Thursday, December 15, 2016

Feckless Arguments: Atheist and otherwise. Heidegger redux redux: Fallacy of Special Pleading.

One of the things that impressed me when I first read Van Til was the intellectual rigor of the presuppositional defense of Christian theism. Greg Bahnsen repeatedly emphasized the objective truth of Christian theism and the surety of its proof via the transcendental argument outlined by Van Til.

An example of this intellectual rigor is shown by the fact that presuppositional apologetics rejects the so-called traditional "proofs," such as the ontological, cosmological and teleological proofs; since, as they are traditionally formulated they employ fallacies of reasoning. These are examples of fallacious arguments by Christians. Atheists equally employ fallacious arguments, which we will address below.

As for the traditional Christian "proofs," consider the cosmological argument, also known as the argument from causality. A naive presentation of the cosmological argument, in schematic, goes something like the following:
(A) Everything has a cause;
(B) the universe has a cause;
(C) therefore, that cause is God.
Of course, if premise A is a universal metaphysical principle, then God, too, has a cause; while if God has no cause, then premise A is not true. As formulated, this is an example of special pleading. It is intellectually embarrassing.

So then a better formulation is

(A) Every effect has a cause;
(B) the universe (which had a beginning) is an effect;
(C) therefore, that cause is God.

This version is less silly than the prior argument -- but is still fallacious. As Bahnsen has pointed out, it commits the fallacy of composition. It argues that since every effect within the universe has a cause then the universe as a whole has a cause. That is a fallacy. It also argues from immanent physical causation to a transcendent non-physical cause; again a fallacious jump. The sophisticated atheist believes (irrationally, of course) that physical reality as a whole is not an effect; it had no cause -- it is a brute fact. The fact that scientific evidence shows our universe (including time) had a beginning only means to an atheist that this universe is an effect that had a beginning as a "bubble" in some greater physical reality. Of course, such an atheist evasion smacks of the infinite regress that when it comes to "bubbles" it is "turtles all the way down!"

Such are the problems and lack of intellectual rigor of the so-called traditional cosmological argument -- including equally feckless rebuttals by atheists.

A presuppositional counter to the traditional cosmological argument is that the very idea of causation makes no sense outside of Christian theism. In fact, on the atheist ground, there is no justification of causality in general, or induction specifically. The problems of causality and induction described by Hume and Russell have been unanswered by atheist philosophy to this day.

On the other side we have an example from the anti-theistic camp in the question of Heidegger that I discussed here.

This interlocutor went from an initial "challenge" of :"Rather than asking about the existence of God, one should ask why there is something rather than nothing." Then, by including God in the abstract class of "something," flipped back, in a later exchange, to the same initial question of "Why God rather than nothing?" This, no doubt, is an example of "circular objections."

Of course the Christian answer is that God is eternal and self existent. But the question, "why God rather than nothing?" is itself an example of special pleading. It poses the question within a presupposed metaphysics of absolute "causality" and "possibility." For an anti-theist, everything, God included, and yes, even "nothing" (reified into a "something") are equal participants in the "arena of possibility." This type of atheist query inspires no more confidence than the original cosmological arguments given above.

It seems that to the atheist nothing is eternal and self existent unless it is the eternal principle of universal causation.1 As such, the question is another example of the fallacy of special pleading.

1 Note that such reasoning merely assumes some abstract notion of causation. To the monist the only causation is physical causation, so the implication of such a question is that God must be a material, physical being produced by physics also. In other words, God, like man, is a creature created by nature! -- again, yet more question begging.

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