Arguments for the existence of god


The 7 Most Intriguing Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God was the title of an article and of course I had to click on it. The author George Dvorsky started with disclaimers, emphasizing that these were purely philosophical arguments unsupported by any kind of scientific evidence. He added some other caveats:

Now, none of these arguments make a definitive case for the existence of God, and many of them are (fairly) easily debunked or problematized (as I’ll try to show). But at the very least, they offer considerable food for thought.

Finally, by “God” or “god,” we’re not talking about any specific religious deity. As this list shows, the term can encompass everything from a perfect, omnipotent being to something that can be considered even a bit banal.

When you are not sure what you mean by god and you are speculating without evidence, then anything goes. So I was not expecting much and my expectations were confirmed, since the arguments ranged from the old to the wacky, as Dvorsky himself pointed out.

So what are these intriguing arguments?

  1. The very notion of an all-perfect being means God has to exist

  2. Something must have caused the Universe to exist
  3. There has to be something rather than nothing
  4. Something had to have designed the Universe
  5. Consciousness proves that immaterial entities exist
  6. We’re living in a computer simulation run by hacker gods
  7. Aliens are our gods

I suspect that most readers will already be familiar with all these arguments as well as the counter-arguments. You can read the article for elaborations on each.

Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    #6 may be one of those things you can’t disprove, like solipsism. The next question should be: do we have any cause to believe it is true?

  2. AsqJames says

    Now, none of these arguments make a definitive case for the existence of God, and many of them are (fairly) easily debunked or problematized (as I’ll try to show). But at the very least, they offer considerable food for thought.

    In what other area of human inquiry would that preface be acceptable?

    “Here’s 7 reasons you should vote Democrat/Republican. None of them make a convincing case, and many totally contradict reality, but hear me out…”? That’s a campaign ad for the other party.

    Prosecutor: “There are 7 reasons you should convict the defendant. None of them prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and many fly in the face of the evidence presented in this court…”
    Judge: “Case dismissed!”

    This theology stuff’s probably just too sophisticated for me to understand.

  3. Alverant says

    @Selkirk
    If #6 is true, then what are the cheat codes and how do I enter them?
    /weight = weight -50lbs
    /lottowin

  4. Chiroptera says

    The author George Dvorsky started with disclaimers, emphasizing that these were purely philosophical arguments unsupported by any kind of scientific evidence.

    Well, then I’m unlikely to find them at all compelling.

    I mean, seriously? In what other fields of inquiry, outside of Christian dogma and libertarian apologetics, do people think we can come to reasonable conclusions just by thinkin’ about stuff without looking at empirical data?

    Now, none of these arguments make a definitive case for the existence of God, and many of them are (fairly) easily debunked or problematized (as I’ll try to show). But at the very least, they offer considerable food for thought.

    Commenters have already picked this one up, so I’ll just add my own lol.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    I have proof that real Martians live on Mars!
    Now, by “Martian”, I’m not talking about any specific living organism, intelligent or not. As this list in my head would show if you could see it, the term can encompass everything from a perfect, omnipotent being to something that can be considered a gust of wind or a rock, or something even a bit banal.

  6. kraut says

    “The very notion of an all-perfect being means God has to exist”
    The very notion that I think myself superior to other numan beans means i am
    “Something must have caused the Universe to exist”
    Kalam version 5785 – anybody else gets bored with this shite?
    “There has to be something rather than nothing”
    Wrong – there is something instead nothing which proves exactly that.
    “Something had to have designed the Universe”
    Who designed god?
    “Consciousness proves that immaterial entities exist”
    Consciousness proves that your brain enables you to experience yourself. Nothing more.
    “We’re living in a computer simulation run by hacker gods”
    So what? Any proof…poof
    “Aliens are our gods”
    Thanks for trying dumbing me down. I could not have myself stooped to such a stupid, vapid argument.

    That shite is such old, careworn and worminfested thinking at a level that even WC Craig might have difficulty approaching in its depth below the floor that I can only take it a a humorous approach to sound deep in a Chopra kind of way.
    If that is food for thought – than a bubble gum is a nutritious portion.

  7. jonP says

    “Something had to have designed the Universe”
    Who designed god?

    Maybe the universe designed god! Whoa, I just blew my own mind.

  8. sailor1031 says

    emphasizing that these were purely philosophical arguments unsupported by any kind of scientific evidence

    thus revealing (yet again) the intellectual bankruptcy of philosophy without evidence

  9. Mano Singham says

    @jonP,

    In a sense, it did. The universe created people who then invented (i.e., designed) god to meet their needs. So you are on to something.

