On Questioning

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

– Albert Einstein

Degree Argument For God

This proof, formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), originates from the degrees discovered in things. There is discovered greater and lesser degrees of goodness, truth, nobility, and others – this is no ground-braking statement.

Aquinas argues, there exists something ‘truest’, which, in consequence, is the greatest ‘being’. He then argues, based on the metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle, that these superlatives – the things that are most true, beautiful, et cetera – are the greatest truths and therefore the greatest beings, as is stated in Metaphysics Book II.

Furthermore, that which is the greatest in its way, is, in another way, the cause of all things belonging to it. Therefore, there exists something that is the cause of the existence of all things and every perfection whatever. Aquinas calls this ‘God’.

Over 700 years later, there is little credibility left of Aquinas’ proof.

The most prevalent criticism of this argument considers that we do not have to believe in an object of a greater degree in order to believe in an object of a lesser degree. Richard Dawkins, the most (in)famous Atheist thinker of our time, argues that just because we come across a “smelly object”, does not require that we believe in a “preeminently peerless stinker”.

“Something does not necessarily prove something else, let alone something less or more.”

For instance, a fire does not necessitate another hotter fire, nor a cooler one. The hottest fire does not necessitate any other cooler fire (for it could be the only fire in existence and therefore both the hottest and coolest fire, or all fires in existence could have the same temperature). But above all else, if the hottest fire of all fires would indeed exist, it does not necessarily have to be the cause of all smaller fires.

See other: Arguments Concerning God

Cosmological Argument For God

In the 13th century, at the highpoint of the middle ages, Thomas Aquinas formulated one of the most famous proofs for the existence of God: the Cosmological Argument.

That is to say, it was Aquinas who phrased the argument we know today; the cosmological argument however, had been formulated centuries earlier by the Greeks. The fact that it was theorized by Ancient philosophers, like Aristotle, is especially impressive when you consider that at the time, the Universe was not known to have had any sort of origin – the event we nowadays call The Big Bang. The argument consists of the following axioms:

1. Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
2. Nothing finite and contingent can cause itself.
3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
4. Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.

There are two fundamental problems with this argument:

First of all, the cosmological argument is dependent on either a causal chain being of infinite length, or a finite causal chain with a First Cause or Prime Mover at its base.

In any case, it would seem that the argument commits the logical fallacy of infinite regression. If the universe had a first cause, what caused that first cause? Defenders of the argument declare that it is unfair to argue for the cause of every single thing, but then those defenders in turn argue for the sole exception of a First Cause, which according to them did not have a cause.

However, since the third axiom of the argument refutes the existence of any infinite causal chain, a so-called Prime Mover becomes necessary to make the argument work. The problem with any First Cause in the context of this argument however, is that it is just a logical convenience – it is the easiest way out.

Interestingly though, there is no proof whatsoever that a causal chain of infinite length could not exist; it is merely philosophical rhetoric of pre-renaissance quality. Simply put, this fact invalidates axiom three of the argument and it makes axiom four – the Prime Mover – unnecessary.

Furthermore, it is simply not necessary for the universe to have had a cause, original purpose or prime mover, nor is it necessary that there was at some time in the past ‘nothing’. If fact, it seems unlikely that it did. There is no evidence to suggest that there ever was a state without matter – that something came out of nothing. Of course, it might well be true, but as yet, it is impossible to determine. That, however, does not change the fact that the need for a First Cause, which Aquinas outlines in his argument, is outdated.

See other: Arguments Concerning God

Moral Argument For God

This argument states that a higher entity must exist for the following reasons:

1. Morality exists; 2. God is a better explanation for morality than any alternative; 3. the existence of God is therefore more likely than the opposite.

Unfortunately for theists, scientifically speaking, the moral argument is completely and utterly invalid. First of all, the argument that morality flows from faith is easily countered. Organised religions – as a cultural phenomenon – are responsible for quite a lot of harm and terror in the world. For instance, the suicide-bombing community is entirely faith-based, the genital mutilation community is entirely faith-based, et cetera.

“Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer [theist, deist, etc.] that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer [atheist].” – Christopher Hitchens

Not only that, the moral argument is degrading to humanity and human decency. It suggests that we humans would only murder, rape and pillage if we did not believe in an omniscient being who watches our every move – Christopher Hitchens jokingly referred to this hypothetical situation as a celestial North Korea. (Interestingly, one might well argue that present-day North Korea is organized exactly like a faith based cult, centred on the worship of Kim Jong-il).

In short, the degrading and childish suggestion that morality can only exist when humans think they are being spied on is simply invalid. For whatever motive (a question which is still heavily debated), human beings are very much concerned with the well-being of other living things for a very simple reason:

“And if we are more concerned about our fellow primates than we are about insects, as indeed we are, it’s because we think they [like ourselves] are exposed to a greater range of potential happiness and suffering [as opposed to say, rocks].” – Sam Harris

Human beings feel a basic empathy. This behaviour is rooted in the consciousness of being. It is not a character flaw, but an evolutionary strength. The assumption that any theistic religion grants or improves morality in human beings is not rooted in reality:

“The safest, happiest, healthiest, most peaceful, most equal, most developed, most emancipated, most educated, most socially and economically prosperous countries in the world are secular sovereign nations.” – Willem Etsenmaker

See other: Arguments Concerning God

Ontological Argument For God

The ontological argument concerning the existence of god was first formulated by St. Anselm (circa 1033 – 21 April 1109), who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 until his death.

God exists, provided that it is logically possible for him to exist.”

This argument is quite brazen in its simplicity, requiring not only a belief in a higher entity, but a belief in the necessity of god. Anselm argues, ‘if you believe a higher entity is necessary, then you must believe a god exists’. Unfortunately, the logic is rather dated and quite ridiculous in its simplicity.

X exists, provided that it is logically possible for X to exist.”

First of all, when we dissect this phrase, Anselm’s logic allows the variable X to be literally anything: Quetzalcoatl, Ra, Thor, Sergei Fedorov, Jeremy Clarkson, Anna Karenina, Homer Simpson, a 1972 Pink Floyd album, that girl you fancy, the mango I had the other day, et cetera. I suppose one could argue X only applies to the god of your choosing (and is therefore not a real variable), but then the inevitable and painful follow-up question is going to be ‘why exactly should X have only one possible meaning? or why should Anselm’s logic not allow X to be a variable?’; this is a dead end, and since there is no reasonable or logical reason to pursue this line of arguing, we are forced to call X a variable. And in doing so, we are left to cut up Anselm’s argument.

Of course, we should not mock Anselm too much. With our 21st century minds, it is quite easy to see and understand that his argument is plainly untrue. To be precise, Anselm’s ontological argument is a bare assertion fallacy, which means it asserts qualities inherent solely to an unproven statement – it asserts without any support for those qualities. It is also a circular argument, revolving from a premise to a conclusion which in turn relies on the very premise from which it was deduced, which relies on the conclusion… ad infinitum.

To put it simply, Anselm’s ontological argument is one of the oldest cases of (what we would nowadays call) primary school logic ‘X is true – because!’ and it is therefore not surprising that the counter for such a line of argument is frankly: ‘saying so, does not make it so’. After all, what kind of universe would we live in if that kind of reasoning were possible?

See other: Arguments Concerning God