The Kalam Cosmological Argument

The arguments root is in second century Alexandrian philosopher and Church Father named John Philoponus, who realised the Greek philosophy of his day was contrary to the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. Preserved and developed in Islamic tradition where it gained its current name, it eventually re-entered Christian philosophical thought by being championed by Bonaventure (1221-1274). A contemporary of Aquinas, they wrote back and forth with each other on the soundness of this argument.

When Dr. William Lane Craig published his book The Kalam Cosmological Argument in 1979 it was not a great success. Only a few hundred copies sold. Since then the argument has grown in popularity so now it is fair to say occupies the one of the central plinths in the halls of philosophy of religion. The argument has helped to revitalise the study of natural theology and, I think, is one of the most powerful arguments for God’s existence.

Quentin Smith, the atheistic professor of philosophy from Western Michigan University states;

… a count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about Craig’s defense of the Kalam argument than have been published about any other philosopher’s contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence … The fact that theists and atheists alike “cannot leave Craig’s Kalam argument alone” suggests that it may be an argument of unusual philosophical interest or else has an attractive core of plausibility that keeps philosophers turning back to it and examining it once again.

The arguments simplicity belies its powerful effectiveness. It is a simple syllogism that is logically air-tight. If therefore you do not like the conclusion, one of its premises need to be denied. 

 

1) Everything that begins to exist had a cause

2) The universe began to exist

3) The universe had a cause

 

I will now outline the argument as it is defended by William Lane Craig. 

 

1) Everything that begins to exist had a cause

 – Based on the principle nothing comes from nothing

 – Empirically verified and never falsified

 – Wholly plausible from experience and at least more likely than its contradictory 

 – Intuitively true, for we don’t believe things just ‘pop’ into existence.

 

2)  The universe began to exist

This second premise means this is the only cosmological argument committed to a particular cosmology. Fortunately it receives wide spread acceptance. Craig offers two philosophical proofs and two scientific proofs. 

First Philosophical proof for the beginning of the universe

 – The impossibility of an actual infinite set of things.

1) An actual infinite cannot exist

2) A beginningless temporal sequence of events is an actual infinite

3) Therefore, a beginningless temporal series of events of events cannot exist.

 

The truth of premise one is evident when you consider the absurdities that would result if an actual infinite did exist. 

Set A has all the natural number from 1 to infinity. {1, 2, 3, 4, . . . }

Set B has all the even numbers from 2 to infinity. {2, 4, 6, 8, . . . }

Therefore A has half the amount of numbers than B. At the same time they are both infinite. In fact, we could half B so it contains only every second even number (so the set would be only a 1/4 of the size of A) and it will still be infinite (just like A). So infinity – infinity = infinity. But obviously that’s absurd.

Similar examples abound like that of Hilbert’s Hotel. But perhaps your not convinced on this argument for the beginning of the universe. The following philosophical proof is totally separate and distinct. 

 

Second Philosophical proof for the beginning of the universe

– The impossibility of traversing an actual infinite.

1) It is impossible to traverse an actual infinite by successive addition.

2) The temporal series of past events has been formed by successive addition.

3) Therefore, it cannot be actually infinite. 

 

Again you can see the absurdities that would result is you could traverse an actual infinite

 – Jumping out of a bottomless pit.

If you could get a foothold by finding the bottom the universe had a beginning, but if you reach the top you haven’t traversed an infinite. 

Again similar examples abound, like that of the orbital periods of Jupiter and Saturn as pointed out by al-Ghazali.

 

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First Scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe.

   – The second law of thermodynamics

The second law states that entropy in closed systems increases with time. Put another way the energy in closed systems is moving toward equilibrium. For instance, a hot cup of tea on a desk will grow colder if left alone. As the energy disperses throughout the room there eventually comes a point when both the room and the tea are the same temperature. We observe the universe with pockets of energy. If the universe was eternal then suns would have burnt out and the planets stopped spinning, etc. 

 

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Second Scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe.

   – Big Bang cosmology

I wont get into the science here, but only give three quotes from leading scientists. 

Stephen Hawking says,

Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.1

John Barrow and Frank Tipler emphasise,

At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.2

Alexander Vilenkin says,

“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”3

 

3) Therefore, the universe had a cause

What does this argument prove? There must have been a cause of the beginning of the universe, we can look at the universe and deduce the attributes of this first cause. 

non-spacial

a-temportal

Changeless

Immaterial

Beginningless or uncaused

Necessary

– tremendously powerful (omnipotent?)

– Ockham’s Razor implies there would be only one cause of the universe.

– Finally and strikingly the cause of the universe must be personal.

