Why God is Possible
Editors Note: Nikki obtained permission from the professor of the class to post her term paper on the webpage.
Foreward by Nikki: This paper was written to show what the criticisms against the existance of God are and the answers to that criticism. The paper also contains some orginal explinations and tries to show from several different prospectives how it is possible for God to exist. It is important to note that the paper received a critical evaluation and flaws were found in the paper, as was to be expected. This paper is not meant to be an all inclusive answer to critics or skeptics, but rather a tool to try to answer some of the most common athiest criticisms and to give tangable explinations that believers can use to try to explain to open minded athiest.
Why God is Possible
II. Framing of the Cosmological Argument
III. Defense of the Cosmological Argument
IV. Response to criticisms of the Cosmological Argument
V. Why the Cosmological Argument is not enough to prove God
VI. Why God is possible with the Cosmological Argument
VII.God and Evil
Much has been written and said about the Cosmological Argument with regards to proving that God does exist. The purpose of this paper is not to prove that God exists as much as it is to try to prove that it is possible that God exists. This argument will be presented in eight sections, with this introduction the first section. The argumentation that follows will first frame the Cosmological argument in the way that it is going to be presented. Then the Cosmological argument will be defended with the primary defense being a scientific defense trying to prove that the arguments of the past have proven to be true. After the defense of the Cosmological argument is a criticism of the criticisms of the Cosmological argument.
After the Cosmological argument has been defended and the criticism of it answered the focus will shift to why the Cosmological argument does not prove that God exists, and then to how it proves it is possible for God to exist. Lastly criticism saying that God can not exist under the Cosmological argument will be answered and some conclusions will be given.
II. Framing of the Cosmological Argument
Saint Thomas Aquinas presented a serious, and some believe compelling, argument for the existence of a Superior Being. While many people view St. Thomas’s “five ways” as an attempt to prove God’s existence the original intent of the argument was not to prove an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being. St. Thomas’s arguments in the “five ways” were presented on the basis that the audience already sensed the presence of God, and was looking to prove the existence, but not the nature of God.
That is the goal here. Not to prove the nature of God, but only that it is possible for God to exist as shown in the Cosmological argument. To be more precise, the defense of the Cosmological argument here is trying to prove the correctness of St. Thomas’s arguments. This will be done by showing how the motion occurs and that there is “Unmoved Mover.” Next is to show how element synthesis occurs and gives credibility to the “First Cause.” Then it must be shown that these elements are combined together to form items which shows why we are a series of dependant beings.
III. Defense of the Cosmological argument
Section 1: Inertia and the Unmoved Mover
The Unmoved Mover argument is “Motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality.” (Pojman, 4) This is done by inertia.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines inertia as “The tendency of a body to resist acceleration; the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest or of a body in motion to stay in motion in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force.” The definition has three important components. First is the tendency to resist acceleration, next is the tendency to remain at rest (not moving), and last the tendency to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside body. The second important part of the definition is important to explain how motion occurs. The other two parts will be used later to answer a criticism of the Cosmological argument.
What the definition of inertia says in simpler terms is an object will not move until some force is applied to it. Suppose you were driving in the mountains and came to a section of road where a rockslide has occurred, and the road is now blocked by a 100 pound rock. You can wait as long as you want, but until you go and pick up the rock and move it off of the road it will remain on the road. The size of the rock does not matter. The rock could be 10 tons, or it could be only 1 pound, until you (or something else) move the rock it will stay put in the road.
Now suppose it was not a rock in the road, but a dead cow instead. It does not matter if the cow is a prize winning fattened cow weighing 1,500 pounds, or if it is a little calf weighing only 30 pounds. The dead cow will remain in the road until you (or something else) move it. The point is no matter what the object is, and no matter how massive (or small) the object is it will not move until something moves it.
This relates to St. Thomas’s Unmoved Mover when we go back and look at how the universe was formed. In the beginning the universe was compressed into a very small area. How do we know it moved? We know this because what we call the Big Bang happened. The Big Bang is a theory, but it has good science to justify that it happened. Just the tip of the scientific evidence that something happened is that we know that all the galaxies are moving away from each other. It has been measured that the galaxies are moving at different speeds, but if you calculate speed-distance measurements all galaxies were compressed together about 15 billion years ago. Background radiation is another key piece of evidence indicating that some sort of explosion occurred, over the entire universe, 15 billion years ago. Using the laws of thermodynamics it is possible to predict temperature change. If you apply the laws of thermodynamics to the spreading universe the temperature in open space should be 3K, which is the temperature of the background radiation. While the Big Bang may not have happened exactly like the scientific community thinks, there is ample evidence to show that the universe is expanding, and that some part of Big Bang event is the cause. Because the universe was still, and because it moved there has to be something that caused them to move, which is the Unmoved Mover. If an atheist wants to object and say that it was the Big Bang explosion that broke the inertia of the universe that’s fine. I can accept that argument.
The answer to the objection is that something had to move the matter that caused the explosion. The matter (or matter and antimatter if you wish) was in a state of stasis. Something had to break the stasis by altering the organization of the matter. That requires motion either in the form of rearranging the matter or the introduction of more matter. The rock, the cow, and the universe all are potentially moving (as shown when they are moved), but are not actually moving until something actually moving causes them to move. Humans move the rock and the cow, but the Unmoved Mover moved the universe, though perhaps indirectly by moving the matter that set the explosion that set the universe in motion.
Section 2: Element synthesis and the First Cause
The First Cause argument is “There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself: for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible.” (Pojman, 4) Simplified this states nothing can cause it’s self because it would have to exist before it could cause itself, which is not possible.
Element synthesis is a very good example of this. We know of noting that does not consist of elements. Everything from the ink and paper that is this article, to the complex chain of elements of the author of this article, to the rock that blocked the road, to the cow and the bolt of lightning that killed the cow is made of elements. Some have fewer and simpler elements, but they are all made of elements. Since everything we know of is made of elements everything that is caused is made of elements, but in the beginning there were no elements. The universe was too hot for subatomic parts to come together as atoms. Hydrogen and Helium, the two simplest elements, formed when the atmosphere began to cool. All other natural elements were formed by element synthesis.
Element synthesis is when two elements are joined together by fusion. An example is fusing two hydrogen atoms to get helium. One hydrogen and one helium atom can fuse to from lithium. Two helium atoms can fuse to form beryllium. Any naturally occurring element can be formed by fusion of two other elements. The new element is caused by the fusion of the two elements that made it. Those elements were caused by the fusion of the two elements that made it and so on and so forth. For example lets look at lithium. We had one hydrogen atom and one helium atom fuse together to form the lithium. Hydrogen is the simplest atom. It was not formed by fusion; in fact it can not be formed by fusion. It formed when the universe cooled enough for subatomic particles to form an atom. Something had to make the subatomic particles though, and that something is the First Cause, because it is not made of elements, it caused the elements.
Section 3: Element combination and dependant and necessary beings
The argument of dependent and necessary beings is “that which does not exist begins to exist only through something already existing. Therefore… there must exist something the existence of which is necessary.” (Pojman, 5) Element combination is a good example of necessary and dependant brings. Elements will combine to make items in our every day life. Water is a simple example to use to show how elements combine. Most people know the chemical equation for water H2O. This means two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom are present. This happens because oxygen has six electrons and needs eight electrons to be stable. Hydrogen has one electron, and needs two electrons to be stable.
When two hydrogen and one oxygen atom combine each hydrogen atom shares its electron with the oxygen atom and the oxygen atom shares one electron with each hydrogen atom, giving the oxygen eight electrons and the hydrogen atom two electrons. The proton in the hydrogen atom is then attracted to the electrons of the oxygen and the hydrogen atom combines with the oxygen atom. If you were to take away hydrogen atoms water could not exist. Water is dependent on hydrogen atoms.
Hydrogen atoms are not self generating though. Hydrogen is dependent on the proton and electron that make it up. Protons and electrons are also not self generating. They depend on the quarks that make them. Quarks are not self generating either. They are dependent on something to make them. Since there are no known subparticles to quarks there has to be a being independent of quarks to make quarks. This being is necessary because it is necessary for it to make the quarks which go on to make protons, neutrons, and electrons which make up elements which combine to make everything else. Since everything is dependant on this independent being it is necessary to have this being making it a necessary being.
Taking a look at science it seems there is some validity to these arguments. The Unmoved Mover is explained with inertia, the First Cause with element synthesis, and the necessary being with element combination. Yet even with some scientific backing to the Cosmological Argument sensible intelligent people still do not believe in God, so there must be some criticisms of the Cosmological Argument. A close look at these criticisms and show why they fail to show the Cosmological Argument is incorrect.
IV. Response to criticisms of the Cosmological Argument
Several arguments against the Cosmological Argument exist, but most can be broken down into some broad categories. These categories are removal of the status of the First Cause, no need for series causation, infinity, Principle of Sufficient Reason, and inconsistent triad.
The removal of the status of the First Cause argument is “suppose Captain Spaulding had said,’ I am the greatest explorer who ever lived,’ and someone replied ‘No, you are not.’ This answer would be denying the Captain possessed the exalted attribute he had claimed for himself, but it would not be denying his existence… He does not deny the existence of A or of any particular member of the series. He denies A or any thing else is the first member of the series.” (Pojman, 8) This argument in short says that if we say God is not the beginning of the series of events then the whole argument from causation is invalid.
Two problems exist with this argument. The first is that it traditionally assumes that God is not the first cause by way of saying that things go back to infinity. This fault will be addressed when infinity is addressed. The second fault is that it is presented as an argument that is correct while the Cosmological Argument is incorrect when in fact it is a parallel argument arguing to a different conclusion. The end result of this argument is this argument is correct and the First Cause argument is not. But this argument does not prove the First Cause argument is incorrect, it only says that if such and such requirements are met it is invalid, and then it assumes the requirements are met without trying to prove that they are.
An example of the error presented here is if I said that the Earth rotated east (which it does), and someone was to come later and say the Earth rotates west. To say the Earth rotates west is to imply that I was incorrect, just as to say there is an infinite series of causes implies that the First Cause argument is incorrect. This person could then go on to say that the Pacific Ocean is to the west of the Atlantic Ocean. They could continue with if the sun rose over the Pacific and set over the Atlantic the Earth would rotate west. The argument sounds plausible because of the geologic deformation of the land at Panama, where the sun rises in the Pacific, but it sets in the Caribbean Sea, not the Atlantic. The person’s argument does not prove that my assertion was incorrect, and his argument rests on an interesting, plausible, but ultimately incorrect assumption. Because he failed to disprove my argument or to prove his argument the argument that the Earth rotates west is totally not cogent.
The argument against First Cause fails in a similar fashion. The argument does not prove the incorrectness of the First Cause argument; it presents a counter proposal of no first cause. It says if causes go back to infinity then there is no First Cause and the First Cause argument is incorrect. Since causes can not go back to infinity (as will be addressed in the section on infinity) this argument fails to prove correctness of no first cause. Since this argument fails to disprove the argument of First Cause, and fails to prove an argument of no first cause it is a flawed argument.
The argument of no need for series causation is “the demand to find the cause of the series as a whole rests on the erroneous assumption that the series is over and above the members of which it is composed.” (Pojman, 11) If a group is falsely grouped together this is a correct argument. If the group is broken down into true groups this argument is no longer correct. Lets examine the traditional example of this of 5 Eskimos in New York to show how this argument fails.
Eskimo 1 does not like cold so moves. Eskimo 2 is married to Eskimo 1 so moves with her. Eskimo 3 is Eskimo 1 and 2’s child and moved. Eskimo 4 appears on TV. Eskimo 5 is a PI spying on Eskimo 4. If the 5 Eskimos are considered a group there is no need to explain the reason all five are in New York. (Pojman, 11) However, this is a false grouping of the Eskimos. If we take a closer exam of the “group” of five we will see it breaks down into two separate true groups. Eskimos 1-3 make up one group and Eskimos 4-5 make up the second group. The first group has a cause of Eskimo one does not like cold so moves, Eskimo 2 loves Eskimo 1 so moves with her, and Eskimo 3 is incapable of resisting Eskimos 1-2 so is forced to move. The second group also has a cause. Eskimo 4 wants to be on TV, and Eskimo five is spying on Eskimo 4. The false grouping of Eskimos has no reason for series (group) causation, but once broken down into true groups the groups have series causation.
The argument of infinity says that there is no need for a First Cause if you have a series of causes heading back to infinity. (Pojman, ) Since infinity is based on numbers the reality of numbers is drawn into question. Some believe numbers to be brute facts, but others believe numbers have no meaning. It is the my view that numbers are not brute facts, or if they are only to the point that they have meaning so long as something can validate their existence. What I mean to say is that there is no denying that llll is 4 ls. The question comes when someone says there are infinite number of ls, whatever l may be. It is continently impossible for an infinity of ls to exist. Let’s let l or any other character represent a number.
Infinity is a mathematical theory. You can count back l = l -1, but that is in the vacuum of mind. In practice numbers exist only if something can validate them, even if it as simple as adding another l into an l chain on paper to mark l = l + 1. We run into a problem of contingent infinity because even though you can conceptually always add another l there is a limited amount of matter in the universe, and eventually you have nothing to validate the next l in line. Take a group of ls as large as you want and to show it is not an infinite amount of ls simply add one more l.
The question of whether there is necessary infinity is another question. It may be possible to have infinity, but that question has no direct bearing on whether or not there is a First Cause since we are dealing not with an infinite amount of time but rather a finite amount of time. Time might be able to be broken into contingent and possible aspects, but the contingent time is what is important. If nothing is present to mark the passing of time, then whether or not time is actually infinite or possibly infinite does not matter. Science does not believe in an infinite amount of time in the past. Space and time are related, so if you compress space you compress time. Space-time equations allow for an answer of 0 meaning there is no space or time. This allows for the Big Bang, the smallest point of the universe, to be considered to be the beginning of all existence. Because this is a point in time we are dealing with a vast, but finite past. Since contingent time is finite, necessary infinity being possible is not reverent to the First Cause argument. Since contingent infinity is not possible it is not possible for a series of causes to be caused by the cause before it. Since neither necessary nor contingent infinity disprove the First Cause argument the argument of infinity against the First Cause is not cogent.
The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) has two parts. The first part says, “there must be an explination of any being whatever.” (Pojman, 18) The second part says, “not every being that exists can be a dependent being.” (Pojman, 18) The criticism of the first part deals with the internal workings of PSR. PSR requires that a brute fact exist, the First Cause, to be the beginning of the series of beings, even if it is an infinite series of beings. The argument against PSR asks why the universe in and of its self can not be a brute fact. The answer to that criticism is that for the universe to be a brute fact the second premise of PSR is violated. (Pojman, 22-23) Because of this most of the criticism of PSR is aimed at the second part of PSR.
Four types of criticism are leveled at the second part of PSR. The first is “the mistake of treating the collection or series of dependent beings as though it were itself a dependent being, and, therefore, requires an explination of its existence.” (Pojman, 19) This criticism is answered by pointing out the fact that PSR is only weakened by this argument if a series is caused by itself, and that the series stretches back to infinity. If a series could stretch back to infinity, and if each member was caused by the member before it then this argument would deal a serious if not fatal blow to PSR. But in order for this argument to be true contingent infinity must be true, which was shown to be false earlier.
The second criticism is “the mistake of inferring that because each member of the collection of dependent beings has a cause, the collection itself must have a cause.” (Pojman, 19) This argument would deal a blow to PSR, but it can be shown that collections can have a cause. A simple example of why this is not true is the lines of Sailor Moon posters on my walls.
Each poster has a reason, me taping it up there. The reason the posters are there is because I like Sailor Moon. The point is the group has a reason for being there above and beyond the cause of each individual poster being taped to the wall. Now lets take a larger example, the human race. Each human has a mother, and the original mother came from somewhere. Science would say evolution takes it back to apes, and Creationism would take it back to God. Either way the human race did have a cause, albeit neither cause was human. If you examine a group closely enough a cause for the group can be found.
The third criticism is “for there to be an explination of a collection of things is nothing more than for there to be an explination for each of the things making up the collection.” (Pojman, 20) More or less this is just a different way of stating the second criticism. It says that the cause of the series is found by tracing cause of each member. The only way this argument can hurt the First Cause argument is if infinity is applicable. Since infinity has been shown to be not applicable to the First Cause argument this argument actually helps the First Cause argument because it agrees there must be a cause for every member of the series, including the initial member, which was caused by the First Cause.
