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Richard Carrier Carrier Wanchick Wanchick4

Wanchick’s Closing Statement (2006)


Basic Argument for Naturalism (BAN)

Per Carrier, P1 assumes science specifically is the “most reliable method” for finding truth. Scientific indication is sufficient for belief. But Carrier’s opening statement failed to demonstrate that science (or any discipline) provides a sufficient condition for belief. He now says it’s obvious that science is best at “ascertaining the truth in every matter of fact.” But even if it tells us about “astrophysics and biology,” that doesn’t mean it is the most reliable method for resolving all factual matters. If science conflicts with other disciplines, why believe science? Indeed, to say science tells us about all matters absurdly entails that it is the authority in literature, history, and ethics, too! Carrier ultimately gives no justification for scientism.[1] P1 is question-begging.

Moreover, even if science were the best “method,” that still wouldn’t prove scientific support sufficient for belief. As I said, leading epistemologists find it possible to have properly basic beliefs not based on evidence or “methods.” These could allegedly defeat scientific (or any) counterevidence.[2] Why accept Carrier’s epistemology over these? He says it’s impossible for properly basic beliefs to contradict science, since science is based on them. But he gives no reason to affirm that claim. He thus fails to substantiate his epistemology, leaving P1 unjustified.

What about P2? Laughably, to demonstrate this highly controversial premise, Carrier just announces that naturalism has been scientifically vindicated “millions” of times, whereas theism has never been. However, he has merely mentioned three of these alleged “millions,” and again, they don’t touch BT, since it doesn’t hold such views. Carrier claims it did until science disproved them. But where has he shown that?[3] He says unlike CN, no predictions “uniquely implied” by BT have been scientifically confirmed. But I already gave examples as “unique” as CN’s alleged confirmations. And even if BT has no such confirmations, Carrier hasn’t cited any plausible ones in CN’s favor, either. That substance dualism and a supernatural creator aren’t scientifically proven is irrelevant, as those are metaphysical claims, not scientific ones. Similarly, CN is a metaphysical claim unprovable by science alone. Nonetheless, BT is superior scientifically: science aids philosophical theistic arguments (e.g., kalam, fine-tuning) and disconfirms CN’s predictions.

Carrier derides my examples of scientifically verified theistic predictions for failing to show a supernatural person as the cause. But I recite his rejoinder: naturalists used to predict that the fossil record would contain myriad transitions[4], the universe was beginningless[5], and cellular life was simple[6], while theists predicted or were open to contradictory findings. In short, theism’s predictions have been scientifically supported through the ages, while CN has been repeatedly disconfirmed.

I also said contemporary confirmation of Jesus’ resurrection and the existence of nonphysical properties[7] vindicate BT over CN. Carrier says these are unestablished, since they are supported by “dubious” disciplines. But who established that history and metaphysics are “less reliable” than science? Carrier himself said nonscientific conclusions are unobjectionable if they don’t contradict science. But since he hasn’t shown that the Resurrection or nonphysical properties contradict science, they count as evidence against CN.

Basic Argument to Naturalism as the Best Explanation (BANBE)

BANBE says worldviews that explain the universe best should necessarily be believed. Carrier complains I never gave reason to disbelieve this. But I didn’t have to, for again, Carrier hasn’t given reason to believe it true. Why hold such an epistemological theory? The premise is question-begging.

Carrier incorrectly says I never showed that Plantinga has abandoned P3. I cited his renowned books on the topic, which clearly dispute that premise, as do many epistemologists. Indeed, even if I couldn’t cite top scholars, Carrier still hasn’t justified P3.

Finally, BANBE accomplishes nothing since Carrier never establishes P4. Of course, he goes on to argue that certain features support CN, but those are separate arguments standing on their own. Taken in isolation, BANBE just begs a huge question with its final premise.

Argument from Divine Inaction (ADI)

Carrier says ADI demonstrates that, given BT, we wouldn’t expect the suffering we find in the actual world. But that can’t be ADI’s conclusion, for that’s one of its premises (P10). P10 is not even a subconclusion of premises P6 through P8, since they conclude merely that “there is no evidence that a BT God exists.” Even if that were true, it doesn’t follow that the suffering in the world is unexpected given BT. Nothing in ADI even purports to prove that. Thus, as I noted, Carrier never substantiates P10.

I also said P6 should be rejected, as it never mentions that duties vary depending on circumstance. Carrier now admits this, but says God won’t have limiting circumstances. However, P6 originally made no moral qualifications. Refurbished opening arguments are disallowed in a debate context. P6 remains false.

Even allowing the change, why believe God has no limiting moral circumstances? Carrier merely offers a courtroom analogy: if a person kills another, we can’t presume he has a sufficient reason. The analogy fails, though, since God doesn’t commit evils, but merely allows some. Moreover, we also cannot presume the person had no sufficient reason. We’d have to know beyond reasonable doubt he lacked such reason. Otherwise, we’d presume him innocent (until proven guilty). But then why affirm God has no good reason for allowing suffering? Carrier never says, thus begging the question. Indeed, Plantinga, Alston, and others have shown why we typically can’t, without revelation, decipher why God would allow much suffering.[8]

I also noted ADI’s invalidity: C4 doesn’t follow from P8. There are theistic arguments that possibly support BT without mentioning God’s actions. So, at least in principle, one could have evidence of God regardless of His actions. Carrier responds that “evidence of a God without evidence of his moral character” falls short of BT. Two problems: (i) We can have evidence of God’s moral character without evidence of His acts; hence, my examples of the argument from desire[9] or ontological arguments. Even moral arguments often achieve this.[10] (ii) We can have evidence of BT without evidence of God’s moral nature. If I proved a Trinitarian, omniscient, omnipotent being created the universe from nothing, and became incarnate in Jesus, that would clearly be evidence of BT (a Christian form), although I haven’t technically proven this being good.

I also noted that P8 is question-begging: what evidence of God’s moral action should we expect? Carrier says we need “proof that God acts as BT requires.” But BT merely says God will act consistently with Christian ethics. This doesn’t indicate that we’d see any more “evidence” of God’s goodness than we already do. P8 is unestablished.

I mentioned P8 is also undercut by millions of testimonies to God’s moral acts.[11] Carrier has to show P8 more plausible than these. He replies that such stories don’t prove the BT God. But P8 only says we have no evidence of “any God” so acting. My examples disprove at least that. Moreover, people do have reason for thinking God is the cause: He’s the One they worship and pray to. He is, therefore, prima facie, the best candidate. Carrier complains that I cite no cases to examine. But he’s the one claiming to know that God’s moral acts are never witnessed. This presumes all such experiences are false. Without reason to believe that, P8 is not more reasonable than its contradictory.

I also questioned P9: why “expect” a world with miserable, suffering persons if only natural causes can exist? Why not millions of other naturalistic worlds? Carrier says P9 doesn’t predict things to a “precise degree.” That’s false, though, since P9 says the “actual state” of suffering is “exactly” what we’d “expect” on CN. Because he can’t prove this, Carrier tries changing the premise, again contradicting debating rules. Ultimately, Carrier admits he has to show his naturalistic explanation of suffering “more probable” than BT’s. That repeats my prior point: why believe a suffering world is probable on CN? He just says sentience produces misery without supernaturalism. But that never justifies P9, for it never states the probability that naturalism would produce such a world, nor that naturalism makes this more probable than BT.

Indeed, I already noted that P9 appears false, as fine-tuning, life, and humans are basically impossible given naturalism. If it is virtually impossible that natural causes would produce these things, then, given their reality, CN is virtually impossible.

The Argument from Mind-Brain Dysteleology (AMBD)

P11 entails my human mind can exist immaterially in some PW. But if my mind is made of matter, as Carrier indicates, when “we take away all the parts, everything else will cease.” Without matter, the mind can’t exist. This means that those parts are necessary for my mind’s existence. But that, by definition, means there’s no PW where it exists without the parts. But since there is such a PW (as Carrier admits), it follows that human minds are immaterial, and CN is disproved.[12]

I also remarked that just because BMs are more efficient than our minds, it doesn’t follow that all moral persons would “bestow a BM upon all children and an EM on none.” For those choices aren’t exhaustive: maybe most would bestow humans with invincible EMs. Carrier complains that he was merely saying most would rather give BMs than our actual EMs. But P12 doesn’t say that; it merely says most people would bestow BMs universally. But, again, we don’t have reason for affirming that.

Carrier could retort that God would give us either a BM or an invincible EM. But since he never made that argument originally, he can’t alter it now. AMBD fails.

Carrier says my affirmation that God has a body contradicts His immateriality. That’s false, though: at best, God’s body can exist physically; God Himself doesn’t, since He’s a soul. Moreover, Christ’s body is non-natural and can seemingly transcend spatial location (e.g., John 20:26).

Carrier never sufficiently answers my argument that basing AMBD on the Golden Rule (GR) makes no sense, for God is necessarily uncreated. He says God doesn’t want us to be harmed. But why attribute that to an alleged adherence to GR? Rather, it seems based on God’s loves for us. Carrier never overcomes my point that GR won’t apply to God’s creation. P13 is without support.

I questioned P18, too: why think we’d observe physical minds on CN? Carrier just says the minds we observe must be physical lest CN be falsified. But that never shows that CN expects or explains such minds. Similarly, for BT to be true, it has to be true that God allows the suffering we find. But Carrier would not therefore say BT explains or predicts suffering. Since P18 never shows that CN predicts or explains EMs, CN can’t be said to do so better than BT.

Finally, even if God preferred to give us BMs, it doesn’t necessarily follow that He would. Possibly, He has sufficient reason not to. Carrier says this is implausible, since we don’t see such reason. But why believe we’d perceive God’s reasons? Because Carrier never says, there’s no reason to think God is able bestow us all with BMs given his considerations, motives, and circumstances. P13 is not more plausible than its negation.

Atheistic Cosmological Argument (ACA)

Carrier summarizes ACA, saying it proves that CN predicts “certain general characteristics” of the universe that BT does not. He notes that since the universe must have the features it does to host naturalistic life, given life, we’d expect a naturalistic universe to have these features. But God can make life in a life-permitting universe with different characteristics. As I noted, the problem here is that this doesn’t show that the conditions of life are more probable on CN than BT. For even if these conditions must exist for CN to produce life, what is the probability that natural forces alone would in fact produce such a universe? Analogously, for suffering to exist on BT, God would have to allow it. But Carrier would never say BT “predicts” or explains suffering.

Carrier says BT doesn’t expect these features since God could make millions of different universes. But the same point confronts CNnatural causes could make millions of other worlds. Thus, the probability they’d make this one seems vanishingly small. But then there’s no reason to think our universe is more probable on CN than BT.

Even more, Carrier ignores my point that P21 seems untrue, as sentient life could exist in, say, an eternal universe or one with a history of rapid mutations. But then it’s false that naturalism expects a Darwinian history for life, and P21 falters.

Indeed, not only do we have no reason to expect such a world given naturalism, we have ample reason to believe it incomprehensibly improbable. For fine-tuning, the origin of life, and the origin of humans all have virtually zero probability without a deity. And a world with all three of these is even less probable. Since we have no reason to think these are improbable if God exists, BT makes such features more epistemically probable than CN does.

Carrier’s replies to my fine-tuning argument were weak. He admitted the origin of life is highly improbable in his opening statement. And he never disputed my claim that the reality of humans is virtually impossible given CN. I’m not inconsistent in denying Darwinism. I think it is unlike the Big Bang and fine-tuning: it is overridden by counterevidence. Alas, Carrier is inconsistent: he disputes the scientific consensus when it rejects multiverse theories, but follows it on Darwinism. Moreover, he didn’t cite the authoritative support for Darwinism in his opening statement, and he opposes it on other scientific theories. He can’t appeal to authority now, for that would be adding to opening arguments, which, again, is disallowed. At any rate, I previously gave evidence against evolutionism, which rebuts authority appeals. As such, Carrier never substantiates any alleged Darwinian Earth history, leaving P21 unsupported.

Moreover, even given evolution, why believe it naturalistic? That’s a philosophical claim not provable by science alone. Thus, evolution wouldn’t indicate CN.[13] Carrier says irreducible or specified complexity has no “scientific research” as support, but this is false.[14] Science doesn’t say mental or moral properties couldn’t evolve; metaphysics tells us that. Carrier admits the fossil record doesn’t show evolutionary development, but says that is irrelevant. But Darwin himself predicted vast transitional fossils, as have top evolutionists ever since. Carrier says there’s enough time between the fossils; undiscovered transitions could’ve occurred between. But that’s false in many cases, like the Cambrian Explosion. Moreover, it’s curious that we keep finding the nontransitional fossils and not the alleged millions of transitions. Evolutionism doesn’t predict that; creation does.[15]

Carrier tries to support P22, repeating his moniker that if God created the universe, it would be “immediately” and “universally” hospitable to life. He likewise repeats his failure to justify that assertion. He never even mentions my prior criticisms of it; P22 has no proven support.[16]

Finally, philosophers of sciencethe experts on the definition of scienceuniversally hold creation research to be valid science[17]; the NAS’s opinions on the issue don’t matter.

Argument from Nonlocality (ANL)

Carrier did explicitly argue that if God is nonspatial, He’s impossible. He said, “if God has no location … [this] entails that God does not exist.”

Since he can’t overcome my refutations, he now concedes the possibility of spaceless entities, but says we’re without reason to think “nonspatial locations” exist. But that’s irrelevant, since BT says God exists at no location, let alone a nonspatial one. Indeed, the idea of a nonspatial location is incoherent: space is a necessary condition for location.

I also gave possible counterexamples to the idea that all things have locations. Carrier just declares that these exist spatially. But he never gives reason to believe so. Until he does, his claim that we have no reason to believe nonspatial things exist isn’t more plausible than its denial.

Carrier’s fairy analogy should be discarded, for it works only if fairies are essentially spatial. If they are immaterial and nonspatial, then the statement “Fairies don’t exist anywhere” would in fact be a true statement.

Argument from Physical Minds (APM)

APM, is not, as Carrier asserts, an argument against BT. For it concludes that “we have no reason to believe that any BT God exists.” Therefore, even if cogent, it wouldn’t falsify BT, but merely show it without evidence. Unfortunately, as I noted, even the original conclusion is a non sequitur: we could have reasons to believe theism without ever observing minds without matter. Carrier never addresses this criticism. It thus stands and APM is refuted.

Carrier says APM neither implies nor requires the falsity of substance dualism. But, as I said, if minds are immaterial, CN is false, as Carrier admits that souls are metaphysically impossible on CN. Moreover, Carrier admits it isn’t impossible for minds (like God’s) to exist without matter. But then BT is possible, unlike CN. APM backfires. Alternatively, if APM says minds are material, it is question-begging, since Carrier hasn’t justified materialism.

Also, Carrier’s explanation of our alleged failure to experience disembodied minds seems no better than rival explanations. We’ve never contacted, say, extraterrestrials, but that doesn’t indicate their nonexistence. Why would our failure to contact disembodied minds indicate this?

Carrier responds that we know extraterrestrials can exist. Even if true, that’s unimportant. For if we are agnostic about their existence, our failure to experience extraterrestrials wouldn’t show them improbable. Carrier merely repeats his statement that “so far as we know, [disembodied minds] don’t exist anywhere.” But the question is whether this indicates their nonexistence, or our failure to perceive them. Carrier fails to answer this, thus failing to show such minds inductively improbable.

Against my appeal to the endless religious experiences had by humans, Carrier says they don’t reveal a disembodied mind. But they do: God is the prima facie cause, since He’s the deity the experiencing humans worship. Though his sources say such experiences are natural, I can cite better thinkers who argue otherwise.[18] Carrier gives no good reason to think immaterial minds have never been experienced.

[1] For good critiques of scientism, see: J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987); J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen, Does God Exist? (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1990); Paul Moser and David Yandell, “Farewell to Philosophical Naturalism” in Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, ed. J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig (London: Routledge, 2000). See also Roderick Chisholm’s works on epistemology.

[2] See famously Alvin Plantinga, Warrant: The Current Debate (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Warrant and Proper Function (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). See also the epistemology articulated by William Lane Craig in his “Classical Apologetics” in Five Views on Apologetics, ed. Steven Cowan (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), and William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003). See the various important works by Roderick Chisholm, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and others in the reformed epistemology school, as well as Michael Bergmann’s works.

[3] For more on the science vs. theism myth, see: Robert Koons, “Science and Theism: Concord, Not Conflict” in The Rationality of Theism, ed. Paul Copan and Paul Moser (New York: Routledge, 2003); J.P. Moreland, Christianity and the Nature of Science (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989); Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards, The Privileged Planet (Regnery, 2004); Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004).

[4] Darwin noted this in On the Origin of Species. Other examples are in Henry Morris, That There Words May Be Used Against Them (Master Books, 1997), and Robert Carroll, Pattern and Processes of Vertebrate Paleontology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), e.g., p. 391. See also the works of Stephen Jay Gould, James Valentine, and myriad other Darwinian scientists.

[5] See, for example, the historical analysis on this issue in William Lane Craig, “Tough Questions About Science” in Who Made God?, ed. Norman L. Geisler (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003).

[6] See Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box (New York: Free Press, 1996), and Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.

[7] See J.P. Moreland, “Naturalism and the Ontological Status of Properties” in Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, and Paul Copan, “The Moral Argument” in The Rationality of Theism.

[8] See The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996), and Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief.

[9] On the argument from desire, see Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, The Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994); cf. <www.peterkreeft.com>.

[10] For example, my moral argument in “Wanchick’s Opening Statement.”

[11] For remarkable stories, see the works of Corrie Ten Boom. See also academic works like William Alston, Perceiving God (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), and R. Douglas Geivett, “The Argument from Religious Experience” in The Rationality of Theism.

[12] On this modal argument for dualism, see: J.P. Moreland, Body and Soul (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999); David H. Lund, The Conscious Self (Humanity Books, 2005); Richard Swinburne, The Evolution of the Soul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

[13] See the interesting comments by Craig in this regard in “Tough Questions About Science” in Who Made God?.

[14] See the various works by Michael Behe, Scott Minnich, Stephen Meyer, and William Dembski in this regard.

[15] Excellent nonevolutionary interpretations of the fossil record are found in Kurt Wise, “The Origins of Life’s Major Groups” in The Creation Hypothesis, ed. J.P. Moreland (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 1994), and Wise’s Faith, Form, and Time (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2004). See also the various essays in Mere Creation, ed. William Dembski (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), and Duane Gish, Evolution? The Fossils Still Say No! (Masters Books, 1995).

[16] Such arguments are refuted in philosopher James Sennett’s “The Inefficient God: A Rebuttal of Quentin Smith’s Atheistic Anthropic Argument.” Philosophia Christi 4 (2002): 455-66.

[17] Moreland references this in The Creation Hypothesis; see also Norman L. Geisler, Origins Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987).

[18] See the resources in note 11.

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