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“Does God Exist?” August 2, 2007

Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, Christianity, evidence, fallacy, freethought, god, logic, morality, religion, skepticism, theism.
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Here are notes I made while reading William Lane Craig’s “Does God Exist?

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Atheism does not imply meaninglessness.

Atheism does not imply lack of hope for a better future. (It does put the onus of making the future better on us.)

Even if there is a god there is no “deliverance from aging, disease, and death”. Even if there is an eternal afterlife in paradise we still age, disease, and die.


“1. God makes sense of the origin of the universe.”

This god of the gaps argument is entirely unconvincing. A god is not necessary to explain the existence or origin of the universe. Anywhere that god is posited an equaly (or maybe more) plausible natural process would do. This is only convincing if you already believe in a god.

If it is impossible for the universe to have lasted forever, it is impossible for god to have lasted forever. If god can operate outside time and space, natural processes can operate outside time and space. If god can have no cause and no beginning than natural processes can have no cause and no beginning. Any argument to the contrary amounts to special pleading.

The big bang did not necessarily come from nothing. We have no idea what may have existed “before” or “outside of” the big bang. To declare that it only could have been god is an appeal to knowledge that we just do not have; knowledge that we may never have.

Further more considering our complete ignorance of how things work outside the universe it is impossible to know whether or not the universe could have come from nothing, if indeed that happened to be the case.

“Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” If this is true, than it must also be true of god. What was god’s cause? What was the cause of god’s cause? etc…

“It must be uncaused because we’ve seen that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes.” This violates the notion that everything must have a cause. If god can be causeless than the universe could be causeless, or something else that caused the universe could be causeless. Anything else is special pleading.

“The only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions. For example, a man sitting from eternity could freely will to stand up.” Positing a personal agent does not magically make it possible for you to break all the rules you set at the beginning of this argument. If nothing can be eternal than god cannot be eternal; if god can be eternal than so could comething else!

“2. God makes sense of the the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.”

This entire aregument can be answered in a single sentence. If the universe was not suited for life than none would be here to marvel at its suitability. The very existence of life is sufficient evidence to explain the universes suitability.

“But we now know that our existence is balanced on a knife’s edge.” No we don’t know this. We know that some numbers have to be very specific values to get the universe that we have, but we do not know the process that those values were determined so we cannot proclaim them to be “balanced on a knife’s edge” since we don’t know what the initial probablilities or, nor even if there were other possibilities.

Douglas Adams really responded to this one best:

“. . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

Eventually Dr. Craig “multiverse” explanation which is much better than the god hypothesis, becuase it has just as much explanatory power as a god and is more plausible.

“There are, however, at least two major failings of the World Ensemble hypothesis: First, there’no evidence that such a World Ensemble exists.” As there is no evidence that a supernatural intelligence exists. Yet both explain the “fine-tuning”.

“Moreover, recall that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin proved that any universe in a state of continuous cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past. Their theorem applies to the multiverse, too.” I don’t believe we know enough about a possible “multiverse” to assert that it could not exist infinitely, nor must it for the multiverse explanation to work. It could have had a no-fine-tuning-necessary beginning itself.

“Second, if our universe is just a random member of an infinite World Ensemble, then it is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than what we in fact observe.” Except that those more probable universes may be vastly more unlikely to harbor life. We do not know enough to assert such things.

“Or again, if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines” Unless such universes are not possible or such universes vastly reduce the probablity that life will arise in them.

“3. God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.”

There are no objective moral values in the world.

“Friedrich Nietzsche, the great 19th century atheist who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life.”

No, it is not the destruction of ALL meaning and value. Only objective meaning and value. My life as an atheist is full of meaning and value.

“But the problem is that objective values do exist, and deep down we all know it.”

Um… no. “deep down we all know it” is not a reasonable argument for anything. Especially since “deep down” or in any other place many of us don’t “know” it.

“4. God makes sense of the historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.”

There is no evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. I will not accept the facts presented on the supposed authority of biblical scholars. What is the compelling evidence to believe that such a fantastic event occured? How does that evidence compell us not to accept the explanation that the story is a fabrication? Or that Jesus wasn’t actually dead? Or that it was a hoax? These explanations are so much more probable and the evidence to the contrary so weak as to make the conclusion that such a fantastic event occurred ludicrous.

Especially when there exist biblical scholars that are not convinced that a single identifiable historical Jesus existed, let alone did all the things atributed to him.

“We mustn’t so concentrate on the proofs that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our heart.” Ah yes. In the end he resorts to the old cannard, you have to believe in order to believe. No one hears the voice of god (or even thinks that they do) that doesn’t already believe in one.

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Comments»

1. Stephen - August 2, 2007

WLC is one of the few apologists I take seriously. You seem to have dealt with his arguments nicely, though.

“Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” If this is true, than it must also be true of god. What was god’s cause? What was the cause of god’s cause? etc…

He gets away with that by saying that since God is outside time, he never technically “began” to exist, so he doesn’t need a cause. Of course the entire premise that “everything that begins to exist has a cause” can be disputed, and not only because of quantum fluctuations. Have we ever seen anything actually begin to exist? Or is it just changing form?

2. lily1313 - August 2, 2007

Very nice post. I really despise the argument that God = moral with the converse Godless = immoral. It gets even better when people say you can’t be moral without believing in Jesus, as if we were all a bunch of criminals before Jesus came along (oh wait…that is what some believe, isn’t it).

As for whether there is evidence supporting the existence of Jesus, I recommend the book “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why” by Bart D. Ehrman. The author was an evangelical who eventually became agnostic after many years of research into the New Testament. It probably won’t contain much that surprises you, but its a quick read and interesting to see specific examples of words and stories that weren’t in the earliest versions of the bible.

3. Joe - August 2, 2007

Good point. That double entendre on the word exist is easy to miss. As far as I know we haven’t seen anything come into existence. Though on the quantum level there may be things like that occuring.

4. Jordan - August 4, 2007

I’m sort of back (that’s a really bad statement, I know).

So the universe didn’t just come into existence? I know you said, “‘seen’ anything come into existence.” I’m just looking for clarification so as to understand your position.

Also, it’s not that if one doesn’t believe in God it makes him/her an immoral person…the argument (as I know it, but I haven’t read the book) is that one can’t account for his/her morals (objectively…or more specifically: in a universally objective sense). I suppose the question could be posed: “How do you know if something is “moral” or “immoral”.

Actual, what are of your’s (sorry for the grammar) definitions of moral and/or immoral…That really should have been my first question.

Okay, I recant of my contradicting introduction: I’m back 🙂
Jordan

5. James Andrix - August 4, 2007

The interesting thing is that based on Christian theology, God alone does not make sense of the origin of the universe.

If a Christian creationist sets out to explain the origin of the world as we see it, they will inevitable have to invoke the existence two supernatural entities. They invoke god to and say the universe is perfect and obviously created, the human body is so amazing it must have been designed. And then they invoke satan to explain why everything is horrible and decaying, and why so many are riddled with pain and suffering from birth.

Christian creation implies dualism.

On the other hand, this week I heard a young evangelist tell me that hermaphrodites (which I had to explain) were the result of the sin of the parents. So they might be able to get out of invoking a second supernatural entity (satan or a magical ‘sin’) by stressing an angry punishing god.

I think that there is an objective morality. If so, then it must be independent of the dictates of any entity. The existence of a lawgiver does not justify the laws. No ‘is’ implies an ‘ought’, so god doesn’t solve that problem either.

6. Jordan - August 4, 2007

James,
The Bible does not teach that the universe is perfect nor that Satan is the reason for why “everything is horrible” (i.e. sin in the world). The reason sin is in the world is becuase of man.

No, creation does not imply dualism…it implies a Creator…actually, it’s not implicit, it’s explicit, but hopefully you understand what I’m saying.

On another note, Joe and Dan–and James you can add to this too–I have another question…although my last question hasn’t been answered, so I’d rather have them answered in order (though that’s only a request) but anyway, how do you answer the question: “What is a person?”
The reason I ask is because I’m guessing that we don’t have the same definition.

7. James Andrix - August 4, 2007

Part of my point was that the ‘fine tuning’ argument for god was not a good one because it either ignores the ‘bad tunings’ of the universe it has to invoke a second bad agent (sin or satan) to explain it. To be complete it has to have a creator of good and a creator of evil.

It probably wasn’t fair to label this as a christian creation argument, it’s more of an ID thing. So ID implies dualism.

To answer your first question first, a decision is good if making it increases my ability to think about morality correctly. More concretely, good actions enable yourself or others to correctly evaluate potential goods.

‘What is a person?” is a good question.

I think that humans are more important than animals because we are better at carrying and conveying complex artifacts of moral decisions. When someone is attacked it has effects on him, the people around him, and the attacker. In humans, these artifacts can travel, to the point that a stranger can hear a story, feel profound sympathy (or not) and alter their decision making process.

I think a butcher is negatively impacted by killing animals, but not as much as if their job were to kill non-intelligent humans.

8. Jordan - August 4, 2007

Honestly, I really don’t know much about ID…or what you understand about ID. I am reasoning from a Christian perspective, so please feel free to go from there. There has been some good debate over the millenia or so about the “nature of evil”…I don’t know how to best explain it; I’ll do some homework and get back to you on that. Plato believed that evil was the lack of good and if this is true, which I’m not really sure it is, so like I said: I’ll do some homework and get back on that some other time.

“To answer your first question first, a decision is good if making it increases my ability to think about morality correctly. More concretely, good actions enable yourself or others to correctly evaluate potential goods.”

—-So what are “good actions”? and how do you know they are “good”? And, how do you know if you are thinking about morality “correctly”? What is “correct” morality?….that which is good?…then what is good?

Do you understand what I’m getting at? You’re just going around in circles. Can you prove that morals exist empirically? Becuase, if not, then they must not exist, correct? Maybe, I’m projecting; if so, please correct.

Jordan

9. Joe - August 5, 2007

Morals exist as human concepts guiding their actions. They do not exist outside the human mind (well except for those that might exist in nonhuman intelligences somewhere). There is no universal objective moral standard.

10. James Andrix - August 5, 2007

Good actions are actions that enable yourself or others to correctly evaluate potential goods, that is how I’m defining good actions. (more or less.)

For simplicity I’ll say that logical thinking is correct.

I understand what you’re saying about a basis for morality. I really do, I was an amoralist for 8 years. I’ve made the argument countless times that all moral values are based on some other value, which is at some point arbitrarily and irrationally chosen.

But of course I want you to believe that my argument now is different 😉 and I think it is.

Let’s say you have no values. Not only are you an amoralist, but you don’t even have any preferences. Sort of like a robot that has been given no goal. You under stand values in concept, and you would act on them if you had any. But you have no values, what do you do?

That ‘would’ is important, as this assumes an agent that wants to pursue its values. Now this ‘want’ may appear to be the insertion of
that base arbitrary value, but isn’t wanting to pursue your value just what it means to hold one? This is a mind that is directed by its value set.

Similarly if you did hold a value, you would ‘want’ to think about it so that you would know how to apply it to your situation. If you have more than one value, you would want to think about how to balance them. This thinking, all thinking, implicitly has the goal of reaching the correct conclusion. You think because you ‘want’ an answer, and you ‘want’ the right one.

Now, back to you with no values, wondering what to do with yourself. Your mind consults your value set, and gets nothing. As a being with the ability to think, you have to make a choice, perhaps many choices. There may be possible things you could do, and there are certainly many things you could think about. You could try to do nothing, but there is no reason within your value set to push you in that direction. (or any other.)

There is the implication here again, that one of the things you could do is the correct choice. _Something_ is the choice suggested by your empty value set, it’s just not clear what. For an action to be correct, it’s success must be a value that can be derived from the given value set. So you know there is some subgoal you should value, but you don’t know what. Failure to discover it would likely result in making wrong choices. Improving your ability to think about morality would increase the likelyhood of discovery, and probably aid in execution.
Therefore you should increase your ability to think about morality.

11. Jordan - August 6, 2007

I’m still getting caught up on “good”. You say, “Good actions are actions that enable yourself or others to correctly evaluate potential goods…” What do you mean by “good”? Absolutely good? Because if you and Joe are in agreement, then you believe there is no universal “good”.
So, good to one may be evil to another.

You stated, “For simplicity I’ll say that logical thinking is correct.”, so, is it logical to conclude that two opposing propositional statements can both be correct? no, that breaks the law of noncontradiction.
Example:
If I believe it is good to murder someone, and you say it is evil to murder someone…which is it? good or evil? Simply becuase I believe it is good/evil does not make it so. One of us MUST be correct and the other wrong (usually I would include the other possibility of both of us being wrong, but in this case there are only two variables), but both of us CANNOT be correct.

12. James Andrix - August 6, 2007

I mean absolutely good. Joe and I are not in agreement. Joe is wrong. 😉

(usually I would include the other possibility of both of us being wrong, but in this case there are only two variables)

The other logical possibility is that it is neither good nor evil to murder, that the action simply doesn’t carry moral value. This is the amoralist position.

13. Jordan - August 7, 2007

Hey all,
I’m going to be gone for a week or more. I’m going backpacking out in Yellowstone so I’ll be out of communication for that time. Looking forward to picking this back up.

P.S. James: I would say the “other possibility” isn’t logical. 🙂

14. James Andrix - August 8, 2007

I would say that it’s not true.

It’s a logical possibility because evil is not the logical negation of good, ‘not good’ is. Likewise, ‘not evil’ is the logical negation of evil.
If you have no reasoning to show that an act is good, then it may not be good. Again likewise for evil and not evil.

So something being both ‘not good’ and ‘not evil’ is not a contradiction.

15. Matt - August 12, 2007

There has to be one thing that has no cause because the if there was no God then the first materials in the universe that caused “the big bang” would have no cause. I believe that God is real and that he did create the universe.

16. Joe - August 13, 2007

Matt: Why is it a problem for “first materials” to exist without a cause, but it is not a problem for a god to exist without a cause?

17. Jordan - August 15, 2007

James,
I’m not sure that I believe something can be both illogical and true. Can you provide an example?

18. The emerson Avenger - August 15, 2007

Well James Andrix can be truly illogical. . .

Does that count? 😉

19. heatlight - September 4, 2007

Craig’s book-length debate with then Atheist-now Theist Antony Flew had what were most likely the most solid arguments for intellectual atheism I’ve heard.

Of course, your response above to point 2 is rediculous and Craig has responded to it often: it is perfectly logical to show surprise that you exist when the odds are entirely stacked against it – or should a criminal , stood before a line of 100 gunmen, not be surprised if every bullet missed. As Craig has said before, should the gunman be told, “It’s really not a big deal that we all missed because if we hadn’t you wouldn’t have been here to comment on it!”

20. Joe - September 5, 2007

Excepting that we know the odds of that. We don’t have any other example to compare here, we do not have knowledge of the processes that may or may not exist outside the universe. We have no way of knowing the probability of any of the features of our universe. So how can you conclude that the way it is is improbable at all?


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