Blake's Notes

9. Miracles

The problem of miracles is the problem of the apparent contradiction between miracles and the laws of science.  How can a miracle occur if it breaks a law of science?

Following C.S. Lewis in his book, Miracles, the first question to determine is whether or not you are a naturalist.  A naturalist believes that nothing exists except this physical world.  A miracle involves some kind of interaction outside of this physical world.  Since naturalism and a belief in miracles are incompatible then if you are a naturalist, miracles are impossible and no further discussion is necessary.  But if you are not a naturalist, then the problem of miracles becomes the question: does anything outside our physical world have causal interaction with our physical world?

Science has nothing to say on this question.  Science describes what goes on in the physical world when it is not acted upon by outside influence, but it cannot say whether or not this physical world that it describes is causally closed.  Consequently, the question of whether or not the physical universe is closed is not a question that you will ever find in a science textbook.  It is not a scientific question – it is a metaphysical question.  How would science ever even begin to answer questions about things outside the physical world? Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

8. The Historical Argument

Whether you believe in Jesus or not, you cannot deny the fact that something happened 2,000 years ago that radically changed the world.  The religion of the Jews which had remained unchanged for thousands of years (as ancient to them as Jesus is to us) was augmented with an additional member of the trinity, sparking the world’s largest religion.  Today, fully one third of our planet’s inhabitants subscribe to the religion ignited by this man, Jesus. Were those events the greatest hoax of all time?  Imagine if David Koresh were still worshiped as God in the year 4000 A.D.  Is a person capable of pulling off such a hoax?  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since these people lived long ago, they were ignorant.  If a small group of people began worshipping a man as resurrected right after his crucifixion, their society would ordinarily scoff and this religion would not get off the ground.  But somehow it became the most transformative event in the history of humankind.   Read the rest of this entry »

7. The Experiential Argument

The Experiential Argument is an argument of confirmation – it argues that a Theist is right in believing in God based only upon their experience of him.  There is a theory called Foundationalism which says that beliefs are justified using other beliefs and those beliefs are justified with still other beliefs and so on.  But at some point, in the process of justifying ever more basic beliefs, you must eventually arrive at certain beliefs that are intuitively known, and cannot be further justified.  These are called properly basic beliefs.  We believe them because although we can’t justify them with evidence, we form them in the context of the experience of everyday life.  An example of a properly basic belief is the belief that the physical world around us is real and it is not just our brains being manipulated to think the world exists.  We can’t prove this but given our ongoing experience of the world, we believe it.

The philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, claims that a belief in God should be considered a properly basic belief like this.  Plantinga believes that humans have an innate, natural capacity to apprehend God’s existence just like we have a natural capacity to see.  When you see a tree, he says, you do not infer it from your experience of seeing it.  You just see it.  Similarly, when we experience God, we do not infer His existence, we experience his existence such as when we feel compelled morally, or experience guilt, or gratitude, or when we recognize God’s handiwork in nature.  It is during these times that we naturally apprehend God’s existence and this is a legitimate belief. Read the rest of this entry »

6. Argument from Reason

The Argument from Reason shows that the Naturalist worldview is false because it is self-refuting.  The argument was first popularized by C.S. Lewis in the third chapter of his book, Miracles.  Naturalism, according to Lewis is the belief “that the ultimate Fact, the thing you can’t go behind, is a vast process in space and time which is going on of its own accord.”  To the Naturalist, this world is nothing but it’s physical components and everything that happens is a necessary effect of a series of causes.  Everything that happens, therefore, is part of a long cause-and-effect chain and nothing (like a decision or a belief) can be newly introduced into this chain.  Every action is just the inevitable next step of previous causes – even our own actions; even our own beliefs. Read the rest of this entry »

5. Argument from Consciousness

There are some things in this world that are such an integral part of our daily existence that we don’t notice what mysterious anomalies they are.  One such anomaly is our consciousness.  Think for a moment about your mind (as opposed to your brain).  The mind is really a singular thing in this world in that it contains consciousness.  Consciousness consists of sensations, thoughts, beliefs, desires and volitions and we experience nothing else remotely like it in this world.  While everything we experience in this world is physical, this is a distinctly nonphysical (and yet very real) thing.  But there are other curious properties that also make it unique, such as the subjective feelings associated with it – when you look at the color red, you get a real sense of the redness of red, rather than just detecting a particular wavelength of light.  Or consider the ability of consciousness to have thoughts about another thing.  Nothing else we know of has this property of aboutness.  To the Naturalist, who believes the world is nothing but what we experience in the natural world, consciousness fits awkwardly among everything else.  What is the origin of consciousness?  Why isn’t it like everything else?  There is a vast array of mental phenomena planted right here in the middle of this natural world and the atheist worldview cannot reasonably account for it. Read the rest of this entry »

4. The Moral Argument

Throughout history, theists and atheists alike have affirmed that if God does not exist, then there can be no such thing as objective morality.  Friedrich Nietzsche believed that the death of God implied nihilism.  Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “Without God, all things are permitted.”  And yet we all possess a common, mysterious sense of morality – the sense that some things are not merely convention, but that they are really wrong.

The Moral Argument is:

1.  If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2.  Objective moral values do exist.

3.  Therefore, God exists. Read the rest of this entry »

3. The Teleological Argument

In the last forty years, scientists have become increasingly aware of a truly amazing phenomenon.  They have been finding that many of the constants and quantities of nature are fine-tuned for the existence of life to a degree incomprehensible to the human mind.  There are about 24 such examples of fine-tuning – some improbable to a degree of 1 chance in 10; others improbable to a degree of 1 chance in 10123 (To give an idea of the immensity of these numbers, consider the fact that there are only around 1080 protons, neutrons and electrons in the known universe).  Each of these 24 examples of fine tuning is independent of the others and so their probabilities are compounded.  It is like if you had one chance to randomly pick the “winning” proton, neutron or electron from the known universe and you picked it correctly.  The improbability involved with the fine-tuning is far more improbable than even that. Read the rest of this entry »

2. The Kalam Cosmological Argument

The first piece of evidence is known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument.  “Kalam” is an Arabic word which means words and discourse as opposed to pure faith, and the reason that it has an Arabic name is because the foundation of this argument comes from the Middle Eastern philosopher, Al Ghazali, who lived around 1050 in Iran.

The argument is:

1.  Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2.  The universe began to exist.

3.  Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This is a logically sound argument because premise one and premise two lead logically to the conclusion.  To disagree with the conclusion, you must show that at least one of the two premises is false. Read the rest of this entry »

1. Arguments & Proof

There is a prevailing view among atheists that since you cannot prove God’s existence, you would be irrational to believe in God.  Here in the scientific age, they say, we operate on proof and without proof, belief in the existence of God is equivalent to belief in the existence of unicorns.  After all, society used to believe in things like witches and fairies but now we follow a process called the scientific method whereby we use testing and observation to find truth.  The hypothesis that God exists has never been confirmed with the scientific method and so one would be irrational to believe in God.  The thought is that since a belief in God lies outside the process of the scientific method, it lies in the realm of illegitimate belief along with psychics, tarot cards and astrology. Read the rest of this entry »