Rick Warden’s Argument For Theism

Blogger Rick Warden has decried the fact that the “top 20 atheist bloggers” have declined to offer a response to his argument for theism[1]. I think that most arguments, even if they are poor, deserve a response; so I will attempt to answer his argument[2] here (the picture is of course just a joke). The first section reads as follows:

I. Formal logic presupposes certain truths theoretically exist as a basis for sound reasoning.
A. A categorical syllogism, for example, requires the existence of implied universal truth and validity.
1. At least two laws of logic apply in all possible worlds.
a. Law of non-contradiction: It is not possible that something be both true and not true.
b. Law of identity: A = A. Something is what it is and has at least one identifying characteristic.

His (I) is correct – any logical system will take for granted that certain formulas are true; these are called the axioms of the system. But his support for this is mistaken. A syllogism does not need the existence of universal truth, because the syllogism is only valid within one system. If you take a syllogism formulated in classical logic which uses the law of non-contradiction as a premise, and translate it into a paraconsistent logic, that syllogism will no longer be valid.

He’s also mistaken about his definitions of the “laws” of logic”. They are not written in English, but in the language of symbolic logic. The LNC reads, “~(A & ~A)”, and the law of identity reads, “A → A”. A proper translation of these into English would read, “not (A and not-A)”, and “A materially implies A”.

Furthermore, the only reason we don’t allow a contradiction in “classical” logic is because that, given the rules of that system, a contradiction makes every formula trivially true – thus rendering the system useless. But if we create a new system by removing the rule of inference called “disjunctive syllogism”, then this doesn’t happen, and we can have contradictions without rendering it useless.

But anyway, I’ll grant (I), with the caveat that which “truths” (axioms) are presupposed is going to depend on what system you’re working in.

II. The foundation of cohesive logic appears to have been undermined by quantum physics.
A. A quantum particle has ambiguous identifying characteristics until it is measured and collapsed.
B. Quantum non-locality and entanglement imply boundaries that were assumed to be finite and localized are not.
C. QM phenomena and influences are not neatly compartmentalized apart from the Visible day-to-day World
D. If the physical world is truly interconnected by energy, there is only one implied physical identity.
E. It is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way around.

Two things to say here. First, I disagree. Maybe it’s true that “classical” logic can’t describe the way things behave on the quantum level, but so what? Such situations are one of the reasons why we have other logics to work with.

Second, Rick mentions a lot of stuff in his writing regarding this point that doesn’t even appear to be relevant. In addition to talking about QM, he criticizes materialism and Ayn Rand’s objectivism. But some atheists are not materialists, and most are not objectivists. I am neither.

III. NDE Cases Support a Cohesive, Logical Understanding within a Theistic Framework.
A. NDE patients describe situations they could not have perceived with their physical senses.
B. Reynolds described the appearance of a unique instrument used and recalled a specific conversation.
C. A Dutch NDE patient described aspects of an operation that occurred observed during clinical death with a cardiac arrest.
D. People born blind have made accurate, detailed descriptions of images they could not have seen with their natural eyes.
E. A specific identity and locality is maintained while experiencing clinical death, consistent with the law of identity.
F. NDE accounts imply that human volition (free will) exists and operates on a spiritual level.
G. NDE accounts imply a God with a loving nature exists. This supports the theist view over other religions.

NDEs certainly do point to some strange things which are difficult to explain, but they don’t necessarily point away from atheism. It may be that these experiences are completely naturalistic, and merely point to the fact that perhaps our senses do work when we currently think they don’t, and these experiences are merely the illusion of having a shift in location. Or it may be that substance dualism is indeed true.

But in any case, the best this can do is shift the probabilities away from materialism. These probabilities would be then redistributed equally, raising the probability of all other possibilities – theism, non-materialistic atheism, solipsism, etc. So this isn’t a gain in likelihood for theism compared to atheism; just compared to materialism.

Also, I don’t see why (F) is true. How do NDEs say anything about free will at all?

IV. Materialism has failed to provide support for answers to foundational questions while theism has provided such support.
A. Universal and certain truth and validity are implied as a necessary combination in making formal philosophical arguments but the possibility of absolute truth is rejected by most materialists because of the theistic implications.
B. Studies in quantum physics offer metaphysical under-determinism while cohesive logic regarding identity remains beyond reach.
F. Materialism has Failed to provide minimal answers with regard to the origin of the universe, the origin of matter, the origin of life, the origin of information, the origin and makeup of consciousness.
G. Theism does provide a logical and cohesive framework and specific answers to the above questions in keeping with related evidence.

I guess the lettering is off here. Oh well, no matter. Anyway, I feel that I’ve already answered the point about materialism above, so I won’t reiterate it here.

V. Conclusion
A. Proof is affirmed by logic and material evidence and the preponderance of evidence supports a theistic interpretation.
1. The materialist view is logically inconsistent and in conflict with science and evidence implying the supernatural.
2. The Christian view is supported by cohesive logic, science, evidence and scriptural text.
a. Hebrew 11.3: Logic, information and the spiritual dimension form the basis of prime reality.
b. John 1.1, 1.14: God is the logical basis of prime reality.
c. Colossians 1.17: God is both the creator and enabler of the physical world.

Rick makes an odd move here from theism to Christianity. I can’t find where Christianity suddenly jumps in, given that he’s only been talking about theism this whole time. He also once again critiques materialism, which is not identical to atheism.

Anyway, there’s a few things to say about all this. First, it seems like I could grant all his premises, and still consistently be an atheist. None of the premises given clash with atheism – just with materialism, objectivism, etc.

Second, this seems to be not so much an argument, as a series of somewhat related statements. No rules of inference are given, and I struggle to think of any that could produce his conclusions with the premises he has.

Finally, I’d like to distance myself from at least some of the atheists who have refused to respond to Rick’s argument. I’m not familiar with all of them, but P.Z. Myers is just another typical “new atheist”; and John Loftus is quite unreasonable (just ask Victor Reppert!)

But, I’d be more than happy to re-examine this argument if he wants to reformulate it, or provide his inferences. I also invite him to respond to the arguments for atheism I’ve provided elsewhere on this blog.

[1] http://templestream.blogspot.com/2011/07/top-20-atheist-bloggers-decline.html

[2] http://templestream.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-identity-logic-and-physics-prove.html


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8 responses to “Rick Warden’s Argument For Theism”

  1. entropy says :

    While I agree with the problems you found, you concede too much. Rick will be left thinking that he demolished both materialism and objectivism, which he didn’t. Even though you mention that his argument is “a series of somewhat related statements” Rick can’t read. So he will think he’s got some real points there. Better to say that you will not discuss the issues with materialism and objectivism other than clarifying that atheism is not a synonym with either.

    Just a suggestion

    • Robert says :

      Maybe he hasn’t demolished materialism and objectivism. But as I said, I am neither; so it’s not really my job to defend them. If materialists and objectivists can’t defend against this argument in their own ways, so much the worse for them.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Rick says :

    Part 1

    Hi Robert,

    I just tried to post a comment at your WordPress Blog, but there was no sign that my reply was received. If both comments are in your spam folder, please select only the second version as a reply…

    You wrote:

    “His (I) is correct – any logical system will take for granted that certain formulas are true; these are called the axioms of the system. But his support for this is mistaken. A syllogism does not need the existence of universal truth, because the syllogism is only valid within one system. If you take a syllogism formulated in classical logic which uses the law of non-contradiction as a premise, and translate it into a paraconsistent logic, that syllogism will no longer be valid.”

    1. “A syllogism does not need the existence of universal truth, because the syllogism is only valid within one system.”

    To justify your comment, Robert, you bring up paraconsistent logic, which addresses situations that are seemingly inconsistent and may even seem absurd. I believe this is a good point for consideration, but I would offer a different interpretation. I would offer that the viability of paraconsistent logic does not undermine the need for presupposed absolute truth and validity in formal syllogisms, but, rather, paraconsistent logic itself presupposes that the same underlying consistency of absolute truth exists. In what way? Like syllogistic logic, paraconsistent logic uses mathematical principles and equations to express claims. Take examples of Lukasiewicz logic, for example:
    Łukasiewicz logic

    …and an implication connective → with truth degree function

    u → v = min {1, 1−u + v}.


    At the above website are many mathematical examples and equations of many-valued logic. In each example, an absolute and perfect condition is expressed with an = sign. Though the results of the variables have “many values” so to speak, not just “true” and “false,” the fact is, these equations are consistently and mathematically “explainable” and help to show that mufti-valued logic is in fact in harmony with an absolute universal, unchanging, timeless aspect of existence.

    You have brought up a very good point, Robert, and I would like to adjust my article on identity, logic and physics with this in mind…

    • Robert says :

      Douglas Hofstadter devised a simple logic without the concept of equality in his book, “Godel, Escher, Bach”.

      The MIU System
      – grammar: M, I, U.
      – MI is an axiom.

      of course we have some rules for getting new formulas from our lone axiom…
      – xI → xIU
      – Mx → Mxx
      – xIIIy → xUy
      – xUUy → xy

      There’s no equality here. There’s no negation. No biconditional. Even the → isn’t implication in the normal sense. And there’s only four rules of inference. Heck, you know what? Let’s go even further…time for me to create my own logic:

      – grammar: M, I
      – M is an axiom.
      – M → I

      Look at that…a logic in 3 lines. Of course, it’s not very useful. But it still counts as a logic. And it would be the perfect system if all you want to do is prove I from M. The point is, there is absolutely nothing you can point to – not equality, not negation, not non-contradiction, not anything – that can’t be removed.

      • Rick says :

        >Douglas Hofstadter devised a simple logic without the concept of equality in his book, “Godel, Escher, Bach”

        – For what practical use would the aforementioned logic be applied? Can you offer some practical examples? Can it be used in theoretical or practical science?

      • Robert says :

        Whoa, long time no see, Rick!

        The use of Hofstadter’s “MU system” is twofold. First, he presents it as an example of a formal system, using it to explain how they work. He then goes on to explain the difference between people and machines. He notes that if a machine “wants” to derive MU from the axiom MI, all it can do it apply the rules over and over and over. A human, on the other hand, can not only make statements within the system, but about the system. So the practical use is that it has educational value about logic, about computers, and about us.

  3. Matt says :

    Rick Warden is a complete asshole. He loves to pontificate and enjoys listening to himself. Get a life douchbag!

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