bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 3: The Main Argument

I cannot recommend the book Unapologetic by John Loftus, because I have not carefully read the whole book yet.  But I have read Chapter 5, which I take to be the heart of the book, and I can recommend reading Chapter 5 of Unapologetic.  It is an interesting, informative, and thought-provoking chapter about the philosophy of religion.  I disagree with the main conclusion for which Loftus argues, but there are plenty of interesting ideas to ponder in Chapter 5, including the summary of ten reasons for his view that the discipline of philosophy of religion should be discontinued.
Chapter 5 is flawed and imperfect, but it is well worth reading, if one is interested in the philosophy of religion.  Loftus presents the views of various contemporary philosophers of religion about the present state of the philosophy of religion, and then Loftus comments on the points made by these philosophers.  This is a good approach to clarifying his own views, plus it provides the reader with ideas and alternative ways of looking at this subject, which is interesting and informative.
Loftus tries to cover points and ideas from too many different philosophers in just one chapter, so his comments are generally too skimpy and superficial.  He should have either written multiple chapters covering the material in Chapter 5, or else focused in on just two or three philosophers and put more effort into explaining and clarifying his own views in contrast to those two or three philosophers.
However, he does cover three philosophers in moderate depth: Graham Oppy (p.117-118), Paul Draper (p.121-125), and Kevin Schilbrak (p.126-129). There is also about a full page devoted to Timothy Knepper’s views of philosophy of religion (p.129-130). Gregory Dawes gets nearly about 2/3 of a page for a long quotation (p.120-121).   Linda Zagzebski gets about 1/2 of a page, as does Nick Trakakis (p.115-116).  There are a couple of quotations from our own Keith Parsons (p.117, 118-119), and one quote from Jeff Lowder, who is referred to as “One other Secular Outpost author”, and who gets identified by name only in the end note (quoted on p.117, end note on p.136).
[/RANT ON]  
I often criticize Christian philosophers and apologists for their UNCLARITY and lack of sufficient argumentation, which is usually due to the fact that they are too skimpy in their writing.  For example, William Craig tries to prove that Jesus really died on the cross in just three and one-half pages in The Son Rises (p.36-40).  Craig fails to offer even one bit of actual legitimate historical evidence, and so his case is complete crap.  I am currently critically examining Norman Geisler’s case for God in When Skeptics Ask.   His entire case for God is given in just 18 pages, and 2.5 pages of that are taken up with historical side notes and a diagram.  So, his actual writing is only about 15 pages.
I have covered most of the arguments in those 15 pages and concluded that they were a “hot steaming pile of dog shit.”  I’m not sure that Geisler could do any better if he used 150 pages to present his case for God, but if he presented a more lengthy case, he would certainly need to provide more details and would have more opportunity to clarify his key concepts and claims and inferences.  Geisler’s arguments are filled with vagueness and ambiguities.  He fails to define the word “God” and repeatedly misuses this word, even though the conclusion for which he is arguing is that “God exists.”
The main problem with Chapter 5 is primarily that it is UNCLEAR because it is TOO SKIMPY; it has the same problem that I see in the writing of most Christian apologists.  It is a problem that one expects in the writing of undergraduate students of philosophy, but which should not be nearly so common in the writing of philosophers and intellectuals.  It is to be expected that an undergraduate student of philosophy would try to make a case for the existence of God in a short five or ten page essay.  But no professional philosopher should be so stupid as to think that it is possible to make a clear and persuasive case for God in just five or ten pages.
Richard Swinburne’s case for God is presented in three books: (1) The Coherence of Theism (308 pages), (2) The Existence of God (342 pages), and (3) The Resurrection of God Incarnate (203 pages).  Swinburne’s case for the existence of God is thus 853 pages long.   There are lots of philosophical details and arguments in these books that are not essential to his case, so 853 pages is a bit of overkill.
But even Swinburne’s popular case for God for general audiences (Is There a God?) is 137 pages, and this does not include his capstone argument for God, which concerns the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  So, even a popular presentation of Swinburne’s case for God would run over 200 pages, if it included his argument based on the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  Geisler’s feeble attempt to make a case for God in just 15 pages is nothing more than a pathetic joke.
[/RANT OFF]
OK.  Back to Reason #9, which I take to be the central argument for the view that we ought to put an end to the discipline of philosophy of religion.  Chapter 5 opens with some clarifications of the conclusion for which Loftus is arguing, so before I get into any further analysis of his main argument, let’s review some points of clarification and qualification from the opening of Chapter 5:
…I’m not saying philosophy proper is stupid or dead or unnecessary… (p. 111)
…I’m not saying that atheist philosophers…should dismiss religions out of hand or ridicule them.  (p.111)
…I’m not even saying that atheist philosophers should cease writing books on philosophy of religion (PoR) or that they should cease all lectures or classes on such topics in secular universities.   (p.112)
He adds this point at the end of his comments about “what I’m not proposing”:
Keep in mind, however, that if they [“atheist philosophers and intellectuals”] do PoR correctly it will no longer be considered the philosophy of religion as defined today, but something else. (p.112)
In the section called “What I am Proposing” (on pages 112 through 115), Loftus provides clarification about what he IS proposing:
It [Loftus’ proposal] follows the same pattern as Hector Avalos’ call to end biblical studies as we know it… (p.112)
It’s also something Peter Boghossian proposed in his provocative book, A Manual for Creating Atheists (p.112)
[Boghossian’s advice to educators]: “…Do not take faith claims seriously.  Let the utterer know that faith is not an acceptable basis from which to draw a conclusion that can be relied upon.”  (p.112)
The fourth paragraph is probably the most important one in this section, so I will quote the entire paragraph here:
I am primarily calling for the end of PoR as a separate subdiscipline under philosophy in secular universities.  Further, whenever there is a PoR class, it should be taught correctly, if it’s to be done at all.  Like all other subjects in secular universities, PoR classes must be taught in a secular way by treating all faith-based claims equally and privileging none, if they are taught at all.  If PoR is successfully taught in this bold and honest manner, the instructors themselves will help end the PoR and religion along with it.  Philosophers of religion should go about the task of putting themselves out of a job by telling their students the truth–that faith is an unreliable way to gain objective knowledge about matters of fact such as the nature of nature, its workings, and its origins.  It is also an unreliable way to decide which religion is true, if there is one. (Unapologetic, p.112-113)
Loftus provides another two pages or so of comments explaining what he is proposing, but this paragraph is sufficient clarification of his conclusion for now.
I want to return now to Reason #9, and to a careful analysis of the reasoning present in the two paragraphs in which Loftus presents Reason #9 (on page 135).  I am going to re-number the main claims made in those two paragraphs as follows:
Key Claims from 1st Paragraph
1.  …faith-based reasoning must end.
2.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end.
3.  …faith has no justification, nor merit, nor warrant. 
4.  A reasonable faith does not exist, nor can faith be a guide for reasoning to any objective conclusion.
5.  The claims of religious faith via PoR cannot be reasonably defended.
 
Key Claims from 2nd Paragraph
6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.
7. Faith is indeed an unreliable way to gain objective knowledge about the world.
8. …faith-based reasoning cannot justify any claim concerning matters of fact…
9. …philosophy of religion is reasoning about that which is unreasonable.
10.  It [philosophy of religion] takes the utterly unwarranted conclusions of faith seriously.
11. …the very first principle of religion is faith.
 
The logic of the core argument is clearer than I previously thought.  Premise (2) indicates the basic logical structure of the argument:

IF X and Y, THEN Z.

X

 Y

THEREFORE:

Z

Premise (2) is the conditional statement, and premise (6) asserts one of the conjuncts in the antecedent of (2), so to complete the argument, we only need the other conjunct in the antecedent of (2), and the conclusion is the consequent of (2):
Core Argument in Reason #9

2.  If PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion, and if religion is based on faith, then philosophy of religion must end.

6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.

A.  PoR is using reason to examine the claims of religion.

THEREFORE:

PoRME: Philosophy of Religion must end.

Given this basic logical structure, the other statements are presumably either support for one of the three premises, or clarification of one of the three premises, or clarification of the conclusion.
Before I make an attempt to reconstruct further details of Loftus’ argument constituting Reason #9, I must confess that I don’t think I will be able to “demolish” this argument, or to stab a sharp dagger into the heart of the beast (i.e. Reason #9).   But my failure to “demolish” this argument is NOT because the argument is a good and solid argument.  The reason I don’t think I will be able to “demolish” this argument is because it is very UNCLEAR, and there is little hope that Loftus will be willing and able to make it CLEAR.
Consider premise (6), for example.
6. Religion is indeed based on faith in supernatural forces or entities.
The subject of this statement is “religion”.  This word is notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of “religion” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The word “faith” is also notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of “faith” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The phrase “X is based on faith in Y” is perhaps a bit less unclear than the word “faith” considered by itself.  But this phrase does inherit some unclarity from the problematic word “faith” and it has the additional issue of the unclarity of the phrase “X is based on…”  This phrase is vague and unclear.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of the phrase “X is based on faith in Y”, any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The word “supernatural” is notoriously UNCLEAR.  It is an ambiguous word.  It is a vague word.  It is a controversial word.  Supposed experts on “religion” and “philosophy” cannot come to a general agreement about what this word means.  So, unless and until Loftus provides a clear definition of the word “supernatural” any person who is a critical thinker ought to DOUBT the truth of premise (6).
The key argument at the heart of Unapologetic is very UNCLEAR.  This key argument makes use of words and phrases that are notoriously unclear, so this argument should be rejected by any person who is a critical thinker unless and until Loftus provides clear definitions of the key terms and phrases in this argument.
Here are some of the key words and phrases that are in need of clarification or definition:
“religion”
“faith” 
“X is based on faith”
“faith in Y”
“X is based on faith in Y”
“using reason”
“philosophy” 
“philosophy of religion”
“supernatural”
“supernatural forces and entities”
Loftus fails to define ANY of these UNCLEAR and problematic words and phrases in Chapter 5.  I have also scanned through Chapters 1 through 4 looking for clear definitions of these words and phrases and have come up empty handed.  I have no idea whether this central argument of Loftus’ book Unapologetic is a GOOD argument or a BAD argument, and I suspect that I never will know, because I don’t believe that Loftus has a clear idea of what “religion” means, nor of what “faith” means, nor of what “reason” means.  If he had a clear idea of what these words mean, then he would have no problem defining what they mean or providing significant clarification about what these words mean, but he never does this.
Loftus does make a very brief attempt at defining “faith”, but the definition is unclear, and he makes no effort to explain or defend his definition, and he never uses or refers to the definition when presenting his central arguments in Chapter 5.  The definition is found in Chapter 4:
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)
Because Loftus provides no additional explanation or defense of this definition, and does not refer to or make use of this definition in presenting his key arguments in Chapter 5, I am not going to waste my time analyzing and evaluating this definition.  It appears to be tossed off the top of his head with little thought behind it.
As it stands, the central argument of Unapologetic reminds me of Geisler’s arguments for God in When Skeptics Ask.  Geisler never bothers to define the key word “God”, and he clearly misuses the word “God”, and commits the fallacy of equivocation more than once because of his sloppy and ambiguous use of the word “God”.  In general, Geisler’s case for God is a steaming pile of dog shit, and it is so mainly because it is filled with UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS words and phrases that Geisler never bothers to clarify or define.  The central argument in Unapologetic is also a steaming pile of dog shit, just like Geisler’s case for God, because it uses several UNCLEAR words and phrases and because Loftus makes no serious intellectual effort to define or clarify the meanings of those words and phrases.
Because there is no serious effort to provide definitions of key words and phrases in the central argument of Unapologetic, I doubt that Loftus has a clear idea of what those key words and phrases mean.
Furthermore, there are indications in a couple of passages in the book, that Loftus has an intellectual or ideological resistance to defining key words and phrases.  In my view, that means that Loftus has an intellectual or ideological resistance to thinking critically, because the first and most fundamental principle of critical thinking is this:

  • Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.

Another very basic principle of critical thinking is this:

  • CLARITY is a gateway standard of thinking.

If a statement or argument is UNCLEAR, then we cannot rationally and objectively evaluate that statement or argument.
The first passage that indicates Loftus has a problem with definitions is in Chapter 1:
Which brings me to the value of philosophy.  Over the last decade I have found that one bastion for Christian apologists has been philosophy, especially the philosophy of religion.  The scholars have honed their definitional apologetics in such a fine-tuned manner that when engaging them in this discipline, it’s like trying to catch a greased pig.  Or, to switch metaphors, trying to chase them down the rabbit’s hole in an endless and ultimately fruitless quest for definitions.  What’s an extraordinary claim?  What constitutes evidence?  What’s the definition of supernatural?  What’s the scientific method?  What’s a miracle?  What’s a basic belief?  What’s a veridical religious experience?  What’s evil? …  (Unapologetic, p.28, emphasis added)
This strikes me as a fundamentally anti-intellectual statement by Loftus.  Definitions are an important tool of philosophy, critical thinking, of science, and of scholarship in general.  But Loftus appears to be taking an anti-definition stance here.  That, in my view, is a position against critical thinking and rationality.
But perhaps that was just a bit of overblown whining by Loftus about Christian apologists, and it does not represent a general antipathy towards definitions and conceptual analysis.  However, when we read the exchange between Peter Boghossian and Keith Parsons in Chapter 4, it becomes clear that Bogghosian, who is a leading light for Loftus’ view of religion and philosophy of religion, has a very negative view of definitions and conceptual analysis.
Parsons’ initial critique of Boghossian indicates a concern about the clarity of a key claim made by Boghossian:

  1. Evolution occurred.
  2. Faith is a malaise.

(1) is an established scientific fact.  (2) is Professor Boghossian’s  opinion.  It may be an informed opinion, but it is an opinion.  For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that (2) is true in whatever sense Prof. Boghossian intends.(Unapologetic, p.89)
Parsons’ is being a bit too subtle here, but he is hinting at the fact that the key statement (2) is UNCLEAR, and it’s meaning is in need of clarification by Boghossian.  Boghossian appears to have missed the subtle hint, because his response does not provide any clarification or definition of “faith” (at least in what Loftus quotes of his response).
In Keith Parsons’ reply to Boghossian’s response, he points out the problem of the need for clarity and definition more firmly and straightforwardly:
Of course, if one interprets “faith” to mean only “wishful thinking” then certainly it is an unreliable belief-forming process.  However, I think we need to be clear that in attacking “faith” we are attacking it only in this rather trivialized sense, and not in a more sophisticated and nuanced sense.  (Unapologetic, p.90)
The only reasonable response to this objection by Parsons would be for Boghossian to clarify and define what he means by the word “faith”.  If Boghossian has a clear understanding of the meaning of the word “faith” (or even just of his own use of the word “faith” in this context), then he ought to have no trouble providing a definition or analysis of the meaning of this word, but that is NOT what Boghossian does.  Instead, he seems to attack the idea of trying to define or clarify the meaning of this word:
Second, the histories of philosophy and theology are replete with people trying to define faith.  Anselm’s definition is floral mumbo-jumbo.
[…]
One can talk about “a more sophisticated or nuanced sense” of the word “faith”, but this does not change the fact that faith claims are knowledge claims.  It also does not change the fact that certain processes of reasoning are unreliable.  Faith is not a reliable process of reasoning. … (Unapologetic, p.91)
So, Boghossian appears to think that the efforts of philosophers and theologians to clarify the meaning of the word “faith” is a hopeless task, and he offers no definition or clarification of the word “faith” and then he just plows ahead and continues making UNCLEAR claims about faith: “Faith is not a reliable process of reasoning.”
He does this after Parsons has directly and plainly challenged him to clarify what he means by the word “faith”.  Given Boghossian’s FAILURE to provide a definition or clarification of the meaning of “faith”, and given his derogatory comments about the efforts of philosophers and theologians to CLARIFY the meaning of this word, it appears fairly certain that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to providing definitions or analyses of the meanings of key words or phrases.
Parsons makes one final effort to drive the point about CLARITY home to Boghossian:
(2) Faith is not a reliable belief-forming process.
[…]
…I would assert (2) to a class but would be very careful to say just what I meant by “faith.”  I would make it abundantly clear that what I was attacking was something like “faith” in the sense defined by Ambrose Bierce: “Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.”  “Faith” is a vague term, and to attack it without proper and careful qualification would be perceived  as an attack on religious belief per se…  (Unapologetic, p.92)
It is not clear whether Boghossian finally got the OBVIOUS point that Keith Parsons repeatedly attempted to communicate to him. Loftus does not provide us with further comments by Boghossian in response to this point by Parsons.
But I seriously doubt that Boghossian responded to Parsons with a definition or analysis of what he meant by the word “faith”.  First, there is good reason to believe that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological opposition to providing definitions of key concepts, which I take to be an intellectual or ideological opposition to some basic principles of critical thinking.  Second,  if Boghossian had provided a definition or analysis of the meaning of the word “faith” I would expect Loftus to pass that on to readers here, because Loftus looks up to Boghossian as a leading light on this subject.  Loftus’ failure to provide us with a definition of “faith” from Boghossian in this passage is evidence that no such definition was offered by Boghossian (in this exchange between Boghossian and Parsons).
So, for three reasons I doubt that Loftus will ever provide us with a clear argument against the philosophy of religion:

