Posts tagged ‘arguments for the existence of God’

August 1st, 2013

Transcript and Thoughts on My Debate with Justin Schieber

by Max Andrews

Over the last month or two I’ve been working on a written/audio debate with Justin Schieber of Reasonable Doubts. The topic of the debate was “Does the Christian God Exist?” I imagine the debate may have been released earlier had it not been for my delayed responses due to health issues and moving out of our house and preparing to embark on our move to Scotland. I have apologized to Mr. Schieber concerning this and I extend apologies to the readers and listeners.

I was actually expecting much stronger arguments from Mr. Schieber. Two arguments were off topic and the other one was a far metaphysical and modal stretch. You’ll be able to read his arguments in full but here are my thoughts :

April 5th, 2013

An Abductive Thomistic Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

The following argument is an abductive Thomistic cosmological argument from contingency, which I presented at my recent Ratio Christi debate.

  1. There are contingent constituents to the universe.
  2. Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe (U) is very, very unlikely under the hypothesis that these constituents are themselves uncaused or self-caused (~Cu): that is, P(U|~Cu & k) ≪ 1.
  3. Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe is not unlikely under the hypothesis of a first uncaused cause (Cu): that is, ~P(U|Cu & k) ≪ 1.
  4. Therefore, U strongly supports Cu over ~Cu.

The constituents of the universe include galaxies, planets, stars, cars, humans, leptons, bosons, and other particles. For the constituents of the universe to be uncaused that would mean it is metaphysically necessary. For something to be metaphysically necessary that means that it could not have failed to exist—it exists in every possible world.

For something to be self-caused it must be simultaneously antecedent to itself to produce itself as its own effect. But this contradictory. This would be akin to the ultimate bootstrapping trick.

April 3rd, 2013

Arguments Used in the Liberty Debate

by Max Andrews

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February 8th, 2013

How to Construct a Cumulative Case Argument

by Max Andrews

The cumulative case uses 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.

January 14th, 2013

Q&A 6: Scientism and Inference to the Best Explanation

by Max Andrews

Q&A GraphicQuestion:

Max,

I want to run something by you to get your opinion.  The KCA and fine-tuning arguments are presented as philosophical/logical arguments with some scientific premises.  Some skeptics that don’t like philosophy will dismiss it and appeal to scientism.

But if we look at something like the detection and declaration of black holes, aren’t they doing the same things?  They aren’t looking at direct observation but instead looking at effects and making inferences to the best explanation for the cause.  If that is accepted as science then the KCA and the fine-tuning arguments should be as well.

I’m not interested in declaring the KCA and fine-tuning to be science but I’m thinking that an analogy such as this might be useful when a skeptic cries god-of-the-gap.

Bill, USA

December 10th, 2012

Q&A 1: Kalam and The Flying Spaghetti Monster

by Max Andrews

Hey Max,

I guess since I requested the Q&A section, I’ll start it off!

I recently had a conversation with an atheist in which I walked him through the Kalam Cosmological Argument. This inevitably led into a conversation about what criteria a “first cause” must meet. It was difficult for me to explain, and for him to understand how God exists as a necessary being, or out of His own nature.

The atheist resorted to a version of  “Flying Spaghetti Monster” argumentation, in which he said, “How do we know that the first cause wasn’t a giant pink unicorn, or that two universes didn’t just mate and form ours?”. For obvious reasons, his argument is absurd. But what’s the best way to explain the concept of the first cause, and why it couldn’t be a “giant pink unicorn”?

Thanks a lot,

Richie Worrell (USA)

Richie,

I’m always amazed at some of the philosophical lunacy some atheists come up with. The mockery of using phrases like “flying spaghetti monster” or a “giant pink unicorn” weren’t originally developed in response to the kalam. They were developed in response to intelligent design suggesting the designer could be a spaghetti monster. I recall Dawkins using it several times and it has gained popularity in response to the ontological argument.

