The following paper is my rebuttal to an attempted rebuttal by an atheist of my paper called The Christian Worldview, the Atheist Worldview, and Logic located at http://www.carm.org/atheism/logic.htm. The parts of the original paper that the atheist has quoted are in black. The atheist comments are in brown. My response is in green. The atheist goes by the nickname of "ohwow" on the CARM discussion boards where his original post was made on Saturday, January 25, 2003.
Original paper: "Can the atheistic worldview present a logical reason why its worldview can account for the abstract laws of logic?"
Atheist comment: First, you are asking us to provide a reason based on logic, so you are asking us to beg the question that logical absolutes exist.
Response to comment: No, this is not begging the question. Begging the question means you assume the thing to be true that you are attempting to prove. I am not asking for a proof that logical absolutes exist, and I am not trying to prove their existence. I am asking atheists to provide an explanation for their existence--because they already exist. This atheist, by default, agrees to this since he is trying to use logic to refute my paper. Therefore, he assumes the existence of logical absolutes.
If there were no absolutes in logic, then logic would be relative. If logic were relative, then no argument can be won or lost, or proven or disproved since it would all be relative anyway. But, in order to prove or disapprove a premise, there must be logical absolutes by which error can be discovered.
My statement does not qualify as a logical fallacy since there is nothing that logically prevents someone to use logic in an attempt to discuss logic or attempt to account for the existence of logic. This atheist is, therefore, in error in his premise that I have committed the logical fallacy of "begging the question." Furthermore, if his premise is in error and he builds upon this error, his conclusions will most probably also be in error.
For example: Can you give a rational reason why rationality exists? If your answer is itself rational , (based on rationality) your entire answer is then based on the prior assumption that rationality does exist, which equals "question begging".
Again, this is not begging the question. The problem is not with using logic to account for the existence of logic since using that which exists does not invalidate the discussion of the thing that exists. There is no 'begging the question' fallacy in here. He has misapplied what the fallacy is.
Second, if "account for logical absolutes", means "tell us WHY they exist", well, If you really are asking "WHY do logical absolutes exist", your question itself assumes logical absolutes "came from" some source. You need to be careful when asking "why x exists", because that kind of question assumes x must derive from something outside itself. We would all presume that YOU originate from a source outside yourself, therefore we sense no problem within the question "how do we account for Matt Slick?" Therefore, if you ask similarly "how do we account for logical absolutes?" you are presuming that they do indeed come from a source outside themselves, so your question itself is loaded in a way that atheists cannot answer it directly, just like "have you stopped beating your wife" can't be answered directly by someone who never beat his wife. Therefore rephrase your question to atheists so it isn't loaded.
Note, I did not say "tell us WHY they exist." I asked how an atheist accounts for their existence. There is a difference even if it is subtle. Atheists and Christians both know that logical absolutes exist since we both use them. I am simply asking atheists to give a rational reason for their existence in the context of their atheism.
Furthermore, the question is not asked in such a way that atheists cannot answer it. But, if this atheist admits that it is something he cannot answer, then he helps to validate the premise of the paper that atheists cannot account for them where the Christian can.
"The Christian worldview states that God is the author of truth, logic, physical laws, etc."
You never demonstrate that god DID create logic, you just "state" that god authored such.
First of all, I did not ask HOW God would create such a thing as logic. Second, the paper is not intended to be a demonstration that God created logic. Third, the paper asks the question of the atheist in the context of the atheist worldview--how the atheist could account for the existence of logical absolutes. Further, I demonstrate that within the Christian worldview we are able to account for the existence of logical absolutes. Fourth, the fact that this atheist is having difficulty answering the charge of the paper is a demonstration that his worldview is not capable of answering the question at hand, which helps to validate the premise of the paper. Fifth, I do not hold the position that God "created" logic. I believe I can logically defend the premise (later in this paper) that logical absolutes are a reflection of the mind of God. He did not invent them. In other words, there was no time when they did not exist, and then God decided to bring them into existence. It is God who is eternal by nature--who is the author of "absoluteness" by the very nature of His eternal and absolute existence. Therefore, within this perspective God would not have created logic. It would have already existed because it is a reflection of His eternal mind.
