Logic

The Freethinking Argument

Atheists love to label themselves as “freethinkers” because they claim to have no restraints to follow the facts wherever they lead. These so-called freethinkers state that a modern-day atheist is “someone who has heard the claims of various religions, has read the books on which those claims are based, and has found the claims to be ridiculous.” There are a couple of problems with this statement. For one, just because a freethinker subjectively judges certain religious claims as ridiculous, it doesn’t logically follow that they are, in fact, ridiculous.

Moreover, if these atheists happen to be right, that God does not exist, it is also highly implausible that the immaterial aspect of humanity called a “soul” exists. This has led me to the conclusion that it is impossible for an atheistic naturalist to really be a “free thinker.” Sure, they can join the club and call themselves “freethinkers,” but if they happen to be right about atheistic naturalism, no one could freely think anything.

If God does not exist, it is difficult to see how anyone could ever freely think about good evidence and argumentation and choose to deliberate and think rationally to come to the most logical conclusions. I will demonstrate this in an argument I crafted after dwelling upon what it means to freely think:

The Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism 

1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.

2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.

3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.

4- Rationality and knowledge exist.

5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.

6- Therefore, the soul exists.

7- Therefore, naturalism is false.

8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.

Basically, premise (1) is synonymous with “If naturalism is true, nature is all that exists.” That is pretty straightforward. Premise (2) is tantamount to “If all that exists is nature, then all that exists is causally determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang.” Premise (3) is equivalent with “If all things are causally determined, then that includes all thoughts and beliefs.” If our thoughts and beliefs are forced upon us, and we could not have chosen better beliefs, then we are simply left assuming that our determined beliefs are good (let alone true). Therefore, we could never rationally affirm that our beliefs are the inference to the best explanation – we can only assume it.

Here is the big problem for the atheistic naturalist: It logically follows that if naturalism is true, then atheists cannot possess knowledge (no one could)! Knowledge is defined as “justified true belief.” One can happen to have true beliefs; however, if they do not possess warrant or justification for a specific belief, their belief does not qualify as a knowledge claim. If one cannot freely infer the best explanation, then one has no justification that their belief really is the best explanation. Without justification, knowledge goes down the drain. All we are left with is question-begging assumptions (a logical fallacy).

Obviously humans possess rationality and knowledge. To argue this would affirm it. If one rejects knowledge, why should anyone listen to them? Therefore, libertarian free will and the soul (or some immaterial aspect of humanity) exists, and therefore, naturalism is false.

Returning to the original question, how can an atheist (if he’s right) truly be a “freethinker?” If God, and therefore, the human soul, does not exist, people are nothing more than material mechanisms bound by the laws of chemistry and physics. To put it bluntly, human beings would be nothing more than “bags of chemicals on bones,” or “meat robots.” If this is all we are, we do not possess libertarian free will. If humanity has no free will, then we are not free to think anything (in the libertarian sense). Therefore, knowledge, rationality, and morality are illusory. We would not be free to choose to be reasonable or to engage in logical argumentation or even to freely choose to follow evidence wherever it leads. Ultimately, if atheistic naturalism is true, we are not free to choose anything; that includes what we are going to choose to believe or think.

A naturalistic atheist has no justification to label himself as a “freethinker.” I think a better name for the freethinkers would be the “determined determinists.” Given naturalism, there’s no freedom to think otherwise!

Bottom line: The supernatural must exist for the naturalistic atheist to “freely think” that it doesn’t.

The FreeThinking Theist,

Tim Stratton

NOTES

To read an expanded version of this argument click here.

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Children of Science or Faith?

I am a big fan of Doctor Who. The time traveling alien who travels in a machine disguised as a police box tickles my fancy because I never know what to expect. However last week while my wife was out of town I decided to watch an episode from a spinoff series. Torchwood was a more adult series that was on the air a few years ago and deals with alien incursion on earth when the good Doctor is not around. So since I had an afternoon to burn away I grabbed a long scarf, a screwdriver, and started watching the Children of Earth miniseries on Netflix.

While we will not go into the plot details, here is the basic premise: Children all over the earth froze at the same specific time and started to chant “We are coming”, and then unfroze like nothing happened (much like when the TV is turned off after a cartoon marathon in real life). In the course of the investigation, a massive government conspiracy is exposed and an alien menace is destroyed at a great cost. While this sounds like any science fiction show there is some underlying ideas that are talked about in the opening minutes of the first episode that are interesting.

Here is the clip: http://www.tubechop.com/watch/6750759 

The woman, Gwen, is a main character and she is trying to enlist a medical professional that was just met in the previous scene. He finally opens up on why he wants to join the secret organization.

He explains that his first case was a suicide of a Christian woman who thought that science won because of the appearance of alien life in this fictional world. The characters concur that not only did she lose her faith but it was more than that. It was right that she now felt she was a tiny part in the universe and was nothing significant. After that bit of seriousness Gwen consoles him by saying that the meaningless they all feel is “brilliant, beautiful, magic, and bigger.”

Can that tragedy that was discussed actually happen? Yes, sadly people commit suicide over a multitude of reasons; however, this is a fictional scene written specifically by the author to make a point. That is what we are addressing.

While we need more people who write science-fiction with a religious bent, the argument in this scene shows that there is a divide between Science and Religion. The ones who embrace science are the ones who avoid the feelings of “anomie” and see the world as “brilliant, beautiful, magic, and bigger”. Here is the issue though: it is actually the reverse! God and science can both be true! Here are some reasons how our Torchwood ‘friends’ are wrong:

  • Meeting aliens would not disprove the existence of God or Christianity. This is a non-sequitur. Think of it this way: when we find new species here on earth do they disprove that God exists? No, there is no link between finding life and the existence of God. How then would finding life off of the earth be any different? Also, if aliens exist they would still have to be created because of the conclusion of the Kalam.
  • Science has equivocal meanings. Any good thinker should ask “What do you mean by the word science?” If Science means that we can only know things through the scientific method (‘scientism’), like this scene indicates, then the world is actually smaller since that kind of science self-refutes. “Science” in that way cannot even prove it exits using the scientific method.
  • It commits the False Dilemma fallacy by asserting that a view is either scientific or religious by presupposing that science and religion cannot mix. We, however,  see the blending of science and religion in the existence of a Creator based on Big Bang cosmology as the beginning of the universe.
  • There is a whole field of Scientific apologetics that even has a part here on this blog.  There are many different approaches of dealing with science and religion according to Ian Barbour: conflict, independence, dialogue and integration. [1]. By only choosing the conflict perspective, there is a closing out of all the different approaches that have happened in the past as well as now.
  • You actually need God for meaning! William Craig writes that life would be absurd without God. While this thought is even addressed in the Book Ecclesiastes, that death is the great equalizer we can go further. Not only will we die but the universe will end in a bitter cold whimpering death. There is nothing we can do to stop that. We could lie to ourselves to be noble but even that deception would be meaningless in the end.

So while the Torchwood team did save the day, they still would need a Doctor to save them from their incorrect thinking.

———-

[1]  Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues (Harper San Francisco, ©1997).

The Kalam (Part 3)

I have recently been defending one of my favorite arguments for God’s existence known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). The argument is based on two simple premises that lead to a logical conclusion with theistic significance. The KCA looks like this:

1- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2- The universe began to exist.

3- Therefore, the universe had a cause.

(more…)

The Kalam (Part 2)

In my last article we examined one of my favorite arguments for God’s existence known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). The argument is based on a simple syllogism utilizing only two premises. The argument is simple; however, it leads to a logically deductive conclusion with significant theistic implications. The KCA looks like this:

1- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2- The universe began to exist.

3- Therefore, the universe had a cause.

In my previous article I provided logical support for both premises. I believe logic is always the best evidence to have as science itself is based on logic. That is to say, a scientist cannot even get the scientific method off the ground without first assuming the laws of logic. I appealed to logic alone to prove the space-time universe had an absolute beginning. Be that as it may, many today ignorantly dismiss logic and won’t accept a statement as true unless they have scientific data supporting the proposition in question. This assumption is based on a logically incoherent philosophy called “scientism” (that science is the only way to know things).[1] Although this worldview is logically bankrupt, it is always nice to possess scientific data supporting the conclusions we have already reached based on logic. We have exactly that when it comes to supporting the second premise of the Kalam.

Scientific Validation 

Let’s look at scientific data that the universe is not infinitely old. Take the second law of thermodynamics, for instance. It states that all of the useful energy that already exists in the universe is being used up and is being transformed into non-usable energy. This refers to a process called entropy. If the universe were infinitely old, then it would have already used up all of its usable energy an infinite amount of time ago. Therefore, we would have reached a temperature of absolute zero, and the heat death of the universe an infinite amount of time ago.[2] There would be no heat, no light, no life, not just in our galaxy, but also anywhere in the entire universe.

Now, since there are pockets of useful energy left in the universe, the universe had to have had a starting point. Moreover, scientists can show us through the study of big bang cosmology that we live in an expanding universe.[3] Imagine watching a video of the expansion of the universe. Push “pause,” and then hit the rewind button. Eventually you will come to the beginning of what was expanding. It must have had a starting point.

Moreover, if this wasn’t enough, three of the leading physicists in the world today, Arvind Borde, Allan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, constructed a theorem (the BGV theorem of 2003) which reaches the same conclusion – nature had an absolute beginning. No matter what model one holds, none of them can be extrapolated into past infinity. Dr. Guth (The “G” in BGV) concluded there was a “mother of all beginnings” and stated: “… Even within the context of inflation with many bubbles forming, there would still be somewhere an ultimate beginning.”[4] Dr. Vilenkin makes this point even stronger:

“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”[5] 

Therefore, if nature had an absolute beginning, it is incoherent to state, “Nature existed before nature existed.” Therefore, the cause of nature must be something other than nature. This is what philosophers call “supernatural.”

The Logical Conclusion 

So if the two premises that we have examined are true, it leads us to a startling, but very logical conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause. The definition of the word “universe” is anything and everything that is in time and space, including time and space, that is physical, material, and can be tested scientifically.[6] Given this definition, the “cause” cannot be anything that fits within the definition of the universe. Otherwise the universe would have had to exist before it existed. But, what could have caused the universe to exist if nothingness (not anything physical) existed before the universe began to exist?

“Nothingness” is causally impotent, so what could have caused the universe to “bang” into existence? This leads to some very important questions. What could exist apart from space-time and matter and still have a causal relation with the material universe? If so, what attributes or properties must this cause possess? This will be the focus of my next article.

Stay tuned…

Tim Stratton

 

NOTES 

[1] A.J. Roberts (our fellow Apologer) talks about the difference between science and scientism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N4Y411HE3U

[2] Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 97

[3] Tim Stratton, Stealing Defeat From the Jaws of Victory, http://freakengministries.com/stealing-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory/

[4] Closer to the Truth, http://youtu.be/Z79FGmh50Xo (Accessed 8-30-14)

[5] Alexander Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), 176.

[6] JP Moreland, Arguments For the Existence of God, The Christian Apologetics Program Biola University

The Kalam (Part 1)

One of my favorite arguments for God’s existence is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). It consists of two premises that lead to a logically deductive conclusion with significant theistic implications. The syllogism goes as follows:

1- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2- The universe began to exist.

3- Therefore, the universe had a cause.

(more…)