Nonetheless, let’s accept his flying pasta, pink unicorn, and sexual universes for the sake of discussion. Let’s recap the the kalam argument:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
    read more »

July 9th, 2012

Why Inductive Fine-Tuning Arguments are Weak

by Max Andrews

Inductive logic, generally speaking, takes elements of a set and applies this subset of elements to a broader set.  More specifically, the principle of mathematical induction states that if zero has a property, P, and if whenever a number has the property its successor also has the property, then all numbers have the property:[1]

Induction works by enumeration: as support for the conclusion that all p’s are q’s, one could list many examples of p’s that are q’s.  It also includes ampliative argument in which the premises, while not entailing the truth of the conclusion, nevertheless purports good reason for accepting it.[2]

Inductive probability in the sciences has been generally successful in the past.  It has been used by Galileo, Kepler, and has even resulted in the discovery of Neptune.  The English astronomer John Michell exemplified this discuss in a discussion of ‘probable parallax and magnitude of the fixed stars’ published by the Royal Society in 1767.[3]  Michell found that the incidence of apparently close pairings of stars was too great for them all to be effects of line of sight, and that next to a certainty such observed pairs of stars must actually be very close together, perhaps moving under mutual gravitation.  Michell’s conclusion was not corroborated for forty years until William Herschel’s confirmatory observations.[4]

July 5th, 2012

Why Deductive Fine-Tuning Arguments are Weak

by Max Andrews

In a correct deductive argument if the premises are true the conclusion is true regardless of whether or not further evidence is considered.  There must be a reasonable connection or relationship between the conditions in a deductive argument (in the instance of implication).  Consider the argument, as modus ponens, that if the moon’s core is made of cheese then my desk is made out of mahogany.  What relationship do these two conditions have?  The truth-value is valid (F-T-T).  However, I recognize that this is merely a preference, which is, at times, convenient.  When making a novel explanans and prediction the relationship between the conditions may not be epistemically evident.

There are generally three options, which are often considered as an explanation for the fine-tuning data: chance, necessity, a combination of chance and necessity,[1] or a fine-tuner.  One immediate problem in implementing explanatory options in a deductive manner is that the first premise may be false wherein it may be lacking in options and the argument still is valid.  When these options are used in a [strict] deductive argument[2] it may appear as:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design.[3]
    read more »

May 23rd, 2012

Critiquing an Objection to the Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

Neill Shenton recently did a review/response to one of Doug Beaumont’s arguments for the existence of God.  Doug’s argument is the ususal Thomastic cosmological argument from contingency.  At this point I’ll assume that you’ve read the two posts so you’ve got a greater context for what follows.

Here’s Shenton:

This is an argument that keeps coming up & folk tweet responses but my thoughts don’t fit in a tweet so here’s my ramblings on the topic. 

I see this as a rather futile attempt to “prove” there is a god by a logic that depends upon definitions of the terms.  The key words here are ‘being’ and, not surprisingly, ‘god’.  If we substitute these words the futility is exposed.

  1. A widget exists
  2. Widgets cannot spontaneously come into existence, they have to be “made” by something that came beforehand.
3. If our widget was made by or evolved from another, and so on, where did the first widget come from?
4. Some none-widget-like-process made the first widget
5. I’m calling that “f’narg”
6. What do we know about F’narg? Nothing except it isn’t a widget by definition.  Is it god?  You could call it that, I’ll stick to f’narg; it has NO connotations.  So, we now know exactly what we already did, all this widgety universe started with something and now it has a name, f’narg

What Shenton is doing here is that he’s completely ignoring the modal status of the terms ‘contingent’ and ‘necessary’ in the original Thomistic argument.  This isn’t that big of a deal but for him to completely dismiss it isn’t critiquing the argument on its own grounds.  He’s changing the argument (straw man).  P3 is obviously a misunderstanding of the argument. 

April 10th, 2012

An Agnostic’s Response to My Use of the Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Fred, an agnostic, critiquing my use of the argument from contingency I presented at the Virginia Tech debate on the existence of God.  Here’s a brief bio:

B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science, completing my formal education in 1978.  I’ve taken precisely two philosophy courses during my student days, both in Logic.  I  took a lot of math and science courses. I am now in I.T. middle management at a multinational oil company, with about 90 people reporting to me.

I’m 58 years old, grew up as a devout Catholic – attended Catholic schools in Houston for 12 years.  I credit the free thinking atmosphere at my high school with opening my mind up and allowing me to look beyond the dogma I had always been taught.  This led me to question, to become skeptical, and ultimately to develop into an agnostic.  I lack a belief that a God exists, but I have continued to explore.  I am impatient with dogmatism, from theists and atheists alike.  My engagement in discussions such as this is out of pure self-interest.  I’m not trying to prove anyone wrong, I’m just trying to see if I’m missing some truths or overlooking some credible argument. I do so by challenging the position of the person I’m engaging, which can sometimes give the appearance that my position is more extreme than it is.  In the course of my pursuits I’ve been forced to look a little into metaphysics, because it seems this is where the arguments for God’s existence reside.  I’ve also looked into historical methodology, because this pertains to the arguments for Jesus sit.