Upstairs At Eric’s: Track Two

Eric’s first premise didn’t get very far or do very much. He essentially began with a form of the Kalam cosmological argument which is a shaky foundation to build on. He used his second premise to advance his case for the existence of his god. Let’s see if he got any further down that road.

Premise number two: Something exists. If you want to argue this premise, you have bigger problems than we can solve with this debate.

What Do You Mean?

Maybe it’s my inherent mistrust of Christian apologists and their penchants for sophistry, but I’m wary of the wording in their premises. While it seems like a fairly obvious point, I’m hesitant to grant Eric’s second premise because of the awkward way it’s worded. Something exists? Just one thing? Or is this a shorthand way of saying that all sorts of things exist? I’m not quite sure. However, it’s the word exists which gives me the most pause. Christians in debates about the existence of God, especially ones which begin with a cosmological argument, tend to play fast and loose with the concept of existence. It has one set of parameters when applied to God but a different set when applied to everything else. Perhaps for this very reason, Eric offered no clarification about his use of the word exists. Instead, like his first premise, he supports it by stating that it’s obvious. Again, this is not support. The subtext is that there’s something wrong with you if you challenge this premise.

The latter part of his statement was most likely meant to inject some humor. It was lost on me because I think Eric is an asshole.

An Important Distinction

There’s a very important distinction that most apologists, including Eric, seem to completely miss. Eric’s first premise is what can be called an analytic statement. Analytic statements are self-explanatory and are true entirely and solely by definition. The truth of an analytic statement depends on nothing outside of the meanings of the words used in it, and all that’s needed to test the truth of an analytic statement is an understanding of the words being used and the ability to use them in clear communication. Eric’s “proof” of his first premise was that it’s obvious, and since he provided no empirical evidence, he seemed to be leaning wholly on the definitions of the words themselves for support. He made no effort to clarify potentially loaded terms like “existence” and “nonexistence”, so we’re left to go with our understanding of the colloquial meanings. However, we’re still just talking about words here.

Eric’s second premise is a synthetic statement.  These depend not only on the meanings of the words but also on the state of the real world for their truthfulness. In other words, synthetic statements attempt to accurately describe external reality as it actually is. The rules of verification are different for synthetic statements. There must be a demonstration of a real-world referent, generally through the presentation of empirical data. Shy of this, there’s no reason to believe a synthetic statement. Without empirical evidence, it’s essentially an attempt at defining something into existence. Eric again sidestepped any attempt to present any sort of evidence to demonstrate his assertion and appeared to lean on the colloquial meanings of the words for support. However, Eric made a fatal error here: he didn’t bridge the gap between his first premise and his second. Stating a mundane-sounding synthetic second premise did absolutely nothing to move his first premise into the real world.

A Flying Leap

As he did during his call to The Atheist Experience, he failed to recognize the analytic-synthetic distinction. Sure, if a state of nonexistence was not only possible but also actual, and the properties and behaviors of that state had been tested enough to verify Eric’s assertions about it, then his first premise could be considered one which applies to the real world. As it stands, there’s no such evidence, or at least none that he presented. There’s no reason for anyone to think that his premise has any referent in reality or empirical merit. Eric’s argument amounts to little more than a thought experiment. He attempted to gracefully leap over the analytic-synthetic distinction and crashed nuts-first on top of the fence.

So far Eric’s case is anything but persuasive, and it falls far short of the “rock-solid evidence” he claimed it to be. We’ll see how it fares when it gets a little further along. He’s trying to build his case for his god by stacking these premises together. At this point, he really has nothing to build on.

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