Saturday, March 10, 2007
"Nevertheless the fact remains that it is utterly improbable that in this dark period, at a particular place or through a person or through the decision of a group or institution unknown to us, the four superscriptions of the Gospels, which had hitherto been circulating anonymously, suddenly came into being and, without leaving behind traces of earlier divergent titles, became established throughout the church. Let those who deny the great age and therefore basically the originality of the Gospel superscriptions in order to preserve their 'good' critical conscience, give a better explanation of the completely unanimous and relatively early attestation of these titles, their origin and the names of authors associated with them. Such an explanation has yet to be given, and it never will be. New Testament scholars persistently overlook basic facts and questions on the basis of old habits." (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], p. 55)
See, also, my comments on eyewitness testimony in the gospels here.
Friday, March 09, 2007
"Hey, I still don't understand why someone cannot choose non-christian presuppositions and establish a "coherent worldview".
Theoretically you can, but: (1) it can’t be atheism because atheistic worldviews are internally self-contradictory and (2) if you can, please bring forth *that* particular theoretical, self-consistent worldview and show how it contains within itself the sufficient preconditions for the intelligibility of reality.
"Why can't I just presuppose the existence and correctness of absolute laws of logic?"
This is a good question and I will take time to offer a response. You can simply presuppose the existence and correctness of absolute laws. However, if you do (presuming that you’re an atheist, please forgive me if I have you labeled incorrectly) you will be irrational and internally contradictory. Please let me explain.
I. I believe that irrationality will follow because you’re simply presupposing without epistemic warrant the uniformity of logical laws via a vicious circularity. We can presuppose the uniformity of logical law (hence appealing to rationality contained with creation) because God Himself declared that there will be uniformity found within the created order, including the laws of logic (Gen. 8:22 – an appeal to mystery as contained within the mind of God). If you are an atheist, you have no such authoritative declaration, but must assert with mere probability that future instances of past events will occur in the future as they have in the past. This is a fine example of circular reasoning. Also, you will show that you are working off of a type of faith as well (albeit a drastically different one from the Christian conception thereof) because you are merely assuming that the laws of logic will behave in the future as they have in the past without any epistemic warrant.
As an aside, I took note that you used the descriptor, “the correctness of absolute laws” to refer to logical laws. Assuming that we try to understand the universe through the worldview of philosophical materialism, it is logically impossible to have both absolute, unchanging, and immaterial logical laws being derived from a non-absolute, continuously changing, material universe consisting of only particular entities.
"How do you account for the existence of God? I'm sure you will say you don't need to because it’s your presupposition, ie. what you take for granted. Why can't I do the same maneuver with the laws of logic?"
II. Again you can (and do) take the laws of logic for granted, but you have no rational reasons for expecting the uniformity of logical law. If you are a naturalist, you’ll simply presuppose it a priori in a similar way that we presuppose the Triune God a priori because he is the final locus of authority for us as Christians. The final locus of authority for you will consist of your own brain. From our drastically different perspectives, we have no higher authority upon which to turn. We turn to the authority of the Triune God, you turn to the authority of your finite brain.
III. We have continually asked the materialist to give an account for the most basic laws of nature to which you have essentially responded, “I can’t. No explanation exists for the most fundamental, presupposed, and ultimate regularities of life and reality. There is no regularity about the most basic regularity because there is no law in terms of which the basic law can be accounted for.” So, you are assuming that the laws of logic and the laws of nature are the most basic, presupposed, foundational principles of reality in an atomistic sense, meaning that there is nothing more ultimate that you can turn to other than the basic laws of nature because there is nothing at the base of them. This rational maneuver of atomizing things, that is, analyzing things in terms of their most basic components or laws by which the universe operates has to end somewhere for you, and when it ends, your basic laws have no explanation at all. Given your position, the most basic laws themselves cannot be accounted for because they are ultimate. This is certainly understandable given your atomism.
So, how do we know these basic laws and how do we explain them at all? Why are they the way that they are? In answering questions like these an atomistic rationalist will end up doing the very thing he is trying to avoid, which is appealing to mystery. Why is this a problem for you? Because when you make an appeal to mystery it ruins your entire worldview, for you desire to rest your views on what you perceive to be a rational, empirical explanation, yet at the base of it, it is rooted in mysticism, the very thing you seek to avoid and the very opposite of what scientific rationalism claims to be. Here is the rational system of scientific, empirical explanation ultimately resting on a foundation of mysticism, the thing which is the very opposite of what it claims to be. Science and mysticism are supposed to be poles apart, but it turns out that scientific rationalists are mystics at base. So, when you are asked to account for the existence of logical laws/scientific laws apart from God, your response ultimately reduces to this answer: “They just are as they are”. Hence, you show that you believe that the basics just are as they are. According to your understanding, it’s just some kind of mystical, positive, reality that cannot be explained.
But the Christian is not reduced to a dialectical tension consisting of a rationalism and a mysticism that are at odds with each other within the same worldview. When we appeal to mystery, it’s mystery because we say, “Our finite minds cannot account for it” and “It’s mystery because we only know this because we are depending upon the special revelation of God.” The sense of mystery, or if you will “irrationalism” in Christianity is that it appeals to that which goes beyond the finite human mind. You do the same thing, you just don’t appeal to God. You stop short of that by appealing to a lucky mystery based upon the chance happenings of the evolved universe. So, the rational/irrational internal tension remains strong within your worldview. However, when we appeal to the revelation of God we don’t do so at the expense of our rationalism, but instead this becomes the very foundation of our rationalism. Because God is the divine regulator and orderer, His mind is reflected in creation, and as a result, He has given us a mind and the necessary laws by which we *can* reason in the first place (i.e., the laws of logic, etc.).And so, the atomistic, scientific rationalist, has to explain his basic laws in terms of just the “mystical positive of chance”, but that’s just the very antithesis of scientific rationalism and empiricism. However, the Christian, by appealing to the mind of God as understood in the Scriptures, can account for all the regularities and order of the universe without giving up his rationalism. And so, if you compare the two worldviews, you see the dialectical tension of the one, and the harmony of the other, and by way of conclusion, I think that such internal contradictions within the unbelieving systems of thought reveals what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said that the unbeliever continually “opposes himself” (2 Tim. 2:25).
"Readers throughout most of history understood the Gospels as biographies (Stanton 1989a: 15-17), but after 1915 scholars tried to find some other classification for them, mainly because these scholars compared ancient and modern biography and noticed that the Gospels differed from the latter (Talbert 1977: 2-3; cf. Mack 1988: 16n.6). The current trend, however, is again to recognize the Gospels as ancient biographies. The most complete statement of the question to date comes from a Cambridge monograph by Richard A. Burridge. After carefully defining the criteria for evaluating genre (1992: 109-27) and establishing the characteristic features of Greco-Roman ‘lives’ (128-90), he demonstrates how the canonical Gospels fit this genre (191-239). The trend to regard the Gospels as ancient biography is currently strong enough for British Matthew scholar Graham Stanton to characterize the skepticism of Bultmann and others about the biographical character of the Gospels as ‘surprisingly inaccurate’ (1993: 63; idem 1995: 137)….But though such [ancient] historians did not always write the way we write history today, they were clearly concerned to write history as well as their resources allowed (Jos. Ant. 20.156-57’ Arist. Poetics 9.2-3, 1451b; Diod. Sic. 21.17.1; Dion. Hal. 1.1.2-4; 1.2.1; 1.4.2; cf. Mosley 1965). Although the historical accuracy of biographers varied from one biographer to another, biographers intended biographies to be essentially historical works (see Aune 1988: 125; Witherington 1994:339; cf. Polyb. 8.8)….There apparently were bad historians and biographers who made up stories, but they became objects of criticism for violating accepted standards (cf. Lucian History 12, 24-25)….Matthew and Luke, whose fidelity we can test against some of their sources, rank high among ancient works….Like most Greek-speaking Jewish biographers, Matthew is more interested in interpreting tradition than in creating it….A Gospel writer like Luke was among the most accurate of ancient historians, if we may judge from his use of Mark (see Marshall 1978; idem 1991) and his historiography in Acts (cf., e.g., Sherwin-White 1978; Gill and Gempf 1994). Luke clearly had both written (Lk 1:1) and oral (1:2) sources available, and his literary patron Theophilus already knew much of this Christian tradition (1:4), which would exclude Luke’s widespread invention of new material. Luke undoubtedly researched this material (1:3) during his (on my view) probable sojourn with Paul in Palestine (Acts 21:17; 27:1; on the ‘we-narratives,’ cf., e.g., Maddox 1982: 7). Although Luke writes more in the Greco-Roman historiographic tradition than Matthew does, Matthew’s normally relatively conservative use of Mark likewise suggests a high degree of historical trustworthiness behind his accounts….only historical works, not novels, had historical prologues like that of Luke [Luke 1:1-4] (Aune 1987: 124)…A central character’s ‘great deeds’ generally comprise the bulk of an ancient biographical narrative, and the Gospels fit this prediction (Burridge 1992: 208). In other words, biographies were about someone in particular. Aside from the 42.5 percent of Matthew’s verbs that appear directly in Jesus’ teaching, Jesus himself is the subject of 17.2 percent of Matthew’s verbs; the disciples, 8.8 percent; those to whom Jesus ministers, 4.4 percent; and the religious establishment, 4.4 percent. Even in his absence he often remains the subject of others’ discussions (14:1-2; 26:3-5). Thus, as was common in ancient biographies (and no other genre), at least half of Matthew’s verbs involve the central figure’s ‘words and deeds’ (Burridge 1992: 196-97, 202). The entire point of using this genre is that it focuses on Jesus himself, not simply on early Christian experience (Burridge 1992: 256-58)." (Craig Keener, A Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], pp. 17-18, 21-23, 51)
See also the further discussion in the introduction in the first volume of Keener’s commentary on the gospel of John (The Gospel Of John: A Commentary [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003]). Keener goes into much more detail than what I outline above, too much to quote here. Here's a portion of his discussion:
"The lengths of the canonical gospels suggest not only intention to publish but also the nature of their genre. All four gospels fit the medium-range length (10,000-25,000 words) found in ancient biographies as distinct from many other kinds of works….all four canonical gospels are a far cry from the fanciful metamorphosis stories, divine rapes, and so forth in a compilation like Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Gospels plainly have more historical intention and fewer literary pretensions than such works….Works with a historical prologue like Luke’s (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2) were historical works; novels lacked such fixtures, although occasionally they could include a proem telling why the author made up the story (Longus proem 1-2). In contrast to novels, the Gospels do not present themselves as texts composed primarily for entertainment, but as true accounts of Jesus’ ministry. The excesses of some forms of earlier source and redaction criticism notwithstanding, one would also be hard pressed to find a novel so clearly tied to its sources as Matthew or Luke is! Even John, whose sources are difficult to discern, overlaps enough with the Synoptics in some accounts and clearly in purpose to defy the category of novel….The Gospels are, however, too long for dramas, which maintained a particular length in Mediterranean antiquity. They also include far too much prose narrative for ancient drama….Richard Burridge, after carefully defining the criteria for identifying genre and establishing the characteristic features of Greco-Roman bioi, or lives, shows how both the Synoptics and John fit this genre. So forceful is his work on Gospel genre as biography that one knowledgeable reviewer [Charles Talbert] concludes, ‘This volume ought to end any legitimate denial of the canonical Gospels’ biographical character.’ Arguments concerning the biographical character of the Gospels have thus come full circle: the Gospels, long viewed as biographies until the early twentieth century, now again are widely viewed as biographies….Biographies were essentially historical works; thus the Gospels would have an essentially historical as well as a propagandistic function….[quoting David Aune] ’while biography tended to emphasize encomium, or the one-sided praise of the subject, it was still firmly rooted in historical fact rather than literary fiction. Thus while the Evangelists clearly had an important theological agenda, the very fact that they chose to adapt Greco-Roman biographical conventions to tell the story of Jesus indicates that they were centrally concerned to communicate what they thought really happened.’…had the Gospel writers wished to communicate solely later Christian doctrine and not history, they could have used simpler forms than biography….As readers of the OT, which most Jews viewed as historically true, they must have believed that history itself communicated theology….the Paraclete [in John’s gospel] recalls and interprets history, aiding the witnesses (14:26; 15:26-27).…the features that Acts shares with OT historical works confirms that Luke intended to write history…History [in antiquity] was supposed to be truthful, and [ancient] historians harshly criticized other historians whom they accused of promoting falsehood, especially when they exhibited self-serving agendas." (pp. 7-13, 17, n. 143 on p. 17, 18)
If one of my introduction to philosophy students writes something like this on their upcoming midterm exam, they will receive no credit for the answer. That's how bad this is. My students, most of whom being underclassmen, and only one of whom being a philosophy major, could easily point out that Tremblay doesn't have the faintest familiarity with [anything relevant to critiquing Plantinga or being philosophically sophisticated]. - Travis White
Francois Tremblay is attempting a comeback. Can he, like Hulk Hogan, turn the match around in his favor? Can he, like Rocky Balboa, mount a comeback for the ages? No. Why not? Because those men were Americans and Tremblay is not only Canadian, he's French Canadian. Hogan and Balboa loved mom and apple pie. Tremblay's intellectual punches are as slow as Maple Syrup. Seriously, I hope people took the above humor in the light-hearted way in which it was meant. In all actuality, I don't have anything against Canadians. After all, if I had really want to get down and dirty, I'd just mention that Canadian beer is for women.
Tremblay responded to round one against Plantinga with a series of wild hay-makers. Unfortunately for Tremblay, Plantinga (as well as myself) were on the other side of the "squared-circle." But, we did feel the breeze. Tremblay picked just 5 points from my paper to respond to. He still didn't even show any familiarity with Plantinga's EAAN, and again, sadly, didn't offer anything so much as constituting a substantial response to EAAN (or my other points). I'll quote Tremblay, and then respond below:
Tremblay: Actually, since Plantinga's definition of "proper function" demands design, his definition of "rationality" is hokum, so I hardly saw the need to mention his silly fallacy in that regard. But since you're going to bring it up, Manata, by all means shoot your own foot...
Actually, Plantinga's, says Plantinga, definition of "proper function" does not demand "design" in any specially theistic or supernaturalistic way. Says Plantinga,
"Human beings are constructed according to a certain design plan. This terminology does not commit us to supposing that human beings have been literally designed - by God, for example. Here I am using 'design' the way Daniel Dennett (not ordinarily thought unsound on theism) does in speaking of a given organism as possessing certain design, and of evolution as producing optimal design: 'In the end, we want to be able to explain the intelligence of ,am, or beast, in terms of design; and this in turn in terms of natural selection of this design (Dennett, Brainstorms, 1982, p.12).' We take it that when the organs (or organic systems) of a human being (or other organism) function properly, they function in a particular way. Such organs have a function or purpose... the ultimate purpose of the heart is to contribute to the health and proper function of the entire organism.... but of course the heart also has a... specific function: to pump blood. ...[T]here is something like a set of specifications, for a well formed, properly functioning human being ... as any first year medical student will tell you." - Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function, p.13-14
Now of course Plantinga will later make the argument that theism ultimately works better here, and that the reflective naturalist who believes naturalism conjoined with evolution suffers an alethic-rationality defeater of a Humean kind for his belief that his cognitive faculties are reliable R, where R stands for the proposition: "Our cognitive faculties are reliable." And, "reliable" cognitive faculties are faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. But, it is sufficient to point out that, according to Plantinga, his view of 'design' does not "demand" 'design' to be used in any unacceptable way. Simply put, that our cognitive faculties CF have been designed simply means that they seem to have a specific function, and that there is a proper and improper way for them to work. Therefore we begin where we left off: Tremblay simply butchers Plantinga and shows a general ignorance of the position, and a total disregard for stating Plantinga's position in the way Plantinga states it.
So, he swings and misses.
Tremblay: This kind of juvenile infinite regress can be applied to any claim to knowledge. Manata's reply describes little more than a petulant little child asking "why? why? why?" over and over. In practice, we pass judgment on the evidence presented for a proposition and decide for ourselves whether the evidence is relevant or not. We don't waste our time in constant validation. And of course, unlike Manata's Christian nihilistic worldview, mine has an end point: the axioms.
Of course Tremblay is free to move the goal posts if he so chooses, but let's note pretend he's totally missing the point of why I brought up the infinite regress argument (which, by the way, isn't "childish" or "a waste of time"). Recall that Tremblay gave this definition of 'rationality': "Rationality is the general epistemic position that we should validate knowledge only with objective evidence (including, of course, perception)." But note above that he now says that "we don't waste our time in constant validation." According to his definition of 'rationality,' though, if one doesn't "validate" his claims to knowledge, then one is irrational. And so is Tremblay irrational, or is it acceptable to have some claims to knowledge "not validated" by "evidence?" If the former, I concede this point and all matters of expertise on it to my opponent. If the latter, then Plantinga can hardly be called "irrational" for have "basic beliefs" that are not "validated" on the basis or propositional evidence. At any rate, if Tremblay accepts the latter, he must revise his definition of 'rationality,' since he'd be violating it. More to the point, Tremblay's definition has nothing to do with EAAN and Plantinga since both don't assume this faulty (as Tremblay now admits) definition of 'rationality.' (Leaving aside, of course, the problems with this definition of 'rationality'. Why is it that I've never seen anyone give this as a definition of 'rationality?' Out of all the definitions I've ever seen, all those given by top notch philosophers, no one ever came up with Tremblay's view. And, why should we validate "knowledge?" Can we know things, on Tremblay's view, that are not validated? And, supposing that we do indeed know that P, what is supposed to be wrong with us if we don't "validate" P? Now, I can understand if Tremblay means that we are supposed to "validate" our true beliefs, but then of course this isn't 'rationality' but it is just justification, of the deonotological variety. I highly doubt this is either a necessary or sufficient condition for 'rationality.' Indeed, children don't "validate" their true beliefs, but we wouldn't call them irrational. If justification isn't the same as rationality, then why not give us the definition of rationality instead of justification? These would be interesting questions to explore, but that is not needed to point out the complete failure of Tremblay's discussion of Plantinga.)
So, he swings and hits himself in the head.
Tremblay: Yes, that is what Plantinga claims. Manata at least scores high on reading comprehension.
