Does God exist?

  • January 27, 2014 · 7:00 PM
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In the article suggested for this meetup theologian William Lane Craig (which Massimo had the "pleasure" to debate, twice!) lays out the best possible case for the existence of God. But is it good enough? If not, what are the secular answers to Craig's questions?

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  • Yen

    Awestruck! Another 5-burning-bush session.

    February 16, 2014

  • Jane

    He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.

    January 27, 2014

    • Pat G.

      Or it might just be a faddish and empty call to humility.

      January 28, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      It might sometimes be *used* as a faddish and empty call to humility, but that has no bearing on its inherent weight.

      January 30, 2014

  • Dyutiman D.

    so what's the verdict on Uncle Nick's? I'd prefer to be back at Bamiyan.

    January 27, 2014

    • Massimo

      All, feel free to make suggestions for places, and we'll check them out. The next meeting will be at a different place, a wine bar / Mediterranean food near Nick's. Then we'll try some locations in Chelsea as well.

      1 · January 28, 2014

    • Sheryl

      I'm all for Chelsea!

      January 28, 2014

  • Bill Q.

    Thank you for late invitation to attend symposium last night. A carnivorous/vegan primate feast of crossfire speculative thought possibilities firing on all neurons. God met me on return home last night and said He does not believe in our existence. I asked Him to define belief and to prove His statement. He said you obviously don’t see the irony of dining in Hell’s Kitchen tonight. I said, You being Invisible and All, You have some damn nerve attending dinner and shorting the bill.

    1 · January 28, 2014

    • Yen

      God among us. Evidence of existence! Witnessed by 12 disciples (of Massimo). :D

      January 28, 2014

  • Dyutiman D.

    I might be a little late

    January 27, 2014

  • Bill Q.

    I appreciate the group interaction/disagreements. In this life experience of duality (opposing thoughts and actions in the field of time), learning takes place. The explanations offered are all speculative. There's no evidence regarding a silent invisible God’s existence and God’s existence is non-falsifiable. So why ask the question? Because of motivation. Believers benefit through moral meaning in this life, hope in afterlife, and successful fear of death engagement. For unbelieving philosophers life is a dress rehearsal for death, a readiness level for nihilism. If there is an afterlife, perhaps nihilists will be ironically surprised. While morality(s) are social constructions, philosophers hedge their bets by attempting to live a virtuous life. Where does consciousness fit in with the opposing arguments of entropy (nothing) versus indestructible energy (something). The most certain ground rule of philosophic dinner engagement: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

    1 · January 23, 2014

    • Greg

      The entire universe is evidence of a universe, not necessarily any God. People need to clearly define what the exact characteristics of the God they seek to prove and how exactly the evidence supports it.

      January 23, 2014

  • Harry

    Massimo, what is your position on the accuracy of Prof. Craig's prefatory remarks, on the first page of his article? Is it the case that "God is not 'dead' in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is
    now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments."? Or that "All of the traditional philosophical arguments for God’s existence ... find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene."?

    Well, at least we know that he's absolutely, completely, incontrovertibly correct in writing that "the New Atheism is, in fact, a pop-cultural
    phenomenon lacking in intellectual muscle and blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy". His list of the "New Atheist" authors is comprehensive and there are no professional philosophers on it. There's not a single name conspicuously absent from his list, nosiree!

    January 22, 2014

    • Massimo

      Harry, Craig's assessment of the attitude of academics toward god is factually incorrect. Certainly in science departments, as well as in philosophy ones (even many philosophers of religion are non-believers).

      January 23, 2014

    • Harry

      I'm so shocked.

      January 23, 2014

  • Sheryl

    If there is a God, then how did "he" come into being? Who created God??

    January 20, 2014

    • Sheryl

      John wrote: "It is a secret that was clearly revealed to me…… " {{far-out time stuff clipped}}

      Were you high at the time? (kidding, kidding - couldn't resist.) :)

      1 · January 20, 2014

  • Dyutiman D.

