Kreeft’s Case for God: Summary of My Critique – Part 3

Kreeft’s Case for God: Summary of My Critique – Part 3 July 31, 2018

In Part 23 I begin to analyze and evaluate the five remaining arguments in Kreeft’s case for God.

FIVE REMAINING ARGUMENTS

Although I have already shown that Kreeft’s cumulative case for God is a complete failure, I would still like to make a few comments and objections concerning the remaining five arguments:

  • Argument #6: The Kalam Argument
  • Argument #7: The Argument from Contingency
  • Argument #8: The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
  • Argument #9: The Argument from Miracles
  • Argument #10: The Argument from Consciousness

I quickly toss aside three of these five arguments: Argument #8, Argument #9, and Argument #10.  Although I put forward some objections to these arguments, I don’t put much time and effort into evaluation of these arguments, because they are insignificant arguments in terms of a cumulative case for God. As the chart at the end of Part 22 shows, these three arguments do not support of ANY of the basic divine attributes, so even if these arguments were solid and strong arguments, they would still fail to play any significant role in a cumulative case for the existence of God.

 

AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT # 8

One serious problem with Argument #8, the Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole, is that it is UNCLEAR.  It is too unclear to be a good and solid argument.  Kreeft uses a variety of abstract terms and phrases, and he does not bother to define any of them (see HCA, page 63):

  • This world is “an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system”
  • “each component is defined by its relation with others”
  • “each component…presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act”
  • “relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts”
  • “parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole”
  • “no component part or active element can be self-sufficient or self-explanatory”
  • “any part presupposes all the other parts-the whole system already in place”
  • a  component part “can’t act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it”

So, Argument #8 is a crappy bit of incompetent philosophy.  If someone called this argument “Word Salad” and dismissed it as unworthy of serious consideration, I would be inclined to agree with that evaluation.

 

AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT #9

Argument #9 is the Argument from Miracles.  The second premise of this argument is FALSE:

2. There are numerous well-attested miracles. (HCA, p. 64)

I have two different reasons for asserting that premise (2) is FALSE, and they are both based on the definition that Kreeft provides of a “miracle” in premise (1):

1. A miracle is an event whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God. (HCA, p.64)

First of all, Kreeft’s concept of God is logically incoherent (the idea of an unchanging person is logically incoherent), so it follows that “the extraordinary and direct intervention of God” cannot provide an adequate explanation for ANY event whatsoever.  Because Kreeft’s concept of God contains a logical self-contradiction, his concept of a miracle is the concept of a logically impossible event.

Kreeft could, however, modify his concept of God to get rid of the logical contradiction it contains.  In that case, there is still a serious problem with premise (2).  For something to be a “well-attested miracle”, it must be an “extraordinary… intervention”, meaning it must be a supernatural event.  But if a supernatural event actually occurs, we have no way of knowing whether God was the cause of that event or some other person or being was the cause.  So we have no way of knowing whether such an event was caused by a “direct intervention of God.”

A supernatural event could be caused, for example, by an angel rather than by God.  Alternatively, a supernatural event could be caused by a human being who had supernatural powers.  We have no rational and objective way to determine whether a specific supernatural event was caused by (a) God, or (b) an angel, or (c) a human being with supernatural powers. Thus, there cannot be an event “whose ONLY adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God” (emphasis added).  At least none of the many alleged “miracles” that Christians have put forward in the past satisfy this requirement.

So, even if Kreeft repaired his concept of God to make it logically coherent, premise (2) would still be FALSE.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come up with an actual historical example of an event “whose ONLY adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God”  because there are almost always alternative supernatural explanations that are as good as the “God did it” explanation.

 

AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT #10

Argument #10, the Argument from Consciousness, is based on a premise that appears to be FALSE:

2. Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance. (HCA, p.66)

This seems to be a FALSE DILEMMA that is very similar to a premise found in crackpot creationist arguments:

  • Either human beings are the products of an intelligent creator, or human beings are the products of blind chance.

This dilemma ignores an obvious third alternative: EVOLUTION.

Human brains did NOT form from random blobs of cells or biological chemicals that just happened to gather together in the same location.  Humans  EVOLVED from primates; human brains EVOLVED from primate brains.  Primates EVOLVED from less intelligent mammals; primate brains EVOLVED from less sophisticated mammalian brains. Mammals EVOLVED from reptiles.  Mammalian brains evolved from reptile brains, etc., etc.,  going all the way back to the first single-celled animals.

