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Swinburne’s Case for God – Part 2

Swinburne’s case for God (in The Existence of God, 2nd ed.) can be summed up this way:

1. Based on evidence other than religious experience, the existence of God is not very improbable.
2. If based on evidence other than religious experience, the existence of God is not very improbable, then the evidence from religious experience (in combination with other relevant evidence) makes the existence of God more probable than not.
Therefore:
3. The evidence from religious experience (in combination with other relevant evidence) makes the existence of God more probable than not.


Premise (1) is supported by the following claim:

4. Based on evidence other than religious experience, the existence of God is approximately as probable as not.

Premise (4) is based on Swinburne’s presentation and evaluation of ten a posteriori (empirical) arguments for and against the existence of God:

  • the cosmological argument (EOG, p.133-152)
  • the teleological argument from temporal order (EOG, p.152-166)
  • the teleological argument from spatial order (EOG, p.167-190)
  • the argument from consciousness (EOG, p.192-212)
  • the argument from moral truth (EOG, p.212-215)
  • the argument from moral awareness (EOG, p.215-218)
  • the argument from providence (EOG, p.219-235)
  • the problem of evil (EOG, p.236-267)
  • the argument from hiddenness (EOG, p.267-272)
  • the argument from history and miracles (EOG, p.273-292)

Swinburne thinks two of these arguments (one for God and one against God) have no significant force (i.e. are not good C-inductive arguments), and so only eight arguments contribute to the evaluation expressed in premise (4). Swinburne rejects the argument from moral truth (an argument for God’s existence), and he rejects the argument from hiddeness (an argument against the existence of God).

About Bradley Bowen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12132821431322748921 LadyAtheist

    Okay, so if we discover that religious experience is purely neurological, then the existence of a god is about 50/50?

    Take away the miracles and history that can't be substatiated, and we're down to about 40 for and 60 against.

    Take away any kind of teleological argument that basically says our puddle is so perfect that the hole must have been made just for our puddle and we're down to about 30/70.

    Consciousness and morality are explainable in neurological, psychological and sociological terms, which makes them very questionable as arguments for anything supernatural.

    Now we're down to zero to 100.

    This is why people like him will never sway atheists. The "arguments" rely on assumptions that only theists will buy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07559081710058635050 Pulse

    Does Swinburne attribute specific probability numbers to each of the eight arguments he considers? How much does each argument contribute to the total probability that God exists? If so, how does he calculate these contributions?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    LadyAtheist said…
    This is why people like him will never sway atheists. The "arguments" rely on assumptions that only theists will buy.
    ==========
    Response:
    Perhaps.
    But you need to first hear what his arguments are and then make an evaluation.

    Rejecting his assumptions before hearing what the assumptions are is an unfair and uncritical way to approach the arguments.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Pulse said…
    Does Swinburne attribute specific probability numbers to each of the eight arguments he considers? How much does each argument contribute to the total probability that God exists?
    ===========
    Response:
    Swinburne generally avoids assigning specific probability numbers. In summing up his case for God, he does claim that the probability goes above 1/2.

    There are some indications by Swinburne of the relative strengths of the arguments. Some of them he calls "strong" or "powerful" while others are "weak".

    Swinburne also provides some characterizations of the premises of the individual arguments. Each argument asserts that there is a low probability of the feature in question given no God, and a significant or high probability of the feature in question given the existence of God. Sometimes Swinburne says of the 'no God' scenario that the feature in question would be "extremely improbable" and sometimes he says of the 'God exists' scenario that the feature in question would be "very probable". So, some rough quantification of probabilities is indicated.

    I will try to work out some examples of specific probability esitmates that fit with these characterizations, to check whether the rough quantifications that Swinburne provides are sufficient to make the probability calculations come out the way Swinburne claims they would.

    It looks to me, however, that because his claim for each argument is a somewhat weak claim, the numbers will probably work out the way he suggests they will. That is to say, he only needs each one of seven significant arguments for God's existence to bump up the probability about .05 in order for the combined force of those arguments to put the probability of God's existence over .3 (assuming that the problem of evil is not sufficient to outweigh more than one or two of the pro arguments).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03125711244980154445 Bradley C.

    Can you say some brief reasons that Swinburne says that the argument from hiddenness has no significant force? This seems to be a pretty solid point if it is made well.


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