WHERE WE ARE AT
I have previously argued that the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s case in Chapter 3 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) fail to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists. I have argued that the first five arguments, which Kreeft appears to think are among his best and strongest arguments for God, also fail to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.
In Part 22, I argued that Kreeft’s cumulative case for the existence of God is a complete failure because he has ONLY ONE argument in his entire case to support three of the basic divine attributes (i.e. omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect moral goodness), and that ONE argument (Argument #13: The Ontological Argument) is a BAD argument, as Kreeft himself admits (HCA, p.49).
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
THREE INSIGNIFICANT ARGUMENTS
In this post, I will focus on three of the five remaining arguments: Argument #8, Argument #9, and Argument #10. Although I will put forward some objections to these arguments, I won’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 (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):
Argument #8 and Argument #10 are both arguments from design, and they both suffer from the usual problems with arguments from design:
- they don’t show that there is JUST ONE designer of the universe
- they don’t show that the designer EXISTS NOW
- they don’t show that the designer is a BODILESS person
- they don’t show that the designer is an ETERNAL person
- they don’t show that the designer is an OMNIPOTENT person
- they don’t show that the designer is an OMNISCIENT person
- they don’t show that the designer is a PERFECTLY MORALLY GOOD person
- they don’t show that the designer is THE CREATOR of the universe
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT # 8
One serious problem with Argument #8 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.
I blame Aquinas for this mess, or to be more accurate, I blame Kreeft’s distorted understanding of Aquinas for this bit of crappy and incompetent philosophy. Kreeft believes that Aquinas provided us with FIVE arguments for the existence of God in just TWO pages. But in reality, the Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God. Aquinas has just ONE argument for the existence of God that spans over 100 pages, and the Five Ways are just the opening moves of his long and complex case for God.
Kreeft thinks that since Aquinas provided FIVE arguments for God in just TWO pages, that he (Kreeft) should be able to provide one argument for God in just two pages (starting near the bottom of page 62 and ending about halfway down page 64 of HCA). But Aquinas could not do this, nor did Aquinas attempt to do such a foolish thing. Kreeft is clearly not capable of performing such an incredible intellectual feat. Kreeft rushed in where angels (and the Angelic Doctor) feared to tread.
However, I think I can come up with a plausible interpretation of some key claims in Argument #8, and based on that interpretation I can show that this argument does not work.
Why couldn’t reality consist of just one lonely proton? If so, wouldn’t that proton be intelligible and self-sufficient? Does it really need to have other protons and electrons and photons and neutrons and various forms of energy?
Well, what is a “proton”? A proton has a bit of mass and it has a positive charge. What is “mass”? and what is a “positive charge”? Part of what it means to have mass is that IF there was another proton, the two protons would exert some gravitational attraction to each other, which would weaken the further apart the protons became. Part of what it means for the proton to have a positive charge is that IF there was another proton, the positive charge of one proton would tend to repel the positive charge of the other proton.
So, in order to UNDERSTAND what it means for a proton to exist, we need to invoke, at least hypothetically, other protons. What it means to have “mass” and to have a “positive charge” is understood, in part, in terms of how two protons would interact, if there were two protons. Therefore, to UNDERSTAND what it means for ONE proton to exist, we must have an understanding of how two protons would interact with each other, if two protons existed.
It is not logically necessary for there to BE more than one actual proton in existence, but to understand the idea of a “proton”, we need to understand how two protons would interact with each other IF there were two protons.
If the above reasoning reflects Kreeft’s thinking about the necessity of understanding physical objects in terms of “interactions” and “relationships”, then the problem with Argument #8 is that this same reasoning applies to God, thus reducing God to being just as “dependent” and just as lacking in “self-sufficiency” as physical objects. Thus, this argument necessarily FAILS to establish the existence of a transcendent being who is self sufficient and self explanatory.
As with the proton, we can conceive of reality consisting of just God alone. But what does it mean for a being to be “God”? Among other things, this means there is a person who is omnipotent and omniscient. But what does it mean for a person to be “omnipotent” or “omniscient”? “omnipotence” means that this person is able to control any and every object and event, and make it do whatever the person wants it to do. “omniscience” means that this person knows every detail about every object that exists and event that occurs.
In order to UNDERSTAND what it means for God to exist alone, we must understand what it means for a person to be “omnipotent” and what it means for a person to be “omniscient”, and in order to understand these two concepts, we must understand how an omnipotent and omniscient person would be related to a universe full of stars and planets and animals and plants IF such a universe were to exist. We can conceive of God existing alone, without a universe, without a single star or planet, and without any animals or plants. But in order to UNDERSTAND what it means for God to exist, we must have an understanding of how God would relate to a universe full of stars and planets and animals and plants IF such a universe existed.
The concept of God is just as logically dependent on interactions and relationships with other objects and events as is the concept of a proton. Therefore, if a proton fails to be “transcendent” or “self-sufficient” or “self-explanatory” because of the logical dependency of the concept of a proton on ideas about interactions and relationships with other objects and events, then God also fails to be “transcendent” and “self-sufficient” and “self-explanatory”, for the very same reason.
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 a supernatural event that has religious significance. For example, Jesus rising from the dead appears to be a supernatural event (people who have been dead for over 24 hours cannot come back to life by natural causes) and to have religious significance (Jesus claimed to have been sent by God, and his rising from the dead would confirm this religiously significant claim).
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. 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 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 beings are neither the products of an intelligent designer NOR are human beings the products of blind chance. Intelligence is something that has EVOLVED over a billion years or so.
One difference between plants and animals is that animals are mobile; they can move from one place to another place. But mobility by itself is not much help for survival, because an animal can move from a safe place to a dangerous place or from a place with plenty of food to a place where there is no food. So in order for mobility to help an animal survive, an animal needs to be able to obtain information about its physical environment in order to determine whether it would be beneficial to move from where it is at to some other location. Thus, animals developed sensory capabilities to obtain information about their physical environment.
It was useful for early microscopic forms of life to have some simple and minimal form of sensation, so they could detect the presence of light or food or warmth. Microscopic life forms that developed some minimal form of sensation were enabled to survive better than their competitors who lacked any kind of sensation of the external world.
As animal life EVOLVED, sensation developed into awareness of the physical environment. Awareness of the physical world EVOLVED into cognition and intelligence, including the ability to make inferences and to solve problems. Non-human mammals have a degree of intelligence, and that intelligence helps them to survive better than similar animals with less intelligence. Humans EVOLVED from primates. Primates are highly intelligent mammals, mammals that have a survival advantage because of their degree of intelligence.
In any case, 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.
Creationists love the FALSE DILEMMA between “intelligent design” and “blind chance”, but this ignores the obvious third alternative, which is that human beings EVOLVED from less intelligent forms of life. 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.