The fourth criticism is the inconsistent triad criticism. An example of an inconsistent triad is saying 1. Elmo is one of the two most annoying purple things. 2. Barney is one of the two most annoying purple things. 3. The purple Telly-Tubby is one of the two most annoying purple things. If two of the statements are correct then the third must be incorrect.
The argument given is a criticism of “a) No set of real things is actually infinite. b) If there were no first event, then the set of all real events occurring prior to the birth of my daughter is actually infinite. c) Therefore, there was a first event.” (Pojman, 44)
The criticism of this argument tries to show that there are infinities. The criticism says “S1: A set has more members than any of its proper subsets. S2: If the members of two sets can be placed in one-to-one correspondence, then neither set has more members than the other. S3: There are actually infinite sets.” (Pojman, 44) This inconsistent triad has to have either S1 or S3 not true. The argument says that S1 is incorrect because of S2 being correct leading to infinities. The problem is that this triad has a false premise, S2. There are no two sets that can be placed in a one-to-one correspondence to infinity. The argument tries to use numbers to show S2 not to be a false premise. They say that 1, 2, 3, … infinity is one set, and that 2, 4, 6,… infinity is a second set. According to the American Heritage Dictionary a subset is “a set contained within a set.” So 2, 4, 6… infinity is a subset of 1,2,3 … infinity, not a second set. Using 1,3,5 … infinity and 2, 4, 6 ... infinity is using two subsets not two sets, still not giving two sets of items. If something other than numbers is used then we are dealing with finite matters to begin with. Everything from hydrogen atoms to cows is contingent and so can’t be infinite. Since numbers can’t have two sets because one set is necessary to be a subset of 1, 2, 3 … infinity, and since everything else is contingent S3 has to be the inconsistent statement in the triad, not S1.
All of the arguments have tried to show that it is possible for God to exist, but the all fail to show that God necessary exists. To accommodate Deism it has to be further shown that the being not only exists, but also still takes a role in the way things work. Lets now take a look at why each argument does not prove the existence of God.
V. Why the Cosmological Argument is not enough to prove God
A close examination of the arguments above reveals that they support the possibility, but not the necessity of God. Each argument above fails to prove that God exists today. Let’s take a close look at why that is by showing how each argument affects the atheist, polytheist, and deist beliefs.
The Unmoved Mover argument is a good place to start. The Unmoved Mover argument basically says that an Unmoved Mover had to set the hydrogen atoms in motion. This argument lends support to the idea that there was a God, but not that there is a God. In the argument the Unmoved Mover at some point in the past set matter in motion, but no other evidence for God is given. If this argument is cogent then atheist and polytheist views are harmed. Atheist views are harmed because it shows the existence of God. The atheist view is not eliminated because an atheist could take the view that the Unmoved Mover used to exist, but no longer exists. The polytheist view is also harmed by this argument. This argument only deals with one incident of one Unmoved Mover. For polytheism to be correct there would have to be multiple Unmoved Movers working in tandem to move the hydrogen atoms. The argument as presented calls for only one Unmoved Mover to be working on the hydrogen atoms. There could have been multiple movers, but some other evidence must be presented to make that case. Deism can readily accept this argument and not have any of its beliefs altered. Since the Unmoved Mover argument does not address the status of existence of God after the initial event (Big Bang), it is entirely possible within the constraints of this argument for God to have existed and then stopped existing, or for Him to have started the chain of events, but no longer take a role in what happens.
The First Cause argument meets a similar fate. Using element synthesis to show the First Cause does not shed any light on any events after the initial synthesis event. With out going into great scientific detail elements were synthesized shortly after the Big Bang, and then because all mass has gravity hydrogen atoms have gravity and attracted each other and eventually became stars. Elements can be synthesized in stars naturally without any further action by God. So basically this argument shows that something at some time had to initially create the matter that became elements, but then does not have to continue to address the situation. So this argument has the basic form time wise as the Unmoved Mover argument and has the same outcome.
The necessary and dependent beings argument has a very similar structure. Using element combination to support necessary and dependent beings says that a necessary being exists outside of elements. Just as with the other arguments, if this argument is cogent then atheism is harmed because of the necessity of some being greater than all other beings. Polytheism is not harmed by this argument though. This argument does not say that there is only one being not made of elements, only that there is a being not made of elements that created elements. Deism is not harmed by this argument for the same reasons with the other arguments.
If these arguments are cogent then atheism is brought into serious doubt, if not shown to be an invalid belief. Polytheism is also shown to be in doubt, though the argument can be made that polytheism is a valid argument since the necessary and dependent beings argument does not rule out polytheism. A polytheist can explain their beliefs and still believe all the arguments here to be true by saying that the first two arguments deal with an Unmoved Mover and a First Cause, but that there are other not detected beings like those. They can simply say that the other beings like the being that is the Unmoved Mover and First Cause exist, but have not acted. Deism is possible with these arguments. Most deists would agree with these arguments and hold a difference in opinion in different areas. Next lets look at why God is possible with these arguments.
VI. Why God is Possible with the Cosmological Argument
If we continue to assume God as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent being then the Cosmological Argument shows that it is possible for God to exist, even though it does not prove that God exists. This is achieved by showing that God is to some degree omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.
Omnipotence is shown in a few ways, the easiest to demonstrate is by moving matter. As stated earlier the matter was still because of inertia, and that something moved the matter. This something may not be entirely omnipotent, but is definitely closer to omnipotence than humans are. We know of no way that something not set in motion can move something else. This occurrence breaks our knowledge of physics, and therefore the being that moved the hydrogen atoms is more potent than the laws of physics.
Omniscience is shown in the way that the whole process works together so intricately. Matter exploded for some reason. This explosion allowed clumps of hydrogen to form and then gather far enough away from each other that stars could form and not interfere with each other. These stars were then able to synthesize new elements, which in turn were generated greater heat and allowed new elements to be synthesized. These elements were also created in such a way that they would bond together to form all items ever in existence. It takes a great deal of knowledge to create hydrogen atoms in a manner that will eventually from humans and lava and glaciers. But this is venturing into the realm of the Teleological argument, which is best left to a different writing. The point trying to be made is that if it was not totally coincidental happening then the being that created the hydrogen atoms has a higher level of science than we know.
Benevolence is the difficult aspect to try to prove. It can be tried to argue that a creator would not create something he did not care for, but how can that be proved? Someone could argue that design features point to benevolence. For example they can cite the regenerative cycles of nature and the ability for life to heal its self. But this is once again the realm of the Teleological argument. The best the Cosmological argument does is keep malevolence out of the picture by showing that the being that set things in motion did not do so in a malevolent way and then use other arguments and examples to show benevolence. While not the strongest of arguments the pairing of arguments is a legitimate way to try to prove a point.
VII. God and Evil
An obvious weakness and place to attack the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being is to attack the benevolence aspect. Usually this is done in a manner that attacks God and is answered with a theodicy. That is how this section will be presented.
Before looking at theodicies first I’d like to briefly touch on one of the arguments against the existence of God. The argument goes
1. God is Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnibenevolent
2. Omnipotence means the power to stop all evil
3. Omniscience means the knowledge of all evil
4. Omnibenevolence means the will to stop all evil
5. Evil existing means the lack of knowledge, power, or will to stop evil
6. Evil exists
7. Therefore God does not exist.
This is the base argument from which the arguments that lead to theodicies come from. Even though both 4 and 5 are open to attack, both because of equivocation of the word will, this paper will be limited answering two specific arguments that have led to theodicies.
Argument 1: The general argument
The general argument of evil, therefore not God, doesn’t try to show where the theistic view of God is incorrect, it only tries to show that it is incorrect. This is a contrast to the other type of argument, which keys in on a particular weakness in the theistic view. This more often than not takes the form of arguing against omnipotence. The general argument begins with the argument above and says because there is evil there is no God. On the surface this is a seemingly convincing argument. “How can a good God let (fill in the blank with a seemingly evil event) happen”? The argument then goes on to say we don’t know if it is a lack of knowledge, power, or will to stop the event, but it is obviously one of the three since evil exists. The argument concludes the theist viewpoint is inconsistent because 2, 3, or 4 is not present and 1 needs all in place. 1 and not 2, 3, or 4 is an inconsistent viewpoint. The atheist then goes on to give a slew of examples of evil. Killer hurricanes, wild animals killing people, mass murders, broken bones, and the list goes on.
Argument 2: Argument against omnipotence (or against Omnibenevolence)
The second argument keys in on a specific shortcoming of the theist belief of God and how it deals with evil. Usually this is in the form of a lack of power to stop evil, or a lack of will to stop evil. Basically this argument takes the first argument and applies the evil to a specific cause. This argument also has an interesting second aspect of simultaneously answering some of the first theodicies. Well conceived and written arguments of this kind are easy to appreciate on an intellectual level even if the reader does not agree with the argument.
Answer to both arguments: Divide and Conquer
It is doubtful that any one answer completely satisfies the challenge to theism presented in argument 1. This may be why so many different theodicies exist, and why no one works in and of its self. It may not be possible to come up with one argument to answer such a profound and direct challenge as evil. In order to answer argument one a divide and conquer answer will be presented. Each individual theodicy answers a little piece of evil and when all combined all evil is accounted for. To begin with lets define evil. The simplest definition of evil is “that which ought not to be.” While this definition is intentionally vague it is used because it is the least likely to be deemed incorrect. This definition includes most of the other definitions of evil. When looking at this definition two things are striking. First, the definition is subjective. Second for the act to be truly evil there must be no redeeming values, or at the very least the redeeming values are insufficient to account for the evil.
The subjective nature puts in doubt much of the evil that exists. As long as a theist has consistent thoughts regarding evil and how he would act in the face of an event that he did not deem evil then the “evil” is not evil to him and therefore not applicable to the atheist argument. Let’s say someone doesn’t think that natural events are evil because there is no malice involved. Now lets suppose he was to come across a tree about to fall on a puppy. If he goes and scoops the puppy up so it is not harmed because he has a soft spot for puppies he is not saying the tree falling on the puppy would be evil, only that he has a soft spot for puppies. So natural evil can not be used against this theist in the argument to show evil exists. Now if the same person were to come across the same tree falling on the same puppy but goes and rescues the puppy because he believes that the harming the puppy is evil then he has inconsistent views about what is evil. Because of the inconsistent view of evil natural evil can be used on this theist because he views the action as evil even though he may not admit it.
A very interesting application that cuts to the core of if a person is consistent is pairing the issues of abortion and death penalty. With only four possible pairings it is fairly easy to hash through the issue. Pro pro, con con, pro con, and con pro abortion and death penalty respectively are the only options. Of these pro pro (life is not sacred) and con con (life is sacred at all costs) are consistent. The two disagreeing options are where the test occurs. Con pro can have a consistent view of evil if life is considered sacred in a utilitarian manner for example. Pro con is a more difficult duo to defend as consistent view of evil. A person who has this belief pattern most likely separates the two issues. They say that they have the right to impose their will on death penalty. Where then do they get the right to say that we do not have the right to tell them they can not abort? Either life is sacred and must be defended at the expense of choice or it is not. If they say the baby is not a life because it has not been born yet simply remember that it is viable at 22 weeks of pregnancy, and so the contrast is none after 22 weeks, and the issue is raised again under this slight modification. This is not to say that there are not ways in which a pro con can have consistent thoughts regarding evil. It is only a pairing of issues on life, which most people have an opinion on, where a judgment of what is evil or not can be made. This pairing was raised because at this time a majority of people support the death penalty, but there is no majority that categorically supports or opposes abortion.
The subjective nature also raises another way evil can be questioned. Someone can hold the view that God in his omnipotence gave humans the desire to do good in fieri. They continue that in His omniscience He knew that we would all fail at some point and in His omnibenevolence made good coming from adversity good in esse. In order to have in fieri there must be in esse. It is just like having to have north to have south. This view holds that evil is a type of adversity.
Examining the logic of this triad to see if it is a consistent view we can quickly determine that the omniscience aspect is not a good point to attack because the human race has committed evil and humanity has survived the evil. Apparently measures are in place for human survival in the face of evil, which implies, but does not prove, that evil was foreknown. So where does the atheist challenge take place? One possible place is to challenge omnipotence. The challenge takes the form of why would an all-powerful God make humans with the difference of in fieri and in esse good? Isn’t it within His power to make all good in esse and therefore eliminate the need for evil to accomplish such good? This question is dicey. Some conditions are dependent on other conditions for existence. Shadows must have light. North must have south. Omnipotence could create a shadow without light or north without south, but then it would not be a shadow, as we know it, or north and south as we know it. Some things are beyond omnipotence, or at the very least our ability to understand omnipotence. That is the case of good in esse.
The last point to challenge is the Omnibenevolence of God. The atheist can challenge that an omnibenevolent God would will it to be that we were good without fail all of the time. This argument makes a very questionable, though possibly correct or possibly incorrect assumption. The assumption is that good in esse has no merit and that we are all better off without good in esse. In order for this assumption to be true it must be true that we would be better off not having known or committed evil. Living in this world I can not imagine living in a world without evil in some way effecting people. I can conceive of such a world, but not imagine what it would be like. This is to say that it is impossible for me to understand what such a world would be like and therefore impossible for me to understand if we would be better off as such. So to that end I don’t reject the possibility, only say that I can not comprehend such a possibility and leave it to others who have a better ability to imagine than I do to seek the knowledge of such a possibility.
What I will say is that it is possible that we are better off with good in esse. Countless examples of humanity benefiting from good in esse are available. A few quick examples to show the point are: irrigation (overcomes drought), antibiotics (overcomes illness), and government (overcomes anarchy). The list extends on and on. Most would agree that advancements in the face of adversity brings good at least some of the time. This argument does not explain all evil; it only accounts for some evil.
A third way the subjective nature of evil can be used to show that what is considered evil is not truly evil is by holding the view that if an event has more redeeming values that evil components it is a good act rather than an evil act. The temptation is to write this argument off as a grand scale good in esse argument, but there is a difference. This argument argues more along the lines that humans are imperfect beings. Since we are imperfect we are not omniscient. Since we are not omniscient we do not always see all possible outcomes of our actions. A human initiated good intentioned good act may have an unintended outcome. For example building a series of levees on the Mississippi River. The levees had beneficial effects until there was a series of floods because the river rose more than was expected one year, and then the levees that were supposed to protect from flooding played a part in the flooding by not allowing a gradual dispersion of river water. While some evil (if you accept natural evil) came from this situation more good was achieved by the prior and future protection provided because of the levees. In this case the good outweighs the evil so the levee induced flooding is not an evil act, but the outcome of human shortcomings. This also holds true for human activities. Murder is generally considered evil, but what if someone had murdered Hitler? That seemingly evil act would have prevented the pointless deaths of millions of people by war and extermination. The evil was a result of human inaction rather than human action, but inaction in and of it self is a form of action.
While there is no one answer to evil, a divide and conquer strategy to answer evil is an effective way to deal with evil. Since evil is subjective in nature it can be addressed in different ways. A theist may hold that natural evil is not evil because of the lack of malice. As long as his thoughts are consistent then this is an answer to seemingly evil natural events. A theist may hold that evil, as a form of adversity leading to good in esse is not evil. A theist may hold that any event is good as long as the redeeming values outweigh the evil values in the act. By combining these three answers to evil it is possible to answer most if not all evil that exists.
This paper has not shown that God exists. That was not the intent of this paper. Rather the goal was to show that it was possible for God to exist. In order to show that it is possible for God to exist a few criteria must be met. One is showing that there is the potential for a superior being. This was attempted by trying to show the scientific validity of the Cosmological Argument. Next is answering the criticism of the Cosmological Argument. This was attempted by answering broad categories that most criticisms of the Cosmological Argument fall in. What followed was an explination of why God was not proven by the Cosmological Argument mostly in an attempt to maintain academic honesty but also to show that further proof as to the possibility was necessary. Then an explination of how God was possible in the Cosmological Argument. This was more of a restating of the important points of the defense of the Cosmological Argument rather than new argumentation. Last was an answer to the charge that God is not possible because of evil. This was done by showing how evil is subjective in nature and while one single explination is insufficient a series of explanations working together is sufficient.
But in the larger since why write a paper of this nature? To prove the possibility of God in and of its self in not important. The merit of such a paper comes not from the proving of the possibility of God, but rather from acting as a set up argument that can be plugged into the Ontological Argument. If the Ontological Argument is true, then the possibility of God means God is necessary. The merit of such a paper rests on the question of is the Ontological Argument true, and perhaps to a lesser extent to if this paper generates any further discussion on the possibility of God.