Catholic Cosmological Physics
A Catholic Priest and philosopher put out a new video explaining that humans can prove the existence of god from physics titled “Cosmic Origins”. When I saw this article on the Catholic News Agency’s homepage, I knew that I had to read it. You can read it here: “Priests new film says physics helps prove existence of God”. I must admit that I have not watched the video—to do so would require me shelling out $199! However, I think we can learn much from the article.
The video has been compiled by Fr. Robert Spitzer. He feels that the media is doing a poor job of explaining modern physics, and that “the whole story [regarding the evidence of God from physics] wasn’t being told”. He states, ““We’re utterly convinced that the evidence from physics shows the existence of God and certainly does not take away from it.” This is quite a curious statement when we know that the vast majority of physicists would disagree.
Spitzer assembled a team of seven physicists plus himself to create this documentary. He points out that each of the seven physicists are regarded as being at the top of their field. There is little reason to doubt him on this point. However, they are in the minority when it comes to a belief in god. We know this from the fact that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences and 97% of the Royal Society (of scientists) are atheists. Those are overwhelming numbers of other scientists, including physicists, who are at the top of their fields. One wonders why Spitzer did not choose many of the physicists from those groups to have on his panel… I am concerned that he seems to be uninterested in debate, but in propagandizing, or perhaps misleading people who are not well versed in physics.
Spitzer is quick to point out how excellent the physicists he brings to the table are—and I have no doubt that they are excellent at their jobs. His omission of their minority status and failure to bring in opposing viewpoints is evidence of his attempts to hide the complexity of the issue from his viewers.
“When the universe was nothing, it could not have moved itself from nothing, something else had to do it, and that something else was a transcendent creator,” Fr. Spitzer said.
…this creator would have to exist outside space and time because before the Big Bang, nothing existed, including space and time.”
Now we have a problem. That is a very easy thing to say, apologists have been saying it for years. The issue that I take with this is quite simple. Many viewers, who know little about modern physics will believe that statement as fact, particularly when it is bolstered by well regarded physicists. The problem here is that Spitzer’s claims are heavily disputed and, in fact, rejected by the vast majority of modern physicists!
Let us look at each statement individually—““When the universe was nothing, it could not have moved itself from nothing, something else had to do it”… Physicists have shown how it is possible that “something” can come from “nothing”. In fact, it happens all the time at the quantum level, which is where acclaimed physicists such as Stephen Hawking argue we will find the source of existence. From a purely scientific viewpoint, that statement is false, and most physicists would agree. A key thing to note here is that not all physicists would agree on exactly why that statement is wrong, or what the correct answer is, yet, most readily accept that “something” can come from “nothing” without supernatural influence.
His second statement is incoherent, from a scientific viewpoint. First, there is no evidence to support anything existing outside of time and space. Spitzer’s statement, as J.L. Mackie points out in The Miracle of Theism (p.92) makes god the only exception to the all scientific knowledge that we, as humans possess. Mackie writes, “why should god, rather than anything else, be taken as the only satisfactory termination of the regress?” Great question, one that Spitzer would need to answer.
A second problem with Spitzer’s argument is that even if we give him the idea that creator exists (which I will not do), there is nothing to imply that this creator is the Christian/Catholic god. Nothing. Perhaps we will find the deist god or Zeus behind the curtain. As John Loftus points out in Why I Became an Athiest (p. 85), there isn’t even any evidence to support that this creator is still around or alive. He asks, “what if this creator had to commit deicide in order to create the universe?” Spitzer has done nothing to promote his view of the Catholic god. The questions that this poses are endless, and none of them will enhance Christianity.
Third, this claim brings up the question of “who/what created god?” This blog does not have the time to deal with this question fully. However, it is worth pointing out a few things here. From Loftus’ Why I Became an Atheist (p. 87): Graham Oppy informs us:
“If there is a dimension analogous to time that can be used to measure God’s existence outside of time, then either 1) God has a beginning in that dimension, or else 2) God has always existed in that dimension. Following the lead of [William] Craig’s remarks in connection with the universe, it seems that the first option leads to the suggestion that there is a cause of God’s existence, and the second option leads to infinite regress. But, if there is no dimension analogous to time that can be used to measure God’s existence outside of time, then it seems to me to be doubtful that we can even understand the suggestion that God existed outside of time.”
This is the problem that Spitzer has backed himself into. He either must answer “what/who created God” or admit that he is speaking of a god that would be utterly incoherent to humans.
Fourth, it would make no sense for us to believe that any being (god) that existed outside of space and time could influence or have any effect on those of us existing within space-time. Can this god hop back and forth?
Spitzer’s statement has opened a Pandora’s box of questions—and this small sampling of questions is from only two statements to promote a 50 minute video!
There are many objections that could be made just in relation to those two statements, let alone the whole video/concept. In short, Spitzer is dealing with some very heavy questions in physics. Furthermore, he is relying on physicists whose views lie outside the mainstream to bolster his arguments. He does not point out that last fact. In fact, he is promoting the opposite—their credentials. In promoting this video, my concern is that Spitzer may be acting in a dishonest manner. He seems to be misleading his audience to a conclusion that is far from certain and highly improbable. He seems to be seeking to end the debate on a subject where the story is far from concluded. Why? To further the views of his own faith. That is nothing more than intellectual dishonesty. It is my hope that he provides alternative viewpoints to those that he holds, though I see how that is possible with the panel that he has put together. Without watching the video it is hard to fully criticize Spitzer’s motives, but we can certainly raise concerns from what we have seen.
The last thing I want to point out is that one of the physicists on is panel is Lisa Randall, a physicist from Harvard. I have seen some of her work before and recalled that I did not think she was of the mindset that god existed. I did a quick Google search and found this quote of hers from an interview:
“There’s room there, and it could go either way. Faith just doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m doing as a scientist. It’s nice if you can believe in God, because then you see more of a purpose in things. Even if you don’t, though, it doesn’t mean that there’s no purpose. It doesn’t mean that there’s no goodness. I think that there’s a virtue in being good in and of itself. I think that one can work with the world we have. So I probably don’t believe in God. I think it’s a problem that people are considered immoral if they’re not religious. That’s just not true. This might earn me some enemies, but in some ways they may be even more moral. If you do something for a religious reason, you do it because you’ll be rewarded in an afterlife or in this world. That’s not quite as good as something you do for purely generous reasons”. Discover Magazine http://discovermagazine.com/2006/jul/interview-randall/article_view?b_start:int=1&-C=
In light of that quote, I would be curious to see what she added to Spitzer’s discussion. Was she the lone wolf of opposition, has she changed her mind, who knows? Here is what I do know, I am not paying $199 to find out, but did feel it was worth pointing out in light of my claiming that all of Spitzer’s physicists were in the minority when it came to belief in the god. The other six physicists in the video are all known to be theists—that is what concerns me.
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