 

This is no ill-conceived “Sugar-Plum Fairy” or “Flying Spaghetti Monster” but an ultra-mundane being that carries much of the attributes of the traditional concept of God.

Isn’t it fascinating that the psalmist wrote “The heaven’s declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of His hands.”4

 

Footnotes:

1. Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton, N. J.:  Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 20.

2. John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), p. 442.

3. Alexander Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), p. 176.

4. Psalms 19:1

A simple argument from meaning

I’ve been involved in some discussion on the argument from purpose over at SCAE. During this discussion, I formulated and refined a brief argument from meaning. I’m posting it here for critique:

  1. The statement ‘there is no meaning to life’, or some variant thereof such as ‘the universe in toto is meaningless’, presupposes meaning and is thus false by definition.
  2. Therefore, there is meaning to life (by excluded middle).
  3. This meaning exists necessarily (from 1 and 2).
  4. But meaning exists only in minds.
  5. Therefore, necessarily existing meaning implies a necessarily existing mind.

The Cosmological Argument from Sufficient Reason


G. W. F. Leibniz 

 

G. W. F. Leibniz

Gottfriend Wilhelm Frederick von Leibniz (1646-1716) was a German philosopher and prodigious scholar. He invented the infinitesimal calculus independent of Newton. Today we still use his notation. He invented the binary system which makes possible all modern computer code. He designed the first purpose built library. He organised the mining of the material for the linseed oil lamps that would line the streets of Venice. Plus much more info here at wikipedia

He wrote,

The first question which should rightly be asked is this: why is there something rather than nothing?

Based on that question he formulated the following argument for God’s existence from the principle of Sufficient Reason. 

 

1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either by necessity of its own nature of by an external cause. 

2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

3) The universe exists

4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation for its existence

5) Therefore, the explanation for the existence of the universe is God. 

 

Instead of defending it myself I’ll just point you to a video of Dr. William Lane Craig presenting at the Philosophy department of Wake Forest University in North Carolina the annual Carswell Lecture for 2008.

Here is the full video.

Here it is on Youtube 

 

Welcome all intelligent discussion.

The Cosmological Argument from Existential Causality

Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

The Cosmological argument is really a family of many philosophical arguments, that all seek to show that God exists necessarily. They do this by pointing out facts about the cosmos and appealing to a cause or reason for these facts. Many people like to combine and reshape them. For now I will only outline briefly one such argument, comment of two possible refutations, and show what we could deduce about God if the argument is successful. 

 

The Cosmological Argument from Existential Causality

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), famous for his mammoth work Summa Theologiae and his five reasons for God’s existence (which cover only about two pages). His first three reasons were cosmological type arguments of which the following is a summary.

 

1) There are contingent (limited and dependant) beings that exist.

2) Adding contingent beings together will not give an unlimited and independent whole. 

3) Therefore, the sum total of contingent beings (the universe) is itself contingent

4) Therefore, the ultimate cause of the continuing existence of contingent beings must be a necessary being.

 

Two Common Refutations:

It is non-specific

The objecting is the argument does not identify God, but only a non-specific first cause which could be a natural phenomenon like elementary particles or the big bang.

It is true the argument is limited in its scope and what it contends to prove. The argument is enough, however to defeat atheistic naturalism which holds that the universe is a closed causal network. Further, a uniquely identifying characteristic is all one needs to identify an object (even if it is the only characteristic you know of), and the argument does give us a uniquely identifying characteristics.

 

Composition

The objector will say the argument commits this informal fallacy because if all the parts of the universe have one property it does not require the whole universe to have that quality. This fails to distinguish between emergent properties and additive properties. 

Placing one tile next to another tile, next to another tile and so on creates a tile floor. This is an additive property. It’s clear that the floor will be tiled if the entire floor is composed of tiles, or if every tile added was green, the tile floor would be green. In the same way, as every part of the ocean is wet, the ocean will also be wet. 

But an emergent property is susceptible to the fallacy of composition. An example would be because every tile is cheap, the entire floor is cheap. The property of expense is emergent. In the same way, because every part of the ocean is lightweight, it does not follow that the ocean is lightweight. 

Weight and expense are emergent properties while greenness and tiled-ness are additive properties. Contingency is also an additive property and so we rightly draw the conclusion that the sum total of the contingent beings (the universe) is contingent itself. It is like the watch with no spring. It doesn’t matter if there is an infinite series of cogs, there still needs to be a prime mover. 

 

Considerations

What follows about the nature of this first cause, or prime mover? 