Sorry I cannot say the same for my esteemed colleague.
However, my response concerned the fact that N&E together only pertain to instincts, NOT rationality (which is the product of a personal process of evolution, and far too subtle to be captured by fundamental and vague factors like N and E, just as basic knowledge of chemistry is not sufficient to extrapolate to the complexity of, say, what it means for me to love my wife), and that therefore any epistemic examination on Plantinga's part can only be construed as complete if we assume that thought, which is partly molded by rationality, is purely the product of instinctual behaviour.
However I showed that N&E together constitutes a defeater for all of one's beliefs. Simply restating a refuted position doesn’t make it stronger. Apparently Tremblay belabors under the assumption that while 0 + 0 may = 0, 0 + 0 + another 0, gets you a answer different from 0. If P(R/N&E) is low or inscrutable, then how is this possibly not a defeater for all of ones beliefs? Suppose we look at an analogous case: Say someone S ingested the hallucinate-causing drug XX, which worked on 90% of its patients. The probability of R/XX is low. Thus S, if S reflected on his situation, and came to believe that he did ingest XX, would have a defeater for R. Or, suppose one had no idea the purpose or function his cognitive faculties CF are supposed to have. He had no idea whether their purpose was the production of true beliefs over false ones. The probability would be either low or inscrutable. He should be agnostic with respectsn to R. This person, reflecting on his situation, would then have a defeater for R. Therefore, a low or inscrutable assignment of R (given the relevant information is conditinalized, and, we're talking about sources for belief), yields a defeater for the reflective naturalist (or anyone). The argument is that these two analogues are relevantly similar to N&E, and hence P(R/N&E) is low or inscrutable. Hence the reflective person who holds to N&E, has a defeater for all of his beliefs. Unfortunately Tremblay totally fails to interact with Plantinga's arguments for the low probability assignment, and therefore totally fails to undermine EAAN. And, it appears that Tremblay agrees that we have a low or inscrutable probability assignment when he says that the information we have is "vague factors like N and E." According to opponents of EAAN, like Otte, of course, N&E are said to be the relevant information to conditionalize on. And so opponents of the argument would disagree with Tremblay here. Furthermore, we do know some information, such as our CFs were produced by random mutations and there is no guarantee that truth was what was selected for, or that belief content causes behavior. Now, Tremblay could actually deal with the arguments Plantinga gives here, but since he hasn't, his posturing aside, he's, again, failed to even touch EAAN. it floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, EAAN is beautiful, like Tremblay wants to be.
So, Tremblay swings, slips, and falls face-flat on the mat.
Plantinga's claim is that we should evaluate our truth-generating faculties solely on the standpoint of being molded by an evolutionary process, while excluding the correcting effects of rationality.
But of course the correct claim is that our truth-producing faculties are evaluated on naturalism and evolution, not just evolution. I think I've corrected Tremblay on this more than enough.
Now, Tremblay at least mentions one argument that has been seen in the literature. Levin tries to argue from the "self-correcting nature of inquiry." But this has its problems. First, Tremblay has not even addressed the belief-behavior relationship sketched out in (i)-(iv) in my Round 1 post. Second, this assumes scientific realism. Third, the objection, and how it's supposed to help the naturalist has not been spelled out. Fourth, to say that a belief B is "corrected" by another belief B*, where "corrected" means, "exchanged for a true belief," simply begs the question against EAAN. Why think our "correctings" get us to truth? Suppose that you have a BIV (brain in the vat). Now, what is P(R/BIV)? Low or inscrutable. Say that you knew that a person S was a BIV. And, say that S had certain beliefs at one point. Then, the Alpha Centaurian super scientist caused S to see that his previous beliefs had been "false" and so S, going on information given by the scientist, "corrects" B and puts B* in B's place. What would you assign S's B*? How would you view R? Still low (or inscrutable). And, likewise, if evolution simply cares that our CFs get our body parts in the right place to survive, and "truth takes a back seat," why assume that our "correctings" are any better than our beliefs that were "corrected?" Of course we may continue to go through life assuming R in our "corrections," but upon reflection, given our situation and belief in N&E, our defeater comes flooding back in again, and therefore we doubt R, and thus we doubt our "correctings."
So, he swings with style, but still misses.
This is the sound of a worldview clash completely whizzing past Manata's head.
I hope I don't need to answer this nonsense any further. I would, however, like to mention another point that whizzed right past Manata's head. He contrasted my proposition that our sensory perception is necessarily valid with my proposition that a Matrix-style scenario is possible. However, he completely failed to note the part he himself quoted right after I said that:
'But why should we consider this possibility as having any epistemic importance whatsoever?'
Never mind what I said about Manata. The man obviously failed reading comprehension. How can I be contradicting myself on an epistemic issue when one of the two propositions has no epistemic importance?
1. Conceding defeat and not being able to answer the question always sounds better when you phrase it as if you're "wasting time" and your stellar philosophical insights are "whizzing past" your interlocutors head, but to those who want answers, Tremblay leaves us high and dry.
2. Actually, what went whizzing past a head - Tremblay's - was the comment about perception. So what that Tremblay doesn't "consider it important" that it is "possible his senses aren't veridical and are actually implants from the Matrix?" Proper function of the CF aimed at wish fulfillment or survival wouldn't have it any other way. We might die off, given N&E, if we did sit around constantly doubting R. This does not make our cognitive faculties reliable, though. Furthermore, notice that most of the people in the Matrix didn't take the idea seriously that they were in the Matrix. This doesn't mean that they were not indeed inside the Matrix and, hence, the vast majority of their beliefs were false.
3. Furthermore, this was all show. My point still refutes Tremblay's claim that the senses are necessarily veridical. Since he allowed for the possibility that they weren't, this means that he allows for the fact that they aren't necessary. Even if he doesn't "think it's a big deal," this doesn't change the refuted modal status of his claim, i.e., they are not necessarily veridical.
4. Lastly, let's say that I say P and ~P. Let's suppose further than ~P has "no importance for me," haven't I still contradicted myself? Does it matter a lick to the law of non-contradiction of I hold to a claim and its negation, while also holding that one is "unimportant" to me? Doesn't Tremblay sound foolish talking the kind of smack he has, while arguing and thinking the way he has? How embarrassing.
Now, I'd wager that if you own a signed copy of one of Tremblay's atheological books, hang on to it, it will be a rare comodity, what, with the majority of them being thrown away as we speak.
Apparently, The Crud is currently going around; many people have had it. Basically, it’s just a glorified head-cold. So the good doctor slapped out a prescription for some antibiotics and sent me on my way to heal.
This got me to thinking about drug resistances in bacteria. Quite often, the occurrence of drug-resistant strains of bacteria is used as a “proof” for Darwinian evolution. Basically, the claim goes like this:
When a drug is introduced into the environment bacteria live in, a certain number of bacteria will be drug-resistant. Those bacteria that are not drug-resistant die off, leaving behind only the drug-resistant strain of bacteria. Since only the drug-resistant strain can propagate (as the non-resistant strains are dead), in short order you have a “new species” of bacteria that is resistant to the drug, and the drugs no longer work.
There is nothing wrong with the above illustration until you get to the term “new species.” In reality, no new species were created. We started with two types of the same species of bacteria—one resistant, the other not—and one type was killed off. This is identical, by the way, to what happened with the famous “peppered moths” illustration, where the light moths died off when pollution turned the trunks of the trees dark.
And, in reality, it is no different than any adaptation. For instance, a wolf in the northern steppes of Russia may have longer hair than his brothers in more temperate climate. If we rounded up some random wolves, killed off certain wolves without a specific length of fur, we’d have the same result as with the peppered moths and the drug-resistant bacteria. It is, indeed, something that breeders have been doing for centuries—that is, artificial selection for certain traits within a species.
However, just as wolves with varying lengths of fur and moths with different colored bodies are still members of the same species, so too are drug-resistant bacteria strains in the same species as non-resistant bacteria. In other words, if you have E. Coli in a Petri dish, some of which is resistant and others not, every bacteria cell remains E. Coli. The drug-resistant E. Coli is not a different species.
Perhaps this can best be illustrated by moving the argument to the human level. Human beings naturally range in tolerability toward some diseases. Some people are immune to the effects of a particularly ravishing disease. Others are not. However, in no case would we consider an immune individual to be a different species than a non-immune individual. People from each group are still human beings, capable of reproducing with each other, etc.
So, far from being an argument for species evolution, at most drug-resistant bacteria merely demonstrates the adaptability of an organism. The problem for the Darwinist is that adaptability is not a sufficient step toward species evolution to make species evolution viable.
The variations possible in any organism are limited. While we can artificially breed for certain traits, there are certain other traits that are impossible to be selected because they do not exist within the gene pool. This is why you cannot breed a mouse with neon-orange fur; the only way to get that to happen is to physically mutate the DNA. This means that only a certain range of differences can occur before you hit the wall of homeostasis. Barring a fortuitous mutation (something not yet proven scientifically), we cannot claim species evolution.
And this indeed actually brings up an important counter-argument to Darwinian evolution. Homeostasis is a huge problem. We know that through artificial selection, no one has ever bred a new species (the closest anyone can come to that is through direct genetic mutation, in which case you’ve got artificial mutation). Furthermore, bacteria can reproduce very quickly.
For example, E. Coli can, in the right circumstances, double the size of the colony in 20 minutes. And E. Coli is also a very quick mutating bacteria. Unfortunately for the Darwinist, for all the mutation that E. Coli does, and for as quick as it can reproduce, no scientist has ever observed E. Coli evolve into a different species of bacteria. (Can you imagine the world-wide press attention if this did occur!?)
While E. Coli can mutate quickly to become drug resistant, it never becomes anything other than E. Coli. It’s no different than having various breeds of dogs: from the Great Dane to the Cocker Spaniel, all are still Canis Familiaris.
Thus, the rapid generations of bacterial reproduction, where we supposedly could see “evolution in real time” show us that millions of generations of bacteria have not evolved a single new species…yet we are to believe that animals, such as primates, who breed at a much slower rate, can have this much beneficial mutation in so short a time as 65 million years? The odds of this are astronomically faint.
But we’re not through with the mutative ability of E. Coli. The mutative ability actually appears to be a function of its design. That is, when the bacteria is stressed, it purposely turns on and off various genes, ensuring that the next generation will be different from the previous version; yet not so radically that the next generation is anything other than E. Coli.
This technique makes perfect sense from a design point of view. After all, if you have an organism in an environment where a specific drug can wipe out the entire colony, being able to spontaneously mutate various immunities will help at least some of the bacteria survive to reproduce another day. The colony continues to function because A) not all the individual organisms are wiped out and B) the colony remains E. Coli.
Indeed, we could argue the same thing on the human level too. No one disease will wipe out all of mankind since each of us are born with varying immunities. These “random” immunities ensure that there will be at least some survivors, even for bugs that do not yet currently exist. Since this fits perfectly into a design theory, it does not function as proof of Darwinian evolution. Indeed, if falls far short of what is needed to demonstrate Darwinism, making ID look all the more attractive.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy must be answered... - C.S. Lewis
I previously defended Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism from the shoddy and sophomoric attempts to undermine it by atheist Francois Tremblay. His critique was shown to be terribly unsophisticated, riddled with misunderstandings and misrepresentations, and all-around sloppy work. This entry will consist of doing the same to Tremblay's critique of Plantinga's epistemology. Now, I'm not behind Plantinga 100%. There are areas I disagree with him on, and areas where his epistemology could be strengthened and worked out better - apropos the latter, I no doubt he'd also agree. But these disagreements do not stop me from agreeing with much he has to say. Also, just because I disagree on some points, that does not give me free license to just misrepresent the man. That's what Tremblay does. Assuming Tremblay is a smart individual, his hatred of theism, God, and the like, seem to be a good explanatory model for answering the question of how he can misrepresent and misunderstand his interlocutors so badly.
Tremblay begins by saying: "before I begin, it is of great import to understand Reformed Epistemology, since it is the premise of Plantinga’s entire theological work." Okay, so it is of great importance to understand Reformed Epistemology (RE, hereafter), and Tremblay's going to explain it to us. Thus Tremblay:
I describe the position of Reformed Epistemology, which is a category of Christian apologetics, in my book “Handbook of Atheistic Apologetics”. Basically, Reformed Epistemology is an attempt to divert the burden of proof to atheistic shoulders by assuming that theism is a “properly basic belief”, giving it priority over “non-basic” positions like atheism. We can express the reasoning behind this apologetics position in a simple manner:
1. Current (secular) foundationalism is incomplete because it does not account for direct perception.
2. We have direct perception of God (by a “divine sense”).
3. Therefore theism is properly basic.
And so goes the elucidating....
Anyway, notice how Tremblay begins. He doesn't allow his readers to really "understand" RE, but rather gives them his cock-eyed opinion of it. A position that spans thousands of written pages is so important to understand that it’s given a couple of sentences by Tremblay. But, he doesn't even get it right. Reformed Epistemology aims to show that belief in God can be rational, even in the absence of propositional evidence for it. Without getting too in depth, since it's not my job to explain it - that was Tremblay's stated purpose - the rationality of belief in God is shown by arguments from parity, such as our rational belief in other minds, the past, and the like. If these are rational - and surely they are - then so can belief in God be rational. Plantinga then shows that the objections to the rationality of belief in God (a) do not make clear how the multifarious term 'rationality' is being used, and (b) if they use it in a deontological-justification type way, then they suffer the problems associated with this view of justification, and (c) the critics usually confuse the de jure objection with the de facto question.
Next, let's look at Tremblay's (1) - (3) above. As far as (1) goes, actually a distinction needs to be made between strong and moderate foundationalism, and strong foundationalism fails for many reasons, a couple of which are: (1) it cuts out most of our knowledge and (2) it is self-referentially incoherent. With regards to (2), though Plantinga likes much of what Alston has to say, Plantinga doesn't construe the sensus divinitatis as direct perception, but it is a built-in (if you will) capacity all men have to recognize God's existence; so Plantinga sees it as an intellectual faculty or disposition toward belief in God. (Needless to say, I do not agree with Plantinga's version of the sensus divinitatis, rather, the knowledge all men have is actual, not a capacity for knowledge. I will not argue this for it takes us too far off the course of this blog entry.) Plantinga does hold that Christian theism is basic, and so Tremblay is correct on (3).
Before moving on to the rest of Tremblay's critique of Plantinga, it will be interesting to note this claim he makes:
If we accept that reality is objective, which is to say that it can only be found by extrospection, then the senses are by definition our sole fundamental means to find reality.
What does it mean to say that the senses are our sole fundamental means to find reality? Are there also non-fundamental means? Does Tremblay mean that our senses are the only way we can know anything? If so, this is obviously false. There are many things we know not on the basis of the senses, i.e., that the earth is more than 5 minutes old. Lastly, does Tremblay know this claim, if so, how? There are many more philosophically weak and obviously false in Tremblay's critique, but we'll not be able to address all of them since the purpose of this entry is to evaluate his critique of Plantinga. The above is sufficient to show the types of claims his paper is peppered with.
Tremblay moves on with his critique,
As for the divine sense, it is obvious that there is actually nothing being perceived there. For one thing, the results of that “perception” is extremely cultural-dependent, which is an obvious sign of a subjective interpretation being imposed on simpler objective phenomena.
The divine sense is a capacity for knowledge, it doesn't mean all people will have the knowledge. Thus Plantinga’s position, even if wrong, has not been touched by Tremblay. Maybe other arguments could be given but not Tremblay's. Second, even if his understanding were true, Plantinga also includes the noetic effects of sin into his account, thus explaining why people's cognitive faculty would not function properly, hence this would explain why all people don’t believe in God, thus countering Tremblay‘s objection. Tremblay fails to take this basic (constituting a large chapter in Warranted Christian Belief) aspect of Plantinga's program into account, thus totally failing to engage Plantinga's argument. Lastly, philosophically speaking, his account is shoddy. Tremblay fails to take into account seeing vs. seeing as. Indeed, a few hundred years ago, most people in the world believed the earth was flat, they could "see" the flat edge. Hence there were no (or, very minor) culturally-dependant views. Lastly, that many cultures may "perceive" our T.V.s to be gods, does not imply that it is obvious that there is actually nothing like a T.V. being perceived there. Nevertheless, we're dealing with Plantinga's case, and Tremblay's critique is about as worrisome as a cloudy day for Plantinga.
All we really have in our minds is the emotional impact of holding religious belief, of which constructions of a divine sense seem to be nothing more than a rationalization.
Assuming the falsity of Plantinga's case, that is. If Plantinga is correct (or generally correct), then his religious beliefs have been formed by proper functioning faculties, aimed at producing true beliefs, working according to a good design plan, and operating in a congenial epistemic environment. Unfortunately, Tremblay doesn't interact with this, or critique it, and so his above comment is simply a pious atheological hope.
Continuing, Tremblay claims,
In his theological discussions, Plantinga starts from the premise that Reformed Epistemology is a valid position. Having “established” that theism is properly basic, all he has to do now is to refute defeaters, his term for propositions that oppose a basic belief.
And Tremblay just skips right over any of Plantinga's arguments for the status of proper basicality Christian theism enjoys. This allows Tremblay to put "established" in scare quotes, giving the "impression" that Tremblay has "established" that Plantinga hasn't established his claim to proper basicality.
Furthermore, Tremblay shows some more basic ignorance. For Plantinga, defeaters need not be propositions. The claim that a defeater must be a belief or a proposition is a condition some may lay out, but Plantinga rejects this notion, and by doing so, we see that Tremblay is ignorant of Plantinga's position. Says Plantinga,
"A further matter here: must a defeater be a belief, or could some other cognitive condition serve as well? A defeatee will be a belief--the belief that P, for some proposition P. And often what defeats this belief, if it gets defeated, will be some other belief. But not necessarily always. I tell you that there are no tulips in Holland, Michigan this May: too much cold weather in April. You are obliged to go to Holland to visit a sick aunt; as it happens, you go in May. Driving into the city, you are confronted by a splendid field of tulips in full bloom. You then have a defeater for your belief that there are no tulips there then, whether or not you explicitly form the belief--"Hey! There are lots of tulips here." So perhaps defeaters need not always be beliefs." - Plantinga, Naturalism Defeated?, 1994, unpublished paper.
