Epistemological Argument (Can Logic Exist In A Naturalistic Universe?)

February 13, 2008

Before I begin, I see many people stumbling upon this thread by typing in “can logic exist in another universe”, or something of the like, into the search bar. The thing is though, we depend upon our present logic to even do such thought experiments. The only possible conclusion then would be to say that in some universes being illogical (to us) is logical. Huh?

This doesn’t tell us anything. It only assumes that what is illogical to us presently, in some way shape or form, can be logical in another universe. However, has anyone been to that universe and checked it out? Even if they did they would still depend on their present logic and wouldn’t be able to tell if there was another logic! Interesting then how they can be so sure that it is possible.

Moving on… Paul Manata and Dan Barker debated a while ago on “The Infidel Guy”. The Infidel Guy is a radio broadcast which bolsters a “scientific” and “rational” worldview with naturalistic, atheistic, and agnostic leanings.

Click here to listen to the debate.

Here is a statement quoted by Dan Barker (the atheist) which is the bases for his epistemology (justification of knowledge):

“Logic is not a thing, it’s a function. Just like digestion is a function of the stomach, logic is a function of the mind.”

Keep this phrase in the back of your head. First, allow me to back pedal before we jump into my rebuttal. The theist uses a form of argumentation, apologetics if you will, against the atheist which deals with the fact that human beings are logical beings. Arguing that “morality” and “logic” can only come from the eternal, personal, all-good, Trinitarian God of Scripture is an  apologetic called the “Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence” (TAG), which is a form of presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositionalism asks, “what is your starting point for all of reality, and is it consistent in accounting for the reality we live, experience, and know daily?”

TAG seeks to debunk naturalistic atheism by arguing for “meta-physical” realities, which are truths and realities not ultimately accounted for in finite, mindless, “physical” matter, but rather God. For example, compare a “rock” to the idea of something being “right”. One is observable and tangible while the other is not. Both are said to be realities, however.

The theist usually argues against the naturalistic atheist’s worldview with this form of argumentation. A naturalistic worldview simply says that nature, matter, and the physical realm is all that exists. Everything is made up of matter. The only thing that exists is this matter or “stuff”. All that exists in all of creation is “stuff” and there is no other realm beyond the “stuff”. This is the worldview known as Naturalism, or Materialism.

The problem with this worldview is when the naturalist tries to account for realities, “stuff”, which can’t be detected within “nature”. The idea of something being right” and “wrong” cannot be found under a rock or within “physical” nature. If physical matter is all that exists, then where is the matter for “right”? Is it hiding under a rock somewhere? Does it grow in a special climate somewhere in Northern Europe? Of course not. The Christian accounts for the notion of “right” as something we innately identify as human beings because we’re created in the image of an eternal, personal, all-good, Triune (the Trinity being 3 persons in 1) being. What’s “right” is a reflection of God’s eternal nature and character, specifically how the separate person within the God-head eternally treat one another. We are created in the likeness of God, thus, know that things are really right and really wrong, thus are accountable to what’s really right.

The ability to identify things and be rational begins with “logic” (or classical logic). Using an apple as an example, the 3 laws of logic say that: (1) An apple is an apple and not something else like an elephant, otherwise we would be trying to identify an elephant. (2) Something is either an apple or not an apple. (3) An apple cannot simultaneously be a non-apple in every way. In other words, “something is what it is, and isn’t what it isn’t.” This phrase simply clears up the classical 3 laws of logic which are the ultimate foundation for thinking, communication, and rationality.

So there is logic for you. We use it when we argue, believe lies, yell at people, cry, feel sorry for ourselves, and when we go to Disney Land. We can’t escape it. We use it non-stop. You’re using it right now to make sense of these words. These letters are made up of symbols which form words which have meanings attached to them which form sentences which have greater and wider meanings which form paragraphs and so forth. There are universal meanings attached to every word so that you can distinguish between what I am saying and what I am not saying. This is logic. It is a process, however, which you cannot touch. You cannot see, taste, touch, smell, or hear the meanings attached to all of these words. You only understand them. You can place the finger in your mind on them, but you cannot place your physical finger on them!

The theist has a powerful argument against the naturalist when he understands this truth. His worldview gets catapulted into greater consistency leaving the naturalist’s worldview behind in smoke. This is because the theist holds that our physical reality isn’t the only reality that exists out there. The naturalist says this reality is all there is. The naturalist then, has difficulties accounting for realities which are intangible such as logic, real morality, and real purpose which no one can physically touch, yet everyone still accepts as realities.

If all that exists is the tangible, how does a reality which is non-tangible comport? As Manata (the theist) says in the debate, “It’s trying to account for non-marbles in a universe where only marbles exist.” How marbles account for non-marbles? It doesn’t make sense. They must come from another source.

So again, here is Dan Barker’s response when trying to say that “logic”, a non-physical reality, CAN exist in a universe that is only made up of the physical.

“Logic is not a thing, it’s a function. Just like digestion is a function of the stomach, logic is a function of the mind.”

As you can see, Barker is trying to make logic (a non-physical thing) seem like it can be accounted for in the physical. It’s like trying to say “logic is just as natural as organic products at the super-market.” I can just hear some atheist hippies saying, “honey, pick up some logic from Trader Joe’s when you come back from work, will ya?”

Paul Manata (person jumping in water) alluded to what we’ve gone over. I’ll let you listen to the debate to hear his response.

My response would simply be this:

By saying “logic is a function of the mind”, it almost sounds like Barker could be implying that “whatever the mind does, is its function”. Thus, if the mind functioned illogically, then we could just as easily say that “irrationality is a function of the mind”. People are also irrational, sometimes un-intentionally or deliberately. Just saying that “logic is a function of the mind” still ignores the major issue that the mind must function according to the laws of logic in order to be rational. Thus, logic is more than a function of the mind, but a necessary function so that we will be rational as opposed to irrational. We are pre-comitted to it. Because we’re created in the image of God? Oops.

In other words, logic doesn’t just “describe” what the mind does, it “prescribes” what the mind must do in order for it to make sense, and also for it to tell the truth and not lie. The Darwinian naturalistic atheist argues that logic developed as a survival tool, and leaves out the existential and moral aspect of it – which jives more with reality. Logic can’t be a product of survival because either logic or survival had to come first, thus they are not co-dependent. The reality we live in everyday is that we don’t need to be 100% rational anyways. Politicians don’t make sense, and people lie all the time, and yet we are still surviving. It is obvious to anyone paying attention that logic has a greater existential and moral purpose – not just survival!

The third law of logic, the law of non-contradiction, says that A cannot also be non-A. Something can’t simultaneously be what it is and what it isn’t in every way. This activity is going beyond merely “what the mind does”, but into the meta-physical realm, namely, “what the mind SHOULD do”! The mind should be consistent and not contradict in order to for us to talk at the coffee bar and to be moral. So logic is more then just what the mind does, it’s what it ought to do in order for it to make sense and be truthful.

We can’t say that the stomach “ought” to digest. If all stomachs evolved to stop digesting food then we would say they are functioning abnormally. We could only say it’s what “nature” is doing. We couldn’t say that “nature” is doing it “wrong” or “incorrectly”. However, we definitely can say that the mind should always function logically. We “should” communicate in a way that makes sense and that is truthful, not that we “just do”. If we stopped making sense and stopped telling the truth 100% of the time then we’d know that 1. we weren’t fulfilling our existential duty, and 2. that we are being immoral. We live like this is the case every day. Dan Barker lives like this is the case every day. All sentient human beings have a pre-commitment to this. We can’t escape it.

So Barker really just wants to have his cake and eat it too. Logic isn’t merely what the mind “does”, but what the mind “ought to do”.

This thread just covers the basic idea of epistemology and TAG. You can read my comprehensive thread here called ‘Why Christianity Makes The Most Sense of Logic’. It is an easy and interesting read!



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