CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the final for chapter 19, can be found here.]

[This entry constitutes Chapter 20. While I'll recap relevant issues below, I definitely recommend being familiar with the case so far. A 25 page summary (from a couple of different directions, including one of supreme importance to me) of the 125 pages of discussion and analysis in this Section, up to now, can be found starting here.]

One of the key points to my past few chapters is that philosophies can be broken down into two mutually exclusive categories--atheisms, and not-atheisms--and that if one of those general branches requires a contradiction of the Golden Presumption, then it should be deducted from the option list. Using this strategy, I pared off atheism, leaving the branches of 'not-atheism' for further scrutiny.

However, there is a potential problem looming: would the same tactic also deduct not-atheisms from the option list?

Does the proposition of an ultimate Act-er contradict the Golden Presumption? Is it self-consistent to claim that actions of God produce actions of derivative entities such as you and I? (Or, are we derivative entities after all?!)

Everyone, I think, agrees that actions can produce reactions, insofar as they acknowledge the existence of actions at all (which as I argued previously everyone has to at least tacitly do, in regard to at least themselves). But the whole point to the Golden Presumption is that we must presume you and I are not utterly reactive. A conclusion of not-atheism therefore leads to the question of whether it is nonsensical to propose that actions can produce actions.

It is easy to slur this problem, because in our direct experience we see active people interacting all the time: one person creates conditions through action, which provide a situation for the next person to choose between. If we are playing chess, and I choose to move a pawn a certain way, you now have a situation within which to make your own choices. That situation would have been different had I moved a different piece, or had I not moved at all (by my choice or otherwise), but your ability to choose would remain. You may not be free within the rules of the game to respond exactly as you wish--that is why it is possible to 'lose' a chess game! But your reality supersedes that of the chess game, and you can always take actions above and beyond the subsystem of the chess rules: you can accede the game politely, or throw a fit, or distract me while you switch a couple of pieces around on the board, or ask me to return you a bishop so that we can play out a variation of the situation.

So far this is plain sailing, I think; this type of 'inter-action' between a derivative sentient and an Independent Sentient can easily be self-consistently imagined.

But that is not the problem. Granted I am already here and active, and granted a God Who chooses to relate to me personally (something I have not yet established in my argument, by the way), then He and I could respond and counterrespond to the situations created by one another's actions--as friends, as enemies, or even if one or both of us were ignorant of the other.

The problem is the 'Granted I am already active' part! Whence did I, as a derivative being, get my ability to act?

From God, if He is the ground of all existences.

But: how can it be cogent to suggest or require that God 'made' me 'act'?!

It is no use applying to incorrigible mystery; if I do that, then we run into the sheer assertion problem I torpedoed earlier: an atheist could just as easily sheerly assert, despite the logical contradiction, that a purely automatic system can produce a non-automatic entity such as you or I or he.

It is also no use for me to propose that what God acted to do was to provide me a natural vehicle for sentience, and then my sentience just sort of sprang up once the materials were in proper relation. Functionally that would be no better than an atheist's proposal that blindly automatic Nature (or Supernature) reacted and counterreacted in such a fashion, that a body (such as mine) resulted which somehow 'produces' sentience. It would either imply a discontinuity between my reasoning ability and God's, or else it would only put the problem one stage further back for no gain.

The problem I detect in atheism is that if atheism is true, then what I call my thoughts are ultimately produced by non-rational causes and thus (by the rule I use every day, simply put) those 'thoughts' of mine must not at bottom be rational.

On the other hand, if my thoughts are ultimately produced by active causes, then this might mean God is thinking His thoughts through me; but that would mean it is not the apparent 'I' who am rational, but merely God. Alternately, if God winds me up as a biological toy and turns me loose, I am merely reacting.

The problem might be put another way: if God is supposed to exist, what kind of God is He and what relation do I have to Him? This, I suppose, is the basic question dealt with by any religion that proposes an ultimate sentience.

Obviously, some of these questions must be deferred until later. At the moment, I only want to consider situations where it is not nonsensical to propose that actions produce actions.

One answer, as I have just suggested, would be that the Independent Fact is Sentient, but that we are not in any way declensions from It: this would be a proposal of some type of positive pantheism. The actions 'we' take would therefore be the actions of the IF itself directly. 'We' (according to this proposal) are God.

For what it is worth, I think this can be deductively removed from the option list; but the removal requires going rather further along the path I've started, so for the moment I'll let it stand. At least, it doesn't seem to immediately contradict your and my own presumed ability to think (and the properties we implicitly assign to this ability for ourselves).

A slight variation of this hypothesis (and again, one on which I touched a bit earlier) would be 'The Great Puppeteer': we are qualitative declensions from the IF (a supernaturalistically theistic rather than pantheistic hypothesis) but God is still doing all the acting.

In either of these cases, the action-to-action problem is mooted by (in essence) removing the subordinate action: what I perceive to be 'my' action is not really 'my' action at all, but only God's action.

I will have to decide later whether either of these concepts stand up to further scrutiny; but neither one seems to contradict the Golden Presumption, and I haven't yet gotten far enough along the logic trail for other necessary implications to collide with the proposals.

Yet, these options (although leaving open the path for deduction by avoiding contradiction) do not truly represent action to action; they reflect only God's direct action, expressed perhaps at different levels of reality. They avoid contradiction by proposing the existence of only one acting entity; which certainly allows reasons to be grounded, but does so at the expense of my own existence as a person.

If that is where the argument must go, then that is where it must go; but is there not meanwhile any non-contradictive proposal of action to action?

I think there is at least one such proposal; and although it does not lead immediately to a validation of my individuality, it does have a very direct--indeed necessary--link to the path of deductions about the characteristics of God. Indeed, had I not perceived the potential problem with my deduction (requiring this short chapter to state it), I still would have found myself nevertheless at this next step. And so I will advance to that next step with a doubled interest in the outcome.

But first I should, and shall, make a bit of a detour.

[Next up: Personhood and God.]

This is a repost (and slight updating) of an article (sermon, homily, whatever {g}) that I wrote on Thanksgiving 2007 for the Cadre.

The original article and its subsequent discussion (on a couple of topics) can be found here.


“Would you say grace?” someone in my family will ask, to an elder before a family meal--a meal such as Thanksgiving, for instance.

Of course what they mean is, “Would you give thanks?” But the phrase in English could be more accurately translated, “Would you say ‘grace’?” In our language, ‘grace’ derives from the same Latin root as Spanish ‘gracias’ or Italian ‘grazie’. Strictly speaking our English word traces back to a Middle English translation of an Old French translation of the Latin {gra_tia} (the long ‘a’ being represented by an underscore here): favor, gratitude, agreeableness. The attitude expressed is one of actively receiving love, in fair-togetherness.

In New Testament Greek, however, the word that is typically Englished as ‘grace’ does not have this meaning. Nor does the Hebrew/Aramaic which the New Testament authors were translating or thinking about (typically following the Septuagint). The meaning there is not different in content, exactly, but different in direction: the reference is not primarily to the receiver, in thankfulness, but to the giver--for which the proper response from the receiver is, ideally, an active acknowledgment and thankfulness.

What I find most interesting about this, is that the Greek word chosen for expressing this notion is rooted in the ancient Greek word for joy: chara. Thus {charis}, and its cognates, in context, means ‘freely given joy’. And so it is entirely appropriate, when one perceives that joy has been freely given--an action of indisputable love and fair-togetherness--to acknowledge that this has been done by naming that which has been given: to say ‘I thank you’ by saying ‘grace’.

This has deep topical (though not linguistic) links to the notion of ‘acclaim’--a New Testament Greek word often Englished as ‘confess’; which isn’t an altogether inaccurate translation, but which more literally could be called ‘speak (or reason) out with’. The basic idea is that a person is actively cohering with another person. One of the more striking cases is found in Luke’s story of Judas Iscariot: “Now, coming away [from the group, during the final week in Jerusalem before the Passover], he [Judas] confers with the chief priests and officers as to how he may be giving up Him [Jesus] to them. And they rejoiced, and they agreed to give him silver. And he •acquiesces•; and sought opportunity to give Him up to them minus a throng.” [GosLuke 22:4-6, Knoch’s translation] ‘Acquiesce’, in English, can be a little weak. The Greek is much stronger: he acted (and so declared) in an agreeing unity with them.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, after relating to his congregation the hymn concerning the prior divinity and incarnated humanity of Christ (2:5-8), urging his listeners to be of a similar disposition to the attitude and intentions of Christ in His action of doing so, continues with one of the most famous and well-known declarations in Christendom: a declaration that includes not only this action of unity agreement, but also a verbing of the term {charis}. Most Christians will be able to quote a phrase from this declaration already; but listen to it in its fullness, with these contextual meanings restored to the verses:

“Therefore, God also highly exalts Him [Jesus] and in joy is freely giving Him the name above every name!--so that in the name of Jesus [i.e. “The Lord saves” or “The Lord is Salvation”] every knee shall be bowing, celestial and terrestrial and subterranean, and every tongue shall be agreeing in unity with each other that Jesus Christ is Lord, into the glory of God the Father!” (Phil 2:9-11)

Leaving aside as controversial the scope of this declaration and this hope (so colorfully expressed by the Apostle), notice that the thanks for salvation is consonant with the freely given joy of God the Father: a joy connected with the giving of the name itself, a name of promised salvation, representing not only the intentions but the character of God Himself.

Nowhere is this more unexpectedly expressed, perhaps, than in a story of Jesus unique to Luke: the story of an unnamed woman, fairly early in Jesus’ ministry, who crashes an intellectual dinner in a most scandalous fashion.

(The following translation is one I wrote for The King of Stories, [the index to which can be found here]. I locate this incident as occurring not long after the healing of Jairus’ daughter.)

Now, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dinner; and entering into the Pharisee's house, He reclined (at the table).

And look! a woman who was in the city, a sinner! (or 'a woman “of the city”, who was a sinner')

Now realizing He is lying at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of attar.

And standing behind at His feet (where He was reclining), weeping, she now starts raining His feet with tears; and with the hair on her head she wiped them off, and fondly kissing His feet she rubbed them with the attar.

Now--when the Pharisee who invited Him saw this, he said to himself: "If this man was a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman is touching Him, that she is a sinner!"

Answering, Jesus said toward him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

And he strongly agreed, "Say on, Rabbi!"

"Two debtors paying usury were owing a certain moneylender; one owed five hundred days wages, and the other owed fifty. Now, as they had nothing to pay with, he freely gives them joy instead. So which of them will be loving him more?"

Answering, Simon said, "I suppose the one to whom he gave more joy."

And He said to him, "You have judged correctly."

Now turning to the woman, He strongly declared to Simon:

"You see this woman, don't you!? I came into your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, no kiss of greeting, no oil to rub on My face! Yet she rains tears on My feet! And with her hair she wipes them off; and she rubs attar on My feet; and from the time I arrived, she hasn't ceased in fondly kissing My feet!

"I say to you: her sins, which are many, are pardoned; on behalf of which she loves this much.

"But he who is forgiven little, loves little."

And He said to the woman: "Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

Yet those who were reclining with Him began saying among themselves...

..."Who is this, who even is pardoning sins?!"

This incident is (almost?) unique, in the New Testament, including in Luke’s account, for its colloquial way of speaking of forgiveness and the mending of disrupted relationships between persons. The one who has been wronged is described as freely giving joy to those who have done the wrong. It is easy to see why joy is invoked in this description: love is actively given in this act, and love (in reciprocation) is actively received, to be given then in return and so on in the rhythmic actions of unity. Moreover, in this parable from Jesus, it is the one who was wronged who initiates the giving of the joy to those who have wronged him. Yet though their supplication is not mentioned, neither is the responsibility of the wrong-doer neglected; for Jesus (so Luke reports) also states that the faith of the woman has saved her.

The mending cannot be done without the active participation of both of the people; but we, as derivative creatures, depend upon God for our very existence and abilities. Indeed it is by God’s grace, by His freely given joy, that we exist in the first place and continue to exist at all. In a very real sense, it is even by God’s grace that we can sin--for though this is an abuse of the grace of God, the grace to be abused must still be given.

It is striking and challenging, then, to read the scriptures with this understanding: that when we see the word of ‘grace’, we ought to try substituting that with “freely given joy” (or some cognate thereof), and see how this affects our further understanding of the passages.

But what (it may be reasonably asked) does any of this have to do with apologetics? My answer is that this has deep connections to the theological distinction between trinitarian theism (I mean of the orthodox kind), and any other kind of theism imaginable, including proposed in other religions and philosophies.

If orthodox trinitarian theism is true (and I believe it is), then God is a (personally) singular unity of distinct persons. In one kind of tri-theism (for example the classic Celtic exposition of Maiden, Mother, Crone), the persons are not in fact distinct but are only masks or appearances of the divine in regard to certain human conventions. Or again, in another kind of tri-theism (for example in Mormonism), the persons though distinct are not the single unified ground of existence.

Or yet again, in cosmological dualisms (such as a Manichean God/Anti-God cosmology; or in a neo-pagan notion of Father/Mother, which is related to a less religious God/Nature disparity among some philosophers) the two separate grounds of reality have no common interaction with one another. (Or else if they do, then being of distinct ‘substances’ in philosophical parlance they thus are interacting within a common field or system of existence, and this is what we ought to be discussing instead when doing ontological work.)

If orthodox trinitarian theism is true, however, then God the self-begetting is one person; and God the self-begotten is also distinctly a person; and the two of them in their personal relationship with each other actively ground not only their singular existence as God but also (as the final ground of all reality) ground the existence of all derivative reality: including you and me and the system of Nature in which we live.

God is love, and fair-togetherness (the word that from Greek we typically English as “righteousness”), and positive justice therefore--if this is true. (I am not at this time discussing the role and existence of the 3rd Person in this economy; suffice to say that He distinctly proceeds instead of being begotten. In other words, His existence has nothing specifically to do with the self-existence of God, or of derivative reality.)

Please note that I am not here arguing that we should believe this is true; I am only pointing out the distinctions involved--and I am pointing out what is at stake in different propositions concerning God.

A singular person as the ground of all reality, does not give us love as the ground of all reality--for there is no coherent personal interaction as the ground of this God’s existence (and everything else). This remains true even if the person can be perceived in different circumstances as if there were different persons. It is only an ‘as if’.

Multiple personal grounds of reality, do not give us love as the ground of all reality--for they utterly do not share a common existence. (Which indeed renders the concept meaningless as a practical or even a principle proposal; but that is another discussion.)

Multiple persons who are not the singular ground of all reality, do not give us love as the ground of all reality--for they are not the ground of all reality but exist within that ground or system.

But God the Father and God the Son, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance, God self-begetting and God self-begotten--

--this does mean that true love is the ground of all reality. The grace, the {charis}, of God, is love actively given and actively received in (so to speak) active submission, between distinct persons. This is God’s freely given joy. God’s grace does not depend on sin, but where sin exceeds grace hyperexceeds: for not as the sin is the grace!

The grace of God is the ground and the cause of derivative creation;

and the grace of God is the hope of reconciliation between man and man as well as between man and God;

and the grace of God is the faith and the hope and the love that shall be enduring when all the things that can be shaken have been shaken!

Unless orthodox Christian theology is true, there is no objectively moral final ground to appeal to; only, at best, the mere exercise of mere power.

And that, as most people intuitively understand, is not love.

That is what is at stake, in specifically Christian apologetics.

As for me, being persuaded that this is true, I acclaim God, and give thanks both to Him and to His mediant agents (human or otherwise!) for all the love they are willing to give me; and so I say...

thank you. (and I sorrow for my sins against you, all of you, above and below, and reject my selfishness, in hope of the day to come when I will have finally finished dying--by God’s grace, and with God’s help.)

And to all our readers around the world, on this Thanksgiving weekend, whether or not we must be striving in this vale of separation, I say, from the bottom of my heart:

God’s grace and hope to all of you, above and below!

Amen. {s}

Jason Pratt

By the way, do popular apologists for atheism have a high opinion of their own reasoning ability?

Does the Pope wear a tall hat? {g}

Answer: sometimes. When it's convenient. And not, when not.

In the video linked above, though, very much triumphantly in favor of human reasoning, especially theirs. (None of the proponents featured in the video are well-known for their responses to theistic arguments from reason, unsurprisingly. Including the formal deductive version I've been discussing here for the past several weeks.)

[Note: for Part 4 of this auxiliary series, click here.]

Hey!--where did all that 'true love' stuff go??

It's still around.

I believe God exists, because I believe in myself. And because I believe in her, whom I truly love. Whether or not she believes God exists, I still believe in her.

Admittedly, I knew this principle long before I met her. But still--you might manage to browbeat me somehow into believing I do not exist.

You will never succeed in convincing me that she does not exist!--that she is not a real person; that she does not make her own choices; that I should not treasure those choices, treasure her, for being her and being real.

I believe in God, because I refuse to disbelieve in her. Ever.

Even if she does not believe in God.

The same goes for you, my reader. I am writing this book for you to judge--not for you to knee-jerk react to.

I believe in God, because I refuse to disbelieve in you.

Even if you do not believe in God.

Wait! Am I saying atheists don't truly love people!?!

On the contrary--I am counting on the fact that they do!

I can put it this way: it is because I seriously believe that unbelievers can truly love people, that I believe God exists.

Do you disbelieve in God? Are you not sure whether God exists?

I am willing to accept that you exist. And I am willing to believe in you. Even if we discount the question of true love, I am willing to treat you as a responsibly thinking person. (Which is why I would prefer you didn't think ir-responsibly.)

But being willing to treat you as a real person, has deductive implications for conclusion.

'God exists' is one of those deductive implications.

But wait! Am I saying there are no such things as reactions!?!

On the contrary--I robustly affirm that there are such things as reactions; and I robustly affirm that they contribute strongly to human behavior, including my own.

These are, in fact, very important observations--and they also have important deductive consequences. Which I will cover later.

But the existence of human reactions, even as part of our mental processes, doesn't change the fact of human actions. Nor does it change the deductive consequences of human actions.

There are good reasons to scientifically study the reactive processes of the human mind (including mine). We can learn many useful truths in this way, about us as a species, and about us individually.

But there is a line that must be strenuously held.

And all researchers do in fact hold it, in practice, and in principle--except when they are trying to hold to a principle they would philosophically prefer. And even then they still always hold the line I am holding, in practice.

A researcher must not claim that his own mental processes are intrinsically irresponsible.

The moment he does this, he is claiming his own claims are irresponsible.

No researcher wants to be treated as being intrinsically irresponsible. No researcher considers his own theories as being intrinsically irresponsible.

Therefore, I do not believe any researcher when he implies that human thinking is intrinsically irresponsible.

I think they shouldn't believe those theories of theirs, either.

If a researcher or philosopher wants me to believe his theories about human mental reactions, then I will also believe in human actions--specifically, his.

And, consequently, I will believe in the implications of real human action.

And one deductive implication is: God exists.

...Unless: my argument against atheism also zorches not-atheism.

That would have to be considered next.

(And that catches up to the topic of Chapter 20 in the main SttH text.)

[Note: for Part 3 of this auxiliary series, click here.]

Okay, admittedly, if I go up to an atheist-on-the-street and I ask what her core belief is, as an atheist, she will probably say: "I don't believe God exists".

She will probably not say: "I believe the Final Fact is only reactive."

Nor is she likely to say this, if I press her on what it means for God to not-exist.

What she will probably come down to, sooner or later, is: "I don't believe a Person exists Who made the world or does anything else."

If I ask her whether she is a person, however, she will probably say: "Yes."

In fact, she is likely to say: "Of course!"

If she is being especially reflective, she might say: "I don't know."

She will probably not say: "I am not a person"--unless she is devotedly following a metaphysic that teaches her she is not a person.

But even philosophers who consider themselves to be nothing in the zero sum, or who consider themselves to be illusions of conscious will, still expect to be paid by their employers. They will insist they have rights. They will prefer not to be plagiarized or libeled.

Even a guru who says to us "I am not a person", expects us to treat him as a person.

And even if he renounces all material connections (such as followers, for instance) and goes out into the desert alone to starve--he still will find himself fighting the temptation to say "I AM... not a person."

If he is honest, and understands what he is doing.

Such people would never be reading this book, of course. They would not be where I am. And they would be doing their best not to listen to me if I went to them--for I would be only one more illusion.

I do feel very sorry for them, though.

They would think my pity is an illusion, too.

But, by default, I cannot be talking (now) to them; for they would never even pick up this book. I am talking to you, my reader.

I am... presuming I am a person, who (as a person) can do things. I am making my own contribution.

I am... presuming you are a person, who (as a person) can do things. You can make your own contribution.

This is the Golden Presumption: I can act. I do act. I extend this presumption to you as well, my reader.

Maybe I am presuming wrongly. Maybe I cannot act; because 'I' (as an 'I') do not exist.

All I can say... but if 'I' cannot act, then 'I' cannot even be saying, "All 'I' can say is if 'I' cannot act then 'I' cannot claim to be a person--nor make any other claim."

'I' must be able to act, even to deny that I can act.

This does not prove I can act.

It does prove that I should not accept any contradiction of the Golden Presumption as being true.

And atheists are quite aware of the implications of this.

When they want to be.

Atheism requires that the Final Fact does not act.

In practice, atheists require that they themselves can act. Even the atheists who deny they can act, will require they can act.

Why would a philosopher deny she can act?

In order to avoid the implications of a real action capability.

This doesn't stop her from expecting royalties from any books she writes on the subject, of course--she insists on her own personal responsibility, when it is to her credit to do so. She insists on her own personal responsibility when proposing that she does not really have any personal responsibility.

This is humorous. The other main branch of atheists get the joke quite well. The total react-er is contradicting the Golden Presumption, and so is contradicting (literally!) herself. What she is proposing cannot possibly be true.

Instead, it must be true that actions exist--especially the actions of atheists themselves. No problem.

These actions must (per atheism) be produced by, and only by, reactions.


It is silly to claim that a brick house has no bricks in it.

And even if, for purposes of argument, we allowed that the word 'brick' is so nebulous as to let us to safely propose that a brick house can possibly have no bricks in it--we wouldn't be able to use 'no bricks' elsewhere in a real sense.

Atheists, to put it analogically, think the Final Fact has no bricks.

This is also humorous. And the total react-er atheists get the joke quite well. If foundational reactions mean no-Person (in the case of God), then foundational reactions cannot later mean person (in the case of Man).

This is why the total react-er atheists insist on the chain of property transfer. Actions, if they did exist, might produce reactions--an Act-er might cause reactive results--but reactions only produce more reactions.

Each side sees the contradictions of the other with admirable clarity. Each side rejects the contradictions of the other, because those are contradictions.

Yet they don't also reject their own contradictions.

Because then atheism would be concluded to be false.

And not-atheism would be concluded to be true.

Maybe I do only react and counterreact. If so, and if someone tells me the Final Fact also only reacts and counterreacts, then I might as well conclude the FF is also a Person.

But an atheist will say that the structure of my thinking organ, my brain, is what makes the difference between me being a person, and the FF (usually Nature) not being a Person.

It is not that my brain is more complex than the total field of Nature--my brain certainly is not! But it does have certain arrangements that are complex, in specific ways, distinct from other portions of Nature (such as, for instance, this book you are reading).

Can that possibly make a difference?

One type of atheist will strenuously claim it makes all the difference between reaction and action.

The other type of atheist will strenuously claim it cannot possibly do any such thing--but it does make some other crucial kinds of difference.

You may notice this has parallels with the question of computer AI.

One type of atheist believes that if we just get those reactions and counterreactions complex enough, in the right ways, intentive actions will be produced as a capability for the computer--just like with us.

The other type of atheist believes that no amount or arrangement of reactions and counterreactions will ever produce a single action; although they readily agree that after a certain point we will be unable to keep track of the complexity and so it will look (to us) like the computer is acting. This is highly evident even in toys designed to amuse us. "My Furbee loves me!" my little cousin used to say--before she grew up and learned better. Flip a series of drawings at high enough speed, and they seem to move by themselves. The efficiency of the reactions, is the crucial difference--so such atheists think. (And so such atheists think they are thinking!)

Either way, a lot of atheists are quite sure that sooner or later they will be able to demonstrate, with AI (one way or the other), that human thinking only needs to be considered in reference to ultimate reactions.

And here comes the hole.

The human thinking they are hoping to explain in this way, is the human thinking they are using to make their explanation.

So what if computers become complex to the point we cannot keep track, and it looks like actions? We've been in that situation ever since we invented computers! I can't keep track of what is happening in my Macintosh already. I can't keep track of what is happening in a game of Pong released in 1980. I doubt I could keep track of what was happening in the punchcard computer my mother helped operate, back in the 60s.

Nothing new (in this scenario) will ever be added to the mix--the illusion will only become more difficult to detect. And we already know what the implications of this illusion are. My cousin's little Furbee is not a person. A much better illusion cannot really change that.

On the other hand, so what if it happens to be possible for reactions to produce actions inside a computer? The atheists who hope to prove it is possible by doing this, are already presuming it is possible--in their own thinking (relative to atheistic philosophy)! They might as well have stopped with the flat assertion. Nothing at all will be accomplished if they did succeed--except to distract attention from the real question.

Does it matter whether we (not the computers) are persons, or not?

All of us say 'yes' to this--except those persons who understand the metaphysical implications of saying 'yes' to this, and so who then (temporarily) say 'no' to avoid those implications.

It isn't wrong to try to use human thinking to explain human thinking. After all, I'm doing it myself right now!

It is wrong to try to presume a targeted conclusion, though.

This is why atheists, quite properly, do not accept Christians (or anyone else) saying: "If you will only start by presuming God exists, I will prove to you that God exists."

Similarly, I do not accept atheists (or anyone else) saying: "If you will only start by presuming we can justify an argument, we will prove to you it is possible to justify an argument."

Thanks, but no thanks.

Yet one way or the other, this is what atheism eventually requires.

We know what reactions at least sometimes produce, in regard to human thinking.

At least sometimes, reactions produce total drivel.

I repeat: we know this quite well. We know it so well, that usually the first conclusion we draw when we think someone's "conclusion" has been produced by knee-jerk automatic reactions... to discount the conclusion.

And to discount the relevancy of that person.

It isn't that the (merely reactive) conclusion must necessarily be false. We just don't trust the source. We want to hear from a responsible thinker (even if he turns out to be wrong); not a driveller.

No atheist would intentionally accept Christianity (for instance) on the ground that Christians are knee-jerk mouth-breathers.

No atheist would accept Christianity as a belief on this ground, even if Christians were proved to be exceptionally efficient knee-jerkers!

But atheists propose (in effect) that the Final Fact is an automatic set of knee-jerks. And this automatic knee-jerking necessarily produces all of our thinking--including theirs.

So why should I believe there is a difference, in their case?

"Because...!" says the type of atheist who believes there is a real difference in this case.

"Because...!" says the type of atheist who believes there is no difference but that the no-difference makes no difference and so can be trusty anyway.

This is a mutually exclusive option set. Either a difference can be made, in this set of ultimately automatic events--or not.

And either way: they are presuming their conclusion.

The details of their explanation attempt are irrelevant.

We cannot reliably prove that this time the proof can be considered reliable--because we will already be presuming that this time the proof can be considered reliable.

We cannot prove there really are such things as proofs.

And, we cannot prove we don't have to have proofs.

But we will end up trying to do one or the other, for the sake of our own claims as thinking people--if we propose atheism.

If we propose atheism, we end up attempting one of two impossible tasks:

justifying the Golden Presumption.

denying the Golden Presumption.

Atheism must be false.

Not-atheism must be true.


[Next up: A Conclusion That Begins. (Also, not necessarily "period"...!)]

[Note: for Part 2 of this auxiliary series, click here.]

There are two mutually exclusive branches to all possible metaphysics: atheism, and not-atheism.

Assuming, of course, I refuse to accept the reality of contradictions. (And assuming I have already been dealing with proposals of multiple Independent Facts, such as I do in this main SttH chapter.)

But I refuse to accept contradictions as being real; because otherwise my own thinking would be totally unreliable on any subject--including the subject of real contradictions. (If contradictions are possibly real, then 'are' may also mean 'are not', and so the statement becomes meaningless, either as a proposal or as a conclusion.)

So: atheism, or not-atheism.

There are numerous types of not-atheism; and there are numerous types of atheism. Philosophical discussions today tend to focus on one or another type of atheism.

But I think it makes more sense to start with the basic category first. Is atheism possible? If it is, then we may continue with discussions about the merits of non-reductive indeterminism vs. eliminative materialism vs. quantum short-chain physicalism, etc.

If atheism, as a basic philosophical option, is not possible, then there is no significant reason to discuss various types of impossibility.

An atheist could easily be annoyed by this!

But I am playing fair. I am not contrasting atheism with my own brand of not-atheism (nor even with my own brand of Christian theism). And I would agree that this is a legitimate line of attack for an atheist himself to try--in principle.

The question, for him or for me, is whether we can carry out the principle in practice.

In practical practice: what is the distinction between atheism and not-atheism?

It is not whether there is one level of reality or more than one level. This is the distinction between naturalism and supernaturalism. But a pantheist (one type of not-atheist) would say only Nature exists (no supernature); and an atheist can propose, without contradiction, that a supernature exists (although most atheists are also naturalists).

The atheist says, however, that the Final Fact--the Fact that produces (or perhaps is) all other facts--does not think.

'Thinking', I admit, is a bit slippery as a term. 'Processing' 'information' may be considered thinking; but computers 'process' 'information', and there is a great debate over whether this means they can think.

Rather than enter into the details of that debate, I prefer to begin by noticing there is a debate.

And the atheists in this debate wish to use the effective processes of computers, to demonstrate that we don't need God to explain our own ability to think. (I don't mean that only atheists think computers can think and only not-atheists think computers cannot think. There is a variety of opinion on both sides, including among atheists--as I will demonstrate shortly.)

Now, this is very odd. Because there is one fact that everyone agrees with, in this debate--usually explicitly (when persons want to take personal credit for the work), and always implicitly.

Those computers were produced by thinking persons.

And yet, the atheists never claim that the existence of 'effective process' computers, demonstrates God (as a thinking Person) can create us (as 'thinking' and/or 'effective process' persons).

No, they claim this somehow bolsters atheism.


Why is it, when I talk to atheists, they often want to know whether I'll be thrown out of whack when-if-ever we succeed in creating 'true' Artificial Intelligences?

I already think Artificial Intelligences already exist!

I think they have existed for at least 10,000 years. I think the atheist himself is one such artificial intelligence: I think a Person designed and created him.

Yet the atheist does not think he himself is an artificial intelligence.

More precisely, he does not think 'intelligence' is originally artificial. Well, neither do I: I am a theist, and I think the Uncreated (not-artificial) Final Fact is 'intelligent'. But obviously the atheist doesn't mean that, either.

The atheist would still be an atheist, even if he thought he himself personally (or the human species as a group) was artificially designed and created by a person or persons. Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA, was an atheist; and he proposed that we, as a species, had been designed and created by intelligent aliens. Another atheist (like Richard Dawkins) can criticise this proposal on several grounds; but not (strictly) on the ground that Crick was being a not-atheist.

An author can sit down and write a story, about how thinking creatures from the future acted in the distant past to create their own thinking species. The author may decide she is flirting with time-travel contradictions; but she will not decide she is (in this way) flirting with not-atheism--not even if those creatures acted in the past to create species other than themselves.

Why is this?

There is a common thread running under atheistic proposals, whether science or science-fiction, concerning the development of our own thinking.

And we can discover this thread by looking at the evident characteristics of basic computers (out of which we design and build more advanced computers).

Computers are basically reactive.

Everyone admits this. Especially the atheists appealing to artificial intelligence as being somehow in favor of atheism.

They may claim the advanced computers are now (or will one day be) active rather than only reactive. Or they may claim the advanced computers have significant and special properties despite being still only reactive.

But they admit, and insist, what is indisputably evident to everyone who studies the subject.

Computers are basically reactive.

This is why they think AI studies are so important from the standpoint of atheism.

A viable computer 'AI' would demonstrate (they think), either that actions can come from reactions; or else that we don't need anything other than reactions to explain the existence and properties of 'thinking'.

Either demonstration attempt would have a serious hole in it; but I will cover that later. For the moment, my point is this:

Atheists believe (in essence) that the Final Fact is entirely, totally, originally reactive. Our behaviors (and all other aspects of our existence) were produced, and are maintained, ultimately by reactions and only reactions.

An atheist who proposes that our field of Nature is produced by a Supernature, is still an atheist--because that Supernature only reacts.

An atheist who proposes that aliens created us, is still an atheist: because those thinking aliens would themselves still be produced by an ultimately reactive Reality.

An atheist who proposes that one thinking entity (we humans) created another thinking entity (computers), is still an atheist: because he thinks we, as thinking entities (and thus the computers, ultimately), were ourselves produced by an ultimately reactive Reality.

An atheist who proposes that our behaviors are produced by short-chain quantum behavior, is still an atheist: because those short-chain behaviors are still only reactive.

Atheism, by practical definition, means a reactive Final Fact.

Not-atheism means an active Final Fact.

This is the critical difference in proposals.

And the atheistic proposal, is the one I think reduces to absurdity.

As I will discuss next.

[Next up, the main argument: I Am A I]

[Note: for Part 1 of this auxiliary series, click here.]

There are certainly some scholars, past and present, who would say that true love is basically drivel.

There are no scholars, past or present, who can consistently say that their own thinking is basically drivel.

There are some scholars (past, and especially present), who do propose that 'human thinking' per se is essentially drivel. Yet they don't propose their own theories, as thinking humans, concerning 'human thinking', are essentially drivel. On the contrary, they would prefer that we judge their own theories as coming from responsible humans who are actively discerning truth.

Furthermore, they usually (and quite charitably, although inconsistently) presume we judgers are capable of more than essential drivel, to be able to do this--for their theories.

Go back and read the first part of the Kodachi again. Or (if you can wade through it!) anything I’ve already written in SttH. I am not doing anything different in regard to myself and to you, my reader--am I?

It really is quite a striking distinction, though. It would almost amount to a comedy routine.

Have you heard the one about the atheist who walks into a church, and offers to free the congregation from a belief produced by knee-jerk reactions to cultural pressures, allowing them to finally think for themselves as responsible people? He will do this, he says, by teaching them a more accurate truth: that all behaviors (including all thinking) by all humans (including himself) are produced and maintained by blindly automatic reactions and counterreactions.

The ignorant simpletons laugh him out of church.

And yet--some people believe him and follow after.

To be honest, this isn't exactly what the majority of such thinkers teach.

They aren't usually quite this straightforward about it.

There is another version of this story. When the simpletons of the congregation point out that the atheist is only proposing an even worse enslavement to automatic reactions, he promises this isn't so. These automatic reactions are what (by themselves and only by themselves) produce the intentional actions necessary for free-thinking people. When the simpletons ask him to explain why they should accept actions from reactions, instead of actions from Action, the atheist resorts to the appeal of inscrutable mystery.

Some of the simpletons thank him politely and say they will stick with the inscrutable mystery that proposes kind from kind.

But some of the simpletons, having been taught to value inscrutable mystery, perceive the superior audacity of claiming actions from reactions for no good reason, and so follow after the atheist.

I do not know what your opinion is about inscrutable mystery. But this is a certain truth: if you spend every Sunday encouraging a respect and veneration for inscrutable mysteries, it is silly to expect this respect and veneration to disappear Monday morning--when the other people show up, proposing inscrutable mysteries.

Especially when their mysteries are more inscrutable than yours.

There is a logical fallacy common among arguments: in Latin, 'reductio ad absurdum', 'a reduction to the absurdity'.

But there is a version of this argument which is not considered a fallacy. It is a tool to ensure that false claims are not being hidden by complexity. If the implications of a claim amount to absurdity, when their basic form is discovered, then the claim must be false.

The danger comes from falsely reducing to the basic form: from creating an 'absurd reduction'. This is very easy, and tempting, to do in an argument. A false 'straw man' is thus created, to be easily slain by the protagonist.

And this happens very often, on all sides of our metaphysical disputes. Which is why the tool is often considered to be fallacious by default.

I say this, to acknowledge there is a real danger of falsely simplifying the claims of atheism--just as an atheist ought to admit there is a real danger of falsely simplifying the claims of not-atheism. (Or both for someone who is agnostic on this topic!)

But not all simplifications must end with the creation of false straw men.

It is possible that the notion being proposed, was itself a straw man all along.

There is a story told in these parts (whether true or false I do not know) about a daring raid during our American Civil War. The Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest (eventually of Ku Klux Klan infamy) decided to drive Northern troops out of a supply depot set up near Union City, TN (about 25 miles north of where I am sitting). Under cover of night, Forrest and his men rigged a wide spread of false artillery positions in an arc around the depot. The next morning, the Union soldiers saw what seemed to be a power they could not possibly withstand; and so withdrew from the depot.

It is unlikely, had they held their ground or countercharged the positions, that the Union soldiers would have needed to construct some fake Confederate artillery to fight against, instead of fighting against the real fake Confederate artillery.

It is even more unlikely that Forrest and his men would have accepted their own fake artillery to be real.

Yet I think this is precisely what has happened, philosophically speaking, among even serious and otherwise competent atheistic proponents. For reasons I will discuss next.

[Next up, distinguishing between two main metaphysical branches: Atheism, Theism, and Artificial Intelligence]

There is a drawback to writing a book with 700 pages worth of comprehensive discussion:

It may not be very comprehensible!

It still might not be very comprehensible even if we’re only talking about 125 of those pages--which is about how far I’ve gotten in Section Two of Sword to the Heart so far.

So before I continue posting up chapters from that Section (and onward through the book), from now until Thanksgiving I thought I would try presenting the precepts I’ve been talking about once again, in a somewhat briefer and more colorful way--and maybe (hopefully!) in a way our readers will find more meaningful. Or at least easier to read.

These auxiliary chapters are taken from just such a shorter book I wrote years ago, after finishing SttH. Which is why I called it “The Kodachi”: a shorter quicker sword. (A hundred pages quicker in this case!)

Where should I begin, in summarizing a massive argument? Not only in summarizing, but in making it more accessible to people less concerned with technical details.

I will begin with something important to me... something more important to me than anything else.

I will begin with true love.

I might (or might not) be able to start on any topic, and eventually reach my conclusions; but this is my testimony, so I will start with my heart.

There is a sword in my heart. I sheathed it there long ago.

Yes, it hurts sometimes.

...sometimes it scours with fire eonian...

If it hurts so much--then why do I keep it there!?

Because I believe this is where that sword belongs.

To explain the sword, I will begin by observing its sheathe.

I am a person. I take my existence seriously. I have rights. I think for myself. I want you to pay attention to me, and treat me as a person. Look!--I am writing a book to present arguments for what I believe to be true! I want the credit for getting anything right. I did this. Me.

But wait--didn't I say I would begin with true love? And yet, here I am blathering on about my person and my importance. Am I in love with myself!?


... ... ... Well, actually--yes sometimes I am.

And no, that isn't good.

And the fact that most of us agree it isn't good (in principle, or to various degrees) for me to be devoted to myself, is very significant. But I will discuss that later.

For the moment, I will simply say that I am not in fact devoted utterly to myself (thank God).

I am utterly devoted to someone else. Someone who is another person; as I am a person. Someone whom I treasure for the person she is.

Someone I choose to sacrifice my own importance for; whatever it costs.

Even if that means I have to leave a hole forever unfilled, in my heart.

And you had better forget suggesting any philosophy to me, that denies her as a person. Ever.

The end. Period.

And yet, I myself am a person, too. It is important to affirm myself as a person.

So you had better forget suggesting any philosophy to me, that denies me as a person, ever.

To be a little more precise: you had better forget suggesting any philosophy to me, that denies her and me, as persons.

And yet (again!); most people in most times and places, would agree that I can think too highly of myself, and that I should not do so.

As long as I love 'her', I can easily see one such limit to my own self-value:

I should never value my own self in any way that de-values her.

So you had better (ever!) forget suggesting any philosophy to me, that inflates me at her expense.

These constraints can be summed up in one more constraint:

If the philosophy you propose, does not have true love at the center of it, I will not ever accept it.

I hope, instead, I would die to deny it.

I hope, instead, I would die to affirm and protect what affirms and protects her--and us.

Even if she does not believe what I believe.

Perhaps you, my reader, now are thinking I am naive; am I not putting rather more value on this 'true love' than really is there?

Not if I take my existence, and especially her existence, seriously.

And 'true love' isn't necessarily romantic love (although all romantic love should be true love, I think.) I could be talking about a mother; a teacher; a sister; a daughter; a cousin; a friend; a mentor. I could even be talking about a man: a father; a brother; a son.

I could be talking about God. (Or Goddess?)

I am thinking of a specific human woman (which is why I said 'her'. Little 'h'.) But I didn't have to be. Ideally, I should be applying these notions to everyone in the world.

I should be applying them to you, my reader.

Certainly, I had better be taking your thoughts and your person-ness seriously, if I am going to bother writing a book for you to read--and arguments for you to judge!

And to be honest: I (probably) don't know you. So I (probably) have very little feeling about you.

But I am willing to act in regard to you. And I am willing to believe, and insist, that you are capable of responsible actions, too... for better, or for worse.

Do I love you as much as I love her?

No. I don't.

But in many ways, I should.

And in some ways--I do.

But--this is hardly a serious approach to philosophy, do you say? Not a respectable approach? Not a scholarly approach?

On the contrary: the core of my belief in true love, involves real actions by real persons in a real common unity.

And every scholar wants to be taken seriously, and to be respected, as a real person, contributing real actions, in common accepted union with other real people. That is why a person presents an argument for judgment.

Every scholar implicitly affirms my core belief.

Even when they do their best to deny my core belief.

And that is what I will talk about next.

[Next up: Reductions and Absurdities]

Hat-tip to Dr. Platypus:

I'm curious to know if anyone has Deepak's followup to this. Maybe the guy in the audience misunderstood what it means for all beliefs to be masks for insecurities? Context would be appreciated!

I discussed the type of special-pleading belief-solvency the guy in the audience is complaining about in principle, a few hundred pages ago here in this SttH entry. To which I have now added this YouTube clip toward the end. {g} Even if the guy misunderstood or took Deepak's position out of context, he still illustrates the correct rebuttal to a bit of popular New Age pseudo-profound bunk.

UPDATE: that zippy little exchange was apparently given (so I've been told) during an ABC Nightline debate on the existence of Satan. I have no idea where it occurs yet, or the context, but here are the 10 parts (apparently longer than the edited version actually broadcast on Nightline) I found at YouTube, archived by HHTraylor, for anyone willing to plow through it and report on the contexts.

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the second for chapter 19, can be found here.]

[This entry concludes chapter 19, "The Theistic Argument from Active Reasoning".]

19.) I could sheerly assert, that the proposition 'actions can be produced by an ultimately reactive reality' is not self-contradictory. But what use is it to assert this? I can assert 'the moon is made of green cheese' or 'there is a God' just as easily. Why make that assertion?

20.) My mere say-so doesn't make the assertion true; it is not a necessary presumption for logical disputation, either. The vast bulk of evidence I find in Nature seems to lead to the conclusion that a reactively or non-rationally produced behavior is at least usually non-rational or reactive; further leading to the question of why my behaviors should be (or even can be) considered rational or active instead; and this question cannot in principle be answered without begging the question in favor of presuming my own rationality before the justification. (This would still be true, even if the vast majority of natural processes clearly led to rational behavior. But the evident characteristics of Nature, certainly as accepted by naturalistic atheists, make this easier to perceive.)

Beyond all this, the sheer assertion (that reactions can possibly produce actions) cannot even reliably be said to be a belief of mine; for I can assert all sorts of claims I don't accept with belief. So to merely flatly assert 'yes I believe it' produces the same problem of reliability--for I am entirely capable of asserting a belief about something I don't really believe.

21.) This leads me to the conclusion that I must be required to give logical grounds for such a proposition. I can give logical grounds for the proposition 'actions can produce reactions', because I always tacitly assume for purposes of argument that I act; I then 'choose' to do something, and observe the consequences. Using my earlier example, I pick off a scab and study the behaviors that follow. Perhaps those behaviors could be considered an extension of my initiated action; but I would draw the line at the point where my intentions failed.

If I aim a gun and pull the trigger, then the chemical and physical behaviors which immediately follow might be considered reactions (because I didn't intend and initiate every single one of them); or the chain might be considered a single action on my part, because I intended--I chose--to behave in such a way that the target a quarter-mile away was blasted to pieces. But I certainly did not choose for the bullet, continuing through the flimsy target, to ricochet off the nearby lake at a shallow angle and careen through a car window one mile away, embedding itself in the driver's skull; nor did I intend for the driver's dead muscles to thus be given electrochemical impetus to stomp the gas-pedal and yank the wheel, swerving the car into a Girl Scout camp nearby. (I recall this being an example from a gun-safety film in high school, by the way.)

Yet, while I might call those events 'reactions', the fact would be that my choice had contributed to the chain of events in an initiatory fashion; and a court of law would attempt to establish to what extent I was intentionally responsible for the deaths of those people. That I pulled the trigger, starting the sequence of events (considering the sequence as itself), would be an undeniable fact; one the insurance companies (not the courts involved in justice) would see as closing the case. All behaviors have consequences; so consequences are not themselves the distinguishing factor of an 'action'. 'Intent' is the distinguishing factor.

Be that as it may (and it is something worth returning to later in the question of ethics), I can easily demonstrate that intended behaviors can produce unintended behaviors. I can thus give a logical and even experimental defense (if anyone cared to ask for it) for the proposition that 'actions can produce reactions'.

But I cannot give a similar defense for the proposition that 'reactions can produce actions'. I could show that reactive behaviors provide data and material for an 'act-er' to 'act' upon, but that is not the same thing as causally producing the 'action' behavior. I could show that reactive behaviors might produce other behaviors which are as effective as actions; but that by itself is not the same thing as claiming the produced behaviors are actions. (Indeed, in some ways such a claim might be a tacit refusal to ascribe action ability to the behavior. A practical definition of 'instinct' is 'behavior as if from reason', which tacitly affirms that the instinctive behavior is not itself rational behavior.)

The moment I attempt to logically ground the proposition, I find that I am trying to logically ground the effectiveness of my attempt at providing logical grounds; which requires that I already accept my ability to do so exists--thus, no justification can or does occur. Yet if I do not justify the proposition that reactions can produce actions, then I am left with a sheer assertion which by itself has no reliability, not being a necessary presumption (with equally necessarily presumed reliability).

23.) The proposition that ultimate reality (which produced, causally, my action ability, including my reasoning ability) is itself incapable of intended behaviors, thus leaves me no formal grounds to continue. If only automatically blind non-rational behaviors exist, then my own behaviors must also be of the same sort; and this defies the Golden Presumption ('you and I are not utterly non-rational', to put it another way). If I propose that my intentive action ability was causally produced by ultimately non-intentive automatic behavior, then sooner or later I will have to justify my own presumed ability to think--a justification which is circular and cannot succeed. If I sheerly assert such a condition as being (despite the formal appearance) reconcilable with the Golden Presumption, then I still cannot treat the presumption as reliable, for it is not a necessary presumption; indeed, it is likely to be a conclusion derived from observations about my environment, and thus not a sheer presumption anyway. (If I decide that observable reality is largely reactive, then my first inductive inference would be that reality as a whole is utterly reactive. But this turns out to be deductively falsified once the Golden Presumption is identified.)

24.) This means I should logically reject the proposition of an ultimately non-sentient, non-active, non-intentive, non-purposive reality. The proposition either has no grounding, or it contradicts the Golden Presumption.

I consider atheism thus to be logically deducted from the theory pool. If I take my own rationality seriously (and yours, my reader's, as well--even if you are an atheist), then whatever ultimate reality is, I will not consider it to have specifically 'atheistic' characteristics.

Does this mean atheism is necessarily false? No. I may not in fact be capable of thinking. If I am not capable of thinking, then my deductive removal of atheism falls immediately to the ground, of course! But at the same time, if I am not capable of thinking, then my qualification (in atheism's favor) concerning this deduction cannot be considered reliable, either.

I have therefore discovered that atheism either is not true, or at best can neither be discovered nor even usefully (appearances notwithstanding) proposed.

I should therefore, for all practical purposes, conclude that some type of 'not-atheism' is true.

Notice I have been saying "should therefore conclude". This is, in some respects, weaker than a 'must': logical conclusions do not equate to a necessary behavior on my part. I can act. I can choose to reject this and flatly assert atheism, if I wish. I can pretend that atheism 'makes sense', if I wish; and at this point such an action on my part (not necessarily on the part of other people) would be pretending, as I would no longer have certain complex and difficult barriers insulating me and allowing an honest mistake due to miscalculation.

Thus, 'should' is the correct word; for it also carries a moral imperative, itself not necessarily binding in the behavioral sense (else it would not be a 'mere' 'should'). Having gotten to this point, I find that I 'should' conclude (and by assenting to the conclusion thereby 'believe') God exists. (I am not yet saying that I should believe in God; that's a related matter, regarding personal trust, but I will discuss it later.)

The normal opinion among theologians (and anti-theologians), and among practicing advocates of religion (and anti-religion), has often been that the existence of God cannot be established deductively. In a way--a paradoxical way--I have found that this is both correct and incorrect. God's existence (and, as I shall demonstrate, a wide range of God's characteristics) can be deductively established; yet, a loophole does remain.

It is a logical loophole, in the sense of being a 'formal' loophole; yet it is also an anti-logical loophole, insofar as a person who takes the loophole either begins to commit cognitive suicide, or begins to deal with reality dishonestly, or perhaps both. At the end of this phase of my positive argument, there is, after all, a step to be willed; a step that can be rejected, although for (literally) no good reason. The path branches here; one side leading to truth and to further truths, the other to (literal) 'self'-destruction: and in either case, a willful choice precedes the step.

If there is a 'must' at this point, then it is the necessity of choice itself, one path or the other. To refuse to choose is the same as taking the path to cognitive suicide, or at best to a self-crippled perception of reality: it would be a refusal to deal with reality as reality is being revealed to be, which is the same as a claim to be able to ignore reality at the preference of our own wishes.

[Footnote: This assumes my argument is formally correct, of course, and that I have properly understood its meanings.

I am not, by the way, attempting to sneak a conventional 'damnation clause' into my presentation here. All I have said so far, is what I think is common sense: committing cognitive suicide is foolish; and holding a doctrine that requires committing cognitive suicide while shuffling contentions around to avoid that implication, is cheating. (There have been some 'Christians' to whose theories I would apply the same principle.) I will have more to say later about ethical implications of such choices.]

Understand: I am not saying anything about 'religion' yet, nor anything to do with a personal relationship to this God as a Person. But I have now reached the stage where even discussing such issues becomes a shatteringly practical question: will I continue?

I do not say that a choice either way at this point is irretrievable; I am not talking of other chances I may have to retrace the steps, or to jump from one side to the other. I could still choose to jump to the path of disbelief at any point--and I assure you, there are times when I am strongly tempted to do so. But if I did, I would be doing so in defiance of what I have already concluded about reality. I would not be a true man.

Trying to be true, admittedly involves checking carefully to see if I am perhaps mistaken. But being true also means I am obligated to stay the course as well as I can in deeply painful situations (as I have done); because pain and grief can drive us to think irrationally. For what it is worth, I can therefore respect an oppositional commitment to what you, my reader, think is true; including in the face of a merely emotional doubt (of whatever strength). The question is, why do you disbelieve me--or perhaps why do you think I am mistaken? And, are you checking to be quite sure you are not salting the pizza in your own favor?

But speaking of salting the pizza in one’s own favor: an especially astute reader may see in my argument during the last few chapters, a hole I have so far left untouched. It is a very subtle hole, that I myself discovered while working on this book; but from which, once I discovered it, I learned something new about what I could argue concerning the character of ultimate reality.

I will explore this hole in my next chapter.

[Next up: sauces for ganders may strike again, against me this time!]

[Also, a more colorful summary of the precepts and argument from this Section so far, can be found starting here: the Argument From True Love.]

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the first for chapter 19, can be found here.]

[This entry continues chapter 19, "The Theistic Argument from Active Reasoning".]

15.) This leaves, on the atheism side, the proposition that a fully automatic system can produce behaviors which are themselves non-automatic.

16.) This proposition entails, that even though true action capability (such as what I must presume you and I have) exists now, it did not always exist. The reactive process has brought into existence (eventually, having gotten into the correct configurations) active abilities. Against a primary sceptical threat, which necessarily calls into formal question the presumption we make in favor of (at least) the possibility of our own rational competency, can this proposition be a defense?

17.) The attempt to justify the proposition breaks down on the same problem as proposing that no active ability whatsoever exists.

To explain how reactions have become actions, is to concurrently claim that those reactions did not produce merely more reactions. The question has become: can we reliably say that the behaviors in question are qualitatively and sufficiently different from prior (reactive) behaviors and from currently surrounding (reactive) behaviors--qualifiably different enough that they can be concluded to be possibly reliable in the special sense of reliability we presume for ourselves when engaging in any argument?

Any answer we give, however, assumes from the start that we can at least possibly reliably discover the answer to the question. To answer the question of how our answers can possibly be reliable, is to beg the question in favor of possible reliability to start with. And it must; for you and I must presume before any argument that we are in fact capable of reliably analyzing data. (To presume that we are in fact 'capable' of analyzing data, does not mean we will always necessarily be correct.)

If I hypothesize that 'Reality', considered fundamentally, is incapable of reliably judging an event; then the question must arise of how I am capable of behaving in a fashion that is qualitatively different from the behavior of ultimate reality.

(Note: I will deal much later with the related and pertinent question of how sin can be sin and yet be a behavior not utterly alien to God's characteristics as God.)

I could perhaps understand if the behavior I am supposed to be exhibiting is a declension or reduction of the ultimate quality of reality: if my behaviors were qualitatively different because I am a derivative entity, then it would be contradictory to propose that my behaviors are at all points qualitatively similar to that which is my ultimate Producer.

But now, I am being asked to accept that I, as an entity derived from this (hypothetically proposed to be) automatically reactive ultimate reality, can accomplish something qualitatively superior to ultimate reality!

A particular action may at times be less effective than reaction in particular circumstances: if I have to 'stop and think' to do something, I may be less successful than the entity who, however it came about, can instinctively react to the same end. But any entity--any person--who affirms that she can 'act', affirms that this ability of 'acting' grants her greater qualitative efficiency in at least some affairs than any automatically reactive behavior could achieve.

'Reality is not ultimately sentient: there is no God.' -- 'You were raised in an environment wherein this idea was pressed in upon your psyche, and so you are only reflecting your environment, regardless of whether God exists or not.' -- 'No! I say this because I have analyzed such-and-such data and have thereby responsibly reached this conclusion.'

This is a person who affirms she is capable of achieving greater efficiency thanks to her independent action ability; indeed, she affirms even that she must affirm this, or her beliefs will be cast, at very best, into a cloud of suspicion as regards their reliability. Here is a clear situation where automatic behavior, far from being considered the epitome of efficient behavior, is itself proposed as evidence of dangerously un-reliable behavior; and our exemplary atheist accepts this as a true principle, which is why she expends so much effort to show she is not behaving in such a knee-jerk automatic fashion. (Indeed, she may even say she has chosen atheism precisely because she discovered she was unreflectively accepting her earlier environment, if her earlier environment was permeated by theism; thus she might very well claim 'I have broken free from irrationally dogmatic religion', etc.)

Even when the automatically reactive behavior set is clearly superior in raw power to act-er, indeed even when the reactive set is such that it can easily destroy our action capability (insofar as this system of Nature is concerned anyway), we still perceive a superiority in the act-er to the mere reactions. Our planet may be at any moment blasted into nothing by the electromagnetic pulse of a star that went supernova thousands or hundred of thousands of years ago (which, by the way, is a real threat astrophysicists have discovered); yet although that would destroy all natural life on our planet, we rational entities have this superiority: we can understand and consciously appreciate that threat (for better or for worse).

We may stand under an unimaginably huge number of dangerous and intoxicating things (in several senses of ‘intoxicating’)--humanity has always been aware that the world is unspeakably large and dangerous (up until recent industrial societies anyway, when we tend to forget such things due to the insulating effects of our own increasing power). But at least we can truly understand something about them; whereas those things cannot even begin to approach understanding anything, whether us or themselves. An avalanche can kill a skiing town; but the skiers can understand the tragedy. Indeed it is especially a tragedy for the skiers, whether considering themselves or considering damage done to other entities: a skier may mourn for a rabbit or a cougar, but neither the cougar nor the rabbit, despite each having emotional reactions of their own (including to an avalanche and its results), will mourn for the skier (much less for each other).

18.) But does it make any kind of real sense, for me to accept a claim that my behaviors are qualitatively superior to the characteristics of reality that produced me? Granted, such a claim might please me very much to believe, but that is not the issue; the issue is whether it is self-consistently proposable. It is, at best, not defensible, nor any kind of defense, against a necessary sceptical threat derived from proposed characteristics of that reality; because the defense of the proposal requires the proposal to be accepted first, after which the defense is moot.

A totally non-rational behavior results in unjustifiable claims--more precisely, any entity that only exhibits non-rational behavior cannot itself justify anything--and my Producer is (according to atheism) utterly and ultimately non-rational; yet I can produce justifiable claims. If I attempt to defend the disparity of this proposal, then I cannot win; because my defense would involve the tacit claim, to be accepted by everyone involved in the discussion, that I truly can in fact possibly produce justifiable claims. But I cannot justify that my claims can be justifiable.

Very well: what happens if I sheerly assert this instead?

[Next up: assertive conflict and the conclusion of the argument.]

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the last for chapter 18, can be found here.]

[This entry starts chapter 19, "The Theistic Argument from Active Reasoning".]

My previous two chapters not only continued my line of argumentation, but also (in their own way) summarized, and illustrated through practical applications, the points of my argument, in an imaginary informal debate.

Dialogues, however, although useful in some ways, are not formal arguments; and as these second-section chapters are perhaps the most critical in my entire book, I will take one more chapter to summarize and re-present the argument yet again, before continuing with my inferences.

My argument can be developed from several directions, although the final result is the same in each case. As even now I am still not sure which 'beginning point' is best, I have presented slightly different variations for each run-through; and I will do this again here.

I find myself, however the situation came about, behaving in a certain way, in order to maximize my efficiency in relating to reality. This behavior may be called simply 'thinking' or 'reasoning', or more precisely 'analysis'. What does this behavior, as I actually and/or necessarily claim to practice it, involve and entail?

1.) I find that when I engage in this behavior, it seems to me that a quality exists above and beyond the mere flow of stimulus in and out of me. I seem to be a contributor to the process. The responses flowing from me, seem more than the sum-total of the impulses coming into me. I perceive I am 'adding' something to the chain of causation. I perceive I am 'acting'. (Note: My mere perceptions of this are not the same as a conclusion, or even a necessary presumption, that I am 'acting'. But I have to start somewhere.)

Furthermore, I find that other entities similar to myself claim to have this same property or ability; in fact, their sheer behavior of 'claiming' anything--of claiming to claim--is itself a testimony on their part to this behavior (even if that testimony to apparent behavior turns out to be wrong).

2.) I find I must stoutly presume that my perceptions in general are not utterly unreliable. There is not even any real question of behaving otherwise. The imagining of a counter-presumption with corollaries (of any sort whatever) may perhaps be possible; but to "draw any conclusions" or otherwise "use" this counter-proposed impression or presumption (i.e. that my perceptions are utterly unreliable), is to deny the accuracy of that counter-proposition with respect to the reality of me.

If my perceptions of reality are utterly unreliable, every conclusion or action I take would be equally unreliable (even if incidentally effectively corresponsive). But that means my perception or proposal of "general unreliability of perception" would also itself be unreliable (even if in fact true).

It is impossible to claim my general incompetence of perception to be true, and simultaneously mean anything useful and distinctive by the claim. Admittedly, such a behavior might take place (I can type the phrase, for instance) but I cannot accept, or assent to, the claim without immediately violating the claim; which means that 'I' cannot actually 'accept' the claim. Whatever I do and whatever I claim, the very instance of my claim entails a logically prior claim to some degree of perceptive competence. And I find other entities similar to myself (such as you, my reader), who claim to behave (and so thus behave even in the claim) the same way.

3.) I find, in tracing these perceptions, an even deeper and more primary presumption: I not only must presume that at least some data reaches me with adequate correspondence to reality; but I must also presume I can adequately process at least some of this data.

The arrival of the impressions or data I use in 'thinking' may be sequentially and/or causally prior to my 'thinking'; but the possible effectiveness of my 'thinking' must be presumed before any judgments about that data can be accepted.

If I flatly cannot adequately think, then 'I' quite literally cannot 'mean' anything even by saying "I flatly cannot adequately think." I can tape-record my voice and the recorder can play back my voice, but the mere utterance of the sound does not entail the ability for the 'utterer' to itself 'mean' something by the sounds. And I find that this corresponds to my own impression that what comes out of me is in some way more than what goes into me. If I was only a tape-recorder (even a fantastically complicated one), 'I' literally could not 'mean' anything by proposing such a condition ("I am a fantastically complicated tape-recorder") as a fact.

4.) I find that these perceptions of mine lead to discovering (or at least they involve) a central presumption concerning the actual reality of myself. It is, even if only tacitly, a necessary and unjustifiable presumption: I can act (not merely that I perceive myself as acting). Not necessarily always, not necessarily with total efficiency; but I nevertheless must still be able to act.

If I try to reduce this or explain it further, I find I have merely repeated the proposition or else I have denied it. Repeating it does not lead me to a deeper truth; denying it leaves me no ability to (quite literally) 'do' anything further--at least, not without cheating and secretly smuggling this ability back in.

It is a proposition that is sheerly unjustifiable as it is; because any attempt to justify it (or, alternately, to explain it away in terms of more basic events) requires that its qualitative properties be accepted first from the getgo. A justification of our justification ability cannot succeed due to its circularity, and thus cannot reliably lead to truth; and a deconstructive reduction of our justification ability requires either eliminating justification ability outright (thus destroying the deconstructive reduction attempt itself) or rejustifying the justification ability at a 'deeper' level, which again becomes circular.

My ability to actively think is the Golden Presumption of any inference I draw; and in order to argue to anyone other than myself (such as to you, my reader), then I must extend this Golden Presumption to stoutly include your capability to actively think as well.

5.) Therefore: whatever other truths I discover about this quality or characteristic or ability of mine; or whatever truths I propose or discover about reality other than myself; I should not contradict this central presumption: I (and you, quite literally "for purposes of argument") do possess the ability to act.

Any purported hypothesis or conclusion which denies this, I should reject; indeed, even if I "accepted" such counter-presumptive hypotheses or conclusions I would be claiming something about myself which such hypotheses or conclusions deny, and thus I could only be making a mistake by proposing such hypotheses or conclusions, if I take my own thinking seriously.

6.) After spending some time processing data, I learn that human beings--such as myself--are (at least apparently) derivative creatures. We are born, and we die. We are affected against our "will" or our "desires" or our "wishes" (whatever may be true about those words), by other entities. Something other than me myself seems to have brought me into existence, and my continuance is ultimately a factor of this other thing or set of things. What properties does this thing, this producer, have?

(Notice I have qualified myself here; I am leaving room to discover that I myself am the ground of my own existence. I might discover that I am derivative of myself, and thus that something other than myself only seems to have brought me into existence.)

7.) There are properties distinctively attached to the concept of action: initiation; choosing; not-necessarily-automatic behavior; simultaneously non-random and non-determinate behavior. (The two terms 'random' and 'determinate' are not opposites: effects may be determined by random causes.)

So I ask the question about this Producer which I have discovered that I do presume about myself: does it act?

There are two mutually exclusive and fundamentally basic hypotheses about this Producer: It can act (in at least the same fashion that I can act); or It cannot act.

(Note: The question of its existence would fall in line with the question about its mere behavior: if this Producer did not exist, I would not be here to ask the question. If this Producer did not produce effects, then again I would not be here to ask the question. What behaviors does the Producer exhibit? That is the question.)

8.) Can one of these alternative characteristics of the Producer (can act / cannot act) be solidly removed--or 'deducted'--from the list of possibilities?

9.) If the Producer cannot act, yet It can still behave, then what is It doing?

There are only two basic behaviors in my experience: actions, and reactions. There are also composite behaviors, but the sheer description of them as 'composite' requires a tacit recognition that those behaviors are exhibitions of a combination of distinctive behaviors: and again, these are actions and reactions.

If I choose to pick at the scab on my arm, the scab shall react in response to my choices--it shall behave in an automatically necessary response to my contribution and to its surrounding environmental conditions. It shall fall off, and bounce a bit when it hits a solid object, or perhaps displace a tiny splash when it hits a liquid, and/or various other things of that sort; and the path of its fall will be determined by vector energy states of my contribution, as well as by gravity, elasticity, air currents, and quantum behaviors to some degree. The scab does not (as far as I can tell, anyway) contribute to its own fate in any sense which is not determined for it (randomly or otherwise) by its relation to other realities. It is re-active. And the water which splashes or the chair cushion which deforms and reforms elastically (giving the scab a bounce) are continuing the chain of reaction: they are counter-reactive. But their behavior is qualitatively not different from the scab's reaction (although physically and chemically they will be different--that is, in accordance with particular quantities of material and energy states, in a given space).

Counterreactions are only 'counterreactions' as a matter of descriptive convenience, for tracing the path of reaction. But actions are not reactions, and reactions are not actions: they are qualitatively distinct. If this Producer is not actively initiating events, then its behaviors must be utterly reactive and counterreactive; or else they are unintelligible to me, and I am left without any opinion about it whatsoever--including the opinion that its behaviors are 'unintelligible'.

(Note: If its behaviors do not correspond adequately to behaviors I am familiar with, then there is no way I could even propose a Producer. I could simply sheerly assert that Its behaviors are unintelligible, but then I am left with my own existence--and evidently the rest of reality--which does seem to correspond with behavior of that type, both from within and from without. My own existence and the fundamental behaviors I discover about myself and about other things, indicate that action and reaction are not concepts utterly alien to the character of the Producer, and thus to the Producer's own behaviors, whatever unimaginable else they may be.)

10.) I can discover from observation that the great bulk of reality around me behaves reactively; so this seems a plausible place to begin for answering the question as to the most fundamental property characteristic of the Producer.

Does the Producer only react and counterreact? Is its behavior purely automatic, non-purposive, non-choosing? In a word, is 'atheism' (of either the naturalistic or supernaturalistic type) true?

11.) If atheism is true, then non-sentient behaviors would be ultimately behind all effects. 'All effects', includes my own sentience. Automatically reactive causes would ultimately be producers of all effects. 'All effects', includes my own action ability.

12.) If atheism is true, then either automatic causation produces non-automatic effects (and/or reactions produce actions); or no such thing as non-automatic effects (or initiated 'actions' per se) really exist.

13.) If no such thing as non-automatic effects really exist, then I cannot justify even the possible reliability of my own 'thinking' behavior, because such a 'justification' (no matter what particular shape it entailed) would under that hypothesis be only one more necessarily automatic response to stimuli, under the same suspicion about reliability as the behaviors it was put into play to help ratify.

This suspended limbo of justification would extend to anything I 'thought' about atheism, too. If only necessarily automatic behaviors exist, then I cannot defend even the possible reliability of my proposing that only necessarily automatic behaviors exist; much less could I defend even the possible reliability of my taking that proposition and building consequent positions out of it.

Any real strengths a science has, for instance, shall have been borrowed tacitly, either from the belief that the Producer is an Act-er, or from the belief that although the Producer only reacts it could still possibly produce real actors (who can possibly justify the cogency of atheism or any other theory and proposition--thus providing, for instance, strong sciences).

If only necessarily automatic behaviors exist, there is no way for me to reliably believe that I had reliably discovered this. Indeed, it would even be impossible (no matter how it seemed to my perception) for me to sheerly choose to assert this as a fact, or even a hypothesis, to work from. What seemed my raw choice would be only one more necessarily automatic behavior with questionable reliability.

14.) Therefore, the proposition that there can be nothing except necessarily automatic, fully and blindly reactive behaviors, can and should be deducted from the option pool.

In fact, this proposition is always tacitly denied by any thinker who holds any worldview (even if the worldview, such as the philosophy of hard materialism, distinctively promotes this concept.) It may still be true, but it cannot be justifiably concluded nor can it be the presumptive ground for justifiable conclusions.

[Next up: the problem of proposing action from reaction under atheism]

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