Q&A: Yet Another E-Mail On The FreeThinking Argument (With A Brief Note On Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism)

Q&A: Yet Another E-Mail On The FreeThinking Argument (With A Brief Note On Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism)

3D graphics image by Quince Creative https://quincemedia.com
As I have mentioned before, I am now a believer in Libertarian Free Will however I still disagree with the freethinking argument. I wanted to discuss it with Tim Stratton directly, however he is busy at this point so we agreed that it would be best for me to discuss it with you. (Again). We have debated the issue several times before and if I recall you and Tim Stratton discussed some of my arguments on an episode that was played on both of your podcasts. (I watched it on his to see an his newest and strongest form of his argument). I watched it a long time ago which means my memory is probably somewhat off so I will try to stick to the basic points which are relevant.
 I believe it is fair for me to quote both your articles and Tim Stratton’s to respond to. I do remember my infinite series argument which I got from Jonathan Edwards (see here) was misrepresented and you can see the proper form of it in Q&A: Follow Up On Objections To Libertarian Free Will. That should clear that up. Now I think Daniel Denison Whedon demonstrated in his rebuttal to Edwards and other determinists (you can read it for free here: The Freedom of the Will as a Basis of Human Responsibility and a Divine Government) that this argument is flawed and simply based on a misunderstanding of what the relevant terms meant and that the type of causation required for free will isn’t incoherent although it is perhaps impossible to fully conceive. 
(The book also has an incredibly strong response to compatibilism and semi-compatibilism which is the best one I have ever seen. Overall I started reading the book as a determinist thoroughly convinced that free will was impossible and that we didn’t need it to be responsible for our actions, a few weeks of reading and reflecting on it and I was a thorough believer in Libertarian Free Will and realized how absurd it is to believe that determinism and moral responsibility are compatible: overall I highly recommend it. The Society Of Evangelical Arminians also highly endorsed this book basically as a complete and utter refutation of Edwards, which is why I wanted to read it, see here.) 
Also the claim that God has libertarian free will and that therefore humans can is a non-sequitur. If you are arguing that God by definition has free will because he is an agent whose decisions are uncaused, than that proof would not apply to humans who are not first causes in that sense. (And I am guessing that you guys don’t actually thinks that our decisions are uncaused in any sense that would conflict with the Cosmological argument, and that you instead think that we as willing agents, are causes adequate to produce several effects (decisions), this is what Whedon calls alternative causation. (I got that impression from the podcast given your discussion about being able to choose various things that are compatible with your nature, if that isn’t alternative causation by another name I don’t know what is.) Otherwise the principle that everything that has a beginning has a cause is dead and the cosmological argument goes out the window and the fact that people made that decision rather then another one truly would be random and not up to you in any sense and as far from being free as possible.) 
And even if God is the first cause, that doesn’t mean that he has the ability to choose otherwise even in that first decision to create the universe. There could easily be an God who when he was the first cause had a certain nature that necessitated him to make only one choice. (Create the universe). Of course I think humans do have free will, but the Cosmological Argument scarcely proves that God could have chosen to not create the universe or a different kind of universe. The Cosmological argument is not a proof of any kind of Libertarian Free Will that humans have even if you define God having us decisions uncaused as free will. Of course if God was an alternative cause of the universe then every believer in Libertarian Free Will would agree that he is a free agent, but the cosmological argument proves no such thing. I don’t personally think that a uncaused otherwise deterministic God like Edwards would have believed in would count as a free agent. His inclinations/desires may be uncaused, but the effect (whatever choice he makes) is absolutely fixed by these inclinations combined with his knowledge. He wouldn’t be responsible for the fact that he has those inclinations, and he can’t alter them or in any way prevent them from having these effects so how would he be responsible for them or their effects? And how would he be a free agent? 
With that out if the way I want to deal with this issue. I dispute premises 2 and 3 in the freethinking argument. “2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist. 3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.” 2 is easier to dispute then 3. I have never heard a proper defense of it. I have heard non-naturalists and naturalists going all the way back to one of the first naturalist, Baron D’Holbach, assert that if naturalism is true we don’t have free will but have never heard proof. I have heard a variety of ways of restating the claim but never a shred of proof. 
Here is an example from Tim Stratton’s article “The Freethinking Argument in a Nutshell” “Premise (2) is tantamount to ‘if all that exists is nature, then all that exists is causally determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang.'” 
First of all, the laws of nature (according to what naturalists typically believe) do not determine anything, perhaps that is a quibble but the laws of nature are simply descriptions of the way nature is observed to behave. And last time I checked there was no law of nature saying that all physical causes (even at the macro-level) are deterministic or are only capable of producing a certain set of effects in a given environment. The claim about the initial conditions of the Big Bang determining everything is simply that: a claim. This isn’t a axiomatic first principle that can just be assumed, so it will require some kind of justification. We have observed that at least most physical objects at the macro level are deterministic but does that mean all of them are? 
If you are arguing that since the particles that make up human beings are deterministic, we are therefore deterministic that is the fallacy of composition. (I am not saying that you are arguing that just addressing a potential argument). If you are arguing that we observe deterministic behavior in at least most physical objects we observe, that doesn’t mean that if we observe an physical object that seems to not comply with this “law” that we shouldn’t accept this observation. And if free will must exist (or if we just have good reason like observation of our minds to think it does) then we have reason to think that our minds are free. If our minds are our brains then we have good reason to think that our brains are not deterministic. Perhaps you wish to argue that it is a reason to believe in dualism over physicalism. 
However, our minds/souls do seem to be mostly deterministic as well. Most of the functions of the mind (intellect, instinct, desire itself, etc) are in themselves experienced as deterministic unless regulated by the will which we experience as indeterministic. So most of the time our souls are deterministic and therefore we have reason to assume that our souls have an inherently deterministic quality to them at least in most parts. Thus the dualistic soul is observed to be mostly deterministic, therefore I conclude that it doesn’t have free will. That is scarcely much of an argument, therefore you can see why I am not impressed by the claim that since at least most of the matter is observed to be deterministic therefore all of it is. If physicalism we have reason to believe that despite most matter being deterministic a type of it (the will in our brains) is not so. If dualism is true we have a reason to believe that despite most of our souls being deterministic a part of it (our wills) is not. 
Those are the reasons I have imagined as a justification for premise 2. Perhaps you have a better justification than the ones I haven’t thought of or wish to defend any of the possible ones I have argued against. I have wanted to see a justification of this premise for a long time. When D’Holbach or Alex Rosenberg claim that naturalism entails determinism I see them as equally unjustified in saying that and would like to hear the reason why I must stop believing in free will if naturalism is true!! Just to be clear: I am NOT saying that quantum physics grants free will or has anything to do with it. 

Premise 3 is going to be a complicated topic. In defense of the claim that the lack of Libertarian Free Will eliminates all possibility of knowledge Tim Stratton writes in the article mentioned above: “Premise (3) is equivalent with “if all things are causally determined, then that includes all thoughts and beliefs.” If our thoughts and beliefs are forced upon us, and we could not have chosen better beliefs, then we are simply left assuming that our determined beliefs are good (let alone true). Therefore, we could never rationally affirm that our beliefs are the inference to the best explanation – we can only assume it.

Here is the big problem for the atheistic naturalist: it logically follows that if naturalism is true, then atheists — or anyone else for that matter — cannot possess knowledge. Knowledge is typically and minimally defined as “justified true belief.” One can happen to have true beliefs; however, if they do not possess warrant or justification for a specific belief, their belief does not qualify as a knowledge claim. If one cannot freely infer the best explanation, then one has no justification that their belief really is the best explanation. Without justification, knowledge goes down the drain. All we are left with is question-begging assumptions (a logical fallacy).” 
I am going to first take an unexpected route and argue that the argument that our belief in our reliable use of logic and other basic criteria doesn’t need to be justified. The claim that ALL of our beliefs must be justified (in the sense Stratton means it) is a self refuting claim, because it itself is an (ultimately) unjustified claim. One of the biggest problems in epistemology is Munchhausen’s Trilemma where all beliefs are ultimately either 1: Justified by circular reasoning. 2. Justified by an infinite regress of justifications. Or 3. Justified by assumption. (Or as I prefer to say, is not justified in the sense of having any warrant “from outside” at all). The claim that all beliefs must be justified destroys itself when put through this trilemma. Which option will you take for the claim that all beliefs must be justified to be knowledge? Thus I affirm option 3, since once the claim that ALL beliefs are unjustified goes down the drain accepting 3 is not problematic. And I would argue that there is no justification at all for the claim that the laws of logic for example must be justified. In most cases one could argue that given all the competing beliefs in the world we need a method to determine which one is correct which requires justification. However in order to even understand the concept of justification you need certain assumptions such as the laws of logic, our reliable access to them, our existence, us being able to tell when our beliefs are reliable or not, etc. To argue against logic based on this is to assume logic in the first place which is the stolen concept fallacy in the first place. Justification isn’t needed here. 
(A similar point can be made against Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism-the probability of us having widely unreliable belief forming facilities is zero since the idea is self refuting. Generally reliable facilities aren’t merely a properly basic belief-the concept of properly basic beliefs can put into the above trilemma and shown to be ultimately unjustified. They are an undeniable axiomatic belief. So it must be the case that we have been put into an environment where organisms without reliable belief forming facilities are filtered out by the environment or outcompeted by organisms that do have them. If anything the argument should be made that the fact that we have reliable belief forming facilities is more likely to have occurred on theism then on naturalism. But the argument that naturalism is self refuting cannot however be maintained unless the unreliable belief forming facilities can be demonstrated as impossible or incoherent on naturalism.
It is true that beliefs about science and philosophy do not directly affect our survival and reproduction. However why can’t the same process that lead to us figuring out problems about how to build something or figure out how to get water in a bad place be used to figure out scientific problems like the origin of the universe? After all the scientific method requires little more than observation, making hypothesis and trial and error. This can help us fly to the moon, figure out that evolution is true, figure out the laws of the universe and perhaps eventually figure how the universe came to be. (Or that one might be beyond our comprehension-who knows?) For philosophy, we needed to be able to use data to make more inferences in our evolutionary past, so it is not surprising that we can use the information we have about our minds and the universe to make deeper inferences about it. Of course we do make errors about that, but that is a problem for everyone not just for atheistic evolution and can’t therefore be used to prove another hypothesis against it.) We also generally need to understand basic concepts like the laws of logic and the law of causality innately. And if they were off in one part of the universe that would cause havoc everywhere thus making it reasonable to believe that they apply everywhere.)
Perhaps a better definition of knowledge would be “reasonably accepted true belief.” This definition is at least not self refuting, and is no problem. The basic criteria for epistemology like the laws of logic are reasonably accepted assertions/axioms that are required to even understand the concept of justification, thus it makes sense for them not to be bound by the concept. 
Nevertheless, I do not see the above point as completely ending the freethinking argument. If it could be shown that it was conceptually incoherent for us to exercise our rational facilities or for us to be aware that we are doing so on determinism then I would accept the argument. (Or if it could be shown that it is impossible for us to use rationality to “infer the best explanation” if we have been determined to will to do so, which would make free will a basic axiom as well.) Some forms of determinism certainly are like that. If a determinist claims that our minds don’t consciously and intentionally select one option over another and that all experience of doing so is an illusion generated by unconscious processes then we have a problem. It is thus impossible for a person to use rationality to do that and thus impossible for them to reliably distinguish between true and false beliefs. They have a positive reason to deny their own rationality given their theory. Thus they have no reason to believe anything including the truth of that theory. 
However the views of someone like Jonathan Edwards do not seem to entail anything like that. Edwards believed that the will is always determined by the strongest motive. Tim Stratton if I recall made a criticism of this view by claiming that this entails that our beliefs are just entailed by our strongest desire and not a commitment to truth. Well first of all many of our motives require us to search for truth. If my motive is to see if the freethinking argument is another excellent argument I can use against determinists then that is a motive for me to will my reason to think of the best reasons against it to email to you so I can be confident of them. If I want to win a debate I have a motive to understand the arguments on both sides. If I want to acquire food I have motive to use my reason to figure out how to do so. Second curiosity can be a motive as well which obviously would be a motive that requires the use of reason. And the result of logic and observation can in certain ways influence my motives as well. So Stratton’s argument against Edwards here doesn’t hold up. Edwards can just as easily hold that someone willed to exercise their rationality in the same way a person would if they had free will. 

Now it is true that a person under determinism could not will otherwise unless God, nature and nurture or whatever handed them a stronger motive which would control them more. On determinism that would be an effect without a cause. To choose to resist their strongest motive they would have to produce an effect without a cause. It is obviously true that they cannot therefore be blamed for failing to produce an effect without a cause, a flagrant contradiction which is what willing otherwise would be (that was a point I got from the book I recommended above). On determinism I could no more blame a person that “deliberately” choose to think poorly or did any other wrong thing any more than I could blame a rabid dog for biting a child, a person with epilepsy for having a seizure, or a volcano for erupting and destroying a city. However, people can still be aware as to how they have willed, and how they could have willed if they had been handed different amounts and/or types of motives. Presumably the illusion of free will would be an indication of what you could have done if you had different motives thus making it reasonable to tell if you have exerted reason properly or not in the same way having free will would.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding something. Perhaps the best way to alleviate any confusion over this issue would be this: imagine two conscious robots. They have all of the same facilities, the same access to laws of logic, the same abilities to infer, the tendencies to fail, etc. The only difference is that one conscious robot is capable of choosing to be rational or irrational, and the other could only do the opposite if they are handed the strongest motive to. Both are equally aware of what they “could have” done whether this be in the Libertarian sense or in the “if I was handed a different strongest motive” sense. What difference does this free will make to how reliable their ability to tell whether they reasoned properly or not? 
The robot can tell all of the things related to whether or not they have used their rationality, how they have used it, and on what they have used it and any other such claims. Both robots having a reliable method of at least generally being able to exert their minds to tell if they have reliable beliefs is a basic axiomatic requirement for rationality to even be a thing. To tell if your concept of justification is well thought out, you must be able to tell if your beliefs are reliable-at least if you are willing to. They are “forced” to either be rational or (mostly) irrational and they can generally tell to some degree either way. Just like with humans. 
As I have said before, I do want this argument to be correct since it is useful for debating determinists and I do use a version of it for some of my friends who have embraced the more absurd types of determinism mentioned above. It is very important to note that the question of whether or not people can be blamed for their determined beliefs and whether they can trust their determined beliefs are seperate. I answer no to the first question and (currently) yes to the second. It is awesome to argue that determinism ends responsibility, but that doesn’t cut an inch against the truth of it. (At least not unless you assume the truth of holy books like the Bible or the Quran). It only shows a negative consequence of it. The version of the freethinking argument I use is devastatingly effective against those forms of the determinism I have mentioned and is very effective in deterring people from embracing them, realising how self refuting it is to do so. It is nice to have a tool against the more extreme views of psychology to rein them in and prevent people from abandoning beliefs that should be obvious, or accepting ones that are obviously false. In all cases the freethinking argument is a quick and effective argument that is easy to make and easy to grasp. 
– Sam

Goodness gracious! This might be the longest e-mail I have ever receieved (from anyone!)! Well, let’s get started.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Libertarian Free Will

You wrote \\“Of course I think humans do have free will, but the Cosmological Argument scarcely proves that God could have chosen to not create the universe or a different kind of universe. The Cosmological argument is not a proof of any kind of Libertarian Free Will that humans have even if you define God having us decisions uncaused as free will.”\\ – Right. The Cosmological Argument doesn’t prove that human beings have libertarian free will. You’re absolutely right about that. I think you might be referring to the podcast episode in which Tim and I talked about libertarian free will. In that episode, Tim Stratton argued that the cosmological argument entails that libertarian free will is a coherent concept and that therefore God could create creatures with libertarian free will even if He never does. Even if God decided to actualize a world in which human beings do not have libertarian free will, He nevertheless could have actualized a world in which human beings do possess it. This was an argument that libertarian free will is a coherent concept and not an incoherent concept. Some Calvinists try to argue that LFW isn’t even possible, much less actual. So, getting people to admit that God creating free creatures isn’t the same as God creating a square circle or a married bachelor is a step in the right direction.

In “Episode 30: The Apologetic Significance Of Molinism”, we were talking about the contents of a paper he presented at the past EPS Conference1 In his paper, he explained how the Kalam’s deductively proves that the universe has a cause and then went into the inductive inference to God as the cause (or as William Lane Craig would call it; the conceptual analysis part of the argument). One of these is that the cause of the universe must have the freedom to create the universe or not create the universe; because if the cause had all of the necessary and sufficient conditions required to create the universe in place, then The Big Bang would have occurred infinitely long ago, contrary to the scientific evidence. 

Dr. William Lane Craig explains it this way; 

We have concluded that the beginning of the universe was the effect of a First Cause. By the nature of the case that cause cannot have any beginning of its existence nor any prior cause. Nor can there have been any changes in this cause, either in its nature or operations, prior to the beginning of the universe. It just exists changelessly without beginning, and a finite time ago it brought the universe into existence. Now this is exceedingly odd. The cause is in some sense eternal and yet the effect which it produced is not eternal but began to exist a finite time ago. How can this be? If the necessary and sufficient conditions for the production of the effect are eternal, then why is not the effect eternal? How can all the causal conditions sufficient for the production of the effect be changelessly existent and yet the effect not also be existent along with the cause? How can the cause exist without the effect?

One might say that the cause came to exist or changed in some way just prior to the first event. But then the cause’s beginning or changing would be the first event, and we must ask all over again for its cause. And this cannot go on forever, for we know that a beginningless series of events cannot exist. There must be an absolutely first event, before which there was no change, no previous event. We know that this first event must have been caused. The question is: How can a first event come to exist if the cause of that event exists changelessly and eternally? Why isn’t the effect co-eternal with its cause?

The best way out of this dilemma is agent causation, whereby the agent freely brings about some event in the absence of prior determining conditions. Because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions which were not previously present. For example, a man sitting changelessly from eternity could freely will to stand up; thus, a temporal effect arises from an eternally existing agent. Similarly, a finite time ago a Creator endowed with free will could have freely brought the world into being at that moment. In this way, the Creator could exist changelessly and eternally but choose to create the world in time. By “choose” one need not mean that the Creator changes his mind about the decision to create, but that he freely and eternally intends to create a world with a beginning. By exercising his causal power, he, therefore, brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist. So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not. In this way, then, it is possible for the temporal universe to have come to exist from an eternal cause: through the free will of a personal Creator.2

Back to Stratton’s Paper. Stratton wrote: 

“Some deterministic Calvinists have argued that the idea of libertarian freedom is absurd and that even God cannot possess this kind of volition.[13] If that is the case, then these Calvinists cannot appeal to all of the rational inferences provided by the Kalam and humanity—in a sense—becomes just as ‘necessary’ as God Himself. …….If God does possess libertarian freedom, however, then it stands to reason that …. humans could possess the limited, but genuine ability to choose between a range of options each consistent with our nature as well. This is the epitome of libertarian freedom!

The Kalam also helps us understand even more about Molinism. Consider the fact that the rational inferences provided by the Kalam show that God exists in a ‘static state of aseity’ in which the universe (time and space) did not exist. That is to say, logically prior to the beginning of the existence of the universe God exists—’and then’ (to use temporal language), God creates the universe. Considering this ‘static state of aseity’ the question is raised: is God maximally great in this state?”3

Tim Stratton went on in the paper to invite his readers to take ” The Cosmological Quiz”

Question 1: Is it true that God exists in a state of aseity logically prior to creating the universe (and thus without the universe)?

Question 2: In this state of aseity, is God omnipotent? If so, does he possess the power to create creatures with libertarian freedom (even if He never does create them)?

Question 3: In this state of aseity, is God omniscient? If so, does he possess the knowledge of what these libertarian free creatures—within His power to create (even if He never does create them)—would freely do?4

And Tim Stratton said that if one answers “no” to any of these questions then you might be a heretic! On the other hand, if people answer “yes” to all of the above, then that means that they are Molinists!

Stratton explained “This is because if one affirms that God is both omnipotent and omniscient in the state of affairs logically prior to the creation of the universe, then some flavor of Molinism must be true. God would possess the power to create libertarian free creatures (even if He never creates them) and God would “middle know” exactly how these free creatures would freely think, act, believe, and behave logically prior to His creative decree.”5

Stratton’s point was threefold; (1) The Kalam entails that LFW is possible, and (2) for the Calvinist who is adamant that it is not possible, they cannot use the Kalam in their apologetics, and (3) For the Christian who is theologically committed to God being omnipotent, omniscient, and self-existent, then it follows that God has middle knowledge of what all libertarian free creatures he could create would freely choose if He chose to create them. Even if God never does decide to create a free creature, because He is all-powerful, he could create creatures with LFW and because He is omniscient, he knows everything they would do in circumstances he could place them in. So while The Kalam neither proves that humans have the libertarian free will nor that full-blown Molinism is true, it does entail certain facets of Molinism that many Calvinists won’t concede (i.e that LFW is possible, and that God has middle knowledge). 

Sorry for spending a lot of time on this, but I do think it’s important that we realize just what implications The Kalam Cosmological Argument has on The Molinism debate. I unpacked this not just for your benefit, Sam, but also for any Calvinists who may read this blog post. 

Before I move on, let me just say that Tim and I would agree that our choices aren’t uncaused. We would say that they are undetermined, but not uncaused. My actions are caused by my own volition, and the same goes for God. You could say that our choices are self-caused. 

Issue With Premises 2 Of The FreeThinking Argument

I’m surprised that you are in doubt over premise 2, and that seems to be one of the more obviously true of the premises of the argument. Most of the naturalists I have used this argument on go after 3 (as you do and as you have in past conversations we’ve had), but 1 is true by definition, 4 can’t be denied without forfeiting the right to debate, and 2 seems at least intuitively true at minimum.

For readers not familiar with the argument, let me spell out the premises

1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.

2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.

3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.

4- Rationality and knowledge exist.

5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.

6- Therefore, the soul exists.

7- Therefore, naturalism is false.

8- The best explanation for the existence of the soul and/or libertarian free will is God.

The vast majority of naturalists affirm 2. You’ve got to think there’s a reason for that. You wrote “the laws of nature (according to what naturalists typically believe) do not determine anything, perhaps that is a quibble but the laws of nature are simply descriptions of the way nature is observed to behave.” This is just an issue of semantics. The “laws of nature” is a term often used colloquially for “laws of physics and chemistry”, such as the four fundamental forces. These certainly are more than descriptive. 

When an apple falls from a tree, gravity isn’t just describing the apple falling from the tree. Gravity causes the apple to fall. The mass of the Earth exherts a gravitational pull on the mass of the apple. Two massive bodies attract one another and more massive each respective body is to the other and the closer those two bodies are, the more powerful the gravitational attraction. Gravity and motion don’t just describe the Earth rotating around the sun. Gravity and motion cause it. Likewise when you combine certain chemicals together, you get a reaction. The “law” of chemistry doesn’t just describe the reaction, it causes it.

So, this is just a confusion of language. In “The FreeThinking Argument In A Nutshell” and other places where Stratton defends the argument, I’m not surprised he uses colloquial language. These articles and podcast episodes are aimed at a lay audience who talk like that. In more academic material (for example, the doctoral dissertation he’s working on), I’m sure he’s way more careful in being terminologically precise.

If you don’t like “laws of nature”, you can just say “forces of nature”. And, I would agree with Tim Stratton and the majority of naturalist philosophers and scientists that if physical things are all that exist, libertarian free will cannot exist. If you are just your brain, then everything you think, act, and say is a result of bubbling chemicals, firing neurons, and genetics. You are essentially an organic robot. Your brain is just a bathtub of various different chemicals. Just as a bottle of coke cannot help but explode when Mentos is dropped in it, so you cannot choose other than what the electro-chemical processes in your brain made you choose.

Tom Clark, in an article on Naturalism.org said “Determinism says that given a physical state of affairs, for instance the state of your brain, body and environment at this instant (time T), there’s a single possible next state of affairs at T+1 as necessitated by causal laws discovered to hold at various levels of description, atomic, chemical, and biological. Excluding any randomly generated influences (for instance from cosmic rays, beta decay(link is external), etc.), the state at T+1 then necessitates the next, and so on, such that there’s a law-like set of transitions over time that would be exactly the same if we could reset all conditions back to their original state at T., Of course, we can’t actually perform this experiment, but the deterministic claim rests on the rather robust intuition that similar causes produce similar effects. It’s uncontroversially true that at least at the macro level of chemicals, compounds and the larger phenomena they constitute, nature exhibits very reliable, law-like regularities as documented by science over the last 350 years. What we seem not to observe, given our ever-increasing ability to control for causal factors in experimental situations, are inexplicable departures from these regularities. The success of science in explaining, predicting and controlling the world hinges on the manifest dependability of cause and effect relationships. If anything is true about nature, it’s that it exhibits a predictable order in transitions between states. It’s unlikely that we are exceptions to that order, given that we are all-natural, all-physical, all the time.

This isn’t to say determinism has been proven, or could be proved, either in general or with respect to ourselves. As David Hume pointed out, our confidence in the reliability of causal laws is based on the inductive inference that since the world has exhibited regular patterning thus far, it will continue to do so. But there’s no basis for this inference outside our confidence, which is itself based on past regularities. There’s no reason in principle that nature couldn’t at any moment run off the causal rails it’s been on thus far. Further, it looks as if behavior at the sub-atomic level is not deterministic but rather probabilistic, in that there’s no way to tell what the exact next state of a particle will be. There are only a range of possibilities, each with an associated probability as assigned by the particle’s wave function.” 6

The point the author makes is that while naturalism cannot be absolutely proven to entail determinism with respect to human choices, given what we know of nature, it is very very probable that we are just as determined as all non-personal agents observed in nature. I think that unless one concedes that there is a part of humanity that transcends the physical aspects of our body, the odds that we posesse libertarian free will is very low.

You wrote \\“If you are arguing that we observe deterministic behavior in at least most physical objects we observe, that doesn’t mean that if we observe an physical object that seems to not comply with this “law” that we shouldn’t accept this observation. And if free will must exist (or if we just have good reason like observation of our minds to think it does) then we have reason to think that our minds are free. If our minds are our brains then we have good reason to think that our brains are not deterministic. Perhaps you wish to argue that it is a reason to believe in dualism over physicalism.”\\ –

Correct me if I’m misunderstanding you here, but are you saying that if we come to conclude that free will must exist, then that isn’t a reason to conclude that naturalism is false, but that is instead a reason to believe that wholy physical systems aren’t deterministic after all? I’ve read your paragraph several times and that seems to be what you’re saying.

If that is what you’re saying, then you’re begging the question in favor of naturalism/physicalism. This response would be tantamount to saying “If you are arguing that we observe things beginning to its existence with causes, that doesn’t mean that if we observe the origin of an object that seems to not comply with this ‘law’ that we shouldn’t accept this observation. And if everything that begins to exist must have a cause (or if we just have good reason like observation to think it does) then we have reason to think that the universe began to exist via a cause. If God does not exist, then we have good reason to believe that the universe began to exist, but that God was not the cause. Perhaps you wish to argue that is a reason to believe in theism over atheism.”

In both cases, the logic would be circular, whether applied to The Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism or The Kalam Cosmological Argument. It begs the question in favor of naturalism to say “We have free will! Well, I guess physicalism doesn’t entail determinism after all!” 

It would be like saying “The universe sprang into being out of nothing? Well, I guess God isn’t required for creatio ex nihilo after all!”

Issue With Premise 3

I think Munchausen is guilty of a False Trichotomy. Well, for one thing, if one reasons in a circle, one is certainly not justified. Any circular argument for a conclusion is logically fallacious. That’s why all books and articles on logical fallacies include circular reasoning on the list! “Justified by circular reasoning” just isn’t a thing. There is no such thing as something justified by a logical fallacy.

I would classify justification on the basis of (*1) Well reasoned arguments and evidence, (*2) Proper Basicality .

*1 is equivalent to Munchausen’s 2, although I would dispute that you need to keep justifying your justifications. Requiring such would abolish the possibility of ever establishing any conclusion, and the scientific community not to mention court justice systems would utterly collapse! *2 would be equivalent to Munchausen’s 3.

Assumptions are often seen as a bad thing, but that just isn’t the case. Many assumptions are justified. The assumption that my reasoning faculties are working properly, and therefore I come to true conclusions, the assumption that the law of gravity isn’t going to stop working resulting in the solar system coming apart and all life on Earth perishing, the assumption that when I click “Save As Draft” in WordPress that my blog post won’t disappaear inexplicably when I come back to so some more editing, there are re good assumptions. If we didn’t make at least some assumptions, we would be utterly paralyzed in decision making.

Philosophers would classify some of the assumptions above as properly basic beliefs. Beliefs that the laws of logic hold, that the external world is real and that our physical senses aren’t lying to us, et. al are assumptions, for sure, but they’re justified because they’re properly basic. Properly Basic beliefs are beliefs that are justified apart from any argument for their truth. Not all assumptions are properly basic beliefs. If they’re not properly basic, they’re not justified. For example, I shouldn’t assume that the concordist framework of hermeneutics is correct and then interpret Genesis 1 as a scientific account of material origins. If I want to argue that The Bible contains scientific truths not known to the ancients, I’ve got to justify that framework. Accomodationism is argued for, but concordism is often taken by authors like Hugh Ross and Ken Ham as a given, and hence all of their arguments are based on an unjustified assumption.

I would argue that there the claim that the laws of logic, our reliable access to them, our existence, us being able to tell when our beliefs are reliable or not, etc. are indeed justified assumptions. They’re properly basic beliefs.

Moreover, even if the basic things you mentioned like trust in the laws of logic, the reliability of our reasoning faculties, our existence, etc. aren’t properly basic, but just unjustified assumptions. Surely, you wouldn’t argue that this entails that justification isn’t needed in ANY area of knowledge, would you? Surely not, for you are asking for justification to believe premises 2 and 3 of the argument! If justification isn’t needed for knowledge, why not just make the assumption that both of those premises are true? You seem to think that in order to believe premises 2 and 3, you need well reasoned arguments. You seem to think that you need justification.

At most, wouldn’t you say that the majority of our conclusions must be justified? Surely, I can’t be justified in assuming Evolutionary Creationism, Molinism, annihilationism, the existence of God, that Jesus’ resurrection is a fact of history, et. al are true. I have to have good arguments and evidence that these are true, right? If I don’t have good reasons and evidence to affirm the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection or that annihilationism is a correct interpretation of scripture’s teaching on the fate of the damned, then wouldn’t agree that I wouldn’t be justified in believing those things? And if I’m not justified, how could I say “I KNOW Jesus rose from the dead” or “I KNOW that God will annihilate the wicked in Hell?” How can I KNOW something just by making an assumption? 

Of course, if the laws of logic and our reasoning faculties being reliable aren’t justified assumptions, then since I come to my conclusions based on those assumptions, wouldn’t that not entail that all of my beliefs are unjustified? Wouldn’t that entail that all of your beliefs are unjustified? If justification doesn’t matter, and unjustified assumptions are acceptable, why not believe everything on the basis of unjustified assumptions. Why go through the reasoning process at all? Why not just assume the conclusion is true? To heck with examining an argument’s premises.

This doesn’t seem like a plausible epistemology to me. 

The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

You wrote \\“It is true that beliefs about science and philosophy do not directly affect our survival and reproduction. However why can’t the same process that lead to us figuring out problems about how to build something or figure out how to get water in a bad place be used to figure out scientific problems like the origin of the universe?”\\ — 

The argument isn’t that evolutionary processes are incapable of producing creatures with reliable reasoning faculties, just that it is improbable that they would. Just as it isn’t physically impossible to write Shakespere’s Hamlet by throwing a large box of Scrabble letters into the air, it is unlikely that the forces of physics would cause the Scrabble letters in such a way as to spell out the script of Hamlet. It is a question of probability and plausiblity, not a question of feasibiltiy.

Could evolutionary processes give us reasoning faculties that could discern truth not necessary for survival? Sure. But which is more likely? That a process unassisted by reason would produce creatures capable of reason or that a Mind who posessed reason in himself oversaw the process and ensured that we evolved to reason properly?

As Dr. John Lennox says “Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.”7

\\“After all the scientific method requires little more than observation, making hypothesis and trial and error.”\\ — That’s a bit of an oversimplification. But oversimplification aside, the scientific method works because the minds of scientists are and have been functioning properly over the past 400 years! The disputation here is not whether science works or whether the minds of scientists work, it’s WHY do they work? Do these working minds come from a blind, purposeless process? Or did they come from a Creator who innately possesses reason? 

A Motivation To Find Truth

You wrote \\“However the views of someone like Jonathan Edwards do not seem to entail anything like that. Edwards believed that the will is always determined by the strongest motive. Tim Stratton if I recall made a criticism of this view by claiming that this entails that our beliefs are just entailed by our strongest desire and not a commitment to truth. Well first of all many of our motives require us to search for truth. If my motive is to see if the freethinking argument is another excellent argument I can use against determinists then that is a motive for me to will my reason to think of the best reasons against it to email to you so I can be confident of them. If I want to win a debate I have a motive to understand the arguments on both sides. If I want to acquire food I have motive to use my reason to figure out how to do so. Second curiosity can be a motive as well which obviously would be a motive that requires the use of reason. And the result of logic and observation can in certain ways influence my motives as well. So Stratton’s argument against Edwards here doesn’t hold up. Edwards can just as easily hold that someone willed to exercise their rationality in the same way a person would if they had free will. “\\ —

Sure, if you are causally determined to see The FreeThinking argument as another excellent argument, if you’re determined to look at both sides of the argument, and if you’re determined to have true beliefs, then you might just end up at true beliefs or seeing the FTM as a good argument. However, that would just be because that’s how you were determined to think and behave. If someone is causally determined to NOT care about truth, if someone is determined to refute The FreeThinking Argument Against Naturalism because they want naturalism to be true or even divine determinism to be true, then that’s how THEY were causally determined. The person who ends up believing truth ends up there just by happenstance. He just was lucky that the forces of physics and chemistry determined him to avoid logical fallacies, read both sides of the argument, and so on. The one who commits logical blunders or commits confirmation bias was causally determined to do so. Ultimately where you end up, on determinism, is just the way the cookie crumbles. If I correctly apply reason its because the molecules in my brain lead me to do so (naturalistic determinism) or because God decreed that I would (Calvinistic determinism). It isn’t up to me whether I’m going to be reasonable or not. The only way it could is if I possess libertarian free will. 

In other words, if you have the right motives to lead you to sound conclusions, good for you! You should be thankful the chemicals and molecules in your brain just happen to arrange themselves in a rational manner. 

The problem though is that this doesn’t look anymore like genuine reasoning than a fizzing can of coke. This looks more like people just mechanically going through certain motions and ending up certain ways. If a blind man feels around and wanders aimlessly, he might just end up at his desired destination. But he could just as well end up 3 miles from where he wanted to be. We wouldn’t call this “traveling”. Why call being causally determined to end up at true conclusions “reasoning”?


Hopefully you’re now convinced that The FreeThinking Argument Against Naturalism is sound. 



1: For those who don’t know, EPS stands for Evangelical Philosophical Society. 

2: William Lane Craig, “The Scientific Kalam Cosmological Argument”, a lecture presented at Georgia Tech, –> https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/science-theology/the-scientific-kalam-cosmological-argument/

3: Tim Stratton, “The Apologetic Significance Of Molinism (ETS Edit)”, March 11th 2009, — https://freethinkingministries.com/the-apologetic-significance-of-molinism-ets-edit/ 

4: ibid.

5: ibid. 

6: From the article “Fully Caused: Coming to Terms with Determinism” by Tom Clark, July 2009 — https://www.naturalism.org/philosophy/free-will/fully-caused-coming-to-terms-with-determinism 

7: John C. Lennox (2009). “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?”, p.210, Lion Books

If you have any questions about Christian theology or apologetics, send Mr. Minton an E-mail at CerebralFaith@Gmail.com. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or Non-Christian, whether your question is about doubts you’re having or about something you read in The Bible that confused you. Send your question in, whatever it may be, and Mr. Minton will respond in a blog post just like this one.

Liked it? Take a second to support Evan Minton on Patreon!

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Sam

    Sorry for the long email. I do hope you plan on reading Daniel Whedon’s book, which I provided a free link to.

    1. For the Cosmological argument, I initially argued that way as well back when I used the argument. However I realised that there is no need to assume that God could have choosen otherwise. An intelligent God who is determined by his strongest motivates to create at time X can work just as well as a God who freely chooses to create at time X. (Or however that works timewise) There are nasty theological implications for Calvinism, but those are hardly relevant to an argument that everyone agrees only proves the existence of a generic God.

    2. For premise 2, the quote by Tom Clarke is mostly making arguments against free will that are just as relevant to dualism as to physicalism. The claim about like causes producing like effects is no argument against alternative casuation. As free will is only a range of casuation, that involves a cause being able to produce one of several effects that are all compatible with the causes nature, they therefore produce effects that are relatively similar. Thus any objections based upon the uniformity of nature are not relevant. Another point is that if as Clarke says, the quantum realm is indeterninistic and the macro level is at least mostly deterministic, then why can’t a macro level object (the brain) become inderministic? I don’t see why not. Probabilistic casuation sounds quite a bit like alternative casuation, which is quite interesting. So perhaps parts of the brain also have this.

    For the begging the question claim I specifically structured my argument to avoid that fallacy. I pointed out that when we observe our own minds most of it seems deterministic other than the times when we are using our will to make decisions. Of course we use our will to regulate those facilities other than that, they are otherwise deterministic. The point I was making is that souls seem to be mostly deterministic as well thus the claim that souls are exempt from this rule is fallacious.

    3. Premise 3. I think you misunderstood my argument here. First of all the trilemma is meant to demonstrate that we cannot posses knowledge so it is no surprising that all of the methods of justification are fallacious or allegedly so. I didn’t argue that we can just assert whatever we want and be rational. I just argued that the basic criteria for even understanding what justification even means don’t need to be themselves justified.

    The argument you made justifying the claim that all beliefs need to be justified only justifies the claim that most beliefs must be justified. The argument you made presupposes the laws of logic and other such criteria. And any claim that another belief (say that the Bible is the word of God) is axiomatic presuposes that basic epistemic criteria in order to understand the claim. And I can just as easily assert the opposite, that the Bible isn’t the Word of God, or that the Quran is. However if you assert that the law of non-contradiction is invalid than you have not excluded the possibility that it is valid at the same time in the same way. The same for denying other epistemic criteria. We agree that the third option is the way to go. I think we slightly disagree about how to do it though.

    4. For the evolutionary argument against naturalism, if a species begins to have beliefs about the world around it, then the ones that have belief forming facilities that tend to produce inaccurate results would be filtered out by the environment, or outcompeted by organisms with better beliefs. I argued that to some extent this would also apply to science. And it makes sense for organisms to be able to reason to good beliefs since it is helpful in escaping bad situations. Is it really surprising that this trait would eventually develop in some species in an environment where the environment will filter out competing traits? Plenty of different traits help in a variety of different environments.

    5. It is true that on Determinism our beliefs are ultimately not under our control. Our basic facilities are not under our control on either view. Both sides require that we in some way be able to tell if we are willingly using our facilities properly or not. I fail to see how this is more problematic on Determinism then if we have some Limited Libertarian Free Will to choose between a range of options each compatible with our nature. As long as the will governs the intellect in a powerful way, and you can generally tell how you are doing so, I don’t see a problem.

    1. Evan Minton

      Oh! You provided the link to the book? I didn’t notice that. I will have to get to that at some point, but it won’t be in the near future. I have several books on my reading I want to read, some of which are obligatory because the publishers/authors sent them to me for free. I’m currently reading “Jesus, Skepticism, and The Problem of History: Criteria and Context In Christian Origins” published by Zondervan. GREAT book on The Historical Jesus so far. I plan to interview one of the editors on the Podcast soon. After that I’ll be reading “Paul and The Giants Of Philosophy” by Joseph Dodson and David E Briones, then “How To Give Your Faith Away” by Paul E. Little, “The Genealogical Adam and Eve” by S. Joshua Swamidass, my book “The Case For The One True God” for the purpose of making an audiobook, and then The NIV Cultural Background Study Bible (edited by John Walton and Craig Keener) which has been sitting in my Kindle Library for a year an a half now. And after all of this, I hope to FINALLY read Brian Godawa’s “Chronicles Of The Nephillim” novel series. So…I got a lot on my plate.

      So many books. Anyway,

      1: You wrote \\\”An intelligent God who is determined by his strongest motivates to create at time X can work just as well as a God who freely chooses to create at time X. (Or however that works timewise)”\\ — This doesn’t solve the problem. If the cause of the universe had all of the necessary AND sufficient conditions in place, FROM eternity to make the big bang happen, then why isn’t the effect just as eternally existent as the cause? If every sufficient condition (in God’s case, the desire to create, and desires causally determine us to act upon our desires) had always been present, why isn’t it the case that God didn’t create the universe infinitely long ago? In one of William Lane Craig’s illustrations, he says to imagine a lake that has been present from eternity past, and the temperature has been 0 degrees Fahrenheit, then the water in the lake should be frozen from eternity past. It would be impossible for the water to be in a liquid state but then BEGIN to freeze a finite time ago. If the necessary and sufficient conditions for the effect are in place, the effect will be in place. The only way for the effect to not be in place is for one of the necessary conditions to be absent. In the case of God, what was absent was an act of His will. Compatibilism doesn’t solve the problem. If God chose to create because He desired to create, and God’s desires (like ours according to the compatibilist) determine us to act on them, then if God had the desire to create from eternity, should His act of creation not also have been from eternity? If God possesses libertarian free will, however, He can be eternally present and then will the universe to come into being. Just as a man sitting from eternity can will to stand up, and hence a temporal effect arises from an eternally existing cause. The cause of the universe must be a mind for a couple of reasons, but it must be a mind with libertarian freedom for the reason mentioned above.

      As for the Kalam proving a generic God, I would disagree. I encourage you to get my book “The Case For The One True God” in which I show, in chapter 1, how The Kalam is inconsistent with the depiction of deities in almost all religions except the three Abrahamic ones (and Deism). But leaving that aside, Stratton’s paper was aimed at the Christian who affirmed the omniscience and omnipotence of God, but WHO ALSO wants to use the Kalam without affirming that God has middle knowledge. Now, I will grant that without the commitment to God being omniscient (which can’t be drawn from the Kalam), you can’t show that God has middle knowledge. But even without that, the Kalam alone does possess that a being like God created the universe and possesses libertarian freedom. Thus, the Calvinist who wants to maintain that libertarian freedom is contradicted by what is likely one of his favorite apologetic arguments. Neil Mammen and Greg Koukl, for examples, if they have read Tim Stratton’s paper, should be experiencing severe cognitive dissonance at the very least.

      2: You wrote \\As free will is only a range of causation, that involves a cause being able to produce one of several effects that are all compatible with the causes nature,”\\ — I agree, but if one bound by the forces of physics and chemistry, then even though a range of choices are consistent with my nature, I am bound and determined to commit only one course of action. My brain chemicals and firing neurons are causally determining me to respond to you rather than get a bite to eat and respond to you later (an alternative choice consistent with my nature). And why are objections based upon the uniformity of nature are not relevant? If one sees deterministic behavior everywhere they look in the physical realm? Why not make the inference that, assuming people are purely physical, they are likewise deterministic systems? You asked “What about indeterminism at the quantum realm?” Well, in this case, it wouldn’t be deterministic, but we still wouldn’t have free will in the “up to us” sense. As philosopher Sam Harris wrote

      “Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have. Free will is actually more than an illusion (or less), in that it cannot be made conceptually coherent. Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.”

      — Sam Harris, Free Will, Free Press; 1st edition (2012) p. 5

      if my choices are the result of particles doing things in the quantum realm, my choices would fall into the latter category. They would be the product of chance and I would not be responsible for them.
      You wrote \\”For the begging the question claim I specifically structured my argument to avoid that fallacy. I pointed out that when we observe our own minds most of it seems deterministic other than the times when we are using our will to make decisions.”\\ — I have no idea what it’s like to feel deterministic. I feel exactly the opposite. I feel like I’m in control of my mind most of the time. Certainly there are exceptions such as what I dream about at night, and what emotions I feel, but exceptions are just that; exceptions. So I don’t feel the force of this argument, and I don’t think dualism is equally susceptible to the charges of being deterministic.

      3: Ok. I think I understand. I’m not sure.

      4: Not necessarily. If a person learns to avoid fire because it will summon an alien spaceship to abduct him (and since he doesn’t want that, he avoids touching fire), that is just as advantageous as avoiding fire because it will cause physical pain. Both survive because they avoid being burned. However, the former survives on the basis of a false assumption. As Alvin Plantinga wrote

      “Beliefs don’t causally produce behavior by themselves; it is beliefs, desires, and other factors that do so together. Then the problem is that clearly there will be any number of different patterns of belief and desire that would issue in the same action; and among those there will be many in which the beliefs are wildly false. Paul is a prehistoric hominid; the exigencies of survival call for him to display tiger avoidance behavior. There will be many behaviors that are appropriate: fleeing, for example, or climbing a steep rock face, or crawling into a hole too small to admit the tiger, or leaping into a handy lake. Pick any such appropriately specific behavior B. Paul engages in B, we think, because, sensible fellow that he is, he has an aversion to being eaten and believes that B is a good means of thwarting the tiger’s intentions.

      But clearly this avoidance behavior could result from a thousand other belief-desire combinations: indefinitely many other belief-desire systems fit B equally well. Perhaps Paul very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief. Or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a large, friendly, cuddly pussycat and wants to pet it; but he also believes that the best way to pet it is to run away from it. Or perhaps he confuses running towards it with running away from it, believing of the action that is really running away from it, that it is running towards it; or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a regularly reoccurring illusion, and hoping to keep his weight down, has formed the resolution to run a mile at top speed whenever presented with such an illusion; or perhaps he thinks he is about to take part in a 1600 meter race, wants to win, and believes the appearance of the tiger is the starting signal; or perhaps …. Clearly there are any number of belief-cum-desire systems that equally fit a given bit of behavior.”

      ( Quote from –> https://www.bethinking.org/atheism/an-evolutionary-argument-against-naturalism)

      5: \\”As long as the will governs the intellect in a powerful way, and you can generally tell how you are doing so, I don’t see a problem.”\\ — Yeah, the key words there are “As long as”. As long as your brain chemicals and neurons cause you to formulate your syllogisms properly, avoid logical fallacies, do heavy research, etc. then you’ll probably end up at truth. But, for those whose molecules don’t arrange themselves in that way, too bad for them. They’ll end up affirming falsehoods.

