Carrier's Closing Statement (2006)


Wanchick Failed to Make His Case

Naturalism Is True

The best methods known for ascertaining the facts have only discovered results corresponding to naturalism. Wanchick hasn't shown otherwise. The results of inferior methods cannot supercede the results of superior methods, because, by definition, the probability of an inferior result being false is always higher than that of a superior result being false. Wanchick hasn't shown otherwise. Therefore, we should believe what superior methods confirm over what they don't, so we should believe naturalism rather than not. Wanchick hasn't shown otherwise. BAN stands.

Wanchick hasn't presented any fact that's better explained by basic theism (BT) than by Carrier naturalism (CN). But I've presented several facts that are better explained by CN than BT, including: (a) the absence of clear evidence for the expected moral activity of a BT God (ADI); (b) that humans have vulnerable, harmful, and inefficient brains instead of efficient, harmless, and invulnerable minds (AMBD); (c) the otherwise unexpected size, age, and lethality of the universe (ACA); and (d) the absence of clear evidence of direct creation rather than undirected physical processes of development (ACA). Since BT explains nothing better than CN, and CN explains several things better than BT, CN is a better explanation of what exists than BT. Wanchick hasn't shown otherwise. Since we should believe a better explanation over a worse one (again, Wanchick hasn't shown otherwise), we should believe CN and not BT. BANBE stands.

Wanchick failed to explain how the proposition "God exists nowhere" can be logically compatible with the proposition "God exists." Nor has he provided sufficient reason to believe there is any place that God exists. ANL stands. He has also presented no evidence that any disembodied mind exists, nor sufficient reason to believe a disembodied mind even could exist. All the evidence we have supports the conclusion that minds only exist when generated by a material system, and Wanchick hasn't proven minds can exist without one. Therefore, no evidence supports either the possibility or the actuality of an immaterial God. Since demonstrating BT requires demonstrating the existence of an immaterial mind, and Wanchick hasn't done this, he hasn't demonstrated BT. APM stands.

Theism Isn't True

Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (LCA)

I don't know whether "nothing exists" is logically possible.[1] Wanchick argues it isn't, because he claims God is a necessary being. But if any necessary being exists, it could be a universe or part of a universe as easily as a god. Wanchick still hasn't shown otherwise. Nor has he shown "nothing" is impossible. Insisting "a possible state of affairs" must contain "something" simply begs the question, for a zero-state is still a state. And since "nothing" would contain no propositions at all, he can't claim it would contain "contradictory propositions."

Wanchick challenges my claim that there's no scientific consensus whether everything (including space-time) began, by falsely claiming I "merely footnote" my own claims about multiverse theory. But I linked to quotations of many scientists, including a Scientific American article, "The Myth of the Beginning of Time," all declaring a lack of consensus.[2] I later quoted Hawking himself, and other leading cosmologists, confirming that lack of consensus.[3] Nothing else Wanchick argues changes the fact that the scientific community isn't certain whether time began.

Wanchick also claims my ANL refutes the existence of other universes. But other universes consist of spatial locations, and the ANL is only stated against nonspatial locations.[4] There is evidence supporting the existence of other regions of space not visible to us, including the possible existence of other universes.[5] If Wanchick wishes to concede that God exists in some other universe and thus has a spatial location after all, then he can avoid the ANL, but must abandon BT and lose this debate.

Wanchick hasn't demonstrated "the only way an originating being can be necessary is if it's necessarily created by a necessary being." And he begs the question when he claims "a being that can cease isn't necessary, since there's a possible world where it's nonexistent." For if there's a necessary being that necessarily ceases, then there isn't a possible world where it's nonexistent. Wanchick says everyone assumes every substance has an explanation, but people also assumed the Sun revolved around the Earth. Facts often defy common sense.[6] Wanchick still hasn't demonstrated that "what we conclude about effects within a universe" will "necessarily apply to the universe" itself, or that universes are the sorts of things that have explanations. And despite what Wanchick says, I've demonstrated elsewhere that it's logically impossible for any ultimate explanation to exist,[7] and I have presented plausible natural explanations for this universe.[8]

Wanchick falsely claims I provided no argument for the impossibility of a timeless, spaceless agent. But I did.[9] He still hasn't provided an adequate response.[10] The ANL stands, and he still offers no explanation for how God could think about creating time before any time in which to think existed. Wanchick complains that I routinely "extrapolate from our experience to reality as a whole" yet allegedly claim this can't be done. Wrong. I only claim we cannot make assertions without evidence. Wanchick asserts that places and things exist that we have no evidence of. I don't. Wanchick also asserts, again without evidence, that something observed of one category of object or circumstance (effects in a universe) also applies to a completely different category or circumstance (events outside a universe)--a fallacy of false analogy. Thus his claims are fallacious or unsupported.

Kalam (KCA)

Wanchick has provided no valid demonstration that everything that begins must have a cause or even probably has one, nor has he proved the universe began.

Wanchick falsely claims "the lack" of a starting point "only means one could never begin traversing an infinite" but that's the same fallacy as before. It assumes the conclusion: that there is no infinite series. But if we assume there is, then having no beginning is irrelevant.[11] Wanchick claims "the present" can only exist at the end of an infinite series, but that doesn't change the fact that, as I said, "there are an infinite number of actual places" where the end of an infinite series could be. That there are an infinity of numbers before the number eight on a number line doesn't mean the number eight cannot logically exist. So, too, "the present," if, like the number eight, it also stands at the end of an infinite series. Wanchick claims even though there are no logical contradictions in transfinite mathematics, nevertheless there are "metaphysical absurdities." He never explains what this means, or how it's so. He simply repeats the same fallacy of applying finite arithmetic to transfinite sets.[12]

Wanchick never refutes the fact that "we have no knowledge of what might hold outside the controls of the known universe." He claims knowing there is "no timeless causation" counts, but that's a logical impossibility. Wanchick hasn't shown that it's logically impossible for a universe to exist uncaused. And he can't argue for this inductively without committing the fallacy of false analogy.[13] Wanchick appeals to "intuition," but that's demonstrably unreliable when dealing with circumstances and objects with which we have little or no experience--like the origins of time or space, or the behavior of things at subatomic or astronomical scales (consider the counterintuitive facts of relativity theory and quantum mechanics).[14]

Finally, Wanchick falsely claims I said "the potential" for nature to exist "didn't exist because there was no time or place for it." I said "there was never a time when the universe didn't exist," which means there was never a time when its potential didn't exist. Then Wanchick claims he meant God is an "ontological" cause, not a temporal one. But if so, then he's failed to demonstrate his sixth premise, for we have not observed whether "every substance that begins to exist has a nontemporal ontological cause." In fact, the only "ontological cause" we have ever observed is a universe, and if Wanchick is now allowing that "the cause could've occurred simultaneously with the start of the universe," then that cause could be a part of that universe.

Design (CDA)

Neither Wanchick nor Robin Collins has demonstrated a "vast scientific consensus" that "a life-permitting cosmos" is too improbable to have arisen without intelligent design. Collins has never published any peer-reviewed scientific research, not even in cosmological physics, so his statements cannot supercede those of actual accomplished cosmologists like Paul Davies or Martin Rees.[15] Even so, Collins says he's "at least sympathetic" to chaotic inflation theory, "it should be taken seriously," and in fact "it's by far the most popular theory today."[16] But contrary to what Collins and Wanchick claim, there's still no scientific demonstration that any multiverse theory requires intelligent fine-tuning. The Pauli-exclusion principle, for example, can't even be "finely" tuned, since it only has two values, on and off, and if it can be tuned at all, it is tuned by chaotic inflation, not for chaotic inflation. The same goes for the cosmological constant, which in chaotic inflation varies from one region of the universe to another, determining what forms there.[17]

Finally, I have provided support for the conclusion that "our universe is more epistemically probable given CN."[18] Wanchick provides no reason to expect the universe to be as lethal, old, and large as it is if BT is true, nor to expect so much scientific evidence of natural causes of development and so little for direct acts of intelligent creation. If we've no reason to expect it, then the probability isn't high. In contrast, if CN is true, then these features constitute the only way we know the universe could be, and therefore the probability is virtually 100%.

Knowability (AFK) and Beauty (AFB)

Wanchick falsely claims "if the universe hosted intelligent life almost anywhere else, the vast information from solar eclipses, geological findings, cosmic background radiation, etc., couldn't be obtained." The cosmic background radiation is as observable from anywhere in the universe as anywhere in the universe is observable to us (which is pretty much everywhere civilization is likely to evolve). All nontrivial information gained from "solar eclipses" (like confirming that gravity bends light) or "active cores" (like seismographic studies of Earth's interior) can be gained without them, while any environment removing these resources (like a planet without a moon or active core) is statistically unlikely to evolve a civilization anyway.[19] Ultimately, Wanchick presents no evidence that Earth is in any better overall position to learn physics or chemistry, or any other facts of the universe, than any other planet on which civilization is likely to have evolved.

Wanchick also hasn't demonstrated any principle of "objective beauty" that's been intelligently designed into the universe and aids in discovering true physical theories, or for any purpose at all. He hasn't given an example or demonstrated this claim is true for it. So this claim is unsupported. Scientists have instead found our beauty response to be partly evolved for its survival value and partly learned from our culture and experiences.[20] No scientific evidence confirms any other conclusion.

Evil (AFE) and Morality (MAG)

Wanchick begged the question when he asserted evil must be a departure from design, and now he strangely accuses me of begging the question when I point this out. Wanchick's the one making the argument. So he's the one who must demonstrate evil is what he says it is and not something else. Instead, all he does is continue to beg the same question by simply asserting his moral opinions, without demonstrating they're anything other than his natural feelings derived from his needs and desires as a member of the social species Homo sapiens. Wanchick must demonstrate it probably isn't (or can't be) the latter. He hasn't.

Psychologists and sociologists agree acts like rape entail psychological, physical, and social consequences that cause a net risk of harm to an actor's own happiness, while embodying virtues prohibiting such behavior, like respect and compassion, causes a net increase in the probability of genuine happiness. This follows from our nature as conscious, social animals, as I've demonstrated elsewhere.[21] This means the moral value of human beings derives from two scientific facts not true of other animals: our consciousness of the consequences of our actions to others and ourselves, and being social animals dependent upon a functional civilization. Wanchick presents no evidence our moral value stems from any other fact. So he's failed to demonstrate any moral truth coming from any supernatural source.

Ontological Argument (WOA)

Wanchick argues something is necessary, but he still hasn't proven God is that something, or that "nothing" is impossible.[22] We can still imagine possible worlds without a god in them (as in Taoism or a state of nothingness), therefore God cannot be a necessary being. And for all we know, the universe is a necessary being, or some part of the universe is, which caused everything else to exist. Until Wanchick proves this logically impossible, he can't claim God is logically necessary.

Likewise, Wanchick cannot refute the existence of ME without also refuting the existence of MG.[23] Wanchick claims "evil requires human existence," but that can be no more true than "good requires human existence." Yet according to Wanchick's reasoning, if a good being "needs" humans, he "thus wouldn't be necessary (since humans aren't necessary)." Conversely, if "needed," they would be necessary. Hence Wanchick cannot use this argument against ME without refuting MG. Likewise, even Wanchick admits his God "could refrain from designing,"[24] but adds if a god can so refrain, then that god cannot be necessary: so his God cannot be necessary. Again, Wanchick cannot use this argument against ME without refuting MG.

Finally, Wanchick cannot claim evil is by definition a departure from some other design, because "evil" must be the opposite of "good," and Wanchick has already defined "morally good" as acting "in ways consistent with the moral code most Christians accept."[25] Therefore, ME would act in ways not consistent with that moral code, which doesn't require going against any previous design. Therefore, since Wanchick cannot refute ME without also refuting MG, and Wanchick doesn't accept ME, he cannot accept MG.

Resurrection of Jesus (ARJ)

I haven't room to address every false or dubious claim Wanchick makes about the Resurrection. None of Wanchick's arguments establish that the origin of Christianity is better explained by supernatural causes than natural ones. He concedes there's no expert consensus that it is, nor even a consensus whether the tomb of Jesus was found empty. Wanchick now claims "scholars widely denounce hallucination theories," but scholars also widely defend them. Again, there's no consensus for him to rest on. And since conclusions based on inferior methods cannot supercede those of superior ones, no argument for the supernatural can rest on shaky ground like this.[26]

Wanchick hasn't proved the tomb was found empty, or that the body wasn't stolen or misplaced, even though when bodies go missing everyone rightly assumes those are by far the most probable explanations. Wanchick claims the actual visions launching Christianity were somehow different from others, but the evidence is insufficient to prove this. For example, Wanchick asks, "Why would these varied contexts give way to identical visions?" But there's no evidence they did. Every separate account we have of these visions differs from every other in many important details, and all are too imprecise to know how "identical" the remaining details really were.[27] And that's assuming the Gospels accurately record what anyone actually saw, which hasn't been demonstrated. Meanwhile, the only "eyewitness testimony" we have is Paul's, who clearly describes a mystical vision, never mentioning any appearance of a touchable risen corpse to anyone.[28] So there's insufficient evidence that what the first Christians actually saw wasn't the same natural phenomena experienced by other Jews and pagans.[29]

