Sunday, July 31, 2011
Is God’s Existence Just As Likely As Unicorns?
I have seen numerous comments from atheists that say that God’s existence is just as unlikely as unicorns, ferries and Santa Clause—they might even make the claim that they are aunicornists. There are a few problems with this line of thinking. The first is that we can use the Santa Principle to determine that unicorns don’t exist on earth. The second is that unicorns are not necessary beings while God is.
The Santa Principle says that a person is justified in believing that X does not exist if all of these conditions are met:
1. the area where evidence would appear, if there were any, has been comprehensively examined, and
2. all of the available evidence that X exists is inadequate, and
3. X is the sort of entity that, if X exists, then it would show.
So, using premises one and two we can say that unicorns don’t exist on earth because we have never seen any evidence of them. Since unicorns are said to be physical beings we should have found some evidence of them by now. Even if you assume that they are hiding in some very remote region then we should have at least found a unicorn skull that would verify their existence. However, we haven’t found any evidence of them so we can say with near certainty that unicorns do not exist on earth. Notice, however, that the Santa Principle says that the, “Area where evidence would appear, if there were any, has been comprehensively examined,” so we can’t say that we have searched the entire universe for unicorns. It could be possible that a planet 1,000 light years away has unicorns running around on it. Now, when we turn to using the principle to test whether God exists there are problems. God is said to be an immaterial being who does not reside on the earth. Since we currently do not have the ability to perceive immaterial beings we can’t say that the area where God exists has been comprehensively examined. God could very well exist in heaven, but we simply do not have the capacity to see him.
The second difference between unicorns and God is that the existence of unicorns is not necessary while the existence of everything is dependent on God. Unicorns, if they exist, would just be like lions, bears or humans in that nothing else is dependent on their existence, so unicorns could conceivably exist or not exist. If unicorns didn’t exist then the universe and the earth would still exist. However, God is an immaterial, eternal omnipotent being who must exist if the universe and everything in it is to exist. God is the uncaused cause that formed the universe and sustains it. Without God noting would exist. If unicorns were to exist then they would be dependent on God too. They would need to live in a universe on a planet, things that would not exist if God did not create and sustain them. As a material, biological beings unicorns would also be ultimately be dependent on God. Unicorns would be dependent on organs to survive and those organs would be dependent on cells and those cells would be dependent on elements and those elements are dependent on atoms and so on, but we would get to point where subatomic particles would need to be dependent on something to exist. If there is something in the chain of being that is dependent on something that doesn’t exist then that thing couldn’t exist and then that means that everything in the chain of being that depends on that thing wouldn’t exist either. This means that all material and beings are dependent on God who is the uncaused cause--an agent of pure act.
These two points show that unicorns probably don’t exist while God probably exists. So, it certainly doesn’t make sense to say that the existence of God is just as unlikely as the existence of God.