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Jun 20 2013

Dueling Apologetics

A perusal of the evidence can lead to some confusion
When apologists say that logic leads to opposite conclusions—
Is it obvious that God’s the cause that put us where we are?
Or must faith be strong precisely cos the story’s so bizarre?

When arguing theology (unless I’m misconstruing)
Let not your right-hand arguments know what your left are doing.

So yeah, in my twitter feed this morning, the first link above makes the case that it takes more faith to be an atheist than to be a believer. (The second link was from a week or so ago, arguing that the Catholic faith must be true precisely because it is utterly unbelievable.) There is not an ounce of originality in either one of them, but at least the first one recognizes that, quoting Thomas Aquinas to make an argument by design (along with an argument from ignorance, a god-of-the-gaps gambit, and special pleading, while keeping toes pointed and sticking the landing) that hasn’t changed in centuries, no matter what answers science has found in the meantime.

A good place to start is with an argument by Thomas Aquinas, the great 13th century philosopher and theologian. The argument starts with the not-very-startling observation that things move. But nothing moves for no reason. Something must cause that movement, and whatever caused that must be caused by something else, and so on. But this causal chain cannot go backwards forever. It must have a beginning. There must be an unmoved mover to begin all the motion in the universe, a first domino to start the whole chain moving, since mere matter never moves itself.

A modern objection to this argument is that some movements in quantum mechanics — radioactive decay, for example — have no discernible cause. But hang on a second. Just because scientists don’t see a cause doesn’t mean there isn’t one. It just means science hasn’t found it yet. Maybe someday they will. But then there will have to be a new cause to explain that one. And so on and so on. But science will never find the first cause. That’s no knock on science. It simply means that a first cause lies outside the realm of science.

The predictable conclusion…

How far will scientists go to avoid having to conclude that God created the universe? Here’s what Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind said: “Real scientists resist the temptation to explain creation by divine intervention. We resist to the death all explanations of the world based on anything but the laws of physics.” Yet the father of modern physics, Sir Isaac Newton, believed fervently in God. Was he not a real scientist? Can you believe in God and be a scientist, and not be a fraud? According to Susskind, apparently not. So who exactly are the closed-minded ones in this debate?

The conclusion that God exists doesn’t require faith. Atheism requires faith. It takes faith to believe in everything coming from nothing. It takes only reason to believe in everything coming from God.

But wait! Amidst all this predictable, old, hackneyed stuff (and this guy is a professor at Boston College?) is this one beautiful sentence:

An absolute beginning is what most people mean by ‘God’.

Oh, is it? The author is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center. That, the fact that he is at BC, and his list of publications, leads me to suspect that the man is… just maybe… Catholic. Is “an absolute beginning” a good definition of Catholic belief? If only there were a place where Catholic beliefs are listed, so we could compare.

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

So… there are some things that a philosophy professor does not think science can explain about the big bang… ergo, virgin birth and crucifiction. Because it’s far more likely. (Be sure to click through that last one–I’m particularly proud of it.)

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    It just means science hasn’t found it yet. Maybe someday they will.

    When that happens, they’ll rethink quantum theory and rewrite the books. And maybe someday theists will find some evidence for the existence of gods. When THAT happens, we’ll revisit atheism, which is at present the prevailing theory.

  2. 2
    grumpyoldfart

    At your first link Peter Kreeft says that when attempting to discover whether or not it is rational to believe in god, “A good place to start is with an argument by Thomas Aquinas, the great 13th century philosopher and theologian.”

    Just be careful about that though, because Aquinas gets rather nasty if you disagree with him:

    With regard to heretics … they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death … heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.
    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3011.htm#article3

    You also wrote that, “The second link was from a week or so ago, arguing that the Catholic faith must be true precisely because it is utterly unbelievable.”

    No surprises there. Here’s Church Father Tertullian in his “De Carne Cristi” about 1800 years ago:

    Crucifixus est Dei Filius, non pudet, quia pudendum est;
    et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
    et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.
    — (De Carne Christi V, 4)

    The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.
    And the Son of God died: it is wholly credible, because it is unsuitable.
    And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.

  3. 3
    Kevin

    Wow. And he thinks that’s going to change your mind?

    Or anyone’s? 1800-year old lame arguments?

  4. 4
    Katie M

    Something that recently occurred to me about the virgin birth-it’s incredibly rare in the animal kingdom, but it DOES happen. So the virgin birth isn’t all that special if other animals have done it.

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