Question: Argument from Design Premise: The purposive organization of man-made objects is evidence of the intelligence and purpose of the maker….


Argument from Design

Premise: The purposive organization of man-made objects is evidence of the intelligence and purpose of the maker.

Premise: The world contains many natural objects (animals, plants, the human eye, and so on) whose organization is clearly purposive, and the world itself is purposively organized.

Conclusion: By analogy, there must exist a maker of the universe who has made it according to a plan. That world-maker, or Creator, is God.

Cosmological Argument

Premise: We know, by the evidence of our senses, that in the world some things are moved.

Premise: Everything that is moved must be caused to move by something else.

[Sub]Argument: If each thing that moves is in turn moved by something that itself moves, which in its turn requires a cause of motion that itself moves, then there will nowhere be a first mover, and hence no motion at all. But there is motion.

Conclusion: Hence, there must be a first mover that is not itself moved. That first mover is what we call God.

Ontological Argument

Premise: I possess the idea of a being than which no greater can be conceived. That idea includes within it everything that belongs essentially to such a being.

Premise: To exist in actuality is greater than merely to be possible.

[Sub]Argument: The idea of that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, includes the idea of its existence, which thus belongs to it necessarily.

Conclusion: Hence, that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists, and it is this that we call God.

Here is your assignment:

(a) For each of the three traditional philosophical arguments for the existence of God (as defined in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions), briefly present what you consider to be the most forceful or persuasive refutation of each argument.

(b) Now, for the sake of argument, take the standpoint of the theist, one who believes that God exists, and defend at least one of these three arguments by offering a rebuttal of the refutation you presented to that argument (in other words,either  offer a counterargument to the refutation or show why it should be rejected). If, taking the theist stance, you are unable find any reasons to counter or reject the refutation, explain why you continue to believe in the existence of God in the face of evidence or reasons that show that your argument fails to prove its conclusion.

Note that this is an exercise in philosophy, not religion, so the theist’s saying simply that she believes in God because that is what she was always taught to believe or because that belief makes her feel safe, happy, hopeful, etc., may be ways of explaining why she has this belief, but these do not count as rebuttals or counterarguments. Nor does her claim that her belief in God is something that needs no explanation or proof to support it. For the theist to make such an admission is nothing but an acknowledgement that her belief in God is irrational; that is, she can offer no good reasons for this belief.

The theist seems to have a couple of ways to respond: (a) She and the atheist have different definitions of what a “good” reason is; (b) Why should I care about being rational in every single belief I have? Can’t I have a few irrational desires and wishes and dreams and hopes, as well as emotionally fueled beliefs, that are not particularly rational, in the strict sense? Maybe there is something rational about adopting a “safe story”; a set of beliefs that answered existential questions and anxieties with positive and optimistic descriptions when facing something unknown and feared. Maybe believing in stories, and hoping for mystical and supernatural events to someday rescue us from death, is actually healthy and psychologically fortifying for the individual. Other cases of harmless fantasies harbored by people that end up having beneficial affects on the person as a whole are pretty common. So maybe rationality should not be the gold standard for always being the best way of handling the human situation, or maybe we have to widen the scope of what counts as rational.

Be sure to explain and comment on this result if your theist ends up unable to counter the refutation in question. One thing to think about here is how we in general regard someone who believes a claim to be true without having any good reason for having that belief. Do we make a special case for beliefs about God? 

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