As I was browsing YouTube today, I decided to see if users had posted any new or interesting videos about the existence of God. Since I have addressed a great many arguments from Christian apologetics on this site since 2009, I thought I would check out some arguments for God from Islam. As anticipated, while Islam has its own particular slant on the god question and in some ways is actually more accepting of scientific principles than evangelical Christianity, Muslims by and large use many of the same stock arguments for God as Christians.
Take the following video from Hamza Tzortzis:
Indeed, close your eyes, take out the accent, the Arabic and references to Allah and the Quran, one might imagine watching a diatribe from William Lane Craig.
In this video, Tzortzis tells us that he is going to provide the “Quranic argument” for the existence of God, which is really just the old cosmological argument that has been restated and refuted for hundreds of years now. In any case, Tzortzis identifies four “logical possibilities” for the existence of the universe as follows:
- The universe came from nothing.
- The universe created itself.
- The universe was created by something else created.
- The universe was created by something uncreated.
As you can see, possibilities 2-4 all commit a fallacy by assuming a priori that the universe necessarily had to be created — it very well could have just always existed, and while that is hard for our mind to grasp, it is nonetheless another possibility — but after ruling out the first three as impossibilities, Tzortzis then hones in on the fourth option, which he calls the “best explanation” for the existence of the universe. He begins to get on the right track when he concedes the point that the “something uncreated” doesn’t necessarily have to be Allah or any other god in human history, but when he then says that by using the “Quranic approach,” we can draw conclusions about the universe’s origins, we know where he’s going to take the argument.
Here are his basic “conclusions,” which we will more accurately call assumptions:
- Assumption 1: “This uncreated creator must be powerful.” — Notice what he did there. He went from calling the entity an “uncreated” entity to an “uncreated creator” and then bestowed it with a certain power that was, up to this point, not part of the argument. Also as part of this first point, he implied that the mere existence of billions of atoms in the universe and the subsequent release of energy that occurs when an atom is split is somehow suggestive of a powerful god, although splitting just one atom does not produce anything near an atomic explosion, nor does the existence of atoms suggest anything other than the existence of atoms.
- Assumption 2: The creator must be “intelligent and all-knowing” because “it created laws in the universe like the law of gravity.” — Like many of his Christian apologist counterparts, Tzortzis, most likely is speaking to potential converts or people who may be amenable to accepting his brand of faith, uses some fast talking to blaze through these last points, apparently hoping that he can move quickly enough through the message before any sparks of logic creep into the listeners’ minds. But if we slow down and hear what he actually says, we can see that he is just begging the question and taking as an assumption that which he might hope to prove. Simply put, the existence of natural laws in the universe only prove the existence of the natural laws and does not imply a law giver, just like the existence of the universe does not imply by fiat a conscious creator. Attributing laws to the various attributes we observe in nature is just our way, as humans, to describe our world in a scientific way. Unlike God or the various characteristics commonly attributed to him, we can demonstrate these natural laws, which would exist whether we had ever evolved far enough to discover them or not.
- Assumption 3: The creator must be “transcendent” and exist outside of space and time. — This is a common trope in apologetics and was presumably conjured to excuse God from being beholden and subject to the laws of nature. Thus, believers might say, if we just put God outside of the observable universe, we can say that he is a higher force than anything in this universe and that he is the progenitor of morals, of the natural laws and of life itself. Of course, by definition, we can’t experience anything that is outside of our space and time; indeed, there is nothing outside of space and time. To say otherwise is to just make unsubstantiated claims based on pure fantasy, not unlike fictional tales of unicorns, the Loch Ness monster and Flying Teapot making laps around Planet Earth.
- Assumption 4: The creator must be eternal. — This is just an extension of the previous claim. Here again, Tzortzis just makes another assumption about an uncreated creator, with no basis in reality, other than, perhaps, a deep-seated desire for it to be true.
- Assumption 5: The “uncreated creator” must have freewill. — By now, and based on the other points, we can pretty well take it for granted that Tzortzis thinks a transcendant, all-knowing creator pretty well has free reign over his own decisions, but Tzortzis spells it out for us, although Allah or Yahweh being browbeaten and lorded over by an even more powerful overlord is humorous to think about. One might wonder, though, if this uncreated creator was “intelligent” and “eternal,” why would he so freely and benevolently choose to create the universe if he knew beforehand that a good 50 percent of his creation would be doomed to suffer unspeakable torments for all eternity, unless, of course, he was also a sadist and sinisterly set this plot in motion. In fact, if we were to judge God or Allah on his success rate, that is, the number of people who were compelled to believe based on scripture or inspirational speaking or some kind of “revelation” versus those who were not convinced of any of it, a 50 percent rate of belief for the most powerful force in the universe has to be disappointing.
- Assumption 6: Humans sense the nature of God as creator as part of their disposition, and God as the creator is the “best and most comprehensive explanation” for the existence of the universe. — The first part of this assumption is just an appeal to personal experience, and as any judge, attorney or psychologist will attest, personal testimony is a poor basis to substantiate truth claims. Millions of atheists in the world, some of whom have sincerely searched for a spiritual component, have precisely the opposite experience, having had no innate sense of something spiritual outside of themselves, while millions of Buddhists have no conception of a theistic creator at all.
The last few seconds of Tzortzis’ video — and this ties into the sixth assumption — seemed to take a swipe at the Christian concept of the trinity in suggesting that God is one, rather than three separate, autonomous beings as in the Christian godhead.
Interestingly and ironically, Tzortzis says this concept is “irrational because it creates far more questions than it solves,” which would, on the surface, seem like a tip of the hat to Occam’s razor, if he hadn’t just spent the last five minutes making arguments about God that, themselves, raise more questions than they answer.
While it is true that we do not have an answer for why the scientific laws exist as we observe them in the universe, there is no reason to think that the eventual explanation will spring from anything other than a natural cause, as has been the case with every other question about the universe we have answered from science in the last 250 years. Why some believers think that questions about our origin are somehow exempt from having to be explained by natural processes, when all of our other knowledge about the universe comes to us this way, escapes all comprehension.
In the end, suggesting that an all-powerful, highly complex deity who sits outside of space and time is responsible for everything that we see in nature is, number one, a cop-out for having to come up with any kind of real explanation, and number two, complicates questions about our origin exponentially. For more on this, see my post, Response to Apologetics III: Aquinas and Occam’s razor.