Friday, October 24, 2014

More on TAG

A correspondent has asked, "Is 'logic' a premise of TAG (The Transcendental Argument for God)?"1

This question underscores the typical unbeliever's inability to grasp the issues in the debate between totally antithetical worldviews. It also suggests a general unfamiliarity with transcendental argumentation -- as it construes TAG as a deductive argument, and it seems to lapse into a standard "deductivist" view of proof, so prevalent among many unbelievers.

First, TAG is not formally a deductive argument. Deductive arguments necessarily presuppose logic. Without logic, deductive arguments could not even get off the ground. So, the answer is, no, logic per se is not a premise of TAG.2 In the presuppositional defense of Christianity, we do not presuppose a merely abstract and autonomous logic, nor do we posit it as a premise of a deductive argument leading to a conclusion of a God of indeterminate character or an abstract "God of the philosophers."

Second, when it comes to the issues of the existence of logic, abstract objects, and conceptual reasoning, in general, the point of TAG is that the godless reality of atheism, on the basis of its own metaphysical presuppositions, cannot account for their existence. For instance, the existence of logic and material monism are contradictory. Laws of matter and the ultimacy of chance do not produce mentally free, conscious beings who are capable of abstract thought. Materialism cannot account for the existence of immaterial abstract entities of any type (be it logic, mathematics, or moral laws).3 The existence of logic, then, is a problem, and failure, of the atheist worldview. As I have written before, atheists cannot give a "reason for reason." As such, atheists have no metaphysical ground for their presupposition of logic. Atheists, being "epistemological loafers" as Van Til put it, will not acknowledge this. Even in the face of continued prodding, they continue to use a merely assumed autonomous logic and reason, that is, just "take it for granted." But that is question begging and an intellectually empty response. Yet, on the other hand, they will assert that man and his mind was produced by (and thereby, still ruled by) ultimately random material processes. Atheism -- by asserting the autonomy of man (and thereby, the ultimacy of the human mind) along with the ultimately chance nature of temporal facts -- is self-contradictory. Atheism provides no grounds for any of its beliefs (articles of faith, as it were); it can only be adhered to by a willful intellectual blindness.

The positive presupposition of TAG is the existence of the Triune God of Christianity who has revealed Himself in the Bible, in nature, and within man himself. God is the metaphysical ground from which all human experience is intelligible. Logic (and other abstract objects) is not a problem for the Christian theist. Behind man's reasoning is the mind of God.

To reiterate the point: logic is a problem for atheists and agnostics; it is no problem for the Christian theist.

In response to the correspondent's question, I pointed out the following as an example of presuppositions: The laws of logic are laws of rational thought; as such logic presupposes a thinking mind. In Christian theism, that ultimate mind is the mind of the eternal and personal God. Though this may be wrongly interpreted as if it were a deductive argument, it is not. It is an illustration of a presupposition that underlies and is the metaphysical ground of human logic.

The correspondent responded with the question, "Why can't that mind be mine?" Indeed, that is the question for him to answer based on a presumed godless reality! Many questions come to mind. For example, where or from what did his mind originate? Did immaterial minds irrationally spring forth de novo from matter in motion (If indeed there be minds as opposed to mere physically determined material brains)? Was there a first mind? Or, is there an infinite past of finite individual minds begetting new minds, (coming into being at birth, then vanishing into nothingness at death)? Is his mind ultimate? If not, what produced his mind? Is his mind free from physical determination (i.e., does he have rational freedom and volition)? How many unrelated (material and perhaps non-material) causal principles does the unbeliever invent to account for the existence of minds? Are those causal properties, along with matter and minds, of which they are properties, eternal, uncreated, ultimate constituents of reality?  In addition, for a materialist the question is (a) how all the biochemistry going on in every human skull (different processes in different locations) gives rise to objective non-material abstractions, such as logic, or, if not a materialist, (b) from whence all these contingent minds emerged equipped with innate and invariant logic. Those are just a few problems for starters.

Again, the question remains for atheists and agnostics to answer on the foundation of their metaphysical presuppositions. Answers that millennia of atheist philosophies have failed to supply.

I've already given the Christian answer: Mind is not his alone. The ultimate mind is the mind of the eternal God of Christian theism.

1 The historical connection of logic to TAG stems from Greg Bahnsen's use of the presuppositional apologetic in his debate with atheist Gordon Stein where Stein couldn't support the existence of, or use and reliability of, logic on the basis of his materialism. This was a defining moment for public awareness of presuppositionalism. In a way, it is a bit unfortunate that the debate paved the way for some, including Christians, to think that the existence of logic is the only or main element of TAG (thereby focusing attention mainly on logic in conjunction with TAG). But such is not the case. TAGs challenge to unbelief is that it cannot make sense (on its own presuppositions) of any fact of human experience. Thus, one can start with logic, or language, or mathematics or moral laws (among others) to expose the unbeliever's internal contradictions and refute the unbeliever's worldview or total view of reality.

2 What is at issue in the debate between Christians and unbelievers is not merely "logic," but the conception of logic that each participant in the debate holds. Logical reasoning is necessary -- for both parties -- in the encounter of belief with unbelief. When we reason with unbelievers we, of course, employ our God-given capacity for logical thinking. The unbeliever will likewise employ logic in the debate while all along denying God. However, the unbeliever typically does not question his capacity to reason, nor ask what is the metaphysical ground of the human ability to think and reason according to abstract laws of logic. The "logic" to which the unbeliever appeals (and which is his ultimate authority) is an autonomous "logic" that exists in a void. So an appeal to a common conception of "logic" is illusory. The totally antithetical conceptions of logic (among a host of other things) are at the core of the debate. Van Til addresses this issue:
"It appears then that if there is to be any intelligible encounter between the Christian and the non-Christian, it must be in terms of the two mutually exclusive visions that each entertains. To appeal to the law of contradiction and/or to facts or to a combination of these apart from the relation that these sustain to the totality-vision of either, the believer or the unbeliever, is to beat the air. It is well to say that he who would reason must presuppose the validity of the laws of logic. But if we say nothing more basic than this, then we are still beating the air. The ultimate question deals with the foundation of the validity of the laws of logic. We have not reached bottom until we have seen that every logical activity in which any man engages is in the service of his totality-vision." (Emph. added) Cornelius Van Til, The Case for Calvinism. The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1964. (Quoted from The Works of Cornelius Van Til, Logos Digital Edition).
As to the question of logic in the debate between totally antithetical worldviews Bahnsen writes:
"The antithesis (in principle) between the philosophical systems of unbelievers and the philosophical system of believers is so broad and basic that it even affects the way they deal with central philosophical notions like logic, possibility, and objectivity (to mention but a few). This observation should not be misunderstood. The presuppositionalist does not say that Christians and non-Christians inevitably accept and operate with completely different, specific laws of logic in their practical exercises of reasoning. Yet they do clearly disagree with each other concerning the nature, source, and authority of the laws of logic. Both worldviews may endorse and utilize the disjunctive syllogism or De Morgan's theorems, but when we inquire into what they are talking about, the evidence that is appropriate or persuasive for their claims (about syllogisms, theorems, etc.), or the necessity of the truths about logic, we get radically different answers -- which almost always betray differing convictions regarding metaphysics." (Greg Bahnsen, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Philadelphia, 1998. p. 280)

3 It is true that there are some atheists who are not material monists -- but they are few and far between. There are idealistic monists (mind is the fundamental stuff of reality) and there are others usually referred to as "pluralists" who believe in a plurality of co-ultimate things (Roger Penrose, for example). But, in the case of the pluralists, merely asserting the existence of minds and a plurality of immaterial "platonic" entities with no coherent unity among them is question begging and provides no intelligible ground for human knowledge. In addition to being no answer to the problem of the one and the many, no atheist has given the account of what bridges the gap between the particulars of the atheist's material world with its basic chance characteristics and their eternal unchanging realm of universal "platonic" entities. As mentioned above, the existence of human minds in this worldview is also a major problem -- especially on the macro evolutionary account that human minds are no more than material brains assembled by (and thereby still controlled by) random physical processes. The dual atheist principles of human autonomy and the ultimacy of chance are contradictory.

The many problems of a platonistic conception of reality are well known, which explains why few advocate it, and won't be dealt with here. As to the idealists, which were more in vogue during Van Til's time, Van Til's writings, in particular A Survey of Christian Epistemology, provide a wealth of information on the internal contradictions of the idealists.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Heideggerian Nonsense Redux: Nonsense is still nonsense and nothing still yields nothing.

I received a reply to this prior post which began by providing this link to the Wikipedia page on Krauss' book A Universe from Nothing -- whose title itself is philosophical sophistry. The writer supplied this without analysis to my discussion of Heidegger's question.  Unfortunately, there are some (Richard Dawkins, for one1) who believe Krauss has something relevant to say to that question.  As we will see, Krauss has nothing to say about that question. As discussed below, Krauss is both a philosophical charlatan and also, on occasion, exhibits incompetence in his physics descriptions .  Krauss' book is rather old news, and I suspect my interlocutor probably did not "drill down to" David Albert's devastating critique of the book: On the Origin of Everything.

In any event, Krauss' book certainly adds nothing to the philosophical discussion of Heidegger's nonsense.

As it turns out, even Krauss is not so dim as to believe that something comes from absolutely nothing -- even though he promotes this idea in cloaked words, as if that were the case (so much so that Richard Dawkins foolishly takes the bait). Krauss, in his lecture here, remarks (my punctuation added): "By 'nothing' I don't mean nothing I mean 'nothing' " Exactly so. (Of course, putting scare quotes in the title would not be as sensational.) The quantum vacuum of quantum field theory (QFT) is called the particle vacuum: it is the ground state of the fields (and that is something) in which no particles are detectable. The Wikipedia entry states: "[I]t is a mistake to think of any physical vacuum as some absolutely empty void." David Albert has remarked on this in his review of  "A Universe from Nothing" (supra). I have made similar analysis on Hawking here: Hawking's "The Grand Design" -- a new sub-Platonic Cosmogony for Itching Ears and here: More on Hawking's Grand Design.

To summarize: In quantum field theory, the fields are everywhere, particles are not.  One can have fields with no particles, but not particles without the fields. The fields are fundamental; they are the matrix of the particles. Particles are the quantized manifestation of excitations of the field -- i.e. discrete vibrations of the field.

It bears repeating.  The main point is that in all physical theories, the material is presupposed by atheists as eternally existent -- there is no explanation for their existence. The quantum fields are merely posited as uncreated and eternal. Krauss should have titled his book: A Universe from "Nothing"  -- but the scare quotes would be less sensational and no doubt "scare off" some potential book buyers. As titled, it is a marketing hook that certainly aids in attracting the naively gullible atheists, of which, Richard Dawkins is one. Richard Dawkins interprets Krauss' "nothing" to be literally nothing but yet a sophisticated something (!) (as we see in this humorous video in which Dawkins earns his dunce's cap. "The fool has said in his heart there is no God").

In closing, I point out that Krauss believes his mythology so deeply that it even seduces him into loose statements in his lectures. Here is an example from the video above at time 21:28 where he displays a simulation of his so-called "empty" space between quarks. He says the simulation shows the fields "popping in and out of existence." It shows no such thing.  As presented (by what it "shows" and what it omits) the simulation is an example of atheist propaganda. (If that simulation shows fields popping in out of existence, then this video shows a drum head popping in and out of existence! Absurdity!)  There is another remark around 18:00 where he describes this "empty" space as that which you get if you remove "absolutely everything" --  well, Krauss' subsequent discussion contradicts that.  The quantum fields are still there; so much, for "absolutely everything." Krauss is absolutely wrong.

Krauss should know better. The quantum fields do not pop in and out of existence. The fields exist eternally (in the atheist's philosophy) and everywhere. The amplitude of the fields (like the displacement of the vibrating strings on a violin or the membrane of a drum head) vary with time and position according to the relativistic wave equations, but that does not mean the fields are popping in and out of existence (anymore than the node on a violin string means the string has popped out of existence at the node). Krauss has made the embarrassing mistake of blurring objects and attributes of objects. One should also consider the simulation itself.   In describing the fields between the quarks, the simulation has program variables that hold the values of the fields at each instant and at each spatial point between the quarks -- those values can be zero at some points and times while the simulation is running.  But that does not mean the variables (and the fields they describe) in the program cease to exist!2   Those variables are programmed to obey a numerical representation of the relativistic field equations.  Well to be fair, if you observe Krauss' chartmanship you will have noted that the slide title is "Empty space not empty." That is loose (and self contradictory as written), but fits his atheist talking point. The slide should read: "Empty" Space is not Empty -- or, better: Space is not empty.

Finally, Krauss is wrong on so many levels when he talks about "empty" space. Consider: the four-dimensional space-time itself is something (even if it is a four-dimensional slice of a higher-dimensional "bulk" as in string theory -- the bulk, too, is something). The four-dimensional space is described by the metric (gravitational) field of general relativity. This field itself has the properties of distinguishing between the three spatial dimensions and time. It also mysteriously, and without explanation, encodes the value of the fundamental speed of light!  Finally, we should mention that the omnipresent Higgs field is also in Krauss' so-called "empty" space.  From the Wikipedia
  "The Higgs Field is an invisible energy field that exists everywhere in the universe" (emph. added).
So then, Krauss' "empty" space is most certainly something filled with a plurality of more unexplained eternal things interacting via equally mysterious "quantum interaction vertices." Krauss has swept a lot of mystery dirt underneath his atheist rug called "nothing." Unfortunately, Krauss' atheist philosophy is the stuff that passes as "science" and that permeates the writings of many of the current crop of pop celebrity atheist scientists; and fervently believed by many of the gullible public.
 "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools... Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator." (Romans 1:22,25)

