Geisler’s Five Ways – Part 10: The Goodness of the Creator

REVIEW OF MY EVALUATION OF GEISLER’S CASE (SO FAR)

In Phase 1 of his case for the existence of God, Norman Geisler presents five arguments for five different conclusions:

  • There is exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • There is exactly one being that has sustained the universe in existence until now.
  • There is exactly one being that is the designer of the universe.
  • There is exactly one being that is the supreme moral lawgiver.
  • There is exactly one being that is a necessary being.

In Phase 2 of his case for the existence of God, Geisler presents more arguments for conclusions about the attributes of “the” being that caused the universe to begin to exist.  So far, we have looked at four arguments in Phase 2 supporting three different conclusions:

  • The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a powerful being.
  • The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is an intelligent being.
  • The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a moral being who can tell the difference between right and wrong actions.

How many of the Phase 1 arguments were good solid arguments?  Geisler admits that Argument #5 of Phase 1 is a bad argument, and we have critically examined the other four arguments in Phase 1, and NONE of them were good solid arguments.

What about the arguments in Phase 2?  How many of the four arguments that we have examined were good solid arguments?  NONE of them were good solid arguments.

So, of the arguments that we have considered so far, ZERO out of NINE were good solid arguments.  Plus, as I pointed out in Part 5 of this series, there are invalid logical inferences between Phase 1 and Phase 2 in Geisler’s case,  so it is reasonable to conclude at this point that Geisler’s case for God is a steaming pile of dog shit.

CLARIFICATION OF ARGUMENT #5  OF  PHASE 2

But there are a few more arguments left to consider in Phase 2, and,  guess what?  Argument #5 of Phase 2 is just as crappy as all of the other arguments that we have examined.  Each premise in Argument #5 is unclear or has a meaning that is problematic, and once we clarify the argument, the premises (at least two of them) are dubious or false.  Big surprise.  You would think that after studying philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics for nearly three decades* that Geisler could produce ONE solid argument in a case for the existence of God, but it looks like this is not going to happen.

Here is the passage where Geisler lays out Argument #5 of Phase 2:

The existence of a moral law in the mind of a moral Lawgiver shows us that God is a moral being. …We know that part of what He created was people, and persons are good, in and of themselves. …But whatever creates good things must be good itself (a cause can’t give what it hasn’t got).  So, God is not only moral, He is good.  (WSA, p.27)

Argument #5 of Phase 2 (using Geisler’s wording)

41.  God created people.

42.  People are good.

43.  Whatever creates good things must be good itself.

THEREFORE:

44. God is good.

The conclusion is not stated accurately by Geisler.  He clearly links this argument to the argument that “God is a moral being.”  But the obvious objection, given that the creator is a “moral being” who “knows…the difference between right and wrong” is that the creator could still be evil or a morally bad person, because knowing the difference between right and wrong actions does NOT guarantee that a person will always choose to do what is right.

Most adult human beings know the difference between right and wrong, but adult humans frequently choose to do morally wrong actions despite this knowledge, and some adult humans are downright evil, even though they know the difference between right and wrong. Thus, it seems strongly implied by the context here that Geisler is answering this objection/concern by arguing that God is MORALLY good, not just that God is good in some other way.

Furthermore, when Geisler presents a similar line of reasoning in his book Christian Apologetics, he explicitly states that this argument is one “showing that the God proven by the cosmological argument is a morally good kind of being.”  (Christian Apologetics, p. 248, in footnote #13, emphasis added).  So, it seems that the conclusion that Geisler intends to prove here is that “God is a morally good being” :

Argument #5 of Phase 2 (Rev.1)

41.  God created people.

42.  People are good.

43.  Whatever creates good things must be good itself.

THEREFORE:

44A. God is a morally good being.

But when we revise the conclusion to state accurately what Geisler is trying to prove, then the inference in this argument becomes logically invalid.   The conclusion talks about a morally good being, but the premises of the argument only talk about good beings.  The conclusion (44A) does not follow from these premises.  (NOTE: I believe that Rev1 represents the argument that Geisler intended to give, so I believe that the argument he intended to give is logically invalid.) So, in order for this argument to have any chance of success, we must also revise the premises, so that they too speak about moral goodness:

Argument #5 of Phase 2 (Rev.2)

41.  God created people.

42A.  People are morally good.

43A.  Whatever creates morally good things must be morally good itself.

THEREFORE:

44A. God is a morally good being.

This argument, like other arguments we have examined, misuses the word “God”.  Geisler is trying to prove the existence of God, so premise (41), for example, begs the question at issue by asserting that “God” did something.  Such a premise assumes that God exists, which is precisely what Geisler is attempting to prove.

Geisler is not actually begging the question here because he is using the word “God” in an idiosyncratic sense.  What he means by “God” here is “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist”.  Geisler is trying to prove that “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist” has all of the various attributes that constitute the ordinary conception of “God”.  So, to avoid the confusion caused by Geisler’s idiosyncratic use of the word “God”, we should replace this word with what Geisler means by this word, in this context.

Argument #5 of Phase 2 (Rev.3)

41A.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist created people.

42A.  People are morally good.

43A.  Whatever creates morally good things must be morally good itself.

THEREFORE:

44B. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a morally good being.

Now we are getting close to a reasonably clear statement of argument #5.

EVALUATION OF ARGUMENT #5 OF PHASE 2

Is premise (41A) true?  There are two different claims involved here.  First, there is the claim or assumption that there is such a thing as “The being that caused the universe to begin to exist”.  In Phase 1, Geisler FAILED to prove that such a being exists, so there is good reason to doubt the truth of (41A).  Second, the universe is about 14 billion years old, but people (human beings on planet Earth) have been around for less than one million years.  Thus, even if there was such a thing as “The being that caused the universe to begin to exist”,  we have no good reason to believe that this being ALSO created people, and Geisler has made no attempt whatsoever to show that this being was ALSO the creator of human beings.  So, this is a second reason for doubting that (41A) is true.

But the most important reason for doubting that (41A) is true, is that scientific study of the origins of the human species have shown that human beings evolved from previously existing species of primates, and thus science has shown that the human species was NOT created by any being, but rather evolved from a previously existing species of animals.  Thus, it is highly probable that premise (41A) is FALSE.

Is premise (42A) true?  This premise is still unclear, at least in terms of quantification.  So, we need to consider the following three possible interpretations of premise (42A):

  • ALL of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good.
  • MOST of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good.
  • SOME of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good.

The interpretation that claims something about ALL people clearly makes (42A) false, so we can toss that interpretation aside.  The interpretation about MOST people makes (42A) questionable, so we should use that interpretation only if there is no better, more plausible, interpretation of this premise available.  The interpretation about SOME people would make premise (42A) true, so by the principle of charity, this is the best interpretation of (42A).

But once we clarify the quantification in premise (42A), we also need to clarify the quantification in premise (41A), because if the cause of the beginning of the universe only created SOME of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) , and only SOME people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good, then the cause of the beginning of the universe might NOT have created ANY people who are morally good, but might have only created some people who are evil or morally bad.  Thus, it seems that in order to ensure that the cause of the beginning of the universe created some morally good people, we need to assume that this being created ALL of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth):

Argument #5 of Phase 2 (Rev.4)

41B.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist created ALL of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth).

42B.  SOME of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good.

43A.  Whatever creates morally good things must be morally good itself.

THEREFORE:

44B. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a morally good being.

Premise (42B) does appear to be true, but now premise (41), on this interpretation, is even more certainly FALSE than it was before.

Even if we believe that there was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and even if we believe that this same being created the first human beings (e.g. Adam and Eve), it still would NOT be the case that this being created ALL of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth), because every human being who came to exist after the initial pair(s) that were created would be produced by sexual reproduction, not by divine intervention.  Since premise (41B) is undeniably FALSE, this version of the argument is clearly UNSOUND.

What this also means is that even if we assume that there is a creator of the human species, we still cannot know whether this being created any morally good people, because we cannot know whether the original pair(s) of human beings were morally good people. So, we cannot know whether the creator of the human species (if there were such a being) created any morally good people.  This whole line of reasoning is doomed to FAIL.

Is premise (43A) true?  Geisler gives a reason in support of (43A):

…But whatever creates good things must be good itself (a cause can’t give what it hasn’t got).  (WSA, p.27)

The reason given is a bit unclear.  It seems like it might be concerned with the properties of a cause, but this is less than certain.  So, I suggest that we consider two different interpretations of the reason given in support of (43A):

  • A being B cannot cause an effect at time T that has a property P unless being B had property P at time T.
  • A being B cannot give X to another being at time T unless being B had X at time T.

Here are some examples related to the second interpretation:

I cannot give you my car keys at 9pm tonight unless I have my car keys at 9pm tonight.

I cannot give you twenty dollars at 9pm tonight unless I have twenty dollars at 9pm tonight.

Although the principle stated in the second interpretation has some plausibility, it is in fact FALSE, as the following counterexample shows:

I can give you the measles at 9pm tonight even though I do not have the measles at 9pm tonight.

I could give someone the measles by injecting them with a liquid that contained the measles virus.  Thus, I can cause someone to get or have the measles even if I myself never get or have the measles.

Similarly, sometimes people who do not have AIDS cause other people to get or have AIDS.  One can carry the virus that causes AIDS without first developing AIDS.  So, it is possible for a person P to cause someone else to get or have AIDS even if P never has AIDS.

Clearly, there are exceptions to the general principle stated in the second interpretation of the reason given in support of (43A).

What about the first interpretation of the reason given in support of (43A)?

  • A being B cannot cause an effect at time T that has a property P unless being B had property P at time T.

This principle is also FALSE.  A  150-pound mother can give birth to a 7-pound baby.  The mother does not weigh 7 pounds at the time she gives birth to her child, but the child has a different weight than its mother.  A bullet that causes a serious wound to a person, will usually cause the wounded person to bleed.  But bullets themselves do not and cannot bleed.  The property of bleeding is not a property that bullets possess.  Sodium and Chorine combine to form common table salt.  Sodium chloride is salty, but neither sodium nor chorine are salty.  Clearly, effects can have properties that differ from the properties of their causes, so the principle given in support of (43A) is FALSE on the first interpretation of the principle.

So, on both possible interpretations of the principle given in support of (43A), this principle is FALSE, and thus the argument supporting (43A) is UNSOUND and unacceptable.

Furthermore, there is no good reason to think that only a morally good person could create a morally good being.  In so far as the parents of a child “create” or cause the existence of that child, we reject the claim that a child can be morally good ONLY IF its parents were morally good.  A child can be morally good even if it was produced by parents who were NOT morally good.  Thus, premise (43A) is not only unsupported, but we have good reason to believe that it is FALSE.

As we saw above, premise (41B) is based on unproven and dubious assumptions, and even if we assume the assumptions are correct, the premise would still be FALSE, becuase it is clear that nearly all human beings were produced by sexual reproduction, not by divine intervention or divine creation.

Since two of the three premises of argument #5 are FALSE  (or at least NOT TRUE), we must reject this argument as UNSOUND.

Geisler’s case is now ZERO for TEN; he has presented ten arguments as part of his case for God (so far) and NONE of the arguments is a good solid argument, not a single one.

I will examine one or two more arguments from Phase 2, but I have no reason to expect anything other than more crappy and unclear arguments with dubious or false premises and/or invalid logic.  I strongly suspect that Geisler’s final tally will be ZERO for TWELVE.

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*Norman Geisler earned a B.A. in philosophy from Wheaton College in 1958.  He did graduate study in philosophy in the 1960s, and earned his PhD in philosophy from Loyola University in 1970. He published a book called Philosophy of Religion in 1974, and a book called Christian Apologetics in 1976.  The book When Skeptics Ask, which Geisler co-authored with Ronald Brooks was published in 1990.  So,  WSA was published two decades after he earned his PhD, and three decades after he started graduate-level study in philosophy.

Link to Geisler biographical information

 

 

 

 

 

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