Victor Reppert has posted an argument for the existence of God by Joe Hinman that strikes me as unbelievably vapid. I would love to go to Hinman's site and debate with him, but ever since I criticized his book, I have been banned from from about a half dozen sites that he is associated with. Pity. The argument goes like this:
1. Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (Ops)
2. OP's can be summed up in the TS, the transcendental signified.This argument is built around the concept of the "transcendental signified", which is nothing more than a theistic assumption masquerading as a sophisticated philosophical concept. It is the idea that there is a center around which everything else is structured. The center itself exists independently, and serves as the source of meaning, or the "organizing principle" that everything else is based upon. The thing that best exemplifies the concept of "transcendental signified" is God. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of anything else that would qualify. There may be organizing principles for various things, but most of them don't seem to qualify as transcendental. So this idea is really just a theist's way of defining God into existence. See a discussion of "Transcendental Signified" here.
3. Philosophical Naturalism rejects the transcendental signed.
4. Therefore, Philosophical Naturalism fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe.
5. Minds organize and communicate meaning
6. Therefore universal mind, offers the best understanding of TS
7. Concept of God unites TS with universal mind therefore offers best explanation
rational, coherent , and meaningful view.
Statement 1 of the argument is somewhat ambiguous. Does it mean that the universe itself must be based on organizing principles, or does it mean that a conceptual view of the universe is based on organizing principles? I might agree with some form of the latter, but certainly not with the former. In building a conceptual model of our world, the mind seeks out patterns and regularity, so it's fair to say that there is an organizing principle in the mind that recognizes structure, but not that there is some rational organizing principle in nature that causes the universe to be structured according to a pre-existing concept. The laws of nature may be mindless brute facts, and the structure that we observe can be explained in terms of mindless forces.
In statement 2, Hinman tips his hat toward the notion that the "transcendental signified" is the mind that conceives the organizing principles upon which the universe is structured. While it is true that one can explain the universe this way, it is not true that one must explain the universe this way. There is absolutely no evidence that the universe was built on rationally conceived organizing principles. A naturalist view would hold that there is no intelligent force that purposefully conceives the laws of nature and enforces them. Instead, we observe the regularities of nature and formulate the laws of nature in our own minds as after-the-fact descriptions of what is observed.
There is no disagreement about statement 3. There may well be something that exists outside the bounds of our universe's space-time, but we have no reason to think that there is any kind of mind involved in the creation of the universe.
Statement 4 is simply false. What Hinman seems to be doing here is conflating two different views of the organizing principle as I described in the discussion of statement 1, above. A naturalist can certainly have a rational view of the universe. But that view doesn't imply that the universe was built upon a pre-conceived rational concept. For a naturalist, the organizing principle is in the mind of the beholder. It is just descriptive, and has no causal power. The naturalist's denial of a rational force that causes the universe to be built and organized is simply a recognition of what is empirically observed, and what is not. What is irrational is to assume in the absence of any supporting empirical observation, that a rational, purposeful transcendental force exists.
Statement 5 is undisputed. Yes, minds are the source of meaning. Meaning can be understood as the relationships between concepts, and concepts exist in the mind. A concept that has no relationship to any other concept is devoid of meaning. Minds also translate concepts into language, which enables communication.
I also wouldn't disagree with statement 6, but I would add that in keeping with Statement 3, I don't agree that the TS exists. So while a universal mind might be the best way to explain the TS, it doesn't follow that a universal mind must exist.
Statement 7 is a non sequitur. It would be true only on the assumption that this "transcendental signified" is real. Since I don't buy that, I have no logical reason to assume that God offers the best explanation for anything. As I explained earlier, naturalists can and do have rational concepts and views of the universe. They just disagree that the universe must have been organized and built by a rational mind. This is Hinman's assumption, but he offers absolutely no justification for the idea that it must be the case. Instead, he conflates observation-based descriptive organizing principles in the human mind with prescriptive laws in the mind of God that have causal power in nature.
This points out a common problem among theists. Their arguments are often based on assumptions that can't be proven or demonstrated. In many cases, they take these assumptions for granted, and don't bother to acknowledge that an assumption is being made. They draw conclusions based on these assumptions. Then, they proceed to declare that the naturalist is irrational because he doesn't make the same assumptions and doesn't arrive at the same conclusions. Hinman is guilty of this in spades.