  10. DonDueed says

    2. Something must have caused the Universe to exist
    Right. Cosmic AC did. *

    7. Aliens are our gods
    Who Mourns for Adonis?

    * cf Asimov, “The Last Question”

  11. Nightshade says

    The disagreement between atheism and theism is only a part (though a significant part) of a more fundamental disagreement between Metaphysical Materialism and Metaphysical Idealism over the question of the nature of ultimate reality. By ‘ultimate reality’ I mean that which exist either because it cannot not exist (i.e. necessarily exist) or because, though it’s non-existence is conceivable, it does exist without reason or explanation, it’s existence being not dependent on anything else. That some such thing must exist to explain the existence of contingent things(humans, stars,cats) seems to be self evident. It is It’s nature that is in dispute. Is it non-sentient matter/energy, forces,fields?Or is it self -aware, a mind?I believe, as our knowledge currently stands, neither explanation can be ruled out.

  12. jonP says

    @jonP,

    In a sense, it did. The universe created people who then invented (i.e., designed) god to meet their needs. So you are on to something.

    Thanks! Maybe I missed my calling in theology.

  13. gshelley says

    In his essay Proslogion, St. Anselm conceived of God as a being who possesses all conceivable perfection. But if this being “existed” merely as an idea in our minds, then it would be less perfect than if it actually existed. So it wouldn’t be as great as a being who actually existed, something that would thus contradict our definition of God — a being who’s supposed to be all-perfect. Thus, God must exist.

    Basically “God is perfect and if He didn’t exist, he wouldn’t be, therefore He Exists
    The flaws are both numerous and obvious – ie God exists, but so does his brother Bob, who is just as perfect, and the fact that a person can’t conceive of “all perfection”, they can just think the words, and if all they are doing is thinking the words, then another person can come along and say “I conceive of something more perfect than your god, so mine exists as well”

  14. filethirteen says

    A load of nonsense. But #5 still bugs me because being tied to consciousness bugs me, and I’m going to segue into that discussion only because it has bugged me a LOT:

    5. Consciousness proves that immaterial entities exist

    Ok, it doesn’t, I’m fine with that. But here’s the problem. I’m ok with consciousness being a mere artifact of the body’s programming. The bit that annoys me is my (“my”?) subjective experience of it. Even if consciousness is just the body’s software, there still seems to be a difference between a program running on a computer and my consciousness, or else if I gave my program appropriate reasoning, memory and sensory abilities, does that mean it too now has consciousness?

    No: Why should the consciousness of the body be any different? The more we know about it, the more it appears to indicate it isn’t.

    Yes: But where does the *continuity* come from? I can say “I am me” in one moment, and in the next say “well, I’m still me”… how come? Cells come and go, memory is an illusion, but “I” am still subjectively experiencing this consciousness through time. Cut away my ability to reason, all my senses and my memory too, is there still continuity? Give them back again, am “I” continuing or is it now someone else? Replace all of my cells one by one, but it defies reason to imagine this “I” is bound to one atom so there doesn’t seem to be a critical point at which “I” stop experiencing consciousness and someone “else” does, so in the end it doesn’t seem to be physically tied to anything. Say what? We’re all part of the same thing? So why am “I” subjectively experiencing this consciousness again? Why is anyone?

    Similarly, if I give my program reasoning, memory, and senses, and stop it and resume it, is there some”one/thing” that’s experiencing the program’s consciousness which has continuity between those disjoint events?

    And why time? Don’t get me started on time.

    I hate not knowing any reasonable answers to this. No wonder people make up gods and souls to compensate for our ignorance.

  15. kraut says

    “Cut away my ability to reason, all my senses and my memory too, is there still continuity?”

    I don’t think so. Check out various mental diseases, i.e. Alzheimers. They tell you the limits of experiencing “yourself”.

  16. filethirteen says

    @kraut, I’m talking about continuity not consciousness. If you were dead, frozen solid, and medical science advanced to the point of bringing your body to life then would it be “you” that woke or another that, having your memories, thought it was you? What if during the time your body had been frozen, all your atoms had been replaced with others? What if it had been your cells that were replaced? More? What if half of your brain had been swapped with half the brain in another frozen body before they were both brought back, would you have any continuity then? How so? Where is the line drawn? I’m not talking memory, I can imagine an advanced medical science being able to create, destroy or even transplant memories. If you are given my entire memory and I yours, have “we” swapped bodies or are “we” continuing, each thinking we’re the other? If life is an illusion and consciousness too, then what is “I” and why am “I” experiencing the consciousness of this body through time and why is there an “I” at all?

  17. kraut says

    Continuity of self cannot be separated from consciousness. Only the latter makes you aware that you exist and only through consciousness continuity of self makes sense.

    To my thinking the body and the brain is a unit, so placing my mind into your body would feel likely incongruous – my experiences of the input values from my body are likely very different from the values your body’s senses supplies.
    i also have a hunch that freezing the body likely might destroy all your memories – memories are electrochemically created (how – we getting closer to it every day) so no – you would have ceased to exist. You would have to relearn like a newborn.

    Consciousness is a very delicate fluid state – it can be altered through chemicals, trauma, electrical impulses, magnetic impulses… there is very little there that is permanent and not subject to sometimes radical change.

    http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/

  18. filethirteen says

    @22

    Continuity of self cannot be separated from consciousness.
    (snip)
    you would have ceased to exist. You would have to relearn like a newborn.

    Those statements are in contradiction of one another. Saying “you” implies continuity.

    Moreover, suggesting memories might not be able to be preserved is too convenient IMO; it’s evading the question. If memories are entirely physical (electrochemical) then there’s no reason why any manipulation could not theoretically be done to them, specifically including preservation.

    Only the latter makes you aware that you exist and only through consciousness continuity of self makes sense.

    But I rebut that by predicting that I will wake again after I sleep, and in the morning, waking, despite the discontinuity of consciousness.

    It is not consciousness that I am talking about here, it is continuity. “I” am experiencing this consciousness through time and even if I lose consciousness and regain it, it is still “I”. I don’t know that by looking in the past because memories don’t prove anything (they tell me I’ve always been this person) but by experiencing this consciousness in any given moment, and then still being present in the next.

  19. kraut says

    “Continuity of self cannot be separated from consciousness.
    (snip)
    you would have ceased to exist. You would have to relearn like a newborn.

    Those statements are in contradiction of one another. Saying “you” implies continuity.”

    Are we going to do hair hairsplitting now? “You” does mean dick all in this context, it is just to address an entity of human form. Ok, lets they “it” ffs.

    “then there’s no reason why any manipulation could not theoretically be done to them, specifically including preservation.”

    There is no evidence for anything but the electrochemical nature of memory. And yes, they can be manipulated, altered etc. Theoretical they could be preserved – but that does not imply continuity of them if they are not connected to a living body that can work with them, interpret them, retrieves a history of self..

    “despite the discontinuity of consciousness.”

    Yes, consciousness can be interrupted. But the regaining of those memories, and contextualizing them..are you implying hat happens without consciousness? Every computer has retrievable memory. Does that mean the machine can do anything with them without specific instructions?

    ” is not consciousness that I am talking about here, it is continuity’.”even if I lose consciousness and regain it, it is still “I””

    It is I as long as the memory is regained of who you are.
    Continuity is achieved by consciousness contextualizing those memories that make up the whole you, that give that “you” continuity through time.. Without memories – how does the “I” know what it is? Maybe it realizes it is human by comparing itself to others – but can it know itself? As I said – continuity and consciousness are linked.

  20. filethirteen says

    @24

    It’s not hair-splitting, you keep arguing at a tangent. For the umpteenth time, and I’m getting tired of beating my head against a wall here, I’m not talking about consciousness but continuity. They are not the same.

    The trouble is that there is no term for the concept of the “thing” that continuously experiences a consciousness. It’s not self, it’s not consciousness, continuity is the only word I have for it. I would use soul if it weren’t for the religious nonsense that accompanies that word.

    If memory was the gold standard as you asserted, it would logically follow that you believed that if my memories were somehow modified that there wouldn’t be continuity – that it would be someone else, not “me” with different memories. That’s absolutely wrong. Memories change minute by minute. Old ones are lost as well as new ones formed. And yet there is continuity between my “old” self in this consciousness and my “current” self in this consciousness. How do I know? Because “I” am still here, experiencing the progression of this consciousness, between one second and the next!

    Does that mean the machine can do anything with them without specific instructions?

    No, but if the program runs, is paused, and then runs again from the point at which it stopped, was there something “experiencing” the program? (you can tell from my frequent use of quotes that I’m having difficulty expressing these concepts)

    I can write a program that has a rudimentary “knowledge” of its own state, that has memory, inputs, and that reacts over time according to its (perception of its) code. That’s all that consciousness appears to be. We have no reason not to believe that a human being is merely a more advanced form of the same thing. But if that’s the case, why am “I” experiencing this consciousness? Does that mean that my program has a consciousness like my own, and you could say some”one” is experiencing the program’s consciousness?

    Suppose yes. Now consider the difference between my program and a falling rock. Both act according to physical laws, but the only difference is that the program is self-referencing. Why should that make any difference? I honestly, and I’m not trying to wind you up here, do not see why there is any difference between a human and a falling rock. I could understand if we were all p-zombies but I am not (replace “I” with yourself for your own personal proof), and nothing about me appears unique, so surely nobody (and perhaps no animal (and perhaps no self-referencing program (and perhaps no physical state at all))) is. How does that work? Is “self” (the experiencing of consciousness over time) like a field pervading the universe that is excited into being, a bit like particles are explained as local excitations of similar fields?

    It seems unlikely but I have yet to hear any reasonable answers to these questions.

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