Having some time to kill yesterday, I watched a theism/atheism debate between Justin Schieber and Eric Hernandez, hoping to see a new or (at least) interesting argument from the theism side. Alas, Hernandez’s arguments were old, illogical, debunked-centuries-ago nonsense, from a very particular strain of Christian Protestantism.
There’s a couple in particular that I’m pretty tired of seeing, so I’m going to dig into it a little hoping that even one fewer person avoids getting suckered by this nonsense. I’m first going to use a false example to show the fatal flaw in this argument form, and then we’ll move on to Hernadez’s actual claims.
If the sky is blue, then Superman is real.
The sky is blue.
Therefore Superman is real.
The above argument is logically valid (and I’m using ‘valid’ in the technical sense). However, the problem is (of course) with premise 1: it’s not true. Now I can invent all the justifications in the world to try to connect the sky being blue (a true fact) with the existence of Superman, but if the goal is that I need to prove that Superman is, in fact, real, then jabbering on and on about the connection between the sky being blue and that being caused by Superman doesn’t do that.
At best, even if I manage to rule out all other mechanisms for the sky being blue such that only ‘Superman is real’ remains (however implausible), I still haven’t shown that Superman is real: I’ve only demonstrated the limits of my knowledge. There may be mechanisms at play that I’m unaware of that caused the sky to be blue. I may be wrong about the elimination of one of the other methods. But (and here’s the important thing) I still haven’t demonstrated the existence of Superman.
I have merely demonstrated that I believe that the sky being blue is dependent on the existence of Superman. If I insist that it’s logically necessary for Superman to exist because of my argument, it’s still on me to present Superman for inspection. If any of my prior assumptions are false, the logical necessity for Superman disappears (in a puff of logic).
So goes Hernandez’s argument. I would like to point out, however, that this argument is not unique to Hernandez, as this is a very popular argument amongst religious apologists in general.
In Hernandez’s opening argument, he claims that in order for Evil to exist, there must exist an objective moral standard (ok, fine), and in order for an objective moral standard to exist, there must exist God.
Let’s pretend for a moment that all of that is true (it isn’t, but let’s pretend): ok, so please present God.
In short, Hernandez is defining all of these terms in a very specific way, and if all of those definitions are true, then he has defined God. He hasn’t shown that God actually exists, he’s merely provided a particular definition of his Protestant Christian God. Ok: so please show me this God of yours.
Schieber pushes back on this definition, and there’s a discussion where it becomes very clear that Hernandez doesn’t even understand the terms in use. Hernandez doesn’t seem to understand that he’s using “objective” in a very idiosyncratic way, not in the way that that term is broadly used either by the general public or by academia. Schieber explains (*very* clearly) the distinction between ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’, and Hernandez just quotes Shafer-Landau completely out of context. Shafer-Landau, in this quote, is talking about moral realism which is the ideal that morality is something independent of minds. All minds. Any minds. Morality is ‘in the world’, so to speak, existing before humans did, and continuing to exist after humans. Shafer-Landau does NOT mean that it’s defined by God, or ‘based’ in God (whatever that means), as they are not taking theistic views into account. Hernandez simply found a quote that superficially lined up with their own view, and presumed it could be used to support their position.
The bottom line is: you can’t simply define God into existence. Throwing around a bunch of ‘if… then God!’ claims (as Hernandez does throughout this debate) doesn’t demonstrate that God exists, it merely demonstrates that you are talking out of your ass.