Category ►►► Abiogenesis
October 23, 2010
Waiting for Godot in All the Wrong Places part Alef
This post inaugurates -- I was tempted to type "christens" -- an unbounded series of brief posts exploring the ideas presented in a book published this year titled New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy, by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., a Jesuit priest and doctor of philosophy.
I have always been fascinated by the topic of teleology, the argument that observable coherence, coincidence, and order in the universe cannot be accidental; that the many coincidences are in fact synchronicities forming a design that implies a designer... in other words, a theistic deity. That is the overarching tack taken by Spitzer in this book; he uses contemporary physics to argue two essential points:
- The universe has a begining, which occurred a finite time ago.
- The sheer improbability that various physical constants of the universe would so arrange themselves, by random chance, as to make life of any kind possible implies instead a Master Designer creating the universe precisely to bring about life.
The teleological argument fascinates... and yet frustrates: The former because I am a true agnostic; I don't know whether God exists, but I accept that the question is fundamental to all ethics and morality; and the latter because every proof I have studied eventually flounders, and nearly all for the same reason. At some point, physics always gives way to metaphysics, accompanied by a glorious abandonment of all epistemology. In other words, at some point, every argument devolves into, "But of course that proves God exists, as any fool can see!"
Yes; any fool.
My problem is that I studied mathematics for many years, earning a B.A. and M.A. in the field... which means I have an intuitive grasp of the structure of mathematical syllogisms, lemmas, and theorems; when that structure is violated by some supposed proof, alarm bells go off inside my skull, and I begin writing circles and lines and paragraphs in the margins explaining why the putative "proof" has just gone phooey.
I just began reading, reaching page 25; as I peramulate and percolate through the book, I shall periodically drop a postcard into Big Lizards, giving my impressions of Spitzer's arguments. So far, all he has done is assert Point 1 above: That in the Standard Big Bang Model, the universe, including space and time, has a distinct beginning about 13.7 billion years ago (13.7 Ba or Ga, the nomenclature is in flux) -- which I certainly buy; that's what I was always taught it said. He also posits that in three different alternative Big Bang Models, the same Point 1 is also true; but I can say nothing so far, because I'm not familiar with these alternative models for the Big Bang, and we haven't journeyed far enough into the book for me to pass judgment.
We haven't yet gotten to Point 2, that the improbability of life-friendly physical constants implies a supernatural creator. That's the one I'm most interested in. (You can see how Point 2 depends critically upon Point 1: Time itself must be finite, because in infinite Time, any possibility, no matter how improbable, will occur.)
That's all for this post. Keep watching the skies, keep watching the skies!
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