On Making Sense of the Universe: Thoughts On Fr. Robert Spitzer's New Proofs for the Existence of God | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | Ignatius Insight | December 9, 2010
"Science, unlike philosophy and metaphysics, cannot deductively prove a creation or God. Science is an empirical and inductive discipline, meaning that it cannot be certain that it has considered all possible data that would be relevant to a complete explanation of particular physical phenomena or the universe itself. Nevertheless, it is reasonable and responsible to attribute qualified truth value to long-standing, rigorously established theories until such time as new data requires them to be changed. This is what enables science to 1) identify, aggregate, and synthesize evidence indicating the finitude of past time in the universe and 2) to identify the exceedingly high improbability of the random occurrence of conditions necessary to sustain life in the universe."
-- Robert Spitzer, S.J., New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2010), 73.
In the first book I wrote, Redeeming the Time (1968), one chapter was entitled "The Cosmos and Christianity." Even then, I was concerned with the question of whether, as many then assumed, science had somehow made faith—or the particular version of it known as Christianity—to be impossible. But was there not evidence for another relationship? That is, Christianity and science were rather closely related. Both sought objective truth. Both were concerned with the origin and meaning of the whole physical cosmos. Both presupposed or needed the other for their respective completions. They were not intrinsically contradictory to each other. Neither could definitively exclude the other, however much they might try.
Thus, the subtitle of the chapter was: "The World Is for Man." These were the days before Stanley Jaki's The Road of Science and the Ways to God (1979) or William Wallace's Modeling of Nature (1996), which made the compatible relationship between science and revelation more plausible. The cosmos, in other words, was not just sitting out there with God, as it were, even though He created it, looking on wondering what in blazes to do with it. An inner order or plan was there from the beginning, one that did not satisfy itself by knowing what were the principles of nature, however important these were. The cosmos itself was related to something within it which pointed, in its turn, to what transcended it.
Fr. Jaki, in fact, argued that the possibility of science itself depended on certain theological propositions without which science does not appear in any culture. Science depends on the notion that a real world exists. It is not an illusion. It has within it stable secondary causes open to investigation by human intelligence and techniques. We can learn something from it because something is there to be learned. Scientific principles do not just explain themselves, even when known. They are already operative within the cosmos before any finite mind ever thought to articulate what they meant.
Theories of divine or cosmic voluntarism, moreover, in which the opposite of any fact could be at the same time possible or true, make science impossible. If the world depends on an arbitrarily changeable will, nothing can really be known. Both the existence and the explanation of the world rather depended on principles that seemed anything but arbitrary. In the beginning it was not clear whether the world and its principles always existed or whether it came into existence at some definite point in the past, however long. The history of modern cosmology has reached a solid consensus on this issue. The cosmos did have a beginning, approximately 13.7 billion years ago. Time itself began with that beginning.
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