  1. 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.
  2. The passage on page 28 indicates that Loftus has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to defining or analyzing the meanings of key words and phrases (at least relating to philosophy, religion, and theology).
  3. The exchange between Boghossian and Parsons (on pages 88 to 92) indicates that Boghossian has some sort of intellectual or ideological resistance to defining or analyzing the meanings of key words and phrases (at least relating to philosophy, religion, and theology), and Loftus looks up to Boghossian as a leading light on this subject.

Thus, the central argument of Unapologetic is very UNCLEAR, and I have little hope that Loftus will ever provide definitions or analyses of the meanings of the key words and phrases in that argument, so I have little hope that I will ever be able to rationally and objectively evaluate that argument.
I could, of course, provide my own definitions of the key words and phrases, but then Loftus would very likely reply to any objections that I raise to the clarified argument, that I had misunderstood or misinterpreted his meaning, and was committing a Straw Man fallacy against the argument that constitutes Reason #9, the most central and important reason that he has given in support of the conclusion that “Philosophy of religion must end.”  This is the same sort of BS that Christian apologists like to pull.  They put forward CRAPPY and UNCLEAR arguments (such as those of Norman Geisler) and then complain about being misinterpreted when skeptics attempt to clarify their argument enough to make the arguments subject to rational and objective evaluation.
In 2014, Boghossian took a swipe at philosophy of religion that impressed Loftus:
“Being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.” (Unapologetic, p. 33)
Here is my own swipe back at Boghossian and Loftus:
Being published in a book or article that attacks “faith” or “religion” without providing a clear definition or analysis of the meaning of the word “faith” or “religion” should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.
Any person who does this sort of anti-intellectual and anti-critical-thinking bullshit does NOT deserve to be treated seriously as a philosopher or intellectual.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 7: Argument #2 of Phase 2

Here is the second argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God:
ARGUMENT #2 of PHASE 2
21. “…the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.” (WSA, p.26)
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
THUS:
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
24. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
THEREFORE:
25. Whatever being “caused the universe” to begin to exist “had great intelligence” (when the universe was being designed).  (WSA, p.26)
Here is a diagram of this argument (with the conclusion at the top, and the premises below it):   

Argument 2 of Phase 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
This argument is also clearly a FAILURE.    Let’s begin with an examination of premise (24):
24. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
Geisler does not explicitly state this premise, but he clearly NEEDS this premise in order to get to the conclusion, which talks about a being that “caused the universe”.   The other premises of this argument appear to be focused on the “designer of the universe”, so those premises are irrelevant to the conclusion apart from the assumption that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist and the designer of the universe are the same being.
But not only does Geisler FAIL to make this assumption explicit,  he also FAILS to provide any reason whatsover to believe that this assumption is true.  It is certainly NOT a necessary truth, because it is conceivable and logically possible that one being designed the universe and another different being caused the universe to begin to exist.  
One way this could happen is if one being were to create the basic matter of the universe, and then a second being came along and organized that matter into planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies.  The first being would have caused the universe to begin to exist, but the second being would be the designer of the universe, at least of the major astronomical features of the universe.
Another way this could happen is if one being were to design both the structure of matter of the universe and also the basic astronomical features of the universe, and then a second being came along and brought a universe into existence based on the design that had been developed by the first being.  
Clearly (24) is NOT a logically necessary truth.  It is possible for a cause of the universe and a designer of the universe to be two different beings. Since it is possible that (24) is false, and since there is no obvious reason to believe that (24) is true, Geisler’s argument is unacceptable unless and until he provides a good reason or argument showing that premise (24) is true.  Since Geisler makes no attempt to provide a reason or argument in support of (24), this argument is clearly a FAILURE, as it stands, because it is based on a questionable premise that we have no good reason to believe to be true.
The other key premise in this argument is (23):
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
This is obviously a questionable and controversial claim.  It would be question-begging to simply assume this premise to be true. Accordingly, Geisler provides us with an argument in support of premise (23):

21. “…the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.” (WSA, p.26)
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
THUS:
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).

Is this a sound argument?  The logic is fine (a standard modus ponens inference), so we only need to be concerned about whether the premises are true.  If both premise (21) and (22) are true, then we ought to accept (23).  
Let’s begin by examining premise (21).  Is this premise true?
In order to evaluate whether (21) is true, we must first understand what (21) means. As with most of Geisler’s premises, this statement is UNCLEAR, so we cannot evaluate the truth of this premise as it stands.  The sentence asserted in (21) has a subject and a predicate.  The subject of (21) is unclear, and the predicate of (21) is unclear.  
Let’s start with the subject:
(S21) The design of the universe…  
As it stands, this premise begs an important question.  It ASSUMES that there is such a thing as “the design” of the universe.  But this is hardly an obvious or self-evident truth.  This is a controversial claim which Geisler needs to support with reasons or arguments.  
Furthermore, the use of the definite article “the” implies that there is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe.  Thus, even if we assume that the universe has a design (i.e. at least one design), the expression “the design of the universe” might not refer to anything at all, because there might be MANY designs of the universe.  
If there are MANY cars in the parking lot of the Safeway grocery store near my house, then the claim that
The car in the parking lot of the Safeway grocery store near my house is a Volkswagen
is NOT a true claim, because the subject “the car in the parking lot…” does not refer to any specific car.  
Because there are many cars in the parking lot, the expression “the car in the parking lot” has no clear referent.  Similarly, if there are MANY designs incorporated into various parts or aspects of the universe, then the expression “the design of the universe” has no clear referent, and thus premise (21) could not, under such circumstances, assert a true claim.  If there are MANY designs of the universe, then premise (21) is literally not talking about anything, because (21) would have no actual subject. Let’s rephrase the subject of (21) to make this point clear:
(S21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe…
One logical possiblity is that the universe incorporates several designs. For example, one being might have designed the electron, while another being designed the proton, and a third being designed neutrons.  Each sub-atomic particle might have been individually designed.  Each planet and each star could have been designed by a different being, or each solar system designed by a different being, or each galaxy designed by a different being.  The laws of gravity might have been designed by one being, while other laws of physics were designed by another being.  If different parts or aspects of the universe were designed by different beings, then although there would be MANY designs incorporated into the universe, it might well be the case that there is no such thing as “the design” of the universe, no single overarching plan that was devised for all of the major parts and aspects of the universe.
What this means is that in order to show that (21) is true, Geisler needs to prove not only that there is “a design” incorporated into some aspect of the universe, but that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe as a whole.  It appears to me that Geisler has made no attempt to show this to be the case.  If he has made no attempt to show that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe, then he has FAILED to show that premise (21) is true.
Before we move on to clarify the predicate of (21), it is important to note that there is a distinction between “a design IN the universe” and “a design OF the universe”.  Geisler, as usual, is sloppy in his writing and thinking, and he quickly slides over this distinction without any comment or clarification. Note that in his argument from design, Geisler uses the expression “design in the universe” in one of his premises:
All designs imply a designer.
There is a great design in the universe.
Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20, emphasis added)  
The second premise asserts that there is a great “design in the universe”.  Even if that were true, it does NOT imply that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe”. There may be parts or aspects of the universe that have “a design” even if the universe as a whole does not have a design.  For example, my car, my bicycle, and my cell phone are all objects in the universe.  Each of these things is a part of the universe, and each of these things has a design.  So, clearly there are parts or aspects of the universe that have a design, but the fact that my car was designed does NOT imply that the universe as a whole was designed.  It is a logical fallacy to infer from the fact that some parts or aspects of the universe have a design that the universe as a whole has a design.  
In the conclusion of his argument from design, Geisler talks about “a Great Designer of the universe”.  If the existence of such a being logically implies that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe”, then the inference in Geisler’s argument from design is logically invalid, because the premise only talks about there being “design in the universe”, and that could be the case if just one part or aspect of the universe had a design while the universe as a whole lacked a design.  The second premise of this argument from design appears to be too weak to prove the conclusion, because it leaves open the possibility that there is no such thing as “the design” of the universe.  
On the other hand, if the conclusion that there is “a Great Designer of the universe” only implies that there is AT LEAST ONE designer who designed AT LEAST ONE part or aspect of the universe, then this weaker conclusion might logically follow from the second premise, but this weaker conclusion is inadequate for Geisler to build upon in Phase 2.  If the possibility of there being MANY designers and MANY designs in the universe is left open, then Geisler cannot make inferences from the design of one specific part or aspect of the universe to the intelligence of “the designer” of the universe as a whole.  In order for Geisler’s Phase 2 to work, he needs to show that there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe, but he has not provided any reason whatsoever to believe this to be the case.  
So, it seems that the UNCLARITY in Geisler’s writing and thinking in relation to the difference between “design IN the universe” and “design OF the universe” hides a serious problem in his case for the existence of God.  By becoming clearer about the distinction between these two different ideas, we can then see yet another way in which Geisler’s case for God FAILS.  
Now let’s consider the predicate of premise (21):
(P21) …is far beyond anything that man could devise.
As it stands, the wording here is vague.  However, in context it is clear that what Geisler has in mind here is complexity of structure and function, especially in the design of a machine.  It is helpful to consider the full sentence that Geisler wrote:
Even Carl Sagan admits that the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.  (WSA, p.26)
Here Geisler refers back to his presentation of the argument from design and to a quotation that he gave from Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos:
The information content of the human brain expressed in bits is probably comparable to the total number of connections among neurons–about a hundred trillion….  If written out in English, say, that information would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world’s largest libraries.  The equivalent of twenty million books is inside the heads of every one of us.  The brain is a very big place in a very small space. … The neurochemistry of the brain is astonishingly busy, the circuitry of a machine more wonderful than any devised by humans.    (WSA, p.21. Geisler is quoting from Cosmos, p.278)
[Note that Sagan was talking about the human brain, not about the universe as a whole.  So, even if it were true that the human brain has a design that was produced by some being who existed prior to the human species, it does not follow that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe,” nor that there is such a thing as “the designer of the universe,” nor that “the designer of the universe” must be as intelligent as the designer of the human brain.  Sagan also does NOT claim that the complexity of the structure and function of the human brain is something that “is far beyond” what humans “could devise”, but rather that it is beyond the complexity of any machine that has been devised by humans (so far). That leaves open the possibility that humans might in the future create a machine that was as complex in structure and function as the human brain.]
The paragraph in which this quote of Sagan is given begins this way:
That’s where the next premise comes in [i.e. “There is a great design in the universe.”]. The design we see in the universe is complex. (WSA, p.21)
What is the relevance of the design in the universe being “complex”?  The relevance is indicated at the end of the paragraph prior to the one just quoted:
…the more complex that design is, the greater the intelligence required to produce it.  (WSA, p.21)
The more complex a design is, the more intelligent the being that produced that design must be.  Given the context of the quote from Sagan and the context of the relevance of the concept of “complexity” of a design, we can clarify the meaning of the predicate of (21):  
(P21a) …is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
We can now re-state premise (21) so that it’s meaning is significantly more clear:
(21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
A reasonably full-fledged “design of the universe” would presumably include the following: (a) a specification of the laws of physics,  (b) a specification of the sub-atomic structure of atoms, (c) a specification of the amounts of various kinds of matter and energy in the universe at the beginning of the universe, (d) other initial physical conditions of the universe, and (e) a specification of the astronomical structure of the universe (e.g. billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars and planets) that would result from the other design specifications.  
But a desgn of the universe might only be a partial design.  For example, suppose that the laws of physics and the sub-atomic structure of atoms has always existed and is undesigned.  Some intelligent being (or beings) could have taken this already existing material and created our universe according to a plan or design that was aimed at producing billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars and planets.  In this case, it would make sense to speak of “the design of the universe”, but that design would be focused on the astronomical structure of the universe and it would NOT include the sub-atomic structure of atoms, nor would it specify the laws of physics, because those other elements of the universe would already be in existence, and there would be no need to design or create those aspects of the universe.  
At the other extreme, “the design of the universe” could include every little fact about the universe, and every event that would ever occur in the universe, including what I would eat for breakfast this morning.  Geisler believes in a creator being who is omniscient and omnipotent, and such a being would have the knowledge and power to determine in advance every little fact and event in the history of the universe, including what I would eat for breakfast this morning.  
Given the wide diversity of possible contents of “the design of the universe”–ranging from a specification of only the astronomical structure of the universe, to a full-fledge design that includes laws of physics, sub-atomic structure, various initial conditions, and astronomical structure, to the extreme concept of a design that includes every fact and event in the entire history of the universe–the concept of “a design of the universe” is still a rather broad and vague concept in need of careful examination and treatment.
Finally, as mentioned previously, there could be some things in the universe that were designed, even if the universe as a whole was NOT designed.  Geisler in presenting his argument from design quoted Carl Sagan’s comments about the amazingly complex structure and function of the human brain.  This does not appear to help Geisler’s case though, because even if the human brain was designed, this does NOT imply that the universe as a whole was designed.  Furthermore, even if we granted the assumption that the human brain was designed and that the universe as a whole was designed, this does NOT imply that the designer of the universe is the same being as the designer of the human brain.  So, the intelligence of the being that designed the human brain might well be greatly superior to the intelligence of the being that designed the universe as a whole.  
To be clear about the concept of “a design of the universe”, we should keep in mind some various logical possibilities:
POSSIBILITY 1  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” but there is no particular being that is “the designer of the universe”, because there are MANY designers who produced the design of the universe, not just one.  
POSSIBILITY 2  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe”, but there are no beings who are designers of the universe, because the design of the universe is the product of random or unintelligent forces and is NOT the product of a person or an intelligent being.
POSSIBILITY 3   
There are specific things in the universe or specific aspects of the universe that were designed (e.g. DNA, or the human brain), and thus there is “design IN the universe”, but there is no such thing as “the design OF the universe” because there is no overarching plan or design of the universe as a whole.  
POSSIBILITY 4
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” and there is also a being who is “the designer of the universe”, but this being did not design some of the natural phenomena that have complex structures and functions because those natural phenomena are not the product of an intelligent designer (e.g. the human brain is the product of evolution and random variations and genetic changes and mutations, not the product of an intelligent designer).  
POSSIBILITY 5  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” and there is also a being who is “the designer of the universe”, but this being did not design some of the natural phenomena that have complex structures and functions (e.g. the human brain), but some OTHER intelligent being(s) produced the design of the other complex natural phenomena (thus the designer of the human brain might be very intelligent, while the designer of the universe might be much less intelligent, perhaps less intelligent than human beings).  
These scenarios all appear to be logical possibilities, so in order for Geisler’s case to be successful, he needs to show that either these are NOT logically possible, or that there is good reason to believe that these scenarios are highly improbable (or that some of these scenarios are logically impossible and that the others are highly improbable).  
POSSIBILITY 2 appears to be ruled out by the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design.  Here is his argument from design:
All designs imply a designer.
There is a great design in the universe.
Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20, emphasis added)  
If it is true that “All designs imply a designer”, then doesn’t that eliminate the possibility that there could be such a thing as “the design of the universe” without there also being at least one “designer of the universe”?  That depends on how we interpret the word “imply” in the first premise.  One straightforward interpretation is that “imply” means “logically entail”:  
All designs LOGICALLY ENTAIL the existence of at least one designer (who produced the design in question).  
However, if we interpret the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design this way, then his argument FAILS for two good reasons:  (1) the first premise would be FALSE, and (2) the second premise would beg the question at issue.
On this interpretation the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design would be FALSE, because it is logically possible for a design to happen by random chance.  Geisler admits this to be a logical possibility, because he argues that it is IMPROBABLE that something like the complex structures and functions found in a living cell would occur as the result of random, unintelligent forces and processes.  Claiming that this is IMPROBABLE, implies that it is logically possible, for if there was a logical contradiction in the idea of a design produced by random, unthinking forces and processes, then Geisler would simply point out that logical contradiction and that would be sufficient to eliminate the possibility of a design existing apart from a designer.   But Geisler does not do this; instead, he argues that the it would be IMPROBABLE that all of the various structures and functions of a cell would just happen to occur as the result of random, unthinking forces and processes.  But even if it is highly improbable that X will happen, that still leaves open that possibility that X will happen.  Even if it is highly improbable that I will win the state lottery tomorrow, that still leaves open the possibility that I will win the state lottery tomorrow.
On this interpretation, the second premise of Geisler’s argument from design would beg the question at issue.  If we assume that the first premise of his argument was true, if we assume that the very concept of “a design” logically entails the existence of “a designer”, then the second premise would presuppose what the argument is trying to establish:  
There is a great design in the universe.
This premise would, on this interpretation, presuppose the existence of a designer.  In order to KNOW that this premise was in fact true, one would have to first KNOW that there exists a designer of the universe.  But that is what the argument is trying to establish!  So, this is not merely the weak sort of question begging where a premise that is controversial is asserted without reasons or evidence; this is the strong form of question begging that we call circular reasoning.  On this interpretation of the first premise, the second premise presupposes the truth of the concusion of the argument, and thus the argument would commit the fallacy of circular reasoning.
In order for Geisler’s argument from design to have any chance of being successful, we must interpret the first premise to be making a weaker claim, a claim that does not assert a logical entailment between “design” and “designers, a claim such as this:
All designs PROVIDE EVIDENCE that increases the PROBABILITY of the existence of at least one designer (who produced the design in question).   
This revised version is probably too weak to provide adequate support for Geisler’s case for God, but however one modifies and clarifies the first premise of his argument from design, that premise wil have to leave open the logical possibility of a design existing without it having been produced by a designer.  
So, let’s return to the key question: Is premise (21a) true or false?
(21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
Is there exactly one design that is a design of the universe?  Is there an overarching design of the universe as a whole?  I don’t think so.  As far as I can see, Geisler has not even attempted to show this to be the case.  He talks mainly about the complexity of the structure and function of DNA, living cells, living organisms, and the human brain.  But these are just things IN the universe or aspects of the universe.  So, even if these things or aspects were designed, that does not imply that the universe as a whole was designed, nor that there is a design of the universe as a whole.  
Furthermore, if we think about the universe as a whole, the analogy with a machine (like a watch) is not a very good analogy.  A watch has a clear and obvious function (keeping track of the passing of time), and all of the structures and functions of parts and aspects of a watch can be related to the function of the watch as a whole.  But there is no similarly clear and obvious function of the universe as a whole.  
The main function that is often suggested is the production of living creatures or the production of intelligent creatures (like human beings).  But, why is there a need for billions of galaxies each filled with billions of stars and planets?  One little solar system with a few planets orbiting one sun would do the trick.  But the chance of a living simple organism forming out of non-living chemicals on a planet seems highly unlikely, especially in a period of only thousands or millions of years.  So, one might argue that in order to ensure that a simple living organism is produced by random natural processes, the universe had to be terrifically large, with a fantastic number of stars and planets and solar systems, and the universe had to be designed to last for billions of years to allow enough time for random natural processes to produce simple living creatures somewhere in the universe.
But then, if an intelligent being wanted to produce living creatures, why do so using random physical processes that would take billions of billions of solar systems billions of years to produce one living creature? and then another billion years or more for that creature’s offspring to (possibly) produce intelligent creatures (if the planet and solar system continued to exist for that long)?  Why not produce living creatures or even intelligent creatures DIRECTLY, as in the creation myth in the book of Genesis?  
Using slow and random physical processes to produce a living creature, and using the slow and random process of evolution to produce an intelligent creature from a simple single-celled organism, seems like a terrifically stupid and inefficient way of producing living creatures and intelligent creatures. If the purpose of the universe is to produce living creatures, it is a fairly lousy mechanism for accomplishing this purpose.  The universe does not appear to be a carefully designed mechanism for producing living creatures, or anything else.  
