A Video and some Podcasts

While here in Madrid, I have come to befriend a very kind man, Mons. Rafael Lizcano Garcia.  I was surprised to find out that he has a YouTube video that has hundreds of thousands of hits.  The video is written as a message from God to alcoholics, and I thought I would share it here with my blog readers.

Also, I thought I would give a shout-out to my favorite podcasts (in no particular order):

1.  Backstory with the American History Guys

2. The Thinking Atheist

3. Dogma Debate with David Smalley

4. Reasonable Doubts

5. Philosophy Bites

6. The History of Philosophy without Any Gaps

7. The Human Bible with Robert M. Price

8. Christian Meets World with Jason Rennie

9. Deeper Waters with Nick Peters

10. Apologetics 315 Interviews

11. Trinities Podcast with Dale Tuggy

12. The Phil Vischer Podcast

13. Defenders Podcast with William Lane Craig

14. Reasonable Faith Podcast with William Lane Craig

15. Unbelievable with Justin Brierley

16. Jimmy Akin Podcast

17. Pray the Rosary with Bishop Barres

18. Catholic Answers Live

19. Hardcore History with Dan Carlin

20. Right Reason with Dr. Glenn Peoples

If you have any recommendations for great podcasts, please leave them in the comments!


 

 

An Argument from the Regularity of Nature to the Falsity of Metaphysical Naturalism

I find the following argument compelling:

P1. If it is both the case that something has an explanation and that explanation is natural, then it has an explanation that depends on the actuality of the regularity of nature.
P2. If something is contingent, it is not the case that it has an explanation that depends upon the actuality of itself.
P3. All things that are actual are possible.
P4. All things that are possible, and not necessary, are contingent.
P5. All things that are contingent have an explanation.
P6. The regularity of nature is actual.
P7. The regularity of nature is not necessary.
P8. If something has an explanation and it is not the case that the explanation is natural, then metaphysical naturalism is false.
C1. The regularity of nature is possible (from P3 and P6).
C2. The regularity of nature is contingent (from P4, P7, and C1).
C3. The regularity of nature has explanation (from P5 and C2).
C4. It is not the case that the regularity of nature has an explanation that depends upon the actuality of itself (from P2 and C2).
C5. It is not both the case that the regularity of nature has an explanation and that explanation is natural (from P1 and C4).
C6. It is not the case that the explanation of the regularity of nature is natural (from C3 and C5).
C7. Therefore, metaphysical naturalism is false (from P8, C3, and C6).

Scriptural Evidence for the Filioque

The controversy over the Filioque is one of the major points of contention between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. A basic description of the controversy, from Wikipedia, is as follows:

Filioque, Latin for “and (from) the Son”, is a phrase included in some forms of the Nicene Creed but not others, and which has been the subject of great controversy between Eastern and Western churches. The controversial phrase is shown here…

 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.

 

Whether one includes that phrase, and exactly how the phrase is translated and understood, can have important implications for how one understands the central Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. To some, the phrase implies a serious underestimation of the Father’s role in the Trinity; to others, denial of what it expresses implies a serious underestimation of the role of the Son in the Trinity. Over time, the phrase became a symbol of conflict between East and West, although (see below) there have been attempts at resolving the conflict. Among the early attempts at harmonization are the works of Maximus the Confessor, who notably was sainted independently by both Eastern and Western churches.

 

The Filioque is included in the form of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed used in most Western Christian churches since at least the 6th century. It was accepted by the popes only in 1014, and is rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches. It was not in the Greek text of this Creed, attributed to the Second Ecumenical Council (the First Council of Constantinople), which says that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father”, without additions of any kind, such as “and the Son” or “alone”:

 

Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζῳοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον
(And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, from the Father proceeding).

 

The Latin text now in use in the Western Church speaks of the Holy Spirit as proceeding “from the Father and the Son”.

 

Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum, et vivificantem: qui ex Patre Filioque procedit
(And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and giver of life, who from the Father and the Son proceeds).

 

Differences over this doctrine and the question of papal primacy have been and remain primary causes of schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Western churches. The Filioque has been an ongoing source of conflict between the East and West, contributing, in part, to the East–West Schism of 1054 and proving to be an obstacle to attempts to reunify the two sides.1

Recently, I stumbled onto Nick’s Catholic Blog and an article entitled “The Filioque proved in Revelation 22:1.” Nick argues that Revelation 22:1 gives us a picture of the Trinity. Nick provides a good deal of argumentation, and I don’t want to rehash it all here. But I do want to lay out an overview of his argument and look a little bit closer at the Greek.

Revelation 22:1 “Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

A couple of significant points in this passage:

1. We know that “life-giving water” is a name that Jesus gives for the Holy Spirit.  This is recorded in John’s Gospel.  Tradition holds that the Apostle John is the author of both the Gospel and Revelation.

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water* will flow from within him.’” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet,* because Jesus had not yet been glorified (John 7:37-39).

This passage also provides support for the credal claim that the Holy Spirit is the giver of life.

2. The river of life-giving water is flowing from the throne of God (the Father) and of the the Lamb (the Son).

3. In Greek, Revelation 22:1 reads: “Καὶ ἔδειξέν μοι καθαρὸν ποταμὸν ὕδατος ζωῆς λαμπρὸν ὡς κρύσταλλον ἐκπορευόμενον ἐκ τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἀρνίου” (Stephanus Textus Receptus 1550).

Note that the Creed, as accepted by the Orthodox Church uses the same word Revelation 22:1 uses for “flowing.” The Creed states, “Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζῳοποιόν,τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον.” The relevant word, here is “ἐκπορευόμενον” which is used with the genitive in the Creed and Revelation 22:1. It seems reasonable to translate Revelation 22:1 as saying that the life-giving river is proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

One might counter that Revelation is highly symbolic, and it is difficult to discern definitive theological teaching from the text. This is true. I don’t consider Revelation 22:1 a definitive proof for the Filioque. I accept the teaching because I believe in the authority of the Catholic Church. But I would point to this passage as good evidence in favor of it, and I am pleased to have discovered that evidence through Nick’s Catholic Blog!

Here is some more information, for those interested:

An overview of the controversy from a Catholic perspective can be found here. An Orthodox perspective can be found here. Also, here is a Catholic-Orthodox dialogue on the matter. And here is some hope that the issue may be resolved at some point in the future. That is my hope. St. Pope John Paul II said, “In this perspective an expression which I have frequently employed finds its deepest meaning: the Church must breathe with her two lungs! In the first millennium of the history of Christianity, this expression refers primarily to the relationship between Byzantium and Rome.”2 Indeed, I pray that there will be unity between East and West, and perhaps it will come when the Pope who only has one lung meets with the Patriarch of Constantinople in 2025 (see here).

1Filioque. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 5, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filioque
2John Paul, II. 1995. Ut Unum Sint. Retrived July 5, 2014, from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint_en.html

Some Thoughts on the Fifth Way

Aquinas’s fifth way is short, sweet, and misunderstood. I’ve been thinking about it as Dr. Ed Feser advises—not in terms of complexity à la Paley and the ID movement, but in terms of order (see here).

Here is what Aquinas actually says (emphasis mine):

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God (ST I.2.3).

So it is clear that Aquinas, like Aristotle, does not equate all forms of final causality with intelligent agency. Natural things are directed by what they are towards specific ends. What’s more, Aquinas emphasizes that the evidence that “we see”, i.e. the empirical data for the proof, is regularity. He isn’t making a watch-maker argument that the design is complex.

Here are some further thoughts:

We find in Metaphysics 983a30-984a1 that final cause is the opposite of efficient cause. Indeed, on the broadest level, final cause can be defined in relation to efficient cause (combined with formal cause) such that if x, by its nature, is the efficient cause of something y, then the final cause of y is that aspect of the essential nature of x by which x is directed toward the generation of y.

The carpenter has a desire to sit, and it is that aspect of the carpenter that is the final cause of the chair. The heart requires fresh oxygenated blood to beat, so the final cause of blood being circulated from the lungs to the heart is the nature of the heart itself, which uses oxygen to help it pump blood through the circulatory system to sustain its nature of rhythmic beating. Of course other things can exploit final causality. The carpenter exploits the cellular structure of woody material, which directs it towards solidity and also makes it workable. That woody nature is directed towards the high growth of trees, which in turn allows trees to gather sunlight above other plants and nourish the woody cells. So the woody cells are the efficient cause of growth, and the final cause of growth is to sustain the woody cells. With respect to the carpenter, it could be said that he functions in a wider economy to provide chairs for other people who want to sit. So the carpenter responds to their desires to sit as a cause to make more chairs (in exchange for money or goods which the carpenter needs to live). Likewise, other organs, besides the heart, need oxygen to pump. Those organs, in exchange, help to cause the heart to pump by providing neural input, or the proper hormone levels, etc. So there are systems upon systems of interlocking law-like causes. Those causes depend upon a constancy in the nature of things and the way they behave (just as economy depends upon regularity in human laws—hence the carpenter won’t act for the ends of other humans if they are inconstant and cheat him). Nothing in physical nature seems to determine this regularity in themselves. Thus, with the elimination of formal and final causality, Hume found the problem of induction. But with a supreme mind that sustains and orders the nature of all things, the problem of induction disappears and the regularity and intelligibility of the cosmos can be accounted for. Human economy can fail because our intelligence doesn’t guarantee law-like behavior. But physical laws won’t fail because the intelligence which orders and moves all things is immutable, though particular instances of natural kinds can be corrupted such that the function eventually ceases. Thus chairs break, and hearts cease to pump. The law-like behavior of essential natures are regulated, but evil can deform individual things and break down particular systems.

In Christian theology, God is the efficient cause of all things, and it is God’s Goodness that is the essential aspect of his nature which liberally and graciously generates all things. So God is both the first efficient cause and the final cause of all things. This is because God is Being itself, and so all beings are brought into existence through his essential nature, and they are directed towards Being insofar as Being is that which perfects their nature.

Perhaps, then, the fall can be understood as a metaphysical breakdown between individuals and their essences. That breakdown can allow the accumulation of accidental changes to disrupt systems within a natural individual to the point where it ceases to be what it is and a substantial change occurs—cataclysm and death. But God still sustains essences, and the promise of Christ is that there will be a new creation. Perhaps this means that individual things will be perfected, and function according to their natures perfectly.

A Mystico-Ontological Argument

I was considering the idea of evidence in the last post. This argument occurred to me.  Criticisms, as always, are welcome (Also, this is my 100th post!!):

A Mystico-Ontological Argument

1. If the probability of a hypothesis is greater on a given piece of evidence than the probability of the hypothesis alone, and no fact makes the evidence impossible, then the probability of the hypothesis, given the evidence, is greater than zero.
2. If the probability of a hypothesis given the evidence is greater than zero, then possibly the hypothesis is true.
3. There is a hypothesis that necessarily there exists an all-perfect being.
4. There is evidence from the testimony from those who have had a mystical experience of an all-perfect being.
5. The probability of the hypothesis that there necessarily exists an all perfect being is greater on the testimonial evidence from mystical experience than the probability of the hypothesis alone.
6. No fact makes the testimonial evidence of the mystical experience of an all-perfect being impossible.
7. Therefore, an all-perfect being exists.

Deduction1
Let:
P(h|e) – the probability of hypothesis h given evidence e
P(h) – the unconditioned probability of h
Πx – x is all-perfect
Tx – x is testimony that one has mystical experienced an all-perfect being

1. (∀h)(∀e){[(P(h|e) > P(h)) & ~(∃φ)(P(e|φ) = 0)] → (P(h|e) > 0)} (premise)
2. (∀h)(∀e)[(P(h|e) > 0) → ◊h] (premise)
3. (∃h)(∃e){[(h = ☐(∃x)Πx) & (e = (∃y)Ty)] & [(P(e|h) > P(h)) & ~(∃φ)(P(e|φ) = 0)]} (premise)
4. (∃e){[(h = ☐(∃x)Πx) & (e = (∃y)Ty)] & [(P(e|h) > P(h)) & ~(∃φ)(P(e|φ) = 0)]} (3 EI)
5. [(h = ☐(∃x)Πx) & (e = (∃y)Ty)] & [(P(e|h) > P(h)) & ~(∃φ)(P(e|φ) = 0)] (4 EI)
6. [(P(e|h) > P(h)) & ~(∃φ)(P(e|φ) = 0)] (5 Simp)
7. (∀e){[(P(h|e) > P(h)) & ~(∃φ)(P(e|φ) = 0)] → (P(h|e) > 0)} (1 UI)
8. [(P(h|e) > P(h)) & ~(∃φ)(P(e|φ) = 0)] → (P(h|e) > 0) (7 UI)
9 (P(h|e) > 0) (6,8 MP)
10. (∀e)[(P(h|e) > 0) → ◊h] (2 UI)
11. (P(h|e) > 0) → ◊h (10 UI)
12. ◊h (9,11 MP)
13. (h = ☐(∃x)Πx) & (e = (∃y)Ty) (5 Simp)
14. h = ☐(∃x)Πx  (13 Simp)
15. ◊☐(∃x)Πx (12,14 ID)
16. ☐(∃x)Πx (15 axiom S5)
17. (∃x)Πx (16 NE)

Support for the premises:

Premise 1: This premise tells us that when there is evidence that raises the probability of a hypothesis even slightly, then the probability of the hypothesis on the evidence cannot equal zero. To counter the charge that the evidence is only apparent, I’ve added the condition that there should not be any fact that makes the evidence, itself, impossible.