"Atheism maintains that physical laws are properties of matter, and that truth and logic are relative conventions (agreed upon principles). Is this logically defensible?"
If matter and energy are NOT essential to logic, you should be able to prove that logic can exist apart from them. Suppose all matter and energy in the universe disappear, where then would 'logic' be found? In the spot where the Big Dipper was? Clearly logic cannot make sense unless matter and energy exist first, which allow us to provide examples to prove logical laws. What logical law does NOT apply to realities of matter and energy, and can be demonstrated as such without appealing to things constituted of matter or energy?
One of the points of the original paper is that the nature of logical absolutes is not physical but conceptual. This is an ontological [deals with the nature of something] difference between the nature of the physical universe and conceptual realities. What I perceive to exist in my mind does not mean that it exists in the physical universe. If I perceive that I am actually larger in mass than the sun, my perception has no bearing upon the reality or lack of reality of it.
This atheist simply states that matter and energy are essential to logic, yet he does not demonstrate how they are. When he asks, "Suppose all matter and energy in the universe disappear, where then would logic be found?", he fails to discuss the nature or essence of logic and absolutes which is so necessary in this discussion. He mentions the "physical" universe but does not mention the "conceptual" nature of logic. He ignores the latter and attempts to contrast it with the former without developing a sufficient discussion of the nature of each or how they relate. This is important because the nature of something reveals its characteristics. If the nature of something is that it is not physical and energy, then for him to assume that it is dependent upon the physical universe would not necessarily be logical.
Additionally, he asks questions without providing answers. When I asked the atheist to demonstrate or give a logical reason for the existence of "logical absolutes," I did not stop there. I went on to provide a solution that could account for their existence. This solution is easily explainable in a Christian presuppositional system but not so easily explainable in an atheistic one.
Another problem, if you are asking atheists to account for "why" logic exists, you should not trumpet too loudly your victory if the atheist says "I don't know". There will be one atheist in the crowd who says "can you tell us WHY god exists?", and then they will put the trumpet to their lips, ready to blast as soon as you say "I can't answer that."
The point of the paper is not to trumpet a victory. The purpose of the paper is to demonstrate that the atheistic system cannot account for logical absolutes, where a Christian one can. Of course, the Christian assumption is that God is the "source" of logical absolutes.
"How does a Christian account for the laws of logic? The Christian worldview states that God is absolute and the standard of truth. Therefore, the absolute laws of logic exist because they reflect the nature of an absolute God. God did not create the laws of logic. They were not brought into existence since they reflect God's thinking. Since God is eternal, the laws of logic are too."
That's all nice, but the conclusions of your last two sentences merely derive from your gratuitous assumptions immediately above them. So this is no argument at all.
On the contrary. I have a reason to be able to account for the existence of logical absolutes where atheists do not. And because they do not, they are forced (at least this seems to be) to try and undermine my logic. This is a valid tactic, but he does not accomplish it.
He mentions "gratuitous assumptions." Yes, I do assume God exists--but not without logical reason (discussed elsewhere on carm). Given that I can make assumptions, even as he does in certain areas of his life, what is to prevent me from drawing logical conclusions based upon those assumptions? Again, the atheist has not demonstrated that my conclusions are in error. At best, all he can do is attack my presupposition of God's existence. Of course I do not introduce the existence of God until later in the paper when, in my opinion, I have demonstrated that atheism cannot account for the existence of logical absolutes. It is then that I introduce the notion of God's existence to account for the existence of logical absolutes. Whether or not the atheist likes this introduction bears no weight in the argument. The point is that as a Christian, I have a logical means of accounting for their existence where, it would seem, the atheist does not.
"Therefore, the Christian can account for the existence of the Laws of logic by acknowledging they originate from God and that Man is only discovering them."
So? I can account for black holes in space by "acknowledging" that the tooth-fairy created them, but "acknowledging" an unsupported assertion doesn't support the assertion.
I do not defend nor have I ever defended the existence of the tooth fairy. What is interesting to me is that atheists will often throw in known fairy tales as an attempt to logically disprove God's existence. But this is an illogical thing for them to do since a known fairy tale is a false analogy to the question of whether or not God exists. Merely claiming that God is a fairy tale does not make it so anymore than claiming that God exists makes it so. Instead, evidence and rationality should be examined. But then, we are back in full circle as we discover that our presuppositions will govern how evidence and rationality are examined. Given that the atheist presupposition is that there is no God (generally speaking), in order for him to be consistent with his presuppositions, he must interpret all evidence and rationality in a manner consistent with his atheism. I assert that this is a biased and restricting process that hamstrings the atheist's intellectual ability to properly weigh the evidence since the option of God as an explanation is automatically rejected.
Whether or not this atheist considers the existence of logical absolutes, his inability to account for their existence, and the Christian's ability to account for them as a valid argument would depend upon two things: the validity of the argument and the presuppositions involved. By default, the atheist could not logically allow me the rational system I proposed to account for logical absolutes. If he did, this would mean that atheism is weakened. But since he must defend his position, he must find any way he can to invalidate my argument--which is why he erringly tried at the beginning to accuse me of committing the logical fallacy of "begging the question."
"How does the atheist account for the laws of logic?"
If that means "can the atheist account for WHY logical absolutes exist", then that is the same as saying "where did the laws of logic come from", clearly begging the question that they must have come from somewhere, when it is not yet proven they had to.
This atheist continues to misapply the logical fallacy of "begging the question," which I explained above. Nevertheless, logical absolutes exist. When he says it has not been proven that they had to come from somewhere, then please offer something else. Perhaps he would like to assert that they never came from anywhere, or that they are eternal by nature, or that they brought themselves into existence? But each has its problem.
If these conceptual realities are eternal by nature, then I can make a case that these eternal conceptual realities are from God, who is, by definition, eternal. Remember, the nature of logical absolutes is conceptual; that is, they exist in the mind. They cannot be measured, weighed, frozen, etc. If they exist in the mind and if they are always true everywhere (transcending space and time), I assert that it is a logical requirement that an eternal mind is "housing" them. On the other hand, if the atheist assumes they brought themselves into existence, then he violates the logical absolute that "something that does not exist cannot bring itself into existence." If he did this, he would be illogical.
Same thing if an atheist says "where did god come from?" The question itself assumes that god originated from something outside himself, before having proved she needed to "begin to exist".
There is nothing wrong with asking the question, "Where did god come from?" We Christians simply state that God did not "come from" anywhere; He had no beginning because He is the creator of space and time, and our question about God's beginning deals with time.
Therefore, since God is the creator of time, he cannot be measured by it since it does not encompass Him.
We Christians reflect what the Bible says about God always existing. Atheists do not like this explanation for obvious reasons.
The truth is that I myself believe that matter and energy are essential to logic, and logic has thus existed as long as they have.
I am sure it is true that this atheist believes what he does. It is a nice faith-based explanation for logical absolutes. But, he has offered nothing of substance to account for the existence of logical absolutes. He has not provided a reason why logical absolutes are dependent upon or products of matter and energy. Remember, the nature of logical absolutes is that they are conceptual. They "exist" in the mind since the use of logic is a mental process. Logical processes of thought (which is what logic is--a process) occur in rational minds--not in inanimate objects. The process of logical reasoning does not occur in a rock or in heat. A rock and heat simply exist without the capacity of rational thought. Rationality, logic, etc., are, by default, processes that involve and necessitate cognition. Physical and energy realities are not and have no conceptual processes. They are simply reflections of the nature of materiality and energy. Therefore, they are not the source of logical absolutes nor can they account for the existence of these logical absolutes.
"We do not observe the laws of logic occurring in matter. You don't watch an object NOT bring itself into existence if it doesn't exist. Therefore, no law of logic can be observed by watching nothing."
That which is not logical, must be illogical, since there is no happy medium between logical and illogical, as such, if you don't see logic in matter, then you think matter is illogical by default.
To say "that which is not logical, must be illogical" may be an illogical statement. For example, is the existence of matter itself "not logical?" If it is not logical, how so? If it is illogical, how? Matter simply exists. Stating that it exists is a logical process (which occurs in the mind) since we are identifying something and making a statement about it. So, I propose that your statement is not logically necessary.
Baking soda and vinegar are matter, and their combination creates instant carbon dioxide. Does this reaction within matter take place for ILLOGICAL reasons? If not, then we do indeed see logic in matter. Also, to answer your own illustration more directly: Correct, we do not see non-existent objects refusing to bring themselves into existence. However, this is for a very logical reason; objects cannot do anything anyway, if at first they don't exist. So if at first you don't object, exist exist again.
The reaction between baking soda and vinegar is not an issue of logic or illogic. It is simply the natural reaction to the physical properties of each item. What he has done is observed a physical reaction and then asked if it occurs for a logical or illogical reason. But what logical order to logical reason would you apply to the reality of physical reactions? They are different things. The physical reaction does not violate the law of non-contradiction since it does not even apply nor does it apply to the law of identity or the law of excluded middle. It is simply something that happens, and we can observe the reaction. It is not logical or illogical. It is simply reflective of the nature of the reaction of the substances involved.
He has apparently tried to wed a physical reality with a conceptual one as if they are the same. But observing what happens does not mean that the observer is making it happen or preventing it from happening by the application of logic. Furthermore, whether or not the observer agrees or disagrees with the reality of the reaction and attempts to apply a logical reason why the reaction should not occur does not affect the reality of the reaction since it doesn't effect the reaction. Therefore, the reaction is independent of the issue of logic. It is simply the reaction.
"If the atheist appeals to the scientific method to explain the laws of logic then he is using circular argumentation because the scientific method is dependent upon logic; that is, reasoned thought applied to observations."
Don't be too hard on logical absolutes that exist without deriving from another source, because you believe in one great big thing that exists, but doesn't derive from anything else. And if we were to imply that this god came from some source by asking "WHY does god exist", you would immediately notice how loaded the question is.
I am not sure what he means by "Don't be too hard on logical absolutes that exist . . . ."? I am not "being" hard on them. Logical absolutes exist. The atheist's initial sentence here is not very clear.
Often times, questions are "loaded." But that does mean they cannot be asked or answered?
Atheist: "I cannot account for WHY logic exists."
Christian: "then something is wrong with atheism, because logic clearly does exist."
Christian: "I cannot account for WHY God exists."
Atheist: Then something is wrong with theism, because god clearly does exist."
You see then that inability to explain WHY something exists, doesn't mean the worldview containing that disability is necessarily wrong.
I find it necessary again to correct this atheist. I did not ask the atheist to explain "why" logic exists. I asked the atheist to give a valid reason to account for their existence given the presupposition of materialism and no God. Given that logical absolutes are by nature conceptual, how does the atheist account for their existence in the universe of nothing but matter and energy? That is a question he still has not answered.
Also, I noticed that this atheist added words I did not say into the conversation. I did not say that something is wrong with atheism (though I believe that to be true). I said that atheism is not able to account for the existence of logical absolutes. This does not necessitate that atheism is a false system as a whole--unless it can be "proven" that the only way to account for logical absolutes is the existence of God. Nevertheless, atheism's weakness here is demonstrated. If the atheist were to assume that since he cannot account for the existence of logical absolutes and it makes no difference whether or not atheism is true, then is it also not logically consistent that in the dialogue if a theist cannot account for the "why" of God's existence, that it also does not invalidate theism? Of course not. But remember, we are not specifically arguing God's existence. We are debating the ability of the atheist to account for the existence of logical absolutes.
The issue is not properly reflected in this atheist's hypothetical dialogue. I have simply proposed that Christian theism can account for the existence of logical absolutes, where atheism cannot. Since accounting for them includes the existence of God, then theism is that much more validated--and atheism that much more invalidated.
"If logic itself is used to validate logic, then circular reasoning again is used and the atheist has still failed to account for their existence."
By those standards, you cannot make your own point! here's why:
If you use god to validate logic, you have begged the question, because his existence wasn't proved first. If you prove his existence first, and then use god to validate logic, let's go back to that proof for god for just a second . . . was it logical? If it was, logic was assumed existing already right there, to ground the god-proofs. So you couldn't take the next step and use god to justify logic, because in your concern to do things orderly, and prove A)god and then B)prove god justified logic, you have already presupposed logic to be existing at A). You can certainly avoid this inconsistency of yours by making sure that your first step in this argument (proving god exists) is NOT based on logic. But then, nobody around here likes proofs that aren't logical.
Since logic is the reason god proofs work (at least as far as you believe), logic cannot wait to be proved after god is proved, because logic is what was already there to help you first prove god. Hence, logic must be presumed to exist before and thus independent of god. You would wish you could have it both ways: "god proves logic, and logic proves god", but this is circular, and wherever you break the circle, logic will win out over god as that which must be assumed first!
First of all, after reading his quote of my original statement, I immediately recognized the problem with it; and I have removed it from the original paper. The reason is that the statement is not necessarily logical. It did not take the explanation of the atheist to demonstrate that, and I should have caught it the first time. Nevertheless, since it is my desire to improve the quality of my papers, I've removed that "point."
Second, using logic to validate logic is indeed a circular reasoning process, but this does not invalidate logic. The point of the statement was that the atheist has still failed to account for the existence of logical absolutes.
Third, the original statement above is not really a very good statement since it may be that an atheist has indeed used logic to account for its own existence. The question would then be to examine the logic of that claim to see whether or not it is valid. Therefore, my initial statement failed to take this into account and is not a well-reasoned statement. Again, after reflecting on it, I have removed it from the original paper.
"If logic is not absolute, then no logical arguments for or against the existence of God can be raised and the atheist has nothing to work with."
Logic IS absolute, but I've shown it only comes from god if you use unsubstantiated 'acknowledgements' such as Matt Slick does in this article.
I do not follow the statement and cannot respond since it makes no sense to me.
"Atheists will use logic to try and disprove Gods existence, but in so doing they are assuming absolute laws of logic and borrowing from the Christian worldview."
Everything you asserted prior to this was either a failed argument to prove logic comes from god or else the bare unsupported "acknowledgement" that logic comes from god. You simply asserted with great confidence that Christianity can account for logic. Assertions don't qualify as evidence. When atheists use logic, they use nothing that you have proven must come from god.
First of all, my argument has not failed. The atheist has not refuted it. He did, however, incorrectly begin his analysis with a misapplication of the logical fallacy known as "begging the question." He also misapplied several other points, which I have already pointed out. Second, I did not simply assert that Christianity can account for logic without first trying to demonstrate that atheism can't. I tried to establish that the nature of logical absolutes is that they are transcendent, eternal, and not dependent on material or energy. Also, since I stated that they are conceptual by nature and are absolute, it is logical to assume that they are "housed" by an absolute mind since logical thought is a mental process. This is not a leap of logic (or of faith), and he should reflect this analysis in his criticism here instead of taking my comments out of logical context. Third, if assertions do not qualify as evidence, then his earlier statement above, "The truth is that I myself believe that matter and energy are essential to logic, and logic has thus existed as long as they have," is no evidence whatsoever for the validity of his position. I hope he would stay away from offering his belief system as a justification for his atheism.
Finally, I have not randomly offered my belief system as an explanation for the existence of logical absolutes. I introduced the concept of God only after laying out several other logical statements and then attempting to make a logical conclusion.
"The Christian worldview maintains that the laws of logic are absolute because they come from God who is Himself absolute."
Yup, asserting again without evidence.
Is not the logical development in my original paper that logical absolutes are conceptual by nature--not dependent upon consensus of humanity and not based in material or energy--are in reality the product of a mind, at least an attempt at a rational proposition for their existence?
This is not a mere assertion without evidence. Remember, the point of the paper is that logical absolutes are conceptual by nature, and their characteristics should reflect their nature. Since the characteristic of logical processes is that they are conceptual by nature, it is perfectly logical to assume there is a mind involved with their existence. This is not simply an empty assertion; it is a logical conclusion. Therefore, since the logical absolutes are absolute and are always true everywhere, I am concluding that there is a mind at work that reflects the nature of the absolutes of logic. This is an attempt to offer the evidence of logic thereby substantiating my assertion.
"But the atheist worldview does not have an absolute God.
