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Philosopher tackles questions surrounding belief in a higher power

By Dana Yates

Researcher Klaas Kraay

Philosopher Klaas Kraay studies the difference in value that God’s existence would (or does) make in the world.

Is it rational to believe in God? Many followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam would say yes, while many atheists, of course, would say no. But is it fair to define the debate in such simple terms? Ryerson researcher Klaas Kraay, for one, believes there is much more to this controversial issue.

“It’s really an open question. The question of whether or not God exists is more complex than just religion versus science. That view is too simplistic,” says the philosophy professor.

Kraay hopes his work will help people gain a more nuanced understanding of what philosophers think about when it comes to God. For starters, most philosophers view theism (the belief that God exists) in the same way as millions of believers around the world. That is, God is thought to be the creator and ruler of the universe, a perfectly powerful, knowledgeable and good being. But, philosophers wonder, can reason be used to argue for or against the existence of God? Simply put, is it possible to prove that a higher power is, or is not, at work in the universe?

“Some philosophers argue the very fact that evil exists proves that God doesn’t exist because a loving God would prevent evil,” says Kraay. Meanwhile, other philosophers believe that certain life-enabling features of our universe (such as the force of gravity) suggest that it is the result of intelligent design. This is called the “fine-tuning” argument for God’s existence.

But what if there are multiple universes? If so, some have argued that with so many universes and so many ways that each one could function, there is a high probability that at least one of those universes would permit life like ours to flourish, even without God.

These multifaceted issues were among those that Kraay tackled when he held a prestigious Visiting Templeton Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford during the 2011-2012 academic year. His work there led to several journal articles on the connections between belief in God and belief in multiple universes.

The John Templeton Foundation is also funding a research workshop that will Kraay will host at Ryerson on Feb. 15 and 16. This public event, entitled God and the Multiverse, will feature several international speakers representing philosophy, physics and cosmology. Their goal: to consider the philosophical, scientific and theological aspects of the idea that a multiverse is, in some sense, to be expected if God exists.

“Maybe,” says Kraay, “if theism is true, we should expect there to be a multiverse, because a loving God would actually create more than one universe.”

God and the Multiverse will be held in the Oakham Lounge, on the second floor of Oakham House (63 Gould Street). Admission is free. For more information, and to register for the event, please visit