Question from James:
Hi, I am having a debate with a friend at school, and I stuck on an argument I am having with him. I first responded to him saying the transcendental argument is not valid. He then responded to me, and I’m not sure how exactly to respond. I was wondering if you could help me form my response. thank you
Here is my response:
However, I really do not think that TAG is a sufficient argument. This is what it concludes: “Since the Logical Absolutes are transcendent, absolute, are perfectly consistent, and are independent of the universe, then it seems proper to say that they reflect a transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind. We call this mind God.” CARM.org This is why this conclusion is self-evidently not true.
Logical absolutes, as defined in TAG, are indeed transcendent and independent of the universe, in that they hold true even if the universe did not exist, or ceased to exist.
Unfortunately for Matt Slick, Logical absolutes, as defined in TAG, are also transcendent and independent of God, in that they hold true even if God did not exist, or ceased to exist.
For example: If God didn’t exist, then it would be true that he didn’t exist and not-true that he exists.
If God used to exist but then disappeared, then it would be true that he disappeared and not-true that he still exists.
Therefore logical absolutes hold true and exist even in the absence of God.
Therefore, of necessity, God is not the author of logical absolutes, but is SUBJECT to them.
Therefore while the fact that logical absolutes are transcendent and independent of everything including God does not disprove the existence of Fairies, Leprechauns, Demigods and other supernatural but non transcendent entities, it necessarily proves that an entity which created the logical absolutes cannot exist, because one cannot create that which it is subject to, and that which of necessity existed before one attempted to create it.
Therefore “God”, as defined in TAG, of necessity does not exist.
Here is how he responded:
“Hey Sean, Sorry for the late response. First off Jason’s argument is that Logic cannot exist apart from the Christian God, so unless you can prove that logic makes sense in another world view, you can’t make the argument that He is subject to logic, because, technically if logic doesn’t fit with your worldview, then your world view doesn’t allow you to make an argument based on logic. “in that they hold TRUE even if the universe did not exist or CEASED TO EXIST.” Similar to the first paragraph of this reply, how does the word ‘true’ fit with your worldview? I don’t even know what position you are arguing from. Evolution? Polytheistic? Relativism? Because if you’re using an evolutionary argument while you believe in something else, this conversation is pointless, similar to how someone using morals to attack the Christian foundation is borrowing from that foundation. That only supports one thing, that the foundation from which it is borrowed is true, in no way would that prove your worldview is true. The fact that your using words like true, imply morals and consistency, which means they exist, according to you, but if they don’t fit with your worldview, then you’re contradicting yourself. Even saying ‘ceased to exist’implies something is holding it together, and in a random chance universe, that also doesn’t fit, why should something be held together consistently when everything is random? What in your worldview allows for consistency. It makes sense in the Christian world view, the Bible says God holds all things together, but if we are a random combination of chemicals based on probabilities, what kind of probability is it to have a probability of 1, all the time. That doesn’t make sense. Your example of logic is exactly that, an example of logic. It may be valid, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. This example only proves that logic currently exists. It doesn’t prove how logic can exist before God. Explain how, if logic was pre-existent, that logic created the Universe, logically. Christians believe God was pre-existent to creation, and other worldviews still had to chose something to be pre-existent, in this case, logic. Logic is a formula, information begets information, what begot logic? Logic is based on order, creation is evidence for intelligent design. If someone finds tools in an abandoned cave, it’s evidence that someone else designed those tools and left them there. No one would think, “oh look at how these tools magically appeared here.” A rock doesn’t tie itself to a piece of wood. Also your second premise to your conclusion isn’t sound. I’m assuming you’re talking about the Christian God. If you say “God used to exist but then disappeared” you cannot be speaking of the Christian God, because the Christian God always was and always will be. In that case, sure logical absolutes do exist apart from god, because you’re not talking about the God who created it.”
Answer by SmartLX:
The Transcendental Argument for the existence of God, or TAG for short, is a pain in the arse. It has demonstrated no power to bring non-believers around to a theistic way of thinking, let alone a Christian way, but it’s unparalleled in its ability to reassure Christians that they’re right and everyone else is talking nonsense. So atheists get hammered with it all the time, fruitlessly, and yet the proselytisers get internal propaganda and an ego boost out of it. Check out what I’ve already written on the subject, my initial piece here and the addendum for the Sye Ten Bruggencate version here.
To address the main argument, your opponent is placing the burden of proof on you to establish that logic can exist without the Christian God. You both agree that logic exists, but that it’s dependent on God is an assertion on his part supported only by the idea that he doesn’t know any other way it can exist. It is, in other words, an argument from ignorance. What makes it obvious is when he challenges you to “explain how” (key words right there) logic created the universe without God; his internal reasoning is that if you don’t know, there’s no way. That would only be necessarily true if you were omniscient yourself. Logic may be as timeless and yet effectual in the physical world as God is supposed to be. Whether it “created the Universe” is only worth considering if we know to begin with that the universe was created, which we don’t.
That brings me to all the other little canards scattered throughout his piece. He’s pulling them from everywhere.
– “Creation is evidence for intelligent design” again assumes an act of creation by the designer whose existence he’s trying to establish in that very argument. He’s “begging the question”, or to put it less ambiguously his premise overlaps with his conclusion.
– The concept of whether something is “true” or not fits with any worldview that accepts the axiom that you can’t have both A and not A. You might not know why that’s the case, but experience has led you to be extremely confident in it. He doesn’t know either; he asserts one all-purpose entity which explains everything (vaguely) but has no explanation itself, and furthermore has no available evidence for its existence, and hopes that’s the key to it all.
– Christianity did not invent morals, and its own morals borrow from countless earlier sources, most obviously Judaism. They can claim God handed down their morals, but they can’t justify using this in argument unless they first establish the existence of God. Christianity can easily be attacked for its moral stances on multiple objective merits – simple things like fairness and the minimisation of harm.
– He characterises quantum mechanics as the idea that we all have a chance of winking out of existence at any time (if our “probability” drops below 1), but for God keeping us here. I don’t know where to begin.
– Artificial, obviously crafted tools in a cave are evidence of toolmakers. Natural, unshaped rocks in a cave which can be used as tools are evidence of no such thing. The existence of logic is closer to the second scenario. You can’t say it’s evidence of a creator unless you know in advance that it was created. Another question-begging exercise.
I hate to say it but you haven’t got much chance of convincing this guy to drop the TAG, or even preventing him from thinking he’s won. Once Christians start thinking of TAG as unbeatable, when a contrary opinion starts to make sense they have the option to dismiss it and think, “They’re reasoning without God, so even if I can’t find the flaw in their logic they MUST be wrong somewhere.” It inoculates believers against the reason of non-believers, and I think that’s why apologists like it so much.