Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Mountain of Nothin' out of Somethin' or Another

by Michael David Rawlings
There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men.  —John Locke

For those of you who believe in nothing and, therefore, are easily deceived by almost anything, atheistic scientists like Lawrence Krauss, who intentionally muddle ontological distinctions merely to get a rise out of the philosophers and theologians they detest, do a disservice to science. Whether in jest or not, it's irresponsible. They dishonor their profession and treat us all with contempt when they imply that the problem of existence is strictly a scientific matter. As a group, atheists, whether they be accomplished scientists or not, are notoriously bad thinkers outside the comfort zone of their presumptuous metaphysics and are theologically illiterate bumpkins to boot. Karl W. Giberson, an evolutionary theist, is something else altogether . . . or is he?
I agree with Krauss that religious creation stories don't explain, at least from a scientific perspective, why there is something rather than nothing. The claim that "God created the quantum vacuum and its ordering principles" simply replaces a scientific mystery with a theological one: Where did God come from? — "Can science explain the final mystery of creation?"

The Bible doesn't "explain, at least from a scientific perspective, why there is something rather than nothing"?!


Given that the Bible does in fact explain it from a theological perspective, what's Giberson's point? Rather, what's the point of acknowledging this fact in one breath and then heedlessly rattling on about a theological mystery in the next?

(Does the Bible explain it from a theological perspective or not, Mr. Giberson?)

The issue is metaphysical and arguably goes to the concerns of aesthetics as well. At the level of immanence, why do humans produce works of art? The scientific answer, stated colloquially: because they're wired to do it . . . but the next question is why are they wired to do it?

When a child asks, "Why is the sky blue?"

Science answers:  "The sky is blue due to the Rayleigh scattering of electromagnetic waves as refracted by the Earth's atmosphere."

But that doesn't tells us why light has different wavelengths or why these wavelengths are the sum of many different frequencies and so on ad infinitum. Science will never get at the ultimate why of anything.

There is no reason that something exists rather than nothing . . . except in the context of consciousness!

Think about that for awhile. . . .

Since when did science leave off from the what and the how of things and start dealing with the ultimate why of things? Have some naturalists become so unhinged that they no longer recognize the limitations of science? Have they ever recognized its limitations?

Giberson's meditations are prefaced on the misleading contentions that (1) "[t]he 'creation' described in Genesis is not the origin of the material universe—mass, energy, time and space", and (2) "[t]he doctrine of creatio ex nihilo—creation out of nothing—emerged as an affirmation that God created freely and without constraints of the sort that pre-existing materials would have imposed."

Actually, we're not certain that the first statement in Genesis refers to the first event of creatio ex substantia or to the event of creatio ex nihilo. Scholars, both Jewish and Christian, are divided. The language of the passage in the original Hebrew can be reasonably interpreted either way, and the inspired author is no longer around to ask. But whether the biblical narrative starts sometime after the creation of the space-time continuum or at the very moment of its creation: this has no bearing on the idea consistently asserted throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, that the cosmos, unlike God, is contingently finite and, therefore, did not always exist. Mountains out of molehills! Giberson's suggestion that the Apostles were anxious about the design of the cosmos or misunderstood Christ with regard to its origin is absurd (John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16-20).

Hence, Giberson's statements that "Even God can't start with Legos and make an iPhone" and "Where did God come from?" are mere distractions. He necessarily refers, not to an independently transcendent, eternally existent Being of unadulterated first cause, but to an eternally co-existent entity akin to the Platonic or Gnostic adumbration, to a divinity akin to the mythical cosmogonies of ancient paganism or to some  creature who is nevertheless more powerful than man.  So why does he bother to capitalize the first letter of the word denoting it?

That's a think about it for a moment thingy—but the tiniest bit of effort will suffice and more than a moment is too long.

Why does the idea of God get smaller in the minds of some as the cosmos gets more spectacularly weird in our understanding?

In the face of this riddle of jaw-dropping magnitude, why do some scoff at the Occam's razor of theology?

Why do some believe they appreciate the complexities of existence better than those who believe God exists without reservation?

Bottom line: The vacuum of quantum mechanics is not an ontological nothingness and does not resolve the problem of an infinite regress of contingent entities.

Though given the frequency of the equally silly sentiments voiced in all seriousness by other leading lights of naturalism, it's not unreasonable to suppose that Giberson is not smiling.  However, Giberson, unlike Krauss whose contempt for the inescapable philosophical constructs of rational discourse is legendary, is apparently pulling on our legs.

Hence, I address a few of the allegations in this article for the sake of the naive among us.

What we have here is a mountain of nothin' out of somethin' or another, rather, the empty space of Giberson's theologizing.

About the only sensible thing Giberson writes is this:
When scientists have nothing to say, they should say nothing.
Also see:  Faith Within Science

Karl W. Giberson, "Can science explain the final mystery of creation", The Daily (May 13, 2012). 

No comments: