Chapter 3: God's Existence

15 March 2006

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Unfortunately, this is by far the shortest chapter in The Case against God. Only two arguments for God’s existence are covered; the Cosmological Argument and the Teleological Argument. These critiques are mostly outdated, as most of Smith’s objections have been thoroughly dealt with in the years since the publication of his book. This is not Smith’s fault, but I nevertheless will continue my critique by pointing out the major flaws in his objections to the two arguments for God’s existence.

Chapter 8: Natural Theology

After an extended “rah-rah” moment, in which Smith pats himself on the back for all of his previous arguments (refuted already), he finally gets to the issues at hand. Before discussing any of the arguments for God’s existence, he sets out “Conditions of Proof” that he claims should be used in order to discover whether or not the argument is a good one. I will examine these in turn.

a.) Arguments for the existence of God must not contain theistic premises.

This criterion is definitely valid. Smith says, for example, that the theist must prove, not assume, that the universe requires a causal explanation. This is essentially true, but I must mention here that most individuals already believe that the universe requires a cause. Therefore, it is valid to use the Cosmological Argument without supporting this premise if it is regarded as common knowledge between the participants. If, however, the audience is unsure about the claim, then the claim must be shown to be true or at least likely true.

b.) The existence of God must rely on reason completely, with no appeal to faith.

This I agree with, but I must remind the reader once again that Smith is using a faulty definition of the word “faith.” 1

c.) A distinction between “rational theism” and “rational theists” must be formed.

According to Smith, “The possibility of ‘rational theism’ depends solely on the possibility of demonstrating the existence of a supernatural being. A ‘rational theist’ is one who is motivated to believe in god because he believes that god’s existence can be established through reason.” [226]

I’m not sure what the actual importance of this criterion is, but in any case it is apparent that Smith is frustrated by those theists who fail to admit defeat:

“Before discussing any theist’s claim to rationality, the following question must be asked: ‘If your arguments are shown to be incorrect, will you relinquish your belief in god?’ If the answer is ‘no’-as it often is- then any further discussion with this person is a waste of time. Any claim to rationality or concern with truth is mere pretense on his part, since he is indifferent to the validity of his arguments.” [227]

Here I must first point out that oftentimes the reason that a theist will be unconvinced by arguments is that they have had (or continue to have) a personal experience with God. Now, most fail to realize it, but personal experiences are in actuality a rational way to acquire the knowledge that God exists (see HERE). A good personal experience is similar to a trump card- it beats all other arguments. For, if one has literally experienced God, then there is little question as to His existence.

Next, I must mention that it is not only theists that sometimes seem impervious to solid argumentation. Quite often theists (myself included) feel as though atheists are simply willfully ignorant a great deal of the time. Atheists are “beaten” in debates all the time, and they don’t relinquish their position.

Finally, I think Smith’s demand is absurd. He expects the theist to convert if he refutes the theists’ arguments. However, is this really a rational demand? Consider this- I am still a teenager and I lack a college education. Let’s say that George H. Smith “beats” me in a debate. Smith is a full-grown adult who has gone to college and who has published books and authored articles in journals. Should I be expected to be able to answer all of Smith’s objections? Personally, I think that I am able, but it is clearly absurd to expect me to do so. It is plainly unfair to expect a high school student to convert because a grown man “refutes” all of his arguments for belief in God.

And let’s take this one step further. Certainly no 8-year-old child could defend his belief in God against a man like George H. Smith. Should he convert to atheism on the spot because Smith “shows his arguments to be incorrect?” Hardly!

Now, it is true that the rational man should become an atheist if he consistently cannot support his belief in God (even to himself). But to expect persons to convert on the basis of one or two exchanges is unfair and unrealistic. I rather doubt that Smith would change his beliefs based on a few exchanges either.

As further preliminary discussion, Smith claims that all attempts to offer God as an explanation are futile. This is because, supposedly, the supernatural is “unknowable”, and the theist merely attempts to explain the unknown via the unknowable. However, I have previously considered Smith’s arguments for the supposed unintelligibility of a supernatural god, and have found his arguments faulty. Therefore, as long as God remains as a coherent and intelligible being, it is intellectually responsible to posit God as the cause of something when the situation requires God as the explanation. In my following analysis of the Cosmological and Teleological arguments, we shall see that God is the best or only explanation for the facts of nature based on the attributes given to God in my article HERE and defended in Part 1 of this refutation.

And for all of Smith’s confidence and bravado in the force of reason, he eventually comes to the conclusion, “The universe does not exist for a reason at all, it simply exists.” [231]

According to Smith, it is impossible to have an explanation without reference to the natural universe. However, this argument seems to feed off of his claim that the supernatural is completely “unknowable”, which I have already shown to be false. In addition, Smith’s conclusion is obviously absurd- to deny that there is reason to the existence of the universe is possibly the most irrational statement one can make. For, every other thing we know of has a reason for its existence- how much more so would the entire universe require a reason! 2 Furthermore, if Smith claims that there is literally no reason for the universe existing, one wonders how he manages to avoid a totally nihilistic outlook on life. 3 Most likely, he is extremely inconsistent with regards to his beliefs, which I find quite understandable. No man can function with the belief that literally nothing matters.

Chapter 9: The Cosmological Arguments

In this chapter, Smith attempts to refute the popular cosmological arguments offered by theists. I have dealt with essentially every objection to my favorite version of the Cosmological Argument HERE, and much of my response will be based on that article.

In his critique of the “First Cause” form Cosmological Argument 4, Smith cannot help but preface the discussion with some confident words:

“Considering the wide attention that this argument has received, and considering the many times that it has been refuted in the past, it seems repetitious to discuss it here. But the first-cause argument has survived, complete with ambiguities and fallacies, which makes it necessary to refute it once more- hopefully for the last time.” [236]

Well, we shall see if Smith can live up to his cocky proclamation.

Smith’s first objection to the First Cause Cosmological Argument is the following:

“Even if valid, the first-cause argument is capable only of demonstrating the existence of a mysterious first cause in the distant past. It does not establish the present existence of the first cause.” [237]

This is untrue, for it follows from the nature of the First Cause in question that a living and personal God exists. The First Cause would have to be an eternal, timeless being, which would be above and beyond the laws of the universe. 5 It seems unlikely that such a being could die, let alone would die. Even so, the Cosmological Argument alone does not have to prove the existence of God with all His attributes. Even if the Cosmological Argument fails to establish the existence of a living God, other arguments could perhaps build on the case for the existence of the God of Christian theism. 6 In any case, it would be quite an enormous bit of special pleading for the atheist to seriously claim that they believe God may have created the universe, but has since died. If someone adopts this position in order to avoid the force of the Cosmological Argument, their sincerity with regards to rational rejection of God’s existence is rather suspect.

Smith next claims that the First Cause Argument can only demonstrate the existence of something which is itself uncaused. He points out that matter could be thought of as eternally existing. This would be true if it weren’t for the abundance of scientific and philosophical arguments against an eternal universe. 7

Smith goes on further to claim that the God hypothesis provides no explanatory power anyways:

“To posit god as the cause of the universe still leaves two crucial questions unanswered: What caused the universe? How did it cause the universe? To say that god is responsible for the existence of the universe is vacuous without knowledge of god’s nature and the method used in creating existence.” [238]

Here, Smith assumes that we have no knowledge of God’s nature, contrary to the article I provide HERE and my defense of these attributes in Part 1 of this critique. Furthermore, Smith seems to be confused. As Craig points out:

“It is widely recognized that in order for an explanation to be the best explanation, one needn’t have an explanation of the explanation (indeed, such a requirement would generate an infinite regress, so that everything becomes inexplicable). If the best explanation of a disease is a previously unknown virus, doctors need not be able to explain the virus in order to know it caused the disease. If archaeologists determine that the best explanation of certain artifacts is a lost tribe of ancient people, the archaeologists needn’t be able to explain the origin of the people in order to say justifiably that they produced the artifacts.” 8

Next, Smith points out the major flaw in the “First Cause” form of the Cosmological Argument- its first premise contradicts its conclusion.

“The first premise of this argument states that everything must have a cause, and the conclusion asserts the existence of an uncaused supernatural being. But if everything must have a cause, how did god become exempt?” [239]

This, however, is a flaw that the Kalam Cosmological Argument does not suffer from; it specifies that the reason God does not require a cause is that He has existed eternally, unlike the universe. See Objection E of my Article. Smith’s best objection to the First Cause Argument is rendered impotent by the Kalam version.

So, what is Smith’s ultimate answer to the question, “What caused the universe to exist?” His answer is that the universe does not require a causal explanation, because the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time. This is actually a valid position to hold, but it has been rendered untenable in light of the philosophical and scientific evidence for a beginning to the universe. 7 Smith, however, goes further:

“It is strange that those who object to the idea of eternal matter display little difficulty in accepting the creation of something out of nothing. While the idea of an eternal universe may be initially difficult for some people to assimilate, the theist’s alternative is an exercise in fantasy.” [241]

Reading this excerpt brought a big smile to my face, as it reeks of irony. In the time since Smith published his book, the idea of an eternally existing universe has become, for the most part, an abandoned position by many prominent atheists. So I find it quite hilarious that it is the atheist community that now oftentimes accepts the position Smith ridicules. Consider this position from Quentin Smith, an atheist philosopher:

“His final position in Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology is that the origin of the universe, including all matter and energy, and space and time themselves, is simply uncaused. He declares, “The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing” [Smith, Q.: 1993a, p. 135]-a sort of Gettysburg Address of atheism. He says that “We should . . . acknowledge our foundation in nothingness and feel awe at the marvelous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being” [Ibid.].” 9

And this view is by no means an uncommon one. 10

Consider Smith’s original complaint, that the theistic hypothesis of creation ex nihilo is “an exercise in fantasy.” He doesn’t really explain why this hypothesis is so problematic- but consider the atheistic alternative. On the atheistic hypothesis, the universe is created out of nothing, by nothing. At least with the theistic hypothesis there is something that creates the universe, there is a cause for the universe to pop into existence (however mysterious that cause may be.) So, if the theistic hypothesis is “an exercise in fantasy”, then surely the quite popular atheistic hypothesis of creation from nothing (held by some top intellectuals) belongs only in mental institutions! This only reinforces my belief that the atheist “creation from nothing” hypothesis is an act of desperation.

Smith next claims that an infinite regress of causes is possible, therefore it is possible that the universe has existed forever. 11 But Smith’s argument is wholly unpersuasive:

“There is no reason why a succession of changes cannot proceed infinitely into the past. As long as we remember that existence had no beginning in time, there is no problem in grasping that change, a natural corollary of existence, had no beginning as well.” [242]

To the theistic rebuttal that without a first cause of change, there would be no second, third, or presently existing cause, Smith replies:

“This rejoinder is partially correct. Without a first cause, there cannot be a second cause, third cause, and so on. In other words, without a first cause, we cannot assign a numerical designation to each causal process. This does not entail, however, that causal interactions could not presently exist.

In order to assign a numerical designation (such as second, tenth, one thousandth) to any causal process, one must presuppose the existence of a first cause. After all, to call something the tenth cause means that there were nine causes preceding it, so there must have been a first cause in this series. Consequently, this tactic, since it relies on the prior acceptance of a first cause, must be rejected as blatant question begging.” [242]

First of all, Smith’s argument, even if correct, only shows that it is possible for there to be an infinite regress of causes. It does not show that it is likely, or even plausible. Much more important, however, is the fact that his argument is not successful. Moreland responds to a similar objection thusly,

“Actually, it is precisely the lack of a beginning that causes most of the problems in traversing the past to reach the present. If there were no beginning, then reaching the present moment would b like counting to zero from negative infinity (n, . . . , -3, -2, -1). Counting to positive infinity from zero (0, 1, 2, 3, . . . , n). The number of events traversed is not a function of direction, and the latter task is as problematic as the former; not because both allegedly involve starting from some point (the former has such a point, the latter does not), but because of the impossibility of traversing an actual infinite by successive addition.

Further, coming to the present moment by traversing an infinite past is worse than counting to positive infinity from zero, because the former cannot even get started. It is like trying to jump out of a bottomless pit.” 12

Moreover, Smith’s response does nothing to refute “infinity paradoxes”, such as Hilbert’s Hotel and the Tristam Shandy Paradox. 13, 14

And, as I said before, even if Smith is correct that it is possible for an infinite regress of causes to exist, it is not necessarily true that such a thing is likely or even plausible. In fact, the scientific evidence confirms that it is extremely implausible. 7 With the combination of philosophical and scientific confirmations of a universe with a beginning, it seems unlikely indeed that Smith will ever become justified in his belief in an infinite regress of causes.

Chapter 10: The Design Arguments

In this chapter Smith takes on Arguments from Design. He grants that design in the universe is evidence for a Cosmic Designer, but objects to the premise that the universe exhibits design. As we will see in a moment, many of his objections are based on misunderstandings and probability blunders.

Unfortunately, Smith does not critique what is, in my mind, the most powerful form of the Design Argument. 15 This is commonly called the “Teleological Argument”. According to this argument, the physical laws and conditions that govern the universe must be so precise in order to allow life that it is fantastic to suppose that a life-permitting universe (such as our own) exists rather than a life-forbidding universe. As Collins puts it:

“Almost everything about the basic structure of the universe-for example, the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial distribution of matter and energy-is balanced on a razor’s edge for life to occur.” 16

I believe the reason Smith does not discuss this argument is that, at the time of publication, the Teleological Argument in this form was not very popular. However, Smith does raise some issues about other forms of Design Arguments that I find persuasive, so I will continue with an analysis of his objections to the “Analogical Argument”.

This argument is based on the familiar analogy of William Paley. Paley pointed out that, upon discovering a watch, one would immediately and justifiably suspect that the watch was designed. Paley extends this analogy to nature, where fantastic structures such as the eye feature design far more complex and amazing than that of the most intricate watch.

One of Smith’s objections against such an argument is that proponents of design in nature ignore “evil” or undesirable examples of design, such as a deadly virus or a disastrous act of nature. However, this is nothing but the Argument from Evil, which has been addressed thoroughly and repeatedly. 17, 18 (Also see Here for my own response.) I have already refuted Smith’s case for the Argument from Evil Here of this critique, so I see little reason to repeat it in this article.

Smith’s main objection to the Analogical Design Argument is that it is faulty because it is, in principle, impossible to locate design in nature. This is because, purportedly, “nature” is the standard by which we judge design in the first place. Smith claims we only recognize design in the watch to the extent that we know man makes watches.

Before discussing the validity or invalidity of this argument, I think it would be helpful to reflect on how counterintuitive it really is.

Many nonbelievers consider evolution to explain the complexity found in nature. Wholly apart from the issue of whether or not the evidence supports evolutionary theory, let us hypothesize a world in which evolutionary theory is out of the question. Let us imagine a world in which there are no animals except humans, nor has there ever existed any animal but humans. In such a world, evolution is inconceivable (there would be no “transitional forms” leading up to humans, thus making evolution impossible). Now the question must be asked- would we be justified in hypothesizing design in such a case? Surely, it seems obvious that we should. For what else would explain the existence of such a complex and intricate thing as the human body? Are we to suppose that it “just is” that way, and move on?

This shows that Smith’s argument seems to be quite absurd. Most atheists justify disbelief in design with reference to the theory of evolution. However, if that theory were incorrect, it would seem that the design hypothesis would be justified. Consider Dawkin’s infamous comment:

“Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” 19

Apparently, Dawkins recognizes that atheism without a theory of how animals and humans were “designed” (in this case, evolution) is intellectually unfulfilled.

So, it seems to me that there is something quite fishy about Smith’s argument. As it turns out, there is. The reason we can recognize design in things such as the human eye is that it features specified complexity. Dembski writes:

“In his recent book The Fifth Miracle, Paul Davies suggests that any laws capable of explaining the origin of life must be radically different from scientific laws known to date. The problem, as he sees it, with currently known scientific laws, like the laws of chemistry and physics, is that they are not up to explaining the key feature of life that needs to be explained. That feature is specified complexity. Life is both complex and specified. The basic intuition here is straightforward. A single letter of the alphabet is specified without being complex (i.e., it conforms to an independently given pattern but is simple). A long sequence of random letters is complex without being specified (i.e., it requires a complicated instruction-set to characterize but conforms to no independently given pattern). A Shakespearean sonnet is both complex and specified.” 20

Since the human eye features specified complexity, it requires a plausible naturalistic explanation, or, in the absence of such an explanation, it requires a designer. Whether or not evolution is true is another question entirely. 21 However, it is easy to see that Smith’s primary objection to the Analogical Design Argument (that it is impossible, in principle, to locate design in nature) is false.

Unfortunately, Section 3 ends with a whimper as Smith tries to refute the “Argument from Life” (The Argument from Life is essentially the argument that the theistic hypothesis explains the origin of life more adequately than does naturalism).

Smith argues that most calculations regarding the probability of life’s origin fail to take into account the “hierarchical and integrative nature of life.” [269] Therefore, “[C]alculations that place the probability of life at fantastic odds can tend to be misleading.”

What is very interesting about this objection is that Smith makes no effort to “set the record straight.” Think about it- this would be a perfect opportunity for Smith to explain a plausible theory of the origin of life along with all its hierarchical progressions. Perhaps he could have provided a “good” probability calculation of the origin of life. But of course he does not. This tends to suggest that Smith is just blowing hot air- he really has no evidence that the origin of life is plausible or even possible.

“The argument from life again presents us with the false alternative between design and chance. Surely the arrangement of atoms into protein molecules is not a matter of chance, argues the theist, so there must be design. In fact, there is neither; we have with life what we have with every other natural phenomenon: natural causes operating according to natural necessity.” [270]

What this is supposed to mean is anybody’s guess. It seems to me that he may be arguing that there is a “life law” within nature that somehow makes the impossible actual- it makes the origin of life a necessary occurrence. If this is Smith’s stance, it is a desperate one indeed. There is no evidence for such a “life law”, and the supposed law goes against the natural order of things in a naturalistic universe. Moreover, it is a non-falsifiable piece of pseudo-science.

“If the theist insists that, natural necessity notwithstanding, the existence of life in the universe is extremely improbable, we can grant him this assertion for the sake of argument before discussing the issue of probability. Life may be an extraordinarily unusual occurrence, but what does that prove? Only that an extraordinary occurrence has taken place.” [270]

This position is even more desperate than his previous. Here we are to imagine that, no matter the odds, it is invalid to infer design from the origin of life. Even if the odds were 1 in 10 to the millionth power for life to occur, we would not be justified in supposing that design is the likely cause of life’s existence!

This is a truly ridiculous stance. Consider a card dealer that receives a royal flush 5 times in a row. Should we suppose that such a happening is merely an “unusual occurrence” and not evidence of foul play? In fact, completely absurd theories would be more likely than the natural occurrence of 5 straight royal flushes. One could hypothesize that the dealer has a bionic arm with cards shoved into his wrist, and such a theory would be vastly more likely than the “unusual occurrence” of 5 straight royal flushes.

However, Smith’s logic would lead us to believe that the dealer is just one lucky individual. So I’d like to see how he would react if he was playing with our lucky dealer. 22

According to Smith’s stance, I must wonder how exactly God would go about providing evidence of his existence. Perhaps he could create a glowing cross in front of Smith’s eyes. However, it is possible that billions of particles “quantum tunneled” in front of Smith’s face. Therefore, this is no evidence of God’s existence; it is merely an “unusual occurrence”. If Smith’s stance is reflected accurately by this absurd argument, then his claims to open-mindedness with regards to the existence of God must be taken with a large grain of salt.


Despite the fact that Smith’s book is entitled “The Case against God”, Smith’s chapter on the actual arguments for God’s existence is very short. He doesn’t discuss the Moral Argument, the Argument from Desire, Pascal’s Wager, the Ontological Argument, etc. The objections he raises against the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments are often completely absurd.

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1. J.P. Holding, Fallacious Faith,

2. Actually, it seems to me that there is a potential “reason” for the universe to exist under an atheistic view. That reason is that the universe is necessarily existent. However, the universe would only achieve necessary existence if it existed for an infinite amount of time. This theory, however, is untenable in light of current scientific finds and philosophical analysis. See HERE and later on in this critique for a defense of this claim.

3. Reasonable Faith Chapter 2: The Absurdity of Life Without God. See REVIEW.

4. The “First Cause” form of the Cosmological Argument is very similar to the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Basically, the Kalam form of the argument states “Everything which begins to exist requires a cause, and the universe began to exist, thus the universe requires a cause.” The First Cause Cosmological Argument (the version that Smith critiques) basically states “Every existing thing has a cause, and every cause must be caused by a prior cause, and it is impossible for there to be an infinite regress of causes, therefore a “first cause” must exist- a being that does not require a causal explanation.” The First Cause Cosmological Argument is faulty in that it begs the question in favor of God being the “uncaused cause.” The Kalam Cosmological Argument, however, specifies the reason for God’s lack of a need for a causal explanation- He has existed forever. Therefore, the Kalam version does not beg the question. Other than this difference, both arguments are essentially the same.

5. See Objection F of my article HERE for a defense of this.

6. See William Lane Craig; Cosmos and Creator, Analysis and Perspective Origins and Design 17:2 located at Under the section “Quantum Physics and Quantum Cosmology”, Craig argues that God’s existence as a Cosmic Observer is the most likely hypothesis with regards to recent theories of quantum physics.

7. See William Lane Craig, “A Swift and Simple Refutation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument?” Religious Studies 35 (1999): 57-72, located at See also Objection A of my article HERE.

8. William Lane Craig et al., Why I am a Christian (p. 73) Baker Books, copyright 2001.

9. William Lane Craig, “Theism and the Origin of the Universe.” Erkenntnis 48 (1998): 47-57. Located at

10. See Mark Vuletic, Creation ex nihilo, Without God. Located at

11. Smith claims that “existence” is the “causal primary” (in other words, existence has always existed and is the metaphysical basis for the concept of causality). The theist does not really have a problem with this per say, for the theist holds that God has existed forever. However, Smith is wrong to claim that the physical universe could have existed forever, due to the philosophical and scientific absurdities inherent in such a view (as already discussed in this critique.)

12. J.P. Moreland et al, Does God Exist? (p. 230) Prometheus Books, copyright 1990.

13. William Lane Craig, “The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe.” Truth: A Journal of Modern Thought 3 (1991): 85-96. Located at Craig discusses Hilbert’s Hotel in detail.

14. Shandon L. Guthrie, Theism and Contemporary Cosmology, Published 2002. Located at: Guthrie discusses the Tristam Shandy Paradox.

15. See Robin Collins, The Fine-Tuning Design Argument, found at

16. Ibid.

17. Shandon Guthrie, Assessing the Problem of Evil and the Existence of God, located at

18. Glenn Miller, An Exploration in Theodicy, located at

19. Dawkins, Richard, 1986. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton. (p. 6)

20. William Dembski, Explaining Specified Complexity, found at

21. In fact, it would seem that evolution would have to be completely and consistently true of all life in order for atheism to survive intellectually. If, as some scientists hold (Dembski, Behe), evolution is true in most instances but is not sufficient in a few cases (such as the bacterial flagellum and the blood clotting system) then design is the most plausible hypothesis and atheism takes a huge blow. As a caveat, I must mention that atheism is still possible if evolution is false, or even if design is true (aliens, for instance, could theoretically be the designers).

22. One can imagine Smith coming up with plenty of complaints with my analogy. For example, he would probably claim, “The analogy breaks down because cheating is a naturalistic hypothesis with known precedents and God is not.” However, it is of no consequence that God is not “naturalistic”- to only accept naturalistic explanations begs the question in favor of naturalism. Also, theories with no known precedents would be accepted in the case of the cheating card dealer, and so there is little reason to discount God as a possibility. Further, it might be argued that “Still, one would not infer God’s existence from the 5 royal flushes.” No, probably not- because there are available naturalistic explanations. Such explanations, however, are not available in the case of the origin of life. Furthermore, an event like the origin of life has obvious religious implications- thus making it more likely that God is the cause. This is what Craig refers to as “religious-historical context”. Due to the fact that the origin of life is an event with much religious significance (especially according to Christian theism) it is quite reasonable to hypothesize that God was responsible.


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