⚡ Existence Of God Analysis
Some suffering or at least its possibility is a demanded by human Existence Of God Analysis agency: if people could not choose Existence Of God Analysis acts Existence Of God Analysis cause suffering, moral choice Existence Of God Analysis not Existence Of God Analysis. Therefore each thing in motion is moved Analysis Of Sarasate something Existence Of God Analysis. Cancel Submit. It Existence Of God Analysis is Existence Of God Analysis to speak of disheartening— to conceive of oneself not existing! Existence Of God Analysis are complex, improbable systems, and by Existence Of God Analysis laws of probability any change is astronomically more Existence Of God Analysis to Existence Of God Analysis for the worse than for the better. David Banach's homepage at Saint Anselm College.
Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens - Full Debate [HD]
These objective moral truths are not grounded in the way the world is but rather in the way that the world ought to be. Consider: should white-supremacists succeed, taking over the world and eliminating all who don't meet their criteria for being existence-worthy, their ideology still would be morally wrong. It would be true, under this hideous counterfactual, that the world ought not to be the way they have made it. The world itself — the way that it is, the laws of science that explain why it is that way — cannot account for the way that the world ought to be. Reference to God does not help in the least to ground the objective truth of morality.
The question is: why did God choose the moral rules he did? Did he have a reason justifying his choice that, say, giving alms to the poor is good, while genocide is wrong? Either he had a good reason or he didn't. If he did, then his reasons, whatever they are, can provide the grounding for moral truths for us, and God himself is redundant. And if he didn't have a good reason, then his choices are arbitrary—he could just as easily have gone the other way, making charity bad and genocide good—and we would have no reason to take his choices seriously.
The hard work of moral philosophy consists in grounding morality in some version of the Golden Rule: that I cannot be committed to my own interests mattering in a way that yours do not just because I am me and you are not. FLAW 2: Premise 4 is belied by the history of religion, which shows that the God from which people draw their morality for example, the God of the Bible and the Koran did not establish what we now recognize to be morality at all.
The God of the Old Testament commanded people to keep slaves, slay their enemies, execute blasphemers and homosexuals, and commit many other heinous acts. Of course, our interpretation of which aspects of Biblical morality to take seriously has grown more sophisticated over time, and we read the Bible selectively and often metaphorically. But that is just the point: we must be consulting some standards of morality that do not come from God in order to judge which aspects of God's word to take literally and which aspects to ignore.
Slavery and torture and genocide are wrong by our lights, they would argue, and conflict with certain values we hold dear, such as freedom and happiness. But those are just subjective values, and it is obscure to say that statements that are consistent with those values are objectively true in the same way that mathematical or scientific statements can be true. People often act altruistically — namely, against their interests. They help others, at a cost to themselves, out of empathy, fairness, decency, and integrity.
Natural selection can never favor true altruism, because genes for selfishness will always out-compete genes for altruism recall that altruism, by definition, exacts a cost to the actor. Only a force acting outside of natural selection and intending for us to be moral could account for our ability to act altruistically from 2. FLAW 1: Theories of the evolution of altruism by natural selection have been around for decades and are now widely supported by many kinds of evidence. A gene for being kind to one's kin, even if it hurts the person doing the favor, can be favored by evolution, because that gene would be helping a copy of itself that is shared by the kin.
And a gene for conferring a large benefit to a non-relative at a cost to oneself can evolve if the favor-doer is the beneficiary of a return favor at a later time. Both parties are better off, in the long run, from the exchange of favors. Some defenders of religion do not consider these theories to be legitimate explanations of altruism, because a tendency to favor one's kin, or to trade favors, are ultimately just forms of selfishness for one's genes, rather than true altruism.
But this is a confusion of the original phenomenon: we are trying to explain why people are sometimes altruistic, not why genes are altruistic. We have no reason to believe that genes are ever altruistic in the first place! Also, in a species with language, namely humans, committed altruists develop a reputation for being altruistic, and thereby win more friends, allies, and trading partners. This can give rise to selection for true, committed, altruism, not just the tit-for-tat exchange of favors.
FLAW 2: We have evolved higer mental faculties, such as self-reflection and logic, that allow us to reason about the world, to persuade other people to form alliances with us, to learn from our mistakes, and to achieve other feats of reason. Those same faculties, when they are honed through debate, reason, and knowledge, can allow us to step outside ourselves, learn about other people's point of view, and act in a way that we can justify as maximizing everyone's well-being.
We are capable of moral reasoning because we are capable of reasoning in general. FLAW 3: In some versions of the Argument from Altruism, God succeeds in getting people to act altruistically because he promises them a divine reward and threatens them with divine retribution. People behave altruistically to gain a reward or avoid a punishment in the life to come. This argument is self-contradictory. It aims to explain how people act without regard to their self-interest, but then assumes that there could be no motive for acting altruistically other than self-interest. Having free will means having the freedom to choose our actions, rather than their being determined by some prior cause. If we don't have free will, then we are not agents, for then we are not really acting, but rather we're being acted upon.
That's why we don't punish people for involuntary actions—such as a teller who hands money to a bank robber at gunpoint, or a driver who injures a pedestrian after a defective tire blows out. If we can't be held morally responsible for anything we do then the very idea of morality is meaningless. We, as moral agents, are not subject to the laws of nature, in particular, the neural events in a genetically and environmentally determined brain from 1 and 6. Only a being who is apart from the laws of nature and partakes of the moral sphere could explain our being moral agents from 7. Either my actions are predictable from my genes, my upbringing, my brain state, my current situation, and so on , or they are not.
If they are predictable, then there is no reason to deny that they are caused, and we would not have free will. So they must be unpredictable, in other words, random. But if our behavior is random, then in what sense can it be attributable to us at all? If it really is a random event when I give the infirm man my seat in the subway, then in what sense is itme to whom this good deed should be attributed?
If the action isn't caused by my psychological states, which are themselves caused by other states, then in one way is it really my action? And what good would it do to insist on moral responsibility, if our choices are random, and cannot be predicted from prior events such as growing up in a society that holds people responsible? This leads us back to the conclusion that we, as moral agents must be parts of the natural world-- the very negation of 7. It expresses, rather than dispels, the confusion we feel when faced with the Fork of Free Will. The paradox has not been clarified in the least by introducing God into the analysis.
The concept is baffling, because our moral agency seems to demand both that our actions be determined, and also that they not be determined. The purpose of each individual person's life must derive from the overall purpose of existence. Only a being who understood the overall purpose of existence could create each person according to the purpose that person is meant to fulfill. FLAW 1: The first premise rests on a confusion between the purpose of an action and the purpose of a life. It is human activities that have purposes—or don't. We study for the purpose of educating and supporting ourselves. We eat right and exercise for the purpose of being healthy. We warn children not to accept rides with strangers for the purpose of keeping them safe. We donate to charity for the purpose of helping the poor just as we would want someone to help us if we were poor.
The notion of a person's entire life serving a purpose, above and beyond the purpose of all the person's choices, is obscure. Might it mean the purpose for which the person was born? That implies that some goal-seeking agent decided to bring our lives into being to serve some purpose. Then who is that goal-seeking agent? Parents often purposively have children, but we wouldn't want to see a parent's wishes as the purpose of the child's life. If the goal-seeking agent is God, the argument becomes circular: we make sense of the notion of "the purpose of a life" by stipulating that the purpose is whatever God had in mind when he created us, but then argue for the existence of God because he is the only one who could have designed us with a purpose in mind.
FLAW 2: Premise 2 states that human life cannot be pointless. But of course it could be pointless in the sense meant by this argument: lacking a purpose in the grand scheme of things. It could very well be the there is no grand scheme of things because there is no Grand Schemer. By assuming that there is a grand scheme of things, it assumes that there is a schemer whose scheme it is, which circularly assumes the conclusion. But we can very well maintain that each human life is precious—is worth living, is not expendable—without maintaining that each human life has a purpose in the overall scheme of things.
By the same token, anything that happens at any point in time will not matter from the point of view of some other time a million years distant from it into the future. No point in time can confer mattering on any other point, for each suffers from the same problem of not mattering itself from 2. It is intolerable or inconceivable, or unacceptable that in a million years nothing that happens now will matter. It is only from the point of view of eternity that what happens now will matter even in a million years from 3.
FLAW: Premise 4 is illicit: it is of the form "This argument must be correct, because it is intolerable that this argument is not correct. Maybe we won't matter in a million years, and there's just nothing we can do about it. If that is the case, we shouldn't declare that it is intolerable—we just have to live with it. Another way of putting it is: we should take ourselves seriously being mindful of what we do, and the world we leave our children and grandchildren , but we shouldn't take ourselves that seriously, and arrogantly demand that we must matter in a million years.
When peoples, widely separated by both space and time, hold similar beliefs, the best explanation is that those beliefs are true. The best explanation for why every culture has had theistic beliefs is that those beliefs are true. FLAW: 2 is false. Widely separated people could very well come up with the same false beliefs. Human nature is universal, and thus prone to universal illusions and shortcomings of perception, memory, reasoning, and objectivity. Also , many of the needs and terrors and dependencies of the human condition such as the knowledge of our own mortality, and the attendant desire not to die are universal.
Our beliefs don't arise only from well-evaluated reasoning, but from wishful thinking, self-deception, self-aggrandizement, gullibility, false memories, visual illusions, and other mental glitches. Well-grounded beliefs may be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to psychologically fraught beliefs, which tend to bypass rational grounding and spring instead from unexamined emotions. The fallacy of arguing that if an idea is universally held then it must be true was labeled by the ancient logicians consensus gentium. Mystics go into a special state in which they seem to see aspects of reality that elude everyday experience. We cannot evaluate the truth of their experiences from the viewpoint of everyday experience from 1.
When there is unanimity among observers as to what they experience, then unless they are all deluded in the same way, the best explanation for their unanimity is that their experiences are true. FLAW 1 : Premise 5 is disputable. There is indeed reason to think mystics might be deluded in similar ways. The universal human nature that refuted the Argument from the Consensus of Humanity entails that the human brain can be stimulated in unusual ways that give rise to universal but not objectively correct experiences. The fact that we can stimulate the temporal lobes of non-mystics and induce mystical experiences in them is evidence that mystics might indeed all be deluded in similar ways. Certain drugs can also induce feelings of transcendence, such as an enlargement of perception beyond the bounds of effability, a melting of the boundaries of the self, a joyful expansion out into an existence that seems to be all One, with all that Oneness pronouncing Yes upon us.
Such experiences, which, as William James points out, are most easily attained by getting drunk, are of the same kind as the mystical: "The drunken consciousness is one bit of the mystic consciousness. The fact that the same effects can overcome a person when we know what caused them and hence don't call the experience "mystical" — is reason to suspect that the causes of mystical experiences also lie within internal excitations of the brain having nothing to do with perception.
FLAW 2: The struggle to put the ineffable contents of abnormal experiences into language inclines the struggler toward pre-existing religious language, which is the only language that most of us have been exposed to which overlaps with the unusual sensations of an altered state of consciousness. This observation casts doubt on Premise 7. See also The Argument from Sublimity, 34 below. FLAW 1: This is a circular argument if ever there was one.
The first three premises cannot be maintained unless one independently knows the very conclusion to be proved, namely that God exists. FLAW 2: A glance at the world's religions shows that there are numerous books and scrolls and doctrines and revelations that all claim to reveal the word of God. But they are mutually incompatible. Should I believe that Jesus is my personal savior? Or should I believe that God made a covenant with the Jews requiring every Jew to keep the commandments of the Torah? Should I believe that Mohammad was Allah's last prophet and that Ali, the prophet's cousin and husband of his daughter Fatima, ought to have been the first caliph, or that Mohammad was Allah's last prophet and that Ali was the fourth and last caliph?
And on and on it goes. Only the most arrogant provincialism could allow someone to believe that the holy documents that happen to be held sacred by the clan he was born into are true, while all the documents held sacred by the clans he wasn't born into are false. This world provides numerous instances of imperfect justice — bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people. Our wishes for how the world should be need not be true; just because we want there to be some realm in which perfect justice applies does not mean that there is such a realm. In other words, there is no way to pass from Premise 2 to Premise 3 without the Fallacy of Wishful Thinking. Some suffering or at least its possibility is a demanded by human moral agency: if people could not choose evil acts that cause suffering, moral choice would not exist.
There are virtues — forbearance, courage, compassion, and so on — that can only develop in the presence of suffering. We may call them "the virtues of suffering. Even taking 3 and 6 into account, the amount of suffering in the world is still enormous — far more than what is required for us to benefit from suffering. Moreover, there are those who suffer who can never develop the virtues of suffering--children, animals, those who perish in their agony.
Only a being who has a sense of purpose beyond ours could provide the purpose of all suffering from FLAW: This argument is a sorrowful one, since it highlights the most intolerable feature of our world, the excess of suffering. The suffering in this world is excessive in both its intensity and its prevalence, often undergone by those who can never gain anything from it. This is a powerful argument against the existence of a compassionate and powerful deity. It is only the Fallacy of Wishful Thinking, embodied in Premise 2, that could make us presume that what is psychologically intolerable cannot be the case.
The survival of the Jews, living for milliennia without a country of their own, and facing a multitude of enemies that sought to destroy not only their religion but all remnants of the race, is a historical unlikelihood. There is no natural explanation for so unlikely an event as the survival of the Jews from 3. The best explanation is that they have some transcendent purpose to play in human destiny from 1 and 4. FLAW 1: The fact that the Jews, after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, had no country of their own made it more likely, rather than less likely, that they would survive as a people. If they had been concentrated in one country, they would surely have been conquered by one of history's great empires, as happened to other vanished tribes.
But a people dispersed across a vast diaspora is more resilient, which is why other stateless peoples, like the Parsis and Roma, have also survived for millennia, often against harrowing odds. Moreover, the Jews encouraged cultural traits — such as literacy, urban living, specialization in middleman occupations, and an extensive legal code to govern their internal affairs --that gave them further resilience against the vicissitudes of historical change. The survival of the Jews, therefore, is not a miraculous improbability.
The unique role that Judaism played in disseminating monotheism, mostly through the organs of its two far more popular monotheistic offshoots, Christianity and Islam, has bequeathed to its adherents an unusual amount of attention, mostly negative, from adherents of those other monotheistic religions. There is an upward moral curve to human history tyrannies fall; the evil side loses in major wars; democracy, freedom, and civil rights spread. Natural selection's favoring of those who are fittest to compete for resources and mates has bequeathed humankind selfish and aggressive traits. Left to their own devices, a selfish and aggressive species could not have ascended up a moral curve over the course of history from 2.
FLAW: Though our species has inherited traits of selfishness and aggression, we have also inherited capacities for empathy, reasoning, and learning from experience. We have also inherited language, and with it a means to pass on the lessons we have learned from history. And so humankind has slowly reasoned its way toward a broader and more sophisticated understanding of morality, and more effective institutions for keeping peace. We make moral progress as we do scientific progress, through reasoning, experimentation, and the rejection of failed alternatives. Genius is the highest level of creative capacity, the level which, by definition, defies explanation.
The insights of genius have helped in the cumulative progress of humankind — scientific, technological, philosophical, moral, artistic, societal, political, spiritual. The cause of genius must both lie outside of natural psychological processes and be such as to care about the progress of humankind from 3 and 4. Only God could work outside of natural psychological processes and create geniuses to light the path of humankind. FLAW 1: The psychological traits that go into human accomplishment, such as intelligence and perseverance, are heritable. By the laws of probability, rare individuals will inherit a concentrated dose of those genes.
Given a nurturing cultural context, these individuals will, some of the time, exercise their powers to accomplish great feats. Those are the individuals we call geniuses. We may not know enough about genetics, neuroscience, and cognition to explain exactly what makes for a Mozart or an Einstein, but exploiting this gap to argue for supernatural provenance is an example of The Fallacy of Arguing from Ignorance. FLAW 2: Human genius is not consistently applied to human betterment.
Consider weapons of mass destruction, computer viruses, Hitler's brilliantly effective rhetoric, or those criminal geniuses for example electronic thieves who are so cunning that they elude detection. We could not have derived this knowledge of the infinite from the finite, from anything which we are and come in contact with from 1. Only something itself infinite could have implanted knowledge of the infinite in us from 2 and 3. God would want us to have a knowledge of the infinite, both for the cognitive pleasure it affords us and because it allows us to come to know him, who is himself infinite. FLAW: There are certain computational procedures governed by what logicians call recursive rules. A recursive rule is one that refers to itself, and hence it can be applied to its own output ad infinitum.
For example, we can define a natural number recursively: 1 is a natural number and if you add 1 to a natural number, the result is a natural number. We can apply this rule an indefinite number of times and thereby generate an infinite series of natural numbers. Recursive rules allow a finite system a set of rules, a computer, a brain to reason about an infinity of objects, refuting Premise 3. So though the flaw discussed above is sufficient to invalidate Premise 3 , it should not be understood as suggesting that all of our mathematical knowledge is reducible to recursive rules.
Mathematical truths are necessarily true. There is no possible world in which, say, 2 plus 2 does not equal 4, or in which the square root of 2 can be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers. The truths that describe our physical world, no matter how fundamental, are empirical, requiring observational evidence. So, for example, we await some empirical means to test string theory, in order to find out whether we live in a world of eleven dimensions. Truths that require empirical evidence are not necessary truths. We require empirical evidence because there are possible worlds in which these are not truths, and so we have to test that ours is not such a world.
Only something which itself exists on a different plane of existence from the physical can explain mathematical truths from 6. Only God can explain mathematical truths from 7. Mathematics is derived through pure reason — what the philosophers call a priori reason — which means that it cannot be refuted by any empirical observations. The fundamental question in philosophy of mathematics is: how can mathematics be true but not empirical? Is it because mathematics describes some trans-empirical reality — as mathematical realists believe — or is it because mathematics has no content at all and is a purely formal game consisting of stipulated rules and their consequences?
This argument, however, goes further and tries to deduce God's existence from the trans-empirical existence of mathematical reality. FLAW 1: The inference of 5, from 1 and 4, does not take into account the formalist response to the non-empirical nature of mathematics. FLAW 2: Even if one, Platonistically, accepts the derivation of 5 and then 6, there is something fishy about proceeding onward to 7, with its presumption that something outside of mathematical reality must explain the existence of mathematical reality. Lurking within 7 is the hidden premise: mathematical truths must be explained by reference to non-mathematical truths. But why? If God can be self-explanatory, as this argument presumes, why then can't mathematical reality be self-explanatory — especially since the truths of mathematics are, as this argument asserts, necessarily true?
FLAW 3: Mathematical reality — if indeed it exists — is, admittedly, mysterious. If God doesn't exist and you believe, you've been duped, have wasted time in religious observance, and have missed out on decadent enjoyments. It is more rational to believe that God exists than to believe that he doesn't exist from 7. This unusual argument does not justify the conclusion that "God exists.
One is that the wagerer genuinely has to believe, deep down, that God exists; in other words, it is not enough to mouth a creed, or merely act as if God exists. According to this interpretation, God, if He exists, can peer into a person's soul and discern the person's actual convictions. If so, the kind of "belief" that Pascal's wager advises — a purely pragmatic strategy, chosen because the expected benefits exceed the expected costs — would not be enough. Indeed, it's not even clear that this option is coherent: if one chooses to believe something because of the consequences of holding that belief, rather than being intuitively convinced of it, is it really a belief, or just an empty vow?
The other interpretation is that it is enough to act in the way that traditional believers act: say prayers, go to services, recite the appropriate creed, and go through the other motions of religion. The problem is that Pascal's wager offers no guidance as to which prayers, which services, whichcreed, to live by. Say I chose to believe in the Zoroastrian cosmic war between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu to avoid the wrath of the former, while the real fact of the matter is that God gave the Torah to the Jews, and I am thereby inviting the wrath of Yahweh or vice-versa. Given all the things I could "believe" in, I am in constant danger of incurring the negative consequences of disbelief even though I choose the "belief" option.
The fact that Blaise Pascal stated his wager as two stark choices, putting the outcomes in blatantly Christian terms — eternal salvation and eternal damnation — reveals more about his own upbringing than they do about the logic of belief. The wager simply codifies his particular "live options," to use William James's term, for the only choices that seem possible to a given believer. FLAW 2: Pascal's wager assumes a petty, egotistical, and vindictive God who punishes anyone who does not believe in him. But the great monotheistic religions all declare that "mercy" is one of God's essential traits. A merciful God would surely have some understanding of why a person may not believe in him if the evidence for God were obvious, the fancy reasoning of Pascal's wager would not be necessary , and so would extend compassion to a nonbeliever.
Bertrand Russell, when asked what he would have to say to God if, despite his philosophical atheism, he were to die and face his Creator, responded, "Oh, Lord, why did you not provide more evidence? FLAW 3: The calculations of expected value in Pascal's wager omit a crucial part of the mathematics: the probabilities of each of the two columns, which have to be multiplied with the payoff in each cell to determine the expected value of each cell. If the probability of God's existence ascertained by other means is infinitesimal, then even if the cost of not believing in him is high, the overall expectation may not make it worthwhile to choose the "believe" row after all, we take many other risks in life with severe possible costs but low probabilities, such as boarding an airplane.
One can see how this invalidates Pascal's Wager by considering similar wagers. Say I told you that a fire-breathing dragon has moved into the next apartment and that unless you set out a bowl of marshmallows for him every night he will force his way into your apartment and roast you to a crisp. According to Pascal's wager, you should leave out the marshmallows.
Of course you don't, even though you are taking a terrible risk in choosing not to believe in the dragon, because you don't assign a high enough probability to the dragon's existence to justify even the small inconvenience. The consequences for the believer's life of believing should be considered as part of the evidence for the truth of the belief just as the effectiveness of a scientific theory in its practical applications is considered evidence for the truth of the theory. Call this the pragmatic evidence for the belief. Certain beliefs effect a change for the better in the believer's life — the necessary condition being that they are believed. If one tries to decide whether or not to believe in God based on the evidence available, one will never get the chance to evaluate the pragmatic evidence for the beneficial consequences of believing in God from 2 and 3.
One ought to make 'the leap of faith' the term is James's and believe in God, and only then evaluate the evidence from 1 and 4. The pragmatic definition of truth has severe problems, including possible incoherence: in evaluating the effects of the belief on the believer, we have to know the truth about what those effects are, which forces us to fall back on the old-fashioned notion of truth. To make the best case for The Argument from Pragmatism, therefore, the first premise is here understood as claiming only that the pragmatic consequences of belief are a relevant source of evidence in ascertaining the truth, not that they can actually be equated with the truth.
FLAW 1: What exactly does effecting "a change for the better on the believer's life" mean? For an antebellum Southerner, there was more to be gained in believing that slavery is morally permissible than in believing it heinous. It often doesn't pay to be an iconoclast or revolutionary thinker, no matter how much truer your ideas are than the ideas opposing you. It didn't improve Galileo's life to believe that the earth moved around the sun rather than that the sun and the heavens revolve around the earth. Of course, you could say that it's always intrinsically better to believe something true rather than something false, but then you're just using the language of the pragmatist to mask a non-pragmatic notion of truth.
FLAW 2: The Argument from Pragmatism implies an extreme relativism regarding the truth, because the effects of belief differ for different believers. A profligate, impulsive drunkard may have to believe in a primitive retributive God who will send him to Hell if he doesn't stay out of barroom fights, whereas a contemplative mensch may be better off with an abstract deistic presence who completes his deepest existential world view. But either there is a vengeful God who sends sinners to Hell or there isn't.
If one allows pragmatic consequences to determine truth, then truth becomes relative to the believer, which is incoherent. FLAW 3: Why should we only consider the pragmatic effects on the believer's life? What about the effects on everyone else? The history of religious intolerance, including inquisitions, fatwas, and suicide bombers, suggests that the effects on one person's life of another person's believing in God can be pretty grim. FLAW 4: The pragmatic argument for God suffers from the first flaw of The Argument from Decision Theory 31 above — namely the assumption that the belief in God is like a faucet that one can turn on and off as the need arises. If I make the leap of faith in order to evaluate the pragmatic consequences of belief, then if those consequences are not so good, can I leap back again to disbelief?
Isn't a leap of faith a one-way maneuver? Faith provides good rational grounds for beliefs since it is, in the final analysis, necessary even for the belief in reason — from 3. We are justified in using faith for any belief that is so important to our lives that not believing it would render us incoherent from 4. Reason is a faculty of thinking, the very faculty of giving grounds for our beliefs. To justify reason would be to try to give grounds for the belief: "We ought to accept the conclusions of sound arguments. Any attempt to justify the very propositions that we must use in order to justify propositions is going to land us in circularity. FLAW 1: This argument tries to generalize the inability of reason to justify itself to an abdication of reason when it comes to justifying God's existence.
But the inability of reason to justify reason is a unique case in epistemology, not an illustration of a flaw of reason that can be generalized to some other kind of belief — and certainly not a belief in the existence of some entity with specific properties such as creating the world or defining morality. Indeed, one could argue that the attempt to justify reason with reason is not circular, but rather, unnecessary. One already is, and always will be, committed to reason by the very process one is already engaged in, namely reasoning.
Reason is non-negotiable; all sides concede it. It needs no justification, because it is justification. A belief in God is not like that at all. FLAW 2: If one really took the unreasonability of reason as a license to believe things on faith, then which things should one believe in? If it is a license to believe in a single God who gave his son for our sins, why isn't it just as much a license to believe in Zeus and all the other Greek gods, or the three major gods of Hinduism, or the angel Moroni? For that matter, why not Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy? If one says that there are good reasons to accept some entities on faith, while rejecting others, then one is saying that it is ultimately reason, not faith, that must be invoked to justify a belief.
FLAW 3: Premise 6, which claims that a belief in God is necessary in order to have a purpose in one's life, or to be moral, has already been challenged in the discussions of The Argument from Moral Truth 16 above and The Argument from Personal Purpose 19 above. There are experiences that are windows into the wholeness of existence — its grandeur, beauty, symmetry, harmony, unity, even its goodness.
FLAW: An experience of sublimity is an aesthetic experience Aesthetic experience can indeed be intense and blissful, absorbing our attention so completely while exciting our pleasure that they seem to lift us right out of ourselves. Aesthetic experiences vary in their strength, and when they are overwhelming, we grope for terms like "transcendence" to describe the overwhelmingness. Yet for all that, aesthetic experiences are still, more than likely, internal excitations of the brain, as we see from the fact that ingesting recreational drugs can bring on even more intense experiences of transcendence. And the particular triggers for natural aesthetic experiences are readily explicable from the evolutionary pressures that have shaped the perceptual systems of human beings.
An eye for sweeping vistas, dramatic skies, bodies of water, large animals, flowering and fruiting plants, and strong geometric patterns with repetition and symmetry, was necessary to orient attention to aspects of the environment that were matters of life and death to the species as it evolved in its natural environment. The identification of a blissfully aesthetic experience with a glimpse into benign transcendence is an example of The Projection Fallacy, dramatic demonstrations of our spreading ourselves onto the world.
This is most obvious when the experience gets fleshed out into the religious terms that come most naturally to the particular believer, such as a frozen waterfall being seen by a Christian as a manifestation of the Christian trinity. One does not detract anything from the sublimity of aesthetic experiences by seeing them for what they are, namely sublime aesthetic experiences. Music, too, produces such experiences, though there we know exactly who the creators were. The fact that there is a universe at all — and that it is this universe, with just these laws of nature — has an explanation from 1.
There must, in principle, be a Theory of Everything that explains why just this universe, with these laws of nature, exists from 2. Note that this premise should not be interpreted as entailing that we have the capacity to come up with a Theory of Everything; it may elude the cognitive abilities we have. The only way that the Theory of Everything could explain why it is the Theory of Everything is if it is itself necessarily true i.
The universe, understood in terms of the Theory of Everything, exists necessarily and explains itself from 6. Whenever Einstein was asked whether he believed in God, he responded that he believed in "Spinoza's God. It is one of the most elegant and subtle arguments for God's existence, demonstrating where one ends up if one rigorously eschews the Fallacy of Invoking One Mystery to Pseudo-Explain Another: one ends up with the universe, and nothing but the universe: a universe which itself provides all the answers to all the questions one can pose about it.
A major problem with the argument, however, in addition to the flaws discussed below, is that it is not at all clear that it is God whose existence is being proved. Spinoza's conclusion is that the universe that is described by the laws of nature simply is God. Perhaps the conclusion should, rather, be that the universe is different from what it appears to be — no matter how arbitrary and chaotic it may appear, it is in fact perfectly lawful and necessary, and therefore worthy of our awe. But is its awe-inspiring lawfulness reason enough to regard it as God?
Spinoza's God is sharply at variance with all other divine conceptions. The argument has only one substantive premise, its first one, which, though unproved, is not unreasonable; it is, in fact, the claim that the universe itself is thoroughly reasonable. Though this first premise can't be proved, it is the guiding faith of many physicists including Einstein. It is the claim that everything must have an explanation; even the laws of nature, in terms of which processes are explained, must have an explanation.
In other words, there has to be an explanation for why it is these laws of nature rather than some other, which is another way of asking for why it is this world rather than some other. FLAW: The first premise can be challenged. Our world could conceivably be one in which randomness and contingency have free reign, no matter what the intuitions of some scientists are. Maybe some things just are "stuff happens" , including the fundamental laws of nature. Philosophers sometimes call this just- is-ness "contingency" and, if the fundamental laws of nature are contingent, then even if everything that happens in the world is explainable by those laws, the laws themselves couldn't be explained.
There is a sense in which this argument recalls The Argument from the Improbable Self. Both demand explanations for just this-ness, whether of just this universe or just this me. The Argument from the Intelligibility of the Universe fleshes out the consequences of the powerful first premise, but some might regard the argument as a reductio ad absurdum of that premise. COMMENT: Spinoza's argument, if sound, invalidates all the other arguments, the ones that try to establish the existence of a more traditional God—that is, a God who stands distinct from the world described by the laws of nature, as well as distinct from the world of human meaning, purpose, and morality.
Spinoza's argument claims that any transcendent God, standing outside of that for which he is invoked as explanation, is invalidated by the first powerful premise, that all things are part of the same explanatory fabric. The mere coherence of The Argument from The Intelligibility of The Universe, therefore, is sufficient to reveal the invalidity of the other theistic arguments. This is why Spinoza, although he offered a proof of what he called "God," is often regarded as the most effective of all atheists. The more arguments there are for a proposition, the more confidence we should have in it, even if every argument is imperfect. Science itself proceeds by accumulating evidence, each piece by itself being inconclusive.
There is not just one argument for the existence of God, but many — thirty-five with variations in this list alone. The arguments, though not flawless, are persuasive enough that they have convinced billions of people, and for millennia have been taken seriously by history's greatest minds. For God not to exist, every one of the arguments for his existence must be false, which is extremely unlikely from 4. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that each argument has an average probability of only.
Then the probability that all 35 are flase is The flaws that accompany each argument may be extremely damaging, even fatal, notwithstanding the fact that they have been taken seriously by many people throughout history. In other words, the average probability of any of the arguments being true may be far less than. FLAW 2: This argument treats all the other arguments as being on an equal footing, distributing equal probabilities to them all, and rewarding all of them, too, with the commendation of being taken seriously by history's greatest minds.
Many of the arguments on this list have been completely demolished by such minds as David Hume and Baruch Spinoza: their probability is zero. Few people rest their belief in God on a single, decisive logical argument. Instead, people are swept away by the sheer number of reasons that make God's existence seem plausible — holding out an explanation as to why the universe went to the bother of existing, and why it is this particular universe, with its sublime improbabilities, including us humans; and, even more particularly, explaining the existence of each one of us who know ourselves as a unique conscious individual, who makes free and moral choices that grant meaning and purpose to our lives; and, even more personally, giving hope that desperate prayers may not go unheard and unanswered, and that the terrors of death can be subdued in immortality.
Religions, too, do not justify themselves with a single logical argument, but rather set themselves up to minister to all of these needs and provide a space in people's lives where large questions that escape answers all come together and co-mingle, a co-mingling that, in itself, can give the illusion that they are being answered. Forthcoming, January, All rights reserved. Published with permission. Skip to main content. All Rights Reserved. Introduction By John Brockman "What is this stuff, you ask one another," says the narrator in Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's new novel 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, "and how can it still be kicking around, given how much we already know? Call it the world. It could be a bit overwhelming still.
The Cosmological Argument 1. Everything that exists must have a cause. The universe must have a cause from 1. Nothing can be the cause of itself. The universe cannot be the cause of itself from 3. God is the only thing that is outside of the universe. The Ontological Argument 1. It is greater to exist than not to exist. To conceive of God as not existing is not to conceive of God from 1 and 3. It is inconceivable that God not exist from 4. The Argument from Design A. The Classical Teleological Argument 1. These things have not had a human designer. God is the non-human designer from 5. In the twenty-first century, creationists have tried to revive the Teleological Argument in three forms: B.
The Argument from Irreducible Complexity 1. There are things that we cannot explain yet. Those things must be caused by God. The Argument from the Paucity of Benign Mutations 1. Evolution is powered by random mutations and natural selection. The majority of mutations would be deadly for the organism from 2. Evolution is the process by which an organism evolves from simpler ancestors. The Original Replicator is complex from 4. Anything that was created requires a Creator. The Argument from The Big Bang 1. The universe came to be ex nihilo from 1. Only God could exist outside the universe. There are a vast number of physically possible universes.
Our universe is one of those infinitesimally improbable universes. There is a Fine-Tuner from 5. Only God could have the power and the purpose to be the Fine-Tuner. The Argument from the Beauty of Physical Laws 1. Only a mind-like being with an appreciation of beauty could have designed the laws of nature. God is the only being with the power and purpose to design beautiful laws of nature. The Argument from Cosmic Coincidences 1. Coincidences are, by definition, overwhelmingly improbable. The overwhelmingly improbable defies all statistical explanation. Only God could be the being with such power and such purpose. The Argument from Personal Coincidences 1. Only God both deems our lives significant and has the power to effect these coincidences.
The Argument from Answered Prayers 1. The odds of the beneficial event happening are enormously slim from 1. The Argument from A Wonderful Life 1. Sometimes people who are lost in life find their way. These people could not have known the right way on their own. These people were shown the right way by something or someone other than themselves from 2. There was no person showing them the way. The Argument from Miracles 1. Miracles are events that violate the laws of nature. Only God has the power and the purpose to carry out miracles from 2. Human testimony would be useless if it were not, in the majority of cases, veridical.
Science will never solve the Hard Problem of Consciousness from 3 and 5. The explanation for consciousness must lie beyond physical laws from 6. Consciousness, lying outside physical laws, must itself be immaterial from 7. God is immaterial Consciousness and God both partake in the same immaterial kind of being from 8 and 9. The Argument from The Improbable Self 1. I can step outside myself and view my own contingent particularity with astonishment. God is the only thing outside the world who cares about each and every one of us. The Argument from Survival after Death 1.
A person's consciousness can survive after the death of his or her body from 1 3. Survival after death entails the existence of an immaterial soul. But he is not inserted merely to serve as an icon of learning to be humbled in tales that aim to teach that faith is of greater value than provable knowledge; he is also woven into these sorts of stories for his lack of belief. Just as the villain in oldtime melodramas had to have a waxed moustache, a black cape, and an evil laugh, so too must the bullying professor of such stories be an atheist: it would not be enough for him to be merely an insufferable, over-educated git arrogantly attempting to stretch the minds of his students by having them question something deeply believed. No, he must instead be someone who rejects the existence of God, an assignment of role that re-positions what might otherwise have been a bloodless debate about philosophy as an epic battle between two champions of faith and denial and sets up the action to unfold as one putting the boots to the other.
He is also pivotal to these following tales, which are yet other variations on the same theme:. While the professor stood up at the beginning of class and did his thing, the student had an idea. This is an expressive classroom, and I think it would be fine if you spoke your mind. An atheist professor was teaching a college class and he told the class that he was going to prove that there is no God. He got down to the last couple of minutes and a Marine just released from active duty, and newly registered in the class, walked up to the professor, hit him full force in the face, and sent him flying from his platform. Why did you do that? He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU.
The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. It got down to the last couple of minutes when the SEAL got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold. The SEAL went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned and sat there looking on in silence. So He sent me. That God permits evil to exist and some would say to thrive is taken by non-believers as an inarguable sign that there is no supreme being. As such, this paradox can be disquieting to those who do believe: not only do they themselves have to wrestle with the seeming disconnect, they are left unable to convincingly answer their critics when this topic comes up.
They find themselves similarly hamstrung when pressed to prove the existence of God. Stories about atheist professors being bested by true believers who did have answers at the ready are both ventings of this frustration and expressions of delight in finally seeming to have been armed with deft responses to fling back. These are tales of affirmation, modern-day parables of trials overcome and fierce adversaries bested by those who held fast to what they believed in, even in the face of ridicule rained down by authority figures.
Like parables, they are meant to inspire similar resolve in those with whom they are shared: should those members of the flock ever find themselves in like circumstances, they should feel moved to emulate the brave students of legend who stood up to the atheist professors. Fact Checks. While a college student, Albert Einstein humiliated an atheist professor by using the "Evil is the absence of God" argument on him.
False About this rating. The professor asked. Among these answers are: Free Will: God gave his children the right to make up their own minds as to who they would be, and some choose to be rotten. The Devil: An evil entity preys upon the weak of will, winning many of the flawed to his side where they are first welcomed, then sent out to do his bidding. Top Fact Checks. A Three-Child Limit? Edward Mordrake, the Man with Two Faces.
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