Sunday, August 7, 2016

The 20 Arguments for God's Existence Challenge

Hello Internet!

I've got something I'm just dying to tell you!

Recently I found an online treasure trove of Christian silliness called Strange Notions. True to its name, the articles on this site have some truly strange notions.

For example, Peter Kreeft has gone to the trouble of listing 20 arguments for the existence of God; he doesn't go as far as to say they're good arguments, or even  persuasively convincing arguments.  But yeah . . . they're arguments.

In his initial appeal for open-mindedness on his list, Kreeft says;

We realize that many people... doubt that God's existence can be demonstrated or even argued about. You may be one of them. You may in fact have a fairly settled view that it cannot be argued about.

I don't know of many atheists who say, "There's no point in arguing about this topic.  You got your opinion and I got mine.  Sooooo . . . let's just leave it at that."

Most of the atheists I know are more than happy to argue about the subject with theists.  In fact, one of the things I hear Christians saying is how atheists are always picking fights with their cherished beliefs.

So I don't know where this "It can't be argued about" foolishness is coming from.

Anything can be argued about! Bring it on!

In all seriousness, though, I'm not an atheist because one day I simply decided that God just did not exist.  I came to the realization that everything I took to be evidence for a god was actually not good evidence for anything at all.

So I'm not closed to the idea that a god might exist.  But for me to believe that one does, I'm going to need better evidence than the "evidence" I rejected when I became an atheist.  I'm going to need evidence - not arguments.

But we can still argue.

[These arguments] are attempts to confront us with the radical insufficiency of what is finite and limited, and to open minds to a level of being beyond it. If they succeed in this—and we can say from experience that some of the proofs do succeed with many people—they can be of very great value indeed.

Hold on now - wait.  What?  You see, this is what grinds my rocks so much with religious apologists.  He hasn't even presented his arguments yet and already he's moving the goalposts!

I thought he was providing arguments for the existence of God.  He's actually purporting to be confronting us "with the radical insufficiency of what is finite and limited"?

Well, you came late to the party there, Mr. Kreeft, because most people are daily confronted with that reality.

Which one of us is not daily overwhelmed by the enormity of our lives and our perceived insignificance to the world, much less the universe?

And speaking of the universe, you do realize that it is an entirely secular notion that the observable universe may represent only a fraction of the entirety of the universe, that finitude is not an essential characteristic of the atheistic mindset.

As for "opening minds to a level of being" beyond what you imagine to be the suffocating confines of the entire universe, well, we don't need religion.

We have Star Trek.

This misrepresentation of secularism pisses me off to no end; that secularism is walled on all sides by what we know to be established scientific fact.  If that were true, we wouldn't have made any scientific advances at all in the last hundred or so years.

It's precisely by reaching beyond what we know that we grasp onto more knowledge, more truth.  And no one ought to fool themselves into believing that we know all we need to know, or that someday everything will be known, or that it's even possible in theory to know everything.

So thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Kreeft.  My mind is open enough.  I'm already aware of the "insufficiency" of the finite, and I don't need your arguments to demonstrate it.

Now let's see if they actually do.

1. The Argument from Change

The material world we know is a world of change.

An odd statement.  You could just as easily say the material world we know is a world of stasis, since not all things are changing at all times.  If this were true then I don't know if anything could truly be said to exist in such a world.
   But technically, this is true - and I'll grant it, in the following form.  The material world changes.

To explain the change, can we consider the changing thing alone, or must other things also be involved?
Other things can be involved.  After a huge star burns up its fuel it can explode into a supernova and then form a neutron star or a black hole.  What thing is involved in affecting change in the star from outside?
Kreeft says that "Obviously, other things must be involved."

But in the case of the giant star, it's not so obvious.  What affects the star from without that causes it to go supernova?  I'm not saying there isn't anything.  I'm saying that it isn't obvious, and that Kreeft's assessment of the state of things in the universe is simplistic and lacks explanatory power.

But, in the interests of getting to the meat of Kreeft's argument, I will grant this, too.

Change can be affected in things by outside influences.

Are the other things outside the changing thing also changing?
Gosh, Mr. Kreeft, I guess that depends entirely on what you mean by "things" and also what you mean by "changing."  But let's move on past this.

Yes, things outside the changing thing are changing too.

Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change. But it does change. Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe. But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other. Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.

Here we have something to sink our teeth into, and this is where Kreeft's argument utterly fails.

First of all, no one - not atheists, physicists, cosmologists, or secularists - is claiming that there is "nothing outside the material universe."  That is a straw man that apologists are constantly propping up.

But please observe how Kreeft gets beat up by his own straw man.

He has built his argument upon how each thing in the universe is necessarily affected by other things, yet his conclusion is that something affects the entire universe that is entirely disconnected from it in every way that we know of; being outside matter, space and time.

If he is outside of the universe, how can he possibly affect any change within the universe?

Mr Kreeft, the only way that we know of things affecting other things is because they are within matter, space and time.

We don't even know how enormous the universe is, much less what it could possibly mean to be "outside" of it.

This is nothing more than a circuitous way of saying "God did it... because what else could have?"

Well, guess what, Mr. Kreeft?  We have our best minds working on that, and they've come up with some pretty mind-blowing theories on what might have instantiated the universe. One of them may be right.

All of them are probably wrong.

But entertaining them is a world more open-minded than simply asserting that your primitive desert god must have magicked it into existence somehow from outside of reality.

Stay tuned as I pick apart Kreeft's next argument: The Argument for Efficient Causality.