Section 6.1 - The Mysterious Universe: God as Creator
Theist—one who believes in a personal god who rules the world.
Agnostic—one who neither believes nor disbelieves in god.
Atheist—one who disbelieves in god.
Deist—one who believes that god created the universe and then abandoned it.
Pantheist—one who believes that the universe is god.
Cosmological arguments for the existence of God attempt to derive the existence of God from the existence of the universe.
The Traditional Cosmological Argument
Some things are caused.
Nothing can cause itself.
Therefore, everything that is caused is caused by something other than itself.
The chain of causes cannot stretch infinitely backwards in time.
If the chain of causes cannot stretch infinitely backward in time, there must be a first cause.
Therefore, everything that is caused has a first cause, namely, God.
Even if there is a first cause, it doesn’t have to be God.
The notion of an infinite string of causes is no more self-contradictory than the notion of an infinite string of numbers.
So the universe itself may be eternal.
Kalam Cosmological Argument
Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe had a cause, namely God.
Modern physics recognizes that some events have no cause.
The “big bang” could have been the result of a prior “big crunch” either in this universe or some other.
Teleological arguments for the existence of God try to derive the existence of God from the design or purpose of things.
Suppose you were walking across a meadow and came across a watch.
Could you believe that the watch had always been there?
Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to believe that someone had designed it for the purpose of keeping time?
The Analogical Design Argument.
The universe resembles a watch.
Every watch has a designer.
Therefore, the universe probably has a designer, namely, God.
If God needs a universe to accomplish his ends, he is not omnipotent.
Even if there is a designer, it need not have any of the other attributes traditionally associated with God, such as omniscience or omnibenevolence.
The universe is as much like a living thing as a mechanism and living things reproduce without need of an external agent.
Best Explanation Design Argument.
The universe exhibits apparent design.
The best explanation of this apparent design is that it was designed by a supernatural being.
Therefore it’s probable that the universe was designed by a supernatural being, namely, God.
Apparent design can also be explained by evolution.
Evolution is a better explanation than the God-hypothesis because it is simpler, more conservative, has greater scope, and is more fruitful.
If there were structures that were so complex that they could not possibly have evolved through natural selection, there would be reason to believe that evolution was false.
Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biochemist, claims to have found such structures.
However, most biologists reject the notion that the parts of an irreducibly complex system could not have evolved independently of that system.
Many people believe that the remarkable fine-tuning of many of the universe’s physical properties lends credibility to the notion that it was designed. If certain physical properties were slightly different then we wouldn’t exist.
However, this fine-tuning needs to be explained only if it’s possible for the universe to be tuned differently than it is.
Miracles are a violation of natural law by a supernatural being.
The Argument from Miracles.
There are events that seem to be miracles.
The best explanation of these events is that they were performed by a miracle worker.
Therefore, there probably is a miracle worker, namely, God.
The miracle worker may not have any of the properties traditionally associated with God.
Something may seem to be a miracle simply because we are unaware of the natural laws at work.
The Argument from Religious Experince.
People have experiences that seem to be of God.
The best explanation of these experiences is that they are of God.
Therefore, it’s probable that God exists.
Religious experiences can be explained as the result of abnormal states of consciousness brought on by drugs, meditation, sensory deprivation, etc.
These explanations are better than the God hypothesis because they are simpler, more conservative, more fruitful, and have more scope.
Anselfm’s Ontological Argument.
God, by definition, is the greatest being possible.
If God exists only in our minds, then it is possible for there to be a being greater than God, namely a being like God that exists in reality.
But it is not possible for there to be a being greater than God.
Therefore, God must exist in reality.
Gaunillo’s Lost Island
Consider the most perfect island imaginable.
If it only existed in our minds, it wouldn’t be the most perfect island imaginable.
Therefore, it must exist in reality.
To say that something exists only in the understanding is to say that the concept of the thing doesn’t apply to anything in reality.
Contrary to what Anselm would have us believe, this doesn’t involve a contradiction.
Descartes’ Ontological Argument
God, by definition, possesses all possible perfections.
Existence is a perfection.
Therefore, God exists.
Suppose someone discovers a new animal—a gangle—that has eleven noses, seven blue eyes, bristly hair, sharp teeth and wheels in the place of feet.
Suppose now that someone says that, in addition, gangles exist.
Do we learn something new about the nature of gangles?
Existence is not a property of things.
Existence is not a perfection. (It’s not always better to exist than not to exist.)
The first premise of Descartes’s argument should read: “If God exists, then He possesses all possible perfections.”
The conclusion, then, would be: “If God exists, then He exists.”
If you wager that God exists, and He does, you win everything.
If He doesn’t, you lose nothing.
So you should wager that God exists.
God may not care whether people believe in Him.
God may punish those who believe on purely selfish grounds.
God may not like gamblers.
It may not be true that we lose nothing by believing in God.
Section 6.2 - When Bad Things Happen to Good People: God as Trouble Maker
Evil seems to exist. If God were all-knowing, he would know that evil exists. If he were all good, he would want to eliminate evil. And if he were all-powerful, he would be able to eliminate evil. Why so much evil?
Suppose that in a distant forest, lightning strikes a tree, causes a forest fire, and burns a fawn to death.
How can an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being allow such unnecessary suffering?
Argument from Evil.
There is unnecessary evil in the world.
If there were an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, there would be no unnecessary evil in the world.
Therefore, there is no all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being.
A theory that seeks to justify belief in God in the face of all the evil in the world is known as a theodicy.
Many different theodicies have been proposed over the years, and all seek to defend the claim that the evil in the world is necessary.
According to the ontological defense, goodness cannot exist without evil, so it’s impossible for God to make a good world that didn’t contain evil.
Objection: This would be true if goodness were a type of evil, but it isn’t.
Just as redness can exist without other colors, goodness can exist without evil.
According to the knowledge defense, evil must exist in order for us to know good.
It’s possible to know evil without experiencing it, for example, Adam and Eve.
There is far more evil in the world than is necessary to give us a knowledge of it.
According to the free will defense, evil is necessary for free will.
It’s possible to have free will and not choose evil, e. g., God, Mary, Jesus.
The evil caused by humans (moral evil) is only one sort of evil. There is also evil caused by nature (natural evil).
According to the ideal-humanity defense, evil is necessary to improve the human race.
There is little evidence that humanity has improved.
This conflicts with the principle that humans are infinitely valuable and thus should not be used as means to an end.
According to the soul-building defense, evil is necessary to make us better people.
Suffering often does not necessarily improve one’s character.
Forcing others to do something against their will, even if it will benefit them, is a violation of their rights.
There is much more evil than necessary.
According to the finite God defense, evil exists because God lacks one of the traditional properties associated with Him such as being all-powerful or all-good.
If God is not all-powerful, He cannot perform miracles.
If God is not all-powerful, He may not be worthy of worship.