Sunday, 12 April 2009

Proofs of a god. (Part 1 + Intro)

I'm no philosopher but I'm a freethinker and I enjoy having a philosophical debate with anyone.
And as an atheist (and scientist) I look for evidence to support either side of any argument. It's certainly not 'betraying' any atheist belief. I regularly adapt and improve on my moral stances and opinions as more evidence and experience presents itself.
For example, being a child in the 1970s, TV programs were quite happy to show ethnic minorities in a negative light. Shows like 'Mind Your Language' or 'Love Thy Neighbour' were family shows that I did find funny and formed my opinions of race. In hindsight, we now know them to be offensive and they would be rightly criticised if they were produced today.

I have decided to take time to look for evidence or proofs of a god's existence. I already know of several people who have converted to religion - some of them from a very staunch atheist opinion - and several who have made a choice based on what 'suits' them best. Naturally, I am curious as to what convinced them however I commonly find that they are either (1) embarrassed (2) reluctant (3) condescending (4) aggressive (5) simply unable to explain. Sometimes several combinations of that list.

I am going to do my own research. I did something similar in my early twenties and in all fairness, I think it is time for a review. It is quite possible that I may be convinced by the arguments. I may reject my atheistic viewpoint and possibly become agnostic. It could equally mean that I further reinforce my views. Can I be truly objective? I can only try. Even on a subconscious level I still have my ideas and thinking patterns.

As atheists, I believe we would be doing ourselves a great disservice if we did not question our 'non-beliefs' occasionally. ;-)

Proof 1: The Ontological Argument. (Summary)

Premise 1: By definition, if it is possible that God exists, then God exists
Premise 2: It is possible that God exists
Therefore, God exists

This is Anselm of Canterbury's proof:
1. God is something than which nothing greater can be thought.
2. God exists in the understanding.
3. It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding.
4. Therefore, God exists in reality
And not content with that, another one:
1. God is the entity than which nothing greater can be thought.
2. It is greater to be necessary than not.
3. God must therefore be necessary.
4. Hence, God exists necessarily.
There are quite a few others and if you are interested, look them up. But essentially, the summary is what is being said.

There are some interesting articles about this:
Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom and Evil, (Eerdmans, 1977), from Michael Peterson et al, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, (Oxford, 1996), p. 158.
He defends this argument quite rigorously.

But I can see a major flaw in this. This proof will allow ANYTHING to exist. Lo and behold, I have just conjured up a parrot with an IQ of 500. I have just done another one... a creator of gods!
Maybe I'm just being facetious here but this seems a pretty weak proof.
It is an assumption from the very start that attempts to justify itself in the following statements.

Platinga further argues that:
"it must be conceded that not everyone who understands and reflects on its central premise - that the existence of a maximally great being is possible - will accept it. Still, it is evident, I think, that there is nothing contrary to reason or irrational in accepting this premise. What I claim for this argument, therefore, is that it establishes, not the truth of theism, but its rational acceptability."

The problem here lies in that it assumes it is an acceptable method of proof and claims that belief in a god is at the very least rational.
I'm sure the Flying Spaghetti Monster would agree. (Hello, Your Noodleness!)

Many theologians deny this as a reasonable proof since it often creates scorn from both theists and atheists. But as a starting point for a theological discussion, I think it is a good start.

So at the end of the first proof, we have the idea that a god (whatever shape, form or existence) is possible. I don't believe it is rational. It would be considered irrational to believe in everything I could imagine. And I have a particularly vivid imagination!

So I would concede, a god is possible. Provided that theists concede that my ultra intelligent parrot is possible, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is possible and many other imaginative constructs are indeed possible.

In whole, the purpose of this argument appears to be to create doubt in the atheist mind and supposedly allowing theists to then claim that they are now possibly an agnostic. Very sneaky! ;-)

I will finish with an alternative proof by Douglas Gasking:

1) The creation of the world is the most marvelous achievement imaginable.
2) The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.
3) The greater the disability (or handicap) of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
4) The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
5) 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.
6) Therefore, God does not exist.

Further reading and in more detail:

As always, comments are welcome. :-)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting...

    I've found that often times theists try to define their god into existence. The only problem (which you've pointed out) is that "god" could be substituted for anything.

    Even intelligent parrots.


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