1 Richard Dawkins mistakenly states that Krauss has answered the theologian's "trump card": "Why something rather than nothing?" But no competent Christian apologist raises that question. Certainly no presuppositionalist would ask that question. That question, as stated, is nonsense.
2 One should consider: If absolutely everything was removed between the quarks, as Krauss remarked, then there would be nothing for the program variables to simulate. There would be no need for a program, period!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

They Don't Know What They Are Talking About!

In presuppositional apologetics, we show that the presuppositions, or the fundamental beliefs, of all who reject Christian theism are riddled with self-contradictions.  Their metaphysical assumptions ("view of what exists and is real") provide no coherent foundation for their epistemology ("how they know") and ethics ("how they should live their lives"); and, considered jointly, their metaphysics, epistemology and ethics are mutually incoherent. This is a fact that most unbelievers do not confront, as they refuse to engage in self-reflection and critical examination of their beliefs. Even when confronted with these contradictions, unbelievers, unless convicted of their sin by the Spirit of God, will continue to irrationally hold to their self-styled "rational" unbelief, rather than turning to the only rational position, Christian theism.

For instance, unbelievers -- on the basis of the presupposed properties of a godless universe -- cannot give coherent accounts of their "knowledge," in general, or of their moral judgments.

In particular, when it comes to morals, the unbeliever has no basis whatsoever for making moral pronouncements.  This follows directly from the typical belief of the so-called "scientific" worldview that only science yields knowledge.   This viewpoint is called scientism.  In that epistemology (based on the so-called "logical-empirical approach"), only things that are empirical or can be logically deduced are known1.  Ipso facto, that belief excludes moral knowledge.

First, moral laws are not perceived via the senses (empirically).  One cannot see, touch, taste, hear or smell moral laws. Moral laws (like laws of logic) are immaterial, they are not natural. They are not discovered "in a test tube."  Second, moral laws are not logical tautologies.  Thus, by the atheist's espoused (and non-self attesting) epistemology, moral laws are inaccessible to human knowledge.  Moral laws are unknowable and unknown. This reduces the atheist to absolute moral skepticism.

The result is that for the unbeliever, moral pronouncements are arbitrary and matters of subjective opinion.  Moral laws are, then, just social constructions, whether by custom or legislation. In the case of legislation, they are established by power -- either a consensus of a majority in democracies (political power then determines the morality of the age) or by brute force in totalitarian regimes and dictatorships. There are American secular norms; there are Islamic fascist norms, communist norms, Nazi norms -- all of which, inter alia, are arbitrary.

So far, we are discussing the self-contradiction of those who believe in "morality;" albeit an unknowable, subjective, non-absolute code of conduct.  Of course, this means there really is no morality in any sense; there is only legality as encoded in arbitrary legislation and conformity (or non-conformity) to changing social customs dictated by individual tastes.   Today's "evil" may be tomorrow's "righteousness."  This further means the unbeliever has no basis for making a "legal/moral" dichotomy or the claim that there are "unjust laws" ("That may be legal but it is morally suspect").

In addition, we should mention that those who espouse the epistemology of scientism typically hold to some form of materialism.  In that case, not only are moral judgments unknown, but morals would not exist.  Morality does not exist (or inhere) within the laws of physics. So metaphysically, there is no foundation for morals in a materialist universe.  It has oft been correctly stated that one cannot argue from "what is the case" (mere descriptions of the natural state, which is all science ever does) to "what ought to be."  There is no "ought" in the laws of physics.  All that "is" follows solely from physical processes obeying inviolable physical laws.  In the atheist universe, everything "does what comes naturally."  No "wrong" ever occurs; "right" and "wrong" are not properties of matter.  Everything is merely matter in motion. [We should add that no mental freedom, volition, or rationality would occur either, as all "thoughts" and vocalization of such would also be the inviolable results of "what comes naturally."] The moral theory of the atheist is bankrupt, both metaphysically and epistemologically.

In conclusion, all of the above destroy the pretense of atheists and agnostics who claim to make "moral" pronouncements. When you hear a proponent of scientism make pronouncements on moral judgments, just remind him (that on his own terms): "You don't know what you are are talking about."

1 Of course, this presupposition of scientism is neither an empirical observation nor a logical tautology. It is, therefore, not a scientific statement and, thus, not an object of knowledge. It is self-refuting.