Friday, August 3, 2012

Debating the Atheist -- Round Four

Fourth Round
Pastor Stephen Feinstein

Hello everyone,
Russell Glasser offered a response to my last post, and so I would like to provide the link:

I would ask that you read his response prior to reading what I have written below. It will give you the necessary context of everything that follows. As I said in previous posts, the ability for you to comment has been disabled until the debate is finished. Of course, some atheists have tried to get around this by e-mailing me, but my opponent Russell is not responsible for this. Like my last post, whenever I quote Russell in a regular paragraph, I italicize the quotation. If I place a statement in quotation marks, but it is NOT italicized, it is NOT a quote from Russell, but instead is a hypothetical quote that I am inserting into the argument.

Also, if you want easy access to the entire debate thus far, here are the following links:
With that said, I can begin.

Russell, I am thankful for your response for two reasons. First, you gave me something to work with, whereas your prior responses did not. Second, your response utterly failed to remove my argument concerning inductive inference, and I think this is obvious to the philosophically astute. Given that you did not adequately deal with my argument, I am going to address your response point by point, and why it is lacking substantive quality. By the end of this response, it is my goal that it would be clear that the uniformity of nature renders materialistic atheism as impossible. In my next response, I will deal with the second big problem, namely the laws of logic. Even your attempted reversal of the argument of logic against my position betrays a lack of understanding of how we Christians actually make the argument. I will clear that up in the next post.

Concerning when to wrap this debate up, I will let you decide. I am willing to go two more rounds or twenty more. I understand that we both are busy and if you want to limit it, then fine. I do not need to make all of my arguments. I am convinced that my first argument already won this debate for Christ. With those minor side issues addressed, I will move into my response.

Russell, you began your response by addressing my frustration thus far in this debate. However, you are wrong concerning the source of the frustration. The frustration has nothing to do with miscommunication. Instead, it has to do with the fact that you are dodging the transcendental argument altogether and are attempting to smuggle your assumptions a priori into the argument without attempting to justify them. When I say “justify,” I simply mean that on the basis of your presuppositions, you cannot account for your assumptions. In fact, if your presuppositions about reality are true, then your assumptions cannot be true at the same time due to inconsistency and arbitrariness. Therefore, you are seeking to take the discussion out of the realm presuppositions so that you would not have to justify anything, but instead get to take your assumptions for granted. I see right through this. In fact, I believe that you realize if we continue the course that I have been directing the debate, that it will be clear that you have lost. Unless you do something serious soon, it is only going to get worse.

The first point that you tried to make was that your assumptions are axiomatic. I reread your points a few times trying to see where the problem is and I do agree that miscommunication is going on, but I do not believe it is on my end. There are only two options that I can think of: a) You did not understand the nature of my argument in the last response; or b) You did understand it and you realize the precarious position it puts you in, and so you are attempting to move us away from the discussion about preconditions and thus have us begin with your assumptions. I told you that I agreed with your assumptions, but I do not agree with you concerning the notion that we do not have to justify them. I understand why you are appealing to your assumptions as axioms, but even an elementary level of epistemology overturns the axioms and requires us to discuss preconditions. For example, how do you (or the dictionary you cited) know that any given self-evident truth requires no proof? You have a three pound brain, have lived probably less than 50 years, and possess a non-exhaustive knowledge of the things that you do have knowledge of. So given that this is true, what authority do you (or any human) have by which you can arbitrarily declare that your three assumptions require no proof or explanation? You could never answer this, but instead you are in a sense saying, “This is just the way it is.” I find this to be quite convenient for you since a logical explanation of preconditions renders your random materialism impossible given the assumptions that you claim are axiomatic. So like the nonathletic kid on the schoolyard, you are appealing to special treatment that allows you to play the sport without the same constraints as everyone else. In my third response I proved with transcendental logic that your position is impossible. Your answer? “I don’t have to justify my assumptions, but instead I can just take them for granted.”

That type of response is not going to cause you to win this debate. Instead, it looks like you are ignoring a prodigious problem for your materialistic atomism. It is very convenient to place inductive inference under the category of axioms. After all, if I grant this, then you can still believe in the validity of science despite the fact that materialistic atomism undermines the very idea of the uniformity of nature. I will not grant this, and thus as far as I am concerned, you have not answered the dilemma.

You said, “And yet, regardless of what presuppositions you may have, at some point we must reach a position that is simply asserted to be true and requires no explanation.” I disagree with you on this, as I have said many times now. It is convenient for you to make this statement since it allows you to take your position for granted. This is why the presuppositional argument against atheism absolutely destroys your position. It does not allow you to take anything for granted, but asks you to account for your assumptions with your presuppositions, and when it becomes clear (as it was in my last response) that your presuppositions make intelligibility impossible, you lose by default. Russell, I already won this debate in my last response. Your latest response simply proved it since the only thing you could do was declare that I have to let you take your assumptions for granted without asking you to justify them. I do thank you for making this clear to all of our readers.

The bottom line is that transcendental logic is necessary, even on the most fundamental assumptions. I will illustrate this with something rather simple. If you and I were playing each other in Call of Duty on the Playstation 3, it is obvious that the video game is real and that you and I are playing it. We can easily assume this. The question is not, “Is this game real?” It clearly is real since we are playing it. The question is, “What preconditions have to be true for us to play this game?” Well, first, we have to have electricity and a high definition TV (otherwise what’s the point). Second, you and I have to possess working minds that interpret what we are seeing and doing in a uniform way. Third, some company had to mass produce the game and market it. Fourth, someone had to design the game. Fifth, video game technology had to advance to the point to where this game as it stands could be designed in its current form. And from here we could keep going, until we have then asked about the preconditions of each of the other preconditions. At some point it will end (with the Christian God) because preconditions only apply to contingent beings and objects, and by definition cannot apply to a necessary being. This was yet another important point that you glossed over from the last response. Well, getting back to the game itself, if you and I got into a philosophical argument about it, and I said and asked, “Cool game. I wonder what preconditions have to be true for us to be doing what we are doing right now on this game,” an answer is necessary. As far as this debate over the existence of the Christian God is concerned, it is as if you are saying, “We do not need preconditions. It is good enough to know that the game exists because we are playing it. This is axiomatic.” Although it is true that you do not need to know the preconditions of the game’s existence to be able to play the game, this is irrelevant to the fact that the game still has preconditions. The axiom becomes irrelevant. So then, let’s say I start to reason back through the preconditions and you interrupt with, “The game just is. That’s it!” Well, no matter how sincere you may be in this, you are wrong. The truth is the game does have preconditions, whether you desire to look into them or not. It gets even worse if you said, “This game got here by random chance in a godless universe. A bunch of random atoms over billions of years came together in such a way that this disk, game system, and high definition TV came into existence and that is why we can play this game.” At that juncture, I can start pointing out simple things about the game such as it runs off of uniform and predictable rules, and it works the same each and every time. These facts would not be possible if your presupposition of randomness is true. Then imagine after I point that out, you go right back to your initial assertion, “Well the game just is, and I don’t have to justify it with my presuppositions.” Russell, I just described this entire debate so far. You are losing.

I do apologize for the length of the parable, but it was necessary to demonstrate why I will not let you simply take your assumptions for granted when I know in advance that your preconditions render your assumptions impossible. I would be a fool if I did that. Of course, I do want to play fair and thus it is important that I answer you on your question, “How do you justify (or account for) the existence of God?” That question makes me wonder if you read my last response closely. There was a reason I spent time on the subject of contingent beings. Only they require presuppositions and preconditions. A necessary being is just that, necessary. Naturally there is a cap to our reasoning abilities. Due to our finitude (which is an attribute of our status as contingent) we can only ask for preconditions up to a point. Eventually we reach the cap and can no longer ask for them. Well, as long as we are talking about contingent objects or persons, we can keep asking and asking, and the questions will keep on coming. However, once we get back to the first contingency (physical reality itself), we are then at the cap. We then are stuck with something that is caused, sustained, and determined, but it is the first of its kind (by kind I mean it is contingent). That first contingency must by definition come from something that is necessary. A necessary being, by definition, is uncaused, unsustained, and undetermined by anything outside of itself. This description sounds much like a transcendent, divine being. I already explained why He must be the Christian God, because the other conceptions fall apart by either a unitarian inconsistency, or a failure of the creator/creation distinction.

You are trapped by this answer. There is nothing that you can legitimately say to it, other than your accusation that I am inventing a new category that doesn’t follow the rules of every other category. Well, no, not exactly. I am inventing nothing. Instead, I am staring at the video game and I am saying, “Since this game is contingent, what is it contingent upon?” More specifically, I am agreeing with you that the world is real, but I am taking it one step further and I am saying since the real world is contingent, by its very definition it requires a necessary being that is categorically different in order to account for it. And by the very nature of that “necessary” category, the chain stops there requiring no other presuppositions or preconditions, for by definition these would be impossible to apply to that which is “necessary.” The fact that you continued to bring up the magical tiara causes me to think that you either a) did not understand this or b) you simply ignored the point altogether and smuggled the tiara back into the debate hoping that it still satisfies your camp. You failed to demonstrate that a magical tiara could be “necessary.” Through the one and many problems, the existence of persons, the laws of logic, etc. I did in fact demonstrate that the God of the Bible can be and is this necessary being. It is as though you ignored the fact that all things that exist in the physical universe are contingent. This is an undisputable aspect of reality. I am not the one inventing the definition of contingent, but instead I am merely describing all physical things. Can you disprove the definition that I offered? You didn’t even try. Once again, I wait for you to seriously deal with the arguments.

I find it ironic that after the magical tiara nonsense you then made the statement, “… you can just accept my proposal that the laws of logic are the axiomatic concepts which need no explanation, and we can proceed from there like sensible people.” Russell, I do not think you are getting it yet. No, I cannot accept that proposal. It is the same exact thing you are trying to do with “reality exists” and “we learn through sense experience.” I agree with you that logic exists, but I disagree with the notion that it needs no explanation. This brings us right back to the video game parable. The game does exist and you and I are playing it, but it is still valid to explain how it is possible for us to do so. I can see why the atheist is so fearful to talk about preconditions. Your worldview is hopeless to account for logic and inductive inference, and so you blindly ask the Christian to take it for granted like you do. Not a chance, for I have you right where I want you.

The irony in your statement is that you assume that if I agree with you, only then am I sensible and only then can we proceed. Once again, this is you trying to set the rules of the game that allow you the necessary handicap needed just to survive. Furthermore, what authority does Russell Glasser have to determine what “sensible people” are? Your mere opinion? The opinion of your think-tank? Thanks again for opening the door to a future argument about how we as humans are able to have standards in the first place (another item atheism cannot account for). That can wait for a later response. Actually, since we are speaking of sensibility, I might as well point something out. I offered you as an argument the problem of inductive inference. I demonstrated that nature is uniform and that we need it this way just to be able to learn things. I then demonstrated that in a random universe such predication and uniformity is actually impossible. For the most part, you ignored the argument, hit the reset button, and claimed that you do not have to justify your contradictory assumptions. Who is the one being insensible? As far as I am concerned, I am looking at a man who is staring at a video game and is claiming that it needs no preconditions to exist. It is ironic that the one who is being insensible is tacitly accusing his sensible opponent of that vice.

The closest thing to an attempt to address this was by you pulling a bait and switch (yes I know you accused me of doing this), by implying that I was falsely equating random with undirected. I am glad that you brought this up because this is the closest thing to a response that I have received from you to date. I guess I need to ask a question. Do you believe that time and chance account for both the existence of and the evolution of the universe and life? I often wonder how many times has it been written on the whiteboard in Biology 101 that time + chance equals an orderly universe and life? What my professor meant by this is that the universe is “directed” by time and chance. In other words, it is directed by randomness. Where was my bait and switch? By you implying that the universe is directed, you imply uniformity. But you fail to identify from your presuppositions what is directing it. Well, if you agree with the run-of-the-mill materialistic atomist, you would say that time and chance accounts for the universe. Yet, would not uniformity already have to exist for time and chance to create and sustain anything? So in other words you are saying the universe is directed by uniformity. I was saying the exact same thing. The difference is, uniformity within a contingent object is caused, sustained, and determined by something outside of it. Time and chance cannot create uniformity, but instead there would already have to be uniformity to make time and chance cause stellar evolution. So your position requires uniformity to be the precondition of chance, yet as I said last time, these are antonyms. So then, how do you the atheist account for uniformity? Your answer? I don’t have to, but I can simply take it for granted.

If time plus chance equals the universe and life, then I ask you to explain the following definition of chance from “The absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled.” That was the first definition, and the only other one that applies to how we are syntactically using the word was the third definition, which said, “A possibility or probability of anything happening.” So help me out here. Where is my bait and switch? I have personally been taught within the university system the time plus chance formula, I have read it in books, and the very philosophy of materialistic atomism assumes it. Do you atheists mean something entirely different by chance than the understood definition? If so, then your whole camp is guilty of deconstructive arbitrariness. I pulled no bait and switch. By the understood definition of chance within our syntactical use of it, it is an antonym of uniformity and predication. If it is the governing principle of the universe, as many materialists presuppose, then it is impossible for us to have a uniformity in nature. We do in fact have a uniformity of nature. Therefore, the universe is not governed by chance and therefore materialistic atheism is patently false. Thus once again, I have shown atheism to be illogical, untenable, and impossible. For some reason you do not want to admit this, but that’s fine. You can write that I have failed to do this until you are convinced, but as it stands now, I have in fact won this debate. And I was not kidding when I said I was just getting started.

You said that I offered no justification for the Christian God being the precondition of the uniform universe. Maybe you can go back and reread my third response and see that this is not true. Even the universe’s uniformity is contingent (caused, sustained, and determined) and as such it transcendentally requires a necessary being. The fact that a contingent category of existence truly exists requires by default that a necessary category of existence truly exists. I have been through this a few times already. The point is made, and philosophically all you can do is arbitrarily dismiss it. In fact, that is all you have done, and I am content with that. Many people are reading this debate.

I am also curious about something else you wrote. You said, “I don’t see any compelling reason to accept your premise that the existence of consistency depends on the existence of an absolute, trinitarian, universe-ruling God.  And if I were to somehow accept that consistency depends on this, we still would be no closer to justifying the claim that this God exists.” Really? If you accepted the premise that the existence of consistency depends on the existence of the Christian God, we still would be no closer to justifying the claim that God exists? We both agree that consistency exists. So if I understand you correctly, you are saying that if you agreed that consistency (that we both agree exists) did in fact depend on the existence of the Christian God, that this still does not justify the claim that He exists even though consistency itself exists. If that is what you meant, then you just demonstrated to all of our interested readers that you could care less about logic, consistency, and necessity. Perhaps you want to rethink that statement. If the assumption that universal consistency depends on the Christian God is true, and if it is true that such consistency exists, then it is also true that the Christian God exists. This is no different than saying if the video game exists, it is necessary that it had to be designed by a game designer, and thus the existence of the game proves the existence of the designer, even if you personally have never met the designer with your senses. I do understand that you do not believe that I have proved that consistency depends on God, but you did admit that even if I did, it does not prove that God exists. With that statement, you have actually summed up the futility of atheism. I do appreciate that, because it often takes a little longer to draw these type of statements out of atheists.

I also need to address your insistence that I am dishonest for applying the label of arbitrariness only in your direction rather than mine. How so? You appeal to the Axiomatic Theory of Truth and claim it is not arbitrary, but your entire basis is that it is an established principle of philosophy. Established by whom? On what grounds? It is not wrong to ask you, or the entire field of philosophy to justify this theory of truth. Furthermore, I would only be guilty of arbitrariness if I did not justify the existence of God as the necessary presupposition of inductive inference. Once again, I refer you to the discussion of contingent versus necessary. If something contingent exists, then by default it is required that something necessary exists. Thus, my proposition is not arbitrary. The Axiomatic Theory of Truth is itself contingent rather than necessary given that it is rule that is caused (by a mind), determined (by reality), and sustained (by a uniform universe). Furthermore, it is dependent upon other theories of truth such as the Correspondence Theory, Coherence Theory, Pragmatic Theory, and Semantic Theory. Each of these must exist, but then again finite human epistemology could never justify any of them. Also, each of these theories by definition are contingent rather than necessary. Thus, you appeal from your contingent argument to a contingent theory of truth that depends upon other contingent theories of truth, which then ultimately depend on the existence of persons, logic, uniformity, minds, etc. Given that each of these exist within us, but we ourselves are by definition contingent, then our derivative versions by logical necessity must be grounded in the original and necessary version. The truth of the matter is as follows. You continually appeal to contingent realities to justify your position, but you cannot justify the contingent realities that you appeal to. When asked to do so, you claim that you do not have to, but instead you have the right to take them for granted. This is exactly what you are doing, and as a result, you alone are the arbitrary one. I keep bringing us back to the necessary precondition of contingency. In so doing, I am not arbitrary. Your contingent appeals actually depend on the existence of the Christian God. Thus, your very appeals depend on my presuppositions, not yours.

It is also ironic that you brought up Occam’s Razor to disprove my position, when the man who provided the verbiage of it was a Christian. That is neither here nor there, but I do find it ironic. Your entire statement concerning it seemed to miss the entire point about necessary versus contingent. The universe cannot be uncaused because it carries the attributes that belong to a contingent object. God, by definition, has to be uncaused because He is the necessary being. So your application of Occam’s Razor entirely fails.

As you began to wrap up your response, you then accused me of introducing a red herring, but I am not sure how I did so. I do agree with the correspondence theory of truth (which you appealed to in this part of your response), but it is not a red herring to ask what preconditions must be true in order for the correspondence theory to be accurate. Concepts such as the inductive inference and deductive inference would be necessary preconditions, and then we need to determine what preconditions are necessary for those. Given that materialistic atheism depends on the ultimate governing principle to be that of chance, and given the definition of chance quoted above, your brand of atheism cannot justify the preconditions of the preconditions of the correspondence theory of truth. It is not a red herring to point this out. Instead, it is an extension of the subject rather than a changing of the subject. Instead, directing us away from the right and obligation to discuss preconditions is in fact the red herring, and you are the only one attempting to do this.

Furthermore, we are not neutral when interpreting the geological record and the fossil record. So how do we determine who’s interpretation corresponds more with reality? By assuming uniformitarianism and punctuated equilibrium? Or by assuming catastrophism and special creation? Both sets of assumptions are difficult to falsify in a science lab, and so once again we have to start comparing presuppositions and leaning back on the preconditions of intelligibility. My whole point was not to trick you, but instead it was to get you to see that debating the evidence and attempting to proclaim that my or your interpretation is the best is not as cut and dry as you would like to make it. The philosophy of fact is just as important as the discussion over certain facts because facts do not speak for themselves, but instead people speak for them. You do not have to buy into my framework to see that atheism is impossible. Instead you simply need to admit the world is uniform and that chance-based atheism cannot possibly account for it.

Just prior to your final summary, you wrote of my apparent obsession concerning smoke and mirrors and traps. I am not insecure in this as you claimed, but instead I am attempting to clarify for our readers that this is what atheists do. They shroud their attempts to arbitrarily take their positions for granted in academic vernacular. It takes a clever reader to spot it out. It truly is a game of smoke and mirrors that you atheists put up. I couldn’t disagree with you more over your statement that my arguments have no substance. In this whole debate so far, you have only made one substantive attempt to deal with my arguments, and I addressed it in this response. Your only lifeline was your attempt to justify axioms so that I would not be able to ask you to justify the real world with your atheistic presuppositions. It is obvious that the materialistic presupposition cannot justify the real world, theories of truth, the existence of any axioms at all, logic, etc. Furthermore, I am not being arbitrary or applying a double standard. Instead, it appears that you are failing to understand the philosophical difference between contingency and necessity. It is philosophically incorrect to try to justify a necessary being on the grounds that you would use to justify a contingent being. This is pretty elementary stuff here. You cannot apply the terms of one category over to the other if the two categories by definition have opposing attributes. Given that contingent beings exist, it is a transcendental necessity that a necessary being exists. My assertion of this is far different than you claiming that you get to take your assumptions for granted. I am not sure what you are missing in this. I am not claiming that God is an axiom that I am permitted to have without justification. Instead, I am proclaiming that God must exist because of your axioms and definitive proof is right in front of your eyes. Contingent objects exist, therefore a necessary being exists. If the former exists, then that alone is proof that the latter must exist by definition and default. Thus, there is no hypocrisy here.

Concerning your five summary points, I disagree with point 1: I do not assume that God is an axiom. You failed to account for the categorical differences that I clearly pointed out in both my last response and this one. On point 2, I offered many justifications for God’s existence as the necessary precondition of persons, uniformity of nature, the one and many nature of the physical universe, and the laws of logic. I used transcendental reasoning to do this, addressing the preconditions of intelligibility, and I evaluated atheism’s presuppositions on the grounds of what is necessary for your axioms to be true, and in so doing, I did in fact prove that atheism is impossible. Your very axioms serve the function of murdering your position. On point 3, the burden of proof has been met on logical grounds, but you refuse to admit it. Your admission is irrelevant to the reality of what has actually happened in this debate. Also, Occam’s razor does not apply in the manner prescribed by you since I am discussing two different categories (contingent and necessary). Also, your use of Occam’s Razor attempted to argue for an uncaused contingent item (the universe), which is impossible by definition. Concerning point 4, I did justify my use of random by appealing to what is taught across the world by atheists and applying the proper syntactical usage of the word “chance.” If you still attempt to deny this definition of chance, then at best you are left with the contradiction of “undirected direction” as the ultimate ground of reality. Finally, concerning point 5, I will address God and logic in my next response. It will take me a few pages to do so, and I don’t want to dump too many points on you at one time. It is not necessary that I do that. Instead, I think it is sufficient enough that in this response I upheld the argument of inductive inference made last time and demonstrated that you did not adequately respond to it. Thus, it still looms over your head.

To conclude this, I would like to quickly address the scorecard at this point. Apparently you are under the impression that I am the only one who needs to prove my case, otherwise I lost the debate. I guess in a world where you get to take things for granted and be arbitrary, you can also set arbitrary rules that make you the victor even if you truly lost. I believe that I have addressed every single counterargument (except the one about logic) that you have made, and truly refuted them. You have addressed very few of the arguments that I have made, and simply glossed over them. The arguments that you addressed demonstrated a great misunderstanding of the philosophical principles behind my arguments. As a result, you are lagging behind. You have yet to adequately remove even my first argument. And yet, you then invited me into my second argument which is that the laws of logic are another problem that savage your worldview. I will address that next time, but I figured that I would give you one more attempt to deal with the first argument. If you cannot accomplish that, then the second argument will only be more painful for your brand of atheism. I told you from the beginning the four problems for atheism that I was going to address. Problem two is deductive inference, or the laws of logic. I am pleased that I was so easily invited to move into it.

With much respect, I await your reply.

Go on to Round Five

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