Friday, October 11, 2013

Logical and Scientific Proof for God's Existence

From time to time, I receive queries about the subject of God's existence. My correspondents want to know what logical and scientific proof there is for God's existence.

Most intellectuals throughout history (especially before the modern period) likely have believed in God. An author named Max Fishler wrote a book on this very subject many years ago. Examples of theistic philosophers include Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Georg Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and Soren Kierkegaard.

The philosophical (logical) evidence for God's existence is multifaceted. There have been numerous arguments put forward to prove there is a Supreme Being. But keep in mind that philosophical arguments generally are not apodictic (i.e. irrefutable or incontrovertible). No logical argument is airtight: fault can be found with almost every line of reasoning proferred. But Thomas Aquinas advanced the cosmological argument for the existence of God. See his Summa Theologica.

Aristotle sets forth proof for God's existence in his work Metaphysics (book 12). There is also the Kalam cosmological argument posited by the medieval Islamic philosophers and (in our time) by William Lane Craig.

The Kalam approach could be formulated this way: A) Everything that begins to exist has a cause; B) The universe began to exist; C) Therefore, the universe has a cause. Of course, the argument becomes lengthy and complex, so I merely give you the following as an example.

I believe there is scientific evidence that points toward the existence of God. I'm reading a complex book now that uses new insights from physics to argue for God's existence. One example is the second law of thermodynamics, which suggests that the universe has not always obtained. How did it come into existence? What is the most reasonable explanation? Additionally, the fine-tuning of cosmological constants might suggest that some intelligent entity made the precision of these constants possible. For example, the ratio of gases in the earth's atmosphere or the earth's tilt. Stephen Barr has written an interesting work on the relationship between faith and physics.

6 comments:

larry said...

If God exists, he doesn't seem to bother about what is going on in the world.

Or is it because we have humanized him, that we expect him to be concerned about us humans. But if he is the creator, then he must be "concerned" about all of his creation!

And when you see the type of parasites he created in nature, this creator is not the person Jesus described in the gospels.

Does man "create" his gods in his image? The Jew "creates" a Jewish god, while the Arab creates a god like Allah.

Is that our problem?

Edgar Foster said...

Larry,

I believe that Jews and Christians (particularly) along with other theists expect God to car because that's what the relevant holy texts teach us. See Exodus 34:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7. I agree that God as the Creator is concerned about those made in his image (Gen 1:26-27).

I'm not sure if you're speaking about literal or figurative parasites. I assume that you could mean the latter. If you are referring to people who manifest certain qualities as figurative parasites, then I wouldn't say God created them that way. He gave us free will that can be used or abused. Some abuse it.

There likely are gods created in the image of humans (anthropomorphic deities). But is every divinity made in the image of humanity?

Kevin said...

Dr. Foster,

You said, "But keep in mind that philosophical arguments generally are not apodictic (i.e. irrefutable or incontrovertible). No logical argument is airtight: fault can be found with almost every line of reasoning proferred."

And I think that this is true. But can any human project claim to be apodictic? Even the physical sciences admit that there are no absolutes to be had via the sciences, just evidence and explanations of evidence with more or less corroboration.

I tend to agree with Dr. William Lane Craig (a la Alvin Plantiga) on the question of how the believer "knows" that God exists. To paraphrase, the believer knows that God exists because he has experienced the work of God in his life and knows that this is so in a properly basic way, i.e. it is a belief formed without prior justifying beliefs. It is properly basic, like the existence of the past, the external world, and other minds. God is just as real to the believer as the existence of the past, the external world and other minds in a properly basic way.

The question then becomes: how does the believer "show" or demonstrate to others that God exists? Or, how can a believer become more convinced that this belief is indeed rational and warranted. And this is where arguments come into play.

Edgar Foster said...

Kevin,

I interpret the problem of apodicticity as an epistemological (logical) issue rather than an ontological one. In other words, there is absolute truth, even if we can't prove a certain fact/set of facts to someone.

We pretty much agree when it comes to the role that argumentation should play in the believer's life. I too like Plantinga's approach to questions about God's existence. His basic belief idea (IMO) complements the cosmological, ontological, and moral argument for God's existence. As you mentioned, providing rational evidence is important for those who do not believe in God and even worshipers of God should deepen their understanding of faith.

Kevin said...

Edgar,

I agree with your first paragraph in that this is an epistemological issue. There is indeed something out there independent of our minds to which our thoughts correspond
(poorly or not).

One more additional thought on your second paragraph: I think that the unbeliever that has not experienced the work of God through his spirit will not be moved by arguments in the same way as someone who is experiencing it. They become mere playthings -- an exercise in sophistry.

Nathan said...

Kevin,
As Edgar has highlighted, when conversing with someone about God I find it important to help them understand the difference between epistemic and ontic considerations. For instance, there are a priori claims that can be proffered which can only be denied on pain of irrationality. "Every present-tense proposition is either true or false" is one such claim. This means that either God exists or he doesn't – either way there must be an absolute ontological status to reality. Since God is not a scientific hypothesis, however, we can't expect science alone to uncover this reality any more than throwing a ball will help us understand where circles come from.

Existential arguments like Plantinga's are powerful for the believer, but usually ring hollow to the unbeliever. Convinced as they are that nothing but absolute proof will suffice, most fail to see the evidence that unfurls from any serious ontological reflection, or the powerful abductive conclusions that can be drawn through the application of logic to the fundamental sciences.

Nathan