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Table of Contents
Cosmology and Cosmological Arguments
In a recent article, William Lane Craig claims that critics of his kalam argument have failed to address what he perceives as his "strongest arguments in favour of the impossibility of the existence of an actual infinite, those based on inverse operations performed with transfinite numbers." Oppy considers those arguments and concludes they do "nothing to advance his [Craig's] attempts to defend the claim that kalam cosmological arguments are probative."
proponents of kalam cosmological arguments presuppose Strict Finitist metaphysics: they presuppose that the world is fundamentally discrete in all respects. Speaking for myself, I think that there is a pretty good inference from the success of current physics to the conclusion that the world is not fundamentally discrete in all respects. However, since I recognise that this instance of inference to the best explanation is a little contentious, I have only argued for the weaker claim that the controversial nature of this Strict Finitist presupposition creates substantial problems for proponents of kalam cosmological arguments. I do not find it plausible to think that there are many theists for whom the Strict Finitist presupposition is more doxastically secure than their belief in God. Nor do I find it plausible to think that there are many people at all who are very securely persuaded of the Strict Finitist presupposition. Consequently, it seems to me that kalam cosmological arguments are bound to be pretty useless things.
Kalam cosmological arguments have recently been the subject of criticisms, at least inter alia, by physicists--Paul Davies, Stephen Hawking--and philosophers of science--Adolf Grünbaum. In a series of recent articles, William Craig has attempted to show that these criticisms are "superficial, ill-conceived, and based on misunderstanding". I argue that, while some of the discussion of Davies and Hakwing is not philosophically sophisticated, the points raised by Davies, Hawking and Grünbaum do suffice to undermine the dialectical efficacy of kalam cosmological arguments.
Reply To Professor Craig (1995)
Oppy argues that "there is not the slightest reason to think that kalam cosmological arguments should be dialectically effective against reasonable and reflective opponents."
I am sympathetic to the view that, if God exists, then God is timeless. Consequently, I am (conditionally!) sympathetic to the project which Brian Leftow undertakes in Time and Eternity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991). However, it seems to me that the case which Leftow makes for God's timelessness is weakened by a number of bad arguments and dubious distinctions which he uses in developing his case. The aim of this note is to draw attention to some of the arguments and distinctions, and to suggest ways in which the ensuing difficulties can be circumvented.
Oppy draws attention to an objection to Godelian ontological arguments which has hitherto gone unnoticed.
Oppy criticizes mereological ontological arguments for pantheism.
A refutation of Makin's defense of "Anselm's Ontological Argument."
Ontological Arguments (1996) (Off Site)
An entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
On Rescher On Pascal's Wager (1990)
In Pascal's Wager: A Study Of Practical Reasoning In Philosophical Theology, Nicholas Rescher aims to show that, contrary to received philosophical opinion, Pascal's Wager argument is "the vehicle of a fruitful and valuable insight--one which not only represents a milestone in the development of an historically important tradition of thought but can still be seen as making an instructive contribution to philosophical theology". In particular, Rescher argues that one only needs to adopt a correct perspective in order to see that Pascal's Wager argument is a good argument. Moreover, there seems to be a certain amount of contemporary support for Rescher's claim that Pascal's Wager argument can be seen to be a good argument when properly construed. However, despite this recent trend to adopt a more sympathetic stance towards Pascal's Wager argument, I propose to defend the traditional view that Pascal's Wager argument is almost entirely worthless--at least from the theological standpoint. (No doubt, it has historical significance from the standpoint of decision theory; but that's a separate matter.)
In "To Bet The Impossible Bet", Harmon Holcomb III argues: (i) that Pascal's wager is structurally incoherent; (ii) that if it were not thus incoherent, then it would be successful; and (iii) that my earlier critique of Pascal's wager in "On Rescher On Pascal's Wager" is vitiated by its reliance on "logicist" presuppositions. I deny all three claims. If Pascal's wager is "incoherent", this is only because of its invocation of infinite utilities. However, even if infinite utilities are admissible, the wager is defeated by the "many gods" and "many wagers" objections. Moreover, these objections do not rely on mistaken "logicist" presuppositions: atheists and agnostics traditionally and typically hold that they have no more--or at any rate, hardly any more--reason to believe in the traditional Christian God than they have to believe in countless alternative deities.
Philosophy of Religion
Is God Good By Definition? (1992)
Oppy argues that the traditional philosophical conception of God requires a commitment to moral realism.
Modal Theistic Arguments (1993)
Oppy provides a "general ground" for rejecting modal theistic arguments, arguments for the existence of God which makes use of the premise that God is a being who exists in every possible world.
Weak Agnosticism Defended (1994)
Oppy defends "weak agnosticism," the view that "it is permissible for reasonable persons to suspend judgement on the question of God's existence."
Why I Am Not a Christian (2006)
Graham Oppy explains the ways in which his reasons for rejecting Christianity differ from those offered by Bertrand Russell in his famous paper of the same title. In section I, Oppy considers how Christianity should be characterized, the best way to build a case against theism, and the nonrational reasons why people believe in God, among other things. In section II, he offers an account of his journey to unbelief and the philosophy of religion. By section III, Oppy explains why he is not a Christian, as well as some of the things that he does believe. Here he pines in on appeals to contingency and causality in theistic arguments, the problem of evil, free will, the mind-body problem, the history of the universe, human history, and the historicity of the Gospels--outlining his "supervenient naturalism" along the way. Oppy wraps up by considering the meaning of life and whether virtuous behavior relates to Christian belief.
The book is composed mainly of previously published pieces. [...] Given the cost of the book and the accessibility of the prior publications, it seems to me that this is not exactly value for money.
Dembski contributed a chapter to this book on the possibility of intelligent design. In his detailed review of The Creation Hypothesis, Oppy assesses Dembski's thesis that it is logically possible that there be compelling evidence of intelligent and transcendent design.
"The book is well-organised and mostly easy to read; moreover, the book clearly demonstrates that Overman is thoroughly acquainted with popular presentations of recent work in a variety of scientific fields. But the crucial question is whether it makes a clear, compelling, and well-argued case for the conclusions which Overman wishes to defend. I shall claim in this review that the book fails on all three counts."
Oppy reviews Sproul's book about the role of causation and chance in modern science, and, in particular, in modern cosmology.
Review of Reason for the Hope Within by Michael J. Murray (2005)
The anthology Reason for the Hope Within aims to mount a broad defense of the Christian faith, in part by explaining how it can be reasonable for Christians to accept puzzling or paradoxical Christian doctrines, and in part by persuading nonbelievers that all of the core claims of Christianity are true. Oppy explains why he thinks that the book utterly fails to accomplish one of these aims, and thus fails to do much to advance the standing of Christian apologetics.
Oppy reviews Gerald Schroeder's The Science of God, which claims that modern scientific discoveries converge with Old Testament wisdom on issues such as the Big Bang; the appearance of life after the appearance of water; the existence of archaeopteryx, dinosaurs, and prehuman hominids; quantum indeterminancy; the age of the universe and the origin of life. Oppy questions whether the Old Testament accounts really converge with modern scientific discoveries on any of these issues.
Oppy reviews Andrea Weisberger's 1999 book on the problem of evil.