Saturday, September 27, 2008


Excerpt from Anthony Horvath’s
Christian Apologetics Ministry
And the Reclassification of Theism
as the Skeptical Position of Naturalism
"It is not very often that you get an admission as clear as the one that was posted on my forum today. I asserted in this post on my blog that at the bottom, most atheistic arguments against the existence of God are based on the ‘presumption of naturalism’ with [missing info in original post.] The atheist on my forum said:
'At the conclusion, you argue that the evidence will show God’s existence if only we give up our assumption that all explanations must be natural. What you fail to give us is any compelling reason why we must abandon that assumption.'"

Unfortunately, Rev. Horvath's critic undercuts his own position by saying he would, in effect, be willing to accept giving up reason. Horvath responds--quite logically--by saying, "The atheist in question says that this assumption can only be abandoned in the face of extremely good reasons, but it should be evident that anyone who believes ‘all explanations must be natural’ is really just throwing up a smokescreen if he now demands ‘reasons’ for thinking otherwise."

Oh, if only we would listen to what we say before we say it. In light of what Horvath said regarding the abandonment of reason for "compelling" reasons, I think the critic would have thought out his words more carefully.

But my favorite atheist philosopher said we must take men at their word. If they say it, then they said it, and we cannot presume to judge that they meant something else. This does not mean we cannot amend our statement when our contradiction becomes evident.

But unless Horvath's critic writes back, we must assume he does not understand the difference between:

1. A principled deduction of logic that tells him that naturalism is natural, while supernaturalism is---not, by definition, natural; and

2. The decision that it makes no difference whether a thing is "natural" or "not-natural" if one is willing to suspend his rational judgment to decide that the "not-natural" can somehow become the "natural," or at least the "acceptable."

Horvath tells him--and others like him--"If you’re just starting to examine the merits of Christianity and are evaluating skeptical objections, the key here is to understand that all the later objections to things like the resurrection and miracles stem from this prior assumption."

What Horvath himself fails to explain is that naturalism was the prevailing world-view for nearly 1000 years, until Augustine.

There are four goals for the informed naturalist, says physicist and cosmologist Dr. Quentin Smith. "i) retrieve naturalism from its de facto reclassification by medieval philosophers. This is a reclassification (which may have been a result of some other deliberately chosen goal) from its original, accurate, classification in Greco-Roman naturalism, and this reclassification was effected by the medieval philosophers. This reclassification still prevails today." Philo Online

"Some of these pre-Socratics sometimes used the word “god” (theos), but insofar as the existence of a so-called god or gods was embraced, they meant by “god” a non-human intelligent organism that was a part of and governed by (rather than governing) natural processes. The first task is based on the fact that naturalism began as a distinct, holistic world-view, was in effect subsumed as a skeptical subfield of natural theology by the medievals..."

This means that Christianity was once the "skeptical" position relative to naturalism. Therefore, Horvath's call to critics who may be "evaluating skeptical objections" are not really the skeptics. They are the former progenitors of the original world-view. The problem with modern naturalists assuming this role and attempting to put the Christian back on the skeptical position is that the modern naturalist does not have the proper epistemic tools to do so.

"This retrieval is also a reversal," writes Smith. The aim is that theism be justifiably reclassified as a subfield of naturalism, namely, as a skepticism about the basic principles of naturalism whose refutation serves to stimulate and further develop the naturalist program. 'Philosophy of religion' disappears, to be replaced by a new subfield of naturalism, namely, 'skepticism about naturalism,' with skeptical arguments being put forth and argued against, with the aim in mind of further developing the argumentative foundations of the naturalist world-view."

The informed naturalist must study his logic properly, not just go off on a quick run as a criticism, as Horvath's critic did. Smith outlines his epistemic proposals for creating better arguments than theists, and thus overcoming their "defeater" arguments" with better "defeater" arguments of our own.

Smith lays it out this way:

"A (a defeated justifier). A is the argument that contemporary science and naturalist philosophy are known to be probably or certainly true, even though A includes no counterarguments against contemporary arguments for theism.
DA (a defeater for the justifier A). DA is a sound argument that argument A is unsound.

"B (a defeated justifier). B is an argument that, contemporary science and naturalist philosophy, when conjoined with an evaluation of contemporary theist arguments for not-
N, (where “not-N” implies naturalism is not true) justify not-N.

"DB (a defeater for the justifier B). DB is a sound argument that argument B is unsound.

"C (an undefeated justifier for N). C is the argument that, contemporary science and naturalist philosophy, when conjoined with an evaluation of contemporary theist arguments for not-N, justify N."
Later, after explaining these positions better, he finalizes this portion of his academic paper by advising that :

"Since both A and B are defeated, most contemporary naturalists, as well as most contemporary theists, hold defeated beliefs about the truth-value of naturalism. The informed naturalist knows the complex argument C that constitutes the defeater of B and the justification of N, as well as meets other conditions explained later in this paper.

"[The] Belief State of Informed Naturalists [is]

'C justifies N.

'Therefore, N is justified.'"

Horvath's critic began with the proper positing of (C), when he said, "At the conclusion, you argue that the evidence will show God’s existence if only we give up our assumption that all explanations must be natural." After that, he provides his own defeater arguments against himself, and all Horvath had to do was properly point them out.

The modern naturalist is not used to using such logic. The modern naturalist is probably not aware that at one time naturalism had Christian logic on the run. The neo-Platonic philosophy of Augustine threw all arguments into disarray, and the naturalists of his day, not used to being put on the skeptical defensive, never recovered.

Smith seems to have discovered the method, the epistemic position, that metaphysical naturalists must take, if we are to regain, one argument by one argument, the former glory position of having not only valid logic, but soundness of logic, on our side.

Because that is what Smith's formula is about: injecting not only validity, in other words adherence to the rules of formal syllogistic logic, but using that logic to locate the soundness. "Soundness" is defined as sound "if and only if it is both valid, and all of its premises are actually true." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy