bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 5: The Meaning of “Faith”

The Beating Heart of Unapologetic
The heart of the book Unapologetic is Chapter 5:  “Why Philosophy of Religion Must End”, and the heart of Chapter 5 is the Ten Reasons that Loftus gives for this conclusion (in the subsection of Chapter 5  titled “Why Philosophy of Relgion Must End,” on pages 131-135), and the heart of the Ten Reasons is in Reason #9 (on page 135).  And at the heart of the argument given as Reason #9 is this premise:
…faith-based reasoning must end.  (Unapologetic, p.135)
It is not an overstatement to say that Mr. Loftus is a crusader against faith, and that this book is a part of his crusade against faith.  This is made clear from the start of the book, beginning with the Introduction:
Philosophy of religion must end because there is no truth to religion.  Religion must end because it isn’t based on evidence, but rather on faith.  Faith must end because it is the antithesis of an intellectual virtue.  Faith has no objective method and solves no problems.  Faith-based belief processes are unreliable.  Faith cannot tell us anything about matters of fact like the nature of nature, its workings, or even its origins.  If faith is trust then there is no reason to trust faith.  (Unapologetic, p.13, emphasis added)
The dividing line is between atheist philosophers who think faith has some epistemic warrant and those who don’t.  I don’t.  Faith has no method, solves no problems, and is an utterly unreliable guide for knowing anything objective about the nature of nature.  (Unapologetic, p.14-15, emphasis added)
There is further confirmation in Chapter 1 (“My Intellectual Journey”) that the dragon Mr. Loftus wants to slay is “faith”.  In Chapter 1 we learn that Loftus did not invent this crusade himself, but joined in an already existing crusade against faith led by Peter Boghossian:
Boghossian first got my attention a year before I read his provocatively titled book, A Manual for Creating Atheists.  I first heard of him when a talk he gave titled “Faith Based Belief Processes are Unreliable” hit the web in April 2012.  He began by critically examining several paranormal beliefs where faith was shown to be unreliable for gaining knowledge. …he said, “We are forced to conclude that a tremendous number of people are delusional.  There is no other conclusion that one can draw.”  …[and] he said, “The most charitable thing we can say about faith is that it’s likely to be false.”  He had a way of putting things that resonated with me.  Faith itself is the problem.  (Unapologetic, p.32, emphasis added)
Before I, or any person who is a critical thinker (i.e. who “sits at the adult table”) chooses to join Loftus in his crusade against “faith”, we need to have a very clear understanding of what Loftus means by the word “faith”.
Rush Limbaugh’s Crusade Against “Liberalism” 
Rush Limbaugh is undeniably on a crusade against “liberalism”.  But before I, or any person who is a critical thinker (i.e. who “sits at the adult table”) chooses to join Limbaugh in this crusade, we need to understand what Limbaugh means by “liberalism”.
I think that Limbaugh has no clue what the word “liberalism” means.  This word is just an unclear insult that Limbaugh casts upon any person or any law or any policy or any program that Rush Limbaugh happens to dislike.
If Limbaugh dislikes X this week, then X becomes a “liberal” policy or program or person.  If Limbaugh changes his mind, and decides that he likes X next week, then X will cease to be a “liberal” policy or program or person, and it will magically and instananeously become a “conservative” policy or program or person.  So, one ought NOT to join Limbaugh in his crusade against “liberalism” because that would simply mean joining a crusade against whatever it is that Limbaugh happens to dislike this week.
One ought NOT to join a crusade against “liberalism” unless and until one has a reasonable and clear idea of what the word “liberalism” actually means.  Similarly, one ought NOT to join a crusade against “faith” unless and until one has a reasonable and clear idea of what the word “faith” means.  Otherwise, we might well end up on a crusade against whatever it is that Loftus or Boghossian happen to dislike this week.
There is nothing wrong or unreasonable about joining a crusade against something, but there is something highly unreasonable about joining a crusade against “X” when we have no clear idea of what “X” means.  Those of us who “sit at the adult table” do NOT join crusades without first being very clear about the purpose of the crusade.
I Was Wrong
In Part 4 of this series I admitted that I was wrong in making the following criticism (in Part 3 of this series) of Loftus’ book Unapologetic:
His failure to provide any definition or analysis of the meaning of any of the key words and phrases in his central argument suggests that he does not have a clear idea of what those words mean.
This statement is incorrect and unfair to Loftus, especially in relation to the meaning of the key word “faith”.  On closer examination, Loftus makes several statements in Unapologetic which appear to be brief definitions of the word “faith”, and some, though not all, of those definitions are fairly clear.
I have now read the Introduction, and Chapters 1 though 8 of Unapologetic.  I don’t plan on reading Chapter 9, because the title of that Chapter (“On Justifying Ridicule, Mockery, and Satire”) indicates that it is not relevant to the main question at issue (and that it assumes one has accepted Loftus’ point of view about faith and is willing to join his anti-faith crusade).
I have found statements that appear to be brief definitions of “faith” in each of the eight chapters that I read, except for Chapter 3.  There is some redundance and overlap between these statements, so the seven definition-like statements do not represent seven different definitions.  My view is that there are two main definitions of “faith” in Unapologetic that are worthy of serious consideration, and these two defintions are both stated more than once in the book.
Loftus NEVER says “Here is my definition of ‘faith’…” or “Here is how I define ‘faith’…” or “This is a good definition of ‘faith’…” or anything that clearly identifies a statement about faith as being a definition of faith.  The closest he ever comes to being clear about the nature of these statements is in Chapter 4, where he begins a statement about faith with these words:
 I consider faith to be…  (Unapologetic, p.92).
So, Loftus has given himself a degree of “plausible deniability” by failing to label any of his statements about faith as recommended definitions of “faith”.
But because it is so obviously idiotic to lead a crusade against “faith” without providing a clear definition of what the word “faith” means (that would be something that an idiot like Rush Limbaugh would do), I think it is fair to assume that the definition-like statements that Loftus makes about “faith” in his book Unapologetic are in fact recommended defintions of the word.  I am going to assume (for now at least) that Loftus belongs “at the adult table” with the rest of us critical thinkers, and thus that he did in fact provide at least one or two recommended defintions of “faith” in his book Unapologetic.
Definitions of “faith” in Unapologetic
Below are the seven passages that appear to contain brief definitions of the word “faith”.  The statements in red font are what I take to be the primary defintions, the definitions worthy of serious consideration.  The phrase “cognitive bias” appears in blue font to show how often it appears in (or near) these apparent definitions:
Chapter 1:  
Faith adds nothing to the probabilities.  It has no method and solves no problems.  If faith is trust we should not trust faith.  It’s a cognitive bias keeping believers away from objectively understanding the truth.  (Unapologetic, p.37, emphasis added)
Chapter 2:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence.  (Unapologetic, p. 55, emphasis added)
Chapter 4:
…faith is always about that which lacks sufficient evidence or even no evidence at all.  I consider faith to be an unrecognized-as-yet cognitive bias that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true, even if there is no objective evidence at all… (Unapologetic, p. 92, emphasis added)
Chapter 5:
Just consider what’s wrong with Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses….  Faith.  The adherents of these religions do not believe based on sufficient evidence, because faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.  If they thought exclusively in terms of the probabilities by proportioning their belief to the evidence (per David Hume), they would not believe at all.  (Unapologetic, p.125, emphasis added)
Chapter 6:
Faith should one day be labeled a cognitive bias.  It keeps one’s cognitive faculties from functioning properly.  Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152, emphasis added)
Chapter 7:
 Because faith requires special pleading and so many other informal fallacies, I can say faith itself is a fallacy.  It’s certainly a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate the probabilities on behalf of faith. (Unapologetic, p.169, emphasis added)
Chapter 8:
 I take David Hume’s principle as axiomatic, that the wise person should proportion his or her conclusions to the available evidence.  Going beyond the probabilities of the evidence is unreasonable.  That’s what faith does when we embrace it.  Faith takes believers beyond the probabilities.  Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.194, emphasis added)
The definition of “faith” from Chapter 1 is defective because it is a genus/species defintion, that is incomplete, because it fails to spell out the species part of the definition.  The genus of “faith” is “a cognitive bias”, according to this definition, while the species portion of this defintion states that this particular cognitive bias keeps people “away from objectively understanding the truth”.  Both parts of the definition are fairly clear, but the species part is redundant and adds nothing to the definition.
ALL cognitive biases keep people “away from objectively understanding the truth”–that is simply an implication of what it means to be a “cognitive bias”.  The second part of the definition is true or correct, but uninformative; it fails to specify a particular TYPE of cognitive bias, because it states something that is true of any and every cognitive bias.  So, this definition is not worthy of any further serious consideration.
The defintion of “faith” given in Chapter 2 is also a genus/species defintion, and both genus and species parts of the definition appear to be fairly clear.  Furthermore, the species part of the definition properly distinguishes one TYPE of cognitive bias from other cognitive biases.  So, this definition, unlike the one in Chapter 1, is worthy of further serious consideration.  Furthermore, although Loftus does not repeat this definition verbatum, he does provide a definition in Chapter 7 that is very similar:
It’s certainly a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate the probabilities on behalf of faith. (Unapologetic, p.169)
This partial repitition of the definition in Chapter 2 indicates that this is an important definition to Loftus.  The definition in Chapter 7, however, is not as good as the one in Chapter 2, because the defintion in Chapter two  (a) is more specific about HOW “the probabilities” get overestimated, and (b) does not use the word “faith” as part of the definition of the word “faith” (which is a violation of a basic principle of Critical Thinking, and is thus unworthy of consideration by those who are sitting at the adult table).  So, I will focus my attention on the definition in Chapter 2, and ignore the similar definition given in Chapter 7.
The definition in Chapter 4 reinforces the idea that the genus of faith is, for Loftus, a “cognitive bias”, but the rest of this defintion is problematic:
…that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true…
The phrase “giving permission” is metaphorical, and is thus a problematic expression to use in a definition statement, and the whole idea of “pretending what they believe is true” is unclear and problematic.  It might well be the case that people sometimes  “pretend what they believe is true”  but this is, in most cases, a difficult sort of thing to identify and verify, so this seems like a bad criterion to use in a definition of a key concept.  Other definitions provided by Loftus do not involve such tricky and difficult to identify and verify characteristics.  So, I’m going to ignore this definition in Chapter 4.
The definition in Chapter 5 is also problematic because it makes use of metaphorical language: “leap over the probabilities”.  Also, the definition in Chapter 7 already links “faith” to “probabilities” in a clearer way.
Since the definition in Chapter 7 is very similar to the definition in Chapter 2, I can borrow the concept of “overestimates the probabilities” from the definition in Chapter 7, and use it to modify the definition in Chapter 2, so that one definition that I seriously examine will explicitly relate “faith” to estimation of “probabilities”:
Modified Chapter 2 Definition:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence, which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claim in question.
This modified version of the Chapter 2  definition of “faith” combines key elements of that definition with a key element of the definition in Chapter 7, and it also gets at the intention behind the definition of “faith” in Chapter 5, while avoiding the unclear and problematic language used in the Chapter 5 definition.
The definition in Chapter 6 seems to be a significant departure from the definition in Chapter 2, and it seems to be a fairly clear defintion which does not make use of metaphorical or problematic language.  Furthermore,  Loftus repeats this definition verbatim in Chapter 8, so it is clearly an important defintion to Loftus.  For these reasons, I plan to give some serious consideration to the definition of “faith” from Chapter 6:
Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152)
I have already indicated some problems with the defintion of “faith” given in Chapter 7, and I have already incorporated a key idea from the definition in Chapter 7 into the definition given in Chapter 2, so I will not be giving separate consideration to the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 7.
The brief one-sentence definition of “faith” given in Chapter 8 is identical to the definition given in Chapter 6, so I will only use the passage containing this definition in Chapter 8 for background or context, in order to further clarify the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 6, if there is a need to clarify that definition further.
The Modified Definition of “faith” from Chapter 2
The definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 is fairly clear, as is my modified verion of this definition, which borrows a key element from the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 7.  There are no metaphorical expressions in the Chapter 2 definition, nor in the modified version of that definition:
Modified Chapter 2 Definition:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence, which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claims in question.
Metaphorical language is NOT appropriate for definitions of key words and phrases that are used in philosophical arguments.  Metaphorical language is fine if one is writing a poem, or a song, or a novel, or a speech, but metaphorical language tends to be “rich” and thus vague and/or ambiguous, so one should avoid using metaphorical expressions in definitions of key words and phrases whenever possible. Those of us who sit at the adult table try to avoid using metaphorical expressions when we define key words and phrases that are used in philosophical arguments.
I understand that Loftus did not write Unapologetic only for professional philosophers, so the use of metaphorical expressions here and there can be justified as useful for purposes of persuasion and style, but the use of metaphorical expressions in definitions of key words also provides a good reason for rejecting those defintions, or at least a good reason for preferring other defintions that avoid the use of metaphorical expressions.
The definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 and the modified version of that definition are, in a way, too clear.  I say that because, they are clear enough to make it easy to identify these as being definitions of ANOTHER concept, a very important concept in the theory of critical thinking and in the field of informal logic, namely:  CONFIRMATION BIAS.
CONFIRMATION BIAS is a cognitive bias that causes PEOPLE to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence [for claims that they believe], which in turn results in PEOPLE overestimating the probability of the claims in question.
If we take Loftus definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 seriously (and assume that he belongs at the adult table), or if we take the modified version of that definition (which incorporates a key element from the defintion in Chapter 7) seriously, then a very imporant implication follows:
FAITH simply IS the same thing as CONFIRMATION BIAS
This implication has both positive and negative aspects, from Loftus’ point of view.  Here are some of the positive aspects of this implication:

  • The definition of “faith” proposed in Chapter 2 is not only clear, but it can be made even clearer in view of the scientific study of CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • I and many other atheists and skeptics would gladly join a crusade to fight against the evil of CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • There is a good deal of existing scientific data, research, and theory that already exists about CONFIRMATION BIAS, so our understanding of this evil can be significantly enhanced by lots of empirical data, scientific studies, and scientific theories.

But from Loftus’ point of view, this implication also has some negative aspects:

  • How is it that a word that has been used for many centuries (i.e. “faith”)* happens to have the very same meaning as a term that was invented by a modern scientific psychologist in the second half of the 20th century  (in about 1960)? This casts doubt on the correctness of Loftus’ definition of “faith” in Chapter 2):  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Cathcart_Wason#Early_studies
  • Given that the dragon that Loftus wants to slay is CONFIRMATION BIAS, isn’t it foolish to drag the unclear and controversial word “faith” into the fray?  The use of the word “faith” as the target of attack creates all kinds of political and social and psychological resistance and backlash, which is completely unnecessary if what we are fighting against is simply CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • CONFIRMATION BIAS is a universal human problem;  it is not a problem isolated to Christians, nor to religious believers.  Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, secular humanists, marxists, communists, and your run-of-the-mill “nones” (non-religious people who may not identify themselves as atheists or agnostics or skeptics) ALL suffer from this cognitive bias.  If all of the religious people in the world vanished into thin air tonight at midnight, then tomorrow morning the world would still be populated by people who have serious intellectual deficiencies due to CONFIRMATION BIAS.  Religion is (at most) a symptom of the evil of CONFIRMATION BIAS,  not the primary cause of it.  The problem of CONFIRMATION BIAS is a universal human problem.

To be continued…
===========================================
* The word “faith” (spelled as “feith”) appears in the first English translation of the New Testament, which was a hand-written manuscript created by John Wycliffe in about 1378, more than six centuries ago…
1378 Wycliffe New Testament: First Printed Edition (1731) Facsimile Reproduction
“The very first translation of the scriptures into the English Language was done in the 1380’s by John Wycliffe, who is called “The Morning Star of the Reformation”. Because he lived nearly a century before the 1455 invention of the printing press, his New Testaments and Bibles were of course, hand-written manuscripts. Wycliffe is also credited with being the inventor of bifocal eyeglasses (necessity being the mother of invention), though history tends to more frequently credit Ben Franklin with improving upon Wycliffe’s invention of bifocals.”
“Wycliffe’s hand-written manuscripts of the English scriptures are very challenging to read, but being the very first English scripture translation (albeit a translation from the Latin, and not the original Biblical languages), the Wycliffe translation is extremely historically important. For this reason, in the 1731, a reprint of Wycliffe’s circa 1378 manuscript was produced in modern easier-to-read type. It preserves the original Middle-English spellings and wordings 100% faithfully, but it simply makes the text easier to read by rendering the text as typeface, rather than being hand-written.”
http://greatsite.com/facsimile-reproductions/wycliffe-1731.html
Here is the Wycliffe’s translation of  the opening verses of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, which includes the word “feith” in verse 9 (click on image below for a clearer view of the text):
The word FAITH in 1 Cor 12
 
 
 
 
 

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 5: The Gap Between Phase 1 and Phase 2

Here is my version of Geisler’s first argument in Phase 2 of his case for God:
 

ARGUMENT #1 OF PHASE 2
 

10a. Only a being with great power could create the whole universe by itself, and only a being with great power could sustain the existence of the whole universe by itself  (for even just one moment).
 
11a. There is a being that both (a) created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that (b) sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
 
THEREFORE:
 
12a. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that being both (a) had great power (in the distant past) and (b) has great power (right now).

Premise (10a) has some initial plausibility, so I can understand why Geisler does not provide an argument in support of that premise.  
Premise (11a), however, is clearly a controversial and questionable claim, so he needs to provide reasosns or arguments to support (11a).  But NONE of Geisler’s five initial arguments proves that (11a) is true.  However, premise (11a) presupposes the following two claims:
 

13. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past).
 
14. There is a being that sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
 
Geisler would presumably claim that his first argument from Phase 1 can be used to prove (13) and that his second argument from Phase 1 can be used to prove (14).  But if we take a closer look at those two arguments, it will become clear that they do not show that (13) is true, nor that (14) is true.
 

Let’s take a look at the first argument that Geisler presents in Phase 1 of his case (WSA, p.16) :
 

ARGUMENT #1 OF PHASE 1
 

16. The universe had a beginning (in the distant past).

17. Anything that has a beginning must have been caused to begin to exist by something else.
 

THEREFORE:

1. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the distant past) by something else.
 

Premise (17) is ambiguous in terms of the quantification implied by the phrase “caused by something else”. Here are two different interpretations of premise (17):

17a.  Anything that has a beginning must have been caused to begin to exist by exactly one other thing or being.
 

17b. Anything that has a beginning must have been caused to begin to exist by at least one other thing or being.
 

I am something that had a beginning, and my beginning was caused by TWO other beings: my mother and my father.  So, it appears that (17a) is a FALSE generalization.  If Geisler had intended premise (17) to refer to “exactly one” being, as spelled out in (17a), then the second premise of his first argument is FALSE, and that argument is thus UNSOUND.

However, we can be charitable and assume that what Geisler had in mind was (17b), which is not subject to the counterexample that I just gave.  If we interpret premise (17) to mean what is stated in (17b), then we need to also revise the conclusion, so that it follows logically from the combination of (16) and (17b):
 

ARGUMENT #1 OF PHASE 1 – Revised
 

16. The universe had a beginning (in the distant past).
 
17b. Anything that has a beginning must have been caused to begin to exist by at least one other thing or being.
 
THEREFORE:
 
1a. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the distant past) by at least one thing or being other than the universe. 
 

This conclusion, however, falls short of showing the truth of the assumption that Geisler needed to prove:
 

13. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past).
 

The conclusion (1a) does not imply claim (13),  because (1a) does NOT say that the universe was caused to begin to exist by exactly one thing or being, so (1b) leaves open the possibility that many beings caused the universe to begin to exist.  If many beings caused the universe to begin to exist, then it would be false to say that some particular being created the whole universe by itself.  Thus,  Geisler’s first argument in Phase 1 FAILS to provide needed support for premise (13), so it also FAILS to provide needed support for premise (11a) in the first argument of Phase 2.
 

Furthermore, (1b) talks about the cause of the universe; it does not talk about what created the universe.  If a being “created” the universe by itself, then that being also caused the universe to come into existence, but the reverse is not necessarily the case.  If a thing or  being “caused” the universe to come into existence, that thing or being might not be the creator of the universe.
 

We can, for example, imagine one being causing the basic matter of the universe to come into existence, and another being orgainzing that matter into stars and planets, and solar systems and galaxies.  The being who caused the matter of the univese to come into existence would not be the creator of our universe, in that the major astronomical components of our universe were not brought into existence by that being.  The being who took the raw materials provided by the frst being and organized that matter into stars, planets, solar systems, and galaxies, might, however, be justifiably called the “creator” of our universe.  

Or, possibly, neither of these beings would be accurately described by the term “the creator of the universe”, because they might both be considered “partially responsible” for the origin of our universe, in which case it seems misleading to call either being “the creator”.  In any case, the cause of the beginning of the universe need not be “the creator” of the universe, so we cannot legitimately infer (13) from (1b).

The first argument from Geisler’s Phase 1 fails to support premise (11b) in the first argument of Phase 2 of his case for God. There is clearly a logical gap between the conclusion of the first argument of Phase 1 and the premise (11b) of the first argument of Phase 2. The former argument FAILS to establish the truth of claim (13), and thus FAILS to provide support for premise (11b). What about claim (14)?  Does the second argument in Phase 1 of Geisler’s case show that claim (14) is true?  Let’s take a closer look at the second argument in Phase 1 of Geisler’s case (WSA, p.18-19):


ARGUMENT #2 OF PHASE 1

18. Finite, changing things exist.
19. Every finite, changing thing must be caused by something else.
20. There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes.
THEREFORE:
2. There is a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists.
 
Here is my (partially) clarified version of this argument:
ARGUMENT #2 OF PHASE 1 – Rev. A
18a. Finite, changing things exist (right now).
19a. The current existence of every finite, changing thing that exists (right now) must be caused by something else that exists (right now).
20a. There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes (of current existence).
THEREFORE:
2a. There is a first uncaused cause that exists (right now) of the current existence of every finite, changing thing that exists (right now).
I have previously stated that the conclusion of this second argument in Phase 1 of Geisler’s case is ambiguous and has two different meanings.  But in fact, it has at least four different meanings, because there are two different ambiguities in the conclusion (2a).  
Here are the four different interpretations of the conclusion (2a):
2b. There is exactly one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of each finite, changing thing that exists (right now).
2c. There is exactly one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of all finite, changing things that exist (right now).
2d. There is at least one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of each finite, changing thing that exists (right now).
2e. There is at least one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of all finite, changing things that exist (right now).
The interpretations that speak of “exactly one” uncaused cause, should be rejected, because the argument cannot plausibly support such strong conclusions.  For premise (19a) to be plausible, it must leave open the possibility that two or more things could work together to cause the current existence of a finite, changing thing.  If one were to interpret (19a) as implying that there can only be exactly one being that is the uncaused cause of a particular finite, changing being that exists (right now), then (19a) should be rejected as an implausible claim, and thus this second argument should be rejected as well.  
The Argument #2 of Phase 1 only has a hope of being acceptable if we interpret (19a) as leaving open the possibility that two or more things or beings could work together to cause the current existence of a finite, changing thing.  Therefore, since the conclusions (2b) and (2c) do NOT logically follow from this argument, given that interpretation of (19a), we should reject interpretations (2b) and (2c).  
That leaves us with interpretations (2d) and (2e).   Interpretation (2e) should be rejected for the same sort of reason that we rejected interpretations (2b) and (2c), namely, that this would require an understanding of the meaning of (19a) that would make that premise implausible:
19b. The current existence of all finite, changing things that exist (right now) must be caused by at least one other thing or being that exists (right now).
This premise asserts that ALL of the trillions of trillions of bits of finite, changing matter that make up the universe (right now) are being caused to continue to exist by at least one thing or being.  But it is clearly conceivable and logically possible that SOME  of the trillions of bits of finite, changing matter that make up the universe (right now) are being caused to continue to exist by one thing, let’s call it “Thing 1” and that OTHER bits of finite, changing matter that make up the universe (right now) are being caused to continue to exist by some different thing, let’s call it “Thing 2”.  Geisler has given us no reason whatsoever to reject this scenario as logically impossible, and there is no obvious reason to think it is logically impossible, so we should reject (19b) as a dubious and probably false claim, and thus reject Argument #2 of Phase 1, if premise (19) is interpreted as meaning what is stated in (19b).  Thus, Argument #2 of Phase 1 cannot be used to provide solid support for conclusion (2e).  
That leaves us with just one possible interpretation of the conclusion: (2d).  Here is my best and final clarification of this argument:
ARGUMENT #2 OF PHASE 1 – Rev. B
18a. Finite, changing things exist (right now).
19c. The current existence of each finite, changing thing that exists (right now) must be caused by at least one other thing or being that exists (right now).
20a. There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes (of current existence).
THEREFORE:
2d. There is at least one first uncaused cause that exists (right now) for the current existence of each finite, changing thing that exists (right now).  
One could still object to (19c) as being in need of a supporting reason or argument, but it is at least a bit more plausible than the other interpretations of premise (19) that we have considered.  Given this interpretation of premise (19), the conclusion that is logically entailed by Argument #2 of Phase 1 leaves open the possibility that there are MANY (perhaps even trillions) of first uncaused causes of the current existence of the trillions of trillions of bits of finite, changing matter that make up the universe (right now).  Becuase conclusion (2d) FAILS to rule out this possibility, it also FAILS to provide proof of claim (14):
14. There is a being that sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).  
In conclusion, ARGUMENT #1 of Phase 1 FAILS to prove (13), and ARGUMENT #2 of Phase 1 FAILS to prove (14), so neither of these arguments help to prove premise (11a) of ARGUMENT #1 of Phase 2.  Therefore, there is a serious logical GAP between Geisler’s arguments in Phase 1, and a key controversial premise of a key argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.  
Geisler believes that the first two arguments of Phase 1 support this key premise of the first argument of Phase 2, but he is wrong. Once we clarify the meanings of the premises and conclusions of these various arguments, it becomes obvious that Geisler’s case for the existence of God is logically invalid.  (2d) does NOT imply (14), and (1a) does NOT imply (13).  Geisler’s case for God thus rests on a questionable premise for which he has FAILED to provide a good reason or sound argument, namely premise (11a) in ARGUMENT #1 of Phase 2.
Part of Geislers Case for God
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NOTE:
Premise (15) is a placeholder for one or more claims that when taken together show that a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past) and a being that sustains the current existence of the whole universe by itself (right now) must be the same being.  Geisler does not give us any reason to believe these beings are the same being.  
Later on, he does argue that there can be only ONE being of infinite power and infinite knowledge, but that argument presupposes the truth of (11a) and (12a) and thus is of no help in proving the truth of (11a) at this earlier stage of his case.
 

bookmark_borderDebate: External Evidence for Jesus – Part 5A: Five Principles

Joe Hinman’s fifth argument for the existence of Jesus is presented in three sections:
5A. Historical Methods
5B. Big Web of Historicity
5C. Jesus Myth Theory Cannot Account for the Web
I will comment on, and raise objections to, points in each of these three sections, but this post will only cover part of the section on “Historical Methods”.  Specifically, I will cover the five high-level principles of historical investigation proposed by Hinman in his discussion of “Historical Methods”.
5A. Hinman on Historical Methods: Five General Principles
Hinman advocates the following five general principles of historical investigation:
P1. The document, not the people, is the point.
P2. Supernatural content does not negate historic aspects.
P3. What people believed tells us things, even if we don’t believe it.
P4. Everyone is biased.
P5. The historicity of a single persona cannot be examined apart from the framework.
 
Hinman’s first principle of historical investigation is this:
P1. The document, not the people, is the point.
I don’t know what (P1) means, and Hinman’s discussion of this idea does not make it any clearer.  Hinman’s discussion of (P1) makes a number of assertions that are interesting and worth thinking about, but I will comment on those more specific points in my next post on “Historical Methods”.  I won’t criticize what I don’t understand, so Hinman needs to clarify this principle before I will attempt to evaluate it.
The second principle put forward by Hinman is a bit clearer:
P2. Supernatural content does not negate historic aspects.
A comment by Hinman provides further clarification of (P2):
Historians do not discount sources merely for supernatural contents.  Even when they don’t believe the supernatural details, they don’t just deny everything the source says.
This is certainly a true point about how historians work, and I have no problem with the basic point.  However, there are some qualifications that I would add to this principle.
First, the Gospels don’t just have a few “supernatural details”.  They are filled with supernatural beings and events, from start to finish.  Here are a few supernatural elements from the beginnings of two Gospels (Matthew and Luke):

  • An angel visits Mary to tell her that she will become pregnant by the power of God, not by the usual biological process of sexual reproduction (Luke 1:26-38).
  • Mary miraculously becomes pregnant without first having sex with a man (Matthew 1:18-25).
  • An angel appears to some shepherds near Bethlehem to announce the birth of the Messiah, when Jesus is born there (Luke 2:1-20).
  • A multitude of angels appear to the shepherds and praise God (Luke 2:1-20).
  • A star indicates to some wise men from the East that a great king has been born in Palestine (Matthew 2:1-12).
  • The same star miraculously guides the wise men to the specific house where Mary and the baby Jesus were staying (Matthew 2:1-12).
  • Joseph, the husband of Mary, has a dream in which an angel warns him to take Mary and the baby Jesus away from Palestine, and Joseph follows this warning thus saving the baby Jesus from being killed in a mass slaughter of infants in Bethlehem by king Herod. (Matthew 2:13-23).

We have at least seven supernatural events surrounding the birth of Jesus in just the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke.  After that the miracles and supernatural events just keep on coming:  Jesus turns water into wine, Jesus heals the blind, the lame, and the deaf.  Jesus raises dead people back to life.  Jesus walks on water, calms a huge storm with a command, and feeds thousands of people with a few fishes and a few loaves of bread.  Jesus is levitated to the top of the temple by the devil and argues with the devil.  Jesus is transfigured and has a conversation with Moses and Elijah.  Jesus reads people’s minds.   Jesus miraculously causes huge collections of fish to congregate in the nets of his disciples.  Jesus dies and then comes back to life less than 48 hours later.  He then walks through a locked door, instantly vanishes from sight at will, and is able to levitate himself up into the sky.
The Gospels do not just contain a few “supernatural details”.  They are filled with supernatural beings (angels and demons and spirits) and supernatural events (miraculous healings, resurrections, mind reading, and nature miracles like levitation, walking on water, and controlling the weather).
Second, the supernatural elements in the Gospels are often essential to the stories related in the Gospels.  If we strip out all of the supernatural beings and events from the birth narratives, for example, there is not much left over.  If 75% of the assertions in the birth narratives are fictional, then why believe the 25% that remains?
It is possible that the very minimal historical claim “Jesus was born in Bethlehem” could be true, but given the general unreliability of the birth narratives (due in part to their being filled with supernatural beings and events), this also casts doubt on the tiny bit of historical “information” that remains after stripping out all of the clearly fictional B.S.  Given that Christians believed that the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and given that most of the other assertions in the birth narratives are historically dubious, we ought to be very skeptical about the claim “Jesus was born in Bethlehem” even though this claim does not, by itself, involve any supernatural elements.  It might represent prophecy that was used to formulate “history”.
What remains of the story of Jesus at the wedding in Cana if we delete his miracle of turning water into wine? Not much: Jesus went to a wedding in Cana. What remains of the story of Jesus walking on water on the sea of Galilee if we remove the walking on water part?  Not much: Jesus went in a boat with some of his disciples on the sea of Galilee. What remains of the transfiguration story if we remove the part about how Jesus began to shine like a bright light and if we remove the appearance of Moses and Elijah?  Not much: Jesus prayed with some of his disciples on a mountain top.  In a few stories the supernatural beings or events might be a detail that can be ignored, but in many cases the supernatural being or event plays an important role in the story, so that removing the supernatural element guts the story or seriously changes the meaning of the story or makes the story illogical and incoherent.
As David Friedrich Strauss argued long ago in The Life of Jesus, the attempt of skeptics to strip out all of the supernatural elements of the Gospels while still maintaining the basic historicity of the Gospel accounts makes no sense.  It makes far more sense to admit that Gospels are filled with legends and myths and fictional stories, and that only a few bits and pieces here and there, at best, are factual and historical.
Third, the assertion of this principle borders on a STRAW MAN fallacy.  There is the suggestion here that Jesus skeptics doubt the historicity of the Gospels ONLY because the Gospel stories contain supernatural elements.  Skeptics do NOT doubt the historicity of the Gospels ONLY because of there are a few supernatural details in them, nor do skeptics doubt the historicity of the Gospels ONLY because the Gospels are filled with supernatural beings and events.
Take the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke for example.  They include many supernatural elements, both supernatural beings (angels), and supernatural events (virgin birth, a star that guides people to a specific location).  These supernatural elements are one reason for doubting the historicity of these stories, but there are other reasons as well.  The Gospels of Matthew and Luke use Mark as a primary source of information about Jesus, but there is no birth story in Mark.  When Matthew and Luke follow the narrative framework in Mark, they generally agree with each other, but when they provide birth stories, their stories contradict each other, indicating that when they depart from the information in Mark, at least one of the two Gospels provides a fictional birth story, and perhaps both birth stories are fictional.
There are also some historically improbable details in both accounts beyond the supernatural elements.  The census in Luke is historically improbable for various reasons.  The slaughter of the innocents story in Matthew is historically improbable.  The relocation of the holy family to Egypt is historically improbable.  The fact that both Matthew and Luke place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in accordance with an alleged messianic prophecy, casts doubt on the historicity of that key shared claim between the two birth stories.
So, the rejection of the birth stories as legends or myths is not based ONLY on the fact that these stories are filled with supernatural elements.  There are other good reasons that point to the same conclusion.  Similar reasoning applies to skepticism about other parts of the Gospels.
Hinman’s third principle of historical investigation is a bit vague:
P3. What people believed tells us things, even if we don’t believe it.
I’m not sure what Hinman is getting at here, but taken straightforwardly, this principle seems obviously correct.  Using an historical document to determine what early Christians believed about God or Jesus “tells us things”, even if the historian rejects some or all of those beliefs.  At the very least, this tells us what early Christians believed about God or Jesus!  
This information about the beliefs of early Christians can also help historians to better analyze and evaluate particular Gospel stories and passages.  If early Christians believed that Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, then historians could anticipate and look for places where the Gospels of Matthew and Luke modify some story or passage from Mark in order to make Jesus appear to be sinless, and to the extent that historians do find such modifications of Mark by Matthew and Luke, this provides further evidence that early Christians believed Jesus was sinless and also provides evidence that Matthew and Luke alter information from their sources to make the story or quotation fit better with their theological beliefs or the theological beliefs of their early Christian readers.
One of the things that the Gospels tell us is that early Christians were gullible and superstitious, at least if we assume that early Christian believers read the Gospels literally.  They believed in astrological signs, in angels, in demons, in demon possession, in the devil, in faith healing, in prophetic dreams, in levitation, in mind reading, in spirits of the dead, in raising the dead, in prophecy.  They believed all of these things without demanding strong evidence for claims of such events; they believed such things on the basis of hearsay and testimonial evidence,  on the basis of contradictory reports in the canonical Gospels, and without conducting serious skeptical investigations into the facts.  This is an important fact about early Christians that we can learn from reading the Gospels.  We can learn of the gullibility of early Christian believers even if we reject some or all of the beliefs that they formed in gullible and uncritical ways.
We can also learn that the early Christians were either not particularly good at logical and critical thinking or else were generally ignorant about the contents of the OT, because they were not skeptical about Jesus being a true prophet and the divine Son of God in spite of the various contradictions between Christian doctrines and the teachings of the Old Testament (e.g. OT: God rewards those who obey his commandments with wealth, health, peace and happiness in this life, but provides only a dark and miserable afterlife for good and evil people alike.  NT: God allows people who have faith in him and Jesus to suffer poverty, disease, hunger, and persecution in this life, but will provide a life of eternal bliss to those people in the next life.)
That early Christians were not particularly good at logical and critical thinking is also supported by their acceptance of various logical contradictions within Christian theology (e.g. For God so loved the world that God planned to send most humans to suffer torture in hell for all eternity).  Of course it is possible that a few early Christians were bothered by such contradictions, but not enough were bothered so that there would be apologetic points on these issues built into the Gospels (or the letters of Paul).
That early Christians were not particularly good at logical and critical thinking is also supported by their apparent acceptance of unclarity of Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of Paul on central issues (e.g.  “What must I do to be saved?”  Protestants disagree with Catholics on the answer to this fundamental question, and Protestants disagree with each other on the answer to this fundamental question.  These disagreements between various Christian denominations are the result of the unclarity and inconsistencies in the teachings of Jesus, in the teachings of Paul, and inconsistencies between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Paul.).
We can, however, also learn things that help the case for an historical Jesus.  If the Gospels and other early Christian writings show that Christians viewed the crucifixion of Jesus as something that was very shameful, then that could provide evidence in support of the historicity of the crucifixion of Jesus.  Why invent a story about the death of Jesus that is so shameful?  I don’t necessarily accept this argument from embarassment, but it is an example of how knowledge about the beliefs of early Christians can be used in support of the historicity of Jesus or of a particular event in the life (or death) of Jesus.
The fourth principle that Hinman advocates is quite brief:
P4. Everyone is biased.
Based on Hinman’s discussion of (P4) and (P5) it appears that this principle is given in part as a reply to an objection about an alleged bias of scholars on the issue of the historicity of Jesus.  Here are two plausible claims about NT scholars along such lines:

  • The vast majority of NT scholars have a significant bias in favor of the historicity of Jesus.
  • Most NT scholars have a strong bias in favor of the historicity of Jesus. 

So, one question to keep in mind is whether (P4) provides a strong reply to such criticisms about NT scholars.
The principle (P4) is a bit vague and ambiguous.  Here are a couple of different possible interpretations of (P4):
P4a. Everyone has a bias on some issue or other.
P4b. For any given theory, everyone is either biased in favor of the theory or biased against the theory.
Principle (P4a) is no doubt true, but it is insignificant and unhelpful in this context, because it leaves open the possibility that some people have a bias when it comes to the issue of the historicity of Jesus and other people do NOT have a bias on this issue.  Because (P4a) leaves this possibility open, it does not help us any in dealing with this particular issue; it fails to provide a strong reply to the above criticisms about NT scholars.
Principle (P4b) on the other hand, would certainly be of some significance to the issue of the historicity of Jesus, but, alas, (P4b) is a very broad generalization that is clearly false.  So, principle (P4b) is of no use, and fails to provide a strong reply to the above criticisms of NT scholars, because (P4b) is false.
We could try to rescue (P4b) by narrowing the scope to focus exclusively on the issue of the historicity of Jesus:
P4c. Everyone is either biased in favor of the historicity of Jesus or is biased against the historicity of Jesus.
But (P4c) is still somewhat dubious.  The issue of the historicity of Jesus is more controversial than many other issues, but controversiality is based on the feelings and attitudes of people in general, and there are almost always exceptions to such general psychological phenomena.  In other words, although most people have strong feelings about this issue, it seems fairly certain that there are at least a few people who don’t have strong feelings or opinions about the historicity of Jesus.  So, in order to rescue the (P4c) in terms of truth, we would need to either qualify the degree of bias that is being asserted or revise the quantification in terms of the proportion of people in scope:
P4d.  Everyone is either biased at least a tiny bit in favor of the historicity of Jesus or biased at least a tiny bit against the historicity of Jesus.
P4e.  Most people are either significantly biased in favor of the historicity of Jesus or significantly biased against the historicity of Jesus.
These generalizations are at least plausible.  However, (P4d) leaves open the possibility that some people (e.g. NT scholars) have a strong bias in favor of the historicity of Jesus, while other people (e.g. Jesus skeptics) have only a tiny bit of bias against the historicity of Jesus.  This would clearly not help Hinman’s case for the existence of Jesus, and fails to provide a strong reply to the above criticsims about NT scholars.
Also, (P4e) leaves open the possibility that some people (e.g. NT scholars) have a strong bias in favor of the historicity of Jesus, while a few people (e.g. Jesus skeptics) have no significant bias on this issue.  Again, this would not be of help for Hinman’s case, and fails to provide a strong reply to the criticisms of NT scholars.
I have considered a number of different possible interpretations of principle (P4).  The principle is false or dubious on some of those interpretations, and on the interpretations where the principle is true or plausible, it is either insignificant and unhelpful or appears to be of no help to Hinman’s case, and fails to provide a strong reply to the above criticisms of NT scholars.
If Hinman wants to continue to advocate this principle, he needs to clarify it in terms of the quantification of the portion of people who are being characterized and he needs to clarify it in terms of the scope of issues to which it applies, and he needs to clarify it in terms of the degree of bias that is being alleged (because there is a big difference between a strong bias and a very tiny bit of bias).  Principle (P4) cannot be rationally evaluated unless and until it is re-stated in a much clearer and more specific form.
As with (P4), the final principle is in need of clarification:
P5. The historicity of a single persona cannot be examined apart from the framework.
What matters in this context is whether this principle applies to (or is correct in terms of) the issue of the historicity of Jesus, so we can focus on this instantiation of (P5): ”
IP5. The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be examined apart from the framework.
The term “the framework” is unclear and vague.  However, based on Hinman’s discussion of this principle, this phrase appears to refer to the view or theory that Jesus existed, that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical person.  Given this understanding of “the framework”, the principle is still ambiguous.  Here are two different possible interpretations:
IP5a. The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be examined apart from assuming that Jesus of Nazareth was a flesh-and-blood historical person.
IP5b. The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be examined apart from examining the issue of  whether Jesus of Nazareth was a flesh-and-blood historical person.
Principle (IP5a) clearly involves circular reasoning.  If one simply assumes that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical person, then one begs the question of the historicity of Jesus.  So, we must reject (IP5a) because it is an unreasonable and illogical principle.
Principle (IP5b), on the other hand, is completely and undeniably true.  But it is true because it is a trivial and uninformative tautology.  The question of the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth just is the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth was a flesh-and-blood historical person.  So, this principle is of no significant help or use (other than to clarify the question at issue for those who are ignorant or confused).
There is one other interpretation, which seems both plausible and significant:
IP5c. The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be examined apart from treating this question as a question about which framework or theory among available alternatives best accounts for all of the available evidence (e.g. the theory that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical person vs. the theory that Jesus was just a myth).
Because this interpretation is both plausible and significant, the Principle of Charity indicates that this is the best interpretation, at least of the possible interpretations considered so far.
I have no objection to (IP5c).  However, it is obvious to any intelligent and informed Jesus skeptic that (IP5c) is true, and intelligent and informed Jesus skeptics usually think and argue in keeping with (IP5c).  G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty,  Robert Price, and Richard Carrier all accept this principle and they all think and argue in keeping with this principle, at least most of the time.  So, emphasis on this principle appears to me to be bordering on a STRAW MAN fallacy.
Jesus skeptics do NOT argue that because this or that Gospel story is historically problematic, therefore Jesus is just a myth.  The case against the historicity of Jesus is much broader than that and deals with a wide range of evidence both from the NT and from external (non-biblical) historical sources. Emphasis of this principle is a way of suggesting that Jesus skeptics and Jesus mythicists are idiots who don’t think and argue in keeping with this principle, but that suggestion is false and slanderous.  There are some stupid and unreasonable Jesus skeptics, but the major published Jesus skeptics accept (IP5c) and generally conform their thinking to this principle.

bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 3

Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored a website called EveryStudent.com, a site that targets college students as its primary audience.  The director of the website is Marilyn Adamson.   Adamson wrote a key article for the website called “Is There a God?” which provides six reasons in support of the claim that God exists.   Adamson completely destroys her own credibility in the opening paragraphs of the article where she presents an obviously bad argument that constitutes the first of the six reasons.
I had planned to address a possible reply to my objection in this post, a reply asserting that cosmic pluralism is a speculative theory which has not been established by scientific observations and evidence.  However, it is more important to clarify Adamson’s initial argument for the existence of God, so I will address this reply to my objection in another post later in this series.
A portion of Adamson’s first argument is presented in the opening paragraphs, and it can be summarized in two sentences:
(SJR) The size of the Earth is just right, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.
(RDS) The Earth is the right distance from the Sun, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.
In the previous post in this series, I have already presented a major objection to this argument.  But before I go any further, I think it would be helpful to clarify Adamson’s reasoning.
One serious problem with Adamson’s arguments is that they are very sketchy and thus are unclear. Most of her argument for this first point is left unstated, which means that it is the readers of her article who must do all the heavy lifting.   In order to thoughtfully and critically evaluate her reasoning, one must first read between the lines in order to guess at the missing premises and inferences that were left out of her presentation of this argument.
Although it would be possible to make use of the above two premises in a sophisticated version of a Fine Tuning argument, it is clear that this is NOT what Adamson had in mind.  The most obvious clue to her intentions comes in the following sentence from her presentation of the first argument (emphasis added by me):
Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.
This sentence implies that the Earth is a rare or unique planet in having properties that make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life.  Such a claim does not fit well with a Fine Tuning type of argument.
If this were a Fine Tuning argument, then Adamson would be arguing that the laws of nature and the configuration of matter and energy that were present in the initial moments of the big bang were such as to make it PROBABLE that natural processes would result in the development of planets (like the Earth) with properties that make them capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life.
But this sentence suggests the very opposite view.  It suggests that the existence of a planet with properties that make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life is IMPROBABLE, given what we know about the laws of nature and about the configuration of matter and energy in the universe and about the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, assuming that there was no God to guide or intervene in the natural processes that led to the formation of stars and planets.
Because of this clue, we can infer an important unstated premise of Adamson’s argument, which I will refer to as the Natural Improbability Thesis or NIT:
(NIT) Given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, it is IMPROBABLE that natural processes would lead to the formation of at least one planet with the right size and at the right distance from a sun that would make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life (if there was no God to guide, or intervene in, those natural processes).
This assumption suggests a contrast with the alternative view that there exists a God who could, and who probably would, guide, or intervene in, natural processes in order to bring about the formation of a planet capable of sustaining life.  This second key unstated premise of Adamson’s argument I will call the Divine Guidance Thesis or DGT:
(DGT) If God exists, then given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, it is PROBABLE that at least one planet would come to exist with the right size and at the right distance from a sun that would make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life, because if natural processes would not cause this to happen on their own, then God would probably guide, or intervene in, those natural processes to bring about the existence of such a planet.
In short, if there is no God, then (given what we know about natural laws and processes in the physical universe) a life-friendly planet like the Earth probably would NOT have developed, but if there is a God, then (given what we know about natural laws and processes in the physical universe and what we know about God’s purposes and inclinations) a life-friendly planet like the Earth probably would have developed.
The conjunction of (NIT) and (DGT) implies that the explicitly stated premises of Adamson’s argument provide evidence for the existence of God.   That is to say, if (NIT) and (DGT) are both true, then (SJR) and (RDS) would provide some evidence for the existence of God.  But if (NIT) is false (or dubious), then Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.  And if (DGT) is false (or dubious), then Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.
Both of these important unstated premises of Adamson’s argument are problematic and questionable.  That is the problem with CLARITY.   If you present an argument clearly, which involves explicitly stating your basic assumptions and inferences, then people who read your argument can rationally and critically evaluate your argument, and if your reasoning involves false or questionable assumptions, or illogical inferences, this will make it much easier for others to see that your argument is defective.
By leaving most of her argument unstated, Adamson hides the false or questionable assumptions of her argument, and makes it difficult for others to rationally and critically evaluate her argument.  Thus, even if this first argument was a solid argument (which it assuredly is not), Adamson’s sketchy presentation of this argument makes it difficult for readers of her article to rationally and critically evaluate this argument, and it makes it easier for college students to be taken in by an illogical or defective argument.
The main problem with (NIT) is that we know that the universe contains a fantastically huge number of stars and planets of various sizes and configurations, so it is a matter of common sense that some of the planets in the universe are bound to be of the right size and the right distance from a sun so that those planets would be suitable for sustaining plant, animal and human life.
There are additional factors required to make a planet capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life besides the size and location of the planet, but Adamson’s argument focuses on these two important factors, and given the focus on these two factors, (NIT) seems clearly to be false.
Given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, it is actually PROBABLE that natural processes would lead to the formation of at least one planet with the right size and at the right distance from a sun that would make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life; there is no need to assume the existence of a God to account for the existence of such a planet.  The laws of nature, general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets are sufficient by themselves to make the existence of a planet with the right size and at the right distance from a sun extremely probable, virtually certain.
There are about 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe (we cannot observe the entire universe because some parts of the universe are more than 13.7 billion light years away, so there has not been enough time for light from stars that far away to reach the Earth) .  There are about 100 billion stars in a galaxy, on average.  So, the approximate number of stars in the observable universe is:
200,000,000,000 galaxies  x  100,000,000,000 stars/galaxy =
 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars
That is a lot of stars!
What about planets?  How many planets are there?  There are at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy, and there might well be about 10 trillion planets in our galaxy.  If we use the lower estimate and assume this to be an average number for a galaxy, then the approximate number of planets in the observable universe is about the same as the number of stars:
200,000,000,000 galaxies  x  100,000,000,000 planets/galaxy =
 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets
That is a lot of planets!
Clearly, with this huge number of stars and planets of various sizes and distances from each other, it is virtually certain that at least one planet in the universe would be the right size and at the right distance from a sun in order to make the planet suitable for sustaining plant, animal and human life.  According to one estimate, based on recently gathered astronomical data, there are probably 15 to 30 billion planets in the observable universe which would be of the right size and at the right distance from a sun to be suitable for sustaining life.
Therefore (NIT) is clearly false, and Adamson has failed to show that her factual premises (SJR) and (RDS) provide any evidence for the existence of God.
 

bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 1

I was bored one night a few weeks ago and did a Google search on “Does God exist”. One of the top hits that came back was for this webpage:
http://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html
This webpage contains an article written by Marilyn Adamson, called “Is There a God?”, which according to the sub-title presents “six straightforward reasons to believe that God is really there.”  
According to the “About” page the EveryStudent.com website is sponsored by “an interdenominational Christian organization: Cru.”.  I did not recognize the name “Cru”, so I poked around a bit, and clicked on a link to a sister website called StartingwithGod.com, which is also sponsored by “Cru”.  The “About” page for this sister site has a link to a statement of faith for “Cru” and that link took me to a website for “Cru”.  The “About” page for the “Cru” website unlocked the mystery of the name of the sponsoring organization:
Cru is the name of Campus Crusade for Christ International in the U.S.
Marilyn Adamson is the director for the EveryStudent.com website, and that website was sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ International.
So, the webpage where Adamson presenst six reasons for the existence of God is not just a personal webpage where Adamson is expressing and justifying her faith, it is a publication sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.  So, the crudeness and ignorance of Adamson’s arguments are not simply due to the ignorance and foibles of Adamson; they represent the ignorance and foibles of an International Christian organization, an organization that targets it’s messages to college students:
If you are uncertain about your relationship with God, or would like to pursue spiritual questions, we recommend visiting EveryStudent.com. The site helps explain who God is and what it might be like to know God. The site was built for college students (hence the name EveryStudent), but many adults have found it to be extremely helpful. (from the “About” page for StartingwithGod.com, emphasis added)
Since “Cru” wants to communicate with and persuade college students to become Christian believers, or to remain Christian believers, one would expect that a website sponsored by “Cru” and called EveryStudent.com and specifically targeted to college students would use the best available arguments for the existence of God, and would avoid the use of arguments for God that are clearly and obviously illogical or defective, especially if those illogical and defective arguments are generally recognized to be illogical or defective by philosophers of religion.
To use obviously illogical or defective arguments for God that are generally recognized to be illogical or defective by philosophers of religion is bad form no matter who the intended audience might be, but it is especially shameful to use such arguments when your target audience is college students, students who should be encouraged to study philosophy, to think carefully and logically about philosophical issues, and to learn about philosophy from experts in that field.
Some of the arguments presented by Adamson are worthy of consideration (e.g.  the First Cause argument is a classic argument and is still defended by some philosophers, and the Fine Tuning argument is a modern argument that has been widely discussed by philosophers in recent decades), but others are obviously illogical or defective and generally recognized to be so, particularly the first set of arguments presented in Adamson’s article.
Furthermore, the arguments that are worthy of consideration are presented poorly, and in a way that encourages illogical thinking, thinking that philosophers of religion would generally recognize as being illogical.  So, Cru provides college students crappy arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration (other than to show them to be illogical or defective) plus Cru also provides college students with a couple of arguments that are worthy of consideration but that are presented in a crappy way that encourages illogical thinking about the existence of God.
The EveryStudent.com website is promoted as “A Safe Place to Explore Questions About Life and God” but this website is NOT “A Safe Place” in terms of intellectual integrity and the central educational goal of promoting critical thinking.  This website promotes, at least in the key web article written by Adamson, illogical and uncritical thinking as well as ignorance concerning the philosophy of religion.  This website might be “A Safe Place” if someone is fearful of logical and critical thinking, and is afraid that knowledge and scholarship might challenge their Christian beliefs,  but it is NOT “A Safe Place” for college students who want to become educated, well-informed, critical thinkers.
Since Cru, through the prominent publication of the article “Is There a God?” by Marilyn Adamson, has failed to model critical thinking and thinking about God that is well-informed by knowledge and understanding of philosophy (especially philosophy of religion), and thus provided an UNSAFE website for students who desire to become educated, well-informed critical thinkers, I plan to point out the various failings of Adamson’s article in detail in future posts.

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig’s Logic Lesson – Part 4

In the March Reasonable Faith Newsletter William Craig asserted this FALSE principle about valid deductive arguments that have premises that are probable:
… in a deductive argument the probability of the premises establishes only a minimum probability of the conclusion: even if the premises are only 51% probable, that doesn’t imply that the conclusion is only 51% probable. It implies that the conclusion is at least 51% probable.
There are a variety of natural tendencies that people have to reason poorly and illogically when it comes to reasoning about evidence and probability.  So, it is worth taking a little time to carefully review Craig’s mistake in order to LEARN from his mistake, and to understand how the logic really works in this case, so that we can avoid making the same mistake ourselves, and so that we can more readily notice and identify when others make similar mistakes in their reasoning.
One way that Craig’s principle can fail is because of the fact that a valid deductive argument can have multiple premises and because standard valid forms of deductive inferences/arguments require that ALL premises be true in order to work, in order to logically imply the conclusion.  In the case of a valid deductive argument with multiple premises that are probable rather than certain, it is usually the case that ALL of the premises must be true in order for the argument to logically imply the conclusion.
If the probable premises of such an argument are independent from each other (so that the truth or falsehood of one premise has no impact on the probability of the truth or falsehood of other premises in the argument), then the simple multiplication rule of probability applies, because what matters in this case is that the CONJUNCTION of all of the probable premises is true, and the probability of the conjunction of the premises of such an argument is equal to the product of the individual probabilities of each of the probable premises.  This means that the premises of a valid deductive argument can each have probabilities of .51 or greater while the conclusion has a probability of LESS THAN .51.  Examples of such arguments were given in Part 2 of this series of posts.
Another way that Craig’s principle can FAIL is based on situations where one or more premises of a valid deductive argument have dependencies with other premises in the argument.
Here is an example of a valid deductive argument with a premise that has a dependency on another premise :
1. I will get heads on the first random toss of this fair coin.
2. I will get tails on the first random toss of this fair coin. 
THEREFORE:
3. I will get heads on the first random toss of this fair coin, and I will get tails on the first random toss of this fair coin.
The probability of (1) is .5, and the probability of (2) is also .5 (considered on its own).  However, these two premises are mutually exclusive.  If (1) is true, then (2) must be false, and if (2) is true, then (1) must be false.  Thus, the conclusion (3) asserts a logical contradiction, and thus the probability that (3) is true is 0.   In the case of this argument, we cannot simply multiply the probability of (1) , considered by itself, times the probability of (2), considered by itself, in order to determine the probability of the CONJUNCTION of (1) and (2).
We have to multiply the probability of (1) times the probability of (2) GIVEN THAT (1) is the case.   Because the truth or falsehood of (1) impacts the probability of the truth or falsehood of (2), we cannot use the simple multiplication rule with this argument.  We must use the general multiplication rule:
The probability of the conjunction of A and B is equal to the product of the probability of A and the probability of B given that A is the case.
Here is the mathematical formula for the general multiplication rule of probability:
P(A & B) =  P(A) x P(B|A)
NOTE: The general multiplication rule can be used whether or not there is a dependency relationship between the premises of an argument.  If there is no dependency relationship between A and B, then the probability of B given that A is the case will be the SAME as the probability of B considered by itself.
Since the truth of (1) clearly excludes the possibility of the truth of (2), the probability of (2) GIVEN THAT (1) is the case is 0.  The probability of the conjunction of (1) and (2) is thus equal to:  .5   x  0  =  0.  So, the probability of the conclusion (3) is 0, even though the probability of (1) is .5.
This demonstrates how the probability of the conclusion of a valid deductive argument can be LESS THAN the probability of a premise in the argument (considered by itself).  The main reason why the probability of (3) is 0 is that there is a logical incompatability between premise (1) and premise (2) which rules out the possibility of it being the case that BOTH premises are true.  The truth or falsehood of (1) has an impact on the probability of the truth or falsehood of (2), so there is a dependency between the truth or falsehood of these premises.
Considered by itself, premise (2) has a probability of .5, but for the argument to work, both premises have to be true, and the probability of (2) can be impacted by whether (1) is true or false, so we need to assess the probablity of (2) on the assumption that (1) is true, and when we do so, the probability of (2) in that scenario is reduced from .5 down to 0.  Therefore, it is this dependency relationship between (2) and (1) that results in the conclusion having a probability that is extremely low, as low as probabilities can get: 0.
The same mathematical relationship holds when the probability of an individual probable premises is greater than .5:
4. I will not roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die.
5. I will roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die.
THEREFORE:
6. I will not roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die, and I will roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die.
The probability of (4) considered by itself is 5/6 or about .83, and the probability of (5) considered by itself is 1/6 or about .17.  However, these two premises are mutually exclusive. If (4) is true, then (5) must be false, and if (5) is true, then (4) must be false. Thus, the conclusion (6) asserts a logical contradiction, and thus the probability that (6) is true is 0. In the case of this argument, we cannot simply multiply the probability of (4) considered by itself, times the probability of (5) considered by itself, in order to determine the probability of the CONJUNCTION of (4) and (5).
Because there is a dependency relationship between (4) and (5), we must use the general multiplication rule to determine the probability of the conclusion.  The probability of the conjunction of (4) and (5) is equal to the product of the probability of (4) and the probability of (5) given that (4) is the case:
P[(4) & (5)] =  P[(4)]  x  P[(5)|(4)]
=  5/6  x   0 =  0
Thus, because of the dependency relationship between (4) and (5), the probability of the conclusion is reduced to 0, even though the probability of premise (4) considered by itself is 5/6 or about .83, which is GREATER THAN .51.  This argument is therefore another counterexample to Craig’s principle.  It is a valid deductive argument which has a probable premise with a probability GREATER THAN .51 but where the probability of the conclusion is LESS THAN .51.
The dependency relationship between premises need not be as strong as in the above examples. So long as the truth or falsehood of one premise impacts the probability of some other premise in the argument, Craig’s principle about valid deductive arguments can  FAIL.
Here is a counterexample against Craig’s principle that involves a dependency relationship that is weaker than in the above examples (something less than being mutually exclusive):
10. I will not select a heart card on the first randomly selected card from this standard deck.
11. I will not select a diamond card on the first randomly selected card from this standard deck.
THEREFORE:
12. I will not select a heart card on the first randomly selected card from this standard deck, and I will not select a diamond card on the first randomly selected card from this standard deck.
The probability of (10) considered by itself is .75, and the probability of (11) considered by itself is .75.  However, there are dependency relationships between these premises which make the conjunction of the premises less probable than if we simply multiplied these probabilities of each premise considered by itself.
If we ignored the dependency then the probability of the conjunction of the three premises would be calculated this way: .75  x  .75  = .5625 or about .56.  But to properly determine the probability of the conjunction of the three premises, we need to use the following equation (based on the general multiplication rule):
P[(10) & (11)] =  P[(10)]  x  P[(11)|(10)]  
=  3/4   x   2/3    =   6/12  =  1/2  =  .50
Thus, the probability of the conclusion of this argument is .50, which is LESS THAN .51.
The probability of premise (10) considered by itself is 3/4 or .75, and the probability of (11) is 3/4 considered by itself, which is GREATER THAN .51, and the probability of (11) given that (10) is the case is 2/3 or about .67, which is still GREATER THAN .51, but the probability of the conclusion of this argument is LESS THAN .51, so this argument is a counterexample to Craig’s principle, and part of the reason why the probability of the conclusion is so low is that there is a depenedency relationship between the premises.
Here is a final counterexample based (in part) on there being a dependency between premises:
14. I will not roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die.
15. I will not roll a five on the first random roll of this fair die. 
16. I will not roll a four on the first random roll of this fair die.
THEREFORE:
17. I will not roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die, and I will not roll a five on the first random roll of this fair die, and I will not roll a four on the first random roll of this fair die.
Each of the premises in this argument has a probability of 5/6 or about .83 when considered by itself.  If we ignored the dependency relationship between these premises, then we would calculate the probability of the conjunction of premises (14), (15), and (16) simply by multiplying these probabilities:  5/6  x  5/6  x  5/6   =  125/216   which approximately equals .5787 or about .58.  However, because there are dependencies between these premises, we must use the general multiplication rule.  Here is a formula for this argument that is based on the general multiplication rule:
P[(14) & (15) & (16)] =  
P[(14)]  x  P[(15)|(14)]  x  P[(16)|[(14) & (15)]]  
= 5/6  x  4/5  x  3/4  =   60/120  =  1/2  =  .50
Thus, the probability of the conclusion (17) is 1/2 or .50 which is LESS THAN .51.
So, the probability of each premise (considered by itself) is greater than .51, and the probability of premise (16) given that all the other premises are true is 3/4 or  .75, which is still greater than .51, but the probability of the conclusion (17) is LESS THAN .51, so Craig’s principle FAILS in this case, and thus Craig’s principle is shown to be FALSE.

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig’s Logic Lesson – Part 3

I had planned to discuss counterexamples (to Craig’s principle) that were based on dependencies existing between the premises in some valid deductive arguments.  But I am putting that off for a later post, in order to present a brief analysis of some key concepts.
It seems to me that an important part of understanding the relationship between valid deductive arguments and probability is keeping in mind the distincition between necessary conditions and sufficient conditions. So, I’m going to do a brief analysis of this relationship.
SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS ESTABLISH A MINIMUM PROBABILITY
1. IF P, THEN Q.
Claim (1) asserts that P is a SUFFICIENT CONDITION for Q.
Assuming that (1) is true, the probability of P establishes a MINIMUM probability for Q.
If the probability of P was .60, then assuming that (1) is true, the minimum probability for Q would also be .60, because whenever P is true, so is Q.
However, (1) is compatible with Q being true even if P is false. There could be some OTHER reason for Q being true:
2. IF R, THEN Q.
If (2) is also true, and if R has some chance of being true even when P is false, then the probability of Q would be GREATER THAN the probability of P.  In this scenario the probability of Q would be GREATER THAN .60.
Suppose that the truth of R is independent of the truth of P. Suppose that the probability of R is .80. We can divide this scenario into two cases:
Case I. P is true.
Case II. It is not the case that P is true.
There is a probability of .60 that case I applies, and if it does apply, then Q is true. This gives us a minimum baseline probability of .60 for Q.
But we must add to this probability any additional probability for Q being true from case II.
There is a probability of .40 that case two applies, and if it does apply then there is a .80 probability that R is true (since the probability of R is not impacted by the truth or falsehood of P).  Since R implies Q, there is (in this second case) a probability of at least .80 that Q is true. So, we multiply the probability that case II applies times the probability of Q given that case II applies to get the (minimal) additional probability: .40 x .80 = .32.
To get the overall minimal probability of Q, we add the probability of Q from case I to the (minimal) probability of Q from case II: .60 + .32 = .92 or about .9.
NOTE: The actual probability of Q might be higher than .92, if there is some chance that Q was true even if both P and R were false.
NECESSARY CONDITIONS ESTABLISH A MAXIMUM PROBABILITY
3. IF Q, THEN P.
Claim (3) asserts that P is a NECESSARY CONDITION for Q.
Assuming that (3) is true, the probability of P establishes a MAXIMUM probability for Q.
If the probability of P is .60, then assuming that (3) is true, the maximum probability of Q would be .60, because whenever P is false, Q must also be false.
However, (3) is compatible with Q being false even when P is true. There could be some OTHER reason why Q is false:
4. IF Q, THEN S.
If (4) is also true, and if S has some chance of being false even when P is true, then the probability of Q would be LESS THAN the probability of P. In this scenario, the probability of Q would be LESS THAN .60.
Suppose that the truth of S is independent of the truth of P. Suppose that the probability of S is .20.  We can immediatly infer that the maximum probability of Q is .20, because the truth of S is a necessary condition for Q.  However, the combination of (3) and (4) reduces the maximum probability of Q even further.
We can divide this scenario into two cases:
Case I. P is true.
Case II. It is not the case that P is true.
Let’s consider case II first.  There is a probability of .40 that case II applies (because there is a probability of .60 that case I applies and the combined probabilities of both cases = 1.0), and if it does apply, then Q would be false (because P is a necessary condition of Q).  This establishes a baseline minimum probability of .40 for the falsehood of Q.
But we must add to this probability any additional probability for Q being false from case I.
There is a probability of .60 that case I applies, and if it does apply, then there is a .20 probability that S is true (because the probability of S is not impacted by the truth or falsehood of P), thus if case I applies, then there is a probability of .80 that S is false, and thus a minimum probability of .80 that Q is false (because S is a necessary condition of Q).  We meed to multiply the probability that case I applies times the (minimal) probability that Q is false given that case I applies:   .60 x .80 = .48.
Now we must add the probability of the falsehood of Q from case II with the (minimum) probability of the falsehood of Q from case I to get the overall minimum probablilty of the falsehood of Q:  .40 + .48 = .88.  The overall minimum probability of the falsehood of Q is .88, and this implies that the overall MAXIMUM probability of Q is .12.
NOTE: The actual probability of Q could be lower than the maximum probability, if there is some chance that Q was false even if both P and S were true.

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig’s Logic Lesson – Part 2

I admit it.  I enjoyed pointing out that William Lane Craig had made a major blunder in his recent discussion of the logic of deductive arguments (with premises that are probable rather than certain).
However, there are a variety of natural tendencies that people have to reason poorly and illogically when it comes to reasoning about evidence and probability.  The fact that a sharp philosopher who is very experienced in presenting and analyzing arguments could make such a goof just goes to show that it is easy for people to make logical mistakes and to reason illogically, especially when reasoning about evidence and probability.
So, I think it is worth taking a little time to carefully review Craig’s mistake in order to LEARN from his mistake, and to understand how the logic really works in this case, so that we can avoid making the same mistake ourselves, and so that we can more readily notice and identify when others make similar mistakes in their reasoning.
In the March Reasonable Faith Newsletter Craig asserted a FALSE principle about valid deductive arguments that have premises that are probable:
… in a deductive argument the probability of the premises establishes only a minimum probability of the conclusion: even if the premises are only 51% probable, that doesn’t imply that the conclusion is only 51% probable. It implies that the conclusion is at least 51% probable.
 
One way that this principle can fail is because of the fact that a valid deductive argument can have multiple premises and because standard valid forms of deductive inferences/arguments require that ALL premises be true in order to work, in order to logically imply the conclusion.  In the case of a valid deductive argument with multiple premises that are probable rather than certain, it is usually the case that ALL of the premises must be true in order for the argument to logically imply the conclusion.
If the probable premises of such an argument are independent from each other (so that the truth or falsehood of one premise has no impact on the probability of the truth or falsehood of other premises in the argument), then the simple multiplication rule of probability applies, because what matters in this case is that the CONJUNCTION of all of the probable premises is true, and the probability of the conjunction of the premises of such an argument is equal to the product of the individual probabilities of each of the probable premises:
P
Q
THEREFORE:
P and Q
If the probability of P is .5, and the probability of Q (given that P is the case) is .5, then the probability of the conjunction “P and Q” is .25..  Here is an example of such a valid deductive argument:
1. I will get heads on the first random toss of this fair coin.
2. I will get heads on the second random toss of this fair coin. 
THEREFORE:
3. I will get heads on the first random toss of this fair coin, and I will get heads on the second random toss of this fair coin.
The probability of (1) is .5, and the probability of (2) given that (1) is the case is also .5 (because these two events are independent–what comes up on the first toss has no impact on what comes up on the second toss), so the probability of the conjunction of (1) and (2) is .25.  Thus, the probability of (3) is .25.  This example shows that the probability conferred on the conclusion of such an argument can be LESS THAN the probability of any individual premise of the argument.  This is because when you multiply one number that is greater than zero but less than 1.0 by another number that is greater than zero but less than 1.0, the product is LESS THAN either of those factors.
The same mathematical relationship holds when the probability of the individual probable premises is greater than .5:
4. I will not roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die.
5. I will not roll a six on the second random roll of this fair die.
THEREFORE:
6. I will not roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die, and I will not roll a six on the second random roll of this fair die.
The probability of (4) is 5/6 or about .83, and the probability of (5) given that (4) is the case is also 5/6 or about .83 (because these events are independent).  Since both premises have to be true in order to logically imply the conclusion, the multiplication rule applies in this case, so the probability of the CONJUNCTION of (4) and (5) is equal to the product of the probabilities of each individual premise:  .83 x .83 = .6889  or about .69, which is LESS THAN the probability of each of the individual premises.
Based on this sort of mathematical relationship, we can devise an example on which Craig’s principle will FAIL:
7. I will not roll a six or a five on the first random roll of this fair die.
8. I will not roll a six or a five on the second random roll of this fair die.
THEREFORE:
9. I will not roll a six or a five on the first random roll of this fair die, and I will not roll a six or a five on the second random roll of this fair die.
The probability of (7) is 4/6 or about .67, and the probability of (8) given that (7) is the case is also 4/6 or about .67 (because these are independent events).  The probability of the conjunction of (7) and (8) is equal to the product of their individual probabilities: .67 x .67 = .4489 or about .45.  To be more exact the probability of the conjunction of (7) and (8) is equal to: 4/6  x 4/6 = 16/36 = 4/9 = .44444444…  Thus, although the probability of each premise is greater than .51, the probability of the conclusion (9) is less than .51.  Therefore, Craig’s principle FAILS in this case.  Thus, his principle is FALSE.
Here is one more similar counterexample against Craig’s principle:
10. I will not select a heart card on the first randomly selected card from this standard deck.
11. I will not select a heart card on the second randomly selected card from this standard deck (after replacement of the first card back into the deck).
12. I will not select a heart card on the third randomly selected card from this standard deck (after replacement of the first and second cards back into the deck).
THEREFORE:
13. I will not select a heart card on the first randomly selected card from this standard deck, and I will not select a heart card on the second randomly selected card from this standard deck (after replacement of the first card back into the deck), and I will not select a heart card on the third randomly selected card from this standard deck (after replacement of the first and second cards back into the deck).
The probability of (10) is .75, and the probability of (11) given (10) is .75, and the probability of (12) given both (10) and (11) is also .75.  The probability of the conjunction of these three premises equals:  .75 x .75 x .75 = .421875 or about .42. Thus, the probability of the conclusion (13) is .421875 or about .42, which is LESS THAN .51, even though each of the premises has a probability that is GREATER THAN .51.
Here is my final counterexample based on the multiplication rule:
14. I will not roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die.
15. I will not roll a six on the second random roll of this fair die. 
16. I will not roll a six on the third random roll of this fair die.
17. I will not roll a six on the fourth random roll of this fair die.

THEREFORE:
18. I will not roll a six on the first random roll of this fair die, and I will not roll a six on the second random roll of this fair die, and I will not roll a six on the third random roll of this fair die, and I will not roll a six on the fourth random roll of this fair die.
Each of the premises in this argument has a probability of 5/6 or about .83.  The events referenced in the premises are independent from each other, so the probability of the conjunction of premises (14), (15), (16), and (17) is equal to:  
5/6  x  5/6  x  5/6  x  5/6 =  625/1,296 = .4822530864…  or about .48.  So, the probability of each premise is greater than .51, but the probability of the conclusion (18) is less than .51, so Craig’s principle FAILS in this case, and thus Craig’s principle is shown to be FALSE.
There is another way that Craig’s principle can FAIL, and that is because one probable premise in a valid deductive argument can have a dependency on another probable premise in the argument, and this can result in conferring a probability on the conclusion that is less than the probability of the individual premises.  I will explore this second issue with Craig’s principle in the next installment.

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig’s Logic Lesson

The March Newsletter from Reasonable Faith just came out, and it includes a brief lesson in logic from William Lane Craig. However, the lesson presents a point that is clearly and obviously WRONG, and it promotes bad reasoning that could be used to rationalize UNREASONABLE beliefs.  It appears that WLC is himself in need of some basic lessons in logic.
William Craig recently debated a professor of philosophy named Kevin Scharp at Ohio State University, and in the current Reasonable Faith Newsletter, Craig criticizes what he takes to be Scharp’s main objection to Craig’s apologetic arguments:
What was odd about Prof. Sharp’s [correct spelling: Scharp] fundamental critique was that, apart from the moral argument, he did not attack any of the premises of my arguments. Rather his claim was that all the arguments suffer from what he called “weakness.” For even if the arguments are cogent, he says, they only establish that God’s existence is more probable than not (say, 51% probable), and this is not enough for belief in God. 
Why did he think that the arguments are so weak? Because I claim that in order for a deductive argument to be a good one, it must be logically valid and its premises must be more probable than their opposites. Prof. Sharp [sic] apparently thought that that is all I’m claiming for my arguments. But in our dialogue, I explained to him that that was a mistake on his part. My criteria were meant to set only a minimum threshold for an argument to be a good one. I myself think that my arguments far exceed this minimum threshold and provide adequate warrant for belief in God. I set the minimum threshold so low in order to help sceptics like him get into the Kingdom! 
This reply makes a fair point.  Establishing a minimum threshold for an argument to be considered “good” does not imply that no good arguments have premises that exceed this minimum.  Thus, when Craig claims that his deductive arguments for God’s existence are “good” arguments, he is NOT saying that the premises in these arguments each have a probability of only .51.
But then Craig goes further and provides this short lesson in logic (or lesson in illogic, as I shall argue):
Besides, I pointed out, in a deductive argument the probability of the premises establishes only a minimum probability of the conclusion: even if the premises are only 51% probable, that doesn’t imply that the conclusion is only 51% probable. It implies that the conclusion is at least 51% probable. Besides all this, why can’t a person believe something based on 51% probability? The claim that he can’t seems to me just a matter of personal psychology, which varies from person to person and circumstance to circumstance.
Thus, Prof. Sharp’s [sic] fundamental criticism was quite misconceived, and since he never attacked the arguments themselves, he did nothing to show that the arguments I defended are, in fact, weak.
Craig’s claim that “even if the premises [in a deductive argument] are only 51% probable” this “implies that the concusion is at least 51% probable” is clearly and obviously false.  This is, for me, a jaw-dropping mistaken understanding of how deductive arguments work.
First of all, deductive arguments can have multiple premises.  If multiple premises in a deductive argument each have a probability of only .51, then it is OBVIOUSLY possible for such arguments to FAIL to establish that the conclusion has a probability of “at least” .51.  For example, consider the following valid deductive argument form:
1. P
2. Q
3. IF P & Q, THEN R
THERFORE:
4. R
Suppose that the probability of P is .51 and that the probability of Q (given that P is the case) is also .51.  Suppose that we know premise (3) with certainty.  What is the probability conferred on the conclusion by this argument?   In order for this deductive argument to confer any probability to the conclusion, BOTH P and Q must be true.  Thus it only takes ONE false premise to ruin the argument.  The probability of the conclusion would NOT be .51 but would, rather, be .51 x .51 = .2601  or about .26.   This is a simple and obvious counter-example to Craig’s claim.
Another problem is that there is almost always other relevant information that could impact the probability of the conclusion of an argument.  So, one might well be able to construct additional relevant deductive arguments AGAINST the conclusion in question.
Suppose that X implies that R is not the case, and Y implies that R is not the case, and Z implies that R is not the case.  Then we could construct three additional deductive arguments against R:
5. X
6. IF X, THEN it is not the case that R.
THEREFORE:
7. It is not the case that R.
===============
8. Y
9. IF Y, THEN it is not the case that R.
THEREFORE:
7. It is not the case that R.
===============
10. Z
11. IF Z, THEN it is not the case that R.
THEREFORE:
7. It is not the case that R.
Suppose that the probability of X is .9, and the probability of Y is  .9, and the probability of Z  is .9.   Suppose that the truth of X, Y, and Z are independent of each other.  Suppose that the conditional premises in each of the above arguments is known with certainty.  In this case, what probability is conferred on the conclusion that “It is not the case that R”?
Let’s (temporarily) ignore the prevous deductive argument in support of R, and imagine that X, Y, and Z are the only relevant facts that we have regarding the truth or falsehood of R.  Each of these three valid deductive arguments would, then, individually confer a probability of .9 on the conclusion that “It is not the case that R”.  Therefore, if we combine the force of these three arguments, they will confer a probabilty that is GREATER THAN .9 on the conclusion that “It is not the case that R”.  All we need is for ONE of the premises (X, Y, or Z) to be true, in order for the negative conclusion to be secured, and each of the three premises is very likely to be true.
We can analyze the probabilty calculation into three cases in which at least one of the three premises is true:
I. X is true  (probability = .9)
II. X is not true, but Y is true  (probability = .1 x .9 =  .09)
III. X is not true, and Y is not true, but Z is true (probability = .1 x .1 x .9 = .009)
Add the probabilities of these three cases together to get the total probability conferred on the negative conclusion:
.9 + .09 + .009 = .999
Thus, the combined force of these three deductive arguments would make it nearly certain that “It is not the case that R”, assuming that these three arguments encompassed ALL of the relevant evidence.
But we also have the posititive evidence of P and Q to consider, which will, presumably increase the probability that R is the case and reduce the probability of the negative conclusion that “It is not the case that R”.
Adding in this additional relevant evidence, however, could make the overall probability calculation significantly more complex.  It all depends on whether the truth of P is independent of the truth of X, Y, and Z, and whether the truth of Q is independent of the truth of X, Y, and Z, and whether the truth of the conjunction “P and Q” is independent of the truth of X, Y, and Z.  If there are dependencies between the truth of these claims, then that will rquire additional complexity in the probability calculation.
If for the sake of simplicity, we assume that the truth of P is independent of the truth of X, Y, and Z, and the truth of Q is independent of X, Y, and Z, and the truth of “P and Q” is independent as well, we can at least conclude (without needing to do any calculations) that the overall probability of R will be greater than .001 and less than .2601, in which case Craig’s claim that the probability of the conclusion must be “at least 51%” is clearly false in this case, in part because of additional relevant evidence against the conclusion.
Thus, there are two major, and fairly obvious, problems with WLC’s claim: (1) deductive arguments with multiple premises can confer a probability on the conclusion that is LESS than the probability of any particular premise in the argument, and (2) there is almost always OTHER relevant information/data that impacts the probability of the conclusion of a particular deductive argument (which has premises that are only probable), and consideration of this additional evidence might very well lower the all-things-considered probability of the conclusion.
These two points are fundamental to understanding the logic of deductive arguments for the existence of God, so Craig’s apparent confusion about, or ignorance of, these points is shocking.

bookmark_borderFarewell to Dr. Richard Paul

I recently received the following email with the sad news that Dr. Richard Paul had died this summer at the end of August.
Richard Paul was my favorite professor of philosophy at Sonoma State University. He was a dynamic lecturer,  a terrific mentor, and a leading theorist and advocate of critical thinking.  Learning from him was the closest thing to learning from Socrates that I will ever experience.
========================
Richard Paul
September 1, 2015
Dear Critical Thinking Colleagues:
It is with deep sorrow that we announce the death of our Founder, Dr. Richard William Paul, who died quietly in his sleep on August 30, 2015. Paul suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
Richard left many lasting original contributions to the field of critical thinking studies, and revolutionized the way we conceptualize critical thinking throughout his work in the 1980s and to the present. He contributed significantly to what may be properly termed first principles in critical thinking – through his conceptualization of the elements of thought as a rich set of dynamic interrelated processes embedded in everyday reasoning, of universal intellectual standards that should be used to assess thought on an everyday basis, and of intellectual virtues, to which ethical reasoners aspire in order to advance and contribute to fairminded critical societies. Further, Richard spent a lifetime helping educators understand the importance of integrating a robust conception of critical thinking into instruction, and developing methods for fostering critical thinking in teaching and learning.
The depth of our sadness at the personal loss of Richard Paul is at such a level that we ourselves cannot comprehend it. Only time and proper activity of mind will help us through the personal loss.
For the intellectual community, the loss of Richard Paul is profound. Richard was that original thinker who comes along but rarely, who takes the workings of the mind seriously, and who cultivates ideas that, when taken seriously, can help anyone and everyone function at a far higher level of ability and capacity. Like Socrates, Richard believed in the power of the mind to command and take charge of itself. And, again like Socrates, Richard spent a lifetime developing and creating concepts, or ideas, that would help others work through what he himself was continually working though in the privacy of his own mind. Consequently, Richard Paul offered many original concepts to the field of critical thinking studies, and developed considerable original theory of critical thinking. His influence on the thinking of those who have taken critical thinking seriously in the past three decades, both in the US and across the world is incalculable.
The funeral and memorial service for Dr. Paul will be held in Tomales, California, on Thursday September 3. …
We share with you our sadness during this mournful time.
Sincerely,
Linda Elder                                      Gerald Nosich
President and Senior Fellow   Senior Fellow and Bertrand Russell Distinguished Chair
=================
Related Links:
The Foundation for Critical Thinking
The Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique