William Blake, The Ancient of Days

Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. This is not an argument for intelligent design. It is, however, an argument that creation is the only scientifically acceptable explanation for the existence of the universe. I do not mean that we can use the methods of any science to demonstrate that the universe was created, or even to establish creation as the best answer to a question raised within any given science. But science as such is governed by principles of rationality. Those principles of rationality dictate that, if the question is “Why does the universe exist,” the only rational answer is that it was created.

By science, I mean the attempt to explain the causes of what we observe in the world on the basis of reason and evidence. One of the fundamental principles guiding scientific inquiry is that any observable effect has some cause. Given the option between no explanation of something’s cause and a rational explanation of something’s cause, the rational explanation is preferable.

Of course, proponents of intelligent design invoke this same consideration. In Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe famously argued that the bacterial flagellum (the tail a bacterium whips to move around) is “irreducibly complex.” This means that it is impossible to make sense of the evolutionary advantage of any of the stages of development prior to the full, complicated flagellum. Therefore it is better to attribute the flagellum to an intelligent designer, since this gives us an explanation that fits the evidence.

In a case like this, opponents have an obvious response to make. Someone as impatient of theology as Richard Dawkins may do so without civility:

Behe should stop being lazy and should get up and think for himself about how the flagellum evolved instead of this cowardly, lazy copping out by simply saying, oh, I can’t think of how it came about, therefore it must have been designed.

A scientist and man of faith like Ken Miller, on the other hand, will at least do Behe the honor of offering a plausible explanation (though, in this case, one that is still open to criticism). In either case, the operative assumption is that an explanation is possible but not yet found, and that it may be found with sufficient effort, ingenuity and resources.

The attempt to invoke an intelligent designer for any particular thing in the world for which we don’t have an explanation results in a “God of the gaps,” a God invoked to fill up a hole in our knowledge. It’s hard to put much confidence in a God whose job is put at risk by the progress of our understanding.

What about a question for which science cannot possibly provide an explanation? One such question often invoked is the classic philosophical problem of why there is something rather than nothing at all. Although this is a profoundly provocative question, I’m not sure it’s sufficiently clearly formulated to be a productive one. In any case, I have some sympathy for the puzzlement with which a defender of scientific reason might greet it. We would at least have to try to get a bit clearer about what kind of “something” we are trying to account for, about what it means to be a something. A cosmologist might offer an explanation of why there is matter, and possibly even why there is energy, and consider that this answers the question, while a metaphysical philosopher will insist that this does not address “being as such.” It might be difficult to move the conversation beyond this impasse.

Any explanation a scientist can offer of anything, however, presupposes that there is some kind of order upon which we can base an answer. Even someone who would argue that the laws of physics are changeable could only do so by explaining the principle that governs the change. Science necessarily recognizes that there is order in the universe. It can offer explanations of why the universe has the kind of order it has. It can never explain why there is any order at all.

Does this mean the question is not a rational one? No: it means it cannot be addressed within the confines of science, because the supposition of order helps constitute those confines. Faced with the question, we have two alternatives. We can say, “Order is simply a fact we observe and confirm, and we can’t explain it,” or we can attempt to give a rational account of its cause.

Creation is an answer to the question why there is order. Is it a rational explanation? Yes. It is the only rational explanation.

What shape would a rational answer to this question have to take? If there is a cause of the order of the universe, it cannot be explained in terms of the order of the universe. It is cause that shapes effect, not the other way around. This means that the cause of the order of the universe cannot be confined to or circumscribed by the principles that order the universe.

Thus, reason tells us that the only way to explain why there is order at all in the universe is to appeal to something that transcends that order. Something that transcends the confines that structure the universe transcends space and time. It transcends the confines of all finite limits and all oppositions. It transcends the opposition between changing and unchanging, between unity and multiplicity, between simple and complex. It transcends the requirement that everything that exists be caused by something other than itself.

If we want to give an account of what may be responsible for the orderliness of the universe, the cause (if cause is the right word) will unavoidably have some of the features of the God that Jews, Christians and Muslims believe in as the Creator. It is reason that tells us so.

Our choice, then, it seems, is between affirming creation as an explanation or refusing to acknowledge any explanation. If a perfectly rational explanation is better than no explanation, then the refusal to affirm creation cannot drape itself in the banner of rationalism. It will have to give some more rational explanation of its own causes.

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Mark Shiffman
Mark Shiffman was born in north Florida to the son of expatriated New York secular Jews and the daughter of small town, pillar of the community southern Presbyterians. After spending much of his childhood in Alaska and California, he discovered in his Tennessee adolescence, first reluctantly and then gratefully, that more than half his heart belonged to the South. He occasionally rediscovers this viscerally when his body descends below the Mason-Dixon line from his northern exile in Philadelphia, where he has also brought his wife into exile from her lifelong home of Chicago. They live in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia with their two sons, having moved from one of the more successfully racially integrated neighborhoods in America (Hyde Park) to one of the most. Mark received his education from the McCallie School in Chattanooga and the surrounding mountains and trees, St. John’s College in Annapolis and the Santa Fe desert, Pendle Hill outside Philadelphia and the woods around Crum Creek, the University of Chicago and the icy prairie winds, and the Catholic Worker House and grimy streets of New York City. He is assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Augustinian Traditions and affiliate faculty member in Classical Studies at Villanova University. He has also taught at Brooklyn College, Notre Dame, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania. His current projects include books on the political philosophy of Plutarch and on the meaning of modern individualism, as well as a translation of Aristotle’s On the Soul (Focus Press).


  1. The Inuit of the North American arctic believed that a solar eclipse occurred when the sun and moon stepped down from the sky to visit the mortals who lived on the Earth, in order to make sure that everything was as it should be. The Inuit had no advanced astronomy to speak of, and no myths to compete with this explanation. It was the most rational explanation to a phenomenon that could not be explained any other way. Unfortunately (how wonderful would it be if the celestial bodies took time out of their daily journeys to show kindness to mortals), their story turned out to be wrong. Don’t make the mistake of believing that because your explanation is the only or “best” one to your understanding, it is also the true one.

    In addition, you’re confusing the scientific method with philosophical rationality. Science is very hesitant to declare truth; only upon an abundance of forensic evidence or through reproducible experimental results can a hypothesis be declared a workable theory, let alone a scientific “fact.” Your claim that “a perfectly rational explanation is better than no explanation at all” is in fact false to the scientific mind. An explanation must be empirically supported before it can even be considered; Newton’s theories of gravitation, as perfectly rational as they were, were only scientifically accurate in that they were supported by astronomical observations and experimentation. And even then, they turned out to be wrong (or at the very least incomplete) with the advent of Einstein’s theories of relativity.

    But even if your conception of science and rationality were true, your premises (to speak in the language of deductive logic) are false. Agnostic physicists like Stephen Hawking and others have proposed a number of alternate, rational explanations–the existence of multiple universes whose interaction caused the Big Bang, for instance. As empirically unsupported as creation, but also as rationally plausible.

    I believe God created the universe. I also believe that it would be impossible to try to prove his existence empirically or (with my pathetically insufficient human mind) rationally. But even if it is, claiming that creation is somehow the “most rational” explanation is not the way to go about it.

  2. I greatly appreciate you stepping out of purely political topics. That said, I have to disagree with the essence of this article. Your argument lacks human meaning, even if it is correct.

    There are a number of assumptions about rationality here. Rationality presumes something rational which presumes the recognition of ratios. Ratios are correlations. Language is prior to reason. We cannot think without language, and therefore cannot reason without language. Reason is contained by language. Ratios do not imply anything beyond themselves. Correlation does not imply causation.

    At best, creation is the “best current explanation” then so is the Big Bang. It works just as well without a creator but with a spontaneous explosive event from which all patterns erupted.

    While I think the perception of order implies no transcendent creator, the God of the philosophers is not gone. He is dead, but he is now called the Big Bang. The Big Bang is still the prima causa and offers as little meaning as the “order therefore created” argument. The hypothesized “singularity” from which all things burst in the beginning could easily have been created, but “order” does not prove “created.”

    Meaning for human beings is not found from rationality. Perhaps it is love, care, self-preservation, or maybe it just springs from the evolutionary survival instinct. Order means nothing, even if it is prior to all other things. Order is how we describe patterns we perceive.

    Human meaning is not found in “order.” Human meaning is found prior to reason. Myth is more likely to grant meaning than order. Mythos originally meant the “indistinct unity of word and action.” Gianni Vattimo, Art’s Claim to Truth. It is from this union of action and language that meaning comes forth. Originally, myth, magic, and language were inseparable. Writing runes on a weapon granted the power of that myth and the meaning of that myth. Order? Perhaps order is necessary, but it can only be recognized not first with reason but with language. Man as a “rational animal” is a mistranslation of Aristotle’s zoon logikon. At most, man is a “logical animal” but a closer look at logein is speech, not logic. Language is the primordial correlation of existence, prior to rationality.

    In Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy there are reasons for the explanation of a transcendent being. The experience of the “numinous” for example implies a greater being than those contained by mere existence. The world as an icon, sure–seeing something infinite through a definite window? This makes sense, but is not “rational.”

    From mere ratios (A:A) and the perception of order (seeing A twice, for example) it is impossible to project variable B (God exists). In fact, were ever a creator to be proven, he would be nothing more than an object–impersonal and therefore meaningless. I do not care if the Big Bang made me, I do not care if the world is created. It gives no personal meaning, no narrative structure, no psychological assurance.

    As you say, “Something that transcends the confines that structure the universe transcends space and time. It transcends the confines of all finite limits and all oppositions. It transcends the opposition between changing and unchanging, between unity and multiplicity, between simple and complex. It transcends the requirement that everything that exists be caused by something other than itself.”

    I agree with this. But I disagree with the casual use of “transcendent” these days. While I agree with the heart of what you’re saying here, I do not think that perceived order implies some transcendent order.

    I believe that the world is created. I believe it because it is not a simple rational explanation. Explanations do not give meaning to human life whereas stories do.

    “Our choice, then, it seems, is between affirming creation as an explanation or refusing to acknowledge any explanation. If a perfectly rational explanation is better than no explanation, then the refusal to affirm creation cannot drape itself in the banner of rationalism. It will have to give some more rational explanation of its own causes.”

    The most rational explanation is agnostic. As Tim says above, agnostics such as Stephen Hawking allow the possibility of God and even of creation in A Brief History of Time which is one of the most honest approaches to the problem I’ve ever encountered.

    Is it better to admit ignorance or proclaim something when it’s wrong? I think the virtue of ignorance is helpful here. Why settle with the most rational or “simplest” explanation? I’m uncomfortable rationalizing cosmogony, which feels more like the work of Occam than Genesis. Creation means nothing without a story. Even if perceived correlation (order) implied causation (creation), it would still mean nothing.

    Of course, let me make it clear: I do believe that the universe was created, but for good reasons. Let me end on a note of oracular ambiguity: the best reason for reason is not reason itself. The essence of rationality is not rational. The best justification for reason cannot be itself but something beyond its categories–transcendent? Sure, but this is the starting point, not the conclusion.

  3. Tim: It seems to me you have missed my point entirely. First of all, I am not offering a proof of anything. I am arguing that the affirmation of a Creator is a reasonable affirmation.

    Second, I am not confusing scientific method (which is a limited instrument) with philosophical reason (which has broader scope). Science is derivative from philosophy. The principles that undergird science are philosophical. So my point is that anyone who accepts science as a standard of rationality also accepts certain philosophical principles of reason that may have implications beyond the limits of science.

    In your comment, you seem to want to collapse different levels of explanation to one level. Multiple universes are all, in some way, universes. Thus they are the same kind of thing: orders of something (presumably at least of energy, but I suppose even that may be open to question). Even if there is an infinite series of them, the question of why there is the order that makes that series possible remains essentially untouched. It is not an empirical question that any progress of fact-gathering could ever provide more material for answering. In that sense, as I acknowledged, it is not a question science can answer. Multiple universes and creation may both be reasonable and are entirely compatible. They are operating on different levels.

    The hesitance of science to declare truth is derived from the skeptical philosophical tradition. My argument is offered in a skeptical spirit. It is, again, not “declaring truth”, but revealing the reasonableness of an explanation.

  4. If all you’re saying is that creation is simply a reasonable option, then I absolutely agree with you. It’s more the claim that it’s the “only scientifically acceptable explanation for the existence of the universe” that I (and more importantly)any atheist you’ll ever meet will take objection to.

    My point about the scientific method does actually relate to your argument about order, but I probably didn’t make that clear. All we know about our universe is that there are certain rules which, as far as we know, don’t seem to change. Rules like the speed of light, gravitation, chemical bonds, etc. “Order” as we call it can be explained quite well with nothing more than the actions of those rules on the physical universe.

    The question, of course, is of where the rules came from. Your point that creation is a reasonable explanation is a good one, but I don’t think it’s the only one–simply because, in today’s universe, we now know that we know almost nothing about how our universe works. Even if we assume that creation is the only existing rational explanation for the existence of the physical laws that lead to order, our knowledge of our own limitations should (scientifically or “rationally” at least) prevent us from drawing any conclusion beyond simply that it is a cohesive hypothesis.

  5. Creation is an answer to the question why there is order. Is it a rational explanation? Yes. It is the only rational explanation.

    I’m not even sure that it is an explanation.

    That it is “the only rational” explanation seems to me to be a huge leap.

    I suppose even to discuss this any further requires some explanation. When you say order, it could be guessed that you mean “order” in the thermodynamic sense – which is a great physical question that cosmologists pursue without making any grand assumptions about what the “only rational explanation” could be.

    On the other hand you could mean “regularity” – that the laws of physics don’t change arbitrarily. That’s another question interesting to physicists, but it isn’t even clear that it makes any sense. In what set of circumstances could we expect the laws of physics to change (arbitrarily or otherwise)? Should we expect to find such circumstances? In terms of the weak anthropic principle, should we expect to find ourselves there asking questions in such circumstances?

    If you mean by order “intelligibility to humans”, then that may also be a question of the anthropic principle – “why are humans able to make sense of the universe?” – The most obvious answer to that is biological: it is adaptive for us to be able to.

    I’ve never understood why it’s so important to some to finagle a way for God to be “necessary”.

  6. Tim,

    Thanks for the clarification. It shows that we are actually in greater agreement than either of us thought. In speaking of order, I am mainly thinking about what you are calling rules of the universe as we know it. I think it is better, properly speaking (and staying in the environs of modern scientific thought), to characterize those rules as descriptions of regularities of order, rather than as “acting” on the universe. The latter characterization will get you into difficulties explaining how purely formal principles “act” on the material they govern.

    Of course, if you want to pursue that line of thinking, you may end up wondering whether Aristotle’s natural philosophy might not have a lot to recommend it. That would necessitate a more philosophical reflection on the guiding principles of modern scientific thought, which I have tried not to stray into for purposes of this post. But it looks like Stewart isn’t going to let me off that easily.

  7. Smijer,

    First of all, I love the photo on your site. I used to work at the Chattanooga Nature Center and spent a lot of time strolling along the ridges back of Lookout Mountain. It’s lovely country.

    As to your question, I mean “regularity” more than the other alternatives you offered. The responses you propose on that point amount more or less to “It’s there, and we can’t explain it” (with the additional twist “If it weren’t there, we wouldn’t be here to ask”). They seem to imply further “There’s no point trying to explain it.” Within the confines of physics that may be entirely correct. But physics does not exhaust the exercise of human reason, and it is hard to put up with someone telling you you shouldn’t ask a question just because it is not answerable from within the limited sphere they recognize for the exercise of reason.

    To repeat: I am not trying to “make God necessary.” I’ll leave that to God. I am only arguing that it is reasonable to say that a being (or maybe something more than a being) with some of the characteristics we ascribe to God is responsible for the world. And by world I mean whatever universes have existed, or do or will exist.

  8. Thanks – that is pretty country – I shot that from the top of Elder Mountain… I had to get into a kind of precarious position on the edge of an overhang to get it. I wonder if we have mutual friends from the CNC.

    As to regularity – I’m not saying that it’s useless to try to explain it – I’m saying that I’m not sure if the idea of explaining it has any meaning. If it couldn’t be any other way (and we don’t know if it could or not) then it doesn’t make sense to explain it. It’s a bit like with the notion of God. If God is transcendent – eternal – couldn’t not exist – then it doesn’t make sense to try to explain his existence. Who knows if regularity in nature can be explained (and, if you’re correct that God is the explanation, then how much profit do we have providing an explanation that is itself unexplainable?)

    To repeat: I am not trying to “make God necessary.” I’ll leave that to God. I am only arguing that it is reasonable to say that a being (or maybe something more than a being) with some of the characteristics we ascribe to God is responsible for the world. And by world I mean whatever universes have existed, or do or will exist.

    I won’t argue with this… at least not right now. That isn’t the meaning I took from your post, but if that’s your meaning, I can let that go without argument.

  9. Marvelous post, with an inadvertently hilarious image above it.

    I believe that is the famous Mormon image depicting the ‘creation’ of the world. I put creation in quotation marks because the whole purpose of the image is to deny precisely the argument you are making: that the world is in fact a free “creation.” Mormons believe the world was assembled or organized out of pre-existing matter by one of the deities they worship. In short, it fundamentally rejects the Christian account of both creation and Creator.

    Of course, my post will be inadvertently hilarious if I have misidentified that image as Mormon!

    Thanks for a nice post nevertheless.

  10. Rich,

    The painting is “Ancient of Days” by William Blake, a “christian” of sorts, though more accurately a Western Buddhist/monist. When asked if he believed if Jesus were God, he said, “Of course he is, and so am I, and so are you.” William Blake believed Satan of the old testament was Christ of the new testament and that the Fall was not eating from the Tree of Knowledge, but the physical world. The Tree of Knowledge offered a sort of gnostic salvation.

  11. Blake…yes, of course. Good grief, how silly of me.

    It is, however, an image used by Mormons andfor many of the reasons described above.

  12. Mark,

    My hat off to you. You have eloquently stated it makes sense to believe in a God even when it cannot be proved and in fact is unprovable. Instead you have put him outside the realm of human reason. It seems you stated he is beyond the rule of order and (now my words) humans only truly understand things through classification and putting them into an order (even when that order is horribly wrong). By putting God outside of order you made him beyond our true understanding. You have also removed the problem of who created the creator. This is a belief I have had for a long time but have never been able to express as well as you have. I hope you do not mind if I use the above blog in the future as long as I give you credit.

    Again……Great Job

  13. Ok, I think I understand you a little bit better. I’m still a bit confused, though – are you saying that a) creation is just one reasonable explanation, or b) that it is the only valid scientific explanation, or c) that it is the only valid philosophical explanation (as extended beyond the limits of what science can address)?

    Thanks for your clarification!

  14. Brett,

    If you find the piece useful (especially to share), that fulfills my main hope for it. Thank you.

    I will make one slight modification (which will enter into my eventual response to Stewart). One of the interesting features of human reason is that it can be used negatively. We can understand that it is not possible to understand certain things, and sometimes even why. There is a long tradition of “negative theology” that attempts to arise to a better understanding of God by understanding what God is not. It usually involves recognizing that certain kinds of limitations don’t apply to God.

    So yes, beyond true understanding of the intellect by way of the categories it has to work with. But we can gain a different kind of understanding by the negative path that expands the mind itself. I’ve tried to explain the first big step on that path.

