Other Arguments

Non-Classical Arguments Against Theories for God’s Existence

Argument from Physical Minds

Jeffery Jay Lowder argued in the March 1999 newsletter of the Internet Infidels that a case for metaphysical naturalism can be made from the Argument from Evil and the Argument from Physical Minds. Here is the latter argument:

As Paul Draper, an agnostic philosopher at Florida International University, puts it, “Consciousness and personality are highly dependent on the brain. Nothing mental happens without something physical happening.” Now Michael Tooley, a philosopher at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has stated five lines of evidence in support of this claim. Let me summarize just briefly that evidence. First, when an individuals brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience. Second, certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all. Third, other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged. Fourth, when we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex. And fifth, within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain. Thus, the conclusion that, “Nothing mental happens without something physical happening,” seems inescapable.

But if nothing mental happens without something physical happening, that strongly implies that the mind cannot exist independently of physical arrangements of matter. In other words, we do not have a soul. And this is exactly what we would expect if naturalism is true. But if theism is true, then our minds should not depend on our brains for their existence; we should have souls. Also, if theism is true, then God is a disembodied mind; Gods mind is not in any sense dependent on physical arrangements of matter. But if nothing mental happens without something physical happening, that is evidence against both the existence of souls and the existence of any being who is supposed to have a disembodied mind, including God. Therefore, the physical nature of minds is unlikely if theism is true, but what we would expect if naturalism is true.

Argument from Non-belief

Argument: God is a benevolent god who rewards believers and damns nonbelievers.

Rebuttal: If this is true then a benevolent god would want everyone to be a believer. Since this god is also omnipotent, it should be able to convince nonbelievers to believe. It then follows that if the theists’ version of god exists, there would not be any nonbelievers. There are, however, many nonbelievers in the world. Therefore, this god does not exist.

Incompatible-Properties Arguments

Another class of atheological arguments are the incompatible-properties arguments, which argue that God, as defined by theists, has mutually contradictory properties and therefore cannot exist. A survey of some of these arguments can be found at this link.

These incompatible-properties arguments are probably best understood as proof that theists don’t know or realize the problems and contradictions they create when they describe their god, rather than proof that a god does not exist.

Moral-Knowledge Argument

A recently proposed atheological argument is the Moral-Knowledge Argument, which can be expressed as follows: If the theists’ version of god exists, then he is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. Since this god is benevolent and his ethics are supposedly morally good for humanity, it would want all human beings to know its ethics perfectly. And since this god is omnipotent, it would be within its capacity to make sure that all human beings know its ethics perfectly. However, all human beings do not know its ethics perfectly, which is shown by their disagreeing about many moral values. Therefore, this version of god does not exist.

Argument from the Complexity of God

What about a more generic god? Suppose that there is a conscious god that created the universe and now just stands back and watches his creation without ever interfering with it. Occam’s Razor (don’t postulate the existence of anything more than what’s needed for explanation) certainly justifies weak atheism in this case. The basic idea behind Occam’s Razor can be used to justify belief in the nonexistence of this god as well. Since we cannot know for certain how the universe was created or even if it was created, the best we can do is decide if some of the many possible scenarios are more likely than others. Applying the idea of Occam’s Razor, we have to conclude that the scenarios that involve a more complex explanation for the universe are more unlikely than the scenarios with a simpler explanation. Since explanations that invoke a conscious god include an extremely complex being and naturalistic explanations do not, we can conclude that the scenarios involving a god are much less likely than scenarios that do not. Therefore a tentative belief that this generic god does not exist is justified (if Occam’s Razor applies). For a more thorough examination of this type of argument, see Science, Complexity, and God.

Conclusion

In conclusion, weak atheism, or agnosticism,  is the default position. If there were no evidence for the existence or nonexistence of gods, weak atheism would be the only rational position to take. In order to move from the default position of weak atheism to theism, a rational person would require credible evidence for the existence of a god. Similarly, to move from weak atheism to strong/positive atheism, credible evidence for the nonexistence of gods would be required. Some freethinkers find that the evidence that gods do not exist is convincing and that strong atheism is justified. Others think that the theists’ description of their god is incoherent so that “god exists” is unintelligible and “not even wrong.” Some positive atheists claim that the available evidence is sufficient to justify only a tentative belief in the nonexistence of gods, and that actual knowledge is impossible. Finally, it should be noted that the position a person takes can vary depending on which version of god is being discussed.

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