bookmark_borderInitial Impressions on the Andrews-Schieber Debate: Part 4

In this post, I’m going to comment on Schieber’s’ first rebuttal.
Schieber’s First Rebuttal
In defense of his argument from divine lies, Schieber writes:

As to my argument against Christian knowledge, Mr. Andrews replies that he knows God is essentially truthful – that it is impossible for God to lie because it logically contradicts his moral perfection. The problem here is that nothing about moral perfection logically entails always telling the truth. While lying is usually seen as a moral deficiency, there are certainly obvious instances where lying is justified because it is necessary for some over-riding greater good or to avoid some greater evil. To claim that it is impossible for God to ever be morally justified in lying, Mr. Andrews would need to be morally omniscient – he would need to have exhaustive knowledge of all possible goods that God might act towards and evils that he might act to avoid then conclude that none of these reasons could, in any circumstance, justify a divine lie.

Excellent point. Schieber continues:

Moreover, Mr. Andrew’s criticism of the noseeum inference in the Rowe-style evidential problem of evil wont [sic] allow such epistemological boldness. …

Not exactly. In fairness to Andrews, his primary objection against the argument from divine lies is not a noseeum inference based upon the failure to think of any greater goods which would justify divine lies. Rather, his objection is based upon God’s moral perfection, a point which Schieber addressed above.
Turning to the fine-tuning argument, Schieber writes:

I want to address these arguments in the order they were presented – though, a few comments first. Regarding likelihood arguments, Elliot Sober, Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at University of Wisconsin writes,
[Likelihood arguments] don’t tell you which hypotheses to believe; in fact, they don’t even tell you which hypotheses are probably true. Rather, they evaluate how the observations at hand discriminate among the hypotheses under consideration.

That is what we call a “money quote.” And Sober’s point is very similar to an objection I made in part 1, albeit worded in a different way.
What about the Thomistic cosmological argument? Schieber writes:

That aside, lets examine Max’s first argument – a likelihood version of a Thomastic-type cosmological argument that argued for the existence of an uncaused cause of the contingent constituents of the Universe. For the sake of argument, I am willing to go along with Max’s conclusion here – World-views that are atheistic have no problem adopting necessary beings.

When I first read that, I said out loud, “Huh?” Atheistic worldviews are logically consistent with abstract objects, impersonal things which include necessarily true propositions. But I cannot figure out why Schieber would say that “World-views that are atheistic have no problem adopting necessary beings.” I’m not sure off the top of my head, but it may be true that atheistic worldviews have no logical problem adopting necessary beings. In other words, it may be the case that there is no logical contradiction between “There is no God” and “There are one or more necessary beings.” But even if that is so, I think the existence of one or more necessary beings would be an evidential problem for atheism. If such beings exist, they would be metaphysically necessary. I don’t see any way to reconcile such metaphysically necessary beings with metaphysical naturalism, since any metaphysically necessary beings would have to be supernatural persons by definition. And metaphysical naturalism is very probable on the assumption that atheism is true. So the existence of necessary beings would be evidence against atheism.
Furthermore, if Schieber admits there are necessary beings, then it seems that Schieber is conceding the Thomistic cosmological argument to Andrews in the debate. He admits that the conclusion of the argument (4) is true.
Andrews’ First Rebuttal 
Abductive Arguments
As puzzling as I found Schieber’s statement about atheism and necessary beings, I found Andrews’ statements about abductive arguments to be the most bizarre statements in the entire debate. He writes:

First, he argues against my wording concerning the relationship of the evidence and the fine-tuner. This is simply a dislike for abductive arguments on his part. It is not the case that the premises strongly support the conclusion. It is the conclusion that supports the premises. An abductive argument for fine-tuning is very similar to induction. Rather than the premises adding to the probability of the conclusion the conclusion adds to the probability of the premises.  This is not to completely exclude the role of the premises adding to the probability of the conclusion but there is a greater emphasis of using the best explanation (the conclusion) to fit the data (the premises).  The belief in question is assessed as the consequent and then considering what may be the best explanation for that belief, antecedently.  This may seem fallacious but inference to the best explanation is a commonly accepted form of reasoning.  Additionally, this abductive process only comes into the process when assessing whether the evidence sufficiently corresponds to the belief since the belief typically arises by the antecedent evidence and then as the consequent, it is the assessment of the belief that requires working backwards.

