General thoughts on proof, probability, cumulative nature of the arguments and the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of arguments

Swinburne offered 7 factors that he suggested lead to a cumulative argument for the existence of God:

  1. The very existence of the universe
  2. Its order
  3. The existence of consciousness
  4. Human opportunities to do good
  5. The pattern of history
  6. Evidence of miracles
  7. Religious experience

Such a cumulative argument increases the probability of God’s existence on the premise that the weaknesses of one argument are counterbalanced by the strengths of another.


Why is proof needed?

Because some phenomena need explaining whose explanation does not lie within the universe and which are not self-explanatory. Arguments for the existence of God seek to suggest that God is the most satisfactory way of interpreting the universe.


What is proof?

‘A proof is an argument that starts from one or more premise, which are propositions taken for granted for the purposes of the argument, and argues to a conclusion,’ Richard Swinburne. (P + P = C)

A proof is statement which cannot logically be false!

Other proofs are only proofs in so far as they lead to a possible or probable conclusion. Or in which evidence points to a certain conclusion based on prior experience, but it is still possible for there to be alternative conclusions.


Inductive arguments – Argue from the particular to the general.

They are strong because:

  • They rely on experience usually testable
  • Are flexible, there is more than one possible conclusion
  • Do not demand that we accept definitions as fixed.

But can be weak because:

  • They rely on accepting the nature of the evidence
  • Demand overwhelmingly good reasons for accepting that the conclusion is the most likely.
  • Alternative conclusions may be just as or even more convincing.

Deductive reasoning may be strong because:

  • Does not depend on variable or misunderstood experience
  • Accepts that words have fixed definition and meanings
  • There are no alternative conclusions.

But it maybe weak because:

  • It leads to apparently logically necessary conclusion
  • Depends on whether we accept the premises as analytically true
  • Can only say that if there is a God we might be able to make certain claims about him.


John Hick argued that eschatological verification was possible but for most of us death is too late. (Pascal’s Wager!)