Friday, September 19, 2008

Kagin vs Slick (CARM 2008)

Matt Slick gives his usual transcendental argument from God. It goes something like this:

The laws of logic exist independently of human minds
The laws of logic exist conceptually and transcendentally
You can't explain that! (without positing a transcendent mind)
:. God exists

I know, it sounds ridiculous, but this really is the argument on the table.

On first rebuttal, Slick disingenuously complains that Kagin did not use his opening statement as rebuttal time. Not only is it generally unnecessary (or even inappropriate) to rebut during one's opening, but in this particular case it is untrue to say that Kagin failed to do so. In fact, he said something like this: "How did we get the laws of logic? The same way we got the laws of arithmetic, the multiplication table, the alphabet ... people thought it up."

The laws of arithmetic are particularly salient here, because whichever culture and language gives rise to them, they pretty much have to turn out the same way if they are going to prove useful in modeling the real world. This doesn't prove, of course, that they are somehow transcendent, but merely that they have to be formulated in a certain way in order to yield results which are in accord with the material world.

Kagin also points out that the laws of logic have been modified over the centuries, a point which is especially true of emerging non-classical logical systems.

Slick's (p)rebuttal to Kagin's rebuttal is this: "Logic cannot be the product of human minds because human minds are different." By this reasoning, the laws of grammar, spelling, algebra, calculus, and any other set of linguistic conventions governing meaningful expression cannot be the product of human minds, because how could we possibly have come to agree on such things? Blue sleeps faster than Wednesday, indeed, Mr. Slick.

Despite basing his case for theism entirely on an argument which presumes that selected linguistic conventions transcend human minds, Slick manages to sound more persuasive than Kagin during this event, because Kagin does not focus his efforts on any particular argument but sort of meanders peripatetically around the familiar theism/nontheism conceptual landscape.

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