Hello Professor Reppert,
Happy Easter! I hope you are having a pleasant Easter weekend.
If you don't mind indulging me, I'd like to make one more argument regarding Michael Martin's fall-back position in his book Atheism.
As you know, Martin argues, based on a reformulated verificationist criterion of meaning, that theism is likely factually meaningless--that is, neither true nor false. But in an effort to cover all his bases, he argues later in the book that IF it should turn out that theism is factually meaningful then it is likely that God does not exist. He attemps to support the latter claim by presenting several atheistic teleological arguments, several arguments that the concept of God is incoherent, and some arguments based upon evil.
In his own words:
"My position is something like this. Yes, "God exists" is probably meaningless. But I am not completely sure. If I am wrong, there is still no reason to believe in God (negative atheism) and good reason not to (positive atheism). So my argumentative strategy reflects to some extent my actual belief. I would believe that God does not exist if "God exists" is not meaningless (which it may not be)."
My new argument against the fall-back position is really fairly short and simple. If theism is PROBABLY neither true nor false then it is probably not false (and probably not true). If it is probably not false then any argument which suggests that it is false must be unsound or in some way less than cogent. Now Martin's position may not be strictly inconsistent. But I do submit that there is a tension here. I believe that his arguments for the factual meaninglessness of theism tend to counter his arguments that it is false. Insofar as he believes his argument for the factual meaninglessness of theism is cogent, he must believe his arguments for the falsity of theism are less than cogent.
Consider an example. Suppose I offer an argument that the activity of photons are probably neither moral nor immoral. Then later I offer an argument that their activity is immoral. I could say that my position is not inconsistent because I have only claimed that it is PROBABLE that moral concepts don't apply to photons. To allow myself a fall-back position, I might offer an argument that IF moral concepts do happen to apply to photons then their activity is immoral---offering an argument for the latter claim. Doesn't my argument that moral concepts do not apply to electrons tend to cast doubt on the cogency of my argument that electrons are immoral?
It looks like the core of my argument involves something like this:
"It is probable that X is neither A nor B" ENTAILS "It is probable that X is not B."
That principle seems true. For example, if it's probable that (A) "Joe is neither short nor bald" then it is probable that (B) "Joe is not bald".
If someone argues that A is probably true, how can they later argue that B is probably false without giving up their argument for A?
It seems to work with this sort of example but I'm not sure it would work in the case of Martin's argument. Would it work with claims about the application of the concepts of truth and falsity? Maybe.
Anyway, that's the gist of my argument.
I'd appreciate any comments. Thanks for your time.