First, the idea that abductive arguments are separate from both deductive and inductive arguments is a controversial idea among logicians, but Andrews writes as if it were a fact. For my part, I think abductive arguments are a type of inductive arguments, but I recognize that not all philosophers agree.
Second, abductive arguments are invalid arguments. (To be precise, abductive arguments are deductively invalid because they commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent.) In other words, if the premises of an abductive argument are true, that does not guarantee that the conclusion is true. The conclusion may or may not be true. But that entails that the truth of the conclusion is uncertain. So what? Here’s the problem for Andrews: probability measures uncertainty. It makes no logical difference whatsoever  whether the person making an abductive argument is placing “greater emphasis” on “using the best explanation” than on “adding to the probability of the conclusion,” since there is no logical distinction between the two. The best explanation for the data must be the most probable explanation of the data.  
I don’t know if this applies to Andrews, but in my experience what typically motivates the “abduction is an independent category of logic, not a type of induction” position is this. People who hold that view think of induction as nothing but induction by enumeration, i.e., moving from an enumeration of individual cases to a generalization. But induction includes much more than enumerative arguments. To cite just one example, statistical syllogisms are universally recognized to be inductive arguments, but statistical syllogisms are not enumerative arguments. (In fact, they go in the opposite direction: they move from premises about what is generally true of a population to a conclusion about an individual.)
Third, Andrews is simply mistaken when he writes, “It is not the case that the premises strongly support the conclusion. It is the conclusion that supports the premises.” That is simply false. Even in abductive arguments, the premises supports the conclusion.
The Fine-Tuning Argument
While I disagree with much of what Andrews writes in defense of his fine-tuning argument, I’m going to comment on only one item. Andrews writes:

What is an adequate cause for the effect in question—the origin of cosmic information? Logically, one can infer the past existence of a cause from its effect, when the cause is known to be necessary to produce the effect in question. In the absences of any other known causes then the presence of the effects points unambiguously back to the uniquely adequate cause—a mind.[4] This issue will also address the range of possible values for constants. If physics can be expressed counterfactually then we can certainly derive a random sample by which to compare to some type of background information. The full range of values is not a necessary epistemic component. It’s my suspicion that the greater the range is it inversely increases the probability for the fine-tuning argument to be true.

Once again, Andrews is understating the evidence. In order to avoid begging the question in favor of intelligent design, let’s focus on all examples of complex specified information except for complex specified information related to intelligent design.(In other words, we’re going to temporarily ignore cosmological fine-tuning, the origin of life and biological information, the origin of complex specified information related to the Cambrian “explosion,” etc.) For all of the remaining examples of complex specified information, let’s assume, but only for the sake of argument, that the only known cause of complex specified information is a mind. But Andrews fails to mention that the only known cause of that (remaining) complex specified information is not only a mind, but a mind dependent on a physical brain and a mind working with preexisting matter (and laws of physics). So, to sum up, the only known cause of that complex specified information has three features: a mind, a brain, and preexisting laws of physics. It seems arbitrary for Andrews to focus solely on the one feature which supports the inference to fine-tuning while ignoring the two features which count against it. At the very least, this much is certain: Andrews has not yet given us any reason to justify that.
Schieber’s Second Rebuttal
I’m only going to comment on one item in Schieber’s rebuttal because I think Schieber’s point is so important.

Nearly every one of Mr. Andrew’s blog posts related to Fine-tuning cites the work of prominent Christian philosopher Robin Collins – so, clearly, this is someone who Mr. Andrews holds in high esteem – and rightly so. However, In his excellent and very well-known article in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, Collins makes this very point much clearer than I.
Because of certain potential counterexamples, I shall use what I call the restricted version of the Likelihood Principle, although I shall often refer to it simply as the Likelihood Principle. The restricted version limits the applicability of the Likelihood Principle to cases in which the hypothesis being confirmed is non-ad hoc. A sufficient condition for a hypothesis being non-ad hoc (in the sense used here) is that there are independent motivations for believing the hypothesis apart from the confirming data e, or for the hypothesis to have been widely advocated prior to the confirming evidence.
Now, because Max’s fine-tuning argument clearly fails to restrict the likelihood principle to hypotheses that are Non ad-hoc, Robin Collins would almost certainly agree with my criticism. This is a significant technical problem for Mr. Andrews‘ particular formation of the argument as it is now susceptible to damaging counterexamples.

This objection is not just “damaging” to Andrews’ fine-tuning argument, but devastating.

bookmark_borderInitial Impressions on the Andrews-Schieber Debate: Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I reviewed each debaters’ arguments for or against Christian theism. In this and future posts, I want to selectively comment on statements from their rebuttals which caught my eye. I’m emphasizing the word “selectively” because I’m not simply not going to be able to parse the rest of the debate transcript with the same level of detail found in parts 1 and 2. In this post, I’m going to comment on Andrews’ first rebuttal.
Andrews writes takes issue with (23), the third premise in Schieber’s soteriological argument from evil. For reference, here is (23):

(23) There is no moral justification for sending anybody to suffer eternally in Hell.

Here is Andrews:

Concerning Mr. Schieber’s argument on the impossibility of God due to hell I contest the truth of P3—“There is no moral justification for sending anybody to suffer eternally in hell.” This premise is flawed on many levels. Again, for the argument to be unsound, and thus false, the premise must simply be demonstrated to be false in any capacity. My first objection is that God doesn’t send anyone to hell; rather, he permits them to go their own way.

I think the “send vs. permit” distinction makes very little difference. Schieber could very easily modify (22) and (23) as follows:

(22′) If God exists, he chose to create Hell and permit the vast majority of people to suffer eternally within it.
(23′) There is no moral justification for allowing anybody to suffer eternally in Hell.

With the argument so modified, the first objection no longer applies.
Let’s return to Andrews’ reply:

Secondly, God is morally justified in permitting the reprobate to be eternally separate from God. I don’t think the Bible is describing eschatological furniture when describing hell so all I’m willing to commit to is that it is an eternal separation from God—the worst state of an unglorified existence.

When Andrews says, “I don’t think the Bible is describing eschatological furniture when describing hell,” I interpret that to mean that Andrews is uncertain about whether Hell involves merely “eternal separation from God” or “eternal separation from God” plus other bad things (such as eternal torture). So, for the sake of simplicity, let’s divide the doctrine of Hell into two variants: Hell1, mere eternal separation, and Hell2, eternal separation and torture. Hell1 is supposed to the enormous moral problems with Hell2, while at the same time being consistent with the Bible. Since I have zero desire to debate Biblical interpretation, I’m going to assume (but only for the sake of argument) that Hell1 is compatible with Biblical teaching.
I want to explore two questions about Hell1. First, is Hell1 a punishment? Second, regardless of whether we call Hell1 a type of punishment or something else, is it fair?
Let’s turn to my first question. Is Hell1 a type of punishment? In my experience, Christians who promote Hell1 as the correct understanding of Hell waffle on whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for the inhabitants of Hell1. Andrews seems to be a case in point. On the one hand, Andrews says, when God permits people to go to Hell1, He is simply giving people what they want.

God passively permits individuals to go to hell because that’s what the individual chooses. As a decision to reject the revelation brought before an individual they consequently choose a life of eternal separation from an eternal God. The[y] choose hell because that’s what they want and in the end, God gives them what they want.

But, on the other hand, Andrews says that Hell1 is a type of punishment.

There is sufficient warrant to believe that some people who have not had their sins atoned for by Jesus Christ die without atoning for their sins in this lifetime.  Posthumously, this person must atone for his own wrongs in order for God to be perfectly just.  Each sin warrants a finite punishment; however, this person will not cease to sin in the after this life since he has not had his sins atoned for by Christ. He will not be ushered into a state of beatitude (which can be warranted based on rewards and the concept of justice and the moral beatification of atonement).  Because this person continues to sin he will always incur consequent self-atonement for each sin and if there are a[n] [potential] infinite set of sins then the duration will last without end as well.  Self-atonement without beatification (because this person chose to atone for his own sin) will be eternal by the successive addition of sins.  Sins imply punishment, so an infinite duration of punishment is warranted as well.

If these two quotations do not outright contradict one another, they are certainly in tension. Consider the following example. A man steals a car, is caught by the police, tried in a court of law, and found guilty. In the sentencing phase of the trial, the judge announces the following sentence: “You are guilty of theft. Since it is the policy of this court to give people what they want, therefore, your punishment is that you get to keep the stolen car.” That doesn’t sound like a punishment to me.
Andrews may reply that this analogy is flawed. Since the car is stolen property, a law-abiding judge cannot let the thief have it. Of course, that reply raises its own problem for Hell1 proponents like Andrews: it means that the Christian God cannot consistently give the unsaved what they want. But let’s put that issue aside and rewind to the judge’s sentence. Suppose, instead, the judge says this. “You are guilty of theft. I am a really cool guy. Since it is the policy of this court not to let criminals like you hang out with me, therefore, your punishment is that I am going to shun you. You are eternally forbidden to hang out with me.” The problem with this, however, is that it doesn’t seem like a punishment. Most, if not all, criminals have no desire to hang out with judges. Hell1 faces essentially the same problem. Andrews suggests that the unsaved have no desire to spend eternity with God. If all Hell1 consists of is God giving  people what they want, this sounds like no punishment at all. Indeed, on Andrews’ logic, if God wanted to punish the unsaved, one might expect Him to do the opposite of Hell1 and send the unsaved to Heaven! (They wouldn’t be getting what they want, so it would be a punishment.)
Let’s turn now to my second question, is the doctrine of Hell1 fair? The first step is answering this question is to notice that something can be bad even if it is not a punishment. For example, suppose for the sake of argument that a man gets cancer and the cancer is not in any way linked to any behavior one might consider immoral. It’s just the result of a freak genetic mutation. Along the same lines, Hell1 could be bad for the people inside Hell1, even if Hell1 is not a punishment.
The second step is to notice that Hell1 is, in fact, supposed to be bad for the people who are in Hell1. On the assumption that Christian theism is true, it is hard to even imagine how it could fail to be the case that being in Hell1 would be bad. If for no other reason, people in Hell1 are missing out on the opportunity to experience God, which is a good thing by definition.
The third step is to notice that, on Andrews’ view, God interferes with or “arranges” the world in a way that decreases moral accountability.

I hold to an infralapsarian view of salvation. Under this view, God elects all individuals who would freely cease to resist his saving grace.  God will so arrange the world, via strong and weak actualizations, to bring about a person’s experiences and circumstances in which they would freely refrain from rejecting God.  With this understanding of election, God is both sovereign in actualizing salvation and permissive in allowing the reprobates to go their own way.

Just as we saw with Andrews’ flawed reply to the “coarse-tuning evidence,” once again Andrews writes as if the Christian God isn’t omnipotent. God can arrange the world so that some people freely refrain from rejecting God, but not all people. How convenient! In fairness, I admit that, at one level, there is some plausibility to the idea that some people are “bad apples” and maybe there is no set of experiences or circumstances that would lead them to freely refrain from rejecting God. But, at a deeper level, that idea overlooks the fact that we are talking about the Christian God, not a human parent. If Christianity is true, then God created all humans with the personalities that they have. God created altruists like Gandhi and Mother Theresa, but He also created psychopaths like Ted Bundy. The point here is not that personality is fixed at birth for all people–though in the cases of some people, like psychopaths, they may be. The point is that if Christian theism is true, God created the whole system. He could have created everyone with  altruistic personalities, but he didn’t. That is why Hell1, as a bad thing, is unfair.
 

bookmark_borderInitial Impressions on the Andrews-Schieber Debate: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)
Justin Schieber’s Case against Christian Theism
Schieber presents three arguments against Christian theism: (1) the GodWorld argument; (2) the soteriological argument from evil; and (3) an argument about the possibility of divine lies in the Bible. Let’s each argument in turn.
The GodWorld Argument
Schieber defines “GodWorld” as “that possible world where God exists alone (AND nothing else exists) for eternity.” The arguments runs as follows.
(17) If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique BPW.
(18) If GodWorld is the unique BPW, then the Christian God would maintain GodWorld.
(19) GodWorld is false because the universe exists.
(20) Therefore, The Christian God, as so defined, doesn’t exist.
I think this is an interesting argument. One worry I have about this argument is (17), which seems to based on a highly questionable assumption. It starts with the following, correct statement:
(17.a) If the Christian god exists, then then Christian god is the best possible being.
And then somehow arrives at this conclusion:
(17) If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique BPW.
What justifies the move from (17.a) to (17)?  Schieber suggests the following answer.
(17.b) If the Christian god exists, then there is no Goodness independent of God.
As I say, Schieber suggests that answer but it isn’t clear if he actually believes it.
The next step seems to be:
(17.c) If there is no Goodness independent of God, then any possible worlds which contained both God and other objects (or subjects)  would not be as good as Godworld.
From (17.a), (17.b), and (17.c) we then get:
(17) If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique BPW.
This argument fails, however, for two reasons. First, (17.b) is false. The existence of the Christian god (subject to various caveats) is logically compatible with Goodness independent of God. Second, even if (17.b) were true, (17.c) is false. Consider the following analogy. There various denominations of U.S. dollar bills: $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, etc., up to a $100,000 bill. Let’s call the $100,000 bill the “most valuable bill” or MVB. Suppose someone said, “A safe that has “only” the MVB is more valuable than another safe that has the MVB plus a $20 bill.” Since $100,020 is greater than $100,000, we would reject that as absurd.  $100,000 may be the most valuable bill, but it doesn’t follow that a safe with only the MVB is the most valuable safe.
It seems to me that Schieber’s argument faces essentially the same problem. It equivocates between the value of a being (the Christian God) and the value of a possible world (GodWorld). The Christian god may be the best possible being (BPB), but it doesn’t follow that a world with only the BPB is the best possible world (BPW).
The Soteriological Argument from Evil
Next, Schieber appeals to the so-called “soteriological problem of evil,” namely the problem of why, if God exists, He allows eternal suffering in Hell. I shall Schieber’s argument the “soteriological argument from evil” because it turns the problem into an argument for atheism.
(21) If God exists, he is essentially morally perfect, omnipotent, omniscient.
(22) If God exists, he chose to create Hell and send the vast majority of people to suffer eternally within it.
(23) There is no moral justification for sending anybody to suffer eternally in Hell.
(24) A being who acts in a way that is morally unjustified cannot be essentially morally perfect.
(25) God does not exist.
So long as we modify all of the references to “God” to “the Christian God,” then I don’t have much to say, other than I agree with this argument.
Divine Lies and Greater Goods?
Finally, Schieber presents the following argument.
(26) If the Christian GOD exists, then he has exhaustive knowledge of all moral Goods, Evils – And the entialment relations between them.
(27) We limited humans have no good reasons for thinking that OUR knowledge of the Goods, Evils & the entailment relationships between them is even slightly representative of the Goods, Evils & the entailment relationships between them that actually exist.
(28) IF 1 & 2, THEN We are in no position to place probabilities on whether there is a beyond-our-understanding justification for GOD’s lying to us in asserting D. (D being some biblical assertion.)
(29) IF we are in no position to place probabilities on whether there is a beyond-our- understanding justification for GOD’s lying to us in asserting D, THEN we do not ‘know’ any proposition that has biblical justification only.
This argument fails for the same reason that so-called “skeptical theism” fails as a response to evidential arguments from evil: both “skeptical theism” and Schieber’s divine lying argument ignore the theorem of total probability. Let E be some statement about evil in the world. Evidential arguments from evil typically contain a premise like this:
(30) Some known fact about evil is much more probable on the assumption that atheism is true than on the assumption that theism is true, i.e., Pr(E | atheism) >> Pr(E | theism).
Critics of arguments from evil (like Wykstra) argue that we cannot know if  Pr(E | atheism) >> Pr(E | theism), because there may be greater goods which justify God in allowing E, goods that are too complicated for humans to understand. While such goods are possible, their mere possibility misses the point. It’s also possible that there may be greater evils which prohibit God from allowing E, evils that are too complicated for humans to understand. Since there’s no reason to believe that unknown greater goods are more likely than unknown greater evils, both types of unknowns “cancel out.” The result is that we are left with a prima facie reason to believe that known facts about evil are much more probable on atheism than on theism.
It seems to me that Schieber’s divine lying argument faces a parallel problem. While it is possible that the Christian God has lied to us (for unknown greater goods), it doesn’t follow that probably the Christian God has lied to us (for unknown greater goods). It’s also possible that the Christian God has extra reasons for telling the truth, reasons that involve unknown greater goods. Since there’s no more reason to believe that God has lied to us for unknown reason than to believe God has told the truth for unknown reasons, both types of unknowns “cancel out.” The result is that, if we believe that the Christian God has made some Biblical assertion D, we are left with a prima facie reason to believe that God is telling the truth.

bookmark_borderInitial Impressions on the Andrews-Schieber Debate: Part 1

Christian Max Andrews and Atheist Justin Schieber recently had a debate on the existence of the Christian god. Both audio and a transcript are available online. I think it’s well worth listening to or reading. In what follows, I want to offer my initial impressions of both debaters’ opening statements.
Max Andrews’ Case for Christian Theism
Andrews offers three arguments for Christian theism: (1) the Thomistic Cosmological Argument; (2) a fine-tuning argument; and (3) an explanatory argument for the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Let’s consider each argument in turn.
The Thomistic Cosmological Argument
(1) There are contingent constituents to the universe.
(2) Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe (U) is very, very unlikely under the hypothesis that these constituents are themselves uncaused or self-caused (~Cu): that is, P(U|~Cu & k) ≪ 1.
(3). Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe is not unlikely under the hypothesis of a first uncaused cause (Cu): that is, ~P(U|Cu & k) ≪ 1.
(4) Therefore, U strongly supports Cu over ~Cu.
Is this a good argument? Let us first turn to clarifying how Andrews defines his terms.
Constituents of the universe (CC): include galaxies, planets, stars, cars, humans, leptons, bosons, and other particles.
Metaphysically necessary: For something to be metaphysically necessary that means that it could not have failed to exist—it exists in every possible world.
Contingent: Something is contingent if and only if it is not necessarily false and not necessarily true.
These definitions immediately reveal a fatal flaw which lies at the heart of Andrews’ argument. Both (2) and (3) begin with the expression, “Given the contingent constituents of the universe,” and then proceed to make statements about the probability of U on the existence (or non-existence) of a first uncaused cause. As it stands, however, this way of formulating the argument is fatally flawed. Andrews does not seem to have noticed that, on his definitions, treating the “contingent constituents of the universe” as a given entails U. The upshot is that, if we already know that the constituents of the universe exist, we will know that U is true, regardless of whether there is an uncaused cause.
Andrews may reply that this objection misses the point, since the question is whether U favors an externally caused universe (CU) over a universe without an external cause (~CU). But this reply itself misses the point of objection: (2) and (3) do not ask whether U favors CU over ~CU. Instead, they ask whether U favors (CU & CC) over (~CU & CC). Those are not equivalent.
Fortunately for Andrews, however, his argument can be easily modified to avoid this defect.
(1) There are contingent constituents to the universe.
(2′) The existence of the contingent constituents of the universe is very, very unlikely on the assumption that the universe lacks an external cause, i.e., Pr(CC|~CU & k) ≪ 1.
(3′) The existence of the contingent constituents of the universe is not unlikely on the assumption that the universe has an external cause, i.e., ~(Pr(CC|CU & k) ≪ 1).
(4) Therefore, CC strongly supports CU over ~CU.
Even so modified, however, the argument still seems doubtful. Andrews–and the argument–asks us to choose between three mutually exclusive possibilities: (i) the universe is metaphysically necessary; (ii) the universe is self-caused; and (iii) the universe is contingent (and has an external cause). I agree with Andrews that both (i) and (ii) seem far-fetched. But these options do not exhaust the possibilities and so we cannot establish (iii) by eliminating (i) and (ii).
For example, it’s also possible that (iv) the universe is uncaused. Here is an argument for an uncaused universe.
(5) Cause and effect are always related to time, i.e., causation is necessarily temporal.
Consider the nature of causation. Cause and effect are always related to time. Causes always happen before their effects or, if you believe in such a thing, happen at the same time as their effects.
(6) Time itself must be uncaused.
Since it would be a contradiction in terms to speak of a cause “before” time, it follows that time itself must be uncaused.
(7) Time itself began with the Big Bang.
(8) Therefore, the Big Bang is uncaused.
(9) Therefore, the universe is uncaused.
A Fine-Tuning Argument
Next, Andrews defends the following version of the fine-tuning argument.
(10) Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life permitting universe (LPU) is very, very unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner (~FT): that is, P(LPU|~FT & k) ≪ 1.
(11) Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPU is not unlikely under FT (Fine-Tuner): that is, ~P(LPU|FT & k) ≪ 1.
(12) Therefore, LPU strongly supports FT over ~FT.
Is this a good argument? Let us first turn to clarifying how Andrews defines his terms. First, what is the “fine-tuning evidence” (hereafter, E)? Andrews lists two items of evidence, which I will call E1 and E2.
E1. The special low entropy condition.
E2. Strong Nuclear Force (Strong nuclear force coupling constant, gs = 15)
Second, what does Andrews mean by a “life permitting universe” or (LPU)? As I read him, a LPU is a universe that “is finely tuned for the essential building blocks and environments that life requires.”
Again, these definitions immediately reveal a fatal flaw which lies at the heart of Andrews’ argument. Both (1) and (2) begin with the expression, “Given the fine-tuning evidence,” and then proceed to make statements about the probability of FPU on the existence (or non-existence) of a fine-tuner. As it stands, however, this way of formulating the argument is fatally flawed. Andrews does not seem to have noticed that, on his definitions, E entails LPU. The upshot is that, if we already know the facts and observations reported by E, we will know that LPU is true, regardless of whether there is a Fine-Tuner.
Andrews may reply that this objection misses the point, since the question is whether LPU favors FT over ~FT. But this reply itself misses the point of the objection: (1) and (2) do not ask whether LPU favors FT over ~FT. Instead, they ask whether E favors LPU and FT over LPU and ~FT. Those are not equivalent.
Fortunately for Andrews, however, his argument can be easily modified to avoid this defect.
(10′) LPU is very, very unlikely on the assumption there is no fine-tuner, i.e., P(LPU|~FT & k) << 1.
(11′) LPU is not very, very unlikely on the assumption that there is a fine-tuner, i.e., ~(Pr(LPU|FT & k) << 1).
(12′) Therefore, LPU strongly supports FT over ~FT, i.e., P(LPU|FT & k) >> P(LPU|~FT & K).
Even so modified, however, this argument doesn’t justify Andrews’ claim that it “gets us to an extremely intelligent mind.” This is for two reasons.
First, Andrews completely neglects the issue of the prior probabilities of the rival hypotheses. (3′) could be true and yet it could also be the case that ~FT has a prior probability that is very, very, very much greater than FT. In other words:
(13) Pr(FT | k) <<< Pr(~FT | k).
If (13) is true, then we could combine it with (12′) to show that there probably is no fine-tuner.
(14) Pr(~FT | LPU & k) > Pr(FT | LPU & k).
The upshot is that because the argument says nothing about the prior probabilities of FT and ~FT, the argument is, at best, incomplete. Unlike the previous objection, I do not how to repair the argument to overcome this defect. (Theism & FT) has the greatest intrinsic probability of all the variants of FT. Likewise (Metaphysical naturalism & ~FT) has the great intrinsic probability of all the variants of ~FT. Here’s the problem. While there seems to be no good reason to think that theism has a higher prior probability than metaphysical naturalism, there is good reason to think that metaphysical naturalism has a higher prior probability than theism. Thus, while it might be tempting to revise (13) to something like this,
(13′) Pr(FT | k) >= Pr(~FT | k),
the problem is that there is good reason to believe (13′) is false. But something like (13′) is what Andrews needs in order to justify his inference to FT.
Second, Andrews makes the evidence for FT over ~FT appear much more impressive than it actually is by understating the evidence. Suppose, but only for the sake of argument, that (3′) is true. Given LPU, the fact that so much of the universe is hostile to life is much more probable on the assumption that there is no fine-tuner than on the assumption that there is one. And it’s far from obvious that the fine-tuning evidence for FT outweighs the evidence of the universe’s hostility to life–what I will call the “coarse-tuning evidence”–against FT.
Andrews’ statement, “All the empty space in the universe, all the dead stars, all the non-life in the universe are necessary components of the fine-tuning of the universe,” completely misses the point of this objection. Indeed, it’s amazing how, when talking about the fine-tuning, we are asked to believe that the Fine Tuner is extremely powerful, so powerful that the Fine Tuner could choose whatever values he or she wanted. But then, when we consider the coarse-tuning evidence, we are supposed to believe that the Fine Tuner was somehow stuck with coarse-tuning as the inevitable outcome of fine-tuning. But this is purely ad hoc. If the Fine Tuner could choose literally any laws of physics and literally any values for the physical constants, then the Fine Tuner could have done a better job designing the universe to be consistently fine-tuned, not the strange combination of fine- and coarse-tuning our universe actually has.
Explanatory Argument for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus
Finally, Andrews offers an explanatory argument for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. He argues there are five facts relevant to the Resurrection (R).
E1. Jesus died by crucifixion
E2. The apostles claimed to have seen resurrection appearances of Jesus
E3. The conversion of Paul
E4. The conversion of James
E5. The empty tomb.
Let E be the combination of these five facts (E1 & E2 & E3 & E4 & E5). Andrews’ argument seems to be as follows.
(15) The best explanation for the five historical facts in E is that God raised Jesus from the dead, i.e., Pr(E|R) > Pr(E|~R).
(16) Therefore, God raised Jesus from the dead, i.e., Pr(R) > 0.5.
This argument fails for many reasons, but here I will focus on just one. (15) is false. Even if we assume that all five facts are true–an assumption I am willing to grant–it still doesn’t follow that R is the best explanation. Why? Because R isn’t even an explanation. Something cannot be the best explanation of a fact if it is not even an explanation of that fact. Contrary to what Andrews suggests, R does not predict any of the statements in E. This is because R, by itself, tells us nothing about the death or postmortem activities of Jesus. In order to explain R, however, Andrews has to make dubious assumptions about the postmortem activities of Jesus. For example, Andrews has to assume that, after His resurrection, Jesus had the ability to pass through solid matter and to appear and disappear at will, the power to create ‘heavenly’ visions of glory, and so forth. The problem with these assumptions, however, is that they are not implied by either R or our existing (background) knowledge. Thus, R is not the best explanation for the five historical facts in E. Indeed, utterly lacking in explanatory scope and explanatory power, R is not even an explanation at all. Instead, R is merely an ad hoc hypothesis. But this entails that (15) is false.
(to be continued)