There is a common trend in the atheist community to posit brute facts as plausible alternatives to other explanatory facts, especially with regard to the universe. For there to be a fact that plausibly requires God as an explanation is almost out of the question. Plausibility is therefore reduced to a predisposed preference for possible alternatives that are contrary to a theistic conclusion. Consequently, any premise that would otherwise be regarded as plausible, intuitive, rational and metaphysically true beyond reasonable doubt are themselves subject to scrutiny once it is seen that irrational doubt is necessary to avoid God’s existence. This is demonstrably seen through atheistic responses to arguments like the KCA (e.g, denial of the causal principle) or the LCA (e.g, denial of the PSR or of the universe’s contingency). In other cases, they may attempt to deny the explanatory power of God altogether.
There are several theistic responses to these objections. William Lane Craig, for example, would argue from our modal intuitions that an inexplicable fact is absurd because we’d correctly expect an explanation for any existing thing. For other arguments, the notion of an eternally inexplicable universe is disputed on the basis that the universe began to exist. These approaches all have their varying degrees of persuasion but for my purposes, I will demonstrate a general argument for the impossibility of explanatory brute facts (i.e, any explanatory reason for positing a brute fact). This is not to say that there cannot be accidental facts about the world but that brute contingent beings are metaphysically and epistemically impossible to posit as possibly existing. To see how this is true, consider the following formulation:
- Explanatory facts are always more plausible than brute facts. (p)
- If a brute fact is to be posited, it must be the case that a fact cannot be explained.
- It is always possible for a fact to have an explanation (either necessarily or externally).
- Therefore, brute facts cannot possibly be posited.
Explanations Are Necessary
The conclusion logically follows from the premises, now its just a question of whether these premises are more plausible than their denials. The argument should be self-evidently necessary but a robust defense can be helpful in detailing out possible objections while clarifying some important facts. A denial of premise (1) would entail that there is a reason to think that it is false but what could possibly make a brute fact superior to an explanatory fact? Apart from what premise (2) suggests, one could object that there is no evidence for thinking that explanatory facts are more plausible. However, a lack of evidence is itself evidence because it affirms the very premise in question – namely that one needs an explanatory reason for affirming or rejecting a premise. Necessarily, there cannot be any explanatory reason for rejecting the truth of premise (1) without being incoherent.
Now, there may be some wise guy who would suggest that it is false “just because” but that is of course questing begging. The same assertion can be made in reverse: God exists just because. But if brute facts can be appealed to in such a haphazard way, how could we possibly distinguish which one is correct? According to this objection, I could say that the proposition “God caused the universe to exist” is a brute fact whereas another could assert that “The universe just exists without a cause” as a brute fact. How do we distinguish between which one is true? Both cannot be true! It’s impossible to distinguish unless there’s a reason for positing one brute fact over another. But if there was such a reason, then what would it be? How can you know that something is a brute fact?
Explanations are Superior
Any good answer to that question will be using premise (1) in the process of eliminating other kinds of brute facts; otherwise any brute fact can be posited. Which leads to premise (2): The only possible reason for positing a brute fact is if there cannot possibly be an explanation. Since the first premise is already granted, it is necessarily evident that explanatory facts are always superior to brute facts. For example, if I had an explanation for the existence of human beings by means of the evolutionary theory and you posit their existence as a brute fact in return, then the explanation should always be favored. But what if we do not have evidence that that explanation is true? Well again, that only reaffirms the necessary truth of premise (1) and even if there was no evidence yet, we can be certain that the explanation is superior just for being an explanation in the first place.
What if there is no explanation, not even a plausible theory of how it could’ve came about? Well for all we know, there is no explanation yet, but that is not a justification for introducing brute facts. That’s just a “Brute-Fact-of-the-Gaps” fallacy. This leads us to premise (3): It is always possible for a fact to have an explanation. Even if we have not found an explanation, it is always possible that there is an explanation of some sort. For example, suppose some phenomena seems impossible to explain naturally. Well surely God could explain it at least in principle even if you do not accept His existence. Even the most obscure and bizarreÂ of explanations is still a possible explanation. Someone may object that possibility does not mean actuality but the same applies to a brute fact. Even if you think it is possible, it doesn’t mean it is actual. And yet how would you know when it is actual? When there is no known explanation and we’re forced to consider possibilities alone, possible explanations win every time.
Since premise (3) is true because of premise (1), premise (2) can never be true since it is always possible for there to be an explanation of some sort. In other words, it is impossible to prove that there cannot possibly be an explanation. Some may object that this is epistemologically impossible to prove but it is still metaphysically possible for there to be a brute fact. But how do you know that it is a metaphysical possibility in the first place? This argument eliminates any conceptual grounds for positing them as possibilities. Even if brute facts are metaphysical possible, this would lead to radical skepticism about everything. All explanations that we do have could turn out to be brute facts after all. It would destroy science, philosophy, and every sort of inquisitive discipline. This is because brute facts, if they do obtain, wouldn’t metaphysically require it to be impossible to explain. That is, if you detach metaphysics from epistemology in this way, which I do not think you can so neatly do. In conclusion then, brute facts are impossible.