Cumulative case argument

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The cumulative case argument is a meta-argument that, while admitting each individual argument or piece of evidence may be imperfect, considered together they result in a stronger conclusion. It is also known as the argument from the abundance of arguments. Rather than aiming to prove the conclusion with certainty, the goal is to establish a conclusion is more likely to be true than false.

"We believe that only some of these arguments, taken individually and separately, demonstrate the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have (no argument proves all the divine attributes); but all twenty taken together, like twined rope, make a very strong case. [1]"
"Any one of these arguments demonstates [sic] a rational warrant for belief. With the cumulative case, however, we have more than just a rational warrant but positive probabalistic [sic] proof. Thus it is established that it is more probabale [sic] and thus more rational to beleive [sic] in God than not. [2]"
"When looked at individually, none of these pieces of evidence offer definitive proof that God exists. But when they are all piled on top of one another they tip the scale decisively in the direction of God existing, at least from my perspective anyway.[3]"

There are many variants of the cumulative case argument. The arguments and evidence are usually combined using an intuitive grasp of probability. More academic apologists use more advanced and explicit philosophical and mathematical systems to structure their argument. [4] Richard Swinburne is one of the few apologists that attempt this approach with his cumulative probabilistic argument. [4]

Counter-arguments

Apologist arguments are typically expressed in terms of "statements" that may be either true or false. One valid argument is all that is required to establish a conclusion. Several poor or invalid arguments of this kind cannot be automatically combined to form a strong valid argument. Anthony Flew made the analogy that: [5]

"If one leaky bucket will not hold water there is no reason to think that ten can."

Arguments and evidence can be combined if they are restated probabilistically. However, this is not attractive to apologists is it requires probabilities to be assigned to premises and often it is impossible to estimate their likelihood. For instance, it is difficult to assess the probability of truth for the principle of sufficient reason, the problem of evil or that infinite regress does not occur. Also, A priori arguments are not compatible with probabilistic arguments since they have no empirical basis for estimating the probability of their premises. It is also is a difficult area of philosophy that borders on mathematics and Bayesian probabilty which has little appeal to most readers.

In a probabilistic argument for God, the arguments for and against should be considered. Apologists are not particular interested in considering the validity of their critic's arguments. If only one side of the debate is considered [2], it is cherry picking the evidence.

The use of the cumulative argument is a tacit admission that no single argument is entirely satisfactory.

It is inappropriate to apply probability to a set of arguments, particularly when they are not independent events. Apologists believe in their conclusion that God exists; they then devise as many arguments as they can to support their conclusion. Therefore, the arguments are not to be considered individually but rather taken jointly.

Many arguments have been completely demolished and do not contribute to an increase in probability that God exists. [6]


Many of the arguments imply very different concepts of God. Since they imply contradictions, taking all the arguments together implies that some of them have serious flaws or that God does not exist.

References

  1. [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Doxa, Arguments for the Existence of God [2]
  3. [3]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jeremy Gwiazda, Probability, simplicity, and infinity: A critique of Richard Swinburne's argument for theism [4]
  5. Anthony Flew, God and Philosophy, 1966
  6. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, 2011

External links


v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Argument from consciousness · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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