Fallacy of Special Pleading

Special pleading is a logical fallacy where an exception is made to a general principle without proper justification. It involves applying principles or rules to other circumstances or entities while exempting a specific case without a valid reason for the exemption.

Principle of Sufficient Reason

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) states that everything contingent (caused by something) must have a reason, cause, or explanation for its existence or occurrence. It follows by the principle as old as Parmenides,, ex nihilo nihil fit, “out of nothing, nothing comes.” All science assumes this principle

Sufficient Reason for the Universe

The question then arises “Whence the universe?” Where did the universe come from? Why is there something rather than nothing?

Option 1: Atheist’s Special Pleading

An atheist calls for special pleading as they believe all things require a reason for their existence, except for existence itself. Existence births existence or ex ente, ens, “from being, being [comes].”

Option 2: Universe as Non-Contingent

Alternatively, the atheist must argue for special pleading, believing that the universe does not require an explanation because it is not contingent. It has just always been or ens aeternum est, “being eternal is.”

Option 3: Theist’s Perspective

Theists believe that God is the Principle for Sufficient Reason for the universe and is non-contingent. Therefore, God does not need an explanation, being the Necessary Being or the “Ground of Being.” The Necessary Being is non-contingent by definition. He is the Ens Necessarium

Sufficient Personality and Power is Required

Personality and power are required for creation. The reason for this is obvious. It is a principal of first importance. In order to take any action, there must be a will to take that action. The reason or rational to take this action must come from itself. As well, the reason he must have sufficient power to take this section.

God, being personal, has sufficient reason and power for creating all that is. The atheist does not have sufficient reason as the universe, being impersonal, has no rational or power for creation.

Atheist’s Recognition of the Fallacy

The atheist may see their fallacy, recognizing that they are asking for special pleading as they have no incontingent necessary being with either the power or reason for creation.

At this point, they might change their position and say the universe was never created. In this case, they have alleviated themselves of the problem of personality by saying “eternity” itself is the Necessary Being. It was never created. However, we still have the problem of infinite regress. One cannot jump out of an infinitely deep hole. The universe has to have a starting point

Three Choices for the Ground of Being

Setting aside these obvious absurdities, in our exploration for God, or the Necessary Being, we have three choices:

  1. A personal God
  2. An impersonal Universe
  3. An impersonal unit of measurement, Eternity


God, the Universe, or Eternity—our three choices for the Necessary Being. Ultimately, these are our three choices for God. Ask yourself this question: of these three options, which one echoes the human tendency to worship a block of wood? Humanity seems to have an enduring inclination to venerate inanimate objects to escape the reality of God.

The special pleading for atheism cannot be allowed in a scientific rational age. Atheism need to be rescued from their archaic beliefs that nothing—even nothing itself, units of measure, blocks of wood—can’t create something.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    3 replies to "“The Principle of Insufficient Reason”: Rescuing Atheism from Archaic Beliefs"

    • Eric Quek

      Part 1.
      Michael recently share an article titled—Abiogenesis—delving into the Philosophical debate. Coincidentally, that same evening I was deeply engaged in a debate between two renowned chemists, Dr. James Tour & Dr. Lee Cronin. Those interested , click on the link.
      Below I’ll share my thoughts on their discussion. Following my comments, I’ll introduce an additional perspective to this conversation, considering the complexities and nuances in exploring the origins of the universe.
      The debate between Dr. James Tour and Dr. Lee Cronin on the topic of abiogenesis highlighted a significant disconnect in their approaches and viewpoints. Dr. Tour argued against the current understanding of abiogenesis, suggesting that scientific literature does not adequately support it and criticizes the portrayal of its viability o the general public. He emphasized that within scientific circles, abiogenesis is acknowledged as a challenging issue, yet this complexity is not communicated effectively to non-specialists.
      Conversely, Dr Cronin sidestepped these challenges. Rather than directly engaging with Dr. Tour’s critiques, he presented his own perspective, focusing on concepts like Assembly Theory in System, the role of selection, and the “Time of the Gap.” This approach effectively avoided the direct issues raised by Dr. Tour, shifting the debate to a theoretical framework where direct confrontation was less feasible, thus showing him to be a reasonable, and this approach more acceptable.
      The debate, unfortunately, lack a well-defined structure or specific topic, leading to a mismatch in the arguments presented. Dr. Tour came prepared to discuss the shortcomings and misrepresentations of abiogenesis in current scientific discourse, while Dr. Cronin chose to introduce a different viewpoint that didn’t directly address these concerns. This difference in approach resulted in a debate that was more about contrasting ideologies than a direct exchange of scientific ideas.
      Primer on:
      1) Assembly theory
      2) Selection

      Assembly theory: It is a conceptual framework in systems biology, ecology and related fields, focusing on understanding how complex systems or structures are formed from individual components. How these components interact and combine to create larger, more complex structures.
      Keys take away:
      • Starts with basic components like molecules, atoms interact with each other.
      • Central idea is that complex structures can self-organize without external guidance!!!! This means interactions between components can lead to the spontaneous emergence of organized patterns or structures.
      • Constraints govern how components can combine. These rules might be base on physical properties, environmental conditions or biological characteristics.
      • This system is used to understand how molecular interactions lead to cellular functions. For example—I love Sauna. One of the benefits is HSPs or Heat Shock Proteins. HSPs assist in the proper folding of proteins, especially under stress conditions—sitting in sauna for ½ hr. Misfolded proteins can and do lead to disease. HSPs also have chaperon function, interact with many other proteins, influencing various cellular processes. Many diseases like cancer and neurodegenerative disorder, have been linked to malfunction of HSPs.
      A word about Assembly Theory System: Weaknesses of this theory
      There are several. I will highlight a significant challenge to this theory.
      Lab model and real life are two big chasms. Models based on assembly theory may work well in smal scale or simplified scenarios, but scaling up to more complex or larger systems often faces significant obstacles. The increase in the number o variables and interactions can make models unfeasible or lead to loss of accuracy.

      Selection: In the context of assembly theory—the process by which certain components of a system are favored over others base on their performance, efficiency in a given environment or context. This selective process influences the structure and function of the system as a whole. Examples: Fitness & adaptation—in biological systems, selection often focuses on fitness of individual components like genes, cells or organisms. Components that are more fit in the context of the environment and the system’s demands are more likely to be retained. This can lead to adaptations.
      Functional assembly in systems biology—in system biology, components of a system like proteins in a cellular pathway are selected based on their functional compatibility and efficiency.

      Dr. Lee Cronin is an eminent scientist and scholar with impressive credentials. Since it was in essence not a debate as noted in their presentation. Due to time restrain, I believe it is important for us as Christians to be inform as to what is “Assembly Theory in Systems.”
      In essence:
      A conceptual framework in systems such as biology, and related fields in science. There are several components to this system.
      • Holistic in approach—focuses on how system interacts and are interdepend within that field of study i.e., biology
      • It attempts to integrate information or data like “omics”—genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, epigenomics and so on.
      • Uses modern technology to simulate and predict and understand the behavior of complex biological systems.
      • Continuously refining its models and generate new hypothesis
      • Collaborate with other disciplines like, AI, engineering, math, biology

    • Eric Quek

      Part 2
      However, we must note some serious obstacles that need to be address
      Deep delve in major challenges faced by Assembly Theory in the context of Abiogenesis.
      Note: There are huge hurdles at least from our present knowledge in science.

      According to Dr. James Tour who is T.T. & W.F Chao Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer science, and Professor of Materials Science & Nano-engineering at Rice University. A Synthetic organic chemist. Currently serving on the faculty of the University of South Carolina and visiting scholar at Harvard University. Has over 700 research publications and over 130 patent families. (Dr. Tour is not someone whose skepticism about abiogenesis can be easily dismissed. The points I’m about to share are essentially what he couldn’t convey during the debate. However, all these insights are available on his website, Dr. James Tour. What I present here is a condensed version of his views,)

      Complexity of chemical reactions—one has to over come polymerization, condensation, redox reactions. Each by itself from a simple molecule to get even to polymerization is a huge chiasm. Water is critical medium for biochemical reactions, its properties, polarity and ability to form hydrogen bonds will influence behavior of organic molecules. Understanding how these interactions. Importance of weak interactions like Van der Waals forces is critical in self-assembly and folding of biological molecules like folding of proteins or assembly of DNA. There is the hydrophobic effects—where nonpolar substances come together in aqueous solutions. Consider chirality in biological molecules—D and L or specific handedness of amino acids and sugars is a unique feature. According to Dr. Tour catalytic specificity is also critical for metabolic reactions. How certain molecules came to act as catalysts, accelerating specific reactions without being consumed is another major part to make “simple molecules” These are just the tip of the iceberg. The immense chemical complexity of even the simplest life forms is simplified in Assembly Theory models. This simplification overlooks critical factors necessary for the origin of life. This theory also implicitly assumes a linear progression from simpler to more complex forms leading to life. However, the actual process could have been far more chaotic and non-linear, involving numerous failed pathways and dead ends. Simulating conditions of early Earth, a task fraught with uncertainties and limitation is another major challenge.
      I will end with this: ” So you are saying there is a chance?….That There is Not a God?” Hmm….where have I read this? Hint …several articles back.

      Have yourself a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
      God Bless

      “See you next year”

    • Eric Quek

      Forgive me for my elation in sharing this: Review of the debate between Tour & Cronin—what I call Part 3. Below is the link to the Review…
      A) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5dSkY1Mv-0 Link to follow up on debate between James Tour & Lee Cronin: Assembly Theory. A review

      Links to all and more. I must warn you. It is time consuming, technical and yes you may run the risk of “Forgetting your own name.” after you’re all done.
      You may want to start with the Bullshit theory or Brandolini’s Law! This way it will ease the pain and confusion when you delve into all those links.
      https://modelthinkers.com/mental-model/bullshit-asymmetry-principle#:~:text=The%20Bullshit%20Asymmetry%20Principle%2C%20also,THE%20POWER%20OF%20FAKE%20INFORMATION. Made my day.

      I highly suggest you listen to A) after you read Brandolini’s Law.
      Tough readings and listening, the anvil on which firmer faith is forged
      Author: Unknown
      Going beyond the technical jargon:
      The critique by Dr. Hector Zenil are as follows:
      • Assembly Theory (AT) claims to be a novel way of understanding how complex things like life forms develop over time! In reality it is not novel way of understanding. This idea is not new and similar concepts have been discussed and used in science for decades. Imagine you show a primitive tribe who has never been expose to cell phone (assuming reception) You claim this is a new invention. In reality, cell phones has been around for decades since 70s
      • Zenil stated that proponent like Cronin and others did not tell us lay man the weakness of AT effectiveness in sorting organic from inorganic Older, simpler tools can do the same job and better.
      • AT has been elevated to “God like status” can essentially do anything.
      • Technical terms like “algorithmic complexity”, “Turing machines” are concepts from computer. Zenil, back up his statements that these concepts are not correctly used. He like to see them use it honestly and not hype.
      • Most importantly, Zenil showed how erroneous and misleading intentionally or unintentionally Cronin was when Cronin argue for “abiogenesis” with Tour.
      Why am I excited about this debate, and how does this relate to Michael Patton article? What can we learn in regards to our faith if any?
      Let’s delve into AT and Michael Patton’s article (blog)
      • Zenil accuses people like Cronin of special pleading by suggesting AT is a unique exception to established scientific methods without adequate justification. Similarly, Patton discusses how some atheists might engage in special pleading by suggesting the universe is an exception to the principle that everything requires a cause.
      • In science, it’s understanding the mechanisms and origins of life and complexity, Patton argue that it’s understanding the existence of the universe and everything within it.
      • Zenil’s argues for the need for logical consistency, adequate evidence, and ethical promotion of scientific theories. In the same vein, Michael challenges readers to consider the logical consistency and ethical implications of their beliefs about the universe’s existence
      • Both, Zenil and Patton argument are significant as it impacts our worldview. They influence how we understand life—inorganic chemistry spontaneously form organic and life appears and the universe.

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