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Are philosophical proofs for God better than science ones?

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From a philosophy prof and chaplain:

Let’s now look at an example of a scientific proof and contrast it with an argument from philosophy. An argument from natural science goes something like this (there are even some philosophical moves here, such as the move from effect to cause):

“Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe had a beginning. Therefore, the universe had a cause.”

Most of the effort is usually placed on the second premise to marshal evidence for the universe’s beginning. For example, the second law of thermodynamics (law of entropy) is often invoked. It says that energy in a closed system (a system that doesn’t get energy from the outside) converts from usable to unusable energy. In other words, when we take our cell phones off of their chargers the battery begins to die until it is recharged. In the absence of a charger (energy from the outside), when it dies the phone will simply not work. The move in this argument is to show that there is nothing outside the known universe that provides energy. Thus, left to itself, the universe is running out of usable energy. If the universe existed from the infinite past, it would have already run out of energy by now. But it hasn’t. Therefore, the argument says that the universe has not existed forever into the past, but had a beginning. And if it had a beginning, it had a beginner.

Arguments like this are very strong, but they depend on the accuracy of interpretations and notions such as how the second law of thermodynamics works and to what extent it can be applied. Does the law apply to everything? Does it apply to the whole universe? Is the universe getting outside energy (whatever that would mean)? Thus, there is a degree of probability with this reasoning. It is based on induction and is thus not certain.

Philosophical proofs on the other hand lead to deductive (metaphysical) certainty. That is, scientific theories change, but the nature of the world does not… Brian Huffling, “Why Philosophical Proofs for God Are Better Than “Scientific” Proofs” at J. Brian Huffling, Ph.D.

His basic point is that philosophy, unlike science, can deal in deductive proofs which are stronger than inductive evidence. But is the divide between science and philosophy so very clear?

Readers? Thoughts?

See also: Are black holes partly a philosophy question?

John Lennox vs. Peter Atkins: Can science explain everything?

and

Why neither weak nor strong scientism can gorund ethics

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13 Replies to “Are philosophical proofs for God better than science ones?

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    Interesting topic.

    Philosophical proofs on the other hand lead to deductive (metaphysical) certainty. That is, scientific theories change, but the nature of the world does not…

    Of course the premises on which the “proof” is based could be faulty. I don’t believe there is certainty (that God exists) to be had whether the “proof” is philosophical or scientific.

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    Doubtless the writer thinks that way because he is a philosopher and not a scientist. I would think a pragmatic judgement about which is “better” would be better: which “proofs” work best with various sorts of people? I imagine that philosophical arguments would work better with some people, while scientific ones would work better with others. So why not use either or both as appropriate? Then, of course, there is the question of “proof”; given that many do not accept “deductive certainty” in such arguments, one can hardly refer to philosophical arguments as “proofs” in the same sense as mathematical deductions.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    A philosophical argument is just that, an argument It may follow the correct logical form, in which case we say it’s valid, but it can still be complete nonsense. For example, borrowing from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky

    All toves are slithy
    All borogoves are toves
    Therefore all borogoves are slithy

    Our confidence in the truth of the conclusion to a philosophical argument depends on our confidence in how true is the information contained in the premises.

    Science is not concerned so much with philosophical truth as with trying to find testable explanations for what we can observe or infer about the universe in which we find ourselves. If they are concerned with truth it is in the sense of the correspondence theory under which an explanation or description is true to the extent it can be observed to correspond with the phenomena for which it purports to provide an account.

    Neither are the two disciplines mutually exclusive. Philosophy can provide the metaphysical underpinnings for what science does and guide research and there can be very few philosophers who would turn down any empirical support for their conclusions offered by science.

  4. 4
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    Science is not concerned so much with philosophical truth as with trying to find testable explanations for what we can observe or infer about the universe in which we find ourselves.

    And that is why evolutionism is not science- it makes untestable claims.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    DaveS the atheist claims,

    “I don’t believe there is certainty (that God exists) to be had whether the “proof” is philosophical or scientific.

    Is he certain about that uncertainty?

    Ancient skeptics briefly denied that absolute certain knowledge was possible, but caught themselves when they realized this statement itself seemed too absolute.
    http://www.informationphilosop.....ainty.html

    Without God there can be no certainty. For prime example, without God there can be no certainty that we really exist as conscious persons.

    “There is no self in, around, or as part of anyone’s body. There can’t be. So there really isn’t any enduring self that ever could wake up morning after morning worrying about why it should bother getting out of bed. The self is just another illusion, like the illusion that thought is about stuff or that we carry around plans and purposes that give meaning to what our body does. Every morning’s introspectively fantasized self is a new one, remarkably similar to the one that consciousness ceased fantasizing when we fell sleep sometime the night before. Whatever purpose yesterday’s self thought it contrived to set the alarm last night, today’s newly fictionalized self is not identical to yesterday’s. It’s on its own, having to deal with the whole problem of why to bother getting out of bed all over again.
    – A.Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, ch.10

    8.) The argument from personal existence
    1. If naturalism is true, I do not exist.
    2. I do exist!
    3. Therefore naturalism is not true.
    Is Metaphysical Naturalism Viable? – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzS_CQnmoLQ

    ,,, Yet the most certain thing that we can possibly know about reality is the fact that we really do exist as conscious persons.

    Therefore if you are absolutely certain that you really exist as a conscious person then you can also be absolutely certain that God also exists as a conscious person since ‘personhood’ can only be reasonably grounded within Theism.

    Thus for us to be absolutely certain about anything, God must necessarily exist in order to be able to ground that certainty.

    He goes toe-to-toe with science big wigs… and so far he’s undefeated. – interview
    Dr. Bernardo Kastrup: You see we always start from the fact that we are conscious. Consciousness is the only carrier of reality and existence that we can know. Everything else is abstraction; [they] are inferences we make from consciousness.
    http://www.skeptiko.com/274-be.....rialistic/

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    Max Planck (1858–1947), the main founder of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.

    “The principal argument against materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections: that it is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied. On the contrary, logically, the external world could be denied—though it is not very practical to do so. In the words of Niels Bohr, “The word consciousness, applied to ourselves as well as to others, is indispensable when dealing with the human situation.” In view of all this, one may well wonder how materialism, the doctrine that “life could be explained by sophisticated combinations of physical and chemical laws,” could so long be accepted by the majority of scientists.”
    – Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, pp 167-177.

    “In any philosophy of reality that is not ultimately self-defeating or internally contradictory, mind – unlabeled as anything else, matter or spiritual – must be primary. What is “matter” and what is “conceptual” and what is “spiritual” can only be organized from mind. Mind controls what is perceived, how it is perceived, and how those percepts are labeled and organized. Mind must be postulated as the unobserved observer, the uncaused cause simply to avoid a self-negating, self-conflicting worldview. It is the necessary postulate of all necessary postulates, because nothing else can come first. To say anything else comes first requires mind to consider and argue that case and then believe it to be true, demonstrating that without mind, you could not believe that mind is not primary in the first place.”
    – William J. Murray

    Of supplemental note:

    The Great Debate: Does God Exist? – Justin Holcomb – audio of the 1985 Greg Bahnsen debate available at the bottom of the site
    Excerpt: When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary.
    The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,,
    http://justinholcomb.com/2012/.....god-exist/

    Is God Real? Evidence from the Laws of Logic – J. Warner Wallace
    Excerpt: All rational discussions (even those about the existence or non-existence of God) require the prior foundation of logical absolutes. You’d have a hard time making sense of any conversation if the Laws of Logic weren’t available to guide the discussion and provide rational boundaries. Here are three of the most important Laws of Logic you and I use every day:
    The Law of Identity
    Things “are” what they “are”. “A” is “A”. Each thing is the same with itself and different from another. By this it is meant that each thing (be it a universal or a particular) is composed of its own unique set of characteristic qualities or features.
    The Law of Non-Contradiction
    “A” cannot be both “A” and “Non-A” at the same time, in the same way and in the same sense. Contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time.
    The Law of Excluded Middle
    A statement is either true or false. For any proposition, either that proposition is true, or its negation is true. There is no middle position. For example, the claim that “A statement is either true or false” is either true or false.
    These logical rules are necessary in order for us to examine truth statements. We also need them to point out when someone is reasoning illogically. We use the Laws of Logic all the time; you couldn’t even begin to read or reason through this blog post if you didn’t employ these laws. In fact, you’ve never had an intelligent, rational conversation without using these laws. They’re not a matter of subjective opinion; they are, instead, objectively true. So, here’s an important question: “From where do the transcendent, objective laws of logic come?”
    As an atheist, I would have been the first to describe myself as rational. In fact, I saw myself as far more reasonable than many of the Christians I knew. But, I was basing my rationality on my ability to understand and employ the Laws of Logic. How could I account for these transcendent laws without the existence of a transcendent Law Giver?
    (1) The Objective Laws of Logic Exist
    We cannot deny the Laws of Logic exist. In fact, any reasonable or logical argument against the existence of these laws requires their existence in the first place.
    The Objective Laws of Logic Are Conceptual Laws
    These laws are not physical; they are conceptual. They cannot be seen under a microscope or weighed on a scale. They are abstract laws guiding logical, immaterial thought processes.
    The Objective Laws of Logic Are Transcendent
    The laws transcend location, culture and time. If we go forward or backward a million years, the laws of logic would still exist and apply, regardless of culture or geographic location.
    The Objective Laws of Logic Pre-Existed Mankind
    The transcendent and timeless nature of logical laws indicates they precede our existence or ability to recognize them. Even before humans were able to understand the law of non-contradiction, “A” could not have been “Non-A”. The Laws of Logic were discovered by humans, not created by humans.
    (2) All Conceptual Laws Reflect the Mind of a Law Giver
    All laws require law givers, including conceptual laws. We know this from our common experience in the world in which we live. The laws governing our society and culture, for example, are the result and reflection of minds. But more importantly, the conceptual Laws of Logic govern rational thought processes, and for this reason, they require the existence of a mind.
    (3) The Best and Most Reasonable Explanation for the Kind of Mind Necessary for the Existence of the Transcendent, Objective, Conceptual Laws of Logic is God
    The lawgiver capable of producing the immaterial, transcendent laws preceding our existence must also be an immaterial, transcendent and pre-existent mind. This description fits what we commonly think of when we think of a Creator God.,,,
    https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/is-god-real-evidence-from-the-laws-of-logic/

    “Hawking’s entire argument is built upon theism. He is, as Cornelius Van Til put it, like the child who must climb up onto his father’s lap into order to slap his face.
    Take that part about the “human mind” for example. Under atheism there is no such thing as a mind. There is no such thing as understanding and no such thing as truth. All Hawking is left with is a box, called a skull, which contains a bunch of molecules. Hawking needs God In order to deny Him.”
    – Cornelius Hunter

    Humorous Photo – an atheist contemplating his ‘mind’
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-H-kj.....0/rob4.jpg

  6. 6
    hazel says:

    Nice post from Sev@3.

    And I’m certain that Ed isn’t certain that that there is no certainty (that God exists). 🙂 It’s more likely (I’m not certain about this) that, taking as much into consideration as he can, Ed doesn’t believe there is certainty (that God exists) to be had, whether the “proof” is philosophical or scientific, which is in fact exactly what he said. Ed can correct me if I’m wrong.

    We all have beliefs which are based upon as much evidence and logic as we can find, but for which I am certain we would say we were not certain.

  7. 7
    EugeneS says:

    My understanding is that it is not possible to ‘mathematically’ prove the existence of God. It is His will that a person should come to believe freely. Otherwise there would be no worth in such straight-jacketed belief. But freedom means responsibility. One day He will hold everyone responsible for their free choice.

  8. 8

    Seversky said:

    Science is not concerned so much with philosophical truth as with trying to find testable explanations for what we can observe or infer about the universe in which we find ourselves.

    Science doesn’t offer any explanations; it offers descriptive models, which do not explain those behaviors.

    Philosophy can provide the metaphysical underpinnings for what science does and guide research and there can be very few philosophers who would turn down any empirical support for their conclusions offered by science.

    Philosophy is the fundamental root of science and all considerations of who, what and where we are. Philosophy (acknowledged or not, examined or not) is the root of every model (scientific or not) and every conscious perspective that interprets and orders our perceptions of existence. It is not secondary or minor in any respect; it is primary. Until one understands and critically examines the perhaps unrecognized and non-articulated philosophy they are employing in the navigation and understanding of their experience, they are simply the functioning tools of whatever haphazard agglomeration of subconscious conditioning ( a philosophical junk pile) has been bred into them since childhood.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Hazel at post 6 references Ed’s uncertainty, but Ed has not commented in this thread. But anyways regardless of that mistake, Hazel prefaces her own statements about her own certainty and uncertainty with the specific words “I’m” and/or “I am”,,,

    I’m certain,,,
    I’m not certain,,,
    I am certain,,,

    Thus my argument for God from our own subjective consciousness experience is confirmed by Hazel’s very own word’s, “I am”. Hazel with the words “I am” is declaring to all the rest of us reading her comment that she is in fact having a personal subjective conscious experience and that her certainty and/or uncertainty about anything else coming after that is in fact predicated upon her first having that personal subjective conscious experience of “I am”, i.e. predicated upon us first accepting her “I am” statement prior to us accepting whether she is certain or uncertain. But we have no direct way of ‘scientifically’ knowing that she is in fact having a personal subjective conscious experience of “I am”. We must take her word for it. Of course, I firmly believe, and/or am absolutely ‘certain’ of the fact that she is a real person having a personal subjective conscious experience of “I am”, but she simply has no way of proving that point to me. or to anyone else, either scientifically and/or logically. As Alvin Plantinga noted in his book “God and Other Minds’, “the evidence for God is just as good as the evidence for other minds; and conversely, if there isn’t any evidence for God, then there is also no evidence that other minds exist.”

    Another interesting argument comes from the leading philosopher and Christian, Alvin Plantinga—he asked, what evidence does anyone have for the existence of other people’s minds? He argued cogently that the evidence for God is just as good as the evidence for other minds; and conversely, if there isn’t any evidence for God, then there is also no evidence that other minds exist—see God and Other Minds, Cornell University Press, repr. 1990.
    http://creation.com/atheism-is-more-rational

    In fact, if we wanted to play hyper-skeptics, as atheists do with the overwhelming evidence for God, I could just sit back and simply deny Hazel’s claim that she really is having personal conscious experience and I could further hold that she is merely a ‘philosophical zombie’ going through the motions of personhood.

    Philosophical Zombies – cartoon
    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/11

    David Chalmers on Consciousness (Descartes, Philosophical Zombies and the Hard Problem) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

    She, Hazel, who ‘I am’ absolutely certain is having a personal subjective conscious experience, simply has no way of proving that point to us, especially if we simply choose not to ever accept her word for it. Such as it is with the refusal of atheist’s to ever accept any evidence for the reality of God. i.e. If Theist’s wanted to, we could take the same hyper-skeptical position of atheists and simply refuse to ever accept any evidence that the atheist might offer that he/she really exist as a real person having a ‘real’ personal subjective conscious experience.

    Of course, especially with advances in neuroscience and quantum mechanics, I can provide much scientific evidence for the reality of the immaterial mind and free will (both for God’s mind and our own immaterial mind), thus bolstering our certainty in the reality of our own immaterial mind and in God’s mind, but the main point of the argument from consciousness that I made in post 5 is that ‘certainty’ itself is, first and foremost, predicated upon us having a “I am” subjective conscious experience in the first place. Nothing else can come before “I am”. And Hazel, apparently unaware of the exact point that I was making in post 5, comes along and verifies the main point that I made in post 5 with the three “I am” statements she made preceding her specific beliefs about her certainty. and/or uncertainty. To which I say, “Thank you Hazel for proving the exact point that I was making.”

    It is also interesting to note that God, when asked, told Moses to tell the Israelites that his name is “I am”

    Exodus 3:13-15
    Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
    God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

    The Great I Am – music
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_VR-zwp2KA

  10. 10
    ET says:

    hazel- there isn’t any evidence for materialism.

  11. 11
    hazel says:

    Oops. When I said Ed in 6 I meant DaveS.

  12. 12

    ET @10:

    Not only is there no evidence (that I know of) supporting materialism, there is plenty of evidence against it. Also, as a worldview philosophy, it is entirely self-defeating. As I’ve pointed out many times, people can walk around claiming to be a materialist, but they cannot even act as if materialism is true.

  13. 13
    PaV says:

    Philosophy brought science (Western) into existence, and science denies philosophy’s paternity. We need a “DNA” test! 🙂

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