Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Logical Argument for God

Note: Throughout this writing I may use Deity or God interchangeably as placeholders for the concept of God.

The existence of God and the ensuing role that such a being shall play in our daily lives, our aspirations, beliefs and our government is a hotly contested issue. There appears to be one side proclaiming their cult adherence based upon faith while another group ardently adheres to a reasoning through logic based approach. There is an array of belief sets other than the two extremes however. The existence of God and etiological considerations of self are important subject matter for parents who are in a position to inform their children and can affect child custody decisions as well as the parent child relationship.

Those who advocate a God based existence come primarily from various factions of the Abrahamic or similar cults. They proclaim an existence of God based upon a collection of writings -- sacred texts -- inspired by the rules and supporting rituals of politicians and competing rabbinical leaders which began being assembled some 3000 years ago and culminated in the third century CE. These writings include supposed origins of the universe, which 39% of Americans state a belief in by agreeing with the statement that "God created the universe, the earth, the sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and the first two people within the past 10,000 years"[en1]

From a logical construct when function or cause is to be attributed to actions we look for the simplest explanation. Often we do this in our daily lives without thought. In our discussions as to motives we simply reduce them to sex, money or power. This is the basis of the principle known as Occam’s Razor. The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. As it applies to God there are four principle schools of thought in descending order of complexity; 1] Deism -- Deity created the universe, started it functioning, but is no longer actively involved in it; 2] Pantheism -- Deity is the inner spiritual essence of everything in the universe; 3] Panentheism -- Deity is the inner spiritual essence of everything in the universe, but it exists beyond the universe as well; 4] Theism -- Deity created the universe and continues to actively participate in the world's activities and in daily human existence.

Deism was primarily brought about through reason in the Age of Enlightenment. John Quincy Adams, Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, George Washington and many -- perhaps most -- of the leaders of the American Revolution were deists. Their belief was promulgated in the US Senate which specifically denied the existence of the United States based on Christianity.[en2]

Deists assert that: God exists: God created the universe, and its scientific and moral laws, in a state of perfection. Thus, after he set the universe in motion, his main task was completed. Since his creation was perfect, it did not need continual interference by God to keep it functioning as it was designed to operate.

Stephen Hawking recently made clear his support of atheism when he said: "Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation."[en3] Science seeks to find the answers while cults proclaim to provide them and then modify those mythological facts as scientific knowledge and truths demand.

There is a logical reason for the belief in a deity though. There must be as most of the human inhabitants of the world believe in a god or gods. As there is no predominant cult then it is a truism that the majority of humans believe that the majority of humans are incorrect in their assumptions about a deity. Starting from this premise I sought to understand how can almost all people hold a nearly universal belief [God exists] and yet nearly all of those people -- according to each other -- be incorrect in the application of this overarching belief.

God belief is a socially accepted hypothesis that became dogmatic backed by social sanction. The supernatural aspect emerges from hypotheses arbitrarily assumed by individuals to explain natural phenomena that could not be explained otherwise at the time. Cult practice became social ritual as those who deviated were publicly scorned and may also have feared adverse consequence in an afterlife. Many of the “facts” or scientific "truths" revealed in sacred texts which are attributable to a supernatural being have been roundly rebuked by modern science.

As a subscriber to the concept of evolution I have no preference toward either of the two supporting philosophies -- being purely non-intentional astrological origin or set in motion by a deity at the instant of the Big Bang. From a human psychological perspective I believe that our behaviours are the result of an evolutionary operation which favour traits that advance our longevity and reproduction. Most people dislike the bitter taste of poisonous fruits but enjoy peaches, mangos, and other such healthy fruits. I don’t believe that this is by chance or through some divine plan. Rather, I feel it is highly likely the result of the consequence that befell those who were born with the “poisonous fruit taste delicious gene.” Traits favourable to reproduction survive while those that do not become extinct.

As someone who studies the dynamics of families, the contributions that mothers and fathers make to the lives of their children and how the children are affected by child custody decisions I am well positioned to analyze the evolutionary basis of parental behaviours. In examining the nearly universal concept of Deity I deduced that the basis must be founded upon parental instruction as parents are a child's first teacher. There is an evolutionary advantage to passing on our personal and accumulated knowledge of the world -- this fruit is poisonous, falling from a tree can kill you. In short do as I tell you or you could die is the message a child receives from a parent or other authority figure. From this I believe came the development of religion and a natural propensity through exaptation.

Included in the passing on of knowledge would be a simultaneous instruction on societal norms or morals. We found these in Aesop’s fables and other stories. Children, as we parents know, do not blindly follow our instruction. They are a curious bunch who challenge our beliefs and authority under the auspices that they are the exception to the rule and are too cunning to succumb to the statistical norm. Essential to effective discipline is trust. Children must be able to trust that we are being truthful with them. However, when complete trust is established children will still stray from our commands. Although we may watch, catch them in the act and mete out appropriate consequences we cannot be omnipresent although we would like for them to think we are. Thus, we develop a proxy for this task. This observer must never sleep, be able to see through walls, around corners, under water, and even know the child's thoughts. A master of surveillance. Sounds a bit like Santa Claus which, curiously, people manage to outgrow a belief in as reasoning develops. What about the homes without chimneys? What is the approximate number of homes per time zone that must be visited? Why do the media portrayals not match these mathematical calculations?

The underlying psychological motivators of religion are fear and the promise of reward. Central to the cult practice is blind adherence without question. That is, to abandon all reasoning through logic and follow the rules. This allows for control of the adherents which is something that is admitted by the clergy. Yet, the laity will surrender their autonomy by adhering to the contradictory and absurd practices and beliefs as absolute truths. This short video segment of the interview of a priest encapsulates the purpose of religious dogma.

My belief of parental instruction as the basis of cult ideology I have found is also supported by psychologists and philosophers. It is reasoned that the proxy observer concept developed into a set of stories, rituals, and rules that were intended to ensure survival of the offspring. Purification rituals have no logical basis in appeasing or showing reverence to any god but they sure do help preserve foods, prevent the spread of disease, and reduce incidents of food poisoning. It then followed that those people who adhered to the cult practices -- worshipped the god or gods appropriately and followed the rites commanded by the deity -- had a higher survival rate. These etiological based results were then falsely attributed to supernatural intervention. The belief in cult practice was reinforced and passed on through early indoctrination of the children while their minds were malleable and trusting of the parents. It is not until adolescence that children develop the reasoning skills to challenge religious indoctrination[en4] -- often too late. This logical connection between cult ideology and longevity has no more support than weight loss pills.

The lack of control for a variable leads to a false causation attribution. Manufactures claim that when their weight loss pills are used in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise that users experience measurable and consistent weight loss. They attribute the successful dieters' results to the weight loss pills. The same also works for hypnosis, saying affirmations in a mirror, counting backwards from 100 each day, or praying. It is the diet and exercise that produce the results, not the magic fairy dust at $30 per bottle.

Likewise cult dogma inclusive of its myriad practices and prohibitions does produce positive result for its adherence, most of the time. However, there is no evidence that worship of a deity or divine intervention is responsible for these results. More likely it is the practices that are responsible for better health and reproductive viability. Those who meditate, eat well, and practice social altruism have just as great or better outcomes that those who pray devoutly. Post surgery prayers have been shown to provide no positive correlation and may actually increase complications.[en5] Confirmation bias further expounds the effect of prayer. Rarely, if ever, do you hear the devout saying in response to the death of a loved one, "Our prayers went unanswered and he died anyway."

Empirical evidence has demonstrated the lack of religiosity benefit as well as that those who have higher intelligence across many measures are more likely to be agnostic or atheist. Reasoning through logic is a higher order brain process concurrent with intelligence. It is through reasoning that Hawking and others throughout human past have challenged religious dogma and proven the uselessness of deity worship of which results are replicated through secular practices such as meditation or introspection.

The logical argument for God is that the theory of God was attached to ritual practices associated with hygiene, food, social interaction, and psychological stability which had positive correlations to general well-being. On its own there is no logical support for God’s existence but as attributed through false correlations and biases it then seems to be logical that God exists.

[1] 2009 George Bishop, Harris Interactive poll.
[2] “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” Treaty of Tripoli June 10, 1797.
[3] el mundo, 23 September 2014
[4] Piaget described the age range on seven to eleven years as the “Concrete-Operational Stage” in which children begin to develop reasoning skills but can only solve problems that apply to concrete events or objects.
[5] Carey, Benedict. “Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer” New York Times, 31 March 2006.

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