Right! Time for some Thomas Aquinas, a man considered to be the greatest philosopher-theologian of the Middle Ages. So it only makes sense to dedicate this post to his ‘Five Proofs of God’.
Unlike the ontological argument, Aquinas’s arguments for God’s existence are all based to an extent on scientific or ‘empirical’ facts about the world. Like many other philosophers, his original texts are extremely heavy and wordy but are actually saying something much simpler. I’ll try my best to summarize them. Here we go!
First Proof – The Unmoved Mover
1- Everything that moves in the world is caused to move by something other than itself.
2- Either this chain goes on forever which is impossible, according to Aquinas, OR there is one unmoved mover who started the chain of movement in the universe.
It took me a long time to get my head around the impossibility of having an infinite chain of movers. In fact, this has been a common criticism of this argument as it’s not really clear why you can’t have an infinite number of movers. But then I sort of had a light bulb moment.
And this is it:
Ok, so we know from science that the universe is expanding more and more with time. The world we live in has an ‘expiration date’. In other words, the movement in the universe has an end. It seems illogical to think or believe that this movement has an end but has no beginning, which is what an infinite chain of movers suggests. Therefore, something must have set off this movement.
Imagine this scenario: Someone constructs a huge domino line. You can see its end in the distance but it’s so long you can’t see where it begins. What you can see, though, is the dominos knocking each other over and gradually reaching the end of the line. Although you can’t see the first domino the logical conclusion one would reach is that first domino exits somewhere and someone or something pushed it over and started the whole chain. No one would ever infer that there’s an infinite number of dominoes in the distance, unless perhaps you couldn’t see either end of the domino line.
Let’s imagine another scenario: what if the movement in the universe is cyclical? As in what if the domino line is arranged in a circle?
Again this wouldn’t work because we know for a fact that the universe and all things in it have an end, and the funny thing about circles is there are no ends and beginnings. Even a circular domino needs someone to set it off and once it goes round it cannot maintain itself and go round itself once again.
Second proof- Un-caused Causer
This is exactly like the previous proof except that Aquinas now talks about cause and effect and argues that you have to have that one uncaused causer. I never understood why he felt the need to write this one. Anyways…
Third Proof- the proof from the contingency of the world.
This one is my favorite.
1- Everything we see in the world is contingent (it has a beginning and end/dies).
2- But if everything is contingent, then at some point in the past there must have been nothing in the universe; which is not possible because as in King Lear’s words: Nothing will come from nothing.
3- So, there must be a necessary being who set off everything (a being that cannot die and has always existed and will always exist)
I like to think about this argument in terms of
Imagine the universe was made completely out of tomatoes. Regular tomatoes. Now we all know that there’s no way that these tomatoes existed since the beginning of time. In fact, if we had a tape of the conception of the universe and rewinded to the very beginning of the tape, we all know we won’t find any tomatoes there because they just don’t have that kind of shelf life. But for some reason tomatoes make up the entire universe and we know they couldn’t have always been there. So who put them there? Well obviously not another tomato …
Fourth Proof- Perfection
This argument was influenced by Plato’s Forms. According to Plato, our world is a mere reflection of another metaphysical realm called the world of the Forms. This world has the perfected ‘blueprints’ of every object and concept in the world and before being born our souls mingled with these blueprints. This is why we have certain ideas built into our minds like ‘goodness’. According to Aquinas, the world has varying degrees of goodness and perfection and these all must stem from one ultimate source of goodness, according to Plato its the Form of the Good but according to others its God.
And the final proof:
1- Unconscious objects all seem to operate towards a goal. Leaves are shaped to protect their fruit and teeth are suited to biting and chewing.
2- This behavior requires an awareness that these things lack.
3-Therefore, they must be directed by an intelligent being.
Of course evolutionary science has long argued against this idea. However, many individuals still argue that although many things can be credited to evolution, God is still involved to controlling its overall process.
And that’s it for this post!