I am so good at being so wrong. For a long period of time, I was not persuaded by the argument from innate desire for the existence of the transcend beings. Even though I deserted atheistic worldview 6 years ago, I am incapable of completely breaking free from the philosophical ghosts of my past. The shekels of empiricism and positivism are still strongly intervened in my Christian worldview.
David Hume, whose philosophy I strongly followed, captured how I went about evaluating whether a particular argument was persuasive when he wrote,
When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, “Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?” No. “Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?” No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (Hume 2000: 123)
I committed the arguments from desire to the flames. In Mere Christianity and The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis presented one of the versions of this argument that I rejected. Lewis contended that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. Creatures possess some of innate desires that finds none of their satisfaction in this world. Therefore, it is probable that there is another world beyond this world. He argued,
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.(Lewis 2001: 136-7)
I deemed Lewisian-like arguments as nothing but sophistry. Their crucial premise did not contain any experimental reasoning concerning its matter of fact or existence. That the transcendent beings (i.e. existence of God(s), life after death, dualism, absolute morality &c.,) are intuitive innate beliefs, and therein spring our desires, was lacking.
This picture changed with preponderance of scientific evidence emerging from the field of cognitive science. Cognitive science provides empirical data that appears to be pointing us towards a conclusion that humans are intuitive theists. We are wired to believe in transcendent beings. The works of Olivera Petrovich, Deborah Kelemen, Scott Atran, Jesse Bering, Pascal Boyer, Stewart Guthrie, Robert McCauley, Bradley Wigger, Justin L. Barrett, Nicola Knight and Ilkka Pyysiainen, among others, placed on the table empirical data showing that our beliefs in transcendent beings are innate.
My version of argument from desire, thus, could be outlined as follows:
1. Transcendent beings (existence of God, afterlife &c.,) are creaturely innate desires.
2. Every other creaturely innate desire, that we know of, there exists a corresponding object of its satisfaction.
3. It is mostly probable than not that the objects of creaturely innate desires of transcendent beings exist.
This argument, if sound, does not lead to the conclusion that a specific understanding of God is correct, but a general theistic worldviews. Is this a sound argument? I do not know. The opponent of this argument needs to show which premise(s) is false. Would it persuade an atheist to reconsider his/her position? No. It would not. But it is my hope that it will show him/her that one does not have to abandon reason to believe in transcendent beings.
Hume, David (2000) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford:Oxford University Press.
Lewis, C. S. (2001) Mere Christianity. San Francisco: Harper Collins.