My friend Günter Bechly has started a new blog, and his first post is about the ontological argument. A lot of smart philosophers really like this argument, but it’s out of favor with evidentialists like me, because… well, it’s just the opposite of evidence in every possible way. And evidence is awesome. Evidence makes the world go round.
But if I’m going to take my philosophical medicine from anyone, I’m going to take it from Dr. Bechly. Because at least he has a doctorate in STEM, and that makes him not a squishy-head:
I am a German scientist (paleo-entomologist), specialized on the fossil history, phylogeny, and evolution of insects, the most diverse group of animals.
I am also a conservative evangelical Christian. I strongly reject atheism, materialism, naturalism, and scientism, and privately support Intelligent Design Theory.
Anyway, here is the new post from his new blog:
The Ontological Argument is a highly sophisticated philosophical argument for the existence of God that is often poorly understood by believers and universally dismissed or even ridiculed by atheists, who usually do not properly grasp the argument either. In his anti-religious pamphlet “The God Delusion” Richard Dawkins made a complete fool of himself with the embarassing remark that the defendants of the Ontological Argument even “felt the need to resort to Modal Logic”, which showed that he was completely ignorant of the fact that this argument simply is an exercise in modal logic (see this Q&A by William Lane Craig). The atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell once mocked the Ontological Argument as nothing but “a case of bad grammar”. We will get back to him at the end of this post.
With this very first posting on my new blog, I want to provide an introduction to the famous Ontological Argument, and show how simple but ingenious and unrefuted it really is. When I first truly understood this argument for God’s existence, I was absolutely thrilled by its force, and I hope you will be too.
If you do not like to read lengthy blog posts like this, you find an excellent introduction to the modern modal version of the Ontological Argument in these two short YouTube videos.
That’s the intro, and here is the horrible argument, which contains no evidence, and is therefore evil.
For the purpose of this essay, I reformulated the argument as follows:
- Premise 1: If a maximally great being exists, it must exist necessarily.
- Premise 2: If the existence of a being is necessary, it exists in all possible worlds.
- Premise 3: If the existence of a being is possible, in exists in at least one possible world.
- Premise 4: It is possible that a maximally great being, aka God, exists.
- Conclusion: Therefore God exists in one possible world, which implies that he exists in all possible worlds, including the actual world.
- Therefore, God exists!
A greatly simplified version of the argument makes it even more obvious:
- Premise A: If a being that has the essential property to “exist in all possible worlds” is demonstrated to exist in one possible world, than it must exist by definition in all possible worlds.
- Premise B: The existence of a maximally great being that necessarily exists in all possible worlds is possible, so that it exists in at least one possible world.
- Conclusion: Therefore, such a being exists in all possible worlds including ours.
This argument is a deductive argument in the modus ponens and is universally accepted as logically valid (= properly formed according to the laws of logic). This means that the conclusions follow necessarily from the premises. Thus, our atheist friends cannot simply dismiss the argument because they do not like the conclusion. The only way to refute the argument is to show that one of the premises is false. Premise 1 has been established by Hartshorne and Plantinga as true. The truth of premises 3 and 4 (or of premise A in the simplified version) follows necessarily from modal logic and thus is undeniable.
Therefore, the only chance for the atheist is to deny premise 4 (premise B in the simplified version), which means that he has to deny that God (a maximally great being) is possible. The atheist has to claim that God is logically impossible, because the concept of a maximally great being is incoherent or self-contradictory, like a “round square” for example.
I hope none of you will ever use this evil argument, even though it probably works, and smart people like Craig and Plantinga really like it.
I have been friends with Gunter since last year, when he was interested in intelligent design, which I like, but still not a theist. Then he became a theist, and now a Christian. So, I really like that. I hope everyone will click through and read his article, and then you can all annoy me by telling me how much you like the post, how great philosophy is, and why I need to add it to my list of arguments for Christian theism. It’s an argument tailor made for all you people who don’t like STEM. Sigh.