Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Secular Outpost: Marcus McElhaney on Austin Dacey’s Debate with WLC

Last night I responded to a post on Debunking Christianity. Jeffery Jay Lowder has written a response. I'm glad he responded because it shows a lot of fundamental problems with atheistic responses and thought processes. I'm going to respond to Lowder. My responses are in red and when he quotes me it will be bolded. One of the main problems with his responses is that he doesn't seem to understand what Christians believes. Christians believe what the Bible says and many of his replies illustrate that Lowder has very little understanding of what Christians are really saying.

I have to say that I disagree that Dacey performed well against William Lane Craig, but Lowder is entitled to his opinion.

Here is McElhaney:
This thought amazes me! God is not hidden too well if I and so many others have found him.  Just because someone has not found God doesn't mean that God is not able to be found.
Reply: The fact that someone has not found God is logically compatible with God’s existence, but that is not the question. The question is whether reasonable (non-culpable) nonbelief is more probable on the assumption that atheism is true than on the assumption that theism is true.

 There is no reason to assume that atheism is true (or at least no reason is offered) Nonbelief is culpable. The Christian position is that non-culpable unbelief is at all warranted.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.- Romans 1:18-20

The point of the argument from divine hiddenness (aka the argument from reasonable nonbelief) is notto deny that there are people who believe they have found God. Rather, the whole point of the argument is the fact that there are other people who reasonably do not believe in God.

It's unreasonable to claim that you do not believe in God because you have not found him. It's a subjective argument and worthless because there are people who have found God and therefore reasonably believe in God. The bottom line is that God's existence is not dependent on what you, me, or anyone else thinks about God's existence.

In addition to the general fact of reasonable nonbelief (DH), J.L. Schellenberg has shown that there are other, more specific facts about reasonable nonbelief which are evidence favoring atheism over theism. The numbering/labeling scheme is mine; page numbers are references to Schellenberg’s book, The Wisdom to Doubt.

If God does exist then nonbelief is not reasonable!
DH1. Nonresistant Nonbelievers: Schellenberg describes “nonresistant nonbelievers” in this way: "in the actual world persons who do not believe that there is a God, and that in at least some of these people the absence of theistic belief is not in any way the result of their own emotional or behavioral opposition towards God or relationship with God or any of the apparent implications of such a relationship."

Everyone, by default,  are resistant to God - depraved in attitude and thought. In other words there are no such thing as non-resistant nonbelievers. 

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. - Romans 8:5-8

Given that some might not understand Paul's terminology, they should read all of Roman and the rest of Paul's letters but here is a start. A mind governed by the flesh describes a person who has not come in a relationship with God - regardless of if they believe God exists or they do not think God exists. 

19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. - James 2:19
DH2. Former Believers: As Schellenberg points out, such individuals, from the perspective of theism, were on the right path when they lost belief. If theism is true, then such individuals already were in relationship with God and the loss of belief has terminated that.

Apostates were never really believers, so their testimonies are worthless. They were never in real relationship with God.

19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. - 1 John 2:19
DH3. Lifelong Seekers:”"individuals who don't start out in what they consider to be a relationship with God and may not even be explicitly searching for God, but who are trying to find out where they belong and, in their wanderings, are open to finding and being found by a Divine Parent--all without ever achieving their goal. These are individuals who seek but do not find." (233)

The following covers the "lifelong seeker":

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’[d] Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.  - John 6:43-47

If a person has the unction to seek God it didn't come from the person himself/herself but from God. At the same time if that person is chosen by God and drawn by God it is IMPOSSIBLE for that person not to find God. The Old Testament says the same same thing!

28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. - Deuteronomy 4:28-30

If a person is drawn by God of course they are going to go seek after God with all their heart and soul. We fail all the time. God never fails.
DH4. Converts to Nontheistic Religions: individuals who investigate other serious conceptions of the Ultimate and who turn up evidence that produces religious belief in the context of nontheistic religious communities and/or on account of nontheistic religious experiences--and the truth of atheistic claims may be seen to follow by implication. (236)

So atheism is true just because some people go to nontheistic religions? Nope. They are just as wrong as those who come to an atheistic conclusion. 
DH5. Isolated Nontheists: "those who have never been in a position to resist God because they have never so much as had the idea of an all-knowing and all-powerful spiritual being who is separate from a created universe but related to it in love squarely before their minds--individuals who are entirely formed by, and unavoidably live their whole lives within, what must, if God exists, be a fundamentally misleading meaning system" (238).
In addition, Stephen Maitzen has identified other, more specific facts about divine hiddenness (the “demographics of theism”) which also favor atheism over theism.

God sovereignly chooses what position you are exposed to and when and if you respond.We cannot favorably respond to God without God enabling us to do so. 

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[b] In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”[c]
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”[d] 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[e]
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? - Romans 9:6-24 .
 DH6. The Geographical Distribution of Theistic Belief: The distribution of theistic belief is uneven around the world. Why does the epistemic or moral defectiveness of non-believers vary dramatically with cultural and national boundaries? For example, why is more than 95% of Saudi Arabia Muslim, while Thailand is 95% Buddhist and only 5% theist? Given the widely held assumption that, generically speaking, epistemic and moral defects are evenly distributed among the world's peoples, it is hard to see how that question could be answered.

I guess in Lowder's mind, "theists" means "Christian". The thing to remember is that all people are sinners and fall short of the standard or morals that God has set. I wouldn't expect more than a wide distribution or morals that don't line up to God's ultimate standards.

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. - Romans 3:21-26
DH7. The Temporal Distribution of Theistic Belief. Maitzen argues that especially compared to naturalistic explanations, none of the theistic explanations of blameworthy or blameless non-belief accounts for how the global incidence of theistic belief has varied dramatically during the existence of the human species.
William Rowe has identified another, more specific fact about divine hiddenness.

I'd like to know how would Lowder of Maitzen know just how theistic (defined as belief in existence of god(s)) beliefs have varied among human throughout the entire time humanity has existed. There is no way they can know that.
DH8. Divine Hiddenness during Tragedies. Just as loving parents would, say, comfort a child undergoing chemotherapy, we would expect a loving God to comfort human beings who suffer as the result of tragedies. If theism is true, then God loves his creatures and wants all of his creatures to love Him in return. However, many people find it hard to love God when they do not understand the reasons for their suffering and God seems so far away. In other words, even if God has a reason for allowing tragedies, He could still comfort victims of suffering so that they know He loves them. Yet there are many victims of tragedies who report not feeling God's comforting presence.This is not at all what we would expect if theism were true. However, if atheism is true, we would expect victims of tragedies not to experience God's comforting presence for the simple reason that there is no God. Thus, God's silence in the face of tragedies is much more probable on atheism than on theism.
Finally, Paul Draper has classified the history and success of science as an aspect of divine hiddenness.

 This point assumes two things: 1. That God is obligated to love everyone to the same degree and in the same manner. 2. That everyone is one God's children. The Bible does not tell us this. Why would Maitzen come to that conclusion. Where did he get that from? He didn't get it from Biblical Christianity.
DH9. The History and Success of Science. In Draper’s words, “The problem here is not the problem of why, if God exists, she would allow reasonable non-belief, but rather the more fundamental problem of why, if God or other supernatural beings exist, science can completely ignore them and still explain so much." Since this argument is one of Dacey’s arguments, let us turn to McElhaney’s critique now.

I have to reiterate, there is no reason at all to think you can understand the universe by ignoring God. 

Topic: The Evidential Argument from the History of Science
Here is McElhaney:
Logic and mathematics are the key to science. God didn't just create reality he created all the mathematics and logic on which science is based. The pioneers of what we consider modern science know something that has been lost by people who make arguments like this one: studying science is studying God. The more we learn about the universe the more we understand about the one who created it. Why would nature follow discoverable laws? Why is the universe understandable to any degree? The fact that the universe is understandable to a growing degree shows that there must be a mind behind it. The creation isn't mean to tell us everything we need to know about God, but it helps us understand and know God .
Reply: McElhaney’s comments are a textbook example of the fallacy of understated evidenceHe is arguing—asserting might be a better word, for he hasn’t actually stated an argument in the above paragraph—that the intelligibility of of the universe is evidence favoring theism over naturalism. For the sake of argument, let’s assume he’s right about that. The fact that the universe is intelligible hardly exhausts what we know about its intelligibility. Given that the universe is intelligible, the fact that so much of our universe is intelligible without any appeal to supernatural agency is much more probable on naturalism than on theism. See here and here.

I'd like Lowder to explain why he thinks the universe is intelligible? If the universe is the product of directionless and purposeless random processes driven by natural selection why would it develop in such a way that is intelligible to the human mind? I see no reason to conclude that naturalism would lead to the expectation of intelligibility.
Topic: The Evidential Argument from Physical Minds
Here is McElhaney:
There is no reason to think that the human mind should be independent of the brain and body.. Yes, the damaging a person's body or brain affects a person's ability to think and interact with the world mentally. Duh! From a Biblical point of view, remember that humanity is not intended by God to exist as disembodied consciousness. A whole human being has a sound mind and body - which is for what Jesus came died for us to have. The expectation that we should be able to scientifically measure and observe the whole of the human person is naive.
Reply: McElhaney’s response indicates he has badly misunderstood Dacey’s argument from physical minds. Contrary to what McElhaney claims, there is good reason “to think that the human mind should be independent of the brain and body” on the assumption that theism is true. Theismentails the existence of at least one unembodied mind, namely, God’s mind. Therefore, theism provides at least some antecedent reason to expect that human minds will be embodied/disembodied. See here.

Just because God is unembodied (and this ignoring Jesus (second part of the Trinity who is embodied)  does not mean that a complete whole human being does not need to be embodied. No where in the Bible does it say that the human mind is independent of the brain or the body. The soul and the spirit are not the same thing and I think it's better to just be honest and say that we don't really know how the mind, body, soul, and spirit are really related to one another only that you need all of it to be complete human being. To claim that there is no soul is simply overreaching and claiming to know something that you can't possibly know.  Just like there are people who have experienced diminished mental faculties and changes in personality with damages to the brain, there are people who have experience brain damaged and not experienced mental or personality changes.  Both are true. Therefore, honestly, you can't say that this is evidence of there not being a soul or anything more than being human than the material aspect of being.
Topic: The Evidential Argument from Evolution
The thought that evaluating the universe as poorly designed is very stupid. In order to come to that conclusion means that you know what the design criteria and limitations and the final conclusions. We don't. For example:  try coming in off the street and telling an engineer that his/her design is flawed and not knowing nothing about why the engineer made the choices that was made. You'd be an ignoramus.
Reply: The evidential argument from biological evolution doesn’t even need the concept of “poor design.”

Maybe, but that is what Darcy focused on in the video. Let's see if Lowder does any better.

Here’s a brief, informal statement of the argument.
To be sure, biological evolution is logically compatible with theism; God could have used evolution to create life. But if theism were true, God could have also used many other methods to create life, methods which are impossible if naturalism is true. In contrast, if naturalism is true, evolution pretty much has to be true. 

I disagree that macro evolution has to be true, but given that Lowder admits that God could have used evolution to create life, let's agree for the sake of his argument (he needs all the help he can get.)  God can use whatever method God desires to create the universe and put life wherever God desires to put it. Given that evolution does not explain how life actually started on earth, it is problematic for naturalism.

Furthermore, since theism implies a metaphysical dualism, it is antecedently likely on theism that minds are fundamentally nonphysical entities and therefore that conscious life is fundamentally different from nonconscious life. But this in turn makes it likely that conscious life was created independently of nonconscious life--that evolution is false. Thus, the scientific fact of biological evolution is more likely on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true. See here.

Given that evolution cannot explain the origin of consciousness, it is a blow against naturalism but not being able to explain where consciousness comes from doesn't mean that human mind and  human soul must be independent of the brain. We don't have enough information explain it one way or the other...yet. 
Topic: The Evidential Argument from Evil
There is no such thing as pointless suffering. God has given us what we need to eliminate measles and malaria and many other issues, but we choose not to. Why don't we? Greed and power. Could God supernaturally change this so we would not have to do anything about it? Yes. God chooses not to based on His own will and reasons. Not one of us can know all the good that will or has resulted  or the bad that was and will be restrained or avoided. God does not have to explain his reasons to us. And God does tells what we need to know - that is what science and scripture are for. .God does comfort his people when they suffer. For example that is what many people who have experienced terrible pain and suffering have found out firsthand.
1. If theism were true, God could prevent tragedies in many different ways, ways that would not take away our free will or our ability to develop moral character.

Yes. Who says that God does not? It's not mutually exclusive. God prevents and allows tragedies.  I still wanna know who told Lowder that we have free will or we have any moral character at all apart from God. Of course an atheist can act morally, but only because God gives him grace to do so.
2. As Draper has argued, proponents of the Free Will Defense (like McElhaney) “neglect to ask whether or not humans are worthy of the freedom* to seriously harm others. A good parent gradually increases a child's responsibility as the child becomes capable of handling greater responsibility. Children who are unworthy of a certain responsibility are not benefitted by parents who give them that responsibility.” On the assumption that theism is true, “one would expect God to give all or some humans less responsibility and in particular no ability to do serious evils-until they freely* developed the strength of character that would make them worthy of greater responsibility.” The fact that human freedom is not scaled according to strength of character is much more probable on the assumption that atheism is true than on the assumption that theism is true.

I think this shows more than anything else just how much Lowder does not understand what I am saying. Given that we are all sinner and deserving of hell, any worthiness we may have of some level of responsibility comes from God himself..God can choose to impart that strength of character in any way that God chooses. Human freedom is scaled no according human ability but according to God's will. And God does add more responsibility as our abilities to handle them grows and increases. 
3. Of course, it's logically possible that God has a reason for allowing tragedies, a reason we humans do not understand. But it's also logically possible that God has extra reasons for preventing tragedies, reasons we also do not understand. We have no antecedent reason to believe that, if God exists, God’s unknown reasons for allowing tragedies outweigh God’s unknown reasons for preventing tragedies.

I'd like to know why Lowder would think that God does not prevent some tragedies for reasons that we also do not understand. Why would Lowder think that God does not stop or restrict more tragedies or evils that God allows? I see no reason at all to make that assumption. 
4. Finally, as we saw earlier, there are many victims of tragedies who report not feeling God’s comforting presence.

There are also many victims of tragedies who report feeling God's comforting presence. I know I have. The fact that some people don't feel God's comforting presence might be explained by their not believing in God in the first place.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. - James 1:2-8

The Secular Outpost: Marcus McElhaney on Austin Dacey’s Debate with WLC
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Debunking Christianity: Richard Carrier on the Argument From the Scale of the Universe

Just found out this great example of a "hand-waving" argument. 

For what it's worth, at least I'm not the only one who thinks Jeff Lowder's arguments don't work against my particular arguments. Here's Carrier from page 290 of my anthology, The End of Christianity:
We cannot predict from “a very powerful self-existent being created life by design” that he would do this by creating trillions of galaxies and billions of light years of empty intergalactic space and then sit around and twiddle his thumbs for ten billion years before finally deciding to create life in just one tiny place. That’s not even expected at all, much less with 100 percent certainty.16

16. See extensive analysis of this point in: Nicholas Everitt, The Non-Existence of God (New York: Routledge, 2003), 213–26; and John Loftus, Why I Became an Atheist: Personal Reflections and Additional Arguments (Trafford Publishing, 2008), 95–110.
This is hand-waving at its best. People who make such "arguments" cannot tell you how they know that  that there a better design is possible.  The Bible does not tell us that God did not not create life anywhere else  in the universe. The Bible does not tell us  one way or the other. It's silly to think that the size of the universe and the time scales involved is not part of the design. Richard Carrier and John Loftus' expectations are ill-informed. It takes time to bake a cake with the chef's intervening throughout the process. Why would the universe and the story of humanity be any different. The Bible tells us that it's not a surprisxe to God and that God has been doing a lot more than just "twiddling his thumbs".

Debunking Christianity: Richard Carrier on the Argument From the Scale of the Universe