From: George Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed Sep 03 2003 - 08:03:02 EDT
Josh Bembenek wrote:
> Just a quick thought that I'd like some feedback on. Many on this list have
> expressed dismay over IDers usage of God's "hand-like" action as a magic
> wand to use whenever scientists don't understand a particular phenomena. I
> agree that it is fruitful to point out that God never ceases to act in
> sustaining Creation and that such rhetorical strategy implies unintelligent
> creation when natural mechanisms are found to account for such phenomena.
> However, I wonder if this same problem exists for the fully-gifted creation
> viewpoint? What makes us think that the origin of space time and the
> derivation of matter, energy and all of the universe is simply a gap in our
> understanding that some future naturalistic discovery won't elegantly
> explain, again making the "God Hypothesis" obsolete? Perhaps I should
> remember some discussion of this in some article, but its not coming to me.
> I don't care to defend my idea by trying to give any explanation for a
> naturalistic origin of space-time. Besides for those here, isn't it
> sufficient enough to hypothesize that a naturalistic explanation is out
> there awaiting our discovery instead of "jumping the gun" and prematurely
> attributing creation to the act of God before all explanations are fully
> explored? The Big Bang Hypothesis is younger than evolution isn't it? I'm
> not looking for a drawn out debate, just some thoughtful considerations.
As others have pointed out, cosmologists in recent years have been trying to
explain the existence of space-time & matter in scientific terms with things like
inflation. The simplest way to describe the basic idea is to say that matter can come
into existence as long as the total energy remains zero, that this is possible because
negative gravitational potential energy can cancel the positive mc^2 energy of
particles, and that the discontinuous process required by such a model are allowed by
But this sketch brings out one of the difficulties with such an approach. It
envisions these processes taking place in a pre-existing space-time. But space-time
also must come into being along with matter.
More fundamentally, one has to ask why the particular mathematical patterns
embodied in these processes - quantum gravity, string theory, or whatever - are
effective. I.e., the laws of physics have to be seen as objects of creation. Why is
the basic math pattern of the universe as it is? - which is just a more pointed version
of the question, "Why is the universe?"
Bertrand Russell responded to this question by saying "The world as a whole just
is, that's all. We start there." That is logically no less, but no more, satisfactory,
than postulating a creator.
The Christian doctrine of God, however, should not be thought of as postulating
an entity who is "necessary" for the existence of the world. To say that God is
"necessary" means in some sense that God is _required_ to exist in order to explain the
observed existence of other entities. Thus we need to be able to say that in some sense
God is not "necessary" - an idea that the theology of the cross points to, as Bonhoeffer
realized. The fullest treatment of this idea is that of Eberhard Juengel in _God as the
Mystery of the World_, who concludes - as part of detailed reflection on a theology of
the crucified - that God must be considered "more than necessary."
We should not begin with the physical universe and then invoke God to explain
some gap - whether in the middle or the beginning - where God is supposedly necessary.
We are to begin rather with the God who is present & revealed in the cross &
resurrection of Christ, & then try to understand the universe from that standpoint. &
one consequence of that is that science should be able to understand this universe
(though not "why a universe?") without reference to God. This will be dealt with in
much greater detail in _The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross_ which will be available
(if the publication schedule holds up) in November. Till then I refer to my most recent
piece in Perspectives on this theme, "Chiasmic Cosmology and Creation's Functional
Integrity" (March 2001, p.7).
George L. Murphy
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