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Issue - Monsieur Donc Dieu Existe Répondez!.... 1
Posted by Preet Mohan S Ahluwalia Send Email to Author on Sunday, 8/26/2001 3:08 PM MDT
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(Part I)

Preet Mohan Singh Ahluwalia
August 25, 2001

An eminent French scholar and atheist, Denis Diderot, was visiting the royal court of the Russian Czar in St. Petersburg. Leonhard Euler, a German mathematician accepted an invitation to meet Diderot. Euler walked to him and said with conviction: "Monsieur, (a+b^n)/n=x, donc Dieu existe; répondez!" [Sir, (a+b^n)/n=x, therefore, God exists; respond!] On many occassions in the past Diderot had argued against the existence of God, but at this moment, he was silent.

There are four arguments for the existence of God: (1) the ontological argument, (2) the cosmological argument, (3) the teleological argument, and (4) the moral argument.

An ontological argument shows that God's existence can be inferred from the fact that He is a Perfect Being who is Self-existent. It states: If God does not exist but one can conceive a God who does, then the God who is conceived to exist is greater than the God who does not because existence is greater than non-existence. Therefore God exists necessarily. Descartes, Leibniz and St. Anslem supported this argument. Kant criticized it by stating that a "necessarily existent being" need not exist at all.

The cosmological argument reasons that God exists because his creation, the world, exists. That is, God's existence accounts for the fact that the world exists. It also promotes the idea of an infinite chain of causes and effects. God being the first cause. Plato began this idea when he stated that there must be a first Mover. Whatever moves is moved by another or is self-moved. The mover of the Cosmos is the self-mover, God. David Hume opposed this argument by saying that there was no need for causes to explain the effects. To him all causes were finite and anything beyond was invalid. He was not willing to stop the regress of causes at God, which to him, was an arbitrary decision. Hume also brought forth the issue of dependence wherein a relationship must exist between the "things being moved" and the cause behind it.

Since the creation exhibits order and design, a Creator must exist. This is the teleological argument and is also commonly known as the design argument. It provides justification for the classic watch and watchmaker theory, that is, if you find a watch then there must be a watchmaker. There is a purpose and design behind the creation which leads to the evidence of an intelligent Being. Socrates, Plato and Aquinas supported the idea. Hume argued that the universe could have happened by chance rather than design. To Kant, God may have worked with a universe that always existed. God, now, could not be omnipotent.

The moral argument attributes a sense of morality to the existence of a Creator. Moralist quote the sense of right and wrong and the feeling of guilt associated with an act in the absence of anyone else knowing about it.

Michael A. Guillen, a mathematical physicist at Cornell, writes in Bridges To Infinity: "Until about 50 years ago, truth to a mathematician had been synonymous with logical proof. For this reason, mathematicians had operated in a fantasy world, one in which nothing was left to faith because everything could be proved to be either true or false. In 1931, however, the mathematician's fantasy world became more like the realistic world when the Vienese logician Kurt Godel proved that there will always be mathematical truths that cannot be proved with logic. Suddenly, there was introduced into the mathematical world a formal role for subjectivity...But what made Godel's achievement even more noteworthy is that he had used logic to incriminate logic. Godel surmised that there must be an indefinite number of mathematical hypotheses that are extra-logically evidently true, but that defy being proved true with logic."

According to Guillen, mathematicians have two choices available to them -- the secular and the mystic principles of faith. The secular principle is referred to as Occam's Razor or the Law of Parsimony. According to it scientists must put their faith in hypotheses that explain the evidence objectively and concisely. On the other hand, the mystic principle endevors to explain an hypothesis not only through the evidence but also if it is consistent with the philosophy that assigns a purpose to everything. While the secular principle seeks truth that can be verified by our five senses the mystic principle adds an element of purposefulness. Darwin was convinced of the non-purposeful process that selects from among accidental genetic mutations only those that are best adapted to the environment. William Parely used the mystic principle to state the argument-from-design.

In a debate with Darwin, Parely presented his case: Suppose that you're riding along in a train when you notice some rocks on a hillside that spell out the message WELCOME TO MASSACHUSETTS. It probably would not occur to you that those rocks had been purposefully arranged, and yet it is conceivable that someone might take the position that the arrangement was a happenstance, effected over many many years by natural geologic forces. This person may also hold the belief in the non-purposeful appearance of human life on earth. However, no matter which way you might actually believe, if you depend on the arrangement of rocks for evidence that you are indeed entering Massachusetts, you are necessarily conceding the truth of the teleological interpretation. Otherwise your behavior would be irrational -- you cannot have it both ways!

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