Monday, February 24, 2014

David Robertson v. Matt Dillahunty

Here are my thoughts on the Unbelievable Podcast debate. The first debate centered on Robertson’s articulation of the traditional proofs for God’s existence, namely the cosmological argument, teleological argument, moral argument, and argument from religious experience.

Dillahunty attacked Robinson’s formulation of the teleological argument on the basis that it’s viciously circular. He objected that the argument builds its premises on the assumption God designed, and fine-tuned the universe then uses empirical data to extrapolate order and design to the conclusion of God. Dillahunty asserted that any given claimed fact must be contrasted to other known facts, for any given fact, to even be considered a fact.

 Robertson presented a type of Leibnizian cosmological argument. But Dillahunty claimed it was an argument from ignorance. Since, he thinks, there can be vital undiscovered information that would naturalistically explain the origin of the universe. So according to Dillahunty one is too rash to logically take a stand, on the origin of the universe, where science is still advancing. Therefore, Dillahunty commends the listeners to suspend judgment until all the relevant data can be assessed.

Robertson used the Nazi concentration camps as an instance of moral evil that presupposes an objective moral standard. Dillahunty simply asserted morality is based on nonmaleficence or beneficence. However, he goes on to say it is situational.

First, the teleological argument is not viciously circular. Since it presupposes what science depends on—the order, and design for any continuity of human experience in the past, present, and future. Second Dillahunty’s criterion of facts is self-refuting. His criterion states that any given claimed fact must be contrasted to other known facts, for any given fact, to even be considered a fact. This criterion would also apply to itself. But what can it contrast with to prove it a fact? As I see it Dillahunty’s criterion of facts cannot stand against its own tests. Moreover such a criterion assumes knowledge possible given Dillahunty's viewpoint. Yet this begs the question. Furthermore, the same problems with correspondence and coherence theories of truth can be applied to Dillahunty's view of facts.  Third to criticize an argument on the basis of it being predicated on ignorance assumes there is knowledge, or alternative positions, which an argument overlooks. But if neither knowledge or alternative positions can be provided the criticism is groundless. If anything such an accusation appeals to the mere possibility of further knowledge or alternative positions but no actual knowledge or alternative positions. Therefore such a critcism should be regarded as a desperate attempt to revive a failed position, only to be left in resounding defeat.

How can one know what is relevant data and what is not? Especially considering Thomas Kuhn’s insights on theory ladenness?  When someone suspends judgment is not one making a judgment against those positions that require belief? Put in another way, if one suspends judgment on a viewpoint that claims it is always wrong to suspend judgment, is not one already judged the viewpoint in advance to be wrong?

If morality is based on the well-being of others, who or what defines what is ‘well’? In any case, regardless of how humanity “is,” what is it that determines how humanity “ought” to be?  How is it humans are morally equal? I think Dillahunty’s position reduces to relativism, ethical subjectivism, or moral nihilism.      

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