Does God exist?

Does God exist? It’s an important question – perhaps the most important question. Yet there is a huge number of people in the world who regard it as an open question, or simply deny the possibility. Among them are some very intelligent people. Indeed the impression I have is that the greater the intelligence the less likely is the belief.

I am assuming that the majority of the regular readers of this Blog do have that belief. So I am asking which of the various proofs (if proof they be) do you find the most convincing?

The first proofs which come to mind come under the heading ‘how did anything start?’. There are different versions but they boil down to the uncaused cause. Thus, if something moves it has been caused to do so. But that cause must have its own cause – and so on in a backward chain – we come to the first cause: and that we call God. From that conclusion we can derive aspects of the nature of God. For instance since there are intelligent people, the first cause must be an intelligent person. But a particular characteristic must be that the first cause’s nature is infinite in all its aspects – starting from its existence in the first place.

A second approach is the proof from design. The classic example is the pocket watch which you happen to find. You examine it. Your companion claims that it came about as a result of several chances. But you show him how, with all its complexity, it works, and is capable of telling us the time. You rightly claim that it has been designed – and so it must have a designer. And that is even more certainly true for the whole Universe. And that designer we call God.

A third approach is called the ontological proof. We start with the concept of an infinite being. But since existence is greater than non existence this concept necessarily exists. While this proof looks a bit too clever, or even simply playing with words, Bertrand Russell, who was of course an atheist, accepted that it was difficult to refute.

My own approach differs from all of these. I start with the certainty of love. I don’t have to prove that it exists I simply see that in all its forms it is the most important good which we know. (I think of course of love for ourselves, and of love for others.) It is an absolute value. And so I see God as the complete existence and source of love. Here, too, this God must be an infinite person because love cannot exist only as an abstract quality. Everything else from creation downwards is an expression of his love. In particular the ultimate creation is the human being because he or she alone has the capacity to love – or, if you like – to express the quality of God through love. It appears to me to be both rational and likely that God would make known more specifically what the expression of love would be. And indeed the Incarnation and Christianity might well be his way of doing exactly this.

Incidentally, though not unimportantly, it follows that the redemption of every human being is literally true. No matter where he lives, no matter what his creed or none, when he loves he expresses God’s spirit (can’t help himself, there is no other source of love). When we get to Heaven, and you can spare a moment from your chat with Bertrand Russell, expect to be surprised by the company there. And do not be surprised by those, a few in dog collars and a few praying their beads, still waiting outside, while St Peter, a loving man, desperately looks for the tiniest excuse to let them in.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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52 Responses to Does God exist?

  1. John Thomas says:

    The atheist has to answer the question of how can everything which we see around us – consciousness of self, intelligence, order – can have come into being from nothing, by chance/accident, or a series of chance, undirected processes. I do not, myself, believe that man could have thought up the idea of God on his own, unaided (atheists will disagree).The possibility that there might have been nothing, rather than all that we know of, is very high – by a materialist worldview. Yes, there is order in the world, which we can point to, but there is much more disorder (personally, I blame The Fall).

    – “the greater the intelligence the less likely is the belief.” – I’m sceptical about this (as of most things). Highly intelligent (and unintelligent) people have grown up atheists if they have been nurtured, from birth into adulthood, in an atmosphere of strong atheism/agnosticism/scepticism, etc. (what were the chances that, say, Virginia Woolf, would have become a theist?). It is harder for such a person to become a religious believer that, say, a person who has been a cradle Christian, and has had wicked or cruel nominally-Christian parents, teachers, etc. – such people often change their denomination/church, but rarely lose theistic belief entirely, in my experience. However, I read that it is common for cradle Christians in the USA to be totally influenced (deleteriously, in my view) when going to college and bearing the brunt of the onslaught of materialism/anti-Christianity that is, apparently, the hallmark of US academia.

    • Alan says:

      “The atheist has to answer the question of how can everything which we see around us – consciousness of self, intelligence, order –”

      We have an answer to that question. We don’t know. I’m very reluctant to read much into such a gap in our knowledge however. “A thousand times bitten” as it were.

      • John Thomas says:

        All the militant atheists that one reads of are tremendously haughty and know-it-all – to say “I don’t know [I have no explanation] but I’m still, irrationally hanging on to my strict materialism” is really not good enough. Materialists don’t allow gaps – when it suits them not to …

      • Alan says:

        Ruling out something on the basis of what we don’t know seems more irrational to me than remaining open to the possibility.

  2. Robert says:

    God and Love are the two most overused and il defined words in use. By defining God as love does not clarify anything, it just compounds the confusion.
    Your parsimonious attitude sitting from your confusing personal observation platform applies judgement to who is deserving and who is undeserving! I just have to roll my eyes at your absurdities!

  3. John Nolan says:

    It is easier to explain the existence of the Devil, since his works are all around us. Yet evil does not prevail, since there is a countervailing force of goodness, i.e. God.

    Dixit insipiens in corde suo: Non est Deus. (Ps 13).

    I may be a lot of things, but I am no fool.

  4. Iona says:

    I am one of your “cradle agnostics”. I didn’t hear about God from home. From school I did, and was sceptical. However, as I grew older the idea of God kept nagging at me. I couldn’t resolve this; if I “decided to believe”, a voice (not literally) would say to me “Don’t be silly, there is no God”; if I decided to forget about God, another voice said “Oh, yes, there is”. It took a long time (and would be a long story) but eventually I came down on the side of the “Oh yes there is” voice.
    As for the arguments Quentin mentions: the one that really appeals to me is the ontological argument. I think of it as a bootstraps argument; pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. In the present state of scientific knowledge we also have the Goldilocks argument: if any number of things had been only a tiny bit different, the universe, let alone life as we know it, could not have come into being nor be sustained in being.

  5. galerimo says:

    🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺

    Permit me a little flag waving, Quentin; your Blog arrived on our day of National celebration; both events that are equally stimulating and equally provocative.

    Michelle Simmons, who arrived from the UK in 1999 is our Australian of the year. It’s in recognition of her work in quantum physics. A far cry from the world in which the anchor of HMS Sirius splashed into the waters of Sydney Cove on this day in 1788.

    But not nearly as far apart as the medieval world of Thomas’ five proofs for the existence of God and Anselm’s (later Leibniz’s) ontological argument.

    Being asked for your preference between these “proofs” is like being asked to choose you preferred method of childbirth – lifting up a cabbage leaf or delivery by stork?

    Offering proof for the mystery of God (Natural Theology) is fake learning: a contradiction in terms. The British philosopher David Hume demolished the last traces of these arguments in Newton and Boyle – he could have gone on to be Australian of the year 1788 if he had survived another decade and a year long trip on the high seas.

    There is no proof for God. Without revelation it is impossible to know God’s existence or anything else Godly. Even then it still depends entirely on the direct action of the Holy Spirit on those hearts and minds that are open to faith.

    A Theology of Nature is a different thing. It does not start from being awestruck with nature or the intuitive feelings you get marveling at the cosmos, the birth of a child or a beautiful sunset. It starts in a religious tradition based on religious experience and historical revelation.

    Maybe we are just tying ourselves in knots here, as the Pope did last week mixing up “proof” with “evidence”.

    However there is always another point of view – as with the Aboriginal people of Australia. They wont be celebrating on this day, one they call “Invasion Day”. Happy Friday.

    🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺 🇦🇺

  6. John Nolan says:

    I suspect the Australian Aborigines (or a vocal minority of them) have an overly romantic conception of what it was like living in the stone age. Without movement of peoples (invasions, if you like) human civilization and technological progress would not have happened.

    It is one thing for sophisticated 18th century French thinkers like Rousseau to talk about the ‘noble savage’ from the comfort of their salons, but it was always an absurd (and condescending) conceit.

  7. Quentin says:

    I quote from my introduction above: “Indeed the impression I have is that the greater the intelligence the less likely is the belief.” Today I have received the summary of a recent study which tends to support my position. It’s at:
    https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/01/26/are-religious-people-really-less-smart-on-average-than-atheists/#more-33084
    Sorry to all us thickos!

  8. Geordie says:

    I find the traditional proofs for the belief in God are good but leave me feeling unconvinced. My belief in God is based on experience and the questions it raises; and on the observation of the rest of creation.
    Why are we never satisfied? All the other animals are satisfied with their lot as long as they remain in their natural environment.
    What mind could come up with the idea of three persons in one God? It is, on the face of it, ridiculous.
    Why are we embarrassed by our nakedness? No other creature cares. Who told us we are naked?
    How come we are conscious of evil? Only Mankind has this concept.

    I could go on but I want to comment on the claim that, on average, theists are less intelligent than atheists. It is just not true. Studies and statistics can support any claim. First of all, how do you determine intelligence? The measurement of intelligence has been a bone of contention for over one hundred years. What do you mean by smart? Do you mean well-educated? Man is his arrogance confuses cleverness with wisdom. There are many clever people but not many wise people and the uneducated can be a lot wiser than the educated. John Henry Newman was both wise and well-educated and he believed in God.

  9. Seventy years ago I set out to explain the five proofs to my agnostic friend, but before I could get going he said: “I only want one proof.” I’ve given up on the “five proofs” since then.

  10. Horace says:

    At our Jesuit school we were taught that, although we believed in God, it was not possible logically to prove that God exists, However “I believe in one God – creator of Heaven and Earth” – seems to me perfectly reasonable.

  11. ignatius says:

    Remember CS lewis saying that Jesus Christ was either mad or bad or God? Anselm’s ‘proof’ is easily put aside as seeming’ to define something into being’ It would not appeal to me in the least. To attempt to ‘prove’ God is fundamentally a waste of time. Since God chooses to reveal himself in the world it is the concrete works that require testing not abstracted concepts.

  12. Alan says:

    Could someone explain something about the design argument – If the soul or any other intelligence exists and “lives” (thinks, experiences, etc.) independent of the material world, what is it that the universe is fine tuned for?

    • galerimo says:

      What a great question! – let me try and avoid it for you Alan!

      In approaching it I would have to first contest the hypothesis on which the question is based namely “If the soul or any other intelligence exists and “lives” (thinks, experiences, etc.) independent of the material world…..”.

      I would assert that we are deeply, deeply connected and will always be connected with the material world as creatures with an immortal soul.

      The separation of our “soul/intelligence/thinking/experiencing” from material reality is always a danger for us and probably the most constantly recurring dualist dead end in the history of our thinking. Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Catharism, Jansenism are only a few which have carried a lot of this dualistic thinking that has spread deep into our culture over time. They all brought about more darkness than enlightenment.

      The incarnation and the resurrection of the body would be strong points in arguing against the hypothesis “If the soul or any other intelligence exists and “lives” (thinks, experiences, etc.) independent of the material world…”

      Also a clear understanding of the terms, Theism, Deism and Agnosticism would also be required.

      Now if agreement is reached that as spiritual beings incarnated in material reality and connected deeply to the material world the question then becomes even more overwhelming.

      So the only thing that may now be clear in trying to respond to your amazing question is why Quentin is so right in his eagerness to point out how big a bunch of dumbos we all are.

    • Alan says:

      galerimo “– let me try and avoid it for you Alan!”

      Thank you for the smile.

      “The incarnation and the resurrection of the body would be strong points in arguing against the hypothesis …”

      I would certainly take such a thing, were it to be demonstrated, as evidence that the non-corporeal could depend on and co-exist with the material, but not that it needed to. The necessity for the material world component would be a much tougher proof I would think. Of course it must be proposed or assumed for the fine tuning argument to carry weight, but evidence of it seems well beyond our means to me.

  13. Martha says:

    Thank you, Alan and Galerimo. This is an area which I know is covered in philosophy, and in various heresies, but without studying them, I have been wondering for some time, and trying to put my thoughts into words. If God’s wonderful physical creation is temporary, and especially so for each individual, why is development and progress so important? It must be connected with our belief in the resurrection of the body, and in the accounts of Christ’s glorified body after His resurrection, and His physical acts like cooking breakfast for the disciples, but I still find it very difficult to resolve some of the seeming contradictions.

    • galerimo says:

      One key to reconciling temporary presence with development and progress is stewardship.

      Our lives are short but they are still lived in response to God’s invitation to life – and that “response ability” involves caring for the earth from which we come, to which we belong and where we also return.

      Everything we have as humans comes from the earth – God given. Development and progress, I see as part of our caring for this great source of nourishment and shelter.

  14. Alan says:

    Perhaps my thoughts on a couple more of the proofs would help others to understand the rarer view here.

    I do not imagine that the universe ever sprang into existence out of nothing. I see no room for there ever having been “nothing”. That leaves me with the problem of explaining existence as opposed to non-existence. I see no meaningful solution to this question in science, materialism or the natural world. Crucially though, I see no meaningful solution to this question in the non-material/supernatural world either. Order, intelligence, purpose, love, morals, consciousness and more are all proposed to exist entirely uncaused and without explanation … by way of explanation! So I rule nothing out and make no leaps of faith based on those non-answers.

    Beyond that, the willingness of many to rule out the natural, and adopt a remarkable (to me) confidence in the supernatural, makes me all the more sceptical of their faith. All too many of the proofs/arguments take the form “How else can you explain ….?” or “I can’t imagine how …”. How did the watch end up on the beach? That it is hard to work out how by any process that doesn’t include intent is far, far from the same thing as it not being possible in my book. Especially when we look more carefully and we discover that the beach turns out to be littered with watches in all stages of development and we can identify at least some of the ways in which they might have developed “accidentally” (that term alone rings alarm bells – I studied chemistry many years ago, I don’t remember the chemical reactions ever being talked about as accidental, even when those little explosions did create order and complexity. The only alternative to intelligently designed is not “by accident/chance” – at least not in the sense that they are being used). And where does this confidence in reaching any strong conclusion come from most often? From the people who make it their life’s work to study the natural world? Not nearly so much.

    I’ll leave the ontological argument to others. I’ve seen people discuss it in its various forms from both sides. I have some sympathy for the “so how do you know a maximally great being is possible?” camp, but the whole thing makes my head hurt!

    A negative correlation of belief with deductive reasoning and, if I remember rightly, a positive correlation with feelings of insecurity. Don’t those seem like odd trends for what the message is proposed to be?

    There is more … Pascal’s Wager! … but this is long enough already.

  15. galerimo says:

    You will quickly wear down any expert who takes on your question, Alan. But I think the elimination of experts is no bad thing.

    When you look for evidence and proof you’re using a valid scientific method in pursuit of your question. You will not be impressed by Religious understanding that talks of Creation by God with a purpose for good in relation to all creatures and their fulfillment. Pity there was no selfie taken at the resurrection!

    God functions poorly as a proof but handy if you’re ever stuck for an answer.

    If you meet a Deist in the course of your questioning watch how they tell you that God, after a magnificent gesture of creating a good material reality (yes out of nothing) has allowed it to run its own course with all of its own evolving products and processes.

    A Theist will try and persuade you that God did do a great thing in the beginning but continues to be involved and is not just an External Primary Causal Starter – for the Theist God is immanent, and navigating the whole thing to its purposeful destination.

    God talk can leave you in need of a bit of sustenance.

    But don’t tire before you get to talk to a scientist- they usually have more money and are harder to bump into- unlike the average Deist and Theist you meet all the time down the pub.

    The scientist will impress with things like ‘Anthropic Principle’, a bit like what Martha mentioned earlier. Goldilocks got the porridge – like the universe – just right. Indeed none of the millions of things that could have gone wrong did go wrong and it turns out the universe is fine tuned for life after all. Not too hot. Not too cold.

    Finally I hope you get to talk to one of the most honest peddlers of all – the Agnostic. Very humble people and funny how they always remind me of myself, when it comes to science that is.

    Me, I’m keeping out of it – avoidance at all costs. Next thing you will be asking ‘Why is there something and not just nothing? Or why ‘why does time only go forward and never backward?

    Good luck in pursuing your question. And thanks for the opportunity to avoid answering it!

  16. Nektarios says:

    We really are showing when it comes to asking such a question, Does God Exist, when turning to Philosophy and Science, fallen mankind are asking questions in the dark.
    If God is just a product of thought, then He is not God, just a product of a vivid imagination.
    Science on the other hand does not like or allow an unknown or external power and influence
    creating the universe – yet all the time the come across the WOW factor where it is so far beyond our limited capacities, but we discover enough, where the Apostle says concerning not believing in God, man in this matter is inexcusable.

    In Genesis, God says, in the begiining God created the heavens and the Earth. It is a statement not an explanation.
    We so want God to explain Himself. What arrogance we created creatures are demanding God explain Himself, even if we could ever understand that which dwells in unapproachable light.
    Would we believe in Him if He did? History of fallen mankind shows they would not of themselves believe either in Him or that He exists.

    Philosophy, since the dawn of time, man since the Fall, mankind in all their brilliance and cleverness cannot answer the question, Does God Exist, for they too walk in the dark in a fallen nature. Philosophy on this has done two or three things. 1., They have invented gods, for mankind even though fallen, has not quite forgotten their native place. 2., They have made man the centre of everything, and so a god.
    3., The material world presents a problem for fallen mankind. He is still learning all about it and it is proved much more elusive and difficult to understand and quantify.
    He directed his attention to this world only for a while and cam up with eventually, the Theory of Evolution. That is starting as a bacteria and developing into a god. Crazy did you say, yes, but one is classified as crazy if one does not believe all the tenants of the theory of Evolution.

    Much of the problem in trying miserably to answer the question, lies in not fully understanding (as best we can) what this Fall for man consisted of, what happened to him, How was his mind darkened(what was it before the Fall) and alienated from God. ( what was man’s life like before
    he was alienated from God.
    Where is makind now, today, Is their answer to Does God Exist?
    Well, the answer is Yes.

    • galerimo says:

      Intelligent people thinking for themselves – what was God doing when handing out minds and intelligibility?. Nevertheless if God had wanted us to avoid errors he would have given us spell checkers.

      All this will give Quentin great fuel for his argument about just how clever we are, are not!

      Best to keep out of it like me.

      Reminds me of that old joke about the Deist, the Theist and the Scientist walk into a pub.
      The Kings Arms.

      The Deist says “I’m buying the first round and no more after that. You lot are on your own then and I’m out of here – you can do what you like”.

      The Theist says “No, no – let me get the first round and I’ll pay for the rest too and if anyone spills their drink, don’t worry I’ll pay for it and fix it all up”.

      The Scientist says “Well its evident you have money and I know that means purchasing power, there is a row of bottles on display behind the bar so we can accept we are in the right place but who knows if the barman will actually serve us, and I don’t actually see any beer being……

      At that moment the barman shouts “Time ladies and gents now please”, and turns off all the lights.

      Just then the door opens and in walks an agnostic. She looks around in the darkness and calls out.

      “I’m not in the Kings Arms….

      Am I?

  17. ignatius says:

    Alan,
    “– If the soul or any other intelligence exists and “lives” (thinks, experiences, etc.) independent of the material world, what is it that the universe is fine tuned for?”

    I would like it if you felt able to clarify your question a little. Perhaps simplify your language and come up with an example or two in order to illustrate your train of thought. At the moment I fear that, despite Galerimo’s heroic attempts to engage, your question makes very little sense.

    • Alan says:

      I can try Ignatius.

      The argument for fine tuning depends on our universe and human life being the very specific goal of the creation process. I have some difficulty with the way in which we are being identified as that target.

      If any one of a number of different variables had been just a little different we wouldn’t be here. But what difference does that make where our experience and intelligence isn’t dependent on our material bodies anyway? All the essentials of “life” would seem, if we have eternal souls or if non-corporeal intelligence is possible, to be perfectly consistent with any type of universe whatsoever. Tweak the physical constants and biology quickly struggles. Souls don’t.

  18. Ignatius says:

    Ok… Firstly, please could you explain to me why you believe that “our experience and intelligence isn’t dependent on our material bodies”?
    I need to take this bit by bit in order to be sure that a) I understand you and that b) you understand yourself!,

    • Alan says:

      Ignatiius “Firstly, please could you explain to me why you believe that “our experience and intelligence isn’t dependent on our material bodies”?”

      That isn’t something I believe. I suspect that intelligence and experience may be entirely dependent on our material selves, but that’s not the message I typically hear from theists (being the origin of most of the fine tuning arguments for God). Unless I’ve been misunderstanding them,they believe that intelligence/experience can exist independently of our brains. They do reportedly co-exist of course, temporarily, but there’s no obvious necessity for them to do so. The soul copes perfectly well alone I hear. So why is the material component important at all? What can the material world offer that the non-material absolutely cannot?

      • G.D says:

        Alan, you seem to be looking at the soul & body as two seperate entities? Suppose they are one and the same (a denser vibration & lesser vibration of the same ‘energy’ manifesting differently type thing) and only experienced as dfistinct because of our inability to ‘percieve’. Does that alter the perspective?
        The problem of ‘consciousness’ (soul?) independant of the material (brain) would no longer exist; in such an hypothesis?
        As for ‘why?’ … many ideas but … to long & meandering for a posting.

      • Alan says:

        G.D.

        “Alan, you seem to be looking at the soul & body as two seperate entities? ”

        Not quite entities that are separate but more entities that could, potentially, be separated. And I’m not just thinking of our souls here. God too is an intelligence that doesn’t, presumably, require a material world or any material component for Him to exist, think, live etc. If this is the case then I can’t help but wonder where the need for a material world, let alone a very particular material world, comes from. It wouldn’t seem in any way essential/necessary. Yet in the argument for God from fine tuning its very specific nature is central.

  19. Nektarios says:

    We are still rambling on in the realm of the natural man (fallen nature) in the hope we can be our own efforts and abilities discover God. The truth of the matter is we simply can’t.
    What is the message from the whole of Scriptures we have in the Bible?

    The message from the whole of Scripture is from beginning to end a revelation. The question is whether we believe this message or not?
    Our natural abilities do not rise to the spiritual realm. Like the spiritual realm within us, it is hidden, but does anyone doubt we are a living soul, a spiritual being in what ever state it is in?

    What part did we play in it’s creation? We can invent umpteen scenarios of which Evolution is just one of many. the natural man In the dark, alienated from God because of sin, helpless and hapless
    to discover or find God.
    Thankfully, God has not left us to ourselves entirely and provided us with a revelation of Himself and our present state in our fallen nature. Do we except it?
    Don’t vaunt our experience and our intelligence, it is just a puny affair trying to be godlike.

