Friday, March 29, 2013

The Evolution of the God Concept (part 2)

tower photo eagle_nebula.jpg

,,,,The assumption that humans are projecting their own attributes is no more supported by the facts than the idea of progressive revelation. It could just be that our conceptions of God have to grow as our understanding of reality grows. How could Stone Age people start out understanding God in terms of quantum theory or transcendence in relation to the space/time continuum? As our understanding has grown our conceptions of God have become more grandiose, they have kept pace with our understanding of the nature of the universe. How could it be other wise? We can’t understand what we have never experienced or that to which we have never been exposed. New psychological research has indicated that children don’t have to understand God’s attributes by first understanding human attributes, but become able to distinguish between different kinds of agents at an early age (six).[1] We might still limit our understanding to our own experience of mind, yet as thinkers we are capable of conceptualizing beyond our own experience. This is born out by research which shows that people often have two understandings of God that conflict, especially in relation to ceremonial uses, they can anthropomorphize when explaining belief but recite doctrines they don’t understand when called upon to state beliefs.[2] That research pertains to Christian children but research has shown the same disparity with Hindus.[3] The real argument against the projection theory has to be the data discussed in the chapter on supernatural, the “m scale” studies by Hood that show universal nature of religious experience. If the concept of God is just the result of psychology how could it be that psychology is universe to all cultures and all times? It is true that the human mind is universal to humans, but it’s also the case that religion is thought of as a cultural phenomenon. The projection idea would be more than just a universal aspect of the human mind it would have to be the product of culture as well because it’s tied to specific cultural ideas of God. Yet all the mystics are having the same experiences regardless of their doctrine.
            Moreover, a positive transformative effect is tied to the experiences that indicates that something more fundamental than just cultural constructs is at work.

Examples of transformative effects

Sullivan (1993) (large qualitative study) The study concludes that spiritual beliefs and practices were identified as essential to the success of 48% of the informants interviewed.[4]  A study by Loretta Do Rozario of the religious practices of the disabled and those in chronic pain, the study demonstrates that religious (“mystical,” or “peak” experience) not only enables the subjects to cope with the trials of the challenges but also provides a since of growth even flourishing in the face of adversity.[5] The study methodology is known as “hermeneutic Phenomenology” it uses both intensive interviews and biographical essays. The Wuthnow study used questionnaires and the sample included 1000 people in San Francisco and Oakland. He asked them about experience of the transcendent, 68% of those experiencing within a year said life is very meaningful. While 46% of those whose experiences were more than a year old answered this way, that life was very meaningful. 82% of those experiencing within a year found they felt they knew the purpose of life, and 72% whose experiences were more than a year old. Only 18% and 21% respectively of those who had not had such experiences felt they cold say the same things.[6]
            Naturalistic assumptions about religion theorized it was explanation for natural phenomena. Linked to magical thinking because they assume it’s primitive and superstitious. Its real origin is found in the actual experiences and their transformative effects. The transformative effects are what links religious orientation with a concept of God. The sense of exercising God or “the divine” with the transformational effects has to be more than just projecting anthropomorphism since it takes us beyond our understanding and into a real that we can’t even express; yet the noetic qualities of the experience that impart meaning and significance to the events indicate that something real and larger than ourselves has been experienced. If we are projecting human qualities we have at least found, through religion, a way that those qualities connect us to come inherent meaning in life. It’s more likely that this something beyond ourselves. The sense that the power is beyond us is often part of the experience. This is a basic aspect of the definition of spirituality.[7]
            Over the last forty years or so the idea of a brain chemistry solution to the concept of God has become fashionable. Scientific research demonstrates a connection between the concept of God and certain aspects of brain function. This has led many theorize a totally naturalistic origin for the God concept.[8] Contrary to wishful thinking along these lines the association between thoughts about God and certain kinds of brain function is no proof that the concept of God originates totally within the brain as a side effect of brain chemistry. First, since we now understand that brain chemistry has to play a role in the communication process there should be no surprise that we find this association between God concept and brain chemistry. We find the same association between any two ideas. This is not proof that the idea of God is purely a side of brain chemistry any more than it is a proof that the ideas of mathematics are purely the result of brain chemistry. Secondly, the notion probably stems from the assumption of skeptics that God is supernatural and brain chemistry is natural and never the twain shall meet. As we have seen in chapter (on supernatural) that term was coined to describe an experience which is toughly a part of naturalistic life. Supernatural describes mystical experience, which we know is a very real experience.
            The idea that ties to brain chemistry are disproof of supernatural assumes that religious experience is seen as a miracle or something is wholly removed form naturalistic functions. This is merely a fallacy. As we discussed in chapter six (on supernatural) God created the natural, God is present in the natural, God is able to use the natural. The idea that the concept of God grows out of an accident or misfiring of brain wiring is merely a fallacious assumption. The probability is totally against any kind of “misfire” producing such an astounding sense of personal growth and transformation of life. Andrew Newberg and Eugene D’Aquili, after many years of research, specifically rejected that assumption; Newberg cited the realization of religious experience as a reality that connects us to the ultimate.[9] “the mind is mystical by default.”[10] What he means by that is that the same physical processes that carry messages from the body to the brain and make reality meaningful to us would have to be involved regardless of the reality of the external causes. God would have to use the chemical processes of our brains to communicate with us, and if God is real than that’s he made us. The view point that sees religious experience and belief as genetic adaptation is really missing the point about the nature of evolution. As Lee Kirkpatrick points out the simpler concept is the more evolved. Rather than evolving an elaborate structure such as religious experience to deal with anxiety, why would the human brain not just evolve an efficient and simple mechanism for coping with stress?[11]
            There is also an argument to be made that the relation between brain chemistry and God concept is a good justification for belief in the reality of God. The basis for a hard wired God concept need not be evidence of a “God gene.” It could also be the result of a combination of genes working together (Spandrels), either way the odds are against it happening by total accident. That in itself is a good indication of some pre planning on the part of nature or something behind nature. Again the universality argument comes into play. We can’t assume the universal nature of cultural constructs. It would have to be genetic. The problem is evolution and genes can’t really provide for the content of ideas. They couldn’t really account for the universality of the God concept. Some skeptics have been known to argue that universal behaviors are genetic.[12] These pertain to things like men finding symmetrical faces and women’s figures are more attractive. Those are not the content of ideas, they are just behaviors. That’s not instinct not idea. The universality of the God concept draws upon the content of the idea not just a behavior:

In Western Religions and In Hinduism, the higher Being has been called “God.” In all theistic religions God is perceived as the ultimate, externality (transcendent), the ultimate internality, (immanent), and sometimes both simultaneously. Often, God is not perceived simply as a higher being but in many ways has been described as the ground or substance of all being. Thus, God is not only the higher being but also a state of higher being or ultimate reality. In fact, in the mystical tradition of the Western religions, the goal of the practice of meditation is to become intensely united with God and in so doing to become, in a sense, a part of ultimate reality involving release from the cycle of birth and death.[13]

The content of the ideas is what is universal, as well as the experiences (see chapter six—Hood’s argument and data). The way we as a species experience things can’t be genetically heritable especially when that experience has given rise to the content of an idea. That would be like positing the notion of innate ideas, which was supposed to be abandoned in the enlightenment. Innate ideas are assumed to be planted by God and are seen as the old religious way of looking at things. Innate ideas were assailed and dispatched by John Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding.[14]
            God was not invented by man and then evolves as a fictional concept, but God reveals himself/herself to man in progressive stages of revelation; our knowledge of God is ever deeper as people continue to seek the infinite. We can see the current result of this progressive revelation in the high state to which the concept of God had developed. The theological concepts we propose, sheer guess work in relation to the actual truth of the Holy, are evolved to a high stage of understanding regardless of their origin around the time of St. Augustine (354-430). The basic concept is that of transcendent reality that form the basis of reality as a whole, being itself, the ground of being. The basic attributes of the concept include eternal (timeless), necessary (meaning not contingent—not dependent upon any prior conditions or causes for its being) the ground of being. The secret to the continuing modernity of this concept is that it is no longer a concept about a guy; it’s an equation. It can’t be a maybe it has to be either a certainty or impossibility. There’s no reason why it should be impossible so it must be a certainty. The real kicker is it’s not about a magnified man or a jumped up state of being human, but with great powers added; it’s about a category. That’s what “being itself” or “ground of being” refers to. God is not another guy, God is not one of many others like itself, God is a whole category of being, a category that functions as the basis of all actuality. God might be likened unto the Hegelian dialectic, a form of logic that works by point counter point rather than a linear progression. In fact one of the major schools of thought about revelation (Barth, Bultmann) saw Biblical revelation as a dialectic between reader and the text.[15]
            This high level of philosophical development in the concept of God has culminated in several major theological ways of understanding God. Of course there’s the Tillich view of God as being itself, or ground of being, that understands God as a category of reality rather than an individual. Then process theology (Alfred North Whitehead), based upon the Hegelian concept of progressive revelation already discussed, this view sees God as di polar; in the potential realm God is unchanging because God is the basis of all potential, in the consequent realm God is moving into concrete being by evolving with creation. What God is doing in that state is bringing into and out of existence actual entities (that’s something like sub atomic particles). This doesn’t see God as stable static unchanging reality as a “society of occasions” like a movie made up of individual moments or frames but played fast creates a totally different illusion that of a moving picture show. Process theology is always unrated in its popularity. It is the most popular modern liberal alternative in terms of understanding God. It also spawned a popularized version called “open theology.”  Then there’s  Jurgen Moltmann’s notion of God working backwards from the future. That doesn’t really deal so much with the nature of God as with his orientation toward the future. The idea is not that time is running backwards but only that God’s position in time is to regard the horizon of the future and understand reality from there back (in other words, God is beyond time he can afford to pick his persective). Thus man is constantly moving toward a future horizon that he never actually achieves, but is already there drawing us on.
            These views are only guesses; the reality is beyond our understanding. That’s the secret of God’s success; he’s not only real but inexhaustible. Our best ideas about his nature are inadequate, yet they are modern they are keeping pace with our scientific understanding. We can quantum theory to understand aspects of God. For example the notion that the energy in the big bang is created in the expansion, it is not eternal, that can be understood by reference to quantum theory which would suspend the Newtonian laws at the singularity. Thus, no conservation of energy, so energy can be created. Or the Trinity might be better understood if we understood if we understood wave/particle duality. Yet these are ideas are bound to some day be lost to history and seem old fashioned. The theologies that spin off of them will no doubt pass out of fashion. Whatever comes into fashion will include a God concept and it will keep pace with human advancement. This is not because man is reinventing a concept he made up, but because there is continually more of God to discover. It’s the actual personal experiential discovery that is the secret to God’s success. There’s always more to be experienced in the each moment, in each life, in each generation.

[1] J. L. Barrett,  R.A. Richert, , A. Driesenga,  “God's beliefs versus mother's: The development of nonhuman agent concepts.”  Child Development, 72(1), (2001).  50-65
[2] J.L.  Barrett, F.C.  Keil, “Conceptualizing a Nonnatural Entity: Anthropomorphism in God Concepts.” Cognitive Psychology, 31(3), (1996). 219-247.
[3] J.L. Barrett, “Cognitive constraints on Hindu concepts of the divine,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37(4), (1998). 608-619.
[4] W. Sullivan, “It helps me to be a whole person”: “The role of spirituality among the mentally challenged”. Psychological Rehabilitation Journal. 16 , (1993),125-134.
[5] Loretta Do Rozario, “Spirituality in the lives of People with Disability and Chronic Illness: A Creative Paradigm of Wholeness and Reconstitution,” Disability and Rehabilitation, An International Multi-Disciplinary Journal, 19 (1997) 423-427.
[6] Robert Wuthnow, “Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, (18) 3 (1978) 66, see also 176-177
[7] K. Krishna Mohan, “Spirituality and well being, an overview,” The following article is based on a presentation made during the Second International Conference on Integral Psychology,
held at Pondicherry (India), 4-7 January 2001. The text has been published in:
Cornelissen, Matthijs (Ed.) (2001) Consciousness and Its Transformation. Pondicherry: SAICE.
Avaivble on-line through website of Indian Psychology Institute. On-line resource. URL:
Mohan defines spirutality in terms of “experiencing a numinous quality, knowing unity of the visible and invisible, having an internalized relationship between the individual and the Divine, encountering limitless love, and moving towards personal wholeness” which accords with mystical experience in terms of the M scale. He sites: (Canda, 1995; Gaje-Fling & McCarthy, 1996; Decker, 1993; King et al., 1995; Wulff, 1996). That is also in harmony  with Hood’s understanding of mystical experience, (see chapter six, on  supernatural).
[8] Matthew Alper, The God Part of the Brain, Naperville Illanois: Soucebook inc, originally published in 1996 by Rough Press, 2006, 11.
[9] Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t God Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New York, Ballentine Books), 2001, 157-172.
[10] Ibid., 37
[11] Lee A. Kirkpatrick, “Religion is not An Adaptation.” Where God and Science Meet Vol I: Evolution, Genes and The Religious Brain. Westport: Praeger Publishers,  Patrick McNamara ed. 2006, 173.
[12] Anders Rassmussen, “Universal Human Behavior”Anders Rassmussen Blog, Friday, December 39, 2006.
[13] Eugene d’Aquili and Andrew B. Newberg, The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experince. Copywright by the estate of Eugene d’Aquili and Anderw Newberg.1999. 3.

