The Collins Dictionary defines 'Proof' as, 'any evidence that establishes or helps to establish the truth, validity, quality, etc of something'.
To better understand the concept of 'proof' let us consider an example; imagine not knowing today's date, so you decide to check the newspaper for it. As a result the newspaper forms the proof to substantiate your belief in today's date. The conclusion of the date and its correctness is based upon the correctness of the proof. Now, what if the newspaper we used in order to know the date was in fact yesterday’s. That means we incorrectly assumed the date, however, such an individual not knowing this error would feel assured in a truth that only he perceives due to the misunderstanding of the evidence. Thus, what is considered as 'proof' is of paramount concern, because although we may feel assured in the conclusion we obtained from what we perceive to be correct and valid proofs, we could in fact be completely wrong.
With regards to belief, there are three general ways, or three proofs that individuals use to adopt a particular set of beliefs. A person may adopt a belief through imitating the rest of society or following their forefathers. Similarly some base their belief upon the emotional satisfaction or contentment the particular belief gives them. Finally one may adopt a belief through the use of the intellect. With regards to the incorrectness of imitation as a method to establish ones' belief, it is self-evident.
As for emotions being the basis of adopting a belief, then this too can easily dismissed as an invalid proof, and I will not pursue to invalidate them. This then leaves us with the use of the intellect as the way to ascertain the proofs of the existence of the Creator. We thus need to ascertain how the intellect is used to obtain the correct conclusion. There are three general understandings as to the manner by which the mind/intellect could be used correctly in order to obtain objective knowledge. They are rational thought, empirical thought and the use of logic. Once we have obtained the correct manner in which to think we can then assess the proofs upon which any argument is to be built.
The use of Logic
The classical Greeks used a manner or style of thinking called 'logic', its most useful and strongest form was called deductive logic. By deductive logic they described how a conclusion would be built upon its premises, thus the correctness of the conclusion depended upon the correctness of the premises. Deductive logic therefore was built upon four components: the two premises, the link between the two premises and the conclusion which resulted from this link.
One of the most important features of the logic was the structure of the sentences i.e. semantics and terminology. So discussion branched out to discuss the theory of ideas and the theory of universals. In essence philosophers were trying to construct arguments built upon the correct use of semantics. So for example if I were to find out whether humans are warm blooded or not by using the logical approach then I may use the following premises; all mammals are warm blooded, all humans are mammals, therefore humans are warm blooded. Here the link between humans to mammals is based upon the definition we give to mammals. If our definition differs of mammals then our conclusion would change.
Hence amongst the logicians’, discussion on language, terminology and construct of sentences became an important feature. In this example, the understanding of the whether humans are mammals, is a discussion of the universal features that all mammals share, and thus do humans share this common feature. This discussion of universals and ideas are the two theories that distinguished Aristotle from Plato when understanding the commonalities that things share. So what we find, and it certainly is the case, that the use of logic can become complicated due to semantics. And we find that many philosophers fall into the trap of semantics, thus missing the wood from the trees so to say.
Further to the problem of semantics, logic also suffers from hidden defects that may not be known from the link between the two premises. This is due to the fact that the conclusion is not directly sensed but is built upon two base thoughts that may or may not have been sensed. So for example we could state oxygen is gas at room temperature and that hydrogen is also gas at room temperature thus we can conclude that oxygen combined with hydrogen would produce a gas at room temperature. But this is not the case for hydrogen combined with oxygen produces a liquid at room temperature. Such hidden defects can not be noticed when building thought upon thought and thus logic can not be used as the basis of building conclusions.
Discussion arose as to whether thought originated before matter or whether the matter was the source of thought. So the rationalists, and we should distinguish here between the ‘rationalists’ and what is meant by ‘rational thought’, they stated that humans were born with innate thoughts. One such exponent was Emannuel Kant the German philosopher. In response to this, the empiricists stated that such conclusion wasn't based upon any evidences and was merely an assumption. Further, in their zeal to remove the creator from the equation the empiricists (such as the communists) stated that thought resulted from matter itself.
Thus, they stated that the first step in the process of acquiring knowledge is the primary contact with the external environment - this is the stage of sensory perception. The second stage is the accumulation and the organisation of the information which is gathered from the sensory perception. This description of empirical thought was succinctly put by Mao Tse tung. In essence the thinking process according to them is produced by the sensation of the environment around them. Thus thought was a mere reflection of the matter onto the brain. This they said was the basis of thinking; so that no thought could exist except if reality exists for it.
However, they misunderstood the reality of thinking as we clearly know. So a simple example of a doctor undertaking tests proves that such tests doesn’t establish the disease of his patient unless he has previous information as to what the tests are meant to yield. To further clarify this, a doctor must know the average blood sugar level in the body for a normal healthy patient, and then when subsequent tests are made and it is found that the patients blood sugar level is higher than the average for a normal patient, one can say he has hyperglycemia i.e. diabetes. So a simple analogy throws doubt on the empirical method of thinking as the sole basis of thought.
Further, while conducting experiments at school where we are told, in order to put into practice the empirical approach - we first formulate a hypothesis then a method to test the above hypothesis then record the results obtained from tests finally concluding whether the tests substantiates the hypothesis or not. The very fact that we had a hypothesis clearly demonstrates that there was previous information upon which the experimentation was built. Therefore, simply stating that thought arises from purely sensing the environment or the reality is completely false when practically employing the empirical method. In fact due to the presence of previous information i.e. the hypothesis we understand that the empirical method is a branch of rational thought not its source.
To further clarify this point in order to establish a conclusion based upon experimentation we need to use the rational method of thinking. That is to say we link the experimental data to the previous knowledge we have to extrapolate a conclusion based on the least amount of doubt. So as an example, we have a patient who shows weight loss and urinates frequently the doctor hypothesises that the patient may have diabetes, as weight loss and urinating a lot are signs of that disease. So the doctor then tests his blood sugar level after which he establishes whether his original hypothesis is substantiated by his tests. So here he has linked the results from the tests to previous information of the normal blood sugar levels assessing whether this proves his initial hypothesis or not.
Finally with regards to empirical thought, due to the fact that the empiricists state that thought is directly built upon reality, meaning that each thought is a reflection of a specific reality. Then thoughts that do not have a representation in reality are not true thoughts. Then the empiricists firmly state that belief in God is an incorrect thought because such thought is not a reflection on reality as there is no sensation of the creator. However, they have failed to appreciate and understand the thinking process because if they are correct in stating that thinking is a direct reflection on reality, i.e. no reality no thought. Then one would ask where did such a thought come from with regards to the belief in a God? This sufficiently disproves their concept of the thought process.
In addition, causal relationships cannot be directly sensed, does that mean causal relations do not exist? If that is the case then the whole process of empirical thought wouldn’t exist as this depends on the necessary causal relationship. Thus, the claim that empirical thought is the source of thought stating that thought results in reflection of matter onto the brain, has glaring contradictions.
Finally on this section of the thinking process we come to rational thought and how this is the source of thinking. We state that thought came before matter because by merely sensing matter we do not establish any thought. The inability of sensing the syriac language without previous information of the syriac language shows that sensation alone will not allow us to understand the language. Instead we must have the previous information together with the reality which is sensed (sensory perception) and the distinguishing mind - to make the link between the reality and the previous information to produce thought.
Further we understand that the mind has the ability to produce thought based upon one reality and extrapolate a principle. So when we sense a ball on the ground with no force applied to it we see it stationary and when force is applied to the ball we see it move. We would understand that after observing the ball moving after applying force to it then this would be true each time we apply force to the ball and not just for that particular time. In fact this is true for all types of balls.
Further our mind is able to extract the general principle of cause and effect based upon all things which are finite and limited after simply observing the ball moving after force was applied. So there doesn’t just exist a simple relationship between the observed reality and its representation as a thought, which is the case with empirical thinking, but in fact the mind is able to establish principles and use those principles to establish other thoughts. Again, as an example a person may have a thought of a mountain and a thought of gold, his mind has then the capacity to link the two thoughts and produce a thought of a mountain of gold even though he hasn’t sensed this. Therefore rational thought is built upon the reality together with the previous information further the mind has the ability to extrapolate general principles and produce thoughts that may not be directly sensed. This is the clearest understanding of thought and this is how humans produce thought and live their life according to established thought.
Therefore the use of the rational method is the only definite way to assess the proofs in order to produce a conclusion. It is therefore the method of thinking we employ when discussing the subject matter of the proof of God.
Argument by design
This argument has been presented by various muslim and non muslim thinkers. So Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal gave the example of the egg and Thomas Aqinas gave the example of finding a watch in the middle of a desert. The argument is simple: complicated things require a designer. So taking the watch as an example we see it is complex, we also know the watch has a watch maker, thus an analogy can be made between the watch and the universe as the universe around us is also complex in its nature.
Thus if the watch is complex requiring a designer then what about the complexities of the universe? So some would naturally conclude that such complexity that exists in the universe would require a designer and that designer would thus be the Creator.
Although it is a simple argument it is at face value quite compelling, however many thinkers have criticised this argument. They have stated that how can an analogy be made between the watch and the universe. For instance we have previous information that the watch was made by a watchmaker. But such previous information doesn’t exist for the universe. The critics of this argument would also question as to whether the universe and all that it contains is truly complex, and state that it is just simply randomly arranged.
Those who try to defend the argument have stated that the universe is truly complex and that if one of the laws of nature was different by a very small amount then this would preclude the chances of life. Similarly if the expansion rate of the universe was greater or smaller then the universe would not exist. In essence they are stating that the probability of the universe coming into existence as it is allowing life to exist is so small that this would have to compel an observer to believe in a master designer. However, this argument isn't sound, for example if I were totake a ball and randomly throw it up in the air and for it to fall unto a particular piece of ground.
Then we would ask, that for it to have fallen on that piece of ground and not another piece of ground then the probability would be extremely low. But just because the probability was extremely low doesn’t mean that the ball was directed at that region, especially when the ball was thrown in a random way. Similarly the universe having its particular laws of nature and rate of expansion doesn’t necessarily mean it was designed in such a manner. For the universe to have different laws of nature or different rate of expansion then the probability would be equally as low. So such arguments as a rebuttal against those critics of the argument by design would be incorrect.
However, with regards to the critics they have failed to appreciate the manner by which the individual considers and thinks about the complexity of the universe and all that it contains. For instance, when we look at a table we establish that it is made of wood. But simply having the wood doesn’t necessarily follow we have a table. Thus, there must be something other than the wood to have fashioned it into a table. The philosophers therefore state that the ‘material cause’ of the table (i.e. what it is made out of) is the wood, but it has another cause i.e. its ‘efficient cause’. That is to say that there is something other than the wood required to fashion it into a table. That other would be different to the wood or material cause itself. So if we look at the life, man and the universe we find that the material cause is the same for all of these things, yet they differ from one another.
In addition, by having the material cause that makes up man and life then this doesn’t necessarily follow that we have a man or life. So if we have the elements that make up man, it does not follow that we have a human. Therefore, there must be something other than these elements that make up a human, i.e. an efficient cause. Again what distinguishes man life and the universe isn't the material cause therefore there must be something other than the material cause that distinguishes man from the universe and the different life forms. This means there exists an efficient cause separate from the universe man and life. That is the creator.
Some may argue that if the premise is laid down that complicated things require a designer then wouldn’t the creator be complex and thus also require a designer. Here they are using deductive logic to try and show an inherent contradiction within the argument by design. Remember how deductive logic has four components to it. Here they use the two premises: 1. Complex things require a designer, 2. The universe is complex, the conclusion built upon the link is that the universe is therefore designed by a Creator. They would argue that the creator is complex therefore it would fit within the logical style as mentioned above. However, if their argument is accepted then one would ask who designed the designer of the designer. In fact we will fall into infinite regression.
Infinite regression means continual subtraction by one. Meaning that if the creator designed the universe and that another designer designed the creator and this keeps continuing. This is impossible because there must be a first cause i.e. something that doesn’t depend upon something prior to it for its existence. In order to understand why infinite regression is impossible the simple analogy of dominoes can be considered. For the last domino to fall over, it would need to be hit by the domino before it and each domino must be hit by a prior domino. Now if there was no starting domino that initiates the process of each domino falling over then none of the dominoes would fall over. So if everything that is complex requires a prior designer, then we would face a situation where nothing would exist but would wait for that first cause to initiate the process and because there is no first cause then nothing would exist. Yet we see things in existence. Therefore infinite regression is impossible.
Further, they are incorrect in making the assumption that because the creator is complex that this creator would also require a designer. We have established that the designer and creator of the universe must exist based upon the sensation of reality, hence the thought is rational. Whereas, stating that there must exist a designer for the creator is not built upon sensing the reality but is mere logic. That is to say building thought upon thought. And as mentioned before building thought upon thought can carry with it hidden defects in its conclusion thus, we would reject any such argument stating clearly that an infinite regression is impossible and any such thought is irrational (not based upon reality). So the argument by design although having its critics has the ability to establish firm belief in the need for the creator.
Kalam Cosmological argument
This is the argument originally developed by the muslim thinkers. It clearly states that everything we perceive in the universe is limited and finite and that everything that is limited and finite is dependent. The universe is the sum of limited finite things therefore the universe is limited and because it is limited it is thus dependent upon something else. As mentioned previously: because infinite regression cannot exist, then everything ultimately depends upon the independent creator who is unlimited and infinite. This is the basic argument however, it has slight variations.
The first variance is that limited objects in the universe depend upon something else in order for it to exist. So for example, a computer depends upon electricity and electricity depends upon a power station which has a magnet rotating in a metal coil. The rotation of the magnet requires the turbines to spin the magnet, the turbines spin because of the steam produced by the water boiling. The heat is produced by the coal burning and the coal required decay of wood under pressure, the wood required sunlight to produce photosynthesis in converting carbon dioxide into wood, and so on.
Thus we see that everything which is limited depends upon something else limited. So the question may arise: does this series of inter-dependant things go on for infinity or does it stop somewhere? Because we haveestablished that infinite regression is an impossibility then it must stop with a first cause i.e. something independent. Now for this thing to be independent then it must be other than what is dependent i.e. limited and finite. Therefore it is unlimited and infinite as well as independent.
Now some may criticise this argument by saying that we have assumed that a linear relationship exists between limited finite things. Thus A depends upon B and B depends upon C and so on in a linear relationship. And for things that depend upon each other in a linear relationship then it is true that there must be something independent. However, some may argue: what if there exists a cyclical dependency as is the cause with the water cycle. So the seas depend upon the rain, the rain depends upon the clouds and the clouds depend upon evaporation of water fromthe seas. Thus each up holds the other. This is how they say the universe preserves its existence. Therefore the universe goes through a cycle from the big bang to a big crunch and so on for infinity.
Yet we would clearly ask what initiated the cycle in the first place? For instance if the seas require the rain before seas are produced and if the rain requires clouds for the rain to exist and the clouds initially require the seas to exist then we know that each thing cannot sustain the other without their originally existing a first cause. Otherwise the seas, clouds and rain wouldn’t exist. Similarly each finite thing within the universe cannot depend upon another finite thing within an elaborate cycle as is the case in the water cycle. That is to say that a first cause i.e. something independent is required to exist. So if the big bang depended upon the big crunch and that big crunch was dependant upon a previous big bang then if there was no start to the cycle then neither the big bang nor the big crunch would exist.
Therefore things which are limited are themselves dependent upon other things and definitely they require something independent and unlimited to bring them into being in the first place.
After this has been established still some atheists tried to bring other arguments. So Bertrand Russel stated that if we accept the premise that every thing has a cause then the creator is also a thing, therefore who caused the creator?. Again using the logical style of argumentation they state that there is an inherent contradiction within this argument. If we were to say that God is uncaused then the atheist would say that we have contradicted our original premise which was everything has a cause. As a result they would claim that the universe is uncaused just as some would say that God is uncaused.
However, even if we use the logical style of argumentation, we do not state that every thing has a cause. Rather from understanding the reality we conclude that everything that is limited and finite is dependant, or has a cause and that because infinite regression is impossible there must exist a first cause i.e. something independent. That thing which is independent must therefore be something other than finite and limited. Thus, we would state that it necessarily follows that this independent thing, which is the sole creator must be infinite and unlimited. So there is no inherent contradiction and it is unfortunate that such a simple point was missed by a philosopher whom they called the Socrates of our time.
With regards to this argument that finite limited things depend upon other finite limited things, certain philosophers state that we presume the relationship of cause and effect. In essence they deny that cause and effect is an established fact that is true for all things that are limited. They base their objection to the certainty of cause and effect upon two areas: firstly they state that cause and effect can not be proven from the use of empirical thought. And secondly they state that 'empirical' propositions can not yield certain knowledge.
By 'empirical' propositions they mean knowledge which is established upon experience. For the philosophers they divide knowledge into two kinds one which is known prior to experience and one which is established upon experience. So for example mathematics, they would say, is knowledge known prior to experience and this type of knowledge is true and establishes certainty. Whereas knowledge built upon experience does not establish absolute certainty.
The strength of knowledge built upon experience is only as strong as the reality we have observed; it could be that there is something we have not observed or experienced which would change our conclusions. Thus they say such knowledge is speculative. Because cause and effect is built upon experience they state that it does not necessarily follow that everything follows this relationship, just what we have seen so far has followed this relationship.
With regards to the argument that cause and effect can not be established by the use of empirical thought, it was proposed by David Hume. He stated that it was mere coincidence that causal relations seem to exist and that nothing compels one to believe it to be an actual certainty. So as an example he stated that in order for one to produce fire a person would need to strike a match. But how can someone sense the future event. Remember empirical thinking is a reflection of reality yet future events are not reality thus they cannot be sensed and therefore no certain thought can be established.
However, as we have previously mentioned it is incorrect to assume that thought is simply a reflection of matter onto the brain. The thinking process does not work like that. So as an example to illustrate this point, imagine sensing a liquid. After sensing the liquid we find that it is odourless and colourless and remains liquidat remain temperature. Hence for that liquid under room conditions it exudes those characteristics. This would be the absolute thought about such a liquid, meaning we have sensed its whole reality under room conditions. If we subject this liquid to different conditions for example adding heat to the liquid and we find that under these conditions it boils at 100 degrees celcius. Then we have conclusively determined that such a liquid exhibits such behaviour. In fact we identify objects by the attributes it exhibits at different conditions. We also distinguish attributes according to the different attributes they exhibit under the same conditions. So if I add heat to two odourless colourless liquids and I find that one boils at 100 degrees celcius and the other boils at 70 degrees celcius then I distinguish the two different liquids accordingly.
So David Hume wrongly assumed that future events are speculative, that’s because we identify realities according to the specific attributes that are observed under different conditions. If for instance we boil a liquid and it did not boil at 100 degrees celcius then we would not call it water we would term it differently. For it to be called water then such a liquid must always exhibit the same attribute under the same conditions. If objects did not exhibit continuous attributes then it would be impossible to distinguish between the reality we live. But the fact is that we do distinguish between a chair and a table or water and alcohol.
As to the other argument David Hume had against causal relations he stated that such relationships could not be sensed. So water boiling could be sensed, the heat produced by the fire underneath the water could also be sensed, but the relationship between the fire boiling the water could not be sensed as a result thought about causal relations couldn’t be established. However, we have already shown the limitations of empirical thought.
In fact, if based upon the use of empirical thinking we deny cause and effect (causal relations) then we deny empirical thinking itself. This is because empirical thought requires the implicit acceptance of cause and effect. So experimentation and testing is done upon matter and the results are observed. Based upon the results conclusions are made. So the results are but effects resulting from causes. As a result to deny cause and effect based upon the fact that it doesn’t fit within the empirical thinking is a circular argument which ultimately requires one to also deny empirical thought itself.
As to the final argument against the certainty of cause and effect they state that such belief of cause and effect is established upon experience and experience doesn’t yield certainty. However, if again we understand the thought process we would understand that cause and effect can be applied to any given reality that is limited. So let consider the example of water. Let us say that we were unaware that the particular reality before us was water.
The first thing we sense about this reality is the fact that it is limited. We also establish that this limited thing (i.e. water) is liquid at room conditions. When we change the conditions and add heat it boils at 100 degrees celcius and when we reduce the heat we find that it freezes at 0 degrees celcius. We thus determine this reality by its attributes of being liquid at room temperature, boiling at 100 degrees and freezing at 0 degrees. As a result we give a term to this reality and call it water. As mentioned previously if the attributes change then we describe the reality by a different name. Thus, by sensing the reality of water we have determined two things. Firstly, that water exhibits specific characteristics e.g. boiling 100 degrees celcius, and secondly that limited and finite things require a cause (which in the case of water was specific conditions) in order to produce an effect (i.e, the observation of the attributes).
Therefore, in order to distinguish limited things we need to know its attributes, and attributes are determined according to its cause and effect. Thus, for something not to be determined according to cause and effect then it would have to be other than limited. Similarly for something to be other than water it must have different attributes to water. To be other than limited would require it to be unlimited, yet everything we sense is limited, thus it is determined by cause and effect and for it to be unlimited it must be the Creator and as a result we can state that the creator is not determined by cause and effect.
What has been demonstrated is that cause and effect is a definite reality when associated with things that are limited and finite. Hence, the argument that has been used above to prove that the creator exists based upon the fact that limited things within the universe depend upon other limited things which ultimately require something independent and unlimited is a true argument.
The argument above is a particular variance of the kalam cosmological argument. Another variance of this argument is to establish that the universe is limited. Because we have proven the general principle that limited things are dependent then if the universe is limited then it too is dependant. In order to prove the universe is limited then we state that the universe is the sum of limited things. And the sum of limited things is irrefutably limited. Some thinkers have tried to argue that the sum of limited things can add up to infinity. They give as an example numbers, which they say, goes on forever. However, does that mean we can count to infinity?
The answer is definitely no. It is impossible to start from something which is finite and count to infinity, that’s because every number you reach is a finite number thus we cannot cross the infinite barrier. Some have argued that although starting from a finite number that it is true one cannot then reach infinity but what if in origin infinity always existed? Meaning that there already existed an infinite sum of finite things. David Hilbert the famous mathematician discussed this and concluded that absurdities arise when infinite sum of finite things is assumed. In order to understand this, imagine if you will an infinite sum of marbles.
If we were to halve the marbles then both halves would be equal to infinity. In fact any fraction of the infinite sum of marbles would equal infinity. This then produces an apparent contradiction that the part is equal to the whole. Further if we were to take three marbles out of the infinite sum of marbles then the remaining marbles would still equal to infinity. But the 3 marbles that have been taken out would be a fraction of the overall marbles. Yet this contradicts the principle we established earlier which is that every fraction of the infinite sum of marbles would equal to infinity. Yet the three marbles do not equal infinity.
Thus something cannot be infinite and finite at the same time, because of this and many other contradictions it is absolutely clear that the sum of finite things must be finite. And because the universe is made up of finite bodies within space, and because we can measure parts of the universe which are finite distances then the whole universe is finite. Similarly another analogy can be used, imagine standing on an island and all around the island is the ocean. Although, one may not see the end of the ocean we can establish that the ocean is finite and doesn’t go on forever. That is done by simply taking a glass of water out from the ocean, hence decreasing the ocean. Infinity cannot be increased nor decreased yet the sum of finite things is something that can be increased and decreased.
Therefore, the universe which is the sum of limited things must be limited and all limited things are subject to cause and effect and thus depend upon something other than itself i.e. a Creator.
Similarly time which is the interval between series of events taking place in a chronological order must have a beginning. This is due to two reasons, firstly, the sum of events must be finite and not infinite, because of the principle proven above which states the sum of finite things is irrefutably finite. In addition, if time had no beginning then we would not reach this moment in time. This is because, this moment in time is dependent upon a series of past events. If there was no beginning event in time then we would not reach the present. By proving, that time has a beginning we have proven that anything that resides in time including the universe must have a beginning also. Therefore, only something that is independent of time could have originated time and the universe itself, that is to say the Creator.
As a concluding remark, in order to appreciate the various proofs of the creator one must be fully acquainted with the correct method of thinking. Through the correct method of thinking we are able to assess the proofs to establish our arguments. Further, the refutation of the counter arguments can be clearly understood by understanding the method or style of thinking they employ. By understanding logic and empirical thinking we can understand its strengths and weaknesses and when it can be applied and when it fails to establish any proofs. Thus we avoid falling into error and by using the rational method of thinking we can establish the correct conclusion about man, life and the universe.
That is to say that man life and the universe are all limited and all things that are limited are dependant, further all of the things that are limited cannot arrange a system for themselves but depend upon some other to determine its system for organising society. Clearly then there must exist an all powerful independent Creator, who decided to create.