Friday, January 21, 2011

It All Boils Down To This

Mark Shea:
These [objections] can be paraphrased thus:

1. Bad things happen, so there is no God.
2. Things work fine without God, so there’s no God.

That’s it. That’s all. Those are the only two decent arguments for atheism in the whole history of human thought. Every atheist argument either rings the changes on these two or else atheists pad their case by introducing a lot of non sequiturs and lousy arguments. In the case of each of the two examples my reader cites, we have a mixture of Objection 2 and some pseudo-scientific padding. Both a) and b) are reassertions that nature (i.e evolution/the existence of lots of other universes) can explain everything, so there’s no God. The padding comes in when specific “just so” stories are concocted in order to make the leap from a) “X might have happened, therefore it did happen—and therefore there is no God” and b) “there might be a lot of other universes, therefore there are a lot of other universes, therefore there is no God.”

The answer to both of these objections is the same, When you get rid of the padding of just so stories about “How the Human Got His Sense of Morality” and the science fiction accounts of multiverses we have zero evidence for, you have the naked proposition, everything works fine without God. To that, Thomas replies:
Reply to Objection 2. Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.
In short, when we blithely glide over the question “Why is there anything?” we are burying the lede. Likewise, when we avoid the question “Why do things work at all? Who wrote the rules by which they work?” we are rather avoiding the issue. There could be a gazillion other universes and that question would still demand answering. Every single gap and problem in the evolution of life on earth could be plugged with elegant proofs demonstrating each and every physical and chemical law that inexorably led to the proliferation of species across the globe and we would be no closer to answering (or even asking) the question “Why are there physical and chemical laws and why do time, space, matter and energy obey them? St. Thomas does ask and answer those questions. Materialists remain mute or give answers that are rubbish because they hold, as my reader notes, a dogma which forbid them from giving a rational answer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Exaaaactly. The Leibnizian question "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

Atheists sidestep this question by either 1. Confusing it with "How is there something?" or 2. Declaring it to be nonsensical, obviously without proof.