This is another proposal for my final paper in Intro to Philosophy. After that last one, you can see that a stern talking to by Professor Ho has helped me hone down my opinion on these matters to a few key points. This is one of the few semi-coherent pieces of writing I’ve found from this era of my career.
Speculation on the nature of God is very easy because post hoc adjustments to our conception of God’s disposition are free from accusations of irrationality. This is because the argument for the existence of God is yet to be proven rational, so the nature of God seems truly out of logical reach. The temptation to argue ahead of ourselves is dangerously alluring in this case, so we must remain conscious of when logic demands an argument and when intuition demands an argument. Note that the former produces a more universal (and therefore more convincing) truth, while the latter will always swirl around the truth, but rarely towards it, driven by the Coriolus force of subjective judgment.
By limiting the argument to only that which may be supported rationally, it will be possible to address God at the front door, as it were, rather than use Him as a premise to divine His nature, from which we deduce His existence. It is not sought to directly prove that a particular definition of God with a particular disposition exists. Before existence must come linguistics: It is has not been satisfactorily shown that the use of God as an explanation of natural phenomena has any justification apart from history and theology. The function of God in theories of why the universe is as it is must first be analyzed before any more fundamental characteristics of God can be exposed.
Saint Thomas Aquinas inferred the existence of God as the best explanation for five observed aspects of existence: motion, cause and effect, possibility and necessity, gradation, and intent. At the end of each of his proofs, he declares that he has uncovered an intuitive void in our natural understanding that can only be filled by God. But since he does not rationally build the concept of God from scratch, Sober is quick to declare the reader unenlightened.
Obviously, Aquinas’ preconceptions about God have in part germinated the link between his deductive expansions and a Supreme Being. This appears to be bad philosophy; it seems to be unconvincing unless one is already convinced. He assumes God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, and he presumes the reader also defines the word “God” similarly. But know that a nonexistent entity may still take on properties: a unicorn is a white horse with a single horn in its forehead. Such a proposition is not dependent on the truth of its subject; it is a tautology. So Aquinas may feel free to grant properties (or in this case, roles) to God without entering the possibly irrational realm of an Existence argument.
So Aquinas’ defense consists of this: He was merely pointing out that if there was an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God, He would fill the void in our knowledge of the world, (one might say) miraculously so. Aquinas’ Existence argument is, at its root, the illumination of this tight fit between his theoretical God and the unexplained. This argument can definitely appear enlightening while keeping its feet firmly on rational ground.
But perhaps Aquinas is a special case. Perhaps the dodge of fallacious reasoning is possible because of poorly articulated thoughts, and all other arguments for the existence of God are truly unenlightening. An agnostic natural philosopher wonders what explanatory power the introduction of God provides. Since God has only the liquid ground of subjectivity to support him, using Him as an answer seems to invite accusations of circularity and question-avoiding.
Suppose we stopped seeing the presentation of God in these arguments as a proposed explanation. Suppose these philosophers are taking advantage of an unexplained natural facet to accumulate possible evidence for a Supreme Being. The conclusions of Existence arguments could be reinterpreted to say, ‘…and maybe this is one of God’s footprints in our world.’ Realize that a philosopher who claims to provide a proof of the existence of God has implicitly claimed to have comprehensively proven all that can be conjectured; this is neither intuitively graspable nor in our (or his) best interests.
We choose to see the introduction of God in natural philosophy as an explanation because we are looking for explanations. But only a concept that is itself explained (and explainable) can function as an explanation. What is needed to preserve classical theophilosophy is an a priori proof of God, but one that can transcend the problems of the Ontological argument.
Unfortunately, knowledge of the subject matter is inherently subjective and historical; definitions on which to base an argument are too varied and plastic. So a paradigmatic shift is necessary in order to incorporate past arguments involving God into our philosophical system. We must include these arguments because they are bound to questions of “why” by the (unfortunately named) Miracle argument.
When considering the truth of science, we declare that (much of) science must be accurate, or else we must explain away countless numbers of coincidences between scientific theories and the natural world. Fortunately in case of God, either an occurrence predicted by the God hypothesis is in fact due to God (in some way), or else it’s just a coincidence, in which case we include coincidences in God’s domain. In either case, the hypothesis is universally supported.
At first glance, it seems we have (partially) defined God a posteriori. But in fact we have merely equated coincidence and miracle, which fits a priori intuition about the words “God”, “coincidence”, and “miracle”. So discarding any proposition involving God would be ill-advised according to the Miracle argument.
We are still without a definitive sense of what kind of predictions the theory of God might make; according to the above argument, the concept seems inherently absurd. So far the only function of the God hypothesis has been to bridge the gap between natural science and myths about the nature of the universe. The philosopher must ask if a functionally-defined hypothesis should still bear the name.
We must remember we are following Aquinas’ method: using abduction to show the rationality of God. If we were using induction, the God hypothesis would be rejected out of hand, since it has no a priori presence in our world. But an abductive hypothesis, like genes or electrons, needs only a theoretical construct, relatively well-defined, to function as a possible answer toward which inference can be made. The predictions of such a hypothesis are not so much of future occurrences but of all further evidence yet to be uncovered.
The classical theory of the humors fit known evidence about the outward functioning of the body and accurately predicted all behavioral evidence, until new physiological evidence was discovered. Mendel’s theory of genes predicted the discovery of physical elements of cells that transmit characteristics to offspring. Many other abductive hypotheses could predict the result of cross-breeding, but Mendel’s has been accepted by the combination of physical and experiential evidence.
Abduction forces our hand in the middle of an endless stream of data to show what we think the true answer is, and the future may bring evidence either way. One would never abduce a conclusion if a conclusion could be reached any other way, because abduction implies that a definite conclusion can never be reached. The perpetual discoveries of the indefinity of the universe cause abduction to be widely used in science.
This mean that, fortunately for God, no scientific theory will arrive on a foundation stronger than abduction. Of course, the weight of evidence will be the convincing factor. But we may take as evidence of God to be all those things not accounted for by science (since something had to cause/initiate/grant life to them). So we see that God is still defined by hypotheses (those of science), and His predictions cover all that is out of the realm of human understanding.