Archive for the ‘2013’ Category
The Ontological Argument
On Thursday the 6th of June we discussed the Ontological argument. The Ontological Argument (OA) is an argument for the existence of God based on reason alone without virtually any reference to scientific or historical evidence. The purpose of our discussion was to familiarise ourselves with the argument and the issues that surround it rather than to argue vehemently for its truth. The meeting was recorded via the Video Recording and the Power Point Slides.
The content of the presentation is also summarised as follows:
The Ontological Argument has been highly controversial and maligned ever since it was first conceived. For instance, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer described the OA as a “sleight of hand trick” or “a charming joke”. Bertrand Russell was also dismissive, but with some reservations. He stated,
It is much easier to be persuaded that ontological arguments are no good than it is to say exactly what is wrong with them.
The OA appears at first to be absurd, until you really start to think about it. Alvin Pantinga puts it this way,
Although the [ontological] argument certainly looks at first sight as if it ought to be unsound, it is profoundly difficult to say what, exactly, is wrong with it. Indeed, I do not believe that any philosopher has ever given a cogent and conclusive refutation of the ontological argument in its various forms.
Other common arguments for the existence of God are the Cosmological and Design Arguments. These rely on observations about the actual world. They both precede the OA by over a thousand years since they have their origins in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. One can even find justification for these arguments in the writings of the apostle Paul in Romans 1. However, the OA is radically different. It is an argument based upon what Immanuel Kant calls, “Pure Reason”. It is a purely logical argument that has virtually no reference to the actual world.
2 Anselm of Canterbury
The OA was first conceived rather late in history by a Monk in the 11th Century. Saint Anselm of Canterbury (c.?1033 – 21 April 1109) was a Benedictine monk, who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. He has been a major influence in Western theology. Anselm sought to understand Christian doctrine through reason and develop intelligible truths interwoven with the Christian belief. He believed that the necessary preliminary for this was possession of the Christian faith. He wrote, “Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.” In his Proslogion (which means Discourse on the Existence of God), Anselm put forward a “proof” of the existence of God which was later called the “ontological argument”. The term itself was first applied by Immanuel Kant to the arguments of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century rationalists (Descartes and Leibniz). Anselm defined his belief in the existence of God using the phrase “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”.
In the Psalms it says “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’”. Thus Anselm argues that even the fool has a concept of God. A critical passage from the Proslogion is as follows:
Hence, even the fool is convinced that something exists in the understanding, at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived. For, when he hears of this, he understands it. And whatever is understood, exists in the understanding. And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For, suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater. Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is no doubt that there exists a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.
This passage is quite verbose, but we can simplify it a bit. He reasoned that, if “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” existed only in the intellect, then it would not be “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”, since it can be thought to exist in reality, which is greater. It follows, according to Anselm, that “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” must exist in reality. The bulk of the Proslogion is taken up with Anselm’s attempt to establish the identity of “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” as God, and thus to establish that God exists in reality. Anselm wrote in an informal style before the days of philosophical precision. However, Alvin Plantinga has provided a formalised rewording of Anselm’s Argument.
- God is defined as the greatest conceivable being
- To exist is greater than to not exist
- If God does not exist then we can conceive of a greater being that does exist
- Thus if God does not exist then he is not the greatest conceivable being
- This leads to a contradiction
- Therefore God must exist
Anselm’s ontological proof has been the subject of controversy since it was first published in the 1070s. It was opposed at the time by a fellow 11th century Benedictine monk called Gaunilo of Marmoutiers. He argued that humans cannot pass from intellect to reality. In Behalf of the Fool, Gaunilo refutes Anselm using a parody of Anselm’s argument
- The Lost Island is that than which no greater can be conceived
- It is greater to exist in reality than merely as an idea
- If the Lost Island does not exist, one can conceive of an even greater island, i.e., one that does exist
- Therefore, the Lost Island exists in reality
Most attacks on the OA are based on parodies. If the same argument can be used to prove something absurd, then there must be something wrong with the original argument. This process is valid. However, usually there is something wrong with the parody. In Gaunilo’s case there is No intrinsic maximum for the greatest conceivable island. How many palm trees and dancing girls constitute the greatest conceivable island? Thus “a greatest conceivable island” is not a coherent concept? Gaunilo’s criticism is repeated by several later philosophers, among whom are Thomas Aquinas and Kant. In fact much of the criticism has come from people who already believed in God.
4 The Rationalists
Rene Descartes is an extremely important person in the development of Western Philosophy. He is considered the father of modern philosophy and the father of rationalism as well as being a great mathematician. Rationalism was a movement that aimed to obtain certain knowledge by pure reason alone. Anyway he contributed to the development of the OA. He introduced the idea that existence is a perfection. He also introduced an intuitive argument for the existence of God. The more you ponder the nature of God, the more it becomes evident to the intuition that God must exist. Descartes’ argument can be summarised as follows: • God is a supremely perfect being, holding all perfections
- Existence is a perfection
- It would be more perfect to exist than not to exist
- If the notion of God did not include existence, it would not be supremely perfect, as it would be lacking a perfection
- Consequently, the notion of a supremely perfect God who does not exist is unintelligible
- Therefore, according to his nature, God must exist
Leibniz was also a Rationalist. He extended Descartes’ argument because he knew that Descartes’ argument fails unless one can show:
- That the idea of a supremely perfect being is coherent, or
- That it is possible for there to be a supremely perfect being.
He claimed that it is impossible to demonstrate that perfections are incompatible and thus all perfections can co-exist together in a single entity. Since he considered logic associated with necessity and possibility was in fact a forerunner of modal logic and the Modal Ontological Argument.
5 Kant’s Critique
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was an Enlightenment Philosopher. His greatest work was the Critique of Pure Reason in which he attempted to unite empiricism and rationalism (Pure Reason). Within the Critique of Pure Reason he launched what many consider a devastating critique of the traditional arguments for existence of God, in particular
- The Ontological argument,
- The Cosmological argument, and
- The Teleological (or Design) argument.
This doesn’t mean he was an atheist. In fact he believed in God, but this belief was based on the moral argument. Hence we can consider his arguments as friendly fire. Kant launched at least 3 criticisms of the OA. They are:
- Existence is not a predicate
- How can a conceptual conundrum in the mind affect a being’s objective existence?
- Negation does not entail a contradiction
We will look at each of these criticisms.
5.1 Existence is not a predicate
Kant is famous for his claim that existence is not a predicate. However, what is a predicate? The definition of the meaning of predicate is crucial to Kant’s argument. One way of defining predicate is to say that all propositions consist of a subject and a predicate. For example, consider the statement, “A dog has 4 legs”. “A dog” is the subject and “has 4 legs” is the predicate. That seems to make sense. However, consider the proposition “God exists”. God is the subject and exists is the predicate. Thus existence is a predicate and so Kant must be wrong. However, Kant is not that stupid. Predicate can be defined in other ways. The predicate contains the properties of the subject. Kant argued that existence is an instantiation of an object and thus existence is not a property, nor is it a perfection. Kant was not so much undermining Anselm’s version of the OA. He was primarily aiming at Descartes’ version of the argument as Descartes had claimed that existence is a perfection and thus it would be more perfect to exist than not to exist.
5.2 Conceptual Conundrum
Anselm argues for concepts in our minds to the objective existence of God. However, how can a conceptual conundrum in the mind affect a being’s objective existence? It makes me wonder.
5.3 Negation is not a Contradiction
Some statements are necessarily true, since their negation entails a contradiction. Examples of statements that are necessarily true are:
- All bachelors are unmarried
- All squares have 4 sides
However “God does not exist” is a coherent statement that does not entail a contradiction. Thus Kant argues that “God exists” is not a necessary truth. In this respect I think Kant is right. The statement “God exists” is not a necessary truth. However, I think Kant confuses “necessary truth” with “necessary being”.
Thus Kant concludes that the Ontological Argument “neither satisfies the healthy common sense of humanity, nor sustains the scientific examination of the philosopher.” However, Kant’s views are not universally accepted. We are going to look at Plantinga’s Modal Ontological Argument but firstly we will look at what Plantinga has to say about Kant, in particular his predicate argument. Plantinga says:
Kant’s point, then, is that one cannot define things into existence because existence is not a real property or predicate in the explained sense. If this is what he means, he’s certainly right. But is it relevant to the ontological argument? Couldn’t Anselm thank Kant for this interesting point and proceed merrily on his way? Where did he try to define God into being by adding existence to a list of properties that defined some concept? If this were Anselm’s procedure — if he had simply added existence to a concept that has application contingently if at all — then indeed his argument would be subject to the Kantian criticism. But he didn’t, and it isn’t. The usual criticisms of Anselm’s argument, then, leave much to be desired.
Plantinga may or may not be right. The point is that Kant’s views are not universally accepted.
6 The Modal Ontological Argument
Alvin Plantinga has produced a version of the Ontological Argument that is based on modal logic and is thus called the Modal Ontological Argument (MOA). Modal logic is an extension of philosophical logic to deal with possibility and necessity. God is defined as a Maximally Great Being (MGB) and one key property of God is that He exists necessarily. The argument does not rely on concepts in the mind and seems to avoid all of Kant’s objections. The MOA is as follows:
- Premise 1: It is possible that God exists.
- Premise 2: If it is possible that God exists, then God exists in some possible worlds.
- Premise 3: If God exists in some possible worlds, then God exists in all possible worlds.
- Premise 4: If God exists in all possible worlds, then God exists in the actual world.
- Premise 5: If God exists in the actual world, then God exists.
The MOA refers to possible worlds and the concept of possible worlds is a big part of modal logic. A possible world is any possible combination of state of affairs.
Most people are initially puzzled by premise 3 which states that “If an MGB exists in some possible world, then an MGB exists in every possible world”. Why is this so? One property of an MGB is that an MGB is a necessary being. Therefore a necessary being can exist in one possible world then he/she/it must exist in all possible worlds. The rest of the premises and the conclusion follow in a fairly natural way. Thus according to William Lane Craig only premise 1 is controversial (It is possible that an MGB exists).
However, what does “possible” mean? “Possible” means “metaphysically possible” rather than “epistemically possible” Does this sound confusing? Metaphysically possible means “is it actually logically possible?” whereas epistemically possible relates to our knowledge. For example, if I say “Gee, I dunno, therefore I guess it’s possible” that is not what the argument means by possible. Thus possibility is not an appeal to ignorance.
The argument is also not implying that existence is a property or predicate. Existence may not be a property but type of existence is. The type of existence may be
- Impossible (e.g. a square circle),
- Contingent (can exist in some possible worlds but not others, e.g. a unicorn), or
- Necessary (has to exist in all possible worlds, e.g. numbers, shape definitions or absolute truth)
Objections to the MOA usually come in 2 types. These are:
- Parodies, or
- Claims that a MGB is incoherent or impossible.
Parodies are not really an argument. Parodies are attempts to use parallel arguments to prove the existence of things we don’t believe in and so demonstrate the absurdity of the original argument. If the parody is valid then there is further work to do. We still have to find the flaw in the original argument. What we think we find with the MOA is that all of the parodies contain flaws. The MOA only works for an MGB. We will look at some examples of parodies.
7.1.1 Necessarily Existent Pink Unicorn
Someone has attempted to use the MOA to prove the existence of a Necessarily Existent Pink Unicorn. The argument goes like this:
- It is possible that a Necessarily Existent Pink Unicorn (NEPU) exists
- If it is possible that a NEPU exists, then a NEPU exists in some possible world
- If a NEPU exists in some possible world, then a NEPU exists in every possible world
- If a NEPU exists in every possible world then a NEPU exists in the actual world
- Therefore a NEPU exists
However there are problems with this parody. The counter argument is as follows:
- A pink unicorn is physical
- All physical objects/beings are contingent
- Therefore a pink unicorn cannot be a necessary being
- Therefore premise 1 fails
7.1.2 Reverse OA
The reverse MOA is an attempt to use the same argument structure to prove that an MOA does not exist.
- It is possible that an MGB does not exist
- If it is possible that an MGB does not exist, then an MGB does not exist in some possible world
- If an MGB does not exist in some possible world, then an MGB does not exist in every possible world
- If an MGB does not exist in every possible world then an MGB does not exist in the actual world
- Therefore Maximal Greatness is impossible
However, Premise 1 is tantamount to saying that it is not possible that an MGB exists. Thus it assumes its conclusion and is begging the question. Likewise premise 2 is question begging.
7.1.3 Dawkins’ Ontological Argument
Richard Dawkins has proposed an OA to prove that God does not exist. The Argument is as follows:
- The creation of the world is the most marvellous achievement imaginable.
- The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.
- The greater the disability (or handicap) of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
- The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
- Therefore if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator we can conceive a greater being namely, one who created everything while not existing.
- An existing God therefore would not be a being greater than which a greater cannot be conceived because an even more formidable and incredible creator would be a God which did not exist.
- Therefore, God does not exist.
However, it is incoherent and impossible to propose creation by a God who does not exist.
As well as using parodies other people claim that the idea of an MGB is incoherent. These are versions that claim that it is not possible that an MGB exists. These are typified by:
- The Omnipotence Paradox, and
- The Problem of Evil
The omnipotence paradox is “Can God create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it?” The idea is to show that one or more of God’s attributes are incoherent or self –contradictory. However, No-one claims that God can do the logically impossible, such as creating a square circle.
The other objection is that the presence of evil means it is impossible that an MGB exists. However, we deal with this issue in other sessions.
8 Essence of Argument
In conclusion, what is the essence of this argument? Is it just playing with words or does it have a core argument that is compelling. The core argument that really makes sense to me is that if it is possible that a Necessary Being (NB) exists then that NB must exist in all possible worlds. This makes sense and seems necessarily true.
Some have claimed that it is a good argument but it still does not convince people. However, William Lane Craig believes in the argument and has started using it in debates. Craig used the MOA in a debate with Victor Stenger. Stenger attempted to use a parody, which was a maximally great pizza. However, Craig easily demonstrated that a maximally great pizza is incoherent, since a really great pizza is meant to be eaten.
However, is the OA helpful in other ways? I believe it is. I have heard it claimed that it never convinces anyone. However, this is not always true. A student did his PhD on the MOA and eventually convinced his supervisor. The MOA also asserts that God is maximally great in every possible way. This may feed into the Moral Argument and be one solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma.
On Thursday 23rd of May we held our first debate. I debated Laurie Eddie on the subject “Does God Exist?” It would be unfair for me to make any judgement on the result of the debate, as I may be a little biased. However, I believe everyone enjoyed themselves and found it interesting, including Laurie. It was our largest meeting so far.
The debate is on YouTube. See
You can access the slide presentations at The Case For the Existence of God and The Case Against the Existence of God.
Check it out and make up your own mind.
Good and Evil
by Brian Schroeder
This a summary of a presentation by Brian Schroeder on Good and Evil on the 9th of May at Tabor College. His Power Point slides are in Good and Evil and the video recording is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEh19op3IAk.
“Good” and “evil” are innately believed concepts by virtually everyone. We don’t doubt that good exists or that evil exists. We assume them just as we assume many other fundamentals (such as 1+1=2, “I think therefore I am”, good is better than bad). Despite various denials, we intrinsically believe certain things to be either good or evil. Death is a fundamental evil, but beauty is good.
If God is totally good and all-powerful, how can there be evil? Either God is not all-powerful, or he is not truly good.
When God had finished creating he saw that it was all very good. God said to Adam: You can eat from every tree – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. How can there be “good and evil” in God’s perfect world, and what about the prohibition against eating that fruit on pain of death?
This leads to the question: What is “evil”? How do you define “evil”? Or, for that matter, how do you define “good”?
a) Consider pain and suffering? If you put your hand in fire, then this leads to pain, which is a defence from damage, such as happens with leprosy. What about “no pain, no gain”? Athletes push the “pain barrier” regularly.
b) Is it evil to cut someone open with a knife? Both of my children were born that way. So, what is evil? What makes something evil? Is it motivation? And if so, what makes that motivation evil?
c) Massive earthquake and tsunami? What if it happens on Jupiter? Does “evil” depend on the experience of sentient beings, or does the experience of, for example, rocks count too?
When pressed, most people will be unable to provide any sort of meaningful consistent definition of evil. Philosophers have struggled with this over the years. Nietzsche’s approach is possibly the most consistent (non-theistically speaking). Basically, without an absolute reference point (ie. God), good and evil have no absolute meaning and can only represent that which is considered positively or negatively useful.
Assume there is NO GOD. The Universe created itself from nothing. The materialistic universe is all there is. We are the random result of random reactions. In the time-scale of the universe’s existence, all of life is a momentary blink with no purpose, no meaning, and no permanence.
In this universe there is no such thing as “good” or “evil”. The sum total that can be said is “What is – is.” Thus ultimately “good” or “right” can only be defined as what is, and therefore “evil” as what is not. So everything that is is good/right (and nothing is evil).
Enoch Tan stated:
Good and evil do not exist. At a fundamental level, there is really no good and evil in the universe. Everything just is. It is perception that frames reality. Good and evil is based on perception. Therefore the perception of good and evil depends on the one perceiving it. If you perceive something as good, then to you it is good. If you perceive something as evil, then to you it is evil. We can choose our own frame of reality or we can choose to follow the frame set by another in his perception of good and evil.
If there is no God then “good” and “evil” may be valid terms with real meaning in the following sense. Good is what ‘I’ like, and evil what ‘I’ dislike. It is thus totally relative – everything is a matter of personal opinion, and that opinion will become totally irrelevant when the person dies. (It makes little difference if we change from individual preference to a group preference.) Thus laws, rules, customs etc. are merely a temporary direction of a momentarily existing animal with no real purpose.
With very few exceptions (if any) everyone believes that real evil is committed by people. But in every case evil must disguise itself as good, must convince people that it is good. (There is a website that lists the 10 most evil people in history, and the 10 most good. Interestingly Adolf Hitler comes in at number 3 on the evil scale, and Jesus Christ at 4 on the good.)
Are good and evil absolute or relative? If they are relative then they are effectively meaningless. If a word can mean anything, then it means nothing.
Define God as
a) supreme being,
b) omnipotent, omniscient, all loving,
c) creator of and therefore ‘outside’ of the universe,
d) and therefore the definer of everything.
Thus “Good” means being in conformity with God – his being, his nature. Being as designed to be, doing as designed to do.
“Evil” means being out of conformity with God, contrary to his being, his nature. Being/doing contrary to how designed to be/do.
This implies that God is good. He is always in conformity with himself. It also means that it is wrong to say that
(a) God cannot sin,
(b) God cannot lie,
(c) God cannot do evil.
(a) sin cannot be done by God,
(b) untruth cannot come from God,
(c) evil cannot emanate from God. (Darkness cannot come from light.)
The inability lies in the evil, not in God.
Good exists in its own right, so long as God exists. Pure and total good is a valid concept. Absolute good exists and is real. It can exist by itself in its own right.
Evil does not and cannot exist in its own right. It is in total dependence on Good for its existence. “Pure evil” is an impossibility, an oxymoron (“pure” is a “good” term), it cannot be. For example death depends on life for both its existence and its power. Evil is the deprivation or negation of the good, or the corruption of the good. It is the rejection of the truth, of the right.Evil is embraced, received, accepted, promoted, defended on the basis of perceived reward (good) or promised good. Eg. “I” don’t kill someone out of desire to do be evil, but to remove some negative from “my” life, because I believe “my” life will be better in some way. Abortion is an obvious example.
When the devil (assuming he exists) wants to tempt someone, he doesn’t say “You are going to hate this! It will make your life a misery and destroy everything you think is good.” Rather he works to convince us that it will do something good for us.
Good is always better than evil, more beautiful than evil; it is truer, righter, more attractive. That is why evil has to clothe itself in apparent goodness (if I cheat I will get a better result, more money, glory, etc.). But if/when we see them truly only GOOD is good, right, true, beautiful, alive, lasting…
Consider a brand new car. Carefully designed and built, just out of the factory in ‘perfect’ condition. It comes with an owner’s manual, and a servicing manual. It is designed to work in a certain way, to be driven and maintained in a certain way. To get the absolute best out of the car, it is essential to follow the design and to treat it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. “Good” is to do so. “Evil” is to use the wrong oil; kerosene instead of petrol; drive with the hand brake on; aim to keep the needle in the red zone as much as possible; don’t maintain coolant; … and many more possibilities. If the headlights get smashed – or are missed during manufacture – or windows, seats, spare wheel… then the car is incomplete and contrary to the design. Being born blind, or blinded later, is an evil; it is contrary to how we are designed to be.
But what if God is a capricious God? What is good one day may be evil the next, and vice-versa. Such a being would be internally inconsistent. ‘He’ could never be “God” as we understand “God”. ‘He’ could never be the creator of a functioning universe – the ‘laws of the universe’ could not be depended on & may vary or change at any time & for no reason Þ no science. ‘He’ could not be ‘love’ or the author of love. Such things as good, evil, love, justice, etc. would have no basis for being.
No, we do not have this option. Either God IS – in all his omnipotent, omniscient, relational glory – or there is not God.
What if I don’t like God; what he is like? What about some of the ‘horrible’ things he has done (eg. commanded Israel to exterminate Canaanites)?
Basically “Good” is defined by God, not by our feelings, and not of itself. As God’s creatures in his created universe, our understanding of good and evil can only be as defined by God. Therefore if anything about God appears to “me” as anything other than pure and total GOOD. That can only be because
- I have incomplete knowledge and understanding (eg. Surgeon cutting person open with a knife),
- I have a wrong perception of God (eg. God = Santa Claus, God = Baal, …),
- I have a wrong or distorted perception of the situation, or
- I have been deceived by a 3rd party.
If we could but see the big picture, the whole picture, we would see and know that not only has God only done good the whole way through, but the best possible good. We would see too that it could not be otherwise.
“Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil” The greatest possible good involves / includes / requires the choice of embracing God’s image. Love isn’t love if there is no choice. So in order for God to create the greatest possible good (and how could such a God do otherwise?), he had to create the opportunity to choose, and this therefore meant the opportunity to choose differently.
The point of the choice was very simple and minor, but never-the-less totally significant. To choose to eat of it was to choose not-God, to be ‘other’ than God, different to God, contrary to him and contrary to who they were created to be. More specifically: to be distinct from God.
Since, in this creation, God is the epitome, the definition, of good, then to be distinct or different can only mean to be less than good – or therefore to be, “know”, evil. And from that point evil has grown.
One can only create from what is within them. Everything that IS comes from God (John 1:3). So did God create evil? Is God responsible for evil? Is evil part of who God is? (Yin and Yang?). Since the greatest good involves the choice, it must inherently contain the concept (possibility ?) choosing otherwise. SO: No! There is no darkness, evil, wrong, etc. in God. And yet in creating the greatest good, evil (= other than God) had to be possible. By its very nature, inherent in the greatest possible good is the possibility of rejecting that good, of choosing otherwise.
- Without God there is no such thing as good or evil, merely reality. This also means that “the problem of evil” does not exist unless God exists. It is either a non-question, or it has meaning only if you already believe in God.
- “Good” means being fully congruent with God. “Evil” means deviating from that – being ‘other’ than God or God’s nature. Thus “God is good” is a tautology; there is no other option.
- Good exists in its own right. Evil does not. It is dependent on good for its existence.
- Any time I am disposed to accuse God of evil; it can only be because of insufficient information or because of actual evil in me.
- God is not the author or originator of evil. But inherent in the highest possible good is the possibility of rejecting that good – this rejection is then what we call evil.
This all leads to – What is “evil”? Following the argument through we end up with “If there DOES NOT exist an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good/loving being then evil does not exist.” Thus to claim that evil exists is to acknowledge that God exists! Thus the problem of evil is only a problem to the theist – ie to those who believe in both God and in the existence of evil. Yes we struggle with it. Yes it is hard (sometimes impossible) to understand. But because we believe in God – as defined above – we believe that there IS an answer.
3 For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!
4 his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
5 They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation.
6 Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?
Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them.
17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’
18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.
By Ray Lakeman
Presented at a meeting of “Reasonable Faith Adelaide” on 14-March-2013.
Click The Creationists to view the slide show. The video recordings are at History of Creationism Part 1 and Part 2.
My major source is The Creationists – From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design [1992, 2006] can be borrowed from the ISSR library at Tabor Adelaide. Summary essays from Ronald Numbers can be found at:
I wish to make my own position clear. I was raised in a family of farmers and market gardeners with limited education, but when I lost my hands at age 5 my father became determined that I should have the education he was denied. My family were pretty casual about Christianity, but were happy to claim allegiance to Anglican or Methodist churches. I was sent to Sunday School, and when older attended church. As a science teacher at age 33 I was confronted by the issues of creation versus evolution and began to investigate. By age 43 I owned a Young Earth Creation view. This presentation is about the modern history of creationism. It is not my intention to teach creationism other than to explain the history, and I will not defend creationism here. I also wish to make it clear that Reasonable Faith neither endorses nor rejects Young Earth Creation. However, Reasonable Faith does stand on the Nicene Creed which says, “We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” I acknowledge the helpful suggestions of Kevin Rogers while I prepared this presentation. It was Kevin who suggested I unpack the significance of the Scopes Trial and the play Inherit the Wind. In these topics I have used additional sources to flesh out the study that Numbers presents. The images I present are easy to obtain on the web. The 2min video extract is from The Magician’s Twin: C.S.Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society by John West,available on YouTube.
As Dr. Ronald Numbers is my main source I shall introduce him. Numbers is a respected historian and was raised in a Seventh Day Adventist home in south-western USA with the standard SDA teaching that creation occurred 6,000 years ago and that Noah’s Flood formed the vast rock deposits and fossil beds of the Earth’s crust. During his higher education Numbers abandoned the SDA teaching and in his book he makes his position clear: “I no longer believe in creationism of any kind”, he says, and he goes on to declare “I am strongly committed to treating [creationist] advocates with the same respect I might accord to evolutionists”. Numbers is true to his word, for nowhere in his book does he insult creationists while describing their modern history. For this reason I commend his book to Reasonable Faith members as a good source of information on an important question for our culture: How shall our generation interpret the Bible and Science? History gives the answer thus far, and this book is a good contribution to that history.
Title Slide 1
Creation Science can be described as Biblical Creation stripped of explicit references to Biblical authority, God, Adam and Noah. Creation Science is a new movement of the twentieth century. It arose as a movement composed of trained scientists and lay Christian supporters from a wide range of Christian churches, and it has grown despite almost universal opposition from both mainstream scientists and the mainstream leaders in churches.
In the early years of the twentieth century the self-described geologist George McCready Price stood virtually alone in insisting on the recent appearance of life and on a global flood catastrophe that massively rearranged the earth’s crust. Price was well-received by creationists, but made few converts beyond his Seventh Day Adventist Church.
In 1932 the Evolution Protest Movement was formed in London, and is now called the Creation Science Movement, the oldest creationist society on Earth.
C.S.Lewis Slide 2
It is interesting to note that in its early years the Evolution Protest Movement tried to win C.S.Lewis as an advocate and failed. Lewis excused himself with the statement “When a man has become a popular Apologist he must watch his step”. However, in 1951 Lewis had changed and wrote to the Evolution Protest Movement, “You might be right in regarding evolution as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives”. The Creation Science Movement has a prominent website and program of activities to this day.
In 1938 the Deluge Geology Society was formed in Los Angeles with strong roots in Adventism, and in 1944 their member Frank Marsh published “Evolution, Creation and Science” with a trained biologist’s view on Young Earth Creation. Marsh exchanged letters with Theodosius Dobzhanski, and found that their ideas were far apart. It is Dobzhanski who said that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. In Marsh’s final letter he said to Dobzhanski that he was not a grouch looking to argue with famous biologists, nor was he looking for fame, recognition or livelihood. Though he disliked being at odds with the academy Marsh was willing to turn a cheek to criticism if he could convince some mainstream scientists to accept special creation. Later Dobzhanski graciously wrote that Marsh was an intelligent and informed person who did not accept evolution as true. A rare acknowledgment for those days.
Around 1946 radioisotope dating was providing evidence to challenge the Young Earth view, and this caused internal disputes between Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists and led to the demise of the Deluge Geology Society.
Organised creationism didn’t amount to much until around 1960 when everything changed. But to understand what happened in 1960 it is helpful to first understand the 1925 Scopes Trial.
John Scopes Slide 3
The Scopes Trial made an enormous impression on America and the world. Shortly after the Tennessee governor signed an anti-evolution bill into law, the young American Civil Liberties Union in New York began searching for a volunteer to test the Tennessee law in court. John Scopes was a young teacher who substituted for two weeks in a biology class, and was unsure if he ever used the word “evolution”, but he agreed to be charged for the crime of teaching evolution in order to test the law, and in return he would be paid enough to fund his entry into his planned course of study.
Darrow and Bryan Slide 4,5,6
On the evolution side the ACLU hired an expensive team of experts led by the agnostic big city criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow to defend Scopes, and on the anti-evolution side, the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association hired the popular Presbyterian anti-evolutionist and three-times presidential candidate William Bryan to prosecute Scopes. The 8-day “Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tennessee was given top headlines across the nation’s newspapers and around the world. Everyone realized that there was an important question on trial, “Did human beings descend from monkey ancestors?”. What would the lawyers decide? And could state science curricula teach evolution and deny the Bible account of creation?
On day 7 of the trial, Darrow put Bryan in the witness stand as a Bible expert and was surprised that Bryan did not accept a literal reading of Genesis 1. Bryan said the “days” could each be 600 million years! The ACLU objective was to overthrow the anti-evolution laws and open the door for teaching evolution, but Bryan won the case and Scopes was fined a token $100 for breaking the law. The trial also made clear that the public were not buying the evolution story, as public sentiment was clearly opposed to monkey ancestors and the teaching of evolution in taxpayer funded schools.
Cartoons and Newspapers, Slides 7-13
Numbers points out that in the years following the trial several historians have claimed that the Scopes Trial was a public relations victory for the evolutionists. But Numbers counters that the evidence does not support that view. Journalists did review Bryan’s performance harshly, saying he revealed his ignorance of both religion and science. Darrow received considerable criticism also for his ignorance of religion and science as well as for disrespecting the judge, being rude to Bryan, and trying to deny the people of Tennessee their democratic rights to determine what should be taught in tax-supported schools. So poor was Darrow’s performance that the ACLU tried to dump him from the defence team – unsuccessfully.
After the trial the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association were flushed with a sense of victory: “[Bryan] not only won his case in the judgment of the Judge, in the judgment of the Jurors, in the judgment of the Tennessee populace attending; he won it in the judgment of an intelligent world”.
Numbers believes the ACLU and the Scopes trial set back the cause of teaching evolution for at least 30 years, for in this period “American textbook publishers tried to avoid antagonising conservative Christians by saying as little as possible about evolution. This policy of ‘neutrality based on silence’ began to crumble in the late 1950s …”. The “space race” was on, and millions of dollars were being spent on science education in order to beat the Russians! By 1963 the Biological Science Curriculum Study had published three new biology texts and more than 50% of US students were being confidently taught about their ape-like ancestors. An organised backlash began. Some of the anti-evolution reaction was from Bible-believing Christians, and some was from people who were insulted by the idea of monkey relatives. Anyway, the public were far from convinced of the truth of Darwin’s hypothesis and the arrival of this evolutionist textbook galvanised Christians to fight back by joining together in creationist societies.
Inherit the Wind, Slides 14, 15
Numbers shows that the Scopes trial is important in the modern history of creationism, and the play “Inherit the Wind” is also important because it conveys a false view of history into our modern culture. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee wrote “Inherit the Wind” as a criticism of McCarthyism and the anti-communist investigations conducted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Unfortunately the play used Scopes as a safer vehicle from which to comment, and the play blatantly portrays the Scopes trial as a public relations victory for the enlightened forces over the fearful dogmatists, for the authors had no interest in an accurate portrayal of the Scopes Trial. The play was first performed in 1955 and a note in the opening of the script admits that while the play depicts the Scopes Trial “it is not meant to be a historical account and there are numerous instances where events were substantially altered or invented”. As well as the play there are three film versions of “Inherit the Wind” from 1960, 1988 and 1999, all of which give the false view of being true history. I considered showing a clip of Spencer Tracey in the 1960 movie, but it was so completely misleading that I rejected doing so.
David Menton has carefully analysed the play and compared it with the real Scopes Trial and notes that throughout the play Bryan is portrayed as closed-minded, pompous, stupid, intolerant, hypocritical, insincere and gluttonous. The following sample dialogue between Darrow and Bryan appears on page 51 (real names substituted):
DARROW: ‘I don’t suppose you’ve memorized many passages from The Origin of Species?’
BRYAN: ‘I am not the least interested in the pagan hypotheses of that book.’
DARROW: ‘Never read it? ‘
BRYAN: ‘And I never will.’
The truth is quite different, however: Bryan is reported by one of his biographers, Lawrence Levine, to have read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species 20 years before the Scopes trial. Bryan’s reservations about the theory of evolution were certainly influenced by his religious beliefs, and he had actually written many well–argued articles critical of the evidence used to defend the theory of evolution.
Bryan also carried on a long correspondence on evolution with the famous evolutionist Henry Osborn. For a layman, Bryan’s knowledge of the scientific evidence for and against evolution was unusually sophisticated. By comparison, the trial transcript shows that Darrow gave the impression of having a poor grasp of evolution. Darrow appeared to rest his belief in evolution on scientific authority, which he accepted without question.
If you want a detailed rundown of the inventions in “Inherit the Wind” see
The new 1963 US biology textbooks presented evolution as a fact, and stirred Bible-believers to action. In 1961 Morris and Whitcombe published “The Genesis Flood”, and in 1963 formed the effective Creation Research Society. For all Bible-believers Morris’s book and society explained a convenient compression of billions of years of Earth history back to 6,000 years. This was a consistent and comprehensive answer to all the Biblical interpretation gymnastics. The creation – evolution question was painted in sharp relief: Either Bible history for one camp, or Big Bang with Billions of Years and Evolution for the other camp. Henry Morris was clear: All the mainstream geologists, biologists and astronomers were wrong. The Bible made full sense of the world in its straightforward reading, and a full repudiation of the Academy’s story of origins made room for the Bible’s story of Creation, Fall, Judgment by Flood, Redemption by Christ, Final Judgment and Consummation of the Creation. If you believe Genesis it is easier to believe Revelation and everything in between, said Morris. Anyone with hope of a miraculous end for this Age finds it easier to believe a miraculous start of this Age. Ronald Numbers admits that this is an attractive view for a Christian.
I have related only a few episodes in the history that Numbers presents. For example, Numbers gives interesting accounts of Muslim Creationism, accounts of the Intelligent Design Movement, accounts of the Australian Answers in Genesis organisation and much more.
Summary, Slide 16
Numbers focuses his study of creationism within the modern era and shows it has been a time of radical change. From p368-372 he gives an interesting summary of this period. In the early years of the twentieth century there were very few creationists with academic recognition and scientific training. Creationists were obscure, isolated, ignored and ridiculed. Bible-believing Christians were often happy to ignore the creation-evolution conflict, and when pressed on the issue, often avoided conflict by using interpretations of Genesis 1 which accommodated the scientist’s story of deep time and evolution. These explanations were mostly of the “Days of Genesis 1 should be interpreted as Ages” type, or proposed an enormous “Gap” in the Genesis account so evolution could occur. A Garden of Eden special creation of Adam and Eve was often invoked along with the standard evolution story for the rest of creation. In the 1920s one man stood out — the Seventh Day Adventist, George McCready Price, who taught and wrote booklets promoting recent Creation and Flood Geology. Numbers would have us believe Price was the first modern creation scientist, and his view is backed up with much detail.
100 years later, creationists have changed a lot! Well educated and academically recognised creationists are numbered in the thousands, and new scientific creationist books are published almost every week. Organised creation societies exist around the world. Instead of being ignored or dismissed as a bad joke, creationists are the objects of serious criticism and dire concern! The Young Earth Creation view is being hotly argued on internet forums world-wide. Public opinion polls have remarkably remained in favour of creation and against evolution. (For example, a recent New York Times poll found 65% of US citizens want both creation and evolution taught in school science).
Arthur Schopenhauer said newly discovered truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, and dismissed as not worthy of consideration. Second, it is vehemently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being obviously true and self-evident. Modern Creation Science is definitely still facing vehement opposition in stage two and it is unclear if there will ever be a stage three. Creation Science has experienced shocking success since 1960, and although it is still a small force in culture, it is certainly not going away. Actually, says Dr. Ronald Numbers, one should expect the influence of Creationism to continue growing.
William Lane Craig, Slide 17
William Lane Craig avoids the issues of evolution and young earth in his debating, but when he speaks of evangelistic opportunity he is optimistic, and I think Craig’s optimism is a fitting “last word”:
“It is the broader task of Christian apologetics to create a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can still be heard as a legitimate option for thinking people. People may not come to Christ through the arguments, but the arguments give them permission to believe, as it were – the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved by the preaching of the Gospel and by the Holy Spirit.”
“Now, I believe, we are living at a time in history when huge doors of opportunity stand open before us. We are living at a time when Christian philosophy is undergoing a renaissance, which has revitalized natural theology, and arguments for the existence of God. We’re living at a time when modern science is more open to the existence of a transcendent Creator and Designer of the universe than at any time in recent memory. And we’re living at a time when biblical criticism has largely established the credibility of the outlines of the New Testament life of Jesus, so that the Gospels are now regarded once again as serious historical sources for the life of Christ. This is a tremendously exciting time to be alive and working in apologetics. I think that we’re well poised intellectually to regain lost ground and to help reshape our culture in such a way that the Gospel can be heard as a legitimate option for people today.”
(Accessed Feb 2013: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/)
I share Dr. Bill Craig’s optimism, and I am encouraged by the modern history of creationism. I thoroughly commend The Creationists by Dr. Ronald Numbers to anyone who has ever wondered about the people who believe in Creation.
Modern Cartoon, Slide 18
In both the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Fine tuning Argument, Craig refers to the Big Bang (BB) Theory. Creationist organisations, such as Creation Ministries International (CMI), do not accept the BB theory and believe in a young earth instead of one that is 4.5 billion years old. On 25th October 2012, Steve White provided a presentation on the creationists view. His Power Point slides can be seen from the following link: Cosmology of the Bible
Here is Steve’s summary:
1 A Creationist view of Cosmology
The Bible cosmology records a young 6000 year old universe that was accepted by both Jewish teaching and Christendom until only about 200 years ago. Even today Jewish mainstream newspapers such as the Jerusalem Post record the current year since creation as 5774 (Christians typically add 243 years to this Rabbinical chronology of Seder Olam Rabbah compiled by Rabbi Yose ben Halafta who died 160 AD, to correct the age of Terah when Abram was born and the accepted duration of the Persian empire).
The following Biblical references were quoted as evidence that the early chapters of Genesis are consistent with later scripture:
- The fourth of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 8) sanctifies the Sabbath on the basis of six literal days of creation of earth and heaven followed by a day of rest. The seven day week is still observed around the world today despite various attempts to change it.
- Luke the careful historian lists the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-37) back only 66 generation to Adam the son of God i.e. creation.
- Peter (2 Peter 3:5) circa 60 AD speaks of the heavens and the earth being created out of water and then destroyed by water in direct support of the account given in the early chapters of Genesis both of creation and then Noah’s catastrophic flood, the latter which provides an alternate explanation for the fossil record and sedimentary rock layers often used as evidence of an old earth.
Christian scientists only started to defend the Biblical young universe record in the last few decades.
The explanation of apparent starlight events billions of years old was addressed by Dr Russell Humphries in his book Starlight and Time : Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe, 1994. His model proposes the universe beginning from a Black Hole containing all matter in the universe in the form of water, with the Earth close by, deep in its gravitational well. On Day 4 of Creation the Black Hole flipped into a White Hole, allowed by the General Theory of Relativity, and the Universe then expanded in the 24 hour period. Whilst Earth continued to experience only 24 hours because of proximity to the gravity of the White Hole, the expanding Universe experienced billions of years of events and red-light shift. Since Day 4, both our Solar System and the rest of the Universe run have existed for 6000 years and we continue to observe starlight events that occurred over the billions of years compressed into Earth’s Day 4.
Dr John Hartnett of University of Western Australia has modified Dr Humphries model by restricting the White Hole expansion of water to just beyond our Solar System. This overcomes problems of timing of events in nearby galaxies and blue shift expected if the water spread to the edge of the Universe. Work is still proceeding to refine the model, in conjunction with equations from the General Theory of Relativity derived by Dr Moshe Carmeli, a secular Israeli theoretical physicist.
Other naturalistic models for the formation of the Universe continue to have significant problems:
- No robust explanation of the formation star nuclear fusion from a gas cloud has been given, as gravity cannot overcome gas pressure to achieve compression required for fusion.
- Halton Arp’s documentation of the disparity in red-shift between galaxies and quasars that are obviously in proximity as gas is observed flowing from the former to the latter. The degree of red-shift has been the standard of establishing the distance to far galaxies but if it fails to explain quasars at the same distance, so something is wrong.
2 RF Response
There were a number at the meeting that disagree with or are not convinced by the creationist view.
In general, Craig avoids the divisive issue of evolutionary theory in his arguments. There is enough good evidence out there without getting entangled in these issues. However, Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is a big and divisive issue among Christians and there will inevitably be more discussion and debate on this subject at Reasonable Faith Adelaide. At least we should try to be better informed on the issues.
Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument
The Principle of Sufficient Reason
By Kevin Rogers
Why does anything at all exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? These were the questions that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) raised, and from them he developed an argument for the existence of God based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). The PSR is one form of various cosmological arguments.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)
Leibniz was a German mathematician and philosopher. In mathematics, he was the co-inventor (with Isaac Newton) of calculus, the first inventor of a mechanical calculator and the inventor of the binary number system. In philosophy, he suggested that we live in the “best of all possible worlds”, he was a key thinker in the development of rationalism and also a forerunner of modern logic and analytic philosophy. In his latter years, he fell out of favour due to disputes with Newton on whether he had copied Newton’s ideas on calculus. His writings were largely forgotten, but were revived in the 20th century, and he is now highly regarded.
2 The Argument
Leibniz’s argument consists of 3 premises and 2 conclusions, as follows:
- Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence
- Premise 2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
- Premise 3: The universe exists
- Conclusion 1: The universe has an explanation of its existence
- Conclusion 2: Therefore the explanation of the universe’s existence is God
However, is it a good argument? A good argument must satisfy the following criteria:
- The premises must be true, and
- The conclusions must follow logically from the premises.
In this article, I will work backwards. I will firstly discuss the logical structure of the argument (its validity) and then consider the premises. We will firstly assume that the premises are true and verify whether the conclusions follow from the premises.
3 Logical Structure
Conclusion 1 is justified by Premise 1 and 3 as follows:
- Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence
- Premise 3: The universe exists
- Conclusion 1: The universe has an explanation of its existence
Thus if everything that exists has an explanation of its existence and the universe exists, then it follows that the universe has an explanation of its existence.
Conclusion 2 follows from premise 2 and conclusion 1 as follows:
- Premises 2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
- Conclusion 1: The universe has an explanation of its existence
- Conclusion 2: Therefore the explanation of the universe’s existence is God
I think it is fairly self-evident that the logical structure of the argument is valid. Now we will look at the premises.
4 Are the Premises True?
4.1 Premise 3
Premise 3 states that the universe exists. I think this is fairly self-evident. I am sure that there have been extreme sceptics that have questioned this claim, but I will not concern myself with them.
4.2 Premise 1
4.2.1 Objection 1 – How do we explain God?
Premise 1 states that everything that exists has an explanation of its existence. This has prompted the following objection:
If premise 1 is true, then God must have an explanation of his existence. The explanation of God’s existence must be some other being greater than God. That’s impossible; therefore, premise 1 must be false.
However, this objection is a misunderstanding of what Leibniz meant by “explanation”. According to Leibniz, there are 2 kinds of explanations:
- Beings that exist necessarily (necessary beings), or
- Beings that are produced by an external cause (contingent beings).
Necessary beings are those that exist by a necessity of their own nature. In other words it is impossible for them not to exist. Some mathematicians believe that abstract mathematical objects, such as numbers, sets and shapes (e.g. circles and triangles) exist necessarily. Necessary beings are not caused to exist by an external entity and necessarily exist in all possible worlds.
On the other hand, contingent beings are caused to exist by something else. They do not exist necessarily and exist because something else produced them. This includes physical objects such as people, planets and galaxies. It is easy to imagine possible worlds in which these objects do not exist. Thus we could expand premise 1 as follows:
Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either due to the necessity of its own nature or due to an external cause.
It is impossible for God to have a cause. Thus Leibniz’s argument is really for a God who must be a necessary, uncaused being. Thus the argument helps to define and constrain what we mean by “God”.
4.2.2 Objection 2 – Does the Universe need explaining?
Some atheists have objected that premise 1 is true of everything in the universe, but not the universe itself. However, it is arbitrary to claim that the universe is an exception. After all, even Leibniz did not exclude God from premise 1.
4.2.3 Objection 3 – An Explanation of the Universe is Impossible
Some atheists have suggested that it is impossible for the universe to have an explanation of its existence. Their argument goes something like this:
The explanation of the universe would have to be a prior state of affairs in which the universe did not exist. This would be nothingness. Nothingness cannot cause anything, Therefore the universe exists inexplicably.
This objection assumes that the universe includes everything and that there is nothing outside the universe, including God. The objection has excluded the possibility of God by definition. However, an alternative definition is that the universe contains all physical things, but that God exists apart from the universe. This objection assumes that atheism is true and argues in a circle. It is clearly begging the question.
4.3 Premise 2
Premise 2 states that if the universe has an explanation of its existence, then that explanation is God. This appears controversial at first, but in fact it is not. This is because atheists typically argue that if atheism is true, then the universe has no explanation of its existence. Thus if there is an explanation of the universe, then atheism must be false (i.e., God is the explanation of the universe). This conclusion follows from the following rule of logic: If p => (implies) Q, then “not Q” => “not P”. An example is, “If it is raining, then there are clouds. Thus if there are no clouds, then it is not raining.”
One may object at this point that the word “explanation” is ambiguous. An explanation for something may be due to either an intelligent agent or a mindless, unintelligent prior event or cause. For example, suppose we have a rusty car. The existence of the car was due to intelligent agents, but the rusty degradation was due to mindless, unintelligent causes. If the ultimate explanation of the universe is mindless and unintelligent, then the argument does not take us very far. However, could the existence of the universe be ultimately due to mindless causes?
However, I don’t think that the LCA necessarily demands that the observable universe has an intelligent explanation of its existence. For example, suppose that this universe was birthed by some other universe. Well, that other universe would be the explanation of its existence. Of course, that would simply push the problem back one step further. Even if an atheist wants to appeal to an infinite past succession of universes, we can still ask of that infinite succession, “Why does it exist, rather than nothing and what is its explanation?” But at that point, what kind of explanation can there be other than some transcendent, necessary cause? So a rational atheist is forced to either concede the argument or claim that the cosmos exists inexplicably (without explanation).
4.4 Objection 4 – The Universe exists Necessarily
All atheistic alternatives now seem to be closed, but not quite. Some atheists have claimed that the universe exists necessarily (i.e., the universe is a necessary being). If that were the case, then the universe would not require an external cause. However, this proposal is generally not taken seriously for the following reason. None of the universe’s components seem to exist necessarily. They could all fail to exist. Other material configurations are possible, the elementary particles could have been different and the physical laws could have been different as well. Thus the universe cannot exist necessarily.
However, is it valid to resort to God as the explanation of the universe? Are there other possibilities? The universe consists of space, time, matter and energy. The cause of the universe must be something other than the universe. Thus the cause of the universe must be non-physical, immaterial and beyond space and time. Abstract objects are not possible candidates as they have no causal relationships. Thus it seems reasonable to conclude that the cause of the universe must be a transcendent, unembodied mind.
Leibniz’s argument from the Principle of sufficient reason is an interesting argument for the existence of God, but it goes beyond just God’s existence. It also constrains the attributes of God to be a transcendent, uncaused, unembodied mind, who necessarily exists. In other words, this being is what the major monotheistic religions traditionally refer to as “God”.