A few months ago I blegged for examples for teaching Introduction to Philosophy. And I got some great examples! Today I am not here to bleg. I am here to give. (But, of course, if anyone out there has more examples or advice to share, I’m always looking for things to put in my bag of tricks!)
The other day I had the privilege of lecturing to a large group (~150) of Intro students on (parts of) Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. I have found that certain arguments against the existence of God, against the reasonableness of belief in God, or arguments that challenge certain qualities of God are fairly hard to make salient and powerful to some students.
I thought I’d share couple of the examples I used during that lecture to facilitate thought and discussion of Hume’s arguments for my students. These examples are taken from my lecture notes.
It may be useful to know that this lecture was delivered after a lecture on The Five Ways.
For those who’d like more in-depth readings and discussions of God and God problems, this is frequently a great blog for such things. It has a number of cool posts, like this one, on Berkeley’s problem of evil.
God and The Perfect Burger Maker
You go to McDonalds and you know you won’t get The Perfect Burger. Folks at McDonalds aren’t Perfect Burgers Makers; they don’t have The Perfect Ingredients.
You go to Steak and Shake and you know you’ll get a better burger than at McDonalds (Steak and Shake has steak burgers, doncha know), but it still won’t be The Perfect Burger.
However, if you go to Chef Emril’s restaurant, you may get The Almost Perfect Burger. This is because Emril and his chefs are Almost Perfect Burger Makers and they have Almost Perfect Ingredients.
Now consider God. God is not merely a Perfect Burger Maker. God is supposed to be perfect in all respects. So perfect, in fact, that God doesn’t need to purchase ingredients. He can make The Most Divine Ingredients out of nothing!
Now, look around. This world doesn’t seem all that great. Take humans, for instance. We are limited in capacity, we don’t live that long, we are prone to disease, we must eat daily to stay alive. We have to take baths for crying out loud! None of this seems to be the design of a being that is perfect in every respect.
Wouldn’t a perfect God design us in such a way that, at the very least, we wouldn’t have to take baths? Surely, if God were The Perfect Maker, God could do this. You’d think that if God were as perfect the world and everything in it would be much better than it is. Think about it. The fact that we have to clean ourselves regularly and eat daily doesn’t reflect too well on God.
The Perfect Burger Maker (Again) and Birthday Cakes
But maybe folks object. Maybe they think the world is, as a matter of fact, really great. Let’s grant this: The world is really great. But this doesn’t mean the designer (assuming there is one) is also really great. Maybe the world is really great by accident. Maybe God is actually pretty incompetent and his creation is really great despite this. It’s possible that God is actually akin to a McDonald’s worker who, by sheer accident, makes an Almost Perfect Burger, but who could never do it again!
Or again, granting that the world is great, this needn’t mean there is only one designer who is supremely great. It could be the case that there are a number of sort-of-great Gods, who are similar to monkeys, who through their combined efforts create The Almost Perfect Burger.
It could be the case that the situation is similar to The World’s Largest Birthday Cake. Sure, it’s a great cake, but it wasn’t made by one supreme cake designer.