March 3, 2009
Answering Anselm (Slick v. Dillahunty, part 3)
On a previous thread, commenter Anselm (probably not that Anselm, unfortunately) asks:
Doesn’t Matt D.’s strategy commit the atheist to support the Platonic objective reality (i.e., outside of spacetime) of things like numbers, logic, etc.? And isn’t that a strange position for a materialist to take (especially if he agrees with Carl Sagan that “the Cosmos is all there is, was or ever will be.” If numbers, etc. exists Platonically, then Sagan’s statement is not true, and the spaceless, timeless, immaterial reality in which theists say God exists is conceded.
I don’t think so. Here’s why:
First, I think even a hardcore materialist could advance Matt Dillahunty’s argument as solely an internal critique of the argument. That is, we assume for the sake of argument that Logical Absolutes (LAs) exist, and even under that assumption, the structural flaws Matt D. identifies in the unjustified leap from “Logical Absolutes” to “logic” renders TAG invalid. Since TAG is nothing more than a debater’s trick anyway, I think identifying the internal flaws in the argument itself is sufficient.
Second, I think Anselm highlights a popular misconception shared by many Christians that all atheists are hardcore materialists. That’s not the case. One can posit the existence — or, at minimum, the potential existence — of non-material things without abandoning the framework of methodological naturalism that causes one to demand empirical proof for empirical claims.
Finally, I should add that one can posit the “existence” of numbers or logical absolutes without conceding that they are transcendentally real in the Platonic sense; they could be transcendentally ideal a la Kant, for example. Thus, saying “five exists” is qualitatively different from saying that “five puppies exist” or “God exists.”