The problem is that incoherence can be very powerful when employed as a logical wildcard. And logical wildcards can “build bridges” that appear to account for those fallacy-accusations.
This cloaks such argumentation in the veil of cogency.
Whenever a faction thinks a line of argumentation works in its favor, it will employ that argumentation as a rhetorical weapon in order to win debate “battles.”
The problem is that when a line of argumentation is thought to be cogent, and it is not cogent, that weaponry will be made of “rubber,” so to speak.
Sure, it’ll look like a real sword when untested. It may even work to frighten off lesser opponents.
But as soon as a rubber sword is really applied to an armored opponent, it will bend.
Anyone Can be Fooled
Logical wildcards are fueled by ambiguous terminology and many-faced concepts. This makes them notoriously difficult to root out. They subsist on the language problems they create, and even very, very, very intelligent people will not and cannot recognize them unless and until those underlying language problems are identified.
This is the driving force behind philosophical and theological quietude.
Everyone Can be Fooled
When it comes to claims of which the truth values are difficult to discern or demonstrate, the veracity of an idea (or lack thereof) is much less relevant in the memetic arena than other properties of the idea, including:
- Aesthetic stimulation (using rhymes, juxtapositions, alliteration, clever and catchy paraphrasing, etc.).
- Subscription by formal authorities.
- Subscription by forebears.
- Resonance with “common sense” folk ideas.
- And much, much more.
This means that you can expect false ideas to gain widespread subscription when they meet the “difficult to test” and “has many memetically powerful qualities” criteria.
Admiring Rubber Swords
A faction is very likely to lay their rubber swords on a table and admire them, and feel pride over them.
Relying on Rubber Swords
Without rubber swords, an armory may be perceived to be ill-stocked. Furthermore, it may be the case that a faction will win more battles via sword-waving than they would have won wielding genuine, solid instruments.
This further reinforces the loyalty and subscription to them.
Criticizing Rubber Swords
A faction is very likely to react with alarming hostility to forces within the faction that declare, “The emperor has no clothes,” with regard to these rubber swords.
This is due to the “Up a Tree” problem of loss-aversion.
Rubber Swords of Apologetics
From what I’ve discovered, almost all of the so-called “Godproofs” are rubber swords.
This is not to say that we have no reason to believe. It just means that, in our zeal to see “He who is unseen,” we’ve created — over the centuries — many bad reasons to declare that “He must exist.”
In the coming months, I’ll be covering each of the “Godproofs,” showing their weaknesses (and why they don’t work against armored opponents), the fallout of rejecting them, and the Biblical faith and hope to which we should instead cling.
Already, we’ve talked about how “objective meaning” is not coherent and lacks a Biblical foundation. Without “objective meaning” as a given, the Argument from Moral Realism “Godproof” has lost its standing legs.
Is It Okay to Criticize “Godproofs”?
In the 11th century, a monk named Anselm formulated the Ontological Argument, which he deemed a “Godproof.”
I believe that I have shown by an argument which is not weak, but sufficiently cogent, that in my former book I proved the real existence of a being than which a greater cannot be conceived; and I believe that this argument cannot be invalidated by the validity of any objection.
For so great force does the signification of this reasoning contain in itself, that this being which is the subject of discussion, is of necessity, from the very fact that it is understood or conceived, proved also to exist in reality, and to be whatever we should believe of the divine substance.
To whom did Anselm write the above remarks? He wrote them to a fellow Catholic monk named Gaunilo.
Gaunilo thought it a work for the Lord to root out what he perceived to be non-cogent argumentation from his brethren in Christ.
Counterintuitively, Gaunilo correctly felt that it serves God to rebut a bad “Godproof.”
Anselm did not accept Gaunilo’s refutation. But did he fault Gaunilo for being critical? Not at all.
Rather, Anselm wrote:
I thank you for your kindness both in your blame and in your praise for my book.
Later, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote critically of an ontological argument. 18th C. philosopher Immanuel Kant refuted it, and more recently philosopher David Lewis criticized ontological arguments in his work, “Anselm and Actuality.”
It’s okay to be critical of arguments that don’t really work.
Why Would a Christian Do This?
Cancer surgery is difficult and painful, but it’s also a healing action that removes malignant elements that have ruinous implications.
Similarly, rubber swords are terrible patterns within Christianity. Each person who wields them — tricked by those facades of cogency — will become a carrier for toxic theology.
Further, as they lose these debates with truly-armored non-believers, they’ll retreat deeper and deeper into intra-faction choir-preaching.