If we understand the “blind chance” explanation to mean that random blobs of cells or biological chemicals just happened to gather together in the same location to form a human being, then OF COURSE “blind chance” is not a serious candidate for explaining the origin of human beings.  The process of EVOLUTION is neither “intelligent design” nor is it “blind chance”; it is a third alternative.

Premise (2) of Argument #10 makes the same idiotic blunder as creationist arguments; it ignores the third alternative of EVOLUTION.  Premise (2) is FALSE, so Argument #10 is UNSOUND.

 

INITIAL ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENT #7

In Part 24 I do an initial analysis and clarification of the Argument from Contingency, Argument #7, and in Part 25, I further clarify the first inference in the argument:

1c. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1, then there must exist something else at time t1 that  is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

2a. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists now, i.e. at time t1.

A. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–depends on something else for its existence at time t1.

THEREFORE:

3c. There must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

4a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

THEREFORE:

5a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 must exist at time t1 and must transcend both space and time.

The ultimate conclusion of the argument is based on (5a):

6. There is EXACTLY ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe, and this being exists right now and is OUTSIDE of both space and time, and this being is NOT finite or material.

 

INITIAL OBJECTIONS TO ARGUMENT #7

In Part 25, I raise some initial objections against Argument #7.

At best, the argument shows the existence of a bodiless being (i.e. a bodiless thing, not necessarily a person) that is the cause of the current existence of the universe:

  • it does NOT show the existence of an omnipotent person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an omniscient person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a perfectly morally good person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an eternal person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe
  • it does NOT show that there is JUST ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe

Furthermore, the conclusion of Argument #7 asserts that the cause of the current existence of the universe is OUTSIDE OF TIME, which means that this being is absolutely UNCHANGING, which means it cannot be the creator of the universe,  which means it cannot be God.  Thus, even if Argument #7 was a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that was NOT God.

 

THE BASIC PROBLEM WITH ARGUMENT #7

In Part 26 I point out the most basic problem with Argument #7.

Clarity is a gateway standard of critical thinking.  A statement that is unclear cannot be evaluated, at least not as it stands.  I attempted to clarify Argument #7 so that it would be possible to evaluate this argument.  But the above revised and clarified version of Peter Kreeft’s Argument from Contingency still contains more than a dozen unclear words and phrases.  Furthermore, those unclear words and phrases appear multiple times in the argument, multiplying the ambiguity and unclarity, resulting in millions of possible meanings of this argument.

UNCLEAR WORDS AND PHRASES IN ARGUMENT #7

  1. something  (1 instance): Is time “something”?  Is space “something”? Is a law of physics “something”? Is an idea or a feeling “something”? Is the number 3 “something”?  Why or why not? If X is something, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being?  If X is a being, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is something?  
  2. depends on (2 instances): Does this refer to logical dependency or causal dependency or to both kinds of dependency?  Does this refer to necessary conditions or sufficient conditions or to both kinds of conditions (or to criterial conditions)?
  3. something else (4 instances):  “something” is ambiguous, and so is “else”. Does a part of a whole thing count as “something else” in addition to the whole?  Does a whole containing parts of two other things count as “something else” besides those two other things?
  4. what it takes for  (4 instances):  If the existence of X at a particular moment depends on Y does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that Y is what it takes for X to exist at that particular moment?  What if Y is only ONE of MANY different things that could have caused the existence of X at that moment?  Does what it takes for X to exist at a particular moment refer to logical dependencies of the existence of X or to causal dependencies or to both kinds of dependency?  Does what it takes for X to exist consist of necessary conditions or sufficient conditions or to both kinds of conditions (or to criterial conditions)?
  5. The universe (7 instances): although this word is defined in premise (2a), the definition is itself very unclear and has many possible meanings. The highly ambiguous definition makes the term “universe” highly ambiguous as well.
  6. the collection (2 instances): the universe contains a different set of things at different times, so “the collection” is ambiguous between the set of all the things that have existed in the entire history of the universe and the set of all things that exist at a particular moment in time.
  7. beings (4 instances): If X is something, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being?  If X is a being, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is something?  Is time a “being”?  Is space a “being”? Is a law of physics a “being”? Is an idea or a feeling a “being”? Is the number 3 a “being”?  Why or why not?
  8. in space and time (2 instances): Is the requirement that the thing in question be BOTH in space AND in time? or just that the thing in question be EITHER in space OR in time?  The word “and” is ambiguous in this phrase.
  9. within the universe (1 instance): If X is within the universe, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being in space and time?  If X is a being in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is within the universe?  If so, then the ambiguity of “being” and the ambiguity of “in space and time” apply to this expression.  For example, is time within the universe?  Is space within the universe?  Are laws of physics within the universe?
  10. bounded by space and time (1 instance):  If X is bounded by space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is in space and time?  If X is in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is bounded by space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of “in space and time” applies to this expression.  Does being bounded by space and time mean being BOTH in space AND in time? or just that the thing in question be EITHER in space OR in time?
  11. transcend both space and time (1 instance): If X is not in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X transcends both space and time?  If X transcends both space and time does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is not in space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of “in space and time” applies to this expression.
  12. OUTSIDE of both space and time (1 instance):  I don’t think this was part of Kreeft’s wording, so this is a phrase that I added.  This should probably be revised to “transcend both space and time” which was Kreeft’s own wording.  In that case this would be a second instance of the unclear expression “transcend both space and time”.
  13. finite (1 instance):  Does this mean finite in EVERY respect, or finite in AT LEAST ONE respect?
  14. material (1 instance): If X is in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is material?  If X is material, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is in space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of the expression “in space and time” applies to this word.

