Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Cumulative Case for God's Existence

Richard Swinburne is famous for his inductive arguments which lead to a cumulative case for God's existence.  He distinguishes a correct-C inductive argument (in which the evidence X increases for Y more than in the absence of X) from a correct P-inductive argument (in which case, the overall balance of the evidence for Y is more probable than not).  Let's consider some inductive arguments, even if they are not Swinburne's.

The Cosmological Argument

1. Complex things most likely have an external cause. (Premise)

2. The universe is complex. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the universe most likely has an external cause. (From 1 and 2)

The Teleological Argument

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits regularity is most likely the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit regularity. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the laws of nature are most likely the result of design. (From 1 and 2)

The Moral Argument

1. If people have knowledge of objective moral obligations, then they most likely have an intrinsic end designed for such knowledge. (Premise)

2. People have knowledge of objective moral obligations. (Premise)

3. Therefore, people mostly likely have an intrinsic end for knowledge of objective moral obligations. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Happiness

1. People who pray to God and meditate on average live longer, healthier, and happier lives than those who don't, as long as it is not at the expense of others. (Premise)

2. Self-interest is worth pursuing so long as it is not at the expense of others. (Premise)

3. Therefore, one should most likely pray to God and meditate. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Desire

1. Innate desires most likely correspond to something that can satisfy them. (Premise)

2. Perfect and eternal happiness is an innate desire. (Premise)

3. Therefore, one's innate desire for perfect and eternal happiness most likely corresponds to something. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Religious Experience

1. Barring some defeater, one's religious experience is most likely genuine. (Premise)

2. There are those who have religious experiences that lack any defeater. (Premise)

3. Therefore, there are those whose religious experiences are most likely genuine. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Suffering

1. A perfect God would not allow gratuitous suffering. (Premise)

2. Most likely, whether there is gratuitous suffering is unknowable. (Premise)

3. Therefore, it is unknown if there is gratuitous suffering and if God allows it. (From 1 and 2)

Now, let's weigh the evidence.  Surely there are other arguments, but let's stick with these for now.  The arguments in favor of God's existence end up like this: P(h/e&k) > P(h/k).  In English, P = a proposition's probability, h = a hypothesis, e = evidence, and k = one's background knowledge.  We can know this is the case, since these are all facts we would expect if God exists, rather than if he didn't.  The argument from suffering fails as a correct C-inductive argument because it is inscrutable.  There is no way of determining whether gratuitous suffering actually occurs.

If all of this is correct, then we actually have a correct P-inductive argument: P(h/En&k) > 1/2.