Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Final Review: Chapter 6

Section 6.1 (Theism)

Cosmological Argument by St. Aquinas: The universe must have a “first cause,” which must spring from an eternal Being. That eternal Being is God. Counterargument: The Big Bang. There is no need for a first cause because cause and effect begin with the Bang.

Analogical Design Argument: A watch is to a watchmaker as the universe is to God. Counterarguments: 1- John Stuart Mill-s counterargument: If God needs the universe to accomplish HIS goals, then HE is not omnipotent. 2- The universe "as organism" rather than a machine.

Best Explanation Argument: The best explanation for the existence of such complex universe is that it was created by a supernatural Being. Counterargument: Theory of Evolution and natural selection

Intelligent Design: Evolution is false because there are structures that are so complex that they cannot have evolved through natural selection. Michael Behe’s idea of "irreducible complexity" claims just that. Irreducible complexity refers to a system composed of well-matched parts, interacting to bring forth a basic function (ex. a mouse trap). Counterargument: Most biologists believe that there are instances of systems that contradict Behe’s argument, ex. air bladders (or primitive lungs) made it possible for some fish to acquire new sources of food, but they were not necessary to the survival of the fish. Then as fish acquired legs and arms, lungs became essential.

Argument from Miracles: The universe must have been performed by a miracle worker. Counterargument: Why should God bend its own rules?

Argument from Religious Experience: A subjective experience that’s so powerful and unique that the only possible explanation is that it was produced by a supernatural being.
Counterargument: 1- Hallucinogenics have been used by ancient civilizations as worship experiences to tap into altered states. 2- This kind of experience is internal and vague and not enough to warranty an external source.

St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument: If one can conceive of a God (the greatest possible Being), then that God must exist in reality (a Being that exists in reality is greater than a being that exists only in our minds). Counterargument: Not everything that is conceivable is possible. Example: “Superman.”

Pascal’s Wager: We’re better believing in God rather than not, just in case he exists.

Section 6.2 (Theodicies)

Knowledge Defense: Knowledge of evil is important (even to understand goodness) and it cannot exist unless there’s evil in the world. Counterargument: Suppose this is true, then how can one explain the excess of evil? Unnecessary evil is not justified by the knowledge defense. Evil must be necessary for something other than our education.

Free will defense: Evil is necessary for free will. We choose and sometimes we choose evil over good. Counterargument: 1- There’s still much more evil in the world that is necessary. Why is evil chosen so often? The theist needs to answer this question. 2- Heaven offers another example. Angels are free and yet they don’t choose evil. Why not?

Ideal Humanity Defense: Evil improves the human race. Counterargument: This is an argument of the living, not the dead.Character (or soul) building defense: Evil is not wrong for our own sake. Counterargument: If this is true, then fighting evil becomes wrong (you shouldn’t alleviate a person’s suffering because it’s good for her character).Section 6.2 (Theodicies)

Section 6.3 (Fideism)

Kierkegaard agrees with Tertullian's motto "I believe because it is absurd." According to Kierkegaard, God needs not be proved because -at best- HE would become probable. The best solution is to believe by faith. The more absurd the predicament, the more intense the faith. What’s important with faith is not "what" one believes but "how" one believes. Kierkegaard defines faith as a "subjective truth." Counterargument: 1- What if one is wrong? 2- How about the result of blind faith in fundamentalism or fanaticism?

Evidentialism: It holds that not only we need evidence to support our beliefs, but that we have a responsibility to have adequate evidence to avoid unnecessary wrongs to innocent people (Torquemada and the Inquisition is a good example: He had faith in what he was doing, yet, he didn’t have evidence).

Existentialism: In a world without a God, humans are free and responsible for what they do. We constantly create ourselves in the act of making choices. Life is absurd: There is no single explanation for the way things are. A growing number of theologians, Paul Tillich amongst them  talk about a God that is not personal, but the grounds of the personal. In other words, God is not a being but the grounds of being i.e., the power that exists in all of us to lead meaningful, fulfilling, religious lives. In fact being a good person and leading a good life does not require a belief in God. That means that the fruits of religion are not limited to only the faithful.