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Saturday, October 06, 2007


Mark Brumley

Who designed the designer? Is he serious? If what theists say about God is true, the question is silly. Who designed the Undesigned Ground of all Design? A meaningless question?

Perhaps there is no God. But if there is, it is not meaningful to ask, Who made God?, because God is understood to be self-existing, the being the nature of whom is to exist, the being who, if we could comprehend him (fully understand what he is) we would see why he is and why he must be.

But if God is incomprehensible, does that mean that if we point to him as the ultimate explanation we explain nothing? But why should our inability to understand God completely mean we can't understand him partially?

In any event, we can conceive of the possibility of a reality the nature of which explains why it is--that is, a being whose nature is to exist. And we can conceive of the possibility of a reality the nature of which is that is might or might not exist, so that if it does exist, it exists because of something or someone else.

Now the question is, which of these kind of beings is the cosmos, a being the nature of which is to exist (necessary being or bare brute fact), or a being the nature of which is that it might or might not exist and its existence therefore is dependent on the existence of someone else or something else (contingent being)?

All of our experience of the cosmos thus far tells us that it is a contingent reality.

Paradoxically, if the cosmos is a contingent being, then we will never fully explain its existence in terms of a comprehensive cosmic theory because that theory would need to make reference to something beyond the cosmos to explain the cosmos. Only if the cosmos is a necessary being, a being the existence of which is wholly explicable in terms of the kind of being it is, would the attaining of a comprehensive theory of its existence be, in principle, possible. The cosmos does not appear to be that kind of being.

Thus far, nothing in the physical sciences has even hinted that a comprehensive theory of the cosmos is really possible. When Stephen Hawking, in A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, discusses the Theory of Everything, he points out that even if we had a set of equations that explained all the physical laws and particulars of the cosmos, we would still need to ask what breathes life into the equations to make a universe. Why does the universe bother to exist, as he asks. The "what" that causes the universe to bother to exist cannot itself be an aspect of the physical universe, but would need to be beyond it.

That would mean that physical reality, as sound philosophy maintains, must be seen as intelligible only as a subset of a larger category of reality. Unless that larger category is accessible to the mind by means other than knowledge of physical laws (and therefore the science of the physical, which we call physics), we would not have an all-encompassing explanation of the cosmos. Philosophy provides access to transphysical reality. Sacred theology purports also to provide access to that larger reality, including to aspects of that reality that philosophy cannot know. Whether sacred theology's claim can be shown to be reasonably ground is another matter, but the idea that it provides a way the mind can access aspects of that reality cannot rationally be ruled out from the start.

Is the cosmos self-explaining or does the explanation for it lie in something or someone else? The answer seems plain that the cosmos is not self-explaining, that even if we attain a successful Theory of Everything, that theory would in turn rest on principles of being (the knowledge of which we call metaphysics) that point to non-physical reality as the existential ground for the cosmos.

Philosophers debate whether an infinite series of causes is possible. Probably most philosophical theists deny that it is. But whether or not such a series is possible, the existence of the cosmos as a physical reality requires principles of explanation that ground physical reality and therefore the existence of the cosmos. Physics and indeed all physical science looks for physical explanations, but when it comes to ultimate explanations of the universe physical science comes up short.


I am going to have to start asking these questions:

Q. Is this a "book"?

By book I mean: written from beginning to end with one coherent thesis that is supported, and written for the purpose of being published, from beginning to end, as a "book". Or, to look at it another way: "Is this a compilation of multiple individual lectures, writings, homilies, sermons, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. that were originally not intended to be published as a single volume?"

If it is a "book", I am interested. :)


Sandra Miesel

Menawhile, Philip Pullman is teaching a generation of kids that the universe always existed and that consciousness just happened to happen with in it as the universe tried to "understand itself."

But as St. Ansselm said, "Si Deus est deus, Deus est."


Leon Kass has written a very nice piece available as a .pdf download. It is entitled "Science, Religion and the Human Future."

It reads in part:

Nevertheless, despite its universality, its quest
for certainty, its reliance on reason purified from
all distortions of sensation and prejudice by the use
of mathematical method, and the reproducibility of
its findings, science does not—and cannot—provide
us with absolute knowledge. The reasons are
not only methodological but also substantive, and
not merely substantive but also intrinsic and permanent.

The substantive limits of science follow from
certain fundamental aspects of scientific knowledge
and from science’s assumptions about what sorts of
things are scientifically knowable. They stem from
science’s own self-proclaimed conceptual limitations—
limitations to which neither religious nor
philosophical thought is subject. This is not because,
science being rational, it is incapable of dealing
with the passionate or sub-rational or spiritual
or supernatural aspects of being. It is, on the contrary,
because the rationality of science is but a partial
and highly specialized rationality, concocted for
the purpose of gaining only that kind of knowledge
for which it was devised, and applied to only those
aspects of the world that can be captured by such
rationalized notions. The peculiar reason of science
is not the natural reason of everyday life captured
in ordinary speech, and it is also not the reason of
philosophy or religious thought, both of which are
tied to—even as they seek to take us beyond—the
world as we experience it.


Mark Brumley's thesis can be put more simply when applied to the question of whether we ever can fully understand our own being: if the brain were simple enough to be understood, it would be too simple to understand itself. (I got this line from Mark Shea; I think he got it from elsewhere, but I'm not sure where.)

Brian John Schuettler

(I got this line from Mark Shea; I think he got it from elsewhere, but I'm not sure where.)

"If the brain were simple enough for us to understand it, we would be too simple to understand it."
Ken Hill, British playwright

Mark Brumley

Ressourcement: It is a book derived from Cardinal Schoenborn's monthly catechesis on creation, which was given with the intention it would be polished up and published as a book. It is not a compilation of diverse things.


Great Catholic Website!


Thanks Mark! BTW, I just used "How Not To..." for a class I am teaching. Thanks!



Agree or disagree with creationism or ID , I think that the EU and its subsidiaries aim at severing any notion of the Creator from ethics and law, if this hasn't already been done. Institutions that use the terms "marriage and family" in their names are facing political pressure to remove them.

Steve Golay

Europw has a difficult time dizzing Islam, period; at times, they must be swimming in night sweats. The anxiety, though, must come out somehow.

Along comes the threat of an American brand of 'creationism' with its supposed theocratic imperialism - now its time to sweat.

At times I wonder if Europe's recovery will only arrive when Islam has reached its critical mass in certain cities, going full bore in its campaign to cleanse it of falsehood.

But would even that get the sweat going? No, because hope comes only upon the certainity that the enemy fighting its arrival is defeated: llike hope that is eternal whose foreverness rests upon the certainity that sin and death is eternally bound in hell.

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