Alex Byrne: God

Alex Byrne in the Boston Review addresses the existence of God, pointing out that modern debates echo those of Hume and Paley (he of the watchmaker). Byrne talks about the Ontological, Design and Fine Tuning arguments for God.

The article is interesting because it addresses some weak responses to these arguments, from Dawkins’s The God Delusion. As gareth_rees said, the popularisation of this debate will hopefully encourage everyone to consider whether the reasons they have for their positions are good ones.

In other news, Father Christmas (who really does exist, otherwise who’s bringing all those presents, eh?) brought me Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett, Bitches; and Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem (about the Problem of Evil). I expect I’ll be posting about those once I’ve read them.

1 Comment on "Alex Byrne: God"

  1. From the Alex Byrne article:

    Paley begins by contrasting the discovery of two objects while “crossing a heath”: a stone and a watch. The presence of the stone requires no explanation in terms of a designer—indeed, Paley supposes that the hypothesis that “it had lain there forever” might well be correct

    In full, Paley’s opening sentence to Natural Theology goes:

    In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there: I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever; nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer.

    The usual response to Paley has been to refute the “watchmaker” section of his argument, the statement of which immediately follows this sentence, but the presence of the stone is not as simple as it seems to Paley. The stone also requires an explanation: it would not, in fact, be difficult to show that Paley’s answer is absurd. Paley does not describe his stone in detail so we cannot say exactly which attributes of the stone are significant. Perhaps the stone is rounded, indicating a history of abrasion and transport by water. Perhaps it is of a mineral type not found on the heath, indicating distant transport, perhaps by glaciers. What mineral is it composed of? Perhaps it is limestone, indicating that it was once made up the bodies of marine animals, with a history of burial and uplift. Perhaps it is granitic, indicating that that it cooled slowly from molten rock deep underground.

    Even a stone needs a (blind) stonemason.


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