Yet there is some good philosophy of religion out there, and one philosopher who supports the theistic position is Paul Herrick. Herrick has a very interesting article defending the cosmological argument against another philosopher, Keith Parsons, who is an atheist.
Herrick argues that belief in God remains reasonable despite the apparent success of science in explaining the universe. Although I genuinely appreciate the argument and the various inroads Herrick takes to develop and support his points, I think his argument ultimately fails for three reasons:
- To my mind, the creator deity described by Herrick bears little resemblance to the god(s) of the Torah, the Christian Gospels, the Qur’an, Hindu texts and so on. Although Herrick argues that the God of philosophical theism created this universe out of love, his cosmological theism seems at odds with the berserker deities of holy books. The Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament both depict gods with the all-too-human fits of passion, jealously, and rage.
- Philosophical theism is, as Herrick admits, not a scientific explanation. But Herrick’s article attempts to use philosophical theism to explain something that is primarily within scientific jurisdiction. The best explanation will be a scientific one. Non-scientific explanations, although interesting, will always be too speculative for extended consideration.
- Herrick’s position rests on a simple distinction. His philosophical theism, he says, “makes rational sense of the existence of the material universe.” Atheism and scientific materialism do not provide a satisfying explanation for this existence. And yet…what if we were to ask Herrick, “Your rational explanation: is it true?” His answer would be, “I’m not sure. I don’t know.” Thus, in the end, Herrick's rational explanation is no better than the scientific explanation which does not make full and complete sense of the material universe. Plus, even the most apparently rational explanations require validation—no matter how “satisfying” some people seem to think these explanations are prima facie. The choice is, then, between a rational explanation without validation and a scientific explanation that is incomplete.
Although I disagree with its conclusion, I heartily recommend Herrick's article. Were I a philosopher, I would want to be able to put together an argument as well as Herrick has.