 

Uniqueness:

This property of the first uncaused cause requires an additional sub-argument. Aquinas resolves this by supposing there were two first uncaused causes, FC1 and FC2, and employing the logical law of identity – if two things are exactly alike in every respect then they are the same. If FC1 differed from FC2 in anyway then one would have a characteristic the other would not. If FC1 lacked something FC2 had then it would be limited or caused not to have it. But that is impossible because FC1 is uncaused. Therefore any two uncaused first causes have to be strictly identical and therefore there would only be one of them.

 

Simplicity:

Strangely it is not a slight to call God simple. It means that God has no contingent parts. Therefore he is immaterial. It also means that God is changeless for he cannot add or subtract parts of what He is, and God is one thing. Together the attributes of simplicity and uniqueness form logical boundaries for the concept of God and the doctrine of the Trinity. 

 

Perfection:

A necessary, uncaused first cause will be itself be unlimited. Not limited by spacial or temporal confinements, he is therefore omnipresent and eternal. The scope of this being expands out to include much of what is known as “perfect being theology.”

 

Personhood:

Both Francis Schaffer and Norman Geisler expand Thomas’ original argument out with sub-arguments to include the faculties sufficient for personhood, namely knowledge and will. Briefly, the argument says that since the universe contains persons who are rational, social, moral and free the first cause must also posses these attributes.

 

Modern proponents:

Norman Geisler, Winfried Corduan

The "god-of-the-gaps" argument

The general idea is that the god-of-the-gaps argument represents a god who resides in the ‘gaps’ of human knowledge. Because the gaps in human knowledge will almost inevitable shrink this supposedly reduces the need for God and relegates Him to lesser and lesser portion, eventually rendering God’s existence unnecessary or irrelevant. 

In recent times the god-of-the-gaps argument is used most often as an objection to the arguments of natural theology advanced by philosophers and theologians who explain the gaps in scientific knowledge as specific acts of God. As such it is a variant of the argument from ignorance which is a logical informal fallacy. 

Here is an example of an argument where the god-of-the-gaps objection is used to show it is informally invalid.  

  (1) Science has yet to explain how the biological diversity of life on earth originated.

  (2) The gaps must be filled by God

  (3) Therefore, the biological diversity of life on earth proves, or at least helps to show the existence of God. 

Other example of arguments include the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the fine-tuning of the conditions necessary for intelligent life. It is worth pointing out that the above argument does not represent the best of what teleology has to present.*

The idea is that placing God as the explanatory entity in the place of ignorance is an illegitimate move. Doing so either stops or hinders scientific enquiry, or leads to embarrassment when the gap is finally filled with a demonstrable or feasible naturalistic alternative. 

As the argument from ignorance is an informal fallacy, there are some considerations that may render such an argument, specifically in the case of premise (2) justifiable. Let us look at some.

 

(1) The best explanation

The teleological argument is best understood as inference to the best explanation. This means that placing God in the gap where there is ignorance is a valid move, for it has become a probabilistic argument not looking to establish the truth of God’s existence with logical necessity. When God is posited as the best explanation, whether justified or unjustified, the detractor of the argument needs to show how God does not meet the requirements of a best explanation by (i) offering a superior naturalistic alternative or (ii) providing a plausible reason why our concept of God would not fill the gap where our supposed ignorance remains. 

If one of these two requirements is not met the detractor of the design argument is merely placing something else in the gap, thus the god-of-the-gaps argument can be turned around on its head. For example, many people who use the god-of-the-gaps objection to the arguments of natural theology turn out to argue for a naturalism or scientism-in-the-gaps. I have even seen people place a provisional-agnostism-in-the-gaps! An illicit move when the argument is considering what is the best explanation, for provisional agnosticism can hardly claim to be an explanation.

(2) Distinguishing between experimental and origin science

In experimental science where things are repeatable demonstrated, placing God as an explanation to fill gaps in human knowledge is can rightly be called illegitimate. For one expects gaps in human understanding and that those gaps will eventually narrow or close with time. The idea of a gap however is that they are few and far between, or else the gaps would be described as massive plains of ignorance. Where positing God as an explanation to fill a gap where previously there was ignorance may be called legitimate is in origin science. Origin science deals with rare, often non-repeatable events and includes the study of history and forensic science. When the two branches of science are distinguished and it is obvious that researcher or investigator is operating with origin science, the gaps can assessed using Bayeseon formulae** or the criteria for the best explanation. Both methods assess the probability of given events by taking into account the relevant background knowledge, and the probability that we should have the evidence we do have given said event did not occur.

For instance, what is the probability we should have the evidence of the empty tomb, that the disciples believed they saw the resurrected Jesus, and the origin of the Christian faith such that they were willing to give their lives for their message, if God did not raise Jesus from the dead. The relevant background knowledge would be things like the expertise of Roman soldiers in execution by crucifixion, our other reasons provided by natural theology for believing that a god exists, and the cultural milieu in which Jesus’ ministry took place and the utter absence of the disciples expectation that Jesus would rise from the dead before the end of the age. 

 

(3) Distinguishing between explanatory models

A test that determines whether the gaps in human understanding are getting bigger or smaller could be used to determine which explanatory model is superior. A careful analysis of the history of science may show that the gaps are getting smaller, so that a naturalistic explanation would be in order, or else history may show the gaps are becoming wider, so that a supernatural explanation will be in order. 

Such a test may consist of the following four questions to asses the worth of different explanatory models.

1. Which model contains the fewer gaps?
2. Which model most accurately predicts where undiscovered gaps will be observed?
3. Which model most accurately forecast what scientists will discover as they use new data and technology to explore the gaps?
4. Which model is the least contrived and most straightforward in explaining both what is known and what is not yet known?

Once these criteria are assessed in light of explanatory models it could well be justified to assert that God is the better hypothesis or model. In this way, a researcher is basing the conclusion more on what is known, rather than what is unknown. 

 

(4) Distinguishing between ignorance and impossibility

It is helpful to see the intuitive distinction between the following two statements. (i) That we can’t see how such a thing can happen naturalistically. (ii) That we can see it is impossible for such a thing to happen naturalistically. A person who utilises the god-of-the-gaps argument will often level their charge at (i) failing to see that it is (ii) that is being advocated. Thus the god-of-the-gaps argument can become a straw man argument itself.

An example of this is G. W. Lebnitz’s argument against materialism and therefore for a substance duelism. Alvin Plantinga makes the above distinction, noting that (ii) is very different sort of claim than (i). 

 

(5) Begging the question

It begs the question to say there are no gaps at all, even if the gaps are getting smaller.

 

(6) Existential exclamations and the motivation for the scientific endeavour.

Advocates of the god-of-the-gaps argument often fail to understand what the theistic scientist or theologian means when they say ‘God did it.’ Most often the person is not a covering a gap of ignorance with a supernatural explanation but is expressing the wonder of God’s created order. Far from being a stopper or road-block to science it is a motivation for the theistic scientist to probe deeper into the mysteries of natural phenomenon. 

The theistic worldview provides not only motivation for good science, but the necessary philosophical underpinnings for the continuance of science. For instance, on theism God has endowed humans with cognitive faculties sufficient to understand the world, whereas on naturalism there is no such confidence. Similarly, theism guarantees rationality imbues the universe so that it is possible to discover laws in nature, whereas on atheism there is no such assurance. Alvin Plantinga manages to show that on naturalism there is no way to be assured about the reality of even physical objects, let alone that naturalism is itself true, for on naturalism our cognitive faculties are selected by evolution not for truth but for survival. Thus naturalism is at root self-defeating.

 

(7) Distinguish between primary and secondary causation

When the theistic scientist expresses the notion that God is responsible for unexplained natural phenomena, if he is not simply expressing his awe of the created order, is rather expressing a truth lost on the advocate of the god-of-the-gaps argument. The advocate of the god-of-the-gaps argument fails to distinguish between what the theist sees as primary causation and secondary causation. God can certainly be the one sustaining concurring with natural phenomena as a primary cause, but will operate through the agency of a secondary cause, say the laws of nature. 

The idea here is the theistic scientist utter a ‘Wow, this can only be achieved by a divine creator.’ Rather than this being the end of scientific inquiry, in the very next breath comes the next question, ‘How did God do this?’ Accordingly when gaps of ignorance are filled with knowledge and understanding, it does not relegate God to smaller spaces, but gives the scientist or researcher an extra reason to magnify God.

 

(8) Philosophical or theological expectations

A researcher or scientist may have philosophical or theological expectations of finding a gap with dimensions that make God a tidy explanation. Such as the beginning of the universe ex nihilo, or in the resurrection of Christ one expects to find a gap in scientific knowledge. In cases such as these, the god-of-the-gaps argument should be silenced, for given the philosophical or theological expectations it is wholly reasonable to posit God in the so-called gap. Two examples follow. 

First, early last century science suddenly struck upon empirical evidence for the beginning of the universe out of nothing, against the expectaions of the current cosmogony, namely the Steady State Theory. How the universe literally came into being is widely recognised to be a matter beyond science, for in the singularity, all material things, including time itself, began to exist. As science seeks to provide answers to all naturally occurring phenomenon the ultimate first cause of the origin of the universe will fall outside of the scientific endeavour. The formulation of Big Bang Cosmology creates a big “gap” for science, but a gap such as this has quite easily been filled by philosophers and theologians who expected it, for the cause of such an event can only be immaterial and timeless therefore changeless, uncaused and beginningless, enormously powerful and therefore a personal creator.

Second, The initial boundary conditions of the universe are themselves beyond the scope of science, and so one would expect explanations for these to also be outside science. 

This does not mean, in and of itself, that these expectations are not subject to naturalistic defeaters. But even if these laws or discoveries are not beyond science, based on current expectations of philosophy and theology, and in the absence of naturalistic defeaters one can be justified when positing God to fill such a gap.

 

(9) Auxiliary reasons

Similarly we can have auxiliary reasons to think that God fills the gap, for instance in the biblical texts, or other special revelation. Alvin Plantinga suggests it may be that such beliefs are basic, and result from when human cognitive faculties are functioning correctly in the appropriate environment.

 

(10) Religiously neutral premises

In religiously neutral premises the god-of-the-gaps argument can find no foothold. 

For instance, the second premise in the Kalam cosmological argument that the universe began to exist, can be found in almost any science text book. The first premise, that whatever begins to exist has a cause, is also religiously neutral as it does not take belief in God but only common sense to agree with it. Although the conclusion that therefore, the universe has a cause cannot be said to be religiously neutral, the charge of placing God in the gaps cannot therefore be levelled against the argument.

Another example, the premise the result of the appearance of design is either due not physical necessity, chance or design, carries with it no religious baggage. Plus it is entirely plausible as it seems to exhaust all the possibilities for the appearance of design. 

 

(11) The inference to design

The inference to design may come after sufficiently demonstrating that the appearance of design is not due to physical necessity or by chance. William Dembski has advanced a sophisticated and highly nuanced method for a design inference that does this. The inference to design hinges around the idea of ‘specified complexity,’ where the given probability is not only vanishingly small but also conforms to an independently given pattern.

 

(12) Design detection

According to Intelligent Design theorist one can discover the products of design without having any idea as to how those products came about. The practitioner of theistic science is therefore not committed either way to the gaps of history of the cosmos or understanding in human knowledge. The god-of-the-gaps objection usually fails to take this into account. 

 

(13) Motivations

The motivations of the advocates of design arguments are absolutely irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of the premise or the conclusion that follows. To claim the argument is unsound because of the religious or apologetic motivations is the genetic fallacy.

 

 

* Here is a better representative of the teleological argument. 

  (1′) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

  (2′) It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

  (3) Therefore, it is due to design.

 

**

Lays down the formula for calculating the probability of a hypothesis (H) on given evidence (E).

Lays down the formula for calculating the probability of a hypothesis (H) on given evidence (E).

Bill Vallicella on eliminative materialism

The “maverick” philosopher William Vallicella has started a number of entries on materialism, focusing particularly on eliminative materialism. This bears serendipitously on some debate which has been ongoing here. This started with Samuel Skinner in ‘Atheists Should Not Criticize Hitler’, which prompted my reply post, ‘Whence Cometh Value?’, and most recently discussion has been ongoing between Mike, Keith, Rob and myself in the comment thread of ‘Jesse Kilgore commits suicide after reading Dawkins’. The discussion has shifted subtly from the initial thesis that objective morality is unjustified in a non-theistic worldview, toward the thesis that non-theistic views preclude, by definition, any kind of abstracta such as meaning, value, purpose, qualia (pain, pleasure, and other sorts of subjective experiences), and so on. This is essentially the same point of contention around which eliminative materialism hinges, so I’d urge those involved in the debate here to better familiarize themselves with the issues by referring to Bill’s brief primer, ‘Eliminative Materialism Defined’. He concludes, and I think rightly so, that

The fundamental error of the eliminative materialist, then, is to imagine that belief, desire, and other mental states are theoretical posits of a false theory he calls ‘folk psychology.’ This is just nonsense: pain, desire, and the like are immediately given. There is nothing theoretical about them. It is the eliminative materialist who is in the grip of a false theory, namely, the theory that nothing can be real except what the physical sciences posit as real.

The eliminative materialist is engaged in a sensless enterprise: he attemts to prosecute the philosophy of mind while denying the very data of the philosophy of mind. What could be more absurd? Blinded by his scientism, he cannot admit what we all know to be the case: that we believe, know, desire, recollect, expect, fear, etc.

I’ll post updates to this series here when they are published.

Global Warming a New Religion

One of Leighton Smith’s pet topics on his talk radio show on Newstalk ZB, is global warming. He and I share similar opinions in this regard, and its edifying to hear someone in New Zealand with a modicum of sense surrounding the issue. 

I don’t know how I became sceptical of the global warming cultural phenomenon. Perhaps already being sceptical of evolutionary models that made me see the hype of global warming as the same old sensationalist rhetoric that accompanies a decisive lack of substantive evidence. Perhaps it was a dozen little things that collected and connected in my mind. 

Like the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) being chiefly composed of bureaucrats instead of scientists. Like the political momentum the debate has gathered. Like the ridicule aimed at respected scientist with doubts or dissenting views. Perhaps it was Al Gore’s reputation for honesty. Perhaps it was the late meteorologist Augie Auer puffing at the idea on Sports Cafe, calling it a ‘joke.’ Perhaps it was that I learnt that a single volcano pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere in (something like) a single hour than the whole of America does in a year.

Perhaps it was something else. Entrenching my scepticism were the videos linked bellow, especially The Man-made Global Warming Hoax, an excellent documentary. 

Now one has to point out first that Global Warming is not just the idea that the planet is slowly heating. This everyone agrees with. It is also the idea that man is responsible for the increase in temperature and it is on this point where the controversy lies. 

I don’t confess to be a scientist, but I do think of myself as a philosopher and the global warming cultural phenomenon makes for an interesting case study for the interaction with science and religion. As Leighton Smith said, global warming is not science, its a political agenda and a religious movement similar to that of the crusades in the middle ages.

So I ask, what is supporting the movement if not the science. I have a few suggestions aside from the media’s sensationalism below. Can you think of any more? Why is the global warming phenomenon gathered to itself so much momentum?

1) Humanism. A system that incorporates the belief that people are genuinely good and capable of saving themselves. Though responsible for destroying the environment through neglect and indifference, the enlightened mind is capable of renewing and restoring the natural order. In its extreme form it can manifest itself by the few intellectuals rising up to rule and manipulating and controlling the unthinking masses, and can also give justification for population control, which entails things like euthanasia, infanticide, abortion as a contraceptive method, and eugenics.

2) Misplaced Authority. It is a philosophical assumption whether one accepts scientists as authorities and what the say is true. In current culture scientist are the priests, and the popular religion is scientism. The past teaches us that scientists are fallible and often prone to error, so it questionably wise to accept a scientists word as final judgement. In fact, it is the genetic fallacy to conclude that something is either true or false based upon the origin (the scientist word) of that belief. Logic and its laws is an extremely technical sub-dicsipline of philosophy akin to mathematics so when one thinks to himself, or does any sort of reasoning he is using philosophy. 

4) Belief of an age old earth (as opposed to a young earth). The earth may well be ancient, nevertheless it is chiefly a philosophical question whether one accepts this view and denies the young earth view and the evidence for it. For when determining the age of something, this falls outside the observational scientific method and one must assume specific principles in order to hypothesise. Principles such as that the world was not created five minutes ago with the appearance of age, or that our current knowledge of the past is accurate, or uniformity. 

5) Uniformitarianism. This is the belief that the ‘past is the key to the present.’ It is the dogmatic assumption and application of the principle of uniformity, that holds that the same processes performed today in exactly the same conditions will yield the same results as they did yesterday, and the same result will result tomorrow. This principle is necessary for the success of science, but when assumed dogmatically may render predictions false or unsuccessful. For instance, this rules out a priori any world wide flood hypothesis.

6) Communism. This I hesitate to add, but the idea originated not with me but comes from the documentary The Man-made Global Warming Hoax. It suggests that the collapse of the Berlin wall and the disintegration of communism in the Soviet Union dispersed anti-capitalists throughout the west. Instead of promoting a political solution now they found in global warming a linchpin to hang their economic and social agendas.

 

More Resources:

On Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io-Tb7vTamY

 

Documentary on The Man-made Global Warming Hoax (Parts 1-8)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpWa7VW-OME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpX-Kae00s8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BJrdSRDVlQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf6C0cMq3RU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkSmdaLkd60

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlSSwErKWQs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efxToyX5cPw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGZ1bHo6jR0

 

Glenn Beck telling Irena’s Story

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjmJGMZKCOg

Jesse Kilgore commits suicide after reading Dawkins

Jesse Kilgore

Jesse Kilgore

The Story of Jesse Kilgore and the Consequences of Teaching One Side of Evolution

This episode of ID the Future (MP3 here) tells the story of Jesse Kilgore, a college student whose loss of faith and subsequent suicide has been linked to his biology class and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. After his professor challenged him to read the anti-theistic book and rule out the possibility of God’s existence in light of the evidence for evolution, Jesse experienced a crisis of faith. Now his father is arguing for academic freedom for intelligent design and critiques of Darwin’s theory. Listen in as he and others explain how Jesse was affected by reading this book.

The tragedy of Jesse Kilgore’s death affects all of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who knew and loved him.

Source: http://www.idthefuture.com/2008/12/the_latest_news_views_on_intel.html

Rob’s Comment: As I have argued numerous times, suicide does not necessarily follow from accepting the beliefs of people like Richard Dawkins. However, suicide becomes a sensible option for even intelligent people to take, given Dawkins’ beliefs. Of course, this does not prove Dawkins is wrong — but if the universe, as Dawkins has said, ultimately has no purpose, then why not kill yourself? All you are really doing is hastening your trip into nothingness.

More links:
Dad links son’s suicide to ‘The God Delusion’ (Worldnet Daily)

Whence Cometh Value?

Samuel Skinner has been trying to articulate and defend a non-theistic version of ethics in the comment thread of ‘The Inherent Value of Human Life’. Since I don’t think that debate is proving fruitful, I’m going to undercut it with a new argument which follows on from that original article.

Samuel has conceded that the universe, in toto, is amoral: that is, that is has no moral properties at all. In his own words:

I am admitting the universe is amoral […] The universe is entirely amoral. After all, none of its component parts are moral and they do not have any emergent properties that make the universe any different. To claim it is anything but amoral is similar to claiming that for any other inaminate object.

Value conference

It seems to me that this theory of ethics relies on the fairly generic idea of value conference. This is the notion that things only obtain value when we confer it on them. Value can take many forms—we could be talking about moral value (rightness), or teleological value (purpose), or epistemic value (meaning), or whatever. But the general idea is the same. The universe itself does not have value. Its constituent parts do not have value. They’re all just various amalgamations of matter and energy—and value isn’t a property of matter or energy. Therefore, if anything in the universe is to have value, that value must be conferred, rather than existing inherently in it.

Obviously, under a non-theistic view, value conference is done by sentient beings. Particularly of interest to us is the value conference performed by human beings. Under a non-theistic view, value conference does not involve (or need not involve) a deity of any kind—human value conference is sufficient. Put another way, value conference can be subjective, such that values are conferred by individuals; there is no need for an objective value-conferrer like God.

Now, if it can be shown that subjective value conference fails as a thesis, then the entire basis for non-theistic ethics (and epistemology and teleology) falls apart. If subjective value conference is intrinsically incoherent or irrational or impossible in some way, then it is clear that there are no grounds for whatever values non-theists believe exist—including moral values.

The form of the argument

What I’m going to show is that non-theists have no grounds for values. The kinds of grounds I have in mind are ontological, and not epistemological. In other words, I’m talking about whether or not, and how, values actually exist in the way that non-theists assert. I’m not talking about whether or not, and how, we can know about them. If you want to comment in this thread, make sure that you mark this distinction.

What I’m going to show is that subjective value conference is basically self-refuting. In this post, I will be focusing mostly on moral values, since that’s what’s at issue in the current debate with Samuel. I am somewhat indebted to Bill Vallicella, whose argument from meaning I am emulating.

The argument outlined

Under the non-theist’s view, some action has some moral value only if that value is conferred on it by some person. Now, the action, by the non-theist’s own admission, is intrinsically valueless. In terms of analysis as a physical system in the universe, it has no value, because value is not a property of physical systems. So the action only gains value upon the act of conference.

The problem for the non-theist is that, under his own view, the act of value conference itself is as intrinsically valueless as the action which it’s supposed to confer value upon. In that case, the question reasonably arises, how can a valueless act of conference nonetheless confer value?

The obvious answer which presents itself is that perhaps the act of conference has value conferred upon it in turn by some other act of conference. But this only pushes the problem back a step, leading to an infinite regress. That second act of conference would also be intrinsically valueless, requiring another act of conference—and so on ad infinitum.

The alternative, that value-conference is itself a valueless process, does not constitute any kind of explanation at all. It’s self-evidently absurd, and may even lead to conclusions which the non-theist would himself deny. An explanation of the origin of values ought to at least explain what it is about the process of value conference that actually confers value. If the action of value conference is, in the final analysis, a physical system, then value is not an intrinsic part of that process. What, then, about the process confers value? Whence cometh value?

Furthermore, if the act of conferring value is a process which does not itself involve value, then what distinguishes a valueless process which confers value from a valueless process which does not? It seems very unclear why such a process is even needed for there to be value, if there is to be value. It’s as if value “just exists” in the universe—but that is the very conclusion which the non-theist denies.

Emergence

The typical response to this sort of argument is that value is an emergent property, just like love or art or intelligence or whatever. Non-theists often, rather ironically, try to put pressure on this argument by saying that it would reduce to non-existence all these things which we consider so important. Therefore, it must be the case that these things really do exist, but as emergent properties—of intelligence, for example; which is itself an emergent property of physical systems. But that’s the very point of the argument: to show that, under a non-theistic view, these things really don’t exist. Trying to put pressure on the argument by emphasizing its conclusion is therefore a tad naive. All the non-theist is doing is pointing out the very conclusion being argued, but disagreeing because it’s plainly absurd. But of course it’s absurd—the argument is of the form reductio ad absurdum; a “bringing back to absurdity”—a form of argument constituting a disproof of some proposition (in this case non-theism) by showing that it leads to absurd or untenable conclusions.

Appealing to emergence, as if this refutes the argument, is just like appealing to magic. It is not merely an admission that the non-theistic view of reality has no explanation for the existence of value (in marked contradistinction to the theistic view), but also an admission that non-theists would rather appeal to magic than to the clear and rational theistic explanation. As Paul Manata puts it,

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil & bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting
Lizard’s leg & howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell broth boil and bubble.

Macbeth Act IV, Scene 1

The crone throws the wing of a bat and the eye of a newt into the cauldron, mixes it up, and voilà, you have the emergence of some mystical and immaterial “protection” or “love” or “safe trip” or “powerful trouble” spell or charm.

Likewise, take the physicalist. That crone, Mammy Nature, mixes a few billions neurons, synapses, and some firing c-fibers, into that cauldron called your noggin, and voilà, you have the emergence of some mystical and immaterial mind with beliefs and intentionality and thoughts.

When appeals to the “mustbebraindidit” argument are made, I’m going to point out that this has a name: The bat wing and eye of newt fallacy.

Conclusion

Although my argument can no doubt be fleshed out and refined some, it is sufficient for now to undercut the value theories of Samuel Skinner, and any non-theist, by showing that they are, under his own view, non-existent or meaningless or impossible. If his own belief system provides no mechanism by which values can actually exist—that is, no ontological grounds for values—then it is pointless for him to try to defend his particular value system. Any such defense contradicts itself. He is, like all non-theists, tacitly borrowing theistic presuppositions even in presenting his non-theistic notions of how ethics work.

As for the Christian, he affirms that value actually does exist as a basic property of reality, grounded in the immutable and ontologically necessary God of Christianity.

Theistic Critiques Of Atheism

William Lane Craig

Abridged version in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, pp. 69-85. Ed. M. Martin. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 2007 (more info here)

Introduction

The last half-century has witnessed a veritable revolution in Anglo-American philosophy. In a recent retrospective, the eminent Princeton philosopher Paul Benacerraf recalls what it was like doing philosophy at Princeton during the 1950s and ’60s. The overwhelmingly dominant mode of thinking was scientific naturalism. Metaphysics had been vanquished, expelled from philosophy like an unclean leper. Any problem that could not be addressed by science was simply dismissed as a pseudo-problem. Verificationism reigned triumphantly over the emerging science of philosophy. “This new enlightenment would put the old metaphysical views and attitudes to rest and replace them with the new mode of doing philosophy.”

The collapse of the Verificationism was undoubtedly the most important philosophical event of the twentieth century. Its demise meant a resurgence of metaphysics, along with other traditional problems of philosophy which Verificationism had suppressed. Accompanying this resurgence has come something new and altogether unanticipated: a renaissance in Christian philosophy.

The face of Anglo-American philosophy has been transformed as a result. Theism is on the rise; atheism is on the decline. Atheism, though perhaps still the dominant viewpoint at the American university, is a philosophy in retreat. In a recent article in the secularist journal Philo Quentin Smith laments what he calls “the desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s.” He complains,

Naturalists passively watched as realist versions of theism. . . began to sweep through the philosophical community, until today perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most being orthodox Christians . . . . in philosophy, it became, almost overnight, ‘academically respectable’ to argue for theism, making philosophy a favored field of entry for the most intelligent and talented theists entering academia today.

Smith concludes, “God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”

As vanguards of a new philosophical paradigm, theistic philosophers have freely issued various critiques of atheism. In so short a space as this entry it is impossible to do little more than sketch some of them and to provide direction for further reading. These critiques could be grouped under two basic heads: (1) There are no cogent arguments on behalf of atheism, and (2) There are cogent arguments on behalf of theism.

Much more here.