Friday, July 16, 2010

Refutations for 36 arguments for the existence of God

A very interesting and exhausting (if not exhaustive) treatment of arguments in favor of the existence of God can be found in an appendix to 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. This is from a work of fiction, but the appendix itself is nonfiction. It gives each of the 36 arguments and then provides detailed refutations.

Just as one example:

21. The Argument from the Consensus of Humanity

1. Every culture in every epoch has had theistic beliefs.

2. When peoples, widely separated by both space and time, hold similar beliefs, the best explanation is that those beliefs are true.

3. The best explanation for why every culture has had theistic beliefs is that those beliefs are true.

4. God exists.

FLAW: 2 is false. Widely separated people could very well come up with the same false beliefs.  Human nature is universal, and thus prone to universal illusions and shortcomings of perception, memory, reasoning, and objectivity. Also , many of the needs and terrors and dependencies of the human condition (such as the knowledge of our own mortality, and the attendant desire not to die) are universal.   Our beliefs don't arise only from well-evaluated reasoning, but from wishful thinking, self-deception, self-aggrandizement, gullibility, false memories, visual illusions, and other mental glitches. Well-grounded beliefs may be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to psychologically fraught beliefs, which tend to bypass rational grounding and spring instead from unexamined emotions.  The fallacy of arguing that if an idea is universally held then it must be true was labeled by the ancient logicians consensus gentium.

Other arguments include:

1. The Cosmological Argument (Everything that exists must have a cause)
4. The Argument from The Big Bang (Something outside the universe, including outside its physical laws, must have brought the universe into existence)
5. The Arguments from the Fine-Tuning of Physical Constants
36. The Argument from The Abundance of Arguments

-- Jack Krupansky

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