Natural Theology

This tag is associated with 6 posts

Sunday Quote!- Beauty of Creation?

tos-mcgrathEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

The Beauty of Creation?

I’ve finished rereading The Open Secret by Alister McGrath. It presents a powerful picture of natural theology as touching every aspect of life.

One of the branches of evidence for the argument from design is the notion that the world in which we live is beautiful. However, many have rightly noted that there seems to be a disconnect between this picture of the world as beautiful and loving and the reality that nature is “red in tooth and claw.” Yet Christian natural theology has a more complete view of the world:

…[N]ature as presently observed, cannot be assumed to be nature, as orginally created… The creation stands in need of renewal from a God who will create all things anew… There is a profoundly eschatological dimension to an authentically Christian natural theology… The fading beauty and goodness of the world are to be interpreted in light of the hope of their restoration and renewal. (208; 206, cited below)

Christianity does acknowledge the notion that creation is “groaning” and that nature may show much disorder and vileness alongside beauty and transcendence. The former attributes are results of the fall, but as McGrath noted, Christian natural theology is eschatological: it looks ahead to a future where all things will be renewed and consummated God’s divine plan.

It seems to me this vision of the future is something which gives natural theology within Christianity a broader explanatory scope which may not be matched by other systems. By orienting this world as it is in between a broader historical scheme of creation, fall, redemption, consummation, this vision of natural theology allows for and even expects many of the observed phenomena.

What do you think? What is your view of how the beauty of creation may be balanced with some of its ugliness?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

“A New Vision for Natural Theology” A Book Review of “The Open Secret” by Alister McGrath– I review the book discussed in this post. It presents a vision for natural theology and apologetics.

Sunday Quote!- A Disconnect Between Parchment and Pew?

pw-jjEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

A Disconnect Between Parchment and Pew?

I just started reading Jeff Jordan’s Pascal’s Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God, which I admit I have high hopes for. Right at the beginning I came upon a brief tidbit I thought was interesting to consider:

A disconnect exists between the arguments that philosophers find interesting and the arguments actually employed by Christians and other theists as reasons in support of their religious commitments. (vii, cited below)

I wonder sometimes about this very disconnect. The average person in the pew is unfamiliar with and unaffected by things like the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the subtle distinctions required to discuss the problem of evil. Rather, they are more concerned with the practical aspects of faith and the amount of work needed to explain these arguments is neither required nor desired. There does exist this disconnect between parchment–the philosophical theories–and the pew–the average Christian. What can we do to bridge this gap? What does this say about the epistemic validity of faith generally? Is this even an area for concern at all? I don’t think there are easy answers to these questions.

Interestingly, Jordan went on to suggest that one way to bridge the disconnect was with pragmatic arguments, such as Pascal’s Wager. It will be interesting to see how he develops that thesis, and how he defends such arguments. I eagerly look forward to continuing my read of the book.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Jeff Jordan, Pascal’s Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God (New York: Oxford, 2006).

William Paley (1743-1805) – Historical Apologist Spotlight

William_Paley_by_George_RomneyWilliam Paley (1743-1805) is a name which echoes through history. His Natural Theology continues to have a profound and lasting impact on the argument from biological design. His Evidences of Christianity  challenges readers on a historical and exegetical level with arguments for the faith. Unfortunately, too few have thoughtfully interacted with his arguments. Here, we will first look at Paley’s views and life. Then, we will examine his major works and arguments. We will discover there is much to learn from this intellectual giant. Note that this post is necessarily brief, and that readers are greatly encouraged to go to the primary sources found below.

Brief Biographical Note*

Paley went to school at Christ’s College and Cambridge. At the latter, he was awarded multiple times for his scholarship. He eventually became the Senior Dean at Christ’s College and was awarded a Doctorate of Divinity from Cambridge. Bishop Barrington of Durham granted him the rectory of Bishop Wearmouth. His life was strewn with accomplishments.

He was a utilitarian with deep Christian convictions. Throughout his life, he remained controversial. His utilitarianism was condemned, as was his critique of the often extreme defenses of property ownership. His anti-slavery was unpopular alongside his support of the American Colonies in the Revolutionary War.

The powerful nature of Paley’s works is revealed in the fact that his major work on utilitarianism, The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, became mandatory reading at Cambridge. His Natural Theology continues to be discussed in courses on philosophy of religion. The man was acclaimed by some within the church, who praised his defense of the faith despite others’ objections to his metaethical views.

His contributions to Christian apologetics are the focus of this piece, and we shall turn to them now.

Natural Theology

Paley’s most famous work nowadays is undoubtedly Natural Theology. In this work, he makes his well-known case for the design argument. He utilizes the analogy of a watch. If one finds a watch on a beach, one knows instantly that someone made the watch. Paley applied this same notion to life; one sees the sheer complexity and life and can infer that it, like the watch, was designed.

Many have dismissed Paley’s work here, noting that at points he relies on scientific explanations which have been discredited, while at others his examples have been explained. Yet the genius of his work is found in broader principles, which moderns should note. First, he argued that simply never having observed design in action on a biological level does not preclude any possibility of arguing for that same design (Natural Theology, 8, cited below). Second, evidence of things “going wrong” within a design does not invalidate the design of an object in and of itself. Third, higher level natural laws which may lead to order does not explain away the order itself. Fourth, when something appears to be designed, the burden of proof is upon those who assert an object is not designed.

These points seem to me to hold true to this day. I am sure none of them are uncontroversial, but Paley places his defense of this points squarely within his analysis of those artifacts which he considers to be designed (i.e. the eye and ear). A full treatment of these points thus must turn to his own arguments, but for now I would provide the following brief defenses. Regarding the first, this point seems obvious. If I have never seen someone construct a car, that does not in any way mean that I cannot conclude that someone had to have made it. The second point should be well taken within the context of the debate between Intelligent Design and Darwinian forms of evolution. The point is that simply pointing out a flaw in a design does not mean an entire object is undesigned. The third item seems correct because if something exhibits order, and that order is shown to be based around an ordering principle, the very order in and of itself has not been explained; instead, it is only the mechanism for generating that order which is observed. Finally, the fourth point is likely to be the most controversial–after all, appearances may deceive. Yet it does seem to be the case that if, a priori, something appears designed, then to conclude that something is not designed one must have defeating evidence for this appearance.

A View of the Evidences of Christianity

Paley’s Evidences (commonly known as “Evidences of Christianity”) became almost instantly famous. The work generated a number of summaries and expositions by other authors who were delighted with its style and the arguments contained therein. It is easy to see why, once one has begun a read through this apologetic treatise. Paley presents a number of arguments in favor of the Christian worldview. These evidences are largely historical in nature and include the suffering of those who spread Christianity as evidence for its truth, extrabiblical evidence for the truth of the Gospels, the authenticity of our Gospel accounts due to the early practices and beliefs of Christians, undesigned coincidences, and many more. Paley also provides a dismantling of David Hume’s argument against miracles.

It seems to me that any and all of these arguments retain the force they had in Paley’s own day. Consider the argument from the suffering of Christians. Well of course those of other faiths are willing to even die for that which they believe is true. But Paley rightly pointed out a huge difference between those of other faiths dying for their beliefs and the early eyewitnesses of the events surrounding Christ dying for their own beliefs. Namely, these people would know for certain whether that which they believed were true. That is, they either saw the resurrected Christ or they did not. If they did not, then explaining their willingness to die for this profession of faith becomes extremely difficult. However, if they did actually see that which they declared, their willingness to suffer unto death for this belief makes perfect sense. Many miss this important distinction even to this day. The rest of Paley’s arguments found in the Evidences is filled with insights similar to this.

Horae Paulinae

An argument which has largely been neglected within modern apologetic circles is that of “undesigned coincidences.” I have made an exposition of this argument already, and it should be noted that the best places to discover it are in the realm of historical apologetics. William Paley dedicated this work, Horae Paulinae, to discovering undesigned coincidences within the Pauline corpus alongside Paul’s history as written in Acts.

Now, the argument from undesigned coincidences takes quite a bit of work to properly outline. It is, in essence, a matter of looking through the Scriptures and finding how incidental details in one account fill in the blanks of another account. However, this description is so brief as to be simplistic. Paley himself acknowledged a number of the difficulties with describing undesigned coincidences in this way. Regarding the Pauline corpus, for example, it could be that someone invented letters from Paul but based them upon his history found in Acts. But the argument itself takes this into account and generally serves as a defeater for this notion by sheer weight of evidence. That is, the more coincidences are found, the more credulity is stretched if one wishes to assert forgery.

Paley buries the objections to undesigned coincidences in this fashion throughout the Horae Paulinae. The sheer volume of coincidences he finds, and the way they seem so clearly to be incidental, serves to dispel doubts about their genuine nature.

Other Works

Here, we have surveyed Paley’s major works, but he was a prolific writer who published sermons and of course his (in)famous work on utlitarian ethics. The preeminence of Paley as a scholar and writer is unquestionable. It is time we acknowledge how much we have to learn from those who have come before us.

Conclusion

We have seen the diverse array of arguments which Paley offered in favor of Christianity. These ranged from biological design arguments to undesigned coincidences to historical arguments in favor of the Gospels. Paley was a masterful writer whose arguments continue to influence apologists and draw ire from atheists to this day. Although the arguments have not been unscathed, I have offered a few reasons to reconsider some which have long been dismissed or forgotten. Paley’s influence endures. 

I would like to dedicate this post to Tim McGrew, who introduced me to the vast field of historical apologetics. Without his bubbling delight and enthusiasm in the field, I would never have known much–if anything–about people like Paley. It is my hope and prayer that you may also be persuaded to pursue historical apologetists/apologetics. Be sure to check the links for some good starting places.

Be sure to check out the links at the end of this post as well as the resources from Paley.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.” I often ask questions for readers and give links related to interests on this site.

Library of Historical Apologetics– Here is where I got started, with Tim McGrew’s phenomenal collection of works. In particular, the “annotated bibliography” will set you up with some fine works. The site features a “spotlight” on the main page for various fantastic reads. Browse and download at will. Also check out their Facebook page.

On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity– I provide a number of links as well as an annotated list of historical apologetics works which are great jumping off points for learning more about the vast array of arguments which have largely been forgotten within the realm of apologetic argument. I consider this one of the most important posts on this site.

Forgotten Arguments for Christianity: Undesigned Coincidences- The argument stated– Here I outline the argument from undesigned coincidences and explain how it can be used within apologetics.

Sources

William Paley, Evidences of Christianity (this is a free link for the item on Kindle, note that it is also available for purchase in a hard copy). Also see here for a few links to PDF versions of the book.

—-, Natural Theology (Oxford World’s Classics) – This link is for the Kindle edition which I used for this post. I highly recommend this specific edition due to the helpful introduction and other information included in the text. It can be found for free here.

—-, Horae Paulinae – this link is to the kindle version. It is also available for free here.

*I am indebted to the discussion of Paley’s life found in the introduction of the Oxford Classic’s edition of Paley’s Natural Theology, which I have cited above.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“A New Vision for Natural Theology” A Book Review of “The Open Secret” by Alister McGrath

Alister McGrath is a well-known name in Christian philosophy, science, and apologetics. His book, The Open Secret is his call to Christians to develop natural theology not just as philosophically, but as a system of theology which touches on all aspects of life.

Natural theology, according to McGrath, is not just a way to argue for the existence of God. Rather, “The enterprise of natural theology… is one of discernment, of seeing nature in a certain way…” (3). He argues that natural theology in fact should not be viewed as a system to prove the existence of God. Rather, it “addresses fundamental questions about divine disclosure and human cognition and perception. In what way can human beings, reflecting on nature by means of natural processes, discern the transcendent?” (5, emphasis his). Natural theology can be seen as an entire worldview, put forth to view the world in a certain way (17).

McGrath, after outlining his vision thus, turns to the human experience of the transcendent. He focuses on three thinkers- Iris Murdoch, Roy Bhaskar, and John Dewey (41ff). He then turns to various ways humans have accessed the transcendent (59ff) and includes an evaluation of the psychology of perception (80ff).

He once more emphasizes the need to see natural theology as a type of “seeing” (115) and turns to Jesus to  demonstrate the approach McGrath favors. Jesus’ parables are a model for natural theology, argues McGrath. They are “open… the interpretation is generally left indefinite and imprecise… the imagery of the parables is readily grasped [but] their meaning is often veiled…” (120-121). Similarly, nature itself is easy to grasp, but it has hidden meanings which can only be perceived by viewing the world in a certain way (126ff).

The Enlightenment approaches to natural theology have been largely unsuccessful historically and are in need of modification (140ff).

A Christian approach to natural theology should focus on “seeing” God in the natural. God has chosen to “self-disclose in history and nature” (178) and natural theology can reveal God in nature (178ff). Christian natural theology is “eschatological… The fading beauty and goodness of the world are to be interpreted in the light of the hope of their restoration and renewal” (206).

Natural theology must also break out of its boundaries. It is not just the realm of philosophical reflection, but also opens many points of contacts with the world. It is “about  perceiving nature in a certain way” (221). Beauty, goodness, and truth are all aspects of reality which can be drawn out through a Christian Natural Theology (222ff). Again,

“natural theology… cannot be regarded as ‘proving’ God’s existence. Rather, it insists that the existence of a God such as that proposed by the Christian tradition makes sense of what may be observed of the world. Such an approach holds that there is an accumulation of considerations which, though not constituting logical proof (how could experience prove anything in such a way?), is at the very least consistent with the existence of a creator God (233).

The goal is not proof but a demonstration of consistency, which will “reinforce the plausibility” of Christianity (234).

Beauty and goodness draw out the reality of the Christian vision of the world. Beauty must not be neglected in natural theology (262ff). Beauty “can… call us, seeking a response” (283). Goodness underlies the resonance with natural law and the moral truths that can be seen as built in to “the fabric of the universe” (293ff).

McGrath concludes by urging readers to see natural theology as a key to open the “mysteries” and “hidden meaning” of nature’s “open secret” (314-315). Natural theology is primarily a vision–a way of viewing the world. The goal of the natural theologian, therefore, is to show how the reality of the world resonates best with a Christian worldview.

There is little to find at fault in McGrath’s powerful work. The Open Secret has enormous depth and breadth. Few areas of development are left unexplored. As one who has great interest in natural theology and who frequently discusses it, this reader must agree with McGrath that the arguments of natural theology often don’t work as proofs so much as pointers. Few are willing to embrace Christianity due only to an argument from natural theology, but the arguments themselves can be used to show how Christianity touches and explains many aspects of reality. McGrath’s vision is really an expanded “cumulative case”; one which focuses not just on many arguments, but brings the beauty of the world and its inherent goodness (while acknowledging ugliness and evils) into the folds of natural theology.

Alister McGrath’s The Open Secret provides a vision for the development and integration of natural theology into the arts, the sciences; indeed, into every aspect of life. It is a vision that will resonate with readers and drive them to see Christianity as an integrated whole. The book is, without a doubt, a must read.

Source

Alister McGrath, The Open Secret (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Devotion for a Philosopher/Apologist: Job and Natural Theology

One thing I’ve noted throughout my involvement in apologetics and philosophy is a constant need and desire for good devotions. I’ve written some guidelines for how to go about a devotional life here, but I’ve noticed that many readers are coming to my site looking for actual devotions themselves. Thus, I’ve decided to start this series of devotions for the Christian Philosopher or Apologist.

Job and Natural Theology

Recommended reading: The book of Job, a chapter or book on natural theology

Often, I find myself struggling, as I am so enmeshed in abstract concepts of God and philosophy, to maintain that personal connection with my Lord. Nowhere do I find a better place to reignite this personal connection than the book of Job. It appeals to me on a number of levels–it has verses which demonstrate the greatness of faith, the horrors of evil, and the greatness and existence of God.

As Christian philosophers/apologists, we can smile and nod along with such passages as Job 12:7-10″

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”

We can note how often we echo these very words, pointing to such things as the teleological argument or arguments from design. Scripture preaches what we teach! We are told here that creation itself witnesses the Creator! But these aren’t the only verses in Job which help affirm the tasks to which we have set ourselves, for we are told in Job about the attributes of God (He is unchangeable 23:13, almighty chapters 25-26, majestic 37:1ff, omnibenevolent 34:10 [though note that we must be careful to assertain doctrinal truths from Job’s friends, who are often mistaken about the works of God], and sovereign 1:21) we are informed that religious experience can convey knowledge (4:12, but again note that this is a friend of Job’s, so be careful with interpretation), and we discover that there will be a physical resurrection (19:25).

Already, we have experienced many of the parts of Job which speak directly to us as apologists and philosophers. But there is so much more here! We are to focus upon faith. As I said before, I often lose sight of my personal relationship with God in the midst of the abstract arguments, but Job (the book) calls us towards such a strong relationship with God.

Job 5:8-27 can give us great comfort. It is God to whom we commit our cause (5:8). God does great and unsearchable things, providing for our every need (5:9-16). Furthermore, we are comforted in times of trouble. God may allow us to be wounded, but he binds us, we may be shattered, but God heals us (5:18).

Finally, within Job we have a stirring account from God. Another struggle I can find myself involved in is an inflated view of my knowledge. Job struggled with this same issue, as he complained to God about his sufferings. God’s response is not to explain suffering, but to reassert His greatness and unlimited knowledge (see the dialogue in chapters 38 and following). We are then shown what our proper response is to God’s great majesty, Job 42:1-6:

Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? ‘Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job understands how our lives should reflect our commitment to God. We too often utter what we do not understand, when we encounter God, we realize that compared to His great glory, we can only repent of inability to always be perfect ambassadors of Christ. Yet, along with Job, we know that our redeemer lives (Job 19:25). What a great blessing it is to know that we will walk with him, in the flesh, upon the earth!

God’s grace and peace to you, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. I hope this devotion will be helpful in your studies. I’d appreciate any feedback you can give me to help improve any future devotions I may share.

The image in this post was a (very unprofessional) photograph by me of the Lutheran Study Bible and the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

The Teleological Argument

The “Teleological Argument,” which is also known as the “Argument from Design,”  has been popularized by the Intelligent Design movement, though the version I defend below is cosmological rather than biological.

The Teleological Argument is an inductive argument that doesn’t attempt to prove that God exists, but rather argues to justify or confirm that belief. In other words, it can function much like the Argument from Religious Experience in providing warrant, not proof, for belief. It’s an inductive argument that seeks to increase the probability of theism, not prove it.

Robin Collins wrote the chapter on the Teleological Argument in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, entitled “The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe.” I can honestly say that I only understood about 70-80% of the material. While there is a large amount of hefty philosophical argumentation involved, it was the double-dose of astronomy and physics (things I have an average-at-best understanding of) that kept me from fully understanding this chapter. That said, I think That I understood enough to have the core of the argument intact. Collins argues that the universe has been “fine-tuned” to be a Life-Permitting Universe (LPU). He states that “This fine-tuning falls into three major categories: that of the laws of nature, that of the constants of physics, and that of the intial conditions of the universe…” (BCNT, 202).

I have long been skeptical of the usefulness of the Teleological Argument, but Collins puts forward a rather subdued version, in which he doesn’t loftily claim to prove God’s existence, but rather to state that “…given the fine-tuning evidence, LPU strongly supports T[heism] over the [Naturalistic Single Universe Hypothesis (hereafter referred to as the NSU)]” (205). Thus, instead of arguing that theism is true based on teleology, he argues that naturalism is less likely than theism based on teleology.

Collins pits the “Theistic Hypothesis” (as he calls it, T) against the NSU. He introduces the “Likelihood Principle,” which, in my own stripped down version basically states that if there is some evidence, e in favor of a hypothesis (say, T) over another (NSU), then T is more likely (205). All of this sounds, as I said, very subdued. The Teleological Argument as Collins presents it is not an end-all, be-all argument to convince everyone, but rather seems to be a justification for belief.

Now we must return to the evidence for fine-tuning. As previously stated, this falls into three categories: the laws of nature, the constants of nature, and the intial conditions of the universe (202). The laws or principles of nature that are required for “self-reproducing, highly complex material systems” (211) are 1) a universal attractive force, such as gravity 2) a force similar to the strong nuclear force, 3) a force similar to electromagnetic force, 4) Bohr’s Quantization Rule or something similar (electrons occupy only fixed orbitals [213]), and 5) the Pauli Exclusion Principle (“no two fermions… can occupy the same quantum state” [213]). The reason such things are required is because without #1, things would just float around everywhere, #2 allows for nucleons to stay together, without which it seems obvious there would be no complexity, #3, if it were not true, would mean there were no atoms (for nothing could hold them in orbit [212]), #4 allows electrons to keep energy, and #5 directly allows for complex chemistry (“without this principle, all eelectrons would occupy the lowest atomic orbital…” [213]) (211).

The constants of physics also are essential for an LPU. These include the constant of gravity and the cosmological constant (214, 215). Both of these seem necessary for the existence of life. The cosmological constant, for example, states that when it is positive, it will act as a repulsive force, but when negative, it will act as a negative force. If  this constant had been different than it is, then the universe would have expanded or collapsed too quickly for stars and galaxies to form (215).

Naturalistic alternatives will be lacking. For example, one of the most likely alternatives for the naturalist is to discover some set of laws such that they explain the cosmological constant being what it is. But if this is the case, the naturalist has only pushed the question up one step higher, for now one could ask for an explanation for the fine-tuning of such a law. Another problem is that, as always, it seems the naturalist is assuming that an explanation will be discovered (219). There are a few problems with this in itself. One is that it is an argument to the future, which is a logical fallacy. One cannot simply state that one’s position is correct by stating that one day it will be demonstrated. Further, the naturalist may claim the theist has now created a “God of the gaps.” This is another fallacious way to attempt to argue against the theist. As stated before, the assumption that science will one day fill in every gap is a fallacy: argument to the future. Naturalists create their own “science of the gaps” in which they assume every gap will be filled by science. Another problem is that in order for the naturalist’s objection “God of the gaps” to work, it must carry weight for the theist, lest it be question-begging in nature. Yet there is no plausible way that, given theism, appealing to God for explanation of some concept should be ruled out a priori. Thus, the naturalist begs the question in objecting in a “God of the gaps” fashion. Further, such an objection as the “God of the gaps” is question begging in that they assume the theist is proposing theism as a scientific hypothesis. This is not the case. The theist is proposing God as a metaphysical and philosophical explanation, not a scientific one (225). Not only that, but if, for example, there is some theory of everything yet to be discovered, this would only push the fine-tuning up one level, and the naturalist would have to explain the existence of this theory of everything. The Teleological Argument doesn’t lose weight in light of such objections.

The Teleological Argument Collins brings forward is (my very summed up version, though all of the following are direct quotes):

“1) Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPU is very, very epistemically unlikely under NSU…

2) Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPU is not unlikely under theism…

3) Theism was advocated prior to the fine-tuning evidence (and has independent motivation)

4) Therefore, by the restricted version of the Likelihood Principle, LPU strongly supports Theism over NSU (207)”

The first premise is one that should not really be all that heavily debated. Just as one example, the cosmological constant is fine tuned to about 1 part in 10^120 (Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig, 159). There are many other constants that have such unfathomably small likelihood of occurring. The difference is in how one explains this. Some argue for brute fact (it just is), but others argue based on the multiverse hypothesis.

Collins argues in various ways against the multiverse hypothesis scientifically. I will present my own argument, which is philosophical in nature. If our universe is one of many (perhaps infinitely many), then a number of logical problems arise. One is the problem of discovery. If we are granting naturalism, then how do we scientifically discover these other universes, if, based on the multiverse hypothesis, we cannot? Not only that, but there are modal problems with the multiverse hypothesis. Given an infinite number of universes that exist, then it seems highly likely there are other “J.W. Wartick”s in these universes. But there would likely be a far greater number in which there is no “J.W. Wartick” (much to the chagrin of the inhabitants!). If this is the case, then I simultaneously exist and do not exist, which is contradictory. But, it could be argued, these other “J.W. Wartick”s are not actually me, they are alternate mes in entirely different universes! This only introduces other problems, such as identity.

This problem is another discovery problem, but this one does not exist in a scientific sense but a philosophical one. How, for example, do we identify these other universes? How do we discover their properties? How do we infer any truths about our universe if, as stated just before, they are entirely different universes, and one cannot say that there are two “J.W. Wartick”s out there? In other words, if we state that the problem of “J.W. Wartick” existing and not existing isn’t a problem because these universes are not our own and are entirely different, how then do we derive knowledge of our own unverse from these hypothetical universes in the sense that we infer that our own universe isn’t all that unlikely given that we are one in infinite (or a great many)? One cannot have it both ways.

Others modify the multiverse hypothesis to say that there really aren’t infinite universes out there, but rather only those with laws similar to our own, selected by a sort of naturalistic machine that determines which universes are and are not possible. But if this is the case, then we have again only shifted the problem of our own existence from one point on the ladder to another. What determines this “machine” that selects universes non-arbitrarily (for it must not be arbitrary if we are using it to try to explain apparent fine-tuning)? Thus, this hypothesis doesn’t solve anything.

Then there is what Collins calls the “Weak Anthropic Principle objection.” I believe this is the claim Dawkins was making that I analyzed in another post. Collins writes, “According to the weak verson of the so-called Anthropic Principle, if the laws of nature were not fine-tuned, we should not be here to comment on the fact. Some have argued, therefore, that LPU is not really improbable or surprising at all under NSU, but simply follows from the fact that we exist” (277). There are a few problems with this, as I pointed out in the post I linked with Dawkins (such as the claim that such a thing is necessarily true that is implicit). But there are even more problems. The first is the argument could simply be restated to argue that our existence as embodied moral agents is extremely unlikely under NSU, but not under theism (277).

More convincing, however, is an example:

Imagine that I am standing to be executed, with 50 sharpshooters ready to fire at me. They fire, and they all miss. Would my response really be, “if they had not missed me, I would not be here to consider the fact?” Such a response is inadequate. One would almost be forced to conclude that there was some reason they all missed, given the background information that had the intention been to kill me, they almost certainly would have killed me (276).

Thus, such a dismissal of the evidence as Dawkins performs misses the mark (pun slightly intended).

Brute Fact must similarly be discareded as an explanation. Dr. Parrish argues in his book God and Necessity (which I recently read and discussed) that Brute Fact is logically undercut as an explanation for a number of reasons. These include that the Brute Fact hypothesis states explicitly that everything is random. If this is the case, then there should be no laws to observe, and, in fact, things should randomly be happening constantly. But Brute Fact proponents may argue that everything was random, but once it started, it was determined (God and Necessity, Stephen E. Parrish, 189).  This, however, ignores the fact that relationships, in Brute Fact, are completely random. There is no reason to believe that, for example, a law should continue to operate how it does, even if we can observe it for a great deal of time doing so. Further, if such things were set in place upon being randomly selected by Brute Facy randomness, there are two major probelms. The first is that Brute Fact has no way to explain why such things should become determined upon selection, and the second is that even if one could get around this first problem, there remains no way to explain why it should always be the case. If everything is random, then everything is random, necessarily. There can be no constants.

Thus, it seems as though theism is the best way to explain the fine-tuning of the universe. Multiverse hypotheses fail in that they have scientific (which I did not discuss) and logical problems. Brute Fact can’t account for constants. Finally, just saying that we are here to observe the universe doesn’t do anything to undermine questions that ask Why are we here, and not somewhere else, or nowhere?

I don’t believe the Teleological Argument proves God exists, but it does add a significant amount of warrant to the belief that He does.

——–

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,656 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason