Unbelievable Project: God’s existence, free will and faith – The Big Questions

6/22/07 – God’s existence, free will and faith – The Big Questions

As part of the Unbelievable Project, I am taking notes and “arm-chair” responding to each of the Unbelievable podcast episodes satisfying a set of simple rules.

For a full RSS Feed of the podcasts see here.

Description of Episode

  • Full Title: Unbelievable? 23 Jun 2007 – God’s existence, free will & faith – 23 June 2007 — The Big Questions

    Justin Brierley is joined by Jonathan Hill, author of “The Big Questions”. The book tackles some of the biggest philosophical questions to do with the existence of God, free-will and faith. What can we learn from the way Christians down the ages have attempted to answer these questions? With guests Tim Mawson of Oxford University and Jim Paul of the L’Abri fellowship in Hampshire.

Download mp3.

  • Justin Brierley – Christian Moderator
  • Jonathan Hill, Jonathan, Tim Mawson, Jim Paul – Christian
  • (none) – Atheist


Tim – personal experience can be evidence for God’s existence, like the perception of a table is evidence of a table. it’s a phenomenon, although it can be tricky to map it to reality.

Me – the idea is one of verifiability, which distinguishes these sorts of things. Tim points out that many have had personal experiences to verify other religions. This, in a single stroke, eliminates it as a reasonable form of evidence.

Jonathan – three biggies historically. cosmological – God must exist because the Universe must have a cause. , God is by definition uncaused, a necessary being. the universe could have not existed (nothing), or a different one, so it is contingent. this must come from a necessary being. – I’m not very convinced of arguments of this kind – it doesn’t really prove God, but some “first thing”

Me – I agree! however, I am not convinced with this contingent, necessary distinction. can we demonstrate it? Can we find an example? Is it a meaningful distinction?

Jonathan – teleological – argument from design. quotes from Marcus Minucius Felix late 2nd century
“hold up your eyes to starry heavens, behold the planets wheeling in their pre-ordained course. look at the turning of the seasons, the rain and the snow, the sun, the planets, everything works together.” how could you look at that say that there is no God.

Me – each of these is described better by physics and biology. this argument from incredulity is not a solid argument. and we easily recognize this now.

Jonathan – ontological. there is a God based on a definition of God. God is defined as perfection. one of the perfections is necessary existence.

Me (and Justin) – just saying it doesn’t make it so. this point was responded to, by asserting that “we are simply exploring the concept”. However, the objection still holds even in this case.


About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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