Examination of the arguments for the existence of God results in strong reasons to believe in God.
Examine and comment on this claim with reference to:
1. The Cosmological Argument (10 Marks)
2. The Teleological Argument (10 Marks)
1. The continued existence of atheism would indicate that an argument that gives sound, valid reasoning for the existence of God has yet to be really seen. The Cosmological and Teleological Arguments for the existence of God both have certain strengths. They also share heavy criticisms. In both cases the criticisms outweigh the strengths, resulting in the attempt to make intellectual reasoning the base of a belief in God a so far redundant task.
a) Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, sought to make logical reasoning prove the existence of God. His first three “ways” are illuminating. This principle was that that must be begged of the Ancient Chinese in their belief that the world rested on the back of a giant tortoise. What does the tortoise rest on? An elephant. What about the elephant? a goat. Eventually the idea of some kind of grounding, some base that itself needs not something else, must be assumed.
The first “way” of Aquinas was that of motion. If everything is moved by something else, something somewhere must have been first – this is the “Prime Mover”. The second “way” is that of causality. Every event is the resultant effect of some cause. If everything was caused by the Big Bang, what, it must be asked, caused that? There must have been a “First Cause”. The third “way”, and the most convincing, is that of being self-existent?
In 1710 Leibniz furthered Aquinas’ third “way” into what he called the “Principle of Sufficient Reason” by ‘Sufficient Reason’ he meant “complete explanation”. Everything has a reason, but “why am I alive?” is only partially answered by “I am my parent’s child”. Some great base must exist, he reasoned, that was in itself the ultimate reason, the ultimate “brute fact” (Swinburne). Coppleston, in his famous debate with Bertrand Russell, described Leibniz’s logical end as a “necessary being” or a “being which must and cannot not exist”.
Vardy asks of Leibniz, “why, if everything is only partially explainable, should one thing prove wholly explainable. Why should God be wholly explainable in a way that the Universe is not?” Why does God exist? Newton’s first law of Motion neatly takes away the grounding from Aquinas’ narrow scope of “logical” reasoning – no prime mover need be necessary – particles move anyway.
There remain, however, those who are unconvinced:
Aquinas fails in the very substance he seeks to succeed in logic. Hume asks why, if everything has a cause, must one thing not. Philo, whose rebuttal pre-existed Aquinas’ argument, said that any deity complex enough to create a universe should surely warrant a creator of its own. While the creator God arrived at by Aquinas’ and Leibniz’s reasoning now indeed have to be outside our contingency web, Hick writes that such a web may be contingent on itself: why, if everything is dependent on something else, must one, by citing the ozone layer as “all the proof one could need” of a creator deity. That it is of the exact thickness to let in just the right amount of sunlight and so on “prove that there is a God who provided this Universe”.
b) The Teleological Argument is the oldest and most popular of all the classical arguments. The Design Qua Purpose argument was most famously recorded by William Paley. His argument was based on an experience of the world. If we found a watch on a heath, we would assume from its intricacies, its ticking, its evident sense of purpose and design to fit, that it had a creator. The world is such a machine, he reasons, showing similar intricacies of design to fit purpose exactly. To say the world is “just there” (Bertrand Russell) is nonsensical – there must be a designer and that we call God, the giant watchmaker.
Swinburne furthers the argument in view of scientific developments “design qua regularity”. The laws of nature, these constant measures that give the world its temporal order, its stability are complex enough he argues, to warrant their own creator. In his book “Footprints of God”, Arthur Brown furthers Swinburne’s line contingency. This is the idea, as Hick writes that “everything is dependent on something else” a giant web. For this web to have originated, Aquinas reasons, a being of omniscience, a being self dependent and wholly removed from our reality must have created it.
Brown’s argument is one of the most atrociously blinded pieces of evangelical “intellectualism” I have yet seen. He seems oblivious to the theory of evolution that would render his argument fundamentally obsolete, the ozone layer pre-existed us, we have evolved to withstand that “perfect” amount of sunlight. Darwin’s theory of evolution at one point threatened to undermine the Teleological argument as a whole, but most modern Christians would claim that evolution is simply God’s own mechanism for design and purpose/regularity.
Science presents the world as an autonomous entity that possesses Swinburne’s laws of nature in order to maintain stability. The Teleological “QUA REGULARITY” argument rests on the thought that without God the universe would degenerate into chaos. Science would indicate that, instead, without divine interference, the universe continues turning in equilibrium.
Hume rebutted the argument on several occasions. To him the world resembled an inert animal or vegetable as much as some watch. He questioned how we could tell a created from an uncreated world without a yardstick to compare to. It is perhaps of mild interest to note, however, that Paley made a specific clause in his argument stating that it would not matter if we had never seen a watch before – neither still would it matter if parts of it appeared not to work.
Hume’s “Epicurean Hypothesis” states that, given eternity, a finite amount of particles will eventually form some kind of equilibrium, given enough rolls of the dice, as it were. This ‘roll’, this result that is our present reality, is not one that shows the mark of a loving divine creator. Only if we see the world “as it really is – very faulty and incorrect” can we realise the redundancy of the teleological argument.
This essay is by no means perfect. The language used is very good though. Remember to try and learn phrases that relate to what you would like to say.