To start with, we know from quantum mechanics that (1) is false. I don’t think that that makes any real difference to the argument, but nevertheless it ought to be said, since it falsifies the syllogism. (The syllogism is a red herring).
My dissertation was largely on how to get meaning out of causal chains, and I don’t want to bore you with the analysis that I and many others have come up with, but there are a few things that need to be said.
First, where does god get meaning from, on his picture?
Second, does he believe that nonhuman animals have beliefs and desires? Does he believe they have perceptual states? That they see and hear things? Then they have “meaning”, i.e. states that are meaningful to them. But on most Christian theological pictures, animals are seen as “just” complex machinery.
There is no argument from causation to lack of meaning. Indeed, meaning comes necessarily from certain causal chains. How does my perceptual state come to mean something to me about the external world? Partly by its being caused by the external world. So his whole argument is a non sequitur.
I expect that he has some other idea of “meaning” in mind ... that he isn’t talking about “mental content”, but about “why we’re all here”. But if so, on his picture, why does the fact that god created us give us any meaning? Are we only meaningful insofar as we are slaves to his will? That isn’t a very meaningful life.
Further, why is god here? What gave him meaning? I suspect he’ll say something like “he has meaning just by being”. OK, then why not just cut out the middle-man and say that we have meaning just by being?
The guy I’m arguing with is heavily influenced by someone named Alvin Plantinga. What can you tell me about him? As a matter of fact, whenever philosophy comes up on Planet Wisdom, you can be sure that the Gospels of Plantinga or William Lane Craig will be extensively quoted at you. I think these are the only philosophers they have ever heard of.
If I mention any other philosopher (as you can tell from my style, I seldom quote them, because I believe that my arguments should stand or fall on what I personally understand—or don’t understand as the case may be), or even a “secular” discovery by a scientist, I am sometimes greeted with something like this: “Those are atheists! How do you know they’re not deliberately lying to you, to lead you away from the Truth?” I don’t know how to answer an “argument” like that. :?
Yes, I do know quite a bit about Alvin Plantinga , or at least I did. He is probably one of the two or three most eminent philosophical theologians alive today, and no dummy. I studied some of his views in grad school.
[*] He believes in libertarian free will.
[*] He believes in creationism. (For a priori, that is, philosophical but not scientific, reasons).
[*] He believes that the Ontological Argument is valid with true premisses.
[*] He believes that “natural evil” (earthquakes, floods, etc.) are “possibly” due to the forces of Satan and his devilish minions. (p.192)
Probably his most famous book is called The Nature of Necessity, which includes a very insightful treatment of metaphysical necessity that is then used to theological ends.
If you want to see some pretty devastating arguments against Plantinga, see J.L. Mackie’s Miracle of Theism.
Yes, thanks, George. That piece will give you an example of his style. He’s a very calm, clear, careful thinker, and he doesn’t yell.
There are any number of weaknesses with his argument, of course, starting with his tendentious take on Darwinism, with his claim that god is “simple”, with his stuff about god’s existence being necessary, and with his hand-wavings about naturalism and reliability. (Which may have been the sort of thing that prompted advocatus’s argument).
All I’d say in his defense is that this is about as good as a theological argument gets, at least in my experience.
Yes, that’s pretty much the way my antagonist over at Planet Wisdom is arguing. He seems to think that “unguided Nature” just automatically means that everything would be totally “predetermined”, so both reason and meaning are completely arbitrary. He can’t explain why this should be, but nothing I say can shake him from this faith.
[quote author=“dougsmith”]To start with, we know from quantum mechanics that (1) is false. I don’t think that that makes any real difference to the argument, but nevertheless it ought to be said, since it falsifies the syllogism.
OK, let’s try this.
1. Everything in the macroscopic universe is determined by its antecedent causes.
2. Your thoughts, ideas, ethical values, etc, are part of the macroscopic universe.
C. Your thoughts, ideas, and ethical values are predetermined.
While we can design experiments that show the functioning of the quantum universe, and the existence of occasional occurances of non-caused effects at the quantum level, it’s sophistry to reject all of macroscopic determinism because of this, sort of like the Post-modernist way of thinking.
1. Everything in the macroscopic universe is determined to a very high degree of probability by its antecedent causes.
2. Your thoughts, ideas, ethical values, etc, are part of the macroscopic universe. ———————————-
3. Your thoughts, ideas, and ethical values are predetermined to a very high degree of probability.
This is a rough syllogism; needs a little tinkering to make it logically valid, but likely it is so.
[quote author=“Occam”]So, on a practical level (about the same as “to a very high degree of probability”) free will is a myth — even though we have to behave as if we have it.
Not in the slightest. Occam, I REALLY don’t want to go through dozens of pages of arguments as to why free will is compatible with determinism—indeed, why free will requires determinism. If you want to know my reasoning on this subject look at the prior threads on this topic. (Actually it is not my reasoning, but the reasoning I have taken from many of the best philosophers of the past centuries).
If you have any specific questions or criticisms that remain after reading through these threads, I would be more than happy to reply. But I don’t want to elaborate the theory itself for the twenty fifth time.
[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“Occam”]So, on a practical level (about the same as “to a very high degree of probability”) free will is a myth — even though we have to behave as if we have it.
Not in the slightest. Occam, I REALLY don’t want to go through dozens of pages of arguments as to why free will is compatible with determinism—indeed, why free will requires determinism..
Would it be splitting hairs to ask how freewill and determinism is defined here?
“Leper” has gone off on a whole other tangent. Does this look familiar to anybody?
Without God, you have no way of proving that the object and subject of knowledge can come into contact with one another. You assume that the human mind is able to furnish the unity that must bind together the diversity of factual experience. But to do that, you must have some law outside your own mind to do so. But, such a law (or laws) must have a metaphysical basis, which you, as a naturalist, have assumed out of the question.
In other words, what you have as an anti-theist is an ultimate plurality of facts. You observe that nature consists in particulars. What you have to have in order to have knowledge, however, is a unity for those particulars. If you don’t have some sort of unity, then you cannot observe meaningful relationships or categories, because there aren’t any. So an ultimate plurality of particulars, with no ultimate unity, will always remain an unintelligible ultimate plurality. This necessary unity is found for Christians theists in the fact that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things,” (Romans 11:36). The meaningfulness of a fact is found in, and exhausted by, its relation to the plan and being of God.