Keith M. Parsons | January 1, 2020 |
As skeptics see it, recent theistic arguments are pretty much old hat. Their basic modus operandi has always been the same: represent some aspect of the universe as requiring an explanation that no naturalistic hypothesis can provide, and then propose God as the only possible or most satisfactory solution. Skeptics retort that either no explanation is required, naturalistic accounts suffice, or God provides no uniquely satisfactory explanation. The details may change, but the pattern remains the same. The theistic pattern is exemplified in the work of Dallas Willard, particularly his three-stage argument for the existence of God. Willard argues that God is needed because the natural universe is not enough. In this response, Keith Parsons provides the standard retort: naturalism suffices to answer all legitimate questions, and the appeal to God is either useless or obscurantist.
J. C. Jackson | November 29, 2019 |
There's a discrepancy between the Gospel of Luke on the one hand, and the Gospels of Mark and Matthew on the other, as to where Jesus' disciples were instructed to stay after Jesus' resurrection. Luke has the post-Resurrection Jesus instructing them to stay in Jerusalem, whereas Mark and Matthew have him telling them to stay in Galilee. In an article for Apologetics Press, Eric Lyons attempts to explain away this discrepancy by positing that Jesus' post-Resurrection instructions to his disciples in Luke didn't necessarily happen on Easter Sunday, but could have happened on a subsequent day. In this response to Apologetics Press, however, J. C. Jackson points out that this interpretation is flatly inconsistent with the conclusions of innumerable Christian scholars and theologians. Worse still, it's inconsistent with the understanding of early Christians themselves, who were willing to simply remove references to an event in Luke's Gospel altogether in order to smooth over the timeline problems that keeping them would lay bare. But most damning of all, Jackson's direct analysis of the context clearly demonstrates that Apologetics Press' rationalization of the discrepancy immediately falls apart.
Stephen Nygaard | June 29, 2019 |
A paper written over twenty years proves a mathematical theorem purporting to show that a supernaturalistic explanation for the universe is not supported by the anthropic principle, the notion that the observed properties of the universe must be compatible with its observers since otherwise the observers couldn't exist. Although this theorem is undoubtedly correct, it is not a very useful argument against the fine-tuning argument, whose standard premise is that fine-tuning is extremely improbable if naturalism is true. In the present paper Stephen Nygaard explains this mathematical theorem, presents some criticisms of it, and examines some counterarguments to the fine-tuning argument in which this theorem does not play a significant role. Nygaard shows that other aspects of probability theory, particularly the odds form of Bayes' theorem, are much more useful in uncovering the shortcomings of the fine-tuning argument. In particular, the fine-tuning argument ultimately fails because theism is not an explanation of apparent fine-tuning at all in any practical sense, so even if naturalism were unable to explain apparent fine-tuning, theism would not be a better alternative.
Moshe Averick’s Nonsense of a High Order as a Model of the Flaws of Biblicist Denial of a Naturalistic Origin of Life
Michael D. Reynolds | May 31, 2019 |
In an earlier critique of Orthodox rabbi Moshe Averick's Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism, Michael D. Reynolds pointed out that Averick's book is typical of recent popular works attacking "atheism" in leaning on various informal logical fallacies. In this follow-up critique Reynolds focuses specifically on what Averick has to say about the "failure" of naturalistic accounts of the origin of life, which comprise forty-eight percent of the text of Nonsense of a High Order. Reynolds finds that Averick is ignorant of the nature of science and its principles, that he either does not know, or else fails to understand, the standard scientific explanations of the topics that he addresses, that this ignorance or incomprehension causes him to invent odd notions that completely misrepresent the standard scientific view, that he arbitrarily rejects standard scientific explanations without providing any substantial argument against them, and that he repeatedly asserts that something is true without offering any argument for its truth, among other things.
Michael D. Reynolds | April 24, 2019 |
Orthodox rabbi Moshe Averick's Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused World of Modern Atheism is in many ways typical of that niche of recent popular books that attack modern "atheism." The errors that plague Averick's own thinking are often found in other authors of similar works. For example, Averick repeatedly makes assertions without providing any arguments to back them up, fails to engage relevant research on the issues that he touches on, and misrepresents the views of his opponents. He also spills a great deal of ink critiquing idiosyncratic views of his opponents as if they were typical of nontheists as a whole, uncharitably attaches false meanings to his opponents' statements, and takes their words out of context. He both mischaracterizes how science is done and twists cherry-picked scientific findings to create the appearance that they support his own religiously informed positions. Projecting his own unwillingness "to consider anything that presents a challenge to his dearly held belief system" on to his opponents, Averick steadfastly advocates the existence of spirits and their frequent interaction with our world, that human minds involve a spiritual component, and that the Supreme Spirit sustaining the physical world has handed down rules for us to follow, dismissing naturalistic accounts of mind, meaning, and morality for the flimsiest of reasons.
Keith M. Parsons | January 1, 2019 |
The received view of Hume scholars is that Part I of David Hume's essay "Of Miracles" proffers an argument that it is never rational to accept a miracle claim on the basis on testimonial evidence. But even among those advocating the received view, there's debate about exactly what argument is being offered in Part I. More significantly, the received view of Part I is notoriously hard to reconcile with the four evidential arguments offered in Part II of the essay. For if no testimony would ever be sufficient to establish that a miracle has occurred under any circumstances, why bother to evaluate whether the testimony that we actually have is good enough to rationally accept that any miracles have in fact occurred? In this essay Keith Parsons reconciles Parts I and II of Hume's long-debated "Of Miracles" by interpreting Part I to be allowing the possibility that one could rationally affirm the occurrence of a miracle on the basis of testimony in an ideal case. Part II then simply aims to show that no actual miracle claims even come close to approximating the ideal case. That is, in Part I Hume the philosopher lays out exactly how heavy a burden of proof the miracle claimant must meet when miracle claims are directed toward the well-prepared skeptic. Then in Part II Hume the historian cites the historical evidence that has been offered for miracle claims to show how unlikely it is that any actual miracle claim can meet such a burden. These two parts combine to show that, while it is in principle possible to substantiate a miracle claim with human testimony, the actual circumstances of such claims disclose a vast gap between what is verifiable in principle and what is confirmable in practice.
Horia George Plugaru | January 1, 2019 |
In this essay Horia George Plugaru rebuts the skeptical theism response to the evidential argument from evil by employing an intuitive moral principle called the principle of theodical individualism. Although skeptical theists deny the existence of pointless evil, theodical individualism signals its existence. The only recourse left to skeptical theists is to fall into moral paralysis or make serious concessions to proponents of the evidential argument from evil.
Bart Klink | December 31, 2018 |
It is commonly held that science and religion are in conflict, but a number of sophisticated believers and historians have disputed this. They have pointed out that there has never been a state of continuous conflict between science and religion, and that many scientists have been religious. Though both of these points are true, neither speak to whether the content of religious doctrines remain tenable in light of various scientific developments. In this essay Bart Klink argues that there is indeed a genuine conflict between science and religion, and that it manifests itself on four different levels. Historically, there has been conflict between the content of religious doctrines and the developing body of scientific knowledge. Sociologically, scientists are significantly less religious than nonscientists, and people of faith explicitly reject scientific findings on religious grounds. In psychology, the cognitive science of religion has had a debunking effect by providing naturalistic explanations for religious beliefs that, while not strictly refuting them, nevertheless render supernatural accounts of their origins improbable. Finally, there has been a philosophical conflict in the sense that the sciences have made the existence of a personal God and other theistic claims (e.g., to divine revelations, miracles, and answered prayers) improbable. Science has historically 'desupernaturalized' phenomena and provided a coherent naturalistic big picture of the universe that has only lead to a monologue between science and religion—one in favor of science.
Aron Lucas | July 31, 2018 |
A family of theistic arguments contends that the human ability to reason is to be expected under theism, but is surprising under metaphysical naturalism, and thus provides evidence favoring theism over naturalism. One common line of argument is that unguided evolution favors traits that aid in survival and reproduction, rather than traits conducive to discovering the truth. Thus, evolutionary naturalism provides us with no reason to expect our cognitive faculties to be reliable, whereas theism does provide us with reason to believe that God would have created human beings with cognitive faculties aimed at discovering the truth. Several naturalists have responded with arguments that there is in fact significant survival and reproductive value in having accurate cognitive faculties, but in this paper Aron Lucas takes a different tact. Namely, Lucas argues that even if the general fact that human beings can reason favors theism over naturalism, nevertheless the more specific fact that human reasoning suffers from a variety of cognitive biases favors naturalism over theism. If this is right, then arguments from reason can only be deemed successful by understating the full extent of our knowledge concerning human reasoning, thereby committing what Paul Draper has called the fallacy of understated evidence. After fully outlining the available data concerning human reasoning, Lucas concludes that the existence of human cognitive biases does not merely neutralize the evidential significance of the human ability to reason, but in fact overpowers it, tipping the scales in favor of naturalism (all else held equal).
Aron Lucas | February 28, 2018 |
Matthew Wade Ferguson | December 31, 2017 |
The traditional authors of the canonical Gospels—Matthew the tax collector, Mark the attendant of Peter, Luke the attendant of Paul, and John the son of Zebedee—are not held to be the Gospels' actual authors by the majority of mainstream New Testament scholars. Christian apologists nevertheless produce a lot of material advocating the view that the Gospels are the eyewitness testimonies of either Jesus' disciples or their attendants. Much of the general public is unfamiliar with the mainstream scholarly view that the Gospels are anonymous works, written in a different language than that of Jesus, in distant lands, after a substantial gap of time, by unknown persons compiling, redacting, and inventing various traditions in order to provide a faith narrative of Christianity's central figure, Jesus Christ. While Matthew Wade Ferguson has previously discussed why scholars do not consider the Gospels to be historical documents, in this essay he explores a number of internal and external reasons why scholars doubt the traditional authorial attributions of the Gospels.
An Analysis of Arnold T. Guminski’s Alternative Version of the Application of Cantorian Theory to the Real World
Stephen Nygaard | October 31, 2017 |
William Lane Craig's kalam cosmological argument maintains that the universe had a beginning. One of his arguments for this premise aims to show that a beginningless universe is metaphysically impossible, either because an actual infinite cannot exist because it would result in counterintuitive absurdities, or because time consists of a temporal series of events formed by successive addition, and that it's not possible for any such series to be an actual infinite. In the first of two previous papers, Arnold T. Guminski presents his solution to the problem of counterintuitive absurdities, which he believes results from applying Cantorian theory to the real world. However, his alternative version of the application of Cantorian theory to the real world attempts to achieve by a priori methods what can only be accomplished a posteriori, raises the question of whether a set theory can be fully developed that is consistent with it, and addresses "counterintuitive absurdities" that are not absurdities at all. In his second paper, Guminski correctly argues that it's possible for time to have no beginning by showing that the totality of all time need not be formed by successive addition, but this argument succeeds independently of his alternative version of the application of Cantorian theory to the real world, rendering it unnecessary.
Stephen Sullivan | August 25, 2017 |
Does God command what is morally right because it is right, or is it right because God commands it? If God commands what is right because it is right, then rightness appears to be determined by moral standards that are independent of God's commands, and that God himself is morally required to obey, calling into question his status as Supreme Being. On the other hand, if what is right is right because God commands it, then there are no moral constraints on what God commands, rendering morality completely arbitrary: even horrific actions would be deemed right. This modernized Euthyphro dilemma can be converted into an argument against the existence of the God of traditional monotheism, a sovereign creator. Although this Socratic argument does not refute God's existence as a Supreme Being, it nevertheless underscores a serious challenge to theists who argue that morality requires the truth of theism.
Aron Lucas | August 3, 2017 |
In Hume's Abject Failure, philosopher John Earman argues that David Hume's famous maxim that no testimony is sufficient to establish that a miracle has occurred unless its falsehood would be more miraculous than the miracle itself is just a trivial tautology, namely that we should not believe a miracle claim unless the evidence makes it more probable than not. But even if this interpretation is correct, contemporary Christian apologists fail to satisfy Hume's purportedly obvious condition that it must be more probable that a miracle occurred than that it did not occur when they argue that the miraculous resurrection of Jesus probably occurred.
Craig Vander Hart | March 5, 2017 |
In Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God, Paul Copan attempts a bold apologetic of the Judeo-Christian God's moral status. The so-called new atheists see the biblical God as a promotor of genocide, slavery, murder, rape, and other immoral acts. But the only serious objections to the biblical God's moral status are passages in which immoral acts are clearly done because of God's will, or are explicitly approved of by God. Even with this caveat, however, the Bible clearly prescribes immoral behavior that Copan cannot explain away in this fashion. Premarital sex is explicit grounds for divorce or execution of a wife, but not of a husband; rape warrants punishment when a married woman is raped, but not when an unmarried one is violated; the fathers of female victims of rape can refuse marriage to their rapist, but not the victims themselves; peoples who simply do not accept the dominant theology of Israel should be executed in war, making exception for the traumatized adolescent girls of conquered nations, whom Israelite soldiers can "spare" for themselves; and so on. In order to maintain his belief that Yahweh is morally perfect, Copan must explain away any Old Testament evidence of God's moral culpability in light of the more loving and inclusive New Testament passages. But this does not provide an objective examination of the biblical God's moral status, and thus will only appeal to Christians who are worried the about possibility that their God might be a moral monster.
Matthew Wade Ferguson | December 31, 2016 |
Unlike historical writing, the New Testament Gospels read like ancient prose novelistic literature. Outside of Luke, the Gospel authors say nothing about any textual sources for Jesus that they consulted, and even Luke does not name, explain, or discuss the relevance of any historical sources. In fact, Luke only mimics historical prose for a few brief lines before merely venerating Jesus in the stories that he relates. None of the Gospel authors explain how they came to learn of the alleged events that they relate (though John claims an unnamed eyewitness disciple of Jesus that he probably invented). Instead, the Gospels narrate "events" from an all-knowing perspective that places them within a literary genre unlike that of actual historical works from antiquity. In this essay Matthew Wade Ferguson discusses ten important ways in which the Gospels fall short of the research, independent corroboration, methodology, and critical investigation typical of the historical writing of their time.
Jeffery Jay Lowder | December 20, 2016 |
In a popular article about general arguments from evil against the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good God, William Lane Craig raises objections to such arguments that are consistent with those he earlier raised against Paul Draper's evidential pain-and-pleasure argument from evil in an oral debate with Draper in 1998. In this article Jeffrey Jay Lowder considers whether Craig's points have any force in rebutting Draper's writings on his pain-and-pleasure argument, ultimately concluding that they leave Draper's argument unscathed.
Michael D. Reynolds | June 6, 2016 |
An often overlooked religious criticism of biological evolution focuses on the alleged ethical consequences of accepting it, particularly increased immorality and harmfulness. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds describes and critiques one such criticism, that provided by biblical literalist John MacArthur and his historical forebears documented in Charles Sprading's Science Versus Dogma and Maynard Shipley's The War on Modern Science. MacArthur makes seven chief assertions about the ethical consequences of accepting evolution: (1) that naturalism and its acceptance of evolution removes the foundation of morality and causes immorality; (2) that accepting evolution prevents belief in spiritual things; (3) that acceptance of evolution entails that humans are no better than animals; (4) that conceding evolution robs human life of meaning or purpose; (5) that naturalism and its acceptance of evolution leads to nihilism; and that evolutionary concepts laid the groundwork for (6) Communist and (7) Nazi ideology. Reynolds concludes that MacArthur's assertions exemplify the rejection of rational, evidential thinking in favor of unquestioning credulity.
Richard M. Smith | February 11, 2016 |
In Where the Conflict Really Lies, Alvin Plantinga maintains that any apparent conflict between science and classical Christian theism is superficial at best, and that the real conflict lies between science and the "quasi-religion" of naturalism. In fact, because there is evidence of biological and cosmological "fine-tuning," he claims, science may even provide evidence that God exists. In this review Richard M. Smith critiques what Plantinga has to say about three main topics: design arguments that purport to show a deep concord between science and theism, scientific challenges to theism from biological evolution and divine action in the world, and Plantinga's frontal assault on naturalism—that thinking would be impossible and cognition would be unreliable if naturalism were true.
Arnold T. Guminski | January 1, 2016 |
In this paper Arnold T. Guminski examines the modal ontological argument based upon possible worlds semantics expounded by Alvin Plantinga and further developed and defended by William Lane Craig. In section A Guminski discloses the flawed underlying assumptions of this Plantinga modal ontological argument (PMOA). In section B he defends the "anti - Plantinga modal ontological argument - argument" (or anti-PMOA-argument) by showing that a maximally great being is not broadly logically possible. In section C Guminski shows that the anti-PMOA-argument is amply confirmed since the procedure used to construct the PMOA plausibly allows the construction of arguments relevantly similar to the PMOA, but inconsistent with it. Section D explains why that which is broadly logically possible/necessary ought to be distinguished from that which is metaphysically possible/necessary. Section E considers the plausibility of premise 1 of the PMOA according to the writings of other scholars.
Ryan Stringer | January 1, 2016 |
A little reflection will show that many religious beliefs and practices have absurd implications. In this paper Ryan Stringer provides several examples of such absurdities and defends them against potential objections. Some of the moral absurdities considered include: the belief that an innocent person like Jesus could pay for the sins of wrongdoers; that God could be simultaneously tyrannical and loving; that a morally perfect God could create a maximally miserable place like Hell; that God wants to form loving relationships with us while simultaneously hiding from us; and that a loving heavenly father also wants us to genuinely fear him. In addition, it is absurd to believe that an all-knowing and all-powerful God needs people to do his work for him instead of doing it himself; that, despite knowing what is best for us, God nevertheless alter his plans in response to prayer; that a maximally good God would create a maximally evil being like Satan knowing Satan's evil nature ahead of time; or that there could be a genuine struggle between good and evil even though God has predetermined everything to happen exactly as he intends. Stringer wraps up his discussion with an appendix on the absurdities generated by a divine command metaethics that maintains that there is nothing morally wrong with anything that God might do so long as God approves of his own actions, for God's approval (and his approval alone) automatically renders any action morally right.
Aron Lucas | December 30, 2015 |
If the values of the physical constants of our universe were even slightly different, life could not exist. Some have argued that the fact that life does exist thus provides strong evidence that God fine-tuned these values to allow life to emerge. According to the fine-tuning argument, the existence of a life-permitting universe is very improbable on naturalism, but not so on theism. However, we have no way of determining the probability or improbability of actualizing a life-permitting universe on naturalism, for we can only compare our universe against the infinitesimally small subset of other possible universes that have the same physical laws—not the infinite set of all other possible universes.
Stephen Sullivan | May 30, 2015 |
Karen Stollznow's God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States teaches us quite a bit about fundamentalist Mormonism, Amish and Mennonite Protestantism, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity, Afro-Caribbean religions, exorcism and Satanism, Scientology, New Age spirituality, and Quakerism. But it also has countless substantive, stylistic, and even grammatical flaws, and it is doubtful that she succeeds in providing her intended "sensitive but factual" and appropriately critical portrayal of the groups that she discusses. But despite these flaws, it is informative enough, interesting enough, and occasionally perceptive enough to be worth reading.
Aron Lucas | April 22, 2015 |
The key premise of the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God is the alleged improbability of the physical constants taking on values that fall within the narrow life-friendly range. In this paper Aron Lucas examines whether this improbability alone is enough to ground a successful theistic argument from design. He concludes that the fine-tuning proponent is impaled on the horns of a trilemma: he can either reject the argument for having a false premise, reject it for being circular, or accept it at the cost of rejecting the moral argument for the existence of God.
Jeffery Jay Lowder | January 1, 2015 |
Atheistic Outreach Pro-Outreach Advice from an Agnostic Baptist Minister: Culture-Jamming Theistic Memes Effectively…but Respectfully (n.d.) by Anonymous “Culture jamming the theistic memes” is a perfectly legitimate enterprise if that is what one believes will make a positive difference in the world. Keep in mind, however, that it will be most successful reaching those not already […]
Ryan Stringer | January 1, 2015 |
If any of a number of the universe's physical constants had been even slightly different, then life as we know it could not exist. According to the fine-tuning argument, the extreme improbability of the actual constants having, by chance, their uniquely life-permitting values suggests that they were "fine-tuned" by God to allow life to exist. But there are at least two fatal problems with the fine-tuning argument. First, if the fine-tuning argument's premises hold, then its conclusion does not, since a parallel "divine-pruning" argument yields the opposite conclusion using the exact same line of reasoning. Second, the fine-tuning argument wrongly assumes that the extreme improbability of a unique outcome's occurrence by chance in this lottery-like context implies that that outcome did not occur by chance. Both problems show that the fine-tuning argument does not justify theism or even supernaturalism more generally.
Michael Moore | January 1, 2015 |
(2015) One can readily find evidence of the low regard that various religions have for the disabled. Like religious misogyny (or “hatred of women”: see Kramer & Moore, 2002), prejudicial practices against the disabled often have doctrinal justification. In this essay I (a) cite scriptural sources for these attitudes, (b) describe some of the discriminatory […]
Michael D. Reynolds | October 23, 2014 |
Theology professor Alister McGrath's Christian Theology: An Introduction is a clear and comprehensive theology textbook that is balanced, at least, when presenting conflicting Christian opinions. This review by Michael Reynolds from the perspective of a nonbeliever is not intended to be comprehensive, but focuses on McGrath's treatment of issues found to be incomplete or misleading, or otherwise his omissions of discussion (or even mention) of large and important topics within Christianity. Some of these topics include the pernicious effects of Christian theology on social progress (such as equal rights for men and women), the conflict between science and religion, Christianity's history of suppression of thought by imprisonment, torture, and murder, religious wars, and rationalization of the conquest of non-Christian cultures. In short, McGrath neglects a large swath of issues close to the heart of Christianity in a way that suggests that Christian theology is taught in order to promote a set of fictions.
Don McIntosh | January 1, 2014 |
Transcending Proof: A Reply to Richard Carrier (2014) Don McIntosh Introduction Many years ago I remember hearing that while becoming the first man to orbit the Earth, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had looked out into the black void of space and remarked: “I don’t see any God up here.” Gagarin’s 1961 journey into space was […]
Ryan Stringer | January 1, 2014 |
Is God needed for life to be meaningful? Is it even conceivable that the meaning of life could be found in God? Would the existence of God, one way or the other, have any implications for the meaning of life at all? And what exactly do we mean by the meaning of life, anyway? Ryan Stringer touches on these and related questions in order to elucidate the relationship between the existence of God and the meaning of life.