Proof by logic
Logic is a fantastic tool for guiding one's investigations into reality, however, sometimes people don't understand it's application to the practicalities of reality, and its limitations.
One of the frequent theistic attempts at demonstrating their god, is a method known as proof by logic, or "logicing God into existence". The basic idea is that, devoid of any emperical evidence demonstrating the existence of the god, they will attempt to prove the existence using nothing but logical arguments.
- God is love. Love exists. Therefore, God exists.
- Logic exists as a concept that requires a mind. Logic transcends human minds, so a transcendent mind must exist to hold that concept. That transcendent mind is God.
- Everything that began to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist, therefore has to have a cause. Since we need a starting point, as opposed to an infinite regress, that cause is the "uncaused cause", which could only be God.
None of these are confirmed true, and they rely on axioms that are dubious.
Sometimes, people believe that if an argument is logically sound (described as "logical"), it must therefore be true; for instance, that creationism is true because it's logical.
The primary reason why these arguments fail is because the premises of a logical argument must be 100% umambiguously correct, valid, and unassumed. Each premise must be demonstrably true. They never are.
For instance, the Kalam cosmological argument makes the following undemonstrated assumptions:
- Everything has a cause - have they checked everything in existence to make sure it has a cause?
- The universe couldn't be eternal - voiding the "began to exist" clause.
- Even if the universe had a cause, that therefore it had to be intelligent, as opposed to another natural mechanism.
- That in reality, it's an endless cycle of universes, etc.
This argument cannot possibly work, because it relies on assumptions being plugged into the required logical premises. The fact is, we have little to no information about the what happened "before" the big bang, or even have a complete understanding of casuality beyond our simplified Earthly understanding of how things work. Just like we couldn't extend Newtonian mechanics into approaching-the-speed-of-light speeds, we aren't justified in extending our current laws of physics into the extremes, as discussed in this argument, where the laws break.
Not only does "common sense" not work in all situations, but in advanced sciences, rarely ever works, because we're digging deeper into realms that aren't "common" to our understanding yet.
These "proofs by logic" are an example of how religious thinking operates the opposite of science. Science operates by building models of understanding based on already known, demonstrated data. Religious thinking operates by building sophisticated networks of assertions and assumptions without demonstrating any of it. This arises frequently as ad hoc rationalizations.
Ultimately, the only way that logical proofs can work outside of mathematics is if one is omniscient. We could discover and learn something new about reality tomorrow that demolishes one of the premises to a logical syllogism. As theists frequently point out, this sort of thing happens often in science. Thus, we cannot rely on the premises to be wholly accurate, but rather, a tentative assessment of what we currently know for the moment. The absolute logical arguments then fail because of that.
Logic, as applied to reality, works best as a guide to investigation, not as an end-all proof for claims.