Vince's "Why Believe?" Website

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This page has been created for two types of people: Christians who are struggling with their faith, and honest inquirers of any persuasion who are seeking spiritual truth. The articles below were selected for their outstanding quality. I have found them especially helpful in resolving difficulties for my own Christian belief. I hope you find them as useful as I did.


1. God

1.1 God's existence. 1.2 God's attributes. 1.3 God the Creator and evolution. 1.4 God and evil.

God? What Do You Mean by "God"?

Good question. What I mean by God is: a person who is fully integrated (i.e. incapable of being broken into separate parts), and whose nature it is to know and love perfectly. I hold that only a Being like that could explain why we are here and why the universe (which is neither personal nor fullly integrated) exists. If God is real, then LOVE is an essential attribute of God. So is KNOWLEDGE.

The notion of a fully integrated person will strike many people as counterintuitive. In everyday experience, persons are highly complex entities whose existence depends on a myriad of factors. Also, the persons we meet in everyday life are certainly decomposable into parts: they die and rot in the earth. What I am maintaining is that God is not that sort of person. God must be EITHER a simple person - and difficult as that may be to conceive, the notion has many able defenders - OR a complex person, but made of parts which cannot be separated under any possible circumstances - in other words, parts which "hang together" in the most perfect possible way.

Love is an essential attribute of God, as I have defined the term. What kind of love are we talking about here? God's love is best defined as "agape" or unconditional love. Since God loves unconditionally, there is nothing that you or I can do to cause God to stop loving us. God loves because it is in God's nature to love, and God cannot do other than what is in God's nature.

I realise that there will be some intelligent sceptics who will object: but what do you mean by love? And how could a human term like "love" have any meaning when applied to God? The answer to the first question is that for human beings, "love" is a properly basic term, requiring no definition. We don't need to define it because we are hard-wired to know what love is, just as we are hard-wired to want to be loved. These things are part of our nature. To demand a definition for the term "love" is to commit the Socratic fallacy - the fallacy of demanding a definition for everything.

The second question - "How can the term 'love' have any meaning when applied to God?" - is a thornier one. The sceptic is right to say that if there is a God, then God must be utterly beyond our grasp. However, it does not follow that we have nothing in common with God. Rather, the position I am defending here is that creatures can share certain characteristics with God (such as love), but they cannot have them in the same way that God has them. Any concept (such as love) which we apply to God must have the same meaning as it does when applied to us (otherwise we could know nothing about God), but the concept must be applied in an utterly different way from the manner in which it applies to human beings. Thus instead of denying that God loves (as the sceptic does), we should rather say that we can never grasp the way in which God loves - for perfect love is part of God's essential nature, whereas it is not part of our human nature.

1.1 The existence of God

1.1.1 Background to the contemporary debate about God.
1.1.2 Why it is perfectly rational to believe in God, even when you can't prove His existence to other people.
1.1.3 Aquinas' Five Ways and Bernard Lonergan's Transcendental Argument for the existence of God.
1.1.4 The Reformed Presuppositionalist Argument for the existence of God.
1.1.5 Does the reliability of our cognitive faculties constitute an argument for the existence of God?
1.1.6 The Cosmological Argument.
1.1.7 Probability-Based Teleological Arguments for God's existence: God, Design and the Multiverse, and the Signature in the Cell.
1.1.8 Other Arguments for the existence of God: the Arguments from Conscience, from Desire and from History, and Pascal's Wager.
1.1.9 Ontological Arguments for God's existence.
1.1.10 Are there any good arguments against God's existence?
1.1.11 Is Atheism a psychological ailment?

NOTE TO THE READER
In this section, I present a variety of arguments for the existence of God, written by leading Christian philosophers. For those who find theological arguments distasteful, I have also included a collection of articles (see section 1.1.2) by Professor Alvin Plantinga, who contends that even if we had no good arguments for the existence of God, it would still make perfect rational sense to believe in God. Most readers will be aware that Christians have varying opinions on the merits of the various arguments for God's existence. For my part, I make no attempt to adjudicate between these arguments; rather, I confine myself to presenting what I consider to be the best philosophical defence of each argument, in the hope that the arguments may lead some people to belief in God.

Some readers may be wondering why I have decided to adopt a non-partisan stance regarding the merits of the various arguments for God's existence. I would refer them to a book entitled Atheism in France, 1650-1729 by Alan Charles Kors (published by Princeton University Press). In this erudite work, Professor Kors argues that bickering between rival schools of Christian theologians was what ultimately gave rise to atheism among France's intellectual elite. In what Kors describes as the "great fratricide", theologians from bitterly competing schools of Aristotelian, Cartesian, and Malebranchist Christian thought attempted to refute each other's proofs of God, and to depict the ideas of their theological opponents as atheistic. This caught the attention of France's reading public, causing many intellectuals to doubt the existence of God. France is to this day an atheistic country. Christians living in the 21st century should take heed.

1.1.1 Background to the contemporary debate about God

To seek God is to seek love by former atheist Jennifer Fulwiler.
An excellent post on what it means to say that God is love, and on the right attitude of mind to have when searching for God.

Atheism. A useful article by Creation Ministries International.

Introduction: The Resurrection of Theism by Professor William Lane Craig.
This article is Dr. Craig's Introduction to volume three of the Truth Journal on "New Arguments for the Existence of God." It charts the resurgence in our day of Philosophy of Religions and interacts briefly with the thought of such important theistic philosophers as Plantinga, Swinburne, and Leslie.

The Resurrection of Theism by Professor Stuart Hackett.
A classic work, based on a series of lectures delivered over 50 years ago, which presents all of the main arguments for the existence of God, and rebuts objections to each of them.

The Justification of Theism by Professor Richard Swinburne.
Why believe that there is a God at all? Swinburne's answer is that to suppose that there is a God explains why there is a world at all; why there are the scientific laws there are; why animals and then human beings have evolved; why humans have the opportunity to mould their characters and those of their fellow humans for good or ill and to change the environment in which we live; why we have the well-authenticated account of Christ's life, death and resurrection; why throughout the centuries men have had the apparent experience of being in touch with and guided by God; and so much else. In fact, the hypothesis of the existence of God makes sense of the whole of our experience, and it does so better than any other explanation which can be put forward, and that is the grounds for believing it to be true. Here, Swinburne presents in summary arguments given in more detailed form in his book The Existence of God, and seeks to rebut criticisms of those arguments given in J.L. Mackie's book The Miracle of Theism.

Hume, Kant and Rational Theism by Professor Hugo Meynell.
Plato discovered the real intelligible world which lies behind the merely sensible world, and which (as Aristotle emphasized after him) is to be found by inquiry into the sensible world. The whole subsequent development of science is a massive vindication of this discovery. Plato's Christian successors soon caught on to the fact that one intelligent will, which conceives and intends it rather as human beings conceive and intend their own actions and products, is ultimately the only satisfactory explanation for the existence and nature of such an intelligible world. Nevertheless, it is very commonly held that there are no sound arguments for the existence of God. In claiming that there are no such arguments, those who reject faith in God as irrational, and those who would cling to faith in spite of reason, commonly appeal to the authority of David Hume and Immanuel Kant. However, neither Hume's nor Kant's philosophical principles are really compatible with the idea - upon which science is based - that there is a real intelligible world which underlies the sensible world of our experience and which we discover by asking questions about that sensible world. Hume in effect confines our knowledge to experience, Kant to an apparent world created rather than reflected by our thought.

The Existence of God by Fr. Richard Clarke, S.J. (1887).
I have included this dialogue for three reasons. First, it spells out very clearly just how strong the arguments are meant to be. Second, the writing is very lucid and free of technical jargon. Finally, it is interesting from an historical perspective to compare the arguments in the dialogue with present-day arguments for God's existence. I leave it to the reader to judge to what degree the arguments have changed over the past 120 years. I do not recommend or endorse the third and final section.


1.1.2 Why it is perfectly rational to believe in God, even when you can't prove God's existence to other people

Theism as a Properly Basic Belief. An interview with Professor Alvin Plantinga, by Roy Varghese.
Even if theism is a properly basic belief, how do we know it is true? Plantinga's answer:
You have to think about that in the context of the same question with respect to perception or memory or other minds. Fundamentally, in these cases it is a matter of trusting one's cognitive faculties, I guess. It seems true. One's inclined to believe in other minds, one's inclined to believe in the past, one's inclined to believe in immaterial objects and many of us are also under certain circumstances inclined to believe in God.

Theism, Atheism, and Rationality by Professor Alvin Plantinga.
Many atheistic philosophers have argued that it is irrational or unreasonable for someone to believe in God, in the absence of evidence. On this account, people who have faith but are unable to supply evidence are suffering from some sort of cognitive defect or dysfunction. Plantinga turns the tables and argues that if anyone's cognitive equipment is malfunctioning, it is the atheist's. In particular, the atheist is unable to supply a satisfactory answer to the question of what it means for someone's cognitive equipment to function properly.

Intellectual Sophistication and Basic Belief in God by Professor Alvin Plantinga.
Plantinga argues that that for many theists, the non-propositional warrant belief in God has for them is indeed greater than that of the alleged potential defeaters of theistic belief - for example, Freudian or Marxist theories of religion. Furthermore, there are powerful extrinsic defeaters for the sort of potential defeaters of theism Quinn suggests. The atheological argument from evil, for example, is formidable; but there are equally formidable defeaters for this potential defeater. Plantinga is therefore inclined to believe that belief in God is properly basic for most theists - even intellectually sophisticated adult theists.

Is there proof for the existence and activity of God (and if not, Why isn't God more obvious?) by Dr. Craig Rushbult.
Argues that God seems to prefer a balance of evidence, where there is enough reason to believe if we want to believe, but not enough to intellectually force belief against our will, so that a person's heart and will (not coerced by overwhelming evidence) can make the decision to believe in God, and so we can develop a "living by faith" character with a trust in God serving as the foundation for all thoughts and actions of daily living.


1.1.3 Aquinas' Five Ways and Bernard Lonergan's Transcendental Argument for the existence of God

An Overview of Aquinas' Five Ways
Aquinas on God's Existence by Dr. Joseph Magee.

On the Proofs for the Existence of God of St. Thomas Aquinas by Dr. Joseph Magee.

Aquinas on God's Existence by Dr. Alfred Freddoso.

The Thought of Thomas Aquinas by Brian Davies O.P. Scroll back to page 28 to read Fr. Davies' exposition of the Five Ways.
Note: The subsequent discussion of Aquinas' "Existence Argument" (page 31), which is the fundamental argument underlying his Five Ways, is especially worth reading.

Two Notions of the Infinite by Dr. Richard Howe.
In this paper, Dr. Howe addresses the question of why an infinite regress of causes which are essentially dependent on one another is impossible.

An excerpt:

[I]t is commonly thought that Thomas is using the impossibility of an infinite regress as a proof of the necessity of the first mover, cause or necessary being. But I submit to you that Thomas is actually making the converse argument. He is not saying "Since there cannot be an infinite regress, therefore there must be a first mover." Rather he is saying "Since there must be a first mover, therefore there cannot be an infinite regress"....

In a per accidens infinite, the cause of an effect is only accidentally related to the effect being itself a cause whereas in an infinite per se the cause of the effect is what causes the effect itself to be a cause. When the cause of w is the cause of w's causing x and x is the cause of y's causing z, then this series cannot be an infinite regress, otherwise, z would not be caused. However, when the cause of w is not the cause of w's causing x and x is not the cause of y's causing z, then this series can be infinite since the infinity of the series is only accidental to z's being caused....

[I]f a hand moves a stick and the stick moves a stone, it is precisely by virtue of the fact that the hand is moving the stick that the stick is able to move the stone. The hand causing the stick to move is also the cause of the stick itself being a cause of the stone to move. Thus in this instance, the series cannot be infinite otherwise there would be no "first" mover that accounts for the motion of the stone. The same reasoning applies to the existence of the world...

Perhaps a more modern way to say this is that there cannot be an infinite regress of instrumental causes since there must be a "first" efficient cause.


Aquinas' First Way
Brief, informal expositions on the First Way
Jerry Coyne and Aquinas' First Way by Dr. Michael Egnor.

Aquinas's First Way by Brandon, a lecturer in philosophy, writing in his blog, Siris.

Further Thought on Aquinas's First Way by Brandon, a lecturer in philosophy, writing in his blog, Siris.


Short articles on the First Way
The First Way by Dr. Christopher Martin.

Ten Objections to the Prima Via by Michael Augros. To view the article, click on FirstWayP.pdf.
The author rebuts ten common objections to Aquinas' First Way, also known as the Argument from Motion.


Scholarly articles on the First Way

'Whatever is Changing is Being Changed by Something Else': A Reappraisal of Premise One of the First Way by Dr. David Oderberg.
This is the best online philosophical defence to date of Aquinas' First Way.

Audio of a talk on Aquinas' First Way by Professor David Oderberg, given at the Joseph Butler Society, Oriel College, Oxford, May 2009. The talk is 1 hour, followed by 1 hour of Q & A.

Duns Scotus on the First Way

Duns Scotus on the Reality of Self-Change by Dr. Peter King. In Self-Motion From Aristotle to Newton (Princeton 1994), 227–290.


Aquinas' Second Way
The Second Way by Dr. Christopher Martin.

Two Notions of the Infinite by Dr. Richard Howe.
In this paper, Dr. Howe addresses the question of why an infinite regress of causes which are essentially dependent on one another is impossible.

Thomistic Responses to Some Objections to Aquinas' Second Way by Dr. Richard G. Howe.
Excerpt:

In a previous EPS paper I dealt with one objection, viz., "Why Can There Not Be an Infinite Regress?" Other objections that I have encountered include: "Does the Second Way Commit the Fallacy of Composition?"; "Does the Second Way Commit the Quantifier Shift Fallacy?"; "Do All Men Call this God?"; "Why Is There Only One God?"; "Is God Good?"; and "Is the Second Way Based on an Obsolete Philosophical System?"
Dr. Howe also elucidates the vital point that after giving his Five arguments for God's existence, Aquinas goes on to argue that every creature who possesses existence yet whose essence does not entail its existence, its own existence has been caused by Something whose essence is its own existence, and which is therefore uncaused.


Aquinas' Third Way
The Third Way by Dr. Christopher Martin.

Aquinas' Third Way Modalized by Dr. Robert Maydole.

Aquinas on the Eternality and Necessity of the World by Dr. David Reiter and Dr. Nathanael Johnston.
The authors argue that since Aquinas is committed to the epistemic possibility of the world being eternal (i.e. even if revelation tells us that the world had a beginning, we cannot demonstrate that it did, so for all we know it might not have had one), and since Aquinas seems to believe that being eternal implies being necessary, then Aquinas is committed to the epistemic possibility of the world being necessary - in which case, his third way fails as a cosmological demonstration. However, as the authors point out in their final paragraph, Aquinas also distinguished between beings which are intrinsically necessary and those that are not. The third way only fails if it is epistemically possible that the world is intrinsically necessary. This is not something that Aquinas would concede, for the very same reason that he was willing to concede the epistemic possibility of the world's being eternal in the first place - our concept of the world is a purely physical one, and hence incapable of generating a strong modal conclusion such as "The world is a necessary being." Indeed, any physical entity can be conceived of as ceasing to exist. By contrast, we have no physical concept of God, so it does not follow that we can conceive of God as ceasing to exist.

A New Look at the Cosmological Argument by Dr. Robert Koons.
This is a revamped version of Aquinas' argument from contingency. As such, it represents the best argument for a Necessary Being which I have yet seen.


Aquinas' Fourth Way
Aquinas' Fourth Wayby oohlah (Joe Ulatowski) on Praeter Necessitatum.

Aquinas on Perfectionby oohlah (Joe Ulatowski) on Praeter Necessitatum.

Defending the Fourth Way by "Saint Sebastian" (Daniel Jones) on Praeter Necessitatum.


Aquinas' Fifth Way
Teleology Revisited by Professor Edward Feser.
This is invaluable reading for anyone who wants to gain an understanding of Aquinas' fifth way and how it differs from Rev. William Paley's argument from design. The starting point of Aquinas' argument is simply the fact that there are causes in the world which have a natural tendency to bring about effects. This tells us that the world is not just a collection of facts, but that normative statements are also required to describe the world fully. When a falling body hits the ground, that is not simply what it does; rather, that is what it should do. The existence of normative states of affairs in the world (e.g. causal tendencies) is the springboard of Aquinas's argument that only a Divine Intellect which transcends the natural order can ground these norms we find in nature.

Four Approaches to Teleology by Professor Ed Feser.
The article carefully delineates Aquinas's approach to teleology from that of materialists (who deny its existence); Platonists (who affirm its existence but locate it in a Mind external to the objects in which its is found); and Aristotelians (who affirm that it is real, but maintain that it is simply in the nature of things). Aquinas's position is intermediate between that of Plato and Aristotle: he agrees with Aristotle that teleology is intrinsic to objects, but unlike Aristotle, Aquinas thinks that the existence of final causes nevertheless requires an explanation, and he also thinks that this explanation must lie in the existence of a Divine intellect which conserves the order of final causes in being from instant to instant. As Feser notes, Aquinas's God is not a Paleyan Watchmaker who might have died off in the time that has passed since he finished his work. Without the Divine Intellect ordering nature continually, the order of final causes could not be maintained even for an instant.

The Fifth Way by Dr. Christopher Martin.

Teleology: Inorganic and Organic by Dr. David Oderberg. In Contemporary Perspectives on Natural Laws, edited by Ana Marta Gonzalez.
The author makes a strong case that not only is teleology found in the organic world, but that it is a basic feature of the non-living world as well: for instance, there are cycles occurring in the inorganic world whose component steps can be properly said to have a function. Note: as Professor Ed Feser has argued, for Aquinas's Fifth Way to work, complex teleology is not required: all that is needed is the sort manifest in even the simplest causal connections.


Lonergan's Argument for God's Existence - the Common Thread Underlying the Five Ways
Lonergan's argument takes as its starting point the fact (assumed by any seeker after truth) that reality is intelligible. Put simply, God is that which explains why things make sense.

The Point of the Proof in Lonergan's Insight 19. A brief, non-technical exposition of Lonergan's argument.

The Argument for the Existence of Transcendent Being: The Philosophy of God in Lonergan's Insight by Professor Emile Piscitelli.
A scholarly article which explains the thinking behind Lonergan's Transcendental Argument.

The Lonergan Website.
Bernard Lonergan is considered by many intellectuals to be the finest philosophic thinker of the twentieth century. This Web site has some excellent links for people who want to learn about his philosophy.


1.1.4 The Reformed Presuppositionalist Argument for the existence of God

Van Til's presuppositionalist argument takes as its starting point the amazing fact that we are capable of thinking straight and apply the laws of logic. The only thing which can guarantee this in a satisfactory way is the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Why I Believe in God by Professor Cornelius Van Til.
An autobiographical article written in the form of a dialogue with a modern sceptic. Frank, hard-hitting and well worth reading.

Van Til's Life and Impact by Dr. Greg Bahnsen.

Van Til and Self-Deception by Dr. Greg Bahnsen.
Van Til's position is that the Christian can challenge the non-Christian approach to interpreting human experience "only if he shows the non-Christian that even in his virtual negation of God, he is still really presupposing God" (A Christian Theory of Knowledge, p.13). He puts the point succinctly in saying: "Anti-theism presupposes theism" (A Survey of Christian Epistemology, p. xii). The intellectual achievements of the unbeliever, as explained in The Defense the Faith, are possible only because he is "borrowing, without recognizing it, the Christian ideas of creation and providence" (1st ed., p.355).

CARM Apologist Matt Slick's Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (MP3, 8 minutes).


Debates

The Great Debate: Greg Bahnsen debates atheist philosopher Gordon Stein. A must-hear.

The Futility of Non-Christian Thought. A Debate Among: Douglas Jones, Michael Martin, and Keith Parsons.
Scroll down to view the link. This debate, which originally appeared in Antithesis magazine, is between a Reformed apologist and two prominent atheists. Jones shows why non-Christian thought falls of its own weight, but Martin and Parsons try to rescue it and turn the tables against the Christian.

Responses to Atheist Philosopher, Michael Martin by Professor John Frame.

Evidential Apologetics: The Right Way by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Scroll down to view the link.

Evidential Apologetics by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Scroll down to view the link.


1.1.5 Does the reliability of our cognitive faculties constitute an argument for the existence of God?

The point of this argument is that we have no right to believe that our cognitive faculties are reliable unless we assume the existence of God. Certainly evolutionary naturalism gives us no such guarantee: why should we even trust the cogitations of an over-sized ape's brain on such abstract topics as the origins of the universe, questions of right and wrong, or the existence of God?

Naturalism Defeated by Professor Alvin Plantinga.
Plantinga takes an interesting tack here and argues that naturalism (the idea that there are no gods or supernatural beings) and evolution, far from going hand-in-hand, actually contradict each other. You cannot believe in both theories without fatally undermining your grounds for believing that your own cognitive faculties are reliable - which in turn undermines your grounds for believing the two theories you endorsed in the first place.

Methodological Naturalism (Part One) by Professor Alvin Plantinga.
The philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism holds that, for any study of the world to qualify as "scientific," it cannot refer to God's creative activity (or any sort of divine activity). The methods of science, it is claimed, "give us no purchase" on theological propositions - even if the latter are true - and theology therefore cannot influence scientific explanation or theory justification. Thus, science is said to be religiously neutral, if only because science and religion are, by their very natures, epistemically distinct. However, the actual practice and content of science challenge this claim. In many areas, science is anything but religiously neutral; moreover, the standard arguments for methodological naturalism suffer from various grave shortcomings.

Methodological Naturalism (Part Two) by Professor Alvin Plantinga.


1.1.6 The Cosmological Argument for the existence of God

The First Cause Argument by Professor Peter Kreeft.
Readers who do not have a strong background in philosophy will benefit from reading this straightforward exposition of the "First Cause" argument for God's existence, summarised here by a Christian philosopher. However, readers who have a background in philosophy would be better advised to have a look at the articles below, which are much more intellectually rigorous.


1.1.6.1 Two contemporary forms of the Cosmological Argument

The Cosmological Argument takes as its starting point the existence of things in space and time, and infers that there must be some necessary, uncaused Being that lies beyond space and time.

(a) The argument from contingency

(i) Robert Koons' version: the aggregate of wholly contingent facts requires a necessary cause

The argument from contingency goes back to the tenth century Arab thinker Al Farabi. Historically, there have been many different versions of this argument. Robert Koons' version is one of the most sophisticated; it constitutes a very powerful case against atheism.

Background reading: Lecture notes and bibliography from Dr. Koons' Western Theism course (Phil. 356).
Dr. Koons taught this course at the University of Texas at Austin, Spring 1998. If the cosmological argument is new to you, then this is essential reading. In this series of lectures, Koons lays out the philosophical background of the argument, and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the many versions of the argument which have been propounded, including his own version, which he summarises as follows in lecture 7:

[W]e ... construct the aggregate of all wholly contingent, actual facts, which I call C. I prove that C is itself wholly contingent, since there is no way that any necessary parts could be included in it. Consequently, my causal principle entails that C itself must have a cause. I assume that causes and effects are always separate things, with no overlap or common parts. Therefore, the cause of C must have no wholly contingent parts, or else it would overlap with C. But every contingent thing has a wholly contingent part (whatever is left over after all the necessary parts have been deleted), so the cause of C must be a necessary fact.
In lecture 10, Koons provides a revised version of his cosmological argument, which starts with the sum of all the wholly contingent causes of a single contingent fact, and then show that this sum requires a necessary cause. By contrast, Koons' 1997 version of the argument (see his paper below) started with the sum of all wholly contingent facts in the world, and then proceeded to demonstrate that this sum of all wholly contingent facts must have a necessary cause.

A New Look at the Cosmological Argument by Dr. Robert Koons (1997).
"The cosmological argument for God's existence has a long history, but perhaps the most influential version of it has been the argument from contingency. This is the version that Frederick Copleston pressed upon Bertrand Russell in their famous debate about God's existence in 1948 (printed in Russell's 1957 Why I am not a Christian). Russell's lodges three objections to the Thomistic argument:

(1) There is no intelligible form of necessity other than logical truth.
(2) There is no reason to suppose that any such thing as 'the universe' exists.
(3) Even if there were such a thing as 'the universe', our empirical knowledge gives us no good reason to assume that it has a cause.
Almost fifty years later, Russell's objections seem quite dated." Want to find out why? Read on...

Defeasible Reasoning, Special Pleading and the Cosmological Argument
Dr. Robert Koons' reply to Graham Oppy's attempted rebuttal of Koons' original (1997) version of the cosmological argument.


(ii) Professor Paul Herrick's version: the existence of a universe which could have had a cause can only be explained by the existence of a Personal, Necessary Being whose nature prevents it from ceasing to exist

No Creator Need Apply: A Reply to Roy Abraham Varghese (2006) by Professor Keith Parsons.
Professor Parsons is a leading atheistic critic of arguments for the existence of God. In this essay, he attempts to demolish Roy Abraham Varghese's version of the contingency argument. Although Parsons grants that the universe is contingent, he argues that the universe's existence is a brute fact, for which we have no right to expect an explanation. Key sentence:

Our principles of rationality tell us to look and hope for answers; they give us no a priori assurance that they will always be found. Hence the mere fact per se that we can ask for an explanation of the universe is no reason to think that there must be one.

Job Opening: Creator of the Universe - A Reply to Keith Parsons (2009) by Professor Paul Herrick.
Professor Herrick has written a devastating reply to Keith Parsons' attack on the argument from contingency. A few key excerpts:

...[T]he underlying explanatory principle is not the principle of Parsony (POP), but instead seems to be what I shall name the daring inquiry principle (DIP):

When confronted with the existence of some unexplained phenomenon X, it is reasonable to seek an explanation for X if we can coherently conceive of a state of affairs in which it would not be the case that X exists.

In short, the "could not possibly have an external cause" clause cannot properly be attributed to any logically contingent being, although it logically can be said of a necessary being...

Some philosophers put the idea this way: A necessary being, if one existed, would contain within its own essence the fundamental ground of its existence. (This would be one sense in which a necessary being is a self-explanatory being.) Other philosophers have explained "self-existent" by theorizing that in the case of a necessary being, and only in the case of such a being, essence and existence must be identical. In other words, being and essence must be one and the same thing, not two different things (as is the case with contingent beings).

Now imagine a necessary being with certain features: sufficient power, knowledge, and will to create a universe; free will in the normal, everyday-language sense of the term "free" (i.e., the power to initiate a course of action, to make a choice that is not necessitated, caused, or predetermined by the sum total of all antecedent conditions and external circumstances or forces); and the will to freely give the gift of existence to a world of creatures, either directly by divine fiat, or through an independent evolutionary process... Suppose that a necessary being with the requisite powers described above exists and freely wills that a contingent universe exists. Then it would logically have to be the case that a contingent universe exists: a necessary being with the requisite powers (for instance, omnipotence) choosing to create a universe is all you need to get a universe. That is, a universe follows if such a choice by such a being is made. It is a matter of strict deductive logic: That the stated condition obtains—a sufficiently knowledgeable and powerful necessary being chooses to create a contingent world—logically implies that a contingent universe exists.

There is no good reason why the explanatory model of personalistic explanation cannot be applied to the (hypothesized) divine choice to create a world. The capacity part of the explanation will be obvious: According to philosophical theism, God (by hypothesis) possesses unlimited power, knowledge, and love. The reason part of the explanation is only slightly less obvious: Philosophical theists propose that the creation of the world was an act of pure love, undertaken to share being (existence or "be-ing") with creatures, and an act of love is by its nature a free act. In short: God freely created the world out of love. Now, love is a pretty good reason to do something, a reason that is intrinsically intelligible apart from all else. And with that, it seems that we have a rationally satisfying explanation for the divine choice, one that is conclusive in the sense that no further explanation is called for, and we reach explanatory finality (with respect to the choice to create).

Note that the fact that God has sufficient power and also a good reason for creating a world is not a sufficient condition or a sufficient cause for God's creating a world. For it does not logically follow that God creates a world just because God has a good reason to create a world. Having a good reason to create does not necessitate that God creates for, on the standard theistic assumption that God has "free will," God could have had a good reason to create a world and yet have chosen not to act on it. In other words, God could have done otherwise.

...[I]t is conceptually wrong-headed to demand a sufficient causal explanation, a sufficient condition, if what we are explaining is really a free choice. Theism succeeds by providing a personalistic explanation here, one that makes the divine choice rationally intelligible. And with this, we have done all we can in the context; explanation has bottomed out. And no fact is left brute.

Now let us take a closer look at the necessary being hypothesis, which I shall state as follows:

NB: A necessary being, with sufficient power, knowledge, and other attributes, freely chose to create a universe.

Notice that NB breaks down into two parts:

1. There exists a necessary being with sufficient power, knowledge, and other attributes requisite to creating a universe. 2. This being freely chose to create a universe.

NB unites the necessary and the contingent, fusing them into one explanatory structure with the contingent part explanatorily grounded in the necessary part. For part one of NB is about necessity with respect to existence, while part two is about contingency with respect to an act of choice. I shall call this unique explanatory structure a "modal fusion explanation": a theoretical unification of the necessary and the contingent within a single, unified explanation.

...Varghese has given enough content to the concept of a self-explanatory being to show that no material being or state of a contingent, physical universe could be ultimately self-explanatory. This implies that if there is a self-explanatory being, it is not a material being. In addition, in my examination of necessary being and self-subsumptive explanation above, I provided further content to the idea of a self-explanatory being.


(b) The Kalam Cosmological Argument (William Lane Craig's version): the temporal series of all past events cannot be infinite, so the universe began to exist; thus it must have a Cause which is timeless, spaceless, beginningless, changeless, necessary, and uncaused.

In this version of the kalam cosmological argument, Craig endeavours to establish that: (a) whatever begins to exist has a cause; (b) the universe began to exist; therefore (c) the universe has a cause. Craig then adduces other arguments to show that this First Cause must be a personal, intelligent agent - something we could call God.

The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe by Professor William Lane Craig.
The kalam cosmological argument, by showing that the universe began to exist, demonstrates that the world is not a necessary being and, therefore, not self-explanatory with respect to its existence. Two philosophical arguments and two scientific confirmations are presented in support of the beginning of the universe. Since whatever begins to exist has a cause, there must exist a transcendent cause of the universe.

The Ultimate Question of Origins: God and the Beginning of the Universe by Professor William Lane Craig.
Argues that there exists a Personal Creator of the universe, who, without the universe, is timeless, spaceless, beginningless, changeless, necessary, uncaused, and enormously powerful.

The Craig-Smith Debate: Does God Exist?
Two eminent philosophers - William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith - debate the question of God's existence.

Articles by William Lane Craig on the Existence of God.
In these articles, Professor Craig carefully rebuts objections to the kalam cosmological argument from other philosophers, including Wes Morriston, Graham Oppy, John Taylor, Adolf Grunbaum, Quentin Smith, J. L. Mackie and Wallace Matson.

A Swift Response to Dan Barker's "Cosmological Kalamity" by Shandon Guthrie.
Refutes some common criticisms of the kalam cosmolgical argument.

A Cyclic Universe by Dr. Paul Steinhardt.
Recently, a small but growing band of physicists have proposed that while there was a big bang, this was not the beginning of space and time. In fact, in the version proposed by Neil Turok and Paul Steinhardt, the big bang has occurred myriad times in our universe's past, repeating at regular intervals during which galaxies, stars, planets, and life form anew. The result is a "cyclic universe" in which cycles extend far into the past and into the future—and perhaps forever. The cyclic model proposes that our universe is just a membrane or surface inside a much larger space with an extra dimension. Our membrane collides regularly with other branes, resulting in numerous big bangs. The big bang repeats itself every trillion years or so, leading to the formation of new galaxies, stars, and planets each time. Instead of relying on inflation to smooth out the original random fluctuations, the model has an ultra-slow phase of contraction leading up to each bang that smoothes and flattens the universe naturally. Finally, the cyclic model explains why the cosmological constant is so small (almost zero). Within the model of a cyclic universe the cosmological constant was indeed large in the universe's distant past, just as theorists originally estimated, but this was many, many cycles ago. As the cycles of big bangs brought us closer to the present, the cosmological constant gradually relaxed, until finally it reached the small value that astronomers observe today.

Steinhardt argues that "[t]he cyclic model has the advantage over the big bang of being exponentially older, perhaps even eternal." My comment: if Steinhardt is indeed arguing that it has taken the universe an infinite amount of time for its cosmological constant to fall to the very small value that it has today, then he is making a philosophically absurd argument. However, if he simply wishes to argue that the cosmos is one trillion years old, and that the universe we know is a small part of a bigger system, then his conclusion poses no threat to religious faith.


1.1.6.2 The Cosmological Argument: how do we get from an Uncaused Cause to a Personal Being?

Duns Scotus on Natural Theology by Professor James F. Ross.
To view Duns Scotus' arguments relating to the nature of the First Cause, scroll down to section B: The Nature of the First Principle of Being. Scotus argues that what he calls the First Being has the attributes of necessity, uniqueness, simplicity, intelligence and omniscience, freedom, omnipotence, creation, and infinity.

John Duns Scotus by Professor Thomas Williams. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Scroll down to section 2 (Natural Theology) and especially 2.3 (Divine infinity and the doctrine of univocity) for a discussion of Scotus' arguments for God as an infinite being - from which he deduces God's attributes of intelligence and love.

The Ultimate Question of Origins: God and the Beginning of the Universe by Professor William Lane Craig.
Professor Craig adduces two arguments for a Personal Creator of the universe, starting from Richard Swinburne's observation that there are two types of causal explanation: scientific explanations in terms of laws and initial conditions, and personal explanations in terms of agents and their volitions. First, "the personhood of the cause of the universe is implied by its timelessness and immateriality, since the only entities we know of which can possess such properties are either minds or abstract objects, and abstract objects do not stand in causal relations. Therefore, the transcendent cause of the origin of the universe must be of the order of mind." Second, "if the cause of the origin of the universe were an impersonal set of necessary and sufficient conditions, it would be impossible for the cause to exist without its effect. For if the necessary and sufficient conditions of the effect are timelessly given, then their effect must be given as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless and changeless but for its effect to originate de novo a finite time ago is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to bring about an effect without antecedent determining conditions. Thus, we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its personal creator."


1.1.6.3 The Cosmological Argument: an overview of the recent philosophical literature

The Cosmological Argument: A Bibliographical Appraisal by W. David Beck.
Sums up the current "state of play."


1.1.7 Probability-Based Teleological Arguments for God's existence: God, Design and the Fine-Tuning of the Universe and the Conditions that make Evolution Possible

The teleological argument infers from certain observed features of the world around us that our universe was designed by an intelligent being. One of the most popular versions of the teleological argument is the fine-tuning argument, which identifies certain pervasive properties of the cosmos (fundamental constants of nature). The other main version of the teleological argument argues that if universal common descent is true, then Nature itself must have been rigged to make natural selection work. Articles on Dr. William Dembski's teleological argument from specified complexity or Professor Michael Behe's argument from irreducible complexity. Readers who are curious can go to section 1.3.7 below for an overview of the best biological arguments for Intelligent Design, or listen to a recent speech by Dr. William Dembski on How to be an Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (or Not) (Part 1), or check out Dembski's Web site, www.designinference.com, or Dr. Stephen Meyer's new Signature in the Cell site, or Professor Michael Behe's new blog site, or his Web site, www.arn.org/authors/behe.html, as well as this interview here, and draw their own conclusions, OR simply watch this short movie, from Voyage Inside the Cell here or Journey inside the Cell here. Watch it, and you'll see why many people believe in a Mind that is at work in nature. I'd also strongly recommend Unlocking the Mystery of Life, a 12-part video produced by Illustra Media and featuring Dr. Phillip Johnson, Dr. William Dembski, Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. Dean Kenyon, Dr. Scott Minnich and Dr. Stephen Meyer.


An Overview of Contemporary Design Arguments

A User's Guide to Design Arguments by Trent Dougherty. Click on the link to the essay.
"In this paper we provide a conceptual map to contemporary design arguments. We argue that there is a tension between two types of design arguments: the fine-tuning argument and the biological design argument. Furthermore, we argue that given certain plausible assumptions the arguments are inconsistent with one another. We sketch a resolution to this conflict that will allow one to offer a two-step design argument beginning with the fine-tuning argument and ending with the biological design argument. However, we argue that this strategy is not as advantageous as the alternate strategy of embracing the conflict and presenting a one-step design argument. An interesting result of our argument is that theists may accept radical self-organization scenarios that are commonly thought to threaten theism. On the conception of the design argument we recommend, these self-organization scenarios are actually evidence for theism!"


1.1.7.1 The Fine-Tuning Argument

The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe by Dr. Robin Collins.
This paper, which appears in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.), is the most sophisticated defence of the fine-tuning argument to date.

The Teleological Argument and the Anthropic Principle by Professor William Lane Craig.
The universe appears, in fact, to have been incredibly fine-tuned from the moment of its inception for the production of intelligent life on Earth at this point in cosmic history. Some philosophers have argued that we should not be surprised at this fact: after all, if the universe is being observed by intelligent life-forms which have evolved within it, then its basic features must be of a type that allows the evolution of these life-forms. Craig argues that this is a non sequitur: the proposition that the basic features of the universe must be of a type that allows the evolution of observers is not a necessary one. The mystery of fine-tuning remains. The only way to dispel the mystery is to hypothesize that our universe is merely one among a very large number, in a "multiverse", and that most other universes have features that would not permit the evolution of life. But the existence of multiple universes does not guarantee that there will be one which can support life; to ensure this result, we have to suppose that the multiverse contains an exhaustively random and infinite number of universes. Such a metaphysically extravagant assumption makes theism look modest by comparison.

A Just-Right Universe by Dr. Hugh Ross.
A handy list of the fine-tuning requirements which our universe had to satisfy for life to evolve. The article looks at non-theistic alternatives to the obvious explanation that God made the Universe that way, and concludes:

In their persistent rejection of an eternal, transcendent Creator, some cosmologists (and others) are resorting to increasingly irrational options. There is a certain logic to it, however. If for personal or moral reasons the God of the Bible is unacceptable, then given all the evidence for transcendence and design, the alternatives are limited to flights of fancy.


Mathematical Objections to the Fine-Tuning Argument

The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe by Dr. Robin Collins.
This paper, which appears in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.), is the most sophisticated defence of the fine-tuning argument to date.

Absence of Evidence and Evidence of Absence: Evidential Transitivity in connection with Fossils, Fishing, Fine-Tuning, and Firing Squads by Professor Elliott Sober.
Sober subjects the old adage that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence to detailed philosophical scrutiny, before commenting on its relevance to the fine-tuning argument.

The Anthropic Principle Does Not Support Supernaturalism by Michael Ikeda and Bill Jefferys.
The authors allege that advocates of the fine-tuning argument misunderstand probability theory, and that in fact the occurrence of fine-tuning makes the existence of God less rather than more likely.

In Defense of the Fine-Tuning Argument by David Kwon.
A recent (2006) and up-to-date reply to Ikeda and Jeffery.


Does the Multiverse undercut the Fine-Tuning Argument?

The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe by Dr. Robin Collins.
This paper, which appears in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.), is the most sophisticated defence of the fine-tuning argument to date.

Journalist Denyse O'Leary, in her Mindful Hack blog, cites a talk by University of Waterloo chair of physics Dr. Robb Mann, who puts forward a succinct argument against the multiverse which anyone can understand:

Many arguments against the multiverse involve complex physics reasoning, but Dr. Mann offered my students one that is much more basic: In a multiverse, everything that we can self-consistently imagine - objects appearing by magic, for example - can actually happen. We can no longer rule out events as impossible. Remember, "impossible" means "not possible according to the laws of this universe." But there are no longer any limits to that. You don't believe in magic? But how do you know that another universe, where magic exists, has not overlapped ours and thus created magic? Getting rid of God by arguing for a multiverse - far from advancing science - destroys science! ... A multiverse is incomprehensible by definition.

Multiverse Cosmological Models by Professor Paul Davies.
A world-renowned physicist discusses the scientific and philosophical problems relating to the notion of a multiverse - a hypothetical ensemble which includes not just our own universe but all possible universes, each with its own space, time and peculiar set of physical laws. This is a very balanced article, ideal for readers with a scientific background.

Robin Collins' Fine Tuning Website.
Dr. Collins, a philosopher with degrees in mathematics and physics, presents arguments for his belief that the universe is a put-up job, designed by an intelligent Creator.

The Laws of Physics Are Balanced On a Razor's Edge For Life to Occur by Dr. Robin Collins (video).

Design and the Many-Worlds Hypothesis by Dr. Robin Collins.
This article shows that a multiverse does not remove the need for belief in God. Even if a "many-universes generator" exists, it would need to be "well-designed" and operate according to certain specified laws in order to produce one or more life-sustaining universes. Additionally, Collins that the laws of our universe instantiate a profound kind of beauty, which can be readily explained only on the hypothesis that they were designed by a Personal God, who wants us to know Him. Collins examines other, non-theistic attempts to explain the beauty of the laws of physics and rebuts them, on scientific and philosophical grounds. These "non-design" alternatives appear even more implausible when we consider other aspects of the laws of nature that suggest design, such as their discoverability and intelligibility.

Does the Many-Universes Hypothesis Really Explain the Fine-Tuning? by Dr. Robin Collins.
One key problem with the many-universes hypothesis as an ultimate explanation of the fine-tuning is that it seems that the "many-universes generator" would itself need to be fine-tuned, and hence it seems to transfer the problem of explaining cosmic fine-tuning up one level to that of the many-universes generator itself.

Tegmark's Parallel Universes: A Challenge To Intelligent Design? by Karl D. Stephan.
"In an article entitled "Parallel Universes" in the May 2003 issue of Scientific American, Max Tegmark presents a clear and comprehensive picture of the parallel-universe idea... Tegmark's main argument is that, far from being a shadowy, speculative corner of cosmology, the parallel-universe idea has been increasingly confirmed by recent experiments, and we should get used to it because it appears that it will be around for a while...
" [However,] Tegmark's article deals largely with theories whose main feature, namely, multiple universes, cannot be verified by observation or experiment even in principle. The experimental tests he proposes for these theories really consist in making the philosophical presuppositions required for believing in the theories, and then verifying that the theories agree with already-known data about the present visible universe. So far from being a legitimate way to inflate probabilistic resources to defeat arguments in favor of intelligent design, Tegmark's parallel universes represent an array of philosophical arguments disguised as science."


Does Lee Smolin's Cosmic Natural Selection hypothesis undercut the Fine-Tuning Argument?

Is There a Darwinian Evolution of the Cosmos? by Dr. Rudiger Vaas.
A sympathetic treatment of Smolin's argument from the perspective of a philosopher who is not a believer, but who discusses the shortcoming of Smolin's theory fairly, and makes it clear what his argument can and cannot explain.

The unique universe by Dr. Lee Smolin.
In a nutshell:


Our science-friendly universe: Was our universe designed by God for scientific discovery?

Sample clip "The Privileged Planet" V048 by Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez.
This is a low-res sample from a DVD Product available from http://www.arn.org. Jay Wesley Richards holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Theology, from Princeton Theological Seminary. With William Dembski, he is editor and contributor of Unapologetic Apologetics: Meeting the Challenges of Theological Studies, and editor and contributor with George Gilder of Are We Spiritual Machines?: Ray Kurzweil vs. the Critics of Strong AI. Dr. Richards is also co-author with Guillermo Gonzalez of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery. Guillermo Gonzalez, with a Ph.D. in Astronomy, from the University of Washington, is Assistant Research Professor of Astronomy, Iowa State University. He has published more than 60 articles in refereed astronomy and astrophysical journals, including Astronomy and Astrophysics, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Astrophysical Journal and Solar Physics. His current research in astrobiology explores the "Galactic Habitable Zone" and captured the October 2001 cover story of Scientific American.


Are we alone in the cosmos?

Extraterrestrial Intelligent Beings do not Exist by Professor Frank Tipler. In in Royal Astronomical Society, Quarterly Journal, vol. 21, Sept. 1980, p. 267-281.


If God wanted to send us a cosmic message that everyone could see, how would He do it?

Message in the Sky by Dr. Stephen Hsu and Dr. A. Zee. In arXiv.org.

The Real Message in the Sky by Dr. Douglas Scott and Dr. J. P. Zibin. In arXiv.org.


1.1.7.2 Probability-Based Biological Arguments for Design

The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity by Dr. David Abel. In International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2009, 10, 247-291; doi:10.3390/ijms10010247.
Abstract:

To what degree could chaos and complexity have organized a Peptide or RNA World of crude yet necessarily integrated protometabolism? How far could such protolife evolve in the absence of a heritable linear digital symbol system that could mutate, instruct, regulate, optimize and maintain metabolic homeostasis? To address these questions, chaos, complexity, self-ordered states, and organization must all be carefully defined and distinguished. In addition their cause-and-effect relationships and mechanisms of action must be delineated. Are there any formal (non physical, abstract, conceptual, algorithmic) components to chaos, complexity, self-ordering and organization, or are they entirely physicodynamic (physical, mass/energy interaction alone)? Chaos and complexity can produce some fascinating self-ordered phenomena. But can spontaneous chaos and complexity steer events and processes toward pragmatic benefit, select function over non function, optimize algorithms, integrate circuits, produce computational halting, organize processes into formal systems, control and regulate existing systems toward greater efficiency? The question is pursued of whether there might be some yet-to-be discovered new law of biology that will elucidate the derivation of prescriptive information and control. "System" will be rigorously defined. Can a low-informational rapid succession of Prigogine’s dissipative structures self-order into bona fide organization?

Signature in the Cell. Dr. Stephen Meyer's new Web site.

Professor Michael Behe's new blog site.

A Critique of Elliott Sober's Goals and Abilities Objection to the Design Argument by Daniel Lim, History & Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University.


Abstract: Recently, Elliott Sober has reconstructed the design argument as a likelihood comparison. Against this reconstruction he raises one primary objection. He claims that a design inference from an observation cannot be made without having independent evidence for the goals and abilities of the putative designer. I have two main worries. First, his objection is too strong and a strict adherence to his schematic for making design inferences eliminates some genuine cases of human design. Second, by refusing to countenance some form of prior probabilities, Sober either violates his own criterion for independent evidence, disregards context, or engages in circular reasoning.


1.1.8 Other Arguments for the Existence of God: the Argument from Conscience, the Argument from Desire, the Argument from History and Pascal's Wager

1.1.8.1 Argument from Conscience. 1.1.8.2 Argument from Desire. 1.1.8.3 Argument from History and Prophecy. 1.1.8.4 Pascal's Wager.

