Arguments From The Theistic Side And The Rebuttals Philosophy Essay
This second chapter of three scattered in this book will focus on the more complex so-called ‘logical’ arguments theists have for the existence of God. In the following chapters we will look at more interesting themes see what questions theists have for us…….. and we’ll try to answer them.
Intelligent design - a ‘designer’ created the universe…….
This is a so-called theistic ‘scientific theory’ that bases it’s main thesis on the ‘irreducible complexity’ of nature. In basic terms, life is far too complex to have started from simple beginnings, so it had to have been designed. It must be stated that this is NOT a theory ( scientific, anyways ) as it has no way of being tested. William Dembskis’ book ‘The Design Inference’, gives us only MORE ‘water-muddying’ information, and suggests that "the principal characteristic of intelligent causation is directed contingency, or what we call choice." ……… he continues….. "If the choice made is unlikely to occur and sufficiently complex, then we can attribute that choice to design. This comes from our understanding of how intelligent agents operate"… What choices, then, did the thing that created the DESIGNER have to contend with when CREATING THE DESIGNER"???….. The mind boggles…..
Probably the most important theistic argument on the creation of the universe is the Teleological argument from William Paley, an 18th century theologian and philosopher. I mentioned it before but this is a more detailed look…. As intriguing as this argument may seem from the initial glance, a simple analysis of it quite easily tears it apart. This is the basic argument and its axioms:
1) Everything we have seen that looks designed, has a designer.
2) The universe looks like it has been designed
3) therefore the universe has a designer
4) The designer is god.
Most people that are aware of this argument have heard of the watch as being an analogous replacement for the universe. Assume that you happened to find a watch on the ground. You found the back missing and saw all the complex mechanisms that made up the inner workings of the timepiece. Automatically one would assume that it had been designed, right? It could not have appeared by accident. The human eye and brain are also complicated and therefore one might assume a creator was involved here as well. God MUST have created the universe then.
The stretch in this line of reasoning has a big flaw in logic, as I shall show. Since the whole point of this argument is to prove that everything has a designer, the first point above ASSUMES ‘everything’ has a designer. We don’t know that for sure. NONE of us do. We KNOW that a watch and a car and a tractor have a designer, but it is a great leap in a logical argument to assume that, right off the bat, that EVERYTHING we see that looks designed must have been created. That flaw makes the #3 point above invalid, and the argument fails.
Another thing to consider is the enormous leap of point #2, in exclaiming that the universe looks like it has been designed. How ( may I ask ) do the designed features of a watch compare to the vastness of our universe? We know almost NOTHING about the universe, and EVERYTHING about a watch!! David Hume ( 1711-1776 ) a famous Scottish philosopher reasoned similarly, in that he said "for any comparison to make sense it should be made between 2 objects about which we have equal understanding".
A more complex thought around this argument is the fact that ‘causation’ can never be seen when ( and if ) it happens. The human mind, through past experience, will imagine a series of actions that possibly COULD have created a particular object. However, as we know very little of the whole ( or the component parts ) of the universe, how could we translate those thoughts to the possible creation of the universe?
In a sort of corollary, the sheer complexity of the universe does not really play a part in the assumption that it has been created, much to the dismay of theists who really LOVE this part. Take a car, for example. We know how cars are made. We can read books about it. We can even get someone to make a custom car FOR us. ( From positiveatheism.org. ) "If I showed you an egg and told you that I knew a man who made custom eggs, you would rightly doubt my word, for you've never seen an eggmaker. Thus the conclusion that a certain object was designed and made is based on the knowledge that such an object CAN be made, more than on the complexity of the object itself ".
Theists love the so-called Anthropic Principle.
There are several versions of it and the originator of the principle by no means proposed it to be used to promote the theistic belief of a ‘finely-tuned’ universe by a creator, but it took, nonetheless. It is usually used in conjunction with an intelligent-designer argument, however there are some physicists and other scientists that, philosophically at least, see it as an interesting theory.
The basic idea is that the laws of nature in the universe have values that are consistent with conditions for life as we know it rather than a set of values that would not be consistent with life as observed on Earth. The thinking is that if the constants of the universe were, somehow, DIFFERENT than they are now, we would not be here to wonder about it all!!! The term rather mis-uses the term Anthropic, to mean humans, whereas all other forms of carbon-based life don’t seem to be mentioned. This rather ‘human-centric’ view of the universe sits well with theists ( as we are supposed to be the ultimate creation of god—— how do we know this, exactly?? ), but it is an easy point to take apart in a debate. ???
One important point to mention here ( AGAIN, at the risk of repeating myself, but to good cause ) is that one of the strongest-percieved arguments religious-minded people have FOR a creator of the universe is this ‘finely-tuned’ explanation of the physical constants, or the Laws of nature, which would include gravity, the strong nuclear force, etc. They state that scientists around the world agree, according to LEE STROBEL, a writer, creationist and Christian apologist, that "the universe and TIME ITSELF began with the BIG BANG." People…. THIS IS A THEORY which is constantly being worked on. NO-ONE KNOWS if that was the ultimate start, or one of many such starts in a vast ‘multiverse’, or something that happens every trillion years….……. These are all theories that ( due to the sheer complexity of observations and testable data and the sheer vastness of space ) may NEVER be accepted as universal fact. The statement by Mr. Strobel argues that since the universe had a start ( the BIG BANG ) then "whatever begins to exist has a cause," and by "logical inferences from the evidence" we can see that the universe is "un-caused, timeless, immaterial, powerful, and personal…. A pretty good starting point for the description of god."…. Ummm…… Which god was that again?
I said I would not go here, but I can’t help myself ( tee-hee )…..
Ray comfort ( the star of a section of the previous chapter ) famously used a banana to reveal its’ amazing ‘perfection-of-design’ features. With his ever-present side-kick KIRK CAMERON at his side, he begins by claiming the skin was easy to grab, the shape comfortable to hold, the fruit perfectly sized for our mouths, plus a ‘pull-tab’ to reveal the food beneath, aLL in an attempt to prove that where complex design is found, there must surely have been an intelligent designer who created it. I put this example in purely for comic relief, but it seems that Mr. Comfort was serious in his video ( as he is a Christian minister, etc. ) And it just goes to show you the length to which some people will go in the hopes of convincing the gullible amongst us that intelligent design is a valid theory of our existence. I wonder how his design-theory would explain the watermelon? I can barely pick a whole one up at the local supermarket !
In a sort of ‘about face’, the religious-minded sometimes refer to atheists as being fundamentalists.
This has been seen as a desperate measure by theists, claiming that atheism is a belief-system that allows ideas to be advanced by a position ( faith ? ) that cannot be challenged or its’ statements tested. In professor Richard Dawkins case, he has been accused of being a shrill, strident fundamentalist, but rejects the charge whole-heartedly. He says he has a ‘passion’ for his work and his position on atheism and evolution, however this passion is often interpreted as a strident and shrill voice-of-knowing, much the same as could be attributed to , say, a zealous archbishop or priest. Dawkins sums it up nicely by the following comment: "The true scientist, however passionately he may "believe", in evolution for example, knows exactly what would change his mind: evidence! The fundamentalist knows that nothing will."
It is perfectly okay to be angry and aggressive when face-to-face with a political opponent. One look at the goings-on in the Houses of Parliament in London will bear that out. Dedicated sports-fans can be especially mean to each other as we have all witnessed on the television. These folks routinely get hot-under-the collar when discussing sports, and it’s not all tongue-in-cheek as one might expect. Why, then, is religion essentially off limits to such criticism? It seems that religion has a firm foothold in a sacred, holy arena that can only be approached with ‘kid-gloves’. "Peoples feelings will be hurt", is the usual argument. Why, I ask you, should peoples feelings be hurt with words? Words are how we communicate. If I can’t verbalize my position on critical-thinking and the hold religion has had on society these past 4,000 years how am I going to get my opinion out? For some reason religion is to be treated with a larger percentage of respect than other areas of our lives. I wonder if this is just another small way in which religion has found to prolong religious belief without criticism from non-believers? It seems patently true that faith ( BLIND faith in this case ) allows reason and rational thought to be applied to everything ELSE in ones life, except for ones own religious practices. When someone figures out why, please let me know……..
I will now take some arguments from the theistic side recently heard on a riveting 2-hour debate pitching Christopher Hitchens against four theologians/authors, and see if there are any reasonable alternatives to their positions. It may be worth noting that they each had a three-minute closing statement and Hitchens was second-last. The final word came from Dr. William lane Craig, an American philosopher and theologian. This debate lasted 2 hours and his final 3 minutes were taken up by 10 arguments for Christian theism in which Craig states "none of which have been responded to or refuted". Although Mr. Hitchens held up nicely in this overwhelmingly Christian arena, I believe this final statement was a bit non-essential, and seemed to whitewash over very explicit explanations and counter-arguments by Hitchens throughout the debate. Following are a couple of these arguments by Dr. Craig and why I think they are not valid ones.
Dr. Craigs’ first point is the argument of CONTINGENCY ( part of the Cosmological argument….). The main claim is that most of the things in the world around us are ‘ contingent’, and these exist for a reason and should be able to be explained. .. ‘WE’ are contingent, as if our parents never had us, we would not be here. We ARE here, so there has to be an explanation for being here. The universe may be contingent as well, so their must be an explanation for it. Theists call that thing ‘GOD’. The reverse of this are things in our world which exist that ‘could not possibly have FAILED to exist’. Things that ARE necessary, that do not have to be explained because their non-existence is impossible. One example is the Law of mathematics. Truths like 2 plus 2 being four would probably be true regardless of how the universe COULD have worked out, even if it had been radically different from the way we know it. Here is the summary of the ARGUMENT FROM CONTINGENCY:
(1) Everything that exists contingently has a reason for its existence
(2) The universe exists contingently, therefore:
(3) The universe has a reason for its existence.
(4) If the universe has a reason for its existence then that reason is god… therefore:
(5) God exists.
In my personal opinion this does not make a case for god. It is a great assumption that the universe is contingent, as theists claim. That there COULD have been a universe quite different from the one we know ( even a non-existant one! ) is possible, but since we ARE here to observe what is going on, then I submit that, while we might be here contingently, we can’t be THAT contingent, as supposedly god created man in his own image and that we are supposed to be one of his great accomplishments. If god had created a totally different universe, say, where WE DID NOT EXIST, there would be no humans to do his bidding; no humans to recognize his existence. The universe is the way it is because it is the way it is. We are humans, the way we are because of millions of years of natural selection. If the selection process went ‘off’ a few degrees along the way maybe humans would never have evolved, or we would be totally different from the way we are. Maybe with brains too small to even conjure up a supreme being ( or even a religion, for that matter ). To suggest that because we are ‘contingent’, therefore god must have created the universe, and us, to be here, is convoluted logic if I ever heard it.
The second point was the concept of morality. Dr. Craig says that "without a transcendent foundation there is no OBJECTIVE moral values, these are just the sociological, biological spin-offs of the evolutionary process". COME ON, Dr. Craig, give us all some credit. Technically, our moral actions could be attributed to a historical need to be cooperative amongst our tribe, but as well I rather say that in our world, solidarity amongst our species is PARAMOUNT to our happiness and productivity. Early societies would easily adapt to this. The ‘objective’ part of the argument only becomes important if you are trying to convince people of a god. ‘That there can be no moral basis for our present-day morals WITHOUT a divine instigator’ is preposterous. Much evidence exists for other species being as cooperative. The fact that most of their behavior is INSTINCTUAL, I feel, is irrelevant. If a species ( other than man ) were to be involved in the most grotesque performance of ‘sub-morality’ against each other… the species would have long-ago been extinct. I suggest that could be one of the many reasons why, indeed, some of the more than 90% of all species that has ever existed, no longer exist.
That actually brings me to yet another interesting fact that theists seem to ignore, yet it falls squarely against their statements. I refer to the DESIGN THEORY that is constantly being raised at these debates, and on which I have touched on in previous chapters. So much is riding on this theory, and it amuses me how many facts, bold-faced as they be, are summarily ignored by even the most ardent theologian. Two points to consider when confronted by a ‘design-theorist’. Point number one is the fact that over 95 percent of all the species of life this world has ever hosted, has gone extinct. Some figure closer to over 98 percent. Anywhere from 75-200,000 years ago, we humans left the savannas of Africa for more northern climates. Enduring a possible ‘nuclear winter’, resulting from the TOBA super-volcano around 70,000 years ago, and other possible threats, the human population has been estimated to have gone down to less than 15,000 world-wide. This, perhaps was only the most recent catastrophic event that made humans a potentially endangered species. Some experts proffer a theory that the numbers of humans and our ancestors were chronically low throughout the last two million years, sometimes with only 10,000 breeding individuals surviving. I make these points to illustrate the ridiculous notion that we have an all-seeing, all-knowing, perfect god that designed this earth just for us, yet we almost became extinct a number of times throughout our relatively brief history. Great design, huh??
It is also worth noting that the possibility of life on other planets probably does exist ( it may sound like I am digressing, but bear with me ) due to the immense amount of galaxies that make up our known universe. The rest of them, trillions, in fact, are simply inhospitable and uninhabitable. None of the planets in our own solar-system are habitable and most of our OWN planet is this way too. About 70 percent of our orb is covered by water averaging several thousand feet in depth. Around 20 percent of the earth is cold/hot desert ( antarctica included ) and that leaves a very small percentage of land available for all of us to squabble over. AGAIN, some design. One would have thought that if there WAS a god that created our planet for ourselves that he would have conceived a complete paradise, rather than the scrappy piece of rock that it is.
Here is another argument from theism that relates to the ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe. Of course, they call it ‘fine-tuning’ because they want atheists from the very beginning to acknowledge that it is an entity that is doing the ‘tweaking’ of all the natural laws we know about. The laws like Newton’s law of universal gravitation, conservation of energy, laws from fluid mechanics, planetary motion, etc. Are available for all to read on. The theists claim that if just one of the many laws of nature were to have been tweaked just minutely, we would not have existed at all. The one thing theists seem to forget is that we ARE here, and that means that whatever state the natural laws have in place, THAT is the state we need in order for us to have a functioning solar-system and universe, and for us to be here to talk about it.
I now take the greatest of pleasure in offering you a tidbit from a website that states in their ‘about us’ section— "The 4th Day Alliance ( dot com ) is a non-profit religious organization dedicated to proclaiming the Glory of God through astronomy". That’s a new one for me…. After reading an article from David Rives Ministries contained on their site, regarding "earth’s habitable zone" I was immediately drawn to the fact that the information they provide is proof obvious for the materialist side of things, rather than the theistic. The article brings TWO types of habitable ‘zones’ to consider. The GALACTIC, and the CIRCUM-STELLAR. The Galactic Habitable zone refers to our distance from the center of our own spiraling galaxy ( a black hole where everything near the event horizon gets sucked in, never to be seen again ) allowing us to reside safely, out of harms way. This, they say, is a great argument FOR the existence of god; that he placed us at just the perfect location in our galaxy so as not to succumb to the finality of the big, bad, black hole.
The Circum-stellar ( or the solar system’s ) habitable zone is a description of our planet being just the correct distance from our sun so that we may have life.. Five percent closer and we all fry; twenty percent further away and we all start learning how to ice-fish. I suppose the simple fact that the Andromeda galaxy is speeding towards us at break-neck speed ON A COLLISION COURSE, guaranteeing annihilation of earth in 5 billion years escapes them? At the risk of sounding repetitive, SOME DESIGN, HUH ??
The real icing-on-the-cake comes at the end of this brief article when a quote from the bible is given. This may be the only quote of the bible you will see in my book ( apart from the chapter where I take the old and new testament to task ), but this one is worth it’s weight in space-dust. Considering the tenuous position of our earth with respect to the sun; the relative uninhabitability of it; the fact that man has almost gone extinct numerous times throughout our history and suffers natural disasters on a weekly basis today, I hardly think it beneficial to the theistic side to include this profound quote in their article. Here is that quote, from Isaiah 45:18 "For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else." Ever heard of the phrase "try harder" ??
Finally ( but surely not the only other one out there ) here is another of the more common theistic arguments for the subsistence ( ontology ) of God.
The actual study of this could give one perpetual headaches trying to figure out some of the ‘reductio ad absurdum’ arguments and the use of SYMBOLIC LOGIC to promote the idea that god really exists.. I will give a very light version here, so the basics can be understood.
It is said that it is possible to imagine a perfect being that exists, and the Judeo-Christian call that being, GOD. IF this being is so perfect, then, by very definition, that being must necessarily exist in all possible worlds. The second premise of this argument is that ’it is at least possible, then, for god to exist’. The conclusion is that god exists.
You can delve far more deeply into this argument, as it has its grounding in various forms of LOGIC and other areas. At the end of the day I am inclined to give a very short answer to the whole argument, and that is to say that " You cannot define or imagine a thing into existence." I STILL find that even the logical arguments don’t address the simple fact that our basic knowledge of god comes from man-written holy books. Why these learned folks can’t use basic logic on THAT statement is obvious… they can’t win…… Here, then, is MY ‘logical’ argument:
1) Man wrote the bible and made up all the stories, so
2) everything IN the bible is the word of man.
3) It is said in the bible that everything in the bible is from ‘the word of god"…. then,
4) God exists only in the bible
5) GOD DOES NOT EXIST IN REALITY !!
A basic argument, maybe not so technically correct, but just as reasonable, as others out there. ————————————-