Arguments for the existence of God that are logical, easy to understand, and unanswerable
three further comments in the thread
at Dennis Mangan’s site, “Discussion on evolution and purpose with Lawrence Auster.” (See the earlier VFR thread
on this, “If Darwinism is true, can a Darwinian have a desire to remain alive?” Also see my brief post
on why it’s necessary to confront today’s aggressive materialism.)
In the first comment, Kristor shows why God must exist, why God is not contingent (contingent means, “determined by conditions or circumstances not yet established”), and therefore why asserting the existence of God does not lead to infinite regress (i.e., “What caused God?”):
At 8/12/2009 12:19:00 PM, Kristor said…
… Contingent things prerequire causes—namely, other things. But notice that the whole system of contingent things (finite or not) is itself contingent. The system of contingent things cannot cause itself. If God is contingent, he is subject to this same problem, and all your objections to him are cogent. But if that is the case, then we are left with the conclusion that the whole system of contingent things, including God, is causeless. And if the whole system of contingent things is without cause, then there is no causation at work anywhere in that system. The result of that would be that nothing that happens would be the least bit intelligible. Yet we do in fact find the world intelligible, so there has to be a causal order. If there is to be any such order, then the whole system of contingent things must be caused by something, and that something must not be contingent. A non-contingent thing is a necessary thing; a necessary thing is an eternal thing. We conclude that treating God as a contingent being is incoherent, a non-starter, a simple error of reasoning. If God is anything at all, he is eternal and necessary. An eternal necessity requires no cause, because what is necessary cannot fail to exist. Only contingent things require causes. So, all contingent things depend upon the necessary being, while the necessary being is not dependent.
You say that the idea that the simpler things in the universe can’t exist without the most miraculous thing seems illogical to you. But God is not miraculous. He is omnipotent. All things that are possible, are possible to God. Not so for creatures….
[end of excerpt of Kristor comment]
In another comment, Alan Roebuck clarifies the Darwin critics’ position on Darwinism; shows the falsity of the “infinite regress” argument; and demonstrates logically that God, the creator of the universe, exists. Finally, he punctures the ignorant notion that thoughts have been measured by physical equipment:
At 8/12/2009 01:02:00 PM, Alan Robuck said…
Mark, we’re not getting bogged down in minutia. This dispute is entirely philosophical, not scientific: Is the Darwinian mechanism capable of explaining all the facts about living organisms? If the answer is “Yes” or “maybe,” then Darwinian theory deserves the status it has at present within the scientific community: Not explaining everything yet, but sufficiently successful to deserve our support. But if the answer is “No, the Darwinian mechanism cannot, even in principle, explain the following features of living organisms…” then objectors such as Auster and myself are basically vindicated, although we may be mistaken about some of the details….
I think simple logic can show why the top down God model cannot work. If you say that purpose, consciousness, morality etc. must be given to us from an outside source such as God, then you must show how God can have these qualities without such a source.
This analysis commits a basic blunder: it assumes that we cannot grant that X exists unless we can describe how it originated. In reality, every explanation must terminate with the unproved assumption that something exists, because otherwise we have an infinite regression of explanations, which amounts to no explanation at all.
I presume that according your system of beliefs, the cosmos originated out of nothing. One can push the origin back via string theorizing, but physical science currently believes that the material realm had a beginning a finite time in the past.
In your view, then, because there is no God, your belief—de facto, at least—is that absolute nothingness somehow “caused” the cosmos to leap into existence. Is this not the ultimate absurdity?
Furthermore, your belief is that originally there was no life, no consciousness, no morality, no love of beauty, and so on. But, in your view, these things somehow came into existence through the action of nothing but atoms and molecules.
Before Big Bang theory was vindicated, atheists generally believed that the cosmos was eternal, a view that is more rational than the view I described just above, because at least it avoided the absurdity of absolute nothingness producing the cosmos. If we have no evidence that the cosmos began a finite time in the past, it is fully rational to believe that it is eternal.
Well, we now know that the cosmos is not eternal. And we also know (even if some of us do not acknowledge it) that matter cannot cause consciousness (the reality of consciousness that is, not the material brains that are correlated with it). This being so, it is fully rational to believe in the God who caused the cosmos, and who endowed it with those non-material properties and entities that it could not have created on its own. And we are not required to explain God’s origin, because we have no evidence that He had an origin.
(Does that mean “One Standard Deviation”?) You said
Further, you ignore the growing evidence of modern science (that I presented above) that thoughts can be measured with physical equipment (actually this has been proven).
Thoughts, by definition, cannot be measured using physical apparatus. What could possibly be measured are physical processes that are believed to be correlated with thoughts, but correlation is not causation, let alone identity. Thoughts themselves, being non-material, cannot be measured. The only way to know anything about another person’s thoughts is to ask him.
[end of Roebuck comment]
In another comment, I show why the promoters of materialist science should be more modest in their claims:
Lawrence Auster said …
- end of initial entry -
Dennis Mangan says in reply to Alan Roebuck:
“I would just point out, as I have in similar threads, that the fact that science cannot explain everything, or that the cause of something is unknown, does not give us the right (logically speaking) either to say that science as a system is lacking or that the cause will never be known. Human knowledge is infinitely greater now than a century ago, and will, I presume, be much greater in another century. But even were that not the case, I don’t know what caused the universe, I assert that no one does, and that it doesn’t matter. It’s not the sort of question amenable to a scientific answer—nor, if the past 3000 years are any guide, a religious one.”
First, Mr. Mangan is missing Alan Roebuck’s point. As Mr. Roebuck has said, the assertion on our side is not that Darwinism hasn’t yet adequately answered certain questions, and therefore Darwinism is wrong; the assertion on our side is that “the Darwinian mechanism cannot, even in principle [italics added], explain the following features of living organisms…”
Second, Mr. Mangan says,
“I don’t know what caused the universe, I assert that no one does, and that it doesn’t matter.”
Ok, let’s sum up the state of science, relating to the three biggest questions:
E.O Wilson has frankly written (in a 2006 article) that science has no idea how consciousness came into existence.
Richard Dawkins has baldly stated (to Ben Stein in Expelled) that science has no idea how life came into existence.
And now Dennis Mangan says (correctly) that science has no idea how the universe came into existence.
Given that science has no material answer, and has no reasonable prospects of finding a material answer, for the most fundamental facts of existence, shouldn’t the promoters of material science be just a tad more modest about their claims, and pull back from their statements that material science can explain everything, that only the material exists, and that people who say that there is a non-material reality in addition to the material one are anti-rational, superstitious, faith-based morons?
In connection with the above ideas, be sure to read Evariste’s profound essay written for VFR, “How material existence, life, and consciousness point to the existence, life, and consciousness of God.” Evariste argues step by step that God not only exists, but has consciousness and personality.
By the way, after sending several remarkable posts to this site, among the best ever written by a VFR commenter, Evariste disappeared and stopped being in touch. He still posts at a collective website called Discarded Lies.
Todd White writes:
I believe in the existence of God, but the arguments used in your blog post are not “logical, easy to understand, and unanswerable.” Rather, they are flimsy, vague, and abstract.
If you (or anyone else) wants to validate scientifically the existence of God, you have three solid arguments at your disposal: First is the Anthropic Principle (discovered by Brandon Carter in 1973) which proves (beyond any reasonable doubt) that the laws of physics were “pre-planned” to be “life-friendly” at the conception of the universe because even the slightest tinkering of those laws would make life anywhere impossible. Second is Intelligent Design in biology (best articulated by Philip Johnson, Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, and others), in which the conception of purposeful Design is vastly superior to the blind, meaningless Darwinian paradigm of natural selection. In the past few decades, the evidence from DNA, irreducible complexity, and the fossil record plus the LACK of evidence for Darwinism has shifted the debate radically in favor of a divine solution. Finally, the vast collection of data from Near Death Experiences (NDEs) shows—again, beyond any reasonable doubt—that consciousness is independent of the brain and survives death, and thus, the materialist paradigm (“matter is all there is”) is destroyed beyond any hope of repair. The philosophical implications of these breakthroughs is played out in my novel, The Mustard Seed.
Here is a comment I’ve sent to Mangan’s Miscellany:
Also, Dennis Mangan disputes my remark that Kristor’s argument for God’s existence is unanswerable. He refers in a general way to counter-arguments that exist, but doesn’t state them.
“the promoters of material science [should] be just a tad more modest about their claims and pull back from their statements that (1) material science can explain everything; (2) only the material exists; and (3) people who say that there is a non-material reality in addition to the material one are anti-rational superstitious, faith-based morons.”
“One STDV” replies:
“Show where I even imply you’re a moron?”
First, I didn’t say he did. But among the many things he’s doesn’t know about, he evidently doesn’t about the spreading “New Atheist” movement which speaks in terms of utter contempt for people who say that there is a God.
Second, while One STdV didn’t suggest that anyone is a moron, his constant characterization of my arguments in this discussion as faith based—when I haven’t made a single faith-based assertion—are part and parcel of the tendency I just described of discrediting non-Darwinian, non-materialist views as irrational.
Howard Sutherland writes:
Your wrestling over at Mangan’s has been a tour de force.
Sage McLaughlin writes:
None of Todd White’s arguments are very convincing at all, at least not to me, even though I’ve heard them repeated endlessly as the preferable alternative to “merely” abstract arguments. They all make the same mistake of conceding that knowledge is ultimately empirical and that “proving God scientifically” is not only possible but necessary. God’s existence probably cannot be proved scientifically, and shifting the ground of the debate to one which assumes that only material, measurable forces constrained by Euclidean geometry suffice as actual evidence is a major blunder. We seek to prove that not all existence is material, and that knowledge as such is not limited to those things provable by science.
The anthropic principle, if I understand the argument rightly, is a particularly weak tack. So what if the conditions of early universe had to be what they were if intelligent life were to become possible? All that means is that we’re lucky, it doesn’t prove that God engineered the whole thing. If only one in a gazillion possible universes would have produced life, and if all possible universes were more or less equally probable, then any universe resulting from the big bang could be held up as proof that God exists, merely because any particular result was extremely unlikely given the nigh-infinite possibilities. It’s like saying that a 1-million-sided die was obviously loaded—nay, that it is irrefutable that the die was loaded—merely because you rolled a 53, and after all, there’s only a one in a million chance of that!
His second argument is an argument against Darwinism and in favor of design, but it doesn’t prove God, much less prove Him scientifically. It demonstrates that macroevolution is an absurd idea, but it doesn’t establish that God designed life. It only shows that the Darwinian account is false. Yes, design is a better explanation given the facts presented by ID theorists, but ID doesn’t go as far as actually “proving God’s existence scientifically.” Once it gets to the point of demonstrating the impossibility of Darwinism, ID is right back to using abstract reasoning to deduce some kind of design, and it never gets as far as showing through direct observation that the supposed design was divine in origin.
Last, near-death experiences have been explained by neurologists as extreme hallucinations brought about by lack of vital life-sustaining elements in the brain. Since I’m a religious believer I don’t feel constrained to accept that explanation, but it’s a reasonable one, and the “bright light” phenomenon has been replicated in people suffering from all sorts of neurological stresses that do not rise to the level of near-death. Again, I don’t find these explanations entirely persuasive in every case, but the mere existence of near-death reports is rather obviously not “scientific proof of the existence of God.”
Again, you know where I’m coming from. I’m a traditionalist Catholic. I’m no materialist. But as a lover of Truth, I don’t like lame arguments for His existence that place us in a worse spot than we began by conceding the primacy of scientific knowledge (and then failing even to succeed on those terms). I am heartened, though, that in a conversation between three religious believers, the entire debate is revolving around which arguments provide the worst support for God’s existence. In seven years of college life, I never once saw liberalism’s first principles subjected to that level of scrutiny by the people who adhered so slavishly to them.
I’m very glad for Mr. McLaughlin’s comment. I also was uncomfortable with Mr. White’s view, but I didn’t know how to articulate it. For example, I think that the anthropic principle makes sense, but it doesn’t grab me, it’s never grabbed me. Why? Sage has gotten to the reason: it’s an argument that relies on scientifically derived, numerically expressed, empirical data. But God is not about empirical data. He is beyond empirical data.
Same with intelligent design. The ID argument is certainly correct—life shows evidence of design. The problem with this argument is that it’s so obvious that it’s a no-brainer, and so narrow in its focus, so limited in the issues that it raises, that it’s simply uninteresting. Intelligent design is an argument about God designed to appeal to modern people with their attenuated, reductionist sense of reality and their belief that statements must have a scientific form to be valid. ID doesn’t challenge the modern mentality. And that is what is needed.
This is why Kristor’s and Alan Roebuck’s arguments for the existence of God—arguments based on reason, not on material science—are more persuasive and meaningful to me than intelligent design and the anthropic principle.
Here is another comment by me at Mangan’s:
At 8/13/2009 12:29:00 PM, Lawrence Auster said…
Desmond Jones writes:
“Mr. Auster keeps groaning about faith-based arguments being dismissed, but fails to provide a third way. Either arguments fall into the camp of falsifiability or fall under the realm of the metaphysical. There are no other choices.”
I really have a communication problem with Mr. Jones! I have not once complained about faith-based arguments being dismissed. I have complained that my arguments have been falsely characterized as faith-based arguments.
Further, I do not claim that my arguments are falsifiable, for the simple reason that I am not advancing a scientific hypothesis. I am making reasoned statements about the falsity of the materialist-Darwinian view, the meaning of which any human being of normal mentality can understand, whether he agrees with me or not.
The hell of material consciousness, which Mr. Jones perfectly displays in his comment, is that it reduces all assertions about the world to one of two possibilities: falsifiable scientific statements, or “faith.” The materialists cancel out and prohibit normal human reason. And that is not the least sense in which they are anti-human.
In their denial of the validity of normal human reason, in their prohibition of normal reasoning and questioning, the materialists act like totalitarians. And this should be no surprise. Consider Marxian Communism, the materialistic ideology which explicitly prohibited any questions about man’s nature, because such questions would inevitable lead to the non-material aspects of human nature.
Materialists and Communist totalitarians are thus close kin, since both groups deny the reality of, and seek to ban discussion about, major sectors of the reality in which we live.
Todd White writes:
I read through Sage McLaughlin’s post, and, I have to say, I don’t think he characterized my views very well, or drew the right conclusions from them. First of all, I never said there is “scientific proof of God’s existence.” In fact, I agree with Sage that such a statement is impossible. Rather, I offered “three solid arguments” to “validate scientifically the existence of God.” In other words, I am offering what I can consider to be the best arguments to “validate” God’s existence through reason, not faith. If you have faith (as Sage apparently does), God bless him, but a lot of people don’t have faith, and it’s appropriate for us to persuade those people using the tools they are most familiar with—namely, science and reason. This entire discussion between us proves that when faith is absent (after all, we’re not obligated to take Sage’s opinion on faith), reason is the only means of communication.
I used three arguments for God’s existence: The Anthropic Principle, Intelligent Design, and Near-Death Experiences. I’m not sure why Sage was so dismissive of these arguments. In the case of the first two arguments, if I understand him correctly, he’s basically saying, “Yeah, they sort of imply God exists, but it doesn’t clinch the argument.” The only problem is I never claimed it would clinch the argument. As we all agree, the argument about God’s existence cannot be clinched. However, just because we don’t have certainty doesn’t mean we can’t go with the probabilities. In the case of the Anthropic Principle and Intelligent Design, the probability that material forces can be responsible for the creation of life and the universe are so astronomically remote, any truly objective person would affirm that there is a non-material agent at work (specifically, God). To use an example: If you won the lottery 15 times in a row, I suppose you could shrug and say, “It’s all chance,” but an honest person would say, “I think the game is fixed.” And in a sense, the game IS fixed. And that’s important.
In the case of the final argument—Near Death Experiences—Sage is just plain wrong. Why? There are two overarching facts. First, these people are dead. Let me repeat that: DEAD. Whether it’s for five minutes, 20 minutes, or some cases longer, they are dead. If you are dead, you cannot hallucinate. You cannot have any sensory or mental experience. Period. Second, there are many, many cases where dead people were later able to document events outside their body—i.e, they were able to describe what was happening in our hospital rooms, what their families were doing at home miles away, etc. This is so well-documented a ten minute Google search would suffice.
In conclusion, it’s clear that Sage and I are people of faith who think faith is critical to saving our civilization. I respect him for that. But ultimately, I think he is too quick to dismiss my arguments, and in doing so, he is limiting our ability to actively engage and change our culture for the better.
As for my own earlier comment, I did not dismiss or disagree at all with Mr. White’s examples of the anthopic principle and intelligent design, but only said that they didn’t particularly “work” for me in comparison with the kind of argument used by Kristor and Mr. Roebuck.
I agree with Mr. White that arguments such as the anthropic principle are valid and very useful when it comes to persuading people of a secular mindset that there must be a God, or, at the very least, leading them to doubt the dogmatic atheism that is spreading in the West. That the cosmos operates within the constraints of the anthropic principle is a remarkable discovery. Also, how have the atheists responded to it?
At the same time, speaking purely for myself, I can’t get all that excited about Back to Deism.
Todd White writes:
I think your last post was fair and reasonable. However, I would like to reply to your conclusion, “I can’t get all that excited about Back to Deism.”
I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but I presume the source of that statement is an assumption that Deism does not feature a personal God; that God is effectively a “blind watchmaker.” However, my faith (which I wouldn’t describe as Deism, per se) DOES feature a personal God who loves us. Indeed, that is the evidence provided to us by Near-Dear Experiences and other major mystical events.
But there’s an even larger point. For me, the “excitement” doesn’t rest in faith directly. Faith itself is not the primary. What is primary is a life of rational self-empowerment. The conviction (supported by experience) that each person, through the use of his mind, is able to succeed and find happiness on this Earth. In other words, our happiness is not contingent on others. We are truly the authors of our own destiny—to the extent that we wish to pick up the pen and write our destiny. That—for me—at least, is something worth getting excited for.
I didn’t mean to say that I think that you are a Deist, not at all. Sorry if I gave that impression. I meant that the things being demonstrated about God through such evidence as the anthropic principle are of a Deistic nature, meaning that God set up the laws of the universe and then had nothing further to do with it. However, you are right that the after death experiences indicate a present and active God.
Sage McLaughlin writes:
Your reply to Desmond Jones is excellent. Chesterton remarked once that the “free thinking” materialist was not a free thinker in any ordinary sense at all. The reason he disbelieves in the possibility of miracles or of divinity is not that his materialism permits him to disbelieve it. Rather, his materialism strictly forbids such a belief, makes it impossible for him to entertain the possibility. And this is neither a “liberal” nor a “free” way of thinking at all. Materialism is not a precondition for free thought; it’s a radical diminishment of thought and the circumscribing of innumerable possible lines of inquiry.
Notice how often materialists in these discussions will disparage an argument as “metaphysical,” thinking that this sets it outside the realm of reason and true knowledge. This is one of many ways that they beg the question, as is their insistence that all valid arguments must be “empirical.” They hit the buzzer and cry foul the instant someone makes an argument that does not assume the validity of their own conclusions. And this intolerant, incurious, irrational dogmatism is what they call “free inquiry.”
I reference Sage McLaughlin’s comment in a new entry on whether non-material explanations are by definition irrational and anti-scientific.
It is amazing how you continue to get so much good mileage out of the Darwinism-materialism theme. Sage McLaughlin’s recent comments were excellent.
Yes, I sometimes think I’ve written enough on it, and readers will get tired, but the issue is very much alive.
Todd White replies:
I agree that Deists usually use the Anthropic Principle to validate their philosophy. However, I would argue that people shouldn’t limit their interpretation of the Anthropic Principle to Deism (the “blind watchmaker” thesis). We know the act of creation was “fine-tuned” to support life. To quote the physicist Freeman Dyson, “the universe knew we were coming.” Life—and specifically, conscious human life—was planned from the start. As such, I think we can infer that God cares for his creation (human beings) and is invested in our progress. Indeed, once we recognize this powerful fact, it is practically illogical to limit our faith to Deism.
“Life—and specifically, conscious human life—was planned from the start.”
I want to tell you a thought I recently had. When “Ida,” the 47 million year old primate, was discovered, or rather publicized, a few months ago I read up on primates. First, I was surprised to learn that primate had been around for 60 million years, meaning they appeared almost immediately after the dinosaur extinction (I had vaguely thought primates had been around for maybe 20 millions year, perhaps 30 million at most, since naturally one would think that they would have appeared last in mammalian evolution).
Second, I had not known about the shared features of all primates. They include:
forward facing eyes
nails instead of claws
sensitive pad on tips of fingers
elements of bipedalism (no primates are truly tetrapods, they all use their forelimbs in specialized ways)
give birth to only one or two babies at at time
When I considered these and other distinct primate features that completely set them off from all other mammals and that are all shared by man, and thought of how primates existed from the start of the mammalian age (there were mammals during dinosaur age, but they were very small, like shrews and mice), it came to me that from the moment primates appeared, man was meant to appear, that man is clearly the completion of the primate plan, the perfection of the “idea” that was first expressed with the first primate.
(Also, writing this comment got me to look up my articles on “Ida” and the outrageous hype surrounding her discovery (it is an important and wonderful discovery, but to call Ida the “missing link” that “proves” human evolution was pure hype) (here and here) which led to the new entry near the top of the main page on truth and liberalism.)
I very much appreciate this discussion, and the understandable level at which it is held, where one doesn’t have to be a trained philosopher to understand all the jargon.
Speaking of the anthropic principle, I read this little book a couple of years ago.
Wiker and Witt write at length about chemistry and its history, and it startled me. I hated chemistry in high school and college, absolutely hated it. But after reading A Meaningful World, I appreciate the beauty of chemistry, I have a sense of wonder about it, I feel expansively Chestertonian about the whole matter, ready to lift a tankard in praise of God and his mysteries of chemistry. It’s not something I would have thought possible. So this isn’t a plug for the anthropic principle as an apologetic for God, but as something that enlivens otherwise dead subject matter, which is what science is in the hands of the materialists.
The book is presented as an apologetic for God, and the reviewers at Amazon.com praise it as such, but I didn’t read it that way at all. I suspect I read it the way the authors intended—just for the pure joy of discovery. That’s the main point of the book: the universe was made to be discovered by us, with a sense of awe and wonder and joy. Do you ever get any of that from materialists? They’re putting a puzzle together, a large, blank puzzle, and when they fit another piece in, they say, “look, wasn’t that clever?” And you know that when they are done, they have nothing but a large, blank, nothing. We, on the other hand, put a piece in, and see a real image developing, and can’t wait to see it finished, because it’s a masterpiece, and we know it, because we know the Painter.
To finish the point of the analogy of the puzzle, the materialists have all the pieces upside down, and they’re putting the back side of the puzzle together. We try to put it together right side up.
“the universe was made to be discovered by us, with a sense of awe and wonder and joy. Do you ever get any of that from materialists?”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 13, 2009 08:11 AM | Send
In fact, the top names, like Dawkins and Wilson, have constructed a religion out of evolution. The wonder, the beauty, the (their favorite word) elegance of it all, and their idea is that contemplating the wonders of life can provide sufficient meaning.
Wilson, in his book Consilience, is the most explicit about this. But the whole thing is manifestly weird and out of whack.
The basic problem is the same as with all modern pseudo religions constructed as a substitute for the rejected God and truth. These pseudo religions are all out of whack because they consist of trying to inject a transcendent-like value into a secular level of experience from which the transcendent has been banished. So they’re all forced to overdo things in various weird ways in order to get the substitute-transcendent “high” they’re looking for. Dawkins and Wilson, for example, with their endless breathless emoting about the “elegance” of this and the “elegance” of that, sound like two Beverly Hills hair dressers talking about a really great hairdo.