bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 14: More On Phase 4

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NOTE:
To avoid sounding overly aggressive and insulting,  I will not be repeating the evaluation that Dr. Geisler’s various arguments for the existence of God are a steaming pile of dog shit.  However, please understand that the fact that I refrain from writing such comments does NOT mean that no such thoughts come to my mind as I am reading and thinking about Dr. Geisler’s arguments; it just means that I am restraining myself from stating clearly and forcefully how I view his arguments, for the sake of etiquette and public decorum.
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PHASE 4: ARGUMENTS FOR GOD’S ATTRIBUTES
Geisler wrongly believes that he has proven the claim that “God is a necessary being” in Phase 3 of his case for God in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  He then procedes to argue from this assumption to claims about various metaphysical attributes of God:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.
  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Geisler also argues for the following conditional claims based on the assumption that “God is a necessary being”:

  • If God has power, then God is omnipotent.
  • If God has knowledge, then God is omniscient.
  • If God has some moral goodness, then God is perfectly morally good.

In Part 13 of this series, I argued that Geisler’s arguments for these conclusions failed:

  • God is unchanging.
  • God is eternal.

In this post,  I will argue that Geisler’s arguments for the following conclusions also fail:

  • God is unlimited.
  • God is infinite.
  • God is omnipresent.

Here is how Geisler argues for the first two of those conclusions:
Since a necessary being cannot not be, He can have no limits.  A limitation means “to not be” in some sense, and that is impossible–so He is infinite.  (WSA, p.27)
Phase 4 Argument #3

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.

70. A necessary being cannot not be.

THEREFORE:

71.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) cannot not be.

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

THEREFORE:

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

75.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an infinite being.

First of all, this argument is based on a dubious and unpoven premise: premise (54b), so the whole argument rests on a shaky foundation.
Second, there must be a problem somewhere with this argument, because the same logic can be used to prove an absurd conclusion:

A. The number six is a necessary being.

70. A necessary being cannot not be.

THEREFORE:

81.  The number six cannot not be.

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

THEREFORE:

83.  The number six has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

85. The number six is an infinite being.

B.    There can be only one infinite being.  (according to Geisler: WSA, p.28)

C.    God is an infinite being. (according to Geisler: WSA, p.27)

THEREFORE:

86.  The number six is God. (!!)

The claim “The number six exists” is a necessary truth, so the existence of the number six is necessary; therefore, the number six is a necessary being.
But given Geisler’s logic and assumptions, it follows from the fact that the number six is a necessary being, that the number six is God!  But that is absurd.  God is a person, and the number six is NOT a person, so God cannot be the number six, and the number six cannot be God.  Thus, there must be at least one false premise or one invalid inference somewhere in Argument 3 of Phase 4.
If we clarify the premises of Geisler’s argument, we can see that there is at least one invalid inference in the argument.  Premises (70) and (72) are both in need of clarification.  First, let’s make it more clear that (70) is talking about existence:

70a. A necessary being cannot not exist.

Next, lets think about premise (72) to see if we can clarify that premise,  based on understanding the underlying logic of that premise:

72. A being B has a limitation IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” in some sense.

A being might have a limitation related to knowledge, thus making the being fall short of possessing omniscience.  For example, a being might NOT know calculus, and thus fall short of possessing omniscience.  In this case, the being can be said “to not be” a being that knows calculus, and that would mean that this being has a limitation related to knowledge.
A being might have a limitation related to power, thus making the being fall short of possessing omnipotence.  For example, a being might NOT have the power to instantly create a universe out of nothing, and thus fall short of possessing omnipotence.  In this case, the being can be said “to not be” a being that has the power to instantly create a universe out of nothing, and that would mean that this being has a limitation related to power.
Note that a being that fell short of omniscience could, nevertheless, exist.  Note that a being that fell short of omnipotence could, nevertheless, exist.  So, lacking some power or characteristic that is required in order to have infinite power or infinite knowledge does not imply the non-existence of the being in question.  I am not omniscient, nor am I omnipotent, but I do exist.  Thus, it appears that the phrase “not be” has a different meaning in premise (70) than in premise (72), and thus Geisler’s argument is invalid because of the fallacy of equivocation (if I had a nickel for every equivocation fallacy by Geisler, I could buy Bill Gates’ house on Lake Washington).
Here is a clarified version of Argument 3 of Phase 4 that makes the invalidity of Geisler’s logic more obvious:
Phase 4 Argument #3 RevA

54b. There exists exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) AND the being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is a necessary being.

70a. A necessary being cannot not exist.

THEREFORE:

71a.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) cannot not exist.

72a. A being B has a limitation related to characteristic C IF AND ONLY IF being B can be said “to not be” a being with property P, where P is a property that B must have in order to have characteristic C to an infinite degree.

THEREFORE:

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

74.  If a being B has no limitations, then being B is an infinite being.

THEREFORE:

75.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an infinite being.

Premise (71a) has no logical connection with premise (72a), because (71a) is talking about EXISTENCE, while (71a) is talking about having, or not having, some PROPERTY or characteristic.  Therefore, the inference from (71a) and (72a) to (73) is logically invalid, and this argument fails, like every single other argument that Geisler has presented in his case for God.  Geisler has yet again committed the fallacy of equivocation, because he plays fast-and-loose with the meanings of words and phrases, such as the phrase “not be”.
Argument 3 of Phase 4 clearly FAILS because (a) it is based on a dubious and unproven premise, premise (54b), and because (b) the logic of the argument is invalid.
Here is Geisler’s argument about omnipresence:
Also, He can’t be limited to categories like “here and there,” because unlimited being must be in all places at all times–therefore, He is omnipresent.  (WSA, p.27-28)
 
Phase 4 Argument #4

73.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations.

THEREFORE:

76. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) has no limitations related to its location.

77. A being that has no limitations related to its location must be in all places at all times.

78.  A being that is in all places at all times is an omnipresent being.

THERFORE:

79. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist (a long time ago) is an omnipresent being.

This argument is better than most given by Geisler in his case for God.  The main problem is that the initial premise (73) is controversial and questionable, and Geisler has failed in his previous attempt to provide a sound argument for (73).  So, this argument rests on a shaky foundation.
Premise (77) is not Geisler’s wording; it is my attempt to use the logic that we uncovered in clarifying premise (72) in order to clarify this present argument.
There does seem to be a bit of a problem with the truth of premise (77), at least as I have worded it.  Being confined to a particular location seems to be a kind of limitation.  We put people in prison, for example, to confine them, to limit their freedom.  As human beings, one aspect of our freedom and power is to be able to LEAVE a particular location when we wish to do so.  I can pick up my marbles and go home, if I get mad and don’t want to play anymore.  If a being MUST be in a particular location, then that being is confined to that location, and is not free to leave that location.  Thus it seems to be the case that a being that “has no limitations related to its location” would be a being that is able to leave a location and NOT be present at that location, whenever the being wishes to do so.  Thus, it is not clear to me that (77) is true.
Perhaps premise (77) could be modified to get around this objection.  I’m not sure.
My main objection to Argument 4 of Phase 4 is that it is based on the questionable and controversial premise (73), for which Geisler has failed to provide a solid argument.

bookmark_borderReligious Experience – Recognizing God

Sam said to me and our gathered friends:
Give me someone who is willing to sit down and take a three-hour Chemistry test, and another hour to review the test after it is completed, then I will be able to give you a reliable estimation of how much that person knows about chemistry.
This claim was plausible; it made sense to me, especially in view of the fact that the Graduate Record Exam Chemistry Test has about 130 multiple-choice questions, and students are given two hours and fifty minutes to take the test.  The GRE Chemistry Test does NOT attempt to assess all current knowledge of chemistry.  It has a somewhat more limited scope:
 Scores on the tests are intended to indicate knowledge of the subject matter emphasized in many undergraduate programs as preparation for graduate study.  (p.3, Graduate Record Examinations Chemistry Test Practice Book, copyright 2009 by Educational Testing Service.)
Because of the diversity of undergraduate curricula, it is not possible for a single test to cover all the material you may have studied.  The examiners, therefore, select questions that test the basic knowledge and skills most important for successful graduate study in the particular field. (p.4, Graduate Record Examinations Chemistry Test Practice Book, copyright 2009 by Educational Testing Service.)
So, I was inclined to believe Sam’s claim.  But then Jack made a stronger claim:
Give me someone who is willing to talk with me about chemistry for twenty minutes, then I will be able to give you a reliable estimation of how much that person knows about chemistry.
If it takes professional educational testers about three hours to determine the level of “the basic knowledge and skills most important for successful graduate study” in chemistry, then I am skeptical that Jack can provide a reliable assessment of a person’s knowledge of chemistry based on  just one twenty minute conversation.
Then Cheryl made an even more incredible claim:
Give me someone who is willing to talk with me about chemistry for just ten minutes, then I will be able to give you a reliable estimation of how much that person knows about chemistry.
I flat out did not believe Cheryl’s claim; there is simply no way that a ten minute conversation could provide enough information about a person’s knowledge of chemistry to make a reliable estimation of the extent of that person’s knowledge of chemistry.  Then Bob chimed in with an even more unbelievable claim:
Let me talk with someone about current politics for just five minutes, then I will be able to give you a reliable estimation of how much that person knows about chemistry.
Not to be outdone, across the room I hear Cindy pipe up:
Let me just sit in the same room with a person, not talk to them, just observe them for five minutes, then I will be able to give you a reliable estimation of how much that person knows about chemistry.
Apparently, there was some sort of extreme bullshitting contest going on, and my friends were all seing who could make the most ridiculous claim.  Now it was Tom’s turn; he shouted out:
I don’t need to even see the person.  Just put me in the same room with a person, with a blindfold over my eyes, and ear plugs in my ears, and give me just five minutes sitting in the same room with the person, then I will be able to give you a reliable estimation of how much that person knows about chemistry.
I thought that surely Tom had won the contest, but I was mistaken.  It was Shannon’s moment to shine; she proclaimed:
Put me in the same room with a person for five minutes while I’m blindfolded, and with my ears plugged, then I will be able to give you a reliable estimation of how much that person knows about chemistry, physics, and biology.
But this wild claim was quickly topped by Jason, who boasted:
Put me in the same room with a person for five minutes while I’m blindfolded and have my ears plugged, then I will be able to give you a reliable estimation of how much that person knows about chemistry, physics, biology, geology, astronomy, mathematics, pychology, sociology, linguistics, political science, history, philosophy, literature, art, and music.
Finally,  Lisa went for the golden ring and made a claim so absurd that the room, finally, fell silent:
Put me in the same room with an invisible and intangible spirit for just five minutes, and I will determine whether that spirit is omniscient, whether that spirit possesses more knowledge than all the knowledge ever possessed by human beings.
Lisa, you see, claims to be able to recognize when she is in the presence of an omniscient spirit simply by sensing the presence of a spirit for a few minutes.
QUESTION:
Do you think that Lisa won this bullshitting contest?

bookmark_borderWhitcomb’s Grounding Argument for Atheism and Reply by Rasmussen et al

I am quoting the abstract of these papers here, without comment pro or con, for interested readers who may wish to read the papers for themselves. Feel free to debate in the combox.
 
Whitcomb’s argument for atheism:

Abstract
I’m going to argue that omniscience is impossible and therefore that there is no God. The argument turns on the notion of grounding. After illustrating and clarifying that notion, I’ll start the argument in earnest. The first step will be to lay out five claims, one of which is the claim that there is an omniscient being, and the other four of which are claims about grounding. I’ll prove that these five claims are jointly inconsistent. Then I’ll argue for the truth of each of them except the claim that there is an omniscient being. From these arguments it follows that there are no omniscient beings and thus that there is no God.

 
LINK
 
Reply by Rasmussen, Cullison, and Howard-Snyder:

Abstract. Dennis Whitcomb argues that there is no God on the grounds that (i) God is supposed to be omniscient, yet (ii) nothing could be omniscient due to the nature of grounding. We give a formally identical argument that concludes that one of the present co-authors does not exist. Since he does exist, Whitcomb’s argument is unsound. But why is it unsound? That is a difficult question. We venture two answers. First, one of the grounding principles that the argument relies on is false. Second, the argument equivocates between two kinds of grounding: instance-grounding and quasi-mereological grounding. Happily, the equivocation can be avoided; unhappily, avoidance comes at the price of a false premise.

LINK