CHAPTER 3

PRELIMINARIES III:

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

3.1. Fallacious "refutations"

There won't be many arguments discussed in this chapter, for the simple reason that by far the largest number of arguments against God's existence are refutations of various arguments for his existence--and so we have actually seen a number of them already. There are, in fact, a huge number of "refutations" that are fallacious, based, as I said in the first chapter, on a misconstrual (whether honest or disingenuous) of what the believer means. What I did in the preceding chapter was give what I consider to be the valid refutations of the pro-God arguments, and left the fallacious ones aside.

Let me here just give you an example of what I mean by a fallacious refutation:

St. Thomas's first way to prove God's existence, you will recall (Section 2.7.1), was the one from process as the gradual acquisition of an "act" that the being does not have. The word commonly used to translate "process," however, is "motion," and so what St. Thomas is translated as saying is "Whatever is in motion is moved by something else."

Against this, people cite Newton's First Law of Motion, which is that when an object is in motion, it will remain in motion at the same speed and direction forever, unless it is interfered with. This clearly implies, if it does not state, that motion does not need something to "be moving it"; its natural state is motion; it is in equilibrium when it is in constant motion, and so needs no cause.

But this "refutation" misses the point. All it means is that motion from one place to another at a constant speed (in which no energy enters or leaves the system) is not one of the acts St. Thomas is calling "motion," because no new characteristic or "act" is being acquired. So the fact that Newtonian constant motion needs no cause has nothing to do with his argument, because he's not talking about that. He's only saying that any act in which the being is gradually acquiring some new character needs a cause. For instance, his argument would apply to accelerated motion in Newton's system (i.e. motion that changes either speed or direction).

True, St. Thomas did in fact think that Newton's constant straight-line motion was a case of acquisition of a characteristic, and so he would have thought that it fell under the argument he was giving; and he was mistaken in this. But the point is that this mistake affects his argument not at all. Whether a given kind of thing is a case of the problem doesn't affect whether the things that are cases do what the argument says they do.(1)

Now, as I said in the preceding chapter, this is a book on whether there is evidence for and/or against the existence of an infinite being, not a historical survey of the issue; and so I am not going to bother with pointing out just how the fallacious refutations of arguments are themselves fallacious--unless they are the only "refutation," and need to be dealt with to show that a valid argument is valid.

But obviously, if an argument is validly refuted, why bother going through the invalid attempts to refute it? And so far, all the arguments we have seen for an infinite being have been validly refuted.

So what I am concentrating on here are arguments that purport to show either (a) that there is no effect which would demand a God as its cause, or (b) that there cannot be such a thing as a God causing the world to be what it is.

3.2. The world is self-sufficient

The main argument against the existence of God is that there is nothing about the world that needs a God to explain it: the world makes sense by itself. And, of course, this is a refutation. If you can't show that there is an effect, then obviously, you have no business talking about its cause.

But the notion that there is no effect in the world needing God for a cause is in itself just an assumption. One could just as easily say, "Bodies fall down. So what? Why do you need a cause to explain this? It makes sense to me." The person who says this is paying attention to the fact that bodies fall down, and, of course (since there are no contradictions), since it's a fact it makes sense somehow.

But, of course, given Newton's First Law of Motion (that bodies with nothing acting on them don't accelerate), and the fact that falling bodies accelerate, and that falling bodies apparently have nothing acting on them, there's an effect here. Falling bodies make sense, true, but not by themselves--unless you resolve the effect as Einstein did, by saying that Newton's First Law was not quite true.

So it by no means follows that because you don't see any effect in the world's being what it is, there isn't any. Throughout all known history and even beyond, people have been seeing problems that at least seem to demand a God of some sort for their solution.

And it's at this point that the assumption becomes an argument. The assumption is a perfectly legitimate "working hypothesis" as long as there's no reason to believe that it's not true, since (as I stressed) the burden of proof is on the one who asserts that there is a God. But given that there seems to be evidence that there is a God, the "working hypothesis" cannot remain simply an untested assumption if the non-believer wants to claim honestly that he is rational.

And so the argument that the world is self-sufficient goes like this:

Historically, there has seemed to be evidence that the world is nonsense unless there is a God. All of these claims have been investigated, and have turned out to be fallacious arguments for the God they supposedly prove. As science advances, we find more and more that "this worldly" causes take the place of what God was supposed to be explaining; and there's no reason for saying that the "arguments" that seem plausible now won't in the future have a perfectly sensible explanation by science in terms of this world. So there's no reason to assume that there is a God.

This would be a reasonable position if in fact what it asserts were true: that in fact as science advances, the "this-worldly" explanation tends to be more reasonable than the "other-worldly" one. But we saw in the preceding chapter that earlier scientific theories about the past of the universe (the eternally existing, non-evolving one) were more amenable to a "this-worldly" view than the present "big bang" evolving universe; and the theory that species by their nature eternally reproduce themselves is more consistent with a "this-worldly" view of things than an evolution which goes against what its underlying driving force would predict of it.

In fact, it is only by an act of faith that somehow or other these difficulties can be straightened out that scientists can nowadays cling to a total "this-worldly" view of things. The world as scientifically described is shouting at them that there is something beyond it, and there is no evidence that there's anything wrong with what it's shouting. And so it's only by closing its ears to the clamor that scientists can claim that "all the supposed problems requiring a God for a solution have been solved by science, and there's no reason to assume that they won't continue to be."

In fact, what I am saying is that the opposite is the case. And so the argument as an argument is invalid.

Now does this mean that it is false that the problems that seem to demand the existence of God as their solution will someday have a "this-worldly" explanation? No. It just means that you have no reason to believe they will, because the grounds on which you supposedly believe this are fallacious.

Nor is it even a tossup. The evidence as we now know it, as I pointed out in the last chapter, indicates that there is something (at least an afterlife) beyond the world as we observe it. It is positively irrational to reject this evidence because there might be some counter-evidence out there somewhere.

What I mean is this. The General Theory of Relativity, for instance, asks us to accept as true some pretty fantastic (what scientists call "counter-intuitive") things: that a massive object can somehow alter the shape of nothingness (the geometry of the space around it), and that real objects passing through this nothingness will have to follow its altered shape. But scientists accept these things, because observed events make sense on this assumption, and don't on any other known assumption. No physicist I know of is going to reject the General Theory of Relativity on the grounds that there might be some evidence that would be consistent with, say, a Euclidian view of the configuration of space and time (one that most people would be "comfortable with").

If you're a rational person, you draw the conclusions that are reasonable based on the evidence you have, not based on evidence that you have no reason to believe exists, but which you assert only because no one can prove it doesn't exist. That's the same as believing in leprechauns, and then alleging that the fact that no one's ever seen one is no reason for not believing in them. In fact, it's the very thing that this supposed "argument" argues against dealing with the existence of God.

Further, this argument doesn't address the possibility that there might be an argument that by its nature actually can rule out any "this-worldly" explanation as a possibility. And, in fact, it is just this kind of argument I propose. Any "this-worldly" explanation will have to have as its cause something finite (because everything in this world is finite). My contention is that I can show that there's a radical unintelligibility in anything finite just because it is finite, and that nothing but something without this unintelligibility can make sense out of it. If the argument is valid, then it is impossible that science will ever come up with a "this-worldly" explanation that solves the problem. The very best that can be done is to show that there was no problem in the first place.

But in order to hold that this world is self-sufficient, you would have to show that an argument such as I propose is impossible. And since I'm going to give it, you can't a priori say this. You will have to refute my argument before you can say that it is reasonable to say that the world is self-sufficient.

I don't say it can't be done; but nobody's done it so far, and if I were to take a page from the book of the people who "reason" that the world is self-sufficient, I could say that I see no reason to assume that anyone in the future will be able to do it--validly, of course. I'm not talking about specious "refutations."

In any case, the assumption that the world is self-sufficient is extremely shaky, and as an argument, it asserts as one of its premises something that simply is not true. So let's leave it.

3.3. "God exists" is meaningless

There's another line of reasoning which says that the whole God-question is a stupid question because it is only askable by a misuse of language. It sounds like a legitimate, factual question, but there's no way it even could be a factual question, because there's no meaning (or no factual meaning) to any possible "answer."

That is, for these people, asking the question, "Is there a God or not?" is something like what the ancients were doing when they asked "What fraction is equal to the square root of two?" Someone finally showed (if my memory serves me) that when this supposed "fraction" was reduced to lowest terms, it would still have to have an even numerator and an even denominator--which, of course means that it could be divided by two, and so is not in lowest terms. Hence, there can be no such fraction, because any possible one would contradict itself. The question looks like a question, but is no more a real question than, "How heavy is the color blue?"

But what's wrong with asking whether there's a God or not? The answer is that the concept of God is supposed to be such that it contains a contradiction if you say that such a thing exists or even could exist. So it's a waste of time to ask if it exists.

What's the problem? It's based on the view that you can only say that something is a fact if it is at least in principle possible to experience it; if it's "verifiable," in other words. But since God is not an object in the observable universe, and is spiritual and not material, then in principle he can't be perceived by the senses; and so to say that he "exists" is to misuse the phrase "X exists."

The difficulty with this is that if you exclude God because he can't in principle be perceived, you also have to say that, for instance, radio radiation doesn't exist, because we have no senses that can pick it up. The counter-argument to this is that, "Well, we could have senses that would pick it up, because radios can do it," so it's in principle observable. But there are other things, like photons, electrons, neutrinos, etc., which in principle can't be directly observed, because you'd have to hit them with photons to do it, which would knock them out of position. So do we want to say that it's meaningless to say, "There are such things as neutrinos."? It is also--obviously--in principle impossible to observe the "big bang," because at the time there could by definition be no observer. Is it meaningless to say that it happened?

So the notion that something has to be in principle directly  observable in order to be stated meaningfully as a fact means that you have to exclude a number of things that practically everyone regards as facts.

Of course, if you correct this by saying that it's meaningful to talk about what is indirectly observable, then it becomes meaningful to assert that God exists. Why? Because you indirectly observe something by observing something that could not be that way unless this other thing were there. We know that there were dinosaurs without ever having seen one because otherwise the bones we do see make no sense. In other words, you "indirectly observe" the cause of some effect that you directly observe.

So all you would have to do is show some effect that only God could account for, and you have "indirectly observed" him. Now whether or not that can actually be done, it is certainly in principle possible; and so it is meaningful to say that God exists.

So the next ploy is to say that "God exists" is meaningless because you can't simply assert existence of a subject. All statements are of the form "X is a Y," where the predicate is some quality that X is alleged to have; the simple "X is" is nonsense.

Of course, this view is nonsense. It implies that you can't ask the question, "Is there really an Abominable Snowman?" because the answer would not be "The Abominable Snowman is a mammal," but simply "Yes, the Abominable Snowman exists." Who are they to set rules that exclude such questions?

"But," comes the rejoinder, "what we meant was that you can't assert the existence of something that is absolutely indescribable, because then you wouldn't know what it was you were trying to say exists. That is, "A yasluvex exists" is meaningless, if someone asks, "What is a yasluvex?" and you answer, "There's no answer to that questions, because yasluvexes can't be described in any way." But the God people talk about is not such that he has no properties. We will see that the one we assert exists has the main property of being infinite, but is also unchangeable, spiritual, and various other things. So what's the problem?

"But these so-called 'properties' are either undefined, or have contradictory definitions." Not so, as we will see. They have very definite "operational definitions" as causes of given effects, and in fact can be related by analogy to finite causes of similar effects. They are no more unintelligible and contradictory than the "warped space-time" of Einstein or the "wave-particle" that is the photon.

So far, then, the attempt to say that "God exists is meaningless" is going to make you say that certain scientifically defined entities are meaningless to talk about. Now this is not just a debater's point; what it says is that, since it is obviously legitimate and not meaningless to talk about photons and so on as being real and not imaginary, then there's something wrong with the theory that says it can't be.

The last twist and turn of this line of thinking is that, though we can't actually verify some of the things that science talks about, like the "big bang," it is in principle possible to falsify these events or entities, since it is in principle possible either to find flaws in the reasoning that concluded to their existence, or to discover new evidence which makes their existence not necessary. For instance, the chemical "substance" phlogiston, which supposedly had negative weight was supposed to account for why the products of combustion weighed more than the stuff that was burned--until someone discovered oxygen (which of course has weight--which was added to things from the air during burning. So the "phlogiston theory" of combustion was falsified.