So, what gets defeated is a belief or proposition, but defeaters need not be beliefs or propositions. Lastly, a defeater need not be a belief or proposition - as we just saw - and neither is it a "term" for something that refutes a basic belief. Defeaters can refute basic and non-basic beliefs alike. Defeaters defeat beliefs, basic or otherwise.
Moving along Tremblay's critique gets really bad. Ironically, he accuses Plantinga of being lazy while all the while it is Tremblay who is the lazy one. Says Tremblay,
Leaning on Quinn (who is not even an atheologian, by Plantinga’s own admission), he posits that there is only one serious argument for strong-atheism, the Problem of Evil:
So these substantial reasons for thinking theism false would be the atheological argument from evil together with theories according to which theistic belief is illusory or merely projective; here perhaps Quinn has in mind Marxist and Freudian theories of religious belief.
And having summarily dismissed psychological arguments, he concludes:
'This leaves us with the atheological argument from evil as the sole substantial reason for thinking [that “God does not exist” is] true.'
This is normal laziness for bad, or even average, theologians, but from a supposedly top-notch thinker like Plantinga it is horribly deficient. It is well-known in the literature that there are many supporting arguments to the proposition “God does not exist”, including noncognitivism, other incoherency arguments, teleological arguments, Occam’s Razor, and yes, even evidential arguments of the type that Plantinga summarily rejects.
In the context of the paper Tremblay uses as his source for all things Plantinga, Plantinga is discussing claims by Quinn, an admitted theist, that belief in God is not basic, for him. Plantinga is not trying to deal with atheological arguments per se, but, rather, with the reasons this believer, Quinn, has to offer against Plantinga's position. Thus the purpose of the discussion here is not for Plantinga to survey all the atheological objections out there, but only the ones Quinn gives to support his claim that belief in God does not enjoy the status of properly basic, for him. Hence Plantinga doesn't "posit that there is only one serious argument for strong-atheism;" instead, he posits that out of the few arguments that Quinn gives, only one of them could do the damage to Quinn's faith that Quinn says they do (and that doesn‘t either, upon analysis, says Plantinga).
Having seen the utter disregard for context displayed by Tremblay (was this purposeful, or does he have ADD), we can see his charge that Plantinga's saying that the problem of evil is the only argument left is "normal laziness for bad, or even average, theologians, but from a supposedly top-notch thinker like Plantinga it is horribly deficient," is completely unfounded. Plantinga isn't saying that the only argument out there is the argument from evil, he's saying that, for Quinn, that's the only one left, out of the few he gave, that could defeat his God belief. (At any rate, Tremblay's arguments he mentions don't serve to defeat belief in God anyway, but to discuss all of them would take us beyond the purpose of this entry, which is Tremblay's sloppy abilities as a critic.)
Tremblay forges ahead, unaware of his bad work in his paper,
Setting these aside, is Plantinga’s defense against the Problem of Evil satisfactory? He expresses it as a contradiction between these two propositions:
5. God exists and is omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good…
6. There are 10 turps of evil.
With the “turp” representing a unit of morality. But even if we grant the coherency of (6), which is not necessarily problematic, Plantinga’s escape is once again lazy:
At present, I think atheologians have given up the claim that (5) and (6) are incompatible, and quite properly so. What they now say is that (5) is unlikely or improbable with respect to (6).
Why such sloppiness? In all my readings of actual atheologians, I have not yet seen such a position. Which atheologian upholds that (5) and (6) are not outright incompatible, and why? On this, he does not even sketch an explanation. (numbering original)
Well, I don't happen to think Plantinga's argument against evil is successful, but for reasons other than Tremblay. Plantinga's claim is that (5) and (6) are not incompatible with another proposition:
(7) Every creaturely essence suffers from transworld depravity.
Plantinga's argument seeks to show that this resolves any logical contradiction. Our purpose is not to examine Plantinga's argument, but to show Tremblay's ignorance of it. Plantinga knew Quinn was familiar with his arguments against the problem of evil, and those who critique someone should also be familiar with their work. This staves off embarrassing predicaments such as we witness here.
Next, notice how Tremblay revels in ignorance about the consensus that the logical argument from evil has no teeth. He acts surprised, like he's never heard such a thing before. Now, maybe if he had written his paper in the 50's, he'd have an excuse, but he wrote it in 2005 (at least that's when he last updated it, but I assume that the reader will be generous in granting me the assumption that he didn't write the critique in the 50's). But with regards to the idea that the deductive argument is acknowledged castrated, Greg Welty writes,
"The debate in the recent literature about the problem of evil has shifted from preoccupation with the logical argument to an increased focus on the evidential argument. Thus William P. Alston (1996) claims that "it is now acknowledged on (almost) all sides that the logical argument is bankrupt, but the inductive argument is still very much alive and kicking" (97). He goes so far as to refer to the logical argument as the "late lamented deductive cousin" of the inductive argument (121). With respect to the contention that "the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of the theistic God," atheist William L. Rowe (1990) claims that: "No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim" (126 fn. 1). Stephen J. Wykstra (1990) concurs with this assessment, saying that Rowe's atheistic argument "exemplifies the recent turn away from 'logical' (or 'deductive', or 'demonstrative') formulations, construing the case instead as 'evidential' (or 'inductive', or 'probabilistic') in nature" (138)." -Greg Welty, The Problem of Evil, Master Paper, Oxford, 1998.
But it gets worse. In his critique, Tremblay had paraded Michael Martin out as someone who gave good arguments against God. It's safe to assume then that Tremblay actually read Martin. Says Martin,
"However, [the deductive argument from evil] has generally been regarded as unsuccessful. [...] Because of the failure of deductive arguments from evil, atheologians have developed inductive or probabilistic arguments from evil for the non-existence of God." - Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, p.335, 1990
Having read the above, let's now review Tremblay's bombastic claim: "Why such sloppiness? In all my readings of actual atheologians, I have not yet seen such a position. Which atheologian upholds that (5) and (6) are not outright incompatible, and why?" He looks pretty ridiculous, huh?
Oh, but it gets even worse! Read this next claim by Tremblay:
It is hard to understand what Plantinga even means here: the Problem of Evil is certainly not an inductive argument. And there is no way for the theologian to declare (5) and (6) even potentially compatible: such attempts, even sophisticated ones, have repeatedly failed (see Martin’s book for an analysis of modern attempts, for instance).
(!!!) Notice that Tremblay says that the argument from evil "is most certainly not" an inductive argument, and then he refers the reader to Martin's Atheism to back up his claim! But we just read Martin, and Martin "most certainly" says that the argument from evil is an inductive argument, at least the ones contemporary philosophers employ. Indeed, the entirety of chapter 14 has Martin giving an analysis of attempts to avoid the inductive argument from evil! Thus Martin concludes chapter 14 this way: "In sum, the two forms of an inductive argument from evil are formally sound and can be defended against criticism" (361, emphasis mine). There is just no excuse for this. This is a top-notch hack job. Tremblay could not have read Martin, but yet refers to and uses Martin to argue against other people. Tremblay's argument is nothing but an exercise in name dropping. If Tremblay did read Martin, what can explain his horrible reading comprehension skills? You thought I was just being mean about ADD above. But I’m seriously concerned.
At any rate, I'll end my analysis of Tremblay's critique of Plantinga's specified and qualified answer to Quinn, as well as Tremblay's interaction with Plantinga's argument against the logical problem of evil, concluding that this section fails miserably.
Moving along Tremblay now critiques Plantinga's views of defeaters and basic beliefs (above I've already shown Tremblay's misrepresentations and misunderstandings on this topic, but we'll still deal with what he says nonetheless), And so Tremblay,
His case does not end there. He also proposes that a basic belief can still stand in the presence of a strong defeater, because the existence itself of a basic belief is sufficient for complete, unwavering belief in the face of non-basic defeaters:
"... if a belief p is properly basic in certain circumstances, then it has warrant or positive epistemic status in those circumstances in which it is properly basic-warrant it does not get by virtue of being believed on the evidential basis of other propositions. (By hypothesis it is not believed on the evidential basis of other propositions.)"
And that therefore:
"To be successful, a potential defeater for [a basic belief] must have as much or more warrant as [the basic belief] does. And [a basic belief] can withstand the challenge offered by a given defeater even if there is not independent evidence that serves either to rebut or undercut the defeater in question; perhaps the nonpropositional warrant that [the basic belief] enjoys is itself sufficient (as in the above case of the missing letter) to withstand the challenge."
Actually, the reason the basic belief B can withstand a defeater D in Plantinga's thought here is that B has more warrant for Plantinga than D has. It is not because "the existence itself of a basic belief is sufficient for complete, unwavering belief in the face of non-basic defeaters." If Tremblay were accurate, then Plantinga's position would be that a basic belief could never be defeated. But this is not Plantinga’s position, as will be shown below.
Tremblay now critiques Plantinga's arguments for the above via "the stolen letter analogy." Says Tremblay,
Plantinga’s case of the missing letter is interesting because it shows the kind of reasoning that leads him to believe that basic beliefs are universally superior. He sets up an example where all the circumstantial evidence (location, motive, opportunity, habitual behaviour) points to the position that:
(1) Plantinga stole a letter from the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
But on the other hand, he clearly remembers that:
(2) [Plantinga] was alone in the woods all that afternoon, and [he] did not steal the letter.
He concludes that the basic belief expressed in (2) is inherently superior to the propositional evidence that supports (1), indicating that basic beliefs are inherently superior because they necessarily hold more warrant to us.
And this is problematic for Tremblay because,
However, there is a major problem with this analysis. Even if we accept the analogy between (2) and a hypothetical divine sense, the analogy itself does not prove that basic beliefs are undefeatable by non-basic beliefs. It is set up to make the case in (1) much weaker than it could actually be, since circumstantial evidence is not as credible as direct evidence. For example, a surveillance video of Plantinga stealing the letter would be direct evidence, and thus would make (1) more credible.
But Plantinga does not hold that basic beliefs are not defeatable by non-basic beliefs. Indeed, Plantinga addresses this in his paper Naturalism Defeated (and remember that Tremblay wrote his critique well after 1994, and so has no excuse for being unfamiliar with relevant objections that nullify his complaints). And so Plantinga,
"By way of reply [to the claim that a basic belief cannot be defeated by a non-basic one]: suppose we agree that we do ordinarily believe R in the basic way, and are furthermore perfectly rational in so doing. Let's also agree that R does has warrant and perhaps a great deal of warrant, when it is taken as basic. Still further, we can add that R plays a unique and crucial role in our noetic structures: if we are reflective and come to doubt R, we will be in serious epistemic trouble.
But it doesn't follow that I can't acquire a defeater for R: clearly I can. Suppose I assume in the ordinary way that my cognitive faculties are reliable, but then come to suspect and finally to believe that I am insane. Once I see the connection between this belief, the belief that I am insane, and R, I have a defeater for R." - Plantinga, Naturalism Defeated, 1994
And therefore, according to Plantinga, Tremblay is incorrect about Plantinga's position. Are we noticing a pattern here? A general apathy to presenting people's positions correctly and taking time to understand them. Do atheists just let this stuff slide? Is it okay to think this sloppily if your an atheist, but if a theist argues in the above manner, atheists release the hounds of hell on them?
And, yes, Plantinga does allow that a video of him filching the letter would be a defeater for his belief that he was walking in the woods that afternoon. But, unfortunately, it is Tremblay who argues disanalagously; unless, that is, Tremblay has the atheological corollary to the Zapruder films? Does Tremblay have video tapes of Jesus still in his tomb, or something?
Like any reasonable person, Plantinga really compared the probabilities of (1) and (2) and concluded that his recollection was more reliable than circumstantial evidence. But if he was faced with a much stronger case for (1), of the type I just described, he would no doubt change his mind and conclude that his memory is incomplete or distorted. Otherwise, we would rightly say that he is being irrational. As such, even if one believes in a divine sense, which is irrational, perception of a god can in no way be considered universally superior to non-basic beliefs, for the same reason.
but surely neither Plantinga or I am going to concede that such "stronger evidence" exists against my belief in God. And so Tremblay's argument against Plantinga's position of defeaters and basic beliefs requires the theist to accept that something like a video tape was found to undermine our basic belief. Now, the atheists may think this evidence abundant, but I was under the impression that Tremblay wasn't preaching to the atheological glee club, or trying to beg questions against the theist. Basically, Tremblay's argument is that Plantinga cannot say his belief in God is undefeated because it's defeated. Oh, really, when did this happen; pious hopes of an atheist shown to be a complete failure at critiquing theism aside.
This ends our critique of Francois Tremblay's critique of Alvin Plantinga.
"Former Oxford University church historian William Wand writes, 'All the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor of [the empty tomb], and those scholars who reject it ought to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.'" (Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2004], p. 73)
"Without addressing Jesus’ resurrection appearances, Vermes 1973: 41, another Jewish scholar closely acquainted with the primary evidence, opines that 'the only conclusion acceptable to the historian' must be that the women actually found the tomb empty." (Craig Keener, A Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], p. 705, n. 308)
The large majority of scholars accept the empty tomb as a historical fact. See, for example, here.
Testimony to the empty tomb is found in every gospel and Acts, and it’s mentioned or implied in other sources. The accounts have some common elements, including details unlikely to have been fabricated. The tomb is first found empty by women, and the testimony of women was largely considered of little value in that culture, while the male disciples are in hiding and unbelief. The burial is associated with an individual, Joseph of Arimathea, who is named, has a prominent place in Jewish society, and belongs to a group that the early Christians wouldn’t have wanted to compliment with such an account (the religious leaders of Israel who had Jesus crucified and were persecuting the early church). The early Jewish opponents of Christianity affirmed that the tomb was empty (Matthew 28:11-15; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 108; Tertullian, On Spectacles, 30). Contrary to what some people claim, Justin Martyr and Tertullian aren’t just repeating what they read in Matthew’s gospel. Both of them give details in their accounts that aren’t mentioned by Matthew, and both Justin and Tertullian were interacting with the Jewish opponents of their day, so they would have been in a position to know what arguments the Jewish opposition was using.
Sometimes people ask why we don’t know where Jesus’ tomb was if His burial place was known to the early Christians. But we do have a good idea of where the tomb was:
"That Jesus' followers would forget the site of the tomb (or that officials who held the body would not think it worth the trouble to produce it after the postresurrection Jesus movement arose) is extremely improbable. James and the Jerusalem church could easily have preserved the tradition of the site in following decades (Brown 1994: 1280-81), especially given Middle Eastern traditions of pilgrimage to holy sites (though admittedly evidence for early veneration there is lacking, perhaps because the body was not there – Craig 1995: 148-49, 152)….the Catholic Holy Sepulchre and tombs in its vicinity date to the right period. The tradition of the latter vicinity [Holy Sepulcher] is as early as the second century (when Hadrian erected a pagan temple there; he defiled many Jewish holy sites in this manner – cf. Finegan 1969: 164), and probably earlier. Good evidence exists, in fact, that this site dates to within the first two decades after the resurrection. This is because (1) Christian tradition is unanimous that Jesus was buried outside the city walls, and no one would make up a site inside (cf. Heb 13:12; Jn 19:41); (2) Jewish custom made it common knowledge that burials would be outside the city walls (4 Bar. 7:13; Wilkonson 1978: 146); (3) the traditional vicinity of the Holy Sepulcher is inside Jerusalem’s walls; (4) Agrippa I expanded the walls of Jerusalem sometime in the 40s A.D." (Craig Keener, A Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], p. 695)
Some people argue that the earliest Christians may have believed in a resurrection involving an exchange of bodies, with the old body remaining in the tomb, rather than a transformation of the body in the tomb. Or they suggest that the early Christians might have believed in the resurrection without ever examining the tomb to see whether it was empty. But both scenarios are highly unlikely:
"And although Jesus might have been embodied in a new body, this was not a possibility that would readily have occurred to first-century Jews; they would have expected his embodiment to go with an empty tomb. But if the Gospel writers felt that a Resurrection required an empty tomb, presumably Christians of a decade or two earlier would have felt the same – St Paul would have felt that. So if there was a belief held by anyone in the Church or outside it that the body of Jesus still lay in its tomb, surely St Paul would have felt the need to explain how really the fact that the body was still in the tomb made no difference to Resurrection faith. Those whom he is addressing in 1 Corinthians who held that 'there is no resurrection of the dead' would have had an argument to support them - even Christ’s body was still in the tomb - which would need to be answered. But of course there is none of that in 1 Corinthians or anywhere else in the New Testament (and no evidence of later deletions of any such passages)….it beggars belief that the disciples could have affirmed the Resurrection of Jesus without checking the tomb as soon as they could" (Richard Swinburne, The Resurrection Of God Incarnate [New York: Oxford University Press, 2003], pp. 160-162)
We have good reason to believe that the account of a guard at the tomb is historical, so how could the body have been removed with a guard there? If the early opponents of Christianity knew of a common practice involving the transfer of a body from one tomb to another, and they thought that such a transfer might have occurred with Jesus, why didn’t they say so instead of using the argument that the disciples stole the body?
In a debate on the resurrection with Gary Habermas in April of 2000, Antony Flew, who at that time was an atheist, replied to Habermas’ presentation of the historical evidence for the empty tomb:
"I don’t think you should be apologetic about this at all. These facts are facts and I could rather wish that in these topics more people were prepared to face facts rather than run away and say, 'Mustn’t say that.' No. This is a very impressive piece of argument, I think…Because, you know, it’s very difficult to get around this….Well, we have no independent witnesses. There are all sorts of ways of removing bodies. I’m not going to offer a theory because I simply don’t think one can reconstruct the story of what happened in the city and all that long ago and we haven’t got the sort of evidence that one might have today with the invention of cameras and all the rest of it….I don’t offer anything to cover the empty tomb evidence." ("Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?" [Chattanooga, TN: Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, 2000], pp. 17-18)
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
"One such theologian who argues against cognition from evolution is Alvin Plantinga, in his lecture ‘An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism’. This is the case I will examine here. I have chosen a lecture instead of a formal article because it presents the theological position against naturalism in its most forceful form – i.e. that evolution undermines cognition, and that only theism can save us."
1) Actually, the most "forceful" form of the argument, at the time Tremblay wrote this critique, was Plantinga's unpublished (but available online) paper: Naturalism Defeated (linked to above). But, more forceful statements appeared in both Warrant and Proper Function and Warranted Christian Belief. Actually, what Tremblay goes off of is not even the lecture itself, but an outline of the lecture. As stated at the top: "The following is the outline of the lecture Prof. Plantinga gave at BIOLA University." Thus, Tremblay's claim that he wanted to attack "the most forceful" presentation of EAAN is seen to be a lot of back-patting on his part.
2) Tremblay claims that EAAN is the argument "that evolution undermines cognition, and that only theism can save us." Actually, the "most forceful" (and correct!) statement of the argument is that "the conjunction of naturalism and evolution (E & N), give us a defeater for the reliability of our cognitive faculties." (Actually, the above can be made even more specific and precise, that will be done below.)
"But before I begin, I must make important distinctions which are confused in Plantinga’s article, and may help us understand the issue better. I am referring to the difference between instinct, perception and rationality. Instincts are the behaviour patterns that are transmitted to us by evolutionary adaptation. Perception is the reception and transmission of information received from the exterior world. Rationality is the general epistemic position that we should validate knowledge only with objective evidence (including, of course, perception)."
1) Plantinga confuses nothing like what Tremblay accuses Plantinga of here. Plantinga actually goes through excruciating detail to define terms like 'rationality.' He does so in terms of "proper function."
2) The bulk of Plantinga's career has sought to undermine Tremblay's "definition" of rationality. Indeed, on Tremblay's definition, since we do indeed know that the world has been here for more than 5 minutes, or that our wife is not a robot, and we cannot prove this on the evidential basis of other propositions, that does not mean all humans are "irrational." Actually, Tremblay's case is self-referentially incoherent since, if Tremblay claims to know it, he would have to "validate it only with objective evidence" (whatever that means). But, after he does so, we can ask if he "knows" that he has validated the original claim to knowledge. If so, he must "validate it only with objective evidence." Obviously an infinite regress can be seen here.
3) So, Tremblay isn't really attacking Plantinga's argument. He's attacking Plantinga's argument, with Plantinga's terms redefined in Tremblayan terms.
4) Plantinga addresses "instinctual" knowledge (or, animal knowledge) in his reply to Sosa in the edited book Naturalism Defeated.
5) Plantinga addresses this distinction, but more on this below.
Now, Plantinga makes the case that if N&E is true, then there is no guarantee that R is high at all. In doing so, he examines the correlation between behaviour and belief, and argues that all such correlations return a low probability of belief being reliable. In this, he seems to be confusing instinct with rationality. In this view, his question becomes: what is the correlation between instinct and rationality?
1) 'R' is the proposition: "Our cognitive faculties are reliable." And, Plantinga's doesn't just make the case that the probability of R on N & E (P (R / N & E), hereafter) is low, but the argument is also supposed to work on the claim that the probability is inscrutable.
2) Plantinga gives a fairly long and detailed argument for this, Tremblay unfortunately simply skips over it. Since Tremblay doesn't even so much as addres (not even by footnote) Plantinga's argument for a low or inscrutable probability assignment, I have no burden to defend it. it already has been, and Tremblay needs to attack it before I defend it. Thus I'll leave EAAN in tact on Tremblay's paper, i.e., his paper doesn't critique it, and his paper is what I'm using to go off of.
3) Tremblay says that Plantinga confuses "instinct with rationality." Actually, Plantinga's argument is that the idea that our beliefs are aimed at truth, given N & E, is low or inscrutable. Tremblay defines "instinct" as: "Instincts are the behaviour patterns that are transmitted to us by evolutionary adaptation." It's Tremblay that confuses "instinct" with "beliefs" as the focus of the argument. Plantinga runs through four options of how beliefs might play out in the evolutionary-naturalist's story:
i. Our beliefs do not cause our behavior - epiphenomenalism.
ii. Beliefs do cause behavior, but in virtue of syntax and not semantics (ie.., neural structure, not content) - semantic epiphenomenalism.
iii. Beliefs cause behavior, both semantically and syntactically, but are maladaptive.
iv. Beliefs cause behavior by semantics and syntax, and the behavior caused is adaptive, i.e., the creature's body parts get in the right place to survive.
Plantinga argues that (i)-(iv) have a low probability assignment, but if you disagree and say we can't figure out the probability, then P(R / N & E) is inscrutable.
4. Plantinga does the above by means of arguments from analogy. It is a main part of his argument. Francois Tremblay doesn't even address it once in his critique. This is akin to arguing that Descartes never proved his existence while not addressing Descartes' cogito.
5. Plantinga is asking about the reliability of our alethic belief producing faculties. He's asking why unguided naturalistic evolution should pick for beliefs that are "true" rather than beliefs which are simply geared toward survival. One could have false beliefs yet still survive. Given the story of evolution by folks like Churchland, why think evolution selected for true beliefs? Thus Churchland:
Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F's: feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival [Churchland's emphasis]. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost."
And so Tremblay asks what the "correlation" between instinct and rationality is? Recall that he takes 'instinct' to be "the behaviour patterns that are transmitted to us by evolutionary adaptation" and 'rationality' to be "the general epistemic position that we should validate knowledge only with objective evidence." And recall that Plantinga's argument is that the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, i.e., that they are successfully aimed at the production of true belief, given the conjunction of N & E, is low or inscrutable. Thus we see that Tremblay is not even addressing Plantinga's argument! Given Tremblay's definitions, Plantinga doesn't disagree that we have "instincts," i.e., that we behave in a certain way. The argument is asking why we should think our cognitive faculties have the purpose of delivering true beliefs. And the supporting arguments for this (e.g., (i)-(iv)) were never so much as addressed by Tremblay. (It would be interesting to point out that, given naturalism, why is there any epistemic normativity at all? That is, why "should" we validate our knowledge by any means? It would seem that naturalism can only allow for descriptions, not prescriptions. But, to go into that would be to travel too far out of bounds for the purposes of this blog entry.)
What therefore can we say about the possibility of rationality, given that N&E is true? We would be justified in agreeing that rationality is not guaranteed by N&E. Indeed, that is why epistemology exists in the first place: if rationality was guaranteed, we would not need standards of knowledge, we would gain knowledge instinctively. To a certain extent we do gain knowledge instinctively, but obviously not completely. But rationality is not out of our reach by virtue of N&E being true, given that we have epistemology.
1. Remember that Plantinga isn't even addressing Tremblay's deontological view of rationality. So, Tremblay is not even in the same ball park, and therefore is failing to undermine EAAN in any way.
2. Tremblay is stuck on deontological justification, while Plantinga is addressing the alethic aspect of knowledge. He's asking why we should think the deliverances of our cognitive faculties are successfully aimed at producing true belief once the reflective naturalist thinks about the situation he's in. If the naturalist comes to agree that P(R / N & E) is low or inscrutable (and remember, Tremblay hasn't attacked Planting's arguments here, so I don't need to defend them, since as of yet they stand undefeated), then he has an alethic-rationality-defeater for R. Now, he may continue to believe R, and act as if R, but he cannot help this. But, the defeater is of a Humean kind. That is, it's gained upon reflection. So, when a person S reflects on P (R / N & E), then S has a defeater D for his belief in R, and, hence, for N & E itself (or, N or E, since it's the conjunction attacked). That's because N is a deliverance of one's cognitive faculties CF, and the naturalist has a defeater for the belief that his CFs are aimed at producing true beliefs. This was the relevant argument to attack, and Tremblay doesn't even attack it. (It's interesting to note that given Plantinga's argument, which Tremblay doesn't attack, Tremblay has a defeater for his belief that "we should validate knowledge only with objective evidence.)
Can we accept that the argument from evolution is a defeater for R, as Plantinga says? Once again, we must remember the confusion. Certainly the argument gives us a defeater for:
Instinct-based reasoning is rational.
But (1) is not at all the same as:
(2) Perception is valid.
(3) Our reasoning, informed by rationality, is valid.
(1) is radically different from (2) and (3), given that (2) is necessarily true (for more on this, see my article ‘The Infallibility of Sense Perception’) and (3) depends on human free will. Therefore the falsity of (1) does not at all affect the truth of (2) or (3).
1) Again, it's the argument from N & E.
2) Since Tremblay doesn't attack Plantinga's argument, then he still has a defeater for (2) and (3).
3) It's curious to note that Tremblay thinks that our perception is valid is necessarily true. Certainly it's possible that creatures could have been made with false perceptual beliefs. Indeed, in his own paper arguing for the claim, he defeats himself. Thus Tremblay,
Skeptics sometimes also use Descartian arguments to attempt to undercut the perceptual basis of the evidence. For instance, they will invoke the possibility that reality as we perceive it is itself an illusion, Matrix-style. True, there is such a possibility. But why should we consider this possibility as having any epistemic importance whatsoever? And of course, to call it any more than a possibility would demand evidence – perceptual evidence. -bolded emphasis mine
Note that he allows for the possibility that our perceptions are not veridical. And possibility of the contrary is all that's required to defeat claims of necessity. Hence Tremblay refutes his own argument!