    As well as providing the revelation of Himself, give us an understanding, up to the measure of ourselves (actually) in relation to Him.

    As mankind cannot save himself or deliver himself from sin and death, God from before the foundation of the world, knowing man would fall to the wiles of the devil, leaving him spiritually dead as a dodo.
    It was not only mankind that has been affected by the fall, but the whole world and universe.
    God set his plan in motion to redeem man, the world and the universe.

    If we insist on going our own way, thinking like some maniac like Satan that we are equal with God
    then the God one believes in would not only not be God, but a rather puny, weak, god.
    Satan has found out to his eternal damnation the cost of just even thinking one is equal with God, or can spar with Him. Satan has done much worse, and sadly mankind is like him, fighting God in all sorts of ways.

    Even so, God in the Person of His Son came down from heaven to save us and bring us back to God and defeating death and giving us the Christlife that can never die.
    One cannot make up this grand spiritual visita laid out before us today as anything other than a revelation of God to us, Who is seeking us, finding us, saving us and will bring us safely home to Himself.
    For these and many other reasons and proofs, I don’t just believe God exists, I know He exists and dwells in me and I in Him. The relationship that was broken has in Christ been restored. Praise God!

  20. Nektarios says:

    Sorry for the typo error it should read: in the hope that by our own efforts and abilities can discover God.

  21. ignatius says:

    Alan,
    Ok, got you now.
    The position of materialism versus spiritualism, according to my sources was one bitterly argued for many centuries and finally rumbled to a halt in modern thinking with the recognition that there was an impassable gulf between the two sets of thinking. No bridge between the two positions could be established:
    “Newtonian physics, which taught men to regard matter, not as inert and passive, but as instinct with force. Why should not life and consciousness be among its unexplored potencies? (Priestley, Tyndall, etc.) Tyndall himself provides the answer admitting that the chasm that separates psychical facts from material phenomena is “intellectually impassable”. Writers, therefore, who make thought a mere “secretion of the brain” or a “phosphorescence” of its substance (Vogt, Moleschott) may be simply ignored. In reply to the more serious Materialism, spiritualist philosophers need only re-assert the admissions of the Materialists themselves, that there is an impassable chasm between the two classes of facts.”
    The argument goes on a bit so you will have to follow it through for yourself:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14153a.htm
    But this impasse has never been accepted in Catholic thinking. We have to rememeber the first chapter of John’s gospel: “The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us”
    So the Catholic position is essentially this:
    “As regards monistic systems generally, it belongs rather to cosmology to discuss them. We take our stand on the consciousness of individual personality, which consciousness is a distinct deliverance of our very highest faculties, growing more and more explicit with the strengthening of our moral and intellectual being. This consciousness is emphatic, as against the figments of a fallaciously abstract reason, in asserting the self-subsistence (and at the same time the finitude) of our being, i.e. it declares that we are independent inasmuch as we are truly persons or selves, not mere attributes or adjectives, while at the same time, by exhibiting our manifold limitations, it directs us to a higher Cause on which our being depends. Such is the Catholic doctrine on the nature, unity, substantiality, spirituality, and origin of the soul. It is the only system consistent with Christian faith, and, we may add, morals, for both Materialism and Monism logically cut away the foundations of these…”
    I’m out of limit on this post now but do you see what I mean?
    ignatius

    • Nektarios says:

      I read through the link you provided, interesting though it was and familiar to me,it had a peculiar evolutionary theme to it, landing up with Roman Catholicism at the end.
      Good try by others, but sorry to say that is not the teaching of Scripture at all. The spiritual life or new life one has in Christ is not a evolutionary process at all, rather it is a mystery
      of the direct action of God according to His will, so far beyond any comprehension we could theologise or philosophize about.

  22. ignatius says:

    Alan:
    “If this is the case then I can’t help but wonder where the need for a material world, let alone a very particular material world, comes from. It wouldn’t seem in any way essential/necessary. Yet in the argument for God from fine tuning its very specific nature is central.”

    There is no ‘need” for a material world, the material world was created through the desire of God that there be a creation which would reflect and enjoy God’s presence…as was said earlier the greater reality would in fact exist. Love, of its nature, desires and needs an object. In God the object is intrinsic on account of the Trinititarian nature of the Divine one yet this plenitude of Love, of its own nature and desire creates, purely for the sake of joy, the material world which though ‘other’ in terms of its own being is yet not alien to the underlying uniity of that Love.

    • Alan says:

      Thank you for the posts ignatius. I’m trying to digest them and what they mean to my point. I can’t see where they tie into the fine tuning argument however. That being the source of my problem with a need for a material world of a very specific type (needed for the sake of the argument that is).

      • ignatius says:

        I think we have yet to get round to the fine tuning argument. Thus far we have only addressed the concern you seemed to have with the apparent independence of material/spiritual worlds. I have attempted to explain that the apparent dichotomy is historically at an impasse, rather in the same way that ‘science’ and ‘religion’ debates were until both began to move beyond the early 20th century static world view. This means that your question as to these independent worlds is either without meaning or requiring of a paradigm shift. Not much point in trying to catch water with a fishing net is there?. The Catholic approach I hope I described for you or you can look up and digest via the link I sent
        If you could now explain the ‘fine tuning ‘ argument to me in simple terms then we can get a little further perhaps. I’m enjoying this by the way.

  23. G.D says:

    Could we say our experience of ‘creation’, as physical, is an imperfect realisation of the ‘perfect actuality’ God creates? (Present tense).
    Through our own way of being sentient we experience it as ‘dense matter’; the more we come to realise it as God creates, the ‘less dense’ it will appear to us?
    It’s not ‘essential/neccessary’ but is caused to appear as such; by us. (Collectively).
    Same creation, through a flawed ‘perspective’?
    (Unconditional united Love verses conditional ego/dualisitc perceptions?).

  24. Martha says:

    As Catholics, believing in God, we also believe in Christ’s resurrection and His glorified body, and in the resurrection of all the dead, showing us, that in time, and in eternity, God offers us both spiritual and physical life, combined and dependant on each other. The cause of our confusion is the existence of evil, and the fall of mankind, but we have been redeemed, and we pray and know that God the Holy Spirit is at work, renewing the face of the earth, and completing the wonder of creation.

  25. ignatius says:

    Alan,
    Ok I have now spent a few minutes on You Tube where may be found astonishingly intricate discussions about the fine tuned universe. So, as I thought, the discussion centre round the way the universe appears constructed to support life. It seems to me that you are conflating two issues in your original question which was this:
    “Could someone explain something about the design argument – If the soul or any other intelligence exists and “lives” (thinks, experiences, etc.) independent of the material world, what is it that the universe is fine tuned for?”

    Only if the material/immaterial ‘gap’ truly exists and both categories are seperately existent does your question make sense. How can a ‘material’ universe possibly be fine tuned to support a ‘non material’ intelligence?…well of course it cannot. But as has been already mentioned here and there the premise of seperate categories is pretty old hat these days.

    • Alan says:

      Ingnatious – “Only if the material/immaterial ‘gap’ truly exists and both categories are seperately existent does your question make sense.”

      I see your point but I believe the question still makes sense if the “gap” can/could exist – not only if it actually does exist. So the question is “Why can’t it?” rather than the “Why doesn’t it?”. I never really imagined that there would be any problem describing a reason consistent with Christian belief as to why the two co-exist … but the necessity for the very specific material state we find ourselves in (as demanded by the fine tuning claim) seems more difficult to deal with. So, in case you’ve spotted it and can save me a search I suspect I wouldn’t have the stamina for, do you know if that issue is also addressed and how?

      • ignatius says:

        Nay lad, I suspect we would be tilting at windmills and life is too short! But I think you might be better off trying to figure out if your question makes any sense because I can’t see that it does. There is no neccessity involved and the fact that life and the universe co exist is a self evident truth. It is clear that any alteration in gravity for example would, in humans for example, change the relationship in pressure between the thorax and the abdomen with catastrophic results (a problem with early space travel).
        So we have the interwoven reality as a clearly present phenomenon. Your question seems to be something along these lines:
        “In theory it may possibly be the case that the universe is not uniquely ordered for life because there may be some immaterial aspect to living which is not dependent on the material aspect of the universe about which we know nothing and cannot prove but if so then the material universe cannot possibly be fine tuned for this immaterial aspect about which we know nothing and, if so being so though not demonstrably so then that might possibly mean something (!!!!!!!!!!!!!)”
        Quick, Alan, apply Occams Razor before we all faint away and lose the will to live. 🙂

      • Alan says:

        I wonder if you aren’t making the question sound a little more complicated than it needs to be. 🙂

        Perhaps your not having appreciated my reference to the fine tuning argument when I first asked about this made it all seem more involved than it actually is. I presume that Galerimo was already familiar with that argument.

