Why think there is a God (4): And the Rest …

The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that there were three types of argument for God’s existence: cosmological, ontological and teleological. Often today those taking a course in religious studies will be presented a cosmological argument, an ontological argument and a teleological argument as those were the arguments for God – just these three.

But it’s not true. Firstly, there are numerous subsets within these three categories. For example, there is the kalam cosmological argument and there is the Leibnizian cosmological argument. But secondly, and more importantly, there are numerous arguments that don’t fit in these categories. And this should not surprise us. If God exists then he is the basis of all reality, the most fundamental thing there is, so the evidence for God is everything – all of reality.

There are complex philosophical arguments from set theory and from concepts (do concepts that no-one has thought of exist?). There are arguments from our mental capacity, such as consciousness and intentionality (how do you explain the mind without denying it is real?) . There are arguments from the consistency of the universe (isn’t it a strange coincidence that universe obeys the laws of logic?). There are arguments against universal scepticism (how do you know that your thoughts are, in any way, related to reality?). There are arguments from the intelligibility and discoverability of the universe (isn’t it useful that the present is like the past?). There are arguments from the transcendent nature of human experience (is music, art, beauty, just about attracting a mate?). There are arguments from our transcendent desire (why do we long for something more?) and arguments from the search of meaning (are our lives just a cosmic fluke?). There are arguments from providence (seeing God at work in your life) and arguments from miracles (some things just seem to require a God). And there are probably many more.

Now the point is not to just throw arguments at you till you’re too weary to object any more. Every argument needs to be judged on its own merits. Sometimes people make bad arguments for the existence of God, or present them in a bad way. There would be no point just stacking up bad arguments. But there are also numerous good arguments and sometimes all it takes is one to change someone’s perspective.

The real point of this essay is that thinking about the existence of God is thinking about reality itself. And the question is, does reality seem ordered, meaningful, purposeful, filled with depth and richness? Or does reality seem chaotic, meaningless, pointless, just an unhappy result of blind chance? If, on balance, you think the first option is more like reality as you experience then you have good reason for thinking there is a God.

And having come to the realisation that there probably is a God then you’re ready to start exploring what that means for you.

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Preceding articles:

Why think there’s a God? (1): Something from Nothing

Why think there is a God? (2) Goldilocks Effect

Why Think There Is a God? (3): Why Is It Wrong?

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  • A Cogent Case for the Existence of God. (yandyleyva.wordpress.com)
    While the Kalam argument does not explicitly argue for the existence of God, it does argue for a first cause to the universe. The argument is made complete when one analyzes the required characteristics of this first cause, but first the premises of the argument have to be engaged.
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    Craig’s gloss highlights that God does not fit as a being who began to exist because he finds his existence logically-prior to time. He is basically saying the we can easily conceive of a timeless being who comes to exist in time, but it is the uncaused cause of time. There is no reason to believe that if x began to exist in time than x must begin to exist as such.
  • Proof And Evidence For God Does Not Exist (honoringreason.wordpress.com)
    Axiological Argument
    God cannot explain away god. There is no evidence.
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    Experiential Argument
    There is no experiment that justifies god you will have to elaborate.
  • Edward Harrison: “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God” (lifeondoverbeach.wordpress.com)
    “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God – the design argument of Paley – updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.”
  • Book Review: Palmer’s The Atheist’s Primer (withalliamgod.wordpress.com)
    The Atheist’s Creed (2010), is to bring out “important philosophical arguments to the force, and to provide a selective overview of the extraordinary richness of the atheistic literature, which extends from the time of the Greeks down to our own day.”(p.11)
  • Why the Kalam Cosmological Argument fails, and why it doesn’t matter anyway (freethinkingjew.com)
    essentially the argument amounts to “Everything that begins to exist, including the universe, has a cause, therefore the universe has a cause.”

    The fact is, however, that we do not know that everything that begins to exist has a cause, because we’ve never seen a universe come into existence.  Therefore we have no track record, no basis for assuming that whenever a universe comes into existence (if, in fact, the universe ever did come into existence and wasn’t always there) that it always has a cause.  And so the assumption in Premise 1 that everything (including the universe) that comes into existence has a cause may or may not be true.  Since we don’t know whether Premise 1 is true, we don’t know whether the conclusion is true either.

  • Does God Exist? Debate Summary of William Lane Craig vs. Klemens Kappel (withalliamgod.wordpress.com)
    Kappel admitted that it is not easy to come up with evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist. People don’t believe God exist because of the same reason they don’t believe Thor (Danish god) exist. The reason some believe in God is because they are born in environment that believes in God.(Comment: Genetic Fallacy)

    Kappel’s reasons for not believing in God is that we ought to treat God Hypothesis as an alternative hypothesis to much of what we take for ourselves to know from science and common sense about the would.

  • 5 Types of Apologetics (whybelievethat.wordpress.com)
    There are 5 main types of apologetics, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. No one method is more correct than another, but most people are drawn to a particular style based on the interests God has given them.
  • Aquinas’ Quinque viæ: Regarding the existence of God (thehouseofhorus.com)
    An infinite regress is a series of propositions that require an answer for the previous ones actions. In example: A1 exists because of A2. A2 exists because of A3. A3 exists because of A4 etc. This becomes an infinite loop.
  • Douglas Groothuis’ 752-page Christian apologetics book is now under $22 (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    Groothuis engages very difficult scientific and philosophical concepts and communicates them in a way that even the beginner will be able to grasp. Though there are many different versions of the cosmological argument, the chapter hones in on the kalam cosmological argument as put forth by William Lane Craig. The kalam argument is superior to other cosmological arguments in that it supposedly secures the theistic doctrine of ex nihilo if the arguments proves successful (note: a minor quibble of this chapter is that Groothuis purports that the Thomistic cosmological argument does not endorse ex nihilo. I believe this to be false). This specific chapter was sensational – however I was left disappointed that no time was given to addressing the cosmological argument posited by Aquinas. In some respects, the Thomistic cosmological argument is the simplest form for people new to apologetics. The Thomistic version does not get into the technical issues of the metaphysics of time and Big Bang cosmology that the kalam version uses, nor does it require knowledge of the principle of sufficient reason that the Leibnizian version necessitates. While the kalam and Leibnizian versions are logical and sound arguments, they may confusing to people new to apologetics.

Why think there’s a God? (1): Something from Nothing

Let us start with the universe, the whole thing, the big picture. Why is there a universe? Why is there something rather than nothing? And how did all come about? These are big questions. Philosophers discuss these questions when looking at what is known as “the cosmological argument”.
There are many different ways of approaching the cosmological argument and many ways of stating it, but here is one common formulation:

1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause
2. The universe had a beginning
3. Therefore the universe had a cause

This is a deductive argument so if the premises (1 and 2) are true then the conclusion (3) is true. Intuitively, I think most people would accept the first premise and nowadays almost all philosophers and scientists accept the second premise, so it seems probable that the conclusion is true.

English: WMAP observes the first light of the ...

WMAP observes the first light of the universe- the afterglow of the Big Bang. This light emerged 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Patterns imprinted on this light encode the events that happened only a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. In turn, the patterns are the seeds of the development of the structures of galaxies we now see billions of years after the Big Bang. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A good way to think about this is to try to imagine the alternatives. If the universe did not have a cause then either it didn’t have a beginning or popped into existence from nothing. But the universe did have a beginning. Around 14 billion years ago the universe began with the Big Bang. But the other alternative doesn’t seem particularly likely either. If you can get something from nothing, why do scientists spend so much time an effort looking for causes and explanations? If universes can just pop into existence uncaused then what is there to stop a brand new universe popping into existence in my shoe, say, or in my tea. If you find it just a little bit too unbelievable that the universe just winked into existence without rhyme or reason, then it must have had a cause.

The obvious follow-up question is what sort of cause are we looking for? The universe is space and time; what came into existence at the Big Bang was space and time. So whatever caused the universe to exist, whatever caused space and time to exist, must not exist in space (non-spatial) and must not exist in time (non-temporal) but – and this is the important bit – must also have cause power sufficient to kick off the Big Bang. And if you think about it, there aren’t that many options. If you are the sort of person who believes in abstract objects (i.e. that things like the number 3 aren’t just concepts but have independent existence) then you might identify abstract objects as potential candidates. After all, they are non-spatial and non-temporal. Unfortunately abstract objects don’t have causal power (the number 3 can’t cause anything). The only other available alternative seems to be an eternal and immaterial mind, and that sounds a lot like God.

“Aha!”, the atheist cries, “if the universe requires a cause surely God requires a cause too”. But this would be to misunderstand the argument. The universe requires a cause because it had a beginning (i.e. it is not eternal). But, God does not have a beginning (he is eternal) and so does not require a cause.

So if you can’t get something from nothing (and you can’t) and if the universe had a beginning (and it did) then it seems you need (some kind of) God.

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To be continued

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Additional literature

  1. Where did God come from?
  2. Attributes to God
  3. No good thing will he withhold
  4. Onsterfelijkheid – Immortaliteit
  5. Cosmos creator and human destiny
  6. Why is the age of the universe so different to the age of the Earth?
  7. Bible and Science (2): In the Beginning
  8. Bible and Science (3): Something From Nothing
  9. Bible and Science (4): How Did the Beginning Begin?
  10. Why did God take 6 days to create the universe? Why not do it in 1?
  11. Creator and Blogger God 3 Lesson and solution
  12. Trusting, Faith, calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #3 Voice of God #1 Creator and His Prophets

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From other denominations:

  • The First Cause (christianreasons.com)
    The Cosmological Argument takes the reality of the cosmos to entail the existence of a something that created it.
  • Why the Kalam Cosmological Argument fails, and why it doesn’t matter anyway (freethinkingjew.com)
    There’s no way this amazing world could have come into existence by itself.  There must have been some sort of “uncaused cause” that created the universe.Philosophers have been aware of these sorts of arguments for many centuries, and yet philosophers have, by and large, rejected these arguments.  It’s easy to see why, when even just an average freethinker like me can see where these arguments fall short.
  • The 7 Most Intriguing Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God (io9.com)
    Nietzsche is famous for saying that God is dead, but news of The Almighty’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated. Here are some of the most fascinating and provocative philosophical arguments for the existence of God.
  • Allan Gotthelf on Ayn Rand on the Existence of God (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
    According to the axiom of existence, “Existence exists.”  Gotthelf takes this to mean that Something exists. (37)  If that is what it means, then it is indeed a self-evident truth.  For example, it is self-evident (to me) that I exist, which of course entails that something exists.  But it is equally self-evident (to me) that I am conscious.  For if I were not conscious then I would not be able to know that I exist and that something exists.  “That one exists possessing consciousness is the axiom of consciousness, the second philosophic axiom.” (38)The first axiom is logically prior to the second.  This is called the primacy of existence and it too is axiomatic though not a separate axiom. “The thesis that existence comes first — that things exist independent of consciousness and that consciousness is a faculty not for the creation of its objects but for the discovery of them — Ayn Rand call the primacy of existence.” (39)
  • The Cosmological Argument: Arguments Put Forward By Copleston In His Radio Debate With Russell (olaleyedesola.wordpress.com)
    The radio debate between Copleston and Russell occurred in 1948. Copleston was arguing as a Jesuit priest with the firm belief that the cosmological argument is a logical proposition that God must exist. Bertrand Russell, on the other hand, was arguing as an agnostic with the belief that not everything has a cause because the whole concept of causes derived from man’s observation of particular things. Therefore, according to Russell, to say that God is the cause of the universe is rather illogical. The debate as a whole was split into two parts: the arguments from contingency and the moral argument.
  • The Cosmological Argument Defined (herose4grace.wordpress.com)
    The cosmological argument is in disguise.  In its premise, it calls on experience to prove the existence of God but in its untainted bounds, it is an argument of reason.  The main point of this argument is the simple premise that something can not come from nothing. It is our experience that dictates this absolute.St. Aquinas proposes the cosmological argument which begins by recognizing certain facts of experience and acknowledges the existence of God to explain these facts.  This argument, therefore claims to be a posteriori, i.e., based on observation and experience as opposed to a priori which is based on reason.
  • Essential Doctrines (Part 1): The Doctrine of God’s Existence (pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com)
    The doctrine of God that needs to hold true for the Christian faith is that of theism. Norman Geisler explains theism as, …the worldview that an infinite, personal God created the universe and miraculously intervenes in it from time to time (see Miracle). God is both transcendent over the universe and immanent in it” (Geisler BECA 1999, 722). Geisler mentions that theism holds that God is both transcendent and immanent. These elements of belief in God are essential to the Christian doctrine. One could prove God’s existence without proving Christianity, but one cannot prove Christianity without proving the existence of a theistic God. Transcendence means that God exists as a separate entity from the universe. In contrast to pantheistic religions, God exists apart from the universe. Therefore, the universe is a creation of God. Immanence describes God’s working within the universe. Deists, like Thomas Jefferson, believe in God’s existence, but do not hold that God works within creation. Creation is like a wound-up clock and is ticking apart from God on its’ own. However, theists understand that God works in creation. God reveals God’s self to human beings (e.g. revelation).
  • William Lane Craig lectures on naturalistic alternatives to the Big Bang (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    This lecture might be a little advanced for beginners, but if you stretch your mind first, you shouldn’t tear anything.
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    The Big Bang cosmology that Dr. Craig presents is the standard model for how the universe came into being. It is a theory based on six lines of experimental evidence.
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    here’s a re-cap of the three main evidences for the Big Bang cosmology from Caltech.
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    The whole text of the article is posted online here.
  • Storkersen: God and The Big Bang Theory (iegrapevine.com)
    The man who theorized the big bang theory, George Lemaître, was an astronomer and professor of physics at a university in Belgium in the 1920s. In addition, he was a Catholic priest.
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    The fact is that while Lemaître attributed the cause of the big bang to God, it has been distorted over time and the cause has been attributed to matter or nothingness.There are various reasons why these two ideas coincide.
  • Does God Exist?: Trying to See Both Sides of the Question (adamstask.wordpress.com)
    Suppose:1) There exist things that are caused.
    2) Nothing can be the cause of itself.
    3) There cannot be an actual infinite regress of causes.
    4) There exists an uncaused first cause.
    5) The word God means uncaused first cause.
    6) Therefore, God exists.
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    the reason we ascribe to scientific facts some sort of objective and, in a sense, absolute nature is that they are validated by real-world experience; science begins in theoretical postulation, but if it is to be validated it must end in prediction of observations. And in the case of many multi-verse theories or other such theories one is left with only theoretical postulations that are less parsimonious and sensible than God.
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    the properties of God have intrinsic maximums. For instance, one could define perfect knowledge this way: for any proposition, an omniscient being knows whether is is true or false. An omnipotent being can do anything that is logically possible. An omnibenevolent being will always do what is right in terms of maximizing the good.
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    One of the ways in which Swinburne creates a more interesting argument for the case of theism is by rejecting deductive arguments, in the spirit of Cleanthes, for inductive arguments. Swinburne’s overall argument is placed within the setting of confirmation theory. He distinguishes between P-inductive statements, where the premises make the conclusion probable, from C-inductive statements, where the premises confirm the probability of the conclusion or make it more probable than it otherwise would be. 
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