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20 Arguments For God’s Existence

20 Arguments for God's Existence

1. The Argument from Change
2. The Argument from Efficient Causality
3. The Argument from Time and Contingency
4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
5. The Design Argument
6. The Kalam Argument
7. The Argument from Contingency
8. The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
9. The Argument from Miracles
10. The Argument from Consciousness
11. The Argument from Truth
12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God
13. The Ontological Argument
14. The Moral Argument
15. The Argument from Conscience
16. The Argument from Desire
17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience
18. The Argument from Religious Experience
19. The Common Consent Argument
20. Pascal's Wager

In this section you will find arguments of many different kinds for the existence of God. And we make to you, the reader, an initial appeal. We realize that many people, both believers and nonbelievers, doubt that God's existence can be demonstrated or even argued about. You may be one of them. You may in fact have a fairly settled view that it cannot be argued about. But no one can reasonably doubt that attention to these arguments has its place in any book on apologetics. For very many have believed that such arguments are possible, and that some of them actually work.

They have also believed that an effective rational argument for God's existence is an important first step in opening the mind to the possibility of faith—in clearing some of the roadblocks and rubble that prevent people from taking the idea of divine revelation seriously. And in this they have a real point. Suppose our best and most honest reflection on the nature of things led us to see the material universe as self-sufficient and uncaused; to see its form as the result of random motions, devoid of any plan or purpose. Would you then be impressed by reading in an ancient book that there exists a God of love, or that the heavens proclaim his glory? Would you be disposed to take that message seriously? More likely you would excuse yourself from taking seriously anything claimed as a communication from the Creator. As one person put it: I cannot believe that we are children of God, because I cannot believe there is anyone to do the adopting.

It is this sort of cramped and constricted horizon that the proofs presented in this chapter are trying to expand. They are attempts to confront us with the radical insufficiency of what is finite and limited, and to open minds to a level of being beyond it. If they succeed in this—and we can say from experience that some of the proofs do succeed with many people—they can be of very great value indeed.

You may not feel that they are particularly valuable to you. You may be blessed with a vivid sense of God's presence; and that is something for which to be profoundly grateful. But that does not mean you have no obligation to ponder these arguments. For many have not been blessed in that way. And the proofs are designed for them—or some of them at least—to give a kind of help they really need. You may even be asked to provide help.

Besides, are any of us really in so little need of such help as we may claim? Surely in most of us there is something of the skeptic. There is a part of us tempted to believe that nothing is ultimately real beyond what we can see and touch; a part looking for some reason, beyond the assurances of Scripture, to believe that there is more. We have no desire to make exaggerated claims for these demonstrations, or to confuse "good reason" "with scientific proof." But we believe that there are many who want and need the kind of help these proofs offer more than they might at first be willing to admit.

A word about the organization of the arguments. We have organized them into two basic groups: those which take their data from without—cosmological arguments—and those that take it from within—psychological arguments. The group of cosmological arguments begins with our versions of Aquinas's famous "five ways." These are not the simplest of the arguments, and therefore are not the most convincing to many people. Our order is not from the most to the least effective. The first argument, in particular, is quite abstract and difficult.

Not all the arguments are equally demonstrative. One (Pascal's Wager) is not an argument for God at all, but an argument for faith in God as a "wager." Another (the ontological argument) we regard as fundamentally flawed; yet we include it because it is very famous and influential, and may yet be saved by new formulations of it. Others (the argument from miracles, the argument from religious experience and the common consent argument) claim only strong probability, not demonstrative certainty. We have included them because they form a strong part of a cumulative case. We believe that only some of these arguments, taken individually and separately, demonstrate the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have (no argument proves all the divine attributes); but all twenty taken together, like twined rope, make a very strong case.

1. The Argument from Change

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The material world we know is a world of change. This young woman came to be 5'2", but she was not always that height. The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. Now when something comes to be in a certain state, such as mature size, that state cannot bring itself into being. For until it comes to be, it does not exist, and if it does not yet exist, it cannot cause anything.

As for the thing that changes, although it can be what it will become, it is not yet what it will become. It actually exists right now in this state (an acorn); it will actually exist in that state (large oak tree). But it is not actually in that state now. It only has the potentiality for that state.

Now a question: To explain the change, can we consider the changing thing alone, or must other things also be involved? Obviously, other things must be involved. Nothing can give itself what it does not have, and the changing thing cannot have now, already, what it will come to have then. The result of change cannot actually exist before the change. The changing thing begins with only the potential to change, but it needs to be acted on by other things outside if that potential is to be made actual. Otherwise it cannot change.

Nothing changes itself. Apparently self-moving things, like animal bodies, are moved by desire or will—something other than mere molecules. And when the animal or human dies, the molecules remain, but the body no longer moves because the desire or will is no longer present to move it.

Now a further question: Are the other things outside the changing thing also changing? Are its movers also moving? If so, all of them stand in need right now of being acted on by other things, or else they cannot change. No matter how many things there are in the series, each one needs something outside itself to actualize its potentiality for change.

The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are. The whole universe is in the process of change. But we have already seen that change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by "God."

Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.

2. The Argument from Efficient Causality

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We notice that some things cause other things to be (to begin to be, to continue to be, or both). For example, a man playing the piano is causing the music that we hear. If he stops, so does the music.

Now ask yourself: Are all things caused to exist by other things right now? Suppose they are. That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God. Then nothing could exist right now. For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist. So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing things to be, need a cause. They can give being only so long as they are given being. Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.

But caused by what? Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing. But that is absurd: all of reality dependent—but dependent on nothing! The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.

Existence is like a gift given from cause to effect. If there is no one who has the gift, the gift cannot be passed down the chain of receivers, however long or short the chain may be. If everyone has to borrow a certain book, but no one actually has it, then no one will ever get it. If there is no God who has existence by his own eternal nature, then the gift of existence cannot be passed down the chain of creatures and we can never get it. But we do get it; we exist. Therefore there must exist a God: an Uncaused Being who does not have to receive existence like us—and like every other link in the chain of receivers.

Question 1: Why do we need an uncaused cause? Why could there not simply be an endless series of things mutually keeping each other in being?

Reply: This is an attractive hypothesis. Think of a single drunk. He could probably not stand up alone. But a group of drunks, all of them mutually supporting each other, might stand. They might even make their way along the street. But notice: Given so many drunks, and given the steady ground beneath them, we can understand how their stumblings might cancel each other out, and how the group of them could remain (relatively) upright. We could not understand their remaining upright if the ground did not support them—if, for example, they were all suspended several feet above it. And of course, if there were no actual drunks, there would be nothing to understand.

This brings us to our argument. Things have got to exist in order to be mutually dependent; they cannot depend upon each other for their entire being, for then they would have to be, simultaneously, cause and effect of each other. A causes B, B causes C, and C causes A. That is absurd. The argument is trying to show why a world of caused causes can be given—or can be there—at all. And it simply points out: If this thing can exist only because something else is giving it existence, then there must exist something whose being is not a gift. Otherwise everything would need at the same time to be given being, but nothing (in addition to "everything") could exist to give it. And that means nothing would actually be.

Question 2: Why not have an endless series of caused causes stretching backward into the past? Then everything would be made actual and would actually be—even though their causes might no longer exist.

Reply: First, if the kalam argument (argument 6) is right, there could not exist an endless series of causes stretching backward into the past. But suppose that such a series could exist. The argument is not concerned about the past, and would work whether the past is finite or infinite. It is concerned with what exists right now.

Even as you read this, you are dependent on other things; you could not, right now, exist without them. Suppose there are seven such things. If these seven things did not exist, neither would you. Now suppose that all seven of them depend for their existence right now on still other things. Without these, the seven you now depend on would not exist—and neither would you. Imagine that the entire universe consists of you and the seven sustaining you. If there is nothing besides that universe of changing, dependent things, then the universe—and you as part of it—could not be. For everything that is would right now need to be given being but there would be nothing capable of giving it. And yet you are and it is. So there must in that case exist something besides the universe of dependent things—something not dependent as they are.

And if it must exist in that case, it must exist in this one. In our world there are surely more than seven things that need, right now, to be given being. But that need is not diminished by there being more than seven. As we imagine more and more of them—even an infinite number, if that were possible—we are simply expanding the set of beings that stand in need. And this need—for being, for existence—cannot be met from within the imagined set. But obviously it has been met, since contingent beings exist. Therefore there is a source of being on which our material universe right now depends.

3. The Argument from Time and Contingency

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  1. We notice around us things that come into being and go out of being. A tree, for example, grows from a tiny shoot, flowers brilliantly, then withers and dies.
  2. Whatever comes into being or goes out of being does not have to be; nonbeing is a real possibility.
  3. Suppose that nothing has to be; that is, that nonbeing is a real possibility for everything.
  4. Then right now nothing would exist. For
  5. If the universe began to exist, then all being must trace its origin to some past moment before which there existed—literally—nothing at all. But
  6. From nothing nothing comes. So
  7. The universe could not have begun.
  8. But suppose the universe never began. Then, for the infinitely long duration of cosmic history, all being had the built-in possibility not to be. But
  9. If in an infinite time that possibility was never realized, then it could not have been a real possibility at all. So
  10. There must exist something which has to exist, which cannot not exist. This sort of being is called necessary.
  11. Either this necessity belongs to the thing in itself or it is derived from another. If derived from another there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.
  12. This absolutely necessary being is God.

Question 1: Even though you may never in fact step outside your house all day, it was possible for you to do so. Why is it impossible that the universe still happens to exist, even though it was possible for it to go out of existence?

Reply: The two cases are not really parallel. To step outside your house on a given day is something that you may or may not choose to do. But if nonbeing is a real possibility for you, then you are the kind of being that cannot last forever. In other words, the possibility of nonbeing must be built-in, "programmed," part of your very constitution, a necessary property. And if all being is like that, then how could anything still exist after the passage of an infinite time? For an infinite time is every bit as long as forever. So being must have what it takes to last forever, that is, to stay in existence for an infinite time. Therefore there must exist within the realm of being something that does not tend to go out of existence. And this sort of being, as Aquinas says, is called "necessary."

4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection

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We notice around us things that vary in certain ways. A shade of color, for example, can be lighter or darker than another, a freshly baked apple pie is hotter than one taken out of the oven hours before; the life of a person who gives and receives love is better than the life of one who does not.

So we arrange some things in terms of more and less. And when we do, we naturally think of them on a scale approaching most and least. For example, we think of the lighter as approaching the brightness of pure white, and the darker as approaching the opacity of pitch black. This means that we think of them at various "distances" from the extremes, and as possessing, in degrees of "more" or "less," what the extremes possess in full measure.

Sometimes it is the literal distance from an extreme that makes all the difference between "more" and "less." For example, things are more or less hot when they are more or less distant from a source of heat. The source communicates to those things the quality of heat they possess in greater or lesser measure. This means that the degree of heat they possess is caused by a source outside of them.

Now when we think of the goodness of things, part of what we mean relates to what they are simply as beings. We believe, for example, that a relatively stable and permanent way of being is better than one that is fleeting and precarious. Why? Because we apprehend at a deep (but not always conscious) level that being is the source and condition of all value; finally and ultimately, being is better than nonbeing. And so we recognize the inherent superiority of all those ways of being that expand possibilities, free us from the constricting confines of matter, and allow us to share in, enrich and be enriched by, the being of other things. In other words, we all recognize that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being; that a being able to give and receive love is better than one that cannot; that our way of being is better, richer and fuller than that of a stone, a flower, an earthworm, an ant, or even a baby seal.

But if these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, then there must exist a "best," a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings.
This absolutely perfect being—the "Being of all beings," "the Perfection of all perfections"—is God.

Question 1: The argument assumes a real "better." But aren't all our judgments of comparative value merely subjective?

Reply: The very asking of this question answers it. For the questioner would not have asked it unless he or she thought it really better to do so than not, and really better to find the true answer than not. You can speak subjectivism but you cannot live it.

5. The Design Argument

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This sort of argument is of wide and perennial appeal. Almost everyone admits that reflection on the order and beauty of nature touches something very deep within us. But are the order and beauty the product of intelligent design and conscious purpose? For theists the answer is yes. Arguments for design are attempts to vindicate this answer, to show why it is the most reasonable one to give. They have been formulated in ways as richly varied as the experience in which they are rooted. The following displays the core or central insight.

  1. The universe displays a staggering amount of intelligibility, both within the things we observe and in the way these things relate to others outside themselves. That is to say: the way they exist and coexist display an intricately beautiful order and regularity that can fill even the most casual observer with wonder. It is the norm in nature for many different beings to work together to produce the same valuable end—for example, the organs in the body work for our life and health. (See also argument 8.)
  2. Either this intelligible order is the product of chance or of intelligent design.
  3. Not chance.
  4. Therefore the universe is the product of intelligent design.
  5. Design comes only from a mind, a designer.
  6. Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.

The first premise is certainly true-even those resistant to the argument admit it. The person who did not would have to be almost pathetically obtuse. A single protein molecule is a thing of immensely impressive order; much more so a single cell; and incredibly much more so an organ like the eye, where ordered parts of enormous and delicate complexity work together with countless others to achieve a single certain end. Even chemical elements are ordered to combine with other elements in certain ways and under certain conditions. Apparent disorder is a problem precisely because of the overwhelming pervasiveness of order and regularity. So the first premise stands.

If all this order is not in some way the product of intelligent design—then what? Obviously, it "just happened." Things just fell out that way "by chance." Alternatively, if all this order is not the product of blind, purposeless forces, then it has resulted from some kind of purpose. That purpose can only be intelligent design. So the second premise stands.

It is of course the third premise that is crucial. Ultimately, nonbelievers tell us, it is indeed by chance and not by any design that the universe of our experience exists the way it does. It just happens to have this order, and the burden of proof is on believers to demonstrate why this could not be so by chance alone.

But this seems a bit backward. It is surely up to nonbelievers to produce a credible alternative to design. And "chance" is simply not credible. For we can understand chance only against a background of order. To say that something happened "by chance" is to say that it did not turn out as we would have expected, or that it did turn out in a way we would not have expected. But expectation is impossible without order. If you take away order and speak of chance alone as a kind of ultimate source, you have taken away the only background that allows us to speak meaningfully of chance at all. Instead of thinking of chance against a background of order, we are invited to think of order-overwhelmingly intricate and ubiquitous order-against a random and purposeless background of chance. Frankly, that is incredible. Therefore it is eminently reasonable to affirm the third premise, not chance, and therefore to affirm the conclusion, that this universe is the product of intelligent design.

Question 1: Hasn't the Darwinian theory of evolution shown us how it is possible for all the order in the universe to have arisen by chance?

Reply: Not at all. If the Darwinian theory has shown anything, it has shown, in a general way, how species may have descended from others through random mutation; and how survival of these species can be accounted for by natural selection—by the fitness of some species to survive in their environment. In no way does it—can it—account for the ubiquitous order and intelligibility of nature. Rather, it presupposes order. To quote a famous phrase: "The survival of the fittest presupposes the arrival of the fit." If Darwinians wish to extrapolate from their purely biological theory and maintain that all the vast order around us is the result of random changes, then they are saying something which no empirical evidence could ever confirm; which no empirical science could ever demonstrate; and which, on the face of it, is simply beyond belief.

Question 2: Maybe it is only in this region of the universe that order is to be found. Maybe there are other parts unknown to us that are completely chaotic—or maybe the universe will one day in the future become chaotic. What becomes of the argument then?

Reply: Believers and nonbelievers both experience the same universe. It is this which is either designed or not. And this world of our common experience is a world of pervasive order and intelligibility. That fact must be faced. Before we speculate about what will be in the future or what may be elsewhere in the present, we need to deal honestly with what is. We need to recognize in an unflinching way the extent—the overwhelming extent—of order and intelligibility. Then we can ask ourselves: Is it credible to suppose that we inhabit a small island of order surrounded by a vast sea of chaos—a sea which threatens one day to engulf us?

Just consider how in the last decades we have strained fantastically at the limits of our knowledge; we have cast our vision far beyond this planet and far within the elements that make it up. And what has this expansion of our horizons revealed? Always the same thing: more—and not less—intelligibility; more—and not less—complex and intricate order. Not only is there no reason to believe in a surrounding chaos, there is every reason not to. It flies in the face of the experience that all of us—believers and nonbelievers—share in common.

Something similar can be said about the future. We know the way things in the universe have behaved and are behaving. And so, until we have some reason to think otherwise, there is every reason to believe it will continue on its orderly path of running down. No speculation can nullify what we know.

And, anyway, exactly what sort of chaos is this question asking us to imagine? That effect precedes cause? That the law of contradiction does not hold? That there need not be what it takes for some existing thing to exist? These suggestions are completely unintelligible; if we think about them at all, it is only to reject them as impossible. Can we imagine less order? Yes. Some rearrangement of the order we experience? Yes. But total disorder and chaos? That can never be considered as a real possibility. To speculate about it as if it were is really a waste of time.

Question 3: But what if the order we experience is merely a product of our minds? Even though we cannot think utter chaos and disorder, maybe that is how reality really is.

Reply: Our minds are the only means by which we can know reality. We have no other access. If we agree that something cannot exist in thought, we cannot go ahead and say that it might nevertheless exist in reality. Because then we would be thinking what we claim cannot be thought.

Suppose you claim that order is just a product of our minds. This puts you in a very awkward position. You are saying that we must think about reality in terms of order and intelligibility, but things may not exist that way in fact. Now to propose something for consideration is to think about it. And so you are saying: (a) we must think about reality in a certain way, but (b) since we think that things may not in fact exist that way, then (c) we need not think about reality the way we must think about it! Are we willing to pay that high a price to deny that the being of the universe displays intelligent design? It does not, on the face of it, seem cost effective.

6. The Kalam Argument

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The Arabic word kalam literally means "speech," but came to denote a certain type of philosophical theology—a type containing demonstrations that the world could not be infinitely old and must therefore have been created by God. This sort of demonstration has had a long and wide appeal among both Christians and Muslims. Its form is simple and straightforward.

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

Grant the first premise. (Most people—outside of asylums and graduate schools would consider it not only true, but certainly and obviously true.)

Is the second premise true? Did the universe—the collection of all things bounded by space and time—begin to exist? This premise has recently received powerful support from natural science—from so-called Big Bang Cosmology. But there are philosophical arguments in its favor as well. Can an infinite task ever be done or completed? If, in order to reach a certain end, infinitely many steps had to precede it, could the end ever be reached? Of course not—not even in an infinite time. For an infinite time would be unending, just as the steps would be. In other words, no end would ever be reached. The task would—could—never be completed.

But what about the step just before the end? Could that point ever be reached? Well, if the task is really infinite, then an infinity of steps must also have preceded it. And therefore the step just before the end could also never be reached. But then neither could the step just before that one. In fact, no step in the sequence could be reached, because an infinity of steps must always have preceded any step; must always have been gone through one by one before it. The problem comes from supposing that an infinite sequence could ever reach, by temporal succession, any point at all.

Now if the universe never began, then it always was. If it always was, then it is infinitely old. If it is infinitely old, then an infinite amount of time would have to have elapsed before (say) today. And so an infinite number of days must have been completed—one day succeeding another, one bit of time being added to what went before—in order for the present day to arrive. But this exactly parallels the problem of an infinite task. If the present day has been reached, then the actually infinite sequence of history has reached this present point: in fact, has been completed up to this point—for at any present point the whole past must already have happened. But an infinite sequence of steps could never have reached this present point—or any point before it.

So, either the present day has not been reached, or the process of reaching it was not infinite. But obviously the present day has been reached. So the process of reaching it was not infinite. In other words, the universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being, a Creator.

Question 1: Christians believe they are going to live forever with God. So they believe the future will be endless. How come the past cannot also be endless?

Reply: The question really answers itself. Christians believe that their life with God will never end. That means it will never form an actually completed infinite series. In more technical language: an endless future is potentially—but never actually—infinite. This means that although the future will never cease to expand and increase, still its actual extent will always be finite. But that can only be true if all of created reality had a beginning.

Question 2: How do we know that the cause of the universe still exists? Maybe it started the universe going and then ceased to be.

Reply: Remember that we are seeking for a cause of spatio-temporal being. This cause created the entire universe of space and time. And space and time themselves must be part of that creation. So the cause cannot be another spatio-temporal being. (If it were, all the problems about infinite duration would arise once again.) It must somehow stand outside the limitations and constraints of space and time.

It is hard to understand how such a being could "cease" to be. We know how a being within the universe ceases to be: it comes in time to be fatally affected by some agency external to it. But this picture is proper to us, and to all beings limited in some way by space and time. A being not limited in these ways cannot "come" to be or "cease" to be. If it exists at all, it must exist eternally.

Question 3: But is this cause God—a he and not a mere it?

Reply: Suppose the cause of the universe has existed eternally. Suppose further that this cause is not personal: that it has given rise to the universe, not through any choice, but simply through its being. In that case it is hard to see how the universe could be anything but infinitely old, since all the conditions needed for the being of the universe would exist from all eternity. But the kalam argument has shown that the universe cannot be infinitely old. So the hypothesis of an eternal impersonal cause seems to lead to an inconsistency.

Is there a way out? Yes, if the universe is the result of a free personal choice. Then at least we have some way of seeing how an eternal cause could give rise to a temporally limited effect. Of course, the kalam argument does not prove everything Christians believe about God, but what proof does? Less than everything, however, is far from nothing. And the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth. And in doing so, it disproves the picture of the universe most atheists wish to maintain: self-sustaining matter, endlessly changing in endless time.

7. The Argument from Contingency

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The basic form of this argument is simple.

  1. If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
  2. The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.
  3. Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.
  4. What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.
  5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.

Suppose you deny the first premise. Then if X exists, there need not exist what it takes for X to exist. But "what it takes for X to exist" means the immediate condition(s) for X's existence. You mean that X exists only if Y. Without Y, there can be no X. So the denial of premise 1 amounts to this: X exists; X can only exist if Y exists; and Y does not exist. This is absurd. So there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist. But what does it take?

We spoke of the universe as "the collection of beings in space and time." Consider one such being: yourself. You exist, and you are, in part at least, material. This means that you are a finite, limited and changing being, you know that right now, as you read this book, you are dependent for your existence on beings outside you. Not your parents or grandparents. They may no longer be alive, but you exist now. And right now you depend on many things in order to exist—for example, on the air you breathe. To be dependent in this way is to be contingent. You exist if something else right now exists.

But not everything can be like this. For then everything would need to be given being, but there would be nothing capable of giving it. There would not exist what it takes for anything to exist. So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself. What it takes for this thing to exist could only be this thing itself. Unlike changing material reality, there would be no distance, so to speak, between what this thing is and that it is. Obviously the collection of beings changing in space and time cannot be such a thing. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist cannot be identical with the universe itself or with a part of the universe.

Question 1: But why should we call this cause "God"? Maybe there is something unknown that grounds the universe of change we live in.

Reply: True. And this "unknown" is God. What we humans know directly is this sensible changing world. We also know that there must exist whatever it takes for something to exist. Therefore, we know that neither this changing universe as a whole nor any part of it can be itself what it takes for the universe to exist. But we have now such direct knowledge of the cause of changing things. We know that there must exist a cause; we know that this cause cannot be finite or material—that it must transcend such limitations. But what this ultimate cause is in itself remains, so far, a mystery.

There is more to be said by reason; and there is very much more God has made known about himself through revelation. But the proofs have given us some real knowledge as well: knowledge that the universe is created; knowledge that right now it is kept in being by a cause unbounded by any material limit, that transcends the kind of being we humans directly know. And that is surely knowledge worth having. We might figure out that someone's death was murder and no accident, without figuring out exactly who did it and why, and this might leave us frustrated and unsatisfied. But at least we would know what path of questioning to pursue; at least we would know that someone did it.

So it is with the proofs. They let us know that at every moment the being of the universe is the creative act of a Giver—A Giver transcending all material and spiritual limitations. Beyond that, they do not tell us much about what or who this Giver is—but they point in a very definite direction. We know that this Ultimate Reality—the Giver of being—cannot be material. And we know the gift which is given includes personal being: intelligence, will and spirit. The infinite transcendent cause of these things cannot be less than they are, but must be infinitely more. How and in what way we do not know. To some extent this Giver must always remain unknown to human reason. We should never expect otherwise. But reason can at least let us know that "someone did it." And that is of great value.

8. The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole

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Norris Clarke, who taught metaphysics and philosophy of religion for many years at Fordham, has circulated privately an intriguing version of the design argument. We present it here, slightly abridged and revised; for your reflection.

Starting point. This world is given to us as a dynamic, ordered system of many active component elements. Their natures (natural properties) are ordered to interact with each other in stable, reciprocal relationships which we call physical laws. For example, every hydrogen atom in our universe is ordered to combine with every oxygen atom in the proportion of 2:1 (which implies that every oxygen atom is reciprocally ordered to combine with every hydrogen atom in the proportion of 1:2). So it is with the chemical valences of all the basic elements. So too all particles with mass are ordered to move toward every other according to the fixed proportions of the law of gravity.

In such an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system, the active nature of each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act. Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.

Argument. In any such system as the above (like our world) no component part or active element can be self-sufficient or self-explanatory. For any part presupposes all the other parts—the whole system already in place—to match its own relational properties. It can't act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it. Any one part could be self-sufficient only if it were the cause of the whole rest of the system—which is impossible, since no part can act except in collaboration with the others.

Nor can the system as a whole explain its own existence, since it is made up of the component parts and is not a separate being, on its own, independent of them. So neither the parts nor the whole are self-sufficient; neither can explain the actual existence of this dynamically interactive system.

Three Conclusions

  1. Since the parts make sense only within the whole, and neither the whole nor the parts can explain their own existence, then such a system as our world requires a unifying efficient cause to posit it in existence as a unified whole.
  2. Any such cause must be an intelligent cause, one that brings the system into being according to a unifying idea. For the unity of the whole—and of each one of the overarching, cosmic-wide, physical laws uniting elements under themselves—is what determines and correlates the parts. Hence it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor. But the unity, the wholeness, of the whole transcends any one part, and therefore cannot be contained in any one part. To be actually present all at once as a whole this unity can only be the unity of an organizing unifying idea. For only an idea can hold together many different elements at once without destroying or fusing their distinctness. That is almost the definition of an idea. Since the actual parts are spread out over space and time, the only way they can be together at once as an intelligible unity is within an idea. Hence the system of the world as a whole must live first within the unity of an idea. Now a real idea cannot actually exist and be effectively operative save in a real mind, which has the creative power to bring such a system into real existence. Hence the sufficient reason for our ordered world-system must ultimately be a creative ordering Mind. A cosmic-wide order requires a cosmic-wide Orderer, which can only be a Mind.
  3. Such an ordering Mind must be independent of the system itself, that is, transcendent; not dependent on the system for its own existence and operation. For if it were dependent on—or part of—the system, it would have to presuppose the latter as already existing in order to operate, and would thus have to both precede and follow itself. But this is absurd. Hence it must exist and be able to operate prior to and independent of the system. Thus our material universe necessarily requires, as the sufficient reason for its actual existence as an operating whole, a Transcendent Creative Mind.

9. The Argument from Miracles

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  1. A miracle is an event whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.
  2. There are numerous well-attested miracles.
  3. Therefore, there are numerous events whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God.
  4. Therefore God exists.

Obviously if you believe that some extraordinary event is a miracle, then you believe in divine agency, and you believe that such agency was at work in this event. But the question is: Was this event a miracle? If miracles exist, then God must exist. But do miracles exist?

Which events do we choose? In the first place, the event must be extraordinary. But there are many extraordinary happenings (e.g., numerous stones dropping from the sky in Texas) that do not qualify as miracles. Why not? First, because they could be caused by something in nature, and second, because the context in which they occur is not religious. They qualify as mere oddities, as "strange happenings"; the sort of thing you might expect to read in Believe It or Not, but never hear about from the pulpit. Therefore the meaning of the event must also be religious to qualify as a miracle.

Suppose that a holy man had stood in the center of Houston and said: "My dear brothers and sisters! You are leading sinful lives! Look at yourselves—drunken! dissolute! God wants you to repent! And as a sign of his displeasure he's going to shower stones upon you!" Then, moments later—thunk! thunk! thunk!—the stones began to fall. The word "miracle" might very well spring to mind.

Not that we would have to believe in God after witnessing this event. But still, if that man in Texas seemed utterly genuine, and if his accusations hit home, made us think "He's right," then it would be very hard to consider what happened a deception or even an extraordinary coincidence.

This means that the setting of a supposed miracle is crucially important. Not just the physical setting, and not just the timing, but the personal setting is vital as well—the character and the message of the person to whom this event is specially tied. Take, for example, four or five miracles from the New Testament. Remove them completely from their context, from the teaching and character of Christ. Would it be wrong to see their religious significance as thereby greatly diminished? After all, to call some happening a miracle is to interpret it religiously. But to interpret it that way demands a context or setting which invites such interpretation. And part of this setting usually, though not always, involves a person whose moral authority is first recognized, and whose religious authority, which the miracle seems to confirm, is then acknowledged.

Abstract discussions of probability usually miss this factor. But setting does play a decisive role. Many years ago, at an otherwise dull convention, a distinguished philosopher explained why he had become a Christian. He said: "I picked up the New Testament with a view to judging it, to weighing its pros and cons. But as I began to read, I realized that I was the one being judged." Certainly he came to believe in the miracle-stories. But it was the character and teaching of Christ that led him to accept the things recounted there as genuine acts of God.

So there is not really a proof from miracles. If you see some event as a miracle, then the activity of God is seen in this event. There is a movement of the mind from this event to its proper interpretation as miraculous. And what gives impetus to that movement is not just the event by itself, but the many factors surrounding it which invite—or seem to demand—such interpretation.

But miraculous events exist. Indeed, there is massive, reliable testimony to them across many times, places and cultures.

Therefore their cause exists.

And their only adequate cause is God.

Therefore God exists.

The argument is not a proof, but a very powerful clue or sign. (For further discussion, see chap. 5 on miracles from Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.)

10. The Argument from Consciousness

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When we experience the tremendous order and intelligibility in the universe, we are experiencing something intelligence can grasp. Intelligence is part of what we find in the world. But this universe is not itself intellectually aware. As great as the forces of nature are, they do not know themselves. Yet we know them and ourselves. These remarkable facts—the presence of intelligence amidst unconscious material processes, and the conformity of those processes to the structure of conscious intelligence—have given rise to a variation on the first argument for design.

  1. We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.
  2. Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
  3. Not blind chance.
  4. Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.

There are obvious similarities here to the design argument, and many of the things we said to defend that argument could be used to defend this one too. For now we want to focus our attention on step 3.

Readers familiar with C. S. Lewis's Miracles will remember the powerful argument he made in chapter three against what he called "naturalism": the view that everything—including our thinking and judging—belongs to one vast interlocking system of physical causes and effects. If naturalism is true, Lewis argued, then it seems to leave us with no reason for believing it to be true; for all judgments would equally and ultimately be the result of nonrational forces.

Now this line of reflection has an obvious bearing on step 3. What we mean by "blind chance" is the way physical nature must ultimately operate if "naturalism" is true—void of any rational plan or guiding purpose. So if Lewis's argument is a good one, then step 3 stands: blind chance cannot be the source of our intelligence.

We were tempted, when preparing this section, to quote the entire third chapter of Miracles. This sort of argument is not original to Lewis, but we have never read a better statement of it than his, and we urge you to consult it. But we have found a compelling, and admirably succinct version (written almost twenty years before Miracles) in H. W. B. Joseph's Some Problems in Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1931). Joseph was an Oxford don, senior to Lewis, with whose writings Lewis was certainly familiar. And undoubtedly this statement of the argument influenced Lewis's later, more elaborate version.

If thought is laryngeal motion, how should any one think more truly than the wind blows? All movements of bodies are equally necessary, but they cannot be discriminated as true and false. It seems as nonsensical to call a movement true as a flavor purple or a sound avaricious. But what is obvious when thought is said to be a certain bodily movement seems equally to follow from its being the effect of one. Thought called knowledge and thought called error are both necessary results of states of brain. These states are necessary results of other bodily states. All the bodily states are equally real, and so are the different thoughts; but by what right can I hold that my thought is knowledge of what is real in bodies? For to hold so is but another thought, an effect of real bodily movements like the rest. . . These arguments, however, of mine, if the principles of scientific [naturalism]... are to stand unchallenged, are themselves no more than happenings in a mind, results of bodily movements; that you or I think them sound, or think them unsound, is but another such happening; that we think them no more than another such happening is itself but yet another such. And it may be said of any ground on which we may attempt to stand as true, Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum ["It flows and will flow swirling on forever" (Horace, Epistles, I, 2, 43)]. (Some Problems in Ethics, pp. 14—15)

11. The Argument from Truth

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This argument is closely related to the argument from consciousness. It comes mainly from Augustine.

  1. Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
  2. Truth properly resides in a mind.
  3. But the human mind is not eternal.
  4. Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside.

This proof might appeal to someone who shares a Platonic view of knowledge—who, for example, believes that there are Eternal Intelligible Forms which are present to the mind in every act of knowledge. Given that view, it is a very short step to see these Eternal Forms as properly existing within an Eternal Mind. And there is a good deal to be said for this. But that is just the problem. There is too much about the theory of knowledge that needs to be said before this could work as a persuasive demonstration.

12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God

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This argument, made famous by Rene Descartes, has a kinship to the ontological argument (13). It starts from the idea of God. But it does not claim that real being is part of the content of that idea, as the ontological argument does. Rather it seeks to show that only God himself could have caused this idea to arise in our minds.

It would be impossible for us to reproduce the whole context Descartes gives for this proof (see his third Meditation), and fruitless to follow his scholastic vocabulary. We give below the briefest summary and discussion.

  1. We have ideas of many things.
  2. These ideas must arise either from ourselves or from things outside us.
  3. One of the ideas we have is the idea of God—an infinite, all-perfect being.
  4. This idea could not have been caused by ourselves, because we know ourselves to be limited and imperfect, and no effect can be greater than its cause.
  5. Therefore, the idea must have been caused by something outside us which has nothing less than the qualities contained in the idea of God.
  6. But only God himself has those qualities.
  7. Therefore God himself must be the cause of the idea we have of him.
  8. Therefore God exists.

Consider the following common objection. The idea of God can easily arise like this: we notice degrees of perfection among finite beings—some are more perfect (or less imperfect) than others. And to reach the idea of God, we just project the scale upward and outward to infinity. Thus there seems to be no need for an actually existing God to account for the existence of the idea. All we need is the experience of things varying in degrees of perfection, and a mind capable of thinking away perceived limitations.

But is that really enough? How can we think away limitation or imperfection unless we first recognize it as such? And how can we recognize it as such unless we already have some notion of infinite perfection? To recognize things as imperfect or finite involves the possession of a standard in thought that makes the recognition possible.

Does that seem farfetched? It does not mean that toddlers spend their time thinking about God. But it does mean that, however late in life you use the standard, however long before it comes explicitly into consciousness, still, the standard must be there in order for you to use it. But where did it come from? Not from your experience of yourself or of the world that exists outside you. For the idea of infinite perfection is already presupposed in our thinking about all these things and judging them imperfect. Therefore none of them can be the origin of the idea of God; only God himself can be that.

13. The Ontological Argument

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The ontological argument was devised by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), who wanted to produce a single, simple demonstration which would show that God is and what God is. Single it may be, but far from simple. It is, perhaps, the most controversial proof for the existence of God. Most people who first hear it are tempted to dismiss it immediately as an interesting riddle, but distinguished thinkers of every age, including our own, have risen to defend it. For this very reason it is the most intensely philosophical proof for God's existence; its place of honor is not within popular piety, but rather textbooks and professional journals. We include it, with a minimum of discussion, not because we think it conclusive or irrefutable, but for the sake of completeness.

Anselm's Version

  1. It is greater for a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone.
  2. "God" means "that than which a greater cannot be thought."
  3. Suppose that God exists in the mind but not in reality.
  4. Then a greater than God could be thought (namely, a being that has all the qualities our thought of God has plus real existence).
  5. But this is impossible, for God is "that than which a greater cannot be thought."
  6. Therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.

Question 1: Suppose I deny that God exists in the mind?

Reply: In that case the argument could not conclude that God exists in the mind and in reality. But note: the denial commits you to the view that there is no concept of God. And very few would wish to go that far.

Question 2: Is it really greater for something to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone?

Reply: The first premise of this argument is often misunderstood. People sometimes say: "Isn't an imaginary disease better than a real one?" Well it certainly is better—and so a greater thing—for you that the disease is not real. But that strengthens Anselm's side of the argument. Real bacteria are greater than imaginary ones, just because they have something that imaginary ones lack: real being. They have an independence, and therefore an ability to harm, that nothing can have whose existence is wholly dependent on your thought. It is this greater level of independence that makes them greater as beings. And that line of thinking does not seem elusive or farfetched.

Question 3: But is real being just another "thought" or "concept"? Is "real being" just one more concept or characteristic (like "omniscience" or "omnipotence") that could make a difference to the kind of being God is?

Reply: Real being does make a real difference. The question is: Does it make a conceptual difference? Critics of the argument say that it does not. They say that just because real being makes all the difference it cannot be one more quality among others. Rather it is the condition of there being something there to have any qualities at all. When the proof says that God is the greatest being that can be "thought," it means that there are various perfections or qualities that God has to a degree no creature possibly could, qualities that are supremely admirable. But to say that such a being exists is to say that there really is something which is supremely admirable. And that is not one more admirable quality among others.

Is it greater to exist in reality as well as in the mind? Of course, incomparably greater. But the difference is not a conceptual one. And yet the argument seems to treat it as if it were—as if the believer and the nonbeliever could not share the same concept of God. Clearly they do. They disagree not about the content of this concept, but about whether the kind of being it describes really exists. And that seems beyond the power of merely conceptual analysis, as used in this argument, to answer. So question 3, we think, really does invalidate this form of the ontological argument.

Modal Version

Charles Hartshorne and Norman Malcolm developed this version of the ontological argument. Both find it implicitly contained in the third chapter of Anselm's Proslogion.

  1. The expression "that being than which a greater cannot be thought" (GCB, for short) expresses a consistent concept.
  2. GCB cannot be thought of as: a. necessarily nonexistent; or as b. contingently existing but only as c. necessarily existing.
  3. So GCB can only be thought of as the kind of being that cannot not exist, that must exist.
  4. But what must be so is so.
  5. Therefore, GCB (i.e., God) exists.

Question: Just because GCB must be thought of as existing, does that mean that GCB really exists?

Reply: If you must think of something as existing, you cannot think of it as not existing. But then you cannot deny that GCB exists; for then you are thinking what you say cannot be thought—namely, that GCB does not exist.

Possible Worlds Version

This variation on the modal version has been worked out in great detail by Alvin Plantinga. We have done our best to simplify it.

Definitions:

Maximal excellence: To have omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection in some world.

Maximal greatness: To have maximal excellence in every possible world.

  1. There is a possible world (W) in which there is a being (X) with maximal greatness.
  2. But X is maximally great only if X has maximal excellence in every possible world.
  3. Therefore X is maximally great only if X has omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection in every possible world.
  4. In W, the proposition "There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being" would be impossible—that is, necessarily false.
  5. But what is impossible does not vary from world to world.
  6. Therefore, the proposition, "There is no omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being" is necessarily false in this actual world, too.
  7. Therefore, there actually exists in this world, and must exist in every possible world, an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.

14. The Moral Argument

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  1. Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.
  2. Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the "religious" one.
  3. But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation.
  4. Therefore the "religious" view of reality is correct.

We need to be clear about what the first premise is claiming. It does not mean merely that we can find people around who claim to have certain duties. Nor does it mean that there have been many people who thought they were obliged to do certain things (like clothing the naked) and to avoid doing others (like committing adultery). The first premise is claiming something more: namely, that we human beings really are obligated; that our duties arise from the way things really are, and not simply from our desires or subjective dispositions. It is claiming, in other words, that moral values or obligations themselves—and not merely the belief in moral values—are objective facts.

Now given the fact of moral obligation, a question naturally arises. Does the picture of the world presented by atheism accord with this fact? The answer is no. Atheists never tire of telling us that we are the chance products of the motion of matter—a motion which is purposeless and blind to every human striving. We should take them at their word and ask: Given this picture, in what exactly is the moral good rooted? Moral obligation can hardly be rooted in a material motion blind to purpose.

Suppose we say it is rooted in nothing deeper than human willing and desire. In that case, we have no moral standard against which human desires can be judged. For every desire will spring from the same ultimate source—purposeless, pitiless matter. And what becomes of obligation? According to this view, if I say there is an obligation to feed the hungry, I would be stating a fact about my wants and desires and nothing else. I would be saying that I want the hungry to be fed, and that I choose to act on that desire. But this amounts to an admission that neither I nor anyone else is really obliged to feed the hungry—that, in fact, no one has any real obligations at all. Therefore the atheistic view of reality is not compatible with there being genuine moral obligation.

What view is compatible? One that sees real moral obligation as grounded in its Creator, that sees moral obligation as rooted in the fact that we have been created with a purpose and for an end. We may call this view, with deliberate generality, "the religious view." But however general the view, reflection on the fact of moral obligation does seem to confirm it.

Question 1: The argument has not shown that ethical subjectivism is false. What if there are no objective values?

Reply: True enough. The argument assumes that there are objective values; it aims to show that believing in them is incompatible with one picture of the world, and quite compatible with another. Those two pictures are the atheistic-materialistic one, and the (broadly speaking) religious one. Granted, if ethical subjectivism is true, then the argument does not work. However, almost no one is a consistent subjectivist. (Many think they are, and say they are—until they suffer violence or injustice. In that case they invariably stand with the rest of us in recognizing that certain things ought never to be done.) And for the many who are not—and never will be—subjectivists, the argument can be most helpful. It can show them that to believe as they do in objective values is inconsistent with what they may also believe about the origin and destiny of the universe. If they move to correct the inconsistency, it will be a move toward the religious view and away from the atheistic one.

Question 2: This proof does not conclude to God but to some vague "religious" view. Isn't this "religious" view compatible with very much more than traditional theism?

Reply: Yes indeed. It is compatible, for example, with Platonic idealism, and many other beliefs that orthodox Christians find terribly deficient. But this general religious view is incompatible with materialism, and with any view that banishes value from the ultimate objective nature of things. That is the important point. It seems most reasonable that moral conscience is the voice of God within the soul, because moral value exists only on the level of persons, minds and wills. And it is hard, if not impossible, to conceive of objective moral principles somehow floating around on their own, apart from any persons.

But we grant that there are many steps to travel from objective moral values to the Creator of the universe or the triune God of love. There is a vast intellectual distance between them. But these things are compatible in a way that materialism and belief in objective values are not. To reach a personal Creator you need other arguments (cf. arguments 1-6), and to reach the God of love you need revelation. By itself, the argument leaves many options open, and eliminates only some. But we are surely well rid of those it does eliminate.

15. The Argument from Conscience

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Since moral subjectivism is very popular today, the following version of, or twist to, the moral argument should be effective, since it does not presuppose moral objectivism. Modern people often say they believe that there are no universally binding moral obligations, that we must all follow our own private conscience. But that very admission is enough of a premise to prove the existence of God.

Isn't it remarkable that no one, even the most consistent subjectivist, believes that it is ever good for anyone to deliberately and knowingly disobey his or her own conscience? Even if different people's consciences tell them to do or avoid totally different things, there remains one moral absolute for everyone: never disobey your own conscience.

Now where did conscience get such an absolute authority—an authority admitted even by the moral subjectivist and relativist? There are only four possibilities.

  1. From something less than me (nature)
  2. From me (individual)
  3. From others equal to me (society)
  4. From something above me (God)

Let's consider each of these possibilities in order.

  1. How can I be absolutely obligated by something less than me—for example, by animal instinct or practical need for material survival?
  2. How can I obligate myself absolutely? Am I absolute? Do I have the right to demand absolute obedience from anyone, even myself? And if I am the one who locked myself in this prison of obligation, I can also let myself out, thus destroying the absoluteness of the obligation which we admitted as our premise.
  3. How can society obligate me? What right do my equals have to impose their values on me? Does quantity make quality? Do a million human beings make a relative into an absolute? Is "society" God?
  4. The only source of absolute moral obligation left is something superior to me. This binds my will, morally, with rightful demands for complete obedience.

Thus God, or something like God, is the only adequate source and ground for the absolute moral obligation we all feel to obey our conscience. Conscience is thus explainable only as the voice of God in the soul. The Ten Commandments are ten divine footprints in our psychic sand.

Addendum on Religion and Morality

In drawing this connection between morality and religion, we do not want to create any confusion or misunderstanding. We have not said that people can never discover human moral goods unless they acknowledge that God exists. Obviously they can. Believers and nonbelievers can know that knowledge and friendship, for example, are things that we really ought to strive for, and that cruelty and deceit are objectively wrong. Our question has been: which account of the way things really are best makes sense of the moral rules we all acknowledge—that of the believer or that of the non-believer?

If we are the products of a good and loving Creator, this explains why we have a nature that discovers a value that is really there. But how can atheists explain this? For if atheists are right, then no objective moral values can exist. Dostoyevsky said, "If God does not exist, everything is permissible." Atheists may know that some things are not permissible, but they do not know why.

Consider the following analogy. Many scientists examine secondary causes all their lives without acknowledging the First Cause, God. But, as we have seen, those secondary causes could not be without the First Cause, even though they can be known without knowing the First Cause. The same is true of objective moral goods. Thus the moral argument and the various metaphysical arguments share a certain similarity in structure.

Most of us, whatever our religious faith, or lack of it, can recognize that in the life of someone like Francis of Assisi human nature is operating the right way, the way it ought to operate. You need not be a theist to see that St. Francis's life was admirable, but you do need to be a theist to see why. Theism explains that our response to this believer's life is, ultimately, our response to the call of our Creator to live the kind of life he made us to live.

There are four possible relations between religion and morality, God and goodness.

  1. Religion and morality may be thought to be independent. Kierkegaard's sharp contrast between "the ethical" and "the religious," especially in Fear and Trembling, may lead to such a supposition. But (a) an amoral God, indifferent to morality, would not be a wholly good God, for one of the primary meanings of "good" involves the "moral"—just, loving, wise, righteous, holy, kind. And (b) such a morality, not having any connection with God, the Absolute Being, would not have absolute reality behind it.
  2. God may be thought of as the inventor of morality, as he is the inventor of birds. The moral law is often thought of as simply a product of God's choice. This is the Divine Command Theory: a thing is good only because God commands it and evil because he forbids it. If that is all, however, we have a serious problem: God and his morality are arbitrary and based on mere power. If God commanded us to kill innocent people, that would become good, since good here means "whatever God commands." The Divine Command Theory reduces morality to power. Socrates refuted the Divine Command Theory pretty conclusively in Plato's Euthyphro. He asked Euthyphro, "Is a thing pious because the gods will it, or do the gods will it because it is pious?" He refuted the first alternative, and thought he was left with the second as the only alternative.
  3. But the idea that God commands a thing because it is good is also unacceptable, because it makes God conform to a law higher than himself, a law that overarches God and humanity alike. The God of the Bible is no more separated from moral goodness by being under it than he is by being over it. He no more obeys a higher law that binds him, than he creates the law as an artifact that could change and could well have been different, like a planet.
  4. The only rationally acceptable answer to the question of the relation between God and morality is the biblical one: morality is based on God's eternal nature. That is why morality is essentially unchangeable. "I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44). Our obligation to be just, kind, honest, loving and righteous "goes all the way up" to ultimate reality, to the eternal nature of God, to what God is. That is why morality has absolute and unchangeable binding force on our conscience.

The only other possible sources of moral obligation are:

  • My ideals, purposes, aspirations, and desires, something created by my mind or will, like the rules of baseball. This utterly fails to account for why it is always wrong to disobey or change the rules.
  • My moral will itself. Some read Kant this way: I impose morality on myself. But how can the one bound and the one who binds be the same? If the locksmith locks himself in a room, he is not really locked in, for he can also unlock himself.
  • Another human being may be thought to be the one who imposes morality on me—my parents, for example. But this fails to account for its binding character. If your father commands you to deal drugs, your moral obligation is to disobey him. No human being can have absolute authority over another.
  • "Society" is a popular answer to the question of the origin of morality "this or that specific person" is a very unpopular answer. Yet the two are the same. "Society" only means more individuals. What right do they have to legislate morality to me? Quantity cannot yield quality; adding numbers cannot change the rules of a relative game to the rightful absolute demands of conscience.
  • The universe, evolution, natural selection and survival all fare even worse as explanations for morality. You cannot get more out of less. The principle of causality is violated here. How could the primordial slime pools gurgle up the Sermon on the Mount?

Atheists often claim that Christians make a category mistake in using God to explain nature. They say it is like the Greeks using Zeus to explain lightning. In fact, lightning should be explained on its own level, as a material, natural, scientific phenomenon. The same with morality. Why bring in God?

Because morality is more like Zeus than like lightning. Morality exists only on the level of persons, spirits, souls, minds, wills—not mere molecules. You can make correlations between moral obligations and persons (e.g., persons should love other persons), but you cannot make any correlations between morality and molecules. No one has even tried to explain the difference between good and evil in terms, for example, of the difference between heavy and light atoms.

So it is really the atheist who makes the same category mistake as the ancient pagan who explained lightning by the will of Zeus. The atheist uses a merely material thing to explain a spiritual thing. That is a far sillier version of the category mistake than the one the ancients made; for it is possible that the greater (Zeus, spirit) caused the lesser (lightning) and explains it; but it is not possible that the lesser (molecules) adequately caused and explains the greater (morality). A good will might create molecules, but how could molecules create a good will? How can electricity obligate me? Only a good will can demand a good will; only Love can demand love.

16. The Argument from Desire

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  1. Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
  2. But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
  3. Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.
  4. This something is what people call "God" and "life with God forever."

The first premise implies a distinction of desires into two kinds: innate and externally conditioned, or natural and artificial. We naturally desire things like food, drink, sex, sleep, knowledge, friendship and beauty; and we naturally shun things like starvation, loneliness, ignorance and ugliness. We also desire (but not innately or naturally) things like sports cars, political office, flying through the air like Superman, the land of Oz and a Red Sox world championship.

Now there are differences between these two kinds of desires. We do not, for example, for the most part, recognize corresponding states of deprivation for the second, the artificial, desires, as we do for the first. There is no word like "Ozlessness" parallel to "sleeplessness." But more importantly, the natural desires come from within, from our nature, while the artificial ones come from without, from society, advertising or fiction. This second difference is the reason for a third difference: the natural desires are found in all of us, but the artificial ones vary from person to person.

The existence of the artificial desires does not necessarily mean that the desired objects exist. Some do; some don't. Sports cars do; Oz does not. But the existence of natural desires does, in every discoverable case, mean that the objects desired exist. No one has ever found one case of an innate desire for a nonexistent object.

The second premise requires only honest introspection. If someone denies it and says, "I am perfectly happy playing with mud pies, or sports cars, or money, or sex, or power," we can only ask, "Are you, really?" But we can only appeal, we cannot compel. And we can refer such a person to the nearly universal testimony of human history in all its great literature. Even the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre admitted that "there comes a time when one asks, even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, 'Is that all there is?'"

The conclusion of the argument is not that everything the Bible tells us about God and life with God is really so. What it proves is an unknown X, but an unknown whose direction, so to speak, is known. This X is more: more beauty, more desirability, more awesomeness, more joy. This X is to great beauty as, for example, great beauty is to small beauty or to a mixture of beauty and ugliness. And the same is true of other perfections.

But the "more" is infinitely more, for we are not satisfied with the finite and partial. Thus the analogy (X is to great beauty as great beauty is to small beauty) is not proportionate. Twenty is to ten as ten is to five, but infinite is not to twenty as twenty is to ten. The argument points down an infinite corridor in a definite direction. Its conclusion is not "God" as already conceived or defined, but a moving and mysterious X which pulls us to itself and pulls all our images and concepts out of themselves.

In other words, the only concept of God in this argument is the concept of that which transcends concepts, something "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived" (1 Cor. 2:9). In other words, this is the real God.

C. S. Lewis, who uses this argument in a number of places, summarizes it succinctly:
 

"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope")

 
Question 1: How can you know the major premise—that every natural desire has a real object—is universally true, without first knowing that this natural desire also has a real object? But that is the conclusion. Thus you beg the question. You must know the conclusion to be true before you can know the major premise.

Reply: This is really not an objection to the argument from desire only, but to every deductive argument whatsoever, every syllogism. It is the old saw of John Stuart Mill and the nominalists against the syllogism. It presupposes empiricism—that is, that the only way we can ever know anything is by sensing individual things and then generalizing, by induction. It excludes deduction because it excludes the knowledge of any universal truths (like our major premise). For nominalists do not believe in the existence of any universals—except one (that all universals are only names).

This is very easy to refute. We can and do come to a knowledge of universal truths, like "all humans are mortal," not by sense experience alone (for we can never sense all humans) but through abstracting the common universal essence or nature of humanity from the few specimens we do experience by our senses. We know that all humans are mortal because humanity, as such, involves mortality, it is the nature of a human being to be mortal; mortality follows necessarily from its having an animal body. We can understand that. We have the power of understanding, or intellectual intuition, or insight, in addition to the mental powers of sensation and calculation, which are the only two the nominalist and empiricist give us. (We share sensation with animals and calculation with computers; where is the distinctively human way of knowing for the empiricist and nominalist?)

When there is no real connection between the nature of a proposition's subject and the nature of the predicate, the only way we can know the truth of that proposition is by sense experience and induction. For instance, we can know that all the books on this shelf are red only by looking at each one and counting them. But when there is a real connection between the nature of the subject and the nature of the predicate, we can know the truth of that proposition by understanding and insight—for instance, "Whatever has color must have size," or, "A Perfect Being would not be ignorant."

Question 2: Suppose I simply deny the minor premise and say that I just don't observe any hidden desire for God, or infinite joy, or some mysterious X that is more than earth can offer?

Reply: This denial may take two forms. First, one may say, "Although I am not perfectly happy now, I believe I would be if only I had ten million dollars, a Lear jet, and a new mistress every day." The reply to this is, of course, "Try it. You won't like it." It's been tried and has never satisfied. In fact, billions of people have performed and are even now performing trillions of such experiments, desperately seeking the ever-elusive satisfaction they crave. For even if they won the whole world, it would not be enough to fill one human heart.

Yet they keep trying, believing that "If only... Next time ..." This is the stupidest gamble in the world, for it is the only one that consistently has never paid off. It is like the game of predicting the end of the world: every batter who has ever approached that plate has struck out. There is hardly reason to hope the present ones will fare any better. After trillions of failures and a one hundred percent failure rate, this is one experiment no one should keep trying.

A second form of denial of our premise is: "I am perfectly happy now." This, we suggest, verges on idiocy or, worse, dishonesty. It requires something more like exorcism than refutation. This is Meursault in Camus's The Stranger. This is subhuman, vegetation, pop psychology. Even the hedonist utilitarian John Stuart Mill, one of the shallowest (though cleverest) minds in the history of philosophy, said that "it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied."

Question 3: This argument is just another version of Anselm's ontological argument (13), which is invalid. You argue to an objective God from a mere subjective idea or desire in you.

Reply: No, we do not argue from the idea alone, as Anselm does. Rather, our argument first derives a major premise from the real world of nature: that nature makes no desire in vain. Then it discovers something real in human nature-namely, human desire for something more than nature-which nature cannot explain, because nature cannot satisfy it. Thus, the argument is based on observed facts in nature, both outer and inner. It has data.

17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

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There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.

You either see this one or you don't.

18. The Argument from Religious Experience

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Some sort of experience lies at the very core of most people's religious faith. Most of our readers have very likely had such an experience. If so, you realize, in a way no one else can, its central importance in your life. That realization is not itself an argument for God's existence; in fact, in the light of it you would probably say that there is no need for arguments. But there is in fact an argument for God's existence constructed from the data of such experiences. It is not an argument which moves from your own personal experience to your own affirmation that God exists. As we said, you most probably have no need for such an argument. Instead, this argument moves in another direction: from the widespread fact of religious experience to the affirmation that only a divine reality can adequately explain it.

It is difficult to state this argument deductively. But it might fairly be put as follows.

  1. Many people of different eras and of widely different cultures claim to have had an experience of the "divine."
  2. It is inconceivable that so many people could have been so utterly wrong about the nature and content of their own experience.
  3. Therefore, there exists a "divine" reality which many people of different eras and of widely different cultures have experienced.

Does such experience prove that an intelligent Creator-God exists? On the face of it this seems unlikely. For such a God does not seem to be the object of all experiences called "religious." But still, he is the object of many. That is, many people understand their experience that way; they are "united with" or "taken up into" a boundless and overwhelming Knowledge and Love, a Love that fills them with itself but infinitely exceeds their capacity to receive. Or so they claim. The question is: Are we to believe them?

There is an enormous number of such claims. Either they are true or not. In evaluating them, we should take into account:

  1. the consistency of these claims (are they self-consistent as well as consistent with what we know otherwise to be true?);
  2. the character of those who make these claims (do these persons seem honest, decent, trustworthy?); and
  3. the effects these experiences have had in their own lives and the lives of others (have these persons become more loving as a result of what they experienced? More genuinely edifying? Or, alternatively, have they become vain and self-absorbed?).

Suppose someone says to you: "All these experiences are either the result of lesions in the temporal lobe or of neurotic repression. In no way do they verify the truth of some divine reality." What might your reaction be? You might think back over that enormous documentation of accounts and ask yourself if that can be right. And you might conclude: "No. Given this vast number of claims, and the quality of life of those who made them, it seems incredible that those who made the claims could have been so wrong about them, or that insanity or brain disease could cause such profound goodness and beauty."

It is impossible to lay down ahead of time how investigation into this record of claims and characters will affect all individuals. You cannot say ahead of time how it will affect you. But it is evidence; it has persuaded many; and it cannot be ignored. Sometimes—in fact, we believe, very often—that record is not so much faced as dismissed with vivid trendy labels.

19. The Common Consent Argument

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This proof is in some ways like the argument from religious experience (18) and in other ways like the argument from desire (16). It argues that:

  1. Belief in God—that Being to whom reverence and worship are properly due—is common to almost all people of every era.
  2. Either the vast majority of people have been wrong about this most profound element of their lives or they have not.
  3. It is most plausible to believe that they have not.
  4. Therefore it is most plausible to believe that God exists.

Everyone admits that religious belief is widespread throughout human history. But the question arises: Does this undisputed fact amount to evidence in favor of the truth of religious claims? Even a skeptic will admit that the testimony we have is deeply impressive: the vast majority of humans have believed in an ultimate Being to whom the proper response could only be reverence and worship. No one disputes the reality of our feelings of reverence, attitudes of worship, acts of adoration. But if God does not exist, then these things have never once—never once—had a real object. Is it really plausible to believe that?

The capacity for reverence and worship certainly seems to belong to us by nature. And it is hard to believe that this natural capacity can never, in the nature of things, be fulfilled, especially when so many testify that it has been. True enough, it is conceivable that this side of our nature is doomed to frustration; it is thinkable that those millions upon millions who claim to have found the Holy One who is worthy of reverence and worship were deluded. But is it likely?

It seems far more likely that those who refuse to believe are the ones suffering from deprivation and delusion—like the tone-deaf person who denies the existence of music, or the frightened tenant who tells herself she doesn't hear cries of terror and distress coming from the street below and, when her children awaken to the sounds and ask her, "Why is that lady screaming, Mommy?" tells them, "Nobody's screaming: it's just the wind, that's all. Go back to sleep."

Question 1: But the majority is not infallible. Most people were wrong about the movements of the sun and earth. So why not about the existence of God?

Reply: If people were wrong about the theory of heliocentrism, they still experienced the sun and earth and motion. They were simply mistaken in thinking that the motion they perceived was the sun's. But if God does not exist, what is it that believers have been experiencing? The level of illusion goes far beyond any other example of collective error. It really amounts to collective psychosis.

For believing in God is like having a relationship with a person. If God never existed, neither did this relationship. You were responding with reverence and love to no one; and no one was there to receive and answer your response. It's as if you believe yourself happily married when in fact you live alone in a dingy apartment.

Now we grant that such mass delusion is conceivable, but what is the likely story? If there were no other bits of experience which, taken together with our perceptions of the sun and earth, make it most likely that the earth goes round the sun, it would be foolish to interpret our experience that way. How much more so here, where what we experience is a relationship involving reverence and worship and, sometimes, love. It is most reasonable to believe that God really is there, given such widespread belief in him—unless atheists can come up with a very persuasive explanation for religious belief, one that takes full account of the experience of believers and shows that their experience is best explained as delusion and not insight. But atheists have never done so.

Question 2: But isn't there a very plausible psychological account of religious belief? Many nonbelievers hold that belief in God is the result of childhood fears; that God is in fact a projection of our human fathers: someone "up there" who can protect us from natural forces we consider hostile.

Reply A: This is not really a naturalistic explanation of religious belief. It is no more than a statement, dressed in psychological jargon, that religious belief is false. You begin from the assumption that God does not exist. Then you figure that since the closest earthly symbol for the Creator is a father, God must be a cosmic projection of our human fathers. But apart from the assumption of atheism, there is no compelling evidence at all that God is a mere projection.

In fact, the argument begs the question. We seek psychological explanation only for ideas we already know (or presume) to be false, not those we think to be true. We ask, "Why do you think black dogs are out to kill you? Were you frightened by one when you were small?" But we never ask, "Why do you think black dogs aren't out to kill you? Did you have a nice black puppy once?"

Reply B: Though there must be something of God that is reflected in human fathers (otherwise our symbolism for him would be inexplicable), Christians realize that the symbolism is ultimately inadequate. And if the Ultimate Being is mysterious in a way that transcends all symbolism, how can he be a mere projection of what the symbol represents? The truth seems to be—and if God exists, the truth is—the other way around: our earthly fathers are pale projections of the Heavenly Father. It should be noted that several writers (e.g., Paul Vitz) have analyzed atheism as itself a psychic pathology: an alienation from the human father that results in rejection of God.

20. Pascal's Wager

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Suppose you, the reader, still feel that all of these arguments are inconclusive. There is another, different kind of argument left. It has come to be known as Pascal's Wager. We mention it here and adapt it for our purposes, not because it is a proof for the existence of God, but because it can help us in our search for God in the absence of such proof.

As originally proposed by Pascal, the Wager assumes that logical reasoning by itself cannot decide for or against the existence of God; there seem to be good reasons on both sides. Now since reason cannot decide for sure, and since the question is of such importance that we must decide somehow, then we must "wager" if we cannot prove. And so we are asked: Where are you going to place your bet?

If you place it with God, you lose nothing, even if it turns out that God does not exist. But if you place it against God, and you are wrong and God does exist, you lose everything: God, eternity, heaven, infinite gain. "Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything, if you lose, you lose nothing."

Consider the following diagram:

Pascals Wager

The vertical lines represent correct beliefs, the diagonals represent incorrect beliefs. Let us compare the diagonals. Suppose God does not exist and I believe in him. In that case, what awaits me after death is not eternal life but, most likely, eternal nonexistence. But now take the other diagonal: God, my Creator and the source of all good, does exist; but I do not believe in him. He offers me his love and his life, and I reject it. There are answers to my greatest questions, there is fulfillment of my deepest desires; but I decide to spurn it all. In that case, I lose (or at least seriously risk losing) everything.

The Wager can seem offensively venal and purely selfish. But it can be reformulated to appeal to a higher moral motive: If there is a God of infinite goodness, and he justly deserves my allegiance and faith, I risk doing the greatest injustice by not acknowledging him.

The Wager cannot—or should not—coerce belief. But it can be an incentive for us to search for God, to study and restudy the arguments that seek to show that there is Something—or Someone—who is the ultimate explanation of the universe and of my life. It could at lease motivate "The Prayer of the Skeptic": "God, I don't know whether you exist or not, but if you do, please show me who you are."

Pascal says that there are three kinds of people: those who have sought God and found him, those who are seeking and have not yet found, and those who neither seek nor find. The first are reasonable and happy, the second are reasonable and unhappy, the third are both unreasonable and unhappy. If the Wager stimulates us at least to seek, then it will at least stimulate us to be reasonable. And if the promise Jesus makes is true, all who seek will find (Mt 7:7-8), and thus will be happy.
 
 
From “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics", copyright 1994, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, published 2009 Ignatius Press, used with permission of the publisher. Text reproduced from PeterKreeft.com.

Dr. Peter Kreeft

Written by

Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a noted Catholic apologist and philosopher. He is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 60 books including Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986); Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius, 1988); Catholic Christianity (Ignatius, 2001); The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 2002); and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005). Many of Peter's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Find dozens of audio talks, essays, and book excerpts at his website, PeterKreeft.com.

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  • QuanKong

    For every argument there is a counter-argument. If God exists, there is no need for argument or proof. There is also no need for faith or belief.
    The sun exists. No one has come up with 20 arguments that the sun exists.

    • jmgrodi

      Hey QuanKong, Thanks for the input. A few questions to draw out clarification and nuance (because these topics fascinate me):

      1) Do you think legitimate doubt/ignorance of God is possible at some level? (E.g., if not, then no arguments/proofs are necessary).

      2) "There is no need for faith or belief" - what do you see as the good or utility and/or purpose of faith/belief?

      • QuanKong

        1) Yes. But doubt is not the same as ignorance. I have no idea what the gun law in US is. That's legitimate ignorance. I doubt that further tightening of gun ownership will help.
        2) I believe that outlawing gun ownership is the only way to reduce violence against innocent people. That is the good in my belief.

        • Ewtn2000

          1) Agreed
          2) Legislating morality creates more problems.

        • geekborj

          But: Ignorance of the law excuses no one.

          Thus, ignorance is a state of relativity but existence of the law is an objective truth. Whether you believe that there is gravity or none, you will always fall whenever you jump over that window while in the 10th floor of that isolated building.

          Ignorance of the existence of God may be excused by the same Merciful Being. But He Is Who Is, so God objectively exists independent of any one's belief. What cannot be excused is the willed ignorance just as punishment awaits those who wills not to know the law (willful ignoring of laws).

          Thus, statement (QuanKong #1) is true. The statement (QuanKong #2) has a lot of loopholes. The belief that there is good in his belief (2) seems to be only valid for himself. For some, they would believe that law on gun ownership is a way to reduce violence against innocent people contradicting (2). Which one would be true? Which one should we follow? Do we vote for the realities related to this issue?

          We have to believe in objective truth so we can argue and rationalize things well. To doubt is to believe in objective truth.

    • JonathanH

      What about the theory of evolution, gravity, quantum physics, relativity, etc? None of these concepts are as blatantly obvious as the existence of the sun, therefore they require proofs to verify the nature of their existence. Furthermore, I can choose not to believe in gravity, but that does not negate its existence. It will continue to exist and effect my life despite my unbelief.

      • Longshanks

        I don't believe you can actually choose not to believe in gravity. You may say that you don't, but baring mental illness, altered states of mind etc, we cannot fail to believe what we think is true.

        • gabriel_syme

          It's important to recognize that he's not saying that a person may choose not to believe in gravity, which all men attest to, but rather he says that one may choose not to believe in certain theories of gravity, of which there are many.

          • Longshanks

            An interesting distinction.

          • Andre Boillot

            Gabriel,

            "It's important to recognize that he's not saying that a person may choose not to believe in gravity"

            Respectfully, there's nothing in his comment that would lead one to make that distinction.

          • gabriel_syme

            To my eye, it seemed that when he started off by saying, "What about the theory of evolution..." that "theory" was modifying the rest of the nouns on that list. I think he didn't physically modify the words with "theory of" due to the sake of brevity and clarity.

          • Andre Boillot

            Gabriel,

            I see what you mean. Though I would have thought it better to say "theories of...", I take your point.

          • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

            Your response shows your lack of education on the topic Gravity is both a theory and a law. In the context longshanks is speaking in, I would say he is speaking on the phenomena of gravity, bodies attracting, etc. It's the "mechanism" of gravity that is still a theory.

        • Rey

          Actually it is very easy to say that you do not believe in the theory of gravity if you have an actual understanding of it. This is because it does not actually make complete sense because every time you jump you can defy gravity and yet it is so powerful on a larger scale that it holds the planets together. So it is possible to say that you do not believe in the theory of gravity.

          • Michael Murray

            Sorry? If you have an understanding of gravity then you would know that when you jump you produce sufficient force in your muscles to overcome the force of gravity. You also pushed the planet a very, very small distance away from you which is pretty neat.

          • Rey

            Actually the point I was trying to make is that gravity is very powerful on both very large and very small scales yet our muscles can produce the power necessary to overcome the force of gravity.

          • Michael Murray

            Ah OK. Sorry. We seem to be in agreement.

          • Andrew G.

            Gravity isn't very powerful; the details depend on how you choose to measure it, but the approximate rule of thumb is that gravity is 10^36 times (i.e. a trillion trillion trillion times) weaker than the electromagnetic force (which is what holds your body together and from which your muscles derive power).

            The Earth's gravity is only (relatively) strong because the Earth is so massive.

            Gravity dominates only at large scales because the electromagnetic force has opposite charges (and hence tends to net out to zero) while gravity is purely additive.

      • QuanKong

        Existence means actuality, presence, or reality of an entity either
        physical or non-physical which we can sense naturally or by assistance. The sun is physical existence; you can see and feel its existence. We can feel breeze but cannot see. Gravity is non-physical existence because its presence cannot be seen or felt. Hence, we have to prove gravity exists by observation (Issac Newton). Of course, there are natural existences which we already know and there are those which we do not (yet) know.

        Where does metaphysical fit in? It is neither physical nor non-physical (phenomenon). And how do you prove? Hence, science does not dwell on metaphysical. That's where logic and illogic come in.

        Belief is assuming what we do NOT know as real or present. Is this necessary? In other words, we assume there is God. But God is not a physical reality nor is it a phenomenon not understood yet. Those who believe in the existence of God seem to be able to describe or attribute what God is. That means they have seen or felt God. Has
        anyone seen God? How do you feel God's omnipotence and omnipresence? How do you know God is omniscient?

        Theory is not a belief but a postulation, a sort of mental construct. For a theory to be believable (taken as true), it has to be proven. There are two opposing theories – creation and evolution.
        How do we prove? In creation theory, every ‘natural’ thing is created. That is, H1N1 is created and so is H7N9. Which mean God is very busy creating new strains of bird flu! Christianity no longer hold on to creation theory and so do Catholism.

        • mriehm

          Certainly gravity can be felt, and it was observed long before Isaac Newton.

          What he did was to generalize the observation, to apply to all matter, and to quantify it.

          --Marc RIehm.

          • QuanKong

            I mean the ordinary sense rather than the G-force one feels when speeding or something similar. Hence, gravity was not obvious to cavemen as a form of sensation unlike breeze. I am also sure that gravity was observed or deduced before Issac Newton.

        • geekborj

          The problems with this argument are its premises:
          1. Belief that reality is ONLY those that can be sensed (or by assistance through instrumentation).
          2. Science does not dwell on metaphysical.

          For the entire logic above to hold, BOTH (1) and (2) has to be true. However, one could easily glean that (1) is a metaphysical truth or premise. Meanwhile, (2) is a statement AGAINST any metaphysical truth (IMHO, science *must* be defined as a collection of known truths about a class of objects/things).

          Thus, the logic above does not hold any truth. If one would present the above as a "theory" then, it is not truth rather indeed "a sort of mental construct."

          Formation is a subset of the Christian notion of "creation". Creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) is also a subset of "creation." In fact, evolution is one good theory of the "creation." Those who believe that Christian creation is like a snap-of-a-finger type of creation is committing a strawman fallacy. In fact, it mocks a God who is infinitely creative, or Him Who Is Creativity Himself.

          • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

            No. This is simply begging the question.
            The human mind works on contrast. Painting has a painter. We've seen it. A tree grows naturally. We see it. We can contrast the two ideas because we have "former " knowledge. There is nothing to contrast a deity to.
            So beleif that the material is the only existing reality is sound and logical. Unless you have something to contrast our physical universe against? Hmmm??? Also, yes. Creationtism is a "snap of a finger" type of creation.
            Genesis 1
            King James Version (KJV)
            1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
            2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
            3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
            4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
            5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day...
            We could go on, but I think no one will accuse me of taking this out of context. The bible teaches that Yahweh "spoke" into existence, everything. If that is not a snap of the finger creation story then what is.
            Also, your Creation ex nihilo is nonsensical and logicall flawed.
            1. Find nothing and prove me to that nothing exists - humans only have knowledge of something.
            2. Once you've found nothing and have tested it, then prove that something CANNOT come from nothing.
            Another aspect is that, as humans, we do not deal in absolutes. Do unicorns exists? Well, somewhere in the universe, it's possible that a creature like a unicorn exists. So do we stop saying that unicorns are myth? Of course not. On earth, they don't exist. This idea of absolute knowledge is nonsensical. So with out anything to contrast this reality against, it is logically sound (at the moment) to say that this is all there is based on our current knowledge. To start to presuppose what "could" exist is an excercise in futility.
            What is a metaphysical truth and how did you arrive at it. I only ask, because to say that Quan is wrong in his assertion would mean that you have valid evidence of it's existence. Remember, possibilites do not work. To vague.

    • Ewtn2000

      That's is true. Yet almost all can see the sun

    • geekborj

      There is. Even if you say that
      1. The sun exists.
      one can still have at least one argument against that statement. This is simply based on your premise
      2. For every argument there is a counter-argument.

      Indeed. You propose (1) but only because you think it does. How can we be sure that our senses do not betray us? Should I ask everyone else if they also see the sun, feel the sun's warmth, imagine its shape? That would be democratization of truth. Plato's allegory of the cave implies truth cannot be democratized.

      How would we make sense of all "imagined" realities of the sun: brightness, warmth, shape, etc, if not because of our intellect? In the end, and as your good intellectualism here provides as a corroborative evidence, all realities MUST be judged by the intellect (or "reason") whether it is sensed or "imagined".

      True existence (reality) has to be objective to be real.

      • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

        No. YOu are incorrect. Our senses are only part of it. And yes, it is exactly what we do. We measure, test, make predictions and then when we feel as if we have the answer. We then submit out work to be reviewed by all and any who are interested. Would the sun's shape change due to another perception? no, of course not. When is a rock, not a rock. Something is what it is and can never be what it is not. regardless of perception.

        • geekborj

          We agree on what you say here. Senses are part of that reality but in the end, there are objective realities. Thanks!

          • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

            lol. Really? Please tell me what "objective realities" exist besides the one we dwell in. You stated objective so that means you have evidence of these other realities.

    • UncleSam101

      I for one do not believe the sun exists. All that exists is a hot mass of hydrogen. Who are you to make up words like "sun?"

      • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

        Who are you to make up words like hydrogen? Just like the word sun. The word hydrogen is made up. lmbo

    • Entity_sp

      The sun is a material (at least the aspect which we see) entity and its existence can be proved with material logical arguments. But you assume God to be a material entity like the sun? Then your counter-argument is flawed. By definition God is a Supreme being beyound the grasp of material senses/logic (Sanskrit: adhokshaja)

    • Mariza Barnes

      The Sun is so obviously visible so no need for arguments but what about love for example? You can't touch it or see it and still is a powerful force that it's there and many times needs to be proofed one way or the other.

    • Ararxos

      There is also no counter argument that God does not exist for Atheists.

  • Longshanks

    I find it pleases me greatly to see that Pascal's wager managed to get "air time" on this list.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Why is that?

      • Longshanks

        Well, in honesty, because it seems like damning your argument by faint praise, as it were. I know it might be uncharitable for me to say so, and with all the common ground offered at the beginning of this post maybe I shouldn't, but to list the Wager in an attempt to induce serious thought seems like a mistake.

        First of all, you started by saying "all twenty taken together, like twined rope, make a very strong case." But, as you say, the premise of the Wager is that the first 19 "are inconclusive" because "logical reasoning by itself cannot decide for or against the existence of God." For the Wager to make sense, you have to grant not only that there is some tiny amount of doubt, but that all the energy spent above was for naught ... as I see it this doesn't help to strengthen the other 19 strands of your rope.

        Additionally, you admit "the Wager can seem offensively venal and purely selfish," but then try to save it by an appeal to not offending god by failing to acknowledge him. This seems like a very weak attempt at justifying at purely selfish idea.

        God exists -> Heaven, God doesn't -> no biggie -- nowhere in the Wager is there an acknowledgement of a) a human's inability to believe that which he doesn't think is really true and b) the value of honesty and removing self-delusion from your life. "The unexamined life..." and all that jazz.

        I submit that the Wager seems "offensively venal" and selfish because it is both of these things in actuality.

        • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

          Hey Longshanks -

          I think it's last for a reason - it's a sort of dessert for the meal, candy that, alone, won't nourish us. I don't blame you for not biting - I wouldn't either. As Kreeft admits and you emphasize, we can't coerce belief based on what we gain. Santa Claus made us crazily happy and good, but we stopped sending letters. Truth trumps happiness.

          But for the person who is unconvinced by the other 19 arguments (as I'd guess you are!), the Wager is a kind of takeaway: in undergoing this search, and in taking seriously these arguments, you potentially have everything to win, and nothing to lose. That means nothing to me if the weightier arguments aren't at all compelling - but are they?

          (I personally wouldn't bring up the Wager with atheist friends, because it distracts from what I see as the strongest arguments, e.g., 1-6, 10, 14, 17.)

          • CBrachyrhynchos

            I find Pascal's wager to be flawed because it demands properties of god beyond existence. Those properties are not shared by all theistic religions, and the paradox of a god being simultaneously omnibenevolent and estranged due to well-intentioned doubt is sufficient reason to reject the wager.

          • buckeyeman

            Pascal's wager is flawed because, like the nineteen "arguments" that preceded it, it is either idiotic, circular, or both. Imagine a God that created sentient reasoning beings but valued the reason and intellect he bestowed on his creations.

            Pascal's wager presumes that such a God would then reward his creations by spitting upon the reasoning He gave them by believing in THAT WHICH CANNOT BE SEEN. The result, of course is the myriad religions, sub-religions, and personal versions of religions that now exist. Pascal's Wager further implies that we must choose to believe in the CORRECT version of God in order to receive the reward.

            But what if God chooses to reward only those who have properly used his gifts? Those who look around and say "There's no way I (or anyone else) can figure this out. Anyone who thinks they've figured it out is delusional" God looks down (or up?), smiles, and responds "Now THAT'S the answer I was looking for because you used the reason and intellect I gave you. Welcome to Heaven."

            Pascal's Wager is idiotic.

  • gabriel_syme

    While it's a good effort to have all of these arguments here, I'd argue that much of the underlying metaphysics that support these arguments have been abandoned for brevity's sake. Indeed, Prof. Feser has said many times that Aquinas' arguments (1-5) are weakened when they're not used in tandem with the Aristotelian framework that supports them, leaving them more open to criticism. Just my two cents.

  • lozen

    None of these arguments convince me there was a Yahweh or a zeus or a Jesus. It amazes me what lengths some people will go to to try to convince themselves there is an invisible being we all should bow down to and grovel before!
    I study the history of religion and it's so obvious it was invented by bishops and Constantine and reinforced by kings and bishops to control the people. When we humans grow up and accept responsibility for ourselves and this world, we will have taken one giant step toward becoming truly human.

    • Luke Arredondo

      Iozen,

      Great point! And in fact, I don't think any of the original authors of these arguments intended any of them to lead one straightaway from atheism into Christianity or Judaism. They are merely meant to demonstrate, in various ways and depending on the particular argument under discussion, that there is a creator, or that there is a necessary being, or that there is a first cause. In other words, they are arguments designed to convince one that there is something beyond the material, something transcendent and superior. If that premise can be accepted, it leads to further questions such as which form of religion is the one that is the most true, if any?

      A couple of points though that I disagree with you about:

      First, there's no parity between Jesus or Yahweh and Zeus. The mythological gods are in no way similar to the Hebrew or Christian concept of God, regardless of whether any of the three are true. To argue that they are the same is to miss out on their huge differences. I'll mention just one. In any of the great pagan mythologies (the Roman or Greek deities, for instance), various gods have different roles. Thus there is a god of sun, of war, etc. What the Genesis account (and thus Judaism as well as Christianity) is that the God of the Bible is one which is so powerful as to use the sun and moon merely to light up his creation. Where other world views saw the sun or stars as being gods, in the Biblical conception of God, these are merely lamps. That's a huge difference; Yahweh is so powerful that the elements of creation other religions ascribe as deities in and of themselves are seen to be merely instruments to adorn the creation which is spoken into existence by Yahweh.

      Secondly, I wonder what you mean when you say you study the history of religion. The question of invention by bishops seems a bit misplaced. Even if Christianity were an invention, you would need to attribute its invention further back than bishops and Constantine. Because the existence of bishops is related to the New Testament canon as well as the first few centuries of Christian life. Could you elaborate more on what you mean?

      Peace,

      Luke

      • lozen

        I do not attribute "Christianity" further back than bishops and Constantine, Luke. Yes, of course, there were groups that followed the Jesus Way. These groups disagreed about who Jesus was and what his teachings were about. There were many groups with different religious ideas about the gods.
        The council called by Constantine established which of these writings and beliefs about Jesus were to become the canon of established Christianity. We don't know much about the writings left out. I believe anything that questioned the authority of those particular bishops or the king (church and king were one) didn't make it into the canon.

        • http://www.facebook.com/joewetterling Joe Wetterling

          lozen,

          Yes, there were misunderstandings or misapplications of Jesus' teaching very early on, which is why you also find correctives being applied just as early on - for example, many of the epistles in the Bible.

          The council you mention was called as just such a corrective, as well - to address the teachings of Arias. It covered quite a few other things as well (which makes sense - why waste the opportunity to take care of other business?); you can read the whole list of canons from the council: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3801.htm

          • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

            And this explains the Paulism that christians follow today. If one reads and follows the churches history, one would know that Paul was excommunicated from the church by the very person who was left in charge of the church by Jesus.

        • Doug Shaver

          The council called by Constantine established which of these writings and beliefs about Jesus were to become the canon of established Christianity.

          Are you referring to the Council of Nicaea? It had nothing to do with the scriptural canon.

      • mriehm

        The point about the stars is a weak one. Yes, many Greeks explained the planets (not the stars) as part of the cosmology of their deities. But there were many more gods than visible planets so that didn't go far. And the sun and moon were not equated with gods. So the fact that Genesis treats them as "lamps" does not subordinate those religions.

        The ancient Hebrews had the insight to understand the logical flaws with polytheism - where did all these divine beings come from, and how could all these different cultures hold all these different (and often conflicting) gods as true, and where does this indistinct pantheon start and end? To postulate a single, infinite god solved a lot of problems.

        But not all of them ;).

        --Marc Riehm.

        • lozen

          Hi Marc, I wonder why it is that a Hindu doesn't have a problem with many, many (some say thousands) of different goddesses and gods. They've been around much longer than those who are theists. I love nature and spend a lot of time in nature; I can understand believing in a goddess of flowers and the moon along with a god of trees and sky. Is it that different to pray to Mary or one of many saints?

          • mriehm

            Over the years Brahma has been "promoted" to be a supreme deity. So a very similar progression has been seen in Hinduism.

    • QuanKong

      Cavemen were overwhelmed by natural phenomena and attributed them to some powerful being or spirit that had to be appeased. Every tribe had a 'supernatural' being whatever it was called. Hence, in ancient civilizations there were pantheons of gods. The concept of one and only god is a recent
      one considering that mankind has been around for thousands of years.

      Organized religions evolve from tribal customs, practice, rituals, superstitions
      and idol worship. The similarities still exist. The only addition to religion is
      philosophy and morality. You see this in the mainstream religions of today.
      Suffice to say, god or God is a mental construct. Hence god is created by human and religion is the evolution of the belief in the existence of god plus the rites and rituals developed to venerate the god. However, not all religions are theistic or god-centric.

      • mriehm

        And of course in the bible one can see a progression from polytheism (when Yahweh was the god of the Israelites, but other gods were acknowledged) to monotheism.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Marc, thanks for the comment. Yet it's somewhat misleading. You make it seem as if the Bible and/or God *promotes* polytheism by acknowledging the fact that other people worshiped other "gods". Acknowledging this fact doesn't validate those "gods", nor does put them on equal footing with Yahweh. The Jews were emphatically monotheistic since the beginning.

          • mriehm

            No, read some biblical criticism. Monotheism is a concept which developed over time.

            The second commandment would not have been necessary if monotheism were so entrenched as you imply.

          • QuanKong

            That is correct. Looking at the natural history of mankind, every social enity had its own god or concept of one. If we take one social entity, that is monotheism. That entity - tribe, society holds on to the belief and pass on to the next generation, ingrained as culture, custom, faith. If we look at the Abraham faith - Judaism has one god, Christianity has one god and Islam has one god. But their gods are not the same! Why? Because they their god has different names.
            Is it possible to have another god? Certainly. All it takes is another group following a charismatic leader (founder) and viola a new god is created. It was like that and still is with schisms, denominations, traditions, schools, reformation, etc. But societies then were tolerant because there was no mass organised religion so to speak.

          • Andrew Stapleton

            QuanKong,

            I'm Catholic myself but having gotten to study just a bit more about the other main monotheistic religions (Judaism and Islam), it is pretty fascinating to see how different religions describe "their god".

            However, these two religions in union with Christianity (and I'm not quite sure of the semantics here) do profess the same God, the one, true God, God the Father, Yahweh (and the titles while having many differences go on). I don't think there is any debate between followers of these three religions on this topic, but I'm very open to correction.

            Peace,
            Andrew

          • Rik Conant

            Yes, the argument that Religion is a social construct is very solid. If any of the Monotheistic Gods were true why is it that said God appeared to only one specific culture and then spread socially just like any other idea? We can see how humans have spread concepts from agriculture to gunpowder to alphabets throughout history and there is nothing different about Religion, you can trace them historically, see how they moved around the globe and how other cultural ideas interfaced with them and evolved them. No Religion separates itself in this regard from any other social construct; if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

          • http://www.facebook.com/joewetterling Joe Wetterling

            Belief in other gods was acknowledged in the Old Testament, but to say that "those people believe in god x" is not to say "god x exists".

    • Doug Shaver

      I study the history of religion and it's so obvious it was invented by bishops and Constantine and reinforced by kings and bishops to control the people.

      I don't think it's the least bit obvious that religion didn't exist before Constantine.

  • mriehm

    Regarding #1, the Argument from Change: The way it is presented above, the argument is essentially, "Change is not possible in a closed system". This is clearly incorrect, viz the second law of thermodynamics.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kiel.gillard Kiel Gillard

      I'm not sure that is a fair characterisation. If you feel I misunderstand something, please point it out. For me, it seemed clear, the argument from change is not talking about a transferal of energy, heat, work, matter etc but rather about change in general.

      Given changes occur to, within or beyond any of the various thermodynamic systems requires something in reality, something existing (or to use the Aristotelian jargon, something in act) to make some other thing real, to make some other thing have existence (or to use the Aristotelian jargon again, reduce potency to act). For example, choose any of the thermodynamic systems. Something "outside" it, which is more fundamental to it, may be required to account for the state of the system, such as strong and weak nuclear forces.

      Simply put, whatever changes is changed by another.

      • alexander stanislaw

        To clarify, which of the following are you arguing?

        1) Change is impossible in a closed system in the absence of an outside cause.

        or

        2) The existence of a closed system needs to be explained by an outside cause, but change within an existing closed system is possible without outside causes.

        • http://www.facebook.com/kiel.gillard Kiel Gillard

          Thanks for following up. I did not mean to argue any of those choices. I was pointing out that any type of thermodynamic system, including the isolated systems, presuppose change. My argument is that if change is more general -- or more fundamental -- to thermodynamics then the OP's rendition of the argument from change is, if I understand it correctly, a straw man.

          Further to this, I added that whatever is changed is changed by another. In the case of the second law of thermodynamics, more fundamental levels of reality, such as the strong and weak nuclear forces, forces "outside" of an isolated system, can help explain why the matter, energy etc implicated inside the system have their way of being.

          • alexander stanislaw

            "such as the strong and weak nuclear forces, forces "outside" of an isolated system"

            Nuclear forces are not outside of an isolated system, they are contained within it. By definition outside forces do not affect an isolated system - yet isolated systems do change.

            "My argument is that if change is more general -- or more fundamental"

            I'm not exactly sure what this means but are you arguing the following then?

            3) Change in general is impossible in an isolated system.

            Sorry if my questions are ill posed, but I'm looking for a specific claim about the nature of change.

          • http://www.facebook.com/kiel.gillard Kiel Gillard

            Perhaps the quote marks and the use of the word "outside" are too insufficient and ambiguous (especially in the case of thermodynamics) to convey my meaning. For this I apologise.

            When I say the strong and weak nuclear forces are "outside" an isolated system, for example, what I meant to say was that thermodynamic systems are higher order and talk about matter and energy without any reference to lower or more fundamental aspects of reality such as the strong and weak nuclear forces, in the same way chemistry is a higher order science to that of physics, where physics offers descriptions of reality at lower or more fundamental level.

            I'm not quite sure what you're looking for about the nature of change. Given change occurs all throughout reality, a metaphysical definition is appropriate. Metaphysically, change is the reduction of potency to act, such as matter moved from (x1, y1, z1) to (x2, y2, z2) inside an isolated system, a hypothetical loop in string theory vibrating, a change in conscious state from thinking of one thing to thinking about another, the collapse of a quantum waveform, the keys on my keyboard going from up to down and down to up, the scotch in my glass quite pleasantly going from near-empty to full. In all these instances, something in act -- a changer -- has to have the ability to make these changes happen. Hence the metaphysical principle I keep ending my posts on: if something is changed, it is changed by a changer. Does this help clarify the nature of change?

            What do you think?

          • alexander stanislaw

            "if something is changed, it is changed by a changer. Does this help clarify the nature of change?"

            I don't think that this assertion is true - in Newtonian mechanics, there is no distinction between a changer and a thing that is changed. If object A exerts a force on object B then object B exerts a force on object A. There is no external changer.

            This has caused me to realize that thermodynamics isn't necessary to state my issue with the argument from change. Consider a universe containing just two objects that interact (say a harmonic oscillator). Change occurs but there is no external force, nothing more fundamental. Is this universe logically incoherent?

          • http://www.facebook.com/kiel.gillard Kiel Gillard

            So, you would hold that there is nothing else in reality helping to explain why the two objects are oscillating instead of not oscillating? Something such as gravity, for example? If so, why doesn't that thing count as a changer?

          • alexander stanislaw

            That last comment made me realize our attitudes towards science are completely different. For you scientific laws are explanations of why things happen, but for me they are descriptions of reality. For you charged particles exert forces on each other because of Coulomb's law but for me Coulombs law is a description of the fact that charged particles exert forces on each other. Without addressing this difference, this conversation will probably not progress much. The Argument from change only makes sense under your view.

            "So, you would hold that there is nothing else in reality, ... no thing such as gravity, for example?"
            Since there are only two objects, there is no need for a generalized law of attraction between bodies in such a universe. "Harmonic oscillator" is all that is needed to completely describe such a universe.

            You could define more physical quantities such as forces and potential energy I suppose - but as I mentioned, I don't think of physical laws as explanations but rather as descriptions.

            "to explain why the two objects are oscillating instead of not oscillating"
            So it seems that change isn't even a necessary component of your argument. If there was a universe in which there was no change you would argue:
            "but there has to be something to explain why the objects are not changing rather than changing"

          • http://www.facebook.com/kiel.gillard Kiel Gillard

            I'm not sure if I understand you correctly and I invite you to please clarify. I never argued that laws are the explanation for why things which undergo change are changed to have a particular way of being instead of some other way. If I did, please show me where because this would be a reification fallacy. I argued things in reality, that is, things which exist, such as gravity or the strong and weak nuclear forces, might help explain an instance of change such as why two objects are oscillating instead of not oscillating (such as moving in a straight line, remain stationary, etc).

            To put it metaphysically, I argued things in act reduce potency to act, or colloquially, I argued a changer changes a thing.

            Obviously, in a universe without change, the argument from change does not apply. If you feel that I argued this, please show me where. But given we experience change, then the argument from change would seem to apply.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Yes, for a simple example even below the statistics of thermodynamics, some of the carbon-14 in your body has decayed into nitrogen-14 through beta decay while you have been reading these words. Nothing caused this change, and for purposes of this decay you can consider each carbon-14 atom to be a closed system.

      • cloniews

        I would argue that the weak force caused the beta decay, not nothing.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          The decay is facilitated by the weak force, but there is no causal event associated with each decay event.

          • http://www.facebook.com/kiel.gillard Kiel Gillard

            Out of curiosity, can you please offer definitions for "facilitate" and "cause"? Then, could you please give your reasons why facilitation is not another type of causation?

          • FZ

            I'm not a QM expert, so I have a quick question. Are you saying that the weak force is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for beta decay? Does this imply that if there was no weak force, then there would be no beta decay?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Hi FZ, let me try this analogy. The force of gravity is necessary but not sufficient for a domino to fall. For a domino in one of those falling domino demonstrations to fall it needs both gravity and a push to get falling. Beta decay needs the weak force, but unlike the domino, it needs no specific cause for a given decay event. The decay events happen without cause at a random time in the future (assuming the atoms are not being hit by other subatomic particles) that has a statistical distribution.

          • Andrew G.

            Moreover, the statistical distribution corresponds to a memoryless process - that is, it is independent of how long the nucleus has existed in its undecayed state.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Indeed.

      • Curt Hoppe

        Wouldn't time be the cause of the decay? Without the passage of time there is no chance to decay. Time is the great equalizer.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Time, in this case, marks the statistical rate of decay of a large sample of 14C atoms. However, if you are looking at a single atom, and you wait a long time, it does not mean that there is a higher chance that atom will decay in the next, say, day than it would before you had waited the initial time. Time is not the event cause of the individual decay.

  • mriehm

    Regarding #2, The Argument from Efficient Causality: We (Catholics and atheists) both believe in the Big Bang. Subsequent to the Big Bang, thermodynamic laws, and physics and chemistry and biology, will suffice for the universe to evolve. So this discussion will quickly reduce to one about the Big Bang.

    While by no means an expert here, I agree that all this is unlikely to have sprung into being from absolutely nothing. There must have been _something_ that was perturbed at that "initial" instant.

    So I do believe that there was a cause for the Big Bang. However that does not have to be a deity. There are other possible cosmological explanations.

    And of course we know of no way to probe to "before" the big bang, or to "outside" our universe. And it is entirely possible that we never will.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Mriehm, first of all, we'd appreciate it if you could use your real name per the Commenting Rules, or at least share it here. It helps keep the conversation friendly and accountable. But thanks for the comment!

      You say, "So I do believe that there was a cause for the Big Bang. However that does not have to be a deity. There are other possible cosmological explanations."

      Of course this argument doesn't lead directly to the Judeo-Christian God, but it does tell us much about the Big Banger. It (or he) must exist outside of space and time; must exist without cause; and must be a designer-mind of some sort. If "deity" is defined as a super-natural force, then this First Cause sure fits the bill. It's outside of nature, it's transcendent, and it's creative.

      However, you also say, "There are other possible cosmological explanations." I'm curious what you have in mind. Thanks!

      • mriehm

        Apologies for the breach of etiquette. I'm Marc Riehm, from Toronto, Canada, and I'm logging in here with my Disqus account, mriehm.

        Friendly and civil sounds good to me. Nothing worse than a discussion which dissolves into pointless, rude name-calling within the first 30 words.

        You jumped immediately to use the word "Banger", i.e. to assume a being behind it - Oz behind the curtain. Again, I believe that there was something before the Big Bang (although I hear that the notion of "before" is a bit dubious here), but all is conjecture. The "something" could be inanimate - an infinite cycle of expansion (bang) and collapse has been postulated. We don't know.

        And we may never know. The universe isn't there to please us. It doesn't care whether we understand it or not. Distant galaxies exist but are whirling away from us and humankind shall never visit them. Similarly what came before the big bang may be forever unknowable.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Marc, you say, "The "something" [that caused the Big Bang' could be inanimate - an infinite cycle of expansion (bang) and collapse has been postulated. We don't know."

          It's true we don't know for certain what caused the big bang, but we do know it was not an infinite cycle of expansion and collapse. Though you're right that this has been postulation, it's mere conjecture. It's not only philosophically impossible but there is simply no physical evidence for such a theory. I recommend Ch 5 of Robert Spitzer's book, "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy" for an overview of why there cannot have been an infinite past (though we're planning to run an article on that topic soon here at Strange Notions.)

          • mriehm

            Of course it's conjecture. (As is all of theology.)

            And of course there could be no physical evidence, because the universe itself would have been destroyed.

            But it's a bit rich for a Believer to require physical evidence, since Belief is, really by definition, an excuse to ignore the lack of such evidence.

            I have grave doubts that it could be disproven "philosophically". There is a lot of philosophical mumbo jumbo out there, both for and against theology.

          • Ben

            Roger Penrose claims observational evidence for a cyclical universe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycles_of_Time_(book)

          • Michael Murray

            philosophically impossible

            What on earth Brandon does philosophically impossible mean when applied to the real world ?

            I look forward to the article on this topic.

          • Michael Murray

            OK I just had a quick browse of the internet. People seem very confused about infinity and all I can see are arguments that amount to "gosh infinity seems weird". This quote from wikipedia probably says it all

            Modern mathematics has no great problems working with infinity, but the concept still troubles some philosophers,

      • CBrachyrhynchos

        "It (or he) must exist outside of space and time; must exist without cause; and must be a designer-mind of some sort."

        All of these are questionable, either because the concepts themselves are incoherent and badly defined from our perspective ("outside" space and time and mind) or require a special pleading that isn't used in other forms of induction and don't apply to other conceptions of deity (uncaused cause). It remains to be seen whether the handful of remaining questions about early cosmology require a mind, can be explained by constraints remaining to be discovered, or are fundamentally unanswerable and thus demand strong agnosticism.

        -- Kirk S.

        • Rik Conant

          Yes the argument that any system in the universe or the universe itself is so complex or finely tuned that it must have been designed by something more complex and finely tuned uses curious logic, since you then must explain how the more complex and finely tuned designer came to be more complex and finely tuned without being designed itself. Original cause is a mystery but I find that theists can not stand mysteries, They seem to be less able to accept the uncomfortable feeling that comes with not having an explanation.

  • mriehm

    Regarding #4, The Argument from Degrees of Perfection: This one is very parochial and rife with flaws.

    In some cases there are no extremes. For example, in the case of heat and cold (lack of heat), there is an extreme cold, but there is no such thing as an extremum heat value. In general, it is not true that every arbitrary scale has an extremum that must exist.

    Also there is mention that the heat an object possesses is caused by external sources. Clearly in the case of a star this is untrue.

    So the leading statements about the material world are false to start with.

    And then the argument goes on to present a scale of goodness as an objective reality. But the examples are flawed. Not everyone believes that a stable and permanent way of being is superior to one that is fleeting and precarious. Mountain climbers or extreme skiers, for example.

    And I've often wondered what kind of heaven people could possibly have in mind as being perfect? Who among us would be happy without change, without challenges, without risks? "Stable and permanent" sounds like an eternal curse of absolute boredom to me.

    And take Buddhists for example - their ultimate goal is to break the "stable and permanent" cycle of rebirth, and to _cease_ to exist.

    So clearly there are some very different value systems out there from the one proposed, and, in fact, I wager that most folks would ultimately choose that Buddhist cessation of existence over anything "stable and permanent".

    The whole argument of an absolute, objective scale of goodness is a nice fantasy that is completely without basis.

    And to place intelligence on a goodness scale is mighty dim, dangerous and offensive. Consider Forrest Gump.

    --Marc Riehm

    • QuanKong

      Buddhists hold the view that nothing is permanent. And change takes place moment to moment. It recognises the universe is evloving and there are different planes of existence. However, it does not support First Cause and is not concern with the Beginning.
      In elevating 'suffering', Buddhism advocates a middle path between extremism. The ultimate goal is cessation of 'suffering' which can only take place when there is no rebirth or birth! And that is why, the First Noble Truth has been stated as 'Existence is Suffering'.

  • stanz2reason

    None of these arguments are all that convincing.

    1) ARGUMENT FROM CHANGE – Is it not possible that entities in a closed system can change within itself without the need for an external nudge?? A seed doesn’t magically grow into a tree, but uses a combination of energy from the sun, water & nutrients from the ground, ideal environmental conditions and time to grow. Change as it’s suggested here is simply an alteration of existing stuff. This doesn’t suggest Gods existence.

    2) ARGUMENT FROM CAUSALITY – So the universe is bound by causality, but God is not? First Cause arguments simply shift the question from who created the universe to who created God. Perhaps there is some sort of eternal something that is responsible for the universes creation. I feel it is a unsupported jump to say this act of creation was intentional, and an even further jump to say all acts that followed were intentional as well. In addition, it’s not impossible that science can come up with a compelling argument explaining creation, but in the meantime this God could exist in the shadows of our collective ignorance.

    3) ARGUMENT FROM TIME & CONTINGENCY – Replace the word ‘God’ in #12 with ‘a Smurf’ or ‘a Dragon’ and the problem with this argument presents itself. Something exists, therefore God exists? I don’t find that convincing.

    4) ARGUMENT FROM DEGREES OF PERFECTION – There are really a lot of unwarranted leaps here. “… being is better than nonbeing.” People who take their own lives, or try to take their own lives or people who would just be better off dying might disagree. Not all instances of ‘being’ are preferable to ‘non-being’. ”… that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being.” There are some stupid people who have a preferable existence to some smart people. “…that a being able to give and receive love is better than one that cannot” Perhaps this holds true for most, but there are plenty of genuinely miserable people who prefer just being jerks and don’t care about being loved. “…that our way of being is better, richer and fuller than that of a stone, a flower, an earthworm, an ant, or even a baby seal. this is spoken from having only had the limited viewpoint of a human (convenient that we’d find our views superior). While I admit I’d prefer to be a human to a stone (and also admit that this might be a function of my own bias of being human) I might imagine ways existing as a stone might be preferable to being a person. In addition the reply to the question doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Asking a question about the subjectivity of comparative value isn’t a self answering question.

    5) DESIGN ARGUMENT – This suffers from some of the same issues as the argument from causality. Should the observed complexity of the universe be so great as to imply it was willfully designed, it begs the question what then designed the designer capable of doing such a thing, and who designed him, and who designed him, etc. “The survival of the fittest presupposes the arrival of the fit” Who said that? I don’t think that’s accurate. I don’t think Darwinian theory pre-supposed order, so much as it pre-supposes simplicity and offers a mechanism of natural selection to show how complex things can arise naturally from simpler ones. Perhaps any biologists would like to chime in here.

    6) KALAM ARGUMENT – Why not just call it the Causality Argument Revisited? Did this really deserve it’s own number? I do like the response to question #2 ‘How do we know the cause of the universe still exists?’ which is basically ‘because I said so’ and to question #3 ‘Is god a he or an it’ which is basically just unintelligible.

    7) ARGUMENT FROM CONTINGENCY – Why not just call this Causality Argument Revisited… again.

    8) ARGUMENT FROM THE WORLD AS AN INTERACTING WHOLE – This is like a cousin of the Causality Argument. Oh, and Yikes. 1st That an object in the universe might need to be described in relation to other objects in order for it to be intelligible to us, doesn’t mean that holds in all cases. A drop of water in the ocean might almost immediately cease to be able to be described in an intelligible way to us doesn’t mean the water no longer exists. 2nd That parts of the world can no longer be understood apart from the whole doesn’t mean there wasn’t a time when this wasn’t an issue (and again whether or not it’s an issue is also debatable). The dynamics of the solar system are highly complex, so much so that it’s nearly impossible to discuss the orbits of any planet without mentioning the sun… but of course that was not always the case. 3rd The jump from conclusion # 1 to # 2 is absurd. At best you’ve suggested through flawed premises that something must exist outside of the universe in to have caused it, not that that cause somehow must be intelligent or willful.

    9) ARGUMENT FROM MIRACLES – Which numerous and well-attested miracles are those? With all the cell phone cameras in the world, you think you’d have come across at least 1 instance. Until then, this is silly.

    10) ARGUMENT FROM CONSCIOUSNESS – “But this universe is not itself intellectually aware.” You can argue this isn’t the case. The universe is intellectually aware of itself… the mechanism by which it is aware is called people. I read once a quick bit about if you had a pot hole filled with water, what a sentient puddle would think of the universe. It might think that it’s surrounding environment was fitted so perfectly to it’s form that it’s very existence couldn’t possibly have been the result of anything but a willful decision on the part of a benevolent creator. Try and apply that same reasoning to us and it becomes clear that this isn’t a valid argument.

    11) ARGUMENT FROM TRUTH – #1 isn’t proven, though even if it were, #2 is just nonsense. There is a rock on a table. The truth of that rock being on that table is true whether or not I’m there to observe it. Truth in this instance does NOT reside in the mind.

    12) THE ARGUMENT FOR THE ORIGIN OF THE IDEA OF GOD – Your world falls apart at #4. I am a person and can imagine things that are not persons. That I am limited and imperfect does not automatically prevent me from imagining that which is unlimited and perfect. The argument here is effectively ‘God exists because we can’t imagine him’. This is silly.

    13) THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT – Wait, I thought from the previous argument that we were unable to imagine God? OK. I can imagine an infinitely large cupcake. An infinitely large cupcake in reality & in my mind would be greater than an infinitely large cupcake in my mind alone. If this infinitely large cupcake did not exist, I could imagine a greater one. But as this infinitely large cupcake is ‘that which a greater cannot be thought’, it must exist… or perhaps our ability to vaguely conceptualize an infinite of something isn’t sufficient for saying it exists.

    14) MORAL ARGUMENT – Your world falls apart at #1. Were that true there would be zero instances of moral violations in all the world. This of course is not the case. Yes your argument assumes objective moral values, but do to the existence of immoral acts (whatever than means), you’re ultimately making a better case for subjective morality rather than the existence of God.

    15) THE ARGUMENT FROM CONSCIENCE – Suggesting people following their own moral compass does not in any way prove the existence of God any more than following my hunger compass to McDonalds or my musical compass to the Beatles. If you’re an employer, and due to budget cuts you have to lay off someone who’s otherwise a good worker, a great person and in real need of maintaining employment, wouldn’t you still have to lay them off even if by doing so you’re disobeying your conscience? What if, as you mentioned that one persons conscience tells them one thing and anothers persons conscience tells them something else. Is God bi-polar? If he were pushing someone one way and pushing another in opposition, wouldn’t that make him kind of a jerk? Or maybe we’re just inclined to follow our moral tastes because we feel they’ve served us well in the past and have earned out trust. I feel you’re elevating morality above other things that are frankly just matters of opinion, no matter how wide spread they are. Making vague comparisons between tangible & intangible things doesn’t really say anything.

    16) THE ARGUMENT FROM DESIRE – This is ultimately a distant cousin of the Ontological argument. For me, even if I bought #1, it’d fall apart for me with #2. I don’t see how I can desiring a tastier drink or getting 9 hours of sleep vs. 6 somehow proves Gods existence. So basically human ambition proves Gods existence. That’s not very convincing.

    17) ARGUMENT FROM AESTHEIC EXPERIENCE – Cute. I’ve always preferred Chopin. It doesn’t say much though to the overall thesis that this is the most convincing argument.

    18) ARGUMENT FROM RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE – I believe that some sort of cross disciplinary fieldwork combining biology/sociology/ anthropology will have the best response to this argument if it hasn’t already been made. I’d only say that 1) many people of different eras and widely different cultures claimed (the earth was flat / changes in weather were the result of gods moods / The sun is a divine being)… 2) It is inconceivable that so many people could be so utterly wrong… 3) Turns out they were… and that with a little scientific digging the results we found were far more compelling.

    19) THE COMMON CONSENT ARGUMENT – Why not just call this the Religious Experience Argument Part II? Same criticisms apply.

    20) PASCAL’S WAGER – When your argument is the essentially the same as the tag line for the lottery (‘Hey… you never know’) it’s not very convincing.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Stanz, first of all, thanks for the comment!

      Second, per the commenting rules we ask that in the future you use your real name--either by adjusting your Disqus username, signing in through one of the other social media outlets, or adding your name to the bottom of your comment. This is to keep the discussion friendly and accountable.

      Third, aiming to refute all twenty arguments in one comment is laudable but it makes combox dialogue almost impossible. Few people have time to respond to each of your arguments in depth.

      Therefore if you're interested in serious engagement, please pick out just one of the arguments to focus on and I and others would be glad to discuss it. Thanks again!

      • lozen

        If it makes combox dialogue impossible to refute all twenty arguments in one comment why list all twenty arguments to begin with? I agree it's almost impossible to digest all twenty arguments and few people have time to read and 20 arguments in depth.

    • http://www.facebook.com/connor.mcginnis.184 Connor McGinnis

      I'll comment on a couple of your since I am not a particularly big fan of most of the arguments (I prefer to stick with qualia):
      #2: Your post seems to indicate that you are intelligent and knowledgeable in this area, so it surprises me that you'd bring up the "Who created God" rebuttal. This Christian God holds the property of necessity, so in reference to the Christian God, you are essentially asking "Who created the uncreated being?" Now, we can dispute as to whether or not a necessary being exists, but if that being does exist, it doesn't make sense to ask who created Him. Also, in saying it is possible that there is some other eternal thing that created the universe, I find it seems to commit the Phantom Third Option Fallacy, namely, offering another option that happens to be unknown that could rebut the argument. If infinite regress is not an option, the only options I find that could be necessary are abstract objects or an disembodied mind. The problem is that abstract objects are impotent and therefore, probably didn't create the universe.

      #3: Both Smurfs and dragons tend to be tangible, material creatures, so accepting the premise that an infinite regress is not impossible, there would be no matter from the universe (or multiverse) for the creatures to exist from. An immaterial mind, however, would work as it needs no matter.

      #6: I'm not sure your addressing of question 2 was fair. If God is outside the universe and therefore, not in a temporal sequence, it is curious as to how He could cease to exist and going from existence to non-existence tends to require a temporal chain. On number three, an impersonal entity (like a rock) cannot change its state of affairs without an external cause, so saying it is an impersonal object just pushes back the infinite regress. A mind, however, can change its state of affairs (granted the distinction between a brain and a mind).

      #9: Fatima comes foremost to my mind, which we can discuss if you wish.

      #18: I think there is a key difference, here. In the religious experience argument, one is experiencing something and receiving information. Then a conclusion (God is drawn from that). With your analogy, there was a lack of information, so people just made the logical assumption from what they had, namely the earth was flat. I think this is less and argumentum ad populum, and more, "Many people have apparently experienced X, meaning X is likely to be true for at least one of the people."

      • stanz2reason

        Connor... thanks for the reply.

        #2... With regards to bringing up the 'who created god' point, I understand what you're suggesting with 'first cause' or 'unmoved mover' or 'necessary being'. This argument was made with the assumption that causality is necessary. I mean to suggest two things by bringing up the 'who created god' point. 1) That it's not a certainty that causality is absolute. 2) By positing the absoluteness of causality, you're then asking that I make an exception to this rule to say god wasn't caused.

        The way I see it the fallacy of this argument is either an infinite regress (if assuming causality is absolute) or a special plea to define god to be the exception to your rule. Your choice.

        In addition, a first cause event would not automatically imply a deliberate act of will... and then even if we could somehow show it did it would not automatically imply said deity remained to see the show... and then even if we were to demonstrate it was an act of will and that said deity remained behind this says nothing to whether said deity was a christian god or even more specifically a catholic one.

        #3... Smurfs & Dragons aren't tangible in that they're not real, but I understand. I see no reason to acknowledge an immaterial will, say like a ghost, as there is zero credible evidence for such things existing. As material beings we can only speak with any authority on matters supported by empirical evidence. Anything else is opinion and guess work. It seems reasonable to assume that were god to be interacting with the universe at the level described in even the most moderate religious circles, there would be some evidence supporting this. There is currently none.

        #6... No one can speak to what lies outside the universe, though we might be able to create plausible theoretical models, some with a god, some without. I do not grant a distinction between a brain and a mind.

        #9... I doubt the evidence you'd give for such things would be convincing as plausible alternatives that don't invoke the supernatural exist. It's funny how quickly miracles disappear now that everyone has a camera-phone.

        #18... I doubt you're receiving anything aside from what your brain is telling you.

        • http://www.facebook.com/connor.mcginnis.184 Connor McGinnis

          Hi stanz2reason.

          #2: You'll have to forgive me, but would it be possible to clarify what you mean necessary causality? Are you questioning the Principle of Sufficient Reason? I'd say that every effect has a preceding cause, if that is what you are asking, but I wouldn't say God is an effect, for which my justification would be arguing against an infinite regress. If I was way off the mark on that one, I apologize. I may need some clarification on that one. As far as us not knowing from this argument what type of god, if any, this would entail, I'd agree. I don't think it comes close to being the God I believe in.

          #3: I'm going into an area I'm probably not qualified to, but I will attempt to anyways. I'll assume that you are saying that minds probably come from brains, but I think there might be a couple pot-holes in that road. If you believe that the mind is a product of the brain, that is basically epiphenomenalism. It seems to me that would lead to determinism. Say we see a baseball or Frisbee flying in the air toward us. The photons bounce off of the object into our eyes. This causes some neurons to fire and some chemicals to be released. At no point along their neural pathways do the electrical currents stop and think about where to go. They simply travel to the arm to make the nerves cause the muscles to catch the object. If we cannot consciously control where the electrical currents go, how are we able to actualize choices? It seems that we should have no actual choice. Furthermore, I don't see how determinism could actually be true considering random processes don't have our best interests in mind. Why don't I gouge my eyes out with a spoon when I am eating cereal for breakfast? Why don't I happily jump out of a window to my death below? It seems because I choose to. However, the naturalistic explanation seems somewhat lacking in that area, which provides to evidence (to me, it seems) of a soul...an immaterial mind.

          #6: I think physicists can definitely create coherent and working models. However, for it to be plausible to me, at least, I'd need more evidence than just the statement of "Math proves it," that I hear too often. Maybe there are good explanations, but I am still waiting to hear them.

          #9: Well, I think several thousand witnesses (30,000-70,000 is what I have seen) from different belief systems and some from differing locations provides a good base. I realize personal testimony can be somewhat problematic, but I think the vast numbers with few fatally conflicting stories is pretty. Consider the fact that witness testimony is still considered to be very important in court. If people were that untrustworthy, I'm not sure we could trust the judicial system.

          #18: I don't think this is an argument that we could prove either way. I personally have no big stories (which makes sense considering I've never really been in need of any big conversion or change), but some testimonies I've read are pretty interesting.

          Thanks for the timely reply.

          • stanz2reason

            Note: In an effort to organize my posts, Im going to split up my responses accordingly. I'll try and respond to the rest when I have the time, though I apologize in advance if I forget and move onto other things. This is my 'first cause' response:

            The original article (and most of the varied arguments about first cause) start with a first assumption of everything having a cause:

            #2: "Now ask yourself: Are all things caused to exist by other things right now? Suppose they are. "

            or

            #6: "Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being."

            or

            #7: "If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist."

            Here, you're setting the ground rules for all your following arguments. Basically, all things are caused. Were god bound by your ground rules, it would simply beg the question of who then created god, who created god's god, etc. creating the infinite recess I mentioned.

            So to avoid this, immediately following the established rules there is a plea for god to be an exception to this rule, the 'uncaused cause', the 'un-moved mover', etc. This is done by defining god as the exception, but it's still asking for an exception. I'm not opposed to exceptions to certain rules per se, but I do expect there to be sufficient grounds to do so. What exactly are the grounds for allowing god to break the rules? An immaterial will (a being which we have no evidence of) operating outside the universe (a place which we have no evidence of) before there was a time (a concept that isn't meaningful to our understanding of time) doesn't seem to be solid grounds for making an exception.

            This brings us back to the original assumption that causality is an absolute. This seems like a reasonable stance to take, as everything in our day to day lives works relatively cleanly in a cause-effect model. But I would argue that it does not hold in all cases. Causality as an absolute gives us variations of the chicken & the egg dilemma. In order for first cause arguments to be coherent, it seems abandoning causality as an absolute should be the first thing. In an ironic twist of fate, first cause arguments as they are typically made are a better 'proof' for absolute causality not being accurate than they are for the existence of god.

          • http://www.facebook.com/connor.mcginnis.184 Connor McGinnis

            Hi stanz2reason.

            Thanks for the clarification on #2.

            If we accept the premise that it is special pleading for God to be defined as necessary, we are left with two options, as far as I can tell. It seems either the universe we see around us was an exception to causality being absolute (it came into being uncaused) or we get stuck with an infinite regress. Neither of these are appealing for possibly the same reason as God. So far as we know, they aren't really any examples of either out there. Furthermore, with an infinite regress, there seem to be other problems. The analogy I've heard is that I need to borrow a book. However, I need to ask my friend for it. My friend doesn't have it, so he needs to as his friend, and this goes on ad infinitum. I'm never going to get the book, am I? So far as I can tell, the same principle would apply to the universe. However, we have reached the present moment (the book in our analogy), so it seems there must have been a stopping point for us to receive it. Another possible objection is that if time extended back into infinity, all potential would be actualized, and there would really be nothing left, here. It seems all three possibilities (God, uncaused universe, infinite regress) are not all the palatable. However, due to the apparent problems with an infinite regress along with the point that an uncaused universe seems to have even less evidence than God (I think we can agree that there is evidence for God, regardless of the quality, like personal experience, etc). It seems to me, therefore, that out of the options, God seems like the least ad hoc and problematic, for now.

            Hope I hit more closely on the mark, this time.

          • stanz2reason

            Hey Connor, my objection to the first cause arguments the way they are argued are due to
            #1: A starting point for 'First Cause' arguments by positing universal causality leads to an infinite recess of who created whom.
            #2: Asking for god to be an exception to this rule is a special plea I don't see fit to grant. I'd need something more substantial before I'd grant this.

            Lets say for a moment I bought the idea of something existing prior to the universe (which I don't oppose as we're speculating on something for which we currently have zero evidence so the skys the limit so to speak) that this something did in fact cause the universe to spring into existence and that we've somehow resolved the issue of who created this something, if anyone/thing. This still doesn't really allow us to attribute any meaningful characteristic we'd commonly award to god.

            #1: Was this something a 'who' or a 'what'?
            #2: Let's say it's a 'who' and let's call this 'who' god. Was gods act of creation a deliberate act of will or accidental, perhaps something more akin to a reflex or an instinct?
            #3: Let's say god created the universe as a deliberate act, did god stick around afterwards or did he start spinning a top on a table and walk away?
            #4: Let's say god created the universe as a deliberate act and stuck around afterwards, is he able to affect and alter his creation, or is he relegated to observer status for all time?
            #5: Let's say god created the universe as a deliberate act, sticks around afterwards and is able to affect his creation, does he actually do this?
            #6: Let's say god created the universe as a deliberate act, sticks around afterwards, that he can and does affect the universe, is he limited to a very general cosmological alterations, or does this trickle down to meddling in the affairs of mortals?
            #7: Let's say god created the universe as a deliberate act, sticks around afterwards, and he can and does affect the universe on all scales, grand and small. Are gods acts and intentions what we would consider good, indifferent, or bad? Does this say anything about why he created the world? Does this say anything at all to how he expects us to act? Does this say anything at all about how he expects to be regarded? Does this say anything at all about where our place in eternity lies? Et cetera...

            A more clever man than I can fill up what I'd imagine are many more opportunities to note where attempts to grant such characteristics to god are just unbased assumption on top of unbased assumption on top of unbased assumption.

  • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

    "They have also believed that an effective rational argument for God's existence is an important first step in opening the mind to the possibility of faith—in clearing some of the roadblocks and rubble that prevent people from taking the idea of divine revelation seriously."

    This part of the opening seems to make argument number 17 look fairly ridiculous. It's simply a barefaced non-sequitur. I suppose it is a sort of tongue-in-cheek argument, but that seems to contradict with the whole thrust of this article, which is to offer some "effective rational argument" for God, and there is no disclaimer like there is for the ontological argument.

    I would argue that, unlike the cosmological and other arguments, # 17 as stated will not convince anyone, nor is it influential. It (probably unfairly) casts doubt on the intellectual rigor of the author, and the post would be stronger without it.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Nolan, with all due respect, you'd be part of "or you don't" Kreeft refers to. No big deal, but don't discount the arguments effect on others. In his other talks, Dr. Kreeft points out that he has three close friends who were led to God via the music of Bach--I believe two agnostics and one atheist. So it clearly does have *some* persuasive power to some people. It's clearly the most subjective argument of the twenty but that doesn't make it necessarily ineffective.

      • http://nolscuriosity.wordpress.com/ Nolan

        I think it would be fair to say that I am in the "or you don't" group, and I wasn't aware that it had actually convinced anyone, so if Kreeft's claim is true about his friends' conversions, I stand corrected there.

        I understand that there are ways to bridge the gap to make a real argument from aesthetic experience, but that's not what Kreeft does, so I maintain that the "argument" is still fairly ridiculous. It does not count as an "effective rational argument." It's a non-sequitur, and anyone who is converted by such an argument does so irrationally.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3007125 Denver Greene

    Is there a way that each of these arguments could be put onto a separate page so that a discussion for each one can happen in an individualized location. This would make discussion much easier, especially for such a robust set of ideas.

    • lozen

      Hear, hear!

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Yes, Denver, that would make it easier. However, most of these are variations on the same theme with the same logical flaws that have been shown long ago. I recommend "The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God" by J.L. Mackie, which carefully goes through all the old arguments. Recent work comes from cosmology and scientific examination of the concept of "nothing" itself. For that see Lawrence Krauss on "A Universe from Nothing" and Pascal's Wager is nothing more than an arms race among religions to come up with the very best Heaven and the very worst Hell.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3007125 Denver Greene

        Quine, Nice I'm just reading some of his things now. And I know they are all terrible arguments. I just wanted to shoot them down one at a time instead of in on large comment.

        • melo8

          yeah...it's almost too easy though

  • QuanKong

    Let's go back to the first humans (cavemen), the primitive conditions, the challenge
    of survival, and the many phenomena which they lacked knowledge or understanding. Ignorance and fear would drive them to conjure some ‘beings’
    having supernatural power or superlative qualities. These 'beings' began as
    spirits, deities, etc. which took shapes and forms these early humans encountered. All these are evidenced in archeological finds, cave paintings, artifacts, folklores and mythologies. Veneration and worship of spirits, deities, the departed ones and gods occupied the lives of these early humans and are evidenced
    in tribal rites and rituals which persisted till today. Every tribe or social group (society) had its god and interestingly, the gods/goddesses were quite similar to their creators!

    The concept of a supreme being (God) or whatever it is called is a modern one considering the thousands of years of human existence. Superlative qualities such as omnipotence and omniscience were attributed to God as well as divine attributes like love, forgiveness and so forth. All these can be summarized as mental construct otherwise called make-belief. If the construct (God) does not possess such supernatural and divine qualities, there will be no faith! The flip-side to this is there is also the Devil who is supernatural but possesses no divine qualities.

    Now, the million$ question: Why is there no 20 arguments that the Devil
    exists?

  • melo8

    The more I read this article, the more annoying it gets. It's all about how you define god or various terms and premises. These arguments are mostly terribly weak and all weak and full of fallacies.

    This one is the worst!

    "The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

    There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
    Therefore there must be a God.

    You either see this one or you don't."

    lol...I see God where I want to see God, therefore God exists.

    It's the classic everything is because of God to the religious. It undermines and completely discredits the human that did the incredible achievement.

    • QuanKong

      Indeed, a lot of arguments are not just weak but ludicrous. Do not just believe the scripture or any sage - ancient or modern. Ask simple and good questions and if you don't get a credible answer, you should just bunk it.

      Take this question: Why is there no 20 arguments that the Devil
      exists?

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    Brandon, Dr. Kreeft:

    As a lifelong atheist, I am more than willing to concede that I cannot prove that the universe did not have a first cause, and that the arguments that it did have have a good deal of logic on their side. Since I did not get an invite to the Big Bang, I can't "know" one way or another.

    As has already been mentioned on this thread, the proofs of God's existence given here could be accepted as true by a deist or pantheist with very few reservations.

    But what Christianity demands is not belief in "God", but belief in the revealed God of its scriptures. Do you anticipate marshaling a similar series of proofs which compel that more specific belief? I would welcome the chance to examine them.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Vicq, you make a good point. It tends to be glossed over in these existence arguments as if the mere establishment of an origin by creative force would automatically instantiate all the attributes (or at least the ones someone cherry picks) from scripture. (William Lane Craig is notorious for this.) If that is Hebrew scripture you get one kind of deity, if Christian you get something else, and if Hindu you are going to get a zoo load of deities.

      It is not strictly on the topic of this thread, but the next level down that you mention does involve the problems with logical self-consistency of associated attributes and inconsistency with objectively observable evidence from science. We can take that up another day.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        Exactly. I think most atheists waste an awful lot of time, oxygen, and electrons in futile attempts to demonstrate that the big bang was accidental rather than purposeful.

        I find it not at all objectionable to consider that the universe may have been set in motion by a first cause, but one who is unaware of or indifferent to my fate.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Many of these arguments take the form of what in rhetoric are known as "forcing arguments" in which you present a list of alternatives and then show why all the alternatives other than the one you support are wrong, thus "forcing" the acceptance of your position, even though you have provided no actual support for it. Here, one is expected to accept that either the Universe came about by accident, or it was the intentional creation of the specified deity or deities with all the attributes assumed by the presenter. The idea is then that if responder can't show evidence of spontaneous existence the supernatural alternative is "forced."

          I agree that this kind of argument is bogus for the reasons you (Vicq) stated, as well as the general failure to show that all alternatives have been considered. It is not valid to force someone to a conclusion that would require knowledge of all future alternatives of which we have no knowledge at this time. This is why it is important to see through the rhetoric. In the past a forcing argument could have been made for Zeus as the cause of lightning. Perhaps Zeus is the cause of some lightning, but we now know enough about electrostatic charge in the atmosphere to have a theory of lightning that frees us from begin forced to believe in Zeus. The current physics provides us with a theory allowing for the possibility of uncaused existence at the quantum scale. That is all it takes to dump the forcing; not that the Universe did arise by such a means, but just that it could have.

          • http://www.facebook.com/connor.mcginnis.184 Connor McGinnis

            With all due respect, it seems that attacking forced arguments would make us compromise in other areas. Obviously, we are not omniscient, but if we have to keep waiting for more information and evidence before drawing a conclusion by process of elimination, it seems we'd never be able to do so. We'd be dead in the water in science. Newton didn't say, "Well since I don't have all the possible information of the universe, I cannot draw my conclusions yet." If, with our current evidence and information, theism has any plausibility, I think it is okay to accept. Deciding to stop and wait for more evidence while not making and current hypotheses probably won't get us very far.

            If in the past, a valid, sound and plausible argument could be mad for Zeus creating lighting, while it wouldn't be correct, would seem at least reasonable to believe. I'm not sure many theists are saying that the argument can never be invalidated...simply that, at the present, a decent case can be made with what we have.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            As I said up-thread, Connor, I'm quite willing to accept for the purpose of discussion that a "decent case" can be made for the universe having an uncaused cause.

            Making that case by no means establishes said cause as the God of the Christian scriptures. I'm waiting politely for an equally well-marshaled series of proofs to that latter end.

          • http://www.facebook.com/connor.mcginnis.184 Connor McGinnis

            I don't think the argument intends to establish any specific god...simply a necessary being with enough power to create a universe.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            But a "gap" argument does not "establish" anything. It only looks to state a lack of knowledge, at this time. Again, this is why the "forcing" arguments fail to "establish" in cases of the supernatural. These are not like elimination among known causes based on objective evidence, they are cases of the well known "Sherlock Holmes Fallacy." http://evolutionwiki.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes_Fallacy

          • http://www.facebook.com/connor.mcginnis.184 Connor McGinnis

            Hi Q. Quine.

            If you don't mind, I'm just gonna paste from the link you gave:
            ""When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".

            To apply this method, you first have to find explanations, then
            eliminate them one by one. Both steps require omniscience to make it
            right:

            you have to find every possible explanation, which is very improbable given the limited imagination of humans,

            you have to disprove all of them, except one, but if one of the explanations is unfalsifiable, it will be left over at the end."

            I don't think we are trying to show that all the other options have been disproved. If one were declaring with infallible certainty that God is the conclusion and only conclusion, you objection would hold, I think.

            Using the contingency (maybe along with the Kalam) arguments as examples, one is inferring the best explanation from the evidence we have. The gap is that we don't know what (if anything) caused the universe. What information we do have is:
            1. Our universe specifically, likely had a beginning
            2. We really have no concrete examples of anything coming into being uncaused.
            3. We have no examples (as far as we know) of something that has existed for an infinite amount of time.
            These coupled with other objections seem to cast doubt onto infinite regress or uncaused universe and more onto God.
            Sure, we still don't know what caused the universe (and I think it is a leap of faith to say we ever truly will). However, between the contenders that are generally brought up, we try to show God to be the strongest. To say there is some unknown other contender that might make hypothesizing God invalid, if that other option is not articulated, it seems to commit the Phantom Third Option fallacy.

            So maybe when I used "established," I was using too strong of a word. I was merely appealing to what appaered to me to be the best inference in light of the information we do have.

            So maybe to clarify a bit more. I am not making a definite pronouncement on the cause of the universe, simply an inference that may very possibly be later disproved. The Sherlock Holmes Fallacy, from what I gathered, seemed to be referring to a more absolutist stance.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Hi Connor. My point was that it is not rhetorically honest to use "best inference" in a forcing argument. How are you going to establish that "best" is good enough? We have had a long history in which people attributed actions to supernatural agents because that was the "best" anyone could think of at the time. Those actions are now attributed to natural processes and all that is left is the earliest cosmology.

            1) What does the word "beginning" mean when applied to the Universe?

            2) On the quantum level things come into existence without cause all the time (literally, all the time).

            3) True, but we don't even know if the mathematical concept of infinity (let alone what Cantor level of infinity) can be applied to time.

            I want to assure you that in this time of modern physics, these attempt to revive the old cosmological arguments are not going to do you any good. Please watch this video on the subject:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZUCc5m8sE

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I agree that the arguments above are only that.

            But in that case, they are not particularly valuable from the standpoint of Catholicism, Christianity, or even theism.

            I could get up in the morning, look at the beautiful wooded hilltop on which I live, and say, "Thanks, necessary being!!". This by no means proves that said being is listening, or appreciates my thanks.

            Those latter are the postulates which I think any specifically Christian evangelical site should attempt to prove.

  • http://profiles.google.com/smuckitelli Michael Neville

    One of the strongest arguments against the existence of gods how each group of people inventing religions come up with completely different ideas. Wotan, Zeus, Vishnu, Huitzilopochtli, Yahweh, etc., etc., etc. have completely different attributes. If the "evidence" was so convincing then everyone would have come up with the same god. Since they quite obviously didn't, then it seems quite reasonable that gods are inventions of peoples' imaginations.

    For that matter, if the evidence for Jesus was convincing then there would be only one Christian church instead of thousands of sects. John Spong and Fred Phelps are both self-proclaimed Christians but neither of them accept the other as a follower of Jesus.

    • Eevie

      Just two quick thoughts on what you said:
      1) Although in different form, all of the groups of people you mentioned did believe in a god or multiple gods. The constant here should be noted.
      2) As for the multiple sects of religion we have today, it boils down to interpretation. People interpret a single concept in many ways for various reasons. Another example of this is law. Let's look at the constitution. Why do you think we have political parties?

  • http://profiles.google.com/smuckitelli Michael Neville

    Please don't tell me your actually giving Pascal's Wager as a legitimate philosophical argument for a god. Even Homer Simpson came up with a decent argument against Pascal's Wager: "Suppose we’ve chosen the wrong god. Every time we go to church we’re just making him madder and madder."

    Since there are literally an infinity of different possible gods and each god is no more likely to exist than any other, there is no reason to favor one over another. A common defense is that if you choose a religion, at least you have a non-zero chance of being correct. This is false because one divided by infinity is zero.

    Since no god is more likely to exist than any other, placing your bet on atheism is not any more harmful than placing your bet on a particular god. Of course, due to the fact that 1/∞ = 0, this doesn't matter anyway, since you're guaranteed eternal torture. The reason you should place your bet on atheism is because since everything will certainly lead to hell, you might as well not waste your time, money, energy, and resources worshiping and performing other religious acts. By realizing that there is not only one conceivable god, Pascal's wager actually says to wager there is no god.

    Of course this argument fails to account for gods who aren't sadists, i.e. care more about how good a person you are than whether you believe they exist or not.

  • Brian Pansky

    I recommend checking "arguments for the existence of god" over at iron chariots website. (or whichever specific argument you like)

  • hazemyth

    I'm very disappointed in this article, particularly coming from an academic. The arguments are presented in such credulous, tendentious terms that they seem very silly. They would have appeared far stronger if they were subjected to more skepticism and scrutiny.

    I realize that this piece seeks only to briefly to survey arguments in favor of the existence of God, rather than to employ them to convince readers, but such a survey would be more significant if the arguments were presented in more serious fashion.

    • QuanKong

      Whether the article comes from an academic or a sage or wtitten in the scripture, do not just believe everything to be correct or true. Logic and reasons can be flawed. Arguments can be skewed. Truth can be twisted.

      • Doug Shaver

        Logic and reasons can be flawed. Arguments can be skewed. Truth can be twisted.

        So, when I see a logical argument, should I believe the conclusion or not?

  • Dcn Harbey Santiago

    Folks,

    In defense of Dr Kreft (Not that the good doctor needs ME to defend him), this "article" is part on a bigger work called "Handbook of Catholic Apologetics". It should be viewed in that context an not as a stand alone article. The original work had in mind a "friendly" Catholic audience. This is why to some of the SN audience, not on the original intended audience, the proofs might sound "soft" and even "snarky". Just an unfortunate artifact of quoting from a bigger literary work.

    I have to admit that when I saw the post, I had misgivings precisely because of
    this. The fact is, each one of these "proofs" deserve their own stand
    alone post.

    "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

    Deacon Harbey Santiago

  • http://lukeparrish.rationalsites.com Luke Parrish

    A brief response to #1: Physical systems appear to change themselves routinely. For example, an insulated box containing chemicals that react together might warm up. A more elaborate example would be living things, which perform actions based on extremely complex patterns in their molecular arrangements and in response to their environment. You could put a cow in a steel box with air and food, and it would eventually die of old age (change) with no other input.

    The Arrow of Time is an interesting question -- why change, anyway? However, if you study cryptographic hashing algorithms you will realize that there are mathematical algorithms (and by extension, physical processes) that are very hard to reverse. So when particle A changes in such a way, and sends a signal to particle B, it becomes exponentially more complex to reverse the sum of the interactions as more of them occur. No outside agent seems to be required to explain this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joewetterling Joe Wetterling

      I have studied those algorithms, Luke, and I've noticed that those algorithms do, in fact, require an outside explanation. The algorithm itself - the actual logical process - does nothing. The algorithm cannot cause a value to change. Only the running code does something, and that requires a platform and an outside call. It also requires a programmer - an intelligent agent.

      Programming (my area of specialty was AI, not cryptography) only led me toward recognition of God. When I see (so to speak) molecular interaction or genes coding or whatnot, I can't help but see code. Programming. And a program has a programmer.
      Better programs have active, interested programmers who attend to where and how the code is being used, guide its development, and care about not just the processes but the people receiving the benefits of those processes -- a *personal* programmer, if you will.

      • http://lukeparrish.rationalsites.com Luke Parrish

        I think I see what you are going for, Joe, but let's try reductio ad absurdum on that... Take 1+1==2, which is a simple algorithm based on the primitives of addition and equality. It produces consistent results across a lot of different platforms (e.g. placing rocks in a bucket, logic gates, etc.), and could independently occur to any programmer.

        In fact, an alien on another planet with significant technology, far too distant to be causally influenced by us or vice versa, would almost certainly have no choice but to implement the same algorithm. Even an alien in a dimensional construct with very different notions of space and time would be likely to implement this exact same algorithm.

        I take this to mean that the algorithm itself has, at least in a manner of speaking, a completely independent existence relative to any particular instantiation thereof.

        Is SHA256 so different?

  • primenumbers

    For every normal thing that we wish to know exists or not, we are never presented with 1, never mind 20 arguments for existence. The mere fact that 20 are presented here is strong evidence for the non-existence of God, not least that each and every one of those arguments has been shown to be flawed and the commentary associated with each argument presented fails to even begin to address those issues.

    In summary, if such a being as a God existed, there would be no need for arguments to show the existence of such a being. That such arguments are presented in such number lends strong weight to the non-existence of God.

    • Eric MacKinnon

      Now that's probably one of the more absurd arguments I have ever encountered: that strong arguments for God's existence demonstrate His non-existence. Talk about standing logic on its head.

      • primenumbers

        First, it's no more absurd than any of the above arguments presented for the existence, and secondly you rebuttal of the argument is atrocious. The whole concept of God as define above is absurd, so I find both your arguments and mine somewhat fitting.

        • Eric MacKinnon

          My "argument" is merely restating your absurd one. The onus is on you to demonstrate evidence for your bold assertion that all of the above arguments are absurd.

          • primenumbers

            Each and every argument presented above has been shown to be false. With some philosophy text-books you'll find standard rebuttals, with a google search you'll find a more varied set of rebuttals and commentary on them.

            What you need to do is pick one, one you think is not flawed, and present it as best as you can. Presenting 20 and expecting anything other than a generic comment is asking rather a lot.

          • Eric MacKinnon

            "Each and every argument presented above has been shown to be false."
            No, I think you are confusing replying to an argument with proving it false. Certainly replies have been offered, but by no means have all been proven false. For instance, no one has proven either the cosmological argument or the design argument to be false.

          • primenumbers

            The cosmological argument as presented is false due to flaws in its construction. A quick google will lead you to many many articles on the errors of kalam.

            Design argument relies on people's intuition to determine design from the appearance of design, and hence flawed. First prove that design has occurred, and then we can talk further on who or what may have been the source of that design.

          • Eric MacKinnon

            Instead of me "googling" for the supposed many errors of the kalam version, why don't you present some?
            So your saying that design would be the normal human assumption based on empirical evidence? How do you suggest it be proven true? How would you suggest it be proven false?

          • primenumbers

            "How do you suggest it be proven true? How would you suggest it be proven false?" - that's the whole problem. Without a good, reliable method to determine design from the appearance of design what you get is a subjective opinion on whether it's design or not, which is not a suitable method to build an argument for the existence of God upon. I don't know of such a suitable method, and I've never read of a proposed method that we could test to see if it's reliable or not.

            "why don't you present some?" - because it's vast duplication of effort. When such arguments as Kalam have been shown to be fatally flawed oh-so-many times, yet theists still trot them out at every available opportunity with the flaws it tact, it's clear that apologists are not interested in valid arguments, just convincing ones.

          • Eric MacKinnon

            So do you admit that negative opinion toward the design argument is a subjective one?
            If kalam has been shown to be fatally flawed "oh-so many times" then it shouldn't be too hard to present at least one? (Of course we know it has never been proven false - this is just bold assertion again).

          • primenumbers

            "So do you admit that negative opinion toward the design argument is a subjective one?". No. I don't see how you get that from what I've written. I'm saying our perception of whether something that is presented to us is designed or not designed is subjective. If you wish to show that we can objectively determine whether something is designed or not, please demonstrate. My argument is that without a reliable objective method of determining design there is no real point discussing an Argument from design.

            Not hard at all, just duplication of effort. There's rebuttals in standard philosophy texts such as JL Mackie's The Miracle of Theism, and many more modern criticisms on WLC's use of it on all over the internet. If you want to pick Kalam as the one "best" argument for the existence of God, I'd suggest you go ahead, start a new topic post (so it doesn't get lost in this discussion of 20 arguments), present the wording and argument just as you like it, and the internet will come to you to show you it's flaws. I may even join in!

          • EricM

            "My argument is that without a reliable objective method of determining design there is no real point discussing an Argument from design."

            If this is so then why did you assert that it was "proven false" in your previous post?

            .... more to come when time permits.

          • primenumbers

            There are also logical flaws in the argument from design too. As presented above there's a false dichotomy in steps 2,3 for instance. As an argument it also fails to address the infinite regress of designers too. In other words, it's flawed logically and it relies on not just an un-evidenced premise (that the universe is designed), but relies on a method to determine design from the appearance of design that is un-presented in the argument.

      • Michael Murray

        It's only absurd if you seriously think these arguments are strong. I think they are rather tortured. In which case the argument is why isn't God self-evident? Why do is this list of tortured arguments the best anyone can do ?

        • Eric MacKinnon

          Okay, by all means, please demonstrate some weaknesses in these arguments.
          And what do you mean by the statement "God isn't self-evident"?

    • QuanKong

      That's correct. The sun is exists. No one has come up with 20 arguments for its existence.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joewetterling Joe Wetterling

      There are quite a few scientists that would take exception to your claim - those filling in missing steps in the fossil record, doctors pre-Pasteur presenting arguments for handwashing, Marie Curie arguing for the divisibility of the atom, and so on. An argument is simply a presentation of one or more propositions that lead to a conclusion.

      If the number of propositions is inversely proportional to the reliability of the conclusion, then my high school geometry teacher had me disprove a heck of a lot of geometry.

      • primenumbers

        Are the propositions of geometry "normal things" though. QuanKong below suggests an example of "the sun" as a normal thing that we can all agree exists. For such normal things we don't need arguments to show existence as they are plainly obvious.

        An abstract idea like a geometry proposition does require argumental proof, and there's plenty of propositions you could prove, and plenty of arguments you can generate. If God is a similar abstract idea, I can see lots of arguments also following from it, and God as described certainly fits with "abstract idea" - the timelessness, the non-material, the unchanging etc. I can certainly agree that there's a God concept and that it's all these things, like a math equation. I guess the difference comes when you also want God to be a real normal existing thing, like the Sun.

        My comment on the number of arguments is not to suggest a proof of the non-existence of God, but to suggest that God is not obvious, as normally existing obvious things don't need elaborate proofs, never mind 20 of them.

        Perhaps it would be better to pick one "best" argument, present it fully. Present a definition of God in such terms that make sense, present an argument for existence, and then accept that if flaws are found in that argument, the argument as presented is unsound. Or would it be better when if arguing from the definition as presented a contradiction is reached, that it would be accepted that such a being as defined does not exist?

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Hi Prime. :-) *waves*

  • Michael Murray

    1. Belief in God—that Being to whom reverence and worship are properly due—is common to almost all people of every era.

    2. Either the vast majority of people have been wrong about this most profound element of their lives or they have not.

    3. It is most plausible to believe that they have not.

    4. Therefore it is most plausible to believe that God exists.

    Does anyone really take this kind of thing seriously anymore ? Honestly ? Lots of people have believed all kinds of things that have been wrong. Why is it therefore more plausible to believe they haven't been wrong in this particular case. Throw in the quite good scientific reasons people might believe. End of argument.

    It reminds me of some of the exams I mark where some students think that all they need to do to make a proof is to write down a series of mathematical lines and link them by implication signs.

    • QuanKong

      Belief in supernatural is as ancient as man. Go back to cavemen whose lack of knowledge and understanding created fear of the elements and reverence of a powerful cause.
      If there is God, he can create a CD or DVD for us to see and hear. That will put all discussions here to an end. Why talk about omnipotence and creation of everything when truly a simple CD/DVD will do?

  • xyzzy

    I had to shoot holes in Anselm's argument for a philosophy class I took during my first year of college. If I remember correctly, the paper was supposed to be 5 pages, but I didn't consider it worth keeping, so I'll have to give a a summary from memory:

    I started with "you didn't define greater". It has a clear meaning for numbers, but not so much for other objects. Is a turtle greater than a banana? Is Peter the Great greater than Karl the Great? There are no objective criteria for "great" in these comparisons. If the comparison in step 1 doesn't make sense, the rest of the argument falls apart.

    Then I denied step 1 for any reasonable definition of "greater". Your thoughts are only a configuration of signals in your brain. The argument could say "a description on a paper" and still mean the same thing. I deny that my writing something on a paper (or thinking it in my brain) cause it to exist, unless you are talking about an idea. But ideas are just configurations of the signals in your brain...

    Then I denied step 2 because it incorrectly uses the term "God" for the hypothetical entity. Step 2 could easily read "Bambara means that thing that nothing greater can be concieved". Even if you assume the validity of step 1 (which I do not), you are only proving the existence of Bambara. But you don't know anything about Bambara except that it exists. You certainly can't connect Bambara to the hypothetical guy who wants my neighbors to kill me if I have sex with another man. Anselm wasn't trying to prove the existence of a unified theory of everything -- he was trying to prove the existence of Yahweh. It was only his Christian-centered view of the world that made him think he proved the existence of the Christian god.

    I didn't think of this 30 years ago, but step 5 shows that no matter what properties you think your god has, your guy isn't the "God" that Anselm mentions in step 2. I can think of an entity that is more powerful than your god, and therefore greater. Clearly an entity that has the power to compell Yahweh's obedience must be "greater" than Yahweh, and therefore (by Anselm's argument) must exist, right?

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Your comment about "greater" remind me of Mortimer Adler's proof of a "supreme being." He noted that if you lined all the beings in the Universe up with every "greater" being on the right of every lesser being, whatever being was on the farthest right end of the line had to be the "supreme being." I have always enjoyed that picture, but have to add that with the size of the Universe being what it is, whoever the supreme being is, it is likely only so for milliseconds or even microseconds before the title jumps to somewhere else in the vast cosmos.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

    Thanks for #17.

    Boy do I get it :-)

    • Longshanks

      You decided to highlight what, for my money, is one of the two most disingenuous and insulting 'logical' arguments.

      This does not come as a surprise.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        You decided to stomp your feet and shake your curls, instead of attempting a logical refutation of the argument.

        This does not come as a surprise.

        • Longshanks

          Tsk tsk tsk, DeLano.

          So easily reduced to the argumentum ad hominem?

          Well.

          That is its own evidence.

  • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

    First article off this site that requires- REQUIRES!- a bookmark.

    Fabulous, because so perfectly compact and easily accessed in the heat of battle :-)

    Bravo!

    I think it's the best article I have ever seen on SN, in addition to being by far the most useful.

    • Michael Murray

      Yes I agree. I've got it bookmarked to remind myself how vacuous theist arguments are. It's good to read them now and again and think "that's it ? that's there twenty best shots ?"

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        Try and refute 1, 2, or 3.

        I'd be delighted to take the side in defense of them :-)

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          PS: These 20 arguments are not even remotely close to our best shot.

          Our best shot is that Christ rose from the dead, appeared to over five hundred of the brethren, and made certain prophecies concerning the Temple and the Church which have been splendidly confirmed by subsequent historical events.

          These are simply our best twenty shots on logical grounds alone, and as I said above, I invite you or anyone else to try and take down 1, 2, or 3.

          I expect you will not succeed, should you try :-)

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            To start with #1:

            "The material world we know is a world of change" is a dubious premise. It is denied by the B theory of time. The proof is therefore unsound unless the A theory of time is assumed as a premise.

            "Nothing changes itself" is listed as a premise, but since it is part of what was to be proven, the argument suffers a fallacy of begging the question and is invalid.

            The reasoning in the section containing "...change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it. Therefore, there is some force outside ... the universe" is a non-sequitur, because ∀x∃y does not imply ∃y∀x, so the argument is invalid.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Ah!

            Thanks for rising to the challenge Noah!

            "The material world we know is a world of change" is a dubious premise.

            >> To the contrary, it is a universally accepted truth of human existence.

            All of physics, in addition to all of human experience, supports that we observe change.

            For example, we observe the change that one day ago your above post did not exist, and today it does.

            Therefore the premise is observably true.

            To deny this is to claim that your post both was, and was not, present one day ago, and both was, and was not, present today, which is barking madness.

            To propose this barking madness is to render oneself a madman, with whom further rational discussion were impossible.

            "It is denied by the B theory of time. The proof is therefore unsound unless the A theory of time is assumed as a premise."

            >> Any theory of time which proposes that we do not observe change is a theory of time which requires us to believe that you both did, and did not, reply to my challenge above.

            It actually requires us to believe that no such challenge could ever have been made, since its having been made involves a change from a time when it had not been m,ade.

            Since the challenge can be seen to have in fact been made, and since it can be seen that you have answered it, and that the answer did not exist one day ago, but does exist today, it follows that any theory of time which proposes that we do not observe change is barking madness.

            It has been known to be barking madness since it was first introduced as "Zeno's paradox", in antiquity.

            Its resplendently adequate refutation is that we do, in fact, reach the other side of the room.

            Its devastating internal false philosophical assumption consists in the assumption of infinitely-divisible space.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            To the contrary, it is a universally accepted truth of human existence.

            I do not accept it, because I, like many others, prefer the B theory of time. You either do not comprehend the phrase "universally accepted" or you are using it dishonestly.

            You obviously did not bother to read about or understand the B theory of time, but just spewed ignorant blather.

            To propose this barking madness is to render oneself a madman

            If you won't treat others you discuss with politely, as you have repeatedly demonstrated you will not, you do not deserve treatment any better than you give, you fucking jackass.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Noah:

            Treatment is really a matter of indifference, there are moderators and they can take care of violations.

            I am more interested in the remarkable fact that you appear to uphold the position that because you have asserted this thing called a B Theory of Time you are somehow dispensed from any obligation to explain why it is that your comment above did not exist four hours ago, but does exist now.

            I reply that this assertion is inadequate.

            Do you possess any sort of explanation from within your B (or C, D, X, Y, or Z) theory, that explains why your comment above did not exist four hours agom but does exist now, if nothing has changed?

            You see, Noah, if you do not have such an explanation, then your B (or C, D, X, Y, or Z) theory is barking madness, and its exponents are madmen, with whom no further rational discourse were possible.

            By the way, Parmenides' philosophy, and Zeno's paradox, are also barking madness, if propounded seriously as assertions about the nature of reality.

            Just so you don't feel like the Lone Ranger.....

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            To the anonymous moderator: Do you intend to do anything about the expletive individual's post above? If not, why the double standard?

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            I have two problems with #2.

            "Existence is like a gift given from cause to effect." This is a dubious premise that I will not grant without evidence suggesting that it is accurate.

            The section containing the reasoning "everything that is would right now need to be given being ... Therefore there is a source of being on which our material universe right now depends" is another example of fallacious inference, again since ∀x∃y does not imply ∃y∀x.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            There is no fallacy of inference in the argument, Noah.

            It is *observed*, not inferred, that things "come into being and go out of being. A tree, for example, grows from a tiny shoot, flowers brilliantly, then withers and dies."

            This fact must be accounted for.

            Argument #3 does in fact account for it.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            You failed to address either point in my comment. You should read what you're trolling before you troll. You should probably also learn basic logic.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Well, Noah, I hope that at some point we can make progress but in the meantime you just make your points and I will respond and we can agree to disagree.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            #3 relies on a false dichotomy that either (A) the universe has a beginning in time or (B) time stretches infinitely into the past. The best current theories of the early universe do not fit into either category; rather, they describe a universe in which space and time appear distinct at human scales but are fundamentally a single thing, spacetime, that is part of the universe rather than vice versa and that is finite but without beginning due to curvature in the extreme early conditions. Since the dichotomy is false, the argument is unsound.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            To the contrary, Noah.

            Let us stipulate to the existence of space-time.

            There is no requirement that space-time outlaw change.

            Therefore the existence of spacetime does not rebut the argument from change.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            #3 isn't the argument from change. You should read what you're trolling before you troll.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "We notice around us things that come into being and go out of being."

            That is, of course, change.

            Please try address the actual arguments, Noah.

            It is already quite clear that you are emotionally upset, but it is best to simply get past this.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            Heh. First you forget which argument we were discussing, then you quote and interpret part of the argument's first line which simultaneously shows that you had become aware of the correct argument's title (which is "Argument from Time and Contingency", not "Argument from Change") but were too defensive to admit it, then you blame others for your own failings and attempt to psychologize them. :D

            You should leave the discussion to the grownups, as you're hurting your cause by your participation in it.

            Thanks, however, for spurring me to write up documentation on new comment formatting methods for improving online debate to eliminate worthless trolling like your recent comments in this thread.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Noah, where might we read that documentation?

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            That documentation is just specifications for a variation on comment forums that I've long wanted to code up, wherein for each topic each user only gets one editable comment, and the discussion threads are dynamically generated. The basic motivation is to have the comments that are non-sequiturs, gish gallops, repetitions, or that otherwise fail to continue the discussion never show up in the discussion in the first place. I haven't tested it out in any realistic situations, and it may be a crappy idea or a crappy implementation of an OK idea.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Okay. Thanks for the reply.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Quibble much, Noah?

            Coming into and out of existence involves.....

            Yup.

            Change.

            Anyway, the arguments can be shuffled off to Buffalo, or they can be addressed.

            So far no one has laid a glove on 1, 2 or 3, which is not a surprise when you think about it.

            The denial of these arguments requires barking mad absurdities such as theories of time that propose no change exists in reality.

          • Doug Shaver

            Translation: Our best shot is: We Christians say it, we believe it, that settles it.

          • Michael Murray

            Hi Doug, To maintain my balance I guess I should tell you that Rick was banned awhile back. He has gone into the movies

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Principle

          • Doug Shaver

            Ah. Thank you.

        • Michael Murray

          The problem with these "arguments" usually goes like this. First there are a series of assertions we are expected to see are true. Second there is a deduction we are supposed to believe is true. Then some tenet of the Catholic faith follows. However the initial assertions are usually so ill-defined that it's impossible to decide if they are true or false or sometimes they are just clearly false. Then the deduction is also usually false.

          Take the continuity argument Quine responded to. The initial assertion is the Church has a continuous existence. But you have to decide what constituted the Catholic Church for the last two thousand years. Not an easy task. And even if that was done and you decided that it was continuous you have to decide if that is remarkable. Quine gives you other examples. And even it it was remarkable it doesn't follow the the Catholic Churches explanation of why it is remarkable is correct.

          Ill-defined assertions followed by unfounded deductions. I guess there was a time these kinds of things impressed people and I can see they make good morale boosters for those who already believe. But arguments for your God ? Seriously ?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Wrong thread, Quine.

            The continuity argument demolishes the claim that Jesus Christ never existed, and there were no eyewitness reports of his resurrection.

            That one is dealt with over on the Naysayer thread.

            "Fine-tuning has the same problems. Is the universe fine-tuned for human life. Physicists will tell you either we don't know or the situation is a lot more complicated than the naive arguments given. Does the deduction of god follow ? No because of the anthropomorphic argument."

            >> I have personally interviewed physicists who hold to the multiverse precisely because of the difficulty of explaining the fine tuning arguments in its absence.

            Fine tuning presents an even more grave difficulty for the atheist, once the multiverse arguments are not only unscientific (no multiverse can ever, even in principle, come under scientific observation; therefore multiverse arguments are metaphysical, not scientific, arguments) but also because the proposed "chaotic inflation" mechanism for generating such multiverses has been grievously undermined by direct scientific observation (Planck 2013) see:

            "Inflationary paradigm in trouble after Planck2013"

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1304.2785

            By Paul Steinhardt, one of the original conceptualizers of the inflation theory, btw......

          • Michael Murray

            filled with planets just as good as Earth for the appearance of life

            Based on what evidence?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1303.2649

            Relevant excerpt:

            "Using this expanded definition of Earth-size (0.5−2 R⊕), a conservative estimate of the
            occurrence rate of Earth-size planets in the HZs around M-dwarfs is 0.51+0.10 per star. An
            optimistic estimate on the occurrence rate is 0.61+0.07 per star."

            This estimate could be two orders of magnitude too high and there would be hundreds of millions of Earth-size planets in the Milky Way galaxy.

            Many of these would be billion of years older than Earth under the current consensus cosmological model.

            It is understandable why physicists like Tegmark are beginning to draw the obvious conclusions.

            Where is everybody?

          • Michael Murray

            That's evidence for planets of about the same size as earth orbiting the right sort of stars. Not evidence for them being "just as good as Earth for the appearance of life". At a minimum they need to be in the right orbit and have an atmosphere and be rocky and have water ... Some scientists argue they need a moon. Have a look at "rare earth hypothesis". I think that's what it's called.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I agree with the rare earth hypothesis, of course, since the contrary is just another statement of the Copernican Principle.

            What is interesting to me is the radical shift from the predictions of the Drake equation back in the 60's, when, under Copernican Principle assumptions, we were assured that SETI would return evidence of intelligent civilizations long before now, to the growing realization (see Tegmark) that there is something very wrong with this idea, *particularly* given the truly massive number of Earth-like planets (at least Earth-like in terms of their orbital characteristics and size) we now have solid observational grounds upon which to expect to find in this galaxy alone.

            Again, we see the assumptions of the Copernican Principle challenged by actual observational results.

            The Universe, fine-tuned for life as it is, apparently harbors life on an astonishingly small scale.....

            Tegmark is convinced that scale consists in exactly one location:

            Ours.

          • Michael Murray

            Did the Drake equation ever make serious predictions ? It is a morass of unknowns. Less now than when it was first stated but still you can get any answer you want with plausible choices. It seems to me more of a way of focussing the minds of scientists (and politicians who fund them) on what questions we should be addressing.

          • Athanasius De Angelus

            Hi, I'm trying to find out if you are the same Rick DeLano who went to the Church of the Holy Family in South Pasadena with me over 10 years ago? Do you remember that terrible RCIA class?
            If you are, then I wanted to say Hi and thank you to you!

        • severalspeciesof

          Well if god is unchanging and is all actuality (as I have heard of it), then god cannot produce change.

          I have refuted #1

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "All is actuality" appears nowhere in the arguments, or in Catholic theology for that matter.

            You have not even addressed #1, much less refuted it.

          • severalspeciesof

            "The basic note in the idea of the Infinite is existence, actuality, perfection" from: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02062e.htm and before you tell me that 'infinite' is not part of #1, it is a reference to god. And before you say it's still doesn't address #1, well, I jumped the gun and you are correct. Slightly disingenuous because it does prove that the "unchanging source of change' cannot be your god if it is also 'actuality'. 'Source of change' is actually a description, not the entity itself...

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The infinite (God) is the Being-In-Itself, the only Being where potentiality is actuality.

            All other beings would exist potentially and actually.

            For example, you have grandchildren that exist potentially.

            You might have grandchildren that exist actually, for allI know.

            Grandchildren are not necessarily existing things.

            So there is nothing in the nature of the necessary Being that precludes that Being bringing into existence other beings that exist potentially, and actually.

  • Longshanks

    "There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

    Therefore there must be a God.

    You either see this one or you don't."

    Since the author leaves the "seeing" of this "argument" up to me, let me just jot down what I think of it.

    This is not anything approaching logic. This is an insult to me, to atheists at large, and thinking persons in general.

    You want "logical refutation?" Here you go.

    "I love The Musical Offering, I find myself listening to it once or twice a week. I like many of his partitas, and listening to a Bach High Mass in a church with good acoustics is a real pleasure.

    Therefore there must not be a God.

    You either see it, or you don't."

    You see? Utterly frivolous.

    ----

    Moderators:

    My snarky off topic comment to DeLano when he first started posting here was deleted, as per the policies, and as it should've been. I broke the rules intentionally, and was duly reprimanded, about which I did not and will not complain.

    What I will take issue with is the way you justly apply the rules in some cases, and ignore others.

    In a place for "serious and respectful dialogue," I would expect more action from you curbing the offensive remarks he has made--and no doubt will make until you do. I've run into this guy in many other places, and let me say that if you want engagement from thinking people in general, or atheists specifically, you might want less input from a guy who in reply to an innocuous statement like:

    "As an atheist you’ve lost me out of the starting gates.”

    says:

    ">> An atheist has no starting gates. An atheist is incapable of accounting for the existence of the universe in the first place."

    You want us to come reason together, you want us to strive for civility, and yet you let a guy whose approach is to open with "You have no point." jump to the top of your commenter's list. Maybe you shouldn't let yourselves be represented by a guy who accuses his debaters of being Shirley Temple look alikes.

    We atheists aren't much given to claims of sainthood and martyrdom, nor are we bound by an immoral stricture to love our enemies and be passive in the face of attack. If we're going to open up these comments to basic insults, I'm sure I can come up with some more creative stuff.

    But something tells me my posts will get deleted.

    http://www.acceptingabundance.com/how-does-theology-protect-science/#comment-24708
    http://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/1atafd/does_new_evidence_point_to_geocentrism/

  • FZ

    Some thoughts about the first way. I actually think that it would be better if it were presented similar to its original form with the Scholastic terminology, like here:

    http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2004/11/aquinass-first-way.html

    In addition, I think it is important to differentiate between essentially and accidentally ordered series:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/08/edwards-on-infinite-causal-series.html

    I think then there would not be misunderstandings about “open” or “closed” systems. To borrow an example from earlier, suppose you have an insulated box, and you pump it full of chemicals. The insulated box has the potential to be hot. In other words, it is possible for the insulated box to receive heat. But it’s is not the ability of the box to heat up that causes it to heat up. It needs to be heated up by something already actual (something that exists), and in this case, it is the exothermic chemicals inside. That is what Aquinas was trying to get across. The fact that the box was a closed system, with no further inputs from the outside does not contradict the principle of motion (change). Remember, the act/potency distinction is not meant to be a “how” explanation. It is meant to be an explanation as to why change is even possible. These are also worth a read:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/05/oerter-contra-principle-of-causality.html?commentPage=2

    The medieval principle of motion and the modern principle of inertia:

    http://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/SMLM/PSMLM10/PSMLM10.pdf

    And yeah, Pascal Wager should probably be swapped out for something else, like Avicenna's argument or Pruss' version of the Goedelian argument.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      FZ, how do you think Aquinas would modify or withdraw his arguments if he could come back today and learn what is currently known about the physics of both the very small and the very large? For example he would learn about particle quantum tunneling which not only lacks a mover for motion, but even lacks the movement through the space between to different points of location. On the big scale, how would he account for galaxies that move away from each other, faster and faster, with no mover or even forces on their inertial frames as the space in between them increases?

      Today we know that motion does not necessarily require a mover, as it appeared in the time of Aquinas, ergo his conclusion no longer necessarily follows.

      • FZ

        Check out the third link in my initial comment. Even if the Aristotelian Principle of Motion (Change) is wrong, it won't be QM and/or inertial motion that falsify it. It might seem like spontaneously decaying nuclei are “self-movers (self-changers)” which don’t require an external cause. This sort of “self-mover objection” has been brought up even before QM. Take animals for example, they are capable of moving (changing) themselves. However, “self-movers” fit right into the Aristotelian-Scholastic concept of substantial forms. From there, Aquinas would argue that self-movers still logically require actualization. See here for a start:

        http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/06/oerter-on-motion-and-first-mover.html

  • Volker Dittmar

    I have now examined all 20 arguments. Except for the ontological arguments, all arguments that use an attribute from the real world fail. They fail not because the premises are wrong, which, often, they are, but because the incorrect use of logic. That is, just by using logic, all cosmological arguments can be refuted, this has been done many times, over and over again. E. g. in Martin, Michael. Atheism : a Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

    Like zombies, these "arguments" pop up time and again. It does not matter how often you kill them, they keep reappearing.

    Now an interesting fact: Take any of these arguments except the ontological arguments. Remove the logical flaws. Either, ths argument is now neutral, or a proof of the nonexistence of god! If you correct the premises, all of them can be turned into an argument against god.

    I think that these arguments are just there to A.) influence and deceive people who are not good enough at using logic (especially kids), or B.) to manipulate those who already do to believe in thinking that there are rational reasons to believe in god. No, there aren't any.

    These arguments are used as a trap. I think that using arguments as a trap is so deeply immoral, so dishonest, that this alone corrupts any moral claim made by the christian churches. This trap works as follows:

    1. Use flawed logic or false premises (ontological arguments) to establish a belief in god by weak-minded people, especially kids.
    2. Once this belief has been established, "burn the bridges". Claim that god cannot be disproven by logic! Now there is no way back. But, notice, the claim that "god cannot be disproven" is either a lie the moment you claim that god can be proven, or a deeply rooted error in using logic.

    If any logical proposition A can be proven, NOT-A is proven to be not true. A is true, because NOT-NOT-A must be true. If you can't prove that NOT-A is the opposite of A - or truth is the opposite of false - than A cannot be true, or, it is proven that the logic is self-contradictory and therefore, false. If "god exists" can be proven true, it must follow that "god does not exist" can be proven, too. "God exists" is a false claim (or sheer nonsense!) if the opposite of this claim cannot be proven or disproven in principle.

    By using both steps, you are either forced to lie at step 1., or step two, or both.

    I do not accuse anyone as being dishonest against others. No, you are dishonest against yourself. You tricked yourself, than go out and deceive others.

    There are logical arguments against god. These are called atheological arguments. Most christians know just one of these, the argument from evil. These arguments are, most of the time, free from logical flaws. The premises are taken from theological beliefs. By denying all of the premises, you will find yourself denying the basis of your faith!

    Remember: Any of the cosmological arguments for god can be turned in an argument against god, just by correcting the logical flaws. If you don't believe me, pick any cosmological argument of your choice and challenge me. I won't do it for more than two or three arguments, just because of time limits

  • Guest

    That is correct QuanKong, yet almost all can see the sun.

  • Volker Dittmar

    I think I should give an example. I chose the Kalam cosmological argument:

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

    Notice: This does not prove god in any sense, it proves that there was a cause for the universe, at best. William Lane Craig has a long version of this argument, which I refuted here: http://www.dittmar-online.net/alt/religion/gott/kalam.html (unfortunately, this site is in german). So, to take the argument as a proof of god is quite misleading! There is a big, big gap between "the universe has a cause" and "this cause is god".

    Second note: "Cause to exist" is not about "cause". The minimal claim that we can do if we speak about causes is: Some existing A influences some existing B. We never have experienced that "something was caused to exist". For anything to be a cause, that what is caused has to exist BEFORE A influences it.

    Just saying, because I want to concentrate on logic, not on false premises.

    Say we accept all premises, though premise 1. is wrong. We can now claim that there are two different forms of existence:

    A. Things that start to exist like the universe.
    B. Things that do not start to exist at any given point in time.

    Whatever causes the universe to exist, it is either of type A or type B. If it is of type A, nothing is gained, because this leads to an infinite regression of causes. In case of this, there is no god, because nothing could have started an infinite regression auf causes. The argument doesn't rule out the possibility. So we have to introduce another claim: It is not possible that an infinite regression of causes can exist. This is another ad-hoc-assumption that has to be added. But this will lead to the assumption that there must be something like B that has started our chains of events.

    If there is something like B, we have another claim that must be true:

    Something exists which does not have a cause for its existence.

    There is no reason to assume that the sum of these things add up to one. It could be any number! Just as an aside.

    Now we have another claim: Not all things that exist have a cause. Notice, that this contradicts the claim "everything has a cause". That is definitely a false claim! There is no possible way that this can be true, which I have proven in my book "Der unglaubliche Glauben".

    But: The argument is based on the claim that there must be a cause for the universe. This is contradicted by the deducted claim that "something must exist that does not have a cause". Say, for example, time starts when the universe started. In this case, the universe itself did not start at any given point in time! That is, the universe itself could be of type B. It does not have a starting point in time, because time itself started with the universe.

    Note: I do not think that this is true. This is a misconception of the term "time". It presupposes an absolute time, and general relativity disproves that such time exists. There is only something we might call "local time". Local time presupposes the existence of space and matter. Without matter, no space, no time. Without space, no matter, no time. And so on. If something starts to exist, it does not start "in an existing timeline", but time itself starts with it.

    Therefore, the universe does not need time to start to exist. A cause presupposes the existence of time. So, time must have existed before the universe. But we don't have time without matter and space!

    That leads us to: Nothing that starts to exist can have a cause. If the universe started to exist, it cannot have a cause. Therefore, god does not exist.

    Or: If the universe does not begin to exist, it does not have a cause. Therefore, god does not exist.

    There is a logical contradiction in premise 1. It claims: There was a time before anything existed. Then, there was some starting point in that timeline. The universe started to exist at that point. Time is infinitely long! Time was not created by god. Because god didn't have time to create time. If there was no time before the universe began to exist, god could not have created the universe - because there was no time to create ANYTHING. Time does not exist without space and matter. So, there is no god to create time, or space, or matter.

    Premise 1. will always lead to a contradiction. Therefore, any argument based on it implies a logical contradiction. Therefore, any argument based on premise 1 is invalid. Correcting this will lead to a proof that shows that god, the creator of the universe, cannot possibly exist.

    • Longshanks

      I doubt the validity of form and correctness of premises of all the 'arguments' laid out here.

      I am very curious about your closer though. I would be interested in seeing your 'proof that show that god, the creator of the universe, cannot possibly exist.'

      • Volker Dittmar

        Here is my proof:

        Definition: God is the creator of all matter/energy.

        (1) The normal assumptions of people (theists) about matter and energy is flawed:

        Matter and energy is equivalent. So is time and space. Reason: Einsteins theory of relativity. There is no space without time, or time without space. There is no time without matter, no space without matter, no energy without matter, time or space. To have matter or energy, time must exist. No time, no matter. No matter, no time. And so on.

        (2) There never was a time without matter (follows from (1)).

        (3) For god to exist, he must have existed "before" there was time. That is a logical contradiction: Before time, there was no time at all. "Before" presumes the existence of time.

        (4) When there was no time, god had no time to create time. So the notion of a "creator without or outside of time" is a self-contradiction.

        (5) If god existed "in a time", matter must have already existed (follows from (1)).

        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
        (C) It is impossible for a being to exist that created matter. God cannot exist. Follows from the definition.

        The argument can be refuted by showing that relativity theory is false. Good luck with that, future winner of the nobel prize!

        This is an elaborate version of "Draygombs Paradoxon" from the internet infidels. In my book there is a second, similar but more sophisticated argument based on "cause". Its conclusion is that "nothing that starts to exist can have a cause". The complete argument is my own proof, published only once on facebook (in german, my mother language, in case you wonder - my english is rather bad, sorry).

        Notice, you can always invent some ultra-extra-super-special feature that allows a god to be a creator, though. But every invention of a "special" feature is a.) the fallacy of special pleading and b.) shows that not only this feature, but maybe your god is an invention, because you claim to know something you don't (fallacy of an argument from ignorance). Its based on unwarranted speculation anyway.

    • VelikaBuna

      You seem to be imposing your/our perception of time on God, and since we cannot imagine time without space and matter, God cannot either. What lies beyond space and matter? Is it more space and matter or is it nothing, and is it possible to imagine the absolute end of anything? I do not see how any of your argument disprove the possibility of God, since matter and creatures like human beings cannot comprehend or master the concept of infinity? You could answer that beyond space and matter there is no space and no matter and no time, but in order for this to be true, it has to exist, and the very existence requires it to have properties. In other words, existence cannot be delineated by the non-existence (nothingness). How can you put something into nothing? Is there infinite space and matter or is there limited space and matter encompassed by infinite nothing? Or as i believe these are impenetrable mysteries, that allow us to imagine the problems without accessible solutions.

      • Volker Dittmar

        This is not about perception of time. Most people have a rather old concept of time, space and matter: That of Newton/Kant. Time, Space, Matter, even Energy, seem to be three different things that exist indepent from each other. However, this is totally wrong!

        General Relativity shows that there is, for example, no "absolute time" nor absolute space. Instead, we have a time-space-continuum, and time and space is equivalent. This is called "space time" (in german "Raumzeit", one word, which makes it clearer). Matter an energy is equivalent, too. Space is created by matter, therefore, only "local space" exists, and "local time". The latter is the reason why there is no simultaneity. There are no events that happen at the same time!

        This is not a question of "imagination". This is a matter of science. There is no "beyond space" or "beyond time". Here it is the limited imagination of lay persons that is sort of a "road block" in thinking.

        The concept of infinity, btw, is very easy to grasp. I have no difficulty in doing that.

        Something like an "absolute nothing", which is presupposed by theists, can't exist. Its as simple as that. Because, something that exists without ANY property is not only a logical contradiction, it contradicts the laws of nature!

        Let's imagine, as a thought-experiment, that we have something like an absolute nothingness, completely void of time, space and matter.

        Now tell me, which natural law is not valid in this void? There is not a single natural law that you can't derive from nothingness. Because all natural laws are the result of the properties of the void. The void, as it turns out, is super-symmetrical, and this "causes" the natural laws to prevail. Where do the laws of nature come from? They are all properties of the void!

        Once you strip your thinking from ancient physics and old concepts, this is very clear. So, your questions do not make any sense, sorry. You cannot delineate space from nothingness, because absolute nothing cannot exist! This, of course, means that a creator, who created the world from nothingness, cannot exist, because there never was a time where there was nothing, no matter, no space, no time, no natural laws etc.

        You are trapped in the notion that "there once was a time without time". That is a logical contradiction. Or that there was nothingness, a space without space and matter.

        We can even say: What is outside the universe? Well, of course, endless other universes! There is even scientific evidence for other universes, because we have traces of a gravitational pull from outside the universe in the microwave background. Which, of course, means, that universes exist because of natural events.

        • FZ

          Can you explain what you mean by 'natural laws?' I assume you mean things like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the law of universal gravitation, F=ma, etc. Physical laws such as these are mathematical descriptions of the behavior of matter. They themselves cannot cause anything; the matter that they describe is the actual cause. We established these laws by first observing the matter in our universe. Now take your void for example, if there is no matter, space or time, how do you establish laws such as these? If matter did not exist, then there would be no descriptions of its behavior.

          • Volker Dittmar

            Physical laws don't "cause" anything. True. Laws don't rule, there are not like our laws in court. Natural laws are descriptions of the behaviour of natural things. They describe a picture, that's nature, they point to nature, they are not nature. And like a description of a picture they don't do anything to that picture. Like descriptions, they cannot be "broken". If a natural law is "broken", it simply is inaccurate.

            So natural laws do not need to be "established". You do not need a description of a picture for the picture to exist.

            In fact, all natural laws detected so far are the description of void: If nothing exists, what describes best that circumstance?

            A complete void has certain attributes, it is not featureless. A void is completely symmetric. The conservation of energy describes as a principle the attribute of the void: The sum of all energy in a void is zero. Every other natural law is the description of how a void "behaves". And that this void can't be empty. So the existence of energy, that small amount detected by the Casimir effect, allowed by Heisenbergs uncertainty principle, does exist and does not have or need to have a cause. There is no "law" that states "everything has to have a cause". Au contraire. Nuclear decay does not have a cause, nor does it need a cause. Quantum fluctuations do not have a cause, neither do they need a cause.

            To propagate a god who has created something from nothing, he first must have changed the laws to include "nothing can come from nothing". Of course, without time, he didn't have the time to do anything. He didn't have the time to create time, either. So there was no god that could have prevented nature from becoming something.

            If there once was a void, without rules, then there was no rule that could state "nothing can come from nothing".

          • FZ

            You need to clarify here: “Natural laws are descriptions of the
            behaviour of natural things.” And “In fact, all natural laws detected so far
            are the description of void.” Which is it? Are we describing matter or a void?
            They can’t possibly be the same, especially when you defined a void to be the
            lack of matter/space/time. And I’m pretty sure something like F=ma is
            describing a mass and its acceleration, not a “behavior” of a void. The Heisenberg
            uncertainty principle and the Casimir effect describe features of quantum
            systems; they don’t “allow or “disallow” anything, as you mentioned “Laws don't
            rule, there are not like our laws in court.” And a quantum system is not a
            void, so we can’t logically say that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
            “applies” to a void. If nothing exists, the only thing to best describe it is
            “no thing exists.” The law of conservation of energy can’t describe it because
            there is nothing to “sum.” There is no energy to sum. More importantly, the
            conservation laws describe things like thermodynamic systems and mechanical
            systems, and like with the HUP, we can’t logically jump from “conservation laws
            describe systems in our universe” to “conservation laws describe a void.” The
            typical definition of “symmetrical” doesn't seem like it could apply to a void,
            because “symmetric” seems to presuppose the existence of space. “This
            area/side/region is the same as this other area/side/region, therefore it is
            symmetric.” But as you mentioned a void includes the lack of space, so terms
            like here, there, area, region, etc can’t apply to it. If by symmetry you mean
            something in regards to transformations involving spacetime, then that doesn't seem to apply either. “There is no "law" that states "everything
            has to have a cause.” Who says there is? What argument has "everything has
            to have a cause” as a premise? Anyways, I don’t intend to get into the whole decay/particle/cause
            thing since I already left a link discussing QM and causality better than I
            can.

          • Volker Dittmar

            You said: "The law of conservation of energy can’t describe it because there is nothing to 'sum'”. That's wrong. Tell me: What is the sum of the energy of the void? Answer: Zero. What does the law of conservation of energy claim? That the sum of energy of a closed system is zero. "Closed" means: No energy comes from outside, nothing leaves it.

            Of course you can sum zero. You still get zero. Of course, due to HUP, it is "near zero", or zero in the long run.

            Now go one step further: If you have a void and shoot a particle (say, an electron) into the void. What happens? First, you have time and space in the void. Second, still the law of the conservation of energy is valid. Momentum is conserved, energy is conserved, the sum is still zero plus the energy "injected" into the void.

            The only difference, that the symmetry is broken.

            "The void" is just a thought-experiment, nothing that in any form "exists". Because that is self-contradictory. That is like the "creation from nothing": First, nothing "existed", that means, that there was something that was nothing - self-contradiction. Second, a void has the property of all that is super-symmetrically, and this either presumes space (and time, and matter), or it doesn't. The void does not need to contain space, it is still symmetrically. Its like "nothing needs to exist for the number 3 to be odd".

            The wave function of QM does not presuppose that anything exists. That is the base of the Hartle-Hawking-Model. So clearly, the claim that "something has to exist for the laws of nature to be in place" is false.

            The HUP states that it is impossible to know the sum of all energy in a (closed) system. Now you claim that you know that in a void the sum of all energy is what? Zero? No, due to the HUP, you can't claim that. DIfferent from zero? Then you presuppose the existence of time, space and matter.

            There is no way to assume that "In the void, there is nothing". The void is never empty, unless, you throw all physics and logic out of the window. An empty void does not exist. Just as I said: There never was a time where nothing existed. There never was a void where nothing existed. Because that would lead to a logical contradiction AND a contradiction of all physics.

            There never was a state where the laws of nature do not apply to. And because of that, there never was a creator who created matter or anything else.

          • FZ

            We are getting a little side-tracked. My initial question was in response to “There is not a single natural law that you can't derive from nothingness. Because all natural laws are the result of the properties of the void. The void, as it turns out, is super-symmetrical, and this "causes" the natural laws to prevail. Where do the laws of nature come from? They are all properties of the void!”

            I replied: “We established these laws by first observing the matter in our universe. Now take your void for example, if there is no matter, space or time, how do you establish laws such as these? If matter did not exist, then there would be no descriptions of its behavior.”

            “That's wrong. Tell me: What is the sum of the energy of the void? Answer: Zero. What does the law of conservation of energy claim? That the sum of energy of a closed system is zero. "Closed" means: No energy comes from outside, nothing leaves it.”

            In that sense, I guess you can say that 0 + 0 = 0. However, to get back on track with my original question: The law of conservation of energy is “the fundamental principle of physics that the total energy of an isolated system is constant despite internal changes” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/law+of+conservation+of+energy). This is not the same as “That the sum of energy of a closed system is zero.” And let me put my question this way:

            1) The sum of the energy in the void is zero.

            2) ???

            C) Therefore the total energy of an isolated system is constant despite internal changes

            I’m asking you for the premises in between to make the conclusion valid. Remember, the premises can only be derived from “nothingness.”

            Except there is also a problem with 1. Given your reasoning: Why can’t I say that the sum of the ectoplasm in the void is zero? From this, we can derive the natural law that “the sum of the ectoplasm of an closed system is zero.” I just derived a new natural law. (Where’s my nobel prize?) The obvious objection is that we have no evidence or reason to believe that ectoplasm even exists. But I can ask: Why do we talk about the sum of energy and not the sum of ectoplasm? Because we observe the phenomenon known as energy in our universe. That’s great, but it contradicts your original claim “There is not a single natural law that you can't derive from nothingness.” “Observing a natural phenomenon in our universe” is not the same as “deriving from nothingness.”

            "The void" is just a thought-experiment, nothing that in any form "exists". Because that is self-contradictory. That is like the "creation from nothing": First, nothing "existed", that means, that there was something that was nothing - self-contradiction. Second, a void has the property of all that is super-symmetrically, and this either presumes space (and time, and matter), or it doesn't. The void does not need to contain space, it is still symmetrically. Its like "nothing needs to exist for the number 3 to be odd".

            I’m not concerned with whether it is possible for no concrete objects to exist. I want to know how you derive mathematical descriptions of the behavior of matter/energy from (hypothetical) nothingness. Regardless, you are missing something here:

            1) Nothing exists.

            2) ???

            C) Nothing is something.

            Yes, C is a contradiction, but C doesn’t follow from 1.

            And 1 seems vague. It would be better stated as “No concrete object exists.”

            "The wave function of QM does not presuppose that anything exists. That is the base of the Hartle-Hawking-Model".

            Do you have citations that support this claim? Because if I recall correctly, a wave function describes the behavior of a particle. How do you get a description of a particle's behavior without observing a particle?

            “The HUP states that it is impossible to know the sum of all energy in a (closed) system. Now you claim that you know that in a void the sum of all energy is what? Zero? No, due to the HUP, you can't claim that. DIfferent from zero? Then you presuppose the existence of time, space and matter.”

            Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that “The position and momentum of a particle cannot be simultaneously measured with arbitrarily high precision” (http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/uncer.html). To put it mathematically: (uncertainty in the position of the particle) times (uncertainty in the momentum of the particle) is greater than or equal to (Planck’s constant/2pi). The key words here are “position/momentum/of a particle.” How can we possibly derive a natural law such as the HUP from a void which lacks positions, momentums and particles? And again, you didn’t answer my previous question:

            1) The HUP describes some features of particles/quantum systems

            2) ???

            C) Therefore, the HUP also describes some features of a state where there is no matter/space/time.

            Just to clarify, are you really talking about the HUP, or are you talking about time-energy uncertainty? HUP has to do with the momentum and position of particles. I don’t see where you are getting “Zero? No, due to the HUP, you can't claim that.”

            "There is no way to assume that "In the void, there is nothing". The void is never empty, unless, you throw all physics and logic out of the window. An empty void does not exist. Just as I said: There never was a time where nothing existed. There never was a void where nothing existed. Because that would lead to a logical contradiction AND a contradiction of all physics."

            Again, I’m not really concerned with the possibility/impossibility of nothingness. I’m just wondering how you can derive something like F=ma from a state where force, mass and acceleration don’t exist.

    • PaulBot 1138

      You do realize that WLC has a large body of work addressing, responding to, and knocking down the exact challenges you present against the Kalam, in great detail?

  • Volker Dittmar

    All cosmological arguments are like this:

    The universe has a property X.

    The Universe cannot have property X OR
    property X cannot come to be without an external, non-natural event.
    Therefore, god exists - he gave the universe the property X

    X can be anything like movement (argument #1), order, design, complexity, contingency or anything else.

    It boils down to: We don't know the natural cause of X, therefore, it must be a supernatural cause. This is god.

    Even if we accept supernatural causes, there is no reason to believe that this is god. Simply, because we do not know how X came about! That is, introducing "god" into this argument means, comitting the logical fallacy of an argument from ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam).

    Now, any argument to establish that the universe cannot have property X can be used against god! Every argument that shows that god can have property X without a cause, without a reason, or with any reason, can be used to argue that this can be applied to the universe which can have property X without reason or for the same reason. If we are not using special pleading, another fallacy. We can turn this around and see that we just gained two arguments why it can't be god.

    Assuming that god can have a property X and the universe not is begging the question. God is introduced in the argument with just everything needed to be the conclusion - ad hoc. If there is a reason to assume that god can have this property, there is no need any more to claim that the universe can't.

    Removing the fallacies means, that we have reasons to assume that the universe can have any property, because the universe already has this property! If god has the ability to grant this property, we just do not know.

    Introducing supernatural reasons is itself a fallacy. Because, the moment we do that, we can apply it to anything. Example: A heavy stone flies against a window. The window breaks. Here is the proof that the stone does not cause the window to break: Just before the stone hits the window, a supernatural cause breaks the window. Therefore, it is impossible for the stone to be the cause of the broken window. Every time you introduce god into any argument, you are just doing the same thing. It undermines the argument further if we do not know what broke the window or could have broken it.

    Supernatural explanations just explain nothing. If we do not know the cause, we do not know the cause. We could always create ad hoc another "god of the gaps" to fill that hole in our knowledge. And that's it: The conclusion that it was a god creates ad hoc a specific god of the gaps, who is introduced, begging the question if this could not have been any other supernatural cause, of which there is an infinite set of possibilities. That is, the assumption that this was a specific god computes to ZERO.

    If phenomenon X needs an explanation, this can only contain elements we already know. Otherwise, we explain the unknown with the unknown. Or: we create an argument from ignorance, or appeal to ignorance.

    This blows ANY argument based on ANY property right out of the water. There is no need to go through every single argument, though we might find other fallacies if we do. I haven't even mentioned the possibility that these arguments for god commit the fallacy of composition.

    That is my proof that any cosmological argument is invalid. These arguments just appear to be valid if you are not used to think logically. Here is another way to destroy any of these arguments, even the ontological ones:

    If god exists, he must be a powerfull thinker. Do you think that any of this arguments could convince god? If you say yes, congratulations, because therefore god must be convinced that a super-god has created him! If your answer is no, than why should I find this argument convincing? If there was a convincing argument for god, it will lead to an infinite regression of creation-gods. If you say that can't be, than this is another case of "just so" arguments. It s "just so" that god has any specific ability you need him to have to be the conclusion to your argument. This is begging the question.

    This even kills Pascal's wager. Because this argues that god is "just so" that he fits this kind of special pleading. It kills all ontological arguments stone dead, too.

    BUT: It leaves open the possibility that there can be any number of arguments against god. Because, none of my counter-arguments can be used against any argument against god! And really, there is quite a huge number of arguments against god. AND it means that this arguments accumulate just to nothing. Any number of invalid arguments does not make any case any stronger.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    In skimming this OP (including all the comments) before beginning a careful reading, I would offer this initial insight for what it is worth.

    In order to present rational arguments for the existence of God in such as way to be taken seriously by atheists, the philosopher needs a team of eminent scientists at his side to check every step of every argument against the findings of those sciences so as not to be accused of using an outdated view of reality and not taking the findings of modern science into account.

    At the same time, both the atheist and Christian readers need the same team of scientists as advisers to point out when the commenters' own appeals to science are really supported by science (or are baloney).

    • Dan Carollo

      I whole-heartedly agree -- science has some important things to say on these issues.

      Philosophical argument can only take you so far -- whereas the "real" universe is often far stranger and surprising than we can possibly imagine it. We have to take the world and the evidence as it IS, not as we "imagine" it must be based on our limited rationality.

      As in Hamlet's famous line to Horatio:

      "And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
      There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
      Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
      -- (Hamlet Act 1, scene 5)

      But the problem goes both ways, however -- which is why philosophy and science need each other. There are many good scientists who are are notoriously bad philosophers (ie. Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins)

      In terms of good scientific material, Check out the lectures at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion (St. Edmunds College, Cambridge).

      http://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/Multimedia.php

      Or the TestOfFaith YouTube channel.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncsuh_5l6Hw&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL99B2AA9CE8133639

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Thanks for the links!

  • pritam

    i do not understand one thing, whenever there is a discussion about 'God' and 'Science', why does everybody always consider only the principles of Christianity alone? wake up people, THERE ARE OTHER RELIGIONS IN THIS WORLD ALSO!!

    • Michael Murray

      I agree. But the problem this is a Catholic website so when they say "God" they mean the Catholic one. Not even the Protestant God will get a look in :-)

    • Dan Carollo

      No, there are really only three (monotheistic ones, that is): Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

      • facefault

        There's also Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Baha'i, Druze, certain Hindu denominations, and several smaller religions.

  • Dave Emralino

    Good points indeed Sir! One question, have you also read the "5 Ways" of Aquinas in Summa Theologica? It seems that you are inspired by his work. :)

  • GaryJByrne

    "There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
    Therefore there must be a God."
    This is the dumbest thing I've ever read on the internet. Ever.

    • Dan Carollo

      Yes, It requires a bit un-packing, but hardly dumb when you really consider it. The basic idea is this:

      It seems that such experiences of beauty, enjoyment make little sense in a universe whose foundational and ultimate end is complete, utter, impersonal nothingness.

      In fact, such experiences are far more congruent with, and precisely what we'd expect in a universe grounded in a personal, creative God.

      The universe does not just "dumbly" exist. Rather it is richly textured, rationally intelligible and beautiful (yes -- even terrifying a times).
      The atheist answer is like a person stood-up for a date -- It seems excessively "dressed up" if it really has no place to go.

      Not sure if that's a helpful explanation or not -- but it seems to work for me. :)

  • Bill Beattie

    Interesting article, although it didn't move me one inch from my Agnostic beliefs. Most of the "proofs" were sadly lacking. But what I am impressed by is the high quality of the arguments I am reading here in the comments section. From the Atheists to the bible thumpers, and everyone in between there was no arguing, name calling, threats of damnation to hell or other BS. Just well reasoned arguments on both sides. It is a pleasure for once to read a debate on god without people falling into a state of hysteria. Good job guys.

  • Bill Beattie

    I'll throw out my beliefs, for whatever they are worth. I believe that man created god in his own image (as well as the previous multitudes of other gods) because of our fear of death, disease, war, sadness and everything else evil in the world. We created god in our own image, because we would not want to be ruled by a creature that looks like Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars.

    It is comforting to be able to say "after I die I am going to heaven." And it is a plus to say evil men such as Adolf Hitler are burning in hell. So in part I agree with the Christians. The world would probably be a better place if god existed. I'd be happy if he were real.

    But just because I want something to be real does not mean it will magically become real. I'd also like to be rich, famous, handsome and hung like a horse as well, but that ain't gonna happen either..

    I personally am not willing to believe something on faith because other flawed humans tell me I should believe it. And I look at the series of bibles that have been written over the centuries--each one with significant differences from the previous one. Slavery is no longer accepted. Stoning your children for disobedience is no longer condoned. The church no longer is condemning Galileo for saying the planets and stars do not revolve around the earth. As science and humanity advances, the bibles need to be rewritten. If god wrote the bible it would be perfect and forever unchanging because god already knew those things that were already true and changes that were to come. God would not change his moral code ever few hundred years.

  • Luke

    If you don't believe in God- God still believes in you! He also trusts you, because the bible says "love always trusts, always hopes..' Jesus died so God entrusted all his love to you. If you attack something, attack its strongest point, attack Jesus. It will turn out that he did it for you. Love triumphs over evil. You are fully loved, Give your life to him

  • Matjaž Črnivec

    This is a nice list, but what I find somewhat troubling is that the main Christian argument is missing: the 'life and work' of that travelling preacher from Nazareth.

  • Hartic

    The Big Question!

    How does one jump from atheism to believing in god? Assuming that one does accept the possibility or the concept that there may be an intelligence behind the universe, the big bang and the evolution of life and the universe as we know it.

    Assuming the acceptance of the possibility of that intelligence existing, that some refer to as "God"....which is a big jump for some, then how does one jump from that to a religion, one that claims to know or be "Truth"? There are many religions that make this claim...and many that wander from one to the other seeking wisdom and truth.

    Even if one accepts the concept of a creative intelligence behind the universe, why should we assume that this "creative intelligence" even cares about its' creation any more than the wind cares about the shaping of the sand dunes or any more than the volcano cares about anything in the path of it's lava. If there is a god, who cares and is all powerful, this entity keeps well hidden indeed.

    We as humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize even concepts....hence the need to do the same with the concept of a god. I know that people are afraid of "oblivion" when they die, and a drowning man will grasp at a straw....I know it is a hard pill to swallow......but really, when I look around at the world and reality, I see no real indication of a loving god....the majority of mankind has been suffering and dying under horrible conditions for millennia. It is not a matter of being angry with a god, anymore than it is at being angry with the volcano that destroyed pompei....or a disease that destroys a loved one. Nature is "red in tooth and claw".

    In my conversations I don't make it a point of contention, the fact that I no longer believe, as I don't wish to discourage others from their grasping their straw of hope. I am not one of the new "angry atheists"......just weary of all the hoops that religions expects their adherents to jump through and I grow weary of death and suffering.

    The universe is not malevolent, just indifferent.

  • Eevie

    Wow, this is a tough audience. I think I found at total of two creationists in this entire discussion..

  • UseYourBrain

    several variations on the cosmological argument, several variations on the ontological argument, several manifestations of special pleading and pascal's wager?? (so, not '20 arguments' after all). i don't understand why these 'arguments' are still being trotted out as though they may have some, yet unforeseen, validity.

    • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

      Hey UseYourBrain - Welcome to Strange Notions! You mentioned the types of arguments and implied that they aren't valid arguments, but didn't show us how (or "show your work," as the math teacher always used to say.) But these arguments are not so patently false, and most philosophers take them very seriously; Bertrand Russell, for example, wrestled for much of his adult life with the ontological argument and how (or even whether) it was invalid. We're interested here not so much in calling the other side wrong so much as making a case for why.

      • Michael Murray

        A nice discussion of some of the problems with forcing arguments:

        http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/understanding-forcing-arguments.html

        resulting from when this was posted last year.

        Being a mathematician I like sets so I'm fond of the
        Fallacy of Composition.

        e.g. Every thing has a cause. Therefore the universe (i.e. the set of all things) has a cause.

        It's easier to spot the fallacy if you say something like:

        All humans have a navel therefore humanity has a navel.

      • UseYourBrain

        G'day Matthew,

        Bertrand Russell may well have 'wrestled' with the argument, but he evidently did not ultimately consider it compelling enough to become a christian. We can cite any number of intellectuals arguing for either side of this particular coin. I am not a philosopher, so I have nothing new to add.

        My own objection to the ontological argument is this : that the mere fact that something can be conceived, can somehow confer existence upon that thing, is laughably fallacious (and extraordinarily egomaniacal). And even the author regards the ontological argument as "fundamentally flawed" (so why include it?). And, as a silly aside, it is EASY to conceive of something more perfect than the human conception of god.

        I'm not at all interested in personally debating every 'argument' (smarter people than me have already successfully refuted them and continuing discussion of them appears to me to be mere recapitulation of everything that's gone before). But here are a couple of other thoughts :

        17. The Argument from Horrendous Experience
        The torture and murder perpetrated by various inquisitions.
        Therefore there must be no god (or he is a psychopath)
        You either see this one or you don't.

        18-19. The Argument from Common Consensus (these are both the same argument)
        History has proven the "vast majority of people" to be wrong about the vast majority of what they 'knew'. The earth is not flat, nor is it the centre of the universe (not even the centre of this one little solar system). Disease is not caused by demons nor evil spirits. Storms and other meteorological phenomena are not caused by angry deities. There are no monsters under the bed.

        20. Pascal's Wager
        Really? Please.
        Any deity worth his salt is not going to tolerate that sort of nonsense.

        Again, I've added nothing new here. All of these 'arguments' have already been demolished time and again. They are zombie arguments.

        • UseYourBrain

          Of course, I should have also added the most compelling reason to never use the common consensus argument in attempts to rationalise the existence of god...

          The vast majority of people throughout history have believed Q is wrong about Q's particular god (whichever god Q is arguing for). Will Q concede that therefore his god is unlikely to exist? Or will Q claim that the argument from common consensus is not valid in his particular case? Or ... ?

  • http://www.endlesspeace.org TC Mert Eryazıcı

    This video explains clear evidences of the existence of God: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xtHE2YNsxc

    • UseYourBrain

      G'day TC Mert Eryazici
      I believe you would benefit from researching the terms 'undeniable' and 'evidence', as none of the things in your video constitute the latter and many don't even satisfy the requirements of the former.

      All of your 'evidences' take the form : the world is amazing — therefore god. This is logically indistinguishable from : the world is amazing — therefore fairies (or, for that matter : the world is amazing — therefore not god).

      You have not demonstrated any connection whatsoever between your premise and your conclusion.

    • Michael Murray

      Wow.

      "Everything on earth has been created to serve a purpose for mankind" Smallpox? Polio ? Loa loa worm ?

      Animals can't recognise each others faces ? 30 seconds on google shows sheep can:

      http://omgfactcheck.tumblr.com/post/369046151/sheep-can-recognize-each-other-through-pictures

      The shape of vegetables signals their suitability as cures. Wow that's on old one I haven't heard for awhile. Doctrine of signatures I think it's called.

      "You do not see any imperfections in the creation". See the argument by poor design.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_poor_design

  • Denver Greene

    Hi Moderator,
    I'm wondering if it would be possible to actually start a dialogue on each of these points, giving them their own page. Then there could, ideally, be some dialogue where the author (or some other authority) could respond to some of the criticisms for each point. I think this could be extremely useful and informative.

  • AtheismRules

    After several decades of studying the so called “arguments for god” I make
    the following observations :

    1) there are about 30 distinct arguments; others are minor variations.

    2) Every argument can and has been be easily refuted.

    3) Even the most “sophisticated” argument can be refuted in under 13 words.

    4) I issue a regular challenge on various pages (often on the Richard Dawkins
    FB page) to create an argument that can’t be refuted IN TWELVE WORDS OR LESS. After several years I still await such a challenge. I claim that EACH argument for god can be refuted in TWELVE words or less !

    5) Thus ALL 30 known arguments together can be refuted in ONE page of A4 !

    6) I have analysed all 30 arguments by logical fallacy; they average about 4
    logical fallacies per argument, the most common are “Begging the question” (13%) and “wishful thinking” (10%). [Full analysiis regularly published on RD's page]

    So the REAL question is NOT, "does god exist", but "given how easy and trivial it is to refute arguments for god – why are theists only de-converting to atheism at about 1% per annum ?"

  • disqusting

    -
    May I conclude that the universe is much more
    than an empty vastness, dead? Harboring life only in our solar system? It’s a
    breathing, self-aware organism which is far too complex for us humans to
    understand. Some cultures call this organism God, others try to harvest ‘the
    energy’ with witchcraft and sorcery, all extremely primitive ways to
    describe the mysteries of life. It clouds our judgment and blocks our ability
    to discover the truth behind these enigmas, which leads to a halt in
    life-energy.

  • ECB

    On 'Pascal's Wager', It sounds to me like God is being given the
    attributes of a petty and vindictive human being. God would be
    all-powerful and all-knowing, and basically transcendent of base
    human nature, I would think?

    It sounds like your suggesting that God would not be able to offer
    forgiveness or understanding in a situation where someone might
    use their intellect and senses and common sense to just say they
    don't know if God exists. Is that a crime or a sin? I personally do
    believe that God exists, but of course I am not 100% sure, because
    I am not 100% sure that anything really exists. I am not even sure
    that I really exist on a pure, objective level.

    I would just think that God wouldn't condemn his (her's, it's?) own
    creation for not knowing something that doesn't seem to be provable.

  • John Costello
  • Sri Harsha Kacharla

    GOD is just an excuse created by humans. http://kaboomed.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/god-an-excuse/ this article depicts that argument.

  • surgearrester

    1. Socialists are generally wrong about everything
    2. Most socialists are atheists
    3. Therefore God exists
    Not sure if my premises are bulletproof but it works for me!

  • Gary_Centrist

    I am sure that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists. It is wrong for people to deny it.

    http://open.salon.com/blog/gary_fandango/2012/04/13/athpasteists_deny_existence_of_flying_spaghetti_monster

  • Sri Harsha Kacharla
  • Ararxos

    Its simple. If God doesn't exist then the Universe popped out of absolute Nothingness (Chaos) assembled itself through Randomness and we are here by Luck. The last time i checked my science books i didn't see Randomness Nothingness and Luck as explanations because Science follows Determinism. Scientific method follows Determinism and Determinism follows cause and effect in an unbreakable chain of deterministic events that ends in the Big Bang, if the Universe is Deterministic which it is then we can also say that whatever pre-
    existed the Universe is also deterministic, chaos can't create order.
    If it is pre-deterministic the Universe had a purpose, but because the Universe is mindless and finite then purpose pre-existed the Universe, that's why Multiverse Theory was proposed to justify that the Universe is a deterministic event. The problem here is that as BVG Theorem states that even the Multiverses had a Cosmic beginning and even quantum fluctuations can't be past eternal. So, if a Mind that we call God caused the Universe what caused this Mind to exist? That's
    easy to answer, suppose that we want to build a house, the materials that we want to build the house are already there from the Big Bang, we will not create the House out of Nothingness, we will just move through space and time the materials and we will fuse them to create the house, God doesn't need to be created because He doesn't belong to space or time.

    I don't really understand Atheists, how can you say that a Mind with intelligence that created the Universe doesn't exist when you present as counter evidence the intelligence of the scientists? Don't they also have Minds?

  • Nick Sokol

    First of all, I really appreciate this article as a resource and a quick reference guide for a lot of classic and very popular arguments for the existence of god. However, two wrongs don't make a right; the plural of anecdotes is not data; and 20 shoddy arguments don't add up to one correct conclusion. While it is well known that practical and convincing refutations exists for most if not all of the above arguments, it is by the author's own admission that the arguments here don't not hold up on their own. We are expected to combine them "like twined rope" to reach the conclusion that god exists. Unfortunately logic does not work like this, and requires every premise to be verifiably true for the conclusion to hold.

  • The Foundation 4 Pi

    None of these so-called proofs, all of which are flawed when given even a moment's thought, point to any particular god.

  • Jerry Balderas

    *** Video Proof ***

    As a Christian who frequently debates atheists, I find that the best evidence is below. Atheists have extremely clear, concise, and well-thought out arguments. They also don't like to get pinned down so they'll keep referring to repeatable, demonstrative evidence for supernatural events (which by their nature, is difficult to get because supernatural events are not predictable). In the end, though, it's Jesus' signs that turns an evil generation.... and a battle-weary Christian. Here's all the evidence you need! :)

    Apparitions of Saint Mary - 1968 to 1970
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMEWxRB-1dc

    Bleeding Statue - DNA Tested
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz9L2EYjjsc

    Multiple Signs Special on Fox
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_X3zHKRB6w

    A rigorous look at the Book of Daniel Prophecy:
    http://www.harvardhouse.com/Gabriel-to-Daniel_Einstein_Method.htm

    God Bless You!

  • Kyle Kennedy

    If all you can pose are arguments with no proof, it's just the ramblings of a blind man or a liar. I can pose 20 arguments for everything from Santa Claus to Muhammad, and just as easily claim either are the one and true god. For every reason that you would not believe me, I could use the same to not believe you. The reason for that is simple. They are all make believe. You just choose to believe in one of the make believe stories and not the others, for contradictory reasons.

  • Roland

    There does not seem to be any hard, physical proof. Everything we know about Christianity is what we're told...or have read. I am at the point where it seems the only logical conclusion is there is a Supreme Being that created everything, but that is where it begins and ends. He or She doesn't have any interest in us. I'm also skeptical because Catholics and Protestants alike use guilt to get us to convert. If what you are offering is so good, why do you use guilt to "sell" it?

    Finally, I have left out a lot of my thoughts simply because I don't want any sincere, convinced believers here to have doubts like I have....heck, they are my own questions anyway. I just sincerely worry this world is all we have and I will never see my family and friends (and pets!) again when I die. And, I wish I could have better faith that I will.