TAG: The Power of Pedantry

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.

8 thoughts on “TAG: The Power of Pedantry”

  1. James/Sean

    Your “friend’s” writing leaves me with the impression that he is d-bag. Or stated better, he is over-confident to the point where he asserts his superiority/correctness without sound reasoning, and he spews an overflowing crap-filled mouthful of reasons to support his correctness, which are almost all based off of assumptions. He also writes in such a way that it looks like part of his aim is to belittle his opponents rather than “debate.”

    Anyways, that’s just my impression. Concerning the actual argument he is trying to make, it has so many flaws that it isn’t worth getting riled up about in my opinion.

    To give credit, in my senior year of highschool I took University english. That was the first class that I ever had my writing criticized in. Mr. Nicoletta, my teacher, gave me one lesson that I will never forget. And that is that you CANNOT BASE AN ARGUMENT ON ASSUMPTIONS. Something no Christian will ever understand when trying to prove or defend their religion. Because if you are basing your argument off of assumptions then you have a false/non-verifiable premise. Which means the conclusion is irrelevant.

    Specific pieces of crap in your friend’s response (And I’m not cocky enough to think I will communicate this perfectly):

    1. Arguing about the existence of logic makes absolutely no sense to me in the context of a religious debate. Logic is a part of our natural world. It isn’t even unique to humans. Using logic to determine something is part of decision making. So is your friend proposing that living beings would not be able to make decisions if there were no god? On what premise does he base this argument? Oh, the assumption that there is a god and it has power over everything. Great. I’ve never heard of the logical absolutes argument, but at a glance, this is my impression. Nothing is transcendant of the universe. You can’t force human concepts onto something that isn’t human (or something that isn’t sentient at all). You can’t claim anything would exist without the universe, because without the universe we have no reason to believe there would be anything in existence.

    2. Anyways onto another bit. Using morals to attack the Christian foundation is pointless because it is borrowing that foundation? Seriously nearly every sentence this guy wrote makes me like him less. I think we all know, and SmartLX also said that morals did not come from christianity (or a god or religion). I could write a book right now, and include in it the proper ways to have sex. I could include tons of stories supporting those ways. Or I could be like the bible and include tons of stories that contradict those ways also. I could even go around attacking everybody elses sex books and decrediting them. But I can’t all of a sudden say, “Hey, I invented sex. Don’t think you can talk about sex without giving me due credit.” But yet, humans couldn’t continue to thrive (or live) without sex. Similarly humans couldn’t survive in societies without morals. Yet many societies have persisted without ever having been exposed to the bible. So obviously morals can exist without the Christianity. Or without a god. Ugh it just makes me want to throw up when I think of people honestly believing morality is dependent on a god, or a religion.

    3. “What in your world view allows consistency?” Uh, maybe the fact that we are alive, and have a pretty consistent day to day experience? Ugh, it’s like some religious people can’t just accept the fact that they EXIST. Yes, you exist. Your feelings are not fake. Your experiences are not fake. “God” isn’t “holding everything together.” What have you ever experienced that has indicated this? Of course when I say you, I mean him.

    Honestly his arguments are so poorly backed up that they are painful to argue with. They are pretty much assumptions based off of the assumption that the Christian “God” exists.

    He uses a god to answer questions like:
    How can we exist if there is not a god to provide consistency to the universe? Wouldn’t we just be masses of atoms?
    How can we be moral if there is not a god to give us morals? Wouldn’t we just kill each other, steal, and rape?
    How can we think or make logical conclusions if there is not a god? Doesn’t he provide the mechanisms to do so?

    Seriously, I’m close to throwing up. Just reading this makes my body physically upset. It’s like arguing with a 5 year old that claims a talking dog is the one who makes animals grow meat so we can eat them. A false conclusion based off of an ignorant perception of the natural world come upon by a false/assumed premise.

  2. “so unless you can prove that logic makes sense in another world view”

    If someone makes the argument that the Christian God is necessary for logic to exist, the burden of proof is on him to demonstrate that this is true. For him to argue that the Christian God is necessary for logic to exist, he has to show that the Christian God is necessary for logic to exist.

    What he can’t do is say…

    The Christian God explains how logic exists/ where it comes from.
    You cannot explain how logic exists/ where it comes from.
    Therefore, the Christian God is the correct explanation.

    As SmartLX pointed out, that’s an argument from ignorance. It’s a popular fallacy among Christians because God can be used as a cookie cutter explanation for absolutely ANYTHING. Why is the grass green? Because God made it that way. Why is the sky blue? Because God made it that way. Explanations like these require no thinking, no research, and no evidence. However, they’re also not how we reach conclusions about reality. We do that based on evidence/ risk. We have evidence that the natural world exists. To show that something else exists in addition to that would require additional evidence, and pointing out that something- that- could- explain- anything could explain something we have no explanation for is not good enough.

    But he faces a bigger problem then just arguing from ignorance. The other problem with his whole “you can’t explain why X exists/ where it comes from” line of argument is that Christians face the same problem explaining why God exists/ where he comes from. If “I don’t know” and “always existed” are sufficient answers in relation to God, then they are sufficient answers in relation to logic or to the universe. EVERY worldview falls back on those answers, and the Christian worldview isn’t superior simply by virtue of having to take one more step in getting to them.

    I know that there are other sub arguments of TAG, but since he didn’t bring them up, I’ve focused only on his assertion that you have to “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”

    First he argued that logic is conditional upon Christianity by default and that the burden is on you to provide an alternative explanation for logic. As I pointed out, the problems with this are A) he’s making an argument from ignorance, and B) it assumes that logic has a cause or an explanation, even though his own cause/ explanation for logic (God) does not itself have a cause or an explanation.

    But now he’s taking it one step further. Having made the argument that logic is dependent on Christianity, he’s now refusing to even consider your counter argument unless you acquiesce to his demand to provide an alternative explanation for logic.

    Having stated his views on logic, he now refuses to consider your challenges to his views, based on the fact that his views on logic says he doesn’t have to. This is mindlessly circular.

    It’s very easy to show that God is subject to the laws of logic, and what one’s worldview is has nothing to do with it. You did it yourself in your initial response- “If God didn’t exist, then it would be true that he didn’t exist and not-true that he exists.” There you go.

    Having addressed the main argument under discussion, I’m going to stop here.

  3. Thank you all for your response. I am glad to know that I am not the only one to find some of his response mindless. I will be taking suggestions from each of you. Hopefully I can convince him not to use TAG as proof for the existence for God. Once again thank you for the quick and thorough responses.

  4. Great Sean.

    Although, human pride is tricky. He seems like the type of person who is more concerned with being right than being correct. So he may just keep spewing crap at you to convince himself that he is not wrong. You are wrong. And you are a fool for not seeing that he is right. Baka!

  5. Hey guys, I just responded to my friend on TAG and pretty much beat him to a bloody pulp. I do not think he knew how to respond because he did not address any the issues I brought up. But in case you are curious here is how he responded.
    “Let’s take one step back. You debating against TAG is a strawman fallacy, so with your logic, that’s where we must start. I’m not necessarily saying that logic is dependent on God, the main point is that logic is consistent in a Christian worldview and it is not consistent with a random chance universe. For us to have a logical debate, we must only use the tools that make sense in our worldview. Otherwise that’s illogical and all we’re going to do is prove our worldview is inconsistent with reality. That stops the conversation right there because our worldview is the foundation from which we debate, and in this case, that which we wish to prove. As soon as a worldview is inconsistent with reality, that puts the worldview in question and there are two options, choose a different worldview to argue from, or not use the tool that’s causing it to be inconsistent, in this case logic, which it would be ridiculous to debate without logic.”

  6. Hmm, I feel like he is saying alot, but really saying nothing. While I have no idea what you said to him, it does not look like he is addressing any issue specifically. Anyways, this guy obviously thinks he is a genius if he can declare, “logic is consistent in a Christian worldview and it is not consistent with a random chance universe.” Especially without backing that position up with either (real objective) logic or evidence. I think he seriously needs to back that statement up.

    As a side note, not even the lottery is random. It’s (likely) based off a seed value (or several seed values) that(‘s or are) put through an algorithm that radically transforms it into a different value that appears to be random. Seed values in general must be unique, because the same seed value will always yield the same “random” number. Usually the seed value is something like the current timestamp (e.g. 201301251652.192843).

    I guess my point is that “random” is often an illusion and has little meaning. There is a cause and an effect. So I wouldn’t necessarilly say that our existence is “random”. I’d say that it is an anomoly in a universe where only very specific conditions/causes would have produced the “effect” our existence. I think it is fairly likely that elsewhere in the Universe similar conditions/causes have produced the effect of other living creatures’ existence.

    So when your friend talks about a “random chance” universe he is probably alluding to unknown or not fully known causes producing the known effect of the “origin of life on earth”. Just because it is not fully known does not make it random, and just because it is not fully known does not make it reasonable to assume that there is an omnipotent being behind it. That is a HUGE assumption, supported by NOTHING. But eh, such is faith.

    Sorry I know I write alot.

  7. “Let’s take one step back” means “nothing in the current discussion is at all helpful to my case, so let’s pretend it didn’t happen.”

    For anything he said in response to make sense, he has to establish that logic is actually inconsistent with an atheist “worldview”, but he only asserts that.

    Leaving aside the further assertion of a “random chance universe”, logic would only be inconsistent with atheism if atheism dictated something which precluded the emergence or existence of logic. Atheists do not have an answer (even an unsupported one) to how logic exists or came about, but unless you can establish that logic actually requires a god there’s nothing in atheism which prevents logic. So again, he’s asserting not only that God is responsible for logic but that it’s the only possible source, in the same argument from ignorance as before.

    Adam, you do not write a lot. Search the site for my earlier discussions with Jai, or Rob, or RP. THEY wrote a lot, and I wrote a lot in response.

  8. Hah, Thanks SmartLX. I feel like whenever I try to communicate my thoughts on things, I write more than everybody else. I try to communicate in a way where I won’t be misunderstood. Whether I achieve that or not, I don’t know.

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