Report of William Hatcher's Lecture - Proof of God

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Posted by anon ( on October 13, 2002 at 04:49:52:


Toronto (April 11, 2002) - More than 600 people jammed the Earth Sciences Auditorium of the University of Toronto on 28 March to hear Professor William Hatcher of Quebec City deliver a two-hour presentation on his logical proof of the existence of God organized by the Campus Association of Bahá'í Studies (CABS). A similar address at McGill University two months ago attracted more than 900 faculty and students.

This event was organized in a systematic, modular fashion. The CABS membership was divided into groups and each taskforce was charged with a very clear mandate. While one group prepared the posters that publicised the event, other groups designed invitations for distribution to professors and other faculty-members, constructed an online presence for CABS that included information relevant to Dr. Hatcher's address, drafted press releases and made preparations for the evening of the presentation itself. Each group was headed by a manager, who was ultimately responsible for the completion of an assignment. The manager was directly assisted by two or three additional individuals and was guided by a panel of consultants.

After consulting with organisers of past conferences, the Poster Committee concluded that four poster formats would be required (one poster printed on 11x17 inch, one on 4.25x5.5 inch paper, and two posters on 8.5x11 inch paper). A distinctive white-on-black style was developed that proved to be both eye-catching and aesthetically-satisfying. Samples of all four posters are attached for your consideration.

Invitations were printed on 4.25x5.5 inch cards and were primarily intended for members of the University faculty. All invitations were placed in generically-addressed envelopes. Please see attached invitation for design specifications.

Press releases prepared by the Press and Writing groups were distributed to all the major university newspapers and to the Toronto Star, a major journal that is distributed city-wide.

The Poster taskforce advised the Association that prolonged exposure to the posters would desensitize the general public to our efforts, while inadequate exposure would lead to decreased awareness of the event. Accordingly, a systematic publicity drive was begun ten days prior to Dr. Hatcher's address.

The 'Day-Of' Committee was tasked with addressing any issues that could potentially arise during the event. Its responsibilities included the selection and acquisition of pamphlets on central principles of the Baha'i Faith (particularly those relevant to the University population) and the creation of feedback forms, a sample of which is attached. Additionally, the Committee procured more than 100 copies of Dr. Hatcher's book "Love, Power and Justice" that were placed on sale during and after his address. Finally, the Committee was responsible for preparing a live audio feed to the lobby of the auditorium for the benefit of overflow crowds.

Preparation of the hall began three hours prior to the scheduled start of the address. The audio system was prepared, books and pamphlets were arranged and reserved seating was cordoned-off. Ushers (drawn primarily from the Association's membership) were asked to wear white shirts and black pants and were issued purple arm-bands to distinguish them from the crowd.

Relying on a modern innovation in mathematics and logic that serves as the foundation for computer programming, Dr. Hatcher drew on relational logic to refine and update a classical proof of God's existence.

Dr. Hatcher's presentation identified the historical antecedents of the proof of the existence of God and explored its connections to theological conceptions of God while providing several significant insights that contribute much to contemporary popular and philosophical discussions.

Hatcher began by considering Aristotle's use of attributional logic (the syllogism) and then proceeded to examine Avicenna's implicit reliance on a form of relational logic to refine Aristotle's proof. Avicenna's work is impressive given that our understanding of relational logic is largely due to the work of modern-day philosophers and mathematicians such as G. Frege and von Neumann. Investigations by these and other individuals have provided the foundation for our knowledge of formal language systems and relational logic, both of which are essential components of computer science.

Noting the parallel implications of this development in modern logic, that has served the 'information revolution' and now Hatcher's new formulation of a proof of the existence of God, Hatcher delivered his lecture with modesty and a warm sense of humor that captivated the attention of his audience through two hours of coherent, compelling and challenging demonstration.

Dr. Hatcher maintains that his proof is merely an elucidation of Avicenna's seminal proof through the use of modern logic and is based on three fundamental assumptions.* Based on these three principles, Dr. Hatcher proved that there is indeed only one cause of all reality and that cause is itself uncaused, unique and non-composite.

Having thus shown that God is unique, universal and self- or uncaused, Dr. Hatcher qualifies his proof with the proviso that this is a "minimalist" understanding of God and does not preclude the fuller characterizations of God that can be found in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i Faith. In fact, one of the implications of Dr. Hatcher's proof is that these religions all describe the same God.

Following the lecture a question and answer period was held. In the end the event was highly successful; the lecture hall was filled beyond capacity, almost all 400 pamphlets were picked up and 26 books were sold. A week following the lecture a follow-up session was held at the Toronto Baha'i Centre attended by several individuals including a university professor.

As they are so crucial to the proof, it may be of interest to some to identify briefly those three assumptions:

First, Hatcher explains the principle of sufficient reason, involving a discussion of causality which does not ignore David Hume's important observations but which allows Hatcher to clarify how his realist position is more compelling than Hame's sceptical empiricism. This is related, too, to Hatcher's distinguishing his position from Kant's unnecessary limitation of reality to only that which we can know. On that point Hatcher is especially interesting in the context of contemporary discourse in pointing to the regrettable habit of stating universal negatives. This is the habit of saying, "we know this, and that's all." It would be better to say, "We know this." and omit the universal negative which is reductionist and closes off intellectual inquiry.
There is a second, equally compelling assumption crucial to Hatcher's proof, that he terms the "potency" principle. This is merely the statement, or observation, that what is a cause of a phenomenon is also a cause of a part of that phenomenon.
The third assumption is the principle of "limitation" which states that a phenomenon cannot cause a part of itself. Hatcher is careful to explain that "phenomenon" is strictly defined as a unique phenomenon such that dynamic organisms and systems must be understood, over time, as a series of phenomena so that when the organism generates changes within itself, the phenomenon causes a new and different organism. So, this principle is maintained if challenged on that point.

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