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Mathematical Proof of God

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  • medit8ionsociety
    From Columbia University s daily newspaper, online version http://www.columbiaspectator.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/02/17/4031d9166ab57 Does God Exist? Yes,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 24, 2004
      From Columbia University's daily newspaper, online version

      Does God Exist? Yes, Mathematician Says

      By Kathy Gilsinan
      Spectator Staff Writer
      February 17, 2004

      Aristotle and Descartes would be pleased to hear Dr. William Hatcher
      proclaim that even God Himself cannot defy logic.

      Hatcher, who is a self-proclaimed Platonist philosopher with a Ph.D.
      in mathematics, delivered a logical proof for the existence of God
      before an over-filled auditorium in Warren Hall last night.

      The event marked the first in what the Baha'i student organization
      hopes will be a series of discussions about religion, science, and
      philosophy, and how the three topics interrelate.

      "We just felt like there wasn't enough discussion on campus" about
      these matters, said Natasha Bruss, BC '05, President of the Baha'i
      club at Columbia. Baha'i is based on the teachings of the prophet
      Baha'u'llah, who preached that all religions are one, religion is
      progressive, and that faith is not meant to be dogmatic.

      Hatcher, a Baha'i adherent himself, is similarly uninterested in
      dogma. His discussion explored the existence of God and carefully
      shied away from any of its implications. Rather, he stated, "we have
      to transform the religious discourse from a discourse about belief to
      a discourse about truth."

      To that end, Hatcher began his discussion with an introduction to
      Aristotlean, or attributional, logic and its shortcomings.

      Aristotle purported to have proven the existence of God, but he did so
      based on a kind of logic that deals with properties of objects, an
      approach, he argued, that's less than satisfying considering that
      God's attributes cannot be perceived. Aristotle insisted that there
      must be a first cause, namely God, in order to avoid the logical
      inconsistencies of an infinite regress of causes for the universe.

      Avicenna, an ancient Muslim philosopher, employed a different form of
      logic in his proof. He examined the relations between objects rather
      than their attributes, and in doing so accomplished what Hatcher
      called "really amazing stuff." He claimed to have proved the existence
      of God without recourse to Aristotle's infinite regression principle.

      Hatcher said that though many subsequent philosophers like Thomas
      Aquinas and Moses Maimonedes built on Avicenna's proof, they continued
      to fall back on the infinite regression principle. Hatcher argued that
      this principle is not sufficient to prove the necessity of God's
      existence. Modern mathematics demonstrates the logical possibility of
      infinite regression; negative integers, for instance, do not have a
      minimal element or something that can be labeled a "first cause."

      Thus, Hatcher has attempted to wed modern mathematics and ancient
      philosophy in a proof of God's existence, drawing on Avicenna's
      concept of relational logic. "In relational logic, we want to know how
      the object relates to other objects. It turns out that the relational
      approach often yields more useful information [than Aristotlean
      attributional logic]."

      The proof itself rests on four principles, the first of which is the
      assertion that something exists. Even if the world is an illusion, he
      pointed out, an illusory self, contemplating an illusory universe, is
      still something that exists.

      Further, he said, everything that exists does so because of some
      cause, and the "principle of sufficient reason" states that every
      phenomenon is either caused by something external or caused by itself,
      but never both. "Everything that exists has to have a reason for
      existing," he said.

      Working from these principles, Hatcher first defined what he called
      "the minimum criteria for Godhood," and then set about trying to prove
      the existence of a phenomenon to fit those criteria. God, he said,
      must exist and be unique, and must be self-caused as well as being the
      cause of everything else. "Every existing phenomenon is the end effect
      of a causal chain of possibly infinite length, starting with God," he

      He then delved into Avicenna's discussion of the part-whole
      relationship. "All known physical phenomena are composites, except
      possibly the elementary particles of quantum mechanics," he stated.
      Thus, if A is a component of B, then B is composite, and furthermore a
      composite cannot be a cause of one of its components, because it could
      not exist without all its components in place.

      From these definitions, he said, one can infer that the universe is a
      composite of all phenomena. He inferred that the universe itself,
      then, cannot bring any of its own components into being, as it could
      not have existed before the existence of the components.

      Then, the universe could similarly not be self-caused, since it is
      caused by the aggregation of its components, and so there must be some
      object, G, that causes the universe but is not the universe itself. G
      must then be universal because it is a cause, directly or indirectly,
      of every component in the universe.

      He concluded that G is the unique uncaused phenomenon, because, as the
      cause of everything, it can't be caused by something else.

      Hatcher said that the strength of the proof is that each assumption it
      rests on is empirically grounded and is "far more reasonable than its

      David Kline, CC '07, said he was impressed, even though he felt that
      the logical proof of God, far from justifying faith, only requires a
      different kind of faith. But, with that faith in reason so
      characteristic of Columbia students, he said he appreciated that the
      talk was "a purely logical representation of the existence of God and
      not the meaning of God."
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