Philosophy

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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#LoveWins Part 3

Previously in the #LoveWins series, we started to define what love is and is not with 3 basic observations. We continue by defining love with some slightly more complex definitions:

4. Love cannot be forced. In Disney’s Aladdin, the genie gives the following as a limitation to wishing: You cannot force anyone to fall in love with you. For a cartoon, this rule is profound as it makes the wisher not have the power over love. Let us say that it was possible to wish someone to fall in love with you. This would be a bad thing as the thing desired for would only be a counterfeit and thus not truly love. The person compelled would be changed against their will. Thus by forcing a person to love you, that person would be changed from the one you fell in love with. One cannot wish the demise of the object of their affection. Plato makes this exact point in The Symposium.

If Plato does not convince you, there is also a pretty heavy handed episode of Doctor Who that addresses this issue as well (and was really the only good concept in ‘Gridlock’ in my opinion). In that episode, there were drug dealers who dealt in emotion patches. One would slap on a patch and immediately forget, feel happy, sad, or whatever emotion one could afford. So in that dystopian future where one was ruled by emotion patches, the feeling of love would be no more than a mere dose away. That manipulation of emotions would mean that people could force others or themselves to only feel things that they wanted. That would be in no way loving and in fact is one of the lessons the Pixar movie Inside Out teaches: “that someone who only pursues pleasure is going to be a shallow, selfish person.” A forced ‘love’ on others or the self is a deadly lust for power that can harm and is not love.

5. Love is not free and is costly. This has been a large misconception about love, that someone can be a lover and not a fighter and that there is such a thing as free love. I will always fight for my wife and family because I love them. If one does not wish to fight then the love that they have either is not worth defending or is all about themselves. Both of those outcomes cannot be love and would be at best selfishness. The great author G.K. Chesterton wrote this about that divide:

“You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it. You cannot fight without something to fight for. To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all; it is lust. It may be an airy, philosophical, and disinterested lust; it may be, so to speak, a virgin lust; but it is lust, because it is wholly self-indulgent and invites no attack. On the other hand, fighting for a thing without loving it is not even fighting; it can only be called a kind of horse-play that is occasionally fatal.” [1]

Many people who end up divorcing regret not fighting for their marriage, but over 80% of couples who rated their marriages as ‘very unhappy’ said they were happily married five years later according to this report from the Institute for American Values. The people who fight for their marriages are the ones who are the happiest because they understand  love is something that is costly due to its importance.

6. Love requires the immaterial soul. Imagine, if you will, a world where the only things that exist are things that we can touch, feel, and observe. That would mean that things that cannot be directly sensed are illusions. Among the illusions would be our thoughts and our will. We have just established that love requires a fight and thus by implication a will to fight, but that will needs to be free because love cannot be forced, as also stated previously. If love was just a bio-chemical or a physical reaction it would be just emotional. We previously established that could not be the case. If love were just the passing on of genetic material due to ‘selfish’ genes (ala Dawkins), then that would mean love is just an illusion for that end. Love would be merely physical and we previously established this cannot be. This imagined world also goes against what we talked about ‘is’ and ‘ought’ because love is not lust. In addition to all that there would no grounding for value or human dignity in that make-believe world. So if we believe that love exists then the make believe world where only material things exist cannot be. So the concept of love contradicts that world, because either that world exists and love does not or love exists and that world does not. Because love exists, love requires the immaterial soul because this soul is where free will resides.

Next time we will bring everything together to see what this all means.

————-

[1] Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, CW 15:255.

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