A Working Definition of the Concept “God” In the Abrahamic religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) believers usually regard God as “an all-powerful, all- knowing, all-loving being.”
NOTE: Philosophical arguments for the existence of God don’t rely on sacred texts like the Bible or Qur’an but primarily on human reason and experience.
Arguments for the Existence of God First Cause Necessary Being Religious Experience (*) Moral Argument (*) Intelligent Design *Not covered by Rachels
The First Cause Argument (First Version) 1.Everything that exists must have a cause. 2.The chain of causes cannot reach back indefinitely. At some point, we must come to a First Cause. 3.The First Cause we may call God.
The First Cause Argument (Second Version) 1.Everything that exists within the universe is part of a vast system of causes and effects. 2.But the universe itself requires an explanation—why does it exist? 3.The only plausible explanation is that God created it. 4.Therefore, to explain the existence of the universe, it is reasonable to believe in God.
Objections to the First Cause Argument Buddhists reject the idea of a First Cause and argue that the universe goes through innumerable cycles (the concept of “conditioned genesis”) Why think that a First Cause would be all-good? Why think that a First Cause would be a person, as opposed to a non-personal consciousness or force like Brahman or Dao? Why worship a First Cause?
The Necessary Being Argument 1.The universe is a dependent thing. It cannot exist by itself; it can exist only if it is sustained by something that is not dependent. 2.God, a necessary being, is the only thing that is not dependent. 3.Therefore, the universe is sustained by God.
Objections to the Necessary Being Argument Buddhists reject the idea of a Necessary Being and argue that everything is interdependent (the concept of “conditioned genesis”) Why think that a Necessary Being would be all-good? Why think that a Necessary Being would be a person, as opposed to a non-personal consciousness or force like Brahman or Dao? Why worship a Necessary Being?
The Argument from Religious Experience 1.There are widespread reports by persons across time and culture who claim to have experienced a transcendent, divine reality. 2.These persons couldn’t all be mistaken or lying about their experiences. 3.Therefore, there exists such a transcendent, divine reality.
Objections to the Argument from Religious Experience Religious experiences aren’t the same as perceptual experiences Religious experiences have naturalistic explanations
The “Hiddenness of God” Objection 1.We live in a world in which people persist in disbelieving God or having cruel views of God. 2.God does not appear to correct these views. 3.An all-good God would never allow a creature to seek God without finding God in an obvious way. 4.Therefore, God does not exist. (For a response, consider the plot of the 1950 movie The Next Voice You Hear: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRxf9qS5PUk)www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRxf9qS5PUk
The Moral Argument 1.There is no guarantee of justice in this world. 2.The virtuous are not necessarily rewarded with the happiness that ought to complement their virtue. 3.But without some such future reward, there would be no motivation to act justly—the result would be a condition of moral futility. 4.Therefore, there must be a God-given guarantee of justice in the next world.
Objections to the Moral Argument But why would only a personal single God bring about such a reward for virtue? (Why couldn’t it result from many deities or a nonpersonal cosmic moral law like karma?) Perhaps virtue has simply evolved. Perhaps virtue is its own reward. Perhaps moral futility is correct.
Two Types of Intelligent Design Argument Best-Explanation Same-Evidence William Paley (1743-1805)
The Best-Explanation Argument 1.Either the wonders of nature occurred randomly, by chance, or they are the product of intelligent design. 2.Intelligent design explains the existence of these things much better than blind chance does. 3.Therefore, the wonders of nature are best explained as the products of intelligent design.
The Same-Evidence Argument 1.We conclude that watches were made by intelligent designers because they have parts that work together to serve a purpose. 2.We have the same evidence that the universe, and some of the natural objects in it, were made by an intelligent designer: they are also composed of parts that work together to serve a purpose. 3.Therefore, we are entitled to conclude that the universe was made by an intelligent designer.
Objections to Arguments for Intelligent Design Could there be multiple designers (a polytheistic objection)? How orderly, harmonious, and beautiful is the universe really? (a Humean objection) Why think that a designer would be all-good? (another Humean objection) There is an alternative explanation for the emergence of natural order and complexity. (a Darwinian objection)
Darwin on Paley and Intelligent Design “Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.” (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, edited by Nora Barlow [NY: Norton, 2005 (1958)], p. 73.)
Darwin’s Argument for Natural Selection 1.There is a geometrical increase in organisms. 2.The “struggle for existence” over survival leads to the emergence of variations in characteristics of members of a species. 3.There exists a heritability of characteristics. 4.Characteristics with “survival value” will be passed on to future generations. 5.Therefore, there exists a variation among and modification of species.
A Darwinian Best-Explanation Argument 1.The wonders of nature occurred (a) by chance, (b) as the product of intelligent design, or (c) as the result of evolution by natural selection. 2.Evolution by natural selection explains the existence of these things much better than either chance or intelligent design does. 3.Therefore, the wonders of nature are best explained as the products of evolution by natural selection.
Evolutionary Theism 1.Everything that exists within the universe—including evolution by natural selection—is part of a vast system of causes and effects 2.But the universe itself requires an explanation—why does it exist? 3.The only plausible explanation is that God created it. 4.Therefore, to explain the existence of the universe, it is reasonable to believe in God. 5.Therefore, to explain the existence of evolution by natural selection, it is also reasonable to believe in God.
Darwin’s Conclusion to On the Origin of Species “It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed [by the Creator * ] into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” (From Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species , pp. 489-90) * A phrase Darwin added to the 2 nd edition (1860) and maintained through the 6 th edition (1876).