Friday, November 24, 2017

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The Three Silver Bullets

by Francois Tremblay



There are a great number of theological arguments, and some are more sophisticated than others. While there is no universal way to refute them all, there are three fallacies that you can learn, which will help you easily refute a majority of theological arguments.

In all cases, I will use the First Mover argument as a foil for our fallacies. The First Mover argument starts with the existence of change in entities around us. It goes on to deduce that the universe itself needs a cause for its state of change, this being proof that there must have been a god that started that change.

Lack of Specificity: This fallacy occurs when the actual logic of an argument is broader than its conclusion. Virtually all unsophisticated arguments share this fallacy because their truth would only prove that there is a cause for some feature of the universe, not a god.

The First Mover argument lacks specificity because, even if it was true, it would only prove that there was an entity or being that initiated change in the universe. Such an entity could very well be a non-volitional being, a mechanism, or even an immaterial law.

Special Pleading: This fallacy occurs when the criteria used to discard something also applies to the entity or being that is proposed as the solution. As such, the arguer is pleading that his solution is special, while according to his argument his solution should also be rejected.

The First Mover argument commits special pleading. Our criteria for excluding parts of the universe as uncaused is based on their capacity for change, and yet a god, to effect change, must itself change. Therefore a god cannot be uncaused either, if the premise was true.

Composition Fallacy: This fallacy is more complex, but can be explained simply in this manner: one cannot give an attribute of parts to the whole without justification. For instance, in many theological arguments, the whole is the universe, and the parts are entities within the universe. Any attempt to conclude something about the universe based on the entities we observe around us is logically insufficient.

The First Mover argument commits the fallacy of composition, because it assumes that the universe cannot be uncaused because its parts are uncaused. Simply making this deduction is logically insufficient.

I hope this short overview will help you efficiently dispatch most theological arguments you will encounter. Consider them as “razors” that will help you slash the unsophisticated arguments and get to the core of issues.

Last updated: 01/01/05