Archive for March 23rd, 2012

March 23rd, 2012

VT Debate–The Thomistic Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is Thomas Aquinas’ cosmological argument from contingency I used in the VT debate on the existence of God.  This version of the cosmological argument can be traced back to antiquity originally advocated by Plato and Aristotle.  For my method of argumentation please see: VT–My Method of Argumentation.

  1. What we observe and experience in our universe is contingent.
  2. A network of causally dependent contingent things cannot be infinite.
  3. A network of causally dependent contingent things must be finite.
  4. Therefore, There must be a first cause in the network of contingent causes.

In this context, what I mean by contingent is that if X is contingent then X owes its existence to something else. For a thing that has the potentiality of movement cannot actualize its own potential; some other thing must cause it to move.  The universe consists of a network of causes. A was caused by B, but only because B is caused by C, and so on. We know of nothing that spontaneously initiates its own causal activity. (Even supposed quantum indeterminacy requires a state of affairs, or preceding causal conditions, such as the governance of the laws of nature, for the event to occur).  This is a hierarchical network of causation and not temporal.  Note that nothing here turns on our having to know about everything.

March 23rd, 2012

VT Debate–My Method of Argumentation

by Max Andrews

The topic of the VT debate was “Does God Probably Exist, or Not?”  I used a cumulative case approach for my arguments.  Below is my opening statement:

This evening we will be defending the proposition “God probably exists.”  We will present three different arguments for theism. To defend our case we will be using the prime principle of confirmation: Whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability. This principle is sound under all interpretations of probability.  Each argument must be taken on its own grounds and one cannot arrive at “God” at the end of each argument.  The conjunction of arguments is what is needed to make a cumulative case for the existence of God.

The Likelihood Principle of Confirmation theory states as follows.  Let h1 and h2 be two be competing hypothesis (in this case the existence of X and ~X, with X being a first cause, fine-tuner, etc.).  According to the Likelihood Principle, an observation e counts as evidence in favor of hypothesis h1 over h2 if the observation is more probable under h1 than h2.  Thus, e counts in favor of h1 over h2 if P(e|h1) > P(e|h2), where P(e|h1) and P(e|h2) depict a conditional probability of e on h1 and h2, respectively.  The degree to which the evidence counts in favor of one hypothesis over another is proportional to the degree to which e is more probable under h1 than h2: particularly, it is proportional to P(e|h1)/P(e|h2) .  The Likelihood Principle seems to be sound under all interpretations of probability.  This form is concerned with epistemic probability.

March 23rd, 2012

Student Testimonial on Philosophy and the VT Debate

by Max Andrews

Last night, the day after my VT debate on the existence of God, I received an email from one of the students in the Intro. to Philosophy course I assist teaching.  I was very encouraged by this email.  The email was addressed to me and the professor I work for. (Used with permission from the student).

Dear sirs,

I just wanted to express my gratitude to you for teaching our Philosophy class. It is such an enormous blessing to be learning this subject from a Christian perspective. As I do the assigned homework, I realize that there are many others elsewhere that are required to naively or perhaps unwillingly read many things averse to the theistic belief. Especially after hearing the “God Debate” at Virginia Tech, I am so excited to be at Liberty where I am learning how to defend my beliefs. It was an honour to hear Max present such a clear, well-reasoned case.
Blessings to you both!

March 23rd, 2012

Reflections on My Virginia Tech Debate on the Existence of God

by Max Andrews

This past Wednesday (March 21, 2012) I participated in a debate titled “Does God Probably Exist, or Not?” at Virginia Tech.  My debate partner was a very loving fellow who was an undergraduate in International Relations.  My two atheist opponents were a PhD student in Physics and the other was an undergraduate in biology.  I was thoroughly pleased and impressed with the university and the love and kindness that the organizers and participants extended to me.  I certainly felt like I was in a friendly atmosphere and sensed no hint of hostility.

I thought the debate went very well.  My only criticism was that I was under the impression that there was going to be a twenty or twenty-five minute cross-examination period but that never came to fruition.  I present three arguments for the existence of God: the argument from contingency, the fine-tuning argument, and the moral argument.  For the contingency argument I used Thomas Aquinas’ argument.  The fine-tuning argument was an abductive form and a slightly modified version of Robin Collins argument.  The moral argument was an abductive argument modeled after David Baggett’s version.  In a few following posts I’ll share my arguments and methodology in more detail but here are the forms of my arguments I used: