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The Theory of Everything: A God-Haunted Film

Theory of Everything

The great British physicist Stephen Hawking has emerged in recent years as a poster boy for atheism, and his heroic struggles against the ravages of Lou Gehrig’s disease have made him something of a secular saint. The new biopic “The Theory of Everything” does indeed engage in a fair amount of Hawking-hagiography, but it is also, curiously, a God-haunted movie.

In one of the opening scenes, the young Hawking meets Jane, his future wife, in a bar and tells her that he is a cosmologist. “What’s cosmology?” she asks, and he responds, “Religion for intelligent atheists.” “What do cosmologists worship?” she persists. And he replies, “A single unifying equation that explains everything in the universe.” Later on, Stephen brings Jane to his family’s home for dinner and she challenges him, “You’ve never said why you don’t believe in God.” He says, “A physicist can’t allow his calculations to be muddled by belief in a supernatural creator,” to which she deliciously responds, “Sounds less of an argument against God than against physicists.”

This spirited back and forth continues throughout the film, as Hawking settles more and more into a secularist view and Jane persists in her religious belief. As Hawking’s physical condition deteriorates, Jane gives herself to his care with truly remarkable devotion, and it becomes clear that her dedication is born of her religious conviction. Though the great scientist concluded his most popular work with a reference to “knowing the mind of God,” it is obvious by the end of the film that he meant that line metaphorically. The last bit of information that we learn, just before the credits roll, is that Professor Hawking continues his quest to find the theory of everything, that elusive equation that will explain all of reality. Do you see why I say the entire film is haunted by God?

As I have argued elsewhere, it is by no means accidental that the modern physical sciences emerged when and where they did, namely, in a culture shaped by Christian belief. Two suppositions were required for the sciences to flourish, and they are both theological in nature, namely, that the world is not divine and that nature is marked, through and through, by intelligibility. As long as the natural world is worshipped as sacred—as it was in many ancient cultures—it cannot become the subject of analysis, investigation, and experimentation. And unless one has confidence that the world one seeks to analyze and investigate has an intelligible structure, one will never bother with the exercise. Now both of these convictions are corollaries of the more fundamental doctrine of creation. If the world has been created by God, then it is not divine, but it is indeed marked, in every nook and cranny, by the intelligence of the Creator who made it. We recall the opening lines of St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word…and all things were made through the Word.” The universal intelligibility of nature is a function of its being brought into existence by an intelligent Creator. The young Joseph Ratzinger stated the relationship as follows: the “objective mind” discoverable in finite reality is the consequence of the “subjective mind” that thought it into reality. Ratzinger furthermore observes how a peculiarity of our language discloses the same truth. When we come to know something, we speak of “recognizing” a truth, but the word “recognition” (re-cognition) implies that we have thought again what had already been thought by a more primordial intelligence. Long before Hawking used the phrase, Albert Einstein characterized his own science as a quest to know the mind of God, and in so doing, he was operating out of the very assumptions I’ve been articulating.

In light of these clarifications, let us look again at the central preoccupation of “A Theory of Everything,” namely, Hawking’s quest to find the one great unifying equation that would explain all of reality. It is always fascinating to go to roots of an argument, that is to say, to the fundamental assumptions that drive a rational quest, for in so doing, we necessarily leave the realm of the purely rational and enter something like the realm of the mystical. Why in the world would a scientist blithely assume that there is or is even likely to be one unifying rational form to all things, unless he assumed that there is a singular, overarching intelligence that has placed it there? Why shouldn’t the world be chaotic, utterly random, meaningless? Why should one presume that something as orderly and rational as an equation would describe the universe’s structure? I would argue that the only finally reasonable ground for that assumption is the belief in an intelligent Creator, who has already thought into the world the very mathematics that the patient scientist discovers. In turning his back on what he calls “a celestial dictator,” Stephen Hawking was indeed purging his mind of an idol, a silly simulacrum of God, but in seeking, with rational discipline for the theory of everything, he was, in point of fact, affirming the true God.
 
 
(Image credit: Circle Cinema)

Bishop Robert Barron

Written by

Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • As I have come to expect from Fr. Barron this is a brilliant analysis of the vacuous and illogical notion of an orderly creation without an intelligent Creator.

    • William Davis

      Because you disagree with something it is vacuous and illogical? I think you are demonstrating a deep problem with traditional religious morality: It looks at differing opinions, especially philosophical ones, as evil. I enlightenment morality that values diversity of opinions is superior in many ways, especially with regards to learning and considering new ideas. Many atheists do not cherish this sense of morality, and I believe them to be wrong, especially the dogmatic ones. It is almost impossible to have a real conversation without a certain level of intellectual respect. Personally I'm a deist, I believe in God, just not providence or revelation, however this belief my be due to a cognitive bias our minds possess that reads intent into everything. There are a variety of other ways to explain why one would believe in God without there being one. I accept them, but still hold to my believe because it is easier to make sense of things with this mental model. That's what we are doing with all forms of philosophy (including science), creating a model of reality. I respect your opinions and your beliefs, looks like you would do the same for me and others. Let's try the Kantian ends principle for an overarching ethics of discussion. Kant was a Christian philosopher, hopefully him being Lutheran doesn't hurt that for Catholics.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        > "traditional religious morality . . . looks at differing opinions, especially philosophical ones, as evil." To disprove your claim, I invite you open Thomas Aquinas' Summa anywhere.

        • William Davis

          Aquinas was a notable exception to the general rule. It is possible to argue that religions aren't responsible for human tribalism, but simply facilitate it. Perhaps we can separate the two. I have not read Summa, however, and I think I should. Thanks for the tip.

          • Mike
          • Kevin Aldrich

            What I mean is that Aquinas breaks everything down into to questions and presents every answer he considers wrong, then his own answer and the reason why, and then he explains why every wrong answer is wrong. I think in the entire summa there are only two times when he exhibits scorn toward what he considers an erroneous opinion.

          • William Davis

            I suppose I'm failing to see how this disproves what I said. I realize I am stereotyping, and all stereotypes fall short. I wasn't necessarily specifically referring to Christianity, but all western religion (and some others). If you are saying the actions of most Christians and the church throughout history isn't consistent with Christian principles, I'm ok with that, especially if you take most of the Old Testament as metaphor. I live in the Bible belt and my dad is a fundamentalist preacher, so I'm sure you can understand if I'm a bit biased.

          • Mike

            You ever read Flannery O'Connor? If you're from the south you'd love her short stories - they described as gothic southern fiction and for good reason - they're eerie, strange stories.

          • bbrown

            You are wrong, I'm from the south, sympathetic to southern agrarianism, a Christian, but I dislike (understatement) O'Conner. She woefully overrated, IMO.

          • Mike

            Her stories have a dark undertone that gives them a creepy feel that is i think unusual and makes the reader feel uneasy; but i agree she's prob just a good short story writer.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually, it is up to you to prove your claim. My counter to your claim is that Catholicism is a major western religion and Aquinas is a major voice in Catholicism and he does not look at differing philosophical opinions as evil per se. He looks for the truth in them and if there is error he points that out.

            However, wouldn't you agree that some philosophical opinions are wrong and that if they were carried out great evil could result? So in a case like that, good-natured toleration of evil ideas would not be so enlightened.

          • William Davis

            Fair enough. I wasn't really wanting to do this, but here goes. Let's start with scripture

            Deuteronomy 13:6-10:

            " If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your handmust be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from theLord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

            There are plenty more from the Old Testament, but it isn't exactly fair to blame Christianity for the Jewish Torah, we'll let this suffice for Judaism and move to the New Testament.

            Matthew 12:30 (Luke 11:23 is very similar):

            "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."

            Romans 16:17

            "And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people's faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them."

            John 8:37-39; 44-47

            "I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did. ... You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is you are not of God."

            This quote from Jesus (I personally believe this was put in Jesus's mouth, Jesus never said it) shows that those of God will believe, the explanation for not believing is being of the Devil, the father of lies.

            If you are aware of the history of the persecution of heretics in the Christian church, I do not need to bring in examples, but if you insist I will. I hope you are aware of the bloody history between Protestant and Catholic Christians, some of which was still occurring recently in Ireland. Hopefully you are aware of the bloody history between the Sunni and Shia muslims that goes on until this day. Christians were victims to pagan persecution in the early days, as the pagans blamed all their problems on Christians because they "angered the gods."

            There is a lot more from where this came from, I'm out of time right now. I hope this will suffice.

          • Mike

            You MUST be a protestant.

          • William Davis

            Lol, not exactly, but I always had to go to protestant schools and churches. I'm sure it introduces a bias into my perception of Christianity. I was always taught that Catholics were going to hell because they didn't believe correctly. I never thought much of hell. It seems very obvious that is something a human would make up trying to bully people into following the rules, especially when there wasn't adequate policing. I'm fairly confident the protestant concept of hell is a bit different from Catholic though.

          • Mike

            I just meant you seemed to be applying Sola Scriptura in your last comment before mine. The are many protestant versions of Hell: the liberals don't believe in a real hell and those that do believe that all are saved no matter what they've done; some conservatives believe in a real hell but you go there if you want to go there like catholics and some but probably very very few believe in the hollywood version of hell which is all fire and devils and torture devices run by republicans ;)

          • William Davis

            My experience is with the latter. Their strove to be as close as possible to the puritans. Only classical and ancient church music was allowed, women could only wear dresses, men couldn't wear short. We weren't allowed to interact with anyone outside of the church/school...even other Christians who weren't exactly like them were evil and going to hell. They rejected the enlightenment altogether. The very very few you speak of was the only human interaction I had until high school, when we finally were kicked out of that particular church for not being holy enough or some such. Suddenly everyone I had ever talked to was no longer allowed to acknowledge my existence. It was an interesting experience. Though I strive to be as objective as possible, it is almost impossible to divorce yourself from your entire childhood, lol.

          • Mike

            Yes it is impossible it remains with you always especially something like this something so traumatic; i am sorry that you had to go though that and especially bc of ppl who claim to be christians..but sometimes well often ppl do things with the best of intentions and honestly don't know the harm they're causing. Merry christmas.

          • William Davis

            True enough. It is amazing how often people do the wrong thing while under the conviction they are doing the right thing. Striving for objectivity and inner peace are the strongest anti-dotes to this that I know of. I understand these people from my childhood and don't hold resentment. Their actions were a product of trying to take every verse of the Bible literally at once. It is a disaster. Merry Christmas to you too :)

          • Mike

            You are a big person if you can see / try to appreciate how perhaps what they were doing was not meant to be hurtful in the sense that it was; that takes a big heart and a big head as too many ppl imho are too quick to condemn ppl by impugning their intentions/imputing bad motives...the road to hell is paved with GOOD intentions for a reason.

          • William Davis

            I appreciate the compliment, but perhaps you can use it to see one of my many quandaries. If I can understand and not resent them, doesn't God understand them? If God does understand them, and doesn't resent them, why did he create hell. When my children don't do what I want, I don't look at them as evil, I attribute their behavior to their nature, a nature that can be shaped (as a parent it is part of my job to shape that nature) but a nature that has built in characteristics which include a desire to be be able to choose their own path. That nature must compromise with the pragmatic needs of a society, and to a large part the interest of the family as a whole corresponds to their personal interest, they simply aren't wise enough to see it. A vindictive god who creates hell is created in the image of a vindictive man who can't cope with disagreement, at least in the old testament sense.
            Am I correct in saying some people view hell as a "correctional" facility that purges evil from the soul? I suppose this view makes more sense to me, but it would require some mental gymnastics to make it cohesive with old testament views.

          • Mike

            Maybe this won't make sense to you but according to catholic logic God didn't create hell as Evil is not a thing but an absence of Good in latin it is defectus boni or something like that, a defect in good so ppl "choose" to go there they aren't sent there by God; he wants to reconcile us all 100% with himself; again Catholics are "allowed" to Hope that no one ends up in Hell but they aren't allowed to Presume that no one will.

            Again maybe this won't make sense but the Catholic view is NOT that God looks at his children as evil but as them choosing evil, some say that's a distinction w/o a difference but i don't agree with them; this is for ex why the church doesn't say adulterers are evil but that adultery is evil. But as you point out ppl are a mix of good and evil.

            Don't forget that maybe 80% of everything ppl know about "hell" and "God" they've gotten from Hollywood depictions by now and most atheists-lite IMHO from militants like Kommendant Dawkins and Hitchens ie ppl who unabashedly hate religion and especially christianity. Just my opinion ignore if you think it is laughable; however i live in a very very lefty urban east coast place where laughing out loud about psycho bible thumpers is considered a mark of sophistication and enlightenment.

          • William Davis

            I'm not laughing at all, that version makes a lot more sense when coupled with the platonic conception of God. The protestant Hell makes more sense with the Old Testament conception of God, Yahweh. One of the strongest controversies in church history was the Marcion controversy. He rejected the Hebrew Bible and it's god Yahweh. He was deemed to be a heretic, but it seems that over time Catholics have embraced his ideas in philosophy without admitting their truth in doctrine. I'm certain you are familiar the Council of Nicea and the Nicean creed. Does the Catholic church still embrace the doctrine of the trinity? Even if they do, I suppose it isn't surprising that different people will make sense of the trinity in different ways, since the doctrine itself doesn't make sense. Maybe the doctrine of the trinity was a way to get everyone to say they agree, without actually agreeing, a semantic trick (not being negative, just trying to comprehend).

          • Mike

            With respect i think that the particular brand of Protestantism that you are referring to is maybe the one that you were "raised in" but not all protestant conceptions of hell are as filled with hollywood-style depictions of "fire and brimstone"...having said that i don't want to give you the impression that the catholic church doesn't believe in real hell or that it has "reduced" "God" to some philosophical platonic concept; the church believes in a real hell but not hollywood's.

            the trinity is just that there is 1 God who has 3 aspects like a coin has 2 and MORE importantly that God is NOT like thor or zeus or you or me or a really really smart scientist but is "best described" as a Relationship or Love so if "he" is 3 persons he is really relational and "loving" some kind of continuous eternal divine "relationship" AS THOUGH one btw a father a son and the love that "proceeds" from them. But that's just a way of describing something so that it at least makes some sense to ppl.

            I am not sure about semantics as often words really really really are very powerful i mean just look at how hotly contested a seemingly out dated word like marriage has become in recent years - you'd think that redefining the word will lead to nature itself changing.

          • William Davis

            Your description of the trinity sounds a lot like Modalism, which was also considered heretical by both Tertullian, and more permanently by Dionysius. I'm not trying to be critical, but to a large part any logical understanding of the trinity was traditionally considered heretical. It's quite interesting to study early dialogues about it, found in letters written by church fathers. I think it is a major source of disagreement inside of Christianity to this day. All claim to accept the trinity, but anyone who attempts break it down ends up in a different place. I think this claim is very consistent with history, though not consistent with any particular believers perception of their own faith. I'm a student of both science and history, so just throwing that observation out there.
            If the issue of redefining marriage were only semantic, I don't think there would be any fuss, words change meaning all the time. There are deeper psychological elements at work there...but that's a topic for a different day. Thanks for presenting some things that I did not know from the Catholic point of view :)

          • Mike

            You're welcome all the best.

          • Jim Dailey

            Interesting convo. I thought I would throw in a meat-head comment. A pretty amusing discussion of the Trinity and how St. Patrick tried to explain it to the Irish can be found on YouTube under "Lutheran Satire- Donnal and Connal and St. Patrick" ( you will find it if you put all that in the search bar). It is about two minutes long and is pretty funny. Please take a look for a good laugh.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is becoming clearer. You are not talking about philosophy but religion and your point is that religions can be intolerant.

            Would you agree that religions can be both unreasonably intolerant and reasonably intolerant?

            Are religious groups any more unreasonably intolerant than other kinds of human organizations?

          • William Davis

            Yes. I've often marveled at the irony involved in the idea of some atheists that they should get rid of all religions because they can be intolerant. Isn't that very idea intolerant itself. Religions cannot deny, however, that for the most part, intolerance is written into them. It is best explained as human tribalism. Evolutionary psychology does a decent job of explaining why this is found everywhere in humans. I see it in myself sometimes, but recognizing it can help reduce it.
            In the future I'll try to be careful of wording. One can look at a difference in religious views as a philosophical difference (at least my difference with most religions are philosophical) but it would be better said as a theological difference (assuming the religion is theistic).

          • Doug Shaver

            It is possible to argue that religions aren't responsible for human tribalism, but simply facilitate it.

            So can political philosophies. We're hard-wired with a tendency to be tribalistic. Any ideology that can take advantage of that tendency will do so.

          • William Davis

            If there was an atheistic "the anti-tribalism" movement, I would be on board. When atheist groups want to get rid of religion because of their intolerance, I shake my head. Repeating the biggest problem with religion, and applying it to religion, seems counterproductive and only serves to further entrench everyone in their ideologies. In my opinion, this entrenchment that occurs everywhere is one of the biggest problems we face. If we could solve that, the world would be a dramatically better place. I can't decide if it would be better to fight that ideological war from inside or outside a religion. If I did it from inside a religion it would not be able to require the belief in the supernatural (and this probably ruins most religions), as I am not completely capable of Orwellian double think, and am not interested in living a lie. The biologist in me has some concern that this tribalism my be so in-grained that it will force continued group selection no matter what we do. I prefer to be optimistic, however, since I can't see the future and have a choice :)

    • Vicq Ruiz

      vacuous and illogical

      Brandon (if you are listening) - does this meet your definition of "serious and respectful dialogue"? Jes' askin....

  • Stephen Hawking does not have Lou Gehrig's disease, but a motor neuron disease that is related to ALS. Thought you'd want to know! Well-composed article!

  • William Davis

    I like the article, and agree with it to a certain extent. I think it is a mistake to give Christianity full credit, as the philosophical beginning of what we call natural philosophy come from Plato and Aristotle. One could easily argue that the Christian conception of God came from them originally. One could also argue they were simply recognizing the One True God that already existed, depending are your presuppositions. Many think traditional Chinese philosophy prevented them from taking scientific observations very far. Like most things we argue about, both sides have a point depending on how you look at it. Christianity can definitely claim greats like Sir Isaac Newton, however.

  • Cindy Hendricks Campbell

    It makes me sad that a man as intelligent as Mr. Hawking is searching so sincerely for a meaning to everything without thinking about the obvious answer. Can you imagine what a joy and satisfaction Mr. Hawking would experience if he encountered the Intelligent Creator that has that IS the "meaning of everything" and created Mr. Hawking's intelligence and inquisitiveness?

    • What makes you think he hasn't considered this? He is not searching for the meaning of everything, he is searching for a theory that works for relativity and quantum mechanics. Even if you do believe in a god, it does nothing to explain the questions physicists have with respect to the disunity of relativity and quantum mechanics. Because a god exists doesn't explain anything, it just presents more questions.

      • wiffle

        Steven Hawing is searching for the meaning of everything. The modern Philosophy departments are in fact found in quantum mechanics. They just aren't particularly honest with themselves.

    • George

      what makes the answer obvious? does it merely seem obvious? what makes an answer actually true? how would we know?

      • wiffle

        At some point, you do know. Doubting *everything* is a luxury - living in an intellectual mud puddle gets old after a while.

        • George

          sorry, but how is your comment helpful? who's talking about doubting everything? what exactly is living in an intellectual mud puddle from your perspective?

  • J Flinn

    I think the following is a very telling quote from Hawking in regards to the idea
    of an all-encompassing equation:
    “Even if there is only one possible unified
    theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire
    into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual
    approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the
    questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does
    the universe go to all the bother of existing?”
    -A Brief History of Time

    • GCBill

      I don't think it says much about whether or not the universe could be described by a single equation, whether in principle or in practice. That's the reason it opens by granting the possibility for the sake of argument with an "even if." Rather, it's interesting because it's the typical theistic response to the assertion that the cosmos is sufficient (i.e., we can explain things as they happen within the reality that we observe, but cannot and/or should not extrapolate outside of it). Theists (including the author of this article) insist that the question of ultimate origin is also meaningful and deserving of an answer (I'm sure you can guess what their answer is). I'd be interested in hearing Hawking (2014)'s response to Hawking (1988) on whether this question is meaningful, and if so whether or not it can and should be answered.

      • J Flinn

        Hi GCBill. Thanks for the reply. I would also be curious to see if Hawking still believes that science cannot sufficiently account for an ultimate origin. Furthermore, I do agree that this question posed by Hawking is similar to some theistic objections to the idea that science can account for everything. Not to bore anyone with another long quote but I believe that C.S. Lewis said something similar:
        “Science when it becomes perfect, will have explained the connection between each link in the chain and the link before it. But the actual existence of the chain will remain wholly unaccountable. We learn more and more about the pattern. We learn nothing about that which ‘feeds’ real events into the pattern. If it is not God, we must at least call it Destiny–the immaterial, ultimate, one-way pressure which keeps the universe on the move.” -God in the Dock

  • An ordered universe obeying apparent rules, is not and has never been an assumption or supposition. It is an inference from observation. T is not as if suddenly in what the 15th century? People all of a sudden decided that there are patterns in nature and if we investigate them maybe we will learn about them. Why would anyone look for rules that explain everything (specifically that bridge the gulf and seeming contradictions between quantum and relativity physics)? Because we have found theories that explain patterns in the past.

    Do these rules contradict all god concepts? Of course not. Does the reality of these rules require a god. No. The rules are real and maybe they are necessary or they are contingent on a necessary God. Or something else that we can't even conceive of.

    We observe the rules, not the God, we don't have a rational basis to believe the God exists, and the identification of these rules is not a rational basis to believe in any Gods.

    • Martin Sellers

      "Do these rules contradict all god concepts? Of course not. Does the reality of these rules require a god. No. The rules are real and maybe they are necessary or they are contingent on a necessary God. Or something else that we can't even conceive of."

      How can the rules be contingent and yet not somehow point to a creator? I can never really understand this hypothesis. I can see how we could somehow posit a reality of total chaos (no rules) that is non contingent- but that is not our reality.

      • It depends what they are contingent on. If they are contingent on a creator, they point to one. If they are themselves necessary, they are not contingent and do not point to anything. I see not reason to think they are contingent or point to anything.

        A common fallacy is to consider the laws of nature to be laws or rules in the same sense as the laws and rules we humans create. We use the same word, but obviously they are very different concepts. If we rather call them simply facts or patterns we observe in the cosmos if seems a bit different, doesn't it, but still accurately describes these phenomena.

        • Martin Sellers

          Have we ever observed a law that is just " itself necessary"? We see patterns that we cannot explain I suppose- but the way we eventually explain patters is by identifying their necessary parts.

          It seems like a reverse "God of the Gaps Theory"...we see patterns as "themselves necessary" until science proves they are contingent, then we must attribute them to an un contingent source (God)... hahahah

          • No, we observe the laws. Rather we observe patterns that we call "laws". We don't observe anything that suggests they are contingent on something immaterial or that even anything immaterial exists. We neither observe anything that suggests they are necessary, these are metaphysical speculations.

            Theists simply state that they are contingent upon something unobserved and unobservable which they call "god". None of their divinely inspires texts mention the laws, or provide an accurate description of this universe.

            Theists simply assert that science cannot account for the origins of these "laws" but that they can. how? By asserting that they must be contingent and that if they are contingent they must be contingent on something necessary. This they call "God". But do we observe this God? No. Do we have anything more than an assertion that it exists and is necessary? No.

            There is no reason to take the position any more than

          • Look, it is not incoherent to take the position that this Cosmos we observe is what exists, it is not contingent on anything else. I would say this is reasonable, until there is some basis to believe there is something more.

            It is no good to say there are laws so there must be a lawmaker that is simply a necessary being. Just claiming something is necessary doesn't make it so. God has a nature, he is good, he does not lie. This in itself would be a law: God cannot lie. Who authored this law! god? Impossible, this would then not be a nature, but a choice, meaning god's law of not lying is contingent on the choice, what is the choice contingent on? There must be something else, something necessary. And so on. It never ends until you just state for no reason that this fact is necessary. Why invent an immaterial being that no one can observe?

            Why bother with this anyway. This only comes up, in my experience, ewhen theists try to give a reason to beleive.

          • wiffle

            You can observe the results of an immaterial being if you choose to look. If you wish to have evidence for it, it's there. It is not the evidence of science, however, and never will be.

            And as point of logic, there is no particular reason that no deity is particularly "logical" either. We live comfortably on a speck of dust on a planet just the right amount of space from the Sun. In contrast, the universe, as whole we think is 2 degrees Kelvin, made up of Helium and Hydrogen.

            That there's a planet that supports life is improbable. Our existence is near impossible. If you wish to see life and human society as endless set of improbable coincidences, no one stops you. (Nor does God and I think there's a reason for that.)

            However, ironically, the study of quantum mechanics, the sciences, and even the Big Bang Theory suggests "Creator". If matter and energy cannot be created nor destroyed, where does the matter/energy come from in the first place? The question is not a question of science, but of faith. In the end, theists have an answer and atheists do not.

    • That's right. We evolved in a thermodynamic milieu of regularities that perdure, for now, in our far from equilibrium environment. One might best understand human intelligence and reality's intelligibility in terms of a PSR or principle of sufficient regularity. That's why Hume's problem of induction hasn't been fatal, for all practical purposes. For all theoretic purposes, though, it might enjoy more impetus regarding putative nonspatial, atemporal realities, or maybe not. Who the heck knows?

  • Not long after our new millennium dawned, I listened, with great interest, to a recording of Professor Hawking's speech, Godel & the End of Physics. He kindly makes that paper available here:

    http://www.hawking.org.uk/godel-and-the-end-of-physics.html

    While the physics were intriguing and presented fairly accessibly, the overall thrust of his speech was an eye-rolling yawner about incompleteness theorems and their implications for a TOE. You see, apparently, it had ony recently dawned on Professor Hawking that those Godel-like constraints on physics, which I'd learned from reading Fr. Stanley Jaki's books and lectures decades prior, would apply to final theories as mathematical models.

    Fr. Jaki traced the history of how long it took the physics community to awake from its Godelian slumber here:

    http://www.sljaki.com/JakiGodel.pdf

    Fr. Jaki, throughout his illustrious career, chronicled the birth of science, in which civilizations it was stillborn and in which it flourished and why, making some of the points expressed in the review of this "God-haunted film."

    All that said, reality's intelligibility doesn't seem to me to be an all or nothing proposition that must necessarily be rationally derived from our justificatory attempts to establish firm epistemic foundations. Reality's intelligibility presents in degrees and evolutionary epistemology seems a sufficient explanation for why our intelligence is good enough to navigate our own cosmic neighborhood, even if it turns out to be ill-equipped to map reality as we approach t=0.

    One might stipulate, for argument's sake, that a belief in God has gifted science with significant heuristic value and, as such, might therefore be weakly truth-indicative regarding primal realities, but that doesn't make it robustly truth-conducive regarding our primal origins. As Hans Kung would put it, believers enjoy a justified fundamental trust in this uncertain reality while others have a nowhere anchored and paradoxical trust in it. That's a psychological observation, though, not an ontological demonstration. In either case, reality remains radically uncertain and all of us had better build our tolerance of ambiguity, appreciation of paradox and awe of mystery.

    • Krakerjak

      reality remains radically uncertain and all of us had better build our
      tolerance of ambiguity, appreciation of paradox and awe of mystery.

      That last sentence in the comment seems a very true and reasonable thing to say, and no one should have a problem with it.

  • carluchoparis

    The following is not meant to anger anybody, but to demonstrate that there is another side to the coin of belief. I will not discuss the existence of god, I understand you have your own belief system and I accept it... I also expect you to accept my take on this.
    1)As long as the natural world is worshipped as sacred—as it
    was in many ancient cultures—it cannot become the subject of analysis,
    investigation, and experimentation.

    *Absolutely untrue… one simple example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoreanism
    “Pythagorean thought was dominated by mathematics, and it was profoundly mystical.”

    2)The universal intelligibility of nature is a function of
    its being brought into existence by an intelligent Creator.

    *There is no proof of this. Even if aspects of the universe
    can be modeled through equations, that is not an indication that the laws of
    the universe were created by an intelligent being. It merely means that an
    intelligent being (a human) has come up with tools to describe a universe that
    may or may not have been created by a higher power.

    3)Albert Einstein characterized his own science as a quest
    to know the mind of God.

    Einstein’s god was an impersonal God: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein#Personal_god_and_the_afterlife
    “He stated, "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our
    imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as
    a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems."

    4) Why in the world would a scientist blithely assume that there is or is even likely to be one unifying rational form to all things, unless he assumed that there is a
    singular, overarching intelligence that has placed it there?

    *No, it is simply for the pleasure of acquiring knowledge and the joy of discovery. As George Mallory would say “Why climb Mount Everest?
    Because it’s there.”

    5) Why shouldn’t the world be chaotic, utterly random, meaningless?

    *Actually, nature IS chaotic and random! But it is not meaningless!! http://fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-is-chaos-theory/

    6) in seeking, with rational discipline for the theory of everything, he was, in point of fact, affirming the true God.

    * No, in seeking with rational discipline for the theory of
    everything, you are point in fact just seeking a grand unified theory of the fundamental forces of nature (Weak interaction, Strong interaction, Electromagnetism and gravity) and ultimately reconcile quantum effects with the macro universe.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Pythagorean number mysticism was not "analysis, investigation, and experimentation" of nature. It was simply awe at how geometry and arithmetic worked out so wonderfully. It was a way of touching the mind of God.

      The Marxist historian, Joseph Needham, stated in his history of technology in China:
      "It was not that there was no order in nature for the Chinese, but rather that it was not an order ordained by a rational personal being, and hence there was no conviction that rational personal beings would be able to spell out in their lesser earthly languages the divine code of laws which he had decreed aforetime. The Taoists, indeed, would have scorned such an idea as being too naïve for the subtlety and complexity of the universe as they intuited it."
      -- Needham, Joseph, and Wang Ling, Science and Civilisation in China, "1 Introductory Orientations." Cambridge University Press (1954).

      One sees a similar confusion upstream in this thread regarding the ancient Greeks, where Plato and Aristotle are simply invoked as Names of Power. Both, be it noted, believed in a single governing Godhead, not the plethora of squabbling gods held by the majority of Greek culture. If they had not clung to the belief in the ever-replicating celestial cycles (and the consequent notion that nature can be studied by plotting the positions of the planets) who knows what they might have accomplished.

      • carluchoparis

        I disagree on Pythagoras, and one quick example is "Pythagorean tuning". It is recorded that Pythagoras analyzed, investigated and experimented with ratios of numbers and musical notes. Who knows what other experiments he may have done, since he never wrote anything.

        From Stobaeus extracts:

        "About nature and harmony this is the position. The being of the objects, being eternal, and nature itself admit of divine, not human, knowledge."

        Nature ----> Divine.

        Pythagoreans weren't simply in awe of harmony, they were actively contemplating nature (which they considered divine) through mathematics.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It might be more correct to say that they contemplated mathematics through nature.

          • carluchoparis

            No, it is equally correct...

            In any case, because something is considered divine or sacred does not mean it cannot become the subject of analysis.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In fact, quite the contrary.

          • carluchoparis

            If you mean something considered divine or sacred would actually motivate analysis, I fully agree.

      • David Nickol

        From Plato at the Googolplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away by Rebecca Goldstein:

        So take the very first philosophers you will find listed in a history of Western philosophy. Philosophy is said to have begun, toward the latter part of the seventh century B.C.E., not in Greece proper, but on the coast of Asia Minor, in what is now Turkey, in the Greek settlements that constituted ionia, in rich trading cities that had contacts not only with the rest of Greece but with the older, more established civilizations of Egypt and the Near East. The earliest philosophers—men like Thales and Anaximander, both residents of the Ionian city of Miletus, which is therefore duly recorded as the official birthplace of philosophy—were protoscientists, asking questions, and sometimes even guessing at semi-accurate answers, which Q&A would eventually be taken over by physicists and cosmologists, who minimized the intuitive guesswork, and got to work at experimentally engaging reality to respond.

        These first Ionian philosophers would themselves have made excellent scientists. They were bursting with the right kind of curiosity about the physical world, and their inclinations were thoroughly materialist—they intuited that there is some fundamental kind of stuff that's uniform through all the myriad phantasmagoria that we perceive—as well as naturalists—they intuited that a small number of fundamental laws underlie all the ceaseless changes. Actually, we retrospectively dub it "intuiting" (a verb philosophers call a "success term" and linguists a "factive"), rather than just "imagining," because those Ionians turned out to be right in their intuition that there was some fundamental material principle that constituted everything in the universe (E = mc² is a materialist principle.) And they were right in their intuition that there was an intelligible regularity underlying nature. They were right that physical events are not the outcome of the capricious antics of larger-than-life gods, but rather that they fit into patterns that are lawlike, or, as modern philosophers of science put it, nomological, from the Greek gnomes, for law. Of all the conceptions that made science possible, none is more essential than what the physicist and historian of science Gerald Holton called "the Ionian Enchantment": the intuition that nature is governed by a small number of laws which account for all the vast complexity that we observe in the physical universe. This enchantment, if enchantment it be, ensorcels all of science. Once the Ionians posited this intelligibility, the next question became what is the proper form for conceiving of this intelligibility, and this question continued as a divisive one throughout the Greek classical age. It's this question that forms the crux of the opposition between Plato and Aristotle, with Plato opting for mathematical structure as providing the form of intelligibility and Aristotle opting for teleology.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Yes, and Sagan once believed that Empedocles was the "first scientists." It's easy to read our own concerns onto the past.

          Keep in mind that almost everything we know about the Ionians comes to us via Aristotle. Almost nothing of their own work survives.

          It would be useful to quote from primary sources this belief that nature is governed by a small number of laws which account for all the vast complexity.

          It was pointed out once that our view of what concerned the ancient Greeks is skewed by which writings of theirs the medievals (muslim and Latin) chose to copy. These tended to be works on logic, mathematics, medicine, and natural philosophy. Hence, we suppose the Greeks too were focused on such things. But when we tally up original Greek fragments, we find that at least half of all fragments are quotations from Homer. His works were regarded as the essential guides to all that was needful.

          Toby Huff noted that what mattered to the foundation of natural science was not that here and there a dedicated individual pursued matters, but that the pursuit was embedded in the culture itself and became self-perpetuating. A man may plant the grain, but we usually don't credit him with making the beer.

      • stevegbrown

        Do you think that the Pythagoreans' idea that number is the "arche" of all things is a misplaced analog for being. They seemed to grasp the importance of being as a certain "measure" or proportion; however, in using mathematical proportion to express proportionate being they failed to realize as Aristotle did that number is only the first level of abstraction.

  • IGWT

    What does it mean for humankind if scientists discover the absolute theory of everything?

    • A theory of everything (unified field theory), which would describe gravity using quantum mechanics, could have enormous practical significance for humanity. For example, some say we could extract inexhaustible clean energy (with a peace dividend, possibly?) and build unimaginably faster quantum computers. While we might not be able to prove the truth of such a theory in a formal symbol system, we might be able to taste and see (or enjoy a good sneaking suspicion of) the truth of its axioms in such pragmatic fruits as could come about from various technical advances, some which are likely difficult to foresee, presently.

      That would account for its scientific and practical meaning. It wouldn't otherwise change the categories of our other spheres of human concern, such as philosophy, culture or religion, which probe reality in search of other types of value-realizations.

      Aesthetically, it would be one of the most elegant, beautiful equations that the likes of Sheldon Cooper will have ever seen, so would likely generate spin-offs of The Big Bang, perhaps a series called The Big Toe!

    • Michael Murray

      It removes gaps. It will probably confirm that there is no room for souls in the real world or at least no way for them to interact with brains which amounts to the same thing. We pretty much know that already as Sean Carroll explains here

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

      but a final theory would likely be a nail in the coffin for souls (so to speak).

      It would also shed light on all these arguments we have here about creation and what does happen to the universe during the Planck Epoch.

      • IGWT

        Oh...the same Michael Murray. You are a prolific writer. Every time science answers a question, it opens up more questions. Like a mythological hydra. Don't get me wrong because I love science and mathematics. But it will never get us to an absolute. So, my question was more rhetorical.

        • Michael Murray

          I'm not so convinced of that. Of course it might be as in this Feynman quote that there is no end

          https://strangenotions.com/a-theory-of-everything-a-god-haunted-film/#comment-1747514067

          But science also closes doors. It has pretty much closed the door on faster than light travel for example. I'm pretty sure it's closed the door on souls.

          • IGWT

            Warp space, and you can travel faster than light. All very speculative but not necessarily closed.

            Do we really know what gravity is? Historically, models evolve, but they still fail short to fully explain, and open up more questions. By its very nature, science will always be inadequate to entirely explain reality. Not that it is not fun to explore...all for it.

            Don't even think science has touched the surface of souls, let alone it being decisive that it is closed the door on the discussion. So, quite the assertion.

          • Michael Murray

            Warp drives currently require something like reducing Jupiter to energy !

            As I said it's not so much the existence of the soul but it's ability to interact with the mind. We understand the regime of physics that operates in the brain. There aren't any gaps for a soul to communicate with the brain.

            At least that is Carroll's point.

          • IGWT

            Yep, Carroll is a staunch materialist. That belief system is rife with inadequacies and paradoxes.

          • Michael Murray

            That belief system is rife with inadequacies and paradoxes.

            Yes I know. Computers, aeroplanes, rovers on mars, life-saving drugs, discovering planets around other stars. It all sucks. If only scientists used quantum thomistic field theory. Think how much greater our understanding of reality would be.

          • IGWT

            I am not denying the great utilitarian contributions of science and engineering. There is much that the current paradigms cannot plumb..What does it mean to be human....consciousness, purpose, meaning, beauty...etc.

          • Michael Murray

            We know a lot more about consciousness as a result of investigating it with science than we learnt in thousands of years of theological investigation.

          • Doug Shaver

            There is much that the current paradigms cannot plumb.

            They have not plumbed it yet. It doesn't follow that they never will.

          • IGWT

            I believe that a purely naturalistic paradigm will never get us there. Inherent contradictions. Presumptuous to assume otherwise.

          • Doug Shaver

            Presumptuous to assume otherwise.

            I'm not the one assuming that we either already have or are going to get the final answer to any important question. Believers in revealed truths are the ones making that assumption.

      • Category error. The concept of the soul is a heuristic device, a conceptual placeholder, metaphysically, not specified physically as to its nature. Cf. Nancey Murphy's conception, for example.

        As far as quantum theory and philosophy of mind, any discussions regarding QM and brain activity is incredibly, spectacularly speculative, in addition to being wholly beside the point re: souls (b/c of the category error).

        • Michael Murray

          However much Catholic theology might want to duck and dive when pressed on detail when it is selling to people in the pews the idea is pretty clear as I recall. There is a something that inhabits our bodies, interacts with our minds and lives on when our bodies die. That something is essentially us. Carroll point is that we know enough physics to rule out anything interacting with the mind. As I put it in my previous post

          It will probably confirm that there is no room for souls in the real world or at least no way for them to interact with brains which amounts to the same thing.

          So yes we can have higher philosophical whatsits as souls they just can't interact with our minds. So while my soul might live for ever it isn't me. Sort of like your atoms wandering the universe for all eternity. Not particularly comforting personally.

          • I can't speak for any given cohort, but neither Christianity, generally, nor Catholicism, in particular, are monolithic - not metaphysically, not even theologically, save for essential creedal dogma. As for popular piety, that's all over the map and I'll concede it doesn't traffic in nuance. But why fixate on and critique popularized conceptions when other more rigorous accounts are there to be engaged?
            While I appreciate that God will fully appear only when the halfgods have left the stage and that, therefore, some atheologians who engage the caricatures do great hygienic work for the same cause as me, you might better enjoy the challenge of investigating the reference provided above to N. Murphy, whose physicalist view of the person is acceptable theologically and biblically, as well as scientifically and philosophically, to no too few of us.

          • George

            I thought the catholic church would have an answer ready for questions like "does a person still exist and have experiences after they have died?"

            I'm not dismissing nuance, but it seems pretty clear when priests are speaking of long dead humans acting in the world and apparently having perceptions and subjective experiences regarding living humans. "Fulton Sheen was watching out for this family" for example. Or "Fulton Sheen intervened and saved a baby from dying when it was without oxygen for over an hour". So what do people really mean when they say these things? how are those claims justified? should we accept them?

          • Michael Murray

            Or the whole question of Saints interceding. It's a good point.

          • With no clear Biblical or Patristic guidance, conceptions of the soul tend to vary according to different philosophical schools, platonist, hellenist, aristotelian, etc The Hebrew understanding saw humans as irreducible and integral. The soul, generically, refers to a person's unifying principle, which entails God's knowing and remembering us. This language has been employed by both Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) and his long ago classmate, Hans Kung.

             The issues being dealt with over the centuries concerned both an intermediate state after death and a full bodily life upon resurrection. Some conceived (many still do) of the soul in dualistic terms, some in hylemorphic (embodied integrally) and some (I think Ed Feser, for example) in a nuanced hylemorphic-dualist manner. This probably reflects the variety of philosophy of mind and other metaphysical leanings of each theologian. There is no official metaphysical stance or philosophical school prescribed, athough realist stances are presupposed, as are nonreductive anthropologies. Neither Kung nor Ratzinger seem to subscribe to the conception of the intermediate state in terms of an immortal soul. As an eternal, atemporal theological reality, strict metaphysical specifications aren't prescribed. Others believe differently. Popular piety does tend toward old dualistic conceptions. To each her own.

          • Ultimately, it's God's love sustaining us temporarily until general resurrection, not some metaphysical principle. Interventions by persons involve prayer not physical or metaphysical interactions. Miraculous interventions would be accomplished by God, supernaturally, in response to intercessory prayer by persons, e.g. Bishop Sheen.

          • Michael Murray

            It's an irony and a frustration for people like me. While we atheists stand rightly condemned for removing the ordinary believers comfort in the face of suffering and death the sophisticated theologian should stand beside us in the dock. The Ground of All Being is not a great deal more support in the face of lifes suffering than the atheists empty set.

          • Natural theology or philosophical theology doesn't get one very far. It comforts some people with a license to hope, right to worship and warrant to believe thru its abductive facility, deductive clarity and inductive plausibility in a cumulative case like manner. Don't worry yourself over robbing anyone of the reasonableness of their faith, philosophically, because, while it cannot be rationally demonstrated, neither can it be shown to be irrational. Most believe because of a preponderance of the evidence, even though the jury's decision is split and others, not unreasonably, believe the evidence says something different. Very few, who've dutifully examined the evidence, think criminal charges against God stick beyond a reasonable doubt. That there is no logical problem of evil isn't a terribly controversial claim as many atheologians have conceded that. God triumphs over evil eschatologically is the hope and belief, not that there cannot be proleptic anticipatory realizations, as long as they fit the divine plan and don't violate divine logic for optimal human value-realization through love.
            We all remain immersed in an enormity of human pain and immensity of human suffering, in other words, our tragic human condition. And we have no earthly reason why. This isn't to deny the efficacies that ensue in the wake of some suffering, only to recognize that we can imagine other methods for realizing them. It is to recognize that other suffering has no merit whatsoever from our vantage. The average believer in most of the great traditions engages God as a soteriological solution not a forensic problem. Theologically, then, in that regard, they may be unconsciously competent. Beyond any philosophical theology, they leapt in faith and trust, relationally, in response to the truth, beauty, goodness and love embodied in persons, told in hagiographies, in response to invitations like "Follow me" and "Taste and see."

          • David Nickol

            N. Murphy, whose physicalist view of the person is acceptable theologically and biblically, as well as scientifically and philosophically, to no too few of us.

            While I agree that Catholicism is not monolithic, there is simply no way for faithful Catholics to abandon the idea of a spiritual soul, which is infused "immediately" (directly) by God at the beginning of life, which "leaves the body" at death, and which continues to function as a person, though not exactly as a human person. (Don't ask me to explain that!) Reconciling a physicalist view of a human person with the idea of saints in heaven interceding on behalf of the living would seem to be utterly impossible.

          • Reconciling a physicalist view of a human person with the idea of saints in heaven interceding on behalf of the living would seem to be utterly impossible.<<<<<

            Not to worry. It ain't even necessary? Does this have something to do with how folks imagine St. Nicholas operates?
            I'm not understanding what exactly is begging for a meta/physical explanation?

          • David Nickol

            So what you are saying is that you feel no need to accept or defend traditional Catholic beliefs. That's fine with me, since I don't either. But when you say Nancey Murphy's "physicalist view of the person is acceptable theologically and biblically, as well as scientifically and philosophically, to no too few of us," you are not speaking as an "orthodox" Catholic. When you answer the objections of the atheists to Father Barron's piece, you are not defending Father Barron. I feel confident that he would completely reject Nancey Murphy's views on the human person and would wholeheartedly support the idea of souls going to heaven after death, hearing our prayers, and interceding with God on our behalf. I find this kind of thing extremely difficult to believe, and so it doesn't bother me that you find it unworthy of discussion. What does bother me is the impression you might be giving that the Catholic Church doesn't really teach such stuff, and all Catholic concepts of the afterlife are mere speculations open to interpretation.

          • Essential beliefs would include 1) biblical revelation 2) articles of faith -creedal dogma 3) preambles of faith - philosophical presuppositions such as a) existence of personal god, b) reality as intelligible, c) human nature as intelligent, d) human will as free, e) moral realities as transparent to human reason and other theological and anthropological stances without the life of faith would not be existentially actionable.

            They don't  include this or that philosophical school or metaphysical approach.

             

            "A survey of the Catholic intellectual tradition makes it clear that many premises, arguments, and conclusions in metaphysics and moral theory are underdetermined by the teachings of the Church and that, more broadly, the articulation of Catholic wisdom admits of a plurality of potentially fruitful approaches, each of which must stand or fall on its own intellectual merits. The history of the Church reveals that tensions between Catholic philosophical inquirers and members of the hierarchy have been present even in the best of times ... Even under such relatively ideal conditions, there are likely to be--and legitimately so--differences of emphasis and perspective issuing in conflicting prudential judgments. ... The Summa itself does not treat in detail every important metaphysical, moral, or epistemological issue. What's more, since the teachings of the Church leave plenty of room for fruitful disagreement about particular conclusions and about particular ways of arguing to incontrovertible conclusions, and since philosophical, scientific, social, and cultural developments constantly present new opportunities for extending and deepening and recovering various aspects of the Catholic wisdom-tradition, there will always be new intellectual challenges to be met." ~ Alfred J. Freddoso, University of Notre Dame

             

            Having taken note of that, be aware that the bulk of Nancey Murphy's work on emergent monism and nonreductive physicalism with which I am familiar was done under the auspices of and published by the Vatican Observatory, Vatican City, and by the University of Notre Dame. One of her primary collaborators was Fr William J. Stoeger, SJ, who died in March. A late friend of mine, Jim Arraj, a Maritain scholar in the tradition of existential thomism, interviewed Fr. Stoeger:

            http://www.innerexplorations.com/philtext/ws.htm

             

            Now, I am certain it is true that many Catholics wouldn't countenance this philosophy of mind vs another, this metaphysical interpretation or another. And there's much popular disagreement regarding what's essential about the faith and what's accidental, what's core in the hierarchy of what must be held and what's peripheral. Many traditionalistic folks treat some accidentals as

            essential and many progressivistic treat some essentials as accidentals. The

            largest numbers of the faithful are either traditionalist or progressive (without the pejorative  "-istic") who, respectively, exercise different charisms as either settlers or pilgrims. Don't confuse those cohorts with the conception of orthodoxy and heterodoxy because, as I keep pointing out, a plurality of views, some majority and some minority, thrive pluralistically and arguments

            rage on about matters where orthodoxy is not at stake.

             

            Unless one articulated a physicalism that denied the preamble of human freedom, I see no presuppositional rub. There are many notions prevailing in popular piety and even academic philosophy that are decidedly dualistic, anthropologically. Many function like a myth, which while not literally true can nevertheless evoke an appropriate theological response (e.g. prayers for saintly intercession) trusting that God will respond providentially in accord with an inscrutable divine logic. One minority report that's been around a long time is that of the Scotists, primarily Franciscans, who believe the Incarnation was not occasioned by some felix culpa or "the fall" but was part of the divine plan from the cosmic get-go. I'm sure the average pew sitter or atheological interlocutor would think that's heterodox but it's just a minority report, just like nonreductive physicalism.

             

            All that said, it was not my primary intent to speak on anyone else's behalf or to describe Roman catholic orthodoxy, although I may have constructed my response that way. I moreso aspire to say what I believe. I believe there's no reason a Roman catholic need reject nonreductive physicalism but I might be wrong. The reason I said it's not my concern is twofold: 1) I am agnostic regarding metaphysics, in general, and a philosophy of mind, in particular, but do suspect the physicalist take is correct. If Cartesian dualism turns out to be true, that wouldn't cause me a loss of sleep. 2) I resonate with anglican, orthodox and roman catholic stances, generally, but desist from identifying with any, in particular, although, again, lean toward the via media.

            By the way, I, too, "wholeheartedly support the idea of souls going to heaven after death, hearing our prayers, and interceding with God on our behalf." As I said earlier, I just suspect that God sustains a person's identity - but not via a metaphysical principle abstracted from human anthropology.

            RE: What does bother me is the impression you might be giving that the Catholic Church doesn't really teach such stuff, and all Catholic concepts of the afterlife are mere speculations open to interpretation. <<<<<

            I hope I have better nuanced what I
            truly believe is actually the case above but am willing to hang with you for further clarification. Even putative afterlife realities like purgatory are open to all sorts of interpretation, e.g. as a state not place of being. Keep in mind we're discussing matters of faith regarding a putative atemporal realm, which makes popular interpretation necessarily fallback on vernacular and use of terminology that, by definition, must be analogical, even more weakly metaphorical, even if the pious do take it all rather literally. It realizes its efficacies as myth.

          • David Nickol

            From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God—it is not "produced" by the parents—and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

            [Footnote: Cf. Pius XII, Humani Generis: DS 3896; Paul VI, CPG § 8; Lateran Council V (1513): DS 1440.]

            I would maintain that there is a lot more "wiggle room" in interpreting the Catechism than the more conservative Catholics on this site would like to acknowledge, and there is a lot of room for "development of doctrine," no doubt even doctrine pertaining to the soul. But there is also bedrock in Catholicism, and I think a purely physicalist view of human personhood is out of the question.

            Having said that, I should say that I have not read Nancey Murphy's book (although I have ordered a copy), so I can only say that if she does have a purely "physicalist" view of the human person, and if that means what I think it means, I don't see how it is compatible with Catholicism. The book does get a very sympathetic review, however, in Notre Dame's online journal Philosophical Reviews.

          • I think I nuanced elsewhere that while Catholicism is catholic and pluralistic, metaphysically and philosophically and even theologically, some beliefs more core, some peripheral, some traditions essential, some accidental, that it does presuppose metaphysical realism and a nonreductive anthropology. Still, whether or not a nonreductive physicalism is compatible with this or that cohort, or the entire Roman tradition, is not my concern.

        • GCBill

          Taking the concept of soul to be merely a "heuristic device" / "conceptual placeholder" leads to some pretty amusing backtranslations of Catholic dogma. Take this passage from the CCC, for instance:

          "The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once
          corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in
          symbolic language when it affirms that "then the Lord God formed man of
          dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
          and man became a living being." Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God. In Sacred Scripture the term "conceptual placeholder" often refers to human life or the entire human person.
          But "conceptual placeholder" also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of
          greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s
          image: "conceptual placeholder" signifies the spiritual principle in man. The
          human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human
          body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual conceptual placeholder, and it is the
          whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a
          temple of the Spirit. Man, though made of body and conceptual placeholder, is a unity.
          Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of
          the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest
          perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the
          Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he
          is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God
          has created it and will raise it up on the last day. The unity of conceptual placeholder
          and body is so profound that one has to consider the conceptual placeholder to be the
          "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual conceptual placeholder that the
          body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in
          man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single
          nature. The Church teaches that every spiritual conceptual placeholder is created
          immediately by God—it is not "produced" by the parents—and also that it
          is immortal: It does not perish when it separates from the body at
          death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.
          Sometimes the conceptual placeholder is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for
          instance prays that God may sanctify his people "wholly," with "spirit
          and conceptual placeholder and body" kept sound and blameless at the Lord’s coming. The
          Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into
          the conceptual placeholder. "Spirit" signifies that from creation man is ordered to a
          supernatural end and that his conceptual placeholder can gratuitously be raised beyond all
          it deserves to communion with God. The spiritual tradition of the
          Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God." (CCC 362-368)

          • Michael Murray

            You should also replace God by Ground Of All Being.

            May his conceptual placeholder and the conceptual placeholders of all the faithful departed through the mercy of the Ground of All Being rest in peace

            It loses something doesn't it.

          • Conceptual placeholder or heuristic device was an adjectival, generic category describing the normative nature of metaphysical terms, in general, not a synonym describing the reality referred to, in particular.
            So, your parody failed. If you ask a moderator, I'm sure they'd happily delete your post to save you further embarrassment.

          • Conceptual placeholder = heuristic = adjectival NOT synonymic, so, to properly construct a parody ... well, one might wish to substitute, instead, "soul, a term that serves as a conceptual placeholder or heuristic device for the unifying principle(s) that integrally constitute a person without necessarily specifying the precise physical, much less metaphysical, nature of those principles" ...
            Such a heuristic device, when ontologically vague, aspires to successfully refer to realities that are yet to be successfully (robustly) described. This is precisely why metaphysical and philosophical pluralism prevails in theological anthropology, natural theology, etc

  • Kate Minter

    Her faith made his science possible. (Science is God's revelation to the obdurate.)

    • William Davis

      I've grown up in the age of misinformation. With the majority of the world out to manipulate me (from marketers to politicians to religious leaders of all type), I find healthy skepticism (not cynicism mind) to be critical to staying sane. Calling my skepticism obdurate is a bit off, I'm open minded and always leave room to be convinced by a good argument.

      • Kate Minter

        Faith and science are two paths to the same destination; one path is shorter than the other.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that the belief that nature is intelligible because an intelligent God created it to be that way for the intelligent creatures he also created is purely an assumption. It does not seem to me to be an illogical or particularly bizarre assumption. But nevertheless it does not seem to me an assumption that an intelligent or open minded person can be faulted for declining to accept.

    It is not as if theists can formulate reasonable hypotheses about what a universe that "just is" (as opposed to a created universe) would be like. For theists, a universe that "just is" is impossible, unthinkable, and out of the question. So a theist cannot in any way make a case that a universe that "just is" would be unintelligible to beings who evolved in it.

  • Michael Murray

    No-one going to explain why their God inflicted this horrible disease on Hawking ?

    • IGWT

      A curse could also be a blessing in disguise. His inability to physically function has given him more opportunity to harness his mental acumen & scientific brilliance. Currently, Hawking is an iconic figure with celebrity status. Without his disability, is very possible he would just be another unknown physicist.

      • Michael Murray

        Without his disability, is very possible he would just be another unknown physicist.

        You know this because ??? Personally I think it extremely unlikely. He was clearly very smart before he got his disease. Being a mathematician I know the kind of work he does and it would be very difficult to do without the ability to write things down. There is a limit to what you can hold in your mind -- even with one as big as his. I would have thought he would have been at least as good a physicist without his disease.

        But even what you say is true is that moral justification ? Would it be OK if I crippled my kids and as a result they turned into genuises ?

        • IGWT

          Almost hard to imagine that Stephen Hawking even required a physics tutor. Who knows what is possible or not possible when one puts their mind to the task. The same wikepedia article also mentioned that his disability freed him up more to focus on physics, and that he could visualize complex mathematics utilizing geometrical visualization. Shel Silverstein's "Missing Piece" provides a great philosophical musing on the topic.

          • Michael Murray

            At Cambridge a tutor is essentially like a lecturer. Sounds like he didn't really need him though. This question is impossible to answer of course. I can only give my opinion as a mathematician. Most mathematicians I know seem to find it hard to think at all without making a mark of some kind on blackboard or paper.

            I remain unconvinced by this as a moral justification.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        So what about all of the great physicists who were able to harness their metal acumen without ALS? What about all the people who have ALS and don't have the mental acumen of a Hawking?

        What is wrong with being an unknown physicist? I would prefer to be an unknown physicist without a disability than a known physicist with one.

        As Murray pointed out to you below, writing things down is integral to doing high level mathematics and physics.

        • IGWT

          Nothing wrong with anonymity. Not my point. Is Hawking unhappy? I am pretty sure Hawking prefers his high profile status over the opposite, but only he knows the answer to that. We all deal with the cards we are dealt in life and develop the potential within to its fullest possible expression. I am amazed at what the human spirit is capable of, regardless of hurdles, setbacks and perceived misfortunes.

          • Michael Murray

            I am pretty sure Hawking prefers his high profile status over the opposite,

            What would the opposite be though. As his is but low profile or physically able and low profile ? Or physically able and high profile ? I am pretty sure that the latter could have been possible had your God not made one of His typical nasty decisions that someone should suffer for some mysterious reason know only unto Him.

          • IGWT

            Regardless of anyone's predicaments, advantages or disadvantages, life is worth living. I am pretty sure Hawking would agree with that...but best to ask him. Wouldn't we all like to be "gods" with all powers...but we are not and this is not our reality. You are assuming that there is a contradiction between a non-perfect life, or maybe even an absurd life, with the omnibenevolence of God. I refer you to Plantinga's essays on the problem of suffering. And, I look forward to further discussion when SN brings up "suffering" as a future topic,

      • Vicq Ruiz

        A curse could also be a blessing in disguise.

        Only Hawking is qualified to address that. And I am sure that none of us here would be so tactless as to ask him!!! So it's a not-really-valuable speculation.

      • Michael Murray

        Thanks. I've been here from the beginning and read most of those in the hope I would learn something new. I didn't.

        Is "enjoy" really the right word for Stockholm syndrome style rationalisation of human and animal suffering ?

        • I haven't read those threads but thought you might want to pursue your line of inquiry where it was the primary focus of discussion.

          The successful abductive-deductive analyses of the logical compatibility between various God-concepts and the problem of evil are morally exculpatory not theologically explanatory. They merely suggest that one has apprehended an innocent rather than the culprit. They don't respond to such a question as "For what good reason did you beat your wife?" by listing the manifold and multiform efficacies that might ensue in the wake of a wife-beating. They uncover the implicit presuppositions of the case of mistaken identity that render the question nonsensical as it fails to successfully reference reality. That's one reason the so-called evidential problem of evil doesn't get off the ground, inductively, as it fails to fly, logically, either.

          A good theodicy addresses the evidential not logical problems by inventorying - not the causes of human suffering, but - the God-provisioned remedies that would or would not be available, in principle. That God could bring good out of suffering does not implicate God as its cause anymore than a medic on a battlefield can be blamed for a sniper wound she's tending. The existential problem of evil gets addressed, practically, as we respond with compassion.

          All that said, in general, as it pertains to any given human suffering, in particular, to offer a theodicy is blasphemous toward God and callous toward our fellow wo/men (per many in Judaism and I agree). Suffering remains an incomprehensible mystery, not subject to rationalizations.

          I appreciate that some arguments are misguided, but surprised by your blanket ad hominem characterization of those previously carried on here. I thus doubt it applies so across the board. While many believers and nonbelievers both traffic in caricatures when it comes to articulating orthodox conceptions, formatively, orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic dynamics enjoy a certain primacy in the life of faith, so, one shouldn't judge them too harshly.

        • Krakerjak

          I can see posting the link as trying to be helpful, but the "enjoy" part is not exactly heart warming:-)

          • I sense some projecting going on. The tone and tenor of the sum my contributions speak for themselves and that was offered in the same generous spirit.

    • Madzi

      Of course, the Catholic belief is that God does NOT "inflict" disease or tragedy upon anyone. He is not the Author of evil and disorder.

      • Michael Murray

        So God didn't create the universe ? Or are you splitting the hair that says that God only let Hawking get this disease instead of actually inflicting it ? How do we know that ? In any case if we are talking about an omniscient God who creates the whole universe in the complete knowledge of how it will unfold I fail to see the difference between "doing" and "letting happen".

        Let's say my child got a horrible disease that would cripple them but which could be easily cured however I let them become crippled. Is that morally OK because I didn't actually cripple them myself ?

        • Madzi

          Peace, Michael. You made a statement that conflicts with Catholic teaching. I clarified, in the interest of the reality of that teaching. Believe or don't, but expect to be challenged when you make a statement like that.

          • Michael Murray

            Believe or don't,

            The point of this website is to rather explore that a little more not just accept it I thought.

            but expect to be challenged when you make a statement like that.

            I do. That's why I made. Perhaps you could explain what Catholic teaching is on the matter. Why did Hawking get this disease from a Catholic perspective ?

          • Mike

            I am sure you already know the Catholic answer very well but are just being obtuse; in any case have a listen:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQX3-kxywrs

          • "Why did Hawking get this disease from a Catholic perspective?"

            The simple answer is: we don't know. There is not a Catholic perspective on where he (or anyone) acquired a particular disease. We simply aren't in an epistemic position to make that determination.

          • Mike

            He knows that; what he really means is "how do i trick them into saying something like 'the devil put a spell on him bc he was a wicked little sinner who deserved it".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Most of us are well aware of what the Catholic Church teaches. It has been outlined why the Catholic Church is wrong.

            There have been things in that past that contradicted catholic teaching that we now know to be true. In fact, catholic teaching has evolved and changed with the times. Catholic teaching does not seem like a good barometer for truth.

          • "Most of us are well aware of what the Catholic Church teaches."

            Not if history is our measure. It's been shown time and again--in fact, I would say in the large majority of cases--that non-Catholics here do not correctly understand Catholic teaching.

            "It has been outlined why the Catholic Church is wrong."

            I'm afraid not. Some have attempted to show why the Catholic Church is wrong. Those attempts have not proven successful, from my vantage point.

            "There have been things in that past that contradicted catholic teaching that we now know to be true."

            This is a baseless assertion. It's simply untrue.

            "In fact, catholic teaching has evolved and changed with the times."

            Of course! The Catholic Church holds to the "development of doctrine." Just as an acorn changes and evolves into a tree, so the Catholic Church deepens in its understanding of her teachings. But development does not entail contradiction. In fact, one of the surest signs that a development in doctrine is not authentic is that it contradicts earlier, magisterial expressions of that doctrine.

            "Catholic teaching does not seem like a good barometer for truth."

            Again, until you successfully defend this, it's just a baseless assertion. I see no reason to accept it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Not if history is our measure. It's been shown time and again--in fact, I
            would say in the large majority of cases--that non-Catholics here do not correctly understand Catholic teaching.

            I think there is a difference between understanding the reasons for accepting Catholicism as true and actually accepting Catholicism. One can understand the philosophical arguments, but still think that Catholicism is false.

            I'm afraid not. Some have attempted to show why the Catholic Church is wrong. Those attempts have not proven successful, from my vantage point.

            I was referring specifically to the problem of evil that Murray proposed. The poster who I was replying to seemed to think that Murray was wrong, because the Catholic Church said so. My point was that Murray outlined why the Catholic Church is wrong on the problem of evil, so the ball was in Madzi's court to actually defend the Church's position rather than just assert it.

            This is a baseless assertion. It's simply untrue.

            The Church has certainly been wrong on some matters. Furthermore, there are entire groups of Christians (called protestants), who disagree with how the Catholic Church interprets the bible. Here are a few examples of how the church has been wrong and/or changed positions:

            1) The church taught and had scriptural justification for the belief that the earth was the center of the solar system.

            2) The early church believed that people who suffered from epilepsy were in fact demonically possessed.

            3) Taught that Slavery was moral as long as the masters treated their slaves humanely.

            4) Forbid lending money for interest than allowed it.

            Again, until you successfully defend this, it's just a baseless assertion. I see no reason to accept it.

            The burden is not on me to show that a particular method is bad at discovering truth. The burden is on you to show that Catholicism is a reliable method to discovering truth that we can add to other reliable methods like deductive logic and science. I have given teachings that have changed with time. I believe this is evidence that the Catholic doctrine is not reliable.

          • Vicq Ruiz

            Ignatius,

            Let's give the Pope a couple more years to tinker with the church's policy on homosexuality and divorce.

            I suspect we will see some Catholic heads spinning.

          • Mike

            And abortion! ;)

          • Doug Shaver

            Some have attempted to show why the Catholic Church is wrong. Those attempts have not proven successful, from my vantage point.

            Fair enough. But likewise, from my vantage point, the Catholic Church's attempts to defend its teachings have not proven successful.

          • Mike

            Why do some atheists insist that they know more about Catholic doctrine and God than the Catholic Church?

      • Ignatius Reilly

        How is he not the author of evil? He created everything. He is in control of everything. He is all-powerful.

        When one is all-powerful and all-knowing, allow and inflict are distinctions without a difference.

        • "How is he not the author of evil? He created everything."

          For someone who claims to accurately understand Catholic teaching, you continue to be seriously confused on this point.

          God created everything but is not the author of evil because evil is not a thing. It's a privation, a lack of a thing. Just as "cold" is not a thing (it's a lack of heat), so "evil" is a deficiency of the good.

          This has been explained numerous times yet you still remain confused. Hopefully this clears things up for you.

          "When one is all-powerful and all-knowing, allow and inflict are distinctions without a difference."

          I disagree. There's an obvious difference, for example, between letting your elderly grandmother die and murdering her. I don't see how omnipotence or omniscience removes that distinction.

          • Vicq Ruiz

            There is no difference between (a) knowingly withholding a cure for whatever ails my grandmother and (b) deliberately murdering her. I can't imagine that the Church teaches that one is acceptable and the other not.

          • Mike

            What if there is no cure?

          • Vicq Ruiz

            If I have the power to restore health, I would be a criminal to do otherwise. DItto for God.

          • Mike

            How do you know he doesn't "restore to health"?

            Clue: what is Christianity's main claim?

          • Vicq Ruiz

            Christianity's main claim, of course, is that some will be healed for all eternity.

            And many won't.

          • Mike

            You forgot something: Christianity's main claim is that ALL will be healed who WANT to be healed - no one will be forced into it.

            So, for example, YOU are free to choose eternal "nothingness" when you die and the molecules of which you believe you are entirely made up of will begin to "disintegrate" and "you" with it into an eternal nothing OR you can choose believe in an after life in which case you will at least leave yourself open to that possibility - the choice is yours!

            CHOOSE WISELY LOL!

          • "If I have the power to restore health, I would be a criminal to do otherwise. DItto for God."

            Well, I'll begin by point out the seemingly obvious fact that you are not God, nor in the same category of being. We don't judge an ant by the same moral criteria as a human. Similarly, humans have moral rights and duties that don't apply to God (since he's the source of these moral rights and duties, not subject to them.)

            But I would also respond that God may have good reasons for withholding a miraculous cure from someone who is suffering. I can think of several.

            First, their suffering may ultimately lead toward their own growth in virtue. Most of us know this from firsthand experience. Difficult times of trials lifted us to new heights of resilience, patience, courage, or empathy.

            Second, heroic suffering often inspires others to draw closer to God. This is true of many of the saints, who inspired others through their own martyrdom, sickness, or death.

            Third, pain and suffering help us all the more appreciate health and pleasure. If people never suffered, they would not appreciate the joys of life nearly as much.

            All of this assumes, of course, that "health" or painlessness is not the ultimate good--the summum bonum of life. For Catholics, the highest good is to know and love God. Sometimes, and perhaps often, pain and suffering can lead us closer toward that end better than health and pleasure.

          • Michael Murray

            So the Catholic Church does have an opinion or at least opinions on why Hawking got this disease. Which I continue to find as unsatisfactory as I always have.

          • Let me not presume to speak for the Catholic church :)

            but ... one wonders if they draw a distinction between imagining THAT a divine logic may be at work, which is partly intelligible, as one can imagine possible analogical situations demonstrating efficacies for SOME suffering, GENERALLY,

            versus

            pretending that this logic is wholly comprehensible, such that anyone could ever possibly imagine WHAT that divine logic means for any given suffering, PARTICULARLY, or HOW that logic might be efficacious for ALL sufferings, many which suggest NO morally intelligible efficacies from a human vantage.

            One then only imagines -

            not that God's goodness and power are necessarily incompatible, qualifying his omnipotence as somehow morally whimsical (God would've been there but decided to clear up a quantum traffic jam elsewhere, instead.) -

            but, instead imagining that God's interactivity has been logically constrained by what would amount to inconsistencies in an inscrutable divine logic (God couldn't make a rock so big he couldn't pick it up).

            In other words, divine interventions or not proceed from a logic we can apprehend, in part, not comprehend, as a whole. While we swim in this ocean of mystery, which is intelligible, it doesn't mean we can't possibly swallow it.

            The common lament is that this view of God - whether the logical problem of evil is solved by St Augustine's privation account or by Plantinga's free will account or by Process thought's predications of omnipotence - no longer matches that of popular piety or is worthy of that God as has been classically conceived.

            Let me introduce another distinction, that between normative consistency and evaluative dispositions, which correspond to your characterizations, contradictory and unsatisfactory. The strict formulations, some of them employing modal logic, have been deductively clarified as logically consistent, hence are not contradictory.
            That the accounts of these God-concepts might be unsatisfactory, a God not worthy of worship, to anyone reflects - not a normative proposition, but - an evaluative disposition.
            The masses of believeres from all the great traditions just do not happen to share your disposition, even as they've grappled with the problem of evil, logically, evidentially and
            existentially for millennia. It doesn't mean that either they or you are necessarily being unreasonable. When confronted with reality's complexities and ambiguities, reasonable people can disagree. One's evaluation of reality, one's affective disposition, is very personal and deserving of empathy and compassion.

            The OT Psalms are roughly divided 50:50:50 between glad, sad and mad psalms, two-thirds of them expressing existential disappointments. The NT gospel mysteries are divided 5:5:5:5 between joyous, luminous, sorrowful and glorious, the ratio improving upon the reception of Good News. Most believers who subscribe to same are responding to personal invitations that are robustly relational, not philosophical demonstrations that are metaphysically decisive. Should they investigate their faith philosophically, it's presuppositions are not contradictory, just not universally compelling (almost though).

          • Vicq Ruiz

            We don't judge an ant by the same moral criteria as a human. Similarly, humans have moral rights and duties that don't apply to God (since he's the source of these moral rights and duties, not subject to them.)

            It sounds as if you are endorsing "Divine Command Theory" (http://www.iep.utm.edu/divine-c/)

            Given that, why do some Catholics here go through such involved verbal gymnastics to explain away such things as the genocide of the Canaanites? Why not just say "We are to God as ants are to us, and as the source of morality, what he does is not for us to question?"

            William Lane Craig (often quoted here as a source for apologetic arguments, though a non-Catholic) seems to have no problem with this approach.

          • William Davis

            I agree with this comment. I can see in my own life how in many cases suffering has made me learn and become a better person. I would be less likely than you to assume it is "on purpose," however.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            First, their suffering may ultimately lead toward their own growth in virtue. Most of us know this from firsthand experience. Difficult times of trials lifted us to new heights of resilience, patience, courage, or empathy.

            Second, heroic suffering often inspires others to draw closer to God. This is true of many of the saints, who inspired others through their own martyrdom, sickness, or death.

            The problem with the idea that suffering brings people closer to God is that it neglects the many people whose suffering lead them away from God. If God existed and was all-good, he would not give people suffering that would eventually lead people away from him.

            The second problem with your justification of suffering is that it ignores the large scale suffering that has been inflicted on humankind, which cannot be justified by helping us grow in virtue. The Black Death would be a good example. As I understand, Medieval Europe was the high point of Catholicism. Why did God destroy Medieval society by allowing a quarter of the population to die of a horrible disease? They lacked modern medical knowledge, so they blamed the disease on their sins and on the unbelievers. This lead to the medievals persecuting Jews and whipping themselves. Medieval society was not equipped spiritually (they killed people over the plague) and was not equipped medically either, so God basically gave them a plague that they could not handle during the high point of Catholicism. That doesn't seem very Omniscient.

          • "The Black Death would be a good example...Why did God destroy Medieval society by allowing a quarter of the population to die of a horrible disease?...That doesn't seem very Omniscient."

            Are you claiming that the Black Death is logically incompatible with an all-good, all-powerful God? In other words, that it is impossible that God could have any good reasons for allowing the plague?

            Or are you merely claiming that you personally don't seem to be able to detect any good reasons why God would allow it?

            If the former, then you've dissolved the so-called logical "problem of evil."

            If the latter, you must admit that God could have good reasons for allowing particular evils, but that you're in a limited position to detect such reasons (given our position within time and space.)

            In either case, I see no strong argument against the existence of God.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are you claiming that the Black Death is logically incompatible with an all-good, all-powerful God? In other words, that it is impossible that God could have any good reasons for allowing the plague?

            I was actually just claiming that your belief that God allows suffering for us to grow in virtue and to grow closer to him is certainly false in many cases. I used the Black Plague to show why I am unconvinced by your reasoning that suffering brings about closeness to God and virtue. However, I do think that the problem of evil is a sound deductive argument, unless one wants to redefine what good is.

            Suppose we have world A in which there exists an evil X, which God allows because a greater good Y comes from X. Because God is all-knowing he knows how to create a world B with good Y but without evil X. Because God is all-powerful he can create world B. Because God is all-good, he would create world B. Instead, we live in a world with evil, therefore God is not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. This argument shows that God is logically inconsistent with the world we observe. God cannot have reasons for allowing evil, because he can create a world absent the evil, but with the goods that came from the evil.

            Or are you merely claiming that you personally don't seem to be able to detect any good reasons why God would allow it?

            That is a weaker claim than the one that I am making. I do not detect any reasons for God's allowance of evil. Furthermore, when reasons are offered by theists, I find the reasons insufficient.

            If the former, then you've dissolved the so-called logical "problem of evil."

            I think you would have to first identify the error I make in my reasoning before saying that the argument is dissolved. Besides, there are more sophisticated atheists than myself who have more sophisticated arguments.

            If the latter, you must admit that God could have good reasons for allowing particular evils, but that you're in a limited position to detect such reasons (given our position within time and space.)

            First you would have to show me the logical error in my reasoning. However, it would seem that the entire human race is in a limited position to detect the reasons God has for allowing a world overpopulated with evil.

            This along with the general poor design of the universe is certainly evidence for the nonexistence of the Tri-Omni God. Once we also claim that this God cares about us (is a personal God) these problems become even larger and we can add other problems such as the inefficacy of prayer, God's wonton nature, and the difficulty we have in communicating with God.

            In either case, I see no strong argument against the existence of God

            I think most theists would disagree with you. I think most theists would admit that the problem of evil is a strong argument, but that the arguments for God are stronger, so they believe. That has been my experience and certainly what I believed when I was a theist.

            Happy New Year!!!!

          • agnew allan

            You make a very good point, Ignatius, but I wish you'd learn "led" as the past tense of "lead" to make your points more immediately understandable.

          • "There is no difference between (a) knowingly withholding a cure for whatever ails my grandmother and (b) deliberately murdering her.

            Of course there is a differnece! In Case A, you might be aware of a greater good that your grandmother would achieve by withholding the cure. Thousands of families recognize this fact everyday when they remove extraordinary, life-preserving measures and allow elderly relatives to die in peace.

            Unlike us, God is omniscient and thus knows all the particular ramifications of each potential decision he makes (i.e., whether to intervene or not.) In cases of suffering, he permits the suffering because he knows he can ultimately bring a greater good out of it.

            "I can't imagine that the Church teaches that one is acceptable and the other not."

            I can't either. But this is because we are not God. See my response to your other comment:

            https://strangenotions.com/a-theory-of-everything-a-god-haunted-film/#comment-1748962488

          • In the realization of life's highest goods, those we can enjoy without moderation, like truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, those values are integrally related. This is to recognize that, for every human value-realization, each of these is necessary, none, alone, is sufficient. Thus each of these goods will optimally condition and limit and transvalue each of the others, in no way enjoying free axiological reign apart from the others, which is to say, in no way violating the consistency of
            the divine logic. When these values are thus realized, our experience of this optimally integral axiological reality goes by the name - love.

            It is no accident, then, that the divine attributes, respectively, refer to truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, to wit: omniscience, omnipathy, omnibenevolence, omnipresence and omnipotence, and that God is called Love.

            It is no accident, either, that each of the great traditions has a corresponding eschatology (orienting us to truth re final things), sophiology
            (dedicating & sanctifying us devotionally as we desire beauty), sacramentology (nurturing and healing us in an economy of reality's highest goods), ecclesiology (empowering us through comm-unity) and soteriology (saving and liberating us toward optimizing our freedom).

            THAT the divine logic wouldn't be violated, in principle, by divine ad hockery or whim, we all presuppose, theologically. HOW it remains consistent remains wholly incomprehensible. Still, we consider it partly intelligible. Logical solutions have been formulated in an attempt to penetrate the mystery, but evidential apprehensions elude us. Classically, St Augustine examined the nature of evil and discovered it was no-thing. Other theists formulated free will defenses, which were also logically valid. Process thinkers have nuanced omnipotence as that power that is no greater than that which would otherwise be inconsistent, both, with all the other divine attributes and our highest value-realizations. All contain a certain theological skepticism, maintaining, while we believe THAT, generally, only love governs divine logic, HOW it operates in particular circumstances remains inscrutably beyond our own logic.

            As I noted previously, the average pew occupant, judging from their cumulative tenacity of belief over millenia, gets all this, intuitively, even if unable to articulate it, philosophically. There remains an indispensable relational element that transcends both philosophical logic and evidential doubts, which is trust, no doubt instilled by the beauty, goodness, love and freedom realized and exhibited by earnest followers of the world's great saints and mystics. They anticipate an eschatological deliverance and enjoy proleptic, anticipatory realizations, presuming whatever divine interactivity witnessed, now, would only be that which fosters, not frustrates, divine aims.

            The underappreciated divine attribute seems to be omnipathy, precisely realized - not only in the Incarnation we celebrate next week, but - via the divine omnipresent indwelling, as variously conceived by panentheists or, if more classicist, by creatio continua, let's say. Aside from any putative omniscience, whether qualified by one or another theological school, this divine omnipathy will have experienced and felt every suffering of - not only every human, every sentient creature, but - mowed blade of grass or snail crushed underfoot (without necessarily changing essentially, whether in a process or classicist view). Knowing how all will have felt about it all, once the eschatological veils are lifted, and feeling that all will offer heartfelt assent that creation was worth it --- establishes morally exculpatory grounds, for the sufferings of the present cannot even register on that balance which measures the weight of the eternal glory revealed.

          • Loreen Lee

            I find your comments most interesting, though difficult to follow. This has encouraged me to look again into the philosophy of Pierce, in descriptions on line. My study of the pragmatists, excluded this pragmatacist !! possibly because o the difficulty of the language. However, be assured that I have at least found this: http://www.reformedbaptistinstitute.org/?p=327 with respect to ortho-words. I also discovered that my longer interest in 'threes', and now I find their interaction to dualities is central to Pierce. Also his interest in Kant, and beauty truth and goodness!!! with a triadic relationship, recently in my learning associated with 2 and 3 the first primes. So thanks again. I look forward to your comment.

          • Thanks for your kind words, Loreen.
            I incorporate some of Peirce's triadic in my own scheme. I'm an incurable categorizer. My scheme is 5Fold:
            https://www.scribd.com/doc/249173080/Fivefold-Donative-Hermeneutic-for-Theology

          • Loreen Lee

            I started to read your list of categories but left it because I had the thought that I would never be able to integrate so many words, especially because I could not define them.

            I too have been interested in categories, but possibly within a more 'comparative' context than your own, (I hardly consider myself 'original'). I am simply attempting within my later years to find coherence within the studies of philosophy and religion I have taken in my life.

            On investigating Pierce however, I have come to a little 'unsettlement'. Although I plan to 'investigate' further, I can't help, at the moment to associate his genius with an inventive thought which like that of Santayana could be considered a little 'odd'. . (That's OK. I admired Santayana
            s 'Scepticism and animal faith", for instance). On checking my library I find I have three 'unread' books by Pierce: The Pragmatic Philosophy of .S. Peirce, Strands of System, and Perice's Approach to the Self. Since I have decided that it's time I worked out my own perspective, philosophy of life,k I shall have to deal with the strands that characterize my appreciation of what I have read, and will continue to relate these to 'my' approach to 'my self', which is I assume the tactic hat Perice took to his own development of 'consciousness'.

            On the Buddhist, I hope my comments were not negative in any way. Buddhism is perhaps unique in considering that the individual alone has the responsibility to find his/her salvation, and gives the world an unparalleled psychology. I find it interesting that there is a possible similarity between the rejection within the Christian tradition of 'tripartite' God and the rejection by Buddhism of the Hindu cosmological trilogy of god. I have even been thinking that there could be some 'justification' in considering that the pagan philosophic contribution to Christianity, represents in its foundation an idea of God based on cosmological conceptions, which I have recently thought might be related to causal arguments only, without the benefit of a prior intuition: either of perception or an intellectual intuition of 'self'.. Just a thought. I am not however, going to look up all of those words I found in your link. There are already too many words, and those without meaning, in my vocabulary. Thank you for bringing to my consideration that perhaps there are limits to classification, alone, although I shall continue to find 'order' within those that I have come about in my studies. . Hope to talk to you soon.

          • No problem re: Buddhist perspectives. I've fruitfully engaged much Eastern thought and gleaned wonderful insights, such as your own. The links below mine the fruits of Aurobindo's
            panentheism and might help unpack some of the dense jargonistic concepts. It's tough sledding trying to reconcile gravity and quantum mechanics, so, we can not expect to abstract principles from temporal to primal reality in a combox with ease and facility! LOL :-)

            https://www.scribd.com/doc/201992862/Reconciling-Aurobindo-s-Theological-Anthropology

            https://www.scribd.com/doc/202550334/Engaging-Aurobindo-and-Lonergan-Theological-Anthropology

            https://www.scribd.com/doc/201793266/More-on-Aurobindo-s-Panentheism

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks for the links. Been there, done that? Same old, same old? I'm not expecting an 'answer' or a 'solution'. A friend of mine made a comment this morning, for instance, regarding the cosmologists. "Pretty soon they'll have a kind of astrological map for us mere mortals to follow". No. I'm not a god. Be it theist or 'a-theist'. (Don't like that word. Feel it is entirely inappropriate) But thanks. I do understand, your posts!!!! For my own amusement I have associated your term 'panentheism' not only with Buddhist meditation but with the 'Holy Ghost' !!! The looked for match between concepts never exactly works out the way I 'hope' it will!!!! Language is indeed 'fluid', as per Derrida: (Identity/Difference)!

          • Loreen Lee

            The post seems to be changed. I guess I have more words to look up. Thank you. P.S. On Pierce. In my understanding Pierce incorporated all of Kant, while Hegel concentrated only on the category of Quality, which I believe turned out to bring difficult repercussions. Just a thought. And Pierce began so many things: like semiotics. Must learn more. Thanks.

          • Yes, the Trinity's intimate familiarity with all suffering comes from Jesus' passion as well as the Spirit's divine indwelling (panentheistic). This divine experience refers to our evaluative dispositions (how we feel and value a reality) and not to propositional positions (moral, practical, empirical, rational, etc) we might take, although integrally related to same.

          • Loreen Lee

            That is consistent with what the Buddha consciousness holds. Awareness involves the purposive concentration to 'rid the mind of thoughts'. Enlightenment is called emptiness and not nothingness because they also hold the understand that this 'pure being' is 'mind'. Interesting, yes! Thanks.

          • Panentheism can be further disambiguated, referring to this divine indwelling, parsed as pan-entheism, or to a mereological conception, parsed as panen-theism, where everything's part of God (like pantheism) but God also refers to the "more-ness" that's often evident vis a vis any mere "sum of those parts.

            I prescind from ontological specifications, bracketing such root metaphors as mind, being, substance, process, etc, all which attempt to describe primal and ultimate realities. I have articulated a metaphysically agnostic phenomenological perspective which brackets such descriptions but which recognizes the ontological implications of the realities to which they refer.

            Without a priori specifying how any given metaphor must be predicated when referring to both physical and metaphysical realities, whether univocally (our concepts mean exactly the same thing), equivocally (the same concept means something entirely different) or analogically (our concepts mean "something like that" in some ways but are dissimilar in other ways) or metaphorically (even weaker analogies) ---- we can affirm 1) that certain realities must be univocally predicated between
            a given physical and metaphysical reality, even if primal, or causal disjunctions would beg as to how they could conceivably interact 2) that certain realities must be analogically predicated or infinite regressions would prevail
            and common sensical ontological discontinuities would be denied (e.g.existence of other minds). I describe three other categories but won't discuss that, presently.

            So, we can meaningfully refer to what I have called an "intraobective identity of unitary being," which refers to but doesn't describe our intuition that some type of causal joints must be real between physical and putative metaphysical realities in order for them to interact, but we are proving too much when we suggest their precise nature (e.g. mind, matter, etc). We can also meaningfully refer to an "intersubjective intimacy of unitive strivings," which refers to an undeniable ontological gulf between individual persons (of intrasubjective integrity of our unified self), whose identities are distinct, a gulf we long to transcend, somehow. Interestingly, some Buddhist schools deny in referring to the "no-self" is not the persistence of a person's identity but any static essentialist account of same, viewing our existence as radically dynamic. For all practical purposes, what they refer to as the empirical self or even phenomenal self pretty much matches all of our common sense intuitions regarding individuals.

            In this essay regarding God, Zen and the Intuition of Being, my late friend, Jim Arraj, describes an imaginary dialogue between existential thomism and zen:
            http://www.innerexplorations.com/catew/gz5.htm

            Because of my metaphysical bracketing but phenomenological realism, I refer to my own account as panSEMIOentheism, which suggests that, for example, Thomists, Process thinkers, Scotists, Nonreductive physicalists, Cartesian dualists and Buddhist are all really onto something, each emphasizing one or more common sensical intuitions with significant ontological implications.

            My own suspicion is best reflected in an emergentist account that brackets monist or dualist specifications while suggesting neither of those accounts is either entirely right or wrong, but are onto some-thing, which may very well also be no-thing.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks. Thoroughly enjoyed both articles, and yes I will claim that I read both with understanding.
            Just to be specific with reference to 'mystical experiences'. When I started attending Mahayana Buddhist meeting, I wanted their advice on what I intuited: (intellectually). After reading Varieties of Religious Experience, I thought I had intuited the three Ideas of Kant, but with respect to the operation of mind, or self-consciousness: i.e. freedom, immortality and God, and thus merely related them to time, space and 'The Universe'. Paradoxically, however, the first two were preceded by the third which brought me to the empirical perception of the external world around me. What did this mean? Was I god? Was I only able to perceive God within the relationship of what was 'manifest'. The questions continued and do so to this day. And I speculate on their basis on the 'meaning' of time, space, etc. etc.to the 'Ideals'. My intuition of 'immortality-time' was for instance that of a duality- the interrelationship of a kind of 'light?' and that of space, perfectly formed geometric patterns, unmoving but 'perfect?' in relationship..

            It's a good thing, that as the second link advised, I don't take this 'too' seriously. Indeed, my Buddhist mentors were not impressed!!! grin grin. But I hope it conveys to you the possibility that I was indeed appreciative of your links, and could relate the conversation to an 'actuality'???? grin grin Thanks to you I'm becoming a modal 'realist', but not to the extent talked about in the second article!!!!

          • Mike

            You have the patience of Job Brandon.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            For someone who claims to accurately understand Catholic teaching, you continue to be seriously confused on this point.

            I have read Augustine. I have actually read a good deal of Augustine - he was one of my favorite writers - still is. There is a difference between understanding what the Church teaches and accepting what the church teaches.

            God created everything but is not the author of evil because evil is not a thing.
            It's a privation, a lack of a thing. Just as "cold" is not a thing
            (it's a lack of heat), so "evil" is a deficiency of the good.

            I view the whole evil as a privation of good as definitional semantics. Why isn't good a privation of evil? The meanings of the words would not change. Because God is infinitely good he would have to use his infinite power to allow his infinite goodness to be privated. For instance, if we had a star that was infinitely hot, the universe would be infinitely hot everywhere. There would be no privation of hotness.

            I disagree. There's an obvious difference, for example, between letting
            your elderly grandmother die and murdering her. I don't see how
            omnipotence or omniscience removes that distinction.

            Suppose my grandmother is dying of a fatal disease. If I let her die, there is nothing I can do to prevent her death. If I was all-powerful, I could use my power to prevent her death, cure her disease, and make her young again. An all-powerful being has responsibility for everything that happens.

            Any supposed good that can be brought out of evil, can be brought about without the evil. Therefore, an all-powerful and all-good God would chose the to bring about the good without the unnecessary evil. This is not what we observe. Therefore, no being that is all good and all-powerful exists.

          • William Davis

            "There's an obvious difference, for example, between letting your elderly grandmother die and murdering her. I don't see how omnipotence or omniscience removes that distinction."

            If you are omnipotent you have the power to stop it with a thought. It's like seeing someone about to fall off a cliff and letting them fall when you could have pulled them up.

            To a scientist, evil stems from a lack of empathy. In the end it is putting self before others. Good is altruism, considering the needs of others before oneself. Evolutionists see a rule in all life that is social: Selfish (evil) individuals beat altruistic (good) individuals, but altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Think of how ants, who are truly altruistic dominate the insect world. There is evidence ants have been around for over 100 million years, and they make up as much biomass as humans do. In human history we see the rise of a civilization while its citizens value the good of the society, and the fall as selfish citizens begin to outnumber the altruistic ones. Then, a group of people who is more altruistic overtakes them. It is a constant battle between good and evil and it is built into the very nature of life. The effect of stress hormones and moral decisions is known. A starving person is much more "evil" than a happy, full person, and there are biological reasons for it. We could talk about parasitism and other things in biology that mirror the concept, but I hope I've made my point: The study of modern biology alters one's perception of the actual nature of good and evil.
            In light of this knowledge, it would be necessary for the creator to "own" evil.

          • Loreen Lee

            Just a quick distinction I have been thinking about between the Will and desire. (To update a prior argument). Is not Will related more to giving something and desire to wanting something? Generally speaking therefore. There is a similar mythos regarding the 'origination of evil' in the world found in the Hesiod myth of Pandora. Both that and the story of Adam and Eve may thus be related to desire, rather than will, and although I shall not explore this idea further here, to my understanding may be a distinction that could throw some light on how the causes of suffering in this world are defined.
            The Buddhists for instance, may have a reason for believing that 'desire' needs to be overcome, and in this context I can think of such abilities they have demonstrated as walking on nails, and setting themselves on fire.without suffering pain. (Just a couple of examples here, for future thought.)

          • William Davis

            It's amazing how different a certain thing (like will/desire/good/evil) can look when you come at it with different background knowledge and point of view. Most have their strengths and weaknesses. I'm a fan of Buddhism myself, but the biologist in me warns to take it with a grain of salt. The complete absence of desire in all humans would likely result in extinction, but an excess of desire creates so many of the worlds problems. Moderation is required in all things I suppose.

          • Loreen Lee

            When I engaged in Buddhism, I found that they too had 'a wish fulfilling tree', in their (can't remember what the three jewels are) "belief system". So I am reminded of Jim Hillclimber's distinction with respect to what is entailed in concupiscence or self-interested? desire and what comes out of desire within a what? well directed/intended interation between people and with a higher purpose - (God?) . P.S. I left Buddhism because I felt it was time to get back to 'samsara'. Then I studied Kierkegaard and what I had not read in 20th century philosophy, in the pursuit of a 'nirvana' within this world!!!! Take care.

        • Mike

          If you don't see a difference between inflict and allow you must have some fascinating theories of law and justice...have you ever thought about becoming an attorney?

      • Doug Shaver

        He is not the Author of evil and disorder.

        Who is?

        • One panentheist interpretation: The "nihilo" of creatio ex nihilo refers - not to absolutely nothing, which is inconceivable, but - to chaos (tohu wa-bohu), hence, it disambiguates into creatio ex profundis.

    • Jim Dailey

      Hmmmm... do you think Jane's love would have been made manifest without Hawking contracting the disease? That is, will you admit to the possibility that as a result of Hawking contracting the disease there is more love in the world?

    • Mike

      Why do you INSIST that God did it when you know perfectly well what orthodox Catholic belief is in relation to this question?

      Are you being willfully ignorant for some reason or are you honestly not aware of the orthodox historical Catholic/Orthodox doctrine on this subject?

  • Michael Murray

    Do you see why I say the entire film is haunted by God?

    Presumably the same reason people see human faces in pictures of martian rocks, a couple of random dots on a stained ceiling or a smiley :-). The way our minds work we don't just look at the world to see what is there we look to match patterns in the world with what we already hold in our minds. You hold that everything comes from God so you see God everywhere.

