Monday, October 11, 2010

Modern Theistic Arguments

Disclaimer: I am not a theist nor am I an accommodationist.

Larry Moran has issued the following challenge:
This brings me to my challenge. I challenge all theists and all their accommodationist friends to post their very best 21st century, sophisticated (or not), arguments for the existence of God.
Let me first begin by expanding the disclaimer...

I don't think any theistic argument succeeds rigorous or sceptical scrutiny however to deny that new argument exist seems to me to be ignorant. Some atheists seem to be of the opinion that the failure of these arguments and their non-existance are somehow equivalent. Nevertheless I will list some "sophisticated" arguments for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity from modern proponents.

Evidentialist
Evidentialists maintain that there exists positive evidence for not only the existence of God but also for the truth of Christianity. (Hereby known as G/C or God/Christianity)

Many modern "sophisticated" arguments take a Bayesian probabilistic approach by trying to quantify what many have called "converging lines of evidence". In plain speak this means that there exists many small pieces to the puzzle which, if taken in isolation mean very little however when taken together provide positive evidence for the truth of G/C, in a similar way as to how a detective might go about collecting evidence to build a case.

The most prominent defender of this view is Richard Swinburne.

The same technique can be used to justify the belief in the resurrection of Jesus. For example, in a debate between Craig and Ehrman, Craig uses Bayesian probability to prove the resurrection is historical.

Tangentially related to the evidentialists are those who believe certain facts of nature/modern science are more probable under theism than atheism.

These include
  • the insufficiency of evolution to explain some feature such as information/irreducible complexity, etc.
  • the inability to provide positive proof of abiogenesis. (Problems of chirality, etc)
  • the fine tuning of the constants of nature (using modern cosmology, hence this is a new argument).
  • the existence of the universality of belief in the supernatural.
Note: Ironically one of the best defeaters for the fine tuning argument come from Christian philosophers! (Tim and Lydia McGrew)

Many evidentialists are skeptical and critical of their non-evidentialist brethren.

Non-evidentialist
Non-evidentialists don't believe any evidentialist claims succeed and so they resort to different tactics to prove the existence of G/C or to maintain that their beliefs are justified. Some may even claim that proving the truth of G/C is irrelevant.

The most popular proponent of a non-evidentialist epistemology is Alvin Plantinga who maintains that belief in God is properly basic (that is to say it doesn't depend on any other belief).

What is a properly basic belief in reformed epistemology? Well let's say I have a black can in front of me (which I do) then the belief of the colour of this can is a properly basic belief because it relies on accurate sense data (i.e. my eyes). Plantinga says that when he reads the bible he senses the holy spirit, and given that he believes this is accurate sense data, he can be confident that his belief in the holy spirit is properly basic. (This is a thumbnail sketch of a very complicated set of propositions, so don't critique Plantinga on my butchering!)

Plantinga is also famous for his warranted Christian belief which is the proposition that if Christianity is true than one is justified in believing Christianity. This may seem trivial but there were sceptical attacks which concluded that even if Christianity was true, one would not be justified in believing it.

Of less interest seem to be the presuppositionists who believe only Christian Theism provides a coherent world-view. I wouldn't call this sophisticated, but it seems to be modern.


So there we have it. Modern sophisticated justifications and arguments for the truth of G/C. If you want an atheists view on modern philosophy of religion, try someone respected like Graham Oppy (he's Aussie, he's awesome!) over say Richard Dawkins.

Meta Comment: I'm not surprised atheists usually get creamed in debates with professional Christian debaters. When the view is that there exists no new arguments in the last 200 years for G/C then it isn't surprising when they get shown up in a live debate and then are unable to even comprehend what the Christian is saying. This ignorance also flows through to the audience (both sides) who are far less educated in these things.

3 comments:

Kel said...

"If you want an atheists view on modern philosophy of religion, try someone respected like Graham Oppy (he's Aussie, he's awesome!) over say Richard Dawkins."
Of course, but if you're reading Dawkins for philosophy of religion you're doing something wrong. He wrote a middlebrow book for a middlebrow audience, an audience for the most part that wouldn't care about the philosophy of religion.

Reasonably Aaron said...

"if you're reading Dawkins for philosophy of religion you're doing something wrong"

So don't read the religious parts in TGD?

"He wrote a middlebrow book"

The biological parts were high-brow. The philosophy parts were low-brow. I suppose this averages out to middle-brow?

"an audience for the most part that wouldn't care about the philosophy of religion."

I understand that the average joe doesn't have the time, patience or training to wade through modern philosophy and thats fine - but Dawkins could have, and presented them with his well-known wit and prose.

I plan on doing a post on Modern Atheistic Arguments to illustrate a path Dawkins could have taken. (It's easy to critisise, harder to build!)

Kel said...

So don't read the religious parts in TGD?
I don't really see anything wrong with them, I just don't think they're a contribution (or were even intended to be a contribution) to the philosophy of religion. There are people like Graham Oppy and Michael Martin to make those arguments.

The biological parts were high-brow. The philosophy parts were low-brow. I suppose this averages out to middle-brow?
Middlebrow in the sense that it was a popular book for a popular audience.

I understand that the average joe doesn't have the time, patience or training to wade through modern philosophy and thats fine - but Dawkins could have, and presented them with his well-known wit and prose.
Honestly I think it goes further, it's not so much that the average joe doesn't have time and patience, it's just those arguments have very little to do with why people believe what they do.

I plan on doing a post on Modern Atheistic Arguments to illustrate a path Dawkins could have taken.
I look forward to reading it. Coincidentally I just wrote something along those lines if you would care to critique.