Does God exist?

From Wikiversity
Jump to: navigation, search
Wikidebate logo.png Resource type: this resource is a wikidebate.
Religious syms.svg Subject classification: this is a religious resource.

Questions about the nature of ultimate reality have been asked as long as humans have been conscious. For thousands of years, across thousands of cultures, belief in a supreme being has been more or less common but some have always called into question whether or not God exists or can even be known. (By "God" we mean the metaphysically ultimate being, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, timeless, simple and devoid of any anthropomorphic qualities. We do not necessarily mean the Abrahamic God, although these ideas may share some overlap.) Is there a God? If so, what does this mean for our lives?

Arguments for[edit]

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of presence either, so the lack of evidence doesn't imply that God exists.
Absence of evidence is weak evidence of absence. A belief in a thing should always be weaker without evidence than with evidence.
For the Universe to exist, there must be an uncaused cause, God, or the Universe must be eternal. So either there's no explanation for God, or there's no explanation for the Universe. The Big Bang is not an explanation, it's a description with no explanation for why it came to be. We then have to rely on chance and happenstance. God fits the picture better.
This assumes the need for an explanation. This is just a false equivalency. Things within the Universe require an explanation. The Universe itself does not require an explanation.
Why would the Universe NOT require an explanation? Asserting is not arguing. The existence of the Universe is certainly mysterious to many, who would definitely appreciate an explanation. Isn't the fact that some people want an explanation enough to make it a legitimate question? And if the question isn't answerable, then that's the answer, which doesn't make it any less of a legitimate question. It's like asking what particular group of atoms made up the first self-replicating organism on Earth. It's a legitimate question, even though the answer is that it can't be answered.
The Universe doesn't require an explanation because we explain things inside the Universe based on the assumption that there is an external factor already explained. This does not apply to the Universe itself because there is nothing external to the Universe by definition. Either the Universe "caused itself" or simply has no cause. This might strike many as nonsensical but that is simply because they are unconsciously extending the logic of parts to the whole, inappropriately.
If God doesn't require a cause, why does the Universe require a cause?
Supposing there was no intelligence behind the Universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.[1]
The same argument applies to the theist. Suppose an intelligence designed our brains. This could mean that our brains were designed for thinking rationally, or it could mean that our brains were designed to come to the wrong conclusions. How do we know which is true? We can't. If I can't trust my own thinking, I can't trust the arguments leading to theism. Assuming God exists does not lead to knowledge that we think rationally.
Nobody designed the stomach for digesting food either, yet with modern biology, we know through a process of evolution over millions of years that the digestive system evolved naturally through an accumulation of beneficial steps. Just like the eye, just like the mind. In short, nature provides a better explanation than God.
If God designed our minds, then why is our reasoning ability so imperfect? Why is it that people confuse correlation with causation? Why do people believe in astrology and other obvious nonsense?
God is the greatest conceivable being. But it's greater to exist than not to exist. Therefore, God exists.[2]
I define an exicorn as an existent horselike creature with a horn and magical properties. Therefore, exicorns exist?
Existence is not a property.
A statement is not an argument. Why isn't existence a property?
The definition of God at the beginning of this debate doesn't say or imply that God is the greatest conceivable being.
According to the definition, God is an all-powerful being. Therefore, if there were some being greater than God, God could become greater (per being all-powerful). So the definition of God as an all-powerful being does imply that God is the greatest conceivable being.
A huge number of humans, throughout centuries, have reported all sorts of encounters with God, from the personal internal type to shared apparitions and public miracles. So many reports cannot all be false or misled, there must be a God causing at least some of them.
Pretty much all of the testimonies will differ in some way, and as such will not support a common cause.
Testimonies differ in many ways, yes, but they all support a common cause: the existence of God. Else they wouldn't be testimonies of the existence of God, wouldn't they?
To know that all these testimonies are testimonies about the same thing, we should know their object (God) independently from these testimonies. I mean: we should first know the object we are talking about (God) in order to be able to recognize that all opinions about it deal with the same object.
All knowledge ultimately reduces to the testimony of one or more people. Objects cannot be known independently of all testimony.
Personal experiences can't be accounted as evidence because there's no evidence to support these reports. How would one prove that these encounters were not a trick of the mind, such as mirages or sleep paralysis, or completely fictional?
Personal experience can be accounted as evidence. Otherwise it would not be reasonable to believe (unless you personally experience it yourself) that all humans are conscious, certain drugs induce hallucinations or certain psychological phenomena exist, such as dreams, sleep paralysis, Alice in Wonderland syndrome, phantom limb etc.
Attributing some encounter with nature, or some unusual phenomenon to the existence of God is a speculative conclusion based on a subjective assessment of the available information. Is contemplation of the beauty of a flower an encounter with God, or simply an appreciation of the fractile nature of the cellular structure that has evolved over millions of years? Are reports of a virgin birth evidence of a miracle, or simply a translation error, a misunderstanding of the mechanisms of conception, or marketing hype?
It is possible that God exists, so God exists in some possible worlds. But if God exists in some possible worlds, then by being omnipotent and omnipresent, He will exist in all possible worlds. Therefore, God exists in our possible world too, the actual world.
This argument assumes that possible worlds are like other Universes in a Multiverse. It assumes that possible worlds are somehow actual worlds far away. But they are not actual worlds, they are just possible worlds.
The fact that God is conceivable doesn't imply that He is possible. God's possibility must be argued, not just stated. God's existence seems to imply some contradictions, and contradictions are impossible, so it may even be impossible that God exists.

Arguments against[edit]

God's existence would imply that he can change the past. This would imply that some things happened and didn't happen at the same time and in the same sense. But contradictions are impossible, so not only God doesn't exist: his existence is impossible.
That wouldn't be a contradiction, because God would know that He changed the past (per being all-knowing). So things that He changed would have happened at the same time, but not in the same sense. He would be able to distinguish them.
As Harry Frankfurt pointed out regarding the omnipotence paradox, doing one impossible thing is no more difficult than doing two impossible things.[3]
God's omnipotence is often described as "can do anything that is not logically impossible", or similarly defined so as to rule out paradoxes deriving from His omnipotence
There is no hard evidence supporting the existence of God.
Evidence is not proof. We're not talking whether it SEEMS true or false, we're talking about what it is.
Evidence is necessary for proof of an empirical statement.
Saying that God exists is not an empirical statement. It's clearly a metaphysical statement. Therefore empirical proof is not necessary or even possible.
It is an empirical statement if we are talking about a God which affects the physical world in some way. I would argue that existence is meaningless outside of an empirical context. What is metaphysical existence?
If God existed, then evil would not exist, as God is conceived as all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful. But evil clearly exists. Therefore, God does not exist.
Evil is poorly defined here
God could have given humans the power to do evil. If humans can do evil, then evil can exist despite there being an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good God.
This would still make God responsible for evil, albeit indirectly.
Moral responsibility is not hereditary. If my (grownup) child commits a crime, no society will (or should) blame me for it. Similarly, if a human does evil, we shouldn't blame God for it. Giving the power to do evil is not the same as doing it. God may even be the (metaphysical) cause of evil, while not being morally responsible for it.
Moral responsibility is partially hereditary. If I knowingly raise my child in a way that makes it highly likely they will commit a crime when grown up that makes me responsible for that crime and subject to blame.
Even if God gave humans free will and the power to do evil, this doesn't imply that there should be evil. A world where free will exists but evil does not is logically possible. God can create any world that is logically possible, so God chose a world where there is unnecessary evil. This contradicts the all-powerful and all-good nature of God.
In order to exist, an entity must exist as something. To exist as something, the entity must have positive primary attributes (ex. I'm a material entity, made up of atoms). All of God's attributes are either negatively defined (ex. omniscience can be reduced to 'without limits of knowledge'), secondary (ex. good) or relational (ex. creator). If a god is Creator, then it must be immaterial, as nothing can cause itself. But “immaterial” is a negatively defined term. Therefore a god’s substance is undefined. All of this is to say that the god concept is incoherent. If this indeed turns out to be the case, then positive belief in such a concept is not possible.
Positive and negative properties are vague notions, often interchangeable. 'Closed' can be reduced to 'not open', just as 'open' can be reduced to 'not closed'. Similarly, 'omniscience' can be reduced to positive terms, like 'with total knowledge' just as it can be reduced to negative ones, like 'without limits of knowledge' or 'without ignorance'. Other properties of God, such as 'all-powerful', can also be thought as either positive or negative: 'with complete power' or 'without limits to its power'.
Even so, saying that something is omniscient is a secondary characteristic - it's telling us what something can do, NOT what it is. If I said humans were an IQ of 120, that doesn't really tell me much of anything about what a human IS (as opposed to saying something like an entity in space/time made up of matter, etc).
Dark matter and dark energy are entities whose existence is generally accepted by the scientific community, despite the fact that we don't know what they are made of. The fact that we don't know what something is made of doesn't imply that it's made of nothing, or that it doesn't exist.
Dark matter and energy are theoretical.
God doesn't exist because of Theophagus, the god-eater. Since Theophagus is god-eating by definition, he has no choice but to eat God. So if God exists, He would immediately cease to exist as a result of being eaten. Unless it's proven that Theophagus doesn't exist, then God doesn't exist.
Without any evidence or logical argument for the existence of such a being, there's no reason to believe Theophagus exists
God is omnipotent and omnipresent, so even if Theophagus exists, God can't be eaten by him.
By its definition, Theophagus eats omnipotent and omnipresent beings.
Particles don't have a position until their wave function collapses, and wave functions collapse when observed. Now, from experiments such as the double-slit experiment, we infer that there are uncollapsed wave functions. Therefore, there is no being observing all particles, no omniscient being, no God.
We don't really understand how observation causes superposition to collapse nor how a being who is outside of spacetime (or alternately who exists in all of spacetime) would even affect superposition. As George Berkeley argued in his version of Idealism, all of the physical universe exists because God is perceiving it.
God of the gaps fallacy.
The wave function collapse does not happen because of observation per se, but when a wave function interacts with a classical environment. If God is all-powerful, he can observe a wave function without interacting with it.
If God is all-knowing, he does not need to observe particles to know their position.
Some infinite traits, such as "omniscience", have a computational complexity equal to infinity, thus the Kolmogorov complexity of a God defined with these attributes is infinite, the prior probability for his existence is epsilon, and "P(X exists) is epsilon" is the statistically literate way of saying "X does not exist".

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. The original version of this argument was brought forth by C. S. Lewis.
  2. This is a version of Anselm's ontological argument.
  3. "For why should God not be able to perform the task in question? To be sure, it is a task—the task of lifting a stone which He cannot lift—whose description is self-contradictory. But if God is supposed capable of performing one task whose description is self-contradictory—that of creating the problematic stone in the first place—why should He not be supposed capable of performing another—that of lifting the stone? After all, is there any greater trick in performing two logically impossible tasks than there is in performing one?" Frankfurt, Harry. "The Logic of Omnipotence" first published in 1964 in Philosophical Review and now in Necessity, Volition, and Love. Cambridge University Press November 28, 1998 pp.1–2