Friday, November 20, 2009

3rd Objection before Augustine's Lesson for Our Time

If there is an objection one can expect from philosophical naturalists to an argument for the existence1 of God, it would be very foolish to put that argument where those philosophically opposed to theism are going to read it--unless the reply to the objection makes the argument look stronger. That's the case with the argument from science for the existence of God that I posted in the comments on the Templeton Big Question site. But I am sorry to say that the site seems to no longer allow give and take among mere commenters. I don't blame them. The focus should be on the expert opinions. Nevertheless, it seems that I won't get to trot out this reply there, because, it seems the objection will not be forthcoming there. So I make the objection myself, so that I can trot out the reply here.

But first the rationale for focusing on Augustine's argument: It sets up a crucial lesson to be taken from his life, 1,600 years ago, for the life of the Church today. But that's for the next post. Here's the objection I so fervently want to reply to! (I'm calling it "Objection 3," since I already noted two others.)

Objection 3: No one needs to look outside what science tells us to find "being that has always been as the source of being for what is here now": it's called matter and energy, which are convertible.

Reply to Objection 3: "Matter" and "energy" are abstractions. That is, they are placeholders for a variety of forms and states. Hats and dogs and stars and cars and photons and singularities at the origin of a cosmos are all instances of matter and energy instantiated, together, in one form or another. Furthermore, the best current understanding is that these varying forms do not range over an absolute universe of possibilities. The fundamentals of the universe were forged in a singularity of near-superlative improbability. In Augustine's delightfully simple words: "See, there are the heaven and the earth. They cry aloud that they were created; for they change and vary. Whereas anything which...[has always been] cannot have anything in it that was not there before."2 But what is "always there before" does not enter into time, as it has no tense. Eternity is assumed in temporality, and a consideration of matter and energy simply drives the point home.

1. Peirce was clearly technically correct in holding that we should speak of God's "reality," rather than "existence"; it's just easier to fold to custom.
2. Confessions, Tr. Warner, Bk. 11, Ch. 4.

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