Here are a few more of the high points in the dialog:
- Max claimed reason is "natural!" Another priceless moment. Bahnsen pressed the point that abstract entities are not natural.1 All Max said by way of "rebuttal" was a repeated "Oh boy!" Bahnsen challenged atheists to live according to their presuppositions -- something they never do.
- Smith assimilated physical causation and logical laws (logical "law of identity" for instance). Bahnsen succinctly pointed out that such is a major philosophical error.2 For starters, matter does not move according to abstract laws of rational thought (logic) -- matter obeys inviolable physical laws based on the properties of matter. The material universe is completely oblivious to abstract laws of logic. Laws of logic are standards of rational thought -- laws that can be violated by flawed reasoning. As we have mentioned repeatedly, laws of logic presuppose minds with rational freedom (independent of material causation) and mental causal efficacy -- something totally antithetical to a universe composed solely of matter moving according to chance and causally inviolable physical laws. (In the materialist universe the only causality is, de facto, physical.) To put it another way, laws of logic are necessary and non-contingent; on the other hand, the physical world is contingent and the laws of physics are not necessary. (If they were, empirical science and experiment would be unnecessary.) This is usually stated succinctly by the phrase "logic says nothing about the contingent world." We should also point out that physicists can construct a multitude of consistent theoretical models of the material universe with existing and hypothetical entities, differing mathematical structures, different causal interactions, different values of fundamental constants, and so on. All of which show that the actual physical reality in which we live is not necessitated by logic. To summarize, logic and physics are categorially distinct. Contra Smith, logic cannot be reduced to physics.
- Smith trotted out the tired and fallacious "Euthyphro dilemma" to counter Christian moral claims. Bahnsen succinctly rebuffed Smith by pointing out that Christian moral claims are rooted in the character of God Himself. In Christian theism, God is ne plus ultra3. There is no "super-reality" above God; no laws above God.4
During the call-in section, Smith responded to a question regarding the Bible. Smith responded, "Well, I mean there are some decent things in the Bible, sure. There are some elegantly expressed moral maxims, that sort of thing." (emph. added.) Bahnsen, probably due to lack of time, didn't respond to this but the reply to this sort of remark is: "On what standard does Smith rely to determine morals?" Would he claim that standard is absolute and knowable? On Smith's view the moral statements of Christ would be no more authoritative than those of any other; merely subjective opinion and non-absolute. The fact that Smith likes some of them is not a basis for absolute morality. Some people like Coke, others Pepsi. Smith, like all unbelievers, is his own ultimate, and arbitrary, standard.
1 Abstract entities, such as the laws of logic, are immaterial and not extended in space. As, such they are not empirically accessible; they are not natural objects perceived by the senses. For example, the law of deduction called "modus ponens" cannot be seen with the eyes. The question of the reality of abstract entities (especially universal and invariant concepts such as mathematics and logic) and conceptual knowledge lies at the root of the well known failures of rationalism, on the one hand, and empiricism, on the other, to provide a foundation for human knowledge. Both schools ended in skepticism regarding human knowledge. One should also consider that the modern phrase "logical empirical method" merely linguistically conjoins the two philosophical schools and thereby glosses the problems of both without solution, yet admits the distinction between the abstract and the natural. Stated in other terms, this dichotomy is also the distinction of deduction (necessary truths of reason) versus induction (contingent truths derived from generalizations of particular sense data). Bahnsen's point is that the atheist "universe" provides no intelligible account for either reason (human rational autonomy and conscious thought independent of material causation, existence and reality of universal laws of logic, etc.) or empirical knowledge/induction (given the atheist's commitment to ultimate chance and the irrational nature of the universe as embodied in quantum mechanics). On the atheist view, there is no bridging of the gap between the immaterial transcendent and unchanging truths of, say, logic or arithmetic, and the immanent and ever changing world of material flux. The problem that the atheist has with providing a justification of induction is well known -- it is a principle that cannot be deduced nor inductively derived (which is vicious circular reasoning and question begging). On the other hand, the transcendent God of Christian theism provides the intelligible answer to both deduction/reason (man is created in the image of God, the ultimate rational being and the source of man's reason -- behind the mind of man is the mind of the eternal God) and induction (God has created and faithfully sustains the cosmos ("...in Christ all things consist." Colossians 1:16-7). Further the existence of universal abstract entities, in that they are the contents of thought, are not eternal self-existent things existing in a mind-independent platonic world of ideas, but rather, the thoughts of the eternal God. They are real; and man, as the rational image of God, is to "think God's thoughts after Him," as Van Til has said. ↩
2 Smith fallaciously used the example of the "Law of Identity" as "support" for his claim. Rather than the law of identity, one might think that the material conditional of logic ("if P then Q") would provide a more plausible support. However, it is generally known that the material conditional does not represent the concept of causality. See, for example, Paradoxes of Material Implication (in particular, see the example of switches in a series circuit in the section on "Simplification"), Material Conditional; and Causality (section titled, "Causality contrasted with conditionals"). Incredibly, Rudolph Carnap (a logical positivist) makes the philosophical error of representing causal laws via the material conditional in chapters 1 and 20 of An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. ↩
3 Latin, literally,"no more beyond." ↩
4 Amazingly, Michael Martin also fatuously uses a version of the "Euthyphro dilemma" in his flawed TANG ("Transcendental Argument for the Non-existence of God"). The Euthyphro dilemma presupposes a mythological platonic reality of ultimate abstract moral laws to which all the "gods" and man are equally subject (and of which laws they somehow have knowledge) -- as such, it is contrary to the claim of Christian theism that God is ultimate. Thus Martin's counter does not apply -- it is a straw man. It is a logical fallacy of the most egregious type to assume the truth of "not A" to refute "A." TANG as a refutation of TAG is an utter failure. TANG is not even analogous to TAG. To be analogous, TANG would need to show: (1) that the Christian conception of God is contradictory and (2) that atheism (whether materialist or platonic pluralism) provides the necessary and coherent conditions for all of human experience -- including intelligible accounts of possibility of knowledge and existence of moral absolutes. This, of course, is something that neither Martin nor millennia of failed atheist philosophy and science has done. In short, TANG is not a transcendental argument and Michael Martin does not understand transcendental argumentation (at least, he fails to understand TAG). ↩