Saturday, September 22, 2007

Vaya con Dios!

Last week, a Nebraska senator decided to sue God. He wanted to bring a permanent injunction against The Almighty for all the doom and devastation he has caused.

Ironically, the senator is not know to be a religious man, so in essence, he is suing a non-corporal entity which he doesn't even believe exists in a spiritual sense.
That got me thinking about all the different "proofs" of God's existence that I remembered studying back in my Philosophy 101 class in college. Here's my analysis of some of the ones I remember:

The question of God’s existence is as old as man/ but who created man? His surrounding history is replete with debate on the subject (Scopes Trials), and much suffering has been cause over the issue (Crucifixion, Holocaust). The issue will likely not end until the end of the world, the 2nd coming, the Armageddon. What causes people to believe so strongly in God, despite all the bad things that happen in the world and the evil that continually tempts us? Three main philosophical arguments have developed for the existence of God.

The Cosmological argument is put forth partly by St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225). He believes that world exhibits change, so a being must exist that is itself unchanging. Things in the world are caused to exist, therefore; there exists a being whose existence is uncaused. The Cosmological Argument attempts to prove a being such as Aquinas’ exists and that it its, in fact, the theistic God. Each of Aquinas’ premises is valid. We would all be guilty of believing that things are caused, changed or contingent. His conclusions, however, are unsound. Contingent things exist in the world, therefore, there is a necessary being that could have not not existed. It is erroneous to conclude that the being Aquinas mentions is God. It is just as easy to say that the being in question is a rock, so long as we define the rock to fit the requirements.

Purdue professor emeritus William Rowe introduces the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) to determine if the premises are true. PSR states that there must be an explanation for each individual in the world, and of any positive fact about the series of individuals. It can be argued that an explanation of each individual’s existence provides an explanation of the series itself. But why did the series exist at all? The second part of PSR is not satisfied. Rowe claims that by a presupposition of reason, God is the reason for its existence. This claim is valid, but again, I can presuppose that the rock caused its existence. If the PSR is true, then something, perhaps God, exists and the argument becomes sound under rational consensus.

The second argument is the Ontological. This is a proof a priori and relies specifically on the definitions of God. Rene Descartes’ Meditation V is perhaps the most famous. He states that God, by definition, possesses every perfection and non-existence is an imperfection, therefore, God exists. The first premise is valid by rational presupposition, but the second premise falls apart. Existence is arguably not a quality at all; it does not enhance our perception of something. Take a dream-home for example. It is not more perfect just because it actually exists. On the contrary, it is actually more perfect in the mind only. Its objective reality is always greater than its formal reality. This would imply that God would be more perfect if he did not exist.

Archbishop of Canterbury St. Anselm (c. 1100) attempts to make a distinction between existence in reality and understanding. To deny God’s existence is to admit his existence in the understanding—valid and true. However, like the fountain of youth, this means only in understanding, not in reality. Anselm’s main premise in his argument is that something existing in the understanding that might have existed in reality is greater if it had existed. I disagree, again appealing to the dream-home example: it can always possess more perfection in a dream than in reality. Things existing in reality are always subject to depreciation and the need for improvement and maintenance. Ontological arguments fail because they do rely on definitions. They can be interpreted differently because, as we all know, a priori, words have more than one meaning, right?

The third major argument is the Teleological. This theory basically claims that the world exhibits design and anything with design has an intelligent creator, therefore; by the theistic definition of God, God exists and created the world. William Paley’s (1743-1805) classic watch example supports this argument. Paley claims that the world is like the watch. We believe the watch had a maker even if we’ve never seen one made, even if it doesn’t run perfectly, and even if it was possibly made by the chance of its parts falling together. This is an appealing argument because it obviously sounds both valid and sound—we can relate to the watch. Despite the objections of metallic nature and chance, the conclusion is true again by consensus of majority rational opinion (the argument depends on facts about the world). I like this argument because it requires a certain amount of faith about the watch. I believe faith provides the strongest “proof” of all.

I say, to hell with the proofs of God’s existence.” They will always have flaws and inconsistencies. Faith, and faith alone, is reason enough to believe. Fideism, belief that reason is irrelevant to religious faith, should prevail in this case. As Blaise Pascal, the Fideist (inventor of the barometer, the first calculating device, pioneer of probability theory, and awesome mathematician), said, “It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of. His Wager shows the infinite payoffs for believing in God at such negligible cost and effort. His “proof” is stronger than any of the other three mentioned above. It is also the only one that preserves the Christian view of salvation through faith. John 20:29 says, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Vaya con Dios!


Brenda said...

You write this stuff at 3:46 a.m.? You ARE Busy! (I feel that Busy with a capital "b" emphasizes the magnitude and urgency of it.)

I like your concluding paragraph. Very much.

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." -C.S. Lewis

kwkorpi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.