Sunday, February 18, 2018

Five Proofs of The Existence of God

* summarized from Edward Feser’s book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Ignatius Press, 2017

1.     The Aristotelian Proof
Since change actually occurs, and change is defined as the actualization of a potential, there must exist something that can actualize potentials without itself being actualized.  This something is purely actual because it lacks any potentiality. Any actualization of a potential requires a cause, whereas what is pure actuality does not. This is the “unmoved mover” of Aristotle, characterized as God.  

2.     The Neo-Platonic Proof
Things that we experience are composite; the ultimate cause of composites must itself be non-composite, or absolutely simple. Composite things require a cause because there must be some principle outside them that accounts for the composition of their parts. What is non-composite has no parts to be put together, therefore could not be caused.  Neither the universe, or even a multiverse could be uncaused, necessary, or self-explanatory because they are composite.

3.     The Augustinian Proof
Universals, propositions, possibilities, and other abstract objects must ultimately be grounded in a divine intellect.

4.     The Thomistic Proof
For any of the contingent things of our experience, there is a real distinction between its essence and its existence.  Nothing like this could exist unless it was caused to exist by something in which there is no such distinction. Something whose essence just is existence need not have existence conjoined to its essence and therefore does not need a cause. The universe, Big Bang, quantum events, or laws of nature could not be uncaused causes.  Only something whose essence just is essence itself could be an uncaused cause.

5.     The Rationalist Proof

There cannot be an explanation of the existence of any of the contingent things of our experience unless there is a necessary being. The universe is contingent rather than necessary and thus could not provide an ultimate explanation.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Aristotelian Proof for God

* copied from Edward Feser, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Ignatius Press, 2017, page 35

1.     Change is a real feature of the world.
2.     But change is the actualization of a potential.
3.     So, actualization of potential is a real feature of the world.
4.     No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it (the principle of causality).
5.     So, any change is caused by something already actual.
6.     The occurrence of any change C presupposes some thing or substance S which changes.
7.     The existence of S at any given moment itself presupposes the concurrent actualization of S’s potential for existence.
8.     So, any substance S has at any moment some actualizer A of its own existence.
9.     A’s own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of its own potential for existence or (b) A’s being purely actual.
10.  If A’s existence at the moment it actualizes S presupposes the concurrent actualization of its own potential for existence, then there exists a regress of concurrent actualizers that is either infinite or terminates in a purely actual actualizer.
11.  But such a regress of concurrent actualizers would constitute a hierarchical causal series, and such a series cannot regress infinitely.
12.  So, either A itself is a purely actual actualizer or there is a purely actual actualizer which terminates the regress that begins with the actualization of A.
13.  So, the occurrence of C and thus the existence of S at any given moment presupposes the existence of a purely actual actualizer.
14.  So, there is a purely actual actualizer.
15.  In order for there to be more than one purely actual actualizer, there would have to be some differentiating feature that one such actualizer has that the others lack.
16.  But there could be such a differentiating feature only if a purely actual actualizer had some unactualized potential, which, being purely actual, it does not have.
17.  So, there can be no such differentiating feature, and thus no way for there to be more than one purely actual actualizer.
18.  So, there is only one purely actual actualizer.
19.  In order for this purely actual actualizer to be capable of change, it would have to have potentials capable of actualization.
20.  But being purely actual, it lacks any such potentials.
21.  So, it is immutable or incapable of change.
22.  If this purely actual actualizer existed in time, then it would be capable of change, which it is not.
23.  So, this purely actual actualizer is eternal, existing outside of time.
24.  If the purely actual actualizer were material, then it would be changeable and exist in time, which it does not.
25.  So, the purely actual actualizer is immaterial.
26.  If the purely actual actualizer were corporeal, then it would be material, which it is not.
27.  So, the purely actual actualizer is incorporeal.
28.  If the purely actual actualizer were imperfect in any way, it would have some unactualized potential, which, being purely actual, it does not have.
29.  So, the purely actual actualizer is perfect.
30.  For something to be less than fully good is for it to have a privation-that is, to fail to actualize some feature proper to it.
31.  A purely actual actualizer, being purely actual, can have no such privation.
32.  So, the purely actual actualizer is fully good.
33.  To have power entails being able to actualize potentials.
34.  Any potential that is actualized is either actualized by the purely actual actualizer or by a series of actualizers which terminates in a purely actual actualizer.
35.  So, all power derives from the purely actual actualizer.
36.  But to be that from which all power derives is to be omnipotent.
37.  So, the purely actual actualizer is omnipotent.
38.  Whatever is in an effect is in its cause in some way, whether formally, virtually, or eminently (the principle of proportionate causality).
39.  The purely actual actualizer is the cause of all things.
40.  So, the forms or patterns manifest in all the things it causes must in some way be in the purely actual actualizer.
41.  These forms or patterns can exist either in a concrete way in which they exist in individual particular things, or in the abstract way in which they exist in the thoughts of an intellect.
42.  They cannot exist in the purely actual actualizer in the same way they exist in individual particular things.
43.  So, they must exist in the purely actual actualizer in the abstract way in which they exist in the thoughts of an intellect.
44.  So, the purely actual actualizer has intellect or intelligence.
45.  Since it is the forms or patterns of all things that are in the thoughts of this intellect, there is nothing that is outside the range of those thoughts.
46.  For there to be nothing outside the range of something’s thoughts is for that thing to be omniscient.
47.  So, the purely actual actualizer is omniscient.
48.  So, there exists a purely actual cause of the existence of things, which is one, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, fully good, omnipotent, intelligent, and omniscient.
49.  But for there to be such a cause of things is just what it is for God to exist.

50.  So, God exists.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Ability to Complete the Great Commission: Designed and Fine-Tuned

This blog is a summary of three works:
1.     The calculation done by Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe determining the probability of a planet existing that can sustain a global, high-tech civilization.
2.     Portions of the book Improbable Planet, by Hugh Ross
3.     Hugh Ross’s talk at the 2017 AMP Conference[1] on the events necessary for the gospel to be spread world-wide to a population of 8 billion people.

The Bible makes it clear that everything which God creates is for the purpose of bringing humans into a redemptive relationship with Christ. In nature, God shows us that the entire universe and every event that has occurred is for the purpose of making that redemption possible.

Every event in the history of our universe, our galaxy, our solar system, and our planet plays a role in making the redemption of billions of people on Earth a possibility.

The chances that life can exist on a planet become exponentially greater as you move from simple bacteria to animals and plants to humans simply existing to the capability of spreading the gospel message to 8 billion people all over the planet. Several hundred events must all coincide for this to happen. The incredible odds against all of these events occurring provides reasonable evidence to conclude that an intelligence planned it all.

The recognition that Earth today possesses abundant and diverse species of multiple levels of advanced life and that the existence of such life requires a very long history of much simpler life has spawned what is known in the scientific literature as the “rare Earth” hypothesis.  Even scientists who believe the origin of a bacterium is an easy step and that natural processes efficiently evolve life acknowledge that it takes an extraordinary planet for all these supposedly easy steps to occur.
The panoply of advanced life on Earth also requires a universe with an extraordinary history for there to be any possibility for the kind of spiral galaxy in which such an exceptional planet can exist.  Furthermore, that planet must reside in a planetary system that experiences a highly specified birth and journey within its extraordinary galaxy.[2]

Reasons to Believe has compiled four lists, with references, of all the necessary events that must occur for a global, advanced civilization to exist on Earth. The probability of each event is also calculated.

Billions of years before life first began, the universe itself must be fine-tuned. For physical life to be possible in the universe, several characteristics (140 in this list) must take on specific values.[3] You can view the first list by clicking here.

Once all the parameters of the universe are set, you must have specific parameters for a galaxy, a sun, a solar system, a moon, and of course the specific planet that each fall within an extremely narrow range of values for intelligent physical life to exist.[4] You can view this second list by clicking here.

Hugh Ross has calculated that the chance of a planet having all the requirements to sustain our current civilization is 1 out of 101032. This list contains the probabilities and the references. You can view this list by clicking here.

For human life (or its functional equivalent) to possibly establish a globally distributed high- technology civilization on some kind of astronomical body, many characteristics of its environment — from large-scale to small, galaxy cluster to proximate ecosystems — must take on specific values. These characteristics are listed on eight specific size scales, large to small, along with estimates from a naturalistic perspective (assumption that no supernatural Being is responsible for fixing the value of any of the characteristics) of the probabilities that the values of these characteristics will fall within the required ranges.[5]  You can view this list by clicking here.

As you can see from the above lists, there are hundreds of parameters that must be fine-tuned within a very narrow range for our civilization to even exist.  Even more fine-tuning is required if the gospel is to be carried to every human on the planet.  Hugh Ross spoke on this at the 2017 AMP Conference, focusing on just four (he said three, but I made it four) of the factors that are necessary for the Great Commission to be fulfilled[6].

Factor Number 1:  We are living at the end of a fine-tuned ice age cycle.
The Earth is in an ice age right now, with about 10% of the planet covered in ice. We are currently at the end of a hundred-thousand-year cycle, a periodic change from 10% ice to 20% ice that has been present on Earth for only about 800,000 years.[7] This cycle is critical because large amounts of melting ice are necessary to irrigate the great agricultural plains of China, India, and North America.  The melting ice also uncovers high plateaus from which wind-blown dust can fertilize these plains. Water and fertilized soil is obviously required to grow enough food for billions of people to survive.
Factor Number 2:  The Sun is exactly the right age and mass.
Stars are unstable when they are young and then unstable again when old. Our star also has a stable mass, as both large and small stars are unstable. This means that solar flare activity for the Sun is at a minimum for the life of a star right now.  Bacteria could live with more flaring, more UV radiation, and more x-rays than the Sun is producing right now, but an advanced life could not. Neutrinos also show that the Sun entered this extremely stable phase about 50,000 years ago and that it will exit this stable phase in about 50,000 years.  This means that our current 100,000 year window is the only one in which advanced life could exist on Earth.

Factor Number 3:  Tectonic events cool the planet. 
As the sun ages, more hydrogen gets converted to helium, increasing the core density, which results in a more efficient fusion reaction, increasing the brightness. Our Sun has been getting brighter for the last 4 billion years, resulting in an increasing amount of heat being transferred to Earth. In fact, given how bright the sun is right now there should not be any ice at all on our planet. It took five simultaneous events, all happening within the solar stability window, to help keep the Earth cool.
1st Tectonic Event: Antarctica’s Move
Antarctica used to be attached to Australia but split away and began moving south 40 million years ago, stopping on the South Pole.  All around Antarctica is open ocean with nothing to stop the flow of wind that always blows at a minimum of 40 mph.  These winds create an ocean current that helps to cool the Northern Atlantic. The large amount of ice on Antarctica also reflects sunlight which also helps to cool the planet.
2nd Tectonic Event:  Greenland’s Uplift
The northward movement of Greenland from next to Newfoundland to its current location, passing over a mantle plume in the process, caused the eastern parts of Greenland to be elevated high enough to support a massive build-up of ice.  This vast ice sheet reflects much of the Sun’s heat and light and is a major factor in cooling the planet.
3rd Tectonic Event:  Pangea
After Pangea broke up, landmasses replaced oceans in the northern hemisphere and nearly enclosed the Arctic Ocean. Because of the lower heat-storing capacity of continents compared to oceans, this configuration dramatically cooled the northern hemisphere and played a significant role in the formation of the polar ice cap.[8] 
4th Tectonic Event: Isthmus of Panama Formation
Approximately 3 million years ago, converging tectonic plates led to the formation of the land bridge connecting North and South America. This shut down the flow of warm water from the Pacific Ocean into the cooler Atlantic Ocean, rerouting ocean currents and atmospheric circulation to a north-south direction. The new ocean currents enhanced global cooling as well as providing more moisture to the Arctic, contributing to the formation of a large Arctic ice cap. [9]
5th Tectonic Event:  Rise of the Tibetan Plateau
About 50 million years ago, the Indian tectonic plate hit the Eurasian tectonic plate at the extraordinarily high velocity.  This ongoing collision between India and Asia raised the Tibetan Plateau high enough to store vast amounts of ice.  This huge amount of low latitude ice reflects sunlight four times more efficiently than polar ice.[10]

Given the Sun’s current brightness and the abundance of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, nothing less that the simultaneous tripping of the five tectonic triggers could have launched the Earth into an ice age.[11]                   

Factor Number 4:  Extreme Climate Stability
Because of the unique alignment of the Earth’s tilt and orbit, we are currently in a time of exceptional temperature stability. For the past 9000 years, Earth’s temperature has remained at an optimal temperature for maintaining a large, globally distributed, technologically advancing human population; extreme temperature variation kept early humanity from having large population, as large-scale agriculture was not possible; almost every family had to farm individually. 9000 years ago, seven out of sync rotational, orbital, and tilt cycles all came in sync and created what is known as the “long cool summer.”  We can now feed the entire world with only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

We now have the technology, wealth, and people power to take the Gospel to everyone on Earth before we enter another period of climate instability. This is only possible because of the unusual climate stability, along with the large amount of ice, which allow large scale agriculture and help to cool the planet. It is reasonable to conclude that there is no way this could all be a coincidence. We need a highly fine-tuned universe, galaxy, solar system, and planet just to have advanced life; with odds so high that it is reasonable to conclude that it was planned by an intelligent being.  We needed five simultaneous tectonic events that all had to happen at the exactly right time to combat the brightness of the sun at a time when the sun was exceptionally stable. In addition, we needed seven different Earth orbit, rotational, and tilt variations to all be in sync at this exact right tectonic and sun moment.

It is reasonable to conclude that everything which God creates is for the purpose of bringing humans into a redemptive relationship with Christ. God has planned every event in the history of our universe, our galaxy, our solar system, and our planet so that redemption will be a possibility for every one of the billions of individuals on Earth.

[1] Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe, AMP Conference 2017
[2] Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet, Baker Books, 2016, page 22
[6] Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe, AMP Conference 2017
[7] Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet, Baker Books, 2016, page 200
[8] ibid, page 200
[9] ibid, page 201-202
[10] ibid, page 204
[11] ibid, page 204