  • "The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another." - Albert Einstein

    • Mike

      Hawking like Einstein and Lemaitre and Copernicus and PBRimmer and Dawkins and Hitchens, is desperately searching for meaning for purpose in what can appear to be a meaningless universe devoid of any, a universe created not by a loving god but by some despot or inhuman machine, a cosmic slave driver, an automaton.

      • William Davis

        This despot you speak of creates no hell, however. He is not jealous and does not demand belief from men. Suffering is an important part of his creation, it is the filter through which everything that lives must pass. The existence of evil (selfishness) and suffering are much better explained through natural selection. God, if he has thoughts anything like ours, would have a much different sense of morality than our own. We can learn things about him through studying his creation.

        • Mike

          No it seems he does create hell; life on earth for many many ppl; i don't know if it seems he is jealous; suffering does seem to be important to him, almost on purpose as it is everywhere; yes suffering appears to be linked to natural selection of the strongest over the weakest.

          • William Davis

            The Buddhists argue that we create the hell by our reaction to pain, it is an illusion we create in our minds. There is some truth to that. I've seen the benefits meditation in my own life, but can't (at least so far) stop grasping altogether. I suppose some suffering is necessary to feel alive at least for some of us.

          • Mike

            Interesting; seems to me that many atheists feel that buddhism is more true than christianity; my brother became interested in buddhism around the time he became an atheist or at least rejected traditional christianity in his late teens.

          • William Davis

            It's inherently nontheistic, so that is great for some atheists. As with any religion, there are many flavors. I like the simplicity of its core philosophy. I have little interest in its mysticism, however, except as a curiosity. I wouldn't necessarily say it is "more true" than Christianity, but it definitely is easier to work with in a pluralistic society as it is inherently non-dogmatic. I wish there was a way to "fix" Christianity to not require belief. There is so much history, culture, and moral lessons in it, it is a shame it requires me to believe something I simply cannot (it isn't really a choice for me).

          • Mike

            Well some ppl are working on a fix for that: The church of england has just appointed its first female bishop who is married; the liberal protestant churches already bless same sex unions as marriage and most i don't think require a dogmatic belief in God and are very "relaxed" about morality and doctrine.

            PS why isn't belief a choice for you? isn't it a choice for all of us? do you live in Somalia or something? just kidding.

        • Mike

          You might like this lecture; it's by a theo physicist working on biological self assembly like the famous flagellum; in it he mentions that Dawkins is now basically a full time "natural theologian" ie deriving/deducting attributes of the creator from the natural world and processes:

          http://vimeo.com/41294900

          • William Davis

            I'm out of time right now, but I'll be sure to check it out.

  • Michael Murray

    Of course this is not the only attitude to have towards reality. There is also Feynman's:

    People say to me, “Are you looking for the ultimate laws of physics?” No, I’m not, I’m just looking to find out more about the world and if it turns out there is a simple ultimate law which explains everything, so be it. That would be very nice to discover.

    If it turns out it’s like an onion with millions of layers and we’re just sick and tired of looking at the layers, then that’s the way it is, but whatever way it comes out it’s nature is there and she is going to come out the way she is, and therefore when we go to investigate it we shouldn’t predecide what it is we’re trying to do except to try to find out more about it

    • William Davis

      Exactly. Let reality teach you, instead of imposing yourself on reality. It is amazing how much better life is when you apply this concept to everything you can.

  • VicqRuiz

    In turning his back on what he calls “a celestial dictator,” Stephen
    Hawking was indeed purging his mind of an idol, a silly simulacrum of
    God

    I think we're on the same page for once, Father Barron.

    If I ever find God, I expect that he or she will have nothing whatsoever in common with the jealous caudillo who is the boss of the Old Testament. I also have also purged my mind of that "silly simulacrum" but not of the possibility of a God's existence.

  • George

    Robert Barron, how do you avoid an infinite regress of intelligent creators? Is Yawehjesus knowable, intelligible, rational? I don't imagine catholics want to say Yawehjesus is disorderly, irrational, chaotic, inconsistent, meaningless or random. Am I wrong anywhere in my thoughts?

  • Ignatius Reilly

    As I have argued elsewhere, it is by no means accidental that the modern physical sciences emerged when and where they did, namely, in a culture shaped by Christian belief.

    Archimedes was a scientist. Most arguments that I have seen that argue that science arose because of Christian belief commit post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    • Most objections I've seen, which invoke logical fallacies, make a parody of human knowledge, which operates more like the interwoven strands of a cable, many of those strands, taken alone, only weakly truth indicative abductive and inductive inferences, but gaining epistemic strength, normative resiliency and existential actionability when wound together, as a cumulative case, preponderance of the evidence.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        I don't necessarily disagree with anything you wrote. However, I have yet to see a reasonable argument that Catholicism is a necessary condition for science. I am not asking for a deductive proof - I am asking for a reasonable argument untainted by a certain catholic supremacy, which claims that Aquinas was nearly always right (and indeed we can know that he is right like we can know mathematics), science comes from the catholic church, and Catholicism is the best of all religions. Placing the claim about science in this piece was not only unnecessary and rather irritating, but the claim itself is untrue, for we have at least one scientist who did science before the birth of Christ.

        • It's usually best to avoid all or nothing and either/or assessments of complex anthropological realities, where sociologic metrics fall short. These types of realities present in matters of degree, such that one best argue, or counter even, using qualifiers like "for the most part" or "in large measure." Weaker arguments are not only easier to defend, they ordinarily best reflect our fallible grasps of reality. One hasn't accomplished much, philosophically, by refuting claims that are too strong to defend in the first place.

          All that said, while I would find the weaker form of that claim much more defensible, even if not completely compelling, any claim THAT Christian belief, which recognizes reality's intelligibility in the philosophical presuppositions of its preambles of faith, contributes great heuristic value for
          science, seems rather uncontroversial. WHY it does, however, is because those presuppositions are indispensable methodological stipulations and not, as many seem to imagine, inescapable metaphysical demonstrations.

          A foundational epistemology was certainly sufficient to help science flourish, but it wasn't philosophically necessary, then, and isn't now. Some were overenamored with principles of causation and sufficient reason back then and many still are now, so, while science flourished in such an environment, it's not for the reasons Barron seems to imagine.

          Others share your chagrin:
          http://ncronline.org/books/2013/02/new-evangelization-or-old-apologetics

          I don't much care for an overly polemical, circle the wagons, triumphalist tone, style-wise, either.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't mean to spend my time policing strong claims, although I have noticed that many are more than willing to defend them. However, I think it is important to point out the flaws in these very strong claims, lest they somehow become common knowledge.

            My main issue with organized religion is its tendency towards dogmatism (and teachings on hell). I find the New Catholicism to be overly dogmatic and thus something that I wish to not only avoid but actively fight against. I think dogmatism in nearly all its forms as negative social utility, whether it comes from totalitarian governments or religions.

            The philosophers who were most influential to my worldview often emphasized uncertainty, and gave reasons to believe that even our most certain beliefs can be false. I do agree that at some point we must chose amongst the uncertainties, however, knowing that we made an uncertain choice, I think we are more tolerant of the uncertain choices of others. This is another reason why I dislike dogmatism, because it assumes to create certainty where none can be found, with negative social effects.

            If one wants to dialogue with atheists and other religions, it would seem best to cast aside dogmatism and talk about shared human experiences and shared ethical concerns. We can talk about the things we have in common like music, literature, sports, and gather socially or we can create divides in society by focusing on dogmatic Catholic triumphalism, which sort of takes the universal out of Catholic.

          • I don't know the precise demographics (what %) regarding fundamentalism, but would more narrowly define the problem and not indict the whole of organized religion, in general, or catholicism, in particular. Catholics in America, for example, are pretty much indistinguishable from the population as a whole when polled regarding political and moral stances.

          • BTW, this was very well put: "I do agree that at some point we must chose amongst the uncertainties, however, knowing that we made an uncertain choice, I think we are more tolerant of the uncertain choices of others. "

            Merry Festivus

  • Thank you for your article, Fr. Barron. It reminded me of a book I just read by Prof. Kreeft from my local library, _If Einstein had been a surfer : a surfer, a scientist, and a philosopher discuss a "universal wave theory" or "theory of everything"_. The book posits that coming up with a "theory of everything" will require more than physics, if the endeavor is possible at all in the first place. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6519566-if-einstein-had-been-a-surfer

  • Mike

    Great review as always.

    As i am sure many ppl are i am amazed that hawkins doesn't appear to see the irony of a man without hope of an afterlife or belief in any underlying ultimate explanation of existence spending his entire life searching for the underlying ultimate explanation of existence.

    Amazing too that a guy as disabled as he is still cares about some abstract truth and believes it is out there to be discovered and is not material but is some kind of a "relationship between objects" that it is objective and doesn't change and is "set in stone" as if waiting to be discovered and marveled over or worshiped.

    "Why in the world would a scientist blithely assume that there is or is even likely to be one unifying rational form to all things, unless he assumed that there is a singular, overarching intelligence that has placed it there?"

    Precisely!

  • Mike

    PS did Hawking let Benedict trace a cross across his forehead? Beautiful.

  • Mike

    Question for atheists...who care to indulge my hypothetical:

    Would you "believe in God" if after you die you wake up and look around and realize you're alive and a person walks up to you and introduces themselves as God?

    OR will you simply assume that this also must just be another purely natural process albeit one we were just not aware of before death? therefore still no proof of God as that person may just be delusional or lying.

    OR if i am presenting a false dilemma, please tell me what you'd conclude from your "waking up" "on the other side" of death?

    Thx.

    • David Nickol

      It seems to me your underlying assumption is that atheists set such a high threshold for belief in God that nothing could convince them. That may be true for some atheists, but I think the majority of atheists and agnostics just find the evidence for belief insufficient. I think probably a great many of them were raised as believers and at some point began to have doubts that they could not dismiss and finally ceased to believe.

      I doubt that there are many atheists or agnostics who would not evaluate solid evidence for God or the supernatural with a reasonably open mind. I think from the viewpoint of atheists and agnostics, it is not that they have set the bar for belief too high. It is that others have set it too low. I know it is a very old argument, but there are so many different religious beliefs in the world that contradict one another, the vast majority of religious believers must be wrong. Why should atheists or agnostics suspect that any one group of religious believers is correct when so much of religious belief is obviously mistaken?

      • Mike

        I agree with what you say but it doesn't answer my question. Can you please answer it honestly? I am really interested.

        Obviously what i am testing is what level of evidence will convince (as to my mind that's what this debate boils down to; so please just answer honestly.

        • David Nickol

          If I awoke with the definitive knowledge that my physical body had died and not been resuscitated, my first conclusion would be that those who believed in life after death were correct!

          If somebody walked up to me and introduced himself as God, I would not take it for granted that it was indeed God. I'd at least ask to see some ID. :P

          What I would imagine is that if what I was taught when being raised as a Catholic was true, and I awoke in an afterlife, I would know what I needed to know and would not have to ask for proof. I anticipate that if Catholicism is essentially true, after death I will not have to keep asking questions.

          But what if you or I awake in a "next life" and a person introduces himself as Allah? Or we are greeted by a group of people who say, "Do you know why you came here? We don't know where we are or why we are here." Or what if a voluptuous woman introduces herself as God?

          • Mike

            Thanks for your answer, your honest straightforward answer; it is refreshing, to me anyway.

            I don't know about the last part of your comment i mean in that case i guess the church would be proven half right or maybe only 10% right.

            But one other thing is certain too: if we don't "Wake up" then atheism generally speaking was 100% correct and that's that.

            Anyway have a merry christmas and a happy new year.

          • Mike

            RE: added later: i believe you but i am not sure if that "kind" of evidence exists in the first place so i don't think you will ever find it...that's i think the classic catholic pov on this that as you know god will not "force" anyone and if you were to be provided with even the tiniest bit that couldn't be interpreted "the other way" your will would be in a sense "forced" to "submit" and that according to catholic won't happen so any and all evidence down to fine tuning etc. will always be open to alternative interpretation by design i think...it's an issue of the "heart".

            anyway thanks again for your straight forward answers.

          • David Nickol

            So was St. Paul forcibly converted to "Christianity" when he was knocked off his horse and heard Jesus saying, "Why do you persecute me?"

          • What horse? You must be thinking of Caravaggio's painting and not the Bible, the exegesis of which, in any case, is a tad more nuanced than one might suspect from observing the exchanges between religious and Enlightenment fundamentalists.

          • David Nickol

            Caravaggio by no means the only artist, the earliest artist, or even the most famous artist to depict Paul as having fallen from a horse at the time of his conversion experience. Whether Paul fell from a horse, fell while walking, or actually never fell at all, the clear message in the three conversion accounts in Acts and Paul's own accounts is that it was a dramatic experience that happened to him.

            I was responding to Mike, whom I am rather sure believes Jesus made a dramatic intervention in the life of Paul that resulted in the latter's conversion. What I personally believe happened to Paul (or what actually happened, if anything) is of no particular importance. Mike said the following:

            . . . i think the classic catholic pov on this that as you know god will not "force" anyone and if you were to be provided with even the tiniest bit that couldn't be interpreted "the other way" your will would be in a sense "forced" to "submit" and that according to catholic won't happen . . . .

            So it makes perfect sense, no matter what you or I believe about biblical interpretation, to ask Mike how he squares the events related in Acts and Paul's own writings with the idea that God does not "force" anyone to believe.

          • Thanks for the clarification, David.

            Mike, I agree with you that God wouldn't coerce belief. Well said.

          • David Nickol

            Mike, I agree with you that God wouldn't coerce belief.

            Do you really believe it is "coercing belief" to provide clear and convincing evidence of something?

            I was on jury duty about six months ago, and the case presented by the prosecution was so overwhelming that, even before deliberating, all the jurors believed the defendant was guilty. When the prosecution rested, the defendant's attorney declined to make a case for the defense. When it came time to vote on a verdict, in no way did I feel "coerced," and I can't imagine any of the other jurors did either.

            It is a fairly common belief here, I think, among certain "conservative" Catholics, that God would not ever reveal himself to the extent that someone who wanted to deny God had revealed himself could not do so. Meanwhile, we have people on this site also arguing that the evidence for miracles—all the way from the Resurrection of Jesus to the spinning sun at Fatima—is overwhelming! The idea of a God who would reveal himself so discretely that those who did not already believe in him would have no good reason to is, from my point of view, bizarre, not to mention wildly inconsistent with other Catholic beliefs.

          • Michael Murray

            The idea of a God who would reveal himself so discretely that those who did not already believe in him would have no good reason to is, from my point of view, bizarre, not to mention wildly inconsistent with other Catholic beliefs.

            It does explain though why so many people find the metaphysical and logical arguments for God so flawed. God must have deliberately put the flaws in the arguments.

            On the question of evidence I've often wondered how people would react if there was a group of people calling themselves Christians who could reliably and repeatedly cure any disease by a laying on of hands. Of course a genuine skeptic could insist it was secretly being done by aliens or time travellers. But it would be a difficult phenomena to ignore, particularly if you or a loved one was seriously ill.

          • In reality, there's a serious overemphasis on conceptual mapmaking and propositional stipulations, when the essence of life is, instead, love, thru right belonging, right desiring and right behaving.

            The early Christians gathered in the breaking of the bread and practiced a charity and mercy that exceeded the demands of justice. The orthodoxic aspect, creedal formulations, oral traditions, then written traditions, were abstracted from practices, disciplines and rituals, from post-experiential reflection on orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic realities, not the other way around. They didn't gather in upper rooms and catacombs to trade sylly syllogisms. They loved one another and forgave their enemies. Years later, they recorded their reflections as an apologetic for the way they belonged, desired and behaved --- answering the questions of why they did what they did and where and how it all began. Their arguments were not discursive or philosophical but existential, attracting followers by the way they lived, moved and had their being.

            No serious academic philosopher would say the best logical god arguments were not valid, only that their soundness is not demonstrable, in principle. If that's a flaw, it afflicts materialist monisms, too. Scottish verdict: not proven.

          • I gave an account of Lonergan's philosophical anthropology elsewhere in this thread, referring to what he called authenticity. Authenticity per his terminology requires intellectual, affective, moral and social conversions.

            The grace of conversion is lavished on all persons, who can cooperate with it or fail to cooperate. Some such failures result from inability, such as invincible ignorance, poor formation, deformative events or emotional/mental illness, thus are exculpatory, but others come from refusal, personal sin. Humans are never in a position to know who gas refused, hence the gospel injunctive not to judge. These conversions are ostensibly secular but otherwise gifted freely by grace.

            Persons who respond to these invitations of grace and who live an upright and moral life are people of faith and enjoy the soteriological efficacies associated with authenticity, a shared orthopathic (right desiring), orthopraxic (right behaving), orthocommunal (right belonging) existential orientation.

            Persons are further invited to cooperate with grace by following different sophiological trajectories, which refers to different ways of being in love, with self, others, cosmos and God, whose different aspects are variously emphasized by our great traditions. We thereby realize sustained authenticity, religious conversion, following Lonergan's transcendental precept: Be in love!

            Not all will experience these conversions in the same sociocultural milieu or tradition. But all are given the grace to which they can freely respond or refuse. This is to recognize that faith may be explicit or implicit. Sustained authenticity requires love of neighbor as oneself, in which case we also, thereby, are loving God, even if unawares. Faith is an existential response, a living as if love is life's highest value. That's the essential proposition of orthodoxy (right belief). Anyone who believes that, who believes in love, believes in God, for all practical purposes and love, which was their primal origin, now made their primal goal and meaning, will be their primal destiny.

            Consolations that are gifted via miracles, encounters, visions or other means are given freely per a divine logic beyond our own. As St. Teresa counsels, let us desire and occupy ourselves in prayer, not so much to gain its consolations but to gain the strength to serve.

            As Thomas Merton said: "And so, many contemplatives never become great saints, never enter into close friendship with God, never find a deep participation in His immense joys, because they cling to the miserable little consolations that are given to beginners in the contemplative way."

            None of this is to suggest we embrace a facile syncretism, insidious indifferentism or false irenicism regarding explicit faiths and ideologies as we search in earnest for truth, but that consideration must be put off for another time.

            Consolations and graces such as enjoyed by Saul or even Judas are really accidentals that the great mystics suggest we not cling to or make our primary focus. We may speak with the language of angels or even prophesy, but, without love, we are noisy gongs, clanging symbols.

            Everyone is given the grace needed to love, to enjoy the secular conversions, to embrace the religious conversion of being in love. Some realize life's highest values through explicit faith, others through implicit faith. Why some enjoy the consolations of believing the Good News during this life and others don't, only God knows. In the life to come, for sure, the vision of God and beatitude will belong to all.

            In closing, let me say that there is something so very poignantly beautiful in watching others love, despite enjoying no consolations of explicit faith, without complaining and without the promise of future rewards.

            Carry on, brother.

          • >>> Whether Paul fell from a horse, fell while walking, or actually never fell at all, the clear message in the three conversion accounts in Acts and Paul's own accounts is that it was a dramatic experience that "happened" to him. <<<

            David, point of clarification, regarding what "happened" - do you refer to the dramatic experience as the conversion, itself, or do you conceive of it as distinct from the conversion? As it makes sense to inquire into your own exegesis.

          • David Nickol

            I think the clear message of the New Testament is that Paul had a dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus that transformed him from someone who persecuted the followers of Jesus to someone who recruited followers for Jesus. I think it would be idle to try to pinpoint an actual moment of conversion, particularly since there is not perfect consistency in the details of the various accounts. It would not bother me to assume that the accounts in Acts were dramatizations of something that took place purely in the mind of Paul. But it seems to me it can't be denied that the core New Testament message about Paul is that he abruptly converted to being a follower of Jesus as a result of being confronted by the risen Christ. That seems to me to fly in the face of Christians maintaining God does not reveal himself to the extent that it would sufficiently motivate anyone to change his or her beliefs.

          • See my other responses. You are overidentifying faith in terms of mere cognitive map-making rather than ultimate concerns and existential orientations, living a life of love. The essential propositional element believes that love is life's highest value then lives that way. You are over-valuing what are consolations, graces that comfort.
            ALL are given the grace with which we can cooperate, living the upright and moral life, enjoying salvation.

            Whether one's faith is explicit and thematized by creedal pronouncements or implicit and oriented to a life of love but without propositional themes, philosophical and/or creedal, faith's soteriological and sophiological efficacies are realized.

            In the same way we consider the divine logic intelligible but not comprehensible regarding the logical and evidential problem of evil, there's a problem of good aspect to theodicy, why some prosper. Why some receive consolations of one type, others of another, isn't ours to divine. THAT all are gifted what's most important, essential, the invite to love, is paramount. No one gets left out. Apokatastasis, in fact, a practical universal salvation remains a legitimate hope since the early Patristic period!

          • See my other responses. You are overidentifying faith in terms of mere cognitive map-making rather than ultimate concerns and existential orientations, living a life of love. The essential propositional element believes that love is life's highest value then lives that way. You are over-valuing what are consolations, graces that comfort.
            ALL are given the grace with which we can cooperate, living the upright and moral life, enjoying salvation.

            Whether one's faith is explicit and thematized by creedal pronouncements or implicit and oriented to a life of love but without propositional themes, philosophical and/or creedal, faith's soteriological and sophiological efficacies are realized.

            In the same way we consider the divine logic intelligible but not comprehensible regarding the logical and evidential problem of evil, there's a problem of good aspect to theodicy, why some prosper. Why some receive consolations of one type, others of another, isn't ours to divine. THAT all are gifted what's most important, essential, the invite to love, is paramount. No one gets left out. Apokatastasis, in fact, a practical universal salvation remains a legitimate hope since the early Patristic period!

          • Mike

            That's a good question; i don't think so but you're right it seems close.

            JC also "chose" certain men; he said follow me and they left their nets right there and then...did he pull a jedi mind trick on them i don't think so but you can "choose" to interpret it that way.

        • Mike, usually we employ standards of evidence and burdens of proof. While the rules of evidence remain the same, what we can reasonably expect to do with that evidence will vary.

          As I view things, as far as evidence is concerned, we're all in the same boat. So, we don't really differ, believers vs nonbelievers, in how we gather evidence or admit evidence. At least, I don't feel we should. Epistemology is epistemology is epistemology. How we describe reality remains a constant.

          A question arises regarding our ultimate concerns and primal realities. There are a number of reasonable suspicions regarding same, many very suggestive, none decisive.
          Beyond this descriptive stalemate, then, a normative question arises, what is called an existential disjunction, which means a decision to live as if this is the case or that.

          Beyond our best empirical and rational efforts, then, practical and pragmatic concerns arise. These have been variously addressed by William James (will to believe), Pascal (wager), JS Mill (license to hope) but require, too, the preambles of faith (Aquinas) so as not to fall prey to a vulgar pragmatism or fideism.

          So, the best philosophers of religion have determined that faith is eminently reasonable and existentially actionable even though not metaphysically demonstrable. To that extent, it enjoys epistemic parity with other stances toward ultimate reality, like the materialist monisms. That's why the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the US Bill of Rights and long-established jurisprudence of many countries around the world respect and protect religious liberty, free exercise, nonestablishment and such.

          Humankind, then, has in the largest measure sanctioned religious freedom and valued the contributions of religion, socially and culturally. Greater ranges of freedom are extended to our modes of interaction with God or other conceptions of primal reality.

          Our interactions with one another, morally, are transparent to human reason without recourse to special divine revelations.

          The amount of evidence required for religious exercise requires a lower burden of proof throughout the world. The amount required for matters of conscience, morally, are much higher, requiring a higher burden of proof because others' freedoms are in play. It takes more evidence to stop, even more to search, much more to arrest, very much more to hold liable and a whole lot more to convict. Same rules for gathering and presenting evidence, different burdens of proof, depending on what one hopes to do with it, especially as it impinges on or coerces other people.

          In my opinion, more quarrels should be had regarding epistemology and moral reasoning while we leave each other alone regarding religion. Epistemology and morals are transparent to human reason and do not rely on
          religious foundations. Those who reason from faith to morals aren't helping matters. That's bad epistemology, though, not flawed religion. Those who fly planes into towers are morally corrupt. Their morality doesn't enjoy free exercise, only their devotionals.

          • Mike

            Thx for replying; not sure i understand all of it but i think i agree with all of it.

      • re: I know it is a very old argument, but there are so many different religious beliefs in the world that contradict one another, the vast majority of religious believers must be wrong. Why should atheists or agnostics suspect that any one group of religious believers is correct when so much of religious belief is obviously mistaken? <<<<

        That is pretty old, indeed, hasn't kept up with comparative theology, which through deep dialogue has discovered that, through their manifold asceticisms, practices and disciplines, nonpropositionally, the great traditions and even indigenous religions share an essential soteriological trajectory, a shared orthodoxy of a sort, fostering what Lonergan called authenticity. Think perennial philosophy.

        Where they otherwise diverge, propositionally, is in their unique sophiological trajectories, which cultivate through rituals and devotionals what are believed to be different aspects of the same ultimate and primal realities, variously emphasizing one or another of these aspects, thus fostering, through self-transcendence, a sustained authenticity via a polydoxy. Think mystical core, same roots but different shoots.

        Facile textual comparisons and metaphysical interpretations are incredibly impotent and anthropologically naive, like trying to describe gravity using quantum mechanics without renormalizing our equations.

        • George

          Are the other religions sufficiently correct in your view, and are those believers "saved" or not?

          • In my view, the Holy Spirit invites every person into relationship with truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, all which, when taken together integrally, will gift an encounter with Love. It is the Holy Spirit, not constrained by boundaries of any kind, Who extends the invitation to cooperate with grace and each responds or refuses, freely.

            It is the Spirit, Who woos creation forth
            Makes this way south and that way north
            Invites each blade of grass to green!
            Horizons, boundaries, limits, origins
            Perimeters, parameters, centers, margins
            We're given freedom in between!
            Thus truth and beauty and goodness grow
            Thus lizards leap and roosters crow
            And dawns break with each new day!
            Good News is ours to believed
            Love freely given if received
            The Spirit in our hearts will stay!

            It is the Spirit, Who coaxes all human value-realizations forth, 1) orienting us to truth through our history and sciences, 2) cultivating beauty through our cultural dedications, 3) nurturing and healing us through our economic interactions, 4) empowering us through our social gatherings, 5) liberating and saving us through our political initiatives. All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above. Our cooperation with these graces, of course, varies in degree, thus these values are variously realized and frustrated.

            It is the Spirit, Who animates our great traditions and indigenous religions, Who amplifies 1) the truths we seek to describe through our history and sciences via the eschatological trajectories of these traditions, 2) the beauties we evaluate and aspire to cultivate through culture via their sophiological trajectories, 3) the goodness we have economically normed via their sacramental economies and trajectories, 4) the unity we have enjoyed socially through our interpretive communities via their ecclesiological trajectories and 5) the freedom that our political
            aspirations foster, transcending our human situation via their soteriological trajectories. Our institutional cooperation with grace also varies in degree, thus these values are variously realized and frustrated.

            This is why we are not indifferent in committing to one secular solution or religious institution or the other. As we aspire to optimally realize truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, out of fidelity to and love of their Author and out of compassion for one another as we seek to journey more smoothly and with less hindrance through this life, we must earnestly discern where it is these values more nearly perfectly subsist and more nearly optimally are realized.

            So, while there are elements of these values - not only in our religious, but - in our secular institutions, while their overall soteriological and sophiological trajectories are Spirit infused,
            while every individual receives the invitation to love, whether through explicit or implicit faith, whether through institutional or noninstitutional vehicles, we cannot remain indifferent to the values frustrated when any institution fossilizes in this or that area of human concern but must embrace ecclesia semper reformada, returning to our roots, resourcement, pruning our shoots, evaluating our fruits.

            Yes, George, all believers and nonbelievers can be saved and we can legitimately hope that all are indeed saved! However, precisely because God invites all but would never coerce any into relationship, we cannot, in principle, believe that all MUST be saved, which would be a theoretic universalism. Apocatastasis (apokatastasis) thus entails a practical universalism, as we can legitimately hope that all WILL be saved. This doesn't derive from the degree of correctness subsisting in our institutionalized religions but from the salvific efficacies of the Spirit, Who works institutionally and otherwise.

            In my view, I would affirm the overall trajectories of our institutions, saying they are indeed sufficiently correct in fostering human authenticity soteriologically and orthodoxically, and sufficiently correct in fostering sustained authenticity sophiologically and polydoxically, which is to recognize and affirm they are not by and large contradictory, but are, in select ways, clearly deficient, frustrating rather than realizing a given value. They don't require an hygienic atheological critique (but we can give thanks for its purgative gifts!) in order to straighten up and fly right, but, self critically, have accomplished same through their prophetic traditions and giftedness.

    • Doug Shaver

      Would you "believe in God" if after you die you wake up and look around and realize you're alive and a person walks up to you and introduces themselves as God?

      My first reaction would be to suppose that I was mistaken in thinking that I had died. Now let's add, to your hypothesis, the assumption that I have ruled out that possibility and am firmly convinced that I did in fact die. I would not, in the next life any more than in this one, simply take someone's word for it that they were God. There are already atheists who believe that this life is not the only one we get to live.

      • Mike

        Ok so "that" wouldn't be enough for you to "come to a conclusion" that God exists or that some supernatural or "more ultimate/fundamental" reality exists.

        Ok, thanks for your straight forward answer.

        • Doug Shaver

          Ok so "that" wouldn't be enough for you to "come to a conclusion" that God exists or that some supernatural or "more ultimate/fundamental" reality exists.

          Right. However, if it actually was God welcoming me to the afterlife, I'm sure he'd have more to say than just, "Hi, Doug. I'm God."

          • Mike

            I know what you mean you'd need some more proof as simply "waking up" wouldn't be enough to dismiss alternative explanations...some big miracle or some information that no one could know except God would convince thought i presume.

          • Doug Shaver

            It's interesting how many theists don't seem to get the implications of what they themselves tell me about God. They talk as though, if nothing they can say or do will change my mind, then nothing that God himself could say or do would change my mind, either.

            I certainly can be at least as stubborn, intellectually, as the average believer, though I will deny being any more stubborn. But in any case I must believe that if God is omnipotent, then he can do whatever it would take to change my mind, and if he is omniscient, then he knows what it would take, even if I myself have no answer to the question, "What would convince you that God was real?"

          • Mike

            So you're not waiting for God to prove himself to you but unless he does convince you of his existence and "love" you won't believe he exists.

            That's an interesting i don't know position or tactic to employ.

            Thx. and Merry Christmas

          • Doug Shaver

            You're welcome. And merry Christmas to you as well, and everyone else here.

  • veritasetgratia

    Fr Barron - what you said "Why should one presume that something as orderly and rational as an equation would describe the universe’s structure? " is a good argument for bumping into Hawking and explaining to him he might be a theist underneath!

  • You lost me at "...unless one has confidence that the world one seeks to analyze and investigate has an intelligible structure, one will never bother with the exercise"
    Scientific theory is founded upon the rational presumption of consistency in nature, and the possibility of disproving this would be earth shattering to both the scientific community and to philosophy.

  • Mike Koopman

    Hawking is almost correct, the equation exists. God is love.
    This has the effect of inverting gravity and dismaying all other kinds of physical equations.