  2. Sam

    Sounds good on the book. I initially read it on Google books, but I was so impressed by it that I wanted a hard copy and got one.

    1. I was saying that God’s desire to create at a specific time could have casually determined him to create at that time rather than any other. The Kalam is consistent with Deism and the Abrahamic religions, but it is also consistent with a God who creates lower gods as many religions have believed.

    2. Why can’t the forces of nature determine the brain to act in one of various ways, each compatible with it’s nature? As for the quantum physics issue, I never claimed that quantum physics grants Free Will. I am well aware that this is impossible. I was saying that if one level is indeterministic, and the other is deterministic why can’t another level (the brain) also be indeterministic?

    Do you feel like your reasoning could just change in multiple possible ways consistent with it’s nature even if you didn’t will it to be so? If you ignore the will, could your desires just change themselves via alternative casuation without any additional casuation? Can your sensations change in one way or another way? Daniel Whedon did a very good job of arguing that we do feel determined in certain mental operations, the inflexibility inherent in it is quite obvious. So seeing that a part of our mind feels quite different than that, the observation of freedom is even stronger.

    3. Sounds good.

    4. You seem to be conflating beliefs with belief forming facilities. Evolution/natural selection doesn’t deal with beliefs. It deals with the facilities that support them. Sure, sometimes a false belief may be just as good (or even better) than a true belief. However, more often than not better beliefs will result in more survival, thus the genes that support better belief forming facilities will be more likely to be passed on into the future rather than filtered out or outcompeted by organisms with better genes.

    5. Yes indeed. And therefore on Determinism it makes no sense to in any way blame them for willingly having false beliefs. (Of course the ones who wrongly blame cannot be blamed, either and neither can the ones who wrongly blame them, and so on and so forth.) However as long as they can tell via the process described above, they can still tell (even if they only just know this) that they don’t have reliable belief forming facilities.

    1. Evan Minton

      1: Well, actually, I do think Yahweh created lower gods. Some of these became the entities behind many of the gods of the polytheistic religions after the Babel event. Check out my article “What Is The Divine Council and Is It Biblical?” –> https://cerebralfaith.net/what-is-the-divine-council-and-is-it-biblical/ But no religion except the Abrahamic religions (and Deism, which isn’t technically a religion as you think you’d agree) have a God that creates ex nihilo. Every other religion’s creation story is creatia ex materia. So that narrows the field of available options greatly. Other gods, if they exist, would be creations of the God demonstrated to exist by The Kalam Cosmological Argument.

      You said \\”I was saying that God’s desire to create at a specific time could have casually determined him to create at that time rather than any other.”\\ — So I take it that your position is that God was basically like “I don’t want to create now. I want to create much later”?? I suppose that would work. The problem is that time began to exist at the big bang, as most cosmologists would agree (most notably the late Stephen Hawking). My view is, as I’ve said in our previous discussion on The Argument From Contingency, that’s God decided to create is simultaneous with the universe coming into being. So that once the decision is there, you have the big bang. So, given a timeless state of affairs sans creation, I think the options are either that God never creates the universe or God created the universe infinitely long ago, provided that he doesn’t have the freedom to create or not create. Either the lake is frozen from eternity or it never freezes.

      2: \\”Why can’t the forces of nature determine the brain to act in one of the various ways, each compatible with its nature?”\\ — It can, but what we end up doing wouldn’t be up to us. It would be up to the forces of nature. The takeaway point is whether deterministic or indeterministic, if all I am is my physical body, then I subject to the physical processes my body undergoes (whether deterministic or indeterministic). It’s not up to me. Since it’s not up to me, I don’t have libertarian free will. Hence, premise 2 of The FreeThinking Argument is true.

      I’ve already admitted that certainly, some parts of my brain/mind are determined. No libertarian thinks we’re TOTALLY in control of EVERYTHING we think and do. I can’t control what emotions I feel, what I dream about tonight, which women I find sexually attractive, whether I feel pain when injured, and so on. But I can choose how I act on my emotions, what I do within the dream, and whether I make any advancements towards a woman or not. No libertarian would say we’re absolutely free in every area. Just that we’re not absolutely determined in every area. There are levels of freedom in what we think, say, and do.

      3: Ok.

      4: Belief and belief-forming faculties are very closely related though. If human evolution developed faculties that formed the various ridiculous (yet survival advantageous) beliefs in Plantinga’s Hominid-Paul illustration, then natural selection would preserve the faculties that produced those silly beliefs. Silly as they were, they still aided in Paul’s survival. And we would have to think that he’d have different faculties than us indeed if he could confuse running away from a Tiger (with the desire to pet) with running towards it. But it’s advantageous, and so natural selection would preserve that whacky faculty. It makes me really that God oversaw our development. #BioLogos

      5: \\However as long as they can tell via the process described above, they can still tell (even if they only just know this) that they don’t have reliable belief-forming facilities.”\\ — Well, knowledge of only one thing out of everything that could possibly be known isn’t very good for the determinist. This is pretty much a concession to premise 3, albeit making one exception to the list of things that can be known. BUT…. I would question how people would know that they can know nothing, because their belief-forming faculties are unreliable. Wouldn’t you have to have reliable cognitive faculties to be sure that you can’t know anything for sure?

  3. Sam

    1. I would wonder if it would be more reasonable for God to have created the universe out of himself or something along those lines. Because creation ex nihilo is problematic in the same way an effect without a cause is. (Violates the properly basic belief that out of nothing, nothing comes.)

    I couldn’t tell whether you were conceding the point or making a new argument based on time. Could you clarify either way?

    4. As I said weird situations like Paul’s might have happened. However if Paul has belief forming facilities that tend to produce absurd beliefs like that, the odds are that he is going to die in another such situation where he isn’t so lucky and beiltered out by the environment, or outcompeted by other organisms with better belief forming facilities.

    5. Ok. I wrote that wrong. What I meant to say is that as long as people can tell if they willing used their rational facilities properly, why does it matter that their said proper exercising of them was determined? It is true that they were very lucky to have been determined to exert their minds that way. But as long as they can tell I don’t see a problem.

    1. Evan Minton

      1. I don’t see at all problematic. The properly basic belief “out of nothing, nothing comes” should really be phrased “FROM nothing, nothing comes”. That is, nothing begins to exist without a cause, and to use Aristotelian categories, a sufficient cause. Something coming into being without a material cause is hard to imagine, but it doesn’t carry the same difficulties as something coming into being without an efficient cause. If the efficient cause is omnipotent (i.e can do anything logically possible), then the cause can create ex nihilo. Of course, the proponent of the Kalam doesn’t argue that the cause is omnipotent *on the basis of the Kalam*, just that the cause is powerful enough (however much power you think might be required) to create ex nihilo.

      I wasn’t making a new argument, but clarifying why my conclusion (The Creator is free in a liberarian sense) better fits the evidence better than your proposition (The Creator could be free in a compatiblist sense). God couldn’t have a driving desire to create not a T-1, but rather at a much later time, T-10, because prior to the origin of the universe, time hadn’t begun yet.

      2. If my brain chemistry causes me to choose to listen to play Pokemon instead of The Legend Of Zelda, then I cannot do anything but play Pokemon and not Zelda. Both are compatible with my nature. But the various arrangements of chemicals, atoms, molecules, and so on are making me do one instead of the other. It’s consistent with an automobile’s nature to turn left or right when it pulls out of the driveway, but if what is causally determining the car (i.e the driver) causes the steering wheel to turn right, then the car will go right. It has no possibility of “choosing” to turn left.

      4. But evolution works at population levels. Belief-forming faculties that produce a mixture of rational and true beliefs alongside various absurd and false ones could have occurred. Thus, hominid-Paul and his fellow hominids might run from Tigers because they want to be eaten but think it’s unlikely this animal would eat them and want to find another, but they might avoid fire because it burns them, and/or vice versa. The core point of Plantinga’s argument is that evolution (not guided by a rational Mind) would only produce belief-forming faculties that aid survival. Sure, many of these might adhere to reality, but just as many might not, and they may differ from population to population. And how would we be able to tell the difference?

      5. But what if they’ve been determined to merely THINK that they’re using their rational facilities properly. What if they’re self-deceived? The Dunning-Kruger effect is a legit thing. And even if they are constructing their syllogisms correctly, avoid logical fallacies, doing their due diligence, they only are doing so because the physical factors external and internal to them are causing them to do so. If anyone ends up at true beliefs, it’s really because they were fortunate to be in the specific deterministic chain that they were in. Can beliefs arrive at through mechanistic luck really be qualified as to knowledge? To quote Tim Stratton, it certainly appears that if all our thoughts and beliefs are causally determined (or even 99% of them), then all we’re left with or (at least what we’re mostly left) with are question-begging assumptions, not knowledge. We just arrive at true beliefs or false beliefs through whatever deterministic chains of cause and effect we find ourselves.

  4. Sam

    2. If we are our brains (which is the definition of physicalism) and if there are various possibilities compatible with the brains nature, then there are various possibilities compatible with our nature. Thus we would be alternative causes, and thus Free Agents.

    Obviously we agree that no libertarian thinks that. (Although I think we can choose to change our emotions and desires to some degree, both directly and indirectly.) Thus since most of the mind/soul is deterministic I could make the same argument that souls are clearly inherently deterministic entities and therefore that free will is unlikely on dualism. Or at least just as unlikely as on physicalism. Thus it would not be reasonable to use it as a reason for dualism over physicalism.

  5. Sam

    1. Ok.

    I don’t see how there not being time would help. If anything it means that God thinking”I want to actualize a world with time” would just result in the automatic creation of the world. Or if not, couldn’t God just be determined by his strongest motive to actualize the world in whatever way that is required? I honestly don’t understand your argument. Could you please explain?

    2. If you are your brain, and the brain is an alternative cause, then it is capable of producing both effects and determines which one it produces. Saying that the brains choice is determined to one option by previous molecules is begging the question as that is what you are attempting to demonstrate. Or it is a blank assertion of the very point in question.

    4. If people actually wanted to be eaten I can guarantee you that they would not last long, first of all. If they were in the kinds of situations that you are talking about they might survive them at first. However, non reason based belief forming facilities are less adaptable to the circumstances. If you had belief forming facilities that were generally adapted to survival but that generated false beliefs about reality it would be harder to adapt to new situations that the facilities were not selected to avoid. Think about how well reason helps you adapt to such a wide variety of circumstances!! It does it so much better than instinct does. Thus we have great reason to believe that evolution would select humans with reliable belief forming facilities. An unguided form of evolution explains this pretty well. Now if you are an epiphenominalist than this argument is devastating and I will definitely use it on any epiphenomenalist I encounter.

    5. What if they freely choose to decieve themselves into believing they are being rational? What if the parts of the brain/mind/soul that everyone acknoleges is not under our control goes haywire and makes us think we are being rational when we aren’t? I don’t see how Libertarian Free Will is going to help solve the problem. (In case you plan on accusing me of the tu Ququoe Fallacy, note that the Free thinking argument depends on both demonstrating epistemic problem(s) in Determinism and on showing that us having libertarian free will solves this problem.)

    Further when people decieve themselves, they usually know it on some level (hence the angry reaction when their self deception is destroyed). If you are thinking calmly and not being upset then self deception isn’t much of a threat. For any possibility of mental illness interfering with our reason, as I have argued the assumption that we have at least basic reason and other such epistemic requirements is rationally unquestionable. So thus any claim that it is possible that some mental illness to interfere with our reason, bases itself on the very reason that it is attempting to bring into question!! So as long as we are rational beings, we don’t have to worry about to much deception from these kinds of factors.

    Yes, whether or not we willingly choose use our facilities properly is determined by factors beyond your control. As long as my method of figuring out the reliability of belief is valid, I don’t see a problem.

    1. Evan Minton

      1: It’s a matter of necessary and sufficient conditions. If ALL of the necessary and sufficient conditions are in place for an effect to be in place, then the effect will be in place. If the necessary and sufficient conditions have been eternally present, then the effects should be eternally present as well. And yet we know on the basis of good scientific evidence (not to mention philosophical arguments) that the universe hasn’t always been here. Yet we have good reason to believe the cause has been eternally present. What gives? On your proposal, if God had compatibilist freedom, then God always acts according to his strongest desires. If God, in that pre-universe state of timelessness had the desire to create the universe (i.e the desire that would determine him to actually act to create the universe), then why isn’t the universe eternal? Now, one way to avoid the problem would be to say “God didn’t always have this really powerful desire to create the universe. He once didn’t have it, then he had it, and then it grew until it was so strong he could do nothing but act on it.” But you can’t say that since God existed in a timeless state sans creation.

      2: On the contrary, you’re the one who’s begging the question. If a powerful inductive case can be made that purely physical creatures are determined (and it can, on the basis that every purely physical system we’ve ever observed is deterministic), then what we are determined to do is only one set of action depending on which cause-effect chain we happen to have bubbling in our brains produced by internal and external factors. Alternative choices may be consistent with a person’s nature, but if they’re not determined to make these alternative choices they will not nor cannot make them, just like the car in my previous illustration could not turn to go left if its cause (the driver) made it go right. The only way out of this is to prove either (A)that physical systems aren’t most probably deterministic (which you are trying but failing to do) or (B) adopt substance dualism and say that we’re NOT purely physical (ergo deterministic) systems.

      4. I think you’re missing the forest for the trees, focusing on individual possible examples (Hominid Paul wanting to be eaten) rather than the fact that many possible belief-forming faculties (and ergo beliefs) could possibly produce which could aid survival and yet be absurd. You said \\”Think about how well reason helps you adapt to such a wide variety of circumstances!! It does it so much better than instinct does. Thus we have great reason to believe that evolution would select humans with reliable belief-forming facilities.”\\ but this just begs the question in favour of naturalism. I would say this is a great reason to believe that evolution is NOT unguided but was overseen by a rational mind. Thus, Theistic Evolution is preferable. It does no good to point out that we can reason well and reasoning well has driven our species to, not just survival, but fantastic hights. The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism says that, well, I’ll just quote Alvin Plantinga again:
      – According to Plantinga,

      “This argument has to do with the reliability of your cognitive faculties like memory and perception, intuition, and mathematical or logical intuition… I think if you accept naturalism and evolution you can’t think of your cognitive faculties as being reliable, as giving you the actual truth about the world… The argument goes like this. If you’re a naturalist you will probably also be a materialist about human beings. You’ll think that human beings are material objects. They are not immaterial souls that have a body. Now suppose we think about some creatures on an alien planet that are a lot like us. Let’s suppose for them that naturalism holds, that evolution holds, and that these creatures are material objects. So what is it that causes their behaviour? What causes their behaviour will be neurology, the states of which their neurons are firing sending a signal down to a muscle causing it to contract. And their beliefs and the content of these beliefs are also caused by neurology. Now given that evolution is true these creatures have come into being by virtue of natural selection we can take it for granted that their behaviour is adaptive, it enhances their fitness which leads to survival and reproduction. If that is true the same thing will go for what causes their behaviour, namely their neurology which also promotes survival and reproduction. The neurology that causes their behaviour also causes their beliefs, but now the question is “suppose their behaviour is in fact adaptive what about the truths of these beliefs?” Well, I think that you can see that it doesn’t matter about the truths of these beliefs. If their neurology causes the right behaviour what they believe makes no difference. The belief, one might say, floats along like an extra that’s caused by the neurology. But the beliefs don’t have to be true for the neurology to be adaptive. If the neurology causes false beliefs but causes the right actions it makes no difference whatsoever. So, if you take a given belief on the part of one of these creatures and ask “What is the probability given that naturalism and evolution and materialism that the belief is true?” It’s got to be fairly close to 50/50, it is likely to be true as false, or it likely to be false as true. If that is the case then the probability that their cognitive faculties are reliable, which produces a substantial proportion of true beliefs that reliability requires, the probability that their faculties will be reliable will be very low

      — Emphasis mine, As cited in this article –> https://jamesbishopblog.com/2016/07/09/the-evolutionary-argument-against-naturalism/

      5. Then they’ve freely chosen to be irrational. The FAAN doesn’t argue that free will prevents people from coming to false conclusions, but that it enables people to reason to true conclusions. If you have FREE will, you can be a FREE thinker. Finally, I don’t think it’s true that “\\when people deceive themselves, they usually know it on some level”\\, unless you mean that they know it deep in their subconscious. We can talk ourselves into believing all kinds of things if we really want to believe something badly enough. I think you might possibly underestimate the power of self-deception. Though I agree that this is usually why they get very angry when you challenge the beliefs they’ve talked themselves into. In fact, I strongly believe this is why so many young-earth creationists, Calvinists, and internet atheists are so vicious. But I think this is more of an issue of confidence than a subconscious knowledge that they’re wrong. In my experience, I find that people are the most defensive about the beliefs they’re most tentative about.

  6. Sam

    1. First of all, if God was outside of time “before” the creation of the world then it isn’t like he was a cause waiting for an eternity to produce an effect. This is really bad for the Cosmological argument in general as the conceptual analysis doesn’t even get you to a mind, much less a free one. Some form of uncaused non-mental object could just as easily exist and then be the cause of the universe. Perhaps an uncaused immaterial universe producing soup, or really anything that meets the other criteria of the Kalam.

    Second, my argument was that God would have his strongest motives determine him to will the exact same thing as if he freely willed it. For example, if God could freely choose to create at “time” X, then why can’t he be determined to will the same thing via the Cosmological argument?

    2. I am certainly going with option A. As I have pointed out it isn’t the case that “all observed physical systems are deterministic.” The quantum realm is at the very least not shown to be so. And if the quantum level of reality is indeterministic, why can’t the same state (or a similar one) emerge in the brain? If the brain itself (or parts of it) becomes inderministic and is subject to alternative casuation then that is consistent with naturalism and with the world. The brain I think everyone can agree, is an unusual object. Is it really that shocking that something like indeterminism within it would re emerge?

    4. How was I begging the question in favor of naturalism? I argued that given how reason makes it easier to adapt to a wide range of circumstances, it would therefore be selected for by the environment. Given naturalistic beliefs it is a straightford deduction that reasoning would be selected for over unreliable belief forming facilities. We might (and in real life do) have some irrational tendencies, but beings that can overcome them by the use of reason will be more likely to be able to use it to help them deal with circumstances that are bad for their survival. And in order to know if we need to overcome them we must be able to generally tell if we have done so or not.

    5. Exactly. But the point remains, how do they know that they haven’t freely choosen to make themselves think that they are being rational when they are not?

    If they have an issue of confidence in there beliefs then isn’t that a pretty good concious indicator that they haven’t reasoned well and know it to some degree?

    1. Evan Minton

      1: ” First of all, if God was outside of time ‘before’ the creation of the world then it isn’t like he was a cause waiting for an eternity to produce an effect.” — This is exactly my point. In one of your earlier posts, you said “I was saying that God’s desire to create at a specific time could have casually determined him to create at that time rather than any other.” and a state of timelessness just renders that kind of idea impossible. If God has LFW, the only sufficient condition not in place is an act of His will. Once God decides to create, time comes into being along with all space, matter, and energy. Thus, an LFW God isn’t compelled to create anything at all. Only if God has LFW can you have the cause (God) be eternally in place, but its effect not be just as eternal.

      \\”the conceptual analysis doesn’t even get you to a mind, much less a free one.”\\ — You do realize this isn’t the only argument for the cause of the universe being a Mind, right? I talk about two others in my book “The Case For The One True God” and William Lane Craig also talks about them in his Reasonable Faith and On Guard books.

      2: Well, if you want to argue that our brains could be indeterministic in the same way or in a similar way things in the quantum realm are (which, by the way, there is debate in scientific community over whether the quantum realm *really* is indeterministic), then you fall into another problem. Humans aren’t determined, but humans aren’t free either. Human choices would be up to chance arrangements of indeterminate molecules in their brains. To quote Sam Harris again, if physicalism is true, “Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them.” On your quantum brain scenareo, we would fall in the latter category. So yes, you escape determinism, but you don’t end up at LFW, which, as premise 2 of the FAAN asserts. And as premise 3 of the FAAN argues, LFW required for rationality and knowledge.

      4. I think we should drop the EAAN for now and just focus on the FAAN. You aren’t getting it, and I’m going to need to take some time to think of a way to better get the point across. I don’t want you to feel bad about this. The fault probably lies with me. I don’t normally use the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, so it’s probably my fault for not being able to articulate it well.

      5. Unlike on determinism or chance-indeterminism, if we possess LFW, we actually have it in our power to think carefully. We’re not subject to deterministic processes or quantum blips. Just as you’re responsible for moral actions if you have LFW or not, you’re responsible for how you use your mind. Just as you’re responsible for being rude to the retail worker, you’re responsible if you commit a logical fallacy in your reasoning. You are in control. But on determinism (or quantum-chance induced actions) you’re not responsible either in the moral realm or the rational realm. Thus, you cannot be good or evil or rational or irrational. You’re just, as Frank Turek likes to say; “Molecules in motion”.

  7. Sam

    1. So your admitting that the point about eternity requiring “agent casuation” is irrelevant since there is no eternity for God to exist in? Other arguments for God are a different issue. So all the Cosmological argument gets you to (if valid) is a cause that is spaceless timeless immaterial and maybe intelligent or maybe not?

    2. Well since on physicalism we are this “collection of indeterministic molecules” or more accurately we are the part(s) of the brain made up by those molecules (and I never said that the molecules are indeterministic, just the parts of the brain.) So thus if we are indeterministic, alternative causes and we are some part(s) of our brain than we can have free will.

    4. Ok.

    5. Why are you talking about responsibility? We are talking about epistemology, not ethics. was pointing out that the problem of self deception isn’t helped by libertarian free will because how would you know that you haven’t freely choosen to decieve yourself? It doesn’t matter to epistemology that you are responsible for the self deception. The knowledge difficulty remains the same and therefore the difficulty can not be used to prove Free Will.

    1. Evan Minton

      1: I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying the cause of the universe must be endowed with freedom of the will because if the cause is in place, the effect will be in place as well. In a timeless state of affairs, if God has an overpowering desire to create such that it causes Him to act on that desire, and He’s had this desire from the state of timeless eternity, then that is the sufficient conditions needed for the universe to spring into being? So why isn’t the universe eternal? By contrast, if God posesses libertarian freedom and can choose to create or not create, then the only lacking sufficient condition would be God’s act of the will. In acting on His desire to create, that very choice brings time, matter, energy, and space into existence.

      You can’t have God not have a causally determinitive desire at one point in time and then to have it at another since prior to the big bang, there was no time. Either God had the causally determinitve desire to create or He didn’t. If He did, the universe should be just as eternal as God. If He didn’t, then we shouldn’t be here having this conversation.

      2: ……….What? Since on physicalism, we are this “collection of indeterministic molecules”. what you call “parts of the brain made up by those molecules”. If the parts of the brains are made of molecules and the “parts of the brain” are indeterministic, then the molecules are indeterministic. But the more serious error here is that you think indeterminism = free will. It doesn’t.

      5. Because there is a parallel between being responsible for being evil and being responsible for coming to true beliefs, as I explicitly said in my previous comment. Tim Stratton gives a good illustration in his article “A Three-Punch Combo For Freedom”. He writes “Suppose a mad scientist exhaustively controls (causally determines) all of your thoughts and beliefs all the time. This includes exactly what you think of and about and exactly how you think of and about it. All of your thoughts about your beliefs and all of your beliefs about your thoughts are caused and determined by the mad scientist. This also includes the next words that will come out of your mouth. Question: How can YOU (not the mad scientist) rationally affirm the current beliefs in your head as good, bad, better, the best, true, or probably true without begging the question? Good luck with that!”

