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Old 10-06-2008, 12:30 PM   #9
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I came across a debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein earlier that piqued my interest. It is available here [PDF | HTML]. It's titled, "Does God exist?" I'm sure most of you have read discussions on this subject before, both here and in formal debates like this one. However, the thing that differentiates this debate from numerous others on the same subject is that it introduces the concept of presuppositionalism - that is, that various things we believe about morality, logic, and science necessarily entail God's existence. I don't intend to go too deeply into that, however - I'm not well read on it - and I'll limit my comments to what is present in the debate. Bahnsen's opponent is essentially forgettable and I won't bother with his side of the debate.
Time for my brain to get some exercise, it seems...

Bahnsen is the Christian and he starts out by declaring what he is not doing:
He is not defending theism; he is defending Christian theism. In my opinion, an excellent move, although there is incredible variety of interpretations in "Christian Theism" as well. Those could be used as an argument against him.

He is not interested in subjective views on God's existence, i.e., he acknowledges that what someone believes isn't necessarily what is.
Material reasons for belief are not in question here: even if it was shown that being Christian made you live 2x longer than an atheist, that does not affect the truth of one philosophical system or the other.

Both Christians and atheists are capable of and have committed moral wrongs. He uses the examples of the Inquisition and French Revolution; while it is arguable that these events were caused by the philosophical beliefs of those person who were involved, that they indeed did these things is not in question.
At least he seems open minded...

Originally Posted by Bahnsen, p. 2
"The question is ... whether atheism or Christian theism as philosophical systems are objectively true."

Bahnsen's opening remarks are extremely interesting - to me, the best part of the debate. In particular, his views on evidence for the existence of God (which I'll quote in full here):

Originally Posted by Bahnsen, p. 2-3
1. The nature of the evidence

How should the difference of opinion between the theist and the atheist be rationally resolved? What Dr. Stein has written indicates that he, like many atheists, has not reflected adequately on this question. He writes, and I quote, "The question of the existence of God is a factual question, and should be answered in the same way as any other factual questions."

The assumption that all existence claims are questions about matters of fact, the assumption that all of these are answered in the very same way is not only over simplified and misleading, it is simply mistaken. The existence, factuality or reality of different kinds of things is not established or is confirmed in the same way in every case.

We might ask, "Is there a box of crackers in the pantry?" And we know how we would go about answering that question. But that is a far, far cry from the way we go about answering questions determining the reality of say, barometric pressure, quasars, gravitational attraction, elasticity, radio activity, natural laws, names, grammar, numbers, the university itself that you're now at, past events, categories, future contingencies, laws of thought, political obligations, individual identity over time, causation, memories, dreams, or even love or beauty. In such cases, one does not do anything like walk to the pantry and look inside for the crackers. There are thousands of existence or factual questions, and they are not at all answered in the same way in each case. Just think of the differences in argumentation and the types of evidences used by biologists, grammarians, physicists, mathematicians, lawyers, magicians, mechanics, merchants, and artists. It should be obvious from this that the types of evidence one looks for in existence or factual claims will be determined by the field of discussion and especially by the metaphysical nature of the entity mentioned in the claim under question.
This does not prove God...

Dr. Stein's remark that the question of the existence of God is answered in the same way as any other factual question, mistakenly reduces the theistic question to the same level as the box of crackers in the pantry, which we will hereafter call the crackers in the pantry fallacy.
No, it's still the Strawman fallacy.

This is quite refreshing, actually. I have seen many people - particularly on the internet - who would flatten the ontological map into something similar to scientism, i.e. they would reject the idea that a proposition could have a truth value if it is not scientific. Various people in the past have done this - notably A. J. Ayer in Language, Truth, and Logic and his verificiationism, but also (in a weaker sense) others like Popper who adhere to a principle being the arbiter of scientific truth (falsificationism), which implies that anything falling outside of it is undecidable (see Feyerabend's Against Method for a more developed attack on falsificationism).
Does he allow God to be a falsifiable concept?

Instead, however, Bahnsen realizes that not all factual statements are to be evaluated by the same standard - something that sounds quite obvious on the face of it, but it's easy to lose track when discussing questions like the existence of God.
It's just as easy to lose track of what is and idea and what is a fact... God is an idea, not an absolute fact. How can you claim something, such as God, as an absolute, when the idea of God is non-falsifiable?

Now, on to the transcendental argument for God:

Originally Posted by Bahnsen, p. 5
When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God's existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes.
Yes, yes it can. But we have no evidence for God. He can't support Christian theism with this argument, only deism. Both annoyingly non-falsifiable positions.

So Bahnsen thinks that there is something special about logic, science, intelligible experience, and morality - something that ties them directly to the Christian God. What might that special something be? Let's see.
He's already making all these concepts harder than they need to be.

Originally Posted by Bahnsen, p. 15-16
The laws of logic are not conventional or sociological. I would say the laws of logic have a transcendental necessity about them. They are universal; they are invariant, and they are not material in nature. And if they are not that, then I'd like to know, in an atheist universe, how it is possible to have laws in the first place. And secondly, how it is possible to justify those laws?
He wants them to have a transcendental necessity, but there is no evidence for one.

The laws of logic, you see, are abstract. As abstract entities, which is the appropriate philosophical term, not spiritual - entities that Dr. Stein is speaking of - abstract entities - that is to say, not individual (or universal in character). They are not materialistic. As universal, they are not experienced to be true. There may be experiences where the laws of logic are used, but no one has universal experience. No one has tried every possible instance of the laws of logic.
He claims that they are abstract- he cannot prove that. Logic isn't abstract, it simply gets very complex and slightly confusing when you consider all the different ways you can look at logic. We have not tried all of them, no, but we've tried all the ones we are capable of trying. Again, he wants there to be a 'hidden' meaning to all of this, but there simply is no proof for it. Call me materialistic if you wish, but IMHO, what ifs are a waste of time.

As invariant, they don't fit into what most materialists would tell us about the constantly changing nature of the world. And so, you see, we have a real problem on our hands. Dr. Stein wants to use the laws of logic tonight. I maintain that by so doing he's borrowing my world view. For you see, in the theistic world view the laws of logic makes sense, because in the theistic world view there can be abstract, universal, invariant entities such as the laws of logic. Within the theistic world view you cannot contradict yourself, because to do so you're engaging in the nature of lying, and that's contrary to the character of God as we perceive it. And so, the laws of logic are something Dr. Stein is going to have to explain as an atheist or else relinquish using them.
He does contradict himself. Science proves quite a bit. If he wants to embrace this metaphysical view of things, there's a lot of scientific concepts and facts he must deny. Let's see... Law of gravity, evolution, modern medicine, abiogenesis, the illogicality of any and all theistic Gods... (I will elaborate on the illogicalities if you with, but the reason I am not elaborating on them in this post is because the argument he have about them is very long and probably won't fit in this post.

The transcendental argument for the existence of God, then, which Dr. Stein has yet to touch, and which I don't believe he can surmount, is that without the existence of God it is impossible to prove anything. And that's because in the atheistic world you cannot justify, you cannot account for, laws in general: the laws of thought in particular, laws of nature, cannot account for human life, from the fact that it's more than electrochemical complexes in depth, and the fact that it's more than an accident. That is to say, in the atheist conception of the world, there's really no reason to debate; because in the end, as Dr. Stein has said, all these laws are conventional. All these laws are not really law-like in their nature, they're just, well, if you're an atheist and materialist, you'd have to say they're just something that happens inside the brain.
Incorrect on so many levels... We have very strong (falsifiable) claims of concepts of all those things. The 'irreducible complexity' and 'to unlikely to happen' arguments aren't as irreducable and unlikely as he'd like to think.

In fact, the odds are quite good. If you want I'll elaborate on the likelihood of sentient life to form and exactly how abiogenesis and evolution seem to have worked throughout earth's history.

But you see, what happens inside your brain is not what happens inside my brain. Therefore, what happens inside your brain is not a law. It doesn't necessarily correspond to what happens in mine. In fact, it can't be identical with what is inside my mind or brain, because we don't have the same brain.
So he thinks his argument is the best... How arrogant. I wanted to be nice to this guy, but that's pretty arrogant.

As the laws of logic come down to being materialistic entities, then they no longer have their law-like character. If they are only social conventions, then, of course, what we might do to limit debate is just define a new set of laws. and ask for all who want the convention that says, "Atheism must be true or theism must be true, and we have the following laws that we conventionally adopt to prove it," and see who'd be satisfied.
This isn't proving his specific argument. "Extroadinary (sp?) claims require extroardinary evidence."

But no one can be satisfied without a rational procedure to follow. The laws of logic can not be avoided, the laws of logic can not be accounted for in a Materialist universe. Therefore, the laws of logic are one of the many evidences that without God you can't prove anything at all.
This is a horrible misunderstanding of just how logic works. He is making harder than it is.

Bahnsen thinks that this failure of Stein's argument opens the door for his God. Since Stein must postulate something universal and immaterial - the laws of logic - to use in his argument, he cannot be using a purely physicalist worldview. And, in order to justify using something so metaphysical as logic, Bahnsen believes that Stein must turn to God for it, given that physicalism cannot possibly offer a justification for metaphysics.
To me, his argument seems to simply be like Stein's, only rephrased to seem different. When you get right down to it, Bahnsan is arguing in metaphysics just like Stein.

In this case, I think, the uses of the word logic are many and varied, but "logic" does not necessarily correspond to the metaphysical idea that Bahnsen proposes. He has "flattened the landscape", so to speak, of the uses of "logic" into a single one - that of his own worldview, and in so doing has presupposed his own argument.

"Only when you think you're so right can you be so wrong."


Okay, history of the universe time, since I decided to explain it all in one post (lol, summarized. I hope it fits.):

In the beginning, something happened. We think it was the big bang, what we can't be entirely sure.

Looking at the stars, we can track the movements of all the galactic objects within our visual range. We can study the physics of their movements, along with take various scans for different light wavelengths.

Here, a timeline pic:

Now for the origin of life:

The most vital elements for life (not neccessarily the only ones) are:

carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and nitrogen.

Now let's look at the periodic table of elements:

Hydrogen- the most abundant element in the universe.

Hydrogen was the first atom. Along with helium. Hydrogen and helium came together to formed the first stars, which work by nuclear fusion. Heat under gravity is basically the driving force of nuclear fusion. Heavier elements come from being smaller elements being fused and mixed up. Stars going supernova and whatnot leaves behind quite a lot of elements. Massive amounts of simplicy breeds complexity.

So, eventually we get even more complex elements, such as carbon, oxygen, phosphorus, and nitrogen.

Now, here's where it gets cool.

All elements have layers. IE, layers of electrons.

Their atomic masses are the nuetrons and protons combined. Their atomic number is the amount of protons they have. Usually, the electrons are equal to the amount of protons. When they are not, the element is an isotope of the pure form of the element.

Here's how the electron layers work:

First level: up to two electrons.
Every level afterwards- 8 electrons per level.

The 8 electrons per level after the first level is called the octet rule.

These atoms want to fill their outer layer of electrons, due to the forces of gravity. The electrons in their outer levels are called valence electrons.

With these electrons and the open slots in their outer levels, there is the opportunity for chemcical bonds. The chemical bonds (the ones I know of) are:

Covalent bonds and Ionic bonds

Covalent bonds are what make life possible, pretty much. Covalent bonds are where two atoms share valence electrons. Ionic bonds are the transferring of an electron to another atom. Ionic bonds occur when one atom has an electron it doesn't need, and another has an open 'slot'. The one with the open slot says "Gimme that electron!" and it gets that electron from the other one. Covalent bonds are strong and hard to break. Ionic bonds are weak. When one atom does not have an extra electron and the other one has an open slot, most often, the atoms will come together and form a covalent bond, sharing that electron. Get it? Co- (as in sharing) -valent (referring to the electron.)
You can get tons of covalent bonds- double covalent bonds and rarely even triple covalent bonds.

Now, two atoms fused together to form a bond isn't necessarily the end of a chain. Other atoms with open valence electron slots can come and 'ask' the other atoms to share all the other valence electrons they have. And then more atoms (isotopes) come over and 'see' the chain of atoms and bond to the ones that have open valence electrons that can be shared, etc, etc - you get the idea.

Proteins, fats, DNA... They all can very, very easily form from various atoms forming chains of bonds.

That, and the elements vital for life are very common int he universe. See the periodic table? You can order the abundance of various atoms by atomic numbers. For example, carbon has the atomic number of 6, and is thusly the sixth most common element in the universe.

Now, organic compunds. Compounds are masses of two or more elements together.

First, hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, etc, etc made covalent bonds with each other. This happens all the time with many different elements.

From that, we get chains of atoms, forming the very first, most simple organic compounds. over time, we get even longer and more complex chains. Now, beyond that, I can't explain it very well, so I'll hand it over to a youtuber who can explain it better than I can - cdk007.

This whole playlist he has made is pretty informative, although the last two have nothing to do with abiogenesis...

Edit 2:

This site is pretty informative if you'd like to take the time to read everything...

Please feed the trolls. XD

Last edited by Arcesious; 10-07-2008 at 12:47 AM.
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