  26. Nektarios says:

    There was a gap, if we can call it that between the Heavenly and the material world after the Fall that has affected not only mankind but the whole universe as well.
    However the most wonderful happening occurred. God became flesh and dwelt among us.
    God so loved the world that He sent is only begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
    Here I perceive, that which was united or in union with God and the spiritual/ immaterial that was broken, Christ has resolved it in Himself/ body.
    What needs to be gone into perhaps, is the difference between the Kingdom of God and this world,
    (the material)?
    Where prior to the coming of the Saviour into the world there was a gap, but that once broken union with God and the Kingdom of God, the immaterial with the material, has been joined in Christ, and we in Him are joined. the relationship in Christ has been restored,….. and the gap?

  27. Hock says:

    Having battled my way somewhat through all these posts I find that Martha with her succinct contribution offers the most comprehensive answer to the question. She is one of the few who includes Christ in the narrative. We can tie ourselves in endless knots of all descriptions but it comes down to this : ‘Is Jesus Christ the son of God or not?’
    For those who believe he is, as he claimed to be, the Son of God then what further proofs are needed?
    God sent his son into the world , not to condemn the world but to save it. (I paraphrase.)

  28. ignatius says:

    Hock,
    “For those who believe he is, as he claimed to be, the Son of God then what further proofs are needed?..”
    Yes we know that but the immediate discussion is about Alan’s interest in an issue and trying to better unwrap the reasons why he DOESN’T believe . The material/immaterial concern has been a genuine concern in theology/philosophy and has been considered and discussed at length by followers of Aquinas, Augustine et al over the centuries. The ‘fine’ tuning debate is only an extension of St Paul in Romans arguing that the presence of the Creator can be deduced from the creation. Having once tried my hand a bit at street preaching I’m very happy with fundamental truths too but there is such a thing as answering someones question by trying to tackle it on their terms.

  29. galerimo says:

    All good points here and well made into the bargain.

    I think we got our selves into amazing deep water in the West when we embraced Aristotle with such enthusiasm. There was just no stopping the Western mind whirring with the categories of Metaphysics, Ontology and Transcendence.

    Very, very fruitfully too as it eventually gave way to Enlightenment thinking and the whole scientific enterprise of our Western world. Judaeo Christianity forms the foundation for our Scientific world.

    But the problem with being bound up with any one school of thought, no matter how extensive it is, is what the Church in the West has to deal with today as it goes out to meet and interact with the whole new era of today’s Science.

    Certainly it is a totally different but hopefully not an entirely irreconcilable worldview. Creatio ex Nihilo, Selection and Evolution, Anthropic Principle are worth the dialogue if only for the purposes of amazement at the world we live in.

    Grace always builds on nature, which well deserves the name of God’s other book. And I think both books provide us with thumping great experiences of meaning and purpose.

  30. ignatius says:

    In fact I’ve found doing a bit of homework on these topics quite refreshing because I am personally very interested in this ‘gap’ between things. As to the ‘answer’ well I find myself gazing in wonder at it every time I stand at an altar next to the priest and raise the chalice after the consecration and institution narrative of eucharist. Another good instance of ‘the gap’ is to be found in the study of neuroscience which would have us believe that every thought and inclination of the heart is enshrined in biochemistry. As the years go by I find this increasingly difficult to accept coming instead to the conclusion that we are IN FACT spiritually alive as well as biochemically and that we are IN FACT sacramental beings, after the fashion, if you like, of the burning bush.

    It is very easy to tap out a few words on a keyboard about Jesus Christ and think there’s an end to it but one has to be careful that ones reiteration of the ‘mantra’ of ones faith does not in fact become a shield against the raging and awesome beauty of the great all surpassing mystery confronting us on a minute by minute basis. Familiarity can certainly breed a kind of contempt called ‘acidie’ which we need to guard against most strongly.

    Anyone wanting to read a beautifully elegant and profoundly moving priestly account of the way the gap in the universe gets filled would do well to look up Teilhard de Chardin’s ‘Hymn of the Universe’. In the meantime I am grateful for the opportunity to mull over Alan’s questions which serve to push the intellect Godward in ever increasing amazement.

  31. G.D says:

    and … The Sacrament of the Present Moment … closes the ‘gap’.

  32. Hock says:

    I really should know better then to review my comments as there is always someone who seems to derive pleasure in reducing a point to the level of insults as Ignatius delights in doing and thereby promoting their own superior knowledge.
    Having ‘tapped out a few words on a key board about Jesus Christ’ I will now take myself off into the wilderness.

    • G.D says:

      Hock, i can see how you read it as such, but i don’t think Ignatius was trying to be insulting .. just expanding the idea.

  33. ignatius says:

    Hock,
    I’m sorry to have given you such a poor impression of my intentions. Since I am not aware of delights as perverse as those you directly attribute to me then either I really am in deep trouble or its the medium we operate through more than anything else….lets hope its the latter!!

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