It seems we are regularly treated to atheists demanding “evidence” for the existence of god and by “evidence” they mean something empirical, getting decidedly upset if you point to something like Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Ways. They claim that logical philosophical arguments don’t count because they aren’t “empirical” or some such, although the person usually says “scientific” because they don’t know any better.
Still, this got me thinking, all of Aquinas’ 5 ways are logical arguments premised on empirical observations about the universe. All of them start with some empirical observation and build from that. So why exactly don’t these arguments count if they are all based in empirical assumptions?
If you look at Aquinas’s 5 ways, especially 1,2,3 and 5, they are all based on quite uncontroversial observations about the universe.
The first way only requires that change be observed in the universe and I don’t see many atheists lining up with Zeno to claim that change and motion are impossible. The second way is based on efficient causation and unless induction is an invalid method this is also not a controversial observation. Given the science fetishism of most of the people leveling these sorts of complaints I am not sure how they can dispute the empirically observed premise. The Third way is based on the idea of contingency and necessity and unless the big bang has been discarded and I missed the report nobody is arguing the universe isn’t contingent. Finally the fifth way depends on on the idea of final causes in the universe.
I suppose we might argue about the fifth way, but i’m not sure how you can make sense of modern biology without invoking something very much like final causes and the literature is littered with language that implicitly endorses final causes.
So why are these empirical observations insufficient?