4) It's curious what is meant by the claim that our rationality is valid depends upon our free will. Nevertheless, why should Tremblay accept his belief that it's true that his rationality is valid? Indeed, why trust that the rules of validity are true given EAAN? Since Tremblay doesn't attack EAAN, it still stands unrefuted and his paper stands as a monument of wasted time and effort.
Plantinga furthers his confusion by using the standard skeptical argument of Descartes’ evil daemon (by saying that we refuse to accept the evil daemon hypothesis because it leads to absurdity, and we must reject evolution for the same reason). For those who do not know this argument, it consists of positing as possible a situation where an evil daemon is controlling all our thoughts and actions, thus making our reasoning unreliable. I discuss a variant of it in my article ‘Is Reality a Simulation Game?’.
1) Plantinga’s argument, again, is against not E, but the conjunction of N & E.
2) If there's any confusion, it's solely in Tremblay's mind.
3) The evil demon hypothesis is relevant in this sense: If a person S reflects upon the claim that he is being deceived by an evil demon, and S judges the probability that all his beliefs B are mostly true as either low or inscrutable, then S has a defeater for B. Now, S will continue to act as if his beliefs are true, he just can't help it, but acting this way doesn't mean that they are true. Upon reflection, he notes he has no reason to think so. This is like Hume's problem. Hume believed that we were irrational in believing our inductive inferences. He nevertheless agreed that to think inductively was a "habit of the mind." Thus when S sees a truck coming at her, she does not doubt her inductive inferences, she jumps out of the way. But, later that night when S reflects upon her belief in inductive inferences, she finds that she has no reason to believe them, and thus S has a defeater for her inductive inferences. Same with R. That Tremblay continues to act as if his CFs are R, does not mean that upon reflection he doesn't have an alethic-rationality-defeater of the Humean variety for R. Therefore, if someone accepted the evil demon hypothesis he'd have a defeater for R; well, same for EAAN. If someone S accepts that P(R / N & E) is low or inscrutable, then S has a defeater for R. And, since Tremblay didn't attack Plantinga's arguments for a low or inscrutable assignment to P(R / N & E), Tremblay has likewise not attacked EAAN.
The point is that Plantinga’s argument from evolution is not at all like Descartes’ evil daemon argument, in fact it is exactly opposite. Let me explain why. We do not believe Descartes’ evil daemon argument because we have no evidence that shows that such a situation exists. By saying this, we obviously presuppose the rational worldview, because it is necessary for us to even examine Descartes’ evil daemon argument in the first place.
1) Again, it's N & E, not just E (or N).
2) Tremblay shows an unfamiliarity with Descartes' argument. Descartes never said that it was the case that there was a malicious demon bent on mischief, all he requires is the possibility. And here's where Plantinga's argument is stronger than Descartes': Given N & E, it is the case that our cognitive faculties have been designed by N & E. And if P(R / N & E) is low or inscrutable, then we do have a defeater for R. Again, Tremblay's failure to interact with Plantinga's argument comes back to bite him.
3) Tremblay shows another ignorance he has with Descartes' argument. He acts as if simply "pointing to evidence" is enough to refute Descartes. Well, I don't know what "evidence" Tremblay has in mind, but the point of the Cartesian demon is that any evidence we point to is defeated because the demon could be deceiving us into thinking it is evidence that could refute the demon hypothesis.
Plantinga’s argument is self-defeating in the same way. We need rationality to determine whether specific methods are right or wrong, such as perception. Thus, Plantinga is not validated in presuming that we must be agnostic towards (2). Indeed, it makes no sense for a theologian to be agnostic towards (2), given that, as I pointed out before, the theological worldview needs (2) in order to be valid. Whether reading the Bible, perceiving the transcendent, or understanding a theological argument, the theologian needs (2). By extension, the same thing is true about (3), since rationality is necessary for the interpretation of our percepts.
1) Remember that Tremblay's definition of 'rationality' is that "the general epistemic position that we should validate knowledge only with objective evidence." But we may go around "validating" or beliefs all day long, what's the guarantee that our beliefs are true, though? If our validations have a defeater, then why think that they tell us which methods are "right or wrong," where "right or wrong" means "true or false?" Say someone S ingested the hallucinate-producing drug XX, which worked on 90% of its patients. Thus S, if S reflected on his situation, and came to believe that he did ingest XX, would have a defeater for R. Now, imagine S told us that he had "validated his knowledge with objective evidence and thus found the "correct" standards of knowledge. What should our attitude towards S be? Wouldn't we claim that S had a defeater for all his "validations?" The situation is the same here, and unless Tremblay critiques EAAN in the relevant area, he has no reason to think his "validatiuons" are true.
2) Plantinga is not agnostic towards our senses being reliable. But, Plantinga does not have a defeater for R. It appears that Tremblay has, yet again, misunderstood EAAN.
3) (2) and (3) are produced by CF, but if our CFs are not R, then we have a defeater for (2) and (3). Hence Tremblay's refusal to grasp and refute Plantinga's EAAN leaves it in tact.
4) It appears that Tremblay is arguing that since Plantinga takes (2) without a problem, then that means an adherent of N & E can do so also. But this is fallacious. Plantinga has no defeater for (2) whereas EAAN gives the adherent of N & E one.
Let's return to S who ingested the drug XX. XX causes S to have hallucinations about everything. It does this 90% of the time. If S comes to believe that he has ingested XX, then S has a defeater for his beliefs. This does not imply that another person S*, who has not ingested XX, has a defeater for his beliefs.
As a further example of “cutting one’s head off”, how are we to judge Plantinga’s claims about naturalism? Did he elaborate them based on rationality? If he did not, then Plantinga’s reasoning is irrational.
1) Plantinga's view of rationality is in terms of proper function, and, yes, on his view his claims about N were rational since they were produced by properly functioning cognitive faculties, operating according to a good design plan, with the relevant portion of his CFs successfully aimed at the production of true beliefs, and operating in a congenial environment - the one (or a similar one) to which they were designed for.
2) Plantinga takes N to be the claim that there is no being like God, who directly made us, or directed the evolutionary process.
His argument cannot get off the ground because, if we must be agnostic towards the validity of cognition, then we must also be agnostic towards the argument itself. Since Plantinga believes that such agnosticism is a defeater against the validity of cognition, it is therefore also a defeater for itself. Like all skeptic positions, Plantinga’s use of skepticism to attempt to undermine cognition disproves itself.
1) Recall that it is not Plantinga's argument that "we" must be agnostic about cognition, but that the reflective naturalist who accepts that P(R / N & E) as low or inscrutable has a alethic-rationality-defeater of the Humean variety for R (the proposition that our CFs are successfully aimed at producing true beliefs). So, Plantinga does not believe that he has a defeater for R, and hence Tremblay's argument here falls flat on its face. His argument is borne out of severe misunderstandings of Plantinga's argument - and the smart money is on the claim that Tremblay never even bothered to read Plantinga's argument. And, if he did, his parents should sue the Canadian education department for passing someone unable to comprehend what he reads.
Plantinga is therefore contradicting the facts of reality, and when he says:
“who accepts N&E has a defeater for N&E”
And we can rightly reply:
“who accepts that N&E has a defeater, now has a defeater for his own position, and thus contradicts himself”
1) The comeback here is so simple that it is laughable that Tremblay thinks this actually a good argument against Plantinga's position. What is the simply comeback: "That's why we don't accept N & E!" Was Tremblay seriously under the assumption that Plantinga, a supernaturalist, accepted the naturalism part of N & E?
2) At any rate, at least Tremblay got something right. It is true that if a person S accepted N & E & R, and tried to argue that N & E were false, then S would have a defeater for his argument. This defeater is an undefeated defeater, then.
"The traditional theist, on the other hand, has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs, nor any reason for thinking the probability of a belief’s being true, given that it is a product of her cognitive faculties, is low or inscrutable. She may indeed endorse some form of evolution; but if she does, it will be a form of evolution guided and orchestrated by God. And qua traditional theist—qua Jewish, Moslem, or Christian theist – she believes that God is the premier knower and has created us human beings in his image, an important part of which involves his giving them what is needed to have knowledge, just as he does."
This may be so, but such understanding cannot be arrived at without implicit trust in (2) and (3). How is the traditional theist supposed to conclude that God wishes us to hold true beliefs, if not from using his cognition towards the study of his particular Christian theistic beliefs? Even if we suppose that Plantinga’s case is true and that God guided evolution, our basis for believing this would be based on the skeptic presuppositions we have seen, and therefore prevents us from acquiring any such belief in good conscience.
1) Notice that this defeats Tremblay's above charge of "contradiction," and he doesn’t even recognize it!
2) Plantinga accepts (2) and (3), he has not tried to deny them. Plantinga doesn't accept N & E though, and that's the relevant disanalogy here.
In conclusion, therefore, it is painfully obvious that Tremblay's argument against EAAN fails miserably. It doesn't even touch Plantinga's argument. And, what Tremblay takes to be the strongest portion of his argument - the contradiction charge - has been shown to terribly misunderstand Plantinga's position, and furthermore only supports his EAAN. We can also note that it's not just atheists from America who misrepresent theists arguments, offer horrible critiques, show an unfamiliarity with the relevant literature, and parade a general ignorance about Christianity, theism, and philosophy for all to see, this is a world wide phenomena.