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Wanchick's Second Rebuttal (2006)

 

Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

Carrier says the "only evidence" I offer that the universe is non-necessary is scientific. Not at all; I first noted that "the universe appears obviously contingent": we can easily conceive of its nonexistence. Carrier never challenges this. Alas, he concedes it, stating that possibly nothing or a different (e.g., Taoist) world could exist. But admitting the universe's possible nonexistence concedes its contingency. Indeed, Carrier can't think space-time is explained by necessity, as he writes, "something must exist without any explanation at all, so it may as well be the multiverse."[1] Moreover, why believe "scientists now agree that we cannot know whether the whole of existence had a beginning"? This is false in light of Hawking's confession that most scientists (himself included) hold that space and time had a beginning. Does Carrier know the consensus better than Hawking? To support his claim, he merely footnotes his statements about the respectability of "multiverse" theory.

But Carrier there admits "multiverse theories" are not a "consensus position."[2] He must reject them, too, since his ANL disqualifies belief in other spaces. Moreover, Carrier's only scientific support is the chaotic inflationary and "Smolin selection" models. However, in his book he says the latter is less plausible than the former, and that chaotic inflation has no evidence supporting it over rivals.[3] Even fellow naturalist Jeff Lowder thinks such theories are "highly speculative" and do nothing to support CN.[4] Regardless, even if the chaotic inflationary model were plausible, its originator admits it entails a beginning.[5]

Carrier's unsubstantiated proclamation that cosmological singularities are rejected by most scientists does nothing to circumvent the universe's origin. A singularity is not necessary for space-time's finitude; time could begin without a beginning point, as Barrow and others observe.[6]

Ultimately, as Carrier admits, the Big Bang model has strong evidence and multiverse theories don't. We're then left with good scientific reason to accept only the former. The contingency of the cosmos confronts us scientifically.

Carrier asserts that possibly a being whose existence begins or ends is necessary. But the only way an originating being can be necessary is if it's necessarily created by a necessary being. But then a metaphysically necessary transcendent cause exists and CN is false. Moreover, a being that can cease isn't necessary, since there's a possible world where it's nonexistent.

He then says I didn't show that every substance has an explanation, alleging my only support for this is based on our "observations regarding the effects of the universe." Again, not so; I first said the plausibility of this initially stems from the a priori reasonableness of explanation over nonexplanation. Confronted with any substance (inside or outside the universe), everyone would presume it has an explanation rather than not. Carrier himself says, "The important questions that remain are why the Big Bang happened ... and produced this particular universe."[7] He also concedes that immaterial minds and other universes would have explanations, though they're not effects of the universe. Thus, rather than challenging my claim about such a priori probability, he confirms it.

Moreover, for any substance, no one would accept nonexplanation when there is even a tentative credible explanation available. However, if explanation and nonexplanation are equally plausible, this wouldn't hold. Thus, unless Carrier can posit a plausible naturalistic explanation, or show a supernatural one untenable, it's most reasonable to accept the latter.

Carrier does assert the impossibility of a timeless, spaceless agent, but provides no argument. Indeed, such a concept is prima facie coherent. He also says since there is no time without the universe there could be no prior cause. But this only implies that there can't be a cause temporally prior; it doesn't show the impossibility of an ontologically prior one.

Furthermore, why is the inductive evidence for this premise insufficient? Surely, our unfailing experience that objects have explanations supports it. If unexplainable substances can exist, why don't we find any? Carrier says we can't extrapolate from our experience to reality as a whole. But he routinely does so, e.g., in his arguments against immaterial minds and atemporal causes. He can't therefore dismiss my inductive arguments for making such extrapolations; he'll have to criticize them on independent grounds (as I've done with his). Since he doesn't, the argument remains cogent.

Finally, Carrier says the universe could be explained by the fact that "it is in the nature of the universe to exist." This, however, implies a necessary universe, which we found false. His claim that the universe could cause itself makes no sense: A thing must exist in order to cause something. As for his question concerning which metaphysically necessary being would've caused the universe, I answered that previously: an immaterial mind having unsurpassed knowledge and power, transcending space-time.

Kalam Cosmological Argument

Carrier tries dismissing the scientific evidence for the universe's origin, but as we saw, he's unsuccessful. I also mentioned philosophical reasons for believing space-time finite. An infinite series can't be crossed. But since the end--the present--has been reached, the set of past events is finite. Carrier says this begs the question by presuming a "starting point." But the argument says no such thing. In fact, the lack thereof only means one could never begin traversing an infinite and so would certainly never finish.[8] Carrier's claim that if there are infinite past events "there are an infinite number of actual places we could have appeared in that series" is false, since events (e.g., our origin) occur at the present--the last event. Regardless, as I highlighted, wherever one is in an infinite series of things, there will always be infinite ahead such that the end won't be reached.

I also argued that an infinite set of things can't exist because it results in metaphysical absurdities. We could, e.g., subtract infinite cars from infinite cars and have varying remainders. Carrier responds that we do this in mathematics. But that's irrelevant, for I noted that those procedures are inapplicable to real things. I can subtract eight from two and get negative six mathematically; not so with objects. Thus, I follow Craig in saying "my argument does not require ... that mathematical theories of the infinite are incoherent. It is the real existence of the actual infinite I reject."[9]

Carrier also challenges my first premise. But given our constant experience, surely it's most plausible that all originating objects have causes. Carrier disputes this only by claiming that "we have no knowledge of what might hold outside the controls of the known universe." But as I noted, Carrier himself routinely claims such knowledge (e.g., no timeless causation). Moreover, we obviously know that, e.g., lions and spaceships couldn't arise if nothing else existed. So the objection is simply false.

Of course, Carrier never challenges my earlier defense stating we have a metaphysical intuition affirming this premise. Per Craig, "since metaphysical intuitions are indispensable, we have no recourse but to accept those that press upon us and for which we have no defeaters."[10]

Lastly, I argued that since CN disallows any potential universe, then, in accord with Carrier's statements on potentiality, it disallows an actual one.[11] Carrier only responds that the potential didn't exist because there was no time or place for it. Right; therefore CN disallows such potential and the universe would've never become actual. Since it is actual, CN is false; the universe had a supernatural cause existing timelessly and immaterially without it.

Carrier inconsistently extrapolates from space-time's lack of temporal causes that we "have no reason" to think they exist at all. But we do: there was no time without the universe and thus the cause of the universe existed timelessly. Moreover, the cause could've occurred simultaneously with the start of the universe, therefore occurring temporally. Even prominent atheists find this argument fallacious.[12]

Design of/in the Universe

Fine-Tuning

Carrier says Hawking does not find a life-permitting cosmos improbable. But, as I noted, the vast scientific consensus would disagree, as Robin Collins, the foremost expert on fine-tuning, notes. Thus, scholarship sides with me, not Carrier. Indeed, Carrier doesn't view Hawking as sufficiently authoritative anyway, for Carrier himself rejects Hawking's position that space-time has an origin.

Regardless, Hawking here is simply suggesting Linde's chaotic inflationary model, which we found wanting.[13] Anyway, this hypothesis requires fine-tuning anyway: the Pauli exclusion principle, the correct cosmological constant, etc.[14]

Finally, his declaration that our universe is more epistemically probable given CN carries no support. Why expect such a universe given CN? The argument also presumes that if God produced a life-bearing universe, it would contain more life than it does. Why think so?

Knowability and Discoverability

Carrier's complaint that the universe apparently wasn't made for easy comprehension is irrelevant. Good literature isn't easy, but is surely designed for comprehension.

At minimum, our universe is amenable to human discovery, as Carrier often lauds science's success. But as Gonzalez extensively documents, 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.[15] Why do life and discoverability overlap so well? Theism can explain this; naturalism cannot.

Beauty

Carrier says the beauty of scientific theories is a "learned appreciation." Even if this unsupported claim were true, it doesn't show that there's no such objective beauty, as widely recognized by scientists. Often, classical music and fine art, e.g., are only appreciated by the learned, but they indisputably contain beauty and elegance. Indeed, we can only learn to appreciate a thing if there's something to appreciate. Thus Carrier's response fails to discount beauty's objectivity and ultimately affirms it. He never controverts my statement that such features suggest design.

Evil

Carrier thinks evil depends on human needs or desires. But this is question-begging since he never answers my argument that evil is a departure from design. It's false too, since acts of rape, e.g., are evil regardless of needs or desires. Evil thus points to the reality of an incomprehensibly intelligent and powerful designer desiring moral, purposeful life.

Moral Argument

Virtually no one has a "method" for discerning moral truth, but virtually everyone knows courage and altruism, e.g., are good.[16] Similarly, how can anyone deny that humans are more morally valuable than beasts? Carrier himself seems embarrassed to deny it, falsely saying I misstated his view. My arguments concerning the uniqueness of human worth and moral value, and their supernatural ground, stand unscathed, and my conclusion holds.

Carrier alleges that the logical possibility of CN morality shows it to be non-necessary. But, as Plantinga notes, The prime minister is a prime number is logically possible, however, there's no possible world where such a being exists. Only if CN morality is metaphysically possible can it be possibly true.[17] This is unestablished, and contradicts even prominent atheist moral theorists, who accept metaphysically necessary morality.[18] There appears no possible world, e.g., where rape is morally neutral. Thus the supernatural ground of morality is metaphysically necessary.

Ontological Argument

Carrier's assertion that "nothing" is a "possible state of affairs" is contradictory, for a state of affairs is something, and a world containing it thus contains something. Additionally, if there's a possible world with nothing, it wouldn't even contain laws of logic. But then contradictory propositions could be true, which is absurd.

He also asserts that even if something has to exist, it would be a universe, not a deity. But we've seen good reason to think no universe is necessary.

As to Carrier's claim that the possibility of ME is just as apparent as MG's, we should note that this would falsify naturalism. So even Carrier cannot think ME is possible. Anyway, ME is impossible on both Carrier's definition of evil and mine. For him, evil requires human existence; but then an evil being would need humans and thus wouldn't be necessary (since humans aren't necessary). For me, evil is a departure from a design plan. But then an ME would require a design plan to exist. But if ME existed, design wouldn't be necessary; ME could refrain from designing. Thus, an ME can't exist. Since Carrier fails to undermine the possibility of an MG or any additional premises, my ontological argument remains sound.

Resurrection

I did show the Old Testament God the cause of Resurrection: if the risen Christ cited this God, why question Him?[19] A consensus of New Testament scholars accepts the death, empty tomb, and appearances or conversions of Paul and James, almost universally rejecting naturalistic accounts of these, and stopping short of miracles only because they're supposedly beyond historical conclusion. But that does nothing to show resurrection is not the best explanation, historical or otherwise.

Carrier concedes all but the empty tomb. Undercutting the empty tomb account, though, is insufficient to refute Resurrection, since one could lack proof of it and yet still prove Jesus appeared after death.[20] Carrier correctly says 75% of scholars accept the empty tomb, but that favors me: why would 75% of predominately non-Christian scholars uphold it without substantive evidence?

Carrier's arguments against resurrection are refuted:

  • (i) Carrier says the Jews would've revealed Jesus' body, but suggests the "fanatical movement" would've survived.

But Jews in Jerusalem weren't initially part of the movement, nor did they "hate" the authorities. Surely, they wouldn't have abandoned their dearest Judaic traditions to follow someone revealed dead by their own leaders! The Way wouldn't have caught on. Secondly, what level of "fanaticism" is needed for such obstinacy, and why believe Christians attained it? Carrier never says. Third, Christian leaders were open to refutation, as shown by the universally confirmed fact that they abandoned their faith after Jesus died.[21] Lastly, Carrier ignores my earlier statement about such messianic movements. N.T. Wright reports that these always died with their leaders; they were falsifiable.[22] Christianity uniquely survived because there was no falsifying evidence.

  • (ii) Christians did proclaim the empty tomb, as in Acts 13:28-31 (resurrected bodies couldn't occupy tombs).

And even if they didn't, the Jews would've still revealed Jesus to refute the Resurrection.

  • (iii) To posit theft/misplacement concedes the empty tomb.

But virtually no scholar accepts these, nor can they explain the appearances.[23]

  • (iv) Carrier's point about the women is incoherent.

If the empty tomb wasn't proclaimed, including women in the account couldn't help evangelize them.[24] The scholarly majority affirms that Jews undervalued female testimony. Carrier doesn't dispute that male testimony was considered superior. But then men would've been invented as first witnesses. Also, men were as important as women in early Christianity; they were in fact the leaders. So there's no reason to think women would be treated specially. Even if Christians wanted to increase female membership, why not give them different roles? Why make them witnesses, especially first ones?

  • (v) 1 Corinthians is a deliberate four-part Passion account paralleling the Acts sermons (13:28-31) and Gospels (Mark 15:37-16:7).

These are the same formulas given by different authors.[25] Paul was thus including the empty tomb. Carrier doesn't dispute that this would then be strikingly early, multiply attested, and thus probably true.

  • (vi) Why would Jews use a late Christian polemic?

It plausibly dates to authorities concurrent with Jesus' death, as it concords with their inability to reveal the body.[26]

  • (vii) Earthquakes and risen corpses aren't part of the empty tomb account simpliciter.

Excising angels only makes the core story more benign. "Mysterious" men and missing corpses happen in real life. And if the story doesn't appear legendary, we should believe it, since it has independent, multiple attestation.[27]

The Appearances

That pagans had visions does nothing to undermine Jesus' appearances, for we have no reason to think they were similar. Indeed, we know they weren't: the latter were experiences of bodily resurrection by nonpagans. Carrier's citation of pagans exclusively simply highlights that Jews of that era weren't prone to false visions. As I said, various messianic movements died out with their leaders. Only Christians had bodily appearances afterwards. Can Carrier explain why they were unique? Finally, that pagan visions had no association with Jews is shown by the fact that scholars widely denounce hallucination theories of Jesus' appearances.

The suggestion that some pretended to have appearances in order to "reform society" incredibly implies that the apostles died for their own lie. No scholar thinks the appearances were fraudulent.[28] Indeed, they have early eyewitness testimony and independent attestation.

We're ultimately left without reason to adopt Carrier's hallucination idea. Indeed, we have good reason to reject it. Jesus appeared to groups, while hallucinations are private. The appearances occurred on many occasions, in many places, to various kinds of persons. Why would these varied contexts give way to identical visions? It's surely more plausible that the appearances were veridical.[29] And since the appearances occurred and there's no reason to believe they were hallucinatory, the only option is to believe they were veridical.

Christianity's Origin

Lastly, since Jews never expected an executed, resurrected messiah, the apostles would've never conceived of, let alone invented, one. Carrier replies that Jews had "many reasons" to expect an executed messiah. But he never refutes the fact that they didn't expect it. He actually admits they didn't.[30]

Also, Carrier doesn't challenge my claim that a lone resurrection was unexpected. He says they had reason to expect a "vindicated" messiah. But again given their Scripture interpretation, they didn't actually expect one. Moreover, vindication is not necessarily resurrection.

Indeed, that Jews didn't derive any expectation of a dying or rising messiah from the Torah is admitted by Carrier when he suggests they acquired those ideas from Hellenists instead. But first, he provides no evidence this is true. Second, this view is rejected almost unanimously by scholars. Third, we have independent, multiple attestation, and eyewitness testimony, that the appearances triggered those beliefs, not pagan myths. But Carrier gives no good reason to reject the appearances. Lastly, if Jews were so prone to starting messianic cults with dying or rising saviors, why is Christianity the only such Jewish movement we know of? Why didn't Jews start any other such Hellenist-like faiths?[31] Christianity attracted them because it was plausibly true.


[1] Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness Without God (AuthorHouse: 2004), p. 82.

[2] Carrier, "The Truth about Singularities," www.infidels.org.

[3] Carrier, Sense and Goodness, p. 77.

[4] Jeff Lowder, post at www.secularoutpost.blogspot.com, "Sophisticated Critique of Many-Worlds Explanation of Fine-Tuning," dated February 18, 2006.

[5] Andrei Linde, Dmitri Linde, and Arthur Mezhlumian, "From the Big Bang Theory to a Theory of a Stationary Universe," Physical Review D 49 (1994), pp. 1783-1826.

[6] See William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, "Does God Exist?" at http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-smith_harvard00.html; cf. Smith, "Time Was Created by a Timeless Point" in God and Time, ed. David Woodruff (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); cf. John Barrow, Theories of Everything (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 68; cf. William Lane Craig and Paul Copan, Creation Ex Nihilo (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004).

[7] Carrier, Sense and Goodness, p. 74.

[8] Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1979).

[9] Craig, "A Reply to Objections," in Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003), p. 158.

[10] Ibid., p. 157.

[11] Richard Carrier and Tom Wanchick, "Joint Statement: What We Are Debating."

[12] See Keith Parsons' "Lively Answers to Theists" and Quentin Smith's "Time Was Created by a Timeless Point."

[13] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time: Expanded and Updated Edition, Ch. 8, online at <http://www.physics.metu.edu.tr/~fizikt/html/hawking/g.html>.

[14] See Robin Collins, "The Evidence of Physics" in The Case for a Creator, ed. Lee Strobel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), and Craig, "A Reply to Objections" in The Case for a Creator, pp. 166-167.

[15] Jay Wesley Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez, The Privileged Planet (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004). Cf. "The Evidence of Astronomy" in The Case for a Creator.

[16] See C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (various versions).

[17] Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity. Cf. Craig, "A Reply to Objections," pp. 162-163.

[18] See the essays of William Rowe, Paul Draper, and Antony Flew in Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate. See also the writings of Michael Ruse.

[19] On this topic see, Gary Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2003).

[20] Habermas, The Historical Jesus (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996).

[21] Ibid. Cf. Gary Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003), and Habermas and Flew, Resurrected? An Atheist and Theist Dialogue (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005).

[22] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), pp. 700-701.

[23] Habermas, Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel).

[24] Carrier, "Did No One Trust Women?" at <http://www.richardcarrier.info/christianity/women.html>.

[25] William Lane Craig, "Closing Response" in Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment?, ed. Paul Copan and Ronald Tacelli (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), pp. 164-166.

[26] See Craig, "The Guard at the Tomb." New Testament Studies 30 (1984): 273-81, available online at <http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/guard.html>.

[27] On these points, see ibid, p. 176.

[28] Habermas points this out in various writings.

[29] On hallucination theory, see Craig, "Closing Response," and various writings by Gary Habermas.

[30] On these issues, see Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), and Craig, "Closing Response."

[31] On this, see: Craig, "Reply to Evan Fales: On the Empty Tomb of Jesus." Philosophia Christi 3 (2001): 67-76; Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003); Habermas, Risen Jesus and Future Hope (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003); Ronald Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2003, 2nd edn.)

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