Katelyn Peterson, Staff Writer:
Philosophy of religion is a booming area in philosophy that has been growing over the past 40 years. According to Greg Ganssle, the director of the Rivendell Institute at Yale University in New Haven, specialists continue to work in all kinds of areas that are centered on the proof of whether or not God exists.
Ganssle, who is the author of “Thinking About God: For Steps in Philosophy,” and “A Reasonable God: Engaging in the New Face of Atheism,” came to Southern last week and held a philosophical lecture in Engleman hall that was based on the concepts and arguments for the existence of God.
“I’ve known Greg for a while and actually have attended the talks he has given here in New Haven and elsewhere,” said Heidi Lockwood, an assistant professor in philosophy at Southern and the person responsible for organizing the lecture.
Lockwood said the reason she enjoys listening to Ganssle’s talks is because he is always so lucid and careful and clearly considers both sides of an argument when he is presenting a topic.
The first thing Ganssle talked about during his lecture was the importance of recognizing that God can be many things to a lot of people.
“There are so many different concepts of God in the world today as well as historically,” said Ganssle.
Ganssle explained that each concept of God gives attribution to the divine characteristics of God’s being. He then said there are three arguments for the existence of God.
The first argument talked about was called a cosmological argument, in which it is acknowledged that the universe, like anything else that comes into existence must have a cause and that cause must be God.
Ganssle gave a realistic example of a scratch on a car in order to help his audience visually understand the concept of the cosmological argument. A scratch, Ganssle said, does not magically appear on someone’s car, there is always a specific cause or reason as to how and why it got there.
There is also the design argument which is the recognition that there is a system of things which are not man made that show the marks of having an outside powerful designer, and a moral argument which is based on objective moral obligations to the belief in the powers of God. A moral argument, said Ganssle, is better explained by theism than by atheism.
Ganssle explained that theism is the belief that the universe is such that a God exists, and God’s intentions and actions in nature might be the kind of resources that can help explain things like human nature or why the universe is the way it is. Atheism, on the other hand, is a claim that there is no God.
These arguments, however, they aren’t always relevant to the concepts of God said Ganssle. For example, the cosmological argument is not relevant to the Greek concepts of gods because the Greeks didn’t necessarily have the role of bringing the universe into existence.
“Different concepts of God require different arguments,” said Ganssle.
Ganssle said almost every argument has a two part structure: The first part has to do with knowing that many things in the universe have an unknown cause or explanation and the second part is making the connection between this explanation and the outside powerful force of God.
It was from this point that Ganssle stated his opinion as to what he thought were the weak spots in each of the three arguments. For example, said Ganssle, many people have argued that the moral obligations of the Moral argument are not considered objective.
Another example of a weak spot, said Ganssle, lies within the cosmological argument of God because there are a lot of things that have come into existence without having a cause.
“As far as I can understand,” said Ganssle, “quantum
events have no cause and so therefore the state of quantum particles is something that will come into existence with what seems to be absolutely no cause at all.”
Kelsey Joespeh, a Southern freshman majoring in secondary math education said that of the three arguments
explained, she was able to best understand and follow the principles of the moral argument. However, Joesph also said that though this was something she understood, it wasn’t something that she necessarily agreed with.
At the end of his lecture, Ganssle allowed people in the audience the opportunity to come forward with any questions or opinions they had on the existence of God. One person, for example, said he disagreed with Ganssle’s ideas and explanation for the design argument.
“It’s rare when we feel as though we’ve got a final answer to a question,” said Lockwood. “We just aim for further questions and a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the problem.”
Lockwood said the idea to organize the philosophy lecture was partly inspired by the debate on campus, sponsored by Intervarsity.
“There seemed to be a lot of interest on campus on the topic of whether or not God exists,” said Lockwood.
Although the debate was extremely interesting and touched on a lot of important issues, said Lockwood,
there seemed to be a lot of questions from on the audience as to why the debate was limited to an Abrahamic God and also on the distinction between what is sometimes called the God of philosophers and the God of religion.
Lockwood said she believed Ganssle’s lecture could help shed some light on any of the unanswered questions from the Intervarsity debate.
Yale philosopher talks God and religion
Katelyn Peterson, Staff Writer: