I want to say how pleased I am to be debating Dr. Tooley. I’m sure that many of you will never hear a more powerful case for atheism than the case you will hear presented tonight. And I only hope I can do as good a job arguing the case for the existence of God.
Now in tonight's debate I'm going to defend two basic contentions:
I. There are no good reasons to think that atheism is true, and
II. There are good reasons to think that theism is true.
Let's look at the first major contention, that there are no good reasons to think that atheism is true. Atheist philosophers have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God. But no one has been able to come up with a convincing argument. So rather than attack straw men at this point, I’m going to wait to hear Dr. Tooley's answer to the following question: What is the evidence that atheism is true?
Let's turn then to my second basic contention, that there are good reasons to think that theism is true.
Now I'm not claiming that I can prove that God exists with some kind of mathematical certainty. I’m just claiming that on balance the evidence is such that theism is more plausible than not. Let me present, therefore, six reasons why I think it’s more plausible that God exists than that atheism is true. We’ll start with the more abstract and gradually get more concrete.
1. God provides the best explanation for the existence of abstract entities. In addition to tangible objects like people and chairs and mountains and trees, philosophers have noticed that there also appear to be abstract objects, like numbers and sets and propositions and properties. These sorts of things seem to have a conceptual reality rather like ideas. And yet it’s obvious that they’re not just ideas in some human mind. So what is the metaphysical foundation for such abstract entities? The theist has a plausible answer for that question: they are grounded in the mind of God. Alvin Plantinga, one of America’s foremost philosophers, explains:
It seems plausible to think of numbers as dependent upon or even constituted by intellectual activity. But there are too many of them to arise as a result of human intellectual activity. We should therefore think of them as . . . the concepts of an unlimited mind: a divine mind.1
At the most abstract level, then, theism provides a plausible metaphysical foundation for the existence of abstract objects. And that’s the first reason why I think it's plausible to believe in God.
2. God provides the best explanation of why the universe exists rather than nothing. Have you ever asked yourself why anything at all exists, or where the universe came from? Typically, atheists have said that the universe is just eternal, and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute.
If the universe never had a beginning, then that means that the number of past events is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the notion of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions unless you impose some wholly arbitrary rules to prevent this. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality.
David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician in this century, states,
The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature, nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. ... The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.2
But that entails that since past events are not just ideas but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore the series of past events cannot go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist.
This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates that the universe began to exist in a great explosion called the Big Bang about fifteen billion years ago. Physical space and time were created in that event, as well as all the matter and energy in the universe.
Therefore, as the Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, the Big Bang Theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. This is because as one goes back in time he reaches a point at which, in Hoyle’s words; the universe was "shrunk down to nothing at all."3 Thus what the Big Bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.
Now this tends to be very awkward for the atheist thinker. For as Anthony Kenny of Oxford University says, "A proponent of the [Big Bang] theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that ... the universe came from nothing and by nothing."4 but that’s a pretty hard pill to swallow. Out of nothing, nothing comes. So where did the universe come from? Why does it exist instead of just nothing? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being. And from the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe.
Isn't it incredible that the Big Bang theory thus confirms what the Christian theist has always believed, that in the beginning, god created the universe? Now, I simply put it to you: Which do you think is more probable, that the Christian theist is right, or that the universe just popped into existence uncaused out of nothing? I, at least, don't have any problem assessing these probabilities.
3. God provides the best explanation for the complex order in the universe. During the last thirty years, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions that are simply given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than life-permitting universes like ours.
How much more probable? Before I share with you an estimation, let me just give you some numbers to give you a feel for the odds. The number of seconds in the history of the universe is about 1018, ten followed by eighteen zeros. The number of subatomic particles in the entire universe is said to be about 1080 .
Now with those numbers in mind consider the following: Donald Page, one of America's eminent cosmologists, has calculated the odds of our universe existing as one chance out of ten to the power of ten to the one hundred and twenty-fourth power ---a number which is so inconceivable that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement.5 Robert Jastrow, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, has called this the most powerful evidence for the existence of God ever to come out of science.6 Once again the view that the Christian theist has always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems to be much more plausible than the atheistic interpretation.
4. God provides the best explanation for objective moral values in the world. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. For example, the late J.L. Mackie of Oxford University, one of the most influential atheists of our time, admitted,
If ... there are ... objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have ... a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god.7
But in order to avoid God's existence, Mackie therefore denied that objective moral values exist. He wrote, "It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution."8 Professor Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph, agrees. He explains,
Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth . . .. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, [ethics] is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they, are referring above and beyond themselves, . . . Nevertheless, . . . such reference is truly without foundation, Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, and any deeper meaning is illusory . . . .9
Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life '10I think that Friedrich Nietzsche was right. But we've got to be very careful here. The question here is not: Must we believe in God in order to live a moral life? I'm not claiming that we must. Nor is the question: Can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God? I think we can. Rather, the question is: If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?
Like Mackie and Ruse, I just don’t see any reason to think that in the absence of God the morality evolved by Homo sapiens is objective. After all, if there is no God, then what's so special about human beings? They're just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust called the planet Earth, lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe, and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. On the atheistic view, some action, say, rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human development has became taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really morally wrong. On the atheistic view, if you can escape the social consequences, there’s nothing really wrong with your raping someone. And thus without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.
But the fact is that objective values do exist, and we all know it. There is no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of physical objects. Actions like rape, torture, child abuse-aren't just socially unacceptable behavior. They're moral abominations. Even Ruse himself admits, "The man who says it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says 2+2=5,"11 Some things are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, self-sacrifice are really good. But if objective values cannot exist without God and objective values do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.
5. God provides the best explanation for the historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. New Testament critics have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority, the authority to stand and speak in God's place. That's why the Jewish leadership instigated his crucifixion on the charge of blasphemy. He claimed that in himself the Kingdom of God had come, and as visible demonstrations of this fact he carried out a ministry of miracle working and exorcisms.
But the supreme confirmation of his claim was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands and thus evidence for the existence of God.
It seems to me that there are three main historical facts that support the resurrection of Jesus: his empty tomb, Jesus' appearances alive after his death, and the very origin of the Christian faith. Let's look very briefly at each one of these.
First, the evidence indicates that Jesus’ tomb was found empty on Sunday morning by a group of his women followers. According to Jacob Kremer, an Austrian scholar who has specialized in the study of the resurrection, "By far, most [scholars] hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb."12 And he lists twenty-eight prominent scholars in support. I can think of at least sixteen more that he neglected to mention.
According to New Testament critic D.H. Van Daalen, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions," 13 but assumptions may simply have to be changed in light of the facts.
Secondly, the evidence indicates that on separate occasions different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the late Norman Perrin of the University of Chicago, "The more we investigate the traditions with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based."14 These appearances were physical and bodily and were witnessed not only by believers, but also by unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.
And thirdly, the very origin of the Christian faith implies the reality of the resurrection. We all know that Christianity sprang into being in the middle of the first century. Well, where did it come from? Why did it arise?
Well, all scholars agree that it came into being because the disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead. And they proclaimed this message everywhere they went. But where in the world did they come up with that outlandish belief?
If you deny that Jesus really did rise from the dead, then you've got to explain the origin of the disciples' belief in terms of either Christian influences' or Jewish influences. Now obviously it couldn't have come from Christian influences for the simple reason that there wasn't any Christianity yet. But neither can it be explained by Jewish influences. For the Jewish concept of resurrection was radically different than Jesus' resurrection. As the renowned New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias puts it, "Nowhere does one find in the literature [of ancient Judaism] anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus."15 Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, therefore, there simply are no antecedent, historical factors that would explain the origin of the disciples’ belief.
Attempts to explain away these three great facts, like "the disciples stole the body," or "Jesus wasn't really dead," have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The simple fact is that there just is no plausible naturalistic explanation of these three facts. Therefore it seems to me we are amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who He claimed to be. But that entails that God exists.
And finally: 6. God can be immediately known and experienced. This isn't really an argument for God's existence; rather it's the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by immediately experiencing Him. This was the way that people in the Bible knew God, as Professor John Hick explains:
God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills, a sheer given reality as inescapably to be reckoned with as a destructive storm and life-giving sunshine. . . They did not think of God as an inferred entity but as an experienced reality . . .. To them God was not . . . an idea adopted by the mind, but the experiential reality which gave significance to their lives.16
Now if this is the case, then there's a real danger that arguments for the existence of God could actually distract one’s attention from God Himself. If you're sincerely seeking God, then God will make His existence evident to you. The New Testament promises, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."17 We mustn’t so concentrate on the arguments that we fail to bear the inner voice of God to our own hearts. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.
In conclusion, then, we have yet to see tonight any reasons to think that God does not exist, and we have seen six reasons to believe that God does exist. Together these reasons constitute a powerful cumulative case for the existence of God. Now if Dr. Tooley wants us to believe atheism instead, then he must first tear down all six of the reasons that I gave in favor of God's existence and then in their place present a case of his own as to why atheism is true. Unless and until he does that, I hope that we can agree that theism is the more plausible worldview.
The question of the existence of God is a most important question and I'm very interested in presenting arguments bearing on this matter. The position I'm defending is that it's reasonable to believe that God does not exist.
I want to begin by briefly indicating how I'm going to understand the term 'God' in this next discussion. My view is that the question one should ask is, "What characteristics should an object possess in order to be an appropriate object of religious attitudes?"
I think that the answer to that is that a being, to be characterizable as God in that sense, should be a personal being, should be a being that is morally perfect, a being that is omnipotent, and a being that is omniscient. And I'm going to claim that it's unreasonable to believe in the existence of such a being.
There are four arguments that I'm going to offer, namely: (1) An argument for the view that atheism is the default position; (2) An argument that involves an extrapolation from the minds that we know; (3) An argument from the apparent hiddenness of God; and (4) A version of the argument from evil. I'm going to actually sketch the first one very briefly. The reason is that the other three are more important and since I haven't been permitted by Dr. Craig to transfer time from my second presentation to my first, I don't want to be forced to halt in the middle of my fourth argument. I will then use any time I have left to return to my first argument.
The central claim in the first argument is that atheism is the default position, and what that means is that, if there is no evidence in support of the existence of God, then it is reasonable to believe that God does not exist. The essential line of thought which I would hope to develop later on is that if you consider other things like fairies, leprechauns, golden teacups orbiting around Venus, and so on, I would suggest that we have no evidence against the existence of those sorts of things, but if I asked you whether you were agnostic I think the answer would be "no." You would believe there are no fairies, no leprechauns, no golden teacups orbiting around Venus. That illustrates the general principle in regard to God's existence that the burden of proof must fall upon the person who is arguing in support of God's existence. If there's no positive support for it, then the other side wins by default.
Let us now move on to my second argument. It involves an extrapolation from the nature of the minds that we know, and it turns upon the following thesis:
All minds that it is generally agreed that we are definitely acquainted with---namely the minds of humans and other animals---are either purely physical in nature or else are causally dependent on something physical in nature.
Now, one reason that we have for accepting this claim consists of facts that point toward at least a very intimate relationship between mental states and brain states. Among the facts that are relevant here are the following:
First, when an individual's brain is put into a certain physical state by direct stimulation, this causes the individual to have a corresponding experience, or, more generally, to be in some corresponding mental state.
Secondly certain types of damage to the brain make it impossible for one to enjoy any mental states at all---either temporarily or permanently, depending on the nature of the damage.
Thirdly, damage to the brain destroys various mental capacities, and which capacity is affected depends upon the particular region of the brain where it was damaged.
Fourthly, the mental capacities possessed by animals of other species become increasingly complex and impressive as the brain becomes more complex.
Fifthly, in the case of individuals belonging to a single species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neuronal circuitry in the relevant regions of the brain.
So in short, there is a good deal of evidence which indicates that there is a very close relationship between mental states and mental capacities and the development of the states of the brain.
Many contemporary philosophers and psychologists believe that the proper conclusion is that the mind is in fact purely physical: it is identical with the brain. Other philosophers and psychologists hold that this conclusion is too strong, and that the mind, rather than being identical with the brain, is instead causally dependent upon it. For the purpose of our discussion tonight though, for the present argument, it doesn't matter which of these views is the right one since, regardless of whether the mind is actually identical with the brain or merely causally dependent upon it, we can draw the following conclusion: To wit, none of the minds with which we are definitely acquainted can exist independently of physical arrangements of matter. All the minds that we are definitely acquainted with have a material basis.
If this conclusion is correct, it would seem that we are justified in making a standard inductive extrapolation upon it and concluding that probably there is no mind that exists independently of some associated physical arrangement of matter that it is either identical with or at least causally dependent upon.
Now if one used the term 'God' to mean a being that is immaterial or spiritual then it would follow immediately that it is unlikely that such a God exists. I didn't incorporate that requirement into the definition of God I gave at the beginning but I think there is good reason for drawing the same conclusion nonetheless. The reason is that I think one can argue that, given what we know about the universe, it would be impossible for there to be a being that was omnipotent and omniscient and that was physical in nature. So it seems to me that, even if one does not hold that God is by definition immaterial, what we are presently justified in believing about the nature of minds with which we are acquainted makes it reasonable to believe that it is unlikely that God exists.
That's the second argument. My third argument is the argument from the apparent hiddenness of God, and it turns upon two claims. The first is that if it's true that God exists then that is a very important truth. The second is that if God exists, his existence is by no means as evident as it could be. So if God exists, he is to some extent hiding himself.
Now the first claim probably requires little in the way of defense since most people, I think, will readily grant that, if God exists, then that is a very important piece of information. And it is easy to see why people should take that view. For if God is defined as above, and God exists, then in the end justice will be done and good will triumph. Moreover if God exists then there's a real possibility that death is not the end of the individual's existence. And given that the existence of God has these other consequences, it seems only reasonable to hold that if God exists, that fact is a very important one.
What about the second claim---that is, the claim that if God exists, his existence is not as evident as it could be? Even most people who believe in the existence of God will grant that God's existence is not exactly obvious, since, if it were, people would be no more inclined to doubt or reject the claim that God exists than they would be to question the existence of tables and chairs, trees and the flowers, people and animals.
But while granting this, believers attempt to respond that there's nothing surprising about this. After all, God is immaterial; he has a mind and no body. This response, however, does not meet the point. The relevant claim was not that God's existence could be as evident as that of physical things. It was rather that the existence of God-or, at least, the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient person-could be more evident, indeed, much more evident than it presently is. And this latter claim can, I believe, be given very strong support, for it's easy to imagine events that could occur, and which are such that if they did occur, would be sufficient to convince any rational person of the existence of God---or at least of the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient person, if not a morally perfect one.
For example, we can imagine either a voice in the sky speaking different languages over different countries, or else a telepathic communication for all who request it, where the content of the communication involves information that is far in advance of what we now possess. It might involve, for example, solutions to problems that mathematicians have been working on unsuccessfully for centuries.
You could also imagine impressive displays of great power. A voice from the sky announces that the earth will disappear in exactly five minutes and then reappear on the other side of the solar system. This occurrence then takes place. If this sort of scenario were appropriately fleshed out, surely it would be true both that one would have excellent reason for believing that there is a being with unlimited knowledge and unlimited power, and that one would thereby have better evidence for the existence of God than one presently possesses.
The argument can now be put very briefly as follows: It is agreed that if it is true that God exists, this is a very important truth. It has been shown that the world could be such that the existence of God would be much more evident than it presently is. So if God exists, he is to some extent hiding his reality from us, and, thereby, is depriving many people of firm knowledge of a very important truth.
The crucial question is, "What explanation could be offered for this fact?" Various answers have been proposed-such as the idea that it is somehow crucial for there to be epistemic, or cognitive distance between ourselves and God. I believe that it can be argued that none of those answers is satisfactory. If that's right, then if God does in fact exist, his hiddenness is an extremely puzzling fact. In contrast, if God does not exist, there is of course no problem why the existence of God is not as evident as it might be.
The conclusion, accordingly, is that one should accept the belief that God does not exist, since that is the hypothesis that provides the best explanation of the fact that God's existence is much less evident than it could be.
My fourth argument is the argument from evil. This is also my final argument, as I'm afraid that I have only four arguments rather than six. (Actually I expected Dr. Craig to present about sixteen, so that it would have been a real challenge to answer all sixteen in about twelve minutes. But answering six in twelve minutes will itself be a bit of a challenge.)
Argument number four-sometimes also referred to as the argument from suffering-is the argument that most philosophers think constitutes the most powerful objection against belief in the existence of God. It's also, I think, the argument that is most easily appreciated even by people who are not trained in philosophy or religious studies.
The argument focuses upon the fact that the world appears to contain states of affairs that are bad or undesirable, and it asks, in effect, how the existence of such states of affairs are to he squared with the existence of God.
The argument has a number of different forms. In one well-known variation, it is advanced as an argument in support of the following claim: It is logically impossible for it to be the case both that there is evil and that God exists. That argument goes as follows: if God exists, he will want to eliminate evil since he is by definition morally perfect. Being omniscient, he will know about any evil that happens to exist, and being omnipotent, he will have the power to eliminate any evil. So if God exists, he will be willing and able to eliminate any evil that there is. Therefore, if God exists, there will not be any evil. But the world does contain evil. Therefore God does not exist.
Now that's a rather striking and initially it might seem like an impressive argument. But there are serious objections to it. So it's important to be clear that I'm not advancing any sort of claim that there's a contradiction between the existence of God and the existence of evil. What I am defending is the following more modest claim: There are some evils that actually exist in the world that make it very unreasonable to believe that God exists--not impossible, but very unreasonable.
When the argument from evil is understood in this way, it can be put roughly as follows:
First of all, isn't it true that there are a number of changes that can be made in our world or that could have been made in the past, that it is very reasonable to believe would probably have made the world a better place? Think about that question. Isn't it reasonable to believe, for example, that the world would be improved if a cure for cancer were discovered? Or a cure for mental illness? Or isn't it reasonable to believe that the world would have been a better place if a polio vaccine were discovered earlier than it was-say in the year 1900---so that all of the people paralyzed between 1900 and the time of the Salk vaccine wouldn't have been paralyzed? And isn't it reasonable to believe that the world would have been a better place if, say, Hitler had died of a stroke, before he had a chance to pursue some of his more ambitious undertakings?
Now note that I'm not claiming that these things couldn't possibly have made the world a better place. Perhaps if Hitler had died before having had the opportunity of implementing his 'final solution' to the Jewish problem' there might have been someone out of the several million people who would thereby have been spared who would have turned out to be a mad genius who would have constructed a doomsday machine and would have destroyed all of life on earth. That might have been the case. Similarly it might be the case that if a cure for cancer were discovered today the results would be that the world would be destroyed in two years by someone who would have died had the cure not been discovered. But these possibilities do nothing to undermine the claim that it's reasonable to believe that the changes in question are ones that would make the world a better place. If you discovered a cure for cancer you would surely not conclude that you should keep it secret on the grounds that it was possible that the cure might save the life of someone who would later go on to destroy the world.
Secondly, notice that it does not matter whether the changes in question are ones that are brought about by human action. Suppose that the ocean just happened to wash some shells up onto the shore in a pattern of some English sentences describing a cure for cancer. If those sentences turned out to be true and cancer was thereby eliminated from the world-by a fantastic accident rather than by human endeavor---it still would be very reasonable to believe that this would make the world a better place.
Suppose we have a person---let's call him John---who knows a cure for cancer, who is able to communicate it to mankind, but who refuses to do so. Given that it is reasonable to believe that knowledge of a cure for cancer would make the world a better place, what conclusions could we draw about our friend John? The answer would seem to be that either John has an unreasonable belief to the effect that making a cure for cancer known to mankind would not make the world a better place, or John's moral character is defective---not only does it fall short of moral perfection but John is far less good than the average person.
Similarly, suppose that some person, Mary, knew of Hitler's plans to kill several million people, and could have killed him, but refrained from doing so. Given that it is reasonable to hold that the death of Hitler would have made the world a better place, what conclusion could you draw regarding Mary? The answer, surely, is that either Mary had an unreasonable belief to the effect that the world would be a better place if Hitler were allowed to go ahead with his idea of killing several million people, or else Mary's moral character was grossly defective.
Suppose finally, that there is a single person who could have done these things and more: a person who knows of a cure for cancer who could communicate it to us; a person who could have killed Hitler or otherwise diverted him from his wicked ways; a person who could have told us how to eliminate polio; a person who could have stopped Stalin from having millions of people murdered; a person who could have eliminated mental illness; and so on through countless changes that it is very reasonable to believe would make, or have made, the world a better place. What conclusion could you draw concerning such an individual? The answer, surely, is that either that individual would have to have a large number of unreasonable beliefs---to the effect that the world would not be improved by the elimination of cancer or mental illness, that it would not be improved by the elimination of polio in 1900, that it would not be improved by stopping Stalin and Hitler before they had succeeded in killing millions---or else, that individual is not only far less good than the average person, but profoundly evil. And either way, such an individual could not be God, since he would have to be less than perfect either in regard to knowledge or in regard to moral character.
The argument can now be stated very briefly. If there were an omniscient, omnipotent being, it would certainly be capable of making the changes in question. As we have just seen, however, if it is reasonable to believe the changes in question would make the world a better place, then it is reasonable to believe that an individual who could make those changes, but who does not, could not be God. It therefore follows that if it is reasonable to believe those changes would make the world a better place, then it is reasonable to believe that any omniscient and omnipotent being who happens to exist cannot possibly be God. This means in turn that if it's reasonable to believe those changes would make the world a better place then it is reasonable to believe that God does not exist. But there are surely reasons to believe that eliminating cancer would make the world a better place, and similarly, that stopping Hitler would have made the world a better place. Therefore it's reasonable to believe that God does not exist. Thank you.
You'll recall I said I was going to argue that there are no good reasons to think that atheism is true, Dr. Tooley has responded by arguing that it is reasonable to believe that God does not exist. Now notice, first of all, that that is not enough to justify atheism. He's got' to argue more than that it's reasonable to believe atheism is true: he’s got to argue that atheism is more reasonable than is theism. Now has he managed to justify that? Well, I don't think so.
1. What about atheism as a default position? Frankly, I'm very surprised to hear this argument coming from him because I think it's clear that the failure of arguments for God's existence in no way proves that God therefore does not exist. Kai Nielsen, who is an atheist philosopher, makes this point as follows. He says,
To show that an argument is invalid or unsound is not to show that the conclusion of the argument is false. ... All the proofs of God's existence may fail, but it still may be the case that God exists. In short, to show that the proofs do not work is not enough by itself. It may still be the case that God exists.18
Atheism does not simply win by default.
Let me give you an analogy. In current cosmology, many scientists believe that there was an era of inflationary expansion in the early history of the universe. We have at this point no positive evidence, however, of such an era. Does that therefore mean that no such era ever existed? Of course not. The absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. Atheism doesn't simply win by default.
2. What about the nature of minds? The evidence shows, Dr. Tooley says, that minds are dependent upon physical states, and therefore he draws the conclusion that there can be no mind that exists independently of matter. Well, I guess I'm just not impressed by the argument because it seems to me that's a whopping big inference to make. Let me just respond with a couple of points.
First of all, all that the evidence shows is that being embodied is a common property of minds, but that doesn't show that it's an essential property of minds. To draw the conclusion that there can be no unembodied mind you'd have to show that this is an essential property. I don’t see how he can do that.
Secondly, he neglected to mention there's a good number of people who defend dualism-interactionism today-people like Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir John Eccels, the great neurologist, or his collaborator Karl Popper, one of the greatest philosophers of science. They wrote a book called The Self and its Brain19 and defended dualism-interactionism, according to which the self and the brain work together in tandem.
Thirdly, how about our experience of human freedom? Surely this counts as some sort of evidence for a mind or soul that exists independently (or can exist independently) of the brain. If the mind is simply the brain or is totally causally dependent upon the brain, then everything you think or choose or do is determined by the stimuli that you receive. But surely our experience of human freedom suggests that we are not just deterministic machines, that minds are not simply reducible to the brain or causally dependent upon it. So I think he's just making a very, very large inference here from data which don't support it.
3. What about the apparent hiddenness of God? He argues that it is deeply puzzling that God is hidden. Well, here I would simply agree with Pascal, the French philosopher, who said that God has given evidence which is sufficiently clear for those with an open mind and open heart, but sufficiently vague so as not to compel those whose hearts are closed.20 I think that those who are seeking for God, who are open to God, will find the evidence satisfactory. In fact the New Testament says that God's existence is evident to all persons through the created order around us and by the moral law that we sense in our hearts.21 Moreover, the New Testament says that God hasn't simply left us to work out by evidence whether He exists, His Spirit also speaks to the heart of every person, drawing us to Him.22 That was my sixth point. If we respond to His drawing, I think that we can come to know God in a personal way and have that experience of Him immediately. So this apparent hiddenness, I think, is just God's not being coercive.
4. What about the argument from evil? Dr. Tooley argues that it's very unreasonable to believe that God exists. This is his most important argument, and I want to make several points by way of response.
(1) I want to suggest that there is no way for us to know that God doesn't have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evils that occur. In his article on this subject, Dr. Tooley admits that the whole argument for evil stands or falls upon the claim that there are in the world evils which are such that God would have no morally sufficient reason for permitting them.23 And I would suggest that you just can't know that.
There are two reasons why you cannot prove that God lacks morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil:
(i) In order to know that it is actually true that God lacks such reasons, Dr. Tooley would have to prove it to be necessarily true. You see, otherwise there are possible worlds which are exactly like this one, with exactly the same evils occurring in them, and yet in those worlds God justly permits such evils. So how do you know the actual world isn't one of those possible worlds? The only way you can know that is by proving that necessarily God can't have morally sufficient reasons for these evils.
But Dr. Tooley admits in his article that he cannot prove that this is necessarily true. He admits, for example, that it's possible that God prevents animals from feeling pain even though they exhibit pain behavior, or that evils could be justified through life after death.24 So as long as these are possible, he cannot demonstrate that it is necessarily true that God lacks morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. And if he can't prove that it’s necessarily true, I don't think he can prove that it's actually true.
(ii) I want to argue that we're just not in a good position to assess the probability of whether God lacks morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evils that occur. Take an analogy from chaos theory. In chaos theory, scientists tell us that even the flutter of a butterfly’s' wings could produce forces that would set in motion causes that would produce a hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean. And yet looking at that butterfly palpitating on a branch, it is impossible in principle to predict such an outcome. Similarly, an evil in the world, say, a child's dying of cancer or a brutal murder of a man, could set a ripple effect in history going, such that God's morally sufficient reason for permitting it might not emerge until centuries later or maybe in another country. We're just not in a position to be able to make these kinds of probability judgements.
William Alston, a philosopher at the University of Syracuse, summarizes the point. He says, "The judgements required by the [probabilistic] argument from evil are of a very special and enormously ambitious type and our cognitive capacities are not equal to this . . .. We are simply not in a position to justifiably assert that God would have no sufficient reason for permitting evil."25 So I don’t think that you can show that that central premise of his argument stands.
(2) Christian doctrines increase the probability of the coexistence of God and the evils in the world. Let me just mention a couple of these.
(i) On the Christian view, the purpose of life is not happiness as such in this life. Rather it is the knowledge of God---which will ultimately produce true and everlasting happiness. What that means is that many evils occur in this life which might be utterly pointless with respect to producing human happiness. But they might not be pointless with respect to producing the knowledge of God. Dr. Tooley assumes when he talks about changes that would make this world a better place, that the purpose of life is basically to be happy in this life. And I certainly admit that you could make changes that might appear to make this life a better place, make it happier. But that's not God's purpose. So if you understand that the purpose of life is not happiness as such, I think that you can see that the existence of evil doesn't necessarily cast any improbability upon God's existence.
(ii) It's also the Christian view that God's purpose spills over into eternal life. In the afterlife God will bestow a glory and happiness upon us that is incomparable to what we’ve suffered here on earth. And the longer we spend in eternity with Him, the more the sufferings in this life shrink by comparison to an infinitesimal instant. Dr. Tooley admits in his article that it is possible that immortality could justify such evils. But, he says, it's "very unlikely" that there is life after death. Well, I have two comments. First, I'd like him to prove that it's unlikely that there is life after death.26 Second, I suggest that the resurrection of Jesus gives us grounds for hoping in life after death, and I've attempted to justify that historically. So given these Christian doctrines, I think you can see that the existence of God and evil is not so improbable after all.
(3) The arguments for God's existence outbalance the argument from evil. Dr. Tooley admits in his article that if one had a proof for God, then one would have a defense which would be compatible with one’s not being able to say, for any of the problematic evils, what morally sufficient reason there is for allowing its existence.27 In other words, even if you couldn't explain why God permitted such evils, if you have a proof for God, that would solve the problem. You wouldn't need to be able to explain what His morally sufficient reason was. In the first speech, I attempted to give just such an argument for an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being. I think that these arguments simply outbalance any argument that there might be from evil in the world.
(4) Finally, I think that there is actually an argument for God from evil. It would go like this:
(i) If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. If there is no God, moral values are either socio-biological by-products or just expressions of personal preference.
(ii) Evil exists. That's the premise of the atheist. There is real evil in the world.
(iii) Therefore, objective values do exist. Some things are really wrong.
(iv) Therefore, God exists.
Thus the presence of evil in the world actually demonstrates God's existence because in the absence of God, there wouldn't be any distinction objectively between good and evil, between right and wrong. So although evil in one sense calls into question God's existence, in a much deeper sense, I think, it actually requires God's existence.
So in the light of these four responses, I think that the argument from evil, as difficult and emotionally pressing as it might be, in the end doesn't constitute a good argument against the existence of God. So I think the four arguments given against the existence of God by Dr. Tooley are inconclusive. You've still got my six arguments for God's existence, and therefore I still think that on balance the evidence favors theism as the more rational worldview.
I don’t have time to answer all six of Dr. Craig's arguments. Perhaps his idea is that there is safety in numbers. If you offer enough arguments, some may escape rebuttal. (Actually I've prepared responses to four or five of them. Whether I can get through those responses in the limited time allotted is another question!)
Let me begin with Dr. Craig's second argument and by addressing the question why anything at all exists. The first point to be made about this is that if you bring God into it, the question then is not why the universe exists but why God plus the universe exists. And it's not clear that one is any better off.
Now Craig thinks that one is better off, because of a certain sort of philosophical argument called the Kalam version of the cosmological argument. And the crux of that argument, as he indicated, is the belief that there cannot be an actual infinity of things. He offered no arguments for that claim. He simply appealed to authority. I'm going to offer an argument for the claim that there can be an actual infinity of states of affairs.
The argument can be put in terms of the following two assumptions: Assume, first of all, a realist view of space. That is, assume that space is not just a matter of relationships between objects in space, and that you could have empty space, as Newton thought, and as is compatible with the general theory of relativity. Secondly, assume that space is continuous: rather than being made up of discrete parts, it's characterized by continuity. Then take a small stretch of space-take for example the stretch of space that coincides with this distance between my hands. Lets call this a meter.
The continuity of space means that space can be divided up into subregions. There's a subregion that ranges from this end to essentially the halfway point. Call that subregion number one. There's another subregion ranging from the halfway point to the three-quarter point. Call that subregion number two. If space is real, both of those regions are real. It is not a matter of any potentiality there; it's not a matter of dividing up, as one might slice a piece of butter into two pieces. The regions exist regardless of whether there’s anyone around thinking about it, or anything. Similarly, you have another region ranging from the three-quarter point to the seven-eighth point, and so on. In general, in any finite stretch of space, if space is continuous and real, there will be an infinite number of actual subregions all of finite size. (We're not talking about the points here: we're talking of regions of finite length.) So that's one example of an actual infinity.
Another example is this. People believed for a long while that space was Euclidean. Indeed, some philosophers believed that they could prove that it had to be Euclidean. It was only with the development of non-Euclidean geometry that people came to believe that it was possible for space to be non-Euclidean. In any case, suppose that it is really possible for space to be Euclidean. That means that it has no boundaries. You can take a region that is a meter long, and that region will exist next to another region a meter long, and next to it there will be another region a meter long, and so on. And that's not a matter of potentialities: it's a matter of an actual infinity of spatial regions within Euclidean space. So Dr. Craig would have us believe, without offering any argument at all, that that's impossible.
So that's one argument---a version of the Kalam cosmological argument. Dr. Craig also appeals to the Big Bang. Here my remarks are based in part on a paper, "Should We Believe in the Big Bang," by Mark Zangari and Graeme Rhook read at the Philosophy of Science Association Conference about a month ago. For there are points in their paper which are very relevant to Dr. Craig's argument.
First, the Big Bang theory has recently been criticized by a number of physicists who contend that it suffers some critical anomalies, such as the flatness problem and the horizon problem.
Secondly, there is evidence against the Big Bang interpretation of red shift, since there is evidence that nearby objects have intrinsic red shifts independent of their velocity relative to the earth.
Thirdly, the Big Bang theory is supported in part by its prediction of background radiation. That's one of the main reasons it was adopted. But Zangari and Rhook point out in their article that the Big Bang theory predicts a background radiation of five degrees Kelvin, whereas the measured temperature is not five degrees but two point seven degrees Kelvin. If you consider Hoyle's theory, which was published in 1946, it also predicted background radiation, and the method used there turns out to predict background radiation of a temperature of two point eight degrees Kelvin, almost exactly the observed temperature. So it's a theory that does a better job of explaining background radiation than the Big Bang theory.
Fourthly, in order to avoid serious anomalies-such as the flatness problem and the horizon problem-the Big Bang theory had to introduce an additional hypothesis called the inflation hypothesis. But that hypothesis has recently come under serious attack.
Fifthly, the Big Bang theory predicts an enormous amount of matter that hasn’t yet been observed-something of the order of ninety-eight percent to ninety-nine percent-so-called dark matter. Physicists have been searching for this dark matter, and haven't succeeded in finding it.
Finally, there are serious inconsistencies between estimates of the ages of the stars and the age of the universe. I noticed that Dr. Craig mentioned that the universe is about fifteen billion years old. According to the New York Times, October 27th, the best estimate now is that it's between eight billion and twelve billion years old. And unfortunately, the best estimate of the age of certain stars is about sixteen billion years old. So the theory is hopelessly inconsistent at the present.
Many philosophers, including William Craig-perhaps especially William Craig-are extremely incautious in their use of physical theories. People like Richard Swinburne---who is Professor of Philosophy of the Christian Religion at Oxford University---are much more careful in this area, and Swinburne points out that this area of physics is in a highly unstable state. The first point about the Big Bang version of the argument is, thus, that one needs to be very careful about relying on scientific theories that are not well established.
The second main point is this-that even if the Big Bang theory is right and our present universe goes back to a singularity, it's just a complete fallacy to think that that means it had to have a non-physical cause. It's perfectly possible that our spatio-temporal world is embedded in a larger spatio-temporal world---a hyper-space---and that within that hyper-space there is a physical explanation-a material explanation-of the origins of the various subuniverses. Dr. Craig thinks he can rule that possibility out on the basis of the Kalam cosmological argument. But as we saw earlier, that depends on the completely unsound claim that there cannot be an actual infinity, the claim that I refuted earlier. So there is nothing in the Big Bang argument.
Let us turn now to Dr. Craig's third argument-sometimes called the "fine tuning argument." This involves certain calculations of the probability of their being a universe that supports life. The first point to be made with regard to this is that these calculations are simply unsound. For the calculations to be sound, you would have to look at all logically possible laws and boundary conditions. But the calculations Craig has in mind aren't made that way. What they have done is to look only at laws rather like ours, and to consider the extent to which the constants can be changed. But that means that the argument is unsound.
The second important point is that there is an alternative explanation, for an explanation of the many worlds sort is possible. Other people have tried, unlike Craig, to offer arguments against this. Swinburne, for example, attempts to offer an argument. He tries to maintain that the many worlds account is not as simple as the theistic account. But Swinburne has overlooked a certain type of move that can be made at this point-namely, that it's not that one has to postulate a number of independent universes in the many universes account, since one can explain all of them in terms of a single law. So in fact the many worlds account, as properly formulated, can be an extremely simple account and, arguably, is simpler than the theistic alternative. (This is what I call the 'superlaw' hypothesis---a hypothesis that underpins and explains the many worlds hypothesis.)
Dr. Craig's fourth argument was the argument from objective values. Craig's setting out of this argumentation was interesting, for there was no real argument offered. It was simply claimed that if there are objective values, there must be a God. No God, no objective values.
That contention goes against certain quite famous philosophical arguments, one going back to Plato's Euthyphro. The argument involves asking whether the gods love the things that are holy because they are holy or whether things are holy because they were loved by the gods.
There is a theory which has the consequence that there cannot be objective moral laws unless God exists---that's the so-called 'divine command theory of morality'. What it says is that an action is wrong because and only because God forbids it. And an action is obligatory because and only because God demands it. If that theory were right, then there would be an argument in support of the claim that Dr. Craig has advanced. But that theory is quite a hopeless theory because of it's implications, One of its implications, for example, is that if God had commanded mankind to torture one another as much as possible, then it would follow that that action was obligatory. Perhaps Dr. Craig would be happy with that consequence. But many people, including many religious thinkers, are very unhappy with that consequence, and so have rejected the divine command theory of morality.brit
The divine command theory of morality represents one way in which one might think that the existence of God was presupposed by the existence of objective moral values. Unfortunately, Dr. Craig has not offered any explanation of the connection that he believes to exist between the two, so I can't really offer an argument against his own view concerning the connection. Perhaps he'll say something about this later on.
The other point that needs to be made, however, is that there are a number of ethical theories--such as that of the famous British philosopher G.E. Moore--in which moral values are identified with non-natural properties, which provide one with perfectly objective values even in a world without God. Consequently, the existence of God is just completely irrelevant for the existence of objective moral values.
Turning now to Dr. Craig's fifth argument, let me comment briefly on the resurrection of Jesus. Again, there were a number of points which were quickly thrown out, and which it is very difficult to come to terms with in such limited time. If one had a couple of hours to discuss the various considerations, one could do something rather useful. Nevertheless, let me say a few things very quickly.
The basic point I want to make in the time remaining is that there have been many studies of how (given a situation in which nothing exciting happens, where nothing really has taken place) fabulous stories gradually develop which are elaborated over time with the introduction of more detail, and with descriptions of events that are ever more miraculous.
One of the more scholarly accounts is that of A.D. White's classic book, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom,28 in a chapter entitled "The Growth of Healing Legends" where he's discussing the miracles attributed to St. Francis Xavier. What White shows is that, if you look at the writings of St. Francis Xavier and his contemporaries, there are no references to miraculous events. But when you look at Xavier's early biographers, you start seeing some minor miraculous events coming in. You look further along, at the accounts offered by later biographers, and eventually you have accounts of St. Francis Xavier raising people from the dead, with complete details of the names, the towns and so on where these events supposedly took place.
There have been similar investigations of miraculous claims in the present day---such as Louis Rose's book on faith healing.29 All of these investigations have had the same result---namely, the evidence for miracles has turned out never to be satisfactory. Thank you.
The contentions that I said I was going to defend were:
I. There's no good reason to think that atheism is true. I think to this point in the debate we have still not seen any persuasive reasons to think that atheism is more plausible than theism. You remember my refutations to his four arguments.
II. There are good reasons to think that theism is true. Let me review my arguments.
1. God is the best explanation for the existence of abstract objects. Dr. Tooley didn't say anything about this, but I think this is an important argument for God as an omniscient mind. The existence of propositions and other conceptual entities aren’t lodged in human minds; they're lodged in a divine, omniscient mind.
2. God is the best explanation of why the universe exists rather than nothing. I was amazed here by Dr. Tooley's attack on the Big Bang model, which is the reigning paradigm in physical cosmology today, as well as some of his other points. Let me just review them.
First, he says that I don't answer the question why God exists. But the underlying premise of my argument is that whatever begins to exist has a cause, Since God doesn't begin to exist, He doesn't need a cause. That's not special pleading for God, since that's what the atheist has always said about the universe: it's eternal and uncaused--- it doesn’t need to have any explanation. But now that's become untenable in light of Big Bang cosmology as well as my philosophical argument.
Secondly, can an actual infinite exist? I did give an argument against this, I said that self-contradiction s result if you have an actual infinite instantiated in reality-such as infinity minus infinity. I could give other specific examples if you would like. But he says, look, if you have a realist view of space, and space is continuous, then there is an actual infinite. Well, I deny the second assumption. I deny that space is continuous in the sense of being composed of an actually infinite number of points. That's just an assumption on his part, It's question begging. I would say that space as a whole or a geometrical line as a whole exists logically prior to any points that you might specify in it. And therefore, while space is continuous in the sense of being potentially infinitely divisible, it is not composed of an actual infinite number of points.
Similarly, he says space could be Euclidean. I don't see any reason to think that, I would deny that physical space could be Euclidean in the sense of being actually infinite because the notion of an actual infinite ultimately results in self -contradictions.
Then he begins to attack the Big Bang theory based on one article. And I think the arguments he gave are simply not enough to overthrow this paradigm. For example, the anomalous red-shifts; these have been around for a long time, and they continue to be cleared up as better and better measurements are made of the objects that have these shifts.
He says that it predicts the temperature incorrectly The temperature background for the microwave radiation is certainly within the margin of error that would normally be allowed for scientific theory prediction. I don't know of anybody who thinks that Hoyle's steady state model and the attempts to explain away the background radiation temperatures are superior to the expansion model.
He says it predicts huge amounts of dark matter which don’t exist. That's just incorrect. He's talking about a particular type of inflationary model, But there are many, a wide family, of Big Bang models, In open universes there is no prediction of this kind of dark matter. In fact, I would say the universe is not dense enough to recontract.
He says the universe is dated with an age that is inconsistent with the age of the stars. That's true according to these recent measurements that were made. But what this calls into question is not the expansion of the universe itself, but our theory of galaxy formation, which is admittedly very much inchoate and very much in flux.
From what I understand, the notion of the expansion of the universe is going to be part of any future model of the universe that is developed, even if our theories of galaxy formation and so forth are changed. So unless he's willing to revise things like the expansion of the universe or the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems, he's going to be positing an origin of the universe.
He says, "But there can be a hyperspace beyond space in which our universe originated." That is a postulate of pure faith which is no more scientific and no more rational than belief in the existence of God. And it is especially questionable in view of the fact that there is no independent reason to think that such a metaphysical hyperspace exists, whereas there are independent arguments for the existence of God.
3. What about God’s being the best explanation of the complex order in the universe? He says the calculations are unsound. I don't think that's true. I've read widely in the literature on the Anthropic Principle, and every account says that the delicate balance of initial conditions in the universe is wildly improbable. I don't know of anybody who says that these conditions are probable.
He says you can explain them by a Many Worlds Interpretation. Again, notice that he's appealing to metaphysical entities which are no more scientific and no less metaphysical than theism. I don't see any reason to prefer these interpretations. Moreover, I think they are less simple because you're going to have to have an infinite number of these many worlds, and they're going to have to be random in the distribution' of physical laws in order to be able to explain this universe. And that's certainly less simple than the hypothesis of theism, which has as well independent reasons for adopting it.
4. What about God's being the best explanation of objective moral values? I certainly did give an argument for this. I said that in the absence of God there is no reason to think that human beings are special. There's no reason to think they have these non-natural properties that Dr, Tooley seems to posit. It's much more plausible on the atheistic view that man is just an animal, just a primate, and moral values don't exist.
He attacks the divine command theory of ethics; but notice that a defensible view of the divine command theory is available so long as you say that God's commands are not arbitrary, but are rooted in His own moral nature. So His commands flow, necessarily out of His own nature, and thus you don’t get into the dilemma Dr. Tooley referred to.
5. As for God’s being the best explanation of the resurrection of Jesus, the evidence that I gave already takes into account the hypothesis of legendary development. And as I say, the majority of the critics today hold that you cannot explain away the empty tomb as a late legend akin to St. Francis' miracles. Nor can you explain away the appearances on that basis. So he's got to deal with the evidence for the empty tomb, for the appearances, and for the origin of the Christian faith.
The gospels were written down within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses in the same geographical locale where these stories occurred. There's no comparable lace in history for this kind of rapid legendary development.
6. The last point, that God can be immediately known and experienced, hasn't been dealt with. I'm out of time. I can just say that in my own life God has certainly been an immediate reality, and in the absence of any defeaters for that claim I don't see any reason that I should deny the reality of His existence.
The problem with the appeal to religious experience is that there are different religions, and believers in these very different religions all have experiences of the deities of their own religious. The question, then, is whether or not one can set out any justification for saying, yes, the experiences of Dr. Craig are veridical, but the conflicting experiences of someone in another religion are not veridical. It seems to me the latter claim simply represents a biased point of view, and that there's no justification for it. Moreover, I believe that the diversity of religious experience provides a reason for concluding that any argument from religious experience to the existence of a certain sort of deity, if it appeals to an experience that can be different from one religion to another, must be an unsound argument.
Let me now indicate why I believe that Dr. Craig has not satisfactorily responded to any of the four arguments that I gave.
In the case of the first argument, I didn't sketch it fully, because of time limitations. Let me sketch it very briefly now. The thrust of the argument, in effect', is that if you consider something like the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being, there are other types of omnipotent, omniscient beings. There could be an omniscient, omnipotent being who is, for example, morally evil and supremely so. There could also be omnipotent, omniscient beings who have intermediate moral characteristics. You therefore get a range of omnipotent and omniscient beings with as great a variety of possible moral attributes as you care to imagine, and there's no reason, a, priori, why the existence of one of these should be more probable than the other. But now the crucial point is that at most one omnipotent and omniscient being can exist at any given time. For then, in view of the fact that any number of different types of omnipotent and omniscient beings are logically possible, the probability that any particular one of them would exist---such as an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect one-must surely be (much) less than one half. But if the probability of a proposition is less than one half, the probability of its being false is greater than one half. And so one would have a reason not to accept that proposition. Therefore, atheism is the default position for that reason.
Secondly, as regards the argument that appeals to a fact about all the minds that we are acquainted with, here, as in a number of places, Dr. Craig distorted my argument. I did not claim, as he said, that there could not be a non-embodied mind, for I believe that non-embodied minds are possible. My argument did not, as he suggested, involve the assumption that dualism is false. For I myself am an interactionist dualist, and I was certainly not making assumptions that are contrary to ones I myself believe!
My argument here was a probabilistic argument. The claim was that all the minds we are acquainted with have a certain property---namely, that they are all at least dependent upon physical entities---brains. But if this is so, then it's reasonable to project that property onto any other minds that may happen to exist. And if you do project that property, you arrive at a certain conclusion-not that the existence of God is impossible, but, rather, that the existence of God is unlikely. Dr. Craig just did riot address that argument at all.
What about his response to the hiddenness of God argument? His response was that one that I had expected from him, although it was also one that I was disappointed to hear---namely, that involved in Pascal’s view that "there is enough light for those who wish to see and enough darkness for those who wish to remain in darkness." For what Craig is saying is that if people of good will really make an effort to arrive at a knowledge of God, then they will do so. I suggest that that claim is simply, empirically false. I suggest that there are people who would like to be convinced that God exists, at least if "God' is defined in the way I defined it---rather than in the way that Craig might define it, where the deity is the creator of heaven and hell, and where hell is a place where many---indeed the majority, of people---are going to end up spending eternity. But if one focuses upon the concept of God as I defined it, then it seems to me that anyone, who is thinking clearly would hope that there is such a God. And it also seems to me that I know many people who would like to have that belief, but, having looked at the evidence---including the arguments that I have put forward---are convinced that that belief, unfortunately, is one that is not likely to he true. So I think that Craig's response to my third argument was very unsatisfactory one.
Finally, there were a number of distortions in Craig's discussion of my final argument-the argument from evil. Here, too, it would take some time to go through all of them. The basic point, however, is that, as I emphasized earlier, I was riot making any sort of necessity claim, I was claiming that there was a sound probabilistic argument. And that probabilistic argument rested upon claims about the reasonableness of believing that the world could be improved in certain sorts of ways. I claimed, for example, that the world would be improved by the elimination of cancer, or by the elimination of mental illness; that the world would be a better place if Hitler had been killed before he got the holocaust going, and so on.
Dr. Craig did not address any of those specific claims. He needs to come out and say right off, then, if he thinks the world would not he a better place by the elimination of cancer. What we did, instead, was to accuse me of some sort of utilitarian approach. But I'm not a utilitarian. My approach to ethics is deontological. It's a rights-based approach, rather than utilitarian one. So Dr. Craig's response was a distortion of my view.
The point here---concerning the irrelevance of utilitarianism---can be put this way, Suppose you think there are things other than happiness that matter---as I do. Do you then conclude that the world would not be a better place by the elimination of cancer? That seems to me to be an extraordinary claim. But it seems to be the claim that Dr. Craig is putting forward.
Dr. Craig also referred to my article on the problem of evil,30 and ascribed to me the view that, if one had a proof of the existence of God, then one would have no problem with the argument from evil. Again, this is a distortion. In that article, I considered different sorts of arguments that one might put forward for the existence of God, and the point I made is that there are a very limited number of arguments which would, even if they were sound, provide one with a reason for thinking that there was a morally perfect deity. One argument that would do so is the ontological argument. If the ontological argument were sound, then it would follow that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, morally perfect being. Moreover, since that would be a necessary truth, one would have a conclusive answer to the argument from evil.
But I would claim to be able to offer a decisive refutation of the ontological argument, for I believe that, by paralleling precisely the reasoning that is involved in the ontological argument, you can derive a contradiction. (This is something I've shown in one of my published articles.)
Finally, Dr. Craig rebuked me for pressing the question, What about God plus the universe? What is the cause of that? The reason that he thought that I had made a mistake in raising that issue is that, first, he puts forward a causal principle that says that whatever begins to exist has a cause, and secondly, God, of course, if he exists, always exists.
My view, however, is that it can be shown that Craig's formulation of a principle of causation is an artificially restricted causal principle. I've argued elsewhere that causation is a relation, not between changes, but between states of affairs. So if, for example, you take this table here, Dr. Craig would say that this table could not pop into existence without being caused to pop into existence. Fine, let's assume that’s so. But what about the existence right now of a table that hasn't just now popped into existence? I maintain that it must have a cause just as much in that case of the table that pops into existence. What is the cause? The cause is simply the earlier existence of the table. It's a matter of the conservation laws of matter and energy. So, in short, there's a more general causal principle which one must accept, if one accepts the principle Craig accepts. It's that every, state of affairs requires a cause. And once that causal principle is accepted, then it is clear that there is no advantage in adding God to the physical universe, and saving that God is timeless and changeless. The existence of God is still a state of affairs, and it requires a cause just as much as the existence of the physical universe, Thank you very much.
1 Alvin Plantinga, "Two Dozen (or So) Theistic Arguments," Paper presented at the 33rd Annual Philosophy Conference, Wheaton College, October 23-25, 1986.
2 David Hilbert, "On the Infinite," in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), pp. 139, 141,
3 Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1975), p, 658.
4 Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.
5 Page's estimation is to be found in L. Stafford Betty and Bruce Cordell, "God and Modern Science: New Life for the Teleological Argument"' International Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1987): 416. In fact, as Page explained to me in personal conversation, Betty and Cordell get the number too low, misinterpreting 1010(124) to mean (1010)124, when in fact Page calculated 10(10(124)), an incomprehensibly huge number.
6 Robert Jastrow, "The Astronomer and God," in The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, ed. Roy Abraham Varghese (Chicago: Regenery Gateway, 1984), p. 22.
7 J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 115-6.
8 Ibid., pp., 117-8.
9 Micahael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-9.
10 Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Gay Science," in The Portable Nietzsche, trans. and ed. W. Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1954), p. 95.
11 Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (London: Addison-Wesley, 1982), p. 2715.
12 Jacob Kremer, Die 0sterevangelien-Geschichlen um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50. Kremer uses the word "Exegeten," which I render as "scholars," since the literal "exegetes" would have been unfamiliar to students in the audience
13 D. H. Van Daalen, The Real Resurrection (London: Collins, 1972), p, 41.
14 Norman Perrin, The Resurrection According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Philadelphia: Fortres, 1974), p. 80.
15 Joachim Jeremias, "Die älteste Schicht der Osterüfiberlieferung," in Resurrexit, ed. Edouard Dhanis (Rome: Editrice Libreria Vaticana, 1974), p. 194.
16 John Hick, "Introduction," in The Existence of God, A John Hick, Problems of Philosophy Series (New York: Macmillan Co., 1964), pp. 13-14.
17 James 4. 8,
18 Kai Nielsen, Reason and Practice (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 143-4.
19 John Eccles and Karl Popper, The Self and its Brain (New York: Springer, 1977).
20 Blaise Pascal, Pensées, #430.
21 Romans 19-20; 2.14-15.
22 John 16. 8-11.
23 Michael Tooley, "The Argument from Evil," in Philosophical Perspectives 5: Philosophy of Religion, ed. James E. Tomberlin (Atascadero, Ca.: Ridgeview Publishing, 1991), P. 108.
24 Ibid., pp. 105-6, 126-7.
25 William Alston, "The Inductive Argument from Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition," in Philosophical Perspectives 5: Philosophy, of Religion, ed. James E. Tomberlin (Atascadero, Ca.: Ridgeview Publishing, 1991), pp. 65, 61,
26 Tooley, "Evil," pp. 126-7
27 Ibid. p. 129.
28 Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1896).
29 Louis Rose, Faith Healing, ed. Bryan Morgan (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1971)
30 Tooley, "Evil."