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The Transcendental Argument for God - Comments

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 1 by aquilacane

There is no proof of a god, so the argument can't even begin to be made. That would be like saying I am the ultimate in logic because I believe in Graduminotata, or Swabiswabininundo. God is just another meaningless word, quite frankly. It is a veil to hide behind. This argument should not take place, there are no grounds for it. the only meaning that can be provided must be provided by the one making the argument, judge what is being said based on the intent of the speaker and not the imagined intent of a magical skydaddy.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:34:00 UTC | #77661

maton100's Avatar Comment 2 by maton100

Let's not forget the transcendental argument for Charlton Heston either.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:38:00 UTC | #77662

Crossman's Avatar Comment 3 by Crossman

Evolution explains how rational beings, albeit with lots of biases, can come about through non-rational forces over millions of years.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:56:00 UTC | #77674

Acleron's Avatar Comment 5 by Acleron

If atheism asserts anything, it is that the universe started as a random event. Darwin's theory of evolution shows that by selective pressure a variety phenotypes can occur from random variation. Homo sapiens' 'intelligence' presumably was selected for and made us the the most abundant medium sized mammal on the planet. Unfortunately there was no selective mechanism for rationality, so while some parts of the population can make use of their intelligence to achieve rationality a significant proportion can only achieve belief.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:58:00 UTC | #77677

?'s Avatar Comment 4 by ?

This objection sounds interesting on the surface, but its based on outdated medieval scholastic logic. In the face of an empirical worldview, it falls apart. It doesn't matter if reason has its roots in non-rational forces or processes beacuse:

1. Its here now and is what it is, regardless of origin.
2. It is valueable because it can be shown to get results.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:58:00 UTC | #77675

Eelis's Avatar Comment 6 by Eelis

First of all, the argument is incomplete. Certainly its advocates would not claim that, in general, for a process to be able to produce something having property X, the process itself must have property X (because by that logic, a fast car can only be produced by a fast process). In what way is the property of rationality supposedly special?

Fortunately, regardless of its incompleteness, the argument can be refuted by exhibiting a counterexample: evolution. Evolution naturally gives rise to rational agents, because rationality gives an obvious competitive advantage (e.g. being able to reason about the location of food or attackers, being able to select the best location to grow crops, etc.). In particular, this explanation requires no rational agent guiding the process.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 17:22:00 UTC | #77687

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 7 by prettygoodformonkeys

Reasoning coming about as a result of non-rational forces is exactly what has happened. No problem; this does not refute reasoning.

The study of evolution shows that reason is an extremely recent development, and was not needed before that. Still, reason is what makes sense to us as thinking primates, it is what defines falsifiability, it explains why we can agree on things, why some things work and others do not, and why some things are (we can agree) ridiculous. Never mind what they are, it is always reason that we use to make the determination.

The fabrication of an all-knowing being does not make any reasonable sense, nor does it set up a usable framework that would be an alternative to reason.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 18:30:00 UTC | #77712

Extropian's Avatar Comment 8 by Extropian

I've dealt with some apologists who have used this line of argument. In my experience the argument was presented in a slightly different way than described at the top of the page.

The main thrust of the argument thrown at me was that I, as the atheist, assumed the existence of God in order to disprove God's existence. Pretty nifty, that. He/she will go on to explain. Incidentally, the best response to this initial claim is to raise one's eyebrows and ask, "Really. How so?". Since I utilized logic and reason, my assumption was that these faculties are accessing an external standard of truth by which our respective arguments could be judged. Without this external standard, the best I as an atheist could hope for was a sophist's victory. By definition, this external standard must exist outside and over the realm that it judges; not a problem for a supernatural believing theist as they posit the real existence of this external standard (a Platonic Ideal would be the best description of their understanding of what this standard is)and posit God as the ultimate guarentor of this standard (since he created it and sustains it and all truth/standards). This argument can appear as a real logical problem for a thorough-going naturalist (such as myself) if one has not examined one's presuppositions thoroughly and has this sort of argument thrown at them without any preparation or background on it. So goes the argument as I have met it in the trenches.

In short, it is an argument focusing on one's presuppositions and most folks really don't look to hard at their own presuppositions. In fact, this whole genre of apologetics is called Presuppositional Apologetics. It comes out of the Calvinist side of things and is the apologetics of the modern-day Christian Reconstructionist Movements. Cornelius Van Till is the intellectual father of the movement and more recent authors include Greg Bahnsen, Gary North and RJ Rushdooney and those authors are great primers and will allow one to see all the flavors of this style of argumentation.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 19:41:00 UTC | #77735

jagmarz's Avatar Comment 9 by jagmarz

Given that 0 = 1, all things may be proven, through nice, simple, easy to understand, but ultimately meaningless and nonsensical logic. What's not to like about religion? God exists, therefore atheists are illogical. QED. Game over. Next!

Hmm. I wrote the above trying to be sarcastic, but it's depressingly close to the original. Demonstrate to me that it's impossible (or even illogical) for the rational to arise out of the irrational; THEN we can address the rest of the question. As a counter example - roll a die and predict the result. You can't. But roll it 100 times and the sum will be extremely close to 350. Order out of chaos; rational out of irrational. It's what the universe is built on, but I suppose that's not really proof, since god created the die in the first place...

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 22:12:00 UTC | #77801

Shuggy's Avatar Comment 10 by Shuggy

Excuse me? How have you shown that reason can not arise from absence of reason? You just made that rule up! Prove it.

If I pour dry sand into a heap, it forms a cone. By your logic, disorganised sand cannot of itself form a geometric shape such as a cone, but requires some supernatural conemaker...


Wed, 24 Oct 2007 22:43:00 UTC | #77812

atp's Avatar Comment 11 by atp

Atheism doesn't assert anything. It is a lack of belief in something.

I simply have to admit I don't know these things, and that my lack of knowledge is no reason to believe in any random story about supernatural beings or similar that logically cannot be proved to have no more or less truth in it than other random stories.

The propostion that "God did it" does not give me any more knwoledge outside the proposition itself. As not as it is not based in reality or logic and cannot be proved or disproved, the proposition about God holds no value.

It gives no knowledge and no real answers, it only provides us with more questions. How did God come about?

And using Occams razor I can say. If God could exists in order to create the univers. Couldn't the laws of existence that permitted God to exist just as well permit the existence of our universe without any interaction of a God?

So as an atheist I don't have to assert anything. I just have to acknowledge that the story about God holds no value, gives no knowledge and is utterly superfluous.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 23:19:00 UTC | #77822

thelivingbrian's Avatar Comment 12 by thelivingbrian

The proposed argument is self-rufting. It states that theist's arguments are founded on a notion. Notions are not true logic, so it follows (from the given argument) that theists cannot claim logic or coherence in their arguments.

It is a bit ironic that an argument that opens with the phrase "Atheism is self-refuting," is self-refuting.

Wed, 24 Oct 2007 23:39:00 UTC | #77827

bitbutter's Avatar Comment 13 by bitbutter

Atheism is self-refuting because it asserts that everything in the universe, including the atheist's own reasoning, came about as a result of non-rational forces. If that is indeed the case, every argument employed by the atheist is, according to his own assertions, incoherent and meaningless. Only the theist is able to claim coherence and true logic in his arguments because those arguments are founded on the notion of an all-knowing being.


Only by subscribing to a position that asserts the primacy of consciousness can one escape the idea that we came about through the action of non-rational forces.

But the primacy of consciousness always loses out to the primacy of existence. Since any consciousness (even a god's) has to exist, we have to conclude that existence is primary. This being so it follows that things (even gods) are, ultimately, contingent on non-rational forces.

The presuppositional theist fails to realise this and builds his 'claim to coherence' on an imaginary foundation.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 00:40:00 UTC | #77863

Paul Creber's Avatar Comment 14 by Paul Creber

I made an attempt at countering this argument here: http://www.fcosonline.org/index.php?topic=5.msg97;topicseen#msg97 (reply 51)

...but I'm no evolutionary biologist and I may well be hopelessly adrift. Any suggestions for improving or amending this line of argument would be welcome.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 01:34:00 UTC | #77893

Zakie Chan's Avatar Comment 15 by Zakie Chan

You can also just take any extremely crazy story from the bible (like God sending bears to kill 40 children for making fun of a bald guy, in 2 Kings), and ask the Christian if he believes that that was reasonable/rational response from God. They might make up some crazy excuse, but just persist that YOU think its irrational. And if you think its irrational, your reasoning abilities couldn't have come from God... since God obviously thought it was a reasonable thing to do.

You can use the same tactic for "God gives us morality." If there is any moral action or statement that God has done or made, and we disagree with it, then we know our morality didnt come from God. For if it did, we would agree with everything God allegedly has done.

Oh yeah, and the TAG also completely begs the question.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 01:58:00 UTC | #77902

Synchronium's Avatar Comment 16 by Synchronium

The forces that gave rise to me are a damn sight more rational than those responsible for conjouring up an imaginary god, even if I don't understand them.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 02:52:00 UTC | #77927

sidfaiwu's Avatar Comment 17 by sidfaiwu

"The Transcendental Argument for God" or "how can rational beings be the result of non-rational forces".

Just as orange can be made from non-orange light, or that a liquid, water, can be made from non-liquid components, hydrogen and oxygen.

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 10:27:00 UTC | #78124

Axulus's Avatar Comment 18 by Axulus

Here is a somewhat concise rebuttal to this argument, perhaps it can be better refined:

Are you using reason/logic for this argument of yours? You can not use reason/logic to say that a rational universe can only exist on the foundation of an all knowing being since you have not yet shown that reason/logic is a way to arrive at knowledge. We must both start with the assumption that we can gain knowledge by reasoning things out in a logical/rational way or else we must conclude that nothing can be known. Is it your position that nothing can be known?

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 11:58:00 UTC | #78182

Mewtwo_X's Avatar Comment 19 by Mewtwo_X

"Your second sentence does not follow and seems to invoke Universal Skepticism, while ignoring the fact that it can apply to everything. What makes you so sure that you can trust a god to give a stable foundation for reason? Couldn't it give you a propagandistic logic instead?"

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 14:33:00 UTC | #78265

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

Only the theist is able to claim coherence and true logic in his arguments because those arguments are founded on the notion of an all-knowing being.


The issue here is that theists are allowed to get away with claiming that God is somehow the foundation of all kinds of things - statements for which they have no evidence or logical basis.

They want there to be objective morality ... so, God is provides morality....
They want some explanation for why there is something rather than nothing" .... so, God is the "ground of all being"
They want meaning ... so God provides meaning

Unless they can explain why or how God provides these services, they are in no better position than atheists, and "because of God" is simply a meaningless phrase supplied as an answer to all hard questions.

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 03:22:00 UTC | #78536

stevencarrwork's Avatar Comment 21 by stevencarrwork

'Atheism is self-refuting because it asserts that everything in the universe, including the atheist's own reasoning, came about as a result of non-rational forces'

What is a rational force?

'Only the theist is able to claim coherence and true logic in his arguments because those arguments are founded on the notion of an all-knowing being.'

And theists claim that there are malovelent demons capable of attacking their reasoning and highly-motivated to do so.

Why believe the words of people who claim that they might be possessed by demons?

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 03:32:00 UTC | #78538

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 22 by irate_atheist

Stock reply -

"Go and lie down in a quiet, dark room for a couple of hours. You'll soon feel better. Nurse! Next patient please!"

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 03:33:00 UTC | #78539

aslipp's Avatar Comment 23 by aslipp

TAG is generally a lot more complicated than it is described here, and poses significant epistemological questions that can't just be washed away by pointing out "Circular argument!" For TAGers (or pre-sups, whichever) assuming the existence of God (and the Christian God, at that) is precisely the point, because if you don't, all human thought, science, morality becomes completely unreliable. TAG isn't about proving anything to anyone - it's about undermining any other worldview besides that of the TAGer.

BitButter (#13) offers something very close to what's been going around my own head. Assuming that God is the foundation of human thought (man created in God's image, etc.) requires a further assumption: That God exists and has characteristics. Jade at the Internet Infidels board presented a much more comprehensive version of this here (formal debate): http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=80583

and here (peanut gallery discussion): http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?p=1507999

Fri, 26 Oct 2007 19:01:00 UTC | #78786

bitbutter's Avatar Comment 24 by bitbutter

@aslipp: Agreed. I think its easy to underestimate the strengths of the presup' approach if you haven't debated with a presupper before. You can be caught off guard and end up looking foolish (Bahnsen vs. Stein).

BitButter (#13) offers something very close to what's been going around my own head. Assuming that God is the foundation of human thought (man created in God's image, etc.) requires a further assumption: That God exists and has characteristics. Jade at the Internet Infidels board presented a much more comprehensive version of this here (formal debate): http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=80583

Yes, Jade's posts are some of the most insightful i've read on this topic.

The answer to TAG which i posted earlier is a version of the Objectivist rejection of theism, which i think has a lot of mileage when it comes to answering presupp' apologetics.

Sat, 27 Oct 2007 11:30:00 UTC | #78937

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 25 by Bonzai

Agreed. I think its easy to underestimate the strengths of the presup' approach if you haven't debated with a presupper


Would a "presupper" be an appetizer? :)

Sat, 27 Oct 2007 11:40:00 UTC | #78938

Lauregon's Avatar Comment 26 by Lauregon

wikipedia:

Presuppositional apologetics is a school of Christian apologetics, a field of Christian theology that aims to (1) present a rational basis for the Christian faith, (2) defend the faith against objections, and (3) expose the perceived flaws of other worldviews.[1] Presuppositional apologetics is especially concerned with the third aspect of this discipline...

The key discriminator of this school is that it maintains that the Christian apologist must assume the truth of the supernatural revelation contained in the Bible (that is, the Christian worldview) because there can be no set of neutral assumptions[3] from which to reason with a non-Christian, and apart from such "presuppositions" one could not make sense of any human experience...

Sat, 27 Oct 2007 12:09:00 UTC | #78947

Shuggy's Avatar Comment 27 by Shuggy

This is the nearest category I could find to

'Why is there something rather than nothing?'

(which should maybe have its own thread)

Here are my answers:

Answer 1. If there were nothing, we wouldn't be here to ask.

Answer 1a. In fact there wouldn't even be a "here" for us not to be.

Answer 2. I don't know. It's all right not to know.

Answer 3. If your answer is 'Because God/dess/es decided there should be.' then you've only added one layer to the problem: Why are there one or more god/dess/es rather than none? An intangible all-powerful intelligence (or more than one) doesn't actually answer that question.
Is it even a sensible question?
So

Answer 4. One of its legs are both the same.


Mon, 29 Oct 2007 00:21:00 UTC | #79288

Garnok's Avatar Comment 28 by Garnok

Atheism is self-refuting because it asserts that everything in the universe, including the atheist's own reasoning, came about as a result of non-rational forces. If that is indeed the case, every argument employed by the atheist is, according to his own assertions, incoherent and meaningless. Only the theist is able to claim coherence and true logic in his arguments because those arguments are founded on the notion of an all-knowing being.


Which requires that said all- knowing being actually exists, otherwise making said arguement meaningless, incoherent and based on nothing but one's own conceit unless one can show that god exists or is very likely to. A claim that requires the existence of something to be true cannot also be used as evidence that said thing exists.

I'm just saying. :)

Mon, 29 Oct 2007 23:13:00 UTC | #79581

Elentar's Avatar Comment 29 by Elentar

My impression of Jade's argument on IIDB is that it is similar in structure to Plato's argument in the Euthyphro, in which Plato argues that what is good is not so because the gods demand it, but the gods demand it because it is good. This is my own variation on it:

1) The theistic God has a Presence (existence), Form (nature), and Context (connections with other things). Therefore it falls within the scope of Metaphysical Naturalism.
2) This means that theists must assume the tenants of Metaphysical Naturalism to believe in God. Metaphysical Naturalism is not founded on belief in God. Theists apply the same conceptual framework to their God as they do to the world. The conceptual framework comes first.
4) Induction works because of the regularity and consistency of the universe. Things which are alike behave in like manner, and, after some study, we understand why they behave that way.
4) We can understand the universe not because it was designed for us, but because we were designed by it. Evolution favoured only a type of rationality that worked in this universe.
5) Morality evolved the same way, reflecting the social and emotional realities of living as human beings.

The really interesting part is where he talks at the end about presuppositionalism. The TAG is more complex than stated to be; it does not merely presuppose the existence of God, but claims that YOU need to presuppose the existence of God just to argue, or you have no basis for believing in rationality. The argument against the TAG is to found reason in Metaphysical Naturalism, making God superfluous.

I was expecting his opponent to drag in a variant of the Fine Tuning argument; why is the universe regular and consistent (the opponent quit after the first round.) The answer is that the universe would be unstable if this were so, and probably would have collapsed in the first instant of the Big Bang. There are many possible explanations for this, some of which have some well reasoned arguments to back them up, and some of which are mere conjecture. Theism falls in the latter category. Add to this the range of explanations that we have not guessed or can not imagine, and the theistic explanation is but a very small dot in a vast constellation of possibilities.

Sat, 03 Nov 2007 18:22:00 UTC | #80970

keith's Avatar Comment 30 by keith

A genuine question: Could someone explain to me what a non-rational force is? For example, is gravity rational or non-rational?
Thanks in advance,
Keith

Sat, 03 Nov 2007 21:32:00 UTC | #80980