Advanced Search

Hi Philosophers,

Hi Philosophers, I have a burning question that is troubling me relating the religion versus science debate. I hope I articulate it well enough. Here goes. Mathematically, physicists are close to proving that a multiverse exists. Assuming they do prove this, and that as part of this proof it is deemed that infinity universes exist with both every conceivable and inconceivable possibility and outcome occurring throughout, then is it not fair to say that God certainly exists in at least one of these infinite possibility universes? Adversely, it is also fair to assume that God certainly does not exist in at least one of these universes? Then consider that if God certainly exists in at least one universe, and he is the all-seeing, all-knowing God that religion states he is, then how can he certainly not exist in at least one of the infinite universes? To say that God definitely exists is to, by definition of God, say that he exists everywhere and created everything, yet this notion within the multiverse...

Great question (and great response by Allen). Let me just add a tiny bit, by encouraging you to check out both Norman Malcolm's and Alvin Plantinga's work on the ontological argument. (The latter is a lot more technical and difficult, so start with the former.) From them you get something like the idea that if God exists at all, He exists necessarily (for God surely isn't a contingent being); to say that God exists necessarily is to say that He exists in every possible world. But now, if it's even possible that God exists -- i.e. the idea of God contains no contradictions -- then God would exist in at least one possible world. But if He exists at all He exists in every possible world, so if He exists in one PW He exists in every PW. Now is it possible that God exists? Does the idea of God involve any contradictions? Lots of discussion in the history of philosophical theology on that topic (lots of purported contradictions posed, then response to), but lots of people, even many ordinary atheists, think there's no contradiction in the idea of God, just merely that God contingently doesn't exist. So if you construe the multiverse theory to mean that every possible world exists (not sure it should be construed this way, but let's suppose), and if you think the idea of God involves no contradictions, then it sounds like the multiverse theory could support this line of argument toward God's existence.

hope that's useful!

ap

Great question (and great response by Allen). Let me just add a tiny bit, by encouraging you to check out both Norman Malcolm's and Alvin Plantinga's work on the ontological argument. (The latter is a lot more technical and difficult, so start with the former.) From them you get something like the idea that if God exists at all, He exists necessarily (for God surely isn't a contingent being); to say that God exists necessarily is to say that He exists in every possible world. But now, if it's even possible that God exists -- i.e. the idea of God contains no contradictions -- then God would exist in at least one possible world. But if He exists at all He exists in every possible world, so if He exists in one PW He exists in every PW. Now is it possible that God exists? Does the idea of God involve any contradictions? Lots of discussion in the history of philosophical theology on that topic (lots of purported contradictions posed, then response to), but lots of people, even many ordinary atheists, think...

Does the principle of increased entropy support or challenge the Cosmological

Does the principle of increased entropy support or challenge the Cosmological argument? I am getting mixed messages and am unsure which if any are valid.

Good question, and undoubtedly others are better equipped to give better or deeper answers. But I'll take a quick stab. First, there are at least several different categories of Cosmological Arguments, but I'm guessing you have in mind those involving design of some sort -- increasing entropy seems to suggest the cosmos tends toward disorder, which seems to undermine the notion that there is any sort of (intrinsic) or ultimate ordering. But now, with respect to design, what's to refute the idea that the increasing disorder is PART of the design, part of its aim? (the general problem with design arguments is that no one is ever very clear on just what the purported point of God creating the universe is .... But presumably introducing human beings to contemplate the universe (and God) is part of it, and why couldn't a cosmos with increasing entropy be something good for human beings to contemplate?) ... As far as other forms of Cosmological Args go, by my understanding they tend to involve intelligibility concerns: we couldn't make sense of motion, or of causation, or of the existence of the cosmos at all, unless there were a First Mover, Cause, or Necessarily Existent Creator. As far as I can see those forms of argument are neutral on the existence of entropy. So, in short, I can see where your intuition comes in -- but seems to me a lot more work has to be done before the fact of entropy would really raise a challenge for Cosmological Arguments.

hope that's a useful start!

ap

Good question, and undoubtedly others are better equipped to give better or deeper answers. But I'll take a quick stab. First, there are at least several different categories of Cosmological Arguments, but I'm guessing you have in mind those involving design of some sort -- increasing entropy seems to suggest the cosmos tends toward disorder, which seems to undermine the notion that there is any sort of (intrinsic) or ultimate ordering. But now, with respect to design, what's to refute the idea that the increasing disorder is PART of the design, part of its aim? (the general problem with design arguments is that no one is ever very clear on just what the purported point of God creating the universe is .... But presumably introducing human beings to contemplate the universe (and God) is part of it, and why couldn't a cosmos with increasing entropy be something good for human beings to contemplate?) ... As far as other forms of Cosmological Args go, by my understanding they tend to involve...

Good question, and undoubtedly others are better equipped to give better or deeper answers. But I'll take a quick stab. First, there are at least several different categories of Cosmological Arguments, but I'm guessing you have in mind those involving design of some sort -- increasing entropy seems to suggest the cosmos tends toward disorder, which seems to undermine the notion that there is any sort of (intrinsic) or ultimate ordering. But now, with respect to design, what's to refute the idea that the increasing disorder is PART of the design, part of its aim? (the general problem with design arguments is that no one is ever very clear on just what the purported point of God creating the universe is .... But presumably introducing human beings to contemplate the universe (and God) is part of it, and why couldn't a cosmos with increasing entropy be something good for human beings to contemplate?) ... As far as other forms of Cosmological Args go, by my understanding they tend to involve...

If God exists, is there any proof that he involves himself in human affairs? It

If God exists, is there any proof that he involves himself in human affairs? It seems most if not all debate in contemporary philosophy centers around whether a deist God exists.

Great question, but just a short answer to start. By "involvement" you probably have in mind something like "miracles" (say, violations of the law of nature). But questions of "miraculousness" are VERY hard to prove, and so (I'm guessing) discussion of their occurrence is probably mostly limited to those who already are believers -- it's only AFTER you believe God exists that you're likely to treat some event as a miracle. (After all there is much we don't know or understand about the world, so the mere fact that something unusual or unlikely occurs is not very good evidence that a miracle has occurred, and thus itself not good evidence that God exists.) But you should also be aware that there is a long tradition of thinking of God's "involvement" in different ways. For example, it has traditionally been argued that God "continuously creates" the world -- see Descartes, Malebranche eg -- that God's activity is necessary to keep the world in existence, even while there is also good reason to believe (see the same) that God creates the world to operate via exceptionless laws of nature (i.e. no 'miracles' in the sense above). There is also a long tradition of arguing that the course of the world has a point or purpose or direction (ie 'teleological' arguments), that the world has been designed in order to operate in certain orderly ways eventually reaching certain desirable outcomes -- even if there are no 'miracles' along the way, that is a form of God's involvement. Now this latter might be all you mean by referring to "deism"; and in fact your "deism" might even be consistent with "continuous creation" -- but what I'm suggesting is that it's worth focusing more closely on why a philosopher in particular (someone interested in reason/evidence/argument) should desire any kind of divine "involvement" BEYOND those two forms ...

hope that's useful to start --

ap

Great question, but just a short answer to start. By "involvement" you probably have in mind something like "miracles" (say, violations of the law of nature). But questions of "miraculousness" are VERY hard to prove, and so (I'm guessing) discussion of their occurrence is probably mostly limited to those who already are believers -- it's only AFTER you believe God exists that you're likely to treat some event as a miracle. (After all there is much we don't know or understand about the world, so the mere fact that something unusual or unlikely occurs is not very good evidence that a miracle has occurred, and thus itself not good evidence that God exists.) But you should also be aware that there is a long tradition of thinking of God's "involvement" in different ways. For example, it has traditionally been argued that God "continuously creates" the world -- see Descartes, Malebranche eg -- that God's activity is necessary to keep the world in existence, even while there is also good reason to...

Is it a contradiction to believe in God and also in science? I believe in

Is it a contradiction to believe in God and also in science? I believe in evolution and look at the Big Bang theory skeptically, but I also believe in God as the creator of everything. Many have often told me that you can't really accept these theories and also believe in God without causing a contradiction, but I always thought of it as science answering how things happen, whereas my faith in God answers why things happen. What do you think?

A wonderful, rich, and controversial question -- and there are lots of people out there thinking about it. (I happen to like Paul Davies on this subject -- but see also very recent books by Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga ...) Just a quick thought for here. If someone says there's a contradiction they have to be able to state explicitly what it is. You get quick contradictions if perhaps you read the bible very literally and then listen to scientific theories of the creation of the universe, and/or the development of human beings. But lots of deeply religious people do not think the bible is to be read entirely literally, including such famous thinkers as Maimonides, Aquinas, and others. Given what you say it sounds like you're in the 'non-literal' camp ... but then to be sure you're NOT accepting contradictions you need to spell out as explicitly as you can just what science says about creation and what the Bible says, and satisfy yourself they are consistent ... As for your latter point, well -- the line between 'how' and 'why' really is not clear at all. Some read scientific claims as describing 'necessities,' laws which necessarily govern what happens -- and if something 'necessarily' happens that may well be to explain 'why' it happens. Or if you want to reserve for God (say) the explanation of 'why' things happen in the sense of 'to what end or purpose' -- well you need to look quite carefully at what science suggests about purposes and then, separately, really consider whether the empirical evidence, i.e. the course of events in the world, really does support the view that things, everything, the whole package, occurs for some purpose. (Can you say what that purpose is? If not, then why believe there is one?) Anyway this is all just the tip of the iceberg -- have a look at the authors I mentioned, and maybe my own introductory volume "The God Question: what famous thinkers have said about the divine"...)

best,

ap

A wonderful, rich, and controversial question -- and there are lots of people out there thinking about it. (I happen to like Paul Davies on this subject -- but see also very recent books by Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga ...) Just a quick thought for here. If someone says there's a contradiction they have to be able to state explicitly what it is. You get quick contradictions if perhaps you read the bible very literally and then listen to scientific theories of the creation of the universe, and/or the development of human beings. But lots of deeply religious people do not think the bible is to be read entirely literally, including such famous thinkers as Maimonides, Aquinas, and others. Given what you say it sounds like you're in the 'non-literal' camp ... but then to be sure you're NOT accepting contradictions you need to spell out as explicitly as you can just what science says about creation and what the Bible says, and satisfy yourself they are consistent ... As for your latter point, well --...

If, as some apologists say, God never changes; surely, then, God lived an

If, as some apologists say, God never changes; surely, then, God lived an infinity before creating the world. One wonders why he changed in order to create people. If for companionship, why are so many people flawed by whatever criteris one uses? This is a very enjoyable blog. JH

Great question -- one that deep thinkers have been worrying about ever since they came up with the idea of God! As the great 4th century Catholic thinker Augustine said, when asked what God was doing all that time before creating the universe he was tempted to answer: preparing Hell for those who ask stupid questions! ... But then he recognized that it was an important question, and gave his own answer to it: since one of the things that God creates is time itself, there IS no time 'before' the creation of the universe -- so you don't have to say what God was doing! ... Now whether this answers your question or not -- i.e. WHY did God create anything -- is not clear, but it may take away a little incentive for raising that question: if God never 'changed' (from not creating to creating), then perhaps we don't need to look for a 'cause' to his changing in the way you framed the question ....

hope that's useful!

(If you're interested, I present some of the classic answers to this question in my book The God Question ...)

best,

ap

Great question -- one that deep thinkers have been worrying about ever since they came up with the idea of God! As the great 4th century Catholic thinker Augustine said, when asked what God was doing all that time before creating the universe he was tempted to answer: preparing Hell for those who ask stupid questions! ... But then he recognized that it was an important question, and gave his own answer to it: since one of the things that God creates is time itself, there IS no time 'before' the creation of the universe -- so you don't have to say what God was doing! ... Now whether this answers your question or not -- i.e. WHY did God create anything -- is not clear, but it may take away a little incentive for raising that question: if God never 'changed' (from not creating to creating), then perhaps we don't need to look for a 'cause' to his changing in the way you framed the question .... hope that's useful! (If you're interested, I present some of the classic answers to this question in my...

I've taken an introductory class in the philosophy of religion and I've read

I've taken an introductory class in the philosophy of religion and I've read some introductory materials about it on the internet. I'm sort of disappointed with the kinds of questions that are considered central to the philosophy of religion because it seems like other questions can be just as central but they aren't mentioned. One of the central questions of the philosophy of religion is whether or not God existence can be proved. While that is undoubtedly an important question "proof" seems to be a high standard even in philosophy and a "succinct" proof that can be written in a formulaic manner is an even higher standard. If you want to argue whether or not Bill Gates is a good man it isn't necessary to prove his existence. You can however attempt to characterize his behavior within a context and from that attempt to evaluate whether he is a good or a bad person. Should not the philosophy of religion, for at least some important strands of religious thinking, work in a similar vein? That is it would...

Thanks for your comments/questions. It's perhaps hard to judge what is 'central' to a discipline or a pursuit, particularly one with as long and varied a history as the 'phil. of religion' (broadly construed). In fact lots more ink (or parchment space) has been devoted to questions of God's nature (perhaps) than to God's existence (as well as to the relationship between God's nature/existence of course, a la the ontological argument). [My own book, The God Question, presents the rather long history of discussion of different aspects of God's nature ...] And anyway re: the kinds of things you lean to at the end of your comments: it seems to me that many of the traditional ways of attempting to prove God's existence proceed exactly as you recommend, ie by 'considering whether the world can be evaluated in terms of God's existence.' The classical versions of cosmological and teleological arguments, as well as their more contemporary updates, seem to do precisely that [again my book presents a number of these ...] .... So I suppose what I am suggesting is that your senses that 'proofs of God' are too central and that there should be greater emphasis on (roughly) empirical approaches to God's existence -- are both inaccurate! In fact lots more gets discussed than merely 'proofs' of God's existence, and those proofs that do get discussed DO have a large empirical component ....

hope that's helpful --

ap

Thanks for your comments/questions. It's perhaps hard to judge what is 'central' to a discipline or a pursuit, particularly one with as long and varied a history as the 'phil. of religion' (broadly construed). In fact lots more ink (or parchment space) has been devoted to questions of God's nature (perhaps) than to God's existence (as well as to the relationship between God's nature/existence of course, a la the ontological argument). [My own book, The God Question, presents the rather long history of discussion of different aspects of God's nature ...] And anyway re: the kinds of things you lean to at the end of your comments: it seems to me that many of the traditional ways of attempting to prove God's existence proceed exactly as you recommend, ie by 'considering whether the world can be evaluated in terms of God's existence.' The classical versions of cosmological and teleological arguments, as well as their more contemporary updates, seem to do precisely that [again my book presents a number of...

Is atheism a scientific worldview? Many people who try to promote atheism seem

Is atheism a scientific worldview? Many people who try to promote atheism seem to think so.

Well much depends on what "scientific" is taken to mean (obviously), and there are plenty of philosophers who think that science strongly supports, provides evidence for, theism -- or at least that science is essentially neutral on the question of theism/atheism. But what does seem deniable is that actual scientific research, and its many applications, makes no explicit reference to God -- so that would seem to support the idea that science works in an atheist framework, on the assumption of atheism, and has managed to be pretty darn successful in so doing. That doesn't mean that various scientific results are not consistent with theism (though of course we want to recognize the difference between believing in "God" in general and believing all the numerous details of any particular religion); but it does suggest that atheism and science have a kind of natural fit, in a way in which theism -- especially when entwined with all the details of the particular religions -- does not.

IMHO, anyway!

Andrew Pessin

Well much depends on what "scientific" is taken to mean (obviously), and there are plenty of philosophers who think that science strongly supports, provides evidence for, theism -- or at least that science is essentially neutral on the question of theism/atheism. But what does seem deniable is that actual scientific research, and its many applications, makes no explicit reference to God -- so that would seem to support the idea that science works in an atheist framework, on the assumption of atheism, and has managed to be pretty darn successful in so doing. That doesn't mean that various scientific results are not consistent with theism (though of course we want to recognize the difference between believing in "God" in general and believing all the numerous details of any particular religion); but it does suggest that atheism and science have a kind of natural fit, in a way in which theism -- especially when entwined with all the details of the particular religions -- does not. IMHO, anyway! ...

Is religion the true enemy of freedom in a democratic society since it teaches

Is religion the true enemy of freedom in a democratic society since it teaches us that we have to think a certain way or is science since it teaches us that nobody is truly free but a product of deterministic forces?

Or another mode of reply: First suppose that science DOES suggest determinism. How would anything be different in our lives? Wouldn't democratic processes work precisely the same way as they have been? (After all, our behavior has been deterministic all along, so why would discovering/proving/merely believing that it is deterministic change anything?) Or since 'freedom' seems to be the larger concern for you, again, what would be different? All the cases where we've held people responsible for their behaviors, we still would hold them, wouldn't we? we'd still lock up bad people, teach our children to be good, etc.... So it isn't clear to me why scientific results would threaten anything, really. Ditto for religion: if we think religions are in the business of generating true claims about the world, then, where they succeed, we should be happy to endorse their claims (assuming we want the truth). Whichever dogmatic religions you're thinking of ARE dogmatic because they believe they have the truth which, I suppose, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Of course, greater humility about knowledge is probably more appropriate -- but then very little stops most people from believing their religious beliefs along WITH the humility of recognizing they may be wrong -- so it isn't religion itself which 'suppresses freedom (of thought)', but dogmatic bossy people (some of whom are religious, but many of whom are not) ....

hope that's useful! ...

ap

Or another mode of reply: First suppose that science DOES suggest determinism. How would anything be different in our lives? Wouldn't democratic processes work precisely the same way as they have been? (After all, our behavior has been deterministic all along, so why would discovering/proving/merely believing that it is deterministic change anything?) Or since 'freedom' seems to be the larger concern for you, again, what would be different? All the cases where we've held people responsible for their behaviors, we still would hold them, wouldn't we? we'd still lock up bad people, teach our children to be good, etc.... So it isn't clear to me why scientific results would threaten anything, really. Ditto for religion: if we think religions are in the business of generating true claims about the world, then, where they succeed, we should be happy to endorse their claims (assuming we want the truth). Whichever dogmatic religions you're thinking of ARE dogmatic because they believe they have the truth...

Is it logical to infer a higher power given how extraordinary human life is?

Is it logical to infer a higher power given how extraordinary human life is?

If by 'logical' you mean 'a decent argument can be constructed of this form' then i would say the answer is yes -- but if you mean 'an absolutely convincing argument ...' then, well, you don't find too many of those anywhere in philosophy -- my favorite version of the kind of argument that Allen Stairs mentions is some version of the fine-tuning argument -- which observes how perfectly fine-tuned features of the universe seem to be, such that they could easily have been otherwise, and yet had they been otherwise then human life (conscious, rational, moral life) would not have been possible -- and goes from there to argue that it is reasonable to think this didn't occur by chance -- a good source on this topic would be any of Paul Davies' recent books ...

best, ap

If by 'logical' you mean 'a decent argument can be constructed of this form' then i would say the answer is yes -- but if you mean 'an absolutely convincing argument ...' then, well, you don't find too many of those anywhere in philosophy -- my favorite version of the kind of argument that Allen Stairs mentions is some version of the fine-tuning argument -- which observes how perfectly fine-tuned features of the universe seem to be, such that they could easily have been otherwise, and yet had they been otherwise then human life (conscious, rational, moral life) would not have been possible -- and goes from there to argue that it is reasonable to think this didn't occur by chance -- a good source on this topic would be any of Paul Davies' recent books ... best, ap

Doesn't the "problem of evil" objection to God's existence presuppose that

Doesn't the "problem of evil" objection to God's existence presuppose that people ought to be happy? Isn't the idea that people ought or deserve to be happy questionable?

While I think that Andy is quite right to note that the problem of evil is normally framed in terms of suffering instead of happiness, I nevertheless want to add a couple of remarks concerning the possibility that happiness is the ultimate end of the human being, and how this might relate to the problem of evil, and then to take up the issue of whether human beings deserve happiness, a deep and interesting question in its own right.

Philosophers from Aristotle through Kant have taken happiness to be an end, if not the ultimate end, of human beings, although they have cashed out the respect in which happiness might play this role in very different ways. Indeed, Christian philosophers have traditionally believed that the blessed in Heaven will be rewarded with a vision of God that constitutes bliss. Now such philosophers recognize that in this life, at least, human beings may not experience happiness at all, but nevertheless this constitutes no block to their thinking that ultimately the worthy will be rewarded with happiness, at least in the next life. Interestingly, in the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant takes this idea to constitute the basis for what may be called a moral proof of God's existence: given that virtuous human beings are often not rewarded, and even suffer, in this life, and given, Kant claims, following the tradition, that happiness is one of man's ends, God must exist in order to ensure that virtue is ultimately proportioned with happiness. And I think that Kant's predecessors would have accepted his conclusion, if not the argument that he makes for this conclusion. Now insofar as the problem of evil is supposed to challenge the plausibility of thinking that God exists, or at least that God does not have the attributes commonly attributed to Him by theists, the question of how human beings are ultimately to achieve happiness, answered by appealing to the existence of God, is also threatened by the nest of considerations traditionally associated with the problem of evil. This is one way to see these issues as related, although a theist must of course respond to the problem of evil if s/he is to be entitled to appeal to God's existence in order to justify the claim that happiness is the ultimate end of human beings, which they can indeed achieve.

Yet as you point out, there's a deep question as to why it should be believed that happiness is an end of human life. Arguments for this claim have often tended to appeal to human nature, and especially in the Christian era, also to appeal to Biblical and Patristic claims about the ends of life. But why should it even be thought that happiness is an end of human life? This, I think, is a deep and important question, consideration of which might well illuminate a host of issues, from questions regarding the nature of religion to issues about the nature of a human being, that have been engaged both by theists and non-theists alike. One way to begin to approach this question, I submit, is to examine both the nature of happiness itself, and its relation to desert, and, indeed, whether the very concept of desert is reasonable.

Terrific question! And of course there are reams of responses to and analysis of this very issue ... And you're certainly right that from a religious perspective, it's not entirely clear or obvious that 'happiness' would be (say) God's ultimate goal for human beings, for many different reasons ... But you know, the problem of evil is often framed rather differently -- not merely asking (say) how God can permit so much unhappiness, or so much suffering -- but so much *injustice*. The point of life may not be to be "happy" (whatever "happiness" exactly is, for various people) -- but surely it seems quite unjust when an innocent person, or a good person, is made to suffer in any number of ways -- or when small children are murdered -- and so on. What your point very nicely does (I think) is show that at least *some* of the things that people call "evils" really amount to their merely being inconvenienced or made unhappy -- and then you are right that these sorts of things would hardly disprove the...

Pages