This argument has been used for a long, long time. Basically, it goes like this:
1. Something cannot come from nothing (which is backed by the fact that matter cannot be created or destroyed).
2. Somethings exist.
3. Therefore, something supernatural (above physical laws) must have created everything.
4. Therefore, God.
The common response “what created God?” is faulty. The point of the above argument is that nothing could have come into existence within physical laws. It is wrong to imagine that matter just poofed into existence. God, on the other hand, is meant to be above physical laws. Either he has always existed, or he could have poofed into existence since he would not be subject to physical laws.
However, consider replacing “God” with “the Flying Spaghetti Monster”. The FSM is above physical laws, so it could also have created everything. There is nothing to distinguish our concept of “God” that justifiably assumes his existence over any other supernatural explanation.
To fix this, just replace “God” with “something supernatural”. Does this argument work?
I want to say no, the existence of the universe does not necessitate something supernatural. There is clearly some knowledge that we do not have yet, but I believe that the “something supernatural” explanation is looking at the wrong problem.
Here’s an alternative argument:
1. Something cannot come from nothing.
2. Somethings exist.
3. The things that currently exist could not have come from not existing.
4. Therefore, the things that currently exist have never not existed.
5. Therefore, everything that exists has always existed.
This is where I believe the lack of knowledge exists. We cannot currently conceive of how everything that exists has always existed (my best explanation would be that time is somehow circular, with no beginning point). However, the lack of knowledge does not entail being wrong. To add a little support for why the alternative argument is a better argument, consider the way we think of time and space:
I’ll define space as all matter in the universe. Most people do not consider the idea that this matter could have always existed (which I am arguing for). However, at least subconsciously, they are assuming that time has always existed. If space needs a beginning point in time, should time also need one? It isn’t so clear that it does. My argument is that if time has always existed, space can conceivably exist the same way.
Dictionary.com defines faith as:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing
2. belief that is not based on proof
To be clear, I am all for definition #1. Confidence in other people is absolutely necessary for a normal life. You need to have faith that your partner is not cheating on you, faith that people you meet aren’t trying to rob you, and so forth. This type of faith is most often based on building trust. Still, you can never be certain of these facts to the point that you can ignore the possibility. However, you can’t live life constantly doubting the people close to you.
Definition #2 is where the problem comes in. Faith in religion falls under this category. My assertion is this: no religion is based on proof, and relies entirely on its followers to have faith that is not based on proof. To justify this, consider the commonly thought “proofs” for religious belief: personal experience, personal convictions, and fulfilled prophecies.
Personal experience, put simply, is the idea that certain past experiences have supernatural implications. For example: “I was in a dire situation, and I called out to God and he answered my prayer”. This can take the form of simple comfort, an event prayed for, or a clearer understanding of a problem. To refute this, all I would ask is: if an answer to prayer is positive proof of God, is the absence of an answer a negative proof? The famous example is: God is ignored when a hurricane kills a thousand people, but is praised when one person is found alive in the rubble. It’s intellectually dishonest to praise God for answering one person’s prayer, and then excuse him for ignoring another person’s prayer.
The most common defense of this is that “God won’t answer a prayer if it is against his will”. If this is true, then God doesn’t answer any prayers. If what you prayed for was already part of God’s will, then God would have performed his will anyway. Therefore, your prayer did not affect any outcome. If prayer does not affect any outcomes, there are no connections between prayer and God’s actions that can show proof of God’s existence.
Personal convictions are based on emotions. For example, in Christianity a relationship with God is stressed. This relationship gives positive emotions, and many people will claim that they “feel” the presence of God. However, this happens in more than just Christianity. People of almost every religion have such strong convictions that they are willing to die for their religion. Are all of their convictions evidence of the validity of their religion? If one religion is justified by the convictions of its followers, then all religions would have to be justified.
Lastly, prophecies are used to justify religion, especially in Christianity. Common examples are: the coming of Jesus and the establishment of Israel as a country. First, both examples are a bit faulty. The coming of Jesus was written about years after he was alive, and the writers knew exactly what the prophecies said and what Jesus was supposed to be. Also, Israel took thousands of years to become a country, and religious motivations were very prevalent in establishing Israel. Lastly, to specifically refute Christian prophecies, just look at what Jesus said about his return: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34). Obviously, this did not happen.
So, is this type of faith necessarily bad? No, there are obviously cases where blind faith has really good consequences. However, aggregately speaking, this is not the case. The reason I’m against faith is that it gives groups of people something to fight about. An atheist has no reason to go to war to promote the idea that there is no God, while countless millions of people have gone to war to promote their idea of God. Without an actual backing to that faith, I don’t see how faith can be seen as a positive.
The voting problem is simple: why should an individual vote, knowing that their singular vote won’t affect the overall results whatsoever?
For example, let’s take a U.S. presidential election. The voting will never be decided by one vote, so an individual voter has no impact on any of the ballot results. Should they then conclude that voting as a whole is not worthwhile, so they should never vote?
The reason this is a problem: imagine that there’s a giant vote between consequentionalism and deontology. Each of the deontologists knows that the vote is valuable because if everyone chose not to vote, the system wouldn’t work. So they all decide to vote. The consequentionalists each think “my vote isn’t going to actually affect the vote, and my vote won’t affect whether or not other people vote”. So each individual consequentionalist reasonably concludes that their vote has no value, and therefore decides not to vote. The end result: deontology wins, without a single vote against it. But is this how it should be?
Now imagine that there is a cause worth voting for, say to vote for the replanting of a rainforest. If the vote succeeds, then the rainforest will be replanted at almost no cost, and the benefit to the environment will be huge. Now, how do you convince each individual voter that their vote matters? “Every vote counts” is simply not true, there has never been and never will be a large-scale election decided by one vote (especially when considering that voting counters have margins of error). However, there needs to be some justification to get people to vote. If either the Democratic or Republican party could convince every single one of their supporters to vote, they would never lose an election.
So the problem becomes: how do you give value to an individual vote that has no positive consequences and still maintain that consequences are the only morally valuable matter (as I believe to an extent)?
To help illustrate my response, imagine a scenario where an innocent man is being stoned to death. Image an individual, Will, that is part of the crowd stoning him. The crowd, including Will, knows that the man is innocent and is stoning him for sport. Will throws one individual stone at the innocent man. The man would’ve died with or without Will throwing that individual stone. Also, in the barrage of stones, the man did not notice or particularly feel pain from the individual stone that Will threw. Will’s action, throwing the individual stone, did not affect the overall consequences of the situation in any way. However, was his action immoral? I want to say that yes, it was, and still maintain my consequentionalist viewpoint.
To be clear, my form of consequentionalsim (value utilitarianism for those who have read my past posts) is a form of motive consequentionalism. Basically, the motive for positive consequences is what matters, not the actual consequences. For example, imagine that you see a bus heading for a small child in the street. You run to save the child, and push him out of the path of the bus. Your motive is to prevent the child from being hit by the bus, which is a motive for a positive consequence. Now imagine that you push him out of the way of the bus, but the child then ends up being hit by a speeding truck and the bus was able to stop in time. Was your action morally wrong, since the child would have had the better consequence if you had done nothing? I think the obvious answer is no, since you acted with the will to save the child’s life, your action was still morally right. To describe this, I refer to this as the will to consequence, or the will to promote good consequences.
So, for Will’s case, Will does not affect any consequences in the situation. Further, he can easily reason beforehand that his action will not affect the overall outcome. So initially, it appears that Will does not have any will to negative consequence. To justify my condemnation of Will’s action, I am going to separately quantify the consequences and the aggregate action.
The aggregate action of the crowd is the stoning of the innocent man. If the crowd was one entity, then the motive would be to stone the innocent man. The intended consequences, the death and pain of an innocent main, are negative. So the aggregate action is immoral because it intends to produce negative consequences. Will, along with each other individual in the crowd, is then guilty of “participating” in the aggregate action. I call this a will to participate. The aggregate action is justifiably immoral because of the immoral consequences it produces. The individual throwing the stone is immoral because they participate in an immoral action, the aggregate action. In this way, Will is guilty of an immoral action even without intending to directly create any negative consequences, and still the only negative value in the equation is derived from the consequences.
I’m going to use the same logic to justify giving value to an individual vote. The aggregate action is the collection of voting, and the aggregate action produces a positive consequence (say the replanting of trees). Each individual voter has the will to participate in the aggregate action, and therefore each individual voter is performing a good action. The value is still derived from the consequences, even though the individual voter does not directly affect the consequences.
I feel this philosophy is important because of the contrast between individual actions and global matters. Most individuals do not affect matters on a global scale. However, I see this in a similar way. A “good” global society would require each individual to contribute to the overall good, yet the individual affect would still result in nothing. I’ll go into this more deeply in the future.