  15. Ugh, just when I think that Front Porch Republic will be a different kind of conservative site this article pops up.
    “creation is the only scientifically acceptable explanation for the existence of the universe” Nonsense, maybe the universe has always existed and wasn’t created.
    “One of the fundamental principles guiding scientific inquiry is that any observable effect has some cause.” The cosmological argument has been refuted again and again. If the premise is true, then God must have a cause, if the premise is false your conclusion doesn’t follow.

    Keep your emphasis on faith that God exists, rather that trying to use reason to show or justify it.

  16. Identifying God and this world as some kind of product of a rational and disinterested scientific analysis is the kind of “issues-centric” dogma that now plagues this category mad country of box-checkers. It insults the very idea of God just as it cheapens the vast poetry of the history of life on our planet. Asserting “creation is the only scientifically acceptable explanation for the existence of the universe” is what the “intelligent-design” partisans do to create their tourist museums of fantasy best intentions where dinosaurs cavort with humans and ancient rocks must meet a 6,000 year deadline.

    This is what it has come to, the most powerful and polyglot nation in the history of the world and it’s people are so consumed by programming that they seek a rational explanation for the glorious ineffability of a mysterious God and imagine that God as a common tinkerer in a workshop of life. The people of Europe abandon their wonderful Gothic churches but here in this willfully silly country, we speak now of “intelligent design” and attend vast arena churches with all the soul of an airplane hanger.

    Both God and science are ill-served by this line of thinking.

  17. D.W. Sabin: Since I explicitly attempted to do something different than what intelligent design arguments do (God as tinkerer, in your terms), I have a hard time recognizing what you’ve said as a description of what I’ve written. If I thought God was a “product” of anything, I wouldn’t waste my time or anyone else’s taking God seriously. I have not tried to offer an entire theology in under 1000 words. If you want to criticize “this line of thinking,” please try to get clearer what line of thinking this is.

    I don’t see how it insults God to say, as Augustine does, “You have made us for yourself.” If God has made us (in some direct or indirect way), and we are in part thinking beings, why should we not be made such as to be able to recognize the grandeur of God in some way through reflection and questioning?

    Empedocles: Creation (at least in the sense that I mean it, which is very traditional) is not a question of succession of events in time. It is a question of what is ultimately the foundation of the being of the world. I tried to explain why the former view is inadequate for approaching the question at all, since time is a principle of order that need not apply to what is responsible for its being a principle of order.

    Your logical criticism would only be correct if I were claiming that God is “an observable effect,” which I am not.

  18. Then the question must be asked, “If everything that exists had to have a creator and God exists, then who created God?”

  19. Tim: Your option C is closest, that I am talking about a philosophical basis beyond the limits of science, but invoking the kind of rational principles that underlie the possibility of science. I would not want to go so far as to say that this is the only valid philosophical conclusion without addressing specific alternatives. But I do think it is the most reasonable conclusion of any I know about.

  20. Mr. Schiffman, granted you have asserted your intent to avoid the “intelligent design” argument , but again, I direct you to your own statement, quoted in my comment…which conflates science and it’s discipline of observable effect with the notion of God in an act of creation, whether initial or continuous. Perhaps I fail to understand your aim and so I remain skeptical of any compelling need to justify the presence of God with the mechanics of science in support of why or how we exist. If your aims are to expand the philosophical argument, then I wonder if it is served by resorting to the planting of a theological flag in the mechanics of science. Exactly what is to be gained by playing God with Science or Science with God? It is an area of significant mischief in the popular culture, and in particular a rather intemperate denunciation of certain well-trod scientific thinking by the more caricatured “intelligent design” partisans.

    Personally, my own intellectual enjoyment of an inter-relationship between soils, prospect, plant cover, and habitat is neither diminished nor enhanced by an abiding and ever-present wonder of the fortunate mystery of it all.

  21. Mark,

    I would agree with you that we can have some knowledge of what God is and some knowledge of what God isn’t. I would only add that we cannot have complete knowledge of God because some of the items you bring up while understood intellectually cannot be understood from experience.

    Thank you again for an excellent article and I have already shared it. =)

  22. D.W.,

    I quite agree with you that this is “an area of significant mischief in the popular culture.” But it seems to me that the misunderstandings are on both sides. One of the principal shortcomings in the popular culture, and in almost the entire culture, is the near invisibility of philosophy as an orienting discipline. Philosophy borders on and in certain respects overlaps with both science and theology. It is that point of overlap that I am working across on both sides.

    I am not building up from the mechanics of science to God, which I believe cannot be done. I am making an observation about the rationality that governs science, and showing how that rationality is consistent with (and even would lead us to recognizing the reasonableness of) acknowledging a creator.

    That being said, I should in good conscience point out that, even though I am not at all persuaded by any of the intelligent design theory, people like Behe have in fact identified significant gaps that many researchers have been happy to ignore. In the years since Behe drew attention to the case of the flagellum, research on the problem has increased (and still not, I think, fundamentally overcome his criticisms). So let’s not dismiss these people as questioners of scientific orthodoxies just because we don’t think their alternatives are helpful.

  23. Mr. Shiffman,
    I don’t question anyones right to doubt the scientific orthodoxy of their choice, it is when they begin re-inventing facts or confusing orthodoxies where I get off. You are absolutely right in asserting that the disciplines and pleasures of Philosophy are essentially eschewed by the popular culture. The same can be said about aesthetic literacy . It would appear that there must be some prevailing composure and pacific atmosphere to enjoy them and in this fear-addled age, the last thing the many boosters who dominate the airwaves want is composure. Hence………the invention of the Front Porch.

    Now that we’ve resolved that, I want to raise the unfortunate spectre of the overt Masonic Illuminati message of the graphic , with it’s caliper icon…I enjoy my LuLu Fez as much as the next guy but this secret society subliminal messaging in a family site, well…heck. heh heh.

  24. To TimR…

    Tim, this isn’t technically true. At the quantum level, these “rules” do change — and they change quite drastically — for reasons not known or even fully understood. But, we do know they change.

  25. I would expect Mark is preparing a thorough response to Stewart’s post, which seems like the most serious and unanticipated of the comments thus far to appear. But I cannot resist at least offering the following note — and do so tentatively, since it has been a while since I’ve given thought to the question of creation and intelligibility apart from very specific historical discussions.

    A:A as an account of reason: the rational as ratio?

    The error of this formulation, if there is one, doesn’t seem to be that in itself it precludes an adequate account of reason. Rather, it is Stewart’s purely analytic account of it that seems reductive.

    If we take A:A as an expression of the basic terms of rationality, we could come up with at least the following four definitions of reason:

    1) A:A as a pure logical relation expressing an intelligible relation between thought and idea, or idea and idea, or word and idea. This comes closest, I think, to what Stewart argues, and expresses rationality qua logic (this is logic in Aristotle’s prior analytics, right?).

    2) A:A as an adequation between idea and thing. This is a description of rationality in the sense that to be rational means to be capable of knowing. It expresses reason as the means by which the human intellect knows the world extra-mental (esse realis) and intra-mental (esse intenionale), as the neo-Thomists put it (and Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, right?). Reason thus conceived is not merely a relation, but a judgment of reality.

    3)A:A as an partial identity between a transcendetal idea and a thing. To speak of “true wine” or “What a true emotion!” Here we begin to sense that reason touchs not merely upon relations within an internally consistent system (a language, or a cosmos); it seeks to perceive if a particular A shows forth an ideal A, whether conceived as an exemplar or a thought in the divine mind. The ideal A, in Platonic language, is what is most real; the thing is real to the extent it participates in the ideal.

    4) Finally, A:A as an absolute identity. The True as a transcendental property of being, or as one of the faces of God, is the foundation of the very possibility of rationality or intelligibility. It is the creative intellect that makes things knowable by the created intellect.

    These are hasty and poor definitions, drawn of course from the conventional uses of the word reason in the Greeks and in Aquinas. All of them have been contested in various ways at various times, as Stewart contests all but one of them in his comment.

    The problem is, in accepting only definition 1), Stewart seeks to preclude discussion of creation as rational insofar as we might come to understand the world in terms of 3) and 4). If 1) were the only acceptation of “reason,” then to say it is rational to claim the world is created would not be saying anything at all. If one accepts 2), then to say the world-as-creation is rational would be merely to make a specific kind of causal claim very close to those of the natural sciences.

    But I read Mark as speaking above all in terms of 3) and 4) the order and reality our intellects perceive derives from an order beyond anything that can be humanly perceived. As such, we begin to sense that the True, the Divine Reason, precedes and subtends what we can know as reality.

    However, I am not sure I would understand this claim as a “scientific explanation,” nor does Mark seem to intend it to be such in the way such a statement is typically understood. It would mean, I believe, that the rational order of existence derives from the fact that Reason Itself causes it all to be.

    I’ll leave off there. I’m above my head, anyway.

  26. Tim, this isn’t technically true. At the quantum level, these “rules” do change — and they change quite drastically — for reasons not known or even fully understood. But, we do know they change.

    Depending on what you mean, this isn’t technically true. If you mean that the “rules” at the quantum level are “changed” as in “different” from classical rules that seem to describe macro events, then that’s correct, but still macro events are fundamentally described by the same set of rules as quantum ones. The classical rules are approximations.

    If you mean that there is irregularity at the quantum level, that is one interpretation of quantum mechanics. That doesn’t mean that the rules “change” necessarily, but that the rules don’t provide any other than statistical predictability.

  27. Stewart, if you haven’t already, I recommend reading Voegelin’s “Classic Experience of Reason.”

    You’ll enjoy it and it will deepen your thinking along the above lines.

    And lo, google remembered and heard their cry. Link goes to the Voegelin essay, or at least what appears to be his essay (better to get it in the hardbound Anamnesis volume), with annoying highlighted words.

    This whole discussion could benefit greatly from a good dose of Voegelinian pungency.

  28. Stewart’s comment demands a contemplative response. Now that everyone else in the house is asleep, I can spare a little quiet time to compose one.

    Most questioners so far have been wrestling in various ways with the difficulty of thinking outside of modern habits, especially the habit of thinking of cause in sequential terms (“efficient cause”). In speaking of a cause of order, I was making a move from the world of motions as described by modern physics to a consideration of metaphysical cause: not what makes an event occur, but what serves as a principle for the very existence of something. I chose the existence of order rather than the very being of beings as my focus for reasons that I briefly gestured at (and could go further into if anyone is actually interested).

    So I was starting from the “microclimate” of modern scientific rationality, and trying to show how, as rational, it has to recognize the limits of what it can tell us, and that these limits do not coincide with the limits of rational inquiry. I was leveraging a philosophical reflection into the merest beginnings of theological reflection.

    Stewart has put questions to the way I’ve done this from a vantage point much further down the path — further in the same direction as the one small step I was taking out the door of the house of the mind that modern science has built for us (and that some would like us to remain in under voluntary house arrest).

    So in one respect, Stewart is looking at my attempt to do something very limited, and pointing out that it is very limited. In this we are agreed. As I say, I wanted to make only one step.

    Stewart pushes this critique along three thematic lines that are probably best addressed separately: 1. the proper understanding of reason and its relationship to language; 2. the problem of trying to come at God by way of philosophy; 3. the question of the “human meaning” of my argument.

    1. Reason and Language

    First of all, thanks to James and Caleb for getting a start on this theme. Their referring us to the classical understanding of reason (via scholasticism and Voegelin) is very much to the point.

    “Man as a “rational animal” is a mistranslation of Aristotle’s zoon logikon.”

    True, at least in terms of how we tend to understand “rational” today. Logikon is from logos, which is from the verb legein. But what does legein mean? “To speak” is one meaning, but not the most original. Legein at its root means to gather (col-lect). Speech gathers. What does it gather? Both the multitude of what it refers to, gathered in a word, and the minds of the speaker and the hearer sharing thought and reference. You might say that speaker and hearer are gathered in the presence of what speech makes present as a gathered phenomenon.

    The thought of Plato and Aristotle about logos is about what makes such gathering possible in both respects. I often think the most adequate translation of logos as they use it is “articulation”. Speech is articulate, it patterns a differentiated shape of things. But if speech truly unites speaker and hearer, it does so by revealing an articulation that already exists and that makes the gathering in speech possible. The world is articulated already, and speech attempts to make this articulation manifest in a way that is shared. So logos means the inner order of things and the speech that reveals that order.

    (“Ratio” in the mathematical sense is a rather late meaning of logos as well. Incidentally, it is not true that ratios “do not imply anything beyond themselves” – that is, it may be true in post-Cartesian mathematics, which dissolves things into their pure relations, but not in ancient mathematics. For the ancients, ratio always implies and expresses the relationship between the distinct things of which it is a ratio. It is the articulation of a relationship of things articulately differentiated.)

    Plato distinguishes two exercises of the intellect: dianoia (thinking through things discursively) and nous (apprehending the logos that is the inner articulation of a thing). In the Latin tradition these become “ratio” (discursive) and “intellectus” (contemplative apprehension). Dianoia/ratio is certainly “contained in language,” but in the case of nous/intellectus, this is not so clear.

    The modern understanding of reason, especially as it gets shaped by nominalism, is methodological and, in general, more about describing the relations of things than about contemplating the inner being of things. (Yes, these are sweeping claims. Sorry.) It is dianoetic rather than noetic.

    As best I can tell, this is the understanding of reason that Stewart criticizes. In a way that is entirely fair, since, as I said, I was starting out from the mental horizon of modern science, which is methodological and nominalistic. I was trying to make a tiny breach in that horizon, through which “seeing something infinite through a definite window” might become possible.

    Where I differ most from Stewart, I think, is in his claim that this cannot be accomplished by way of reason. I guess all I will say on that score is, read Anselm’s Proslogion. (In a way, the Proslogion was a model for what I was trying to do. Contrary to the commonplace interpretation, I do not take Anselm to be “proving” God. What he literally says is that his argument makes doubt of God’s existence incoherent, that once you understand properly what is meant by “God” atheism can no longer be rational.) Anselm makes use of the negative power of reason to open the understanding beyond the confines it started out in.

    In short, like James in a way, I agree with Stewart’s critique reason, but do not agree that the reason he is critiquing is the best way to understand reason. I was trying to start where that understanding currently dwells, and pose some difficulties for it.

    2. Through Philosophy to God

    As I said, I was using philosophy to open a window. It is not an adequate window, for sure. However, again like Anselm, I think it can in fact get us beyond the God of the philosophers. Yes, I was looking toward God under the aspect of “cause.” Yes, I think that is entirely inadequate for understanding God as God and also God as Creator. But the distinctive characteristic of the god of the philosophers is that this god, being bound to the order of the universe under the aspect of its cause, gets restricted to the confines within which we understand the universe.

    In Descartes’ “The World” (his alternate “creation” story), God ultimately collapses into the laws of nature. The equivalent happens in Aristotle. But reason can tell us that this is not good enough. I think Aquinas (with the help of Dionysius and Anselm, not to mention Genesis) believes that Aristotle did not draw the full consequences of his own conception of the god as pure act. For Aristotle, the god coincides with the principle of being and intelligibility of the cosmos. But why would a God who is pure act have to be so confined? (Goethe’s Faust was perhaps not so original in translating the Prologue of John “In the beginning was the Act.”)

    Thus I adhere to a view of the relationship of faith and reason articulated, for example, by John Paul II. Truth as revealed to faith helps reason by acting as a polestar, and enables it to uncover a wider field of intelligibility than it could have recognized on its own. In this way I think that, after the notion of a Creator is enunciated in a literary revelation, and then generations of the best minds try to think through its implications, it is possible to see that what is responsible for the order of the world would have to transcend the confines of that order, that this makes more sense than what Aristotle and Descartes offer us.

    Thus one can wonder whether conceiving the relationship of the world and the Creator in terms of cause is not itself too confining. That is why I said “It transcends the requirement that everything that exists be caused by something other than itself,” and “If we want to give an account of what may be responsible for the orderliness of the universe, the cause (if cause is the right word)…” I was being mindful of Heidegger’s critique of ontotheology, but showing how we can already be suspicious of it on the basis of a searching rational reflection, and so already see a glimpse of the “inaccessible light” (Anslem again) beyond it.

    3. Human Meaning

    I agree with Stewart up to a point here. A lot more than what I’ve tried to do would be necessary to even start explaining the human meaning of the world’s being created. But Stewart not quite right (and I suspect probably was inadequately stating what he thinks) in saying: “I do not care if the world is created. It gives no personal meaning, no narrative structure, no psychological assurance.”

    I will only refer anyone interested in this question to a book on my page of “recommendeds,” on the creation story in Genesis by the present pope. It’s a marvelous 100 page reflection. As Stewart emphasizes, the treatment of the narrative is central to understanding the meaning. At the same time, a brilliant appendix discusses the human significance of the philosophical meaning of “world as created.” In what I consider an improvement on Voegelin (who is one of his sources), Benedict explains lucidly that gnosticism is at the core of what is most distinctively modern in human aspirations, and shows that the core of gnosticism is the rejection of creation. A key argument is that the understanding of the world as created (which crucially includes “and He saw that it was good”) reveals more fully and adequately what Plato and Aristotle were saying when they tried to show that goodness was a fundamental principle of being.

    (I’ll write a post on this in the not-too distant future. It will bring this whole line of reflection back to the core concerns of Front Porch Republic, since I’ll be arguing that Locke is the arch-gnostic of modernity, and that this is at the heart of his economics of growth.)

    I hope that gets us somewhere.

  29. It might be worth recommending yet another book on the significance of creation: Joseph Pieper’s “The Silence of St. Thomas.” While not an an especially original or scholarly little volume, it does a wonderful job of showing how conceiving the world as created — imagining it thus and contemplating the consequences — “changes,” as it were, everything.

    For those averse to Thomism, it is an especially attractive little volume, for it says a lot while relying on very few unarticulated assumptions.

  30. Michael Miller: Thanks for the kind words in Commonweal. Looking forward to future exchanges.

    James: Thanks for that recommendation. That is a book always in the back of my mind when thinking about these questions. In what I was saying above about the relationship between faith and reason (and in borrowing the phrase “inaccessible light” that Anselm borrows from scripture), I had in mind too Pieper’s suggestion that the divine mysteries (and in a way all created things too) can surpass our understanding because of an EXCESS of intelligibility. This of course implies that they can become more intelligible as we penetrate further into apprehending and understanding them, or in other words that revelation can aid the mind in stretching beyond its “normal” limits of understanding.

    This relates directly to what Stewart was saying about the “numinous”, but without divorcing it from reason.

  31. As one who does his level best to “live by perversion alone” whilst fingering a truncheon conferred by the Masters of the Scientific Room of House Arrest……and after attempting a productive reading Stegall’s link to Voegelin, I believe I may have been accusing Mr. Shiffman of playing Checkers when he was really playing Chess. Such are the wages of the Irascible. The baying dog departs and will henceforth wag his tale before speaking.

  32. D.W.: Right decent of you. I suspect I am partly to blame for provoking irascible tendencies by using the setup line about “scientifically acceptable explanation” as very ambiguous bait.

    As for Masonic imagery, the figure depicted is the title villain of Blake’s “Book of Urizen,” who represents the ordering and confining (and later to be bureacratizing) rationalism of the enlightenment, which of course the Masons endorsed. The Masons were also associated with the Swedenborgians, with whom Blake broke over the question of rationalizing religion. In the future, I’ll try to keep it clean.

  33. Mark:
    Wonderful piece. I agree with your premises.
    As a huge fan of Thomas Merton, may I recommend to other posters his book “No Man is and Island”. It is an incredible book written by a brilliant monk.

  34. I just came across the following note in Camillo Cardinal Ruini’s explication of Pope Benedict’s recent letter to the bishops: (http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1337535?eng=y)

    As for contemporary reason, Benedict XVI develops a “criticism from within” of scientific technological rationality, which today exercises cultural leadership. This criticism does not concern rationality in itself, which on the contrary has great value and merit, since it allows us to understand nature and ourselves as never before possible, and to improve enormously the practical conditions of our lives. It concerns, instead, its absolutization, as if this rationality constituted the only valid understanding of reality.

    Such an absolutization does not proceed from science as such, nor from the great men of science, but rather from a “vulgate” that is very widespread and influential today, and yet is not science but a rather old and superficial philosophical interpretation of it. Science, in fact, owes its successes to its rigorous methodological limitation to that which can be experienced and measured. But if this limitation is universalized, by applying it not only to scientific research but to reason and human understanding and as such, it becomes unsustainable and inhuman, since it would prevent us from rationally pondering the decisive questions of our lives, which concern the meaning and purpose for which we exist, the orientation to give to our existence, and would force us to entrust the answer to these questions solely to our sentiments or arbitrary choices, detached from reason. This may be the most profound problem and also the drama of our present civilization.

    Good company to keep.

  35. Great post(s) Mark — you mentioned Behe giving you hope in pointing out significant gaps in the theory of evolution. I would submit that evolution is a sketchy framework that has been seriously oversold.

    Consider this: no has any idea how to build/manage codebases of any magnitude — by adding one “bit” of information at a time, and always gaining advantage. If our genome (or even the simplest of organisms) can be deconstructed by a “Knight’s Tour” backward — no one has demonstrated that ability, even on paper. Also, no one has any idea, in terms of dealing with the realities of the code itself, how to do this moving forward, either.

    You would expect, even analogically, that if a process existed that could add, bit-by-bit to a codebase, and improve/expand it — that we would have discovered something, somewhere, that would mimic this behavior. We haven’t — nothing that we know of can be demonstrated to operate in this way.

    In that respect, evolution is technically not based in science — it’s a belief, like Polanyi pointed out: that ultimately conflates the meaning of “Chaos” and “Order” without evidence.

    Naysayers would be right to say “well that doesn’t mean a process can’t exist” — fair enough. But evolution was given the keys to the philosophical kingdom, long before it had any right to get in our heads implicitly, and corrupt the zeitgeist.

  36. Epictetus… ummm.. will avoid the term “codebase” and just point out that in nature, mechanisms that do expand genetic variability and others that select advantages are known to exist. I recommend “On the Origin of Species”, a recent work by a brilliant young biologist named Charles Darwin.

    Also, you might want to look into genetic algorithms if you are looking for analogs in the computer science world.

  37. smijer:

    There are no examples of what I mentioned.

    There _are_ many examples of an existing codebase becoming corrupted, or selecting/switching on existing code in the genome, reuse of other existing information, etc. This not the process of building the codebase, it’s simply variations in it’s function, relying on existing features.

    You also rightly point to genetic algorithms as example of the codebase in action — but that has no bearing on building that codebase, bit, by bit, either. There are no models in existence that explain this process in any sort of detail.

    And with every passing discovery, the genome is recognized as more and more complex — begging for bigger and bigger feats — leaping to conclusions. Instead of getting closer to dealing with how life supposedly evolved, evolution’s adherents were never closer to explaining it than they were in the 19th century, when life was simply blobs of protoplasm. Current discoveries of RNA will increase the problem of building life piecemeal, with advantage gained at every turn, by an order of magnitude. And we’re just starting to understand the mysteries of life.

    But like I said, the world we live in tells us something entirely different:

    You would expect, even analogically, that if a process existed that could add, bit-by-bit to a codebase, and improve/expand it — that we would have discovered something, somewhere, that would mimic this behavior. We haven’t — nothing that we know of can be demonstrated to operate in this way.

    You guys may luck out someday and arrive at a cohesive solution, but we are nowhere near that. (And if there _were_ something out there, some algorithm that could self assemble, or bit-by-bit, build and maintain complex data structures — it would be in every textbook in the country.) We are worlds away from describing this.

    It’s problematic culturally that there is a virtual belief that evolution is anything more than a very sketchy framework. What is completely lacking in terms of a practical explanations and dealing with the details, is simply assumed to be true. It has effectively become a mythology.

  38. There are no examples of what I mentioned.

    Maybe, maybe not. Evolution doesn’t deal with computers, and what could be analogized as a “codebase” or a “bit” in context of biology is pretty unclear.

    What is clear is that the mechanisms needed for evolution (which may or may not entail “building a codebase bit by bit”) exist and are well understood. Again, I refer you to the literature of the last 150 years.

    You can say that planes can’t fly because there is no mechanism for elevating a unit mass vertical meter by vertical meter. And it may be that no one can prove the mechanism of flight does that (and if it does, you can retreat to something even more obscure and less directly related to flight). The proof is in the flying planes – not the proof of some non-flight analogy.

  39. This seems a very silly thread, begging apologies. People equating intelligent design with young earthers, people mistaking what the author was saying… ugh indeed. I agree that to say the universe was created makes the most sense. I suppose it could have always existed, or maybe we are all just a dream of a sleeping giant. But apart from such things that make little sense to the human mind, I am with you, Mark.

  40. I found your argument – and in fact much of the discussion about it – quite unpersuasive. I don’t know how, with the logic you used, you get around the very obvious point made in countless late-night college-dorm discussions of this topic: If something can’t come out of nothing, and therefore the existence of a creator actually makes logical sense, who created the creator? You get out of this box – i.e., you stop the discussion at the point of creation, and don’t take the necessary additional one step back – by defining the creator as “that being who doesn’t require creation, but precedes the existence of the universe.” But is this really “rational”?

  41. Sheldon,

    This is the second time this question has been raised, though it is implicitly answered within my post in the last sentence of this paragraph:

    “Thus, reason tells us that the only way to explain why there is order at all in the universe is to appeal to something that transcends that order. Something that transcends the confines that structure the universe transcends space and time. It transcends the confines of all finite limits and all oppositions. It transcends the opposition between changing and unchanging, between unity and multiplicity, between simple and complex. It transcends the requirement that everything that exists be caused by something other than itself.”

    This is what you might call a negative path to arrive at what Aquinas says about the relationship of created to creator, namely that all contingent being must have its ultimate foundation in a self-subsisting being. By approaching it on the negative path, I am only trying to argue that it is reasonable, not that it is compelling.

    If you assume that the confines of the logic of the universe have to apply to the source from which those confines issue (as your objection quite clearly does), you are already implicitly assuming that the claim you are trying to refute is untrue. I don’t call that rational.

    “Something cannot come from nothing” is the logic of the order of nature. “Everything ultimately comes from nothing” is the logic of the very idea of the creation of that order and of what is governed by it. You want to apply the logic of natural order to what is responsible for there being such order in the first place. I am simply pointing out that this is bad reasoning: certainly not compelling, and less reasonable than admitting the alternative I’ve proposed.

  42. Mark,

    Fair enough. I guess we could go around and around this issue – yes, I do find the existence of a being that “transcends the confines of all finite limits and all oppositions” absurd on its face, but no, I can’t “prove” that through reason. However, it is extemely difficult for me to understand the logic of such an entity being compelled or motivated – and surely some purpose is required here – to create the universe in the first place. That act of creation itself implies a lack or response to a felt need of some kind, does it not? And how does that comport with the being you describe? Furthermore, why would such an infinite, timeless being launch the universe only 10 billion years ago – or are we actually in an infinite series of universes, in which case it hardly matters? Finally, it surely is a stretch (to say the least) to go from a belief in such an abstract being to belief in the very specific God we see in either the Old or New Testament. I wonder if you would agree about that.

  43. Sheldon,

    Thanks for such excellent questions. These are classic difficulties you raise.

    The traditional answer to the first (in my tradition anyway) is that God does not create out of need but purely gratuitously, or (as some put it) out of an overflow of the divine goodness, since it is in the very nature of goodness (even within the order of creation) to flow forth. (This tradition draws on Plato, who in the Republic identified goodness as a principle beyond being itself, and for whom the opposition of sameness and otherness lies on the level of being. It can be hard to make any sense of this until you spend a good deal of time thinking it through, and then eventually it makes enormous sense.)

    If the creator is beyond time, then time, by definition, begins when creation takes place, so that is simply a conundrum that comes with the territory.

    I certainly agree with your last point, though a being such as I have described ends up being one that could intervene in history to reveal truth. Then the question becomes one of examining the claims to revelation. This is actually a pretty crucial point in Augustine’s Confessions.

  44. Sheldon,

    Your comment on the absurdity of ‘the existence of a being that “transcends the confines of all finite limits and all oppositions”’ is certainly understandable. But it may be mitigated some (or not… it’s up to you)by understanding that “existence” and “being” are kind of placeholders in that phrase… true, to someone like me, but only in a very different sense then any other “being” that “exists” in the world we encounter.

    So, if we leave it open and say that, in answer to the question “Why any order at all?” we come to the initial conclusion that it can’t be due to any contingent being, anything held within the fundamental order of things. So whence comes things, whatever it might be, it must be noncontingent…. an awful lot of other things follow from that, if we work through it patiently. What would such noncontingency require? In order for something to be noncontingent and unconditioned, what else would it have to be or not be? Attributes like oneness, simplicity, etc, actually come about through that sort of reasoning.

    You’re right, of course, that we’re still a bit distant from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But nothing said thus far is in contradiction to that God. Revelation is what arrives and tells us more of who the God who we might have concluded must be but cannot be known by reasoning alone, of who that God actually is… Like Paul in Acts 17, Christian revelation proclaims that the “unknown God” of the Areopagus is none other than the God of Jesus Christ… but that’s more than natural reasoning can do alone… stuff for a different conversation.


  45. What Sabin said. When one is fated to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, it’s best to take a tip from science and stay under the limit.

  46. AlanDownunder: Since science took that tip from the much older tradition of skeptical philosophy, I prefer to go to the source. Staying under the limit has its merits. I just don’t recognize “science” as the authority competent to tell me where that limit is.

  47. I hate to admit it, but this entire discussion is w-a-y above my head!
    However, I have enjoyed reading the article and the responses. 🙂

    All I can state is my faith. I believe that there is a God and that
    He/She/It is the creator/force behind all the matter and life in the universe.

    Do I oppose the teaching of the THEORY of EVOLUTION? No! It is just that; a scientific theory. It has not been (and probably never will be) proved or disproved. It is useful for the classification of species. Therefore, anyone who wants to pursue a biology course will need to be familiar with the terminology of the Theory of Evolution. That does not mean that they have to “believe in” it (or not) as the answer to life on this planet.

    I don’t believe that humans can begin to understand the Mystery of Life or of the Universe. That’s why it’s called a Mystery! 😉

    We can explore and record what we’ve discovered..Let’s just say total understanding is “above our pay grade” And, we’re never going to get the top job….jmho.

    Therefore placing God (“the Force”…whatever term you use…) in a box of a 6,0000 year old earth or a 25 zillion year old earth, etc. is the 21st Century version of “How many angels can sit on the head of a pin.” (That is, a very pleasant diversion) 🙂

    I humbly thank Our Lord and Savior for his sacrifice and I thank Him for all He has given me. I earnestly hope at my death; I will be accounted among those worthy to receive eternal life in His presence.

    In the meantime…I ask for the grace to live an exemplary life as a follower, worthy of His name.

    Again, thank you for an interesting article and discussion. 🙂

  48. God spoke the world into being – I love that image, and while I don’t take it as a literal truth, I believe the image has a fundamental consonance with truth.

    The holy grail of physics is the Grand Unified Theory of Everything. A simple set of rules, or perhaps even just one rule, that makes everything we see possible, including life itself. I think of the rule as a word.

    Our universe, the fruit of that first word, permits our existence. It is not obvious that the word that created our universe is the only possible word that might be spoken. It is true that the universe in which we exist is likely one of very few that would permit our existence.

    I can imagine a multitude of universes, and we exist in but one of them. The word that bespoke us into being imposed an order on our universe – but another word would have imposed another order. Perhaps we are just chance, that in all the words that might be spoken, and all those that will never be spoken, that one word was said.

    If that isn’t enough miraculous, I don’t know what could be.


  49. Wow, I sure am late to this party!

    I like the article, it makes sense. Not just because I’m a Biblical Creationist, but get real, “Follow where the evidence leads”. The evidence logically leads to a Creator. People will say that I am taking a policeman’s exit (cop-out) and appealing to the “God of the gaps”, but that is absurd.

    Some of your commenters remind me of a discussion I heard from apologist Greg Koukl (who is NOT a “Young Earth Creationist” like me). He was pointing out how “science” is disingenuous. People follow the philosophies of science until there is no explanation. Then, they insert their FAITH that “science will discover”, as well as words like “maybe”, “perhaps”, “scientists think”, “it’s a mystery” and, in desperate cases, “a miracle”. Koukl rightly points out that they are relying on SCIENCE of the gaps.

    When they act this way, it sounds like wishful thinking to have such faith in science. After all, science gave us Piltdown Man and phlogiston. How much faith do you really want to have in the ever-changing whims of man-made “science” (which is just philosophy when it comes to dealing with unrepeatable, unwitnessed events)?

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