Anchor Audio Link = https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers/episodes/Tony-Costa-e820ld
At one point late in the podcast, I said something to the effect that I could put a blue unicorn elephant in his mind. And from that point on, that would be a part of Tony’s reality. It is real simply because I made him conceive of it, My attempt at parody was completely lost on Tony as he exclaimed triumphantly that I had just vindicated the ontological argument as it was originally expressed. There was nothing left to do at that point but execute an atomic face-palm. For the second time in a handful of weeks, I will try to explain why the ontological argument should not be taken seriously:
Several times throughout the show, I had to point out that all of Tony’s great-making god characteristics were entirely subjective. Tony’s god is the one that provides him with the most emotional solace. Tony offered no way to determine if a property was truly great, or if it just seemed great to him. He and I might even agree on some properties that seem desirable. But our agreement does not mean that a particular property is actually great. We a flawed, sinful beings. Of course we think some things are great that probably aren’t objectively great.
But this is the problem you run into with arguments requiring objectivity such as the moral argument. Christians talk about some things being subjectively moral. But when you ask them to provide an example, they punt to human intuition. Torturing babies for fun is wrong because, well… It’s obvious. I mean, besides psychopaths, who would say that torturing babies for no reason is okay? So that must be objective. But as I have pointed out many times before, universal agreement on a thing does not equal objectivity. We can all agree that something is good and still be wrong about it under objective morality. But the Christian can never provide an objective measuring stick for goodness that everyone can understand.
The ontological argument fails in the same way. Why is having all power a good thing? The only reason given is that it seems like it should be a good thing. But that defies the logic that absolute power corrupts absolutely, I think I could make a better objective case for why having all power is less than ideal. Having the most power might be okay. But that is different from absolute power. Either way, we are only arguing preferences, not objectivity. Until the proponent of the ontological argument can provide for why their chosen great-making properties are objectively the best, the argument does not get off the ground.
Early in the podcast, it was clear that Tony’s arguments were taking shape. And that shape was circular. The best example of it was when he announced he was going to use the ontological argument to prove the necessity of the trinity. This was novel because it has never been done before. And like a good novel, it was complete fiction.
I gave him plenty of opportunity to make his point. I found it embarrassingly simplistic. I wasn’t even going to bother refuting it for the sake of time. But he never connected the dots. He was only arguing that god had to be plural rather than singular. I interjected and granted his argument would show the necessity of a plural god if valid. But that he needed to explain why three as opposed to two or four.
He seemed completely lost at that point. So he just plowed ahead. I tried to help him rescue his argument by saying again that his read of the ontological argument would prove a plurality. I then asked him if that is all he was trying to accomplish. No! He insisted that three was the magic number. I pressed him to explain why three instead of some other number. His answer was that the Bible says that god is a trinity. So that is why three is necessary. I pointed out that he was not using the ontological argument anymore. He is just making claims from the Bible at that point. But for him, the ontological argument proves the necessity of three because it is a quality of god as expressed in the Bible. So he reasons that it must be a great-making property. His argument was so circular, his real innovation was creating a perfect spear.
Because Tony is a fundamentalist conservative, he takes the Bible as not only authoritative, but literal. Any attribute it gives god is ontologically necessary and great-making. In other words, a particular property of god is great because god said it was great. And round and round we go…
At one point in the podcast, Tony asked me to give him my idea of a maximally great being. I told him I had no idea as I have no conception of a maximally great being. It is simply not the way I think. The concept of a maximally great plays no part of my thought processes in my day to day life. And that for a number of reasons, I find the idea quite incoherent. He did not even consider my answer. He went on to accuse me of avoiding the question and asking why I wouldn’t answer him. He simply couldn’t conceive of a person who didn’t think that way. My position was inconceivable to him.
Stepping out of his moderator role, Dale chimed in that he thought I was being untruthful because in conversation with him, I expressed some thoughts on the matter. He was way out of line, also factually wrong. I try my best to play along with Christian hypotheticals to charitably help them make their point or express a view I am trying to understand. Dale confused me doing that with me actually having a conception of a great-making properties. On a different podcast, I quipped to Dale that a god who cured cancer would be greater than one who didn’t. Because he does not recognize nuance well, Dale took this to mean that I agree with the formulation of great-making properties. To be clear, I don’t.
I can play the game for the sake of conversation if I happen to be in the mood. But as Dale explained to Tony in another part of the conversation, I don’t believe in any objective great-making properties. This is all fair game to write about because Dale stopped being a moderator at that point and jumped in for a cheap shot that didn’t actually land. It seems even to Dale, the idea of not thinking in these patterns is inconceivable.
They were not the only ones struggling with inconceivability. I cannot conceive of their god because their god entails logical contradictions. They say that god is all good with no ability to do evil or any kind of wrong thing. They also say theirs is the god of the bible. However, by my best lights, the god of the Bible is not all good and does many wrong things. They can propose a perfect god, or the god of the Bible. But they both can’t be the same individual. You just as well ask me to conceive of a married bachelor or a square circle. I can’t do it.
The was a point in the show where I quipped that a greater god than his would be one that saved at least one more person. Triumphantly, he declared that the being I just proposed would then be god. That being would be the greatest possible being. He did not even see the bed of thorns he made for himself. If my conception of the greatest possible being is god, then there are as many gods as there are people. Everyone has a slightly different idea of what the greatest possible being entails. As I pointed out to him, god just becomes a being created and defined by the individual.
This is the logical conclusion of the ontological argument. Without an objective measure of great-making properties, we are left to construct the greatest god of which we can personally conceive. And that god will inevitably be inconceivable to someone else. Perhaps I could conceive of the real god were one to actually exist. But he will have to do better than the ontological argument if he wishes such as me to discover him.
And that’s the view from the skeptic.
Recommended Sources (for further study);
a) Tony’s YouTube series with Reverend Sule Prince called “The Third Degree” = https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD8YTj3xxSw3J27nGOj9Wcw/videos
b) Tony’s Twitter Page = https://twitter.com/tmcos_tony?lang=en
c) Tony Costa Sermons on a range of topics = https://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Dr._Tony_Costa
NOTE SOME HAVE HAD TROUBLE SO IF THE ABOVE LINK DOESN’T WORK WHEN YOU CLICK IT, THEN YOU CAN FIND TONY’S ONLINE SERMONS ON VARIOUS TOPICS BY JUST GOOGLE SEARCHING “SERMON AUDIO TONY COSTA” AND IT WILL POP UP AS THE FIRST LINK OR SO TO CLICK ON
d) Tony Debates Ed Atkinson on the Resurrection on Unbelievable? Radio Show = https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Revisiting-the-resurrection-Ed-Atkinson-vs-Tony-Costa
e) A Range of YouTube debates and Lectures on YouTube with Tony on Islam vs. Christianity and other topics = https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tony+costa+debate
f) Ontological Argument Sources = SHORT 5 MIN VIDEO ON Alvin Plantinga’s version of the Ontological Argument and that mentions some responses to the Parodies = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBmAKCvWl74 ALSO SEE WLC MORE DETAILED EXPOSITION OF THE ARGUMENT IN HIS DEFENDERS CLASS (PARTS 23-26) = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnnKsa-exVE&list=PLIpO3BUiq2IFMS3AP3Yi2oDfc7pzrQs2F&index=23 .
Also see = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmTsS5xFA6k = 10 min DISCUSSION OF ANSLEM’S VERSION- CRASH COURSE PHILOSOPHY. – ACCUSES ANSELM OF BEGGING THE QUESTION.
ATHEIST MATT DILLAHUNTY’S 30 MIN VIDEO ON THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT- DAVID PROVIDED THIS VIDEO IN A PREVIOUS POST = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcVJobux8Xc .
INTERNET ENCYLCOPEDIA ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT = https://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/ & Stanford ENCYLOPEDIA VERSION = https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/
g) Robert Maydole scholarly level chapter on the Ontological Argument in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (40 pages) = BALCKWELL- ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT CHAPTER- maydole-robert-22the-ontological-argument22
Also see shorter article on it here = ROB MAYDOLE ARTICLE- ONTOLGICAL MODAL MODAL FOR PROVING GOD
h) Alvin Plantinga’s book for free “The Nature of Necessity” = NATURE OF NECESSITY-Alvin_Plantinga_The_Nature_of_NecessityBookZZ.org_