Theodore M. Drange

Theodore Drange, a frequent Secular Web contributor, has been teaching philosophy at West Virginia University since 1966 (at the rank of full professor since 1974). Prior to that he taught philosophy at Brooklyn College (1960-62), the University of Oregon (1962-65), and Idaho State University (1965-66).

His teaching specialties are Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Language, and Theory of Knowledge. He has also taught many other subjects, including Logic, Philosophy of Mind, and Philosophy of Science. Two courses which he invented and teaches on occasion are Philosophy of Games and Philosophy of Fundamentalism. The latter course is a critical study of the doctrines of Christian fundamentalism and their philosophical implications.

Among his many publications are two books, one is in the philosophy of language entitled Type Crossings (1966) and the other in the philosophy of religion entitled Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (1998).

Published on the Secular Web

Review of Jordan Howard Sobel’s “Logic and Theism”

Jordan Howard Sobel’s Logic and Theism is long, abstruse, and technical, but valuable for those who have an interest in its topics. Those looking for arguments based on empirical phenomena said to be best explained by the God hypothesis should look elsewhere. Sobel’s focus is, rather, issues of definition and logical structure. He addresses everything from the ontological argument to the fine-tuning argument, demolishing all of the main arguments for God’s existence. Moreover, he argues that the kind of omnipotence and omniscience that theists ascribe to God is incoherent, and defends both evidential and logical arguments from evil against the existence of God. Finally, he turns to a discussion of practical reasons for belief in God, such as those invoked by Pascal’s wager. No cutting-edge research on these topics should omit Sobel’s work.

The Arguments from Confusion and Biblical Defects

Ted Drange develops two arguments for the nonexistence of the God of evangelical Christianity, an all-powerful and loving being greatly concerned about the fate of human beings and desiring a personal relationship with them. According to his argument from confusion (AC), widespread confusion between Christians over matters of ultimate importance entails that the God of evangelical Christianity probably does not exist. In particular, the rampant diversification of Christian sects on such matters entails that, even if any one of those sects is correct, large numbers of Christians must hold false beliefs about issues of ultimate importance–contrary to what one would predict if the God of evangelical Christianity existed. The argument from biblical defects (ABD) contends that if the God of evangelical Christianity existed, then the Bible would probably be perfectly clear and authoritative and without marks of solely human authorship; but since the Bible does not meet either of these criteria, the God of evangelical Christianity probably does not exist.

The Drange-McHugh Debate

The “lost” Drange-McHugh debate on the existence of the God of evangelical Christianity was originally conducted in the Formal Debates & Discussions forum of the Internet Infidels Discussion Board (IIDB) from November 30, 2003 to May 15, 2004, and has been restored to the Secular Web proper so that it would once again be available to all on the world wide web.

Reply to Guthrie

Theodore Drange responds to Guthrie’s critique. Drange finds Guthrie’s essay “unclear,” and contends that Guthrie “erred in many ways,” including “misstating my views in many ways (and continuing such misstatements even in his concluding paragraph), … in trying to argue that God (were he to exist) is unable to reduce human suffering, and … in his attempt to formulate a divine desire that conflicts with God’s desire to reduce human suffering.”

Pascal’s Wager Refuted

The author schematizes the infamous argument for belief called “Pascal’s Wager,” after the seventeenth century French philosopher who first posed it. This argument is then critically analyzed.

Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism

Drange argues that people who believe the sentence, “God exists,” does not express a proposition are noncognitivists. Those who believe it expresses a true proposition are theists; those who believe it expresses a false proposition are atheists; and those who believe the evidence is insufficient to determine the truth of the proposition are agnostics.

Why Be Moral?

The reasons for being moral depend on what it means “to be moral.” On some possible definitions, the question, “Why be moral?” is meaningless. But in the case of the other definitions, it is possible to understand the question and even to answer it. Moreover, on the definitions which make the question meaningful, the atheist can answer the question just as well as the theist. Indeed, with respect to specific moral questions (e.g., “Why should people not rape?”), the atheist can provide a better answer than theists who accept the Bible as God’s Word.

Incompatible-Properties Arguments: A Survey

Ten atheological arguments are presented (and briefly discussed) in each of which there is an apparently incompatible pair of divine attributes.

The Case for a Coherent God (2002) by Joseph A. Sabella

One response to the incompatible-properties arguments surveyed by Drange.

The Coherence of God: A Response to Theodore M. Drange (2003) by Ralph C. Wagenet

A second response to Drange’s incompatible-properties arguments.

Science and Miracles

Using the simplified definition of a “miracle” as an event which violates a law of nature, Drange investigates the relation between science and miracles. He argues that scientists, as scientists, can’t believe that such events ever occur, but leaves open whether they could consistently believe in miracles apart from their scientific work. If they do, it would only be in virtue of having compartmentalized minds.

Nonbelief vs. Lack of Evidence

Here are two atheological arguments, called the “Lack-of-evidence Argument” (LEA) and “the Argument from Nonbelief” (ANB). LEA: Probably, if God were to exist then there would be good objective evidence for that. But there is no good objective evidence for God’s existence. Therefore, probably God does not exist. ANB: Probably, if God were to exist then there would not be many nonbelievers in the world. But there are many nonbelievers in the world. Therefore, probably God does not exist. Reasons are given for saying that although LEA is not totally implausible, ANB is a stronger atheological argument than it is.

Nonbelief as Support for Atheism

In this paper (originally presented as a talk) Theodore M. Drange seeks to improve upon J. L. Schellenberg’s watershed argument that a perfectly loving God would reveal his existence clearly to people in order to get them to believe in him. Schellenberg’s argument maintains that the existence of a large number of nontheists provides good reason to deny the existence of such a perfectly loving God. But Drange argues that a stronger version of the argument would add to God’s attributes a strong desire for humanity’s love. Since one cannot love God if one does not believe in him, God would more clearly desire widespread belief in his existence under Drange’s revised formulation. Drange then responds to objections to this line of reasoning, particularly those couched in terms of a free-will or unknown-purpose defense, including Daniel Howard-Snyder’s inappropriate-response defense. To this day Drange is unaware of any response by either Schellenberg or Howard-Snyder to his objections to their arguments.

The Fine-Tuning Argument

Currently, a very popular theistic argument is the so-called “fine-tuning argument,” the argument that God is the best explanation for the combination of physical constants which allow life. Drange argues that (1) God is a poor explanation, and that (2) there are better explanations than God for the combination of physical constants.

Can Creationism Be Scientific?

Theistic creationism cannot be scientific; on the other hand, naturalistic creationism could be a scientific theory. However, “that is a moot point and has no application to public policy. There are excellent reasons (of both a scientific and pedagogical sort) for teachers not to present or discuss the theory in any science class.”

The Arguments From Evil and Nonbelief

When God is conceived of as an all-powerful and all-loving deity, many arguments for his nonexistence can be raised. Two of the main ones are the Argument from Evil (hereafter abbreviated AE) and the Argument from Nonbelief (hereafter abbreviated ANB). In what follows, I shall provide precise formulations of those two arguments, make some comments about them, and then try to refute the main defenses (of God’s existence) that might be put forward against ANB, which I consider the stronger of the two. I take ANB to be a sound argument establishing the proposition that God (conceived of in a certain way) does not exist.

Concerning Theodore Drange’s Argument from Evil for the Nonexistence of God (2002) by Shandon Guthrie

“In the recent past, Professor Theodore Drange of West Virginia University has launched a twofold attack on traditional views of the existence of God. In a seminal article reproduced on the Secular Web’s site entitled “Arguments from Evil and Nonbelief,” Dr. Drange mounts a case against classic theism predicating its notion of an omnibenevolent God. His shorter articles have been subsequently maturated in his book, Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God. Although I find Drange’s approach to be erudite, I believe that his argument is dubious. This article explores the Argument from Evil as presented by Dr. Drange and suggests that the conclusion that God does not exist is not warranted.

Reply to Guthrie (2003) by Theodore Drange

Theodore Drange responds to Guthrie’s critique. Drange finds Guthrie’s essay “unclear,” and contends that Guthrie “erred in many ways,” including “misstating my views in many ways (and continuing such misstatements even in his concluding paragraph), … in trying to argue that God (were he to exist) is unable to reduce human suffering, and … in his attempt to formulate a divine desire that conflicts with God’s desire to reduce human suffering.”

The Argument from Nonbelief : A Rejoinder (2003) by Paul Pardi

In Nonbelief and Evil, Theodore Drange presents what he calls the Argument from Nonbelief against the existence of God: the fact that not all people believe the gospel message before they die provides grounds for denying that the Christian God exists. Pardi contends, however, that there are good reasons to deny that this inference goes through; he argues that given the nature of free persons, it is not within the set of logically possible states of affairs that God is able to actualize. Further, Pardi contends that Drange has an inadequate understanding of religious belief that should be rejected and replaced with a more robust formulation.

A Rebuttal to Pardi’s Criticism of ANB (2004) by Philip Kuchar

“I argue that Pardi’s criticisms of Drange’s version of the argument from nonbelief (ANB) do not refute ANB, although they may or may not require peripheral corrections or clarifications on Drange’s part. I focus not so much on Drange’s formulation, but on what I take to be the central intuitions of ANB and on the inadequacy of Pardi’s objections. I assume some familiarity with Pardi’s paper and with ANB, although I present what I consider to be ANB’s central claims.”

The Argument from the Bible

Almost all evangelical Christians believe that the writing of the Bible was divinely inspired and represents God’s main revelation to humanity. They also believe that the Bible contains special features which constitute evidence of its divine inspiration. This would be a use of the Bible to prove God’s existence within natural theology rather than within revealed theology, since the book’s features are supposed to be evident even to (open-minded) skeptics. Furthermore, since a divinely inspired work must be true, those features are thereby also evidence of the Bible’s truth, and thus can be used in support of Christianity as the one true religion. When expressed that way, the reasoning can be construed as an argument both for God’s existence and for the truth of the gospel message from the alleged special features of the Bible. We may refer to it as ‘the Argument from the Bible.