The first comment of mine that Law deleted regarded the logic of his approach to philosophical questions. While Law will give lip-service to logic and reason, there is an evident under-appreciation for actual logical thought and logical arguments in his work. For example, Law once presented a 1.5 hour long analysis of Dawkins' book The God Delusion and did not once address "the central argument" of the book, as defined by Dawkins. This is probably somehow connected with the fact that Dawkins' central argument is illogical.
Whether conscious or not, Law seems to be well-practiced in the art of atheist acrobatics and logic avoidance. Law's philosophical challenge, the Evil God Challenge (EGC), seems logically unsound in my opinion and in the opinions noted at Thinking Christian and Patheos. In my critique, I outline why the challenge seems to have both false premises and an invalid logical form.
My encounter with Stephen Law reminded me of an encounter with the Ukrainian police department, in which I challenged the validity of a traffic ticket. Looking at me across his big desk with the little golden Buddha statue, the Ukrainian police officer said in his calm Russian voice, "I just want to tell you, I hear what you are saying, but I am not going to answer you." It may have been my note pad and pen. It may have been my cell phone sitting on the desk. It may have been my direct question about my traffic ticket. Something made for an interesting encounter.
When I use the word obfuscation in this post, I'd like to be clear that I'm not referring to deceitful sophistry. I don't know a person's inner motives. When a person avoids direct questions, however, and avoids using logical arguments and principles, these facts can be objectively pointed out. If you doubt anything in this article, or disagree with it, then challenge it. Write a comment below.
I. Stephen Law's obfuscation
II. Stephen Law's challenge
III. Why Law's EGC is invalid and false
I. Stephen Law's obfuscation
On April 15, 2012, I asked atheist philosopher and professor Stephen Law for an outline of his favorite logical argument for atheism. This highlighted link is a link to my comment (April 15, 2012 9:49 PM). There was no answer to my question. I asked again and again. No answers. And then, I asked a fourth time referencing my previous questions, at this article:
In the last few days, I've politely asked for you to present your best argument for atheism three times now:
1. "...what would you consider your strongest argument in favor of atheism? Can you present it here in a logical syntax? Can you offer it in a few premises and a conclusion?" (April 15, 2012 10:03 PM)
2. Also, if it's not too much trouble, can you outline the premises and conclusion of the EGC argument for atheism, as you understand them. (April 17, 2012 3:42 AM)
3. When I asked you what you consider the best logical argument for atheism, you stated, "I like the EGC". Can you please show the premises and conclusion of this argument, as you best understand them? (April 18, 2012 5:54 AM)
Instead of ignoring my requests, it might be helpful for the cause of atheism to show what is under the logical hood of that bad-boy atheist machine of yours.
Instead of simply posting a basic outline or link to his specific favorite argument, Stephen Law writes the following:
"The argument is already out there in various forms, Rick. Engage with them or don't. I could do you your own textbook version, set out as a deductively valid argument, but that would either leave various important stuff out, or else be very complicated in which case I don't have time." (April 19, 2012 11:53 AM)
1. I asked for his best argument as he would "best understand" it. In other words, the specific version he would find the strongest. In his reply, he avoids choosing any version, it is simply "out there in various forms." It does not seem very helpful in my opinion to know that I can find random versions of his "best" defense of atheism "out there" on the Internet. But maybe that's just me.
2. "Engage with them or don't." In other words, 'Guess which form of my argument I would choose, and then address it.'
3. Then, as clarified, Stephen "could do" me my own "textbook version" that would be a "deductively valid argument" but that would either leave "important stuff out" or be "be very complicated" - Therefore, Stephen doesn't "have time" to offer me an example of his best defense of atheism.
1. There is a leading apologist for atheism who apparently does not have an outline of his favorite argument for atheism anywhere on his own blog.
2. Not only does he not have an outline or description at his own blog, he apparently cannot provide a link to any version on the entire Internet he considers valid.
3. When I did find a version on the Internet and asked if he considered it a valid one, he did not reply.
4. Instead of providing a simple link, a strange anomaly occurred, the linking feature at his blog became disabled. When the comment is linkable, there is a highlight color on the date and time which, when clicked, provides a link that may be referenced. Personally, I believe comment link features at my blog are essential in order to help accurately keep track of what has been said. Somewhere between my first and last comments at Stephen's blog, this feature was lost and is apparently now inoperable. Stephen later told me that it was not his doing. It was just a Google Blogger Blog bug. I've had my share of them as well.
II. Stephen Law's challenge
As presented, Law's argument does not actually have any summarized syntax, premises or conclusion. In other words, it avoids recognized standards for a logical argument. Off the mark, we may call it a logically invalid argument according to the bare-minimum of formal logical standards. It is more of a philosophical commentary than a philosophical argument. According to more formal logic, the Venn diagram at the right shows how true premises overlap in a valid argument to form a valid and necessary conclusion.
AAA-1 (valid argument )
All M are P.
All S are M.
Therefore, All S are P.
The reason that Venn diagrams are helpful is because they graphically show the basic overlapping of a logical deduction. For the empiricist-leaning atheist, this should especially be poignant. Remember, seeing is believing, right? In a valid argument, there is a logical bridge, an overlap from one thought to the next. If you look at the second line of the syllogism, it acts as the bridge between two ideas. This is not to say that a three-part syllogism is the only valid syntax. But the aspect of overlapping is necessary in longer arguments as well.
A commentator at my blog, Tony LLoyd, made an "if - then" claim, "If accepted (the classic laws of logic), these entail that there are only two truth values." An "if - then" claim is also known as the "rule of substitution" and modus ponens. In Tony's case, however, his claim is oversimplified because the classic laws of logic do not apply on a quantum level, with regard to specific quantum phenomena. Recognizing his false claim, I tried to explain to him why his conclusion was not valid, that there was no logical bridge from his premise to his conclusion, and he answered,
"Eh? What the..? This makes no sense at all. It’s perfectly true but, as I never claimed there was such a logical bridge, it’s just so much blather."
In claiming his modus ponens statement is "perfectly true," Tony is demonstrating his belief that this is a self evident fact. However, the classic laws of logic are not reliable on a quantum level. And modus ponens is not a logical law, but is merely a mechanisms for the construction of deductive proofs.
In Tony's case, he would either have to show how the classic laws on logic are immutable on a quantum level, or he would have to formulate a solid logical argument based upon firm logical laws. He has provided neither. It does not matter if a person has "claimed" there is a logical bridge or not in making a logical point. In logic, if a person want to claim something must be "perfectly true," then firm laws of logic are required, not just speculative, unsupported claims.
Logic and mathematics
The close relationship between mathematics and logic helps to underscore the fact that logic is a precise means of discerning truth. Not only may formal logical principles be graphically represented, they may be mathematically represented. At this link from Santa Barbara City College is a lot of information devoted to critical thinking, Venn diagrams and the hard-and-fast rules of logic.
Law's premises are untrue.
- Most theodicies that explain why God is all powerful and good can be flipped to explain why god is all powerful and evil.
- Since both lines of argument are so similar, you must either accept them both as equally plausible (and in doing so, break the law of non-contradiction), or dismiss both as spurious.
- Ergo, we must logically dismiss both as spurious.
1. Premise one wrongly assumes that the characteristics and nature of literal things and literal features of the universe are arbitrary and can be flipped and inverted.
Though abstract numbers can be inverted in the theoretical realm, in the literal realm, where things have specific characteristics and identities, this is not possible. If God exists as a hypothesis, then God should be taken to be literal in this context with literal and specific characteristics. But then what does this imply?
Empirical science demonstrates that nothing in the literal world can be flipped or inverted arbitrarily. Everything is highly specific to the integrated whole. Nothing at all is interchangeable. Not one thing is ambiguous and lacking in essential and a specific identity features. Darwin had thought the living cell was a "simple" cell without unique and specific qualities and identifying characteristics. He was quite wrong. The specificity of the physical world is seen down to the quantum level, where matter 'becomes' energy. The atomic frequency of the elements is in keeping with the characteristic organizing principle of the universe, as noted in an article on hierarchy in the universe:
"Carbon is one of the main building blocks of life, and it is unique among the elements with regard to the vast number of variety of compounds it can form, up to 1.7 million. Carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules have three different vibration modes. Altogether, there are 117 elements on the periodic table. Because the combination tendencies are embedded in the elements themselves, the Periodic Table of the elements helps to represent the hierarchical structuring of molecules: "It is not a human-devised structure but a fundamental picture of nature disclosed by human investigation. ...It is worth reiterating that those individuals who deny the existence of hierarchical structure and firm taxonomies, and some current humanists do, are denying the very basis of both modern chemistry and modern biology."
The laws of logic are used to develop science. And when science is interpreted philosophically using the laws of logic, it logically points to the existence of a good and wise God.
2. God is made up of more than one or two characteristics.
If you notice in Premise 1, Law reduces God to two characteristics before offering his opposing challenge. God is simply all good and all powerful. This is the essence of a straw man argument. As an opposite, God can supposedly be all evil and all powerful. However, there is a lot more to the picture. God is also considered true, trustworthy and reliable. But a God who is disingenuous and a chronic liar would not produce a true and cohesive logic. Yet, the world does retain a cohesive and consistent logic, as demonstrated in mathematics and the laws of physics. The scriptures state "God is love" and this does not factor into Law's challenge. Does this mean the essence of Law's god is, "God is hate" or is this aspect to simply be ignored. If God is hate, then how may God also be considered, wise? Consider what wisdom entails.
3. Wisdom is a characteristic of goodness, not evil
Wisdom is defined as accumulated philosophical and scientific knowledge. When we talk of philosophy, we talk of subjects such as logic and ethics. The reason God is called wise in all types of religions is because it is understood that God's knowledge transcends the knowledge of scientific facts, God's knowledge includes understanding of ethics and morality as well. Basic ethics and morality are necessary for society to function. God could not understand ethics and morality if there was no basis for their existence. But these do exist as real concepts and accepted philosophical necessities in society.
1. Wisdom is defined as a concentrated combination of practical and philosophical knowledge.
2. According to practical and philosophical knowledge, there must be moral rules and a valid moral barometer of good and bad in order for society to function.
3. God must be perfectly wise in order to create and govern the world.
4. A wise God must understand the need for practical and valid moral rules and barometers of good and bad in order for society to function and continue.
5. Because God must be wise, God must understand the necessity of practical goodness in society.
6, Therefore, God must be good.
The crux of Law's argument can be overturned simply by observing society. From an empirical standpoint, we recognize that some kind of moral rules and a valid standard must exist in society in order for it to function for the long haul. We tend to take it for granted that a generally valid moral code and moral barometer has been set for most of society. After some consideration, it should be recognized that a world with "evil moral values" would be a self-contradiction. It is not a logical possibility because the term "moral values" implies that good moral values are better than bad moral values if a society is to function. Good moral values are in harmony with a well-functioning society. If morality, good and evil are relative and interchangeable, then we would have probably seen a prosperous and successful society with dedicated "evil moral values." Sometimes atheists mistakenly believe that sin is bad only because it is forbidden. But sin is forbidden mainly because it is intrinsically bad.
4. God and truth must be aligned.
This question can be further clarified with regard to the nature of truth. Truth has two important characteristics, it is both correct and it is reliable. For example, the principles of math are considered true because formulas such as multiplication and addition work. They are considered true principles because they are reliable and they function. It is true that a house divided cannot stand. If God is not aligned with and supportive of truth and true principles, then there can be no reliable truth. There could be no reliable laws of logic and no reliable mathematical principles because this would go against God's nature. If God is not true and is self contradictory, then there would be no hope for God's creation to exist and function. The foundation must be stronger and more sound than the building it supports. If God is considered an unreliable and evil liar, there is no hope for any people to be superior to God and a world of unreliable evil liars could not function.
Why atheism is ultimately illogical
I will give Stephen credit for his civility and for having a blog where people can present challenges in a respectful tone. This is far more than can be expected at PZ Myers' blog, Pharyngula. However, when it comes down to discerning truth, Law is in the same boat with other atheist apologists in that he is ultimately avoiding the proven principles of logic as tests for his ideas. Atheism is illogical for one simple reason, it denies the central and logical core truth of God's existence.
Stephen is more developed as a professor and writer and therefore he has a more sophisticated ability to present his ideas without using logical principles. By avoiding principles of logic and obfuscating arguments, however, he seems to be working more as an illusionist than a philosopher, though he may not even be aware he is self deceived.
Other atheist authority figures are a little more transparent than Stephen, perhaps because they have not had as much practice and training in atheistic philosophies. A good example would be Austin Cline. At his profile, Austin states, "When was the last time you saw an openly atheist politician, an article on atheism in a major periodical, or anyone discussing secular humanism as a serious alternative to religion?" Also, at his profile, Cline wrote that he studied philosophy. Keep these things in mind.
At one point I had challenged Austin Cline to refute an argument for God I had written and Cline declined. I asked him, "Can you perhaps more clearly clarify that you are declining my challenge?" His somewhat humorous response was, " No, because that’s not what I’m doing." He has since deleted that comment, but a record of his logic remains. In an article I wrote December 14, 2010, entitled, Gallup Polls Highlight Happiness, Health and Logic in Spirituality, I quoted a sentence by Austin and referenced the original article.. The sentence read,
"Atheism doesn't need to be illogical and, if it is, that doesn't matter."
That sentence has since been modified to a different one, "Strictly speaking they shouldn't need atheism to be illogical and, if it is, that shouldn't matter." Cline has changed the article text, but still believes it does not matter if his beliefs are illogical. This is quite a dilemma, if we are to take atheist belief as a "serious alternative."
1. Austin Cline in the authority on atheism at the About.com website. And he has an unstated purpose of rationally explaining atheism.
2. Cline claims that the logic of the specific belief he supports is irrelevant to his beliefs.
3. If reason and logic are used to explain what atheism is, then he believes that reason and logic have necessary value. However, Cline claims that atheism does not need to be logical.
On a hunch that some day I might need a copy, I saved the original webpage. There is no note anywhere in the present version to note that the article had been edited on a given date. The original article is posted in its full context below as a web-page image.
The Stephen Law Evil God Challenge (EGC) is not a formal logical argument. It is presented in an ambiguous form. The aim does not seem to be logical accuracy, but truth avoidance. For these reasons, the argument may have been said to have been debunked as well as disproved. The premises can be shown to be false for three reasons.
First, Science shows that the literal world is highly specific and not interchangeable or invertible. Theoretical logic is accurate and this suggests that the literal world may be interpreted accurately and truthfully. The fact that logic is used to develop science, but logic is avoided when atheist philosophers interpret science is telling. In avoiding the correct use of accurate logical laws, atheists tend to avoid the logical conclusion of God's existence as a good God.
Second, a world with "evil moral values" would be a self-contradiction. It is not a logical possibility because the term "moral values" implies, by necessity, "good moral values" if a society is to function. A wise God is a logical necessity and a wise God would understand the logical necessity of goodness in society.
Third, the close interrelationship between truth and God is essential for the world to logically exist. Truth has two characteristics, correctness and reliability. If God is an unreliable evil liar, then there could not be unchanging, reliable laws of logic and principles of math. These things would be against God's nature.
If God is not true and is self contradictory, then there would be no hope for God's creation to exist and function.
The obfuscations and acrobatics of avoidance atheists are willing to go through in order to try and defend their illogical belief is actually a testimony of the truth. I would point out that I do not want to have a judgmental attitude towards Stephen. I believe he and all atheists are in a state of spiritual blindness and simply aren't cognizant of the logical truth. The truth avoidance of atheist apologists can be logically demonstrated:
P1. The top atheist apologists mainly avoid or seriously misuse logic.
P2. Sound logic is required in order to test the truth of ideas.
C. Therefore, top atheist apologists are probably not very interested in the truth of ideas.
We Christians need to keep in mind there are serious consequences for people who avoid truth and pray for them. Romans 1.18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,"(NKJV)
Photo of contortionist from Flickr Commons (No copyright)
Back in October 2012 I asked Stephen Law his opinion on whether or not Richard Dawkins offered a logical argument in The God Delusion, as quoted in the following post:
As noted there, Law referred me to his video-taped assessment of The God Delusion. Contrary to what Law had stated, this lecture does not answer my question at all. Law never discusses the logic of The God Delusion argument throughout the entire 1.5 hour long review. Instead, Law actually ignored half of the central argument! So far, in defending Law's assessment, we have the following excuses from atheists at my blog:
1. Law was not obligated to list and address Dawkins' six-point argument because fitting six summarized points onto one slide screen would be inconvenient (therefore the latter three points may be completely ignored).
2. Law did not need to include three premises out of six because they were unquestionably and obviously true points.
3. Law was only obligated to list and evaluate the premises that he personally felt were questionable, the rest he was justified in ignoring.
I posted a comment at Professor Law's blog and offered him a fair opportunity to defend his assessment and he ignored my comment:
Romans 1.18 pretty much spells it out: people who have already made up their mind about God's existence are more interested in suppressing truth than seeking it.
Tags: sophistry and atheism, the logic of atheism, suppressing the truth, atheist acrobatics, atheist self-contradiction, atheist truth avoidance, Romans 1.18 examples, Romans 1.18 commentary, God's wisdom as proof of God's existence, Is Stephen Law's Evil God Challenge (EGC) a logical, valid argument? Law's challenge is not a logical philosophical argument, Stephen Law debunked, Austin Cline debunked, obfuscation and atheism