The Argument from Conscience, or the Moral Argument for the Existence of God

The intellectual tussle between theists and atheists on the relationship between God and morality stems from the fact that they both make valid argumentative points. I believe that atheists are quite right when they argue that: (i) we can know what is right and wrong (at least in broad outline) without having to explicitly assume the existence of God; and (ii) the moral rightness of an action does not derive from some arbitrary decree of a Deity. To say that we can know what is right is to say that natural law can tell us what is right and wrong. Natural law has its able defenders. For a highly readable exposition of Professor John Finnis' natural law theory (which starts from the fact that there are certain kinds of goods whose goodness is simply self-evident), click this article: Jurisprudence for Dummies: Finnis.

On the other hand, theists are right when they argue that: (iii) if (per impossibile) there were no God, right and wrong would no longer have any meaning, with the consequence that "all is permitted" (Dostoyevsky); (iv) God's wanting us to perform an action does make it morally right. These apparently contradictory positions can be reconciled once we realise that God is someone who by nature loves perfectly - in other words, God is necessarily and essentially good. God's moral commands spring not from God's whims but from God's nature. For more on this, see the article by Steve Lovell below.

I would also like to point out that there are really TWO moral arguments for God's existence: one based on the existence of objective moral norms in the world; the other, based on the fact that our minds are able to discern these norms with a high degree of reliability - something which we would have no reason to expect if materialism were true. Of course, not all atheists are materialists, but the vast majority are, and in any case, someone who rejects materialism is metaphysically open to theism.

The Argument from Conscience by Professor Peter Kreeft.

C. S. Lewis and the Euthyphro Dilemma by Steve Lovell. Scroll down to the article. Addresses the question: are actions good because God commands them, or does God command them because they are good? C. S. Lewis argued that the key to the answer lay in the essential goodness of God.

God as the Grounding of Moral Objectivity: Defending Against Euthyphro by Steve Lovell. Scroll down to the article.
Abstract:

The Euthyphro Dilemma (is x good because God says it's good, or does God say x is good because it is good?), has been used as an argument against Theistic Ethics for hundreds of years. Plato was the first to use it. Since then Bertrand Russell, Kai Nielsen and many others have sought to really push it home. My aim in this paper is to show that the dilemma (as posed by both Russell and Nielsen) is a false one. Theistic ethics does survive the Euthyphro dilemma. I takes up and defend Aquinas' position: that God himself (or his nature) is the standard of goodness, and not his commands. This position avoids the dilemma since God's commands / morality will not be arbitrary (since they are/it is rooted in God's nature), and Goodness will not be in any sense anterior to God either.

The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality by Professor William Lane Craig.

Moral Arguments. A collection of articles by Christian philosophers.

The Moral Argument for God's Existence by Paul Copan.


The Argument from Desire

The Argument from Desire by Professor Peter Kreeft.

The Absurdity of Life Without God by Professor William Lane Craig.

Argument from Desire. A collection of articles by Christian philosophers.


The Argument from History and/or Prophecy

The Argument from History by Professor Peter Kreeft.

Argument from Prophecy. A collection of articles by Christian philosophers.


The Argument from Pascal's Wager

Pascal's Wager appeals to the betting person: if I bet on God's existing and I am wrong, then I have lost nothing; but if I am right, I have gained everything. Either way, I'm no worse off than the atheist, and if God is real then I'm a lot better off. What do I have to lose?

This appealing argument has come under attack from sceptics. I believe the argument is sound, but it needs to be presented as simply and clearly as possible. In particular, there is no need to introduce a penalty for unbelief (for example, Hell), to make Pascal's wager work. There are three reasons why we should remove the penalty from the wager.

In the first place, we have no warrant for doing so. For all we know, God may well prefer an honest doubter to a tepid believer.

In the second place, introducing the threat of an eternal penalty destroys freedom of the will: it bullies people into belief. Believe ... or burn. Given that choice, how could anyone make a voluntary choice?

In the third place, the argument is best construed as being about the different expectations that a believer and a sceptic have, rather than any differences in their actual outcomes after death. If I am an atheist, what can I expect as my fate? Annihilation. If I believe in a personal God, what can I hope for? I can hope to love and be loved forever, in a community of eternal fellowship and bliss with God and with all those who are capable of knowing God.

The argument from Pascal's Wager takes as its starting point a deep-seated longing of the human heart. Some atheists misconstrue this longing as a mere longing for the indefinite prolongation of earthly life, but in greener, celestial fields, so to speak. This is complete and utter nonsense. Heaven is not Valhalla. In its purest form, the longing on which Pascal's wager is based is a longing for limitless and unconditional love. "Our hearts are made for thee, O God, and they will find no rest until they rest in thee" (St. Augustine). No finite being can satisfy this longing of the human heart.

A belief of this sort is not only spiritually fulfilling; it is also ennobling. It lends dignity to our lives. To borrow a Shakespearian metaphor, a believer in a personal God regards the world as a stage. We are the players. Because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, all of us are equal. Nobody is entitled to look down on anybody else; we all have human souls. How much we love each other in this life can determines our capacity for love in the hereafter, so it's important to open our hearts as wide as we can. Now that's a vision that can lend dignity to even the most miserable life.

An atheist may retort, "You say believing in God makes you feel more spiritually fulfilled and gives you a sense of dignity. Wouldn't it be simpler to change your feelings by seeing a therapist?" This criticism mistakenly assumes that all believers want to do is improve the way they feel. If that was all they wanted, then therapy would do the trick - or drugs, for that matter. But that is not what believers want. What they really want is to enrich the meaning of their lives, and to transcend the fear of death. You can only transcend the fear of death if you stop fixating on yourself. And you can only do that if you stop fixating on the brevity of your life on earth, and live your life on a cosmic, timeless plane instead.

Believing in God enables you to do that. You are a player in a cosmic drama. You life on earth is important, but eternity is the larger backdrop. This way of thinking adds meaning to life, because it enables us to believe that we were put here for a purpose: we were made by a personal and perfectly loving Being who wants us to share in the Divine love. Death is no longer to be feared, for love is stronger than death (Song of Songs 8:8), and God's love is stronger than anything. Thus belief in God gives us a reason to hope for something beyond our death.

By contrast, therapy is powerless to meet believers' spiritual needs, because it fails to provide them with a higher purpose, and it fails to remove the sting of death. Therapy does not answer the question: why are we here? Nor does it provide people with an unshakeable faith that enables them to withstand all the vicissitudes of life - the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune", as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet. Finally, no amount of "therapy" can take away the absurdity of death: as long as we are human, we cannot help but realise that we shall die. Instead it leaves us stuck in "mortality mode", fixated upon ourselves and our desires, with death constantly at the back of our minds: "I've got 70 or 80 years to live, so I'd better make every second count. After all, you only get one innings." Therapy cannot remove death's sting; only belief in God can do that.

Let us now turn to the philosophical criticisms of Pascal's wager. Perhaps the most common criticism of Pascal's wager (going back to Diderot) is the "many Gods" argument. How do I know which God to believe in: the Christian God, the Muslim one, or neither? Or what about Thor, Puck or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for that matter?

Before we continue, let us be clear about what Pascal's wager is and is not capable of doing. Pascal's wager is capable of capable of ruling out pint-sized deities with arbitrary, ad hoc personal attributes, like Thor, Puck or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Any deity like that would not be capable of satisfying the basic human longing we spoke of earlier, for it would be by nature capricious, whimsical and finite - and hence untrustworthy. Only an unlimited, universal God who transcends the cosmos can satisfy our deep-seated longings.

However, Pascal's wager is not capable of settling disputes between rival religions, both of which profess to believe in an unlimited, universal Deity. If I believe in God, should I become a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, a Bahai, a Zoroastrian, a Hindu or a bare theist? Pascal's wager cannot tell us.

What should an unbeliever do, then? Short answer: an unbeliever should believe in God as defined at the top of this Web page: someone whose nature it is to love perfectly. You can't fall foul of a God like that, if you seek God with an open heart. Of course, you may then go on to enquire whether this God is identical with the God of Judaism, Christianity, Islam or Hinduism, or none of the above. Section 4 of this Web site deals with the question of how we should go about deciding between competing revelations.

These considerations also suffice to answer objections relating to Hell (see Section 8 of this Web site). An atheist, faced with threats of hell-fire from competing religions, might despair of salvation altogether and opt for the certainty of utter annihilation after 70 or 80 years of life, as a safer and saner bet. My advice to such an atheist is: don't tie yourself up in knots about competing revelations at this stage. Ask yourself this: deep down, do I want to be loved unconditionally, and in the most perfect way possible? If your answer is "yes", then implicitly you already want the kind of God I am arguing for here: someone whose nature it is to love perfectly. I would urge you to take the plunge and believe in a God of love. You can't go wrong if you do that.

Another criticism from philosophical sceptics who dislike betting as a basis for belief: what if God turns out to be the "Professor's God" - a God who rewards those who humbly remain sceptical in the absence of evidence, and punishes those who adopt theism on the basis of self-interest? Short answer: this definition of God is an ad hoc stipulation, and God has no ad hoc attributes. God, by definition, is simply someone whose nature it is to love perfectly. If God is real, then of necessity God rewards people as they should be rewarded. Problem solved.

Another objection from Buddhism: what if belief in God is a hindrance to attaining eternal bliss in an atheistic Nirvana? Short answer: eternal life without God would be spiritually empty and unsatisfying. Eternal life with God would be preferable to life in Nirvana, because it comes with a guarantee of complete and unconditional love - a love which arises from the very nature of God. Human beings crave this kind of love, and rightly so. It is in our nature to do so. (Buddhism, by contrast, teaches that any kind of craving - even the yearning of the human heart for God's unconditional love - is wrong. Nirvana is by definition loveless.)

Other lines of attack include:

  • the evidentialist objection (Pascalian reasoning is epistemically irresponsible and hence immoral - but this conclusion only follows if we have other relevant evidence one way or the other about God, and deliberately choose to ignore it);
  • the intellectualist objection (deliberately choosing which beliefs to hold is practically impossible - but this overlooks the power of prayer to change one's beliefs, since prayer brings one into contact with God, who responds to seekers); and
  • paradoxes which attempt to show that reference to infinite values (e.g. an infinite degree of happiness) is decision-theoretic nonsense - but this conclusion assumes that the reward of believing in God with "an infinite amount of happiness", instead of "eternal happiness", which is quite a different notion. Infinite happiness extends our existence as individuals; whereas eternal happiness completes our existence as persons, as we have a perfect object of our love: God. One need not assign an infinite value to such happiness.

The Argument from Pascal's Wager by Professor Peter Kreeft.

Pascal's Wager. A collection of articles by Christian philosophers.


1.1.9 Ontological Arguments for God's Existence

"This argument has excited enormous controversy. Nearly every great philosopher from Anselm's time to ours had his say about it: Aquinas rejected it, John Duns Scotus 'coloured' (modified) it a bit and accepted it. Rene Descartes and Nicolas Malebranche accepted it; Leibniz accepted a version of it; Kant rejected it (and delivered what many have thought the final quietus to it); Arthur Schopenhauer thought it at best a charming joke; and many contemporary philosophers seem to think it as a joke all right, but at all a charming joke."
Professor Alvin Plantinga - Ontological Arguments. I: Classical - in: Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology, eds., B. Smith and H. Burkhardt, Philosophia Verlag, Munich, 1991pp. 622-623.

ChristianCadre Links to Resources on the Ontological Argument. ChristianCadre.org have a web page with some links to first-rate articles on the Ontological Argument, for the interested reader.

On whether id quo nihil maius cogitari potest is in the understanding by Professor Gyula Klima.
Scroll down to page 70 to read the article.

"Proofs for God's existence are supposed to be concerned with establishing that God exists in reality. In what follows I am going to argue that one of the most important lessons we can draw from Anselm's famous argument in the Proslogion is that these proofs should at least as much be concerned with making sure that God exists in the understanding of those to whom such proofs are addressed."


1.1.10 Are there any good arguments against God's existence?

Divine Hiddenness and the Nature of Belief by Ted Poston and Trent Dougherty.
J. L. Schellenberg presents an argument for atheism from the phenomenon of divine hiddenness. In short, a loving God would give those individuals willing to believe enough evidence to believe, yet there exist persons willing to believe who lack the crucial evidence. In this essay the authors explain why Schellenberg's argument does not work. The authors propose that the kind of relationship God most desires to have with human-like creatures is one which requires some epistemic distance. This is because the kind of relationship God wants is one in which the agent longs for God in a way that is best accomplished in many individuals via a period of doubt.

Responses to Atheist Philosopher, Michael Martin by Professor John Frame.
Scroll down to view the link. Michael Martin is a professor of philosophy at Boston University. His books include Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Temple University Press, 1990) and The Case Against Christianity (Temple University Press, 1991). His most recent attack on the Christian faith comes in his article The Transcendental Argument for the Non Existence of God (Autumn 1996, The New Zealand Rationalist). The link is to a page containing responses to all of Martin's works, beginning with his Transcendental Argument for the Non-Existence of God.

Review of The God Delusion by Professor Alvin Plantinga. After clicking on the link, select "Open" to read the article.
Alvin Plantinga has been called "the most important philosopher of religion now writing." After taking his Ph.D. from Yale in 1958, he taught at Wayne State University (1958-63), Calvin College (1963-82), and has filled the John A. O'Brien Chair of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame since 1982. Widely acclaimed for his work on the metaphysics of modality, the ontological argument, the problem of evil, and the epistemology of religious belief, he is the author or editor of seven books, including God and Other Minds, The Nature of Necessity, and Faith and Rationality. In this review, he examines Richard Dawkins' main argument against the existence of God in his recent book The God Delusion, and finds it seriously deficient, as well as question-begging, insofar as it presupposes the truth of materialism.

Trimming the Wrong Hedge - A Response to Kyle J. Gerkin's "A Counterclockwise Paley" by William Kesatie.
Kesatie argues that Gerkin's purported proof of the non-existence of God fails to take into account the theist's claim that God is not a material being.

Invisible Pink Unicorns, Santa Claus and God by Rich Deem, M.S.
One of the most common objections to the existence of God comes from arguments about the existence of Santa Claus and invisible pink unicorns. Although it is not possible to prove absolutely the non-existence of Santa Claus, most people cease to believe in his existence by age 10. Shouldn't the same logic apply to the existence of God? Deem responds that a comparison between the existence of God (a non-contingent being) and the existence of Santa Claus or invisible pink unicorns (contingent beings) fails on many levels, not the least of which is that their fundamental natures (non-physical vs. physical) are vastly different. Moreover, the idea that there is no evidence to support the existence of God is clearly false, as is shown by the evidence from fine-tuning shows, as well as the evidence that the universe had a beginning.

If God Created Everything, Who Created God? by Rich Deem, M.S.
Argues that God has no need to have been created, since He exists either outside time (where cause and effect do not operate) or within multiple dimensions of time (such that there is no beginning of a plane of time). Hence God is eternal, having never been created.

Common Sense about Schrodinger's Cat and Quantum Physics: Principles & Interpretations, New Age Speculations and Judeo-Christian Theology by Dr. Craig Rusbult.
Dr. Rusbult skilfully dismantles recent claims that the weirdness of quantum physics constitutes evidence against the existence of the Judeo-Christian God, and that it lends support to Eastern mysticism.

Intelligent, Optimal and Divine Design by Professor Richard Spencer.
If something has been intelligently designed, people often expect to see structures that are perfectly crafted to perform their individual tasks in the most elegant and efficient way possible (e.g., with no extra components). This expectation is incorrect not only for human design but also for divine design.

The recurrent laryngeal nerve by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati. An extract:

...[Atheistic biologist Dr. Richard] Dawkins considers only [the nerve's] main destination, the larynx. In reality, the nerve also has a role in supplying parts of the heart, windpipe muscles and mucous membranes, and the esophagus, which could explain its route. Even apart from this function, there are features that are the result of embryonic development—not because of evolution, but because the embryo develops from a single cell in a certain order. For example, the embryo needs a functioning simple heart early on; this later descends to its position in the chest, dragging the nerve bundle with it.

Bad Designs in Biology? - Why the "Best" Examples Are Bad by Rich Deem, M.S.
This article looks at apparent instances of bad design in biology - the esophagus, the panda's thumb, the human eye, the appendix, junk DNA and pseudogenes - and argues that proposed improvements are actually worse, and that allegedly vestigial features do in fact serve a biological purpose.

Size of the Universe: Isn't it Too Large to Have Been Created by God for Humanity? by Rich Deem, M.S.
The universe is immense in size. If God created the universe why would He make it so big? It turns out that the laws of physics require the universe to be the size it is in order for stars and galaxies (and humans) to exist.


1.1.11 Is Atheism a psychological ailment?

The Psychology of Atheism by Professor Paul Vitz.
The writer makes a powerful case that most famous atheists have embraced atheism for psychological rather than intellectual reasons that stem from incidents in their childhood.

From Solipsism to Buddhism: The Spiritual Psychology of a Loser by Zach Tabor.
The true crux and purpose of this essay is to explain that belief or disbelief in God is of great importance in determining the fate of an adolescent. The sequence of ideas, and the sequence of chapters in this archetypal person's story, is a sequence of cause and effect, stemming from agnosticism at its base.

Why Would Anyone Want to Believe in God? by Dr. Justin Barrett. Order online here.
Excerpt from a review by J. D. Walters:

This is a truly excellent introduction to the cognitive study of religion. Justin Barrett has an amazing gift for communicating difficult ideas and concepts in very simple language... It will surely challenge anyone's preconceptions about how religious beliefs are formed, whether theist or atheist... It is not intended to bolster the faith of believers. Even though Barrett is a Christian, the book is neutral (as any work of science should be) on the question of whether God actually exists... Indirectly, however, this book does provide a defense of theism in the following way. Barrett establishes, through a careful overview of the cognitive literature, that beliefs in God or gods are formed from the same cognitive machinery as that which produces our belief in other peoples' minds, the flow of time and other beliefs which we take for granted. You cannot isolate religious beliefs as an evolutionary by-product and not do the same for these other indispensable beliefs. That does not prove that there is a God, but it does effectively neutralize evolutionary criticism of religious belief.

Atheism. A useful article by Creation Ministries International.
The author discusses the causes and the pathology of atheism.

Over 300 Disproofs of God's Existence by James Patrick Holding.
A merciless send-up of some fallacious popular arguments made against God's existence on the Internet.


1.2 The Divine Attributes

1.2.1 How can we talk meaningfully about God at all?
1.2.2 God's Love and Essential Goodness.
1.2.3 God's Simplicity.
1.2.4 God's Omniscience.
1.2.5 God's Omnipotence.
1.2.6 God's Omnipresence.
1.2.7 God's Eternity: is God temporal, omnitemporal or timeless?
1.2.8 God as Creator and Preserver of the Universe.
1.2.9 Is God Capable of Anger?
1.2.10 Should We Fear God?

The very legitimacy of God-talk is disputed by many philosophers. The following short extract from an online lecture by Reverend Victor Shepherd addresses this issue head-on:

"All our language about God is necessarily creaturely and therefore limited. Then how can limited language speak of the Unlimited?

"God infinitely exceeds the power of our intellect. Therefore any truth or essence we conceive cannot completely represent the divine essence.

"Our concepts of God can be (must be) univocal, but they can't be applied to God univocally, only analogically. [Note: This is the theological solution defended at length by the Christian theologian, Thomas Aquinas, and developed further by Cardinal Cajetan in the late 15th century - V.T.]

"Note that Aquinas speaks here of analogous predication, not analogous concepts. E.g., we have a concept of good or wise. The concept is univocal (i.e., "good" and "wise" have the same meaning whether we apply them to God or humans), but the predication can't be univocal, since God is infinitely wise while we are only finitely wise. In other words, creatures can have the same characteristics as God (e.g., patience), but not have them in the same way that God has them."

I have followed Wesley in speaking of love as God's primary attribute, rather than omnipotence. As Wesley says, commenting on 1 John 4:8 in his Notes on the New Testament:

God is often styled holy, righteous, wise; but not holiness, righteousness, or wisdom in the abstract, as he is said to be love; intimating that this is his darling, his reigning attribute, the attribute that sheds an amiable glory on all his other perfections.

If we define God simply in terms of unlimited power, then we make God's goodness an "add-on" or at best a secondary feature, which is surely incorrect. After all, St. John writes that God is love. An additional peril of defining God in terms of unlimited power is that sceptics can ask why they should love a God who is infinitely powerful. I think they have a valid point.

"What about omniscience?" I hear some believers ask. "Surely that's a basic attribute of God - after all, you can't love something perfectly, as God does, unless you know it perfectly." Point taken. I agree that perfect knowledge (omniscience) is also a primary attribute of God, along with love. (indeed, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity ties these two attributes together wonderfully.) But we have to be careful here. We can, it seems, imagine a being with unlimited knowledge who is utterly devoid of love - and perhaps even malevolent. What Christians maintain is that in this case, our imagination is leading us astray: in reality, the two go hand in hand. Any being whose nature it is to know perfectly, must also love perfectly, and vice versa. However, we human beings cannot grasp how this could be so, because it is not in our nature to know or love perfectly.

Infinitude has also been suggested as the primary attribute of God - notably by the medieval theologian Duns Scotus. While I applaud Scotus for his philosophical defence of a very noble and elevated concept of God, I think it makes God too remote. Human beings cannot grasp infinitude as a positive attribute, but only as a negative one. Knowledge and love, on the other hand, are attributes that we do have a positive grasp of, even if we have no idea what it would mean to know and love perfectly by nature, as God does.

Finally, some believers might ask whether we would be better off with a more "democratic" approach to God's attributes: simply list them all, and make no attempt to sort out which ones are primary and which ones are secondary - a project which is surely beyond the scope of mortal minds, in any case. My problem is that not all of the attributes appear to be properly basic. If God is infinitely powerful, for instance, then surely it is legitimate to ask: in virtue of what? What is it that makes God powerful? The answer which Christians give is: God's power stems from God's perfect knowledge and love, by which God created the cosmos with its myriads of different creatures. Human beings, who participate in God's knowledge and love, are part of God's cosmos.

I conclude that from an apologetic standpoint, it is safer to begin with a simple definition of God as someone whose nature it is to love perfectly - and therefore to know perfectly. This is an intellectually defensible definition that straightforwardly appeals to the longings of the human heart - which is where we have to begin, as it is here that the barriers to belief are strongest.

1.2.1 How can we talk meaningfully about God at all?

1.2.1.1 Defending the Legitimacy of Religious Language Against Sceptical Philosophical Attacks

The Problem of Religious Language (Parts 1 and 2) by Dr. Greg Bahnsen.
Dr. Bahnsen addresses objections by verificationists (such as A. J. Ayer) and falsificationists (such as Anthony Flew), who argue that any talk about God is utterly meaningless. He shows that these objections prove too much: they end up discrediting the meaningfulness of all language, including theoretical scientific statements AND discourse about the cherished convictions of verificationists and falsificationists. As Bahnsen puts it: "Self-refutation is the most painful refutation of all."

Radical Empiricism Made Foolish by Dr. Greg Bahnsen.
Argues that logical positivism is self-refuting.


1.2.1.2 The Coherence of God-Talk

Aquinas and Analogy by Reverend Victor Shepherd.
This lecture, which is written in a very clear and straightforward manner, clarifies some important distinctions we need to make when talking about God.

