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God doesn’t obviously not exist.

February 4, 2014

Welcome Facebook friends and others who have stumbled upon this post. I’ve had my blog for a while, and if you look through you’ll see old philosophy papers and 1 blog entry from my Scotland travels. See the post prior to this one if you’re interested in knowing what I hope to make this blog about now.

With that explanation, I’m going to defend this statement in this post: “God doesn’t obviously not exist.”

Now, before we get into a kerfuffle about semantics and double negatives, let me explain myself. Primarily, I am NOT saying “It is obvious that God exists.” Really, I am saying “It isn’t obvious that God does not exist.” If somebody really wanted me to put it positively, I would say “It might be that God does exist.”

This is the argument I’ll use to defend that statement:

  1. If “x” is believed by a fair amount of respected intellectuals, then “x” is not obviously false.
  2. “God exists” is believed by a fair amount of respected intellectuals.
  3. “God exists” is not obviously false.

I’ll begin defending this argument starting with the easiest objections and working my way toward the most difficult. In doing so, I’ll start at 3 and work my way back to 1.

And so we begin with 3, the conclusion. If 1 and 2 are both true, then 3 MUST be true. You logically cannot say “I agree with 1 and 2, but I don’t gather 3 from that.” It would be nonsensical. Thus, in order to attack 3, you must defeat 1 or 2. Think of 3 as the king’s chambers, and 2 or 1 as the moat/draw bridge. And if you want to impress your friends with some Latin, make arguments like the above and throw ‘modus ponens’ around next time you fight about whether the NCAA football playoff system will actually work in 2014.

Ok, we’ve made it through the “breathe in / breathe out” of our philosophical work-out warm-up. Now let’s get to stretching.

In regard to 2, the first thing I’ll address is my use of “fair amount.” I completely concede that this is an arbitrary statement. Is “fair amount” 4 or 4,000? I won’t attempt to answer that. I will say, whatever the number, I think it’s enough to make 2 true. Enough, that I’ve seen readily available public evidence for respected intellectuals believing God exists. Enough, that it isn’t out of the ordinary for respected intellectuals to believe God exists (people that believe so henceforth referred to as ‘theists.’) If any person reading this still just doesn’t believe me, here’s a short list of respected intellectuals that were/are, at the least, theists.

Isaac Newton

Galileo Galilei

Michael Behe (biochemist & author of “Darwin’s Black Box”)

C.S. Lewis (Literary academic)

Gregor Mendel (pioneer in the field of Genetics; priest)

Alvin Plantinga (philosopher)

Francis Collins (former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; his own testimony here (originally found at godandscience.org)à
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml0FqyFYfrU)

William P. Alston (philosopher)

Richard Swinburne (philosopher)

Christopher Langan (a guy with a super high IQ)

Thomas Reid (philosopher; pastor)

Other scientists here: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html (I can’t attest to the truth of this list)

Other philosophers here: http://rationalperspective.wordpress.com/theistic-philosophers/ (I can attest to the truth of all of the Baylor names on the list, as I studied under / went to church with several of them and knew enough about the others)

….

And that takes care of #2. Now, ON TO THE REAL WORK OUT, the defense of premise #1: “If ‘x’ is believed by a fair amount of respected intellectuals, then ‘x’ is not obviously false.”

Note 1 – As stated above, “Not obviously false” is NOT the same as “obviously true.”

Note 2 – “Respected intellectuals” is key. I’m not just saying “hey, if lots of people believe something, it’s not obviously false.” The fact that a belief is carried by a large number of people doesn’t necessarily give that belief merit, though it might have merit for other reasons. However, I think there’s something different to be said when a number of respected intellectuals believe something. When I presented this argument to a few friends, one of them noted that it used to be the case that everybody thought the world was flat, even intellectuals, and that was a point against my argument. However, the idea that the Earth is spherical wasn’t simply brought up in conversation some day and then decided on. After MUCH scientific thought and MUCH debate, it became accepted that the Earth was (and still is) spherical. A lot of us don’t know the proofs that were used to prove the shape of the Earth, we just trusted our history teacher when they told us that somebody proved it was true. I think this is an argument FOR my thought. There are intellectuals that believe God exists and provide solid arguments for that belief, much like intellectuals provided solid arguments for the spherical shape of the Earth.

Many respected intellectuals are those who have done heavy research/thinking in their field, be it science, philosophy, sociology, literature, etc. I think 1) we can trust that those who have thought hard about other subjects would think hard about their personal convictions and would not just accept any belief, and 2) several of the researchers listed above are those who have done critical thinking on this very belief in the existence of God. If critically thinking people accept theism as a viable belief, and if some of these critically thinking people have provided viable arguments for their belief, then it seems irresponsible to call that belief “obviously false” without addressing those arguments.

Note 3 – This argument could easily apply to other beliefs, such as atheistic belief, other religious beliefs, and various political beliefs. My argument isn’t meant to be an airtight argument for the existence of God. It’s simply meant to demonstrate that theistic belief shouldn’t be shrugged off as stupid or simplistic, and I think that’s the tendency of many people in present-day America. There are many atheists that are kind enough to respect religious belief. However, the loudest atheists seem to me to be the ones that think Christianity has no reasonable epistemic foothold in this world. I’d mainly like for the “loud” atheists to simmer down and have a conversation. The same goes for “loud” Christians who seem to think atheism is flat out stupid. There are arguments for and against religious belief, and both sides should recognize that.

All of that said, I think it’s understandable if a person doesn’t believe in God. While my convictions and experience make me desire for every person to believe in and experience God, there are reasons to be skeptical. There is also good evidence that points to God’s existence. Either way, it just isn’t the case that the belief is obvious in one way or the other, and I think that’s the way God intended it.

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From → Philosophy

One Comment
  1. Glad you’re writing again, as am I. You’re still on my blogroll!

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