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The Self-Refuting Nature of Naturalism

By Tim Stratton

J.P. Moreland, in his book, “Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity,” claims that physicalism (often referred to as “naturalism”) is self-refuting for many reasons, but mainly because physicalism seems to deny the possibility of rationality. In making his rational case for rationality, he demonstrates that at least five factors must be established if authentic rational agents are to exist, and can reflect accurately upon reality. I will focus on his final point. He says,

“The activity of rational thought seems to require an agent view of the self which, in turn, involves four theses: 1- I must be able to deliberate, to reflect about what I am going to do… 2- I must have free will; that is, given choices and b, I can genuinely do both. If I do a, I could have done otherwise… 3- I am an agent. My acts are self-caused… 4- Free will is incompatible with physical determinism. They cannot both be true at the same time.”

Moreland reaches the logical conclusion, and writes, “If one is to be rational, one must be free to choose his beliefs based on reasons.” He argues that if physicalism (the belief that all that exists is the physical universe) is true, then physical determinism logically follows. If physical determinism is true, then it follows that all things (including our thoughts and beliefs) are determined and “causally settled by the laws of chemistry and physics coupled with the boundary conditions of earlier states.” This view that nature is all that exists (and therefore, God or the soul does not exist) removes any possibility for human libertarian free will.

Therefore, Moreland concludes that it is “self-refuting to argue that one ought to choose physicalism because he should see that the evidence is good for physicalism.” In fact, on the view of physicalism, there are no “oughts!” On physicalism, there are only “physical states in the brain.” Physical states simply are; therefore, one cannot derive how one ought to behave or think if a person’s actions are determined by the structure of their physical brain. Only if humanity has an aspect of our existence that is non-physical or immaterial (like the Biblical view of the human soul) can we be held responsible for making any decision, including those with any moral or rational properties.

I think Moreland is exactly right, and it seems many of the world’s most influential naturalistic atheists agree as well! Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Will Provine, Jerry Coyne, and Alex Rosenberg have all made the same case: that given their naturalistic worldview, free will does not exist! But here is the problem: did they freely and rationally come to that conclusion? Not on their view. In fact, if they are to be consistent naturalists, they should claim that they are forced to think naturalism is true due to the deterministic laws of nature, and not because of their intellect or reasoning skills. Therefore, a naturalist has no grounds to state naturalism is true. In fact, it is an utterly irrational statement (if naturalism is true or not)! If the atheist happens to be correct about naturalism, it seems that it is impossible for free will to exist, and it logically follows that rationality is lost as well.

If a naturalist claims that he has reached the view that physicalism is true based on reason, logic, and rationality, it seems that he is actually providing evidence that naturalism is false. Therefore, stating that one ought to be a naturalist is self-refuting. In fact, one ought not to listen to such irrational statements.

Moreland offers a perfect summary: “Physicalism cannot be offered as a rational theory because physicalism does away with the necessary preconditions for there to be such a thing as rationality.” If a naturalist wants to argue that rationality does not exist, they will be making two grave errors: 1- They would be claiming to be non-rational, and 2- they would be making a rational argument that rationality does not exist. It seems the rational decision one ought to come to is that naturalism is irrational, and therefore, false.

Stay reasonable my friends (Phil 4:5),

Tim Stratton

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57 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    Tim, by this logic we should not be able to trust the calculation of a computer, since it does not have free will. Just because human brains are subject to physical laws, it doesn’t follow that they are not capable of reasoning. Further you haven’t made an argument for what the supernatural adds to brains to make a difference – the brain is still making decisions dependent on its physical structure, its limitations, its imperfect biases, the inputs it receives through our senses. What difference does it make if you posit there is a ‘non-physical’ aspect? You can’t just say you’ve solved the problem of free will simply by claiming there’s a soul. That makes an extra component to the brain that happens to be non-physical, but so what? To argue for free will you need to show decisions that are neither caused nor random. Neither you nor JP Moreland appear to have done that – merely mentioned the soul, which isn’t enough.

    Reply
    • Tim says:

      //Tim, by this logic we should not be able to trust the calculation of a computer, since it does not have free will. Just because human brains are subject to physical laws, it doesn’t follow that they are not capable of reasoning.//

      Appealing to a computer only sweeps the problem under the rug, but the problem still remains. I have a soon to be released article coming out soon explaining this in depth and detail. In a nutshell, your computer objection has three big problems:

      1- Your statement *assumes* that the determined determinist making the claim has transcended his deterministic environment and freely inferred the best explanation that computers, although, determined, are “rational,” instead of emulating the rationality of the computer programmer who determined the computer via algorithm.

      Given determinism, you were forced to believe computers are rational if they are or not. As I mentioned, simply offering a computer as a rational agent only sweeps the problem under the rug but the problem still remains.

      2- Even if determinists were determined to believe computers were rational, they would still be wrong. Consider what the atheist philosophers have said regarding this:

      John Searle said, “Computation has no intrinsic intentionality, but only secondary intentionality imparted by the programmers. Computation is NOT thinking!”

      Alex Rosenberg said, “Physics and neuroscience tell us that matter cannot be about other matter. Computer science combined both to show human brains can’t really be about stuff for the same reason your laptop can’t really be about anything at all.”

      Here’s the point: If a computer cannot be of or about anything, then it cannot THINK of or about anything either. Therefore, the “conclusions” a computer reaches are not of or about anything at all. So much for “rationality!”

      3- Here’s the ultimate question: Is the computer ultimately determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang, or was the human programmer a rational agent who causally determined the computer via algorithm?

      As I mentioned, I have an article scheduled to come out in the next few weeks delving much deeper into this computer topic.

      //Further you haven’t made an argument for what the supernatural adds to brains to make a difference – the brain is still making decisions dependent on its physical structure, its limitations, its imperfect biases, the inputs it receives through our senses. What difference does it make if you posit there is a ‘non-physical’ aspect? You can’t just say you’ve solved the problem of free will simply by claiming there’s a soul. That makes an extra component to the brain that happens to be non-physical, but so what? To argue for free will you need to show decisions that are neither caused nor random. Neither you nor JP Moreland appear to have done that – merely mentioned the soul, which isn’t enough.//

      Well, I have an entire master’s thesis on the issue and I am currently working on a doctoral dissertation regarding this. I simply tried to give a short popular level blog here encouraging people to come to my website and do a little more research. If you’d like a logically deductive argument, I’m happy to oblige:

      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. (Deductive)
      6- Therefore, the soul exists. (Deductive)
      7- Therefore, naturalism is false. (Deductive)
      8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God. (Abductive)

      If you want to check the validity of the structure reaching the deductive conclusions, here you go:

      1. N → ¬ S
      2. ¬ S → ¬ LFW
      3. ¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K
      4. R & K
      5. R & K → LFW
      6. LFW → S
      7. S → ¬ N

      Here is short article making my case: http://freethinkingministries.com/the-freethinking-argument-in-a-nutshell/

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

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

        Tim, what exactly is it about a soul that creates libertarian free will, and how exactly does it do so?

        It’s not about whether the computer is ‘about’ anything, or whether it is thinking – the question is whether we can trust its computations. The answer to that is yes, we can. That the computer was programmed by us, and our brains were formed by natural selection, is not relevant – we’ve shown that free will is not necessary for trustable computations.

        Reply
        • Tim says:

          Andy, you asked: “Tim, what exactly is it about a soul that creates libertarian free will, and how exactly does it do so?”

          Good question, Andy! The “soul” (or whatever one wants to call the immaterial aspect of humanity) is a non-physical substance. It is *other than nature* (this is what philosophers call “supernatural”). It logically follows that if the soul exists (which I deductively proved it does), it is not in the causal chain of events determined via the laws of nature going all the way back to the initial conditions of the big bang. If you are a soul, then you have the ability to not always be causally determined, and thus, you can genuinely be a FREE THINKER and choose to act based on your free and logical thoughts (or not).

          You said, “It’s not about whether the computer is ‘about’ anything, or whether it is thinking – the question is whether we can trust its computations.”

          Well if the computer (or a person) is not thinking then they are not going to provide any rational thoughts *about* anything. As I mentioned earlier, I have an entire soon-to-be-released article coming out on all of the problems regarding this computer objection. Stay tuned!

          You said, “The answer to that is yes, we can.”

          Was that a free thought or are you forced to believe it even if it’s false? Has a computer ever made a mistake? Was that mistake based on faulty human programming or the initial conditions of the big bang? How would you rationally affirm your determined answer?

          You said, “That the computer was programmed by us, and our brains were formed by natural selection, is not relevant – we’ve shown that free will is not necessary for trustable computations.”

          It’s completely relevant, Andy! Alvin Plantinga has demonstrated that evolution selects for survival and not truth (I have another article on this coming out soon too). There are countless examples demonstrating that believing false things is advantageous to survival, so appealing to naturalistic evolution (as opposed to theistic and designed evolution) will get you nowhere. Moreover, when you say, “we’ve shown that free will is not necessary for trustable computations,” you are simply trying to sweep the problem under the rug. Your very statement was causally determined via natural law and the big bang if it is true or not. You are assuming you are a free thinker to argue against freethinking.

          That is self-defeating.

          I probably won’t have time to come back to this conversation until Monday. I have a busy weekend.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            Has a computer ever made a mistake? Sure, but so have humans, so the objection isn’t relevant. My point stands. Saying computers aren’t ‘rational’ doesn’t refute my point – they can make reliable computations despite not having free will.

            “Which I deductively proved it does”

            I believe you provided an argument containing false premises and assumptions, so reject that you proved this.

            Mooting a soul doesn’t solve the free will problem that you advance. As John points out, what’s the alternative to a causal chain? If it’s not random or caused, where’s it coming from? Just saying it’s ‘free’ doesn’t tell us anything.

            A final question: if you found yourself in the world you claim we can’t be in, one without the supernatural, how would you be able to tell? What evidence would give it away?

    • jon says:

      Worse reply ever. Of course we can’t trust computers if we don’t know who built them or programmed them. snh. Do you open every spam email filled viruses or do you use reason. Naturalism would simply make you a virus.

      Reply
  2. John Moore says:

    Moreland is using a different definition of rationality. For most people, the key aspect of rationality is that it’s driven by reasons. Reasons are causes. The concept of free will requires you to be “self-caused,” which really means acting without cause. Thus, free will is the opposite of rationality.

    Reply
    • Tim says:

      //Moreland is using a different definition of rationality. For most people, the key aspect of rationality is that it’s driven by reasons. Reasons are causes. The concept of free will requires you to be “self-caused,” which really means acting without cause. Thus, free will is the opposite of rationality.//

      I explained what rationality means in the article, John, but the big problem for naturalists is that if naturalism is true, then it stands to *reason* that all things are causally determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang. These are all outside of human control, thus, if naturalism is true, all of your thoughts and beliefs (including your thoughts and beliefs about your thoughts and beliefs) are not your own. They are forced upon you if they are any good or not.

      Since all thoughts and beliefs are casually determined via the big bang and nature (if you happen to be right by sheer luck), then all you can do is assume and presuppose your determined beliefs are good, and that my determined beliefs are bad. But this is a major problem, John, because if one assumes his beliefs are true to conclude and argue he holds true beliefs, he is guilty of a logical fallacy known as begging the question.

      Any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

      Please read my short article explaining this further: http://freethinkingministries.com/the-freethinking-argument-in-a-nutshell/

      Reply
      • John Moore says:

        This is really just a disagreement over word definitions. Naturalism thinks reasons are causes, and right or wrong depends on what caused you to believe something. Theists seem to think reason is the lack of cause, which is the essence of free will. So it’s just a different definition of the concept of reason.

        You say a deterministic world would mean “our thoughts and beliefs are forced upon us,” but this just indicates that you and I have different definitions of selfhood. You seem to think the self is a unified thing standing apart from the world, but I think the self is an integrated part of the world. It’s just a different way of defining selfhood.

        The world doesn’t force thoughts and beliefs on me, because I am at one with the world. There’s no me apart from the world, so it makes no sense to speak of the world forcing me to do something.

        Reply
        • Tim says:

          John, my argument is based on clear definitions and logical deduction.

          It’s really quite simple. Let me reiterate, simplify, and clarify: If nature is *all* that exists, then *all* is causally determined by the laws of nature. If all means all, then *all* your thoughts and beliefs are causally determined via the laws of nature. That would include the same thoughts and beliefs that you are communicating right now.

          Thus, if naturalism is true, you cannot believe other than you do. The initial conditions of the big bang guaranteed you to hold the definitions you offer if they are good or not. Your beliefs — all of them — are forced upon you and you have no ability to believe or think other than you do. It follows that you merely assume that your determined beliefs are good (let alone true) to argue they are true. That, my friend, is the epitome of begging the question and that is a logical fallacy.

          Any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all. It is possible that you are correct, but you are not offering any logical reasons to think you might be right. You are not offering logic, just incoherence.

          Do you see the problem, my friend?

          You said, “The world doesn’t force thoughts and beliefs on me, because I am at one with the world. There’s no me apart from the world, so it makes no sense to speak of the world forcing me to do something.”

          Well, John, it seems as if you are trying to now argue that “you” do not really exist, but whatever it is that you think is true, let me ask you, how do you know that’s true? If determinism is true, you were determined to believe this if it is true or not. All you are left with is assuming your determined thoughts are true to argue they are true. Let me say it one more time: this is logical incoherence and does not qualify as knowledge.

          Reply
          • John Moore says:

            Your definitions are fairly clear, and so are mine. We’re talking past each other because our definitions are different.

            Your argument may be logical, given your definitions. My argument is just as logical, given mine.

            I have a question for you about free will: Do you agree that free will means acting without cause? That’s what makes the whole concept of free will incoherent, as I tried to show here.

  3. Tim says:

    Hi John,

    You admitted that my definitions were clear. I appreciate that. So, you do not disagree with the structure of my argument, but with my definitions. Let’s take a look at my argument:

    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.

    Here is the symbolic form demonstrating the validity of the structure of this deductive argument:

    1. N → ¬ S
    2. ¬ S → ¬ LFW
    3. ¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K
    4. R & K
    5. R & K → LFW
    6. LFW → S
    7. S → ¬ N

    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 really are the inference to the best explanation – we can only assume it.

    Here is the big problem for the naturalist: it logically follows that if naturalism is true, then atheists — or anyone else for that matter — cannot possess knowledge.

    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).

    John, if you want to disagree with my definition of knowledge go ahead. However, if one does not require justification, warrant, or reason for their beliefs for them to qualify as knowledge, then everyone has knowledge no matter what they think – even those who think you are wrong!

    You said, “My argument is just as logical.”

    I provided a deductive argument above and even provided the symbolic form to guarantee my logic was valid. I have not seen such an argument from you here or in your article. Please provide a deductive argument demonstrating how coherent your ideas are so I can evaluate it.

    You said, “I have a question for you about free will: Do you agree that free will means acting without cause?”

    NO! Libertarian free will requires two essential ingredients: agent causation and the ability to do otherwise. Also, please do not make the mistake of equivocating influence with causal determinism (those are two different things)! Some libertarians do not think it requires the ability to do otherwise, but I argue for both although I do not need to (it makes my position stronger).

    Let me quickly explain what genuine free will is. I think everyone agrees that it at least seems like we have libertarian free will. Even if the objective truth of the matter is that free will is just an illusion, it certainly seems as if we freely choose Coke over Pepsi (or vice versa) at the grocery store. However, if this sort of free will does not exist, then our choices, decisions, and beliefs are all chosen for us (so to speak) by external causes. The so-called “choice” to affirm the atheistic, naturalistic, and deterministic worldview is of no more consequence than that of a receding hairline or an appendicitis attack. Thus, it seems that if life is to have any objective meaning, libertarian free will must be a vital part of it. William Lane Craig sums this conundrum up nicely and says, “After all, if I do not have free will and my life is (objectively) meaningless, who cares?” He goes on to write:

    “So what does it mean to have free will? …. Imagine a man whose brain has been secretly implanted with electrodes by a mad scientist. The scientist, being an Obama supporter, decides that he will activate the electrodes to make the man vote for Obama if the man goes into the polling booth to vote for Romney. On the other hand, if the man chooses to vote for Obama, then the scientist will not activate the electrodes. Suppose, then, the man goes into the polling booth and presses the button to vote for Obama. In such a case it seems that the man freely votes for Obama. Yet it was not within his power to do anything different!”

    Craig’s thought experiment suggests that for one’s will to really be free, their choices, actions, and even many of their beliefs must really be up to them (at least indirectly), and not due to external sources. This is known as “agent causation,” and this implies not just free will, but libertarian free will. In this sense, an agent is free to make his own decisions (at least some of the time) according to reason, and not the deterministic laws of nature or anything else. Therefore, if humans are free to make their own choices due to the reasons that we have weighed and then acted upon, we are also held responsible and accountable for these choices and actions. This is the essence of libertarian free will and J.P. Moreland has offered four essential ingredients of which we must be cognizant:

    1. P is a substance that has the active power to bring about e. (P is an agent)
    2. P exerted power as a first mover (an “originator”) to bring about e.
    3. P had the categorical ability to refrain from exerting power to bring about e (nothing causally determines P to NOT do otherwise)
    4. P acted for the sake of reasons, which serve as the final cause or teleological goal for which P acted.

    Thanks for the interaction, John. I will not be able to engage in any more dialogue until Monday (or later). I will check to see if you have provided a valid and sound argument defending your position and respond in a few days. Have a good weekend!

    Reply
    • John Moore says:

      Thanks for your reply. I still have a question about free will. You admit that libertarian free will means our decisions are not causally determined for us. That’s what I meant when I said free will means acting without cause. And indeed, Moreland’s essential ingredient No. 2 for free will is that the agent must originate causes as a first mover. So it looks to me as if the free agent is acting without cause.

      You speak of the agent having a final cause, so my question is: Can you really have a final cause without a material cause? I don’t think you’ve really escaped determinism here. I think all our final causes may be materially determined.

      You say I shouldn’t “make the mistake of equivocating influence with causal determinism,” but I really don’t understand how they are different. Please explain more on this specific point.

      Reply
  4. Sam Harper says:

    Howdy Tim!

    While I do subscribe to C.S. Lewis’ argument from reason as an argument against naturalism, I have serious problems with this version of the argument–particularly with your third premise. Since writing “Scaling the Secular City,” J.P. Moreland has said in a number of places that our beliefs under the direct control of the will. One cannot simply, by an act of volition, choose to believe one thing rather than another. Rather, we have indirect control over our beliefs by way of the things we choose to read or think about. If our beliefs are the direct result of blind mechanistic causes, such as the chemistry in our brains, I would agree that does undermine their rationality. But if our beliefs are the direct result of perception, or seeing the logical connection between propositions, etc., and if our beliefs are determined by reasons, arguments, perceptions, intuitions, etc., then our rationality remains in tact. In fact, I would argue that the further our beliefs are divorced from reasons, arguments, perceptions, etc., they further they are from being rational. So it seems to me that libertarianism undermines rationality just as much as the hard determinism or naturalism. If you’re interested, I went into more detail on my own blog:

    http://philochristos.blogspot.com/2014/02/william-lane-craig-against-calvinism.html

    Reply
    • Sam Harper says:

      I made a typo.

      “J.P. Moreland has said in a number of places that our beliefs under the direct control of the will.”

      That was supposed to be:

      “J.P. Moreland has said in a number of places that our beliefs ARE NOT under the direct control of the will.”

      Reply
  5. Tim says:

    Hi again, Andy! I found a few minutes to respond in my busy Saturday. You said: “Has a computer ever made a mistake? Sure, but so have humans, so the objection isn’t relevant. My point stands.”

    Woah! Not so fast, my friend! How do you *know* the computer has made a mistake? If all of your thoughts are forced and determined upon you via nature and the big bang, then you can only assume that your beliefs are better than the computer. Now you are left with more question-begging assumptions. Your argument is based on a logical fallacy and any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

    Moreover, you admit that humans have made mistakes! How do atheists know their conclusion of atheism is true if it was forced upon them via nature and the big bang? What makes an atheist’s causally determined thoughts better than the theist’s causally determined thoughts? After all, many theologians affirm theistic determinism (I do not). Again, Andy, all you are left with is circular reasoning based on your presuppositions and blind faith.

    You said, “Saying computers aren’t ‘rational’ doesn’t refute my point – they can make reliable computations despite not having free will.”

    Andy, the computations of a computer are determined via algorithm made by a human based on the laws of logic. These same laws of logic (which are not physical things) deductively conclude that naturalism is false and God exists. So why, if you think computers provide rational computations based on logic, do you reject the computer’s computations demonstrating deductively that God exists and that naturalism is false?

    I pointed out that I deductively proved the soul exists and that naturalism is false. You asserted the following:

    “I believe you provided an argument containing false premises and assumptions, so reject that you proved this.”

    Well, Andy, you are just causally determined via the big bang and natural law to “believe” my premises are false even if they are actually true, and thus you are likewise determined to reject the deductive conclusions of my sound argument. You don’t really have a choice in the matter (according to your own worldview). Be that as it may, let’s examine the argument to see what premises you are causally forced to think must be false against your will:

    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.

    Okay, Andy, what premises do you reject? Basically, premise (1) is synonymous with “if naturalism is true, nature is all that exists.” That is pretty straightforward. Do you reject this premise?

    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.” Surely you don’t reject this premise either as it is actually the position of nearly all PhD naturalist philosophers and physicists.

    Premise (3) is virtually equivalent with “if all things are causally determined, then that includes all thoughts and beliefs.” Unless you want to get all ad hoc and try to explain how *all* does not really mean *all*, then this is straightforward too. Surely you don’t want to make ad hoc assumptions, Andy!

    Here’s the deal: If your thoughts and beliefs are forced upon you, and you could not have chosen better beliefs, then you are simply left assuming that your determined beliefs are good (let alone true). Therefore, you could never rationally affirm that your beliefs really are the inference to the best explanation – you can only assume it.

    Andy, here’s the even bigger problem for the atheistic naturalist: it logically follows that if naturalism is true, then naturalistic atheists — or anyone else for that matter — cannot possess knowledge. 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 genuinely and 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). Logical fallacies do not count as knowledge.

    Feel *free* to reject the definition of knowledge, Andy, but if one does not need rational affirmation, warrant, or justification for their beliefs, then EVERYONE possesses knowledge – even those who disagree with you!

    You said, “Mooting a soul doesn’t solve the free will problem that you advance.”

    Sure it does, Andy! An immaterial thinking thing would not be causally determined via the laws of nature.

    You said, “As John points out, what’s the alternative to a causal chain? If it’s not random or caused, where’s it coming from? Just saying it’s ‘free’ doesn’t tell us anything.”

    I’m explaining that the soul would be free from the causal chain of the laws of nature and thus genuinely free to infer the best explanation based on the laws of logic. There is nothing “random” about logical inference. The two of you are offering a false dichotomy.

    Andy, you are missing the point: if someone is not forced by the laws of nature to hold their beliefs, then they are free to think according to the laws of logic and freely infer the inference to the best explanation. Freely following the logical evidence wherever it leads is not random, nor is it causally determined as one is always free to reject logical conclusions as you seem to be doing now.

    Andy, you asked a great question: “… if you found yourself in the world you claim we can’t be in, one without the supernatural, how would you be able to tell?”

    We couldn’t! In fact, Andy, all we could do is assume! If we lived in a world where every single thought and belief were causally determined and forced upon us by nature and the big bang, then we would never be able to possess justification for any belief we held — including the belief that God and soul do not exist. We would not stand in any epistemic position to *know* if naturalism were true or if God exists or anything like that.

    Dr. Craig clarifies:

    “There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”

    Okay, now I am pretty sure that I am gone for the rest of the weekend. I will try to check back on Monday. Have a great weekend, Andy.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “I’m explaining that the soul would be free from the causal chain of the laws of nature”

      You can argue that it’s outside of the causal chain of this universe, but all you’ve done is push back the problem a step.

      “We couldn’t! In fact, Andy, all we could do is assume!”

      Great Tim, so you’re admitting that you’re making a completely unfalsifiable claim that we are not in such a universe, as you’ve not way at all of determining whether or not that’s true.

      “Okay, Andy, what premises do you reject? ”

      1) “If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist” assumes that the soul’s existence makes any difference at all to whether free will exists, and you’re basically advancing the ‘soul’ as a kind of magic box out of which free will emerges, without giving a decent explanation how. Positing a soul just adds an extra, supernatural causal chain. Our ‘closed system’ becomes bigger and more complicated, but you still have the same problem as before.

      2) “Rationality and knowledge exist.”
      Tim, you admitted yourself that you have no way of determining whether or not this is true. You admit you just assume that it does, and you admit that if it wasn’t the case you’d have no way of detecting it.

      Your argument boils down to ‘The supernatural is required for us to work out whether things are true or not’. I’d say that in a God-free universe, natural selection would favour animals that can build a coherent and true model of the world around us. Natural selection has given us the ability to reason and make logical judgements. The scientific method has enabled us to cure diseases, put man on the moon and have this conversation thousands of miles apart. The same scientific method has no need for supernatural assumptions, and would work perfectly well in a God-free universe.

      Have a great weekend yourself, Tim.

      Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “Woah! Not so fast, my friend! How do you *know* the computer has made a mistake?”

      Several members of my family are watching a film on my computer, then it crashes. A few days later we all Skype my mother in India.

      Now, there are two explanations for these events that I can see:
      1) The computer failed the first time and worked the second
      2) My entire family shared the same delusion, both times.

      If you’re saying I should factor option 2 into my thinking, or that I can only reject option 2 if I believe in a God, then I think your argument has gone off the deep end. You’re basically saying ‘You either accept God or you’ve got hard solipsism’.

      Which scenario is more likely to have humans all sharing the same delusion about something – a Godless, ‘clockwork universe’, where the laws of physics are all playing out without interference, or a universe governed by an all-powerful being who can change anything at will, and whose motives we can’t possibly fathom?

      I’d say the former.

      So yes, my point stands – free will is not necessary in order to calculate, compute, work out the solutions to problems. Unless you want to deny that computers are capable of doing just that, in which case you’re stumbling into ‘we can’t rule out that we’re just brains in a vat’ territory. Humans have evolved brains that can reason, and work out problems, and discuss ideas. That we can do so successfully is self-evident given all the problems science has solved. You have not shown that the supernatural is necessary for that to be the case.

      Reply
        • Tim says:

          Hi again, Andy. I asked “how do you *know* the computer has made a mistake?”

          You replied by talking about how Skype failed, but let me ask you this: If a computer computes the following: “Therefore, God exists,” how would you know it was wrong? Would you merely assume it based on your blind faith that was forced upon you via the laws of nature (if it’s true or not)? What about your thoughts about that very question? And your thoughts about that one? They are all forced upon you by outside causal factors (the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang). Thus, you can only assume all of the thoughts in your head that you think are true, are true. That is question begging, Andy.

          Consider the words of Sam Harris (a PhD atheist who literally wrote the book on free will, entitled, “Free Will”) and what he says about the very thoughts in your head if naturalism is true:

          “Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have . . . . either our will are determined and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.”

          Moreover, Andy, according to your own worldview, the computer’s conclusion and your disagreement with the computer is all based on the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang. You have no control over any of these things. Thus, you can only assume the big bang forced you to conclude correctly and forced the computer to compute fallaciously. However, all you are left with is assuming your determined beliefs are true to argue they are true. That, Andy, is question begging, which is a logical fallacy. And as I have said several times: any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

          You said, “If you’re saying I should factor option 2 into my thinking…”

          Woah! Again, hold your horses, Andy! There is no *FREE* thinking on a naturalistic world view. On atheistic naturalism there are no “shoulds.” There is only what *is* the case not what should or ought to be the case (this incudes what your should or ought to do or think). You have no ability to think other than you do think if naturalism is true. It makes no sense for you to say that you *should* think other than the laws of nature and the big bang force you to think. There is no free will if naturalism is true, and if there is no free will, then there is no free thinking.

          You said, “You’re basically saying ‘You either accept God or you’ve got hard solipsism’.”

          Andy, you are making it clear that you obviously do not understand what you are arguing against. I am not saying that at all and you are attacking a straw man. In fact, my argument does not claim to deductively prove God exists at all. Nor does it say anything about solipsism (hard or otherwise). My argument deals with the logical implications that follow from naturalistic determinism. Namely, if free will does not exist, free thinking does not exist. As I said above, this would include the thought you are having about my argument right now, and your thought about that thought. Thus, you stand in no epistemic position to claim that your determined thoughts are better than my determined thoughts. All you can do is presuppose and assume. That is a logical fallacy and does not count as a knowledge claim.

          If determinism is true, then your thoughts that naturalism is true was determined even if it is false. Your thought that atheism is true would be determined even if it were false. Moreover, you would be determined to think your thoughts were good even if they were fallacious. You are not in control of your determined thoughts if your own worldview is true. Thus, you can only assume your determined thoughts are good (let alone true). Do I need to remind you that that is a logical fallacy?

          Reply
          • Tim says:

            Andy, you said, “Which scenario is more likely to have humans all sharing the same delusion about something…”

            That’s the problem, Andy — we do NOT all share the same thoughts (obviously)! Based on the logical law of the excluded middle, our mutually exclusive thoughts cannot both be true. Take for example the proposition I assume you think is true: “God does not exist.” That proposition is either true or false and there is no middle position.

            It follows, Andy, that the big bang and the laws of nature forced you to think that if God exists or not, and forced me to think God exists even if he doesn’t. If every thought is determined, what gives you the right to assume your determined thought that atheism is true is better than my determined thought that God exists? Again, all you can do is assume the big bang gave you good thoughts and me bad thoughts. Form that point, you state that your determined thoughts must be true, therefore, they are true.

            You said, “… a Godless, ‘clockwork universe’, where the laws of physics are all playing out without interference, or a universe governed by an all-powerful being who can change anything at will, and whose motives we can’t possibly fathom?”

            Why would you think such a thing like that? Oh yeah, you were forced to believe that you were causally determined to think that even if it is false.

            Anyway, why can’t there be a third option: A “clockwork” universe that acts according to the physical laws God put in place unless a being with free will causes other physical events to occur.

            For example, a snow boarder (with a soul not bound by physics) chooses to snowboard on a mountain causing an avalanche. Either the snowboarder is responsible for this avalanche (a physical event), or he had no ability to choose or act otherwise and the initial conditions of the big bang and the laws of nature are ultimately responsible for this avalanche.

            I for one make the case that all things that are purely physical follow the laws of physics unless something that is other than nature interacts with nature. Moreover, I think it is quite easy to make a case that we can “fathom” the motives of a Maximally Great Being. That, however, is a conversation that should take place in a different thread.

            Your main problem here is that you are trying to make a case for what we *should* believe or how we *ought* to think. This is nonsensical and incoherent according to naturalistic determinism.

            You fallaciously conclude: “So yes, my point stands – free will is not necessary in order to calculate, compute, work out the solutions to problems.”

            Well, Andy, again, I hate to keep repeating myself, but if naturalism is true, then you were simply forced to believe that statement is true, even if it is actually false! You are reasoning in a circle, Andy.

            You said, “Unless you want to deny that computers are capable of doing just that, in which case you’re stumbling into ‘we can’t rule out that we’re just brains in a vat’ territory.”

            Andy, if all of your thoughts are determined and forced upon you, how would you stand in any epistemic position to know you were not a brain in a vat? I am not arguing that you are a brain in a vat, I am simply making the point that if all you are is a natural/physical thing, then all of your thoughts and beliefs are forced upon you be the laws of physics, chemistry, and past events going all the way back to the initial conditions of the big bang. These are all outside of your control, and thus, you have no control or ability to think other than you do think (and neither would I). Thus, all you are doing is assuming that the big bang forced you to think correctly and me to think incorrectly. If nature is all that exists, then there is no “oughts” or “should.” There is only what *is*, and you cannot logically derive an ought from an is.

          • Tim says:

            Andy, you said, “Humans have evolved brains that can reason, and work out problems, and discuss ideas.”

            Andy, evolution selects for survival and not for truth. We have many examples of false beliefs that lead to survival benefits. It follows that evolution does not always produce true beliefs. Moreover, if one is really free to think and infer the *best* explanation (without merely assuming their determined beliefs are the best), then we can freely choose to think according to the laws of logic as opposed to being determined via the laws of nature.

            Moreover, I am the one that provided logical argumentation. In fact, you have completely ignored most of what I have offered to you in out discussion so far, Andy. Let me repeat myself:

            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.

            Okay, Andy, what premises are you causally determined to reject? Basically, premise (1) is synonymous with “if naturalism is true, nature is all that exists.” That is pretty straightforward. Do you reject this premise?

            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.” Surely you don’t reject this premise either as it is actually the position of nearly all PhD naturalist philosophers and physicists.

            Premise (3) is virtually equivalent with “if all things are causally determined, then that includes all thoughts and beliefs.” Unless you want to get all ad hoc and try to explain how all does not really mean all, then this is straightforward too. Surely you don’t want to make ad hoc assumptions!

            Here’s the deal, Andy: If your thoughts and beliefs are forced upon you, and you could not have chosen better beliefs, then you are simply left assuming that your determined beliefs are good (let alone true). Therefore, you could never rationally affirm that your beliefs really are the inference to the best explanation – you can only assume it.

            Andy, here’s the even bigger problem for the atheistic naturalist: it logically follows that if naturalism is true, then naturalistic atheists — or anyone else for that matter — cannot possess knowledge. 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 genuinely and 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). Logical fallacies do not count as knowledge.

            Feel *free* to reject the definition of knowledge, but if one does not need rational affirmation, warrant, or justification for their beliefs, then EVERYONE possesses knowledge – even those who disagree with you!

          • Tim says:

            Andy, you said, “That we can do so successfully is self-evident given all the problems science has solved. You have not shown that the supernatural is necessary for that to be the case.”

            I have demonstrated via logical deduction that if all that exists is nature then all of your thoughts and beliefs are determined via the laws of nature. Thus, Andy, all you can do is assume all of your determined thoughts are better than mine. All you can do is offer question begging assumptions – this is not knowledge!

            Moreover, what in the world would the study of nature (science) say to refute LOGIC – the very things a scientist assumes is true even before engaging in the scientific method?

            I pointed out the following: “I’m explaining that the soul would be free from the causal chain of the laws of nature”

            You replied: “You can argue that it’s outside of the causal chain of this universe, but all you’ve done is push back the problem a step.”

            How’s that, Andy? If something in this universe (a human soul or whatever you want to call it) is free from the causal chain of this universe, then my point is quite strong.

            I also pointed out that if naturalism is true, that everyone’s thoughts and beliefs are determined. I stated that you could not possess knowledge that your determined beliefs were better than the next guys determined beliefs that disagreed with you. For example, how could you rationally affirm that your determined belief in atheism were any better (let alone true) than the Christian who was forced to disagree with you? I said, all you could do is assume you are correct to argue you are correct and that is a logical fallacy (the farthest thing from a knowledge claim).

            You responded: “Great Tim, so you’re admitting that you’re making a completely unfalsifiable claim that we are not in such a universe, as you’ve not way at all of determining whether or not that’s true.”

            Well, it is falsifiable, Andy. In fact, your last statement is that of a knowledge claim. If rationality and knowledge exists, as my deductive argument proves, then libertarian free will (LFW) exists. If LFW exists, then the soul exists, and if the soul exists, then naturalism is false.

            So every time you offer a knowledge claim (i.e., that you are right and I am wrong), you are providing evidence and falsifying your own worldview. Now, if you want to reject Premise (4) of my argument, not only would that be a knowledge claim so it is self-refuting, but you would be claiming to be un-rational and that you do not possess knowledge. If that’s the case, why should anyone bother to listen to anything you say?

          • Tim says:

            Finally, Andy, regarding my argument, you said there were false premises. I asked you to not merely assert this but to demonstrate it. You eventually offered the following:

            1) “If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist”

            You said, “[This]assumes that the soul’s existence makes any difference at all to whether free will exists, and you’re basically advancing the ‘soul’ as a kind of magic box out of which free will emerges, without giving a decent explanation how. Positing a soul just adds an extra, supernatural causal chain. Our ‘closed system’ becomes bigger and more complicated, but you still have the same problem as before.”

            That’s not true at all, Andy! I am not arguing for a “bigger” closed system (as that implies nature, space and matter), but rather the existence of things that are other than nature. As Yoda says, “size matters not!”

            Moreover, immaterial things are not made of physical parts, so saying something is “complicated” or complex makes no sense either. Andy, this premise is virtually synonymous with this statement:

            *If naturalism is true, nature is all that exists.

            Let’s look at step (4) of the argument:

            2) “Rationality and knowledge exist.”

            You said, “Tim, you admitted yourself that you have no way of determining whether or not this is true.”

            No, Andy, I never did such a thing. I admitted that *if* naturalism were true, then there is no way of knowing if this statement were true. What falsifies naturalism, then, is the existence of rationality and knowledge. Thus, we know there is more to reality than simply physical stuff bound by physics. Thus, physicalism/naturalism is false.

            I falsified naturalism. Therefore, we can know things. To argue against this is self-refuting.

            It’s been fun dialoging with you, Andy, but I need to go try to respond to some of these other comments. Thanks for the discussion, my friend.

            Tim

  6. frances says:

    This argument always reminds me of the suggestion that the universe and everything within it are doubling in size every year. It sounds meaningful (and faintly alarming) until you realise that if *everything* is doubling in size then it makes no difference because to make sense of it we would need to access something which had stayed the same so as to measure the changes against it.

    When I talk about “reasonable” or “rational” I mean those things that meet the criteria by which I actually judge them in the world as it exists and as we know it. Those criteria have nothing to do with libertarian free will or with choosing beliefs. They are based on whether our reasoning works. Does the plane stay in the air? Can the doctor diagnose and cure the illness? Can I finish the crossword and get the same answers as are in the solution the next day? That is all the evidence I need for rationality in human thought.

    And I don’t care a jot about some speculative transcendental realm in which the illness isn’t “really” cured, or the plane doesn’t “really” stay in the air, or computers never get things right and I got the crossword all wrong. If I can’t access this “meta-rationality” and measure my own against it, then I can safely ignore it, like the size-doubling universe.

    Moreland’s premises all seem to me to be highly questionable and none more so than the claim that we can choose our beliefs (and indeed, must be able to choose them if rationality is to triumph.)

    Can you choose to believe that 2+2=5? Do please try it and let us know how it went.
    If you were not able to choose to believe it, does that mean that believing that 2+2=4 is irrational?

    Ironically you have illustrated this post with what I suppose is the Naturalist Man about to saw off the branch on which he is sitting. But how is choice any more rational than determinism? We make choices in accordance with our wishes and so you are saying that you believe in God because you wish to, not because the evidence compels you to believe, irrespective of your preferences.

    What is the point in giving us a logical proof, which ought to compel us to accept your reasoning, if there can be no such thing as “compelling evidence” or “a compelling argument” because compulsion is incompatible with rational belief? You choose to believe the argument, I don’t. Like you choose chocolate ice cream, I choose vanilla.

    I suppose you might say that you “wish” to follow the evidence where it leads. But in order to do that you have to believe that the evidence does lead in a particular direction, so you have to choose that belief and we are back to square one.

    And even if we leave the question of choosing to believe out of the equation, belief in God is at least as open to the accusation of being incompatible with rational thought as belief in naturalism:
    The Incomprehinsibilty Argument Against Religious Knowledge | counterapologistblog
    https://counterapologistblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/the-incomprehinsibilty-argument-against-religious-knowledge/

    Reply
    • Steve Mills says:

      //When I talk about “reasonable” or “rational” I mean those things that meet the criteria by which I actually judge them in the world as it exists and as we know it.//

      But can you or are you actually “judging” things in the world frances, or is this process ultimately an illusion, on naturalism? That your subsequent assessment is really nothing more than a tree growing a limb?

      Reply
      • Frances says:

        I am really judging things, Steve. We can only judge what is illusory by comparing it with what is real. The problem with this argument is that it tries to say that in the naturalist universe everything might be illusory. But unless we have some external standard of reality *which we can access* it is simply meaningless to talk everything being an illusion. If everything is an illusion, then nothing is an illusion. Same way that if everything is doubling in size, then nothing is doubling in size. Or if everything has priority nothing has priority.
        I am simply unable to care whether my reasoning might be irrational judged by some speculative standard which none of us could ever access or understand even if we did. If it’s rational according to the world as we see it (however illusory you may claim it might be) that’s all the rationality you, I or anyone else need care about.
        And of course, I could (and have – see link) use the same argument to claim that the theist cannot rely on her logic to provide a rational basis for her beliefs.
        Anyway, forgive me, but I am not going to post any more on this thread – only because I already waste way too much on the UB Facebook page. Trying to monitor a different forum, one where I haven’t managed how to work out how to get notifications (maybe you can’t?) is just going to mean I have no time left for such trivial stuff as eating and sleeping.
        Happy to continue the discussion back on the UB FB site, though, if you want.

        Reply
    • David Dockery says:

      I think you have a contradiction in your goal and your argument here, Frances. If we don’t choose our beliefs, then we can’t be culpable for them. Tim and I are just victims of circumstance who have no ability to change our beliefs concerning God, or our belief that we ought to offer apologetic arguments. If you are right, then the best you can hope for is to offer some argument that presses an “atheist” button and convinces us to give up this God nonsense. But if you can’t do that, then you can’t hold us as epistemically or morally blameworthy for continuing to believe and argue for God, whether he is real or not.

      Of course, this is obviously counter to both of our goals. Presumably, you want to eradicate or stem the tide of this magical thinking the best you can. You want to be able to say “Those theists are wrong, and they are dishonest for arguing this way!” If you want that charge to stick, you’ll have to show we are culpable of dishonesty for not giving up a belief when we should. Therefore, if you want to succeed, you should believe that people can choose their beliefs.

      But let’s say you’re mostly right. Let’s say that in most cases, people do not choose their beliefs. There are clearly many things we already believe, and if we believe them, we ought to believe what follows from them. If you believe that all children are born, and you hear your neighbor is having a child, it would be extremely odd to deny that the neighbor’s child is being born. You’ve put that belief together from beliefs you already hold.

      Likewise, it would be odd for someone to hold the the belief that everything that comes into existence has a cause, believe the universe came into existence, and not believe the universe has a cause. The only reason to deny this is if you have some other reason for denying the conclusion, a reason not related to the beliefs you drew the conclusion from. Perhaps you have a malfunctioning belief-producing mechanism, and thus you hold your conclusions suspect. Perhaps you are not in the right environment to come up with the belief in question.

      Tim is contending for the latter. Imagine a universe where everyone is hooked up to a computer that brainwashes them into believing whatever they believe. Clearly, they do not have rational belief. It might be difficult to say why exactly, but our intuitions tell us that being forced to believe something by an outside entity is not rational. If the naturalist determinist is right, then we are all brainwashed by determinant forces and therefore not rational. We are not in the right epistemic environment to come up with the belief that deterministic naturalism is true.

      But what sort of environment do we need for knowledge? At the very least, we need an environment where we have the option of not believing something. That doesn’t mean we can freely give up or choose any belief. It simply means that in a given pool of live options, we have the ability to choose one over the others. Tim says we can’t have this ability unless an immaterial soul exists, and he says we can’t have one of those unless God exists.

      Reply
      • Frances says:

        David, I think you’re starting with some unwarranted assumptions. I don’t blame theists for their beliefs as such and I don’t think they’re (most of them) dishonest. People can be honestly wrong. I do sometimes think that people are obtuse, which is a sort of blame, I suppose. But I’m not saying that all theists are obtuse. Some are smart, some are stupid. Same with atheists. But just because someone’s smart doesn’t mean they can’t be wrong.
        I don’t think that a theist could ever choose to believe that God doesn’t exist but if they were persuaded to see the flaws in the arguments for God’s existence then the inevitable consequence would be that they would loose their belief in God, whether they wanted to or not.
        I don’t have time to debate the KCA in detail but it has many flaws not least relying on the notion that the universe “began to exist” in the same way that a baby begins to exist.
        My brain is the product of naturalistic forces. But it’s *my* brain. I cannot be brainwashed by my own brain any more than I can hold myself up by my own bootstraps.
        For the reasons I gave in my reply to Steve Miller, I shan’t be posting any more on this thread but thank you for your comments.

        Reply
    • Tim says:

      Hi Frances, you seem to have missed the point of my argument. This is leading to some confusion in your comments. You said, “When I talk about “reasonable” or “rational” I mean those things that meet the criteria by which I actually *judge* them in the world as it exists and as we know it.”

      Here’s the problem, Frances, if all things are causally determined via the big bang and the laws of nature, then that includes all of your thoughts. If all of your thoughts are causally determined, then that includes all of your “judging thoughts.” Thus, you are left assuming that the laws of nature have causally determined your judgments to be correct and mine to be false (since we disagree). As I have pointed out, assuming and arguing that your determined thoughts and judgments are true to conclude they must be true is begging the question. That is a logical fallacy – NOT KNOWLEDGE! And any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all!

      You asked, “Can you choose to believe that 2+2=5? Do please try it and let us know how it went.”

      Of course, not, but I am not arguing for ALL, but some. Can you freely choose to believe God exists, or were you forced by natural law to believe atheism is true, even if God really does exist? Here is an article I wrote on this topic for your further enjoyment:

      http://freethinkingministries.com/can-we-choose-our-beliefs/

      You said, “Ironically you have illustrated this post with what I suppose is the Naturalist Man about to saw off the branch on which he is sitting. But how is choice any more rational than determinism? We make choices in accordance with our wishes and so you are saying that you believe in God because you wish to, not because the evidence compels you to believe, irrespective of your preferences.”

      Frances, this demonstrates your confusion. If all of your beliefs are determined and forced upon you (including your beliefs about that thought and your thoughts about your beliefs), then how can you possess knowledge that God probably does not exist if nature just forces you to think that way? Why *assume* your determined thoughts are better than my determined thoughts? All you are left with is question-begging assumptions, Frances. That is the farthest thing from knowledge.

      You said, “What is the point in giving us a logical proof, which *ought* to compel us to accept your reasoning, if there can be no such thing as “compelling evidence” or “a compelling argument” because compulsion is incompatible with rational belief?”

      Because I don’t assume naturalism, Frances. In fact, I falsified naturalism by pointing out what is necessary for rationality and knowledge claims. From that point I pointed out that people can actually possess knowledge. Do you disagree? If so, why should anyone listen to you?

      You said, “You choose to believe the argument, I don’t. Like you choose chocolate ice cream, I choose vanilla.”

      Not if naturalism is true, Frances! If your worldview is true, you did not genuinely choose anything. In fact, the laws of nature coupled with the initial conditions of the big bang forced you to like vanilla ice cream and reject the laws of logic. There are no real choices involved as you have no genuine ability to believe or behave otherwise if naturalism is true.

      You said, “I suppose you might say that you “wish” to follow the evidence where it leads. But in order to do that you have to believe that the evidence does lead in a particular direction, so you have to choose that belief and we are back to square one.”

      Yes, I believe that people can possess knowledge. If I am right, then I’ve falsified naturalism. If you want to disagree and claim that you possess knowledge that people cannot possess knowledge, then you will be making incoherent statements that defeat themselves, and stating that you don’t know anything. You lose all rights to be taken seriously.

      Thanks for your comments, Frances, but you need to go back to the drawing board and consider what logically follows from your world view that you assume the big bang forced you to think is true (even if it’s false).

      Reply
      • Frances says:

        Tim,
        I think it’s you who misunderstood me. You’ve missed my point, but big time, I’m afraid.
        We live in a shared world with a shared language. For us to be able to communicate at all, for us to have this conversation, we have to use language in the same way, using the same criteria. My point was that when we make a judgment about what is rational we use those shared criteria. Whether the naturalist view is correct or the theist view, we all HAVE to use those criteria because that’s all we’ve got.
        It is, as I say, like trying to argue that on one view the universe and everything inside it is doubling every year. If there is no external measure by which we can assess this growth then it is simply meaningless to talk about it. Same with rationality. You cannot measure naturalist rationality against another meta-rationality and find it wanting any more than you can measure a doubling universe by some notional stable measure and find it larger.

        I am caused to have the beliefs that I have. But the causative factors include intelligence and evidence.

        You didn’t *say* that free will only applied to some beliefs. What you said was that it was fundamental to the rationality of any belief that it was freely chosen. So why is it rational to believe that 2+2=4 when you have no choice but not rational to believe that there is no evidence for God when you have no choice?

        Incidentally, I am a compatiblist, so I believe that I do make choices, just that beliefs aren’t among them.

        Reply
  7. Mr. Fermion says:

    1- If naturalism is true, then mind-infesting physics-killing invisible aliens do not exist.
    2- If mind-infesting physics-killing invisible aliens do 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. (Deductive)
    6- Therefore, mind-infesting physics-killing invisible aliens exist (Deductive)
    7- Therefore, naturalism is false. (Deductive)
    8- The best explanation for the existence of mind-infesting physics-killing invisible aliens [showing up in a shabby argument], is that you have smuggled your conclusion into your premises. Oh wait, it’s god, god is the best explanation for everything, because you say so.
    (Abductive)

    In general form, define x as something that purports to challenge the causal closure of the physical and the unitary time evolution dynamics of the universal wavefunction according to the Schrödinger equation. (Note my careful wording. If you change “purports to challenge” to “refutes”, you are begging the question. If there is an x that succeeds in refuting the causal closure of the physical and the unitary time evolution dynamics of the universal wavefunction according to the Schrödinger equation, this must be established independently, with evidence that Quantum Mechanics is wrong.)

    1- If naturalism is true, then x does not exist
    2- If x 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. (Deductive)
    6- Therefore, x (Deductive)
    7- Therefore, naturalism is false. (Deductive)
    8- The best explanation for x [showing up in a shabby argument], is that you have smuggled your conclusion into your premises. Oh wait, it’s god, god is the best explanation for everything, because you say so.
    (Abductive)

    I have refuted your argument by demonstrating you beg the question by classifying the “immmaterial soul” as something which *refutes* the causal closure of the physical and the unitary time evolution dynamics of the universal wavefunction according to the Schrödinger equation rather than merely *purporting to challenge it*. I single out these two ingredients because they are 1) entailed by naturalism and 2) are the reason libertarian free will does not exist.

    Note also that you inappropriately *privilege* a personal mind-infesting ghost over infinite gobbledygook that is no less likely to satisfy x, whether it be invisible mind-infesting aliens, invisible mind-infesting fairies, invisible mind-infesting oracle machines, invisible mind-infesting time travelers, invisible mind-infesting devils trying to trick you into freely choosing to reject their dominion over the universe so they have an excuse to torture you, etc. I mean, the idea of a ghost is so utterly daft, nothing would be too outlandish.

    Though I have already successfully refuted your argument, there are additional MAJOR problems with your argument. In the interest of concision, I’ll just point out one:

    Premise 1 is wrong. Naturalism is not committed to x. All that follows if naturalism is true is that x needs evidence to be counted as part of nature. Naturalism embraces that which there is evidence for and is silent about that which there is no evidence for. Since no evidence for x can logically exist owing to the fact one can’t define “non-phyiscal” properties without smuggling physical concepts, naturalism is *silent* about x. If x could be defined in a way that was coherent and if there were evidence of x, then naturalism would admit the existence of x alongside relativistic quantum fields, or QTF would be retired.

    Consider this in light of your arbitrarily chosen x: Contra your assertion, naturalism is not committed to the inexistence of ghosts. Ghosts must be established on their own merits, with evidence, not by setting ghosts up against the straw man of some bizarre dogmatic version of naturalism that is divorced from evidence and constrains what nature can consist of on a priori grounds.

    If you wish to claim that ghosts can be asserted without any evidence (i.e. ghosts don’t leave a physical trace and that is the whole point of what a ghost is), anything goes.

    Reply
    • Tim says:

      Hi Mr. Fermion,

      With all due respect, you have failed to refute anything. I will demonstrate this in several ways. First, you attempted the following parody of my valid and sound deductive argument. Let’s examine it and see if it works:

      //1- if naturalism is true, then mind-infesting physics-killing invisible aliens do not exist.//

      I need clarification from you before negating or affirming this premise. However, if you are a naturalist, then you assume off the bat that immaterial minds do not exist. So, you probably mean the brain when you say “mind-infesting.”

      However, are these invisible aliens physical/natural things or are they *other* than nature? If they are other than nature, then naturalism is not true. However, if they are physical beings (even if they are invisible), then these things could exist if naturalism were true or not.

      //2- If mind-infesting physics-killing invisible aliens do not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.//

      Why would that follow, Mr. Fermion? This would do absolutely nothing to negate the view JP Moreland and I hold regarding the existence of the soul and how it uses the brain.

      So far, your argument has major problems. Because of this your conclusions (which you were hoping were deductive) do not follow. You need to tighten it up. Try using symbolic logic like I did with mine:

      1. N → ¬ S

      2. ¬ S → ¬ LFW

      3. ¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K

      4. R & K

      5. R & K → LFW

      6. LFW → S

      7. S → ¬ N

      Regarding the abductive inference to the best explanation, you said:

      //8- The best explanation for the existence of mind-infesting physics-killing invisible aliens [showing up in a shabby argument], is that you have smuggled your conclusion into your premises. Oh wait, it’s god, god is the best explanation for everything, because you say so.
      (Abductive)//

      Not at all Mr. F, after considering the cumulative case of other arguments demonstrating that Christian theism is probably true, my abductive conclusion makes sense. This is especially true after considering the historical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus and how that gives us good reason to take the Biblical data seriously (even if you don’t think it is inerrant). Here is an article I wrote making this case via another deductive argument:

      http://freethinkingministries.com/jesus-validates-the-bible-not-the-other-way-around/

      Although your first attempt failed miserably, you continued to try to demonstrate my argument was invalid in the following manner. Let’s begin by making this claim:

      x = something other than nature.

      Now let’s see if your argument holds up:

      1- If naturalism is true, then x (something other than nature) does not exist

      2- If x something other than nature) does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist (because if all that exists is nature then all things are casually determined via the laws of nature coupled with the initial conditions of the big bang.

      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. (Deductive)

      6- Therefore, x (something exists that is other than nature because all natural things are causally determined via the laws of nature) — (Deductive)
      7- Therefore, naturalism is false. (Deductive)

      Wow, look at that!

      Now let’s also consider the ability to infer the *best* explanation. If you merely assume your determined beliefs are the best to argue they are the best, then you are guilty of the logical fallacy of begging the question. Any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all. Therefore, your argument fails.

      You offered this:

      //8- The best explanation for x (something other than nature) is that you have smuggled your conclusion into your premises.//

      There is nothing “smuggled, “ Mr. F! It is a deductive conclusion following from a valid argument. Again, I refer to my symbolic form of the argument:

      1. N → ¬ S

      2. ¬ S → ¬ LFW

      3. ¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K

      4. R & K

      5. R & K → LFW

      6. LFW → S

      7. S → ¬ N

      Pretend you don’t know what any of these letters stand for and do the “math!” What letters are “smuggled?” There is nothing “smuggled” in as you assert.

      Mr. F, you said, “Oh wait, it’s god, god is the best explanation for everything, because you say so.”

      Mr. F, my argument does not deductively prove the existence of God as I made clear. However, I make a case that God is the *best* explanation of the existence of the immaterial aspect of humanity by appealing to independent arguments which support my abductive conclusion.

      You need to go back to square one, Mr. F!

      Reply
    • Tim says:

      Mr. F, you continued to make several errors. Regarding my argument, you said:

      “Premise 1 is wrong. Naturalism is not committed to x. All that follows if naturalism is true is that x needs evidence to be counted as part of nature.”

      Mr. F, I debate philosophers and physicists quite often. It is always good to get on the same page as far as definitions go. To avoid confusion, I ask my naturalist friends if they are defending the view that nothing other than nature exists. They agree that this is what is meant by naturalism: only nature exists.

      If you have a different view and want to argue that things other than nature exist (supernatural things), feel free, but then you have no reason to reject my deductive conclusions.

      You said, “Naturalism embraces that which there is evidence for and is silent about that which there is no evidence for.”

      Mr. F, it all depends on what version of naturalism you are talking about. I made it clear in my argument that I am discussing ontological existence. You are now conflating epistemological naturalism with ontological naturalism. That is another logical fallacy on your part.

      You said, “Since no evidence for x can logically exist owing to the fact one can’t define “non-phyiscal” properties without smuggling physical concepts, naturalism is *silent* about x.”

      False! Mr. F, there is logical evidence (which science assumes before getting off the ground) for the existence of supernatural substances. I have offered this kind of proof (deductive proof)!

      You said, “If there were evidence of x, then naturalism would admit the existence of x alongside relativistic quantum fields, or QTF would be retired.”

      That does not follow at all, Mr. F! As I pointed out, we have logical PROOF (deduction) for x. Moreover, x is something that is other than nature so that it cannot be “alongside” quantum fields or anything else that can be scientifically tested or discovered via definition. This is the field of metaphysics.

      Science is simply the wrong discipline to talk about things that exist other than nature since science is the study of nature. A scientist is simply in the wrong field. You might as well ask a plumber what they think!

      You said, “If you wish to claim that ghosts can be asserted without any evidence (i.e. ghosts don’t leave a physical trace and that is the whole point of what a ghost is), anything goes.”

      False! If you provide logical deduction proving that ghosts exist, then I will believe it if your argument is valid and sound. “Anything” doesn’t go, Mr. F, logical deduction provides our parameters.

      Reply
      • Mr. Fermion says:

        Tim,
        Thank you for your thoughtful response. Your response helps to clarify our disagreement.

        “If you are a naturalist, then you assume off the bat that immaterial minds do not exist. “

        WRONG. Naturalism doesn’t make a priori ontological claims.

        Naturalism embraces that which there is evidence for.

        You’re repeatedly mischaracterizing naturalism, that is, you’re attacking a straw man.
        When I point this out, you appeal to your “naturalist friends” and unnamed “philosophers and physicists” you debate with. I can make the same vague appeals to authority. “My friends are smarter than your friends, so nah nah-nah nah nah.”

        You’re pretending that ontological naturalism is established on a priori grounds, when in fact it’s a consequence of the fruits of methodological naturalism. Crucially, there is no monolithic a priori model of “NATURE” that is being claimed to exist independently of evidence. Since it is based upon evidence, it is subject to revision. What we learn of nature is continually being revised.

        That is to say, naturalism would embrace ghosts and gods if there were evidence of them.

        If you concede naturalism rejects the supernatural, then you’re conceding there is no evidence for the supernatural.

        If you concede naturalism would NEVER accept the supernatural, then you’re conceding there THERE CAN BE NO EVIDENCE for the supernatural.

        If you claim a conspiracy and pretend there’s a sign on the gates that says “keep out” to all supernatural claims independent of the issue of evidence, then you are attacking a straw man. Naturalism has no such gates.

        It would seem you are the one with such an a priori gate that says “keep out” to empirical evidence.

        As I have already demonstrated, your a priori deductive “proof” is invalid because you can’t provide any evidence that libertarian free will derives from one x pulled from thin air over another.

        You think you can use another bad a priori argument to buttress the first. “the view JP Moreland and I hold regarding the existence of the soul and how it uses the brain.”

        What exactly is this view? How do you justify the ontological status of this aspect of your argument beyond simply asserting it by fiat? More importantly how DOES IT “use the brain”? What can you say about this interaction without smuggling in physicalist assumptions? You seem to assert this interaction by fiat, but such an interaction is self-defeating. “Use” would imply force or motion which are PHYSICAL properties. (But maybe you have another mechanism to propose that manages to avoid this self-defeater [owing to the fact mechanism, causality, interaction all rely on physical properties]? If you backtrack and say there is no mechanism, or if you regress to fiat, appeals to authority or obscurantism, or simply don’t engage with the serious issue, then I’ll take it as an admission there isn’t actually anything that “uses” the brain after all).

        I’m genuinely curious. I’d hope you actually respond with something specific about how you think a “soul” “uses the brain”. (Remember, you’re not allowed to smuggle in physical concepts). What you’re claiming sounds very close to a testable hypothesis. If there is a soul “using the brain”, then the brain should not obey the same laws of physics as other physical systems. That’s a testable hypothesis.

        If you want to refute specific naturalistic *a posteriori* ontological claims, like the sufficiency of the brain and quantum mechanics for cognition, you need to play by the same rules as others who compete in the arena of empirical evidence. That is to say, publish your evidence of quantum mechanics breaking down in the CNS in a neuroscience journal. Naturalists would love to hear from you if you have such evidence. A priori logical arguments are fine for hypothesis generation, but nature is the ultimate arbiter.

        Shoddy a priori logical arguments where you grant ontological status to categories like a “soul” entirely by fiat or appeals to authority (while also granting them causal powers over quantum fields seemingly without recognizing that you’re smuggling in physical concepts as soon as you claim the “soul” actually *does something*) do NOT CONSTITUTE EVIDENCE (and the redundant pedantry of symbolic logic notation does not save you.)

        You can’t establish from within the argument itself that the soul has some unique vaunted status that can’t be fulfilled by another x. This must be independently established. As such, your argument fails (miserably). You might impress those who already share your prejudices, but those who see your choice to place the soul as the causal mechanism (mechanism!) of libertarian free will I suspect will be more swayed by my substitution with a variable, and examples equivalent to and no more silly than your “immaterial” soul.

        I think I have sufficiently refuted your argument, though I’m sure you will disagree. I will leave it to the readers of this blog to decide. Good day.

        One concluding remark about terminology:
        When you speak of an “immaterial” soul, I think what you actually mean is “non-physical”. QFT and the Standard Model entail physicalism, not materialism. Only fermions and the corresponding lepton and baryon fields are material (or more accurately matter-energy, since M=(C^2)/E) The physical also includes bosons and fields for *forces*, namely, the Gravity, Electromagnetic, Strong nuclear and Weak nuclear fields. There is also a Higgs Field which permeates space.

        The term “immaterial soul” won’t do at all. One might be led to believe that you think the “soul” is made of electromagnetic fields (as electromagnetic fields are immaterial, but physical).

        To defeat physicalism (in contrast to naturalism which makes no a priori ontological commitments), you should be explicit that you think souls are not constructed from relativistic quantum fields. The onus is then on you to provide evidence that (a) something other than quantum fields and their interactions exist and (b) that the soul is such a something, and that it interacts with quantum fields the brain is made out of or (c) QFT is fundamentally wrong. As they say, your Nobel awaits. 😉

        Reply
  8. Mr. Fermion says:

    I can’t help but adding the following point:

    The non-physical, even if it did exist, could never *interact* with our brains. Information is often spoken of in a colloquial sense, but formally, information is a change in entropy. Something “non-physical” would necessarily imply something that exhibited no changes in entropy (for entropy is a *physical* property!), as such it could not interact with the ordinary Shannon information our universe and brains consist of.
    Without entropy there can be no “differences that make a difference”, there can be no bits, no 1s and 0s. The “non-physical”, if it did exist, would be like a universe in which there were only 0’s but no 1’s (or rather a single 0 or a single 1). It would contain no information, it would be characterized by complete homogeneity and indistinguishability. It certainly would not allow for consciousness! Consciousness lives and dies on the ability to make distinctions. A universe with only a 0 but no 1’s couldn’t DO ANYTHING, it would be causally impotent. Such an impoverished universe could never interact with an information rich universe like ours.

    You might now wish to backtrack on the claim ghosts are strictly “non-physical”. Maybe they consist of some exotic physics science simply hasn’t “caught up with yet?” This idea fails because the scope of our ignorance in QFT can be known as described by Ken Wilson in the 1970’s (but apparently word hasn’t spread very far). Ken Wilson demonstrated that any undiscovered fields must be too weakly interacting with known fields, too heavy to be created, or too short-lived to be detected, which entirely rules out undiscovered physics playing a role in the human brain.

    There is no possible justification for ghosts interacting with our physical brains, whether these ghosts have physical properties or not.

    The only move left would be to deny the existence of working physical brains.

    I might be persuaded that at least some people are not in possession of a working physical brain, but I will reserve judgement.

    Reply
    • Steve Mills says:

      //The non-physical, even if it did exist, could never *interact* with our brains. Information is often spoken of in a colloquial sense, but formally, information is a change in entropy.//

      Why should we think either proposition here, is true?

      Reply
      • Mr. Fermion says:

        Excellent question, Steve!

        The definition of information comes from Claude Shannon’s Information Theory from the 1940’s. It’s nothing new or controversial. It the foundation for just about all of the information technology we take for granted today. (http://ir.nmu.org.ua/bitstream/handle/123456789/110291/1a60974412770d1dfd200d28597f3c03.pdf?sequence=1)

        The second issue is due to Quantum Field Theory (the most successful scientific theory in history) and a guy called Ken Wilson’s work from the 1970’s demonstrating that the scope of our ignorance in QFT can be well-defined. Brains are made of Fermions and Bosons, which are actually propagating quanta of interacting relativistic quantum fields. Interactions in Quantum Field Theory are mathematically well-defined; interestingly, the scope of our ignorance in quantum field theory is also well-defined. That is to say, if there exist additional ingredients beyond the known “particles“ (quanta of interacting fields) and their interactions that have yet to be discovered, it is known that these ingredients cannot interact with any known “particles” (quanta of interacting fields) (such as those the brain is made out of). The reason for this is that using tools which already exist (in this case, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN), we would have discovered these ingredients by now if they existed.
        The way to discover new ingredients is through particle smashing experiments. We can turn Feynman diagrams on their side to see which new “particles” will be created from collisions between known “particles” for a given suspected new “particle” and interaction with a known “particle”. If any additional ingredients exist that haven’t already been detected at the energy levels that have already been tested at the LHC with all known “particles”, it is because they are too weakly interacting, too heavy to be created, or too short lived to be detected. This means that additional ingredients, even if they do exist, can’t have any influence over the known “particles” (quanta of interacting fields) that human brains consists of.

        Known physics is sufficient to understand the everyday world here on earth including the brain and the mind which forms a subset of a *working* brain. If you can experimentally demonstrate that known physics break down somewhere inside the brain, you still haven’t proven there is a soul, but this is a minimal requirement for any supernatural theory of mind to get off the ground.

        Here’s a good introduction to basic physics if anyone is interested. The above will make more sense if you can digest the way that so-called “particles” come about from field interactions. It’s all pretty easy to understand on a conceptual level, but oddly, school science curriculums tend to be about 80 years out of date. This will help get anyone interested up to speed: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEKSpZPByD0)

        In terms of philosophy of mind, substance dualism (what Tim is defending) is not on the menu of options. For the time being, you can get away with panpsychism, property dualism is a stretch and has major problems but is more viable than substance dualism. Eliminativism, like substance dualism is a bad joke. Even monistic idealism would be a good improvement over substance dualism. Most versions of idealism have fatal flaws (the postulate of idealism on it’s own is explanatorily vacuous, that is, it can’t predict any experimental outcomes the way that physics can), but it at least avoids the interaction problem. It would be a stretch, but you could adopt a sort of mathematical idealist monism by trying to equate fundamental mathematical objects like probability amplitudes that are more fundamental than matter with “ideas”, thereby admitting all of known physics as a kind of mind of the universe or something along those lines (but crucially, this would not achieve universe-wide God-mind like the Hindu Brahman, because a) the universe as a whole lacks hierarchical knowledge representation and phenomenal binding which evolved under narrow selection pressures and b) it violates Special Relativity. A universe-wide mind couldn’t exist because knowing what is going on here and in the Andromeda Galaxy simultaneously is impossible as it would entail super-luminal communication). With mathematical idealism, you also couldn’t rescue free will or get back a soul or interventionist god out of that picture. Calling mathematical objects “ideas” doesn’t actually get us anything in the way of understanding beyond what is already know from the formalisms of physics, but given how allergic many people seem to the straw man of naive materialism, it might cheer some people up 🙂

        Stawsonian physicalism, the idea that consciousness reveals the intrinsic nature of the physical is the strongest current philosophical effort to reconcile Cartesian certainty with Relativistic Quantum Field Theory, but it’s insufficient to solve Aaronson’s “Pretty Hard Problem of consciousness” ( http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1799 ). Much work still lies ahead to find a general mathematical theory of consciousness (i.e. defining the necessary and sufficient conditions for consciousness), but there are very good ideas about how *human* consciousness is achieved with recurrent cortical-thalamic resonance at gamma band frequencies. The central features of human-like consciousness are hierarchical knowledge representation and phenomenal binding. The former is already quite well understood in terms of the functioning of cortical columns in the neocortex, with artificial neural nets already achieving parity with, or defeating the brain on certain visual recognition tasks. This will lead to machines smarter than humans in the relatively near future. (Contrast freely with sophistry about ghosts: http://news.mit.edu/2015/algorithms-recognize-objects-few-examples-1223 ,
        http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004390&representation=PDF)

        More needs to be done to figure out the precise mechanisms for phenomenal binding, but when this is achieved (most likely within a decade), it will result in conscious machines. (Some of you religious folk might be interested to read Turing’s response to theological objections to Strong AI in his 1950 paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence (http://www.loebner.net/Prizef/TuringArticle.html) In any case, the AI thing is a digression, but the take away message is that Tim’s approach is hopelessly on the wrong track, and literally hundreds of years behind the frontier.

        The idea of a “ghost in the machine” was always ridiculous, and even Descartes was called out for it during his lifetime due to the interaction problem. We’ve come a long way from Democritus and Lucretius, we’re now at the cusp of fully reverse engineering the brain and building more intelligent successors. It merely absurd for someone to promote philosophical “ghostism” in the 21st century. (See also: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811914001633 ,
        http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnins.2015.00217/full , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB5vYz1-T_Y ) (also, Randal Koene’s summary of Theodor Berger’s work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWyTBnRraQs)

        I should add that to demonstrate that there is any kind of libertarian free will requires at minimum the demonstration of some kind of “Knightian uncertainty” in the brain that goes beyond either Newtonian/Laplacian strict determinism or the probabilistic causation of Quantum Mechanics as derived from the Born Rule (crucially, the randomness in Quantum Mechanics cannot be due to local hidden variables, owing to the Bell Inequality. That is to say, ontological indeterminism has been proven. The randomness in QM really is random, it is not caused by some hidden variable [such as a soul or a god]).

        There is a proposed source of such Knightian uncertainty that in the future could in principle be experimentally tested to see if it plays a role in the brain. This however couldn’t rescue *human* libertarian free will, because the source of this proposed Knightian uncertainty comes from the initial conditions of the universe. The theist could maintain hope that science demonstrates the existence of these kinds of “free bits” from the initial conditions of the universe, which might then be used to argue that God had the free will, however this would force a sort of Calvinist perspective. We couldn’t choose against the normal chain of causation + the introduction of some free bits from the early universe. The scenario strains credulity, but if nothing else, thinking about the issue I think will lead to a more mature understanding of the free will issue (see: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1306.0159v2.pdf)

        The motivated theist would do a lot of good by developing technology to scan brains at the highest resolutions allowable by physics.

        To rescue *human* libertarian free will, requires a different source of the free bits than the initial conditions. That is to say, one must be demonstrate that *new* free bits are added to the universe whenever a person is born. I’d place the probability of this at about 0, but I’m open-minded to what the universe has to teach us. If someone could demonstrate something like this, I would change my mind about free will.

        Tim of course will not change his mind, because he claims omniscience. Nontrivial assertions about reality require empirical evidence, to claim otherwise is a claim of omniscience. The claim that deductive arguments with merely valid *structure* can tell us something not-trivial about the universe outside a skull-bound mind (or the inside of a brain at fine resolutions) with no need for empirical evidence, is a claim of omniscience, it’s a claim that one knows for certain that one’s premises are well-formulated and true independent of empirical evidence. It’s an anachronistic view that refuses to learn the glaring lesson of the past 400 years. No merely fun, beautiful, or internally consistent deductive argument can tell us the truth about the world. You run up against Gödel Incompleteness and the problem of operationalization. It’s quite likely that a priori, you haven’t operationalized some aspect of your explanation or the explicanda you’re trying to get at with enough precision. It can in other words, take some back and forth to find good definitions. Tim hasn’t operationalized ghosts or libertarian free will at, he simply assumes they really are whatever he has in mind when he thinks about them (feigning omniscience). Someone working on supersymmetry can’t just say “nope, no need to do particle smashing experiments to see if any of this stuff actually exists out there. My math is beautiful and internally consistent and satisfying to my own tastes and that’s all that matters.” Such would be a claim of omniscience, the claim that all truths can be discovered a priori with finite axioms. Nontrivial assertions about reality require empirical evidence, to claim otherwise is a claim of omniscience. The universe must be the final arbiter. Put up or shut up. Where’s the evidence that brains are infected with ghosts? Where’s the evidence that a ghost exists AND the evidence that ghosts break down the unitary time evolution dynamics of QM inside the CNS (or anywhere else for that matter) AND that this allows for “libertarian free will”? There’s no evidence that ANYTHING breaks down the unitary time evolution dynamics of QM inside the CNS, so ghosts are a solution in search of a problem. If you demonstrate that the unitary time evolution dynamics of QM break down inside the CNS, you still have all of your work ahead of you. Declaring by fiat or appeals to authority that ghosts are real and they “use the brain” is utterly daft. Any conclusions drawn from such bogus premises are false. You might create a nice little echo chamber for those who already share your prejudices, but you’re not going to convince anybody else with a few lines of digitized chicken scratch containing glaringly false premises that could only be mistaken for true if you also assume your own omniscience which obviates your need to play by the usual rules of establishing facts on the basis of empirical evidence. It’s not tennis without the net, but tennis without the racket, with you keeping score in your own private ledger book (apparently the only numbers in sight). Looks like you’re winning, Tim! Great job!

        Reply
        • Mr. Fermion says:

          I realize an additional point about deductive arguments that might help clarify where Tim is going wrong. Deductive arguments can at best tell us about a possible universe. We need to actually go out and gather empirical evidence if want to see if we happen to live in the universe we have described. Tim seems repeatedly to be referring to mere hypotheses (and bad, incoherent ones at that which don’t contain any reasonably operationalized terms) mistakenly thinking he has “proven” not just that they are logically coherent, that is, that they describe some possible universe, but also that they describe OUR universe. That is a claim of omniscience. One can’t know if the stuff one scribbles on a piece of paper describes OUR universe without querying the universe to check. Einstein’s theory of General Relativity is mathematically elegant, it has no internal contradictions and so it could describe some possible universe, but Einstein would have been laughed at if he said “look at my beautiful a priori argument, Newton is wrong! Where’s my check and champagne?” He needed to send an expedition team to Africa to photograph an eclipse to see if his equations described OUR universe. Even if many of the terms used in Tim’s argument weren’t nonsense, that is to say, even if it were true that one could describe a logically coherent universe in which the only kind of Naturalism was a priori ontological naturalism, that libertarian free will can be defined coherently, that ghosts can cause libertarian free will, and gods can cause ghosts, his “proof” on it’s own could at best tell us that there is some logically possible universe in which those relations hold. All of his work still lies ahead to demonstrate with empirical evidence that we actually live in the universe of his imagination. Where’s your proposed experiment to demonstrate that the unitary time evolution dynamics of QM break down inside the brain? Without that, you have only what David Hume called “sophistry and illusion”.

          Reply
  9. Mr. Fermion says:

    If you’re actually interested in how rationality can evolve entirely within a naturalistic framework without leading to circularity, this paper is illuminating. As usual, the computer science guys and physics guys are lightyears ahead of philosophers, because trying to build stuff keeps philosophy honest. Try building a ghost and see how far you get 😉

    “The problem of induction is an old philosophical riddle that we cannot justify induction by itself, since that would be circular. If we follow the proposed physical message complexity idea, for the first capable induction systems (brains) to evolve, they did not need to have an a priori, deductive proof of induction. However, the evolution process itself works inductively as it proceeds from simpler to more complex forms which constitute and expend more physical entropy. Therefore, induction does explain how inductive systems can evolve, an explanation that we might call a glorious recursion, instead of a vicious circle: an inductive system can invent an induction system more powerful than itself, and it can also invent a computational theory of how itself works when no such scientific theory previously existed, which is what happened in Solomonoff’s brain.” (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1501.00601v3.pdf)

    Reply
    • Tim says:

      Mr. F, you continued to demonstrate that you do not understand my argument. You said:

      “The non-physical, even if it did exist, could never *interact* with our brains. Information is often spoken of in a colloquial sense, but formally, information is a change in entropy. Something “non-physical” would necessarily imply something that exhibited no changes in entropy (for entropy is a *physical* property!), as such it could not interact with the ordinary Shannon information our universe and brains consist of.”

      The interaction objection proves nothing. Scientists many times do not understand why or how x causes y, but they do have evidence that x causes y. I have a soon-to-be-released article on this very topic in the next few weeks so please stay-tuned. However, since entropy is a physical property, you are making my case for me in that entropy causally determines everyone’s thoughts and beliefs.

      Now, you must assume entropy has causally determined your beliefs to be better than my determined beliefs. That is question begging, Mr. F!

      You said, “You might now wish to backtrack on the claim ghosts are strictly “non-physical”.”

      I’m not arguing about “ghosts,” Mr. F, I’ve made a case for an immaterial aspect of humanity that I am calling a “soul” (feel free to call it whatever you want).

      You said, “There is no possible justification for [souls] interacting with our physical brains…”

      Besides my logically deductive argument, J.P. Moreland’s countless deductive arguments reaching the same conclusion, and scientific data currently coming out of UCLA.

      You said, “… whether these ghosts have physical properties or not.”

      Again, I don’t know what you mean by “ghost,” but when I say the word “soul” I mean an immaterial substance which does not have physical properties.

      You said, “I might be persuaded that at least some people are not in possession of a working physical brain, but I will reserve judgement.”

      Mr. F, according to your own naturalistic worldview, you don’t have a choice as to what you think and believe. This would include your “judgmental thoughts. Thus, all you are left with is your question-begging assumptions and blind faith that nature has forced your metaphysical thoughts to be true and mine to be false.

      A rational person will make the judgment that your you are committing logical fallacies. They will not be persuaded by this, Mr. F, because any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

      You said, “If you’re actually interested in how rationality can evolve entirely within a naturalistic framework without leading to circularity, this paper is illuminating. As usual, the computer science guys and physics guys are light years ahead of philosophers, because trying to build stuff keeps philosophy honest.”

      LOL! Yes, I’m sure all of these people who assume the laws of logic are true before engaging in their disciplines know more than the experts in logic and how it works. You have already demonstrated that you do not understand logical argumentation and I have specifically explained this above, Mr. F.

      Moreover, evolution selects for survival and not for truth. Many examples have been given that demonstrate holding false beliefs actually leads to survival benefit. Thus, you cannot always trust your determined thoughts (as evolution is determined via the laws of physics too); especially when it comes to your causally determined metaphysical thoughts (i.e., “God does not exist).

      All you are doing is exhibiting vast amounts of blind faith (well, I guess you don’t have a choice in the matter). You are offering nothing but question-begging assumptions. You are nothing but a “presupper,” Mr. F. You are assuming your determined thoughts are better than my determined thoughts. Any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

      My argument is based on logical deduction:

      1. N → ¬ S

      2. ¬ S → ¬ LFW

      3. ¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K

      4. R & K

      5. R & K → LFW

      6. LFW → S

      7. S → ¬ N

      After contemplating the deductive conclusion and considering many other independent logic-based arguments, I believe that God is the best explanation for the existence of x (things other than nature).

      You think that you are determined to disagree. Well, feel *free* to posit a better explanation.

      Reply
  10. toby says:

    1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
    I see nothing wrong with that.

    2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.
    This is an argument from ignorance. “I don’t see how free will could exist without a soul…therefore soul.”

    3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.
    Same as my point about number 2.

    4- Rationality and knowledge exist.
    I would agree with this, but probably not the supernatural version of rationality that you do though. And just to be difficult I’ll ask: how do you know?

    5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.
    I really don’t think this has been demonstrated.

    6- Therefore, the soul exists.
    Nope, don’t see it. You’ve just left too much unexplored and unquestioned.

    7- Therefore, naturalism is false.
    You open up so many cans of worms with this. You get slapped in the face with the question, “How can the supernatural have any effect on the natural to make it do anything?” This question always goes unanswered or the answer is so anemic it’s not worth effort to voice. If the supernatural were muddling around with the universe you would think it would leave a signature of some sort. You’d basically be saying that the universe is open and that new “energy” is being introduced every time someone decides to eat cake rather than peas.

    8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.
    Maybe. Maybe the supernatural is a blind unthinking force outside this universe that interacts with the universe and the effect is our minds and thought. I guess you don’t need a god.

    Reply
    • Tim says:

      Hi Toby! Thank you for your comments on my argument:

      1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
      You said, “I see nothing wrong with that.”

      Cool! We are off to a great start!

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

      You said, “This is an argument from ignorance. “I don’t see how free will could exist without a soul…therefore soul.””

      Oh man, there goes our “great start!”Tell me this, Toby, is it ignorant to state that if all that exists is nature, then all that exists is causally determined by nature? That seems to not only be true, but it is argued for by most naturalistic PhD experts in the field from Sam Harris to Stephen Hawking.

      Surely you would not call those guys “ignorant” would you?

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

      You said, “Same as my point about number 2.”

      It comes down to this, Toby: If all is nature, then all is causally determined via nature. 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 — or anyone else for that matter — cannot possess knowledge. 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). These do not count as knowledge claims. Therefore, if you have knowledge that you are correct, then you are providing self-refutation and you are wrong.

      4- Rationality and knowledge exist.

      You replied: “I would agree with this, but probably not the supernatural version of rationality that you do though.”

      Toby, all I do is demonstrate what is required for knowledge. There is nothing “supernatural” about my definition or even implied by it.

      You asked: “And just to be difficult I’ll ask: how do you know?”

      Haha! You are being difficult now! ☺ Well, I believe people can possess knowledge, and therefore, if I am right, then I have ultimately falsified naturalism as my argument demonstrates. However, if you believe people do not possess knowledge, then you must provide a rational argument demonstrating that you know I am probably wrong. That would actually affirm that rationality and knowledge exists.

      Moreover, if you claim that people cannot possess knowledge, then you are ultimately conclusion that you do not possess knowledge. If that is the case then why should anyone bother to listen to you?

      This premise seems unarguable because arguing proves it is true.

      You rejected all of the deductive conclusion that logically follow from the premises. However, that is like saying that you don’t accept that 4 is the sum of 2+2. Logically deductive conclusions are true if the premises are true and the structure is valid. Here is a symbolic form to prove my structure is valid:

      1. N → ¬ S

      2. ¬ S → ¬ LFW

      3. ¬ LFW → ¬ R & ¬ K

      4. R & K

      5. R & K → LFW

      6. LFW → S

      7. S → ¬ N

      7- Therefore, naturalism is false.

      Toby, you said, “You open up so many cans of worms with this. You get slapped in the face with the question, “How can the supernatural have any effect on the natural to make it do anything?”

      Toby, remember, this is a deductive conclusion so this “interaction question” does nothing to refute a deductive conclusion. All it does is show that we are currently not in an epistemic position to know *how* this occurs.

      You said, “This question always goes unanswered or the answer is so anemic it’s not worth effort to voice.”

      As I mentioned in another conversation here, I have a soon-to-be-released article coming out soon on this very topic. I think you will find it enlightening. Stay tuned! Be that as it may, being ignorant of how something works does absolutely nothing to negate logical deduction.

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

      You said, “Maybe. Maybe the supernatural is a blind unthinking force outside this universe that interacts with the universe and the effect is our minds and thought. I guess you don’t need a god.”

      Maybe you are right. Do you have an argument based on other independent evidence that would suggest this is the inference to the best explanation? I have several independent arguments that support my inference. I start with cosmological arguments for the existence of a “Mega Mind” behind the universe (i.e., the Kalam and Contingency argument). From there I appeal to the historical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus and how that demonstrates the Bible is reliable on this topic (even if it is not inerrant):

      http://freethinkingministries.com/jesus-validates-the-bible-not-the-other-way-around/

      I could be wrong, but I don’t see any good reason to think there is a better explanation to consider.

      Thanks for the interaction, Toby! Have a great day!

      Reply
  11. Andy Ryan says:

    “I have demonstrated via logical deduction that if all that exists is nature then all of your thoughts and beliefs are determined via the laws of nature. Thus, Andy, all you can do is assume all of your determined thoughts are better than mine”

    Tim, you’ve not shown that ‘determined thoughts’ = ‘incapable of reasoning’, which is the leap you are trying to make. You’ve not shown that reasoning requires the supernatural either. I can certainly consider your arguments, find fault with them and point out where they fail, as I’m doing now. Whether or not I was ‘determined’ to do doesn’t undermine my ability to do so, and you’ve not shown why they should. It makes as much sense to argue that because God knew in advance every decision you were ever going to make – as an all-knowing God must – you could not in effect possibly have made any different decisions.

    What you’re arguing is similar to saying that I’m incapable of successfully testing any proposition at all. By the same logic no other animal would be capable of achieving any cognitive task at all. This is demonstrably not true, and again you’ve not shown that the supernatural is required to make it so.

    Tim: “I admitted that *if* naturalism were true, then there is no way of knowing if this statement were true. What falsifies naturalism, then, is the existence of rationality and knowledge”

    You said you would have no way of telling if you were in a naturalism only universe. Here’s what you said:

    Me: “… if you found yourself in the world you claim we can’t be in, one without the supernatural, how would you be able to tell?”

    You: “We couldn’t! In fact, Andy, all we could do is assume! If we lived in a world where every single thought and belief were causally determined and forced upon us by nature and the big bang, then we would never be able to possess justification for any belief we held”

    Admitting you’d have no way of telling destroys your entire argument. If you are in fact in that naturalistic world, right now, Tim, you are saying you wouldn’t realise it. You could still make the same arguments you are making now, and believe them to be true. According to you, you would BELIEVE you had rationality and knowledge, and you would BELIEVE they were falsifying naturalism, but you would be wrong.

    Thus your entire argument undermines itself – according to your OWN belief, your claims are unfalsifiable.

    Reply
    • Frances says:

      Tim,

      Andy is spot on. If there is no way to measure between rationality in the naturalistic universe and rationality in the theistic universe, then the distinction you are trying to draw between the two is meaningless.

      Who cares if our current criteria might not measure up in some unknowable alternative reality? If it measures up in ours, then that’s what those words mean. End of.

      Reply
      • Tim says:

        Hi Frances, you said: “Andy is spot on. If there is no way to measure between rationality in the naturalistic universe and rationality in the theistic universe, then the distinction you are trying to draw between the two is meaningless.”

        Read my response to Andy’s comments that you are currently agreeing with. I demonstrate that your current beliefs are wrong. I encourage you to genuinely be a *FREE* thinker and change your mind.

        I do thank you for your thoughts you posted above regarding my argument. Please keep in mind that your current thoughts about Andy being “spot on” (even if they were good) would do nothing to refute the logical deduction of my conclusions.

        I need to pack for a road trip so I am done here. It was good to meet you, Frances.

        Tim

        Reply
    • Tim says:

      Hi Andy, I pointed put the following: “I have demonstrated via logical deduction that if all that exists is nature then all of your thoughts and beliefs are determined via the laws of nature. Thus, Andy, all you can do is assume all of your determined thoughts are better than mine”

      You responded: “Tim, you’ve not shown that ‘determined thoughts’ = ‘incapable of reasoning’, which is the leap you are trying to make.”

      I’m sorry you cannot understand this, Andy (perhaps the laws of nature are stopping you from comprehending this). If all your thoughts are determined and forced upon you via nature and all of my opposing thoughts are determined and forced upon me via nature, then all you are left with is ASSUMING that nature has determined you to hold true beliefs and me to hold false beliefs. Even your thoughts that you think you are reasoning through correctly are forced upon you even if the objective truth of the matter is that you are incoherent. Now, even your thoughts about my last sentence are being forced upon be external forces. If we live in the determined universe that follows from naturalism, you cannot think anything other than how you think. You have no choice in the matter, Andy. All you can do is assume you are correct to conclude you are correct. That is the epitome of begging the question.

      Andy, when arguments are based on logical fallacies they are not arguments at all. You are not providing reasons that lead to justification of one’s beliefs. If you do not have justification or rational affirmation of a belief, then it simply does not count as knowledge.

      “There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe.

      When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”

      – WLC

      Andy, if you cannot rationally affirm your beliefs all you can do is assume them. This is not knowledge.

      You said: “You’ve not shown that reasoning requires the supernatural either.”

      Well, I have a logically deductive argument that proves otherwise, Andy. I even shared the symbolic structure to “mathematically prove” it’s validity. So far, Andy, you are the one committing logical fallacies and rejecting logically deductive arguments. With sincere respect, you are on the wrong side of logic.

      You said, “I can certainly consider your arguments, find fault with them and point out where they fail, as I’m doing now.”

      Can you rationally affirm that determined thought of yours, Andy? How would you do that if even the very thought you are about to express via your computer is causally determined via the initial conditions of the big bang coupled with the laws of nature? Sure, nature is determining you to think you are free to think, but according to naturalism, you cannot think other than you do. You are not responsible for your own thoughts!

      It follows, Andy, that all you can do is assume your thoughts are good (let alone true), but even those assumptions of yours would be forced upon you by external factors. That is, unless you are wrong about naturalism.

      The naturalistic philosopher and neuroscientist, Dr. Sam Harris, agrees with me. In his book, “Free Will,” Harris says that our very thoughts are not our own:

      “Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have. Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.”

      You said, “Whether or not I was ‘determined’ to do doesn’t undermine my *ability* to do so…”

      Do you not understand the implications of determinism, Andy? If al is determined, then there is no “ability” to do anything!

      You said, “It makes as much sense to argue that because God knew in advance every decision you were ever going to make – as an all-knowing God must – you could not in effect possibly have made any different decisions.”

      I write about these issues quite often if you’d like to take a look:

      http://freethinkingministries.com/compatibilistic-free-will-can-you-have-your-cake-eat-it-too-2/

      http://freethinkingministries.com/the-petals-drop-why-calvinism-is-impossible/

      You said, “What you’re arguing is similar to saying that I’m incapable of successfully testing any proposition at all.”

      I’m glad you used the word, “similar” here. Andy, but you must remember that for analogies to work to disprove a point, they must be argued for in an identical manner. Similarities won’t get you off of any metaphysical hooks.

      With that said, however, the implications of naturalistic determinism demonstrate that *YOU* are not in control of your own thoughts as they are all forced upon you from external forces. Your body is merely a conduit being causally determined to believe and behave exactly as it does and it could not be otherwise. Sam Harris, Stephen Hawking, Alex Rosenberg, Sean Carrol, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and countless other PhD naturalistic scientists and philosophers have made this point for me, Andy.

      Ought implies ability, and there is no ability to do anything (including what you think and believe) if naturalistic determinism is true.

      You said, “By the same logic no other animal would be capable of achieving any cognitive task at all.”

      Why would you assume that? That is definitely NOT my position.

      You said, “This is demonstrably not true, and again you’ve not shown that the supernatural is required to make it so.”

      Well, again, Andy, I need to remind you that I have a logically deductive argument that proves otherwise.

      Reply
      • Tim says:

        Hi again, Andy!

        I said: “If we lived in a world where every single thought and belief were causally determined and forced upon us by nature and the big bang, then we would never be able to possess justification for any belief we held”

        You responded: “Admitting you’d have no way of telling destroys your entire argument.”

        No, Andy, it supports it by demonstrating that we could not possess justified true beliefs (knowledge) if naturalism is true. Now, if you are going to argue that you have *knowledge* that I am wrong, then, you are providing the evidence we need. You have knowledge. If you want to say we don’t have knowledge, that is still a knowledge claim. That is the evidence we need to reach our conclusions that naturalism is false. However, if you claim that knowledge is impossible, then you are claiming to have knowledge that you do not possess knowledge. That is self-refuting and gives reason for reasonable people not to listen to you.

        So, Andy, if you think you possess knowledge you *ought* (impossible on naturalism) to freely think that naturalism is false and that you are more than a simple bag of chemicals on bones.

        You said, “If you are in fact in that naturalistic world, right now, Tim, you are saying you wouldn’t realise it.”

        Yep, and neither would you, but if we are consistent, we wouldn’t even realize that we would not know that either! I reference the WLC quote I offered above:

        “When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”

        You said, “You could still make the same arguments you are making now, and believe them to be true. According to you, you would BELIEVE you had rationality and knowledge, and you would BELIEVE they were falsifying naturalism, but you would be wrong.”

        I agree with your knowledge claim, Andy. But wait, is this a justified true belief that you are offering? If you are offering knowledge that others *ought* to believe (impossible on naturalism), then you are providing evidence that your current worldview is false. You *ought* to change your mind if you really are a FREE thinker.

        You said, “Thus your entire argument undermines itself – according to your OWN belief, your claims are unfalsifiable.”

        Andy, it is impossible to argue that rationality and knowledge does not exist. First of all, if you are going to argue that the crucial premise (4) of my argument is false, you must provide a rational argument and make knowledge claims. Doing that will affirm the crucial premise that FALSIFIES naturalism. Feel free to make the knowledge claim that you reject rationality and knowledge, but as I said above, that is both self-defeating and discredits you from being taken seriously.

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          Tim, it’s pretty clear – by your OWN ARGUMENT, you couldn’t know whether you are in a naturalistic universe or a supernatural one. In one universe you are saying you would have ‘justified true beliefs’, in the other you would only THINK you did, and according to you the latter would be indistinguishable from the former. That’s pretty much game over for any claims that you are in one rather than the other.

          “However, if you claim that knowledge is impossible…”

          That’s your argument, Tim, not mine, so it’s a problem for you, not me, as it makes your claim for non-naturalism unfalsifiable.

          “If you are going to argue that the crucial premise (4) of my argument is false”

          I don’t have to argue anything, Tim – you’ve destroyed your own argument!

          And Craig does too, here: “Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed”. That means that it is equally impossible to rationally rule it out, or even make any claims at all for non-determinism – any claim at all could simply be the delusion of someone in a deterministic universe.

          Again, this is a problem for you and Craig, who believe knowledge in determinism (and therefore also knowledge full stop) is impossible. It’s not a problem for people who don’t believe knowledge in determinism is impossible.

          Incidentally, regarding this exchange:

          Toby: “This is an argument from ignorance. “I don’t see how free will could exist without a soul…therefore soul.””

          Tim: “Oh man, there goes our “great start!”Tell me this, Toby, is it ignorant to state that if all that exists is nature, then all that exists is causally determined by nature? That seems to not only be true, but it is argued for by most naturalistic PhD experts in the field from Sam Harris to Stephen Hawking. Surely you would not call those guys “ignorant” would you?”

          Neither Sam Harris or Stephen Hawking believe that knowledge is impossible, so we might as well ask if YOU are calling these guys ignorant.

          Reply
    • Tim says:

      Hi Andy, I pointed put the following: “I have demonstrated via logical deduction that if all that exists is nature then all of your thoughts and beliefs are determined via the laws of nature. Thus, Andy, all you can do is assume all of your determined thoughts are better than mine”

      You responded: “Tim, you’ve not shown that ‘determined thoughts’ = ‘incapable of reasoning’, which is the leap you are trying to make.”

      I’m sorry you cannot understand this, Andy (perhaps the laws of nature are stopping you from comprehending this). If all your thoughts are determined and forced upon you via nature and all of my opposing thoughts are determined and forced upon me via nature, then all you are left with is ASSUMING that nature has determined you to hold true beliefs and me to hold false beliefs. Even your thoughts that you think you are reasoning through correctly are forced upon you even if the objective truth of the matter is that you are incoherent. Now, even your thoughts about my last sentence are being forced upon be external forces. If we live in the determined universe that follows from naturalism, you cannot think anything other than how you think. You have no choice in the matter, Andy. All you can do is assume you are correct to conclude you are correct. That is the epitome of begging the question.

      Andy, when arguments are based on logical fallacies they are not arguments at all. You are not providing reasons that lead to justification of one’s beliefs. If you do not have justification or rational affirmation of a belief, then it simply does not count as knowledge.

      “There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe.

      When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”

      – WLC

      Andy, if you cannot rationally affirm your beliefs all you can do is assume them. This is not knowledge.

      You said: “You’ve not shown that reasoning requires the supernatural either.”

      Well, I have a logically deductive argument that proves otherwise, Andy. I even shared the symbolic structure to “mathematically prove” it’s validity. So far, Andy, you are the one committing logical fallacies and rejecting logically deductive arguments. With sincere respect, you are on the wrong side of logic.

      You said, “I can certainly consider your arguments, find fault with them and point out where they fail, as I’m doing now.”

      Can you rationally affirm that determined thought of yours, Andy? How would you do that if even the very thought you are about to express via your computer is causally determined via the initial conditions of the big bang coupled with the laws of nature? Sure, nature is determining you to think you are free to think, but according to naturalism, you cannot think other than you do. You are not responsible for your own thoughts!

      It follows, Andy, that all you can do is assume your thoughts are good (let alone true), but even those assumptions of yours would be forced upon you by external factors. That is, unless you are wrong about naturalism.

      The naturalistic philosopher and neuroscientist, Dr. Sam Harris, agrees with me. In his book, “Free Will,” Harris says that our very thoughts are not our own:

      “Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have. Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.”

      You said, “Whether or not I was ‘determined’ to do doesn’t undermine my *ability* to do so…”

      Do you not understand the implications of determinism, Andy? If al is determined, then there is no “ability” to do anything!

      You said, “It makes as much sense to argue that because God knew in advance every decision you were ever going to make – as an all-knowing God must – you could not in effect possibly have made any different decisions.”

      I write about these issues quite often if you’d like to take a look:

      http://freethinkingministries.com/compatibilistic-free-will-can-you-have-your-cake-eat-it-too-2/

      http://freethinkingministries.com/the-petals-drop-why-calvinism-is-impossible/

      You said, “What you’re arguing is similar to saying that I’m incapable of successfully testing any proposition at all.”

      I’m glad you used the word, “similar” here. Andy, but you must remember that for analogies to work to disprove a point, they must be argued for in an identical manner. Similarities won’t get you off of any metaphysical hooks.

      With that said, however, the implications of naturalistic determinism demonstrate that *YOU* are not in control of your own thoughts as they are all forced upon you from external forces. Your body is merely a conduit being causally determined to believe and behave exactly as it does and it could not be otherwise. Sam Harris, Stephen Hawking, Alex Rosenberg, Sean Carrol, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and countless other PhD naturalistic scientists and philosophers have made this point for me, Andy.

      Ought implies ability, and there is no ability to do anything (including what you think and believe) if naturalistic determinism is true.

      You said, “By the same logic no other animal would be capable of achieving any cognitive task at all.”

      Why would you assume that? That is definitely NOT my position.

      You said, “This is demonstrably not true, and again you’ve not shown that the supernatural is required to make it so.”

      Well, again, Andy, I need to remind you that I have a logically deductive argument that proves otherwise.

      Reply
  12. Y.Levin says:

    Tim,
    To summarize your article:
    1. Naturalism leads to determinism
    2. Determinism contradicts free-will
    3. Rationalism requires free-will
    4. Therefore rationalism is not possible under naturalism.

    If we understand the meaning of ‘rationalism’ to be ‘reliance on reason’ (as opposed to making decisions randomly or emotionally) then immediately free will becomes irrational. If your decisions are made based on reasons, then you are not free to decide, except for those decisions that are entirely unconnected to any preceding causes or future consequences, in which you are deciding randomly, which is not a rational way to decide. Therefore, if rationalism exists, free will cannot.

    But let’s address your four points above.
    1. Naturalism may not require determinism. We have observable examples of indeterministic behavior in nature – radioactive decay, quantum leap, virtual particle behavior. It’s possible that these are caused (and therefore deterministic) in a way we are currently ignorant about. But it’s also possible they are truly random and not predetermined, yet entirely physical. If the latter, your argument (#1 above) is refuted. So let’s assume it’s the former and determinism is true.

    2. I would agree that if determinism is true, free will is not possible. This is because if each decision is influenced by preceding causes (including the rational, deterministic prediction of future consequences) then given the same causes, you would necessarily arrive at the same rational decision. It’s not possible to falsify this (meaning prove that given the identical initial conditions you could arrive at different conclusions.) Being unfalsifiable, we cannot conclude that it is true, but we certainly have no reason to say it is false. So you can still argue that free will is true and therefore determinism if false, but this tells us nothing about naturalism.

    3. This is exactly wrong – Free will is NOT POSSIBLE under rationalism. If every decision you make is governed by preceding reasons, then you are not deciding freely. If your decisions are made freely, which I would argue can only mean randomly, then those decisions are not rational.

    4. The conclusion should be “therefore FREE WILL is not possible under DETERMINISM”. We can then debate free will by showing how our respective opinions were arrived at – mine was arrived at by rationally considering preceding causes, yours could only have been decided free of any preceding influences, which means it is random and therefore irrational. Either one of us could be correct. Which still tells us nothing about naturalism.

    So instead of discussing naturalism, we should discuss rationalism. Does it exist? I certainly hope so. But it can only exist if free will is an illusion, or if free will only applies in decisions which are entirely inconsequential.

    Reply
  13. Andy Ryan says:

    I’m interested in how the soul is supposed to be interacting with our brains. Tim argues that the ‘mechanical’ parts of our brains can only react in a deterministic fashion to what occurs around us. Now, that we react to what goes on around us and are influenced by our environment isn’t, I hope, denied by anyone here. So what part is the soul supposed to be playing? How is the soul affecting our decisions? Any way its affecting our decisions must be just another cause, another link in the causal chain – call it a supernatural one, but a link it remains. And if it’s not changing what we’d otherwise do – if we’re making the same decisions we’d make anyway if we did NOT have this soul, and therefore what Tim terms as free will, then what difference is it actually making?

    “That’s not true at all, Andy! I am not arguing for a “bigger” closed system (as that implies nature, space and matter), but rather the existence of things that are other than nature. As Yoda says, “size matters not!””

    I never said size mattered here, Tim, and you can quibble over terms all you want. The point is whether it’s part of a causal chain or not. Adding ‘other than nature’ things to the causal chain doesn’t stop it being a causal chain. Either it’s influencing your decisions, in which case it’s part of the chain, or it isn’t influencing your decisions, in which case it’s irrelevant. This argument is like saying that Scrooge had free will in A Christmas Carol because some of his decisions were influenced by ghosts, who are supernatural. The fact that they were a bunch of non-corporeal beings rather than just a bunch of his mates staging an intervention makes no difference – they’re still another link in the causal chain.

    Reply
  14. Tim says:

    Hi Andy, you gave me a lot to respond to and trying to interact with everyone in this forum (as well as others) is wearing me out and keeping me from my other responsibilities. This will probably be my last interaction here, so feel free to take the last word.

    You said, “I’m interested in how the soul is supposed to be interacting with our brains.”

    I do not know specifically *how* the soul interacts with the brain, but it is incoherent to state that just because you are ignorant of how something works, therefore, it does not happen – especially when I have provided deductive proof that it does happen! Scientists deal with this all the time. They can prove something happens without knowing how it happens. Your objection is a fallacious one that philosophers refer to as the “interaction objection.”

    Be that as it may, as I explained above (to Toby I think), I have a soon-to-be-released article on the interaction objection and some new scientific data that freethinkers (impossible on naturalism) *ought* to consider. I am almost done with it but I am getting a couple more references from some well known theoretical physicists. Stay tuned!

    You put some words in my mouth that I never said. You wrote:

    “Tim argues that the ‘mechanical’ parts of our brains can only react in a deterministic fashion to what occurs around us.”

    Let me clarify so you don’t continue in your misunderstanding: I contend that *If naturalism is true* then causal determinism follows. If all things are causally determined via external forces (laws of nature), then that includes ALL of your thoughts and beliefs. So, if naturalism is true and you are nothing but a clump of moist and grey matter, then that grey matter is determined (much stronger than “influenced”) via the laws of nature. You have no ability to do or think otherwise if you happen to be right (by sheer luck) about naturalism.

    You said, “Now, that we react to what goes on around us and are influenced by our environment isn’t, I hope, denied by anyone here.”

    Andy, are we influenced or determined? Those are two different things. Influence still leaves an *abilty* to do otherwise. Determinism does not.

    You said, “How is the soul affecting our decisions?”

    Again, Andy, if we are being logical, that is the interaction objection and it does nothing to negate my logically deductive argument. Stay tuned for my upcoming article on the topic.

    You said, “Any way [the soul] affecting our decisions must be just another cause, another link in the causal chain – call it a supernatural one, but a link it remains.”

    I thought you were referring to the “causal chain of the physical universe.” Which is all we have if naturalism is true. You are correct in that if we are immaterial minds that use brains, then this “spiritual” substance would not be determined via the physical “falling dominoes” of the universe which are all determined by the laws of nature of the universe. If the soul is not causally determined via the laws of nature, then it seems it is *free to think* according to the laws of logic (or freely choose not to).

    Sure, a soul using a brain can and is influenced, but if we can freely choose to take our thoughts captive (as Paul contends), then we are not determined via nature even though we are influenced by it.

    I highly influenced my wife (before we were married) to say “yes” to my marriage proposal, but I did not force her to against her will. This also allows for true love and not something like Stockholm Syndrome! I did not kidnap her, drug her, put a gun to her head. She was always and genuinely free to say “no.” However, she freely said yes. Was she influenced? YES! Was she causally determined? NO! Why? Because she is not just a bag of chemicals on bones, she is a soul that uses a brain and body.

    Again, if there is no soul, then there is no genuine ability to do otherwise! ISIS cannot help believing as they do or behaving in their terroristic ways. Hitler couldn’t help it! Intolerant homophobes cannot help it either, and you cannot help the way you believe and behave. Don’t blame the people you disagree with – blame it on the big bang! We are noting but meaningless falling dominoes with no ability to do otherwise (unless you are wrong about naturalism)!

    I said, “That’s not true at all, Andy! I am not arguing for a “bigger” closed system (as that implies nature, space and matter), but rather the existence of things that are other than nature. As Yoda says, “size matters not!””

    You said, “I never said size mattered here, Tim”

    Well, Andy, things other than nature do not have a size,” Andy. Sizes of things only apply to the physical and natural world.

    You said, “The point is whether it’s part of a causal chain or not. Adding ‘other than nature’ things to the causal chain doesn’t stop it being a causal chain.”

    Andy, as I explained above, a soul that uses a body is not a part of the causal chain in the sense that it is being “hit” by a preceding “falling domino.” However, the immaterial soul using the material body could start a new causal chain of physical events. I described this in my snowboarder thought experiment above.

    You said, “ Either it’s influencing your decisions, in which case it’s part of the chain, or it isn’t influencing your decisions, in which case it’s irrelevant.”

    Again, you are demonstrating your confusion here. A soul can be “influenced” if it uses a physical brain in the physical world; however, it is free to do otherwise by freely choosing to think according to the laws of logic instead of being determined by the laws of nature.

    Now, the immaterial soul – YOU – can control and determines your physical actions. But it does not always do this not does it have to. For example, when you blink, that is a physical phenomena. Free will is required for things like morality and rationality. Without libertarian freedom, these concepts are illusory and meaningless.

    You said, “This argument is like saying that Scrooge had free will in A Christmas Carol because some of his decisions were influenced by ghosts, who are supernatural.”

    This is actually a fantastic analogy that proves my point, Andy! In fact, I use it quite often! Scrooge was *influenced* (not determined) to make a free choice to act other than he was going to act. The ghost showed him the future that *would* occur *IF* Scrooge did not CHOOSE to change his lifestyle. Scrooge had the freedom to continue in his lifestyle and the vision shown to Scrooge would have been actualized. But this *possible* (impossible on naturalism) future was never actualized as Scrooge freely chose to act otherwise and change his ways.

    Was Scrooge influenced? YES! Was he determined? NO! He could have done otherwise.

    Alright, I’m about to hit the road for a theology conference tomorrow. I need to pack and do a few other things so I need to sign off. Thank you for the great questions, Andy. I really enjoyed our interaction.

    Your new friend,

    Tim

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “especially when I have provided deductive proof that it does happen!”

      Tim, you need to stop claiming to have won the argument while you are still trying to make your case. It doesn’t help the discussion. I understand that you BELIEVE you are right here, but I don’t agree with your proof, and the validity of your proof is the very thing we are discussion.

      “I do not know specifically *how* the soul interacts with the brain, but it is incoherent to state that just because you are ignorant of how something works, therefore, it does not happen ”

      I’m questioning the whole coherence of the concept and how it is supposed to solve the free will problem you yourself have offered. To me this is like saying you have a device that does something logically impossible, and when I ask how you reply that you don’t understand the exactly mechanics.

      “This is actually a fantastic analogy that proves my point, Andy!”

      You miss the point. There’s no metaphysical difference between being influenced by a person and being influenced by a ghost as far as free will is concerned. It’s irrelevant that one is supernatural and the other isn’t.

      “Again, you are demonstrating your confusion here. A soul can be “influenced” if it uses a physical brain in the physical world; however, it is free to do otherwise by freely choosing to think according to the laws of logic instead of being determined by the laws of nature.”

      I don’t accept the dichotomy you offer. Why think that in a naturalistic universe people aren’t using the laws of logic? Without it all discussion would be impossible. As a species we’ve developed logical thought and the ability to reason. Other higher primates share this with us to a lesser degree.

      By the way, Tim – perhaps stop telling people here they are confused just because you disagree with or don’t understand their arguments. If you don’t understand something I’ve explained, feel free to ask for clarification, but don’t assume it’s down to my confusion.

      “A soul that uses a body is not a part of the causal chain in the sense that it is being “hit” by a preceding “falling domino.””

      You’ve not shown/explained how it escapes the causal chain. Saying it’s non-physical isn’t enough. In fact it’s not really telling us anything at all.

      Out of interest, do you believe that animals have souls? If not it must follow you believe they have no free will, and by your own argument can’t possess knowledge or any ability to reason. As an owner of pets I can tell you that’s simply nonsense!

      Reply
  15. Tim says:

    I want to thank everyone here for some stimulating conversation! However, it is becoming quite difficult to have long conversations with several people simultaneously. I am also preparing to embark on a road trip so I will be away from my computer for several days. It was a pleasure arguing our thoughts (if these thoughts are genuinely free or not is the question)! 🙂

    Sincerely,

    Tim

    Reply
  16. Andy Ryan says:

    Tim has admitted now that his position is unfalsifiable – he admits that by his own argument he’d not be able to tell if he was in a deterministic universe or one that fits his definition of ‘free will’.

    So the main part of his argument is dead. But there are still some other parts I’d like to take apart.

    Tim: “Woah! Not so fast, my friend! How do you *know* the computer has made a mistake? If all of your thoughts are forced and determined upon you via nature and the big bang, then you can only assume that your beliefs are better than the computer.”

    I had been arguing against Tim’s notion that knowledge is impossible in determinism. I used an analogy involving a computer. Tim’s attack on this argument was that knowledge is impossible in determinism. In other words he USED his conclusion to argue AGAINST my counters to his conclusion. This is begging the question.

    To understand why this is a logical fallacy – or simply understand why one cannot use this as a debating tactic – imagine the following argument:

    Andy: “I propose that Tim cannot know anything because last week he was hit on the head by a large rock while in Florida”
    Tim: “I wasn’t in Florida last week”
    Andy: “The rock gave you amnesia”
    Tim: “Here’s a good argument against Andy’s claim…”
    Andy: “How can I trust the arguments from someone who got hit on the head by a large rock?”

    That’s pretty much what Tim was doing above in rejecting the computer analogy. Tim was using his conclusion – that atheists cannot justify any belief or knowledge – to reject any argument against that conclusion.

    And the fact remains – computers don’t have souls, don’t have choice, don’t have free will, and yet they successfully make calculations that we rely on. Do they ever make mistakes? Sure, and so do humans.

    It’s a shame Tim never answered my question about whether animals have souls. If not, I’d be interested how he explains the apparent phenomenon of animals apparently understanding their surroundings, problem solving etc.

    Finally, I still don’t see why determinism makes any difference at all to whether we can know something or not. If you are forced into a room with a bright light, you don’t have a choice about whether you notice the light or not. Soul or not, you are ‘determined’ to be aware of the light. Why does this lack of choice mean you can’t know the light is on, not off?

    Reply

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