Arguments for the Existence of God: Philosophy's Cosmological and Teleological Arguments.
There are many logical arguments in favour of the existence of God; beyond faith. These are used in philosophical debates regarding the causality of the universe. It is clearly difficult to 'prove' the existence of a God but these are three of the most common arguments used: cosmological, analogical, and teleological. These are the foundations of meta-physical arguments for God and are necessary to understand when reasoning for God's existence.
The cosmological argument was inspired by how intricate the universe is which raises the question “what was the cause?” e.g. what made this happen? why is this the way it is? Thomas Aquinas further developed the original argument claiming that God must be this cause. Aquinas believed there must be a first cause, an uncaused cause, which began the chain of causes that led us to reality as it is now. His argument runs:
1. everything has a cause
2. nothing is its own cause
3. the chain of causes cannot be infinite
4. there must be a first cause
5. this first cause must be God
Initially there appears to be a contradiction between the premises “everything has a cause” and “there must be a first cause”. However, the first three premises present a problem so one of these must be rejected in favour of an alternative. The problem in this case is that the chain of causes cannot be infinite so rejecting the first premises in favour of the fourth allows for at least one thing that is not caused. There are though problems with this argument. The first of these is the inevitable question “who/what created God?”. This objection though misses the point of God being the first cause. The universe is contingent as it relies on something else for its existence but God is not contingent but instead God is necessary. Another objection is on the necessity that the universe needs a cause. It is the case that human experience and the reality of the world seems to rely on everything having a cause - nothing just randomly appears from nowhere. This though does not mean that it is always actually the case. If God can be an uncaused cause of the universe why can't the universe be the uncaused cause itself - why do we need a God to give this status to?
Argument From Analogy
The argument from analogy was motivated by the observation that there are many complex things which cause us to question if an intelligent designer created them. If we were to find a complex object such as a watch in the middle of the desert we would no doubt assume that someone had designed and made the watch and someone or something had taken the watch to the place we found it. In formal argument terms the argument from analogy is the most straightforward argument which runs:
1. the world around us and human artefacts display complexity,
2. complexity in human artefacts comes from it having been designed by intelligent being (humans),
3. there is no reason that what is true for humans is not true for the world around us,
4. therefore, the complexity in the world around us comes from it having been designed by an intelligent being (God).
Essentially; if watch = watch maker then universe = universe maker. Objections exist for the argument from analogy. Hume states that the world is dissimilar from man made objects and argues that “the world plainly resembles more an animal or a vegetable than it does a watch”. If analogies can be drawn between natural objects and both designed and non-designed objects then the argument from analogy fails to look convincing.
William Paley uses this argument as a starting point and develops it into his teleological argument. Paley begins by looking at a watch and discusses what it is that makes the watch so obviously designed. This he identifies as its fitness to purpose which he then observes as being present in natural objects. The watch has obviously been designed because it works so perfectly for its aim... this working perfectly for its aim is undeniably also the case for natural things. The hummingbird beak fits perfectly into the flowers it feeds from; the leaf is perfectly designed to photosynthesis in order for the plant to survive... Put formally Paley’s argument is set:
natural objects display design-like properties (fitness to purpose),
design like properties are the result of intelligent design,
therefore, natural objects are the product of design.
This argument differs from the argument from analogy mostly in that no comparison is made between man made objects and natural objects so no analogy is in fact being drawn. This argument relies on overcoming the problem of why natural objects fit so perfectly to their environment. This fitness to purpose though can also be explained by Darwin's theory of evolution. This theory suggests that complex organisms evolved gradually over millions of years from simpler organisms through natural selection. This presents an alternative explanation as to why natural objects display the same complexity as man made objects.The theory of evolution purposes that natural things seem to fit their environment so perfectly because if they did not fit their environment so perfectly they would not survive. Only those who fit the demands of the environment around them survive long enough to reproduce their species; Survival of the fittest. Evolution does not necessarily counter the possible existence of God or a creator as evolution could be a tool used by this creator to perfect natural things. However, the teleological argument in this sense falls into a similar problem as the cosmological argument; we no longer need to add the additional step of God to explain it. Just as the universe could be the uncaused cause (rather than God), Evolution could explain why natural objects have perfectly designed like features and qualities without needing to also have God causing evolution.
In each of these argument for a God there remains the problem that, if the argument is accepted, then what kind of God does it deliver? We want to conclude that the world has a designer or creator or cause with particular characteristics such as benevolence, omnipotence and omniscience but with these arguments we are not even able to prove if it would be one God or many Gods. In each argument the existence of God seems to be an additional step that is not necessary to explain the problem as it can be explained or resolved one step earlier. These arguments need to do more in order to establish that there is a God(s) so the nature of said theoretical God remains unfounded in these logical arguments.
More Philosophy on Religion
- rational basis for belief in God's existence - agnosticism and pascal's wager
Agnosticism is the belief that there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other regarding the existence of God. This however does not mean that agnostics cannot logically favour one side of the argument more, they just accept that it is not...
- The Cosmological Argument - God; the uncaused cause of the universe. Aquinas
The cosmological argument was developed by Thomas Aquinas from the belief that everything in the vast universe, with it millions of galaxies spanning across hundreds of millions of light years of space, and the universe itself had a cause. For...