What is the strongest argument for the existence of God?

by on May 20, 2017 at 10:23 am in Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized | Permalink

To be clear, I am a non-believer, but it is often worth trying to figure out versions of alternative views.

I am struck by those believers who find the “multiverse” or “we live in a simulation” to be absurd positions, presumably in their minds more absurd than theism.

My thoughts wander back to David Hume’s classic discussion of stumbling upon a watch in the wilderness.  Is it a “strange” watch?  We have an answer to this question only because we’ve already seen other watches.  We cannot with similar facility judge whether this is a “strange” universe/multiverse, nor can we readily judge a particular origin story for that universe as strange, or not.  We have no point of comparison, and furthermore I am not sure we can appeal to the physical laws that operate inside of this universe.

To many people, the branching multiverse seems bizarre, but “steady state matter” theories do not (even if they are false).  I am suggesting that distinction cannot be upheld.  You haven’t seen a multiverse in Cleveland before, and so you scratch your head and call that science fiction.  But you have seen stuff just sitting around on the sofa.  I submit that is a cosmological bias, not the grounds for an insight into origin stories.

If we cannot judge the strangeness of the universe, or judge the strangeness of an origin story for the universe, that is itself strange.  So we are always in the realm of the strange, it seems.

One major objection to theism is already taken off the table, namely the view of many non-believers that it is somehow absurd, mystical, Santa Claus-like, and so on.

So it’s “strangeness all the way down.”

What then is the most focal “strange” view on origins that we have?

To be sure, you might side against “focality” as a standard for choosing amongst very strange views about origins.  But now it seems we are on a turf where all kinds of doctrines stand a fighting chance.

1 S May 20, 2017 at 10:33 am

The cosmological argument is probably the most convincing. The universe (or multiverse) most likely had a beginning, at least according to the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem. Assuming that all things in the natural world must have a cause, then the universe (or multiverse) would also need an external cause. I see two compelling explanations for this external cause: 1) something supernatural or 2) we live in a simulation.

2 jorgensen May 20, 2017 at 10:55 am

If we live in a simulation then the questions become: (1) who created the simulation; (2) when and how did their universe start?

3 Someone from the other side May 20, 2017 at 10:56 am

And if there is a super natural being, same question about it coming into existence

4 eustis May 20, 2017 at 1:48 pm

(“… same question about it {God} coming into existence”)

yes, religious folks readily accept the notion of an Uncaused-Cause (God the Creator), but find the quite similar concept of an infinite-universe- without-a-beginning… to be outrageous

they also assume there are no intermediate entities between mankind and God; non-God entities (“demi-gods”) that are vastly superior to man could easily exist … and have created us and all we perceive around us — but are not an ultimate Creator (God)

WHY would an infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect being (God) create us or the universe ?

God would not act to create us unless there was some unfulfilled need or want in its existence… but by definition a perfect being can have no unfulfilled wants or needs

One hits logical contradictions everywhere in the human concept of God. Try finding empirical evidence or logical support for “square-circles”

5 Anon7 May 20, 2017 at 3:28 pm

You assume that your definition of perfection is correct (e.g., what if becoming > being?). How is that necessarily applicable to an entity which is posited to have existed prior to Creation?

6 eustis May 20, 2017 at 5:29 pm

… that Godly definition of perfection (a Supreme Being) is generally the Judeo-Christian view, very popular in U.S. No assumption made here that it is true; it merely illustrates a major contradiction in mainstream theology.

What attributes do you think are: “necessarily applicable to an entity which is posited to have existed prior to Creation?”

If one is discussing ” the strongest argument for the existence of God ” … one needs some clear definition of God. Do you have one to offer ?

7 Student May 20, 2017 at 5:53 pm

The infinite and incomprehensible uncaused cause. That with no beginning and no end. That which is simply… I am.

8 Rob May 20, 2017 at 7:06 pm

I think a better definition of a perfect being is one with no wants or needs that he is incapable of fulfilling. (Abrahamic religions generally hold that God is all powerful, but not that he is without passion or desire. The idea that perfection = absence of desire is rooted in eastern religions.)

9 Anon May 20, 2017 at 7:43 pm

1) Infinite-universe-without-a-beginning is not what we have. If you accept consensus of Big Bang theory then space time was created ~14 billions years ago.

2) Assuming that’s the case, it does bring up the questions of who/what caused the Big Bang. To ask, “well then who caused the causer” is nonsensical; causality does not apply if time doesn’t exist. By definition, if there is no time, there would not be cause and effect. So an uncaused-cause necessarily has to be invoked at some point.

3) The rest of your post seems to posit motivations, reasons, and meaning to an entity that literally would have created the universe. Think about that for just a minute. You think your mind is able to comprehend an entity that’s created space and time itself? Do you think ants have determined that humans are surely just strange and random trees with no roots that occasionally destroy their ant hills? Because WHY would an intelligent being mess up their ant hill unless there was an unfulfilled need for them to do so?

I’m not saying you need to be a deist, just saying I don’t think you’ve thought about this much. The logical contradictions abound.

10 Student May 20, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Anon, I think misunderstood the argument. The finite nature of existence is key to the argument.

11 DBN May 22, 2017 at 10:33 am

If a distinction between an eternal God and an eternal universe eludes you, it’s probably because modern society has forgotten what “transcendental” means.

12 JonFraz May 23, 2017 at 1:53 pm

An infinite universe without a beginning is not what the available evidence indicates– rather the cosmos has a boundary condition where time = 0 (in more metaphysically elevated language, there is a point where Time becomes logically orthogonal to the spatial dimensions, governed by a different geometry. I’m not even going to try to type equations here– I don’t have the fonts needed and very few people would understand any of it)

13 Dave Barnes May 20, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Turtles all the way down.

14 Anon May 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Not really. If you accept the Big Bang theory then the turtles end right there. And there’s just one last giant eternal turtle on the other side of the space time continuum who started the whole thing. If time doesn’t exist, causality doesn’t exist, circular reasoning doesn’t exist. Necessarily, there is no other turtle to speak of. It doesn’t even makes sense to ask the question “well what’s under that turtle?”

15 mm May 21, 2017 at 3:34 pm

bingo! The funny part about those who insist the big bang is the explanation overlook that the theory was proposed by a priest-who afterwards did not become an atheist. Below the last turtle must be the uncaused cause…ie God.

16 JonFraz May 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm

This is only the case insofar as the supernatural being has an origin in time (as some pagan gods did according to myth). A God who is not just the Creator but Existence itself* does not require a beginning as such a being originated Time iteslf.

This is the meaning of the Greek “Ο ΩΝ” found on traditional Christian icons of Christ. Literally it means “the being”– I am who Am.

17 Neil May 20, 2017 at 11:10 am

AWS all the way down.

18 kb May 20, 2017 at 2:15 pm

alcohol withdrawal syndrome?

19 Rabidwombat May 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Amazon Web Services. We’re in a virtual simulation running on virtual servers.

20 Troll Me May 20, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Are you sure these “simulation” notions aren’t in part promoted to ease people into the idea of de facto marching themselves off cliffs which embracing an eternity of simulated existence? (a la Robin Hanson’s “Em” sort of thing?)

21 Stormy Dragon May 20, 2017 at 11:11 am

The universe (or multiverse) most likely had a beginning

No it didn’t. Time is a property of space time, and thus only exists within the universe. The concept of “before” has no meaning outside the universe. It’s like asking what’s south of the south pole.

22 Troll Me May 20, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Before the egg was cracked.

23 Student May 20, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Time is a thing. Per the laws of physical material (including time), one cannot go from nothing to something based on these laws. So either the laws are internally inconsistent or something outside of them exists.

I agree with above, the kalam cosmological argument is the best. And given BGV, any universe with a rate of expansion > 0 is finite into the past. Even bouncing universes or multi verses are finite into the past.

Therefore something outside of the material realm must exist. That we call god.

IMO, it is the mostly reasonable explanation.

24 MikeP May 20, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Per that logic something outside that outside must exist, ad infinitum. You’ve gotten nowhere.

25 Student May 20, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Except for the fact that infinite regression is impossible in a universe with an expansion rate > 0. At some point there must just be a single uncaused cause. Call it whatever you like, but it’s what we mean by God.
Something beyond the possibility of the finite material universe must exist, else we could not. You can give it another name and play semantics if the word God makes you uncomfortable but it’s all the same thing in the end.

26 Student May 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Look good is like the concept of infinity in mathematics. We can understand it but we can never really grab it or fully grasp it. There is nothing beyond it. You can’t add anything to it. It is never ending. It is beyond reality but it is real.

27 Anon May 20, 2017 at 7:59 pm

No, I don’t think you’re thinking this trough. Before space and time were created 14 million years ago (Big Bang), time didn’t exist. Space didn’t exist. So causality doesn’t exist. There is no “outside”, there is no “before”, there is no “what caused”. If there is no space and time none of that logic makes any sense.

So where we’ve gotten is: “What/who created the universe”. Hence the mad scramble for oscillating universe theory, multiverse theory, simulation theory and other increasingly ridiculous theories. Scientist will gladly entertain all of these. But put forth a God Theory? Now that’s preposterous.

28 Student May 20, 2017 at 8:32 pm

Before space-time existed, there was nothing. From nothing only nothing can come. There must be a force outside space-time which caused space-time to burst forth. Or space-time is eternal itself (which there is little to no evidence for) or something can come from nothing… and so I guess there really is a free lunch after all.

29 Thomas May 20, 2017 at 11:47 pm

Time csn be altered by space which can be altered by gravity. There could be matter in a grander universe of 0 net matter given quantum fluctuations of virtual particles. In a vast bubbling infinity of net zero energy, it is statistically possible for an area to suddenly have sufficient positive energy to cause gravitational collapse which could then become a self-sufficient mass that attracts more mass through its energy, dividing particle from anti particle, becoming denser and denser until some equally unlikely statistical fluctuation causes expansion or perhaps maximum density causes spatial expansion?

I base this on Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe From Nothing and my own wishful thinking and ignorance. I do recommend the book.

30 Student May 21, 2017 at 1:19 am

I have read his book. He seems to redefine something into nothing.

There is no area in nothing where enough something can gather sufficiently to cause itself to become more than nothing.

If there nothing, then there is not any something to accumulate.

31 JonFraz May 23, 2017 at 1:54 pm

True but irrelevant: the universe still has a boundary point. Why?

32 Jacob May 20, 2017 at 1:14 pm

The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem is just that: a theorem. We have no idea if it’s true. And the types of things that count as causes and seem necessary IN the universe may well not apply to the creation or conception of the entire universe itself. Tyler is quite right to point out, “We have no point of comparison, and furthermore I am not sure we can appeal to the physical laws that operate inside of this universe.” and this echos the points prominent physicists have made: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/02/24/post-debate-reflections/

33 FG May 21, 2017 at 7:53 am

Theorems are things we prove and therefore know are true. Axioms are things we suppose to be true as first principles. So I don’t see how you can say that if it’s a theorem “we have no idea if it’s true”.

(At least, this is how it is in math. I think it might be different in other areas.)

34 Jacob May 21, 2017 at 9:33 am

In physics, this theorem is a mathematical model that is sound and consistent mathematically, but not necessarily sound and consistent with the state of the actual universe. We don’t know if the assumptions made are correct about the real world, and as the link I posted above discusses, we have reasons to think otherwise.

35 David Condon May 20, 2017 at 2:12 pm

The simulation argument could also be a form of supernaturalism, so your 1 and 2 are not necessarily distinct. If we live in a simulation, then it is most likely that our universe is not only governed by the natural laws which we can see and test, but also other laws defined by the simulation which are unobservable and untestable by us. The simulator probably could fire out bolts of lightning onto the Earth at any point he, she, or it wanted.

36 AaronM May 20, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Yes. I think that that is a good, succinct summary of why, to some of us, the multiverse does not seem fully satisfactory, in that it explains everything that comes after but not it’s own existence.

To someone on the deist spectrum such as myself, the presented explanations for the existence of a multiverse seem the best ones.

37 dustin May 20, 2017 at 2:44 pm

I’ve never understood this argument (but then again I haven’t put much thought in to it).

If everything has to have a cause, than what caused the causer?

38 Anon May 20, 2017 at 7:26 pm

Everything has to have a cause only within our universe. If space and time were created, the entity that created it necessarily does not follow that logic. So nothing caused the causer as far as one could know.

The difficult question is if you are not a deist: what caused the universe? Did space and time just spontaneously come into existence?

In my opinion, this difficult question is what has spawned increasingly ridiculous theories such as the oscilatting universe(disproved) and simulated universe. That’s fine. Deist get accused of believing in essentially magical ferries in the clouds, but a genius and respected engineer and scientific mind like Elon Musk declares we most certainly live in an advanced simulation and everyone thoughtfully considers it. Makes sense.

39 S May 20, 2017 at 8:23 pm

“Did space and time just spontaneously come into existence?”

You yourself say that it is nonsensical to speak of anything existing before time (and I agree); it’s your next step, assuming that there was a “nothing” preceding the universe, that is unfounded. After all, if there is no time outside of the universe, and causality only has meaning inside of time, then what sense does it make to discuss causality as it pertains to the universe itself?

40 Nick Danger May 22, 2017 at 10:09 am

“but then again I haven’t put much thought in to it”

I’ll say!

41 Jayson Virissimo May 20, 2017 at 5:46 pm

You’ve subtly strawmanned (unintentionally) the most popular cosmological argument. The premise isn’t that everything in the natural world has a cause, but that everything that begins to exist have a cause, a somewhat easier to defend thesis.

42 P Burgos May 21, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Does the argument that everything that has a beginning must have a cause have responses to arguments that cause is itself an incoherent and self contradicting concept?

43 bxg May 20, 2017 at 8:33 pm

As an athiest, the Fermi Paradox collapses my beliefs on this front. Either we are in a life-scarce multiverse, or (far most likely) horrible things, or there’s an entity out there with a lot of control (god?, simulater?, super-AI tending the galactic garden?), or (fourth) something deeply improbable. Pr(‘god’) suddenly seems higher. Pr(‘god’|!’things I’d rather not think about’) even more so.

44 JonFraz May 23, 2017 at 1:59 pm

All the Fermi paradox tells us is that A) relativity really does set an absolute speed limit to the physical universe (there’s no warp drives pr worm holes that would allow us to cheat) and B) other intelligent lifeforms have life spans not greatly dissimilar to our own ruling out projects lasting many generations.

45 Eric Rasmusen May 21, 2017 at 5:12 pm

I can’t figure out how to leave an independent comment, so I’ll use this REPLY button.

You might be interested in a couple of papers I’ve written, since they’re by an economist and one is clearly from the point of view of game theory. I haven’t submitted them to philosophy journals yet, but I ought to be less timid about that and get round to it. Commenters, I wlcome your comments on the papers if you have any.

`The Concealment Argument: Why No Conclusive Evidence or Proof for God’s Existence Will Be Found.” Logic and Biblical evidence suggest that God wishes that some but not all humans become convinced of His existence and desires. If so, this suggests that attempts to either prove or disprove such things as God’s existence, past miracles, or present supernatural intervention are doomed to failure, because God could and would take care to evade any such efforts. http://rasmusen.org/papers/conceal-rasmusen.pdf

“Fine Tuning, Hume’s Miracle Test, and Intelligent Design” with Eric Hedin. “Fine tuning” refers to the well-known puzzle that the values of certain physical parameters need to take certain precise values for life to exist, values tuned to within 1 in 1050. Some therefore suggest that an intelligent designer must have created the universe. A “miracle” is an event highly improbable according to our prior beliefs. Hume’s miracle test says that if someone tells us a miracle has occurred, we should balance the probability it truly did occur against the probability he is lying. Fine-tuning is conceptually the same as a miracle. Physicists propose a theory consistent with the data, but it is consistent only if one or more parameters takes an extremely low-probability value. Hume’s miracle test tells us we must compare this with the probability the scientists are lying or deceived. That is highly improbable, but as improbable as the “miracle”? If not, our choice is not between intelligent design and random coincidence, but between intelligent design and current scientific theory. Without the feature of a designer, the supposed fit to data of several standard scientific theories is less probable than that the leaders in those subfields are lying or deceived. Intelligent design makes a falsifiable prediction: that current physics theory will continue to make correct predictions of reality, of which fine-tuning will be a part. The alternative, scientist fraud or error, implies that in time current scientific theory will prove to be false and the coincidences will disappear. Thus, intelligent design is the savior of physics, not its rival. http://rasmusen.org/papers/hume-rasmusen-hedin.pdf

46 Dallas May 29, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Why do we have miracles reported by believers in the past that violate the laws of physics and thermodynamics as we know them (they are exception free laws), but don’t have those same miracles today? Yet we can look at the past universe with telescopes and don’t see anything changing the basic physics of the universe.

As everything from a total flood to walking on water or fish and bread coming from nothing are totally inconsistent with modern scientific knowledge of how the universe works. If you could create fish and bread from nothing, you would violate the laws of thermodynamics and get a Nobel prize and become a billionaire.

This implies that all the reported miracles by all the believers must be nonsense or rational lies.

47 Anon May 22, 2017 at 7:51 am

1) Infinite things might or might not exist. Before our universe there might have just been another universe. Ad infinitum. We just don’t know. And since we have only seen on universe, as Tyler points out, we can’t really judge whether it would be “strange” to have a universe without a beginning or not.

2) Having a cause for our universe by no way implies the properties attributed to the God or gods by any known religion. Even if we could somehow attribute the creation of the universe to a sentient being, there is still a loooooong logical leap to a god/gods of any particular religion. The only thing we would know about this being at that point would be that it created the universe and that’s it.

3) If everything must have a cause then whatever created the universe must also have a cause. By defining the cause of the universe as “god” you have done nothing but moved the problem back by one step.

48 Judson Frondorf May 23, 2017 at 2:06 pm

From some eastern perspectives there was no beginning nor will there be an end. No push, no creator no start. Just constant change for no reason.

49 Anonymous May 20, 2017 at 10:34 am

Yes? As an agnostic this all seems very accessible. The standard I try to hold is that if a religion is healthy for an individual, a family, a community, I can be respectful of it. I don’t approach it as “relative strangeness.”

That said, I am not sure new theories of simulation have proven their role in improving the human condition.

50 Donald W. McArthur May 20, 2017 at 10:38 am

Hey, all right, we’re back in those college dorm days again. Pass the doobie, my friend. 🙂

51 prior_test2 May 20, 2017 at 1:03 pm

At this point, someone with Prof. Cowen’s finely honed instincts in public policy discussions is desperate to find anything to talk about instead of Trump. After all, there is a tax plan to pass – https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/kochs-unveil-campaign-to-jolt-stalled-tax-debate/2017/05/18/19a7ee28-3ba9-11e7-a59b-26e0451a96fd_story.html

52 Rich Berger May 20, 2017 at 2:19 pm

This was well covered in Animal House. Maybe they need a remake with micragressions and triggering.

53 John May 20, 2017 at 10:11 pm
54 celestus May 20, 2017 at 10:40 am

Condorcet jury theorem.

55 Anonymous May 20, 2017 at 10:41 am

I find talking about the existence or non-existence of God as silly as talking about multiverse or simulationism. No conceivable experiment or observation can shift a rational observer’s estimate of the plausibility of either statement (same goes for multiverse and simulationism), so we’re left chewing our own words over and over again. Some people appear to enjoy it and even manage to wangle a living out of it. No harm done. It’s certainly very innocuous compared to, say, political idealism.

56 Greg May 20, 2017 at 11:48 am

I think this is overly myopic. I agree there’s no convincing a rationale person decisively. But we are closer to evidence than many believe. In fact we have experimental processes at work right now: we could find the imprint of gravity waves on the cosmic microwave background in the forthcoming BICEP3 experiments. That would be darn good evidence of Alan Guth’s cosmic inflation and I think we’d slightly tilt the scale towards existence of a multiverse. If we don’t find it, it will be a big sign that we’re missing something- something really important- about the Big Bang. That would tilt the scales against Multiverse theories rather significantly.

The point is we can find evidence – perhaps not conclusive evidence – but evidence nonetheless that can direct us going forward. Evidence for or against cosmic inflation is a very good starting point and it’s not likely more than a couple of years away.

Whether quantum mechanics would apply in other universes is not something we can know… probably ever. But the anthropic principle allows us to make somewhat rationale guesses. Not proof, but boy that’s not bad at all.

57 Frederick Colbourne May 20, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Myopic? No, non-optic, in the sense of there being nothing to see, no evidence at all concerning creation.

All science has is being in the now and records of the past. Non-creation is the null hypothesis.

58 BC May 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Is that true of simulationism, at least if we refer to a simulation running on a digital computer? In that case, we should expect to see quantization effects at very small scales, i.e., even living inside the simulation, we should predict/find that our simulated universe is digital rather than analog in nature in both time and space. We might also predict other simulation “artifacts”, e.g., pseudorandomization vs. “true” randomization, finite time and space due to finite memory. That would seem to make “simulationism” both falsifiable and useful (for making predictions about phenomena not yet observed). Falsifiable seems to be a necessary condition for being useful, and is probably a better standard than “strangeness” for evaluating origin theories. In fact, we should probably define origin theories by their limits, by what they don’t allow.

I don’t believe that we can prove nor disprove the existence of God, at least not one that has the power to create miracles. Miracles are non-limiting and, hence, non-falsifiable. On the other hand, a theory of a limited God that created a universe that is limited to following some fixed laws of nature may not be distinguishable from atheism. It might be interesting to consider a God that is limited along some other dimension besides “implementing a simulation on a digital computer”.

59 Troll Me May 20, 2017 at 12:40 pm

They talked about atoms for 2000 years before someone figured out what they quite were.

60 TMC May 20, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Anonymous +1

61 Eric Rasmusen May 21, 2017 at 5:16 pm

What if God appeared in the sky in His glory with 1000 angels? That would be pretty good empirical verification. It’s unlikely to happy, at least soon, but it IS an empirical prediction. One can’t get around it: Christianity does make factual claims about the past and future.

62 SCOTT May 22, 2017 at 1:40 pm

I would love to hear those factual claims the bible makes.

63 megamike May 20, 2017 at 10:44 am

“You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

64 jorgensen May 20, 2017 at 11:01 am

I would be at best agnostic. That said Pascal’s wager has a certain appeal. And a belief in divine law etc can be a useful foundation and framework for thinking about ethics.

65 Scott May 22, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Getting your ethics from the Bible is like getting them from Hitler.

66 Scott May 22, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Pascal’s wager. That says why not believe just in case. What it actually means is god is stupid and I can fool him by acting like I believe.

67 thfmr May 20, 2017 at 8:19 pm

I’m not sure that Ta-Nahisi Coates’ desire for racial retribution is dispositive in questions of physics, though I happen to agree with him.

68 jorgensen May 22, 2017 at 1:06 pm

I don’t understand the moral under pinnings of an argument that bad things done by one group of people who now are dead to another group of people who are also now dead calls for retribution or restitution between groups of the now living.

69 Adam May 20, 2017 at 10:44 am

I am also a non-beleiver, but David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God is the most persuasive work I have read on the subject. Feser’s Defense of Scholastic Metaphysics is a more dryly technical and analytical work too. Most modern defenses, such as Paley’s (the watchmaker one), which are not rooted in the classics, are pretty lackluster.

70 Lee May 20, 2017 at 10:57 am

I am also a non-believer and will second the recommendation of David Bentley Hart. It’s a very good defense of the existence of a God who is not just a demiurge, like these hypothesized watchmakers.

71 uair01 May 20, 2017 at 11:01 am

The book “Unapologetic” by Francis Spufford is good. He uses no logical arguments, only emotional arguments. And that’s how it should be I think. “Credo quia absurdum.”


There is a good modern chapter about religion in this (popular, but modern and analytic) philosophy book. The author does not prove or defend religion, but demonstrates that it still has meaning:

72 uair01 May 20, 2017 at 11:05 am

And if you want to go down the rabbit hole 🙂 then there’s this book by Zizek, that’s not bad at all. Again, no defence but a rather sympathetic analysis:

I have not read his newest book on religion, but I heard his lecture on youtube. It sounds quite interesting:

73 Thursday May 20, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Edward Feser has a book of interest coming out:

Modernist apologetics are indeed pretty terrible. It’s the fact that there is any kind of order and directedness in the universe that needs to be explained, not the particulars of how this and that came about.

74 Thursday May 20, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Feser and D.B. Hart are indeed the authors that I would start with on this.

75 Antony May 20, 2017 at 10:45 am

How is the claim that we live in. Simulation different from the claim that there is an omnipotent being outside of our reality?

76 The Anti-Gnostic May 20, 2017 at 10:55 am

I had the same question.

77 ivvenalis May 20, 2017 at 11:25 am

It isn’t. It does, however, allow moderns to acknowledge that God exists while claiming that they don’t owe Him anything and that Christians are wrong about his nature.

78 Simanthropy May 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm

The simulation hypothesis makes the simulators an advanced technological society that evolved in a natural way in their own universe. It’s not intended as an ultimate explanation of everything, since the origins of their universe remain mysterious.

The God hypothesis postulates a being that is — in some sense — necessary, basic, ultimate, fundamental. The one cause of everything that exists in any way.

None, one, the other one, or both ideas could be true.

79 Boonton May 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

The problem with the simulation hypothesis is that there is no reason to assume the nature of ‘base reality’ are the same as the program running on the simulator. It’s quite possible if we ever escaped from the simulator we might find that all the science, physics and so on we learned applied only to the reality inside the simulator. Outside things work in a totally different way and that is ‘nature’ for them.

80 Gerber Baby May 20, 2017 at 1:15 pm

The simulator wouldn’t be omniscient in the way a God would. He/it might not even have all the “memory” of everything that happened within the universe, in the same way a computer does not contain a record of everything that ever happened on it.

81 Tim May 20, 2017 at 4:34 pm

God is supernatural, while a computer is natural. God is flawless, while a simulation might have glitches. Omniscience, omnipotence, and a notion of goodness are all configurable options for God or computer. We might potentially create our own simulation that is as big as the one we are in. It seems less likely, or against the rules of God, that we could create God.