      LFW does not guarantee knowledge, but it makes it possible. However, if we’re at the mercy of causally deterministic physical processes and/or indeterministic causal processes, both of which are outside of our control, how can we rationally affirm any of our beliefs without begging the question? Libertarian Free Will does not guarantee that you will arrive at knowledge, but it makes it POSSIBLE. On determinism (or chance-indeterminism), knowledge is not possible. All you can hope for is that you find yourself in a causal chain that gets you to beliefs that just so happen to correspond to reality. That hardly seems like knowledge to me. This is the point you keep missing.

  8. Sam

    1. Ok. So if God’s strongest motives determine him to will that the universe has a beginning, (or whatever else is required for him to will) what’s the problem? All that God needs is for the motives to be specific to meet any such requirements.

    2. I never equated indeterminism with chance. I have never done that and I literally included the words alternative cause in it. And molecules don’t need to be indeterministic for objects at higher levels to be. That is the Fallacy of composition.

    5. The mad scientist thought experiment means that all of our beliefs are the result of a mad scientist-including the belief that it is true or possible for our beliefs to be determined by a mad scientist. (Which calls into question those beliefs to making the idea self refuting). If I were to throw some libertarian free will in there that would mean that the range of beliefs we could accept is determined by the mad scientist. How would that solve the problem?

    If however, the mad scientist decided to make it possible to come to true beliefs if we will (and be able to tell what we have done) then there wouldn’t be any problem. If you do will the proper use of your rational facilities then you know that. If you haven’t done so, or haven’t really done so then you would also know that, at least in some way. At the very least you would not have the impression that you have willed it properly.

    Any major manipulation would be self refuting to believe in and minor ones can be dealt with as I have done so above. And once again the mad scientist could easily manipulate you into thinking you have freely used your facilities properly. Or you could manipulate yourself. However this belief is self refuting if serious deception is involved.

    The luck objection can be dealt with similarly. If this luck has severely corrupted or otherwise hindered your facilities then that idea is self refuting. If not, then whether you will the proper use of your rational facilities will be determinable and thus no problem. Thus responsibility and luck do not always or even usually have to go hand in hand.

  9. Evan Minton

    1. Again, if God has the causally determinative desire in place from eternity past, and this causally determinative desire is the sufficient condition to bring the universe into being — it being present or nascent is literally the only difference between the universe coming into being or not coming into being — then the universe should be eternal in its existence. But it’s not. And you can’t say that at one time God did not have that desire and then later he did, because that requires time which did not exist until the big bang.

    2. No you didn’t. I didn’t attack a straw man, but unpack the logical enrolment of your proposal. On an purely physical system, things are going to behave in purely physical processes. If we are out bodies then we will behave according to the laws of physics and chemistry. We are either subject to deterministic processes we can’t control or deterministic processes we can’t control. Either way YOU (which is just a collection of molecules and atoms) are not free. Thus, premise 2 of The Free Thinking Argument Against Naturalism holds.

    5. Yeah, throw some libertarian free will in there! Take the controls away from the mad scientist. That would definitely make it possible for you to think freely and freely think about your thoughts.

  10. Sam

    1. The desire would be there, but if it has the content of only wanting to be actualised at point X that solves the problem.

    2. I literally said: “If we are indeterministic ALTERNATIVE causes…” Why is chance indeterminism the only possible alternative to Determinism in a physical system?

    5. The mad scientist would control all the possible range of options you have and could still decieve you. I don’t see how throwing some libertarian free will in would help. The problem and it’s solution seem to be the same either way.

    1. Evan Minton

      1. There can be no “point X” without time. That’s what I’ve been saying the whole time. You seem to want to say something like God was like “I don’t create at point A. I want to create a point D instead.” But there are no temporal points at all in a timeless state. There just is that static state and God can’t want to create any later or earlier.

      2. I suppose I don’t understand what you mean by “If we are indeterministic ALTERNATIVE causes…” then. If you mean that YOU the individual are the alternative cause, then that’s just what is meant by libertarian free will. The question is, if we are not minds controlling brains, but rather just are brains, if we’re bodies and not souls inside of bodies, then how can we be free? And the way I see it is, purely physical systems always behave mechanically, no matter where you look in nature. And whether we’re speaking of deterministic electrochemical processes in the brain, or some indeterministic natural process, if nature is all there is, and we’re a part of nature, then we’re subject to natural cause and effect. What YOU are, on naturalism, is a sum total of physical molecules. Molecules behave according to various natural processes and they can’t just up and decide to do any differently. Wood cannot deicde not to be burned by fire. Fire cannot choose to freeze things rather than burn them. A can of coke can’t choose not to fizz. The only way I can imagine that we can rebel against physicalistic processes is if a part of us transcended the natural order. This is what we mean by having or being an embodied soul.

      5. Sure. Free creatures are tricked all the time. We can just read Genesis 3 to get an example. But if I have libertarian free will, then it’s at least possible for me to engage my faculties correctly and NOT be tricked by the mad scientist. If the mad scientist controlled all of my thoughts, beliefs, and actions, it would not even be possible. Again, libertarian free will doesn’t guarantee that free agents will be rational and attain knowledge, it just makes it possible for them to do so. All you’re doing is just arguing the point that free will doesn’t ensure that we’ll always attain knowledge. But that’s not what The FreeThinking Argument is trying to argue. Free Will makes reason and knowledge possible, but you can still make logical mistakes, you can freely choose to not think through an issue well enough, you can choose not to listen to both sides of the argument, etc. Again, and I cannot stress this enough; if we are not free, we cannot have rationality and knowledge even in principle. If we are free, then it is at least possible to come to know truth.

  11. Sam

    1. Then I don’t know what you are saying. If God is outside of time then the concept of eternity is irrelevant as is your objection. If you are saying that the universe is casually connected to God, and would this be eternal unless he willed it to not be then the strongest motive theory works pretty well.

    2. An Alternative cause is a cause adequate to produce one of several effects or sets of effects, and where the cause determines which effect(s) is caused. In other words the exact casuality required for free will. (Which as I have said is counterintuitive and hard to comprehend.) If the parts of the brain that make up you are an alternative cause the problem is solved. It is true that most matter doesn’t choose in even that sense. However, the idea of particles being probablistic sounds very similar although I very well could easily be wrong as I know little about the topic. Of course I am not arguing that quantum physics grants free will. I am merely saying that this would mean that if there are examples of alternative casuation in nature, it is less implausible that they might emerge at higher levels. And even if there isn’t, chance indeterminism shows that matter doesn’t have to be constrained to some narrow form of cause and effect. (And honestly chance indeterminism sounds like an effect without a cause, unlike alternative casuation.)

    5. Is it possible? When the mad scientist determines all of the range of options you can choose from? When they could easily be making you think that you are rational when you are not, etc? And not to mention the freely choosen self deception risk.

    I am well aware that this is what the free thinking argument is arguing. The problem of how you know that you didn’t freely choose to decieve yourself seems just as problematic as the possibility that you deterministically choose to decieve yourself. (And the risk of being decieved drastically from outside factors is still present on both sides as well.) I fail to see how determinism or libertarian free will changes things.

    My solution argues that being decieved to the point of not being able to tell that you have or haven’t reasoned is an self refuting claim, because how do you know that you haven’t been decieved into thinking you have properly reasoned to the conclusion that you can’t tell that you have reasoned properly? How can you know that it is probable, that this belief is true? How do you know you weren’t decieved into thinking that you properly reasoned that is probable when it proper reasoning would show that it is improbable or impossible?

    1. Evan Minton

      1. Again, if ” the strongest motive” was in place in this state of timelessness, then the universe would have come into being. Indeed, it would be co-eternal with God. If God did NOT have “the strongest motive”, then the universe would not have come into being at all, ever. You said “The desire would be there, but if it has the content of only wanting to be actualized at point X that solves the problem.” which I interpreted as saying God could have the strongest motive to actualize the world at Time T-10 instead of T-1. In other words “I’m not going to create the universe NOW. I’m going to create it LATER” and if that’s your proposal, I’m saying that it won’t work. There is no now and later in timelessness.

      On my view when God decided to create the universe, that is when the universe came into being. His decision “Now I will create” is simultaneous with the universe coming into being. God’s decision “Now I will create” occurred 13.8 billion years ago. Now, if God did not make the decision to create, then the universe would not have come into existence. God had the ability to (A) create or (non-A) not create. I don’t know how I can possibly make this any clearer.

      2. You really aren’t grasping the issue: Here’s the bottom line:

      Premise (2) is tantamount to “if all that exists is nature, then all that exists is causally determined via the laws of nature, the initial conditions of the big bang, quantum mechanics, and other things outside of human control.” Note the “other.”
      Based on the Law of the Excluded Middle: either I am the cause of (some of) my choices, or something else is the cause of my choices. If I am the cause, then I possess LFW. If something else causally determines all of my thoughts and beliefs, then I lose the ability to rationally affirm related knowledge claims. Does that make sense?

      5. \\”Is it possible? When the mad scientist determines all of the range of options you can choose from?”\\ — What do you mean? If the mad scientist determines the range of options, I don’t see a problem as long as the range is sufficiently large enough. And also if by my free choice, I can move the parameters. I think you need to understand about Soft Libertarian freedom is that while our range of choices are limited by our nature, we can, through a series of free choices, alter our nature.
      This is what I said in my blog post “What Is Soft Libertarian Free Will?”

      “I used to be a hard libertarian, but ever since I read Kenneth Keathley’s Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach a few years ago, I’ve been to a soft libertarian. This view basically says that in many circumstances you’re free to choose between A and Non-A and whichever one you picked, it totally layed within your power to choose otherwise. But, there are limits to what you can choose. Your circumstances can constrain the range of choices you can make (e.g you can’t choose to walk out the door if you’re tied to a chair). Your moral character, who you are, can restrain what you’re able to choose. Moreover, your choices are undetermined by anything except your own volition.
      This view, besides being consistent with scripture, seems more consistent with our experience. For example, I can think of many instances in which you can have the ability to act or not to act prior to some action at T, but when making the choice a T, at T-1, you cannot change your mind. So, you’re stuck with repeating action A and not being to choose action Non-A. Many addictions would fall under this category. You have the ability to either snort the cocaine or not, but once you chose to snort it, you’re no longer able to choose not to snort the coke.
      Now, granted, you could make a series of free choices to bring yourself to the position not to snort the coke. You would do this by detoxing, going to rehab and doing whatever it is people do at rehab. Eventually, through that series of free choices (what I call a “free will bridge”) bring yourself to choose “not” to snort. But you can’t choose not to snort right away, you need to get there through a series of other choices.
      Under Soft Libertarian Free Will, it is the case that our moral character or nature governs the range of choices we can choose or not choose. Some things are simply beyond my ability to choose (e.g torturing animals for fun is too evil for a nice guy like me to do). However, a person can change his range of choices by going across those “free will bridges” I mentioned. Making choice after choice after choice (one a little worse or better) until they’re able to do something they previously were unable to. Christians have experienced this with being kind to people they loved to hate. It was hard at first, but eventually, it became second nature through continuing to make the choice to love their enemies. Sex addicts sometimes become really deviant through doing something a little kinkier, and then a little kinkier, and then a little kinkier, until they’re doing things so perverted that years ago they would never even think of choosing to those things. That’s a free will bridge I highly recommend you don’t go down.”

      Now, in the blog post I just quoted from, I was talking about morality, but the same reasoning can be applied to rationality. Someone might not come to true conclusions because they won’t look at the arguments for a particular view or give the proponents of that view a fair hearing because “That’s just so obviously wrong.” However, perhaps he freely chooses at one point to hear them out. He finds their arguments are strong and he changes his position. This happens on two or three other occasions with different viewpoints this man simply writes off as “obviously wrong” but, after examining the case, adopts the views he once dismissed. This causes him to become humble and realize that no matter how idiosyncratic a view may seem, he can’t just dismiss it without first giving it a fair hearing.

      The man in this scenario is not hypothetical. I’m referring to myself. After having looked at John Walton’s “Lost World” series, the case for annihilationism, The Divine Council Worldview, and the case for Preterism, and became a “Cosmic Temple View” advocate, annihilationist, partial preterist, and accepting a view that some fundy Christians might (wrongly) dub polytheism, I’ve realized that I can’t just write ideas off without subjecting them to serious scrutiny, no matter how goofy, off the wall, or counterintuitive they might seem at first glance.

      Right. Self deception is a risk. Deception by others is a risk. It’s possible to be wrong on some idea. All you’re doing is, once again, arguing that libertarian free will doesn’t ensure that we will attain knowledge, which, once again, isn’t the argument.

      \\”My solution argues that being decieved to the point of not being able to tell that you have or haven’t reasoned is an self refuting claim.”\\ — I agree. What’s your point? You don’t think that that’s what the FAAN is arguing, do you? Because it isn’t. It’s arguing that if we did not have free will, rationality and knowledge would not exist. Of course, premise 4 asserts “Rationality and knowledge do exist”. We can’t dispute it. To do so would be self-refuting. Thanks for affirming premise 4.

  12. Sam

    1. I think I am starting to get it. God’s motives couldn’t change his will because of the lack of timelessness so the will must either exist eternally or not. Is that it? If so that means that the will had to ‘always’ for lack of a better word have this intention for the universe to not co-exist with God for eternity. That means God couldn’t have produced a different intention/volition as it always existed on a timeless changeless state and thus there was never a time for God to determine which volition to produce. He might have free will after entering into time as you believe, but not before. (I am including the principle of alternative possibilities in the idea of free will as that is what you are arguing the Kalam proves exists and thus must be coherent.)

    2. Yes I understand the claim. I just don’t see why the parts of the brain that make me up cannot be causes adequate to produce one of several effects and determine which one it produces.

    3. I have already read soft libertarian free will, and probably the vast majority of the articles on your and Tim Stratton’s blog. The range of options is fixed and the mad scientist could make it so that you think you are being rational when you are not and vice versa. And if what you choose changes your nature, then the wrong choices could similarly make your nature inclined to incorrectly believe that you came to the right beliefs.

    The person you were referring to could also have been me. It took me some similar experiences to get to that point as well. However let’s imagine this on Determinism. A person sees a view they think is absurd, but one day they are determined to feel that they ought to give it a fair hearing, perhaps someone they see as intelligent holds it, or they due to whatever factors just felt like being open minded that day. They hear it, and that experience rewires their brain to be a little more open minded.

    They are similarly determined by their strongest motives to make that choice several times and this rewires their brain even more. (Of course they are part of the rewiring process meaning that they are the ones being determined to choose to think in those ways to rewire their brain via neuroplasticity.) Thus in the future they are by nature more inclined to be open minded in the future. They will require less strong motives to dominate them to choose that.

    One of the points you made against Determinism was that self deception is a problem that interferes with us being able to know if we have reasoned properly. My point was that free will doesn’t help.

    No. I think that the FAAN is arguing that if we don’t have the sort of self determination that libertarian free will provides then we can’t be justified in our beliefs since we allegedly couldn’t know if we have been determined to reason poorly. This whole time my response has been that: 1. It is self refuting to claim that we are determined to not be able to tell if we are reasoning properly or not and that if we are determined to be in such a state that we can (and to some extent do) know whether we are exercising our reason properly or not then Determinism is freed of the problem.

    2. That libertarian free will doesn’t alleivate this difficulty at all. The risk that you are decieving yourself is present either way, the risk of a non self induced deception is still a problem either way. 3. The solution to the problems in 2 is the same either way. (The solution is what I said in number 1.) Thus since the control of your mind in the Libertarian sense doesn’t help epistemically, premise 3 doesn’t hold up.

    1. Evan Minton

      1. Yes! You got it!

      2. Is it really up to molecules how they vibrate? Can chemicals choose not to react when coming into contact with certain solutions. Purely physical processes are not in control of themselves. This is precisely why 99.99999999999% of naturalists are determinists. I have the inductive case to believe why, if we are purely physical systems, we are determined by the laws of physics and chemistry, the initial conditions of The Big Bang, quantum mechanics or any other thing outside of human control. At this point, all you’re doing is asserting that maybe somehow our brain molecules could somehow escape the physical processes and, despite being part of the physical process, choose between a range of alternatives. You have given me no reason to doubt that promise 2 is more plausibly true than false.

      3. If you’re determined to be open minded and follow the evidence where it leads, good for you. Be thankful you weren’t like some unfortunate chap who found himself in a chain of cause and effect that caused him to be irrational. Once again, the claim is not whether one can come true beliefs, but whether one can KNOW their beliefs are true. True on the basis of justification. Also, yes I agree that it is self refuting to say that we are determined to not be able to tell whether we are reasoning properly or not and that if we are determined to be in such a state. That is the assertion of premise 3. Does free will really not help? After all, it is up to me whether I choose to apply reason correctly. I don’t have to depend on just happening to be in the right causal chain.

  13. Sam

    1. Ok. So we agree that God didn’t posses the possibility of willing a different volition and thus at least before the universe had no PAP?

    2. Maybe your right. I might come back to this.

    3. Ok. So let’s break this down simply. If Determinism is true there are two possibilities in terms of knowing how true our beliefs are. 1. Our minds have been radically altered and determined to not on any level know that we have choosen the correct beliefs. Perhaps self deception, perhaps other factors. 2. We are determined to know (at least on some level) whether or not we are exercising this facility.

    Since one is self refuting as you have acknowledged, 2 is all that is left. Given 2, we can therefore know that we have reasoned if we have done so. Thus we can have JUSTIFIED true belief on Determinism.

    The same would apply for free will. If we had ultimate control, how would we have any more confidence that we haven’t used it to decieve ourselves, and how would it be any less likely that extreme factors in your mind haven’t caused a massive confusion in your mind? The answer is that it is self refuting as above. Thus we must be able to tell whether or not we have the ability to tell that we are being rational or not. Sound familiar?

    1. Evan Minton

      If determinism is true, the problem is that you can never know if 1 is true. 1 is not ONTOLOGICALLY self-refuting. That is to say, it isn’t like the claim “There is no truth” or “all truth is relative” or “words have no meaning”. It it ontologically impossible for there to be no truth because if was true that there was no truth, then at least one truth would exist; namely that there is no truth. but if “there is no truth” is true, then “There is no truth” is false. The concept that we’re causally determined and therefore cannot know truth isn’t ontologically self refuting, but it is epistemologically self refuting. In other words, to affirm it is to deny it. As William Lane Craig put it, determinism could be true, but it could never be rationally affirmed.

      What I’m trying to drive home is that if determinism is true, 1 could be true, maybe 2 is true, but we could never know which one is true because we would be at the mercy of causally deterministic physical processes and/or indeterministic causal processes, both of which are outside of our control. If have free will, we can be in control of how we think, what we think, and how we go to think about it. We can take our thoughts captive as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5. But if determinism is true, it’s likely our thoughts have US captive and there’s nothing we can do about it! If all of our thoughts, our beliefs about our thoughts, and how we examine arguments and evidence are causally determined, then how can we rationally affirm any of our beliefs without begging the question?

      We can be determined to end up at true beliefs if we just so happen to find ourselves in chain of cause and effect that lends itself to arriving at true belief. But if you end up at false beliefs, you’re just the victim of unfortunate circumstances. You couldn’t take your thoughts captive. You argue that free will is liable to the same problems because we couldn’t know if we’ve deceived ourselves. But what you’re failing to see is that we can freely choose to do our due diligence to NOT deceive ourselves. We won’t always be successful, but we are responsible for whether or not we think responsibly. If we’re determined, we have no control over whether we think responsibly.

      Let me draw an analogy from how free will helps us be MORALLY accountable. Being free does not guarantee that I will freely choose to do the right thing. Indeed, I have frequently chosen wrong actions that I had to ask God’s forgiveness for. But nevertheless, I COULD choose to do the right thing. I can choose to discipline myself by digging into the word of God, devoting myself to prayer, and really doing my diligence that I did not just do good and avoid evil, but that I increasingly, over time become the kind of person more prone to do good instead of evil. In an analogous way, being free doesn’t mean that I won’t come to some ridiculous conclusions, but I can choose to think carefully about concepts. I can choose to study subjects with vigor. I can choose to debate the subject with those who disagree with me. Not only can I deliberate between different concepts, but as I engage in studies and debates, overtime I can become the kind of person who thinks more critically than how I did in the past. Indeed, doing apologetics for close to a decade now has caused me to become an extremely analytical person. People sometimes accuse me of being an overthinker.

      Now, I could have been determined to go this route, but I could be just as much determined to be the stereotypical fundamentalist anti-intellectual who screams at anyone who disagrees with his interpretation of a scripture passage or doesn’t cite from the King James Version. On determinism the only reason I’m not like that is because I wasn’t in the same chain of cause and effects as the individuals who ARE like that.

  14. Sam

    Well one is epistemically self refuting and therefore out the window and can never be rationally affirmed. Then again, something that completely undermines all of your beliefs leads to the claim that you have no knowledge, which is itself a knowledge claim and thus ontologically self refuting.

    Let’s take the luck objection down once and for all. The claim that luck has led you to have your facilities messed up to the point where you can’t tell whether or not you have reasoned properly is as you have put it “epistemically self refuting.” The other option is that you are casually determined to be aware of whether or not you are choosing to properly exert your mind are not, in which case you can Know that you have used rationality and thus can have JUSTIFIED true beliefs. Since 1 is epistemically self refuting, two must be believed. Two is something we experience regardless of whether or not Determinism is true. So thus we can tell if we have JUSTIFIED beliefs or not.

    My point was that the problem of not being able to know whether or not you have corrupted your facilities regardless of whether or not you could have done so. Thus the justification problem is the same. Does that make sense?

  15. Sam

    Just wanted to offer a polite reminder for you to respond in case you didn’t see my original response over the swarm of other comments.

    1. Evan Minton

      I haven’t forgotten you, it’s just that I’ve been mulling over what to say in response. I don’t really know what else to say other than what I’ve already said. No offense, but you just aren’t quite grasping what I’m trying to get at. I think I need some time to think of better ways to get my points across. Until then, I’d encourage you to continue to stay up to date with FreeThinking Ministries and Cerebral Faith’s materials, and perhaps you’ll have your objections satisfied at some point. I wish Tim Stratton could come on this thread and interact with you himself since this is the subject of his Master’s Thesis. He could probably do a better job of answering than even I could. After all, he has devoted tons more time to think about it. Unfortunately, he’s working on his doctoral thesis right now and that has kept him VERY busy. Once that’s over with, he may have time to spare to online conversations like what we’ve been doing here.

      I have really enjoyed this conversation, and I hope to discuss more topics with you in the future. Particularly; the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. I really, really, really want to get into that with you. We’ve talked about the problem of evil, the problem of Hell, The Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism (twice), The Moral Argument, and The Contingency Argument, but we haven’t talked about the resurrection of Jesus. I look forward to when you’re ready to discuss this because if it’s true, Christianity is true. Slam dunk. 🙂

  16. Sam

    Yeah, my original plan was to discuss the issue with Tim Stratton. He said he was busy and we agree that me discussing the issue with you was the best solution. Hopefully you and/or Tim Stratton will be able to discuss it soon.

    I definitely got the impression that you are very passionate about the resurrection argument. Some time I will have to go and read a lot of scholars and get their opinions on the topic in order to have an informed opinion.

Leave a Reply to Evan Minton Cancel reply