    Physics and Role of Faith: It's an implicit assumption that the fundamental laws of nature are inviolate. This is an article of faith; it can't be proven or disproven. Without this faith, physics would devolve like Newton's career (into alchemy and numerology of the New Testament). But this faith is in direct contrast to faith that a god can and does suspend the laws of nature. Both of these assumptions could be wrong, but both can't be right.

    January 19, 2014

    • Sheryl

      The bigger question is whether the fundamental laws that scientists seek are fully knowable, or only can be approximated with progressively accurate models. In the history of science, all kinds of working theories that were assumed be "fundamental" were later discovered to be flawed, yet they still had predictive utility and practical application. Perhaps Dyutiman is right that the constants in physics equations are stand-ins for processes we don't yet understand. But will we ever fully understand them - reach a time when scientists are out of business? I think not. We'll continue to get closer and closer, but never fully arrive. I don't believe humans have the intellectual and sensory equipment to enable full understanding. The best we can do are models that usefully approximate.

      January 20, 2014

    • Dyutiman D.

      Pat: fundamental and inviolate are different characteristics, it's logically possible to be fundamental and yet violable. Sheryl: can't disagree with anything you said, except I think it is possible that we find the laws which are "sufficient" to explain everything we know. We still wouldn't know if they are fundamental, but that would put physicists out of business, or divert them to other areas until something new is discovered.

      January 20, 2014

  • Sheryl

    I just read the article for this meetup (sure hope someone cancels so I can go). Most of Craig's arguments have gaping logical holes - notably arguments 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7:

    The existence of God is proven by:

    3 (the applicability of mathematics to the physical world) - Mathematics DESCRIBES the physical world, so it can predict it. That's not mysterious. If living grass is green, then I can predict that a healthy lawn I haven't seen before will be green.

    4 (the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life) - Nonsensical. (a) Assumes that carbon-based life is the only possible type of life in the universe. (b) Argues that because life exists, the conditions that made it possible must be deliberate, which does not follow at all. Life developed within these parameters because they are the parameters that exist on earth.

    cont'd next message...

    January 20, 2014

    • Sheryl

      2 (the origin of the universe) - This is closely related to #1. I agree that evidence is the universe had a start. But then my mind is boggled by what came "before" (how can their even be a "before"), or how it came to be at all. Again, I don't mind calling this thing I don't understand "God", but I don't think it at all follows that this thing I don't understand is an "unembodied mind/consciousness"­, as he argues.

      8 (god can be personally experienced and known) - I believe in my own experience, and I've had experiences I can't explain. I believe that my puny brain and my artificially limited physical senses are not capable of fully understanding and perceiving all that there is in the universe. When I was a child, I used to wonder if I was a microbe in some giant's science experiment. That said, people can ardently believe all kinds of things that aren't true - delusion exists.

      cont'd next message...

      January 20, 2014

    • Sheryl

      #8 is the trickiest of all the arguments because I will believe MY direct experience, but I will tend to doubt everyone else's. And the same is true of everyone else. While I'm certain there is a lot of delusion in direct personal experience of nonphysical reality, I also think that nonphysical reality of some sort must exist, because of arguments #1 and #2. So I think the baby gets tossed with the bathwater here - there is some direct experience that is valid, but no one believes anyone's but their own.

      Sorry for the lack of paragraphs - I tried, but they disappeared.

      January 20, 2014

  • Pat G.

    I just finished reading the article and am disappointed that Philosophy Now would publish such dreck. None of the arguments have teeth not are they even the best that theologians can offer, they're just the well-worn and discredited arguments you might hear from street preachers.

    1 · January 12, 2014

  • Bill Q.

    Sheryl, agreed. I leaped ahead to discuss moral implications of God’s nature. Regarding W. L. Craig article I am not convinced by arguments in favor. Author reductionist statement example: “Now there is only one way I can think of to get to a contingent entity like the universe from a necessarily existing cause, and that is if the cause is an agent who can freely choose to create the contingent reality. It therefore follows that the best explanation of the existence of the contingent universe is a transcendent personal being ...”. Author assumes uncreated “agent”, “freely choosing”, power source beyond reality (“transcendence”) and form (“personal being”) without evidence, not allowing for blind watchmaker. If God is uncreated, then God exists by chance. With regard to form, woman brings forth man. What form has the womb or infinity? Life is drama, tragedy and comedy, 3 words also not in article scope. Bill.

    January 4, 2014

    • Tom C.

      I love it. Another trinity - drama, tragedy, and comedy.

      January 4, 2014

  • Bill Q.

    Pat, thanks for your feedback. Your theodicity suggestion is an excellent next step for exploring potential responses to Epicurean Paradox. My Acts 17:28 reference was one starting point around God definition, and was not intended to be reductionist. It’s a major definition however in that it represents the majority lens of amalgamated early Western philosophic thought that later evolved into Christian theology (Platonism, Apollo and Dionysus). Philosophers invented what believers think. F.M. Cornford’s “From Religion to Philosophy” explains the evolution. An Eastern religion definition of God might be something like: the transcendent ground of all being beyond all categories of word and thought. Ineffable. I won’t be in attendance at the meeting, however I love the subject matter and value your opinion. Bill.

    January 4, 2014

  • Dyutiman D.

    In argument no 5, the author argues that "since god is a (disembodied) mind" ... Anyone familiar what argument is supposed to support the premise?

    January 4, 2014

  • Jose

    Forgive my simplicity - and Spanglish - but how about approaching gods as byproducts of how our brain works, rather than discussing corollaries of religious beliefs? We have a mind, which arguably makes us more fit but carries collateral products; each mind basically assumes it is a self-determined entity (like gods). We don't see ourselves as the colony of cells that we actually are but as independent from the parts. This completely biases our interpretation of reality making us believe our motivations generally apply to nature (like gods). In addition, we have a hard time assessing the environment because our perceptions are only an abstraction of it -- our minds work with hypotheses. Many such hypotheses are reliably consistent with experience, thus we become used to believe in what we believe. Gods, on the other hand, would be nothing but unsubstantiated hypotheses, products of our mental processes -- and a complete misinterpretation of reality, if you asked me... ;)

    January 3, 2014

    • Sheryl

      cont'd...

      2. That you can make things happen by wishing for them VERY HARD (i.e. praying). When my father died suddenly, my brother broke it to his (then) 3-year-old daughter slowly by telling her that Grandpa was very, very sick and probably wouldn't recover. She told her dad (my brother) to wish very, very hard that he would get better and she would, too, and then he'd get well. Children think that wishing for things can make them happen. Another example: If a child's parent dies, the child often carries terrible secret guilt because of wishing the parent dead in a moment of rage. The child thinks the wish caused the death. This idea that wishing very hard can make things happen is the essence of prayer.

      January 4, 2014

    • Sheryl

      cont'd...

      What's behind both these delusions is the Illusion of Control. Children are profoundly powerless - so much so that they can't let in how truly powerless they are. So they have these delusions that the world is fair (so they can control what happens to them by being good), and that they can make things happen by wishing for them.

      I think that the concept of God arose from much the same place - a need to feel less out of control in a world that was frightening and so much was unknown and out of control. The God concept arose during humanity's childhood, so to speak.

      1 · January 4, 2014

  • Tom C.

    I find considering the various definitions of God much more amusing than debating whether any particular deity exists or not. There's a wide range of definitions within the Judeo-Christian family alone. Self proclaimed Atheists miss out on all this fun.

    January 4, 2014

  • Bill Q.

    Using infinite regress, God’s existence if not causal, is acausal. If God exists as a person, then all human reality is God’s psychological projection. There can be no escape from His presence, no freedom of thought and free will, because God is the fabric of reality. Acts 17:28 “For in him we live, and move, and have our being". The history of monotheism is war, totalitarian thought control, expectation of apocalyptic destruction and vicarious redemption. Roman Theocrats destroyed philosophic schools and created Dark Ages. The Enlightenment emancipated free thought again. To speculate about God without threat of violence over dinner. So then:
    Epicurean Paradox: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    January 3, 2014

    • Pat G.

      I think quoting the Christian Bible doesn't get you anywhere (nor does having such precise notions of what gods are or how they relate to the universe) unless you're willing to have your conclusions only have meaning within the framing space of those arguments. One could imagine a theology which had a god as a person where human reality is *not* a psychological projection of that god. On your later points, there are a number of decent (and different) arguments in the field of theodicity on that topic; you might find reviewing them to be interesting.

      January 3, 2014

    • Sheryl

      Bill, the topic here is about the EXISTENCE of God, not the NATURE of God (with the assumption that an anthropomorphic God exists).

      It seems to me that the first question here has to be, "What do we mean by "God"?" The anthropomorphic God of Christians, Jews, and Muslims (has thoughts and feelings like a person) is only one conception of "higher power". There is also the Tao and other Eastern conceptions. An anthropomorphic God is very easy to shoot down. Other conceptions, like the Tao, are less clear.

      I can tell from the comments that this is going to be quite a lively discussion. I sure wish I could be there - especially since (finally) it's on the west side!

      January 4, 2014

  • Massimo

    So, despite Ken's (now "former member's") comments going well beyond what I would consider acceptable (ok, he was pretty darn rude), this has generated a good discussion of our set up.

    I have considered increasing the number of participants, but this would definitely lower the quality of the discussion. I have also considered organizing more meetups every months, but this isn't my full time job, alas. I will ask Beth and Tunc to promptly un-rsvp themselves if they are not actually coming to a particular meetup, but other than that, it is my prerogative as organizer to given my co-organizers automatic preference. (to be continued...)

    1 · December 20, 2013

    • Massimo

      Tracy, but there is a third alternative: philosophy of religion, which does deal seriously with the question of the existence of god. Theology treats such existence as axiomatic.

      December 29, 2013

    • Pat G.

      All of these questions are better answered using philosophical discourse and traditions than specifically-theological­ discourse and traditions. The only quibble I'd make with Massimo's points here is that I don't think there's a particularly firm line between theology and philosophy in general; I generally consider theology to be a degenerate form of philosophy, only semi-distinct, but usually with some seriously sloppy methods. Still, there are other corners of philosophy with their own kinds of brokenness; I wouldn't call theology particularly unique in these kinds of faults.

      1 · January 3, 2014

  • Massimo

    Ok people, let's regroup here. First, Ken, there is no unfairness in the process - at all. I prefer this system over what Dyutiman and Sheryl would like precisely because it provides a random outcome, which maximizes the chances that different people will get in.

    I have already tried meeting at Ethical with a larger group, and I didn't like it.

    Dyutiman, no offense taken, and yes the two approaches do yield different results, but as I said above, I prefer randomness. I even vary the time of day in which I post the announcements.

    Sheryl, yes, the two co-organizers get in automatically. Not so Chris, who has to sign up on its own. And not even Beth and Tunc know when I am about to post an announcement, so Chris doesn't have a built in advantage (and in fact, sometimes doesn't make it).

    Pat, precisely.

    1 · December 19, 2013

    • Yen

      :D
      "...god...dice...me­etup"

      1 · January 1, 2014

    • Jose

      Maybe, if there's energy, you can organize a 'Does God Exist? II.' Happy New Year

      1 · January 2, 2014

  • Dyutiman D.

    Massimo, I recall you had argued before the theology is not a philosophy. In that light, how are we to evaluate this article?

    Also I hope you did not feel "forced" to change the RSVP scheme, at least on my account. But thanks, and I think that this way you'll have less cancellations because people will know their schedules.

    December 20, 2013

    • Sheryl

      Also less cancellations because the people who are there very much want to be there - not just random luck - and make the event a priority.

      1 · December 21, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      But lets do keep in mind Dyutiman's claim . Then we MUST ask , if this point is True. is Theology not a philosophy? a Debate would be nonsensical. if it is true. The two would be as oil and water. never coming to one solid accord.

      December 29, 2013

  • Dana

    I went to the solstice party and really enjoyed meeting new minds. I am also offering my office as a meeting space. it is on the UWS,

    December 26, 2013

  • Tom C.

    I stayed out of the fray, but perhaps there is enough interest in the topic to talk about it at tomorrow's reasonable solstice happening at 49 Grove St.

    1 · December 20, 2013

    • Sheryl

      This event is co-sponsored by many groups. I think it's just a party. It's a good space. One of the other philosophy groups meets there regularly.

      December 21, 2013

  • Massimo

    (continued)

    Also, don't forget that occasionally we run "alternative," simultaneous meetups on the same topic, if there is both demand and someone who volunteers her.his time to run them.

    Finally: the announcements. I will follow several people's suggestion and publish the details of new meetups before the site opens up for rsvp's, indicating when that will happen. That way people who are seriously interested will be able to mark their calendar and have a fighting chance to beat less interested (or slower at the keyboard) others.

    cheers,
    Massimo

    2 · December 20, 2013

    • Sheryl

      Thank you, Massimo!

      1 · December 20, 2013

    • Tim

      Great Massimo.

      December 20, 2013

  • Judy

    I think this is incredibly funny! I signed up just yesterday and since that time they have been at least a dozen different comments coming to my inbox. Frankly it sounds like a bunch of children fighting in the sandbox. They're 1500 group members! ? someone is bitching because they can't be among the 12 spots or excuse me the nine spots that Are open! I signed up for my husband. Philosophy really isn't my thing and now I understand why. It sounds like the " place to be really!" Someone just start another Meetup group already.

    December 19, 2013

  • Greg G

    I wasn't able to get into this meetup so there must be no God, which means there's no need to go to this meetup and debate God's existence.

    December 19, 2013

  • Tim

    While I completely agree that as Massimo is the (generous) organizer of this meetup, it's his call how he would like to organize the meetups, I do believe in-advance announcements of future meetups would be more democratic than random announcements:

    1) I wouldn't be so sure that everything is truly random. My Android sends me my email alerts well before my browser with my gmail open. I imagine people with different email clients/phones/service providers will have different notification times and so there may be some inherent biases in the system for uncontrollable technological reasons. 2) Hence, in-advance announcements would undoubtedly equalize the playing field. With random announcements, someone who was clearly not at their computer does not have an equal chance with someone who was. I happened to be on a flight yesterday hence I had no chance. I imagine many others could be on the subway or in a car at the time of announcement, or simply busy with work.

    December 19, 2013

  • Tom C.

    What is the definition of this god? That would have a lot to do with the debate.

    December 18, 2013

    • Massimo

      Tom, given that the author of the article is a Christian theologian, we are talking about the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god.

      December 19, 2013

    • Bill Q.

      I’m guessing the definition may be some unofficially accepted blend of Panentheism, Pantheism and Monotheism. A One. An It. An All. A hermaphroditic Superman/Superwoman combo without father, without mother, having neither beginning of life nor end of days. Transcendent and immanent. Beyond time, space and causality, while also the cause of same. Omnipotent, omniscient uncreated creator of all physicality and metaphysical philosophic dinner speculation. Creator of all independent sentient being free thought and judge, lover and hater of same. The celestial chess master playing with Himself. He will be attending 13th seat at dinner. Invisible and silent of course. Be careful what you think.

      December 19, 2013

  • David S.

    To deal with such enormous enigma we need more than 12 people…Can the organizer make a little more room?

    December 19, 2013

    • Pat G.

      In depth conversations usually are easier with fewer people, not more.

      1 · December 19, 2013

  • Judy

    Also, it says on one page 11 spots left but on this page it says its full. Which is it? Also I will be attending with my husband, the real philosophy buff.

    December 18, 2013

    • Beth E.

      Judy... at present the meetup is full. Check your email to see if two spots open up! If not, maybe we will see you at the next gathering.

      December 19, 2013

  • Berto

    I read that article a few weeks ago and found it surprisingly bad, but Craig debated Peter Millican last year, and it turned out to be a very interesting experience, if anyone wants to watch: http://berto-meister.blogspot.com/2012/01/william-lane-craig-vs-peter-millican.html

    December 18, 2013

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