Friday, 8 June 2007

proving and disproving god

C S Lewis once said we could define God as a being who spent all his time having his existence proved and disproved. People don't seem to care so much about (dis)proof these days, but some people are still into it.

If you're interested in the philosophical arguments for God's (non)existence - and who isn't? : ) - then two books I've read recently would interest you.

  • "God, Reason and Theistic Proofs" by Stephen Davis, Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College in California, is an even-handed and rigorous discussion by a theist who only occasionally presents his own views.
  • "Arguing for Atheism" by Robin LePoidevin, Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Leeds has a clearly-stated aim to present arguments that support atheism.

Both books are readable. Davis's book is more detailed, but LePoidevin's covers a little more territory. Do either of them land a knockout punch?

I didn't think so. Philosophical "proofs" just can't deliver certainty. Davis doesn't even attempt "proof", but he does think that some arguments show theism is more reasonable that any alternative. On the other hand, LePoidevin believes that God can be disproven.

I found Davis's more even-handed and measured approach gave me greater confidence in his conclusions, whereas LePoidevin's more argumentative approach did not seem able to deliver what he claimed, and some of his "disproofs" were quite unconvincing. If you want a "winner", then Davis wins by a nose, but then that may be because I have come to similar conclusions.

I'll come back to some of their arguments and counter arguments another day, if anyone's interested.


  1. this is always a fascinating argument. i personally find it interesting that people spend so much time trying to prove or disprove something that revolves around the idea of faith.

    i never know what to think, as the "facts" are always changing.

    in school i was taught the theory of evolution. i didn't realize this was even up for debate until i met my husband, who came from the creationism train of thought.

    perhaps reality is subjective.


    ps..those statistics about the "wealth" of the world the other day were pretty crazy. sure put my finances into a whole new perspective.

  2. Thanks for comment.

    "i personally find it interesting that people spend so much time trying to prove or disprove something that revolves around the idea of faith"

    I think you are right, for many people, proof and disproof are not all that important. But I think some people (and I am one) need to have a reason to choose to have faith or not, and if so, whether to have faith in a god (and if so which god?) or in people.

    I hope to look at more on this in the next few days, so keep an eye out!


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