The shortest answer to most of these arguments is that if any of them were correct, they would not prove that god exists. Most of these arguments would prove the existence of an uncaused cause and do not show that this cause has any resemblance to “god”.
However, each of the arguments is wrong. (My responses to each of Kreeft’s arguments is very brief.)
1. The Argument from Change
Nothing changes itself… The universe is the sum total of all these moving things… if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change.
This is really stupid. Things “change themselves” all the time. The only changes in a physical system that aren’t examples of the system “changing itself” are caused by something outside the system. So Kreeft would have to assume that there is something “outside the universe” in order to prove that there is something outside the universe. See the problem??
2. The Argument from Efficient Causality
Kreeft proposes that everything needs a cause, except for god, apparently. Why can god be uncaused but not the universe?
3. The Argument from Time and Contingency
This argument essentially repackages the second. If the universe can’t come from nothing, then why can god?
4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
This is the ontological argument on a bad hair day. He presents a more coherent version of this argument later.
5. The Design Argument
Evolution proves that “chance” is enough to explain every living thing could have emerged from a single organism. There are several plausible theories as to how the first living things could have appeared. The fine tuning argument requires a lengthier response. Kreeft also seems to be arguing that world is so pretty that there must be a god. Right.
6. The Kalam Argument
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being.
Kreeft argues that a universe that has always existed must have begun, but the defining quality of a universe that always existed is that it did not begin.
7. The Argument from Contingency
1. If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
2. The universe “the collection of beings in space and time” exists.
3. Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.
4. What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.
5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.
Point five tacitly assumes that space and time are bounded by space and time, which is nonsense. If space and time are “what it takes”, which is plausible, then the problem is solved. It remains unexplained why the universe can’t cause itself but god can (in other words, “what it takes” may be nothing).
8. The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
This world is given to us as a dynamic, ordered system of many active component elements. Their natures (natural properties) are ordered to interact with each other in stable, reciprocal relationships which we call physical laws… In such an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system, the active nature of each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act.
The second sentence is false. This argument defines the universe as a series of interactions and then supposes that these interactions can’t exist without their constituent elements. It is assumed that X can’t have the properties that produce the interactions we know it has with Y unless Y exists, which is false. In other words, the chemical properties of hydrogen do not change if oxygen never existed.
9. The Argument from Miracles
Kreeft asserts that there are “well attested miracles”, which is false. At the very least, anyone making this claim should provide specific evidence. Even if there were well attested miracles, it would only prove naturalism false; it would not prove theism true.
10. The Argument from Consciousness
Kreeft argues that the unthinking matter which is supposed to produce consciousness cannot produce reason. This premise is nowhere supported and is apparently contradicted by the existence of computers. While it is true that humans designed computers, there’s no reason to suppose that evolution could not produce a network of logic gates that assesses sensory data. The brain does exist, and it was produced by evolution, so we are left with the bald assertion that matter cannot produce reason. This argument has been assessed here.
11. The Argument from Truth
1. Our limited minds can discover eternal truths about being.
2. Truth properly resides in a mind.
3. But the human mind is not eternal.
4. Therefore there must exist an eternal mind in which these truths reside.
This argument relies on the ambiguity between the words truth and reality. To the extent that the second premise is true, the first is unsubstantiated and begs the question. The universe exists independently of our minds, and if truth is defined as something which exists in a mind (i.e. it is defined as distinct from reality), then the only way it could be eternal is if there is an eternal mind. Thus, under this definition of truth, to assume that we may know eternal truths is to assume the existence of an eternal mind, but this is what Kreeft was trying to prove.
12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God
Kreeft here argues that since we have an idea of god, and god is infinite and perfect, the idea had to have come from outside us since we, imperfect beings, couldn’t create something perfect. This conflates god with our idea of god. If the argument is to work, our idea of God has to be infinite and perfect. Even Kleeft would agree this is not the case, and the argument fails.
13. The Ontological Argument
The ontological argument effectively defines god into existence. I can define an object X and say that X has the quality 'exists’, but this doesn’t mean it does exist!
14. The Moral Argument
Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.
We are obligated to the people around us because we literally cannot live without their cooperation, not because god says so.
15. The Argument from Conscience
...there remains one moral absolute for everyone: never disobey your own conscience.
Kreeft thinks that this “universal truth” demands a supernatural explanation when in fact it is a tautology. Your conscience is what tells you right from wrong, and for it to tell you to disobey itself would be a silly paradox akin to saying “this statement is false”. It is impossible for you to think it’s moral to disobey your conscience since it’s your conscience which decides what’s moral in the first place.
16. The Argument from Desire
Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
This is another really stupid argument. Some people fantasize about having sex with women made of jello. Does that mean living jello exists? Kreeft’s argument hinges on differentiating “natural desires” from “unnatural desires”, but in claiming that the desire to know god is “natural” in the sense of the above premise he begs the question.
17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience
There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Therefore there must be a God. You either see this one or you don’t. (emphasis added)
Since the purpose of a proof of god is ostensibly to convince a non-believer, this argument demands a rather simple response: FAIL.
18. The Argument from Religious Experience
It is inconceivable that so many people could have been so utterly wrong about the nature and content of their own experience.
Hardly. People have been misinformed by their priests throughout history. Kreeft seems to think that the only natural explanation for religious experience is pathological, but hallucinations can happen to healthy people as well.
19. The Common Consent Argument
Everyone admits that religious belief is widespread throughout human history. But the question arises: Does this undisputed fact amount to evidence in favor of the truth of religious claims?
No. Kreeft again relies on the faulty assumption that religious experience, god-belief in particular, is either supernatural or psychotic in origin.
20. Pascal’s Wager
The question is whether god exists, not whether believing in god is more likely than not to result in personal benefit. Pascal’s Wager addresses the latter irrelevant concern.
There you have it. Twenty failed arguments.
Posted: April 9th 2010
See all questions answered by George Locke