Thursday, September 13, 2018

A quicker and dirtier argument for God

On that forum I told you about a few posts back, you get a limited amount of space to post your responses. The quick and dirty argument for God post actually required me to use multiple posts to get it all in. The subject came up again two or three days ago, so I thought I'd see if I could make a case for God in just one post. After writing the initial draft, I had to edit it down quite a bit, but this is what I ended up with.

Here's a few arguments. These are developed in more detail in books, but this is a basic outline.

The kalam cosmological argument

  • Whatever begins to exist has a cause to its existence.
  • The universe began to exist.
  • Therefore, the universe had a cause to its existence.

You already said you believe in the big bang in your response to somebody else. Well, the big bang was the beginning of the universe. But there are other reasons to think the universe had a beginning, too. There's the second law of thermodynamics. The universe is constantly heading toward thermodynamic equilibrium. That's when all the heat and energy in the universe is evenly distributed, and everything dies down. Cosmologists call this the heat death of the universe, and they say it's inevitable. Well, if the universe had been here for an infinite amount of time, it would've already reached heat death. The fact that it hasn't means it had to have had a beginning a finite time ago.

There are philosophical reasons to think the universe had a beginning, too. There are three I can think of off the top of my head, but let me give you one.

  • If the past had no beginning, it would be composed of an actually infinite collection of equal intervals of time.
  • An actually infinite collection of equal intervals of time cannot be formed by successive addition.
  • The past was formed by successive addition.
  • Therefore, the past cannot be an actually infinite collection of equal intervals of time.
  • Therefore, the past had a beginning.

The universe is all of space, time, and matter, so if the universe had a beginning, then it was an absolute beginning. In other words, it couldn't have come from some previously existing stuff. It had to have come into existence out of nothing at all. And that brings me to the first premise. It's impossible for something to spontaneously pop into existence uncaused out of nothing at all. The reason is because if nothing at all existed, there couldn't even be any probability that something would pop into existence since "nothing" doesn't have properties. Without even the potential for something to come into being, nothing could. The only way something could is if it had a cause.

So there was a cause to the beginning of the universe. That cause couldn't have been anything physical because the universe is all that's physical. So the cause of the universe had to be something completely outside of space, time, energy, and matter.

Christians say that God is a spirit, and a spirits are non-physical. So while this argument alone doesn't prove God, per se, is does point in that direction. Something like God created the universe. I'll call it god with a little g for simplicity.

These arguments for the beginning of the universe don't apply to god because god is not physical, and god doesn't exist in time. So the question of what caused god to come into existence doesn't apply.

Argument from contingency

A contingent truth is a truth that didn't have to be true. It's a truth that could've been false. The statement, "I have a cat," is true, but it could've been false because I didn't have to adopt him. So me having a cat is a contingent truth.

A necessary truth is a truth that could not have been otherwise. It's impossible for it to be false. Take the statement, "Two plus two is four." That's a necessary truth because it's true in all possible worlds.

In either case, you can ask, "Why is it true?" or "What makes it true?" In the case of necessary truths, it's true because it's impossible for it to not be true. It's necessity alone is a sufficient explanation for why it's true. In the case of contingent truths, it's true because of something else that's true. The reason I have a cat is because I adopted him. So with contingent truths, there's always another truth that explains why the contingent truth is true.

In the same way as there are these two kinds of truths, there are also two kinds of beings--necessary beings and contingent beings. If a being is necessary, then the reason it exists is because it's impossible for it to not exist. If a being is contingent, then the reason it exists is because of something else that exists and that explains why the contingent thing exists.

The universe is a contingent thing. There are lots of reasons, but I'll just give two. One reason is because anything made of parts is contingent, and the universe is made of parts. Composite entities can always be disassembled, and those entities will no longer exist. My desk, for example, can be disassembled, and my desk will no longer exist.

You might say that whereas the desk wouldn't exist, the parts would still exist, and maybe the parts are necessary. In the case of the universe that leads to odd results. The universe is made up of stuff--protons, neutrons, electric fields, space, gravity, etc. Some people think everything is made up of tiny vibrating strings. If the universe is made up of parts that are each necessary beings, then the number of them is also necessary. That means there couldn't be one more or one less. But that is very odd, so probably the parts of the universe are not necessary beings, and neither is the universe as a whole.

If the universe is contingent, then ultimately it has to be explained by something that is not contingent. So there has to be a necessary being of some sort that's behind it all--that explains it all. So again we're back to something that exists apart from the universe. Not only would it be non-physical and a-temporal, but it would also be a single simple thing not composed of parts. This would fit the description of God--a non-physical (and therefore non-composite) single being without peers (since there can't be more than one), that is the basis of everything else that exists. So we're getting closer and closer to what theists mean by God.

Moral argument

There's one more argument--the moral argument. It goes like this.

  • If there is no god, then there are no objectively true moral facts.
  • There are at least some objectively true moral facts.
  • Therefore, there is a god.

Let me explain what I mean by objectively true moral facts. Consider these two statements:

  • Vanilla ice cream tastes great.
  • The earth is round.

These are two different kinds of statements. One is objective, and the other is subjective. One depends on the subjective preferences of the person making the claim, and the other depends on the properties of the object itself. I'm sure you can tell which is which.

Now let's look at this statement.

  • It's wrong to torture people just for the fun of it.

If it's a subjective statement, then it's just an expression of the personal preferences of the person making the claim. It doesn't actually apply to anybody except the person making the claim.

Here's another similar statement.

  • You ought not be cruel.

This is a statement of obligation. If it's objective, then it applies to people whether they want it to or not. If it's subjective, then it doesn't apply to other people. It's just the sentiment of the person making the claim. But we never treat these kinds of statements as if they were subjective. When we judge other people--which we all do--we treat them as if these moral obligations actually applied to them, which means we all take them to be objective. If I have any obligations at all that I cannot simply opt out of by adopting a different point of view, then there are objectively true moral obligations.

You have to be honest with yourself about morality. It's one thing to say you're a moral relativist, but it's another thing to actually believe it and live consistently with it. If you saw somebody skinning a cat alive just to laugh and watch it suffer, could you honestly say that person wasn't doing anything wrong?

If there were no sentient beings of any kind--just stars, galaxies, astroids, etc.--then nothing could be right or wrong. Stuff would just happen. So the only way there could be right or wrong is if sentient beings exist.

So morality depends on persons. But if morality originated in humans, that would leave us with cultural relativism or individual subjectivism. Morality wouldn't be objective because it would depend either on each individual or on each culture.

That leads to counter-intuitive results. It would mean that no culture is better than another, and no culture can improve morally. A slave culture is different than a free culture, but neither is morally better than the other.

There can't be objective moral facts unless there's a moral authority that transcends humanity.

Morality is the law above all other laws and by which other laws can be judged. A law is unjust when it violates a moral principle. For example, a law that said white people can own property but black people can't would be an unjust law because it would violate a moral principle. So moral laws are above every law that people can make. That means the authority behind the moral law is higher than any human institution.

But what kind of person or persons could have that kind of authority? No matter where we go in the universe, it's still wrong for us to be cruel to each other, so the authority is universal. Well, look back at my first two arguments. There, I argued that there is a being who stands outside of the universe and who created the universe and is responsible for its existence. That is a perfect candidate for the moral law-giver. It explains how he could have moral authority over the universe. It's because he created the universe, and there is no god over him, and he is a singular being without peers. He's a necessary being, and everything else gets its being from him. He owns it all, and he rules over it autonomously.

So it seems like some sort of God with a big G exists.


At 9/21/2018 11:51 AM , Blogger MOhammed ABuuusteit said...

>There are philosophical reasons to think the universe had a beginning, too. There are three I can think of off the top of my head, but let me give you one.

What would be the other two?

At 9/21/2018 12:08 PM , Blogger Sam Harper said...

One is the Grim Reaper paradox, and the other is the impossibility of the existence of an actually infinite collection.


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