Suppose I am wrong, and there is exactly one design that is a design of the universe as a whole, and suppose that the purpose of the universe is to bring about living creatures or intelligent living creatures.  In this case, would the design of the universe be so complex in structure and function that it would be “far beyond” the limited intelligence of human beings to produce that design or the design of a machine in which the complexity of the structure and content of the machine was of a similar degree as the complexity and structure of the design of this universe?  I don’t think so.  Geisler has given us no good reason to believe this to be so.  His discussion of DNA, cells, and the human brain is irrelevant, because he has given us no reason to believe that the design of these things (DNA, cells, and the human brain) was produced by the being who produced the design of the universe as a whole.  
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there was exactly one design that was a design of the universe as a whole, this design need not have included the structure and function of DNA, cells, or the human brain.  In fact, it is highly implausible that a design formulated billions of years ago concering the initial conditions of our universe, would have any relevance to the specific structures and functions of human brains, which evolved as the result of the random, unthinking process of evolution.  The initial physical conditions of the universe only, at best, allowed for the coming into existence of solar systems where living organisms might form by random, unthinking physical processes, and thus allow for random, unthinking process of evolution to start up.  But creating the conditions to make it possible for the evolution of life and of intelligent creatures, is not the same thing as determining the specific path that the evolution of intelligent creatures would follow over the course of a billion years or more.  
So, if “the design” of the universe did not include DNA, cells, or the human brain, then what would it have included? Presumably, it would include the sub-atomic structure of matter, the laws of physics,  the initial conditions of the universe, and the general astronomical structure of the universe that was intended to result from those other aspects of the design.  Is such a design “far beyond” the complexity of any design that human beings will ever be able to produce?  I don’t think so.  We human beings seem to have a pretty good handle on the sub-atomic structure of matter, the laws of physics, the initial conditions of the universe, and the general astronomical structure of the universe.  So, the content of this alleged design of the universe appears to be something about which human beings, at least smart and well-educated human beings,  have a pretty good understanding.  So, it does not seem at all unlikely that human beings would one day be able to produce a design for a machine that has the same level of complexity of structure and function as the universe.  
There is good reason to doubt that there is exaclty one design that is a design of the universe and Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to think otherwise. There is also good reason to doubt the degree of complexity in the design of the universe is far beyond the intellectual capability of human beings, and Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to think otherwise.  So, we ought to reject premise (21a) as being probably false.  This is a second reason for rejecting Argument #2 of Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.
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UPATED on 11/14/16
I have added comments on premise (22).
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There is one more premise to examine in this argument:
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).  
First, before we try to determine whether this premise is true or false, it needs to be revised in keeping with the clarification of premise (21):  
22a. IF there is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise, THEN there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe, and that designer had greater intelligence than any human being (when the universe was being designed). 
Is premise (22a) true or false?  The points I have made previously in this discussion of Geisler’s argument from design point to some significant problems with this premise.
Strictly speaking, this premise is FALSE, because no matter how complex a design might be, it is always logically possible for that design to have been produced by random, unthinking forces and processes.  However, since we are supposed to assume here that the complexity of the design of the universe is so great that humans could not ever produce a design of that degree of complexity, one could argue that it is highly improbable that random, unthinking forces and processes would produce such a highly complex design.  So, although the conditional statement above is false, interpreting the IF/THEN as one of logical entailment or logical necessity, it could be argued that the connection between the antecedent and the consequent is quite a strong one.  The antecedent, it might be argued, provides a very powerful piece of evidence for the truth of the consequent, even though it falls short of being a necessary logical connection or implication.
Mr. Geisler’s own example of the complexity of the structure and function of the human brain, however, works as a counterexample here.  We have very good reason to believe that the complex structure and function of the human brain was produced by random, unthinking forces and processes.  Thus, if the human brain has a design (as Geisler insists), and if the human brain has a design that is so complex that it would not be possible for human beings to produce a design with that degree of complexity (as Geisler insists), then one of the most complex designs in the universe is a design that was produced by random, unthinking processes, and was NOT produced by an intelligent designer, nor by a group or team of intelligent designers.
Furthermore, as we have previously seen, even assuming that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe, that design might have been produced by MANY designers, so the existence of EXACTLY ONE design of the universe does NOT show that there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe who produced that design.
Finally, since for all we know it might be the case that the ONE design of the universe was produced by a group or team of designers, we cannot infer the degree of intelligence of individual designers on the basis of the degree of complexity of that design.  The degree of complexity of a design that was produced by a group or team of designers can exceed the level of knowledge and intelligence of any individual designer in the group or team of designers that produced the design.  
So, we cannot legitimately infer from the existence of a complex design that there are any intelligent beings who produced that design, nor that the design was produced by EXACTLY ONE designer, nor can we infer from a highly complex design the existence of a designer of great intelligence, since the design may have been produced by a group or team of designers. For these reasons, we ought to reject premise (22a) as being probably false.
CONCLUSION
We ought to reject Argument #2 of Phase 2, because it rests on a questionable and controversial premise, premise (24) and Geisler provides no reason whatsoever why we ought to believe that premise is true, and because there are good reasons to doubt the other basic premises of this argument, premises (22a) and (21a), and Geisler has FAILED to provide good reasons to believe those premises to be true.