Friday, March 14, 2008

Arguments for God

On the Reasonable Faith Podcast, Kevin and Bill Craig have presented what they say are the best arguments for the Christian God.

1. The Moral Argument
  1. If God did not exist, objective moral values would not exist
  2. Objective moral values DO exist
  3. God exists.

2. The Kalam-Cosmological Argument
  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. The universe had a cause.
Here is a more complete version of the Kalam-Cosmological argument.

3. Teleological
  1. The universe is too complex, orderly, adaptive, apparently purposeful, or beautiful to have occurred randomly or accidentally.
  2. Therefore, the universe must have been created by a sentient, intelligent, wise, or purposeful being.
  3. God is that sentient, intelligent, wise, or purposeful being.
  4. Therefore, God exists.
(This argument is usually presented with a Fine-Tuning chaser.)

4. Ontological Argument (Anselm)
  1. God is, by definition, a being greater than anything that can be imagined.
  2. Existence both in reality and in imagination is greater than existence solely in one's imagination.
  3. Therefore, God must exist in reality; if He did not, God would not be a being greater than anything that can be imagined.
Ontological Argument (Plantinga)
  1. It is proposed that a being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and
  2. It is proposed that a being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.
  3. Maximal greatness is possibly exemplified. That is, it is possible that there be a being that has maximal greatness. (Premise)
  4. Therefore, possibly it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists
  5. Therefore, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
  6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.


Blogger Danny Schade said...

The Moral Argument
1. If God did not exist, objective morals values would not exist.
2. Objective moral values DO exist.
3. God exists.

Here are my thoughts on this argument. Of course this is a valid argument, if both premises are true, then it logically follows that God exists. However I think both premises are very hard to defend and in my opinion the entire argument is unsound.

Let's look at premise 1:
1. If God did not exist, objective moral values would not exist

If morals are truly objective, then they shouldn't be contingent on a subject. It seems that if these are the values that God gives forth, through his nature or otherwise, it would make moral values subjective. They are contingent on God, and God is the subject. That's how I see it anyway. Some think of God as a sort of enforcer of these values, holding people accountable. But wouldn't objective morals still hold whether or not someone was there to police or enforce them?

On to the second premise:
2. Objective moral values DO exist

I think objective morals are defined as "true for all people, at all places at all times". And that they would hold true whether people follow them or not. First, it's important to think of what is meant by ALL. This is a big universe. Compared to "all places" and "all times" we only have access to an infinitesimal fraction of that, that is, planet earth and recorded human history. Even if it were true that every human being in all of recorded history had the same moral values (which they don't, not even close) the best we can do is an inductive inference, and a weak one at that.
In this argument, it's implied that there are either objective moral values or complete moral depravity and anarchy. This is a false dichotomy. The human race can have subjective moral truths that all humans on earth ought to follow in the best interest of all people. There is no need for objective morals in a cosmic sense for all humans to sit and devise moral systems and moral theories for increasing the health, welfare and happiness of the most people possible.

So, I guess I would argue that a moral code which is true for every human being, still can't be considered "objective". It may apply to humans on earth, but cannot be shown to be true to giant bugs on the planet Grifmath. The reason we cannot assess this, even if we could see the Grifmathites, is that we cannot escape our human point of view. According to humans, it would be wrong to kill your mother and lay eggs in her head. It will always be wrong to us, because we are humans. But for the giant bugs, that's life and that's what it takes for their species to thrive and survive. Subjective morals can still apply to all humans, but cannot be stretched to include "all people", "all places", or "all times".

Also, it's never very clear exactly what those objective morals are. From a Christian perspective, is it the ten commandments? It think it would be very hard to say that "coveting" is wrong for all people, in all places at all times. Same with "honoring your parents". In fact, with any rule or commandment, it's very easy to conceive of many situations and scenarios which would necessitate breaking those rules. For example, is it wrong to lie if it was to save someone's life? If lying is objectively wrong, then we have a problem there, because I would assume that failing to save someone's life would also objectively wrong. It leads to a vicious paradox which I'm glad I don't need to try to defend.

I realize that I seem to be applying an objective moral standard against the bible. But I'm not, I'm applying a subjective moral rule that applies to sentient Earth-life. That is, to reduce harm whenever possible. Long term survival is probably the closest thing to an objective moral grounding that we have, but it's very self evident and it does not require God.

3/3/08, 1:35 PM  
Blogger Zachary Moore said...

"If morals are truly objective, then they shouldn't be contingent on a subject."

This is a key point for me. The whole issue of "objective" vs. "subjective" morals is made difficult because these words are used in a way that is incorrect according to their definitions.

Subjective: existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought.

Objective: being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject.

The problem here is anthropocentrism- it's ignored that if a god existed, it would have a mind (ignoring the problems of a nonphysical mind), and thus any moral system it held to would be necessarily subjective as well. That being the case, if Christianity is true there are NO such things as objective moral values.

So... revise premise one to correct the semantic mistake, and you find "If God exists, objective moral values would not exist." I, of course, don't have any problem with the second premise, and thus we can conclude the Moral Argument to be one that disproves the concept of the Christian god.

3/3/08, 1:58 PM  
Blogger Zachary Moore said...

I'm troubled by the Ontological Argument. Perhaps this just speaks to my inexperience with philosophy, but it has always seemed disingenuous to me.... almost as if it was a joke being told for which I just couldn't grasp the punch-line.

It strikes me as nothing more than a paradox at best or a brain teaser or zen koan at worst. Can someone explain why it's continued to receive such serious attention over the centuries?

3/3/08, 2:01 PM  
Blogger Danny Schade said...

I find it really hard to believe that anyone would actually be swayed by the ontological argument. It seems if one is already very sure that God exists, these arguments seem like icing on the cake.

3/3/08, 2:58 PM  
Blogger Kevin H said...

Plantinga has resurrected the OA it seems. It's always looked like a big tautology to me - "If it exists, it exists".

Supposedly, however, at root of the insight is that if it is even possible for an omni-max God to exist then he exists.

If this is ever successfully shown, it would be pretty stunning. I think the vast majority of philosophers would admit that it's at least possible for God to exist.

3/4/08, 4:33 AM  
Blogger Dan Sawyer said...

I think Kevin has nailed the core of the ontological argument, and also (perhaps unintentionally) its central failing.

The ontological argument rests on a category confusion - it confuses linguistic possibility with physical possibility. In the world where it was first formulated, this was an understandable confusion. The theological and philosophical world of St. Anselm was thorough-goingly Platonistic - holding that every concept and object was an imperfect projection in the real world of a true, real, and perfect ideal form resting in a higher, spiritual reality. With a cosmology like this, it's self-evident that if something can be named and defined, it *must* exist somewhere (if not here, than further up the crystal spheres in more perfect realms of existence).

The rise of empirical inquiry (partially enabled, ironically, by the Reformation) destroyed Platonic philosophy as the final arbiter of truth in two ways:
First, it's shown over and over that what the mind conceives as perfect or pleasing is not what nature considers useful.
Second, it has shown that the realm of the ideal forms simply does not exist where it was proported to (i.e. there is no physical heavenly realm made of different sorts of stuff than we have on earth, and there are no crystal spheres - everything everywhere is made of pretty much the same stuff). Indeed, it has shown that all observable things in the universe find their forms by moving from the bottom up, rather than being projected from the top down.

Despite Plantinga's attempt to revive the argument, the OA remains a vestige of Platonism, and separated from that now-discredited philosophical system, it simply doesn't parse.

3/4/08, 8:52 PM  
Blogger Danny Schade said...

Also, I don't think the ontological argument would lead to the Christian God.
Anselms God wouldn't need to intervene or cause miracles because he would have gotten everything right the first time. It's a deistic god, at least, in the classic sense. A god who created the best of all possible worlds, which is playing out exactly as planned from the beginning.

3/5/08, 11:26 AM  
Blogger Zachary Moore said...

A Platonic shell game, then...

if it's possible for the perfect X to exist, then it must? Yeah, this one should have stayed in the cave.

Taking the other tack, I think I would have to say that the Teleological Argument is the most persuasive to me personally and emotionally. Experiencing the aesthetic of the natural world certainly does drive me intuitively in the direction of theism, although my scientific training prevents me from 'going over the edge,' so to speak.

3/5/08, 11:54 AM  
Blogger Danny Schade said...

I talk about the design argument in the first section of our last podcast, episode 17

3/5/08, 12:38 PM  
Blogger Butch said...

If you guess which one I like the most, I will send you a dollar...


If you guessed that then you get a dollar.

I like it because it seems a reasonable way of explaining how it is that a believer looks at his understanding of being a believer. I don't think this is supposed to be a proof to outsiders that God exists (the "fool" comes from the Psalms in a time period where such belief was so widespread that it was indeed pretty unthinkable, and even when Anselm wrote it was fairly unthinkable).

While the concepts of God's being, 'greatness', maximal-ness, and the like are so difficult to nail down, most believers have such ideas in their head. Now, the ability (or lack thereof) to articulate such ideas does not a proof make because of the nature of the thing, rather it gives the believer a way to articulate a 'something going on' in such a way as to not think of it as merely an idea. This is achieved by the argument in the sense that Anslem had pointed out to Gaunilo that those 'parts' of the idea are such that they are not found within our normal realm of experience, whereas those consituent parts of an island are easily expanded to form a greater island idea, though the subjectivity of this is also difficult.

It makes sense that whatever those ideas are that we have of whatever perfection or omnipotence or omniscience, &c. are not going to be communicable to a satisfactory extent; and I don't think anyone who thinks the ontological argument reasonable would disagree. I think Anselm was responding by saying that there are ideas, however difficult to communicate, that we have in our minds of a God and they would not get there through normal experience and so their origin must be in something with the capacity to be understood to contain or be the thing appropriate for those ideas to attach.

Having said all that, I don't think argument works for outward demonstration but is an expression of that something going on, much like an epistemologist might use the designator 'a something going on' to describe any epistemic event. I would not equate any immediacy between seeing a colour and thinking God-thoughts, but it shouldn't surprise us if the same pathways are used.

3/12/08, 8:24 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...


"If morals are truly objective, then they shouldn't be contingent on a subject."

If anything were truly objective by your definition, I would think it would have to be free of any association with anything, be it matter, time, space and even existence itself... I don't think we could even talk about it with any amount of meaning.

So, I guess I would argue that a moral code which is true for every human being, still can't be considered "objective". It may apply to humans on earth, but cannot be shown to be true to giant bugs on the planet Grifmath.

If it's true to every human being, I would use that as the very definition of Objective morals.

Why go to Grifmath, we have bugs here? But they appear to have no ability to reason, or consider any moral issues. So somehow you're saying that in order for something to be truly objective, it must apply to that which it cannot actually apply to also?

The biology of the human body has many similarities and differences from that of insects, amphibians and even other mammals. So certain laws will not apply as objective realities between all and ever group/species...I have a very different biological makeup than does a roach...or a rock but that wouldn't negate the objective realities of what we know about the human body...or about the roach, or the mineral... regardless of the differences.


Just because we might not know precisely what to do in every given situation, at every moment, doesn't then disprove the existence of a objective moral law.

You might not like the system or how it plays out...but that's a very different argument.

I wish I had more time...but I have to close shop now...thanks for the discussion.

3/18/08, 5:25 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Hi all,

I really love the Apologia podcast. I had withdrawal symptoms for a few weeks there.

1. With regard to the discussion on the Cosmological Argument, Kevin expressed personal incredulity at the idea of infinite regress, but infinite progress is built into Christian theology. I'm wondering why one is easier to conceive of than the other.

2. With regard to the Teleological Argument, there seems to be conflation of order and purpose. Perhaps this argument could be better dealt with if these two are separated. For example, the molecular structure of ice is more orderly than that of liquid water, but that doesn't mean that it has more purpose.

3/20/08, 12:10 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

On the Kalam-Cosmological Argument

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. The universe had a cause.

Can anyone disprove that the cause was random chance?

I'd also be interested if anyone has thoughts on this argument in regards to imaginary time whereby singularities like the big bang can be seen as the beginning of one time dimension, but within the boundaries of an unperterbed original time dimension. Hawking popularized this a while back but I'm not sure if it is still a useful theory in cosmology today. Any cosmologists out there?

7/28/08, 10:40 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

I think advocates of the KC argument would say that "random chance" is tantamount to "no cause." Of course, a God who can do anything at all for no particular reason is similar to random chance in some respects and about as satisfying as an explanation.

Regarding time, one of the problems with the KC argument is that it contains an unstated premise, which is that every cause temporally precedes its effect. If time didn't exist until the universe began to exist, then how could the cause of the universe have preceded it effect? If we do away with the premise that cause must precede effect, then the possibility of simultaneous causation arises where the cause of the universe begins to exist at the same time as the universe itself, in which case we can't eliminate the universe as its own cause. Even the statement that "the universe began to exist" starts to lose its meaning if there is no time prior to the existence of the universe.

7/30/08, 9:01 AM  

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