Quantum Modal Realism and a "Victorious" Ontological Argument for Naturalism

Rough draft.

One can run a minimal modal ontological argument for naturalism with just two simple premises:  

1. Possibly, a necessarily existent natural universe exists.

2. What's necessary doesn't vary from possible world to possible world.

3. Therefore, there is a necessarily existent natural universe.

(2) follows from Axiom S5 of S5 modal logic, and most philosophers accept S5, so it's fairly uncontroversial. So the argument comes down to the plausibility of (1). 

But (1) is plausible as well. For the most plausible interpretation of quantum mechanics is arguably the Everettian interpretation, and as Alastair Wilson has recently argued, one can provide a plausible naturalistic account of modality in terms of Everettian quantum mechanics, which he dubs quantum modal realism (QMR). Roughly: a possible world is a branch of the universal wave function; something is possible just in case it exists in at least one branch of the wave function; and something is necessary just in case it exists in every branch of the wave function. Finally, because the empirical evidence underdetermines whether the decohering branches of the wave function share an initial segment (the overlapping interpretation) or have qualitatively identical yet numerically distinct initial segments (the diverging interpretation), de re modality can be spelled out either in terms of transworld identity (which corresponds to the overlapping interpretation) or in terms of counterpart theory, according to which individuals are worldbound (which corresponds to the diverging interpretation). So in light of the machinery of QMR, (1) asserts that it is true within at least one branch of the wavefunction that the natural universe exists in every branch of the wave function (which is true in our branch, and of course in every branch), where the de re modal properties of the natural universe are given either an overlapping, transworld identity gloss or a diverging, worldbound/counterpart-theoretic gloss.

Furthermore, (1) seems more plausible than the theistic possibility premise in the corresponding modal ontological argument for theism. For the truth of the latter premise requires acceptance of the compossibility of a large swath of exotic properties, such as omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection, immateriality, and the capacity for creating individuals and/or stuffs out of nothing. Therefore, it appears that one has more reason to accept the minimal modal ontological argument for naturalism than the standard modal ontological argument for theism.

A Minimal Modal Ontological Argument for Naturalism

One can run a minimal modal ontological argument for naturalism with just two simple premises:  

1. Possibly, there is a necessarily existent extended thing (i.e., the two properties are compossible).

2. What's necessary doesn't vary from possible world to possible world.

3. Therefore, there is a necessarily existent essentially extended thing.

(2) follows from Axiom S5 of S5 modal logic, and most philosophers accept S5, so it's fairly uncontroversial. So the argument comes down to the plausibility of (1). But (1) just says that necessary existence and extension are compossible properties, which seems more plausible than the theistic possibility premise in the corresponding modal ontological argument for theism. For the truth of the latter premise requires acceptance of the compossibility of a large swath of exotic properties, such as omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection, immateriality, and the capacity for creating individuals and/or stuffs out of nothing. Therefore, it appears that one has more reason to accept the minimal modal ontological argument for naturalism than the standard modal ontological argument for theism.

A Modal Ontological Argument for Spinozistic Naturalism

Rough draft: 

Here's another argument to add to the list:

Consider the following argument for a version of Spinozistic naturalism:

1. It's possible that there is a being who has all perfections essentially.

2. Infinite thought, infinite extension, and necessary existence are perfections.

3. Therefore, it's possible that there is a being who has necessary existence, infinite thought, and infinite extension essentially.

4. What's possible doesn't vary from possible world to possible world.

5. Therefore, a being who has infinite thought and infinite extension essentially actually exists.

This argument is better than the standard modal ontological argument for theism, since the theistic God lacks extension, and Spinoza seems to be correct in thinking that infinite extension is a perfection. At the very least, infinite extension seems to have at least as much going for it as the attributes of the god of theism. Therefore, at the very least, one has at least as much reason to accept the above argument for Spinozistic naturalism as the standard modal ontological argument for theism.

The Problem of Divine Achievement

John Pittard's new paper points to another argument against theism: the problem of divine achievement. In rough terms, the argument is that being worthy of agential praise requires achieving something that is creditworthy. But achieving something that is creditworthy requires doing something that one finds difficult. But if classical theism is true, then none of God's actions are difficult for God. And if not, then none of God's actions are creditworthy, in which case none of God's actions are worthy of agential praise. (Pittard argues that the problem can be avoided, but he admits that it can't be done without incurring some costs.) It seems to me that the problem of divine achievement is another significant problem for classical theism. The list keeps growing.

Alastair Wilson's Excellent New Critique of the Fine-Tuning Argument

At the end of his excellent book, The Nature of Contingency: Quantum Physics as Modal Realism, Alastair Wilson offers a game-changing undercutting defeater for fine-tuning arguments for theism. It's a real advance in the literature, as it offers a persuasive reply to Roger White's celebrated "this universe" objection. The basic idea is that Everettian quantum mechanics implies the existence of a multiverse, and if you (rightly, in my view) accept the Everettian interpretation of quantum mechanics as abductively best, and if you antecedently come to the data of fine-tuning with a low credence in theism, then you thereby have good reason to think the diversity of universes to be of the right sort to explain the fine-tuning of our universe. Highly recommended.

Rdzak's Nice Paper on the Incompatibility of PSR and Libertarianism

Rdzak, Brandon. "The Principle of Sufficient Reason and Libertarianism: A Reply to Pruss", Philosophia (2021),  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-021-00364-0. 

Abstract: Alexander Pruss’s Principle of Sufficient Reason states that every contingent true proposition has an explanation. Pruss thinks that he can plausibly maintain both his PSR and his account of libertarian free will. This is because his libertarianism has it that contingent true propositions reporting free choices are self-explanatory. But I don’t think Pruss can plausibly maintain both his PSR and libertarianism without a rift occurring in one or the other. Similar to the old luck/randomness objection, I contend that Pruss’s libertarianism is susceptible to what I call “the inexplicability objection”, which attempts to show that agents’ free choices involve contingent brute facts. Pruss may be able to partially explain a proposition such that Jones freely chose A for reason R, but he cannot adequately explain a contrastive proposition such as that Jones freely chose A for R rather than B for R*. The result is that either PSR is too explanatorily permissive for libertarianism, or libertarianism is too explanatorily impermissive to satisfy PSR. After considering what I take to be Pruss’s best response to the inexplicability objection, I conclude that his attempt to reconcile PSR and libertarianism is unsuccessful.

The Argument from PSR to Monism

Here's yet another argument to add to the list. A commitment to the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) is commonly thought to go hand in hand with a commitment to traditional theism. However, as Michael Della Rocca has recently argued, PSR entails monism. Therefore, to the extent that one has reason to accept PSR, one has reason to reject theism.

Fantastic New Paper on Fine-Tuning as Evidence for a Multiverse

Yoaav Isaacs, John Hawthorne, and Jeffrey Sanford Russell. "Multiple Universes and Self-Locating Evidence", Philosophical Review (forthcoming).

Abstract:
Is the fact that our universe contains fine-tuned life evidence that we live in a multiverse? Hacking (1987) and White (2000) influentially argue that it is not. We approach this question through a systematic framework for self-locating epistemology. As it turns out, leading approaches to self-locating evidence agree that the fact that our own universe contains fine-tuned life indeed confirms the existence of a multiverse (at least in a suitably idealized setting). This convergence is no accident: we present two theorems showing that in this setting, *any* updating rule that satisfies a few reasonable conditions will have the same feature. The conclusion that fine-tuned life provides evidence for a multiverse is hard to escape.

Fantastic New Critique of Molinism by Climenhaga and Rubio

 Climenhaga, Nevin and Rubio, Daniel. "Molinism: Explaining Our Freedom Away", Mind (forthcoming).

Abstract:

Molinists hold that there are contingently true counterfactuals about what agents would do if put in specific circumstances, that God knows these prior to creation, and that God uses this knowledge in choosing how to create. In this essay we critique Molinism, arguing that if these theses were true, agents would not be free. Consider Eve’s sinning upon being tempted by a serpent. We argue that if Molinism is true, then there is some set of facts that fully explains both Eve’s action and everything else Eve does that influences that action; and that if this is the case, Eve does not act freely. The first premise of this argument follows from the explanatory relations the Molinist is committed to, and the second premise follows from libertarian intuitions about free will.

The Argument from Modal Normativism Against Theism

Here's another argument to add to the listModal normativism is growing in popularity as an account of the nature of modality. However, on that view, modal properties are metaphysically lightweight, and do not exist as features of mind-independent reality. However, on standard theism, modal properties are not metaphysically lightweight, but rather exist as features of mind-independent reality (e.g., the necessary existence of god and the contingent existence of the universe). Therefore, to the extent that one has reason to accept modal normativism, one thereby has reason to reject standard theism.

Three Excellent New Critiques of the Kalam Cosmological Argument from Malpass and Morriston

Malpass, Alex. 2021. "All the Time in the World", Mind. https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzaa086. 

Morriston, Wes. 2021. "Infinity, Time, and Successive Addition", Australasian Philosophical Quarterly. DOI: 10.1080/00048402.2020.1865426

Malpass, Alex and Morriston Wes. 2020. "Endless and Infinite", The Philosophical Quarterly 70(281): 830-849. 


Theism's Problem of Reasoning Under Moral Uncertainty

 Rough draft

Ever since the 2000 publication of Ted Lockhart's Moral Uncertainty and its Consequences, philosophers have become increasingly concerned about the problem of reasoning under moral uncertainty. Even after a long period of deep study and reflection, many people are uncertain about which moral theory is correct, and even about when one moral principle is weightier than another. Many people are also uncertain, even after a long period of deep study and reflection, about the moral status of at least non-human animals and insects. However, there are many ordinary moral contexts where the moral rightness or wrongness, or goodness or badness, of an action depends on which moral theory is correct, which moral principle is weightier than another, or whether non-human animals and/or insects have moral standing. Furthermore, often the choice between acting on one moral theory (or principle, or view about the moral standing of non-human animals and/or insects) is such that if we make the wrong choice, we've done something horrendously bad or wrong.  Here's a simple intuitive example from Carr (2020):

Go Vegan? Sally is uncertain about whether non-human animals have moral standing. She is certain that, if animals dont have moral standing, its a little better for her to eat meat, eggs, and dairy occasionally for gustatory and social reasons. Shes also certain that, if animals do have moral standing, itbadly morally wrong for her to eat non-vegan foods.

The phenomena of moral uncertainty of this sort and others is highly surprising on theism, since it is widely held that on that hypothesis, one major purpose for humans in this world is that of exercising our moral freedom to make serious moral choices and to develop our character. In any case, at the very least, it's surprising on theism to find the world to be one of moral Russian roulette. By contrast, the phenomena of reasoning under moral uncertainty is not surprising on the hypothesis of naturalism, since on that hypothesis, there is no personal god who has made the world to be an arena for exercising moral freedom and character development. The phenomena of reasoning under moral uncertainty therefore constitutes at least some evidence for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Laura Ekstrom's New Book on the Problem of Evil

God, Suffering, and the Value of Free Will (Oxford University Press, 2021) is now out, and promises to be a major contribution to the problem of evil. Can't wait to read it.

New Critique of Brower's Truthmaker Analysis of Divine Simplicity

 Da Vee, Dean. "Why truthmaker theory cannot save divine simplicity", International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (2021). 

Abstract:

Although the doctrine of divine simplicity has faced substantial criticism in recent years, Jeffrey Brower has recently offered a novel defense of the view by appealing to contemporary truthmaker theory. In this paper, I will argue that Brower’s defense of divine simplicity requires an implausible account of how truthmaking works for essential intrinsic predications. I will first argue that, unless Brower is willing to make an ad hoc exception for how truthmaking works in God’s case, he is committed to saying that essential intrinsic predications about any object are made true by that object alone, not by its having essential properties. I will then argue that reflecting on cases where distinct essential intrinsic predications about an object have different causal explanations behind them shows that this general view of truthmaking is implausible.

Nice Paper on the Impossibility of a Rational Omnipotent Agent

Baker, Derek. "Deliberators Must Be Imperfect", PPR 93(2): 321-347. The aim of the paper is to critique theories that explain practical reason in terms of perfectly rational omniscient agents, but of course the point is  of interest to philosophers of religion as well. Here's the abstract:

This paper argues that, with certain provisos, predicting one's future actions is incompatible with rationally deliberating about whether to perform those actions. It follows that fully rational omniscient agents are impossible, since an omniscient being could never rationally deliberate about what to do (omniscient beings, the paper argues, will always meet the relevant provisos). Consequently, theories that explain practical reasons in terms of the choices of a perfectly rational omniscient agent must fail. The paper considers several ways of defending the possibility of an omniscient agent, and concludes that while some of these may work, they are inconsistent with the aim of explaining practical normativity by appeal to such an agent.

100 (or so) Arguments for Atheism

A popular view in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion is that while there are many arguments for theism -- cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments; moral arguments; arguments from consciousness; etc. (by Plantinga's lights, two dozen or so) -- there are only one or two arguments for atheism, viz., the problem of evil and (more recently) the argument from divine hiddenness.

This is a misconception. Here are over a hundred:

10. The Free Will Offense (Schellenberg)
11. Schellenberg's new deductive argument from evil. (Schellenberg) 
12. The argument from the absurdity of life in a Christian (and, arguably, any traditional theistic) universe (Wielenberg)
13. An abductive argument for naturalism (Oppy)
14. The argument from ordinary morality (Maitzen)
15. An ontological disproof of theism (Maitzen)
16. The problem of theistic evidentialist philosophers (Lovering)
17. The argument from autonomy (Kahane, Rachels)
18. The argument from ugliness (Aikin and Jones)
19. The common core/diversity dilemma (Thornhill-Miller and Millican
20. The argument from the philosophy of nature (Cordry)
21. The argument from natural inequalities (Mizrahi)
22. The argument from social evil (Poston)
23. The argument from insect suffering (Crummett)
24. The argument from scale (Everitt)
25. The argument from religious evil (Kodaj)
26. The argument from idolatry (Linford and Megill)
27. The argument from indifference (Linford and Megill)
28. The argument from the requirement of divine interference (Maring)
29. The argument from eternally separated lovers (Hassoun)
30. The argument from peer disagreement
31. The argument from the impropriety of worship (Aikin)
32. The argument from the impropriety of belief (Nagel)
33. The argument from abstract objects (Davidson, Craig, me)
34. The argument from inhospitable environment (me)
35. The argument from teleological evil (me)
36. The argument from material causality (me)
37. The argument from revulsion (me)
38. The argument from the ineffectiveness of prayer (various)
39. The argument from divine evil (Lewis)
40. The argument from hell (Sider)
41. The argument from the meaning of life (Megill and Linford)
42. The argument from the demographics of theism (Maitzen)
43. The problem of no best world (Rowe, others)
44. The problem of incoherent/incompatible properties (various)
45. The problem of mitigated modal skepticism (me)
46. The structure and dynamics argument (me)
47. The argument from Mandevillian intelligence (me)
48. The argument from quantum mechanics (me)
49. The argument from wave function realism (me)
50. The argument from low priors (Draper)
51. The argument from decisive evidence (Draper)
52. Epicurean cosmological arguments for naturalism (me)
53. The argument from cognitive biases (Lucas, me)
54. The argument from the etiology of religious belief (De Cruz, others)
55. The argument from moral psychology (Park)
56. The argument from moral epistemology (Park)
57. The argument from meager moral fruits (Draper)
58. The argument from imperfection (Everitt)
59. Smith's cosmological argument for atheism (Smith)
60. The argument from tragic moral dilemmas (me)
61. The argument from substance dualism (me)
62. A Leibnizian cosmological argument for naturalism (me)
63. Arguments from order and fine-tuning against theism (me)
64. Arguments from sub-optimality (Darwin, Dawes, others)
65. Probabilitistic ontological arguments against theism (me)
66. Arguments from the success of naturalistic explanations (D. Lewis, Dawes, others)
67. The argument from lack of character (me)
68. The problem of divine authority (me)
69. The problem of polytheisms (Lataster and Philipse)
70. The problem of alternative monotheisms (Lataster)
71. An abductive argument for liberal naturalism (me)
72. The problem of demiurgism (me)
73. Sterba's deductive argument from evil
74. Another ontological disproof of classical theism (me)
75. The problem of natural nonbelief (Marsh)
76. The problem of permissivism (me)
77. Pragmatic arguments for atheism (Cockayne & Warman; Lougheed)
82. The argument from anti-religious experience (me, Adams and Robson)
98. The aloneness argument (Schmid and Mullins)

The Argument from Expressivism

Metaethical expressivism is a powerful and popular theory of the nature of moral statements. However, the theory entails that there are no moral facts. This is surprising on theism, since on that view, there are moral facts, and God has moral attributes that seem to entail the existence of moral facts about his/her nature. By contrast, the non-existence of moral facts isn't surprising on naturalism, since it seems to make no predictions about the existence of moral facts. Therefore, those who accept metaethical expressivism thereby have at least some grounds for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Malpass' Nice Critique of the Argument from Logic

Malpass, Alex. "Problems for the argument from logic", Sophia (forthcoming).


The Argument from the Autonomy of Ethics Against Theism

There are several secular ethical theories (e.g., contractarian theories, consequentialist theories, deontological theories, sentimentalist theories, etc.) that explain our moral intuitions better than religious accounts, such as divine command theory. This is surprising on standard forms of theism, since on those hypotheses, morality is not independent of the existence, nature, and/or commands of God. Therefore, the phenomenon of the autonomy of ethics is one piece of data in an inference to the best explanation for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Beyond the Problem of Evil

Here's a quick sketch of a case for naturalism vis-a-vis theism that makes no crucial appeal to the problem of evil (the sampling of arguments here is taken from this list):

First, prima facie, concrete individuals and stuffs with originating or sustaining efficient causes require originating and sustaining material causes, respectively. But according to classical theism, at least one concrete individual or stuff had an originating or sustaining efficient cause without an originating or sustaining efficient cause, respectively. Therefore, classical theism is false.

Second, suppose for reductio that it's metaphysically possible that a necessary being exists, and that this being is the god of classical Anselmian theism. Let's follow Plantinga's claim here that such a being has the property of maximal greatness, where: (i) a being's maximal greatness entails maximal excellence in every possible world, (ii) maximal excellence includes the classical attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection, and (iii) omnipotence includes the capacity to create or sustain concrete objects distinct from itself without a material cause. Therefore, if it's metaphysically possible that a maximally great being exists, then such a being exists in all metaphysically possible worlds. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in all metaphysically possible worlds. By the above conception of maximal excellence, for any world W that contains a universe of concrete objects distinct from God, if God exists in W, then God originates or sustains the universe in W without a material cause. But the origination or sustenance of any such universe without a material cause is metaphysically impossible. Now a universe of concrete objects exists at the actual world. Therefore, the god of classical Anselmian theism did not originate or sustain the universe that exists at the actual world. Therefore, the god of classical Anselmian theism doesn't exist at the actual world. But this contradicts the above line that he exists in all possible worlds. Therefore, the existence of the god of classical Anselmian theism is metaphysically impossible.

Third, One can run a minimal modal ontological argument for naturalism with just two simple premises:  

1. Possibly, a necessarily existent natural universe exists.

2. What's necessary doesn't vary from possible world to possible world.

3. Therefore, there is a necessarily existent natural universe.

(2) follows from Axiom S5 of S5 modal logic, and most philosophers accept S5, so it's fairly uncontroversial. So the argument comes down to the plausibility of (1). 

But (1) is plausible as well. For the most plausible interpretation of quantum mechanics is arguably the Everettian interpretation, and as Alastair Wilson has recently argued, one can provide a plausible naturalistic account of modality in terms of Everettian quantum mechanics, which he dubs quantum modal realism (QMR). Roughly: a possible world is a branch of the universal wave function; something is possible just in case it exists in at least one branch of the wave function; and something is necessary just in case it exists in every branch of the wave function. Finally, because the empirical evidence underdetermines whether the decohering branches of the wave function share an initial segment (the overlapping interpretation) or have qualitatively identical yet numerically distinct initial segments (the diverging interpretation), de re modality can be spelled out either in terms of transworld identity (which corresponds to the overlapping interpretation) or in terms of counterpart theory, according to which individuals are worldbound (which corresponds to the diverging interpretation). So in light of the machinery of QMR, (1) asserts that it is true within at least one branch of the wavefunction that the natural universe exists in every branch of the wave function (which is true in our branch, and of course in every branch), where the de re modal properties of the natural universe are given either an overlapping, transworld identity gloss or a diverging, worldbound/counterpart-theoretic gloss.

Furthermore, (1) seems more plausible than the theistic possibility premise in the corresponding modal ontological argument for theism. For the truth of the latter premise requires acceptance of the compossibility of a large swath of exotic properties, such as omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection, immateriality, and the capacity for creating individuals and/or stuffs out of nothing. Therefore, it appears that one has more reason to accept the minimal modal ontological argument for naturalism than the standard modal ontological argument for theism.

Fourth, consider the problem of divine achievement. In rough terms, the argument is that being worthy of agential praise requires achieving something that is creditworthy. But achieving something that is creditworthy requires doing something that one finds difficult. But if classical theism is true, then none of God's actions are difficult for God. And if not, then none of God's actions are creditworthy, in which case none of God's actions are worthy of agential praise.

Fifth, lots of controlled, double-blind scientific studies have shown that prayer is ineffective in a wide variety of health cases. This is surprising on theism, but not on naturalism. Therefore, the ineffectiveness of prayer provides at least some evidence for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Sixth, prima facie, on any plausible interpretation of quantum mechanics (Bohmian, Everettian, and GRW), there are many worlds/universes. As Peter Lewis points out, non-Everrettian interpretations of quantum mechanics are just many-worlds accounts in denial[2]. This has serious implications for the metaphysics of personal identity and other issues related to philosophy of religion. 

For example, take standard theistic accounts of substance dualism, and take the increasingly popular Everettian interpretation of QM (in fact, strictly speaking, it's not an interpretation: it just is QM). On that account, humans are constantly branching, hydra-like, into hugely many alternate universes, at virtually every moment of their lives. But if so, then prima facie, either (i) only one branch is you, or (ii) they all are you. On (i), God creates (directly, ex nihilo, or indirectly, through natural processes) new souls for each branch self at virtually every moment. On (ii), you have many selves. On either option, the sameness of soul account of personal identity is starting to look seriously unmotivated.

Furthermore, what are we to make of the afterlife? On (ii), all of your counterpart branch souls have an existence in an afterlife. Now combine that with the traditional doctrine of the soul being joined to a physical body at the final judgement. Prima facie, our world essentially involves QM and branching universes, in which case ,prima facie, so does any post-resurrection universe. Prima facie, all of the branching selves will be resurrected in different alternate universes, with counterpart Christs. On (i), it's hard to get an intelligible grasp of how all of my branching selves could be "me", each in their own resurrected bodies in alternate universes.

In addition, what are we to make of the person and work of Christ? For example, Jesus has many branch selves. Which one is the "real" Jesus? One? Some? All? Presumably, then, there are many Christs, and there will have to be many crucifixions. From this example, it becomes apparent that a host of other problems arise for the incarnation, atonement, trinity, and related doctrines. 

In short, it looks as though quantum mechanics poses serious problems for both substance dualism and for theism. In fact, it's looking as though QM, all by itself, is incompatible with-- or, at the very least, highly surprising on -- traditional accounts of Christian theism and religious monotheism in general. Prima facie, then, QM provides at least strong abductive evidence against traditional monotheism.

Seventh, according to a growing chorus of voices, (i) there are strong grounds for accepting a realist construal of quantum mechanics (QM), and (ii) the most plausible interpretations of QM entail that the wave function is a real entity that exists in a configuration space of very, very many dimensions (about 3x10 to the 80th, according to current estimates). But it's not at all clear how the ordinary three dimensions of our experience can be accounted for via this configuration space. In fact, some (e.g., Alyssa Ney) have argued that they probably can't, in which case there is non-trivial epistemic pressure to think the three dimensions of ordinary experience are, in an important sense, mirage-like (L.A. Paul has similar worries, but doesn't explicitly come down on the matter one way or the other. Jill North and Jenann Ismael have stronger suspicions). But if so, then there is non-trivial epistemic pressure to think that ordinary perceptual experience is massively unreliable.

Now according to many theists, if God exists, then God designed us in such a way as to ensure that our perceptual faculties reliably track the truth about the world, where this includes beliefs about the ordinary objects of experience having extension in length, width, and depth. But if the above worry is at all on track, then ordinary perceptual experience is massively unreliable. And if that's right, then something has to give: either (i) theism is false, or (ii) the existence of the God of theism doesn't make it likely that our perceptual faculties are reliable. The first disjunct is of course fatal to theism. The second might well be equally so, given a few more premises concerning God's omni-attributes and a bridge principle from those attributes to the reliability of sense perception. However, even if this can't be done, the second disjunct still causes trouble for a number of theistic apologetic strategies. For example, it would be devastating to Plantinga's theory of warranted Christian belief. Either way, then, if the growing chorus is onto something, troubling epistemic consequences for theism follow.

Eighth, the etiology of religion, religious experience, and religious practices are better explained on the hypothesis of naturalism than on the hypothesis of theism. Therefore, such data provides at least some evidence in support of naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Ninth, many people have experiences that trigger the belief that reality is a cold and uncaring place, indifferent to their welfare. Such belief-triggering experiences are surprising on theism, since on that hypothesis, we'd expect God to design our cognitive faculties in such a way as to reliably trigger true beliefs about reality, according to which (on that hypothesis) reality is not a cold and uncaring place that is indifferent to our welfare. By contrast, such belief-triggering experiences are not surprising on naturalism, since on that hypothesis, reality really is a cold and uncaring place that is indifferent to our welfare. Therefore, the existence and pervasiveness of anti-religious experience provides at least some confirming evidence for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Tenth, Michael Huemer has powerfully argued that the concept of political authority is incoherent. If he's right, then prima facie, the concept of divine authority over humans is incoherent. Furthermore, theist Mark Murphy has likewise argued that standard views of divine authority must be rejected, and that only a much weaker view of divine authority requiring prior human consent can be sustained. Finally, Luke Maring has argued that even if God's authority over humans has been granted by humans, the validity of such authority requires his intervention and protection. But the latter condition has not been met for at least many humans. But on classical theism, God has divine authority over us, and it is independent of human consent. Therefore, classical theism is false.

Eleventh, there is a good case for the view that, whether or not causal determinism is true, no one is free or morally responsible for anything. This view is known as hard incompatibilism. But hard incompatibilism is surprising on orthodox theism, since on that hypothesis, we are held responsible for our actions, whether in this life or an afterlife. By contrast, hard incompatibilism isn't surprising on naturalism, since on that hypothesis, there is no expectation that we are free and responsible for our actions. Therefore, the data in support of hard incompatibilism provides at least some evidence in favor of naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Twelvth, on a reasonable interpretation of the scientific evidence, there is no deep synchronic unity of the self, and there is no real diachronic identity of the self. But if not, then, prima facie, humans lack the sort of unity and persistence conditions required for moral accountability or personal immortality. This data is surprising on traditional theism, since that hypothesis entails both moral accountability and personal immortality. By contrast, such data isn't surprising on naturalism, since on that sort of hypothesis, there is no antecedent reason to expect the conditions required for either moral accountability or personal identity. Therefore, the data regarding the disunity of the self provide at least some evidence for naturalism vis-a-vis traditional theism.

A thirteenth, there are non-trivial reasons in support of ontological nihilism, according to which there are no individuals. This isn't surprising on naturalism, since naturalism doesn't predict the existence or emergence of individuals. By contrast, ontological nihilism is surprising on theism, since prima facie, theism entails that God is an individual, and that human beings are individuals. Therefore, the data in support of ontological nihilism provides at least some evidence for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

A foureenth line of evidence, there is a lot of data indicating that human minds are riddled with cognitive biases that regularly distort our thinking. This is surprising on the hypothesis of theism, as one would expect such a god to design our cognitive faculties so as to reliably track the truth. By contrast, such data is expected on the hypothesis of naturalism, for then one would expect evolutionary pressures to produce haphazard, makeshift cognitive faculties that track the truth enough to ensure the ability to survive and reproduce, but not much more. The data of cognitive biases therefore provides at least some confirming evidence in favor of naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

A fifteenth line of evidence appeals to the fact that there are several secular ethical theories (e.g., contractarian theories, consequentialist theories, deontological theories, sentimentalist theories, etc.) that explain our moral intuitions better than religious accounts, such as divine command theory. This is surprising on standard forms of theism, since on those hypotheses, morality is not independent of the existence, nature, and/or commands of God. Therefore, the autonomy of ethics provides at least some evidence in favor of naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

A sixteenth line of evidence comes from modal normativism. Modal normativism is growing in popularity as an account of the nature of modality. However, on that view, modal properties are metaphysically lightweight, and do not exist as features of mind-independent reality. However, on standard theism, modal properties are not metaphysically lightweight, but rather exist as features of mind-independent reality (e.g., the necessary existence of god and the contingent existence of the universe). Therefore, to the extent that one has reason to accept modal normativism, one thereby has reason to reject standard theism.

A seventeenth line of evidence appeals to normative uncertainty. Ever since the 2000 publication of Ted Lockhart's Moral Uncertainty and its Consequences, philosophers have become increasingly concerned about the problem of reasoning under moral uncertainty. Even after a long period of deep study and reflection, many people are uncertain about which moral theory is correct, and even about when one moral principle is weightier than another. Many people are also uncertain, even after a long period of deep study and reflection, about the moral status of at least non-human animals and insects. However, there are many ordinary moral contexts where the moral rightness or wrongness, or goodness or badness, of an action depends on which moral theory is correct, which moral principle is weightier than another, or whether non-human animals and/or insects have moral standing. Furthermore, often the choice between acting on one moral theory (or principle, or view about the moral standing of non-human animals and/or insects) is such that if we make the wrong choice, we've done something horrendously bad or wrong.  Here's a simple intuitive example from Carr (2020):

Go Vegan? Sally is uncertain about whether non-human animals have moral standing. She is certain that, if animals dont have moral standing, its a little better for her to eat meat, eggs, and dairy occasionally for gustatory and social reasons. Shes also certain that, if animals do have moral standing, itbadly morally wrong for her to eat non-vegan foods.

The phenomena of moral uncertainty of this sort and others is highly surprising on theism, since it is widely held that on that hypothesis, one major purpose for humans in this world is that of exercising our moral freedom to make serious moral choices and to develop our character. In any case, at the very least, it's surprising on theism to find the world to be one of moral Russian roulette. By contrast, the phenomena of reasoning under moral uncertainty is not surprising on the hypothesis of naturalism, since on that hypothesis, there is no personal god who has made the world to be an arena for exercising moral freedom and character development. The phenomena of reasoning under moral uncertainty therefore constitutes at least some evidence for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Finally, an eighteenth line of evidence pertains to theism's explanatory gap problem. For science only tells us about the structure and dynamics of matter -- i.e., its extrinsic, relational properties -- and not its intrinsic properties[2]. As D.M. Armstrong (1968) put it:

"...[I]f we look at properties of physical objects that physicists are prepared to allow them, such as mass, electric charge, or momentum, these show a distressing tendency to dissolve into relations one object has to another. What, then, are the things that have these relations to each other? Must they not have a non-relational nature if they are to sustain relations? But what is this nature? Physics does not tell us." (p. 282)

Subsequent progress in science only seems to underscore this point (cf. Ladyman and Ross 2007; Davidson 2014). Many thus now argue for ontic structural realism, according to which reality consists of relations without relata, and it is only “relations all the way down”. Unfortunately, to date, even the most strident defenders of ontic structural realism have failed to give a fully satisfying account of the view (cf. McKenzie 2017). Incoherence threatens. This is the explanatory gap problem for both conservative naturalism and theism: both views give us a physical universe with a hollow core, as neither provides the resources to provide intrinsic properties to ground its extrinsic, relational properties.

There is thus pressure to say that there must be some stock of intrinsic properties to physical reality, and yet physical reality seems to lack such properties. What is a naturalist or a theist to do? The Russellian monist answers: The only intrinsic properties we know of are phenomenal properties of subjective experience. The Russellian monist thus posits that phenomenal properties ground the relational properties of physics. Happily, then, Russellian monism appears to solve both the hard problem of consciousness and the intrinsic properties problem in one stroke. The structure-and dynamics-argument therefore offers another powerful line of support for liberal naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

To recap: the first four arguments provide prima facie sound deductive arguments against theism. The remaining fifteen lines of evidence, when taken together, constitute a strong cumulative case against theism (modulo consideration of other arguments for and against theism). And the point of this exercise is to indicate that one can generate a prima facie case against theism without ever appealing to the problem of evil.

The Argument from Ontological Nihilism Against Theism

There are non-trivial reasons in support of ontological nihilism, according to which there are no individuals. This isn't surprising on naturalism, since naturalism doesn't predict the existence or emergence of individuals. By contrast, ontological nihilism is surprising on theism, since prima facie, theism entails that God is an individual, and that human beings are individuals. Therefore, the data in support of ontological nihilism provides at least some evidence for naturalism vis-a-vis theism.

Review of Ekstrom's <i>God, Suffering, and the Value of Free Will</i>

  Kevin Timpe reviews the book for NDPR .