Medieval Theories of Analogy by Professor E. Jennifer Ashworth. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Medieval theories of analogy were a response to problems in three areas: logic, theology, and metaphysics. Medieval theologians were concerned with language about God. How can we speak about a transcendent, totally simple spiritual being without altering the sense of the words we use? Professor Ashowth summarises the views of Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus and the much-neglected useful innovations made by Cardinal Cajetan.

The Coherence of Theism - Part 1 by Professor William Lane Craig.

The Coherence of Theism - Part 2 by Professor William Lane Craig.

The Nature and Attributes of God. Article from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909.

The Knowledge of the Holy by Rev. A. W. Tozer.

A classic, composed by a Protestant preacher famed for his eloquence and simple devotion to God.

The Attributes of God by Claude Beaufort Moss, D.D.
A non-technical summary, written for Anglicans.


1.2.2 God's Love and Essential Goodness

Love by Professor Peter Kreeft.
What does it mean to say that God is love?

The Love of God by Dr. Don Carson.

The One God by Bishop Alexander Mileant.
An explanation of the attributes of God, by an Orthodox bishop. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is, however, the deepest mystery of God; for it tells us about the inner life of God, and how God can be love.

Euthyphro's Dilemma by Gregory Koukl.
Plato's challenge concerning the nature of goodness is still being heard today: Is an act right because God says it's so, or does God say it's so because it's right?


1.2.3 God's Simplicity

Classic theological texts

The Simplicity of God by St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 3.
Good background reading for the contemporary philosophical debate on the coherence of Divine simplicity.

Whether God is Altogether Simple by St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 3, Article 7.

St. Thomas Aquinas: The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity by Dr. Michael Sudduth.
Note: This exposition of Aquinas' thought is written for people with an academic background in philosophy.

The Medieval Problem of Universals by Dr. Gyula Klima. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Augustine effected a philosophical synthesis of Platonism and Christianity when he identified Plato's Forms with ideas in the mind of God. However, this identification raised further questions, such as: how can God be simple, when there are so many different universals? Aquinas and other medieval philosophers addressed this and other problems relating to universals.


Contemporary philosophical discussion of God's simplicity

William Lane Craig on divine simplicity by Professor Ed Feser.
A vigorous defence of the doctrine of Divine simplicity. The author argues that it is absolutely central to the classical theistic tradition, and binding as Catholic doctrine (the denial of which would be tantamount to heresy for Catholics). Professor Feser addresses and rebuts some objections formulated by Christian apologist Dr. William Lane Craig to the doctrine of Divine simplicity.

Neotheism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? A Theological Response to Greg Boyd by Dr. Norman Geisler, Professor of Theology and Apoloetics at the Southern Evangelical Seminary, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This is a good introductory article for readers who do not have a philosophical background. Boyd is a theologian who advocates the following views: 1) A libertarian view of free will (which entails the power of contrary choice); 2) limitations on God's infallible foreknowledge to non-free acts; 3) a partially open (non-determined) future, namely, one where free acts are involved; 4) the belief that God's nature can change; 5) that God is temporal, and 6) the implication that God is not simple (indivisible) His essence. Geisler mounts a spirited defence of classical theism against the "new" theology.

On Three Problems of Divine Simplicity by Dr. Alexander R. Pruss, Georgetown University.
The doctrine of Divine Simplicity claims that there is no ontological composition in God of any sort, whether of matter and form, or of essence and accident, or of this attribute and that attribute considered as ontologically distinct. The doctrine is a traditional part of Christianity and Judaism. In this article, Pruss talks about the three strongest objections to the doctrine which arise within the context of natural theology. Rather than attempting to show exactly how a solution to these problems is possible (which is something earthly minds may not be able to grasp), Pruss offers some reflections which refute the notion that the three objections cited above show an obvious contradiction between divine simplicity and the other divine attributes.

Divine Simplicity by Dr. William P. Vallicella. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
There are several reasons why Christians would wish to uphold the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. Many attributes of God (His maximal perfection and necessity, immateriality, eternity, and immutability) seem to point to simplicity as their ground. The very notion of an ontologically simple being will be dismissed by many as self-evidently incoherent; however, objections to the doctrine typically assume that individuals and properties as belonging to radically disjoint realms. Vallicella defends the view that God can be (i) identical to his nature, (ii) identical to his existence, and (iii) such that his omni-attributes are identical to one another. A further difficulty remains: if God is identical with the property of being wise or loving, then how can He share these properties with creatures? Two possible solutions to this difficulty are discussed.

BEST PAPER ON THE SUBJECT:
Making Sense of Divine Simplicity (forthcoming in Faith and Philosophy) by Dr. Jeffrey Brower, of Purdue University.
A number of contemporary philosophers have argued that divine simplicity is at least a coherent doctrine. For all their ingenuity, however, contemporary defenses of the doctrine continue to fall on deaf ears. Brower's purpose in this paper is two-fold: to explain why this is case, and to mount a new defense, one that succeeds where the others have failed to resolve contemporary concerns about the doctrine's coherence, once and for all.

Playing Fast and Loose with Complexity: A Critique of Dawkins' Atheistic Argument from Improbability by Dr. Mark F. Sharlow.
Abstract:

This paper is a critique of Richard Dawkins' "argument from improbability" against the existence of God. This argument, which forms the core of Dawkins' book The God Delusion, provides an interesting example of the use of scientific ideas in arguments about religion. Here I raise three objections: (1) The argument is inapplicable to philosophical conceptions of God that reduce most of God's complexity to that of the physical universe. (2) The argument depends on a way of estimating probabilities that fails for the probability of an entity that creates natural laws. (3) The argument supposes that complexity arises from past physical causes; however, some forms of complexity known to mathematics and logic do not arise in this way. After stating these three criticisms, I show that some of these same considerations undermine Dawkins' critique of agnosticism. I close the paper with some remarks on Dawkins' conception of God.


1.2.4 God's Omniscience

There is a considerable diversity of views in the Christian tradition about how God knows everything - including our future choices. There is, however, one viewpoint that is excluded at the outset from the range of options available to Christians. Open theism - the view that God doesn't know our future choices - is incompatible with the Christian tradition. As argued in the articles below on Open Theism, it fails to account for Biblical prophecies (such as the prophecies in Isaiah regarding Cyrus, King of Persia), and cases where God has specific knowledge of people's future free choices (e.g. Jesus' knowledge that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed twice).

If the notion of God's not knowing the future exhaustively were a novel one, it might be regarded as an interesting and possibly legitimate development of Christian doctrine. However, the record of history clearly shows that the early Church was quite familiar with the notion that human freedom precludes God from knowing the future in exhaustive detail. This was the pagan Cicero's view, and the Church emphatically rejected it from the start.

If open theists are right, then Christians all around the world have for the past 2,000 years believed in a notion (that God foreknows our choices) which is either hideously immoral (if God is conceived as determining our future bad choices) or incoherent (if it is impossible for anyone, even God, to foreknow a future contingent choice, as open theists contend) - and hence in either case, irrational. Open theists are thus implying that a Roman living in the 4th century would have been rationally entitled to reject Christ in favor of Cicero. He or she could have justly argued: "Christians believe in the absurd notion of Divine foreknowledge; Cicero’s disciples don't believe in any metaphysical absurdities; I think I'll become a Ciceronian." An open theist might respond that no early Christian creed made God's foreknowledge an article of faith. However, we are talking here about a unanimous teaching that was believed "always, everwhere and by all" (St. Vincent of Lerins), and what's more, upheld and defended against pagan philosophers who denied it, such as Cicero.

Leaving aside Open Theism, there are a variety of theological options available to Christians. I shall summarise them briefly here.

The most popular contemporary explanations of God's foreknowledge are: (i) what I shall call the "no problem" account, popular among Christian laypeople, which simply says that God knows what we will choose because it is in His nature to know everything; (ii) Boethius' account (according to which God possesses a timeless knowledge of our free choices, but this knowledge is caused by our making the choices we do, not the other way round, so God is not responsible for sin); (iii) contemporary "causal" accounts (which follow the Boethian account in saying that by God's knowledge is caused by our making the choices we do, but which offer a different account of the relation of God to time); (iv) a theological determinist (or universal predestinationist) account (according to which we are all characters in a story written by God, who has planned the whole course of human history, including our choices, in such a way that some people will freely choose to turn to Him and repent and be saved, while others will freely choose to turn away from Him and be damned for doing so); and (v) the Molinist account (according to which God does not ordain our choices; rather, He "just knows" what each of us would freely choose to do in every possible situation before we make any choices, and then He decides to actualise some of these possible situations when He makes the free decision to create this world. In so doing, God brings it about that He knows what we will in fact do, in this world.)

1. The "No Problem" account: God knows what we will choose because He is essentially omniscient

This is the most popular response among lay Christians to theological conundrums regarding God's omniscience. If God is omniscient by nature, then this fact is sufficient to guarantee that God knows our future free choices. One needs to give no more explanation of how an essentially omniscient God can know our future choices than one needs to explain how an essentially omnipotent God can create out of nothing.

This line of response is perfectly fine as far as it goes, but a sceptic is likely to retort that this response fails to address the question of how our choices can still be said to be free, if they are foreknown by God. In short, we need to show that the existence of an essentially omniscient God is compatible with genuine human freedom.

I would suggest that the two questions which any account of Divine foreknowledge needs to address are:

(a) Does God's foreknowledge of our past, present and future choices logically presuppose our making those choices, or is it logically prior to our making them?

and

(b) Are our choices somehow determined by God?

These two simple questions cut to the heart of the matter.

2. Boethius' solution: God knows our future choices because He can see the past, present and future from a timeless vantage point

According to the most common interpretation of Boethius, his answer to question (a) is: Yes, God's foreknowledge of our choices logically presupposes our making those choices and his answer to question (b) is: No, God does not determine our choices. (Some commentators have suggested that Boethius may not have in fact held the views that are generally attributed to him; let us pass over that point here.)

One advantage of the Boethian account is that it acquits God of all responsibility for the damnation of any human being. If some people are damned because of the choices they have made, then God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking (not temporally, as God is outside time). All He does is reluctantly acquiesce in the decisions that wicked people make at the end of their lives, to eternally separate ourselves from him.

The Boethian account has been defended by John Wesley and C. S. Lewis, and it is also popular among Christian laypeople. Strangely, most Christian theologians have rejected the Boethian account for a variety of reasons, none of which I find convincing.

According to the Boethian account, God timelessly knows everything we will do, but He is still dependent on us for this information: from His timeless standpoint, He has to "see" - or more accurately, be informed of - what we in fact decide to do. Certain theologians object to the notion of God's depending on creatures for anything. In reply, it could be argued that this "limitation" is self-imposed: in creating free agents, God timelessly chooses to rely on them for His knowledge of what they do.

Another point that needs to be made in this context is that God's depending on others for information is actually a perfection on that God's part, rather than an imperfection. For this dependency is what enables intercessory prayer to occur. Prayer is a conversation between two parties: God and the creature praying to Him. If God is pulling the strings, either by making us act (and pray) as we do, then we are not really conversing with Him, and His responsiveness to His creatures' needs cannot be made manifest.

Other defenders of classical theism have argued that Boethius' solution is at odds with the traditional idea that God is impassible - i.e. incapable by nature of being affected by what His creatures do, either inside or outside of time. How could our actions impact on God? Two points in reply: (i) difficult as this is to conceive, it is much less absurd than supposing that an essentially perfect Being could make a creature without automatically knowing what it was doing at any given time; (ii) it is wrong to say that our actions impact on God; rather, we should say that when God makes a free rational agent, it is somehow "coupled" to God in such a way that the agent's choices automatically determine the content of God's (timeless) beliefs about the agent's choices.

Other theologians regard the Boethian account as insufficient for Divine Providence to work properly, since according to this account, although God has a timeless knowledge of all our choices, God only knows our choices "after the fact" - i.e. His knowledge of our choices is logically (not temporally) posterior to those choices. However, in creating the world, God makes providential plans that are logically prior to any choices we make. Thus it seems that we can thwart God's providential plans. Case in point: if a mad dictator decided to start World War III, and if he managed to wipe out all of humanity, he would have destroyed the world before the Second Coming of Christ. By so doing, the dictator would have falsified statements in the Bible that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. If we accept the Boethian accountGod could not prevent this from happening, because according to that account, He would only know about the catastrophe if it actually happened, but by then it would be too late to prevent it. However, a defender of the Boethian account could argue that God might have decided to select a world (such as ours) from among many possible worlds, precisely because it was a world where His plans to intervene in history could not be thwarted, no matter what we did - in other words, a world where God has a perfect counter-move to foil any attempt to thwart His grand plans. For instance, God might well have made our world in such a way that there isn't any physically possible way of destroying the whole of humanity, thereby ensuring that no mad dictator can stop the Second Coming of Christ. (One heartening fact which we already know is that there simply isn't enough uranium on Earth to blow up the entire planet.) Another possibility is that God could forestall the madman's attempt to destroy humanity, because God would know about the madman's plan before he carried it out.

Another objection to the Boethian account is that it seems to be at odds with with a long-standing Christian tradition that at least some special individuals (the "elect") are infallibly predestined by God. Many Christians believe that the Virgin Mary and the Biblical prophets and saints, were chosen by God, as part of His plan for humanity, and that their salvation was therefore guaranteed. However, this presents no problems for the Boethian account, as there is nothing to prevent God from deciding to "elect" a few individuals for His own special reasons (relating to the salvation of the human race), while giving the rest of us the options of either choosing to accept His grace or choosing to reject it. Thus, in most cases, God's knowledge of our choices is retrospective, but God also decides to "mark" a few individuals for Himself by guaranteeing their salvation.

But how can the Boethian account explain away prophecies like that of Jesus Christ, who said to Simon Peter, "Before the cock crows twice, you will have denied me three times"? If God's knew about Peter's choice only by "seeing" Peter make it, then how could Jesus then tell Peter what he was going to do? What was there to stop Peter from turning around and making a different choice?

A defender of the Boethian account might answer that this kind of prophecy would indeed be a problem if it were commonplace - e.g. if God always announced what we were going to do before we did it - because in many cases, we could simply choose to do otherwise and thereby make God's predictions wrong, which is absurd. However, the fact that I am free does not mean that I am capable of any act of virtue, no matter how heroic it may be. (There are many kinds of heroic acts, which I know I am quite incapable of.) Jesus, looking into Peter's heart on the night of the Last Supper, would have seen that he was not courageous enough to acknowledge his Christian faith publicly when it meant putting his life at risk, and He may have then arranged to test Peter three times, by making a few people ask Peter if he was one of Jesus' disciples. (This would have been a one-off limitation of those people's freedom, but it raises no theological problems, as the people did nothing wrong in asking Peter if he was one of Jesus' followers.) That explains the prophecy.

Some Christian philosophers have argued that a timeless God could not interact with His creatures (who are time-bound); also He could not intervene in human history at specific times. For instance, how do we explain the Incarnation, which occurred 2000 years ago? However, this objection cuts little ice with defenders of classical theism, who could easily respond that although God's decision to become incarnate is a timeless one, from the standpoint of creatures, it occurs in time. The same line of argument accounts for God's responses to intercessory prayer.

Recently, Kenny (The God of the Philosophers, Oxford: OUP, 1979) has argued that a timeless God could not know what I am doing NOW. But does this matter, if God knows what I am doing at any given point on the time line? Knowledge of the latter kind is surely sufficient for a providential God to respond appropriately to His creatures' needs and requests.

3. God knows our future choices simply because it is His nature to be able to see the past, present and future

Like the Boethian position, this position makes God's knowledge of our choices dependent on those choices occurring. However, unlike the Boethian position, this position is not tied to any particular account of God's timelessness. One could, if one wished, say that God is four-dimensional instead of atemporal. That is the position taken by Robert P. Taylor, in his paper, Is human free will compatible with divine omniscience?. Or one could suppose that God is omnitemporal, just as he is omnipresent: he is at all points in space and all points in time, simultaneously. One could then deny the necessity of the past and present as well as the future, and argue that it is simply God's nature to know past, present and future events alike, and leave it at that. This is what David Misialowski does in his article, Theological Fatalism Part 1, Part 2. What makes these articles especially is that they are written by a self-described "agnostic atheist". Even though he is a sceptic, Misialowki believes he can show that "no theist need fear the argument, heard so often from atheists intent on discrediting religious belief, that an omniscient God cancels human free will and moral responsibility."

4. Theological Determinism, or Universal Predestination (the later Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Banez and John Calvin)

There is a great deal of diversity in the outlook of theologians who have supported universal predestination, but the central idea is this: God knows each and every person's choices (past, present and future) simply by making them happen, either by positively acting in a way that determines our choices or by negatively refraining from making us choose the right thing, knowing that this will guarantee that we will choose the wrong thing; nevertheless, because we are beings who possess reason, and because we act willingly when God makes us choose in a certain way, our actions can still be described as free, and as genuinely our own. If we go back to the questions I raised above, a universal predestinationist's answer to question (a) is: No, God's foreknowledge of our choices does not logically presuppose that we have made those choices, but is instead logically prior to them; and his answer to question (b) is: Yes, God does indeed determine our choices.

Recently, Hugh McCann has written a well-argued defence of the predestinationist account, in which he proposes that we are all characters in a story written by God. This "author-storybook metaphor" is perhaps the best way of explaining what predestinationists are saying, in plain and simple language. The idea that we are characters in a storybook written by God is an intriguing one. At first blush, it sounds like something out of "The Matrix", but the notion is not as absurd as it sounds. There is a legitimate sense in which we can speak of the characters in one of J. K. Rowling's stories as making free choices, and as getting their just deserts for their good or bad deeds. It might therefore seem that God could justly reward or punish us (the characters in His story) for our good or bad deeds.

One obvious objection to McCann's "storybook" analogy is that we are real, but the characters in a story are not. But what does "real" mean here? The characters in a story are real to each other; while the author exists at another, higher level of reality. We can make stories, but it is certainly conceivable that we ourselves are characters in a story written by God, who, as the Ultimate Reality, exists in a level of reality beyond our own.

Another objection to McCann's "storybook" metaphor is that the characters in a story do not interact with their author, as we do when we pray to God. However, there seems to be no logical reason why an author of a book could not write a story in which the characters interacted with him or her. I believe some computer games already incorporate this feature. (Even back in the 1990s, children could buy Tamagotchi electronic pets, which asked their owner to feed them and "died" if their owner neglected them.)

Nevertheless, I think there are two fatal flaws in the predestinationist account. The first flaw is that if it is true, then it would be utterly inconsistent of God, as the author of our actions, to praise us for our good choices, or find fault with us for our bad ones. And yet, as Christians, we believe that God does just that. (In Matthew 25: 31-46, the parable of the last judgement, God finds fault with the goats for not helping the needy.) An author may like or dislike one of his or her characters, but an author cannot logically find fault with one of his or her characters and say to that character, "You should not have done that." (The reason why it is ridiculous for an author to say that to one of his or her characters is that the author made the character act in that way, since the author wrote the story that way.)

The second problem with predestinationism is that if God decides to damn some people, then His decision to create them in the first place is morally indefensible. It is all very well to say that although their actions are ordained by God, they nevertheless go to Hell freely. The problem is that on this account, it is God who creates the people that go to Hell; moreover, God is the author of the decisions that send these people to Hell; thus God does everything that is needed to ensure their damnation.

I regard this unpalatable consequence of predestinationism as a theological reductio ad absurdum. For this reason, I find McCann's modern defence of universal predestination unpersuasive.

5. Molinism and Suarezianism

The Molinist's answer to both of my questions regarding Divine foreknowledge is: No. No, God's foreknowledge of our choices does not logically presuppose that we have made those choices, but is instead logically prior to them; and no, God does not determine our choices.

How can God's foreknowledge of our choices be prior to those choices if God does not determine them? According to Molinists, God creates this world by selecting from a vast array of possible worlds, populated by possible people (including you and me). God knows what each of us would freely choose to do in each possible world, in any given situation. God then selects one of these possible worlds, and decides to create it. In the actual world, our decisions are free, but God foreknows them, because He has chosen the actual world (and all its outcomes) from all the possible worlds He could have made.

Because Molinism affirms that we have free-will in a strong, libertarian sense, and denies that God ordains anyone's damnation, the Molinist account sounds far more compassionate than theological determinism, and it certainly has many able modern defenders. William Lane Craig is the best-known contemporary exponent of the Molinist view. In his defence of Molinism, Craig points out that we routinely affirm counterfactuals regarding the free choices we have made - for instance, I might say that if I had failed to complete high school, I would have become a chef, instead of going on to university as I did. Hence, the idea that God knows what we would do in every possible situation is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

One problem I (and many other philosophers) have with Molinism is that any plausible counterfactuals regarding what I would have chosen invariably turn out to be grounded in some prior, actual fact about me, which is then taken as a given when stating the counterfactual. For instance, my statement that if I had failed to complete high school, I would have become a chef, presupposes that I had actually formulated a back-up plan to become a chef in the event of my failing to complete high school. Thus it seems that cases like these do not help Craig, as Molinism requires God to know the truth of a very large number of counterfactuals that are not grounded in any actual facts: namely, the entire range of choices that each of us would make in any possible situation. On the Molinist account, God's knowledge of these choices is logically prior to our actual existence! God knows everything that each of us would do, before we even exist! The natural question that springs to mind is, "How does God know all this?" The answer given by Molinist William Craig is that the ground for God's knowing what I would do in every possible situation is simply the brute fact that that is indeed how I would act in that situation. Indeed, in a recent online essay, Molinist John DePoe attempted to turn the tables on sceptics of the Molinist account, by arguing that since God is essentially omniscient, it makes no sense to ask how He knows what we would do in every possible situation. He knows because He's God, and that's all we can say.

However, the objection is not that God could not know these counterfactuals, but that it is absurd to even posit such counterfactuals, because they put the metaphysical cart before the horse. It makes no sense to speak of what I would do in a given situation (e.g. what I would do if I were presented with an opportunity to steal), unless I actually exist in the first place. Molinism says that God knows what I would do, before I even exist: more precisely, God's knowldege of what I would choose in every possible situation is logically prior to His act of creating me.

My second and more serious objection to Molinism is that I do not believe that it gets God off the hook when it comes to damnation. If Molinism is true, people are no freer than under Universal Predestination. For if (as Molinism maintains) it is true that for any choice that I actually make in a given situation, that was the choice I would have made in that situation, then there is no meaningful sense in which I could have chosen otherwise in that situation. The Molinist may reply that God does not cause my choice; but I would argue that in fact, by knowingly choosing to create a world, whose built-in specifications include the fact that I will make that choice, then He does in fact cause my choice. And if God, in choosing which possible world He should actualise, selects one in which He knows certain individuals will be damned because of decisions that they would make, then God has already ensured the damnation of those individuals, simply by deciding to create that world. Consequently, if people are damned for their bad choices in this world, they are no more responsible for their own damnation than they would be if Universal Predestination were true. Is such a God any more merciful than the God who predestines everything? I think not.

6. None of the above?

Finally, a Christian is perfectly free to reject all of the foregoing accounts as vain human attempts to understand God's foreknowledge, which is an utter mystery to finite human beings. This is an appropriate stance for any Christian to take. However, in an age of scepticism, apologists need to address challenges from non-believers. I would go so far as to say that questions (a) and (b), which I raised above, need to be satisfactorily answered in a way that acquits God of all responsibility for people going to Hell, before we can make any headway in a theological discussion with non-believers. My own view is that only the Boethian account of Divine foreknowledge manages to do this.

The theological implications of each of the positions outlined above need to be properly thrashed out, and the discussion looks set to continue for a long time to come.

UPDATE:
Professor Linda Zagzebski, in a recent article, defends an interesting extension of omniscience, which she calls omnisubjectivity. In a nutshell, she offers a more empathetic account of God: God has perfect first-person knowledge as well as third-person knowledge: He knows precisely what it feels like for us to have the experiences we do, as well as knowing all true propositions about our past, present and future choices. I must say that on an emotional level, this certainly makes God more approachable: God really does know what we have to go through in this life. The chief objection to Professor Zagzebski's position is that it seems to entail that God experiences the evil thrill felt by someone making a morally perverse choice (think Hannibal the cannibal), which is inappropriate for a morally perfect Deity. Zagzebski considers and in my opinion successfully rebuts this objection, by arguing that the sinner's feelings are (inappropriately) directed at objects, whereas the corresponding feelings experienced by God differ from the sinner's in not being directed at anything; hence they do not detract from God's moral perfection. I believe that Zagzebski's article marks an outstanding contribution to theology as well as philosophy: it means God is in a real sense with us, in the midst of our suffering.

Background Reading

Is It Coherent to suppose that there exists an Omniscient Timeless Being? by Professor Michael Czapkay Sudduth.

The Problem of Human Freedom and Divine Foreknowledge by John DePoe.
An easy-to-read background article for laypeople, which outlines the different points of view regarding God's omniscience.

Omniscience and Divine Foreknowledge by Dr. Tully Borland. Article in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A stimulating, in-depth background article which discusses the various points of view regarding God's omniscience.

The Medieval Problem of Universals by Dr. Gyula Klima. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Augustine effected a philosophical synthesis of Platonism and Christianity when he identified Plato's Forms with ideas in the mind of God. However, this identification raised further questions, such as: how can God be simple, when there are so many different universals? Aquinas and other medieval philosophers addressed this and other problems relating to universals.


What is Open Theism and What's Wrong With It?

Open Theism Article in Theopedia.

"Open theism, also called free will theism and openness theology, is the belief that God does not exercise meticulous control of the universe but leaves it 'open' for humans to make significant choices (free will) that impact their relationships with God and others. A corollary of this is that God has not predetermined the future. Open Theists further believe that this would imply that God does not know the future exhaustively. Proponents affirm that God is omniscient, but deny that this means that God knows everything that will happen."

Open Theism, Omniscience and the Nature of the Future Article in Faith and Philosophy, 23 (2006): 432E59.

"Abstract: If the future is settled in the sense that it is exhaustively and truly describable in terms of what either will or will not obtain, then divine omniscience (the thesis that God knows all and only truths) entails exhaustively definite foreknowledge. Conversely, if the future is open in the sense that a complete, true description of it must include reference to what might and might not obtain, then divine omniscience entails open theism and the denial of exhaustively definite foreknowledge. The nature of the future is, therefore, a key issue in the open theism debate. In this paper, we develop two arguments in support of a central claim of the open future view and critically respond to several arguments in favor of the settled future view."

The Philosophical Case for Open Theism Article in Philosophia, 35 (2007): 301-311.

"Abstract: The goal of this paper is to defend open theism vis-Evis its main competitors within the family of broadly classical theisms, namely, theological determinism and the various forms of non-open free-will theism, such as Molinism and Ockhamism. After isolating two core theses over which open theists and their opponents differ, I argue for the open theist position on both points. Specifically, I argue against theological determinists that there are future contingents. And I argue against non-open free-will theists that future contingency is incompatible with the future’s being epistemically settled for God."

Two comments: (1) A major omission of this article is that it does not address the Boethian account of foreknowledge, which is a very popular one among ordinary Christians. (2) More serously, Rhoda fails to address the common view that God is capable of knowing our future choices, despite the fact that they are contingent and in no way settled. He simply wonders (on p. 310) how God could be in an epistemic position to know the future, as opposed to merely having beliefs about the future which later turn out to be correct. But this is a question-begging objection: this is precisely what many Christians do in fact believe. They believe that God's nature enables Him to know past, present and future events, without determining those events. If Rhoda believes this is impossible, even for a Deity, he needs to spell out why.

Neotheism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? A Theological Response to Greg Boyd by Dr. Norman Geisler, Professor of Theology and Apoloetics at the Southern Evangelical Seminary, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This is a good introductory article for readers who do not have a philosophical background. Boyd is a theologian who advocates the following views: 1) A libertarian view of free will (which entails the power of contrary choice); 2) limitations on God's infallible foreknowledge to non-free acts; 3) a partially open (non-determined) future, namely, one where free acts are involved; 4) the belief that God's nature can change; 5) that God is temporal, and 6) the implication that God is not simple (indivisible) His essence. Geisler mounts a spirited defence of classical theism against the "new" theology, and attacks Boyd's open theism, which claims that God does not have perfect knowledge of the future.

Divine Sovereignty - Omniscience, Inerrancy and Open Theism: An Evaluation by Stephen J. Wellum.
Argues that open theism is incompatible with Christian belief in prophecy and the inerrancy of Scripture. An excerpt:

"First, open theism must seriously reconsider their proposal on the relationship between divine sovereignty - omniscience and human freedom, because it leads to insurmountable problems for a high view of Scripture. No doubt, the openness proposal does allow for open theists logically to affirm inerrancy even though it would be highly improbable. But more importantly, the openness proposal undermines: (1) any kind of guarantee that either the human authors will freely write precisely what God wanted written, or that what God predicts will in fact come to pass; and (2) a strong epistemological grounding to our belief in and defense of the inerrancy of Scripture.

"Second, if open theism wants to maintain and defend a high view of Scripture along with the theological underpinnings of that view, they need to surrender their open view of God. I do not see how any coherent and rational defense of an inerrant Scripture can be made on the foundation of open theism.

"Third, open theists should not be surprised that other evangelicals find their views unacceptable and outside the limits of evangelical theology."

Openness and Inerrancy: Can they be Compatible? by Jason Nicholls.
Argues that open theism is compatible with Christian belief in prophecy and the inerrancy of Scripture, if one allows that humans exercise libertarian freedom within limits set by God, who is free to occasionally intervene in history, in order to accomplish His purposes. An excerpt:

"[Thomas] Reid conceived of liberty as something that may very well at times be 'restrained by divine interposition.'

"With Reid, then, I would heartily concur that humans exercise what might be described as a governed libertarianism. Our freedom often has divinely established limits. In this way God is able to keep his ultimate purposes on track through periodic instances of determinism - something I would call his select determinism. In those circumstances in which the results of our choices might risk thwarting a divine purpose, God intervenes."

On Divine Ambivalence: Open Theism and the Problem of Particular Evils by Dr. Paul Kjoss Helseth.
Argues that open theism actually exacerbates the problem of evil, rather than accounting for it, as it claims to do. The main attraction of Open Theism consists in its radical espousal of the free will theodicy: the reason why God refuses to prevent the evils in the world is that He totally respects our freedom as moral agents. If, however, the Open Theist is willing to allow that God does intervene in history to ensure that His ends are not thwarted (or for that matter, to guarantee the truth of a prophecy), then the radical free will theodicy is undercut - and with it, the rationale for Open Theism. An excerpt:

"But the fact remains that the God of Open Theism is willing to intervene coercively in human history to bring about states of affairs that he really wants to bring about, and this fact presents a serious challenge to the Open view of evil. Why? Because it suggests that particular evils cannot be accounted for solely by appealing to the free will of wicked moral agents, for the genuine freedom that is presumed to be the ultimate source of evil is precisely what is overridden by the unilateral activity of God when he so desires. What I am suggesting, therefore, is that without an exhaustive plan that determines which particular evils will be tolerated and which ones will not, God's toleration of one particular evil and not another becomes arbitrary. To put it differently, without an 'overarching divine purpose' and plan that establishes when his intervening mercies will be extended and when they will be withheld, his extension of those mercies becomes subject to the vicissitudes of the moment, and suffering - that is, the result of the instantaneous decision to withhold intervening mercies - becomes truly pointless.

"If nothing else, when we consider the pain and suffering that exist in the world in light of the willingness of the God of Open Theism to coerce the will in order to bring about states of affairs that he really wants to bring about, it becomes immediately clear that the God of Open Theism cannot be trusted. For he is little more than a cosmic sugar daddy whose affections are now hot and now cold, but never constant."


Boethius' Account of Divine Foreknowledge

Boethius on the Compatibility of Freedom and Foreknowledge by Dr. Robert Koons.
Koons' verdict on Boethius:

"Boethius's account seems to succeed in reconciling human freedom with Boethian foreknowledge. However, Boethius hasn't yet succeeded in showing that human freedom is compatible with detailed, exhaustive providence... Here's another way of looking at it: in most cases, God's Boethian knowledge of the future will come 'too late' (in the logical order) to have any effect on his present plans. God knew from eternity that Adam would eat the apple. However, God couldn't use that Boethian knowledge to alter his plan by deciding not to create Adam after all. God couldn't say - 'Oh, that didn't work at all. Let's go back to the drawing board and create a different original human.'"

I do not think this objection is a fatal one: there is no reason why God should have the exhaustive knowledge which Koons thinks befits a Deity. It suffices that God can respond properly to whatever happens in the world. There is, however, one thing God needs to be sure of before making a possible world: He needs to know that no matter what free choices His creatures make, His plans are not thwarted. Case in point: if God's plans to make a world in which He reveals Himself to human beings at some point, then He should not make a world in which it is possible for someone to completely destroy the human race before this happens. Boethius could consistently argue that because God created this world, He must have also known it was a world in which His grand strategy could not be defeated, no matter what evils people might choose to commit.

Is human free will compatible with divine omniscience? by Robert P. Taylor.
An interesting paper, in which the author explores the Boethian "atemporal" solution to the "Foreknowledge Dilemma" in depth, before propounding his own "four-dimensional" solution.


A Thomistic-Banezian Account of God's Omniscience and Providence

Divine Providence. by Dr. Hugh McCann. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Dr. McCann defends the view that all of our decisions and actions occur by God's creative decree: "Only by so doing is it possible to restore to him complete control over the course of events in the world, and only in this way can he know as creator what world he is creating." McCann invokes an analogy:

"A useful analogy that may be drawn here is to the relationship between the author of a story, and the characters within it. The author does not enter into the story herself, nor does she act upon the characters in such a way as to force them to do the things they do. Rather, she creates them in their doings, so that they are able to behave freely in the world of the novel. On the traditional account, God's relation to his creatures is similar."
In other words, God is like J. K. Rowling. The godly are like Harry and his friends; the ungodly, like Voldemort and his nefarious allies.

Such a doctrine appears repugnant, as it seems to destroy free will and to make God the author of moral evil, but McCann makes a sustained attempt to rebut both of these objections. Finally, he argues that "the task of overcoming evil is central to the creative enterprise. We sin and suffer because God is out to defeat sin and suffering, and to see that all who are ordained to share in the victory do so."

Middle Knowledge: A Reformed Critique by Travis James Campbell.
The author defends the Reformed/Calvinist doctrine of predestination (also upheld by Thomas Aquinas and the later Augustine) as the only account of God's foreknowledge which is both philosophically sound and faithful to Scripture, and argues that it does not make God in any way responsible for sin. The central point of Campbell's article is that Aquinas' philosophical account of God as Pure Act, and as a being utterly devoid of potentiality (and hence incapable of being determined by outside events) is compatible with the Scriptural doctrine that God is completely independent of His creatures for all His perfections, including His knowledge. Other accounts of foreknowledge make God dependent in some way on external states of affairs for His knowledge - either hypothetical states of affairs, as in Molinism and Congruism (where God knows, but does not determine, the free choices that every possible human being would make, if He chose to create it), or the actual choices of the human beings that God creates (as in the Boethian account). On a predestinationist account, God knows what His creatures will choose by ordaining that they do so.


A Rival Molinist Account of God's Omniscience

Background article: "Molinism" by Professor Alfred Freddoso.
Molinism, named after Luis de Molina, is a theological system for reconciling human freedom with God's grace and providence. Presupposing a strongly libertarian account of freedom, Molinists assert against their rivals that the grace whereby God cooperates with supernaturally salvific acts is not intrinsically efficacious. To preserve divine providence and foreknowledge, they then posit "middle knowledge", through which God knows, prior to his own free decrees, how any possible rational agent would freely act in any possible situation. Beyond this, they differ among themselves regarding the ground for middle knowledge and the doctrines of efficacious grace and predestination.

Suarez on God's Causal Involvement in Sinful Acts by Professor Alfred Freddoso.
This paper deals with Francisco Suarez's account of God's action in the world, with an eye toward explaining his view of the precise way in which God concurs with - that is, makes an immediate causal contribution to - free action in general and sinful action in particular. Suarez agrees with his mainly Thomistic opponents that God is an immediate cause of every effect produced by creatures - including every free act and, a fortiori, every sinful act elicited by creatures with a rational or 'free' nature. But he differs markedly from them in his account of how it can be plausibly maintained that God permits sin without causing sin or, to put it somewhat differently, how it can be plausibly maintained that the moral defectiveness of a sin is not traceable to God as a source.

Middle Knowledge, Truth-Makers and the "Grounding Objection" by Professor William Lane Craig.
The so-called "grounding objection" is the most commonly raised misgiving which philosophers have to the doctrine of divine middle knowledge: how can counterfactuals of creaturely freedom be true when there is no ground of their truth? Professor Craig attempts to show that the theory of truth known as Truth-Maker Theory can help to shed considerable light on this objection, revealing just how difficult it is to formulate a compelling version of the objection. For it is far from evident that counterfactuals of creaturely freedom must have truth-makers or, if they must, that appropriate candidates for their truth-makers are not available.

Divine Foreknowledge and Newcomb's Paradox by Professor William Lane Craig.
Newcomb's Paradox provides an illuminating non-theological illustration of the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom. We are to imagine a being with great predictive powers and to suppose we are confronted with two boxes, B1 and B2. B1 contains $1,000; B2 contains either $1,000,000 or nothing. We may choose either B2 alone or B1 and B2 together. If the being predicts that you choose both boxes, he does not put anything in B2; if he predicts that you choose B2 only, he puts $1,000,000 in B2. What should you choose? A proper construction of the pay-off matrix for the decision vindicates the one-box choice. If this is correct, then those who claim that God's knowledge is counterfactually dependent on future contingents foreknown by Him are likewise vindicated.
(Source: "Divine Foreknowledge and Newcomb's Paradox," Philosophia 17 (1987): 331-350.)

Middle Knowledge: A Reformed Critique by Travis James Campbell.
The author puts forward a trenchant critique of Molinism, The thrust of his case is that: Molinism is philosophically deficient; Molinism is at odds with the Biblical doctrine of God; and lastly, that although the theological motivation of Molinism is to gauarantee that God is in no way responsible for sin, Molinism fails in its endeavour to diminish God's responsibility for sin. Campbell concludes:

[E]ven on the doctrine of middle knowledge, humans do not possess libertarian freedom. More importantly, middle knowledge seems to compromise the very nature of the God described in the Bible. Therefore, not only a consistent Calvinist, but a consistent Christian must reject the doctrine of middle knowledge.


Omniscience: The Big Picture

Foreknowledge and Free Will. by Dr. Linda Zagzebski. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Zagzebski contends that the argument for theological fatalism ("If God knows what I'm going to do, then my actions are not free") is a symptom of a more general problem in the logic of time and causation that needs to be addressed.

Is human free will compatible with divine omniscience? by Robert P. Taylor.
An interesting paper, in which the author explores the Boethian "atemporal" solution to the "Foreknowledge Dilemma" in depth, before propounding his own "four-dimensional" solution.

Theological Fatalism Part 1 by David Misialowski.
A reply to Robert P. Taylor by a self-described "agnostic atheist". Taylor resolves the problem of reconciling foreknowledge and free will by denying the necessity of the past. What's especially interesting about this article is that even though he is a religious sceptic, Misialowki believes he can show that "no theist need fear the argument, heard so often from atheists intent on discrediting religious belief, that an omniscient God cancels human free will and moral responsibility."

Theological Fatalism Part 2 by David Misialowski.
This article defends an omnitemporal notion of God, in which God is present at all points in both space and time.

Theological Fatalism Part 3 by David Misialowski.
This article discusses some problems with Molinism, posed by modal realism.


NEW THEOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT: God's Omnisubjectivity

Omnisubjectivity by Professor Linda Zagzebski.
Does God fully know how we feel? Professor Zagzebski argues that He does:

In this paper I describe and begin a defense of the possibility of a divine attribute I call omnisubjectivity. Omnisubjectivity is, roughly, the property of consciously grasping with perfect accuracy and completeness the first-person perspective of every conscious being. I argue that omnisubjectivity is entailed by omniscience or, at any rate, by cognitive perfection. If God is omnisubjective, that would solve two puzzles of omniscience: (1) An omniscient being ought to be able to tell the difference between the different qualia of conscious beings, and (2) An omniscient being ought to be able to tell the difference between the first person and third person perspectives on the same state of affairs. Using the model of human empathy, I argue that it is possible for a being to assume the first person perspective of another being without assuming identity with the other being or forgetting who he is. I end by briefly identifying some interesting metaphysical, moral, and theological consequences of omnisubjectivity.


1.2.5 God's Omnipotence

Anything You Can Do God Can Do Better by Yujin Nagasawa and Campbell Brown.
A bold and innovative approach to an old paradox relating to omnipotence: can God make a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?

Can God make a rock so big he cannot pick it up? by Glenn Miller.
Argues that the sentence "God can make a rock so big he cannot lift it" has no meaning, and hence is neither true nor false.

Objection: "Aren't you Sorta Misusing the Term 'Omnipotence'?" by Glenn Miller.
Miller argues that paradoxes of omnipotence, which attempt to prove that God could not be omnipotent because the concept is inconsistent, result from the popular, intuitive idea that if God is omnipotent, then God must be able to do absolutely anything. However, this intuitive notion is not what philosophers and theologians are intending when they use the term "omnipotent" to describe God.


1.2.6 God's Omnipresence

God's Omnipresence by Professor Edward Wieringa.
Omnipresence is the property of being present everywhere. But how can a being who is supposed to be immaterial be present at or located in space? Philosophers have attempted to answer that question by proposing an account of omnipresence in terms that could apply to an immaterial being. This essay examines some of the details of that approach.


1.2.7 God's Eternity: is God temporal, omnitemporal or timeless?

God as Omnitemporal: Articles by Professor William Lane Craig

God, Time and Eternity by Professor William Lane Craig.
"Is God's eternity to be construed as timeless or temporal? Given that the universe began to exist, a relational view of time suggests that time also began to exist. God's existence 'prior to' or sans creation would not entail the existence of time if God in such a state is changeless. But if God sustains real relations with the world, the co-existence of God and the world imply that God is temporal subsequent to the moment of creation. Given the superiority of a relational over a non-relational (Newtonian) view of time, God ought to be considered as timeless sans creation and temporal subsequent to creation."

God and Real Time by Professor William Lane Craig.
"Whether God is timeless or temporal depends on whether an A-Theory or B-Theory of time is correct, where the former posits tensed facts and the latter only tenseless facts. Given the superiority of the A-Theory, it follows that God is temporal. But since the Special Theory of Relativity relativizes simultaneity to reference frames, the question arises as to which 'now' is God's 'now'? In order to answer that question, we must distinguish between time and our measures of time. Relativity concerns only measured time and so does not affect God's real time. How does God's time relate to measured time? Contra Alan Padgett, God's time must coincide with a measured time, most plausibly the cosmic time of the General Theory of Relativity."

Omniscience, Tensed Facts and Divine Eternity by Professor William Lane Craig.

Timelessness and Omnitemporality by Professor William Lane Craig.

Eternal God: A Study of God Without Time. Review by Professor William Lane Craig.


God as Atemporal (Outside Time): Article by Professor Paul Helm

Eternity by Professor Paul Helm. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Helm argues for the view that God is completely outside time, defending his thesis against objections from philosophers who find the notion of eternity incoherent, as well as philosophers (such as William Lane Craig) who contend that God became temporal when He created the world.


1.2.8 God as Creator and Preserver of the Universe

The Idea of Creation in Christian Philosophy by Professor Fr. George Florovsky.
Explains the distinctiveness of the Christian idea of creation and contrasts it with Greek philosophical notions.

Creation and Conservation Once More by Professor William Lane Craig.
God is conceived in the Western theistic tradition to be both the Creator and Conservor of the universe. These two roles were typically classed as different aspects of creation, originating creation and continuing creation. On pain of incoherence, however, conservation needs to be distinguished from creation. Contrary to current analyses (such as Philip Quinn's), creation should be explicated in terms of God's bringing something into being, while conservation should be understood in terms of God's preservation of something over an interval of time. The crucial difference is that while conservation presupposes an object of the divine action, creation does not. Such a construal has significant implications for a tensed theory of time.


1.2.9 Is God Capable of Anger?

A Treatise on the Anger of God by Lactantius (c. 300 A.D.)
This document is written in a simple, direct style, yet it gets to the nub of the philosophical arguments about God's anger, which have changed little since the time of the ancient Greeks. A must-read.


1.2.10 Should We Fear God?

Perfect Fear Casts Out 'Luv' by Professor Peter Kreeft.
Professor Kreeft distinguishes perfect love from 'luv' and argues that true love includes awe - something which many Christians have forgotten. Awe casts out "luv" as a hurricane casts out a teddy bear. Perfect love casts out fear, but unless we begin with fear, we cannot progress to perfect love.


1.3 How Did God Make the World? The Creation-Evolution Debate

1.3.1 The Universe was created.
1.3.2 The Age of the Universe and the Age of the Earth.
1.3.3 The Different Kinds Of Design That Can Be Ascribed to God: Theistic Evolution, Intelligent Design and Creationism.
1.3.4 The Case for Evolution.
1.3.5 Is Theistic Evolution a Viable Position for Christians?
1.3.6 Good Arguments AGAINST Evolution, and Bad Arguments FOR Evolution.
1.3.7 Arguments for Intelligent Design.

In this section, I endeavour to establish four main points: first, current scientific evidence supports the conclusion that the universe had a beginning, and from a philosphical perspective, the best explanation of this beginning is that the universe was created by a Personal Being who transcends time and space; second, the universe is very old, and life on Earth has been in existence for billions of years; third, belief in evolution is perfectly compatible with belief in God; and fourth, the complexity of the DNA message is so staggering - scientists are still trying to understand it - that a reasonable person could see it as the work of a Deity. From a Christian perspective, the exact mechanism (natural, supernatural or a combination of the two) that this Deity used to bring DNA into existence does not matter here; what matters is that the evidence clearly points to a Mind at work in nature.

Looking at the available evidence, I think a pretty persuasive case can be made for the common descent of living organisms. However, this in no way implies that random mutations and natural selection alone can explain the complexity of life on Earth, or that natural processes can explain the origin of life on Earth. I was once content to remain agnostic on these questions, but in view of: (i) overwhelming evidence presented in Dr. Stephen Meyer's book, Signature in the Cell, that the first living cell must have been designed; (ii) powerful evidence for the existence of complex biological structures which neither chance nor the laws of nature could possibly generate, described in Darwin's Black Box and The Edge of Evolution by Professor Michael Behe; and (iii) mounting evidence of failed scientific predictions by evolutionists, as documented by Dr. Cornelius Hunter in Darwinspredictions.com, I now think it's fair to say that the modern theory of evolution is in very serious trouble, and that there is very strong evidence that life itself, as well as the higher-level taxa (kingdoms, phyla and classes, and possibly orders and families too) was designed by God.

1.3.1 The Universe was created

The Ultimate Question of Origins: God and the Beginning of the Universe by Professor William Lane Craig.
Argues that there exists a Personal Creator of the universe, who, without the universe, is timeless, spaceless, beginningless, changeless, necessary, uncaused, and enormously powerful.

Multiverse Cosmological Models by Professor Paul Davies.
A world-renowned physicist discusses the scientific and philosophical problems relating to the notion of a multiverse - a hypothetical ensemble which includes not just our own universe but all possible universes, each with its own space, time and peculiar set of physical laws. This is a very balanced article, ideal for readers with a scientific background.


1.3.2 The Age of the Universe and the Age of the Earth

The Age of the Universe

The Age of the Universe by Professor Edward L. Wright.
There are at least 3 ways that the age of the Universe can be estimated. Professor Wright discusses the age of the chemical elements, the age of the oldest star clusters and the age of the oldest white dwarf stars. Each of these methods, as well as estimates based on the Big Bang model, points to an age of 12 to 14 billion years for the Universe.

Ned Wright's Cosmology Tutorial by Professor Edward L. Wright.
Cosmology is the study of the origin, current state, and future of our Universe. This field has been revolutionized by many discoveries made during the past century. Professor Wright's cosmology tutorial is an attempt to summarize these discoveries.

Cosmology and Religion by Professor Edward L. Wright.
Albert Einstein wrote: "The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible." Professor Wright comments: "There are many more ways for the Universe to be chaotic and disorganized than for it to follow simple universal laws, so the regularities observed by scientists could be taken as evidence for design."

The Top 30 Problems With The Big Bang by the late Dr. Tom Van Flandern (d. 2009). Reprinted from Meta Research Bulletin 11, 6-13 (2002).

Abstract. Earlier, we presented a simple list of the top ten problems with the Big Bang. Since that publication, we have had many requests for citations and additional details, which we provide here. We also respond to a few rebuttal arguments to the earlier list. Then we supplement the list based on the last four years of developments Ewith another 20 problems for the theory.

The Big Bang Never Happened by Eric J. Lerner.
A selection of quotes from Lerner's book, summarising his case against the Big Bang.

Errors in the "The Big Bang Never Happened" by Professor Ned Wright.
Refutes Lerner's scientific arguments against the Big Bang.

Ten Censored Scientific Papers by Dr. Robert Gentry.
A collection of ten scientific papers which argue that fatal anomalies in the Big Bang theory can be accounted for by a new model, which posits a rapid and recent creation of the cosmos. Dr. Gentry's model is highly controversial, and is not endorsed, as far as I know, by any professional astronomer. However, I have included a link to it here because it makes testable predictions.


The Age of the Earth

Radiometric Dating - a Christian Perspective by Dr. Roger C. Wiens.
Dr. Wiens has a Ph.D. in physics, with a minor in Geology. His Ph.D. thesis was on isotope ratios in meteorites, including surface exposure dating. Dr. Wiens makes a convincing case for the validity of radiometric dating and answers common objections from young-Earth creationists.

Appearance of Age - A Young Earth Problem by Rich Deem, M.S.
Many young earth creationists claim that the universe and earth just appear to be old, but are really young. The "appearance of age" school of creationist thought claims that God created a world with a false history. Such a claim is directly refuted by the Bible.

Creation's Tiny Mystery by Dr. Robert Gentry.
Dr. Gentry is a nuclear physicist and former evolutionist who worked 13 years for the Oakridge National Laboratory (1969-82). He has spent the major part of his scientific career investigating traces of polonium radioactivity inscribed in granite. His research has resulted in authoring or co-authoring over twenty research papers in scientific publications, such as Science, Nature, Geophysical Research Letters, Annual Review of Nuclear Science, and Earth and Planetary Science Letters. In his controversial online book, Dr. Gentry argues that granite was never in a molten condition, because polonium pleochroic halos survive only in solid rock, and the half-life of polonium is much too short to survive a multimillion-year cooling time. His results seem to indicate that the Earth was created instantaneously, in a cool condition. The vast majority of gelogists remain sceptical of Dr. Gentry's work, but I have decided to include a link to it here, in the interests of academic fairness, as Dr. Gentry is a reputable scientist.

"Polonium haloes" refuted by Dr. Thomas Baillieul.
Dr. Bailieul, a professional geologist, reviews "Radioactive Halos in a Radio-Chronological and Cosmological Perspective" by Robert V. Gentry. Dr. Baillieul concludes as follows:

Gentry's polonium halo hypothesis for a young Earth fails, or is inconclusive for, all tests. Gentry's entire thesis is built on a compounded set of assumptions. He is unable to demonstrate that concentric haloes in mica are caused uniquely by alpha particles resulting from the decay of polonium isotopes. His samples are not from "primordial" pieces of the Earth's original crust, but from rocks which have been extensively reworked. Finally, his hypothesis cannot accommodate the many alternative lines of evidence that demonstrate a great age for the Earth. Gentry rationalizes any evidence which contradicts his hypothesis by proposing three "singularities" - one time divine interventions - over the past 6000 years (italics mine - V.J.T.). Of course, supernatural events and processes fall outside the realm of scientific investigations to address. As with the idea of variable radioactive decay rates, once Gentry moves beyond the realm of physical laws, his arguments fail to have any scientific usefulness. If divine action is necessary to fit the halo hypothesis into some consistent model of Earth history, why waste all that time trying to argue about the origins of the haloes based on current scientific theory?


1.3.3 The Different Kinds Of Design That Can Be Ascribed to God: Theistic Evolution, Intelligent Design and Creationism

Who Believes What? Clearing Up Confusion About Intelligent Design and Young-Earth Creationism by Dr. Marcus Ross.
"The question of what differentiates young-Earth creationism (YEC) from Intelligent Design (ID) has resulted in inaccurate and confusing terminology, and hinders both understanding and dialogue. Though both YEC and ID groups have drawn distinctions between themselves, previous attempts to classify design-based positions on origins have been unable to adequately resolve their relationships... [Marcus Ross's] Nested Hierarchy of Design categorizes teleological positions according to the strength of claims regarding the reality, detectability, source, method, and timing of design, and results in an accurate and robust classification of numerous positions... The incorporation of the Nested Hierarchy of Design in classroom discussion could 1) better represent the suite of opinions among students, 2) clarify the many teleological positions, and 3) help to reduce tensions between educators, students, and the public."


1.3.4 The Case for Evolution

Useful Web sites

www.talkorigins.org www.pandasthumb.org AIGBusted.com

The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online by the University of Cambridge.


The Case for Evolution

29+ Evidences for Macroevolution - The Scientific Case for Common Descent by Dr. Douglas Theobold.
This article directly addresses the scientific evidence in favor of common descent and macroevolution. This article is specifically intended for those who are scientifically minded but, for one reason or another, have come to believe that macroevolutionary theory explains little, makes few or no testable predictions, is unfalsifiable, or has not been scientifically demonstrated.

An Index to Creationist Claims edited by Mark Isaak.
Creationist claims are numerous and varied, so it is often difficult to track down information on any given claim. Plus, creationists constantly come up with new claims which need addressing. This site attempts, as much as possible, to make it easy to find rebuttals and references from the scientific community to any and all of the various creationist claims. It is updated frequently.


Human Evolution: Did God create us or did we evolve?

The Argument for Common Ancestry, based on Endogenous Retroviruses found in Humans and Apes

Fossil Hominids: The Evidence for Human Evolution by Jim Foley.
This web site is intended to provide an overview of the study of human evolution, and of the currently accepted fossil evidence. It also contains a very comprehensive treatment of creationist claims about human evolution.

Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs). Provides a very powerful case for the common ancestry of humans and chimpanzees. See the video at the bottom of the page.

Endogenous Retroviruses by Dr. Sean Pitman. Attempts to refute arguments that Endogenous Retroviruses provide evidence for evolution, and in particular human evolution.

Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVS) by Who is Your Creator?.
From the conclusion:

"The word 'virus' means toxic or poison, and that is how most evolutionists perceive them. However, if 50% of our DNA is made up viral elements, wouldn't that indicate that they may have beneficial functions? Here is the defining question:
Were viruses created as intrinsic essential genetic material and some have mutated into pathogenic elements or ...
Did positive selection permit harmful viruses to perpetuate but most of them have recently evolved into essential elements?


Genetic Arguments for the Common Ancestry of Humans and Apes

The Chimpanzee Genome and the Problem of Biological Similarity by Todd Charles Wood.
This well-informed article by a creationist reviews recent research on the chimpanzee and human genomes, and acknowledges that not only the degree of similarity but also the pattern of similarity observed between the human and chimpanzee genomes cannot be adequately explained simply by ascribing it to the will of the Creator, unless a theory can be developed to explain why the Creator would will such similarity. Until such a theory becomes available, the similarity between human and chimpanzee genomes constitutes good prima facie evidence for human evolution.

A Reply to Francis Collins' Darwinian Arguments for Common Ancestry of Apes and Humans by Casey Luskin and Logan Paul Gage.
A powerful rebuttal of genetic arguments which are frequently put forward for the common ancestry of humans and chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee? by Dr. Richard Buggs.
Dr. Buggs shows that the much-vaunted 98.5% genetic similarity between humans and chimps is actually closer to 70%.

New Chromosome Research Undermines Human-Chimp Similarity Claims by Jeffrey Tomkins, Ph.D., and Brian Thomas, M.S.


The fossil evidence

Human Origins and Intelligent Design by Casey Luskin. In The Light Bulb, 3:1, Spring 2004.
"In conclusion, our genus Homo appears to have been intelligently designed and is not connected to the australopithecine apes or any other apes through ancestry:

My comment: Casey Luskin's arguments are not necessarily at odds with the evidence from ERVs and genetics, that humans and chimps are related. If Luskin is correct, all it means is that natural processes alone cannot account for the sudden emergence of human beings - which is still pefectly compatible with saying that humans and chimps share a common ancestry.


How NOT to Argue AGAINST Evolution

Exhibit A: www.answersingenesis.com, a Creationist Website whose "scientific" arguments against evolution have been utterly demolished at www.aigbusted.com.

Exhibit B: Evolution and Me by George Gilder. For the rebuttal, see Design, Response to George Gilder on Evolution by John Derbyshire.


Interesting Alternatives to Neo-Darwinian Evolution (Who Knows, They May Be Right! Stay Tuned.)

The New Mutation Theory of Phenotypic Evolution by Masatoshi Nei. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. Professor Nei is from the Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics and Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University.
"Phenotypic evolution occurs primarily by mutation of genes that interact with one another in the developmental process. The enormous amount of phenotypic diversity among different phyla or classes of organisms is a product of accumulation of novel mutations and their conservation that have facilitated adaptation to different environments. Novel mutations may be incorporated into the genome by natural selection (elimination of preexisting genotypes) or by random processes such as genetic and genomic drift. However, once the mutations are incorporated into the genome, they may generate developmental constraints that will affect the future direction of phenotypic evolution. It appears that the driving force of phenotypic evolution is mutation, and natural selection is of secondary importance."


1.3.5 Is Theistic Evolution a Viable Position for Christians?

Recommended Resources

Faith and Evolution Website. An Intelligent Design Website developed by the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, Seattle.

Charles Darwin - online resources.

The Biologos Foundation. Established by Dr. Francis Collins to promote harmony between the perspectives of science and religion.

The Darwin Myth by Professor Benjamin Wiker.
A review by Dr. Michael Flannery. The book demonstrates that Darwin was a religious skeptic even as a young man, and that he composed The Origin of Species with the aim of writing God out of the picture of human and animal origins.

Alfred Russel Wallace's Theory of Intelligent Evolution by Professor Michael Flannery.
Professor Flannery provides a sympathetic account of what he calls Wallace's intelligent evolution, a thoroughly teleological alternative to Darwin's stochastic processes. Though based upon very different formulations of natural selection, the Wallace/Darwin dispute as presented by Flannery shows a metaphysical clash of worldviews coextensive with modern evolutionary theory itself - design and purpose versus randomness and chance.


1.3.5.1 Belief in God (and Christianity) is quite compatible with belief in evolution

Keynote Lecture: The Language of God - A Believer Looks at the Human Genome by Francis Collins.
Francis S. Collins is the Director of the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute. He is also a former atheist. Professor Collins addressed the 61st Annual Meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), a fellowship of Christians in science. In this talk, he makes a powerful case for theistic evolution.

The Logical Framework in Genesis 1 from a homepage by Dr. Craig Rusbult.
The author, a former atheist, argues for a theological interpretation of Genesis 1.

Design, Evolution, and Creation: Questions in Science & Theology by Dr. Craig Rusbult.
This Web page is a must-read: it has links to HUNDREDS of useful articles. It briefly summarizes Rushbult's personal views (and provides links to overview-pages), and classifies pages into six categories: the age of the universe; the credibility of historical science; theological questions about origins; scientific questions about origins; origins education; and mutual interactions between worldviews and science.

Logical Scientific Evaluation of Evolution, Creation, and Design by Dr. Craig Rusbult.

Theistic Evolution and Christian Theology by Dr. Craig Rusbult.
Dr. Rushbult is personally inclined to believe that God miraculously created the first life, and occasionally used miraculous-appearing modifications of existing genetic material during a long evolutionary history that included full common descent. However, he goes on to argue that if it could be shown that God created by a process that was totally natural, then we should praise God for His wonderfully clever design of nature that allowed this natural process of self-assembly to occur.

When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible by Professor Alvin Plantinga and other authors.
A discussion by several philosophers of the issues which emerged from Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga's article, "When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible." The dialogue began in The Christian Scholar's Review and moved to Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith.

Orthodoxy and Creationism by Fr. Deacon Andrey Kuraev.
This essay examines the creationist views advocated recently by certain Christians in America and argues that the roots of these views are roots not necessarily true to Orthodox thought. It also argues that Scripture strongly hints at evolution when it speaks of the earth and seas as bringing forth living creatures. Only in the case of human beings can we speak of a special act of creation (of the human soul).


1.3.5.2 Nevertheless, modern scientists' insistence that the process of biological evolution must be purely naturalistic, as well as undirected, is antithetical to Christianity

The Metaphysics of Evolution by journalist Fred Reed.
An extract:

Early on, I noticed three things about evolution that differentiated it from other sciences (or, I could almost say, from science). First, plausibility was accepted as being equivalent to evidence...Again and again evolutionists assumed that suggesting how something might have happened was equivalent to establishing how it had happened. Asking them for evidence usually aroused annoyance and sometimes, if persisted in, hostility...
Second, evolution seemed more a metaphysics or ideology than a science. The sciences, as I knew them, gave clear answers. Evolution involved intense faith in fuzzy principles. You demonstrated chemistry, but believed evolution...
Third, evolutionists are obsessed by Christianity and Creationism, with which they imagine themselves to be in mortal combat. This is peculiar to them. Note that other sciences, such as astronomy and geology, even archaeology, are equally threatened by the notion that the world was created in 4004 BC. Astronomers pay not the slightest attention to creationist ideas. Nobody does - except evolutionists. We are dealing with competing religions - overarching explanations of origin and destiny. Thus the fury of their response to skepticism...
To evolutionists I say, "I am perfectly willing to believe what you can actually establish. Reproducibly create life in a test tube, and I will accept that it can be done. Do it under conditions that reasonably may have existed long ago, and I will accept as likely the proposition that such conditions existed and gave rise to life. I bear no animus against the theory, and champion no competing creed. But don't expect me to accept fluid speculation, sloppy logic, and secular theology."

Theistic Evolutionists, Your Position Is Incoherent - But We Can Help You! by Thomas Cudworth at www.uncommondescent.com.
"Let me summarize. It is possible to be a theistic evolutionist without contradiction. It is possible to be a specifically Christian theistic evolutionist without contradiction. It is not, however, possible to be a Christian DARWINIST without contradiction. A Christian Darwinist is bound to maintain logically incompatible positions: that evolution is both a tool and an autonomous process, that providence and chance are both ultimately real, that design is potentially detectable and that it is a priori undetectable. This intellectual schizophrenia cannot be maintained. TEs [theistic evolutionists] must decide whether or not their grudge against ID and its proponents is more important to them than the maintenance of a consistently orthodox Christian theology."

The Cardinal Dresses Darwin Up for God: Compatibilist Strategies - Do They Work? by Flannery.
A critical review of Cardinal Christopher Schonborn's latest book, Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith (Ignatius Press, 2007), which seeks to reconcile neo-Darwinism with a Christian world-view. The reviewer faults the cardinal's "persistently awkward effort to fit the round Darwinian peg into the square theistic hole." He also points out that the rejection of a God who intervenes in Nature would rule out the possibility of miracles. However, what Flannery finds most problematic about Cardinal Schonborn's book is the final part, where he draws upon the philosophy of Teilhard de Chardin in order to reconcile the materialistic Darwinian evolutionary account with his belief in a world suffused with teleology. Flannery points out that what Teilhard advocated in his writings was a panentheistic philosophy, which is uncomfortably close to Pantheism.


1.3.5.3 Darwin's Theory of Evolution - Why Was It So Eagerly Accepted In The 19th Century, and What Would the Early Christian Fathers Have Thought of It?

Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. Order here.
The main argument of Hunter (a biophysicist) is that most interpreters of evolution have misjudged Darwin's metaphysical motives. Rather than an assault upon God's existence, evolution was for Darwin and many of his contemporaries a defense of God's goodness, a strategy for disassociating God from the often unsavory details of nature by introducing a blind process of natural selection. Hunter attributes the early enthusiasm for evolution to the pervasive but shallow "modern theology" of many educated Victorians, whose offense at the violence and inefficiency of nature was compounded by their expectation that God's dealings with the world must always be benevolent and clearly discernable as such. Still more fascinating is the way Hunter traces similar metaphysical arguments in evolutionary rhetoric from Darwin to the present day, suggesting that theological attitudes from the naive summit of the "modern" era continue to color perceptions of evolution and creation, often to the detriment of both. This book falls outside the standard niches of the evolution-and-religion literature, and readers who strongly identify with either side of creation-evolution debates will find grounds for disagreeing with some of Hunter's assertions; but the cogency of his central argument should attract readers of both persuasions.

The Patristic Understanding of Creation edited by Dr. William Dembski, Dr. Wayne Downs and Fr. B. A. Frederick. This book is now available.



1.3.6 Good Arguments AGAINST Evolution, and Bad Arguments FOR Evolution

Evolution. Non-scholarly article from Conservapedia. Good background reading for non-specialists.


Good Arguments AGAINST Evolution

Evolution is not even a Proper Scientific Theory - The Crushing Critique Against Genetic Reductionism by Dr. Arthur Jones.
Dr. Jones did his Ph.D. on cichlid fishes. As the video makes clear, he knows what he is talking about.

Cortical Inheritance - Evolution is not even a Proper Scientific Theory - Part 1 of 2 by Dr. Arthur Jones.
The modern theory of evolution is built on the dogma of genetic reductionism, which states that DNA is the sole carrier of information and development in organisms. All the characteristics of an organism are said to be encoded in its DNA blueprint. However, by the 1950s, it was proven beyond doubt that the cell surface structures (cortex) of unicellular organisms called ciliates are inherited independently of genes and DNA, contradicting the dogma of genetic reductionism. This finding was initially dismissed as a quirk. However, these ciliate cell structures are simply an elaboration of the cell membrane and cytoskeleton, which is a universal feature of plant and animal cells. Moreover, the developmental processes are the same in unicellular and multicellular organisms. The implication for Darwin's theory is clear: evolution cannot plausibly claim to be a complete theory of how life on Earth has developed, if it is incapable of even explaining the mechanism of inheritance from one generation to the next.

Cortical Inheritance - Evolution is not even a Proper Scientific Theory - Part 2 of 2 by Dr. Arthur Jones.
In this video, Dr. Jones argues that so long as we don't have a good theory of how embryos develop into mature adults, we cannot have a proper scientific theory of evolution.

Darwin's Predictions by Dr. Cornelius Hunter.
Dr. Hunter is a philosopher of science. Here he assembles a mountain of evidence showing that there are severe problems with the theory of evolution, and that Darwin's predictions have been massively falsified. Hunter concludes:

In the century and a half since Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, science has discovered a plethora of contradictory information. Many predictions of the theory have been falsified, including foundational expectations. The theory has consistently failed and as a consequence it has grown far more complex than anything Darwin ever envisioned. Evolution is not a good scientific theory and in this sense it is comparable to geocentrism. Both theories grew ever more complicated in response to the evidences of the natural world, adding epicycle upon epicycle.


How NOT to Argue FOR Evolution

The Metaphysics of Evolution by Fred Reed.
An extract:

To evolutionists I say, "I am perfectly willing to believe what you can actually establish. Reproducibly create life in a test tube, and I will accept that it can be done. Do it under conditions that reasonably may have existed long ago, and I will accept as likely the proposition that such conditions existed and gave rise to life. I bear no animus against the theory, and champion no competing creed. But don't expect me to accept fluid speculation, sloppy logic, and secular theology."

The Great Mutator by Professor Jerry Coyne.

Coyne Lays An Egg by Assistant Professor Jason Rosenhouse.


The most commonly heard BAD Arguments FOR Evolution

1. Why "Bad Design" Arguments are Poor Arguments for Neo-Darwinian Evolution

Intelligent, Optimal and Divine Design by Professor Richard Spencer.
If something has been intelligently designed, people often expect to see structures that are perfectly crafted to perform their individual tasks in the most elegant and efficient way possible (e.g., with no extra components). This expectation is incorrect not only for human design but also for divine design.

Are Evolutionists Delusional (or just in denial)? by Dr. Cornelius Hunter.

The Evolutionist is Shocked, Shocked to Find Religion in Here by Dr. Cornelius Hunter.
Dr. Hunter argues convincingly that the argument from biological imperfections is theological, whatever evolutionists' leading proponents may think. To support his case, Hunter produces a wealth of quotes from evolutionists, attesting to this fact.

Jerry, PZ, Ron, faitheism, Templeton, Bloggingheads, and all that Esome follow-up comments by Dr. Paul Nelson.
Dr. Nelson points out that to make the argument from imperfections in Naure work against a Designer, one needs to know what an intelligent designer would have done, and have some metric for assessing whether the actual biological feature in question hits, or fails to hit, that target.

Bad Designs in Biology? - Why the "Best" Examples Are Bad by Rich Deem, M.S.
This article looks at apparent instances of bad design in biology - the esophagus, the panda's thumb, the human eye, the appendix, junk DNA and pseudogenes - and argues that proposed improvements are actually worse, and that allegedly vestigial features do in fact serve a biological purpose.

Denton vs Squid; the eye as suboptimal design by Ian Musgrave of Panda's Thumb. A reply to Denton.

The Inverted Retina: Maladaptation or Pre-Adaptation? by Dr. Michael Denton, Biochemistry Department, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Dr. Denton is a non-Darwinian evolutionist, who maintains that the laws of nature have somehow "chosen" or pre-selected the overall course of evolution; in other words, evolution is a non-random process. In this article, he demolishes the popular notion that the vertebrate eye is poorly designed, and that a Designer could have done a better job of building the eye.

Denton vs Squid; the eye as suboptimal design by Ian Musgrave of Panda's Thumb. A reply to Denton.

The Evolution of the Human Eye by Dr. Sean Pitman, M.D.
The latest update in the controversy about the design of the eye. Recent research shows that Muller glial cells act as living optical fibres, transporting light through the inverted retina of vertebrates with minimal distortion and low loss. Pitman argues that the design of the eye cannot be faulted. He adds:

To say then that the human eye is definite proof of a lack thoughtful design, is a bit presumptuous I would think. This seems to be especially true when one considers the fact that the best of modern human science and engineering has not produced even a fraction of the computing and imaging capability of the human eye.


2. Why "Junk DNA" is Useful, and why the existence of "Junk DNA" is NOT a Good Argument Against the Existence of God

JunkDNA.com by Dr. Andre Pellionisz.

When Junk DNA Isn’t Junk: Farewell to a Darwinist Standard Response by Dr. Richard Sternberg.

Junk DNA: Darwinism’s Last Stand? by Dr. Jonathan Wells.

Junk DNA RoundUp (and Rebuttal): How Neo-Darwinism Creates Junk-Hypotheses, Then Resists Their Demise by Casey Luskin.

Encyclopedia of DNA: New Findings Challenge Established Views on Human Genome by Science Daily, 13 June 2007.
Adapted from a news release issued by NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute. New data indicate the human genome contains very little unused sequences and, in fact, is a complex, interwoven network. So much for "junk DNA".

Junk DNA Makes Compulsive Reading by Andy Coghlan, in New Scientist, 13 June 2007.
According to Dr. John Greally, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, "It would now take a very brave person to call non-coding DNA junk."

One scientist's junk is a creationist's treasure by Catherine Shaffer, in Wired magazine, 13 June 2007.
Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and also a Christian, says that he has stopped using the term "junk DNA". Some Intelligent Design advocates such as Steven Meyer have gone further, claiming that the discovery that so-called junk DNA has a function is evidence that God created all life, because God does not create junk.

How Scientific Evidence is Changing the Tide of the Evolution vs. Intelligent Design Debate by Wade Schauer.
The author presents persuasive, well-documented, up-to-date evidence in support of the following conclusions:

The Evolution of Junk DNA from mostly Non-functional to Mostly Functional. An online review of Wade Schaer's paper by Dr. Andre Pellionisz.

Hereditary Diseases: Not All Is In The Genes.
"There are about 30,000 genes in the human genome, but there are at least 150,000 different genetic disorders," Dr. Thakker said. "You can't just look at the genes that code for proteins, you've got to look at the surrounding regulatory regions, as well in the 'junk.'" (New York Times, Feb. 7, 2006). The moral of the story here is that we should beware of facile arguments in evolution textbooks which disparage God's intelligence as a designer, while keeping an open mind as to the mechanism(s) whereby God made the myriad life-forms on our planet. Finally, the arrogant, ideologically grounded dismissal of 98% of our DNA as "junk" can have harmful scientific consequences: it can impede the search for cures for genetic disorders.

Dr. Andras Pellionisz's classic Junk DNA Web site.
Lots of thought-provoking material here.


3. Why Pseudogenes and Shared Errors are NOT a Slamdunk Argument for Evolution

Potentially decisive evidence against pseudogene "shared mistakes" by John Woodmorappe.
Recent discoveries of function in certain pseudogenes have led to the recognition, by some evolutionists, of widespread function in pseudogenes. The routine use of non-synonymous/synonymous ratios (KA/KS) does not lead to the indisputable conclusion that pseudogenes are simply pieces of junk DNA in a state of mutational 'drift'. The complete unreliability of KA/KS as an indicator of pseudogene non-function is demonstrated by certain known functional pseudogenes. Finally, the striking discovery that the independently-derived guinea pig and human GULO pseudogenes have an astounding 36% identical 'disablement' is, if valid, as close as one can get to a resounding disproof of the entire evolutionistic 'shared mistakes' argument.


4. Why the Molecular Clock is NOT a good Argument for Evolution

The Alignment Nightmare by Paul Nelson.
This short article is a real eye-opener. Citing experiences from his own scientific training as well as recent articles in peer-reviewed journals, the author explains why the sheer arbitrariness of molecular sequence alignment methods casts serious doubt on molecular phylogenies that are published in the literature.

Molecular clock keeps good time - twice a day? by Denyse O'Leary.
An article summarising serious challenges made against the molecular clock theory in 2006 and 2007. Interesting links to scientific articles.


5. Why the Existence of Fossil Precursors is NOT necessarily a Good Argument for Evolution

Evolution: Tiktaalik - channelling your "inner fish"? by Denyse O'Leary.
An article explaining why the discovery of a fish which appears to have been an ancestor of today's amphibians is not a good argument for evolution.

Discovery Raises New Doubts About Dinosaur-bird Links by Science Daily, June 9, 2009.
Researchers at Oregon State University have made a fundamental new discovery about how birds breathe and have a lung capacity that allows for flight - and the finding means it's unlikely that birds descended from any known theropod dinosaurs.

Ida the Lemur and media manipulation by Andrew Sibley at Uncommon Descent. See also my comments here.

Ida: Humankind's Earliest Ancestor! (Not Really) by Michael D. Lemonick, in Time magazine, 21 May 2009.
Excerpt:

From the beginning, Ida's unveiling has been a master class in ballyhoo. A week ago, the first breathless press releases began to arrive, portending the presentation of the now famous 47-million-year-old primate fossil from Germany: "MEDIA ALERT," the notice shouted in all caps. "WORLD-RENOWNED SCIENTISTS REVEAL A REVOLUTIONARY SCIENTIFIC FIND THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING." .... Most paleontologists will roll their eyes at that sort of overhyped nonsense, especially given that there's real science lurking underneath. After wading through the false advertising, though, most people might have a hard time finding it.

6. Why Evidence that Molecular Nano-machines Have a History is NOT a Good Argument for Their Evolution

Michael Behe's Blog at Uncommon Descent.
Blog site of Professor Michael Behe, whose book Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Free Press, New York, 1996) ignited the current scientific debate over whether the existence of irreducible complexity in nano-machines within cells makes it extremely unlikely that they arose by a process of undirected evolution.

Reducible Complexity in PNAS by Professor Michael Behe.
A carefully argued refutation of recent claims that science has solved the problem of how irreducibly complex structures in nature first arose.

Waiting Longer for Two Mutations by Professor Michael Behe. In Genetics, Vol. 181, 819-820, February 2009.

Michael Behe's Amazon blog.

Darwinism Gone Wild: Neither sequence similarity nor common descent address a claim of Intelligent Design by Professor Michael Behe.

Michael Behe on the Theory of Irreducible Complexity.
NOTE: Comments from biochemist Dr. Michael Behe, Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture in response to Science magazine's forthcoming article "Evolution of Hormone-Receptor Complexity by Molecular Exploitation," and regarding irreducible complexity, evolution and intelligent design. Originally published at wwww.idthefuture.com.

Still Spinning Just Fine: A Response to Dr. Ken Miller by Dr. William Dembski.
An article explaining why the discovery of molecular precursors for some parts of the bacterial flagellum does not establish that the flagellum itself evolved by a step-wise Darwinian process.


7. Why Experiments Purporting To Show That Evolution Has Been Demonstrated In The Laboratory And That Irreducibly Complex Systems Can Evolve Are NOT a Good Argument for Evolution

Analysis of Barry Hall's Research of the E. coli ebg Operon by Georgia Purdom, Ph. D. and Kevin L. Anderson, Ph .D.
Barry Hall, professor emeritus of the University of Rochester, New York, has done extensive work in the field of adaptive mutations. His work on the ebg operon in Escherichia coli is often cited - notably by ID critic Dr. Kenneth Miller - to refute biochemist Michael Behe's challenge that some complex systems have no possible evolutionary intermediate stages or transitions of development (that is, irreducible complexity). This article critically examines claims made on behalf of Professor Hall's work, and concludes that mutations in the ebg operon do not serve to add a new functional system to the bacteria. Rather they enhance a previously existing function of ebg beta-galactose, that of catabolizing lactose. Adaptive mutation leads to the alteration of current genetic material to allow the bacteria to adapt to adverse environmental conditions. The terms evolution and adaptation should not be equivocated.

Michael Behe's Blog at Uncommon Descent.
Michael Behe's Amazon blog.


8. Why Computer Simulations of Evolution are NOT a Good Argument for Evolution

Biological Evolution and the NFL Theorems by Professor Ronald Meester, Department of Mathematics, VU-University, Amsterdam.
An article arguing that we learn very little, if anything at all, about biological evolution from computer simulations.



1.3.7 Arguments for Intelligent Design

Useful Web sites

Signature in the Cell by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer.
The foundations of scientific materialism are in the process of crumbling. In Signature in the Cell, philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer shows how the digital code in DNA points powerfully to a designing intelligence behind the origin of life.

Evolution News and Views

IDEA Center

ID - The Future. Contains lots of useful podcasts on ID.

Detecting Design by Sean Pitman, M.D.
This is an extensive collection of articles and videos on how we can detect design in nature. Actually, Pitman is a Seventh Day Adventist and a creationist, but he has some excellent articles on Intelligent Design, as well as some very well thought-out responses to the common objections to it.

Intelligent Design Network Australia by Aussie IDnet.

Telic Thoughts by Mike Gene.
The author, a prominent biologist who prefers to keep his identity secret, argues for what he calls front-loaded evolution, a concept which accounts for both the occurrence of design in nature and the overwhelming cumulative evidence for the common descent of organisms. The site contains articles on front-loaded evolution and the shortcomings of so-called scientific arguments against the existence of design in Nature.

Design Inference. The Web site of Dr. William Dembski.

Uncommon Descent. A blog created by Dr. William Dembski, journalist Denyse O'Leary and friends.

Post-Darwinist. Blog spot of Toronto journalist Denyse O'Leary, who has covered the ID controversy.

Atheist Philosopher Bradley Monton Defends Intelligent Design Theory. From Peter Williams' ID Plus blog.

Virtual Cell Animation Collection by Molecular and Cell Biology Learning Center. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. The site makes a powerful visual case for Intelligent Design, even if that was not the authors' intent.

Unlocking the Mystery of Life by Illustra Media. Featuring Dr. Phillip Johnson, Dr. William Dembski, Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. Dean Kenyon, Dr. Scott Minnich and Dr. Stephen Meyer


ID's More Thoughtful Critics

Ken Miller's Evolution Page. Ken Miller is Professor of Biology at Royce University.

Discover Magazine Fails With Miller's Failure To Refute Behe by Casey Luskin. A detailed response to Professor Ken Miller's criticisms of Michael Behe.

Design Inferences in an Infinite Universe by Professor Bradley Monton.
Professor Monton contends that Dr. William Dembski's arguments for ID don't work in an infinite universe. Abstract:

This paper addresses two main questions. First, how does one determine that something has the features it does as a result of design, as opposed to for example chance? Second, how are inferences to design affected when one makes the (plausible) assumption that the universe is spatially infinite? I will show that arguments for the existence of God based on the improbable development of life don't go through under the supposition that the universe is spatially infinite. I will also show that the model of design inferences promulgated by William Dembski is flawed, because it has the consequence that one can never infer design in a spatially infinite universe. My model for design inferences has the (desirable) consequence that there are circumstances where a seeming miracle can count as evidence for the existence of God, even if one would expect that type of event to naturalistically occur in a spatially infinite universe.

The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe by Dr. Robin Collins.
This paper, which appears in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.), is the most sophisticated defence of the fine-tuning argument to date. It also addresses some of Dr. Monton's claims in the paper cited above.

Two Bad Ways to Attack Intelligent Design and Two Good Ones by Dr. Jeffrey Koperski, Saginaw Valley State University.

Design Yes, Intelligent Design Theory and Neocreationism No by Professor Massimo Pigliucci. In The Skeptical Inquirer, September 2001.

Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism by Gert Korthof (written in 2005; updated 2007).

Talk Reason Website - Critique of Intelligent Design.
A series of articles from 2002 to the present.


Scientifically Testable Predictions Made by Intelligent Design Theorists

Universal genome in the origin of metazoa: thoughts about evolution by Dr. M. Sherman.
Offers an experimentally testable hypothesis relating to the "front-loading" concept of evolution. In this concept, ancestral organisms possess many latent genes for developmental programs for different body parts which they have no need for. These genes lie dormant for millions of years and are later switched on in the descendants, who find these programs useful. The author makes two scientifically testable predictions for his theory.

Dr. Michael Egnor's Brain Hypothesis by Dr. Michael Egnor.
On this episode of ID the Future, Logan Gage interviews professor of neurosurgery at SUNY, Stony Brook Michael Egnor. Dr. Egnor discusses his current research into cerebral blood flow and the buffering of the brain from the force of blood pumped by the heart. Dr. Egnor's approach to this problem is that of an engineer, using the design inference to understand how the brain protects itself from the pulsatility of the arterial blood flow of the heart.

ID-Compatible Predictions: Foresighted Mechanisms Identified? by Patrick.
A foresighted mechanism is one that self-modifies its information in response to external stimulus, based upon a preconceived design. A good Designer would program biology to be proactive, to respond to an ever-changing environment. As the author points out, engineers often design functionality which goes unused unless a particular stimulus causes a triggered event. This suggests an avenue for ID-oriented research: looking for foresighted mechanisms. Foresighted mechanisms that modify genes have recently been empirically identified. A new study by Princeton University researchers shows for the first time that bacteria don't just react to changes in their surroundings - they anticipate and prepare for them. Somehow, they have learned to use subtle environmental cues to predict upcoming environmental changes in other parameters. The researchers then grew the bacteria in a biologically flipped environment, where the cues correlated with the opposite kind of change in the other parameters. Remarkably, within a few hundred generations, the bacteria had partially adapted to this new regime. Can Darwinism explain this behaviour of bacteria? Yes, but only on the assumption that bacteria contain their own built-in logic-solving networks. The next question is: how did these networks originate?


The Best Arguments for Intelligent Design

1. Difficulties Relating to Naturalistic Accounts of the Origin of Life

The Origin of Life. Dozens of articles (mostly by qualified scientists) on problems relating to the origin of life.

Intelligent Design: Required by Biological Life? by Dr. K. D. Kalinsky.
A well-argued essay by a scientist who contends that it is highly likely that intelligent design was required for the emergence of biological life. Interestingly, the author does NOT argue that natural selection was incapable of producing the first living things; rather, he argues that if it did so, then the "fitness landscapes" which natural selection presupposes must have been designed by some Intelligence.

Astonishing complexity of DNA demolishes neo-Darwinism by Alex Williams.
Alex Williams received a B.Sc. in botany from the University of New England, an M.Sc.(Hons.) in radioecology from Macquarie University, and is an elected member of the Australian Institute of Biology. His article is immensely accessible, and puts forward a strong case that dna was designed by an Intelligent Creator. In particular, he shows that the coding found in DNA is turning out to be far more sophisticated than anything dreamed up by the world's best computer programmers, and that in addition, DNA contains not just information but meta-information - instructions on exactly how the information it stores is to be read and used. Information might have originated by chance; but meta-information could never have done so.


What kind of information characterises life?

The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity by Dr. David Abel. In International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2009, 10, 247-291; doi:10.3390/ijms10010247.
Abstract:

To what degree could chaos and complexity have organized a Peptide or RNA World of crude yet necessarily integrated protometabolism? How far could such protolife evolve in the absence of a heritable linear digital symbol system that could mutate, instruct, regulate, optimize and maintain metabolic homeostasis? To address these questions, chaos, complexity, self-ordered states, and organization must all be carefully defined and distinguished. In addition their cause-and-effect relationships and mechanisms of action must be delineated. Are there any formal (non physical, abstract, conceptual, algorithmic) components to chaos, complexity, self-ordering and organization, or are they entirely physicodynamic (physical, mass/energy interaction alone)? Chaos and complexity can produce some fascinating self-ordered phenomena. But can spontaneous chaos and complexity steer events and processes toward pragmatic benefit, select function over non function, optimize algorithms, integrate circuits, produce computational halting, organize processes into formal systems, control and regulate existing systems toward greater efficiency? The question is pursued of whether there might be some yet-to-be discovered new law of biology that will elucidate the derivation of prescriptive information and control. "System" will be rigorously defined. Can a low-informational rapid succession of Prigogine’s dissipative structures self-order into bona fide organization?

Three subsets of sequence complexity and their relevance to biopolymeric information by Dr. David Abel and Professor Jack Trevors. In Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling (2005), 2:29, doi:10.1186/1742-4682-2-29.
Abstract:

Genetic algorithms instruct sophisticated biological organization. Three qualitative kinds of sequence complexity exist: random (RSC), ordered (OSC), and functional (FSC). FSC alone provides algorithmic instruction. Random and Ordered Sequence Complexities lie at opposite ends of the same bi-directional sequence complexity vector. Randomness in sequence space is defined by a lack of Kolmogorov algorithmic compressibility. A sequence is compressible because it contains redundant order and patterns. Law-like cause-and-effect determinism produces highly compressible order. Such forced ordering precludes both information retention and freedom of selection so critical to algorithmic programming and control. Functional Sequence Complexity requires this added programming dimension of uncoerced selection at successive decision nodes in the string. Shannon information theory measures the relative degrees of RSC and OSC. Shannon information theory cannot measure FSC. FSC is invariably associated with all forms of complex biofunction, including biochemical pathways, cycles, positive and negative feedback regulation, and homeostatic metabolism. The algorithmic programming of FSC, not merely its aperiodicity, accounts for biological organization. No empirical evidence exists of either RSC of OSC ever having produced a single instance of sophisticated biological organization. Organization invariably manifests FSC rather than successive random events (RSC) or low-informational self-ordering phenomena (OSC).

Life's Irreducible Structure by Professor Michael Polyani. In Science, New Series, 160 (3834), June 21, 1968, pp. 1308-1312.
Excerpt:

The recognition of certain basic impossibilities has laid the foundations of some major principles of physics and chemistry; similarly, recognition of the impossibility of understanding living things in terms of physics and chemistry, far from setting limits to our understanding of life, will guide it in the right direction. And even if the demonstration of this impossibility should prove of no great advantage in the pursuit of discovery, such a demonstration would help to draw a truer image of life and man than that given us by the present basic concepts of biology.

Can Evolution Explain the Origin of Life?

New Glimpses of Life's Puzzling Origins by science writer Nicholas Wade. In The New York Times, 16 June 2009.

Biological Information: The Puzzle of Life That Darwinism Hasn't Solved by Dr. Stephen Meyer.

Does the Theory of Evolution Explain the Origin of Life? An Intelligent Design Web site.


2. Difficulties Relating to Naturalistic Accounts of Major Transitions in Evolution

Universal genome in the origin of metazoa: thoughts about evolution by Dr. M. Sherman.
Offers an experimentally testable hypothesis relating to the "front-loading" concept of evolution. In this concept, ancestral organisms possess many latent genes for developmental programs for different body parts which they have no need for. These genes lie dormant for millions of years and are later switched on in the descendants, who find these programs useful. The theological implications of front-loading should be obvious.

The Biological Big Bang model for the major transitions in evolution by Dr. Eugene Koonin. A refreshingly honest and original article. The author is an atheist, but his discussion of the problems is balanced, and he proposes his own solution, as well as directions for future research in this field. An extract from the author's summary:

Major transitions in biological evolution show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity. The relationships between major groups within an emergent new class of biological entities are hard to decipher and do not seem to fit the tree pattern that, following Darwin's original proposal, remains the dominant description of biological evolution. The cases in point include the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic supergroups; and animal phyla. In each of these pivotal nexuses in life's history, the principal "types" seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate "grades" or intermediate forms between different types are detectable.... I propose that most or all major evolutionary transitions that show the "explosive" pattern of emergence of new types of biological entities correspond to a boundary between two qualitatively distinct evolutionary phases. The first, inflationary phase is characterized by extremely rapid evolution driven by various processes of genetic information exchange, such as horizontal gene transfer, recombination, fusion, fission, and spread of mobile elements. These processes give rise to a vast diversity of forms from which the main classes of entities at the new level of complexity emerge independently... In the second phase, evolution dramatically slows down, the respective process of genetic information exchange tapers off, and multiple lineages of the new type of entities emerge, each of them evolving in a tree-like fashion from that point on.

Tiny molecules drove the evolution of the vertebrates by Ed Yong,
and Did vertebrate complexity evolve with the help of junk DNA? by David Tyler.
Two commentaries on a paper by Heimberg, A.M., Sempere, L.F., Moy, V.N., Donoghue, P.C., Peterson, K.J. (2008), entitled MicroRNAs and the advent of vertebrate morphological complexity, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, February 11-15, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0712259105.
Ed Yong summarises the new findings as follows: "the complexity of the vertebrate body stems from ancient innovations in the control of genes rather than the bulk addition of new ones." One of the authors of the PNAS paper, Alysha Heimberg, explains what happened: "There was an explosive increase in the number of new microRNAs added to the genome of vertebrates and this is unparalleled in evolutionary history." These microDNAs, which were formerly dubbed "junk DNA", are now known to serve as regulator genes.

Co-author, Philip Donoghue adds: "Most of these new genes are required for the growth of organs that are unique to vertebrates, such as the liver, pancreas and brain. Therefore, the origin of vertebrates and the origin of these genes is no coincidence." The comment by David Tyler is extremely apt: "It is an understatement to say that how and why questions abound! We do not just have to consider miRNA innovation, but the introduction of miRNAs that deliver functionality... We have here a striking case of complex specified information, and that is the hallmark of designed systems."

In other words, where did these regulator genes come from, and how did they suddenly appear in vertebrate DNA? Tyler concludes: "In the present state of knowledge, design-based explananations of causation cannot be dismissed except on ideological grounds."

Best Evidence for Intelligent Design? by Dr. Rob Sheldon.
An excerpt:

Darwinism has two basic tenets: chance (natural selection), and common descent. I am inclined to say that the best argument for ID comes not from denying chance, but by denying common descent.... I've used the analogy of a PC booting up Windows XP as an example of a recursively programmed, non-linear evolution of complexity. Life on Earth and its history are so far from being smooth, that the very thing Darwin set out to explain, cannot be explained by his method: change over time. The best evidence for ID then, is not the inability of the chance hypothesis to explain current information (design inference), but the distribution of information over space and time (e.g. "evolution") which cannot be attributed to a diffusive or even "organic" growth from a common ancestor.


3. Dual-Coding Genes

Dual-Coding Genes "Nearly Impossible by Chance" - How Would Francisco Ayala Respond? by Casey Luskin.
A recent article in Public Library of Science discussed how dual-coding genes - genes which overlap and code for multiple proteins when read through different reading frames - are "hallmarks of fascinating biology" and "nearly impossible by chance" to the extent that evolutionary biologists have held "skepticism surrounding" their very existence. Now it seems they do exist, after all, and can be found in the human genome.


4. Conservation of Genes Controlling Developmental Mechanisms

Dynamic genomes, morphological stasis and the origin of irreducible complexity by Dr. W.-E. Lonnig.
In Dynamical Genetics, (editors: Valerio Parisi, Valeria De Fonzo, and Filippo Aluffi-Pentini), pp. 101-119. Argues that the constancy of developmental mechanisms in the four-billion year history of life is one of evolution's great unsolved mysteries - one which can best be explained by the hypothesis of intelligent design.


5. Michael Behe's Argument from Irreducible Complexity

Reducible Complexity in PNAS by Professor Michael Behe.
A carefully argued refutation of recent claims that science has solved the problem of how irreducibly complex structures in nature first arose.

Darwinism Gone Wild: Neither sequence similarity nor common descent address a claim of Intelligent Design by Professor Michael Behe.

Michael Behe on the Theory of Irreducible Complexity.
NOTE: Comments from biochemist Dr. Michael Behe, Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture in response to Science magazine's forthcoming article "Evolution of Hormone-Receptor Complexity by Molecular Exploitation," and regarding irreducible complexity, evolution and intelligent design. Originally published at wwww.idthefuture.com.

Irreducibility Revisited by Dr. William Dembski, February 23, 2004 (revised version).
The most sophisticated philosophical defence in the literature of Michael Behe's argument from irreducible complexity.

"Irreducible complexity" is reducible after all by Dan Jones. Article in "New Scientist", February 16 2008.
The best attempt to date made by opponents of intelligent design to account for the origin of the bacterial flagellum. The flagellum is often used by intelligent design theorists to illustrate the notion of irreducible complexity.

Analysis of Barry Hall's Research of the E. coli ebg Operon by Georgia Purdom, Ph. D. and Kevin L. Anderson, Ph .D.
Barry Hall, professor emeritus of the University of Rochester, New York, has done extensive work in the field of adaptive mutations. His work on the ebg operon in Escherichia coli is often cited - notably by ID critic Dr. Kenneth Miller - to refute biochemist Michael Behe's challenge that some complex systems have no possible evolutionary intermediate stages or transitions of development (that is, irreducible complexity). This article critically examines claims made on behalf of Professor Hall's work, and concludes that mutations in the ebg operon do not serve to add a new functional system to the bacteria. Rather they enhance a previously existing function of ebg beta-galactose, that of catabolizing lactose. Adaptive mutation leads to the alteration of current genetic material to allow the bacteria to adapt to adverse environmental conditions. The terms evolution and adaptation should not be equivocated.


Recent well-informed critiques of Neo-Darwinian Evolution by Intelligent Design Theorists

(1) Signature in the Cell by Dr. Stephen Meyer

Signature in the Cell by Dr. Stephen Meyer. The official Website.

Two Articles Defending Signature in the Cell in Salvo magazine by Casey Luskin.
A collection of scientific rebuttals to some recent critical reviews of Dr. Meyer's book.

(2) The Design Matrix by Mike Gene

The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues by Mike Gene.

The problem of design: a review of The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues by a Catholic biochemist.


(3) The Design of Life by Drs. William Dembski and Jonathan Wells

The Design of Life Web site.


(4) The Edge of Evolution by Professor Michael Behe

Michael Behe's Blog at Uncommon Descent.
Blog site of Professor Michael Behe, in which he rebuts his critics and discusses topical articles in the scientific literature on evolution.

Michael Behe's Amazon Blog, in which he rebuts hostile reviews of The Edge of Evolution by Richard Dawkins, Kenneth Miller, Jerry Coyne, Michael Ruse, Sean Carroll, R. Durrett & R. Schmidt.

Waiting Longer for Two Mutations by Professor Michael Behe. In Genetics, Vol. 181, 819-820, February 2009.

A "Predicted Earthquake" kicks up controversy in the world of science. A review of Michael Behe's "The Edge of Evolution" by Professor Thomas Woodward.

Plain Talk About Mike Behe's New Book, The Edge of Evolution by a sympathetic academic observer.

The Edge of Evolution: hostile reviews by Richard Dawkins, Kenneth Miller (summarised by P.Z. Myers), Jerry Coyne and Sean Carroll. Michael Behe's Amazon Blog, in which he rebuts hostile reviews of The Edge of Evolution by Richard Dawkins, Kenneth Miller, Jerry Coyne, Michael Ruse and Sean Carroll.

Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution: A Rebuttal to Sean Carroll's Anti-ID Book Review in Science by Casey Luskin.

Michael Behe's home page. Contains a collection of articles and reviews, plus transcripts of the Dover trial, in which Judge Jones ruled against the teaching of ID in public schools.

Whether Intelligent Design is Science - Behe's Response to Dover. Behe responds to the ruling by Judge Jones at the Dover trial, that intelligent design is "not science."


(5) Professor David Berlinski's Critique of Darwinian Thought

(Note: Berlinski is an agnostic, and does not claim to be an intelligent design theorist, although he has repeatedly heaped scorn on Darwinism. Nevertheless, his relations with the ID camp are cordial.)

The Deniable Darwin, Article in Commentary, Vol. 101, June 1996 No. 6.

Incorrigible Dr. Berlinksi, No. 1.Sample clip from Youtube. Absolutely hilarious.

Incorrigible Dr. Berlinksi, No. 2.Sample clip from Youtube. Absolutely hilarious.


Why The "God of the Gaps" Accusation is NOT A Good Argument Against Intelligent Design

The Front-Loading Fiction by Rob Sheldon.
A wide-ranging, original and thought-provoking article. The author concludes as follows:

"Front-loading" is the theistic evolutionist's attempt to stretch a Newtonian concept of determinism into an algorithmic form to avoid the collapse of Laplacian determinism. We have tried to show that algorithmic or Turing-determinism is incapable of describing biological evolution, for at least three reasons: Turing's proof of the indeterminacy of feedback; the inability to keep data and code separate as required for Turing-determinacy; and the inexplicable existence of biological fractals within a Turing-determined system.

In Favor of God-of-the-Gaps Reasoning by Dr. David Snoke.
From the author's summary of the article:

It is passe to reject "God-of-the-gaps" arguments, but I argue that it is perfectly reasonable to argue against atheism based on its lack of explanatory power. The standard argument against God-of-the-gaps reasoning deviates from the mode of normal scientific discourse, it assumes a view of history which is incorrect, and it tacitly implies a naive optimism about the abilities of science. I encourage apologists to point out gaps of explanation in atheistic theories wherever they see them, and expect atheists to return the favor.

Science and Design by Professor Del Ratzsch. In this interview, Ratzsch exposes the flaws of the "God of the gaps" argument, which is frequently invoked against ID. In a nutshell: not all gap arguments are bad. It depends on whether they are arguments from ignorance (we don't know why it happened, so God did it) or arguments from knowledge (nature would not have done this by itself, and no finite agent could have done it, so only God could have done it).


How NOT to Criticise Intelligent Design

ID Isn't science - A Refutation by Dr. Steven Meyer. Click here for Part 2 and Part 3.

Frequently Raised but Weak Arguments Against Intelligent Design. Article at www.uncommondescent.com.

How Not to Critique Intelligent Design Theory by Professor Del Ratzsch. In Ars Disputandi 5, 105.
A review of Niall Shanks' God, the Devil and Darwin.



1.4 God and the problem of evil

1.4.1 Christian approaches to the problem of evil.
1.4.2 Animal suffering.
1.4.3 The last word: God only knows!

Note: the Christian responses to the problem of evil listed below invoke a variety of explanations in order to explain the occurrence of death, suffering and sin in the world. Although the authors do not write from the same perspective, the explanations they provide for why God allows evil things to happen have much in common. Over the past two thousand years, Christian writers who discussed the problem of evil have pointed out that human beings, because of their reason and intelligence, possess free will, which enables them to rebel against God. Christians have traditionally traced the evil in the world back to two great ruptures between God and His creation: the Fall of the angels who rebelled against God (Lucifer and his followers), and the Fall of the first human beings, who turned against God. Christians live in the hope that the death of Christ on the cross, which redeemed us sinners, will finally heal the breach in the cosmos and usher in a new Heaven and a new Earth, in which there will be no more suffering.

Some theologians and Christian writers have gone further and attempted to find a meaning in the suffering that afflicts people. Some writers appeal to God's all-encompassing knowledge, BOTH of what each of us would choose to do if the suffering occurred AND also what we would do if it did not occur. For instance, maybe God knows that if individual X, who is a bad person, were to suffer a calamity, X would turn back to God and be transformed into a virtuous person, but without this calamity, X would remain set in his selfish ways. Or maybe God knows that if Y, an innocent person, did not experience horrific suffering, he/she would grow spiritually cold later in life. Other explanations given for human suffering include the "soul-making" theodicy of John Hick, who regards the Earth as a testing ground for souls, where virtues are acquired and souls are fortified; and the "higher good" theodicy, according to which God intends to bring some greater good out of the suffering.

Other Christian authors look askance at all attempts to rationalise suffering in this way, and maintain instead that God permits suffering (out of respect for our freedom) but does not in any way will it. These authors reject theodicies as sophistical. Instead of trying to rationalise the evil we observe in the world (a task they view as fruitless), these writers trace it back to two terrible calamnities in the history of the world: the fall of the angels (who may have interfered with God's original plan for the natural order, millions or even billions of years ago), and the fall of the human race (which led to the proliferation of sin in the world).

I have decided to include a fairly broad range of views here, and let the reader make up his/her own mind.

1.4.1 Christian approaches to the problem of evil

Tsunami and Theodicy by David B. Hart.Article in First Things, March 2005.
The author, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, writes against the backdrop of the tsunami on December 26, 2004, which killed approximately 300,000 people living on the rim of the Indian Ocean. The author shuns Panglossian rationalisations of the suffering that takes place in the world, as well as attempts to find meaning in human tragedies such as the Boxing Day tsunami. Hart forcefully rejects the rose-tinted view that such tragedies have an ultimate meaning which God can fathom even if we cannot. This view often finds expression in assertions made by certain believers, that the suffering of the victims is necessary for the building of the Kingdom of God, or that their suffering represents a vital part of the human story, and that God will one day show how it all fits into the Big Picture. This, Hart maintains, is not the Christian view. Unbelievers who declare that these terrible tragedies are utterly meaningless and abominable are right, Hart declares.

Hart's vehement repudiation of these cosy theodicies will shock some believers, but Hart makes a convincing case that these theodicies are profoundly un-Christian, and that they turn God into a utilitarian monster who achieves His Grand Plan for Cosmic Harmony, but only by treating people like pawns on a chessboard. Hart reminds us that the traditional Christian answer to the problem of suffering in the world has always started from the Fall of our first parents, which Hart describes as "an ancient alienation from God that has wounded creation in its uttermost depths, and reduced cosmic time to a shadowy remnant of the world God intends, and enslaved creation to spiritual and terrestrial powers hostile to God." Christians believe that Jesus Christ defeated Satan and his forces of evil by dying on the cross, so there are certainly grounds for the Christian hope that Christ will redeem creation when He comes again. In the meantime, demonic forces are still free to wreak havoc in the world, and they frequently do. Here is an excerpt from Hart's conclusion:

I do not believe we Christians are obliged - or even allowed - to look upon the devastation visited upon the coasts of the Indian Ocean and to console ourselves with vacuous cant about the mysterious course taken by God's goodness in this world, or to assure others that some ultimate meaning or purpose resides in so much misery. Ours is, after all, a religion of salvation; our faith is in a God who has come to rescue His creation from the absurdity of sin and the emptiness of death, and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred. For while Christ takes the suffering of his creatures up into his own, it is not because he or they had need of suffering, but because he would not abandon his creatures to the grave. And while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we know also that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity.


A Quick Answer to the Problem of Evil

Sixty Second Theodicy by Gregory Koukl.
How to respond to the problem of evil, neatly and quickly.

Is Christianity Arrogant? Where God is on Days of Great Tragedy by Rick Warren (video).
America's best-known pastor discusses the problem of evil and argues that the horrific consequences of people's evil acts are in no way God's will; God does not prevent these consequences, because God respects our freedom.


Christian Debates with Atheists on the Problem of Evil

Debate between David Wood and John Loftus
The topic: Does the extent of suffering in the world make the existence of God implausible?

Loftus-Wood Round Two: Another Failed Argument from Evil by Mary Jo Sharp. A Christian review of the debate.


General Discussions of the Problem of Evil, from a Christian Philosophical Perspective

Problem of Evil by Tim Holt in Philosophy of Religion.info.
An overview of the problem of evil, and solutions proposed by Christians.

The Problem of Evil - How Can A Good God Allow Evil? Article by Rick Rood of Probe Ministries.
Discusses the logical problem of evil, the evidential problem and the religious problem of evil.

The Problem of Evil by Dr. Phil Fernandes.
This article addresses several versions of the problem of evil: the metaphysical problem of evil, the moral problem of evil, the physical problem of evil and the personal problem of evil.


Why the Existence of Pain and Suffering does not Disprove God's Existence

Do Pain and Suffering Disprove God's Existence? by Dr. William Lane Craig (video).
Dr. Craig argues that our cognitive limitations as human beings are too great for us to invoke the problem of evil as a legitimate argument against God. Craig also argues that if we have good independent reasons to believe in God, then the argument from evil loses its force.

The Problem of Evil by Dr. Greg Bahnsen.
On an intellectual level, the solution to the problem is that God has a morally sufficient but undisclosed reason for the evil that exists. However, "the problem which men have with God when they come face to face with evil in the world is not a logical or philosophical one, but more a psychological one. We can find it emotionally very hard to have faith in God and trust His goodness and power when we are not given the reason why bad things happen to us and others."


Leaving aside our grounds for belief in God, does the occurrence of Evil make Atheism more plausible than Theism?

Grounds For Belief In God Aside, Does Evil Make Atheism More Reasonable Than Theism? by Daniel and Howard-Snyder and Michael Bergmann.
The authors argue against the proposition that, setting aside grounds for belief in God and relying only on the background knowledge shared in common by non-theists and theists, evil makes belief in atheism more reasonable for us than belief in theism.


Is The Occurrence of Gratuitous Evil a Valid Argument Against the Existence of God?

Is the Existence of God Compatible with Gratuitous Evil? by Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder.
An instance of intense suffering is a gratuitous evil just in case God could have prevented it without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse. The article argues that God and gratuitous evil are incompatible only if there is some minimum amount of intense suffering that God must permit in order for the greater goods at which He aims to be secured. Thus, if there is no such minimum amount, then the incompatibility claim (which is frequently defended in atheistic philosophical literature) is false.

On Rowe's Argument from Particular Horrors by Daniel Howard-Snyder.
"[E]ven if [the existence of] God and evil are compatible, and even if we can see how God might be justified in permitting a good deal of evil and suffering, certain facts about evil and suffering may constitute strong evidence for atheism, so strong that it is rational to be an atheist - provided one has no equally good grounds to think there is a God. This is William Rowe's thesis in his justly famous essay 'The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism'." Examples of particularly hideous and apparently senseless evils commonly cited by atheists include the case of a woman being brutally raped and bludgeoned to death, and that of a fawn being burned in a forest fire and then lying on the forest floor in agonising pain for several days, before finally dying. However, Howard-Snyder argues strongly that if there were some greater good that would have been lost if God had intervened to prevent these evils from occurring, it is most unlikely that human beings, with their limited cognitive faculties, would be likely to see or comprehend it. Hence, "the move from 'So far as I can tell, there is no greater good that would have been lost if God had prevented that fawn from being burned in the forest fire, or from lying in terrible agony for several days afterwards' to 'It is very likely that there is no such greater good' is reasonable only if it is reasonable to believe that we would very likely see or comprehend a greater good that would have been lost if God had prevented that instance of suffering." It is precisely this point that Snyder-Jones disputes. Rowe's argument for atheism therefore collapses.

Must Good Come From Every Evil? by Bruce Little.
This article argues that the presence of gratuitous evil in God's creation is consistent with God's purposes for creation. If there is the possibility of gratuitous evil, then the Christian no longer has the burden of justifying evil/suffering on the grounds that God will bring about a greater good. Affirming the real possibility of gratuitous evil does not subvert God's moral perfection or His providential management of creation when seen in light of His creation order. What God does promise to those who believe in Him is comfort, mercy, and sustaining grace to endure patiently the difficult times. However, there will be a day of redemption for God's creation, some day.

Suffering for What? by Bruce Little.
"Every time we suffer, it is important to know why we are suffering. Undoubtedly, some times, it may not be clear to others, but it should be clear to us. Once we have determined why we are suffering, we should respond accordingly. If we are suffering for righteousness' sake, then we may rejoice. If our suffering comes from the brokenness of this world, may we find comfort in the sufficiency of His grace as we bring our prayers to His throne. Should it be that we suffer as an evildoer, then we need to confess and repent of our sin and accept our punishment as an obedient Christian. Let us all be careful about which verses from the Bible we quote in order to encourage others or ourselves when faced with suffering. Different promises for and responsibilities in suffering attend different categories of suffering. May we exercise discernment when applying promises in situations of suffering. The fact is, in all three categories, God can clearly be at work in our lives, as well as in circumstances beyond ourselves. Yet, only when we suffer for righteousness' sake should we apply the promise of blessing. In all other suffering we must yield to the grace of God, assured that it is always sufficient."


Classical Responses To the Problem of Evil Given By Christian Theologians

Refutation of the Sects by Yeznik Koghbatsi.
A Christian classic by a 5th century Armenian theologian, which addresses the problem of evil in simple, direct language. The book makes for interesting reading, as it was written to counter the spread of Manichean dualism from Persia.

The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book VII.
St. Augustine describes a phase in his life when he wrestled with the problem of evil and came to conclude that free will was the cause of evil in the world.

Augustine on Evil by Gregory Koukl.
Is God the author of evil or its helpless victim? St. Augustine's answer has been the most intellectually credible and emotionally satisfying solution to this vexing problem.


The Contemporary Debate Over Different Answers Given By Christian Theologians To The Problem of Evil

C. S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain. Essay by Jacek Bacz.
Lewis was famous for espusing a soul-making theodicy: Earth is a vale of suffering where our virtues are forged. Suffering purifies us and makes us who we are. However, Lewis also believed that the angels who fell wreaked cosmic chaos which upset the natural order, and that the fall of the human race was a real, historical event.

Review: Evil and Evidence for God, by R. Douglas Geivett. Review by Dr. Ian Markham.
The book is a timely critique of John Hick's Irenaean theodicy. According to Hick's theodicy, the world contains an abundance of evil because it is intended by God to serve as a vale of soul-making - a school of the virtues for human beings, who are made in God's image. Geivett argues that it would be immoral of God to cause (and use) evil as a means to promote soul-making. Instead, Geivett defends the answer offered by St. Augustine, who places all the blame for evil on fallen creatures (both human and angelic). Because of their disobedience the creation has been marred. On this view, evil serves no purpose in the plan of God. Regarding natural evil (occurrences of death and suffering in nature), Geivett proposes that EITHER it is caused by fallen angels tampering with God's design for the universe, OR it is an unintended but inevitable consequence of fixed natural laws, which (Geivett argues) are essential for human freedom.

Divine Providence. by Hugh McCann. Article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A sophisticated Thomist response to the problem of evil.

A New Free Will Defense by Alexander Pruss.
Argues that even if God is an essentially omnipotent and omnibenevolent greatest conceivable being, then his nature would still allow him to create a world like the one we live in.


Answers To The Problem of Evil Given By Christian Pastors and Apologists, In Response To Sceptics' Queries

Why Do Bad Things Happen? by Stephen Montgomery.

The Problem of Evil - Part 1. Article by ComeReason Ministries. A letter by an honest, intelligent sceptic, followed by a Christian response.

The Problem of Evil - Part 2. Article by ComeReason Ministries. Follow-up from the first letter.

Is There Too Much Evil and Suffering For God to Exist? by Rich Deem.

How can God allow 'natural' evil to occur? by Glenn Miller.

Why Didn't God Stop the process before it started, if He knew of the massive amounts of suffering that would befall many of His creatures? by Glenn Miller.

Would the culpability of human non-intervention in violent crime imply that God's non-intervention (due to theodicy reasons) was proof that God was either malevolent or impotent? by Glenn Miller.

Bart Campolo's Karamazov God. A short essay by Colin Hansen in Christianity Today, November 2006.


1.4.2 Animal suffering

Atheists Who Are Troubled By Animal Suffering

An Atheological Argument from Evil Natural Laws by Quentin Smith.
A well-known atheist philosopher argues that the occurrence of evil in the natural world renders the existence of God highly improbable.


1. Christians Who Are Not Troubled By Animal Suffering

No Death Before the Fall - A Young Earth Problem by Rich Deem.
Argues that the view, held by a few young-earth creationists, that no animal death occurred before Adam's sin, is unbiblical. Most of the arguments in its support appeal directly to emotion (e.g. "millions of year of suffering and death").

Why were Dangerous Animals Created? by David Snoke.

Millions of Years of Death and Suffering: Does the Old Earth View Compromise God's Character? by Rich Deem.
Some creationists object to the view that God designed the earth so that there were millions of years of death, disease and suffering. However, according to the young earth interpretation, God cursed the animals with thousands of years of death and suffering because of human sin, which would not seem to reflect positively upon God's righteousness. Deem argues that the occurrence of animal suffering does not reflect badly on the moral character of God.


2. Christians Who Are Troubled By Animal Suffering

On the notion of a cosmic fall by David Walsh, a Roman Catholic layman.
The author writes:

[T]he acceptance that God's will for creation includes predation, suffering and death leaves us with a very strange God indeed and one that will inevitably tie us up in theodicies that ought to leave us cold.

In an age where there are abundant calls for theology to shed its "false humility", to no longer let itself be cowered into proclaiming only what is deemed acceptable to secular reason, it may be time to bring the notion of a "cosmic fall" back.

Does the savagery of predation in nature show that God either isn't, or at least isn't good-hearted? by Glenn Miller.
Part One: To what extent is the existing predatory situation created by God, and to what extent does God 'endorse' it now? Miller argues that in the original creation, the larger animals were herbivorous. However, the Fall of the human race, and subsequently the Flood, radically corrupted the pristine purity of God's original creation. (Comment: I think Miller should have considered the possibility that Genesis 1 describes God's original plan for the natural order, before the fall of the angels interfered with it, rather than being an historical account of what life on Earth was like before humans appeared on the scene.)

Does the savagery of predation in nature show that God either isn't, or at least isn't good-hearted? by Glenn Miller.
Part Two: How extensive is 'painful predation'? (Note: I think Miller's theodicy works perfectly well without Part One.) Citing a wealth of scientific references, Miller shows that suffering in the animal world is confined to mammals and birds.

Does the savagery of predation in nature show that God either isn't, or at least isn't good-hearted? by Glenn Miller.
Part Three: Where exactly in the act of predation is the theological/moral problem?
Miller argues that predation in nature does not impugn the goodness of God, and that it is anthropomorphic to imagine that animals suffer in anything like the same way that we do.

Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science by William Dembski.
A highly original paper, which attempts to explain the prevalence of suffering in the animal realm millions of years before human beings even appeared on Earth, by using an idea like that in the movie Minority Report. God knew that the first human beings would freely choose to reject him, and in anticipation of that fact, created a fallen world, filled with the natural evils that resulted from their wicked choice. The first human beings, however, were shielded from the awareness of suffering in nature by being placed in an earthly Paradise (Eden) until after they had been tested by God. After failing the test (the event we know as the Fall) they were released from this Paradise and could witness for themselves the terrible carnage they had created. This article thus makes human beings (retrospectively) responsible for animal suffering, and not the fallen angels.


1.4.3 The last word: God only knows!

The Book of Job: God's Answer to the Problem of Evil by Robert Bowman.

A Grief Observed by Jeff G of www.christiancadre.org.