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Friday, April 6, 2012

The ‘God Has No Explanatory Value’ Argument

The argument that God has no explanatory value is another appeal to Occam's Razor in order to show that God is nothing but an unnecessary complication. If it can be shown that God's existence would not contribute to our understanding of the world, then we may dismiss God as unnecessary. 

A more common version of this argument claims that if God were used as an explanation, then we would then need an explanation for God, and an explanation for the explanation, etc, and therefore, God has no real explanatory value. However, the same can be said of the universe.

Instead, this version claims that if God were used as an explanation, then it simply wouldn't explain anything.

The argument is:

  1. God if he exists must be the ultimate being and provide the answer to all our ultimate questions – otherwise he is not really God.
  2. Yet even supposing as a hypothesis that God exists the questions that God was supposed to finally answer still remain (though in some cases God is substituted in the question for the Universe).
  3. Therefore hypothesising God’s existence is only unnecessarily adding an extra stage to such problems and has no real explanatory value.
  4. Therefore according to Logic (Occam’s Razor Law – ‘that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’) we should not postulate God’s existence and there is no adequate reason to suppose that God exists.
  5. Therefore we should suppose that God does not exist.

The problem with this is that many of the premises are either unsupported or much too vague. For example, what are these "ultimate questions" which would go unanswered?

If we knew that God existed, we would also know how the universe was created, where we came from, the purpose and meaning of life, whether or not there is a soul and an afterlife, whether there is objective morality, why there is suffering and evil, etc.

Are there really any "ultimate questions" which would go unanswered?

In addition, if we were basing God's plausibility on the extent to which His existence would answer deep, philosophical question, then we should come to the opposite conclusion. Questions such as the meaning of life or the whether there is life after death are simply not questions that are answerable by science, or even philosophy.

If the reasoning in this argument is correct, then we should assume that God exists, because it actually explains more than science or philosophy could. It would answer questions that fall outside of the scope of scientific study.

If this argument is correct, then we should simply assume that God exists.


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