1. Things are generally as I perceive them.There are several problems with this (I won’t be too nitpicky since Paul probably hasn’t taken much time to work on this, seeing as how it was a quick response in a comment field). Let us just examine his first premise.
2. At my level of perception, the universe appears orderly.
3. If the universe is sufficiently orderly, then rationality is a useful tool.
It is impossible for us to know that things actually are as we perceive them to be. All we have is our perceptions. We do not have access to an unfiltered reality. That is, no matter what the objective universe is, we only perceive it filtered through the lens of our perceptions. So what Paul’s first premise boils down to is a simple faith statement. He believes that reality is generally how it is perceived.
Now I should point out that I agree with this premise. However, I have a reason for agreeing with it—a reason that Paul cannot have. My reason for agreeing with it is because God created the universe and He likewise created us to experience that universe, therefore He created us with the ability to perceive the universe as it actually is. Only because of sin do we sometimes err in our perceptions (and by this I include such things as degenerative eyesight and hearing, which would not have occurred without sin, not simply hallucinations brought about by such diseases as schizophrenia, etc.). But while this would also be an interesting path to go down, Paul inadvertently leads us directly back to the argument I made in the blog post I referenced earlier. Paul’s first premise, you see, is based on perception.
In the blog post I wrote (and referenced for Paul, but which I suspect he didn’t read), I stated:
I perceive, therefore I am. Even if I am nothing but a brain-in-a-vat—or even if I have no “brain” at all, it’s all simply mental hallucinations with no actual physical reality—I cannot doubt that I exist. I perceive things. Regardless of whether these things are real or not, perception occurs. Something perceives, and therefore there must be a “perceiving being.” Since these perceptions are “owned” by me, I am this perceiving being (by definition). I exist.So you see that both Paul and I start with perception; however, Paul’s argument requires us to accept our perceptions as valid, whereas my argument is correct regardless of whether our perceptions are valid.
Now this doesn’t tell me that I exist physically, or that anything I perceive is real or not; but it does tell me that I do, actually, without a doubt, exist. I am whatever I am (as yet, undefined). I have identity. A is A (or in this case, I am me).
And if I exist, then it is the case that I do exist and do not non-exist at the same time and in the same relationship. If I exist (in whatever form I exist), I really do exist (in whatever form that may be), and the contradiction of this is not the case. Thus, my bare existence alone requires the law of Non-Contradiction.
Since I exist, logic must be valid.
Furthermore, (as I wrote in my original post), this leads to other important facts about existence. As I wrote then:
And since logic is valid, we can use logic to probe some other questions. For instance, have I always been here? It is possible that I am the only being that has ever existed, despite my perception of other beings. I do not have the self-awareness with these other beings that I do with my self; therefore, I cannot “prove” they exist in the same manner that I can “prove” I exist. So it is possible they do not exist at all and I am the only thing that exists.Now all of this follows regardless of whether we agree that our perceptions are valid. This means that even if we grant the entirety of Paul’s first premise and agree that our perceptions really do accurately represent reality, then the above follows. That is, the existence of anything necessitates the existence of something that is self-existent, eternal, omnipresent, etc. In other words, all the attributes that we commonly ascribe to God.
But it is also possible that I have come from something else. After all, I perceive a world that functions in a specific manner, and if my perceptions are accurate then this means that I have come from my parents.
But where did they come from? Perhaps they’ve always been here; perhaps they had parents too. And if they had parents, their parents may have had parents too. This chain can go back for a very long time.
But it cannot be infinite. At some point, something must have existed without being derived from previous existence—otherwise, we are stuck in an infinite regress with no chance of ever escaping to begin logic in the first place. Thus, the fact that I exist demands that somewhere there must be a self-existent being.
I might be that self-existent being, of course. So, too, could my parents, etc. But whatever the case may be, logic requires that whatever or whoever the self-existent being is must be the cause of my own being. If it were not the cause of my own being, my being would never existed (for we would be back to the infinite regress).
So, the fact that I exit proves the necessity of some object with self-existence that caused my existence. This object could not have been created by anything else (for the same reasons of the infinite regress). The "first" object to ever exist must be self-existent.
If an object is self-existent, it is a necessary object. It holds the power of its own existence, and therefore nothing can keep it from existing. If nothing can keep it from existing, then it always has existed.
Some problems arise when we include time. After all, time is measured by physical objects that move. Thus, one pendulum swing on a clock = one second. One rotation of the Earth = 1 day. Etc. These physical processes define the length of time.
But we’ve already shown that a necessary, self-existent object must always exist. If this is the case and if that object is physical, then we have an actual infinite of time. If time extends an eternity backwards, it would take an eternity for the past to have gotten here. Thus we must conclude that time isn’t eternal, but instead it must have begun at some point.
So how do we reconcile this apparent tension of an eternal self-existent object in a temporal time frame? Logically, this is satisfied by either jettisoning our definition of time (in which case we have no meaningful way to speak of time) or by acknowledging that the self-existent necessary object is immaterial. Since time is measured by physical objects, an immaterial object would not cause time to exist co-eternally with itself. This immaterial object must still exist in such a way as to provide the basis for my own existence, however. (After all, remember that the self-existent object is a logically necessary requirement due to my own existence.) Thus, in order to stay rational, we must acknowledge an immaterial self-existent necessary object that can cause my own existence.
It is important to note that due to the necessity of the immaterial aspect of this object, it is impossible for secular science to speak meaningfully about this object. If science is limited to the physical world only, then science cannot speak to this. As such, we have demonstrated a necessary being that extends beyond the limits of science. Thus, the fact of my existence proves that science cannot answer the questions of something that necessarily must be true!
Other attributes can be logically deduced from this same being. For instance, omnipresence (all existence derived from this self-existent source must come from this self-existent source, so the source must be omnipresent--there is no existence outside of the existence of this self-existent [object]); omnipotence (all power is derived from existence, so all power flows from the self-existent source—without that source, there is no power); and immutability (since logic is immutable, the source of logic must be unchanging as well).
Thus far, the only real difference between this object and God Himself is that we’ve yet to prove any kind of consciousness in this object. But that too is simple enough to deduce. After all, this entire time we’ve been using logic. Logic works because existence is based on laws, and laws imply a law giver.
Why is it that “nature” acts the way it does? We can give a list of reasons, but these reasons are likewise subject to the same question: Why do these reasons act the way they do? Once more, we cannot engage in an infinite regress here. At some point we must reach the level where we are left saying, “That’s simply the way it is.”
And at that level, laws will still exist. And again, laws imply law givers, so the very aspect of the “law-giving” (i.e. the consciousness) must be necessarily basic to this object as well. This law giver must be the same self-existent, immutable, omnipresent, omnipotent, atemporal being I have already demonstrated must exist. This being fits the definition of “God.”
But even if someone does not like the above, we can always turn the tables and use some empirical evidence (which, following induction, cannot be known for “certain”). Assuming that our perceptions are valid, that we see the world as it really exists, etc. we know the following. All consciousness we have ever observed has come from previous consciousness. There is no evidence that consciousness can come from non-consciousness. Since I am conscious, whatever the source of my being is would logically be conscious as well, for we have no warrant to believe consciousness could have ever come from non-consciousness--there is no proof, no evidence, no observation of this ever.
Thus, as soon as Paul uses his first premise, he is granting to the theist that God really does exist.
Now that I’ve demonstrated this for Paul once again, I would be happy to allow him to try again at demonstrating how rationality can occur without the existence of some kind of diety…