Open Challenge to Atheists


A legacy post originally published on AUGUST 13, 2010 at 8:40 AM
🔗 Open Challenge to Atheists by Joshua Rasmussen

Well, this is really a challenge for skeptics of a necessary being (a necessarily existing, causally powerful entity), but I wanted a catchy title, and as a matter of sociological observation, atheists are typically (though not always) skeptics of a necessary being.

The challenge is this: come up with a general, non-ad hoc causal (or explanatory) principle that’s evidently more plausible than any of the ones that imply that there is a necessary being.

It is widely agreed (by the experts) that each of these principles implies the existence of a necessary being:

  1. Contingency implies explicability
  2. The existence of any contingent x‘s has a cause
  3. Every contingent fact has an explanation

Some lesser known routes to a necessary being make use of any of these:

  1. Every explicable contingent fact has an explanation
  2. Any possible beginning is explicable
  3. Every wholly contingent fact has a cause
  4. Any possible contingent arrangement is causable

Each principle above seems to be supported by a vast array of instances, and we’ve never observed any counter-examples (though it is controversial whether or not quantum mechanism and/or the “taxicab objection” might imply counter-examples to (3)). The principles are also relatively simple and so don’t seem to have low prior probabilities. The challenge for a skeptic of a necessary being is to present a causal principle that accounts for all known (or apparent) cases of causation (explanation, causability, or explicability) and that is at least as simple or non-ad hoc as any causal or explanatory principle that implies a necessary being. Good luck.

The challenge is also open to believers in a necessary being.

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