Posts tagged ‘teleology’

April 1, 2012

VT Debate and Quote Mining

by Max Andrews

During the VT debate on the existence of God one of the atheists quoted a section of my blog concerning the issue of teleology and suicide.  The quote read:

If there is no God to provide meaning, value, and purpose, the only consistent option for humanity is suicide.[17]  Any becoming of life-affirming or life-denying acts are illusory.  Absolutely nothing can be a positive or negative act for the individual since there is nothing to determine a differentiation.  One is forced to face Nietzsche’s abyss and face the reality that no rope can scale the depth of nothingness.  One is only left with despair, guilt, and angst.  If one can determine that despair, guilt, and angst are not preferred then his only option is to eliminate such emotions and thoughts.  If there is no God, the only remedy for absurdism is to participate in Nietzsche’s abyss of nothingness:  suicide.

This was taken from a previous post of mine on how God provides meaning and purpose. In this quote I had a footnote reference to elaborate on one of these points.  This footnote (17) reads:

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March 27, 2012

Hume on the Teleological Argument

by Max Andrews

Below is a brief outline of David Hume’s criticisms of the teleological argument found in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion] and responses to them.

  1. The argument doesn’t get us to God, at most it just gets to a designer.
    1. This is not arguing for God, just an extremely intelligent mind, which exists apart from the universe.
    2. Constructive empiricism[1]
  2. You can only use analogy to argue for things that are similar, but the universe is unique.
    1. As long as the two things being compared are relevantly similar in the properties under consideration, they can be analogized.  Everything is unique in some way; however, we can still compare things where they are similar.  The universe is not unique in all its properties for it shares some properties with other things (design).
  3. You can only use analogy about things you have empirically experienced, but no one experienced the origin of the universe.
    1. Scientists infer the existence and operations of empirically inexperienced entities on the basis of analogizing from what they do know from experience (i.e. particles)
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March 25, 2012

What if God Commanded You to do Something Wrong?

by Max Andrews

While at the VT Debate on the existence of God one of the atheists’, in passing, briefly mentioned the Euthyphro dilemma. Does God command something because it’s good or is it good because God commands it?  The first horn makes goodness apart from God and the second makes goodness arbitrary. This came up in the Q&A as well.  What if God commanded you to strap a bomb to your chest and blow other people up or rape others?  As an advocate of divine command theory the response to this question is a bit more nuanced then any prima facie answer. (Also, see my moral argument I presented at this debate).

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                      ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                   ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)            ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)[2]

(PERMITTED 2)            [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

*∀= for all…, ☐=necessarily, ◊=possibly.  For instance, RIGHT is read as for all actions, ϕ, ϕ is right if and only if God commands ϕ.

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March 24, 2012

The Fine-Tuning Argument and Random Sampling

by Max Andrews

One of the objections raised by an audience member at the VT debate on the existence of God was against the fine-tuning argument and probability (for my method of argumentation please see: VT Debate-My Method of Argumentation).  In statistics a random sample drawn must have the same chance of being sampled as all the other samples.  The objection was based on this problem.  Since we know of only one universe we don’t know what the range of values for the constants and physics could be.  This was also brought up in conversation with both atheists after the debate.  Since we don’t know how narrow or broad these ranges could be there’s no way of drawing out any probability based argument from fine-tuning.  The thing is that we can know what other universes would be like if the values were different.  If our natural laws have counterfactuals that are in any way incoherent then this is an appropriate sampling.  Also, to make this objection and advocate that we just so happen to live in a life permitting universe in the multiverse then this objection cannot be made since the claim that we happen to life in a life-permitting one amongst countless others suggest we can know what the other samplings are.  For instance, here are a few examples:

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March 24, 2012

VT Debate–The Moral Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is David Baggett’s moral argument* for the existence of a perfectly moral person I used in the VT debate on the existence of God. (I highly recommend Baggett’s book co-authored with Jerry Walls Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality.) This version of the moral argument is an abductive version. I believe this argument, when used in an abductive form, is the strongest form of the argument. You’ll usually see it in a deductive form, a la William Lane Craig. For my method of argumentation please see: VT–My Method of Argumentation.

  1. There are objective axiological/moral facts that obtain.
  2. Either the world alone or the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  3. It is the case that the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  4. Therefore, the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.

In essence, it seems that there are objective moral facts and this asks the question, “What’s the best explanation for these facts?”

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March 24, 2012

VT Debate–The Fine-Tuning Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is Robin Collins’ fine-tuning argument for the existence of a fine-tuner I used in the VT debate on the existence of God.  This version of the fine-tuning argument is an abductive version.  I believe this argument, when used in an abductive form, is the strongest form of the argument.  You’ll usually see it in a deductive form, a la William Lane Craig.  For my method of argumentation please see: VT–My Method of Argumentation.

The fine-tuning argument argues that when the physics and the laws of nature are expressed mathematically their values are ever so balanced in a way that permits the existence of life.  This claim is made on the basis that existence of vital substances such as carbon, and the properties of objects such as stable long-lived stars, depend rather sensitively on the values of certain physical parameters, and on the cosmological initial conditions.[1]  I’m merely arguing that the universe/multiverse is fine-tuned for the essential building blocks and environments that life requires for cosmic and biological evolution to even occur.

  1. Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life permitting universe/multiverse (LPM) is very, very epistemically unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner (~FT): that is, P(LPM|~FT & k’) ≪ 1.
  2. Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPM is not unlikely under FT (Fine-Tuner): that is, ~P(LPM|FT & k’) ≪ 1.
  3. Therefore, LPM strongly supports FT over ~FT. [2]
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March 5, 2012

How Does God Provide Meaning and Purpose?

by Max Andrews

Midnight Dreary by Carla CarsonMan is alienated from himself, from other persons, and from God, and as a result man has been burdened with absurdity.  Absurdity ought to be understood in a dichotomous manner.  Absurdity is experienced subjectively, such that the individual experiences it in an autonomous manner.  The objective absurdity is the metanarratives of life.  This would include a lack of ultimate meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.

Overcoming this alienation and the notion of absurdity, primarily objective absurdity, can only be done so by a divine telos.[1]  It does seem that man lives his life as if he does have an ultimate meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.  However, if God does not exist, then the absurdity is not only subjective but it really is objectively absurd.  The existence of a divine telos enables man to live a consistent life of meaning, incentive, value, and purpose.  There is a reconciliation of man to himself, others, and God by overcoming this absurdity.

Man exists in a state of alienation.  He is alienated from himself, from others, and from God.  Alienation from the self creates a subjective absurdity (this will be explicated later).  Because of his own nature man cannot stand in agreeable terms with himself.  His epistemic warrant is not always at ease.  He doubts.  He questions and is lacks sufficiency in his capacity to function in an ideal manner.

His alienation from others is subjective and experienced by the individual as well.  It too is a result of man’s nature and state of being.  It is at this level of alienation where man often attempts to create his own teleology.  He will construct an artificial and arbitrary teleology based on other alienated persons.  Man’s alienation from God is irreconcilable by man’s initiative.  Man cannot act outside of his closed system; thus, he requires an outside agency to overcome this alienation.

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October 24, 2011

Kierkegaard’s Understanding of the Divine Telos

by Max Andrews

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) believed that man lived on three different stages:  the aesthetic level, ethical level, and the religious level.  The self-centered aesthetic man finds no ultimate meaning in life and no true satisfaction, which leads finally to boredom and a sickness with life.  Kierkegaard recognized the objective standards of good and realized that one cannot live up to what the standard demands.  This results in a sickness, unhappiness, and despair.[1]  The religious stage is where reconciliation can be found.  He finds forgiveness of sins and a personal relationship with God, an overcoming of alienation, and a restoration of the two previous stages.

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October 24, 2011

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Understanding of the Divine Telos

by Max Andrews

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1821-1881), a story of four brothers in Russia is a grim description of the reality of what the world would look like if God were not to exist.  One brother, Ivan, an atheist, tells another brother that there are no objective truths, specifically that there are no moral absolutes.  Ivan’s brother then kills his father, an act that obtains no condemnation if God does not exist.

This can be understood as ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ),[1] also known as Karamazov’s Theorem.  It is necessarily true that if God does not exist then any action cannot be wrong.  It may also be true if a conjunct of rightness is inserted into the theorem.  This ultimately leads to moral nihilism—a nonexistence of value.  Without God, everything is permitted.  Nothing can be praised and nothing can be condemned.  This world, as Dostoevsky understands it, is a world of nothingness.

Dostoevsky, like Camus, Nietzsche, and Sartre, acknowledges the absurdity that arises.  Every man must face the anxiety an absurdity that obtains in a world without God.  Dostoevsky’s response is that every man must face this reality and overcome this absurdity by trusting in and putting his faith in Christ.  Christ is the only one who can overcome the absurdities and relieve man’s anxiety.

Dostoevsky is Christianity’s Nietzsche.  Dostoevsky realizes the despair, guilt, anxiety, and absolute absurdity of a life without God, like Nietzsche; however, he does not self-construct his own teleology.  There is no higher state of being in a world of absurdity.  There would be no incentive to attain any state of being.  There could not be any differentiation between a higher and lower state of being since one would need an objective referent to make such a determination.  The only rational act a man could make in an unreasonable world would be to trust in the reconciling ability of God.  There would be no hope for any reconciliation in a closed system of absurdity—from absurdity only comes absurdity.


            [1] Let Eg represent the existence of God, ϕ for any action, and W for wrong.

October 23, 2011

The Reality of Life if There is No God

by Max Andrews

If God does not exist then man lives in Bertrand Russell’s world of scaffolding despair.  Man is merely the product of pointless cause and effects with no prevision of the ends being achieved.  All the labors of the age, devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vase death of the solar system.  Man’s achievements are destined to be buried in the debris of the universe.  Only within the scaffolding of these [teleological] truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.[1]

If there is no God to provide meaning, value, and purpose, the only consistent option for humanity is suicide.[2]  Any becoming of life-affirming or life-denying acts are illusory.  Absolutely nothing can be a positive or negative act for the individual since there is nothing to determine a differentiation.  One is forced to face Nietzsche’s abyss and face the reality that no rope can scale the depth of nothingness.  One is only left with despair, guilt, and angst.  If one can determine that despair, guilt, and angst are not preferred then his only option is to eliminate such emotions and thoughts (if the implication, by any means, can be determined to be better).  If there is no God, the only remedy for absurdism is to participate in Nietzsche’s abyss of nothingness:  suicide.

(As a note, I want to emphasize that I am not advocating suicide.  I completely disagree with the starting premise that there is no God.  I believe the logic is sound but since there is a God, there is objective purpose, value, and meaning to life.  If you are struggling with the thought of suicide please tell someone.)


            [1] Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic (New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1917), 47-48.

            [2] Here is where Sartre, Camus, and others disagree.  Because of absurdity, man’s only option is to choose suicide.  Death is the only means by which it can be overcome.  In a Christian context, God recognizes that death is the only way to overcome man’s absurdity.  The means by which God provides teleology is by means of death.  God becomes incarnate and overcomes absurdity by means of his own death, which may be imputed to humanity.  Here we find a paradox.  In order for there to be a genuine sense of teleology and becoming there must be death.  There must be death to bring about life, a life of becoming, relationships, and of teleological existence.