William Lane Craig’s Ontological Argument Debunked

by Godlessons on February 28, 2010

William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig has many arguments for the existence of God, and one of them is the ontological argument.  He actually uses Plantinga’s ontological argument.  I would have to say that the ontological argument is his weakest though since it can be easily turned around to prove that God doesn’t exist.  This may be why he doesn’t always use it in debates.

William Lane Craig’s Ontological Argument

The ontological argument is a method of trying to prove the existence of God with pure logic.  This just isn’t possible though, and I can show why in a couple of ways.

The argument:

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
  5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
  6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

Now, logically this is sound.  It violates no laws of logic whatsoever, so since that is the case, it must be true right?  I have been asked why Craig would assert that a maximally great being must exist in all possible worlds, and that is simply because if it couldn’t exist in some possible world, it would not be maximally great because something greater could be imagined, like a being that would exist in all possible worlds.

Well, let’s see what else we can prove with this argument.  What about our friendly neighborhood coffee pot that is the explanation for all the missing socks that you never find.

  1. It is possible that a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists, then a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists in some possible world.
  3. If a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists in some possible world, then a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists in every possible world.
  4. If a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists in every possible world, a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists in the actual world.
  5. If a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists in the actual world, then a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot exists.
  6. Therefore maximally great sock stealing coffee pots exist.

Cool, that explains all your missing socks.  Well, not really.  This can also be worked in reverse.  We can take the argument and make it show that God doesn’t exist too.  Unfortunately in the same manner, the coffee pot loses its existence as well. (sad face)

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being does not exist.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being does not exist, then a maximally great being does not exist in some possible world.
  3. If a maximally great being does not exist in some possible world, then a maximally great being does not exist in any possible world.
  4. If a maximally great being does not exist in any possible world, a maximally great being cannot exist in the actual world.
  5. If a maximally great being cannot exist in the actual world, a maximally great being does not exist.
  6. Therefore, a maximally great being does not exist.

This is but one way that it can be stated, but it is still logically consistent.  I can imagine many worlds where God is not necessary.  I can simply imagine a world where nothing exists, and it does not contradict itself.  Since it does not contradict itself, the rest of the proof stands.

Why is it wrong?

Well, this is a problem with modal logic.  It is intended to be used by people that understand it, and people that don’t tend to think that this is a proper use of it.

Why is it faulty?

Well, these things are using modal logic.  In modal logic, we have something called axiom S(5) which says that if something possibly exists, it possibly necessarily exists.  That means that if you say something possibly exists, you are essentially saying that it does exist.  So, by saying that a maximally great being is possible, you are saying that a maximally great being actually exists.

Now, what I did in my refutation showing that a maximally great being does not exist is to show that there is to conceive a world where a maximally great being does not exist.  Because I can conceive of such a world and it is not contradictory, that means that a maximaly great being not only is not necessary, and therefore not logically possible, I also showed that if a maximally great being existed in some possible world, it didn’t hold that it could exist in all possible worlds.  Since that is the case, a maximally great being could not exist because it would not be able to exist in every possible world, which would be required by a maximally great being.

Conclusion

So, what does this mean?  Does God exist or does he not exist?  Well, as always it can’t be proven one way or the other.  Most philosophers would agree that you can’t prove anything with the ontological argument, although they may disagree as to why it doesn’t work.  I would suggest that the ability of a world to exist without God shows pretty conclusively that a “necessary” being does not exist, since it would be necessary in all possible worlds.  That would make God unnecessary and would help debunk many of the other arguments Craig makes.

  • 234324

    Amazing Grace.

    Humans naturally rebel against God. God the creator of the universe reveals Himself through the beauty of creation. He reveals Himself to the ancient world through prophets. He reveals Himself to the Israelites as His chosen nation. He reveals Himself in human form through His son Jesus. He decides to reveal Himself to the Gentiles, because His chosen people the Israelites still rejected Him. He decided to reveal His word through the Bible, in plain English. He still calls people to Him, through the church, and through everyday people.

    We reject Him. We curse Him, blaspheme Him, mock Him, spit on His face, crucify Him. We killed Him.

    Yet He still loves us. Jesus still loves you. No matter what you say, no matter what you do. Doesn't matter what insults you come up with. Doesn't matter how you twist words and debate semantics. Doesn't matter how much you spit on His face, mock Him, discriminate against him, despise Him. It doesn't matter how much you HATE Jesus and spend your time and effort and intelligence convincing others and yourself that He is a fantasy and that those who believe are deluded retards, because He still LOVES you. We all hate Him, through our thoughts, words and actions, but Jesus still loves us.

    It's a free gift. Jesus wants you to take it, even if you smash it back into His face. That is amazing Grace, and is how much He loves you.

    • jgm

      >Humans naturally rebel against God.

      Some intelligent design.

      >God the creator of the universe
      reveals Himself through the beauty of creation.

      Maybe he reveals himself through the ugliness of creation, like volcanoes and baby animals being torn apart and earthquakes and droughts and famine?

      > He decided to reveal His word
      through the Bible, in plain English.

      There’s a whole lot of Jews who might disagree with you that the Bible was written in English. It’s not very plain, either, hence all of the different translations, and then the 1000+ sects of Christianity that all interpret the “plain English” differently. But then you know all of this, don’t you? So why are you lying?

      >He still calls people to Him,
      through the church, and through everyday people.

      Why doesn’t he do it directly?

      >We reject Him. We curse Him, blaspheme Him, mock Him, spit on His face, crucify Him. We
      >killed Him.

      Speak for yourself. Atheists don’t believe in blasphemy, and we’d never murder anyone for it. Religious people brought him up on charges.

      >We all hate Him, through our thoughts, words
      and actions, but Jesus still loves us.

      Jesus has some mental problems then. And what worth is that love, if you don’t have to earn it? What worth is that love if Jesus doesn’t love you any more than he does Hitler? I don’t want a friend who treats me no better than he treats his enemies.

  • Godlessons

    I don't hate things that do not exist. That would be absurd.

    I am not doing anything personal against God, I am attacking foolish and dangerous ideas. So, although I am glad that you got that load of nonsense off your chest, it makes no difference to the fact that Plantinga's and Craig's argument makes no sense.

  • sKIPper76

    @234324

    You have successfully regurgitated the doctrine of your religion. Stop and think about that, please. Dead guy from 2,000 years ago does not love me — or you.

  • 234324
  • http://finden.tumblr.com findo

    Craig seems to have already dealt with your alleged problem: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=

    Interesting that you set your sights on someone you see as the most formidable theist debater (and I agree he is a very good debater). Perhaps you could ask to debate him sometime? (Though of course, you would need to drop your anonymity.. which one wonders about to be honest – are you not sure enough of your arguments to put your name to them?)

  • Godlessons

    My anonymity? Anyone with a very small amount of internet knowledge, that really wants to know who I am could find out easily. I am not hiding. I could easily hide if I wanted to though.

    As for Debating Craig, I have enough respect for his debating that I would have to do much more research about him. I think I could win a debate on a couple subjects with him, but I would have some trouble on a couple of things, not because there aren't problems, but because he has such a repertoire that it would be foolish to try without doing much more research about what he has said about them.

    As for what Craig says about the ontological argument, while it is not logically sound, it sounds logically sound to the average person.

    When you say something possibly exists using modal logic, you say it possibly necessarily exists. If someone agrees that something possibly necessarily exists, they are saying that it necessarily exists, and saying it necessarily exists means it exists. In other words, by agreeing to the possibility of anything in modal logic is the same as agreeing to its actual existence.

    If you say God possibly exists, it is the exact same thing as saying that God does exist. This is circular reasoning. The original premise is the outcome. Craig and Plantinga are just tricking people into admitting it in the first place.

    Now, the problem with debating this with Craig in front of a normal audience is that the methods of modal logic are difficult to understand, and they are impossible to explain to people that have no time to understand it. Unless the audience is a group of philosophers, there is little chance in getting the average person to understand why it is illogical. That means that Craig would have the edge in a normal debate, since saying something is possible doesn't seem the same as saying that something exists.

    Further, there is still quite a bit of argument about Plantinga's idea that Hume was wrong. Most philosophers reject Plantinga's refutation of Hume and the ontological argument, even theist philosophers.

    So, while Craig and Plantinga may feel they have gotten away with it, they still have a long way to go in order to get their peers to agree with their conclusions.

    • jgm

      This modal logic seems to reach conclusions that don’t reflect reality, and as such seems completely useless. Saying something possibly exists in… well… REAL logic, doesn’t mean it does exist… hence the definition of “possibly”. Anything that does this shouldn’t have “logic” in its name.

  • sKIPper76

    Craig is an amazing debater. You really need to be careful, though, about how he presents his arguments because he is gifted at making the illogical seem logical.

  • Godlessons

    Yes, exactly what I was trying to point out. Craig is a cunning linguist.

    I actually did just read what Craig had to say at that link, and surprisingly, instead of trying to defend it logically, he resorted to argument from ignorance in essence by asking, which do you think is more plausible. So, a logical proof that doesn't prove anything. That's just pointless.

  • http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/ Stuart

    If someone agrees that something possibly necessarily exists, they are saying that it necessarily exists,

    I don't think that's correct. Something that exists necessarily belongs to a special sub-category of existence.

    The thrust of this ontological argument that I think you have missed is not to show that God exists, rather to show that if you have good reason to think that God exists, God exists necessarily. Thus, this ontological argument's cogency will rely on all the other arguments of natural theology. And your atheistic ontological argument's cogency will also rely on all the other arguments for atheism.

  • sKIPper76

    There is no good reason to think that God exist. Thus, withhold belief in anything supernatural until concrete evidence it presented.

  • Godlessons

    That is because you don't understand Axiom S(5) of modal logic.

    Axiom S(5) says:
    Possibly P implies necessarily possibly P
    Necessarily possibly P implies necessarily P

    Modal logic is a system to get rid of superfluous arguments, and it does that by making conclusions based on what is being said.

    If I say that A > B and B > C, then C is necessarily greater than A. If I say A > B and C > B, then A is possibly greater than C. Now, if A is possibly greater than C, then it it is necessarily possibly greater than C. The reverse is also true. If C is possibly greater than A, it is necessarily possibly greater than A.

    A statement that is necessarily true cannot possibly be false. That means a statement that can possibly be false it cannot possibly be necessarily true. Therefore, in order for a statement to be possibly true, it cannot possibly be false. Therefore, if a statement is possibly true, it is necessarily true.

    So, this means that if something is possibly true, not only can it not be possibly false, but it must necessarily be true.

    So, when Craig says a maximally great being possibly exists, he is saying a maximally great being necessarily exists, or the same thing as the conclusion in the end.

    Now, having good reason to think God exists is not enough to make the premise God exists true, nor is it equivalent to negating the possibility that God does not exist.

    On top of that, Craig could have saved a whole lot of superfluous steps, which is what modal logic is designed for, and simply said;

    Premise: God exists.
    Conclusion: God exists.

  • brandon

    This refutation is not sufficient. Only a being with certain properties can be maximally great. If the being is material (like your teapot), it could always be bigger. Hence, only God can be maximally great, since He is immaterial. This is only 1 characteristic, but it's enough to show your refutation is inadequate.

  • brandon

    This refutation is not sufficient. Only a being with certain properties can be maximally great. If the being is material (like your teapot), it could always be bigger. Hence, only God can be maximally great, since He is immaterial. This is only 1 characteristic, but it's enough to show your refutation is inadequate.

  • Godlessons

    You have no idea what you are talking about. The reason it works has nothing to do with anything being maximally great. You can remove “maximally great” from either argument and it will still be valid. The problem is, it is using modal logic to prove something that modal logic was never intended to prove.

    So, go brush up on your understanding of modal logic and then get back to me.

  • Jeremy

    Not sure how to quote on this forum, but this is from the main text:

    >> I have been asked why Craig would assert that a maximally great being must exist in all possible worlds, and that is simply because

    Actually, it is because Craig knows that “must exist in all possible worlds” is exactly what is needed for step 3 to work. Funny how it is so precisely worded.

  • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

    To do block quotes, surround the text you want quoted with

    and

    .

    Anyway, as for it being needed, modal logic was never meant to be used for this type of thing. Because of that, it can be used to show all sorts of things to be true, like a thing and its opposite existing at the same time for example.

  • Jeremy

    Not sure how to quote on this forum, but this is from the main text:

    >> I have been asked why Craig would assert that a maximally great being must exist in all possible worlds, and that is simply because

    Actually, it is because Craig knows that “must exist in all possible worlds” is exactly what is needed for step 3 to work. Funny how it is so precisely worded.

  • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

    To do block quotes, surround the text you want quoted with blockquote and /blockquote tags, surrounded with regular html type brackets. (I can't show them, they are parsed out.)

    Anyway, as for it being needed, modal logic was never meant to be used for this type of thing. Because of that, it can be used to show all sorts of things to be true, like a thing and its opposite existing at the same time for example.

  • Patmos Pete

    Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

  • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

    None of that has been demonstrated.

  • Bblakeley

    I just don’t see how your sock stealing coffee pot is analogous to God. You’ve paralleled the concept of a maximally great being with an absurd non-entity. When you do this you don’t disprove the ontological argument you merely expose your bias via your comparison. The ontological argument is not a stand alone proof for God. It assumes other reasons exist for saying God possibly exists; while there are no other reasons that exist for the sock stealing coffee pot (unless of course you count missing socks as evidence). This is why, with respect, I find your comparison absurd. You’re correct when you say this type of modal logic could be used to “prove” lots of things, but it only “proves” things if the first premise is reasonable.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      There is no reason to accept that Craig’s first premise is reasonable either. You presuppose that God is not an absurd non-entity while simultaneously discounting the sock stealing coffee pot with no reason whatsoever to do so.

      The ontological argument is not a stand alone proof for God. It assumes other reasons exist for saying God possibly exists; while there are no other reasons that exist for the sock stealing coffee pot (unless of course you count missing socks as evidence).

      What reason are you speaking of? I can give all sorts of reasons. The socks that the coffee pot steals power UFO’s, and the evidence is UFO sightings. I can go on all day making things up that have correlations in the real world, but correlation is not causation, and both the coffee pot and God suffer from the same inability to be shown to actually be the cause of anything.

      Also, what you are saying is that these types of arguments are worthless unless the thing being proven has already been proven somewhere else. How does that make this argument anything less than worthless?

      I would also have a question for you regarding a maximally great being. I imagine that a being that is perfect is better than a being that is imperfect. If God is maximally great, he therefore must need nothing in order to be fulfilled. That means he could not be made to be happy if humans return to him, since that would suggest that God is in need of being made happy.

      Also, a being that was always perfect is better than a being that was once imperfect, but is now perfect. What reason would a perfect being have to create the universe? If it had to make a choice, which is one of those things Craig argues for the personal deity, it means that it was imperfect and needed to create in order to give itself something it didn’t already have.

      Maximally great beings, if they exist, are worthless, since they would never do anything. Even saying that it is God’s nature to do things negates maximal greatness, since a being that had free agency in all things is better than a being that is forced to do things.

      So, it would seem that your maximally great being is even more absurd than my coffee pot.

  • Abrahamsherman

    I’m new here, but I’ll jump in.

    [blockquote]You presuppose that God is not an absurd non-entity while simultaneously discounting the sock stealing coffee pot with no reason whatsoever to do so.[/blockquote]

    The same accusation of presupposition could be leveled at your sock-stealing coffee pot, with you being the one who is discounting God with no reason whatsoever to do so.

    Where did the universe come from? Nature has no mechanism that could have birthed it.

    [blockquote]correlation is not causation, and both the coffee pot and God suffer from the same inability to be shown to actually be the cause of anything.[/blockquote]

    The existence of the universe/multiverse requires that it was caused by something supernatural, and the only known (or even theorized) phenomena or Being that could have done it is God.

    [blockquote]Also, what you are saying is that these types of arguments are worthless unless the thing being proven has already been proven somewhere else. How does that make this argument anything less than worthless?[/blockquote]

    The previous poster was clear that the ontological argument is just one part of a whole. No one branch of evidence bears the full weight of proof. Together, the branches make the existence of God more plausible than that of non-God.

    [blockquote]If God is maximally great, he therefore must need nothing in order to be fulfilled. That means he could not be made to be happy if humans return to him, since that would suggest that God is in need of being made happy.[/blockquote]

    Nowhere does it say that God needs humans in order to be fulfilled or happy. He wishes that they will return to Him to enrich His surplus of joy, not to meet his needs. For example, you as a human being may want to have frosting on your cake, but you certainly don’t need it. Or you may want other musicians to join in your jam session, but you certainly don’t need them.

    [blockquote]What reason would a perfect being have to create the universe? If it had to make a choice, which is one of those things Craig argues for the personal deity, it means that it was imperfect and needed to create in order to give itself something it didn’t already have.[/blockquote]

    A perfect, self-fulfilled, creative Being would do things simply because he wanted to, out of abundant enthusiasm.

    [blockquote]Maximally great beings, if they exist, are worthless, since they would never do anything. Even saying that it is God’s nature to do things negates maximal greatness, since a being that had free agency in all things is better than a being that is forced to do things.
    So, it would seem that your maximally great being is even more absurd than my coffee pot.[/blockquote]

    No one has any authority to say what a maximally great being would never do, unless that Being has Himself described what He will never do. Creativity does not imply “want” or compulsion.

    The coffee pot is an irrelevant abstraction deliberately designed to mock God. To base any reasoning on such a concept reveals willful ignorance of the known attributes of the Biblical God.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      The same accusation of presupposition could be leveled at your sock-stealing coffee pot, with you being the one who is discounting God with no reason whatsoever to do so.

      That’s the point. If you can discount my sock stealing coffee pot for lack of foundation, I can do the same with your god. On the other hand, if you think I can’t discount your god for lack of foundation, you similarly can’t dismiss my sock stealing coffee pot.

      Where did the universe come from? Nature has no mechanism that could have birthed it.

      That’s a rather dogmatic statement. How can you know? You have no way to dismiss all natural means without knowing all natural means available.

      A good point to bring up here is that you can’t even tell us how a god would accomplish the birth of a universe. “Poof” is not an answer either. The problem is, if it is explainable, it is natural, and that would make God natural as well, and that’s not something most people want to admit.

      The existence of the universe/multiverse requires that it was caused by something supernatural, and the only known (or even theorized) phenomena or Being that could have done it is God.

      So, the mere existence of the universe “requires” that it was caused by something supernatural? Again, that is a dogmatic statement. You might want to believe that, but you have no way of knowing that whatsoever.

      A perfect, self-fulfilled, creative Being would do things simply because he wanted to, out of abundant enthusiasm.

      I don’t get what you are saying here. Are you saying that the universe was an accident? What is “abundant enthusiasm”? Why would a perfect being be enthused? What would one get excited about if they wanted for nothing in the first place?

      Would you find it exciting that your washing machine works if washing machines always worked, and everyone just owned one? The reason people get enthused is because we are lacking in something, and acquire some or all of what we are lacking.

      No one has any authority to say what a maximally great being would never do, unless that Being has Himself described what He will never do. Creativity does not imply “want” or compulsion.

      Did you miss the reason why they would never do anything? If you want something, you are imperfect, because you lack that thing you want. A perfect, maximally great, being would never do anything, because it would lack nothing to want in the first place. Creativity would be completely absent, because there would be no reason for it.

      The coffee pot is an irrelevant abstraction deliberately designed to mock God. To base any reasoning on such a concept reveals willful ignorance of the known attributes of the Biblical God.

      Where do you guys get this garbage? Do you have some apoligetics website that gives pat answers? I’ve seen this exact phrasing many times.

      The coffee pot is designed to show that things that have no evidence are on equal footing, like your god and the coffee pot. You may not like the fact that the two things share the exact same amount of evidence, but that isn’t mocking. You being uncomfortable with facts is not equivalent to me mocking you or your deity.

    • sKIPper76

      RE: Where did the universe come from? Nature has no mechanism that could have birthed it.

      One proposed explanation: quantum fluctuations in a void (see: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16095-its-confirmed-matter-is-merely-vacuum-fluctuations.html).

      But let’s go ahead and say there we have no naturalistic explanation of the birth of our universe. Furthermore, let’s also ignore the fallacy in your statement, “nature has no mechanism that could have birthed it”. How does this prove a god(s)? Specifically, how does this prove your particular version of god(s)?

  • Abrahamsherman

    “If you can discount my sock stealing coffee pot for lack of foundation, I can do the same with your god. On the other hand, if you think I can’t discount your god for lack of foundation, you similarly can’t dismiss my sock stealing coffee pot.”

    The problem with the coffee pot isn’t one of foundation, but of ability. A coffee pot is by definition a limited, finite entity. In the context of discussing the possibility of a Being that could create the universe, I don’t see how a coffee pot can arbitrarily replace an infinite, omnipotent Being in any logical formulation. The flippant equivocation of two fundamentally different entities is what strikes me as mockery.

    “”Where did the universe come from? Nature has no mechanism that could have birthed it.”"
    “That’s a rather dogmatic statement. How can you know? You have no way to dismiss all natural means without knowing all natural means available.”

    Some of the simplest things we do know about nature discount the more “elegant” theories concerning a naturalistic birth of the universe. First Law of Thermodynamics – “Energy cannot be created or destroyed.” Nature has no means of creating energy from nothing, yet energy exists. Thus, something super-natural must have created it. Quantum voids are no exception, which I’ll get to in a minute.

    Second Law of Thermodynamics – “Over time, energy dissipates, leading to entropy.” The way in which the natural world is winding down implies that it was once wound up. Since nature can only unwind, something super-natural must have done the winding.

    A concept does not become a “Law” in science unless it is essentially certain. Science operates under the assumption that anything discovered in the future will conform to the above two Laws.

    “you can’t even tell us how a god would accomplish the birth of a universe. “Poof” is not an answer either. The problem is, if it is explainable, it is natural, and that would make God natural as well, and that’s not something most people want to admit.”

    How do you know that “poof” isn’t an answer? If an all-powerful Being of fundamentally pre-natural character wanted to create something totally new, it would essentially “poof” into existence, from His perspective, which at that moment would be the only perspective that mattered. Would it be rational for the created beings within the new natural realm to believe that its Creator came from it as well? To use a limited analogy, would it be rational for the characters in a novel to believe that the author came from within the novel? From their limited perspective, perhaps they would believe that, but it wouldn’t be rational or accurate, and the characters would be particularly in error if the author had already carefully described the true nature if Himself and his Creation to said characters.

    You are making an a priori assumption that only naturalistic phenomena exist and could account for the existence of a natural universe. How do you know with such certainty that something natural could not come from something supernatural?

    “So, the mere existence of the universe “requires” that it was caused by something supernatural? Again, that is a dogmatic statement. You might want to believe that, but you have no way of knowing that whatsoever.”

    Our knowledge of natural law has left us no room to conclude otherwise. To appeal to ever-greater natural phenomena is simply an infinite regress. At some point, there will have to be an explanation of how “being” came from “non-being”. Attributing the supernatural quality of an eternal past to an entropy-laden, naturalistic universe/multiverse/quantum void is insufficient. (More on the void in a minute, I promise.)

    “Are you saying that the universe was an accident? What is “abundant enthusiasm”? Why would a perfect being be enthused? What would one get excited about if they wanted for nothing in the first place?… The reason people get enthused is because we are lacking in something, and acquire some or all of what we are lacking.”

    I’m saying the universe was a burst of lavish creativity. Human beings create many things that don’t relate to their needs in any way. Enriching one’s existence through creative expression is totally unrelated to meeting one’s needs. God is entirely self-fulfilled, and His decision to create a natural world occupied by lesser beings that share some of His character attributes, and are capable of worshipping Him, was a flourish of imagination. If those beings choose to honor Him, his joy is enriched. If they don’t, they are the only ones that miss out, namely on the abundant temporal and eternal life that He reserves for those who choose to live in relationship with Him.

    “Creativity would be completely absent, because there would be no reason for it.”

    This is another a priori assumption, which results from an insufficient understanding of the character attributes of the Biblical God. The comment isn’t even accurate for the human experience, where people do many things that bring them joy which do not relate to their needs.

    “Where do you guys get this garbage? Do you have some apoligetics website that gives pat answers? I’ve seen this exact phrasing many times.”

    Since the same could be said in reverse, I’ll regard this as a moot ad hominem.

    “The coffee pot is designed to show that things that have no evidence are on equal footing, like your god and the coffee pot. You may not like the fact that the two things share the exact same amount of evidence, but that isn’t mocking. You being uncomfortable with facts is not equivalent to me mocking you or your deity.”

    No one is claiming that a coffee pot could create the universe, while examination of natural phenomena does indicate the existence of a supernatural creative agent categorically different from an absurd imaginary physical object. I don’t see the equality of anything between them.

    I like facts. My beliefs are based on them. It’s one of the unique aspects of Christianity. It’s a faith based on facts, reasoning, history, and many scientific disciplines, which is what one would expect, considering the character of the Creator God that is the faith’s focus.

    sKIPper76
    “RE: Where did the universe come from? Nature has no mechanism that could have birthed it.
    One proposed explanation: quantum fluctuations in a void (see: http://www.newscientist.com/ar…”

    Theoretical physicists, including Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss (an origins specialist and author of “The Science of Star Trek”) refer to the quantum void as a “type” of nothing, and describe it as a boiling cauldron of energy. Since it is filled with energy, it does not constitute the pre-natural, true “nothing” from which everything must have first sprung. True nothing would require complete non-being, a criterion which the quantum void does not fulfill.

    “How does this prove a god(s)? Specifically, how does this prove your particular version of god(s)?”

    Only a creative, supernatural, free agent could have established what we observe in nature, and only a God with the character attributes of the Biblical God could have pulled it off. Omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.

    Responsible Christians are not afraid of the gaps in our knowledge of science, nor do they throw up their hands and say “it’s God” about things we don’t yet understand. Historically, Christians have led the charge in the human exploration of natural phenomena, cognizant and confident that the search will allow us “to think God’s thoughts after Him.” http://creationwiki.org/Creation_Scientists

    The observable, specific nature of the creation will dictate which of the many gods could have actually been the Creator. If the correct Creator is under consideration, what He has said about Himself, and how He has described the state of things, will match up with what we know from science. What we know from the natural world will indicate Him, but not limit Him, as He is a Being of another order.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      A coffee pot is by definition a limited, finite entity.

      It doesn’t matter if it’s limited or finite. My coffee pot has the abilities I ascribed to it, and you can’t prove otherwise. I can further define my coffee pot however I would like, and it doesn’t make it any more likely to exist. If I said my coffee pot was omnipotent, you would still have a problem with it for the same reasons I have trouble with your imaginary friend.

      I don’t see how a coffee pot can arbitrarily replace an infinite, omnipotent Being in any logical formulation. The flippant equivocation of two fundamentally different entities is what strikes me as mockery.

      Do you not realize that I’m not saying my coffee pot is a god? I am saying it has what would be considered magical powers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a god. The thing that is equivalent is the fact that if we allow presupposition that a proposition is true prior to having any evidence, my magical coffee pot is just as valid of a proposition as your magical god. You have taken what I have said further than intended.

      Second of all, even if I were to go the extra step and say that my magical coffee pot is the equivalent to your god, how would that be mockery? Who’s to say that I don’t really believe in my coffee pot? If I do, would it not be mockery of you to propose another imaginary entity to replace my coffee pot? If you don’t think it would, you shouldn’t consider any proposal for a replacement for your deity mockery.

      First Law of Thermodynamics – “Energy cannot be created or destroyed.” Nature has no means of creating energy from nothing, yet energy exists. Thus, something super-natural must have created it. Quantum voids are no exception, which I’ll get to in a minute.

      The first law of thermodynamics doesn’t say where energy comes from. We could make a logical proposition though. If we are to use that law, the only conclusion we could come to is that energy is not created, which includes creation by a god. In order for you to say that energy was created, you must first show that at one point it didn’t exist.

      Second Law of Thermodynamics – “Over time, energy dissipates, leading to entropy.” The way in which the natural world is winding down implies that it was once wound up. Since nature can only unwind, something super-natural must have done the winding.

      What makes you think something needs to be wound up? What makes you think that energy actually exists? What exactly is energy? Where did God get the energy to “wind up” the energy?

      No matter which way you look at it, there are things that we don’t know, and aren’t explained by your god hypothesis.

      How do you know that “poof” isn’t an answer? If an all-powerful Being of fundamentally pre-natural character wanted to create something totally new, it would essentially “poof” into existence, from His perspective, which at that moment would be the only perspective that mattered.

      “Poof” is not an answer because it has no explanatory power. What is “poof”? With no explanation of what “poof” is, you have no explanation.

      The rest of that paragraph makes little sense whatsoever. Who was talking about god being within anything. I said natural. If something is explainable, it is natural by definition.

      This is another a priori assumption, which results from an insufficient understanding of the character attributes of the Biblical God. The comment isn’t even accurate for the human experience, where people do many things that bring them joy which do not relate to their needs.

      It seems you have no idea what “a priori” means. A priori is something deduced by logical means, without observation or experience of the thing itself. It doesn’t mean “speculation”. If something is perfect, it is lacking nothing. Given that attribute, we can deduce what a perfect thing would and wouldn’t do since, the characteristic of perfect gives us enough information about a thing to make such a deduction.

      Now, you can try and say that your god enjoys some sort of limited perfection, where he still needs the worship of lesser beings, or needs something to love, or whatever other way you want to limit it, but that wouldn’t be perfect, since those would be flaws.

      Now, how about you give me one example of something that could give a person joy that doesn’t relate to their needs? If I give a gift to my son and see his joy from it, that fulfills a need in me to see my son happy. I am not perfect in that regard, since there is something in me that is unfulfilled that my son’s joy fulfills.

      I really don’t think you understand the implications of perfection.

      I like facts. My beliefs are based on them. It’s one of the unique aspects of Christianity. It’s a faith based on facts, reasoning, history, and many scientific disciplines, which is what one would expect, considering the character of the Creator God that is the faith’s focus.

      You haven’t given a single fact that supports your beliefs yet. You have given unfounded assertions. A fact would be that I felt warmth on my skin today when I was outside. An unfounded assertion would be that the warmth came from radioactive fallout from the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan. The difference between my claim of radiation coming from the power plant can be observed and demonstrated, even if I can’t show that the warmth came from that radiation rather than the sun.

      Let’s look at your law of thermodynamics problem for a second. You see what you think is a problem with a natural explanation for energy and you have asserted goddidit. Let’s assume you are correct in that the things you pointed to are problems. How can you prove, even logically, that there isn’t some other unknown force at work that nobody would consider a god? What if there is a creative force that has no mind? It just does what it does because that’s what it does. It has no ability to think about it. In order to say that there is no other explanation besides a god, you would have to rule out all other possibilities, including the unintelligent force.

      Theoretical physicists, including Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss (an origins specialist and author of “The Science of Star Trek”) refer to the quantum void as a “type” of nothing, and describe it as a boiling cauldron of energy. Since it is filled with energy, it does not constitute the pre-natural, true “nothing” from which everything must have first sprung. True nothing would require complete non-being, a criterion which the quantum void does not fulfill.

      Why would you even invoke Krauss’ name in a discussion on cosmology? Look up a youtube video titled ‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009. If you think that he agrees with your warped view of cosmology, you’re sadly mistaken.

  • Abrahamsherman

    “”A coffee pot is by definition a limited, finite entity.”"
    “It doesn’t matter if it’s limited or finite. My coffee pot has the abilities I ascribed to it, and you can’t prove otherwise. I can further define my coffee pot however I would like, and it doesn’t make it any more likely to exist. If I said my coffee pot was omnipotent, you would still have a problem with it for the same reasons I have trouble with your imaginary friend.”

    You claim that your only goal with the coffee pot is to demonstrate the baseless nature of belief in a supposedly imaginary entity. You think that if people can presuppose the existence of a God with whatever attributes they prefer, you can do the same with a coffee pot, as a means of illustrating the foolishness of that endeavor. What you are ignoring is that responsible theists are not inventing a God to suit their preferences, but rather are deducing/confirming his attributes by observations of the limits of nature’s explanatory power in areas of science that are fully defined. Coincidentally, what we have learned from science has fallen right in line with how the Biblical God has described Himself and His Creation. It is not a God of the gaps. It’s a God of the substance. Many scientific disciplines were started under the assumption that a rational God would create a rational universe, a hypothesis which science continues to affirm. The assumption and confirmation of design is behind all real science. God will never be fully understood by natural means, as He is inherently supernatural, but what we do know from nature will never contradict any part of Who He is.

    There is evidence that a supernatural, free-willed, creative entity created the universe. That conclusion is based on observation of what nature cannot do on its own, yet which has been done by something. If nature could not have come from nature, it must have come from something super-natural.

    “”I don’t see how a coffee pot can arbitrarily replace an infinite, omnipotent Being in any logical formulation. The flippant equivocation of two fundamentally different entities is what strikes me as mockery.”"
    “Do you not realize that I’m not saying my coffee pot is a god? I am saying it has what would be considered magical powers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a god. The thing that is equivalent is the fact that if we allow presupposition that a proposition is true prior to having any evidence, my magical coffee pot is just as valid of a proposition as your magical god. You have taken what I have said further than intended.”

    If I have taken the coffee pot further than you intended, that is because I saw implications in it that you had not considered, and which affected its intended usefulness. You are making the presupposition that we don’t have evidence for God. We do have considerable evidence that the Creator of the universe must be the Biblical God, which negates your claim that an unsubstantiated coffee pot is interchangeable with God. You could define the coffee pot however you like, but anything short of the full attributes of the Biblical God would make it frivolously irrelevant. A coffee pot that lacked His qualities would be insufficient to suggest as the Creator of the universe, a role which is essential to any conception of God. And if you have to define the coffee pot to be like God in order for it to be useful in the formulation, you might as well believe in God Himself, who already possesses all the attributes indicated by our observations of nature – supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, atemporal – specifically, all the qualities that nature lacks in order to explain itself.

    It is the practicality of Who God is and how He has been shown to be the best ultimate explanation for the universe that makes His inclusion in the formulation useful. God’s inclusion is not a presupposition, but is based on many lines of evidence and reasoning, one of them being the implications of the First and Second Laws.

    “Second of all, even if I were to go the extra step and say that my magical coffee pot is the equivalent to your god, how would that be mockery? Who’s to say that I don’t really believe in my coffee pot? If I do, would it not be mockery of you to propose another imaginary entity to replace my coffee pot? If you don’t think it would, you shouldn’t consider any proposal for a replacement for your deity mockery.”

    The only point of the coffee pot is to make the idea of belief in anything supernatural look silly, a goal supported solely by deliberately obfuscatory, invalid equivocations. When the evidence for God is not presuppositionally ignored, it’s the coffee pot that sounds ridiculous, not God. When intellectual honesty is employed, the hypothesis of God’s existence is far from silly.

    “”First Law of Thermodynamics – “Energy cannot be created or destroyed.” Nature has no means of creating energy from nothing, yet energy exists. Thus, something super-natural must have created it. Quantum voids are no exception, which I’ll get to in a minute.”"
    “The first law of thermodynamics doesn’t say where energy comes from. We could make a logical proposition though. If we are to use that law, the only conclusion we could come to is that energy is not created, which includes creation by a god. In order for you to say that energy was created, you must first show that at one point it didn’t exist.”

    As a Law of nature, it applies only to nature, so I don’t see how you can claim to use it to limit the actions of a supernatural God. As I’ve said elsewhere, the Laws of nature can indicate God’s activity, but they cannot limit Him. What else would you expect from a supreme being’s activity in a lesser realm? From the Second Law, we see that energy must have come into existence in a high-intensity state, from which it is gradually “cooling” via entropy. Energy made a grand entrance and is now winding down. Secularists acknowledge the inevitable “heat death” of the universe. If energy had existed from eternity past, the universe would have completely run out of gas eons ago. In addition to the deducible origin of energy, we also know that no natural mechanism can create new energy out of nothing. The naturalistic universe could neither have created itself, nor have sustained itself if it had always existed.

    “”Second Law of Thermodynamics – “Over time, energy dissipates, leading to entropy.” The way in which the natural world is winding down implies that it was once wound up. Since nature can only unwind, something super-natural must have done the winding.”"
    “What makes you think something needs to be wound up? What makes you think that energy actually exists? What exactly is energy? Where did God get the energy to “wind up” the energy?… No matter which way you look at it, there are things that we don’t know, and aren’t explained by your god hypothesis.”

    In light of the First and Second Laws, a finite, depleting amount of something implies that there has always been a finite amount of it. If it were of infinite or self-sustaining character, it wouldn’t be spiraling into entropy.
    When you question the existence and definition of energy, I begin to wonder if you’re interested in a scientific discussion.

    Given that scientific observation demands a supernatural origin for the universe, it is nonsensical to ask where God got the energy. In the supernatural frame of reference, things only have to come from God, whose omnipotence makes Him the only true example of perpetual motion and limitless energy. When God wills it, new things can simply come into being from non-being. Such was the case for the universe and everything in it.

    Can you actually give an example of something that we don’t know, and which contradicts the God hypothesis? If we don’t “know” it, I’m not sure how we can be sure that it contradicts any hypothesis or Law. After centuries of inquiry, everything we have come to thoroughly understand has been consistent with the hypothesis of an ordered universe created by a rational God. There will be strange phenomena, for sure, but there will always be a context of predictable law. For example, the laws governing electrons will not suddenly change, making those minuscule particles easy to locate. Our understanding changes, but the laws and the phenomena themselves do not. At the same time, there are many laws we know well enough already and it’s virtually impossible our understand of them will ever change.

    “”How do you know that “poof” isn’t an answer? If an all-powerful Being of fundamentally pre-natural character wanted to create something totally new, it would essentially “poof” into existence, from His perspective, which at that moment would be the only perspective that mattered.”"
    “”Poof” is not an answer because it has no explanatory power. What is “poof”? With no explanation of what “poof” is, you have no explanation.”

    I don’t understand why you have such a problem accepting the idea of things “poofing” into existence. Isn’t that the very thing that atheists are hoping they can prove occurs in the quantum void, however incorrectly they understand it? How can you deny the idea that something could come from nothing in a supernatural context, and yet support that same idea in the much more limited natural context? “Poof” happens when the supernatural God decides to create anything that is not part of His own substance. Since He is self-fulfilled, all of His creative works fall into that category. As with any work of creativity, His creation will bear his stamp and will have some marks of His character, whether it is the supernatural realm of the angels and human afterlife, or the natural realm of the universe.

    “The rest of that paragraph makes little sense whatsoever. Who was talking about god being within anything. I said natural. If something is explainable, it is natural by definition.”

    You are saying that God is limited by the natural realm, which I equated to a character in a novel claiming that the author is limited by the world of the novel. Do you think that we can explain the supernatural to any degree?

    “”This is another a priori assumption, which results from an insufficient understanding of the character attributes of the Biblical God. The comment isn’t even accurate for the human experience, where people do many things that bring them joy which do not relate to their needs.”"
    “It seems you have no idea what “a priori” means. A priori is something deduced by logical means, without observation or experience of the thing itself. It doesn’t mean “speculation”.”

    Fair enough. I got it mixed up with “begging the question”. You were saying (and still are) that God is limited to natural means, a conclusion seemingly derived from presumptions.

    “If something is perfect, it is lacking nothing. Given that attribute, we can deduce what a perfect thing would and wouldn’t do since, the characteristic of perfect gives us enough information about a thing to make such a deduction.”

    Exactly what about perfection prevents a perfect being from doing something unneeded? He wouldn’t have to do such things, but what would prevent him from choosing to do them?

    “Now, you can try and say that your god enjoys some sort of limited perfection, where he still needs the worship of lesser beings, or needs something to love, or whatever other way you want to limit it, but that wouldn’t be perfect, since those would be flaws.”

    I would never say that God’s perfection is limited. He doesn’t need human worship. He doesn’t need anything to love. He is by nature triune and already exists in perfect relationship with Himself. In my understanding, it’s more like God said to Himself, “why not?” rather than, “I must.”

    “Now, how about you give me one example of something that could give a person joy that doesn’t relate to their needs? If I give a gift to my son and see his joy from it, that fulfills a need in me to see my son happy. I am not perfect in that regard, since there is something in me that is unfulfilled that my son’s joy fulfills.
    I really don’t think you understand the implications of perfection.”

    I mentioned two such things in my first message – frosting on a cake, and a jam session between musicians. People don’t need the sugar in frosting (they get plenty from the cake batter), but they enjoy it. Similarly, musicians don’t need to jam, but they seem to especially enjoy it, despite the fact that it takes up time that they could otherwise apply to meeting their practical needs. It seems strange that you would claim that everything in the human and divine experience would revolve strictly around necessity. We do have some emotional needs, but we also have an appreciation for things that are entirely unnecessary.

    “”I like facts. My beliefs are based on them. It’s one of the unique aspects of Christianity. It’s a faith based on facts, reasoning, history, and many scientific disciplines, which is what one would expect, considering the character of the Creator God that is the faith’s focus.”"
    “You haven’t given a single fact that supports your beliefs yet. You have given unfounded assertions. A fact would be that I felt warmth on my skin today when I was outside. An unfounded assertion would be that the warmth came from radioactive fallout from the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan. The difference between my claim of radiation coming from the power plant can be observed and demonstrated, even if I can’t show that the warmth came from that radiation rather than the sun… Let’s look at your law of thermodynamics problem for a second. You see what you think is a problem with a natural explanation for energy and you have asserted goddidit. Let’s assume you are correct in that the things you pointed to are problems. How can you prove, even logically, that there isn’t some other unknown force at work that nobody would consider a god? What if there is a creative force that has no mind? It just does what it does because that’s what it does. It has no ability to think about it. In order to say that there is no other explanation besides a god, you would have to rule out all other possibilities, including the unintelligent force.”

    Like I said, there are many branches of evidence and the problem of energy in the First and Second Laws is just one branch. The existence of objective moral values gives us more insight into the unique personal character of God. The fine tuning of the laws of the universe to allow for embodied intelligent agents demonstrates that He intended to interact with His image-bearers. These and other evidences give some indication of the specific character of the Creator, beyond Him/it being an unknown or unintelligent force. In science and deductive reasoning, it is necessary to take what you do know, and consider how that knowledge limits the possible unknowns.

    “”Theoretical physicists, including Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss (an origins specialist and author of “The Science of Star Trek”) refer to the quantum void as a “type” of nothing, and describe it as a boiling cauldron of energy. Since it is filled with energy, it does not constitute the pre-natural, true “nothing” from which everything must have first sprung. True nothing would require complete non-being, a criterion which the quantum void does not fulfill.”"

    “Why would you even invoke Krauss’ name in a discussion on cosmology? Look up a youtube video titled ‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009. If you think that he agrees with your warped view of cosmology, you’re sadly mistaken… Further, Krauss didn’t say that there ever was a “true nothing” which everything must have first sprung. There is no reason to assume that a “true nothing” is even possible.”

    I referenced Krauss to make the point that the activity of quantum voids is not equal to something coming from nothing. All physicists can do is call it a “type” of nothing, while admitting that even the “void” is full of boiling energy. Origin from “true nothing” (a.k.a. non-being), is the only possible conclusion that can be drawn from the evidences of the universe’s finite past. A supernaturally enabled emergence of being from non-being is necessary to account for why entropy has not already brought about the heat death of the universe. To say that non-being is impossible again reveals your unfounded bias against supernaturalism.

    Despite the prideful struggles that take place in the human heart and mind, if we are wise we will acknowledge that there are forces at work in the universe that indicate that we human beings do not hold the ultimate authority. It behooves and blesses us to search out and acknowledge God, who created our reality and wishes to live in relationship with us in this natural world and in the supernatural world to come. That search begins with observations of our awe-inspiring reality, and ends with placing one’s faith in the person and atoning work of Jesus Christ. God could have left us to ourselves after we introduced sin into His Creation, but instead Christ died for us while we were still sinners, to offer His innocence to us.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      What you are ignoring is that responsible theists are not inventing a God to suit their preferences, but rather are deducing/confirming his attributes by observations of the limits of nature’s explanatory power in areas of science that are fully defined.

      What in science is fully defined? Nothing in science can be, or ever will be fully defined. That is the nature of science. All I ever see from theists is a misunderstanding of science making them feel they have room to fit a god in.

      Coincidentally, what we have learned from science has fallen right in line with how the Biblical God has described Himself and His Creation.

      Which biblical god are you talking about? Which creation for that matter? In the old testament, God walked around on the earth. Jacob even kicked his ass in a fight, which brings great questions about a god that is so perfect that he can be beaten by a human. Then we have god only showing up in burning bushes and the like later, but god did have the courtesy to moon Moses. This god is the kind of god that all primitive people believed in.

      Now days, people say that god is not flesh. God is outside time and space. People even say that if you looked at god, you would die. This is the kind of god that modern people like to believe in, since it puts god outside of being tested in their minds, which is what is necessary in order to believe in a god in a scientific society.

      Many scientific disciplines were started under the assumption that a rational God would create a rational universe, a hypothesis which science continues to affirm.

      You do realize how stupid this is right? The only reason we understand rationality is because everything works the same way over and over again. If things just happened randomly, there would be no way of seeing patterns, which would mean no language, no intelligence, etc. Of course we are going to find a rational universe, not because some sky daddy did it, but because we wouldn’t even have intelligence if there weren’t order, but order does not require intelligence.

      There is evidence that a supernatural, free-willed, creative entity created the universe. That conclusion is based on observation of what nature cannot do on its own, yet which has been done by something. If nature could not have come from nature, it must have come from something super-natural.

      What can’t nature do on its own, and how do you know that? Just because you don’t have an answer doesn’t mean there isn’t one. This is the epitome of “god of the gaps” that you just got finished saying your statements weren’t doing.

      For there to be evidence of such a thing that does these things you say, such a thing would have to be shown to exist in the first place.

      We do have considerable evidence that the Creator of the universe must be the Biblical God, which negates your claim that an unsubstantiated coffee pot is interchangeable with God.

      You keep saying this, but you have yet to show a single bit of real evidence. You have shown that you don’t understand the implication of the laws of thermodynamics. You have shown that you have no idea what physicists/cosmologists such as Lawrence Krauss are saying. You then propose that your personal inability to understand these kinds of things means that there must be a god.

      A coffee pot that lacked His qualities would be insufficient to suggest as the Creator of the universe, a role which is essential to any conception of God. And if you have to define the coffee pot to be like God in order for it to be useful in the formulation, you might as well believe in God Himself, who already possesses all the attributes indicated by our observations of nature

      I could certainly design a god that fits reality better than the biblical god. In fact, I think the Greeks did a better job. Let’s assume for a moment that a god exists, for the sake of argument. I could give you a few versions of a god that fit better with reality and don’t have the problems your god does.

      I could go the deist route and say that a god exists. He created the universe. After he set everything in motion, he has since been absent, since he doesn’t really care about what he’s created.

      What about the dead god route? God existed, and he created the universe, but in creating the universe, he was consumed and is now dead.

      I could go the evil god route. A god exists that is evil. He likes to see suffering, so he created a universe that has humans in it, knowing that they would be able to suffer, and he occasionally screws with us like a little kid burning ants with a magnifying glass.

      All three of these things explain how a universe could exist, and none of them have any issues when it comes to the question of why there is evil. Amazingly, none of them are your god.

      The existence of objective moral values gives us more insight into the unique personal character of God. The fine tuning of the laws of the universe to allow for embodied intelligent agents demonstrates that He intended to interact with His image-bearers. These and other evidences give some indication of the specific character of the Creator, beyond Him/it being an unknown or unintelligent force. In science and deductive reasoning, it is necessary to take what you do know, and consider how that knowledge limits the possible unknowns.

      Every one of these things has been dealt with on this blog. Objective moral values can’t be shown to exist. The best that can be said about it is that it appears morality is objective to some portion of humans. The fine tuning argument is very weak, and I have dealt with it elsewhere on this blog.

      Now, with science, we take what is known and link it to other things that are known. We can speculate on the nature of unknowns, but only to the point that the knowns point to the unknown, not the other way around. You want to take unknowns and point to another unknown with it. That is certainly not how science works. That’s why Intelligent design is not science. It tries to work with what we don’t know and say that something else we don’t know did it.

      Anyway, I haven’t even gotten half way done with responding to this, and I fear I will reach the word limit of disqus soon. I’m going to send you an email with a proposal. This type of debate is one that can go all over the place and isn’t pointed, so things get overlooked. I would like to take it somewhere else.

  • http://profiles.google.com/christhezimny Christopher Zimny

    Any layperson can see the chicanery in that argument, and it’s almost as if it were contrived simply to frustrate the unbeliever.
    Thanks for the article, helped a little bit in my understanding of the argument and modal logic.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      You’re welcome.

  • peacerenity

    As I understand it, the argument only works if the object being presented is not impossible/self-contradictory. For instance, you couldn’t use the ontological argument to prove the existence of a married bachelor, or of a square circle. 

    So  the argument about the all-powerful coffee pot doesn’t work because a coffee pot is, by definition, a physical entity and so is constrained by the normal dimensions of space. Something constrained by the dimensions of space is therefore not all-powerful and is self-contradictory, meaning that the argument won’t work for it.

    The second argument, the one used for the non-existence of God, seems more cogent. I’ll have to investigate further.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      So, since you are constrained by the normal dimensions of space, and you are not all powerful, you are self contradictory.  I think you misspoke there somehow.

      So, it seems you are suggesting it wouldn’t be possible for a maximally great being to manifest itself as a physical entity?  That doesn’t seem like a maximally great being to me.  The coffee pot could very well only be manifesting itself as a physical coffee pot.

      I think you may be overthinking a bit.

  • My understanding is, to be maximally great, it would have to not be a coffee pot, for one, having to be all-powerful, all-good, transcendent of the physical, which is limited, everything that God is meant to be. In addition, if this being were maximally great, it would have to exist. Surely, we can agree that anything that exists is greater, in potential at least, than if it didn’t. The whole argument only works if the example being used is maximally great. Substitute anything else, and the argument fails, as you have pointed out.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      I have pointed out that you can substitute anything, even non-existence, and the argument works.  Further, it has nothing to do with being maximally great that it works, since it is modal logic.  The whole maximally great part is just a smoke screen to hide the reason that modal logic should not be used to determine existence of things.

  • That is, one of the criterion of being maximally great would have to be, existing in every possible world.

  • Brian Overholt

    If you stick the words “maximally great” in front of the words “sock stealing coffee pot” you still are describing a “maximally great “being.” This is because, if your coffee pot lacks personhood, freewill and intelligence… it cannot be maximally great… so in order for it to have maximal greatness, it must be a being. You can call it a coffe pot if you want, but it must still be a maximally great “being” so there is really no point in changing WLC’s language.

    As for your negative rendering of the argument, it violates the terms of the ontological argument. The ontological argument is based on Platinga’s (S5) principle that if something must necessarily exist by its definition, then the admission of the possibility that it exists is equivalent to a confirmation of it’s actual existence. 

    In other words a maximally great being could not lack the quality of existence and be referred to as maximally great, since necessary existence is part of the definition of what it means to be a maximally great being. Thus, the statement “It is possible that a maximally great being does not exist” is equivalent to saying “It is possible that a square can be round.” The lack of existence being assigned violates the definition of “maximally great.”

    Thus the only way to dispute the ontological argument is to dispute the definition of the term “maximally great.” If you can argue that the idea of a being that possesses “necessary existence” by definition is an illogical or incoherent concept, then the whole argument is destroyed. 

    But to turn it around in the negative actually changes the definition of the maximally great being, and so does not refute the ontological argument, but rather makes it into a new argument about a different being.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      First  of all, a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot can exist yet not have certain qualities.  A maximally great sock stealing coffee pot does not need the quality of being able to make waffles to be what it is, it only needs to be maximally great at stealing socks and making coffee.

      As for saying that a maximally great being doesn’t exist, can you even think of a maximally great being?  I would bet you can’t.  Maximally great would also be a subjective idea.  You may feel you are maximally great when compared to a bird, but a bird can fly without using any apparatus and you can’t.  Also, if we insert something else in there, like a maximally evil being, that thing would also need to exist, and its existence negates the existence of anything maximally good and vice versa.

      Needless to say, modal S5 is essentially the problem here.  By using it, anything you say exists in the premise is the conclusion, as possible existence equates to actual existence, which is question begging.

      Further, the term “maximally great being” is the biggest problem here.  Modal logic doesn’t need the maximally great part in order to make the existence of something necessary.  You are mixing modal and classical logic, and it is Plantinga’s intention for you to do so.  It’s just bad form.

      • Brian Overholt

        I would be interested in knowing how I am mixing modal and classical logic. Please explain.

        You misinterpret axiom S5. It only works to argue for something that has a necessary quality by definition. For example, you can’t say that purple clouds possibly exist… thus they exist in some possible world… thus in all possible worlds… thus in our world… thus they exist. 

        It doesn’t work then because clouds aren’t necessarily purple by definition. A cloud could be any color and still be a cloud, so the argument for clouds of a certain color breaks down at step 3… since being purple is not a necessary quality of clouds, it doesn’t hold that all possible worlds will have purple clouds.

        However, the argument does work to argue for squares that have four corners. Even if you didn’t know what a square was, but that all squares necessarily had four corners, the argument would work. If squares exist at all… in any possible world, they would have four corners. So squares either have four corners, or they are impossible. 

        In the same way, the term “maximally great” as used by Alvin Platinga and WLC, implies existence as a necessary quality of being “maximally great.” Just like a square can’t lose it’s corners and still be a square, a maximally great being can’t lack existence and still be maximally great.

        So a square without corners is impossible because it is logically incoherent. And in the same way a maximally great being that doesn’t exist is incoherent… it contradicts itself.

        Thus we cannot contradict ourselves by saying that it’s “possible” that a maximally great being doesn’t exist… That would be like saying “It is possible that a necessarily existent being does not exist.” That makes no sense. A being can’t be necessarily existent and not exist….  we can only say that it’s “impossible” for a maximally great being to exist.

        ————————————————————-
        Our only two options are: (A) — A maximally great being is possible and does not contradict the laws of logic or natural law — and since necessary existence is part of it’s definition — such open possibility can only lead to the conclusion that such a being exists…. …or at least to the acknowledgment that we must assume it’s existence until we can solidly proves it’s impossibility.(B) — A maximally great being is a contradiction in terms. It is impossible for a being to be necessarily existent. Thus the first premise of the argument is rendered incoherent, or false, and the argument is disproven. —————————————————————-
        Lastly, anybody who practices logic should know that there can never be any such thing as subjective terms. It is principally important that all terms are clearly defined. “Maximally great” had a clear definition when Platinga and WLC used it, and their arguments can only be shown false using the same definitions. If you use the term with a different definition, then your criticisms cannot be reliably applied to their arguments.

        • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

          First of all, you are wrong about necessary existence.  All that is required is possibility of being necessary in some possible world.  In some possible world, it could be necessary that all spheres are green, but that doesn’t make it necessary in all possible worlds.

          A maximally great evil being can’t lack existence and still be maximally great, yet it can’t exist with a maximally great good being simultaneously.  I notice you didn’t try to explain that.

          • Brian Overholt

            First, I think you are confused as to the meaning of “necessary” which is being employed in the ontological argument. Now granted, different philosophers  have tried to make this argument while assigning different types of necessary existence to God… and each one has it’s own weaknesses. But if I understand him correctly, WLC is defining a “maximally great being” as a being that is possesses logically necessary existance, de re.

            If a thing is metaphysically necessary (as defined by Saul Kripke), then it cannot only be necessary in one possible world… it is either true in all possible worlds — or it is false in possible worlds.

            You and I are not metaphysically necessary, since there can be worlds in which we do not exist… Thus the statement, “Brian exists” is not metaphysically necessary, and is not true in all possible worlds. But the statement “Water is H2O” when read de re, is metaphysically necessary because, though another world might have a different name for water, the substance we are referring to would still be H2O in that world.

            In that way, a maximally great being’s metaphysical necessity, if true, would be true in all possible worlds.

            And the maximally great being is said to possess this quality, de re (or “of the thing.”). It is a quality that cannot be changed or removed without destroying the logical integrity of the concept of a maximally great being. Thus a maximally great being that existed in one possible world but not in another is self-contradicting… like saying red can be blue. It must exist in all worlds, or none. And modal S5 merely simplifies arguments by saying that if something is possibly necessary, then it must be necessary period.

            As for the problem of two maximally great beings existing simultaneously, one good and one evil… I’m not sure that one being good and the other evil creates a necessary contradiction. What would create a contradiction is if we assigned a maximally great being with a sort of “factual necessity” in which all things that exist are contingent upon the existence of the maximally great being. In that case, you could not have two such beings, because then neither being would be contingent on the other, and so neither of them could be “factually necessary.”

            But if you assume that a maximally great being has “factual necessity,” then supposing a second maximally great being does not disprove the possibility of such a being, it is merely a sloppy argument that doesn’t abide by it’s own definitions.

          • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

            You are using the premise that it is possible that a maximally great being exists.  Nothing in the premise requires necessity, nor is it claimed in the argument.  Modal logic, regardless of a priori necessity, would require the existence of anything claimed to possibly exist in some possible world, as it would be necessarily possible.  Necessarily possible means necessary, and axiom S5 is where that comes from.

            Now, when I say you are trying to use both modal and classical logic, I really mean it.  There is no reason to justify a claim of possible existence as necessary in a modal logic argument prior to the premise being stated.  That is only necessary with classical logic.  Here though, there arise contradictions, so you are attempting to meld the two.  Claiming possibility requires necessity, and is why axiom S5 is so controversial.

            So, my statement about a maximally great evil being being possible would negate both its existence and the existence of a maximally great good being.

            Further, if you go and read Craig’s blog, you will find that he admits this himself and relies on intuition as the reason for believing.  I can easily show why we should not accept intuition as the reason for asserting the truthfulness of a proposition, as I would hope any reasonable person should be able to do.

          • Brian Overholt

            I don’t wish to sound condescending, but I suggest you do a little refresher on modal logic and axiom S5. Modal logic does not assign necessity to anything that is merely possible, and you do have to state necessity in the premises (or include it in a term such as “maximally great”) for this ontological argument to work.

            And the S5 axiom does not say that “Necessarily possible means necessary.” It is in fact the opposite.

            Under the S5 axiom:
            “Necessarily possible” simply reduces to “possible” — but…
            “Possibly necessary” reduces to “Necessary.”

            The first result of the axiom is not controversial at all. It is the second result that is sometimes scrutinized. But by no means are all things that are possible deemed to be necessary in modal logic.

            “There is no reason to justify a claim of possible existence as necessary
            in a modal logic argument prior to the premise being stated.  That is
            only necessary with classical logic. ”

            In any logical argument, classical or modal, you must define your terms for the argument to be understood and evaluated. “Metaphysical necessity” is part of the definition of the term “maximally great.” There is no need to justify the definition… it is simply defined as such for the sake of the argument. You can argue that such an idea is illogical, but if it is logical then the rest of the argument holds.

            And lastly, I couldn’t care less what WLC has to say about his reasons for believing anything. I commented because your treatment of the ontological argument above does not even attempt follow logical boundaries. It may be possible to refute the ontological argument, but your arguments can’t be taken seriously by anyone with a cursory knowledge of modal logic.

            Please stop writing about how modal logic can make anything that is possible into something that is necessary. That is plainly false. Modal logic is used to argue many other things besides a necessary being, but it would be nonsense if it behaved as you describe it… which it does not.

          • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

            Let’s just stop beating the bushes here.  You have not addressed the problem of the maximally great evil being.  If you want to use modal logic to prove a god, you must also be open to its negation using the same methodology.  You haven’t even addressed my premise that it is possible that a maximally great being doesn’t exist.

            There is nothing wrong with that argument.  Further, I can propose that is possibly necessary that no maximally great being could exist in some possible world, such as a world where evil exists, or a world where nothing exists.  In either proposal, it would not only be possibly necessary that such a being doesn’t exist, it would be necessarily necessary from the start.  In either such world, the existence of such a being would be a logical contradiction, but there is no logical contradiction in the premise itself.

            The fact that I can propose possible worlds, one of which is the actual world, where the existence of a maximally great being is a logical contradiction shows that your argument is a failure of the most spectacular kind.

            As even you said earlier, if a thing is necessary, it is necessary in all possible worlds.  This includes anything, whether physical or metaphysical.

            When you show me something that necessarily exists in a world where nothing exists, I will cede the argument.  Since that would simultaneously require existence and non-existence, I imagine that will be an impossible task.  Until then, I guess you’ll have to look for something better.

          • Brian Overholt

            I’m not trying to use modal logic to prove anything. I agree that the ontological argument doesn’t prove a god. But it does succeed in making the point that we can only disprove God by demonstrating that He is a logical contradiction. As such, I’m merely trying to outline what you can and cannot do to argue against this ontological argument without contradicting yourself. I will take your last comment point by point:

            1) “You have not addressed the problem of the maximally great evil being.”
            – I did address it. I said I do not see it contradicting a maximally great good being unless we assume one or both of them have “factual necessity” and in that case your counterargument becomes self-contradictory and does not work.

            2) “You haven’t even addressed my premise that it is possible that a maximally great being doesn’t exist.”
             – That was actually the first thing I commented on. A maximally great being that does not exist is a contradiction in terms. It is the same as saying “A necessarily existent non-existent being”… non-existence is not possible for something that is defined as existing necessarily. The only way for a necessarily existent being to not exist is if it is simply illogical from the beginning. Which so far has not been demonstrated on this blog.

            3) “Further, I can propose that is possibly necessary that no maximally
            great being could exist in some possible world, such as a world where
            evil exists, or a world where nothing exists.”
             — In a world where evil exists, there is no necessary contradiction of a maximally great being. I do not know where you get that idea.
            — In a world where nothing exists, that is not a possible world since nothing exists. Only positively existing worlds can be possible. A world where nothing exists would mean that that world doesn’t exist, and so it is not a possible world.

            4) “In either proposal, it would not only be possibly necessary that such a
            being doesn’t exist, it would be necessarily necessary from the start.”
            — You have not established that the existence of evil requires that a maximally great being not exist in that world. I do not see the logic there. And the other world where nothing exists is just nonsense.

            5) “In either such world, the existence of such a being would be a logical
            contradiction, but there is no logical contradiction in the premise
            itself.”
            — I am not sure what you are referring to here by “the premise.”

            6) “The fact that I can propose possible worlds, one of which is the actual
            world, where the existence of a maximally great being is a logical
            contradiction shows that your argument is a failure of the most
            spectacular kind.”
            — That is just the point. You have not yet succeeded in proposing a world in which a necessarily existent being is a logical contradiction. So far, only your proposed worlds have been logically contradictory.

            7) “As even you said earlier, if a thing is necessary, it is necessary in
            all possible worlds.  This includes anything, whether physical or
            metaphysical.”
            — Metaphysically, yes. Physically, there isn’t much that could be necessary, but yes.

            8) “When you show me something that necessarily exists in a world where nothing exists, I will cede the argument.”
            — You have just asked me to show you a round square. You propose a world that is not possible, and then triumph because I cannot show how something could be exist in your impossible world…

            9) “Since that would simultaneously require existence and non-existence, I imagine that will be an impossible task.”
            —- Yes! Exactly! It is a mere incoherence, which cannot be taken seriously.

            10) “Until then, I guess you’ll have to look for something better.”
            —- I have never asserted that the OA proves god. I have only asserted that your arguments are far from refuting the OA. It seems that you are the one who still needs to look for something better.

          • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

            Before this goes too far with you possibly thinking I believe something I don’t, I have never once claimed that all gods can be disproved.  Not on this blog, other blogs I write for, youtube, or anywhere else.  I will positively assert that all gods that have been described to me, other than those descriptions that say superfluous things like, “God is love” or “God is everything”, can be disproved easily.  This certainly includes any Abrahamic faith.

            Having said that, I also assert that no god can be proven to exist either.  This is why I pick these arguments apart.

             A maximally great being that does not exist is a contradiction in terms. It is the same as saying “A necessarily existent non-existent being”… non-existence is not possible for something that is defined as existing necessarily.

            I contend that it is not possible for anything to exist necessarily.  Apparently you missed that part.

            Since one possible world is one where nothing exists, necessary existence is not possible.  Therefore, if you contend that God must necessarily exist, you are supporting something that, in your own words, is illogical from the beginning.

             In a world where evil exists, there is no necessary contradiction of a maximally great being. I do not know where you get that idea.

            Although it is certainly a subjective idea, considering what option is the better option, I would say that a being that can prevent evil is greater than one that can’t.  I would also say that one that can prevent all evil is better than one that can’t.  Even further, a being that can and does prevent all evil is greater than both of these previous examples.

            You have not established that the existence of evil requires a maximally great being not exist in that world. I do not see the logic there.

            I have now established the requirement.  Forgive me for assuming that you could figure it out yourself, as it is a rather easy matter to get there.

            In a world where nothing exists, that is not a possible world since nothing exists. Only positively existing worlds can be possible. A world where nothing exists would mean that that world doesn’t exist, and so it is not a possible world.

            The use of the word “world” in the possible worlds is only referring to a possible reality, not existence of things within that reality.  Any possible world can just as viably claim itself to be the real world.  This would include any world where nothing exists.  If nothing existed, the reality would encompass nothing, but it would still be a reality.

            This doesn’t mean I can’t propose another world where your assertion would be false though, or at least the assertion of a theist.  I could imagine a world where no intelligence exists.  Nothing is self contradictory about this either, and it would at the very least put into question what you would consider to be the greatest possible being.

            Does the greatest possible being have any properties?  If it does, what would those be, and how could one go about determining what they can be?  If it doesn’t have any properties, I will assert that it doesn’t exist.

            You have just asked me to show you a round square. You propose a world that is not possible, and then triumph because I cannot show how something could be exist in your impossible world…

            In essence you are right about me asking you to show me a square circle.  It is a logical contradiction, and I knew it when I told you to show it.  The possible world or possible reality of nothing existing is not an impossible reality, at least not logically impossible, as I have already explained.

             I have never asserted that the OA proves god. I have only asserted that your arguments are far from refuting the OA.

            I couldn’t disagree with you more here here.  While the truth of statements in other possible worlds can be determined with modal logic, I find that since the existence of nothing is a possible reality, any claim of necessary existence is logically impossible using modal logic, and therefore there is nothing that necessarily exists.

  • Brian Overholt

    “I have now established the requirement.  Forgive me for assuming that
    you could figure it out yourself, as it is a rather easy matter to get
    there.”
    —– As long as we are debating this topic, it is not up to your opponent to formulate your arguments for you. It would be pointless for me to guess at what you might mean and argue against it, as I might guess incorrectly. Don’t insult my intelligence simply because I refused to debate you on a point you had neglected to explain.

    “I contend that it is not possible for anything to exist necessarily.  Apparently you missed that part.”
    —- On the contrary… if you had asserted that necessary existence was impossible, I would have asked you to explain why, and this could have been a very different exchange. But for the most part you spoke in terms of “a maximally great being that does not exist in some possible world” which is a very different proposition. The former is an interesting argument, but not one that you have built a case for. The latter is merely a contradiction.

    “I would say that a being that can prevent evil is greater than one that can’t. ”
    —- Ok. Finally we’re getting somewhere. This is a decent argument. However, it’s not quite air tight, because:
     (1) object moral standards could only be proposed by a perfectly objective and all-knowing being, so you must assume the existence of such a being to make the argument. If such a being does not exist, then good and evil are nothing more than cultural constructions. Thus if “evil” exists at all (and is not merely a cultural construction) then that is a proof for a perfect being.
    (2) For “evil” to be eliminated from the world,  free will would also have to be eliminated. So if a God exists, he would have to choose between allowing free will or eliminating evil. One could argue removing free will from all humanity would be a much greater evil. And since free will is impossible where there is no opportunity or ability to do evil — to say that God could maintain free will while eliminating evil would akin to the demand that he create a boulder to heavy for him to lift… it is merely empty and illogical words.
    —– Thus a God that eliminates all evil appears to be another logical contradiction, since the elimination of free will would be necessary and could be considered an even greater evil.

    “The use of the word “world” in the possible worlds is only referring to a
    possible reality, not existence of things within that reality.”
    —— This is an interesting distinction. There have been arguments for and against the possibility of a world of absolutely nothing. Many philosophers have claimed that absolutely nothing is not conceivable, and I tend to agree with that. It’s only my opinion, but the notion of a world where nothing exists is equivalent to saying “I can imagine a pile of bolts with no bolts.” If there are no bolts, then there is no pile. Similarly, if nothing exists (no time, space, matter, energy, conciousness, good, evil…. nothing)…. in what sense is there still a world to be spoken about?
    ——- But assuming that such a world is possible, it is still a stretch to use it as a proof against the ontological argument. This is because the positive possibility of the “world of nothing” argument does not actually confirm the impossibility of the OA. What you actually have are two seemingly logical possibilities that are mutually exclusive. In the OA, the world of nothing would be impossible since the maximally great would necessarily exist in all worlds as long as he exists in one. But in the “world of nothing” argument, there can be no maximally great being. So the OA seems possible, and the “world of nothing” seems possible, but until one is proven conclusively then neither is proven impossible.

    “This doesn’t mean I can’t propose another world where your assertion
    would be false though, or at least the assertion of a theist.  I could
    imagine a world where no intelligence exists.”
    ——- This is the best argument so far. Very similar to modal Zombie arguments. Very difficult to discuss because it is so hard to agree on a definition of intelligence. Of course, to use it as an argument against a necessary intelligent being, you must assume a definition for intelligence that is independent of a physical brain, in order to posit a world in which such intelligence is entirely absent.
    ——– However, just like the “world of nothing” argument, the existence of a maximally great being is only negated when we assume the possibility of the “world with no intelligence.” But in the OA, the world with no intelligence is negated because we have assumed a necessary intelligent being. If one is true the other is false, but we don’t know which is true yet.

    I’ll have to think on these things a little more and perhaps comment again tomorrow. But these are the best arguments yet. thank you.

  • Brian Overholt

    I was able to think a little further about your propositions of a “World of nothing” (WON) and your “World without intelligence” (WWI).

    If I could condense the logical importance of each of these arguments down to a single sentence, it would go something like this:

    OA — To the best of our knowledge, it may be possible for a maximally great being to exist, but if it were actually shown to be possible then the being must exist.

    WON — To the best of our knowledge, it may be possible for a world of nothing to exist, but if it were actually shown to be possible then the OA must be false.

    WWI —- To the best of our knowledge, it may be possible for a world without intelligence to exist, but if it were actually shown to be possible then the OA is false.

    On the surface, it seems that we have three equally logical and valid arguments (to the best of our knowledge) where the last two contradict the first one. And it might be possible to propose other logically possible worlds that might also require the maximally great being (MGB) to be impossible.

    WON and WWI do not necessarily negate the OA, just as the OA does not negate the other two. They simply begin with different premises, and follow logic based on the those initial premises. So the task must be to determine which of these premises is most plausible… or at least more plausible to verify/falsify.

    In terms of strict logical evaluation, each argument seems to be on equal footing. Each may have its own controversial elements, but for the most part none of them have been conclusively shown to be logically false. Neither has anyone verified that any of them are logically possible… only that they are possible to the best of our knowledge. At least one of these arguments MUST be logically false. The trouble is determining which one. And since the perfect human logician seems to be an unattainable goal, I doubt any of them could be conclusively proven with logic alone.

    However, there is one slight advantages that the OA has over the other two — That a MGB is theoretically possible in the actual world. While the true logical possibility of the WWI, WON, and the MGB are all unproven…. the MGB is potentially true in the actual world, while the WWI and WON clearly are not.

    In other words, if nothing existed or there were no intelligence, then obviously an MGB is impossible. BUT something does exist, and there is intelligence. Though the MGB may be impossible in other hypothetical worlds, it is still potentially possible in the actual world. The WON and WWI will forever be hypothetical, but the OA at least is potentially actualizeable.

    This does not mean that the WWI or WON are less valid. Certainly they are each potentially true, and if true would render the OA false. But as long as we have equally valid contradictory arguments, if one is actualizeable in our world while the others are not, the one that is actualizeable seems to carry more weight. It is not more “right,” but something that could be actually possible does command more immediate consideration than something that can only be hypothetically possible.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      I think that we get right out of the realm of plausibility when we assert that the greatest possible being can actually exist, unless we better define what the greatest possible being is.  The reality is, you have never explained how you come to know any attributes that the greatest possible being has.  How can you differentiate such a being from any other being, even from me?

      One big issue I have is the fact that the word “greatest” is certainly subjective, and is therefore something that is most likely beyond definition.  For instance, you may think that the greatest possible being would be one that puts people in hell eternally for doing certain things that harm other people, in order that there is some ultimate justice.  I would think that a being that provides eternal punishment for crimes that are ultimately only temporary would be a malevolent being, and certainly not worthy of any praise or worship, and definitely not the greatest possible being.

      I would go even further with my determination of what the greatest conceivable being would be and say that it would require me to be in control of it, since a being that has all the abilities I would like to have and is under my control is certainly a more useful being than one I didn’t control, at least in my estimation.

      I also think that the word “possible” is a bugaboo.  Just because we can imagine something doesn’t mean it is possible.  Is it possible for me to conjure material objects out of nothing?  I can certainly imagine waving a hand and conjuring mater out of nothing, but in reality am I actually imagining that?  Can I cause an effect without something to first affect?  That would seem logically impossible, as an effect is the result of something being affected.  I can imagine an effect that is logically impossible.  I have not actually imagined the entire process.  There is an impossible gap.

      So, back to something I asked earlier in this comment and in previous comments, what form would the GPB take?  How could one determine what positive attributes it has.  Who determines what attributes are better than others, and who determines which attributes are even possible, since just because I can imagine something doesn’t mean it is possible.

      • Brian Overholt

        “I think that we get right out of the realm of plausibility when we assert that the greatest possible being can actually exist…”
        —- Thankfully that is not a proposition that is on the table. What is being examined is whether a necessarily existent being is logically possible… not actually possible. Logical possibility only requires logical arguments to evaluate. Actual possibility would be far too complicated to prove or disprove, and it is unnecessary to do so, since if the MGB is logically possible, logic would demand that it must actually exist.

        “The reality is, you have never explained how you come to know any
        attributes that the greatest possible being has.”
        —- Correct. Because it is a hypothetical being we do not actually know what attributes it has. Platinga argued for omnipotence and omniscience and goodness and so on, but I’m not sure that any of those things are necessary for the OA to work. It seems to me that the only attribute that we must assume for the argument to work is necessary existence. Once we have assumed necessary existence, we can speculate that such a being is probably also timeless and immaterial, since a physical being in time could not be necessarily existent. But none of this is actually known, it is assumed for the sake of the logical exercise.

        “One big issue I have is the fact that the word “greatest” is certainly
        subjective, and is therefore something that is most likely beyond
        definition. ”
        —- For the sake of simplicity, let’s just assume necessary existence is all that’s required (and by extension, timelessness and immateriality) since the OA requires those at a minimum.

        “For instance, you may think that the greatest possible being would be one that puts people in hell eternally…”
        —- Of course things like that are identifying the MGB as the God of the Bible, which isn’t necessary and can’t be established by the OA… as far as the OA is concerned, it could be Allah, or Zeus, or a being of your own imagination, as long as it is necessarily existent, timeless and immaterial.

        “I would go even further with my determination of what the greatest
        conceivable being would be and say that it would require me to be in
        control of it, since a being that has all the abilities I would like to
        have and is under my control is certainly a more useful being than one I
        didn’t control, at least in my estimation.”
        —- This assumes “great” is essentially synonymous with “convenient” or as you said “useful.” But I think when WLC used the phrase “maximally great” it was referring to a level of power or sovereignty. So a maximally great being would possess unparalleled power, and would thus not be in anyone’s control….. but none of that matters. I’m fairly certain that all that is strictly necessary is the MGB’s necessary existence.

        “Just because we can imagine something doesn’t mean it is possible.”
        —– Exactly. In many cases logical possibility is not the same as actual possibility, or actuality. I can imagine a room that is a perfect vacuum, and I can imagine a flying orange. Both are logically possible since there is nothing about flying that would make an orange cease to be an orange. But the first is actually possible (at least theoretically) while the second is not.
        —– This is an important distinction because it highlights the limits of these logical exercises. Just because we can imagine (or think we can imagine) a world where nothing exists, doesn’t mean it is actually or logically possible. We must simply assume it is possible until someone shows it is not. The same goes for the MGB. The MGB might not be possible, but that hasn’t been proven, and until it is found to be illogical we must still affirm the fact that it is possibly possible… which reduces to simply “it is possible.”

        “Is it possible for me to conjure material objects out of nothing?  I can
        certainly imagine waving a hand and conjuring mater out of nothing, but
        in reality am I actually imagining that?  Can I cause an effect without
        something to first affect?  That would seem logically impossible, as an
        effect is the result of something being affected.”
        —– What you have described would be labeled by philosophers as “economically impossible” or by scientists as “physically impossible” because it defies the laws of physics. But it is not logically impossible in a strict sense. You are right that every effect has a cause. In this case the effect is the creation of new matter out of nothing, and your conjuring is the cause. It is not actually possible, and if you formed an argument that appealed to applicable laws of physics, logic would lead to the conclusion that this is impossible. But separate from physical laws, there is nothing logically contradictory about the scenario.

        “Who determines what attributes [of the GBP] are better than others, and who
        determines which attributes are even possible, since just because I can
        imagine something doesn’t mean it is possible.”
        —– Philosophers don’t determine what attributes are possible prior to argumentation. Philosophers and logicians PROPOSE certain attributes, and then apply logical arguments to see if such attributes can be logically consistent. In a way, the OA is merely one argument among many that attempts to determine whether a necessarily existent being is a logically possible  proposition.
        —- Being able to imagine the MGB doesn’t make it possible. That is why the idea is then tested with these sorts of arguments. So far no argument (as far as I know) has conclusively shown the MGB to be illogical, but that still doesn’t mean it must be logically possible… it just means it’s hard to disprove.

        • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

          For the sake of simplicity, let’s just assume necessary existence is all that’s required (and by extension, timelessness and immateriality

          I am dubious, to say the least, that anyone can demonstrate the possible existence of something that is immaterial without relying on the physical, which would mean that is isn’t as much of an attribute as a lack of an attribute.  What about the attribute “immaterial” would make it a primary predicate?

          What I mean by this is can you demonstrate the difference between something that is immaterial that would differentiate it from things that don’t exist?  If you say something that is immaterial is not physical, how is that different than something that doesn’t exist, as nonexistent things aren’t physical either?  If I were to say that I believe that the word “immaterial” is equivalent to the word “nonexistent”, how would you demonstrate that I was incorrect?

          I’m not completely sold on the possibility of timeless things either.  I’m going to give the readers digest version of my argument for this, and hope you can figure out the reasoning most people might question.

          If something is timeless, it can take up no space.  If something takes up no space, it also takes no position in any space.  It can therefore be said that a timeless thing exists in no place or exists nowhere.  How is existing nowhere any different than nonexistence?

          What you have described would be labeled by philosophers as “economically impossible” or by scientists as “physically impossible” because it defies the laws of physics. But it is not logically impossible in a strict sense. You are right that every effect has a cause. In this case the effect is the creation of new matter out of nothing, and your conjuring is the cause.

          I wasn’t intending to get into this argument here, as it is somewhat complicated and beyond the scope of this post, but the problem is you are missing something crucial when you say “…the effect is the creation of new matter out of nothing…”.  The “out of nothing” part is the problem.  The effect comes out of the thing affected.  If you affect nothing, you can’t have an effect.  When a carpenter makes a table, he is the cause and the table is the effect, but the wood, nails, stain, glue, etc. are the things affected in order to have the effect.  Without affect there is no effect, and nothing can’t be affected, since it isn’t a thing to affect.

          Philosophers don’t determine what attributes are possible prior to argumentation. Philosophers and logicians PROPOSE certain attributes, and then apply logical arguments to see if such attributes can be logically consistent. In a way, the OA is merely one argument among many that attempts to determine whether a necessarily existent being is a logically possible  proposition. 

          The thing is, you are trying to assert that it is more plausible than its negation.  In order to do that, you are stuck defining what you are talking about in terms that are coherent and possible whether that be epistemically or metaphysically.  So far, I see nothing that is coherent in what you have argued, and that’s why I’m trying to get a positive definition.

          • Brian Overholt

            Ok. Rather than quoting you this time, let me just summarize and answer your three biggest objections as I understood them:

            1) In what sense is immateriality a possible attribute, and in what sense does
            something that is immaterial still exist? How would we differentiate immaterial
            things from non-existent things?

            There are many things in reality only exist in an abstract non-material sense, though we may see there effects in physical reality. Examples are things such as time, empty space, mathematics, logic, and consciousness. That last one is the category that an immaterial being would fall into–an unembodied consciousness.

            Now maybe you reject the notion of consciousness beyond a physical brain. But such consciousness is still considered logically and scientifically possible, though many may consider it improbable. An immaterial consciousness would be aware and intelligent, but would not be composed of matter or occupy a physical location.

            The concept of existence does not require a physical expression or location to be logically possible. Just like quantum physics proposes particles that exist in up to 22 extra dimensions, it is not contradictory to assert that things can exist outside of 4-dimensional space-time.

            Further, I would propose that a definition of consciousness that is strictly limited to the expression of a physical brain actually undermines logic, philosophy and science. If our minds are nothing more than bio-chemical machines, than our beliefs and choices are not really meaningful. Physical objects are governed by physical laws, and a brain is a physical object. Thus if your brain makes a decision or adopts a belief, it does so in accordance with physical law in response to a chain reaction of events that produced an inescapable result in accordance with physical law.

            In other words, you couldn’t help but be an atheist. And your decision had little to do with reason, and more to do with chemical and electrical output in response to stimuli. Thus you argue your position because you can do nothing else. It is not meaningful, it is the product of chemistry and electricity. Thus we must assume some consciousness beyond our physical bodies in order to consider logical and scientific arguments meaningful.

            2) How can something be timeless
            and still exist? A timeless thing would have to exist nowhere. So how could it
            be said to exist at all?

            As I argued above, it is not contradictory (or even uncommon) to propose things that exist outside of the our three spacial dimensions. It is a prominent feature of string theory in quantum physics. Time is perhaps even easier to argue, specifically because it is logically possible to to be timeless without being immaterial.

            Caltech Physicist Sean Carroll has written in detail about this in his theory of the origin of our universe, which involves another material universe that is timeless. This timeless universe would be completely static, since there can be no events there. Therefore, if it is possible to be timeless in three dimensions, it should also be possible to be timeless in other dimensions. And if a being exists timelessly on some other dimension, we do not need to insist that it is static, since we do not know that time affects other dimensions the same way, if it applies at all.

            3) Regarding the issue of whether
            anything I imagine is possible, I still insist that it is not possible to
            create something from nothing. To create an effect, there needs to be something
            to have an affect upon. But you cannot affect nothing.

            You are right that you cannot have an affect upon nothing. There is nothing there to affect. But in a strict logical sense, the new thing that pops into existence would be considered the effect. It may not be actualizeable, but it is not logically contradictory. The phrase “making something out of nothing” is actually a poor description, and read literally, that is a logical contradiction.

            But instantaneous generation, however implausible, is not logically contradictory. You caused something to be. You are the cause, and it’s existence is the effect. That says nothing about HOW you could do it, only that if we stop the the proposition there it is logically possible.

            And it may be worth noting that there is some precedent in science for spontaneous generation of matter. The theory of relativity works both directions, matter into energy, and vice versa. Light can be converted into photons that suddenly pop into existence, seemingly out of thin air. The same happens around the edges of black holes. Of course, these particles come from energy, which is something.

            But the point is that 100 years ago, spontaneous generation was recognized as logically possible, but nobody thought it could ACTUALLY be possible. Now we have something very much like it, but the suddenly existent particle doesn’t count because we understand that it came from energy. Well who’s to say that in another 100 years we won’t surprise ourselves again with even more impossible stuff. Something that is logically possible, no matter how improbable, might turn out to be actually possible later on. 

            As long as a proposition is logically consistent and coherent, the actual possibility remains open. I hope the above helps you to see the coherence of the idea of an immaterial and timeless being. You don’t need to believe it or think it plausible. That is what the debate is all about. But it is logically coherent.

          • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

            Apparently I need to explain better to you what I am talking about, since it seems you are missing what I am asking, instead going off on ancillary side roads about things I wasn’t intending you to take as serious as this one topic, which you seem to have missed.  It seems that you have noticed it too, since you tried to boil things down to what you thought I was trying to get at.

            You claim things are immaterial as if immaterial is an attribute that requires existence.  Immaterial isn’t a positive attribute like “blue” or “solid” would be.  You have also given an attribute of timeless which is useless in much the same manner.  Neither of those attributes requires the existence of a thing as they are not descriptive of what something is, but instead are descriptive of what it is not.

            If I say something is blue, that is a positive attribute that says that it reflects a certain wavelength of light.  Because it has a positive attribute, as long as I am not lying or mistaken, the thing I say has that attribute must exist.  If I say something is not blue, I have not given an attribute that, if I am not mistaken or lying, requires existence of that object, as objects that don’t exist are also not blue.

            If we are to get to the existence of a thing, we must determine that it actually is something, and immaterial and timeless just don’t cut the mustard.

            None of what you have said has differentiated the greatest possible being from a nonexistent being whatsoever.  You have given no attribute that is able to be said to require existence.  I could say the same things you have said about the greatest possible being about a nonexistent being and not be making an incoherent statement.  A nonexistent being is timeless and immaterial.

            You have given no definition of what the greatest possible being is, instead opting to say what it is not.  You have said it is necessary, but what does that mean?  Necessary as you are using it means necessary existence, and thus is not an attribute as you claimed it to be previously, but a statement of instantiation.  Instantiation is nothing without something to have an instance of.   What is it that necessarily exists?

            So, I must ask again for you to define what the greatest possible being is, so we can say whether or not it is more plausible than its negation.  If we are not allowed to define what the greatest possible being is, how can its plausibility be determined in any way whatsoever?

  • Brian Overholt

    Your idea about positive attributes requiring the existence of a thing, while negative ones do not, is illogical. Indeed, logic could not work if what you are saying were true. The statements “S is P” and “S is not P” are equally valid constructions regardless of whether S exists, or whether P is a positive or negative descriptor.

    To use your example of “blue” as a positive attribute, I can say “the Tooth Fairy is blue.” The Tooth Fairy may turn out not to exist, and in that case it could not ACTUALLY possess the attribute of being blue. But “the Tooth Fairy is blue” would still be a LOGICALLY possible statement, even if the Tooth Fairy turns out to be fictitious. However, “The non-existent being is blue” is not LOGICALLY possible or ACTUALLY possible, because something that is defined as non-existent cannot possess any attributes. But the Tooth Fairy is not DEFINED as being non-existent, even if it turns out that it actually is non-existent.

    Now moving on to negative attributes. I can describe a hypothetical object (HO) as “cold,” which is really just the lack of heat. I have not described any attribute that the HO positively has… only an attribute that it does NOT have. And yet to describe the HO as cold is a coherent, logical statement, that requires the existence of a HO in order be cold. The same would go for something that is “Dead” (the lack of life) or “Invertebrate” (the lack of a spine). Even when the only descriptors you have for an thing are negative, ANY descriptor at all requires the existence of that thing, in order for it to be described.

    Now the final piece in your argument is that things that are immaterial are no different from things that do not exist. But this is both logically and scientifically false. By your assertion, the statement “the non-existent being is immaterial” would be a valid construction that is equivalent to “the non-existent being is non-existent.”

    The last statement is self evident. The first one is logically false. For if something is defined as non-existent, then there is nothing to hold the qualifier “immaterial.” Essentially your objection attempts to assign the meaning of “non-existence” to the descriptor “immaterial” and then apply the quality of non-existence to the MGB. But this is a misuse of the word “immaterial.”

    “Immaterial” merely describes something that lacks mass and location. Thoughts are immaterial. I believe consciousness to be immaterial. Pure energy is immaterial. Spacial dimension is immaterial. And I gave examples from string theory that scientists now recognize “particles” that are immaterial, in order to explain atomic gravity. Scientists speculate about how much “mass” these extra-dimensional particles have, but we cannot even know what “mass” could mean on other dimensions. They only use words like “mass” to describe the effects that these extra-dimensional “particles” have on the particles we can see. THESE THINGS ALL HAVE NO MEASURABLE MASS OR LOCATION, AND YET THEY ALL EXIST.

    “Timeless” describes something that exists independently of the linear, physical chain of events that we refer to as time. This is really just an extrapolation of immateriality. Since time is expressed through a chain of physical events, it could not affect something that is not physical.

    “Timeless” and “Immaterial” are both descriptors, and like all other descriptors, they require a subject which they describe. We have examples of things that exist immaterially. And by our definition of time, we propose that immaterial things are not subject to the effects of time.

    Thus timelessness and immateriality are coherent and do signify something that exists, though probably not a type of existence that we can experience or directly observe. But there are many things in the universe that we cannot experience or directly observe, and yet have determined to be true. Therefore, the existence of an immaterial and timeless being remains possible, unless it is shown to be illogical.

    To say that immateriality and non-existence are synonymous would be to render quantum physics a mere scientific fantasy. I think I have established clearly enough that these terms denote qualities that can be used to describe a thing, and that such a thing would need to exist in order to hold these qualities.

    Further, it is not necessary to describe any other attributes of the MGB. The MGB could have many other qualities, but none of them are relevant to the argument at hand, which is simply meant to determine if it is logically possible for a being to necessarily exist without mass, location, or time. The argument can be evaluated on those grounds, and any other attributes would only further complicate the argument.

    Here is the argument and it’s negation:

    Argument: “It is logically possible for a being to necessarily exist without mass, location, or time.”
    Negation: “It is logically impossible for a being to necessarily exist without mass, location, or time.”

    We can determine which one of those is more plausible without any further information about the MGB.

    “If we are to get to the existence of a thing, we must determine that it
    actually is something, and immaterial and timeless just don’t cut the
    mustard.”

    I don’t know what your background is in logic and philosophy, but this is a very basic fallacy. In any argument about an object or an idea, the subject is assumed to be “something” and is assumed to exist. Then logical argumentation can be used to determine the logical possibility (or lack thereof) of that something.

    You can’t argue that the premise hasn’t been described well enough to determine that it is “something,”… and therefore can’t be said to exist… and therefore any logical arguments are invalid. That’s patently ridiculous.

    I can make the statement “something exists” and stop there. It is completely valid.

    But I haven’t described it at all! How can we determine whether it might exist? Are we to just assume that I’m right when I say it is something? Yes! An argument can only be invalidated using the definitions provided. We CANNOT argue that the “something” might not be “something.”— I defined it as “something,” and any evaluation must be on the grounds of that definition.

    I can go further and say “Something immaterial exists.” Now we have more information, and we can determine through argumentation whether the existence of an immaterial “something” is logically contradictory. But you CAN’T say that immateriality doesn’t adequately describe the something. My argument was valid BEFORE I added that descriptor, so we’ve established that I don’t even NEED that much description to form an argument. You certainly can propose that “exists” and “immaterial” are logically contradictory… but you’d have to make an argument which shows that immateriality necessarily negates existence… which I doubt anyone can do.

    Unless a premise is identified as “nothing” or as “non-existent” we must assume that the premise denotes something that supposedly exists, and argue from there. We cannot demand greater description to establish the “something-ness” of the premise before we consider the argument valid.

    If you do not accept this, then you are not employing logical at all… just throwing meaningless words around.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      Your idea about positive attributes requiring the existence of a thing, while negative ones do not, is illogical. Indeed, logic could not work if what you are saying were true. The statements ”S is P” and ”S is not P” are equally valid constructions regardless of whether S exists, or whether P is a positive or negative descriptor.

      Logic works very well if you take what I am saying into account.  In fact, if we take things the way you would like them, logic doesn’t work.

      Negative attributes don’t bear with them the requirement that the thing they are talking about exists.  Just because you can say S is not P doesn’t mean that it means the same to S as saying S is P.  Saying S is P, barring the possibility that I could be lying or mistaken, requires the existence of S.  S is not P bears with it no such requirement of S.  For example, saying nonexistent X is not blue is a valid statement, as things that don’t exist are not blue, but nonexistent X is blue is not similarly valid, since nonexistent things can’t be blue.  Because of this, things with positive attributes must exist, while things with only negative attributes may or may not exist.

      Now, you went off about negative attributes showing existence.  You brought up the words cold and dead.  You have never experienced a lack of heat.  You have only experienced lower heat than some arbitrary level.  A thing that has no heat actually doesn’t exist, since there is quantum energy that exists in all things, so absolute zero can’t even theoretically be reached in an existing object.

      As for death, if the definition of death is not alive, that doesn’t require existence, since not alive doesn’t mean a thing was ever alive or even existed.  If the definition of death is a thing that was once alive, but now is not, that still doesn’t require the existence of a thing, since if the thing that was alive was somehow annihilated, it no longer exists.

      For if something is defined as non-existent, then there is nothing to hold the qualifier ”immaterial.” Essentially your objection attempts to assign the meaning of ”non-existence” to the descriptor ”immaterial” and then apply the quality of non-existence to the MGB. But this is a misuse of the word “immaterial.”

      So, apparently it would not be logical to say that something that doesn’t exist has no properties?  There is no real difference between saying a thing has no properties whatsoever and saying that a thing lacks a certain property.

      Further, I have not assigned “non-existent” to anything.  I’m just saying that you have given no logical definition of anything that can possibly exist.  You have given me some of what it is not, but non-existent things lack those properties too.  You have not differentiated the GPB from non-existent things.

      I have said that my proposal that the greatest possible being doesn’t exist is true.  You have said that the GPB does exist.  You claim that we need to go with the most plausible answer since the thing and its negation can’t both be true, so you need to show how your GPB is different than a non-existent being in order that we can evaluate which is most plausible.

      I don’t know what your background is in logic and philosophy, but this is a very basic fallacy. In any argument about an object or an idea, the subject is assumed to be “something” and is assumed to exist. Then logical argumentation can be used to determine the logical possibility (or lack thereof) of that something.

      You can’t argue that the premise hasn’t been described well enough to determine that it is “something,”… and therefore can’t be said to exist… and therefore any logical arguments are invalid. That’s patently ridiculous.

      I find this an extremely hilarious statement considering that what I am saying is a well known principle of first order logic.  If you don’t think you’re an expert in an area, and you obviously aren’t, you certainly shouldn’t be questioning someone else on where they get their background.

      I have used the word predicate many times during this discussion.  I assumed that you would understand that this is a term that means something, and if you didn’t know what I was talking about, you should have looked it up by now.

      Needless to say, you have not given me proper predicate.  You have given me no description of your GPB that can’t also be said about something that doesn’t exist.  You have failed to distinguish your GPB from my nonexistent being, and you can therefore not say that your GPB is more plausible in any manner.

      • Brian Overholt

        “I have used the word predicate many times during this
        discussion.  I assumed that you would understand that this is a term
        that means something, and if you didn’t know what I was talking about,
        you should have looked it up by now.

        I know very well what “predicate” means, but apparently you do not — as I spent my entire last comment attempting to establish the fact that “immateriality” and “timelessness” ARE proper predicate (which I think is a commonly misused term). Indeed, despite Kant’s famous arguments against its use, existence itself is still widely considered by many modern philosophers to be a predicate, as has been so successfully argued by  Murray Kiteley and the renowned Haig Khatchadourian, PhD, as well as the philosophical giant, G.E. Moore.

        But notice that I did not appeal to existence as a predicate in my comments. Despite the fact that Kiteley’s and Khatchadourian’s arguments for existence as a predicate were so strong that they were, in my opinion, incontrovertible… I realize that this idea is still controversial to many — so I limited myself to “immaterialty” and “timelessness.”

        However, Kant himself did not even deny that “existence” is a predicate. He merely argued that it does not give us any new information. He argued that the statement “God exists” is insufficient because it does not tell us anything about God. Any argument about God would assume God’s existence, so therefore the predicate that he exists is redundant — equivalent to saying “the existing being exists.” It is self-evident, and therefore cannot be logically evaluated.

        So, adopting Kant’s perspective (though I do not agree with it) I skipped over arguing for existence as a valid predicate. But by Kant’s view any additional information about God would be sufficient predicate to make a statement that can be logically tested.

        If you take Kant’s view, any statement about God (or in this case, the MGB) ASSUMES His existence for the sake of the argument. Any other information beyond that is valid predicate to evaluate the proposition. “Immaterial” and “Timeless” is additional information, even if they are not positive descriptors.

        If you do not take Kant’s view, then existence itself is sufficient predicate, though any philosopher would still complain that existence is logically unfalsifiable without further information. In this case, we have proper predicate without adding “immateriality” and “timelessness,” but their inclusion makes the argument something that can be engaged.

        If you are expanding Kant’s view by including “immateriality” and “timelessness” as non-informational predicates, then you part company with all well-established logical and philosophical practice throughout history, including Immanuel Kant.

        So either I HAVE established proper predicate, or you are blazing a new trail in the world of logic and philosophy. If it is the latter, you are going to need to do better than “readers digest” explanations, because I’ve been following the established methodologies, and have no knowledge of your unique theories of predication.

        “For example, saying nonexistent X is not blue is a valid statement, as things that don’t exist are not blue…”

        This is incorrect. Something that is defined as not existing cannot hold a descriptor. It is like saying “Nothing” is not blue. This is incoherent, because “nothing” cannot be described at all, even enough to say that it is not blue. There is nothing there to be described either positively or negatively.

        You CAN say either “X is not blue” or “X does not exist.” Because we are beginning with a definition of X that does not include non-existence. We merely add non-existence as a predicate. (a VALID predicate, I might add… even though it is not attributive, just like “immaterial” and “timeless”).

        However, those two statements are mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true at the same time. If X is not blue, then there is an X existing to be described that way. If X is non-existent, then cannot be, and all other descriptions of it are rendered false.

        “Because of this, things with positive attributes must exist, while things with only negative attributes may or may not exist.”

        False. If we are talking about existence as a logical conclusion, then either category of things (i.e. things with only positive ascribed attributes, or things with only negatively ascribed attributes) may either exist or not exist. But as a premise of an argument, things in either category are ASSUMED to exist, regardless of how they are predicated.

        “So, apparently it would not be logical to say that something that
        doesn’t exist has no properties?  There is no real difference between
        saying a thing has no properties whatsoever and saying that a thing
        lacks a certain property.”

        Taken as a logical premise, “something that
        doesn’t exist has no properties” is a construction that is either self-evident or contradictory, depending on the way you read it.

        If the phrase “has no properties” is to be understood in the sense of “cannot be described” then the statement is self evident. Of course we can’t describe it, because it doesn’t exist! There is nothing to be described.

        If the phrase “has no properties” is to be understood in the sense of “possesses no attributes.” Then the statement is contradictory because of the word “has” or “possesses.” Something that does not exist cannot “have” or “possess” anything… even a lack of attributes or properties.

        And in response to your second sentence: Whether you are saying that something has no attributes, or saying that something lacks an attribute, you are still describing a THING… which is assumed to exist for the sake of your statement. So even your negative descriptors require the positive existence of the thing being described.

        “I find this an extremely hilarious statement considering that what I am saying is a well known principle of first order logic.”

        First order logic does not require positive descriptors in order to consider a predicate to be sufficient to establish the possibility of existence of the thing being argued. Particularly if the purpose of the argument is establish the possibility of the existence of that thing. It would be very circular logic if you had to establish the possibility of existence in order to argue the possibility of existence.

        I challenge you to name one philosophical resource, or text book, or anything that can attest to what you are saying.

        “Needless to say, you have not given me proper predicate.  You have given
        me no description of your GPB that can’t also be said about something
        that doesn’t exist.”

        I think I’ve sufficiently established that “immateriality” and “timelessness” cannot be described of a thing that does not exist. Two final examples:

        “The non-existent being is immaterial” — This is necessarily false.
        “The being is immaterial” — valid
        “The being is not composed of matter” — valid
        “The being has no mass and occupies no location” — valid

        “The non-existent being is timeless” — This is also necessarily false.
        “The being is timeless” — valid
        “The being does not age” — valid
        “The being is not changed by time” — valid

        The fact is that NOTHING in the description of the MGB can be said of a non-existent being. Everything that has been described thus far differentiates the MGB from non-existent things.

        The only way that you can disagree with this is to argue that mass and location are necessary requirements for existence… but this is not the case. I gave several examples of things without mass or location that DO exist. You have not answered ANY of them.

        You just keep repeating that I have not described GPB or MGB enough to establish it as a thing. I have shown logically that “immateriality” and “timelessness” can only be described of potentially existent things. I have also argued that logic must assume the subject of the premise as existent, unless it is defined as non-existent. You have not answered this charge either.

        Please show me where I am wrong on any of this. If you do not feel you can adequately explain it to me… being the simpleton you seem to think that I am… then point me towards something… anything authoritative that can show me what you are talking about.

        Or if you are contending that physical mass and location are requirements for existence, I would love to have that argument. But this business about non-attributive predicates being insufficient to make a logical argument is getting really old. It’s one thing to use logic to argue about the MGB, the OA, or existence… but I’m losing interest in using logic to argue about logic.

        • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

          Let’s get things straightened out here.  You have admitted that the OA both proves a necessary being exists and proves its negation.  This essentially makes the OA completely useless, since in the end, you have to make some completely separate argument that shows a necessary being is more plausible than its negation.

          You are unwilling to positively define what this necessary being is, or what makes it necessary, yet claim that its existence is more plausible than its nonexistence.  You have not given a single attribute that shows what it could be, but instead play around with negative definitions that only say what it isn’t.

          We have a situation here where a necessary being either exists or it doesn’t exist.  According to you, all we need to do is find out which side of that is more plausible.  If it exists, it is timeless and immaterial.  If it doesn’t exist it is also timeless and immaterial.  So far, we have two things that are just as plausible, since the only thing that can distinguish them is the very assertion in question…necessary existence.

          So, let’s give you that existence can be a predicate, just for sake of argument.  Since that is the very thing in question, you must be able to say something else true about it in order to distinguish its plausibility from its negation.  What can be said about the GPB other than it exists that distinguishes it from things that don’t exist, and also makes its existence more plausible than its negation?

          I don’t see any reason why this should be such a hard thing to understand, and I certainly don’t see why I should be chasing you all over the place to try and keep you on this topic.

          It seems to me that if I have to chase you all over the place to get you to answer a simple question that I see no reason you shouldn’t understand, your position must not be a good one at all.

          • Brian Overholt

            Perhaps we are at an impasse. But if we are, it is not because I refuse to answer your objections. I think I misunderstood your argument. I guess we’ll find out with this comment.

            “You have admitted that the OA both proves a necessary being exists and proves its negation.”

            This is not what I contend. Neither are “proved.” What the OA demonstrates is that IF the MGB is “possible” then it must exist. IF the MGB is “impossible” then obviously it cannot exist. But there is no scenario in which the MGB can be simultaneously “possible” and yet non-existent. But it has not been proved that the MGB is “possible” or “impossible,” though the possibility must be considered open until it can be shown to be impossible. It’s a crucial semantic difference.

            “You are unwilling to positively define what this necessary being is, or
            what makes it necessary, yet claim that its existence is more plausible
            than its nonexistence.”

            OK. I think this is where I’m realizing something about your argument. To me it seemed that your criticism which asserted that “immateriality” and “timelessness” were not enough to establish existence IN PREMISE 1 OF THE OA. Which to me seemed ridiculous because no argument has to establish existence for the notions included in its presence.

            But now I’m thinking that you’re arguing from the position of “Let’s assume the OA works… now how can I tell the difference between the MGB and something that doesn’t exist?”

            This is a little different, as it renders my talk about the premises of arguments irrelevant (though, I’m surprised you never corrected me in all that talk of premises). However, it does not drastically change my argument.

            First of all, since this is an argument of logic and not of science, you cannot deny that LOGICALLY a non-existent is unable to be described as immaterial and timeless. Non-existant things cannot be described at all. A description of any kind, positive or negative attributes, ASSUMES an existent thing being described.

            So from a stand point of logical statements, any descriptor differentiates the MGB from a non-existent thing. Can I get a rebuttal or a concession on this point? I made a thorough case for this and you didn’t even respond to my last argument on this issue. I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.

            Now, from a scientific/observable/tangible standpoint, you have a valid point — namely “Something that is timeless and immaterial is likely impossible to detect. But even if we could, we haven’t named any positive identifiers to recognize it by.”

            This is a good point. One worth arguing. And I will have to dedicate a different comment to it. But first please confirm that this was your point, or else revise it to reflect your thinking. I apologize for not realizing this before, but to be fair you stated your objection in terms of “predicate,” and in a logical argument a predicate need not be positive in order to validate existence. Whereas in my new understanding of your argument, I am thinking that you are leaving behind purely logical arguments and beginning to ask for more evidential claims.

            “So, let’s give you that existence can be a predicate, just for sake of argument.”

            As I stated in my last comment, we do not need existence to be a predicate. We’ve got immateriality and timelessness to serve as predicate, which imply existence. I think I understand now your objection to those two things. But your objection is only valid on a practical level, not a purely logical one, and unfortunately I thought you were arguing purely logically.

            “It seems to me that if I have to chase you all over the place to get you
            to answer a simple question that I see no reason you shouldn’t
            understand, your position must not be a good one at all.”

            Come on now. You have hardly been chasing me anywhere. I’m as frustrated as you are because I’ve been running in circles trying answer your arguments (and barely , only to find out now that I probably misunderstood them.

            But before you jump in with more ridiculous condescension, let me remind you that kept stating that things that don’t exist could hold attributes like the following line:

            “Things with positive attributes must exist, while things with only negative attributes may or may not exist.”

            How else am I supposed to understand that? Hypothetical things are not any more or less plausible because they are positively or negatively described. But that’s what it sounds like you were saying…

            Anyway, hopefully this is a step toward a coherent exchange. I promise from now on I’m going to paraphrase what I think you are saying before I respond. Now that I get it, your argument is a good one that I’ve encountered many times before…  but the way you stated it made me think you were arguing something else.

            Once you have confirmed that I am on the right track, or cleared up what I still am missing, then I will try to respond with this new understanding in mind.

          • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

            Sorry for ignoring some things, but when things go in multiple different directions when I don’t think you understand my point, I get a bit frustrated and try to get things I think are important fleshed out.

            Let’s take a look:

            “The non-existent being is immaterial” — This is necessarily false.

            “The being is immaterial” — valid

            “The being is not composed of matter” — valid

            “The being has no mass and occupies no location” — valid

            “The non-existent being is timeless” — This is also necessarily false.

            “The being is timeless” — valid

            “The being does not age” — valid

            “The being is not changed by time” — valid

            I think you will find that there is a huge flaw in your logic if you do one simple thing for me.

            Define what a nonexistent being is without making what you consider to be a necessarily false statement.

            I’ll continue from this point as if you have understood why your claim contains a major flaw.

            Now, my understanding is that a thing that doesn’t exist has no properties, and a thing with no properties does not exist.

            Now, this doesn’t mean that if you can’t give a property for something that it doesn’t exist.  It simply means that nonexistent things are equal to things that literally have no properties.  I distinguish this because I don’t want to get caught up in you worrying that I am saying that since you can’t give any properties that your proposed being doesn’t exist.

            Alternatively, a thing with properties exists, but can only be distinguished from things that don’t exist by its properties.

            Based on these understandings, we at a minimum need to distinguish your existing thing from a nonexistent thing with properties in order to even begin to determine plausibility of one over the other.

            Now, when we talk of properties, I like to use sets.  For example, let’s say X is round and heavy.  It can thus be represented as X = {round, heavy}.  Similarly, if X is blue, that means that X at least also contains blue (blue ∈ X) and can be represented by X = {round, heavy, blue}.  If X is not blue though, that means that X does not contain the property of blue blue ∉ X and therefore X = {round, heavy}.

            Now, immaterial is a negative attribute that literally means “not material”.  This means that whatever is immaterial lacks the property of being material.  This simply means that we don’t add material to the set, not that we add immaterial to the set.

            To illustrate, let’s represent a nonexistent being’s properties starting with a null set of properties N, and GPB’s properties with a null set of properties E, where N and E simply delineate between the two.  This means that at the beginning, until we determine more about either, both sets are equal.

            Therefore:
            N = E = Ø

            Now, if I say that GPB is immaterial, that is the same as saying:
            material ∉ E

            We are not adding a property that exists in the set of properties that define E, but saying that material is not in the set of properties E.

            This can also be said of N:
            material ∉ N

            Both of these statements are perfectly valid, and neither has yet been distinguished from the other.

            On the other hand, if I were to say something like blue ∈ E, that would mean that at least blue would be in the set E = {blue} and that would mean that E would no longer be empty.

            What I am having trouble with is that you are saying that something that you can’t define to be any different than the empty set is somehow more plausible than something that is defined to be the empty set.  As far as I can see, the two sets, without any properties, are equal, and so both must be equally plausible.

            Does any of this start to make better sense to you?

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      You may want to look at this Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article.

      • Brian Overholt

        Thank you. But I’m already familiar with the philosophers and theories outlined in the article. And nothing there negates anything that I have argued. In fact, I find a great deal of support from the work of many of these great thinkers.

        And at any rate, the primary issue being reviewed in this article is the question of whether existence is, by itself, a valid predicate. But the argument you seem to be making to me is that I need MORE predicate to establish existence… something which is not even touched in the article you linked to.

        Feel free to quote from the article if you think I missed something.

  • Brian Overholt

    Thanks for your thorough explanation. That helps. I will respond back soon, but if I don’t get to it today it will be a few days. Thanks again!

  • Themabtsunami

    I read most of the 6 pages of comments….great read (both the debates in the comments and the actual article =D)

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      I appreciate that.  Thanks.  :D

  • Richard

    ‘Maximally great’ entails moral perfection. ‘Stealing socks’ is a violation of moral perfection. Your parody is self-contradictory.

    Also, “a world where nothing exists”? That is not a world or a reality. It is nothing. But folds of your refutations fail.

    • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

      @4ca89f0525445f116966a693f7a3036f:disqus , I don’t see how you would be able to evaluate moral perfection objectively.  If a maximally great sock stealing coffee pot existed, it would be the ground for morality, and therefore could make it okay to steal.  At the very least, it could be stealing socks for the greater good, which is how your god gets away with doing nasty things right?

      So, if nothing existed, it would not be a reality?  It would not be true of that state of existence that nothing exists?  I don’t follow your illogic here.  You must demonstrate why nothing existing would not be a fact about a world where nothing exists.  If there would be facts about it, it is real.  If it is real, it is a reality.

    • Hungryatheist

      The problem with the parody is not that it steal socks, God is ‘morally perfect’ and supposedly allows immoral things/has done apparently immoral things.

      No, the issue with the parody is that it likens an abstract entity with a concrete one. A maximally great coffee pot is impossible, since there’s always a coffee pot you can imagine that would be greater than the one posited. 

      Merely positing an external object limits (note the word “limits”) it to a spatial and temporal framework, meaning it can ALWAYS be better. The idea of a maximally great “being” need not (and by necessity cannot) be limited by things like this.

      Even Anselm recognized this, and in fact your teapot example holds no water against the argument.

      However, your second logical argument is sound, and rightly shows the sheer pointlessness of an argument such as the Ontological argument.

      • http://godlessons.com Godlessons

        The problem with “maximally great” is that greatness requires a subjective opinion.  There is no objective standard for it and can’t be.  Because of that, there can never be a maximally great being.

        • Orange

          That’s actually Irrelevant, The Maximal Greatness part is a Red-Herring, the argument is parasitic upon Metaphysical Necessity(call the NE). We can take anything we want, attach NE to it, and whala, we have an MOA for anything we can dream up.

          It’s possible that an immaterial+NE Unicorn exists, therefore…

          It’s possible that an immaterial+NE Malignant, omniscient, and omnipotent deity exists, therefore…

  • Pingback: The Ontological Argument Revisited

  • Don Welty

    I think there is a problem with the reasoning with statement 2:

    If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

    The conclusion does not follow. To say that it is possible that a maximally great being exists would then lead to the conclusion that It is possible that a maximally great being exists in a given world. You cannot make the statement of certainty about the existence of a possibly great being, as the conclusion in statement 2 does, even though it does not describe the world that this creature exists.

    • Don Welty

      # It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
      # If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
      # If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
      # If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
      # If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
      # Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

      The second statement illogically has inherent in it the existence of a maximally great being. As Craig states it, the second statement can be parsed as follows:

      Hypothesis:
      It is possible that a maximally great being exists

      Conclusion:
      #There possibly exists a world
      #There exists a maximally great being
      #This maximally great being is in this possible world

      Rewritten the conclusion should read:
      # There possibly exists a maximally great being
      # There possibly exists a world.
      # This possibly existent maximally great being possibly exists in this world.

      The second statement, therefore, should read

      If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then it is possible that a maximally great being exists in some world.

      The argument then falls apart:

      # It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
      # If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then it is possible that a maximally great being exists in some world.
      # If it is possible that a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it is possible that a maximally great human exists in every world.
      # If it is possible that a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it is possible that it exists in the actual world.
      # If it is possible that a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then it is possible that a maximally great being exists.
      # Therefore, it is possible that a maximally great being exists.

      • Oranges

        There’s no problem with P2, it’s just Possible World semantics.

  • Don Welty

    Statement 2 assumes the existence of god. It is misstated. It reads

    If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

    It should read

    If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then it is possible that a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

    Or
    . . . then it is possible that a maximally great being exists in a world.

    Then Craig’s supposed proof falls apart.

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