Most importantly, the simulation idea might be testable by finding glitches, rounding errors, etc.

All examples took less than a minute to think of.

82 Tim May 20, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Sorry, this was a reply to parent comment.

83 The Other Jim May 21, 2017 at 8:36 am

Glitches abound. Take a look at the quantum mechanics going on inside atoms, or the way galaxies are held together by nothing. I think these are examples of things that were just never coded, or coded poorly.

But humans insist on trying to explain these things. Sure, it makes perfect sense that sub-atomic particles just randomly jump around. And surely there must be completely undetectable “dark matter” holding everything together…

84 The Anti-Gnostic May 21, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Okay, so who made the coders?

85 Michael May 20, 2017 at 10:49 am

We can judge whether an object is strange (i. e. a watch or a universe) even in the absence of a reference class to compare it to by looking at the minimum program length required to simulate it. The relevant search terms here are Kolmogorov Complexity and Solomonov Induction for a more detailed account of this. Essentially, though, a “watch” that is just a solid metal cube is less surprising weird than a watch that is a real watch, because it is much simpler to simulate, and a universe that obeys a few simple laws likewise requires much less code to simulate than one that involves a God’s consciousness that cannot be reduced to the motion of smaller particles.

86 Anon May 22, 2017 at 8:09 am

Finding a fake watch in the forest would arguably be stranger than finding a real watch. How many fake watches are there compared to real watches? Why would someone carry a fake watch into a forest?

If you had never seen a watch before but happened to find a fake watch and a real watch from a forest, which one would you think is more strange? I would still say the fake watch. If the watch was working, you could see that it tells you the time and you could construct a narrative that explains it that involves some person wanting to build a portable device for telling the time.

However, if you were not even familiar with the concept of clocks in general, the real watch might indeed seem more strange.

We can never really know how difficult something is to simulate. If you want to write a program that constructs a watch atom from atom the fake watch and the real watch are about the same complexity (with the real watch being perhaps slightly more complex, but not by orders of magnitude). A different algorithm that would somehow incorporate the human agency in making the watch would find the real watch less complex because it has a clear purpose for us.

Seemingly complex systems can arise from very simple algorithms. If we don’t see the absolute lowest abstraction level of the simulation, we don’t know what the complexity of the simulation actually is. We don’t know what is the absolute lowest abstraction level of our universe. Maybe it doesn’t even exist. Maybe the hierarchy of particles and sub-particles and sub-sub-particles goes on ad infinitum.

And, at last, we have the question of whether the way we do computations is the only way. If we would know the end result (i.e. the lowest abstraction level of the universe), we could perhaps measure the complexity of the simulation assuming the computation runs on a Turing machine or something. But is this the unique way of performing computations? Maybe, maybe not.

87 Leon May 22, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Michael —

Divine simplicity is the traditional idea that God is absolutely simple/non-composite. This may not make sense, but it does avoid Kolmogorov Complexity-type arguments.

Something I’ve never quite understood about such arguments it that they depend on 1. the choice of a programming language to say anything non-asymptotically, and also 2. a mapping between whatever is (and in fact, could be) in the world and what that programming language can output.

88 rayward May 20, 2017 at 10:54 am

People believe in all kinds of strange things, in the field of economics maybe more than in the field of religion. Bart Ehrman makes the distinction between what one knows and what one believes. Cowen says he doesn’t believe in God, but he doesn’t know it. How could he? How could he prove there is no God? I believe the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning. But I don’t know it. If I died tonight would the sun rise in the east in the morning?

89 Someone from the other side May 20, 2017 at 10:59 am

This is why I am both an atheist and an agnostic. I believe god to be exceedingly unlikely but I know that I cannot know for sure.

90 jorgensen May 20, 2017 at 11:03 am

“the distinction between what one knows and what one believes”

False distinction. There are only degrees of belief.

91 rayward May 20, 2017 at 12:45 pm

“[A]s we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

92 eustis May 20, 2017 at 5:50 pm

… and what about one’s knowledge ?

Unfortunately, the only thing you “know” with absolute certainty is that your consciousness exists.
All else can not be verified by you…. and could well be totally false/unreal manifestations of your consciousness.

93 Tom May 20, 2017 at 11:02 am

Hope. Every society/culture of any significance in human history has had some type of religion, excepting the USSR – and it lasted 70 years.

94 Thiago Ribeiro May 20, 2017 at 4:10 pm

“Every society/culture of any significance in human history has had some type of religion”.

And 99%+ of them picked the wrong one.

95 Captain Obvos May 20, 2017 at 5:11 pm

What is the right one? Thiago Ribeirism?

96 Thiago Ribeiro May 20, 2017 at 8:02 pm

1) Whatever is the right one, most of Mankind, i.e. people who exist or have existed, picked another one. The narrow gate and all that.
2) There is a lively discussion about Prophet Bandarra’s teachings. Some say he received his teachings from God Himself. Some say he reached enlightenment through rational thought: it is known he kept studying unremittingly the Old Testament, until History’s keys were revealed to him.

97 JonFraz May 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm

The USSR believed in the Hegelian dialectic as interpreted by Marx. Not a personal entity, but then neither is Hindu and Buddhist “karma”.

98 thfmr May 20, 2017 at 11:06 am

1. Art Deco is a theist. 2. Art Deco knows everything.


99 The Cuckmeister-General May 20, 2017 at 11:58 am

Art Deco is also an enormous cuckold is that something to be proud of?

100 Bill May 20, 2017 at 11:11 am

Re What is Best Proof of God:

I’ll ask him next time I see Him.

101 Edward Burke May 20, 2017 at 11:16 am

Mikhail Bulgakov’s comic view that the existence of the Devil constitutes a proof for the existence of God perhaps possibly maybe makes no less sense today than it did in his lifetime.

102 choncan May 20, 2017 at 11:18 am

Cowen contra anthropic arguments. The Straussian smiles, knowing that both edges of this blade are sharp.

103 chuck martel May 20, 2017 at 11:19 am

Moments ago two Jehovah Witnesses stopped by my house and dropped off a “Watchtower”. Who else could have sent them?

104 spencer May 20, 2017 at 1:23 pm

I also had two of them by my house this morning.

One of them was really a sharp looking Asian female. Guess that is a good marketing technique.

105 Thiago Ribeiro May 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm

They visit my house with magazines twice a semester.

106 Scott May 22, 2017 at 2:05 pm

They used to stop by mine, they avoid it now.

107 Miguel May 20, 2017 at 11:19 am

The best argument is probably indirect, against the need for an argument. The desire for an argument usually presumes that knowledge is our foundational and primary contact with reality, but why think that? Many if not most first-person accounts of struggling with faith are nothing like struggling with evidence; instead, they are like struggling with faith in a friend, or in an institution.

But as to Tyler’s ‘strangeness all the way down’: there’s strange, and then there’s strange. It’s a strange thought that there may be other universes, with different fundamental laws, but that’s less strange, it seems to me, and in a qualitatively different way, than the idea that our universe is the creation of a personal, intelligent being whose existence is unlike anything we imagine even in those fundamentally different universes–in fact, who is nothing like what could be in any of those alternative universes.

108 Stormy Dragon May 20, 2017 at 11:20 am

Humans would not survive childhood if we had to learn everything via direct experience. If our parents say not to touch the fire because we’ll be burned, we can’t test that by sticking a hand in. If they tell us not to eat nightshade berries, we can’t test that by eating some. So we’ve evolved to have a period during childhood where we accept literally anything our parents tell us as true without proof.

The downside of this is that we end up accepting supernatural claims we would immediately dismiss as nonsense if we were first introduced to them much later in life.

109 djw May 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm

The tendency towards belief is much deeper than that. There is safety in numbers for adults too, and a common belief structure does a lot to bind people together. In fact, the greater the nonsense the tighter the bond.

The modern rejection of religion has a lot more to do with the fact that we are very wealthy and very safe compared to our ancestors. Its not because we finally “grew up”.

110 SCOTT May 22, 2017 at 2:08 pm

I touched the stove anyway.

111 JonFraz May 23, 2017 at 2:06 pm

How is it that animals manage to survive their childhood and infancy without parents able to communicate such concepts to them? OK, a lot of animal young don’t survive– but that much was true of human beings until very recently in our history too.

112 Mark Thorson May 20, 2017 at 11:24 am

Strongest evidence? That we have a word for it. Having a word is by no means proof, but it is a first step. Yes, we have words or terms for lots of things that don’t exist, like “free will” and “magnetic monopoles”, but if you don’t have a word for something it lies in a stratum below the layers which are even controversial.

My hypothesis is we evolved to have a belief in god. Say you had two neighboring tribes, one of atheists and one of god-believers. I think the individuals in the latter would be more likely to sacrifice themselves in battle for their god, hence that tribe would have a selective advantage.

I once watched a TV preacher lecturing about faith, and he said “You have a God-shaped hole in your head,” which I thought was a particularly good way to put it, even though he was coming at the question from a different direction.

113 Troll Me May 20, 2017 at 12:53 pm

If there is no free will, there is no personal responsibility. So regardless of the extent of truth in the concept, it must be upheld socially, at least for legalist purposes (etc.).

If there is no God, the harm is much less. For the same reason. Because, again, it implies that there is personal responsibility.

A combination of belief in no free will AND the existence of God is a recipe for people being willing to do any old thing with no sense of responsibility. As such, it is a highly nefarious combination of concepts, to be distinguished from Judeo-Christian concepts which also incorporate personal responsibility.

I am not aware of any philosophy that has withstood the test of time where people are able to blame all their mistakes on God and lack of free will. It doesn’t add up very well.

114 Ricardo May 20, 2017 at 1:03 pm

People with a background in economics should be among the least concerned with the free will debate. Do people respond to incentives? If so, credibly punish crime and you will get less of it over time. The legal system can function perfectly well without wading into the philosophical debate over personal responsibility. All we need is rule utilitarianism at a minimum.

115 Troll Me May 20, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Is it the fault of the individual or society that the 15 year old stole a loaf of bread (or more likely, a candy bar)?

Treating people as nothing more than reactors to pain and pleasure stimulus is problematic in many ways, including the inability to debate the ethics of different options in addressing the above situation. (Options could include: a) money for parents of poor children, b) money for poor children, c) food for poor children, d) food for families with poor children, e) improved access to income earning capacity of diverse populations 30 years down the road, etc.)

The field of economics is, at its historical origin, explicitly named “moral philosophy”. To say that its excessive mathiness in the present day should militate for the complete exclusion of economic argumentation from ethical debates would be to pretend that the field is not even what it is, and that it did not come from where it cam from.

116 Gerber Baby May 20, 2017 at 1:20 pm

” I think the individuals in the latter would be more likely to sacrifice themselves in battle for their god, hence that tribe would have a selective advantage.”

The notion of sacrificing oneself for God was a rare thing in hunter gatherers and early farmers. It was an early Jewish idea, later picked up by Christianity and Islam.

117 Potato May 20, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Agree with this somewhat, but not entirely. Human sacrifice (willing and unwilling) is surprisingly common across the ancient world.

The idea of martyrdom is not common or widespread until the zealots of a small monotheistic temple cult in the Middle East somehow expanded into an entire family of religions who now make up a massive % of the world population. Although the temple cult morphed over time into a religion not based on a specific place, but rather a specific identity. And the two offshoots are evangelical in nature.

There is no greater proof that we are living in a simulation than the history of world religion.

118 Les Cargill May 20, 2017 at 4:48 pm

A great deal of the Old Testament is jeremiads against the elevation of kings, a move that would lead to conquest. And sure enough, conquest happened. At the time Judaism was centered around animal sacrifice at the Temple. When the Temple was destroyed, Judaism became a “moveable feast”, much more abstract ( and therefore much harder to kill ).

If you are a Girardian, then you recognize that Christianity is centered around the Passion, which is “the sacrifice to end all sacrifice.” An interpretation of this is that this led away from the bloody-mindedness of the Romans, and created a society that is much less sanguine-violent.

It is interesting that the arguments for believing in God are not the same as the arguments for the existence of God. The arguments for believing are that without this relationship, you will be in a state of anomie – the “God shaped hole in your head”. I am surprised that nobody from the Heritage Foundation is actively looking for this hole. But if mimesis in general , which maps to structures in the brain, is possible ( leading to the badly abused “empathy theory” , which ignores mimetic violence completely ) then anything is.

I do not know who caused the apparent conflict between science and religion. They coexisted together peacefully in people’s minds for decades, if not centuries. It smacks of the fallacy of the false alternative. Religion got weird in uncomfortable ways in the 1960s.

119 Captain Obvos May 20, 2017 at 5:15 pm

“I do not know who caused the apparent conflict between science and religion. They coexisted together peacefully in people’s minds for decades, if not centuries” Say whaaaaat? Does the name Galileo ring a bell ?

120 Student May 20, 2017 at 5:51 pm

Sure there were times when science and religion ran into conflict. People are not perfect but if you go way back to the apostolic fathers or Aristotle, one can see they didn’t see this big divide.

In fact, Augustine, one of the doctors of the Christian church made this point often.

For example:

Some people, in order to discover God, read a book. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above and below, note, read. God whom you want to discover, did not make the letters with ink; he put in front of your eyes the very things that he made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?

St. Augustine, on the book of nature

121 Les Cargill May 20, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Galileo was stubborn about it, or they’d have let him slide. And I mean in the present era; in 1950 most people were both religious and had a grasp of science; it was unusual for it to be “either/or”.

122 JonFraz May 23, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Galileo’s problems had as much to do with politics as with religion. Galileo was a grouchy old man who said rude things about the Pope (he depicted him as “Simplicius” is his “Dialogue of Two Systems”). And curiously (or not– blood being thicker than water) Galileo’s own daughter– a nun– first played up the notion that her father was some sort of martyr for science.

123 Scott May 22, 2017 at 2:11 pm

That’s pretty much the only use for religion, war.

124 Jon H May 20, 2017 at 11:26 am

If you pursue any line of cosmological reasoning to its end you end up with something which, having to live a day-to-day life with cars, jobs, spouses, bills etc. is strange. I believe Schrodinger talked about this in “Mind and Matter”: looking into your newborn child’s face and then consider that she’s just a geometric amalgamation of atoms… it’s odd. It’s also exceedingly odd to think that the child is some kind of reborn karma, or embodied eternal soul, or dream of a sleeping giant.

To make things less strange you can assume a cosmology which is similar in terms and objects to your day-to-day life: most mythologies assume the gods have bows and arrows if the people who composed them had bows and arrows, have chariots and horses, have affairs and wars, since the people had affairs and wars, chariots and horses, etc. But, of course, once the daily life changes, these mythic cosmologies look incredibly silly.

Our current scientific cosmology tries to alleviate this problem by focusing on mathematical properties, which are taken to be unchanging, and thus immune to future mythological embarrassments. I tend to think (or hope) that in 5000 years our Fourier transforms and tensor algebras will look just as naive and silly to our progeny as our ancestors assumptions that the gods had spears and lyres look to us today.

My own stance is pretty Kantian. Even our mathematical structures (space, time, mass) are mechanisms of our minds, and have no necessary connection to the world “in-itself”. They have been useful for our goals of acquiring material plenty, and thus they have evolved along and not fallen away. But then again the mythology of the gods was useful for the goal of organizing large scale societies of empires and kingdoms as opposed to clans and villages. When it stopped being useful, it stopped being active–at least in the same way. The vestiges of it may take on new interpretations.

My own theism is the result of these kinds of thoughts. I simply cannot fathom not taking “personality” to be a primal attribute of certain entities in the universe that I encounter (people), as irreducible to geometric relationships of particles and fields, and inexplicable in terms of evolutionary biological/sociological development. So, as William Temple said that Spinoza should add personality to the attributes of God/Natures knowable by man, I, through my own experience and reflection, cannot help but believe that personality is as much an attribute of the universe as matter (or mind, which seems to be controversial too! ). In fact, I believe it is much more fundamental. So whatever there is “in-itself” it in a sense more personal than anything else I can understand. From there I think it’s appropriate to consider myself a theist.

125 Troll Me May 20, 2017 at 12:59 pm

People whose Gods had bows and arrows were not monotheistic. They might have been telling embellished stories about previous events, or stories which transmitted certain cultural values, concerns, etc..

Western conceptions of the divine, specifically by the use of the word “God”, are therefore not very suitable for discussing “divine” figures in diverse world religions, philosophies, mythologies, etc.

126 thfmr May 20, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Well written and enjoyable, though your conclusion seems to be, “I cannot understand it; therefore I assume it is magic.”

I would think you might look at the historical progression of mythology and knowledge and decide there is simply a scientific answer we haven’t yet articulated. I also scratch my head at your idea that science is not an antidote to mythology but instead a further mythology.

I suspect the broad application of the term “science” has something to do with this. On HMS Science, the social scientists on the lower deck are drunkenly and merrily punching holes in the hull.

127 Jon H May 20, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Thank you.
I’d prefer to think of it as “I cannot understand it, therefore it is to me a mystery. The explanation of this mystery must also explain personality, and it is unfathomable to me that any extension of the methods of science as we know it (or, in other words, what can, to me, meaningfully be called science) can explain personality.”

I also must explicitly confess to having an instrumentalist view of science as “engineering heuristics”, not a revelation or discovery of truths of nature independent of human lives and experience. This is not a popular view among other scientists, and I don’t have a ready, objective argument for it; it comes very natural to me and I haven’t been able to develop a good understanding of how others view it or why they disagree. This is what leads to my view of “science is not an antidote to mythology but instead a further mythology”. Both mythology and science to me are engineering heuristics, the former was (is) for social engineering of cultural/social groups, the latter, material engineering for manipulating the physical environment.

Normally when I talk to people deeply involved in the sciences they are initially very nonplussed at this viewpoint. But usually after deeper discussion we come to the agreement that the practical differences between my instrumentalist view vs. the more standard truth-discovery view as working scientists are nil, and the theoretical differences are actually quite subtle.

I haven’t thought through where social science could/should fit into this view. I actually usually don’t include social sciences in my thinking about “science” generally. I tend to think of them as methodologically confused humanities (I’m a bit of a snob).

128 FG May 21, 2017 at 8:00 am

“On HMS Science, the social scientists on the lower deck are drunkenly and merrily punching holes in the hull.”

Great metaphor, +1

129 Les Cargill May 20, 2017 at 4:58 pm

What is interesting to me is that critics[1] of Kant pretty much level the accusation that Kant is doing significant logical twister-games to leave a space for a deity. It reminds me of Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry – one can very nearly take “existence of $DEITY” as an axiom and work out the details from that.

[1] yes , principally Rand, because of her uncle’s pharmacy being raided by Cossacks ( or whatever they were ) and her gift for self-promotion. .

I suppose it all depends on how much you find dualisms repugnant.

130 Half-man Half-amazing May 20, 2017 at 11:33 am

There was an extensive debate among Byzantine theologians as to whether Jesus defecated. They were very smart and accomplished chaps for that time and place. Let that sink in.

131 thfmr May 20, 2017 at 1:35 pm

It’s still floating.

132 buddyglass May 20, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Given what’s written about Jesus in the canon, it’s hard to imagine how one can take the “con” side to that question. “Fully human” means you poop.

133 Stormy Dragon May 21, 2017 at 2:53 pm

it’s hard to imagine how one can take the “con” side to that question

Extra History S12: Early Christian Schisms

134 entirelyuseless May 20, 2017 at 11:36 am

“To be clear, I am a non-believer,”

It’s annoying to see Tyler carefully distance himself from positions which are low status among most of his readers. I prefer Robin Hanson’s style which is not to bother with disclaimers.

135 dearieme May 20, 2017 at 11:43 am

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who wanted to argue that there is a god. They’ve wanted to argue for the existence, indeed the power, of their God. He’s a god with an inexplicable fascination for small, dismal areas of the Middle East – the sort of areas that one might otherwise call godforsaken.

136 dearieme May 20, 2017 at 12:02 pm

I have a tiny wang

137 dearieme May 20, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Fakedearieme must undoubtedly be under-todgered.

138 Marshall May 20, 2017 at 11:51 am

If I exist in some alternative universe, I hope I sold my AIG shares there before the subprime crash.

139 mulp May 20, 2017 at 12:02 pm

You are a coal miner trying to give meaning to the destruction you see all around you, the poverty and hopelessness and drug addiction of your children, as you slowly die breathlessly from COPD, having long believed you were creating wealth and a better future.

140 Donald Pretari May 20, 2017 at 12:08 pm

I do believe in G-d and for the same reasons Raymond Smullyan gives in section one of his book “Who Knows?” I also think that Godel’s proof of the existence of G-d works, but it’s an argument I still struggle with. Believing G-d exists doesn’t mean you need to belong to any organized religion, and the arguments for each are different. I’m Jewish, and my favorite books are “The Lonely Man of Faith” and “Halakhic Man”, by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, even though I’m not orthodox. The writings of Martin Luther King are also very important to me.

141 dearieme May 20, 2017 at 4:11 pm

I see that your god is an anti-vowelist. H-w -dd.

142 Mark Thorson May 20, 2017 at 11:43 pm

In some traditions, one does not say the name of od-Gay.

143 P Burgos May 21, 2017 at 11:36 pm

Is the English word god considered the name of god by Jews?

144 Scott May 22, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Since you’re Jewish can you tell me how the Jewish priests made the indestructible clay men, how do you spell it, Golum or Gollum, they both may be wrong.

145 John de Rivaz May 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Whether god exists or not is a similar problem to “Is the universe conscious”. A similar problem is “Is the sun conscious”, or “Is Jupiter conscious”. Both give off copious electromagnetic radiation. Further down the line is “are Dolphins conscious”, and further still “Are dogs and cats conscious”. The latter react to stimuli, whereas the sun and Jupiter do not, unless you regard giving off a jet of plasma when something crashed into them as a “reaction”.

The problem with theology is that it gives all sorts of properties to “god” which are seen to be not true by simple observation of the universe. Hence the comparison with Santa Claus, Easter Bunny etc. that religious people find such a big put down. Some of the properties ascribed to “god” in religious works make him appear to be a petulant brat at best, or even a brutal dictator. They are often used as justification for violence in the name of religion. If a philosophy that optimises the good in people is required, them perhaps it is necessary to look past any form of theism. But that is outside the scope of this discussion.

146 Captain Obvos May 20, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Lool How do you know that Sun and Jupiter don’t react to stimuli that’s just an assumption, given our very limited science…Also, religious works do not necessarily contain the truth but that’s not proof that God does not exist.

147 Doc at the Radar Station May 20, 2017 at 12:22 pm

You should watch the documentary from 1989 called “The Big Bang”:
It’s interesting how people approach theism in generally two different ways: 1) An origin story and 2) An experience

148 AlanG May 20, 2017 at 12:32 pm

As an atheist, the best explanation for God are the works of J.S. Bach. Other than that any possible explanation of God’s existence died at Auschitz as per Elie Wiesel.

149 mac May 20, 2017 at 3:29 pm

“It took the child half an hour to die, while the prisoners were forced to look him in the face. The same man asked again: “Where is God now?” And Wiesel heard a voice within him make this answer: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.”

As a strong agnostic (and philosophically a hard materialist), I have often cited this as the death of any believable God that interacts with humanity in any way.

150 Larry Siegel May 20, 2017 at 11:48 pm

I have heard this before and I have absolutely no idea what it means. Obviously, geniuses exist. Bach was one; so were Leonardo, Newton, Beethoven, Darwin, Einstein and so forth. Their works are proof that they, not God, existed. However, we do not know where geniuses come from. Saying that God created them is exactly the same saying “I do not understand it so it must be magic.”

151 Humean Being May 20, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Philosophy professor here.

I don’t see the need to posit a multiverse. So many people take that to be the choice – a multiverse or a God – but there is no good argument for that dilemma.

The standard argument for this conclusion is the Fine Tuning Argument. The fundamental physical constants are conducive to the existence of life, but different physical constants would not be conducive to the existence of life. It’s phenomenally unlikely that the physical constants would be life-conducive by chance. Therefore, there must be some explanation of why the physical constants are life-conducive. God and the multiverse are taken to be the two leading explanations of this low-probability event. God works to cause the physical constants to be what they are; the multiverse allows for an infinite number of universes with an infinite number of different physical constants, which allows the Anthropic Principle to provide the relevant explanation. Therefore: God or the multiverse?

The Fine Tuning Argument is a bad argument. The command that the fundamental physical constants be explained is defective for two reasons.

First, it’s not clear what could even count as an EXPLANATION or a CAUSE of the fundamental physical constants. After all, those constants are themselves determinative of the laws of nature, which are the laws of causation. The question appears to be something like “What causes the causal laws?” which is either a call for the laws to explain themselves (which is either trivially satisfied or else viciously circular, in which case the call is illegitimate) or a call for some meta-causal-law to explain the causal laws. It’s not clear that this is a coherent notion. (Parfit’s stuff about axiological explanations seems to be transparently silly, and not really an explanation at all.)

Second, it’s not clear why the physical constants need to be explained. Scientists tell us that the laws of nature COULD have been different and, if the laws of nature WERE different, the universe could not sustain life. I challenge the nature of these modal claims. In what sense, exactly, is it true that the laws COULD have been different? Scientists have built computer models which model the interaction of fundamental particles. If they change the program slightly, they can model what will happen if the physical constants were different. Fascinating! What does this tell us? Only that when the scientists put different values for the physical constants into their computer programs, the programs that they have written do not crash, and are able to spit out a result to the questions that it is asked. A world of different fundamental physical constants is, therefore, certainly LOGICALLY CONSISTENT. But this is only to say that the laws of nature are not logical tautologies. But we knew that! This is why we figured out the nature of the fundamental physical constants through experimentation, not through a priori reasoning. The point is this: The fact that the laws of nature are not tautologies does not show that there is any meaningful sense in which the fundamental physical constants COULD HAVE been different. Thus, we have no reason to think that there is any meaningful sense in which the fundamental physical constants could have been different. And so it’s not clear why the values of the fundamental physical constants need to be explained.

Because there is no coherent sense in which the fundamental physical constants need to be explained, and no coherent sense in which they could be explained, the Fine Tuning Argument does not provide any reason to believe in either God or a Multiverse.

