Archive | April 2012

I.D., Cosmological Arguments, and Epistemic Tension

Some proponents of Intelligent Design claim that it is not inherently theistic. Here I argue that Intelligent Design probably reduces to theism given defenses of cosmological arguments, and that any attempts to avoid a reduction to theism do not work; and thus I.D. is not on identical methodological footing with naturalistic evolution. I further argue that a proponent of both nontheistic Intelligent Design and most cosmological arguments must drop one of these things to avoid epistemic tension. I do not argue here that either Intelligent Design or naturalistic evolution is likely true or false, that one methodology should be preferred to the other, or that we should be neutral with respect to methodology*.

Consider the following thesis of Intelligent Design:

ID1: The cause of the first life (self-replicating organism) on Earth is best explained by Intelligent Design.

If true, this conception of I.D. implies that the first life was caused by some sort of intelligence not originating on Earth. This alone is not necessarily theistic, but if I.D. best explains life on Earth, what best explains life not on Earth? Maybe it’s some form of intelligence (aliens, A.I.) that arose naturally elsewhere in the universe. But then we must ask, what best explains that?

The reasoning behind I.D. is that life is best explained by intelligence because of information content in the genome, specified complexity, or something similar. This hypothetical otherworldly life would almost certainly also exhibit these traits. So I.D. must explain that as well.

This move can be made for every natural form of life in the universe: earth life to alien life 1, alien life 1 to alien life 2, etc. But once these jumps are exhausted, and all natural life is accounted for via a natural intelligent agent(s), the only place left to go is to the supernatural.

This again does not necessarily imply theism; there are several possible moves here. One is an appeal to abstract objects as a cause of an intelligent agent. But this has implications for the cosmological argument. William Lane Craig, in responding to some objections to his Kalam cosmological argument, argues that abstract objects are distinguished from concrete objects by their inability to stand in causal relations[1]. If this response to objections is dropped, then it is a trivial matter to object to the KCA by positing an abstract object as the cause of the universe. If it is not dropped, then an appeal to an abstract object as the cause of the first life in the universe cannot be made.

Another possible move to “save” I.D. from theism is to posit a contingent supernatural intelligence (i.e. an angel, a ghost, etc.) But this has implications for liebnizian and thomistic cosmological arguments, which require causal principles that state every contingent thing or instance of coming into existence must have a cause.[2] If this principle is accepted, these arguments conclude that there must be a god. To drop this for the sake of non-theistic I.D. means that such arguments don’t go through.

A further concern for positing either abstract objects or a contingent supernatural intelligence is that they are ad hoc – they are being posited solely to “save” nontheistic I.D., and have no other basis. This has implications for Robin Collins’ fine tuning argument. His argument relies on a restricted version of the Likelihood Principle (“an observation e counts as evidence in favor of hypothesis h1 over h2 if the observation is more probable under h1 than h2”), which adds that LP can only be applied to cases where a hypothesis is not ad hoc.[3]

In conclusion, nontheistic Intelligent Design has no viable options for explaining the first life in the universe which to not also undercut various cosmological or fine tuning arguments for God; thus there is epistemic tension between positing both a nontheistic Intelligent Design and such arguments; and perhaps even between nontheistic Intelligent Design and theism due to the case for theism being greatly weakened by nontheistic I.D.

*These debates are, I believe, separate issues.

[1] William Lane Craig, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. pg. 193
[2] Alexander Pruss, “The Liebnizian Cosmological Argument”. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. pg. 25
[3]Robin Collins, “The Teleological Argument”. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. pp. 205-206

Epic Music Time

I’m not a Christian myself; but this song is really, really good:


The Presup Challenge

The Presup Challenge:

Define a formal logic, complete with syntax, semantics, a deductive system, and a meta-theory. Then we can talk about whether it’s absolute or not.

UPDATE: The Beginner Presup Challenge

Complete this logic practice quiz:

Which of the following are well-formed formulas:

1. ¬¬P

2. (¬P ↔Q ⊃ R)

3. (Q v (P ↔R))

4. (P ∧ R)

5. (P ∨ Q)

Construct truth tables for the following:

1. ¬

2. ↔

3. ⊃

4. C

5. ∨

6. ⊻

Conduct a Moorean Shift on the following:

(P ∨ Q) ⊃R


∴ (P ∨ Q)

Conversation With Sye Ten Bruggencate

This is a verbatim personal correspondence I had with Sye Ten Bruggencate via email dated 28 April 2012, regarding my blog post found here. Honestly, after this I’m so frustrated by the inanity of it all that I’m not going to debate logic with someone unless they’ve at least read an introduction to logic text. I don’t have the time or the patience for stuff like this. 



I’ve recently written a critique of the presuppositionalist analysis of logic on my blog that you may be interested in. You’re welcome to respond here:

Enjoy! 🙂

Sye: Sorry, but I had to stop at “logic is conventional.” 

Me: Umm…what? Are you telling me that you’re not even going to finish reading my response to the core of your apologetic strategy?

Sye: Nah, when you said that logic was conventional, I lost all interest.  You see, I could just make a convention that everything you wrote is illogical, and be done with it.


Me: See, if you had read my article, you would understand why what you said is completely irrelevant to the topic. But since you don’t seem to have an interest in actually discussing what I wrote, let’s play this game your way:

How do you account for elliptic geometry?

Sye: With Friday motballs under the twice.  (I just made a new convention of logic  🙂

Me: Ok Sye, I have to ask…are you interested in a conversation, or just in being obtuse and contrary?

Sye: I am simply answering a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:5).  If logic is conventional, you can have no problem with my response,but you do, exposing the fallacy of your view.

Me: If logic is conventional, you can have no problem with my response”. See, once again, you completely misunderstand conventionalism with regard to logic. What you just said is like responding to a question said in French with, “That doesn’t mean anything. If language is conventional, you can have no problem with my response.”

Just because logics are a convention, doesn’t mean that you can arbitrarily say silly things and then declare that everyone must accept them as not silly. You can create a new convention, but you still have to define rules for that convention. Just like languages – you can create a new language, but you still have to define a grammar. Just like board games – you can create a new board game, but you still have to write down the rules for your game.

But once again, if you read my article, you would already know this. I’d recommend that you read a logic textbook, but if you can’t even read a few hundred words on the subject without deciding to be obtuse, I guess there’s not much hope for that. It’s obvious that you don’t understand logic, but I’m starting to suspect that you don’t want to understand it.

Sye: //”Just like languages – you can create a new language, but you still have to define a grammar.”//

Not according to my new convention.

Me: This is pointless. My blog post renders everything you’ve said irrelevant, and brings up huge problems for your account of logic, yet you refuse to read it. So, do you mind if I post this conversation publicly, so everyone can decide for themselves who “won”?

Sye: Please do.

A Brief Thought About Ethics

This seems to be a correct analysis of natural law and divine command theory:

NL: An act is right or wrong because it does or does not go against proper function of a person’s physical body.
DCT: An act is right or wrong because it does or does not go against God’s will or nature.

Which thesis is supposed to correctly point us to the truth or falsity of moral statements? If it’s both, what does this mean for statements that only one of these apply to, or statements that these apply differently to? If it’s one or the other, how do we tell when to apply which one?

If the above is a correct analysis of the backing of NL and DCT, I think there’s a conflict when we look at things like worship of God. DCT would likely say that worship is obligatory in some way – but NL would say merely that its permissible. The obligation to worship cannot be drawn out from any natural law or proper function. According to NL, it’s ok to not worship God.

Does this seem correct? If not, how can NL and DCT be reconciled?

Also Not Jesus

See my previous posts here and here.

I said that this was leading up to something, so here’s the point:



Examine the facial features and hair depicted in the Shroud of Turin carefully. It resembles the common depictions of Jesus as a thin white man with long, straight hair and a forked or pointed beard. There are no physical descriptions of Jesus in the gospels, or any other contemporary source, so determining what he looked like for sure is rather difficult.

I think it’s quite telling, though, that there are no descriptions of his appearance. If he looked radically different from those around him, it seems likely that it would have been mentioned. So, what did the people around him look like? Like first-century middle eastern jews, of course. It’s likely that Jesus didn’t look anything like the face depicted in the shroud.