instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Same as it ever was

Mark Shea, in his usual nuanced and cautious way, has been exploring the Intelligent Design debate with his readers. You can, and likely already have, read all about it over there, but inter alia Mark observes that St. Thomas could only think of two objections to the existence of God worth rebutting: if God exists, there would be no evil; and, since everything can be explained by nature and human reason, there's no need to suppose God exists.

What's striking about these objections, abstracted from an article much better known for the Five Proofs of God, is how contemporary they are. When was the last time you heard someone say something like, "This hurricane is further evidence that God doesn't exist," or, "Science has shown we no longer need God to explain what happens in nature"? Three days? Ten?

Compare these objections to those in the articles immediately before and after. Have you ever heard anyone say that, since a cause cannot be demonstrated by an effect not proportionate to it, the existence of God cannot be demonstrated? How about that, since posture belongs only to bodies, and something which supposes posture is said of God in the Scriptures, therefore God is a body?

Of course, whether God exists is a more fundamental question than whether His existence can be demonstrated or whether He is a body. Still, I find it interesting that the argument has remained essentially unchanged for all these centuries. Maybe it's not so remarkable that the pro multis argument hasn't changed in forty years.

Another point of those objections is how scientific they sound today. The first objection offers a hypothesis ("God exists"), determines what should be observed if the hypothesis is true (no evil in creation), makes an observation (evil exists), and corrects the hypothesis ("God doesn't exist"). The second objection is Occam's Razor avant Occam, and Occam's Razor is forever being wielded by acolytes of modern science who think it can carve God clean out of His creation. (These same acolytes look down on medieval thinkers like St. Thomas and their backward notions of science.) A culture that values scientific-sounding arguments as much as ours is one particularly susceptible to atheism.

A question: Are there any new objections -- objections that don't unspool on their own once they're clearly stated -- to the existence of God?