So, to answer the question that titles the post: there is no strongest argument for the existence of God, because all arguments for the existence of God rest on sophistries, including the Fine Tuning Argument.

152 Troll Me May 20, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Note: Constants do not “determine” the laws. Rather, there is the way that things work, and when you run the math, it gives you a number that is the same every time.

The constant reflects the reality, does not cause it.

153 as usual May 20, 2017 at 1:29 pm

You’re laboring under the delusion that you’re smart enough to instruct the person you’re responding to.

I’ve yet to see that be the case in eight years of reading this blog, but you are a young man. Keep at it!

154 Leon May 21, 2017 at 7:38 am

Also, there aren’t laws. There’s the way things work, and there’s a pattern to it, and they are the laws. (?)

155 HankP May 20, 2017 at 1:27 pm

To put it more simply, was the Universe created the way it is by a creator, or is the Universe the way it is because that’s the only way (or one of the only ways) for a stable Universe to exist?

Also, one can easily dismiss religion as a source of answers because there are so many of them, each insisting that they are the one true religion.

156 Captain Obvos May 20, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Are they that different?

157 Anonymous May 20, 2017 at 3:37 pm

If you remove the egocentric constraint that this is the only time to look around and judge, yes they have been very different, and presumably continue to be even more different in the future.

Lotsa people used to think ullamaliztli was a good activity. Maybe in the future a digital version with ritualized exit from the Great Simulation.

158 Fizz-Assist May 26, 2017 at 10:19 am

Similarly, one can dismiss all interpretations of QM because there are so many, each insisting that they are the one true interpretation of QM.

159 a May 20, 2017 at 2:03 pm

We have had several instances in physics where an unexplained regularity leads to the creation of a deeper theory. (Ex: General relativity comes from coincidence of inertial mass and gravitational mass). Why do South America and Africa fit together? So this search for a more basic explanation is common and often successful.

160 Humean Being May 21, 2017 at 12:52 am

A good point, worthy of a response.

You’re not wrong to say that it is often good to look for deeper explanations, but keep in mind what that means. Scientific progress consists (in part) in reducing the number of scientific laws, allowing us to explain everything in the world in the simplest way. Scientific progress also happens when we discover new facts about the structure of the causal laws or new applications for those causal laws.

But those who advance the Fine Tuning Argument are not looking for a way to reduce all the causal laws to some more fundamental law or looking for a more accurate understanding of those casual laws. They are looking for something else – a CAUSE OF the causal laws. But why think that something like this exists? It is entirely consistent to say both that we should have as few physical laws as possible in our ideal science and that those fundamental casual laws are not caused or explained by anything further.

161 Potato May 20, 2017 at 2:42 pm

That was a pleasure to read. Also, obligatory: user name checks out.

162 Skeptic of skeptics May 20, 2017 at 7:37 pm

Humean Being,

I appreciate your well-expressed thoughts about FTA. In case it could interest you, I’d like to share how I think someone might reasonably resist your reasons in support of the thesis that FTA is a bad argument.

Your first argument includes this premise: the laws of nature are the laws of causation. Although I am sure you have a justification in mind for this premise, I can only guess what it might be. From where I am standing, I do not see how to support that premise a posteriori or a priori. (And yes, I’ve read my Hume.) Now perhaps we could treat that premise as axiomatic if we stipulate that “nature” refers to all that is real (or concrete). In that case, however, we could express the FTA in terms of the relevant sub portion of nature, with the conclusion that the foundation of nature (or at least the layer of nature prior to the sub portion in question) is mental (or more likely mental on the relevant data than without that data). No mere definition of words would rule that out, as far as I see.

Your second objection is quite familiar to me. I recall hearing it long ago by an atheist philosopher in a talk about what he took to be unsuccessful objections to the fine-tuning argument. His main point was that you need not make any modal claim about metaphysical possibility in order to justify the relevant epistemic probabilities. He drew out is point with an example. Suppose we (somehow) discovered that each atom had within it an inscription in English, “Made by God”. One need not first have reason to think that the atom *could have been different* for this discovery to support a mind hypothesis. In fact, the data itself could be seen as supporting the requisite modal claim. (None of this is to suggest that there are not still tricky questions related to estimating the relevant epistemic conditional probabilities in play.)

I am not claiming here that there are not successful defenses of your objections, or that there are not other successful objections to the FTA argument. My suggestion here, with all respect, is just that I can see how a truth-seeker who shares your value for intellectual carefulness and resistance to sophistry could reasonably be skeptical of the particular lines of support you gave for the claim that the FTA is a bad argument. In fact, to be a tad bolder, I can see how someone could be reasonably skeptical of the claim that the FTA is a bad argument, even after considering the standard objections. (Compare: an clear-minded atheist could be reasonable skeptical of theism even after considering the standard arguments for theism.)

163 Humean Being May 21, 2017 at 12:58 am

Of course! My post was not meant to represent the received wisdom of the philosophical community, or anything like that. It’s just my 2 cents, from someone who’s thought a lot about the issue. Many philosophers would disagree with me, so you’re in good company.

164 JC May 20, 2017 at 12:50 pm

“You haven’t seen a multiverse in Cleveland before”

Interest choice of words, given that Donald Trump being nominated for the presidency at the RNC in Cleveland is likely the strongest proof I can point to of the existence of a multiverse.

165 Potato May 20, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Maybe not the darkest timeline, but assuredly the most stupid.

166 JC May 20, 2017 at 3:13 pm

I say we commit to it and start wearing black goatees.

167 The Anti-Gnostic May 21, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Sloppy thinking.

168 molly May 20, 2017 at 1:01 pm

the best answer i’ve read is a non-answer from dostoevsky via ivan karamozov, who “long ago decided not to think about whether man created god or god created man.” either way, we end up here.

personally, i take solace in the fact that some questions have no answer. we’re not omniscient, nor should we be.. who’d want to give up learning? and i don’t like the believer vs. non-believer distinction; it’s so static. if you’re a bayesian, you get to be both.

169 Scott May 22, 2017 at 2:48 pm

I guess I’m just different, I want answers to everything, I know I’ll never get all my answers but I’ll never stop searching and take solace in not knowing.

170 Edgar May 20, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Marcus Aurelius advised “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.” This of course presupposes there are such things as virtues, the good life, and justice. Making that leap of faith is all that really matters. One need not believe or disbelieve or even resort to agnosticism or nihilism. Camus observes that “The future is the only transcendental value for men without God” but in truth, it is the only transcendental value with or without “gods.” Accepting this argument then leads us to conclude that the transcendental value of the future is God.

171 polytheist and polyanna May 20, 2017 at 1:21 pm

The strongest argument for God is that if there were multiple gods, they’d fight to the death because “there can only be one”.

The strongest argument for multiple gods is that they are equally powerful and a single god would be unable to slay all the rest of them while remaining alive themself.

172 Captain Obvos May 20, 2017 at 1:32 pm

This does not make any sense.

173 Ghostbuster May 20, 2017 at 1:38 pm

No species has only one being–why would the species “God” be an exception. So in the beginning there must’ve been multiple gods. If there is only one god today, it must be because there is only one god LEFT. The reason there would only be one god left was because that god slayed all the other gods–or all the other gods were slayed by even more powerful creatures than the gods.

174 Captain Obvos May 20, 2017 at 5:06 pm

No way! I don’t believe in such a god. We are not playing game of thrones 😉

175 Tolkien May 20, 2017 at 8:13 pm

If God is on the throne, Mr. Martin can tell you how God got there.

176 Ram May 20, 2017 at 1:25 pm

The challenge is to specify mutually agreeable criteria for deciding whether a deity exists. It seems to me that if we have two theories of everything, one in which a deity exists (and plays some role in the unfolding of events), and one in which no deity exists, and these two theories imply the same probability distribution over any observable data, then we have a distinction without a difference. The two theories simply express a single representation in different languages. The appearance of disagreement stems from considering elements of each theory–namely, whether or not there is a deity–in a context-free way, rendering them incommensurable. The meaning of the statement “there is a deity” is determined by the broader theory in which it is embedded, and so the statement means different things in different theories.

If someone develops a theory of observable phenomena in which there is a deity, which improves overall on the performance of our best theories of these phenomena, then I will suppose that there is a deity. In our current best theories, it seems that introducing a deity usually does not in any way alter the implications of the theory for observable phenomena, or if it does it worsens the performance of the theory.

177 Ghostbuster May 20, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Do you believe in UFOs, astral projection, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trans-mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?

If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.

178 Sinner#9 May 20, 2017 at 8:22 pm

I’ve heard of trans-gender, but “trans-mediums”?

179 Captain Obvos May 20, 2017 at 1:34 pm

First of all, start by defining precisely what god is. Then we can start talking.

180 Ghostbuster May 20, 2017 at 1:41 pm

God is a creature that created the universe (spacetime), i.e., created space and created time. That is, a god is a being that exists outside of space and time, and brought space and time into existence. Since space and time didn’t exist before god created them, god must’ve created space and time without using space or using time.

181 Captain Obvos May 20, 2017 at 5:04 pm

God is a creature?! Then who created God?

182 Les Cargill May 20, 2017 at 7:57 pm

Now here’s those philosophers, AC/DC with “Who made Who?” from the “Maximum Overdrive” soundtrack…

183 spencer May 20, 2017 at 1:36 pm

There may be many more atheists in the US than we thought — maybe 25% of the population as opposed to the under 10% generally believed.


184 austrartsua May 20, 2017 at 1:37 pm

More incoherent waffle from Tyler.

185 Ghostbuster May 20, 2017 at 1:42 pm

It beats his pancakes.

186 thfmr May 20, 2017 at 1:43 pm

“What is the female form?”
“Divinity for $800 please, Alex.”

187 Josh May 20, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Thursday mentioned this further up the thread, but the philosopher Edward feser has a new book coming out that directly answers your question.

188 Josh May 20, 2017 at 2:14 pm

The best arguments are all metaphysical in nature.

189 efim polenov May 20, 2017 at 2:07 pm

The question poses itself differently to those with Asperger’s, to those with little abstract reasoning capability, to those with hearts and souls clouded with negative psychological aspects of their own minds – to the poor psychotics and sociopaths, to the sad narcissists, to the humorous but unenviable intellectually over-arrogant, to the old-fashoned neurotics and to those who have allowed themselves, whether at the urging of ugly-minded parents and mentors or at the urging of their own vices, to constantly look at the world in an ugly way. All of us are, up to the moment of death and the “possible rejection” at the last moment for clear understanding, still potentially exactly what God wants us to be (“possible rejection” would be called “possible non-repentance” in the older theological textbooks but I prefer to think of it, in the dozens and dozens of people I know who have passed away, and in the dozens and dozens of living people I pray for every day, as “finally figuring out” that one has either (a) completely failed to do what we promised God we would do before we volunteered to be born in this world – often into situations so horrible that we can no longer remember or imagine the bravery we once felt, before we were born, at volunteering to take on that burden out of the love for others – the love which, when once again and after so long remembered after our failures, is called repentance or (b) partially failed to do that. Well , maybe there is a (c), did not fail – but such people do not need to repent on their deathbeds.) In a better version of this world, all people (even those with severe borderline personality disorder or complete dementia) can become the person they were meant to be – each human has a soul which is amenable to being perfected, no matter how serious or (de)formative the psychological deficiency is in that soul, or how serious the tragic undeserved wounds of fate are to that person. What is a strong argument for God? Pray for a few of those people every day, watch them become more decent and more holy, dream about a better world for them sometimes at night or during afternoon naps, talk to them when they are lonely, sacrifice for their well-being, and the argument for God will become unmistakably clear in your soul. (For me personally, the strongest argument for God was one of those near-death experiences (without going into more detail, I remember the colors black, white, a little red, a little silver, and a little blue way off to the side, along with quite a lot of human pictorial detail, including for a moment one of my favorite saints ready to say something which was left unsaid by the time I was more or less alive again – but this comment is already very very long) , which left me a slightly better person, I like to think, but not all that much better, sad to say).

190 Dallas Weaver Ph.D. May 20, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Some, in fact, most, questions may be unanswerable. You can’t predict the weather a yr in advance even with exact and deterministic well-known physics and we know why (the solutions are chaotic and errors grow with time). You can’t even know if a set of mathematical axioms are complete or internally consistent.

What makes us think we know anything that we can measure?

191 uair01 May 20, 2017 at 2:18 pm

There’s a series of podcasts about the basic arguments: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/philosophy-religion

192 massimo May 20, 2017 at 2:19 pm

I am an agnostic also. I often regret it when I see the peace religion gives to believers, but apparently I wasn’t gifted with faith.

It is even more difficult for me to believe in the immortality of the soul or divine interventions in day-to-day affairs. So, even if you are just a generic theist who like me does not believe in those things, what difference an eventual existence of God does compared to believing that there is no God? What difference there is between some type of physical phenomenon that we do not yet know and a God that built our universe and does not intervene in it at all?

193 FG May 21, 2017 at 8:11 am

As far as I can tell there is no difference, which is why I find most of these threads unsatisfying. Who cares if it’s a watchmaker or a simulation if the lives we live are the same either way? To me the primary question is whether or not God cares about what you do, in the religious sense. This at least seems obviously untrue, so the question doesn’t much interest me anymore.

194 Robert Sperry May 20, 2017 at 2:39 pm

The Norse argument from design:

I used to be a firm believer in the theory of evolution until I undertook an intense observational study of breastfeeding. This seems like it should be the most natural process, honed by evolution over the eons. But I observed beauty and love combined with struggle and pain. Two observations, in particular, stood out to make me doubt the theory evolution.

You finally get the breast milk into the infant that desperately needs its nutrition and what happens? They spit the milk back out. What self-respecting optimization algorithm operating over millions of years would make the most vital feeding process end by spitting out the food!

Then after the creams and support groups, things finally settle down into a rhythm. A cozy bonding time between mother and child develops. Only to be interrupted by a razor sharp enamel protrusion that forms right at the interface so vital for feeding. Second, only the pain of birth itself is the pain wrought on the mother by the new teeth. A pain that jeopardizes the entire process of breastfeeding! Really evolution in billions of year can’t come up with anything better than that?

If not evolution what can explain this intermixing of love and pain? Clearly only an intelligence could produce such a process. No not the benevolent intelligence that is oft cited by design theories, but one a with a unique capacity to combine the playful, malicious, and helpful all in one act. Loki.

If you think about life from this perspective it will make much more sense.

195 David Koziol May 20, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Anselm’s ontological proof. Even if you don’t believe it, it is an intellectually serious argument. It has a long history of very prominent mathematicians and philosophers on both sides of the argument. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/scientists-use-computer-to-mathematically-prove-goedel-god-theorem-a-928668.html

196 uair01 May 20, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Excuse me for trampling all over this respected tradition … but I think I remember a similar argument in Kabbalistic theology where G-d had to withdraw from some part of the pre-cosmos so that G-d could create the cosmos in this newly created void. This is somehow related to the imperfections in creation.

197 Evans_KY May 20, 2017 at 3:39 pm

As a child: Baptist indoctrination

As a teenager: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

As a young adult: the Ant Farm with magnifying glass

Now: I am open to all possibilities. String theory is compelling.

198 Dave Barnes May 20, 2017 at 3:43 pm

The strongest argument is that many (most?) people are delusional.

199 Anonymous May 20, 2017 at 3:47 pm

…..”This flow of creation, from where it did arise, Whether it was ordered or was not, He, the Observer, in the highest heaven, He alone knows, unless…He knows it not.”
(Vedic Hymn of Creation)

200 Zeitgeisty May 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm

What is the strongest argument for the existence of God?

This framing is dripping with epistemological narcissism – a character trait that impedes acquisition of real wisdom. But you should know that from reading Strauss.

It might help if you read “The sophisticate and the simpleton” by Rabbi Nahman of Breslav (1772-1810).

201 Tyler Cowen May 20, 2017 at 4:07 pm

The really funny thing is: these comments are far better than the usual.

202 Matthew Moore May 20, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Why would that be surprising? This is the oldest question, you normally ask some of the newest.

My reasoning is emotionally motivated. There is no morality without divinity. (Why would it matter how the neurons of self-replicating carbon life are organised or stimulated?). I accept morality, so I have to accept divinity.

203 FG May 21, 2017 at 8:15 am

Dunno. I find minimizing pain to be a pretty compelling morality sans divinity.

204 msgkings May 20, 2017 at 11:10 pm

There’s your proof of God’s existence!

205 aMichael May 21, 2017 at 10:49 am


206 Art Deco May 22, 2017 at 3:44 pm

that’s because I haven’t posted anything yet

207 buddyglass May 20, 2017 at 4:24 pm

For me it’s mainly experiential. First I had to accept that a given belief system was plausible, but that something is plausible doesn’t mean its true. Once I got to that point, I sought confirmation. To my mind, I got it, in the form of an emotional experience whose origin I can’t explain, accompanied by an abiding sense that the thing I wished to be true was actually true.

I’m well aware of how convenient that sounds. You wanted something to be true, and voila, suddenly you had a vague “sense” that it was true. But that’s what happened. I was basically at the precipice, but unwilling to take the plunge. As much as I would be happy for the thing to be true, I couldn’t bring myself to believe, because there was no “conclusive” evidence. Instead I got what I might describe as “spiritual confirmation”.

If I’m wrong, and the material world is the only thing, then everything is meaningless anyway, so I’ve lost nothing by making sacrifices on account of my beliefs.

208 albert camus May 20, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Rather loftily said I must say, ah moni ami, do you know what the solitary creature is like as wanders in a big city – the devil’s playfield those days of solitude. Much better I say, to be at Mexico City, overlooking Bryant Park with some sushi and fistful of ash.

209 buddyglass May 20, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Yeah. To my mind the only reasonable options are theism of some variety, or nihilism. I get why people gravitate toward humanism when they reject theism, but it seems essentially therapeutic. Seeking meaning and significance, they choose to derive it, more or less arbitrarily, from improving the human condition.

210 Charles Jackson May 20, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Agreed, buddyglass. It’s self evident that our lives have objective meaning, as do love, personhood, consciousness and morality. I’ve given atheism a chance, but I cant reconcile it’s unavoidable nihilism with the deep meaning I see woven all throughout our existence.

211 aMichael May 21, 2017 at 11:31 am

Came here to say something similar. My belief is primarily experiential. Is it possible that these faith confirming experiences are just the products of my psyche and upbringing? Yes. Absolutely. But my faith provides me with great fulfillment, improving my life and the lives of those around me.

212 polyglot May 20, 2017 at 5:02 pm

By ‘Deliberative Reason’ we commonly denote abstract dispassionate ratiocination, militating to consensus on judgements of a universal kind. Following Kant, there has been a tendency to see Deliberative Reason as categorical and univocal rather than context and protocol bound. Thus the ‘artificial reason’ of the Courts has been considered to be akin, or convergent to, the ‘natural reason’ of the Scientists.

If the a priori truths of Pure Reason can be arrived at by Deliberative Reason, then it is likely that purely metaphysical judgements are related to fundamental theorems in mathematical politics or social choice- like Arrow’s Impossibility result which in the opinion of some Law Professors, like Max Stearns, has fundamental implications for Constitutional Law & Jurisprudence.

Recently, some media controversy has been generated by the fact that Judges are increasingly relying on Artificial Intelligences (A.Is) and that the possibility exists that A.Is could replace Judges altogether.

Meanwhile, A.I has scored its first big success in Metaphysics- proving the inconsistency of Godel’s ontological proof.

Godel relied on an axiom such that the set of ‘positive properties’ is an ultrafilter. However, as is well known, this causes problems of self-difference, i.e. something both being and not being itself, or else endangers ‘accessibility’ and entails ‘modal collapse’ (i.e. turns every true statement into a necessarily true statement as if this were the only possible world.)

Arrow’s Theorem- which, for some reason that escapes me, is not regarded as nonsense- as extended to the infinite case by Kirman & Sondermann, such that the Arrowian Social Welfare Function (ASWF) is shown to be a non-principal ultrafilter, can come to the rescue of Godel’s proof because it supports self-difference- an invisible dictator is both different and the same as a visible dictator- and, allowing ‘constructibility’ to be endogenous, permits a laissez passer into Cantor’s Paradise without, however, having to chose sides re. the Continuum Hypothesis. Inter alia, this means the underlying proof sequence grows faster than any possible algorithmic verification of modal collapse.

This gives rise to my claims- If we accept Arrow’s Impossibility theorem is true (as opposed to wrong or meaningless) then we must accept God exists.

Argument- Let the choice of axioms for this proof be the result of an Arrowvian Social Choice Function (ASWF) over all possible rational beings as conceived by a given agent or set of agents.
Let us define God as a possible rational being who could always be dictatorial but is not necessarily so.
If Arrow’s Theorem is true, then (because possibly rational beings are infinite (for e.g. by cloning)) then (by Kirman/Sondermann) God exists, as an ‘invisible’ Arrowvian Dictator over some subset of Deliberative Reason’s domain for all possible rational beings. If Deliberative Reason can have a self-consistent form, a proof that God exists must be accepted by all Rational beings.

(Depending on one’s attitude to the Continuum Hypothesis (CH) more could be predicated of this ‘God’. Godel disliked CH, and-currently- we don’t really think of it as an open problem so much as opening doorways.)

If Deliberative Reason can have a consistent expression and features Arrow’s Theorem impredicatively then it must affirm that God exists . To assert otherwise, for any bien pensant votary of Arrow’s theorem, is either a dictatorial claim, elevating oneself above ‘Deliberative Reason’, or else a claim to be a not possibly rational being (in which case you are not admissible for the ASWF) and thus beneath the scope of Deliberative Reason.

213 Matthew Young May 20, 2017 at 5:16 pm

We needed a tautologically correct theism I invented one. God is All, the All engages in self-discovery.

214 EdM May 20, 2017 at 6:01 pm

The traditional argument for the existence of God is still a strong one: believe or we kill you.

215 Sinner#9 May 20, 2017 at 8:16 pm

A good argument is always a double-edged sword.

216 JonFraz May 23, 2017 at 2:25 pm

No one can actually compel belief– only the outer behaviors that may imply belief– but not conclusively.

217 Charles E May 20, 2017 at 6:08 pm

My friend is a Catholic priest and a liberal one at that. A few years ago he was asked to become, against his wishes since he thought the job was all Hollywood makebelieve, the exorcist in our local diocese. When he tells me of young American children in some state of possession, who have been determined by mental health pros not to suffer from obvious mental disorders, who spew hateful comments at him in Greek or Latin and make fun of a secret habit of his that only he knows (or thought he knew), it starts to make the atheist argument less convincing.

218 Dan May 20, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Why do only Catholic kids gets possessed?

219 Charles E May 20, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Who said it’s only Catholic kids?

220 thfmr May 20, 2017 at 6:33 pm

I put this argument on a par with, “I saw Chris Angel levitate across the stage one time.”

221 FG May 21, 2017 at 8:20 am

Ignoring the question of whether this actually happens or not, the scenario “but they spoke Greek/Latin!” still reeks to me of limited human imagination. If we’re using this to support God’s existence, it’s a remarkably small and lame bit of evidence. You want some more believers? Spell it out in the stars of the night sky.

222 aMichael May 21, 2017 at 11:37 am

But that defeats the purpose. The point of our existence, at least from my Judeo-Christian beliefs is to determine how we would behave with our agency and absent the constant presence of God. So evidence is provided to one who seek and act on faith. As James taught, the deciles know there is a God, but lack sufficient faith to follow his precepts. Knowledge of Gods existence is not sufficient.

223 aMichael May 21, 2017 at 11:38 am

Oops. Autocorrect was a bit off there. I meant to type, Devils, and not Deciles.

224 Charles E May 21, 2017 at 11:56 am

“If we’re using this to support God’s existence, it’s a remarkably small and lame bit of evidence.”

Jesus of Nazareth drove the Pharisees batty with his miracles and called him a “magician” (I believe Josephus documented this). Or they called mircles the work of Beezelbub. Figure an average of a miracle a day for the three years of his public life and not even 1,000 miracles, and the viral marketing that ensued when witnessed shared what they saw, was enough for the Pharisees, who of course demanded his execution.

Perhaps a 9-year old peasant kid from Honduras speaking Greek and spewing hateful insults is a small bit of evidence (it doesn’t seem very lame, but rather extraordinary), but compounded with miracles over the last two thousand years and mystical private revelations from, let’s say, St Catherine of Siena (another illiterate peasant child and doctor of the Church), it makes the pejorative “this is just another Chris Angel deception! It’s all done with CGI! comments themselves look weak and rather pathetic, especially juxtaposed with their excited comments about a scientist looking for proofs of a multiverse.

225 FG May 21, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Sure, the peasant Honduran child speaking fluent Greek would be extraordinary, but I’m not aware of any reliable evidence of this.

What did Catherine of Siena do that was miraculous? Wikipedia tells me she had a number of visions. Is there anything not explainable as “she hallucinated”?

Dunno. I’m not trying to attack you (in this or the other comment thread). It just seems funny that an omnipotent God chooses to express himself in small ways with low evidence, and a simpler explanation is that sometimes people really want to believe stuff, or in Catherine’s case are mentally ill in exactly the right way.

226 Charles E May 21, 2017 at 3:47 pm

Read St Catherine of Siena’s “Dialogues” and I guess you can assess whether this is the work of someone who is “mentally ill” or “hallucinating”. Not trying to dodge the question but the book itself is miraculous.

If the “evidence” was so overwhelming that there would be no doubt, what challenge would that be to our spiritual selves? I.e. if we are here to show God how good we can be in the face of ubiquitous temptation and sinfulness, that we can forgive not only others but our enemies as well, how is this compatible with overwhelming evidence which would make all of these non-choices?

The simple explanation that people want to believe stuff is not inaccurate, but the still simpler explanation that God created the universe and everything in it is for me more rational, a la Pascal’s wager.

227 Tommy May 20, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Cowen’s pre-emptive apology for off-putting his intellectual base reminds me of a passage from Screwtape Letters, but that’s neither here nor there.

Atheists have two choices, both lead to personal dichotomies:
1. To live life pretending this world matters when they know it doesn’t, or
2. To live life as if this world doesn’t matter when they know it does.

And don’t waste pixels and time trying to pin down what you think I mean by “know.” You may sooner self-reduce any reasoning you may have as the mere firing of neurons till you’ve convinced yourself you have the same moral output as bark on a tree.

To Cowen’s question and my best argument for God’s existence– a few things. First, it doesn’t come in 140 characters, because you can always disagree on first principles. Next, leave your bias against personal experience at the door. Lastly, read up on Aquinas. I’ve found refutations to his Five Proofs wanting.

228 thfmr May 20, 2017 at 6:38 pm

Of course in the grand scheme it’s all meaningless. Why is your life worth more than an ant’s life? The solution to your dichotomy is that the ant’s life matters to the ant, and he will eat and shit and run from your broom whether he believes in God or not.

229 Thomas Taylor May 20, 2017 at 8:05 pm

“Next, leave your bias against personal experience at the door. Lastly, read up on Aquinas. I’ve found refutations to his Five Proofs wanting.”

230 Tommy May 20, 2017 at 10:54 pm

When you witness a painting sobbing buckets of tears for hours straight, give me a call.

Great name, btw.

231 A B May 20, 2017 at 6:43 pm

I can’t find the quote, but Franz Rozensweig had an interesting comment in his letters to Eugen Rosenstock. Roughly it translates to ‘Only a God completely separate from our Universe can be God.’ In other words: take the term ‘supernatural’ seriously: Any proof of God would bring God into the world of the natural, thus diminishing him.

232 aMichael May 21, 2017 at 12:07 pm

I feel this whole exercise (and many like it, whether done to support one’s faith in God or not) starts from the premise of a non-supernatural God ann the n we wonder why we can’t find evidence for his existence. According to my religious beliefs, the past, present, and future are ever before God. What is causality in this situation?

233 Keith Robertson May 20, 2017 at 6:47 pm

What I have seen in my mind’s eye and what I have seen in the midnight sky is more entrancing than all that beguile you and I.

234 Keith Robertson May 20, 2017 at 6:52 pm

What I have seen in my mind’s eye and what I have seen in the midnight sky is more entrancing than all that beguile you and I.

235 megamike May 20, 2017 at 6:57 pm

The operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner; which creates much misunderstanding among the smug
Flannery O’Connor

236 The Cranky Professor May 20, 2017 at 7:14 pm

“Assume a watch in the wilderness” strikes non economists very much like “assume a can opener.”

237 Ahmed May 20, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Sufi gnostic here.

The greatest proof of God is us. The chosen few who have traveled the mystic path and attained to enlightenment. Yes, I know, its still the problem of belief at one remove.

“the branching multiverse seems bizarre, but “steady state matter” theories do not”

Both of these theories are wrong. What actually happens is that the universe disappears and is re-created at every instant. The so-called doctrine of continuous creation. The gnostics know this by experience.

“From here the gnostics climb from the lowlands of metaphor to the highlands of reality, and they perfect their ascent. Then they see–witnessing with their own eyes–that there is none in existence save God and that “Everything is perishing except His face” [28:88]. [It is] not that each thing is perishing at one time or at other times, but that it is perishing from eternity without beginning to eternity without end. It can only be so conceived since, when the essence of anything other than He is considered in respect of its own essence, it is sheer nonexistence. But when it is viewed in respect of the “face” to which existence flows forth from the First, the Real (al-Awal al-Haqq), then it is seen as existing not in itself but through the face adjacent to its Giver of Existence. Hence, the only existent is the Face of God.” —Ghazali
[End Quote]

“David Hume’s classic discussion…”

David Hume, a contemporary of Adam Smith circa 1776 was channeling the Sufi theologian Ghazali who was discussing these ideas back in the 11th century. Read David Hume’s idea that fire does not burn cotton but that God creates both the fire and the burnt cotton, i.e., a rejection of causality, and you will find Ghazali using the fire and cotton example seven hundred years earlier.

I’ll leave the readers with a couple of Rumi quotes:

If you have lost heart
in the Path of Love,
Flee to me without delay:
I am a fortress invincible.

—Rumi, Diwan.

If you could get rid of yourself just once,
The secret of secrets would open to you.
The face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe,
Would appear on the mirror of your perception.


238 Thiago Ribeiro May 20, 2017 at 8:11 pm

“Both of these theories are wrong. What actually happens is that the universe disappears and is re-created at every instant. The so-called doctrine of continuous creation. The gnostics know this by experience.”

Facius Cardan proposed this theory in the 1400s, it makes no sense at all, it is mere superstition.

239 Ahmed May 20, 2017 at 9:49 pm

Ghazali (c. 1058 – 19 December 1111) was writing about continuous creation back in the 11th century, as my quote shows, well before your Facius Cardan. And it is older than Islam itself, which is over 1,400 years old.

Also, it ties into many other ideas which there is not enough room here to discuss, mainly the rejection of causality, i.e., the fire and cotton thing.

Causality does not exist, there is only the illusion of causality. Created beings can not be efficient causes, otherwise it clashes with God’s omnipotence.

240 Thiago Ribeiro May 21, 2017 at 5:59 am

No, it does not clash with God’s omnipotence. God created the rules of the Universe – He could uncreate them, if He wanted, but He chooses otherwise.

241 Boykin the Kinbote dog May 20, 2017 at 8:36 pm

In the temperature charts of poetry, high is low, and low high so that the degree at which perfect crystallization occurs is above the tepid facility. Stop coming up with tautological terms to describe something you cannot know. Physical terms for distinguishing what is real from what is unreal, a language for creation are necessary but not sufficient. Time means growth, and growth means nothing in Elysian life.

This isn’t to say that prosperity hasn’t increased but is to say that one cannot say people are happier today than say, the Axial age, despite vast differences in wealth.

One can know what God is not; one cannot know what he is. – Augustine

Je m’en vais chercher un grand peut-être. – can anyone translate Rabelias’ last words? Sounds to me read backwards, I’m pretty sure we came from trees.

or “I get a big maybe.”

242 Li Zhi May 20, 2017 at 8:41 pm

The fact is trivial and indisputable that God exists. Here I define God as the cause of everything. (Some may, like me, see no difference between this God and the natural laws of our Universe.)

243 shrikanthk May 20, 2017 at 8:42 pm

To argue over whether “God” exists in a literal sense is an Abrahamic habit.

I find that question less interesting than the question –
“Should we prefer God over the truth”? – a question that Woody Allen poses in his movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors”

And my answer would be yes. The universe is without meaning. Yet we impose meaning on it with our moral impulse. We develop systems of right and wrong. The universe ceases to be indifferent, but rather meaningful and moral because of our belief in a Good God.

The genius lies in us. Our genius lies in the fact that we create God and invest meaning in an indifferent universe!

244 nigel May 22, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Which means that you can break the moral rules anytime you really really need to, just like Judah in Crimes & Misdemeanors. Just need to make everyone believe you’re a moral person.

245 Lee A. Arnold May 20, 2017 at 8:55 pm

The strongest argument for the existence of god is that intellectual rationality never closes an explanation. There must be something greater, an ultimate cause or prime mover, that allows us to notice that fact. This is not really a good argument for the existence of god. But the alternative belief is that human comprehension of the universe is a continuous deepening and erasure, using an instrument, intellectual rationality, that never closes an explanation. This leads to circularities about the ultimate origin of some things, such as the origin of mathematics.

The argument for the existence of god is also confused with a possibly quite separate condition: the fact that methods of expanding consciousness (not intellectual knowledge, but consciousness) use personal intentionality that is focused beyond any rational object. See, for example, the terms of any traditional mystical path (with the possible exception of Buddhism). After expansion of consciousness, one ought to employ rational intellectuality again, but many people do not, and continue to use the terms of irrational fantasies, to try to tell others about what they now see, to get them to experience the same thing, etc.

246 ed rickets May 20, 2017 at 9:19 pm

In the same way, the sight of a half-wit need never depress me, since his extreme, and the extreme of his kind, so effects the mean standard of sanity that I, hatless, coatless, often bewhiskered, thereby will be regarded only as a little odd.

247 DBueche May 20, 2017 at 9:31 pm

The way I see it, you’re asked to pick between one of two possible explanations for the universe as we understand it, (neither of which is provable by an empirical test).
We find the universe that we we live in “fine tuned” to a highly improbable degree. The easiest explanation is that it was meant to happen, designed this way, etc. to allow for the creation of intelligent life such as ourselves, (and others?). Enter the multiverse theory. In this scenario there are an infinite number of universes, with an infinite array of “tuning”, such that the existence of ours, although finely tuned, is not improbable because it was bound to be an iteration sometime.

Fine tuning is real. We can test for it, and if anything, the more we learn, the more fine tuned it appears to be. We know that we exist in this universe. On the face of it, it speaks strongly towards a non-random creation, agency of a higher power, whatever you want to call it. However, given the mathematical models we can create to explain you can create a scenario that describes the multiverse. You can also create equally plausible scenarios that use the same mathematics and don’t create an infinite number of universes. In either case, there is likely no way we will ever be able to test this hypothesis. It exists because it “could” work given the math, (and lets be honest – it lets all the atheists who getting uncomfortable with fine tuning off that hook).

In the end you can believe that what we see and can prove exists and verify this through scientific method and you can deduce the existence of a higher power from the huge signal left in all this fine tuning. Or you can make a deduction that it can’t be that way, (based on your gut, intuition, faith?), and accept the multiverse, (denying other plausible non-testable alternatives that don’t produce a multiverse).

I would submit that Occam’s Razor would make the first alternative more likely and more credible and that there’s a certain “faith based” component to the multiverse alternative that it’s adherents are unwilling to see and/or admit. Either was, this is probably all the proof we’ll ever have to make our conclusions, (at least on this dimension of reasoning).

I – as you’ve probably deduced – believe the fine tuning is a strong argument for the existence of God. I understand and accept those that don’t and fall into the multiverse camp. In the end, we’re all making a bit of a leap of faith on this one.

248 John4 May 20, 2017 at 10:10 pm

Like Tyler said about climate change (and could be said (he also said?) about evolution), there are some pretty good arguments, but the rational force comes from considering them all together, how the hypothesis unifies and explains things across various different domains, etc. That being said, I think it would be hard to get the ball rolling if one didn’t find two claims compelling:

1) The idea that the universe exists necessarily is absurd–the existence of the cosmos calls out for an explanation.
2) The world is fallen. Human beings in particular are pretty clearly broken–we’re bound or governed by the moral law but woefully bad at obeying it. We are capable of great good, both morally and non-morally, but also great evil, morals and non-morally. (An important turning point for me was realizing that *I* was incapable of being (perfectly) good–of living up to my ideals. That rocked my world. Tyler seems like he might be naturally better–more self-controlled, less vengeful, etc.–than me. Which is intrinsically great, but (by my lights) means that he is missing some of the most important first person evidence related to the existence of God.)

Several people have pointed about above, as regards (1), that postulating a creator of the universe still leaves us with an unexplained creator. But the claim that a perfect being would be necessarily existent (if it existed at all) is much more plausible, antecedently, than the claim that the cosmos is necessarily existent. That’s progress. Not proof, but progress.

249 Jay McCarthy May 20, 2017 at 10:17 pm

I’m a fan of “The New God Argument” – https://new-god-argument.com

250 John Goodman May 20, 2017 at 10:21 pm

There is only one argument and it’s not really an argument; it’s an assumption. It’s called the primacy of consciousness.
It assumes that reality requires an explanation but consciousness does not.
The alternative assumption is the primacy of reality: the assumption that reality does not require an explanation, but consciousness does.
The reason for the primacy of reality is that conscience depends on reality, not the other way around.
In fact at the most basic level, consciousness is consciousness of reality. There is nothing else to be conscious of.

251 derek May 20, 2017 at 11:17 pm

If there is a god in heaven someone will release a video of Hillary’s meltdown late that night when she learned of her losing the election.

252 God May 20, 2017 at 11:26 pm

I’m a little busy right now investigating Russia.

253 derek May 21, 2017 at 1:01 am

So much for omniscience.

I’m disappointed.

254 GodtheFather May 21, 2017 at 2:28 am

After Noah, people thought the Jews were deluge-ional, so now I provide evidence.

255 Mike C. May 21, 2017 at 12:10 am

If you accept the claim that God is love, it becomes difficult to not believe in God.

256 LockeAndKey-nes May 21, 2017 at 12:41 am

If you accept that love is classical liberalism and realize you don’t know any classical liberals, it is easy to believe God doesn’t exist.

257 FG May 21, 2017 at 8:23 am

Where does this get you? It seems equivalent to assuming God is my kitchen table. OK, now what, is anything different?

258 Mike C. May 21, 2017 at 1:57 pm

It gets you past the existence question and on to the implications one. I think the implications for how you would want to live in preparation for death if God is love are pretty well covered between the teachings of Jesus and his disciples, but my reasons for this belief do rely on personal experience. I’d be happy to share if you care.

259 FG May 21, 2017 at 7:34 pm

Share away!

260 Mike C. May 23, 2017 at 9:41 pm

Towards the end of my first 20-mile run, after a night of drinking single-malt Scotch (so maybe a near-death experience), I had an epiphany, or mini-enlightenment, which started with the realization that the purpose of religion is to help people deal with death by teaching them to live their life in preparation for death. I was struck by how Jesus did such a great job in his life and death of exemplifying what I realized may be the key to life spelled LIIF (Love, Improve, Inspire, Forgive). I had always wondered about life after death, and realized that unless the whole world ends, there would be life after my death. Particularly if it was my children, and we had recently quarreled, I realized I would want them to know that I would forgive them if there was any possible way to do so, and that an effective way to do that would be exhibiting hope in an afterlife and making an example of forgiving anyone and everyone regardless of what they did, like Jesus on the cross. I realized I could not control others, only inspire them. I realized that the best way to inspire was to improve myself, and that the only compelling reason to do any of this was love. As I began to improve myself through study, service and prayer, many more things became clear to me, and I decided that Bible stories were not just useful fictions, but revealed truths stranger than any fiction. This is likely true of other religions too. I hope this post inspires someone and that you forgive any imperfections. Love, Mike.

261 Alan May 21, 2017 at 12:39 am

The strongest argument for god that I know of is dimethyltryptamine.

262 Amigo May 21, 2017 at 2:07 am

Most interesting to me are descriptions of altered experiences – such as near death experiences. Or people who are near death having visions. Or cases of people having disassociative experiences, like Barbara Ehrenreich described.

There are hints that things are not as we typically perceive. Many people who have experiences such as these emerge with an unexpected conviction, and we may be too eager to dismiss their experiences.

Not that this is proof of god, but if so the evidence probably lies in that direction rather than in an intellectual exercise.

263 Charles E May 21, 2017 at 10:44 am

Surprised that the pro-multiverse crowd here don’t advocate for additional dimensions.

264 FG May 21, 2017 at 8:43 am

I don’t see much defense of a caring God here, but let me add the main point that keeps me from believing in a caring God. Maybe someone has a good response. It’s essentially the problem of evil.

When I ask believers about this I usually get some variant of “God works in mysterious ways”. OK, no stretch to imagine that an infinite God is up to things we don’t or can’t grok. But in the meanwhile, there are definitely people living lives of tremendous and varied pain down here — people who are born in pain, live briefly in pain, and die in pain, and reach no absolution or understanding in their lives. What exactly is the point of this?

To say “well, they teach the rest of us things” seems tremendously selfish. Who gives a shit what we get out of it when they have to go through *that*? Why would any great or even moderately OK God force the suffering person to suffer to teach us a lesson when he could just build an unfeeling robot to perfectly simulate it for us and save the suffering person the experience? But assuming that God does this already is in some ways even worse. It suggests that some people are not people and that suffering carries much less weight than what we assign to it now, and is an easy excuse for even greater solipsism.

I don’t see how to resolve this.

265 Charles E. May 21, 2017 at 9:46 am

Because your suffering here is rewarded in the next life. You are a spiritual being at heart and this is your chance to show God that even if you are unhappy and suffering, you can still love your neighbor and love God.

266 FG May 21, 2017 at 10:59 am

Do we dispute the existence of people who are both 1. suffering and 2. of sufficiently low brain function that they don’t understand why, much less understand the theological merit of a God that wants you to prove your goodness in the face of pain?

(Actually, I like to think my brain function is fine and still find the prove-you-love-me side of the Christian God strange and a good signal that said God is really defined by normal, jealous, petty humans.)

267 aMichael May 21, 2017 at 11:59 am

Why does the existence of God and the idea that we’re rewarded or punished in the afterlife based on how we choose to deal with our situation in life depend on whether those who are suffering are aware of this set up?

I’m also fascinated by the argument that God can’t exist or that Christians must be wrong because there’s unfair suffering in the world when the whole Christian faith is based on a belief in a God who took on a mortal existence to experience unfair suffering.

268 FG May 21, 2017 at 12:07 pm

I mean in the sense that there’s no apparent point to various kinds of suffering, even if we assume that God is truly interested in how we handle suffering.

Maybe a different example is better. Here: unit 731 decides to viivsect a guy. He stays alive for 3 terrible minutes. Why must he go through that when there’s nothing at the end? There’s no “choosing to deal with a situation” or handling the suffering or demonstrating your love and compassion as a human. There’s just waiting for death.

(I also do not see why the crucifixion is an argument against the problem of evil. I have understood this argument [went to a Jesuit high school] as some version of “well, God also experienced suffering, so we’re even”. This may be uncharitable.)

269 The Anti-Gnostic May 21, 2017 at 1:15 pm

If there is no God, then evil ceases to be a problem other than by some a posteriori critera we make up. Evil, like Good, just is, and everything eventually comes out in the wash. Or it doesn’t, in which event it doesn’t matter to the universe either.

If there is a caring God, how can He allow evil? Evil is the product of human choice. God created humans capable of choice, because only beings with moral agency can come to theosis/Atman/Tao/etc. Scarcity and the ability to do evil or good refine humans into their reward for good choices: communion with God. Otherwise, you’re just a wind-up toy doll, which is fun when you’re a child but as an adult you prefer interactions with an autonomous being, so you make one. As below, so above.

That’s my stab at it.

270 FG May 21, 2017 at 1:49 pm

OK — free will in our world means bad things must be possible. But do *war crime* level bad things have to be possible? The scope of pain that people can experience seems far too broad.

271 The Anti-Gnostic May 21, 2017 at 2:17 pm

I guess my response to that would be we’re either autonomous to the physical limits of the universe or we’re not. Otherwise our capacity for moral choice would have to be stunted.

272 Chava May 21, 2017 at 10:30 am

I can’t see this question answered other than psychologically and noone does a better job than Youtube phenomenon Jordan Peterson, which I can recommend checking out. First lecture on his new evo-psych exegesis is up now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-wWBGo6a2w

273 Faith is an inductive and experiential exercise... May 21, 2017 at 12:10 pm

26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your cheart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my funderstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

274 Mike C. May 22, 2017 at 7:15 am


275 Jens Nordmark May 21, 2017 at 4:24 pm

I think like this:

If it could be proven that our universe is the only logical possibility, then that would make it non-strange and make God less likely.

If it could be proven that there are many logically possible universes, and they all exist, we can invoke the anthropic principle. Then our universe is non-strange and God becomes less likely.

If it could be proven that there are many logically possible universes, but ours is still the only one in existence, then we live in a really weird universe and the God hypothesis is stronger.

276 JR Bob Dobbs May 21, 2017 at 7:11 pm

So said the economist. Praise Slack. Now accepting donations.

277 Andy May 21, 2017 at 9:19 pm

I’m a non believer too. But on ocassions I think this: sure, God is absurd, but so is the idea that the Big Bang make something out of nothing. That physical matter exists, and that we are here and exist is absurd, whether you believe in God or not.

278 Zodphaybroxlebeeb May 21, 2017 at 9:25 pm

Are you familiar with Roger Penrose’s conformal cyclic cosmology? Combine it with Wheeler’s one-electron universe and the many-minds interpretation and you’ve basically got the plot to Andy Weir’s The Egg. There’s a God in that story. So, there’s your evidence for God.

Flawless logic.

279 Leon May 21, 2017 at 9:37 pm

I think the strongest arguments are roughly of the form: (the complex/the changing/the composite) is grounded in/explained by/depends upon (the simple/the actual/the indivisible). If you follow this all the way down, you get to a simple, unchanging/actual, indivisible ground of things.

There are two tricky hidden premises.

The first is that the “grounding” needs to be out there in reality and not just a product of our desire to explain. You need a “principle of sufficient reason” to say that certain things are explicable even if we don’t have the explanation yet at hand — to be confident (as it’s sometimes put) that “the mystery is in the map and not in the territory”.

The second point is that the explained thing needs to depend on its ground in such a way as to rule out infinite regress.

As I understand it this is the general form of Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence. He thought that an infinite past was metaphysically possible, and so his cosmological arguments were not based on successions of causes extending back through time, but on the simultaneous ordering of causes, as above.

280 Jim Birch May 22, 2017 at 2:32 am

The problem for the branching universe is the multiplicity of entities required to explain observations. Especially when the model is basically solving a philosophical (semantic?) problem, not resolving any evidence. Philosophical problems often evaporate as science progresses. If it wasn’t being advanced by serious people in physics departments the branching multiverse would be considered a delusional affliction.

This is a similar problem for multiverse theories. There is currently a profound lack of evidence.

In my opinion, this type of thing demonstrates a human conceit, knowledge delusion. The real answer to both these problems will likely come from a more complete model of spacetime, something which we simply don’t have now. Once we have a model of spacetime that can generate one big bang we are very likely to know if more are possible elsewhere. Once we understand quantum reality clearly we should know whether infinite copies of reality are actually required. Personally I *guess* not. Right now, despite its great achievements physics does not understand time.

281 nigel May 22, 2017 at 9:22 am

Most convincing argument: the brothers karamazov & beyond good and evil. If there is no God everything is permitted. God is dead and we have killed him, now let’s step out of his shadow. If you’re an atheist and not a nietzchean then I think you’re just letting your emotions get to you.

282 godishuman May 22, 2017 at 10:50 am

It doesn’t matter all this god watch business, we humans made it up. Existence doesn’t revolve or evolve around us. Because dinosaurs negate any philosopher. The new veil of ignorance 2.0 is here … we made it up and so now what? Let’s move forward shall we.


283 Vintage Rocker May 22, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Hhmmmm…. my memory may be a bit rusty, and I’m certainly surprised none of the thoughtful commenters have noticed, but I don’t recall good ‘ol St. David mentioning mechanical clocks anywhere in his works. Not in the “Treatise”, not in the “Dialogues concerning Natural Religion”, not in the “Enquiries”, not in the “Natural History of Religion” and not in the multiple “Essays” or the published correspondence.

William Paley, on the other hand, opens his “Natural Theology” reflecting on what we may think if we found such a contraption by the side of the road. Such book was published, alas, in 1802, 26 years after Hume’s death…

284 explorer May 22, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Argument from experience. This requires a mystical or esoteric practice, and possibly some psychedelic drugs (or equivalent discipline). This of course, does not argue in favor of any particular divinity, but is quite convincing of the existence of some kind of things that transcend the conventional human understanding of the cosmos.

285 Clay B May 23, 2017 at 10:16 am

I will try to explain my position….

a) The universe came into existence from nothing.
That universe had a set of physical laws that allowed for life to evolve.
Life was created from non-life.
Life evolved from simple beginnings to the complex forms we have today.
Consciousness developed from mechanical processes.


b) There is an almighty being beyond human comprehension who did all this.

I find (b) easier to believe (Occam’s razor).

I guess you could argue that the “simulation” gets around all of the events in (a) but as someone else noted above, you still have the problem of where the being(s) who created the simulation came from. Instead of having our complex universe with bazillions of particles, now you have to explain a universe that has the technology/hardware/infrastructure to simulate a bazillion particles. Which I think is necessarily more complex.

286 John de Rivaz May 23, 2017 at 10:25 am

Well, I would find option (a) the universe came into existence from nothing easier to believe.

Otherwise, option (b) would have to have the incomprehensible being coming into existence from nothing, or existing for an infinite time both into the past and future, which would fail the Occam’s Razor.

Quantum mechanics does show particles spontaneously appearing and disappearing in a vacuum, so the concept of an entire universe doing the same thing is not unreasonable in that context.

287 Clay B May 23, 2017 at 11:00 am

(a) is not just the universe appearing but all the other stuff I mentioned as well.

And you just went from elementary particles appearing and disappearing to the entire universe! Which is like 90 orders of magnitude!

288 John de Rivaz May 23, 2017 at 11:11 am

The entire universe may not have appeared all at once. A single particle capable of expansion to a universe is the other possibility. I think this is what is currently believed, although it may not be correct, of course. That is the advantage of science. Things are not set in stone, but can be amended as new knowledge is applied.

289 Russ Mitchell May 23, 2017 at 11:06 am

Nobody knows. The rest is speculative verbiage.

290 Mike C. May 25, 2017 at 6:25 am

Personal experiences seem to be a pretty power argument, and one of the more convincing one’s I know of is Louis Zamperini’s as described in Lauren Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken (https://www.amazon.com/Unbroken-World-Survival-Resilience-Redemption/dp/0812974492) or the documentary film Louis Zamperini: Captured by Grace (https://billygraham.org/video/louis-zamperini-captured-by-grace-trailer/), which he produced with the Billy Graham association. I’ve heard the film Unbroken doesn’t fully cover the role God/religion play in this incredible story.

291 Patrick Holt June 3, 2017 at 1:42 pm

I am unclear about the following sentence. “One major objection to theism is already taken off the table, namely the view of many non-believers that it is somehow absurd, mystical, Santa Claus-like, and so on.”
Why are we taking this off the table? The belief in imaginary beings is a verifiable and observable behavior in both young and old. We know for sure Humans do this vs all the hypothetical strangeness so by far to me it seems its the most likely hypothesis.

Just Curious,

292 Vangel Vesovski June 19, 2017 at 9:13 am

The best argument comes from the physicists who are searching for a unification theory. If one is found, you have your God.

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