The background to this entire discussion is the Transcendental Signifier argument: that God is the best explanation for hierarchical ordering in reality: The transcendental signified explains hierarchical ordering since it provides for a top of the metaphysical hierarchy that would order all the way down. Last post was Prolegomena to Criteria for Best Explanation. Here I propose the Criteria and show them in action.
Criteria for choosing the best explanation:
I. Simple (elegant and ontologically simple).
Focus is on God's relationship to all aspects of the universe and reality. It's not about issues like what is God made of or does he have parts. The relation itself of the God concept to the universe is what is at issue. One concept that props up every thing is simpler than trying to account for everything through loose ends. That's why they want a grand unified theory. More concise and bang for the buck.
Does the explanation compete with other explanations? In a sense no, the other explanations are not scientific. Science and religion have different domains they are meant to do different things. God and science don't compete. Yet the question is not one of science vs. God but of world views. While science makes up a large part of the world view of scientists and skeptics (and believers too at times) if we think of atheism as a world view there's more to it than just science. Atheism consists of actively cutting out the kinds of existential and phenomenological explanations that are part of the believer's world view. So belief in God answers the questions abou8t life at a more philosophical level, to my way of thinking a more profound level. Science tells us how the physical world works. God tells us why there is a physical world. Of course there are limits to how much we are told. That's the job of Theological to figure out what God tells us and what God does not tell us. Belief in God competes with other philosophical level questions.
Religions are often thought of as competing with each other for believers, even though they all point to the TSED as a generic object of faith. This is not to say they are all the same or that it doesn't matter,
but for the sake of the TS argument I'm going to bracket that for now. Atheism and belief in God Compete directly because the farmer seeks to explain the world by removing the explanation of the latter. While most atheists turn to science for explanatory power they often embrace an ideological version of science that is tuned to screen out religious explanations.i God transcends our understanding and our observations. Thus God belief can't compete with science's answers of how the universe works; nor does it need to. It does answer the why, the best atheism can do is to assert that there is no why. To the extent that both world views seek to account foe ultimate origins.
So the issue is not one of science vs. belief in God, but belief vs. atheism. In other words given equal embrace of science which world view best explains the world? Some will claim that science rules out God because there's no necessary place for God in a world of modern science. That just depends upon what kind of explanation we seek. The believer must not allow the skeptic to pull a bait-and-switch whereby the workings of the physical world are put over as the best explanation just because they are the most certain.
III. Logically consistent with self and world:
No internal contradictions in theory, and if it does contradict what we think we know it has to re-explain it in a way so as to account for the apparent contradiction.
Explains more of the data than other hypotheses, and coordinates the answer to all other areas or more other areas than do other hypotheses. Example. God not only explains something from nothing but also accounts for ethics and meaning. The totality of data is all aspects of existence. It can't be limited to just empirical data but all aspects of human being and the nature of existing.
In order to cover all data the answer must include the philosophical in that it considers the phenomena on a higher level than just the physical workings of the universe. We have to be careful, however, not to set up the criteria in such a way that God is the only valid answer because nothing else applies. God must be the best explanation because other alternatives are eliminated. To demonstrate that I have not just set things up to favor my argument, I will, when the time comes to eliminate other alternatives, show alternatives that also fit the criteria.
Why a philosophical answer? Why not just content ourselves with the physical universe and how it works? That approach would rule God out before one got started thinking about that question. By Metaphysical I mean in the sense Wiltshire uses it, talk about talk about the world (glossery). Or to put it another way, thinking about how to think about the world. That answer must proceed from a transcendental perspective, analyzing the system of thought itself. The answer must be on a transcendental or metaphysical level but need not involve God. Must we manufacture a reason for things? No but there is a fine line. The answer can't content itself with pure physics and no more, but it can't demand a purposive reason as the only option. The explanation (sans God) on the metaphysical level might involve just dealing with the consequences of a purposeless world. We have to face the possibility that there is no purpose, but by the same token the skeptic must respect a subjective sense as the justification for seeking purpose. It's true that this criterion asks one to acept positions that perhaps can't be proven, but we don't have to prove the actual reality of God to produce a rational warrant for belief. Even a subjective sense can be analyzed and subjected to forms of verification see my first book, The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief, available on Amazon).
These five qualities taken together are what I call “the best explanation.” The conclusion of the argument posits a TSED which can logically be understood as a generic God Concept. That conclusion has to meet the criteria. I will defend the premises as true statement based upon best educated judgement then show how the proposed conclusion meets the criteria as best explanation for the phenomena sited.
The tie: the believer discounts naturalistic phenomena on the basis that it needs a cause. The possibility of infinite causal regression (ICR) is discounted. The physicalist responds “why doesn't God need a cause?” The answer invariably comes back “there has to be a final cause at some point since otherwise we are stuck with an ICR again and we never have our cause.” The The phyiscalist, however, can come back and insist that these two explanations are on an equal par, if gravity or physical law needs a cause than why doesn't God need a cause? We can always insist any answer needs a cause, but causes can't be infinite. Neither ICR nor final cause work. The former can't be accepted, the latter can't be privileged. Apparently nothing exists. Since that can't be the case there must be a problem in our understanding. Perhaps we can give different weights to the aseity potential of each of the two, God vs. naturalistic or physical cause.
We can expect God to have aseity because that's part of the concept of God, and because we know there must be a first or final cause. Otherwise, nothing would be. Of course the other option is that ICR is possible. I dealt with that above. It's understandable that the physicalist would be dissatisfied with this answer. It might seem as though God is just being defined into existence. But there are two arguments we can make here. First, the two competing explanations are of different natures and that should give a different weight to each one. After all, if ICR is impossible there would have to be a final cause. Why should we think that cause is some material or naturalistic phenomenon? We have reasons to believe that God would not need a cause, the concept of God as possessing aseity is based upon the fact of needing final cause and of God as creator of all that is. But we have no example of anything physical or material (including energy—special answer on conservation) that does not have a cause; appeal to physical laws as eternal causes don't work for reasons given in chapter 4. We have no reason to think that there could be an eternal uncaused Higgs boson or that any of these physical alternatives could be uncaused. If we assert the apparent acausal nature of quantum particles there are certainly prior conditions to such particles that can't be accounted for by naturalistic phenomena. Secondly, we can bring in the deductive version of the TS at this point.
The deductive version proves that there must be a single first principal at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy. That first principle must be sufficient to create and sustain the universe (or multiverse) including all OP's. For example it was argued that the first principle (the TSED) must be first cause of all that is. So there must be an ἀρχή and it must have aseity. It must be uncaused or we are back into ICR. Or it makes no sense to speak of final cause being caused. There is logical reason to attribute aseity to God. It would seem a universal consciousness might be thought of as spirit and be eternal. It seems there's much less reason to attribute that to an inanimate phenomenon as they seem to always be the product of prior conditions and/or causes. Another way to look at the question: the ἀρχή is God a priori, whatever else it might be. That would be the definition of God. Since there must be an ἀρχή there must be God. These are not two separate arguments, the deductive version and the abductive, just different methods of inference from the same premise.
These arguments as answers on the abductive version do not require proof, it's enough to show we have good reason to think it's the best solution. None of these theories listed above offer explanations for the hierarchical nature of order nor do they offer a single first principle that fits the requirements for transcendental signified.
The moral is if we follow the criteria laid out last time then the ties are broken in both cases by applying the criteria and completeness and competitiveness. Neither physicalist paradigms answers all the data (doesn't explain why there is hierarchy) neither does ICR or any other physicality alternative.