Posted: Aug 26, 2013 9:48 pm
by Mick
My opponent replied that Aristotle's four causes have not been abandoned in modern science, but that is regrettably false. Modern science and philosophy is partially characterized by this abandonment. But if neither my opponent nor my reader will take my word for it, then perhaps the word of a relevant scholar will suffice.

Historian John Herman Randall writes: "The world of the Middle Ages has been explicitly and entirely rejected for the world of modern science." And in this world an explanation is sought " for all things in the world in purely mechanical terms." (1). Newton, Leibniz and Boyle endorsed what they call final causation, and even Bacon endorsed forms, but the conceptions they endorsed were gutted of their Aristotelian content. Instead of understanding goal-orientated behaviour as intrinsic within things themselves, Newton and others believed that that behaviour is extrinsically imposed by God. (2)

If my sources here do not suffice, then I can provide others.

My opponent says:

"Apparently we have moved from “a deity” to “God”. If such a being's existence is in principle not falsifiable- a point I happily grant to those who acknowledge the igtheistic description of deities I have given- then it cannot be the case that the actions of this being manifest themselves in any comprehensible way in what we call the natural world, for any such actions here would be subject to empirical scrutiny and falsifiability. Why a traditional theist rather than a Deist would promote a God indistinguishable from dead is beyond me. "

My opponent is confused. If God is a necessary existent, then the proposition 'God exists' cannot be falsified. However, that fact does not suggest that a proposition such as 'God created squared circles' cannot be falsified. Nor does it suggest that any contingent proposition concerning God's action is unfalsifiable. We might not be able to falsify some of these propositions, but that would not suggest that those propositions are unfalsifiable.

My opponent says:

"If my friend's cosmological argument is sound, it supports only a “first cause”- but there is no reason that this first cause is not inherent in whatever stuff it is of which the universe is composed. In the Aristotelian conception from which the argument comes, change itself, changing, may be part of the material cause of the universe. Mere “instability” would be enough to get that ball rolling."

My opponent errs. A precursory reading of my cosmological argument makes it clear why the first cause is unchangeable; and hence the first cause is neither material nor energy. Why? Because both matter and energy are changeable. And if the universe is wholly composed of matter and energy, then the first cause cannot be inherent within it. Moreover, and most importantly, the first cause cannot be part of any material cause. Why? Because the first cause is not material, and a material cause is material.

If my opponent wants to challenge my conclusions, he needs to seriously address my argument. But as of yet, my opponent has not quoted a passage from my opening statement, nor has he clearly addressed one of its premises. Regrettably, I cannot help but feel befuddled by my opponent's lack of engagement with my opening post.

My opponent says:

I am sure that I am not the only one reading this who is cocking an eyebrow over the logical implications of my compadre's exuberant use of double negative elimination here, given his apparent advocation of dialetheism elsewhere. But let us have that discussion elsewhere. In order to make my point clear, I would ask that he render what is probably the best known cosmological argument in our times:

1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
2. The universe has a beginning of its existence;
3. The universe has a cause of its existence

(Nasr, trans. Seyyed Hossein, An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines. Albany : State University of New York Press, 1993 )

into a disjunctive syllogism of the kind that lies at the heart of cosmological arguments, using the logical mechanism he has proposed. My debate buddy will protest that when this argument is presented today, as it is by WL Craig, it is accompanied by further arguments which do present the relevant disjunct, and he will be right to make this protest. He will also have illustrated the point I am making. "

My opponent is confused again. The only point I made here is that the fallacy of special pleading has nothing to do with logical form. Whether some an argument take the form of modus ponens or a disjunctive syllogism is irrelevant to whether an argument commits the fallacy of special pleading. That fallacy is concerned with content, but the question as to whether an argument takes the form of modus ponens or a disjunctive syllogism pertains exclusively to argument form.

My opponent says:

Occam's Push-broom may permit such flights of fantasy, Occam's Razor does not

Here my opponent begs the question. If my opponent wants to argue that my conclusions are somehow unnecessary or bloated, then he needs to show where they err and why. Reference to slogans will not suffice.

My opponent says:

The usual argument against the famous S5 modal arguments is to use the same logic to demonstrate the existence of necessary Most Evil Demons, Dragons, Logical Contradictions, and so on.

This counterargument fails to show that the S5 argument is invalid, of course, for the argument must be treated as valid in order to produce the absurd conclusion.

This usual counterargument (the standard for atheists arguing against theists) also fails to show that the S5 argument in not sound. Why? Because it is using a fallacious appeal to consequences. No, the S5 argument is valid and sound, an excellent argument to show that God does exist... in the same manner Most Evil Demons, Dragons and Logical Contradictions exits.

My opponent is yet again confused. The only reason I mention that S5 ontological argument is to show that some ontological arguments do not depend upon superlatives. My point is pellucid: Contrary to my opponent's earlier objection, not all ontological make the so-called "embarrassing admission" concerning the superlative 'greater' and existence in reality. Why? Well, because that S5 ontological argument does not use any superlative.

For further support of this point, let us review what I said in my earlier response. Consider this quote: "This argument is valid in S5 modal logic, and yet it does not take stock in superlatives; and hence my opponent’s global objection against the ontological argument fails."

Notice that I did not say that the argument is sound or persuasive. I simply said that my S5 ontological argument shows that not all ontological arguments fail in virtue of some questionable use of a superlative.

Thus, I did not present that S5 argument as persuasive or sound; and consequently my opponent's reply about demons and whatnot is irrelevant, even if it is true.

Finally, my opponent says:

As for the rest of my pal's counterargument, I believe that the contortions to which he must resort in order to decry the metaphysical conception I earlier proposed illustrate far better than anything else just how sound and effective igtheistic approaches are to defusing claims of “a deity exists”. To deny that we can not assume theism and, digging in, reach atheist conclusions, is to admit that one is not interested in a search for truth regardless where it leads.

But what are these so-called contortions? My opponent does not say. If my opponent wants to engage in debate, then he needs to argue. If he wants to argue, then my opponent needs to show which of my claims is a contortion; he cannot presume that it is.


My opponent has neglected my opening post. Mind you, my opponent quoted me in my first reply; and in that quote I spoke about my cosmological argument, but my opponent did not specifically address my opening post. Regrettably, the brief (and indirect) attention my opponent gave to my cosmological argument can be easily dismissed with a precursory reading of the text within my opening statement.

It is worth noting that my opponent did not defend his "functional atheism" from my earlier criticism. Likewise, my opponent gave no response to my critique of his arguments concerning God-talk. There I argued that his arguments were not just wrong, but self-inconsistent. He also said nothing about my reference to analogical predication. I await his response on these issues.

I conclude that my opponent has not rebutted or undermined my arguments, even when he addressed them. I also conclude that his earlier arguments regarding "functional atheism" and religious language remain failures. Hence, my case for theism remains undaunted.


(1) John Herman, The Making of the Modern Mind. Page 241-2

(2) See: Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, Page 95. Also see: Lynn S. Joy in The Cambridge History of Science, Volume 3. Page 73-87.