Wanchick asks, "If the risen Christ cited [the Biblical] God, why question Him?" First, because he might've been mistaken or dishonest or misunderstood (as Wanchick would argue for the traditions of Islam or Mormonism), but more importantly, because it hasn't even been established that Jesus said those things. He never wrote them and we can't name the source used by anyone who did, much less prove they actually heard Jesus or reported correctly. In courts of law, such evidence is rejected on the hearsay rule. We don't even know for sure who's reporting this hearsay. That's how bad our sources are. Worse, what we have was only written generations later and preserved in an atmosphere charged with bitter dogmatic disputes leading to dishonesty in the creating or doctoring of records.[30] Finally, contrary to Wanchick, we can't prove the Gospels are independent of each other.[31]

For all the same reasons, the Gospels aren't reliable evidence for an empty tomb, either. Wanchick falsely claims Acts 13:28-31 says Christians proclaimed an empty tomb. None is mentioned there. The only evidence it mentions are postmortem visions confirming Jesus rose in an incorruptible body. Paul says we "sow" the body that "dies" but "that which you sow is not the body that will be" because God provides another one, which entails the corpse is left behind.[32] Wanchick fallaciously concludes that because later authors added the detail of an empty tomb, that "Paul was thus including the empty tomb." The women weren't included until two generations after Christianity began, so that's likewise moot.[33] And though Wanchick says the claim the body was stolen "plausibly dates" to the first authorities because "it concords with their inability to reveal the body," that argument presumes the conclusion (that the body was claimed missing), which is circular. There's no evidence the theft claim dates that early, and ample evidence against it. Not even Acts mentions it, despite being our earliest record of Jewish attacks on Christianity, by the only author in the New Testament claiming to write accurate history.[34]

Finally, the argument that "Jews ... would've never conceived of, let alone invented" anything new is certainly false, as would be any implication that Jews are uncreative or inflexible or incapable of innovation.[35] There was nothing at all unnatural in their conceiving of the original Gospel.[36]

[1] As I made clear under "Wanchick's Ontological Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[2] See the links in note 1 of my first rebuttal for this debate, as well as the sources cited again there in note 3 and note 10.

[3] See quotations under "Kalam Cosmological Argument" and "Cosmological Design Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[4] See "Argument from Nonlocality" in my opening statement for this debate.

[5] See the sources cited under "Cosmological Design Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[6] See my examples under "Arguments from Knowability" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[7] Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism (2005), p. 73.

[8] Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism (2005), pp. 75-88.

[9] See the "Argument from Nonlocality" in my opening statement for this debate and my second-to-last paragraph under "Leibnizian Cosmological Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[10] See the points I made under "Kalam Cosmological Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate--and in the present statement above (my discussion of the ANL) and below (my discussion of Wanchick's claim that God is an "ontological" cause).

[11] See my discussion under "Kalam Cosmological Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[12] See my discussion under "Kalam Cosmological Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[13] See my discussion in the last paragraph under "Leibnizian Cosmological Argument" in the present statement above.

[14] On the nature and problems of "intuition," see Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism (2005), pp. 178-80, with relevant scientific references on p. 192. In connection with cosmology, see ibid., pp. 84-85, 87, and the examples under "Arguments from Knowability" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[15] See my discussion under "Cosmological Design Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[16] Interview with Robin Collins in Lee Strobel, "The Evidence of Physics," The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God (2004), p. 141 (hardcover edition).

[17] See the Wikipedia entries for "Pauli Exclusion Principle," "Cosmological Constant," "Inflation Theory," and "Fine-Tuned Universes." See also: Steven Weinberg, "A Designer Universe?" New York Review of Books (21 October 1999); Andrew Liddle & David Lyth, Cosmological Inflation and Large-Scale Structure (2000); Andrei Linde, Inflation and Quantum Cosmology (1990); Scott Dodelson, Modern Cosmology, 2nd ed. (2003).

[18] See my discussion under "Atheistic Cosmological Argument" in both my opening statement and my first rebuttal for this debate.

[19] See Peter Ward & Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe (2000), and Richard Carrier, "Ten Things Wrong with Cosmological Creationism" (2000) in the Secular Web Modern Library.

[20] See my discussion of the scientific study of the human beauty response in Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism (2005), pp. 349-66. As cited in the bibliography there, see: Caleb Crain, "The Artistic Animal," Lingua Franca (October, 2001), pp. 28-37; Ellen Dissanayake, What Is Art For? (1988), Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes from and Why (1992), and Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began (2000); Margaret Livingstone, Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing (2002); Semir Zeki, Inner Vision: An Exploration of Art and the Brain (2000); Joseph Goguen, ed., Journal of Consciousness Studies: Art and the Brain: Controversies in Science and the Humanities (1999); Joseph Goguen and Erik Myin, eds., Journal of Consciousness Studies: Art and the Brain Part II: Investigations Into the Science of Art (2000); William Benzon, Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture (2001); Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (2000).

[21] See Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism (2005), pp. 291-348.

[22] See my discussion under "Leibnizian Cosmological Argument" above and in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[23] For MG as "a necessary being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good," see Wanchick's "Ontological Argument" in his opening statement for this debate, and for ME as "a necessary being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly evil," see my rebuttal under "Wanchick's Ontological Argument" in my first rebuttal for this debate.

[24] See Wanchick's statements "we can easily conceive of its nonexistence" in his second rebuttal, "God existing alone is a PW excluding any universe" in his opening statement, and "God doesn't need any universe" in his first rebuttal in this debate.

[25] See Wanchick's definition of "basic theism" in our joint statement for this debate.

[26] See the first paragraph of this closing statement above, and look under "Basic Argument for Naturalism" in my opening statement and second rebuttal.

[27] Compare the final chapters of all four Gospels with each other (Mark 16, Luke 24, Matthew 28, and John 20, and then 21) and with Paul's experience as reported in Galatians 4 and Acts 9 and with the only record we have of an appearance to "all the brethren" in Acts 2. Then see the analysis in Richard Carrier, "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb" in Robert Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (2005), pp. 188-231, with the corresponding Spiritual Body FAQ.

[28] See Galatians 1 and Richard Carrier, "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb" in Robert Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (2005), pp. 151-54, with the corresponding Spiritual Body FAQ.

[29] See Richard Carrier, "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb" in Robert Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (2005), pp. 184-88, and esp. discussion of mass or group visions on pp. 194-95 & p. 188, with the corresponding Spiritual Body FAQ. See also Richard Carrier, "Habermas on Visions," part 4E of Review of In Defense of Miracles (1999, 2005).

[30] For all the above, see Bart Ehrman's library of scholarly studies: The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd ed. (2003); Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (2005); The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (1996); The Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (2003). See also the introductory chapters to every book recording the words of Jesus in The New Interpreter's Bible (1995), and the relevant entries for each such book in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edn. (1997).

[31] Compare John 21:1-13 with Luke 5:1-11, and John 20:1-2, 20:2-8, and 20:11-13 with Luke 24:1-2, 24:9-12, and 24:3-8. See also "Synoptic Problem" in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (2000), and in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd. ed. (1997).

[32] 1 Corinthians 15:37. For evidence regarding two-body resurrection beliefs in and out of Christianity, see Richard Carrier, "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb" in Robert Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (2005), pp. 105-55, with notes on pp. 197-218, and the corresponding Spiritual Body FAQ. For a discussion of the record of early Christian claims in Acts, see Richard Carrier, "Would the Facts Be Checked?," chapter 13 of "Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?" (2005).

[33] Richard Carrier, "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb" in Robert Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (2005), pp. 155-232, with the corresponding Spiritual Body FAQ. Again, see Richard Carrier, "Did No One Trust Women?," chapter 11 of "Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?" (2005).

[34] For how and why the theft claim could have arisen, and all the evidence against it being early, see Richard Carrier, "The Plausibility of Theft" in Robert Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (2005), esp. pp. 358-64, along with the corresponding Plausibility of Theft FAQ. On Luke's unique claim to have written accurate history, see Luke 1:1-3 and the analysis in Richard Carrier, "Was Christianity Highly Vulnerable to Inspection and Disproof?," chapter 7 of "Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?" (2005).

[35] Again, see the evidence provided in the sources cited in note 30 of my first rebuttal for this debate.

[36] See a complete analysis in Richard Carrier, "Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?" (2005).

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