldn’t see the sun, but it could still be daytime, right? The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise, just like all 3 of your conclusions. Now you could fix this last non-sequitur by rewording P1 to say: “The human soul exists if and only if naturalism is false.”

Fourth: Why did you end a syllogism on a asserted premise? I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone do such a thing. Very strange indeed.

Please feel free to use my offered rewordings above in order to make your argument logically valid. At least then we can discuss the premises and determine whether or not we can find them to be sound. If you do use my fixes I would like to receive small credit in the byline and a statement expressing that while the argument is now logically valid I find it wholly unsound and indefensible.

If this is your area of expertise then I would hate to see the areas you are not, by your approximation, an “expert.” I really hope you didn’t pay money to attain your background in philosophy, but if you did you should see if they will give you a refund. Just hand them this syllogism as evidence that they failed you.

Tim Stratton: Wow! My suspicions have been confirmed! You simply are outside of your field of expertise, here, Charles. I’ll make sure to respond to both of your identical comments tomorrow to avoid further confusion on your end.

Charles: Before you respond I beg of you, please re-read your argument carefully. Often people get caught in logical mistakes when they use too many negatives in their premises. I would love to discuss your argument, but we cannot until you remedy the argument into a logically valid form. I would suggest even having someone you trust that has a strong logic background read it, because I very much doubt you will want to admit to your current interlocutor that you made an error in logic while denouncing that person’s ability to use logic properly. The irony may be too much for you to bear and you may just refuse to see the obvious logical errors you made.

Andrew: Charles I think the argument is valid (eg. #5 follows from #3 and #4 in his prose description). It’s just that the way he’s expressed it (terms are not defined, premises not separated from reasoning steps (of which working is not shown) which are not separated from the conclusion) is of such a poor standard that it probably wouldn’t pass a first-year level logic subject where I live.

So A -> B and ~B implies ~A (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modus_tollens)

So if A is ~LFW, and B is ~RK (I’ll pretend R and K are just one thing to avoid a step).

Then we have A -> B turning into ~LFW -> ~RK, and then the other premise is RK. So we have A -> B, and ~B, so we have ~A which is ~~LFW which is LFW.

Modus tollens – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In propositional logic, modus tollens[1][2][3][4] (or modus tollendo tollens and also denying the consequent)[5] (Latin for “the way that denies by denying”)[6] is a valid argument form and a rule of inference.

Charles: Or I could be completely wrong. Wow, maybe I have low blood sugar. It’s been a long day, but no excuse for making a basic logical error like that. My apologies to Tim.

1) If I’m right then you are not right.

2) You are right.

3) Therefore I’m not right.

Andrew: It’s ok I’m sure it’s still Tim’s fault 😉

Tim Stratton: Hi Charles, I see that you realized you had made a mistake in rejecting my argument and you apologized. That is commendable and I sincerely appreciate that. In fact, you just earned major respect in my book and I feel a need to take some of the snarkiness (is that a word) out of the tone of my comments to you. I will say that your initial objection to the structure of my argument was an easy mistake to make (even for those with training in logic). Logic is tough, and although I pride myself as an aspiring logician, I will be the first to admit that I am a rookie and still make mistakes. If you don’t mind, I wouldn’t mind going over some of these things since I had typed out an entire response before I saw that you had recanted your objection. Here are some of my thoughts:

Here is my argument as you posted it:

P1) If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.

P2) If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.

P3) If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.

P4) Rationality and knowledge exist.

C1) Therefore, libertarian free will exists.

C2) Therefore, the soul exists.

C3) Therefore, naturalism is false.

P5) The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.

//Let us forget about whether or not these premises are defensible or not and just see if the structure of the argument is logically valid.//

That is always a great place to start. This is why I offered the “symbolic form” in the same article you read. When logicians provide symbolic structures, we can see if an argument is “mathematically correct” independent from semantics which have a nasty habit of confusing people. Anyway, here’s the symbolic form to make sure the structure is valid:

  1. N → ¬ S
  2. ¬ S → ¬ LFW
  3. ¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K
  4. R & K
  5. R & K → LFW
  6. LFW → S
  7. S → ¬ N

On a side note: my argument has been graded via Bayes Theorem with a very high score and it has been deemed not only structurally valid, but sound as well. Sure, these philosophers might be missing something, so it’s always open for debate. However, if the structure is valid, the only question raised is if my premises are true.

I know you have realized these objections do not stand, Charles; however, I’d like to discuss your former thoughts for the sake of others following along:

//First: C1 is a non-sequitur. This is because P3 only requires that if Libertarian Free Will exists Rationality and Knowledge must exist.//

This comes down to something that has brought me much confusion over the years: the difference between logically necessary and sufficient conditions. My premise demonstrates that if LFW does not exist, then neither do rationality or knowledge. I never argued that rationality and knowledge must exist if LFW exists. I believe that would be equivalent to stating LFW is a necessary and sufficient condition for rationality and knowledge. That is obviously false.

Here it is again: 3) ¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K

This premise simply reads “if there is no LFW, then, there is no R and no K.” Premise (3) simply demonstrates that LFW is a necessary (not sufficient) condition when it comes to rationality and knowledge.

//It does not require that if Rationality and Knowledge exist that Libertarian Free Will must exist.//

That is not the third premise; rather, that is the first deductive conclusion.

You said, “You could reword P3 to say: “Rationality and knowledge exists if and only if Libertarian Free Will exists” and that would fix this problem.”

We can word it that way, but it means the same thing. Consider this: If rationality and knowledge exists if and only if Libertarian Free Will exists, then it follows that if LFW does not exist, then rationality and knowledge do not exist either. That’s exactly what this says: “¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K.”

My point is that if purely naturalistic things are all causally determined, it therefore follows that things that are free in a libertarian sense are not simply natural things at all. It can be summarized as: “if LFW exists, then the soul exists” (I know there is a common revulsion to the use of the word “soul” because of religious connotations so I am open to using a different word).

//Third: And you succeeded at the trifecta! 3 out of 3 conclusions that do not follow logically from the premises… Let’s see if I can demonstrate with an anaologous example to see if you can spot the non-sequitur:

P1) If it is night time I won’t see the sun

P2) I don’t see the sun

C1) It is night time

Did you see it?”//

Yes, but I must admit that at first glance I made the mistake of thinking your nighttime syllogism was structurally valid but with a false premise. At a closer look, I realized that it was not structurally valid because of the fallacy of affirming the consequent. However, as you have noted, my argument does not commit this fallacy.

//Why did you end a syllogism on a asserted premise? I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone do such a thing. Very strange indeed.//

That’s a good question, Charles, but actually – although it may look like a premise – it is an abductive conclusion or an *inference to the best explanation* (which I argue is impossible on any deterministic view) of all the data.

//Please feel free to use my offered rewordings above in order to make your argument logically valid. At least then we can discuss the premises and determine whether or not we can find them to be sound. If you do use my fixes I would like to receive small credit in the byline and a statement expressing that while the argument is now logically valid I find it wholly unsound and indefensible.//

Haha! I know you were being slightly snarky (I am tremendously guilty of this too) with this comment, but I sincerely would be happy to give you credit if I decide to change the wording of my argument, Charles. I’ve told you before, I do think you are quite brilliant (we just disagree on a few things)! 🙂

With that said, please do try to demonstrate exactly why one of my premises is not true. The focus of my thesis was the implications of rejecting and affirming libertarian free. I examined all views that imply determinism from naturalism, B-theory, and Calvinism. I’ve debated this argument dozens of time with PhD philosophers and scientists (not to mention Steve, Andrew, Tim, and Jacob). I have ready responses and I will let you know if you come up with a new one (I kind of hope you do as it will give me something to think about)! I am planning on starting a dissertation on these topics soon, so I need to address all possible objections in my work. Typically, people try to argue that computers are rational and possess knowledge, or that evolution can account for rationality and justified true beliefs. Andrew does not like my working definition of the process of rationality. I have many pages dealing with these objections. If you can think of any new ones, I would be grateful and I will give you credit! 🙂

As for now, my wife thinks I’ve spent too much time arguing on Facebook and that I need to pay attention to my family. My son has a few days off from school so he wants me to take him fishing (I don’t even like to fish) so I will probably not be around for a few days.

Anyway, I do want to thank you for your humility and admitting you may have had “low blood sugar.” 😉 I can relate, as I do stuff like that all the time. I may have made some hasty generalizations about you, Charles. And for that, I sincerely apologize.

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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