- 1 DETECTING TRUTH
- 2 About this site
- 3 Disclaimer
- 4 Credentials
- 5 Reading List
- 6 Definitions
- 7 Summary of Arguments based on Religious Philosophy
- 8 Evolution vs Creationism
- 9 References
Do you REALLY want to know the truth?
About this site
The purpose of this website is to host my research notes into the following question:
Does God exist?
Note: Almost all of my study of God is related to the Christian God.
I've done a lot or reading on this topic (see Reading List) and I must acknowledge that the assertion God exists or God doesn't exist falls into a category of unfalsifiable assertions based on current knowledge. So, what remains is the accumulation and evaluation of the evidence supporting each assertion and deciding which one is most plausible. The conclusion you will make, I assert, will be heavily influenced by your accumulated experience, cultural influences, religious training, education, mental health and other influences since your birth. In other words, your conclusion will not be based on the unbiased evaluation of the evidence.
Evidence for "God exists" falls into these general categories (not a complete list):
- Religious Philosophy (thought exercises)
- Personal Experience (which has led to the many religious documents in existence)
- Mysticism (i.e. experience IS reality)
Evidence for "God doesn't exist" is, essentially, the lack of the kind of evidence or data that is routinely used in science, technology, mathematics, forensics, and other technical domains (I'll take the liberty to lump these all together as science). It should be noted that the above categories of evidence for "God exists" are generally not used or accepted in the day to day practice of science. This is the sort of information that can be tested and verified by anyone with the skills and tools necessary to setup and perform the test. It is also the sort of information that can be used to build a hydrogen bomb, a cell phone, a space station, a Formula 1 race car, etc. This is the sort of information that every human being (every organism) that exists on Earth uses to survive and thrive each and every day.
I will also acknowledge that, even if God doesn't exist, there still may be a need for "Religion" due to 1) our human biological condition of being aware of our individual existence and eventual demise, 2) our social needs which lead to "grouping" together with others of like mind, kinship, culture, etc.
Another observation worth noting is that some concepts are just difficult to understand and take a lot of study to comprehend. For example, I took four Calculus classes during my Engineering studies in college. It was difficult for me to understand the concepts. However, at some point during those classes, the ah-ha moment happened and it suddenly made sense. Without putting in the time and effort to study Calculus, I would not be able to say I understand it. My point is that, even with this topic, much study is required to grasp the arguments for either position.
If you really want to go down this path, then be prepared to have your belief system challenged whether you believe or do not believe God exists. To some degree, this path is a philosophical study.
The authors of Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings, Louis Pojman and James Fieser explain this succinctly.
Philosophy is the love of wisdom (from the Greek philos, "love," and sophia, "wisdom"). It is the contemplation or study of the most important questions in existence, with the end of promoting illumination and understanding, a vision of the whole. It uses reason, sense perception, the imagination, and intuitions in its activities of clarifying the concepts and analyzing and constructing arguments and theories as possible answers to these perennial questions. It is revolutionary because its deliverances often disturb our common sense or our received tradition. Philosophy usually goes against the stream or the majority, since the majority opinion is often a composite of past intellectual struggles or "useful" biases. There is often deeper truth, better and new evidence that disturbs the status quo and that forces us to revise or reject some of our beliefs. This experience can be as painful as it is exciting.
The pain may lead us to give up philosophical inquiry, and a great deal of emotional health may be required in order to persevere in this pursuit. We may retreat into unreason and obey the commandment of Ignorance. "Think not, lest thou be confounded!" Truth (or what we seem justified in believing) may not always be edifying, but in the end the philosopher's faith is that Truth is good and worth pursuing for its own sake, and for its secondary benefits. The intelligent inquiry that philosophy promotes is liberating, freeing us from prejudice, self-deceptive notions, and half truths. As Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) put it:The [person] who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason... [W]hile diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, [philosophy] greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never traveled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive the sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar light.
Summary of Arguments based on Religious Philosophy
This section is based on “Introduction of Philosophy, 4th edition, Louis P. Pojman & James Fieser, Part III.” I highly recommend that you obtain this book or another like it and read the various essays related to religious philosophy. It is fascinating.
The first four arguments are FOR God’s existence and the agnostic/atheist base their cases on absence of evidence to support these arguments. The existence of evil, says the agnostic/atheist, is an argument for God’s non-existence.
Cosmological Argument for God (a posteriori)
All cosmological arguments contain these basic assumptions:
- The universe exists
- Something outside the universe is required to explain the existence of the universe.
- The universe is contingent, depending on something outside the universe for its existence.
- God is such a being
A version of the cosmological argument is called the “first-cause argument.”
- Everything in the universe has a cause.
- An infinite regression is impossible. The series of causes and effects cannot go on indefinitely but must have a beginning.
- So there must be a first cause (outside the universe) capable of producing everything besides itself (which is not produced, but a necessary being).
- Such a being must be in infinite, necessary being; that is, God.
St. Thomas Aquinas is most famous for making this argument. This argument can be challenged at every point. For examples, see writings by Bertrand Russell and David Hume.
Teleological Argument for God (a posteriori)
All Teleological arguments contains these basic assumptions:
- The design manifested in the world shows the hand of a grand designer.
- The world shows intelligent purpose or order and there must be a divine intelligence, a supreme designer to account for the observed or perceived intelligent purpose or order.
A good example of this argument can be found in William Paley’s Natural Theology “watch” argument. This argument has been refuted, most famously, by David Hume as well as Charles Darwin in Origin of Species and his theory of “variation and natural selection.”
Ontological Argument for God (a priori)
This argument was first established by Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, in the eleventh century. It raises philosophical problems such as (1) whether existence is a property and (2) whether the notion of necessary existence is intelligible. The argument that follows may be treated as a reduction ad absurdum argument. That is, it begins with a supposition (S) that is contradictory to what one desires to prove and then goes about showing that (S) together with other certain or self-evident assumptions (A-1 and A-2) yields a contradiction, which in turn demonstrates that the contradictory of (S) must be true. Anselm’s argument goes like this:
- Suppose that the greatest conceivable being (GCB) exists in the mind alone (and not in reality). (S)
- Existence in reality is greater than existence in the mind alone. (A-1)
- We can conceive of a GCB that exists in reality as well as in the mind. (A-2)
- Therefore, there is a being that is greater than the GCB. (from 1, 2, & 3)
- But this is impossible, for it is a contradiction.
- Therefore, it is false that GCB exists in the mind alone and not in reality (from 1 & 5). So a GCB must exist in reality as well as in the mind. This being is, per definition, God.
A contemporary of Anselm, Gaunilo, set forth the first objection to this argument claiming this argument could be made for the greatest conceivable “anything” such as an island.
Argument from Religious Experience for God (a posteriori)
This argument appeals to mystical experiences and claims of extraordinary revelation as evidence for God’s existence. The problem with religious experiences is that they are private. William James, F. C. Copleston, C. D Broad claim that personal experience is valid evidence for God’s existence.
Bertrand Russell and Sigmund Freud made cases against personal experience as proof of God’s existence.
Argument from Evil for God (a posteriori)
The theist argues:
- God is all-powerful (including omniscient).
- God is perfectly good.
- But, Evil exists.
This can be perceived as a paradox or, worse, a contradiction.
The opposing argument is:
- If God (an all-powerful, omniscient, omnibenevolent being) existed, there would be no (or no unnecessary) evil in the world.
- There is evil (or unnecessary evil) in the world.
- Therefore, God does not exist
The writings of Voltaire, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Bruce Russell and Richard Swinburne are examples that explore the both sides of this argument.
Evolution vs Creationism
The debate regarding creationism vs evolution has been going on since Darwin published his groundbreaking "On the Origin of Species." The debate has made its way through the courts a number of times; from the Scopes trial in 1925 to more recent cases such as the case in Dover, Pennsylvania in Kitzmiller v. Dover area School Board (see NOVA video: Judgement Day - Intelligent Design on Trial). Currently, due to the establishment clause in the constitution, religion can't be taught in public schools. Intelligent Design was determined, in the Dover case, to be repackaged creationism (religion) and can't be legally taught in public schools.
The Dover case is fascinating because of the intense scrutiny of the best argument for "special creation", intelligent design, as well as evolution, by the best intellectual experts on both sides. It was ruled that intelligent design is not based on science and it's key claim regarding irreducible complexity was dismantled by the plaintiffs side. It was also determined that intelligent design is creationism repacked in order to skirt around the establishment clause of the constitution.
Thus, evolution remains intact as the only science based theory that explains the history and diversity of life on Earth. It should be noted that even evolution has not yet explained the actual process of how that first replicating cell/organism came into existence. It does explain how the subsequent diversity of life came into existence.
If you really want to learn more about evolution, I recommend actually reading Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" and another book that explains it more succinctly, such as Richard Dawkins "The Blind Watchmaker." Warning: Dawkins is an excellent teacher of complex subject matter, but he can be very disrespectful of views opposing evolution. Additionally, reading a book on basic genetics would provide the foundation for some of the mechanisms of evolution.
It should also be noted that the Catholic church, via various proclamations by various Popes, have accepted evolution as a means by which God created man's physical body. This is called "Theistic Evolution." However, the Catholic position also adds that God alone created and infused man with his soul.
The following page is primarily a summary of the evolution vs creationism debate as laid down by Eugenia C. Scott in her book Evolution VS Creationism.
- Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912), 156 f