How do the arguments stand? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Okay. I kind of cheated. I saw that all the arguments are in the appendix and that’s why I ordered the book from the library so I decided to skip the novel since I have many other books waiting to be read and get to the meat of the issue. How does Rebecca Goldstein handle the arguments?
Goldstein lists 36 arguments. I have been in apologetics for nearly 20 years and some of these arguments I have never before seen used. Many are left out, such as the arguments of Thomas Aquinas and the argument from the resurrection of Jesus.
Let’s start with the first argument she deals with, the Cosmological Argument. The first premise she has listed in the argument is “Everything that exists must have a cause.” When seeing that, it’s hard to not think about Edward Feser’s epic takedown of this kind of nonsense. Note Feser also includes “What caused God?” as a dumb objection.
Feser rightly points out that no prominent defender of the Cosmological argument in history has ever said the argument is that everything has a cause. Maybe your local pastor who doesn’t know the argument well might say that, but it is not said by serious philosophers. How did Goldstein make such a basic mistake?
If this is the first objection also, we have to wonder how seriously one should take Goldstein on the others since this is a basic mistake. It leaves one considering that Goldstein has never read any serious work on the cosmological argument. If she has, that could be even worse because she badly misunderstood whatever it is she read.
Many arguments from this point on are scientific and I have no wish to look at those as I am not a scientist, or they are arguments that I would never use and have not seen anyone else use. The next one I want to look at is the argument from miracles. However, to really look at that, I have to leapfrog ahead to another argument. That’s the argument from holy books.
Of course, it is a fallacious argument to assume that the book can only be the Word of God if God exists. but I am interested instead in dealing with the flaw in her look at flaws in the argument. The second one has her saying that all the books contradict, which they do. Goldstein says that one has to have arrogant provincialism to believe that the documents held sacred by the clan one was born in are true and the others false.
Apparently, it never occurs to her that one could, I don’t know, look for evidence that one of the books is true and make a decision based on evidence. If one is convinced the book is true, it is not arrogance to accept it. It would be arrogance rather to not accept it.
So when we return to miracles, Goldstein sees a similar problem. Miracles are used for any number of religions. How do we know any of them are true?
Technically, Christianity is the one that is founded on a miracle, the resurrection of Jesus. Muhammad does no miracles in the Koran. Miracles would not fit in Hinduism or Buddhism. Miracles could be added in later traditions, but they are not foundational.
Goldstein also says a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. She does not tell where this comes from. Certainly, some people describe it this way, but not all.
Finally, she of course appeals to Hume. Hume’s argument has been critiqued several times over. One of the best critiques is by the agnostic Earman in his book Hume’s Abject Failure. For my own purposes, Hume was arguing in a circle. How does he know that a miracle has never occurred? Hume mainly relied on his own elite companions who like him did not believe in miracles, but he has no basis to demonstrate that no miracle has ever occurred.
The next argument is the argument from morality. Once again, as if on schedule, Goldstein trots out Euthyphro. Does God have a good reason for what He does? If He does, then we can use that same reasoning for ourselves. If He doesn’t, then His choices are arbitrary. It never occurs to Goldstein to define goodness itself. After all, if she doesn’t, she will have to live with the dilemma herself. Is something good because it benefits society, or does it benefit society because it is good? I have dealt with this elsewhere.
Naturally, there’s also criticism of the God of the Old Testament. As expected, there is no interaction with the scholarly work in this field or looking at life in an ANE culture. No doubt, Goldstein would not want creationists who never study evolution critiquing that, but I guess she gets a free pass.
These are the only ones I really want to look at. Most of the others are outside of my area of expertise or are just weak. It’s a shame to see so many atheists praising a work like this. On the other hand, it also shows us that the atheists are not becoming informed on these matters and likely just believing something because it argues what they want to believe.