Problems With TASO – Part 2: My Favorite Objection

TASO

The third inductive argument in Swinburne’s case for God is TASO (the Teleological Argument from Spatial Order):

Teleological Argument from Spatial Order

(e3) There exists a complex physical universe which is governed by simple natural laws, and in which the structure of the natural laws and of the initial conditions are such that they make the evolution of human bodies in that universe probable.

THEREFORE:

(g) God exists.

TASO is presented and defended by Swinburne in Chapter 8 (“Teleological Arguments”) of his book The Existence of God (hereafter: EOG), 2nd edition.

 

ARGUMENT FOR THE CORRECTNESS OF TASO

Here is Swinburne’s reasoning in support of the correctness of TASO as the third inductive argument in his case:

Critical Argument for the Correctness of TASO

1. An argument X is a correct C-inductive argument IF AND ONLY IF: (a) the premises of X are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of X,  AND (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

2. The premises of the argument TASO are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of TASO.

3. The premises of the argument TASO make the conclusion of TASO more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

THEREFORE:

4. The argument TASO is a correct C-inductive argument.

 

EVALUATION OF THE CRITICAL ARGUMENT SO FAR

The critical argument supporting TASO is deductively VALID.  It has the following valid deductive form:

1. P  IF AND ONLY IF: A AND B.

2. A

3. B

THEREFORE:

4. P

In Part 1 I raised an objection against premise (2) arguing that (2) is FALSE, and I raised an objection against premise (3), arguing that Swinburne’s argument for (3) was based on a false premise, thus leaving premise (3) in doubt.  So, the critical argument  for the correctness of TASO is UNSOUND and based on a dubious premise.

However, there is another objection, my favorite objection, which should also be considered, and which will put the nail in the coffin of the critical argument for TASO and which, I believe, will also throw a monkey wrench into Swinburne’s entire case for God.  My favorite objection, is an objection that challenges premise (1) of the critical argument for TASO.

 

OBJECTION TO PREMISE (1)

Premise (1) of Swinburne’s critical argument for TASO presents necessary and sufficient conditions for concluding that an argument is a “correct C-inductive argument”:

1. An argument X is a correct C-inductive argument IF AND ONLY IF: (a) the premises of X are known to be true by those who dispute about the conclusion of X,  AND (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

In my objection to premise (2), I pointed out that it is difficult to KNOW that human bodies are the product of evolution, and that it is even more difficult (if not impossible) to KNOW that this universe was structured in such a way that made the evolution of human bodies in this universe probable.  In order to KNOW that the factual premise of TASO, namely (e3), is true, one must be aware of a great deal of scientific facts and information.

My primary objection to premise (1) is that in order to KNOW the premise of TASO to be true, one must know a good deal of information about a variety of subjects, and that information includes most or all of what is considered to be the problem of evil.  More precisely, in order to KNOW that human bodies are the product of evolution, one must be aware of a good deal of scientific and historical information that includes most or all of the various problems of evil, including information about pain, injury, disease, suffering, death, predators, fear, fight-or-flight response, poisonous plants and animals, sexual reproduction, respiration, digestion, asphyxiation, mutation, natural disasters, famines, starvation, floods, drowning, earthquakes, forest fires, violent storms, snow and ice, freezing to death, the struggle for survival, survival of the fittest, nature “red in tooth and claw”, etc., etc.

So, in order to KNOW that (e3) is true, one must be aware of a great deal of information, and that information includes facts that support some of the most powerful objections to belief in God: the many and pervasive problems of evil.  But then when one evaluates the probability of the hypothesis that God exists in relation to (e3), one cannot rationally and reasonably set aside and ignore the many and pervasive problems of evil.  So, in order to rationally evaluate the probability of the claim “God exists” in relation to (e3), one must take into consideration not just the meaning and implications of (e3), but also the large collection of facts and data that allow one to KNOW that (e3) is in fact true.

If one takes into account most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil in evaluating the strength of TASO, then it is unclear and very doubtful that all of this additional information increases the probability that God exists.  Given most or all of the various and pervasive problems of evil, that information might very well outweigh whatever positive support the hypothesis of theism gets from the fact that the universe is structured in a way that makes the evolution of human bodies probable.  Thus, in excluding from consideration all of the information that is used to determine (e3) to be true, one excludes a great deal of relevant evidence, which was already used in evaluation of the truth of (e3).  This is illogical and unreasonable, and therefore, the necessary condition (b) in premise (1) must be rejected:

… (b) the premises of X make the conclusion of X more likely or more probable than it would otherwise be.

The problem is that in order to KNOW a claim to be true sometimes requires that one be aware of a great deal of information about various subjects, but this information that supports KNOWLEDGE of the truth of a claim is different from the meaning and implications of the claim in question.  Condition (b) limits us to considering ONLY the meaning and implications of the premise(s) of an argument in evaluating the strength of the inference in the argument.  There is no consideration of the knowledge and information required in order to KNOW the truth of the premises.  So, condition (b) excludes consideration of relevant information that needs to be considered to arrive at a reasonable and rational evaluation of the strength of an inductive argument’s conclusion.

In limiting the scope of information to be used in judging the inference of an argument strictly to the PREMISES of that argument, one may exclude a great deal of information that is relevant to determining the probability of the conclusion of the argument, information that is already possessed by the person who is evaluating the argument, and that has already been used  by that person in the evaluation of the truth (or falsehood) of the premises of that very argument.

It is irrational and illogical to allow the person who evaluates an argument to use a large collection of data to evaluate the truth of a premise, and then to insist that the person disregard all of that data (even if it is clearly relevant) in determining the strength of the inference of that argument.  It is clearly unreasonable to allow a large body of information to be used in one part of evaluation of an argument (evaluating the truth of a premise) and to disallow any of that information to be used in another part of evaluation of the same argument (evaluating the strength of the inference).

 

A MONKEY WRENCH IN THE GEARS OF SWINBURNE’S CASE

There are at least two different ways in which this objection to premise (1) of the critical argument for the correctness of TASO negatively impacts Swinburne’s entire case.

First, whenever Swinburne claims that one of his inductive arguments is a “correct C-inductive” argument, he is relying on the analysis of “correct C-inductive” arguments that is stated in premise (1).  Since my objection is that this analysis is FALSE or INCORRECT, that means that there is a FALSE or INCORRECT premise in every critical argument that Swinburne gives (or implies) about his favored inductive arguments for the existence of God.

Second, Swinburne’s general approach or strategy in building his case for God is based on slowly adding one piece of information at a time, and slowly increasing the probability of the existence of God, with each added bit of evidence.  But this strategy completely falls apart with TASO, the third argument in his case (Swinburne ends up using nine significant inductive arguments in his case), because in order to KNOW the premise of TASO to be true, one must know or be aware of a great deal of scientific and historical information, including information that provides powerful evidence AGAINST the existence of God (e.g. the various and pervasive problems of evil).  TASO opens the floodgates of information, and thus washes away the careful bit-by-bit addition of information that Swinburne intended as his basic epistemological strategy in building his case.

For example, Swinburne does not consider the problem of evil until after positively evaluating six inductive arguments for the existence of God.  But it is illogical for the problem of evil to be considered that late in the progression of adding six different pieces of evidence one at a time, because the problem of evil (or problems of evil) must be taken into account when evaluating TASO, the third argument in his case.  The information that constitutes the various problems of evil is information that one must be aware of and use in order to KNOW that the premise of TASO is true, so the problems of evil arise unavoidably when we try to evaluate the third argument in Swinburne’s case.

""Thoughts and Prayers" are going out to everyone reading this obvious tautological nightmare!!!"

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