"You Have Ten Minutes to Prove The Existence of God to My Husband"

September 2000By Benjamin D. Wiker

Benjamin D. Wiker is Assistant Professor of Classics at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. He is currently scripting a docudrama adaption of his article "The Christian & the Epicurean," which appeared in the July-August 1999 NOR, for Iberia Productions.

So spoke the wife of the glowering elderhosteler. She came up to me at the break in my third lecture on St. Thomas Aquinas. The elderhostelers, as the name suggests, were all senior citizens. They came to hear about the Angelic Doctor, and it was obvious that this woman's husband was an elder particularly hostile to things religious.

In this woman's voice I heard the years of frustration, a believing woman and an unbelieving man, one flesh but two minds for a half a century of marriage, she getting more desperate and he more obstinate, and time passing all too quickly. She really hoped that I, the poor representative for St. Thomas, could do in so short a time what she was unable to do in five decades.

Alas, I failed. But I say this in my defense: not even St. Thomas, unless it be through the presence of his personal holiness, could have changed her husband's mind in ten minutes. The ruts of his unbelief were worn too deep.

But what enkindled her hope? The focus of my third lecture was on St. Thomas's famous proofs for God's existence (Summa Theologiae, I, 2.3). She must have thought she had providentially stumbled upon the answer to all her prayers in a form which her husband, a man of reason, could not dispute. Finally, proof. And not just one, but five!

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This comment is a general one relating to the whole conflict between Intelligent Design and Darwinian Evolution. As to this specific article, I would think that the author would see that as a metaphysician, he could meet the materialism of scientism head on especially as randomness is a poor argument no matter what century it is offered in simply because it is like the story of 10,000 typing monkeys eventually producing the works of Shakespeare. That “eventually” is infinite and we haven’t had sufficient time for randomness to build anything. Randomness, radical randomness does not build; what it might join in one instance it destroys the next randomly.

Today a group within the scientific community object strenuously to the introduction of “Creationism” and/or “Intelligent Design” claiming they are not scientific theories nor scientifically verifiable. Suspicions exist that their main objection is on the grounds that either would open evolutionary theory to the actions of a Creator God; something that some in the scientific community would not welcome. This section of the scientific community prefers an undirected evolutionary stream without purpose or object developing accidentally, randomly by mutation, etc. The mechanism doesn’t matter as long as the one selected effectively rules out a Creator.

The advocates of intelligent design are proposing that the complexity of life and organism in the present world betray by their organization and complexity the presence of purpose, design and a designer. They want these taught as part of evolutionary theory.

In each instance both sides are reviewing a vast amount of data and attempting to deduce from that data a common mechanism that drive the whole. By doing so they are passing into the realm of universals, a region properly belonging to another discipline than science. The physical sciences study individual entities and their relationships to other such entities. Once we pass from strict date to inferring over-riding principles or guiding forces we are not speaking scientifically in the sense of the physical sciences, we are speaking metaphysically and on that ground arguments are drawn differently and decided differently than in the physical sciences.

The classic example of this violation of another discipline’s space is that of the Copenhagen School in Quantum Physics. Bluntly put Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that we cannot know two conjugate variable with accuracy simultaneously about an object (we cannot know both position and velocity simultaneously) primarily due to the fact that we and our instruments are invasive and disturb one of the variables by their intrusion. But the Copenhagen Group took this principle and from it deduced that what cannot be know accurately, does not happen accurately and thereby denied the validity of classical causality. Aside from making an embarrassing blunder in elemental logic they had overstepped the bounds of their science and trespassed on the grounds of metaphysics. A good scientist makes a poor metaphysician!

Now to return to our main evolutionary theme, the main problem in all these arguments (Intelligent Design, Creationism, Darwinian Randomness, Accident, etc.) is that one or both sides are from time to time trespassing on the preserve of disciplines other than their own while still claiming to make pronouncements within their own jurisdiction.

First, physical science concerns itself with specific properties of all things, entities, res, etc. Those scientific properties are all aspects of such things as can be counted, weighed and measured. Once the physical sciences have exhausted their discourse on these properties, they have nothing further to say lest they transgress on another discipline’s territory. When evolutionary theorists speak of the mechanism(s) driving evolution, it must be remember that they are postulating possible mechanisms and cannot advance scientific proofs for which or how many do drive evolutionary development. And when they identify such mechanisms as randomness, accident, they pass beyond the bounds of strict science and encroach on the field of metaphysics for all such inferences on randomness and accident are metaphysical inferences. Accident and randomness are not scientifically verifiable mechanisms and once science says that there is no purpose or design or direction in evolutionary development, they are making a metaphysical assertion not a scientific assertion.

Secondly, those advocates of intelligent design are also making metaphysical inferences based on the evidence they see. Strictly speaking the physical scientists are correct in stating that intelligent design and /or creationism are not scientifically verifiable. However, some of these scientists had already taken to making similar statements outside their own fields as if they possessed the competence to do so.

The discussion would take place on firmer and more level ground if both sides would repair to a metaphysical playing field and see how their arguments stand or fall on metaphysical grounds. I fear that some of the scientists in question are aware of their trespassing and would not like it known too obviously or broadcast too widely. I say this simply because randomness and accident do not appear to be very good grounds on which to predicate such complex organisms as are found in the present world. As motivating forces they appear incapable of producing any organism (especially as the very word organism means a complex structure of interdependent and subordinate elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole or an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent : a living being – implying organization) no matter how many millennia are provided for their duration. But moving the argument to the appropriate discipline and venue would allow us to define Randomness, Accident, Intelligent, Design, Purpose hopefully in purer terms so that their adequacy or inadequacy to the question at hand might be judged properly.
What I am proposing is just a first step, not a solution to the conflict. But a battle fought on its proper field has more chance of yielding a useful outcome if not a whole successful one more than continuing to battle in the dark.
Tom Zelaney

Posted by: tomz165
June 01, 2006 04:00 PM EDT
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