 

REDUCING THE NUMBER OF POSSIBLE INTERPRETATIONS

Not only are there numerous unclear words and phrases in Argument #7, but many of them occur multiple times in the argument.  Each instance of an ambiguous word or phrase multiplies the number of possible interpretations of the argument.  There is a simple way to dramatically reduce the number of possible interpretations of this argument: we can simply assume that ALL instances of an expression have the SAME meaning.  If the meaning of an expression changes in the course of an argument, then that usually breaks the logic of the argument and results in an invalid inference or a false conditional premise, making the argument UNSOUND.  So, if we assume that all instances of an expression have the same meaning, that eliminates many versions of the argument that are, in all likelihood, UNSOUND because of the fallacy of equivocation.

There are eleven unique words and phrases that are unclear in the premises supporting (6a), not including (6a) itself.  The phrases “depends on”, “something else”, and “the universe” each have four possible meanings, and the eight other unclear words and phrases each have at least two possible meanings.  So, if we assume that ALL instances of each of these eleven unique words and phrases have the same meaning, that none of these words or phrases shifts in meaning in the course of this argument, then the number of possible interpretations would be 4 to the 3rd power times 2 to the 8th power:

(4 x 4 x 4) x (2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2)

(4 x 4 x 4) x (4 x 4 x 4 x 4)

= 64 x 256

= 16, 384 different possible interpretations of Argument #7 (ignoring any ambiguities in the conclusion and assuming all of the expressions are used unequivocally)

I don’t know about you, but this argument does not seem promising enough to want to spend four years of my life evaluating all of the 16,384 different possible versions of it (on the assumption that all expressions in the argument are used unequivocally).

EVALUATION OF ARGUMENT #7

Argument #7 at best would only support one of the basic divine attributes (a bodiless being), and if it were a sound argument it would prove the existence of an absolutely UNCHANGING being, which means it would, if sound, prove the existence of something that is NOT God, and Argument #7 is hopelessly UNCLEAR, making it extremely difficult, practically impossible, to rationally evaluate the truth or falsehood of the premises in this argument and the validity of the inferences in this argument.  Because of these three serious problems, I conclude that Argument #7 is NOT a strong argument for God, and that it FAILS to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.

"On their view to say that something provides me with a reason to Φ. Is ..."

Matthew Flannagan and Jason Thibodeau Discuss ..."
"Jason (RI2) is definitely false on an internalist account of reasons. On internalism, the idealized ..."

Matthew Flannagan and Jason Thibodeau Discuss ..."
"That you don't understand that I agree that humans are naturally tribal -- flabbergasts me.I ..."

Matthew Flannagan and Jason Thibodeau Discuss ..."
"The point of the Bloom excerpt is that humans are inherently tribal/​ethnocentric. How you did ..."

Matthew Flannagan and Jason Thibodeau Discuss ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment