Jeff Lowder Replies

Posted in Atheism, Religion, Science on  | 2 minutes | 5 Comments →

Jeffrey Jay Lowder has replied to my critique, and I’ve realized that sometimes I talk too much. I suspect verbosity obscured the point because Jeff seems to have misunderstood my criticisms (though I might misunderstand his, only time can tell). I’m responding to his rejoinders elsewhere, but today I want to offer an alternative description of my objections to Jeff’s AHS. But first, a note on brevity.

If there’s one thing I learned from Larry Wallberg it’s the importance of leanness in one’s writing. Before Loftus banned me, I was a few months into the practice of constraining comments to simple, single-line replies (see the index if interested). In instances where I addressed more than one point, I’d try to devote only a single line, usually a question intended to highlight a problem with a claim. The more you wander from your central point, the greater your chance of being misunderstood, and the greater your opponent’s chance of flanking or evading (I’m not accusing Jeff of the latter). So, in the spirit of brevity, I offer the following paragraph intended to highlight the key problems with the Argument from the History of Science.

In Some Other World, you and Jeff awake amidst trees, rocks, cars, plants, etc. They grow, die, move, shrink, enlarge, change colors, shapes and more. Eventually you observe patterns allowing you to predict the moving, shrinking, enlarging and changing. Bored, you argue whether the objects are causa sui (the cause of themselves), or impelled by something outside the room. You affirm that there’s no way to prove. Jeff says, “We don’t need to posit anything outside the room to verbally express the behavior of trees, rocks, cars, plants, etc., therefore, the evidence favors causa sui.”

Would you take him seriously? Why or why not? Unless I’m missing something, that’s essentially the logic behind Lowder’s AHS.


  1. Crude


    We don’t need to

    And there Jeff is placing the bar too low, if ‘need to’ cashes out to mean ‘if it’s possible God is not the cause’, or worse, ‘if it’s logically possible God is not the cause’.

    Jeff’s AHS is flawed from so many directions, and this happens to be one of them: his move amounts to ‘Unless we have empirical phenomena that not only requires positing an omniscient, omnipotent God to explain – and nothing else, even conceivably, could function as the explanation – then we’re missing evidence we should expect if God exists, ergo science is evidence against God’. Which is flat out ridiculous, since it sets an in principle impossibly high bar for ‘evidence of God’, then acts like it’s a big mystery and surprise that we never had this evidence.

    This is before all of the problems with Jeff’s argument come out in terms of defining physical, natural, supernatural, etc.

  2. Dan


    More troubling, I think, than Lowder’s argument–or, rather, your analysis of his argument–is the somewhat carefree use of causa sui. Surely, you didn’t mean to apply that fancy bit of philosophical terminology to the mere items of reality, but to something vague or generic inherent in those items–the property of existence, for example. When we apply causa sui to what’s commonplace, it’s no surprise that we find that there is no such thing as a self-generating cause.

  3. cl


    When we apply causa sui to what’s commonplace, it’s no surprise that we find that there is no such thing as a self-generating cause.

    Sure, I used causa sui in an unconventional context, but that’s the “logical” conclusion of naturalism: that everything is self-generated.

    Either way, if you don’t like causa sui just switch it with a word you prefer and then tell me which arguments you’d side with and why. Jeff’s? Or my criticisms?

  4. Dan


    1. I didn’t read Mr Lowder’s argument–I didn’t want to read it because it was written out in modal logic, which I feel is unnecessarily jargony and technical. Truth be told, I usually don’t read his posts because I find them boring.

    2. I’m not tracking your criticism(s). That might be due to the fact that I haven’t read Mr Lowder’s argument, but I think it’s also due to some unconventionality on your part, i.e., how you are understanding causation. (I’ve done some digging, and I noticed that you referenced an essay by Galen Strawson on causation. Would you say that, regarding causation, you follow him closely?)

  5. cl


    Hi Dan. RE 1, Yeah, I agree with you on the modal logic thing. I don’t think Jeff’s posts are boring, though. He’s got a real digestive style. RE 2, yeah, reading the AHS might help one to better understand my complaints. I’d be curious to hear what you perceive as “unconventional” WRT what I’ve written on causation. I’m willing to bet the discrepancy reduces to language. RE Strawson, I’ve referenced him in a few posts and comments. I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking when you ask if I follow Strawson closely WRT causation. Are you asking if we agree? If so, in what regard? Sorrow to answer a question with a question but I just figured it’d be best to clarify before we get too far crossed.

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