Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Physics and Old Metaphysics, reprise

I tried to discuss Stephen Hawkings' book The Grand Design back here. I wasn't that thrilled with my post but wanted to get my thoughts out in writing.  I wrote

I do not know if the authors are making this assumption, but I have seen some scientistis and even some theologians assume that the word "God" is a way for people to explain physical mysteries.   So when there are no more physical mysteries, there is no more need for God. 

I have never quite understood that line of thinking, but apparently it came about in the Enlightenment, when philosophy took a post-Cartesian credibility hit and physical science came to the fore as a presumably more realistic substitute given the terms of the Cartesian approach.   Most of the scientists of the time were still Deists, though many of them weren't orthodox.   And the same was true of many theologians.  So God did begin to become for them a way to explain what couldn't be explained by empirical methods of the time.   In that approach, God became a component of our thinking, a kind of placeholder, so as our thinking became more scientific, the place for God  in our heads got smaller and smaller.  
 Well, over here is a lecture called The New Physics and the Old Metaphysics by Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., Ph.D.   He says it much more elegantly and Chestertonianly (: )) by saying that Hawkings was absolutely right, he did eliminate the need for God to explain the universe, and rightly so, because that kind of deist God, designed as an explanation for what can't be explained otherwise, needs to be done away with.

The real God, Consolmagno says (I can't past his words directly because of the format of the lecture text), the God of Abraham, is not bound within the cosmos.   Quoting Wittgenstein, he says, "the sense of the world must lie outside the world." 

This may sound a bit Kantian, but it does not have to be that way.  While Kant would say that God can't be known, Consolmagno says that God indeed can be known experientially.    We cannot "derive" God from analysis, but we CAN know Him; in fact, we know all things BY Him, whether we happen to know that or not. 

I'm not updating this blog regularly anymore but this doesn't quite seem to belong to Take Up and Read so I'm putting it here!

HT for the link to the talk:  Michael Baruzzini in the newsletter.  


  1. Hi Willa, thanks for the link. Have you taken part in the Catholic Science courses?

  2. What a great post! I think you hit the nail on the head with the need to understand God in a completely different way, not as a supernatural explanation for things that haven't yet been explained by science. Having a "placeholder" isn't the same as having faith. I'm not very religious myself, but this feels right to me.

    It always feels wrong to me when people try to impose science on religion or vice versa, such as substituting "creation science" for an appreciation of evolution or using science to "disprove God" (just because the universe can now be explained more fully in scientific terms). To me, science and religion/philosophy are just different fields of thought that ask and answer different questions.

  3. Beate, I think the Catholic Science classes look great -- but they would take up too big a proportion of my homeschool budget for this year. I'm really hoping they will still be around when my youngers are high school age.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!