Debunking the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God

The astute reader of my blog will notice that I have debunked two big arguments for god but have neglected to mention the third. The third is known as the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG as it shall henceforth be refered to as). This argument is, as the Christian Aplogetics and Research Ministery (CARM) says,

“This is an attempt to demonstrate the existence of God using logical absolutes.  The oversimplified argument, which is expanded in outline form below, goes as follows:  Logical absolutes exist.  Logical absolutes are conceptual by nature, are not dependent on space, time, physical properties, or human nature.  They are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter), because if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true.  Logical Absolutes are not the product of human minds, because human minds are different, not absolute.  But, since logical absolutes are always true everywhere, and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind that is authoring them. This mind is called God.”1
Of course I could point out a number of flaws in the paragraph above but I fail to see the need to since most of the above will be outlined in the argument itself. **Let it be noted that I have taken some of the finer points out as to keep this post short but I shall still refute them. If you wish the read the argument in it’s entirety please see foot note 1.**
 
The argument:
 
  1. Logical Absolutes
    1. Law of Identity
    2. Law of Non-Contradiction
    3. Law of Excluded Middle (LEM) 
  2. Logical absolutes are truth statements such as:
    1. That which exists has attributes and a nature.
    2. Something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time.
    3. Something cannot bring itself into existence.
    4. Truth is not self-contradictory.
    5. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are absolutely true.  They are not subjectively true; that is, they are not sometimes true and sometimes false, depending on preference or situation.  Otherwise, they would not be absolute.
  3. Logical Absolutes form the basis of rational discourse.
    1. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then truth cannot be known.
    2. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then no rational discourse can occur.
    3. If Logical Absolutes are not always true, then it might be true that something can contradict itself, which would make truth unknowable and rational discourse impossible.  But, saying that something can contradict itself can’t be true.
    4. But since we know things are true (I exist, you are reading this), then we can conclude that logical statements are true.  Otherwise, we would not be able to rationally discuss or know truth.
    5. If they are not the basis of rational discourse, then we cannot know truth or error since the laws that govern rationality are not absolute.  This would allow people to speak irrationally, i.e., blue sleeps faster than Wednesday.
  4. Logical Absolutes are transcendent.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on space.
    2. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on time.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on people.  That is, they are not the product of human thinking.
  5. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on the material world.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not found in atoms, motion, heat, under rocks, etc.
    2. Logical Absolutes cannot be photographed, frozen, weighed, or measured.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not the product of the physical universe, since that would mean they were contingent on atoms, motion, heat, etc., and that their nature was dependent on physical existence.
    4. But, if the universe did not exist, logical absolutes are still true. 
  6. Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    1. Logic is a process of the mind.  Logical absolutes provide the framework for logical thought processes.  Therefore, Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    2. Expanded:  Logical absolutes are either conceptual by nature or they are not.
  7. Thoughts reflect the mind
    1. A person’s thoughts reflect what he or she is.
    2. Absolutely perfect thoughts reflect an absolutely perfect mind.
    3. Since the Logical Absolutes are transcendent, absolute, are perfectly consistent, and are independent of the universe, then they reflect a transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind.
    4. We call this transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind God.
The way I plan to do this is the points I have an objection with I will copy like this: and refute them here.

That which exists has attributes and a nature: While I agree this is true, the question regarding the nature of god is raised. In the example given by CARM is that “a cloud exists and has the attributes of whiteness, vapor, ect. It has the nature of water and air” . The key thing regarding this is that the way in which the word nature is used. It reflects the definition that states “the elements of the natural world”2 thus meaning that if god were to exist, according to CARM’s own argument, he must be made up of physical elements or things since that is how nature is used and what it means.
Truth is not self contradictory: While I agree with this premise as well it eliminates the Bible as being the truth. The reason this is so, is because truth must not be self contradictory meaning that for the Bible to be true it must not have any internal contradictions. **Here one could say that this only refers to a saying such as “you are reading this and not reading this at the same time”1 but if one goes by the definition of self-contradiction which is “contradiction of oneself or itself”3  we can see that for the Bible to be true it must not contradict itself. ***In some rare quantum cases this can be broken, see bellow***

If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then no rational discourse can occur: I would say that logical absolutes cannot be not absolute (in the same universe that is). To prove this I will use the three logical absolutes given above. The first one, the law of identity says that something is what it is and isn’t what it isn’t. There is no way for this to be false. If a cloud is a cloud is is not not a cloud. If a cloud is not a cloud it is not a cloud and it is something else. There is no amount of semantical word play that can be done where one can conclude that a cloud is not a cloud and is a cloud. With point 1 there is no need to worry about it ever not being absolute. Let’s look at number 2, the law of non-contradiction. This is that something cannot be true and false at the same time in the same sense. This cannot and will not be broken regardless of what anyone does. True and false in the same sense are mutually exclusive and thus there is no need to worry about this one either. The third is basically the same saying that a true/false statement cannot be somewhat true/somewhat false. This again cannot be conceivably broken since true and false are discrete values. They are not in a continuum and thus there is no fear that this one will be broken either. But even if they could be, rational discourse could still occur. One could talk about sports, or the weather, or family life. All this could still occur but there would be a chance it would get odd. One can still engage in rational discourse even if someone is contradicting themselves. Rational discourse is merely successful communication and that can still be achieved.

If Logical Absolutes are not always true, then it might be true that something can contradict itself, which would make truth unknowable and rational discourse impossible.  But, saying that something can contradict itself can’t be true: All this is is a big what if statement. What if things don’t contradict themselves? Then truth can still be known. This premise is pretty baseless and it is also ignoring the point that somethings can contradict themselves whist still being true. For example, let’s look at light. There are mountains of data that shows that light is a wave but when one looks at it through the lens of the photoelectric effect it appears as a particle. This is in direct contradiction but both are true. The truth about light contradicts itself, some data show it is a particle whereas others show it is a wave but one can easily say it is either a particle or a wave. This point falls.

But since we know things are true (I exist, you are reading this), then we can conclude that logical statements are true.  Otherwise, we would not be able to rationally discuss or know truth: This too is a flawed premise. I do not know you exist and you do not know I exist. I do not know anyone exists and you do not know anyone else exists. If one takes a look at the solipsist point of view one can see that the only thing that is sure to exist is ones own mind thus we do not know things are true. We must make assumptions to start off thus this premise is false.

If they are not the basis of rational discourse, then we cannot know truth or error since the laws that govern rationality are not absolute.  This would allow people to speak irrationally, i.e., blue sleeps faster than Wednesday: How can truth not be known? As I have shown above, even if it is possible for the aforementioned logical absolutes to be broke, things can still not contradict themselves thus truth can be known. But again, somethings can contradict themselves and still be true as is the case with light.

Here I will lump together all the contingency arguments: The claim is made that these logical absolutes are not contingent on anything (natural that is) and thus if the universe just ceased to exist these logical absolutes would still be there. From the outside this may seem like a sound argument but I assure you that it is not. The logical absolutes are not dictating the way the universe must behave (which is what they would be doing if they were not contingent upon the universe), instead they are merely describing interactions in our universe. Since they are describing actions in our universe they are contingent upon it since if the Universe ceased to be, these logical absolutes may not still be true. It may be hard to grasp that the Law of Non-Contradiction may not hold true at a time, but asserting that it will always hold true, even in a universe with vastly different interactions is taking a huge leap of faith. The burden is now on the proponent of this argument to prove that these would hold true in every possible form of universe (which is of course impossible to prove since we have not observed even one other universe).

Here I would also like to quote Michael Martin, a man who proposed the TANG. The Transcendental Argument for the Non-Existence of God. Martin has the following to say on logical absolutes being contingent upon god:

“Consider logic. Logic presupposes that its principles are necessarily true. However, according to the brand of Christianity assumed by TAG, God created everything, including logic; or at least everything, including logic, is dependent on God. But if something is created by or is dependent on God, it is not necessary–it is contingent on God. And if principles of logic are contingent on God, they are not logically necessary. Moreover, if principles of logic are contingent on God, God could change them. Thus, God could make the law of non-contradiction false; in other words, God could arrange matters so that a proposition and its negation were true at the same time. But this is absurd. How could God arrange matters so that New Zealand is south of China and that New Zealand is not south of it? So, one must conclude that logic is not dependent on God, and, insofar as the Christian world view assumes that logic so dependent, it is false.4

The above statement is showing that the TAG necessitates logic be contingent upon god which just doesn’t fit with what logic is. **Here one could argue that previously I said that logic was contingent upon the universe yet here I say that logic cannot be contingent upon anything. Contradiction? No. As stated above, logic is used to describe the universe thus if there is no universe, there is nothing to describe thus logic ceases to be. Logic is only necessarily true in a universe.**

The final objection I want to make before I end this all is to the claim that says A mind that is irrational, will produce irrational thoughts, A mind that is rational, will produce rational thoughts: This is not necessarily true. But before I show why it is not I must expose the assumption being made. The assumption that is being made here is that humans are irrational which is not true at all. Irrational is defined as “without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgment”5 thus if humans have normal mental clarity or can make sound judgments, they are not irrational. All one has to do to prove that humans are not irrational is to talk to a few of them.
Now that we have shoved this assumption aside let’s look that the points being said. It is said that an irrational mind will produce irrational thoughts but this is simply false. Even if one ignores the above argument and asserts that humans are irrational, this premise would mean that the equations describing gravity are irrational. The equations describing electromagnetism are irrational ectectect but we know this is not the case because if it were we would not be able to plot amazingly accurate trajectories of rockets or be able to even view something on a computer. This alone proves that “irrational minds” can produce rational thoughts.

Conclusion: The conclusion that CARM draws is, obviously, that god made the logical absolutes!! This is, of course, false seeing as a) a thing creating logic undermines logic and b) logical absolutes need no creator, they are merely descriptions of the universe.


~~Peter


————————————————————————————————————-

1: Slick, M. (n.d.). The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry . CARM – Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from http://carm.org/transcendental-argument


2: Nature. (n.d.). Dictionary.com. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from dictionary.reference.com/browse/nature


3: Self-Contradiction – Definition of self-contradiction at YourDictionary.com. (n.d.).Dictionary and Thesaurus – Free Online at Your Dictionary. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from http://www.yourdictionary.com/self-contradiction


4: Martin, Michael . “The Transcendental Argument for the Nonexistence of God.”Secular Web: Atheism, Agnosticism, Naturalism, Skepticism and Secularism. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2011. <http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/martin-frame/tang.html>.


5: “Irrational .” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2011. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/irrational>

2 comments

  1. I am not a fan of the method you used to go about this. Your arguments are often sub-par. Your use of definitions really could be improved. The very first argument, for example, uses a definition of nature. This definition of nature however is not the correct sense of the word. I would write more but computer is dying. I may be back.

  2. Ok, how are my arguments sub-par? I refuted the claim.
    I understand your argument about my definition of nature but in the sense he was using it in the TAG my definition works.

Comments are closed.