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Natural Signs and Knowledge of God: A New Look at Theistic Arguments
C. Stephen Evans
Oxford University Press, 2012
220 pp., $39.95
Signs & Wonders
Imagine an utterly irrepressible smile stretching across a child's face. Almost anyone seeing such an expression believes the child is experiencing some sort of delight. But why do we believe this? Reasoning from premises about bodily demeanor to conclusions about mental states is fraught with difficulty—famously so. Even the most promising arguments are halting gestures at our effortless movement in thought. From a very early age, we just find ourselves possessed of a conviction about the state of mind behind beaming faces—a conviction that neither claims the aid of arguments nor fears their failure. This tendency to form beliefs about the mental states of others on the basis of facial expressions is, of course, resistible and responsive to cultural influences. But a tendency is there to be shaped or resisted, and to blaze the trail our painstaking arguments attempt to follow.
For some time now philosophers have been interested in exploring the idea that belief in God is based on similar tendencies. But why think so? How should we understand the proposal? What implications does the idea have for the traditional arguments of natural theology? Does the proposal support or undermine the claim that belief in God is based on evidence, perhaps even good evidence? Is the proposal supported or undermined by the emerging scientific accounts of the origin of religious belief? In Natural Signs and Knowledge of God: A New Look at Theistic Arguments, C. Stephen Evans offers excellent answers to these excellent questions.
Evans' book is a characteristic combination of careful attention to neglected historical ideas and insightful analysis of a broad range of contemporary issues. This slim volume rewards readers with a theory of natural signs, a state-of-the-art assessment of three traditional arguments for the existence of God, and a fresh approach to the issue of natural knowledge of God. Readers will also be left with some large, partly interdisciplinary questions. That's ...