So, we ask, "How can absolute, conceptual, abstract laws be derived from a universe of matter, energy and motion?" In other words, "How can an atheist with a naturalistic presupposition account for the existence of logical absolutes when logical absolutes are conceptual by nature and not physical, energy, or motion?"
Thats a most confused set of phrases. Just because logic works on paper as a concept doesn't mean it is independent of matter, energy or motion. 2+2=4 is mathematical concept as well as a logical concept. Being a concept by nature, does that somehow argue that this equation can be proven true independent of the matter and energy used to demonstrate it? No. If you didnt have matter and energy to work with, you could never prove that logical absolutes exist. You may say god is still there, even if matter and energy are gone and he justifies the existence of logical absolutes. I say, 'but if you get to god before logic, then you didnt get to god USING logic, unless you agree you were thereby using false logic.
At this point, the atheist opens himself up for an ad hominem attack. I could comment about the set of statements not being confusing to others and then build upon it, but I won't. Nevertheless, he tries to state that the concept 2+2=4 cannot be solved without the existence of matter and energy. This may or may not be correct since we do not know if all cognitive beings in the universe are comprised of matter and energy. Hypothetically, there could be some life forms comprised only of energy with a mind (i.e., God?). If so, the statement 2+2=4 would still be true. But what he does is presuppose the existence of a mind that works in space and time in order to process the statement 2+2=4. By so doing, he inadvertently requires the existence of a mind to work out conceptual formulas, thereby validating the earlier premise that logical absolutes are processes of a mind.
And yes, I can indeed say that God is before "matter and energy." But what does that mean since we could say God is immaterial? If He exists, shouldn't He then have some form of energy about him? At this point, we get into a philosophical debate which is irrelevant to the conversation at hand. Nevertheless, the statement, "but if you get to god before logic, then you didn't get to god USING logic, unless you agree you were thereby using false logic," makes no sense to me--at which point I am probably opening up myself to an ad hominem attack by the atheist stating that others may understand it with no problem. Perhaps he also will not try to build a case on that.
"The Christian theistic worldview can account for the laws of logic by stating that they come from God."
Doesnt mean thats where they came from, it means youve suggested an idea, thats it.
Yes, I have suggested a way to account for the laws of logic. In my opinion, my analysis is far more logical than yours.
"God is transcendent; that is, He is beyond the material universe, being its creator."
Another assumption that you worked with but never proved in this entire article of yours.
Yes, I admit this is more or less an assumption. But, the point of my conclusion was that the insertion of the Christian concept of God does account for the existence of logical absolutes in such a way that is consistent with Christian theism, which teaches a transcendent and absolute Mind.
"God has originated the laws of logic because they are a reflection of His nature."
Another assumption you used but never proved.
Again, I do admit slipping into a biblical presupposition at this point. I therefore repeat my above statement that the point of my conclusion was that the insertion of the Christian concept of God does account for the existence of logical absolutes in such a way that is consistent with Christian theism, which teaches a transcendent and absolute Mind.
"The atheistic worldview cannot account for the laws of logic/absolutes, and must borrow from the Christian worldview in order to rationally argue."
But if the Christian world view (that god exists) is true, true means logical. And if you have already proven god logically/truly exists, you did it only because your proofs presumed logic themselves. They cannot presume it in their case for god, unless it exists apart from and before god.
This atheist may have inadvertently substantiated my case. When he said " . . . if you have already proven god logically/truly exists, you did it only because your proofs presumed logic themselves," it seems as though he is saying I accomplished what it was setting up to accomplish. We both presume that logic exists. But, so far, the atheist cannot account for the existence of logical absolutes.
We have common ground in that we both believe in and use logical absolutes. But as I said before, what exists as a reflection of its own nature; and its characteristics reflect that nature. The characteristics of logical absolutes are that they are conceptual by nature; and they are logical process which must, by default, occur in a mind. If it is true that characteristics reflect nature, then we could assume that the nature of the mind that is housing these logical absolutes must also be absolute. Since the logical absolutes are always true everywhere in the universe (transcendence), then the mind that houses them must also be transcendent and absolute. It is the Christian scriptures that teach there is a transcendent, absolute God with an absolute mind--not atheism. Therefore, atheism is still not able to account for their existence, where Christianity can.