Best and worst arguments for the existence of God (user search)
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  Best and worst arguments for the existence of God (search mode)
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Author Topic: Best and worst arguments for the existence of God  (Read 3551 times)
NUPES Enjoyer
Antonio V
Atlas Institution
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Posts: 55,524
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Political Matrix
E: -7.87, S: -3.83


« on: July 12, 2022, 08:04:38 AM »

With the caveat that any such "arguments" can only evaluated in terms of their emotional appeal rather than as rational proofs, personally I've always been the most drawn to metaethical arguments. There is really no foolproof way to bridge the is-ought gap, but God admittedly provides one of the most straightforward ones, and as someone who's been through times of serious moral confusion I have strongly felt its appeal. I can also relate to teleological arguments, not so much because the world needs a Purpose as such (unlike seemingly many people I've never felt a lack of meaning to my life) but simply because the awe-inspiring beauty of the world does make it seem natural that it was willed into existence somehow (conversely, the strongest argument against the existence of God is and remains the Problem of Evil).

The worst argument has to be Pascal's Wager, because it's not just specious but actively self-defeating. Basically no one can interact with it in good faith and come out better for it: the sincere believer would if anything be insulted to see their faith reduced to a self-interested gambit, and the sincere nonbeliever would just have to throw in their hands. Even if someone wants to avoid hell at all costs, few people can just will themselves to believe something they don't, and those who can are probably not the kinds of disciples you should hope for. If you base your religion's appeal on the desire of reward or the fear of punishment, all you're making is a power play rather than a sincere appeal. The ontological argument of course also deserves a mention for the hilariously bad logic, but Nathan has already said everything on that.

The cosmological argument, along with Nathan's similarly-structured epistemological argument, are sound for what they are, but of course they are arguments for the existence of any prime mover or unprovable axiom (something that most modern scientists do strongly believe in), rather than specifically of an omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent creator with person-like characteristics, which is what I assumed the OP to be about. Of course, arguing that such a being would then have the additional characteristics of the Christian God would be an even taller order, and at that point you really just have to bite the Kierkegaardian bullet and be done with it.
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NUPES Enjoyer
Antonio V
Atlas Institution
*****
Posts: 55,524
United States


Political Matrix
E: -7.87, S: -3.83


« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2022, 03:04:15 PM »
« Edited: July 16, 2022, 03:27:06 PM by NUPES Enjoyer »

There are many bad folk arguments for the existence of God that depend on bare assertion, but the worst of the classical arguments IMO is the argument from design. It seems obvious to me that the universe just isn't that intelligently designed as one would expect from a Creator. Plus we can explain too many of its features naturalistically now.

I mean, these "naturalistic" explanations aren't really the end of the story though, are they? Even if you take them at face value, they ultimately boil down to certain properties of the universe being set just right for all of these natural processes to occur. Tweak even one of the fundamental constants by a trivial amount, and suddenly the universe becomes a lot more... boring, so to speak. Now, plenty of scientists have criticized the idea that the fundamental constants are "fine-tuned" (or even that such a claim has any meaning given that we can't observe any other universe). Personally, I think the anthropic principle is more than sufficient to explain any otherwise freakish coincidence that allows for the existence of life in our universe on a theoretical level. But again, any argument for or against the existence of God is emotional in nature, and all these rebuttals to the fine-turning argument are emotionally uncompelling to someone who is seriously swayed by it. So in that light, I think being swayed into faith by it makes plenty of sense.
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NUPES Enjoyer
Antonio V
Atlas Institution
*****
Posts: 55,524
United States


Political Matrix
E: -7.87, S: -3.83


« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2022, 03:01:17 AM »

There are many bad folk arguments for the existence of God that depend on bare assertion, but the worst of the classical arguments IMO is the argument from design. It seems obvious to me that the universe just isn't that intelligently designed as one would expect from a Creator. Plus we can explain too many of its features naturalistically now.

I mean, these "naturalistic" explanations aren't really the end of the story though, are they? Even if you take them at face value, they ultimately boil down to certain properties of the universe being set just right for all of these natural processes to occur. Tweak even one of the fundamental constants by a trivial amount, and suddenly the universe becomes a lot more... boring, so to speak. Now, plenty of scientists have criticized the idea that the fundamental constants are "fine-tuned" (or even that such a claim has any meaning given that we can't observe any other universe). Personally, I think the anthropic principle is more than sufficient to explain any otherwise freakish coincidence that allows for the existence of life in our universe on a theoretical level. But again, any argument for or against the existence of God is emotional in nature, and all these rebuttals to the fine-turning argument are emotionally uncompelling to someone who is seriously swayed by it. So in that light, I think being swayed into faith by it makes plenty of sense.

That's just the anthropic principle though.

...what?

I explicitly mentioned the anthropic principle in that post and I have no idea what you're responding to now
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NUPES Enjoyer
Antonio V
Atlas Institution
*****
Posts: 55,524
United States


Political Matrix
E: -7.87, S: -3.83


« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2022, 09:17:48 AM »


Are you refusing on principle to engage with the actual point I made, or is there something in it that's genuinely not clicking to you? I honestly can't tell.
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NUPES Enjoyer
Antonio V
Atlas Institution
*****
Posts: 55,524
United States


Political Matrix
E: -7.87, S: -3.83


« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2022, 04:30:31 PM »

I have something I call the "argument from existence" that is based on the fact that I am a conscious being and presumably you are all conscious beings too, and all of our individual consciousnesses are separate and discrete. I'm not convinced by any of the existing materialist theories of consciousness, and I can see how panpsychism would work with only one giant mind-meld consciousness, but not with separate discrete consciousnesses.

That is a very strong argument. It's actually my argument for why a purely materialistic account of reality is necessarily incomplete and why we must accept that there are such things as metaphysical truths independent of it (even if we have no access to those truths). It's not really an argument for God as such, though, at least not for all but the loosest definitions of God.
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NUPES Enjoyer
Antonio V
Atlas Institution
*****
Posts: 55,524
United States


Political Matrix
E: -7.87, S: -3.83


« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2022, 12:54:46 PM »

Is there a name that people in the world of philosophy have for this argument? If there's any body of work on it I'm interested in reading more.

I'm not aware of it having a specific name, but I have no doubt that many have written on it in some form or other. Personally, I got to it through the problem of other minds (which I really think is one of the most important questions in philosophy). So you might call it "reductio ad solipsismum" if you're feeling fancy.
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NUPES Enjoyer
Antonio V
Atlas Institution
*****
Posts: 55,524
United States


Political Matrix
E: -7.87, S: -3.83


« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2022, 03:26:41 PM »

Is there a name that people in the world of philosophy have for this argument? If there's any body of work on it I'm interested in reading more.

I'm not aware of it having a specific name, but I have no doubt that many have written on it in some form or other. Personally, I got to it through the problem of other minds (which I really think is one of the most important questions in philosophy). So you might call it "reductio ad solipsismum" if you're feeling fancy.

Eh, Im not sure this is really true. Now it is certainly a foundational question, and has to be dealt with before you can really go on to investigate any other question in epistemology or metaphysics hence why in many introductory philosophical texts, the problem of other minds and related questions over whether matter exists at all are contained in one of the very first chapters but ultimately solipsism is a pretty fringe position among philosophers. The problem of other minds is not a very lively debate, because almost all philosophers believe that other minds and an external world do exist.

I think I've elaborated on this extensively before, and I wish I could remember where it was and quote from it, but anyway. The problem of other minds to me is not really about believing other minds exist, since as you say almost everybody does (and besides, if someone is truly convinced by solipsism, they would have no reason to engage in meaningful discussions on the subject, so we're probably better off arguing among people who recognize each other as such). The problem is how to deal with the fact that we all accept that other minds are as real as our own even though we have no access to them and in fact they only appear to us as a projection of our own. What is it that makes us alike, allowing us to recognize each other as minds like our own, when our subjective perceptions irrevocably separate us? And based on this awareness, how are we to comport ourselves with each other? These are the fundamental questions at the heart of the entire fields of metaphysics and ethics respectively. Both of them directly stemming from our paradoxical relationship with other minds.
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