Premise 2: If the probability for some hypothesis is greater than zero it has to be possible. Put another way, if a hypothesis is impossible, the probability for the hypothesis is not greater than zero. And that is just what it means to be impossible.

Premise 3: This tells us that there is a hypothesis on the table, namely that necessarily there exists a maximally great being. That is the God hypothesis, which is the central dispute in this debate. To deny that there is even a God hypothesis is absurd, for it is to deny the debate altogether.

Premise 4: This tells us there is evidence for that hypothesis in the form of testimony from religious experience.  Indeed, Mark Webb (2011, Religious Experience) confirms, “Some subjects of religious experiences report… [experiences of] an infinitely perfect, personal creator.”  Here are some examples of such testimony: i) There is the mystical writing of St. John of the Cross, “O gentle touch, and most gentle, for you touch me with your most simple and pure essence, which being infinite is infinitely gentle, therefore it is that this touch is so subtle, so loving, so deep, and so delicious that it savors of eternal life” (St. John of the Cross,The Living Flame of Love, Stanza II, emphasis mine). ii) There is the mystical writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite, “Through these, Its incomprehensible Presence is manifested upon those heights of Its Holy Places; that then It breaks forth, even from that which is seen and that which sees, and plunges the mystic into the Darkness of Unknowing, whence all perfection of understanding is excluded, and he is enwrapped in that which is altogether intangible, wholly absorbed in it that is beyond all, and in none else (whether himself or another); and through the inactivity of all his reasoning powers is united by his highest faculty to it that is wholly unknowable; thus by knowing nothing he knows That which is beyond his knowledge” (Mystical Theology, Ch. 1). Pseudo-Dionysius goes on to say, “…we can neither affirm nor deny it, inasmuch as the all-perfect and unique Cause of all things transcends all affirmation, and the simple pre-eminence of Its absolute nature is outside of every negation- free from every limitation and beyond them all” (Mystical Theology, Ch. 5, emphasis mine). iii) Augustine reports in the Confessions a mystical experience of God that he shared with his mother, Monica, in Ostia, “ Our colloquy led us to the point where the pleasures of the body’s senses, however intense and in however brilliant a material light enjoyed, seemed unworthy not merely of comparison but even of remembrance beside the joy of that life, and we lifted ourselves in longing yet more ardent toward That Which Is, and step by step traversed all bodily creatures and heaven itself, whence sun and moon and stars shed their light upon the earth. Higher still we mounted by inward thought and wondering discourse on your works, and we arrived at the summit of our own minds; and this too we transcended, to touch that land of never-failing plenty where you pasture Israel for ever with the food of truth. Life there is the Wisdom through whom all these things are made, and all others that have been or ever will be; but Wisdom herself is not made: she is as she always has been and will be forever. Rather should we say that in her there is no “has been” or “will be,” but only being, for she is eternal, but past and future do not belong to eternity. And as we talked and panted for it, we just touched the edge of it by the utmost leap of our hearts; then, sighing and unsatisfied, we left the first-fruits of our spirit captive there, and returned to the noise of articulate speech, where a word has beginning and end. How different from your Word, our Lord, who abides in himself, and grows not old, but renews all things” (Confessions IX, 24 emphasis mine). iv) Even the logical positivist and well-known atheist, A.J. Ayer, is reported to have had an religious experience of some sort, “I was confronted by a red light…Aware that this light was responsible for the government of the universe. Among its ministers were two creatures who had been put in charge of space…” (P. Foges 2010).  These mystical experiences of an infinite, all-perfect, self-abiding, eternal being is testimonial evidence that there is a being that has all-perfections, including omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection, and necessary existence. That is precisely what our hypothesis is.

Premise 5: Testimonial evidence of the truth of some hypothesis raises the probability of that hypothesis higher than the hypothesis possesses intrinsically. This is testimonial evidence that some mystics have had experiences of a perfect personal God.

Premise 6: While one may be skeptical of such mystical experiences, or attempt to explain it away as a deception, neurological illusion, some other psychological delusion, or mere poetry none of these facts make the testimony that these people actual experiences a personal all-perfect being impossible. That is, attempts to explain this evidence away does not establish that there is zero probability that it is evidence at all. Nor is there any fact that makes a personal all-perfect being intrinsically possible, given that the plausibility that apparent inconsistencies in the divine attributes can be resolved, and arguments like Robert Maydole’s Modal Perfection argument or Alexander Pruss’s Gödelian Argument, which argues that positive perfections are compossible.

A Couple of Anticipated Objections:

1. One might attack (2) by saying that there is a shift between subjective probability and logical possibility, and that this is tantamount to shifting between conceivability and possibility. Then again, if the hypothesis is itself impossible, that should be established by the atheologian given the positive arguments for the coherence of h (found in 3D above). But given those positive arguments, combined with the testimonial evidence of mystics, we might say that we have some good positive reasons to think that the P(h|e) is higher than zero, and so possible. Perhaps this argument does shift between conceivability and logical possibility in (2). What it might tell us something interesting about our intuitions, namely, that if we have a sense that mystical testimony in anyway increases the probability that the hypothesis is true, then we should believe it. But if we have the sense that no amount of mystical evidence raises the probability that there is an all-perfect being, then that would be consistent with the impossibility of such a being.

2. One might argue that the testimonial evidence offered in (3) is not an encounter of an all-perfect, or maximally great being. But for this argument to be a defeater, they would need definitive proof that it was not, since even if it is the slightest bit probable that they did have such a genuine encounter, the probability of h is raised slightly, and we can conclude that h is possible.

1For the purposes of this argument, I’ve condensed premises 3-6 in natural language into the third premise of the formal deduction.

10 Examples of Evidence That Support God’s Existence

I’ve often heard it said that there is no evidence for the existence of God. Of course, as soon as I challenge that claim, I usually hear a series of qualifications, e.g. there is no empirical evidence, or there is no scientific evidence, or there is “scant” evidence, or there is insufficient evidence. The fact is that there is no singular way to understand “evidence.” So when someone says, “there is no evidence” or “you haven’t shown any evidence,” the first task is to nail down precisely what “evidence” means. Only later can we take up the question of the sufficiency of evidence.

In defining evidence, I prefer something like a Bayesian account:

Some fact is evidence, E, for a hypothesis, H, if and only if P(H|E) > P(H)

This means that I take evidence to be some fact that makes a hypothesis more likely than the hypothesis unconditioned by the fact.

So is there any evidence that makes the God hypothesis more likely than the God hypothesis alone? I am going to present some facts that I think make God’s existence more likely than the God hypothesis is by itself. Think of it this way: were you to wake up tomorrow to the news that these facts were overturned for one reason or another, would you have even less reason to think God exists? Another way to think of this is to consider if the evidence is more surprising given the non-existence of God or the existence of God.

1. That there is a universe of existing things rather than nothing: Think of it this way, if there were no universe and no God, there would be nothing that needs to be explained. The universe exists, and so it makes the hypothesis that God exists a little more likely than if there was no universe at all. Now it might be odd to think about a scenario where you read in the newspaper that there is no universe at all. Nonetheless, if we could posit some observer of a situation where there were no universe, I think such an observer would have less reason to think God exists than we do given that there is a universe.

2. The fine-tuning of the universe: Sure there might be some multiverse explanation on the horizon. But keep in mind that the multiverse is an additional ad hoc hypothesis that has yet to be established. Furthermore, it may very well be that fine-tuning applies to the multiverse as well. But generally speaking, if there were no fine-tuning at all, theism would be less likely. That is, if it turned out that the universe did not need much fine-tuning to sustain life (that the parameters were huge), we would think God would be less necessary as a hypothesis. Conversely, fine-tuning is at least some evidence in favor of God.

3. The ubiquity of biogenesis and lack of observation of abiogensis: If abiogenesis were a common occurrence, we would think that would really make God less necessary. But generally we observe that life comes from life. And so it seems that this fits better with a world-view where biological life my have been brought into existence through the providence of a living God. Again, imagine you open your newspaper tomorrow morning and read an article that says “Scientists have discovered that abiogensis occurs everyday at the bottom of the ocean”… would you rush to post that on your favorite Atheism/Theism forum on Facebook as evidence against theism, or would you shrug? Would the theist nervously try to explain the scientist’s findings away? Now I am not saying that the discovery of abiogensis would be a defeater for theism, but it would be slight evidence against God. Likewise, the constant confirmation that life comes from life fits with theism, where a living God is the source of everything.

4. The hard problem of consciousness: If there were no conscious beings, naturalists wouldn’t be struggling to resolve the hard problem (a series of interconnected problems associated with intentionality, qualia, identity, individuation, other minds, moral responsibility and freedom). Likewise, if there were no hard problem for the naturalists to resolve, theism would look less likely. Consciousness is not surprising on theism since it posits that consciousness is fundamental and necessarily existing in God and that God would somehow want to create rational substances like Him. Suppose that tomorrow a purely naturalistic explanation of consciousness were vindicated and the hard problem no longer existed, would the absence of the hard problem of consciousness mean that the God hypothesis on its own would be less likely? It seems to me, then, that the God Hypothesis is more likely given that consciousness is a hard problem for the naturalist. That is, consciousness is less surprising given the existence of God than the non-existence of God.

5. Testimony from scripture: Sure, you might have your doubts about the authority of scripture. But if there were no scriptures or testimony at all, theism would be even less likely, wouldn’t it? Suppose that you lived in a universe where no sacred scripture existed at all. No one claimed to have a revelation. You might not think that testimony from scripture sufficiently proves that there is a God, but surely it is some evidence.

6. Contemporary miracle claims: Again, you might have your doubts, but imagine a world where there were absolutely no miracle claims at all. Such a world would make the existence of God less likely, so obviously claims of mystical experiences, healings, visions, and apparitions have to count in some way.

7. Common consent: Most people in most ages thought there was a god or Gods. If most people throughout time were atheists, and only a tiny minority thought God belief was reasonable, that would make God’s existence less likely since we wouldn’t have to devise ad hoc hypotheses to explain the ubiquity of God belief. In and of itself, God’s existence is more likely if most people believe there is a God than if hardly anybody does. That is, absent strong defeaters, when most people think something is the case, that counts in favor of the hypothesis.

8. A natural desire for God: This is related to common consent, because this is the common natural desire for God. The universal desire for a transcendent being is found across cultures. Non-theistic psychologists, like Freud accounted for this religious desire by appealing to the Oedipus complex and the development of totems. Evolutionary psychologists say that our desires and beliefs have their origin in a hyperactive agency section device that has aided our survival. But the psychological and evolutionary genesis of our natural desires for God and transcendence are not evidence against God. After all, the naturalist wants to say that truth-tracking has survival advantages, generally. C.S. Lewis noted that all natural desires have a corresponding object that satisfies the desire. We desire food, there is food. We desire sexual gratification, and we can attain it. We desire warmth, there is fire. Now we also have artificial desires that have nothing to do with our natures and there isn’t always a way to satisfy those desires. For instance, I might desire the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and without technological advances, I’ll never be able to do that. But the desire for God seems to be a part of our nature. And if all other natural desires can be satisfied by something that exists, the desire for God is some evidence in favor for God. Put another way, if we generally did not feel a desire for transcendence at all, if belief and desire for God were artificial creations of capitalism and marketing, or science fiction, theism would be less likely.

9. The coherency of the concept of God: Natural theologians and philosophers of religion have examined the coherency of a perfect being and arguments for inconsistency among the attributes have been addressed to the point where many atheists avoid inconsistency arguments altogether. The attributes of God are adjusted to avoid logical paradoxes and impossibilities. Arguments for the logical consistency and possibility of a perfect being were advanced first by Leibniz and then Gödel have been further refined by Maydole, Pruss and many others. Furthermore, the concept of God has been productive in this history of philosophy, and has pushed philosophers to make important and fine-grain distinctions: substance, subsistence, nature, and persons. The concept of God has refined our understanding ontological categories like relations, accidents, essences, what it means to be a se. Also, the God concept has expanded our notions of modality to the contemplation of possible worlds, and in distinguishing different modes of necessity. It has introduced us to the concept of divine simplicty, generated fascinating discussions on the nature of universals, the nature of time and eternity, and the nature of ethical commands and duties. Could the concept of a perfect being be inherently incoherent yet has been so philosophically useful? The concept of God provides provides so much traction that one is forced to carefully think through other concepts when they are related to God. But incoherence provides little traction, since the principle of explosion means that anything could be the case. Why were the scholastics making such careful distinctions? It seems to me that they realized that the concept of God implied very specific things and not just anything. But given the S5 axiom of model logic, the apparent logical consistency of the concept of God is strong evidence that God actually exists. Again, the evidence here is not the coherency of the concept of God itself, but the years of scrutiny and utility of the God concept.

10. The rational “discoverability” of the universe: My last bit of evidence is the success of inductive reasoning. Induction is rather inexplicable on naturalism, but is unsurprising if there is a personal intelligent creator of the universe. In other words, induction is an intractable problem for those who deny that God exists. Any evidence in support of induction question-begging lay relies on induction. Most just pragmatically move on without really sweating over whether induction is justified. If tomorrow it turned out that induction no longer provided legitimate justification for beliefs, naturalism would have nothing to explain, but theism would be harder to believe. Hence the success of induction, the law-like behavior of nature, and the scientific enterprise generally, is evidence in favor of theism.

Are these lines of evidence sufficient to prove God exists? I leave that assessment to the reader. I cannot pretend to know what makes evidence sufficient for belief. We all must assess the evidence ourselves and consider which beliefs we are committed to. If admitting the hypothesis that God exists means that one must abandon other deeply held convictions, one must consider the cost of accepting God belief over and against abandoning those other beliefs. At the same time, I’m not claiming that the evidence I have presented is decisive or cannot be explained away by other facts. The point of this post is merely to say that there is some evidence. And so there is. To claim otherwise is patently false.

A simple deontic-ontological argument

Here is a simple deontic ontological argument:

1. I ought to attain the highest form of happiness.
2. I ought to attain the highest form of happiness only if is possible that I attain the highest form of happiness.
3. ‘I attain the highest form of happiness’ is identical to ‘there is a perfect being and I am in communion with it’.
4. If it is possible that there is a perfect being and I am in communion with it, then it is possible that there is a perfect being, and it is possible that I am in communion with it.
5. A perfect being is identical to a necessarily existing maximally excellent being.
6. Therefore, a perfect being exists.
QED

Divine Simplicity, Coconuts, and Hilbert Hotels

 

Gaunilo’s Lost Island?

Here is an argument for Divine Simplicity inspired by this argument formulated by Alexander Pruss.  In my argument, I define God as a maximally great being.

1.  If God has parts, then either God has an actual infinity of parts or a finite amount of parts.
2.  God has an infinity of parts only if there can be an actual infinity of concreta.
3.  God has a finite amount of parts only if a finite amount of coconut trees on an island doesn’t prevent it from being a maximally great island.
4.  An actual infinity of concreta is impossible.
5.  An finite amount of coconut trees on an island prevents it from being a maximally great island.
6.  Therefore, God has no parts.

Defending (1)-(5):

1.  This premise is essentially trivially true.  It should be noted, though, that I take the claim that God has parts to be a real ontological claim about constituents that jointly compose the divine substance.  That is, the denier of divine simplicity cannot fall back onto an anti-realist position about parts (that the parts of God are just ways we conceive of God’s essence) as that would be indistinguishable from the doctrine of divine simplicity.

2.  Given that God is a concrete reality, the parts of God would be concrete realities. Hence an actual infinity of parts would be an actual infinity of concrete parts (not too controversial).

3.  A common objection to Gaunilo’s lost island, one that I think is quite right, is that an island cannot be maximally great since it must have an finite amount of some constituent parts, e.g. coconut trees or, say, island beauties.  But the addition of one more part would be greater, so finite parts are incompatible with maximal greatness.  One might insist that the parts of God are not like trees or beauties.  But why think that? Suppose you think, for instance, that God is three persons, but you deny that those persons are identical with God (as some theistic personalists are apt to do). Instead, you hold the view that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are parts of the Divine Substance.  Why wouldn’t you be inclined to think that one more person would be greater?  Perhaps you might have some argument about harmony to justify a particular finite set of person-parts, but it isn’t obvious that that sort of “aesthetic” judgment is objectively correct, or, if one is at all concerned with defending Christianity, that three persons achieves that harmony.  Or, consider omnipresence.  Does it entail that God is present in every spatial location?  Some argue that omnipresence is entailed by omniscience, that God is present in all locations in so far as intellect is cognizant of those locations. But those who want to attribute parts to God want to say that God’s Intellect is a different part than, say, God’s will, love, power, etc.  If so, it seems that only part of God is omnipresent, namely God’s intellect.  But is all of God’s intellect cognizant of a location or only part of God’s intellect?  Could more of God’s intellect be cognizant of a location?  Could more of God’s parts be present in a given location?  Could more locations add to the parts of God’s intellect?  If so, it would seem that more parts of the intellect, more intellects, more wills, more love between more persons of the God-head would increase God’s greatness.  But then a God with parts cannot be maximally great for the same reason an island, pizza, or human cannot be maximally great.  A person who rejects divine simplicity, but holds that God has a finite amount of parts, needs to show that no addition of parts could make God greater.  But prima facie, and absent any reason to think otherwise, I think it is reasonable to think that an addition to at least some of the finite sets of divine parts would make a non-simple god greater, which is to say that a maximally great non-simple God is impossible.

4.  There are many arguments against an actual infinity of concreta.  Consider, for example, Craig’s use of Hilbert’s Hotel and related paradoxes.

5.  As mentioned in my defense of (3), there doesn’t seem to be a finite amount of coconut trees (or island beauties) that would be consistent with an island being maximally great.  All else being equal, an island with 100 coconut trees seems to make an island greater than some island with 99 coconut trees.  We might suppose then that, all else being equal, an island with n coconut trees is less great than an island with (n+1) coconut trees.  Therefore, a maximally great island with finite parts is impossible.  Given that all islands are necessarily finite, a maximally great island is a logical absurdity, which is why I think most parodies of the ontological argument are ineffectual.  They depend upon substituting “God” with something that is implicitly a finite composite. Now, one might say that there are other reasons for why a maximally great island is impossible, e.g. such an island must be a contingent thing given its dependence on space and time. But surely the finitude of great-making island properties are among the reasons such an island cannot be.

I think (1)-(5) are defensible and true.  Therefore, I think God has no parts, i.e. God is simple.  QED

A Moral Argument for the Reasonableness of Theism

Consider a moral argument constructed like this:

1. The case for objective moral values is not as strong as it is for the existence of God.

2.  If case for objective moral values is not as strong as it is for the existence of God, and the case is strong enough that one can reasonably believe in the existence of objective moral values, then the case is strong enough that one can reasonably believe in the existence of God.

3.  The case is strong enough that one can reasonably believe in the existence of objective moral values.

4.  Therefore, the case is strong enough that one can reasonably believe in the existence of God.

I think (1) is defensible, since most arguments for objective moral values tend to come down to moral intuitions.  Certainly there are theological intuitions that can be mustered in support of theism, e.g. the sensus divinitatis of Calvin, but there many other sorts of arguments for God for which there is no parallel proof for objective moral values.  There are cosmological arguments, arguments from fine-tuning, arguments from consciousness, the argument from desire, other varieties of moral arguments, various ontological arguments, the trademark argument, arguments from miracles, and so on.  Now one might say that these arguments, even in their strongest forms, are not successful.  Perhaps, but the case for God may still be stronger.

Now someone might object to (2) by saying that even if the case for objective moral values is weaker than the case for God, the strength of the case must be proportionate to the extraordinary nature of the claim.  Perhaps the existence of objective good and evil is less extraordinary than the existence of God, so even if the case for God were stronger than for objective moral values and the case for objective moral values were strong enough for someone to reasonably affirm them, one might not have a strong enough case for theism.  This depends on what we mean by “strong” or “weak”.  If we mean those terms to be some objective quantified assessment, I think this critique would be right.  But I mean something else, I think of “strong” or “weak” relative to the conclusion trying to be established.  So if I say that the case for God is stronger than the case for objective moral values, I am not saying that the case for objective morals is a “7” while the case for God is a “9”.  You could turn around and say that it is reasonable to accept moral values when the case is at a “7”, you need to have a “10” to make a reasonable case for belief in God.  Rather, I am saying that if the case is closer to being reasonably established for theism than it is for objective moral values, and the case for objective moral values is rationally defensible, then it must also be for theism.

Finally, I think (3) is going to be a hard one to defend to those who do not already take the existence of objective moral values to be rationally defensible.  Atheists who accept (1) are probably going to want to deny (3), and those who accept (3) are going to want to go after (1).  Nonetheless, as I said, there are not too many arguments for objective moral values beyond moral intuition.  The only other defense is to draw out some of the untoward consequences of denying the existence of objective moral values, e.g. the impossibility of assessing moral progress, the bizarre notion that, at any given moment when one has a moral opinion, that moral opinion is correct at that moment, the impossibility of moral discourse on shared objective values and principles, etc.  Now, these are not so much independent arguments, but ways to draw out our moral intuitions more sharply.  It is intuitive to me that the success of the civil rights movement was a step towards moral progress.  Furthermore, though I would say that I think my moral beliefs are true, I hardly think I am infallible at any given time.  I think I can make mistakes about moral assessments, so I think a subjective moral opinion isn’t right just because someone holds it.  Finally, I observe moral debate and discourse all around me, on television, in movies, in conversations with friends.  It could be that they are engaged in a meaningless exchange, like friends who are engaged in a heated debate over whether Jazz is better than Classical.  There is no right answer when it comes to questions of taste, but people can still have debates about them (especially at the pubs).  Perhaps that is what is going on in moral debates.  Perhaps, but I don’t think so.  My intuitions tell me otherwise.  I think it is rational to believe in objective morality, and a good percentage of philosophers seem to agree.

If so, I think that we can conclude that the case for God is strong enough to permit a reasonable belief in God.  Just a thought.

“By My Side” from Godspell

For Good Friday.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers

%d bloggers like this: