Thursday, August 11, 2011

If You Build It, He Will Come -- And You Better Not Disagree with Me

Look! The logicians are coming out of the cornfield!

From a person going by the moniker "Ilion." His logic here, like his blog, requires little comment from me:
[W]e “theists” don’t have to rely on the proposition “God is” as a premise; we can, in fact, derive it as a conclusion of purely ‘natural’ reasoning.

Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that both atheism (the explicit denial that God is) and agnosticism (the mealy-mouthed denial that anything at all can be known, as being the “best” way to deny that God is) are false and untenable positions. Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that, at a minimum:

1) there is a God, who is the Creator;
1a) he is uncaused and is the cause of all that is not-God;

2) he is personal (he is not an impersonal “force” or “principle”);
2a) he is an agent: he knows, and wills, and he acts freely;

3) he is good;
3a) the goodness we grasp comes from, and has its meaning in, his character and being;

4) he intentionally caused/causes “the universe” to be;
4a) he is “outside” time-and-space;

Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that even if the specifically Christian doctrines about God were false, atheism always was and always will be false. [Re-formatted for clarity.]
I said before that Ilion's logic required little comment from me, but I have some reactions I must share:
  • Pity Ilion apparently feels his claims are already supported and require no further defense, for reason itself does not in fact show atheism or theism to be false or untenable.
    • Evidently, one must already have read and agreed with the oh-so-sophisticated philosophers and theologians Ilion has in mind. One who hasn't is shit-out-of-luck, I guess.
    • Now, I have passing familiarity with Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Ockham, Plantinga and others. I find their arguments fascinating but finally too flawed and detached to be convincing.
    • I don't know what specific grounds Ilion has for stating that reason itself shows the falsity of atheism and agnosticism.
  • Reason itself does not "show" Ilion's #1-#4. Ilion's just making assertions descended from the beautiful but ultimately wrongheaded ranting of folks such as Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis. Lewis in particular is the arch-sophist. One day, I'll need to post on why I think this is so.
  • Ilion's qualifying "intellectually honest" (used twice!) tells us all we really need to know. If you disagree with his assertions then you are intellectually dishonest. If you agree with them, you are intellectually honest. Calling all true Scotsmen, calling all true Scotsmen!
  • Ilion's fetish with reason itself indicates he doesn't understand atheism. The atheist position is that reason, or reason itself, is wonderful. But reason carries little weight outside of evidence and a consistent methodology for gathering, assessing, and incorporating evidence. Ilion makes what I call the metaphysician's fallacy, the error that logical assertions alone somehow trump evidence, conflicting evidence, and lack of evidence. The metaphysical apologist says: "I think it, it's logical, and I don't need no stinkin' verification of it!"
  • If Ilion really wants to be intellectually courageous, perhaps he will explain how to verify his four main claims empirically.
So, more unassailable logic from our moral and philosophical superiors.

*  *  *  *  *

In fairness, I should provide the following link (I just became aware of it) to a post where Ilion elaborates on his views of atheism and irrationality:
The reality of minds in a material world (thus, every human being who has ever existed) is proof that atheism is false. If atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then we would not -- because we could not -- exist. But we do exist. Therefore, atheism is not the truth about the nature of reality.

This is the general form of the argument to support the prior claim --

GIVEN the reality of the natural/physical/material world, IF atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, THEN everything which exists and/or transpires must be wholely (sic) reducible, without remainder, to purely physical/material states and causes.

The explanation/proof is as follows --

This "everything" (which exists and must be wholely (sic) reducible, without remainder, to purely physical/material states and causes) includes our minds and all the functions and capabilities of our minds -- including reason (and, really, not just the individual acts of reasoning that we all engage in, but big-r 'Reason').

Now, specifically with respect to reasoning, what inescapably follows from atheism is that it is impossible for anything existing in reality (that included us) to reason.

When an entity reasons, it chooses to move from one thought or concept to another based on (its understanding of) the content of the concepts and of the logical relationship between them.

But, IF atheism were indeed the truth about the nature of reality, THEN this movement from (what we call) thought to though (which activity or change-of-mental-state we call 'reasoning') *has* to be caused by, and must be wholely (sic) explicable in terms of, state-changes of matter. That is, it is not the content of, and logical relationship between, two thoughts which prompts a reasoning entity to move from the one thought to the other, but rather it is some change-of-state of some matter which determines that an entity "thinks" any particular "thought" when it does.

I leave it to the reader to dwell on the further implications.

This logical implication/consequence of atheism (the one I have explicated) directly denies what we all know to be true about the "cause" of all acts of reasoning. This logical implication/consequence of atheism states an absurdity, namely that we do not, and cannot, reason. Since the stated absurdity is a logical implication/consequence of atheism, therefore atheism is shown to be absurd. Which is to say, necessarily false.
Oh, dear. This will not do at all. My notes below:
  • The top-level claim is: If there were no God, we would not exist. No God, no universe, no us.
  • Before this claim, Ilion makes a telling error: "The reality of minds in a material world (thus, every human being who has ever existed) is proof that atheism is false."
    • The error lies in conflating minds--a human concept, an invention of the imagination--with the brain--a material organ with working parts and effects.
    • There is no reality of minds, only a reality of brains.
    • The reality of minds, therefore, counts nothing against the truth or untruth of atheism.
  • What's missing? The explanation of why the universe needs (needs, in the philosophical sense) God specifically, and how the explanation can be verified by people.
Ilion later remarks, "What I expect is to be called greatly mistaken about the reasoning I've explicated. Or too stupid to see that it's incorrect. Or a liar for asserting it."

Surely I have shown exactly how Ilion is mistaken. I leave it to the reader to dwell on the further implications.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.

    I check out Ilion's blog occasionally because I find his comments entertaining.

    I'm a little confused about about exactly how the mind should be classified--physical or non-physical. I just recently began reading Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works in which he states the computational theory of mind claims the mind is physical, although it's unclear to me exactly how he reached that conclusion. I've always considered the brain physical (obviously) and the mind non-physical, an emergent phenomenon of the activity of neurons. Certainly the results of our minds' activity, things like mathematics, emotions, any kind of thought, are non-physical. Anyway, as I understand it, the computational theory of mind compares the brain to a computer, and that mental states (a particular configuration of neurons firing) are information, and this information can create possibly never before experienced more complex mental states.

    Unforturnately, our minds are just not aware of how they function. Kind of like our livers--you never know just how many toxins they've removed from our blood.


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