And of course, supposing that the argument I establish for the existence of God can be shown to have a flaw, or that my reading of the evidence that the finite as finite involves an in-itself-contradictory situation turns out to be a misreading of the evidence, then my argument for the existence of an infinite being is falsified. So it's certainly in principle falsifiable.

But what the proponents of this view we are now discussing would counter is that if it were falsified, then I would simply come up with some other line of reasoning, because I am determined that the conclusion be true, and I'll believe in a God no matter what the evidence actually is.

This is simply to accuse me of dishonesty and bias. The assumption is that I actually believe in God no matter what, and so no evidence is going to change my mind. I deny that. And I have plenty of friends who have believed in God and have subsequently come to think (for various reasons) that there isn't a God. So it doesn't follow that a believer is so committed that evidence doesn't count for him.

And this particular "argument" is a two-edged sword. I know some unbelievers who can't find anything wrong with the argument I offer, but say, "Nope. There's a fallacy in there somewhere. I don't know where it is, but there is one." What does that say? That there are non-believers who are just as committed to the non-existence of God, and whom no evidence will ever be able to convince.

So what else is new? There are biased people in the world. Big deal. But either you say that bias is so strong that it's impossible to draw conclusions based on the evidence, or any argument that you give is always in principle falsifiable. But the fact that there are believers who become convinced (on evidence that they see) that God doesn't exist, and also non-believers who become convinced (on evidence that they see) that God does exist establishes that bias does not even in this matter totally overwhelm the ability to follow evidence.

CONCLUSION: The notion that the phrase "God exists" is meaningless cannot be established in any meaningful way. The theory would make it meaningless to talk about all sorts of things that science talks about and that the people who hold the theory want to talk meaningfully about.

As a matter of fact, the theory itself is a beautiful example of how some people who believe in the non-existence of God can leap on any argument that seems to support their conclusion, however irrational it might be.

3.3.1 Immanuel Kant's argument

Actually, the "argument" I just discussed is a modern view that got its impetus from Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, in which he tried to show (a) that reason could not help raising the God-question, but (b) it could prove both that God must exist and that God can't exist--which is clearly a contradiction. Kant then went on to explain why there was this psychological need, which necessarily resulted in fallacious reasoning.

Now Kant was one of the most brilliant people who ever lived, so I am going to have to oversimplify here. His argument turns on the grounds we have for saying that every event must have a cause, even before we've seen all events. How can we know that this must be true of every single event, past, present, and future?

His solution, basically was that you can't think of an event (as opposed to what he called a "substance"--i.e. a thing) except as something that happens in time.

That is, an event is something that begins to occur, that has a date attached to it. So it necessarily must be thought of as occurring after the date that immediately precedes it. So just to think of something as an event means that you necessarily think of it as after something. And this was why he could show that David Hume's notion of cause and effect (a sequence of before-and-after in experience) was necessary and not simply (as Hume thought) just a habit we'd got into.

Of course, the necessary "before" in experience was what Kant called the "cause" of the event.

Now, according to Kant, reason wants to unite more and more of our experience. So taking this notion that this event has a cause (the preceding event), which as an event also has to have a cause, which as an event has a cause, which has a cause, and so on, reason then says, "Well, you can't go on in this way forever; because if the cause of the cause (what I called the condition) didn't exist, then the last event wouldn't occur; so all the causes-of-causes have to be "given," as he says, or there is no event. Therefore, there must be a first cause.

But, of course, this first cause is an event, which means that it must have a cause. Therefore, there can't be a first cause.

Now what Kant concluded from this is that reason necessarily tries to apply the notion of "cause" (which according to him is just a before-and-after sequence of events) outside the sequence of events; and so it commits a logical fallacy. Causes occur only in the world of sense experience; they are meaningless outside it.

(You see why the moderns try to say that "God exists" is meaningless? They are taking Kant's argument as valid.)

But the argument suffers as it stands from two logical flaws, and one serious difficulty in the definition of "cause" that is given. First of all, what he is talking about is a series of causers, not causes, since obviously the "event" which was your great-great-grandparents' activity that produced your great-grandparents did not have to be occurring at the time when you began to exist (the event in question). Hence, in a sequence of this sort, the "causes-of-causes" don't have to be "given" simultaneously in order to account for the event, and it is quite thinkable that there is an infinite string of them. We saw this in discussing St. Thomas's first and second ways (sections 2.7.1. and 2.7.2). So it is possible that you don't have to have a first cause.

Further, there is no contradiction in assuming something like a "big bang" which didn't have any event preceding it in time, but takes its "date" from the fact that it is before every other event. And remember, Kant's notion of the necessity of an event's having a cause is based on the notion that you can't think of something as an event unless you can locate it in time; but--supposing there to be a first moment in time--then that doesn't necessarily always mean that it has to be after some other event. It would in all cases except the first one. Granted, you can't imagine a first moment of time with no time (nothing) before it; but then you can't imagine time as stringing out behind us infinitely. But so what? You can't imagine your own mind, or a photon, or what radio radiation "really looks like" (since it doesn't look like anything) either. That doesn't mean you can't think it. So it's possible that there is a first event without a cause in Kant's sense.

So, if you analyze Kant's supposed "proofs" that lead to two opposite conclusions, both of which reason must accept, you find that neither necessarily leads to its conclusion; and so neither proves anything.

The difficulty in the definition of "cause" as Kant conceives it is that it is the "necessary 'before' in experience." But what about the event which is the dawn? That necessarily comes after the night; but it comes before the sun appears in experience. Now are we to say that the night causes the dawn and the dawn (the lightening of the sky before sunrise) causes the sunrise? Of course not. The light of the sun causes the dawn, even though it is never experienced except after the event that it is the cause of.

And the point, of course, is that we call the sun's light the cause of the dawn because without it the lightening of the sky is a contradiction; and certainly the dark night that came before it can't resolve the contradiction in the sky's being dark and then becoming light.

Actually, the main flaw in Kant's reasoning is that all of his explanations about "cause" as a necessary "before" and so on were attempts to give (as he said) the "conditions for the possibility" of the types of experience we actually have. He said at the beginning of the Critique that the fact that we have the experiences we have shows that they are possible; and therefore, all the conditions for their possibility must be met.

And in the course of this, he said that we have certain subjective structures ("a priori forms") of sensation, or the fact that we can't sensibly experience anything except as in space or time makes no sense; there are certain subjective structures ("categories") of thinking without which concepts like "cause" as we use them are nonsense, and so on. In other words, what he is saying is that unless our minds are constituted a certain way, our experience is a contradiction.

But that "condition for the possibility of" experience is exactly what I mean by "cause"; and Kant himself used this notion to get outside the simple sequence of sensory events, because otherwise the experiencing of the sequence would be impossible.

So without realizing it, he was using "cause" in its true sense to explain why you couldn't use "cause" in that "before-and-after" sense outside the realm of sensory experience. But as I said, the notion that the "cause" is a "necessary before" contradicts our experience of cause-and-effect in some cases, and so is a false view of our actual experience of cause.

CONCLUSION: So Kant's theory about cause-and-effect does not prove that you can't argue to what is beyond our actual experience; and in fact Kant did so in his own book. So there is no reason from this to believe that it is impossible to prove God's existence.

3.4. The problem of evil

Now then, the really serious argument against God's existence (as opposed to arguments that either say, "You haven't proved that God does exist" or "There's no effect, and so no need for a God") is called the Problem of Evil. It isn't necessarily of itself an argument against the existence of something infinite, but of a being which is (a) all-powerful, (b) all-knowing, and (c) all-good.

In itself, the argument is simple. It says, "If God is all-knowing, he knows that there is evil in this world of ours (harm, immorality, suffering); if he is all-powerful, he can prevent it if he doesn't want it to happen; and if he's all-good, then he doesn't want it to happen. So if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, there is no evil in the world.

"Therefore, given that there is evil in the world, then there is no God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good."

Now of course, this argument can be easily "refuted" if God doesn't have at least one of these properties, or has one only in a limited way. If, for instance, he doesn't know about the evil in the world, he wouldn't try to stop it; or if he's not all-powerful, he might not be able to stop it even if he knows about it and wants to; and if he's not all-good, he might not care.

But that's just a debater's way of getting out of the question, since the infinite being we'll be arguing to does know what's going on in the world, and it certainly powerful enough to stop any act in the world that he doesn't want to find there; and is in some sense infinitely good and loving.

Obviously, I think there's a way out of this, or why would I bother writing the rest of the book? Let me first remark, however, that this might turn out to be one of the "How could a being with Property X be the cause of something with Property Y"-type arguments, which are invalid provided you have conclusively proved that there must be a being with Property X, and you know that its effect does in fact have Property Y. The fact that you don't know how the X-being can manage the explanation of Y-beings is no argument of itself that there is no X-being. If so, then the Y-beings remain a contradiction (an effect without a cause), which is absurd.

But that way out doesn't look terribly promising. The argument at least looks as if you can predict from the properties of the infinite being that the world would have to be different from what it actually is. And what that means is that it's not just a question of how God can cause a world with evil in it, it's that he wouldn't. And of course, what that means is that there's something wrong with the argument for the existence of such a being; such a being couldn't exist.

Let me here give some other "refutations" of the argument that don't really refute it.

First, there is the argument that God only allows evil for the sake of a greater good that comes from it. The idea is that if God created another world without evil in it, it would be worse than the one he created; and so he's good, because this, while not a perfect world, is the best possible world. A better world than this couldn't actually exist.

But that's nonsense. Supposing God to be infinite, then God + the world is no greater than God alone (just as the set of numbers {1, 2, 3, ... n, n+1 ...} is not greater if you add 0 to the set). So if God wanted a world with no evil in it, all he had to do was not create anything and be alone. Then, what exists would be better than God + a world with evil; and so what actually exists (God + a world with evil) is not the best possible situation.

There's the argument that, since evil is just a lack of something, God didn't create evil. But that doesn't solve the problem, because we're supposing that an all-good God doesn't want "lacks" in things when the "lacks" are against their nature (as blindness or maiming is). So even if blindness is the inability to see, it is the inability to see in something reason says can in some sense see (how else would it be curable?); and so a good God, it would seem, would be positively unwilling to see his creatures deprived of what is due them.

There's the notion that suffering and so on are a punishment for human sins. But this has several defects. First of all, why were animals punished before ever there were any human beings to sin? If you say that the dinosaurs didn't suffer, then what do you mean, if they sank into quicksand and drowned? You have to stretch things to say that this fate was good for them--and what sense would it make to say that this was a "punishment" unless it was in some sense bad? But then you have a punishment (a) before the crime was committed (b) on something that had no part in the commission of the crime. In what sense could a good God justify this?

Second, why weren't human beings created incapable of sinning? "Because then they wouldn't be free." But our freedom even now is not totally unrestricted (you can't transform yourself into an alligator), and so why not make beings free to choose only among legitimate options? They'd still be free, but not absolutely free. But we're not absolutely free now.

"Well, but God saw that it was better this way." But that's the "best of all possible worlds" argument again; and that argument is invalid.

Finally, there's the argument, "Yes, but God's goodness is not the same as human goodness." But it sure looks as if God's goodness is not only not the same as human goodness, in many cases it would have to be the same as what we would call horrendous evil. That is, we wouldn't simply say that a man who blew up a building and killed a hundred people in it was just "less good than we'd like him to be," we'd say that he was a positively evil man. He'd be evil even if he knew the building was going to blow up and could stop it (or warn the people) and chose simply to let it happen. But God either causes volcanoes to blow up hundreds of his beloved creatures, or allows it to happen when he could prevent it. Does it mean anything to say that somebody like that is good in any sense?

--At this point, I'm going to leave you hanging. It turns out that there is an analogous sense of "good" in which you could say that God is infinitely good, and this infinite goodness is compatible with his being, from our point of view, a total monster. (Not to be too mysterious, it's analogous to the fact that it's not regarded as really evil of me to step on a cockroach or pull up a peony-plant or crush a rock.)

But, though there's a sense of "good" and "evil" that makes it not a contradiction that there can be a God who could cause the world as we know it, there is still a severe difficulty in this, especially if God reveals himself as good and loving. That is, it seems unlikely that the Christian God could exist. It turns out (and I will try to handle this at the end of the book) that there is a scenario involving the "punishment" notion that does seem to make some sense out of the situation.

I want to conclude, however, by saying that the denial of a good God does not make sense out of evil in the world. It doesn't make sense that natural objects would act contrary to their natures or suffer what is contrary to their natures.



CONCLUSION: The problem of evil is a valid argument against an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God, in all but rather bizarre meanings of these words. It remains to be seen whether the argument to be given establishes the existence of a God with these properties, and whether the analogous senses in which these are used falsifies the God argued to or not.





SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 3



There are various "refutations" of the preceding arguments which are themselves fallacious; we will simply ignore them. Most of the arguments against the existence of God, however, are actually refutations of arguments for God's existence. But there are some that argue that a God can't exist.

The world is self-sufficient; that is, that it isn't an effect needing something infinite for its cause. As an argument, it says that all of the apparent "effects" that demand the existence of a God have found satisfactory "this worldly" answers from science, and so there's no reason to assume that science won't be able to explain any others. The trouble with this argument is that modern science's findings (in the "big bang" and "evolution") are less consistent with "this worldly" explanations than previous theories of physics and biology. So it simply is not the case that science has "satisfactorily" explained, in the context of this world, what seems to need God for its explanation. The argument is invalid.

"God exists" is meaningless is the assertion that no factual sense can be made out of an assertion that God exists, because it is unverifiable. But if you say that this means that you can't experience God, then you can't experience electrons either, which exist. If you say that it's meaningless because God can have no defined properties, this is nonsense, since they would be known as what is necessary for the effect (whatever it is) to make sense. (We will see many of them.) If you say that it's meaningless, because people who believe, apparently on the basis of some argument, will continue to believe when the argument is refuted. This (a) is not so in many cases, and (b) there are just as many cases of those who believe God doesn't exist and continue to believe this when their "arguments" are refuted also. Bias proves nothing except that there are biased people. The argument is invalid.

Immanuel Kant's argument states that the "cause" of some event is just the "before" in our experience that we have to resort to in order to think of an "event" as beginning in time. Therefore, it is not applicable beyond our sense experience. And if you do try to apply it, you get into a contradiction: It can be proved that there has to be a first cause, because an infinite string of caused causes is impossible; but if the first cause is a cause, then it is an event (the one before the effect) and so has a cause. Thus, this is simply a misuse of the category "cause." The problem here is that, in developing this "before-and-after" sense of "cause," Kant had to use our sense of "cause" (which he called "the conditions for the possibility of ___"), and he used it to argue to what was beyond our sense experience (a mind that unites experience, for example). It turns out that what Kant thought could "prove" that there has to be a first cause doesn't prove it, and that the first cause isn't first doesn't prove that either. The argument is invalid.

The problem of evil states that if God is infinitely knowing, he can know that evil exists in the world; if he is infinitely powerful, he can prevent evil if he wants; if he is infinitely good, he doesn't want evil. Hence, if that kind of God exists, there is no evil in the world. But there is evil. Therefore, there is no God of this type.

One could argue that maybe God doesn't have all those properties, but the God we will conclude to does. The argument is not refuted by saying that God allows evil so that a greater good will come of it, since the greatest good would be not creating a universe in the first place. It is not refuted by saying that evil is simply a lack, and God doesn't create a lack; but presumably he would not want a lack that ought not to be in a being. It is not refuted by saying that evil is a punishment for sin, unless you can show how it is just (and not evil) of God to punish something before the sin was committed (as he did with the dinosaurs, for example). It might be refuted by saying that God's goodness is not the same as human goodness and is consistent with there being evil in the world; but this has to be shown very clearly in order not to be just an ad hoc playing with words to gain debating points. It turns out that this can in fact be done; but we will have to wait for the argument to be able to do it.


Notes

1. I should perhaps point out that Newton's "straight-line" motion at a constant speed always involves acceleration unless the moving object is the only object in the universe. The reason is that if there is another object, the moving one will be cutting across its gravitational field (and so moving from one energy-level to another, or "falling"); and so it is actually accelerating with respect to that field. So St. Thomas was right in the "real world." But again, this has nothing to do with the argument he gave. On matters such as this are Doctoral dissertations written.

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