Midterm Study Questions

Philosophy of Religion, F08

Craig and Moreland on Kalam Cosmological Argument

1.         What is the Kalam Cosmological argument for God’s existence? State it succinctly.

2.         Explain one other type of cosmological argument other than the Kalam version (either the Thomistic sustaining ground of being version or the Leibnizian sufficient reason version).

3.         How does the Kalam argument differ from other types of cosmological arguments?

4.         Explain the difference between a necessary and a contingent being. Is the universe a necessary or contingent being? How might this matter to the cosmological argument?

5.         Using an analogy, explain how if the universe has always existed, it might still be dependent on God.

6.         How does the claim that there must be a sufficient reason for everything lead to an argument for the existence of God?

7.         Explain the difference between natural and metaphysical contingency.

8.         Explain one (non-scientific) reason for why the Kalam argument claims that the universe began to exist.

9.         Why do Craig and Moreland think an actual infinite cannot exist?

10.       What is Zeno’s paradox? Discuss its relevant to the question of whether or not there can be an infinite past.

11.       Briefly explain one of Craig and Moreland’s scientific arguments for the universe’s beginning.

12.       According to Craig and Moreland, when the universe was created, was it created in time (and space) or did time (and space) begin with it? Explain the difference between these two scenarios.

13.       What are some of the reasons that Craig and Moreland give for their claim that the Kalam argument shows that the cause of the universe must be a timeless, changeless, immaterial, beginning-less, uncaused, and an incredibly powerful personal being?

Draper on the Kalam Argument

14.       Draper argues that neither an infinitely old universe nor a universe that began with time (time began to exist with the universe) require a cause. Explain why.

15.       Draper claims that the Kalam argument as developed by Craig and Moreland commits the fallacy of equivocation. What phrase does he think the argument equivocates on? What are its two possible different meanings? How does he think the argument shifts in the meaning of the phrase? Do you think he is right about this charge of equivocation?

Design Argument (Paley and Hume)

16.       Using the example that Paley relies on, give a design argument for God’s existence.

17.       Explain how the design argument is different from the cosmological argument.

18.       What effect, if any, did Darwin’s work have on the cogency of the design argument? Explain in some detail.

Collins and the Fine-Tuning Argument

19.       Describe Collin’s “Mars fully functional biosphere argument” and the criticism we made of that argument in class (and in the notes).

20.       Develop Collin’s “fine-tuning” argument as forcefully as you can. Explain your reasoning for why you think this is or is not a strong argument.

21.       How does the possibility (if it is one) that there could have been (or are) many, many universes cause trouble for the fine-tuning argument?

22.       Explain why Collins argues that his fine-tuning argument does not prove that God exists, but merely provides strong evidence for it. In your explanation, use his analogy about the defendant’s fingerprints being found on the murder weapon.

23.       What is Collin’s response to the objection that says perhaps there is a more fundamental law that requires each of these constants to be exactly what they are?

Sober on Intelligent Design (=ID)

24.       According to Sober, how is intelligent design (“minimal intelligent design”) different from earlier versions of creationism? Why does he think the intelligent design arguments were developed?

25.       Using either Gould’s example or the example Dennett provides, explain the “no designer worth his salt” objection to ID. Does Sober accept this objection? Why or why not?

26.       What does it mean to claim a hypothesis is (or is not) falsifiable?

27.       If falsifiable means--rules out some possible observation because it is logically inconsistent with it--then is the ID hypothesis that God created the vertebrate eye falsifiable? Explain

28.       Sober thinks falsifiability is not a good way to understand testability and it is testability that a good scientific theory must allow. He claims that ID is not testable because it does not have observational consequences different from the theory with which it competes (namely, evolution) and ID lacks independently verifiable assumptions that would allows it to make predictions that disagree with those of evolution. From your own perspective, is this a convincing argument showing that ID is not a scientific theory?

Dawkins and Gould on Science and Religion

29.       What is Dawkins’ definition of faith? Why does he think faith is a vice? Do you agree? Why or why not?

30.       Explain and then assess the claim that religion has been a great cause of evil in the world. Does Gould agree with this claim of Dawkins?

31.       Explain why someone might claim that “science is just a religion.” Evaluate the claim from your own perspective.

32.       Dawkins argues there are major differences between the role of evidence in science and in religion. What are some of these differences, according to Dawkins. Do you agree?

33.       Why does Dawkins claim that religion sees the need for evidence as a vice/weakness?

34.       Dawkins argues that the proof/evidence/basis of scientific claims (but not religious claims) is “publically available;” the evidence is freely available to anyone who takes the trouble to examine it and will convince anyone how understands it. Is this an accurate assessment of a difference between religion and science?

35.       Is Dawkins right that science is based on thought, evidence, and logic, while religion is based on internal revelation, tradition and authority?

36.       What are the three benefits of religion that Dawkins argues are also offered (more or less well) by science? Is he right in his relative assessment of how well or poorly religion and science offer these benefits?

37.       Does Dawkins agree with Gould about whether religion and science concern themselves with the same subject matter?

38.       Do you agree with Dawkins that “science can offer a vision of life and the universe which is far more inspiring than the faiths?” Do you agree with Gould that “lack of theological meaning is liberating, not depressing?” What reasons do they have for these claims. Do you agree?

39.       What are some of Dawkins’ views on religious education?

40.       Does Gould believe that “scientific creationism” is a widely help view of a variety of religious traditions?

41.       Explain how the Catholic doctrine of “the infusion of the soul” helps explain whether or not Catholics can believe in evolution.

42.       What does Gould mean when he says that science and religion are “non-overlapping magisteria?” Do you agree with him? Explain Gould’s view on the proper subject matter of science and religion. Does he think religion can ignore science and science can ignore religion? Why or why not?

43.       What is your own view on the relation between religion and science?

44.       Briefly describe some of Gould’s views on religion (Is it positive or negative force? Is it useful? Should it be respected? Is it true?).

Freud on Religion

45.       Describe the main ideas behind Freud’s views about religion and then evaluate them from your own perspective. In your response, make sure you explain the following ideas: father figure, wish fulfillment, illusion.

46.       Why does personalizing nature make it less threatening, and what does this have to do with Freud’s diagnosis of religion?

47.       Is religion for Freud an illusion or a delusion? What is the difference?

48.       What is the “genetic fallacy” and how does it relate to an assessment of Freud’s critique of religion? Assume Freud’s account of the origin of religious belief is true, does this prove that religious belief is false? Why or why not?

Broad on Religious Experience

49.       State the argument for God’s existence based on religious experience.

50.       Describe Broad’s analogy between musical experience and religious experience and explain how he uses it. What is one clear difference between these two kinds of experiences that Broad identifies?

51.       Using the analogies we gave in class and Broad’s discussion, evaluate whether or not we should be skeptical of the views about religious experience of those who have never had it.

52.       Using examples, explain how Broad thinks that traditional beliefs held by those in a particular religion will affect both the interpretation as well as the content of religious experience.

53.       What are the three analogies Broad uses to help him explore whether or not religious experience is veridical (evidence of truth) or delusional? (These are in addition to the musical analogy.) Which of these analogies does Broad think is the best and explain his reasoning for this claim. Do any of these analogies give us reason to think those who have religious experience are in contact with a reality that other people have not perceived? How?

54.       Broad claims that we have reason to believe the truth of what mystics tell us for the same sorts of reasons that people in a world of the blind people should listen to what the few sighted people there tell them. Explain why he thinks this.

55.       What is Broad’s response to the criticism that many mystics and the founders of religions are a bit crazy?

56.       Does Broad believe religions will change in the future? Does he think any of the today’s religions have the “final truth?” Does he think that human religious experience is a “gigantic system of pure delusion?”

The Problem of Evil: Dostoevsky, Hume, Hick, Madden/Hare, and Mackie

57.       What is the problem of evil? State the problem as clearly and explicitly as you can. What sort of God would not have a problem of evil? What does it mean to provide a "theodicy?"

58.       Explain the “higher harmony” solution to the problem of evil and explain why Ivan (in the Dostoevsky reading) does or does not accept it.

59.       Describe some of the evils Hume identifies in nature and then identify some of the evil that humans inflict on each other.

60.       What is Hume’s (Philo’s) response to the suggestion that the problem of evil is solved by showing that there is more good than evil in the world. What is Philo’s response to the suggestion that the existence of pain/misery in the world is logically compatible with an infinitely powerful and good God?

61.       Explain the difference between moral and nonmoral evil, as Hick defines it. Why is this distinction important for responding to the problem of evil?

62.       State Hick's free will defense for the existence of evil as fully and forcefully as you can. Is this an adequate theodicy? Why or why not? Does the free will defense address all kinds of evils(=bads) in the world? Why or why not?

63.       How might Hick answer the following questions/objections: Why didn't God make people who were unable to sin? Why didn't God make people who were able to sin, but in fact never did sin? Why didn't God just not make people given they would create so much evil?

64.       Why does Hick think that it is no limitation of God's power to say God can't produce the logically impossible? Give examples.

65.       What reasons does Hick give for thinking that a good bit of hardship and suffering is necessary for the best possible world? Do you agree with Hick on this point?

66.       Is an afterlife a necessary part of a theodicy? What does Hick think about this and what are his reasons for his view?

67.       How would Hick respond to Ivan's suggestion (in the reading from Dostoevsky) that all the value in the world is not worth the pain and suffering of one small child tortured to death? Do you think it is worth it?

Possible Theodicies Web-Notes

68.       Explain and evaluate the following theodicies: God didn't create evil, humans did; There is more good in the world than evil; Evil is necessary as a contrast with good; God's ways are incomprehensible and God has reasons for allowing evil that we can't understand; We have no right to question God's ways.

Madden and Hare

69.       Identify and explain two of the three fallacies Madden and Hare claim that Hick commits in developing his theodicy. Explain in what way they accuse Hick’s theodicy of committing these fallacies. Do you think he does? Why or why not?

70.       Explain the suggestion that our “initial epistemic distance” from God is a good thing. Why might someone think it is? Why might someone think it is not? What is your view?

71.       According to Madden and Hare, Hick argues that soul making requires “unnecessary suffering” or “excessive evil.” Define these concepts and explain why Hick thinks they are necessary for soul making. What would be impossible in a world were all suffering was justified punishment or good for the person suffering (part of moral training)?

72.       What is a “good will?” What is Hick’s “good will” argument for the existence of injustice? Is Hick right that injustice is needed for such a will to exist?

73.       Does the sheer amount of evil in the world cause any specific problems for attempts at theodicy?


74.       Why does Mackie claim that the problem of evil proves that belief in God is irrational (as opposed to simply being non-rational), and what is the difference between these two claims?

75.       Why might someone think that the theodicy that says “good cannot exist w/o evil” must claim that God is not omnipotent? Explain how the notion of logical impossibility is relevant to this issue. Can God do the logically impossible? Does it limit God’s power to say he cannot?

76.       What is the difference between logical and physical impossibility? Can an omnipotent God do the logically impossible? Can such a God do the physically impossible? Is logic independent of God? Are causal laws independent of God?

77.       Are good and evil relative terms like “bigger than” and “smaller than?”

78.       Does Mackie think that every quality (like ‘good’ or ‘red’) must have a real opposite? Does he think that everything could be red (or good)? Explain why or why not. If everything were red, what would be true according to Mackie?

79.       Does Mackie think the theodicy that “evil is a necessary means to good” is compatible with the idea of God as omnipotent? Why or why not?

80.       Explain why the following claim is plausible and then evaluate its truth from your own perspective: “A progressive universe with a gradual overcoming of evil by good is really a better world than a world with static, eternal, unchallenged supremacy of the good.”

81.       What is a 1st order evil? A 1st order good? A 2nd order good? A 2nd order evil? Explain the relationship between 1st order evils and a 2nd order goods.

82.       Do 2nd order evils outweigh the good that is brought into the world by 2nd order goods?

83.       What is Mackie’s response (or objection) to the free will defense? Is it a good one?

84.       Explain Mackie’s response to the suggestion that when God made people, God did not make them so that they would choose evil.

85.       Does it follow that if people’s free choices are not determined by their characters, then those choices are random and indeterminate? Is freedom that amounts to randomness something valuable?

86.       Explain the paradox of omnipotence and how Mackie proposes to respond to it.