[14] John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, Great Books in Philosophy series, 12.
[15] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation. Maryknoll New York:Orbis Books, Reprint edition, 1992,  84.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Evolution of the God Concept, (part 1)

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All experiences of the divine must be filtered through cultural constructs, or symbols. God is beyond our understanding, thus beyond language. If we are talk about our experiences, however badly, we must filter them through culture.

RELIGION, although inherent in man, borrows its expressions from the setting or milieu in which man appears. The forms through which man expresses the supernatural are all drawn from the cultural heritage and the environment known to him, and are structured according to his dominant patterns of experience.In a hunting culture this means that the main target of observation, the animal, is the ferment of suggestive influence on representations of the supernatural. This must not be interpreted as meaning that all ideas of the supernatural necessarily take animal form. First of all, spirits do appear also as human beings, although generally less frequently; the high-god, for instance, if he exists, is often thought of as a being of human appearance. Second, although spirits may manifest themselves as animals they may evince a human character and often also human modes of action.[1]

Narrative is psychologically important to humans because it enables us to put things in perspective, to put ourselves into the story and to understand. Anything can be narrative. Even when events are taken as historical and the consciousness of myth falls away, the narrative is no less naratival. The resurrection of Christ, the existence of Jesus and his claims to be Messiah, all I take to be history and truth. Yet these are also part of the meta-narrative of Christianity. The meat-narrative is not closed or not an ideology or truth regime as long as it can be open to outside voices and to adult itself to them. For that reason the narrative hast to be fluid. The reason for this is that it has to explain the word in a new way to each new generation. To the extent that it can keep doing this it continues to be relevant and survives. This is equivalent to Kuhn’s paradigm absorbing the anomalies. Even when a certain set of fact is held out as historical and more that, but “the truth” such as Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, there is still an interpretation, a spin an understanding of just exactly how to put it, that varies from time to time and culture to culture. The facts of the event don’t change, the historical significance of it doesn’t change, but the way of relating it to each generation anew does change. This is not say that ideology doesn’t change, but the change is much slower and less obvious and less fluid. Even when the meta-narrative of a given religious tradition features factual material it’s not closed in the sense that ideology is closed and it’s still fluid.
            This is not to say that religious traditions don’t get infected with ideology. When traditions take on ideology they usually form something more than Orthodoxy, something like “fundamentalism.” Orthodoxy is just the recognition of stable boundaries that ground the fluid nature of the narrative in expression of continuity. While ideology seeks to create a black hole, like the eternal conflict between communism and anti-communism, that absorbs all light and allows nothing to escape; the attempt to suck everything in one eternal understanding. Ideology in religious tradition probably is most often he result of literalizing the metaphors. When we forget that the metaphor bridges the gap between what we know and we don’t know—through comparison--and that it contains a “like” and a “not-like” dimension, we begin to associate the metaphor with truth in literal way then we begin to formulate ideology. Critics of religious thinking might be apt to confuse dogma with ideology. Religious ideas are not automatically ideological, dogma is not automatically ideological. It’s the literalistic elements in some religious thinking (not all of course) that closes off the realm of discourse and crates a closed truth regime. The danger of form ideology may be acute in a religious setting since it is easy to confuse the metaphor with literal truth by casting over it the aura of the sacred. We often associate the things pertaining to belief in God with God, and in so doing forger a literalism that closes off discourse. Yet religious belief as a whole is too fluid to be fully ideological. Ideology is self protecting and self perpetuating. Thomas Kuhn’s talk about damage control in paradigm defense is a good example of the self defending nature of ideology. While meta-narrative often reflects concepts of divine truth, it’s too changeable to be ideological. Even though theology resists change and novelty is a bad thing in theological parlance, meta-narrative changes in spite of it all. The fact of changed is noted in the many examples of different versions of the same myth. One such change turns upon a burning question that must be raised at this point, why did religious thinking move from numatic realization to a theocentric nature?
            Why “God?” The same can be asked of the female form? Why a pseudo-parental, suzerain figure who creates the world and is in charge of the cosmos? Why not, since this model is obviously a metaphor comparing the unknown with some aspect of reality we know well, why that aspect and not another? What did people worship before they worshipped gods? Anthropology tells us that the shamanistic style of animism is older than the concept of a creator god.[2] This form of belief dates back to the stone age. Native American tribe “Shosoni, like other hunting people in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, have an idea of a “master of the animals,” or an “owner,” a supernatural being who is in charge of the animals:

Hunting peoples in Africa, Europe, Asia and America have developed the idea of a supernatural owner of the animal species, or of all animals, who protects them, commands them, and at request from hunters delivers them to be slayed and eaten. The concept is not infrequent in North America. The master of animals is a spirit, generally figured as an animal. The Shoshoni have possibly in very remote times known the coyote, or rather the mythical Coyote, as a master of animals. With the impact of Plains Indian culture the buffalo and the eagle have halfway achieved the position as master of animals and master of birds, respectively. In all fairness it should be pointed out, however, that this type of concept is very little noticeable among the Shoshoni.[3]

We must be cautious but since “shamanism” is connected to animism this owner of the animals might imply a transition between animistic thinking and beliefs in gods. We can’t say that all religions evolved in the same way in every location, but it does seem that in general it was an evolution from nameless “spirits” to specific pantheon of gods. The development of the concept of God was probably influenced by thoughts of parents, of tribal chiefs, or the leader, long before they became complex enough to fit a suzerain model. Yet it does seem that the concept of God evolved out of an understanding of nature oriented religion and evolved slowly over time based upon comparison with the authority figures we know best in life.
            In his work The Evolution of God,[4] Robert Wright distills the work of anthropology over the last two centuries and demonstrates an evolutionary development, form early superstition that personified nature (pre-historic people talking to the wind)[5], through a polytheistic origin in pre-Hebrew Israelite culture,[6] to monotheistic innovation with the God of the Bible.[7] Wright is distilling a huge body of work that stretches back to the ninetieth century, the work of countless archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists. Another such successful distiller of scholarship in recent years is Karen Armstrong. In her work A History of God: The 4000 year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, [8] she presents a similar evolutionary story, focusing specifically upon the Biblical religions. She sees the pre-historical religious scene through the eyes of wonderment at the world around us. The cave paintings she understands as an attempt to record participation in the all pervasive aspect of the enchanted world.[9] The general agreement between scholarship, social sciences, and the work of anthropologists is that the concept of God is a product of the evolution of human thought.[10] At one time the concept was not, then it began and it has developed over time. Of course the great body of this work is coming out of naturalistic assumptions, especially in the ninetieth century. In the anthropological study of the evolution of religion those assumptions centered around the concept of projection in human thinking. People are projecting the relationship with the father or the king. This assumption can be traced to the work of Ludwig Feuerbach, social critic and precursor to Marxian analysis (God is the mask of money). He understood the concept of projection in terms of Hegel’s philosophy of spirit.[11] In The Essence of Christianity Feuerbach argues that superhuman deities are involuntary projections based upon the attributes of human nature.[12] How this thesis came to be the basis of modern anthropological understanding of religious evolution is not hard to seek. As Harvey puts it “It became the Bible to a group of revolutionary thinkers including, Arnold Ruge, the Bauers, Karl Marx, Richard Wagner, Frederic Engles.[13] This circle became a major part of the basis of modern social thought. While modern anthropology has not necessarily played out Feuerbach’s actual inversion of Hegel it has taken its que from him by making assumptions about theoroes of prodjection of one kind or another.
            Hegel did not think of God as some projection of human imagination. Feuerbach inverted Hegel’s concept to produce the idea. Hegel understood stages of human culture as “moments in the unforlding of absolute spirit.”[14] Thus, as Harvey points out, the various stages in religious development can be seen as stages in the self manifestation of Spirit.[15] In other words, from the cave paintings, to the shamans and the wind talkers to the highest aspirations of Judo-Christian ethics, Spirit (God), is making himself aware of himself by moving through progressive revelation to humanity. “In other words, the history of religion culminating in Christianity was a progressive revelation of the truth that the absolute is not merely an impersonal substance but a subject.”[16] Feuerbach inverts this principal by asserting that finite spirit is becoming aware of itself through externalizing its own attributes and then projecting them into magnified from.[17] On Feuerbach’s part this was the result of a long struggle with idealism. Be that as it may, and for both sides, it’s clearly the roots of ideology. It sowed the seeds of ideology in terms of the social sciences naturalistic assumptions. Now we find those same kinds of assumptions being made with regard to the laws of physics. Paul Davies has been quoted to say that the traditional view of the laws of physics are just seventeenth century monotheism without God, “Then God got killed off and the laws just free-floated in a conceptual vacuum but retained their theological properties,”[18] The assumption of modernity is always that belief in God is dying out, religion is of the past, these are the things that are dying. Armstrong sounds the death knell and starts singing the dirge in first book. She observes that “one of the reasons why religion seems irrelevant today is that many of us no longer have the sense that we are surrounded by the unseen.”[19] It’s so irrelevant she’s writing books about it.

We can just hear those atheists saying "yes this proves man invented God," not so fast. see part 2 on friday.


[1] Ake Hultkrantz, “Attitudes Toward Animals in Shashoni Indian Religion,” Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 4, No. 2. (Spring, 1970) © World Wisdom, Inc. no page listed,online archive, URL:
[2] Weston La Barre, “Shamanic Origins of Religion and Medicine,” Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, vol 11, (1-2) Jan. June 1979 no page listed, PDF, URL:  accessed 3/22/13.
[3] Hultkrantz, op. cit.  the author also cites other works by himself on the matter: Cf. Hultkrantz, The Owner of the Animals in the Religion of the North American Indians (in Hultkrantz, ed., The Supernatural Owners of Nature, Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 1, 1961). Hultkrantz, The Masters of the Animals among the Wind River Shoshoni (Ethnos, Vol. 26:4, 1961).
[4] Robert Wright, The Evolution of God, New York: Back Bay Books, reprint edition, 2010.  The book was Originally published in 2009. The company “Back Bay books: is an imprint of Hachette Books, through Little Brown and company. Wright studied sociobiology at Princeton and taught at Princeton as and University of Pennsyania. He edits New Republic and does journalistic writing of science, especially sociobiology.
[5] Wright, ibid, 9
[6] ibid. 10
[7] ibid, 11
[8] Karen Armstrong, A History of God: The 4000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.
[9] Ibid, 4-6
[10] T. M. Manickam,, Dharma According Manu and Moses, Bangalore : Dharmaram Publications, 1977,6.
[11] Van A. Harvey, Feuerbach and The Interpretation of Religion, Carmbridge: Press Syndicate for the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Studies in Religion and Critical Thought, 1995/1997, 4.
Harvey is professor emeritus, taught religious studies at Stanford Univesity. His Ph.D. from Yale in 1957. His thesis supervisor was H.Richard Neibhur.
[12] Cited by Harvey, ibid., 25.
[13] ibid, 26.
[14] ibid.
[15] ibid.
[16] ibid.
[17] ibid, 27
[18] Dennis Overbye, quoting email message from Paul Davies, “Laws of Nature, Source Unknown,” “Science” New York Times. December 19, 2007. on line edition URL: accessed, 3/25/13.
[19] Armstrong, op.cit. 4.

Monday, March 25, 2013

How do you Know Which Parts of the Bible are Inspired?


....The Great theologians of the twentieth century, Barth, Baultmann, and Emil Burnner saw revelation as a dialectical encounter. God is mystery and reveals himself though soterilogical encounter in a dialectic between the reader and text. In other words, we get the drift from reading text but we can't necessarily say which part is "inspired."[1] In terms of Biblical inspiration this means the Bible is not the word of God per se, but contains the word of God. This has often led to the question, "how do we know which parts are inspired? Not a matter of Parts. You can't dissect a narrative line by line and ask "what parts of this narrative are the result of the writer's genius and what parts are just banal filler?" You can criticize different aspects of course, but you can't say 'this sentence is genius and this sentence is not a product of genius." The whole narrative works together to create a solid word. Narratives communicate in many subtle says. you can't limit the number of insights one can deduce from a work of art
....Fundamentalists look at the Bible in a certain way and atheists look at it in reaction the fundamentalist way. The basic assumption is made by both that the text of the Bible is, from the "In the Beginning" of Genesis to the "even so come quickly Lord Jesus" of Revelation as words transmitted from God to the mind of the authors. As though Moses sits down, takes pen in hand and a lights shines on him and a voice in his head says (in a booming echo like way) "write write write, this is is...."In in in The the ther beginning ing beginning beginning...." I don't think it works that way. I am willing to understand that when the prophets say "this is what the Lord says" they may be repeating word for word the exact verbiage God gave them to say, although not necessarily. But for most of the Bible I doubt that it works that way. I think people were just using the ideas that came to them as a result of their religious experinces, and as a result they used those concepts and feelings in the different ways that it occurred to them to use such material. They put their ideas of God into the stories and those who had real experinces really captured the nature of God's grace, and those who did not genuinely experince God failed to capture such things.
....The real problem is the model. The model of the fundies says that God is writing a memo. The Bible is the word form "the Big man upstairs" and just like an executive writing a memo. Moses is taking dictation. But that model assumes directly handed down verbiage, it's even called "verbal plenary" meaning "all the verbiage is inspired." That's the model I use. I go by a model that views the Bible as a collection of writings which are based upon human encounters with the divine. People experience God in different ways, usually beyond words; to speak about that they must call up from the deep recesses of their spirits (minds) that intangible part that produces art and literature, and they formulate into words their experinces. That means they have to load the experince into cultural constructs.
;;;;A cultural construct is an idea that is suggested by culture, by association with other people in society and the symbols and analogies and metaphors that tacitly speak to us at a level we understand but can't necessarily articulate. In the ancient world life was cheap, people were used to thinking in terms of either wiping out the other guy or being wiped out. The ancient Hebrews magnified their culture, but a romanticized view of themselves and their struggles into narrative form and used that framework to express the wordless sense of the numinous that they experienced through contact with God. The tendency to want to wipe out other people, to destroy totally every trace of their existence and lives, is part of the cultural constructs which act as a lens to give words to the writer's deep and hidden senses of God communicated through wordless sensations on the mystical level. So they build into the narrative a bunch of stuff about wiping these guys and those guys but what we need to understand is the major point being made.
....For example, in the bit about the Amalekites, I'm pretty sure the bit about the infants is added in latter. I think we see real evdience in the text that it's been tweaked. But the real point is not wipe out the Amalekites nor is it that it's ok for us to wipe our enemies, the real point is obey God. Saul didn't obey God and the incident was a down fall for him. Now it doesn't matter that the incident is this failure to wipe out the infants it could have been anything. They wrote it like that. The real point is do whatever God tells you to do. But that God is not going to tell us to wipe out our enemies and destroy their kids is pretty obvious to most of us. We can defend that description well enough to say "God did not command this." We can even put it up to religious experince. My experinces of God tell me God doesn't want this. But why did the author of that part of the Bible (presumably Samuel) think that God did tell him that? Because he's filtering the experince through his cultural constructs.
....Now you might ask "but then how can we learn moral truths? Our moral understanding is not static. Our understanding evolves over time. The ancient Hebrews could not understand this was wrong because it was common place in their day. We understand the wrong of it because culture evolves. Jesus understood it was wrong. Jesus did not say "wipe out the Amalekties" he said "turn the other cheek." He even corrected the understanding of the OT generations when he said "you have heard it said an eye a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you turn the other cheek." With the Bible we do not proof text. We don't determine what to do by one verse. We use the preponderance of the evidence, meaning everything we can understand about the Bible. We don't stop there, we study and understand what others have said about it. We use the words of the saints and the great theolgoians as precedents and bench marks to help us interpret. Samuel was not speaking with authority for all time in telling that story. He was merely telling a story he heard soem someone and putting down on paper some tradition (probably the real author was writing from Babylon in the exile--that's the most heavily redacted part of the Bible). He was putting into the work his understanding of God from his experinces as well what he had been taught. But the end result is a narrative and like all narratives it only works to accomplish its task when we try to understand it as a narrative and not force it into molds where it doesn't fit such as memo from the boss, military communique, or auto owner's manual.
....It doesn't make sense to say "this is inspired and this isn't." That would be like saying "which feet of Elliot's The Wasteland are good poetry and which aren't. You can't segment things in that way. We need to understand the bible as literature. It's major function is to bestow grace upon the reader. you read it to be healed to find spiritual edification and to understand God's laws. There are those who think it should be read like an instruction Manuel for a car. They seem to think it's going to tell us ever move to make in the same way that the owner's Manuel tells us how to change the oil. Since the Bible is a collection of different works written over a long period of time it doesn't make sense to try and fit the whole collection into one model and understand it all in the same way.
....We don't have to understand exactly the role of inspiration nor do we need to look for the inspired parts as opposed to the banal parts. What we need to do is understand the over all preponderance of teaching and weigh that in light of what God shows us in our own lives. When we do this grace is bestowed, we are healed, we are drawn closer to God but we do not have to relate to it as if we are reading the instructions to change the oil in the car.

[1] Avery Dulles,S.J., Models of Revelation,Maryknoll, New York :Orbis books,reprint edition, 1992, 84

Friday, March 22, 2013

Science is a Cultural Construct: Supernatural is a Fact

  photo European-lab-Close-to-finding-God-particle-NAN19NH-x-large.jpg

Last time I wrote an article about the atheist IQ scam, round II, the latest go round with Nybrog and friends. One aspect of that bear further reflection, that's what Brown said about the Flynn effect. The Flynn effect is the notion that IQ's have been rising, that the IQ's of our great grand parents would have been extremely low, low enough to count as restarted. The reason is because, as I said in that article:


This is all very self referential because IQ is only measuring IQ not intelligence. Brown talks about the Flynn ects which shows that IQ's are getting higher. Our children will be smarter than us, we are smarter than our parents and grandparents. The problem is they are only getting higher not because people are really smarter but because the concentrated urban environment re-writes cultural literacy. It's the same problem as the bell curve. In the olden days people lived in the country and hunted. So a question "what do a god and rabbit have in common?" the old answer was "use dog to hunt rabbit." Yet this is now a wrong answer. Now we don't hunt and we are all into scinece, so the right answer is they are both mammals. Thus people in the ancient past are automatically stupid compared to us. Flynn finds that by modern stagehands the average student around 1900 had an IQ between 50-70. So how did they even function? A person today with an IQ of 50 would be profoundly restarted, live in an insinuation and not be able to tie his shoes. Yet doctors, Lawyers, and bankers rant he world with IQ that would today be 60-70.

Andrew Brown's Blog
online Gurdian
Brown reflects:

The answer, he [Flynn--of Flynn effect] says, is that one of the things that IQ tests measure is "post-scientific operational thinking". This is not the same as scientific thinking. But it is thinking about the world in terms of the categories by which science understands it. For instance, if you ask, "What do dogs and rabbits have in common", the post-scientific answer, that we would now regard as evidence of intelligence, is that they are both mammals. The pre-scientific answer is that you use a dog to hunt a rabbit. That's what matters about the two animals, not what class they belong to.

It is that kind of difference in reasoning which accounts for the huge measured IQ differences between urban and rural Brazil, and, of course, the fantastically low IQs measured in African countries.

But could something similar be true of religion? In particular, could dogmatic and fundamentalist religion be more useful to the poor and wretched? Could it lift them to the stage where they could experiment with doubt, with nuance, with novelistic thinking? The history of the early Methodists suggests exactly this. Remember John Wesley's reflection on his own success:

The Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they increase in goods. Hence they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.

Brown is putting the spin on poverty as the dig divide in culture.. There's more to it than that. What is being tested it seem in the IQ tests are cultural literacy and puzzle working. Cultural literacy is part of the world of cultural constructs. Of cousre how could it not be. When I say that science is a cultural constrict atheists go nuts laughing and mocking because they think scinece is a fact only new age Postmodern knit wits think things like this. Here's a perfect example. The mammalian answer becomes a scientific answer. It's based upon a scientific fact, rather a perceived fact. Lesson one in cultural constructs: taxonomy is a construct. We don't have to classify rabbits or dogs as mammals, all we have to do is change the way we define mammal. That's taxonomy, that's how you classify stuff and we can classify stuff anyway we want to. That means its' not a "fact" of nature, it's not written into the gene code, the genome for rabbits doesn't have a gene that says "I am a mammal." To assume there is a scientific fact that can' t change is to says "rabbits are mammals" is to say there's a mammalian essence that is somehow extracted from the natural and exits in some real apart form actual rabbits in the woods. That's Paternalism, that's actually part of the world world of philosophy and spiritual stuff that's been done away by scinece.

What does it mean that scinece nerds can't see this? I can just see some atheists saying "that's crazy you just don't know anything about scinece (that's what they say when I point out their mistakes) you don't know what mammals are. I do know what mammals are, but I also know that taxonomy is not based upon essences but upon the way we see things. The way we agree to classify mammals could change. Chinese classified horses as "ordinary," "superlative" and "belonging to the emperor." Those were written into nature, for them, as much as mammals are born live, have hair and drink milk, is written in for us. That's all a matter of the way you want to see it. You can re-order your classification system anyway you wish. This sort of thing is discussed at length by Michele Foucault, in his ground breaking work The Order of Things. I highly recommend it for some eye opening truths about postmodern thinking.

This is a perfect exampel of science as a cultural construct. Because the mammal answer no the IQ test is not only based upon a "scientific fact" (the fact is that we classify both animals as mammals not that there is some essence of mammal hood that both contain) and the fact of it as the right answer on the IQ test as contributing a small bit to the modern perception of IQ's becomes a scientific fact as well. The fact of it being "the right answer." The reality that the "right answer" is purely a matter of cultural reactivity remains obscured. Thus the illusion that scientific facts can't change or be products of culture is enhanced by the fact that if you don't answer the question in such a way as to give the assumption that it's a fact, then you are stupid.

This same phenomenon is undoubtedly true for all the spiritual and theological things that are being ignored and set and mocked and ridiculed by atheists. Look at easily the atheists say "theology is stupid," having never read any not known anything about it. If those guys were writing the IQ test they would say "the supernatural is false and stupid" is a true answer. Then they look back and say "ok this means people who believe in supernatural are less intelligent." hey a standardized test says so! that's proof that' a fact. If the test says it that' it it's fact. you are are even stupider if you don't believe it. They don't have an IQ on which the atheists who get this culturally relative bit are ranked as stupid, but I rank them so--the one's that don't get this.

So far we have a good illustration of science as a cultural construct, especially true of taxonomy related ideas, and the failure of standardized testing (yech! on that I say "poowie") there's more. My concerns are greater. Think of what it's doing to the culture. The culture takes this stuff and uncritically disseminates it. They way our parents and grand parents thought about the world just becomes this fossil that no one understands, even the people who study history and anthropology are separated form it forever by a think film of cultural relativity. Belief in the spirit and what means changes, becomes a thing of ridicule, and so on. Saying "smart people don't believe that" is really more like saying "the cool don't believe that." That's all it is. We are not doing this for survival. Its' not like our neolithic ancestors so really modern culture that enshrines such relativity is more a matter of cultural acceptance (being cool or not) than "fact."

This does mean all of us who believe in a supernatural (whatever that is) are like fossils or frozen out of the "modern" scene. We are officially stupid becuase belief in things not "scientifically factual" become "scientific fact." Even though one would have to go thruogh scientific fact with a fine tooth comb to separate what is truly fact from what is culturally relative. This is why I feel a dinosaur knowing about the musical career of Joan Baez or who Richard Farnina was. There's more to it than that. It's going to mean that we don't associate art and literature with factual thins. These are not longer marks of intelligence they are now decoration or hobby or whatever. The culture itself becomes shaped around "scientific thinking." The so called "scientific" answer is the right answer on the IQ test, even though others kinds of answer could be right given a different cultural context. This is what we in the olden days used to call "cultural bias." The mentality and insight that saw it that way is now part of the stupid answer, and enshrining the pseudo-scientific as fact is now the smart answer.

The quote by Wesley above puts the dichotomy between spirit and materialism in terms of prosperity chocking out the spiritual. Even that is part of the antiquated view of the past that becomes the stupid answer on the IQ test. The other dichotomy there that Brown might not have thought of is between culturally relative pseudo-science and reality. The reality is the experience of the spirit (religious experience) can't be stopped or made null and void by an IQ test. People will have these experiences and be drawn closer to God even if they call it that. The experiences are the supernatural. This was the case when the words was coined by Dionysus in 500 AD (on Divine Names and Mythical Theology). Even if we don't classify it that way (theology is a kind of taxonomy in it's own right) it will continue to be real and people will go on having it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Anti-God Argument Industry: J.L. Schellenberg Arguments

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possible worlds

....Over the last couple of decades atheists have been so put up on by God arguments and the success of thinkers such as Plantinga, Alston and Hartshorne that they have become radicalized in their attempts at making anti-God arguments. I have hunch that they basically see God arguemnts as a trick. I've actually seen atheists at the popular level refer to logic as a trick. They don't take God arguments seriously yet seem intimidated by the use of logic. This has led to a plethora of attempted anti-God arguments, disproofs that seek to pit the concepts of religious thinking against each other to produce seeming contradictions. One of the more legigitate academic attempts in this vain is due to the efforts of J.L. Schellenberg, who is a philosopher form Canada. Some of his published works include:

Prolegomena to a Philosophy of Religion. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.

The Wisdom to Doubt: A Justification of Religious Skepticism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007

The Will to Imagine: A Justification of Skeptical Religion. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009.

Schellenberg is one of the leading voices in the atheist attempt to flood the net with ant-God arguments hat seek to turn dobout toward conflicting concepts and questions regarding the logic of God arguments. Below are a few examples of his and  other arguments. These are arguments I've seen atheists use on boards that are attributed to Schellenberg. The teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University, in Nova Scotia.

The Argument from Horrific Suffering (J. L. Schellenberg):

Horrific Suffering (def.) = that most awe-full form of suffering that gives the victim and/or the perpetrator a prima facie reason to think that his or her life is not worth living.

(1) Necessarily, if God exists, finite persons who ever more fully experience the reality of God realize their deepest good.
(2) Necessarily, if God exists, the prevention of horrific suffering does not prevent there being finite persons who ever more fully experience the reality of God.
(3) Necessarily, if God exists, the prevention of horrific suffering does not prevent there being finite persons who realize their deepest good. (from 1, 2)
(4) Necessarily, if God exists, there is horrific suffering only if its prevention would prevent there being finite persons who realize their deepest good.
(5) Necessarily, if God exists, there is no horrific suffering. (from 3, 4)
(6) There is horrific suffering.
(7) God does not exist (from 5, 6)

....This argument seems to turn on a hidden premise that God allows suffering and evil so that some ultimate good might exist. That's the really premise as to why God would allow suffering, the argument asserts a second hidden premise that a good God would stop the worse forms of pain and suffering if his aims could be achieved without. It then cliams to know what that ultimate good is, thus asserts the stated premises that the good could be achieved without allowing such suffering. The argument as a whole says God can allow us to know him fully and achieve the highest good without allowing the worst forms of suffering, thus their existence in the world is an arguemnt against God's existence.
....P1 asserts that the greatest good is knowing God: "finite persons who ever more fully experience the reality of God realize their deepest good." It shows asserts that this can happen without the most horrific forms of suffering, thus such forms of suffering in so far as they do exist stand out against God's existence. There's a lot wrong with this argument:

(1) It asserts to know things we don't. We an asserting knowing God is our highest good but how that plays into God's plan for creation we can't assert to know so confidently as to assert to know that it can b acheied without allowing horrifc evil.

(2) It asserts to know that the most horrific forms of evil are not prevented. We don't know the most horrific forms. If God is protecting us and preventing the most horrific forms of evil how can we know? they don't exist in our world so we don't know.

(3) The argument is basically taken out by my soteriological drama which says that God wants us to search for truth so that we can internalize the values of the good. The risk that we make the wrong choices must be open or there's no search. Thus it's  not a matter of balance good against evil, nor is it a matter of needing evil to know good, but of risking evil so we can choose the good freely. In so doing the most horrific forms of evil (that we know of) must be part of the risk. If God habitually prevented the most horrific kinds of evil it would soon become apparent that there is a supernatural force protecting us and there would be no search.

(4) the argument turns upon premise (5) "Necessarily, if God exists, there is no horrific suffering. (from 3, 4)" what does these say?

(3) Necessarily, if God exists, the prevention of horrific suffering does not prevent there being finite persons who realize their deepest good. (from 1, 2)

(4) Necessarily, if God exists, there is horrific suffering only if its prevention would prevent there being finite persons who realize their deepest good.

....P3 is where I get the notion of hidden premises. Why would the prevention of horrific suffering be said to prevent finite persons realizing the deepest good? He must be expecting an answer of this as the reason for the allowing of horrific suffering...yet it doesn't preclude the need to run the risk in order to internalize the values through the search. So the objection stands but in a somewhat different from, one that his argument doesn't prevent. P4 this an explicit statement of what I felt was a hidden premise that the conflict is bewteen realizing the deepest good vs allowing horrific evil. The whole argument turns upon asserting that horrific evil can be prevented and the deepest good be accomplished. We don't need the most horrific evil so good God would not allow it. That doesn't answer the issues that I've raised. That we might question if the most horrific evil does exist, (after all, Hitler didn't win WWII, the cold war didn't produce nuclear war, and George Wallace did not win the 1968 Presidential election) and that there is still need to risk the doing of abhorrent evil in order to necessitate the search.

This next argument is still really a version of the first one, it's just tweaking it to induce the aspect of hiddeness.

Argument from Divine Hiddeness (Also from J.L. Schellenberg):

(1) If a perfectly loving God G exists, then for any human subject S at time t, if S is at t capable of relating personally to G, S at t believes that G exists on the basis of evidence that renders the existence of G probable, except insofar as S is culpably in a contrary position at t.
(2) There exists at least one human subject S who at time t does not believe that G exists on the basis of evidence that renders the existence of G probable and who is not culpably in a contrary position at t.
(3) No perfectly loving God exists.

....He's made it more complex with the use of symbols. I know this is done to make it more efficient to disuses repeated concepts but it doesn't. I have quoted he original argument so I will re word in a way that I think makes it more understandable.
....This argument is essentially saying that if there is an individual who doesn't find God to be real on the basis of evidence then we can asserting there is no loving God because if God was loving he would want everyone to know. There are numerous problems. Again a hidden premise, that God's love means everyone must believe at the same time. Of course the background assumption that we must have instant gratification, life is not a journey so that everyone must believe at all times and have the same outcomes. It would also seem that this argument is made to counter a more traditional view of Christianity that sees hell and damnation and eternal conscious torment as the consequence of unbelief. If we take that result out of the picture and look at life as journey of learning which culminates in our own successful search for the answers, then there is no need to assert that everyone must believe at the same time or there's no good God.
....It would also seem that he's missed the point about hiddeness. If my guess is right and Gods apparent hiddeness is in order to facilitae the search so that we might internallize the values of the good, then there is no ultimate contradiction between God's hiddeness and the need for salvation. The apparent hidden state of God is not an impediment to belief but rather an inducement to search.

This one is not by Schellenberg, but Mark Walker, New Mexico State University.

The Anthropic Argument against the existence of God (Mark Walker):

This argument uses a moral scale. 0 is perfectly immoral and 10 is perfectly moral S is the set of all possible worlds which is populated only by beings greater than 5 on the scale.

(1) God is omnipotent
(2) So, it is possible for God to actualize a member of S
(3) God is omniscient
(4) So, if it is possible for God to actualize a member of S, then God knows that He can actualize a member of S
(5) So, God knows that He can actualize a member of S
(6) God is morally perfect
(7) So, a morally perfect being should attempt to maximize the likelihood of moral goodness and minimize the likelihood of moral evil in the world
(8) If God knows He can actualize a member of S, then every world in which God exists is a member of S
(9) Therefore, every world in which God exists is a member of S
(10) Therefore, if God exists in the actual world then the actual world is a member of S
(11) The actual world is not a member of S
(12) Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect God does not exist.

And then there's the Argument from Dwindling Probabilities (Alvin Plantinga) in which he concludes "The conclusion to be drawn, I think, is that K, our background knowledge, historical and otherwise (excluding what we know by way of faith or revelation), isn't anywhere nearly sufficient to support serious belief in G."

An abstract version of the argument from Sophia:

If God is morally perfect then He must perform the morally best actions, but creating humans is not the morally best action. If this line of reasoning can be maintained then the mere fact that humans exist contradicts the claim that God exists. This is the ‘anthropic argument’. The anthropic argument, is related to, but distinct from, the traditional argument from evil. The anthropic argument forces us to consider the ‘creation question’: why did God not create other gods rather than (...)[1]

....Here we have an example of the flawed possible worlds thinking that atheists have employed to overwhelm Plantinga's possible world's argument. I use a version of Plantinga's possible worlds argument on my 42 argument list on Doxa. It's no 14 on my list. The argument essentially says that God is such that he can't just be necessary in one possible word but if he exists he must be necessary in all possible worlds. That means he has to be necessary here,  in this world. the issue is there's nothing to stop the cocnept that God is necessary in all possible worlds. The argument turns upon the premise that there has to be some possible world in which God is necessary. If there is such a world then for him to be God and to be necessary in a true sense he must have to be necessary in all possible worlds, including this one. The issue is that this is mandated, it is the case logically speaking so it' snot something that can be negated if the premise are true. The point of the argument is to drive home the implication of the model argument that there is no maybe with God; either God is necessary or impossible but since he can't be contingent there's no "maybe he exits and maybe he doesn't. He exists for sure or he can't exist logically becuase he's impossible. Thus if he's not impossible then he has to exist.
....The atheists decided what we have to do is come up with a world in which there could not possibly be a God. They assert this can be done by imagining it because the foolishly assume that "possible world" means any world i can imagine. They assume they are imagining such a world by thinking about his one because they dont' believe in God anyway. Since the point is to prove that God must exist in this world that's actually circular reasoning n the atheists part. These anti-God possible world arguments all do this, they assume that the formation of an imaginary world that is imagined without God, without having to work out all the other philosophical details that build God arguments, based upon the pretense that we live in such a possible world (without God--when in fact that's what is under dispute) controls the essence of God and makes him not exist, so to speak. The shape the concept of God around the need to imagine that we are in a possible world in which there is no God.
....The problems with the above arguemnt are several. The argument  is a good example of an arguemnt in when they try to just imagine into existence a possible world of no God becuase they  model it on their disbelief.

(1) It's three arguments in one that each is nested in the other to make it hard to deal with them as one coherent arguemnt. It really should be broken up. It's a moral argument, its about contradictions of omnipotence and omniscience, it's about possible worlds.

(2) The omniscience and omnipotence are used as "plan spikes" (we use to call them in debate) to negate possible answers; God must know this is goign t be the case and has to negate it or he's not just trying becuase he would know and he would be able to. That ignores the real reasons for taking the risk that we make the wrong choices (of course God would know we are going to). Again, my soteriological drama, free will is necessary to morality so that we may freely choose the good; we can't make moral decisions without freely choosing to. Not a matter of God not knowing it, it's a matter of having to take the risk because we must be allowed to choose; they never calculate the fact that God can understand the balance sheet and see that it's worth it. That point alone destroys the whole argument.

(3) the argument turns upon this premise: (9) "Therefore, every world in which God exists is a member of S. S is the perfectly moral world populated only by those whose morality exceeds 5. He doesn't use the scale in the actual argument. We also don't know the values that make up the scale so that might tip the argument if we knew what he was calculating.

(4) P9 is the turning point and it means it's also the defeat of the argument. It's based upon the question begging premise. To be true P9 must assert the conclusion of the argument to make the argument, that God would only allow possible worlds with S content. If god must risk our evil choice as a matter of our freely choosing the good they can  hardly restrict planetary formation to S worlds.

(5) The argument doesn't account for the search. It's assumes static worlds where everyone has achieve moral perfection at the same time. It doesn't take life as a journey or individual lives as individual searches for truth. Everyone has to be in the same place at the same time.

(6) Edward Feser has some important things to say about these possible worlds arguments; they have it backwards, the essence of God is not controlled by possible worlds.

It is also often said that for God to be a necessary being is for Him to exist in every possible world. This too is at least very misleading. It leaves the impression that there are these things called “possible worlds” that have some kind of reality apart from God, and it turns out – what do you know! – that God happens to exist in every one of them, right alongside numbers, universals, and other necessarily existing abstract objects. To be sure, since possible worlds other than the actual one are themselves mere abstractions (unless you are David Lewis), they would not exist as concrete entities that God has not created. But the “possible worlds” account of God’s necessity nevertheless insinuates that that necessity is grounded in something other than God Himself – that what is possible or necessary in general is to be determined independently of God, with God’s own necessity in turn defined by reference to these independent criteria. For A-T, this is completely muddled. The reason God is necessary is that He is Pure Act or Subsistent Being Itself, not because He “exists in every possible world.” And since God just is Being Itself – rather than “a being” among other beings, existing in one possible world or in all – all possibilities and necessities whatsoever are themselves grounded in the divine nature, rather than in anything in any way independent of God.[2]

....All of these argumetns, this entire approach, the moral conflicts anti-God arguments the possible worlds anti-God argumetns, with their attempt to control God's essence by indexing it to possible worlds rather than vice versa, it's a grand example of what Tillich talked about when he said that if we know being has depth we know God has to be. That means if there is more to being alive and existing thus just the mere fact of existence then we know there has to be God becuase God is the depth of being, God is that "more to it." The atheist thinking on this score is a good example of what Tillich talks about when he speaks of the "surface level." The atheist says life is just a straight up proposition of it exists or it doesn't, either the world is morally perfect as an extension of a moral perfect creator or it's not, in which case there is no morally perfect creator. That's just the surface level of existing or not existing. It fails to take into account the meaning of life, the meaning of what it means to be. What it means to be is to be the creature of a necessary creator, thus our contingency is proof of a transcendent necessity that makes the "something more."
....They can't assert that their unbelief is proof of a Godless universe then use that as a proof of a possible world of no God, especially when they mere ignore the depth in being that tell us there more to being than just the surface issue of apparent existence. The nature of possible worlds does not determine the nature of God, it is God who determines possible worlds. Philospher J.N. Findlay was the first to tray and reverse the ontological argument as a disproof of God. He admitted at the time that Hartshorne had convienced him that his argument led to a ready inversion that this is what set up the realization that if God is at all possible then he must be necessary. The original attempt winds up in disproof of the reversal and brings the modal argument back rightly.

Professor Hartshorne has, however, convinced me that my argument permits a ready inversion, and that one can very well argue that if God's existence is in any way possible, then it is also certain and necessary that God exists, a position which should give some comfort to the shade of Anselm. The notion of God, like the notion of the class of all classes not members of themselves, has plainly unique logical properties, and I do not now think that my article finally decides how we should cope with such uniqueness.[3]
That's still the case now and it will always be so.

[1] Mark Walker, "Anthropic Argument Againt the Existence of God," Sophia, 48 (4) 351-378

[2] Edward Feser, "God and Possible Worlds," Edward Feser Blog (June 6, 2010): URL:

[3] J.N. Findlay, "Can God's Existence Be Disproved?" Di Text URL: