Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Existence of Humans is Evidence that God does not Exist

In this post I will attempt to succinctly state the anthropic argument against the existence of God (A morally perfect, powerful, and knowledgeable being). I take a lot of inspiration from Mark Walker's piece here, though my discussion will proceed differently. It's basic form is as follows:

(1) If God exists humans would not exist (2) humans exist (3) hence God doesn't exist.
The 2nd premise is uncontroversial, the 1st is where we shall focus our sights.

Imagine this case: You are to procreate a child. We have designed a pill where you can choose what moral, mental, and physical traits your child has. You have two options (a) take a pill where the child in question will have just as much moral, mental, and physical abilities as you do or (b) take another pill where the child in question will be severely morally, mentally and physically deficient to you. In case (a) the human will be, so to speak, average in abilities, but in case (b) the being will have less moral knowledge, be intellectually handicapped, and physically handicapped. Now it seems wrong to take pill (b) since the deficiencies of the child will harm both the child and others; hence you ought to take pill (a). Further if you were to be the child you would clearly wish that your parents chose pill (a) in a case like this.

Lets think of another case, this time from Mark Walker. Suppose humans knowingly create Chumans;

"Chuman’, as this species is known, is created from a human chimpanzee cross. Chumans are mentally and physically challenged in comparison with humans, and have been genetically altered to have a strong propensity for violent outbursts (a propensity they wish they did not have)."

Further these Chumans survive humanity, yet lacking the tools and intellect for modern medicine and agriculture many starve to death. Their history is full of war, disease, starvation, and rape. Wouldn't it be wrong to create such beings? Why create such beings instead of more humans?

In fact there are several real world examples of the results of something like pill (b) and the chumans. There are actual persons who are physically, mentally, and morally handicapped. This causes harm to others due to the lack of moral knowledge and ability, and harm to the person in question who may lose out on many goods of the average human (social, physical, intellectual etc.). If given the choice most parents would choose pill (a), as they ought to.

Hence we can extract the procreation principle like this: 

It is wrong for X to cause, knowingly and voluntarily, the procreation of a Y; which is morally, mentally, and physically deficient to X

Using the procreation principle (PP) we can support premise (1). If PP is true God wouldn't create humans since she can do no wrong (being morally perfect and all). Because humans are morally, physically (in terms of ability--since God isn't a physical being), and mentally disabled from God, she wouldn't create such beings.

An Objection Concerning the Impossibility of PP

Suppose it's impossible for God to create creatures that are not morally, mentally, and physically deficient to her. Then one might be tempted to say that PP is false since it is logically impossible for God to create other beings like her in the required senses, yet it is still permissible for her to create beings. I am not inclined to think this is true but suppose it is, lets stipulate that it is logically impossible for God to create other Gods and that it is permissible for God to create a world even so. We then could amend the principle as follows:

It is wrong for X to cause, knowingly and voluntarily, the procreation of a Y; which is UNNECESSARILY morally, mentally, and physically deficient to X

Lets call this idea PP*. In it, unnecessarily means, that X shouldn't create a Y insofar as another Y* could logically be morally, physically, or mentally better off. So PP means X shouldn't create Y's that are deficient, but PP* says that X's can create Y's that are deficient but only as least deficient as possible.

How does this relate to the anthropic argument? Well according too PP* God can only create beings that are least deficient as possible. Do humans fit this criterion? Bluntly stated no they don't. We don't even come close. God could have created Angelic beings with more knowledge, power, and moral goodness. She could have made beings that are good by nature as she is. These beings don't have to be as powerful or knowledgeable as she is, all that is needed is that they be better then humans. 

So to the objection that PP is logically impossible hence premise 2 of the argument is false one can reply as such:

No. God could create or sustain other beings with the same mental, moral, and powers as she (even if these beings lack necessary existence or something like that). Further supposing she can't beings like her that in itself is no reason for thinking PP is false. If that were the case God simply wouldn't be morally perfect if she created any world with beings.

Suppose we are mistaken in thinking PP is true, than we can replace PP with PP*. Since there could be better beings than humans the anthropic argument goes through and God isn't justified in creating humans. And as such God as defined does not exist.

I think is one of the strongest arguments against the existence of God. This is probably because it taps into my strongest intuitions of morality and reality. Object away!


  1. Interesting post.

    To me, god's existence is disproved by an even simple logic- Why would people be created in his image as sinners, and yet we have to constantly show him that we aren't sinners. The circular logic of religion is quite childish to me.

    We always hear we are born sinners, and only through god can be be reborn and allowed into his kingdom. How can we be born sinners if we are created in his image? I find that talking snakes are not justification for human nature.....

    1. Right. The Anthropic argument is very similar to the Biblical one you gave. I hearkens back to the question "If we were made in God's image what does that say about God?" It certainly doesn't say very good things about him. Of course one could say that we were made slightly like God, nothing more. We can reason, are moral agents, sentient, etc. This I think would help the Christian escape the argument. Hence being made in God's image simply means being made with some similarities to God. But the question remains why think that God would create some beings with just some similarities And unnecessary defects? This is where the Anthropic Argument would come in!

    2. Thanks for the comment by the way!

  2. Your argument doesn't seem to take into account the Christian doctrine of the fall: that God created all things good, and that the human race willingly rebelled against him, resulting in the current state of affairs.

    I assume you will respond that a being who was unable to so rebel would be better than a being who was able to rebel.

    There are a few possible responses to this point. Many Christians would point to free will at this point, and say that free will is a good worth the risk of rebellion. I will not choose that path, but I think it is sufficient to deal with your argument.

    Thus, it is wrong for X to cause, knowingly and voluntarily, the procreation of a Y; which is UNNECESSARILY morally, mentally, and physically deficient to X. Following the free-will argument, the ability to rebel is not unnecessarily deficient, nor even deficient. It admits a potential negative outcome, which is outweighed by the freedom that admits it.

    But I will not take that argument here, because I don't think it is thoroughly Biblical, and I have no desire to stray from my standard.

    My argument is this: God's desire in making humanity is to put his glorious attributes on display, to share what he has, to go public with it. It is not due to a lack in him, but due to a desire to share, to give, because that is part of who he is.
    It seems that God's greatest attribute is love. He is defined by it. (incidentally, for love to exist as a necessary thing, a God who is both unified and diverse is necessary). So, God wants to display his attributes, the greatest of which is love. And there is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for another. Ultimate self-sacrifice for the good of another is the greatest expression of love. In addition to that, the greatest form of self-sacrifice for another would be for an enemy. Maybe someone would die for their friend, but to die for one's enemy would be the absolute greatest act of love conceivable.

    So, to display His love to the uttermost, to share it in its depths, he plans out a world that will have two things that will enable his love to be displayed even greater: death and rebellion. As a result of these things, his love is displayed in a way that is deeper than it ever could have been otherwise, which is why the Bible says that angels long to look into the gospel. Angels cannot comprehend the depth of the love of God anywhere like they can in redemption (which presupposes sin, death, and rebellion).

    This situation also enables God to show other parts of himself: his strength, his holiness, his just wrath, etc. all of which are good and righteous. Thus, the world that exists is the absolute best way for God to fulfill his purposes.

    I will conclude with Paul: does the clay have the right to say to the potter, "why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have the right to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

    I look forward to your response.

    1. Hello Tom thanks for your comment, I will briefly respond to the first objection (which you discard) and some auxiliary issue's you bring up. Interestingly neither objection rejects PP, but rather tries to make amends with it.

      The first objection is this; a human being with freewill, limited power and abilities is not unnecessarily deficient (in it's moral and mental properties and capabilities) to God. That is God couldn't have created a better being. It is however a specific type of free will which makes it possible for beings to "rebel," the actions of these beings are not determined by past events, rather for any free action they could have done otherwise. Or something like that. It will be a libertarian, incompatabilist freewill (not compatabilist, which I believe Van Til was and I assume you are?). This has at least two significant (nonbiblical) problems (a) there are possible beings which have better moral capacities which aren't deficient in other ways rendering humans unnecessarily deficient(b) Even if freewill is a significant moral good, humans are deficient in other capacities and thus human beings fail the PP. (a) Here is a possible being which is better then humans; other Gods. These God like beings have all of God's properties except for necessary existence. They are free, but not in the libertarian sense. They can't rebel because all of their Godlike actions stem from an all-good nature. Thus, like God, they have a compatibalist freedom. Since they do no evil, yet are free (albeit in a different way) they are better morally. Since there are some beings which are better morally then humans, human beings will fail the PP and a Theistic God would not create them.(b) There are also ways humans other capacities and powers could be improved without harming freewill, even if freewill is a significant moral good. One way in which freewill might be good is in the opportunities in which one can choose a good or bad action. For example when one has the ability and opportunity to save or to not save a life. But since humans lack certain mental properties and are limited in knowledge, we miss many of these opportunities to exercise freewill. For example one might illogically conclude that one isn't in a situation to save a life and there is no opportunity at hand. Another example, suppose three children are lost and a whole town bands together to find them, however no one possesses the knowledge as to where they are. As it so happens the three children were trapped in a car trunk, and they are not found. Since no one was in a position to actually save these children's lives the opportunity to utilize freewill in this way was lost. Because of these deficiencies there was harm all around. Thus God could have created beings who had freewill, but also better mental capabilities and more knowledge in order that they might make use of the freewill in a better manner!

    2. There are a few auxiliary points. (I will respond to your second comment in a following comment)

      When you say
      "incidentally, for love to exist as a necessary thing, a God who is both unified and diverse is necessary" What do you mean? First off I am not clear what it means for a being to be "unified" or "diverse." Second, that seems to be contradictory, if it's the case that if God exists she does so must be diverse and unified, that seems like a reason to reject God's existence! For no thing can be A and ~A.

      Paul's quote is nice but it begs the question against this argument by supposing God exists. In this situation we are like an intelligent pot who asks "who is our maker?" Suppose another pot respond "The Perfect Personal Potter!" And then we respond "but we couldn't have been made by "The Perfect Personal Potter" because we have unnecessary deficiencies, and no perfect being would do something wrong by unnecessarily making beings worse then it!" Following this we might say in direct response to Paul "insofar as dishonour is a bad thing, no Perfect Personal Potter would construct such a vessel!" At least that thesis is supported quite strongly by intuition.

      I will respond to your second objection shortly

    3. Let me summarize the crucial parts of the second objection:

      There is a majestic, expansive story which explains the fact that God would create humans. The creation of humans allows God to perfectly express his love, for love can only be fully expressed if the one being loved has rebelled, and in order to atone for the rebellion the lover sacrifices himself. God creates humans because only they can rebel in the manner that is necessary for good to achieve his purpose, the greatest good and so on.

      What is crucial to this account is the fact that an all good being would sacrifice make the world better through sacrifice. First however a few other objections are necessary: One, PP still applies because there are still beings who appear to be morally, mentally, and physically deficient to God whose existence are not explained by this story, namely. other animals! Two, if the story were true one might expect a different world then the actual one. For example if love is best expressed to an enemy, perhaps this love would be more meaningful if there was an all powerful evil being, or more enemy like beings. Perhaps God might also sacrifice his power in a kenosis of sorts. Or he might make chumans, beings who are much more childlike and deficient in respect to God.

      But what is most open to challenge at least initially in this idea is the issue of whether love is best expressed through sacrifice to a species who rebel. Why think this is a case? Take two cases one where a parent (God) has a deep, and everlasting relationship with his faithful child. Another parent however has a rebellious child who must is so misguided that the parent must sacrifice themselves in manner, in order to enter into a deep and everlasting relationship with the child. It doesn't seem as though there are grounds for supposing that the second Parent is more loving, or that the world in the latter case is better then the former, at least not to me. There are also counter intuitive consequences implied by the embrace of the latter story. Take the pill example, suppose you could create a "normal" human or a mentally and morally disabled child. According to this example the second option would be better! For it would allow you to express your love more maximally, and express your various virtues.

      However some response like this might work, it successfully helps twist this argument into a more general argument from evil by admitting sure humans are deficient to God, but the actual consequences from creating humans are good enough to outweigh the badness of humans (both to humans and to God). So much the worse for this argument if it is turned into an argument for evil! I will think about this response, and others in a new post perhaps.

      So in tentative conclusion I think there are some good reasons to be skeptical of your suggestion, regardless either it or something like it has promise.

      Thanks for the discussion, I haven't discussed this argument very much with others, so it's nice too explore it's virtues and vices.

  3. A quick response to some unanswered questions. (I am starting to lose track of all the different discussions we are having in different places.)

    What follows is from your post above, quoting me, then asking a few questions:
    "'incidentally, for love to exist as a necessary thing, a God who is both unified and diverse is necessary" What do you mean? First off I am not clear what it means for a being to be "unified" or "diverse." Second, that seems to be contradictory, if it's the case that if God exists she does so must be diverse and unified, that seems like a reason to reject God's existence! For no thing can be A and ~A."

    What I mean is that love is a communal virtue. So, God would need to be diverse in the sense that there could not be radical monotheism as in Islam or Judaism or some kind of monistic view of the universe. In polytheism love could exist, but would not be necessary, as it seems that the gods of polytheism are as often at odds as they are bound together in love. The God who admits distinction of persons, and is yet perfectly bound together for all eternity is the God who can be said to be love.

    I don't take the Trinity to be contradictory because God is One God and three persons. He is both one and not one at the same time but not in the same relationship. He is not one God and three Gods, neither is he one person and three persons. He is three persons eternally existing as one God.

    1. Ok this seems more plausible. So God is still a simple (a thing with no parts) yet is three persons. I don't see at least an explicit contradiction there, though it is quite puzzling! This will however undercut you claim that God makes sense of the special composition question. Since strictly speaking God is one thing (unified, simple) and doesn't have any parts (diversity) she doesn't even to begin to make sense of composite objects.

  4. I don't mean to say that God is a simple. In one sense God is one, in another sense he is three. Thus he is both unified and diverse. This is how I would understand composite things in creation. There is a sense in which they are truly unified as a thing, there is another sense in which they are truly diverse as many things. One need not be driven over the other.

    1. The special composition question asks when is it that two or more things compose another thing, or what are the sufficient conditions for things to compose a further thing. Some persons answer the questions: as two or more things always compose another thing, others say things never compose other things, and most persons say sometimes two or more things compose a further thing. I take it you are accepting the last answer, now in order to "understand" composite things the special composition question demands that we answer under what conditions somethings compose a further thing. Positing that God is both unified and diverse (apart from concerns about incoherence) does nothing to answer this question! It amounts to saying there are composite things and there are simple things but does not say when two or more things become a further thing or what the sufficient conditions are for two or more things to compose a further thing. Further the sense in which God is unified and diverse is vague, it isn't enough to say that there is a sense in which she is unified and diverse--there needs to be some explication on what these senses of being are.

  5. My main argument here, which would take us back to our other argument on presuppositionalism, is that you assume a standard in this argument.

    Having attempted to address some of your more specific questions, it is time for me to poke around in the basement (to look at the foundation).

    In your use of the phrase "it is wrong" and of the idea of one being being "deficient" you assume some standard of morality and of metaphysical perfection.

    Where do you get those standards?
    Why, in your worldview, is it not better to make a being that is more deficient?
    When you say "it is wrong" I don't understand what you mean by that in your worldview.
    What standards do you use for "deficient" and how do you defend those?

    1. A quick correction. In no way do I have to justify why according to my worldview some beings are deficient to others. It's enough that according to the theist's worldview that some beings are deficient to others. For if that's the case (and it certainly is the case that humans are deficient from God in someways according to ANY theist) and it's the case that PP is true and supports the argument it is enough that the premises be true under the theist's worldview. If one of the premises are false in on my worldview it doesn't matter, this is an argument against theism after all. For if the theist the premises are true in this argument then they hold an inconsistent set (God exists, Humans exist, If humans exist then God doesn't exist) and they ought to deny one of their beliefs. I suggest that reject theism.

      Of course though I do believe that some beings can be deficient in comparison with others. However though that might be an argument for theism, it is irrelevant to the success of this individual argument for atheism. Of course one could argue that this argument is so strong that the premise "God exists" is so strong that one can avoid this argument and reject the premises that "humans exist" or "if humans exist God does not exist" perhaps even without direct challenges to the premise. However this will be no more convincing then myself arguing that this argument is so convincing that one of the pressupositionalist arguments premises must be false. So it's an axe that will cut both ways, and as I am not inclined to think the presuppositionalist argument cuts very well.